Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daoism of Tea, Design a Tea Update

Daoism is the chinese philosophy of getting to "know" something. 

 After discovering Design a Tea a month or so ago I have gotten to know what my favorite morning drink is becoming - tea.

I ordered one of my own blends, Morning Noon and Night, and Design a Tea's Chai.  As you can see in the photo, the tea comes with personalized labels and in decorative and stackable round boxes.  So if you wanted to name a tea after your pet or send birthday wishes to a tea loving friend, this is a better solution than a card.

Brian, the owner of Design a Tea, thoughtfully sent me some samples of the teas I dreamt up in my last post.  He also deducted the $2. I had paid for the original samples, even though I had forgotten to enter the code.  This is good service!

Today I am drinking my Maple Mango Rioobus , and I'm loving it.  It's like drinking memories of home (Canada) with a vacation.  As a person with a good nose, I am impressed with the sent of the teas as you bring them up to you face to drink.  Just like with wine, the smell is as important as the taste.

Hmm, that gives me another idea; I'll work on designing a collection of teas that are representative of the major wine flavours!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Have I Gone Crackers? Pairing Cab Franc with What?

I had an event to go to last night and I was looking to pair an appetizer with some Cabernet Franc wines.  What would go well with the peppery, medium bodied wine?  Cab Franc has a good deal of toothy grip for a medium bodied wine.  The pepper is up front on the palate and these wines, often peter out, on the finish unless there is quite a bit of alcohol to carry the pepper through.

Cab Franc is the parent grape of Cabernet Sauvignon, and is more often used in a Bordeaux Blend to add colour and spiciness.  Single varietals, driven by new world practices, is the preferred way to market wine outside of France.  So Cab Franc has come into its own.  The Lang and Reed, from Napa, was one of the wines I tasted at Every Day Wine, in the Alberta neighbourhood of Portland, last night, also know as the NE art district.

When the wine is the star, as in a flight tasting, you want the food to take a more subtle role, to be the supporting cast rather than the main event.  

So to provide a balance between the earthiness, the pepper and the grip, I came up with a Port-Poached Fig Walnut Mascarpone Spread, served with pepper crackers.

It looks a bit like liver pate, unfortunately, but it really does match the wine!  As I have some left over I plan to use it as a butter on a port-soaked french toast,  I will stuff it under the skin on a roast chicken and sandwich it between ginger cookies.  I had it on toast this morning; really good!

I used the crusted Port that I wrote about in an earlier blog.

10 dried Mission figs
5 dried cherries
1/2 c toasted walnuts
1/4 c of Port
1 sprig of rosemary
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 small tub of mascarpone cheese

Poach the figs, 1/2 the sprig of rosemary and cherries in a small pot with the port for 5 minutes on medium heat, set aside.  Meanwhile, toast the walnuts at 325F for 6-8 minutes.

When cool chop the fruit, nuts and rosemary.  Add mascarpone cheese and remainder of poaching juice.  Keep refrigerated.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How to Make a Furoshiki Wine Carrier

I found this how-to video on Dr. Vino's site.  Much greener that paper wine bags, and a great way to give a scarf as a gift to those wine chicks in your life. Or as a bandana for your favourite wine dog! Most Furoshiki wine carriers are made with a 24 inch square of fabric.

HOWTO: make a furoshiki wine carrier

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Festive Ale a Winter's Tale

In the deep mid-winter snow lay all about
 Ale is sleeping deeply, waiting for a spout
Micro brews near Montreal 
add some seasonings of the seasons
cloves and spice are very pleasing.
A Festive Ale  throughout a gale
Is just what rev's the revelers, 
one and all.

I'm not much of a poet but good beer is something to be poetic about.  I like Belgian beer, so this Trader Joe's festive Vintage Ale 2008 hits all the right notes, for me.  Dark and sinewy hopps with floral shadings, and spicey notes to tickle the nose.  The head is a beautifully creamy mass of dense bubbles:  Certainly better than the sparkling wine I had on New Year's Eve.  

This Ale is made in Quebec, near Montreal, by Unibroue.  Unibroue makes a wide range of beers, but the focus is on Belgian-style beer such as Maudite (The Damned), Le Fin de Monde (End of the World) and Don Dieu (Gift of God).  Okay, that's hard to live up to if you are a brewer. You are either damned or blessed by god, and if you don't get it right, well, it is the end of the world.  Which brings me to another beer I like, Dead Guys, by Oregon's Rogue Brewery.  Creative names.

The Trader Joe's Vintage Ale is more in keeping with their happy-go-lucky outlook.  Most of Unibroue's beer is bottle, like some wine, on the lees, which means on the yeast sediment.  In beer this helps it age and also gives the beer a cloudy appearance, which enhances the flavours.

The Unibroue site is worth a visit, the way they recommend tasting beer rival the wine course methodology I'm used to. 

 "Pour the beer delicately and move the glass progressively away from the bottle while it fills up, in order to create a proper head of foam, the head must be 3 to 4 centimeters on average," Unibroue instructs.

Good advice!  I won't tell them my last glass of Vintage Ale, poured into a wine glass, spilled over and went up my nose, I had 3 to 4 inches of foam.

I do agree that good beer does deserve to be treated in the same manner as good wine, with attention to detail and respect.  What are you tasting, smelling and savouring?

I was at Trader Joe's this week and they still had a few bottles,  750 ml for $4.99.  Good price and winter isn't over yet.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Design Your Own Tea

My husband found this tea site through his high tech searching.  Design a Tea, caught his eye and it ended up in our share folder.  A few weeks ago I took a look at their site and was surprised to see that you can order samples to try, before you buy.

I love tea and have a box full of interesting flavours and hard core black teas.  I even use Lapsang Souchong as a barbeque smoke, and I flavour salmon dishes with a Lapsang marinade.  I use lavender tea 
to enhance hot apple cider, and I use black tea to make my own foaming Chai.  

I grew up with a British
 grandfather, whose detailed tea preparation rivaled Japanese tea ceremonies.  No bag in a cup with hot tap water for him...or me.

Design a Tea lets you choose a tea base, add flavourings, and create your own unique tea.  Who doesn't love choice.  You can choose your base from black, green, Rooibos and Oolong.  The flavours are too numerous to list but here is what I designed:Rooibos with Margarita and ginger; and black tea with tangerine and cranberry.

I tried the Rooibos this morning, and the aroma that wafted out of the sample was amazing.  Lime, orange, salty, spicy, earthy- WOW.  The delicate sweetness of the Rooibos isn't overshadowed by the flavourings; the taste is refreshing and the ginger lingers on the palate. Rooibos is caffeine-free, so it can be enjoyed all day or even before bed.

I favour using loose tea rather than bagged, but I know I find the grungy tea ball a hassle at times.  About a year ago I found fill-your-own tea bags, made by Cha Cult, which are large enough to let the tea expand.  Brian Pfeiffer, the owner of Design a Tea, calls this expansion "letting the tea dance".  It's cheaper to order loose tea from them, but I ordered my samples with tea bags.  The teaspoon of tea was enough for a whole pot.

Another great suggestion I found on Design a Tea's site was to use the brewed tea leaves in your garden.  I have been adding the tea to my indoor plants, and they seem to love it.  

As I have been writing, the Rooibos Margarita Ginger has cooled, and you know, it still tastes good.  Hmmm, iced tea for summer.  Design a Tea's logo is "where tea leaves dream".  When you can design your own blend, and get two samples for one dollar, let's start dreaming.  Green tea with honey and chestnut, Oolong with Anise, Rooibos with mango and maple, black tea with caramel.......

Friday, January 02, 2009

Sushi Pizza?

When we recently moved to Wilsonville, a rural suburb of Portland, OR, I was surprised we were able to find local restaurants that matched our "I'm too tired to cook" or "I'm not into dishes tonight" moods, that came anywhere close to our local favorites in Vancouver, BC.  

 Vancouver, is a sushi lovers mecca.  A strong asian population and close proximity to the sea makes it hard not to each sushi every night; from an $8 all-you-can-eat to Tojo's magic for $300., and everything in-between.

Portland is dining and drinking hip, but its' "downtown scene" is too far on a rainy night to slump out to, after blogging in my relax duds.  The Willamette Valley and wineries are closer, but sometimes the little town/city atmosphere is just what the tummy orders.

Sushi Ave. is in a little strip mall on our side of the freeway.  It is cozy and family-oriented.  Small children, in high chairs, are ordering the favorites.  One that seems to get the kids' attention is the Sushi Pizza.  To be honest, as we work our way through their interesting offerings, the Sushi Pizza was going to be our last choice because, well, it sounds gross.

Tonight, with the comfort of knowing I was having our two favorites , I bravely suggested the Sushi Pizza.  Silence.  Then a cautious, Allllrrrright.     

And, it was good!  Odd, but good.  The crust is a piece of seaweed with sushi rice as the body, mixed with different seafood and broiled until hot with a sweet sauce and sesame seeds on top.  Smooth, rich, warm and comforting.  

Something a little different from a neighborhood restaurant that is already becoming a favorite.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Maple bacon Salmon with Arugula Salad and Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

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Crusted Port an Inventive Non-Vintage, Vintage

Dow's Crusted Port is a non-vintage, vintage. Hmmm. A blend of a number of different years, the wine is produced like a vintage port and is laid down like a vintage wine. It spends two to three years in cask and is bottled without filtration. The wine is then aged for a further three years in bottle. It is called crusted port because of the heavy sediment that forms in the bottle.

It has deep cherry red colour. On the nose, it is like sniffing a bag of dried Rainier cherries with hints of caramel, and plenty of spices. On the palate it is has firm, toothy tannins, a silky acidity and a dry finish. The port shows depth, and would age well. It is priced at the level of a traditional british-style port but has a richness and depth that is more like Vintage or Late Bottled Vintage port.

According to Dow, the grapes are from a number of vineyards including Quinta do Bomfim and Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira. Following a manual harvest, fermentation took place in autovinification tanks and granite lagares (with foot-treading) for 48 hours before the addition of grape brandy. Matured for two to three years in old oak casks, the wine was bottled and cellared in Vila Nova de Gaia for a further 3 years prior to release.

Foot treading is an old Portuguese village tradition, where the whole town comes out to press grapes with manual foot labour.  Who can argue with tradition when a port has this kind of outcome.

Quebecois Tourtiere for New Year's Day Feasting: Start your diet tomorrow!

How We Say Comfort Food in French!

Ah, tourtiere!  A French Canadian Christmas Eve meat pie dating back as early as 1611. The original recipe used local Tourtes Pigeons, which are now extinct.  Tourte also refers to a deep dish pie plate, and I find it is the best dish to use as it gives lots of room for the filling. 

Today's tourtiere is almost always made with ground pork as the largest part of the mix.  Other meats that are often added are veal and beef.  Some Quebecois restaurants use duck breast and duck liver.  My American husband suggests I give you the pronunciation, toor-tyair, as it is a bit of a mouthful!

I have made tourtiere my New Year's Day dish, and I serve it often as a festive winter meal fit for company.  I had my first tourtiere at my grade 5 French Immersion graduation dinner/dance.  It was very different than the ketchup-imbued, all beef british-style meat pie I was used to.  Rich melt in your mouth pork softness, and brimming
 with gentle herbs.  I try to re-create that  taste memory every year.

This year I couldn't find ground veal, so I opted for Buffalo meat.  It added a richness and depth of meatiness that was surprising.  I also used a reduction of crusted port, chicken stock and shallots, which I poured in through one of the vents of the pie crust, half way through baking.  I based this on a suggestion  by Montreal chef,  Frederic Morin of Restaurant Joe Beef.

Typical seasonings include onions, cloves, cinnamon, sage and savory.  I also add Panko bread crumbs soaked in milk to the raw meat mixture.  The pastry has always been a rich one with 13 tbs of butter and 7 tbs of vegetable oil to 2 1/2 c of flour, it almost turns out like shortbread.

I roasted and glazed the carrots in balsamic vinegar, and added maple syrup, chili and finely diced ham to a can of Northern White Beans.  Everything cooked at 425 F for 40 minutes.

Oddly this meal went well with leftover Sparkling wine from New Year's Eve.  The bubbles cut through the richness and the chardonnay was a rich oaky backdrop.  Revel on!