A Spanish Night

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My desire to travel to Spain has just doubled, no TRIPLED since my dining experience Sunday night at Cava Restaurant located mid town Toronto. A good friend who actually serves at this beautiful local establishment invited me to have dinner with her after attending my “Old World vs New World” wine class in Liberty Village last week while we were discussing our great love for food and wine.

 

 

 

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It was hands down, one of the best meals I have ever eaten, (unbutton your pants worthy) and on top of that, included foods I have never tried before that thought I would actually hate!

A small, yet original and innovative hideaway, Cava‘s emphasis on Iberian and Latin American flavours has set an authentic style to their Spanish tapas cuisine.

 

 

We chose to order from the “Trust Me” menu which entails chefs to prepare specialities from the menu while servers pair each small dish with a wine. Our server, Adrian was knowledgeable, friendly and organized and I was completely impressed with the pairings he chose for each dish we ate (and boy, there were MANY!)

After reading what I ate, I am sure you might be a little sceptical (and trust me I was too) but in my opinion, there is no better experience to dining than trying new foods at new places! (I seem to prove this point every new place I go!)

Course 1

SUPERGILDA- Sardine escabeche, crushed tomato on toasted baguette rubbed with garlic, with a skewer of guindilla pepper, anchovy, and olive

I know what you are thinking, SARDINES! My friend was telling me last night when I had the same reaction that most people associate sardines with what is found in a can, but this fish was fresh, flavoured and cooked just right! It was my second favourite course of the evening!

Pairing: Fino “Tio Pepe” Sherry- Gonzalez Byass Jerez de la Frontera

I am not a huge fan of Sherry, however the dish completely complemented it and it was delicious!

PINCHO OF GAMAY-POACHED FOIE GRAS

The Foie Gras was creamy and excellent! Tasted like butter on toast!

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Course 2

CHICORIES WITH VALDEON, SMOKED ALMONDS, AND PEAR SALAD

Pairing: Riesling “Dolomite” Cave Spring 2013 Niagara, Canada

The Valdeon, Spanish blue cheese, paired perfectly with the slight sweetness of the Cave Springs Riesling and the pear notes in the wine matched well with the pears in the salad.

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Course 3

EGGPLANT WITH QUESO FRESCO, BONITO, & TOMATILLO SAUCE

Pairing:Palo Cortado “Obispo Gascon” Barbadillo Sanlúcar de Barrameda

Both were divine!

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Course 4

ROASTED SABLEFISH WITH BLACK RICE, AND COLLARD GREENS

Pairing: Chardonnay Southbrook 2013 Niagara, Canada

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SMOKED SEA SCALLOP WITH HOMINY, GREEN TOMATO, SORREL, AND PASILLA CREMA

Pairing:“Bere” Traditional Basque Cider

This cider pairing was unique and delicious! (I do not believe I have ever had a Spanish cider before!) The cider was very fresh and light and was a wonderful accompaniment to the scallop

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Course 5

Cornish Hen: hazelnut romesco, roasted cauliflower, braised collard greens

This was a special treat as it is not on the menu and was as equally incredible!

Pairing:“Biberius” Comenge 2013 Ribera del Duero, Spain

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Course 6

CHURROS CON CHOCOLATE

Pairing: MONASTRELL “AFTER 3” VINO DULCE NATURAL LOS FRAILES

Of course, I was pursuaded into dessert and I do not regret it one bit! The churros were fresh and the chocolate rich! The Vino Dulce was an excellent sweet match!

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After dinner, we had another little surprise. The manager brought over Pedro Ximénez “Don P.X.” Toro Albalá 1962 Montilla-Moriles. This was a treat for me because I have never tried a PX sherry before! It was so sweet, we only needed the 1 ounce we were given!

 

 

 

 

 

I have to admit, this was the longest dinner I have ever had! We wined and dined for 3 hours! I was so pleasantly full and satisfied with the meal and my entire experience!

The owners of Cava recently opened a new French restaurant, Chabrol, in Yorkville and that has definitely placed high on my food list of restaurants to go next!

Thank you to my fabulous friend for a night out and to the wonderful employees at Cava! Another great restaurant experience in the books!

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Good Eats Calgary!

I am happy to say that my clothes still fit after dining for 4 days in Calgary! I was very shocked to see the huge array of originality from each and every restaurant I had the opportunity of eating at and each meal was just as equally good.

Being a fan of local establishments, all of these unique hot spots differed in cuisine, decor, and most importantly, experience. I definitely ate and drank my way through the week. (It was a good way to stay warm for the beginnings of winter we encountered while we were there!)

Carino Riserva

IMG_2672Our first stop on the evening we arrived in Alberta was a small Italian restaurant owned by an Asian family. I have to say, that was the best Italian meal I have had that was not cooked by an Italian! The chef actually worked at a Michelin Star restaurant in Italy. Carino Riserva, a welcoming, warm, friendly environment prepares all their food right in front of their guests. With their menu constantly changing to appropriately match the seasons, food lovers can return numerous times and experience it as if for their first time!

Of course, dining at an Italian restaurant, I chose a pasta dish! A seafood linguine accompanied with a tomato sauce and I thought it would only be appropriate to pair the meal with a Chianti as the acidity from the tomato sauce would nicely complement the acidity in the wine. The Collazzi Liberta from Tuscany was deep coloured with flavours of balsamic, and tomato. It had sweet, soft tannins with a well-rounded balance and was complex but did not over power the dish.

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It was evident the rest of the team greatly enjoyed their meals and with the 2 hour time difference, it was a good ending to the night!

Yellow Door Bistro

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This was my favourite stop during my trip as it was original, fun and had a very unique menu! Named Calgary’s Best New Restaurant in 2013, this hotspot attached to Hotel Arts is an eye-catcher featuring a contemporary twist. Yellow Door employs wonderful, attentive staff who assure their guests stay is delightful and memorable.

 

One of our Calgary sales reps and I shared the Clam and Bacon Flatbread (double smoked bacon / Manila clams / salsa verde / mozzarella) and The Artisan Greens Salad (raw, pickled & fried beets / sunflower seeds Noble Meadows goat cheese elderflower vinaigrette). Both were DIVINE!

Of course, we paired our dishes with a nicely toasted Chardonnay which complemented both dishes.

It was a great meal and made it very hard to go back to work for the rest of the day!

Safari Grill

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An East African experience in Canada! The decor, atmosphere and even the employees made you feel as if you were in another country! Very Authentic and realistic, this restaurant is a night to remember. An unreal meal full of flavours, spices and wine!

 

 

 

The food at Safari Grill was very different than my regular dining choices to but it was DELICIOUS and they fed us VERY well! Dishes kept coming out until we had to tell them to stop!

Some of my favourites were Mogo (deep fried cassava sprinkled with spices), Butter Chicken, and Ndizi Na Nyama Ya Masasani (Banana and beef cooked in coconut sauce with maharage)

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The wine I enjoyed the best was the 2011 Plasiri de Merle Chardonnay. It was fruity with a medium body which could hold up to the meat but also a good pairing to the spices.

 

Halo

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Halo Restaurant was a wonderful way to end our trip in Calgary. A steak and seafood house opened in 2006 that offers a casual fine dining experience. With their full range of menu options, everyone was able to gather and enjoy something they loved.

 

 

We were given a great table in the lounge where we would avoid the traffic and volume of the rest of the restaurant and regroup about our wine week. The service was great and our food came out in an timely and efficient order.

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I started with the Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms (Sizzling mushroom caps stuffed with savoury crab and creamcheese baked with mozzarella and topped with green onion) Paired with the Bodega Norton Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc, both paired well side by side.

 

 

 

Halo’s Heavenly Filet Mignon was my main dish of choice. Accompanied by creamy, garlic mashed potatoes, and some of the most incredible brussel sprouts I have ever had! As a wine pairing, I enjoyed the Norton Privada. A blend of Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, this Argentinian red perfectly holds up to a steak dinner with its intensity, complexity and richness. There is a lot of ripe black fruit, layers of oak, spice and a long pleasant finish.

It was another great dinner and allowed me to be well rested for my early flight back to Toronto! Can’t forget dessert! Peanut Butter Ice Cream Cake (A house made peanut buter ice cream cake fit for a king) and the Halo-Baked Apple Pie (Warm apples baked into puff pastry and topped with granola and maple walnut ice cream) Both INCREDIBLE!

Thank you for showing me your originality Calgary and for keeping me very well fed!

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Eat pie, drink wine & be thankful!

I found a great recipe for how to cook a turkey for this years Thanksgiving and am going to share it with all of you!

 

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Depending how you look at it, this could be a very successful method, if you like wine!

Don’t worry, I was not the one to host Thanksgiving dinner! I did enjoy a lovely little meal that one of my good friends prepared for us tonight. I only had to bring the wine (This, I could do and is the reason I LOVE the industry I am in!)

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Since it was only the two of us she decided to try something new and instead of having turkey, she added chicken to her stuffing! It was very moist, flavourful and filling! Very delicious first attempt at a new recipe! In addition, there was baked sweet potato topped with brown sugar and asparagus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As a pairing, I brought the 2011 Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is a very fitting partner for a typical Thanksgiving meal for many reasons. It is light to medium-bodied and its flavours do not over power white meat like turkey or chicken. As well, its vibrant palette of juicy red and black cherry and berry fruit often enhance the tenderness of stuffing and turkey if they seem a bit dry. Furthermore, the high levels of acidity help bring out the flavours of the turkey as well as sweet potato and cranberry sauce.

 

 

 

 

Sokol Blosser is a beautiful winery located in Oregon, US. Founded in 1971, Bill and Susan Sokol Blosser planted their first vines which have flourished and become a successful vineyard and business. Now passed onto their children, Allison and Alex, Sokol Blosser continues to make high quality, award winning wines.

The Dundee Hills Pinot Noir has been recognized with many awards and acknowledgments throughout different vintages. The 2011 vintage was awarded 91 points by Wine Enthusiast. They are currently bottling and selling their 2012 vintage.

It was a perfect pairing and a very well balanced, fruity, wonderful wine.

I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and made their own delicious wine pairing! I sure did!

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Cheers!

 

Nuevos Comienzos!

GUAU! Estoy llena y feliz!

I keep getting blown away by my own city, it’s quite incredible!

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Friday night I dined at El Catrin in the Distillery District, downtown Toronto. It has be to one of the most eccentric, unique, appealing places I have been. It took me 20 minutes to finally look at the menu because I was too amazed by the decor and atmosphere to keep my eyes still! Before even trying any of the food, I completely understood why the restaurant was so packed.

There is an outdoor patio and although it is the beginning of October, the fully heated patio keeps their customers comfortably warm enough to sit out there and enjoy the beautiful lights and decor.

The Authentic Mexican appearance perfectly complemented their food menu, cocktail and drink list and the complete theme of the restaurant. During the creation of El Catrin, 3 Mexican artists, including the famous Oscar Flores painted the intriguing murals on the walls. As well, they hold Canada’s largest mescal and tequila bar with over 120 different labels and make the most AMAZING margarita in the city (in my opinion)

Our server Stephanie was FABULOUS! She was friendly, funny and fit in perfectly with the lively atmosphere. She asked our names (which she remembered throughout the entire meal), got to know our interests so she could better recommend dishes and drinks on the menu and even made time to small talk with us regardless of the fact that she was clearly very busy. It was very refreshing to see she cared and wanted to add to our positive experience!

My friend and I decided there were two many tempting options on the menu so we should share everything!

IMG_2522We started off by ordering a bottle of wine (of course) and chose the Adobe Sauvignon Blanc. A) because it is delicious and B) because it would be a perfect match with all the dishes we were about to eat! It is a medium-bodied and crisp wine with grapefruit, green apple and grass flavours. Dry and round. Fruity and not to pungent so it wouldn’t over power the delicate flavours of the ingredients.

First of all, if you ever go to El Catrin, I HIGHLY recommend the Guacamole! (it was recommended to me and it was the right decision) It is made table side and it is a great start to your meal.

 

 

 

Next we had the Esquites (charred corn off the cob, epazote, chipotle aioli, lime) and Atun (ahi tuna, watermelon, Yucateco mignonette, lime, chive) We thought both of these delightful sharing appetizers were a huge hit!

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As our main course, we shared the Baja Tacos (crispy fried cod, beer batter, chipotle lime coleslaw, flour tortilla) These were my FAVOURITE! Although there were only three, one and a half was plenty for both of us!

The last thing we ate was the Palomitas Mexicans (spicy tajin popcorn). If you have been reading my blog, you know how much I LOVE popcorn! This was a great snack! It had a little spicy kick and paired really well with the wine! Great recommendation!

 

 

 

 

I could not end the night without having one of their famous margaritas! We joined Greg at the bar to watch him whip up one of the delicious cocktails! He was brilliant with his movements and it was definitely amazing and refreshing!

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All that was missing from this Mexican experience was the sun and the beach!

Gracias El Catrin! See you again soon!

 

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Pure Delight at Pure Spirits

Down the brick path of the Distillery District, in the heart of downtown, bestows one of the best Seafood restaurants in Toronto; Pure Spirits Oyster House and Grill.

Notably recognized for Best Seafood in 2013 and 2014 by dine.TO, Pure Spirits provides a fine dining atmosphere with an impressive extensive menu. I was surprised at how lively and busy the restaurant was when I visited last Sunday evening.

Being the oldest restaurant in the Distillery with its beautiful original architecture still intact, the food sure is fresh! The contrast between old and modern creates a unique, warm and welcoming atmosphere.

I treated my good friend, Phoebe, as she has been such great help to the start of my blog and my partner and co-creator for The Liberty Village Wine Club. She was the perfect person to take along because we both LOVE wine, new experiences and of course FOOD!

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We were treated like queens! Arthur, our server, was AMAZING! His more than friendly attitude, outstanding knowledge on both the food and the wine and his smart humour really put our whole evening together. He treated us very respectfully from the beginning of the meal until we walked out the door. Arthur has been with Pure Spirits for the past eight years and it was evident that he really cared about the company and his guests. Thank you for an amazing night, Arthur!

Now, onto the best part- THE FOOD!

I am not over exaggerating when I say Phoebe and I ate an amazingly, fabulous, beautiful meal! We were able to tell each dish was made and prepared with love and the use of different ingredients was very refreshing. There was a new twist to each course that made us so interested to keep going. The wine, cider and spirit pairings were especially interesting as they really brought out the flavours of the dishes and completely complimented each other. We were so full and wanted to keep going but found it physically impossible!  Chef JV Viau and his team do a fabulous job and prepare quite the feast!

Here we go, the lineup!

Course 1

 Quebec Diver-bay Scallop with caviar

Wine Pairing: Lamberti Pinot Grigio

Wine Pairing: Lamberti Pinot Grigio

Quebec Diver-bay Scallop with caviar

Quebec Diver-bay Scallop with caviar

Course 2

Masetuesttes, New Zealand Oysters and east coast clams with three Sauces

(traditional seafood sauce, cucumber minuette, mango hot sauce) 

Wine Pairing: Lamberti Pinot Grigio

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Phoebe loved the coromandel oysters from New Zealand. I loved the clams with the cucumber minuette.

The oysters paired really well with the Lamberti. They brought down the acidity in the wine and brought out more fruit.

 

Course 3

Tempura Calamari

fried with Chinese salt & pepper, sweet soy mirin dipping sauce

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Fried Green Tomatoes

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buttermilk ranch dressing, blue cheese, house pickled chili peppers

 

Wine Pairing: Bodega Norton Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc

Both dishes were INCREDIBLE! The calamari was one of our favourites! The Sauvignon Blanc complemented the dishes and did not overpower them. This was my favourite wine pairing of the night! As well, the blue cheese and ranch dressing was very subtle and blended well together.

Course 4

Pure Spirits Pappardelle

lobster, wild mushrooms, black truffle cream sauce

Cider Pairing: Savanna Cider

This dish was UNBELIEVEABLY DELICIOUS! The truffle cream sauce was not too rich so you could indulge in the pasta.

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This was also a very interesting pairing. I have never thought to pair pasta with a cider but it was perfect. The Savanna Cider is not too sweet so it rounded out well with the pasta and held up to the sauce.

Course 5

Blackened Yellowfin Tuna 

seared rare, cured bacon, black eyed peas, bell pepper and millet hash, egg sabayon

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Wine Pairing: Bodega Norton Reserva Malbec

The tuna was delicious, perfectly cooked and extremely spicy! The egg sabayon toned down the spice a little bit. The Reserva Malbec was Phoebe’s favourite wine of the evening. It is a delicious very well rounded wine.

Course 6

Saffron Infused Sponge Cake with Riesling Injector
 
Spirit Pairing: Gibbons Old Fashioned

This was such an exciting end to our meal! Once the cake was brought to our table, we were instructed to squeeze the Riesling injector so the sponge cake could absorb the wine. This added an additional layer or flavour and sweetness! It was very light and delightful. The Gibbons Old Fashioned was a very nice touch to end off as well!

Overall, the team, food, and ambience is one of a kind and it leaves you with a memorable experience! It was a wonderful way to end the weekend!

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Phoebe, when can we go back!?

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Why limit happy to an hour?

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When I lived in BC, I always tried to support local establishments. In return, I met some of the most amazing people, brought back to Toronto many unique valuables I could not depart with and tasted some of the most incredible food.

I have always loved the concept of a local restaurant. The food is always better, employees are always friendlier and the atmosphere is always more welcoming. That was definitely the experience I encountered today at KB Food in Whitby.

This afternoon, Bodega Norton Winemaker, David Bonomi who is visiting from Argentina with his team joined a fellow PMA Canada employee and I at KB as we met Head Chef and Owner, Kevin Brown and ate an exquisite meal.

KB Food, 2014 Winner of Excellence Award has been cooking local, organic, unique dishes for the past five years since they opened their doors. Kevin and his team create seasonal menus to complement their diverse wine and spirit list. They also have great craft beers on tap. The whole restaurant has a very welcoming ambience, filled with amusing and entertaining décor.IMG_2258

We went in today to discuss the opportunity of adding more Norton brand wines to their list, and after our tasting, Kevin was more than pleased to accept. 2013 Barrel Select Malbec, and 2014 Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc will be added to the wine list as of the end of this week in addition to the premium selection, Privada Blend. These will be a special feature and an excellent pairing with many of the course options created! (Kevin will make sure of it!)

IMG_2265The dish I chose along with my wine pairing, BLEW ME AWAY! I had the Line Caught Ahi Tuna (grilled/ tri colour quinoa/ toasted cashews/ agrodolce beets and carrots/ red pepper rouille) with a Napa Valley Pinot/Chardonnay blend called Trail Mix.

IMG_2261Prices at KB Food are VERY reasonable and well worth the service and the whole experience. I have NEVER been to Whitby (of all the years I have lived in the GTA, I might have driven through once of twice in my life) and this is a reason I would definitely go again and again!

Two thumbs up for KB Food- I cannot wait to see what they have on their menu next!

http://www.kbfood.com/

 

 

 

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An Ode to Popcorn and Buttery Chardonnay

1 bottle oaked, velvety, buttery Chardonnay= 

1 BIG bowl of buttery, melt in your mouth hot popcorn=

1 night of complete happiness=

I know what you are thinking.. junk food and wine?! But YES! It is an ultimate pairing that compliments each other in more ways than one.

There is a whole world in food and wine pairing; what to pair and what definitely not to pair. A golden rule in choosing what to pair together: Picking similar elements that stand out in both the food and wine to emphasize delicious, unforgettable flavours.

“I sensed, for the first time, the dramatic interplay between the wine and the food. In this case, it was the seamless affinity of buttery-toasty-rich flavors in both the wine and the popcorn, plus a subtle impression of sweetness shared by two players as diverse as Chardonnay and corn.”

http://convivial.org/popcorn-chardonnay/

A Chardonnay made in a warmer climate (such as California) develops flavours of peach, pineapple, pear and guava. Through Malolactic Fermentation (a conversion process turning tart-tasting malic acid into smooth, softer-tasting lactic acid) the wine develops buttery, rich and creamy flavours and texture. Oak barrels and aging allow for vanilla and oak characteristics to appear over time. This is one of our first main ingredients!

Next, find your favourite popcorn. I cannot live without my Whirley Pop! This is a stovetop pot specially made for popping kernels, that I personally think makes THE BEST popcorn! (My secret ingredient: instead of using vegetable oil- I use Coconut Oil!)

The buttery flavours of the chardonnay emphasize the flavouring of the popcorn while the corn helps bring out the nuttiness in the wine, along with the butter.

This is a very complimentary duo and can be enjoyed at any time (especially if you are risky enough to sneak a bottle into a movie once in a while 😉 )

Give it a try!

 

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