Fine-ish dining

We had some friends over last night for dinner and a board game. We've done this fairly regularly lately and it makes for a really nice evening of food, friends, trash talking, victory dances, and wine.

We had a kind of rustic dinner with bowls of spinach soup (YUM!), two really nice breads, three awesome cheeses, roasted red peppers, relaxed zucchini (yep, it's true), caramelized red onion, tapenade, and cilantro pesto - essentially build-your-own-sandwiches. Our friends are very, very informed winos, tending towards old world Italian wines and investing pretty seriously in BC wines. They brought over a bottle of Starling Lane marechal foch (2006), a red wine produced on Vancouver Island. Apparently it can only be bought at the vineyard so it was a real treat. Pretty subtle flavours but a really nicely blended taste of strawberries, a little oak, and something darker underneath I couldn't identify.

We supplied a cab sav that came on the recommendation of Katie The Mermaid Girl who I bumped into at the wine store. We've never actually met in person before even though we live about a block and a half from each other, both go to UBC, and she's friends with my sister. A girl was staring me down as I looked over the bottles, and finally asked me, fairly tentatively, "Are you Liminal Me?" To anyone overhearing our exchange it would have sounded really strange, but it was great to meet her face to face finally. It couldn't have been more fortuitous to finally meet her there because the 2005 bottle from the Elderton winery in the Barossa valley she pointed me to was really fantastic, and impressed our oenophile guests. Thanks, Katie!

We played Settler's of Cattan, our new favourite, and the Settler's virgin at the table won only one move before I was going to sweep the game. ARG! AND she didn't even produce a victory dance. What's that all about? One more move and my booty shakin' victory dance would have stopped traffic! Ah well. Maybe since they are new-ish friends she was feeling a bit restrained. Pshaw, I say.

In lieu of a winner's dance, we celebrated her win with an upside-down pear cake. I was still creaming butter and eggs and all that when they arrived so the first half hour of our visit was mostly yelling over the beater. Of course that meant that the smell of dessert baking filled the whole place while we had dinner and during most of the game. It was super tasty, although in my opinion the ratio of pear to cake was way off. I've printed the recipe below but halved all the cake ingredients so that your cake (you're definitely going to make this, right?) will have a better ratio. If you're a stickler for following the rules, just double the cake ingredients to return to the original recipe.

Upside-Down Pear Cake
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 firm pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges
1 cups white flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 325°. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of a 10-inch ovenproof skillet; set aside. In the skillet over medium-high heat, stir the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons butter until melted. Add the pears. Sauté them until fork-tender and start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour the pears and the juices into a large bowl and allow to cool slightly. Clean the skillet.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and ginger. In a large bowl, with a mixer set on high speed, beat the 1/3 cup butter and the granulated sugar until fluffy. Reduce the speed to low; beat in the eggs and vanilla until well blended. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat just until blended.

Coat the skillet with vegetable spray or butter. Place the parchment paper in the skillet and arrange the pears in overlapping circles. Pour the remaining pear juice mixture over the pears. Carefully spoon the batter over the fruit. Using a rubber spatula, spread the mixture evenly. Bake the cake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes [Since I halved the cake recipe here, it may take considerably less time. Check cake at 1/2 hour]. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges to loosen from the sides of the skillet. Invert the cake onto a serving plate. Remove the parchment paper. Serve the cake by itself or with ice cream, whipped cream, or crème fraîche.

Fun times! I hope you're all having an equally fun weekend!


  1. Glad you liked the Elderton - their higher end wines are really superb if you are ever so inclined. It was great to finally meet you in person, and yes, a brunch in the near future is definitely in order.

  2. Anonymous2:13 p.m.

    I am especially glad that you liked the Elderton as well. As one of the owners of Elderton, I love it when we get this type of feedback. Come and look us up in the Barossa! The very best regards Cam Ashmead