Monday, 23 December 2013

Baking with a smile in mind

When I grow up I want to be a baker! These are the words that Rosie Daykin always knew would come true ever since she was a young girl. Even her brief foray into interior decorating didn’t deter her from her bigger passion – baking. And that dream did come true when she started her bakery and café in 2007, in Vancouver’s west side, on 4321 Dunbar Street.

If you are lucky to be living in Vancouver you can start your day with delicious scones or muffins from Butter’s Tea Room. But if you are a million miles away, you still can restore the nostalgia of fine homemade baked goods right in your own home with Rosie’s new book, Butter Baked Goods.

In the book, Rosie’s husband Paul speaks of his beloved wife in words that can be summed up in a song by Guy Clark called The Cape.
“Life is just a leap of faith, spread your arms, hold your arms, and always trust your cape.”
Rosie doesn’t know if this says she is “bold, or fearless, or just plain nuts” but so far she feels “the cape is holding”. She is known to be true to her word and when at six she announced that she was one day going to own a bakery, she had already starting spinning the wheels in motion. One day not only would nostalgic sweet treats delight in Rosie’s Butter Baked Café, but her famous recipes would tempt every home baker around the world.

The book itself is a beautiful work of art. From cover to cover, Baker Baked Goods has pages laden with fabulous photography and recipes that stimulate your senses. With over 100 classic baking recipes – a lot you’ll be able to recognize from your childhood – Rosie tells us the secret ingredient that’s common in Butter Baked Goods isn’t that secret at all.

“Butter has a distinct identity and style, and I’m true to that,” says Rosie.

As the youngest child in a family of four, Rosie was given the freedom to try out things in the kitchen. She baked up her first recipe when she was only 6 years old. It was called the Six Minute Cake and the magic ingredient in it was vinegar. You can find this recipe in her book, available for purchase at major bookstores and published by Random House Canada.

I guarantee you just won’t be able to keep this book on the shelf collecting dust. The tempting pictures and glossy cover will entice your taste buds. The recipes use surprisingly ordinary and simple ingredients. “Surprising” because the final product tastes anything but ordinary. Nothing is tricked up. Yet, it’s extraordinary!  Mouth-watering treats will leave you constantly smacking your lips for more.
“It is hard to express (but I think, simple enough to understand) the immense happiness I get when just the act of sharing something I enjoy brings someone else the same happiness. I couldn’t imagine a more satisfying way to spend my day.”
When you bake up one of Rosie’s delicious recipes, you’ll be sharing the same sentiment. If you are lucky to be in Vancouver’s west end, stop by the bakery and say hi. She’s designed the bakery so there is a big opening between the bakery’s storefront and the kitchen. “We didn’t have any secrets, and I wanted to be able to say hello to customers as I iced cakes and rolled dough.”

But in the meantime, whether you are an amateur baker or a seasoned one, Butter Baked Goods is a great baking book to get baking. If you do try out some of Rosie Daykin’s recipes do drop us a comment and let us know of your favourites.

As Rosie puts it:
“Baking needn’t be complicated or intimidating; I don’t believe it should take 45 steps to make a great dessert. My recipes were not created to impress people – they were created to spoil them, to celebrate them and to comfort them when needed.”

Reposted from  

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Give the gift of Pietranera Brunello di Montalcino this Christmas

2004 Pietranera
On December 5, The Globe and Mail's wine critic Beppi Crosariol recommended the 2007 vintage of Pietranera Brunello di Montalcino which currently retails for $37.95 at the LCBO. 

Notwithstanding the fact that wines in Ontario are generally more expensive than other places on planet earth, save the province of Quebec, this 100% Sangiovese based beauty from Tuscany remains a bargain for a Brunello. 

SukasaStyle readers may recall that in August we recommended the 2006 Pietranera Brunello di Montalcino and recently had the good fortune of drinking the 2004 vintage, a gift from a friend who had traveled to Tuscany. 

While the 2006 vintage received 4.5 / 5 Sukasa Stars the firm tannins, muscular style, and complexity of the 2004, which has had some more time to age, made it a better wine (for our palate). It was an excellent wine and further proof that the Peluso Centolani family remains dedicated to their craft. The 2004 Pietranera scored 4.65 / 5 Sukasa Stars and would retail for much more than the current retail price point for the 2007 vintage were it available.

2007 Pietranera
Here is Beppi Crosariol's review for the 2007:
Pietranera Brunello di Montalcino 2007 (Italy)SCORE: 93 PRICE: $37.95
Relatively fresh and vibrant for a six-year-old Brunello, this regal Tuscan sangiovese offers penetrating, liqueur-like plum and cherry fruit mixed with an earthy, forest-floor quality and sweet tobacco. For Brunello it’s a bargain, full-bodied but hardly heavy, a red that should cellar well for another decade. Available in Ontario.

The holiday's are often a time to spend extra on life's epicurean pleasures. 

To this end the LCBO promotes a number of wines at significantly higher price points than this but our recommendation this #WineWednesday is to give the gift of Pietrenera Brunello di Montalcino this Christmas, whether it is for friends or a treat for your own cellar. 

If you can't resist the temptation of opening up a bottle for yourself over the holidays remember to decant for at least an hour before serving. 

It remains the perfect accompaniment for game meats, strong flavoured cheeses and rich dishes -- in other words holiday fare.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Whiskey by John Lamond #ScotchSunday Review

When one is starting out exploring the world of whiskey one inevitably turns to authors like Michael Jackson, Charles MacLean, Dave Broom, Robin Tucek. Of course, any list of whisky experts is incomplete without Master of Malt John Lamond.

While the internet, smart phones and being connected 24/7 makes navigating the whiskey world easier, there is still nothing like the experience of reading a real book. This is where Lamond's book, Whiskey, published under Princeton Architectural Press' "Instant Expert" series is a terrific addition (represented in Canada by Raincoast Books).
Whiskey: Instant Expert
fits in the palm of your hand

Measuring 4.71" x 6.61" and at 144 pages, Whiskey: Instant Expert fits into the palm of one's hand but it isn't meant to be an exhaustive database of whiskeys and reviews available around the world -- there are simply too many combinations and expressions. However, it provides insight for those looking to learn a lot quickly, from the very basic to the esoteric:

Whisky vs. whiskey
Scotch whisky is spelled "whisky" and must be from Scotland to be called scotch. With Irish whiskey --which has had perhaps an even longer history-- the word is spelled "whiskey."

Traditional partners for whiskey
...found in the west coast of Scotland where the fisherman would traditionally have a dram of malt whiskey with their oysters -- not to the side but poured on the shell like we do today with Tobasco.

Ardbeg distillery
Ardbeg's make is the most heavily peated of all Scotland's whiskies, at 50 parts per million. Its make has always been a favourite of Islay aficionados, but it was closed more often than it was open in the 30 years prior to being taken over by Glenmorangie in 1997.

Glenmorangie distillery
One of the leading malts around the world, it has the tallest stills in Scotland, at just under 17 feet. The height of the still means that only the finest and most delicate of flavours fall over the lyne arm, which runs from the head of the still to the condenser.

Scotch and Irish whiskies
The malt for Scotch whiskey is dried over an open peat fire, which means the smoke permeates the grains and this smoky taste carries right through to the final whisky. By contrast, in Ireland, the malt is dried in closed kilns so that only hot air dries the grains, not smoke.

The citations above are a sampling of what the book contains. The contents range from the fundamentals to colourful stories about discovering, collecting and storing.

Contents of Whiskey: Instant Expert by John Lamond

If there is anything that could be improved it is the indexing: some of pages numbers (in the index) didn't seem to match. Whiskey: Instant Expert makes a nice gift for a budding Malt Master this holiday season and retails for $14.40 from

Level: Beginner to Expert
Writing Style: 4.5 / 5
Reviews: 3.5 / 5
Value: Very High
Sukasa Stars: 4.5 out of 5

(Reviewed by Arijit Banik for SukasaStyle)

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Will supply meet demand? The Glenmorangie case.

Single malt whiskey has gone from a largely fledgling product in the 1960s to one with exponential growth in the past decade. The story behind the demand is fairly well understood:
"In China and other booming South East Asian countries younger consumers are taking to single malts to show they have arrived in life."  
"There is a need for such young consumers to show this much earlier than their predecessors." 
Industry watchers foresee a much faster growth in single malt consumption in line with the rapid growth in economy as well as rising incomes and aspirations of Indian consumers.
(Source: Import of single malt scotch whisky doubles in first half of 2010)

The challenge is obvious to anyone with a modicum of knowledge about the nature of distilling single malt and the dynamic of markets: global demand will outstrip supply as growing affluence in low to middle income entails a shift from domestic blended scotches and traditional international blends such as Johnnie Walker Red Label to more refined fare like Glenmorangie 10-year (recently SukasaStyle #ScotchSunday review).

Publicly listed companies understand this: French luxury retailer LVMH is the owner of The Glenmorangie Company and single malt assets are a strategic bet on future growth in current emerging markets and developing economies.

Below is a video of Dr. Bill (William) Lumsden, Head of Distilling and Whisky Creation,  answering questions from Glenmorangie's Facebook followers about the challenge of scaling up production. Dare I say it is of particular interest to engineers and single malt lovers.

Posted by Arijit Banik for SukasaStyle.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Glenmorangie 10-Year #ScotchSunday Review

Tallest stills producing a clear smooth spirit

In the town of Tain, Ross-shire, the tall and thin stills of Glenmorangie produce a clear golden spirit that is counted as Scotland's favourite single malt whiskey --the 10 year expression-- and for this #ScotchSunday Sukasa Style reviews why this remarkably smooth dram is also surprisingly complex just as long you taste it long enough to savour it rather than quaff it down.

Glenmorangie's lineup

Glenmorangie's offerings

Glenmorangie's tasting notes
 Tasting notes video featuring Dr. Bill Lumsden, Head of Distilling and Whisky Creation

SukasaStyle tasting notes
A light golden colour reveals a refreshing nose that reminded your taster of Terry's chocolate orange from his youth.

For those you have never had or heard of Terry's chocolate orange, the nose of Glenmorangie's 10 year expression was reminiscent of a mixture of chocolate, orange and flowers.

On the spectrum of flavours, the palate continued to show notes of citrus fruits, spice and vanilla. The remarkable aspect is the dram's remarkable smoothness: it could be mistaken for a higher end blended malt and, given that, it is a perfect entry malt to those dipping their palates into the sublime complexity of single malts. But for those with a nose and a palate for more, this isn't a one dimensional dram: savour it and the finish rewards you more hints of orange, chocolate and even some dried fruit and cream. It has been awhile but it reminded the reviewer of Macallan's 15 year expression.

Price in Ontario (LCBO): $69.95 for 750ml
Price at Peace Bridge: ~$45 for 1L
Serve: straight.

Sukasa Stars: 4.5 / 5
Quality Price Ratio: Excellent - Outstanding

Reviewed by Arijit Banik for SukasaStyle.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

For the value minded wine lover: "Had a Glass 2014" by James Nevison

Had a Glass 2014 by James Nevison
(Cross posted from Sukasa Reads)
The stock of wines on the shelves of your liquor store is a daunting prospect for those new to wine yet interested to know a whole lot more. What better course of action than go to a local bookstore to pick up an introduction to wine book? But the shelves of your book store are probably stocked with a plethora of wine titles: perhaps a Ronald S. Jackson handbook for the professional, a Jancis Robinson guide for the aficionado, but what to choose for the newbie?

This is where James Nevison’s Had a Glass 2014 (published in Canada by Appetite by Random House) comes in.

It is designed not just for the newbie but one who is on a budget: hence the subtitle of Top 100 wines under $20, and perhaps best of all, it can be carried in the palm of your hand when you visit the liquor store.

In hunting for value purchases, Nevison understands its nebulous character and states the case:
"Value" is at best squishy and hard to pin down. Value is personal. And like scoring wine on a hundred-point scale, it’s tough for an objective framework to try and prop up subjective tastes. But whether you’re after price rollbacks at a big-box store or hand-made designer goods, true value occurs when returns exceed expectations. (emphasis added)
Graduating from strictly drinking for pleasure to wanting to make an intelligent choice can become an exercise in opacity for the unschooled but Nevison comforts the reader:
There’s no need to overcomplicate wine tasting. Nothing is more boring than listening to some wine blowhard drone on at length about the laundry list of aromas they detect, or slurp on for minutes as they attempt to pinpoint precise acidity and residual sugar levels.
Colourful Wine Aromas 
Indeed. a critical time consuming wine assessment is not made for the dining room; that is a place for good friends, engaging conversation and the perfect pairing of wine and food.

But following Nevison's 4 step process isn't just chock full of prose as the book is designed and edited in an accessible style. For example, in describing the nose, what aromas come to mind?

None of the book's 168 pages is wasted. With tight copy-editing, enticing graphics and a friendly writing style, James Nevison has found a winning formula for those new to wine and even the oenophile looking for good house wine choices for a casual imbibe during the week. The contents lay the map from the "how to" of wine to the geographic regions to the different types of wine (that now include a section on wine cocktails).
As far as the choices of wine in the book, we at SukasaReads have stated the case in the past that wine tasting isn't an objective sterile science on our SukasaStyle sister site so there are differences of opinion in terms of the choices (as there should be) but this should not detract from a worthwhile initiative.

Level: Beginner
Writing Style: 4.5 / 5
Wine Recommendations: 3.5 / 5
Value: High
Sukasa Stars: 4 out of 5

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Glenfiddich 12-year #ScotchSunday Review

Snobbery is not the exclusive purview of wine lovers, scotch lovers exhibit it in spades.

This Scotch Sunday, SukasaStyle takes a look at Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, a good dram that deserves more respect than it receives in the blogosphere and comments amongst scotch lovers. What is it about Glenfiddich that elicits ambivalence amongst whiskey lovers? Is it success?

Our position is clear: success should not be frowned upon. When William Grant started Glenfiddich in 1886, borrowing used stills from Cardhu, little did he know that his company would be the champion of a fledgling market for single malts.  Glenfiddich isn't Yellow Tail. It produces a good product: we love the 18 Year Old expression and think highly of the 15 Year Old yet think that the 12 Year Old is underrated.

What does Glenfiddich do well? Consistent brand representation:
Core Collection: 12 - 15 - 18 - 21 Year Old Malts
Consistent marketing of its tagline "The World's Most Awarded Single Malt"

Accessible and understandable Social Media presence: below are Brian Kinsman's tasting notes for Glenfiddich 12 Year Old:

Sticking to the KISS principle: Glenfiddich's Tasting Notes for the 12-Year Old:

Glenfiddich's Tasting Notes

SukasaStyle's Tasting Notes
Here is what the nose reminded us of:
Being in the produce section of a grocery store
There was a hint of pear but only after the initial sense of being in the produce aisle died down. The taste one can be overwhelmed by the heat masking the fruit -- this would be our main criticism -- but there is butter and cream prior to the lengthy finish.

We have made the argument that tasting is a question of one's palate and environmental circumstances. It isn't an objective science but notwithstanding the differences of opinion that we have compared to others, all opinions are valid. If is important to recognize that a Speyside malt need not taste like an Islay malt: the wonder of single malts is that each distillery produces its own characteristic dram but each malt master can create variations.

Furthermore, the 12 Year Old Glenfiddich we drink today isn't that of our father or grandfather. It changes over time. Give the Glenfiddich 12 Year Old consideration for your whiskey portfolio and as an aperitif. It is value priced and suitable for every day drinking.

Price: $52.95 for a 750ml bottle at the LCBO ($37 for 1L bottle at Peace Bridge Duty Free)

SukasaStyle Rating: 4.3 / 5
Quality Price Ratio: Excellent

(Reviewed by Arijit Banik for Sukasa Style)