Taste of Romance


Jim Hoggan’s Wine Pick If Shakespeare truly believed that “music be the food of love,” he mustn’t have known good chocolate. Chocolate is the number one confection in this season of love – and the best gift. Cheaper than diamonds and more sensual than roses, it also goes better with wine. But what wine? Some writers suggest a Cabernet or a fruity shiraz. Others advocate for a boisterous Zinfandel. I’ve read that white chocolate goes well with a sweet sherry, but I also know people who say that white chocolate is a cheat – that real chocolate is rich, dark, slightly bitter and snaps when you break it. The best pairing for Valentine’s chocolate (and the best value) is probably a Banyuls, a fortified wine made from grapes grown in the hard shale along the Côte Vermeille, at the southernmost tip of France, just as it bumps into Spanish Catalonia. Similar to port, Banyuls is produced by adding distilled grape spirits to the must, halting fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol. This preserves a natural sweetness while still delivering an extra kick. (Most Banyuls wines are about 16 per cent alcohol.) In the best cases, you wind up with a rich, dark and viscous wine, tasting of plum and blackberry. Two excellent choices are the 2005 Le Muté sur Grains de la Rectorie, available at Marquis Wine Cellars for $34.99 (marquis-wines.com) or the 1986 Le Clos de Paulilles, just $39.99 at Liberty Wine Merchants (liberty winemerchants.com).
Tasting tip: take a generous sip, drop some chocolate on your tongue and let it melt while the flavours blend. When your mouth is coated, take another sip. If you can then lean over and give someone a kiss, the experience is complete.

Cream of the Crop
As aristocratic in taste as its name implies, the Lady Jane triple cream from Farmhouse Dairy is dense, luscious and begging to be enjoyed with something bubbly. Just leave the out-of-season strawberries at the store: “Fruit acid tends to create strange flavours,” says cheese expert Allison Spurrell, who recommends compote instead (try the Fig with Walnut Wine preserve from Langley’s Vista d’Oro Farms). $4.95/100 g, Amis du Fromage, buycheese.com

Designer Sushi Plates
In Japan sushi is usually reserved for special occasions, so why not raise your maki to a higher level at home? Cul de Sac Design’s line of sushi platters is handmade in Vancouver and offers a quirky alternative to plastic takeout boxes. Dishwasher and microwave safe, these earthenware dishes are hardier than their delicate prints suggest. $75 to $135, Moulé, moulestores.com