La Dolce Vita: Shopping habits influence wine choices

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In my next life I’d like to live in place where one shops every day or two for fresh food. Granted, unless one is in a land of abundance, the selection isn’t always necessarily as good as we’re used to but the social aspect is appealing, as is the stimulation that comes from wandering around to select fresh goods, rather than frozen or packaged ones.

In some cities, like New York, shopping often can be a necessity, or at least in part a chosen lifestyle. With real estate being incredibly expensive the absence of shopping malls and huge expanses of paved parking lots is immediately noticeable. So New Yorkers, like those in other large cities, adapt by picking up fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, and baked goods from neighbourhood shops.

It’s no different than in many European towns, where market shopping is a way of life. There, the cost of electricity and smaller homes make large space-gobbling refrigerators and freezers impractical. It seems to be a particularly North American obsession to stock up on large amounts of groceries, which means that we are rarely eating food as fresh and nourishing as it could be.

Last week I did my market shopping at the grocery store, just wandering around until I found something that grabbed my attention for a quick, easy dinner. In a few minutes I had some nice, extra lean ground sirloin, a red onion, a fresh loaf of unsliced ciabatta bread and some mixed greens. Then I stopped at a cold beer and wine store, where I knew I could find a bottle of Baillie-Grohman Pinot Noir.

At home, I cooked the burgers on our little George Foreman grill until they were medium rare, then slid them onto bread slices that were slathered with my favourite seedy mustard and wasabi cheese (which is much better than it sounds). Slices of red onion and went onto the meat and the sandwiches were put back into the grill for a few minutes, just enough time to melt the cheese and create brown grill marks on the bread. I quickly pulled the sandwiches apart and added a healthy pile of mixed greens because I don’t like soggy lettuce.

Within only a few minutes we were enjoying our burgers with glasses of the Pinot Noir, which is developing nicely. I’ve tasted this wine several times since it was first bottled and each time it impresses more. The flavours are becoming more complex and the tannins are easing off. This is a wine that will continue to develop and become more and more enjoyable over the next couple of years, but it is also very satisfying right now.

On Sunday I defrosted a locally raised, frozen chicken from the freezer in the morning. A couple of hours before dinnertime I rubbed butter onto the skin and then patted on Italian mixed spices. I covered a roasting pan and cooked it at 325 degrees while I prepared a tray of beets, carrots and yams to roast, uncovered, in the same oven. Once they started to soften I raised the oven temperature by 50 degrees and uncovered the chicken to let the skin brown. When a thermometer stuck into the thickest part of a thigh edged up near 190 degrees the whole dinner was ready. While the chicken rested I threw a pack of Stovetop cornbread stuffing (something that wouldn’t be found in a market, I must admit) into the microwave and opened a bottle of Spanish Grenache. The $10 bottle of wine, as always, was fruity and fresh, once again demonstrating that Spanish wines are among the very best buys available today—I’ve rarely found one I haven’t liked.

The dinner was lovely and the Netflix movie we enjoyed afterward proved to a very nice cap on what seems to be an increasingly rare weekend at home. In the coming weeks, as more and more local produce becomes available at farmer’s markets around the Kootenays, it’s going to be even more fun to plan meals based on what one finds at the market.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.