Thursday, April 26, 2012

Travel Tip for Bringing your Wine & Cheese Home. Wire hangers and WineSkins Key.

When I travel a good deal of thought goes into which wine will make it into my suitcase and I always plan to have room for 2 the bottles Canada Customs allows plus some cheese.  I carry a couple of bubble wrap wineskins and some heavy duty bags for cheese.  Flat and light weight they take up no room but are great for packing to come home.  Then I throw some wire hangers on top in my suitcase.  I love having extra hangers at my destinations and there's more space on the return.  I also like to buy cheese when I travel and a couple of heavy plastic bags keeps my suitcase from smelling like stinky socks.  I've never had a problem but Customs doesn't seem to like cheese.  From some gentle probing I've learned that they are OK with hard cheese and not with spreadable cheese.  Stop by for Friday winedown at The Travel Group for some wine, cheese and travel talk.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Naramata throws great parties

Last night Naramata showed how sophisticated they were when it comes to not only wine and food but art and music as well.  With equally good accommodation, Naramata is a great get away from Vancouver.  Choose a special event at one of the wineries and you'll be in for a treat.  I especially like the tailgate party.  It sells out quickly so check online for tickets early in the year and plan your wine buying trip for the fall.   Don't miss a visit to La Frenz and grab a bottle or 2 of the Montage, at $22 it's a steal.  Lunch at Hillside Bistro is a good bet too.  Try Hillside's Muscat, it will surprise you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'll drink my share tonight at the Naramata Spring Release Party on the River in New Westminster

Heading to the Naramata On The River tonight for the spring release.  I'm starting to think I can taste the terroir of the Naramata Bench.  I love the mineral flavours in wine and Naramata is rich in that.  I hope to come home with some wine.  I know I'll drink my share.  I have a quest for La Frenz Pinot Noir.  The Travel Group will probably be drinking Naramata wines on Friday.  Stop by, we always love an excuse to crack open another bottle.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wine Tasting in the North Okanagan in Spring means Rose and Pinot Gris.

On a weekend to Vernon we visited some of the North Okanagan wineries.  In West Kelowna we visited Volcanic Hills and Quail’s Gate.  Volcanic Hills won the Lieutenant Governer’s award for it’s small production of 2010 Rose.  It sold out in a blink.  We were keen to try the 2011, but were told that the wine had just been bottled and they weren’t releasing it yet.  A bit more chat and tasting and we were treated to a little of the rose that had been taken straight from the barrel.  It was bright and fresh and exciting.  We promised not to open it for a couple of months if they’d sell us some and they agreed because we were the 1st customers of the day.  We tired, liked and bought some of the Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir too.   Volcanic Hills makes good wine for a very good price. 
Quail’s Gate restaurant was our destination for lunch.  I was hoping to get another couple of bottles of their Pinot Noir Dijon Clone but  2010 wasn’t a good year to make the single vineyard Dijon Clone so the grapes were blended into their 2010 Pinot Noir.   They have a Pinot Noir not yet released called something like “858” but there was none to see, taste or buy.  It will be available at an equally mysterious date.  I like a challenge though and I love Pinot Noir.  Quail’s Gate makes some of the best in BC so I have a quest.  We had lunch at  their Old Vines Restaurant.  They claim their Chenin Blanc is perfect with oysters.  That got my attention.  But then the restaurant didn’t have any, so I tried the mussels.  Good but oysters would have been better.  I’ll be watching for that match in local restaurants. 
Day 2 we were planning lunch at Gray Monk.  Their patio is a great for a leisurely lunch and I remember that last year the menu matched up beautifully with their wines. That lunch will have to be for another trip because on the drive up I noticed that Ex Nihilo was nearby and we changed our focus from lunch to wine tasting. I’m a Rolling Stones fan and Ex Nihilo makes Rolling Stones Sympathy for the Devil Icewines.  At $10 a taste or $125 a bottle you’d best be an icewine lover.  I’m not a big fan so tasted through their other features.   They had a special offer.  Buy 5 bottles, 1 each of the wines we  tasted  and  get a  free bottle of the Gris or Pinot Noir. This is their first vintage of Pinot Noir and I wanted to try more than the tasting, the 08 Merlot and Night are big reads from OK Falls grapes that I knew would be a hit at our house.  The Riesling and Pinot Gris were also good so it was a deal I appreciated.  I’m looking forward to a revisit with more time to hear the Rolling Stones story and see some of their art.   Watch for Ex Nihilo in restaurants. 
We planned lunch at CedarCreek on the way home.  I wanted to pick up a supply of their Rose.  Sadly the terrace restaurant doesn’t open until June but I still wanted the rose  so we did the drive .  This is when it’s good to be just mom and daughter tasting wine.  We both love a drive so it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to drive almost 30k out of the way for delicious, hard to get wine.  CedarCreek describes the 2011 Rose as acoustic Pinot Noir.   I tend to think of food and wine in high and low, flat and sharp notes and Pinot Noir unplugged or acoustic makes a lot of sense to me.  I’m looking forward to a glass this afternoon during a crucial Canucks game.  Perhaps we’ll have to celebrate.
Another fun trip to the Okanagan.  The Cedarcreek Rose and Ex Nihilo Reisling are in the fridge.  Drop by.  I love an excuse to open a bottle.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Predator Ridge Golf and Resort

Predator Ridge is a beautiful area between Kelowna and Vernon and is home to the Predator Ridge Golf Resort and Sparkling Hill Resort.  I’d heard good things about the restaurant  at Predator Ridge and dinner  there lived up to the reputation. They had been closed for the winter and I thought that could lead to problems but it was as good as I’d heard.  They have an exceptional wine list and a good menu with something for everyone.  We shared a flat bread with mushrooms, caramelized onions, pesto and goat cheese, very good, it disappeared immediately.  Three of us for dinner, we tried the salmon, the chili crusted mahi mahi and sweet potato and ricotta gnocchi.  The fish dishes were both served with  mixed rice and plenty of vegetables.  A request for potatoes instead was “0f course, no problem”.  Service was casual and friendly,  yet attentive.  The food was all cooked perfectly, no overdone fish here.   The gnocchi was light as air and the sauce wasn’t overwhelming.  The wine list isn’t  exclusively Okanagan but local wines are well represented. We had a bottle of Hillside Pinot Gris and it reminded me that Hillside is a winery I’d like to revisit.  Predator Ridge Clubhouse offers a lively comfortable atmosphere with good food and wine.  A good choice after a day of golf or an afternoon at the spa.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ricardo's Kelowna

We finally got to eat at Ricardo's tonight and it was a good dinner.  Straighforward Italian food in an unpretentious location off Hwy 97 on the way to Vernon.  The wine list is aselectio n of BC Wines that celebrate the best of the Okanagan.  We had 3 wines with our dinner and it was easy for us to order appropriate pours without going overboard.  We shared the Pernod Prawns and Shrimp and the Coconut Curry Mussels.  All paired up beautifully with a Gerwurzt from Lake Breeze.  There were 4 of us and we had the Cheese Ravioli in Pesto Cream, the Linquine Vongole, the Lobster Linquine and the roast Salmon.  The cheese ravioli was every bit as rich as it sounds,  the vongole passed my taste test and will be my choice if I ever eat there again, and the salmon was nicely handled.  The only disappointment was the Lobster.  It just wasn't all that interesting and Maritimers to the bone, it's hard to impress us with lobster.  I'd be happy to eat at Ricardo's again.  There were several appetizers I'd like to have a bite of.

Old Vines Restaurant at Quail's Gate Winery

On a long weekend to Vernon, BC we stopped at Quail's Gate Winery in West Kelowna to taste some of their exceptional Pinot Noir and decided to finally have lunch at The Old Vines and we were glad we did.  Truffle parmesan fries attracted us as soon as we sat down and were on the table quickly.  Delicious. Then we shared a butter lettuce salad with apples, blue cheese, cranberries and almonds.  I had mussels with dried tomatoes and RE had steak with potato gratin.  A glass of their Chenin Blanc was excellent with the mussels.  The room, the service, the view and the food were all good and we'll go back.  Quail's Gate is one of the few wineries in the Okanagan with a restaurant and now we know it's a good restaurant.  Try it, you'll like it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Western Beer Club: We visited Tofino Brewing Company, based in the we...

Western Beer Club: We visited Tofino Brewing Company, based in the we...: We visited Tofino Brewing Company, based in the westcoast town of the same name.  Here's how their website describes their three fine craft...

Shelter Restaurant Tofino

Dinner last night at Shelter.  We like Shelter best for sharing appetizers.  The best thing last night was the mussels in white wine and fennel with boiled nugget potatoes rather than french fries.  The potatoes soaked up all the great broth and were a pleasant change.  The tuna on deep fried rice balls was also outstanding.  Great place to watch a hockey game if you book a table downstairs.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sobo it the Tops for Me

After at least 20 visits to Tofino we've had the best weather ever today.  I love this place.  We just had lunch at Sobo and I came away wondering if I could live on cornmeal crusted oysters, polenta fries and cold white Kettle Valley wine.  I'd like to give it a try!  One of the first things I do when I arrive, after the beach, of course, is visit Sobo and eat oysters.  Occasionally, they don't have any or are sold out and that is always a HARD thing but at least it means I've tried the fish taco, the chowder, and the shrimp cakes. But for me, it's the oysters.  They have been perfect every time and in a good year I get to eat them twice in a visit.  I will NOT admit to 3 times in one trip but it's a lofty goal.  Thanks to the Lisa and the Sobo team, the polenta fries were even cheesier and more delicious this time.  See you tomorrow.

The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn Tofino

Dinner tonight at the Pointe Restaurant was very good.  The room is beautiful, a circular room of beautiful cedar beams it brings your table right to the ocean’s edge so every seat has a great view with waves crashing beneath you.  That’s not all though, the food and wine are up to the standard expected at a Relais and Chateaux.  As you walk into the restaurant the wines are displayed beautifully in a walk in cellar with lovely decanters and some special large bottles on display.  The collections of specialty BC wines is a reflection of the commitment to local that is so important to British Columbia.   There was plenty of wine I’d love to have the budget to explore but I like to save my wine dollars in restaurants so I appreciated the excellent choice and price selection.  I started with a Blue Mountain Brut and David with a local brew, a Tuff Session Ale and we were both happy watching the sun set and settling in for a nice meal.  I love the free stuff and the handmade seafood tortellini in curry broth was a tasty treat.  We shared a starter of Sweet potato fritters.  The dish would be difficult to share if our server hadn’t gone the distance and had it plated separately.  Delicious whipped sweet potato, breaded and deep fried, more like a croquette really, they were topped with yogurt, cucumber and sweet onions.   Every bite was finished.  Next I had the potato crusted oysters, lightly smoked and served with an onion rague,  I liked the creativity and depth of complexity.  Another glass of the Brut was a good match up.  David had side striped prawns in a cumin broth, also served with some roasted onions.  Deep and delicious flavours and yet the prawns were the predominant taste.  For a main course David had a scallop and clam pasta carbonara topped with egg yolk.  Tasty but I preferred my smoked arctic char with beets, marsarpone, olive oil foam cake and dark greens.  A lightly smoky dish with flavours that I would consider, low notes, like the bass notes in music, it worked very well with our Meyers Pinot Noir.  Full and happy, David had to try the espresso and pronounced it worthy of a return visit.  Finally we were served cheesecake bites,  the perfect one bite of sweet to end the meal, compliments of the chef.  Thanks Chef!   Tofino has some great food and The Pointe helps set the standard of casual yet excellent service, food and wine.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Planning a weekend in Montreal. Any recommendations for an Italian restaurant?

Definitely going to Milos for fish and I know that means we'll want pasta next.  What's the best Italian restaurant in Montreal?  Better try a deli too.  Anyone love something?