There’s a lot to love about Frasier, Kelsey Grammer’s long running TV series.
It’s no wonder it ran as many seasons as it did.
Excellent writing, direction & stellar cast.

One of the episodes I loved the most was “The Innkeepers” from Season 2.

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Photo courtesy of KACL 780 Archives

“In a fit of nostalgia, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer and Niles (David Hyde Pierce) purchase their favorite restaurant, a landmark establishment that has fallen on hard times. The brothers eagerly look forward to the opening of the newly christened “Les Frères Heureux,” which translates as “The Happy Brothers.”
But “happy” is not the word that immediately springs to mind on opening night — especially after Frasier and Niles have managed to either injure or scare off virtually the entire staff.”

As the episode plays out, we see Frasier & Niles lose the entire staff all in one night.
Trying to avert disaster (which we know will only create more disaster) the “Happy Brothers” call on friends & family to help in the kitchen and at the bar.

Family patriarch, Marty Crane, takes over as bartender.
During a conversation with Frasier, the shot pans to the back wall of the bar behind Marty.
You can imagine my delight when I see a vintage music box decanter on the back wall in the upper right hand corner.
The very same decanter that I added to my collection a couple of years ago.

191116 Scene from Frasier Music Box Decanter
Scene from Les Frères Heureux – Frasier Season 2 – The Innkeepers

Don’t get me wrong, the irony of having that kind of decanter on the bar of the kind of restaurant that Frasier & Niles Crane would own was beyond comical.

Whatever the set decorators motivation was, I’m really glad she or he did it because if ever I go to sell the decanter, I can describe it as “seen on Frasier” haha!

191117 How Dry I am DecanterBack-story on how I found the music-box decanter.
I scour 2nd hand stores, looking for unique items.
While in a local Value Village, I spot an amber colored glass decanter on a top shelf.
That’s right, Top Shelf!.
Out of curiosity, I pick it up and it immediately starts playing “How dry I am”, activated by a pin that gets the player started when the decanter is picked up.
It then shuts off by the same pin at the bottom of the decanter when the “bartender” puts the decanter back down.

Loving all forms of tacky collectibles, I start to laugh, thinking “This is great!”
The fellow standing next to me commented “That’s the arly he was envious of my getting to the 2nd hand riches first!
I got that decanter to the checkout as fast as I could and it’s been “top shelf” on my wine. & whisky wall ever since.

It’s a great piece of vintage barware and a real conversation piece!

KACL 780 Archives

 

 

Gold Medal Plates winners Milton Rebello and his wife Louise Lu are cultural treasures in the city of Regina, SK.
Both are accomplished chefs, the recipients of every single culinary distinction known to this city.

Their latest offering was the Japanese Inspired Menu with compatriots Chef Li and Emiko which an appreciative crowd enjoyed at an exclusive event on Friday, Nov. 14.19.

The menu:
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Seared Scallop, wasabi sweet pea purée, braised pork belly, caviar.
The scallop was just so delicate.
Subtle addition of caviar was a stroke of genius.
Sweet pea purée added a nice touch of color & flavor.
Pork belly was done to perfection.

Ahi Tuna, pickle cheeks, shiso, seaweed salad.
This dish defies description. It’s just too delicious to put into words.
To the credit of the chefs, they allowed the Ahi Tuna to shine in all its natural glory.
Shiso is a member of the mint family and it added just the right hint of spiciness.
The Seaweed Salad – exquisite with a touch of sesame. Just a beautiful dish.

Bison tataki.
Such a simple title for such a complex dish. Bison Tataki is the highlight of the night. Fresh, tender bison, wrapped around shoots & mushroom, on a bed of sprouts with a sprinkling of seasoning – it’s a testament to the culinary innovation always found at Skye Cafe & Bistro.
The combination of flavours is just another addition to the culinary excellence which has existed throughout the dinner.

Matcha ice-cream, mochi, black sugar syrup, soybean powder.
Well, this was an interesting palate-cleanser! The ice-cream is green-tea base, which is extremely popular in Japan.
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. The end result is a chewy delight!
A taste new to me was the addition of soybean powder… it’s delightful!
Soybeans are toasted and ground into powder. There is the suggestion the taste can be compared to that of peanut butter … no doubt, it has nutty overtones and is a treat unto itself.
Served on a bed of thinly sliced strawberries, with black sugar syrup, it was palate-cleansing perfection!

Miso glazed salmon steak, edamame bean rice.
The miso glazed salmon was a highlight of the dinner. Why can’t I ever get salmon to be this tender when I make it at home?
Whatever the reason, it’s a credit to the chefs who managed to bring so much flavour to a plate with minimal intrusion from the use of sauce and/or seasonings.
Which brings me to a point. There’s no condiments on the table. No soy sauce. No salt or pepper … nothing. But that’s just the point. There was no reason to have any extra seasonings. Everything on the menu has been perfectly seasoned.

Matcha madeleine, passion fruit curd, lychee mousse, matcha almond crumble.
Soft, fluffy Matcha madeleine, when consumed with the passion fruit curd & the lychee mousse, is a light – yet totally satisfying – dessert.
Top it off with the Matcha almond crumble for a little bit of crunch and you’ve got a magnificent dessert that appeals to all the sensory capacities.

 

Follow Skye Cafe & Bistro on Twitter & Facebook to learn of other events happening throughout the year.

Skye Cafe and Bistro

How to Compete, and Beat, the On-Line Giant. 100 proven Promotions for Brick & Mortar Retailers – written by David Garofalo is an absolute must-have / must-read book for any independent business.

In a world that is seemingly dominated by on-line retailers, David Garofalo proves there’s many strategies available for all Brick & Mortar locations to encourage customers to come through their doors.

We’re seeing enormous opportunity in the Wine & Whisky retail / independent business segment.
By incorporating David’s proven promotional ideas and go-to-market strategies, small business’s have the potential to create excitement, build loyalty and grow the business.

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https://www.davidgarofalo.com

Yes. I guess I am a super-taster, I replied to Ben.

I didn’t even know there was such a thing until a few years ago when a wine friend, Barry C. Smith, asked me how I felt about tea & coffee
Cannot drink tea all all. Coffee, I only started drinking in my 40’s and now, in my 60’s I don’t mind it, but I still don’t drink very much of it.
With that answer, he suggested I was a Super-Taster.

Scent & aroma appreciation has always been at my core … but rarely in a negative way.
Even scents that others find putrid, I find curious.

There’s only been one time in memory where scent shocked me. I was walking through a department store where the fragrance department had just launched Versace’s “Blonde” (Donatella’s deal). Its premise was 3 basic scents, one of them, I learned later, being tuberose.
As I walked toward the fragrance counter where the scent had been sprayed in vast amounts, it was like I’d hit a wall. I had to change direction until the scent diminished.
It was freaky, because I’ve long been a huge fan of perfume – spray tons of it every day – but never that one. After that experience, I sympathize with people who say they’re allergic to perfume.

While attending the Society of Sensory Professionals Atlanta GA conference Oct 2016, one of the speakers asked each of the 700 or so participants to pick up the small white strip from within the small, sealed holder at each seat in the room and place it on our tongue.

I almost died!
and was gagging when she asked over the speaker system:
“How may of you hate me right now?”
… my arm shot up, but was very surprised to see that only a handful of people in the room did the same thing.
The speaker went on to explain what that horrible compound was and why only a few of us were affected by it.
I can’t remember what it was called.
I just want to forget it happened.
Scent memory can last forever … I can still recall that taste/ aroma to this day.
So, I guess I tested positively/ was informally ID’d for Super-Taster status.

It’s important to note that 1 in 4 people are Super-Tasters.
At this stage in life, I don’t have all the characteristics attributed to super-tasters, but at various points in my life, I certainly did.

Taste is only part of it. Taste is 80% smell. As a child, there was only a handful of foods that I would eat, but at the time my family attributed it due more to texture than taste or aroma. For instance, I couldn’t eat mashed potatoes until my late teens. Forget cabbage – wouldn’t go near that … which was unusual considering I’m Ukrainian. But I loved borscht and home-made chicken noodle soup.

I also have a really good nose for scent. My 1st memory of scent appreciation was when I was about 8 years old. After a visit to the dentist for a filling in a front tooth, my Mom bought me a “Kiddle Kologne” doll in “Violet” … a cute little doll with long, purple hair housed in a replica of a perfume bottle. I loved that doll above all others; couldn’t get enough of the aroma!

But I also work at it … keeping my nose calibrated for scent recognition and my brain active with scent memory & vocabulary. 
I practice every day with foods found in the grocery store, in the pantry and during masterclasses & with personal experience, for wine, whisky & cigars.

Why Taste is all in the Senses

See. Sniff. Swirl. Sniff. Taste.
Those are the standard steps for wine & spirit appreciation.
Actually, mostly people just do the swirl. sniff. taste.

But one should always look at the liquid in the glass.
You can often see identifiers when you contemplate the liquid – the color, the rim, the centre of the liquid.
This may give you clues about its past and prepare you for what you might taste.

I always Sniff before doing a swirl.

There’s this thing called cork taint and if you swirl wine -(especially) but sometimes spirits that use a natural cork as well – there’s a chance you could bury some aromas that cork taint gives off, so I always do a slight sniff before the swirl to ensure the liquid isn’t “corked”.

The Swirl is essential to wine, as it gives the liquid a chance to release even more aroma.
Some people say it’s unnecessary in whisky or spirits … other’s say it helps the liquid to “wake-up” after its long rest in the bottle.
I swirl everything. I like releasing as much aroma as possible.

Taste.
Take a small amount of liquid in your mouth, swish it around … I recommend “chewing it” … get that liquid on every flavour receptor, and then swallow.
Pay close attention to what’s happening on your palate and throughout your olfactory / nose … all kinds of tastes & aromas will show up.
If you’ve prepared yourself for their friendly assault, it can be a fascinating experience. one which enhances the tasting experience immeasurably.

But that’s the key question … how does one prepare for wine, whisky, spirits & cigar sensory appreciation?

I’m WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) L3 Sommelier so I’ve had years of lessons, experience & practice developing / refining my nose & palate.
I am always learning something new, so here’s a few of the things I’ve learned along the way.

Let’s start with dedication.
Like the old saying goes:
“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice!”

For instance, take a few minutes each day to pull a few spices from your pantry and practice smelling them.

Start with common aromas, like cinnamon, clove & ginger, for example.
Make it a game with your friends / family.
Have them put a bit of each of those spices into an unmarked glass vessel – even a Glencairn or ISO Standard Tasting Glass would work.
See if you & they can identify those aromas successfully every time in a blind nosing.

When I host Sensory Appreciation classes, I’ll use flavourings like lemon, vanilla & coconut.
Common, simple scents, really.
To try it at home, put a dab on a strip of paper, mix them up without having them come in contact with each other and see if you can name it when you take a whiff of each aroma-laden strip.

Class participants were always surprised when they could name a couple of them (blind) but might get stumped on one, usually saying “I know what that is, I just can’t name it” … that’s part of olfactory memory – being able to recall & name what you smell.

Vanilla is an interesting one because there’s many forms of it.
There’s regular baking Vanilla, Madagascar Vanilla & Vanilla Bean.
Each smells different.

In time, your nose and palate will get accustomed to the training and your olfactory memory will improve.

When I started dedicated wine, whisky & cigar appreciation, I was one of those people who went all-in with the aroma kits, like Le Nez du Vin, etc.
They are very impressive kits – great conversation pieces – and they can be one of the best ways to fast-track all aspects of appreciation.

When people ask me if they should spend several thousand dollars on nosing kits like I did, I recommend they try the “home school” method first.

If a person doesn’t practice using what they already have in their fridge or pantry, then they have to ask themselves how likely it would be for them to use a nosing kit often enough to justify the expense.

It doesn’t take long before practice becomes habit and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better sniffer with a stronger appreciation for wine, whisky, spirits & cigars.

It’s important to give credit where credit is due.
WSET kick-started my wine & whisky journey, but there have been many influences along the way, so I want to say THANK YOU to a few:

Diane. Francois. Daniel. John. Lisa. Tim. Graham.
Diane is my dear wine-friend. She & her husband made sure we passed WSET L3 by hosting “blind wine-tasting” events at their home for our class.
I’ll be forever grateful for her unwavering help & support throughout our friendship.

Francois was our WSET Instructor and he opened my eyes to the wonderful world wine & spirits. He was a true ambassador for those commodities … always reminding us to never try to insist what people should drink or how they should drink it; just share ideas.
His immortal words “Always spearmint, never peppermint” … can you guess which grape/ wine he’s talking about?

Daniel. John. Lisa.
I met each of these wonderful people through the Wine Scholar Guild and our friendships have endured for years.
Many thanks to each of them for their lessons & love of the vine.
Lesson on Wine Acidity from Lisa: “count the number of times you swallow after that 1st sip of wine”

Tim is a true whisky connoisseur, so it’s no surprise our friendship developed through our meeting at the Nth and has grown throughout the years.

Graham has a long history in the wine & especially the whisky world.
He’s introduced me to stellar wine & whisky that I otherwise might never know.

Franca Comparetto.
Franca is the brain-power behind Cigar Sense. I’m an analyst on its cigar tasting panel.
Franca has taught me so many things about cigars … but I remind myself of these words every day since I first heard her say:
“Aromas never show up alone”
Truer words were never spoken. Aromas are fleeting. You have to be quick to pick them out and sometimes you have to isolate the dominant one. Especially with cigars!
With liquids you can usually go back to the glass; the aroma is usually still in there.
Cigars – that’s a different story. Often that one aroma is at only one point in the cigar.
That’s part of why I love cigars so much. They’re complex & fascinating … and I’m grateful to Franca for all that she’s taught me along the way.

Gary Laden, Susan Fidelholtz Laden, Nic Syris, Will Cooper, Chad Potier, Yvonne Ramee & the entire Smooth Draws Cigar Radio Show team.
Gary has since passed, but I owe him & the team a debt of gratitude for letting me be the Director of Social Media / Sommelier for the show.
3 years, for 2 hrs every Saturday – including the morning of my daughters wedding! – I was handling the Twitter & FB posts, as well as my contribution to the wine & spirits segment for Smooth Draws Cigar Radio.
The things I learned about cigars during that time was astounding. Unlike many of the cigar shows, Gary not only maintained the website but he actually wrote a 2hr script every week so the show was always very well orchestrated.
Learning about the leaf from key cigar stars, personalities, producers & enthusiasts every week gave me a solid foundation for all aspects of cigar appreciation.

Gary Vaynerchuk.
It would have been about 2008 when I started watching his Wine Library videos.
One of them was about using grocery items – ie:  jam/ preserves – for nosing practice.
It made sense.
For instance, one of Cabernet Sauvignon’s classic identifier is Blackcurrent/ Cassis.
But, how many of us live in areas where Blackcurrent is readily available so we know what it smells like?
I was grateful for his suggestion to just “smell the jam.”

Charlie
My daughter & the love of my life. I’m so proud of her accomplishments and she’s proud of mine. She’s the reason I continue to grow and learn. She’s the reason I work.

… and to everyone else who’s come into my life through our shared love of the leaf, the vine & the grain … Thank You! Your friendships mean the world to me.

WSET Wine and Spirit Education Trust
Cigar Sense
Wine Scholar Guild
Wine Library TV