Category Archives: Food

Get Inspired; it’s easy

BTfZpvnCMAEIRFi.jpg-thumbI met a very interesting man the other day, Joel Osteen the pastor of America’s biggest church, a best-selling author whose books spend umpteen weeks on the New York Times best-sellers list and one of the most influential people on social media. I’m neither here nor there when it comes to religion and I’m basically a W/F (Weddings & Funerals) kind of person, so I was highly intrigued as to what draws people to him and why there are so many people looking for inspiration in their lives?

1150772_10151548998151331_772431878_nWe all have hardships growing up, some more than others and I definitely had my fair share, but as things go my life has turned out pretty well. I have a great husband, healthy, smart children who now have amazing lives of their own, friends I love to spend time with and a job I actually enjoy (most of the time). Was it fate, luck, hard work or divine intervention…or maybe a little of everything combined? I can’t really answer that, but it got me to thinking about what inspires me to be happy.

0One can always use more money, vacation time and a thousand other things but as I sit here on this beautiful September afternoon in my garden sipping a cool glass of Sylvaner from Alsace I’m not sure I would be any happier on a yacht harboured by the French Riviera (ok, maybe if I was sitting next to George Clooney).  As I get older I find it’s the little things in life that make me happy, cooking something I’ve always wanted to try, and laughing when it doesn’t turn out.

0-1Uncorking a bottle of wine that turns out to be amazing, like this Remo Farina Montecorna Valpolicella Ripasso from San Pietro, $19.95 at the LCBO. Singing along to the music even though I can’t carry a tune in a bucket or finishing a great book I can’t wait to share with my friends.  I know it’s not always easy to find happiness in a world filled with bad news but take a minute to enjoy the small things in life and I bet it will make you smile.

0-2So kick back, skip the mall and enjoy the last beautiful days of warm weather with your friends, family or even by yourself.  Just for today, don’t count the calories, enjoy a good glass of wine just because you want to and worry about tomorrow when it comes.  Life is hard, but it’s the little things that make living worthwhile so enjoy it while you can.

And while Pastor Osteen might be making millions from his advice I’m happy to share mine for free because we all know money can’t buy you happiness (but darn, it I could probably buy me much better wine).

And while I feel it wouldn’t be right to solicit your donations feel free to send wine as we are always happy to sample something new and give you our opinion.

 

 

Lobster Pairings with Love from Maine

Gifts from the Maine Coast
Gifts from the Maine Coast

One of the truly wonderful pleasures of traveling to the coast of Maine each year is the anticipation of the perfect summer meal: lobster.

To me, it is as much a sign of summer as the scent of wild roses that line the sea wall, the sand that finds its way into every crevice in the cottage, and the damp towels hanging over the railing.

Chipper has been providing lobster to my family and friends for as long as I can remember. Look up Central Casting for Lobster Fisherman and you will find his picture. He is the real deal. He has the New England twang, the weathered complexion from years of early mornings at sea, and a perpetually cheerful attitude.  Chip is always  smiling, always happy to see you,  and he is the most accurate weather forecaster on the planet.(Sorry, Jeff Hutcheson)

A Palace by Any Other Name
Chipper’s Lobster Shack

The first time I cracked a lobster it was from Chip’s Catch of the day. He held a huge party in his workshop some years back and steamed more lobsters than I had ever seen. His family and friends, his loyal summer friends and their friends feasted on the freshest claws and tails all night, then danced off the garlic butter. One year he took all the kids and a few of the adults out on his boat to show us his favourite lobstering spots.

This year a glut of lobster pushed down the market price making it almost impossible to earn a living.  So Chip took his tasty catches and friendly attitude and opened up his own lobster shack. He steams them on the spot, sells them at bargain prices and sells out pretty much every day. One or two for the night’s feast and one for a homemade lobster roll the day after.

It doesn’t hurt that this year’s catch is the tastiest ever.

Dinner In the Making
Dinner In the Making

So what to pair with your lobster feast, or the next-day delicious lobster roll? Something light and crisp such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris is a good choice for the main event. Tread carefully with the Chardonnays because some can be too creamy for the rich lobster meat. And for day after rolls, you cannot go wrong with some sparkling like Prosecco.

For our first traditional steamed lobster feast, the gals went with a Sauvignon Blanc (rapidly becoming my favourite white this summer).

Bring on the Crisp Coppola
Bring on the Crisp Coppola

Coppola Sauvignon Blanc 2012 Diamond Collection – vibrant, fresh, grassy and crisp.  It was a perfect match and so was the price –  $12.00 (US prices but a good crisp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will never steer you wrong). One of my personal favourites is  Dog Point Vineyard 2012 at $22.95.

Pouilly Fuisse Extrordinaire
Pouilly Fuisse Extrordinaire

 

 

Pouilly Fuisse 2011 Louis Jadot from Maconnais, France at $22.00. Citrus and vanilla notes and ever-so-gently oaked that did not overpower. This was a perfect Chardonnay for the meal.

Then Alex arrived…bearing wine. Alex Manikas is the owner of Toronto’s uber steakhouse Bardi’s which has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence every year since 1994. And he brought two winners.

grothGroth 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley.  Mama Mia that was  one spectacular wine! Rich, crisp, aromatic and only $19.00. Unfortunately purchased here and not available at the LCBO, but if you are traveling to the US, put it on the list!

Then out came the star of the night. And it was a shining Chardonnay.

The Shining Chardonnay
The Shining Chardonnay

Talbott 2011 Chardonnay Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, Monterey County, California.  This is a big Chardonnay, but so well- balanced, the flavours performed as harmoniously as the Beach Boys in their heyday.  It has a buttery rich feel with notes of pear, peach and the oak did not overwhelm. Thank you Alex.

And for the sparkle..

La Marca Prosecco
La Marca Prosecco

La Marca Prosecco DOC from Italy LCBO $17.95 $13.95 US (ouch) This lovely was perfectly chilled and an ideal pair for just about anything including our day-after Lobster Roll.

Doesn’t it just make you want to visit your nearest lobster pound? If you are ever in on Route 9 between Kennebunkport and Cape Porpoise – drop in on Chipper. You will not go home disappointed!

.

The Maine Event; When life’s a beautiful beach

There are times in many of our lives where the pure joy and bliss you feel is hard to describe. Generally they come from time spent with the ones we love, witnessing a wedding or cradling a new-born baby.  And while those are extremely special moments mine came during a recent trip to a beach house in Maine.

stairsGrowing up I was never one of those girls who spent endless hours giggling on the phone with friends and I seemed to understand the ways of boys better than teenage girls.  But as I get older I greatly cherish the relationships I’ve built with a particular group of women introduced to me by my blog writing partner, Lis. Her extremely giving nature draws people in and over the years she’s generously shared her closest friends with me.  And oh what lovely friends they are…smart, funny, accomplished, beautiful and generous of spirit.

beachFor thirty years Lis and her family have rented a beach house in Maine each summer for a couple of weeks enjoying the sun, sand and warm ocean breeze…ok, occasionally the breeze isn’t so warm since we are talking about the Atlantic.  This year she arranged the house for an extra week themed around wine, women and song and invited 5 friends including myself.

cartThe six of us drove down in a caravan of two cars and the laughter of the road set the tone for the week along with our first shopping trip to the liquor store.  I know it looks like a lot but we thought it would last, ha who were we kidding. There were equal amounts of white and red from around the world and if you’re looking closely even a bottle gin in the corner of the cart to start off cocktail hour.

all on the beachMornings were meant for long walks on the beach (exercise was necessary after all the food and wine) but no pressure if you just wanted to laze around the house and have a second cup of coffee. Days were for sitting in the sun, reading beach books, swimming in the ocean and sipping wine.

lynnOur nights were filled with delicious dinners, more wine and singing along to Lis’ amazing playlist. Some days we even sat on the beach long after everyone else had left just chatting as the sun went down. And as the tide went out again in the late evening we sometimes snuck back down to the beach whispering and laughing as we walked in the dark along the water’s edge.

puzzleIt was all so uncomplicated and easy as if we’d been friends for life.  Everyone chipped in with the cooking and cleaning and there was even a big jigsaw puzzle on the table that everyone just seemed to pick away at in hopes of finding that one elusive piece nobody could find. I’m extremely competitive so it almost killed me to leave before the puzzle was finished.

At the end of the week I was the first to leave and I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and believe when I say I’m not the mushy type. But at a certain age when you start to feel like the world doesn’t see you anymore these women made me feel amazing not only about myself but the possibilities of what life still has to offer.

book&wineSitting there with my toes in the sand, the sound of the waves washing against the shore I realized life couldn’t be more perfect.  So for all the times life lets you down remember there will be other times when life’s a beautiful beach.  We’ve only been apart for a short time but I’m missing my marvelous friends and hope this is the beginning of an amazing new tradition.

 

 

 

 

 

Pinot and Pasta; The Perfect Pair

0My husband loves pasta.  Pretty much any pasta but one of his favourite dishes is Spaghetti alla Carbonara (Spaghetti with Eggs and Bacon) and it’s super simple to make.  Not only is it delicious, it takes hardly any time and as he does most of the cooking during the week I’m happy to oblige when he requests this dish.

Since every great pasta dish deserves a good Italian wine this is no exception and you even add a bit of the wine to the recipe. Before I started cooking I popped downstairs to see what was in the wine rack (I dream of a cellar but I’m not there yet) because I generally have more red than white on hand.  0-4

There was a bottle of Tommasi Le Rosse Pinot Grigio there and I figured it would be perfect for this dish.  Generally recommended to go with a salad plate or soft cheeses I knew this cool crisp wine would beautifully offset the creaminess of the pasta dish.  It’s available in ON at the LCBO for $14.95 but it’s also available in QC, BC, AB and MB but the cost varies.  You can also order it through RKW Wine Imports by the case if you’re interested.

While recipes vary there are a few key ingredients you’ll need for the dish; cheese (Romano, parmesan, or a combination), egg yolks (or whole eggs), some sort of cured, fatty pork (bacon or pancetta) and black pepper.  Here’s my recipe:

2 tbsp Extra Virgin Oil, 2 tbsp butter, 8 strips bacon cut into 1/4 inch strips, 1/2 cup dry white wine, 3 egg yolks, 1 whole egg, 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese, 1 large clove garlic, freshly ground black pepper (lots and lots) and 1 lb. spaghetti

0-2Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil and generously salt it.  Then take a large bowl and whisk the 3 yolks and whole egg together.  Get a large pasta bowl and whisk the 3 yolks and whole egg together, grate in the cheese and add some freshly ground pepper. I usually like to have this done so you can add the cooked bacon to this mixture (of course you’ll want to sip on some wine while your working).

0-3Put the butter in the pan, and on medium heat saute the bacon until well browned but not crisp.  Turn down the heat and add the minced garlic so it gently cooks not fries.  You’ll notice the only salt is in the pasta water because since most bacon is already well salted you don’t really need to add more salt.  Add the wine and continue cooking tip the liquid is slightly reduced.  Take the pan off the burner and let it cool so you don’t scramble the eggs when you pour it into the egg and cheese mixture.  Once your pasta is cooked al dente, drain well and immediately pour into the egg, cheese, bacon mixture – the heat from the pasta will cook the eggs but remember to toss continuously so the eggs don’t scrabble.  Serve with a generous amount of more freshly ground pepper.

Eat immediately but try not to eat the entire bowl (I will confess at our house there is rarely left overs).  Oh…and of course enjoy the bottle of cool crisp Pinot Grigio.

 

Riesling Reise; A trip to Germany

kevininhelmetMy son Kevin, a hard hat diver stationed in Korea recently called to say he was being sent to Hamburg, Germany for some specialized training.  Having not seen him in a year I quickly jumped at the chance to fly over and see him, figuring Germany was a bit closer than Korea. Also, being the city of my birth I was looking forward to seeing it again and reconnecting with some old friends.

Living in Korea where a good sausage is hard to find, Kevin was super excited to be heading to the land of wurst, schnitzel and beer.  I on the other hand am not a beer drinker so I figured it was a good time to taste the wine of the Rhineland and went about sampling Riesling at every opportunity.  Since I was only there for a week I didn’t really have the time to travel too far so a wine tasting tour was out of the question but I wasn’t too worried since most restaurants offered a fairly good selection.

A white grape variety that originated in the Rhine region of Germany it’s used to make dry, semi-sweet, sweet and sparkling white wines. Seldom oaked they are among the world’s top 20 most grown varietals and often included in the “top three” white wine varieties together with Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc.

streetsignWhile my son attended his training program I spent the first few days wondering the city and found the street where I spent the first years of my life.  It seemed only vaguely familiar but emotional none the less as it made me feel connected to my past and especially to my parents who have long since passed.

RieslingI walked for hours wanting to get a feel for the city and came across a wine store where I popped in to check out the selection and speak o the owner.  She said one of the most popular Rieslings they sold was by J.B. Becker and that it was so popular she was actually sold out at the moment.  I opted for a bottle of Kallfelz Riesling to try and since my son doesn’t like wine there was no reason to share this lovely find.  Albert Kallfelz is actually the most widely decorated Riesling producer in all of Germany and comes from a family who has been producing wine for over 500 years.

busesKevin and I had a wonderful time together enjoying the sights and sounds of the city.  We did all the touristy things like taking the city’s double decker bus and taking the harbour tour.

wurstThe visit was much too short but Kevin’s hunger for bratwurst and beer had been satisfied and I was thrilled to have spent some quality time with my son who I had sorely missed.  There’s definately a special bond between mothers and sons but I know my husband and Kevin’s brother also miss him so for next year we’re planning a half-way family gathering in Hawaii.  It should be great fun having everyone together…sun, sand, surfing and more but do they have good wine in Hawaii?

Cheers to Chardonnay; Celebrating A Day In Your Honour

With 400,000 acres of this vinifera varietal planted around the globe there’s a world of Chardonnay to choose from.  For a time consumers shied away from this once popular wine because many felt it was being over-oaked and people’s palates were craving something a little more crisp and cool.

Ontario Chardonnay_2But over the last few years Chardonnay has made a big comeback especially those from cooler climates. As Ontario’s (and the world’s) most popular grape from unoaked to Chablis style there’s a wide range of styles to suit everyone’s taste.

It’s so popular again, that today, winemakers, cellar masters, sommeliers, and wine lovers around the world will celebrate International Chardonnay Day.  There are lots of ways to join in the celebration online Twitter is @coolchardonnay with hashtags #chardday and #14c2013. Facebook is /CoolChardonnayCelebration, and Pinterest is pinterest.com/i4c.  Many wineries will have special offerings today but if you can’t make it out to one, just chill a bottle, crack it open and toast this new trend that everyone seems to be enjoying and join in the online party.

Ontario ChardonnayHere in Ontario, today marks the kickoff to the Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration taking place July 19-21 in Niagara.  Sixty-two winemakers from 11 countries will offer up a taste of the world’s best chardonnay to wine enthusiasts at events ranging from intimate vineyard lunches to the main event “The Cool Chardonnay Wine Tour”.

If you’re looking for information on Chardonnay Day activities and the i4c (International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration) you’ll find it here www.coolchardonnay.org

How will you celebrate today?

 

 

Progressive Dinner; Fun With Food and Wine

When you live in the burbs and downtown is an eighty dollar cab ride away, going out with friends to a nice restaurant can get expensive.  So how do you enjoy a delicious meal,  good wine, the company of great friends without the big bill?

0Well, a few years ago I approached three couples in my neighbourhood that we regularly hang out with and suggested we form a dinner club to get us through the long boring winter and they loved the idea.  Once a month we hold a progressive dinner, traditionally done by starting at one person’s house for appetizers, moving to the next for the main meal and again to another house for dessert.  This seemed like way too much work so I changed the rules.

0-1Each month one couple holds the dinner at their house and they’re in charge of the main meal while the others provide the appetizer, soup or salad and then dessert. We rotate the houses and who makes what, ensuring the same person doesn’t get stuck making the same thing each time.  Everyone gets dressed up (no jeans allowed) so it feels like a special evening and the dinners are themed on international cuisine, or even an event like the Oscars.  Each course is paired with a wine, beer or cocktail that suits the dish or at least we give it the good old college try.

One members of the group is a true foodie (I think his TV is stuck on the Food Network) and this time around he thought we should switch it up so he came up with a bunch of cooking challenges and then picked four out of a hat.  Here’s what we wound up with:

  1. Food made with fire
  2. Breakfast for Dinner
  3. Pizza as a comfort food
  4. Food based on a colour

The categories were assigned and you could get as creative as you wanted and here’s what we ended up with:

  1. Chicken skewers and roasted veggies on the grill paired with Cave Spring Riesling from Ontario
  2. Devilled eggs with smoked salmon & capers along with white and sweet potato Rosti – a Swiss hash brown paired with Italian Proseco
  3. Wings with Blue Cheese dip on a pizza -this was amazing and the hit of the night (no wine – the boys said it had to be beer) see recipe below
  4. RED velvet cake pair with Inniskillin Riesling Ice Wine

There was lots of good wine, and some not so good (Girl’s Night Out is not really a wine – more of a cooler if you must know) lots of laughs and best of all we could all just walk home

Buffalo Wing Style Chicken Pizza
2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – cooked and cubed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (2 ounce) buffalo wing sauce
1 (8 ounce) bottle blue cheese salad dressing (Renee’s is great for this)
1 (16 inch) prepared pizza crust
1 (8 ounce) package shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Cook up the 2 chicken breasts in a pan then cube
In a medium bowl combine the cubed chicken, melted butter and wing sauce. Mix well.
Spread half the bottle of salad dressing over crust, then top with chicken mixture and sprinkle with shredded cheese.
Bake in preheated oven until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly, about 5 to 10 minutes. Let set a few minutes before slicing, and serve.

 

Wednesday Wine Picks from La Belle Province

It’s enough to force you off the street and into the closest SAQ (Quebec’s answer to the LCBO).Excuses, excuses …. pretty much any time you visit Montreal is a good reason for a stop at the SAQ.

 

Searching for Wine in an April Snowstorm

 

My mother has gotten used to the fact that even after spending five hours in the car, my first pit stop is the small but well-stocked liquor store around the corner from her place. She stopped taking offence after I made sure I also stocked her up with her favourites.

They have their version of Vintages. Many have a tasting bar. And they have incredibly helpful staff. But there are a few differences:

Fans of French wines will be overjoyed by the SAQ which has a richer selection of wines from France. There are Italian wines that are only available on consiognment in Ontario. But sorry Quebec, whenever you can find the same wines in both provinces, the LCBO version is typically cheaper.

Another difference – the tasting philosophy. LCBO is very strict about making sure you taste no more than a total of 2 oz of wine (4 x 1.2 oz – that math combination I have learned well!).

In Quebec, it’s pretty much self-serve. Load a few bucks on to your tasting card and keep tasting until your card runs dry. Now I haven’t spent a whole day there, so maybe someone would eventually get thrown out, but the expectation is you know better than to drink too much at the liquor store.

Saint JosephThis time I tasted a FANTASTIC Saint-Joseph from the Northern Rhone quite aptly named Hedonism. SO good that a bottle of this sexy red ended up in the cart. 100% Syrah, it exudes luscious strawberries and spice. This one is medium to full bodied like most Saint-Joseph reds and would go nicely with a juicy beef burger or beef stew. Yum.  WIne Spectator gave it an 89 rating.   

Alcohol 13%  $27.40 SAQ           

 

 Here are the some of  others that made it into my Mom’s personal tasting room.

valley
Valley of the Giants

Valley of the Giants Cabernet-Merlot 2009 from Western Australia $16.95  This very affordable Australian was flying off the shelves. Excellent value.

 

 

Hardy's Butcher Block
Hardy’s Butcher’s Gold

Hardy’s Chronicle 3, Butcher’s Gold Shiraz/Sangiovese 2011 $16.95

An Australian classic grape meets the varietal that is Tuscany’s claim to fame. This bold fruity wine packs a punch at 14% alcohol with herbal notes.

Food pairing: Beef Tenderloin, Flank steak

 

   Enjoy the picks and drop us a line with a favourite of your own!

Ontario Wines: So Many More To Discover

I know Lis and I often go on about how much we love big bold reds from Italy but we also like to promote home-grown grapes and the wines they produce.  In truth there are so many wineries in the Niagara region I’m not sure how long it will take us to visit them all but we’re going to give it our best.

We’ve certainly been to the bigger ones, Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin, Colaneri Estate Winery, Chateau des Charmes, Stratus Vineyards, and several others located near the main strip but there’s so many more throughout the Niagara region and they’re yours to discover.

0One of my colleagues found out about our blog and said his wife worked for a winery called Calamus Estate Winery. Telling him I’d never heard of it he kindly brought me a selection of their wines to taste.   I started with the whites because even though reds are my passion, every wine deserves a chance…plus a nice light white is always great for summer sipping.

0-3The whites included a 2011 Pinot Gris, a 2011 Riesling and a 2010 Gewürztraminer.  Of the three my favourite was the Riesling, which was a light straw colour, tasted clean and crisp with a hint of peach and because of it’s acidity it went wonderfully with the cheese fondue we were having for dinner.

0-2The reds included a 2010 Cabernet Franc a 2008 Calamus Red.  Of the two I definitely gravitated towards the Calamus Red, which was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Ruby red in colour is smelled of cherry, blackberry and vanilla and tasted delicious.  This one is definitely worth a trip down to the winery but you can also order online.

calamus_90_PandD_v2

Founded by Derek Saunders and his wife Pat Latin they first purchased 14 acres near Beamsville, Ontario and planted a 10 acre vineyard in 2000.  When the land was being cleared for planting fragments of rock from the original First Nation inhabitants were found and played a role in its naming as CALAMUS is Latin for the word arrow.  In 2001 they purchased a second property next to Ball’s Falls Conservation area and this is now home to the Calamus Estate Winery.

The old barn that now houses the tasting room is also home to a very cool feature, a Chronos Observatory.

BarnwLogoOften mistaken for a farm silo the observatory actually includes a working deep space telescope.  Located on the Niagara bench it’s just a short distance from the town of Jordan and this is definitely one of the areas we would like to explore more. It would make for an amazing venue in the evening, gazing at the stars while sipping the wines.

Is there a hidden treasure we should know about?  Send us a comment and we’ll add it to the post.

 

Why Drink Water?

“Why drink water, when you can drink wine?”, it’s quite possible this is a quote but I’m not sure who to attribute it to.  But somehow over the years it’s sort of become my motto.  Not that water isn’t good for you or that I don’t drink it, it’s just that I’d much rather be drinking wine.

 

Lucie & Nilesh
Lucie & Nilesh

My husband and I just spent a very lovely 10 days on the Riviera Maya with our good friends Lucie and Nilesh.  We’ve made this journey every January for the past six years and we always have a great time.  Dollar for dollar vacationing in Mexico offers great value for your money and we’ve never been disappointed.

We’ve stayed at various five-star resorts along the strip, some more than once and while each has different things to offer we’ve always enjoyed ourselves.

0-4This time we stayed at the GRAND SIRENIS MAYAN BEACH HOTEL & SPA and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The food was good, the hotel was lovely and the staff, especially the animation team were terrific. Not only did they offer the usual nightly shows but lots of fun and entertainment all day long and on several evenings there was even a Mariachi  band that came to perform for everyone sitting in the lobby area.

The only thing I’m always disappointed in is the wine selection.  I talked about this quite a bit in the post called “In Case of Last Resort” published in November of 2012 and for a country where the weather is primed for making wine you’d think they be better at it.  Basically you’ve got your standard Vino Blanco or Vino Tinto offered at every restaurant and buffet but even if you want to pay extra and order something better it’s generally from Chile and no worth paying the extra for.

0-2But considering our fun in the sun was a cheap and cheerful vacation I don’t want to slag the wine selection too much.    While a lousy red is really hard to drink,  a so so white goes down alright when it’s chilled and served with food, so we enjoyed many a glass at every meal.

And while most large resorts purify their water for drinking if you’re going off site you might just want to play it safe and stick to the wine when stopping for a meal, so you don’t wind up with the Mexican stomach flu.

But after ten glorious days in the sun and enjoying lots of cheap and cheerful white I’m happy to have a lovely glass of red once again.