Tag Archives: Wine

This Week Rocked a Bit. Here’s Why.

19 May

• Summer hours have started at work for me. Each Friday before a long weekend like the one coming up this weekend (Victoria Day in Canada), my company is closed. I’ve been looking forward to this first extra long weekend for months, and it has been nothing short of uplifting getting through these last few days knowing that it’s a short work week.

• The BF has spent an intense month finishing up his final semester at school. He’s taken time off from his full-time job so that he could complete his term papers and study for his final exams. On Tuesday, he got a call from work letting him know that though he was scheduled to go back to work today, they wouldn’t need him for the rest of the week. This means that we  are able to leave for our road trip to Prince Edward County tomorrow morning, a full day and a half earlier than planned. This is also going to be our very first true long weekend together in two and a half years. His current job has him working Saturdays, so we haven’t even enjoyed a full weekend with each other in that length of time either.

• The BF wrote his final college exam yesterday, and is much closer to being a licensed optician. Amidst all the chaos of the last couple of weeks, this company to which he had submitted his résumé two and a half years ago called him for a job interview. And then, just hours after he wrote his exam yesterday, that company called to offer him the position. Timing could not have been more strange. While he is still on this road to completing the program and requirements to fulfill a new career path, he now has an amazing opportunity to work for a company that will utilize all his skill sets and education in both the IT and Optical fields.

• And the big fat cherry on top of my all good news week? Today, I received an email from Pawsh Magazine letting me know that Jelly is being featured as its Pet of the Week! How fun is that? We’re trying to not let it get to her head too much that she has become a bit of a celebrity.


Going Back to the County

12 Apr

It didn’t take us long to fall in love with Ontario’s Prince Edward County while on our first ever visit there last August. How could we not, with the insouciant way of life, their community of farmers, butchers, market-gardeners, and chefs who live by the slow food movement, and of course their emerging wine culture.

I will even dare to say that the County charmed us because it is not Niagara, which for the most part, defines Ontario wine country. The County has a more grassroots culture, which grew out of passion for the craft of wine making and the craft of food, whereas Niagara seemed quite a bit too commercial. As if the region were a huge amusement park and the wineries were its souvenir shops. It was crowded and busy with locals and tourists. Not to say that this was an entirely bad thing — I suppose that Ontario has fought long and hard to be put on the map for its wine, and the success that we have achieved as a result of the wines of Niagara is something that we should really be proud of. For now, I suppose that much of Prince Edward County’s simple and unpretentious nature is owed to the fact that it still is emerging, and is way lesser-known than the renowned Niagara region. My hope is that the County will fight to maintain its charm and that it will always be evident there that passion runs very deep, despite whatever success they achieve.

It’s for these reasons that we booked another little getaway to the County, for our May long weekend. Again, we will be staying at a B&B, and the best part of all is that I managed to stumble upon one that is pet-friendly, so Jelly will be coming along on our tiny getaway. We’re excited that we are going back, and as this is our second visit, we’ll be able to better map out where we will be indulging and savoring local fares, and maybe discover some more gems along the way.

I Left my Heart in the County

3 Aug

It’s an undiscovered gem just two hours east of Toronto. Prince Edward County, or “the County” as locals refer to it, is a playground for foodies and wine enthusiasts. The local food movement here is big, but not in a proclaim it loud and clear manner nor a “we do it because it’s what’s trendy” way. You get the feeling that the local food movement existed here before there was a Local Food Movement. This philosophy is backed here by the passion of the chefs, and menus of the area restaurants boast carefully crafted menus featuring fresh and locally sourced, hand-picked daily fresh ingredients, paired alongside selected wines of the region. It’s a phenomenal culture built up around the region’s culinary treats, celebrating whatever nature offers us that day and that season.

The County is also emerging as Canada’s newest wine region, and as well is renowned for its artisan cheesemakers, crafting cheeses with fresh, locally produced milk. One of our stops was at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co., an artisanal goat and sheep cheese shop that is not only completely committed to local sources, but also dedicated to environmental sustainability in its operation. Many of the wineries are characterised by the charm that makes PEC so special, and remain small and intimate. By visiting some of the wineries for tastings, we were able to meet some of the winemakers and chat with them while they poured our tasting samples for us. Ask any one of them how they started their journey as a winemaker, and you can hear the passion for their craft and their wines as they begin to tell you their stories.

This weekend, we did a tiny little tour of the region, and managed to steal nibbles and taste much of what the region has to offer. From the wine, the cheese, the food – even the hot dogs – it was pure gastronomic joy. Add to that the fresh air, the miles and miles of farmland basking in perfect sunlight and the lake nearly always within reach. It was a gorgeous weekend.

I can’t wait to go back. The next time will involve a longer visit, which will allow us to linger and savor the region in the way that it deserves, rather than squeezing every little bit into our short little jaunt and whirlwind tour.

Here are some highlights in pictures:

Buddha Dog is an organic hot dog restaurant that features locally sourced meat for its weiners. It's the Slow Food Movement's answer to fast food. Each dog comes specially prepared with your choice of hand-crafted sauces made of local ingredients, and locally-sourced cheese.

Our whirlwind tour included the sights and flavours of such wineries as Waupoos Estates Winery and Sandbanks Estate Winery. We're noticing a growing trend among Ontario wine labels, which are gradually departing from the traditional to more modern and youthful designs.

We are still seeing the modern winemakers holding onto more traditional and beautiful structures such as these barns.

A Getaway to Niagara Wine Country

30 May

While I’m the type of person who craves routine — it makes me feel organized and in control — I’ve lately become a victim of it. I’ve gotten so caught up with my schedule and sticking to it that I haven’t allowed much room for anything that deviates from my required tasks, errands and weekly duties. To say that I’ve been on auto-pilot for the last little while is a bit of an understatement. I just keep moving with little thought just to do what needs to get done. The month of May ends tomorrow, and I feel as if I haven’t done as much as I could have to enjoy the brilliant early summer we’ve been experiencing. I also feel like it’s been a detriment to my relationships, especially that which is most important to me, the one with The BF. Our time together lately has been filled with just doing what is necessary. We’ve spent very little time actually enjoying our time with each other.

Our little getaway last weekend reminded me how important it is to take that time to do just that. To escape from routine, to clear the mind of those nagging little tasks, to do something out of your ordinary. Something that I need to face and reconcile within myself is that there will always be those nagging tasks, that there will always be laundry, dishes, and tidying to be done. That work and my job is also a daily thing. As much as I get done on a daily and weekly basis, it’s a perpetual list of matters that will need to be tended to and the fact that it is perpetual and neverending need not overwhelm or frustrate me. A break from routine, once in a while, is as necessary as making sure we’ve got clean clothes to wear.

We made a trip out to Niagara-on-the-Lake last weekend, taking advantage of our long Victoria Day weekend. And what a weekend it was! We had nothing but blue skies, sun and warm temperatures. We toured and visited a good number of the wineries around the region, sampled some better than expected reds, whites, and internationally-acclaimed Ice Wines. We could not resist and brought back a modest bounty of wines to enjoy at home.

It was a perfect weekend.

Inniskillin Winery was our first stop

A closer look at the Inniskillin vineyard. The grapes were still very young.

The Inniskillin vines. In the distance, you can see the bridge to the U.S.

Next was Konzelmann Estate Winery. You might recognize this from their label.

In the Reif Estate basement during the tour.

The Reif Estate Winery Sensory Garden with four sections that feature plantings like coriander, honeysuckle, mint, lemon verbena, rosemary and others to provide an experience for your senses.

These plantings are representative of the flavors, colors and aromas used to produce Niagara wines.

The Reif Estate Winery vines

Peller Estates was grand and and the grounds were quite beautiful. This was taken on their back patio.

We had dinner in town in the Shaw Festival Theatre district, on Queen Street. The brilliant sunshine and blue skies carried on into the evening.

Some Random Bits

26 May

The last few days have been GLORIOUS! I suppose that this early summer in Ontario is making up for the lack of one last year. The heat is getting intense, and the sun has been brilliant. It’s exactly as I like it. Things are also getting sorted at work, or in the least, my insane project cluster has been unclustering. We spent a gorgeous weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Pictures will be posted soon – at my very first opportunity – and I’ll be sure to be sipping from a glass of white from our own Niagara wine country at the same time. I also had some happy news delivered to me with some home made Korean Kalbi last night at my dragon boat practice. Life is looking good.

Happy Weekend

22 May

Photo by Magalie L’Abbé via flickr.com

I’ve been pretty absent from life these last couple of weeks, and I want to take a few moments now to say that I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a long weekend this much in my life. We’ll be heading out to Niagara-on-the-Lake for some touring and wining and B & B-ing. We have a bit of a loose itinerary, which kind of concerns a person such as me, but I’m hoping that this will lend to an entirely relaxed weekend. Sweet escape!

Enjoy your weekend!

A Civilized Weekend of Cocktails and Brunch

21 Feb

This weekend was a busy one, and as usual, went by too quickly. I’m settling into Sunday night mode now, because I’ve got a busy week ahead of me at work.

Last night, I had the 2nd of my Christmas gift classes at the LCBO, Designer Cocktails. This time, I convinced the BF to join me for the class. It was pretty fun – we learned a few tips on entertaining with cocktails, all the while being schooled on how simple the art of bartending really is. We learned how to prepare 6 cocktails, got a sample of each for tasting, and were given a recipe book to take home.

Our favourite drink of the tutored tasting was called the Firefly. It tasted like cinnamon hearts, and I promise that it’s not as offensive as it may sound.

1 oz Fireball Whisky
1/2 oz Vanilla Schnapps
3 oz Pineapple Juice

Shake in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, strain into a glass and garnish with a strawberry.

Today, we threw a brunch baby shower for our friend Lovely Bump at the Boiler House in the Distillery District. We had a great time over-indulging in breakfast, lunch and dessert courses, and catching up with a few ladies whom we haven’t seen in a long time. And Lovely Bump, if you are reading this, I didn’t mean to make you cry, because that in turn made me cry, and now there are pictures of us with everyone pointing and laughing at our crying faces. I hope that you enjoyed the Toronto version of your Shower.

I’m an idiot and forgot my camera at home.

I’m sipping on some Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery Reisling (thanks stephsolchai), and the Canada–U.S.A. hockey game is on right now. How appropriate. Though, I think it’s so totally inappropriate that Canada is currently down by 1 goal. Shape up, please.

Have a good week, friends.

It’s not cheap wine when no one is looking

17 Feb

Those who know me, know that I loves me some wine. I would never claim or pretend to be some kind of expert or sommelier who knows what she’s talking about – I just love drinking it, and I enjoy the simple act of just pouring myself a glass of wine at home. This is why I love it when I find a great value wine. We all know about the Fuzions of the wine world that have made their way onto the liquor store shelves. These wines aren’t horrible – they are very drinkable – but you wouldn’t bring any of them to the next dinner party that you are invited to. At $7.45, it’s very budget-friendly for an at-home sipping wine. Not too shabby at all, because at home, I don’t really care about any stigma attached to cheap value wine. It’s more about having something to have on hand which I can enjoy without feeling like I am drinking malt vinegar from a stemmed glass. Oh, I’m so civilized.

On Saturday before heading out to Blue Mountain, we stopped at the LCBO for a quick grab of some wine for the weekend. I went straight for the Australia section because that’s probably one of the friendliest sections in which to make a fast selection, and I found the Lindeman’s Cawarra Shiraz Cabernet that had a Limited Time Offer on it for $9.95. Sold!

Not surprising at all, but it was really good. Juicy – kind of plummy, with some cherry and a bit of spice to round things out. Not too full, so totally drinkable on its own, which is what we happily did. And the fact that it was sub $10? Magic.

My Blue Weekend

15 Feb

Rumour has it that this was a pretty busy weekend, what with the 2010 Olympics opening, NBA All-Stars, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day and Family Day all happening simultaneously. I’m not sure what the significance of the latter is yet, just that it gives us a long weekend in the middle of our dismal winter. It was a jam-packed weekend for me, and I’m now back at home dreading facing another work week, but feeling pretty relaxed and ready for it. Not only did the extra day help, but filling all the days of my weekend with fun made it a good break.

First, I spent a very lovely Saturday spa-ing with 2 of my favourite girls in Port Credit. In the 20 minutes before our appointment, we discovered a boulangerie across the street at which we inhaled our lunches. Not very civilized or lady-like at all, but we were dangerously close to violating spa etiquette by showing up late for our appointments. My facial at this spa turned out to be the most relaxing facial experience I’ve ever had. It was an Aveda-concept spa, so I was slathered, rubbed, massaged with creams, scrubs and essential oils. No hot steam suffocating me, and best of all – none of those excruciating extractions. After we were done, we went back to the boulangerie across the street so that we  could get some more of those macaroons that Steph S C-O was kind enough to share with us before, and indulge more at home.

On Saturday night, BF and I were off to Blue Mountain. We were invited to spend the weekend up there with some of my Dragon Boat team mates in a condo that a couple of them had won in a silent auction at work. I have not been to Blue in 2 years, and I can’t get over how much it’s changed. The village has grown so much. It’s too bad that the “mountain” isn’t as big as the village, though. Some highlights of our weekend at Blue:

This was our view from our condo, smack dab in the middle of the village at Blue.

We were staying with a bunch of foodies, so we were treated to some delicious home-cooked meals like this Eggs Benedict breakfast on Sunday morning.

On Sunday, we had booked a caving excursion. Caving! No, not a tour of the Scenic Caves – it was a guided (beginner’s) expedition in a couple of the dark, underground caves in the area. None of us knew what to expect, and what started off as something that was completely intimidating and terrifying ended up being a really unique and cool experience that I would recommend to everyone, and even try again.

We hiked on snowshoes with our guides to the caves.

There was a lot of climbing, crawling, contorting, shimmying and squeezing to get into the dark recesses of these caves.

We were rewarded with hot apple cider by our guides after we had completed our exploration of 2 caves.

We met the sweetest dog ever, who stayed with us the entire time. Her name is Mojo and she belonged to one of our guides

I’d brought my snowboard up with me with every intention of going, seeing as I didn’t go at all last year because of all the craziness around the purchase of our house, and as well because we had somehow ended up with my brother’s and his friend’s pass, meaning we basically had free lift tickets for night boarding. However, in typical Me fashion, I had a couple of beers and glasses of wine after caving on Sunday, ended up getting drunk and then dead-tired after dinner. By 8:00, I was napping in bed while BF took advantage of the pass and got a couple of good runs in.

I’m so old and lame, and naturally, looking forward to the next long weekend.

Wine + Cheese = I’m so fancy

11 Feb

As part of my Christmas gift, my BF had registered me for 2 classes at the LCBO, the first of which – Wine and Cheese Pairing – was tonight. It was an hour long class, and I got to sample some recommended pairings by the Product Consultant. We were provided with a plate of 6 cheeses, and the 6 paired wines, going through each match individually. I learned some new things, and I got to sample a few great wines that I would never have otherwise tried on my own – mostly because of the price tags. As well, there was 1 product that tasted like a good pricey wine, but we were all surprised to learn that it cost just $14.95.

Some things I learned tonight:

• food + wine pairing is not an exact science. A lot depends on your preference and your palate. If a cheese and a wine taste good together to you, then it works. You don’t need to over think it. For example, we sampled an aged cheddar with a Cab-Sauv/Merlot blend, but some people in the class preferred that cheese with a  Côtes-du-Rhône red, which had been paired with a smoked Gouda.
• when in doubt, much like pairing cuisine with wine, match by region. If you are having a Chianti, a good match may be Parmigiano or Fontina.
• you don’t need a special occasion for bubbly. Champagne or sparkling wine is perfect with rich, creamy cheeses like brie, because the bubbles help break down the richness/fattiness of these cheeses.
• it’s true, Port + blue vein cheeses, like the Stilton I tried tonight, sing when they are paired with each other. However, I still am really crept out by moldy, stinky cheese and am afraid there are funny things growing in my stomach now.

All in all, it’s about experimenting and trying different combinations and seeing what works for you. Learn about your own palate, and have fun discovering matches that work for you.

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