Friday, September 29, 2006

Wine Challenge and Tutorial

Before she went on vacation, Dreena posted on her blog about cookies from her current cookbook called Double Chocolate Almond Explosion Cookies. How could I have missed this recipe??! Chocolate and almonds together = heaven. In a response to a comment I made, Dreena said " (are there wines to go with double choc cookies??)" I took the challenge and decided to find out. (This post will also include a bit of a tutorial for Dreena and anyone else who cares to know a little bit about wines).

So earlier in the day, I made the cookies. Again, an easy recipe to follow and it didn't make a gazillion dozen. I think I got 12 or 14 cookies out of the batch.

Jade was over that weekend, so she particpated as well. It's always fun to have more people involved in these kinds of things. I've never tried pairing wine with cookies, so I had no idea which wines to choose. I took a gamble on 3 different ones. When I do this sort of tasting, I like to get 3 rather different wines.

Wine can be made from a variety of fruits and even grains (think Sake from Japan), but when talking about wine, unless otherwise specified, we're talking about wine made from grapes. Vitis vinifera are the main types of grapes used to make wine. These include the names most of us are familiar with, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot and so on. These have been grown for thousands of years for the sole purpose of making wine. To eat them, they're not particularly good. In some countries where the growing seasons aren't as long, or that have rather harsh winters, hybrids have been developed. These are not as popular as vitis vinifera, but some are pretty darn tasty!

First we have Hillebrand's Late Harvest Vidal. Vidal is a white grape variety and it is a hybrid. Now here's something really interesting. Vidal is sometimes called Vidal Blanc. It's a cross between Rayon d'Or and Ungi Blanc grape varities. It was developed in the 1930's by Jean Louis Vidal who was doing this cross breeding with cognac in mind. (Yes, cognac is made from wine). Ungi Blanc is called Trebbiano in Italy and is the most common white grape planted in that country. The wine that is made from the Trebbiano grape is also used to make balsamic vinegar! Different names for the same grape in different countries only adds to the confusion. Once you know that it's all the same thing, it makes it a bit easier.
Late harvest wines are not ice wines, but a very nice affordable alternative. The grapes are left to hang on the vines well past the regular harvest so the sugars get really concentrated. It makes for a lovely, sweet dessert wine.

For the red wine, I wasn't sure if I should go full-bodied, medium or light-bodied. When talking about the body of a wine, we're talking about how intensely flavoured it is, but also how it feels in your mouth. A good analogy is to compare light bodied wine to water and full bodied wine to milk in how they feel in your mouth.

A nice dark chocolate pairs wonderfully sometimes with a cabernet sauvignon (usually full-bodied), but since I was doing cookies and nuts, I chose to go with a Gamay (light-bodied). Gamay or Gamay Noir as it is sometimes called (just to add to the confusion) is a wonderfully fruity red wine. It is also very light in colour and tends to be an easy wine to drink. Gamay is the grape used exclusively in Beaujolais wines. If the label says Beaujolais, it's Gamay. It doesn't list the grape variety anywhere on the label, because that's the way it is with Old World wines.

Countries that have been producing wine for eons are called 'Old World'. Think France, Italy, Germany, Spain. 'New World' refers to Austrailia, Canada, United States, etc. Old world wines are usually named for the region they come from. These countries have very strict rules and laws governing the production of wine, so when you know what sorts of grapes are grown in certain regions, then you will know what grapes are used to make the wine. So, to start easy, Beaujolais grows Gamay and the wine must be 100% Gamay grapes. In the New World, we tend to put the grape variety on the label. See the label on the bottle I chose? This one has a lot of info, if you can see it, (Clicking the picture might enlarge it). Wine labels are another confusing subject, but in big letters "Gamay Noir", so that's what's inside.

For my third bottle, I chose a sparkling wine. This is similar to a champagne, but cannot be called champagne unless it comes from the Champagne region of France. (more wine rules) Everywhere else that makes wine with bubbles in it, has to call it sparkling or something else to that effect. I love champagnes, but they tend to be quite expensive. They are very labour intensive and in France for the most part, they use tried and true methods, which is why they tend to be pricey. Sparkling wines are an inexpensive alternative. Champagnes and sparkling wines also tend to be very food friendly and go well with dishes that may not be particularly suited for wine. So for that reason, and the fact that I had no idea what to have with cookies, I picked a bubbly.

Sparkling wines can be found from almost every country and this one is from Hungary. Seems a little odd, I thought, but The Frugal Oenophile had profiled it as a wine of the week, so I figured I give it a whirl. The price was right and it was labelled as a little off-dry, so it had a tinge of sweetness, so that should work for cookies. So I hoped.

All of our glasses were set up, wine was poured, we got a cookie and started. Sip of wine, bite of cookie, sip of wine. Hmmm....the sparkling wine wasn't so good with the cookie. Let's try the Gamay Noir. Sip of wine, bite of cookie, sip of wine. Dang! Wasn't right either. Move on to the Late Harvest Vidal. Sip of wine, bite of cookie, sip of wine. That wasn't it either. But the wine was very yummy. Another sip. Mmmm!

When pairing wine and food, you can go two ways. Choose wines to complement or to contrast the food you're serving. Most times I start with food and pick a wine to go with it, but if I have a wonderful wine, I will pick a dish to complement my special bottle. You don't want a wine that is too overpowering for the flavours of the food, but you also don't want the food to overpower the wine. If you can get a combination that picks up the nuances in both the food and the wine, then you've got an experience that is heavenly. Cheese and wine go so well together because they each have complex flavours that mingle and explode in your mouth. We can also talk about acids and fats and tannins and all sorts of other things, but that again, adds to the confusion. Today, we want to keep it simple because today it's cookies! Or so I thought it was simple.

So, the conculsion of this experiment/challange is that none of these wines go with Double Chocolate Almond Explosion cookies. Perhaps a more full-bodied red would work? Or maybe in the end, no wine will go with these cookies. There is only one way to find out. Make more cookies and drink more wine! This time though, all that was left......

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Busy Mailbox

Canada Post has been very good to me the past couple of weeks. First thing to arrive.....

This was an E-Bay win. It's a double CD with a bonus DVD! I've had the CDs in my Discman as I walk around town and it's like a trip down memory lane. There's over 20 years worth of stuff on these discs. I haven't watched all of the DVD; I just skimmed through it. It's a concert that was performed in Spain, but looks good. A-hem...looks real good. All this for $5.99 and $2.95 shipping and handling.

But wait. There's more!

This was also an E-Bay win. Odd combo don't you think? I saw the cookbook and bid on it. Sometimes I'll also check the seller's other items to see if there is anything I'm interested in. Almost everyone will combine items to help save on shipping. This lady had the cookbook, which I won for $2.77. The retail price listed on the back of the book for Canada is $23.95. She also had 4 new pairs of socks which I won for 25 cents. That was too good of a deal to pass up.

Within 2 days of each other, both of these magazines arrived. I've only just flipped through them and haven't had time to really read much, but I see Veg News has an article about vegan wine. I'll have to read up on that and post about it at Veggin' Out.

Then a couple of days later, this arrives!

I like Veg News so much that I ordered a 3 year subscription. As a bonus, they sent me this large, kick-ass tote bag. Look in the top right hand corner of this photo. Someone else is very interested in this bag.

Then....oh, this is the best part. A few weeks ago, I placed an order with Elizabeth Demerson for some more of her beautiful pottery. She e-mailed me and said it was on it's way. Look what I got!

A pink rice bowl to go with the blue rice bowl I have. This will also co-ordinate with the pinky chopsticks I got from my Mom.


I also got a beautiful quiche dish. I really like the dragonfly accent she chose for this. And I love the colour!



And a butter jar! Isn't this just gorgeous? It's the perfect size to accomodate a small tub of margarine. It fits in just perfectly.


Thank you Elizabeth! I love all of it. Hmmm....what to order next?



Then to top off my mailbox extravaganza, our monthly wine delivery came from Hillebrand.

Looks like 2 good ones this month. Cheers!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Grape Growers Luncheon

This past Wednesday, we went to the Grape Growers of Ontario luncheon. It was in St. Catharine's and the guest speaker was Dan Aykroyd who has recently become very involved with some Ontario wineries.

These pictures aren't the best because the lighting was poor and I didn't have a super-duper flash. He gave a good speach about Canada and the wine industry.

As you can see though, we had pretty good seats. And we had great table mates. We were seated with a bunch from Niagara College and the Dean of the Enviroment, Horticulture & Agribusiness Division was seated just to my right. He's the dude in charge at the Wine School! He gave me his card and said "When you're ready, give me a call." SWEET! Jim was talking to another guy from the Teaching Winery about satellite internet and this gentleman has a friend who needs internet. He took Jim's card and the friend called the next day. Jim's got the job for next week.

The food was really good too. To start we had a lovely salad of mixed greens (no spinach - I checked) & almonds with little grapes and a red wine vinaigrette. Everyone got chicken, but I had wonderfully seasoned vegetables in phyllo pastry and we all had little baby potatoes and broccoli with red peppers. Wine was served from Lakeview Cellars and EastDell Estates which are two of the wineries that make up part of Niagara Cellars of which Mr. Aykroyd has invested in. For dessert we had a plum tart which was really good and some late harvest wine from Birchwood Estate Wines also included in the Niagara Cellars group.

When lunch was finished, mostly everyone started to leave. A lot of the people that were there were grape growers of course, but also the usual local politicians, business men, etc. and they all had to go back to work. Some people were hanging around to get photos and autographs, and Jim & I were just sitting at our table finishing our drinks. I had to go to the bathroom and we were going to decide what to do next. When I came out, Jim was in the lobby saying that Dan was leaving. We got the door as he was getting ready to get into his car.

I didn't want to miss the opportunity to say hello so I gave Jim the camera, and just walked up to him and introduced myself and we had a little chat. He was so nice and very friendly and approachable. Such a super guy. He even called me Sweetie! That's been the most exciting lunch I've had in a long time. Probably ever.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

And Now, Back To Food

First off, Simon wanted me to tell you about the delicious cookies that I bought for him at the Veggie Food Fair. These come from a company called Arthur's Appetizers which is located in Milton, Ont. Milton isn't too far from us and Jim is working there all the time so getting more won't be a problem. The lady also said they are at the Burlington Farmer's Market.

I got some mixed bags for Simon. Included was blueberry peach bones, cinnamon carrot dog houses, veggie delight fire hydrants, carrot & apple oat cats, oatmeal peach dogs and pumpkin biscottis. These are made with organic fruits and vegetables, contain no artificial ingredients or preservatives and are Simon approved!

At the food fair, I also picked up this delicious date & ginger chutney. I used it as a sauce on tofu and it turned out really well.

I also bought some samosas from the same lady. Along with that I made basmati rice and adapted the curried chickpea recipe from Cooking With Peta. Yum! Yum! Yum!

The meal was paired with a lovely rose from Malivoire, which is a fantastic winery that practices responsible viticulture. Roses tend to go well with Indian food and this one was particularly nice.

To finish off this delicious feast, we had...surprise! Cookies!

These are Coconut-Pineapple-Carrot Macaroons from The Everyday Vegan. If you like the coconuty goodness of macaroons, then you'll love these tropical cookies. Soooo delicious. They are nice and chewy and not too sweet. A perfect end to a great meal.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Soul Man

I'll get back to food soon, but for now "We're on a mission from God."

What a nice, nice man.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Nana's Birthday

On Sunday, it was my Nana's birthday. Mommy had to work during the day, so Dad took me to the dog park. I got to play with some of my friends that I haven't seen in a while.

Later, we picked Mommy up from work and they took me over to Nana's to visit and have a birthday party. I was so excited! Nana was very happy to see me.

Mommy wanted to make this cake but has been working a lot and just didn't have time. She said maybe for the next birthday. So she bought a cake.

I thought this one looked pretty darn good! Here's a picture of Nana and Daddy with fire on the cake!

I don't get it. Mommy lit the cake on fire, took some pictures and then Nana put the fire out. Whew! I was getting kinda nervous there. Nana wasn't even mad at Mommy. Everyone seemed to like it. If I set something on fire it would be a different story.

Here's me with Jade. I know it was Nana's birthday, but I was getting so much attention! I just can't help it I guess. When you got it, you got it!
After Nana put the fire out, it was time to have cake. YES!

If I sit and look totally pathetic, I'm sure to get a taste. Nana will give me some. I know she will.

Look at the piece of cake Nana cut! She was laughing and being all silly. Mommy was laughing too.

What's the matter with them? Too much Chinese food and too much of this!

We visited for a long time and I was getting really tired. So was Daddy. He took Jade home and then we went home. I had a fun time at my Nana's. Oh, I forgot, I took her some flowers for her birthday. She really liked them.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Dan Aykroyd

Next week our anniversary. Next week is also the kick-off of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival. Coincidence? I think not! These wine industry people are truly thoughtful. In the spring, Fielding Estate Winery had a special Sample & Shop event on my birthday and now, on our anniversary, a special luncheon. They really go to a lot of trouble just for me, don't they?
The tickets for the luncheon came last week. The guest speaker is none other than Dan Aykroyd!

I love Dan! I've been watching Saturday Night Live since the late 70's and The Blues Brothers is on my list of all-time favorite movies. So much so, that my dearly departed, late great Dalmatian was named Elwood.

Here's my Elwood. He's been gone about 10 years now and I still miss him terribly. Dogs should really live longer, don't you think?

I also really liked Driving Miss Daisy and My Girl. Jim is also a fan and one of his favorite movies is Ghostbusters.

Mr. Aykroyd has recently undertaken an investment venture in Niagara Cellars Inc. so he's a wino like us. Should be a fun time!


I've hit the big time! I'm famous!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sesame Tofu

I've been using La Dolce Vegan so much lately, Sarah's other books have been languishing on the shelf. I pulled out The Garden of Vegan and made the simplest dish in the entire world. This is such a great recipe for weeknight cooking as the effort involved is practically nil. This dinner can be on the table in under half an hour. I kid you not!!

Here we have TA-DAAA!! Sesame Tofu. This recipe has 6 ingredients and that includes the olive oil required to fry it in. It's unbelievably good. The measurements in the book are for 1/2 a pound of tofu and it yeilds 1-2 servings. I used a pound package, doubled the other FOUR ingredients and had leftovers to take to work for lunches.

I made packaged garlicy ginger noodles and steamed some mixed veggies and voila! Dinner was served before 8pm for a change. Amazing!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Rock Star Supernova

A big congratulations to Lukas Rossi for winning the spot to be lead singer for the band Super Nova!

If you haven't been watching the show, you missed some great performances by some awesome singers. We enjoyed this all summer long. Right from the get-go, we liked Lukas.

So that's 2 successful seasons for this show. Last year was to find a front man for
INXS. That hottie JD Fortune won that one.

That's 2 successful seasons of this show for Canadians. Both of the winners have been from Canada! Way to go!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Toronto Veggie Food Fair

*This is a 2-part post because Blogger won't let me put all that I want in one post.

On Sunday, we headed into Toronto for the Vegetarian Food Fair. We weren't even out of Burlington and we hit a traffic jam. We got off the highway and went for a while & things were OK, but once we got down on Lakeshore Blvd. things slowed down again.

Traffic moved along pretty good though and in no time we arrived at Harbourfront Centre, site of the fair.

We lucked out and had a wonderful day. The sun was out and the temperatures were nice and cool. Down by the lake it was gorgeous.

There were quite a few vendors there and I came home with a lot of goodies. I got some foodstuffs from smaller, independent sellers because I can get Tofutti, So Soya and the like at the supermarket. I did browse over some books and cookbooks, but like Megan I restrained myself. I had my eyes peeled in case I saw her because we were both going the same day, but sadly, no Megan-sightings to report.

There was a really good turnout of people. It was great to go to an event like this and know that I could buy ANYTHING.

Even the ducks were enjoying themselves!


This last shot is for Megan. What did I tell you??