Thursday, February 26, 2009

Some cheese with your wine?

Over the last few days I've been all over town (well, my side of town) gathering together stuff for the wine party which is in 2 days. 6 kinds of cheese for 5-6 kinds of wine for 8-10 people. Hope it's enough!

Clockwise from top: Brie, Havarti, Black Goat's cheese (?), Cambozola, Balderson's aged cheddar, Jarlsberg

I'm really excited for the black goat's milk cheese:

Yup, aged 2 years! Old stuff...

This party is going to be a blind tasting. The bottles will be covered up with paper bags and guests will use their senses to come to an opinion about the wine. I wrote down a few of the characteristics of each wine so we'll know what to smell/taste for. Here's a score sheet I made:

It's fairly straight forward, just jot down what you smell, taste, etc., then rate it out of 5 wine glasses. It might seem kind of school-ish but in a fun way! (Or maybe it's just fun for me?)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

French and Parisian Macaroons

I have just been informed that macaroons do not call for wheat flour or dairy in their recipes! I was also informed that our fave gal Martha has 2 recipes on her website. I might need some time to get all the materials together (like almond flour) but here are the recipes in case you're interested. It helps me to have these at my fingertips.
So a big thank you to Lisa for opening my eyes to the possibility of eating macaroons! (My mother-in-law also thanks you, as she has a dairy allegy)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I'm having a wine party

Yes I am. It's going to be blind tasting so I better make sure I have enough paper bags to cover up those bottles!

Thank goodness for Safeway and their "buy 6 bottles, save 10%" deal. I feel like that would NEVER fly in Canada. Well, not in Vancouver, I don't think. Needless to say, we bought 6 bottles, 1 of which was consumed over dinner (oops) so I'll be buying one more soon. It'll be a local (BC wine) around $10.

From L- R: Rioja Campo Viejo Crianza 2005 (Spain), Wolf Blass Shiraz 2006 (S. Australian), Chateaux Ste Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (Columbia Valley), Penfolds Rawson Retreat Merlot 2007 (Australia), Smoking Loon Zinfandel 2006 (California)

Now, for the cheese! After some brief research here's what apparently goes with these wines. (Source:

Rioja - Grafton Village Cheddar, Havarti, Manchego
Shiraz - Roncal (if i can find it)
Cab Sauv - ??? No specific listing for this wine (maybe cheddar?) so I'll have to sleuth some more...
Merlot - Maybe Jarlsberg? Blue? Again, nothing really specific for this one either...
Zinfandel - Muenster

But if these are too hard to find or just too pricey, I might just get the basic brie, blue, goat, and maybe 2 others.

Valentine's Day projects

So the big V-Day is coming up and husband and I have a whole week of vacation to spend together! Needless to say, I've made a few plans about what we're going to do during the week. But I'll save that for a later post after V-Day so I'll have pics to go with them.

First, the gifts to my husband... I got him a book called, "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by the same author as 'The Kite Runner' which we both loved. Hope he likes it!

For something sweet, I made handmade treats: Chocolate almond hearts, and something I've been calling "The Gummy Bear Project". They're pretty much just chocolate covered gummy bears... Is that weird to you? It would have sounded weird to me had I not ever tried one. But then again so would a chocolate covered pretzel.

Anyway, a few years ago our neighbour brought us a bag of chocolate covered gummy bears as a gift and I, (like some of you I'm sure) was like, "what? who would eat such thing?" But my sweet tooth got the better of me and something weird-sweet was better than nothing so I tried it... and it's good! You can suck off the chocolate and then eat the bear, or chew the whole thing at once.

So yeah, I made those and chocolate covered almonds made to look like hearts. Basically for the almonds, this is what I did:

Melt some choco chips in a bowl.
Stir in whole almonds and mix to coat.
Spoon out almonds and place on baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
Position 2 almonds with the pointier ends together, so that they kind of form a heart.
You can spoon a little bit of chocolate where the 2 almonds meet to get a better "hold".

For the gummies, I used the leftover chocolate and stirred in the bears, coating each one with chocolate. Then I just spooned them out onto the baking sheet.

Wait until dry, and then eat!

My husband kind of mentioned the other day, "I don't really like gummy bears b/c they're oily". Hmmm... well I know he likes almonds so 1 out of 2 ain't bad, right?

Chocolate almond hearts on the left, and chocolate covered gummy bears to the right. I know they don't look very appetizing but whatever. It tastes all the same in your mouth!

Close up of almond hearts. Very lopsided and goopy... kind of like mine? :P

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Hakone: Get the room with a view!

Hakone is an easy day trip from Tokyo, but to really enjoy all it has to offer, it's best to stay at least one night. Hakone is famous for its hotsprings, some of which are pretty simple, some quite lavish (cypress wood tubs, marble floors, that kinda thing) and others just... fun?

There is one hotspring... centre (?) where it's like a bunch of pools with different types of hot springs. Depending on the season, they might have a green tea tub with a novelty teapot pouring green water into the tub, they have also been known to have a red wine tub, and also a tub with these little fish that come and eat the dead skin off your feet. Sounds fun but I just imagine it full of little kids and screaming babies and a lot of pee-ed in tubs :P

My husband (then-boyfriend) found a nice-looking Ryokan (Japanese style inn) that was right by the lake (Ashino-ko). It was a bit pricier than we wanted to but the lady at Odakyu Travel had stayed there herself and highly recomended it. She also suggested we pay a bit more (maybe it was like $10 more) for a room with a view of the lake. Great idea!

The typical circuit in Hakone is to arrive by Odakyu Romance Car (umm... it's just a train but it's kind of pink on the outside? I think the front window is really wide so you can see exactly where the train is headed. The view is usually blocked by parents holding their kids up to see the view.

I can't remember the typical order but there is a cable car that takes you over sulphur mines. It smells just like it looks

With that lovely waft in the air, we walked along the Owakudani Nature Trail (careful not to linger too long as the gases are poisonous...) and bought black eggs (only the shells are black b/c of the sulfurous waters). Black eggs taste like regular eggs.

At some point, we boarded this beauty and sailed accross the lake (Ahino-ko). I don't know what the connection is but some people still had fun:

The thing with ryokans is, usually a wonderful dinner is included. In our case, it was a huge spread of locally caught fish and other yummy stuff like tempura, hotpots etc. This meal alone, was worth the price of the entire trip!

The thing I love about the Yokohama area is that you can go on these mini-vacations that are just a 1 hour (+ or - a few minutes) away! I know the option is there to do this in Vancouver as well but for some reason I never get around it...

The morning after nettle leaf tea

I drank the nettle leaf tea after dinner and lo-and-behold, I slept through the night without getting up to pee! This stuff will be a godsend on weeknights :) Love it!