Thursday, December 30, 2010

Milk Thistle Is My New Best Friend

As we follow the long and winding road to the end of 2010, our thoughts turn to New Year’s Eve. Actually, since old longtime friends are coming over to celebrate, our thoughts have been on New Year’s Eve for a while.

Thoughts also turn to New Year’s Day…with fresh starts, resolutions, hangovers…not in that order. I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. Any time is a good time for personal change. Yours, not mine.

But I’m always interested in hangovers, or rather, hangover cures. Wine Out Loud has a great list of cures but experience has taught me that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But, short of abstinence, can you prevent a hangover?

Moderation is the only sure-fire prevention that I know. But when it’s a celebration, isn’t moderation just a form of abstinence? And moderation becomes ever more challenging as the alcohol levels in wine go higher and higher.

My experience tells me that drinking fine wine significantly reduces the risk of a hangover. Fine wines (which I arbitrarily define as wines worthy of aging) tend to have fewer of those chemical additives that mass-market winemakers rely on for consistency. For the same reason, drinking organic and Biodynamic wines reduces the risk of hangover.

Jancis Robinson recommends Milk Thistle, which contains silymarin. Our homeopathic reference book tells me that Milk Thistle has been used for centuries as a homeopathic treatment for liver disease and for protecting the liver from toxins, including alcohol. Jancis Robinson says she’s been using it for over a decade and swears by its efficacy. Her 2001 article also offers a few other preventions (most anything bitter). Milk Thistle is readily available at many pharmacies. I tried it at Christmas and felt great the next day. It’s on my “to do” list for New Year’s Eve. Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson.

I’ve also found that putting a couple of painkillers next to the bedside table before you start the evening, and downing them when you go to bed, will help get you started early on the road to recovery. But if you’re not sure that you’ll end up in your own bed at the end of the night, you may have more important preventions to worry about.

Just remember that Milk Thistle does not give you a free pass to drink and drive at the end of the evening. So enjoy but play safe.  

All the best in 2011!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Great Videos from Hugh Johnson

Over the past 2 weeks, Decanter Magazine has been posting on YouTube a series of short "how to" videos, originally made in 1984 by Hugh Johnson.

Just go to YouTube and search for "how to handle a wine".  The fashions may be cringe-worthy but his advice...from opening and serving wine, to wine storage, to ordering wine in a restaurant...stands the test of time.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mind the GAP

I like to think that I’m a “glass is half-full” person. But that optimism goes hand-in-hand with having high expectations…of myself and others…especially when I’m paying a lot of money for something. This brings me to a final thought about our trip to Peru.

People ask 3 “organizing” questions of us after our return from Peru:
Q: Did you organize it yourself or did you go with a group?
A: A group. For most of our trips, we organize it ourselves. We love the freedom of setting our own schedule. But for trips with complicated logistics, especially in developing countries, travelling with a reputable tour company is the way to go.

Q: What tour company did you go with?

Q: Would you recommend them?
A: No.

GAP stands for Great Adventure People. It built what seems to be a good reputation (we asked around) on organizing trips throughout the developing world for the “backpacking & hostel” segment. In more recent years, GAP has expanded beyond its original customer base to offer trips in what GAP calls the “comfort” category. Now, “comfort” is defined by GAP as “maintaining the comforts you are used to at home” and GAP’s examples are such things as air conditioned rooms, hot water, and air-conditioned tourist buses.

On our trip, GAP fell far short of their standards, our expectations, and in comparison to another Canadian tour company with which we travelled the last time we went to South America: Adventures Abroad. The shortcomings? I’ll mention just a few.

We had small, cramped vans, not buses, for travelling around the country. (Imagine being six foot tall and spending 11 hours one day in a van built for 5-foot, 5-inch Peruvians.) Two hotels lacked hot water. Part of the responsibilities of a tour guide is to keep his group away from highway rest-stops and restaurants where sanitary standards are lacking. All fifteen members of the group were violently ill at one point or another and many required the treatment of a physician. Inevitably, there were many jokes about why they named this company “GAP”.

The kicker? In such situations, what matters is not only what happens during a trip but also how a company responds, after the trip is over, when they know that their customers are dissatisfied. GAP encourages its customers to complete a tour evaluation. And so we did. We told them what went right (yes, some things were outstanding), and we told them what went wrong…seriously wrong.

Did we hear back from GAP? An acknowledgment? A thank you? A commitment to fix what went wrong? Not a peep. And that, dear reader, tells you all you need to know about GAP.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Do More Expensive Wines Taste Better?

Check out the latest Freakonomics podcast on whether more expensive wines taste "better".   It's great fun (if listening to economists can be called fun). 

Their basic point?  Too many "experts" make wine out to be something complicated and too many consumers buy wine based on what these experts tell them they're supposed to like or, worse, based on price.  To quote from their concluding remarks:  "Wine isn't supposed to be a's a celebration...civilization in a glass..."

So, especially for the next 2 weeks, drink what you like and lots of it.  Just relax and enjoy!  

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

La Bovedas

After driving south from Chiclayo to Trujillo, dinner is at La Bovedas, located in the Hotel Libertador.

We start with a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Chile, matched to my Halibut cebiche, with manioc (yucca), corn, sweet potato with some leche de tigre on the side.  Michèle takes a salad of green asparagus, artichokes, mushrooms, and spinach with bell pepper vinaigrette.

For the main course, Michèle takes the Grilled Halibut, Sautéed Vegetables with Tarragon and Cumin, in an Asparagus Soup. (She loves her asparagus! And Peru is the world’s leading exporter, so why not enjoy it as fresh as it is here?)

My choice is North Shore Grouper Fillet, Sautéed Parsley, and Stir-Fried Potatoes. It’s all brilliant!

My choice for a matching wine is La Linda Viognier 2008 (from Leoncio Arizu), Mendoza (Argentina) 14.5% ABV. Deep yellow colour, aromas of apricot, pineapple, almond, sweet spice and floral notes. The apricot flavour dominates on the palate. Medium acidity, it’s round at first but with a bite of crisp acidity on the finish, along with some bitterness. Interesting change through the palate! It matches up well with both dishes.

Dessert for me is Tres Leches (this time the 3 “milks” are coffee cream, Baileys, and condensed milk) …Almond bavarois with amaretto, caramel, and orange sauce with Cointreau for Michèle.

Definitely the place to be in Trujillo. In fact, we liked it so much we went back two days later for lunch, just before heading back to Lima and home.

Michèle’s appetizer was Spicy Shrimp and Corvina with (wait for it) Green Asparagus and Potatoes. My choice is North Pacific Salmon in a Ginger Sesame Sauce.  Both dishes reflect the Asian influences in Peruvian cuisine.  Superb.

For the main course, I take a classic regional dish: Cabrito con Tacu Tacu (baby goat with grilled rice and beans) and Michèle orders the Alpaca Filet Mignon on a bed of vegetables. Delicious.

Our final Peruvian wine: You guessed it…Tacama Seleccion Especial 2008, Ica Valley, 14% ABV. A blend of Tannat and Petit Verdot. We tried the 2009 earlier in the trip. Consistent aromas and flavours of red and black fruits, anise, and black pepper. I found the 2009 to have some grippy tannins but with an extra year of aging, the 2008 is softer and better integrated with the fruit on the finish.

A wonderful way to while away an afternoon and finish our wine and food adventures in Peru.  If this is the world's emerging style of fine cuisine, count me in!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Provenance Paradox

Regular readers know that I like to find wines that are “off the beaten track”. I look for wines made from lesser-known traditional varietals, unusual blends, or underappreciated regions. Apart from the delight in finding something new, I've found some of the best value in wines that aren’t as well-known, especially when compared to wines that are over-hyped.  It's something that we all know instinctively, that you can find good value if you're willing to look for it.

This month, Harvard Business Review has an interesting article entitled “Why You Aren’t Buying Venezuelan Chocolate” that validates that approach. (That sound you hear is me patting myself on the back.) As the author, Rohit Deshpandé, writes,
A product’s country of origin establishes its authenticity. Consumers associate certain geographies with the best products: French wine, Italian sports cars, Swiss watches. Competing products from other countries—especially developing markets—are perceived as less authentic. Even when their quality is on par with that of established players, the developing-market firms can’t command a fair price. The lower price, in turn, reinforces the idea that the offering isn’t as good and that the region doesn’t make premium products.
Professor Deshpandé calls it “the provenance paradox”.

Here’s a short (13-minute) video interview with Professor Deshpandé, with examples of the challenges faced by companies like Concha y Toro (one of Chile’s best wine-makers) and how other companies, like Corona beer, overcame the challenge.

For anyone who’s trying to bring lesser-known wines into the marketplace, whether a Canadian winery, an importer, or as a sommelier working with clients in a restaurant, it’s a fascinating examination of what you’re up against.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Big Ben

Flying north from Lima, we spent a couple of days in Chiclayo, visiting the ruins at Sipan, where we began to learn about one of the most fascinating pre-Incan civilizations: the Moche. Not much to say about the cuisine in Chiclayo. Most remarkable was our dinner at Neuva Nueva Venecia, a very busy pizzeria about halfway between our hotel and the Plaza de Armas. Great, thin-crust pizza. A half-litre of a good red wine for $2!

From Chiclayo, we motored south to Trujillo, the 3rd largest city in Peru. Here the main attractions are from the Chimu civilization: the Huaca de la Luna and the ruins of Chan Chan, the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. We’re getting a much greater appreciation for the size and sophistication of these civilizations. The Europeans didn’t bring civilization to the Americas, they brought a different civilization to the Americas…and not an entirely better one.

At midday, we drive out to Huanchaco, right on the Pacific, for lunch at Big Ben. Although it has some interesting specialities, for lunch all we need is something simple and fresh.

My choice is grilled Corvina with fries. Michèle takes a grilled Corvina with mushrooms and white asparagus in a garlic sauce. Freshly caught that morning, the fish is Mmm...Mmm...good.

And the perfect accompaniment is the local beer, Pilsen Trujillo. Light yellow colour, crisp, not the best pilsner I’ve ever tasted but sometimes sentiment wins out over flavour!  Served with a bowl of the addictive cancha (roasted corn).

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Monday, December 13, 2010

A Little Daube’ll Do Ya

For us, wintertime means more full-bodied food, full-bodied wines.

When I was growing up, my mother made a mean beef stew. It was one of my favourite meals and my fondness for hearty dishes with braised meats hasn’t diminished. It defines comfort food.

I recently came across a recipe from Wine Spectator for “La Daube de Boeuf” that fits my definition of comfort food. This particular recipe is from the Bordeaux region but you can find “daube” recipes throughout the regions of France. It’s simple to make (hey, I did it!), fast, and delicious.

I made a couple of changes from the recipe. First, the recipe calls for “press wine”, a wine made from squeezing the pomace (skins, stems, seeds, pulp, spent yeast) in a press. Its tannins, even astringency, make it a wine perhaps better suited for cooking than quaffing. As far as I know, press wine is impossible to find here but, as the recipe mentions, any full-bodied wine will do. However, the key characteristic of press wine is tannins, so I’d recommend going to Vintages and picking up a Madiran, Mourvèdre, or Pinotage. I didn’t have time to head to Vintages, so I picked up an inexpensive Minervois from my local LCBO outlet.

Second, I added some “herbes de Provence”, which adds a bit more oomph to a recipe that seemed bland to me.

The recipe suggested that this dish is better as a leftover, so I made it a day ahead of time, stored half in the fridge and froze the other half. With two servings, we matched two different wines: once staying true to the recipe's origin with a Left-Bank Bordeaux (so Cabernet Sauvignon was the dominant Varietal) and once with a Syrah-Grenache-Mourvèdre blend from Languedoc. The flavours of the dish are so integrated and mellowed out that both wines really shone.  But I give the edge to the Languedocien.

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Friday, December 10, 2010

The Law is a Ass

Buying wine in one province and bringing it into another province is illegal.

You read that right.  A federal law (the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act) that dates back to 1928  - just as many jurisdictions repealed prohibition - makes it a crime to transport alcohol across provincial boundaries. Unless, of course, you’re the provincial government’s own monopoly, in which case it’s OK. (That was the point of the law: to strengthen provincial liquor monopolies)

Now, I don’t know anyone whom the Crown has ever charged with this crime. And looking at the number of vehicles with Quebec license plates at Ottawa’s LCBO locations (and Ontario-plated vehicles at the SAQ in Gatineau), there’s not much of a deterrent to this common cross-border criminality.

Not that I’ve ever done it, of course.

But it's a bad law:  every law that is ignored by both citizens and law enforcement is a bad law.

It gets worse.  It’s also illegal for a winery in one province to ship its wine directly to a customer in another province. Heard about those great wines in BC? Want a few bottles? Not available at the LCBO? Sorry, you’re SOL…unless you buy it privately by the case through the LCBO (at their option, they don’t have to do it). There’s that monopoly again.

In a time when purchasing goods is just a click away, it’s way overdue to strike down this outdated law and one MP is leading the charge to wipe out a piece of it. Ron Cannan, Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country, has tabled Motion 601 in the House of Commons to allow Canadian consumers to purchase wine directly from Canadian wineries.

A group that calls itself the Alliance for Canadian Wine Consumers has launched a grassroots write-in campaign at  They make it easy for you to join the fight by asking your own MP to support Cannan's motion.  Check it out.

Because the proposed exemption only covers the interprovincial sale of wine directly from Canadian wineries to Canadian consumers, the change won’t fix the ridiculous problem of criminalizing all cross-provincial-border shopping for wine.

But it’s a good start.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Picks: Vintages Release -- December 11 2010

It's the last release before the holidays and the festive theme of the last 2 releases continues here with lots of sparkling wines and icewine. I’ve recommended one sparkling for your celebrations.

But don’t overlook some great choices that might otherwise slip by in all the holiday hubbub. There are a couple of interesting Syrah or syrah-blends available; there were almost 3, but my prospective 3rd choice had 15.5% alcohol, which is crazy high even for Oz. Really, just get yourself some Port.

Also, look out for 3 super choices from Rioja.


BADIA A COLTIBUONO 2007, DOCG Chianti Classico (Tuscany); #295964; Price: $21.95; 12.8% ABV
A blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo. Handpicked. Fermented using indigenous yeasts. Maceration on the skins for 3 weeks. Aged 12 months in French and Austrian oak. Badia a Coltibuono means “Abbey of the Good Harvest". Indeed it is. Certified organic since 2003 by Instituto per la Certificazione Etica e Ambientale. Why organic?  Listen to the winemaker:  “In the past decades the use of pesticides, chemical treatments, weed-killers and the like has led to practices which deplete the soil without re-generating it, that homogenize tastes and that pose a significant threat to our health and well-being. Since we have embraced organic methods of agriculture, we are enjoying the pleasures of cultivating the life force of this place, and experience is showing that our products, our Chianti Classico wines and our extra virgin olive oils, are gaining an ever stronger identity.”

Off the Beaten Track 


A couple of sunny California girls, a Riesling from OZ, and a classic from Chablis...

KENDALL-JACKSON VINTNER'S RESERVE SUMMATION 2009, California; #210195; Price: $19.95; 13.5% ABV
Playtime for the winemaker. A blend of Sauvignon Blanc (33%), Viognier (27%), Chardonnay (15%), Semillon (9%), Roussanne (6%), Pinot Blanc (6%), Riesling (2%), and Muscat Canelli (2%). From 5 different growing areas. Worth a try just to see what comes out.

MCMANIS FAMILY VINEYARDS VIOGNIER 2009, California; #658112; Price: $19.95; 13.5% ABV
There’s some very fine Viognier coming out of California and if you haven’t tried some, you’re missing something good. Cold fermented in stainless steel. No oak.

WOLF BLASS GOLD LABEL RIESLING 2008, Adelaide (Australia); #606269; Price: $19.95; 13.0% ABV
I got the wine for your Christmas turkey right here. Harvested at night, when it’s cool. Fermented in stainless steel. Haven’t tried a good dry Riesling from down under? Don’t wait any longer!

JEAN-MARC BROCARD MONTMAINS 2008, AC Chablis 1er Cru (Burgundy); #983882; Price: $33.95; 13.0% ABV
Oh, Chablis, you heartbreaker! When you’re good, you’re very good: citrus and apricot, flinty minerality, great acidity…the perfect match to raw oysters. But you can be mediocre and you don’t travel very well. But even though you don’t always treat me right, I still come back for more. Fermented in stainless steel, followed by Malolactic fermentation. Jean-Marc’s son wants to convert to Biodynamic farming…must make for interesting discussions in the cellar.


Let's start with something from the wonderful 2007 vintage in Niagara:

CREEKSIDE ESTATE LAURA RED 2007, VQA Niagara Peninsula; #117960; Price: $19.95; 12.7% ABV
A “Bordeaux blend” of Cabernet Sauvignon (39.5%), Merlot (39%), Cabernet Franc (15%), Malbec (6%) and Petit Verdot (0.5%). Fermented on the skins in stainless steel. Aged separately in predominantly French oak barrels (56% new) for an average of 22 months, then blended. Bordeaux blend, Bordeaux weight too.

Que syrah, syrah...

TRINITY HILL SYRAH 2008, Hawkes Bay (New Zealand); #194274; Price: $20.95; 12.5% ABV
A blend of Syrah (96%) and Viognier (4%). Syrah from New Zealand? Now, that’s different! And it’s from Gimblett Gravels, considered by some to be the best growing area in New Zealand. The winemaker extended maceration for 2 weeks following fermentation to soften the tannins. Aged separately for 10 months in both French and American oak and stainless steel tanks, then blended.

HECHT & BANNIER MINERVOIS 2007, AC Minervois (Languedoc); #17764; Price: $18.95; 14.5% ABV
Just last month, we had the St Chinian from Hecht & Bannier. Now here's the Minervois. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, with “few drops” of Carignan and Mourvèdre. Aged 30% in stainless steel, 20% in one- and two-year old 600-litre barrels (known in Languedoc as “demi-muids”), and 50% in new, one-year-old and two-year-old barrels (both 225 litres and 400 litres). Yes, more 2007 Languedoc…buy it!

Here are 3 wines from Rioja, each representative of the most common aging categories, from longest to shortest:  Gran Reserva, Reserva, and Crianza.

BARON DE LEY GRAN RESERVA 2001, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #642496; Price: $29.95; 13.0% ABV
A blend of Tempranillo (90%) and “others” (they allow Garnacha, Mazuelo, and Graciano). They sort and de-stem the grapes in the field. Fermented in stainless steel with extended maceration for another 10 days. Aged 24 months, half in French oak, half in American oak, then aged in bottle for 5 years (yup, 5 years) before release. Drink now, wait 10 years, your choice. Ah, that’s how to make a great wine!

BODEGAS FRANCO ESPANOLAS RIOJA BORDÓN RESERVA 2004, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #194753; Price: $18.95; 13.6% ABV
A blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, and Mazuelo. Fermented on the skins for 9 days and maceration continued for 5 more days. Aged in American oak -- my preference with Tempranillo – with various degrees of barrel toasts for 24 months, followed by bottle aging for 24 months.

SOLAR DE LÍBANO CRIANZA 2006, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #190579; Price: $14.95; 13.5% ABV
A blend of Tempranillo (97%) with Graciano and Garnacha (3%). Aged in French and American oak for 18 months, then 3 more months in 20,500-litre casks made of French oak (that’s big!), then 6 months in bottle before release. The maxim of the winemaker, Bodegas Castillo de Sajazarra, is "less technology, more tradition". Exactly.

And here's the Sparkling...yes it's from Ontario!

13TH STREET PREMIER CUVÉE BRUT SPARKLING WINE, VQA Niagara Peninsula; #142679; Price: $29.95; 12.5% ABV
Although we ring in the New Year at our house with Champagne, there are many other opportunities during the holidays to treat you and yours to some sparkling, especially one from another cool climate: Niagara! Here’s my choice. A blend of Pinot Noir (2/3) and Chardonnay (1/3), 13th Street makes it in the traditional way, as they do in Champagne.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

La Trattoria di Mambrino

Back to Miraflores, for a day, before we head up to northern Peru, off the beaten track for tourists! After my gastro misadventure, it’s good to have my appetite back, although slow and easy does it. 

Miraflores is part of metropolitan Lima and reflects the many cultural influences that make Lima a cosmopolitan city, and a culinary delight. For lunch, we head to Wa Lok, a “chifa”, what Peruvians call a Chinese restaurant. It’s a Sunday, a day when many Peruvian families get together for lunch. The restaurant is full when we arrive at 1:30, but the turnover is fast and there’s no trouble getting a table. It’s a very typical Chinese restaurant: the service is quick, if impersonal, and the food is great. Highly recommended.

For dinner, it’s time for some comfort food…pasta at La Trattoria di Mambrino, just a short walk from our hotel.

My choice is Tagliatelle with a Veal Porcini Ragu. Delicious, the sauce just coats the pasta and the mushroom favour really comes through.

Michèle takes Spaghetti Carbonara with Asparagus. They go easy on the cream, so what can sometimes be a heavy, rich dish is unexpectedly lighter, and tasty. And with fresh Peruvian asparagus, it’s a real treat.

The winelist carries an Argentinean Merlot at a reasonable price, so I order that. I guess I found a popular choice, because there’s none left. The sommelier brings another Argentinean Merlot, asking if we’d to have this one instead. Now, I’m a quick study with restaurant winelists. So I remember that this new one is about $40 more expensive. I also remember that there’s a Chilean Merlot. It's about the same price as the Argentinean one I wanted.

OK, this guy didn’t go to the same sommelier school that I did. First, you know your inventory well enough to know when you’re out of something, and tell the client right away when he makes his order. Failing that, then second, you don’t come back with another bottle, you come back with the winelist, allowing the client to choose something from the full list. Failing that, then third, you don’t come back with a much more expensive bottle, you come back with something in the same price range. But hey, we’re tourists, so you have to keep your head up!

We order the Cousino-Macul Antiguas Reservas Merlot 2008, Maipo Valley, Chile; 14% ABV. Aromas of blackberry and blueberry, sweet spices (vanilla); the dark fruits coming through again on the palate. Medium acidity and tannins, perhaps a bit young, it’s not quite full-bodied. Great with the food! Merlot is my favourite “International Varietal” to match with many pasta dishes.

Time for dessert. Michèle takes Queso Helado, which we first tried in Arequipa. Smooth and good.

My choice is Tres Leches, a cake soaked in 3 kinds of milk: evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream. The cake itself is light, and soaks up just enough liquid without falling apart. It some ways it’s the South American version of tiramisu. Mmmmm…definitely comfort food.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Good News...Bad News

After being MIA since August 11, Vintages Online Exclusives re-appeared this morning. (Up until then, a new release from Online Exclusives came out every 2 weeks, alternating with the in-store releases.  Despite several inquiries, Vintages was tight-lipped about the program's future.)

That's the good news.

This week's release has 15 wines, 14 of which are Bordeaux (12 red, 2 white).  Least expensive bottle?  $36.  Average price?  $71.  So not exactly "value" wines.  Nothing organic or biodynamic.  Nothing off the beaten track.  Nothing less than $30.  Nothing for me to recommend.

That's the bad news. 

It's more like these wines are rejects from the next Classics Collection.  More Scrooge than Santa.

Let's hope that Vintages returns the Online Exclusives program back to what it was: a source of interesting choices for customers who are looking for something a little off the beaten path.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mangez des Cuy!

Leaving Aguas Calientes, the same (or similar) illness that knocked down every other person in our group finally knocked me down...and out. Food poisoning? Bad water? Norwalk virus? You never know. Your gastrointestinal tract declares war. Taken prisoner are your appetite, along with your will to do anything but sleep. Rash promises are made. Luckily, we’re now back in Cusco and it’s not a travel day. I can sleep most of the day away. Then, gradually, terms of an armistice are worked out. Make reparations. Take drugs. Pour electrolytes down your throat. Fortunately, every restaurant along the Peruvian tourist trail offers “Chicken Diet Soup”, the gateway back to solid foods.

But it’s here in Cusco that we planned to try a traditional Peruvian specialty: “cuy”…or guinea pig. Low in fat and high in protein, guinea pigs have been part of the Andean diet for centuries. There’s even a painting of the Last Supper in the Cusco cathedral with Jesus and the apostles dining on “cuy”. Can’t miss out.

Off we go to a nearby restaurant for a dinner of guinea pig. Some restaurants let you choose which live guinea pig you want to have (like choosing a lobster from a tank), but not here. Our guinea pig, roasted, comes out of the kitchen with a pepper in its mouth, surrounded by roast potatoes, raw vegetables (oh no!), and a ball of mashed sweet potato.

What does it taste like? I guess the closest comparison is rabbit, but gamier. Certainly chewy. Unfortunately, the taste of roasted garlic overwhelms it. Back to the chicken soup!

A note of caution. The word for guinea pig in Peru is “cuy”. Sounds very much like a French slang word, couille. So, if you tell your francophone friends about your adventures in Peru, eating “cuy”, you may want to be clear about what that is.

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