Posts in Food and Drink

My Wife’s Notes – Silver Sage Grand Reserve – Soy Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry

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Soy Ginger Chicken Stirfry

  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
  • 1 orange pepper, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 6 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • 1 can sliced bamboo shoots
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • soy sauce
  • rice wine vinegar
  • sesame oil
  • brown sugar

Cut all of the veggies and set aside in separate bowls.  Add 6 tbsp soy sauce, 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 2 tbsp brown sugar and the garlic and ginger in a bowl, mixing well.

Heat 2 tbsp sesame oil in a wok or large saucepan. When hot, add the chicken and 1/3 of the sauce mixture.  Stir constantly, cooking until the chicken is just cooked through the middle.  Transfer the chicken to a dish and set aside in a warming oven.

Heat an additional 2 tbsp sesame oil in the wok, and begin cooking the vegetables. Start with the carrots first, and while stirring constantly, add the onion, water chestnuts, bamboo, peppers, broccoli, and mushrooms in that order.  Add the sauce to the mix slowly after each new vegetable is added.  Add the chicken back, mix thoroughly and simmer for two minutes.  Remove from heat, and serve over quinoa or rice.

After the craziness of December and the holidays, Alana and I took off to Mexico for a few weeks to refresh…and refresh we did.  Beach, ocean, sunshine and lime margaritas on the rocks have made me stoked and ready to take on 2012.  But I will say this: as excited as I was to come home, it was hard to leave the land of cheap fresh veggies and fish and come back to Canada to see avocados selling for $2 a piece and halibut more expensive than silver.

Annnnnd speaking of silver, let’s get talking about this wine.  A friend Lisa gave me a bottle of Silver Sage Grand Reserve, a winery I’d not heard of before.  It’s Lisa’s favorite wine and, knowing how difficult it is to find, saved a bottle for me to try.  How could one resist that?

Silver Sage Grand Reserve

I chose to pair it with a winter staple for me, a basic Soy Ginger Chicken Stir-fry.  Chock full of vegetables and chicken, this dish is a welcome relief after the heaviness of holiday food.

Soy Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry

My Notes:

The first thing you’ll notice is that this wine is almost completely colorless. Silvery, with just the slightest hint of yellow-green, it’s obvious this wine is something different.  The nose is very unique, the sage hitting strong up front, with a sweet cotton candy scent coming in at the end.  The first sip is sweet and slightly thick, with a surprisingly low acidity that creates a very smooth and long mouth-feel.  The sage is very prominent after the sweet notes have disappeared; although strong, it just stays on this side of overpowering. Unlike most white wines, this flavor profile doesn’t budge when paired with the food, with the last sip tasting virtually the same as the first.  Unusual, but intriguing.  87 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“Whoa, it’s silver. That’s so different. *sip* It’s like…no wine I’ve ever tasted before! How unusual.”

My Wife’s Notes – See Ya Later Ranch Brut – New Year’s Day Bourbon French Toast

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New Year’s Day Bourbon French Toast

  • 1/2 loaf San Fransisco Sourdough bread
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Disaronno or other almond liquor
  • Knob Creek bourbon, or other bourbon
  • maple syrup
  • balsamic vinegar

Pre-warm the oven to 200 degrees F, and heat a non-stick fry pan to medium.  In a small pot on low heat, heat the maple syrup with a splash of bourbon and a few drops of balsamic vinegar (sounds weird, but trust me, it’s fantastic). Stir occasionally.

In a bowl, combine eggs, cream, nutmeg, cinnamon, Disaronno and bourbon, whisking until fully mixed.  Slice the bread into 1/2 inch thick slices, and dip them in the mixture, allowing to soak into the bread.

Melt a bit of butter in the pan, and fry the egg-soaked bread for 2-3 minutes on each side. Place on a plate in the oven to keep warm, and repeat until all of the bread has been fried.  To serve, place several pieces on a plate, top with heated syrup and butter if desired, and serve with bacon.

Sparkling wine and OJ, eggs, bacon, coffee, French toast…Alana and I love any excuse to brunch, but there is no more appropriate time for brunch than on New Years Day.  Making food like French toast is simple, rich and just indulgent enough to make you feel good about starting off the New Year right.

New Years Bourbon French Toast

Mimosas are a brunch staple, and for that we need a sparkling wine.  There are a number of renowned Okanagan Bruts (Cipes from Summerhill and Stellar’s Jay from Sumac Ridge for example), but the See Ya Later Ranch Brut stands proud as the best the valley has to offer.  Delicious on its own or mixed with some fine orange juice.

See Ya Later Ranch Brut

My Notes:

The lively bubbles subside to reveal a pale yellow wine with a slight green tinge.  The nose is very delicate, with hints of yeast, apple and soft spice.  The first sip is crisp and tart, with more orchard fruits like green apple and pear throughout.  The lively acidity cleanses the palette, and finishes with bright melon and citrus flavors…flavors that pair exceptionally well with any orange juice added. 91 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“Mmm, it tastes sooooo good with my bacon! Pour me some more.”

Happy New Year

There’s something wonderful about champagne, few drinks leave me with a similar emotional response. Perhaps this is because we save it for special occasions like New Years Eve, weddings and/or Sunday mornings. Perhaps there’s something in the bubbles. We may never know.

What we do know is that today is New Years Eve and a good chunk of us will (hopefully) be drinking a glass or three of champers tonight. If you’re not sure where to start I’ve got a couple tips I’ve picked up over the years. I wouldn’t (publicy) claim to be a professional champagne drinker, but there are a few things I do know about a fine bottle. My drill for New Years has seen everything form a small sip of champagne to last years debacle in my living room. Let’s just say it included a box of Summerhill Brut — my absolute favourite sparkling wine with these lovely small bubbles reminiscent of Dom Pérignon — a smoke machine, and that everyone involved is thankful we took spectacularly amateur photos with which we may “remember” the night.

I prefer a chilled bottle that, if not kept in the fridge, is chilled in a bucket with 70% ice and 30% water. If you’re in a hurry I’ve heard that throwing some salt on the ice helps a lot. It’s apparently faster than a freezer and a lot less dangerous if you’re forgetful.

The foil and cage are fairly straightforward but trivia buffs will be impressed when you tell them that it always takes seven turns of the neck wire to free the cage.

Now for one of the greatest lessons I have ever learned. Grab the cork with one hand and the bottom of the bottle with the other. Place the bottle at a 45˚ angle to maximize champagn-to-bottle surface area exposure. Turn the bottom of the bottle but not the cork. Keep a firm grip in the cork pushing against it. You don’t want an explosion but rather, something like a nun farting in a front pew.

Pour into glasses… slowly. Replace bottle in bucket.

Cheers, and a safe and happy New Years from A-OK!

My Wife’s Notes – 2010 La Stella La Stellina Rosato – Ahi Tuna Mac & Cheese

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Ahi Tuna Mac & Cheese

  • 3 cups elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Gruyère, Edam, Danish Blue or other cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups aged white cheddar
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 large Ahi Tuna fillet

Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Cook the macaroni in a pot of salted water for about 5-6 minutes; the pasta should be a little more firm that you’d normally eat. When it is finished cooking, drain the water and place the pasta in an oven-safe casserole dish. Coat the pasta in 1 tbsp olive oil, and set it aside to cool.  Cut a chunk of the Tuna fillet (about 1/4 the total fillet) and dice it, adding the small pieces to the pasta, mixing them evenly.

Heat the milk and cream in a saucepan over, gently simmering.  In a large saucepan, melt the butter and create a roux by slowly adding in the flour, whisking constantly until all flour has been added and the mixture is free of lumps. Pour in the cream mixture slowly, continuing to whisk.  Add one cup of each of the cheeses, continuing to whisk as the cheese melts. Add salt and pepper to your desires.

Pour the cheese and cream mixture over the pasta, and mix well.  Top with the remaining cheese and cover with bread crumbs. Bake for 25 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling all over the top. Once it’s done, remove from the oven and let it rest for five minutes.

While the mac and cheese is baking, heat a non-stick fry pan to medium-high.  Coat the tuna fillet in olive oil and season each side with salt and pepper.  Sear the tuna on both sides, about 3-6 minutes depending on the thickness of the tuna.  I like it rare in the center, but it can be cooked to your liking.   Serve by topping macaroni with 1/4 inch slices of tuna.

Alana is all about traditions at Christmas time; she likes to watch the same movies on Christmas Eve, make the same baking that she and her mom made as a kid…our lead up to Christmas has been scheduled for months.  And since this is our first Christmas as husband and wife, we wanted to start some fun new traditions!

To that end, we created the tradition of Rhys and Alana’s Christmas Eve Eve Comfort Food Extravaganza.  And what could be more comforting than mac and cheese?

To take it up a notch, I added rare seared Ahi Tuna, as a modern take on tuna casserole.

La Stella La Stellina Rosato 2010And to pair with it, we brought out a bottle of Rosé we’d been saving for a special occasion.  Alana has been really into Rosé this year, and this bottle of La Stella La Stellina Rosato 2010 was highly recommended to us.

La Stella La Stellina Rosato 2010

My Notes:

This bright strawberry red wine practically glows in the glass.  The nose is sweet, floral and aromatic…there’s plenty of different fruits and berries, as if I’d walked into a farmer’s market in June.  The first sip is sweet and full, with more of the berry flavors popping out.  Strawberry is most predominant, but blackberry and currant comes out in the finish.  When paired with the food, it starts to sparkle, the creamy cheese sauce bringing out a snappy tartness that cleans off the palette. A good pairing, but it would be even better on a summer patio with a goat cheese and strawberry spinach salad. 90 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“Ugh, I LOVE it. SO GOOD. I love Rosé!”

My Wife’s Notes – 2010 Silkscarf Viognier – Breakfast-For-Dinner Sandwich

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Breakfast-For-Dinner Sandwich

  • thick cut bacon
  • eggs
  • sourdough
  • tomato
  • arugula
  • basil
  • mayonaise
  • aged cheddar cheese

In a medium sized fry pan, place several strips of bacon on medium heat.  Allow the bacon to cook slowly – if the bacon starts to buckle and twist, turn the heat down.  Set the bacon aside once it’s cooked.

Toast two pieces of sourdough, and lightly spread mayonaise on one side.  Sprinkle with chopped basil.  Place sliced tomato and arugula on the piece with mayo.

Turn the heat up on the pan, and fry two eggs.  Place on the tomato, top with shredded aged cheddar, and finish with the second piece of sourdough.  Slice and serve.

About once a week (or at least fortnightly), Alana and I make breakfast for dinner.  Sunday nights seem to be a pretty good time for it; we both have the day off, and since we just grab something quick on the way to church in the morning, we tend to eat our breakfast in the evening.  Whether bacon and eggs, waffles, banana pancakes, or french toast, there’s something comforting about eating breakfast at a deliberately wrong time of the day.  Also, since it’s appropriate drinking time, you can pair it with wine.

Bacon and Egg Sandwich

While the bacon and egg sandwich is an old favorite from my bachelor days (classed up a bit with arugula instead of iceberg lettuce), the wine, a 2010 silkscarf Viognier, is brand new to me.  I purchased it on the gushing recommendation from my favorite wine seller, and was excited to try it out.

2010 Silkscarf Viognier

My Notes:

Bright pale yellow in color, the first sniff is pretty intense.  Stone fruits like peach and nectarine hit you first, but sweet, as if they’d been dusted with powdered sugar.  This wine is off-dry, although not as sweet as the nose would indicate.  The stone fruits are present in the full-bodied first sip, a very slight acidity providing a nice balance to the smooth mouthfeel.  It is quite good paired with the food, the peppery snap of the arugula with the creamy egg yolk bringing out some brightness and more exotic fruit flavors in the wine.  It’s a touch too sweet for my preference, but would be a very good option if you prefer sweeter whites. 87 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“It’s pretty good, what is it called?  Ohhh, I really like that name.”

2010 silkscarf Viognier. $21.90 from the Hotel Eldorado Liquor Store.

My Wife’s Notes – 2010 8th Generation Pinot Gris – Mediterranean Halibut Over Green Beans

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Mediterranean Halibut Over Green Beans

  • 10-12 Cherry or Grape tomatoes, chopped
  • 6-8 large green Sicilian olives, pitted and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 6 large leafs of fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tbls balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbls olive oil
  • 2 halibut filets, lightly brushed with olive oil
  • 1/2 pound fresh green beans
  • 2-3 oz. soft goat cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cut the ends of the green beans, add them to a pot filled 1/4 full with water, and heat to a boil.  When the beans are cooked to your liking, set the pot aside with lid on to keep warm.

While the beans are cooking, heat a medium-sized fry pan to medium-high and toast the pine nuts.  Make sure you don’t burn them; constantly stir or shake the pan to get a nice even toast.  When they have started to brown nicely, remove from heat and set aside in a small bowl.

In that same pan, reduce the heat to slightly below medium, and add the tomatoes, olives, basil, olive oil and balsamic.  Stir the mixture as it cooks, blending the flavors together.  Take half of the toasted pine nuts and add them back to the pan.  When the tomatos have started to fall apart from cooking, spoon the mixture into a bowl and set aside.

Turn the heat back up to medium-high, and pan-fry the halibut filets.  Cooking time will depend on the thickness of the filets, but try to keep the center of the fish rare for the best flavour.  Flip once to cook evenly, and when finished set the pan aside.

Drain the green beans and add the goat cheese and remaining pine nuts and stir; the heat from the beans should melt the cheese, coating them.  Spoon a good sized portion of the beans onto a plate.  Place a halibut filet on the beans, top with half of the tomato/olive/basil mixture, and serve.

When it comes to wine, I have some pretty strong preferences.  When presented with options, I’ll always default to a crisp, mineral-ly Riesling or a big juicy Meritage-style blend.  I think this is party because all the cheap bad wines tend to be labeled from the same few varietals.

Pinot Gris tends to show up in the cheap bottles, and it’s usually thin, sour and tart to the point of painful.  I avoid them like the plague, but in an effort to expand my wine horizons, I chose to find one that could change my perception of this grape.  In all the reviews I found, the Pinot Gris from 8th Generation in Summerland was consistently rated high, and seemed like a good candidate.  Plus I’m a huge fan of their Riesling, so the familiar label put me at ease right off the bat.

8th Generation Pinot Gris 2010

The 2010 vintage is described as being incredibly versatile, pairing especially well with seafood, so a quick and ideal pairing is Mediterranean Halibut over Green Beans.

Mediterranean Halibut over Green Beans

My Notes:

Pale greenish-yellow in the glass, this wine gives off light, sweet and fleeting nose of lychee, starfruit and sour green apple.  The first sip is shockingly rich; very full in the mouth, exotic fruits like dragonfruit and star anise pop as the wine travels over your tongue.  Minerality and a lime-like tang hits the back of the tongue, with a finish that is both crisp and long…this wine is a complete paradox.  Paired with the halibut, it is even more delicious; the slightly sour goat cheese, the headiness of the tomatoes and olives and the meaty fish mix exceptionally well with this wine. 90 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“Wow, its tasty, and then it hits you in the back of the throat, y’know?.  This is really good.”

2010 8th Generation Pinot Gris. $19.99 from the 8th Generation Wine Shop.

My Wife’s Notes – 2008 Cedar Creek Chardonnay – Aged White Cheddar Popcorn

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Alana’s White Cheddar Popcorn

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/4-1/3 canola (or other vegetable) oil
  • 1 1/2 cups aged white cheddar, finely grated
  • sea salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 250F. In a Whirly Pop (or your preferred popcorn popping apparatus) heat the oil.  Add the popcorn kernels, and stir constantly.  When the popcorn has fully popped, remove from heat and add the popcorn to a large oven-safe bowl, layering the cheese in it.  The cheese will begin to melt, but for best results, place the bowl in the oven for 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted to your desired melted-ness.  Remove from oven and stir thoroughly, adding salt if desired.

Thursday night is designated as Date Night In for the Albrechts.  We record all of our favorite television shows earlier in the week, and spend the evening indulging in some serious relaxation.  We have a system too: I time dinner to be ready when Alana comes home from work, and we eat while watching Modern Family and Community.  We take a break to clean up the kitchen, and Alana makes White Cheddar Popcorn before starting Parks & Recreation.  I like to think Ron Swanson would approve of us eating while watching him.

We usually continue to drink wine I’ve chosen for dinner, but this week is all about pair the wine specifically for the popcorn.  With flavors of aged cheeses, I figured that a Chardonnay would be the ideal pairing, even though I’m not really a Chard fan.  After a little in-store research, Cedar Creek’s 2008 Chardonnay seemed like a good bet.

My Notes:

Light fleeting aromas of citrus and fresh almonds on the nose.  First sip is smooth, dry and long, with lemon and apple-ly crispness mingled with toasted sourdough and a buttery finish…actually, if you made an appetizer with apple and brie on a sourdough crostini, it would be an absolute perfect pairing.  This is a very mildly oaked Chardonnay, quite a bit more drinkable than I normally find a Chard to be.

When paired with the popcorn, the fruitiness comes out bigger, tart and strong.  I expected the oak to pair nicely with the popcorn and cheese, but it all but disappeared.  I’m a bit disappointed with my pairing, as I suspect a more strongly oaked wine would stand up much better. Not even Ron Swanson’s mustache could improve this for me. 84 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“It’s too dry for me. Hey, uh, you made a bowl of popcorn for yourself, right?”

2008 Cedar Creek Chardonnay. $17.90 from BC Liquor Stores.

My Wife’s Notes: 2010 Joie Farm Riesling – Green Curry Baked Chicken over Quinoa

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Green Curry Baked Chicken

  • half bunch of cilantro
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 2 scallions
  • 1-2 green chiles with seeds removed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small piece ginger root
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts

Quinoa

  • quinoa
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro
  • juice from 1/4 lime
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Finely chop the lemongrass, scallions, chiles, garlic, ginger. Use a food processor to blend the ingredients with soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice and a half-bunch of cilantro, saving a couple of leaves for garnish. Once blended into a chunky paste, add the coconut milk, mix briefly, and pour over chicken in a shallow covered dish.

Bake the chicken at 375 for about 25 minutes until the meat is cooked through the middle.

Finely chop the quarter-bunch of cilantro (discarding the stem ends), and set it aside. While the chicken is cooking, boil the water for the quinoa and cook according to the package (usually takes about 15-20 minutes on the stove top). Once the quinoa is done cooking, set it aside on the stove and add the cilantro, lime juice and olive oil, stirring and fluffing the quinoa as you mix.

Place a large spoonful of quinoa on the middle of the plate. Place a piece of chicken on top of the quinoa, and pour several spoonfuls of the green curry sauce over top. Add a few cilantro leaves and serve with a lime wedge.

My absolute favourite white wine is the 2007 Joie Farm Riesling. I first tried it when I was just getting into wine tasting, and it was then I vividly understood that wine could have flavors that weren’t wine-y.  I remember explosions of green apple and honeydew melon, flavors I’d never experienced in wine before.  Of course my fond memory could have a bit of nostalgia bias, but that 2007 vintage sticks in my head like the Holy Grail.

That wine also broke my heart, as it taught me the cruel lesson of vintage differential.  I was disappointed to find that the 2008 and 2009 versions of this wine had substantially different flavour profiles, with grapefruit and pineapple notes taking center stage; still excellent wines, but not what I’d been hoping for.  Now it’s time to see how the 2010 holds up.

Tasting notes from the winery highlight flavors of lime and ginger in the 2010, so I chose to pair it with a Green Curry Baked Chicken over Quinoa, which has both lime and ginger present in the sauce.  This meal was derived from a Jamie Oliver recipe for Thai Green Curry, and tweaked by myself to better pair with the wine.  As an off-dry and medium-bodied white, I suspected it would stand up to a little bit of spice.

My Notes:

Pale gold in the glass, this Riesling has a tangy and citrusy nose; not exactly delicate but not overbearing either.  The first sip is a hit of sweet lime, melon and just a touch of apple, with a surprisingly medium-to-full body in the mouth.  Minerality is moderate, less than one would expect from an Okanagan Riesling. The signature mouthwatering acidity with the off-dry sweetness lingers long on the tongue and leaves you wanting more and more; this wine would disappear quickly while engaged in good conversation.  With lime and melon flavors in the forefront, this wine is closer to my beloved 2007 vintage than the last two years…I sure do miss that blast of green apple though.  The food pairing is exceptional – the lime in the quinoa brings out all kinds of crisp citrus flavors in the wine, and the sweetness cuts through the spice very well.  88 points on its own, 90 with the food.

My Wife’s Notes:

“Fruity and sweet…and citrusy I think?  It’s really good, but that quinoa was AMAZING.”

2010 Joie Farm Riesling. $23.00 from JoieFarm.com