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Wandering around the city this week I have had the pleasure of testing and tasting the prized products of several nations and provinces. At Quebec House the wine selection is small but they are featuring a great microbrew from Quebec City. Ontario House is flogging both beer and wine and they have several wines to be proud of. The Italians are serving up chunks of parmigiano reggiano with Chianti. Holland House is all about the Heineken. So, in the spirit of the Olympics I would like to promote some home-grown talent, namely BC wine.
BC’s wine reputation has taken some time to recover from what was well-deserved condemnation. The local product back in the 70’s was beyond disgusting, not even worthy of cooking with. But that is no longer the case. These days BC vintners are winning international awards and my admiration. Especially noteworthy is the variety of wines that we are successfully producing here. From Rieslings and Chardonnays to Cabernets and Pinot Noirs. And to compliment all these great grapes is a food culture reaching maturity. To be a locavore in BC in 2010 is an extraordinary delight.
And with the local in mind, here are a few of my favourites:
Quails’ Gate is nestled on the Western shore of Okanagan Lake. From the restaurant at the winery you can gaze over row upon row of vines and watch the sun dance on the lake. My favourite Quails’ Gate creation is the Pinot Noir best enjoyed with the wild mushroom risotto. The Pinot is delicate with notes of cherry and spice. If this isn’t nirvana, I’m not sure what is.
Wild Mushroom Risotto
- 3 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup shallots, finely chopped
- 1 cup onion, finely chopped
- 12 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1 cups arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- Additional grated Parmesan cheese
- Bring broth to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Turn off heat but keep stock warm.
- Soak porcini mushrooms in 1/2 cup boiling water for a few minutes until tender. Remove mushrooms from water and chop finely.
- Strain mushroom water through fine mesh sieve into chicken stock.
- Melt butter with olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.
- Add shallots and onions; sauté until tender.
- Add mushrooms; sauté until tender and moisture from mushrooms has evaporated.
- Add porcini, garlic and rosemary; sauté 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add rice; stir 2 minutes.
- Add wine and stir until liquid is absorbed.
- Add 1 cup hot broth; simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 8 minutes.
- Continue to cook until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 30 minutes.
- Mix in 1/2 cup cheese, 2 tablespoons of butter and parsley.
- Season with salt and pepper. Serve with additional cheese sprinkled on top of finished risotto.
Red Rooster is perched on the Eastern shore of the lake near the Naramata townsite. It is a true family business that has grown exponentially on account of the outstanding wine they have produced. A few years ago Red Rooster built a new facility to accommodate a restaurant and larger tasting room. Like Quails’ Gate it is the perfect place to immerse yourself in the joy of great wine, fine food and spectacular scenery. My favourite at Red Rooster is the Meritage, a blend of Cabernet and Merlot. The flavours are big and bold and enormously satisfying.
Hillside Estate Winery is another Naramata gem. Perched high on the Eastern slope of Okanagan Lake the bistro is the perfect place to sip a cool glass of their dry Reisling with a steaming bowl of mussels. There was a line in the movie “Shirley Valentine” extolling the merits of drinking wine in the place that it was made. I think Hillside Estate was built with this in mind.
Saturna Island Estates takes us to the coast and into a new and up and coming wine region. Saturna is small with only 60 acres under cultivation and 4 varietals in production. But don’t let their size fool you. They’ve produced some hugely successful wines. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir have both received awards, but it’s the Merlot that I have come to love. A Saturna Merlot with some with a rack of Salt Spring Island lamb…. Mmmmm.
I’ll stop the wine tour here but I want say that we British Columbians have plenty to be proud of. Great wine, great food and fantastic scenery are just a few reasons why you should revel in some pride of place. I hope our Olympic visitors are discovering what we already know.
(Editor’s Note: Guest Bloggers A & P literally begged to have this week included, so despite our usual practice of only doing the daily foods, we include this tribute to our microbrewing friends down south)
When B, D and E explained their idea for this blog to me I immediately started to look for an excuse to do a guest entry about my favorite food group, microbrewed beer. Yes, it has its own food group, as do wine and bacon… mmm bacon
The first beer-related item on the 365 foods list turned out to be American Beer week (second week of October for those looking to celebrate next year) and my tasting partner P was concerned. Being a good Canadian boy, his exposure to American beer was limited. He was worried our night would be filled with comparing and contrasting Michelob to Coors or the ever-popular Bud (shudder). P suggested we ought to expand it to North American Beer Week. This belief that American beer is flavourless water is a widely-held one up here in the wintery north. The adage is that American beer is like making love in a canoe; they are both f@@@ing close to water.
No, the dark secret many Canadians don’t know is that the ability to brew good quality, full flavoured beer does not get stopped at the border like a letter from Marc Emery. Yankees can brew. The only trouble up here is getting a hold of the good stuff; however, after a trip to 3 different liquor stores, I think I put together an adequate lineup to taste.
The first up was Rogue Dead Guy Ale, brewed in Oregon. A German-style Maibock named after the Mayan Day of the Dead celebrated on November 1st. The colour is a nice deep orange with a good head. The taste had a good hit of peach with a balanced citric acidity from the hops and a full mouth feel. Ideal season: Fall.
Next up was Hebrew Genesis Ale, a kosher beer by Shmalz Brewing, New York City. Seriously. I suppose just because you’re kosher doesn’t mean you have to drink bad beer. I must admit a little trepidation after having some horrible kosher wine in my distant past. But we tasted it… and it was good. They call it the Chosen Beer, and I have to say I would choose it any day. Despite the gimmicky name and theme, this is in fact a very nice beer, well-balanced hop and malt flavour and full mouth feel. Nice work guys… l’chaim! Ideal season: Fall.
Then we tried Anchor Steam Beer by Anchor Brewing in San Francisco. According to Anchor, “steam” was slang for West Coast beer in the 19th century. They claim to be very traditional in their brewing techniques. This is a good idea generally, but in this case we decided they missed the mark. This beer basically lacked flavour. P said it could have been a Michelob (shudder). Ideal season: Spring Break in Mexico.
To wash the taste (or lack of taste) out of my mouth we switched to Sierra Nevada ESB (Early Spring Beer). This is a very nice bitter in the West Coast tradition. Copper-coloured and with a good hit of floral citrus from the hops. While this is an excellent beer, I’ve noticed that my notes have gotten sparse by this point. Hmmm, perhaps fewer beers to taste next time. Ideal Season: Early spring.
The penultimate brew we chose was Mirror Pond Pale Ale. I think this turned out to be one of P’s favourites. Its strong and aromatic hop character was well balanced by the malt. Almost done… notes getting shorter. Season: Yes.
Our final brew was Moylan’s Irish Red Ale. This was a classic Irish ale with a full-bodied caramel flavour. As with most Irish ales, this one is not heavily hopped, which why I tend not to choose them (I likes me my hops). Moylan’s manages to pull it off with a caramel malt flavour that manages to avoid the sickly sweet taste trap most fall into. Whew, done… Season: Fall/Winter/Early spring.
Wow, ok. Definitely fewer beers for my next tasting. Excellent quality stuff for the most part, and I hope P and I did our part in improving Canada-US relations (think big picture here, people). I’m going to bed.
A. & P.