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Similkameen BBQ King Competition

Chris and Kyla from the Grist Mill in Keremeos

Chris and Kyla were taken aback by my presence. They weren’t the first, they won’t be the last.

Today is Flashback Thursday: flashing back to July (gawd, has it been that long?) and the special event was the Similkameen BBQ King competition. For non-Canadians, the Similkameen Valley is a gorgeous part of Southern BC. The river is perfect. The mountains are perfect. The grassy plains are perfect. And, as you can see from the above picture, they are all over the Hipster fashion trend.

I was once on a Greyhound going through the valley; also on the bus was a French Canadian fruit picker and his girlfriend. The girlfriend was from BC and had talked him into coming with her to Keremeos, “the” town in the valley, to pick fruit in the summertime. He was deeply skeptical about this decision, but deeply in love, so he had said yes and there he was on the bus, the scent of Montreal still wafting off of him (it smells like cigarettes and beer), trundling through the Similkameen valley as the sun rose. The mountain caught the light, the huge K (the legacy of a landslide) glowed pink, the valley glimmered green and silver with mist, and the bus stopped, let them off, and he fell to his knees and kissed her hand for inviting him to a place as beautiful as that valley.

So that’s the Similkameen.

Similkameen

Similkameen River

Forgive my crappy iPhone pictures, but I did what I could without my trusty photographer Cathy Browne.

The setting? The Grist Mill and Gardens in Keremeos, an historic grist mill, ie where the farmers brought their wheat to be ground into flour. It’s in the hands of my old friend Chris Mathieson, the only person I know with both a degree in Philosophy and skills as a blacksmith, so he’s perfect for this gig. That’s him, along with his wife Kyla, in the top picture. His first words when he saw me there, hundreds of miles from my normal dank cavern in Vancouver? “What are YOU doing here?” A warm welcome indeed, if not heated.

The challenge itself was Chopped-style: in other words, the competitors were given a set basket of ingredients from particular suppliers, and told to do what they could with them on the barbeque.

Similkameen BBQ King Ingredients

Similkameen BBQ King Ingredients

The ingredients were all local; the valley, along with the nearby Okanagan valley, is famous for its produce, and is now beginning to wrap its head around the very un-Canadian action of tooting its own horn. This event was an exercise in horn-tooting, and featured local wines along side the BBQ creations. Full disclosure: I got a media pass for the event, but only after contacting the organizers and asking if I could pay by Paypal, because I would have come up just for the day, all five hours each way on the 80-seat limousine. And lemme tell ya, it would have been worth it.

 

Similkameen BBQ King plates

Similkameen BBQ King plates

There were some very professional plates and some outstanding tastes. I’d come primed for ribs (BBQ, right?) but the chicken as a black box ingredient meant that chefs had to think outside that very box, and some of the solutions were very creative indeed. Chicken sliders, sure, but chicken sliders with a skewer of chicken bacon to garnish? That’s a different level, a level not generally found down gravel roads.

I don’t even like risotto, but the risotto was so good I went back for thirds. People were whispering, “Have you had the risotto? Have the risotto! They may run out. Psst, have you had the risotto?…”. And the basil ice cream was velvety, perfectly sweetened, and paired perfectly with the pound cake. Some of the wine pairings were more successful than others, but the main discovery for me was Forbidden Fruit Winery, whose fruit wines are sophisticated, layered, and miles away from Boone’s Farm.

Entrants:

And the winner was Karl Schorb from the Branding Iron. From the remarkable number of “Congratulations, Karl” blog and Facebook posts from his competitors, it’s clear that he’s a key figure in the tight-knit  Okanagan and Similkameen gourmet community. Here’s the winning plate:

Delicious winning plate from the Branding Iron

Delicious winning plate from the Branding Iron

My notes (after perhaps six tasting-size pours of local wine) “Truly yummy.” Yes, I am a master of subtlety when it comes to reviews. Now take a look at the competition (and forgive my iPhone shots through the window of the shuttle bus from Penticton, because what choice do you have, really?).


Created with flickr slideshow.

Spirit Animal

This man is my hero (with a few caveats).

According to the guy who twitpic’d him, this blithe cheese fiend was digging into the wheel of Brie with his fingers and then putting it on crackers. Okay, gross. Dude clearly needs to upgrade to crackers with decent cutting ability; you use the cracker edge like a knife to cut off a piece of cheese and then, coincidentally, the cheese is on the cracker already! How convenient is that? From long experience, I would recommend your quotidian saltines, or a Wasa crispbread, perhaps the rye; although it is not sharp, it has a tensile strength that is truly gasp-inducing. When the apocalypse comes, you’ll be able to build fallout shelters from this stuff. Carr’s are, although lovely, easily shattered by the cheese-cutting operation, and are to be steered clear of in subway picnicking situations.

Also, Miss Manners will certainly back me up on this: stinky cheese should not be shared in enclosed spaces without the consent of those enclosed in the spaces. Also, if your Brie is stinky there’s something wrong with it, so this probably wasn’t Brie but something in the family. God knows I loves me some Chaumes, but the fumes will dissolve window glass. If in fact it was Brie, then he’s probably paying the karmic price for stinking up the subway car, spending the weekend on the bathroom floor, groaning.

To get your transit picnic right, remember these key things: No stinky cheeses! Or you’ll get mocked all over the blogosphere! And either a knife (really, who does not carry cutlery with them at all times? It is for such emergencies the Swiss Army gadget was invented! Get the one with the corkscrew, of course) or crackers of sufficient strength to both cleave and provide a satisfying textural contrast with the creamy cheese. Bonus points: an actual cloth napkin, because you’ll never get the grease stains out of your $300 leather satchel.

Happy Fourth of July from Manolo’s Food Blog!

There’s nothing like a summer picnic, is there?

Here’s wishing you all bright colors and delicious foods in great profusion!

Today in the history of bad ideas: Drunk Baking and Booze Bling

What the HEY-ELL?

What the HEY-ELL?

One finds the strangest things, one does, when surfing the internet looking for virtual presents for other bloggers (don’t ask). One of those things is this: the confetti bedazzled winebottle fishnet thingummy, which really should be on Regretsy, except it appears also to be mass-produced, because I guess the masses want their booze to look more Kardashian.

When one puts “wine” together with “confetti” the above is not acceptable (unless, of course, one is gifting someone to celebrate her victory at America’s Next Top Ecdysiast). The following IS:

This works

A handblown Italian wineglass. It’s just special enough to make an al fresco afternoon a little more exciting. And I like a fairly substantial glass for drinking wine outdoors. It just feels more medieval to me, as if Jonathan Rhys Meyers or Alan Rickman might show up on a horse and join me for a glass. And what is the point of being outside if they’re not going to, I ask? Rhetorically, of course: they wouldn’t show up without a proper invitation…now, do any of you have their emails?

Speaking of bad manners and bad ideas and wine, we present the following, tangentially-related video, one of a very amusing series on YouTube called My Drunk Kitchen. If you’ve watched every Sandra Lee show ever aired and are pining for something even more Out There, why, this girl has got you covered. Personally, I suspect that more than two bottles of bubbly were involved in the production of these “cookies,” and I’d like to know since when does YouTubing pay that much, but that is neither here nor there. Nor over there either.

So, here:

When your cooking project requires a spotter for safety reasons, maybe it’s time to order in.

Beer Bottle Sabrage with Matt Stache

Yes, it’s perilously close to a commercial, but it’s still awfully fun.

This should liven up the ol’ tailgate party, and who’d dare to boo your team when everyone can damn well see you’re armed to the teeth?

Tea-Partay!

Our good friend Eric Nabler recently brought up the not-yet-pressing-in-Cauckistan-where-it-is-still-snowing question of beverages which are both appropriate and practical for consumption al fresco in the heat of high summer. We have to draw a line in the sand and say that Martinis, as delightful as they are, are (along with roulette) really an indoor activity.

For sitting outside in the heat of summer, we offer the following. But first, the world’s greatest booze commercial (note: I have never seen this product in Canada, and wouldn’t buy it if I did, but the commercial is pure awesomenosity).

Secondly, we offer this book, The Tropical Bar Bookthe greatest Drinks to Be Consumed Outdoors book in the history of all literature.
The Tropical Bar Book

In case you’re tempted to doubt my word for it, this book is not simply a work of art stuffed with entertaining literary excerpts interspersed with wonderful, historically accurate recipes. It was also published by Martha Stewart’s ex-husband, which lends a Schadenfreudean sweetness to each and every sip you enjoy of every drink whose recipe you read here. All of the recipes are good, and so are the stories from the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene. I am serious: all of the recipes. You literally cannot go wrong with this book.

Thirdly, we will suggest sticking to beverages in which juice, tea or carbonation feature prominently, as becoming “dehydrated” and napping in direct sunshine is very bad for the skin. Tea has almost mystical cooling properties, which is why they drink so much tea in the tropics.

Beverages served on the rocks, as previously discussed, are what’s called for here. Also acceptable are chilled beverages served in their individual containers: beer, wine coolers, hard lemonade, etc. For keeping them cool, we are not entirely opposed to “sleeves” of one kind or another, although we prefer the Chuggie to match the Thuggie rather than just advertise Billy Bob’s Fried Chicken Shack or whatever.

The Chuggie is not an option for formal occasions

The Chuggie is not an option for formal occasions

There is nothing the least bit Gatsbyesque about that, is there?

We will pointedly NOT be discussing blender drinks, for lo, we are over thirty, and our eardrums are delicate.

For more formal occasions where neither your Chuggie nor your Thuggie are welcome, we recommend a large, flawless pitcher, some tall glasses, and a great deal of ice. Thusly:

YES:

Marquis Martini Pitcher from Waterford“Flawless” is a good word. You can’t go wrong with an utterly plain, high-quality crystal pitcher as long as it has straight sides. “Bulbous” is not a look that works for this. It works for Sangria: it doesn’t work with anything more refined. This classic is indoor/outdoor and shows off any colourful beverage to great advantage. Remember, though, carbonated drinks don’t go in pitchers. It is, however, both permissible and practical to premix the non-carbonated ingredients in a pitcher and then pour an ounce of the mix into each glass and top with bubbly that you keep on ice. It lets you pretend to be a bartender without doing any heavy lifting, and is to be recommended if you’re serving a crowd.

Also yes:

Nambe serenity pitcher“Gorgeous” is also a good word. This isn’t a classic, and it sure isn’t cheap, but it is stunningly beautiful and unusual. The curves are restrained yet sexy, and I guarantee this isn’t something that you see in every pub and den around town. I am very much liking this new, creative style.

MAYBE:
Pitcher? Better have a catcher tooI have nothing against this very naked pitcher on principle, but just try getting a steady grip on the damn thing once it’s nicely coated with condensation. That’s why this handle-less number should be kept for drinks that are mixed without and then poured over ice. I’m thinking Manhattans, specifically, and I’m thinking I’ll get some argument on that one…
Quanttro Martini PitcherI really do like this Quanttro, and it’s on sale at a wicked price, but am on the fence because there’s just something about a pitcher that is wider at the top than the bottom which reminds me of this:

Beer Pitcherand that is just NOT the look you’re going for, unless you’re a 20-year-old waitress at a roadhouse. And if you are, you have my condolences. That said, I have one of these which I use for making Sun Tea, but let’s be honest here: it looks awfully trailer park.

NO:

Riedel Martini pitcher and tumblersWe’ve discussed why not these glasses, and as for why not this pitcher, again with the Bulbous. And again with the No Handle. If you’re stirring a drink with ice, you need a handle, it’s just that simple. And if you bought this set you would be buying Those Glasses, and you wouldn’t do that, would you?

do we even have to discuss this?Seriously, do we have to discuss this? The Martini is not The Jagerbomb. A little respect is called for. And since it says “Martini” right there on the side, it’d be practically illegal to mix something else in it. Actually, owning this should get you a stay at Gitmo.

Ceramic martini pitcherYou do not mix a cocktail in a container you cannot see through. I’m sorry, people, I don’t make up these rules, I just report them. You do not mix a cocktail in an opaque container and that’s just the way it is in this space-time continuum.

And somehow this has turned into a pitcher post, which I had not intended. Okay, recipes and “booze theory” post coming next, I promise.

The Gourmet’s Companion

Now that import restrictions are so … restrictive, one must resort to creative ways of getting one’s most precious items across borders.

Is that a Bratwurst in your suitcase or are you just happy to see me?

Is that a Bratwurst in your suitcase or are you just happy to see me?

You can just put the laptop into the checked luggage, but don’t let THIS baby out of your sight. You know what they say: keep your friends close, and your andouille closer.

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