Tag Archives: wine

Come on over, Earl. You can’t bring us down.

Sterling Farm Market, Greenwich, NS

It’s the day before an extreme weather event; a threat that the local and national news has been eager to make prime time and headline. Hurricane Earl is coming and there’s nothing we can do to stop him. I have recently relocated my busy Toronto city life to sleepy Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where, according to the weather people, we will be hit by the eye of the storm. Is it an omen? A sign that I have made a terrible mistake? Probably not, but it sure is daunting. I was thrilled to find, when I moved here, that I am able to drive four minutes from my new digs to a handful of farm stores offering fresh, spray free peaches, plums, and apples, apples, apples. The vegetables grown with care are crunchy, colourful, and fresh.

Apples at Sterling Farm, Greenwich, NS

After my first exploratory bike ride this morning, it dawned on me, as I was cruising by the orchards and bright red, clay soil fields, fruit hanging heavily from the branches, that these tender fruits are going to have one hell of a time through the storm. How resilient are the Gravensteins, the L’Acadie grape, the endless rows of green cabbage?

Today is a balmy 31 degrees, and that’s without the humidity, which feels like pea soup even when you’re standing still. There isn’t the slightest bit of wind or cool breeze to indicate that a storm is coming. Yet, Environment Canada has reported a Tropical Storm Warning for Kings County, reckoning that we will experience between 40mm and 70mm of rain within the next 24 hours and 90-110km/hr winds. The locals are bracing themselves for the event, taking in their patio furniture, packing away their gazebos, and stowing anything that could be vulnerable to lift off.

But what will the farmers do to protect their livelihood? I visited several farmers who all exhibited a common, and totally unexpected, laissez-faire attitude about the whole situation. Hal at Sterling Produce said they deal with Mother Nature every day, this is no different; they’re crossing their fingers and waiting it out. They’ve been busy harvesting what’s ripe and hoping the young apples and pears will hold on to the branches through the storm. The wind seems to be his biggest concern, not so much the rain, he says the trees could use the rain. Dave, his counterpart, leaning up against a pile of wooden pallets, cigarette dangling from the face of exhaustion, interjected with his feeling on the subject, “We’re not looking forward to it (the storm) but we’re not much for worrying ‘bout it either.” At Noggins Corner, just down the road, Andrew, the owner was on the phone busy getting his daughter’s wedding sorted out for the next day and hardly worrying about the storm either. He said that they were frantically picking peaches, at around 4:30pm, but he had other things on his mind. At Elderkin’s Farm, another local orchard just a stone’s throw from Acadia University, Jason at the shop suggested that it would be too bad about the tomatoes. The farmers are busily harvesting the crop, but if they get too many to sell at the farm store then many will go to be processed as seconds and the Elderkins will make far less money than they could.

Gaspereau Vineyards, Gaspereau, NS

And grapes? The Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia is well-known for its vineyards. Set on picturesque, winding roads, sloped toward the sun, grapes such as the L’Acadie prosper in this region. Emily at Gaspereau Vineyards said they had had several reporters passing through today asking what would happen to the crop in the storm. She told them all the same thing. Mother Nature will have her way. They’re tying things down that could blow into the crops and hurt the vines, but that’s about it. With the season as it’s been, particularly good, the grapes are two weeks early in ripening. They will be starting the harvest three weeks from now excited for the higher sugar content in the grapes this year because of the hot and dry weather. But as for the rain, they are not too concerned; the wind might blow away some of the crop, but there is nothing they can do to protect any of the fruit or the vines. “For now,” Emily suggested, “just sample the wines.” And so, I did.

More than finding out what farmers do in the face of an impending tropical storm and severe weather warnings, it has become clear that the lesson of today’s outings has been more sociological than agricultural. ‘Que sera, sera’ seems to be the outlook in the Maritimes. My city-stress-case perspective is getting shaken down and flattened out. No drama here, except for in the playhouse, taking things as they come. I’m going to learn how to slow down and take it easy, just like the locals. Tomorrow morning I’ll be able to attend my first farmers market in Wolfville, where, if it goes ahead, I’ll be able to learn even more about this new pace, more about food in the region and will be able to fill up my fridge with the harvest’s bounty.

Simple lines, for a simple life.

Morsels of Heaven at Cava

After a brisk and lengthy bike ride, I stopped in to see Doug Penfold at Cava for a bite. Started with some bubbly in pink, snappy breadsticks, Pinchos with cold duck breast, green olive and anchovy, and the piece de resistance, chocolate! Never in my life have I put something so divine on my tongue as the White chocolate and lemon, and then the milk chocolate and fennel pollen – squares of pure pleasure.

Pinchos

Chocolates from Xoco Cava

The solid wood bar is a great place to sit and chat with Alessandro and Kyle while perusing all of the many wine bottles placed just so above the bar. A menu featuring huitlacoche crepas, alongside paella, and many other locally sourced Spanish tapas, this restaurant deserves multiple visits to try everything on the menu. And when you decide to go, invite me with you!

May 3, 2009 – Slow Food Niagara Tour

This little piggy didn't make it.

This little piggy didn't make it.

A group of Slow Food Canada convivia leaders, a couple of paying foodies, and I got on a yellow school bus outside of George Brown College…
We first visited Henry of Pelham, greeted at the vineyard with bubbly, a toast, a marvelous lunch including several prosciuttos; crostini topped with smoked trout, salsify, and creme fraiche (I think); smoked white fish; Laily and Henry of Pelham wines; salad grown by Vivek; and beautiful breads filled with seeds and nuts. On our brief walking tour to the weather station, we sipped ice wine and learned about integrated pest management, Sustainable Winemakers Ontario, and the history of Henry of Pelham estates.

Next stop was the Upper Canada Cheese Co. where we sampled a soft cheese and an oka-like harder cheese, grape juices, and red pepper jelly. We all left with a lovely gift bag and got to look through the new “Niagara Cooks” cookbook written by Lynn Ogryzlo.

Back on the bus and over to Rosewood Estates, where we heard from Karen Levine (sp?) about bees, pollination, and the production and a bit of the history of mead. We also had the pleasure of hearing from Debbie Hipple, a local Niagara soft fruit grower. She explained to us some of the challenges her family faces in our current food system, as well as her dependence on the bees to pollinate her livelihood. After sampling the 2006 Mon Cherie sour cherry mead, the 2007 Mead Royale, and the oh so sweet 2006 Grand Reserve Ambrosia wine mead, the group barely wanted to leave, and leisurely made it’s way to the bus.

A long drive, and several detours later, the big yellow school bus drove up to the Ancaster Old Mill. To greet us there were two 6 week old Tamworth Piglets scrapping in a big open cage in the driveway. I couldn’t help but pick one up and have a little snuggle before walking up the grand stone staircase by the waterfall to sip on yet another glass of wine and watch the two perfectly trussed Tamworth pigs roasting over applewood smoke on a spit.

Jeff Crump welcomed us and shared amusing anecdotes of his experience of Slow Food events and his journey of learning how to appreciate small quantities of the highest quality food. Mara introduced us to the Tamworth pig farmers’ father who told us the story of how they started raising the Tamworth breed, but, unfortunately, his son had chores to finish at the farm and couldn’t be there to tell us himself. Mara made the argument that in order to save the rare breeds of all animals, especially pigs, the most effective strategy is to eat them, to create demand, and to enjoy!

Then Carlo Petrini gave us a speech about the importance of the Ark of Taste and how we all need to support our farmers and continue to appreciate these breeds and maintain biodiversity. Short and sweet, then we dug in family style!

We started with a creamy, white onion soup with (Ark of Taste) red fife tortelloni, stinging nettles and morels. The diners around my table all agreed that we had to heed the advice of Chef Crump and refrain from wanting mass quantities, second and thirds of this fine soup, and to appreciate it’s complexities, ingredients, and essence. “Do it yourself” butter brioche bruschetta with ricotta, wild ramps, maitake mushrooms, and baby arugula generated much conversation about styles of serving food and the flavours in all of the components of the dish on a deeper level. La piece de la resistance, the moment we had all been waiting for, the TAMWORTH PIGS! Applewood spit roasted with green garlic gravy, jerusalem artichoke puree with crispy apples and onions, and topped off with the season’s first asparagus with marjoram from Simcoe. The velvety smoothness of the puree, bright spring green of the asparagus and puddles of gravy swimming around my plate, made this almost vegetarian eat pork for the first time in 18 years. The roast pig was tender, juicy, full of flavour, and practically perfect. I couldn’t keep in my excitement and took our server’s arm as he lead me in to the spotlessly clean kitchen to say my thanks to the chefs. They were all pretty proud of themselves for inspiring a veggie conversion. The bar is pretty high, though, it may be another 18 years before I do it again.

It didn’t end there, the beauty of the food kept shining on! Apple rhubarb strudel with cider caramel, topped off with soft serve processed Triple Maple Crunch ice cream. I’m not sure how to put that one into words.

Hugs and kisses exchanged with the chefs. Chris MacDonald an old family friend, Jonathan Gushue with whom I used to walk in rows of salsify on the farm in Blair, and Sinclair Philip making eyes at me across the table. A perfectly lovely day. What a pleasure to be transported into a different universe of food. One which appreciates the beauty and magnificence of eating, acknowledges the politics, works towards systemic change, but doesn’t lose sight of the magic that food can conjure between people and build a community.

We took our Apple Cider Muffins wrapped in gold with us on the bus again and continued our conversations on life, love, loss, and gastronomy all the way to Hogtown.