Thursday, September 30, 2010

Le Pain Quotidien

The space is filled with natural light and unvarnished surfaces. A communal table in the centre of the room, pots of jams and jellies set on each table. Plain and elegant.  One-of-a-kind.

Or so I thought, until I came across the website for Le Pain Quotidien.

There are two in Toronto and 100 worldwide.
"The idea behind Le Pain Quotidien is simply to make good daily bread, a handmade bread with a good crust and a firm slice, the kind of bread that makes great tartines:  bread not only to nourish the body, but the spirit as well.  A bread best shared around a table, to be savored among friends."
- Alain Coumont, Founder

I had been fasting for some medical tests (no food or water) and went across the street to quench my thirst and feed my hunger.  I wasn't expecting  to be made made dizzy by the aroma of fresh bread and coffee. 

Each loaf was displayed as a work of art on the bakery shelf. Next time I want to share the bakers basket and a glass of wine or two with a friends at the communal table....

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Backyard colours

Beautiful and multi-coloured

Mid-September, still more green than autumn colour

Blood root - autumn gold

Henry in late bloom
Indian summer

Saturday, September 25, 2010


A score of 90 and a pretty label were enough to convince me to try this red from Bierzo Spain.

I shared a bottle with a friend on the boat on a sunny afternoon, and liked it so much I brought the empty bottle home so I could record it as a favourite.

A little googling informs me that the creator is Alvaro Palacios, who Decanter calls Spain's most talked about winemaker. In Petalos he's sharing a small, black Spanish native called the Mencia grape, and he is applying Bordeaux methods to produce intense flavours. The Mencia was almost forgotten, and is grown in only a small area in north-west Spain -  Bierzo - on steep & slatey hillsides.  Palacios also has bodegas in Rioja and Priorat whose fruit I'd love to taste.  There is a release coming in October that is already reviewed on the LCBO site as a "price/quality ratio that scews crazily in your favour".

The Petalos, meanwhile, is given a score of 90 by The Wine Advocate's Jay Miller, who writes:
The entry-level 2008 Petalos del Bierzo is sourced from rented vineyards ranging in age from 40-90 years. It spends a few weeks in new French barriques followed by 6-10 months in seasoned oak. Purple in color with an alluring nose of lavender, incense, spice box, black cherry, and blueberry, on the palate it has excellent volume, intensity, and layered fruit. It has the structure to evolve for 1-2 years but can be approached now. It is an outstanding value and introduction to the Mencia grape.

Wondering what a Barrique is?  Winedoctor has the cure:

Barrique (France)
The barrique is a wooden barrel, the design of which originated in Bordeaux, France. It has a capacity of 225 litres. It can now be found in the cellars of winemakers worldwide, especially those involved in producing Bordeaux-style blends of quality. The longer a wine spends in barrel the more of the oak flavour it will take on. Strong flavours also result when the alcoholic fermentation takes place en barrique. There are dozens of other barrel shapes and sizes - one commonly found in the New World is the hogshead.

Barrique photo
More info on Alvaro Palacios

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Full Harvest Moon - September

Whenever we hear this song play and we're together, Rob knows I'll be pulling him toward the dance floor... and when I hear it when he's not around, it always makes me think of him.

"Harvest Moon"

Come a little bit closer
Hear what I have to say
Just like children sleepin'
We could dream this night away.

But there's a full moon risin'
Let's go dancin' in the light
We know where the music's playin'
Let's go out and feel the night.

Because I'm still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I'm still in love with you
On this harvest moon.

When we were strangers
I watched you from afar
When we were lovers
I loved you with all my heart.

But now it's gettin' late
And the moon is climbin' high
I want to celebrate
See it shinin' in your eye.

Because I'm still in love with you
I want to see you dance again
Because I'm still in love with you
On this harvest moon.


Here is a great description of Young:  
“....Dirty rock n roller and hippie narcissist. Rockabilly hepcat and techno-troubadour. Folkie romantic and bluesy bad boy.... and 'godfather of grunge', since by the early 1990s Youngs iconoclastic music and personal style had been discovered by a new generation of music aficionados desperately in search of a credible hero."

... and Eddie Veder's cover with Pearl Jam

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Moon Festival - September

Shine on, shine on Harvest moon!

Tonight is one of the brightest full moons of the decade.

And Jupiter is bright, bright in the sky; on this, the first official day of autumn.

According to the Chinese, it is not a man but a lady living in the moon, who comes out to dance on the moon's shadowed surface.  The Chinese Moon Festival celebrates an archer who sank nine moons and won his immortality in the process.

Today, Chinese people celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival with dances, feasting and moon gazing. Not to mention mooncakes. While baked goods are a common feature at most Chinese celebrations, mooncakes are inextricably linked with the Moon festival. One type of traditional mooncake is filled with lotus seed paste. Roughly the size of a human palm, these mooncakes are quite filling, meant to be cut diagonally in quarters and passed around. This explains their rather steep price (around $5.00 in Canada). A word of caution: the salty yolk in the middle, representing the full moon, is an acquired taste.
Lady in the moon

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rich, Dark and Complex

"Rich, dark and complex"... wonderfully suitable description.

Lucky me, I snagged the last 5 cans in the store of Fuller's London Porter.

Nothing on the label about whether it is made in accordance with purity laws, but it tastes very similar to the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Full bodied, buttery.  Just the thing to sip in the backyard on a beautiful autumn afternoon, watching leaves of red, yellow and orange twirl to the ground.

One was filling enough to last into the evening.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Dark Side

I’ve gone over to the dark side.  There was a time when I savoured pale ale and lime, Corona style, but this only appeals to me now on the very hottest summer day.  These days when I’m drinking beer I like more robust flavours.

There were two restaurants in Sacketts that featured microbrews and I discovered a Great Lakes porter called Edmund Fitzgerald, in honour of the ship that sank in Lake Ontario in 1975.

The porter is brewed in accordance with purity laws of 1517, meaning it is made only with hops, barley, malt and pure water.  Hey, that's organic!

 ‘Red’, ‘Amber’, and ‘Stout’ are styles I’m familiar with but I don’t recall ever sampling a porter.  Wow!   If Edmund Fitzgerald is representative, this category is dark caramel in colour with a creamy, buttery, smoky taste.  With undertones of chocolate and coffee (I'm not kidding!).  Substantial, but not quite as heavy as a stout.

The Beer Advocate says
Porter is said to have been popular with transportation workers of Central London, hence the name....Porter saw a comeback during the homebrewing and micro-brewery revolution of the late 1970’s and early 80’s, in the US. Modern-day Porters are typically brewed using a pale malt base with the addition of black malt, crystal, chocolate or smoked brown malt.

Doesn't look like the LCBO stocks this particular porter, they have something called a Black Irish Porter that's brewed in Ontario and another called Fuller's London.  I’ll have to plan an autumn meal around this - served outside in the afternoon, with homemade bread and great cheeses, just-picked apples, the leaves outside turning beautiful colours, a fire going in the chiminea.  Mmmmmmm.

Great Lakes photo

Thursday, September 9, 2010

North Country - Part Three

It seemed a bit like cheating to hit so many yacht clubs in such a short space of time!  All the spots Rob and I visited could have easily eaten up 3+ weeks by sail, but we meandered leisurely by car in just 3 days.

The Ports guide does a great job of giving all the details, with aerial shots to help you navigate to the docks, but sometimes it's hard to tell by flipping pages what the place is like.  So we made quick stops into places we haven't yet docked.

50 Point
It's interesting to talk to fellow sailors about their favourite clubs and marinas.  One year's favourite disappoints the next.  Rob and I have been warned away from some spots, yet when we visit the place turns out to be charming.  

Each place is so different:  landscape, buildings, up-keep.  Then the other variables come into play:  the weather the day of the visit, the people you bump into, your mood.

I know any of the clubs we stopped by could well be someone's favourite... and I hope to return on Yondering some summer day... 

50 Point Yacht Club 
(reciprocal with BPYC)
Located on the Canadian side of the lake - no passport required. Very tidy, park-like setting.  Well maintained.  Marina store and restaurant.

Pultneyville Yacht Club
Pultneyville Yacht Club
(reciprocal with BPYC) 
Cute little clubhouse with rocking chairs on the deck to take in the view.  On the other side of the river is a gallery shop selling local artisan's work and a nice restaurant to get you out of your own galley.

Navy Point Marina (Sacketts Harbour)
Lots of historic sights to explore, shops, great restaurants, and the Seaway Trail Discovery Centre.  In the summer there are Saturday plays, free Sunday concerts and frequent historic battle re-enactments.

Sacketts Harbour
Tibbetts Point Lighthouse
Chaumont Bay Marina
When we got out to explore here we were told "no room left.  no recipricals" by a very gruff guy dressed in full camouflage.   The website says At Adams' Chaumont Bay Marina, we aren't a million dollar business, but we'll make you feel like you're worth that much!  Maybe he was just having a bad day. 

Cape Vincent
Windmills on Wolf Island are in plain view along this part of the lake.  They appeared suddenly and looked ominous against the grey September sky.  Several marinas are nearby, with many downriver.  Good area to pack the bikes and  ride to nearby restaurants - and if you are feeling fit, to Tibbetts Point Lighthouse.  There's nearby access to a car ferry crossing to Kingston and you can hop a ride for $4.

Henderson Harbour Yacht Club
Henderson Harbour Yacht Club
(reciprocal with BPYC) 
Friendly people invited us back next summer with warmer weather.  Sheltered spot.  Lots of boats moored, some on docks.  Clubhouse windows drink in the view of the lake.

New Port Yacht Club (Irondequoit Bay)
(reciprocal with BPYC) 
People in Pultneyville advised us to time our visits to Irondquoit during the week, when there is less motor boat traffic and things are more tranquil.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Bishop's Man

Sometimes it is unclear exactly what is going on; you suspect; there are veiled references.  Shadows, things unsaid, you don’t quite trust your interpretation of events.  Given the plotline in The Bishop's Man, this technique draws you right into the story.

Tonight at the Heliconian Lecture Series, MacIntyre couldn't stop moving the entire time he was at the podium. He was gesticulating with his hands and his legs were constantly in a slow jig. His voice still has the soft, pleasing lilt of someone who has grown up on the East Coast.

Hawthorne was to be the original title of the book, in reference to the place and to Christ's crown of thorns. The editor, Ann Collins, convinced MacIntyre The Bishop's Man would be a better hook. She also made several suggestions the author said opened up the story for him.

I had a chance to ask Linden MacIntryre if it was intentional the Bishop's Man, Duncan MacAskill, seemed to systematically break each of the seven deadly sins and most of the ten commandments.  The author seemed genuinely surprised by the question, as it was the sins of the Church itself that were the worst iniquities.  The sins of the abusers were multiplied by the amoral institution.  He talked about the difference between sexual assualt and sexual abuse.  Abuse usually involving the ongoing exploitation of someone in a position of trust, over someone with less power.  How the Church was complicit and enabled abuse with a policy that transferred offenders from one location to another, covering things up and keeping things quiet.

When we discussed this at the Book Babes August meeting, every person around the table had a passionate reaction.  To say there were differences of opinion about the culpability of the Bishop's Man would be putting it mildly.

Born Catholic, I connect with a lot that is written. As a kid there was a period I went to mass every day, intent on becoming a priest.  Like many in my generation I turned away from the Church as an institution as I grew older.

I also connect with the landscape - it is filled with water.

There are so many references to boats:  MacAskill buys a boat and tries to learn to pilot it.  Boats are in the foreground in phrases like "There was a froth of water churning at the stern, a graceful wake opening behind her like a bridal train".  The boats dot the scenery, and they're metaphors for character descriptions:  “white teeth flashing like the froth of a distant boat."

And death comes on or near  boats:  suicides and murders.

MacIntyre writes when he feels like it.  He says he is far more productive between the hours of 5-9 than 9-5.  When he is working on a story he is thinking about it all the time, not just when he is writing. He gave up carrying around a notebook to write down phrases that pleased him as they occurred , figuring if he couldn't remember them later it probably wasn't memorable in the first place.  One of the hardest parts of writing for him is the 'unwriting', like when he came to the realization that the 30 page prologue he'd laboured over just had to go because it wasn't adding to the story.

Growing up he excelled at composition in school, people often telling him he had a way with words. In university, he was told (by a priest) that he wasn't 'creative enough' to work in fiction. He ended up pursuing journalism in the early days, when it was considered 'reporting' and was something people fell into with little or no training.  He rose to the top of his profession and has become one of Canada's most trusted broadcasters.

I enjoyed hearing a bit of background about the Gillers.  MacIntyre was surprised to be longlisted, and even more so to be shortlisted.  He accepted his red rose and formal invitation to attend the awards in person, knowing he was a long shot to win (press pegged him second-to-last as a contender).  He enjoyed his drinks, feeling confident that although there was a remote mathematical possibility he would win, he needn't be prepared with a speech.  When they announced his name, his brain was completely dead, he had nothing to say, and he can't remember a word he said to this day.  He still refuses to watch any recordings of the ceremony, convinced he'll be doing justice to the phrase "drunken Irishman".

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

North Country - Part Two

Our road trip meant I wasn't in the kitchen for 3+ days.  I found myself ordering things off the menu that were old favourites, but with a slightly different take:
  • For breakfast Sunday morning at the B&B, we were served baked eggs wrapped in Canadian bacon. It looked like someone fussed, but it's actually fairly easy to pull this one off. 
  • Hamburger patty on rye bread with swiss cheese and carmelized onion (plain, but simply delicious)
  • BLT soup: cream of tomato, with crumbled bacon, croutons and crisp lettuce added just before serving.  (Great combination of textures and temperatures.)
  • Steak salad with deep-fried curly onion rings (Again with the contrasting temperatures and textures; very satisfying & decadent)
  • BLT sandwich with avocado (this sounded better than it was, I loved avocado but it felt a bit too mushy in the sandwich. The flavour of the bacon with avocado was a great match, though)
  • Saganaki with lots of lemon  (the Greek OPA! standby was really enhanced by the added citrus)
  • A Caesar cocktail that was poured with dill-infused ouzo instead of vodka (yum)
Restaurants that stood out along the way:
The Collossus in Oakville - great menu and decor
The Boathouse in Sackets Harbour - an actual Boathouse floating just above the water; outstanding selection of micro-brews
Sackets Harbour Brewing Company, also known as The Distillery - micro-brewery on site; either dine in the pub or the more upscale dining room

There was one restaurant we pulled up to along the highway that had a friendly diner-style name but the closer we got the scarier it looked.  We got as far as the parking lot and were about to pull away when a bearded man ran out the front door to our car and knocked his dirty knuckles against the glass.  Against my better judgement I rolled down the windows.  He wheezed, "We're open.  Come in. You don't have to come in unless you want to, but I saw you drive up."  I struggled to find some acceptable excuse to drive away.  From his reception I guess they don't get many customers!  I felt guilty leaving but the place just gave me the creeps. Total lack of windows didn't help their cause, much.

Photo credit:  Baked eggs wrapped in bacon

Sunday, September 5, 2010

North Country - Part One

Earl has kicked up the lake and temperatures have dropped from sweltering to sweater weather.  I really wanted to do something special to mark the end of the summer... Then Rob came up with the idea to go on a cruise to parts of the lake we haven't gotten to by boat; but to go by car.  Brilliant!

When we left the lake was kicking up a wicked fuss.  Frothing.  White caps waved to us from Toronto Harbour, Hamilton Harbour and Mexico Bay as we drove along to our destination in Sackets Harbour.  We stopped State-side to wave-watch at Sandy Point Beach.  I wonder if they'll have to rename it, considering that there didn't seem to be any sand left.  Blown away. I kept my eyes 7/8ths closed because the grains of sand were blinding, pummeled into my eyeballs by 60 mph winds. .

So here we are on the South Shore of Lake Ontario again:  50 Point, Pultneyville, Sackets Harbour, Cape Vincent. 

Yet all these signs saying 'Welcome to North Country' when we are actually south.  It's very disorienting.

We're staying at a B&B with a sheltered view of Sackets Harbour.  Beautiful spot, beautiful house.  The building first went up in 1818, following the War of 1812, and was refurbished again in the early 1930's.  Our hostess was explaining how she and her husband have lovingly restored this Georgian house.  40 windows all replaced, the roof, the floors, the kitchen, the six bathrooms.  Major reno.  It sounds like they could have filmed at least two episodes of 'This Old House.'

Lucky for us, we are one of the first customers at the B&B - it has only been open for three weeks so the hosts haven't yet tired of their company.  When we returned from dinner the first night, the Ripasso we'd brought along was sitting in the room, along with Ghirardelli chocolates, two red wine glasses and a corkscrew just begging to be put into service.  Next morning, breakfast was set in an elegant dining room, with china and crystal knife rests. (What are those? I asked.  Knife rests.  Why, of course! How practical, I marveled, wondering how I have managed so long without crystal knife rests).

I digress.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A trip to South Pacific

I honestly thought Rob might jump up and start singing along with some of the show tunes when we went to see South Pacific last Tuesday.

I know most of the words to the score by heart, too.  When we first started going out we'd play the vinyl of the film musical quite a bit.

We dragged Alex along to see the play because we thought he'd enjoy the production, and he did.  But he didn't recognize a single song - not even (gasp) - "Some Enchanted Evening...."

The cast of 34 players, orchestra of 26 musicians and expert stage design easily lend themselves to the phrase "lavish production". 

Sixty years young, these stories have been winning awards since they were first told.  James Michener won the Pulitzer for Tales of the South Pacific, a collection of related short stories published in '47, on which Rodgers and Hammerstein based their musical.  That production then launched in '49 to critical acclaim and won its own awards. The Toronto version we saw was true to the recent Broadway revival that garnered so much attention. There is historical context that might seem to 'date' the production but the story is timeless:  passion, war, prejudice, love.

Tony nominees performed this medley at the 2008 awards show.  Sing along!