Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lunch feature 26.08.10

Pan Seared Okanagan Sockeye
Kabocha Squash & House Cured Bacon Perogie
Saskatchewan Chanterelles
Creamed Local Corn
Red Wine Sockeye Jus

This Sockeye salmon which runs up the Columbia river to spawn in lake Osoyoos was caught by the local Indian Band and brought to the restaurant so fresh that it still had rigor mortis. What a total joy!

Every piece of trim was used in the jus which I made by roasting all the trim with carrots, onion, celery, tomatoes and tomato paste. I deglazed the roasting pan with red wine then added vegetable stock and let it simmer for a few hours. I then strained the stock and reduced it to a sauce consistency. I added a little bit of corn starch at the end to get the right viscosity. No part of this beautiful fish went to waste.

The perogies were a simple accompaniment that went perfectly. The dough is really simple, equal parts by weight of yogurt and flour. The filling was roasted squash, shallots, garlic, bacon & herbs. Blanched then pan fried.

The Chanterelles spoke for themselves. Just sauteed with some shallots, finished with veg stock and a bit of butter.

The creamed corn was made by making a stock with onions, corn cobs,parmesan rind, veg stock and cream. I simmered that for a hour and then blended it all together. I then strained the liquid through a fine sieve. The kernels were blanched and then pureed into the stock. I reduced this until I reached an consistency that coated the back of a spoon. To this I added more kernels.

This was one hell of a tasty plate. Should have been a dinner feature but who says lunch can't be decadent.

Sean Peltier

As it Begins, So Too Does It End...or does it?

Do words mean anything?

Did CFIA put a halt on wine beef?

Or does the CFIA "salute" wine beef?

Was wine beef fun while it lasted, or is wine beef a new and exciting local product?

I suppose you could always ask--or simply share your feelings.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lunch feature 21.08.10

Pan Seared Pacific Rockfish
Herb Falafel, Cucumber & Mint Salad
BC Spot Prawn Bisque & Oil

In order to keep my overtime in check I asked Jeff to make me some falafel for this feature and he did a really nice job of it. They were, for lack of a better descriptor, delicious. I don't get the pleasure of eating prawn but I figure that falafel and bisque would go well together if the spices used to make both were similar. That is what was done and I think it went well, the guests loved it anyway.

Not much else to say about this one, other than a big thanks to Jeff for his help. Hopefully in the near future I can use something other than rockfish of ling cod for a feature. That would be nice.

Sean Peltier

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dinner feature 20/08/10

The last feature I did was Pan seared Snapper, Eggplant flan, tomato xvoo emulsion, pickled watermelon rind and watermelon tarragon salad.

I like to make flans, however, I find that when I make a flan I can't always get the texture right. So I asked for some help from a co-worker (Jeff) and they turned out lovely. The color wasn't awesome but I fixed that by making a bright lovely cold sauce out of tomatoes, salt, shallots, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.
The pickled watermelon was made by Jeff, it was very tasty and had hints of anise and cinnamon, because of this I kept most of the other components very subtle in flavor (not to say there was a lack of it) I just didn't want to over complicate the dish or the flavors involved. The tarragon was picked an hour before service (we have a herb garden) and the tomatoes eggplant and watermelon are local and organic. All and all I'd say it went pretty well.
Next time I think I would try and add an extra egg to the flan and a little more eggplant puree and lemon juice to give it a little extra something.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wines of the Okanagan: A Diplomatic Overview, Conclusion

Herein is the conclusion to our wine round-up sent to us through our special diplomatic channels. The italics were included by the editorial staff at Okanagan Daily Special--we would have underscored those points, but underscoring never looks any good. Typography aside, our Diplomat writer friend diplomatically brings up the notion that the time for blind boosterism has passed and that the Okanagan food and wine situation is ready for real, grown up, critical assessment--as that is the only way for the Okanagan food and wine situation to advance and evolve.

A big thank you to the diplomatic conduit for and diplomat writer of this piece.

Lastly, Okanagan Daily Special is always looking for contributions about the Okanagan, it's food and the people concerned with it. Drop us a line if you're interested.

So with out any further ado...

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Before I get to the epilogue, here are two further thoughts about the BC wine industry. Firstly, should wineries charge for a tasting? Those who do charge now are invariably the larger producers for whom a few bottles a day spent on advertising is, if you will pardon the mixed metaphor, small beer. The smaller estates have to charge as they are unable to carry such an extravagance. I have no problem with a small charge being made and later refunded against any purchase. I mentioned the charging to a friend who runs a wine bar and he told me that many estates in France now charge because they found they were being invaded by hordes of visitors who would stay and taste all day and buy nothing. I do not blame any winery which tries to stop that habit spreading.

My final point is a small criticism at the over-adulation which the local press pours over the entire BC wine industry. Local literature goes out of its way to praise every estate, every wine and, it seems, every grape. The only article I saw which did not follow this super-sycophantic approach was about the habit of some BC wineries of importing foreign grapes and passing the final product off as Canadian wine. This is something which the industry’s controllers will need to get to grips with. But articles, such as those in Savour magazine, always love every bottle, every winemaker as well as every dish in every great local restaurant. Even John Schreiner, in his fine guide book, never has a bad word to say and includes almost all of each estate’s output when describing his favourite brews.

This approach reminded me of the conversation between two theatre luvvies at the opening night party – “I was great, daaaaaarling. How were you?” Can it be that every BC-produced bottle is perfect? Surely not! We found an example of a real stinker at Township 7. Surely there must be other below standard produce. But you would not know this from the local literature. It seems to me that no one has yet had the bravery to come out and criticise a local wine for being poor or overpriced. I would have liked to have seen more balance and honesty in the articles written about individual BC wineries.

With that final moan out of the way, I will return to the final leg of our journey which took us beyond the final peaks of the Rockies and through the dramatic transformation where the landscape suddenly changes into the plains of Alberta. This part of Canada is so different from the mountains of eastern BC but it still contains a huge attraction because of its enormous feeling of space and, as the locals have it, ‘the big sky!’ In Calgary we met up with our ex-Jakarta friends, with whom we were to stay a couple of nights, and bade farewell to our doughty companions, Mike and Jo, who had ferried us so ably and comfortably through many miles – although only a miniscule percentage of its land mass – of wonderful, wonderful Canada.

By now you may have got the impression that Beryl and I rather enjoyed this trip. Well, you are right! Over the years we have travelled to many places and, even as we left for Vancouver, we had only just returned from a month in exotic China. But the wine, the mountains, the scenery, the food – oh, and did I mention the wine? – we enjoyed on this Canadian journey, have been truly fantastic. In fact I am running out of superlatives to describe our feelings. Our very grateful thanks go to our friends a) for suggesting the trip and b) for finding the time in their busy schedules to fit it in. And our very special thanks go to Jo, for her sacrificial role as driver thus enabling the rest of us to indulge in the tastings just as long and as hard as we could. Our taste buds say a big thank you – our livers are considering suing! We just hope Mike and Jo enjoyed the trip as much as we did. Now we need to get back to the drawing board to see how we can manage to visit the wineries we missed!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lunch feature 20.08.10

Pan Seared Pacific Ling Cod
Smoked Salmon & Carmelis Chevre Croquette
Grilled Onion Salad, Romesco Sauce
Shaved Hazelnut

Yesterdays risotto croquette was such a hit that I decided to do it again, this time with potato and salmon with a hint of refinement. I made a simple mousse with salmon. I did the quick candy and smoke that I have done so many times with salmon bellies. To that I added some cooked shallots, chevre, creme fraiche, seasonings and herbs. For the potato I boiled them until tender, peeled them, then riced them. I did this so that I developed as little starch as possible. Just mashing them by hand will leave you with chunks and extra starch. With the potato I placed it on a piece of plastic wrap, then placed another piece on top and rolled the potato paper thin between the wrap with a rolling pin. Then I removed the top piece of plastic wrap, trimmed the potato with a spatula into a nice long rectangle and piped the mousse into a long line down the middle. Then I rolled the potato around the salmon, wrapping it tightly in plastic. From this point I froze the croquettes to make the breading easier. Once frozen, I breaded them and set them aside for frying.

The Romesco sauce is one of my favorites, it's so simple and it works great with so many things. In Spain they dip charred green onions into romesco, there is a name for it that I don't know. What I do know it that romesco and grilled onions is one of my favorite combos. Anyhow, for the sauce all that you do is toss the following in oil and roast until nicely caramalized: tomato, onion, bell peppers, celery, zucchini, garlic and hazel nuts. You can really use any vegetables you want. Traditionally it has bread and almonds in it as well, minus the hazelnuts. Once its all roasted, put it in a blender with some vinegar of your choice(I used apple cider vinegar) and puree, adding in xvoo as it blends. Season to taste then pass through a fine sieve. So good, I like it to be quite acidic and I also added some hazelnut oil in with the blending.

For the Onions I just grilled any onion I could get my hands on(spanish, red, green, leek & shallot), seasoned them and tossed them in xvoo and truffled vinegar.

Perfectly pan seared fish, finnished in the pan with brown butter, lemon and herbs. I then shaved a hazelnut over the fish and it's all done. I really liked this one, great blending of flavors.

Sean Peltier

Wines of the Okanagan: A Diplomatic Overview Part 4

Our diplomatic wine tasting voyage continues south, with a quick pause for some dialectics on the future of the BC wine industry. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion!

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The next day we set off for Oliver taking in a few more wineries on the way. First call was to Blasted Church, named after an occasion when a small dynamite charge was used to separate timbers so that a church building could be moved from Fairview to Okanagan Falls. The estate follows the ‘church’ theme by using a church notice board at the turn-off to the premises and a series of excellent clerical caricature labels on its bottles. They produce some 10,000 cases a year from their 42 acres (plus some purchased grapes). Their Pinot Gris was very good, Hatfield’s Fuse – mainly Gewurz and named after the man who lit the dynamite charge – was also very acceptable. Their Chardonnay Oak (at 14.2%!!!) was, not surprisingly, strong with, in my view, an odd but not unpleasant, after-taste. The Pinot Noir had a superb colour and great nose but needs a few more years for the taste to come out. Superb views from the estate make this a not-to be missed visit.

The See Ya Later Ranch has a great story to tell; but which one is true? One version has it that the estate is named thus because Major Hugh Fraser, who owned this stunning mountainside property for 45 years always wrote those three words at the end of his letters. Another offering is that the Major married a British girl after service in Europe in WW1 and, not being able to stand the isolation, she left to return home leaving a note which said simply ‘See ya later’. Whatever the truth, the present crop of wines are marketed under the names of the Major’s dogs who were all buried on the estate.

The 07 Semillon was dry, smooth with a great finish. The Jimmy My Pal Chardonnay/ Pinot Gris/ Semillon blend was OK but, for me, it fell between the three stools. Nelly, a rosė, was so full of flavour , with eyes closed you would swear it was red not surprising, perhaps, given that it was 65% Gamay, 30% Cab Franc and 5% Gewurz. Ping, another blend (54% Merlot, 44% Cab Sav and 2% cab Franc (14.5%) was excellent and purchased. Finally, the Ehrenfelser Icewine was pure honey. This estate is a little off the beaten track but do not miss it. And they offered Jo a drink! Since our visit I have not been able to get this couplet out of my head:-
See ya later, propagator, In a while, oenophile!

Because of the extra time we spent at See Ya Later, we were late for our appointment at Blue Mountain – named after the occasional blue haze which appears on the distant mountains. This was the only winery we visited which asks visitors to make an appointment. No idea why as it was deserted when we got there. Mike and Jo had spoken warmly of their wines which they had often served at the Residence in Amman and were extremely fond of their sparkler. This 80 acres estate produces some 12,000 cases a year, a third of which is Champagne-method. Blue Mountain believes in keeping the alcohol content down and, to do this, they pick the grapes before they are too ripe.

The 08 Pinot Gris tasted unlike anything I have had from this grape – but I liked it. The Chardonnay, in a Chablis style, had a sharp finish but would clearly improve over time. A Pinot Noir, á la Burgundy, will be excellent in 4 or 5 years. The sparklers were not available for tasting. Personally, I found Blue Mountain and the presenter too over-pretentious given the fine setting of the estate and its excellent record of production. Mike bought a few bottles and I am sure they will be superb in a few years. Go for the view!

Quite correctly, Jackson-Triggs Vintners tasting room has been described as a hospitality centre. It may not be as large as Mission Hill’s room but it has everything: a fine counter area, attractive wine racks and superb hand-outs describing every wine produced. Since 1998, Vincor Canada, JT’s parent company, has planted 1,000 acres of wines, mainly on Black Sage Road or on the Osoyoos Lake Bench. These are reckoned to be some of Canada’s best vineyards and their produce has won a number of awards. JT is such a large organisation that it has separate wine makers for its reds (Brooke Blair, an Australian) and its whites (Derek Kontkanen, a Canadian). Their 2004 SunRock Shiraz beat all the Australian and other New World wines to win Best Shiraz at the 2006 International Wine and Spirits Competition.

We tasted two Sav Blancs; the Reserve being both sweeter and longer. The Viognier was a little disappointing but the white Meritage, a blend of Sav Blanc and Semillon, was outstanding. Bottles were purchased! The SunRock Chardonnay (at 14.1%) was really good. Two red blends of Cab Sav and Shiraz (one with a touch of Viognier) also tasted well. Both, to me, had a smoky, peaty, flavour, perhaps because of fires a few years ago. The Reisling Icewine was magical; the Reserve even better, but at C$53 and C$ 60 respectively, they were not cheap. With excellent and attentive staff, this was a fine venue to visit.

I will take another break from our tasting itinerary to put down a few personal thoughts on general aspects of wine-production in British Colombia. To say progress in such a short time has been astounding would be a definite under-statement. To turn an area of meadow and orchards into award-winning vineyards and to enable tiny and much larger organisations to produce good wines side-by-side has to be a tribute to clever government, assured management and sensible economics. Clearly a few estates have proved uneconomical over the years, and many will have changed hands when earlier owners and managers failed to survive, but the evidence of the existence today of such a large number of healthy businesses bodes well for the future.

I have two serious reservations as to whether BC wine production will ever take off as Chile’s and Argentina’s have in recent years. My concerns are the relatively miniscule production figures compared to some other countries and, secondly, the bottle price. At the moment, BC wine is consumed, almost entirely, only within the Province. Even Calgary airport had nothing other than a couple of Peller Icewines on sale. Visitors to BC, even those from the far-flung parts of Canada, find it almost impossible to take home more than a couple of bottles. South, in the western USA, Californian wines have tied up the market and the Ontario wineries corner local sales in the East. In Europe only a handful of dealers handle BC wine. Production would need to make a quantum leap if BC is ever going to compete in what is becoming an ever tougher world market.

Secondly, the price of BC wines is extremely high. The average price for a normal bottle of BC Chardonnay or Pinot Noir seems to be about C$22 (almost £15). Spending this, in Europe, would get you a ready-to drink bottle of some pedigree. To pay the equivalent for a bottle which would need to be cellared for some 4 to 5 years and which may not, even then, make the grade does not seem sensible to a non-Canadian. Much of BC’s wine output is clearly drunk too early. Only those living in the Province and who can afford to buy case loads, can wait for a wine to reach its peak. Perhaps this is what BC is prepared to accept, in which case the industry will continue much as it is now albeit with a greater number of small businesses. And maybe this would be no bad thing. I, for one, would have no problem with it as it is this very fact which makes a tour of BC wineries today an almost unique experience. But I would also like to see BC wines attracting a wider international audience.

So after those personal musings, let us get back to our trip. By now we are staying in Oliver at the Bel Air Cedar Resort motel – and very nice it was. The rooms were comfortable and we had the use of a barbecue where we enjoyed good steaks and the company of Mike and Jo’s daughter. One morning was spent trying to convince a local bank that our American Express Sterling travellers’ cheques were not really Monopoly money. Only with Jo’s written guarantee on every cheque and her impressive patience – Brian had already exploded and had to go for a walk to calm down – was the transaction finally complete.

That afternoon we resumed our tasting regime by tackling the Golden Mile. First on the agenda was Gehringer Brothers, named from Walter and Gordon, born in Oliver and sons of German immigrants. Initially the brothers had played to their strengths with whites such as Riesling, Ehrenfelser and, uniquely, Auxerrois but they have now added a few reds to their output. The Gehringers believe in producing lower alcohol wines which appears to be against the current Okanagan trend. A 25th anniversary Optimum Pinot Gris was a great start to the tasting. The Reserve PG, though more traditional in taste, was, in my view, less good. The 09 Sav Blanc had only been in the bottle for a couple of weeks but was showing good signs while the 08 Auxerrois started well but needs time. A Schonburger/Gewurz blend was worth the visit and two Pinot Noirs showed a lot of promise. We were impressed, not least by the prices which were C$5 to 10 lower than in most other establishments. This is, certainly, the best value for money winery we visited.

With the ladies away to buy our supper, Mike and I roughed it by walking the half a mile or so to Hester Creek, named after a small inlet near the estate. They had just opened an impressive new tasting room and restaurant, a far cry from 2004 when the business had to be rescued from bankruptcy by Curt Garland, the owner of a Prince George trucking company. Garland soon hired Ontario winemaker, Robert Summers and the estate took off. Hester Creek concentrates, primarily, on red wines and, unusually in the area, grows Trebbiano grapes as well as the normal varieties. Their whites – a Pinot Gris, a Pinot Blanc and a Semillon/Chardonnay blend – were perfectly acceptable but we were blown away by the quality of the reds.

The Cab Sav/Merlot was really good. The straight Merlot, which we had so enjoyed at Bouchons Bistro, was excellent but they were both put in the shade by the Reserve Cab Franc. At 13.8% it was not as powerful as some of their 14.2%s but it made up for that with great depth and a lengthy finish. Do not miss tasting Hester Creek’s reds. This is, most definitely an estate to be visited.

Our next call was to Quinta Ferreira, an estate run by John Ferreira whose parents came to Canada from Portugal in 1960. First leasing, and later buying, a fruit farm, John replaced his trees with vines in 1999. Initially he passed his grapes to other estates but soon decided to do his own winemaking. The family’s Portuguese origins are honoured in their wines’ names. Their blends are known as Misturas and their top two products are the Oba-Prime (masterpiece) and the dessert wine Vinho du Sol. We tasted an oaked and an un-oaked Chardonnay; the oaked was better. The white blend was two-thirds Muscat and one-third Gewurz. An odd mix but I liked it. The Viognier was strong on the nose but the taste had yet to arrive. Their red blend mixed six different grape varieties – too many in my view. But the Merlot and the Oba-Prima were top class.

Our next call was to Rustico Farm and Cellars where the owner, Bruce Fuller, had us enthralled with his stories and enthusiasm. Less than three weeks after our visit, Bruce hit the Canadian media with his first-hand reports of a mud slide which occurred very near to his property. Excessive rain in May and the bursting of a blockage on a hillside waterway had caused a slide which took down some six houses and completely covered Route 97 along which we had travelled a number of times.

Bruce had had a difficult time with an Italian village project in the same area but turned the corner when he bought his present premises and land in 2007. The nine acre site has been producing grapes since 1968 when a Hungarian, John Tokias, owned the estate. The rustic appearance of the premises inspired the name of the winery which gave its first tasting in September 2009. The Gewurz and the Pinot Gris were still far too young; but they had something. The Mother Lode Merlot came on a little too sharp but the Doc’s Buggy (Pinot Noir) and two blends – Last Chance with Zinfandel, Merlot and, unusually, Chancellor and Threesome, a mix of Cab Franc, Cab Sav and Merlot – were both extremely good. It would be great to visit again, say, in five years time and see where Bruce Fuller had reached. We thought Rustico had a great future.

One of Mike’s favourites, and possibly one of the best known estates south of Oliver, is Burrowing Owl, named after one of the creatures which lives in the area and a species which the winery makes it its business to protect. The proprietors, Jim Wyse and his family, produced their first bottles in 1997 and now make up to 30,000 cases a year, a third going to wine stores and restaurants, another third for sale on the internet and the rest being available in their own wine shop. Their tasting room has racks of older vintages and the food in their restaurant has a high reputation.

The 07 Chardonnay was, in my view, the best wine from that grape we tasted during the trip. The reds just got better each time we tasted one. The Pinot Noir and the Merlot were fine but the Cab Franc (13.7%) and the Cab Sav (14%) were wonderful. And the Syrah beat them all. It was pouring with rain when we were at Burrowing Owl but the views and the superb wines had us glowing. Unfortunately by then, we had all bought as much as we could either drink during the rest of the trip or carry home so I do not think we made a purchase. I certainly will next time. My notes also include the positive comment – “Good measures!”

Our final call was to Stoneboat Vineyards. The word, stoneboat, is used sardonically to describe the wooden sled which the early homesteaders used to carry heavy stones away from the land they were trying to cultivate – and there is such a sled outside the main door of this winery. Larry and Julie Martiniuk have been producing wines for some twenty years. In addition to the normal mainstream grapes, the estate also grows Pinotage.

Of the two Pinot Gris, I preferred the ordinary one; not the Barrel Reserve. A Faux Pas rosé showed a lot of promise but the 13.6% Pinot Noir was an absolute belter. I was hesitant to taste the Pinotage, that being the one red wine grape which I seriously dislike, but I was clearly thinking of the South African variety. Stoneboat’s 14.1% Pinotage was sensational. I would never have guessed the grape and would have argued with anyone that it was certainly not Pinotage. But it was and I loved it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lunch feature 19.08.10

Pan seared Pacific Rockfish
Carmelis chevre & risotto croquettes
Salsa verde & preserved lemon mayo

This feature all came from the fact that we had a 25lb case of local, organic green peppers in the fridge that no one wanted to use. As a result of this I made a giant batch of salsa verde and a giant batch of gazpacho. The salsa verde is what got this feature to come together.

For the salsa I did a fine dice of green peppers, cucumbers, celery, shallots, garlic & capers. To that I added a large amount of lemon juice and zest, some chili flakes, seasoning and olive oil.

The croquettes where made with cooked risotto, Carmelis chevre, seasoning and herbs, then breaded and deep fried.

The fish was simply pan seared and finished with a little bit of brown butter, lemon and herbs.

This special was very well recieved. The service staff was also very happy that I made extra croquettes, so they could all snack on them after service like the bloody vultures that they are.

Sean Peltier

A Big Day

I'm not sure if any of you look at the tracking counter on the lower right hand side of the site. If you do, you will have noticed that the first number in the tracking went from a 1 to a 2 in the space of a day.

Thanks to the magic of MetaFilter and the kind interest of username Fizz who wrote a post for said MetaFilter on Sezmu Beef, Okanagan Daily Special recieved 1198 page loads and 1089 unique visitors. In one day.

Fizz also has a wonderful blog of his own called Whitesnails. Do visit, if for no other reason than the skinwich.

Now, what does this all mean? Maybe I'm going out on a limb here, but I think it means that there is interest in wine fed beef--which is grown in Oliver, which is in the Okanagan (here.)

My sadness, however, is that there is no nearby processing plant. Before the cows become beef, they must take a fairly long drive in a truck. No drinking and driving permitted! A local processing plant would mean a truly local diet for the Okanagan. 100 mile diet? Pfft! Who needs to go 100 miles when you live in a future version of the Okanagan where there is a local processing plant that served the agricultural community (citizenry) of the region.

Now if only someone would finally start making some Okanagan grape seed oil...but that's another post for another time.

Wines of the Okanagan: A Diplomatic Overview Part 3

Our diplomatic correspondent moves south and expounds not only on wine, but some of the customs surrounding its sale. Stay tuned for part four!

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The following day we visited Quail’s Gate restaurant for brunch. Plates of excellent Eggs Benedict were washed down with an excellent white, oddly given that the Stewart Family are rather proud of their Pinot Noir vines which were first planted on the site in 1975. Unfortunately we did not have the time for a tasting here but the white we enjoyed at brunch – a 2009 Chasselas, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris blend (12%) – was superb.

Our next stop was at a new, small winery called Silkscarf. The owner, Roie Manoff, is an interesting fellow. Born in Argentina, he grew up in Israel and spent twenty years flying combat jets for the Israeli Air Force – hence the name of the winery which depicts the traditional neckwear worn by pioneer pilots. Given the limited size of Silkscarf’s operation, we were most impressed with the wines. The 2009 Viognier, their Pinot Noir and the Cabernet Sauvignon were all very good although I found the Cherry dessert wine disappointing. A rosė from Merlot grapes was a little sweet for me and at 14% truly powerful. Watch this winery; it shows a lot of promise.

The name 8th Generation reflects the number of generations of wine growers in co-proprietor Bernd Schales’ family. They moved from Germany to the Okanagan in 2003 bringing with them an antique family wine press which proved vital in 2007 when new machinery failed to appear before that year’s grapes had ripened. The German influence in this estate is reflected in their excellent range of Rieslings. The Pinot Gris is interesting but the taste of the Pinot Meuinier rosė did not match its nose. The pick of the reds were a blend (“The Red One”) and their 2008 Merlot.

Later that day we arrived at the Motel 5000 in Penticton where we spent a couple of nights. The first evening, given our superb brunch, we snacked in and the second we visited one of our friend's – and since Vancouver – ours too, favourite chain of eateries - White Spot. With no Canadian wine on their card we had to glug a rather over-priced and average Italian bottle. It can be really tough out in the wilds!

Let me break away from our itinerary for a moment to reflect on a few things Beryl and I learned from our Canadian tasting experience. The size and standard of the tasting rooms varied enormously. This is, perhaps, not surprising given the wide disparity in the acreage, production and revenue of the various Okanagan estates. Large producers (eg Mission Hill, Jackson-Triggs, Hester Creek, Burrowing Owl) provided magnificent premises reflecting their success. Others (eg Camelot, Silkscarf, D’Angelo, Rustico) showed their wines in small, minimally furnished rooms which indicated their newness on the scene and the need to reserve overheads.

In almost all of the 21 wineries we visited, we were made extremely welcome. A couple of exceptions occurred where rooms were packed. Our worst experience was at La Frenz. When we finally found a gap at the bar, we were promptly charged for a tasting and bid goodbye. Politely, we had to explain that we had not yet imbibed, nor even been given our glasses. To create a good impression to visitors, tasting room staff should be on the lookout for all new arrivals and acknowledge them even if it is simply with a “Be with you in a moment, folks”. Being ignored is a real turnoff for a potential buyer.

Most tasting room staff were female; and, almost to a man – if that is not a contradiction in terms – they were excellent. The younger ladies were keen as mustard, often well qualified and enthusiastic. An oddity was the pleasant lady at See Ya Later who admitted she could not stand red wine! The older ladies were experienced, chatty and talked up their products persuasively. An exception was Township 7 where I detected a ‘take it or leave it’ approach but, given their wine, perhaps this was understandable.

Apart from Rustico – where Bruce Fuller entertained us royally for over an hour – the male presenters we saw were a disappointment. A few seemed to give the impression that what they were doing was rather beneath them and we were not particularly impressed.

There was a significant variation in the volume of the tasting measures poured. I understand the need for the smaller establishments to cut down on their losses but to judge a wine the sample needs to be sufficient to give off a nose, ample to provide a decent swirl in the glass and enough for two or three decent sips. Most pourings were perfectly adequate but occasionally – and I regret that I failed to record the presenters who were seriously over-economical with their servings – some offerings did little more than cover the bottom of the glass. Perhaps the BC wine authority should establish a standard optic measure. Too much is clearly a waste but too little is no encouragement to purchase.

My own bête noire was with those presenters who would pour and immediately return the bottle to fridge or shelf. I enjoy seeing the variety and the quality of artwork on a bottle’s label, reading the producer’s comments and noting the alcoholic content, a detail invariably omitted from tasting notes. The best presenters pour the wine and stand the bottle next to the glass. All should be advised to do this.

A word about hand-outs in tasting rooms. The large wineries score well in this regard as they can afford to provide potential customers with souvenirs. I think particularly of Jackson-Triggs attractive and informative book marks and Hester Creek’s small but glossy wine notes. Most of the rest provide nothing more than a business card or BC’s local literature. I do not advocate excessive giveaways but we would like to have seen postcards of each estate or of their wine labels for sale. I would gladly have purchased cards showing Blasted Church’s wonderful labels but was not prepared to pay C$50 for their poster.

And finally in this section a moan about the general lack of recognition for the non-alcohol drinking drivers who visit. At our first tasting, St Hubertus, unsolicited, provided a fruit juice for Jo, our driver. We thought this would prove to be common practice, but we were very wrong. Despite telling every other winery we visited that only three of us would be tasting as the fourth was the driver, only a couple of others offered Jo even a glass of water. Most completely ignored her. I saw a notice at Hester Creek that some twenty wineries have a helpful policy towards designated drivers. This shows that the vast majority, therefore, do not and this is unacceptable. Many pubs in the UK provide designated drivers with free soft drinks. The majority of BC’S wineries need to shape up.

So back to the trip. We started the next day along the Naramata east coast of Lake Okanagan with a call on Township 7. The original Township 7 opened in 2001 on a farm just south of Langley and was sold in 2006. This estate opened in2004. To say we were underwhelmed by their wines is an under-statement. The first to be tasted, an 07 Semillon, was so poor I believe the bottle had corked. Their Viognier was sharp and the other whites were no match for what we had already tasted elsewhere. Their Merlot and Merlot-Cab were average and the earthy, peaty flavour of the Syrah was not unpleasant. But this was, by far, the poorest tasting we experienced.

Standards after this could only get better – and, indeed, they did. The view inside the D’Angelo Estate Winery tasting room was extremely attractive. And there was quite a good view outside too! Sal D’Angelo has run a winery in Windsor, Ontario since 1989. Buying a peninsula on the lake in 2001, Sal and his family have set to work on their 27 acres to try something different, eg they are the first in the area to plant Tempranillo, the grape used for, probably, the best sweet wine we tasted. They cannot call it Eiswein as they do not yet have the licence. The tasting was given by a member of Sal’s family and her pride at his achievements and the family’s efforts were truly heart-warming. Their Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, and Merlot/Cab. Franc (at 14%) showed real promise and will be something in a year or two. A blend, call Sette Coppa – a nickname of Sal’s grand-father - was excellent. A really good tasting!

Poplar Grove is definitely worth a visit. Great site, nice wines and they sell good cheese. In addition to their top wines, this winery started producing value wines under the Monster label, a name inspired by the legend of Ogopogo, the Okanagan Lake’s resident monster. One of this labelled wines was RSVP Manmade, a blend, which was very good. So was their Pinot Gris, Syrah and Cab Franc but a wine called Legacy was, we thought, over-priced. There is also a sheep-dog here which loves a game of chase-the-ball. Very entertaining!

Our next call was to the Hillside Estate, a winery started in 1984 by two employees of the Czech state airline who defected to the West. The original premises were a modest farm house in a postage stamp vineyard with a pantry for the tasting room. They have come a long way. They now have an excellent room for sampling and a 160-seat bistro. In the 1990s the estate was taken over by 90 Alberta investors but ownership is now in the hands of a group of 22. Their 40 acres produce 12,000 cases of wine a year. Their present wine-maker is Kathy Malone, a New Yorker, who previously made wine for Mission Hill before deciding she needed a more hands-on experience. The 13.9% Pinot Gris was excellent; the 09 Riesling even better. Their Muscat Ottonel – the only Ottonel output in the region and from vines originating in Czechoslovakia - was superb; all apricots! The 06 Syrah (at 11.5%) was a bit under-powered for me, the 07 Merlot held its taste well and the 07 Cab Franc (14.6%) was good but not exceptional – nice to see a straight Cab Franc rather than in a blend though. On another trip perhaps we might lunch at Hillside. It looked a classy joint.

Moving north up the Naramata, we called at Black Widow Winery, a gravity flow winery which the owner, Dick Lancaster, designed himself. The building is finished in tawny-hued stucco. I read in John Schreiner’s excellent guide on Okanagan Wine that, for 16 years, Dick was vice-president of Imasco, western Canada’s largest stucco manufacturer. Black Widow launched in 2006 with 7 acres and a target production of 1,200 cases a year. The 08 Pinot Gris and the Gewurztraminer (13.9%) were pleasant. Oasis, a blend of Schonburger, Gewurz and Muscat was unusual and good and a Port-style Merlot called Vintage One was good enough to attract a purchase. I thought it great to see small entrepreneurs such as this taking a risk with a new business into which they were throwing their savings and all their effort.

And now for something completely different. The next stop, Elephant Island Orchard Winery, produced fruit wines. You could argue, of course, that a grape is a fruit but, at this establishment, grapes were not on the menu. In contrast to the normal practice of using water to dilute a mix when making fruit wines, Elephant Island use only undiluted juice. They produce dry, sparkling, sweet and iced fruit wines. Perhaps our taste buds had been hardened to the more traditional liquids we had been supping but I found these fruit wines hard to get a handle on. The Pear had a nice nose but I did not think the taste shone. The Cherry was quite dry and even at 11%, stronger than I had expected. The Blackcurrant came across a bit sharp but would be fine with a Riesling or Gewurz as a Kir. Much better was the Crab Apple which would have been superb with any pork dish with its sweet finish. An Apricot dessert wine was delicate but the 16% Cassis hit you right between the eyes. A similarly strong Framboise was liked by all four of us and a purchase was enjoyed on ice cream, yoghurt and even cornflakes, I seem to recall!

Last call of the day was at La Frenz where we had our unfortunate non-welcome experience. The Sauvignon Blanc was very acceptable – and went down nicely during a picnic in the park at Nelson. Their Reisling and Tempranillo were all right and the Malbec was quite nice. The poor start to the visit, the lateness of the hour when the staff were clearly a bit weary and the ability only to taste four of their output meant that this visit does not stand high in the memory. But we had visited seven establishments during the day, the weather had been fine and the scenery superb. In short, it was a wonderful day.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Edible Wild Foods and Medicinal Plants in the Oliver Area

After reading the July 6th post "In the Weeds", I wondered if I could identify 10 wild plants from the South Okanagan. The article had me wandering through childhood memories and reminiscing about the wild plant harvests I have done over the last few years. I don't know if I can come up with 10 plants,but, I do know of a few plants that are local,wild and edible.

When I was a little girl, I remember my Italian grandmother foraging in our back yards and lanes. Very few fancy sprays and pesticides were used around here then,so, I would imagine that everything she found was perfectly safe and usable.

The staple item that Grandma collected was dandelions. The tender,young leaves were made into salads, and the slightly larger ones were wilted in a pan with olive oil and garlic. Delicious...just as good as chard, and available before the chard was. We never grew spinach here then, Grandma said that it was just too hot here to grow spinach. So, we planted chard and beets, but picked the dandelions while we were waiting for the garden to grow! Later on in the season, dandelion flowers could be harvested to make wine. I remember one of my aunts deciding that since the prices they were getting for their fruit was so low; she might as well leave the fruit on the trees and go pick the dandelions growing profusely beneath the trees! I think she figured that jugs of homemade wine would help them get over the pain of very little profit on the orchard! OH..and yes, she made a very fine wine.

Grandma also collected the wild chamomile that grew EVERYWHERE here in those days (I haven't seen any here in a long time now). She made a tea with it and used it in the same way you would used domesticated chamomile. she also collected a wild plant that she called Malvia (Italian?). The correct name is Malva parviflora, or cheeseweed. I have heard it called many different names, none of which really made sense (bread and butter weed,being one), but, it is called cheeseweed became the fruit,when mature, looks like miniature wheels of cheese. Malva can be steamed, or sauteéd in the Italian way, or even eaten raw in salads. I don't remember my grandmother cooking it, although she very well could have. She used it in a tea for sore throats, coughs AND constipation..a cure for everything it seems.

Oh, another memory just came to me..Grandma pinching the tendrils off of the grape plants in her backyard arbour, and telling me to chew them..they were slightly tart and astringent and I remember that my mouth would dry out after chewing them for a bit. She said that it was good for sore throats and colds. Speaking of grapes, not only did we eat the grapes, make jelly, chew the tendrils,but,we used the leaves as well. Grandma always put one or two leaves in the bottom of the quart sealers when she made dill pickles. She said they were for flavouring as well as keeping the dills crisp. I still use leaves when making pickles.

My Canadian grandmother was NOT impressed with the local Saskatoon berries. She was from the prairies were the GOOD ones grew! I remember my father and Grandma being very happy when the prairie relatives arrived with quarts of canned Saskatoons! grandma said that the local ones were only good for jelly as they were small, extremely seedy and rather dry. She made jelly from the local ones years ago, when the orchards were young, and fruit was hard to come by.

Both of my grandmothers waited for late summer and autumn in the early years. They would harvest rosehips from the wild roses that grew everywhere. The hips are picked in the early fall when they are a brilliant red and still plump and shiny. They make a very good, tart jelly and are extremely high in Vitamin C. Grandma once told me that in the early years here, she was very grateful that the roses grew so well. The orchards were still not much more than sticks in the ground and she was desperate for fruit to preserve for winter..she made many,many batches of rosehip jelly then.

Another treat in late summer or early fall is the local elderberries. They are NOT edible raw (not poisonous, just taste terrible), but when juiced make a jelly that cannot be beat for flavour. Wait until the berries are black, with a good bluish bloom, still plump and juicy. Cut off as much of the stems that can be removed (stems and leaves can be dangerous in large quantities), then juice and preserve for use later on. Venison steak with pan juices mixed with a dollop of elderberry jelly is quite incredible. I have used the jelly with wild grouse or quail as well..but, my favourite is just slathered on buttered toast. The juice with sugar added makes a terrific drink as well. Earlier in the year, the elderflowers can be harvested, dipped in batter and deep fried. Don't take them all though, save some to grow! And don't forget elderberry wine...

My father used to tell me that the earliest pioneers ate the fruit of the Mahonia aquifolium or Oregon Grape as we call it. It looks like grapes and grows on a cluster-like stem. They are not palatable raw, but make a jelly with a really wonderful, strong grape flavour. Pick them in late August, while they are still plump.

Local pincherries or chokecherries grow everywhere in the hills around Oliver. They ripen in later summer...don't pick too early, very ripe is better for flavour, as the jelly made sets very well. It has an interesting flavour.

I'm sitting on my front porch right now. Across the road, on the mountain side, I see Red Sumac, Sagebrush, Greasewood, Prickly Pear Cactus, Saskatoon bushes, and Mullein to name just a few. Every one of those plants are either edible, have a medicinal value or are jut usable in some way!

Red Sumac berries are edible,can be made into jelly,catsup, or a refreshing drink..steep berries in cold water for several hours, it has acitrus flavour.

Sage is not edible but makes a terrific insect repellant when burned.

If you can find them, the fruit of the prickly pear cactus is tasty!

Greasewood (Antelope Bush) is mostly used for tinder, but has many medicinal values as well.

Saskatoon Berries..jelly...

Mullein has dozens of uses. All parts(except seeds...) can be used, root, leaf and flowers. This plant is used mostly for medicinal purposes. But, in pioneer days and earlier, the leaves were used to line boots to keep the feet warm, (hence, the name, flannel weed), the flower stalk was dried, dipped in tallow and used as a torch or candle. The only part of the plant that is poisonous is the seed. The leaves were also used (smoked) to aid lung congestion and the flowers steeped in olive oil for earaches, when beeswax was added, it was used as a balm for irritated skin.

There you go...I have made a list of 10 items that are edible, and more that ae usable in many ways....what else can we find?

Wines of the Okanagan: A Diplomatic Overview Part 2

Part two of a British diplomat's Okanagan wine diary...

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We dedicated the next morning to the art galleries and museums of Kelowna and saw some stunning paintings and collages by the town’s children. Most impressive! Our first tasting visit of the day provided three estates for the price of one. Calona Vineyards is the oldest winery in BC and although it processes its grapes in Kelowna, many are sourced from various vineyards throughout the valley. Calona also produces Sandhill’s wines from their vines next door to Burrowing Owl’s estate. Since Andrew Peller bought both Calona and Sandhill in 2005, all three producers have showed their wines at Calona’s premises. Unfortunately the three companies did not provide separate tastings and we were required to choose just four wines from the wide range on offer. I tasted two of Peller’s – the 2007 Private Reserve Chardonnay was smooth and extremely good but the 2008 Pinot Noir was less memorable. Sandhill’s 2007 Merlot at 14.9% was excellent but its ending seemed a little harsh. Their 2007 Syrah (14.5), however, was smooth, suitably dark and very drinkable.

Mission Hill Family Estate
makes an absolute mockery of the assertion that BC wineries are small and beautiful. Mission Hill is enormous and beautiful! The estate, bought by Anthony von Mandl in 1981, is magnificent. Our arrival set the tone. It coincided with the departure of some twenty sports car saloons which had gathered for a wine-tasting rally. Not one deemed it appropriate to give way to allow us in. Fortunately a Corolla eventually did and we entered.

The path to the wine rooms is through an impressive archway from where you can see the processing buildings and an impressive clock tower with four bells which strike the hours. The long bars at either end of the huge tasting room were packed. When we finally established an inch or two of space at one of the bars we found our pourer was also operating for several other such groups.

From the vast range of Mission Hill products we were required to choose just four to taste. The first, a 2007 Five Vineyards Chardonnay I liked; Beryl didn’t. Their 2008 Pinot Grigio was very good and I bought two bottles. Their 2008 Sauvignon Blanc was OK but no more and not a match for a half-decent Marlboro. The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon was fine but needed time and a good pasta.

That night we ate at Bouchons, a French Bistro in Kelowna. Mike and Ian had the excellent Cassoulet, Brian had the Rabbit casserole with mustard and tarragon sauce and the ladies mainly had fish and a white wine. The men enjoyed a couple of bottles of Hester Creek Merlot. We planned to call at that winery later to buy some but, in the event, we were waylaid by something better!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

dinner feature

I have had the tendency not to post my photos or specials because they just aren't quite "special" enough.
In the industry we say that practice, and hard work, dedication and the willingness to let your ego go just in case you were to fail.
So I am going to put my money where my mouth is, even if I do not like a feature, or think it's worth blogging about, I am going to do it anyway just so I can look back and see myself, and my food grow.
The reason why I am writing that is because I know there are cooks in the Okanagan and elsewhere that read this and do not blog...why? Why do we say we should share things with each other and yet we do not when there is a perfect opportunity right here.

So out of the 5 features I did this week, I only took photos of one...I don't know why (the above paragraph explains it mostly).

This feature was very simple and if I may say so myself quite tasty also.
I made a organic heirloom tomato puree (just salt, xvoo added), warm salad of organic blue potato, house smoked bacon and cabbage. There was also a cold salad of organic cucumber, baby heirloom tomatoes and tarragon. The protein was pan seared halibut filet, and olive oil poached halibut cheeks.

Wines of the Okanagan: A Diplomatic Overview Part 1

The Following was sent to Okanagan Daily Special through special diplomatic channels (wouldn't you like to know) from a former British Ambassador.

As with editorials in The Economist, Geoffrey Crowther, editor from 1938 to 1956 explains "anonymity keeps the editor not the master but the servant of something far greater than himself. You can call that ancestor-worship if you wish, but it gives to the paper an astonishing momentum of thought and principle."

So with out any further delay...

A Canadian Wine Trip

There’s an old joke that goes, “Once upon a time there were two Chinese. The punch-line is: “Look how many there are now!” I was reminded of this when I looked into the background history of British Colombia’s wine industry.

In 1990 BC had less than 1,500 acres dedicated to vines and just 17 wineries. Twenty years later those figures had risen to over 10,000 acres and 175 wineries. Even more impressive is the fact that the Province has 710 vineyards and grows more than 60 varieties of grape. In those twenty years production has risen from 750,000 litres to over 6.5 million which provides a monetary value of over C$160 million. Figures, perhaps, that do not quite reach the level of the Chinese population, but quite amazing all the same.

Wine production in the Okanagan began some 150 years ago. In 1859 Father Charles Pandosy arrived in the area with a group of missionaries and planted the first grapes in South Kelowna. As with many early Catholic establishments, the original intention was to produce a sacramental wine for use during their services. Catholics and non-Catholics alike have many reasons to thank Father Pandosy for his forsight and dedication. But it was the signing of the Free Trade Agreement by Canada and the USA in 1988 which opened up the way for Canadian businesses to develop.

The idea of a trip through some of BC’s wine-lands arose, strangely enough, during a meal in a Lebanese restaurant in London last summer. Michael and Jo, Canadian friends from Ottawa, were in London and Beryl and I joined them for lunch. Over an excellent bottle of Lebanese red, Mike and Jo mentioned that they knew the winemaker from their days in the Middle East. Talk turned to wines from other countries and it was suggested to us that Canada had much to offer. Never having seen a bottle from Canada in a British shop, and on the one occasion asking for one in New York only to be told they were out of stock, you could say we were less than impressed by our Canadian friends claim. They decided to prove us wrong and, finding a free month in all of our diaries, a trip was set up for May 2010.

Let me take a moment to map out the trip. Beryl and I had flown out of Heathrow - only hours before the airport was closed once again because of the threat of volcanic ash – en route to Vancouver. A week later we took the Greyhound to Kamloops to visit Beryl’s cousin and another bus on to Kelowna where we met up with Mike and Jo. The very first step of the trip took us to a Tim Horton’s for coffee and an enormous box of miniature doughnuts – which lasted us all for over a week.

Given Father Pandosy’s religious involvement in BC’s wine origins, appropriately we began our tour at the St Hubertus Estate, just south of Kelowna. St Hubertus, who was born in the middle of the 7th century, is the patron saint of hunters, mathematicians, opticians and metalworkers. This seemed hugely relevant given that we were hunting bargains, calculating prices, peering at labels and discussing the benefits of oak over stainless steel. The Estate’s vineyards were first planted in 1928 and the Gebert family have produced wines there since 1984. Their 75 acres were extensively damaged by fire in 2003 but the Estate has survived and is producing a nice range of wines, the whites, in our view, outshining the reds. But the star was their 2009 Gamay Noir Rosė (12%), a delightful cherry colour, slightly frizzante and crammed full of spicy berries. Mike bought a couple here and more at the Penticton Wine Centre.

Our next call was to the nearby CedarCreek (this is not a typo – there is no space between the two words), a winery bought in 1986 by Senator Ross Fitzpatrick who promptly replaced all the apple trees in a vast orchard with vines. The business is now run by his son, Gordon, and comprises 50 acres on a northerly site consisting of clay, loam and some sand, ideal for Pinot Noir and white aromatics. The Estate was named Canada’s Winery of the Year in 2002 and 2005. We especially enjoyed the 2009 Gewurztraminer (13.5%) and, even more, the 2009 Ehrenfelser (13.8%) which the makers describe as “fruit salad in a glass”. We each bought a bottle. Delicious!

After an abortive attempt to visit a nearby cidery - hours 10 am to 4 pm but closed at 2.15! – we called on a new, small winery called Camelot. In 2006 the owners of an apple orchard found that prices no longer covered their packing costs and so they planted vines. The Estate consists of only six acres and the decision to produce their own wine rather than pass the grapes to a larger winery could not have been an easy one. Fortunately, in 2008, they engaged Ann Spurling as their winemaker. Camelot’s premises - the name derives from that of an earlier family home - is enhanced by various artefacts including a suit of armour. They produce five whites, two reds and a rosė. We thought the wines needed more time although the Chardonnay, a recent prize winner, showed a lot of promise.

That night we ate in and enjoyed a veritable plethora of asparagus on toast covered with creamy cheese sauce. Our accommodation for our first two nights was at Lindsay Drive B & B, a slight misnomer as there was no second ‘B’, though to be fair to the proprietor he did provide a superb platter of fruit for us. The accommodation was a full wing of a house comprising two bedrooms, a lounge and kitchen area and the highest beds we have ever seen – but very comfortable.

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Stay Tuned for Part Two!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lunch feature 15.08.10

Pan seared Ling Cod
Grilled Pheasant Sausage
Summer Squash and Celery Leaf Risotto
Tomato and Clam Broth

This whole feature came together thanks to Shannon's first ever attempt at making a sausage. These Pheasant sausages that she made were spot on. Done in the style of a Boudin Blanc, she got the fat content and seasonings absolutely perfect. From there it was easy. I didn't think that just a plate of sausages would sell on a day pushing 40 degrees celcius. I did a little surf and turf instead and they flew out the door. Simply pan fried ling cod, grilled sausage, a risotto with beautiful baby patty pan squash and a celery leaf pistou mixed in. I finished the plate of with some home made clamato. I like the thin broth with risotto, it seems to keep the rice at a good consistency throughout the meal instead of getting to thick.

It was a good special to end and extremely busy week in which I cooked hot lunches for approximately 800-900 people in blistering heat, all the while standing in front of a white hot grill, two ovens at 400 degrees and 14 burners. Those of you in the same position as me, a tip of the cap. I am going to soak myself in the river for two days and try to stop my brain from overheating.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Lunch feature 13.08.10

Candied Okangan Sockeye Belly & Halibut Corn Dog
Warm Cabbage, Onion & Pork Belly Slaw
Creamed Local Corn
Prawn Mayo & Oil
Roasted Red Pepper & Horseradish Puree

When cleaning some locally caught Okanagan Sockeye Salmon, on of our cooks Jeff asked (knowing full well that I would say yes) if I had any use for some salmon bellies. I absolutely love candied salmon bellies, however not nearly as much as my wife. So, I know that If I make some candied salmon bellies Shannon will be thrilled, which in return makes me thrilled. Last time I did this I used the bellies to make candied salmon hummus, which I served with some salmon.

What to do with the bellies this time. Well, I candied them again, which I did by curing them for a few hours in a mixture of 60/40 brown sugar and rock salt. After that I smoked them for about 2 hours.

Now that I had the bellies I had to figure out something to do with them. I wanted to make it the stand out flavor in the dish, not a side component. I have done the fish cake thing recently so that was out. What I had been wanting to do for a while is a sausage special, so why not a fish sausage. I decided to take it one step further and do a corn dog with it. Everyone loves a corn dog.

So I made a sausage with pieces of candied salmon and halibut mousse with the addition of a few different vegetables and spices all stuffed into a pork intestine casing. I then poached them on a stick and set them aside until I got an order. Upon ordering, I dipped them into the corn meal batter and deep fried them until golden and delicious.

For the accutrements I did a warm cabbage, onion and pork belly slaw. Nothing fancy there.

Some creamed corn that Shannon made by pureeing blanched corn into a stock made from cobs.
I just added in some blanched kernels for some added corn texture.

Prawn mayo made with prawn oil

Roasted red pepper and horseradish puree.

That is essentially it. Candied salmon corn dogs, eat it up, yum!

Sean Peltier

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Vancouver Tasting Trip

Shannon, Shannon's brother Mike and I all went on a three day trip to Vancouver to show Mike the Pacific coast and to eat at L'Abattoir. Chef Lee Cooper's first attempt at restaurant ownership. We really, really wanted to just spend three days eating and that is what we did.

The downside of living in the South Okanagan is the lack of quality restaurants and not just fine dining. We were just as excited to eat good ethnic foods as we were to eat at any higher end restaurant. As a result we were rather gluttonous.

Right upon arrival we went to a sushi shop on Robson to get the cheap sushi fix out of the system as fast as possible. Mission accomplished. Nothing spectacular, unfortunately the place we were looking for was closed on Sundays which left us to find the nearest joint possible. I forgot to get the name of the place but it was good, better than anything within a couple hundred kilometers.

For dinner we went to Lupo. Why Lupo? Well, two of the best cooks that I have had the privilege to work with were both products of that kitchen. The restaurant, which used to go by the moniker "Villa de Lupo" was sold and then bought back by the same people. This was my first opportunity to dine in this old house located on Hamilton in the Yale Town district of the city.
We were treated to some great food and wonderful service.

First course:

Ricotta gnocchi
Braised pork cheeks
"sugo" di pomodoro

Second course: (feature)

Duck confit & ricotta raviolli
Truffle sauce


Veal Scallopini Friulano
Fontina, Prosciutto, Marsala
mascarpone polenta

Roasted Chicken Lupo
Roasted Beet Farrotto
Porcini Mustard

BC Sablefish
Grappa & Orange Marinade
Baby Spinach




Apricot Tart

Post dinner we went for a short walk to the marina so that Mike could dip his feet in the Pacific and then it was off to Blue Water Cafe + Raw Bar for some post dinner sushimi

Sushimi Platter

Torched Hamachi
pickled ginger
yuzu broth

The following day we went to Rangoli for lunch. This is the small "bistro" which sits next to the mother ship that is Vij's. Perhaps the best Indian food outside of India. We shat the bed with the camera on this one but I assure you that our lunch was outstanding. Nothing like watching 8 Indian women making your lunch in an open kitchen.

For dinner that night we finally made it to L'Abattoir. So very excited, and in no way were we disappointed. Considering that this restaurant has been open for no longer than 3 weeks at this point it was running very smoothly from where we were sitting. The room is beautiful and welcoming. We sat for nearly four hours and a no point did we feel anything but comfortable.

We ate a lot of food. Instead of giving a critique plate by plate I will just say that everything was really tasty and even more reasonably priced than I was expecting.

Salad of chicken and lightly pickled cauliflower
Foie gras flavoured mayonnaise, lemon & parsley vinaigrette

Poached egg, quinoa and swiss chard
Homemade ricotta cheese, tomato sauce

Confit of albacore tuna
Smoked pork fat, egg, crispy bits

Summer bean soup (broth style) with or without ham
Fresh and dried beans, vegetables, gruyere cheese croutons

Dungeness crab and chickpea toast
Toasted brioche, light crab custard, carrot pickles

Crispy mushroom turnover
Broccoli, mushrooms, pecorino & truffle fondue

Roast flank steak and sweetbread
Potato fondants, charred onion, fried peppers

Leg of lamb cooked with Indian spices
Coriander fritters, slow cooked tomato, raita

Poached halibut with mussels and spinach dumplings
Ragout of early summer vegetables and basil, garlic sabayon

Ricotta cheese tart (savory)
Lemon & thyme sorbet

Chocolate yogurt custard
Compressed strawberries, caramelized phyllo shards,
cocoa nib sauce

Rum Baba
Citrus confit, golden raisins, currants & Chantilly cream

Limonade (fizzy lemonade)
Blueberry sorbet, tapioca pearls, mint granita

Apricot mousse
Shortcrust, apricots, lemon meringue

yes yes yes. All of this was spectacular. Next time you're in Vancouver Check it out.

So, aside from a few other snacks the following day, that was about that. Not much more to say other than, longest blog ever. Can't wait to have options to eat at hear in the Okanagan. Soon enough I hope.


The Red Wine Beef Debate: Resolution...YES!!!

After reading much on the debate of the new Semznu Meats "red wine beef" topic, I felt it was time to get to the bottom of this once and for all.

On the food inc. website there was a heated debate going on about the ethics of the red wine beef product being offered up here in our backyard, Oliver B.C. Although I could not help but get caught up in the online debate, that is not what today was about. I wanted to do a side by side comparison of the Sezmu Beef to the AAA Alberta Beef that I currently have on the menu. Now I picked the Flat Iron Steak for no other reason than that is what I alredy use on a daily basis. For those not in the know, the flat iron is a cut from under the shoulder blade of the cow, it is a muscle that gets a fair bit of exercise and therefore develops a good amount of flavor. The flat iron still maintains an acceptable tenderness to be a good grilling steak.

As you can see there is already a distinct difference. The Sezmu Beef flat iron is on the left and the AAA Alberta Beef flat iron on the right. The flesh of the Sezmu beef is much darker and deeper in the Sezmu and there is a remarkable difference in the fat marbling. To be fair I will let you know that the Alberta beef was from cryovac and the Sezmu came in wrapped as if by a supermarket meat department. The cryovac may have affected the AAA beef somewhat, but by looking at this photo I think we can all agree there is a big difference between the two meats regardless.

I did try to keep the variables the same in cooking the meats to see how the two products would react to the exact same circumstances. Both steaks are cut to 170g portion size, and were cooked side by side in the same pan for the same length of time.

Once again, there were some signifigant differences with the two products. At first glance you can see that the yield and juice retention of the Sezmu Beef is much greater than the AAA. As the two meats rested, the AAA Beef bled almost a tablespoon of juice and the Sezmu a fraction of that. As before the Sezmu Meat is on the left.

Okay, so I had already made up my mind by this point...I was really hoping that the local red wine beef would be a superior product to my AAA standby, but I was really not prepared for this much of a difference. When it comes to beef the Alberta AAA is no slouch. A picture is worth a thousand words.

This photo gives a much better visual of the yield and juice retention of the superior Sezmu product. In a blind tasting six of six employees in the kitchen preferred the Sezmu meat.

As for the flavor, the Sezmu meat had a richness that encompassed the palate so much that the AAA beef could not compare. the Sezmu had a buttered corn on the cob flavor to the meat...noo...if you had slathered some rendered beef fat onto some fresh corn with a mouthful of beef. Hmmm...maybe still not quite right. Anyway it was very enjoyable and made the AAA pale in comparison to my tastebuds.

Now there is obviously no wine flavoring to the meat, and it is a tough call to decide whether it is the wine or the extra attention these cattle receive that makes the difference. I do recommend that you try this test for yourself if you are still not convinced. Heck try a different cut and let me know how it works out. I know that I will be changing my beef supplier tomorrow to the local artisanal option.
Oh, I almost forgot...the price is almost the same!

Happy Eating...