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Vol. 3: No. 194 – April 17, 2015

Wine school this month selects Muscadet

Eric Asimov, wine critic for the New York Times suggests we drink Muscadet this month.

Many people only drink this wine with oysters when they arrive in the spring. After a few bouts of overdrinking and overeating, Muscadet gets put away for yet another year. Asimov suggests it goes beautifully with other seafood as well as chicken, vegetable pastas and cheeses. Here is what he suggests we look at over a night of drinking this wine:

“CHARACTERISTICS TO CONSIDER

Aroma
Do these wines call to mind fruits? Or other elements?

Texture
How do these wines feel in the mouth? Take time to note the sensations.

Subtlety
Do you enjoy the quiet pleasures these wines offer? Or do you prefer wines that are more bold?”

Our Sommelier, Christopher Sealy provided the following comment on these wines:

“Fruits de Mer of all sorts make an ideal pairing with the wines of Muscadet. Why might you ask? Well many of the vineyards that are planted with ‘Melon de Bourgogne’ (the grape of Muscadet) are on various aged and types of soils of this once ocean- covered maritime region of the Pays Nantais. Soils are partly composed of bedrock minerals such as quartz, schist, granite and igneas. Combine the various soils with old vines and you have a recipe for subtle and complex wines that express this complex terroir.

Muscadet is also unique in that it is a wine that utilizes the wine making technique of ‘sur lie’ (on the lees aging) much like champagne before the bubbles. ‘Sur lie’ aging is used to give soft aromatics, texture and complexity to the razor sharp acidity and structure of the Muscadet grape. This combination allows Muscadet to resist oxidation and promote aging potential, again much like great champagne. I’m not saying compare Muscadet to Champagne but what they do have in common is the ability to please when young and the potential to seduce when aged.

For a few young Muscadet selection available in the LCBO see:

  • Le Fils des Gras Moutons $14.95 #363150 (fun and fresh)
  • La Griffe Bernard Chereau $15.95 #948182 (tightly wound and earthy)
  • Sauvion Carte d’Or $11.50 #143016 (value)

I like them aged too and by coincidence have recently ordered a few aged examples. They will be available in GEORGE over the next few months and offer an opportunity to taste wines seldom seen in Toronto. I like them a lot”

Asimov also notes that Muscadets sometimes age well.

One word of warning from Asimov: “do not drink them cold. Get them out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving them.”

California drought and our vegetables

Governor Brown of California recently declared that residents must reduce their water use by 25%. Excluded from this guideline are farmers. A New York Times article on the subject examines this situation coming to some surprising conclusions.

Since most of Ontario’s imported fruits and veg come from California, (California supplies about 50% of all domestic produce sold in the US) this analysis caught our attention. According to the article, 80% of all water consumed in California goes to farmers. Given how dire the current drought is said to be, the reduction of 25% of the remaining 20% seems hardly onerous. Moreover, the article implies that the sale of California produce to Ontario will remain buoyant for at least a few more decades. According to the article, the effect of climate change will be that the State “will experience more heavy rain and more dry spells…..The risk is that water will fill the reservoirs too soon, perhaps overflowing or evaporating early, leaving too little water available for the most critical months.” The article then explains mitigating strategies which are being worked on to permit agriculture to survive in California. These include changing the flow of water to contain evaporation and using less water to grow the same amount of produce. Those concerned about climate change will find the article interesting.

Chef Loseto will be pleased to know that he can rely on California produce continuing to appear at the Ontario Food Terminal for some considerable years. He eschews Mexican produce which he is suspicious about in terms of its health, nutrition and taste. But it may be improving. George after whom GEORGE Restaurant is named returned recently from Los Vegas and announced he had Mexican tomatoes there, which were among the best and most delicious he had ever had.

Spring has arrived at the Ontario Food Terminal

Despite dire warnings about California produce, the Chef found the Terminal stuffed with it – both winter produce and the new spring produce. The winter produce includes rapini, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, fennel and cauliflower. The Brussel sprouts were not much good and the rest of it was hit and miss. The spring vegetables were really good however and included peas, artichokes, favas and asparagus. He bought red water cress which he recommends you look for. All of these spring vegetables are already being served at GEORGE and are completely delicious giving us a feeling that spring has finally launched. This year the cost of imported produce has spiked to reflect the declining value of the Canadian dollar. The Chef believes that Ontario farmers will price off the higher US prices and ironically benefit by our dollar weakness.

California strawberries and blueberries have arrived but the Chef thought the strawberries were odd because they were so huge. Better looking to him were loquats from Spain which have just started.

From Ontario, there is a huge amount of good looking hothouse products. The Chef bought hothouse rhubarb which he likes better than the Ontario field crop as well as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers. The hothouse material even included Ontario heirloom tomatoes which the Chef liked the look of. But they are not in season and he passed. He did buy what he thought were good Ontario cherry tomatoes and regular ones. He said there were hundreds and hundreds of very cheap cucumbers on sale.

He disliked the look of the Italian kiwis on offer but admits he does not like them much even when they are good. The grapes on sale were awful looking he told us.

The citrus on offer was outstanding starting with Italian blood oranges which he says are better than ever this year. He also recommends California clementines. Finally, look out for Mexican Altulfo mangoes.

Wild mushrooms are in a bit of a lull with black trumpets and chanterelles form California ending. They will be replaced soon by morels from California then Oregon and finally BC. Wild mushrooms are really expensive now but the price should soon decrease.

Chef Loseto is waiting for tuna and swordfish from Nova Scotia to start. He has started to use Halibut from Nova Scotia and he is still buying the wild striped Atlantic bass he likes so much this year. He will not be buying US soft shell crabs this year as they are not certified by OceanWise because of the way they are harvested. There were some Maine soft shell crabs which were certified last year but they arrived frozen and were too small. Furthermore, the Chef felt they lacked the taste of the uncertified east coast ones.

Pickerel from the Great Lakes will be starting soon.

The Chef is lightening up on his meat dishes replacing braises with lighter offerings like sweetbreads, veal tenderloin, wild boar and pork belly.

For dessert, the Chef is rolling out an almond friande (a kind of almond sponge) with roasted rhubarb and a rhubarb mousse.

— Le Patron

A monthly online newsletter, Ecclesiastes 3 contains Le Patron’s ruminations on local seasonal food markets as well as speculation on broader global food issues.