Tag Archives: wine

Touring The Washington State Wine Region – Day One

Touring The Washington State Wine Region – Day One

Endless prairie under a cushion of soft cloud.

Endless prairie under a cushion of soft cloud.

We drove from Missoula, Montana yesterday under a blanket of cloudy sky and arrived in Walla Walla, Washington late afternoon in a deluge of rain. We checked in to our hotel and immediately made our way to the downtown area to see what was happening and to get a “lay of the land”.

Downtown Walla Walla, Washington

Downtown Walla Walla, Washington

It was incredibly cold walking downtown in the wind and the rain and we found refuge at the Fort Walla Walla Cellars Tasting Room. Our host, Terry, poured us a sample of their 2010 Merlot, followed by a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both were complex and delicious. Terry and his friend, Pat, then treated us to a glass of the 2007 Merlot. Merlot is not our favourite varietal, but we really enjoyed both vintages poured for us. It was a delight to speak with Terry, Pat and Shelley about the area, wines, restaurants, etc. Ron teased Terry about working for the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce as he said that, with the exception of perhaps one winery, each of the approximately 150 local wineries are making GREAT wine. Similarly, when we pressed him to recommend the town’s best restaurants, Terry told us that there are many wonderful chefs and places to eat in the area. We left with a bottle of each of the two varietals we tasted and a great feeling of having met and spent time with three new friends.

The Fort Walla Walla Tasting Room on Main Street

The Fort Walla Walla Cellars Tasting Room on Main Street

Fort Walla Walla Cellars is a boutique winery that produces about 2,000 cases of ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Bordeaux blend wines from grapes produced exclusively from vineyards in the Walla Walla Valley.

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We’ve wanted to tour the wine producing areas of Washington and Oregon for several years and we’re excited to finally be here. Pacific Northwest wines dominated the top of Wine Spectator magazine’s annual top 100 list in 2015, a compilation of the best wines in the world, according to the world’s largest and most influential wine publication. In 2015, wines from Washington and Oregon finished an astonishing 20 percent of the top 50, with five wines from each state. Very impressive.

Whitehouse-Crawford Dining Area (photo courtesy of http://www.whitehousecrawford.com)

Whitehouse-Crawford Dining Area (photo courtesy of http://www.whitehousecrawford.com)

We did take Terry’s recommendation for one of his favorite restaurants, Whitehouse-Crawford. Dating back to 1880, the site of this restaurant was originally a planing mill and furniture company. Destroyed by fire in late 1903, it was rebuilt in brick and continued as a planing mill and furniture factory until it was sold to the City of Walla Walla in 1988. The current owner, Salvation! LLC, saved the site from being razed to build a motel and carefully restored it as a quality restaurant that celebrates food, wine and the history of the Walla Walla Valley.

Harvest Apple Salad

Harvest Apple Salad

Our evening started with an order of Empanadas, perhaps the best either of us have ever had – light pastry and delicious filling. We then shared a Harvest Apple Salad, followed by the Pork Shoulder.

Pork Shoulder

Pork Shoulder

Robertson, our waiter, recommended the 2010 aMaurice Cellars Syrah, “Fred”, from the Walla Walla Valley and a 2012 Gramercy Cellars blend from the Columbia Valley, “The Third Man”. The Gramercy Cellars wine was spectacular and this vineyard produced the 2012 “Deuce Syrah” which was named #22 wine in the world by Wine Spectator in 2015.

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Regional Cheeses

We finished our evening’s meal with a selection of Regional Cheeses (served with candied pecans, rhubarb chutney, and house made crackers) and a glass of Graham’s 20-Year Tawny Port. The service, the quality of the food, presentation and value were all excellent.

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Our first night in Walla Walla was so positive that we decided to stay and play one more day. Let’s see what tomorrow brings!

 

Celebrating With Special Girlfriends

Celebrating With Special Girlfriends

This past Friday night was very special. I got together with five of my very dear girlfriends for a delightful evening of connection, laughter, food, wine and general merriment! It was a pot-luck dinner and ALL of my friends love and appreciate great food and wine, so the offerings were superb. The occasion was supposed to be a celebration of three of our birthdays (Susan, Monica and me), but because I’m out of the country during the winter months, it has grown into just a great reason to get together and our group expanded to include Kajsa, Cathy and Tina.

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I was responsible for the appetizer and had planned to prepare stuffed mushrooms and a grilled eggplant salad served in Belgian endive. When I walked into Lina’s Market on Centre Street and saw the magnificent fresh figs they had displayed, the plan instantly changed. Instead I made carmelized figs with burrata cheese, with rolled prosciutto and fennel salami – the cheese drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon zest, finely chopped arugula and freshly ground black pepper. To caramelize the figs, I removed the stem end, cut the figs in half lengthwise, and pressed the cut sides firmly into light coloured brown sugar. I heated a large, heavy sauté pan until hot, then cooked the figs sugar side down until carmelized (only takes a couple of minutes).

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Kajsa was up next with the salad course, which was absolutely brilliant. Kajsa is a caterer and is an amazing chef (as well as a cherished friend and first “adopted” daughter). She came up with this recipe after I told her about a fabulous crab salad I’d had in the JFK Airport recently. She made the salad with a combination of rock crab (from Prince Edward Island where she and her husband, Patrick, have a cottage) and shrimp, all beautifully wrapped in a ribbon of cucumber, served on a bed of mesclun greens, with threads of carrot and a thin slice of lemon to garnish. Gorgeous! None of us wanted to eat these little masterpieces, but we finally did and they tasted as incredible as they looked!

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Susan prepared delicious chicken skewers for our protein and Monica, another brilliant chef and our hostess for the evening, provided a fabulous rice pilaf and some marinated, grilled vegetables to complete our dinner. Kajsa had saved and brought some very special wine for all of us to share and we ate and drank very well all evening!

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Cathy supplied a delectable dessert of frozen green seedless grapes with ice-cold dessert wine from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia.

Dinner was phenomenal, but it was the laughter and connection shared among our group of six that made it incredibly memorable and thoroughly enjoyable!

Until next year, precious friends! xox

Ungava – A Uniquely Canadian Product

Ungava – A Uniquely Canadian Product

My Mom and I were shopping for wine the other week and we were checking out what tequilas the store had in stock (my Mom LOVES tequila and together we toast every full moon with it, in person or by phone). The person in the store asked if we had tried Ungava Canadian Premium Gin (I know – how did we get from wine to tequila to GIN!). I love a gin and tonic when it’s really hot outside and had not yet tried this brand.

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The simple and clean-cut Ungava bottle evokes the purity and chill of Arctic ice

The clerk at the liquor store was obviously very convincing as we ended up walking out with a bottle. We sat down to play a long awaited game or two of dominos that afternoon and poured ourselves a gin and tonic. I have to say that this gin, which I had put in the freezer so was ice cold when we made our drinks, was absolutely delicious. Ungava’s unusual bright yellow color and distinctive aroma are derived from six rare botanicals that are native to the Arctic region: Nordic juniper, wild rose hips, cloudberry, crowberry, Arctic blend and Labrador tea. These botanicals are handpicked and steeped in the traditional Inuit way and the result is a deliciously well-balanced, fragrant and delicious product.

The unique script and characters on the bottle is Inuktitut, the language of the inuit

The unique script and characters on the bottle is Inuktitut, the language of the Inuit

Ungava gin recommends serving with a wedge of grapefruit on ice, but do be careful as it has a surprising alcoholic strength of 43.1%. We tried it with chilled tonic, with and without a squeeze of fresh lime, and preferred it without citrus as the flavours are so unique and balanced. Perfect for an ice-cold martini, this unique handcrafted gin is definitely worth searching out – even if you have to come to Canada to find it!

Tutto Il Giorno – Always Delightful!

 

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We bellied up to the bar at Tutto Il Giorno in Southampton just over a week ago to share small plates of appetizers and some wine with our dear friend, Sue. We sampled the Burrata (with sweet grape tomatoes and fresh basil), Britto (crispy calamari with zucchini and served with a basil dip), Arancini (local mushroom risotto cakes with a chive crème fraîche and truffle oil), Gamberi (grilled prawns, local asparagus, puttanesca sauce and toasted almonds) and Paccheri (slow cooked beef ragù served Neapolitan style). A beautiful bottle of Italian red wine to accompany and we had an amazing evening of great food and superb service (thanks Christopher and Mark!).

Belly up to the bar!

Belly up to the bar!

This past Friday night, we met up with Sue and another dear friend, Monte, again at the bar for a casual drink, bite and conversation. Sue and I shared the Branzino (fire-roasted whole fish served over an herb salad with a broiled cheese-crusted tomato), Ron enjoyed their featured pasta dish (delicious!), and Monte ordered their Cartoccio (local fish baked in parchment paper with mixed vegetables and seasoned with a roasted tomato vinaigrette).

Cartoccio!

Cartoccio!

This trendy Neopolitan-inspired restaurant opened in 2009 and reflects a chic dining atmosphere and experience. The Tutto legacy began in 2006 in Sag Harbor (now owned by chef Maurizio Marfoglia) when Gianpaolo de Felice and his close friend, David Mayer, imagined having the food of Southern Italy available in the Hamptons. That original restaurant was designed by Gabby Karan de Felice, married to de Felice, partner in the restaurants, and daughter of famous clothing designer, Donna Karan, and reflects the “urban zen” atmosphere (like her mother’s lifestyle store next door). That same comfortable atmosphere was replicated in the Southampton location where you’re always assured delicious cuisine made with local, fresh ingredients under the creative control of Corsican Executive Chef Alex Apparu. In 2014, the Tutto group opened a third location in Tribeca, which we’re looking forward to trying one day.

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Whether you go to Tutto for lunch or dinner, you’ll always enjoy the atmosphere, food that is consistently creative and delicious, an extensive wine list, and friendly and professional service. Before you’re done your meal, you’ll already be looking forward to your next visit. Buon appetito!

Malarrimo in Guerrero Negro

Whenever we drive the Baja, we plan on overnighting in a town called Guerrero Negro. We strive to get there, not because it’s a great destination, but because of where it’s situated on the Baja and because of the food that is served in the restaurant at the Malarrimo Hotel. In business since 1974, they have funky rooms with very basic amenities; clean and functional, but the restaurant serves a few dishes that are worth going out of your way for. The waiters have been there forever and seem to be getting slower, heavier and more complacent with every visit, but the food is really delicious. Thankfully their cook hasn’t lost interest and consistently produces memorable meals.

Abalone is very rarely found on menus anywhere and is difficult and dangerous to dive for. We were lucky last night that they were serving fresh catch, so Ron opted for that dish (as he always does when it’s available). My usual go to is a delicious Seafood Soup that is made with a flavourful broth and loaded with fresh fish, scallops, lobster, shrimp, octopus, and clams, and served with a broiled slice of garlic bread, perfect for dunking in the broth. Enjoyed with a glass of northern Baja red wine, this is the perfect meal to wind up a long and arduous day of driving (we left Cabo at 9:30 in the morning and, aside from gas and pee stops, arrived in Guerrero Negro at 8:30 last night).

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Guerrero Negro is a company town – the main industry is the salt plant and business owned by the Mitsubishi corporation of Japan. The other industry here is eco-tourism based around the whale migration. Like Santa Rosalia, my least-favourite town on the Baja drive, Guerrero Negro has lots of employment but seems to lack the soul and personality found in other places.

In the restaurant, we asked to see a wine list to see which northern Baja wines they were carrying. Unable to comprehend their poorly prepared listing, we ended up ordering a 2011 Santo Tomás Cabernet Sauvignon, based on the recommendation of the Australian couple we were visiting with, Lindal and Gerry, who were just finishing their meal and the last drops of wine from the bottle they had ordered. We poured them a glass from our bottle and shared some wonderful stories of the Baja, Australia, California, wine and tennis. Ah, the camaraderie of travellers – a grand and glorious thing.

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