Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Easing the risk in the buckle of Ontario's fruit belt

Good news for farmers in the provincial budget delivered today.

They finally got the business risk management program, similar to cost of production insurance, they've been lobbying for the past two years. I've written about this ongoing issue here, here, here and here.

Ag leaders throughout the province are praising the Queen's Park for finally ponying up after all the pleas, including from Niagara's fruit growers. They have faced increased financial pressures with rising minimum wage and their reliance on manual labour on the farm. It's been tough recuperating those costs in the marketplace where, despite the efforts by some grocery stores to charge a fair price for a basket of peaches last year — $3.99 — the giants, like Wal-Mart, just treat local produce like a cheap Chinese import, selling those same baskets for $2.49 and flipping the proverbial bird at fair pricing for our farmers.

Still, as growers toiled in the face of pressures predicted to decimate the industry, the previous provincial agriculture minister said she'd do what she could to bring in business risk management, provided farmers could work their magic and get the federal government and the other provinces on side.

Nothing like making the people you're paid to represent do your work for you. You see, agriculture support programs, such as business risk management, are divided 60-40 by the feds and the province respectively. Both need to work together to make those programs work for farmers.

The calls from a coalition of commodity groups lobbying for the program have gone virtually unheeded by Gerry Ritz, the federal agriculture minister, who wants to put his stock into research and development to pull farming in Canada through any tough times.

Now, at least, those calls will have more clout, thanks to current provincial agriculture minister Carol Mitchell succeeding at getting a business risk management program into Ontario's budget today.

One can only hope it will enable farmers to breathe a little easier heading into the upcoming growing season.

But there's still the need for Ottawa to come to the table with its 60 per cent share. What better time to make a campaign promise that will benefit all Canadians — more Canadian farmers in business means more Canadian food for the rest of us Canucks to eat — than during an election.

Niagara is even home turf to the NDP's deputy agriculture critic, Malcolm Allen. The NDP is viewed as a largely urban party, so adding business risk management to its platform may just endear it to those rural voters growing our food. Ditto for the Liberals. Though the countryside typically votes Conservative, adding business risk management to that party's platform could be a token of thanks for all that rural support over the years. It's a cliched win-win for all.

Still, I have questions about the province's plan, grateful as I am for today's announcement. What happens if Ottawa doesn't step up? Will the program be easy for farmers to tap into? Will it be worth their while when they do? Is it here to stay despite the provincial election in the fall?

Speaking of cliches, the devil is always in the details and I look forward to seeing how this new program plays out. Meanwhile, congratulations to the Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition for its tenacity. The group is definitely a model for never giving up.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


This morning I awoke to a message from a blogger I follow. She had nominated me for a One Lovely Blog Award. It's a pay-it-forward token of appreciation for bloggers from people who enjoy what you do. Definitely a great way to start my Sunday and I'm touched by the gesture. Thank you Marlie of Barefoot and Frolicking fame for thinking of me.

Now, in return, I get to nominate up to 15 other great bloggers for the award and reveal a bit more about myself by sharing seven facts about me — facts that you hopefully don't find too boring.

So, here goes...

1. Heights make nervous. That glass floor in the CN Tower weirds me right out.

2. I am trying to learn German after many failed attempts to learn it as a child so that I can finally really talk to my Oma. She's 98 and clearly, time is of the essence.

3. I became a vegetarian five years ago because I have a bleeding heart when it comes to animals. However, in the past year, I have, on occasion, eaten salmon or mollusks, such as mussels or oysters. My mother, though she will deny it, seems to have a bit of a hard time with me not eating meat and stresses when I come for dinner. I finally conceded and said I would eat some seafood to make her happy. My preference, though, is always a can of lentils or chickpeas.

4. Kale, swiss chard, collards, pak choy — just mere mention of any leafy green makes my mouth water instantly. These are my favourite foods and if I could eat them all the time, I would.

5. I moved into a townhouse condo two years ago — my first owned home — because there would be little to no yard maintenance. I love my house but now wish I had a big yard so I could grow a decent garden.

6. I have two and a half cats. Two are mine and the half cat, Louie, was a stray who wandered into my life last summer. He's schmoozing with the computer monitor as I type this. I took him to be neutered and get his shots last fall and I share in his care with a woman in my condo complex. Unlike my guys, Sonny and Otis, Louie is a going concern for me because he likes to be outside (my guys are indoor cats) and I worry like crazy when he's out roaming.

7. If I could make a living from eating and writing about food, or from reading books, I wouldn't hesitate. The closest I came was when I was reporter at a local newspaper, a job I left a year ago because I was bullied by a higher up there. He has since been let go. While people would expect I'd delight in his demise, I only feel relief for my former fellow co-workers for no longer having to work under this soul crusher while wishing him well in finding something that will make him truly happy so he never treats anyone so badly again.

Here are the blogs I nominate for the One Lovely Blog Award

Linda Crago: Tree and Twig Farm. She's like a second mom to me and she doesn't ask that I eat fish.
Katie Jobs: outlaw@home. Her craftiness is inspirational.
Kim: Eat Drink Paint. Best art instructor I've ever had.
Shawn Murphy: Flash in the Pan. This guy is driven and has oodles of passion for what he does.
Ali Oppenlaender: Side Order of Tofu. A great mixed-bag blog with one of my favourite pledges ever.
Ron Thiessen: Thiessen Farms. This is one my favourite farm blogs. Slice of life down on the farm.
Ryan and Amanda Thiessen: Creek Shore Farms. Slice of life down of the farm of rookie farmers.
Jewel: It's a nice place to visit. Clearly someone else passionate about Niagara.
Mama__B: A Single Step. Adventures in being the best person she can be.
Kris Morretti: MO FARM Adventures in becoming an urban farmer.
Lilian Schaer: Food and Farming. She blogs about agriculture and does it with integrity.

Growing Pains: Growing garlic indoors - Part 3

My garlic that I've been growing indoors over the winter.

If that isn't the saddest looking plant you've ever seen, then what the heck are you doing to your own plants?

It's been a while since I posted an update on my adventures in growing garlic indoors this winter. Truth is, not much exciting has happened to warrant the usual video post. The plant has been growing and providing me garlic greens, not performing any amazing tricks.

But now, as it's nearing harvest time, it has taken on a particularly pathetic air. Its once straight stems have slackened. They haven't become particularly robust, staying spindly. And the entire quartet looks like they're on the brink of death, despite my regular watering and keeping them near a source of sunlight.

In a few weeks, I will unearth what lies beneath that potting soil but I have a feeling I have proven Linda, my trusty gardening guru, right. You can't grow garlic in a pot, at least not if your goal is bulbs and not greens.

Last year, I planted garlic in my garden for the first time and the roots morphed into tiny bulbs. Bulbs of Barbie kitchen prop proportions. Still, they were potent, despite their minuscule size and they made that beautiful crunching sound when smashed by my knife. Most importantly, they gave me the satisfaction of having planted and grown garlic myself, even if they would have amounted to duds by seasoned green thumb standards.

I don't think these guys are even going to give me that much. My prediction: the roots will look like little more than that of spring onion.

So in keeping with my other Growing Pains posts, what do you think I'm going to dig up?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Food: a conversation starter

Join the conversation about what you're eating.

It's one of those things I love talking (and writing about) — what I'm eating.

Finally, there's a forum for folk like me and you if you count yourself among the legion who love to talk food and why you eat what we do, Brock University is hosting a Conversation Cafe on Monday night called What are you eating? Here's what's on the bill:

Vegetarian, low-calorie, local, organic, haute cuisine, heart-healthy, sustainable...these days it’s hard to eat without having to make a conscious ethical, health or social choice from the excess of options available. In this conversation we invite you to come talk about eating as we explore what food means to you, your food selection priorities and your guilty eating pleasures.

Here's the point of Conversation Cafe, which sounds like a great opportunity to share and learn about a whole slew of topics:

In conversation we share ideas, co-create knowledge and nurture relationships. 

Conversation Caf├ęs are hosted conversations held in a public setting where everyone is welcome to join. Our conversations are based on the idea that no single person has the whole answer to a question but rather that each person’s thinking can be enriched by the perspective of others. 

What are you eating will be held at Pan Cafe in St. Catharines and runs 7 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. All conversations are free but donations are accepted. Hope to see you there.


Speaking of what you're eating, if you're hungry to learn about a vegan, raw live food diet, don't forget Conscious Eating Niagara is hosting its first pot luck, raw food demo and discussion on Sunday, April 3 at Pan Cafe from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Here's the evening's schedule:

4:00-4:45 set up and socialize
4:45-5:00 Introduction of all dishes
5:00-5:45 Dinner
5:45-6:30 Marlie Centawer talk and raw food demonstration
6:30-7:00 Clean up

Bring enough food for at least four other people, a plate and utensils. Don't forget the recipe for your meal so you can show off your raw food prowess.

I'm making Lava Soup. Can't wait to try it — and tell you about it — and learn more about a raw food diet.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A picture pear-fect evening

My painting and my model at The Good Earth's Eat. Drink. Paint.
It was likely the strangest Christmas gift on my wish list nine years ago.

But there was only person I knew who could build me an easel to support my creative endeavours when I had a flash of insight that needed to be expressed in a few strokes of a paint brush.

It was my dad and I remember his surprised response when I told him I wanted an easel for Christmas and could he please build me one?

He obliged and being German, my dad not only built me an easel, but one that is most likely an engineering feat. Perfect. Sturdy. Practical because it folds up easily for storage and assembles just as easily for those very rare moments I liken myself an artiste and feel the urge to paint.

It's been years since I've felt that urge. And for the record, I should say that when I have felt that push to pick up a paint brush, nothing has ever quite turned out how I envisioned. I can't draw. So other than a few squiggles to make "abstract art" — a more polite label for the products of this talentless hack — I've never really painted anything that I think is a keeper.

Still, it hasn't kept me from trying.

I tried again on Friday night when I went to Eat. Drink. Paint. at The Good Earth. I fell in love with this place last fall when I joined a group of people for lunch next to the outdoor pizza oven, where I marvelled at the scenery and the meal. It's a fabulous spot in Beamsville that serves as the perfect muse for foodies, wine lovers and on this night, a handful of aspiring artists. There have been a few of these sip, snack and create sessions already this winter with more in the works for May.

Nestled within tender fruit orchards and grapevines, The Good Earth is a pastoral paradise. An unpretentious gem of a place. A spot where I felt safe to reveal to more than just my cats that I can't paint worth a darn but I'll sure enjoy trying.

Artist Kim Rempel gives some pointers to aspiring artist Betty Novak. 

The class was led by Kim Rempel, whose blog is a journal of daily paintings that she creates. As someone without much, if any, artistic ability (I draw a mean stick figure), I felt lucky to have her leading the class. She kept things simple — our subjects were fruit, flowers or any image in our mind's eye — and her instructions and advice were given in a way that encouraged. She was very positive, which a thin-skinned wannabe painter like me needs. She was good with the eclectic bunch of creative types who showed up Friday and our varying degrees of ability.

The creation of one of my fellow eaters, drinkers and
painters, Ray. We painted with oils.
Despite my nervousness about painting in public, I can't remember the last time I've enjoyed myself as much. Good Earth matriarch Betty Novak, mom to Good Earth proprietor Nicolette, kept us all charmed with an incomparable joie de vivre and some captivating stories about her life in Europe before coming to Canada. She also painted an amazing canvas of apples that had an impressionist air.

So, with a glass of The Good Earth's delicious Riesling serving as my creative juices and a curvaceous pear as my model, I painted what might actually be my best work yet. It actually resembles what it is I set out to paint. Yup, my pear looks like a pear. Complete fluke, but I'll take it.

A painting of spilled wine by Henry, one of the other eaters, drinkers
and painters at The Good Earth.

Has me thinking I should change this blog to be Eating and Painting Niagara....

Mind you, it's too bad I couldn't quite nail the shadows. So my pear kind of looks like it has bottom end rot or some other ailment.

On second thought, better to keep reaching for my fork more often than my paint brush.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Corporate social responsibility that does everybody good

I never thought I'd see the day when I would write something glowing about big corporate food on this blog. (Has anyone checked the temperature in hell recently?)

But I am a sucker for corporate social responsibility. True corporate social responsibility that boasts of altruism and a genuine desire to do good. It's rare that comes along because most often, when big business tries to show it has a heart, it's usually a marketing ploy.

But apparently, not in the case of Campbell Canada's latest venture, Nourish. It's a meal in a can. A meal that can be eaten straight out of a can, no water or heat needed. A relatively healthy meal at that. And one with an ingredient that will, at the very least, give Manitoba farmers a boost.

One of its main ingredients is naked oats, also known as Prairie rice. It looks like a cross between rice and barley, and is easily substituted for rice. Even better still, it is a much bigger nutritional powerhouse. Naked oats have 12 grams of dietary fibre and 4.4 grams of soluble fibre per 100 grams compared to white rice's 1.3 grams of dietary fibre and zilch soluble fibre. For veg-heads like me or those trying to eat less meat, it also boasts 17.2 grams of protein per 100 grams, compared to 7.1 grams for white rice. Now, if only I could find this stuff in Niagara. I would do away with my grown in California brown rice and have a better companion for my Northern Ontario wild rice.

Naked oats aren't some kind of Frankenfood, either. There are organic and heirloom varieties. Conventional naked oats also aren't a hugely intensive crop, using roughly the same amount of nitrogen per acre (60 pounds) as wheat, which is nearly a quarter of what corn requires, depending on the type kernel and where it exists in a crop rotation.

But that isn't the only reason it's good. Nourish is also potential nourishment in times of disaster, thanks to it not needing power or water for cooking. But the real impetus for this meal in a can is to provide the folks who may just be the largest consumers of Campbell's canned goods — food bank users — with a square meal, even if it comes from a round container. The first 100,000 cans of Nourish that Campbell's produces will be donated to food banks.

A social media campaign means another 100,000 cans can be donated, too. All we have to do is like Nourish on Facebook or use the #Nourish hashtag on Twitter. Easy peasy. Here's what some folks have been tweeting:

The only thing that has me scratching my head now is whether Campbell's will make the same effort to make the rest of their products as nutritious. I can't see any reason why they wouldn't, particularly now that they're on a such roll with good corporate social responsibility.

Monday, March 14, 2011

NiAGara: Farm Heroes and Agvocates — Agri-Linx's Barry Kemp

Barry Kemp checks on some of his apple crackers, one of the
local dried fruit products he sells under his Agri-Linx label.

There's a word of advice on every package of Agri-Linx's simple cello packages of dried local fruit.

'Use within 8 weeks of opening, to savour its very best taste.'

But any bag of the easily devoured dried peaches, apricots, sweet or sour cherries and apples marketed by variety is likely to barely last eight minutes once opened for eating.

It was likely even less time in which Barry Kemp, the mastermind behind the Agri-Linx label, saw a growing season's-worth of work virtually lost to Mother Nature's wrath in July 2009. That's when a severe localized hail storm hit his family's Beamsville fruit orchard and he was forced to make the most of the devastation.

"We lost our plums, our pears, our apples. Absolutely everything was devastated," Kemp said. "The apples weren't good for much more than juice but everything was else was gone."

Kemp managed to salvage some of the season, turning some those battered and bruised apples into cider. Still, he wasn't quite ready to chalk the rest of his harvest up to an entire loss. So he decided to dehydrate some of his apples and sell them at the market at Bala's annual Cranberry Festival.

"It just took off. Everything sold," he said.

Kemp, a retired farm manager for Agriculture Canada, was sold, too —  on the idea of turning his quick fix of a bad season into a successful long-term business plan.

Some of Agri-Linx's local dried fruit products.

He invested in larger dryers. He started dehydrating other fruit, including cherries, apricots and peaches. He then added his name to the list of producers proffering their produce in the Niagara Local Food Co-op. He has watched the hunger for his products grow ever since.

"I was surprised how much I sold and how much demand there was," Kemp said this week before setting to work in a tiny St. Catharines kitchen that is the Agri-Linx headquarters. "I'm seeing that the demand is becoming more and more. I'm getting lots of calls."

Barry Kemp cores some Mutsu apples for drying. 

Kemp's recipe for success is simple. He keeps the drying process uncomplicated, coring, pitting, slicing or halving the fruit before giving it a lemon juice bath and popping it into one of two stainless steel dehydrators where liquid will be leeched for up to 24 hours, depending on the fruit.

Given the drain on resources, Kemp subscribes to Bullfrog Power, using green energy to power his small but mighty facility.

Some days, Kemp starts work at 3 a.m. He's bracing himself for a break as he nears the end of his run with last season's apples and another growing season begins again.

"I always say my business dries up when the fresh stuff comes out," he said with a smile.

But that's also his busiest time, when his dryers — and him — are going full-tilt to preserve the best of the season. Still, Kemp likes to pace himself. Though his products don't spoil easily, he said he doesn't like keep huge inventory on hand, preferring instead to dry his fruit as needed.

"You can keep this stuff for a year but I like it fresh. Fresher is better," Kemp said.

Locally, Agri-Linx fruit is available through the Local Food Co-op and at Lake Land Meats. Kemp is also being wooed by customers outside Niagara. He'll be selling his dried fruit at the Metro Hall Farmers Market come fall.

A local food store in Toronto also hopes to sell Agri-Linx fruit but wants it in bulk, leaving Kemp to look hard at his business plan once again. Given his penchant for freshness, it's a decision he's still chewing on.

A fresh batch of apple crackers ready to come out of the dryer. 

"I don't want somebody to get a bad bag of fruit with my name on it  but I am going to explore it," he said.

Kemp also plans to enlist the help of other farmers, buying fruit from audited orchards to supply Agri-Linx with traceable produce. He's even shopping around for an organic orchard of his own. Finding controlled atmosphere storage to keep him in apples year-round is also on his to-do list, along with finding more products to add to the Agri-Linx line to satisfy a hungry entrepreneurial spirit.

Dried tomatoes are in his future, Kemp said. And so is perfecting raisins.

"I can make the best raisin out of a himrod grape. They make the best raisins," he said, noting their high sugar content does make them tough to work with. "I've just got to figure out how to make them not stick (to they dryer racks)."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Crunch time

Me getting ready to partake in The Great Big Crunch

I started watching the clock at 12:30 today. Just two short hours from The Great Big Crunch, the moment with tens of thousands of Canadian school children and other local food champions would collectively bite into a local apple.

It's a great educational movement in which to be involved, the point to teach children about local food systems versus global food systems using a local food that's available much of the year.

At 2:30 this afternoon, people crunched, snapped and tweeted photos of themselves taking a bite out of their apples to show their support for the program.

Here I am enjoying my Red Prince Apple. I was about to bite into it but I got tired of holding my mouth open in anticipation while my boss struggled with the touch pad and zoom function on the camera on my BlackBerry. So instead of crunching, I just look crazy, or as @OntariosOwn put it on Twitter, "You don't look crazy. Kind of old lady in snow white-ish :)" (Be sure to check out the Twitter stream for #GBC2011 to see participant photos and comments).

Not sure what would have been worse: having someone confirm that I did indeed look crazy or having someone say I looked kind of old lady-ish. Hey, at least the apple tasted good!

Here's what other Great Big Crunchers had to say.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

She ain't pretty: Tuesdays with Tony Part 5

Leek, potato and Guinness soup.
Tuesdays with Tony is my attempt to be a better cook, or at least make better use of my copy of local chef Tony de Luca's Simply in Season, 12 months of wine country cooking cookbook. Twice a month, I'm going to make something from Simply in Season. Just one recipe or maybe two at a time depending on my mood. And I plan to do it on a Tuesday. As a fan of alliteration, I like the sound of Tuesdays with Tony and I know that the man inspiring my resolution also hosts the odd cooking class series of the same name, so it seems fitting.

I'm no photographer. That photojournalism course I took in journalism school didn't make me one, either, despite my efforts and my camera gear.

So, it almost seems needless to say (because one look at the photo above will tell you) that my pic of this week's kitchen experiment doesn't do it justice. Doesn't even really make it look remotely appetizing. Hey, let me get the cooking skills down first and then I'll work on presentation and food photography.

My only consolation is that there was no photo of the leek, bacon, potato and Guinness soup next to the how-to from which I took my cues tonight — a sign to me that even Anna D'Agrosa, the professional shutterbug shooting Tony's culinary concoctions in Simply in Season, may have also had a hard time capturing this dish's good side. No photo meant I also didn't have to feel like a foodie flop when my soup inevitably turned out looking nothing like what was in the book.

OK, so that's not my only consolation. It's also that this was a souper — erm, super — easy dish. For once, I didn't feel daunted by something I've chosen to make from this book, mostly because I've made leek and potato soup before, though soup with beer in it is new to me.

Given my veg ways, I did omit the bacon. I contemplated using veggie bacon or even tempeh bacon, but it struck me as blasphemous to use fraudulent flesh in a recipe from a book that really plays up quality — i.e. real — ingredients.

I've got to admit, though, in the early stages of preparation, I worried that this was going to wind up bland and be a soup otherwise made by the one ingredient I deemed arbitrary enough to leave out. I mean, it's leek and potato soup — not exactly the life of the soup party. It's pretty subdued, simple. Some might say boring. And, as I stirred my pot, that's exactly what I was saying. Had the bacon been in there, those leeks would have been rendered in its smokey fat. It was an extra layer of flavour my concoction wouldn't have.

So thank goodness for the cup of Guinness to jazz up the soup equivalent of elevator music. The fresh, chopped chive garnish helped, too. I don't think my soy cream was up to the job as a real cream stand in, particularly in the aesthetics department. It gave my soup the look of something curdled and, well, gross — so much so that not even a soft focus, narrow depth of field or bouncing the flash could fix it.

While it was no beauty, in the end, this soup was the perfect way to bid adieu to a sunny late winter's day and welcome a March's eve threatening a lion of a storm. Soup is my ultimate comfort food.

I just can't help wondering if it would have been better with bacon....

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Crunching and conscious eating

Do you like apples? Well, how do you like these apples?

Thursday marks FoodShare's annual homage to local food systems and healthy eating among school kids, The Great Big Crunch. Last year, more than 64,000 children throughout Canada sunk their teeth into an apple simultaneously. Great Big Crunch indeed.

But FoodShare is aiming even higher this year. The Great Big Crunch happens Thursday, March 10 at 2:30 p.m. and they're calling on more schools to participate. Though the program is aimed at school children, Laura Reinsborough, founder and director of Toronto's residential fruit picking program Not Far From the Tree, has decided to initiate a Twitter version of the event. She's looking for locavores and enviro folk to join in the effort by taking a synchronized bite out of an Ontario apple at the same time school kids throughout the province do, take a snapshot of the crunching and munching and post it to Twitter.

I've pledged to join Reinsborough in the Great Big Twitter Crunch and you can, too. If you're interested, drop an email to laura@notfarfromthetree.org and tell her you want to join in. She's tallying up those who want to participate in the Twitter crunch up so they can be added to FoodShare's official crunch count.

I've already got my Red Prince apple picked out for the event. What apple are you going to crunch?

If you are curious about raw, vegan, living food, Conscious Eating Niagara may just be the perfect opportunity for a taste of such a diet.

Conscious Eating Niagara is a startup group hosting a potluck on Sunday, April 3 at 4 p.m. at Pan Cafe in St. Catharines. This is the first edition of an event that the group hopes to host the first Sunday of every month. Everyone is welcome but the goal is to share raw, vegan, living dishes or just vegan concoctions. The event is meant to be a celebration of food in its natural form, a place to share recipes and encourage people to eat more plant-based foods.

It's also a place to learn. There will be a lecture and raw food demonstration by Marlie Centawer. Her blog also has a slew of recipes if you need ideas.

If you come, make sure to bring a dish to feed up to five people. Bring your own plate and utensils, too. And don't forget the recipe for your dish. Everyone will have the chance to present their culinary to creations to hungry masses in attendance.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Time to raise a glass

There are no statues of gold, bald men. But I'd be willing to bet the feeling of hearing one's name called at Cuvee, the 'Oscars of Ontario's wine industry', isn't all that different from the giddiness of those scoring a golden boy at the real thing. It's validation of one's work and passion.

The Cuvee gala happened Friday at the Fallsview Casino and the grape growers and winemakers who dedicate themselves to making Ontario a force to be reckoned with in the wine world were announced fast and furiously. My thumbs are stubby and slow, and my hearing not so good when crowds are applauding, so my tweets from Cuvee left something to be desired.

Good thing a list of the winners is handed out after all the awards have been bestowed. Here they are:

Red wine: Thirty Bench Wine Makers, Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2007
Limited edition red wine: megalomaniac — John Howard Cellars of Distinction, Sous Terre Cabernet Merlot Reserve, 2007
White Wine: Riverview Cellars Winery, Gewurztraminer, 2009
Limited edition white wine: Creekside Estate Winery, Queenston Road Vineyard Reserve Viognier, 2009
LCBO red wine: EastDell Estates Winery, Black Cab, 2009
LCBO white wine: Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate, Black Series Sauvignon Blanc, 2009
Sweet wine: Inniskillin Wines, Riesling Icewine, 2008
Limited edition sweet wine: Strewn, Riesling Icewine, 2008 (1st place), Stoney Ridge Cellars, Gewurztraminer Icewine Barrel Fermented Barrel Aged, 2009
Sparkling wine: 13th Street Winery, Premier Cuvee NV (1st place), Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, Cuvee Catherine Rose Brut NV (2nd place), Hillebrand Winery, Trius Brut, (3rd place)
Chardonnay: Niagara College Teaching Winery, Dean's List Chardonnay, 2009 (1st place), Pondview Estate Winery, Barrel Fermented/Aged Chardonnay, 2009 (2nd place)
Riesling: Twenty Twenty-Seven Cellars, Fox Croft Vineyard Riesling, 2009 (1st place), Cave Spring Cellars, Riesling CSV, 2008 (2nd place)
Gewurztraminer: Riverview Cellars Winery, Gewurztraminer, 2009
Sauvignon Blanc: Creekside Estate Winery, Creekside Estate Vineyard, Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 (1st place), Five Rows Craft Wine of Lowrey Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 (2nd place)
White assemblage: Stonechurch Vineyards, Quintet White, 2009
Pinot Gris: Five Rows Craft Wine of Lowrey Vineyards, Pinot Gris, 2009
Viognier: Creekside Estate Winery, Queenston Road Vineyard Reserve Viognier, 2009
Cabernet Sauvignon: Strewn, Cabernet Sauvignon Terroir, 2007
Cabernet Franc: Thirty Bench Wine Makers, Small Lot Cabernet Franc, 2007 (1st place), Kacaba Vineyards, Reserve Cabernet Franc, 2007 (2nd place)
Meritage: Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, Reserve Cabernet Merlot, 2007
Merlot: Hillebrand Winery, Showcase Merlot 'Carlton Vineyard', 2007
Red Assemblage: Nyarai Cellars, Veritas, 2007
Syrah/Shiraz: Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate, Delaine Vineyard Syrah, 2007 (1st place), Stonechurch Vineyards, Syrah Reserve, 2007 (2nd place)
Tony Aspler Cuvee Award of Excellence for promotion of the Ontario Wine Industry: Bill Redelmeier, Southbrook Vineyards
Cuvee Award of Excellence in Viticulture: Kevin Donohue, Colio Estate Wines, Inc.

Congratulations to all the winners.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ethereal goodness

There's not much I find palatable about snow.

Well, except maybe if some maple syrup is poured on it, the syrup freezes and I have some sticky, sweet Canadiana on a stick to chomp on.

Truth be told, there's little I find redeeming about the white stuff,  outside of its picturesque quality that I'm enjoying while looking out my living room window, cup of tea in my hand and insulated from the elements.

So to think that I would find a dessert — a warm one at that — that reminded me of freshly fallen snow. Light. Airy. Filling me with that comforting, cosy feeling I get watching those fluffy flakes of powder fall from the sky.

Those of you keeping up with my eating escapades know this is the winter of comfort food for me — carbohydrate-rich and preferably sweet. The kind of grub that leaves me feeling heavy and full of regret in that moment I lift that last forkful to my mouth, when the craving that egged me on turns into a longing for elastic-waist pants.

But this dessert — this spiced baked goat yogurt — only left me feeling like I had room for more and even when I couldn't eat another bite, didn't leave me feeling like a glutton. Jeans also remained comfortable pants, post-eating.

Those goats are magical creatures. That's why I almost always have a tub of Hewitt's goat yogurt on hand. Some of the few dairy goat farmers we have in Niagara supply this Hagersville dairy so I know I'm getting my local fix, too.  It's delicious with some honey or as a stand-in for sour cream. In this recipe, it's tang is toned down with allspice and maple syrup. I bet what would make this recipe even better is using some Ewenity Dairy maple-flavoured sheep's milk yogurt instead.

This dessert is made all the more ethereal by egg whites, beaten to soft peaks, and folded into the other ingredients. It's like a little piece of a cloud served up in a ramekin.


Spiced baked goat yogurt (inspired by Vegetarian: A collection of over 100 essential recipes by Parragon Publishing)
Serves 4

200 mL goat yogurt
1/4 tsp allspice
2 tsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 oz/15 g dates
1 medium egg white
1/4 tsp maple syrup and fresh mint leaves to garnish

Mix the yogurt, mixed spice, maple syrup, vanilla extract and dates together in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the egg white until soft peaks form. Using a metal spoon, fold into the yogurt mixture. Spoon into 4 ramekins or shallow, oven-proof dishes.

Stand the ramekins or dishes in a roasting pan and half-fill the pan with boiling water. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 275°F/140°C for 15 minutes or until set.

Remove from oven. To serve drizzle with maple syrup and decorate with mint leaves.
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