Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Music: re:Brahim

I saw an add in this month's Harper's Review for a new Abdullah Ibrahim CD that look really interesting. It's called "re:Brahim" and features remixes of his stuff by electronica DJs and musicians. It sounds like it's worth a listen, I'll post a review once I track it down.

There's also a "Best Of" CD being released at the same time, which would be a good way to add some of his music to my collection.

Technorati Tags: music south africa jazz electronica

Monday, March 21, 2005

25/$25: Lunch at Vivanda

I had lunch here on Sunday with Alyssum, Mathias, and Stephanie. Who can beat having a good 3-course meal for $12.50? Sure the portions may be a little smaller than dinner, but I definitely didn't leave hungry.

The service was good, and the place was busy but relaxed and not noisy. They served yummy Italian bread and olive oil infused with herbs and garlic. I chose the roasted eggplant and tomato terrine to start, grilled salmon with lentils for my main course, and lemon meringue for dessert. Alyssum chose a salad (they had to veggie-ify the Cesar salad), potato gnocchi and lemon meringue.

The terrine was OK, but had almost no gelatin/aspic holding the veggies together, so it was falling apart before I touched it, and may as well have been a pile of roasted veggies. The flavour of the eggplant and tomatoes was good, and the curry-flavoured oil drizzled around the plate was amazing.

The salmon was good, but lacked salt and was not helped by the lentils that were bland too. (They were supposedly "marinated", but obviously not in anything tasty!) The salmon was topped with cucumber and yoghurt (sort of like a fancy tzatziki) and this helped lift the dish - I need to try doing salmon with a tzatziki sauce myself, since the combination seems to work well. Roasted tomatoes on the side were a nice accompaniment, and were well caramelized.

The lemon meringue pie was good - not too sweet, and with a crunchy pastry shell. Great espresso, too - they use Lavazza. I tasted Alyssum's gnocchi, and thought it was good - light, not doughy, but a little bland, and the sauce could have used some kick. Alyssum found the gnocchi a little too soft (she prefers them more al-dente / chewy. So far, Firenze in the Crossroads mall, is the gnocchi king.)

Wine-wise, I had a glass of the Apex Outlook 2003 Chardonnay - I loved the 1999 vintage and had brought that to the Friday wine tasting I "hosted" a few weeks back. Sadly, the '03 vintage is not nearly as good as the '99 - it is not as full-bodied, smooth and buttery, and lacked the amazing aroma of the '99. It was still a decent chardonnay, but nothing special.

Overall, I'd give them 80%, and would definitely recommend coming here for the $12.50 lunch or $25 dinner during the 25/$25 promotion. It would definitely recommend them for a meal off their regular menu too.

Technorati Tags: seattle restaurant reviews

Friday, March 18, 2005

Friday Wine Tasting: La Toscana Ice Wine, Saint Laurent 2001 Solé Riché

Mathias chose the wines for today, two wines from Washington state:

#1: La Toscana ice wine:
Region: Near Leavenworth, WA, USA
Points: 76
Cost: $16

This was from a small producer near Leavenworth that produces around 3000 bottles of various cultivars each year. The winemaker is retired and does this as a hobby/business, and apparently it took him 15 years to get to the point where he was willing to release wines for sale to the public. Nothing is available in stores - you have to buy direct from the winery.

The ice wine was light and clear, with a sweet, fruity aroma (lots of pear, honey and sweet sultanas on the nose). The taste featured smooth honey, sultanas, and a slight acidity that stopped the wine from being too cloyingly sweet. The finish was quite short. This wine reminded me a lot of the Muscato D'Asti I've had from Trader Joe's (except that is sparkling). This was a little too sweet and didn't have enough body and depth for my tastes - but I admit I don't drink much dessert wine.

Links: http://www.latoscanawinery.com/, http://www.columbiacascadewines.com/la_toscana_winery.html

#2: Saint Laurent 2001 Solé Riché
Region: Columbia Valley, WA
Points: 80
Cost: $22

This is red wine blend (mainly cab sav if I remember right), billed as a table wine by the winery. A good deep red plum colour, with an aroma of blackberry and black cherry, plus a little pepper. The taste is smooth, well balanced, with a medium finish and medium tannins. The mouth feel and body are both a little light - making this a nice everyday wine, but not really characterful or weighty enough to warrant the price. (More like $10-$15)

Links: http://www.saintlaurent.net/, http://www.columbiacascadewines.com/saint_laurent_winery.html

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

25/$25: Barking Frog

(25/$25 is a regular restaurant promotion in Seattle, where 25 ‘top’ restaurants offer 3-course dinner for $25)

We went to Barking Frog on Wednesday for dinner (6 of us total), under the direction of Mathias. I've been 3 or 4 times before, also for 25/$25 dinners, and had good food previously. After a cold and blustery day, I was looking forward to some good food and wine...

The place was pretty busy (the big round table was full and had a rowdy crowd that added to the already high noise level, and made it pretty hard to hold a conversation). We were seated quickly and the service throughout the evening was great - prompt and unobtrusive.

I ordered the carrot and ginger soup, asparagus and morel pot pie, and coconut flan for dessert. The soup was a little cold, but tasted good (more ginger would have been nice). It was garnished with a mini crab cake that sounded nice on the menu, but somehow didn't pair well with the soup. (Plus it was cold and tasted like it was prepared in advance). The pot pie was also disappointing: the asparagus was woody and underdone, and the puff pastry was a little soggy. (It was actually more like a pastry sandwich filled with the asparagus and sauce). The sauce was good though! Dessert was also a little off the mark: the flan tasted of canned condensed milk, and had no discernable coconut. The fruit salad accompaniment was very good, though (kiwi, lychee and mint, I think).

Their wine list is impressive (it’s won some awards), although it's a bit confusing to not have the wines broken into red & white. Instead they have categories like "Wow", “Round and Woody” and “Bright and Easy”. Anyway, I had a nice glass of O'Reilly's Pinot Gris, from the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Overall, I’d give them 75%. The dinner was still good value, but I don’t see myself paying full price ($30-$40 for entrees) if the quality is the same for the normal menu.

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Wine: Fontana Candida Sangiovese 2002

Region: Latium, Italy
Score: 70%
Cost: $9
This is an average quality everyday wine. A nice medium ruby red colour, good clarity. Salty, musky nose similar to cheese mould or sweaty feet, not much fruit. Flavor is light, crisp and slightly fruity (sour plums?), and doesn't linger for long. Medium tannins and acidity. OK with food, but not really a wine you want to savour on its own.

Links: http://www.fontanacandida.com/wine_sang.asp

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Die Rooi Gevaar! - Food additives

Cook sister has an interesting entry on the recent hoopla involving the red food colouring Sudan 1. She has some nice links to websites that last all the E- additive codes and what they are, plus whether they're bad for you.

PS: "die rooi gevaar" is Afrikaans for "the red danger" - it was used to describe the Communist 'threat' in Southern Africa.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

First post!

So I too am jumping on the bandwagon and opening up a blog... What's going to be posted? Initially I'd like to save reviews of various things: wine, beer, shows, concerts, restaurants - mainly for my own use. (But hey, if other people find them useful then that's OK too).