Back and Forth Bites and Bevies

photo: Spot Prawns served at the Western Living Test Kitchen

Readers, I may have taken a little break from my web duties, but never from my wining and dining. Here is a bit of what I’ve been up to. On May 17th and 18th, EAT Liquid Assets columnist Larry Arnold and I swirled, sniffed, spat and scored along with thirty-some other judges from across the country at the 29th All Canadian Wine Championships in Windsor Ontario. It was a tough job but somebody had to do it. We were delighted to be the west coast contingency.

All Hail BC! Lake Breeze won top honours for best white wine with its Pinot Blanc 2009. Meanwhile Oliver’s Desert Hills Syrah Select 2006 garnered the trophy for best red. Naramata and Vancouver Island, walked away with 22 and 21 medals respectively. Click here for more details on for Vancouver Island successes. Gold, Silver and Bronze medals were sprinkled about the rest of BC. For all ACWC results visit the Canadian Wine Trail website.

Elora, a small town just outside Guelph is picture perfect Ontario with a heavy Scottish accent. (The area was settled by the Scots in the 1800’s). The Grand River narrows to a deep gorge and waters rush and tumble over limestone boulders behind the Elora Mill turned cozy inn and restaurant, and the Shepherd’s Pub. After two days ploughing through wine a palate cleansing ale, or three at the pub (along with some fine fish and chips) slip down my gorge splendidly. Make that brew a well-hopped Stonehammer Pilsner from Guelph’s F&M craft brewery.

Elora is also home to Cuisine Canada’s Anita Stewart. She and I meet up to chat about the culinary state of our country at Marj’s Village Kitchen “down the road” in the wee burg of Alma. Marj’s is the kind of sandwich/pie/coffee eatery you find dotted all around small town Ontario. Some are good; many less so.  But Marj’s is terrific! I tuck into the grilled Ontario cheddar and bacon between thick slabs of homemade whole grain bread. At the checkout I add six butter tarts from the bakery counter to my bill. Just outside the town of Fenelon Falls a few days later I spy a Mennonite buggy in a farm yard—and a rough sign announcing fresh asparagus and eggs for sale. Only large jars of pickled eggs remain on the shelves of a simple wood construct. But a bonneted, shy young lady approaches me. I must look awfully crestfallen because she hastens to the henhouse for eggs and to a neatly furrowed plot to cut for me several thick asparagus spears. (I also buy pickled eggs.) Two hours’ later mom, dad and I lunch on THE best asparagus omelette I have ever made.

Back in Vancouver and barely off the tarmac I celebrate our tender sweet spot prawns at Cookworks, which now houses Western Living Test Kitchen at the shop’s Broadway and Granville location. The magazine’s recipe developer Murray Bancroft hosts the event, one of a series of spring/summer cooking classes. Guest chef Quang Dang who recently moved from C to take over Jeff Van Geest’s post at Diva at the Met whipped up simple prawn dishes that were, well, spot on—tartare with just a squeeze of lemon juice, a simple prawn, shaved fennel and cherry tomato salad, and a delicate summer risotto. Chef Dang peppered his dishes with useful hints on buying and dealing with these delicate crustaceans. A melon-laced Blasted Church Hatfield’s Fuse, and crisp fruity Rosé partner perfectly. For Cookworks fall line-up click here.

Two weeks’ on I was sipping a Joie Rosé and Pentâge Pinot Gris with rice- crusted seared tuna and tiny crab-cakes at Shangri-la’s patio party, a further underscore of the caliber of BC’s lively refreshers and just how well they suit our province’s bounty.

Family illness has me to-and-froing between Ontario and BC and some days are not so cheery. I find solace in my culinary escapes and landscapes. Tripping about the Ontario townships has also fostered a yen to do likewise in BC. Between Vancouver events, the summer to-do list includes meanderings in and around Langley, Abbotsford, White Rock, Crescent Beach, Bowen Island and perhaps a whip over the border to Bellingham, whose farmers’ market alone is worth the drive. In the works are also trips to the Sunshine Coast, Shuswap and Sun Peaks. I look forward to another season filled with edible journeys.

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