Tag Archives: wine

Ribs as Fast Food–when it’s Tuesday night and you’re panicking

Quick ribs with baby new potatoes (dill and olive oil) and arugula salad.

I love ribs.  You love ribs.  We all love ribs.  Last time I made them (last summer) we ate at 10:30 at night.  I thanked the rib-Gods that the guests I had invited over for my homemade smoked ribs had cancelled last-minute.  Whatever they ended up doing was probably more fun than politely pretending, “oh no, this bag of chips with salsa is totally filling us up until the moon comes out, a wolf howls and your Weber grill spits out its slow-cooked creation.”

But–I will say the ribs kicked ass.

Still, I was curious (as a rib craver) to try a new product from Mastro.  They held a tasting at St. Lawrence market in June and I got to take home some of their prepackaged ribs.  Ready in just 15 minutes!

I finally pulled them out a few nights ago when I came home to a starving family and not a minute to spare before we settled on  a meal of Triscuits and some old mum-mums from Felix’s teething days.

My hesitance with the pre-cooked ribs is kind of a guilt/snobby/ foodie annoying thing.  Ribs should be made with a secret sauce, over a smoky charcoal grill, basted at regular intervals, internal temperature monitored, sweat wiped from the brow, anticipation building…..yada yada yada.

But–when it came down to a meal of ribs or a meal of stale carbs, I chose ribs.  I opened the package, popped them on a cookie sheet (on foil) and baked for 15-17 minutes, flipping them halfway.  You can also heat them on the grill (which is where you put them 5 minutes before guests arrive and then fake some perspiration on the brow I imagine).

The ribs were great.  I tried the balsamic and fig (my fave) and spicy fire-roasted tomato (had a good hit of spice) — there is also a roasted garlic and tomato flavour.

They are about $14.99 and I think could serve 4 people–or 2 super hungry people.

So, I’m passing on the info, you can decide for yourself if it’s possible to come terms with pre-packaged ribs. I think I would have to make my own on a weekend or if friends came over (dury calls and all that) but let me tell you, in a pinch?  Hit the spot and timeline.

Enjoyed with a little of this.  I must admit the bottle came in my gift bag from the tasting event, but I keep a couple of these bottles around for some weeknight sipping so I was pretty content with the match.

Ascheri BARBERA D’ALBA 2008

Here is a bit more info from the company about ingredients and make-process:

Mastro starts with lean, top-quality pork ribs, seasons them with Italian herbs and spices, individually oven-cooks them, and then smokes them over hardwood hickory.

The ribs are always shipped to your grocery store fresh, never frozen. You don’t have to thaw them – don’t have to pre-cook them – and don’t have to sauce them.  They are available at Sobeys, Metro, Royal Canadian Super Centres, and No Frills.

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Hey, there was a really cool Cheese Festival in Picton. You’ll wish you were there.

Felix shows an aptitude for milking at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival

The 2nd Annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival happened the first weekend of June and it was a grand ol’ time.  Even the dreaded rain did it justice and held off.  Though I missed last years event I will book my weekend for this event from now on.  Overhearing the conversations around me,  it was exciting to hear a real mix of industry people, cheese lovers, food lovers and just people looking for something tasty–all gathered in one spot.

Above are the tents set up all around the Crystal Palace where the main part of the festival happened over two days.

And here is the interior, it was pretty jam-packed.  You would buy tickets inside and use those to sample many delicious things such as cheese (of course) but also local wine, brew, preserves, breads and other fine food.  And as much as there were loads of people there was plenty of opportunity to chat with the producers and learn more about them.  It was very friendly and casual.

I used up many a ticket walking around with a sample of the 2009 Closson Chase Pinot Noir.

But a person does not want to ignore Chardonnay either so here I tried the 1812 from Palatine Hills Estate with Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar.  The wine is technically from Niagara Wine Country but it is a tribute to the anniversary of the war.  So, who can fault that?

Then I moved over to the Back Forty booth where Jeff Fenwick was sampling their Highland Blue and the Bonnechere (with its toasted rind).

Bonne Chere and Highland Blue

Jeff and Jenna Fenwick took over Back Forty from James Keith this spring.  The rind of the Highland Blue is very beautiful with a little bit of bloomy mold developing.  (or “bloody” mold if you copy my notes straight from my iPhone. Damn you autocorrect.)

From East coast to Ontario to West Coast, it is impossible not to recognize this beautiful trio from Salt Spring Island.  Romelia is the pale gold lady, Blue Juliette is next to her and at the back is elegant Juliette herself.  Some of my very favourite cheeses.  Blue Juliette was the subject of the very first Spread Column (2008) ever, so I am particularly attached.

I then slid over to sample the amazing Alpindon and Nostrala from The Kootenay Alpine Cheese company from BC.  Both cheeses showcase the raw, organic milk they are made from. If you see them while shopping make you try these guys.  They will become a staple.

And I could not resist sampling this sheep’s milk, bloomy rind cheese called “Commanda” as a tribute to the Algonquin elder William Commanda– by John Thompson of Kendal Vale Cheese.

And to cleanse the cheese palate I stopped by the Mad Mexican booth where they make authentic Mexican food from fresh local ingredients.  Everything was amazing.  Here is a little description of their Salsa Morita from their site:

Morita Salsa (a.k.a. Salsa Roja):

The dried and smoked morita pepper, a native of Mexico, give this salsa its distinct earthy flavor. Made from fresh charred tomatoes and sweet onions, it has a medium heavy body with a touch of heat. This morita salsa achieves complex flavors reminiscent of smoked and fire grilled foods. It boldly stands alone as a dip or adds the spark to grilled meats, shrimp and tomato base sauces.

And this is me and Janice Beaton, the passionate cheese monger, owner of Janice Beaton Fine Cheese in Calgary and FARM a restaurant showcasing the wealth of Albertan foods.  I had been dying to meet so was so happy to final talk face-to-face.

And I will continue this post tomorrow as I realized I have not even taken you INSIDE the building and already am going long!

Til then,  S.

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Ticket Giveaway for The Artisan Cheese and Fine Food Fair June 2/3

I’m very excited to be have two passes (courtesy of the The Great Canadian Cheese Festival) to give away for their Artisan Cheese and Fine Food Fair which takes place in Prince Edward County on June 2 and 3.   This is the second annual event and numbers for the Food Fair will be capped each day so these are hot little tamales.

Monforte Dairy’s triple-cream Bliss and hand-churned butter will be available at the event.

If like me, the above cheese board is your perfect meal, you won’t want to miss the Food Fair where you will find over thirty artisanal and farmstead cheese makers from across Canada plus a dairy farm for the kids (I  plan to leave my son in the care of a responsible–but fun-loving–goat), a food court and 80 exhibitors in total showcasing their wares.

These two tickets are worth $80 and with admission you get:

-10 tasting tickets

-a souvenir Festival cooler bag for cheese purchases  (this is much better than a leather purse, trust me)

-free parking at the Crystal Palace where the event is being held

-and you can sit in on the All You Need is Cheese seminars being put on by Dairy Farmer’s of Canada  (and taught by Deborah Levy who is fantastic and very knowledgeable)

Here is a link to FEATURED WINERIES, CRAFT BREWERS and ARTISAN FOODS.

Sandbanks Winery, PEC image from About.Com

And if you’ve never been to Prince Edward County, you really must try to see it.  It is a perfect weekend away.

There is also a COOKS AND CURDS gala on the evening of June 2 which features Canadian chefs cooking with Canadian cheese, paired with local brews and wine.  The first sitting is sold out but the second sitting is still open.

Information about getting tickets to everything (but obviously you’re going to win these) is available on the festival site as is accommodation information.  See you there!

HOW TO WIN:

If you think you’d like to attend simply email me at thespread@globeandmail.com with the subject heading CHEESE FESTIVAL GIVEAWAY and I will do a draw next Tuesday, May 22 and mail you the tickets if you win.

Good luck and please spread the word, forward this, tell your friends to pass on information about this amazing event.   Much appreciated.

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Toast Post: Merlot Bella Vitano for your weekend munching

I only had enough change for a skinny piece!

Wine and cheese in the same package.  Perfectly portable and legal for the underage too.  I didn’t know that the award-winning Merlot Bella Vitano ( from Sartori cheese in Wisconsin) was gettable up in these parts.

But I went to the new Leslieville Cheese on Donlands and there it was.  It’s referred to as a cheddar-parm hybrid in some reviews and does have the creamy quality and acidity of cheddar mixed with the savoury, sweet crunch of the Reggiano.  In this one you also get a bit of that fermented grape tang.

I asked the cheese monger to write the other flavours on my cheese package/notepad–it also comes washed in raspberry ale, balsamic vinegar and rubbed with espresso.  If you like the coffee-cheese idea you can also get the delicious lavender/espresso rubbed Barely Buzzed from Sobeys.  Or you can read about my coffee and cheese pairing experience here.

Have a fantastic weekend!

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Alsace Riesling is my new Wingman

Lee Restaurant, King St (I stole this picture form their site, yes I did)

Inside Lee: not rainy

Last Tuesday, on a rainy, miserable night in Toronto I pulled my damp trench tight around me and made a dash for Lee on King Street.

Off with the trench and out with my hand to grab a glass of Alsatian Riesling as it passed by.  I was attending a dinner to celebrate the two winning chefs of the Vanguard Culinary Fusion and Wine Pairing Competition (let’s just call it Van-Fu Wi-Pa).  The Van-Fu Wi-Pa was a competition between 9 Toronto chefs to pair dishes with specific wines hailing from the Alsace and Rhone regions of France.  Head judge and host of the evening was Susur Lee in whose kitchen the two winners (Chef Shane Straiko from the Pantages Hotel and Misha Nesterenko from Marben) were preparing their food) while I sipped Riesling wondering why I drove to a wine event.

Before dinner they came out front to accept their accolades.  Both were extremely gratious but looked a little uncomfortable to have to leave the kitchen and speak to a room full of flashing iPhones and chants of “where’s the grub?”. (ok, there was not chanting…. just a disquieting murmur).

Susur's reaction when I told him I write a column just about cheese.

I was fortunate to have some great company at my table- Renée Suen from Toronto Life and David Ort and Suresh Doss from Spotlight Toronto.  We were also joined for part of the meal by Chef Lee and had a fun discussion about good pho (“that place on Ossington that’s not Golden Turtle”), food in general, travel and even a bit of cheese talk.

Misha Nesterenko plating during competition

My fave dish was Misha Nesterenko’s braised short ribs with  horseradish pomme puree, curly kale and butter glazed veggies.  It was paired with a Cotes du Rhone Village Rasteau (M. Chapoutier, 2009).   I took a bite, I took a sip of wine, I ate, I sipped…it was fluid.  A fairly classic dish as Misha had acknowledged at the beginning of the night but it worked.

No need for me to to post my dimly lit iPhone photos, you can taste similar pairings until November 11 at all the participating restaurants (the other 7 were Ultra Supper Club, The Bowery, Le Canard Mort, Veritas, Langdon Hall, TOCA and Ancaster Mill).

As for the my new wingman? Well, his name is actually Pierre Sparr.  We received a gift bag on the way out and in it were two bottles of wine (the above Riesling and a Gigondas). So far the Riesling had me looking like the best hostess ever at a small drop-in dinner I organized.   I reached for it to serve with the cheese board.   Suddenly people were looking me in the eye, telling me I was beautiful, laughing at my jokes…essentially distracting me any way they knew how while reaching into the fridge to get at this wine which I practically had to ration. The wine lover friend came back for more as did my friend who usually only drinks half a glass,  and even people who usually just buy “white” asked for label info. If it’s like the other Pierre Sparr wines at the LCBO it’s probably under $20.

God only knows what will happen when I open the Gigondas.  I’m hoping Genie.

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