Posts from January 2013

Tronches de Vin, Wine Mugs, French Anti Wine Guide to Indie Winemakers

Tronches is not quite French slang, more a colloquial word for face. It translate to 'mug' as in mugshot.

When i first saw Tronches de Vin mentionned, I thought it would feature portraits of winemakers.


Actually this book written by 5 French wine bloggers is the anti-establishment version of a wine guide.

They call it an 'anti wine guide'.

It will be published in France in March 2013.

(* Image from 'Tronches de Vin' Facebook page)

Hope Food and Drinks Taste as Good as they Look at Mint Garden Bar and Sage in Canberra

Twitter delivers it shares of spam yet browsing recent followers, I was happy to discover elegant settings and colorful dishes of Sage Dining Rooms in Canberra , the Australian capital.


You can also enjoy a cocktail and small plates at its companion Mint Garden Bar in Canberra.


Makes you want to experience Summer down under.

(* Photos via Sage Twitter page)

Farmhouse on Rolling Hills of Sini, 7 Bedrooms at Azienda Agricola Rivetto Welcome You near Alba

Places you would like to spend a few days at sometimes 'sneak up' on you without warning.

An update by Rivetto from Piedmont on awards their wines received in past year made me realize that they welcome guests at their Farmhouse in Sini (near Alba).


With 7 bedrooms, this house offers quiet and great views of the rolling hills and vineyards...and of course guided tours of Rivetto's cellars and on-site wine tastings.

On a clear day you can even see the Alps.

You can stay as little as one night and as long as your savings allow.

(* Photo borrowed from Rivetto blog)

Soy Sauce Broiled Dango Balls, Salty Tea Snacks from Japanese Farm Food cookbook

With Japanese Farm Food (Andrews McMeel Publishing, Fall 2012), Nancy Singleton Hachisu is not merely conducting a 'farm to table' exercise as she herself lives and works the land on an organic farm in Japan's northern Saitama prefecture with her Japanese husband and 3 sons.

Her advice is "cooking farm-to-table food from another country is easy if you...take care to understand the heart of the food."

I hope I have the chance to talk with her soon about her life in food in Japan

I chose as a first excerpt her salty tea snacks.

Soy Sauce–Broiled Dango Balls


Makes 6 sticks of 4 Dango

Not all tea snacks need to be sweet, and since farm work can be quite physical, salty flavors are also welcome. These dango were traditionally made unsweetened, brushed with soy sauce and slow grilled over a charcoal fire. If you have never smelled that indescribable aroma of gently caramelizing soy sauce intermingled with the tantalizing smoke from artisanal Japanese charcoal, well . . . you haven’t lived. For me that is the smell of Japan.

You will need six (6-inch/15-cm) bamboo skewers to make this recipe.

1 cup (175 g) rice flour for dango (joshinko )
3 tablespoons organic soy sauce
Sweet Soy-Flavored Sauce (optional, recipe follows)

Bring a large, wide pot of water to a boil.

Set a large bowl in the kitchen sink and fill with cold water. Drop the bamboo skewers into the bowl.

Measure the joshinko into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk to break up any lumps and slowly add ¾ cup (175 cc) hot water to form a firm but pliable dough. Grasp the side of the bowl with one hand and knead the dough briefly with your other hand.

Divide the dough into 24 equal-sized balls and drop into the boiling water. After about 8 or 10 minutes, the balls will rise to the surface. Cook for another 4 minutes and remove from the boiling water by scooping up with a wire mesh strainer and dumping into the bowl of cold water in your sink. Run more cold water into the bowl to keep the overall temperature cool, but be careful the dango don’t flow out of the bowl and escape into the sink.

Prepare a small charcoal “hibachi”-style brazier (shichirin). The charcoal takes some time to burn down and the low embers are best for cooking. Alternatively, set the broiler rack on the third position from the top and heat the broiler.

Remove the skewers from the bowl before draining the cooled dango. Let air dry for a few minutes on a non–terry cloth kitchen towel. Pat dry if you are pressed for time.

Thread 4 dango balls onto each skewer so that they are gently nestled up next to each other but not smashed together. They should be centered on the skewer. Brush with soy sauce and broil or grill about 2 minutes on each of their 4 “sides,” brushing with more soy sauce each time you turn the skewer.

Serve hot from the grill with a cup of Japanese green tea for a midmorning or afternoon snack. If you prefer a sweeter flavor, dip in the sauce before serving.


Sweet Soy-Flavored Sauce
Mitarashi Sosu
Makes ⅔ cup (150cc)

Mitarashi sauce is almost like a glaze, though a bit thicker. I prefer my dango (page 358) a tad more austere, with just the taste of charcoal-caramelized soy sauce. But if you like a sweeter flavor, by all means dunk the dango balls in mitarashi sauce after cooking.

8 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon potato starch (katakuriko)
4 tablespoons organic sugar

In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce into the potato starch and pour into a small saucepan with the sugar. Stir to blend and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to keep the sugar from sticking on the bottom. Simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes until the bubbles are thick and the sauce is glossy. Remove from the heat. Keeps for several weeks in the refrigerator; warm before using.

Ratio: soy sauce : sugar : potato starch—8 : 4 : 1

On the farm for Tokyo Thursdays # 250

Previously: Renkon Gyoza on 28 Dollar 4 Course Dinner at Hapa Izakaya for Dine Out Vancouver 2013

(* Recipe from Japanese Farm Food-Fall 2012- by Nancy Singleton Hachisu reproduced with permission of publisher Andrews McMeel, photographs by Kenji Miura, all rights reserved)

Around the World in 80 Gardens at International Garden Show, Hamburg, April 26 to October 2013

Green thumbs, amateurs of landscapes and edible gardens will have the world at their feet with 'Around the World in 80 Gardens' at International Garden Show in Hamburg from April 26 to October 2013.

The program aims:

"Seven horticultural themed sections will present unique eco-systems as well as cultures form around the world. Visitors will also learn about green initiatives, and experience the very typical regional agricultural and horticultural landscapes with its carefully kept gardens and fruit trees."


I hear echoes of Jules Verne in the event's name.

Lamb Shakshouka Recipe, Straight from the Pan Teaser before Peter Gordon 'Everyday' Interview

Yesterday afternoon, I took advantage of my 'office' day (not in car on road all day) to catch up with New Zealand born London based chef Peter Gordon and discuss his latest book Peter Gordon 'Everyday' (Harper Collins in New Zealand and Australia, Jacqui Small in UK, Fall 2002, no U.S edition yet).

My previous interview with Peter, The World on Your Plate, Peter Gordon Fusion Journey was published in April 2010.

Yesterday's chat will probably be published next week.

In the meantime, here's a teaser excerpted from Peter Gordon 'Everyday'.

Lamb Shakshouka recipe

More often than not this classic North African dish (which is now also a classic of modern Israel thanks to the Tunisian Jews who settled there) is vegetarian and, much as I am happy to eat it that way, I prefer this spiced-up version containing lamb – although simply omit it if you prefer.

Lamb shakshouka For 4

3 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp sesame seeds
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 red capsicums, deseeded and sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
¼ tsp paprika or cayenne pepper
150 g minced lean lamb (optional)
6 ripe tomatoes, diced (or 1 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes and a little tomato paste)
4 eggs
50 ml plain yoghurt
1 small handful picked parsley, mint and coriander


1. Ideally you want to serve this in the dish you cook it in, so a large frying pan with a lid is good. Heat up the pan and add the olive oil, cumin and sesame seeds.

2. Once they begin to sizzle, add the onions, capsicums, garlic and paprika or cayenne pepper. Sauté until the vegetables collapse, stirring frequently.

3. Add the mince (if using) and a little salt. Cook until the lamb crumbles, stirring all the time.

4. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil, then cook over moderate heat for 6–8 minutes, at which point much of the juice will have evaporated.

5. Make four impressions in the mixture and break an egg into each ‘hole’.

6. Spoon the yoghurt on, put a lid on the pan and cook until the eggs have begun to set, but still have runny yolks.

7. Scatter with the shredded herbs and serve immediately straight from the pan.

(* Recipe from 'Everyday' by Peter Gordon with a little help from his friend Grant Allen, photography by Manja Wachsmuth, reproduced by permission of Harper Collins New Zealand)

Malvasia Frizzante, Tournesol Red, Lusentin Organic Wines at Slow Wine Guide 2013 Tasting

One of the producers that caught my eye last night at Slow Wine Guide 2013 tasting in New York was Lusenti from Emilia-Romagna which happens to be organic and with Lodovica Lusenti and her husband Giuseppe Ferri at the helm.

17 wines from white and sparkling to reds and dessert are offered by winery.

Of these 17, a selection of 3 was there was the tasting.

First came Malvasia Frizzante Emiliana 2011. At first sight, it looks cloudy in the glass. It is because it is unfiltered and bottle fermented, Lodovica Lusenti told me. Grape is malvasia di Candia aromatica.

Second was Gutturnio Tournesol 2010. It is a sparkling dry red using traditional method with second fermentation in bottle. It was named Tournesol not as a nod to sunflowers (tournesol in French) or Tintin (Professor Tournesol) but because bottles are gently turned clockwise during second fermentation. It is 60% Barbera – 40% Croatina from certified organic grapes.

I thought it was first time i tasted an Italian wine using the Croatina grape until I realized it is also known as Bonarda.

According to Enoteca Regionale Emilia Romagna "the name of this wine has ancient origin. Gutturnium was a big silver cup Romans used for drinking wine during feasts, sharing it with the other guests. The consul Pisone, Julius Caesar’s father-in-law, was publicly criticised because of his excessive love for this wine!"


I came back towards end of tasting to sample their sweet wine, Pistamota, a vino passito (100% Croatina). You might be happy to hear it clocks at only 12% alcohol.

Guess what they suggest as food pairings for this Passito: Roast venison and goose with blueberry sauce, mature soft cheeses, chocolate cake, roast chestnuts, spongata cake (candied fruit cake). 

Lusenti converted to natural wines in 2010. Their sparkling creations use the 'Natural Fizz' moniker.

Green wines for Green Day # 240

Previously: Bigorneaux, Jellyfish, Mackerel, Blue Water Cafe’s Unsung Heroes Festival, Feb 1 – 28

Eating for Health and Happiness, Fuchsia Dunlop 'Every Grain of Rice' Interview

January has been flying by since I caught up with Fuchsia Dunlop in her London HQ via Skype right at start of 2013.

Our hour long conversation revolved around the U.S publication of her latest cookbook Every Grain of Rice, Simple Chinese Home Cooking (W.W. Norton, February 2013).

Q: Fuchsia, where did your interest in Chinese food and China in general come from?

I got hooked on China through a sub-editing job at the BBC, then traveled to China, learned Mandarin. I was supposed to study minorities history then while in Chengdu got interested in Chinese cuisine which led me to study at Institute of Higher Cuisine in Sichuan.

Q: Homecooked meal you had at Mrs. Mao described in the introduction sounds like a feast, is it common in Chinese homes to treat your guests to so many dishes?

Yes, it is customary. It is also a way to offer a range of flavors over the course of the meal.

Q: What distinguishes Malabar spinach of Sichuan from regular spinach?

It is a completely different plant also known as Basella alba (from Basellaceae family, slippery and ancient.

Q: Can you describe what you call ‘eating for heath and happiness’

Rather than the idea of Chinese food we have in the West, it means a cuisine based on grains and vegetables, beans with bits of meat and fish to add flavor.


Q: What does Cassia bark add to stews?

Cassia bark could be called ‘poor man’ cinnamon. It is often used to counteract (balance) beef or lamb flavors and is often used in combination with star anise and cardamom.

Q: How similar and different are Chinese cured hams from European ones and how are they used?

Jinhua hams from Eastern China and Yunnan are 2 examples. They are seldom eaten raw. Most often they are added to enhance flavors (umami) also with bamboo shoots. Their role is similar to that of dry shrimp in other recipes. Small thin slices of cured ham are also present as a garnish.

Q: What is role of Chinese ladle?

Chinese ladle has shallower angle.  It works well to move various ingredients around the wok or add various  

Q; Among recipes in ‘Every Grain of Rice’ which would you suggest to someone not familiar with Chinese cuisine, a rookie?

Many recipes in the book are accessible and can be put together in 10 to 20 minutes, as long as you have the right ingredients.

Q: I discovered thank to you that chestnuts are a native crop of China, which recipe in the book puts them to good use?

I recommend the chicken chestnut stir fry. Use young chestnuts.

Q: Why are Garlic Stems a favorite of yours?

Their garlicky taste is softened by cooking. It makes for a great supper with bacon and rice. Chinese cooking uses the onion family a lot, for example yellow hothouse chives and flowering chines.


Q: What made Zhajiang noodles popular all over China?

It is a classic Beijing dish. Other regions created versions of it though with less intense flavors.

Q:  Is dessert not part of a Chinese meal?

Desserts can be found in Hong Kong or at banquets. For Chinese a meal is a journey of flavors. Chinese do not find grouping of sweets together compelling.

Q: You suggest German or Alsatian white wines as best pairing with Chinese dishes so why are red Bordeaux popular in China?

At grand dinners, sea cucumber, birdnest are served because they are delicacies with social cachet. Serving dry red wines like high end Bordeaux are status symbols, they are trendy.

Q: You also mention that fiery grain liquors are served at functions, are they hard on liver?

Lots of grain liquors are present at celebrations and business functions. Many transplants find it hard to deal with night after night of toasts. This heavy drinking is harder on men. Women can find ways to minimize toasts without offending their hosts.

Q: What type of oysters are found in Fujian and Guandong provinces?

I have to confess I am not sure.

Gastronomic tour china

Q: To conclude, What is your favorite regional cuisine?

There are so many exciting regional cuisines. Chengdu is exceptional. It is first Chinese city of gastronomy. Sichuan food has all price points. It is both varied and complex. You find hundreds of dishes, all with their own flavor,some scorched in oil, others fermented, a wide range of chiles, ginger juices, sweet and sour options. Another favorite area is Hangzhou for its water vegetables and fresh water fish.

(* Photo of Fuchsia Dunlop © Colin Bell, other photo courtesy Fuchsia Dunlop)

Renkon Gyoza on 28 Dollar 4 Course Dinner at Hapa Izakaya for Dine Out Vancouver 2013

Renkon Gyoza is one of the dishes selected by by Japanese style pub and restaurant Hapa Izakaya on its $28, 4 Course Dinner Menu, a special menu offered during Dine Out Vancouver Festival (January 15-February 3).


Currently with 3 locations in Vancouver and 1 in Toronto, this small restaurant group is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Japan flavored in British Columbia for Tokyo Thursdays # 249

Previously: In Year of the Snake, Celebrate Oshogatsu at Morikami Museum, Delray Beach, Jan 13