One of the chief Chowhounders

made it back to Montreal and enjoyed himself: Montreal – The Chowhound’s Promised Land. Some of the most serious gushing I’ve ever read about any city’s cuisine. I’ve been to all of those places often (I lived within 5 minutes’ walk for years) and he’s bang on – and the funny thing is, he only visited one “name” restaurant in the piece. [via Kate]

A great new service

has just launched for wine lovers called Cork’d. I feel a little bit like they’ve read my mind, because I have been thinking about what it would take to build something like it for a few months now, and even wrote up some stuff about the idea to start getting such a site together. Clearly it was an idea whose time was due, though, since Dan Benjamin and Dan Cederholm got to it first – and they’ve done a wonderful job. For more background info, you can also read Benjamin’s discourse on the building of the site and Cederholm’s comments upon launch. Santé!

On a rainy Sunday last weekend

we went to the bookstore to browse around for new reading material and I came across Ruth Reichl’s new anthology, History in a Glass, made up of (as it is subtitled) “Sixty Years of Wine Writing from Gourmet”. I’ve been devouring it ever since – it’s a wonderful read, something you can read all at once or come back to again and again. Wine is a bit like baseball – even if you aren’t a huge aficionado, it is a subject that has always provoked wonderful writing. In both cases, as well, any human treatment of the subject invariably pokes into dusty corners of the world that are populated by amazing characters. Highly recommended!

Maciej Ceglowski:

Argentina On Two Steaks A Day. A friend who spent time there put it this way, “Meals consist of steak with a side of steak. Period.”

It’s Thanksgiving weekend

here in the Great White North and we’re planning two, count ’em two, feasts. Tonight the menu starts with chèvre and tomato salsa croutons, then potato and leek soup followed by confit duck legs with a wild mushroom risotto and brussels sprouts on the side. I made some pumpkin squares which we’ll have for dessert. On Sunday night we’re starting with little rye bread, cream cheese and smoked salmon canapés, a carrot and parsnip soup, then turkey with mashed potatoes, a yam casserole, and broccoli sides. All of that will be followed by a cheese plate and yummy dried cranberry, dried apricot, and white chocolate squares. All of that will be punctuated with several nice wines we have kicking around, including possibly an Amarone della Valipolcella that I have been saving for the right occasion.

Aaron in SF:

In the land of the sour dough baguette, the burrito is king.

Tetra-pak wine

flickr photo: French wine in a tetra box

Originally uploaded by mikel.

I snapped this picture yesterday as we were preparing dinner (that’s the salmon getting ready for the grill on a cedar plank on the counter) – in Ontario, they are now selling wine packaged in the same packaging they use for juice boxes. I don’t know if the trend is going to catch on, but the new format brings up a couple of thoughts.

First, they are touting the new format as an environmental thing. It’s hard to see laminated paper/plastic products as environmentally beneficial, but as they say in their marketing materials, wine in this package can be shipped much more efficiently as it weighs less (bottles are heavy) and can be packed more efficiently in trucks. I wonder if anyone can comment? It seems a bit like the disposable/cotton diaper issue in that both can be considered “environmentally friendlier” depending on your point of view.

Secondly, I noted that the wine comes from the Pays D’Oc in France, also home to Fat Bastard wines. These both identify the wine by the grape varietal that has gone into the package, something rare (and largely illegal) in France but the norm in most of the rest of the world.

One of the biggest changes

in our epicurian lives since moving to Ottawa has been to adapt our wine-buying habits from what they stock at the SAQ to the LCBO. They are both huge global wine buyers, and both feature great choices, but the balance is completely different. The SAQ, in Quebec, is still completely dominated by French and Italian wine, and even at small Express locations you can find a few excellent bottles and many good budget choices. The LCBO, on the other hand, is much stronger in “New World” wines – bottles from California, elsewhere in the US, South Africa, Canada, and particularly Australia are stocked in huge quantities, while the French shelves are limited and feature pretty boring staples.

That’s not to say the LCBO is bad; not in the least. Pick up any wine magazine in the past 5 years and you’ll come across articles decrying the fact that the stodgy French industry often doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the advances in quality control and consistency that are found elsewhere in the world. The problem isn’t the wine – it’s more subtle than that.

“New World” wineries are much more heavily invested in consumer marketing than the French industry (though don’t be fooled, France’s grip on tradition is it’s own kind of marketing). In a spectrum, then, consisting of Little Penguins and Yellow Tails and a dozen varieties of Wolf Blass wines, it can be tough to sort out the wines worth drinking from the rest.

One of the more pleasant surprises in this context have been the wines from South Africa’s Fairview winery, in particular their Goat Roti but also the more basic Goats do Roam. If you can get past the cheeky names, inside you’ll find very nice wines. Proof positive that some of the “marketed” wines are just as good, dollar-for-dollar, as anything you’d get from Italy or France.

One of the things

I’m going to miss most in Montreal are summer evenings on the terrace at the Bistro Duluth. For the last ten years or so the Bistro has been a mainstay of my neighbourhood routine here on the Plateau, the location of countless 5-à-7s, impromptu dinners, hungover breakfasts, and late-night snacks. I don’t think I’ve ever been there and not seen and flagged down a friend walking by, and at least half the time whoever it is stops by and joins the table.

The nice thing about Bistro Duluth is that they have slowly but surely improved the whole offering. A few years ago the bar was pretty run down. the menu was over-reliant on mediocre versions Portuguese standbys, and the service was slack at best – whereas now the Portuguese cuisine has improved to the point that the Bistro rivals local champ Chez Doval in terms of sheer taste and quality, and at the same time the list of portos available, microbrews on tap, and even the wine list have all increased in quantity and quality.

Last night we stopped by and I had my usual Portuguese mussels and Nadia had a great red tuna steak, accompanied by a peppy bottle of Vinho verde. And, as should be the case at any good neighbourhood restaurant, the management gets to know the locals and provides great service.

Blork unlocks

the secret of how to freeze cilantro. Read the comments as well – there’s valuable info on keeping many other fresh herbs.