Tag Archives: wine

Drinking for Two

30 Jul

The “before” picture.

There have been a whole lot of changes going on in foodNURDland, not the least of which is the ever-closer arrival of the foodNURDling in December. As someone who loves food – and many, many of the alcoholic beverages under the sun – this has required some alterations in my normal routine. It was not easy to give up some of the foods and drinks I love. Prosciutto, wine, raw fish, tiramisu, beef (steak, at least. I am a firm believer that beef should not be cooked to more medium rare at most, so that’s pretty much out, too) and beer. While I’ve chosen to have a little bit of wine here, some beer there, I’m obviously no longer unwinding after a long day with a glass – or two or three – of cab sauv.

And what’s a wine-loving woman to do when she goes out with friends for dinner and can’t face another ginger ale or glass of water? She asks the bartender to get creative.

The easy option is a virgin mojito. All the bartender has to do is remove the rum et voila: drink. In my experience, though, virgin mojitos are far, far too sweet. J makes a much better version than any I’ve had at a restaurant: it’s nowhere near as sweet. My girlfriend, the Hot Biscuit, doesn’t drink much and her tasty stand-by is a mix of cranberry, orange juice and 7-Up. It’s definitely sweet, but the cranberry juice’s tartness helps.

When I was out at Murphy’s Law over the July long weekend, I asked the waitress what she could recommend that was,  “non-alcoholic but looks like it could get me tanked.” She thought about it for a moment and then suggested a virgin pina colada. Given that pina coladas generally don’t taste like alcohol anyway, this seemed like a pretty solid option though certainly one I’d think of off the top of my head. (Pina coladas = beach resort drink.)

…and after.

The most entertaining drink I’ve had so far? A Shirley Temple, made for me at Salvador Darling. The bartender seemed a little stumped initially, so I suggested she just throw some orange and cranberry juice in a glass. Seconds later, it was like a light bulb went off over her head: “I can make you a Shirley Temple!” Awesome. I haven’t had a Shirley Temple since I was ten. I was asked repeatedly if it tasted like I remembered and it pretty much did: sweet, a little fizzy and…sweet.

The best drink so far? That was created one night while I sat at the bar at The Grove. I was a few minutes early for my reservation, so I hopped up on a stool and presented the bartender with my now-standard request. As usual, there was a moment’s pause while he got over the shock of someone not wanting alcohol and then started processing the quandary. “Well, I’ve been experimenting with ginger lately…do you like ginger?” Oh, I do. “So long as there are no olives involved, I’m in!”

A tall, frosty glass of tastiness arrived in front of me a few minutes later. Filled with ice, mint, ginger, homemade lemonade and a couple of other delicious ingredients, this was pretty much my perfect (non-alcoholic) drink. It was refreshing, not overly sweet, and complex. I’m hoping to be as pleasantly surprised elsewhere as I was that evening but so far, still searching.

Anyone have any suggestions for a great drink or bar?


National BBQ Day Media Launch

11 Jun

For the last few months, I have been working with the wonderful not-for-profit company, Meal Exchange. They are passionate about getting youth involved in the local food movement, working to alleviate hunger across Canada, but always with a local focus. I happen to believe strongly in their cause and, back in December 2011, I looked to get involved with them. Lo and behold, I came across National BBQ Day: an annual, Canada-wide event that encourages people to visit their local farmer’s markets, purchase some great food (steak, burgers, chicken, veggies, fruit…), throw it on the grill and then send in their photos for the chance to win some great prizes! I’m a big proponent of visiting a market instead of a grocery store whenever possible and I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love BBQ. Put these two together (with, again, a chance to win some great stuff) and you have a winning combination!

Meal Exchange has been very fortunate to partner with the incredible Chateau des Charmes, a stunning vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake. (Proceeds from the sale of each bottle of Generation Seven wine go toward Meal Exchange.) This beautiful spot was the location of this year’s media launch on Sunday, June 3rd.

BBQ-themed food stations were set up for patrons to enjoy with a wide variety of goods to sample. Matt Kantor, chef behind the Secret  Pickle Supper Club, presented three options: grilled Moroccan shrimp with chermoula & cilantro; lamb kofta with yogurt; and grilled dates stuffed with chorizo and served with a roasted pequillo sauce. I opted for the first and last and was not disappointed. The bacon-wrapped dates were especially good and, after watching him demonstrate how to make them, I will most certainly be trying these at home.

Moroccan shrimp

Bacon-wrapped dates

The Tide and Wine Oyster Company offered up a bevy over seafood treats, much to the delight of the people at the vineyard! Over on the other side, the Napoleon Grill chef Therese de Grace whipped up heaping portions of sticky, rich short ribs and and  tempeh tacos with tomatillos, vegan chipotle mayo, pico de gallo and shredded lettuce.  All of those plates were quickly – and happily – devoured.

Tim Tufts, the “master home griller,” created a stuffed pork tenderloin glazed with local whiskey and maple syrup, served with marinated and grilled asparagus. It was quite entertaining to watch Tim and his daughter cook and interact with the people there, demonstrating how to butterfly, tenderize and stuff the pork tenderloin. The stuffing contained mushrooms, bell peppers, breadcrumbs and red wine that had been cooked down and placed in the middle of the tenderloin.

Great food, great wine, great people all there for a great cause. Meal Exchange has been instrumental in helping so many across Canada and it was wonderful to see people out to support them. National BBQ Day is going to be a fantastic event –  if you haven’t yet, sign up to host or attend a BBQ of your own here!

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