Restaurants

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 Francy, 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, chilli, 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.

Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Noble Pie Pizza – Round two

My beloved Jaimie is in town! I haven’t seen my vegetarian friend since COVID. I suggested Noble Pie Pizza for our dinner date, as I know she appreciates a good pizza. For this post, let’s listen to “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd.

We ordered the Marinated Olives ($8) and a glass of the Venturini Baldini Lambrusco rosé ($13) to start. The green olive was our favourite of the bunch because the flesh was buttery and juicy. I loved the flavours of the fennel, citrus and rosemary in the marinade. 

We ordered three pizzas in the new dine-in 13″ size – the Sweet Cheesus ($19), Brooklyn White ($19), and the Magic Pie ($19). We purposely ordered too much food, as we wanted to try everything. So much food was left over that we took an entire pie home. 

The Sweet Cheesus was the simplest of the trio. Jaimie thought this was more of a dessert than a savoury main because of the honey. The pizza was saucy and cheesy; the two prominent flavours were honey and Sicilian oregano. I can see this pizza being popular with kids. I learned this at my last family reunion, as my nephews and nieces would only eat cheese pizza. 

Jaimie’s favourite was the Brooklyn White. Man, this is one tasty pizza! The rich, heady flavours of the caramelized onions and sesame seeds were prominent. The ricotta was creamy and paired well with garlic, parsley, and cheeses. I would get this again. 

I would also order the Magic Pie again. Miss Foodie recommended this secret menu item. She never steers me wrong. The fennel sausage was fatty (in a good way) and spicy, with a hint of licorice. The cream, basil, and fresh mozzarella made this gloriously decadent. 

Jaimie mentioned that New Yorkers eat their pizza slices folded in half. I tried this method and found one benefit – the crust enveloped all the saucy goodness. However, I’m not 100% sold on “To Fold or Not to Fold,” but I’m willing to try this methodology again.

I can’t wait to see more of Jaimie in the future, now with COVID restrictions on the decrease. Perhaps our next visit can be to Italy, her favourite travel destination. 

Japanese · Restaurants · Sushi

Sukiyaki House – Golden Child

L has been busy burning the midnight oil. By Friday, I was itching for some TLC, so I announced he was taking me somewhere nice for date night. Without a moment’s hesitation, he suggested Sukiyaki House. For this post, let’s listen to “Son of a Preacher” by Dusty Springfield.

I spend an extraordinary amount of time reading about restaurants. If there were an award for knowing the most random tidbits about the best food in Calgary, I would win it. I recalled seeing an Instagram reel showing Steve, the former owner of Sushi Club, handcrafting the gyoza at Sukiyaki House. As a student, I would pop by Sushi Club in Kensington for lunch as often as possible. I still remember how much I enjoyed those solo meals, as I had just moved from Vancouver to Calgary.

We sipped on ice-cold glasses of Asahi beer as we poured over the menu. I was feeling piggish, so I wanted to order a whack of appetizers. We selected the Chicken Yakitori ($9), Gyoza ($12), Spicy Prawns ($13), California Roll ($14), and an assortment of nigiri ($3.20-$5).

Head chef Koji Kobayashi sent over a gift – tuna tataki. What a beauty! His creativity always makes me shake my head in wonder. I scooped a little of the fish eggs, raw tuna, avocado and pea shoots on top of the nori and pushed it together like a taco. The fried seaweed curled like a dry leaf in my hand and melted in my mouth. The fragrance of the ponzu sauce and the delicate crunch of all ingredients made this appetizer sensational.

L and I haven’t enjoyed yakitori since Japan, pre-Covid. I loved how the chicken was meaty and still juicy. The crevices were nicely charred. The teriyaki sauce was subtle and not sweet, letting the flavour of the grilled green onions come through.

What was the big surprise of the night was the house-made gyoza. Wowee! Now, this is a mother f#%*# dumpling! Steve doesn’t play around. The wrapping around the toothsome filling was beautifully crimped. The chicken and vegetable filling was hot and sausage-like, bursting with flavour. The rayu rice vinegar sauce was spicy and tart, brightening up the rich taste of the meat. L said this was the best gyoza he’s ever had. I would order this again.

This was my second time trying the spicy tiger prawns. If you like calories, you’ll love this dish. Each prawn was giant and battered like a fritter. I don’t know where Sukiyaki House purchases shrimp and prawns, but it’s the best I found in Calgary. The shrimp is always sweet, with a snappy texture.

I would order the spicy prawns again, but only if L ate his share. The chili aioli was so decadent that I felt dizzy. I blame L, as he kept pushing all the shrimp on me because he knows how much I love all things creamy.

Sukiyaki House offers two types of California rolls – one with capelin (fish) roe and another with sesame seeds. I’ve tried both. The version with caviar comes with rice paper, which gives a chewier texture, like the tapioca dumplings (banh loc tom thit) at Song Huong. The pairing of the crunchy fish roe, mango sauce and real crab meat was sublime. I have to say, though, that I prefer the version with sesame seeds a smidge more because of the flavour profile of the fresh crabmeat, roasted nori, avocado and toasted sesame seeds. Sukiyaki House may not have invented the California roll, but they perfected it. This is the only Japanese restaurant I’ll bother ordering a California roll.

It’s impossible not to snap out of a bad mood while eating Koji’s food. L said he felt sorry for people who come to Sukiyaki House and don’t appreciate it because they are used to McDonald style sushi. I thought those people wouldn’t want our pity nor appreciate us looking down on their taste buds. If someone said something similar about me as I’m happily devouring a Dave’s double cheeseburger, I’d tell that person where to go.

The food here is eye-rollingly good. L and I ended the night by morbidly proclaiming that we would die happy if we died that night. I don’t know why we always equate excellent food with our deaths.

My younger brother Jacuzzi is visiting me for the first time in Calgary. He doesn’t want Chinese or Japanese food, as there’s a plethora of both in Vancouver. However, I’m still tempted to take him to Sukiyaki House for certain dishes they do so well that aren’t sushi, like the tempura, butter clams, agadashi tofu and various tatakis.

Italian · Pizza · Restaurants

Noble Pie Pizza

The Executive has the best after-work life. In the last month, she’s been to Vintage, Donna Mac, Pat and Betty, Wise and Wright and PD3 by Blake. I love hearing her recaps so much that it inspired me to try a new restaurant. Let’s listen to “Smooth Criminal” by Micheal Jackson. 

Based on what I’ve read, Noble Pie Pizza has an excellent reputation with its customers. I’ve always wanted to go, but the no reservation policy deterred me. On Thursday night, I told L we had to go. He agreed and said if there were a wait, he would be okay with it. Lucky for us, there were still spots at the bar. 

You access Nobel Pizza through the back alley by Metrovino Wines and the Cookbook Shop. When we walked in, I noticed four chefs lined up side-by-side, each intensely focused on their work. I could tell right away we were in good hands. The restaurant is small but spacious, as the tables aren’t crammed together like most popular spots. The room is dimly lit, with a funky vibe. I mentioned to L that the music wasn’t generic. He nodded and said, more importantly, it was at an appropriate volume. Noble Pizza seems popular with families, as parents and their kids occupy most of the booths. 

When I saw the wine list, I knew I had to bring my friends here for girls’ night. I ordered a glass of the Venturini Baldini Lambrusco rosé ($13). Our server gave me an extra big pour because he was near the end of the bottle. His unexpected generosity gave me a burst of giddiness. The sparkling rosé was fresh and light. 

We shared the Noble Caesar Salad ($15). This salad is pure joy. I was shocked to see the mountain of parmigiano reggiano piled on top of the lettuce. I asked our server if we could get extra cheese. She looked alarmed and then smiled when she realized I was joking. The romaine lettuce was crisp and cool. I prefer Noble’s Caesar to Una’s, because the former has a softer, fluffier texture, and the proportion of garlicky anchovy sauce to lettuce was spot on, so each piece of lettuce was glossy from the dressing. The toasted panko added a subtle crunch.

We ordered an 18-inch Half Roni / Half Extra Fancy ($37) pizza. Holy Cheesus, what a beauty! The crust was glorious – the edges billowed out, creating beautiful air pockets. The dough was crisp and light. The last time I had a pizza of this calibre was at Savino Pizzeria and Rocket Pie

The pepperoni in the roni was rich, salty, and still sizzling. I thought the oregano and pop of garlic in the tomato sauce were pleasantly pungent. The tissue of the bread was chewy. What was music to my ears was the blistering sound of the crunch and crackle of the crust as we chomped throughout our meal.

I enjoyed the fancy pizza the most because of the meaty pieces of roasted mushrooms and the crunch of the red onions. If you don’t like spicy food, ask to omit the jalapeños. I bragged to L that the jalapeños weren’t spicy, and then I bit into one with some seeds.  

To quell my tingling tongue, I asked for a glass of red wine that was full-bodied and not heavy with tannins. Our server recommended Monte Bernardi Italia ti Adoro ($13). The wine was so damn smooth that it should be criminal. 

The slices were massive. I could only eat two while L ate three. We had leftovers, enough for L’s breakfast and lunch. We are planning our second visit, where L wants to try the Sweet Cheezus pie. This place has it all! Fantastic wine, excellent service and some mind-blowing quality pizza. Hitting the Sauce gives Noble Pie Pizza two phat thumbs up.

Restaurants

Naxos – Day four

For our last day in Naxos, we left it a do as we please day. The only problem was there wasn’t anything we wanted to do. None of the excursions interested us. We don’t like lying around a beach, and I strongly dislike submerging myself in public bodies of water. For this post, let’s listen to “Summer in the City” by The Luvin Spoonful.

We ate breakfast at our favourite spot, then walked along the beach to the port. We shopped, purchased a few items, and then went for one last gyro. By the late afternoon, it was so stinking hot that we called it quits and drank ice-cold cans of Mythos beer on our balcony.


For our last supper in Naxos, I booked To Ellinkkiko. I ordered a glass of red wine (€7) that was so lovely, I let out a pent-up sigh of relief. The temperature was cool on such a hot night, smooth and dry, with a raspberry-like aftertaste. Most of the places we’ve been eating at are the cheap and cheerful type, so the only wine offered is a house wine. For the price, I have no complaints about the wine I tried in Greece. I just know I was missing out on sampling spectacular wines.

We shared oven-baked stuffed peppers (€6), tzatziki (€6) and fresh, homemade bread. The peppers were sweet, soft and wet with the warm juices of tomatoes. There was so much flavour from the feta and dill that I used the bread to mop up the juices.

The whole fish (€15) L ordered was the best I ever had. The white flesh was soft and hot. The fish had a delicate, buttery flavour. I told L that had I known the food at this restaurant would be this good, we would have eaten here every night. L agreed, and I could tell he wasn’t humouring me. When he means it, he elaborates and shows enthusiasm. When he’s pacifying me, he is polite and quiet.

I wasn’t starving, so I ordered the vegetarian moussaka (€8). My pot of deliciousness contained layers of creamy stewed vegetables. The top layer was baked in a thick layer of cheese, but I could still taste the individual ingredients, like the corn, peas, carrots, peppers, and eggplant. I liked how the moussaka wasn’t too salty so that I could enjoy the light lemony, infused vegetables.


For dessert, we were given a plateful of watermelon. However, we were too stuffed even to have a slice. My gosh – it’s incredible food like this that makes travelling worth it. This meal was the highlight of our trip. If you are ever in Naxos, I highly recommend To Ellinkkiko. Hitting the Sauce gives this restaurant two phat thumbs up.

Greece · Restaurants

Naxos – Day three

L informed me that he didn’t enjoy where we ate the previous morning. I wanted to say that’s what you get when you want to be spontaneous. However, I held back and suggested Λαγογιάννης Bakery. Since the weather has been extra hot, particularly in Greece, let’s listen to Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime.”

We ordered lattes (€3), a spinach pie (€3) and a sweet vanilla pastry (€3). The espresso was rich and robust, and the foam so dreamy that I would close my eyes with each sip.

The spinach filling was thick, infused with dill and lemon. L’s cake was light, flaky and sweet from the vanilla custard. When L told me how much he enjoyed his breakfast, I said he could thank Google reviews for finding this gem.

We spent the morning sightseeing. I was intrigued with the Melanes Kouros Statue because I was surprised that such a large marble project was abandoned all these years. Who pulled the plug? Why didn’t anyone else want to resurrect the statue? One would think if the City of Calgary could manage to fix the Wishing Well, Naxos benefactor would try to salvage the statute.

For lunch, L picked another beach destination. Most restaurants were hustling for customers. We picked the busiest restaurant along the beach. Our shaded patio table was inches from the water, and occasionally, the breeze would come and cool us off.

We ordered calamari (€14), saganaki (€6) and fresh fish (€15). Typically when we order fried calamari, we get the rings (mantle) or rings and tentacles. This was the first time we got baby squid. The texture of the squid was thinner than the rings, with a bouncier, lighter mouthfeel.

Our server recommended fried barbounia (striped red mullet). The flesh is rich and firm, and the fishy flavour reminded me of mackerel.

While we ate, several cats surrounded us. I noticed one cat was injured, as parts of its skull were either missing or burned off. I fed the cats bits and pieces of my fish, and once my plate was empty, they vamoosed.

On the way home, we stopped by the Olive Museum. I was expecting an experience like a tasting at a winery, but for olives. Instead, we saw a few pieces of equipment and a gift room with overpriced olives and lotions. However, the olives were so good that I bought home two packs.

For dinner, I wanted to check out a restaurant near our hotel, Maros. I read the online reviews, and it appeared to be a legit restaurant for simple Greek food. We sat outside next to two young women from Montreal. I know this information because all the male servers kept coming to their table to make small talk. They wore halter tops so I could see their washboard stomachs. I watched with awe and jealousy as they easily polished off two entrees and three large appetizers.

L and I shared zucchini balls (€5), lamb (€10), a Greek Salad (€6), chicken souvlaki (€10), and yogurt (€4). L ordered a beer (€3) while I stuck with a copper pint of house white wine (€5).

When I first saw the zucchini fritters, I wasn’t impressed. In this case, looks are deceiving. The interior was soft and fluffy, creamy with feta, dill and mint. The outside was crispy, and the filling just melted in your mouth. Each bite was bursting full of flavour. I would get this again.

The lamb was tasty. The texture of the meat wasn’t fatty or gamey. However, I didn’t like the copious amount of bones and the fact it was served at room temperature. I was tempted to ask our server to pop my dish back in the microwave. The lemon potatoes were also underdone.

I was too full to try L’s chicken souvlaki, which he enjoyed. Other people who looked like locals ordered generously stacked plates of creamy pasta and fries. I wondered if we ordered the wrong dishes, but L said we didn’t come to Greece to eat carbonara.

For dessert, L and I shared yogurt with honey. Yogurt in Greece is unreal – the texture is like a cross between custard and whipping cream, but with a zip to it.

After dinner, we wandered around the castle to work off our heavy dinner. The restaurants at the castle looked so enchanting, with the sparkling lights set against the white walls and music twinkling out onto the corridor. But I had already booked our last supper in Naxos, and I knew the next restaurant was a real winner. To be continued.

Greece · Restaurants · Seafood

Naxos – Day one

Early in the morning, L and I booked a taxi to take us to the ferry to Naxos. When we arrived, a restaurant owner hustled us over to his patio and invited us to stay while we waited for the ferry. Right away, I knew we should continue walking and check out the other cafes. However, he struck up a conversation with L about when our ferry would arrive. His winning sales pitch that we could see our ferry come and only be obligated to purchase a coffee. For this post, let’s listen to Maria Farantouri ‘s “To the Little Wind.”

Our americanos (€5) tasted like instant Nabob coffee. When we gagged down our drinks, L purchased two large cans of Mythos beer (€6) for our ferry ride. I thanked L and noted that we probably could have bought the beers for cheaper at another store. He agreed so good-naturedly that I felt guilty. I really need to stop hen-pecking him over nickels.

We arrived in Naxos and stopped by Ya Souvlaki for gyros on the way to our hotel. We sat by the pier and devoured our pork gyros (€3.50) in minutes. We always eat the fries first because if you eat don’t, the flavour of the meat gets muted by the potatoes.

Usually, I’m full after a gyro, but since we skipped breakfast, I was still hungry. I ordered a lamb skewer (€3.50), and L ordered a chicken skewer (€2.50). Our server told us it would take a while, as the skewers are made fresh. Our skewers came with fries and pita bread. What a wicked price!

The lamb was killer – so juicy and almost grassy in flavour. L said he could taste the flavour of the charcoal in his chicken skewer. When we finished, L left to pay. I knew they were happy with their tip because our server came over with complimentary booze. L didn’t want to drink a shot at noon, so I happily took one for the team.

After we checked into our hotel, we toured around Old Town. We walked over to the Portara, the marble gate of an unfinished temple of Apollo. I had seen pictures of the gate before visiting. I wished I didn’t, as while the marble ruin was unique, it didn’t look nearly as impressive as the online pictures. Instagram filters ruin real life. I guess this is what people feel like on dating apps. 

For our first night, I booked a table at Scirocco, located in the town centre. I relished the over-the-top polite service. I noticed the older British guests were known customers and were given the royal VIP treatment by all the staff. 

I ordered a glass of bubbles that was pretty average (€7). I sipped a white wine with our dinner, which reminded me of citrus (€ 6). When I noticed guests drinking rosé wine (€7), I ordered one for dessert, though it seemed to cause our server some concern. I’m pretty sure the issue is the rosé is typically ordered by the bottle, not by the glass, but an exception was made for me. This was a real Goldilocks moment. The rosé wasn’t too sweet or generic, and it tasted a little like strawberries. I would order this again.

L and I shared an order of Sagankaki (€ 10) and the mixed seafood platter (€30). The fried cheese was crispy and topped with honey and black sesame seeds. The flavour of the toasted sesame and the mild, nutty flavour of the cheese reminded me of a dim sum dish – rice-wrapped Chinese doughnut. I would order this again.

Of the seafood medley, I enjoyed the salmon the most. The creamy lemon sauce paired beautifully with the fatty layers of the salmon. The shrimp was sweet and juicy. I also enjoyed the calamari, as the texture was smooth and firm. The marinated octopus was thick, meaty and succulent. I could tell all the seafood was fresh and not previously frozen because the consistency was unlike what I’m accustomed to in Calgary. 

The service at Sciroco was an easy 10/10, the food was 8/10, and the wine was a 6/10, though the rosé was a 9/10. The dessert was so bad it is not even worthy of a tactfully worded description because it was so piss poor. In any case, Naxos is a hit. 

Restaurants

Santorini – Day three

I suggested to L that we check out Svoronos Bakery for breakfast. I read Google reviews about the poor service, so I was interested to experience the outcome. I’m always curious about rudeness. Let’s listen to “Full Catastrophe” by Mikis Theodorakis for this post. 

When we entered the bakery, an employee instantly greeted us in English. She was friendly enough and offered to explain any items to us. However, I saw another older employee give us a dirty look. I heard about the evil eye, but this was the first time I experienced it in Greece. I felt like telling her don’t hate the player, hate the game, but I figured the meaning would be lost in translation.

We asked for two iced lattes (€2), spanakopita (€2) and a random pastry for L (€2). The iced latte was so good. The espresso was rich and thick that no sugar or additional flavouring was needed. L told me that he was informed places like Starbucks and McDonald’s aren’t popular in Greece. I can taste why this is true.

The spanakopita was crunchy on the outside and loaded with warm, creamy spinach filling. I could taste a little dill and feta. Our breakfast was only €8, so I figured it was worth the stink-eye from the matron of the bakery.

 For lunch, we checked out Yogi’s. The pork gyro (€3.60) overflowed with fries, tzatziki, tomatoes and onions. Compared to Nick’s, Yogi’s was more filling and cheaper. However, the flavour of the meat at Nick’s was superior, while Yogi’s had the fluffier, fresher pita. 

I wanted to give L a break from all the organizing and planning, so I booked a Santorini Highlights Tour. Usually, these excursions aren’t his style, but I knew he would enjoy turning his mind off and enjoying the ride. 

Our tour guide Will was spectacular. He livened up our experience by making us comfortable and entertained. He even took cheesy photos of each of us at all the landmarks. I felt like a happy teenager. It always impresses me when I meet someone who excels at their profession. I noticed that everyone left him a well-deserved tip.

Will mentioned to us that one restaurant he recommends is Meraki. So I told him we went there the previous night. He asked how I discovered it, as it is a hidden gem. I didn’t want to bother explaining how I live to eat and hate overpaying, so I changed the subject.

After our excursion, L wanted to go back to Meraki. We ordered a Greek salad (€7), calamari (€10.50), fava (€7), eggplant saganaki (€8.00), Alfa beer (€4.00) and white wine (€4.00, half a litre).

The vegetables in the Greek salad were crunchy and fresh. The feta arrived in a thick slab. The cheese was soft enough to break apart with a gentle poke of my fork and generous enough to be eaten with every ripe piece of tomato. 

The calamari arrived hot and crispy. We both thought the squid was over-salted, but we enjoyed it almost as much as the previous night. 

The eggplant was unique because I wasn’t expecting the overpowering flavour of nutmeg. The eggplant was soft and blended with feta cheese and tomato sauce. I think this dish was overcooked in the oven. The sauce was far too dry.

Our tour guide recommended the fava, which is a famous local product. The texture was soft and wet. I can’t describe what I tasted, as the flavour profile was so unique. 

We were stuffed, and I barely even touched my wine. Still, we left giddy and exhausted from the festivities of the day. If you go to Santorini, I highly recommend booking with Will.

Greece · Restaurants

Athens – Day one

I met up with L in Athens, Greece. After sampling the food for only 10 days, I can confidently state that the food in Greece surpasses what I’ve consumed as a tourist in Japan, France, and Italy. For this post, let’s listen to “The Children of Piraeus, Never On a Sunday” by Nana Mouskouri

L had already spent time in Athens, so he brought me to his favourite tavern, Old Tavern of Psarras, for a snack and drink before our flight to Santorini. Greece has changed L. He now enjoys tzatziki, olives, dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) and feta. I know why because, in Greece, everything tastes better than what we can get in Canada. 

We picked a spot in the shade and ordered two appetizers and a Mythos beer. I never liked yogurt until I tried it in Greece. The tzatziki (€4.50) has a thick, dense velvety texture and a fresh, light flavour. Our dip was zesty and herby from the dill and cucumber, the perfect foil to the warm, salty pita bread. 

The leaves on the dolmades (€4.50) were so soft and warm that even biting into the grape leaves was a sensual experience. The rice mixture was creamy and bright with infused flavour. L mentioned the food goes well with the hot climate. For dessert, L wanted to visit his go-to bakery, Tzatzos S.A

We walked over to Tzatzos and sat on the patio. L ordered two baklavas (€2) and two more beers (€3).

Holy smokes – the baklava at Tzatzos makes everything else I’ve tried before taste like sawdust. The honey was so light and sweet, more like nectar than the heavy stuff I’m used to in Calgary, Savino Pizzeria being the exception. The pistachios and almonds were toasty with a wood-like spice and the layers of phyllo pastry were light and brittle. 

Oh my Zeus, if I can eat this well as a tourist, imagine what you access as a local! L said in the last five days he was in Athens, he never experienced a bad meal. I know when L travels, he doesn’t research where to eat, so I could only expect even greater things to come.

Restaurants

Laurent Cazottes – Vine Arts

My buddy Chen is in town! I invited him to my newest addiction, a spirit tasting ($30) by Juice Imports at Vine Styles. I told Chen this was a rare event, as there are less than 30 bottles of each cuvée in Alberta. For this post, let’s listen to “We’re Are Going to Be Friends” by The White Stripes.

Erik was showcasing seven different spirits and liqueurs from Laurent Cazottes. Located in Tarn, France, Laurent Cozottes is a small farm with only 10-20 hectares of land. Erik told us that “eau de vie” means fruit distillment. He describes eau de vie as wine-like but with the spirit of fruit. Erik has a way with words.

We were treated to Fleurs de Sureau mixed with bubbles (Elderflower Liqueur, $54) for our welcome drink. I found the fragrance unique. Chen enjoyed this refreshing cocktail.

We learned the process the owners of Laurent Cazottes employ is time-consuming and labourious. For example, for the apple eau-de-vie, each fruit is hand quartered, the seeds scooped, destemmed, and made into a delicate cider through a maceration process. Then, a small quantity of the cider is distilled and aged in a glass bulb for years to create a smooth, soft finish with a ton of complexity.

The Pomme Pomme Gueulle (Apple Eau-de-Vie, $108) has a strong scent. Erik said he could smell the essence of the apples. The apple eau-de-vieu is made from 15 varieties of apples from the estate. As I sipped, I felt a warmth in my throat. Erik suggested adding drops of water to change the flavour profile and observe how the oil separates from the water. Erik drinks eau-de-vieu straight up but also recommended serving it with crushed ice and bubbles.

The Reine Claude Dorée (Plum Eau-de-Vie, $89.50) is made from golden green plums. Erik thought this was the most expressive de vie – a powerful floral violet. I enjoyed the full body and rich texture. However, I didn’t finish the entire glass because I felt buzzed. Erik said we could spit out the alcohol, but I whispered to Chen that I don’t drink to just taste but also to feel. Chen snickered and told me to slow down, pointing out that I drank more than him and perhaps I was getting too intoxicated. I responded that he was reminding me of my mother.

The Aetois (Eau-de-Vie Marc de Champagne Jacques Lassaigne, $90) is made from fresh champagne pressed grapes, mixed with water to extract the full flavour from the skin, then fermented for a lengthy period. Erik mentioned the eau-de-vine has a strong chardonnay finish with some fire. Someone else said it was spicy. Mark, Erik’s business partner, said he could taste blueberry. Unfortunately, I didn’t taste what everyone else was describing and began wondering what was wrong with my tastebuds.

The Cedrat (Citrus Liqueur, $63) tasted a little bitter from the pith of the lemons. However, the smell was bright and sunny. Erik told us that the citrus liqueur is aged in barrels and blended with fresh grapefruit. Chen said he could taste the lemon peel. I found the citrus liqueur intense and refreshing.

The Tomates (Tomato Liqueur, $66) is made from 72 varietals of tomatoes from the farm. Chen smelled sundried tomatoes and tased prunes. Erik described this liqueur as having lots of umami with a sweetness to it. He said that everyone’s experience influences what they taste, and what matters most is how the spirit feels and impacts you.

The next tasting was Noix de Pays d’Oc (Walnut Liqueur, $52.50), made with green walnuts, wine and brandy from the farm’s production. I could taste brown sugar. Erik described this liqueur as savoury, rich and supple. Laurent Cazottes uses a solera process for aging and blending this liquor, which produces a higher range of flavours and complexity as all the vintages play together.

We were given a special treat for our last tasting – De Poire Williams, a pear liqueur. I could smell and taste pear. Erik declared that these particular spirits taste alive because of the farming techniques employed. In organic farms, the fruit is far superior, making it a better product. Chen told me he was glad he came; as it was an eye-opening experience.

According to Erik, if stored in a dark place, the eau-de-vie lasts forever. For the lemon and tomato liqueur, you will want to drink it within three weeks, as you will lose some of the freshness. The walnut liqueur can last three months in the fridge.

I learned that Calgarians don’t know how lucky they got it. Typically these liqueurs are only found in the most lavish wine bars in New York. Even if you could get your hands on a bottle at a specialty liquor store, it is twice the amount that sells at Vine Arts.

With the rising cost of groceries, I’m eating out less and entertaining more at home. That’s why I love coming to Erik’s Sunday wine tastings. I can taste incredible wines for an insanely low price and pick out new fun drinks to hopefully impress my guests. After consulting with Erik, I bought the walnut liqueur for an upcoming dinner party and a bottle of Cocchi Rosa to liven up some Italian bubbles I purchased for my forthcoming Stampede party. I also concocted a fruiter, sweeter alternative for the lightweights.

I hear Erik is hosting a traditional wine tasting in two weeks. I’m heartbroken, as I can’t make it on that Sunday. If you are lucky enough to snap a seat, send me a note and tell me what I missed out on.