Our Book Club members submitted questions to the author of our latest book, ‘The Lost Vintage’. Thanks to Ann Mah for taking the time to answer these and for reaching out when we announced her book in our rotation!
Q: I’ve been studying wine for years and have a passion for food. I have always wanted to write a book but it seems like such a daunting tasks. How did you get into food writing? Do you have any advice for an inspiring writers?
AM: I started writing about food when I found myself newly married and living unexpectedly in Beijing. We had moved for my husband’s career and I was unemployed and missing my work as a book editor terribly. My first articles were for a local magazine for expats – I started writing about local fashion because that was the content they needed – eventually I got up the confidence to pitch some pieces on food. After a few months I became the dining editor, and from there I began freelancing for larger publications, and also started writing my first novel. There are so many different paths to working as a professional writer, but almost all of them begin small – with a blog, or local paper, or school newsletter. Having a thick skin is also important (there’s a lot of rejection, at every level). It also helps to write regularly – that’s where a blog comes in handy – and, of course, reading widely in different genres is essential.
Q: Your writing about wine and the region is very detailed and really made me want to visit and drink the wines (who doesn’t love a good Meursault). What did you do for researching the book?
AM: I first visited Burgundy in 2010 to research an article on Thomas Jefferson’s favorite vineyards in France. The minute I set foot in the region, I was captivated by the vine-covered slopes and charming villages. And if I sensed ghosts there, hovering amid the beauty, they only added to my fascination. I think the seed for this novel was planted then. A few years later, I volunteered to pick grapes at the harvest in Champagne. Harvest volunteers are often given free room and board, and I was put up in an empty attic apartment at the vineyard house. The rooms hadn’t been touched since the 1960s: they were sparsely decorated with mid-century hospital furniture; the floors creaked; the wallpaper was peeling; and at night the rural silence was deafening – and bone-chilling. Even though I was exhausted from long days of physical labor, whenever I lay down to sleep, my imagination would cartwheel. And so, I slept with the lights on, and when I woke, I wrote in my journal. This story was born from those wild scribblings.
Q: What is your favourite food memory?
AM: Biting into the first croissant after a long absence from Paris. It’s a memory that I hope to relive over and over again with each reunion with my favorite city!
Q:What are you currently reading?
AM: I just finished WRITERS AND LOVERS by Lily King, which was a page-turner and a love story – although not in the traditional sense. It’s about grief, and work, and relationships that let us down, and above all it’s an ode to the writing life.
Q: Do you have another book in the works?
AM: Yes! I just finished the manuscript for my new novel. It’s called JACQUELINE IN PARIS and is about the year Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy spent in Paris as a study abroad student, from 1949 to 1950. She was twenty years old, living with an impoverished Countess who was a former resistance spy, discovering a new country and herself. It’s the story of Jackie before Jack – a young woman’s awakening to art, politics, romance, and love. She later called that year the happiest of her life. The book will be published in Fall 2022.
THIS or THAT!
Q: Wine or cocktail? (Do you have a favourite?)
AM: Wine! I love a crisp, minerally white like Sauvignon Blanc, or a light-bodied red Burgundy :)
Q: Sweet or salty?
Q: Tea or coffee?
Q: Travel or the comfort of home?
AM: Can I say both? As a diplomatic family, we move regularly to far-flung locations that allow us to travel – which is the best of both worlds!
Q: Comfort foods or Haut Cuisine?
AM: Depends on the occasion!
We have copies of ‘The Lost Vintage’ left in stock, so you can still purchase our September Book Club Pack for yourself, your own Book Club meeting, or make it the perfect gift for your favourite Book Worm/Wine Lover
Chef Sider from The Restaurant at Redstone has collected three of his favourite recipes for Fall,
and any one of these soul-warming soups are sure to impress guests this Thanksgiving.
Make the meal complete with our Harvest 6 Pack, a carefully curated selection of wines that will pair well with any holiday feast.
You can purchase yours here for delivery or pickup in-store!
If you try your hand at one of these wonderful dishes, don’t forget to share your creations on social media and tag us!
Braised Chicken & Autumn Vegetable Stew with Baguette
4pc boneless skinless chicken breast, diced
1/2C onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4C carrot, diced
1/4C celery root, diced
1/4C fennel, diced
1/4C butternut squash, diced
1/2C baby potatoes, quartered
3tbsp ap flour
4C chicken stock
Heat a pot over medium heat. Add the butter and cook until melted. Add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add the carrot, fennel and celery root and cook approximately 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook until it has absorbed all of the butter, approximately 2 minutes. Add the chicken stock in stages, ensuring that the stew remains smooth. Add the chicken and potatoes and cook until tender, about 25 minutes. For the last ten minutes of cooking, add the butternut squash.
Season the stew with salt, black pepper, and chopped parsley, tarragon and fennel tops. Serve with sliced baguette.
Sweet Corn Soup
8 pieces sweet corn, kernels removed, cobs reserved
5 onions, diced
4 leeks, white only, diced
2 heads garlic, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 potato, peeled and chopped
6 strands saffron
Maldon Sea Salt
Combine the corn cobs, one diced onion, the celery, half of the garlic, and one diced leek in a pot and cover with water. Simmer for 30 minutes and remove from the heat. Let stand for one hour and strain.
In a separate pot, sweat the remaining onions, garlic, leeks, and carrot in a generous tablespoon of butter until very soft. Add the corn kernels, potato, saffron, and a generous pinch of salt and cover in the corn stock. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, remove from the heat and puree. Pass the soup through a very fine sieve and season with salt, black pepper, lime juice and espelette pepper.
Roasted Parsnip & Goat’s Cheese Soup & Sweet & Sour Beets, Rosemary Crisps
2C onion, diced
¼ C garlic, sliced
3C parsnip, diced
Vegetable stock (or water), to cover
1 tbsp black peppercorns (in sachet)
2 sprigs rosemary (in sachet)
3 tbsp goat’s cheese, to finish
35% cream, to finish, if needed
5 sprigs rosemary
½ C picked parsley
Grapeseed oil, to cover
2 large yellow beets
100 ml honey
25 ml sherry vinegar
1 clove garic, minced
¼ vanilla pod
50mL olive oil
2 tbsp coriander seeds
Salt and pepper
2 Sprigs rosemary, picked
For the soup:
Over medium heat, sweat the onions and garlic until very soft and translucent. Increase the heat to high and add the parsnips. Roast the parsnips until lightly coloured, stirring the pot about once every 30 seconds as not to burn the onions and garlic. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the parsnips until they start to break down. Cover the vegetables with vegetable stock, add the sachet of black peppercorns and rosemary and simmer until the parsnips are quite soft. Remove from the heat, puree in a blender and pass through a very fine sieve. Season to taste with salt.
For the rosemary oil:
Place the rosemary in a small pot and cover with grapeseed oil. Cook over medium heat until the rosemary is cooked, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree in a blender. While the oil is in the blender add the parsley and ensure to puree it very thoroughly. Strain first through a sieve, then through a coffee filter and chill over ice.
For the sweet & sour beets:
Cook the beets in simmering, salted water until tender. Remove from the water and peel while they are still hot. Cut the beets into the size and shape of your preference. Reserve.
Place the honey in a heavy bottomed pot and lightly caramelize. Add the vinegar, garlic, vanilla, coriander seeds and rosemary and season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool and then add the olive oil. Pour the chilled liquid over the beets and let stand 12 hours before use.
For the fried rosemary:
Bring a pot of oil to 375F. Add the rosemary and cook until crisp, about 15 seconds. Remove from the oil and place on paper towel. Season with salt.
Drain the beets from the marinade and place a few in the bottom of a soup bowl. Garnish with the fried rosemary. Bring the soup to a simmer and adjust with salt, white pepper, and a bit of heavy cream if needed. Whisk in the goat’s cheese until smooth. Pour the soup over the beets and finish with a few drops of rosemary oil.
Serves 8 as an appetizer or 4 as a meal