I hope you’ll enjoy reading this post about a dinner that prominently featured Ontario wine. Once you’re done please visit this link, scroll down to the bottom of the page to vote for my entry.
For me, the last month of summer is about appreciating the final days of that too-short window when it is truly enjoyable to be outside in Ontario. Usually this means as many weekend days as possible spent at the cottage. This year, because of long overdue repairs to the island’s harbour, we had to close up early.
Usually Thanksgiving is the end of the season for us so dinner last Saturday night stood-in as a late-September substitute. Naturally, the meal featured Ontario VQA wine both as ingredient and accompaniment.
We started our meal outside, gathered by the wood pizza oven we built last summer. Relaxing my usual orthodoxy that favours traditional Neapolitan pizza felt appropriate after a summer of them. Instead we made boat-shaped Turkish pide with an enriched dough (milk, eggs, and butter) and fillings that leaned towards sausage, spinach, and feta.
This eclectic starter and the still warm, late-afternoon sunshine called for an equally unconventional but vibrant wine like the Five Mile ($14.25 195669) from Coyote’s Run. This blend of Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Gewurztraminer fits into that category of exciting, refreshing wine that is perfectly suited as the afternoon’s first glass.
There was also a bottle of Vineland Estates’s 2009 Semi Dry Riesling ($13.95 232033) going around. This wine sits near the intersection where “what Niagara does best” meets “good value”. With such consistent notes of peach on the nose and palate I can’t think of a more appropriate wine to come out of Vineland.
Recognising that summer is ending and that the night’s forecast temperature was in the low single digits we dragged ourselves inside for a soup of autumn squashes. The soup had an appealing richness and smoky flavour (even without a trace of pork), beyond that I’ll let the recipe speak for itself.
The paired wine was the 2010 Chardonnay ($16.95 245712) from Vincor’s Vintage Ink line. I think a richer and rounder wine with not too much oak on it like this one does well with the hearty, slightly spicy soup.
Beet and arugula salad (candied walnuts are the key) shared the main plate with pan-roasted pork tenderloin. Pinot noir is my favourite Ontario red wine and natural partner for pork. Rosewood’s 2009 version ($20 112177) deserves it’s wide acclaim for its black cherry nose, and multi-layered, intense palate with great length.
The 2007 Laura Red from Creekside ($19.95 117960) is a truly refined red blend that also went well with the pork and served excellently as an aide to post-dinner conversation.
For dessert we continued to straddle the two seasons with a peach crisp and a skillet apple pie both moistened with a splash of the Five Mile that started our meal.
This year’s go LOCAL theme is finding your favourite Ontario wine. For me it’s next to impossible to pick just one but the search, especially when combined with food and great company, is exceedingly pleasant.
Autumn Squash Soup
- a mix of local, autumn squashes (I used a pie pumpkin, a buttercup, and an acorn squash) cut in quarters
- two sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
- four red onions, thinly sliced
- six medium (or eight small) tart apples, cored and quartered
- three cans coconut milk
- six cups chicken broth
- one very hot chili pepper, minced
- 1 TB hot curry powder
- half a nutmeg, freshly ground
- olive oil
- salt and cracked black pepper to taste
- flat leaf parsley or sage for garnish
Squashes and appetites vary in size so its hard to say exactly how many this will serve but we fed it to eleven as a course and had ample leftovers.
Lightly cover pieces of squash and sweet potato in olive oil and a bit of salt. Smoke-roast these for about an hour. I did this in the wood oven running at about 400°F with the door set in a diagonal position so that the fire wood continue to burn and some of the smoke would escape up the chimney. A charcoal barbeque with a banked fire and hardwood chunks would accomplish the same goal.
During the last twenty minutes of the roasting stage gently saute the onions and apple pieces in olive oil.
Once you’re satisfied that the squash has picked up enough smoke, softened, and intensified its natural flavour by losing water peel it and cut away any blacked spots. This is really the only fussy step of this recipe: it doesn’t take much charred flesh to give the whole pot an acrid note so be diligent. Cut into two-inch cubes.
Add the minced pepper and squash pieces to the pot and cook for two minutes. Pour in the coconut milk and chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium-hot heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for thirty minutes. This soup will be better if the pot is covered at this stage and left in a cold place overnight.
The next day (or immediately if not convenient) reheat the soup and use an immersion blender to process to a smooth but thick consistency. Dig down with a wooden spoon to make sure you haven’t left any large, stringy chunks of squash intact. Add the curry powder and nutmeg, and season (remembering that you added some salt to the roasting squash and that the broth had salt).
Here’s the trick to adding wine to soup: A half-teaspoon of the wine you’re drinking with the soup (in this case the Vintage Ink Chardonnay) stirred in just before service will let diners smell some of the wine’s volatile aromas. Any earlier and you’re just adding water, and a bit of alcohol, sugar and acid.
Garnish and serve.