Friday, November 20, 2009

Valencia, Spain - Canada loves your tapas bars

My Spanish is entertainingly, very limited. After arriving in Valencia(pronounced Balenthia, thank you very much), we had sought out a recommended wine and tapas bar called the name.

Me- ¿Tienes una otra recommendaccion para vino?

Nice Waiter- ¿Mas Blanco?

Me- Tinta y, no. Tinto o blanco, cualquiera.

Nice Waiter- (Laughter insues)
If you didn't understand this...don't worry, I didn't much either.

I, actually, love it when they laugh at my pigeon Spanish. I like being funny even if unintentionally.

The star dishes of the night...
1. Patatas con slas piquante y aioli. Simple and satisfying.
2. Lacon de cerdo (pork shoulder) con anise seed paste, served cold. I have never tasted anything like it.

For the wine nerds out there...
1. Valmiñor, Rias Baixas, Albariño
Lovely, fresh, yet complex golden white wine. Pinapple, honey, lemon and a bit of minerality. Great with green olives, cuts any rich foods. ie. the patatas above

2. Basa, Rueda, Verdejo, Viura y Sauvignon Blanc
Big nose on this fruity bombshell. Less complex than the Valmiñor, but still a great patio sipper. Pinapple, lemon dominate.

3. Al Muvedre, Alicante
I wanted this one to be since it is from a region near to Valencia. I love mouvedre, usually, but this wine disappointed. Great nose of earth and cinnamon, but the bottom dropped out with a flat palette.

4. Dehesa Gago, Toro, Tinta de Toro
This one is big. It reminded me of a cali zin, but with a gorgeous old world flare to boot. Mild tannins made this ready and easy to drink. Strawberry jam, caramel, cloves... ok I love it already. Add a dusty desert sage not to the mix... cigar and bitter lemon finish!!!!

What a fabulous evening. Tintofino had a great atmosphere; melow music, warm lighting and you can find it in a section of the older town on a tiny winding walkway, Calle Corregeria 38 if you are ever looking. At under 3 Euro a glass, this wine bar was sensational.

4/5 Valencia, solid food and wine selection at a really cool location

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rolling with the Punches in Burgundy - Wine country

I could spend a month in Burgundy, driving up and down the dusty line of vines from Chablis to Beaujolais with the Cote d´Or in between. I only had a day, and of course the wineries outside of Beaune were all preparing for a great wine festival on the weekend so most of the tasting rooms were closed. When travelling, you have to go with the flow. Roll with the punches and often you will find if you roll and don´t resist that you end up in a better place anyway. And here it is....

The town of Beaune is tiny and really pretty. Wandering about we found a bounty of cellars which stock many of the standout wines of Bourgogne(Burgandy) for you to taste.

For 10 Euro at Marche aux Vins, we tasted a fabulous Pouilley-Fuisse, Merasault, Pommard, George St.Nuit... the list goes on. You pour your own tasting in their cellars which was fabulous. You get to wander around on your own, but there is a sommelier about if you have any questions. November was a perfect time to visit, we were the only people there. Great place to really start to understand Burgundy if you are new to their wines. Pinot noir dominates and refined chardonnay for their whites; the range that these simple two grapes stretch will blow your mind.
Merasault; rich and buttery with great acidity and pear notes.
Pouilley-Fuisse; clean and crisp fruit with an astonishing mineral bite.

In the quiet of the Cote du Rhone, you will find peace in a bottle.

Wine runs thick as blood through the Cote du Rhone. Melodramatic much? Yes, but it´s true. Patch upon patch of vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see with the distinctive white stones, Galets, radiating heat and our hopes for great wine even in the fall sun.

We were told by our lovely French hosts in Lyon to visit Domaine du Monteillet in Chavanay. Driving up a lonely country road, we barely found the house, a tall stone walled farmhouse. We rang the bell and waited 10 minutes, worrying that no one was home. Luck was ours, dogs barked and we were in. Once inside the small wood tasting room, the magic began.

This is the land of Roussanne, Marsanne, Viogner for whites; twinkling minerality, great balanced acidity, pear, apricot notes. All of their whites were godly in stature, I nearly knelt. And their reds, as is characteristic of the region, leaned to Syrah with Mouvedre and Grennache to balance. This is my favourite blend, the seriousness of earth and spice all with a solid fruit base, I was stoked.

After the tasting, I cried inside while thinking of my 2 bottle take home maximum at the Canadian border. I hate Canada! Then, we drove off to Chateauneuf du Pape to cheer me up. Advice for travellers to this region: Park the car, get a room in a hotel in town, get out and walk to one of the billion tasting houses, try spitting when you taste so you will remember which wines you actually liked. The tasting is mostly free, so you can get into some real trouble, or fun depending on your nature. Grennache takes the lead here for reds, and the lean is towards fruit, but in that special old world way that makes it good.

4 /5 for Cote du Rhone. Simple, quiet, rustic, fabulous wine. The mark off is for the food.. saucisse avec frites. Sausage and fries, pretty boring, I'm sure it's my fault for not finding better grub.

Edinburgh...foodie capital of Britain?

Food n Booze in Edinburgh includes excellent cheese shops, sad but tasty piggies and amazing scotch tasting rooms! In general, I had some really great (foodie-centric) nights out in this crazy town. Excellent other eateries included a turkish restaurant with cozy atmosphere and great live music called Templebar(must recheck the name I was a bit drunk this time) and an elegant French restaurant called the Iris served a mouth watering pork tenderloin with grilled fennel. The 'chip butty' thing didn't appeal to me though. Who wants a shitty burger bun, stuffed with starchy fries covered in 'brown sauce' ie. gravy unless you are super wasted (which I wasn't).

4/5 for Edinburgh. It´s restaurants are fabulous but it´s local cuisine is lacking seriously, except for the scotch.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Recipe for a perfect day in Paris

The argument with my Parisophile boyfriend went like this...

Me: They're not very friendly here.
Him: What do you mean? Parisians are really nice!
Me: No, they aren't, they never smile. Jamais!
Our stalemate went back and forth like a vigorous, verbal washing machine.

The day before my perfect day...
It pissed rain; all the galleries we walked to were closed; my supposedly waterproof shoes sprung leaks.
Struggling through with my crappy French was an embarrasing and tiring experience like two smacks in the face with a pretty glove.

The next day...
The Recipe
1. Like a cool breeze through my stuffy anglo heart, Reubens loomed up and stole my soul away to an exceedingly less rainy place. The Louvre... Brueghel, Goya, Van Goyen, Rembrant... Stop and have a tea break or your head will start spinning... Delacroix, Delaroche, regardez le Venus de Milo, oh my. 5 hours later. Tired? I was.

2. Off to Androuet Fromager to sample the Brie, the Chevre, the roquefort. Get old french cheesie guy to recommend a wedge or two for lunch or a French style dessert for later. Pick up some pastries and lovely baguettes from any Paul Boulangerie.

3. Stop for un verre du vin as much as possible; and soak up the view of the city and its people strolling by. 3 times a day minimum for this recipe to work!

4. Take metro. Squash happily into multicultural human sandwich of Parisians (all of whom are way cooler and prettier than I; even when squashed).

5. Enter the dark and cozy interior of L'Ecluse wine bar in Place de la Madeline. A top tier wine list with an exclusively Bordeaux bent awaits. Sample une petite verre du Saint Julien (vin rouge) & Saint Emillion both Grand Cru for around 7 Euro each! The wine is served with free nibblies; a delicate anise kissed salami.

6. Have a lovely Parisian waiter suggest places in Paris to 'Rock out'.

7. Get happily drunk on two glasses of wine for a change.

8. Agree with boyfriend. Paris is the food & wine lovers cats meow.

4/5 for Paris, it´s kicking Londons ass, but London still beats it with fabulous cheese shops surprisingly.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Drowning in butter...

Getting sick of French food in Paris, I know, I`m crazy. So many pasteries, bread, pate, butter, rich sauces, whew; makes me crave the simple freshness of mexican. Give me salsa!!! I`m sure I`ll recover soon.

Ps. Last nights dinner was average at Le Restauranrt on Rue Veron. Chantrelles and prawns should have been ravishing, but was dripping with salty sauce. When I get served fragrent, subtle chantrelles, I like to taste them, but maybe that`s just me?
The excellent Red Burgundy almost made up for it though.

Another restaurant tonight, wait for it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The original sin of the bread maker...

The first baguette was thusly made...

Flaky, crunchy exterior; soft, stretchy on the inside and slightly warm. All that is needed is butter to satisfy.

When the first baguette was thrown out of Eden, it was thrown towards North America. Hard livin' made it dry and calous; by the time it arrived in Vancouver it tasted of cardboard.

Notice to any bakers in France:
Please move to Vancouver! If you like skiing and maple syrup; it's a solid decision. You will be worshipped, there is no doubt.

The baguettes in Paris are so beautiful they make me angry.

5/5 for Paris, on the solid proof of their baguettes and pastries