Aug 082006

The Pacific Northwest is meant to be an area full of coffee bars and people addicted to the bean, but in Vancouver it’s not the number one addiction by any means, at least judging by the number of establishments you see. It’s far easier to find sushi than coffee! Some anecdotal evidence – we took our son to a birthday party in Coquitlam (one of the suburbs in Greater Vancouver) and after dropping him off at the party, I decided I wanted some coffee. Driving around the streets in search of a café we noticed every strip mall had a sushi bar (some of dubious quality), but we had to drive to a large mall to find a coffee bar. I hadn’t thought to look up coffee bars in Delocator first, so we ended up with Starbucks, but at least it was coffee.

And something I only discovered last week which will be of interest to language pedants – in North America, coffee cake is a type of cake with crumble or streusel on top that is served with coffee. Where I grew up (New Zealand) and lived (Australia) and, I assume, in many other parts of the English-speaking world, a coffee cake is a cake that has coffee as one of its main ingredients. I have a recipe book from Great Britain with a recipe for coffee carrot cake, for example, which has coffee in it, and no streusel on top. I guess I don’t eat cake very often since it took 10 years to discover this discrepancy…

Jul 182006

Since a couple of members of the group I work in were in town for the Liberty meeting, I invited them to dinner last night. For dessert, I decided to make Rote Grütze, which is pretty much the standard dessert in Berlin at this time of year. It’s popular throughout Northern Germany, and I’m told also in Scandinavia. I think it’s my new favourite dessert when raspberries are in season, it is easy to make, can be made a day in advance, and everyone liked it.

The standard recipe has redcurrants in it which I couldn’t find at Granville Island. So I used blueberries, which are local and plentiful at this time of year, hence the “blue-red” in the title. For posterity, here’s the version I ended up making.

One jar sour cherries in juice, approx 12 ounces (400g) cherries. Put half the cherries in a pot with the juice, add 200g blueberries, 200g raspberries and 3/4 c sugar (could have been 1/2 c). Bring to the boil, cook a couple of minutes and then mash. Take some of the liquid out in a cup, mix in 2 heaped dessertspoons of cornstarch in to a smooth mix, stir into the hot mixture. Stir until it boils again and thickens. Add the rest of the sour cherries, another 200g raspberries and 200g blueberries, heat just to boiling point, then take it off the stove. Cool. Serve with cream.

Apr 272006

Not that I’m actually addicted (in fact at the moment I’m not drinking much coffee at all, the occasional latte is about it for now), but I came across another coffee-related link for Vancouver. This one proves just what sort of coffee-loving area I live in – according to Delocator there are 69 “non-corporate” (their definition) places to get coffee within 3 km of where I live, and 19 Starbucks locations. Some of the places are listed more than once, but others aren’t listed at all, so it’s probably a reasonable estimate.

Delocator itself is an interesting website and interesting idea; worth poking around the site a little. Delocator link spotted at Metroblogging Vancouver.

Sep 232005

We went up to the Okanagan wine district for the Canada Day weekend this year, and I think it’s about time I wrote down some of my impressions of the vineyards and the wine. We took my friend Sally (she of G&T fame who knows a lot about wine), and had a great time. Tim mostly entertained the offspring while Sally and I tasted the wine, which seemed like a good division of labour to all of us. I typically like wines with body and heft, such as shiraz, much of the cabernet family, and rieslings; my impressions of other wines depend on what they evoke (sitting on the deck in summer, or some food pairing). So here are some notes about the wineries and the wines, none of them are anything scientific or indeed anything other than my impression of that day!

Hawthorne Mountain Vineyards
Great view, but a very commercial vineyard with lots of schnick-schnack to buy. I’d bought some cabernet franc here in 1995-6 which was great after a few years cellaring, but the 2003 Cabernet Franc they had on offer this year was too light and didn’t give me any confidence it would develop the way I like. The pinot gris was good so I got some of that. The gewürztraminer was ok though we’d had better at other wineries, so that didn’t go home with us, and although I thought the See-ya-later pinot noir could develop, I didn’t feel like taking the risk.
Wild Goose Vineyards & Winery
Very friendly people, good whites (some have won prizes) though not what I’d call earth-shatteringly great. I bought a mixed case of whites, including the 2004 Riesling, 2003 Stony Slope Riesling, and the 2004 Gewürztraminer.
Stag’s Hollow Winery
Unfriendly server but a good vidal (2004 Tragically Vidal), which is an unusual grape, and the 2002 Renaissance Merlot struck me as worth taking home, so I bought a couple of bottles for the cellar. It should be really good in a couple of years.
Hainle Vineyards Estate Winery
Nice people, organic wines; they’ve learned a lot about making organic wines palatable since I last visited in 1996 or so. Good bistro for lunch outside on the deck as well. The 2002 Hainle Chardonnay, 2002 Hainle Pinot Blanc, 2002 Deep Creek Pinot Meunier (nice rich taste, like the Hawthorne Mountain one from 1995 or so), and 2003 Deep Creek Z2 were all good, the 2003 Hainle Syrah ok. Bought a mixed bunch to cellar, mostly the Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay as they’re in short supply and I figured I probably couldn’t find them in Vancouver.
New winery and quite far north. Friendly people. Bought a couple of bottles of 2002 Zeigelt for the cellar, and some 2004 Bacchus (nice light grape) and 2004 Gewürztraminer for drinking.
St Hubertus Estate Winery
Much of the winery was destroyed in the big fire of 2003, but they’ve rebuilt with a bigger tasting room. The rubber stamps are now in the tasting room rather than in a separate building; they add a touch of eclecticism to the place. Decent selection of wines. We picked the 2004 Dry Riesling to take home (with Tim warning by this stage that we didn’t have much room left in the car!)
Raven Ridge Cidery
Not quite a winery, this one, but a cidery connected to an orchard with a good restaurant. I picked up their last two bottles of Sparkling Cider as well as a bottle of Braeburn iced cider (like ice wine, but tastes of apples), just for a change.

Touring Okanagan wineries is an excellent experience, and having the kid around meant we also tried out some of the other tourist things rather than just sitting in the car. So although we didn’t see as many wineries as the 1996 trip, we still filled the car and have wine enough to last us for quite a while!

Jul 062005

My friend Sally visited us from Melbourne for about 10 days. I’ve known Sally for half my life; we met when I was studying at Melbourne University. Sally received the Gin Award from Rolland House, the hostel where we lived, so she’s been studying the subject for some years and has parlayed her knowledge into a career organizing banquets and functions for the Athenaeum Club, a private gentlemen’s club (think P.G. Wodehouse and Jeeves). I talked Sally into writing down how to make the perfect G&T for posterity, and here it is.

At the end of a long hot day on the road every doctor should prescribe a G&T to restore one’s positive outlook on life. The preparation of the perfect G&T does however take some effort and even more research. Like many things in life it is all a matter of taste but to help in the research phase I will share some of my own personal findings gained over some 23 years.

Select a highball glass made from a glass that is on the finer side as I think it improves the taste. It is possible to mix a G&T in an old fashioned glass but this requires refills more often.

Add ice, which is important to maintain the temperature, to the bottom of the glass (probably more important on the 3rd or 4th glass as these tend to last longer).

Add the Gin. This is the element that requires extensive research. My personal favourite is Bombay Sapphire which has an herbaceous and complex flavour but I would encourage you to sample as many types as possible. Just like a good scotch or wine there are many flavour combinations. Gordons is really light and crisp, it isn’t very complex or herbaceous. Tanqueray is quite lemony and a bit sharper and more bitter.

The amount required traditionally is 30ml but I have found that it sometimes depends on how much positive outlook you require. Once again this also takes some research to get it right and will depend on the gin of choice.

The tonic is often much under-estimated and is worthy of the time and effort of getting a better quality and having a few bottles in the fridge for those emergency situations. I usually suggest the small 300ml splits as they are one use and avoid the disappointment of a half-used flat bottle. I prefer Schweppes. Do yourself a favour and don’t get the diet style, after all this is for medicinal purposes. During my time in Canada I have found the Canada Dry style of tonic water is a very good substitute.

The perfect G&T should have a half slice of lemon or lime to finish it off, I prefer lime with my Bombay gin but if I can’t get it then lemon. I use lemon with Tanqueray or Gordons.

Take the perfect G&T out onto the porch and consume till your positive outlook on life has been restored.

This has been a life-long project and I have spent many hours of research to get to this point. I hope this has inspired you to start your own research project.

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