Ti-Toki

Another legacy of my niece K’s recent visit from New Zealand was the bottle of Ti-Toki liqueur she brought me.

Ti-Toki was invented by a New Zealand winemaker in the mid 1970s and is only available in that country. It’s made from indigenous flora including kawakawa, manuka leaves and oils from the ti-toki tree berry.

I confess that my interest was more for the collectible ceramic bottle, shaped like a Maori tekoteko, than the contents. It was designed by Maori carver Hemara Hemara and originally produced by Crown Lynn potteries [see Ev’s comment below for a correction]. The older ones (in brown or mottled blue-green glazes) are fairly rare and sought by collectors.

The eyes are made fom paua shell (a species of abalone).

The company changed hands and today the bottles are made in limited numbers by a small ceramics studio near Auckland. You can also get Ti-toki in plain glass bottles – much cheaper, but not as much fun.

I invited Brandomoai, one of my tiki mug collector pals over for a tasting. First we tried it straight up.

The sniff test. The overwhelming scent is of vanilla.

Sipping. The viscosity is of a light syrup, similar to Frangelico. Initially the taste is sweet and mild. Then the alcohol (37%) and botanicals kick in: notes of pepper, citrus, eucalyptus (manuca, according to my niece). Very complex, strong and interesting.

Then we tried in a recipe suggested on the gift box:

Ti-toki Liqueur & Gingerbeer

1 part Ti-toki Liqueur

3 parts Gingerbeer

Serve with crushed ice, finely chopped mint and sliced lemon

Cheers!

I muddled the mint mojito-style instead of chopping it and used an organic ginger ale that has more bite than regular ginger ale but isn’t as aggressively spicy as Jamaican-style ginger beer. Diluting the Ti-toki really smoothed out its harsher edges. A lovely cocktail.

I look forward to tying it in other cocktails as well as just sipping it plain. Now I need my niece to visit more often so I can have a steady supply.

Posted by Jean Poutine

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Dinner: d’Lish

This post is coming a bit late. We (Jean Poutine, King Crabby and our friend Mikey Likesit) had our first visit to the recently relaunched d’Lish Urban Kitchen and Wine Bar (10418-124th St.) more than three weeks ago and we’re only posting about it now. Getting three busy people to contribute to a collective blog post has proved to be like herding cats.

Here’s a word of advice to new food bloggers: Always take notes!! We didn’t and after three weeks it’s been difficult to remember exactly what everything was. That’s why our descriptions may be a little vague (such as the names of the wines) or possibly wrong. We humbly appologize for any incompleteness or errors.

click to enlarge

The menu was still being ironed out in this initial soft-opening phase. It may have changed since we were there.

We all decided to have some “Faith” (45 minutes of whatever the chef wanted to send to our table) along with 3 appropriate wine pairings.

Our server, Kasha, was very friendly and knowledgeable. She must have walked several miles bringing us our wine and food. Every few minutes there was a new wine glass or little plate being put on our table.

The contributors are King Crabby (KC), Jean Poutine (JP) and Mikey Likesit (ML)

KC started with a vanilla whiskey and fresh basil martini (the basil was grown right in the dining room)

KC: I liked it, but I wouldn’t order it again. There was too much vanilla flavour.
JP: The vanilla and basil together made it smell like root beer. It tasted mostly of basil. I’d order one of these.
ML: Crabby seemed to enjoy this drink initially, but not so much towards the end.  I tried it, but wasn’t a big fan.

Spanish white wine

KC: I really liked this and I usually don’t care much for white wines.
JP: Nice.
ML: The wine pairings were pretty good.

Squash puree topped with pickled beets

KC: I liked the taste of the amuse-bouche (oui, je parle français), but it was really awkward to eat it off this spoon.
JP: I liked the squash paste – nice and nutty. Not enough.
ML: Who knew squash and beets could be so good! My childhood self is appalled at my adult self!

Chevre with roasted beets

KC: This was tasty, but I think I would have loved it if I hadn’t been eating beets for dinner every night for the last month. Damn you, beet thief, for not returning this year, leaving me with copious amounts of beets.
JP: The cheese was very tangy and the beet was earthy. A nice combo. Not enough.
ML: Very fresh!  I liked the combination of flavours.  (Can’t remember what the whipped white stuff was, but it worked well with the beets).

Scallop with chipotle tomato sauce and baby greens

KC: Anything with scallops is okay with me, but I would’ve preferred them without the sauce or greens.
JP: I didn’t like the tomato sauce. My least favourite plate. Are those purple flower petals on top? I don’t remember them.
MLI: It was very good, but small.

Salmon cubes topped with black sesame seeds and orange slices marinated in some kind of booze

KC: I felt the citrus with the salmon made this taste really fresh.
JP: The best part was the boozy orange – yowza!
MLI: Great presentation! A tasty nibbly.

Bread salad with turkey sausage gravy and apple (?) compote

KC: By far the best thing we ate that night. It was warm and tasted like good old down home cookin’.
JP: Probably my favourite plate. It was like a mini taste of Thanksgiving turkey and sage stuffing. Give me a whole plate of this please. The chutney (or whatever it is) was unmemorable.
ML: Interesting. Never had bread salad before. Very tasty!

California (?) Pinot Noir

KC: The red was a bit light for my liking, but paired nicely with the food.
JP: Really liked it.
ML: Another great wine.

Deconstructed Margherita (proscuitto, tomato, cheese, herbs, balsalmic reduction)

KC: Server: This is a deconstructed margarita. Us: Silence. Me: Oh, Margherita pizza. JP and ML: Ohhhh!
JP: This would be a nice hors d’oeuvre for a cocktail party.
MLI: Ah, there’s the deconstructed pizza! Mmmm.

Pork rillette (?) with caramelized onion on cracker with wine gelée

KC: This was good, but not very memorable. I had forgotten it was part of the meal until I saw this photo.
JP: Everything on this plate was delicious. More please.
ML: I remember this – I quite liked this mini-main.

Australian ice wine

KC: This was the best drink of the night. It was so smooth I could’ve had a bottle to myself.
JP: I loved this and I don’t even like ice wine.
MLI: Ah, the dessert wine! Very sweet. But good.

Orange blossom dark chocolate truffle with something jellyish, like a wine gum or Turkish delight

KC: What, it’s dessert already? But I’m still hungry. I felt this should’ve been the last thing served because it was such a rich dessert.
JP: The truffle was dense and rich. I didn’t taste orange blossom (does it taste like oranges?)
ML: Quite rich. And the gooey sugary red thing.

Meringues with cherry coulis (?) and vanilla cream

KC: The meringues were more of a cross between a meringue and a sponge cake. Whatever they were, they were delicious.
JP: The sauce was out of this world! Neither sweet nor tart. I wanted to lick the plate clean.
ML: Desserts were quite tasty.

Macarons with chocolate filling

KC: These macarons were over cooked. They were dry and crunchy instead of moist and chewy. I could have done with more meringues. I could have done with more in general.
JP: Dry and crunchy like an amaretto cookie. Not nearly as good as the macarons at Duchess.
ML: Very nice. Hmm, why do I always remember the desserts?

Everything was tasty and interesting in various degrees, but this was certainly not a filling meal. Still feeling peckish when we left, we stopped at the grocery store en route to Crabby’s to pick up a post-prandial snack.

Posted by King Crabby, Jean Poutine and Mikey Likesit. Photos by Jean Poutine.

West Coast Excursion: Part I

Went on a whirlwind trip to the west coast recently. I slept in 5 beds in 10 days, but that’s another story.

A delightful start to the trip was a visit with Niece CS in Victoria. My niece is a foody, so we had a great time in restaurants and cooking together at home. I especially liked the Superior cafe, which she thought I would enjoy because of its artyness, botanicalness and good foodness. Here is the entry into the cafe and patio.

We looked inside first. The cafe hosts art exhibits and live music. The decor is very arty.

The tables have glass tops with nature dioramas within that are changed to new and wacky ones all the time. This one has bones and shells on sand and pebbles.

Even the washrooms are arty.

It was a gorgeous sunny day (I had to go to the west coast to get sun), so we sat outside on the patio. We got there in the middle of the afternoon so we had the place to ourselves.

It is  a beautiful rain-forest type patio, lush and cool. The artyness continues outside. There was a snake tree the day we were there, but on another day you might find shoes in the trees.

The tables outside are made of slate with fresh flowers in bowls in the centre of the tables. The staff write different random table names in chalk every day.

We sat at the Apple table and had yummy root chips and dip with a lovely glass of Zanatta Damasco. It is from a Cowichan Valley winery, King Crabby! The Week in Alcohol blog describes it as having a Bride-of-Frankenstein lineage. We thought it was a perfect summer outdoor wine.

It seemed only appropriate to order the Smoked Tuna & Apple salad. It also included crisp strips of kohlrabi, pea shoots and a creamy goddess dressing topped with black sesame seeds. It went perfectly with the Liberace flatbread (figs, prosciutto, goat cheese and caramelized onions). Both delicious.

We finished off lunch with a Ginger Cake topped with salted caramel sauce and caramel ice cream. The waiter, who is also one of their visual artists, suggested Tea for Sad People. She insisted that we didn’t look sad – she just thought it would go brilliantly with the Ginger Cake. And it did – it was a minty, floraly, something else – made by a friend of the cafe owner. The Ginger Cake was dense and warm and completely satisfying.

So if you’re in Victoria, make time for a visit to the Superior cafe. It lives up to its name.

A not-sad and well-fed Truly Scrumptious and Niece CS. Thanks Niece!

Posted by Truly Scrumptious.

Bacchus in the oat field

The Man With Whom I Keep Company and I made a trip to Onoway and environs to visit with Friend TMB. After a delicious supper which I neglected to photograph (I am new to this food blog correspondent business), we decided to take an agricultural stroll with a bottle of wine and a couple of wine glasses.

TMWWIKC and Friend TMB went on ahead to scout out an appropriate wine tasting venue while I snapped some shots of the oat field.

Note the dragonfly hovering under TMWWIKC’s arm.

The Bacchus Scouts located a lovely wine boulder.

The wine was a California Cabernet Sauvignon from Blackstone Winery. It provided depth, concentration and structure to our oat field junket. The Blackstone Summer 2010 Feast has some pretty darn good lookin’ recipes that could make for excellent en plein oat field dining.

Friend TMB, the loquacious sommelier.

Red wine in the sunset.

Yours truly, Truly Scrumptious.

Posted by Truly Scrumptious.

Winter Apple Cider

So Jean, I got up this morning and ran a 10k for charity. What did you do? I also went to the Blue Plate for breakfast afterward but I forgot my camera. I got a (weak) cup of coffee and a bacon breakfast burrito. I seem to have a thing for Tex-Mex breakfast offerings. Whenever I see salsa, guacamole, black beans or tortillas on a breakfast menu I have to order that item. The only thing that trumps Tex-Mex at breakfast is crab cakes.

Anyway, after a dinner of leftovers I was in need of some medicine for my aches and pains. I decided on a glass of Merridale’s Winter Apple Cider. Boyfriend is the arm model in this photo. He has nothing on your mom.

Merridale is a cidery on Vancouver Island by my parent’s house. It’s a little known fact that the cidery originally planted the wrong apple trees for making cider. They replaced all the trees and sold the old ones to locals. My parents bought some for $1 each. What a steal – I spent $5 on a tomato plant today. They still have the trees, and the apples make mighty fine applesauce.

It used to be a really small cidery that sold most of their ciders in 2 litre plastic bottles. Now they are all fancy pants. They have a bistro, spa, tasting room and glass bottles. My favourite product of theirs is the Winter Apple Cider. It costs about $25 for a 375 ml bottle. It tastes like brown sugar and apples and booze, three of my favourite things.

Every time we go back to the coast we bring back two bottles in our suitcase. I’m always scared they’re going to break in the suitcase and I’m going to have to wait six more months before I can get some more. Boyfriend and I meant to have one glass, but…

we polished it off. That was our last bottle and we’re not going back to the coast until August. Oops. Next time we will have to ration better.

Posted by King Crabby

Wine: The solution to all my problems

So JP, it would appear that a week in Vegas has lowered my tolerance for alcohol, or maybe it’s baking in the sun for eight hours that’s done it? After a day of volunteering – and with the boyfriend away at a conference – I thought I should have a glass of red wine. Then I thought I should have another, and a bit of another. After my indulgence I felt a little tipsy and thought I should seek out some eats. After making the long trek to Old Strathcona, I stopped at the first restaurant I found. It was Packrat Louie, or Crankpot Louie as someone once called it. I’m still not sure if they were talking about the pottery place or the restaurant. After ordering myself some more wine (I couldn’t help it, the wine there is so good), I was presented with the bread basket below.

The bread was soft on the inside and chewy on the outside. It came with an herb butter – oregano I think. Why is it all butters at nice restaurants have to have herbs in them? What is so wrong with butter tasting like butter? Nothing I say!

Then, because I heart crab cakes, I got the scallop and crab cake. It was on a fennel slaw and no there was not a lot of bread crumb filler. While I was waiting for my main I starting trying to fix my camera (which I have been trying for weeks to do) and wouldn’t you know it – me and four glasses of wine fixed the camera.

It is a little bright in this picture, but it is focused and I was drunk. Every time I go to Packrat Louie I get the same thing – the caramelized prawns. They are always on the menu but often have different sides throughout the year. This time it had carrots, beets, asparagus, broccoli and gorgonzola gnocchi. The gorgonzola was way too strong of a flavour for the caramelized prawns. I also managed to get the world’s toughest piece of asparagus. I thought at first it was my knife and cloudy mind, so I tried to eat it whole. That was a mistake as it felt like I was chewing on a rock. It was the only thing I left on the plate.

I did not have a dessert as I had to get on my way to your place for a nightcap and a bit of a snooze on your couch.

Posted by King Crabby

Cocktail: Caipirinha

One of my wonderful nieces brought me a bottle of cachaça from Brazil. It’s a spirit similar to rum but made from sugar cane juice (rum is usually distilled from molasses).

I thought the Da Mata was similar to some of the more flavourful white rums I’ve had – like Havana Club Añejo Blanco. Sipping it straight, there was an initial alcohol “burn” but a lovely sweet aftertaste. I read somewhere that cachaça is the 3rd most popular spirit in the world (they didn’t say what numbers 1 and 2 are – I’m guessing vodka is one of them). Since it’s hardly drunk outside of Brazil, the Brazilians must really love their cachaça.

One of the best things you can do with cachaça is make a caipirnha, the so-called “national cocktail” of Brazil:

Cut the ends off a lime

Cut the lime in half length-wise and remove the white pith. Cut the lime half into pieces and put in a double rocks glass.

Add superfine sugar (aka berry sugar or castor sugar) to taste .

Using a muddler, smush the lime pieces and sugar together. Try not to break the skin of the lime – you want to release the juice, not the bitter oils. I bought my muddler at a restaurant supply store for a buck and a half.

Fill the glass with crushed ice.

Add cachaça to fill the glass (or measure 2 ounces).

Pour the contents of the glass into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously until well mixed and the sugar is dissolved.

Pour back into the glass and garnish with a lime wedge.

Posted by Jean Poutine