Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Care For a Drink?

Got your bar stocked up for the New Year?
One thing that we got more into this year is muddling. Now I confess I often have muddled thoughts, but in this case I refer to muddled drinks. Take some delicious fruit or herbs and gently press them in the bottom of your glass with a muddler. At first you might want to use a wooden spoon but as time goes on you will want a proper muddler.
I got a new one for Christmas that I quite like. It is wood, not lacquered, and of a decent length. (Yes, size matters!) Too short and you mash your fingers, nobody wants that!

Here is a video on proper muddling.

Once you get into the habit of muddling, the world is your oyster. Or cocktail, as it were.
You are already fabulous in the kitchen, why not try out your culinary prowess in the bar? Thai basil anyone? There are lots of fun recipes that you can come up with using fresh ingredients muddled into a drink.

My new PUG (Pick Up Gallagher's) muddler is over 11 inches long. Donna, pay attention, we are talking wood here. Ok, Donna, we are talking muddlers here! Donna? Oh dear, we lost her.
Moving on, one of our favourite things to muddle is citrus for lager. You have had a lime wedge squeezed into a cerveza, would you be surprised to learn that citrus is great in all kinds of lager? Muddling the citrus gives you the great oils from the rind as well as the juice. The top photo shows our orange lager. Delicious and, hey, almost health-food. Ok, maybe not health food but getting closer.

A lovely drink here is a Raspberry-tini. In a Boston Shaker (the one with the glass and metal parts, behind the drink in the photo) place a handful of raspberries, fresh or defrosted. Muddle, and add two jiggers Framboise and four jiggers Raspberry Vodka. Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass. Delicious!
Not pictured - me eating the muddled raspberry slush out of the shaker. Hey, waste not want not! It is up to you if you want to strain muddled drinks or not.

Check out some more muddled drink recipes here, and here.
If you are interested in the way-cool PUG muddlers, email Chris Gallagher at jcgallagher08@hotmail.com.

And for dessert - a Banana Mudslide from The Best Summer Drinks, Ray Foley.
1/4 oz Kahlua
1/4 oz Irish Cream
1/2 oz Crème de Bananes
1/2 oz Vodka
1 oz milk or cream
Blend with ice until smooth. Um, I multiplied this recipe by eight.. we were parched..

I hope I have given you a couple of ideas for drinks this New Years, and that you have a wonderful time.
Remember the Puppy Rules - no driving! Not even after one cocktail. And really, who wants only one cocktail? Arrange for a safe trip home before you go out.
Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Creamiest Mac and Cheese Ever!

I don't think boys ever grow out of their love of mac and cheese, even well into their 50's. I found this creamiest of creamy Three Cheese Pasta Bake to make for hubby this week.
You have to love any mac and cheese recipe with a brick of cream cheese in it! I loved the texture of the cheese sauce, and, though high in fat, cheese does have beneficial properties as well. Plus it is just plain delicious.
I made this with whole wheat pasta but I think it would be better with regular. Whole wheat macaroni has a bit of a strong wheaty flavour. Sigh, so much for trying to be good. Being naughty is so much more delicious.
I made the recipe as-is, adjusting for seasoning when the sauce was done. The breadcrumbs are panko and I broiled the top for a couple of minutes for colour and crunch. The recipe is here and in Anna Olson's new cookbook - Fresh with Anna Olson.
Serve the pasta with a small mountain of steamed broccoli to feel more virtuous.
We all know that reheated mac and cheese is not quite the same as freshly made. My secret for awesome leftovers? Frank's Red Hot. I love that stuff! You may have your own fave hot sauce, or a couple. Use what you like.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Do I Want to Help Promote the Goodness of Avocados? Um, Yes, Yes I Do.

Being from Canada and a foodie at the same time means choosing wisely. Of course in this day and age we are sensitive to eating locally but at the same time there are treats from around the world that we don't want to live without.
When I was asked if I wanted to sample some Mexican avocados in a new promotion I didn't have to think twice. Avocados are on our list of positive luxuries. True, they are imported, nobody has found an ice-loving avocado plant yet, but they are so worth the miles. Healthy and delicious they are great in so many applications.

I think everyone's go-to favourite is the classic guac..

Classic Guacamole

A classic guacamole recipe is a staple for any host. Once you make this one, you will be asked to make it over and over. To mix it up every time, play with the heat – turn it up by adding more peppers or for a milder taste cut back. Once you know the basics, it’s easy.

1 cup diced sweet onion 250 mL
1/4 cup minced, seeded jalapeño peppers (about two peppers) 50 mL
3 ripe avocados from Mexico, peeled, pitted and diced 3
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro 50 mL
3 tbsp fresh lime juice 45 mL
2 tsp minced garlic 10 mL
1 tsp coarse salt 5 mL
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper 2 mL

In medium bowl, combine onion, jalapeño peppers and avocados. Stir to combine. Add cilantro, lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper, mix thoroughly. Serve with crisp tortilla chips and extra lime wedges. Best if enjoyed within one day

Yield: Approximately 2 cups.

Tip: For extra kick, leave the seeds in the pepper.

Nutritional Information:

Per Serving (1/4 CUP/50 mL): about 131 cal, 2 g pro, 11 g total fat (2 g sat fat), 9 g carb, 5 g fibre, 0 mg chol, 292 mg sodium. %RDI: iron 4%, calcium 1%, vit A 0%, vit C 20%

For more nutritional information about avocados, click here.

Source: www.missavacado.com

Personally I love avocado sliced and gracing a great sammie, like the roast portobello sammie I made for the Clean Foods book review. I also love avocados in California-style maki (sushi) rolls.
Hubby likes his just with a spoon, he scoops the flesh right out of the skin. Sometimes with mayo - shhh, don't tell!
(Without the mayo) Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and nutrients and are just plain delish. What's not to love? Eat two avocados and call me in the morning.

Click here for lots more great recipes!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

And Now for Something Completely Different - Lasoon Jhinga

I am already feeling pretty done with Christmas and with turkey, and it will be a little while before I crave mashed potatoes again. The perfect antidote for me is Asian cuisine, the most warming and comforting for me being South Asian, specifically Indian.
This recipe for Garlic Shrimp with a Coconut Sauce is from 660 Curries, a book that has yet to let me down. Big on flavour, the dish wakens your senses and warms your soul.

Lasoon Jhinga
Garlic Shrimp with a Coconut Sauce

660 Curries, Raghavan Iyer

Ingredients
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, slightly warmed
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
4 large garlic cloves
3 dried red Thai or cayenne chilies, stems removed
1/2 cup shredded fresh coconut; or 1/4 cup shredded dried unsweetened coconut, reconstituted*
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp coarse kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems for garnishing

*To reconstitute coconut, cover with 1/4 cup boiling water, set aside for about 15 minutes, and then drain.

Directions

Place the shrimp in a medium-size bowl, sprinkle the turmeric over them, and toss. Refrigerate, covered, for 15 to 30 minutes, to allow the shellfish to absorb the spice's flavour and colour.

While the shrimp is marinating, pout the warm vinegar into a small bowl and add the cumin seeds, pepper corns, garlic and chilies. Soak until the chilies soften slightly, about 30 minutes. Then transfer the vinegar and the soaked ingredients to a blender jar, and add the coconut and 1/4 cup water. Puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed, to form a smooth, red-speckled paste.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, arranging them in a single layer. Sear on each side to seal in the flavours, about 1 minute per side. Then add the coconut-garlic sauce and the salt. Stir once or twice, lower the heat to medium, and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are salmon-orange, curled and tender, 3-5 minutes.

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

**I served it on a bed of brown basmati rice, which was spooned onto a plate of baby spinach.

Totally delicious and warming Shrimp Curry for Souper Sunday with Deb of Kahakai Kitchen.
SouperSundays

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Still Hungry?

I know, it is hard to think too much about food after sharing the bounty of a holiday dinner. Complete with holiday breakfasts, brunches, lunches and snacks. And let's not forget desserts! We had a very comfortable six at the table and for some reason I decided to make three desserts. Not really sure what I was thinking.. there were just a few things that I wanted to make. Number one on my list was David Lebovitz's Ginger Cake. It has been touted as a fan favourite and the recipe can be found a number of places online, including epicurious, and below.

It may not be much to look at but it packs quite a flavour punch. The cake is deep and moist and so full of spicy fresh ginger - it would also make an excellent coffee cake. You will need to make sure you line your cake form with parchment, no matter what shape you use, for easy removal.
I sliced the cake in two and sent one half into work with hubs for Boxing Day, those guys are going to need something sweet to fend off the crazed shoppers out there today!

Fresh Ginger Cake
David Lebovitz, as found on epicurious.
  • 4 ounces fresh ginger
  • 1 cup mild molasses
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil, preferably peanut
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature

Position the oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9 by 3-inch round cake pan or a 9 1/2 inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper.

Peel, slice, and chop the ginger very fine with a knife (or use a grater). Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.

Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger.

Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.

Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper.


Thursday, 24 December 2009

Traditions

Traditions. The little things we do to make the holidays more special for our loved ones. I have to say, I think the most important part of Christmas dinner for my daughter and I is the cranberry sauce. I was delighted to try Nigella's version, featuring cherry brandy. Ok, you had me at cherry brandy. It is sweet like candy and very easy, what more could you ask for?

Redder Than Red Cranberry Sauce
Nigella Lawson
Nigella's Christmas, Food Network.com

Ingredients
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • 7 ounces caster sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cherry brandy
  • 4 fluid ounces water
  • Lemon juice, optional
Directions

Place all the ingredients in a pan and cook until the liquids have reduced to a thick cranberry sauce.

The pectin-rich nature of the fruit means that it solidifies briskly as it cools, so take the pan off the heat to stop it from cooking and reducing when you still think there's too much liquid. Once the berries have burst, which should be after about 10 minutes, it should be ready. Taste to test whether the sauce needs more sugar (if you find it too sweet just add some lemon juice).

And, in the spirit of Christmas traditions, I love this Christmas poem from A. A. Milne. King John's Christmas. I read it aloud every Christmas, whether my family wants me to or not.

King John's Christmas

King John was not a good man -
He had his little ways.
And sometimes no one spoke to him
For days and days and days.
And men who came across him,
When walking in the town,
Gave him a supercilious stare,
Or passed with noses in the air -
And bad King John stood dumbly there,
Blushing beneath his crown.

King John was not a good man,
And no good friends had he.
He stayed in every afternoon ...
But no one came to tea.
And, round about December,
The cards upon his shelf
Which wished him lots of Christmas cheer,
And fortune for the coming year,
Were never from his near and dear,
But only from himself.

King John was not a good man,
Yet had his hopes and fears.
They'd given him no present now
For years and years and years.
But every year at Christmas,
While minstrels stood about,
Collecting tribute from the young
For all the songs they might have sung,
He stole away upstairs and hung
A hopeful stocking out.

King John was not a good man,
He lived his life aloof;
Alone he thought a message out
While climbing on the roof.
He wrote it down and propped it
Against the chimney stack:
"TO ALL AND SUNDRY - NEAR AND FAR -
F. CHRISTMAS IN PARTICULAR."
And signed it not "Johannes R."
But very humbly, "JACK."
"I want some crackers,
And I want some candy;
I think a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I don't mind oranges,
I do like nuts!
And I SHOULD like a pocket-knife
That really cuts.
And, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!"

King John was not a good man -
He wrote this message out,
And gat him to his room again,
Descending by the spout.
And all that night he lay there,
A prey to hopes and fears.
"I think that's him a-coming now,"
(Anxiety bedewed his brow.)
"He'll bring one present, anyhow -
The first I've had for years."

"Forget about the crackers,
And forget about the candy;
I'm sure a box of chocolates
Would never come in handy;
I don't like oranges,
I don't want nuts,
And I HAVE got a pocket-knife
That almost cuts.
But, oh! Father Christmas, if you love me at all,
Bring me a big, red india-rubber ball!"

King John was not a good man -
Next morning when the sun
Rose up to tell a waiting world
That Christmas had begun,
And people seized their stockings,
And opened them with glee,
And crackers, toys and games appeared,
And lips with sticky sweets were smeared,
King John said grimly: "As I feared,
Nothing again for me!"

"I did want crackers,
And I did want candy;
I know a box of chocolates
Would come in handy;
I do love oranges,
I did want nuts.
I haven't got a pocket-knife -
Not even one that cuts.
And, oh! if Father Christmas had loved me at all,
He would have brought a big, red india-rubber ball!"

King John stood by the window,
And frowned to see below
The happy bands of boys and girls
All playing in the snow.
A while he stood there watching,
And envying them all ...
When through the window big and red
There hurtled by his royal head,
And bounced and fell upon the bed,
An india-rubber ball!

AND, OH, FATHER CHRISTMAS,
MY BLESSINGS ON YOU FALL
FOR BRINGING HIM
A BIG, RED,
INDIA-RUBBER BALL!

~ A A Milne, Now We Are Six 1927

Merry Christmas!
IHCC

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Just in Time for the New Year: Clean Food!

Clean Food
A seasonal guide to eating close to the source with more than 200 recipes for a healthy and sustainable you.
Terry Walters

Clean food is first a guide to eating in a way that recognizes how far processed foods have moved away from nature and teaches us how to embrace foods closer to the source. With big business deciding what lines our grocery shelves, and the alarming steps the food goes through to get there, now is more important than ever to get back to basics and learn to love food that loves us back.
I know, this is the holiday season and all bets are off, but the New Year is soon upon us and this feeling of a blank slate is the perfect time to cut back on the bacchanalia and embrace “Clean Food”.
The book begins with “A Universal Approach to Diet”, not a one-size-fits-all approach but an invitation to investigate what works for you using honest and fresh ingredients. Largely vegan, I think it is to the author’s own credit that I (an omnivore) didn’t even notice this fact for quite a while. While we do eat meat and dairy, I also like to work from vegetarian and vegan sources for balance and nutritious recipes.
Ms. Walters goes into Balance and Well-being, only slightly new-agey to me (but I am ultra-sensitive to that!) Then the book goes into a very informative section, The Basics, which gives a great breakdown and explanation of tools, ingredients and methods. I particularly liked this section and found it quite a handy reference guide.

Moving into the recipes, the book, like many cookbooks these days, is divided by seasons. This only makes sense with a cookbook designed towards eating what the body needs and I was relieved that exceptions are made for ingredients that are favourites but not locally available. I don’t think I could live without olive oil and citrus.
There are recipes with meat substitutes, seitan and tempeh and the like. I can’t bring myself to eat them and was happy that they were in the minority of recipes. The majority of the 200 recipes focus on healthy and “clean” food with good flavour and colour variety. The author wants you to discover the joy of eating in tune with your body and have fun doing it.
That being said, I was tempted to throw a little cheese on some of the menu items. Baby steps.

I made six recipes from the book, each turned out pretty tasty indeed.

Traditional Hummus
This was a very traditional hummus indeed, I was happy to make it as it is a great snack to have in the fridge. Perfect for sammies or crudités. I would be tempted to add a little more lemon juice but this is a great jumping off point. Walters gives some delicious variations as well, like roasted garlic and roasted red pepper.

Rice Noodles and Peanut Sauce Rolled in Nori
I thought this was genius. Rice noodles drizzled with a delicious peanut sauce (that I made a double batch of - it was so good) and wrapped in healthy nori (seaweed). Such a nice switch-up from regular summer rolls and so much more healthy. Makes me wonder what else I can wrap up in nori.

Artichokes, Fennel, and Olives over Penne
This was a tasty pasta with lots of my favourite flavours in it. I love the crunch of the thinly sliced fennel. I thought it cried out for feta though... Ok, I wouldn't make a good vegan. But that is the great thing about this book - variations are welcome.
We had the leftovers for lunch the next day and I thought they tasted even better.

Roasted Portobello Sandwich with Sun-dried Tomato Aioli
What can I say? The title says it all. Roasted Portobello Sandwich with Sun-Dried Tomato Aioli. Is that a thing of beauty or what? This is the steak sammie of the veggie world. Totally delish and satisfying.

Sautéed Yams with Ginger and Lime
I love this idea of doing sweet potatoes or yams shredded. So much more interesting than a mash or chunks. I will be using this method again and again and experimenting with different flavours.

Raisin Nut Bars
Ever read the side of a box of granola bars? It reads like a box of cookies: all sugars.. until you get to the list of chemicals. I love the idea of making my own. These were chewy and tasty, a little crumbly but perfect for the commuter's lunch.


In the end, this book is filled with lots of great recipes to get you on the track to eating in tune with your body. Some of the ingredients require a trip to the health food market, but most are readily available. Walters is laid back in her approach to cooking and encourages playing with the recipe and working with what you have. A great way to start the New Year!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Ice Ice Baby! Discovering Canada's Liquid Treasure



This month we had the wonderful opportunity to explore Canada’s Niagara Icewine industry and meet the fabulous people who bring us this delicious treat.

We had originally planned on visiting up to ten wineries, but ended up at a more realistic four. These four wineries and boutiques, Niagara College Canada Wine Visitor & Education Center, Château des Charmes, Inniskillin, and Peller Estates, offered us a fantastic and thorough education on Icewine to share with you.


This is where we started our trip. They offered lots of information and were very welcoming and kind in helping us decide where to go and who to talk to after our visit with them.

It was very cold outside but the people were warm and effusive and quite excited to share their pride and joy in Icewine crafting.

Robin Fraser of Niagara College Canada Wine Visitor and Education Centre, a very friendly and knowledgeable fellow.

He shared with us a sample of delicious 2008 Cabernet Franc Icewine which, at $55.05 for 375ml he deemed the best value going. Icewines range from $30 to $150 per bottle on average.

Yes, Icewine is expensive. But read on, you will soon see why and learn that it is sooo worth it!

Michèle Bosc of Château des Charmes, lovely and gracious and quite informative.

Icewine is so luscious and sensual, a little goes a long way. Generally sold in 375ml bottles, it can sometimes be found in 200ml bottles or small try-me sizes. It is a special occasion treat, to be sure. But make sure that you are having those special occasions often. Lovely for dessert, it also serves as a perfect brunch wine or a welcome glass to greet your guests. Or combine chilled Icewine with cold vodka and toss in a frozen grape for a delicious martini!

Never tried Icewine? Hopefully you will be inspired to give it a try; I guarantee you will love it. A few choice bottles of Niagara Icewine belong in every good wine collection. After this journey I have developed quite a taste for the stuff myself!

What is Icewine?

Icewine is a rich and concentrated wine, derived from grapes that have been naturally frozen on the vine well into December and January. Three days and nights of cold, clear weather between -8 and -12 degrees Celsius (17.6F-10.4F) are needed for optimum picking conditions. (No, windchill doesn’t count!) The freeze/thaw cycles leading up to picking time result in dehydrated grape and concentrated juice which gives Icewine its characteristic intense complexity.

Grapes on the vine in December

Semi-frozen Vidal grapes that we sampled.

Grapes

Vidal grapes are the ideal grape for making Icewine as they have a thick and hearty skin and cling to the vine even after freezing. Other grapes are also used, such as Riesling and Cab Franc, but they face the risk of breaking down before harvest time and make for a riskier crop.

Nets

To protect Icewine vines of all kinds, nets are put up in October and fastened beneath. The nets collect any fallen grapes and serve to discourage birds and deer who might fancy a grape or two.

Harvesting

When the winemaker decides that it is optimal picking time, the fields are lit up with floodlights and a small army of bundled-up pickers hand pick every bunch of grapes. The grapes are picked at night and harvesting is completed before the sun has a chance to warm them up.

Presses (pictured – basket press)

There are two types of presses used, both outside of course, a basket press and a pneumatic press. The process is slow. Pressure is at a high atmosphere, 100 psi, and after an hour or two the concentrated juices will start to drip from the grapes.

The yield is about 5%-10% compared to traditional wine yields from the same grape varietals.

History and Origins

Icewine, or Eiswein, was, like most great discoveries, discovered quite by accident. When sudden freezing weather prevented a traditional harvest of grapes in Germany in the late 1700’s, some winemakers, wanting to salvage what they could, pressed the frozen grapes and discovered the unique and complex properties of Icewine.


Niagara Terroir

Canada’s Niagara Region is unique in that its weather is moderated by Lake Ontario. The prevailing winds blow over the lake, bounce off of the Niagara Escarpment, through the vines and go back out to the water again. The ancient lakebed of Niagara region is rich in minerals that, combined with the cooler climate, create delicious and complex wines.

Niagara is 43 degrees latitude, close in latitude to Bordeaux, Venice and Northern California.

While a couple of other countries do make Icewine, Canada has become a world leader in Icewine crafting and exporting and is the only country with reliable weather for annual Icewine grape harvests.

Appellations

There are 10 sub-regions in the Niagara Peninsula, as the soil is so complex and varied that the taste of the wines will vary from location to location, even as close as down the street.

For more information on the sub-regions, click here.

Château des Charmes

2007 Vidal Icewine Estate Bottled V.Q.A.

2007 Riesling Icewine Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard, V.Q.A.

2006 Savagnin Icewine St. David’s Bench Vineyard, V.Q.A.

VQA

Vintners Quality Alliance

The VQA designation was developed to hold Ontario wines to strict quality standards. Ontario is newer on the wine-making scene and now holds itself to more strict standards than many older countries do.

“VQA denotes quality and label integrity for Ontario wines of origin.” For more information on VQA, click here.


Tasting

We sampled Icewines at a couple of the wineries, but enjoyed a thorough Icewine tasting education at Inniskillin.

Pictured, in order, are

2007 Riesling VQA Icewine

2006 Vidal VQA Icewine

2006 Oaked Vidal VQA Icewine

2007 Sparkling VQA Icewine

2006 Cabernet Franc VQA Icewine

I was amazed at the variety of flavours that Icewine came in. Until our trip I hadn’t realized the diversity of this type of wine. Riesling has a higher acidity and offers a light, crisp flavour. Vidal is deeper and more honeyed, and Oaked Vidal is deeper still with caramel properties. Cabernet Franc is darker, fruity and complex, and Sparkling Icewine is pure joy in a glass.

Deborah L. Pratt of Inniskillin, demonstrating an Icewine tasting.

We learned the proper techniques of tasting Icewines, as well as how profoundly glass size and shape can affect the flavour experience. Georg Riedel (Riedel Glass) and Karl Kaiser (Inniskillin) developed a unique tulip shaped Icewine glass for optimal Icewine tasting. We compared the scent and flavour of the same wine in a port glass and were quite taken aback by the difference. The long stem forces you to tip your head back and coat your tongue with the luscious elixir for a more sensual experience, and the bowl shape allows the scent to bloom as you swirl it.

Don’t they just sparkle like jewels?


Food Pairings& Recipes

Icewine pairs beautifully with food. To deem it merely a dessert wine would be doing Icewine a great disservice. It pairs wonderfully with both sharp and creamy cheeses, rich meats, and fruits –both dried and fresh. Of course it is a fabulous wine for dessert, either by itself or paired with a creamy confection or dark chocolate.

Below are some simple and delicious pairings for your next cocktail party.

Turkish Dried Apricots stuffed with Blue Cream Cheese.

Mash - 4oz room temperature cream cheese with ¼ cup blue cheese (or to taste) - with a fork. Split and stuff your seeded apricots. Cream cheese can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge.

Medjool Dates stuffed with Orange Cream Cheese and Toasted Pecans.

Mash - 4oz room temperature cream cheese with the zest of 1 small orange, 1 tsp orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau, and 1 tsp sugar – with a fork. Toast your pecan halves and let cool. Split and stuff your seeded dates with cream cheese and insert one toasted pecan half. Cream cheese can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated.

Triple Crème Brie with Turkish Dried Apricots marinated in Icewine.

Chop up some Turkish dried apricots and marinate them, at room temperature, in a couple of spoonfuls of Icewine for two hours. Take cheese out of fridge one hour before serving, place a slice on a canapé cracker and top with marinated apricots.

Cambozola and Honeydew Melon Canapés.

Cambozola is a Camembert/Blue Cheese hybrid that is creamy, pungent and delicious. It pairs wonderfully with sliced honeydew melon which I have playfully shaped with a cookie cutter.

Smoked Cheddar & Pear topped with Toasted Pecan.

Smoked Cheddar is a delight. This artisanal product is aged and smoked for a smoky, nutty and sharp bite that pairs nicely with a crisp slice of pear, the pecan half tops the canapé for a delightful trifecta of flavour.

Duck Liver Paté with cream, Madeira wine, and cognac, garnished with orange peel and cranberries – sliced, served on Crackers topped with Microgreens and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper.

No recipe needed for this one, just make sure to get a lovely and special paté.

Veal Scaloppini Roll Ups.

Lay out some small, thin veal scaloppini. Line the pieces with Prosciutto, cut or fold to fit. On short side closest to you, press in a spoonful (depending on size of veal) of blue cream cheese, above. Sprinkle with chopped toasted pecans. Roll and fasten with a toothpick or butcher’s twine. Salt and pepper the rolls and sear on all sides in an oiled cast iron pan. Let rest for a couple of minutes, slice and serve with sprinkled toasted pecans.

Mini Lamb Chops in a Potato-Celery Root Puree with Microgreens and Mint Jelly

Lamb - In a spice grinder, whiz together 40% black peppercorns, 40% coriander seeds and 20% coarse sea salt. Press into lamb lollies, sear both sides in an oiled cast iron pan.

Potato-Celery Root Puree – Cube one large celery root and one large russet potato, peeled. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer 15 minutes or until fork tender. Drain, mash, add ¼ cup cream and 2 tbsp butter and whiz with an immersion blender as needed. Season to taste with celery salt and white pepper. Can be multiplied and also made in advance and reheated.

Lovin’ Spoonfuls. Ricardo Larrivée’s Crème Brûlée by the Spoonful

Such a wonderful idea. Simple and creamy and delicious and all in one mouthful! Click here for the recipe.

Further recipe and pairing ideas can be found at Inniskillin’s Icewine and Food page, The Ice House Icewine Recipes, and Peller Estate’s Icewine recipes.

Links, Events, Festival

For more information on Niagara wineries and coming events, check out Wineries of Niagara on the Lake, Wineries of Ontario, Niagara Wineries.ca, and Wineries of Niagara.


As a special treat for cold weather and Icewine lovers, there will be an Icewine Festival in January 2010.

“When Gold Meets Cold”

For three weeks in January the Niagara region is transformed into a wintry wonderland, celebrating one of Canada’s most cherished products, Ontario Icewine.

From Gala evening toasts to chestnut roasts, ornate ice bars and winery tours, the 15th annual Niagara Icewine Festival offers plenty for every taste. Join the celebration.

For more information, click here.

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Icewine and the Prez

Inniskillin Wines is pleased to announce that the Inniskillin Vidal Icewine was selected and served at
(the) Nobel Peace Prize dinner at which United States President Barack Obama received the 2009
award. The Inniskillin 2003 Gold Oak aged Vidal Icewine was paired to a menu created especially for the
occasion.

For more information, click here.


One of the things I like most about visiting Niagara at any time of year is how friendly and knowledgeable winery staff are, and how each one champions the entire industry. Indeed the whole peninsula comes across as one big family, celebrating in each other's successes. This has been a most positive and rewarding exploration and I hope you enjoyed learning with me.


Thanks

Many people have been kind and generous to us in the making of this Icewine article. A big thanks to Foodbuzz, my husband who is also my driver and photographer, Mr. Robin Fraser of Niagara College Canada Wine Visitor and Education Centre, Michèle Bosc of Château des Charmes, and most especially Deborah L. Pratt of Inniskillin.