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Vol. 3: No. 182 – April 21, 2014

First result for Wine School - Beaujolais trials next

Last month, we suggested you participate in the New York Times Wine School.  As the New York Times writer, Eric Asimov, said: “The goal of the Wine School is to help create an atmosphere of pleasure, attentiveness and curiosity about wine that will lead to knowing what you like, what you do not and why. I hope you will join me in the coming months to drink some wine together”. He of course means a virtual ‘school,’ which is a twist.

We decided to support his lead and last month selected some comparable wines available at the LCBO so we could join in. Each month he selects three wines for the Wine School and asks you to answer certain questions as you drink the wine. If you wish, send your own comments to the NY Times’ comments section . Our Sommelier, Ian Thresher, selected three comparable wines so we could participate in Toronto. We joined and it proved to be fun. Last week Asimov reviewed what happened over the month, including the impressions of himself and his readers. These were informative and can be read here. We found that participating in this program did improve our understanding and appreciation of Bordeaux wine significantly.

This month, Asimov has presented three Beaujolais wines to drink with questions to be considered. See here.

Ian Thresher considered what was available at the LCBO and found two of the three wines Asimov recommended. He suggested a third which would match Asimov’s third choice:

HENRY FESSY MOULIN-A-VENT 2010
332882  750 mL $20.50

JEAN-PAUL BRUN TERRES DORÉES CÔTE DE BROUILLY 2012
235127 750 mL $20.95

 

OR if unavailable:

DOMAINE PASCAL AUFRANC LES CERISIERS JULIÉNAS 2011
344275

LOUIS JADOT BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES 2012
365924 750 mL  $17.95

 

Beaujolais, and particularly the Cru Beaujolais wines, are favourites of ours and we went through another evening of drinking wines and writing down our impressions. What emerged was that the Brouilly was by far the best, the Beaujolais Village turned from uninspiring at the beginning of the meal, to unacceptable for some at the table, to quite delicious at the end. The Moulin-a-Vent seemed to deteriorate as the evening went on. We agreed that the best thing about it was the name, although our team here suggested that Moulin-a-Vent should be aged for at least five years before it is appreciated.

Does all of this confirm the old advice to start off with the better wines and move to the less expensive as you go along? We look forward to hearing from Asimov next month as he reviews the Beaujolais Wine School results in the NYT, and gives us another three wines.

Rhubarb Cocktail –celebrate the first of Ontario’s 2104 bounty

With the arrival of rhubarb season, we have launched a rhubarb cocktail in George Restaurant. Our recipe was featured recently in the Globe and Mail. Read the article and see the recipe featured here.

We are also adding a “Tangerine Dream,” made with vodka and Galliano and for those who fear the rhubarb cocktail will unduly pucker their lips.

rubarb

Homemade Pizza – Save money and be happy

Pizza is readily available in town and we had ignored making it for that reason. But at our remote cottage we made it from scratch last year and found the crust deliciously fresh – better than anything we had ever bought. So we took note of a recent article in the New York Times promoting homemade pizza. See here.  This article has a video which is worth watching.

The article which hooked us originally was in Bon Appetit. Its dough recipe was from Jim Lahey, who invented no-knead bread. We thought it was particularly delicious. A great suggestion from Bon Appetit was to add to the usual pizza ingredients: fresh mozzarella cheese from Italy and guanciale (pork cheek slices), which Olliffe supplies.  We cooked the pizza on a pizza stone on our Big Green Egg at about 900F.

Our experience was so successful taste-wise, we suggest you follow one of the two recipes and instructions above. Our Florida correspondent swears that you do not need a pizza stone. His instructions: “Preheat to 450-500.  Oil the grate.  Put thinly rolled dough on without toppings, cook one side, flip, add toppings, and cover to heat. Works like a charm.” Maybe!

Margarine – where does it go from here?

In Japan earlier this year, we noticed an article in the Japan Times on butter and Unilever, the world’s largest manufacturer of margarine. The article states that margarine was invented by a French chemist after Napoleon III who offered a prize for making an alternative to feed his troops and the poor. We first remember it in Quebec as an inferior tasting butter substitute. A strong dairy farmers’ lobby at the time had persuaded the Quebec government to regulate that it was sold white, although later the industry relented and a yellow spot containing a dye was inserted into each package. If you kneaded the dye sufficiently, the margarine was supposed to turn yellow. It became obvious that this was impossible to effect and the end result was a hunk of white margarine streaked yellow.

Over the years, Unilever increased its market share to 30% of the world market. When it introduced “I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter,” neither could we. And at that time, we began to be told that butter, being saturated fat, increased our risk of heart disease.

Recent research has concluded that saturated fats were not all that bad for us, particularly if their source is not from meat. In 2012, Unilever rushed out a margarine product called Flora in Europe where butter was added to the margarine. The public reacted badly and did not accept the new product. Coincidentally in 2012, the price of butter dropped 21% according to this Japan Times article. Worse still, articles began to appear in the press that butter was good for you. Mark Bittman in the New York Times last month reported that a periodical called the Annals of Internal Medicine stated that “There’s just no evidence to support the notion that saturated fat increases the risk of heart disease, (in fact, there’s some evidence that that a lack of saturated fat may be damaging).”

So we have come the full circle. Margarine, which was once the answer to the poor as well as to overweight heart victims, has become fundamentally unattractive as a cheap butter alternative. Margarine is revealed as not really food and an inferior tasting substitute for butter. Moreover, we all noticed that Becel made by Unilever, turned toast unpleasantly soggy.

The Japan Times reported that questions are being raised by Unilever’s investors who estimate that the margarine division may have a value of $6 billion. Sounds like quite a management challenge to recover that investment.

Homemade butter – a boondoggle or bonanza?

As we pondered the merits of butter vs margarine, our Florida food correspondent arrived last weekend bearing a Chef’n Butter Maker. Here is her report:

Review: *****

I must admit, I was rather skeptical when asked to try this device. The manufacturer’s claim to “make fresh butter in minutes!” seemed a bit far-fetched. I ordered this inexpensive gadget from Amazon Prime ($14.99) and a compact 3 ½” x 5 ½” box arrived two days later. There are four parts –a clear plastic bottle with drainage holes at one end and a large yellow mouth on the other, a white ramekin which screws onto the drainage end of the bottle, a yellow cover, and an opaque rubber gasket (which fits inside the yellow cover).

1

Following the instructions:

  •  I let one cup of heavy cream rest at room temperature for 8 hours (I left it on my kitchen counter overnight).
  • Then I poured the cream into the bottle, shook for 3.5 minutes (directions said 3), and – miraculously – the cream clotted.
  • I poured off a scant ½ cup of buttermilk through the drainage-hole end, filled the container twice with ice-cold water (discarding the water), then – using a spatula – I scooped the solids from the jar into the ramekin (the butter will actually overflow in this dish).

2

Since we prefer salted butter, I scooped the butter into a larger bowl, sprinkled a half-teaspoon of sea salt, and stirred with a spatula. Stirring the ice-water-chilled butter caused a little more water to puddle in the bowl which I easily drained off – then I spooned the newly-made butter into a pretty little dish. Done! For our taste test, we made a loaf of le Patron’s No-Knead Bread which we toasted. This homemade butter was fresher-tasting, lighter both in texture and in color, and less salty than store-bought organic salted butter. (This photo doesn’t truly represent its lovely pale yellow color.)

3

Conclusion: If you like old-fashioned bread and butter, then this is a gadget worth getting. Easy to make. Easy to spread. Easy on your pocketbook. Stores compactly in your pantry. In short, as le Patron might say, “She’s a honey!””

 

When our correspondent arrived in Toronto last weekend, we rushed across the street to Whole Foods where we purchased 35% organic cream and proceeded to make butter. It was delicious and with sea salt mixed in, it tasted fresher than butter. The main problem was the final cost of the butter you make with this system. The answer to higher costs – spread a little less on.

The 2014 crop is late and shortages drive prices up

Spring has not sprung and the Chef reports that this is the most difficult time of the year. The new Ontario crops like wild leeks and asparagus have not started yet and a shortage this year of Mexican asparagus has driven up the price of US asparagus. This week it was almost double last week’s price. Prices of US rapini, fennel and other vegetables are also high, as competing Mexican and South American crops disappear from view, their growing season ending. US Leeks and Brussels sprouts are done but the Chef bought some really nice leeks from Holland which were expensive.

All of the 2013 Ontario root vegetable crop as well as apples were plentiful and worthwhile. But once again Chef Loseto cautions that these must be used immediately because they will deteriorate in your refrigerator quickly. He explains that the famers keep them fresh by burying them in dirt in cold storage. Your domestic fridge cannot maintain their cool temperature once they are sold.

The same problems are occurring with fruit as shortages drive up prices. Some citrus is okay but at high prices. Pomegranates from the US and Europe are pretty much done but some are available from Peru. Strawberries and blueberries are only now starting from the US.

In Ontario, hothouse tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant and zucchini is abundant and good. Pick through and avoid discolored or hothouse sour rhubarb that isn’t red. The rhubarb field crop will come soon. Wild morels are the next big thing in mushrooms and are starting to arrive from Oregon. They will soon be harvested in BC.

Venison is done for the year and the Chef will soon be ending his beef cheeks and pork belly dishes in favour of lighter meats. He is putting on lamb for Easter. Because our customers favour it, he is keeping on the Muscovy duck confit for a while. He prepares this by sous vide and then finishes it in a warm butter sauce with smoked paprika.

New fish are now arriving and the Chef likes the BC albacore tuna which he will prepare as sashimi. It will be replaced with a tuna from Nova Scotia. He introduced a popular Lake Erie pickerel dish encrusted with black Chinese mushrooms.

Here is a picture of the Spring Quebec sea urchin crop.

Here is a picture of the Spring Quebec sea urchin crop. 

Its season lasts until the end of May. Chef is working on how to prepare them and has not decided whether they will be in a dish by themselves (he has a tempura technique in mind) or be served as a garnish.

There is a shortage of Dungeness crabs this year with extraordinary demand from Asia driving up process by more than 50%. The Chef has stopped using them for a while and awaits the Maryland soft shell crab season which is about to start. BC prawns are starting soon.

The Chef will be offering a maple syrup mousse soon to mark the start of the maple syrup season as the sap begins to run.

People are liking the double baked chocolate soufflés on offer.

— 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.