Our guest writer today is Heather Slade, who, when not working her butt off managing dental offices, or boy-child parenting, or complaining about the state of the world, or getting lost in science fiction novels, can be found devouring chocolate over a glass of Okanagan red.
Drink your wine and eat it, too
By Heather Slade
Nothing soothes my soul at the end of a long week, even a long day, like wine and chocolate. Living in a household of non-drinkers, this poses certain problems.
There is no limit to the amount of chocolate I can consume single-handedly. In a perfect world, it would always be Bernard Callebaut, but Roger’s, Purdy’s or even a Kit-Kat will do. My poor son learned, at a tender age, to hide his chocolate or store it at his grandparents’ house if he hopes to have a bite for himself. In theory, those family-sized chocolate bars are for, well, families. Not here. I can stealthily nibble my way through a family bar just while cooking supper. No leftovers here.
With wine, however, we all know that once that bottle has been open for awhile, it won’t taste the same. Oxidation turns wine into vinegar awfully quickly. So, one can either down the whole thing and be the sad, sole drinker in a sober group and resenting the headache the next day, or, drink a respectable glass or two and cork that sucker up the best you can. Neither of these is ideal.
My solution? Drink some, bake some. Chocolate cake is delicious, but the addition of red wine and super easy preparation produces divine-enough-to-devour-on-a-Tuesday-night red wine demolisher. Add whip cream from a spray bottle if you want to get classy about it.
Okanagan Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Preheat oven to 350°
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups Raven Deep Dark Red wine
Butter 8” square pan.
In mixing bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
Don’t taste-test this stage, blech.
In stand mixer (or large bowl, using handheld electric mixer) beat butter with sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes.
Stop. Taste. This is one of my favourite taste-testing stops along the way.
Add eggs one at a time, beat until incorporated. Add vanilla, beat for 2 minutes longer.
Stop. Taste. Pretty darn good tasting stop, although ‘they’ say you shouldn’t taste-test with raw eggs. Taste test at your peril. I do.
Working in two batches, alternately fold in dry ingredients and wine, until just incorporated.
Stop. Taste. Extra delicious tasting now that the wine is in.
Scrape batter into prepared pan, bake for 50 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Let cool completely. I always laugh at the idea that I would leave this to cool completely. The pan is still warm by the time the cake is completely devoured.
This tastes great with a glass of, you guessed it, red wine.
Recipe adapted from Food and Wine
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Whisky is the drink that lets you walk up to strangers who have more money than you do.
"Hello, soon-to-be friends," you say, completely sober. "I am holding a whisky.”
"You must be interesting!" they greet you in reply. "Tell us about your travels in Java!"
The above is an excerpt from the very funny article Why Whisky is a Manly Drink by Brendan McGinley. To see where it goes from there, go here, whisky in hand.
From years of experience, I can tell you the best way to make your beloved happier than all the proverbial clams on high-tide beaches everywhere: Keep him well stocked with fine quality single malt scotch whisky.
Jim has been the beneficiary of such offerings every year for decades, both at Christmas and on his birthday.
To some degree, buying whisky makes for nice easy one stop shopping, but eliciting that shuddering gasp of pleasure followed by the acknowledgement that this latest bottle of smoke and grit is the finest most extraordinary thing ever created, and that I am, in fact, a genius for finding it, has become a bit of a slippery slope.
I started to spend a ridiculous amount of time trying to one-up my own self, researching online and trolling liquor stores and harassing liquor store experts to find something even better than the previous year.
The conversations with experts probably seemed odd to nosy people listening nearby.
“Do you have something so powerfully evil and gritty that it’ll stop the heart just from the aroma alone?”
“Why yes, of course we do, this one is so vile and nasty that it will make a grown man weep like a little girl, as he reaches for a second shot.”
This bi-annual fun came screeching to a halt, though, thanks to one particular whisky that cast a powerful spell over Jim.
A gift of a 25 year Bowmore, for example, which cost one arm, one leg and a firstborn, did not break the spell.
A gift containing four bottles, one from each whisky region of Scotland (Islay, Highlands, Speyside, Lowlands) and still, it did not break the spell.
He smiled and said pretty things, but I knew it was over. He had been ruined. His love is for one whisky only.
Mind you, it sure makes shopping easier.
I am talking, of course, about the finest scotch whisky in existence, according to Jim: Laphroaig, specifically Laphroaig Quarter Cask. It’s not even expensive, but by god is it ever peaty. And peat is what good whisky is all about to the depraved peat-addicted drinker who sneers at ‘smooth’, scoffs at ‘aged’, and goes straight for the bottle deemed ‘not unlike licking a tar-slicked road’.
Laphroaig has been described as:
‘Like eating coal from the depths of the earth’s core’
‘Tastes like something went horribly wrong and then immediately right again’
‘Like drinking a campfire’
The best descriptions are found below, though, in the video. It is fun to watch, and contains vastly improved lyrics for Christmas carols.
More Laphroaig videos, all fun, can be found here. And go ahead, try to understand even half of what they are saying.
On a sad note, so sad that I haven’t figured out a way to break the news to Jim: Peat is just about all peat-ered out. If you are a lover of the peat, be sitting down when you read this, and have a kindly shoulder close at hand to lean on. Alas, poor peaty.
We probably all need a good laugh to recover from that last paragraph, so I will leave you with the immortal words of Winston Churchill:
“The water was not fit to drink. To make it palatable, we had to add whisky. By diligent effort, I learnt to like it.”
Two more quotes, for the road:
“Always carry a flagon of whisky in case of snakebite, and furthermore, always carry a small snake.” ~ W. C. Fields
“There are two things a Highlander likes naked, and one of them is malt whisky.” ~ Scottish proverb
How does this story make you feel? (19 total votes)
Our Spirited Endeavours guest writer today is Jill Jarrett of BNA Brewing Co. & Eatery. Jill is on the frontline of the craft beer revolution that is making its way into Okanagan culture. When she’s not immersed in all things malt & hops, she loves to walk her pup, Sitka, and enjoy a good hot yoga class - followed by a nice cold beer.
I'm Earl. Drink me
By Jill Jarett
Oh, those skinny jean-wearing millennials
Photo: Dean Pictures/Fuse
Craft beer isn’t just for the bearded, skinny jean-wearing millennials anymore. And I’ll let you in on a little secret – it never was.
Maybe you’re a seasoned craft beer aficionado who owns a vast collection of growlers (more on those later) or maybe you’re a life-long drinker of a macro-brewery-who-shall-not-be-named who is a little curious.
Either way, with over 100 craft breweries now open and operating in our beloved province, and no signs of the industry slowing down anytime soon, you’d better get used to craft beer being around.
Craft brewing is a finicky term which encompasses things like micro- or even nano-breweries, brewpubs, and other small-scale, artisan operations. But I’m not here to give you a lesson in defining craft. What am I here for? I guess to share with you my experience with craft beer in our sunny little valley.
New kid on the block? Not so much
With almost one year under our belts, and a few new local breweries set to open soon, BNA Brewing Co. & Eatery will no longer be the new kid on the block. BNA is the product of a lot of dreams, an equal amount of hard work, and probably more luck than we’d like to admit. Our diverse team is incredibly passionate about many things, not least of which is quality crafted brews.
With twelve rotating taps, we feature four of our own brews alongside eight other craft products from around the province. And that’s just the draught list.
One of the best ways to find your new favourite beer is to order a tasting flight. The flights at BNA consist of three 5oz glasses, and you can choose from any of the twelve taps, or you could take a walk on the wild side and let us choose for you. If you do, chances are Earl will be in the lineup.
“My name is Earl. I’ll be your beer tonight.”
Earl is our pale ale, and has taken off as our most popular and well-loved beer. It’s a West Coast style pale ale that uses locally grown, organic hops (mostly centennial).
For this brew, we worked with Chai Baba, another Ellis Street small business, to find a tea that worked well with our beer. An Earl Grey blend was the winner, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Earl’s story is just beginning, because with an expansion in the works, BNA will soon be bottling some of our beer, and Earl is likely be the first to venture outside the brewery.
Please don’t lose your dinosaur
Another beer that has developed quite the fan club is our Don’t Lose Your Dinosaur IPA. This IPA is little different from the typical Pacific Northwest style, and instead of pine & citrus notes, it features a more tropical, stone fruit aroma and taste. The hops are certainly prominent, but more balanced, so you don’t get that astringent bitterness that some find offensive to the palate. The name of the beer refers to following your passion, and not giving up on your dreams and goals.
Plus it’s fun to order.
We are constantly coming up with bizarre ideas for beer that our talented brewmaster then manages to execute.
There’s a story behind that brew
We have a saying at BNA:
Don’t be afraid to make a beer that people don’t like. Be afraid to make one that people don’t find interesting.
There is a story behind every brew, and even if it’s not your favourite, at least we’ve got you talking about what you didn’t like about it, and talking about craft beer.
So far, we’ve done about 15 different recipes, with many more in the works.
There’s a new summer stout done in collaboration with local streetwear company, Basement Heads, who will be releasing a limited run of T-shirts to commemorate the beer.
We’ve brewed using ingredients from across Canada, with fruit from the Okanagan, walnuts from our own backyard, and even with snow & spruce tips from Big White.
And even though we like to experiment and have fun with our beer, it’s still very much that – beer. We’re not purists, but we’re not out to change what ain’t broke either – we just like to push the boundaries a bit.
At the moment, we sell our beer only on tap in our Tasting Room and Eatery, and via growler fills.
When you want a beer, just growl(er)
“What the heck is a growler?” you may ask (told you I’d get back to this).
A growler, which typically comes in a 64oz size, but is also available in 32oz and 16oz sizes, is a refillable bottle. That’s pretty much it. You purchase the growler, then you can fill it and drink within the comfort of your own home, although with this beautiful April weather we’ve been having, maybe the patio or backyard makes more sense.
Once you’ve finished, give the bottle a good rinse with hot water and let it dry. Storing the bottle with the cap off will ensure moisture doesn’t get trapped and encourage mould growth - nobody wants that.
When you’re ready for more, bring your bottle back to your favourite brewery for a refill. Beer in a growler is best enjoyed within 72 hours of filling, and once opened will begin to lose carbonation. Finishing the beer in this time frame doesn’t tend to be an issue. People like people who share.
We know that we’re hop lovers in a grape-saturated world, but consider bringing a growler to your next dinner party instead of a bottle of wine. Bonus – leave the bottle as a gift for the host, and they can refill it at their leisure.
Oh come on. You know you want to
Come give our house-made brews a try. Whoever you are, grab a friend or come alone, and let us welcome you into our home away from home. Cheers!
This week’s Spirited Endeavours guest writer is Shanyn Ward, a tenacious student of all things wine, including global wine culture, production and viticulture. Her passion for wine knowledge is, luckily for us, driven by a desire to share her experiences with everyone.
Juicy and plump, rich and voluptuous wines
By Shanyn Ward
If you’re looking for Okanagan wines, just walking into a store and seeing all the choices can be enough to make your head spin.
Whether you are looking for a celebratory bottle of bubbles, wines to pair with local or international cuisine, or an easy drinking wine to enjoy over good conversation with friends, the Okanagan has you covered.
Yes! I get to taste all those wines
As a wine purchaser at the Cask & Barrel, I get to taste wines from first vintage wineries to the longest established ones. After returning from living in New Zealand, I was amazed to see such versatility and range in styles of wine coming from the Okanagan.
When making wine selections for the Cask & Barrel, I look for ones that show uniqueness and consistency, while representing typicity and terroir at the same time.
As well, I look at a variety of wines, from fuller bodied, food-friendly styles to lighter, fresher and more fruit-forward ones that can be enjoyed on their own.
We in the Okanagan are fortunate to have winemakers and viticulturists who are practicing minimal intervention in the vineyard and wineries, looking to make more natural expressions of BC wine with a larger focus on organics.
Juicy and plump, rich and voluptuous
What varieties reign supreme in our Okanagan Valley?
Aromatics, such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Ehrenfelser and Bacchus flourish in the northern part of the valley, where cooler evenings ensure retention of fresh, crisp acidity.
Juicy and plump Pinot Noir and elegant savoury Syrah grace the sunny slopes of the Naramata Bench.
Okanagan Falls is home to premium Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producers Blue Mountain and Liquidity. Liquidity is the newest silver medalist in the prestigious Chardonnay du Monde competition in France for their 2013 Chardonnay.
From the Southern desert-like area around Oliver and Osoyoos, rich and voluptuous Bordeaux style blends and spicy Syrah can be found, as the hours of sunshine increase and temperatures move into the high 30s during growing seasons.
What’s in my own wine fridge?
From Lake Country’s 50th Parallel, wine maker Grant Stanley, formerly of Quails Gate, has found the sweet spot when it comes to making Riesling. The 2015 has cooked lemon, granny smith apple, stoney minerality, and crisp acidity making for a long finish.
Along with wineries such as Ex Nihilo, Arrow Leaf, Gray Monk, and Intrigue, 50th Parallel is helping to establish the northern end of the valley as a premium Aromatic and Pinot Noir production area.
Bradley Cooper’s Black Cloud in Naramata is a winery producing only Pinot Noir. Two styles of Pinot are produced: Fleuvage, the younger sibling of Altostratus, is the drink now in style, while the Altostratus can benefit from cellaring 5-10 years. Altostratus is a rich and concentrated unfiltered version with ripe plum, cooked black cherry, sweet baking spice, and dried herbs.
Bordertown's Living Desert Red from wine maker Jason Parkes is a bold, well-structured Cabernet Franc / Merlot blend that exhibits cassis, black currant and dark chocolate.
Grape growing is not foreign to owner Mohan Gill, who has been growing and supplying quality grapes to Okanagan producers for years. Now in their fourth generation of farming, they have only just recently opened their own winery and tasting room in 2015.
We’ve only just begun
From small boutique wineries to large world class establishments, we have only just begun to scratch the surface of the most exciting up and coming wine regions in the world.
As the Okanagan valley becomes even more popular as a destination for sun, sand, and fun, word will travel of the fine wines we have available.
As for myself, once I have consumed all the wines my ’fridge will hold, I will get back on the road again to discover new ones. My personal collection will always have wines from the place I am proud to call my home, the Okanagan valley.
How does this story make you feel? (35 total votes)
Welcome to Spirited Endeavours, your go-to column for delightfully tipsy romps through the world of wine, craft beer, and spirits - with a primary focus on our own delectable offerings here in the Okanagan.
Each issue is written by a guest writer with something exciting to share, each topic truly a spirited endeavour.