Archive for May, 2014

Ideas for a Paris Visit

May 19th, 2014

Ideas for a Paris Visit

So many things to do and see in Paris and not enough time. The requisite museums, art galleries, chocolate & pastry shops, markets, passage ways, restaurants, parks, bridges etc. have to be checked out and everywhere you look including Google there are even more suggestions. It is still thrilling to find new discoveries on your own as well. Nonetheless here are some of my ideas that brought joy on another visit during May 2014:

A. MARKETS:

Fav is still Marche D’Aligre 12A. Stop at nearby Ble Sucre for Pain aux Raisins. Also old Rue Mouffetard 5A and Rue Montorgueil 1A. Less impressed this trip with touristy Cler 7A and Poncelet 17A.

B. BREAD:

So many choices! Even the contest for the best baquette won the last 2 years by spots in the southerly 14A. Fav still wood burning ovens of Du Pain Et Des Idees 34 rue Yves Toudic 10A – wonderful croissants (1E45), “escargot” pastry (2E80) of pistache, pralines, and raisins. Baguettes and quarter loaf Pain des Amis (2E45), and quarter of grainy Epeautre (4E20). Dependable locations of Eric Kayser hard to beat.

C. STORES:

Great shopping. Check out department stores of Galeries Lafayette, Printemps both on Blvd Haussmann and Bon Marche. Excellent food sections. My wife Joan likes Arche for shoes. Monoprix super groceries and even classy Le Mesnil Grand Cru Champagne (22E50). Nicolas has frequent sales and some cheap wine prices at C Discount 63 rue du Bac 7A.

D. GLACE et SORBET:

Berthillion – 31 rue St. Louis en l’Ile. Ice Creams. True passion fruit and pear flavours. Grom – 81 rue de Seine 6A. Outstanding gelato preferred over Amorino locations.

Parigi_-_Promenade_plantée_IMG_8893
By Twice25 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

E. WALKS:

So many passageways and bridges and romantic parks. Be sure to walk the 12A Promenade Plantee (tree lined elevated walkway).

F. RESTAURANTS – 10 varied choices:

1. AKRAME 16A Visited for 4th straight year and just received 2nd Michelin star 2014.
Always outstanding with amazing pigeon.

2. SPRING 1A Chef Daniel Rose only doing dinners now with the surprise fresh market items.

3. RECH 17A Classy new 1 star Michelin with a fresh sustainable fish emphasis from famous chefs Jacques Maximin/Alain Ducasse.

4. MON VIEIL AMI 4A Many lunch visits for the fantastic Plat de Jour for 15E50 which is published a week ahead and might be comfort Blanquette de Veau, Beef Cheeks, or Osso Buco
all with lots of vegetables. Chef Antoine Westermann previously had a 3 star in Strasbourg. Also has poultry at Le Coq Rico 18A and soon opening one in New York 32 East 20th. Go to Berthillon afterwards for dessert.

5. SEPTIME 11A Another new 1 star chef Bertrand Grebaut. Value 3 course lunch 28E

6. COME A CASA 11A Super Italian find Chef Flavia Federici & Gianluca

7. LES ENFANTS ROUGE 3A Japanese chef Dai Shinozuka & wife Tomo cooking French with a lovely spotlight in NY Times Magazine March 30, 2014.

8. FISH LA BOISSONNERIE 6A Many visits. Always dependable value for the quality. Visit Grom after for dessert.

9. LE BISTROT PAUL BERT 11A Old fashioned but amazing 19E 3 course value of tasty herring potato salad, roast chicken and macaroon chocolate. On his own street at #16 with another one slightly more upscale at #6.

10. LE RICHER 9A Fun bar snack spot anytime. Good Aubergine-Burrata 6E50 & Tortilla 5E

Enjoy your next visit to Paris!

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9 tips for building a wine cellar on a budget

May 16th, 2014

By Joseph Temple

With the explosion of visual-centric websites like Pinterest, Instagram and Houzz.com, you can now look at an endless stream of jaw-dropping private cellars that are the envy of every oenophile. But what if you don’t have the money to construct extravagant spiral staircases, rustic open beams and expensive ivory tiles?  Don’t worry – here are nine principles for creating a wine cellar — no matter what your budget is:

 

Wine cellar temperature
1. Feel the temperature rising?

Before even thinking about going to the hardware store to begin this DIY project, you first need to see if the designated area is suitable for hosting a wine cellar. Ideally, you want the space’s constant temperature to be between 50° F (10° C) and 59°F (15° C).  Any warmer and it will cause a fast maturation of your bottles; any temperature above 72°F (22°C) will most likely result in evaporation over time.  On the other end of the spectrum, colder temperatures will prolong the maturation process and below 30°F (-1°C) could freeze the wine.

So to see if the area is suitable, take multiple thermal readings with a good old fashioned thermometer.  Record the room’s temperature during a hot summer day and a cold winter night.  The key is to avoid large fluctuations, which will severely damage your long-term collection.  To help insulate your wine from these changes in the weather, install rigid foam boards.

Additional tip: Heat rises so place the white wines at the bottom of the rack and the reds at the top.

 

Wine cellar humidity
2. Humidity Matters

Equally important is the amount of humidity in a room, which should be between 55 and 75 percent (or 60 to 80 percent depending on who you talk to).  Any greater can cause mold and mildew to form on your bottles and any lower can result in the cork drying out, allowing oxygen to enter the bottle and thus evaporating (and ruining) the wine.

Just like temperature, you need to monitor the room’s humidity at different times of the day and year so invest in a hygrometer.  If the room is too humid, you might want to think about buying a small dehumidifier (usually under $300) that allows you to control the percentage in the room.  Another trick if you’re struggling with an area that’s too dry is to spread sand on the floor and regularly sprinkle it with water to increase the level of humidity.

Additional tip: Apply hairspray to the labels of your bottles to protect them from increased humidity.

 

wine cellar darkness light
3. Hit the Lights

When constructing a wine cellar, keep in mind that you’re creating the modern day equivalent of a medieval dungeon.  Any sunlight that enters your cellar can penetrate glass causing the wine to turn brown.  You’ll want your collection to sit in perpetual darkness so if there are any windows nearby, block them out with curtains or shades year-round.  And decide if you want to install a small light bulb or use a flashlight for when you have to identify and/or retrieve a bottle from your collection.

 

wine cellar air ventilation
4. Keep the air flowing

Make sure that wherever you store your collection there is proper ventilation.  Both strong and stale smells can affect the flavor of your wine so add a vent (if there isn’t one already) in the room to keep the air circulating.  But if you install any foam boards or insulation mentioned in Tip #1, check that they don’t block any vents.  Also, make sure that you don’t store wine bottles next to paint cans, chemicals or fridges. Basically anything with a strong odor you want to keep as far away from your cellar as possible.

 

Wine cellar vibrations
5. No vibrations are good vibrations!

In addition to smell, movements and vibrations can hinder the aging process.  So carefully assess any appliances or objects in the vicinity of your wine cellar and consider moving them.  Refrigerators, dryers and power tools are on the top of the list and if you live near busy roads or train tracks, keep your collection away from the walls and off the floor to minimize the effect that these vibrations can have.

 

Clay Tile wine cellar storage
6. Choose the right storage

Working on a budget, you might want to consider buying clay pipes or clay tiles to store your bottles.  On the plus side, they rarely deteriorate and the thermal mass of these tiles helps to maintain the ideal temperature and humidity by reducing year-round climate fluctuations.  Try searching for these items on websites like Kijiji and Craig’s list where you can pick them up for pennies per tile/pipe.  Just make sure they are un-cracked, clean and have not become mildewed.

 

Cataloging your wine cellar
7. Cataloging your collection

There are many ways to keep your cellar organized and up-to-date (several blog entries could be written on this subject alone).  If you’re traditional, you can purchase a cellar book and manually enter your inventory.  But in the digital age, your best bet is to create a spreadsheet or buy one of the many inventory management software applications to record all relevant information.  Keep in mind that with computer viruses always floating around, its best to save your work using cloud computing by uploading your files to a 3rd party site.  And if you decide to use a cellar book, be sure to keep it in a room other than the one hosting your collection for insurance purposes.  In fact, if you ever want to insure your collection down the road, having it properly cataloged is a must in order to get a policy.

 Additional tip: Buy some paper or plastic tags that hang over the necks of bottles to help organize your collection.

 

Avoid floods with your wine cellar
8. Be prepared for a possible flood

If you live in an area that is prone to flooding, you shouldn’t keep your collection in the basement.  Instead, keep it as high as possible and make sure the bottles are stored in sturdy racks off the floor.

 

Protect your wine cellar from insect infestation
9. Beware of insects

When it comes to infestation, you can never be too safe.  Insects are infamous for eating their way through wine corks so even one bug is one too many when it comes to wine cellars.  To be proactive, plug in an orderless insect strip sold at your local hardware store to ward off any possible infestation.  And if you want to take it one step further, wrap your bottles in plastic so they are kept air tight.

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With many branches of the International Wine & Food Society having their own cellars including many individual members, perhaps they can share any helpful tips they might have in the comment section below.  Cheers!

 

Do you have a wine cellar in your home?

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Ask Sid: BYOW, but what kind?

May 14th, 2014

asksid2

Question: My favorite local restaurant is finally allowing BYOW.  What can I bring to please everyone at the table?

Answer: The increased costs of stocking a reasonable cellar for new smaller restaurants is becoming a problem. More are opting out and this development together with the increased allowability to bring your own wine to the dining establishment for a reasonable corkage fee makes this a timely question. Many would cop out by saying the right answer is definitely to bring the wine you personally like the best – at least you will enjoy the wine!  Certainly a big Cab, Bordeaux, or Syrah will go nicely with a steak or other red meats but are much less accommodating with so many other foods so that would be quite a risky pick.

However, there are certain types that are definitely more versatile for any foods that might be served. The following 5 suggestions spring immediately to mind:

1.  SPARKLING
Can’t beat Champagne going with everything but most Cremant, Cavas, Proseccos and other bubbles should do the trick nicely as well.

2.  ROSE
Dry rose is becoming ever more popular and surprisingly can work magic as an aperitif and with a wide range of foods from fish to smoked meats.

3.  RIESLING
Always interesting and so many drier ones on the market now from Australia (Clare & Eden), Germany (Pfalz), Canada (Niagara & Okanagan), Alsace (Hugel or Trimbach work well not only with choucroute) and other wine growing regions.

4. SANGIOVESE
If you prefer a red the wonderful savoury character of this varietal pairs so well with food – not only pizza and pasta but so many meaty dishes as well. Refreshes the palate well.

5. PINOT NOIR
This is usually my choice. So many delicious ones out there right now from around the world. Usually all have vibrant underlying acidity to go with almost everything. Serve it colder with the first course of whatever including fish (salmon) and as the bottle warms in the room it will be at a perfect temperature and provide a solid match for your main course.

Ask Sid Cross about wine and food

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Ask Sid

May 14th, 2014

Which wines improve with age? Why are some bottles of champagne so expensive?  What type of food would you pair with a specific wine?  There are so many questions but who do you ask?  How about the International Wine and Food Society.

The IW&FS is excited to announce the addition of a new feature on the blog site called “Ask Sid,” where users can send in their wine and/or food related questions to Honorary President Sid Cross, who will respond every week with his expert opinion.

Send your questions to iwfshelp@gmail.com and sign-up and for our e-mail updates so you can be notified instantly of Sid’s responses which are every #winewednesday

Who is Sid Cross

Sid Cross was the Wines Committee Chair for many years for The International Wine & Food Society. He is the only Canadian to be inducted as a Membre d’Honneur of the L’Academie du vin de Bordeaux and be awarded The Gourmet of the Year by The Society of Bacchus America (‘for outstanding knowledge of food and wines and for imparting this knowledge to others’). He has been promoted by the French Government from Chevalier to Officer status in the prestigious Ordre du Merite Agricole.

He is a frequent wine judge, panelist and entertaining educator on wine and food. These presently include among many others the prestigious Lieutenant-Governor Awards For Excellence, Vancouver Magazine Wine Competition, Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, Okanagan Wine Festivals, and Whistler’s Cornucopia.

He is a wine and food guru for several wine and food publications. Co-founder and advisor to The Chefs’ Table Society of British Columbia he is in demand as a culinary judge including the Olympic Gold Medal Plates in Vancouver, The Canadian Culinary Championships, International Chocolate Awards for Canada, and Oeanwise’s BC Sustainable Seafood Chowder Chowdown Competition.

 

Ask Sid Cross about wine and food

Restaurant David Toutain in Paris

May 11th, 2014

David Toutain Restaurant in Paris
Photo credit: davidtoutain.com

Talented chef David Toutain opened his eponymous 35 seat restaurant without tablecloths at 29 rue Surcouf in the 7thA Paris less than 5 months ago but already it is a very hot ticket. Only in his early thirties he brings an impressive resume including “premieres experiences” at Loiseau, L’Arpege, L’Ambroisie, Retour a L’Arpege, Marc Veyrat, and Mugaritz. On June 28, 2011 he opened Agape Substance his first chef de cuisine posting showing off some unique impressive exciting cuisine until leaving in December 2012. Some memorable lunch and dinner prix fixe menus there based on Themes such as Tomate, Girolle, Pigeon, Cochon, Fromage, Carotte among many. Since then David and family have been on learning “Voyages” including Singapore, Japan, Copenhagen (Geranium), San Francisco, and New York.

Like his flagship statement that “Tous les gouts sont dans La Nature”. For more background depth check out his brand new first book published March 2014 by Argol in French called La Cuisine De david toutain (with excellent photos by spouse thai toutain) third in a new Vivres serie Gestes following Pierre Gagnaire and Bertrand Grebaut of Septime.

The fixed price Printemps Menu Reine des Pres is 98 euros (or 158 with wine pairings well chosen by Alejandro) for around 10 exquisite courses (plus 3 amuse – one a sensational airy light as a feather layered sponge cake of fresh green peas and verbena). Many highlights too detailed to list here but marvelled at the well thought out progression of dishes: Oysters & kiwi cleverly matched; Potato soup & Fava Bean salad; BBQ green asparagus; Squid & White Garlic; Steamed Whiting on Pesto; Smoked Eel in Black Sesame with green apple bits; top quality remarkable whole Loin of Pork paraded raw through the full dinng room before perfectly cooked for everyone; Outstanding 48 month shaved Comte; Desserts including potato puree under fresh raspberry & pure essence of parsley sorbet. I also was impressed by the conscientious service and the decor with a feature wall of small pieces of wood intricately done – reminiscient of the walls in the new Trade & Convention Centre in Vancouver. Two small quibbles: The cringing sound similar to nails on a blackboard as I scrapped with my metal spoon for more of the yummy sauce on the sides of the distinct beautifully designed Belgian pottery used. Secondly I understand the menu will be a surprise but still most guests would appreciate reliving it with a printed take away information sheet of what they were served. I also mentioned this issue to David while he was at Agape Substance and they should follow up on this small omission to such a wonderful dinner experience.

Based on the creative dishes with delicious textured flavours I experienced in early May 2014 he is certainly well prepared for this new undertaking. This place already is better than most 1 star Michelin restaurants and in my opinion will soon be vying for Top 50 Best Restaurants in the World. Highly recommend you treat yourself on your next visit to Paris!

Have you dined at Restaurant David Toutain?

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