Edible plates . . . the old fashioned way

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After hearing the horrible news about Cora's pizza, nothing is sitting too well with me food-wise. I ate plenty 'o pizza there in my formative years, but thankfully, not too much recently. (Papa Ceo always had my heart.)


Susan Sampson wrote about edible plates in the Toronto Star today, but I can't imagine they would taste good at all. I'll stick with my bacon cups, thank you very much!

Photo credit: Not Martha

Bring this wine to your Christmas host

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It’s that indulgent time of year. I’ve been so busy indulging that I haven’t been blogging! Good thing I have nice friends like the kind people at .Commotion and Inniskillin who invited me to a lovely wine and cheese tasting earlier this week at Nancy’s Cheeses.

Inniskillin is probably best known for its icewines, which recently won big at Vinitaly’s award competition and then soon after aquired a ‘best in show’ award at the Selectione Mondiale. The Inniskillin 2003 Gold Oak aged Vidal Icewine also received a lot of attention recently for being served to Barack Obama and company at the 2009 Nobel Peace Awards dinner.

Along with other classy people like Sarah B. Hood, Heather Morrison and Duarte Da Silva, I sampled a pair of 2007 reds and a pair of 2008 whites, most of which were not yet available in stores- advance preview!

A great discussion accompanied our tasting of wine and cheeses. Duarte Da Silva brought up the sideways effect,which I thought was quite a charming term. Heather Morrison did a great summary of the discussion here on Toronto Uncovered. In the film Sideways, Miles’s character rages against Merlot and waxes poetic about the Pinot grape, with its thin skin, defying all odds to exist.

The name Inniskillin itself means against all odds. In 1975, Inniskillin Wines Inc. was granted the first winery license since 1929 before that. During this time, only giant wine producers existed in the Niagara region. Everyone thought Donald Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser were crazy for their risky business venture.

Scott Starra, our expert from Vincor (parent company of Inniskillin) explained that marginal regions are where some of the best wines in the world are produced. Burgundy sits in a marginal climate, as does the Niagara wine region. The colder temperature produces stress on the vines, much like the positive stress that is placed on muscles when exercising. Like a stronger, toned muscle, stress creates a more compelling and delicious wine because the grape has to fight to survive.

Nancy put together a number of cheeses to pair with the Cab Franc. We tried them with each of the wines to see what worked and what didn't.

From right to left, we devoured:
  1. Chèvre Noir (Damafro, Quebec): salty pasteurized goat cheddar
  2. Île-aux-Grues 2-year-old Cheddar (Île-aux-Grues, Quebec): thermalized cheddar (this means its texture is in between pasteurized and non-pasteurized cheese and creates a smooth texture
  3. Piave (Belluno, Italy): A very firm, pasteurized cow cheese like pecorino or Parmagianno-Reggiono
  4. Roaring Forties Blue (King Island Dairy, Australia): A light, creamy blue
  5. São Jorge (Loudrais, Portugal): An unpasteurized and bold cheese, with an earthy, pungent taste.
  6. Blackburn (Fromagerie Blackburn, Jonquière, Quebec): This medium-textured, thermalized cheese paired beautifully with everyone wine we had. The rind is the best part!
This is the series of wines we tasted. The first three are coming soon to an LCBO near you, but the Cab Franc is already in stores (for a remarkable $16.95!)

Inniskillin 2008 Riesling Reserve

A blend of two different vineyards, this Riesling has a light greenish yellow colour with a citrus nose. It has a more aggressive citrus flavour than most orchardy Rieslings and it mellows as it sits in the glass. Pairs nicely with earthy and spicy dishes: Thai, Chinese and Indian foods, root vegetables, duck, quail and gamey birds. Riesling is a great catch-all wine if you don’t know what to pair with what you’re serving.

Inniskillin 2008 Chardonnay Reserve

A blend of three different vineyards, this Chardonnay is highly acidic from the long and cozy 2008 summer nights. It has a lot more oomph than the Riesling, a slightly green colour and small, delightful bubbles. The nose is subtle and reminded me of watermelon. Its sweet flavour and strong acidity go with buttery, rich foods like lobster, seafood. (Again I say duck!) Scott Starra said one of its best pairings is popcorn laced with truffle oil. (Doesn’t that sound exquisite?)

Inniskillin 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve

A blend of three different vineyards, the 2007 Pinot Reserve has an assertive nose that evokes a strawberry and cinnamon scent. Its flavour is bold and very dark and bitter like baking chocolate. You can feel it in the back of your throat. It pairs nicely with pork, duck or a good, buttery triple cream brie. Duarte thought this was a ‘very Ontario’ Pinot.

Inniskillin 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve (Inniskillin Reserve Series)

The star of the evening, Scotta Starra referred to this wine as the ‘quintessential red wine from Niagara in that vintage.’ That’s saying a lot since 2007 was a phenomenal year for Ontario reds. It has a deep muddy-red colour and a rich blackberry nose. The taste evokes fennel and becomes more complex as it breathes. It pairs nicely with committed flavours like lamb and steak, anything grilled and outgoing, funky cheeses.

It was the overall tasting favourite and stood up against all of Nancy’s cheese selections. I especially loved how it paired with the Blackburn. If you are looking for a classy wine to bring to your dinner host, here it is. At a price point of $16.95, this wine offers terrific value and, unlike Fuzion, it surpasses the $15 mark so it's considerably classier and you get to sleep well at night knowing you’re supporting Ontario wines.

For more information about Inniskillin, please visit the company's website here or the Facebook fan page here.

Thank you!

Thank you to everyone for voting in the Canadian Blog awards. Sift, Dust & Toss did just fine :)

You can view the results here.

Canadian Blog Awards: Part II

Sift, Dust & Toss made the finals in the Canadian Blog Awards in the Cooking and Crafts category and the Best New Blog category.

If you like reading, I'd really appreciate the votes. You can click on the links below:
Thank you! The results come in on December 19th. I'll let you know what happens.

Food trends 2010 - the Corey Mintz edition

If you read a lot about food as I do, then you'll notice the season of 2010 food trend predictions is upon us. I've heard some interesting theories and I'll be featuring a round-up early next week.

In the meantime, I've been loving Corey Mintz's hilarious joke predictions on Twitter. He insists he has no beef with trend predicting but keeps rolling out these parodies.

I've captured a few of his gems below for your amusement:


Stay tuned for more (real) food trend predictions for 2010, rolling out next week.

Guest Post: An excerpt from Kate Hendricks' journal in Shangahai

The following guest post was written by my communications friend, Kate Hendricks. We both did master of communications programs (MPC) in Perth and Sydney, respectfully. Kate is currently living in Shanghai with her husband, teaching English and sampling delicious foreign treats. The description of Shanghainese pastries, hot pots and dumplings in her last e-mail made my mouth water.

Below, Kate describes an experience eating lunch in a Shanghainese school cafeteria. I admire her fluid, elegant prose:
Let me tell you about my lunch on Friday. Imagine yourself in a queue with all the other teachers from your school, approaching the glass-enclosed cafeteria counter (which looks 100 per cent more sanitary than the counter where you signed in at the hospital with your earache, thankfully(!?)). The staff hand out tin tray after tin tray, just like the ones they use to serve meals in a prison cafeteria, each one exactly alike with a measured scoop of that, that, that and this.

You get to the front of the line, here comes your tray through the window. But wait! You're a white person; you must be hungrier than every single other teacher in the room! “More rice?” they gesture silently at you? You decline without blushing and take your tray. Side-stepping the oncoming teachers, who haven't bothered to pause when you paused, you collect your standard-issue tin bowl of soup and a spoon (you've always been relieved that they don't use chopsticks at school).

Weaving through narrow aisles, balancing tray, spoon and soup, (and a pocket pack of tissues squeezed in your armpit – there are no napkins here!), you sit at a table with two Chinese teachers. Pleasant greetings are exchanged, but they are certain that this is time for eating, not chatting.

Feeling hopeful, as you're hungry and lunch is generally tasty, you survey your tray. In the first rectangular compartment is something unusual – it's green, it's overwhelmingly salty, it's rubbery, it's cold, it's tied into knots, and it looks deceivingly like green pasta. Don't eat it! It's the worst seaweed ever. Alongside that is something hiding in dark brown sauce; the sauce is sweet and not too bad, but what are the chunks? First, you taste meat. OK, it's pork (always pork), but wait...umm, it's fatty, very fatty, and is that the skin? Right, it's marinated pork rinds or something equally delicious. Fine, well never mind that.

Hmm. You look to the small circular compartment, which is usually empty, and there is a special treat today. Everyone around you is pleased with this treat. What is it? Well, no one knows the English word, so let's use your powers of observation. Each one is the size of a dollar coin, slightly oblong, definitely wrinkly and maybe it was once purple, but don't worry because now it's a much more safe shade of brown. There are three of them, hmm, it must be...three prunes! We all need our lunch time prune fix, certainly. You decline to pop the whole thing in your mouth, despite the example set by those pit-spitting people around you, and carefully wheedle your spoon through the flesh to taste a small bit. Thank goodness for that! Any more and you might have gagged. It's sickly sweet, and yet why does it taste nothing like prune and instead taste almost exactly like smoke?? You will not know the answer; there is no suitable English word known to explain. "Smoked?", "Barbecued?", "Roasted?", "Cooked over fire?" and "Injected with nitrates?" bring only blank stares.

But, do not dismay, there, in the last rectangular compartment is your rice–lovely and white, untainted by MSG or skin or smoke. Seeing it, familiar and fluffy, you might be tempted to think forlornly about the extra scoop you were offered. Instead fix your attention firmly on the soup. It appears today's concoction is more than the usual colourless, salty broth. Could it be a tomato-based soup? Yes, and it's got cabbage and onion. Sip. This is not bad, seriously, not bad at all. Why, when you put the half-cup of rice together with the cup of soup it's a whole meal really. I mean, when you think about it there's nothing to complain about, nothing at all.

Guest Post

I was featured in Kimberly Lyn's The Souls of My Shoes. She asked her favourite blogger pals about their favourite Christmas presents. Have a look!

What's your favourite food-related holiday present?

Canadian Blog Award Nomination

I was reading the National Post yesterday when the second page read that the paper was up for five nominations for the Canadian Blog Awards.

Lo and behold, so is Sift, Dust & Toss. What an honour!

I've been nominated for four categories. If you'd like to support me, you can click on the links below beside each category to cast your vote.

  1. Best Overall Blog (click here to vote)
  2. Best Blog Post for 'Gift from the Sea' (click here to vote)
  3. Crafts Cooking and Other Activities (click here to vote)
  4. Best New Blog (click here to vote)

I feel a little mushy right now. I'd like to thank all of you for reading an supporting me. I really appreciate it.

For more info about the Canadian Blog Awards, visit the website here.


Coffee or tea for me?

This past week, one of my colleagues at work saw me drinking coffee and said, "I always see you drinking tea- I didn't know you drank coffee."

It's been a long week.

Much as I love coffee, it does funny things to my gut and I get too buzzed and jangled so I try to drink tea in an effort to stay even keeled. I try reserve coffee drinking for weekend brunches and special occasions (mornings only!) An average cup of coffee contains 110 mg of caffeine while a cup of tea contains only 40 mg.

On a visit to Leslieville yesterday, I found myself with some extra time on my hands and wandered into recently-opened, Steeped and Infused.

Unlike other tea stores in Toronto where teas are trapped behind the counter, the product is accessible to sniff and look at. What an idea!

I know a good amount about tea, but I left Steeped and Infused with more knowledge than ever before, thanks to the lovely staff members who took so much time and care with me as we discussed all the varieties displayed along the wall.

Some facts about tea:
  1. True teas are made from the Camellia sinensis plant. Herbal teas do not contain tea leaves and are created from herbs and spices.
  2. The Camellia sinensis plant gives us white tea, green tea, oolong tea and black tea, ranging from youngest to most mature. All contain caffeine - even white tea.
  3. Pu-erh tea is made from a large leaf variety of Camellia sinensis and gets its name from Pu'er county near Simao, Yunnan, China. These teas can be aged up to 50 years old and gain complexity like aged wines. Sometimes they are auctioned off for thousands of dollars.
  4. Tisanes are made from fruits.
  5. Rooibos (pronounced roy-bos) tea comes from an African legume plant; the name means red bush. It's high levels of antioxidants like aspalathin and nothofagin have gained attention from health-conscious Western conoisseurs. It also contains some phenolic compounds like flavanols and dihydrochalcones, but has very low tannins compared to Camellia sinensis teas and contains zero caffeine.
I hadn't even intended to buy, but I made my way home with some delicious premium jasmine phoenix pearls. You just sprinkle 5-6 six in your tea cup and they blossom upon meeting hot water. Unlike other blossoming teas, you can re-steep them and the flavour gets better the second and third time.

If you are a tea connoisseur, I definitely recommend Steeped and Infused. Have a look!

Steeped and Infused
1258 Queen Street East
Toronto, Ontario
M4L 1C3
647 348-1669

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(Please excuse this simple text post. Something is going on with Blogger's capacity to upload images.)

Cold hands, warm heart?

 A study came out a little while back that suggested the cues we get from other people can be influenced by the kind of drink we consume.

When holding a hot beverage, people are more likely to see strangers as welcoming and trustworthy. The study published in Science indicated that volunteers rated people as 11% warmer after holding a hot drink than after holding a cold drink.

The warmth of a drink also influenced how selfish participants behaved.

A second study asked 53 people to hold heated or frozen therapeutic pads, under the belief that they were evaluating a medical product. After completing a questionnaire about the pads they were offered a choice between a drink for themselves or a voucher they could give to a friend. Those primed with coldness were more likely to choose a gift for themselves, while those primed with warmth were more likely to choose the gift for a friend.

What are our takeaways from this exercise?

Well, sometimes when I feel fussy (or it’s just Monday morning), I make myself a warm tea and remember this study.

Who knows, it could make an 11% difference in the quality of your day.

Loved this: more flame for San Fran

Oh David Chang, you opened up some floodgates with your San Francisco comments. It's become kinda trendy to knock San Francisco chefs in the culinary communities of NYC.

Charlie Kleinman, of Wexler NY, put the issue into perspective with a more thoughtful comment than any I've heard on the issue. Attributing setbacks to seasonally-focused, raw and fresh food, he said,
One of the hardest and one of the most wonderful things about being a chef in San Francisco is that people know the farms," Wexler's Charlie Kleinman told the Times. "'They know who grows what. That’s great, because it makes you stay seasonal."
 Unfortunately, as Slashfood poins out:  that also makes chefs timid to alter their prized produce.