Monday, September 2, 2013

An Intimidating Dinner Date

As much as Boo might tell you otherwise, we don't dine out all that much. Lack of time and expanding waistlines see to that. All the same, we do have a couple of favourite restaurants that we try to make it to at least once or twice a year.

One series of successive dinners has resulted in our striking up a casual friendship with one of Vancouver's - indeed, one of Canada's - top chefs and his wife, who just happens to manage the front of the house (and no doubt a whole lot more). We've tossed around the idea of having Perry and Molly's Mother over to our place for dinner for a couple of years - but we'd been unable to coordinate schedules.

That is, until now.

Not that the thought of serving a home cooked meal to a celebrated chef was intimidating at all. Nah - not in the least (especially since I was leaving a couple of the more important dishes up to Boo to pull off).

I figured our task was to come up with a menu that was sophisticated enough to be interesting - and seem like we have a smidgeon of culinary talent - but basic enough to make it seem like we weren't pulling out every ounce of kitchen witchery that might be in our bodies. Molly's Mom had told me that most people don't like to have them over because they feel that they have to cook restaurant quality food and go all out to impress them. She then confirmed that Perry (like most chefs) is simply thrilled to have someone else cook. She advised that he'd be happy if we served up Kraft Dinner.

It was almost as daunting trying to come up with additional guests - since we didn't have any friends in common with Perry and M-Squared. Given the foodie nature of our initial guests, I kinda stuck with the theme and invited Mr. Technicolour and Haley. Mr. T. teaches WSET courses and runs the wine program at one of Vancouver's culinary schools - and is as outrageously entertaining as his name (and socks) might indicate. Haley is long suffering - but for the most part, highly amused.

1405.  2011 Haywire The Bub (VQA Okanagan Valley)

1406.  2012 Orofino Moscato Frizzante (Similkameen Valley)

Ever since, Molly's Mom and I had started talking about dinner, I'd hoped to take advantage of the garden and try a little al fresco dining for at least part of the evening. Luckily, the weather held out and we had the chance to enjoy a couple of the newer entries on the burgeoning BC bubbles scene.

The bottle of The Bub is Haywire's first release of their classically aged sparkler, made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. We sipped away on it with warmed, spiced olives but I see that The Bub won the sparkling category at the inaugural Canadian Oyster Wine Competition held this Spring in the Okanagan.

I believe that the 2012 Moscato Frizzante is the second vintage of the beautifully packaged Orofino bubbly. The wine is primarily Muscat Bianco grapes but a touch of Riesling is blended in for additional acidity, as is a shot of Pinot Gris. Orofino's website notes that the three grapes are picked with special consideration for "acidity and aromatics" and that "they are fermented separately and then blended at filtration." The wine is a bit drier than might be expected from the name and the packaging but it certainly disappeared quickly with our Arabic cheesy bread.

1407.  2011 Fairview Cellars Sauvignon Blanc (VQA Okanagan Valley)

The sit down portion of our dinner started with a mussel and saffron soup that we paired with Bill Eggert's Sauvignon Blanc - his "oyster wine" as he calls it. We might not have served up the oysters but, from past experience, I knew that the rich soup - that is nothing but wine, mussels and a few vegetables and spices - would match up just as nicely. This is the only white wine that Fairview produces but, even at that, only 600 cases were produced in the 2011 vintage (triple the 2010 count). It's not the easiest wine to find on the shelf but I inevitably grab a bottle when I do see one by chance.

I've noted, in an earlier post, that Boo and I splurged on a new BBQ. It features a rotisserie - that we have yet to try - and I thought it might be a perfect opportunity to try our new toy with a leg of lamb. I'd sent everyone an e-mail for wine suggestions and mentioned the lamb plan. Perry got back to me and mentioned that there are only two items that Molly's Mom doesn't particularly like - lamb and olives. Naturally, our plans had involved both.

Boo and I switched up on the lamb and decided to smoke some pork but, when everyone arrived, I let Perry and M-Squared know that I'd received the message and changed the menu. I told them that because of the last minute change in plans, we needed to take Molly's Mom at her word though and that we were serving KD (packaged mac and cheese for those of you that didn't grow up with it). We proudly announced that we had made a really special version though and that we'd added wieners to the mix. Was that going to be special or what?!

2010 Mollydooker Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz (South Australia)

It's a good thing we went with the smoked pork though because I doubt that Perry and Molly's Mom's bottle of Blue Eyed Boy would have gone as well with the KD. It was totally appropriate of them to bring along the Mollydooker because they had hooked us up for a visit to the winery when Boo and I visited McLaren Vale a couple last year. What they didn't know was that Boo and I had tasted the 2010 Blue Eyed Boy during that visit and the winery was kind enough to give us the bottle (that had barely been cracked) as a souvenir. Accordingly, I don't get to add this bottle to The List because Boo and I promptly finished off that earlier bottle in Australia - and added it to The List as #1118.

When wines are as tasty as this Shiraz is though, I don't mind drinking another bottle of a wine already on The List. I'm also thrilled to say that Boo enjoyed this bottle far more than he enjoyed the one in Oz. He's not as big on fruit bombs as I can be and he's had a bit of dislike for Mollydooker's total commitment to that style of wine.

1408.  2004 Spinifex Indigene (Barossa Valley - Australia)

1409.  2006 Ghost Pines Merlot (Napa and Sonoma Counties - California) 

We followed up the Mollydooker with another big Aussie. The Spinifex Indigene is from the McLaren Vale's wine producing neighbour, the Barossa Valley. Spinifex is a boutique winery that was started up in 2001 and has garnered up some big points with the wine critics for this blend of 2/3's Mataro (Aussie for Mourvèdre) and 1/3 Shiraz. With only 600 cases having been made, I'm a little surprised that any of it made it up here to Vancouver. I think that might be a testament to the understanding that Vancouver was one of the first foreign markets to cotton onto Aussie exports. Because some higher end Aussie producers found Vancouver to be an early adopter of their production styles, we're still rewarded sometimes with wines that don't often make it to North American markets.

The last of the big reds was a treat that Mr. Technicolour and Haley brought. Mr. T. had done some consulting work with the American Consulate and, in thanks, he was given a case of wine. While choosing the wines from the Consulate cellar, he was tipped off to grab a bottle of the Ghost Pines Merlot. A blend of grapes from both Napa and Sonoma, the '06 Merlot saw an addition of 7% Zinfnadel as the winemaker looked to "exhibit the best of both appellations."

We likely could have kept going with the reds but dessert beckoned and we moved on to a couple BC treats.

1410.  2009 Stoneboat Verglas (Okanagan Valley)

Dessert was peach pie with peach gelato and, if I do say so myself, was matched beautifully with the Stoneboat Verglas - for all intents and purposes, an Icewine, even though it isn't called one. Made from the largely unknown variety Oraniensteiner and Pinot Blanc, I'm just going to quote John Schreiner and his review: "Charming and seductive. It has a fabulous aroma of peaches and ripe pineapples and it tastes like a bowl of tropical fruits. The bright acidity gives the wine perfect balance, giving it a clean and focussed finish without any cloying sweetness." Darn right!

I almost regretted serving it at dinner because there were six of us and the bottle's 200ml didn't go nearly as far as it would have if I'd opened the bottle and kept it all to myself.

As a consolation, this is the first wine featuring the Oraniensteiner grape to be added to The List and I have a new variety to add to my Wine Century Club tally (#154 I do believe). Now, that's always an added bonus to a bottle of wine.

N.V. La Frenz Tawny (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

The 200ml didn't go too far though; so, that was followed with the La Frenz Tawny. Since the Tawny isn't vintage dated - and I've enjoyed a number of bottles over the years - it isn't being added to The List either. It was earmarked for a cheese course but, by now, we'd concluded that we didn't need another course. "Simple fare" or not, we were done and the rich, multi-award winning fortified wine was a fine finish to the evening.

Despite, the palpable anxiety, I think it's safe to say that Boo and I weathered the storm. I haven't been ballsy enough to ask for any commentary on the food from our guests but I think I might just be brave enough to ask these folks over for dinner again all the same. i may have to resort to that KD and wieners, but I'm sure we can make up for it with the wines.

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