National Absinthe Day

A distilled highly alcoholic light green colored beverage considered a spirit and not a liqueur. A spirit, or liquor, has been distilled from grains or plants, sometimes flavoured but always unsweetened. Once a spirit, or liquor gets sweetened and flavoured, ie mint, it then becomes a liqueur.

Artemesia Absinthium
Artemesia Absinthium

Absinthe is made up of the flowers and leaves of the perennial Wormwood plant (Artemesia Absinthium) and flavoured with green anise (similar taste to licorice), sweet fennel and other herbs. The plant originates in Europe and grows well in Canada.

The French word, absinthe, translated to English is wormwood, and comes from Latin absinthium and from Greek apsinthion.

Revelation 8:10-11 states: “The third angel sounded his trumpet, and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water—the name of the star is Wormwood. A third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” Revelation was written in the year 95AD.

The use of drinking absinthe is mentioned in Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura (I 936–950) book of poems, where Lucretius indicates that a drink containing wormwood is given as medicine to children in a cup with honey on the brim to make it drinkable.

The first known use of the liqueur, laced with wormwood, was in 1612. Back then, the taste was highly potent and men needed a lot of courage to drink it. Today’s Absinthe alcohol content ranges from 45% to a whopping 74%.

Van Gogh painted Still Life with Absinthe during springtime in Paris, France in 1887. Reproductions of the painting range from the $200 figure for smaller sizes and as much as $1,000 for larger ones.

Wilfred Niels Arnold, a Kansas City, Kan., biochemist wrote a study on the artist in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He believes Van Gogh was addicted to chemicals in the terpene class. Terpenes are present in camphor, absinthe and turpentine, which he was known to drink, yes, even the turpentine. A tree planted over Van gogh’s grave, in Auvers-sur-Oise, happens to be a Thuja tree, a classic source of thujone, the toxic element in absinthe. Thujone is a chemical compound found in a number of other plants, one of them being Artemesia Absinthium so it naturally ends up in Absinthe.

Absinthe was so popular in France before it was banned (for its highly intoxicating effect) that bars even had “the hour of absinthe” like today’s cocktail hour, says Arnold. Despite the origins of the drink being in Egypt, France has claimed the fame. Dr Pierre Ordinaire, while living in Couvet, Switzerland, designed Absinthe, as it is known today. It had been rumoured to cure flatulence and anemia.

Five years after his death, in 1797, Henri-Louis Pernod opened a distillery in Switerland. Later, he opened Pontarlier near the Swiss border in France. Production of absinthe stopped in 1915 when it was banned because of its believed psychoactive and hallucinogenic qualities. It switched to the production of pastis, an anise flavoured spirit. When the ban lifted in the 1990’s, they continued with absinthe, too. It is currently a commume but there are many distilleries in Couvet.

The hallucinogenic qualities, some think are false. People would get very drunk on it because they loved the taste so much, they drank too much of it. The high alcohol content contributed, too, I’m sure. Some believe the intoxicating effects also were due to the other herbal qualities found in absinthe. Some of the herbs have heightening qualities and some have lowering (especially since liquor is a depressant) to give something more than an alcoholic buzz.

Europe lifted their ban in the 1990s since it is now believed to not be as harmful. Their law dictates a maximum 35 mg of thujone per kg are allowed in absinthe.

US lifted their ban in 2007 on the condition it contains less than 10ppm of thujone, Apparently, today there are no traces of it in bottles sold in the US.

Made in France $64.95 at 62% Alcohol Content

However, another source states that it is not legal in the US but as a food, not a drug. The US does not allow the distillation or commercial production of absinthe but you can legally own a bottle or make your own as long as it is not distilled.

Our LCBO sells absinthe but is costly. It is best served chilled with a little water and sugar.

There is a restaurant in Ottawa called Absinthe, located at 1208 Wellington St. I have eaten there once a little over year ago. Patrons pay a base amount, for example, at that time, it was $20, to receive a 3-course meal. You choose from their options of appetizers, entrees and a dessert. They offer vegetarian dishes as well. I don’t remember what I ordered, I think a soup to start, but I do remember the taste. Delicious!

After spending 15 minutes calling MANY restaurants offering French cuisine, I finally found the brand new Sur Lie, that sells Absinthe. They serve it in the traditional format with a sugar cube!

Located at 110 Murray St., it is out of the main hub but is a hidden gem. The friendly and knowledgeable staff make it a great place to relax. The Amazing Matthew knows his stuff when it comes to the products they offer at the bar. He was kind enough to let me video tape his preparation of my drink. To my surprise, he lit it on fire! Three weeks ago, they opened their doors and this Tuesday is the grand opening. Please show your support and try to make it.

Their unique menu is a must see. The not-often-seen beef tartare, duck and scallops are on my list when I attend Tuesday’s opening. Organic salmon is on the menu, too. So many great choices!

There are promises of a superb patio this summer. See you out back!

Have A Great Absinthe Day!

Happy Absinthe Day! Who knew there was such a procedure to this drink!

Posted by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe on Sunday, March 5, 2017

 

 

National Mulled Wine Day….and what is that anyway?

It’s Cold Outside but Not in Here

You’ve probably heard of Mulled Wine not knowing what it really is.

This may end up being a rare short version. I hope you don’t mind when I go back to the longer version for future ones.

Mulled wine is a European version using spices and a sweetener, sugar or honey, and is served hot, Traditionally, it is served during Christmas or Halloween.

Our sub-zero temperatures yesterday and today are another good reason to have this delicious hot drink by the fireplace.

Spicing wine is first recorded in Rome in the 2nd Century. The Romans heated wine to defend themselves against the cold. As they conquered across Europe, the popularity of heated wine grew.

The English added spices to promote health and avoid sickness. Herbs and flowers were the sweetener.

Using spice to mask the taste of any unpleasant smell from food or drink became habit.

The Forme of Cury is a Medieval English cooking book from 1390. It states that wine is spiced by grinding together cinnamon, ginger, galangal, cloves, long pepper, nutmeg, marjoram, cardamom and grains of paradise, and mixed with sugar. The Forme of Cury’s authors are listed as the chief Master Cooks of King Richard II. The original is printed on scroll. Would you believe you can purchase this cookbook for $14.00 on Amazon?

Any of these spices will do but cinnamon, cloves, a sweetener and the zest of a citrus fruit are a good base.

Glühwein, roughly translated as “glow-wine”, from the hot irons once used for mulling, is popular in Germany and in Alsace, France. In German markets, it is common to see people with piping hot mugs of Glühwein as they browse.

Across Europe, it became known as glogg. Do I dare make the obvious pun that this is my Glogg Blog. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.

In Quebec, some will mix red wine with maple syrup and hard liquor then heat it. They call it the Caribou and is popular during Quebec Winter Carnival.

Whatever variations you use, simmer about an hour. It won’t be as potent, unless you add a spirit. After cooking, the alcohol content drops to about 12-15%. Be careful not to let it boil, otherwise the alcohol will evaporate. We certainly don’t want that!

MMMMulled Goodness

Since I have German heritage, I used the following recipe for traditional Glühwein as a guideline. It’s a great way to use previously opened wine since the quality of the wine makes no difference to the end result.

However, I used a red wine and a rose coloured Zinfandel, mixed them with water, lemon, honey, cloves and cinnamon. I didn’t have the anise or cardamom. The taste was divine! Other options are bay leaves, long pepper (they look similar to an unripened pine cone), nutmeg, ginger and grains of paradise (from the ginger family). Even black currant can be added. The jar of Mulling Spice shown in the picture above contains the anise, grains of paradise. Experiment with what you have in your cupboard!

Ingredients:

• 750ml dry red wine, nothing fancy

• 100ml water

• 3-4 tbsp sugar, depending on taste

• Half a lemon, sliced

• 3 cloves

• 3 cardamom pods

• 1 star anise

• 1 cinnamon stick

Throw it all into a saucepan on high heat for a minute, then reduce before it boils. Simmer 1-2 hours. Allow to cool a few minutes before straining into mugs or bottles.

Makes 800 ml

It’s not a common drink in Ottawa which is why I am not including too many related hotspots. I think I’ll try one of these tonight after work:

Das Lokal – 190 Dalhousie St. Every last Sunday of the month, they feature live music.

Bier Markt – 156 Sparks St. The link will take you to their events page with a huge list of what goes on weekly. Live music begins about 10-10:30pm.

Central Bierhaus – Kanata Centrum Shopping Centre. They have big screen tv’s, a giant cuckoo clock and tons of different beers.

Check your local spice sections for Mulling Spice if you want to try it at home.

Cheers!

Please Drink Responsibly

National Kahlua Day….Homemade Style

Posted February 27, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe

We are still in Mexico for National Kahlua Day.

Kah-lua is a translation for the native Nahuatl people of Veracruz meaning ‘House of the Alcolhua People’ Some believe it is a slang Arabic word for ‘coffee’.

It is made from 100% Arabica coffee beans with rum, sugar and caramel. The coffee and sugar are grown side by side in the state of Veracruz. The rum used is derived from their sugarcane grown under optimum warm growing conditions.

So if you have a decaf coffee and kahlua to avoid the caffeine as I did, it’s redundant. There are 10 mg of coffee per 100 ml of kahlua. 25% of what is in coffee! That explained the coffee rush.

Origins

From the mountains of Veracruz, Mexico, Kahlua was born. In 1936, four friends joined forces to begin the world renowned drink. The Alvarez brothers were local coffee growers. A chemist, Montalvo Lara, provided the knowledge to transform the ingredients into a cruder version of today’s kahlua. Senior Blanco came up with the idea. Four years later, it made its way to the United States and has grown in great popularity. In 1980, it became the #1 selling coffee liqueur in the world.

In the 1950’s, a Mayan statue collector, Jules Berman (1911 – 1998), worked at Kahlua who put his statues in every advertisement the company posted. It was a hit and continues to today. His collection is now on display in Los Angeles museums and galleries.

It takes 7 years to produce a finished product. The coffee beans, themselves, take 6 years to reach the harvest point. They are grown in the shade so it takes longer. Harvesting of the coffee ‘cherries’ is between October and March.

The traditional method is a dry method when the bean is extracted after the cherry has gone through the drying process. It will have a lower acidity level and an intense, exotic flavour. A newer version uses a wet method which produces a cleaner, brighter, fruitier coffee.

The dried beans are put in burlap bags to rest for 6 months then are roasted, ground and brewed.

The distillation of the sugar turns the liquid into rum then it is aged. Distillation is the process of heating a liquid mixture to form a vapor then cooling the vapor to get a purified form of liquid.

At this point, it is combined with the coffee and rests again for another 8 weeks. The the vanilla and caramel are added. Now it is filtered and bottled.

In the 1960’s, a team of only women led the Kahlua company. They were known as the ‘Kahlua Ladies’.

Taken before the somewhat botched attempt at layering
Taken before the somewhat botched attempt at layering

Variations

Calgary produced the first B-52 in 1977. It is layered in a chilled shot glass starting with Kahlua, then with Bailey’s, and last, Grand Marnier (or another orange flavoured liqueur).

Peter Fich, a head bartender at Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta first invented it. The drink was, of course, named after the music band, The B-52’s. He apparently named many drinks after celebrities, music bands or songs.

One of the first customers for this shooter owned restaurants in various cities in Alberta and liked the drink so much that he put it on the menu. Which is why it is believed to originate at the Keg Steakhouse in Calgary. We can just be proud it’s Canadian!

Not exactly how it should look
Not exactly how it should look

Layering these shooters is not easy. Have a few taste testers on hand so you don’t have to down them all!

How I love thee, kahlua, let me count the ways…..cocktails, shots, coffees, desserts, such as cakes, pies, cookies and a banana bread. See below for instructions.

Black Russians, invented in 1949, are made with kahlua and vodka. White Russians are the same but with milk. The Black Russian is labelled as the most popular cocktail using kahlua.

What’s your favorite?

Mudslides are equal parts Kahlua, Baileys and Vodka, 1/2 oz. each, with 1 oz. of milk.

Espresso Martini’s are mixed with 1 part Kahlua, 2 parts Vodka and 1 part espresso. Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass

Mexican Coffee is made up of 1/2 oz. kahlua, 1/2 oz. tequila and 1 cup of strong, hot coffee, topped with a scoop of melted vanilla ice cream.

Even add it to your Hot Chocolate. MMMMocha!

Add kahlua to desserts, cookies, pies, almost anything with chocolate. An example is the Banana Bread with chocolate and kahlua (below).

Local

The distillation process can be witnessed at Kinsip House in Bloomfield, Ontario which is in the beautiful Prince Edward County. They have tours year round and it is best to pre-book, especially in the winter months.

Call them at 613-393-1890 if you’re interested in learning this process. It’s best to have a group of 6 people but will do them for less. The cost is $5.00 per person. Personally, I would take the special tours with tastings. For $10.00, you get the tour plus tastings of 3 different types of spirits of your choice or, for $15.00, you get the tour and all 11 types of spirits.

Not So Local

At this time, tours are not possible at the Kahlua Company. However, tours of coffee plantations in Coatepec, Veracruz are available. Non-direct flights to Veracruz start about $600.00 round  trip and last approximately 10 hours, longer if there are more stops. Fly to Mexico City and it will likely be cheaper and in about 8 hours. If you want to rent a car, it will take about 4 hours to reach Coatepec and 5 to reach the coast of Veracruz. Price to rent a car is $45.00 and up or a week. Here are a few ideas of what to do there.

Homemade

My own attempt at making kahlua turned out decent despite the lighter color.

Boil 1/2 cup water and 3/4 sugar (I used brown sugar). Add 1/2 cup corn syrup. Remove from heat. Add 1 tablespoon coffee.

Instant grains will remove the step of straining it later. I used ground coffee which will leave sediment at the bottom. Notice the grit.

Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla then 1 cup of rum. Odd but some recipes I found used vodka. I doubled the ingredients and it yielded a full 24 oz bottle with a couple of ounces left over.

Since I knew I would have to filter this, I popped in a couple cinnamon sticks. In a week, I’ll let you know it turns out.

I would recommend using homemade kahlua for baking the desserts. The recipe for the banana bread used almost 2 cups which gets expensive. A 750 ml bottle from LCBO costs $28.95. To refill this bottle with the homemade (doubled) batch, it cost me a total of $17.00.

To make the banana bread, I followed this link. I made a few changes because of my food limitations. Such as using brown rice flour instead of cake flour.

Tossed bananas slices with brown sugar and cinnamon
Tossed bananas slices with brown sugar and cinnamon
After kahlua and vanilla are added
After kahlua and vanilla are added
At this point, I forgot to add the yogurt so it's too thick
At this point, I forgot to add the yogurt so it’s too thick

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mixed the kahlua and chocolate properly! Bitter! Don't lick the spoon!
I mixed the kahlua and chocolate properly! Bitter! Don’t lick the spoon!
One third of batter separated and mixed with kahlua mix
One third of batter separated and mixed with kahlua mix
Before swirling with knife
Before swirling with knife

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After baking
After baking
The finished product! Delicious...even though I forgot the yogurt
The finished product! Delicious…even though I forgot the yogurt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please Drink Responsibly

It’s Margarita Day!

Posted on February 22, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe

We will start this off right.

#1 – Click the Link.

#2 – Press Play (or skip the ad, if pops up first)

#3 – Turn up the Volume. Now you’re ready. You’ll understand why……

Hot on the heels of National Drink Wine Day comes my second favorite drink…The Margarita. Literal translation of margarita is the daisy flower. Early in the 20th century, the Tequila Daisy cocktail contained a spirit, citrus juice, a sweetener or liqueur and a fizzy drink. Did they reverse The Daisy into it’s literal translation?

Finding who invented it is the challenge. A popular story is of Carlos Herrera, the owner of, Rancho La Gloria, a restaurant located between Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico, who created the drink, in 1938. A customer, former Ziegfeld dancer named Marjorie King, requested a drink but knew she was allergic to many types of spirits but not to tequila. He used the same ingredients previously used for doing tequila shooters. Lime and salt.

However, the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, published in 1937, contains a drink called the Picador. The list of ingredients is tequila, cointreau and lime juice. Perhaps Carlos Herrera knew of the drink but changed the name on the spot for her.

Don Pedro Sanchez de Tagle, the Marquis of Altamira was the first to mass produce tequila in a region that is now called Jalisco.

Don Jose Maria Guadalupe de Cuervo was the first person to receive a documented license, in 1795, to produce tequila.

Typically, the people of Mexico do not drink Margaritas so is it an American influence?

Another possible inventor might have been Danny Negrete. He is credited with producing the drink for his sister in law, Margarita, as a wedding present at the Garci Crespo Hotel in 1936. He later worked at the Agua Caliente Race Track where a famous actress whose real name is Margarita (read further for her identity) performed in her teen years in the early 1930’s. He may have named it for her.

Some establishments are now adding agave nectar, a sweet and syrupy liquid which does have to be watered down. Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco boasts 400 varieties of tequila and uses the nectar in their Margaritas. Julio Bermejo is the first person to use an organic version of the nectar. The tiny bar in the middle of nowhere has become renowned across the world thanks to him. The nectar has one of the lowest glycemic indexes of any sweetener which is a healthier option for diabetics. They use freshly squeezed lime juice – no sour mix in a bottle in this bar! It’s a great year to go as they celebrate their 50th year.

I couldn’t be happier with the number of Mexican restaurants on the rise in Ottawa. Burrito Gringo type places are popping up all over the city. I thought there weren’t any authentic Mexican restaurants here, however, with a bit of footwork, I discovered a few of these establishments have been here for many years.

The first day of my research took me to Taqueria Kukulkan, at  1730 Montreal Road, which has been open for about 3 years. It’s humble in appearance. You expect a fast food experience at first sight by the size of it. When you see the tables set with wine glasses, napkins with cutlery and a foil-wrapped heart shaped chocolate  on top, you know you’ve misjudged.

The quality of staff, food tableware and cleanliness will blow you away. And they’re licensed! Their liquor cabinet houses mostly tequila of many brands. One of the most amazing aspects, in my opinion, is the fact that the chefs are preparing and cooking your food literally in the same room as the clientele but you wouldn’t even know it. They work quietly, attentively and in sync with each other. You can hear the mariachi music playing in the background.

I fell in love with the place with it’s Mexican colors, flags, paintings, engravings that differ from table to table, and I hadn’t even received my food yet!

Well, I am partial to Spanish style and that love blossomed with every trip I made to Mexico and California where I was very fortunate to vacation over the years since childhood. In restaurants in Mexico, you are served complimentary guacamole with corn chips, while here, in North America, many places offer you bread and butter. Need I say more?

As a kid, the moment the guacamole dish hit the table, I dove in. Kukulkan didn’t disappoint with it’s heaping serving and home made corn chips. I highly recommend giving this place a try for it’s homey feel and deliciously authentic meals. You will find me here today since, by coincidence, it is Margarita Wednesday, a weekly event.

Ottawa needs more authentic Mexican restaurants, not necessarily those Tex-Mex places, which are great, too, but I’ll take getting swept away to Mexico any day.

My love for mariachi music has spanned most of my life so I had hoped to find a Mexican restaurant that showcased a live Mariachi Band once in awhile. Enjoying dinner with trumpets, acoustic guitars and a whistler, you can’t go wrong! In Mexico, a band of 3 or 4 musicians weave their way among the patrons and play for your table. It’s festive and lifts your spirits. If you’ve had the YouTube music link, I supplied, playing, maybe you agree? After visiting 5 Mexican establishments, I had yet to find a live mariachi band. My 6th option finally brought me positive results.

Variations

The most famous Margarita I know of is Rita Hayworth (1918-1987) whose real name is Margarita Carmen Cansino.

Had enough of the mariachi music? Switch to the song, Margarita, or the classic Jimmy Buffet but please, do continue.

Oddly enough, Rita Hayworth leads us to the movie, the Shawshank Redemption so I had to find out why. The film is based on Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which is in print in the short story collection of 1982’s Different Seasons. The novella is far from being about Miss Hayworth. In the movie’s production stages, they dropped the Rita Hayworth since so many actresses submitted their resumes, thinking it was a biography of the actress/dancer. An agent, representing an unnamed supermodel, even called to say it was the best script he’d read and that the part (which was non-existent) would be perfect for the supermodel. Someone didn’t do their homework.

The first great great grandchild of Queen Victoria is Princess Margarita of Greece and Denmark.

And, there is the pizza, Margherita, with the simplest of ingredients:  your favorite pizza/tomato sauce, basil and cheese. A couple of years ago, I had this type of pizza for the first time in the Niagara-On-The-Lake region. An absolutely delicious but simple pizza with bocconcini cheese balls sliced and scattered over the pizza.

Feleena's on Bank St.
Feleena’s on Bank St.

Feleena’s Cantina, at 742 Bank St., is in the heart of the Glebe, which is close enough to catch a football game or while shopping. They receive many patrons daily. Not just for it’s convenience but for it’s truly authentic dishes, decor and tasty Margarita’s. Their trusted recipe has been the same for the last 25 years, using Triple Sec and have been operating in this location for the last 38 years. They have many types of tequila and you can choose any of these to add to your Margarita. The cost is $10.95 and is a generous serving. Please ask the server. The experienced staff is very accommodating especially when requesting off menu items. I was in the mood for chips and dipping but did not find a similar variety plate, except for chips and guacamole. She offered to bring that order with 4 additional dips. The chips are made fresh daily on site.

The colors are true to tradition and the owner paints the chairs, walls and doors. It’s easy to spend 20 minutes browsing the restaurant to see all of the original artwork. In the menu, there’s a full welcome page with the owner’s origins.

Pancho Villa, in the hub of the Elgin Street pubs, houses so many varieties of tequila, there’s a separate menu of 65 types, most are 100% agave. Enjoy their smoothness straight up on ice for optimum flavour. Their Margarita is $12.95 for the 3 ounce option and $8.50 for the 1 1/4 ounces. It has been operating on Elgin since 1984.

I had the opportunity to speak with the owner’s wife and learned a great deal. The statues on display throughout the restaurant originate from the markets in Mexico but the creator is unknown . There are over 200 types of tequila. More on this when it is National Tequila Day. To keep the dishes true to the heritage, they have an 80 year old gentleman, from Peru, work with the kitchen staff on a regular basis.

If you are planning to learn Spanish, they also offer language courses on site.

Still looking for that Mariachi band…..

The subdued but classy decor at Agave Grill, in Westboro, is not a reflection of less quality. The favorite here is the Margarita, with it’s special blend, similar to the one made at Tommy’s in San Francisco. The popular fajitas are half price on Mondays. They have been on the map for 14 years and know, by opening their doors on a holiday Monday, they will bring in many customers looking for good food and rich ambiance. Oh, and try the Chicken and Roasted Red Pepper Soup!

The Ahora Mexicaine Cuisine, in the Ottawa Market, had a unique approach. They didn’t lack on colors and hand painted murals but the method of service differed. You are taken to your table where you decide on your order then approach the cash to place your order and pay. There is a free, self serve salsa bar and water decanter with lime wedges to pour your own water. The waitresses aren’t lazy. They are hustling everywhere, greeting customers, serving Margaritas (which are $7.95), removing plates, cleaning tables and answering customer questions. Their workload would be too great if they took orders as well. It’s a clever method and it works very well.

Now, for the best of all. Without looking at reviews, I can tell you Taqueria La Bonita, on Ogilvie Road between the Aviation Parkway and the Gloucester Centre, will be a hotspot in Ottawa this summer. They bring in Mariachi Bands!  I asked the waitress about their Margarita’s and she said they are cool. So I ordered a glass of cool and the most amazing, most beautifully decorated drink was placed before me. Pineapple and watermelon and strawberry, oh my!  You have to go! They are open 2 years now and for a Tuesday, they were full! I would recommend making a reservation for groups larger than 4. The Enchiladas Verdes proved to be scrumptious! The owners are a wife and husband team. She is from Mexico and her portraits (see below) decorate the walls. The many other pieces throughout the restaurant are all from Mexico. Enjoy the Spanish music as you take your time to browse the unique wooden menu with rustic hinges, also made in Mexico. It describes each dish and where is originates.

If I visit there once a month, it will take me about a year and a half to conquer each dish. Did I mention, you must go there?

With 2 of the newest Mexican restaurants, that you can definitely rave about, located in the east end, I think it should be renamed “Little Mexico!” Think it will catch on?

In July, I will bring you all the dirt on tequila. I hope you can join me!

#4 Now get out there and have yourself a Margarita! Salud!

"Door" Man at Ahora
“Door” Man at Ahora

“Please Drink Responsibly.”

As the man on the left says, “Por Favor Beber Responsablemente.”


	

It’s National Drink Wine Day!

Posted February 18, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe

Vino

I thought it would never get here! Thankfully, there are over 14 national days of the year associated with wine so it shouldn’t be too long before the next one.

First of all, thank you for taking the time to come back. Now, let’s get to it, I’m too excited to hold back and there’s so much ground to cover.

There won’t be too much about this flavour of grape or white vs red vs rose. Anyone who knows me, knows I gravitate to the unusual and unconventional so that’s where I’ll go with this.

Working from the outside in, take the wine bottle itself. Why are some of them green?

To protect the contents from light which can damage the wine. If it wasn’t stored in a cellar, it could be exposed to harmful lighting. Previous to the invention of the dark wine bottles in the 1600’s, goat skin bags were used. Darker green bottles are used for red wines and lighter green bottles are used for whites.

Now for the indentation at the bottom of your bottle, called the Punt. Glassblowers form the glass this way so it will stand up straight. Not like us once we drink the contents of one! The depth of the punt does not indicate a good quality wine or cheap wine. It varies on the desires of the producer.

Ah the Cork. I have a box full of these little babies. Sadly, we take them for granted. We tend to smell the cork, after opening, but why? And why should we?

Check it for cracks, dryness, breaks or mold. If it smells musty, like wet cardboard, toss it. Yes, the wine, too.

On the other hand, it can be used as a fabric dye or as a fruit fly trap. Removing a red wine stain with white wine seems a tad wasteful to wine lovers but if you’re going to toss it, use it as a cleaner, too.

Below are 2 different videos, one short and one a little more in depth. In a rush? Click the first video which is 2 1/2 minutes. It shows how cork is harvested from trees in Portugal in huge pieces.

Harvesting Cork Bark

If you’ve already cracked open a bottle, you might have a few extra minutes to watch this video showing you the process from bark removal to the cork’s finished product:

5-Minutes Video

Both are very interesting and well worth the few minutes. It depends on how much time you have on your hands right now.

Statue of Dionysus in the Gardens of Versailles, France.
Statue of Dionysus in the Gardens of Versailles, France.

Where did it all begin?

The origins date further back than what is currently documented. However, this might give you an idea as to how ancient wine is:

Georgia, in The Caucasus region, mountains that span from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea with Russia to the north – as far back as 6000 BC!

Armenia – just south of Georgia – 4100 BC – where the oldest winery to date was discovered.

Myth or Truth? This story is from 7000 BC in Persia:   A young princess, despaired over her rejection by the King, decided to commit suicide by drinking the spoiled residue left by rotting grapes. After experiencing the effects of intoxication, she passed out. The next day, she realized life was worth living and reported her discovery to the King who rewarded her find. 

In Iran – 5000 BC – Pottery vessels found at excavation sites in the Zagros Mountains in Iran, dates back to 3100-2900 BC. Studies determined them to contain tartaric acid which would indicate the presence of wine. How ironic that there is a city, in Iran, called Shiraz! It is formerly the capital of Iran.

The World’s Oldest Wine Bottle dates to AD 325 which was found inside one of two sarcophaguses near Speyer, Germany. It is now displayed at Historiches Museum der Pfalz.

In Greece – 4500 BC

Of course, as a wine lover, I have to mention Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine, Fertility of the land, and Ecstasy, pictured above, in the gardens of Versailles, France. Ah, to have wandered the earth, spreading the love of wine and sharing the art of viticulture as he did…..

Tutankhamun

Henry Carter discovered his tomb in 1922 in the Valley of Kings. Various pitchers located in King Tut’s tomb are now known to be wine decanters. They had been labelled with Year 5 and the name of the vintner, Khaa. Tutankhamun, born in 1341 B.C, had reigned from 1332 B.C. to 1323 B.C., and died at the age of 19. Some say he died of gangrine.

Also in King Tut’s tomb, residue found in other jars previously indicated a drink, called Shedeh, made from pomegranates. Recent methods discovered by scientists suggest this residue is from red wine made from grapes, not pomegranates.

All contents of his tomb are on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It is currently under construction so maybe wait awhile if you plan to go.

Oldest wineries, still producing wine:

Chateau de Goulaine, The Loire, France, since the year 1000 –  Believed to be the oldest known wine business still in existence, today it produces a Muscadet, Sancerre and Vouvray.

One of many vineyards along the Rhine River in Germany.
One of Many Vineyards Along the Rhine River in Germany, taken from Rhenus Cruise Ship.

Schloss Johanisberg, Germany, circa 1100 – bombed in 1942 but now restored by Princess Tatiana and her husband, Paul Alfons Fürst von Metternich.

Schloss Vollrads, Rheingau, Germany, established in 1211. Best known for Riesling. The winery and castle are open to the public.

Barone Ricasoli, Tuscany, the oldest winery in Italy, 1411. Best known for Chianti. Not in Italy? Get the flavour of Tuscany at your local LCBO.

Boschendal Winery, Franschhoek, South Africa began in 1688.

Rustenberg, Stellenbosch, South Africa, established in 1682.

With this new knowledge, I know I’ll be taking tours of at least one of these wineries the next time I get to Europe.

Castlehotel Schonburg - Price Range: 120-330 euro/night
Castlehotel Schonburg – Price Range: 120-330 euro/night

Also, worth mentioning are the castles, among all these vineyards, transformed into hotels along the Rhine River in Germany. The website pictures of Shoenburg are breathtaking…..just for fun, have a look! To get a feel for the surroundings, go into the rooms section. My favorites are Turmzimmer (Tower Room) No.22 and No.23. There are other castle hotels, at a lesser cost, here and all over Europe, but Schoenburg has amazing appeal and charm.

If you’re vacationing in northern Mexico this winter, visit Casa Madera, the oldest winery in the Americas. It is situated in Parras de la Fuente which was established in 1568 in the state of Coahuila, in northern Mexico.

Or, in August, plan a trip to Parras for it’s annual Grape Fair. Casa Madera is not the only winery in this area. Hint, hint: Wine Tours.

Codorniu, Spain, 1551 – “the Codorníu cellars at Sant Sadurní d’Anoia were declared “a National Monument of Historical and Artistic Interest” by King Juan Carlos I”.

If you’re suffering a good old Canadian winter like me, our options:

Visit the local LCBO.

Make your own, there’s a wealth of wine-making shops across the city. I’ve been privileged to be offered a few different ones over the years and J & J Wines, on Walkley Road, in Ottawa, has great tasting red wine, in my opinion, and a good reputation.

Book your own wine tour in Ontario. Choose from Lake Erie, Prince Edward County, and Niagara On The Lake. Use the route planner to choose the wineries you wish to visit plus your accommodation destination and they map it out for you.

The Largest Wine Vat, of its time, sits in the Heidelberg Castle in Germany. Built in 1751, it holds 221,726 litres but is rarely used for wine. It stands approximately 6 metres high and 8 1/2 metres wide. Green people, please skip this next sentence. It is said 130 oak trees were used for it’s construction. A dance floor was built over top of it. When Napoleon’s army invaded, the soldiers thought it was full of wine. Their hatchet marks are still visible on the bottom section. If the angle of my shot had been from the front, you would see them better. If I spoke or read German, I would also have known what to photograph when I was there. Such as this little guy. It seemed picture worthy but I really didn’t realize his importance. Perkeo, the Eternal Keeper of the Tun, was once a court jester and master of the castle’s spirit production. The only liquid he poured down his throat was apparently wine until the age of 80 when his doctor advised him to stop. When he did and tried water, he died. Google the Heidelberg Tun to see more. Being the most famous castle in Germany, the massive ruins attract millions of tourists per year. The only way to access the castle is through a guided tour, done in German and in English and run all year. Specialized tours and events run regularly. Today, if you’re in Heidelberg, take part in Life At Court. The whole family can dress up in costume.

Note: The Tun was the largest in the world until 1934 when a larger barrel was built in Bad Durkheim, Germany which sits at 13.5 metres in diameter. It is located on the edge of the German Wine Route. Go figure.

There is another barrel, recently built in Languedoc, France, that outsizes both of these but, in my opinion, lacks the Old World charm. The owner claims it will never be filled but may be used for special events and perhaps a shop.

Onto Other Parts of the World

Cheers!

The custom of bumping glasses is an Ancient Roman greeting. The wine would spill from one glass into the other. It seems this method assured no one is trying to poison the other. In my opinion, if your wine glass is clean and it’s “bumped” by a medieval knight, I’m not drinking it anymore.

A Toast!

The first recorded toast in England took place in 450 CE, at a feast given in honor of British King Vortigern by Hengist, the leader of his Saxon allies.

Offer your glass up and, literally, a piece of spiced, charred or stale toast would be dropped into your wine. Apparently, it soaks up some of the acidity and it made the wine taste better. It could be an h’or d’oeuvre since they were not in the habit of wasting food.

In Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he mentions putting toast into spiced wine.

A Toast, To Your Health!

In those times, The Host would have to drink first to prove the wine he served was not poisoned. Thus, drinking to your health!

Wine as Income

Churches and Monasteries earned income from wine but did you know hospitals and universities did as well?

The most famous  Hotel-Dieu in Beaune, in France, is a hospital, museum and a vineyard. Built by Nicholas Rolin, in 1443, it was intended for the poor and disadvantaged after living through the 100 Years War. Also on the estate grounds is a 60 hectare vineyard. It’s world famous wine auction takes place every third November of each year. There’s lots of time to book your tickets for the festival this year! The proceeds from sales are used to improve hospital equipment and maintaining the Hotel.

Regarding Monasteries, there’s a cool story about Champagne coming up later in the year.

Cool Facts

During Prohibition years, concentrate manufacturers put warning stickers on their product:

After you mix the concentrate with water, please do not keep the mix in a barrel longer than 20 days-it will turn into wine.

If wine has a low sugar content, it will be a dry, or very dry wine. Labels at the LCBO display the sugar content so you can determine it’s dryness. For example 4g will be dry and 14 will be much sweeter.

An individual who is afraid of wine has oenophobia.

Oenology is the study and science of wine and wine-making. Algonquin College and Brock University offer this course.

Sulphites do not cause headaches. They can, however, cause asthma symptoms. You may want to consider natural/organic wines as they have a lower sulphite content. To avoid a vino headache, stay away from the sweeter wines. The sugar depletes the liquid in your head which causes your headache.

Only the men of Ancient Rome were allowed to drink wine. If they caught their wife partaking, he was allowed to kill her.

For those vampiric types, order a Cobra Wine in Vietnam. They will serve you rice wine topped with the blood from a freshly killed cobra.

Germans invented Eiswein (sound familiar?), wine made from frozen grapes.

Doc Hendley founded the company Wine to Water, an organization that uses wine tastings to improve the quality of water in under developed countries. What an inspirational story, check it out sometime.

Wine instead of gas? Prince Charles converted his vintage Aston Martin to run on surplus English wine. He cut carbon emissions by 25%!

How Healthy Is Wine?

One ounce of red wine contains:

2% potassium – for heart health ;  smooth muscle contractions, digestion.

2% iron – helps to carry oxygen to your lungs

5% vitamin B-6 – brain, cardiovascular, digestive and muscular health

2% magnesium – nerve transmission, muscle contraction, blood coagulation,                       energy production, nutrient metabolism, and bone and cell formation.

Hmm, not bad, there’s more….

Some doctors believe one glass of red wine per day can lower the risk of alzheimer’s disease, cancer and diabetes, and you’ll look better.

Wine drinkers (1-2 4oz glasses per day) have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or spirits drinkers. Taken from a Finnish study of 2,468 men over a 29-year period, published in the Journals of Gerontology, 2007.

Red-wine tannins contain procyanidins, which protect against heart disease. Taken from a study at Queen Mary University in London, published in Nature, 2006.

Must I go on?

Read all 8 benefits

Anti-Aging Face Mask

WebMD states the reservatrol in wine is great for anti-aging!

1 tablespoon red wine (reservatrol, see below)

1 tablespoon honey (reduces blemishes and redness)

1 tablespoon greek yoghurt (for the probiotics)

Pour a glass of wine. Mix the 4 ingredients in a bowl. Spread on face and neck using a cotton ball. Enjoy your glass of wine for 15 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. Apply your usual face cream.

I would love to hear if anyone tried this and what your results were! As an eczema sufferer, I was very excited to try it. It seemed a little watery but actually stuck to my face, no problem, only a couple of drips. Keep a towel handy (preferably a wine colored one!). It tingled my skin and smelled delicious. Yes, I licked the spoon. You probably will. too. Soon I could feel it tightening. After rinsing and applying moisturizer, my skin was so soft! There may not be a noticeable difference after one application but after a month, who knows?Pictures are below because I don’t want to scare anyone off by having them right here. Beware, glamour pictures they are not!

Soy Sauce Healthier Than Red Wine?

Deciphering Your Wine

European wines are named for their region, such as Bordeaux, France or Sancerre, which is also in France. Even though they use the same grapes as Americans might use. They don’t put the name of their grape on the bottle either.

Whereas, non-European wines are named for their grape variety, such as Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Red vs White

Ok, I lied. Let me make one comparison.

Darker shades of reds and yellowish white wines come from warm climates and have a lush body to it. Lighter colors are from cooler climates and will taste lighter.

Ok, two.

Why is red wine known to be heart healthier than white? The grape skins are rich in antioxidants. Red wine is fermented with the skin. White is fermented without the skin. A few studies I looked at are actually showing an increased risk of contracting cancer, especially of the digestive tract. This is if you are indulging in more than 2 glasses per day.

All the more reason to come to the dark side………

Since I’m on the topic of antioxidants, I learned something new. You’re probably way ahead of me on this. Polyphenal and Reservatrol, the antioxidants found in the grape seeds, prevent oxidization. Oxidization (the loss of electrons) occurs when an element, that loses electrons more easily (an apple, for example), is exposed to another element, that is reluctant to lose electrons (oxygen is one of these).When the insides of the apple are exposed to the air, it turns brown almost instantly. An antioxidant will slow this process. Oxidization can cause cell damage, even death.

Therefore, to help your wine last longer, transfer it into a smaller bottle and re-cork it. You’ve now eliminated that damaging oxygen in your bottle. For those who don’t polish off a bottle in one sitting.

Women get drunk faster than men because of their water to fat ratio, even if they are of the same weight and size. Sorry, ladies, it seems we have a higher fat content; men have more blood and water volume. Fat does not absorb alcohol so it spreads, in it’s highly concentrated form, throughout our body resulting in a higher blood alcohol concentration. It’s not all about the fat! Apparently, we have lower amounts of dehydrogenase, an enzyme in the lining of our stomach, men have more of this to help break down alcohol.

Just For Fun….

What do you call someone who talks about the wine he or she will open but never does?

The answer is hidden in the “tags” section. Unless you’d rather cheat and google it.

If you made it this far, I’m flattered. Thank you for taking part! See you soon…..

Before
Before
During
During

 

 

 

 

After - Redness Gone!
After – Redness Gone!

PS: I Hate Selfies!

Happy Irish Coffee Day!

Welcome to the Debut of Travel By The Glass!

Posted January 25, 2017 by Kim Ratcliffe-Doe

Nuts & Bolts

If curiosity got the better of you, you’ve landed on Travel By The Glass. It’s fun, informative and will take you to quaint, off-the-beaten-path places. On your next vacation, add a little spice to your trip with interesting detours to your travel itinerary. Mingle with the locals. Discover a whole new world while you’re globetrotting.

In the months to come, this website will showcase unique, maybe even unheard of, places. The country of choice will depend on what is the national “drink” of the day. I’ll even attempt to make the drink, too! (Scroll further or use the Facebook link in sidebar.)

Happy Irish Coffee Day!Who Concocted the First Irish Coffee?

To celebrate National Irish Coffee Day, we discover the origins of this scrumptious drink all the way to, of course, Ireland.

Foynes to be exact, a small village near Limerick. It’s considered a fairly new town, being less than two centuries old. The Foyne’s Air Base, in affiliation with Shannon Airport, handled many passengers, including political VIP’s and celebrities, on their Flying Boats to and from Canada and the United States.

In 1942, a flight bound for North America had to return to Foynes due to extreme winter weather which was not an uncommon occurrence. The restaurant, located at the Foynes terminal, had just acquired a new manager, Joe Sheridan. Faced with these chilled, travel-weary passengers, Joe created a special drink. As the story goes, a hush fell as they tasted it for the first time. It became the main staple included on Joe’s menu for travelers in Foynes.

Travel writer, Stanton Delaplane  brought the recipe back to America to Jack Koeppler, a bartender at the Buena Vista Hotel in San Francisco. Their early attempts to recreate the brew saw the cream sinking to the bottom of the glass. Jack traveled to Foynes to catch up with Joe to learn the proper method. He eventually found him at Shannon International Airport.

In 1952, Buena Vista Hotel offered Joe a position. Joe’s popular story is commemorated in the Foynes Flying Boat Museum.

Today, the Buena Vista proudly makes 2,000 Irish Coffees daily.

Watch To See If My First Attempt Was Successful.

I would love to see your picture posted having an Irish Coffee! A follow up post will feature your photos.

Flying through San Francisco on February 25? Stop in for a brew at the newest location of the Sheridan at the San Francisco airport.  The original is at the Buena Vista in the fisherman’s wharf area in San Francisco where it’s made to classic perfection. This is on my agenda next trip to Cali!

View the events from 2016 Foyne’s Flying Boat and Museum and to plan your visit for 2017. Be sure to watch the 10 minute video for a taste of what’s in store – the music finishes about the 3 minute mark then gets into the commentary. 

For a more adult geared excursion, download the free app for Ireland’s Whiskey Trail available at Google Play Store. The tour guides you to Ireland’s distilleries, the best whiskey pubs and shops.

The Irish Based Flight Company, Ryanair has some exciting offers for it’s passengers:

Ryanair Flights for Free In Europe?

An Example of a Recent Ryanair Special

If you’re in Ireland this time of year, re-live the past at the Sheridan Food Pub, named after you-know-who.

A wealth of Irish pubs are in the Ottawa Market and downtown area. All priced the specialty coffees around $6.95. I visited a few, including the following:

The Aulde Dubliner makes 2 versions of Irish Coffee. Barman Luc made the Bushmill’s Irish Coffee with flair and so generously gave his attention to all of my questions. Ask about the new drink menu geared for Winterlude. If the Carrot Parsnip soup is on tap, I strongly urge you to have one, it’s out of this world! Kudos to Chef Dave Rosa.  

The Irish Village consists of 4 pubs meandering from the front of the Heart and crown to Mother McGinty’s at the back. The specialty coffee selection is the same as the Aulde Dubliner so I if you’re in the market tonight, you’ll find one, no problem.

Patty Boland's

Patty Boland’s, in the market, hosts great music almost every night of the week so check out the dj tonight for some mid-week dancing. I consider myself somewhat of a poutine connoisseur and theirs is definitely a 10!

The newly opened Starbucks on York Street sadly is not yet equipped to make today’s national drink; they do serve beer and wine. If we all request a specialty coffee, they may come around!

Lunergan’s Pub in Ottawa East, made a lovely Irish Coffee with Kahlua. Yum. Ask for the Irish stew either today or on St Paddy’s Day, they make it fresh on site.

Connor’s Gaelic Pub, on Bank Street, provided me refuge on a freezing rain evening. They offered a good variety of coffees but I opted for a soup for some reason. Was I missing that carrot parsnip soup? For a pea soup non-lover, it was quite good! Served in a giant bowl, it seemed quite thin which I discovered is the correct way.

Quinn’s Ale House, in the Glebe, has a lively, intimate atmosphere. The lovely Alli informed me they don’t make Irish Coffees but I could slip across the street, purchase a fresh brew and bring it back for a shot of rye. Voila, makeshift Irish Coffee!

Celtic Cross, two blocks away, is back on Elgin Street! The week kicks off Wednesdays for Open Mike so drop in for your specialty coffee tonight and catch the entertainment. Into Trivia? Every week, they host a trivia night and music Fridays and Saturdays. Each Sunday, they present a different movie, unless there’s a big game on. Planning your own event? Inquire within. The cool picture of the cross and Irish flag I give credit to Dave, the bartender with the most awesome hairstyle! Without his help, I wouldn’t have achieved that angle.

Woody’s on Elgin has a beautiful fireplace tucked away at the back surrounded with 4 comfy chairs. A great place to enjoy an Irish Brew.

Fireplace

Wherever you are, find your local Irish pub, preferably one with a fireplace to cozy up to, for a tasty, hot drink on this cold winter day. Distracted by delicious soups (Hey, if it fits in a glass, I’ll include it!), I still managed to visit 10 Irish pubs and feel I accomplished my goal.

If you enjoyed this bit of information, at least found it interesting and know someone who has a passion for airplanes or coffee, Irish style, share this piece with them.

I invite your feedback to help grow this site. Feel free to make requests. I’ll dig and research the hell out of anything (I live for this!) to bring to future posts. All suggestions welcome.

Most of all, please return for the next National Drink Day! Stay Tuned!

Respect Your Brothers and Sisters…     Please Drink Responsibly