The County Grapevine reveals charms of Prince Edward County

I’m a food magazine junkie, always on the lookout for the latest issues of my favourites, or the arrival of brand new publications.

A quick perusal of the magazine shelves at a Kitchener grocery store tonight rewarded me with a newbie – The County Grapevine. This newcomer focuses on the food, wine, art and culture of Prince Edward County (PEC) in southern Ontario.

It seems I’m a little late getting to the party on this one; the issue I picked up is for Fall/Winter 2009/2010 (it’s a biannual publication). The magazine has been around for a while. How did I miss it??

So where exactly is Prince Edward County? PEC is an island at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. It is surrounded on the north and east by the Bay of Quinte, and is west of the St. Lawrence River. Its mild climate (by Canadian standards, that is!) has made it home to numerous vineyards and wineries.

What initially attracted me to The County Grapevine as I leafed through it in the store was the article Steeped in Tradition by tea expert Melody Wren. As a tea lover always looking for new places to enjoy a good cuppa’, I was interested to read her review of tea rooms in PEC.

Since bringing the magazine home, I’ve read and enjoyed a couple light-hearted pieces – “I was a teenage waitress” by comedian Deborah Kimmett and “Table Manners: The Lost Art of Dinner Parties” by sommelier Natalie MacLean.

I also noticed that food stylist and blogger Ruth Gangbar was credited for food styling in the magazine.

Tomorrow I’ll have to take some time to savour the food and wine articles!

The County Grapevine is available free in Prince Edward County and surrounding areas and can be purchased at Chapters, Indigo, Metro, and stores within the Loblaws chain.

Maintaining the validity of online recipe comments

Allowing comments on recipes is the norm on many websites and most blogs. These testimonials can provide useful feedback to others who are considering the recipe, possibly filling in some missing steps, providing helpful suggestions about techniques within the recipe, offering flavour variations, and of course rating the likeability of the recipe.

Here’s where the “but” comes in. If an assessment of a recipe is given but the recipe has been made with significant changes and ingredient substitutions which have altered the nature of the dish (whether its taste, texture, appearance, size, etc.), then I wholeheartedly agree with what Jane Touzalin had to say in her Cooks Who Make Me Crazy post on the Washington Posts All We Can Eat blog. She suggests an 11th commandment – “Thou shalt not post reviews of recipes on Web sites if thou hast not actually followed the recipe — at least for the most part.” Amen!

Really now! Doesn’t it only seem fair to comment on a recipe as its written? For your comments to be valid, you really need to stay true to the recipe. And for recipe success, you need to remember that although the ingredients in many recipes are flexible, you can’t just go changing things willy nilly. It isn’t fair to complain about a recipe or comment negatively after you’ve switched up ingredients.

If you must make changes or ingredient substitutions to a recipe, keep it to a minimum and at the very least divulge how you altered the recipe, then comment on your own changes.

“Cooking lessons” from Kevin of The Office

More insight (??) about food from NBC‘s The Office. This time, a cooking lesson from Kevin Malone.

Learn how to make pseudo quesadillas and creme brulee using food from the vending machine.

If you dare.

See also Funny Food Moments on The Office.

I’ll drink to that – with a little help from the Wine and Food Matcher!

If you’re like me and often wonder which type of wine to serve with a particular food, I’ve found a helpful tool for us to make this decision a whole lot more easily!

Wine sommelier and writer Natalie MacLean has created a Wine and Food Matcher that will help us choose the most complementary wine and food pairings. The Matcher is on her website, Nat Decants. It’s fun to use and there is quite an extensive range of wines and foods included. Use it to find an eggstra-special pairing for your Easter menu this weekend.

Natalie’s website has lots of other interesting information about wine as well as recipes.

Evaporated and sweetened condensed milk

What’s the difference between evaporated and condensed milk?

Evaporated milk can also be called unsweetened condensed milk. It is made by removing 60% of the water from skim, low-fat or whole milk. The milk is then sterilized; this gives it a caramel colour and a slightly cooked taste. Evaporated milk can be mixed with an equal amount of water and substituted for milk in a recipe. Leftover evaporated milk should be covered, refrigerated and used within 3 days.

Sweetened condensed milk is thick, sweet, and sticky. It is made in the same way as evaporated milk but before being heated to remove about 60% of the water, whole milk is sweetened with sugar. Leftover sweetened condensed milk should be covered, refrigerated and used within 4 days.

These milks can not be used interchangeably.

Follow the chocolate road to the Registry Theatre

Interested in traveling a road made from chocolate? Get on the right path by attending Follow the Chocolate Road at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener on Monday, February 9.

Folia, a baroque chamber music group, invites you to to attend an evening of music that will follow chocolate from the New World through its conquest of Baroque Europe. Interspersed throughout the evening will be chocolate trivia. And, appropriately, there will be chocolate tasting courtesy of Silver Spoon Fine Chocolates of Waterloo! How sweet is that!

The evening starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adult, $15 for seniors and students, and $5 for children 18 and under.

Tickets are available at the Centre in the Square Box Office (101 Queen St. N., Kitchener; Ph: (519) 578-1570).

The Registry Theatre is located at 122 Frederick St. in Kitchener.

Come eat chocolate with me!

chocolatexsmallChocolate lovers are invited to join me for a chocolate cooking class at Household China & Gifts cooking school in Waterloo on Thursday, Feb. 5th.

I’ll be demonstrating sweet and savoury recipes with the help of cooking school co-ordinator Donna-Marie Pye. There will be lots of chocolatey samples as well as tips on working with chocolate. We’ll be doing some chocolate tasting and, if we can fit it in, an easy hands-on chocolate “craft”, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

The class runs from 6:30 until 9 p.m. and costs $70.00.

Sign up for Chocoholics Rejoice by calling 519-884-2792 or visiting Household China at 300 King Street North in Waterloo.

Be sure to check out the other cooking classes in Household China’s Winter Cooking class schedule.

Take my chocolate poll below to vote for your chocolate preference – milk, dark or white. (Yes, white chocolate is technically not chocolate because it doesn’t contain cocao solids but I’m including it anyway since many people consider it chocolate.)

Christmas Countdown: Food & Drink magazine – a source of holiday inspiration

LCBO's Food & Drink magazine - 2008 Holiday Issue

The LCBO's complimentary Food & Drink magazine - 2008 Holiday Issue

If you live in Ontario (Canada) – run, don’t walk, to your nearest Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) to pick up the holiday issue of Food & Drink magazine. This glossy magazine is always a knock-out, and the latest issue is no exception. That the magazine is free (yes, FREE!) makes it even more enticing, although I’ll bet many faithful readers would gladly pay to peruse the pages of this prodigious periodical.

Food & Drink is known for its exquisite photography, superb recipes, excellent information on wine and spirits, and inspiring ideas for entertaining and gift giving. It is published six times a year.

I drooled (figuratively, of course!) all over the 300+ pages of the latest issue, packed with holiday food and drink suggestions. The list of recipes I’d like to try is long. This is just a small portion of it!

Profiteroles with Caramel Sauce and Hedgehog Almond Praline (cover photo)…Baked Eggs with Mushroom Sauce…Caribbean Cruise Cocktail…Rich Chocolate Souffle…Individual Brie and Fig Strudels…Pecan and Banana Cake with Buttered Rum Glaze…Sesame Ginger Edamame…Raspberry Truffle Martini…Chinese Roast Turkey with Cranberry Ginger Chutney, Dry Fried Green Beans & Rice Stuffing…Butter Chicken…an Icewine Dinner Menu…Chocolate Mascarpone Cheese Ball with Dried Cherries & Bittersweet Wafers…

If your local LCBO has run out of copies of Food & Drink (they often disappear quickly), jog over to another LCBO (find the locations here). Or, let your fingers do the walking and speed-walk over to the LCBO’s web site for recipe and beverage suggestions for the Christmas season. You might not find the current issue’s contents posted yet, but recipes from past issues are online.

The Winter issue of Food & Drink will be on LCBO store shelves on Jan. 14. You’ll want to keep your running shoes handy.

Celebrity chefs inspire adoring foodie fans

I spent this past weekend at the Seasons Christmas Show at the International Centre in Toronto. No, not shopping for Christmas decorations, gifts and baking. I was working at the Egg Farmers of Ontario‘s booth where we were giving out recipes for holiday baking and entertaining, and selling microwave egg cookers. (The cookers make excellent poached eggs, not to mention great stocking stuffers!) I’ll admit I did slip away from the booth a couple times to check out the show, but most of the time, it was work, work, work….

Our booth was located across the aisle from the Toronto Star Theatre, one of the presentation stages at the Show. Occasionally there was a lull in the activity in front of our booth; when no one was picking up recipes or asking a question about the nutritional value of eggs, I and the staff at our booth were entertained by the demonstrations on the cooking stage.

The presenters, who included Food Network‘s Chefs Anna Olson and Anthony Sedlak from FoodTV, as well as Elizabeth Baird, Executive Food Editor for Canadian Living magazine and Chef James Smith from George Brown College, attracted large crowds. As the weekend progressed, I made a few mental observations about the crowds and the high-profile cooks.

* Lots of talk, but not so much cooking! Most of the cooking dems went on for nearly an hour, but some presenters spent much of that time talking, not cooking. The crowds seemed content to sit and listen to cooking tips and techniques, food facts, and stories about what happens behind-the-scenes of a televized cooking show, despite witnessing a minimal amount of chopping, stirring and actual cooking.

* It tastes great – or so we’ve been told! Once the demonstration was over, samples of the finished dish were not typically provided for the gathered crowd to taste. Having done quite a few cooking demonstrations in my life, I know from experience that it can be a challenge to find a recipe to demonstrate for a large group of people that can also be easily sampled by the crowd. The problem is neatly solved by simply demonstrating the recipe but not offering samples of the finished product. This seemed to be the solution for a number of the presentations at the Toronto Star Theatre. I did notice that over at Canadian Living magazine’s stage, there appeared to be samples at each of the cooking dems.

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A cooking website well worth a look

My friend Mike found a great cooking website recently which he shared with me and which I think deserves passing on.

Former home economics teacher Kathy Maister has created a website (and blog) – – full of instructional videos that contain helpful cooking tips and techniques and lots of sound and visual effects. The videos are fun to watch and educational too. The site also has a great selection of recipes with step-by-step directions and photographs to help both novice and experienced cooks perform better in the kitchen.

While poking around the site, I found a list of a dozen tasty ways to spice up instant hot chocolate. With cold weather moving into southern Ontario tonight (could snow be far behind??), hot chocolate seems especially appealing.