Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Stop the Presses ! I found good inexpensive Pinot Noir

I was all set to post about another pizza red but last night for wife's birthday dinner we had pan roasted pork chops with lemon risotto and I chose a bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir to accompany dinner.

The chops had an herbal, garlicky component to them and along with the richness of risotto I wanted something lighter to drink. I actually went to the store intending to grab a Cru Beaujolais but the selection and pricing didn't suit me so I wandered over to the New Zealand section and noticed that there was a Central Otago Pinot Noir on sale for $15.99. This was surprising to me because Otago Pinot Noirs are scarce in the BC market and I've never seen one below $20 before but since I had backup at home in the form of a nice Chianti Classico I thought "Why not give it a shot ?".

Just before plating I cracked the screw cap and poured, the colour was deeper than I would have thought, a good sign, and the nose had a nice sweet aroma of cherries, licorice and a bit of pepper. The taste was bright and clean, with more cherry, a bit of chocolate and coffee and little of the candied strawberry that tends to define inexpensive Pinot Noir.The mouth feel was creamy and the finish was long and most importantly it was obviously, unequivocally, Pinot Noir.

The search for inexpensive Pinot Noir is almost Holy Grail-like, time consuming, wrought with failure and can be obsessive to the point of institutionalization, the whole Sideways thing. People ask me why do we seek inexpensive Pinot Noir and the simple answer is because Pinot Noir, properly made, is so delicious that we deserve to drink it more often .

Anyway, the wine is called The People's Pinot Noir, it's a boutique project of Constellation brands, the world's largest wine company and owners of a number of wineries and vineyards in New Zealand. Constellation's sheer size means the cost of production is lower so that's why, even at it's regular price of $17.99 this wine is excellent value. The wine has good distribution but there isn't a ton of stock currently available so I would recommend grabbing a few bottles to have on hand for the holiday season, that is if you can avoid drinking it before the holidays arrive.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I made myself porridge for breakfast this morning, a sure sign of winter, and it was marvelous. These days most people refer to the hot cooked cereal as "oatmeal" but it was always porridge in my house and it'll always be porridge to me. I grew up in semi Northern Ontario where the winters are cold and porridge was a staple for breakfast, often three or four times a week, but never on Sunday. My mother is of Scots heritage so her porridge was thick and salted and that's still the way I like mine. As a child porridge was always served with warmed milk and brown sugar but these days I prefer mine with honey and fruit, or apple sauce.

Instant oatmeal is not a substitute for porridge, I'm sure it's a fine product but it's not porridge and it's not going to be on my breakfast table. Porridge requires a time commitment and if you aren't willing to make that commitment then just toast a bagel and be done with it.

There are dozens of varieties of cereal grains out there that can be turned into porridge but my preference is for steel cut oats, rolled oats tend to make a porridge that is lacking in texture. Steel cut oats are easy to find, the ones from Quaker are fine but I prefer those from Bob's Red Mill, they are available at IGA Marketplace and, I believe, Whole Foods.

I earlier alluded to the time commitment porridge requires, set aside half an hour to do it right, so if you're dashing off in the morning then porridge isn't for you. The cooking of porridge is simple and requires little attention, here goes. Bring water to a boil, you'll need two parts water for one part oats and I need 3/4 of a cup of oats for my breakfast, once the water is boiling add the oats and bring down to a simmer, stirring occasionally . After about five minutes add a three finger pinch of salt and stir well to incorporate it into the mash, mean while set half a cup of milk on to warm at low heat.

Porridge texture is very much a personal thing but it will take at least fifteen minutes for the porridge to be fully cooked, I cook mine exactly eighteen minutes, but once it reaches the desired texture remove it from the heat and cover it. Leave the porridge, covered off the heat, for three to five minutes then ladle into a shallow bowl, warmed in the oven is a nice touch, and top with brown sugar or honey before pouring the warm milk around the outside of the porridge. You may add fresh, or canned, fruit or my personal fave, home made applesauce and breakfast is served.

Please note you should not drink coffee if you are having porridge for breakfast, it's just wrong, make a pot of tea and linger after the porridge is finished. After all, if you are having porridge for breakfast it's not like you are in a hurry.

As a side note it is extremely frustrating for me to post these days as wife decided a couple of weeks ago that my keyboard needed cleaning and as a result I have a wonderfully clean keyboard with a space bar that routinely sticks. This is, apparently, my fault .

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Ribs Tonight

It's like a holiday in my house tonight, the sun was out all day, daughter broke out of her scoring slump on the soccer pitch today and back ribs are on sale at IGA Marketplace.

Ribs are hands down daughter's number one thing to eat, she even changes into old clothes so as not to have the experience lessened in any manner by having to worry about barbecue sauce ending up on a favourite shirt, and it's easily in the top ten for wife and I. My druthers are for sideribs that have had the tips removed, the so called St. Louis cut, but they are hard to find and most commercial cuts of siderib are full of cartilage from the tips. Windsor Meats on the North Shore have the most consistent sideribs and I just learned they have an outlet in Vancouver now so maybe my siderib luck will change.

For now though I'm reduced to Costco or the vagaries of on sale backribs, which is how this whole post started. Marketplace IGA's weekly flyer advertised Chilean baby backs on sale for a ridiculous $2.99 a pound so I dashed down just before kickoff and was pleasantly surprised to find that the ribs were in abundance and Canadian. There is a tinge of nationalism involved here but mostly my joy was that Canadian ribs are longer and generally meatier than the Chilean racks. Ribs were bought and bundled home before soccer and are now just waiting to be eaten.

Ribs need a touch of work before cooking, the membrane on the bone side should be removed for added tenderness, just put a sharp knife under the membrane near the narrow end of the rack and force up enough so that you can grab the membrane with your fingers, the membrane can be slippery so paper towels or a kitchen towel may help, then just pull the membrane off. Now comes the wonder of ribs, so much taste so little work, I just rub them with a mixture of coarse salt, fresh ground black pepper, dry mustard powder and smoked paprika and roast them in a 300 degree oven for 2-2 1/2 hours until the bones wobble or use a smoker at 250 degrees for 3-3 1/2 hours. Drain off the fat, baste with whatever tomatoey, spicy sauce you wish to create and roast again at high heat, 450+, for 5 or so minutes to glaze the sauce and then dig in, if it's grilling weather you can finish them off on the grill which is even better but the oven is fine.

I allow at least a pound per person, serve with plain white rice or boiled spuds smashed with butter and Italian parsley and coleslaw or simple green veg and some full throttle red with big fruit, or cold pilsner, and you are good to go.