Sipping & Supping

A Camembert from Vancouver Island's Natural PasturesOysters, Cheese and Sauces - who knew these things but chefs, fishmongers and dairy people?

Cheese: Our recent tasting of Soft-ripened Bloomy Rind Cheeses prompted questions from our tasters like  "how are Camembert and Brie different anyway?" It was a question that had frequently flitted across my mind, but one that I had never seriously set out to research. So now was the time.

So here goes with some foodie trivia: Without  any books on cheeses in my library, my first visit was the web - but as usual I found conflicting information but this is what I gleaned from my reading.

 The modern day form of both Brie and Camembert that we get in North American s similar in that both are soft ripened and often made with similar bacterial cultures.  The original French Brie has a long history, and was often required as a tribute by the French Kings. Camembert is named after the 18th century Norman village of Camembert, where its originator Marie Harel lived. The name was given to this cheese after Napoleon had enjoyed a sample presented to him by one of Marie's daughters in 1855.

tuna tartare specialSage Bistro at UBC
6331 Crescent Road,Vancouver.
Ph: 604 822-0968

Sage Bistro on Urbanspoon

It has been ages, probably several years, since I had lunch at Sage Bistro. Before I chose to redeploy myself from university professor to  on-line media professional, Sage Bistro was the place of choice for on-campus lunch meetings.

UBC greensI was delighted to be invited to join a friend for lunch at Sage prior to attending a talk and curious to see whether the food was as good as I remembered. Luckily it was. 

For starters my friend chose the salad of UBC mixed greens with white balsamic vinaigrette from their Fall menu. Our server recounted the specials for the day, among which was a tuna tartare with sweet and sour gelée with coriander and sesame oil.

Mornay sauce modified  by meOysters, Cheese and Sauces - who knew these things but chefs, fishmongers and dairy people?

On my to-do list of items I had said I would follow up on from previous stories, the second item was Sauces. Way back in April when we were cooking low carb dishes and I made a Mornay sauce to accompany a shrimp dish, I promised to summarize different sauce names for the non-chefs among us who don't remember the difference between Béarnaise and Hollandaise. I had let that promise slip until I was recently reminded of it by a discussion of Hunter's sauce over lunch at Sage Bistro.

So here is foodie trivia: Part II: The main course Sauces. This represents what I have gleaned from a number of different sources (no pun intended); cookbooks, encyclopedias and posts on the net, and Hopefully it is a fairly accurate summary.

With respect to the sauces commonly used in Western cooking it is simple to think of sauces as primary or mother sauces (as classified by French chef Auguste Escoffier) and secondary sauces, made by adding other ingredients to a primary sauce.

Beach Oysters - Photo Sawmill Bay  Shellfish Co.Oysters, Cheese and Sauces - who knew these things but chefs, fishmongers and dairy people?

I was reviewing my to-do list of items I  said I would follow up on from previous stories.  In reverse chronological sequence, these are three of the items.

1. Oysters: After recently eating oysters at Cork and Fin, I was curious about the effect of different methods of cultivating oysters.
2. Cheese: Our recent tasting of Soft-ripened Bloomy Rind Cheeses had prompted questions from our tasters like  "how are Camembert and Brie different anyway?"
3. Sauces: And way back in April when we were cooking low carb dishes and I made a Mornay sauce to accompany shrimp, I promised to summarize different sauce names for the non-chefs among us who don't remember the difference between Bearnaise and Hollandaise.

So here goes with some foodie trivia:
Part I: The appetizer - Oysters:

One of the Stilton wheels on tray with dried fruit Growing up in South Africa I often enjoyed fortified wines such as sherry and port as an aperitif before or after a meal.  These days I  tend to associate port with pampering, perhaps because on long flights in executive class, port is usually offered after dinner, together with a cheese plate.  I have never thought to question what type of port was being served on these occasions - just savored the richness of the wine on my palate and enjoyed the resulting relaxation that helped the flying time be more tolerable.

Then earlier this year at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival I went to The F-Word Wine Seminar, to learn more about fortified wines. Among the fortified wines we tasted there was a Fonseca Guimaraens Tawny Port and a Quinta do Crasto 2008 Vintage Port, both of which appealed to my palate much more than the ultra dry Fino sherry that we also tasted there.

Ruby Ports from FonsecaTen and 20 year old Tawny PortsSo when I saw the invitation from les amis du Fromage to a Blue Stilton cheese tasting paired with a tasting of outstanding Port wines, this was an opportunity not to be missed.

It would  also be my first time visiting the East Hastings Street location of les amis du Fromage, as I had only previously shopped at the smaller location on West 2nd, near Granville Island.

Our taxi to the shop got there much quicker than we had anticipated so there was time to check out the wines before other guests crowded the tables.

Golden coloured 2005  botrytis  affected SauterneAbout twelve years ago I took a basic certificate course on wine and wine tasting, and became fascinated with the history and science of winemaking. On trips to the US, South Africa and Australia, and  visits to our Okanagan wine country [ (A Taste of the South Okanagan) and (Destination Kelowna)] I enjoyed visiting wineries and vineyards, and amassed quite a collection of tasting glasses from vineyards all over the world.

Sometime after I began my second career of on-line reviewing and writing, I realized that I needed, and wanted, to learn more about wine. Lacking the patience and discipline to attend weekly courses over many weeks, I signed up for the WSET level I intensive held over two weekend days, with the exam at the end of the second day.   

Having had a lot of fun doing the level I and having learned just enough to realize that I wanted to know much more about wine, and needed plenty of practice in the art of tasting, I decided to take the Level II course. Again I opted for the weekend day long sessions.

When I first looked at the course workbooks which arrived by mail several weeks in advance of the course, I realized that this was not something I could take lightly, especially I chose to do the course over three full days rather than in three hour classes over 9 weeks.  I visualized myself trying to remember which varietal was used in Burgundy and which in Bordeaux, while my brain was in an alcoholic haze from tasting wine. And yes, I know we are supposed to spit not swallow, but I remember being quite mellow after the level I course days.  So I started reading early.

I also had to buy a set of the ISO tasting glasses - the glass has a rounded bowl large enough for swirling without spilling, tulip shape to concentrate aromas, and the stem so one can hold the glass without warming the wine. Which got me thinking about the stemless designed Riedel glasses that were supposed to be the new great thing in wine glass design a couple of years ago. The pouring size for tasting is 50 ml or just about 1 and 2/3 oz.

Read Island and Sawmill Beach oystersCork and Fin
221 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC
Ph: (604) 569-2215 or Reserve online at OpenTable

Cork & Fin on Urbanspoon

lobster saladHappy hour oysters? When a fellow oyster-loving friend invited us to join her for the happy hour oyster special at Cork and Fin in Gastown, how could we resist? Three of us enjoyed a brisk walk across town and arrived at the restaurant at six, still in time for happy hour (5:30 to 6:30).

Cibo Trattoria
900 Seymour Street,
Vancouver, BC
Ph: (604)  602-9570  or Reserve online at OpenTable

Cibo Trattoria & Uva Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

I met a foodie friend for supper at Cibo before going to see the wonderful Tosca Cafe at the Vancouver Playhouse.  The food was really great but the lighting was poor and unfortunately my food photos don't reflect how good the food  was.

irresistible focacciaThe first hint of the food quality was that the in-house baked focaccia was so perfect that we ate all four pieces of it within minutes of taking the first bite. And this was despite my resolution not to have bread because we had ordered two of the bruschetta selections and I thought that would be more than enough bread for one meal.

Italian dinner for seven awaitsAfter trying out recipes from a Tagine cookbook and a Cake cookbook , the next supper adventure for the SASSY Supper club was to try the recipes from Italian SENSATION! (cucina). This is a coffee table-perfect work of love for all things Italian, written by a Vancouverite, who has cooked Italian family dinners most of her life.

Seven members of the SASSY Supper Club picked a range of recipes from the book, encompassing seafood, chicken, vegetables, pasta, salad and a frittata. Four of us original SASSY Club members picked our recipes during our SASSYs Taste Soft-Ripened Bloomy Rind Cheeses evening.

Shallots, Pepper Salad and Asparagus (with Asiago Sauce) The other three guests,  all of whom live various walking distances away, on a later occasion picked recipes that appealed to them, and that could be carried easily. The consensus was that the recipes seemed straightforward family style cooking that we should all be able to handle easily.

Since I was host, and instigator of the SASSY recipe testing series, I thought I would try something special and chose a lobster dish - Lobster (surely there is an Italian word for lobster) con Arance & Limoni. Disobeying my own injunction to stick exactly to the recipes, I headed off to Costco and bought two boxes of frozen lobster tails. A bit pricey but this was going to be something special.

Lobster and orange saladThe recipe looked so simple that I felt a little guilty about only doing one dish, so I turned to a page that had a  picture of a delectable looking Pepper Salad, and decided to make that. scallopsUrban fare was featuring shallots this week so I added the Baked Shallot recipe on the same page. Then I looked at the dish I was going to serve them in and decided that green asparagus would finish off the look of the dish. So I found a recipe for Sauce All' Asiago- milk, cream and Asiago cheese that could be poured over the asparagus ... and thought "how simple is that?"

chicken livers in MarsalaLa Buca
4025 MacDonald Street
Vancouver
Ph: (604) 730.6988

La Buca on Urbanspoon

potato, truffle and marscapone ravioliLa Buca is a little gem of a Italian restaurant in the neighborhood of Arbutus Ridge. Although I have been a fan of Andrey Durbach's food since way back when he had Etoile on Hornby Street, I somehow had not yet got to La Buca for dinner. Tasting some of the delicious hors d'oeuvres that he prepared for a  Blackbird Theatre fundraiser earlier in the summer reminded me of this and so prior to seeing a show out at the Frederick Wood theatre at UBC, I made a reservation for an early dinner.

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