Saturday, August 22, 2015

Food for Thought with Alex Bielak- Sips and Bites – It’s summertime edition

Sips and Bites – It’s summertime edition 

I’ll be the first to admit the hot summer weather has meant that beyond
fishing, marketing, a bit of barbequing, and a bit more imbibing with friends, little has gone on in the Food for Thought household. That said, here are a few upcoming dates for your calendars, as well as a couple of tips on places that merit a visit. Pop Up Hamilton is running ‘The Great Southern Cookout August 28th.’ Owner, Dave Hanley says chefs from Southern Smoke BBQ and the Aberdeen Tavern will be collaborating on the chef-inspired menu. As always the location is secret for now. You can sign up for tickets via the website.

If you’d like to get a flavour of what to expect at the Pop-Up, check out a short
YouTube video about the previous event: held at the Hamilton Player’s Guild Theatre, it was a celebration of Downton Abbey, with guests attired in Edwardian costume and served authentic period dishes. Sounds like fun!

Ever-popular Chef Michael Smith returns to
Springridge Farm, Sunday, September 27 at 10:30am. He’ll be promoting his latest cookbook, Make Ahead Meals, during an exclusive meet and greet and book signing. You can RSVP to secure your spot by emailing events@springridgefarm.com.

Food for Thought scored an exclusive interview with Smith on his last visit (
read the piece here) and can attest that (a) the event will be hugely popular, and (b) he’s really a neat, down to earth and extremely tall guy with sincerely entertaining stories. The Farm is also running a ‘Harvest Festival’ packed with family activities, every weekend, Sept 19 to Oct 31. Check the website for details.

Last week, prior to savouring a wonderful dinner cooked by Chef Jan-Willem Stulp, I stopped by his
Grand Oak Culinary Market, on Victoria Avenue in Vineland. It’s worth a visit: the expansive post and beam building carries all sorts of great locally-sourced products, cheese, jams, fresh-baked goods etc. There’s an official and very popular gluten-free department: if you want more than a modest amount of product, order ahead! As well the building has a nice seating area where you can eat something from the deli or restaurant. They also have a great line of ‘meals to go’ with the line-up of available dishes updated regularly on the website.

The dinner, prepared by Chef Stulp for the Niagara Chapter of the
International Wine and Food Society, was at a winery I did not know before, Vieni Estates in Beamsville. It opened in 2013 and Winemaker, Mauro Salvador, enthusiastically helped match the wines for the six course dinner. We particularly enjoyed (and took home) some 2012 Pinot Grigio ($14.95) which matched perfectly with a chilled salmon terrine coupled with a subtle tomatillo and lemon balm salsa.

Another interesting match was a 2010 (or was it ’11?) Aglianico Al Passo Reserve ($24.95 or $29.95 depending on which it was) to a succulent, slightly gelatinous beef cheek dish. Vieni are the only ones growing this variety in Ontario (it originated in Greece and is also grown in southern Italy), and the match worked, but the wine could really do with a lot longer in the bottle. A pretty, light, fruit and zabaglione dessert finished the official part of the evening, complemented by a 2013 Cabernet sparkling icewine (69.95).

The find of the evening, when we were let loose in the wine store, was that Vieni produces fine grappas, or more properly, since only Italian producers can use that term, graspas. We purchased a ‘Dolce Picante Graspa’, infused with maple syrup and hot peppers ($59.95 for 700 ml). Not traditional, but delicious. Over Twitter, Wine writer
André Proulx urged me to try Vieni’s 2012 Gamay Noir (14.95) which he qualified as VERY good. Alas my palate was shot by that time (blame the icewine) so I can only pass along the recommendation. Worth mentioning, the winery is also a B&B, convenient for those who feel the need to stay over.

In a
previous column I’d mentioned Between the Lines winery in Niagara on the Lake. The Pinot Noir reserve I recommended at that time, discovered at a previous IWFS event, is now sold out: I got to chat with Gabrielle Wertsch, the mother of the two brothers who run the place, on a recent visit to the St. Jacobs farmer’s market. She proudly informed me of the launch of two new flagship wines, a 2013 Meritage Reserve ($27.95) and the Lemberger Reserve at two bucks more. BTL are the only winery in the area growing the latter variety of grape, and though I’ve not made it to the winery to taste these particular wines, based on their other offerings, I’d like to do that.

Finally, for a chance to win a gift certificate to
Risposta Bistro in Campbellville, tweet a picture illustrating your favourite taste (salty, sweet, sour, bitter, umami, or the newly crowned taste, oleogustus (aka fat), to me @AlexBielak. I wrote about Will Edsall, the talented young chef who’s now heading the kitchen there in a piece in this summer’s B City magazine.

A note to readers: with a busy fall coming up, although Food for Thought will still be published at weekends, it will no longer be appearing on a regular two week cycle. For example I’ll be partaking of distillery tours at
Glenfiddich and Abelour in Scotland at the time of the next regular deadline.

I know, life is tough…

To see more pictures, click here.
To see all past columns please see (and “like”) the Food for Thought Archives

Alex (Alex can be reached at fft@thehamiltonian.info or on twitter @AlexBielak)

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