Archive for July, 2013


July 29th, 2013


Cheese gets more like wine everyday with the explosion of new regions producing it and the many AOC & DOP (“Protected Designation of Origin”) designations for those such as Parmigiano-Reggiano. Seems to be a local cheese to try in almost every farming district you visit and so many shops are specialized in the sale of a wide variety of product. There are also continuing debates on pasteurized vs. unpasteurized cheeses and quotas that we won’t get into here.

We are lucky to have Les Amis du Fromage ( Vancouver’s busiest and best cheese shop – there are actually two. Long time IWFS member Alice Spurrell with her daughter Allison and their competent crew do a great job. I asked Allison to guest host this week with a few of her “hot” cheeses and tips on storage as follows:

“Top  cheeses:

For our store, we tend to sell less in the way of trendy cheeses as we do traditional cheeses. Our “cheese friends” seem to like to know the history of the cheese and find out a little about where it comes from. It’s just like learning about geography through a love of wine, the same applies to cheese. These are the really big sellers for us in July 2013:

·        Secret de Campostelle – this is one you would appreciate, delicious smooth aged sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrenees. The taste is a little earthier than Ostari but it is a little less aged that the AOC Ossau Iraty.

·        Caccio di Bosca – this is an aged pecorino (sheep’s milk) from Tuscany made by Il Fortetto. This cheese is aged for a year and is studded with truffles. How can you go wrong!

·        Epoisses – this is one of my favourites, a classic washed rind cheese from Burgundy. Although this isn’t a cheese for everyone due to its strong smell and taste, it seem to be flying out of the store these days.

·        Abbaye de Tamie – is a monastery made cheese from the Savoie in France. This is a typical monastic cheese in style – washed rind, semi firm texture, but the similarities end there. This is  a cheese that I would travel miles for, it has a fabulous earthy taste with a finish of hazelnuts and barnyard! Intense but amazing, and it has been made by the monks since the 11th century

·        Honeybee Goa Gouda – I know it sounds a little odd, but there is something about the touch of honey added to the curd of this cheese, that gives it a really memorable taste. The cheese itself is rich and caramelly from natural aging and the honey is just one more interesting layer.

·        Extra Aged Mimolette – this poor cheese goes though hardship in the US and Canada every few years. Apparently Agriculture and import agents aren’t as keen as we are about those little friends living on the outside of this naturally crusted cheese from the north of France. The bright orange colour and the rich tasting flavour has a group of fans though so they’re  always willing to wait for it to come back in stock

·        Bra Duro – this excellent  DOP designated raw cows’ milk cheese from the area around Bra is a little grassy, earthy with a great tangy finish. Nice with a glass of Prosecco for a summer evening.

·        Extra Mature Farmhouse Cheddar – from England. This is a stock item for many of our customers and we were out of stock for almost 4 months! Now that it’s back in stock everyone is buying it up. This is a great classic British cheddar, tangy, creamy and a little rich. Great with a nice glass of port in the winter or for a picnic lunch during the  great summer weather we’re having.

·        French Butter – does that count as cheese? I think it should J  We have been able to get French butter since January this year it has been a very happy addition to my cheese fridge. It has nice company there with the other Farmstead butters as well as all the French Camembert. Salted, unsalted demi sel – it’s all delicious!”

Allison you left out 3 of my top favs: Comte – at all ages, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and triple cream Brillat Savarin!

“Storage Tips – The way I keep cheese in my fridge in the store is in Cling film. I know some people don’t love that option but if you’ re trying to wrap a huge piece of cheese it is practical. As long as you continue to re-wrap your cheese in fresh saran wrap every time you open it, it should last for weeks in your fridge if it is a firm cheese. Soft cheese last less well once they are open, so that’s why it is always a better idea to buy just what you need for the week and shop more often. Everything tastes better when it hasn’t been hanging around in your fridge. Your fridge will probably smell better too.

There are quite a few options for storing cheese if you would prefer to not use plastic wrap. Formaticum is a great US company that makes really easy to use cheese paper sheets and bags. You can also use parchment paper although it won’t breath the same as the cheese paper, and some people feel that tin foil is a good option. I’m not sure about that myself, as I’m not sure I like the way tin foil breaks down over time. Basically you want to make sure you put cheese away free of other food crumbs so you don’t speed the growth of mold. Our fridges hold many diverse foods so if you have vegetables in your fridge and they may still have dirt attached to the roots, that dirt can transfer to the cheese if it’s not wrapped properly. If you don’t want to bother with rewrapping the cheese every time you open it, it is a good idea to keep it in a sealable container or zip lock bag.”

Wine and Cheese Pairings is another whole topic. However, you might check out the helpful information at site that lets you search by either the wine or the cheese you are serving.

Please weigh in about cheeses you are enjoying presently and any other tips you have for us on this broad food and wine matching topic.






July 22nd, 2013

Best wine serving temperatures

All of us would generally agree that white wines are often served too cold and reds too warm. This is accentuated even more now in mid-Summer (I know Down Under it is mid- Winter) when many whites are appreciated for being thirst quenching cold and reds are suffering from very abnormally hot room temperatures. However it is important that you consciously try to serve your wines within the best temperature ranges for that specific wine to give you the best attributes the wine has to offer. Coldest would be Sparkling, then Champagne, followed by Dessert wines, Roses and light aromatics, most Whites, bigger whites especially Chardonnay & Viognier, then Beaujolais, Dolcetto, & Pinot Noir and lighter reds, most Reds & Fortified all in ascending temperatures. However, in many restaurants the whites reside in the fridge and the reds stand in the dining room – both often not ideal for your wine enjoyment. Don’t be afraid to ask the sommelier or server to take your white wine out of the fridge early and not to transfer it into an ice bucket. Also to please put your red wine into an ice bucket for a few minutes to cool it down. Remember that it is better to serve too cold then too warm as it will warm up with airing in the glass but it will be difficult to cool it down once it is poured. Often very frustrating for a special classy red Burgundy served too warm!

One revelation was having two bottles of the 100 year old vines Santa Rita superb 2005 Pehuen Carmenere Apalta 14.7 alcohol at their winery in Chile. One was served room temperature in a non air conditioned room at lunch on a hot January day (summer) and the other well chilled. What a difference – so much so that the wines seemed completely different. The refreshing fruit and the restrained alcohol was so much more enjoyable drinking from the cold bottle both at first and as it warmed up compared to the really hot wine – in both alcohol and temperature. Lesson learned.

At a tasting of Lucien Le Moine Burgundies during Vinexpo with Mounir Saouma he served all his whites and all his reds at the very same temperature – about 15 degrees Centigrade (or about 59 degrees Fahrenheit). When I asked him about this he told me in his usual indomitable manner that it was a conscious choice as that was the best temperature for all his wines to show their unique terroir. But then Mounir also states that all his wines MUST be decanted to get rid of the natural CO2 from malolactic fermentation that is protecting his wines (because he has no filtration, no racking and no pumping). Remember that decanting and pouring also warms up your wine.

Any tips you have for us on your own experiences of ideal temperatures for any wines would be appreciated. Please share.


July 15th, 2013

Gluten Free Food

So many bakeries and restaurants you enter these days have a note on their menu about their new gluten-free options. Gluten is a protein in processed whole grains like wheat, barley and rye. A growing number of people have a gluten sensitivity, intolerance, or an immune allergic reaction called Celiac disease. Substitute grains you could use include rice, buckwheat, millet and quinoa among others. As a result flours from nuts and rice have become more prominent recently. Gluten-free diets, gluten-free cookbooks, gluten-free recipes and even gluten-free blogs are now out there to help you and make life easier. Domino’s Pizza has a gluten-free pizza crust made from rice flour, rice starch and potato starch.

If you are hosting a dinner or party with food it is now important to be aware of this issue for the welfare of your guests.

If you have a fool proof gluten-free recipe you use – especially for bread, cookies or cakes – please post it here.




July 8th, 2013


Sushi is becoming increasingly popular in Vancouver and almost everywhere else.

A big new 210 seat Miku Restaurant ( opened here last week with wrap around patios outside, a magnificent Coal Harbour view and Japanese artist hand painted seafood murals. Owned by Aburi Restaurants Canada this joins their sister restaurant Minami here in Yaletown both featuring seafood. They are bringing an innovative new concept to the Canadian scene with Aburi (sear flamed with a blowtorch) sushi as well as more vegetarian and gluten-free choices. The act of applying fire directly to enhance the natural fish flavours was developed in Japan about a century ago. They are creating their own sauces using non traditional Japanese ingredients (usually soy and wasabi) trying to complement the unique taste of each fish. Some examples include Aburi Hamachi (yellowtail) with avocado sauce, Aburi Hotate (scallop) with cod roe mayo, and Aburi Salmon Oshi Sushi fused with jalapeno. For non fish lovers there is even thin Aburi Chicken cooked on a very hot plate over an open fire grill.

A media friend Mijune Pak has just written up a 3 part feature on Sushi: 1.Rolls (Maki) vs. Nigiri-Zushi (Nigiri); 2.The use of Condiments; and 3.How to Eat it. For those wanting more information on sushi I suggest you read these at or under their Food & Drink tab.

Join in with your own thoughts on sushi or sashimi and whether you prefer traditional, Aburi style, both or neither.




July 1st, 2013

Cork vs screwcap

I like the continuing debate on what is the perfect closure for wine bottles. It certainly brings out strong advocates for the traditional cork as well as those for the screw cap. We all agree on eliminating that terrible corky TrichloroAcetic Acid (TCA) element that so easily spoils the enjoyment of your wine. Now there is another issue being debated over oxidation vs. reduction.

I refer you to the brilliant article posted July 1, 2013 by Andrew Jefford (in fact all his weekly wine blogs each Monday on are superb) called “A Bit of A Stink” –

Please share your opinion on whether or not you are experiencing more reductive wines these days and if so are you decanting them.

Also chime in on whether or not you prefer cork or screw cap closures generally. If you prefer cork would you nonetheless favour screw cap at least for young fresh aromatic whites.

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