Wednesday Night Reservation

Tinhorn Creek by Megs Pics on Flickr

Tinhorn Creek by Megs Pics on Flickr

Well, you could say I always have some reservations about what I’m doing at any point in the future, but what YOU might want to be doing next Wednesday, July 10th between 8-9pm Pacific time (eg LA or Seattle), is hanging out on Twitter looking at the #BCWineChat hashtag. Full disclosure: Sandra Oldfield of Tinhorn Creek, who moderates, is a client of mine and I helped her with part of the website. But next Wednesday I’ll be on a bus headed to the glorious Okanagan valley, and so will be unable to be checking Twitter, what with passing through remote Canadian mountains and suchlike.

The topic next week is “Great Patio Wines” and believe me, BC has a lot of them. Well, technically the title is “Patio Pounders. Easy drinking BC Wines” but whatever. Chat participants include winemakers, restaurateurs, bloggers, retailers, wine reps, and even some enthusiastic civilians, and the chat is accessible, easy to understand, open, and often pretty heavy on the double entendres, especially if the incorrigible Black Cloud is on the hashtag.

You can see the archives on the site and get a sense of what the professional wine world is chatting about. And yes, it’s a BC wine chat, but that doesn’t mean that other wines are not discussed. As for patio wines, well, anything from Tinhorn Creek calling itself 2Bench works for me; or the bubblies from Sumac Ridge, for lo, I am very fond of the middle of the day patio bubbly.

At least, as far as I can remember…

Mason Jars, Holidays, and Safety

Mason Jar Microwave Cakes

Mason Jar Microwave Cakes

I know putting things in mason jars is the very latest in foodie fads (if it’s 2010) but there are practical considerations to deal with. Here is one of them from Victoria-based private chef and recovering economist Janice Mansfield.

I know those little pies and cakes in mason jars are all over Pinterest, and they look as cute as buttons, but PLEASE do NOT bake your desserts in them!

Mason jars are made to be heatproof, but are not made to withstand dry heat (aka baking). Perfectly ok to use as serving dishes for things already cooked or made up. All it takes is one glass splinter to ruin your long-weekend barbeque!

Snack safely!!! and have a good one!

Happy Canada day to my friends in Canuckistan and Happy Independence Day to the Yanks!

Dinner Party Post-Mortem: Salt-Crusted Salmon Edition

Salt Crusted Salmon After

Salt Crusted Salmon After

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

There really are no non-sweary words to describe the delectability of the salmon recipe from yesterday which I used tonight; nor are there words to describe its ease of preparation, provided you do, as I did not, remember the eggs, the tarragon, the lemon, and the capers. I remembered the salmon and the Champagne, in this case a brut Cava which is also my favorite tipple other than gin, so it was win/win/win/win I forget how many wins it is because I had two glasses of the Cava and I forget how many Daiquiris (not the blender variety, please!).

Still, what can you do when someone shows up early for a dinner party other than send him back out to get the shopping you forgot? So it all worked out well, and the recipe from Sevilla Tapas turned out better than I could have imagined, garnering genuine kudos from seriously accomplished cooks. Why did I, a novice cook, invite seriously accomplished cooks to my dinner party? See the aforementioned note on how much I drink.

But. Honestly. This recipe is dead easy, incredibly tasty, keeps your salmon moist (it was a coho, and you would have sworn it was a more expensive salmon) and makes a stunning presentation besides. I had a tray of sushi from up the street to start, $36 and I’d say a quarter is left over. Thought about doing a bunch of steamed pork buns or something instead, but opted for the fish theme. As a friend of mine from London says, the worst sushi in Vancouver is better than the best sushi in London, and this was quite good, even if it was a little large. I prefer my sushi bite size. Chewing nori is just not attractive.

Still, given I forgot to cook the rice, it’s just as well they were big rolls.

So the main course was the salted salmon and parboiled asparagus. Can’t go wrong with that veg except by overcooking it. And there was enough rice to provide ballast to everyone before the main course. Hmm, this is a useful piece of information.

Everyone brought wine, Shane brought the eggs I forgot for the main course, Ken brought a Mario Cake from DQ for dessert and in fact ain’t nobody don’t like DQ. FACT. It had that Buster Bar chocolate fudge in the cookie layer. *orgasm* And Gena brought an aerator and Bitch wine. No, really, Bitch wine.

All told, a great evening. It was a short cooking time on the fish and asparagus, naturally, and I had to be in the kitchen making the sauce so for once I appreciated an open plan layout. Normally I’m all about closed doors and cubbies, but this did make me think about the fact that I don’t have servants off toiling in the kitchen and also don’t want to serve my guests tepid food, so an open plan works as a compromise.

All in all, a powerhouse dinner party (at least at Level 1).

Mario Cake approves

Mario Cake approves

Salmon in Salt Crust: it’s what’s for dinner

Salt baked salmon

Salt baked salmon


Hat’s off to my friend Azahar at Sevilla Tapas for this great-looking and easy recipe which I will be experimenting with tonight. If that fails, there’s a takeaway roti shop down the street, right?

Naturally, not being as rich as Nigella, I won’t be cooking with Champagne, but I might use a toasty cava if I can find one dry enough. A prosecco might be a better choice, given the difficulty of finding a really dry cava in Canuckistan.

Sunday Food Porn: Lox Edition

Salmon lox

Salmon lox

This reminds me of Oscar Wilde’s saying, “I have simple tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.” And gives me an idea for my dinner party tomorrow, which was to have been a picnic until Zeus heard about it and sent in the clouds.

Dinner Party Debrief

Note to self: Dinner parties are two-day projects, one for cleaning, one for the party. Thank god nobody was allergic to cat hair.

Negronis, wine, linguine alla puttanesca, green salad, and store-bought Mango cake. No heavy lifting and it only took me an hour to make the five minute pasta sauce.

The things you learn at a dinner party: not only was puttanesca sauce invented by Italian hookers, but apparently so was Tiramisu. I sense a themed dinner in my future.

Sunday Food Porn: Italian Seafood Spread Edition

Feast your eyes on this!

Italian Seafood Spread from Osteria di Brera in Milan

Italian Seafood Spread from Osteria di Brera in Milan

I’m using this pic as inspiration, as tomorrow I’m hosting a dinner party with an Italian theme. And as readers of this blog know, I am no cook. Hell, after 13 years of living in Chinatown where I can get dim sum for $2 a plate and cooked shrimp for $5 a pound, I’m lucky I can even remember how to turn on the stove. I’ll be attempting a puttanesca sauce, which even a lug like me can get right, and if that fails I’ll be attempting to get my guests drunk on Negronis prior to the main course. Antipasti, puttanesca, chopped salad, and cannoli with perhaps a sorbetto for dessert. And lots and lots of wine. Wish me luck!

Happy National Gin Day!

Killjoy Martini

Killjoy Martini

Longtime readers of the blog (ie me, the Manolo, Mr Henry, and possibly the Liquor Locusts, plus all of my creditors) will know that of all the spirits in this world or the next, the one dearest to my heart — if not my liver — is gin. And today is the day on which the nation joins together to venerate this most sublime if most mercurial of libations. Raise an ice-cold Martini with me in honor of this glorious occasion.

Wait, what? You tell me they make Martinis with vodka nowadays? Well, yes, there has always been the Vodka Martini class, and what would we do without people like that, upon whom to look down?

One of gin’s greatest qualities is its infinite variety: floral, vegetal, crystalline, even spicy. No other form of alcohol has as large a range of natural flavors (of artificially flavored spirits we shall not speak, except in four-letter words).

Killjoy Bar

Killjoy Bar

My good friend and favorite bartender Jay Jones oversees a weekly celebration of gin at Gin & Sin nights at Killjoy in Vancouver’s fashionable Yaletown neighborhood, featuring special pricing and a different featured gin each week, although they always keep the largest selection in town on hand. A couple of weeks ago they started upping the Sin content by bringing in burlesque dancers to spice things up after 10; it’s useful to bring the entertainment on after the audience has gotten good and warmed up. A famous burlesque dancer once remarked that alcohol was essential to a good performance, “a little for you, a lot for the audience.”

Two weeks ago, the sponsor was the very fine Broker’s gin. Broker’s is, like Plymouth, a great example of the London Dry style, crystal clear, neither vegetal like Tanqueray nor floral like Hendrick’s. It’s versatile and smoother than others of the same type. You don’t have to feel guilty putting it in a G&T, nor cheap putting it in a Martini. It simply works either way. Lemon twist, olive or even lime in your Martini; it’s your choice, and all of them will succeed as flavor notes. In fact, this kind of gin is excellent for experimentation and creativity with the garnish, since they will not overpower the oils with their own orchestra of aromas.

The martini of Yog Sothoth

The Martini of Yog Sothoth

If you like, here’s your excuse to get out the vermouth atomizer and the fancy oils and play. I call this one, a Dirty Martini with smoked Cerignola olives, the Martini of Yog Sothoth, which lets me find out at once who’s read their H. P. Lovecraft and who I don’t need to talk to at that particular party. Smoked smoked black Cerignola olives are my new favorite Martini garnish that brings out the masculine side of a well-balanced gin like Broker’s or Plymouth, yet also stands up to a serious knife-and-fork gin like The Botanist.

If you feel more chiffon and rosebuds than Savile Row and leather, switch to Hendrick’s or Bombay Sapphire and a spritz of rose water, plus a couple of organic rose petals (which you can buy in Indian neighborhoods, should your burb have such a thing, or you may grow them yourself).

If you find yourself at a loss for something to put them in, refer to our earlier post on the perfect Martini glass, plus several fun imperfect ones. Which reminds me of the strip club in Seattle that advertises “100 Beautiful Girls and 4 Ugly Ones.”

UPDATED TO ADD: clearly until my regular photographer returns from her Eastern sojourn, I need to read my friend Kris Krug’s book on iPhone photography. Either that or I have to buy you all enough Martinis to give you gin goggles.

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