Jump to content


participating member
  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by estufarian

  1. There are excellent selections at 'All The Best Fine Foods' (part of the 5 thieves, just south of Summerhill Liquor Store) and Whole Foods Market (in Hazleton Lanes, Bloor & Avenue Road). Haven't checked recently, but good chance you'll find some at Cheese Boutique (Queensway & South Kingsway), Pusateri's (AVENUE Road & Lawrence) and Alex (St Lawrence Market).
  2. estufarian

    Flying with wine

    All baggage allowances are in 'pieces'. Each piece is subject to both size and weight limits. For international flights the limit is 32 kilos (70 lbs) per piece. This gives you max 64 kilos if you can pack perfectly (but you can't do one of 30 and one of 34). I tape two 12-packs together to get 1 piece. I've even taped a small suitcase to a wine box to achieve a single 'piece'. Even though this makes no sense 'logically' as the plane carries the same amount overall, the agents are required to document the number of 'pieces' (I'm guessing control and safety reasons) and they are much happier putting down '2' than '3' (I'm guessing they are supposed to charge for that extra piece and don't want to leave an audit trail - the maximum is 2 pieces without extra charge). I believe that within Europe the weight limit is less (as is the maximum size). Iknow that internal flights in UK is only 1 checked piece. They are VERY strict on weight now. On my last 2 return international flights they have weighed each piece and I had to remove a single bottle once (it seems I had heavier glass for some reason - normally 20 bottles is OK). And they weighed the hand luggage (max 6 kilos 13 lbs) - fortunately I was OK there, even with the bottle I'd removed. Prior to jan 1st 2003 you could pay extra for overweight - but not any more. Neither will they allow you to 'ship' baggage as freight if it's overweight. Again, this was possible before jan 1st. I have found some tolerance on size. When I had three pieces (1 suitcase and 2 pieces of empty boxes) they allowed me to tape the empty boxes together (to make a 4-case pack) so as not to charge me - but you can't count on that. And one last caution - the size limit is 158cm (62ins) computed as length + width + height. If you use the top and bottom styrofoam (as apposed to the layer) you may exceed this measure if you tape 2 together (but a 12 + a 6 will work). And they're much more lenient with First-Class passengers (I hear).
  3. estufarian

    1918 Yquem

    OK. So I'm boasting, but I was fortunate enough to have the 1918 about 10 years ago. The colour was a golden brown (sounds lighter than the one you have) and it was all creme brulee. I've never had an Yquem that was 'undrinkable' - but I prefer older wines. Not the greatest Yquem - but not shabby. My recommendation would be to get a group together and contribute a 'fair' price (e.g. auction price less 20-30%) shared among the participants (example:- if you think of buying a $500 bottle you'll have doubts - but 10 people would probably each cough up $50 for a 2+ ounce pour).
  4. So you were the one blocking me! Also called on 9th and got in for lunch on Nov 9. Either it's getting easier to reserve or we got the special eGullet line.
  5. estufarian

    Flying with wine

    I regularly check wine as luggage. My preferred method is styrofoam packs and I tape 2 of these together and insert 20 bottles (leaving the 4 corners free). The weight limit is 32 kilos and if you exceed this, they will make you remove extra weight (since jan 1st 2003 - before that you could pay extra). I use the styrofoam that has four 'layers of 3' rather than the ones that look like an oversized regular cardboard case with a styrofoam moulded top and bottom. The reason is that the latter are larger and if you tape two together you exceed the size restriction. I have never had a breakage (yet!) and have transported around 1000 bottles this way. Of course, you have the problem of getting the boxes over there. But, if you don't have space, then how are you going to get them back? You're allowed two 'pieces' of luggage per person (which is why I tape them - only counts as one piece). Weight isn't an issue when they're empty. Those who suggest hand luggage - don't try it! Again since jan 1 there's a hand luggage limit of 5 kilos (I've seen it enforced) and you risk confiscation anyway - glass can be used as a weapon. And wrapping it in checked baggage obviously can work, but not recommended because of the consequences if a bottle breaks (and eventually one will!).
  6. I thought it my 'best meal ever'. Ginger chef was relatively unimpressed. And we had almost the same menu (I was there in August). So herewith a more detailed 'second opinion'. Our reservation was at 1:00, and we were the first to arrive (only 1 other table was seated before 2:00) – these people eat late. So we had plenty of time to peruse the menu and wine list. Things started well. The staff spoke good English and gave us an English menu (not that common, even in 3* restaurants in Spain). And they had two different tasting menus, each at 88€ so we ordered one of each. The wine list was a pleasant surprise. Predominantly Spanish, it featured both current ‘cult’ wines and a selection of more traditional Spanish wines going back to the 20’s (and covering every decade). 1925 was a possibility, as I’ve had the 25 Marques de Murrieta twice (both times superb), as was 1964 – probably the greatest year for Rioja in the century. And they had wine from my spouse’s birth year too (edited to ensure marital accord). After discussions with the Sommelier (incidentally the best and most knowledgeable we encountered in Spain) we settled on the 1925 Marques de Riscal (he advised skipping this as it was too risky). This would take a little time to retrieve and open, so we had a couple of glasses of Cava while we waited (and anticipated). First came the ‘Amuses’. Iberica ham and sea asparagus with a thick cream accompanying sauce – or was it? The cream contained tiny ‘seeds’ of a lemon ‘pop rock’ – as you ate, it literally exploded in the mouth (you could hear it too). Spectacular flavours and an extra dimension – causing us to smile at each ‘pop’. These little surprises became a feature of the meal. Nothing on the menu hinted at the various twists that were to come. First courses were Cold Sandwich of Foie Gras and its hot cup with “Sopako” Mollusc in Bubbles with Salicorne What we got were 1) a dish that looked like a diagonal ‘white bread’ sandwich – except the ‘bread’ was a dense apple foam (strong enough to support the foie, but too soft to pick up and eat), and 2) oyster, clam, barnacle and mussel which literally bubbled up like a foaming volcano when the broth was poured over. I know it sounds gimmicky for both, but the flavours were not compromised by any of the trickery. Next courses Egg Yolk, Fish Eggs and Broth of “Piquillos” King Prawns in Perfumed Infusion, Salads Tempura The fish eggs were puzzling – looking similar to salmon eggs, they were much spicier, but had the right texture – squirting out their juice under slight pressure. We couldn’t figure out what they could be at all (later we deduced that they were the ‘fake caviar’ as developed by Ferran Adria). The egg yolk was quail. And the tempura salad was a great texture contrast – and exactly what it says. By this point in the meal we were already thinking that this could be the ‘meal of the year’. Every dish had superb flavour and an extra entertaining dimension. Now the bottle of wine arrived. The level was excellent (high shoulder), and the label very faded although the year was still visible. The Sommelier attempted to open it at the table, but the cork broke (fairly cleanly) so I gave him permission to take the bottle away to complete the operation. However, (as the staff all gathered round to watch), he persisted and retrieved the remainder, with only two small cork pieces falling into the wine. The first pour contained both of these and that glass was removed. The second was offered for approval (or not) and was superb. All flowers and fragrance, roses and fruit blossoms. The taste was similar – a little fragile but the delicacy was on a foundation of soft red fruit. The only detraction was a slight pruniness in the finish. But a real treat nevertheless. On with the meal: Risotto “Venere” and Scampi Tails with Saffron Warm Veal Terrine with Preserve flavoured with Wine The risotto was served two ways. One was conventional and the other was a roasted black rice (giving it the texture of rice krispies). The terrine had been salamandered and was covered with a veal ‘ham’. Red Mullet with little Green Peppers Vinaigrette Red Tuna Chop with Tomato juice and tender Onion By this time we were just enjoying (not taking notes) –I recall the tomato juice was really tomato syrup. Young Veal temperated in Olive Oil with its own Juice and “Tender Fruits” Breast of Pigeon with Melon Seeds The melon seeds were roasted, with intense flavour, giving a crunch to the dish. The veal was Blackened. Little Citrus Box Frozen Herbs Snow The citrus was lemon, grapefruit and orange. The frozen herbs came in four textures; an ice cream, a sorbet, a granité and a Popsicle. The flavours were cranberry, beet & redcurrant, tarragon, and mint. Covered Rhubarb Soup and Chocolates Pineapple, Ginger and Coconut Ice-Cream The cover of the soup was a sweet corn crisp. The chocolate was white and dark chocolate nuggets. The ice cream was wrapped in a pineapple roll-up. As the meal progressed, the note taking diminished. We just sat back and enjoyed each dish – taking notes was a distraction. The overall impression was undoubtedly “flavour”. All of the gimmicks were secondary to the freshness and purity of the ingredients. Essentially they were the icing on the cake. And finally the coffee/tea. What a selection of teas, herbal teas, infusions etc! The coffee selection included over a dozen different types. We chose a Blue Mountain (spouse’s favourite) and a Papua for me (I love acidity). Served (of course) with an array of mignardises. And a visit from Pedro Subijana himself proved that the chef was in the kitchen – even for lunch. As if there was any doubt! The a la carte menu dishes were mostly 20-35€ (lobster at 50), and predominantly seafood. This was the greatest meal of our lives (so far, overtaking my #1, Michel Guerard at Eugenie-les-Bains in the early 80's and my spouses #1 (my #2) Masa in San Francisco in early 90's). Every dish wowed. The wine was amazing. The service was exceptional. So why isn’t this a 3* (we went to 3 of these on the trip)? Possibly because the wine list is so Spanish, rather than International. And certainly the atmosphere is less formal (many guests were dressed very informally and several parties had children with them). But if he gets his third *, then he’ll be on the ‘Grand Tour’ and that wine list will soon be picked clean. And reservations will be much more difficult. So take my advice and go soon. It’s amazing value.
  7. Can I believe my eyes? Extreme views (almost passions) about an Ontario based chef and restaurant. Doesn’t that automatically qualify him as important (possibly influential)? Of course, Ontario has excellent, good, mediocre and poor restaurants – just like anywhere else. And even if we don’t complain (e.g. at unhygienic conditions), we don’t go back. Turning to influential, I find it surprising that the three chefs topping many (possibly most) peoples lists are Jamie Kennedy, Michael Stadtlander and Susur Lee, who all emerged at around the same time – 20 years ago. Even expanding this to the other successful, talented chefs (e.g. Chris McDonald, Mark McEwan – to use examples, not slight other candidates) still takes us back 15 years. All of the above are still producing variations on their original themes. Probably more accomplished, but recognizable as an evolution from those earlier days, rather than a reinvention. What prompted the explosion of talent at that time? Is it as simple as economic opportunities as the boomers ate out more often? Why hasn’t there been a subsequent emergence (other than temporary shooting stars such as jump-up soup)? Certainly there have been some talented chefs, but nothing approaching the influence of the above names. Here I’m deliberately excluding the ethnic cuisines, at least in terms of creativity – it could be argued that there’s even more influence there, witness the number of restaurants where ‘Special #4’ is actually the same dish across dozens of restaurants (discussion for another topic). So where are the next generation of innovative chefs – as apposed to one-dish wonders? And why did we have to wait for 20+ years (or did I miss it)?
  8. But, at El Bulli he makes "caviar" FROM some fruits (melon, passionfruit). And at Akelare in Donostia, Pedro Subijana (who also features "imitation caviar" along the same lines) has a Vinegar Caviar on the menu (although I haven't tried it). The mystery deepens.
  9. estufarian

    Portuguese wines

    I gave some suggestions in another thread: Douro wines For Port itself, it's hard to go wrong with the top names. But for a cheaper alternative I've found Martinez consistently reliable. And, since the early 90's, Niepoort has become a favourite, although their earlier vintages were patchy.
  10. I've been following Michael for around 20 years now. His early attempts were excellent food but totally disorganized. As much as an hours wait between courses. However, over time he became the most 'sympathetic' chef in the area. His combinations of food and wine are unmatched in the Toronto area (ironic considering Eigensinn is BYOB). The farm, in the early days, overstepped his reach and meals were patchy. Originally it was a B&B - but that soon ended - too much work and distractions. Michael is easy-going and would often accommodate diners to the detriment of the operation. But he's now cutting back, which is good news for those who can get in. He accepts fewer diners per evening and parties are a maximum of 6 people (if you want more, you have to book the entire restaurant) and a maximum of 14 for the evening. The food is always fresh, local and organic. Hygiene is better (he is inspected regularly). And he's a great chef - but of course, 'your mileage may vary'. A comparison with Alice Waters is very apt, particularly as to philosophy and overall feel. I haven't been to Taillevent or French Laundry, but from what I've read, those are totally different 'experiences'. At Eigensinn the room is decorated with natural products (e.g. driftwood). It's a little more than camping - but closer to camping than 3* service. And I don't think that at the French Laundry Thomas Keller will come out at the end, sit with the guests and have someone pull out a guitar and everybody sit around singing songs until 2a.m. That was my favourite memory at Eigensinn. And I can't think of any other similarly regarded restaurant where that would occur. Sometimes it's just magic.
  11. Ok. Just called Eigensinn. They ARE taking reservations. I tried for mid October - it was sold out. The earliest I could book a group in (8 people) was Sunday 7 December!
  12. What beer goes best at a rock concert? The same principle applies at El Bulli - it doesn't really matter. But certain principles do survive. Keep a bottle (or two) of Cava going at all times - it really does go with most things. The wine list there is fairly International (with most of the Spanish cult favourites). But the list certainly doesn't match the food. It looks like it's been put together from a book of 'wines to serve at top restaurants'. And you'll be through to at least the 7th course before you've had a chance to even scan the list properly. My strategy was to stick with Cava and have a serviceable red for the courses that lent themselves to red wine (not that many). The proof that the wine list is uninformed is that I was able to find an Allain Graillot Crozes-Hermitage 1999 for 24€ on the list - it costs more than double that at restaurants in Toronto. Actually Sake would be a great match. And he does have a couple on the list - presumably for the Japanese clientele he attracts. (edited to add the Sake paragraph)
  13. Yes, he's taking a break (rumoured to be shooting a film series on cooking across Canada). I'm not sure what the return date is, but know that Nobuyo (in particular) was upset about abusive phone calls from erstwhile visitors who couldn't get reservations (or even anyone on the phone). My guess is that they will go to a 'French Laundry' type reservation system, with booking a set number of days in advance. Michael missed Toronto Taste this year so I couldn't catch up (or get a reservation this year).
  14. Thank you Nickolaus. Based on your review I reserved at Akelare for lunch and was ASTOUNDED. The best meal of my life (so far). Some of my dishes were different, but the overall impression was similar. And the wine list was unbelievable (if you're a Spanish wine lover). Selections from all decades back to the 20's (we had the 25 Marques de Riscal) at very fair prices. If there's anything better in the area I'm going back sooner (rather than later). But I'll be back! Definitely preferred it to Berasategui.
  15. Mea Culpa - scribble in haste, repent at leisure. My intent (even I recognise that my post didn't communicate it - I was catching up on nearly a month away) was to point out that the Can Fabes tasting menu contains several 'optional upgrades'. Typically these cost 30 to 40€. Two people dining together could not get different dishes without upgrading on at least 1 course (2 the night I was there). Also the tasting menu was 5 courses (not 8) for 110€ when I was there (August 8 2003). I upgraded (for 30€) so that we could try an extra course. The other choice required an 80€ additional - but that was for two, so we still wouldn't have had different tastes if I'd chosen that. Without an upgrade, we could only have sampled 7 dishes for our 220€ combined tasting menu. We actually had 8 for 250€. Plus 12€ for pa i mantega and 7€ for water plus taxes etc. This makes it expensive FOR SPAIN. My contrast was intended to be with the "ordinary" tasting menu, not "ordinary" food. As to quality - this, of course, has no correlation (necessarily) with price. This was as perfect a Mediterranean meal as I've ever had - in terms of purity of flavours and technique. However, I did find it somewhat 'correct' rather than 'inspiring'. I found myself complimenting the ingredients, rather than the cooking. Yes, it was an excellent meal. But on a furure trip I'd probably spend my money on more local restaurants. My excellent lunch the following day, in a local restaurant (3 courses, including wine and a cheese plate with 9 spanish cheeses - La Brasa in Riudarenes, between Sant Celoni and Girona), cost little more than the bread and water at Can Fabes. And Can Fabes cost more for us (per person) than El Bulli (or any other restaurant on our trip) - I was trying to point out that the bottom line costs here are somewhat higher than most people will anticipate. (edited for spelling and to add the name of the restaurant I lunched at)
  16. But not at con Fabes. It's 6€ per person and water is 2.5€for a small bottle. +IVA. And the tasting menu is pretty ordinary unless you go for premium dishes. A La Carte is 40+ € for mains.
  17. Don't forget to add the cost of bread and water! Con Fabes is horrendously expensive for both. Allow 10 € PER PERSON. And his tasting menus often have 'supplementary charges' for premium dishes (typically 30 or 40 € per dish). His basic tasting menu is currently around 110€.
  18. Was at Akelare this month (for lunch) and consider it the best meal of my life (to that point). I've been too busy to write it up (yet) but suffice it to say that the previous #1 was at Eugenie-les-Bains (Michel Guerard) in the early 80's and #2 was at Masa (San Francisco) in the early 90's. And not all tables were occupied, so shouldn't be a problem with reservations. And their Spanish wine list was astounding. We had the 25 Marques de Riscal!
  19. Gastronomica has a list of stores that stock it on their website (go to FAQ).
  20. Heard from 'the horses mouth' last week that the English version was 'due to be completed in October' - not sure when it will reach stores.
  21. As a recent visitor to Seattle, I feel duty-bound to record my review of Cascadia, which was published elsewhere first. At Cascadia, we ate early (our stomachs were still 3 hours ahead), so were the second table there. Excellent tasting menu choices. Two different 7-course choices, one “Food From Here” the other “Coast To Coast” (and a vegetarian choice) so we chose both of those (only 1 course duplicated). Unfortunately (?) the Copper River Salmon was ‘off’ – they’d finished it the night before and felt that the quality was now slipping as it was end-of-season. To be fair, even in the market it was advertised as ‘last chance’. However, the menus seemed excellent, so we looked over the wine list. Again, reviews had criticized the prices, but they now have a section called ’30 under 30’ which offers 30 wines under $30 (as well as more expensive stuff). Now came the first ‘problem’. A couple were seated adjacent to us who felt that wearing strong colognes/perfume was somehow attractive. This could have destroyed our meal and wines. I discreetly approached the receptionist and explained the problem. We were quietly moved to a corner table and no table settings were transferred i.e. new water glasses, napkins etc. The old ones were removed quietly and the other patrons weren’t aware of anything. Very well done. Matching wine with tasting menus is always difficult so we asked if they could arrange for different wine tastes with each course (nothing on the menu suggested it could). But, no problem! We explained what we would have ordered otherwise (a white (Alsace) from the under 30 list, plus a couple of relatively expensive reds by the glass). So the sommelier agreed a price ($80 total for two people) and did a commendable job. With the Smoked Salmon and Prosciutto/Figs/Mascarpone courses we had two Pinot Gris (one Washington, one Oregon). With the shellfish (Oyster/Clam Chowder and Maine Lobster/Alaska Spot Prawns we had a Carneros Chardonnay and an Oregon Chardonnay. The lemon cucumber basil sorbet was common to both menus (no wine). The fish (Spice Rubbed Halibut/Crisp Calamari and Monkfish/Foie Gras) came with Bollinger Champagne and 1991 Argyle (Oregon) Late Disgorged Sparkler. The ‘mains’ (Fenugreek Crusted Lamb/Black Truffle Jam and Grilled Wild King Salmon) came with a local Tempranillo and Pinot Noir. And the cheese courses had a Leonetti Sangiovese and a sweet German (great contrasts). Dessert was our choice from the menu. We also finished with a Clear Creek Apple Brandy (imitation Calvados) that was excellent. All in all an excellent meal – and a bargain considering what we were served. No attitude to be seen anywhere. Formal but friendly service all round, and they even printed off a menu for us with each of the wines included so that we would be able to recall them all. This was a GREAT meal all-round. No attitude, fresh ingredients well prepared, well-paced and excellent wines.
  22. Michael, Susur is already talking up this dinner, so you're expected. Dessert has always been Susur's weakest food point. Can't really recall anything outstanding. Typically he puts several small portions (around 4) on a plate. Sometimes it works! The reverse menu is the worst thing about the place. He's probably the most talented chef in town, but seems transfixed on this point. IT DESTROYS WINE MATCHING. But Susur doesn't understand wine (he once cooked a dinner for me to match special wines - not at Susur - and then switched the order of courses on me at the last minute without telling me). I once asked him, if reverse menu made sense, why he didn't serve dessert first - he laughed, but I was serious. But the food is so good we still return regularly, and occasionally we just order half a dozen appetizers between us and tell him the sequence we want.
  23. By 2013!!!!!!!!!! I guess the labels for those years are already printed.
  24. He hadn’t intended to become the New Messiah - all he had done was to count up to 100 and randomly assign scores to the wines that passed his, now crimson, lips; but, as his Followers rushed to worship those sacramental liquids that had received labels 90+, and also raised their voices in praise of the God-given 100, he recognised that he had indeed founded a new Religion, and he was the High Priest.
  25. I'll nominate myself as a credit card expert, having designed and implemented several credit card systems. The 'probable' issue is the communications link. I've been declined for several reasons, and always check on my return to ascertain why. Indeed the pattern of usage, possibly identifying fraud, can be an issue (rarely), as can being overlimit (more likely), but the vast majority (over 80% by my imperfect sample) are because the communication link wasn't completed (i.e. the cardholder bank never received the authorization request). NOTE: At my bank we recorded EVERY authorization attempt (after I redesigned the system), so if any request was received we were able to check back later. That's probably not too surprising - how many attempted international calls go awry anyway? And a busy signal for credit cards constitutes 'awry' as the standard for end-to-end response is 3 seconds (so, merchant to local bank, local bank to international exchange point, international exchange point to Visa (say - could be any card)International (usually USA), Visa international to cardholder country exchange point, country exchange point to cardholder bank..... and then all the way back too). And then the massage needs to be displayed on the local terminal - imagine how many different terminal types there are in the world! So, my usual response when 'declined' is to ask for a retry. But if any link is down, nothing will work. I'm astonished at how few times the system fails - but that doesn't help you when you're stuck, helplessly, at a foreign point of purchase. Now, if it's your credit card company that declines you - then go ahead and dump on them. They need to review their policies (I'm available for consulting at reasonable rates..... ). And there could be some attempt to (better) standardize international response codes (e.g. to signal a 'failed' rather than a 'declined' request). But that still only helps if the merchant has a 'modern' terminal.
  • Create New...