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July, 2010:

Hot July Day in an Orchard

A couple weeks ago the lure of futuristic sex robots on the promotional invitation pulled me to Parkdale’s Parts & Labour for the Canadian launch of Svedka vodka. This most filtered and pure spirit is not my favourite spirit but I always try to keep an open mind where free alcohol is involved.

After we exhausted the list of Svedka-designed cocktails the bearded bartender at PNL was good enough to mix a vodka version of the modern classic Bramble for me and the two ladies beside me–who were much better at twisting his arm.  Ice, vodka (the original has gin), lemon juice, simple syrup, and sparkling water are stirred together before a blackberry liqueur is carefully poured over the top and berries are added as garnish. (more…)

First Fire

After a lot of hard work we finally reached that milestone of lighting the first fire in our wood-fired oven last Saturday, July 24.  Early May when we broke ground and were digging in very cold rain seems like such time ago now.  I’ll be writing about more about what it took to get us this far in the project but now here are some more pictures.

Chimney is 2/3 finished

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A Week of Riesling

Last week a group of friends and wine lovers–many of whom Twitter about food or wine–gathered to sample some of Ontario’s best Riesling.  We tasted ten bottles from Niagara plus two surprise outsiders.

The identity of each wine was disguised during the tasting and at the end of the night a favourite and least favourite was selected based on a show of hands.

The results were, if not startling, eye-opening.  Tasting blind the crowd managed to pick wines for our favourite and least favourite that are exactly the same $17.95 price.  The 2009 Tawse “Sketches of Niagara” Riesling took top honours and my notes have it as flinty on the nose and tasting slightly sweet with notes of pineapple.  Stripped of its clever packaging and catchy name the voters shunned the 2007 Megalomaniac Narcissist Riesling with whose nose I was particularly disappointed.  More intriguing is that the two wineries, Tawse and John Howard Cellars of Distinction (who produce Megalomaniac) are directly across Cherry Avenue in Vineland from each other and apparently the lion’s share of grapes used for both wines were grown by the same growers on the same plot.  Terroir-ists will, I’m sure, gasp in disbelief. (more…)

Queen Margherita’s Pizza

Readers will know that this is the summer we build an oven at  my family’s cottage that is designed to cook, among other things, pizza.  Hopefully, this is enough to solidly establish my credibility as someone who takes pizza seriously.  Either way, I like eating pizza and was pleased to hear of a new authentic pizza joint, Queen Margherita’s Pizza (or just QMP)  that has opened in the East end.

On a recent visit with two friends we kept to the heart of the menu and each ordered a pizza.  The other option is the twenty-five dollar prix fixe menu which created a shit-storm of controversy on Chowhound (what else is Chowhound good for?) when QMP opened and some diners were informed that the prix fixe was mandatory.  Not so anymore but as far as I could tell pizzas are the only a la carte option.  I didn’t see any of the desserts but judging by the frisee salad that arrived at our neighbours’ table (and the disappointed look on their face) sticking with pizza is probably the right choice. (more…)

French Cornichons

I think I have finally entered the secret brotherhood of homemade cornichon and gherkin makers. My specific goal was not sweet gherkins (which are the right size but way too sweet) or just small versions of a dill pickle but what I wanted is the intensely sour french cornichon that graces my favourite protein delivery system: the charcuterie plate.

The hardcore, pure acid required recipe that I started looking for back in February is, not surprisingly, from Fergus Henderson’s Nose to Tail cookbook.  It doesn’t explicitly call for them the idea of needing black, elbow-length laboratory gloves to make pickles appealed to my  inner Alton Brown.  Problem is that I don’t have the first idea where I could find pure acetic acid and also, after some quick math, I’m not sure there’s any point. (more…)