My Wifes Notes

My Wife’s Notes is a wine and food article, where Contributor Rhys Albrecht cooks dinner and pairs it with a local Okanagan wine. Both he and his wife Alana provide tasting notes on the meal. Rhys’ notes are detailed and serious, using classical wine-tasting terminology and scoring system. Alana says the first thing that comes to her head.

My Wife’s Notes – 2010 Dirty Laundry Hush – Raspberry Mint Eton Mess

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Raspberry Mint Eton Mess

  • 3 egg whites
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 1/8 cups sugar
  • 2 cups raspberries
  • splash Hendrick’s gin
  • 16 leaves fresh mint
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 4 cups sliced strawberries

(Note: the meringue must be made at least 2 hours before serving, and lasts well in the freezer if you want to make a large batch)

Preheat the oven to 275F. Mix egg whites, 1 tsp vanilla, and cream of tartar in a bowl. Beat with a a mixer until soft peaks form. Very slowly add 1 cup of sugar while beating until the mixture starts to stiffen.  On a baking sheet covered in parchment or wax paper, spread the meringue mixture about 1 inch thick. Place the baking sheet in the oven and set the timer for 1 hour.  When the timer goes, turn off the oven, but leave the baking sheet in the oven to dry for an additional hour.  When the meringue is dry, remove from the oven and break into pieces approximately 1 inch wide.

While the meringue is in the oven, put the 2 cups of raspberries (fresh or frozen) into a small saucepan on medium-low heat.  When the berries have disintegrated from heat, add 12 leaves of fresh mint.  Boil for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and remove from heat. With a fine strainer over a bowl, separate the raspberry seeds and mint leaves from the juice.  Discard the seeds and mint, and return the juice back to the saucepan on medium-low heat. Add 1/8 cup sugar, and boil the mixture until it reaches the consistency of maple syrup. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Pour the whipping cream and 1 tsp vanilla into a chilled bowl, and beat until the cream begins to thicken. Slowly add the icing sugar, and continue to beat until the cream reaches desired consistency.

In the dessert glasses and bowls, layer pieces of meringue, strawberries, whipped cream and raspberry mint syrup.  Top with a few leaves of fresh mint. Serves 4-6.

I ran into a couple of ladies from Dirty Laundry Winery at a networking event, and I was thrilled to find out they are hosting weddings now!  As a wedding photographer, I’m always on the lookout for great wedding venues to recommend, so brides and grooms: if you’re looking for a winery-setting for your ceremony, check out Dirty Laundry.

I’m no stranger to Dirty Laundry’s line-up, but I was reminded that I hadn’t tasted their rose in a little while.  Called Hush, this is one of Alana’s favorite summer sippers.

I remember this wine tasting like berries, so I decided to go a little different with my food pairing this week.  This wine isn’t very sweet, but I figured it would pair really well with a twist on the classic Eton Mess. My mom used to make this for us as kids, and I never get tired of it.

My Notes:

While pouring this out of one of the best looking bottles in the Okanagan, your nose is hit with fragrant sun-ripened berries. As bright on the tongue as it is in the glass, this vibrant pink-red wine is crisp and clean, with juicy strawberries and raspberries as the primary flavors. The pairing with Eton Mess is exceptional, with the raspberry and strawberries accentuating the flavor of the wine, the cream giving the wine a bit more body, and the mint adding just a hint of freshness. 89 points on its own, 91 with dessert.

My Wife’s Notes:

“I know I was supposed to save some of the dessert to pair with the wine…but I think you should know by now that if you put food in front of me, I will eat it. And come on, you know I love this wine.”

2010 Dirty Laundry Hush. $19.99 at the Dirty Laundry Wineshop or online at dirtylaundry.ca

My Wife’s Notes – 2010 Grey Monk Pinot Blanc – Bacon Wrapped Salmon and Asparagus

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Bacon Wrapped Salmon and Asparagus

  • 1 large salmon filet
  • olive oil
  • 2 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons oregano
  • 6-8 strips of thin cut bacon or prosciutto
  • mayonaise
  • pepper
  • 1 bunch asparagus

Start by marinating the fish in a 1/2 cup of olive oil, the juice of one lemon, 2 tablespoons oregano, and a generous shake of salt and pepper. Rub the spices into the fish, and let sit for several hours.

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Take the marinated filet and slice it into strips about 2 inches wide.  Wrap each piece in a slice of bacon or prosciutto. Heat up a fry pan on the stove, and sear each bacon-wrapped piece for 90 seconds, and place in an oven dish. When all the pieces of fish are seared and in the oven dish, sprinkle the remaining oregano over the fish, place it in the oven and bake for 9-11 minutes until fish is cooked and bacon is crisping.

While the fish is baking, steam or boil the asparagus for a few minutes until they begin to soften. When cooked, set aside.

In a small bowl, mix 3-4 tablespoons of mayonaise with the juice of one lemon and a generous portion of freshly cracked pepper.  Mix thoroughly; the resulting mixture should be smooth and slightly runny.

Place 5-6 spears of asparagus on a plate, add a piece of fish, and drizzle with the lemon pepper mayo. Serve hot.

Having gone through many of my favorite and familiar wines, I threw out the question to Twitter and asked for suggestions on other wines to review.  Amongst the flurry of suggestions that came in, a friend in Calgary recommended that I check out the Grey Monk Pinot Blanc.

For the food pairing, I quite literally went with what I had available in the refrigerator.  We had salmon, bacon, and asparagus all there to be used, I chose to experiment a bit.  One note if you decide to try this at home: I found the bacon didn’t cook very fast, and cooking longer in order to get it crispy, the fish became overcooked. Were I to do this recipe again, I’d definitely use prosciutto instead.

My Notes:

Pale yellow in color, the wine is fresh floral on the nose. The first sip is very punchy, with pear and crisp apple flavors right off the bat. From the taste alone, you’d expect this to be a sweet wine, but the finish is quite dry. It stood up okay to the fish and asparagus, but I think a better pairing would be a nice cheese plate. 87 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“I don’t like the dryness. Too dry for me. I like the flavors though.”

2010 Grey Monk Pinot Blanc. $14.99 at BC Liquor Stores.

My Wife’s Notes – Rigamarole Red – Piri Piri Chicken

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Piri Piri Chicken

  • 4-6 pieces chicken
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 in piece of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 3/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 bottle Nando’s Piri Piri Sauce
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 2 large bell peppers
  • rice

NOTE: The chicken needs to be marinated for a minimum of 4 hours before cooking.  Prep the meal the morning of, or even the day before serving for best results.

Start by making the marinade.  Place 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, chopped ginger, shallot and garlic in a food processor, and blend until finely chopped.  Add 3/4 of the bottle of Piri Piri sauce (about 1/2 cup), 1/2 cup olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, and a little salt and pepper, and blend until throughly mixed.

Spoon about a third of the marinade on the bottom of an oven dish, and place the chicken in the dish.  Smother the chicken with the rest of the marinade, cover the dish and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours.

When you’re ready to cook the meal, preheat the oven to 350F. De-stem and seed the bell peppers, and slice into 1 inch wide strips.  Place the strips on top of the chicken, rubbing them with the marinade.  Place the dish in the oven when hot, and cook until chicken is cooked through, approximately 45 minutes.

While the chicken is in the oven, cook the rice on the stove or in a rice cooker.  Once the rice is tender, add the remaining 1/4 cup of cilantro, a small splash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice, and stir.

Place the chicken on a bed of rice, place several slices of bell pepper on the side, and spoon a generous serving of sauce from the oven dish over the plate. Add a few cilantro leaves on top, a slice of lemon on the side, and serve.

Last week I was introduced to quite possibly the greatest potato chips the world has ever seen.

I met up in Kamloops with several photographer friends, and one of them brought a bag of President’s Choice Spicy Piri Piri chips. They were amazing. This is the Moët & Chandon of snack food.

I’d never actually heard of Piri Piri before this, but the Internet has taught me that piri piri is the colloquial term for the African Bird’s Eye chili.  Piri Piri Chicken, the most well known dish to use this pepper, is Portuguese in origin.  Spicy and flavorful, the dish is every bit as good as the chips.  Maybe, dare I say it, even better?

With all the spice going on in this dish, I chose an old stand-by to pair it with.  Rigamarole Red is one of the best values out there: at $12.99 per bottle, it makes a perfect table wine and tastes better than many $20+ bottles out there.

My Notes:

A medium red in the glass, this wine gives off a bright berry-like aroma.  It is a soft and gentle red, obviously designed to appeal to the masses. It is aromatic in the mouth, with berry and plum flavors. The blend of Gamay, Pinot Noir and Merlot grapes creates a very pleasant, balanced wine, and although it doesn’t excite or intrigue the senses, it tastes great and goes well with pretty much any food you throw at it. 88 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“I cannot WAIT to see the Hunger Games tonight!!! It is going to be just amazing. What? Oh yeah, I like this. It’s tasty.”

Rigamarole Red. $12.99 at BC Liquor Stores.

My Wife’s Notes – 2010 Dirty Laundry Riesling – Sticky Lemon Chicken w/ Broccolini and Shiitake Mushrooms

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Sticky Lemon Chicken w/ Broccolini and Shiitake Mushrooms

  • 4-6 pieces chicken
  • olive oil
  • 1 head of garlic
  • thyme
  • white wine vinegar
  • soy sauce
  • honey
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • sesame oil
  • 1 small shallot
  • 2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • oyster sauce
  • salt and pepper

Season the chicken with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove one clove from the head of garlic and set aside, then slice the head of garlic in half.  In a large saucepan, heat 4-5 tbsp olive oil.  When the oil is hot, place the halved head of garlic, a few sprigs of thyme and the chicken in the pan. Cook the chicken for two minutes on each side, then add a splash of white wine vinegar, a generous splash of soy sauce and 3-4 oz. of honey, and mix to make sure the chicken is coated on all sides. Slice the lemon thinly, and lay the slices over top of the chicken.  Add a splash of water, and turn down the heat to simmer.  Simmer until the sauce is reduced to a syrupy consistency and the chicken is cooked through (about 10 minutes).

While the chicken is simmering, heat 2-3 tbsp of sesame oil in a wok or fry pan. Thinly slice the shallot and garlic, and add both with the mushrooms to the wok.  Stir-fry for 2 minutes, and add the broccolini, a splash of soy sauce and a splash of oyster sauce to the wok.  Stir-fry until the broccolini has softened, approximately 4-5 minutes.

Serve the chicken on a bed of chopped parsley with broccolini and mushrooms on the side.

While I spent much of this week in Vancouver attending workshops, meeting clients and working on projects, my mother-in-law came into town to keep my wife company.  They spent a lot of time spring cleaning, and when I came back home I think they were ready to be doted on.

Since none of us were really into spending a lot of time cooking, I picked out this recipe due to it’s simplicity and speed.

Keying on the lemon flavors in the chicken, I chose to pair dinner with the 2010 Dirty Laundry Riesling.  Dirty Laundry was one of the first wineries Alana and I went tasting at, and we make sure to go back at least once every summer.  Their Riesling, Gewurtztraminers and Rose are consistently excellent, and the grassy area outside the wineshop is a lovely place for a summer picnic.

My Notes:

The nose is very mild, with slight notes of citrus and apple.  The first sip is surprisingly powerful, with off-dry and medium body delivering strong flavors of green apple and apricot, with notes of pear, pineapple and lemon.  This wine has a strong mineral content and medium-high acidity, which creates a very crisp finish.  An excellent sipping wine, and pairs terrifically well with the lemon-flavored chicken. 90 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“Not much smell to it, but the taste is so good. Oh it’s Dirty Laundry, no wonder I like it.”

2010 Dirty Laundry Riesling. $17.99 at the Dirty Laundry wineshop (this vintage is no longer available, but the 2011 vintage has been released).

My Wife’s Notes – 2008 Stag’s Hollow Syrah – Curried Sweet Potato Chorizo Soup

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Curried Sweet Potato Chorizo Soup

  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 L chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1-2 chorizo sausages (raw or cured)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 heaping tsp curry powder
  • greek yogurt
  • cilantro

Pour the chicken or vegetable stock into a saucepan large enough to hold the liquid, and heat.  When it reaches a boil, turn down the heat to simmer.

Chop the sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, onions, and garlic.  In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil.  If you are using raw chorizo, fry it first until cooked, and then add the chopped vegetables and curry powder.  Stir well, making sure that you don’t burn the mixture.  Add a little bit of the hot soup stock to the pan to help steam the vegetables.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until the sweet potatoes and carrots have softened. Pour the remaining soup stock into the pot and cook for 5 minutes.  Using a blending wand (or a large countertop blender, if you don’t have one), blend the soup well ensuring there are no large chunks. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes, and remove from heat.

Spoon into bowls with a dollop of greek yogurt and shredded cilantro on top, adding salt and pepper to desired taste.  Serve with a toasted rustic bread.

I’m really into soups right now.  I have no idea where this came from or why now, but I get loads of satisfaction out of making good hearty soups.  This is one of my favorites from the winter season, full of hearty vegetables and a spicy kick to warm up these cold not-quite-spring-yet evenings.

To stand up to the spice and heartiness of the soup, I chose a 2008 Stag’s Hollow Syrah.  My cousin Dustin introduced me to it last summer, and this wine has cemented itself at the top of my favorites list.  I like a good bold and rich red, and this one delivers.

My Notes:

The wine is an inky dark purple, and incredibly fragrant.  Rich cherry and and blackberry aromas explode out of the glass, as thick as syrup. The first sip is full of black cherry and ripe plum notes, strong and flavorful all the way through. This wine is incredibly smooth right of the bat, and becomes even more-so after breathing.  This wine has great maturity, and is a very good example of how Okanagan Syrahs have grown and evolved over the last decade. 92 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“This is really great.  It’s like Diet Pepsi for me, I could just keep on drinking it.”

2008 Stag’s Hollow Syrah. $27.99 at the Stag’s Hollow Winery wineshop (this vintage is no longer available).

My Wife’s Notes – 2010 See Ya Later Ranch Riesling – Chicken Pesto Quesadilla

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Chicken Pesto Quesadilla

  • 4 large flour tortilla shells
  • pesto
  • boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • hot sauce

In a covered baking dish, bake the chicken in the oven at 350F until fully cooked throughout (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat, and while the chicken is cooling enough to handle, prepare the tortilla shells.  Lay them on the counter, and using a large spoon, spread pesto on one half of each of the shells.  Slice the baked chicken into strips or cubes, and distribute between the shells. Spread the dried cranberries evenly, add hot sauce to taste, top with cheese, and then fold over the quesadilla to make a half-circle.

Heat up a large frypan on the stove top, and cook each quesadilla, flipping occasionally, making sure to not burn the tortilla.  Once the tortilla is crispy, remove from the pan, cut into triangles, and serve with a dollop of pesto and/or salsa.

Alana and I like to recreate our favorite restaurant meals at home, and the Chicken Pesto Quesadilla from Cactus Club is right at the top of Alana’s list. Tasty and quick, the pesto and cheese is a great mid-week meal served with soup or salad on the side. And wine. Obviously.

Ahhhhh Rieslings. I’ve tried most of the examples Okanagan has to offer, and the See Ya Later Ranch version is one of the best values our there.  Especially when you can find it on sale.

My Notes:

Huge notes of green apple hit you right off the bat, as you take a crisp first sip.  Sweet and tangy, this is a classic example of an Okanagan Riesling with plenty of mineral in the finish.  This wine is best served quite cold; the flavors become a bit muddled as the wine warms up. 87 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“It’s good…yeah, that’s it. I’ll be honest, I’m too distracted by The Bachelor to give you a better description right now.”

2010 See Ya Later Ranch Riesling. $16.99 ($14.99 on sale for a limited time) at BC Liquor Stores.

My Wife’s Notes – 2004 Sandhill SLP Malbec – Prosciutto & Pesto Pizza

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Prosciutto & Pesto Pizza

  • 1 large pizza shell
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup diced red pepper
  • 1/8 cup diced onion
  • 6 slices prosciutto
  • 3 oz pesto
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Using a large spoon, spread the sauce on the pizza shell. (Alana and I usually purchase pizza shells from grocery stores or Italian delis – both Valoroso Foods and Mediterranean Market offer excellent pre-made shells).  Spread the grated mozzarella evenly over the entire pie, and then top with red pepper and onion.  Slice the prosciutto into strips, and place them evenly on the pizza; I find that if you roll or fold the strips up, they cook well without getting too crispy. Drizzle the pesto over the prosciutto and top with extra pine nuts if desired.

Place the pizza in the oven, and bake for 7-8 minutes.  The pie should be closer to the top element, to prevent the bottom of the crust from burning. Once the crust has reach desired crispiness, I recommend broiling on high for 1-2 minutes to melt the cheese on top a little bit more.  Remove from heat, allow to cool for a few minutes, slice and serve.

Years ago I decide I was going to have a proper wine collection. Rather than buying bottles to be opened within days, I started purchasing additional bottles designed to be laid down for a while, to be opened only on special occasions. Aided by the knowledgeable staff at various wine stores around Kelowna, I started to slowly build up a modest collection.  This bottle, a 2004 Sandhill SLP Malbec, was one of the first I purchased to lay down, and I put a sticker on it: “Do not drink until 2011″.  I was determined to wait it out.

2004 Sandhill SLP Malbec Small Lots Program

January 2011 rolled around and I thought hey, I made it this far, let’s keep going.  So I waited, through spring and summer and fall and winter, and finally the perfect occasion rolled around: Alana and I moved back into our apartment after getting our bathrooms renovated.

Special occasion indeed.  New tile and cabinets are pretty great, but shower faucets with temperature memory? That calls for a celebration.

So we drank wine, made our favorite homemade pizza, and settled into two weeks worth of our favorite shows saved on the DVR.  Ahh, Friday nights.

Prosciutto and Pesto Pizza

My Notes:

The wine is an unusual shade of red, with an orangish-brown hue rather than the deep burgundy you often see with older reds.  The first sip is very smooth, indicative of the long time this wine has been in the bottle. With a medium body and just a hint of acidity, the wine finishes pretty long, with the mild cherry and blackberry notes sticking around for a while.  No one flavour is overwhelming, resulting in a balanced if not slightly underwhelming red. When comparing these notes to those online from several years ago, it appears the wine is nearing its end of optimal drinking life – if you’ve got a bottle kicking around in your cellar, look to drink it pretty soon. 88 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“It’s not a very sweet wine, but it is very smooth. I think I could probably drink this all night. Maybe I will!”

2004 Sandhill SLP Malbec. This vintage is no longer available for purchase.

My Wife’s Notes – 2009 Mission Hill Cabernet Merlot – Hand-Cut Salsa and Guacamole

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Hand-Cut Salsa and Guacamole

  • 4 large ripe tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • 4 ripe avocados
  • salt
  • tortilla chips

Cut all the tomatoes into quarters, and remove the seeds and pulp.  Dice the flesh of the tomatoes, and place in a large bowl with the chopped garlic and chopped onion.  Remove the stems from the bunch of cilantro, and finely chop the leaves.  Place half of cilantro in the bowl with the tomato, garlic and onion.  Add the juice from half a lime to the salsa and mix thoroughly.  Add salt to desired taste.

Halve the avocados, remove the pits, and place the green flesh in a second bowl with the other half of the chopped cilantro.  Add the juice from the other half of the lime, salt to taste, and mash with a fork until the consistency is relatively smooth.  Serve together with the best tortilla chips on this planet: Fresh Is Best Tortilla Chips, proudly made in Kamloops BC.

Alana and I are really into dips.  Spinach dip, Seven Layer dip, Garlic Mayo, Tzaziki…if it’s dip-able, we’ll dip it.  Give us tortilla chips, fries, pita or sourdough bread, and we’ll find something to dip it in.

Accordingly, salsa and guacamole is a common sight in our house.  Quick and easy to make, we enjoy it as a quick snack, a side to our meal…and sometimes the meal itself.

Mission Hill Cabernet Merlot - Fresh Cut Salsa

Also a common sight: Mission Hill Cabernet Merlot.  I always keep a couple bottles in my wine cabinet as my go-to red.  At under $20 a bottle, it’s a tasty option at a reasonable price.  The vintages can vary widely though; after an outstanding 2006, I found the 2007 somewhat lacking and 2008 to be very mediocre.  The 2009 was much better when I tried it after it was first released, and I’m looking forward to seeing what a little more time in the bottle has done to it.

My Notes:

A dark opaque burgundy in the glass, this wine smells like the Okanagan with rich aromas of black cherry and plum.  The body is very smooth up front, surprisingly so for such a young wine, with plenty of rich juicy fruit flavors throughout.  This wine finishes quite dry, with almost a Riesling-like mouthwatering acidity. This wine pairs excellently well with the salty flavors and varied consistencies of the salsa and guacamole, as well as the piece of dark chocolate I snuck later that evening.  This is a great all-around wine at a pretty good price. 90 points.

My Wife’s Notes:

“It’s smooth and tangy.  Soooo smooth.  Is tangy the right word?  Doesn’t matter, I’m saying it’s tangy.”

2009 Mission Hill Cabernet Merlot. $16.99 at BC Liquor Stores.