There is nothing more beautiful than a wine-fridge filled-to-bursting with overstock in racks on the floor. Or, Touring Langley Wineries: A Good Idea.

Oh wow. Big day.

It started with dim sum, and just the right amount of food – going into a wine tour on an empty stomach only seems like a good idea. It’s actually a recipe for disaster that ends in all kinds of crankiness and tears. Nick and I met Grace and James at 11:00. We ate Chinese donut, shrimp-and-duck dumplings, rice noodle with scallops and asparagus, and excellent sticky rice. We had the little spring-roll-looking pastries filled with sweet red pork. It was all very delicious, and a generous spread of food (and a morning beer for Nick and James) came to $15.00 per person (including tip). So we were off to a good start.

Unfortunately, I drove.

Grace and James navigate from the back seat, armed with a map of the region and an epic book of BC wineries.
Grace and James navigate from the back seat, armed with a map of the region and an epic book of BC wineries.

Confusion over the exits and a detour off the highway about 35 kilometers from where we needed to be aside, we made it to The Fort Wine Co. in Fort Langley by 12:45.  Fort is a fruit winery, and they make excellent dessert wines that smell exactly like the fruit that’s in them. I bought a bottle of their raspberry dessert wine, and it smelled like sunshine and a pint of fresh raspberries and everything good in the world. Nick bought a bottle of the blueberry table wine, and I got a bottle of their apple-pear wine, which will be perfect when chilled and stuffed into a cooler and dragged off for a picnic on the beach at some point this summer. One of the nice things about The Fort Wine Co. is that they have a little patio and some picnic tables in their garden where you can order a glass of wine or sangria and enjoy snacks, such as a platter of delicious local cheeses and crackers. We skipped that this time (dim sum – too full). Nick took over the driving at this point, so we made it to our next location with far greater ease.

We had a delightful time at Lotusland. They have lots of different kinds of wines, and because it’s a bit out of the way, they are not very busy if you show up there on a Sunday afternoon. Which means that you can try all the wines, and also probably that they will pour you a bigger glass of each and generally be a lot of fun to talk to. I wasn’t super impressed with all the wines there – the whites were, by and large, very sweet and not to my particular liking, although James bought a bottle of the Gewürztraminer. Nick liked the Pinot Grigio, so he acquired one of those, and I was tickled by a low-tannin red called Zweigelt, which I had never tried before and immediately fell in love with (and mispronounced the name of). It’s very light. A breakfast red, you might say. Now five and three bottles in, respectively, we were pretty pleased with ourselves.

Thanks, Lotusland!
Thanks, Lotusland!

While we were at Lotusland, our wine-tasting host told us about this odd little winery about a fifteen minute drive away. Grace consulted the book, and soon we were on our way to Vista D’Oro, a place where they make wine fortified with green walnuts macerated in brandy. If they had been open, I think we might have learned something. Note to Vista D’Oro: Sunday is Wine Tour Day. It always has been. Be open next time.

Another savage u-turn, and we set a course for Domaine de Chaberton, which I think is French for “awesome.” Their wines are amazing, and you can buy six of them, including a double bottle, for under $100. (In Canada, that many wines for that amount is a good deal. Which is kind of sad. I once bought as many bottles at the Target in Bellingham, WA, for much less. But the wine wasn’t as good. So there.)

My favourite stop on the tour.
My favourite stop on the tour.

Domaine de Chaberton is always very busy, so you get to taste not very much of four wines. That’s okay. I am fairly certain that you can buy any one of their wines and not be disappointed.

I'll bet these don't suck.
I'll bet these don't suck.

This is also Nick’s favourite place, so we bought stuff we both like. Usually we try to get wines we both like, because we’re poor and occasionally we like to make sound financial decisions. But we both like all the wines here. Disappointingly, they were out of Ortega, the best one (it’s grown in the Fraser Valley), and they told us there wouldn’t be a batch this year. Sad face. We got these wines:

It's pretty clear that my next career move should be toward graphic design.
It's pretty clear that my next career move should be toward graphic design.

And we were so happy.

All our hearts grew three sizes that day.
All our hearts grew three sizes that day.

Our final stop on the tour was Township 7. We didn’t mean for it to be the last stop, but we got lost in White Rock (where, did you know, there’s a Tracycakes?!), and then got very hungry, and, after that, very tired.

At Township 7, there are excellent wines. Go there before you go to Domaine de Chaberton though, because going the other way results in a bit of sticker shock. But the reds are good here, and I am quite fond of the Syrah. Only one bottle for Nick and I (and I think two for Grace and James) here, but to be fair, that brought us to 12 (each) for the day. When you get there, try the Merlot – they offer you a piece of salt-and-pepper chocolate to try it with, and the combination is oddly amazing. The chocolate really brings out the red part of the wine.

Wine shop.
Wine shop.
Wine vines.
Wine vines.

The great thing about BC is that there are so many wonderful places that will give you alcohol just for showing up and looking eager to buy. There are a couple of wineries on the other side of the river that I want to try – Sanduz Estate Wines, in particular – and the Okanagan is a vast and wonderful winestravaganza. The current plan is to spend a weekend up there this summer acquiring as much wine and fruit as we can fit into the car, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. But that’s a tale for another time, and this one is already exceedingly long.

I am tickled and pleased and all kinds of happy rolled into one. Thanks, Langley.

Oh! If you have any suggestions for wine, wineries, or places where I can learn to drive, please do let me know. Learning is fun!

I know what love is.
I know what love is.

A day of many delights: Rapini, and then blackberry scones.

When I came home today, I found this:

NoteWhich is a shame, because I came home with a fabulous bottle of sparkly pink wine and a huge hunk of his favourite cheese, and for all he knows, I could have been amorous. And I was. But not for him: Whole Foods opened on the corner yesterday, and today I paid my first visit (and healthy chunk of my payday earnings).

I didn’t even cry at my wedding.

I enjoyed a good long wander through the store, making mental notes of all the things I’d buy someday when I have a lot more money than I do now. The stack of salts, all different colours and textures in their plastic containers labeled with their exorbitant prices were so mesmerizing I stood staring, slack-jawed like a brain-damaged mule, for a good ten minutes, my eye shifting slightly to the left to the stack of Le Creuset pots in every colour before shifting back. I died a little inside when I realized that to buy any desirable combination of these would render my financial situation unliveable for the next two weeks, so I walked away slowly, barely keeping back the tears.

And then I found the cheese section! Needless to say, I am the proud new owner of $40 worth of cheese. So, three different kinds.

The goal today was to write about scones – and I will, I promise, because I bought a hideously expensive container of frozen organic Abbotsford blackberries, and the scones happen to be revelatory. But I got all tripped up by this:

Rapini with lemonAnd I discovered that if you shriek in the grocery store, no one will ask you if you need help, but you’ll find yourself with all the space you like.

My favourite thing to do with fresh greens, such as this vibrant bunch of rapini, is to sauté them in a little butter, olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, and too many capers, then toss them with pasta and add a generous helping of parmesan cheese and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. You don’t need a recipe – it’s impossibly simple. Salt and pepper to taste, and a bottle of good wine for accompaniment, and you’re set. And then you end up with this:

Pasta with rapini and capersAnd the whole time I was eating it, I was all – “this cost under five dollars to make – why do I ever eat out?” Well, it might have cost more, but I amortized the cost of the cheese over several meals.  Which is what you do when you budget.

So I ate all this, and drank most of the wine, and was just about ready to ease into my favourite kind of stupor when I realized that I was going to make scones. And I started making the scones and realized that in my shrieking Whole Foods love fest, I didn’t buy milk. But whatever, right? You can make scones without milk. I made mine with yogurt and a bit of water in place of the milk. DELICIOUS.

Here’s the recipe (with milk, because that makes good sense).

Blackberry Lemon Scones

(makes about eight)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup butter (plus a bit of melted butter to brush over the tops)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used peach yogurt, because that’s what I had)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup frozen blackberries (I prefer to use frozen berries for these because they keep their shape better than fresh berries)
  • 1 tbsp. turbinado sugar (or regular, but I promise, it’s not the same)

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Combine your dry ingredients (including zest) in a mixing bowl, and mix well. Add the butter, working it in with your fingers until it’s fully integrated and the mixture looks like bread crumbs. Stir in the milk and the egg, and then the berries, and mix only until the dry ingredients are moistened. Form into a ball.

Lightly flour your work surface. Empty your bowl of dough, which by now is very pretty and marbled with purple juices. Knead lightly. Pat the dough into a circle about a half-inch thick, and paint with the melted butter. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the top, and press lightly to make sure it sticks. Cut the round into eight pieces.

Place your scones about an inch or so apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Clearly I have no idea how much an inch is.
Clearly I have no idea how much an inch is.

No matter how big a mess your apartment (or life) is, baked goods always make everything okay.

These turned out mostly scone-shaped. Some of them are shaped like retard scones, but they are no less tasty. I am just really bad at geometry.
These turned out mostly scone-shaped. Some of them are shaped like retard scones, but they are no less tasty. I am just really bad at geometry.

You know what the weird thing is? I got a raise today, and the best part of my day involved rapini and blackberries. That’s not to say the raise – though small – isn’t good news: it’s enough to cover another two bottles per month, if I choose wisely. And more wine is always a thing to delight in.

Rehab, when I finally get forced into it, is really going to suck.

Scone. On plate.Serve the scones warm. They are great with butter, but if you’re all alone and no one’s watching, a drizzle of maple syrup makes these indulgent and fattening. Some days, there is nothing better.

Dutch Babies: Good to Eat

Nick asked me the other night to tell him my favourite thing to eat. Choose one thing? Who am I to say that a beautifully roasted duck breast and a chewy, buttery lobster tail aren’t equally worthy, or that peanut butter cookies, wonton soup, Filet-o-Fish sandwiches, or beet carpaccio aren’t equal and each distinguished in their own right? I couldn’t pick one. But, if I had to pick a favourite thing to eat in the morning, it would be Toad in the Hole – Yorkshire pudding with sausages and onions baked in, all fluffy and crispy and meaty. Yorkshire pudding on its own is pretty fantastic.

So Nick got me thinking about my favourite things, and among my favourite things: Yorkshire pudding. Right. I believe we established that. A few weeks ago, we made a brunch date with two lovely friends, Aimee and Evani, and so while planning a mid-day stat-holiday feast, visions of puffed batter were dancing about in my head.

I had two savoury dishes on the menu already – tortilla with cucumber and avocado salsa, and “potato stuff,” which is a genius of a thing that comes from every kitchen of every person I’ve ever met’s mother (1 can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup, 1 cup sour cream, 2 cups grated orange cheddar cheese – don’t use white, it turns out gross-looking, and most of a bag of hashbrowns, stirred together and baked covered in a Corningware dish for 30 minutes at 450°F).  So, no Toad.

Ooh! I forgot to mention – I bought some lovely fresh free-range happy-UBC-farm-chicken eggs the other day, so I had another reason to make something Yorkshire-puddingy.

Anyway, so I thought – why not add a bit of sugar and top them with a warm raspberry-lemon compote and way too much whipped cream? It turns out such a thing already exists and has a name (with or without any version or variation of the compote or anything else) – and it’s a fairly awesome name at that – who doesn’t love joking about eating babies?! “I can’t think of a better use for them!” “Hahaha!” Ahem. You want the recipe? Of course you do. It’s quite simple/excellent/fun to make fun of babies.

I scraped a little bit of vanilla bean into mine, because I have some (though, since Nick tossed the lid to the container during a mad clean-freak sweep of the kitchen, they may all dehydrate before long). You can use a teaspoon-or-so of vanilla extract if you’ve got it. Almond extract or a little maple syrup would also probably be quite tasty.

Dutch Babies

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • Butter

Preheat your oven to 450°F. Butter six ramekins and place them on a baking sheet, and toss them into the oven.

In a single bowl, combine your flour, milk, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla. You used the butter to grease your ramekins, remember? Don’t worry. You won’t need it again. Work quickly, whipping everything together – make sure you don’t leave lumps. If your vanilla bean refuses to spread out and act normal, go in manually – use your fingers to separate the blobbies – that’s what they’ll look like: little black blobs, sort of like frogs’ eggs, but less gross.

When your batter is ready, pull the ramekins out of the oven and divvy the batter up between them. This recipe makes just enough for six. When the batter’s in, put it all back into the oven and set the timer for 30 minutes. Monitor their cooking via the oven light: You are not allowed to open the oven door until they are done. They will go flat, and then your brunch guests will not be as impressed.

When they come out of the oven, don’t wait too long to serve them. Drizzle them with a bit of sauce, and serve with whipped cream. For my raspberry sauce, I used two cups of frozen raspberries and the zest and juice of one lemon, reduced until the mixture was thick and nearly jammy in texture – I started them in a pot over medium-low heat about an hour before I had to serve everything, and didn’t watch them too closely, just stirred them occasionally.

I was quite pleased with the way these turned out – I think the eggs were really what made them. The yolks were a fantastic golden colour, and imbued the Babies with a very springy yellow hue. I wish I had a camera to show you! I will get one soon, I promise. And then I’ll make them again, and post pictures, and you’ll be all, “wow, those are lovely. It’s a good thing she’s a baker and not a breeder, because her real life Dutch babies (well, half-Dutch, which is funny, because she’d totally have gone Dutch on the genes for those whippersnappers) would probably not be nearly as good-looking.”

I wonder if it’s necessary to mention that brunch means you can get drunk during the day without everyone shouting “ALCOHOLIC!” and pointing at you. Nap time!

UPDATE: Toad in the Hole is shown on This is why you’re fat. Goddamn it.

Mulled wine for Michael

Dear Michael:

I have heard that you want to soothe yourself into a stupor. You’re sick? This probably won’t cure it. But you’ll feel lovely, and you’ll probably sink into a warm, womb-like sleep. Well, womb-like if your mom was a drunk. So, probably better than the average womb experience. Ew. Now I’m picturing giant vats of womb wine. Screw you, Michael.

Ahem. Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of white wine. You can go cheap. I like a good bottle of $10 German Riesling.
  • 1 mickey of brandy
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 2 oranges, quartered
  • 1 pear, quartered
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 slices of ginger (slice them across the root, to the thickness of quarters. The word of the day: QUARTERS.)
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of water

Put everything but the brandy in a pot over medium heat. Heat slowly, and allow to simmer. Add the brandy, and continue to simmer, 5 to 7 minutes.

You may want to add water or sugar to dull or counteract the acidity, if your wine isn’t terribly sweet. Fidget with it until it’s as sweet as you like. Don’t allow it to boil – alcohol is manna. Don’t waste it.

Strain the liquid into a pitcher or bowl – you don’t want the fruits and stuff floating around in there. Drink. It makes a lot, so if it’s a work night, don’t drink it all by yourself.