Friday 5: Tea, Pizza, Clothes, Caves and Wine

I’m doing some editing, research, and working on a Friday 5 list for next week, so I thought I’d do a quick list of links and things I’m loving this week.

1. Clipper Tea. I picked up some Earl Grey and Sleep Easy locally on a whim this week and I am head over heels. I highly recommend both!

2. Foolproof Pan Pizza! I’ve been testing dairy again this week and haven’t had any problems so far. Knock on wood! One thing I’ve been missing like crazy is pizza, so I’m going to make my own and enjoy the heck out of it. This is one of my favourite recipes. (via Serious Eats)

3. Project 333's "5 Ways to Create a Capsule Wardrobe" for helping psych me up for spring cleaning and trying out a capsule wardrobe. (via Project 333)

4. Reading about the opening of Caverne du Pont d'Arc, a replica of the prehistoric paintings of Chauvet Cave (take a virtual visit here) in France's Ardèche valley. Its been under meticulous construction since 2007. (via Smithsonian Magazine)

5. Learning about the wines of the Languedoc and planning our own wine tour. (via The Guardian)

That's it for this week! I hope you have a beautiful weekend.  

Ice, Ice(wine) Baby

I wouldn’t classify myself as a picky eater. I’ve only truly hated two types of food in my life: cilantro (it tasted like soap to me and I know I'm not alone) and salmon (thanks to getting sick after eating it). When I read an article about overcoming food aversions few years ago, I started to feel silly about turning my nose up at them. Apparently if you continue to try small amounts of whatever it is you don’t like, you develop a taste for it. I've been successful with this strategy so far. I love salmon again and I tolerate cilantro now. 

I wanted to lead with that because I always thought I hated icewine. Last year, S and I were gifted a weekend getaway in Niagara on the Lake during the Niagara Icewine Festival. Our stay included free tastings at a handful of wineries. We went to Château des Charmes first and had such a lacklustre experience with both the wine and the service that we lost interest in trying any of the other wineries. Later, we wandered through the downtown festival area for a bit but didn’t taste anything. We spent the rest of our trip having fun antiquing.

I didn't take many pictures at the festival because, frankly, my hands were cold and my phone dies in the cold. I also try to keep foodie pics to a minimum in public because it always feels weird. 

I didn't take many pictures at the festival because, frankly, my hands were cold and my phone dies in the cold. I also try to keep foodie pics to a minimum in public because it always feels weird. 

This year, we went to the festival again with my parents and had a completely different experience. Instead of heading to a winery, we went downtown first. We got tasting glasses and tokens and wandered through the huts to see what the different wineries offered. 

Generally, you will see most ice wines made from Riesling, Vidal, or Cabernet Franc grapes with the latter two being the most popular in Ontario. The Vidal produces a rich, buttery yellow wine and the Cabernet Franc produces a beautiful, deep amber strawberry color. 

What makes icewine different? The grapes are left on the vine until temperatures dip to -8° Celcius or lower, which concentrates the sugars in the grape. The grapes are then harvested and pressed while frozen. It can be a tricky business, from harvesting at the right time to working in conjunction with unpredictable weather. The result? Smaller yields and sweet, fruity wines with hefty price tags. Since Ontario gets warm summers and cold winters, we are one of the few regions of the world the produces icewine.

I think next year they should spruce the tents up a bit. They look kinda boring, no? My bar is high after researching Christmas markets in Europe. 

I think next year they should spruce the tents up a bit. They look kinda boring, no? My bar is high after researching Christmas markets in Europe. 

Our first taste was an Iniskillin Sparkling Vidal. Much to my surprise, it didn’t taste like the horrible cloying sweet icewines I remembered. This had more character and 100% more bubbles of fun. It was sweet, yes, but also tart--like a perfect fall apple mixed with ripe grapes. It felt celebratory. I wanted a full glass! Perhaps I like ice wine after all? 

We perused the food next, letting our noses guide us as deliciously warm and hearty scents wafted through the air. There were multiple kinds of pulled pork with long lines. Pass. Some macaroni and cheese that looked amazing. I can’t have dairy, so a reluctant pass. It was a lonely duck confit cassoulet from Peller that caught our attention. No one seemed to be manning the station. A pretty little yellow Le Creuset pot sat atop a portable single burner. Was it empty? 

We went to the end of the aisle and realized none of the other food sounded as good as the cassoulet. By the time we walked back, there was a woman behind the counter. We walked right up and got a small bowl. It was so good that after one bite each, we turned around and got a second bowl.

Delicious, delicious cassoulet. It disappeared so fast I almost missed my photo op.

Delicious, delicious cassoulet. It disappeared so fast I almost missed my photo op.

I still have no idea why there wasn't a long line up for it, but I feel like we found an under appreciated gem. It was rich and hearty but not heavy. There were tons of beans and everything had a beautiful duck flavour without being too fatty or strong. It’s still the morning as I write this, and I would eat a whole bowl right now if I could. Probably some for lunch, too. Who am I kidding? And dinner. I love duck. 

We considered spending the rest of our tokens on cassoulet, but that’s not what we came for, so we tasted three more wines: a Vidal from Joseph (ok), a Vidal from Trius (yum!), and a Cabernet Franc from Peller (meh, too sweet for me). 

Afterward, we wandered around some of the stores that were open and then drove to Iniskillin. We sampled their Vidal, a Sparkling Cabernet Franc, a Sparkling Vidal, and an Oak-Aged Vidal. I genuinely liked them all, but holy moly did I love the Oak-Aged Vidal and both of the sparkling offerings. 

All in all, I was shocked. I really enjoyed the day and the wines. I’m not sure I’ll ever be the type of person who loves ice wine, but I can see having an after-dinner glass on a very special occasion, especially one of those sparkling beauties.

So I guess I do like icewine after all. The lesson? Try again. 

Want to have the full icewine experience, too?

The Niagara Icewine Festival runs each year for three weekends in January. 

Since the 2015 festival is over, there is always the option of going to the wineries and doing your own tasting or looking into a tour, like Grape Escape Wine Tours or Niagara Vintage Wine Tours.

The Good Girth Supper Club

On Saturday S and I drove down to Niagara and had dinner with my parents at the Good Earth Food and Wine Company, located in Beamsville in the beautiful Twenty Valley. They were having a Dia de los Muertos dinner for their monthly Good Girth Supper Club that piqued all of our interests.

A dark and spooky iPhone photo, but there is nothing spooky about this place.

A dark and spooky iPhone photo, but there is nothing spooky about this place.

We were warmly welcomed when we arrived. The rooms were decorated with vibrant bunting, ribbons on the chairs, and colorful tissue paper poms sticking out of brightly painted Corona bottles. The whole mood was festive.

We decided to sit on the patio. It was closed in and had a bunch of outdoor heaters to keep everyone toasty. Each chair had a blanket draped around the back, just in case you were still feeling chilly. I threw mine over my legs and was snug as a bug in a rug for the whole dinner. It was a really thoughtful touch. 

The meal was fantastic, the services was great, and the atmosphere was fun.

What we ate 

  • Green Chile & Pork Tamales with Salsa Verde and Salsa Blanco
  • Chile Rellenos with Beef, Queso Fresco, Ancho Chile Sauce, Mexican Rice and Fried Pinto Beans
  • A dessert trio including: Deep Fried Chile Chocolate Ice Cream, Churros & Dulce de Leche, and Tres Leches Cake

It really seemed like they offered something for everyone and included gluten-free and vegan options. Our other choices were Shrimp Tostadas, Savory Mexican Parfait, Fish Tacos, and Vegan Posole de Frijoles. We all ended up getting the same meal because tamales and chile rellenos are a family favorite. It's just too difficult to pass them up. 

Before I go any further, I have to say that I grew up eating exceptional New Mexican food. I started eating hot salsa with 3. And even though we moved from New Mexico when I was still knee-high to a grasshopper, my dad makes the authentic stuff himself.

So the bar for any kind of Mexican food is pretty darn high--whether its Old, New, Tex-Mex (heaven forbid), or any other variation. We tend to temper our expectations here in Canada, but we were all really impressed by this meal. No, it wasn't hot and spicy. At least not by our standards. But it was obviously made with care and attention to authentic Mexican recipes. The tamales, which are labor intensive when made right, tasted like the real thing. I could have eaten so many of them. The relleno was just delicious. And the beans and rice were spot on. 

The desserts were tasty, too!

Fried ice cream is an old favorite of mine, but I can't seem to find it anywhere anymore. So I was most excited to try the Deep Fried Chile Chocolate Ice Cream. I threw being dairy-free out the window for that alone and it was the only thing I was disappointed in. It was more of a deep fried ganache. Tasty, but not the true warm, crispy shell and cold, melty center I remember.

The Churros with Dulce de Leche and the Tres Leches Cake, on the other hand, were the unexpected stars for us. 

What we drank

We shared a bottle of Good Earth's 2013 Big Fork Red. It's a blend of 49% Merlot, 38% Pinot Noir, 9% Cabernet Franc and 4% Syrah. I found it fresh, light, and fruity with lots of berries. While I normally like a bigger, bolder red wine, it was good with our meal. I'd order it again. 

We also shared a French press pot of decaf coffee. I wouldn't normally comment on coffee, but I found it to be extra delicious. I believe the beans were from Vintage Roasters in Hamilton. I loved it enough that I looked them up this morning to see if we could get some here int Toronto. 

Practical Information for Visitors

If you are interested in going to one of the Good Girth Supper Clubs, they are held on the first Saturday of each month. The prix-fixe menu generally revolves around a seasonal theme and consists of 3 courses for $45. Beverages, of course, are extra. You can check out the monthly menu under their events page. It's easy to book online, but you will need a credit card to hold your reservation.  

The next dinner is on December 6th. The theme is Sinterklaas and the menu is European-inspired for the holiday season. I'll have the onion cake and the chicken schnitzel, please. Or maybe the pork loin. Mmm. 

The Good Earth does much more than just the supper club, though. We had a great lunch this past July, which I wrote a bit about here (there are more pictures, too!).

It is open daily for wine tastings (daily 11 am to 5 pm) and the bistro serves seasonal dishes from 11 am to 4 pm (5 pm on Sundays). They also have other events like cooking demos and classes. Check their events page for updated information about what's happening each month.