Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Call it an Italian Vintner Wonderland

Lirica Primitivo di Manduria (2007)

When we think of Italy's great grapes we tend to think of Barbera, Montepulciano, Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and others; we probably think rarely about Primitivo (aka Zinfandel / Plavac Mali). But, in Canada at least, you pay a premium to enjoy the best vintages from the top Italian vineyards hence the opportunity to go out of the traditional comfort zone and dip into "the appellation of Primitivo di Manduria DOC, whose sandier soils and sun-baked vineyards produce fruit-forward versions. Produttori Vini Manduria, a cooperative with 400 members, leads... with a supple yet ripe version sourced from 20- to 50-year-old vines and aged in oak barrels for three months." (Nathan Wesley, Wine Spectator, 2011)

This week SukasaStyle picked up a bottle of Lirica Primitivo di Manduria (2007 vintage) from LCBO's Vintages (LCBO # 326710 | $18.95 - 750 ml) 
Lirica Primitivo di Manduria 2007

LCBO Tasting Notes:
Smooth and supple, showing good density to its ripe spicy blackberry and raspberry fruit, which remains fresh through to the tarry finish. Drink now. Score - 90. (Bruce Sanderson, wine, June 30, 2011) 

SukasaStyle Tasting Notes:
Cherries, plum, raspberries on the nose with an oak intensity accompanying a ruby colour and good legs. The palate is soft, tannins not austere and a peppery smooth that is balanced with acidity.

Pairing: While the fruit forward aspect makes it suitable as a sipping wine we suggest serving at 16-18 degrees Celsius and pairing with pizza, lasagne, cured meats (capocollo, salami, prosciutto) to bring out the best. 

Under the hood:
100% Primitivo

Thankfully South African wines have long moved on from pinotage and given the micro climates in the Western Cape region we have a skillfully blended entry from the disciples of Dr. Charles Niehaus that can be drunk now or left to cellar for 3-4 years. 

Wine analysis
Alcohol: 14 % v/v
pH: 3.40
Total acidity: 5.80 g/l
Residual sugar: 1.8 g/l 
Access the wine's fact sheet here and in Italian here.

Rating: 4.45 / 5 SukasaStars
Quality Price Ratio: Excellent

Sunday, 22 February 2015



A nose that is a mixture of citrus and grass opens to reveal a melon and apple palate that is not as sweet as expected.

The blending of syrah and grenache has been mastered in the Rhône wine region but here is a characteristically bold and powerful Australian take on the blend courtesy of Chief Winemaker Chester d'Arenberg Osborn and Senior Winemaker Jack Walton.

The 2010 has many of the same characteristics: an enticing bouquet, mouth filling taste, tannis that are drying rather than overwhelming with an additional characteristic of fruit forward flavours (that are not over-ripe) underscored by an oak tinge thanks to a year of aging (40% of the time in French and 60% of the time in American oak barrels).

Don’t burn a hole in your wallet by buying a Vintage port and don’t disappoint your taste buds with a tawny. LBVs are the sweet spot and this iteration scores high on the QPR.

And, FINALLY, for your Oscars Party!


After you have purchased your delicacies, controlled your temperature and shucked safely with no injuries you will need the right pairing. Here are SukasaStyle’s suggestions based on first hand experience but remember to trust your own palate as what worked for us may not for you.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Spanish Food Meets Hipster Cool At Bar Isabel Toronto

The Spanish restaurant scene in Toronto has gone from fledgling to flourishing over the past decade and is populated with some quality names (think Cava and Patria as starters) but arguably the hottest destination since it opened is Bar Isabel at 797 College Street, mere steps from Ossington. 

Along with our friends, one wintry Sunday evening, we made our way toward the beckoning neon light, past the rustic door and enjoyed a wonderful evening of fine food and attentive service at the creation of Grant van Grameren and Max Rimaldi. Bar Isabel's philosophy is Eat, Drink and Be Merry; it is Toronto's spot where Spanish food meets hipster cool, where an energetic vibe mixes with cool cocktails and craft beer; and it does this every day, without fail, from 6pm to 2am.

Drinks started with A Doctor's Orders and West Avenue Cherry Cider, accompanied by two glasses of Ana de Codormiu Brut Cava and a glass of Château Eugénie malbec from Cahors. 

Starters were two orders of the heavenly Sobrassada of Foie Gras and Honey Montadito that simply melted in our mouths given the way the liver was finely shaven. 
Sobrassada - Shaven Foie Gras on toast with Honey Montadito

There was an order of roast bone marrow which was not the highlight of our evening -- it was competent but didn't reach the levels that we have tasted at restaurants like Biff's or Victor.
Roast Bone Marrow

We added sauteed Shishito Peppers and felt that these could have done well with a addition bit of heat that typically accompanies spicier fare -- we understand that the heat profile presented was deliberate but feel that the hype over this finger food is overdone given our personal palate preference.

Following this was a superb order of Razor Clams that were gently grilled and lovingly immersed in garlic butter, chili and sprinkled with parsley. Be certain to order some extra bread (as we did) to soak up the flavours from this dish.
Razor Clams

The apex of the evening was the whole Octopus, a 'must have' dish if you are in a group. Get it while it lasts since the rumor is that it won't always be on the menu.
Whole Octopus

Dessert consisted of two orders of Sour Cream ice cream, with salted hazelnut, candied orange and rosemary and a cheese plate.

The total bill for a party of four came to $235 plus tax and gratuities. Bar Isabel lived up to the hype: one superbly crafted plate after another, professional but not intrusive service, and an energetic vibe that welcomed all. 

Rating: 4.7 out of 5 Sukasa Stars
Excellent, a memorable evening at a restaurant that we would strongly recommend, so don't miss out if you want a panoply of Spanish flavours at the western end of Toronto's Little Italy.

Monday, 16 February 2015

A salad a day keeps you healthy, wealthy and wise

260 New Options For Workday Lunches

Salads are the side we just can't live without. But if you are like me, you may fall into the trap of serving the same salad recipe meal after meal. David Bez, a designer and food lover raised in Milan, took matters into his own hands and started a blog after his coworkers expressed interest in his lunches. His blog Salad Pride chronicles his personal challenge to make one new salad a day for an entire year.

In his new book Salad Love, David Bez shares 260 of his favourite recipes from his yearlong experience. Crunchy, savoury, filling meals that go beyond your typical combination of lettuce, protein, and toppings. 

How does David Bez define a salad?
"Given my office constraints, my lunch had to be a cold dish, made from various cold ingredients, mostly fresh or previously cooked vegetables, topped with a dressing." 

Salad is a dish best served cold

David Bez loves to use very simple ingredients...the fewer the ingredients, the better the salad (in his opinion). From regular ingredients found easily in the grocery store, to occasionally fancying it up with something unusual,unexpected, like truffle oil, saffron, or caviar. 

Each beautifully photographed recipe in Salad Love is also categorized into one of the following foodie preferences such as, VEGETARIAN, RAW ALTERNATIVE, VEGAN, OMNIVORE ALTERNATIVE and PESCATARIAN ALTERNATIVE.

The Magic Is In The Dressing 

"The dressing is where the real magic happens, and the stage at which a salad comes to life."

One if my favourites in the book is the Dessing & Spices section. A tip from Salad Love: leafy salads should only be dressed just before serving since the dressing will "cook" your leaves and they will become become dark and soggy if left too long. Grain and cabbage salads are the opposite and become better when you leave them to absorb the dressing. 

Yes, I'm in love with dressings, and if I can avoid the ready-made options at the store and opt for a healthier homemade version that include vinaigrette-style, creamy or pesto dressings, I'm all in. 

Looking forward to the work week...well, my lunch hour salad fest at the very least is going to be lovely. 

Buy at Amazon: Salad Love: 260 Crunchy, Savory, and Filling Meals You Can Make Every Day Published by Appetite by Random House.

Blog post by @ShilpaRaikar (Creative strategist for @BlinkCanada, decor enthusiast and book lover, who also writes for a book blog: T: @SukasaReads)

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Oh the Sweetness of Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling VQA

When Inniskillin was founded in 1975 by Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser, Reisling was amongst the first grape varieties planted on the 32 acre property in the Niagara Peninsula. Today, the Constellation Brands owned winery, with footings in Niagara and Okanagan, is arguably best know for its ice wines, some of which retail at the $50-100 price point, yet some of the table wines it offers are a good affordable introduction for those new to the wine world.  

SukasaStyle explores the Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling expression (LCBO # 219543 | $13.95 - 750 ml).  

LCBO Tasting Notes:
Straw colour; floral, fruit, honey, apricot and petrol aroma; full off-dry, honeyed fruit flavours with lemon and apricot, balanced acidity, long finish

SukasaStyle Tasting Notes:
A nose that is a mixture of citrus and grass opens to reveal a melon and apple palate that is not as sweet as expected. This wasn't a concern as the sweetness wasn't overbearing as a result and paired nicely and surprisingly well with a hearty dinner of pasta shells accompanied with pork and garam masala infused spicy tomato based sauce. The acidity was appropriate in cutting through the red sauce in this instance -- something we typically associate with Nebbiolo based wines.

Pairing: An excellent choice as a sipping wine for wine neophytes. For the more adventurous, here are some suggestions (in addition to our Indian spice infused sauce): melon wrapped with prosciutto, tiramisu, pork chops, apple pie.

Under the hood:
As the winery states: "The grapes were harvested from select vineyards throughout the Niagara Peninsula to produce this popular variety. Crushed and pressed immediately upon arrival at the winery the juice was allowed to cold settle over night before racking to a stainless steel tank. Fermented at a cool 15˚C for 15 days the wine was allowed to retain some residual sweetness to balance the wines crisp natural acidity."  

in terms of value the wines of Niagara have a challenge in competing with New World reds from Argentina, Chile and South Africa. That challenge will only worsen in 2015 with the depreciation of the euro currency making Europe's Old World reds more affordable to Canadian customers. However, the Inniskillin Late Autumn Riesling represents a departure from that trend and is a very good value for wine lovers looking for a refreshing and balance white.

Wine analysis
Alcohol: 12 % v/v
pH: 2.98
Total acidity: 6.64 g/l
Residual sugar: 23.66 g/l 
Access the wine's fact sheet here.

Rating: 4.4 / 5 SukasaStars
Quality Price Ratio: Very Good

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Boschendal - The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Boschendal, founded in 1685, is a South African wine estate located between Franschhoek and Stellenbosch in South Africa's Western Cape.  

This week SukasaStyle continues digging for value picks at the LCBO by picking up a bottle of The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon blend (LCBO # 222299 | $11.95 (till March 1, 2015)- 750 ml). It is worth noting that our friends across the border in Quebec must pay $16.25 for the same blend (SAQ code :  10649073). 

LCBO Tasting Notes:
Bright ruby with purple highlights; cassis, cherry and oak spice; dry, medium to full bodied; ripe black fruit flavours, with a touch of spice, soft tannin in medium length finish.

SukasaStyle Tasting Notes:
Fruity on the nose and relatively closed in terms of flavour initially but after opening up there is a toasty oak palate with a light sprinkling of spice accompanying juicy tannins. We felt that the cabernet sauvignon's influence on the blend dominated in terms of balance even though it was subordinate in terms of composition. As such this was a blend best accompanied by food.

Pairing: Depending on one's palate it can be a sipping wine if the fruit forward shiraz element dominates but we felt it benefited from a meat food pairing.

Under the hood:
For the 2013 vintage the the blend is: 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon. For the 2011 vintage the winery lists the breakdown as 64% Shiraz and 36% Cabernet Sauvignon.  

Another South African blend that is accessible to everyone without the need to venture into the Vintages section. Boschendal's The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon blend is a very good value, even more so at the current price point. 

Wine analysis
Alcohol: 14 % v/v
pH: 3.67
Total acidity: 5.44 g/l
Residual sugar: 4.80 g/l 
Access the wine's fact sheet here.

Rating: 4.25 / 5 SukasaStars
Quality Price Ratio: Very Good