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Hey y’all. It’s  shrimp scampi day.  Scampi, in north American parlance is a butter/wine/garlic sauce, usually served over shrimp (in the UK “scampi” is a type of lobster!). Tonight I made some truly stellar salt roasted jumbo shrimp with a scampi sauce...the shrimp where roasted in their shells for extra shrimpy goodness, and then just dipped in a thick scampi sauce. Lip smackingly good. I think this is one of the very best dishes I have made for this blog thus far, and dead easy. This would be great dinner party dish. The scampi sauce starts out with a nice lemon kick, and then finishes with smooooth butter.

Tonight, I’m lacking words, but feeling visual. I hope you’ll accept the maxim that a photo is worth a thousand words, and enjoy this little slideshow instead of a play-by-play…

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Quails' Gate Cabernet on the Patio

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.

Looking across the vineyard at Quails' Gate

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
  1. Bring broth to simmer in heavy medium saucepan.  Turn off heat but keep stock warm.
  2. Soak porcini mushrooms in 1/2 cup boiling water for a few minutes until tender.  Remove mushrooms from water and chop finely.
  3. Strain mushroom water through fine mesh sieve into chicken stock.
  4. Melt butter with olive oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat.
  5. Add shallots and onions; sauté until tender.
  6. Add mushrooms; sauté until tender and moisture from mushrooms has evaporated.
  7. Add porcini, garlic and rosemary; sauté 4 to 5 minutes.
  8. Add rice; stir 2 minutes.
  9. Add wine and stir until liquid is absorbed.
  10. Add 1 cup hot broth; simmer until liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 8 minutes.
  11. Continue to cook until rice is just tender and mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 30 minutes.
  12. Mix in 1/2 cup cheese, 2 tablespoons of butter and parsley.
  13. 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.

Our amazing coast

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.


This year's available selection from BC Liquor Stores

Well this is a darn cool day.  I’ve been a wino for, like, a really, really long time (sounds kinda bad doesn’t it?) and I never knew about Nouveau Beaujolais Day until now.  I mean, I’ve always known about Beaujolais.  It’s a lovely, light, drinkable red from the Beaujolais region of France (duh!) made from the Gamay variety of grape.  In my experience, it’s a bit lighter and drier than the spicier Gamay Noir varietals produced here in B.C. (one of my favorites of which is from Mt. Boucherie, and the other one is from Sandhill).  It’s very pleasant and kind of … inconsequential in aspect, which makes it thoroughly dangerous.

The Nouveau Beaujolais is an early winter wine that is traditionally released on the 3rd Thursday in November.  That was yesterday.  All over the world, people have been racing to be the first to serve and drink this light-bodied, put-a-spring-in-your-step, bottle of happiness.  The guy at the liquor store said to me, “oh, you want the grape juice and bubble gum wine?”.  Hmph.  Well, it’s no Amarone, but damn!  It is hella-drinkable and thoroughly enjoyable and perfectly pretty.  I have never seen such purple wine.  Okay, so there’s a slight similarity to grape juice.

That's purple, not red.

The thing that’s cool about Nouveau Beaujolais Day is that it’s this crazy worldwide wine fest that happens in the dead of winter when people are sort of thinking that wine is done for the year.  Not that it’s ever done, but let’s face it – who goes on a wine tour of the Okanagan in the middle of November?  National Beaujolais Day has been described as one of “the most frivolous and animated rituals in the wine world”. Cool!  According to Wine Spectator, I am one lucky cookie, since I get to blog about this delightful libation this year – apparently 2009 is set to be one of the Beaujolais’ best vintages ever. Sweet!

Mommessin 2009

Yesterday was a good day to come home and drink a bottle of wine.  Or half a bottle.  There were two varieties released in BC Liquor Stores yesterday: the Beaujolais Villages Nouveau – Mommesin 2009, and the Beaujolais Nouveau – Duboeuf Paper Label 2009 and I contemplated opening both bottles and having a drink off, but my tasting partner, P, got thoroughly soused at an early Christmas lunch and was entirely useless to me on the tasting front.  So I settled for drinking half a bottle of the Mommessin with a few slices of French Batard from Bond Bond’s bakery, and a version of Portuguese Sausage and Kale soup that I made in my slow cooker while watching the world’s cheesiest television show.  It was a fine way to end the day.


Oh, you want to know what the t.v. show was?  It was the recent remake of “V”. Terrible.  But oh so good.

What?  You want the soup recipe?  Well that’s just pushing it.  But here you go:

1. Sauté  1/2 large onion (diced), 3 cloves of garlic (minced) and 3 Portuguese Chorico Sausages (2 hot, 1 sweet, sliced 1/4″) in a heavy sauce pot.

2. Add some chopped mushrooms, s & p.

3. When starting to brown and caramelize on bottom of pan, deglaze with a little dry sherry or red wine.

4. Toss in the 1/2 large can of diced tomatoes you had left over from the casserole you made at the same time, a couple handfuls of fresh chopped basil and 1 tbsp of dried oregano.

5. Put in slow cooker.  Add 1 litre of ham stock that you made from this year’s giant Easter Ham Hock and kept in the freezer all summer long.

6. Add 2 – 3 cups of water because you think there’s not enough liquid.

7. 3-4 drops of Liquid Smoke, no more.

8. Chop 8-9 red nugget potatoes into little tiny soup-size pieces and mix into the glop in the pot.

9. Top with a few sprigs of parsley ’cause they’re in the fridge and then fill the pot to the top with coarsely chopped kale (I used one really big bunch).

10. Turn on the slow cooker and set it to cook all day on low.  When you get home, give it a stir and turn it to high while you do your chores and heat the Batard in the oven and … voila!  Perfect Stormy Night Food that pairs reasonably well with your evening’s wine assignment (ok, probably an Touriga Nacional would have been better – it’s a darn stout soup – but the Nouveau did nicely in a pinch).