It’s November. It’s practically December, actually, and Matt and I just yesterday managed to go on our October Date of the Month: wine tasting at some local wineries for their Taste the Season holiday open houses.
So we haven’t exactly been very good about making time for each other, I guess. On weeknights we usually do our own thing. I read or bake or practice guitar while Matt plays video games. On weekends we spend a lot of time together, but it’s usually in the company of other people.
In fact, our date for this month ended up being with other people, at least partially.
Yesterday morning my dad and his girlfriend mentioned that they were planning on hitting the local Essex County wineries too, so of course we had to meet up with them.
Matt and I like wine tasting. Matt has a particularly good palate and can point out flavours in wines to a T. I, on the other hand, rely heavily on the description of the flavour notes. I’ll read the label and if it says, cherry notes then I might taste cherry. Maybe.
I’m like a wine-tasting Neanderthal. “Yum! Taste Like Wine!”
We’ve done tastings in Santorini, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and in Essex county numerous times. It’s the best to go during open houses or special events because you get free tastings and, if you hit up enough wineries, then you’re bound to get shitfaced on good wine free of charge.
So it sucks when you have to be the driver, like Matt was yesterday.
We started at Muscedere Vineyards where we sampled nearly all their red wines: a pinot noir, a meritage, a syrah, and a cab sauv. Everything but the baco noir, because, to my taste buds, baco noir tastes like crap.
The Cabernet Sauvignon was my favourite. It had a really nice finish. Their red wines are pretty steeply priced, but we snagged a bottle for Matt parents for Christmas.
Next we hit up Erie Shore Vineyard. They have a super tiny tasting room which was packed with a million people (approximately 8 people, but, ya know, it felt like a lot).
We tried a couple of their whites and a couple of reds. They have a killer Riesling, but we bought a bottle of their Chardonnay which was good, and made better by the fact it was on sale for $8.
They also served a bunch of little treats as well, like Apricots in Riesling which were delicious (note to self: soak dried apricots in riesling).
We met up with my dad and Silvia at Erie Shores and then headed down the street to Sprucewood Shores. They always have a really great set-up at the open houses with lots of wine and food to sample.
At this point in the day, I had so many tastings (read: I had a real nice buzz going) that I can’t really remember any of the wines that I had at Sprucewood. I vaguely remember a rose that had a really nice strawberry taste.
I do recall that there were 3 kinds of soup (the apple and squash was delicious) and mulled wine which was a perfect way to cap off the afternoon.
We finished the day off by having dinner at my dad’s house and then we went home and watched Casino Royale which I had never seen before (yes, I know it’s, like, 6 years old).
I’m happy that we finally got to go on our October date, but now we have 2 dates that we have to do in the ever hectic month of December.
Date of the Month Club
Check out other posts in the Date of the Month club, where Matt and I go on one special date every month of 2012:
January – Bookstore Scavanger Hunt
February – Board Game Night
March – Bowling
April – Detroit Walking Tour
May – Colasanti’s
June – Picnic
July – Next Restaurant
August – Detroit Tigers Baseball Game
September – Detroit Institute of Arts
The past few years I’ve been wanting to submit some of my baking in the Harrow Fair, which is like the Olympics for farm folk. It happens to take place on Labour Day weekend and I always seem to be busy or out of town. But this year I was finally available to enter the hundred-some-odd-year-old competition that pits grannys against each other in all things domestic arts (. . .and farming too, but unfortunately my childhood dreams of raising sheep haven’t yet come to fruition, so I’m sticking to baked goods).
To enter something into the fair you have to buy a membership to the agricultural society which costs $7. If you win the prize is $6. Ummm…? I guess it’s about the bragging rights? I don’t know.
Matt insisted I should enter a pie into the competition because I do make a mean pie. But the last time I made one I brought it to my friend’s for dinner and it was a disaster (lucky for me I had enough glasses of wine not to care…all that much). So, yeah, no pie.
I went with bread instead because I love baking bread and I’m pretty good at it. The competition categories for the breads are pretty slim– you mean there isn’t a category for best pain a l’ancienne?– so I decided to enter 3 breads: white bread, crusty rolls, and whole wheat buns (which were a bonus since I used a recipe that I never tested before).
The entries had to be submitted last night by 9 and there is no way that I’d be able to bake 3 different types of bread after work and have them ready by 9 o’clock so I baked the crusty rolls and whole wheat buns on the weekend and froze them and I saved the white bread for baking fresh last night.
As I was preparing the dough I kept looking back at the clock, counting back the time that I would need to get my bread ready on time and it wasn’t adding up. Shit. I performed some baker’s magic tricks to speed up the proofing/rising processes and I managed to get the bread into the oven at exactly 7:25pm.
Somewhere between 7:25 and 8:10 was the end of the world. The loaves started to get way to dark way too quickly. And by dark I mean burnt. I was pissed because I knew the crumb would taste good but I didn’t want to associate my name with a loaf of bread that had burn spots on it.
&^%&^!! @#$S%!!! $#%&#^! @#*&$!!!
I spent about 5 minutes swearing and throwing things around the kitchen in frustration and disappointment. My best bread was ruined. Ruined!
In a huff and a hurry I pulled myself together and grabbed my other breads out of the freezer and sped all the way out to Harrow and made it on time to the fairgrounds. On the drive home Matt said, “Next year you should just take the day off work to do all your baking”.
An entire day off to bake just so I can win $6? Umm yeah, that sounds kinda awesome.
. . . Want to know what happens with my bread? Read all about it here7 Comments
This Sunday kicks off the week-long Annual Essex County Community Wide Spring Cleanse that focuses on healthy eating, avoiding chemicals in your environment, and yoga to detoxify the body.
The benefits of participating in the cleanse include: improved energy levels, an increased ability to cope with stress, improved recovery time after strenuous exercise, improved physical performance and stamina, a strengthened immune system, improved concentration and focus, enhanced weight loss, and feeling healthy!
I’m going to be taking part again this year for at least one week. The first time I did this cleanse was for 3 weeks. I did it to clear out my system and then I slowly reintroduced foods one at a time to determine if there was a dietary cause to my acne.
There was. In fact there were 2: dairy and seafood. Now have to I moderate my intake of dairy (particularly cheese) and seafood because otherwise my face breaks out terribly.
While I was on the cleansing diet for those 3 weeks I really did feel fantastic. I felt light and full of energy, so I’m obviously looking forward to doing it again.
If you are interested in taking part you can sign up for the cleanse on their website and get a pdf booklet with all the information about what foods to avoid during cleanse week, a meal plan, and a bunch of recipes for the week as well.
Here is a quick outline of the foods that are allowed and to be avoided during the cleanse. To your health!
Allowed – all fresh vegetables (especially cruciferous veggies) except . . .
Avoid – canned vegetables, white mushrooms, corn/corn products
Allowed – fresh and frozen fruit (especially organic)
Avoid – grapefruits and their juices, dried fruit containing sulphites
Allowed – rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, tapioca, teff, amaranth, oats
Avoid – gluten (incl. wheat, spelt, rye, barley)
Allowed — legumes and peas
Avoid – soy products that are not organic, processed soy
Allowed – Raw nuts and seeds including almonds, walnuts, hemp, flax, chia, sesame, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts
Avoid – peanuts; any roasted/salted/flavoured nuts
Allowed – organic chicken, turkey, and lamb; wild game; low mercury fish (Clam, Ocean perch,
Alaskan salmon, tilapia, flounder, sole, catfish, sardines, herring, and anchovies)
Avoid – red meat, processed meat, dairy, eggs, seafood, high-mercury fish (shark, swordfish, king mackerel, tuna, orange roughy, marlin, Chilean bass, lobster, halibut, and snapper), Farmed or Atlantic salmon, fish from the Great Lakes.
Allowed – EVOO, coconut, grape seed, sesame, walnut, hemp, almond, flax
Avoid – canola, sunflower, safflower, peanut, corn, refined oils, margarine, shortening, salad dressing, mayonnaise
Allowed – sea salt, herbs and spices, nut butters, bean dips, apple cider vinegar, Sweeteners: honey, maple syrup, stevia, and agave
Avoid – table salt, MSG, food additivies, preservatives, colouring, Sweeteners: corn syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, brown sugar, white sugar, glucose, maltose, maltodextrose
Allowed – 6-8 glasses water daily, 100% fresh fruit/vegetable juices, Herbal and Green teas, Unsweetened rice, soy, or almond milk
Avoid – Caffeinated beverages including coffee, black tea, and pop, alcohol, dairy, fruit juices high in sugar, vegetables drinks high in salt.
FYI: I did a Google image search of “cleanse” to find a picture to include here. Word to the wise, don’t to a google image search of cleanse. It’s revolting. I think I’ve been scarred by the images that have seared into my brain.
For relief here’s an overly cute picture
and another one for good measure
(images via cuteoverload.com)4 Comments
Day 4: Something Green
Photo taken July 12, 2007 on the marsh boardwalk at Point Pelee National Park of Canada.
Point Pelee is the southernmost tip of mainland Canada (at the same latitude – 41.6N – as Rome, Barcelona, and northern California).
This post is part of the October 30 Day Photography Challenge4 Comments
Before this summer if you would have asked me to go to the beach I’d probably say, “Nah”.
I know, I know, I’ve touched on this subject before.
I mean, what is there to do at the beach anyway? All people do is lay there with sand in their ass-crack getting sunburned while they read some sort of trashy romance novel or shallow magazine.
I’d much prefer cuddling up in a blanket and reading an award winning novel by candle light with a robust glass of red wine.
For starters, I don’t like the sun all that much. Don’t get me wrong, I love sunny days, but usually I spend them covered in sunscreen and ducking for shade under a tree rather than lying topless on my stomach soaking in the melanoma and wrinkles rays.
When I come home from the beach or beach volleyball I hate the dirty feeling I have of sand all over me. It drives me crazy. When I undress I marvel at how sand seems to be everywhere on my body. How did it get there?
And then there’s the fact that you don’t really do anything at the beach now do you? I spend my time there thinking about all the things I could be getting done at home. I could be baking bread right now, or weightlifting, or even cleaning!
But something changed in me this summer. First, I suggested that we have my birthday party at the beach. I was getting tired of hosting pool parties (something I’ve done for most of my birthdays since my childhood home has a rockin’ pool) and I thought it was pretty fitting considering it was, after all, my Bikini Birthday.
You can eat cake on the beach! mmmmm….
Then, a few weeks ago I suggested that Matt and I go back to Cedar Beach on a date one gorgeous Sunday afternoon. “But what are we going to do there? You’re going to be bored,” Matt insisted, but I was craving the sand and the lakeside breezes. We had a deep conversation, snacked, read some serious material, and cursed the fact that we forgot to bring a corkscrew for the bottle of Kriek we packed.
You can read good stuff on the beach!
Yes, that’s my copy of TAR SANDS; Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent.
When a friend suggested that we go to the beach at Point Pelee this past weekend I was, surprisingly, very excited. So excited that when we got there I sprinted barefoot along the beach as far as I could to release my energy and immerse myself in the environment. I found myself doing yoga asanas in the sand and even accomplished my first ever headstand! Everything about the beach on Sunday was perfect.
You can sprint down the beach and chase away seagulls!
This summer has converted me into a beach lover.
You can love the beach!
I love the breezes off the lake and how fresh the air feels on your face and body.
I love sand. The way it swallows your feet as you walk through it and hugs your body as you lie in it.
I love enjoying the outdoors with good company. Everyone relaxes in their own way and does their own thing, but they do it together.
I’m secretly hoping to get at least one more afternoon at the beach before the cold weather really sets in.No Comments
As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m up to my ears in local produce and loving every minute of it. I’m particularly fond of the soft, juicy and sweet Essex County peaches.
Between the basket I bought at the farmer’s market and a bag full that my dad brought me on the weekend, I have more peaches than I could possibly eat.
No, that’s a lie. They’re sitting on my kitchen counter, tempting me with their fragrance. It’s almost too tempting. I know I could eat them all in one sitting, but to avoid a peach belly ache I struggle to refrain. I wish I could save the peaches for a rainy winter day. Oh wait, I CAN.
This recipe for spiced peach jam is phenomenal
Spiced Peach Jam (adapted from Form V Artisan to make enough for the winter)
Sterilize Your Jars for Canning
Wash the jars and lids in hot, soapy water.
Place five 250mL canning jars in a boiling water canner (or large pot). Add enough water so that the jars are submerged 1/2″ deep. Boil for 10 minutes.
Remove the jars and reserve the water in the canner for processing the filled jars.
- 3lb whole fresh peaches, cut into 1/2″ chunks
- 18 oz granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/4 c. + 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
In a large saucepan stir together peaches and sugar. Let stand for 1 hour, stirring frequently, until sugar is mostly dissolved in the juices.
Add spices. Bring to a boil over medium heat and continue to boil for 10 minutes.
Add lemon juice and break down peaches with a potato masher. Cook another 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 220*F on a thermometer.
Add the jam to your sterilized canning jars while it’s still hot (if you’re not canning, then let the jam cool completely before refrigerating in glass jars or airtight containers).
Wipe the rims and the outside of the jars with a wet paper towel. Tighten the lids onto the tops of the jars.
Place the jars in boiling water in the canner for 5 minutes. Let cool on a rack or dish towel.
After the jars have cooled, remove the screw bands and test the seal by press the middle of the lid. If the lid springs up when you release your finger, the lid is unsealed. (Unsealed jars must be kept in the refrigerator and consumed within 2-3 weeks)
Properly sealed jars can be kept in a cool, dry place for up to a year and will last 2-3 weeks in the fridge once opened.
August brings about the absolute best produce in Essex County. Every year, I can’t wait until late summer rolls around so I can get my fill of local peaches, blueberries, zucchini, and my favourite, tomatoes.
This picture is not of the tomatoes that I’ve been eating. Those actually came straight from Matt’s cousin’s garden. Those I actually devoured with sea salt faster than you can say heirloom. I might have eaten 10 tomatoes in 3 days. . . but who’s counting?
The tomatoes in that picture were crying out to be photographed on Saturday morning at the Downtown Windsor Farmer’s Market. The market has been open since June but it’s the first time that I made it there this season (better late than never right?).
I had only one thing in mind when I headed there. Peaches. Why? Jam.
Sweet, delicious Ontario peaches.
I’ve been dying to make jam for a few weeks now, but when I saw a recipe for Spiced Peach Jam on Christina’s blog, my fate was sealed. Saturday afternoon I was confined to the kitchen with my morning market purchase for some jamming and some canning (but more on that later this week).
Of course, peaches weren’t the only thing I purchased. With so much fresh produce around I could hardly refrain from giving up my wallet to each vendor. I also bought some eggplant, potatoes, hot peppers, and yellow plums.
Another of my favourite Essex County summer crops is blueberries. A couple of weekends ago, my sister and I went Klassen Blueberries in Colchester to pick our own. Every year I look forward to heading out to Colchester to sit around a blueberry bush and gossip like a teenager while picking a big bucket of delicious bloobs. I usually pick about 5lb of them and this year I actually managed to freeze some before I inhaled them all from the giant bowl I set out on my kitchen countertop.
I don’t like the beach.
I could think of a million places I would rather spend a summer afternoon that don’t involve sitting in the blistering sun, getting sand in my underwear, and watching as some boorish 8 year old tramples over a sandcastle that took me an hour to construct.
I surprised everyone, even myself, when I suggested a party at the beach to celebrate my quarter century. Deep down I was longing to squish sand between my toes and hear the crashing of falling wave crests, something I haven’t done in years. Armed with some towels, lawn chairs, a miniature barbecue, and a loaded picnic basket I headed off with my closes friends and family this past weekend. Destination: Cedar Beach on Lake Erie’s north shore.
The weather turned out to be perfect for someone like me who enjoys the shade and hates the heat. The overcast, 75*F weather was the best you could ask for. No beach umbrellas required. Sunglasses optional.
We arrived, plopped down our picnic basket, and fired up the mini barbecue (after a bit of fiddling around). Champagne bottles were popped for mimosas and we laid out or beach towels to relax on the sand with good food, good drink, and good company.
I love Cedar Beach. It’s quiet and serene. It can be a bit tough to find (I apologize to my friend Tina who spent an hour and a half scouring Essex County in search of the place) but I think that just adds to the appeal. It sort of feels like your own private beach. We certainly treated it that way.
Me, my two cousins, and my sister.
No one went swimming because, the unfortunate thing about Lake Erie is that there is so much E. Coli in the water (about 700ppm) that it’s not safe to swim in the waters. Maybe that’s why the beaches of Essex County are so quiet. It’s really disappointing that the water is so badly polluted. It didn’t stop me from swimming in it as a child, but now I know better.
The beach party was an amazing idea– one of the greatest picnics I’ve had in a long while! It was such a perfect day that it might have even gotten me to rethink my whole outlook on going to the beach. …I just might want to head back there before the season is over.
Matt bought me this pre-made cocktail for my birthday because he thought it would be fitting. He’s kind of adorable. I sipped on it mixed with orange juice because it was a bit too strong to be a beach cocktail.
I made some date filled cookies and some whole wheat zucchini focaccia for the occasion.
My friend Dan worked to get the barbecue lit so that we could have some burgers and sausages.
And of course, my lovely sister made cake, cake, and more cake.
First there was the red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. In a word: moist.
And then there was my birthday cake. The cake that made me think I had died and gone to heaven. 5 tiers of decadent coconut deliciousness.
This might be the best cake I’ve ever had in my life. I kid you not.
When I woke up the next morning after my gluttonous day at the beach, I threw on my gym clothes and got ready to go for a run. I opened the fridge to grab my bottle of water and there it was staring me in the face. Leftover coconut cake.
I grabbed a fork and sat down at my kitchen table, in my workout clothes, at 8:00 in the morning and indulged in a piece of cake. Would I rather wear a bikini or eat cake for breakfast? The answer is always cake.No Comments
I’m a sucker for a good wine tasting and lucky enough to live in a great wine-making region of Ontario. The wineries often host open houses (like the Icewine festival this past winter). This event involved food tastings too, showcasing local produce. I’m already stoked for any event that involves some tasty vino, give me food too and I’m in heaven.
Aleksander Estate Winery in Ruthven had some really great tasting sipping reds. Matt and I came home with a bottle of Cabernet Franc that I’m excited to open. They also make a Chambourcin, which I really liked. I had never before heard of Chambourcin, but apparently the grapes aren’t too common in Essex County– it is a very pleasant, light red wine.
Viewpointe Estates in Harrow gave us 4 tastings, including this Cab Merlot:
It’s by far my favourite local red wine. It’s a velvety, spicy full-bodied wine– just what I like in a red. But it’s a bit out of my price range. We came home with a Riesling from Viewpointe instead.
After Viewpointe, we headed up the street to Sprucewood Shores. I didn’t have too many samples here since I was pacing myself, knowing what was to come at Muscedere. We brought home a bottle of Sprucewood’s Late Harvest Vidal which is surprisingly refreshing and not too sweet for a late harvest wine.
When did these wind turbines pop up in Harrow? I swear there weren’t that many in the winter.
Muscedere Vineyards in Harrow is probably my favourite, not only because the wines are great but also because their winemakers are the most personable, down-to-earth guys you’ll meet. …plus they give generous tastings of almost all their wines! I was definitely light-headed after leaving this place
We got a bottle of their Riesling (I really like riesling, by the way) and since I was feeling drunk and generous I decided to splurge for a bottle of their ice wine. Knowing that my wedding anniversary is coming up, I thought that a bottle of this liquid gold would be the perfect way to celebrate
The fridge is officially stocked. Nothing makes me happier!
It was a perfect day.
Of course I got up early to head to the gym this morning and burn off some of that alcohol. It’s all about a healthy balance, right?No Comments
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