Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cameron winery's 2009 Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) is downright delicious. We drank it it last night with a light tomato-garlic-basil pasta, zucchini gratin and green salad from the farmer's market. This wine has a slight effervescence, pleasing fruit and crisp dryness. If I had a restaurant I would put this on the by-the-glass list immediately. It is absolutely refreshing. It's an excellent end-of-the-summer wine when all of those fruits of the vine ripen in the garden and decorate your meals vibrant color.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Last weekend in Vancouver, B.C., I set out to consume as much Asian food as was humanly possible, returning to Portland with a full belly and a list of places to try on my next visit.

We took a cab straight from the airport to Vij's on Friday night, where we were greeted with glasses of prosecco and a continuous offering of freshly fried tidbits(lentil fritters, potato puffs, etc.). Vij's is one of the most highly regarded Indian restaurants in North America, and we were treated to an 8-course dinner selected by the chef himself. I was surprised by what were my favorite courses - the jackfruit and goat curries.

The next morning, my friend Nathan Fong, a local and expert on the Chinese food scene there, picked us up and took us on a breakfast crawl. First stop was for radish cakes, noodles and seabass congee with ginger at Congee Noodle House. Then it was off to Chinatown for apple dumplings, and a delicious meatball Bánh mì from Kim Saigon sandwich counter. Nathan is an excellent culinary guide, and lucky for us, writes some fantastic articles in the Vancouver Sun that offer additional recommendations.

Fully stuffed with Nathan's promise of a multi-stop dinner, we decided to skip lunch. However, late in the afternoon I found it impossible to resist trying the famous Japadog (photo below), since the cart was parked right in front of our hotel. Seaweed on top of a kurubota pork sausage? How could I not? It turned out to be tasty, but one might be enough for my lifetime.

It was that night sold me on Vancouver's food scene. Izakayas are everywhere. We went to the original Guu for kimchi fried rice, pork cheek and pork belly skewers, fried chicken and jelly fish salad. 6 people crowded around a tiny wooden table drinking light Canadian lager (Russell lager is so refreshing!) was tons of fun. We inhaled our food, and then it was off to Lin's for dumplings and more. Much more. We sat at a big round table right in front a a plexiglass window behind which Lin herself was rapidly rolling out dough and filling dumplings at a speedy pace. She's known for her Shanghai style juicy dumplings, filled with warm, savory broth. We had wontons drizzled with an aromatic Szechuan pepper sauce, pan fried dumplings filled with roast pork, cold Beijing-style noodles, dan dan noodles, radish cakes, and a number of other truly delicious dishes. This was by far one of my favorite Chinese meals ever. It's also unbelievably affordable. My mouth is fully watering right now. I can't even look at the website without salivating. Go there if you go to Vancouver!!

We were stuffed by then. Our friends kept threatening to take us to a ramen shop afterwards, and we were terrified until we realized that they were only joking. The next morning we woke up and headed to a late brunch at Medina Café, a tiny, charming space with a creative menu that I HIGHLY recommend, despite the long wait. I had a lavender latte (delicious, believe it or not), and the vibrant and satisfying tagine with poached eggs.

After walking away the afternoon in Gastown and the Coal Harbour waterfront, we ducked into Kingyo Izakaya. The menu was full of unexpected combinations: kimchi tomatoes (in the photo above), pork belly bibimbap, wasabi octopus and snow crab/cheese spring rolls. Lots of fun fusion going on here (love the Korean influence), playful presentation and lively flavors. I can't wait to go back!

Monday, August 09, 2010

I am way overdue to write about rosé. This is the summer of it. This season, vinophiles all over the country finally embraced this lovely pink libation. Seeing a rosy color in the glass makes people happy, I think. I'll bet Kermit Lynch is happy.

What was so exciting for me about seeing more wine drinkers consuming rosé is that we saw a much more varied selection in shops and restaurants, and the style of rosé (flavor, aroma, sugar level) can vary as much as red or white wine. They can range from dark and meaty (with red berry flavors), to light and salmon-colored. But the thing about rosé is that it's much more fun to drink than it is to talk about it. Opening a rosé creates a lighthearted mood in a room. Open a few bottles, and you've got a party, as a few friends and I found during our rosé tasting last month*.

Here are a few favorites that I've tasted this summer:
1. Big Table Farm 2009 Laughing Pig Rosé - I had this at a "Rhones and Bones" BBQ and wine pairing dinner at Podnah's Pit, put on by Storyteller Wines (one of the best shops in Portland). We had many incredible French bottles open that night (red and white), but the depth and structure of this limited edition Pinot Noir rosé from Oregon, with it's deep color, body and red fruit, was the ideal match for a rack of bbq ribs.
2. Cameron's Vino Pinko (NV) - You can always count on John Paul to do something unexpected with familiar varietals. In this case, a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier tastes not French, but distinctly...Italian. Incredibly Italian, like a baby, pink, Barbera? It's got the earth, olive and dark berry flavor without the searing tannin. Revolutionary. No wonder Che Guevarra is on the label. This wine is fantastic.
3.Matello 2009 Pinot Noir Rosé - This is the most interesting one I've every had. It has a round, almost creamy feel on the palate as well as a slight funkiness that, I believe, comes from the secondary fermentation (unusual for rosés). Surprising and delightful.
4. Byrd Winery - This dark, cherry colored rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon from an upstart winery in Sonoma was bursting with fruit flavor. We opened it at the Gorge before a concert and served it with some salami (saucisson d'Alsace)from Olympic Provisions, and it was perfect (a slightly off-dry, fruit-forward rosé is excellent with salty charcuterie!).

[Enjoying a glass of Ménage à Trois, otherwise known as the only rosé sold at Safeway in Lake Tahoe, proving that the setting in which you drink rosé in in the summertime is really half the fun.]

*Read more about our extensive Oregon rosé tasting and other recommendations in "The Pink Ladies Rule the Rosé School" by my friend Jen.
Some very eclectic and affordable Willamette Valley white wines have been popping up recently, seemingly in the footsteps of the original untraditional blend of nine grapes found in Sokol Blosser’s Evolution. These unexpected conglomerations of white varietals are wonderfully food friendly, interesting and approachable wines that pair well with a range of summertime menus.

One sniff n’ sip of Montinore Estate’s ’09 Borealis at a recent tasting transported me from the warehouse I stood in to a red checked blanket on a grassy hill, lazing under a tree with a canning jar full of the stuff. This fresh, sunny, slightly off-dry combination of Müller-Thurgau, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Riesling is perfect picnic wine, ripe with fruit but maintaining enough acid to drink with chicken sandwiches and summer salads. It's only about $13 a bottle, and organic, too.

When I dined at Castagna recently, I was presented with the challenge of selecting a wine that would be both economical and that would pair with the multitude of dishes that would soon arrive at our table for five. Twenty different dishes – how could you choose anything but a blend? Chef Matt Lightner’s cooking is complex, with an emphasis on freshness and delicacy. The wine that satisfied was Matello’s “Whistling Ridge” ’08 white wine. This Alsatian-style blend of Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir and Gewürztraminer grown in the Ribbon Ridge AVA is silky, full-bodied and slightly off-dry, with great acid and a subtle aroma of ripe fruit (retail price $18).

Finally, the '09 Amrita by Cuvée A (Anne Amie’s second label) is an array of aromatic varietals that changes with each harvest. It's fresh with a blast of exotic fruit and citrus bright acid, minerality and medium body. The wine is a nice accompaniment to Thai food, light picnics (with salads containing summer fruit) and, as the winery's website suggests, Bánh mì (about $16).