Banh Mi · Bars/Lounges · Restaurants

Birthday Weekend – The Trop, Major Tom, Soc Trang (date night #12) and Aussie Rules

The plan on Friday was to host Beep Beep, Sunflower and Lovegastrogirl for dinner, then head to The Trop for the live music. However, as the evening crept on, our plans changed. Beep Beep rescheduled her flight due to childcare issues, and later, Lovegastrogirl declined due to work commitments. However, Sunflower was still up for some entertainment. For this post, let’s play “The Bad Touch” by Bloodhound Gang.

L had zero desire to come with us to The Trop, but he dropped us off and wished us fun. I was delighted to discover that we got the best table in the house – the large booth with a prime view of the dance floor. My friend Kournikova told me it is nearly impossible to get that table, even if you RSVP (which we did).

Despite having already eaten dinner, Sunflower insisted on treating me to snacks and Vizzy Seltzers ($6). The Tempura Green Beans ($11) and Potstickers ($13.75) were surprisingly good. The Trop is known for its live music, friendly staff, and Golden Girls clientele. Now I can add vegetarian appetizers to that list.

The green beans were plump and sweet, and the batter was so light it melted in my mouth. The spicy aioli gave these beans some spicy heat. I would get this again.

I was shocked that the potstickers were so good because 1) The Trop is not an Asian restaurant, and 2) the dumplings were vegetarian. Most veggie versions I’ve tried are bland, with no discernible flavour or texture. However, the Trop’s potstickers were clearly homemade. Fragrant with sesame oil, the combination of meaty mushrooms and water chestnuts made for good noshing.

The band playing on Friday was Red Mile High. Before they played their first song, each musician completed a mic check. I wasn’t paying attention until I heard a band member shout, “Syphiliiiissssss!” I asked Sunflower if I heard correctly, and she snickered and nodded. Then, the crowd below us began repeating the guitarist’s warning, creating an uneasy buzz around the room. I looked around and wondered if the musician was giving a public health announcement on behalf of Alberta Health. I took comfort in knowing that Sunflower and I would only have indigestion when we returned home.

The next day, Beep Beep arrived in Calgary. We shopped at a farmer’s market and, after, stopped by Major Tom for golden hour (3:00 – 5:00 pm). We ordered Cosmopolitan martinis ($16), Major Tots ($8), Oysters on the Half Shell ($21), and the MT Cheeseburger ($28).

I was curious about the cheeseburger because several food writers in Calgary have raved about it. Eating this burger was a sensual experience. The edges of the benchmark-aged patty were charbroiled and crusty, while the ruby-red middle remained warm and succulent.

Beep Beep said there were just enough condiments to compliment the beef, such as the crunchy burst of brine from the pickles and bite from the raw white onions. I enjoyed the stickiness of the layer of melted American cheese.

On our way home, I ordered banh mi from Soc Trang Vietnamese Submarines on Centre Street. As you may recall, I have an ongoing bet with L to have 19 banh mi dates, which makes Soc Trang date number 12. I called ahead to request two Beef Sate ($8.50), Sate Beef and Chicken ($8.50), Assorted Cold Cut ($7.75), Sate Chicken ($8.50), three Shrimp Salad Rolls ($6.50) and Pork and Shrimp Salad Rolls ($6.50). I asked for the vegetable toppings on the side and untoasted baguettes to prep the banh mis’ fresh at home.

L and Sirkski preferred the shrimp over the pork and shrimp salad rolls. However, I liked the addition of the pork, as the rough, dry texture gave some oomph to the roll. Soc Trang makes their salad rolls with fresh mint leaves instead of the standard iceberg lettuce. Even their hoisin dipping sauce was extra special, including strands of carrots, hot sauce, and peanuts.


I sampled the beef, chicken and assorted subs. I’m usually a cold-cut fan, but I prefer the beef and chicken subs. I relished the sauciness of the sate sauce, which mingled with the heavy layer of yellow mayonnaise. These are hefty subs. The chicken was plump and tender, and it tasted like it poached. Unlike Kim Anh’s grounded lemongrass beef sub, Soc Trang’s beef uses thickly sliced pieces and is generously layered.


Soc Trang’s pate has a rougher texture and more pungent flavour than Thi Thi, and reminded me of Saigon Deli’s cold cut. However, unlike Thai Tai’s homogenous cold cut, Soc Trang gives layers of various cold cuts that taste distinctively different. All the vegetable toppings tasted fresh. The carrots were pickled and slightly sweet. The quartered cucumbers were crunchy and refreshing. The other toppings include raw white onions, jalapenos, and cilantro.

After we ate, we headed to Aussie Rules ($13) for duelling pianos, which start at 8:00 pm and end at midnight. The hostess informed us we could dance on our chairs but not on tables.

Sirkski and L observed the drinks were cheap. For example, a Schooner (32 oz) of Wildrose beer is $15, $26 for a jug, and $7 for a pint. The highballs are more expensive – for a double vodka and soda, it’s $17 and $20 for three ounces.

Flowers from Lovegastrogirl.


We had a blast at Aussie Rules. The musicians are talented, and the crowd is even more entertaining. Forget The Trop and Merchants, Aussie Rules is the best place for people-watching. Thanks to all my friends and family for making my birthday one of the best ones to date.

Flowers from Sunflower and L.
Bakery · Deli · Dessert · Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Italian Centre Shop

My father-in-law Bobbino and I are trying to get in as many beer and pizza lunches as possible before my sabbatical ends. We usually head to Richmond Pub or Newcastle Pub, but I was craving something different on Monday. For this post, let’s listen to “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” by Billy Joel.

I suggested we drop by the Italian Centre Shop for pizza and wine / beer. Unfortunately, we arrived right at the busiest time. A line-up snaked around the corner, and I noticed with mild irritation that each customer (including myself) asked several questions before ordering. However, the employee at the cashier did an admirable job getting all the customers through while still ensuring each order was perfect. For example, when I ordered my pizzas, she instructed the pizza maker to ensure the prosciutto and tomato were on every slice.


I ordered a glass of dry red wine ($6), a Peroni ($6), and two pizzas – the Diavolo ($16) and the Fresco ($16). The eating area consisted mainly of small tables for two, and each table was taken by what looked like regulars. I could tell they were regulars because they didn’t ooh and aah like Bobbino and I when we saw our food. Bobbino exclaimed how good they smelled and looked. The young pizza maker smiled and informed us that he makes each pizza with love.

The flavour of the olive oil, bocconcini and fresh, thinly sliced ripe tomatoes in the Fresca pizza was gentle and soft. Even the saltiness in the prosciutto was subtle. Yes, I could taste the love. The Diavola was the saucier of the two pizzas, with a zing of heat from the spicy soppressata and peppers. The edges of the crust are thin and light, darkened in tiny spots on the crust.


I recommend over ordering even though this style of pizza is best eaten fresh from the oven. It is so satisfying to punctuate the meal with different flavours. Pro-tip, each 12-inch pizza is more than enough food for one person. We had enough leftovers to take home to L and his mother, Mama G.

When I went to get some boxes to pack the leftover pizza, I saw the man who is always featured on the Italian Centre Shop’s Instagram account. I recognized him but didn’t want to be awkward, so I feigned ignorance. There’s nothing worse than being a groupie.


When Bobbino went to find something sweet for Mama G’s dessert, I scoped out the dried kinds of pasta and produce. Mamma Mia! How can I resist you? The selection, quality, and prices are far more palatable than Calgary Coop and Safeway! I’m going to start shopping here for my arugula, garlic, olive oil, Di Cecco pasta, and canned tomatoes. Hitting the Sauce gives the Italian Centre Shop two phat thumbs up.

Pizza · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

The Barbella Bar (and later, Major Tom)

On Friday, I met up with Lovegastrogirl for dinner. I noticed The Barbella Bar does an excellent job staffing the front of the house. The hostess greeted me warmly while her counterpart, a blond, high-energy employee, charmingly escorted me to our table. His friendly banter and fun-loving vibe made me feel like I walked into a scene at Sur in Vanderpump Rules. For this post, let’s listen to “Shampain” by Marina and the Diamonds.

Our table was on the second floor. Lovegastrogirl faced the balcony while I sat across a cabinet full of wine glasses. Pro tip – if you are looking for a vibrant, bustling night scene, ask to be seated downstairs.

I started off with a Martini Isabella ($17), and Lovegastrogirl ordered an English Garden cocktail ($15). My cocktail contained specks of ice, and the olives (which I requested in place of capers) were frozen solid. I found the blend of vodka and vermouth jarringly fierce, unlike Major Tom’s criminally smooth martinis.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

On Instagram, I saw that Miss Foodie recommended cauliflower, artichokes, and crispy chicken, so I wanted to try them all. We started with the Oysters on the Half Shell ($21), Warm Cauliflower ($14), and Crispy Artichokes ($8). After we finished our appetizers, I planned to order the Chicken Puttanesca ($26).

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Our server informed us the oysters were from New Brunswick. Perfectly shucked, the flesh was cold and crunchy, with a sweet aftertaste. The passion fruit mignonette tasted floral with tropical notes. I would order the oysters again.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

The artichokes were soft and creamy, with a brittle brown batter. The rosemary aioli was herby and added a comforting sage-like fragrance to the batter.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

I enjoyed the mint and buttery pine nuts in the cauliflower dish. The capers and raisins added some sweetness and salt. Lovegastrogirl found this dish a tad salty.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

For our next drink, I suggested she order what Miss Foodie recommended – the Ground Control cocktail ($16). We contemplated ordering the Chicken Puttanesca, but Lovegastrogirl received a notification of an opening at Major Tom. I was jiving for another experience, so I settled the tab, and we walked down a flight of stairs to visit the washroom before our next venue.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

As I reached the basement, I asked Lovegastrogirl if she wanted a piece of gum. I bumped into the employee who seated us, and he asked me who I was talking to as I was alone. I turned around and realized that my friend had stopped at the top of the stairs to take a photo. Wowzers, that Isabella martini was strong!

Perhaps it’s the restaurant’s lighting or the stunning view of the city, but Major Tom has it going on. I can see why Lovegastrogirl and her husband frequently visit this restaurant. It’s a sensory experience – the panorama cityscape, the upbeat playlist and the overall energy from the servers and customers.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

Our server, a chipper German native, complimented my choice in beverage – a Cosmopolitan Martini ($16). Lovegastrogirl was put out that her choice in beverages didn’t receive the same accolades. My cocktail was expertly made – the sour and sweet notes were well-balanced. Even though we were full from our meal, Lovegastrogirl ordered Major Tots ($8), a dish she says is grossly underrated by the general public. As always, she is correct. This appetizer should win an award.

Photo credit: Lovegastrogirl

I loved smooth, smoky surgeon mousse, the tart crunch of the pickled onions, and the warm, oversized crispy tater tot. Lovegastrogirl ordered two more tots for her husband, Pomp, who had come to get us from our night of feasting. Thanks Lovegastrogirl for another fun night and the after party at Major Tom! I’m looking forward to our continued festivities in mid-January, along with my friend Beep Beep.

French · Restaurants · Seafood · Special Occasion

Bridgette Bar

Lovegastrogirl invited me to dine out at Bridgette Bar. Based on our history, she purposely picked a night that she didn’t have to work the next day. For this post, let’s listen to “Big Energy” by Latto, Mariah Carey and DJ Khaled.

Lovegastrogirl ordered Burrata Cheese ($22), Rigatoni ($19), Brussels Sprouts ($14), and Garlic Bread ($8). She ordered a cocktail while our server recommended a Pinot Blanc for me (Domaine Neumeyer Tulipe, $14).

The first two dishes to arrive were garlic bread and rigatoni. The bread was crunchy on the outside and airy on the inside, heavily blanketed with snowy white cheese. The salty flavour of the bread reminded me of a Chinese fried doughnut. The garlic bread had a strong cheese pull game – deliciously stringy.

Lovegastro loves a good rigatoni – her favourite is Carbone’s spicy version. She raved about how good this dish was, despite or because of its simplicity. The noodles had a nice bounce and chew. The mushroom sauce was speckled with truffles, rich and tangy.

My favourite dish was the burrata. Holy smokes! The white flesh of the cheese was so fresh tasting, cool and soft. However, what made this dish stand out was the zucchini mint relish. The clash of the fresh herbs and nuttiness from the sesame seeds was sensational against the sweet, milky flavour of the cheese.

The beige chestnut form was generously dolloped on top of the brussels sprouts. The sprouts were sweet from the honey. I couldn’t taste the truffle or thyme, but at this point of the evening, my taste buds were still stupor from the sensational burrata dish.

On a late Tuesday night, the restaurant was packed. I’m not surprised, as the food and service at Bridgette are consistently excellent. When I returned from the washroom, my napkin was refolded, and a fresh glass for my second glass of Pinot Blanc. I can’t remember the last time this happened to me. Actually, I do, it was at Ten Foot Henry.


Lovegastrogirl insisted on treating me out. I told her I would only accept if she agreed I would take her out the next time. Thank you, Lovegastrogirl, for dinner and your kindred company. I’ll be seeing you at Pat & Betty in January!

Greek · Restaurants

The Greek Corner

For our ninth wedding anniversary dinner, I picked The Greek Corner. I’ve wanted to go ever since I saw Juice Imports post about the fabulous food. I also heard the restaurant serves organic wines from Greece, which instantly made it a must-go destination. For this post, let’s listen to “Eight Days A Week” by the Beatles.

The coziness of The Greek Corner reminds me of Greece. The small restaurant was dark, illuminated by the blue string of Christmas lights and hazy white pot lights. The music matched the service – warm, hospitable and upbeat.

I ordered a glass of premium white wine ($13), and L picked a bottle of Fix, a Greek beer ($7.95). For food, we chose Tzatziki ($9.99), Saganaki ($17.95), Calamari ($18.95), the Mixed Grill ($28.95), and Ekmek Kataifi ($8.95). The wine was noticeably different than the house wine I drank in Greece, as it was bright and tasted like wild, unfiltered sunshine. I thought this was the ideal liquid to wash down the cheese and mountain of steaming fresh pita.

I can tell the owner Yanni has a flair for theatrics, as he joyfully lit our saganaki on fire. We ate the cheese as it was still sizzling. The fried cheese was caramelized and salty, bright from the squirt of lemon. I like how the cheese was soft and melted on my tongue.

The homemade pita was better than I had in Greece. Soft and fluffy, I would tear off a warm piece of bread and drop velvety spoonfuls of garlicky, cucumber-infused yogurt all over it. So good I could happily feast on just bread and tzatziki.

Of all the dishes, I was most excited to try the calamari. The squid was tender and silky, encased in a fluffy, golden brown batter. The best thing about this dish was the freshness of the squid and the soft, chewy texture.

The mixed grill is a winner! The platter contained two pieces of chicken, lamb, and beef, a pilaf of fragrant saucy rice, fluffy oven-roasted lemon potatoes, and a basket of pita bread with tzatziki. The meats are simply seasoned, which allows the natural juices of the chicken, beef and lamb to shine. Of the three types of meat, the lamb was my favourite because of its tenderness and delicate, grassy flavour. Lamb done right is so good. Next time we visit, I want to try the roast lamb.

We shared Ekmek Kataifi – a concoction of lemon custard and sweet noodles. I relished the delicate crunch of the almond slivers and the spicy scent of cinnamon. When we finished our dessert, Yanni brought us two Greek Christmas cookies. The moistness and soft texture reminded me of a Fig Newton, but infinitely more delicious. Yanni has an exceptional talent for hospitality. He certainly knows what he is doing, and you can tell he loves his profession.

We rolled out of the restaurant feeling stuffed and well-loved. We plan to bring L’s parents here for the roast lamb and shared platters. In fact, our meal was so enjoyable, The Greek Corner is going on my list of best restaurants in Calgary.

Restaurants · Wine tasting

Laurent Saillard – Juice Imports

So, it’s official – I’m a groupie. I should start wearing a Juice Import tee shirt to show my support for natural wine importers Erik Mercier and Mark Couillard. On Sunday, I took my sister-in-law Turned to Juice Import’s Laurent Saillard wine tasting ($20) at Bricks Wine Co. For this post, let’s listen to “Foux du Fafa” by Flight of the Conchords.

Bricks Wine Co. has one of the city’s most pleasant tasting rooms. The sunlight emitted through the windows adds warmth, while the roominess makes it comfortable to tuck into a session. Sequestered in a quiet nook in the back of the shop, guests remain mostly hidden from customers shopping in the store.

Erik began our session by delineating Laurent Saillard, a small winery in the tiny town of Pouille in Loire Valley. The owner, Laurent, and his team produce only 2,000 cases yearly. I took the information to mean I had to act quickly to pick up some of Brick’s stock, as these wines won’t hang around for much longer.

The first bottle we tried was Blank (Sauvignon Blanc, $41.95). Made from one hundred percent Sauvignon Blanc grapes, Erik described this as the antithesis of Sauvignon Blancs, so if you typically hate Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll relish this one.

Oh my goodness – what a pretty fragrance! Erik said this was the most sought-after bottle in the line-up. I loved it. Since I was buying a bottle, I asked Erik what food to pair with Blank. Considering the grassy and gooseberry notes and high acidity, he suggested something bitter, like radicchio leaves and/or goat cheese.

The second tasting was White ($37.95), a delicately sweet wine made from fifty percent Ugni Blanc and fifty percent Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is a rarity, as the wine production resulted from Laurent losing most of his crop. The White vintage is a collaboration with his neighbour and a winery in the south of France.

Erik described this wine as “lush, with body, weight and a ripeness to it.” I asked Mark what he would pair with White. He suggested cooked vegetables that are mild tasting in a creamy sauce. I bought a bottle to share with my vegetarian friends.

The third bottle was Un Ete Partage Grolleau ($37.95). The fragrance was floral, and the texture was silky. Erik described the wine as light, fresh and herbaceous, with a nuttiness similar to sunflower seeds.

The fourth wine was La Paire Gamay Noir ($37.95). I found this a lively, wild wine with a bite to it. Erik mentioned the whole cluster of grapes and stems are kept on while being pressed. I asked what the branches add to the wine-making process. I learned that the stems are still alive and metabolizing throughout fermentation, contributing to a softer feeling of the wine.

The fifth tasting was La Pause Gamay Noir ($37.95), which reminded me of the smell of a plastic Barbie doll. Turned said she smelled whiskey. I guess our lived experiences do influence what we taste in new wines.

The sixth bottle we sampled was Ca Se Discute Pineau d’Aunis ($37.95). I smelled raisins. Turned tasted Dr. Pepper. Her neighbour said he could taste Cola. Erik described this wine as peppery with pomegranate, and he could envision eating this with salami on the steps of a cafe in Paris. Turned joked that this wine would pair perfectly with a cigarette.

The seventh tasting was Grenache ($37.95). Erik characterized the wine as supple and aromatic. He recommended slightly chilling this wine and all the other wines we tried before drinking it. He noted the cellars in Loire Valley are cool, so the wine is brought up and served colder than room temperature. The coolness gives the wine more structure and grip and allows the flavours to pop out.

Erik and Mark surprised us with a bonus bottle from their cellar- 2017 La Pause. He described this wine as everything you could want from a Gamay Noir – soy and dried leaves backed up perfectly with cherry Cola.

As with all of Juice Import’s tastings, we received a ten percent discount on the wine we sampled. I left with two bottles, Turned with three, and another guest picked up a case of Laurent Saillard wines. With the wine seminar only costing twenty bucks, the discount on wine, and factoring inflation, this is the deal of the century! Hip, hip, hooray to Juice Imports.

Beer · Fusion · Korean · Restaurants

Best of Kin

L came home early and asked if I wanted to start the long weekend on the right foot. Before he even finished his sentence, I rattled off a list: Best of Kin, The Greek Corner Calgary, or Hanbo. We decided on Best of Kin, as the roads were still icy, and the brewery was closest to us. Let’s listen to “Inner City Pressure” by Flight of the Conchords.

We each ordered a flight of beers ($12 for 4 x 4oz pours). As we sampled each other’s selection, I noticed the crowd reminded me of the professor emeritus at the University of Calgary. L and I were the only ones not wearing North Face jackets. I kept waiting for Dr. B, my master’s supervisor, to jump out and ask me how my stats class was going. The volume of the music was audibly quiet, which suited the clientele.

Barley Pop was our favourite beer, as we found it light with pleasant notes. I thought Dad’s Beer was clean and easy to drink. Summer Crush was sweet and reminded me a little of Kool-Aid. L enjoyed the IPA, which I found bitter with less carbonation than the other beers.

I liked the Sailor’s Delight – it was a tasty coffee stout. Mom Perm was another standout – fun, light and a little sour. I appreciated the beer’s subtle flavours, almost wine-like and quaffable.

L and I were blown away by the food, particularly the Smoked Korean BBQ Chicken Sandwich ($17). The fragrance and taste of the smoke were unreal. The Kewpie mayo added another layer of richness. The chicken thigh meat was satiny smooth. The jalapenos and kimchi slaw mingled with spicy heat and a pickled, tart crunch. This chicken is the best BBQ I have ever tasted. Personally, I think the prices are too low for the quality they are serving up. Cost-wise, this place charges less than your average pub on 17th Avenue.

The Fish and Chips ($19) was wickedly decadent. Our server, when asked, told us the seasonal day boat fish was blue cod. I loved the flaky, buttery filet and the crispy, melt-in-your-mouth batter.

The tartar sauce was thick and herby, similar in freshness to the homemade tzatziki we would eat in Greece. Even the coleslaw rocked – the vegetables were crunchy, and you could taste the freshness of the ingredients.

The fries were fresh-cut, thick cut and mealy on the inside. The golden brown fries were so good we didn’t need any dip. The portion of fries that came with the fish was more than generous. I could feel myself puffing up from all the salt and deep-fried goodness.

I noticed the chefs put great care into prepping the plates. You can taste that same attention to detail in the flavour and quality in the food. Days later, we were still raving about the smoked BBQ chicken. I’m dying to try the beef brisket on my next visit. The BBQ chicken is so mind-blowing that Best of Kin is on Hitting the Sauce’s list of best eats in Calgary.

Happy Hour · Restaurants

Merchants Restaurant & Bar

My friends told me that the scene at Merchants Restaurant & Bar on “Wine Wednesday” is a real hoot. Apparently, the crowd makes for great people-watching. So for our monthly girls’ night, Kournikova, Betty, Québecoise, and I decided to check it out for ourselves.

I called ahead to make reservations. However, a staffer informed me that the restaurant doesn’t take reservations on Wednesdays because it is too busy. After some prodding, I learned we could get a table if I came before 5:00 pm or after 7:00 pm. I landed a booth that afforded a bird’s eye view of the lounge.

I often go with friends on half-price wine night at Earls or Cactus Club, which draws a mostly female crowd. However, this is different for Merchants —these suited-up dudes like their discounted wine! Let’s listen to something from Flight of the Conchords for this post.

I looked up the wine list before and knew I wanted to order a bottle of Simonnet Febvre Chablis ($80, HH $40). However, the restaurant was out of this bottle. So instead, I ordered Louis Latour Macon Lugny ($70, HH $35). I found this wine light and a touch sweet. Québecoise said she enjoyed it and would order it again. However, I wasn’t sold and asked her to pick the next bottle.

Québecoise did select a superior wine – a French Sauvignon Blanc – Alain Gueneau ‘La Guiberte’ ($80, HH $40). Damn – she’s got the best taste. Kournikova said she could taste green apples. Québecoise and Betty thought the wine tasted sour because we had just sampled the last bottle, but it was so loud that I missed the full explanation. I was distracted because I overheard the scandalous conversation at the following table. I felt like I was watching a live episode of the Real Househusbands of Marda Loop.

For food, we shared the Shrimp Gyoza Dumplings ($16.95), Calamari ($15.95), Carpaccio ($22.95), Mixed Salad ($15.50), Filo Baked Brownie ($10), and the Decadent Chocolate Cake ($10).

The carpaccio was delicious! Each bite was pure beef heaven. The tenderloin was silky, tender, and flavourful. I loved the creamy mixture of truffle oil, shaved parmesan, mustard and horseradish aioli. The capers added a tart, salty bite, and the arugula was crisp and peppery. The portion was so generous too. I would get this again.

I also liked the mixed green salad. The maple pepper balsamic vinaigrette was zesty and went well with the cherry tomatoes, toasted pecans, crumbled feta cheese, and slices of cucumber. I would get this salad again too.

The gyoza and calamari were standard and not nearly as good as the carpaccio or salad. If I could do it over again, I would get a pizza or wings instead. A table over to us ordered hot wings, and the fragrance of fried chicken was intoxicating. There’s just something about deep-fried chicken that makes me weak in the knees.

When we received our bill, we were shocked at how inexpensive it was. Ah, wine Wednesday, how economical you are. And the entertainment was free! Sometimes it pays to go out midweek. Hitting the Sauce gives her friends two phat thumbs up.

Restaurants · Wine tasting

Kindeli Wines – Juice Imports

On Sunday, Kournikova joined me for a wine tasting ($29) at Vine Arts. Hosted by the co-owner of Juice Imports, Erik Mercier showcased Kindeli wines from Nelson, New Zealand. Let’s listen to “Hurt Feelings” by Flight of the Conchords for this post.

Our welcome drink was Kindeli Primavera, a rosé with a dark, raspberry-like hue and a light sparkle of carbonation. Erik informed us that this wine is made from several grapes: Riesling, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Viognier, Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Noir. He noted this rosé drinks more like red wine. Kournikova liked this one so much that she bought a bottle.

Our first official tasting was Blanco ($39.37). I was surprised when I took the first sniff, as I’d never smelled a wine like this before. Kournikova thought the wine smelled grassy. Erik described this wine as “rocking” and said it smelled like the Sauvignon grapes in Kindeli’s vineyard. He mentioned the wild fermentation process Kindeli employs results in a wider range of flavours.

Kournikova enjoyed the Luna Nueva ($44.91). This wine consists of a blend of Pinot Gris, Viognier, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Erik said this wine had a crazy texture, describing it as round, soft and bright.

When I asked him to define “texture” to me, he compared the difference between skim and whole milk. Erik told me to think about the words “fatty” and “saturation” and what that sensation would feel like in my mouth. For example, he stated Viognier is an oiler and heavier white wine.

My favourite wine was Verano ($44.91). Erik described this dry, fresh wine as savoury, with notes of dried apples and Oolong tea. I knew right away my girlfriends would love this bottle. I bought one bottle for my friend Sunflower, who has a penchant for orange wines.

Erik recommended pairing this wine with something funky and sweet, like a Japanese curry. He stated that Verano represents a complete picture of Kindeli’s farm, as every variety is blended into this bottle: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.

The Otono ($44.90) is made from Gewurztraminer grapes, fermented on skins for five days in an amphora (Greek vase). After the pressing, Riesling and Pinot Gris juice is added to the “spent skins”. Erik noted this wine is bottled unfined, unfiltered, and without sulphur.

Erik loved the smell of Ivierno ($44.83). He stated one of the many reasons he likes natural wines is the different breadth of flavours it produces. This wine contains about 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Gris.

Kournikova thought Tinto ($44.83) smelled peppery. Erik described the flavour as dark fruit juicy with a violet floral. Of the red wines, this was my favourite. With each sip, I noticed a new tasting note.

The last wine we tried was Luna Lena ($44.90). Erik described Luna Lena as sweet, with dark fruit characteristics. I asked him why my initial reaction to his wines changed with each sip. At first, I was unsure if I even liked the wine. However, with each quaff, I started to appreciate different flavours I didn’t pick up at first. I told him this experience is the opposite when I drink terrible wine at a pub, as even though I keep drinking it, it never tastes better, no matter how hard I wish it to be.

Erik believes it’s because we initially don’t like unfamiliar flavours that we can’t describe. It is our body’s way of warning us about poison. But after we try something new, such as wild fermented wines, we get used to the unique flavours and begin to taste other things.

I’m looking forward to Erik’s upcoming events in November and December. I already booked up each class he’s teaching. These wine seminars are so cheap that I can afford to splurge on fancier bottles for my forthcoming Christmas parties. Hitting the Sauce gives Erik’s evident passion for natural wines two phat thumbs up.

Restaurants · Wine tasting

Fringe France – Vine Arts

On Friday evening, L, Bottlenick, and I went to the Fringe France wine tasting ($50) at Vine Arts on 17th Ave. Klaire McCallum, our host for the evening, selected wines from France’s lesser-known regions from wineries that produce only a small number of wines each year. Choosing this class was a no-brainer for me, as I have an infinite love for French wines. For this post, let’s listen to “A Bicyclette” by Yves Montand.

Vine Art’s tasting room is brand-new, located on the store’s second floor. We sipped a glass of sparkling wine and introduced ourselves to the guests closest to us.

Everyone was given a gorgeous cheese and charcuterie plate from Peasant Cheese. The brie was ripe and creamy. The gouda was even better, hard yet smooth, with a bit of texture. The charcuterie was so tasty that I chewed slowly to extract the most flavour from each bite.

The first wine we tried was the Domaine Vendange Cremant de Savoie 2021 ($26.67). We learned the location of the winery borders Switzerland and Italy, and the region produces one percent of France’s wine production. Bottlenick commented the wine was toasty. There was a breadiness to it that reminded me of champagne. Klaire recommended pairing this bubbly with alpine cuisines, such as a tartiflette. I bought a bottle of this wine and planned to bring it out while hosting a raclette dinner party.


The second wine was Domaine Nigri “Confluence” Jurancon Sec 2019 ($29.73). This winery is located in the southwest of France, close to Spain. Klaire described this wine as intense, with notes of passionfruit. L said it tasted tropical, while Bottlenick thought it was soft, interesting, and unique. Klaire advised pairing this wine with something rich, like foie gras or duck.

I enjoyed the third wine – Domaine des Carlines La Vouivre Cotes du Jura 2018 ($41.19). Klaire noted Jura is famous for its yellow wines and known for its dry and sweet white wine. Bottlenick and L were fans of this wine as well. Bottlenick thought it was oily, while L said it was slightly sweet. I thought it tasted good.

The fourth wine hailed from Cotes de Provence – Clos Cibonne “Cuvee Speciale Tibouren” 2021 ($58.30). Although the region is famous for its rosé wine, we tried a red wine with a see-through ruby hue. Klaire described this wine as herbal, with rosemary, thyme and lavender notes. L thought the wine tasted peppery.

There were two very interesting points Klaire shared with us about alcohol content and acidity. First, she pointed out the rosé’s alcohol content was 14%. She explained that the higher the alcohol, the more texture and feeling a wine has. Second, she mentioned that wine with high acidity makes the mouth water, while wines with lower acidity create more of a mouth-coating sensation. Klaire stated acidity in wine is desirable when paired with certain dishes, as it helps to cut into the fattiness.

The winning wine for me was the fifth tasting – L’enclos des Braves “Les Gourmands” Gaillac 2017 ($37.29). Klaire suggested pairing this wine with charred food, a stew, chili, or soup. I loved this wine so much that I bought a bottle. I’ll break this wine out the next time I burn a dish for a party.

Our last tasting was Thunevin-Calvet Maury 1982 ($79.06). L joked that the wine was almost as old as me. I thought this wine wasn’t as sweet as it smelled and tasted a little like a raisin. This is one of the best ports / dessert wines I’ve tried. We learned this wine is produced on mountain landscapes in a dry, hot, rugged climate. The shrubbery the grapes grow on has deep roots. Due to the poor soil, the stress on the grapes produces the best wine.

By this point in the night, everyone was comfortable, and I heard shouts of “walnut” and “bitter almond” thrown around. When asked what makes a wine worth aging, Klaire listed three things – it must have complexity, tannin structure, and acidity.

Klaire detailed how old this wine was and how this type of wine was made 400 years before the port was made through the mutage mechanism. I piped up and said I didn’t think 40 years was very old at all. The person across from me reminded me we were talking about wines, not people.

These wines were not easy drinking, patio-crushing bottles I usually consume with my girlfriends. However, Klaire noted that she picked unique wines that paired exceptionally well with food. She wanted us to try wines with attitude, not face-ripping weird wines. She succeeded – as I thoroughly enjoyed her selection.