Archive | August, 2010

Make hay when the sun shines…

13 Aug

I never really understood that expression, until I was looking in my fridge the other day and saw a literal cornucopia of Ontario’s finest produce staring back at me. And while I won’t ever advocate going to bust your butt hauling hay on the hottest day of the year, I will defend the right to make corn chowder before the cobs are gone.

You see, I live across the street from the mall where a farmer’s market is set up three glorious days a week. Sometimes I wander and buy things I don’t need or couldn’t possibly eat all of before it goes all nasty and rotten. I consistently buy whack of berries, peaches and herbs that all leave me wracking my brain (and Twitter) for alternative uses.

This week, those heavenly, buttery yellow knobs of delight were staring me down.

“I’ll take a half dozen.”

I ate two in the purest form possible – boiled, coated in the rich, melted butter and sprinkle with sea salt. I ate another two later in the week, bbq’ed in its husks and smothered in parmesan, paprika and lime.

Then what’s a girl to do? Well, like my Grandma used to say, “Make corn chowder when the sun shines.” Or something like that.

I adapted a recipe from The New York Times, because really – they’re The New York Times.

Here’s what I did, more or less, because I cook like my mother. Which really means, I cook with the cookbook closed. I also halved the recipe, which made me a nice bowl for dinner and a rather large serving for lunch the next day.

First things first, strip two cobs of corn into a bowl.

Get the cobs in a pot of  two cups of simmering water. Cover and boil.

In another pan, fry up  two chopped strips of bacon and when they’re half way to crispy and delicious, add in half a diced red onion (okay, I only had like 1/3 of red onion leftover, so sue me) and a chopped medium-sized potato.

After the corncobs have cooked at least 10 minutes, strain the liquid into a container and toss away those precious corncobs – they’ve done their job.

Mix the liquid and potato/onion/bacon mixture together and bring to a boil. Simmer until potatoes are tender and then throw in the corn kernels you’ve set aside and half a cup of milk or cream, whatever you have on hand.

Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Place yummy corn chowder into a bowl and top with something green. I was lacking parsley, but had green onion, so that’s what I went with.

Serve alongside kick-ass summer salad of greens, ripe Ontario peaches, candied pecans from The Good Earth Food & Wine Co and cheese niblets of delight from The Upper Canada Cheese Company mixed in a homemade strawberry vinagrette.

Bonjour, you’ve entered summertime produce heaven. Please enjoy your stay.

Make the most of it…

10 Aug

The Corkscrew presents the Top 10 Ways To Make the Most Out of Your Winery Visits.

  1. Get a DD. Now, I’m not suggesting that you can’t enjoy a wine tour without being rip-roaring drunk, but very few people want to spit out everything they sample (but feel free to spit out what you don’t like, wine folks don’t mind). The best way to avoid getting slapped with a DUI is to get someone else to drive. Whether that’s your pregnant best friend, a whiskey lover or a wine tour company, you’ll get more out of the experience and leave the roads (and sidewalks) a safer place to be.
  2. Plan your day – minus a few stops. No matter what wine region you plan to visit, you can’t hit everything in one take. So, head online and get researching. Where do you want to go? The Big Boys? Small, family operations? All organic vineyards? Narrow it down to five or so stops in one day, but leave room for a little off-roading. There is nothing better than stopping when something catches your eye and sometimes this on-a-whim attitude might bring you the best buys yet.
  3. Don’t use common scents. Wine is as much about smell as it isn’t about taste and texture. So, put down the perfume bottle. Spit out your gum. And for god sake’s, please don’t smoke. If you go in the wine tasting room smelling like your drunk, middle-aged Aunt who always wanted you to try on her mood ring, you’re only getting half of the experience.
  4. “Stop expecting it to look like you what you thought it was going to look like.”  Enid from Sex and the City was right. It’s true of fall lines, relationships…and wine regions. Look, not everything is as pretty as a post card. To be quite honest, it might not look like you imagined it. Dump your expectations (good or bad) and take it all in.
  5. Try some Chardonnay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You ‘don’t like’ Chardonnay. Listen, the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) trend is still floating around, but I’m here to tell you – this is something our home and native land can do very well. Just try some. I swear it’s better than the stuff you tasted last time. If you don’t like heavily oaked wines, ask the person behind the desk if they have something that either hasn’t touched the stuff or that’s like the vermouth in a bone dry martini – just in and out. Your smoked cheddar, creamy pasta and seafood thank you in advance.
  6. Don’t be shy, ask questions. 97% of the staff at these wineries love questions. They pour wine for you – please entertain them. And if you happen upon a winemaker – let loose. I have never met one who won’t be more than thrilled to share his or her passion with you. Plus, nothing’s better than the inside scoop (see No.10).
  7. Stop and smell the roses. Take a quick detour and pick up those peaches from the road side stand, stop at that cheese shop and deli, swing by that delicious smelling bakery. Then when it strikes midday, pull yourself up a slab of grass or picnic table and savour the delights. A enjoyable meal will keep you on course for the afternoon and you’ll be able to taste more of the region than just the grapes.
  8. Write that sucker down.You are guaranteed to forget something remarkable unless you jot it down. I don’t care if it’s in your Blackberry note pad or on an actual note pad, as long as you can return to it and say “Hey, I should really buy some of that (fill in blank) for this weekend’s backyard party.”
  9. If you love something, buy it. Not everyone has the cash to go floating around and buying case after case, I realize that. But, if you have an enlightening, thrill-seeking, earth quaking experience with something – do me a favour and buy it straight from the winery. You may never see it again and I don’t want to be responsible for anyone going a little crazy with a baseball bat inside the LCBO. Don’t forget a cooler.
  10. Get on the list. If you have a great experience at a winery, don’t be afraid to sign up for their mailing list or e-newsletter. You’ll be on the inside track to deals, events and upcoming releases – all good things.