Revealed: my other blog, pastry chefs & birthday sprinkles, and Nat decants my Hillebrand

My six-week vacation is not over yet but I might be coming back soon. Meanwhile I'd like to say that I am not sick of wine. And I am not sick of blogging.

But first, since Facebook has already announced it, I might as well say it here: Today is my birthday. I'm 32.


I'm not sick of wine because tonight I'll be trying out Vieilles Vignes du Domaine Château-Langlois Saumur (rouge) from the bounteous 2002 vintage. I'll also be drinking Quinta de Cabriz Dão 2003, a new favourite discovered over Easter earlier this year.

Basically, in terms of red wine, I've been craving Portuguese and cool-climate French reds. The are great dinner wines. They go so well with food, and I've noted in the past that this is especially so in the summer months. I also think the regions produce wines that complement each other. They tend to follow one another nicely and these two in particular should deliver a bell pepper nose and an earthy, herbal palate. Why wouldn't I want these served at my birthday dinner?


Not anymore anyway. Timing has a lot to do with it. Here's what I mean: My job promotion in April brought with it a new challenge: start a blog on Information Technology. After a couple of months, it finally was launched yesterday, perhaps my most essential birthday present this year.

le fromentier bakery on laurier 7.30 am on my birthday june 22 danishes les agrumiersUsing Word Press to create the blog was a great experience. It is certainly a much more powerful tool than Blogger. At the moment, my employer doesn't entirely endorse blog technology, or at least many typical aspects of it, and certainly not as an official communication medium. So we had to heavily customize the templates and settings that the WP software provided. The end result may look nothing like a true blog. But to me, it still felt like I was in blog overdrive, especially with WBW happening simultaneously here on the wineblog. In the end, this month has amounted to burnout. But I can say now that July looks different. (Joe and Art's encouraging comments also helped me realize this.)


Right, so it's my birthday and it's a Summer Friday off for me. What do I do? I go to le Fromentier for my favourite pastry in all of Montreal, the Agrumier (shown at the centre of the image at right). After a humid spell, le Fromentier's pastries are back at the top of their game, and these orange and licorice danishes, which are only made on weekends, rock my world.

These danishes are not too sweet. Almost savoury. This is a up-and-coming trend in pastry-making, as reported in the New York Times, and corroborated by my sister, who recently landed an apprentice position at Olson Foods + Bakery, one of the projects of pastry chef Anna Olson.

So I trek out to the bakery. I take my camera too because I'm feeling festive, and most of all, because I love how le Fromentier writes the date on their chalkboard. It's one of the first things you see when you walk into their sprawling bakery, and I could already envision "22 juin" in lovely penmanship (chalkmenship?) welcoming me to the store. A Kodak moment.

chalkboard ardoise date jui 21 juneFantasy met reality when I stumbled in, wet from a birthday sprinkle (not even the kind you might get on a birthday cake) and stupefied to find that the date on the board was still 21 juin. The shop had been open for an hour, so if the date wasn't changed by now, you had to figure that the date wasn't going to change until tomorrow. My birthday was not happening at le Fromentier.

I let a few people who were behind me in line go ahead of me but then it finally struck me that prolonging my queuing was not going to do anything. I took a second to snap some pictures of all the fresh pastries (might as well, since I brought my camera) and walked up to the man behind the counter to order.

"Tourist or spy?" he asked, in French.

Not being too fluent in French, all I could understand was that this conversation was starting out on a topic totally unrelated to danishes.

"J'ai pas compris," I stammered. Another baker was now in attendance, as all the other customers had exited the store.

He went on to say that he was talking about my picture-taking. Ha ha, I got it.

And then without missing beat, I launched into my best French in years. I detailed how I got gentle reassurance, joy and the general feeling that all was right in the world from seeing the date scrawled on the chalkboard each morning I entered the shop. In no uncertain terms, I explained that my hopes and dreams were crushed by the errant date, and that today, of all days, they had made a terrible terrible mistake, because it was June 22, which was my birthday, and now in a cruel twist of fate I was facing no record of it ever occurring. And I continued: Suddenly, I said, today was just any old day to me, but wetter.

Indeed, I was soaked, and sorry for myself too, but I figured if they didn't really want to know why I came in with a camera, they wouldn't have brought it up. And besides, I thought, maybe now we'll see some action with that derelict chalkboard. My eyes darted to the brush dangling from the chalkboard and then back to them.

composing the correct response on the chalkboardAfter a pause, they tried excusing themselves.

I nodded along but only I knew it was in sarcasm. I thought to myself: Yes, of course you've been much too busy to see to updating yesterday's date. Yes, of course there are other things that need to be taken care of first. (Sure enough, they were all lies. The other baker finally admitted to writing 21 juin because he thought it actually was 21 juin, not 22 juin, which is my birthday, though I had to assure him of this twice more).

And finally the chalk was out the box. I pointed to the Agrumiers I wanted but then they pointed to another, a Basque. It was a chocolate one that looked like a personal-sized birthday cake, kind of like a cupcake only flatter. It was their birthday gift to me.

But then there was more. An aborted attempt to sing Happy Birthday with the butcher at the counter behind me; a tempting suggestion to sit in the corner by the door and receive the kisses of the customers that passed; and a fancy redesign of the corrected date on the chalkboard customized to include my name.

the world's nicest kindest most friendly bakerI love le Fromentier.


In a strange celebration of my birthday, the most recent Vintages report this week from Natalie MacLean of Nat Decants encapsulates my explicit praise of Hillebrand's Showcase Cab Franc 2000 -- one of my most beloved Canadian wines. I can't believe Nat didn't bother to invite me to help her finish the bottle. Or even tell me. I found out about it later when I stumbled across her dregs.

Compare the reviews folks, and then tell me where you heard it from first. Hers and mine.

And let me be the first to tell you: there are only 35 bottles of this stuff left, 'cause I'm getting two for my birthday.


Natalie MacLean said...

I was surprised at the depth and balance of this wine. Hillebrand is producing quite a solid line-up of wines across the board ... even the Trius wines are good value for the money. Great blog!


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Marcus said...

Thanks for noticing Natalie,

I was quite surprised to see the reviews that have come out on the Cab Franc 2000 since I posted mine in March. There was another in May from Pinkus, yours and maybe a couple of other hits when I googled it. I guess this bottle really is being flogged around the critics' circle.

I was wondering why you have reviews posted to your site dated into July? Even the Hillebrand bottle, was has been out for ages, seemed to be "post-dated" -- could this be for availability's sake?

Joe said...

Happy Birthday - you are back in overdrive! I will have to try that wine (or a Trius) blind, one of these days - Niagara and I have not yet come to terms.

Natalie MacLean said...

that's when I tasted it Marcus... it was actually for a literacy fundraiser for which I hosted a tasting and Hillebrand provided the wines so it wasn't sent to me as part of a PR pkg/tasting samples

Marcus said...

Sorry for the poorly worded question Natalie, I meant your entries like this one, for July 7. Is that the date when the LCBO releases them or does the date indicate some other availability factor -- LCBO availability I mean?

I'll be vacationing in Ontario soon and hope to check out some of these bottles.

winedeb said...

Happy Birthday Marcus! Will have to check out your new "blog" even though I am not into too much "tech" stuff. Cheers!

Chris Bunting said...

I want invite you to join an online conference of drink bloggers: Drink. Blog. Talk 2007. It will be held between September 22 and 29, 2007 and anybody who blogs about alcoholic drink is invited to take part. I have not been able to find a contact email on your site so, if you are interested, please contact me at japanesewhisky at gmail.com and I will send you out an invite. If you want to find out more about who I am, I blog at Nonjatta.blogspot.com about Japanese whisky. The idea for the conference came out of a discussion between myself, Kevin Erskine (of Scotchblog.com) and Jeffrey Morgenthaler (of JeffreyMorgenthaler.com) on a thread at Kevin's blog. I hope you will be able to take part.

Joe said...

so, did you see that Malcolm Anderson is hanging up his cleats? Saturday was his last column - new 'coverage' this week from the Gazoo.

Marcus said...


Yes I heard about the retirement. Though I never read that column much I will certainly start because Bill Z of Caveman fame will be writing.

Definitely reason the check out the Gazette tomorrow!