Posts Tagged ‘Ontario’

20 Bees Shiraz

Saturday, February 8th, 2014
20 BEES SHIRAZ, $11.95. LCBO#146837.

20 BEES SHIRAZ, $11.95.
LCBO#146837.

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Round #2 of my Wine of the Month Club: The January delivery included a bottle of 2012 20 Bees Shiraz. I have to say I was not excited to see it- I have had 20 Bees Baco Noir and one glass was more than enough for me. I also find their labels and winery name to be overly cute. And Shiraz in Canada? I don’t know- I really like Australian Shiraz (in fact we had a killer bottle last week- 2011 Dandelion Vineyards Lionheart of the Barossa, $20, amazing value, none left at the LCBO, sob, drink some for me if you can find it).

So, I opened the bottle with low expectations on a freezing cold Wednesday night. But my snobbery turned to a smile as we paired it with beef tacos- great match. The wine is what the critics say: dry, light-medium bodied, not overly complex, and a little fruity with a peppery finish. This would be good BBQ wine in the summer.

That said, I don’t know that I would buy it again. The price is reasonable, the wine is fine, it’s just not what I’m looking for in a Shiraz. It was an interesting bottle, not something I would typically pick up on my own, so I will give the Wine Club a pass on this one. But there are a lot of $12 red wines I would buy before this one.

Overall, I give this wine 7.5/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Cave Spring Riesling Dry

Saturday, January 25th, 2014
Riesling Dry

2012 CAVE SPRING RIESLING DRY, $14.95. LCBO#233635.

This year, my resolution is to drink more wine and blog about it. Tough goal, right? To ensure some inspiration, I joined a “Wine of the Month Club” this December which brings new bottles of VQA Ontario wine to my door each month. The club is run by Winery To Home and the critics are David Lawrason and Tony Aspler. I am doing the $45/month version, which includes one white and one red bottle; there are varying price and quality levels, but I thought I would start with the basic one and see how things go.

My December delivery (just pre-Christmas, what a lovely gift to oneself!) included a bottle of 2012 Cave Spring Cellars Riesling Dry. I have long been curious about Cave Spring, there is something very clean and crisp about their name and their wine labels, but not being a big Niagara drinker, I hadn’t bought a bottle yet. We shared the bottle with friends who enjoy Riesling, particularly dry varieties, and the review was a big thumbs up.

It is definitely as described by the critics: light, fresh, some mineral and citrus. Dry, but not overly so. It went very well with a charcuterie spread, particularly prosciutto and sharp cheese, a nice contrast in flavour. A surefire crowd pleaser- would also do well with seafood.

I think $15 is good value for this bottle, and I’m happy to see the local LCBO has lots on hand. So far so good with the wine club- I’ve been introduced to a new wine and winery, and have a new go-to party wine. I plan to pick up more of this bottle soon.

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Ontario Peach Pie

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

IMG_0015The year has been passing by at light speed, taken up with work, a few vacations, and all the little things that use up a day. I’ve gotten quite a few questions lately about my blog. Why haven’t I posted much this year? What am I drinking? The truth is probably two-fold- I’ve amassed quite a portfolio of favourite wines and recipes and don’t always have new food and drink to share, and having a computer-heavy day job can be a drain on the creative juices.

But if there’s anything that might get a cook’s energy back up, it is late summer and early fall in Ontario. Having grown up a prairie girl, I am amazed every year here when the bounty begins to roll in. Niagara peaches are one of my very favourite treats, but they tend to come in huge baskets and ripen all at once. Every August at this time I search for a random peach pie recipe, and then think, why haven’t I posted this so I’ll know what to make next year?

IMG_0017This year I found two good recipes: One for the #1 Best Pie Crust Ever and the other for Mama Thornton’s Peach Pie, both from the Food Network. The pie crust uses butter and shortening and has definitely replaced my old standard Crisco recipe. The butter makes the dough less crumbly and easier to work with, and browns up so beautifully I could hardly wait for the pie to cool before slicing through the crisp crust into the peaches below. The peach filling is fantastic- gooey but not runny and just the right amount of sweet. The only change I made was to double the lemon juice and add a splash of vanilla extract.

So, if you have peaches ripening en masse at this very moment- I hope a peach pie is in your future.

Sunday Night Soup

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

I looked in the fridge tonight, which is a bit bare at the moment, and saw some lovely local corn that needed a home. A glance in the veggie drawer revealed the makings of soup, which may be a bit much on a hot day, but a nice clear broth with fresh summer veggies seemed right.

I sauteed the onions, celery and carrots in a bit of olive oil, added in 2 handfuls of red lentils for a bit of protein, and got them glossy in the oil. In went 6 cups of water and a healthy sprinkle (1-2 tsp.) of Vegeta (the MSG free kind); chicken or vegetable stock would work too. After about 10 minutes, the veggies and lentils had soften up and I added the corn (cut off the cobs), some canned diced tomatoes and a sprinkle of parsley. That simmered for about 10 minutes, and combined into a wonderfully simple pot of summer flavours. Two bowlfuls for dinner were just the ticket.

Accidentally Organic Beer Braised Beef

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

My recent blogging hiatus has finally come to an end. Thankfully my soul crushing and creativity squashing workload has eased up slightly, just enough to allow me a smidgen of extra energy to plan and execute a delicious meal. Earlier this fall, we bought a mixed pack of beef from a local organic farm, and a giant prime rib roast has been haunting my dreams (and my freezer) ever since. This high quality piece of meat had to be treated right, and braising came to mind.

Melt in your mouth tenderness.

We love roast beef. This is actually my third post on the subject, and I think I have reached the pinnacle of beefy perfection this time.

I found a simple recipe on Epicurious for Beer Braised Beef and Onions, and the reviews did not lie. This 6 ingredient recipe is amazingly easy, low maintenance and DELICIOUS. Basically: brown the meat, saute some onions, add in some beer, put this in the oven for 2-3 hours, and voila. Please try it the next time you have a hunk of beef in your fridge, a cheap cut would certainly suffice. The prime rib roast was falling off the bone, tender, juicy and full of flavour, but I wonder what I could achieve with a less fancy cut. A future challenge!

The only beer I had around was Mill St. Organic, and although the recipe called for pilsner, the lager was fine. It is coincidentally organic, along with my beef, and while everyone who knows me will laugh at the idea of me trying to be healthy, it was a happy accident. I don’t know that the taste was any better or worse, but I felt slightly virtuous while chowing down on a plate of red meat.

I paired the beautiful roast with yorkshire puddings, something no roast beef dinner should be without. Roasted veggies, done on a Silpat mat came out golden and toasty, calling out to be soaked with the onion gravy I made out of the remaining braising liquid.

Just before it goes in the oven.

A few tips for dinner perfection:

  • Don’t be afraid to brown the heck out of your roast before braising. This will ensure flavour perfection.
  • Use the parchment circle under the lid as they recommend in the Epicurious recipe- it will keep all the juices in the pot as they will condense on the parchment and drip back onto the roast.
  • Cook the yorkshire puddings at 450F for about 30 minutes, they will be huge and perfectly crispy on the outside.
  • To make the gravy, bring the remaining braising liquid to a boil, whisk plenty so that the onions disintegrate and thicken the sauce. Add a bit of beef stock or bouillon for flavour and some flour or cornstarch that you have pre-mixed with water, and you’ll have excellent gravy in 5 minutes.

Sandbanks Shoreline Red

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

2009 Sandbanks Shoreline Red, $14.95. LCBO#159962.

Kevin & I have been big fans of Sandbanks Estate Winery for the past few years. I first visited the vineyard on a PEC tour in 2009, and came home with bottles of Dunes & Baco Noir, which quickly became our go-to Ontario wines. Dunes is perfect with appetizers, especially anything cheesy, and the Baco Noir is great solo or with something meaty.

On our latest trip to Prince Edward County, we stopped by again to see their new building (which is lovely) and had a fun tasting out on the patio with one of their energetic young staff. We came away with yet another winner, the newly released Shoreline Red. I’m having trouble deciding if it has dethroned Baco Noir as my personal favourite. It’s along the same lines, but a bit more restrained. The fruit is still in there, but it’s not such a cherry bomb. The Cabernet Franc in the blend lends some smoothness and a bit of vanilla.

The thing I love most about Sandbanks is that they make such reliably great wine at really reasonable prices. The quality and price in Prince Edward County really varies, and while I love trying new wineries there, I also like knowing I can count on Sandbanks for very drinkable wine.

Ontario wine drinkers may want to note that while prices from the winery and the LCBO are the same, when you buy direct from the winery, they get to keep a greater share of the profit. Sandbanks offers complimentary shipping; consider ordering directly from them on their website. I notice that other PEC wineries are also offering complimentary shipping as well.

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

100th Post: Adventures in Prince Edward County

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

Fabulous view at By Chadsey's Cairns.

To celebrate 3 years of togetherness, Kevin and I took ourselves to Prince Edward County to indulge in fabulous local scenery, food and drink. I’m always amazed that this jewel of a county is only an hour’s drive away, complete with lake views and a quaint ferry ride. It seems fitting that this weekend of gourmand-ness would coincide with the 100th post on La Gourmandesse!

We began the adventure with a wise choice: we stayed 2 nights at the Merrill Inn in Picton, a lovely B&B that knows how to feed and pamper its guests. Our room, in a third floor gable, was cozy and calm, and just what you would expect from a historic inn. They have a restaurant in-house that serves an amazing breakfast spread and gourmet dinners with local wine. We indulged there on our first night, pairing local wines with gazpacho, sauteed calamari, perch and prime rib. We followed that up with house-made peach pie, and declared the evening a locavore’s delight.

Another hilight of the weekend was our wine tour with PEC Wine Tours. We went on an afternoon tour, which was informative and fun, not to mention deluxe due to our limousine ride! The driver and guide, Gilles, was full of great info about the wines of the region, as well as quite a few back stories on the vineyards and personalities of PEC. The tour company’s owner, Bev, also happened to be on the tour that day with some family members for their own enjoyment, and made a lively addition to the day.

My top 3 vineyards of the day were Karlo Estates, By Chadsey’s Cairns and Sandbanks Winery, each for a different reason.

Karlo Estates' multi-purpose barn.

At Karlo Estates, we got to meet the winemaker and owner, Richard Karlo. Tasting wines with him was the best part of my tour, as he is warm, funny and articulate, explaining each wine as we moved through at least 5 tastes. He clearly loves what he does, and it comes through in the character of his wines. We came away with a bottle of the Frontenac Gris Rose, and are on the waiting list for the upcoming Petit Verdot. Can’t wait! I plan to go back soon to soak up the atmosphere and check out the dry stone bridge on the estate.

By Chadsey's Cairns tasting room.

By Chadsey’s Cairns is incredibly picturesque. The land comes complete with a loyalist graveyard, a few historic barns and an apple storage house converted into a wine tasting room. With views of the lake to the south and vineyards to the north, this is a beautifully peaceful place. I enjoyed tasting their wines and discussing them with one of their cheerful tasting staff, but walked away empty handed. It could be that we visited late in the day when my palate was fairly overwhelmed, but nothing grabbed me as something I had to drink again. But I would definitely return to grab a few quiet moments on their deck overlooking the vineyard.

Sandbanks Winery's new indoor/outdoor tasting building.

My other favourite of the day was Sandbanks Winery, one I have visited before. We are already big fans of their Dunes blend and Baco Noir, and had an enjoyable time on the gorgeous patio with one of their fun, young staff. We tried their new Shoreline blends and several others, and came away with a few bottles of Rose, the Shoreline Red, and the Winter Harvest dessert wine. I enjoy Sandbanks’ approachable wines and reasonable prices. It is a bit more commercial than Karlo Estates or By Chadsey’s Cairns, but brings something different to the table. What it may lack in boutique style, it fully makes up for in drinkability and affordability.

We managed to fit in a few other indulgences: lunch at the Tall Poppy Cafe in Wellington and some sweet treats at Miss Lily’s. A trip to Sandbanks provincial park capped off the weekend, and we headed home with 6 local bottles of wine, plenty of good memories, and plans to head back again soon.

 

Holiday $10 Wine Tasting

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

The bottles, after the big reveal, in the order we tasted them.

Our $10 wine tasting was such a hit this spring, we decided to throw a repeat for the holidays. The details from the first party and the logistics can be found here. In a nutshell, a $10 wine party involves each guest bringing 2 bottles of $10 wine, one gets tasted and the duplicate bottle goes in as a prize for whoever brings the best bottle, as voted by the guests.

This time was as fun as the last, and the appetizers disappeared just as fast. The fan favourites continue to be home made sausage rolls and baked brie topped with fresh raspberies. I was quite proud of the spread, but am sad to report that I have no pictures of it. My camera man had too much fun socializing and neglected his duties! I suppose this means I will have to host another party and manage to document all the tasty treats.

This time we had seven bottles of wine to taste, and ended up with 2 whites and 5 reds. We covered the bottles in paper bags for a blind tasting and randomly tried them, starting with the whites and moving to the reds. I don’t know how much research there is on wine tasting bias, but the first 3 bottles we tasted got the top scores. Perhaps they were indeed the tastiest, or perhaps we got harsher as the night went on. I also liked the first three bottles the best, so I really can’t comment on tasting psychology!

There was a 2-way tie for first between the 2 white wines. It was great to see that both bottles were Ontario VQA. Third place went to a California red. The final 4 reds were very close in scores, so I won’t rank them. The tasting crowd was similar to the spring party, and it was easy to see that people like what they like. At the last party, off-dry whites and easy-drinking reds were a hit, and we saw a repeat of that this time.

Our winners were:

1. 2008 Eco Trail Chardonnay Auxerrois, VQA, $8.95. LCBO#591719. Pelee Island Winery, Ontario. Crisp, fresh, slightly sweet with apple and citrus flavours.

1. 2009 Strewn Gewurztraminer-Riesling, VQA, $10.95. LCBO#467662. Strewn Winery, Ontario. Off-dry with peach and floral flavours.

3. 2008 Barefoot Merlot, $9.95. LCBO#53991. E & J Gallo, California. Medium bodied with hints of toasty oak and vanilla. Very smooth and easy to drink.

The runners up:

  • 2008 Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon, $9.95.
  • 2009 Mommessin Beaujolais, $9.85.
  • 2009 McGuigan Shiraz, $9.95.
  • 2009 Fuzion Shiraz Malbec, $7.75.

Our entry, the McGuigan Shiraz, was my second choice for a red in the blind taste. I still enjoy its spiciness and complexity, but I don’t think our guests enjoy a bold red very much. For our next party……perhaps I’ll have to bend to the will of the crowd and pick an off-dry white!

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Porkie

Our neighbourhood butcher has so many great, local, and economical cuts of meat, sometimes I have trouble holding myself back at the meat counter. This week, I picked up a lovely pork tenderloin for $6.50….without much of an idea of what I would do with it.

I started looking at recipes on-line, and then decided stuffed was the way to go. It was much easier than I thought it would be. My previous idea of adventures in stuffing things was some feta inside a chicken breast (which, by the way, is delicious when you throw in some sundried tomatoes). Pork tenderloin was considerably more risky. It involved pounding meat, cooking the stuffing, tying things shut, etc. But I’m happy to report that this was a successful experiment.

I cooked up a version of my favourite holiday-time apple and onion stuffing, which I thought would go perfectly with pork. I was correct. For side dishes, a field greens and feta-craisin-pumpkin seed salad with home made vinaigrette and some roasted delicata squash rings went nicely. To make the squash rings, see this video.

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Ingredients:

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 3 slices of stale bread, crusts removed and cubed
  • 1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp. butter

Out of the Oven

Instructions:

  1. Saute the onions, garlic and celery in butter until softened.
  2. Add in the bread cubes and get them toasty.
  3. Add the apples to this mix, sprinkle salt over the pan and turn heat to low.
  4. Slice the pork tenderloin down the centre, leaving 1/2 inch in tact. Spread the pork out, butterfly style, and pound out to evenly flatten.
  5. Place stuffing in the centre, roll into a log and tie the tenderloin together.
  6. Cook for 45- 60 minutes at 375F, or until meat thermometer reads 150F when inserted into thickest part of roll.
Dinna

The full meal deal with a nice glass of Aussie GSM.

Hot & Sweet Freezer Pickles

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

I heart pickles.  Pickles are a wonderful invention. They’re really a bit strange when you contemplate soaking tiny cucumbers in vinegar and salt, for months (or years), and then eating them as a snack.  But I won’t think too much about the process, and just focus on the sour, salty, crunchy delight that is a well made pickle. In the summer of 2009, Kevin, his parents and I made 50 jars of dill pickles.  These pickles are so good, friends beg for jars, and we no longer have store bought pickles in the house. However, I cannot share the recipe, it is a family secret, and you’ll just have to get invited to my house to try their magnificence. We didn’t make dill pickles this year, as there are still about 10 jars left, but I’m sure the summer of 2011 will see us repeating the pickle sweatshop at the family cottage.

I’ve always enjoyed bread and butter pickles, and have been thinking about the merits of these with cheese and crackers, as we have been eating nothing buts dills for a year now.  I saw freezer pickles on the Everybody Likes Sandwiches blog a few weeks ago, and have had some sweet and crunchy cukes in my sights ever since. This weekend on the grocery run, I grabbed an English cuke and a package of mini cucumbers, to make some sliced pickles and some pickle spears. We had some small hot peppers from Kevin’s father’s garden, and a ton of onions from our now finished CSA box. A rummage in the pantry turned up salt, vinegar and sugar, and without much fuss, I had my pickle ingredients.

Most freezer pickle recipes recommend using freezer containers, like ziplocks or leftover plastic tubs, but I just couldn’t face the esthetics of that approach. I put some of my empty glass pickle jars (from last year’s home made dills) through the dishwasher and decided to risk the glass in the freezer.

Every freezer pickle recipe starts the same way: Thin-slice your cukes and an onion, cover them in salt and let them mingle in a bowl for 2-3 hours. I guess this dehydrating process helps them stay crispy- get rid of some juice before you add the brine.  Many of the recipes called for celery seed, pickling spice, mustard seeds, or tumeric, but I had none of these in my cupboard. So….living dangerously….my hot peppers had to take the lead as flavouring agent.

I was a bit torn about the vinegar to sugar ratio….some had 2:1 sugar to vinegar, some had 1:1, others had some water in the mix. I decided to try the 1:1 ratio, with no water.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups sliced cucumber
  • 1 onion, thin sliced in rings
  • handful small hot peppers
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 cups white vinegar

Instructions

  1. Thin-slice your cukes and an onion, cover them in salt and let them mingle in a bowl for 2-3 hours. Drain liquid and do not rinse.
  2. Boil sugar and vinegar together.  Arrange cucumbers and onions in jars while the brine cooks.
  3. Pour hot brine into jars, leaving 1 inch room at top of jar. Seal jars.
  4. Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Thaw in fridge before serving.

Because I used canning jars with proper lids, and poured the brine over while still very hot, my jars actually sealed themselves. I feel like this defeats the “freezing” step, as that seems to be for preserving them when using plastic containers that don’t seal like a jar does. So, I put one jar straight into the fridge and left it over night. Because I have no self control, I then opened it the next day to go with a lunch of crackers and cheese. The results? Fantastic! So delicious: crunchy, sweet, a bit spicy, and totally already pickled. I think because the pickles are sliced and then salted, they are primed to suck the vinegar and sugar right up. We leave our traditional dills for 6-8 weeks before eating, which makes sense because the cucumbers are pickled whole. But this method appears to be instant gratification.

I did freeze my 2 remaining jars, and the glass did just fine because I left a lot of head room. I thawed out a jar after the fridge version rapidly disappeared. The taste is really no different, the pickles are just as crunchy, but the pickle itself is a bit more transparent. I think the unfrozen ones are prettier. My guess is that freezing is only necessary if you’re using a container that you can’t seal with a traditional canning method. But who knows! It’s difficult to unravel the mysteries of canning- an age old process with much oral tradition.