Monday, January 18, 2010

Willie's Magic Mash

I realize that most people will remember their grandfathers as the sweetest men on earth. But I will go ahead and say it: My grandfather really was the sweetest. Really, he was.

In 2003 , Willie was left nearly speechless by a stroke. Yes, he became more dependent upon family members, but he never failed to find ways to be helpful. At family gatherings, he made sure everyone’s drink was filled. He had an extensive liquor cabinet, and a good memory for cocktails.

He used any occasion as an excuse to find something special at the jewellery store for Marge, my Grandma. He attended our graduations, and hugged his grandkids tightly. Without words, he was able to find ways to tell us that he loved us, was proud of us.

I suspect that making wine was, for Willie, a way to show how much he loved his friends, his family. Long before I could drink the stuff, myself, and long before he lost his speech, he was notoriously generous with his homemade wine. I’m not sure there was ever a visit when my parents didn’t come home with a bottle, or twelve, of the stuff.

Willie died last August, exactly a year and a half after Marge. My dad found this bottle of homemade crab-apple wine in the basement stash. It’s old, from 1995, and amber coloured. You wouldn’t necessarily think that homemade fruit wine ought to last that long, but it did. We opened the bottle yesterday. It was delicious, sweet, and as Grandpa would have it, nice and boozy

Monday, January 11, 2010

January blues

Oh, hi. This is awkward. Here I am, more than a month after those beers, during which time I didn't call, write, or make any attempt to connect. Not so much as a peep.

Well this time it’s different. Really. And there are a few things I need to tell you.

First, you’ll be seeing a lot more of me. On Mondays, specifically. Perhaps not every Monday, but most Mondays. If I’m not mistaken, today is Monday. Hi.

I should also tell you that I’ll be bringing cheese around a lot more. Today, for instance, I brought a feisty little cheese that I want you to meet.

So here it goes. Meet Blue Haze, an Ontarian smoked blue cheese.

Blue Haze is well-travelled, for a cheese. Monks start this semi-firm blue in l’Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac, in Québec. The wheels travel to Cayuga, Ontario, where they are smoked of a bed of cherry and hickory chips by an affineur, Provincial Fine Foods.

And in this case of this particular wedge of cheese, photographed by my father, Randy, it also travelled with me to Manitoba, where it was laid to rest. In our stomachs.

While blue cheese and smokiness may be flavourful extremes, the result is mellow and well balanced. Because the cheese is fairly dense, the effects of the smoking process don’t fully penetrate the salty, buttery blues. But the golden, sweet caramel smoke rind creates a surprisingly delicate contrast.

The girl at the cheese shop recommended I have this cheese with fig chutney. I tested her theory, but with ground-cherry jam instead. Beautiful. Then I tested it again. And again. And again. I suspect Blue Haze and I will meet again.