MATT'S BEER WE GO! JOHN BY IMPERIAL STOUT

So dear reader, chances are when I say (or type), "stout," chances are you may go, 1) "What?" OR, 2) "Ah, Guinness!"

Whether you responded with either 1) or 2), you've come to the right place, because I'm here to educate you...that's what I'm here for (not to drink lots of booze and call it an excuse to write some nickel and dime blog).

For those of you unfamiliar with what stout is, it is, shockingly, a type of beer, chiefly made with roasted malt or barley, hops, water, and yeast, and has a remarkably "dark" taste. What exactly does "dark" taste like? You'll have to try it to find out (but needless to say these beers are not bloody "light" ones).

This particular stout starring in today's Matt's Beer We Go! is from Scotch Irish Brewing, and this naturally means it's made in Canada. Of course. And, just so you know, the fellow it's named after (and whose picture graces the bottle) is one Mr. Stout, whom all Stout is named after...ahha...naw. He's Lt. (pronounced LEFT-tenant)-Col. John By, who supervised the building of the Rideau Canal in the early 19th century, and was the founder of Bytown, which later became Ottawa, capital city of my glorious country (I'm not telling you which one). It's only natural I suppose that a city which is now known for its bitter politics would help produce a very bitter beer. Irony and beer, who would've thunk it?

On to details, but be forewarned to those who answered 2), this sure as hell ain't no Guinness.

First, get yourself an industrial strength bottle opener. Got it? Good.

Upon first glance poured into a glass, it appears dark, and frankly, viscous, almost like chocolate syrup. (Be glad I didn't say motor oil.) It really is dark brown, like caramel, but is nearly black. Yup.

Its smell is quite the blend, of chocolate, coffee, caramel/toffee, and is actually very fragrant, sweetish almost, but definitely heavy and distinct. My wife even noted molasses, and I'd not be surprised if you picked it up too.

If you've not been terrified to taste it by now, prepare yourself for an avalanche of bitterness. This stout is dark, heavy, unique tasting, quite malty, and smokey. The aftertaste leaves a lot of bitterness as well.

So then. There you go. Scared? This stout is definitely not for the timid, or for people who aren't even all that fussy about say, Guinness. Guinness is certainly much milder, much lighter, and packs way less alcohol; John By Imperial Stout (and there is a style of stout called "Imperial") hits you with 8.5% alcohol, hence its smaller packaging.

If you want a unique taste experience that you are not sure to forget, buy this beer. The beer notes that the kick inside is sure to ward off the Canadian winter: that I definitely agree with, but it very may well also ward off the faint of taste beer drinker!!

You gotta ask yourself: do you feel lucky? Well? Do ya?? PUNK??

Go ahead.

Try. This. Beer.

**1/4 out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$2.60 (US$2.44).

From LCBO.com:

JOHN BY IMPERIAL STOUT, 341 mL bottle
LCBO #72934
Beer, Stout, Craft Brewery
8.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 4
Made in: Ontario, Canada
By: Scotch Irish Brewing
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MOIST PUMPKIN CRANBERRY BREAD

I just love baking treats at home and this particular night I wanted to make an old favourite that I hadn't made in a couple years. This is really a go-to recipe of sorts for me because I always use this fast and easy snacking cake recipe from one of my old and worn out favourite cookbooks. It is such a terrific recipe because you can change it up a thousand ways and really make the recipe somewhat your own. I added pumpkin puree along with tons of fresh cranberries and it became a match made in heaven. The bread is super moist and the cranberries just add that little bit of natural sweetness to the bread, not to mention it looks so pretty on a white plate too. So without further adieu here is my favourite easy recipe for pumpkin cranberry bread.

Adapted and modified from the fast and easy snacking cake recipe in The New Canadian Basics Cookbook. Written by: Carol Ferguson with Murray McMillan (1999).

Makes one 8-inch square cake

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Baking time: 40-50 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup each: granulated sugar, packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin purée
  • 1-1/2 all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp each: baking soda, salt
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries, halved

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a square baking pan with parchment paper. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, sugars, and pumpkin purée. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients, making sure not to over mix. Then gently fold in the halved cranberries until just mixed in.

Pour the bread batter into the prepared baking pan and place it into the oven. Bake it for a good 40-50 minutes, checking it at the 40 minute mark. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the bread cool completely then slice into desired size.

Cook's note: I recommend storing this in an airtight container for no more than 3 days. The pumpkin purée and the fresh cranberries spoil the bread rather quickly so it is really best eaten within the first 2 days.

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With this recipe I wanted to walk down memory lane and replicate the oh so familiar flavours of my youth. Who doesn't remember their parents re-heating frozen chicken fingers after school? Hey you never heard a complaint from me, that's for sure. Now the grown up adult in me wanted to have a similar dinner one night but wanted to make a more "grown-up" homemade version of my childhood fav! Now if you're a parent please don't shy away from this recipe... Your kids will love it too! It will taste even better than the take-out ones that most of us are used to eating. Crunchy and much healthier I highly recommend this. Although I used pork for this you can always use old reliable chicken if you wish. Enjoy!

adapted from the "baked chicken fingers" recipe from the kaboose website

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Baking time: 17-20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless and boneless pork chops or chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

Honey mustard dipping sauce:

  • 2 tbsp liquid honey
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp light soy sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 F and lightly spray a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Cut each pork chop or chicken breast lengthways into 4 strips or four equal portions. Place the strips into a bowl and lightly coat with vegetable oil.

In a separate bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, grated Parm, dried oregano, salt and pepper, and then pour it into a large plastic bag. Add in the pork or chicken strips, a few at a time, and give it a good shake. Place each breaded strip onto the prepared baking sheet and bake it in the oven for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, flip each strip over and bake it for an additional 5-10 minutes. It should be golden brown on the outside.

While it is baking start making the dipping sauce. Take a small bowl, and whisk together the sauce ingredients until combined. Once the strips have finished baking, serve it warm along side the sauce.

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MATT'S WINE NOT! CATHEDRAL CELLAR TRIPTYCH 2006 SOUTH AFRICAN RED WINE

As you may know by now dear reader, I am a sucker when it comes to wine labels, or names, that may instantly draw me in to the point that I buy said wine. And why not (or Wine Not!) in this case, I'm here to try any wine, be it for aesthetic reasons or whatever reasons...as long as I can afford it!

This one really was a magnet though..."Cathedral Cellars"...just sounded so mystifying and conjured up images of some grand old church just filled with wine barrels aging away under the Lord's careful watch. One even gets a slight glimpse of the building on the wine label, which is a nice touch.

BUT! What the hell is a "triptych?" This got me wondering, and is yet another reason I bought this wine - I've never had a "triptych" before. Well let me (i.e. Wikipedia) tell you. "Triptych" is derived from the Greek meaning "three fold" and is a term actually used in art describing a three paneled work held together with hinges!

This word is obviously used tongue-in-cheek (although wine making is an art!), and refers to the fact, courtesy my friends at LCBO.com, that this wine is a three grape blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz. Very clever word work indeed!

BUT (again)! Will the the Fates smile on this particular bottle, or will it be condemned to Hades? Let's find out...

Naturally corked, this wine like some other recent ones, pours a not-too-dark red crimson, which appears juicy and rich, and slightly syrupy around the glass.

Upon whiffing the wine, there is a definite deep nose of dark fruits, such as dark cherry, with some chocolate and spiciness kicking around too. It certainly smells robust, and very well should be as it packs a walloping 14.5% alcohol!

Tasters time, it is certainly full bodied, but not overpowering, and not too dry (I noted "dryish"), this wine features tasting notes of slight chocolate, dark fruits, some bitterness, and a certain smokiness and woodsiness (likely from the new French oak barrels used). Its aftertaste contains some "seediness" (that taste you get when eating grapes and you accidentally bite into the damn seed) and that nice woodsiness again from the barrels.

This wine was a powerhorse (does that phrase even exist...well it does now!) of flavour and doesn't wimp out in any area, be it smell or taste. The smokiness grows on you with each passing sip and leaves you feeling very satisfied. A truly unique wine, you will be blessed by its purchase!

***1/4 out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$16.95 (US$16.01).

From LCBO.com:

CATHEDRAL CELLAR TRIPTYCH 2006, 750 mL bottle
LCBO/Vintages #53124
Wine, Red Wine
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: D
Made in: South Africa
By: KWV
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TURKEY PORTABELLINI MUSHROOM BURGERS

Who doesn't love a good burger? I honestly do not know a single person that can say no to that tantalizing picture. What makes these burgers particularly special is that they have tons of thinly sliced portabellini mushrooms all throughout the inside of the burger. Now for those of you that think I'm making a spelling error here... portabellini mushrooms are portabello mushrooms that are smaller in size, but larger than cremini mushrooms. They still have that same meaty texture but don't bleed the black colour throughout the food, which I like. I also added a good spoonful of barbeque sauce into the meat to really flavour it through and through. Grill it up and you have a burger fit for any backyard barbeque. Enjoy!

Makes 5-6 burgers

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb lean ground turkey
  • coarse salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 6 portabellini mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup smokey barbeque sauce or ketchup
  • several dashes of hot sauce (optional)
  • 1/4 cup of onion, minced finely
  • handful of Italian style breadcrumbs
  • 6 slices of monterey jack cheese (or other melting cheese)
  • 6 Italian style burger buns, lightly toasted

Optional Toppings: tomato slices, sweet onion slices, pickle slices, lettuce leaves, ketchup, mustard, hot pepper rings, relish

In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, salt, pepper, sliced portabellini mushrooms, barbeque sauce, hot sauce, chopped onion, and breadcrumbs. Using your clean hands, gently mix the turkey mixture through. Make sure not to over mix the meat to ensure that the meat stays moist and tender.

Shape the turkey mixture into 5-6 burger patties, making sure to place wax paper in between each patty. Place the burger patties into the fridge for a good 30 minutes to firm up a bit. Turn on your grill or heat up a cast iron skillet, lightly oil the grill or skillet to prevent sticking, and cook the burgers through. This should take about 6-7 minutes per side.

Once you flip the burgers make sure to add the cheese and let it melt slowly. Lightly toast the burger buns and once the burgers have finished cooking, start to layer your burger the way you like it. Serve it along side a nice simple salad.

Note: If you wish you could substitute any mushrooms that you like. Cremini mushrooms are a good substitute.

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SPINACH YOGURT DIP

When people think spinach dip they usually think of the quite fatty but "oh so tasty" spinach and artichoke dip. Although I have to say I do love the full fat cheesy spinach dip, I like to lighten up a dip recipe once in a while using healthy yogurt. Cut up some colourful, cold and crisp veggie sticks and you're off to the races with a wonderful party or meal starter. Give this a try it was a real hit at my house!

Adapted from http://www.allrecipes.com/

Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (full fat or half fat)
  • 1 cup light mayo
  • 2 tsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp each: dried basil, oregano, dry mustard and garlic salt
  • pinch of salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

In a medium bowl, combine the chopped fresh spinach, plain yogurt, mayo, parsley, dried basil, dried oregano, dry mustard, garlic salt, salt and pepper. Make sure all of the ingredients are well combined. Place the dip into the refrigerator until fully chilled. Serve along side tons of veggie sticks.

Cook's note: I strongly recommend not using the food processor for this. This is one of the few dips that I really don't use the mixer. It has a tendency to create a watery dip for this particular recipe.


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"Boldly seasoned flank steak and creamy avocados make this sandwich unique and satisfying."

Recipe and photo from http://www.missavacado.com/

Yields: 4 portions

Ingredients:
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp salt, divided
  • pinch of ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 lb flank steak
  • 1 loaf of Italian bread (12-14 inches)
  • 1 cup torn salad greens
  • 1 large ripe tomato, thinly sliced

Preheat broiler. Cut avocado lengthwise around the pit; twist halves to separate; strike pit with a knife blade and pull to remove; scoop out pulp with a spoon; place in a small bowl. Mash avocado with a fork; stir in lime juice, 1/4 tsp of salt and the pepper; set aside.

In a cup, combine cumin, chili powder and remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Rub seasoning mixture over both sides of the steak; place on a rack in a broiler pan. Broil steak, 2 to 3 inches from heat source, until cooked as desired (about 5 minutes on each side for medium).

Remove to a cutting board; let it rest for 5 minutes; cut diagonally in thin slices. Split bread horizontally almost through. Spread avocado mixture on top half; layer salad greens, beef and tomato on bottom of loaf; close sandwich. Cut crosswise in 4 pieces.

Note: permission was granted to post the recipe and the photo.

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RICE AND BEEF BURRITOS

"Rice and beef burritos with creamy Mexican avocado slices offer families a portable and worry-free meal when leading an on-the-go life style...avocados, rice, fresh vegetables, black beans and lean ground beef will give your body the fuel it needs for maximum performance."

Recipe and photo from http://www.riceinfo.com/

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb extra lean ground beef
  • 1 cup onion, minced
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder (or substitute: chili powder)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 can of black beans (540 ml), drained and rinsed well
  • 1-1/2 cups salsa (mild, medium or hot)
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 3 cups cooked white or brown short or long grain rice
  • 6 whole grain tortillas (10-inch)
  • 3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
  • 12 ripe avocados, thin slices
  • salt and pepper (to season)

Garnishes: sprigs of cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream or plain yogurt

In a large skillet, cook ground beef over medium-high heat until no pink remains, about 10 minutes. Drain any fat, crumble and return meat to skillet. Add onion, ancho chili powder and cumin. Cook, stirring often, until onions are slightly softened for about 5 minutes. Stir in beans and salsa. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in corn (do not need to thaw) and rice until well combined.

To serve: Spoon about 1 cup of rice mixture in the center of each tortilla. Top with 1/2 cup of lettuce and 1/4 cup of cheese and two pieces of avocado. Add a sprig of cilantro, a squeeze of lime and a dollop of sour cream/yogurt if desired. Fold bottom edge, then sides; roll up.

Can be served cold, at room temperature or warmed in the microwave if desired.

Note: permission was granted prior to posting this recipe and photo.

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MEXICAN AVOCADO MARGARITA

"Whether entertaining for a large crowd or indulging at the end of a long week, this Mexican avocado margarita will surely hit the spot! Its sweet and sour flavours combined with the creaminess of the avocado will tantalize the taste buds of the toughest critics."

Recipe and photo from http://www.missavacado.com/

Makes: 6 drinks; about 5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 fully ripened avocado, halved, pitted, peeled*
  • 2/3 cup sweet-and-sour margarita mix
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1/2 cup orange-flavoured liqueur (such as Triple Sec or Cointreau)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Place the avocado, margarita mix, tequila, liqueur and lime juice in a blender. Cover and process untiil smooth. Add 3 cups of ice cubes. Process again until almost smooth; do not over blend. Serve in glasses rimmed with salt or chili-lime salt if desired; garnish with thin slices of avocado.

*Use a sharp knife and cut into the avocado straight down and around the hard pit inside. Twist into two halves--one half will contain the pit. Carefully and quickly hit the pit with the knife then with a twisting motion, loosen the pit and pull it out. To remove the avocado from the skin, ease a spoon between the flesh and the skin and scoop it out. Then, chop the avocado into small pieces.

Note: permission was granted to post this recipe and photo.

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I will definitely give French wine this much: no matter the quality, no matter the price, they can stylize and make their wines seem exquisitely noble, even on their corks!

Yes, I know I've opined on this topic before, i.e. French wines and snooty appearances (or politely, aristocratic labelling/marketing), but trying to be creative in these things is getting harder! Either that, or I'm not drinking enough wine...

But I do admit I outdid myself in stylized photography this time around...thanks to a clearance sale at a museum years ago, I got that dandy statue of Venus for a song...and it just adds that extra something!

And now for the something you came here for: the booze!

Domaine Berthoumieu originates from South West France (surprise!) and is a three blend wine, of 55% Tannat (which grows predominantly in the Madiran region, and is known for its tannins), 35% Cabernet Sauvignon (my favourite), and 10% Pinenc (also known as Fer, and widely used in Madiran wines as well). It even won an award at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2008 (a bronze). Here endeth the lesson (...on this wine, in any case).

Naturally corked (but of course, with regal stamping and date), this wine looks juicy and rich, dripping slowly off the sides of the glass as one sloshes it about, with a lovely deep red crimson like the blood of Democrats being shed in Massachusetts. Its fuller body reflects in the fact that very little light penetrates said glass and said wine.

This wine produces a dark flavourful nose of dark fruit, reminiscent of blackberries, dark blueberries, with wild rich and flavoured notes prevailing in this medium to full bodied drink.

Upon taste, this wine is VERY dry on the mouth, giving off dark cherry tastes, with some bitterness definitely appearing. 'Tisn't very smooth, but is very full, somewhat acidic, with an aftertaste I noted being of dark blueberries.

Dark fruity wines are hard to judge...they often taste very similar and I'm afraid I am repeating myself (which I do), but it's just simply what my taste buds are telling me...as uneducated as they are!

A pleasing glass of wine indeed, quality, like most French reds, certainly worth purchasing to enjoy.

*** out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$16.30 (US$15.75).

From LCBO.com:

DOMAINE BERTHOUMIEU HAUTE TRADITION MADIRAN 2005, 750 mL bottle
LCBO/Vintages #102996
Wine, Red Wine
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: XD
Made in: France
By: Didier Barré
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PANZANELLA SALAD

This wonderful classic Italian summer salad is delicious to make anytime of the year. This dish is essentially a bread salad, where you take day old dry crusty bread, cut it into cubes and let the tomato, olive oil and vinegar juices soak into the bread. This is the perfect salad to make if you have leftover bread and really don't know what to do with it anymore. This salad can be served on it's own or you can serve it along side any grilled meat or fish. Give it a try today!

Adapted from the "Panzanella" recipe from the Real Simple: Meals Made Easy cookbook. Written by: Renne Schettler (2006).

Makes 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf day-old whole-wheat or white bread, preferably unsliced
  • 6 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 large red onion or sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 5 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives or green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup shaved Parmesan (optional)

Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes, about 5 cups. If you don't like the crust feel free to remove and discard the crust from the bread. In a large bowl, place in the bread cubes, tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, olives and basil.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and parsley (is using). Drizzle the vinaigrette over the bread mixture and toss gently. Transfer the salad into individual plates and scatter the shaved Parmesan over top.

Cook's notes: If you like the bread to be truly soaked with the tomato-olive oil juices than let it sit at room temperature for up to an hour before serving.

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LEMON GARLIC CHICKEN WITH TOMATO MANGO SALSA

Here is a really easy flavourful chicken dish that I made one night for dinner during the busy work week. In the marinade I put lemon juice, freshly grated garlic, dried herbs and nice fruity olive oil. I let the chicken marinade for a good 30 minutes so the chicken meat could get a chance to really break down. You have the choice here to either grill the chicken or sear the chicken on a hot skillet. The tomato and mango salsa has a nice tangy sweetness to it that really matches quite well with the lemony garlicky chicken. It's like summer on a plate. Serve it along side sour cream mashed potatoes and you got a dinner worthy to serve to a king.

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1. Take the chicken breasts and lightly score the tops, using a sharp paring knife. Put the chicken into a medium sized bowl. Add in the olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, garlic, dried oregano and thyme. If you find the lemon you're using to be a bit dry go ahead and use half of another one. Leave the chicken in the marinade for a good 30 minutes in the fridge.

2. In the meantime, combine the diced tomatoes, diced mango, olive oil and lemon juice. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Give it a taste to see if it needs more lemon juice or seasoning. Place the salsa into the fridge until you're ready to serve.

3. Heat a large cast iron skillet or a heavy bottom skillet, on medium high heat, and cook the chicken on both sides. It should take a good 8-10 minutes per side, depending on the size of the chicken breasts. Let the cooked meat rest for a few minutes before slicing. Serve the moist chicken immediately with a generous spoonful of the tomato mango salsa.

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MATT'S BEER WE GO! SIR PERRY PEAR CIDER

Like the picture? I hope so. Whilst most of the world languishes in frigid temperatures or heaps of snow, I thought to myself, "What could brighten up the world of readers of Matt's Beer We Go!?" No, flowers didn't come to mind, but I thought it'd make a good gift for the wife (brownie points!) and so I threw it in as a cheap backdrop. So, I didn't really think of the reader at all, but take it for what it's worth!

That being said, I venture into a semi-slightly new world, and I know the beverage at hand is not strictly beer - nor is it beer even in a loose sense, but what the hell, I thought I'd review it anyway.

The drink at hand, is a variety of cider - alcoholic fruit juice, with a lot of carbonation. Most are made with apples, but this particular style is made of pears of a distinct variety found in the UK. Pear cider - or perry (hence the name) - has been made for centuries and is also made in France.

So! With that useless information for your next cocktail party out of the way, on to the drinky.

Canned (surprise!), it poured a very light yellow hue, like a very light apple juice. An apparent pear sweetness is present in the nose, and although not heavy, it is noticeable, with hints of apple (my friends at LCBO.com also note peaches - sure why not, it's an orchard-y scent) also present.

Tasting time, prepare for a strong kick of tart sweetness, again with a slight, not overpowering pear flavour. The tartness/sourness dries the mouth very fast, but in a pleasing way, making one want to certainly enjoy a few more sips. The carbonation is very refreshing as well, and goes down fine, and is easy to drink.

A very unique beverage, this perry scores for its light fruity taste, it's nice alcohol strength (a solid 6%), and for its pleasing aftertaste. And, at less than C$3 a can, it's a good deal! Perry on!

***1/4 out of 4

Purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store for C$2.60 (US$2.53).

From LCBO.com:

SIR PERRY PEAR CIDER, 500 mL can
LCBO #8144
Wine (!?), Cider
6.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 4
Made in: England, UK
By: Matthew Clark Brands Ltd.
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MATT'S WINE NOT! GRAY FOX 2008 MERLOT CALIFORNIA RED WINE

Well dear reader, call this a case of Slackingus Maximus Forgetfullness, as I *gasp* did NOT take an image of the wine at hand!! Whilst I grovel (or perhaps howl?) for your forgiveness, let me inform you that the first full wine review of the year begins not with a bang, but with more of a...whimper (although the fox picture to the left is quite awesome, and I thank the artist for letting people use it for free; free rules).

Yeah. Don't get your hopes up major league with this particular wine in question, because, not like Mark McGuire, this wine isn't roided up with huge impactful flavours. So! For now, sit back and enjoy the mediocrity that was Gray Fox Merlot.

To be fair however, some readers out there in Wine Land might very well enjoy soft-bodied, light wines with softer flavours, so I shan't dismiss it completely. But, for those who enjoy full bodied, bold and flavourful wines such as those produced by French estates, one might come away disappointed somewhat (as I did).

Anyway! Named after the gray fox species that stalks around this vineyard's land (helping to maintain the ecological balance...how poignant), this Merlot comes with a screw top cap and when poured, is fairly light, not too deep a red, with a slight purplish tint. Whilst sloshing around the glass, it does not appear terribly heavy, but actually somewhat thin, and light (meaning it does not linger on the side of the glass).

Smelly time, it gave up cherry and raspberry notes, fragrant, but once more, not heavy or imposing.

Medium but trending towards light in its drinking body, the flavours present some berry tastes, and is fairly smooth with a slight sweetness, but still tended to be somewhat flat. The aftertaste didn't leave much to write home about either, as flavour did linger a little and faded slowly.

All in all, it was okay, not great, but not bad, etc. etc. etc. This wine certainly doesn't out fox the competition, but at least this fox doesn't feature one ex-Alaskan governor - at least it has something going for it.

**1/2 out of 4

Given to me for free for C$0.00 (US$0.00) (but can be purchased at a Liquor Control Board of Ontario [LCBO] store for C$6.95 [US$6.69]).

From LCBO.com:

GRAY FOX MERLOT, 750 mL bottle
LCBO #527507
Wine, Red Wine
12.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content: 1
Made in: California, United States of America
By: The Wine Group
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TACO NIGHT!

What's more fun than sitting around the table with the people you care about most and having a fun taco night! I love making interactive meals for dinner it really creates a fun atmosphere where people can let loose, let go of the forks and knives and use the best utensils that we all have - our hands! Get the family involved and ask one to put the condiments together, another to slice the lettuce, and get one of the kids to shred the cheese. It brings a smile to my face whenever I bring the fully stuffed taco into my mouth. This recipe is so easy to do so give this a try and enjoy tacos more often!

Serves 4

Ground taco meat Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small zucchini, diced (optional)
  • 1 lb lean ground beef/chicken/turkey
  • coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp each: ground cumin, dried basil
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • dashes of tabasco (as much as you want)
  • 4 tbsp ketchup

Condiment and filling ingredients:

  • homemade or jarred chunky tomato salsa (mild or hot)
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • shredded iceberg lettuce preferred
  • sweet onion, chopped
  • sour cream
  • guacamole (if you wish)
  • small soft of hard shelled tortillas
Heat oil in a large heavy bottom skillet, on medium high heat, and saute the onion, and zucchini for 3 minutes. Add in the ground meat and break it up using your wooden spoon. Brown the meat for a good 8-10 minutes before moving forward. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the minced garlic, spices, tabasco, and the ketchup. Cook for another 5 minutes or until all of the meat has cooked through and the ingredients have come together. Take it off the heat.

Serve all of the condiments in separate bowls, and if you wish warm the flour tortillas through in the oven. Do this by wrapping the tortillas in foil and heating them on low heat for about 15 minutes. Once the meat has finished cooking serve immediately and start to assemble your tacos!


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This was one of those Monday nights when my husband and I didn't feel like having a heavy dinner. During the weekend we had eaten are way through the fast food scene because simply we weren't home and it was either that or starve, but to be honest I have to say my tummy did love the pizza I ate hehe. Anyways, going back to this pasta salad... I chose to make a creamy pasta salad but with very little of the "bad stuff" in it. Instead I added a lot of vegetables and made sure to add in tons of cherry tomatoes which added a nice sweet juicy bite to the salad dish. Although this could be simply left as a vegetarian dish I wanted to add the protein. I seared slices of turkey kielbasa and boy did it off set the tanginess in the salad. It was perfect! The smokey zingy creamy bite left me wanting more. My husband even asked for seconds!

Serves 3

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups pasta, cooked and cooled
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup carrots, diced
  • 3/4 cup sweet onion, minced
  • 1 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • coarse salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 cup light mayo
  • 1 tbsp yellow mustard
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • turkey kielbasa, cut into slices

In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, cherry tomatoes, carrots, sweet onion, cucumber and flat-leaf parsley. Season with salt and pepper. In another bowl, whisk together the light mayo, yellow mustard, salt, pepper, lemon juice, sugar and extra virgin olive oil. Pour the dressing over the pasta mixture and toss it gently together. Refrigerate the pasta salad for a good 25-30 minutes before serving.

In a non-stick pan, on medium heat, sear the turkey kielbasa slices on both sides for a good 2 minutes each. Once it is ready, serve it along side the pasta salad. Savour every bite!

Cook's note: Feel free to use any small pasta like penne, corkscrews, macaroni etc. Remember that because of the mayo in the dressing the pasta salad needs to be refrigerated if there is any leftover.


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Well dear reader, first and foremost: a very Happy New Year! I truly hope you had a blessed holiday and New Year, filled with good friends, good family, and good wine and beer (and if it was spent with bad friends and bad family, then really REALLY GOOD wine and beer).

We start off things here on Matt's Wine Not! for MMX (because saying things the Roman way is ultra cool) by talking about something...from last year, something that's not run of the mill.

So, you won't be getting my normal witty wine reviews, but rather a mix of commentary, information, and sure, a few rather brief reviews instead. Sit back, read, and enjoy.

A long time ago, in a galaxy, far far away...my dear lady wife and I were invited by a local blogger named Sean to a small, cozy wine and cheese event sponsored by one of Ontario's premier wineries, Inniskillin.

Located at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Inniskillin has operated since 1974, and was the first vineyard to have been granted a license since 1929 (quite the accomplishment). The winery has gone on to produce award winning wines, and whose Ice Wine - perhaps their most famous product - was recently served to luminaries at the Nobel Prize dinner; what a blast! (A blast, because, of course, the Nobel Prize is named after Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite...yeah.)

One must not overlook however our gracious host for the evening, a generous lady by the name of Nancy, who operates a very fine cheese shop, and provided the setting and multitude of cheeses for the evening's festivities. They were, indeed, delicious, and complimented some of the wines we sampled very nicely (but don't be looking for wine and cheese pairings here, that's utterly out of my league!). Our cheese and cracker spread was beautiful and simply mouth-watering...


Say cheese!


Cheeses featured that evening included (from left to right): *drum roll Anton*
  • Blackburn, from Québec;
  • Sao Jorge, from Portugal;
  • Roaring Forties Blue, from Australia;
  • Piave, from Italy;
  • Ile-Aux-Grues 2 Year Old Cheddar, from Québec;
  • Chevre Noir, from Québec.

Needless to say I was quite full and satisfied after the night's completion (and frankly that effing cracker with nuts and cranberry was effing spectacular).

On to the wine, or details about it, rather!! (It's coming, don't worry.)

Our evening was hosted by a sommelier (wine-pert) from Inniskillin (whose name escapes me...I really enjoyed the wine that night), who provided a great deal of insight into the wines we had the privilege to sample. We were even further privileged to discover that some of the wines had not even been distributed to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario yet, so talk about exclusive!

That night we sampled in total four wines from Inniskillin, from 2007 and 2008. The year 2007 was an excellent year for wine growing in the Niagara region, with a long, dry, and hot summer season that helped the grapes develop a full flavour. Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc are two of the varieties that grow well in Niagara, and they composed two of the wines we tried, the other two being Chardonnay and Riesling.

Now onto the actual wines!

1). Inniskillin Riesling 2008 VQA, 750 mL bottle, 12% Alcohol/Vol.

First up was Inniskillin's Two Vineyard Riesling, meaning that the grapes used to craft this wine were taken from two separate vineyards...cool!

A light pale yellow hue, it was a light and bright, fragrant wine, with a grapefruit, and generally fruity nose. Rieslings being traditionally on the sweet end I believe, this one wasn't over-the-top on sweetness, and was not overly dry either, providing a nice balance in this light to medium bodied drink. It had a refreshing sourness towards the end and in its aftertaste, making this a wonderful choice for a spring or summer day. Our sommelier recommended pairing this with Thai or Indian foods (perhaps to take the edge off the spice?) and squash soup - I guess the man knows best!!

I thoroughly enjoyed this wine, a definite winner.

***1/4 out of 4

2). Inniskillin Chardonnay 2008 VQA, 750 mL bottle, 13.5% Alcohol/Vol.

I am, for whatever reason, pictureless on this wine, but it too was quite enjoyable, although I am admittedly not as big a fan of Chardonnay as other white varietals.

This Three Vineyard white was also a pale yellow in appearance, but with a darker, deeper nose, whose taste featured some "buttery" full notes, and with a richer flavour than the Riesling. Medium bodied, this wine did sport some sourness and acidity, and even "oakiness" (I'm just full of made-up words) from the barrels. Despite its full bodied alcohol content, this wine was still very drinkable and went down nicely. The sommelier noted pairing with lobster, seafood in general, turkey, and even popcorn with butter! Why the hell not, right, might make the movie better!

*** out of 4

3). Inniskillin Pinot Noir 2007 VQA, 750 mL bottle, 13% Alcohol/Vol.

The third wine at bat that night was the so called "heart break grape" Pinot Noir wine (entitled as such because it's a real pain in the ass to grow this variety apparently, and pricey to do so). This wine, also produced from grapes from Three Vineyards, produced a berry nose, of the rasp and straw variety, and was a deep crimsony-purply-cherry colour.

This Pinot featured a medium body with a slight spicy boot, with a definite dryness one could feel on the tongue. The aftertaste kept the berry taste about it. Suggestions to pair it with pork and poultry dishes were made.

I'm not the ultimate Pinot fan as is, but this was still a good drink, but not my favourite of the night.

**3/4 out of 4

4). Inniskillin Cabernet Franc 2007 VQA, 750 mL bottle, 13.5% Alcohol/Vol.

The main event of the evening was the delicious Cabernet Franc, which truly showed the strength of the 2007 season in Niagara. A deep luscious red colour, the Cab Franc gave off a cherry nose coupled with raspberries. Tasting notes presented included blackberry with hints of chocolate, and had a little zing, and was a smoothish yet medium bodied wine; truly delicious.

***1/4 out of 4

So! There you have it! It was an enjoyable evening despite being over my head often times but one again cannot forget the graciousness of the person who invited us, the cheese shop lady, and the good people at Inniskillin for the lesson, and of course, the beautiful wines.

I repeat what I said in a previous post: go out there and support your local wineries, whatever part of the world you're in, you'll be doing the economy, and your local growers, a big favour.

And of course, continue to enjoy your wine responsibly, and have fun doing so, whether you're like me, who wants to keep it simple, or if you truly want to delve into the incredibly diverse and deep world that is vino.

Matt

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CHICKEN & POTATOES (KOREAN STYLE)

Here is another one of my childhood favs! Growing up in a Korean household I was constantly surrounded by rich Asian flavours. This chicken and potato dish was a staple at our house. Both chicken legs and potatoes are as we know pretty economical, so because of this my mom used to stock up on both whenever we went to the grocery store. There are the basic Korean ingredients in this dish like soy sauce and Korean hot chili powder, but what makes this dish special is the slow stewing process. Both the potatoes and the chicken absorb and bathe in this rich sauce. I highly recommend pouring some of the sauce over some warm rice.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
  • 6 chicken legs, skinless
  • pinch of salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp Korean hot chili powder
  • 1/2 cup light soy sauce
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1/2 cup Korean soju or Japanese sake
  • 2 cups yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/2 cup water or chicken stock
  • 2 carrots, diagonally sliced (optional)
  • 2 green onions, cut into thirds

1. In a medium sized pot add in the chicken legs, season lightly with salt, pepper and Korean hot chili powder, then pour in the light soy sauce. Turn the heat to medium high and wait until it starts to come to a bubble, then grate in the garlic cloves.

2. Turn the heat down to a low medium heat, and using tongs flip the chicken legs to make sure that they cook evenly. Cover the pot and let it gently simmer for a good 20 minutes, flipping the chicken occassionally. Pour in the Korean soju and once the alcohol cooks out, add in the peeled and quartered potatoes. Stir to coat, then cover the pot again and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Check to make sure that the potatoes and chicken are cooking evenly.

3. If you wish, now is a good time to add in the carrots and green onions. Cover and let it cook for an additional 8-10 minutes. You should see the sauce thicken and the potatoes absorbing the colour and flavour of the soy sauce. Once you see that the potato and chicken has cooked through take it off the heat. Serve immediately with a bowl of warm rice.

Cook's note: If you see that the sauce has absorbed a bit too quickly for you add a little water to create more sauce. You can also do this if you want to loosen the sauce slightly.


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DOUBLE CHOCOLATE CHIP BISCOTTI

Just take a look at this photo of the double chocolate chip biscottis that I made a few days ago. I have posted a few biscotti recipes in the past on Food Tastes Yummy but I couldn't believe that I never posted this all time favourite! I used to make these delectable treats often for my parents. They used to give me a few requests a month for these cookies so they could take them to work with them. My parents used to run a corner store and my dad just loved dunking these treats into his morning coffee. So without further adieu I give you my recipe for double chocolate chip biscottis. Give these treats a dunk in your next morning coffee.

Adapted from the "Almond Biscotti" recipe in the Canadian Living: Cooks Step by Step cookbook. Written by: Daphna Rabinovitch.

Makes 24 cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Baking time: 20 minutes (first bake)
20-25 minutes (second bake)

Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, melted butter, vanilla extract and coffee granules. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Fold the mixtures together slowly until a dough forms, then gently fold in the chocolate chips.

2. Divide the dough in half and roll each into a 12-inch long log. Transfer to the baking sheet. Brush the tops of the logs with the beaten egg white, then place it into the oven and bake it for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes. Transfer the logs onto a cutting board; then cut diagonally using a sharp knife, into 3/4-inch thick slices.

3. Place the cookies back onto the baking sheet, making sure that the cookies are standing upright. Bake it for an additional 20-25 minutes. Let the cookies cool completely then enjoy. Biscottis can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


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SPICY KOREAN BULGOGI FRIED RICE

First of all I wanted to say Happy New Year to all of my readers here on Food Tastes Yummy! This is really the first recipe that I'm posting in 2010. After posting recipes almost daily for half of 2009 I thought I would give myself a little break before my big return to the blogosphere. This is a dish that my mom made quite a bit while I was growing up. My mom had a way with creating new and interesting Korean recipes with leftover rice and this recipe was seriously one of my favourites! Now I know that any traditional Korean cuisine enthusiast would say "this is not authentic" but honestly I could care less because this is what was traditional to me. I would describe this as a spicy take on a Chinese fried rice. If you like rice and spicy food I say this is a recipe for you to try!

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup bulgogi style beef (super thin slices of beef), chopped
  • 3 tbsps light soy sauce
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp Korean hot pepper paste (or more if you like)
  • 1-1/2 cups cold cooked white rice (preferably day old rice)
  • cucumber, cut into thin matchsticks (when serving)

1. In a small bowl, place in the chopped bulgogi meat and marinade it quickly with light soy sauce, salt and pepper for about 2 minutes. Either get a wok or a large non-stick skillet and heat the oil over medium high heat. Sear the marinaded meat until the pink colour of the meat is gone, this should take about 4-5 minutes.

2. Saute the diced carrots for a minute, then deglaze the pan with a 1/4 cup of water. Quickly add melt in the hot pepper paste into the water, then add in the cold cooked white rice. Please note here that warm cooked rice will not work as well here. Stir frequently until the rice has absorbed the colour of the red pepper paste. Once the rice is the right "fried rice" texture, turn the heat off and serve it immediately. Serve the rice dish with cold cucumber slices to help bring some freshness into a meaty spicy meal. Enjoy!


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