Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts

The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette (Jordan Station)

A day of sipping wine in the Twenty Bench region should end with some sustenance, why not a lovely dinner at The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette? Although Pearl Morissette is a winery, a low supply of wine means all tastings are cancelled “for the foreseeable future”, which means to try their wines you need to visit the restaurant.

One option is to add the wine pairing ($60) to your meal. Having already sampled a fair share already, I opted for two produced by the winery at dinner. To begin, a glass of the 2016 Cuvée Roselana ($11 for 5oz), a vibrant red rosé that’s just as fruity to match, in an aromatic but not sweet manner. Even their 2014 Cuvée Madeline ($10.50 for 3oz), a cabernet franc, had big bursts of cherry notes that when combined with a savoury main calms down and mellows into a lovely finish. Pearl Morissette makes vibrant and easy drinking wines.

The meals are tasting menu only ($85 a person, inclusive of gratuities), which changes daily. Located in the Niagara Escarpment, it’s no surprise the dinner includes a lot of produce, showcasing the bounty from the local environment. The first dish, a braised eggplant, covered with plum slices, fig leaves, and basil is the sexiest eggplant I’ve ever seen (no emoji pun intended). While the eggplant’s flesh looked white, the texture was soft and creamy accentuated with bursts of floral, sweetness, and licorice (a flavour I’m not normally a fan of but somehow works in the dish).

After all the wine tasting, I was ecstatic to see the wedge of crusty sourdough bread, served warm with a side of butter. Pearl Morissette mixes corn meal into the dough so the bread has that sponginess of sourdough but a wonderful sweetness as well.

A palm-sized bean tartlet continues the meal. On the bottom, a creamy and tangy chevre goat cheese topped with diced butter beans that adds a lovely crunch against the thin buttery tart shell. Give me more!

A scallop is lightly warmed and cubed amongst a Doe Hill pepper purée, which is surprisingly flavourful... to the point that it covers the delicate scallop. Learning more about the pepper, it’s described as very sweet. For me there was a slight bitterness mixed with a rich capsicum flavour, which pairs nicely with the sweet corn but less so with the seafood. Personally, I enjoyed the scallops plain with flecks of marigold petals.

While I don’t mind the scallop undercooked, the grilled hand-caught line cod was too rare. The outer edges were fine, flaking away and cooked through, but the thicker section had a slightly gummy texture and fishy essence – it needed another minute on the grill. Maybe if the accompaniments were stronger the fishy taste could be covered, but the tomato juice and razor clam broth were so light that couldn’t mask the undercooked fish. The best part of the dish was the freshly picked tomatoes, simply amazing. Oh, the bounty of Niagara!

While the first half of the meal was light and summery, the following wild mushrooms was a nice progression towards the main. I can see why the lobster mushroom gets its name with the red outer skin and the inside being white. Moreover, it even has a meaty texture and slight seafood essence. Along with black trumpet mushrooms, they are tossed with a bread miso so the dish has an Asian flair with a hint of smokiness.

I urge the chefs to rethink the crumble topping in the mushrooms as it adds a grainy texture to the dish, so it feels like you’re eating sandy fungi. Moreover, the dish would have benefited from a grain (like barley or a parsnip/potato puree) as it was too salty on its own. As a plus, it went wonderfully with the Cabernet Franc, the earthiness tempering the cherry notes of the wine.

Two pieces of roasted rib of beef ended the savoury courses. The Longhorn beef was wonderfully flavourful and delicious. I felt guilty that it was so enjoyable; just moments before the dish arrive I  watching two calves in the field, nuzzling each other and play fighting. Even the vegetables were fantastic: pan fried zucchini that had a lovely caramelized crust on the cut end and just cooked through retaining a crunchy texture; and lightly pickled onions that kept the meaty main bright.

The first dessert acted as a palette cleanser, a rich strawberry sorbet with a tart sweet grass sabayon that’s surprisingly light for something made with egg yolks. It’s a dish with many tastes and textures as sitting on the bottom were salted strawberry pieces dotted with herb oil.  

A goat cheesecake followed for a richer dessert, flavoured with blueberries that were plump and sweet. A side of goat cheese verbena granite added a cool element. 

After the cheesecake, we thought the meal was over - at this point, we were satisfied but not stuffed. Then two freshly baked shortbread arrive, still hot so the butter is melted throughout creating a cookie with crunchy edges but a sinfully soft centre, with peach preserve and spicebush giving it flavour. If it weren’t rich enough, a side of butter is given – great for those who like a salty and sweet combination.

Twenty Bench is such a tranquil environment that you can’t help but be present and in the moment. At Pearl Morissette there’s so much wildlife surrounding the winery: the ducks in the pond kept us entertained – the baby ones diligently swimming and so cute that it’s hard to look away. The elevated dining room with the large windows creates such an airy environment that you almost feel like you’re eating outdoors, with the benefit of central heating and cooling.

The two hours just flew by, I couldn’t believe the meal came to an end. During late August/early September, don’t be afraid of the cannon/gunshot sounds that pierce through the air every few minutes. It’s simply compressed air used to deter birds from eating the ripe grapes. I just don’t know about the effectiveness of the machine, it certainly didn’t scare away the ducks, those little fellows could swim forever. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Jordan Station, Canada
 Address: 3953 Jordan Road

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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#Contest: Spoil a loved one with Days of Wine & Chocolate in #NOTL this February!

Stumped on what to do to celebrate Valentine's? If your loved one enjoys chocoate and wine, taking them on a day/weekend trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake is the perfect gift. Over weekends in February, twenty wineries across the region are pairing their delicious wine with a chocolate delight. Having looked through the listing, a few stuck out in particular:

  • With the cold weather, what could be toastier than a lovely lobster bisque topped with white chocolate shavings and a glass of Chardonnay Reserve from Rancourt?
  • Strewn seems to be serving an entire meal with their merlot paired with a savoury chocolate trio: mushroom with chocolate sauce, cocoa dusted pork, and potato chip dipped in dark chocolate.
  • I love ribs! Pondview's glazing pork back ribs with a chocolate infused BBQ sauce and serving it with a glass of their Bella Terra Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Having attended a similar event in 2017, Sip and Sizzle, it was a great time - eating and drinking the day away at so many wineries.

You can experience a similar tasty day every weekend in February (Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays). Pick up the touring passport for $45 (plus taxes and fees) or a designated driver’s version for $25 (plus taxes and fees) that includes non-alcoholic drinks and you’re entitled to a taste of food and drink at each of the 20 participating wineries, valid all month long.

The Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake want to give a Gastro World reader a chance to experience it themselves. The winner will receive two passes (valued at $90 plus taxes and fees) to use anytime during the event. Please note, transportation and accommodations are not included. Simply enter below.

Entries will be accepted until January 29, 2018 at 12:00 AM. Sometime the following day, I will contact winners through email with further details. Accordingly, please make sure you enter a valid email address in Rafflecopter contest site. Cheers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How To Find Them
 Location: Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada

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Recap of the Taste Canada Awards Gala

Celebrating its 20th year, the Taste Canada Awards gather food lovers and professionals to present silver and gold awards to Canadian culinary writers (both French and English), primarily in the cook book and recipe realm. Held at the Ritz Carlton Toronto, it was a gorgeous venue with twinkling lights hanging from windows and a rare opportunity to see food celebrities and notable Ontario chefs all in one place.

The evening began with a wine and cheese reception where guests could peruse the nominated books and taste lovely savoury cheeses donated by Monforte Dairy and the Forno Cultura Bakery. Niagara College Teaching Winery also provided enough wine to get everyone in the mood for celebrating (and likely calm the nerves of any nominees).

Before the awards gala, nominees made their way down the red carpet holding their book (in the case of printed writers). While some exhibited the nervous “take a quick picture and get out of here” attitude, many took the opportunity to let loose or showcase their gorgeous outfits.

It couldn’t have been an easy decision choosing the victors: there were 33 judges going through 147 submissions to finally narrow it down to 24 gold and silver winners. I was happy to see food bloggers represented as well; especially Chu On This, a blog by Annie Chu that I personally read. For a full list of winners head to their site.

Hosts Noah Cappe (stars in Carnival Eats) and Claire Tansey (who seems to have dabbled in all things food over 20 years) kept the awards distribution going at good pace, while keeping the audience laughing and engaged. A memorable moment happened after Samuel Joubert, whose cookbook Le Coup de Grace won silver in the general cuisine French category. Perhaps Quebecois slang became little lost in translation, but Noah had to point it out … keep it tight!

Luckily, after hearing so much about food, by 8pm we could actually eat! There were plenty of food stations to choose from, most presenting a generously-sized dish.

The chocolate station by Cacao Barry and Chef Jason Bangerter was the most stunning, using chocolates and other confectionaries to replicate a forest floor as a nod to the “terriors” noir and au lait. Like the chocolates I’ve sampled at Langdon Hall, where Bangerter normally presides, they have this rich depth that makes them special - it’s about the ingredient’s natural tastes, not something merely creamy and sweet.

My favourite dishes include:

1) Chef Dan Craig’s foraged mushroom consommé, the beaker apparatus concentrating the broth’s flavour with other ingredients and emitting such a cozy aroma around the station. Simply adorned with an agnolotti stuffed with ricotta and chanterelle mushroom and a surprising garnish of pickled apple, I could have easily devoured a full bowl of the soup.

2) A lovely elk terrine made by Chef Jaret Flannigan of The Wooly Pub. It was meaty and had just the perfect balance of spice without completely covering the elk’s flavours. Topped with bits of crunchy brown butter crumb, sweet roasted tomato jam, pickled onions, and a donair sauce it would have even worked as a burger. I wish saved Chef Jonathan Gushue’s foraged mushrooms with red kuri squash and sweet corn puree to pair it with. The dishes would have complemented each other well and their booths were situated in the same area.

3) While the beef in Chef Trevor Lui’s tataki was a bit chewy, the sesame chimichurri sauce and crispy root chips were spot on. I love the vibrant flavours; similar to the offerings found at Lui’s from Kanpai Snack Bar.

Chef Robert Mills’s smoked salmon macaron with salmon roe jelly was inventive and my first foray into savoury macarons – really something people should dabble into more. The squid ink macaron was lightly sweetened and contrasted against the salty salmon roe and smoked salmon.

While the Singaporean crab and corn fritters presented by Chef Matt Basile could have used more time in the oil, the line forming in front of the table certainly caused pressure to mount. In fact, this was also a problem that plagued Chef Vanessa Yeung whose steamed pork and shrimp dumplings with Asian chili jam was undercooked so had an odd mushy texture. Note to future chefs: if you need to cook food at the gala, choose something that has a very quick cooking time – something sous vide would work well.

There was also Chef Tawfik Shehata’s shrimp ceviche that incorporated full-sized prawns instead of chopped pieces. The ceviche’s tart coolness was a great balance against the other dishes, just not the easiest to eat standing trying to get the ceviche onto the cassava chips with a fork.

Most guests were excited to sample Chef Trevor Ritchie’s Rougie foie gras piped onto a wild rice brioche. There was a Thanksgiving taste to the bite thanks to the cranberry compote added.

Aside from the chocolate forest display, there was also a decadent macadamia, honey, and citrus chocolate bar from Chef Amede Lamerche and culinary students from Contestoga College … what a large piece of smooth chocolate studded with dried fruits and nuts.


Chef Dufflet Rosenberg also brought full-sized pumpkin, carrot, and chocolate Sammy cookies. Imagine soft pillowy cookies sandwiching that rich buttercream Dufflet pastries habitually use. If only I weren’t so full I would have wanted one of each flavour – the pumpkin was delicious.

All the while, we continue to sip on more wines from the Niagara College Teaching Winery. A group of food lovers, writers, and professionals – gathering to break bread (topped with foie gras of course).

Disclaimer: I attended the event on a complimentary basis. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 181 Wellington Street West

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CONTEST: Win a pair of passes to the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo!

The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo ("GFWE") has got to be the largest food and drink event of the season. Occupying the Metro Convention Centre and entering its 23rd year vouches for GFWE's prominence and popularity.

Their extensive list of exhibitors ensures that no one will be hungry or thirsty. Despite the name, in terms of liberations, they offer more than just wine - beer, cider, spirits, and non-alcoholic options are available as well! But, they've also included travel operators and other service providers in case you need a brief non-indulging break.

Thanks to the folks at GFWE, Gastro World is giving away two pairs a tickets (valued at between $40-$80 for the pair) that can be used any day of the show! 

Entries will be accepted until November 11, 2017 at 12:00 AM. Sometime the following day, I will contact winners through email with further details. Accordingly, please make sure you enter a valid email address in Rafflecopter contest site. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
How To Find Them
 Address: Metro Convention Centre, North
                 222 Bremner Blvd

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Pairing Vinho Verde wine with Chinese food

Pairing wine with Chinese food can be difficult … there are just so many flavours, ingredients and textures to content with. At banquet dinners, when we do have wine, it generally consists of an overly sweet white (yuck) and a robust red (delicious, but drowns out the delicate steamed seafood dishes).

Hence, when I was invited to Taste of China to sample bottles of Vinho Verde, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to learn from the experts. A product of Portugal, Vinho Verde refers to the region the wine is produced in. It’s a fragmented area with more than 30,000 growers and due to low yields tend to use cooperative wineries to produce the wine.

Although the region produces red, white or rosé, we samples three whites that evening – it’s mineral properties and light taste is believed to be more versatile in holding up against Asian cuisine.

The Quinta Da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2013 ($10.95 at the LCBO) was the driest and tasted like it’d have the highest alcohol content. With green apple elements, it had the acidicness needed to compliment the tart red vinegar accompanying the deep fried shrimp balls ($15.50).

Veinho Verde wine

The shrimp balls itself arrived piping hot with a light moist centre. It’s essentially the shrimp paste you’d normally find around deep fried crab claws. There was perhaps a bit too much flour used in the appetizer, but you could still taste the shrimp’s flavours.

Taste of China shrimp balls

Moving into the Vintages selection, the Muralhas De Monção Vinho Verde 2014 ($15.95 at the LCBO) had a much smoother finish. Of the three, the hint of spritz within the wine was most prevalent. This sparkling nature historically stemmed from the fermentation process and was actually considered a blemish to the wine. But, it became a characteristic that consumers like about Vinho Verdes so some vintners continue the tradition by adding artificial carbonation into the bottles. 

A vegetable vermicelli with bean sprouts and Chinese mushrooms (not on menu) and green sea bass done 2-ways (seasonally priced, believe was $16.99) was paired with this wine. Both were different dishes but tended to be more neutral against the Muralhas.

The vermicelli was served on a sizzling plate helping it to retain its heat. A layer of onions separated the thin delicate noodles from the plate adding a sweetness to the salty noodles.

The sea bass’s filets were removed and pan fried while the bones deep fried until crisp. The filets were cooked well retaining a meaty tenderness in texture. However, the bones didn’t lend itself to being fried compared to a flounder: they are too thick and there wasn’t enough cartilage on it to add interest.

Taste of china sea bass

Lastly, a bottle of CDV Brazão Colheita Seleccionada Arinto 2013 ($13.75 at the LCBO) that was the sweetest (although compared to other varietals is still relatively dry). For a lighter white, it had a more substantial feel to it, lending itself to being paired with the heaviest dish – stir fried filet mignon ($13). Of all the bottles served, I would consider it the best to drink by itself.

The filet mignon’s tenderness varies: one piece was too difficult to bite through while another gave absolutely no resistance. The sauce was sweet and spicy; enough heat to sting but you won’t be reaching for water. The broccoli lining the plate was fresh and crispy, but unfortunately didn’t pair with the wine, causing it to have a bitter finish.

Taste of china filet mignon

Overall, I welcomed the introduction to a new region of wines I previously had never heard of. Vinhos Verdes are light and fresh with slight fruity and floral aromas without being overpowering. Although I still find it hard to have a one-wine-fits-all pairing with Chinese food, the wine is definitely a contender to many of the deep fried dishes as the wine’s acid helps to balance out the oiliness of the dishes.

Kevin Fox, producer of the show Wine Portfolio, said it best: if you like it, than drink it! Although there are helpful suggestions as to what pairs best, like all food and drink, taste is subjective. Don’t over think things and just try a bunch of wines until you find what suits your taste.

After this event, I came to the realization that Chinese restaurants are missing a huge opportunity – to offer drink pairings with tasting menus. It’s certainly something I’d be interested in trying! After all, there are so many dishes that would work so well with wine … Chinese restaurants, who will take up this challenge?

How To Find Them
 Vinho Verde:
 Taste of China:

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Corks (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 15 York Street (inside Longos)
Type of Meal: Dinner

Unless you live around Maple Leaf Square (or know someone), you probably haven’t heard about Corks. When my friend suggested going there before heading to a show at ACC, I was intrigued – there’s a sit down restaurant inside Longos? Indeed there is! Once you get off the escalators, go left past the cash registers, look for a Starbucks and to the right of that you’ll find Corks.

If you’re looking for an affordable meal, fast food isn’t the only answer. At Corks there are plenty of tables available - just find a seat and someone comes over to you shortly. You will find a variety of pizzas, sandwiches and other shareable eats for $10 or less. They also have daily specials – on Thursday it was half a dozen oysters and a beer for $10.

We opted to share glasses of wine ($7-$12 for a 6 oz glass), a cheese board and two pizzas amongst the four of us. The “Sinfully Soft” cheese board ($10), contained:
  • A creamy and buttery la sauvagine from Quebec;
  • The Devil’s Rock from Thornloe. It was creamy with the sharp tang that’s synonymous with blue cheese;
  • A lovely Saint-Andre triple cream cow’s milk cheese from France; and  
  • On the side a plate containing plenty of crostini, sweet fig compote, dried apricots and almonds.

The 10” stone oven pizzas ($8) won’t beat the ones you’ll find at Mangia and Bevi, but are still tasty and filling. The meat lover’s had big chunks of pepperoni, Italian sausage, bacon and chicken breast. With plenty of cheese, I was glad it wasn’t overly oily despite the sheer amount of meat.

The pesto primavera pizza ($8) was more up my alley with mushrooms, tons of artichokes and blanched rapini mixed with cheese and a flavourful pesto paste. The crust is a fair thinness, chewy and a toasted well on top but could use a bit more time on the bottom.

Service is friendly and efficient at Corks. As the food arrives, we were offered a variety of toppings (olive oil, sriracha and chili flakes) for the pizza. Of course, there’s no beautiful bottles of chili soaked olive oil here, but with such great prices that can be overlooked.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!