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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

WORLD WINE WATCH TOP WINES AT VINTAGES: under/over $20 for JANUARY 22, 2022

WORLD WINE WATCH TOP WINES AT VINTAGES:  under/over $20 for JANUARY 22, 2022

By DEAN TUDOR, Gothic Epicures Writing deantudor@deantudor.com. My "Wines, Beers and Spirits of the Net", a guide to thousands of news items and RSS feeds, plus references to wines, beers and spirits, has been at http://www.deantudor.com since 1994.

These notes for good wines available through  LCBO Vintages (on a bi-weekly basis)  can always be found at http://www.gothicepicures.blogspot.ca  or at  http://www.deantudor.com No winery can buy their way into – or out of – this publication.

Scores are a combination of MVC (Modal Varietal Character, e.g. a Southern Rhone would taste like a Southern Rhone) and QPR (Quality/Price Ratio value in the marketplace above or below its price).

Currently, the wine media have no access to the tasting samples usually provided to us in the LCBO lab on a fortnightly basis. This will go on or some time. HOWEVER,  the wine media will still have access to the advance spreadsheet of the wines to be released. So I know what is to be released and when. SOME (but not many) of these 100 or so biweekly released wines I have recently tasted since January 2020 or so, and I can comfortably recommend them based on this prior sampling.
 
** Some New Wines I Tasted Over the Past Fortnight ---

REPORT ON RED WINES FROM RIBERA DEL DUERO SPAIN –

Spain's Ribera del Duero is home to the most Spanish iconic wine estates—- Vega Sicilia and Tinto Pesquera. Both have defined the taste and style of Ribera del Duero. This region has more great wines than any other in Spain.

-Hermanos Penez Pascuas El Pedrosal Crianza 2016 Ribera del Duero, LCBO +540070 $18.95:
a basic entry level wine at a good price for Ribera wines. Actually, it is rare to find Ribera del Duero for under $20 in Canada. This is all tempranillo from 20 year old vines, aged 12 months in a mix of French and American oak barrels. There's a lot of wine packed into this bottle. Although medium-bodied, it is warm and spicy, floral, with toasted ripe fruit and oak tones. Charcuterie and cheese boards work very well here as food pairings. 14.5% ABV, 4 g/L residual sugar. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

-Legon Premium Vina Vilano 2018 Pedrosa Ribera del Duero, LCBO +270645 $29.95: 100% tempranillo, aged two years in French oak. Vineyards are 90 years old (on average) with some at 100 years plus. Rich nose, "pumpkin pie" spices, cooked plums, berries. Long wooded tannins with some olive complexity and a slightly bitterish finish. Should be great with all manner of roasts. Dryish, dense rich and plush on the mid-palate. 14% ABV, 2 g/L residual sugar. Quality/Price rating is 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

-Real Sitio de Ventosilla Pradorey Finca la Mina Reserva 2015, LCBO +995191 $36.95: 95% tempranillo, 3% cabernet sauvignon and 2% merlot, from a single vineyard. 18 months in French oak, six months in Nevers oak vats. Very savoury in tone (the cab and merlot seem to contribute nuances of eucalyptus), yummy fruit which just gets better as it aerates (do a double decant). Classic complex wine for Ribera del Duero at the median price point: black and red baked fruit (cherries, plums, berries) and even some garrigue in its herbs and smokey spices. Finish is smooth and velvety. Tasted over several days. 14.5% ABV, 2 g/L residual sugar. Quality/Price rating is 93 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

-Penafiel Silencio de Miros 2015 Raphael Vineyard Ribera del Duero, LCBO +21214 $86: 100% tempranillo grown at 1000 metres, aged in new French oak barrels. Fruity aromatic compounds are extracted: red currants, plums, forest floor nuances, raisinated grapes, mocha, spices, new oak tones, even a touch of sherry. At the end, everything comes together with a melding of flavours, in an extremely long finish. Tasted over several days. Probably even better after some aging, say a decade more in bottle through 2032. This vintage was rated at 96 points by Decanter in 2018. 14.5% ABV, 2 g/L residual sugar. Quality/Price rating is 94+ points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

** Some Recommended Wines from the LCBO's Limited Time Offers selections...these  are good value...on sale  through Sunday January 30...
 
[red]+168716  M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon-Villages was $13.95 LTO for $11.95 Save $2 until Jan 30 [buy a case!]
[rose]+279661 L'ORANGERAIE ROSE PAYS D'OC Sas Vignobles Lorgeril  WAS: $ 11.80  LTO for $ 9.80 SAVE: $ 2  Until Jan 30 [buy a case!]
[white]+286377 Cave Spring Estate Riesling regularly $19.95, LTO for $17.95 Save $2 until Jan 30
[splurge fizz] +462432 PIPER HEIDSIECK BRUT CHAMPAGNE  WAS: $ 60.30 LTO NOW: $ 55.30 SAVE: $ 5.00  Until Jan 30 – great for St. Valentine's Day

Jan 22 Wines Under $20
=========
W+389726    BOYA SAUVIGNON BLANC    Sustainable, Coast Zone, DO Valle de Leyda    2020    $14.95  MVC/QPR:  89.
R+160226    MONTE DEL FRÁ LENA DI MEZZO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO    DOC    2019    $18.95 MVC/QPR: 89.
R+488015    QUINTA DO ESPÍRITO SANTO    Vinho Regional Lisboa    2017    $13.95 MVC/QPR:  89


Jan 22 Wines Over $20
=========
Fizz+23971    JACQUES BRUÉRE CAP CLASSIQUE BLANC DE BLANCS SPARKLING    Traditional method, WO Robertson, South Africa    2011    $25.95  MVC/QPR:  89.
Fizz+113035    PELLER ESTATES SIGNATURE SERIES ICE CUVÉE SPARKLING ROSÉ    Traditional method, Icewine dosage, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario $36.95 MVC/QPR:  89
R+638445    MORANDÉ ADVENTURE VIGNO VIGNADORES OLD VINES DRY-FARMED CARIGNAN    Valle del Maule    2018    $28.95  MVC/QPR:  89.
R+12736    ENRICO SERAFINO PICOTENER NEBBIOLO    DOC Langhe    2018    $41.95 MVC/QPR:  89.
R+342824    CANNONBALL MERLOT    California    2019    $22.95  MVC/QPR:  89.

Dean Tudor,  Prof Emeritus Ryerson School of Journalism

REPORT ON RED WINES FROM RIBERA DEL DUERO SPAIN –

REPORT ON RED WINES FROM RIBERA DEL DUERO SPAIN –
 
Spain's Ribera del Duero is home to the most Spanish iconic wine estates—- Vega Sicilia and Tinto Pesquera. Both have defined the taste and style of Ribera del Duero. This region has more great wines than any other in Spain.
 
 
-Hermanos Penez Pascuas El Pedrosal Crianza 2016 Ribera del Duero, LCBO +540070 $18.95:
a basic entry level wine at a good price for Ribera wines. Actually, it is rare to find Ribera del Duero for under $20 in Canada. This is all tempranillo from 20 year old vines, aged 12 months in a mix of French and American oak barrels. There's a lot of wine packed into this bottle. Although medium-bodied, it is warm and spicy, floral, with toasted ripe fruit and oak tones. Charcuterie and cheese boards work very well here as food pairings. 14.5% ABV, 4 g/L residual sugar. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
 
 
-Legon Premium Vina Vilano 2018 Pedrosa Ribera del Duero, LCBO +270645 $29.95: 100% tempranillo, aged two years in French oak. Vineyards are 90 years old (on average) with some at 100 years plus. Rich nose, "pumpkin pie" spices, cooked plums, berries. Long wooded tannins with some olive complexity and a slightly bitterish finish. Should be great with all manner of roasts. Dryish, dense rich and plush on the mid-palate. 14% ABV, 2 g/L residual sugar. Quality/Price rating is 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
 
 
-Real Sitio de Ventosilla Pradorey Finca la Mina Reserva 2015, LCBO +995191 $36.95: 95% tempranillo, 3% cabernet sauvignon and 2% merlot, from a single vineyard. 18 months in French oak, six months in Nevers oak vats. Very savoury in tone (the cab and merlot seem to contribute nuances of eucalyptus), yummy fruit which just gets better as it aerates (do a double decant). Classic complex wine for Ribera del Duero at the median price point: black and red baked fruit (cherries, plums, berries) and even some garrigue in its herbs and smokey spices. Finish is smooth and velvety. Tasted over several days. 14.5% ABV, 2 g/L residual sugar. Quality/Price rating is 93 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
 
 
-Penafiel Silencio de Miros 2015 Raphael Vineyard Ribera del Duero, LCBO +21214 $86: 100% tempranillo grown at 1000 metres, aged in new French oak barrels. Fruity aromatic compounds are extracted: red currants, plums, forest floor nuances, raisinated grapes, mocha, spices, new oak tones, even a touch of sherry. At the end, everything comes together with a melding of flavours, in an extremely long finish. Tasted over several days. Probably even better after some aging, say a decade more in bottle through 2032. This vintage was rated at 96 points by Decanter in 2018. 14.5% ABV, 2 g/L residual sugar. Quality/Price rating is 94+ points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
 
 
Chimo! www.deantudor.com

Friday, January 14, 2022

* MORE FOOD AND DRINK BOOKS

* MORE FOOD AND DRINK BOOKS
  ++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 
3.A GOOD MEAL IS HARD TO FIND; storied recipes from the deep South (Chronicle Books, 2020, 160 pages, $23 CAD hard covers) is by the team of Martha Hall Foose (recipes) and Amy C. Evans (illustrations). Both are also storytellers. Each of the 60 preps here are preceded by vignettes about Southern living, such as Francine's doughnut, Edna's blind date at a BBQ, or Camille's egg salad at a bridge club. Dee-lightful eccentricities, arranged by course (morning glories through lingering lunches through afternoon pick-me-ups, dinner dates and late-night takes...plus, of course, "anytime sweets". Great recipes and paintings (acrylics on wood panels) merge into whimsical stories based on whimsical characters. Preparations have their ingredients listed in avoirdupois measurements, but there is no table of metric equivalents. Quality/Price Rating: 88.
 
 
 
4.ZERO PROOF DRINKS & MORE; 100 recipes for mocktails & low-alcohol cocktails (Robert Rose, 2021, 224 pages, ISBN 978-0-7788-0675-2, $29.95 soft covers) is by Maureen Petrosky, an entertainment and lifestyle writer currently living in Pennsylvania. These are mindful concoctions devoted to socially-distanced happy hours at home. While Spring is the official season of the mocktail, it reminds us of better times. Lo-al (low-ABV) drinks are the obvious choices for the hotter climate of summer and the harshness of winter. She's got basic preps for syrups, shrubs, aperitifs, and spritzers. Mocktails are best as a day drink followed by lo-al happy hours. She's also got thirty pages of punches and pitcher drinks for that high volume party. Anything that reduces our alcohol consumption is a good necessity, such as the Michelada from Mexico. Most drinks can be tweaked upwards or downwards in quantities of add-ons. And every mocktail can have as much alcohol (if you need it) as you can pour into it – simply by topping up with a bland white wine. This is an infinitely expandable book once you have assimilated the basics. She's got easy ways to mix up flavours. Trendy titles include Bloody M, Rosemary Pear Bellini, Grilled Pineapple Mint Mojito, Lemongrass Cilantro Highball, and Grapefruit Radler. Certainly much better than a premixed non-al pretender bottle such as a gin clone, a bourbon clone, a tequila clone, which retail for $40 or more. Just use stuff like juniper berries and rum flavouring at home. Preparations have their ingredients listed in both metric and avoirdupois measurements. Apart from the punches and pitchers, drinks are for one person. Quality/price rating: 88.
 
5.FOOLPROOF BBQ; 60 simple recipes to make the most of your barbecue (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 144 pages, $28.99 hard covers) is by Genevieve Taylor. It's a manual to home BBQ, with an emphasis on year-round fail-safe grilling. Material embraces equipment and techniques. The whole range of meats is covered: chicken, pork, beef, lamb, fish/seafood, veggies, even desserts. Well-worth a look, and a pretty good book in the "Foolproof" series. Quality/price rating: 87
 
6.FOOLPROOF ONE POT; 60 simple and satisfying recipes (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 144 pages, $28.99 hard covers) is by Alan Rosenthal. It's another entry in the publisher's "Foolproof" series. It's open and shut: throw a lot on ingredients into a single pot or pan. These are the "acoustic" versions of the "electric" pots: no slow cookers or instant pots here, although the preps can be adapted to that equipment, Most recipes here are "low and slow" on top of the stove; some are pot bakes for the oven. There are both savoury and sweet preps. Vegan and vegetarian recipes are marked as such. There are two types of pot needed – deep and wide-shallow. Browning meats is a plus, as are side dishes which are mainly potatoes, rice, whole grains and pasta.  Easy-peasy. Quality/price rating: 87.
 
 
7.DUMPLINGS AND NOODLES; bao, gyoza, biang biang, ramen, and everything in between (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2020, 192 pages, $35 hard covers) is by the indefatigable Pippa Middlehurst (winner in 2018 as Britain's Best Home Cook) who actually makes all her own noodles and dumpling pastas. Her book is divided into three parts: dumplings, noodles, sauces plus sides and snacks. Great photographs of Pippa at work, a section on how to use this book, a pantry one can live with (variety of sauces, oils, pastes and vinegars) , types of equipment needed, and cooking from frozen. Dumpling wrappers and noodles are easily bought. She's got six meal planners for course suggestions, ranging from a Friday night in to a Vegan dinner to something for the kids. There are only two recipes for dumpling dough (these are all that you will need): fa mian and jiaozi-- both richly illustrated with photos and texts on technique.  There are plenty of sauce recipes, such as dan dan, spicy sesame, crunchy topping, XO sauce, chilli sauce, and others.  Typical preps include okonomiyaki (my fave), spring onion pancakes, rainbow soba salad, ramen eggs, and yakisoba. Not only for the adventurous cook – but also for the armchair chef. Highly recommended, especially as  a chef's reference book. Quality/price rating: 92.
 
8.BOWLS & BROTHS; build a bowl of flavour from scratch, with dumplings, noodles and more (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 176 pages, $35 hard covers) is the follow-up book by the indefatigable Pippa Middlehurst. These are broth-based preps with layering, seasoning (sauces, crunchy bits, aromatics), and ultimate versatility: constructing a bowl from the bottom up for max texture and flavour. She continues along the lines of her "Dumplings and Noodles" book, from ramen to rice bowls. The layout and illustrations continue on from her first book, with separate chapters on noodles, hotpot, dumplings, rice and sweets. A lot of what she covers comes from foraging in her freezer and refrigerator plus a quick look at her shelf pantry for extras. The principles are exceptionally useful and have a wide application to what you can find at home. Not only for the adventurous cook – but also for the armchair chef. Highly recommended, especially as  a chef's reference book. Yum-yum to both books. Quality/price rating: 92.
 
9.CHINESE TAKEOUT IN 5; 80 of your favorite dishes using only five ingredients (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 160 pages, ISBN 978-1-78713-653-3 $30 hard covers) is by Kwoklyn Wan, a UK chef who now teaches and demos Chinese cooking. Here here tells all, how to replicate Chinese takeout food at home in minutes. Alongside a basic pantry of five essentials (salt, pepper, soy sauce, sugar and oil), one can make a feast of easy dishes using the bare minimum. All major favorites are here, from Tom Yum Soup to Prawn Toast, Sweet Chilli Salmon and Lemon Chicken, Sweet and Sour Pork Balls or Beef in Oyster Sauce, Eggplant Fritters and Chilli Ginger Crispy Tofu. All use only five key ingredients, all of which are readily available in local supermarkets. Wan has step-by-step instructions expert tips, and classically good photography. It's all arranged by major ingredient or course, from soups through apps, seafood, poultry, meats, veggies, and desserts. The condiments section has those notorious sauces such as wasabi mayo, five spice wedges, and lucky seven seasoning salt. Do it yourself, stay home, cook at home, and have fun with such as Chinese-style BBQ wings: 10 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to cook. The book could have been improved if it had also used more metric in the recipes, or at least had a metric conversion chart. Quality/price rating: 88.
 
Chimo! www.deantudor.com

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

WORLD WINE WATCH TOP WINES AT VINTAGES: under/over $20 for JANUARY 8, 2022


WORLD WINE WATCH TOP WINES AT VINTAGES:  under/over $20 for JANUARY 8, 2022
=======================================

"SMART BUYS FEATURE"   [modestly priced wines]        

By DEAN TUDOR, Gothic Epicures Writing deantudor@deantudor.com. My "Wines, Beers and Spirits of the Net", a guide to thousands of news items and RSS feeds, plus references to wines, beers and spirits, has been at http://www.deantudor.com since 1994.

These notes for good wines available through  LCBO Vintages (on a bi-weekly basis)  can always be found at http://www.gothicepicures.blogspot.ca  or at  http://www.deantudor.com No winery can buy their way into – or out of – this publication.

Scores are a combination of MVC (Modal Varietal Character, e.g. a Southern Rhone would taste like a Southern Rhone) and QPR (Quality/Price Ratio value in the marketplace above or below its price).

Currently, the wine media have no access to the tasting samples usually provided to us in the LCBO lab on a fortnightly basis. This will go on or some time. HOWEVER,  the wine media will still have access to the advance spreadsheet of the wines to be released. So I know what is to be released and when. SOME (but not many) of these 100 or so biweekly released wines I have recently tasted since January 2020 or so, and I can comfortably recommend them based on this prior sampling.
 
** Some New Wines I Tasted Over the Past Fortnight ---

REPORT FROM ALSATIAN WHITE WINES Dec 14, 2021 –

I was given a half dozen bottles of Alsatian wine via Sopexa, to try pairing against a variety of Asian foods. Of course I shared the meal with my wife...

We started with Crémant d'Alsace Brut Dirler-Cadé 2016 and then Crémant d'Alsace Domaine Frey-Sohler 2012. Both were totally different.

The Crémant d'Alsace Brut Dirler-Cadé 2016 (LCBO +184357, $41) was Brut Nature (bone dry) with 60% pinot gris, 30% auxerrois, and 10% riesling, coming in at 12.4% ABV and 0.66 g/L residual sugar. Average age of the vines: 35 years. The wine has been certified by ECOCERT as biodynamic since the 2012 vintage. It was aged 24 – 32 months on lees, no dosage. The taste was compellingly dry and lemony, being driven by the auxerrois, with a soupcon of riesling on the mid-palate. The finish was lip smacking and appetite provoking. A very good first wine. Quality/Price rating is 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

The Crémant d'Alsace Domaine Frey-Sohler 2012 (LCBO +185511, $31.45) was all riesling and Extra Brut at 3.9 g/L residual sugar and 12.1% ABV. It sat for 9 (NINE!) years of aging on fine lees. It can be an aperitif or first course wine with bivalves. It had a riesling austerity that emphasized minerality, orchard fruit and lemons. Quality/Price rating is 93 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

The food Sopexa sent came from local chef Alex Pivnick; it included --

-Ontario salad leaves with terrific sesame miso vinaigrette, julienned daikon and carrot,
-Explosive spicy Thai sesame peanut noodles with vegetables and green onion,
-Smacked spicy cucumber salad, chiliflakes and shoyu, and
-good fatty Duck rillette.

Ending with underripe/tartish fruits: cactus pear, passion fruit, kiwi, and apricot.

The main condiment was chili crisp with peanut pieces.

With the food, we began with Pinot Blanc Joseph Cattin 2019 (LCBO +226642, $14.95) which was a bargain in a sea of pinot grigio from other countries. Pinot blanc has value in its unctuousness and thicker body. Residual sugar was 7 g/L and there was 12% ABV. On the palate, there was orchard fruit, especially white peaches, along with a yeast and citrus complexity. It certainly went with tasting samples of all the courses. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

Other wines included Wilm Riesling Réserve 2019 (LCBO +11452, $19.95) just a tad dry with 2.4 g/L residual sugar and 12.55% ABV from the minerality of the terroir. Tangy citric tones with an underlying raciness on the mid-palate. I loved it with the duck rillete; it cut through the fat content. Should also do well with cream-sauced based seafood. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

Then we had a chance to compare different styles of gewurztraminer. First up was the Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer 2020 (LCBO +373373, $17.95) with its 13.5% ABV and 14.9 g/L of residual sugar. It seemed to be totally lychee and peaches, exceedingly ripe fruit, long bitterish finish. Good with all manner of Asian foods. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

The last wine was the Willm Gewurztraminer Réserve 2019 (LCBO +269852, $17.95) with its 13.31% ABV and 18.39 g/L of residual sugar: it's all about tropical fruit, flowers and spices, from lychees to pineapples, to roses, to cinnamon. Everything lingers, and it is hard to beat at this price. Great with all manner of Asian foods. Terrific value. Quality/Price rating is 93 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
   
** Some Recommended Wines from the LCBO's Limited Time Offer selections...these  are good value...on sale  now through Sunday January 30.

[red]+168716  M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon-Villages was $13.95 LTO for $11.95 Save $2 until Jan 30 [buy a case!]
[rose]+279661 L'ORANGERAIE ROSE PAYS D'OC Sas Vignobles Lorgeril  WAS: $ 11.80  LTO for $ 9.80 SAVE: $ 2  Until Jan 30 [buy a case!]
[white]+286377 Cave Spring Estate Riesling regularly $19.95, LTO for $17.95 Save $2 until Jan 30
[splurge fizz] +462432 PIPER HEIDSIECK BRUT CHAMPAGNE  WAS: $ 60.30 LTO NOW: $ 55.30 SAVE: $ 5.00  Until Jan 30.

Wines Under $20
=========
W+196956     JOSEPH CATTIN PINOT GRIS    AC Alsace    2019    $15.95     MVC/QPR:  89
W+23972         PONDVIEW BELLA TERRA CHARDONNAY    Sur lie, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake    2020    $19.95  MVC/QPR:  89
R+258673         G. MARQUIS THE SILVER LINE PINOT NOIR    VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake    $19.95  MVC/QPR:  89
R+64618       FEATHERSTONE CABERNET FRANC VQA Niagara Peninsula $19.95 MVC/QPR: 89
R+20949         CHÂTEAU COURAC LAUDUN COTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES    AP    2017    $18.95 MVC/QPR:  89
R+21282         CHÂTEAU LA COMMANDERIE DU BARDELET    AC Bordeaux    2019    $15.95    MVC/QPR:  89
R+548560         ALICE VIEIRA DE SOUSA RESERVE RED DOC Douro    2019    $16.95 MVC/QPR: 89
R+492561         FARINA VALPOLICELLA    DOC    2020    $15.95 MVC/QPR:  89
R+21087         CHÂTEAU LA PIROUETTE Cru Bourgeois, AC Médoc    2016    $18.95 MVC/QPR: 89

Wines Over $20
=========
R+461699          HENRY OF PELHAM SPECK FAMILY RESERVE BACO NOIR  VQA Ontario $24.95  MVC/QPR: 90


Dean Tudor,  Prof Emeritus Ryerson School of Journalism

Monday, December 27, 2021

REPORT FROM ALSATIAN WHITE WINES Dec 14, 2021 –

REPORT FROM ALSATIAN WHITE WINES Dec 14, 2021 –

I was given a half dozen bottles of Alsatian wine via Sopexa, to try pairing against a variety of Asian foods. Of course I shared the meal with my wife...

We started with Crémant d'Alsace Brut Dirler-Cadé 2016 and then Crémant d'Alsace Domaine Frey-Sohler 2012. Both were totally different.

The Crémant d'Alsace Brut Dirler-Cadé 2016 (LCBO +184357, $41) was Brut Nature (bone dry) with 60% pinot gris, 30% auxerrois, and 10% riesling, coming in at 12.4% ABV and 0.66 g/L residual sugar. Average age of the vines: 35 years. The wine has been certified by ECOCERT as biodynamic since the 2012 vintage. It was aged 24 – 32 months on lees, no dosage. The taste was compellingly dry and lemony, being driven by the auxerrois, with a soupcon of riesling on the mid-palate. The finish was lip smacking and appetite provoking. A very good first wine. Quality/Price rating is 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

The Crémant d'Alsace Domaine Frey-Sohler 2012 (LCBO +185511, $31.45) was all riesling and Extra Brut at 3.9 g/L residual sugar and 12.1% ABV. It sat for 9 (NINE!) years of aging on fine lees. It can be an aperitif or first course wine with bivalves. It had a riesling austerity that emphasized minerality, orchard fruit and lemons. Quality/Price rating is 93 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

The food Sopexa sent came from local chef Alex Pivnick; it included --

-Ontario salad leaves with terrific sesame miso vinaigrette, julienned daikon and carrot,
-Explosive spicy Thai sesame peanut noodles with vegetables and green onion,
-Smacked spicy cucumber salad, chiliflakes and shoyu, and
-good fatty Duck rillette.

Ending with underripe/tartish fruits: cactus pear, passion fruit, kiwi, and apricot.

The main condiment was chili crisp with peanut pieces.

With the food, we began with Pinot Blanc Joseph Cattin 2019 (LCBO +226642, $14.95) which was a bargain in a sea of pinot grigio from other countries. Pinot blanc has value in its unctuousness and thicker body. Residual sugar was 7 g/L and there was 12% ABV. On the palate, there was orchard fruit, especially white peaches, along with a yeast and citrus complexity. It certainly went with tasting samples of all the courses. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

Other wines included Wilm Riesling Réserve 2019 (LCBO +11452, $19.95) just a tad dry with 2.4 g/L residual sugar and 12.55% ABV from the minerality of the terroir. Tangy citric tones with an underlying raciness on the mid-palate. I loved it with the duck rillete; it cut through the fat content. Should also do well with cream-sauced based seafood. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

Then we had a chance to compare different styles of gewurztraminer. First up was the Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer 2020 (LCBO +373373, $17.95) with its 13.5% ABV and 14.9 g/L of residual sugar. It seemed to be totally lychee and peaches, exceedingly ripe fruit, long bitterish finish. Good with all manner of Asian foods. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

The last wine was the Willm Gewurztraminer Réserve 2019 (LCBO +269852, $17.95) with its 13.31% ABV and 18.39 g/L of residual sugar: it's all about tropical fruit, flowers and spices, from lychees to pineapples, to roses, to cinnamon. Everything lingers, and it is hard to beat at this price. Great with all manner of Asian foods. Terrific value. Quality/Price rating is 93 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
  
Dean Tudor,  Prof Emeritus Ryerson School of Journalism

Sunday, December 26, 2021

FOOD BOOK OF THE MONTH -- Gastro Obscura (Workman Publishing)

GASTRO OBSCURA; a food adventurer's guide (Workman Publishing, 2021, 440 pages, $55 hardbound) has been pulled together by a food crew headed by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras. It's part of the Atlas Obscura family, a firm which seeks out the weird/wonderful delights of the world. With Gastro Obscura, it is the weird/wonderful food and drink of the world. Not everything here is "edible" for humans, but it is food for other living things. Curious people can explore what food and drink reveal about the places where they're made and the people who make them. Typical are a beer made from fog in Chile, threads of God in Sardinian pasta, histories of food conventions such as the Roman fish sauce factories, rice puddings, tea-houses. The arrangement is by continent, with Europe up first. Canada gets 26 pages, sub-arranged (like the other countries) by regions. There are lots of cultural bits about the Atlantic provinces, such as rappie pie (NS), seal flipper pie (NL), screech and iceberg ice (NL),  cod tongues (NL) but only Thrills and bagged milk from Ontario. Illustrations include photos, food product adverts, action shots, and finished plates. This is a great reference book, created to be read over and over again. Hugely addictive. Quality/Price Rating: 94.
 
Chimo! www.deantudor.com

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

* DRINK BOOK OF THE MONTH! * The Martini, by Matt Hranek (Artisan)

* DRINK BOOK OF THE MONTH! *
  ++++++++++++++++++++++
 
THE MARTINI; perfection in a glass (Artisan, 2021, 150 pages, $22.65 hardbound) is by Matt Hranek, who also wrote the definitive THE NEGRONI. It's a great basic guide, covering gin, vermouth, bitters, garnish – and even vodka (if need be). All the gin preps here can easily become vodka preps. It all depends on how much juniper-forward tastes you would enjoy. There's a cultural history of the drink, barware and glassware, various techniques (stirred, shaken, et al), and a whole pile of over 30 illustrated variations to try out. The martini is the consummate cocktail:  writers, actors, politicians. You could start with the Martinez from 1849, but it's a lot sweeter since it uses sweet vermouth. It's more like a gin Manhattan without the bourbon. The concluding section has a listing of appropriate snacks, an espresso martini, and a listing of global places to savour this drink.  Quality/Price Rating: 93.
 
Chimo! www.deantudor.com

Thursday, December 16, 2021

STOCKING STUFFERS (Gift Books)

 
Stocking stuffers should be at the very top of everybody's gift list: something affordable from under $10 up to $25 or so, and that can also double as a host gift, being something small and lightweight. Most of the books here are paperbacks. And of course, they can all stuff an adult stocking.
 
Typical for food are:
 
--LAZY DAY BRUNCHES; relaxed recipes for the morning (Ryland Peters & Small, 2021, 144 pages, $20 hardbound) is a publisher's book with 65 preps by 11 food writers, principally Carol Hilker (23 recipes) and Kathy Kordalis (15 recipes). It's arranged by course, from fruit and grains through pancakes & waffles, eggs, salads, sides, pastries, preserves and drinks. A handy compilation.
 
--MORTAR & PESTLE; 65 delicious recipes for sauces, rubs and marinades (Ryland Peters & Small, 2021, 144 pages, $20 hardbound) is a publisher's book with 65 preps by 22 food writers. Valerie Aikman-Smith leads off with 13 different recipes. It's arranged by course, and includes sauces and condiments, snacks and small bites, poultry and game, meat, seafood, and veggies. Another handy compilation.
 
--FOOLPROOF BBQ; 60 simple recipes to make the most of your barbecue (Hardie Grand Quadrille, 2021, 144 pages, $28.99 hard covers) is by Genevieve Taylor. It's a manual to home BBQ, with an emphasis on year-round fail-safe grilling. Material embraces equipment and techniques. The whole range of meats is covered: chicken, pork, beef, lamb, fish/seafood, veggies, even desserts. Well-worth a look, and a pretty good book in the "Foolproof" series.
 
--FOOLPROOF ONE POT; 60 simple and satisfying recipes (Hardie Grant Quadrille, 2021, 144 pages, $28.99 hard covers) is by Alan Rosenthal. It's another entry in the publisher's "Foolproof" series. It's open and shut: throw a lot on ingredients into a single pot or pan. These are the "acoustic" versions of the "electric" pots: no slow cookers or instant pots here, although the preps can be adapted to that equipment, Most recipes here are "low and slow" on top of the stove; some are pot bakes for the oven. There are both savoury and sweet preps. Vegan and vegetarian recipes are marked as such. There are two types of pot needed – deep and wide-shallow. Browning meats is a plus, as are side dishes which are mainly potatoes, rice, whole grains and pasta.  Easy-peasy.
 
-GLUTEN-FREE HOLIDAY COOKIES (Artisan, 2020, 96 pages, $17.95 hardbound) is part of the Artisanal Kitchen series of small handbooks. This one is by Alice Medrich with Maya Klein. They've got over 30 recipes "to sweeten the season" . Not all then preps are exclusively Christmas: the standards here reflect both the classics (chocolate chip, ginger, double oatmeal, nutty thumbprint, et al)
and the festives (buckwheat walnut or hazelnut tuiles, toasty pecan biscotti, chocolate sables, ginger-peach squares, et al). Sure to be a winner in the hostess gift sweepstakes, for it even includes conversion charts.
 
--BOARDS, PLATTERS, PLATES: recipes for entertaining, sharing, and snacking (Artisan, 2021, 160 pages, $24.95 hardbound) is by Maria Zizka, co-author of  the excellent "Tartine All Day" cookbook. Here she gives us 30 boards/platters/plates for all manner of events, ranging from the basic charcuterie board and cheese board through appetizer board, Parisienne party size board, cauliflower pakora, beachside, Lebanese lunch, vegan rainbow, bagna cauda party size, and even six boards for dessert. Very well-presented with illustrated examples of layouts of boards and identification of all the components. Fish and seafood are also added, as for the beach or for the grand aioli. Well-worth a look.
 
--ONE-BOWL MEALS: simple, nourishing, delicious (Artisan, 2021, 160 pages, $24.95 hardbound) is by Maria Zizka, co-author of  the excellent "Tartine All Day" cookbook. Here she has given us 30 combinations organized by base (oatmeal, chia, yogurt, grains, noodles, greens. The basic formula is start with a base, build with a protein, and add a sauce, and then a couple of toppings, and some crunchy garnishes. Thes one-meal bowls can be protein-enhanced, or made vegan, or made gluten-free. She's got the ideas all laid out for us. Yummy photos too.
 
Other little books (and calendars), for beverages, include those on beer, wine and spirits:
 
--LET THE FUN BE GIN; cocktail recipes & coasters for the happiest hours (Castle Point Books, St. Martin's Press, 2021,  boards and coasters kit in book form, $24.99) is a collection of stylized 10 pop-out coasters and 10 cocktail recipes, designed to jazz any celebration with colour and with clever sayings. It's your own Algonquin Hotel (but without New York).  Coasters are easy to save and to re-use. The 10 recipes include the Aviation: citric tones, herbaceousness, floral notes. Full instructions given!
 
--NEGRONI (Ryland Peters & Small, 2021, 64 pages, $15 hardbound) is by David T. Smith and Keli Rivers. Here are more than 30 classic and modern recipes for Italy's iconic cocktail.  Variations make use of dry and aged vermouths, along with ports and sherries and white bitters. One for the cocktail friends.
 
--CLASSIC COCKTAILS; the very best martinis, margaritas, manhattans, and more (Artisan, 2021, 112 pages, $14.95 hardbound) is by Nick Mautone. It's a utilitarian guide to the 40 most popular and iconic cocktails. These are the basics, suitable for all levels in its conciseness. The primer has opening notes on the right tools and the right techniques, followed by a series of drinks based on the type of alcohol, from gin through vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila, brandy [just two: sidecar and alexander] , and wine (including sparkling wine). 'Nuff said.
 
--IT'S WINE TIME  (Dog `n` Bone Books, 2005, 2020, 64 pages, $13.95 hardbound) is by Chris Losh. It was previously available as "Pick the Right Wine Every Time", and it is now back in print as a nifty little work that details everything you've always wanted to ask about red, white, rose and sparkling wine. The food section now also includes matching with vegetarian dishes, written by Fiona Beckett.  Coverage extends to specific themes of drinking at home (lunch, BBQ, before and after dinner), splurging at dinner parties, eddings, holidays, and parties in general, drinking while out at bars and pubs, date nights, picnics, gifts, and restaurant wine lists.
 
--WINTER DRINKS (Ryland Peters & Small, 2020, 144 pages, $19.95 hardbound) has been pulled together by Julia Charles. It's a publisher's package of previous preps by several food and drink writers, most notably Louise Pickford with 17 and Julia herself with 16. Eleven other writers also contributed.
So here are 75 recipes to warm our hearts, with hot drinks, toddies, part cocktails, and mocktails. Included also are hot chocolates, warm milks, coffee drinks and teas, as well as restorative mulls, revivers and soothers. My fave is the sparkling cocktails. My wife likes the sparkling mocktails. Chacun a son gout.
 
--STRANGER GINS; 50 things to drink while you watch TV (Dog 'n' Bone, 2021, 64 pages, $13.99 hardbound) has been compiled by Carol Hilker, a Chicago-based food writer. All of the shows are "series" and include old and new. Thus, there's Twin Peaks (recommended drink: Jacoby's Coconut). Fleabag (Hot Priest), Mad Men (Dirty Don Martini), and Seinfeld (Festivus)...But no Sopranos. She's got recipes and reasons for each show. PS: I'm not ashamed to admit having seen all of these shows but drinking just wine.
 
--HUGH JOHNSON'S POCKET WINE BOOK 2022 (Mitchell Beazley, 2021, 336 pages, $20 hardbound, $14.99 Kindle ebook)  is a guide to wines from all around the world, not just to the "best" wines. His co-author is Margaret Rand. It is in its 45th year (first published in 1977).  Johnson claims more than 6000 wines and growers are listed. News, vintage charts and data, glossaries, best value wines, and what to drink now are here. His book is arranged by region, with notes on the 2020 vintage and a few details about the potential of 2021, along with a closer look at the 2019. He's got notes on what wines are ready to drink in 2022.   Johnson is  also moving into food pairing: there is a section on food and wine matching. He also has a listing of his personal 200 fave wines.  The Kindle edition is digitally enhanced for word searching, so it often beats a printed index for retrieving data – and it is $5 cheaper! A great purchase....
 
--A YEAR OF GOOD BEER 2022 PAGE-A-DAY CALENDAR (Workman, 2021, 320 pages, $22)
quenches the beer lover's thirst: microbrewery recommendations, beer lore, trivia, history, labels, vocabulary, tasting notes, beer festivals, and more daily fun.  America's bestselling beer calendar—now with 1.3 million copies in print—is back with a year of recommendations for every season and occasion. Crack open an Amra Mango IPA, boasting a lush fruitiness  balanced by its dry finish. Or the New Glarus Flanders Sour, with  tartness, malt, and hints of chocolate for a stellar interpretation of a classic style. Plus Craft Ingredients, Beer Trivia, food pairings, Dogfish Head Mixed Media and other brews to win over your wine-drinking friends, and Winston Churchill's strong words on Prohibition: "An affront to the whole history of mankind."  Some of the beers appear as imports in Canada, but otherwise there are few Canadian brews included. Lights, wheat, lagers, ales, porters, stouts, seasonal beers, and lambrics – they're all here, 165 or so craft beers. If you buy any of the PAD calendars, then you can go online to the website and pick up other, free stuff, at www.pageaday.com. 
 
Chimo! www.deantudor.com

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Christmas/Holiday Cookbook Gifts

Part One: TOP GIFT BOOKS
========================

A. Art/travel/restaurant cookbooks might be some of the best books to give a loved one (or to yourself, since you are your own best loved one). Most may cost you an arm and a leg. Books for the coffee table have their place in the gift scheme: just about every such book is only bought as a gift! And are often perused first by the donor (you). Don't let the prices daunt you. Such books are available at a discount from online vendors. Because of the "economy", not too many pricey food and wine books were released this year. Herewith, and in random order:


--AMBER & RYE; a Baltic food journey (Interlink Books, 2021, 256 pages, $45 hard covers) is by Zuza Zak, an award-winning Polish "storyteller cook" who has published books and articles dealing with Eastern Europe as her beat. She has also appeared on the Food Network. Her PhD studies are focused on exploring Eastern European food from a socio-cultural perspective, as a cultural anthropologist would. The Baltics are between Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, with many culinary influences. There is also a confluence with Poland bordering Lithuania (she's got some Baltic DNA in her). So here she's got guidance around the capitals of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, with local stories from the chefs, the cooks, the greengrocers, the farmers. In addition to the stories on food and travel, she's also incorporated poetry, literature, song, and proverbs. The arrangement is loosely by course, from apps through snacks, soup, mains, salads, sides, fermented foods,  desserts and beverages. There are extensive notes on ingredients and a bibliography for further reading. Typical preps are rhubarb and rose meringue tart, potato-fennel-fish bake, charred pork chop with apple and sea buckthorn sauce, fermented beet slaw, crayfish salad, creamy barley groats with asparagus, fermented wild garlic and buckwheat soup, and nettle leaf salad.


--CYPRUS CUISINE     (Whitecap, 2021, 274 pages, $34.95 papercovers) is by Christina Loucas, a Victoria BC-based creator of Afrodite's Kitchen, a website devoted to Cypriot food. It was originally published in 2016 in Italian, and here it is translated into English. It is a very good well-researched summary of Cypriot food: she's got 80 detailed recipes that range from classic to contemporary. Food in Cyprus has been heavily influenced by the spice trade and its location in the Mediterranean near the Middle East. It's part memoir, part travel guide, and part cookbook like so many other regional cookbooks. She has the basic history of food in Cyprus, the larder/pantry needed to maintain a kitchen, some drinks (tea, lemonades, coffee), and then moves on to breads and pastries such as halloumi mint scones, tsoureki (Easter orange bread), kattimeri (crepes), and koulouria (sesame bread rings). Next up in the meal are soups, salads, small bites, mains, condimenti, cakes and sweets. Her book also concludes with some suggested dinner menus for 2, 4 or 6 persons, followed by a listing and description of local markets in Limassol and Nicosia. It is a bright book , loaded with exceptional closeups of finished plates.

--FLAVORS OF THE SUN; the Sahadi's guide to understanding, buying, and using Middle Eastern ingredients (Chronicle Books, 2021, 352 pages, $50 hard covers) is by Christine Sahadi Whelan, culinary director of her family's 130 year-old importing firm in Brooklyn. There are about 120 relatively simple preps here, including the range from starters through desserts. It's all arranged by context: bright, savory, spiced, nutty, and sweet, along with nine special menus for that holiday gathering or outdoor summer party, brunch, meze, buffet and/or cocktail party. The basic flavours (found all over the Middles East) that suggest these foods are found in sumac, urfa pepper, halvah, pomegranate molasses, and preserved lemons. Lots of scrumptious photos and salivating texts. They give us much detail on what to look for in buying foods and what to serve with what foods. Highly recommended.


--ISLAND EATS; signature chefs' recipes from Vancouver Island and the Salish Sea (Figure 1,  2021, 200 pages, $38.95 hard covers) is from the team of Dawn Postnikoff and Joanne Sasvari, both food and drink writers and editors (they are with "Edible Vancouver Island" magazine). This is the latest in the Canadian food city series from Figure 1 – there  are now 10 of them: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto. Ottawa, Winnipeg et al. And they are exceptional arm chair traveller books. The tried and true formula is to present details and photos about about the best restaurants in the region followed by a house specialty recipe usually with a pix of the finished plate. For example, Glo Restaurant + Lounge, led by Andrew Fawcett. Does a Tan Tan City Salad using chicken breasts, and a Spicy Kung Pao Tofu bowl. The Butchart Gardens does an Okanagan Cherry Panzanella and a Maple Bourbon Verrine. Forty-one restaurants or businesses, arranged alphabetically.  Terrific presentations for that Western Canada food fan. 


--SUMAC; recipes and stories from Syria (Interlink Books, 2019, 2021, 248 pages, $45 hardbound) is by Anas Atassi, who emphasizes his family's food traditions and culture. He's  a Syrian chef now living in the Netherlands (this book was originally published in Dutch in 2019). Here are 80 classic and contemporary recipes strewn about various chapters such as breakfast, mezze (his mother's annual soirees), street food, grains, veggies, meats-poultry-fish (midsummer BBQs) , and desserts (the Ramadan table). Each prep has a story with some illustrations, plus a Syrian name for the dish. Excellent photography and layout, more about food than about travel.  Preps are perfectly adaptable for the North American kitchen: Sumac is an essential ingredient in Syrian cooking; it is used everywhere. This is a nifty exploration of a series of influences from the Ottomans, the Persians, and the French. Take a look at lamb koftas in tahini sauce or shorbat ameh (lamb shanks) or musakham wraps.

--BASQUE; Spanish recipes from San Sebastian & beyond (Hardie Grant Books, 2016, 2021, 256 pages, $32.99 hard covers) is by Jose Pizarro (a Basque chef  who owns three restaurants in London. It's a well-illustrated and photographed travelogue-cookbook – and a great introduction to the Basque cuisine and country. It's all arranged by ingredient: meat, fish, veggies, desserts, concluding with a collection of Basque menus: two for pintxos, others for a simple three course menu and for a feasting menu for friends. Typical are roasted chicken wings with oregano and garlic, cured duck ham with pomegranate salad, griddled marinated quail with pickled shallots, piquillo peppers stuffed with oxtail, sukalki (beef stew), sardines a la plancha, pan-fried hake with wild chanterelles, and pan-fried porcini with egg yolk. It's a major contribution to the arena of Spanish cookbooks.

--PORTUGUESE HOME COOKING (Interlink Books, 2021, 304 pages, $45 hardbound) is by Ana Patuleia Ortins, who has a degree in culinary arts and teaches Portuguese cooking. She's also written "Authentic Portuguese Cooking." She makes strong use of her family background from the Alto Alentejo region. In common with many cookbooks, it is arranged from soup to nuts, ending with material on wines and cocktails. And in common with many books in this Interlink series, it is loaded with photos of food and family. Typical pantry ingredients include onions, garlic, tomatoes, paprika, bay leaves, red pepper paste, cumin, chili peppers, cilantro, olive oil, vinegar and wine. Just add meat and veggies and fruit, and then choose a cooking method  (braise, saute, roast, etc.). It is not really that simple, but then it is home cooking without the molecular work, the sous vide, and other typical restaurant procedures. Her petiscos (little dishes) are smaller versions of mains: chicken pies, clams cataplana, fireman's linguica, fresh cheese, salt cod cakes, shrimp rissoles, graciosa-style tortas. Her family's region is well-known for wheat, olives, pork, wine and a cork industry.

--MACEDONIA: THE COOKBOOK; recipes and stories from the Balkans (Interlink Books, 2021, 272 pages, $45 hardbound) is by Katerina Nitsou, who grew up in a large Macedonian-Canadian community in Toronto before moving on to Le Cordon Bleu, the LA Times Test Kitchen, catering and private chef in California – and subsequently living in Australia. It's a great little book in the renowned Interlink series of regional cuisines. Macedonian food has been described as a rich mosaic of influences fro, Middle East and Mediterranean foods, tempered by the rest of the Balkans. It's arranged by course, and each of the 100 preps has both an English and a Macedonian name. First up are the small plates of mezze, then salata, supa, meso (meats), zhivina (poultry), riba (fish), zelenchuk (veggies), leb (breads), slatko (sweets, and zimnica (preserves). There are descriptive notes, culture, stories, memoirs, and many photographs. Typical dishes include leek crepes (palachinki so praz), lekja supa, pilinja pecheni (braised quail), and kozinak (Easter bread).

--FLORENTINE; the true cuisine of Florence. 2D ed.  (Hardie Grant Books, 2016, 2020, 272 pages, $42.99 hard covers) is by Emiko Davies, who, in her mid-twenties, moved to Florence to study art restoration and photography (she did the location photography for this book). Her book is a travelogue-cookbook – she has also written two other Italian food cookbooks, and continues to write about regional Italian food and travel for numerous publications and her own blog. There is a brief history of Florence and its food and culture, a Florence city guide and address guide, glossary, and bibliographic references. Preps and dishes are strewed about such walking tour topics as  "La pasticceria" (pastry shop), "Il forno" (bakery), "Il mercato" (market), "la trattoria", "il macellaio" (butcher),  with typical dishes such as panino con insalata belga, pecorino e miele (panino with Belgian endive, pecorino cheese and honey), crostone con salsiccia e stracchino (crostone with sausage and stracchino cheese), piselli all Fiorentina, insalata di farro, frittata di finocchi (fennel frittata). She's good at telling the story of food in Florence plate by plate. Yet another great regional cookbook.

--FOODIE BREAKS: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales (Dog'n'Bone, 2020, 144 pages, $19.95 flatbound) is by Richard Mellor who had previously written Foodie Breaks: Europe.  In this book he examines 25 cities and towns with 250 (10 each) essential eating experiences within his UK homeland. With pictures, it provides a snapshot of 25 culinary UK "hotspots" with recommendations to try establishments. He's got the best places for breakfasts and  brunches, street food, gastropubs, inexpensive diners, and cool places to drink. This is a quick, easily digestible summary for your British traveller.

--ARZAK + ARZAK (Grub Street, 2020, 256 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is by Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena Arzak. The Restaurante Arzak has been in San Sebastian since 1897, and it has had three Michelin stars since 1989. It has also been included on the World's 50 Best Restaurant list since the ranking's early days. Elena has been there since 1994 after working her way through the kitchens of Troisgros and El Bulli, among others. This is a lavishly produced book celebrating the research and the gastronomy of one of the finest restaurants in the world. This is the beginning of the New Basque Cuisine. Copious photographs and generous texts illuminate every phase of their daily work together and with the 64-member team, and includes a separate chapter on their research and research methods.  Finally, at page 113 we arrive at the beginning of the 64 recipes which Jaun Mari and chef Elena worked out together over the past 10 years, with great colour photographs of ingredients and finished plates. It begins with hake and chickpea paint, moves on to veal cheeks stew, nectarine and squid vines, and ends with honeymead and fractal fluid. It would be pretty hard to find a better gift book for the gastronome.

--AEGEAN (Interlink Books, 2021, 224 pages, $50 hardbound) is  by Marianna Leivaditaki, who was raised on Crete and now is a London UK chef at Morito. Her paean to the Aegean is centred largely on Crete as just one of the many islands that belong to Greece. Other major islands include Rhodes, Karpathos, and Kasos. As the largest and most populous island, Crete has an original cuisine that Leivaditaki delves into. She conveniently divides the book into three: the sea, the land, the mountains, with recipes and personal stories for each. And there are lots of great photos here of prawns with ouzo, orzo and zucchini, tomato and oregano fritters with feta, and the kakavia one-pot fish stew. This is the Mediterranean diet in all of its full-blown glory, with olive oils, fresh veggies, fruits, nuts, whole grains, fish. A delight.

--PARWANA (Interlink Books, 2021, 256 pages, $52 hardbound) is by Durkhanai Ayubi, with recipes by Farida Ayubi and Fatema Ayubi.. These are stories and preps from an Afghan kitchen -- Parwana
Restaurant in Adelaide, Australia, which opened in 2009. The 100+ recipes have been family-held for years, and embrace both day-to-day preps and celebrations: rice, curries, meats, kebabs, naan flatbread, halwah, dumplings, Afghan pasta, sweets, chutneys, pickles, soups and breads. Everything is complemented by food photography and family photos as the text convincingly shows the interrelationship between food, people and communities over time and place. There's morabayeh anjir (whole fig jam),  torshi bemasalah (pickled veggies), shorwa thin soup with vegetables, aush thick soup with noodles, and banjaan borani (braised eggplant with yogurt dressing).

--TABLES & SPREADS (Chronicle Books, 2021, 288 pages, $27.95 USD hardbound) is by Shelly Westerhausen Worcel with Wyatt Worcel. She's a vegetarian food blogger; he's an aquaculture graduate.
Together they have compiled a go-to guide for snacks, small gatherings, and inviting feasts. They present 21 inspired design ideas, with timelines, shopping lists, and diagrams. Plus of course the recipes. The duo's got some tips for choosing a theme and styling the food in a creative manner. Linens, flowers, and music complete the picture. Platters can be as small as a burrata bar or a creamy polenta spread, or just a selection of delicious dips. Some typical themes embrace a savoury focaccia party, a mezze spread, pierogi dumplings, breakfast nacho buffet, Dutch baby party, and the like.  Taking their notes and ideas you can create many more tables and spreads.  There's one spread for boughten sliced meat and sausages, but the recipes themselves are all vegetarian. 


--VEGAN RECIPES FROM JAPAN (Grub Street, 2020, 208 pages, $32.95 hardbound) is by Malte Hartig and Jule Felice Frommelt. He's a trained chef with a PhD on Japanese food and culture and Zen Buddhism; she's a freelance food photographer and recipe developer. Together they write about what is essentially "shojin ryori": the traditional dining style of Buddhist monks in Japan, made without any animal products. So it becomes a perfect vegan diet. Foods are based on tofu, seaweed, seasoned veggies and wild mountain plants. Balance and alignment are brought to the body, mind and spirit. The preps are simple and humble, seasonally done with Japanese ingredients such as miso, soy sauce, sake, mirin, dashi, and mostly steamed or grilled or deep fried. The arrangement is by season, beginning with spring, and there are many cultural/social background notes, along with a glossary and other references.


--BITTER HONEY; recipes and stories from the Island of Sardinia (Hardie Grant Books, 2020,  256 pages,, $58 hardbound) is by Letitia Clark,  a seasoned UK chef with a great resume that includes pastry and baking. She moved to Sardinia with her then-boyfriend (also a cook) to work a rural farm and produce Sardinian recipes. Although Italian, there is a strong French influence from this part of the Mediterranean (e.g., the onion soup prep is straight French Onion Soup).  As she says, it's all about traditions, stories and memories, with insight into people's lives, habits and histories.  Age-old methods and tools means that just about everything is cooked very slowly. So this is all home-food with great photography by Matt Russell. Topics are arranged by theme: apertivo, terra, merenda, mare, verdure, grano, and dolci e bevande. There 's a Sardinian pantry, which includes bay leaves, borage, capers, chestnuts, limoncello, myrtle, guanciale, and oranges. Lots of local food and colour here – a good book for your Mediterranean food lover who has everything (when was the last time you saw a Sardinian cookbook?)

--CARPATHIA; food from the heart of Romania (Interlink Books,  2020,  224 pages, $49.95 hardbound) is by Irina Georgescu, a Romanian food writer with a blog (Small Bites). Romania is a well-travelled through country with many melting pot dishes. I was very impressed with a Romanian food documentary film from some years back, about farmers who grew just two crops (potatoes and cabbages) and tried to work with a depressed market for those two items. So I used this book's index to find caraway sauerkraut clorba with potatoes, potato bread in cabbage leaves, and potato moussaka. There were more preps with cabbages, including sauerkraut. Her book concentrates on small plates (from her blog), breads, street food baked goods, and a broth soup augmented by "bors" (sour fermented wheat) or by "ciorba" (vinegar, pickled brine). The heart of Romanian cuisine is carefully explored with material on pork, coarse polenta, broth, garlic, cheese, yogurt, pickles, and wine. Desserts are based on the Austro-Hungarian empires. She concludes with some notes on the seasons and superstitions in Romanian cuisine, the culinary heritage, and the cultural food values.


--THE FRENCH LAUNDRY, PER SE (Artisan, 2020, 400 pages,  $100 hardbound) is by Thomas Keller, a major cookbook author with material from all of his reaturants, and the first US chef to have two Michelin Guide three-star-rated restaurants. The French Laundry is in Yountville, California, and per se is in NYC. Both are connected by video, and both exchange ideas. The major secret to Keller's success has been acquiring the best top notch ingredients from their food connections: the farmers, fishermen, foragers. Here are the major 70 prep recipes plus photos and descriptions for home use and entertaining, plus 40 more recipes for the basic techniques of saucing, dehydrating, broths, compound butters, and more. Food stories and essays complete the package. Typical plates include smoked sturgeon rillettes and celery root pastrami. Not only is this a coffee table book, at 28.5 cm. square in size -- it IS a coffee table by itself.....Just add legs...For the foodie in your life.


--PERSIANA; recipes from the Middle East and beyond (Interlink Books, 2014, 2021, $49.95 hardbound) is by Sabrina Ghayour. It's a needed reissue of a Middle East food and culture book, with 100 preps for dishes from the Mediterranean Sea's south and eastern shorelines. All of the dishes are modern and accessible, covering the range from mezze through breads, soups, tagines, roasts, salads, and desserts. Dishes include fava beans with garlic, dill and eggs (baghala ghatogh), smoked eggplants with garlic (mirza ghasemi)  and lamb-butternut squash-prune-tamarind tagine. Many dishes are from the eastern end of Iran-Persia, and some of the variations come African shores. Food culture notes accompany all dishes.


Chimo! www.deantudor.com

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

WORLD WINE WATCH TOP WINES AT VINTAGES: under/over $20 for DECEMBER 11, 2021

WORLD WINE WATCH TOP WINES AT VINTAGES:  under/over $20 for DECEMBER 11, 2021

By DEAN TUDOR, Gothic Epicures Writing deantudor@deantudor.com. My "Wines, Beers and Spirits of the Net", a guide to thousands of news items and RSS feeds, plus references to wines, beers and spirits, has been at http://www.deantudor.com since 1994.

These notes for good wines available through  LCBO Vintages (on a bi-weekly basis)  can always be found at http://www.gothicepicures.blogspot.ca  or at  http://www.deantudor.com No winery can buy their way into – or out of – this publication.

Scores are a combination of MVC (Modal Varietal Character, e.g. a Southern Rhone would taste like a Southern Rhone) and QPR (Quality/Price Ratio value in the marketplace above or below its price).

Currently, the wine media have no access to the tasting samples usually provided to us in the LCBO lab on a fortnightly basis. This will go on or some time. HOWEVER,  the wine media will still have access to the advance spreadsheet of the wines to be released. So I know what is to be released and when. SOME (but not many) of these 100 or so biweekly released wines I have recently tasted since January 2020 or so, and I can comfortably recommend them based on this prior sampling.
 
** Some New Wines I Tasted Over the Past Fortnight ---

REPORT FROM GAMBERO ROSSO TRE-BICCHIERI 2021 TORONTO LIBERTY GRAND NOVEMBER 22, 2021 --

The Date and Time: Monday November 22, 2021  1PM to 6PM
The Event: This was the big tasting – Gambero Rosso Trebicchieri award winners and other Italian wines.
The Venue: The Liberty Grand, CNE grounds
The Target Audience: wine media, sommeliers, agents
The Availability/Catalogue: the catalogue was available via QR Code, or, if you did not have a smartphone, on special request for the PDF. It was more a brochure, with a table listing by alphabetical agent and then name of the wine. Specifics were addressed at each tasting table (price, availability channels, etc.).
The Quote/Background: Gambero Rosso was back in Canada to present an exclusive selection of Tre Bicchieri rated wines, awarded in the large Vini d'Italia Guide ($30).
There were a number of masterclasses (about five), running every hour on different regions of Italy, from North to South. I did not attend, preferring to spend my time at the tasting tables – especially before the crowds surged at 3PM
The Wines: I tasted what I could, but there were so many wines – I gave preference to sparklers and white wines, with some older, more expensive reds. Wines are listed by my rating points, followed by an agency name.

**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Val d'Oca Valdobbiadene Rive di Santo Stefano Extra Brut 2019  [ALLIED WINE GROUP]
-Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Cl. Costasera Riserva 2015 [AUTHENTIC]
-Masi Lugana Lunatio 2020 [AUTHENTIC]
-Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Mazzano 2012 [AUTHENTIC]
-Varvaglione 12 e Mezzo Primitivo 2020 [CALIBER]
-Varvaglione Primitivo di Manduria Papale Oro 2019 [CALIBER]
-Collezione Privata Cosimo Varvaglione Old Vines Negroamaro 2019 [CALIBER]
-Sorelle Bronca Valdobbiadene Frizzante Sui Lieviti Difetto Perfetto 2019 MID$30 [CRU]
-Sorelle Bronca Valdobbiadene Rive di Rua Brut Particella 181 2020 [CRU]
-Sorelle Bronca Valdobbiadene Brut $20.95  [CRU]
-Franciacorta Brut Cuvée N. 7 - Lo Sparviere  [EPIC]
-Enrico Serafino Barbaresco Sanavento 2018  [MAJESTIC]
-Enrico Serafino Barolo Monclivio 2016 [MAJESTIC]
-Cantine di Verona Valpolicella Sup. Brolo dei Giusti 2015 [MAJESTIC]
-Cantine di Verona Amarone della Valpolicella Torre del Falasco 2017 [MAJESTIC]
-Francesco Tornatore Etna Bianco Pietrarizzo 2020 [NICHOLAS PEARCE]
-Panizzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano Riserva 2016 [WINE LOVERS AGENCY]
-Toblino Trentino Nosiola Largiller 2013  [LCBO CLASSICS, $65]
-Toblino Trentino Gewürztraminer 2020
-Toblino Trentino Chardonnay Foll 2018
-Tenuta Mara Vermentino di Gallura Petrizza 2020 - Masone Mannu
-Poggio Le Volpi Frascati Sup. Epos Riserva 2018 [WINE LOVERS AGENCY INC.]
-Velenosi Offida Pecorino Bio 2020  [PROFILE WINE GROUP]

***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Brut Brut Rosé [DANDURAND]
-Tenuta di Angoris Collio Bianco Langor Giulio Locatelli Riserva 2019[ARGENTUM WINE IMPORTS]
-Tenuta di Angoris FCO Ribolla Gialla 2020 [ARGENTUM WINE IMPORTS]
-Famiglia Cecchi Maremma Toscana Vermentino Litorale Val delle Rose 2020[CHARTON HOBBS]
-Enrico Serafino Gavi del Comune di Gavi Grifo del Quartaro 2020 [MAJESTIC]
-Enrico SerafinoLanghe Nebbiolo Picotener 2019 [MAJESTIC]
-Toblino Trentino Lagrein Las 2018
-Scuderia-Italia Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2015
-Scuderia-Italia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015
-Scuderia-Italia Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore DOC 2016
-Val d'Oca Valdobbiadene Dry Uvaggio Storico [ALLIED]
-Canevel Spumanti Prosecco Brut Rosé 2020 [AUTHENTIC]
-Canevel Valdobbiadene Brut Setage 2020  [AUTHENTIC]
-Canevel Valdobbiadene Brut Campofalco 2020 Organic  [AUTHENTIC]

The Food: in common with other trade tastings of late in this era of covid-19, all foods were on platters carried by wait staff. These included copious amounts of pesto panini with cheese and meat, arancini and cheese balls with tomato dipping sauce, prosciutto wrapped bread-sticks, polenta and mushrooms, tomato caprese salad, pizza (cheese and herbs), pasta with a light fresh sauce, cold skewers of veggies and mushrooms, followed by desserts of cannoli and tiramisu.
The Downside: the desserts came out too soon, and there was just one half table with coffee. Also, the catalogue was a bit short on details.
The Upside: the show was nicely orchestrated with agency tables close to hand, and the flow of traffic was well-paced.
The Contact Person: Giovanni Silvestri <gamberorossocanada@sogood.it>
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 89.

** Some Recommended Wines from the LCBO's Limited Time Offers selections...these  are good value...on sale  through Sunday January 2, 2022:
 
[red] LOUIS M. MARTINI NAPA VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON VINTAGES 232371  WAS: $ 44.95 | NOW: $ 39.95 | SAVE: $ 5.00 through January 2, 2022.
[rose]     CONO SUR SPARKLING PINOT NOIR ROSÉ Chile  LCBO 365205  WAS: $ 14.95 | NOW:
$ 12.95 | SAVE: $ 2.00 through January 2, 2022. Buy a case.
[white] JOSH CELLARS CHARDONNAY California LCBO 561100  WAS: $ 18.95 | NOW: $ 16.95  SAVE: $ 2.00 through January 2, 2022.
[fizz]     CAVE SPRING BLANC DE BLANCS BRUT SPARKLING VQA VINTAGES 213983 WAS: $ 29.95 | NOW: $ 26.95 | SAVE: $ 3.00 through January 2, 2022.
[splurge for NYEve] CHAMPAGNE VICTOIRE BRUT PRESTIGE LCBO 190025 WAS: $ 42.95 | NOW: $ 39.95 |SAVE: $ 3.00  through January 2, 2022.

Dec 11/21 Wines Under $20
=========
Fizz+21049    MASI MODELLO MILLESIMATO BRUT ROSÉ PROSECCO    DOC, Italy    2020    $19.95 MVC/QPR: 89
W+341586    FEATHERSTONE FOUR FEATHERS    VQA Niagara Peninsula    2020    $14.95        
          MVC/QPR: 90
W+231282    KEN FORRESTER OLD VINE RESERVE CHENIN BLANC    WO Stellenbosch    2020 MVC/QPR: 90
R+523001    CAVE SPRING CABERNET FRANC    VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario    2019    $17.95     MVC/QPR: 89.
R+999946    REMO FARINA RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE    DOC, Veneto, Italy    2019    $18.95 MVC/QPR: 89.
R+354134    CHÂTEAU BELLEVUE LA FORÊT AP Fronton    2018    $14.95     MVC/QPR: 89

Dec 11/21 Wines Over $20
=========
R+395855    HENRY OF PELHAM ESTATE CABERNET/MERLOT    VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment    2019    $24.95     MVC/QPR: 90
R+213132    LA PIEVE BAROLO    DOCG    2018    $39.95    MVC/QPR: 89
R+438572    CASALE DEL BOSCO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO    DOCG    2016    $51.95             MVC/QPR: 89.
R+73817    RUTHERFORD RANCH CABERNET SAUVIGNON    Napa Valley, California    2018    $42.95  MVC/QPR: 90
R+642496    BARÓN DE LEY GRAN RESERVA    DOCa Rioja, Spain    2014    $29.95 MVC/QPR:  92
R+269357    CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE CABERNET SAUVIGNON    Columbia Valley    2018    $21.95     MVC/QPR: 89
R+597476    MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO    DOCG    2012    $134.95  MVC/QPR: 91                   


Dean Tudor,  Prof Emeritus Ryerson School of Journalism
Treasurer of Wine Writers' Circle of Canada http://www.deantudor.com

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

REPORT FROM GAMBERO ROSSO TRE-BICCHIERI 2021 TORONTO LIBERTY GRAND NOVEMBER 22, 2021 --


REPORT FROM GAMBERO ROSSO TRE-BICCHIERI 2021 TORONTO LIBERTY GRAND NOVEMBER 22, 2021 --

The Date and Time: Monday November 22, 2021  1PM to 6PM
The Event: This was the big tasting – Gambero Rosso Trebicchieri award winners and other Italian wines.
The Venue: The Liberty Grand, CNE grounds
The Target Audience: wine media, sommeliers, agents
The Availability/Catalogue: the catalogue was available via QR Code, or, if you did not have a smartphone, on special request for the PDF. It was more a brochure, with a table listing by alphabetical agent and then name of the wine. Specifics were addressed at each tasting table (price, availability channels, etc.).
The Quote/Background: Gambero Rosso was back in Canada to present an exclusive selection of Tre Bicchieri rated wines, awarded in the large Vini d'Italia Guide ($30).
There were a number of masterclasses (about five), running every hour on different regions of Italy, from North to South. I did not attend, preferring to spend my time at the tasting tables – especially before the crowds surged at 3PM
The Wines: I tasted what I could, but there were so many wines – I gave preference to sparklers and white wines, with some older, more expensive reds. Wines are listed by my rating points, followed by an agency name.

**** BEST -- Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Val d'Oca Valdobbiadene Rive di Santo Stefano Extra Brut 2019  [ALLIED WINE GROUP]
-Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Cl. Costasera Riserva 2015 [AUTHENTIC]
-Masi Lugana Lunatio 2020 [AUTHENTIC]
-Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Mazzano 2012 [AUTHENTIC]
-Varvaglione 12 e Mezzo Primitivo 2020 [CALIBER]
-Varvaglione Primitivo di Manduria Papale Oro 2019 [CALIBER]
-Collezione Privata Cosimo Varvaglione Old Vines Negroamaro 2019 [CALIBER]
-Sorelle Bronca Valdobbiadene Frizzante Sui Lieviti Difetto Perfetto 2019 MID$30 [CRU]
-Sorelle Bronca Valdobbiadene Rive di Rua Brut Particella 181 2020 [CRU]
-Sorelle Bronca Valdobbiadene Brut $20.95  [CRU]
-Franciacorta Brut Cuvée N. 7 - Lo Sparviere  [EPIC]
-Enrico Serafino Barbaresco Sanavento 2018  [MAJESTIC]
-Enrico Serafino Barolo Monclivio 2016 [MAJESTIC]
-Cantine di Verona Valpolicella Sup. Brolo dei Giusti 2015 [MAJESTIC]
-Cantine di Verona Amarone della Valpolicella Torre del Falasco 2017 [MAJESTIC]
-Francesco Tornatore Etna Bianco Pietrarizzo 2020 [NICHOLAS PEARCE]
-Panizzi Vernaccia di San Gimignano Riserva 2016 [WINE LOVERS AGENCY]
-Toblino Trentino Nosiola Largiller 2013  [LCBO CLASSICS, $65]
-Toblino Trentino Gewürztraminer 2020
-Toblino Trentino Chardonnay Foll 2018
-Tenuta Mara Vermentino di Gallura Petrizza 2020 - Masone Mannu
-Poggio Le Volpi Frascati Sup. Epos Riserva 2018 [WINE LOVERS AGENCY INC.]
-Velenosi Offida Pecorino Bio 2020  [PROFILE WINE GROUP]

***1/2 BETTER -- Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Santa Margherita Valdobbiadene Brut Brut Rosé [DANDURAND]
-Tenuta di Angoris Collio Bianco Langor Giulio Locatelli Riserva 2019[ARGENTUM WINE IMPORTS]
-Tenuta di Angoris FCO Ribolla Gialla 2020 [ARGENTUM WINE IMPORTS]
-Famiglia Cecchi Maremma Toscana Vermentino Litorale Val delle Rose 2020[CHARTON HOBBS]
-Enrico Serafino Gavi del Comune di Gavi Grifo del Quartaro 2020 [MAJESTIC]
-Enrico SerafinoLanghe Nebbiolo Picotener 2019 [MAJESTIC]
-Toblino Trentino Lagrein Las 2018
-Scuderia-Italia Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2015
-Scuderia-Italia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015
-Scuderia-Italia Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore DOC 2016
-Val d'Oca Valdobbiadene Dry Uvaggio Storico [ALLIED]
-Canevel Spumanti Prosecco Brut Rosé 2020 [AUTHENTIC]
-Canevel Valdobbiadene Brut Setage 2020  [AUTHENTIC]
-Canevel Valdobbiadene Brut Campofalco 2020 Organic  [AUTHENTIC]

The Food: in common with other trade tastings of late in this era of covid-19, all foods were on platters carried by wait staff. These included copious amounts of pesto panini with cheese and meat, arancini and cheese balls with tomato dipping sauce, prosciutto wrapped bread-sticks, polenta and mushrooms, tomato caprese salad, pizza (cheese and herbs), pasta with a light fresh sauce, cold skewers of veggies and mushrooms, followed by desserts of cannoli and tiramisu.
The Downside: the desserts came out too soon, and there was just one half table with coffee. Also, the catalogue was a bit short on details.
The Upside: the show was nicely orchestrated with agency tables close to hand, and the flow of traffic was well-paced.
The Contact Person: Giovanni Silvestri <gamberorossocanada@sogood.it>
The Event's Marketing Effectiveness and Execution (numerical grade): 89.

Chimo! www.deantudor.com