Monday, January 31, 2011

Crossfit Wine 101

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29th       Author: Shrav    File Under: Fantastic Nights - Zone Class Info

Hey Everyone!
Wine has been considered to be a drink of wellness and camaraderie. A recent wine tasting event at one of the Crossfit members' houses was a definite example of camaraderie, friendship, fun and a whole lot of wellness. This section is usually reserved for short diatribes about moderation and drinking too much and what drinking can do to you, but today's write-up will focus on the benefits of wine.


BUY-IN: Read a little about the seven varietals of wine to be featured at this evenings workout. You will work your way through Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Suavignon. These are the most common wine grapes and produced in wineries all over the world. Of course these days it is not uncommon to find Tannat, Carmenere, Tempranillo, Viognier, Marsanne, Rasusanne, Malbec and so many more, but we will save that for our next workout in the cycle, Wine 102.
The Buy-in should start with 20 reps of glass pulls. Fill a Riedel wine glass 3/4 full of water. With forearms extended and elbow slightly bent lift glass toward lips, touch lips. In order to qualify as a proper rep, glass must be returned to table and not thrown down. Glass breakage results in a re-start. Next will be 20 reps of cheese spreads. You may want to do wrist loosening stretches prior to attempting this exercise. Take a spreading knife in your right hand and practice pushing down as if you were cutting a soft cheese like brie. After taking your imaginary dollop on your spreader, use your free hand to reach straight in front of your body to grasp at a piece of baguette from B-RED by Brad. Spread the dollop on the bread without bending your elbow with the spreader just in front of you. Repeat. Warning on this one, salivary glands may be activated causing slight drooling. A pile of Chalk on the kitchen counter will be useful in catching any moisture escaping your mouth. When you have finished your Buy-in you should be ready for today's WOD. Good Luck with it!

WOD: "Team Winey Cheesy"

Email 14 of your buddies and invite them over to sample some amazing wines brought in by Everything Wine in Langford,BC and cheese from around the world, of course brought to you by Charelli's Cheese Chicks on Foul Bay Road. This is a tough one gang, but if you scale appropriately you should be able to make your way through the evening. Carefull with the Cash-Out, it can be dangerous at times, for some athletes. If you are unsure about how far to go or when to stop consult with one of your coaches. They will guide you in the right direction.

Under the direction of guest coach, Jeannette from Everything Wine Gym and her assistant Alexa, gather a wine glass and stand with it directly in front of you outstretched. You must keep the glass in this position until Alexa has poured the wine.

Once poured, flex your arm at the elbow bringing the wine glass to your nose. Put your nose as far into the wine glass as possible and inhale. This is called getting the "nose" of the wine. Discuss with your team what you smell. Perhaps honey, cherries, grapefruit, grass, barnyard, tobacco, leather, smoke, citrus or nothing!

Once you have found your "nose" take a small sip sucking air around the sip to get an initial taste for the wine. Discuss with your team what you taste initially. Now use the spreader thruster action from your hips to put some cheese on a piece of baguette. Enjoy the flavour, add some duck rillette or a little artichoke dip. Re-sip your wine and note further nuances in the flavour perhaps enhanced by the cheese and bread or made more forward.

This WOD is to practice style and correct movements, not for time. Repeat six times keeping reps at each different wine level about 5-3-1.

Here are the wines you will want to hit for this WOD, not all of you will appreciate all levels, but enjoy all that you can:

Sauvignon Blanc - Cono Sur Organic  2010 - Chile - $15.99 EW
                             Citrus, Grapefruit, Green Apple, Grass

Chardonnay - Terra Incognita 2008 - France - $23.99 EW
                       Light Oak, buttery on tongue, almost no nose, unique chardonnay

Riesling - Gunderloch Fritz 2008 - Germany - $17.99 EW
               Nose of gasoline, flavours of lemongrass, apricot, anise

Pinot Noir - Valmoissine - Louis LaTour 2006 - France - $24.99 EW
                   Nose of farmyard, flavours of fruit, strawberry, a little cherry

Syrah - Esprit de Granit 2007 - France - $34.99 EW or BCL
            Smoky nose with flavours of tobacco, cherry and smoke, oak

Merlot - McManis 2008 - California, USA - $24.99 EW
             Jammy nose with flavours of toffee, blackberry, plum

Cabernet Sauvignon - Langmeil Blacksmith 2006 - Australia - $33.99 EW
                                   Nose of Eucalyptus, flavours of vanilla, smoke, jam

Take rests in between sets and take time to have some of the cheese ranging from Brie to Sticky Toffee Pudding, Tiger blue to applewood smoked cheddar.

Cash-Out: Try some choclate dipped strawberries and then if you dare a team excursion to downtown Victoria with Coach Dee and Coach Shannon to celebrate Dubs birthday....and beyond.

POST SCRIPT: This was an amazing evening hosted by two of the Crossfit family. I use that term not loosely at all. It became evident through the evening as everyone chatted comfortably, what a great group of people the gang from Crossfit is. It was like old friends were getting together to enjoy an evening. Jeanette from Everything Wine, had done a great job of picking some very interesting wines, which were fodder for great conversation, and made the cheese plates go quickly. My favourite was the :barnyard" pinot noir. Pinot's do have a reputation of sometimes having a barny nose to them, and this one did, but ultimately the fruit forwardness of the flavour won out, for me, perhaps not for others. There was not a bad wine on the night, all of them, different in character spoke to us differently but in a great way. It truly was a magical evening, and so was the "Cash-out" party - but that is a story in and of itself! Next WOD Wine 102: The Sequel.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What Should I Eat Today?

I was thinking about how to talk about some of the amazing eateries we have in Victoria, and I thought about the ones I have been to over the last month or two, and really the best way is to just give it to you as a wish list of a perfect day!

You stir in the morning as the alarm blares and think about how you might spend you day off, where will you go and what will you do. Of course you have to first justify your day, so it is off to Crossfit Zone for a little pain and pleasure. What a great gang of coaches and community members - make every second of time spent there worthwhile, and of course every second of time spent there makes the eating and drinking all worthwhile - great symbiosis! So after a WOD ( Workout of the Day) its time to head down to Vic West and perhaps some of Victoria's best croissants at Fol Epi. As you walk up you can smell the fresh bread smell coming from the wood fired ovens, simply divine. The croissant, as well as the strudels, danishes and oh my gosh the baguettes are divine. Cliff Leir, makes them fresh everyday, and if I ate there everyday, I would be the size of a Lear jet! But oh it is worth it every once and a while. A little cold butter, some strawberry jam... fabulous..Of course, now you need some coffee, so for me it's back to town and over to Caffe Artigiano where a creamy latte awaits. The latte with the croissant, one could be in France!

So time for a little shopping downtown. Have to hit up Outlooks for some great Men's clothes, Dale knows his fashion and does a magnificent job of blending classy and trendy. Perhaps a little stop in at Philip Nyren too, where it is slightly more traditional, but fun all the same. Almost lunch time, where to go? Really, my favourite place for lunch has always been Italian Food Imports on Blanshard. They make soup, sandwiches and pasta marvelously. The piece de resistance is the meatball sub. I get cravings during the day sometimes for those meatballs, perfectly spiced with a little cheese, some bread crumbs, and a tantalizing tomato sauce. Inside a whole wheat or white but and then grilled on the press with some cheese, wow! Sometimes I want the soup, always homemade so I get a few meatballs thrown in the bottom of my soup and get the best of both worlds. Really - you have to have a few meatballs. At $0.50 per meat ball, for $5.00 you can eat very very well! Massimo and Maurizo Segato have put it all together well and have created a winner in simplicity and good down home food!

Of course i could have opted for Pig too at the corner of Johnson and Blanshard, in their new digs, about 100X bigger than their last location. They do pulled pork beautifully, but they also do fried chicken splendidly, and fries and corn bread and and....very yummy, well worth a visit.

So now to a few of the local foodie type shops. Choux Choux Charcuterie has marvellous different types of sausages that are made onsite, as well as great cured meats including some Oyama Sausage and excellent cheese. The grocery area has marvellous French and other European specialities that are as much fun to browse as to buy. Of course back in Oak Bay, Ottavios, another great little deli/bakery has wonderfule cheese, meats and olives too. They bake some wonderful Italian style breads and have a frozen section with Sliced tuna to duck confit, Salad Dressings from David Feys and fresh pizza dough. Their Italian style grocery area has some marvellous little gems, like sea salts, saffron and so much more.

So now where? So many places to choose from. Let's see, where have I been lately. Paprika Bistro in Estevan. Anna Hunt their young but unbelievably talented chef is doing some amazing work. Her Onglet Steak with mushrooms is out of this world. On their wine menu they have La Posta Bonarda- yummy wine as well as the ever elusive Island born and bred Starling Lane Marechal Foch. This is a most interesting wine, and one that I often will take for friends and family who I might be visiting, to give them a little touch of what the Island is so capable of producing.

Brasserie L'Ecole is another wonderful location and perhaps one of my most favourite restaurants in the city. Their food is well made, well priced and served by knowledgeable staff. Not to say that does not happen at so many other places in this city, we are ultra lucky, it does, I just love Brasserie. The endive salad is my favourite anywhere with big roasted hazelnuts, bacon and yummy apples. The french onion soup is a meal in and of itself and the frites, all dressed with truffle oil, parmesan and garlic are so yummy. The wine list is predominantly French, but there are some great South American and Canadian spanners thrown into the fray too.. I have not even touched on the beers or the fact the menu changes seasonally so you are always getting fresh everything. Definitely check it out.

What a terrific day of food - so many great places and many that I have yet to talk about. Yummy!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What's in your coffee?

Well if you are asking - there is nothing in my coffee. I love it black... just the coffee, give me drip, plunged, Americano, or espresso, I want to taste the roast, I want to taste the beans. Does the roast matter you might ask? You just need to get the beans to be a dark colour and then go for it right? Not at all. Ben Cram over at Fernwood Coffee Company that is fronted by the Parsonnage Cafe just off Cook Street takes his coffee bean roasting down to the hundreth of a second. He wants to make sure he produces a consistent flavour each time, but he wants to make sure he is getting the best possible roast for optimum flavour. I bought a home roaster a little while ago, so I needed to find out where I could get green beans to roast. I think that Fernwood produces some of the best beans in town, so I wandered down one day and struck up what proved to be a lengthy conversation with Ben. He showed me his almost brand new roaster that he uses to produce their roasted coffee in bulk. He gave me a few varieties with the promise that I would bring back the roasted beans and we would try them there at the cafe.

I took them home and did just that. I have to admit the roasting process is very precise and you have to be around as beans go from great to burnt in a VERY short amount of time. Once I had done my first batch, I ground it and used them in my Rancillio Silvia, a wonderful home espresso machine - all brass innards! It was actually not bad at all. It took me another two roastings before I was willing to take some beans down to Ben. But I did, as promised and we did two pots of personal drip to compare, same beans. In the end, his roast was a little more refined and its edges a little smoother, but the comparison was actually much better than I had anticipated. I think he might have been, slightly impressed too!

Really a truly great roast for a fabulous espresso comes from a medium roast, rather than anything too dark. I think many people associate strong with dark dark - and that can be the case to some degree, but it can actually be that dark is associated with burnt and that is associated with strong! Fernwood Coffee does a great dark roast with its Strongback Blend, but their espresso blend is quite fantastic. The other master roaster is Geir Oglend up at Drumroaster in Cobble Hill. He has been in the coffee business for years and his understanding of coffee, roasting, machines and pouring is quite unparalleled on the Island! I always try and get into his shop when I am up that way. His son pours an amazing espresso shot and knows what he is doing with milk and frothing. He can make a 1% or skim milk taste like cream with his steam wand - thus making for a terrific latte or cappuccino.

Such is also the case at Caffe Artigiano downtown at the Bedford Hotel. The baristas there are very well trained and use multiple stainless steel vessels to create their steamed milk. Again they can make milk come out like cream. When I crave a latte in town, I usually try and make a quick trip down on a Saturday morning.

I do also like the shots being poured at Discovery Coffee on Oak Bay Avenue, but have to admit that I prefer the espresso to the Americano when I am there, not sure why, almost like the flavour is being diluted. Demitasse Cafe on McNeill in Oak Bay pours a darn good shot as well - though as always it is barista dependent. That being said it has been a while since I have been dissatisfied with my Americano!

So there you go, a few adventures in coffee in the Victoria area, as well as for those of you looking for great beans. By the way Drumroaster and Parsonnage Cafe both do their own cooking and baking and make some fabulous sides for your coffee. The fruit nut scone at Drumroaster and the lemon square at Parsonnage are amazing. Parsonnage also does perhaps the best BLT you have had on fresh bread - it is worth a trip even just for the sandwich. I try and look away from the maple pecan twists at Drumroaster - I am sure there is enough sugar, butter and calories to last me a month in them - but having sampled one they are yummy!

Enjoy your local coffee experiences we are blessed to have so many wonderful spots. Traveling across the country and afar field in BC it is hard to find the quality we enjoy here!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Night of Wine Tasting!

One of my first posts on here was about some great wines I had tried recently, the Apothic and the Purple Cowboy. In the same post, I talked a little about the great wine list at Earls and some of the fabulous wines they have! The blog post was forwarded to the agent for Trinchero Family Estate wines (creators of the Joel Gott Zinfandel and the Show Malbec). She contacted me and wondered whether I would be willing to try a couple of other wines that are created in direct competition to the Apothic and the Purple Cowboy Tenacious Red. She had her Island rep drop off two bottles, the Menage a Trois ($17.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store) a combination of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes produced by Folie A Deux Winery and The Show Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.99 at Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store). It all sounded like it needed to be a social gathering with some fun. So, I went out and purchased a bottle of the Apothic and the Purple Cowboy and invited some great friends over to do a "blind" tasting of all four wines.

There were three couples and three singles, so 9 people tasting in total. We had our local "cheese chick" from Charelli's on Foul Bay Road match some cheese for us, but really that is a story in and of itself. I emailed the self-proclaimed cheese chicks at Charellis where I usually get my cheese and a fabulous baguette produced by Brad from B-RED, the pastry chef at Zambris. I wanted them to match some cheeses so that we could get the most out of the wines. I got an email back saying that they knew the wines and would usually be happy to help, but that they were on a well-deserved vacation after Christmas. I asked for at least some suggestions of names of cheeses that I could perhaps find elsewhere, but I got no answer back on the email.

I arrived home on Thursday evening and there was a paper bag hanging from the inside of my mail slot. I took it down and opened it up to find, yes you guessed it, four different cheeses individually wrapped and labelled (Montasio, Etorki, Roquefort and Tomme de Savoie). They had gone in on their holidays, chose the cheese and then delivered them to my door. It really is what makes Victoria the great city it is to live in, but more than anything it speaks to Charelli's, their community mindedness and their willing to do what it takes for their customers, they are fabulous people!!

So now I had wine, I had cheese, and I had great guests to help me taste the wine. I set about to create a few food items too, so that everyone had some nourishment for the difficult tasting process! Some braised 12 hour curried beef, pork tenderloin salsa, chipotle chicken cucumber bites, and then some nuts etc to graze on. We were ready! I placed each of the wines in a paper bag and labelled them and taped them off, so no one new which wine was which. We did three different tastings. We compared the Menage a Trois vs the Apothic and The Show Cabernet Sauvignon vs The Purple Cowboy - Tenacious Red. The final tasting was to compare all four wines and to pick an overall favourite.

The results of the tastings were actually very interesting. Each wine definitely had its own character. The first competition was between Purple Cowboy and the Show Cabernet Sauvignon. The Purple Cowboy had a terrific fruit nose to it, with ripe berries coming through strongly. The first sip was fruit forward, with jammy tones, though the finish was a little disappointing. The Show Cabernet Sauvignon had a smoky nose to it with some oak to it as well. The first sip had cherries to it as well as tobacco. There was a real drinkability to both wines, but consensus had it that The Show ranked higher than the Purple Cowboy. That being said, there was a little Purple Cowboy left in the bottle that I drank the next day, and on its own with out any comparisons, with some pork tenderloin salsa, it was very yummy - so it is all relative really!

The second competition was between the Menage a Trois and the Apothic. The Menage a Trois had a wonderful fruity bouquet. Again there were ripe berries as well as some vanilla. The first sip was full of vanilla, and a very sweet body. The wine almost came across as too sweet, perhaps accentuated by the vanilla. The Apothic was also vanilla forward in bouquet and initial taste, but had almost a chocolate finish to it. It is a dark and rich wine with good sugars! The Apothic won out as the best of the two, somewhat based in being the less sweet of the two, and having an excellent finish too. Again, the last of the Menage a Trois, I had the next day with that same Pork Tenderloin salsa, and the wine came across as a smooth, and fruit forward wine - on its own it is a fine sip!

Overall the group felt that The Show Cabernet Sauvignon and the Apothic were the two most favoured wines. The other two were good too, and really each wine had its own style and expression!

It was a very fun evening, with thanks going to Trinchero Family Estate Wines for providing two of the wines and of course the cheese chicks at Charellis for going above and beyond!

Another great night of wine...YUM!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Great Wine and Great Friends!

There are times when you need to take yourself out and enjoy a night out with good friends. It was time, and of course in order to partake in a great bottle of wine at a reasonable price, we went to, you guessed it, Earls again. It seems like I keep talking about Earls, they pay me no premium, well a small one, but more to come on that later! They have some great wines on their list and they are very reasonably priced. So last week, Earls Victoria had a contest asking what two of their three new wines on their menu were. Well Duh! I reviewed two of them so the Joel Gott Zinfandel and The Show Malbec earned me a $20 gift certificate!  We really wanted to try the Stag's Leap Petite Syrah 2006. So of course we did. WOW... that's all I can say. A beautiful bouquet smelling sweet and like an excellent wine, a dark jammy colour and then the flavour... wow. On initial contact like cherries, then some raspberries and finishing smooth and with the beauty of a very expensive red. I tell you to say it quite understately it is fantastic. Of course, save your pennies, take out a small loan, ask for gift cards for your birthday, but have this wine. If I were smart and my friends were as smart as me, we would go on a Wednesday night and save an additional $10, but it was not to be. The wine is not available in the liquor store as a petite syrah, so I looked it up at the winery in California. Online it sells at $38 USD, so at $63 on the menu and $53 on a a Wednesday, really it is hard to go wrong, it really is a memorable wine!
Have it with Steak, chicken fingers or even pizza - you will enjoy it!

Now I have to tell you we were very lucky!
One of the Earls staffers, who I have gotten to know over tha last little while came over and recommended the Fuller's Red Blend - the Rascal Down Under. It is one that comes from Barossa Valley Estates in Australia, and is made exclusively for Earls. Barossa Valley Estates has for many years won many accolades for their red blends. Well, I have to admit, it was hard after drinking a bottle of the petite syrah to drink a different wine, but it was surprisingly good, like wow, on a Wednesday the bottle is less than $30!!
Another great one to add to the collection.
You might have to get to Earls' in your neighbourhood soon. It will be worth it. They did not pay me anything to say all of that, it was just my experience... and a great one!
Check it out yourself!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Advice from Strangers!

Checking out wines at any liquor store is so much fun. I love zipping into the Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store to see my favourite husband and wife wine advisors, or ducking into the Hillside Liquor Store to see the manager there - it is just oh so much fun. Of course, fortunately or unfortunately, it usually results in buying a few bottles, but, ah c'est la vie!

It is not very often that I will run into someone, who is happy to give their wine favourite(s) or  just listen to some of mine. Well was it not terrific that when I dropped by the Fort and Foul Bay store tonight, I ran into just that person. She was looking at a Roux Pere & Fils Pinot Noir ($19.99 Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store) at the back of the store, so I asked whether she knew the wine. She then asked whether I liked Pinot Noirs! I had to stifle a smile - do I like Pinot Noirs? Is it going to snow tomorrow? HAHA!

She suggested it in the 2008 vintage with this one being the 2009 - so I had to take a bottle. Finding a really good old world Pinot Noir is not easy, and usually not cheap either! This one was reasonable and old world. And, as I sit here typing and sipping, it is an excellent Pinot Noir! Love it when that sort of thing happens.

Of course I made a suggestion to her as well. I suggested a unique wine, that I actually first had at Cactus Club downtown with a few friends, it is the Galil Mountain Merlot ($17.99 Fort and Foul Bay Liquor Store) from of all places, Israel. The group of us who were at the Cactus Club that day, did order a case, but in the end a third of the box was not good, not sure if that is the winemaker or the shipping from Israel. Hopefully, the merlot works out well for her!

Always feel free to leave your wine impressions of the wines I enjoy in the comment section, as I think the process of wine tasting is really a friendly and cooperative one. As well, if you have suggestions, please make them - how great is it to get free wine advice from fellow consumers! It made my night tonight!

Looking forward to enjoying some great new wines in the new year!