Posts from September 2009

Things Look Messy at TD Bank on First Days of Systems Merger

Well TD Banknorth and Commerce Bank have finally consumed their TD Bank union.

Systems have been merged and on the first days of the fusion things look messy.

Their online services were down for a while.

Numbers could not be trusted.

Their 800 number was inaccessible.

Sounds like less than blissful and I bet it left a lot of customers anxious and/or irate.

Besides that their new site is so 5 years ago (at least).

Are they following the conversation?

Taste of Jo'Burg, 5 Days, 16 South African Chefs and Restaurants, Sept 30- Oct 4

While fall is here in the northern hemisphere, summer is a few weeks away in South Africa.

Festivals of all types are lining up including food and wine events like Taste of Jo'Burg which attracted some 18,000 foodies in 2008.

The 2009 edition, the program states, brings together "the city's most acclaimed restaurants and carefully selected exhibitors" and is held at the Montecasino Outdoor Events Area in Johannesburg.

Taste of joburg

All chefs and restaurants are complete unknown to me.

Some of the recipes listed on the event site are intriguing for North American palates.

Not sure they will be amongst those served.

I noted the Tea Smoked Warthog with Pickled Baby Vegetables (recipe below, serves 4) by The Attic which offers Asian and French influenced dishes.

For the pickled vegetables:

12 baby beetroots 

12 baby carrots

12 baby turnips

For the pickling liquor:

200ml sherry vinegar

200ml Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar

200ml groundnut oil

200ml extra virgin olive oil 

castor sugar, to taste

For the gooseberry sauce:

400g fresh gooseberries
2 oranges, zest and juice

1 shallot, finely chopped

piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

25g butter

150ml white port

1 tsp (5ml) Dijon mustard
50g caster sugar

1 Tbsp (15ml) soft green peppercorns

For the venison:
1 cup (250ml) white rice
Handful of Lapsang tea bags or another Chinese tea
250g warthog loin
selection of baby salad leaves or microshoots to garnish

Preheat the oven to 200°C. 
Wrap the beetroots in foil and roast for 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Peel the beetroots if necessary.

Blanch carrots and turnips separately in boiling water for three minutes, then drain and refresh.
Combine all the ingredients for the pickling liquor. Taste and add a little sugar if too bitter. Divide among three separate containers; put the beetroots in one, turnips in another and the carrots in the last. Cover and leave to marinate for at least two hours, but ideally for 24 hours.

To make the gooseberry sauce, blanch the gooseberries for 10 seconds then plunge into ice-cold water. Remove and peel. Then blanch orange zest in boiling water for one minute, then drain. Gently fry the shallot and ginger in the butter for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add the blanched zest, juices, port, mustard and sugar, stirring, and bring to the boil. Cook until the volume is reduced by half.  Add the gooseberries and peppercorns and simmer for 4 minutes. Allow to cool.

To smoke the warthog, place rice in a cast iron pan and drizzle with the tea leaves. Place a rack on top of pan. Place warthog on top and cover the whole pan with foil. Place pan over high heat. Smoke for approx 4-5 mins or until there is a subtle smokey flavour.

To serve, slice the warthog. Pile a few salad leaves on each plate, fan the venison on top and add each pickle around the meat. Drizzle around the gooseberry sauce and serve."

Also with a local flavor Slow-roasted Springbok with a sweet potato puree, pickled beetroot and juniper jus from restaurant Roots at Forum Homini.

Be patient with the event site, it kept dropping off my radar...

Maybe I'll have a chance to be there for the 2010 edition.

Brought to my attention by South Africa's Travel Portfolio Blog.

King Tut and 3 Course Dinner, 2 Nights left for Tut at Twilight at de Young Museum

September 29 and 30, 2009 will be the last 2 chances you have to enjoy King Tut and a 3 Course Dinner at de Young Museum in San Francisco from 5 to 9 PM.

The Tut at Twilight offer is a deal at $14 regular or $21 with wine.

It was not that clear to me if that price includes admission to the museum as well.

After checking their reservation page it seems that this package is sold out on Tuesday but still available on Wednesday.


The exhibit (poster above) runs until March 2010.

The de Young Museum is located in Golden Gate Park.

Domaime Galevan, A Woman and Rhone Wines with Character, Paroles de Femme

A week or so ago, I was browsing the shelves of a wine store looking for unfamiliar labels when I spotted Paroles de Femme (Words of a Woman, A Woman's Words) from Domaine Galevan on the road to Vaison La Romaine so definitely Rhone.

Since the Domaine Galevan site (in French, English version does not seem to work) was short on specifics regarding the wines they produce, I got some information from Denmark thanks to Chateauneuf which besides the Danish version has also an English one.

Søren Gudiksen of lists the wines produced by the Domaine as follows:

Chateauneuf du Pape 90% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre. Aged in wood for 12-14 months.

Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 80% Grenache Blanc and Roussanne/Bourboulenc/Clairette. About 30% fermented in barrels.

Cotes du Rhone l'Esprit Devin 70% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and 10% Syrah. Aged in barrels for 12 months.

Cotes du Rhone Paroles de Femme 65% Grenache together with Mourvédre, Cinsault and Carignan. Matured in tank.

Cotes du Rhone Blanc

Cotes du Rhone Rosé

There is more than a well chosen name behind Paroles de Femme.

The wines at Domaine Galevan are the expression of Coralie Goumarre, la femme-the woman who creates them.

The property had been in the family for 9 generations when Coralie took over in 1995 from her parents, the first woman to run the show.

She does not deny the history behind her but leaves room for experimentation, letting her inspiration guide her when she sees fit.


Labels (like the one above) on the whole line sports the lady with the big hat, wind blowing her air, adventurous, on the move.

Goumarre is also a member of Femmes de Vin (Women of Wine) which brings together 80 women winemakers, from all regions of France

Even though I have not tasted any of her wines, I thought her character and her distinctive story where worth spreading the word.

If you do sip any of her wines before me, share your impressions.


FarmsReach, Direct to Restaurants, Farm Fresh to You, Direct to Consumers, Local, Sustainable Food

Besides a trend towards Edible Gardens plus the increase in the number of Farmers Markets and Food-Coop there is a new option on the table for restaurants, FarmsReach the self-titled 'Web Hub for Local Grub'.

Not just about cutting the middlemen and putting more money in farmers pockets, it's also a way to bring healthier, tastier food on restaurant tables.


Individual consumers are not forgotten with services such as Farm Fresh to You a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) initiative.

Farm Fresh to You is based in the Bay Area and 6000 families are currently registered in the program which delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to your home or office.

There is a minimum order of $23.00.


These various initiatives might even help reduce unnecessary travel for restaurateurs, producers and consumers by aggregating a number of individual orders.

Food on the table for Green Day # 96

Previously: Meanwhile, back in the Jungle, Green Vacations at Thala Beach Lodge, Australia

Time to Get the Work Train Moving

After spending part of the last 4 weeks digesting the loss of my main income source, cutting expenses, making tough choices, I decided it was time to look ahead.
Dwelling in negativity is not healthy.
After all I am one of many.

I did come to realize right away that after spending a quarter of my life in one place, the loss was not just financial but had an emotional side to it.

I did get a job interview after 3 weeks which is not bad under current circumstances.
I got great words of support from some of my faithful customers.

I realize more than ever the value of years of building relationships (the word networking sounds more mechanical to me).
I have been able to reach out to a number of people for advice and a morning boost.

I have not been inactive. My house of work still has foundations, just undergoing renovations.

I am blessed to have some concierge work trickling in which keeps me occupied and sane.

Looking for opportunities in the wine trade has not been bearing fruit yet.

Will my taste for writing become another stream, we'll see.

Most of all, life is too short to work at something that makes you feel miserable.
Don't we all do a much better job if we are in a nurturing, positive environment?


One thing I did not do is pay a visit to the Thinking Man Tavern (logo above), imagine a bar with books. I'm not much of a beer drinking and Atlanta is a bit far.

Re-Learning the importance of baby steps for Monday Work Etiquette #109

Previously: Feeling Stuck at Work, join Breakout for Quick NY Sessions and Breath of Fresh Air

September 27 Is/Was World Tourism Day, Celebrating Diversity in 2009

Before it's too late, I thought I should mention World Tourism Day which takes place every year on September 27.

I know for many of you around the globe it's already Monday, September 28 and while here in the northeast US, autumn is here, Spring is coming to others.


The event official site reminds us that "World Tourism Day will commemorate this year its 30th anniversary in the vibrant country of Ghana under the theme 'Tourism - Celebrating Diversity'.
This year’s theme focuses on the world’s cultural wealth and the important role sustainable tourism plays in revitalizing local traditions and making them flourish as they cross other cultures."

Why go places if you don't mix and mingle with the locals?

Happy Travel!

Erato on Main, Drink Global, Eat Local, A Wine Bar in Edwardsville, Illinois

While rummaging through the haystack for information on a Rhone wine whose name intrigued me, I ended up discovering Erato on Main, a nice little wine bar and eaterie in Edwardsville, Illinois.

For whatever reason the name brings to my mind Erato, the classical music label. The menu strives to offer as much local fare and in season products as possible because the fresher, the tastier.
Prices are sensible, Oyster Mushroom-Frisee and Goat Cheese Salad listed at $9 and Filet or NY Strip for $28.

As for the wine list, it is not just your run of the mill chardonnay, cabernet, merlot.

The other whites section for example (below):

2007 Vinchio-Vaglio Serra "Nivasco" Brachetto, Piedmont, Italy
2007 Vinchio-Vaglio Serra "Valamasca" Moscato D'Asti, Italy
2007 Pertinance, Roero Arneis, Italy
2006 Fossaluzza Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy
2007 Cantalupo “Carolus”, Italy
2006 Andrew Murray Viognier, Santa Ynez Valley , California
2005 Edmunds St. John "Shell and Bone", Paso Robles, California
2006 Brassfield "Serenity", High Valley, California
2007 Steve Bird “Old Schoolhouse Vineyard”, Marlborough, New Zealand
2004 Vinoptima Gewurztraminer, Ormond Gisborne, New Zealand
2007 Hopler Gruner Veltliner, Burgenland, Austria
2007 Huber "Hugo" Gruner Veltliner, Austria
2006 Muga Blanco, Rioja, Spain
2006 Naia, Rueda, Spain
2007 Urban Uco Torrontes, Cafayate, Argentina
2007 Margan “Saignee” Shiraz Rose, Australia

A good cross section of Rhone style reds is there to be enjoyed as well as owner-sommelier Tim Foley' s personal picks.


The wine bins above say cosy...

Walking the Dog, I fetch a 10 Pound Bag of Chestnuts

In the daily morning walk with my aging Bouvier des Flandres, Bali, the only thing I pick up his dog poop.

Today was different.

As I passed a house, a lady was cleaning her front yard and asked me, do you want chestnuts.

My answer, sure, it goes with many dishes, from chicken to pastries, maybe even as a salad garnish or just plain oven roasted.

It can also be turned into spreads.

For more on this treat of nature, read the chestnut page on Wikipedia where picture below comes from.

What I did not expect was for the lady to hand me a 10 pound bag.

I guess I can turn it into a chestnut festival.

If you have any recipe suggestions, let me know.


She invited me to come back for more.

We tend to forget about the generosity of strangers.

Merci madame!

Top 10 Indie Coffee Shops in the UK from Opposite to Relish, Guardian Picks

Will Hide is kind enough to share with us what Ten of the best UK coffee shops (Guardian, September 25). Most are outside London which is good.

The author is very upfront as to where his java taste stands in the introduction to the Top Ten Pick:

"For coffee-lovers who want to avoid the ubiquitous chains swamping the UK, there are an increasing number of independent shops that will give you an infinitely tastier cup, and more than likely save you money to boot. Once you've had a creamy, full-flavored drink that actually tastes of coffee, it's hard to go back to a paper cup full of milky dishwater."

And they said only Frenchmen were opinionated.

Amongst these 10, I would definitely stop at Opposite which actually has 2 locations in Leeds, the first Opposite 2 across from Leeds University hence the name, I guess and the most recent one downtown in Victoria Quarter (pictured below).


I like what they stand for as spelled on their home page: "If you’re bored of ordinariness then try Opposite and be surprised. We stand for individuality, creativity, community, quality and enthusiasm."

In Wadebridge, Cornwall, Relish Food and Drink is about more than coffee even though they remind us that their star Barista Jack made it to 8th place in the UK Barista Championships 2009.


They offer some cheese, beer and wine too not to forget organic teas.

Breakfast is served from 9 to 11 AM (for late risers) then Lunch, check the Drink and Food Menu for details. It's the June edition so it might have changed quite a bit since then but it gives you an idea.

They are open from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Saturday.

Note their Children Policy:

"We don't mind children, but we do mind parents who don't mind children!"

Another day, another story, more places I will have to visit.