Niagara Wine Weekend – Part V

Were we already at the end of our Ultimate Food, Beer and Wine Tour?  To be honest, I was done by this point and needed some nappytime bad.  We had been wine tasting and eating steadily since 10AM!  Fine, call me a lightweight.  I know when to tap out.

Of course, dessert is always in order after any meal and thus we had some chocolatey treats from Willow Cakes and Pastries and enjoyed it along with some ice wine from Reif Estate Winery.

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I wish I had been able to enjoy this last bit, but I won’t lie, the day had taken its toll and I was done.   The couple bites I took were delicious however.  

No trip to Niagara is ever complete without a quick jaunt across the border.  A little bit of shopping and lunch was on the agenda.

A peep of mine suggested Smokey Bones for lunch.  I’m always down for new places to eat.

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If it wasn’t obvious, this is a BBQ joint.  Behold their BBQ sauces! 

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Started with some cornbread.  More like corn cake. With pecan butter.  So warm and good. 

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My cuban sandwich – yummy pulled pork.  Brunswick stew on the side – smoked BBQ, corn and tomatoes.  A little spicey heat, it was good hearty stew for this rainy, chilly day.  Yes, that’s broccoli.  I’ll say no more.  

Our next stop was to Trader Joe’s.  What does a Canadian need to do to get a location in Canada?! I love this grocery chain.  Trader Joe branded goods are fantastic!

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My stash.  Though I wished I’d picked up a few other items. 

Before crossing the border, we made a stop at Cheesecake Factory.  I always say that I wished we had one here but on second thought, I think I’d be in trouble if we did.  I’ve written about how I enjoy this restaurant.  Check out this post if you would like an example.  I can’t believe I crossed the border with all this cheesecake.  I think I saw the Customs agent fight a smile when I declared my slices.

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White chocolate raspberry 

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Kahlua coffee 

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White chocolate caramel macadamia nut and Mango Key lime 

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Godiva chocolate – the BEST!!

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Cheesecake for dinner for days!  Who does this!! 

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It was a super fun weekend.  We ate well.  We drank well.  We shopped well.  We laughed lots and enjoyed hanging out not worrying about significant others, kids or work for three days.

Until next time! =)

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Someone Made It, I Ate It – Barque Smokehouse

Barque Smokehouse is a BBQ joint located at 299 Roncesvalles Avenue in Toronto.

http://barque.ca

For over a year, I would pass this establishment as I rode the streetcar to my weekend baking class and I would notice the full restaurant and sometimes line up outside and wonder…Why wasn’t I eating there at that moment?!

I finally got my chance to try it on a dinner outing with some Peeps from work and a Peep from college.

Some restaurant ambiance.  No pretension here, just a cool neighbourhood food joint.

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Apricot wheat beer.
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Since there were 4 of us, we opted to pair off and order sampler plates of two.  This plate did not stay empty for long. IMG_8328

For my pair’s sampler plate we opted for Brisket, Italian Sausage, 1/2 rack of dry rub ribs, with sides of smoked asparagus, creamy smoked cauliflower and potatoes served in mini skillets.

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The brisket was awesome, so tender and soft.  The sausage was well grilled and smoky.  Although the ribs were delicious, I am a fan of fall off the bone ribs and these were not.  The sides were interesting and not anything I have ever had elsewhere.  Quite inventive flavours and textures there.

Of course, dessert was a must and seeing as we were in the Roncesvalles area, I knew of a newly opened Ed’s Real Scoop location just down the street.  I made it no secret that we were absolutely going here.  A terrific new store with all the delicious ice cream flavours I have come to know and love.  This visit, I opted for the chocolate cheesecake and butter pecan.  So good, I did a jig!

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Ahh, so full of yummy goodness. I will definitely be back to both places! =)

How to Throw a Wine & Cheese Party

I ran into some Peeps I had not seen in a while a few weeks ago and it made me nostalgic and longing for the great old days.  I decided then that I wanted to throw a shindig and get my Peeps together.

But what kind of shindig would I have?  I wanted something easy to plan and prepare. Time is of the essence for me and I wanted to enjoy it, not spend most of it cooking.  The idea of a wine and cheese party popped into my head.  Everything is better with cheese.  Wine is always welcome.  Add a few simple sides and you have the makings of a self serve buffet allowing people to graze and serve themselves when they aren’t socializing and sipping on some wine.

So now I have decided the type of party i’m having, I’ve picked my date and invited my guests.  The next plan is to create my menu. The obvious is to start with the cheese.  Plan to have 4 to 5 different types of cheese keeping these categories in mind:

Bloomy: Creamy, decadent cheeses, with a soft rind i.e.: Brie or Camembert

Hard: Stiff cheeses, which are often sharp and/or salty. i.e: Gouda or Gruyere

Blue: Pungent, often salty cheeses, with a blue tinge. i.e: Gorgonzola or Stilton

Fresh: Soft, often spreadable cheeses that can be tangy or mild i.e: Mozzarella or Goat

My choices – Brie, Gouda, Gorgonzola, Goat cheese with fig and Jalapeño Harvati

Now to pick the wines.  It is good to have both red and white wine and each should complement the cheese being served.

For my party I paired my cheese in this way

Brie & Chardonnay

Gouda & Merlot

Goat & Sauvignon Blanc

Gorgonzola & Malbec

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Wine glasses

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To go along with the cheese, it is nice to have some bread and crackers.  I went with a crusty french bread and walnut raisin bread which paired nicely with the salty blue and spicy harvarti.  I found an awesome cracker assortment for cheese made by President’s Choice Brand.  A great mix of crackers.  My fave was the honey wheat cracker paired with goat and fig cheese and the water crackers with the blue.

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I added a selection of meats – salami, prociutto salami and kielbasa sausage.  Fruit makes a nice touch especially pears which work amazingly with blue cheese.  Some walnuts and almonds for crunch.

In keeping with the cheese theme, I also prepared a bocconcini, tomato and asparagus salad with balsamic dressing, a penne pasta with tomatoes and parmesan, a ricotta, brie phyllo quiche and to end it all, a blueberry cheesecake.

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It was a delicious and filling spread.  My Peeps left well fed and hopefully enjoyed themselves.  It was wonderful to sit and reminisce about old times while we laughed at funny pictures I dug up.  I have some terrific people in my life. =)