From the Perfect Pear Martini
is a cold, a nasty night - the prelude of winter. I am heading out to yet
another reception, this time a season 5 wrap party for the Surreal Gourmet
Bob Blumer on the third-floor “sky yard” (aka roof) of the trendy
Drake Hotel. It’s almost nine and yet Toronto’s ever-diligent parking
tag folks are out in force handing out $30 fines for those who forgot to
keep their meter’s alive.
the top of the stairs I step into the room and am confronted by a charming
hostess with a tray of drinks. I dive into one of the utterly most
delicious concoctions of the year dressed in a Martini glass. “What is
it?” I ask. “A Pear Martini” is the reply.
Well blow me
over, as an extremely fussy Martini man and never stray from the essential
ingredient – gin. And not any gin, it has to be one of a select group
regular brand, not the Tanqueray Ten, which I don’t like), Plymouth,
or if I am very lucky, the ultra premium Hendrick’s.
As a minimalist, I am not keen on any other flavours, just the pure
natural flavours of the gin itself.
I hate most fruit cocktails because they taste so completely artificial
and ultra sweet. Nevertheless, there I am clutching one the best fruit
cocktails of the year. I ask the bartender how did he do it? He then pulls
out his secret ingredients.
The first ingredient is a liqueur called Xanté Poire au Cognac (630715 $29.95). I stare at the bottle because this is the same ultra-sweet viscous stuff I tasted last year at the product launch and almost spat out. Well, so there it is, I thought. I asked affable Drake bartender Gord Hannah what was added to this sweet, artificial-tasting, pear jub-jub? To 1 oz of Xanté, Gord added about 2.5 oz of Hero Pear Nectar (bottled in Spain from freshly squeezed pears - the 1 litre size is about $3), 1 oz of Gekkeikan Saké and some fresh lime juice, all of which were all shaken on ice. The result was fabulous.
planned to replicate the drink at home and checked the LCBO only to
discover that, although still available, this product has been
discontinued. I then discover why Xanté tastes the way it does. The
Swedish Absolute Spirits firm, whose fruit-flavoured vodkas have always
been pretty dreadful, makes it. According to the back label, Xanté
contains alcohol, sugar, cognac, flavour and caramel.
I was not
happy about going to such lengths to get the natural pear flavours into my
martini. And then a miracle happened. In the LCBO lab last Tuesday, I came
across a brand new InStore
Discovery liqueur Belle
de Brillet “Poire Williams au Cognac”
at $49.95. I am sad to report that these are the Vintages ISD items that
the LCBO recently decided not to preview to writers for fear that they
would sell out too quickly. The fact that some importers can’t be
bothered getting exposure for their ISD listings doesn’t help.
fear not, because after more than two weeks from its silent, unheralded
Vintages debut, more than 75% of the bottles still remain ignored on LCBO
shelves. Note that there was never very much ordered, just 20 cases of 6
or 120 bottles for the whole province. But what an elixir. It has
everything that is missing in Xanté: sublime, sweet, natural, juicy, ripe
pear flavours that go on and on. Brillet, unlike Xanté, actually stuffs
10 kilos of pears into every bottle. It is so good that you actually want
to drink it uncut - without the saké and/or store-purchased fruit juices.
Of course, you have to pay for what you get, meaning that it costs $2.10
vs. $1.18 an ounce.
But then you
must remember that it actually comes from France, the home of Cognac, not
Sweden. Indeed, it was one Guy Brillet who installed the first still in
his vineyard in the deluxe Grande Champagne district of Cognac in 1656.
Ten generations later, the Brillet family is still producing Cognac, as
well as their delicious Belle
de Brillet, which was only created in 1985 along with its
unique pear shaped bottle. To see in what stores Belle de Brillet, is
the LCBO would like to see me extol the virtues of their extended holiday
gift portfolio, the sad reality is that many of these items are simply not
particularly tasty. The inconsequential shoe-shaped Cinderella Shoe Grappa
With Cherry Liqueur, which appeared on these pages a year ago, still
adorns my mantle, virtually untouched. Meanwhile, a genuine holiday
treasure like Belle de Brillet goes virtually untasted and unnoticed with
a tragic miniscule order.
Also unsung, and now on sale, is one of the finest Ports of the magnificent 2000 vintage, Ferreira 2000 Vintage Port (741389), which was released on January 22nd at $74.95. Agent inertia combined with the Vintages’ publication of the Robert Parker Jr. lowly score of 89 caused sales to tank. The price has recently been reduced to a phenomenally inexpensive $49.95 and almost half of the entire order of 50 cases remains.
I gave it my
top 3 stars rating and here is my tasting note:
“Very deep intense dark purple colour. Rather sweet cassis nose. Lovely,
solid, medium-full bodied, fleshy, very slightly peppery, juicy, plummy,
dried red cherry driven flavours with a lingering finish.” Buy it
and you will thank me. To see where Ferreira
2000 Vintage Port is
You may also want to dig into the just-released holiday CD-DVD dual disc pack from The Surreal Gourmet. The CD has 18 interesting tracks from the show itself, including a great song (#11) by local artist Kevin Quain called “When The Sun Goes Down”. I found the pack at amazon.ca click here at $23.99. Sadly, Amazon omitted Kenin’s track from the list on their website. The DVD includes clips from the show and there is even a mini booklet with menu recipes.
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