Friday, July 30, 2010


I've had this wine app on my iPhone ( for quite some time now. I think it's the first one I downloaded because of my interest in wine. But it wasn't until recently that I actually started really using it (and even then, there are so many features I've yet to try).

Natalie Maclean references her app as a suite of ten wine apps rolled into one. Like having a personal sommelier in your pocket. And you know what? It totally is.
- get pairings for particular dishes
- get dishes for particular wines (and the recipe)
- read reviews about the wines
- list and access to wineries around the world
- a glossary about just about everything wine
- even a virtual cellar to keep track of your wines

My first interaction with the app did not get me too excited. I found it a bit confusing to navigate between each area. But after downloading the most recent upgrade, all those challenges vanished. Where I really put it to the test though, was during a drive to Montreal for meetings. I had my wine tasting exam on the following Monday and spent the entire two hours getting my co-worker to list food dishes so that I could tell him which wine to pair it with, and vice versa. I also got him to read all the qualities that specific grapes have, as well as why they pair so well with particular foods. It was brilliant! I learned so much in that two hours. (thanks so much Scott!!) And so did he! The first thing he did when he got home was download the app for his iPad.

This woman, who tastes more than 10,000 wines a year, is totally casual in her approach. The majority of the wines she recommends are more than affordable. I even went to her top picks to look for a port for my dad's 60th.

Now, there's one thing I was a bit frustrated with – at first. This app is free, but there's a paid portion that you can go to to get even more information, more pairings, more details about the wines, the most recent reviews of current LCBO stock, and the ability to create a shopping list for yourself when in a particular LCBO (all the things you'd think the LCBO would have in their app but don't). Everything is free nowadays, so it seemed weird to me to have to pay for these additional features. But you know what? You get what you pay for, and from the reviews I've read, the level of detail in the information provided and the ease of use, it's worth every single penny ($25 for the year). Not only that, I kind of feel like I'm supporting something that's, well, totally awesome. Natalie has really done things right and made the user experience one to remember. The more I interact with her virtually, the more I just want to have a drink with her!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Love Summer

Summer is the best season of all. Fall used to be my favourite, with all the beautiful colours surrounding you. But there's something to be said about those first bites of fresh veggies. The taste of carrots that haven't been out of the ground more than a few hours remind me so much of being a kid and picking stuff out of my grandmother's garden.

Inspired by our evening at Marysol's, we couldn't help but replicate it for our 5th wedding anniversary (plus she bought us 4 lovely bowls that showcase the selection of carrots, cucumber and tomatoes beautifully). Fresh veggies, heavenly cheeses and meats. And enough wine to bring us late into the evening.

We started off with Nino Franco Prosecco and then indulged in a wine I bought a couple months ago, to die for – Bonny Doon's Le Cigare Volant, a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah, and a bit of Carignane and Cinsault. This wine isn't the easiest to find, but I came across it at the SAQ in Mont Tremblant. I bought it especially for last night.

Tonight, we basically had the same meal (as if I can resist leftovers like this!), but over another bottle. I will tell you right now, run as fast as you can to the LCBO and pick up a bottle of this delicious wine, it just came out last weekend in their vintages. I picked it out knowing that the grape similarities over last night would be the perfect fit. Although the chocolate and smokiness of this wine was far more obvious. Pikes Clare Valley 2007, Shiraz, Mourvèdre and Grenache from Australia.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Carmen’s Veranda

$ (breakfast)

This past weekend my husband and I made an impromptu visit to Carmen’s Veranda. We just happened to be walking by on an empty stomach when we saw their breakfast sign out front.

I have to say, I was pretty excited when I first walked in. It had the most comforting feel, with warm orangey walls, unique and random little decorations, and retro table and chair sets. On the walls, chalkboards filled with wine and beer lists, wine anecdotes, and of course, the breakfast menu of the day. I love this style of restaurant – kind of diner-meets-bistro. It’s that place in your neighbourhood you could just pop in to on your own and have a great meal for a reasonable price. It’s not near my place but I would definitely make it a regular if it was.

Minus the fact that our server forgot to take our order, when we finally did get our breakfast, it was really good. That little mishap did nothing to the quality of the service – she was super friendly and efficient. My husband ordered the scrambled eggs with sausage and me, the poached eggs with spinach and maple bacon. The presentation was nothing special, but the fragrant needle-like rosemary leaves in the side serving of breakfast potato was delicious. My fresh, poached eggs were flawless, and the bacon, perfectly crisp. Not bad for $12!

I’m looking forward to trying dinner here. I would love to just sit back, sip some wine and enjoy a nice, casual meal. You can even bring your own wine on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for a $10 corkage fee – very exciting. Breakfast ranges from $8 to $12, dinner apps from $8 to $10 and mains from $18 to $29.

Carmen's Veranda on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Why Aylmer Rocks

I will give you 3 reasons:
1. Marysol
2. Marysol
3. Marysol

Like seriously, look at this table from heaven! Even if the food was inedible, the presentation and vivacious colours are enough to stop you mid-sentence. That's what happened to me anyway. A super creamy and tasty selection of cheeses, mouthwatering cured meats, paté and rillettes, a fresh and crisp medley of bright colourful vegetables that remind you how awesome this time of year really is, and the absolute best bruschetta mixture I've ever had, so summery and flavoursome. All served with crusty baguette.

And if all that wasn't enough, the most creative little salad with grilled nectarine and wrapped in salty prosciutto was served. A little bit of paradise on a plate.

Marysol managed to collect all of these treasures at a stone's throw from her house in Aylmer. No car required.

Even her wine cellar was exposed – and I got to choose the wine! What a delicious gem this Shiraz Granache was. The Schnell, from Magpie Estate.

And as the sun went down, so did this second bottle, another fantastic wine that's worth it's weight in gold, Salcheto Rosso di Montepulciano.

This is by far the best restaurant in Aylmer. Only by special invitation do you have the honor of dining there. And the company is beyond compare. Marysol and Simon are an absolute pleasure to be around. Thanks guys!!

Check out the delectable dessert we had at the end of the night. Sinful.

Wine Tasting Class #10 and #11

I missed another class. I tried so hard to make sure I didn't miss a class. I even booked my vacation times to not be a full week so that I would be here for the classes. Unfortunately some things beyond my control took over and I missed a total of two. But I did not miss last Monday night, class #11. And thank god because it was the last one! The last one before the final exam anyway. So I've had some catching up to do this week to make sure I don't loose it come Monday.

The first half of the class was spent reviewing what we've learned over the past 5 weeks.

Cool Climate vs Warm Climate
Winemakers will take a look at the terroir they're dealing with before starting to grow grapes. How long is the growing season? Projected rainfall and sunlight? Proximity to water, mountain range, hills. Is the vineyard facing south, and hopefully it is. What combination of soil is available – limestone, gravel, slate, etc. When planting, the vine will only produce good fruit after about 5 years.

In a cool climate, such as Ontario, good winemakers look at what they're dealing with and then choose the grape they're going to grow. For whites in a cool climate, Riesling, Chardonnay and Vidal do very well. Reds that do well in a cool climate are Pinot Noir, Cab Franc, Gamay.

Ontario is comparable to Burgundy in terms of climate. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Gamay are some of the top grape varieties.

Winemakers have a tendency to do different things in cool climates, such as using stainless steel for fermentation, to maintain crispness and freshness. White wines usually have a nice acidity. (You can vinefy a Chardonnay different ways. French oak aged for example, will give a Chardonnay hints of spice and round it out. American oak will leave it creamy, buttery and softer on the palate.)

In cool climates, winemakers are dealing with, on average, shorter growing seasons. Therefore, they should choose varieties more condusive to that type of growing.

Warm climates, such as Argentina, Australia and Chile for example, have longer growing seasons. The grapes hang on to the vines longer, which results in the potential of having higher sugar levels, which means more alcohol, creating a smoother, richer wine.

Chardonnays are also grown in warm climates. For reds, Shiraz, Merlot and Cab Sauvignon's are quite popular. Sometimes the grapes are cultivated a little under ripe, which results in the wine having a bit of a green edge to it (vegetal, green pepper, etc.)

Wine Characteristics
Characteristics of a cool climate Chardonnay that was fermented in stainless steel, aged in stainless steel for a bit then bottled.
- aromas of citrus, floral, green apple, mineral
- medium to high acidity on the palate
- tastes of citrus and mineral
- short to medium finish (because of the high acidity, it's a very palate cleansing wine)

Characteristics of a warm climate Chardonnay that was oak aged for 11 months and went through malolactic fermentation.
- aromas of butter, caramel, butterscotch, tropical fruits, baked apple, pear.
- medium to full bodied with buttery and creamy notes on the palate and low to medium acidity.
- tastes of butter, vanilla, baked apple, smoky, caramel and honey
- finish is medium to long

Here are some other grape varieties we've tried over the past few weeks:

Albarino – Very similar to Viognier and Gewurztraminer, suggesting apricot and peach. It's also very light and high in acidity.

Chenin Blanc – A sweet, light, dry wine with flavours of apples, melon, quince and flint. This wine is great on it's own or with Chinese, Thai or shellfish.

Grenache – Often blended with other grape varieties such as Syrah, Carignan and Cinsaut. It has a spicy, berry flavour on the palate and has high alcohol but lacks acid, tannin and colour.

Madeira – Fortified Portuguese wine that is the result of being exposed to excessive heat and movement. Colour is similar to a tawny port and has a sweet nutty flavour.

Moscato or Muscat (mix between Gewurz and Riesling) – Sweet floral aromas. Widely used in sweeter sparkling wines like Asti. “Grapey” quality makes them easy to identify.

Primitivo (good subsitute for Amarone), also known as Zinfandel in North America. Dark fruit and pepper flavours.

Syrah (or Shiraz) – Full bodied and powerful and has a wide range of flavour notes depending on the climate and soil where it's grown. From violets to berries, chocolate, blackberry and pepper.

Viognier – Aromatic and fruit forward white with floral notes and some residual sugar. It's meant to be drunk young.

Some Blends that we tried:

Blend of Syrah (spice, smoke), Mourvèdre (plum, dark chocolate), Grenache (earthy, blackberry, spices)

Ripassa made with blend of Corvina (mild fruity flavours, sour cherry, acidic and low tannins), Rondinella (grape is fairly neutral but is often used due to the amount of wine it produces per unit surface of vineyard), Molinara (adds acidity)

Blend of Tempranillo (berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, leather, herb), Cab (blackcurrant, cassis, herbs and cedar or oak)

American Oak vs French Oak
- spice
- tobacco
- pepper
- espresso/coffee
- lightly smokey
- lightly toasty (1=lightest toast rating, 5=charred)
- French is softer and lighter than American oak. Also barrel is strongest the first year you use it.

American (more flavour characteristics)
- vanilla
- butterscotch
- spice
- butter
- smoke
- toffee

*If you're ever at a winery, my prof strongly recommends doing a barrel tasting.

The cost of wine. Why is it that a $20 bottle of wine can be better than a $200 bottle? Many factors come into play when it comes to the cost of wine.
- volume production
- labour costs
- reputation of the winery
- and of course, your own personal palate

Quality is subjective. What tastes good to one person, may not be good to another. What the winemaker does, how they produce their wine, all come into play when talking price – long fermentation, quality of the yeast, manual separation. Unfortunately, some wineries will use their name to increase the price of a wine, even though their aren't any additional reasons to do so.

Wine Olfactory Faults
“Cork Taint” (corked wine) – most common
- chemical name - Tricloranisole, or TCA
- result of interaction between chlorine, phenols and mould
- aromas of wet cardboard or newspaper, and dog fur and/or mustiness (damp basement)
- average threshold - 4.5 parts per trillion
- at lower levels wine is muted, neutralized
- 5-10% of wines affected

- result of excess exposure to oxygen
- aromas are sherry-like, tired, lack of fruit
- lack of sulfur dioxide (SO2)
- faulty cork with improper seal
- exception – Sherries & Madeiras

(happens during fermentation if the temperature was not controlled or if it was stored improperly)
- can be similar to oxidation
- should be applied only to wines with a high enough alcoholic strength to inhibi the action of acetobacter, which would otherwise transform the wine into vinegar
- result of exposure to heat
- wines are said to be “cooked”, showing a burnt, caramelized quality
- exception to the rule would be a Madeira

Sulphur Dioxide (SO2)
- result of excess SO2 during winemaking
- aroma – pungent smell of burnt match, rotten eggs
- can also result in hard mouth-feel
- bitterness in finish

Ethyl Acetate
- occurs during primary fermentation
- result of Acetic Acid reacting with Ethanol to produce Ehtyl Acetate
- aroma of nail polish remover
- wine is now wine vinegar

Wine and Food Pairing
What would you serve as a wine with the following foods and why?

Raw tuna: Sauvignon Blanc, because the crispness will balance out the creaminess of the fish. Also, a Pinot Noir – strong tuna with delicate Pinot will play nicely off each other.

Med-rare steak and potato, no veg: Zinfandel or Shiraz. The proteins in the meat will soften the tannins in the wine, which will bring forward the fruit.

Butterscotch Sunday: Ice Wine, Vidal, Vin Santo, Tokaji – wine should be sweeter than the dessert.

Cold cucumber soup: Champagne or sparkling wine, Sauvignon Blanc, bone-dry Riesling.

Wine Tasting
1. Latitude 41 Sauvignon Blanc 2008 CSPC 164244 $18.95 (stainless steel)
Sight: Pale yellow
Aromas: Citrus, green apple, melon, apricot, pear, pineapple, mineral, cat pee
Weight: Light to medium bodied
Acidity: Medium to high
Taste: Citrus, green apple, melon, grapefruit, lime, mineral, flinty, wet stone, pear
Finish: Short to medium
Suggested Food Pairing: Marinated pimento salad (see current Food & Drink magazine)

2. Ste Michelle Chardonnay 2008 CSPC 232439 $17.95 (American oak – hence the butter, vanilla and caramel in the aromas)
Sight: Pale to medium yellow
Aromas: Smoke, butter, vanilla, burnt caramel, slightly nutty, peanut brittle, toast, overripe banana, floral, mango
Weight: Medium
Acidity: Light to medium
Taste: Butter, peach, banana (overripe), tropical fruit, pineapple, citrus in the background, banana bread with walnuts, slight toastiness
Finish: Medium to long
Suggested Food Pairing: Chipotle pork and pineapple kabobs (Food & Drink)
Thoughts: Really nice, good for this time of year.

3. Indian Summer Riesling 2006 CSPC 415901 $24.95 (Aged in French oak)
Rieslings and Vidals are similar, however the Riesling's ageing potential is much higher. Dessert wines made with Riesling have high sugar levels but still retain acidity. The longer it's on the vine, the more you loose and the sweeter it gets, which unfortunately, animals love, so you have to be really careful.
Sight: Medium to dark yellow
Aromas: Pool vinyl, paraffin wax, beeswax, poached roasted pear, apple sauce with a bit of cinnamon, floral aspects, honey
Weight: Medium
Acidity: Light to medium with some residual sugar
Taste: Honey, crème brûlée, cooked apple, cooked pear, hint of orange or tangerine, citrusy, lemon edge
Finish: Medium to long
Suggested Food Pairing: Honeyed apricots, fruit salad, crème brûlée
Thoughts: Really nice wine, also has good ageing potential

4. J Lohr Merlot 2007 CSPC 27516 $19.95
Sight: Dark red with brick and purple hue
Aromas: Eucalyptus, hint of mint, a bit of rose petal, cherry, plums, smoke, hint of chocolate, earthiness, raspberries, dried raisins, blueberry
Weight: Medium bodied
Tannin: Light to medium with a nice acidity – would cut nicely through the oiliness of duck
Taste: Cherries, spice, tobacco, dark chocolate, raisin, plum, cassis, dates, prunes, blackberry
Finish: Short to medium
Suggested Food Pairing: Very versatile. Could drink on it's own or with a grilled duck breast with elderberry.
Thoughts: Very nice wine. I have a new appreciation for Merlot's.
Duckhorn Vineyards has an amazing Merlot for $70 if you can be so lucky enough to get your hands on it!

5. Leaping Lizard Zinfandel 2008 CSPC 161497 $18.95
Grenache, Petit Syrah and Shiraz are often mixed with Zinfandels to add to it's ageing potential. Otherwise, they aren't usually meant for long-time cellaring. Zins are nice and light and winemakers try not to over-oak them.
Sight: Medium to dark red with brick hue
Aromas: Cherry, smokey, sweet spice (cinnamon, clove), blueberries, raspberries, plums, mineral, slate, jam, violet
Weight: Medium
Tannin: Light to medium with lots of acidity
Taste: Stewed fruit, pepper, dark chocolate, cherries, spicy
Finish: Short to medium
Suggested Food Pairing: Be careful with spicy foods, Zins are often high in alcohol and paired with spice brings it out even more. Jerk chicken burgers.

6. Sheeps Back Old Vines Shiraz 2003 CSPC 165902 $19.95
Sight: Dark red with brick hue
Aromas: Raisin, cassis, Christmas rum cake, sweet tobacco leaf, cigar box, cured smoked meat (common with wines starting to age), lavender
Weight: Light to medium
Tannin: Light to medium with lots of acidity
Taste: Molasses, sour cherry, chocolate, prunes, cranberries, red licorice
Finish: Short to medium
Suggested Food Pairing: Blue cheese, cigar, slow bbq Szechuan beef roast
Thoughts: Really nice, kind of like a port because of it's age.

7. Tedeschi Amarone 2006 CSPC 433417 $39.95
Sight: Dark red with brick hue
Aromas: Sour cherry, spice, chocolate, leather, earthy, cloves, pepper, barnyard, herbaceous, dried raisin, fig, plum
Weight: Medium to full bodied
Tannin: Medium
Taste: Jamy, black and sour cherry, dark chocolate, clove, dried fruit (potpourri), dried raisin, fig, date, spicy, cranberry, black licorice
Finish: Medium to long
Suggested Food Pairing: This wine is so big that it prefers something lighter. Cured meats, bruschetta, grilled provolone and garlic toast.
Thoughts: I loved it. Obviously.

8. Quinta Do Tedo Tawny Port CSPC 170233 $15.95
Sight: Light to medium red with amber hue to it. Watery edge, almost like a sunset.
Aromas: Nutty, butterscotch, oranges, alcohol, burnt sugar, cherry, hazelnut, vanilla, caramel, pumpkin pie, candied fruits, figs, dates, dried raisins, chocolate, black forest cake
Weight: Medium to full bodied
Tannin: Light to medium with some residual sugar
Taste: Caramel, hazelnuts, cashews
Notes about Port: With a port, you should drink it all within two weeks. After that you can use it for cooking. Store in the fridge after you've opened the bottle. When you see 20 year port or 30 year port on the bottle, that's not it's age, they average it out after blending. When you finish your bottle, use the sediment at the bottom to spread on toast.
Tawny: aged in wood barrel, brick colour and nuttiness, exposed to air will have some oxidation – to a certain degree.
LBV: late bottle vintage, spent some time in a barrel, is blended and won't age.
Ruby: good for cooking, blended, not aged very long if at all, cheaper version of port.
Vintage: most expensive and good to keep for a long time – ages in the bottle sometimes even up to 30 or 40 years, only made when it's a declared year (best growing season).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Taylor's Genuine Food & Wine Bar

Last night we decided to try Genuine, John Taylor’s new restaurant. I was so excited to be going to a restaurant I hadn’t reviewed yet that I forgot my camera. So unfortunately you’re just going to have to paint the mental picture in your head. Which probably isn’t such a bad thing.

I’ve been looking forward to the opening of this restaurant. And judging by the filled up little space on a Wednesday night, many other people have been too. I even ran into someone who said that last night was their 3rd visit. Not bad for a spot that’s been open less than one month.

My first impression was that of comfort, here for a good time with friends. At a first glance, the mains on the menu didn’t get me as excited as I thought they would. But once the food came it was a different story. The descriptions do not oversell the actual experience, which made me very happy.

A delicious list of charcuterie presented itself upon our arrival – the perfect sharing option for a group of 4. Although the quantity that was served was slightly less than expected, the quality was 100%. Flavourful, traditional Berkshire pork terrine, slivers of salty Ontario grass fed beef bresaola and double smoked Ontario Berkshire flat pancetta were the chosen meats. In the cheese department, strong and super tasty Cape Vessy organic goat’s milk from 5th Town Cheese, Pine River 7 year old cheddar and Lancaster 2 year old gouda, all local and all amazing. Our bottle of Ca’del Solo, a Sangiovese from the Bonny Doon vineyard, was the perfect pairing. I planned to go Ontario the entire time, they have a nice selection of Prince Edward County and Niagara wines. But when I set my eyes on this Californian red, I couldn’t pass it up.

We were all delighted with our mains. My husband and our friend Paul both had the hanger steak, pan seared and soy marinated, market vegetables, carrot purée and Le Coprin mushrooms. I think rare was the way to go on that piece of meat. I tried a bite of my husband's and it was so juicy. Sue had the pan roasted quail, also a winner (I tried a bite), served with citrus thyme Israeli couscous, seasonal vegetables and smoked tomato chutney. I've never had Israeli couscous but it was super fun! Like pellets with an orzo texture. And even with all these wonderful dishes in front of me, I still feel I made the best choice. Mouthwatering Lake Ontario pickerel with yummy Chorizo polenta cakes in the shape of mini muffins, wilted earthy greens and fresh market vegetables.

For a restaurant that hasn't been open very long, I think they're doing a great job. In a year from now they will surely be a staple in the neighbourhood. Who knows, maybe some others will follow suit and build up the restaurant scene at that end of Bank. Service was good and prices reasonable. The small charcuterie plate (4 items) is $20, medium (6 items) is $30 and the large (8 items) is $40. Apps range from $7 to $12 and mains from $20 to $25.

Taylor's Genuine Food & Wine Bar

Taylor's Genuine Food & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 19, 2010

Spicy Halibut and Green Beans

Tonight's dinner took halibut to a whole new level. A mixture of 2 roasted red peppers, 1 clove of garlic, 1 chipotle pepper and some olive oil blended to perfection magically brought this plate to life. My husband brushed the halibut with olive oil before cooking it on the grill, and then topped it with the deliciously smokey, spicy sauce.

The arugula that formed the bed holding the fish came straight from our garden, as did the fresh green beans. So simple, yet so delectable. A perfect summer dish.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Chicken Burgers with Mango Salsa and Lime and Chili Corn on the Cob

A shot of my burger before I put it together.

Moist chicken thighs sprinkled with chili powder and barbecued to perfection. Then topped beautifully with a fresh lettuce leaf, mango salsa and mayo. This is true summer on a plate.

The mango salsa is a mixture of cucumber, mango, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno pepper, olive oil, lime, lemon juice and salt. The corn, cooked straight on the grill, is lightly coated in butter, lime juice, chili powder and sugar.

I love light, citrus flavours in the summer. They make everything so good!

Chimichurri Lamb Chops with Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans

The smell coming out of the bbq last night was extremely tough to ignore. My mouth watered as I imagined how my meal would taste. I don't think even the best daydream could match up to how the real thing turned out. Chimichurri lamb chops, so amazingly delicious. And every bite so tender, the fatty bits just melting in your mouth and adding bursts of flavour to the already delectable meat.

Then, by their side, perfectly cooked small potatoes sharing their space with soft yummy shallots and fresh green beans. My husband really knows how to make dinner so freakin' special! I love it!

Roast the potatoes with shallots on the bbq in tinfoil. Grill the chops on high heat for 3 to 4 minutes a side, then brush with the Chimichurri sauce. The heat of the meat releases the flavour of the sauce.

For the Chimichurri sauce:
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped parsley
2tbs fresh oregano
2 crushed garlic cloves
a few shakes of red pepper flakes
add salt to taste

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Saltlik Steakhouse – Banff

I just got home from spending 4 nights in Banff. A massive group of us were out there for a wedding. Because there were so many things going on and so many people to round up, going out for a nice dinner wasn't really an option. But on our last night there, when all the festivities were done and many people had gone home, we planned a nice dinner out.

We finally decided on Saltlik. It's a pretty big restaurant with giant windows at the front, letting all the natural light in. We made our way up to the second floor and were seated at the back next to a nice fireplace (perfect for the winter months), but even unlit offered a warming feeling.

Their menu offered many steak options (obviously), but also ribs, chicken and fish. I was extremely pleased with my choice of appetizer. My husband and I shared the Duck Tacos – velvety braised duck so moist and tender, Asian bbq sauce, basil and cilantro cream served in light and crispy wonton tacos and topped with fresh micro greens. I seriously could have ordered just that for myself as a main and been completely content. We were definitely off to a fabulous start!

For my main I went with the Petit Filet with a classic Béarnaise sauce, perfectly tangy and not overpowering at all. My meat was cooked exactly the way I ordered it, rare – bright red throughout.

There were many sides to choose from to go with the meat, that decision was probably the toughest. Since they recommend sharing (the portions of the sides are pretty huge and are bought separately from the meat), my husband and I chose ours together and went with the meaty Skillet Fried Mushrooms and Scallop Potatoes smothered in melted cheese and sprinkled with chives. Both were absolutely fantastic. Other options included Snow Crab Legs, Garlic Buttered Broccoli, Grilled Asparagus, Skinny Fries and more.

The service was great, the atmosphere perfect and best of all, they were able to accomodate our group of 10. Slightly overpriced, with apps ranging from $9 to $15, mains from $18 to $39 and sides from $5 to $13, but somewhat expected given the massive tourist count.

Saltlik Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 12, 2010

Wine Tasting Class #8 and #9

I missed class number 8. From what I found out, it was a pretty interesting class. They went through the aromas associated with a Chardonnay (I was able to borrow the aroma kit to practice with at home this week), and then did a tasting comparing Macon, France, Chablis, France and Southern Australia Chardonnays.

They also did a cool and warm climate comparison.

Cab Merlot
Dan Aykroyd from Ontario VS Greg Norman from Australia

Peninsula Ridge from Ontario VS Clarence Hill from Australia

Class #9 was equally exciting, focusing again on new aromas and tasting different grape varieties.

Our first assignment, in groups of 7, was to identify various alcohols based only on smell. We were given a list of options to choose from and we had to identify each glass with the proper one.
1. Canadian Club Whiskey
2. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum
3. Gin
4. Riesling
5. Amaretto
6. Ripassa
7. Scotch (portwood)
8. Bourbon
9. Cassis Liqueur

For the most part they were pretty easy to get. Except numbers 1, 2, 7 and 8. I'm not big on the ambers. And I don't know much, if anything, about whiskeys and scotches. But it was fun to get passed the “alcohol” scent, and focus on the smooth, delicate, vanilla ice-creamish scent of Canadian Club, the blend of toffee and medicinal aromas of the scotch, and yummy vanilla and toffee aromas that bourbon offers.

Before I go into the tasting portion, here are some notes I copied from the board:
Aldehydes: Class of chemical compounds. They are formed at any time when an alcoholic beverage is exposed to oxygen. They help with the aromas and flavours of perfume, flowers and vanilla.
Esters: Natural aromatics from plants accentuated by ageing.
In Wine: Compound formed by reactions of acids with alcohols.
Two Forms
1) Fermentation esters found in aroma of young wine (fresh fruit).
2) And chemical esters formed during ageing.
Explaining the change of “aromas” and formation of “bouquet” when ageing wine.

Wine Tasting
1. Zagara Moscato D'Asti CSPC 168195 $15.95
Sight: Pale yellow
Aromas: Citrus, golden delicious apples, peach, perfume, blossoms, pear, honey, apricot, lilac
Weight: Light bodied and slightly effervescent
Acid: Light to medium with residual sugar
Taste: Honey, peaches, pear, ripe pineapple, apricot, citrus, orange, honeydew melon
Finish: Short to medium
Suggested Food Pairing: Versatile and would go with many different foods. Goes nice with apps made with goat cheese, salads with balsamic and fruitiness.
Thoughts: Great summer drink. Because it's sweet, server colder than usual.

Because this wine was slightly effervescent, we talked a bit about sparkling wines and champagnes. The smaller the bubbles and the more it fizzes, the higher the quality of the champagne. Large bubbles means it's not as good. A trick that some use when serving wine to make the bubbles last longer in a wine that may not meet expectation is to etch the bottom of the glass with a knife or something.

What makes real champagne so special?
- The “Champagne” method in which they produce it is longer and more expensive.
- Age of the vines.
- Reputation of the house it's produced in.
- Soil in Champagne is very different.
- Secret guilty pleasure pairing that brings out the flavours of Veuve Clicquot – Ruffles rippled plain potato chips.

2. McManis Viognier CSPC 658112 2008 $19.95
Sight: Pale to medium yellow
Aromas: Buttery, citrus, smoke, green apple, pears
Weight: Light to medium (more medium)
Acid: Light to medium (more medium)
Taste: Citrus, floral, pears, apricot, chalky, lime, apple, mineral
Finish: Short to medium
Suggested Food Pairing:
Roast chicken, pasta with cream sauce.
Thoughts: Ok, not that great. Wouldn't buy this one necessarily. Partially oaked – nice as a substitute to Chardonnay.

3. Ardal Crianza Tempranillo and Cab CSPC 167601 2005 $17.95
Sight: Dark red with brick hue
Aromas: Old world smell, leather, tobacco, spicy, cigar, red fruit, underbrush, dark cherry, oak, vanilla, plum, earthy
Weight: Medium bodied
Tannin: Light to medium tannin (slightly bitter), complex, multi-layered
Taste: Oak, smoke, sour cherry, pepper, cranberries, earthiness, dark bitter chocolate
Finish: Short to medium
Suggested Food Pairing: Pair with dark chocolate, heavy cheese, game meats, pastas with rich meat sauce
Thoughts: Really nice wine. Store 3-5 years. Will smooth out with age. There's a lot of really good, affordable wine in Spain.

4. Château de Nage Joseph Torres Syrah CSPC 736876 2006 $21.95
Sight: Dark red with purple hue
Aromas: Pepper, smoky, bacon, leather, cigar box, mint
Weight: Medium
Tannin: Medium to high
Taste: Tobacco, plum, pepper, tar, leather, black liquorice, alcohol, dark cherry, mint, smoke
Finish: Medium
Suggested Food Pairing: Needs steak
Thoughts: Wouldn't be my first choice to buy but I would definitely drink it if served with some food.

5. Casa Catelli Primitivo Puglia CSPC 174151 2004 $13.95
Sight: Medium to dark red with brick hue
Aromas: Red fruit, oats, spice, plum, coffee, honey, orange pekoe tea
Weight: Light to medium
Tannin: Light
Taste: Spice, ripe red fruits, sweet tobacco, jammy, gamey, cloves
Finish: Short to medium
Thoughts: Really nice. I liked it a lot. Good subsitute for Amarone.
In the winter time at the LCBO you can get sweet primitivos that are really high in alcohol content and really nice.

6. Rainwater Madeira CSPC 943258 $17.95
Sight: Medium amber with tint of orange
Aromas: Frangelico, honey, burnt sugar, toffee, cashew, hazelnut, butterscotch, crème caramel, nutty, orange
Weight: Light to medium
Tannin: Light, medium alcohol
Taste: Nutty, candied nuts, honey coated pecan, peanut brittle
Finish: Short
Suggested Food Pairing: Serve with coffee (on the side), pecan pie with butterscotch ice cream.
Thoughts: I want to run to the store right now and buy this. My husband likes Frangelico, I like port. I think this would be a good middle-ground. You can keep for 2 weeks in the fridge. Then use for cooking – fantastic in sauces. Combine Cognac, butter and Madeira on stovetop then drizzle over steak.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Maple Mustard Barbecued Salmon with Microgreens

A while back Marysol brought me some fresh microgreens from Bryson Farms. The next weekend I was visiting my friend Zoya in Mont Tremblant and brought some of them to share with her. As I handed them over, I raved about how delicious they were. So I wasn't totally surprised when, at my birthday last month, she brought me a pot, some dirt and microgreen seeds. A rainbow blend of Beet Detroit Red, Cabbage Pak Choi, Kohlrabi Purple, Broccoli DeCiccio and Radish China Rose.

I only planted them about 2 weeks ago but man they grow fast! And tonight we got to enjoy them on a mouthwatering maple mustard salmon. My husband barbecued the fish and to it, added a mixture of maple mustard and dijon, and then sprinkled some thyme before removing it from the grill. The skin holding it all together was like candy, a perfectly blackened crisp bottom layer. The salad on the side was filled with a mixture of lettuce from our garden, some barbecued peppers and drizzles of the mustard concoction, olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I Love Lobster Rolls

I was out east for 4 days this past week. And of those 4 days, I had lobster 3. Either on it's own or in a roll. How can I not when it's just so easy to get!?

This lovely roll above, served in your traditional fresh white bun, and made with lovely chunks of Atlantic lobster was bought during a quick pit stop at – you guessed it – McDonald's! probably the only time you'll ever see me post on these guys (proudly anyway).

The ability to get a lobster roll this easily during the summer is something I miss quite a bit. And at 5.99, you definitely can't go wrong.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

In Memory of Seb: The Biggest Food Lover Ever

I pulled away from posting this past week. I needed a little break after having lost my best friend and the biggest food lover I know. Yes, even more than myself.

I could talk for days and days about Seb. This magnificent creature came into my life 9 years ago when he was 5. Sadly, at his ripe old age of 14, Seb passed away peacefully in our arms last Monday.

I could always count on him to clean up my spilled messes, eat the leftovers I possibly couldn't, and listen to me moan when I had over eaten. I did my best not to feed him table scraps, but that look in his eyes just melted my heart. He knew that eventually I would cave in. And I often did. He was by my side always, and wore his heart on his sleeve – nothing to hide. And he appreciated every second life gave him – I figure that's why he held on so long.

I want to thank all our dinner guests for accepting Seb and offering him pets as he drooled on your plate, gave you that sad stare or quickly stole some of your food when you turned your head. This thank you is also extended to those who let us into your home and accepted the same

Seb was a very active dog with a huge appetite, and an even bigger heart. It's been and will continue to be lonely without you bud! But we know you'll be there, sitting patiently by the table every time we sit down to eat. I may even accidentally drop some food on the floor – so keep your eyes open for it!

If I had ever been brought to this earth as a dog, I would have been Seb. Love for food was the biggest thing we had in common. This post is to share in his memory. He was always sniffing in the background when we were taking food shots. Here are a few.