Archive for August, 2021

THE MOST MEMORABLE WINE & CHEESE PAIRING EVER!

August 30th, 2021

There are lots of classic matchings of wine and cheese. Your top 5 might include some of mine:

  1. Sauternes with Roquefort
  2. Port with Stilton
  3. Chianti Classico with Pecorino Toscano
  4. Gewurztraminer (off-dry) with Munster
  5. Almost any wine with my fav Parmigiano-Reggiano but prefer Champagne, Pinot Grigio, or a richer white Rhone blend.

Often in the old days the cheese course was served at the end of the meal paired with the oldest red wines. Not ideal. Influenced May de Lencquesaing ex-Pichon Lalande to serve her youngest Pauillac with the cheeses. However, usually white white works better with cheese than red. The acidity and sometimes sweetness of white seems preferable with many cheeses over the drier tannins of red wine.

Last week at Cactus Club Cafe Coal Harbour in Vancouver your scribe orchestrated (for only the 3rd time) the most magical wine and cheese pairing he has ever experienced. Both items are the finest made from the Jura. The cheese was Comte de Montagne Fromageries Vagne, Jura, 24 months affinage. The wine was 1972 Vin Jaune (“yellow wine”) D’Arbois from Henri Maire La Plus Grande Reserve Mondiale from the Chateau Montfort caves Arbois, Jura, France. It was 12.4 abv in the traditional 62 cl bottle (called a Clavelin) having thrown at nearly 50 years a lot of sediment. Opened ahead, decanted, mineral water washed and returned to the bottle by talented respected sommelier Sebastien Le Goff it showed to perfection. Made from 100% Savagnin grapes in barrels not topped up for 6 years allowing a yeast layer to form called “le voile” (the veil) like the flor of Sherry. Colour was
not brown but clear and not too oxidized (with no maderization) but a perfectly aged remarkable bottle indeed. My friend Wink Lorch in her masterclass book Jura Wine accurately captured the highlights of our bottle: “From Arbois especially, the wines will be nutty – walnuts in particular, sometimes fresh walnuts (also known as green or wet walnuts), even hazelnuts. Also a French (rather than Indian) curry powder mix of turmeric, coriander, cumin, and cardamom, sometimes with ginger and fenugreek.” This Vin Jaune (also would match well with buttery escargots) was very dry (all grape sugar had fermented out) with some candied lemon notes plus all that high acidity. Yet was so complex and really singing brilliantly with an astounding roundness of texture when tasted together with the neighbouring aged nutty Comte. Combined for a rich palate but almost an ethereal sensation too. Much better enjoyed together than by themselves. Hard to explain in words but believe me this is a truly outstanding wine & cheese matching! Try it.


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Ask Sid: What is an unctuous wine?

August 25th, 2021
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Question: What is an unctuous wine?

Answer: Not that commonly used in wine terms but is appropriate to describe the texture of some smooth rich thick wines – often sweeter ones. The Concise Oxford Dictionary describes unctuous as “having a greasy or soapy feel; oily” and that is sort of the mouth feel you should experience in order to use that word appropriately for wine tasting.


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HATS OFF SALUTE TO ALL RESTAURANTS THAT HAVE PIVOTED SO ADMIRABLY DURING THE PANDEMIC – GOLD STAR TO BOULEVARD!

August 23rd, 2021

These present days continue as the most difficult for all restaurants. Some have pivoted well carrying on pretty much as formerly but with more limited onsite & patio dining yet with increased delivery and pick-up orders. Others have altered somewhat their menus sometimes simplified and with fewer choices. The higher end places especially
have found it particularly hard to produce their attractive designer art work high quality cuisine for take away orders. But no problem for Boulevard Vancouver! The creative talented culinary team is so well trained and includes award winning Chefs Alex Chen and Roger Ma. This brigade have taken seriously the big challenge of replicating their on site menu (though missing their outstanding table service) of fine dining in your own home. Instructions on how to do the final preparations were so thoughtfully written down for the “home cook”. Blown away by the attention to detail of the plenitude of finishing items perfectly prepared each in their separate containers including
fresh tarragon in cool water, crisp potato chip topping, shaved fennel, porcini, summer vegetables, poached local strawberries, and many more. So impressive indeed as you can see by the photos. One small quibble would be the environmental impact of using so many plastic containers that are not biodegradable. However this experience was special. Next
best and very close to actually being in the fantastic restaurant itself.

The function on Sunday August 22 Chez Cross was one of six groups assembled for Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin Summer Paulee. This involves members bringing a themed wine (this year Corton-Charlemagne) to taste and discuss before the Boulevard lunch to follow (ours lasted 6 hours from 1 pm to 7pm).Your scribe in past years tasted all the wines provided and gave an overview impression but this year was a “vacation” only having to taste 7 of them. In total over 30 C-C were tasted from different producers ranging in vintage from 1994 to 2018.
By far the most popular submission was Bonneau du Martray with 8 vintages (11, 10, 09, 06, 05, 04, 02 and 94) all showing well with none of the premature oxidation issues that have arisen with some producers from the mid-nineties. Advised 2004 was fresher and better than celebrated 2005. Also 4 vintages Louis Jadot  improved from their lesser period during late nineties to early new century (after old treasures of 85, 86, and 89) with stellar 16, 15, 11 and 06. My favourite white Burgundy (plus Chablis) vintages 2014 (only had Clos de la Chapelle) and 2010 (Bonneau du Martray, Henri Boillot, and Faiveley) were reported by the other groups to be showing impressively. Our group enjoyed 3 vintages of Louis Latour excellent fresher less oak persistent 2017, unusual very light less rich
youthful 1998 acquired offshore no abv listed, and classic mature 1997 so round and creamy at 13.7 alcohol. Also tried 1999 Vincent Girardin greener balanced ready; delicious elegant underrated consistent 07 Bouchard Pere; value priced 2017 Marius Delarche; and exclusive newcomer only 2 barrels using “Black Chardonnay” method 2018 Pierre Milleman/00 Wines. Suggest you check out further details about this star Oregon winery of Chris & Kathryn Hermann at 00wines.com. The four 2006 red Burgundy served with lunch surprised. Coming after the perfect but not quite ready 2005, the vintage was initially downgraded  as not being ripe enough and variable. However it has
developed rather well and is coming around to start drinking now. Les Pruliers vineyard is an old time fav from Daniel Rion and sometimes shows sweet red cooked plums rustic like the Taupenot-Merme while the lighter browner rim Louis Boillot has a more elegant expressive bouquet with more style. The Grand Crus were all typical intense cherries of Griottes from Rene LeClerc and serious concentrated classic Chambertin Clos de Beze Drouhin-Larose. Rather good.

The lunch courses were all terrific. So artful in concept and execution and tasty. WOW event. Check out the menu and food photos. Remarkable indeed. Highly recommend you try Boulevard or find another top restaurant in your home city around the world that will go to this amount of effort to make your dining experience at home this
memorable. Thanks. Big congrats!


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Ask Sid: What grapes are used for white wines in Santorini?

August 18th, 2021
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Question: I like the crisp white wines from Santorini . What grapes are used?

Answer: Those volcanic soils on Santorini in Greece are providing some interesting unique wines. The most planted variety in Santorini is Assyrtiko. However remember the 3 A’s used there for whites:

ASSYRTIKO: Minimum of 75% in white blends. Very high acidity + minerality. Structure. Ages well changing in style from early Chablis-like to more dry Riesling-like.

AIDANI: Maximum of 25%. Lower acidity softener with some floral elegance.

ATHIRI: Maximum of 25%. Lower acidity showing delicate aromatics of citrus fruits plus softer textures. Most planted variety in Rhodes and used also for Sparkling.


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CHEF’S CHOICE CHINESE RESTAURANT OPENED WITH SUCCESS DURING A PANDEMIC

August 16th, 2021

We all know the difficult problems existing restaurants are having during this extended Covid pandemic just trying to survive. Hospitality closures, restrictions on hours and seating, ever increasing short supply of staff, and less dine-in patrons are all contributing factors. Many are pivoting with more outdoor patios, expanded pick-up and delivery services, grocery store type models, and other good innovative ways to maintain at least some business. Not easy. So to see a restaurant accept these present challenges with an unknown future but launch a new place is most brave and optimistic indeed. Yet that is what the amazing Chef’s Choice Chinese Restaurant in Vancouver chose to do earlier this year. They are already a popular hit and busy producing classic dishes from Hong Kong (and Guangdong). Chinese Restaurant Awards has chosen them as one of four “Game Changers” who have shown “courage in the face of adversity”. Well done.

On August 14, 2021 we were invited to join a group of ten at a round table in a private room for what turned out to be an exquisite dinner. Many courses were served freshly made well organized one at a time progressively with perfect service. Your scribe questioned why this particular order with the explanation given being mainly traditional
plus important contrasts needed from dish to dish. Certainly not for wine pairing ease as the beef came way before the cod. Liked how the green tea was perfectly brewed then decanted into clear containers kept hot on burners on the table. Classy touch.

So many superb highlights as shown on the menu and in the photos. One of my favourites was the outstanding Sticky Fried Rice with Chicken course uniquely done with layers of crispy skin, thinly sliced breast of chicken underneath, and wonderful sticky fried rice bottom. Four wines family style that matched the courses to best advantage:

Piper Heidsieck Champagne NV Magnum – lively refreshing aperitif

Checkmate Little Pawn Chardonnay 2017 Magnum – vanilla oak integrated with classy pure fruit in an elegant way with balanced vibrancy finishing lift. One of Okanagan’s best.

Chablis 1er Cru Montmains 2018 Jean-Marc Brocard – Softer year but only stainless use accentuates the citrus refreshing earthy nature of this vineyard.

Shea Wine Cellars Estate Pinot Noir 2016 Shea Vineyard – Blend from 200 acre site expresses spiced raspberries & cherries drinking smoothly showing wonderful Willamette Valley top vineyard fruit. Please tell us about any outstanding restaurant that has newly opened in your home town.


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