Karlo Estates – A Gem in the County

It’s about time that I get back to my blog, having neglected it for quite some time. While I haven’t stopped sharing my food and drink experiences on Twitter and Instagram, our recent trip to Prince Edward County has inspired me enough to pull out the pen and paper (figuratively speaking) and elaborate on some of the wonderful experiences from the past year.

I’ve wanted to visit PEC for a while now and finally got the chance to visit this August. So many great places to write about, but what better place to start than my favourite find in the County: Karlo Estates.

Karlo Estates was founded in 2005 by Sherry Karlo with late husband Richard Karlo. Planting of the vineyard began in 2006 with blocks of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Frontenac Noir and they officially opened the doors of their beautiful two century old barn in 2010. Focusing on natural winemaking with little intervention, Karlo Estates is also the world’s first certified vegan winery!

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Karlo makes wines from estate-grown fruit but also purchases grapes from other quality vineyards in PEC and sometimes Niagara for varietals that are not available in the County such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah.

Derek Barnett (widely regarded as one of the top winemakers in Canada) was appointed Winemaker at Karlo Estates in 2015, and along with Assistant Winemaker Spencer Mayer, has carried on the impressive legacy of Richard Karlo with some spectacular wines which I tasted on a very hot summer day in August.

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My tasting was done at the counter by Brian, a very friendly and knowledgeable server who shared the history of Karlo Estates and told me about the wines I was about to taste including:

  • 2016 Gewurztraminer, with nose and tastes of lychee and grapefruit, a nice surprise as I’m not usually a big fan of “Gew” but this one won me over
  • 2015 Triumvirate, a full bodied and smooth Bordeaux style blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and petit verdot — my favourite tasting of the day
  • 2014 Van Alstine Red, a fortified wine (first in the County) made with estate Frontenac Noir and Merlot (and as I learned later, named among the Top Ten Cutting Edge Wines in the World)

All tastings came with a couple of bites of food to match with the wines, a really nice touch, and I ended up buying bottles of all three wines that I tasted.

Next time I’ll be sure to budget more time to soak up the atmosphere of one of their rustic tasting rooms, and order one of their food pairings, likely the plant-based cheese plate – right up my alley! I’ll also head up to the loft to check out some of the original artwork by Sherry Karlo which I missed on this visit.

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Fortunately, we did take some time to walk through the grounds of the estate and am I ever glad we did. In addition to the gorgeous post and beam timber barn, the grounds are among the nicest in Prince Edward County. One feature you won’t want to miss is the unique dry-stone bridge over Hubbs Creek – the largest bridge of its type (no mortar) in North America. It’s definitely worth taking your time to enjoy the grounds.

All in all, Karlo Estates offers a friendly and fun tasting experience in a warm, inviting environment and of course, fantastic wines. I enjoyed my experience so much that I followed our visit up by joining the Karlo Estates Wine Club. Now I’ll receive two bottles every three months, just enough to tide me over until my next visit!

Cheers,
Adrian

Web Site: www.karloestates.com
Location: 561 Danforth Road, Wellington, ON (Google Maps)

All photos by Adrian Berg

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Dinner at the Public Kitchen

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you may know I’m a big fan of Chef Doug McNish and his Public Kitchen on Marlee Ave in Toronto, serving wholesome real food, that is organic, vegan, and best of all, delicious. So I was super excited that he started offering Friday night dinners on January 16th and was fortunate enough to make it out for dinner tonight.

Sharing Platter

We started out with the Sharing Platter: house pickled, fried and roasted vegetables, hummus, crackers, flatbread, Wood and Water tre nuht cheez, grilled local wood fired bread, and pickled onion. This was really good with a nice combination of items, our favourites being the flatbread (more please!) with the savoury and smooth tre nuht cheez (made with organic raw cashews).

Eggplant Seitan

For mains, one of our dishes was the Eggplant Cannelloni – eggplant wrapped with house made cashew ricotta, in a roasted red pepper marinara sauce, with confit garlic chips, baby arugula salad, aged nut cheese, balsamic dijon dressing, and tomato powder. In the photo above, you can’t see the cannelloni hiding underneath the wonderful mound of arugula, but it’s there and was delicious, especially with the smooth cashew ricotta in the amazing red pepper marinara sauce.

Our second main was the seitan scallopini – a breaded seitan cutlet, with white wine lemon caper sauce, whipped acorn squash, on a bed of garlic greens, topped with parsnip chips. I really enjoyed this dish and all the flavours worked really well together. The whipped acorn squash was particularly delicious and don’t get me started about those parsnip chips… so good. Can I get a bowl of these please?

Cheesecake

But perhaps I did save the best for last – the Crisp Cheesecake. Now remember, all the food is vegan, so this ain’t no ordinary cheesecake, but rather a salted caramel cashew cheesecake, with spelt phyllo, warm caramel toffee, and orange cinnamon maca tuile. This is probably my favourite dessert I’ve had anywhere in the past couple of years. The warm filling that oozed out of the phyllo was just so rich, delicious and velvety, I wanted to order another and scraped my plate clean!

I hope my photos do the plating justice. Everything was presented beautifully, the servers were very attentive and friendly, and the food amazing. Highly recommended! Whether you’re following a plant-based diet or not – this is good food. Dinner reservations are available Fridays from 5:30pm to 9:00pm. Check out his website — a special Valentine’s Day menu is offered on February 13 and 14,

Well done Chef McNish. I can’t wait for next time!


Almond Butterfly Gluten-Free Bake Shop & Espresso

Almond Butterfly Bake Shop & Espresso is a relatively new addition to the Harbord Street area in Toronto, offering a variety of delicious gluten-free baked goods and coffee, as well as a small lunch menu. I’m not gluten-intolerant, and can eat gluten with abandon if I so choose, but I love to visit Almond Butterfly and enjoy their delicious eats made with all-natural ingredients.

Almond Butterfly started out as a small online/home-based bakery in Montreal, doing mostly doing wholesale to cafes and crossfit gyms. After about three years of refining recipes and gaining popularity, owner Melody Saari and her partner David took a leap of faith and moved back to Toronto, with Almond Butterfly opening its doors on Harbord Street in June 2014. Since opening, Almond Butterfly has gained many loyal clienete (myself included) and received some great reviews including being named one of the Top 10 new bake shops in Toronto by BlogTO.

melody_brownies inside

Those on a gluten-free diet can rejoice in that these cookies, cupcakes and other treats are just as delicious as their gluten-filled cousins. Almond Butterfly is a 100% dedicated gluten-free facility. If for any reason they’re unsure whether an ingredient coming in to the shop is gluten-free or not (some products are not labelled), they call the company/brand themselves for direct confirmation that a product is gluten-free before it will be used. Many products are also dairy-free and/or soy-free.

cupcake pumpkin

Cupcakes are definitely among their most popular items and for good reason. Flavours include their signature almond butterfly, salted chocolate caramel, spiced maple, vanilla coconut, among many others. Those looking for vegan treats will be happy that great options are also available, such as the chocolate peppermint cupcake pictured above, double chocolate, or my favourite, chocolate espresso! These are dairy-free, vegan, soy-free and gluten-free, but taste rich, decadent and moist. Trust me, you won’t miss the gluten or dairy.

banana walnut truffles

Cupcakes notwithstanding, other popular items include their paleo flaxseed loaf (made with a combination of hazelnut, almond and coconut flours – grain free!), banana walnut loaf (moist, flavourful, lots of banana), cheese biscuits (yum), pecan cookies (don’t get me started) and paleo moelleux au chocolat (why haven’t I tried this yet?!). Decisions, decisions.

GFT paleo

I’m fortunate to work just 5 minutes away, so I can also easily pop over for lunch. My go-to is the “GFT”, a grilled turkey bagel with aged white cheddar, basil pesto, tomato, organic mixed greens – all served on a fresh gluten-free bagel. They have recently expanded their lunch offerings and now also offer a daily hot paleo-style lunch special. My favourite is the healthy coconut crusted chicken, served with a side of brussel sprouts and mashed sweet potato. I’m told soups are next on the list.

coffee pecan

Coffee is also a strong point as Almond Butterfly uses a custom blend of beans created specially for their shop by Social Coffee & Tea Co. Good coffee, great food, friendly service – what more can you want?

But now that my secret is out, save me a seat by the window, would you? All in all, one of my favourite places in the city to stop by for a quick lunch or a cup of coffee.


Kale Waldorf Salad

The Waldorf salad is an American favourite created in the late 1800s in the Waldorf Hotel in New York City. It typically features apples, walnuts and celery on a bed of lettuce, dressed in mayonnaise, but variations are common around this central theme.

I have experimented with various ingredients over the past couple of years, using kale as the base and vegenaise as the dressing, and while good, I’ve never quite been satisfied. You see, while I try to eat clean as much as possible, I’m not really a huge fan of kale and often find it tough to chew. But after dabbling again over the Christmas holidays, I think I have finally found the sweet spot.

My version, as described below, is a kale salad that will satisfy even those who don’t think they like kale. Trust me: I wanted seconds, and that rarely happens when I’m eating kale! You could use regular curly kale, but the lacinato (often called tuscan) kale is quite readily available these days and worth the effort to find. As an added bonus, my dressing is a healthier non-dairy version that also adds in some protein from the cashews with extra health benefits of avocado.

I hope you enjoy!

Ingredients

1 bunch organic lacinato/tuscan kale 
1 cup organic apples
2 stalks organic celery
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
dash salt

Dressing
1/2 avocado
1/4 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
splash extra virgin olive oil

Note: I recommend organic where possible for all ingredients, especially the apples and celery which are part of the Dirty Dozen. but of course, if this is not possible, feel free to substitute non-organic fruits and veggies.

After giving the kale leaves a good wash, prepare the kale by removing the thick stem. Then chop or tear the kale into very small pieces in a large bowl. I prefer to roll up a few leaves tightly into a small roll, then cut these into small pieces (a chiffonade of sorts). Add the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. Mix well and let marinade for about 15 minutes, which in conjunction with the small little pieces, will make it tender.

While waiting for the kale to tenderize, wash and chop the celery and apples into small pieces and add to a separate bowl. If using organic apples, there’s no need to peel the apples. Add the walnuts, apples, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds to the chopped apples and celery.

Now you can make the dressing. Instead of mayonnaise, we’re going to make a healthy avocado based dressing. First, add the cashews and water into a chopper (I use the chopper that came with my immersion blender, but any sort of blender should do) and mix until smooth. Then add in 1/2 an avocado, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and a splash of olive oil. Blend again until smooth. Add a little extra water if needed at any point along the way to get the consistency you desire. When I make this, the dressing is relatively thick rather than runny.

By now, the kale should be almost ready. Once it has set for 15 minutes, you can now mix the dressing into the kale, using as much or little as you like to lightly coat the kale leaves. Top with the fruit, celery, nuts and seeds.


YamChops: A Vegetarian Butcher Shop

YamChops is a vegetarian butcher shop located on College, west of Bathurst, the first of its kind in Canada. YamChops is the brainchild of Michael and Toni Abramson, who previously ran a Toronto-based advertising agency.

What is a vegetarian butcher shop you might ask? With a full commercial kitchen on site, they serve a variety of plant-based proteins for those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, or for people like me simply looking to eat more plant-based meals and less meat.

Regular offerings included no-pork pulled pork, szechuan no-beef beef, chick’n shawarma, tuna-less tuna, coconut ba-con, no-crab crab cakes, beet burgers, carrot lox, and more. Check out how they turn root vegetables into lox.

After hearing so many great things about them, I couldn’t wait to try what they had to offer. I decided the time had come when I saw they were offering a plant-powered Christmas dinner. This meal started with a carrot ginger soup, followed by a farro salad with pear and endive. The farro salad was really good and a nice surprise. I’d happily have it again any day for lunch. The mains included a beet wellington, cranberry roasted vegetables and maple mashed yams. All were great, but the star of the show was the beet wellington, a very creative and delicious entree with beets, mushroom sauté and vegan feta wrapped in phyllo. Finally, a vegan chocolate pudding was offered for dessert. Overall the meal was delicious and worthy of a holiday dinner. Portions were quite large and there was enough for leftovers the next day – the photo below only shows a part of the main course!

YamChops

YamChops also sells a number of healthy cold-pressed AuJus juices and selected prepared foods, including a personal favourite, locally made sauces from Nona Vegan. I had the chance to try their popular szechuan no-beef beef dish a couple of days later, and it was delicious and tender. A nice alternative dish for those looking to cut back on red meat.

YamChops is well worth a visit. I’ll certainly be back! They also deliver, if you’re within their zone

Check out YamChops at twitter.com/YamChopsTO or Facebook at www.facebook.com/YamChopsTO


Great Gift Ideas for the Food Lover in Your Life

Just over a week until Christmas and still looking for that perfect gift for the food lover in your life? Here are some great gift ideas!

Savour Toronto Gift Certificates

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Savour Toronto offers specialty food tours, with an emphasis on independent restaurateurs, food shop owners and artisan food makers. Winner’s of the 2014 Ontario Culinary Tourism Experience Award, several tours are offered including:

  • Kensington Crawl
  • Best of the West
  • Le Tour de Cafe
  • Vegecursion

Treat your special someone with a gift certificate (one for you, one for them!) and discover some of Toronto’s best restaurants, cafes and food shops.

Cookbooks

Given that I’m working towards more of a plant-based diet, here are two I’m most excited about and recommend:

Oh She Glows DougMcNishL

In 2008, Angela Liddon started a blog, “Oh She Glows“, to document her recovery from an eating disorder and transition from processed foods to a plant-based diet. After 5 years of running a very successful blog, Angela launched the Oh She Glows Cookbook, featuring over 100 plant-based vegan recipes that use real, whole food ingredients. Indigo named it the “Book of the Year 2014” and the recipes I’ve tried have turned out great!

Chef Doug McNish is a Toronto-based executive vegan chef, whose motto is #EatRealFood. I learned about Chef Doug and his commitment to organics and health earlier this year during a visit to the Evergreen Brickworks Farmers Market. Since then, I’ve become a big fan of his work and try to visit his Public Kitchen whenever I get the chance. His new cookbook Vegan Everyday isn’t out yet, but is available for pre-order through Amazon. Having sampled many of his dishes, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy to try my hand at making some of my favourites!

Looking for something non-vegan? Here are a few cookbooks that top many year-end “best of” lists that I have either purchased or hope will be waiting for me under the Christmas tree!

B MOD NBC SFD

Cooking Classes

There are cooking classes for everyone in Toronto, no matter what your tastes or skill level. I’ve attended one of Arvinda’s Indian cooking classes and it was fantastic, but here are a few additional Toronto-based classes that have received great word-of-mouth and are sure to please the foodie in your life:

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season!

Photo Credit for “Enchanted Christmas”: Ian Muttoo


Two Fav Healthy Snacks

If you’re like me, you likely feel the urge to snack on something yummy and crunchy mid-afternoon or in the evening. I try to bring my own homemade healthy trail mix to work to avoid impulse buys at the coffee shop, but sometimes you just need some variety. So what great news that a company called The Good Bean has now made their way to Canada with their All-Natural Roasted Chickpea Snacks.

Chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, are part of the legume family (they are pulses, technically) and have many nurtitional and health benefits, including being a good source of protein and fibre, a low glycemic index, and are a good source of folate. And I bet you didn’t know that Canada is one of the top five exporters of chickpeas worldwide! (source: http://www.eatrightontario.ca)

The Good Bean actually launched in September 2010, but has just recently made their way to Canada, and now you can find them all over Toronto and the GTA. Of course you can roast your own chickpeas too (sample recipe here) but who has the time and energy. And as a bonus, The Good Bean products are GMO-free and fair-trade!

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The Good Bean offers seven different types of chickpea snacks: sea salt, cracked pepper, smoked chili & lime, sweet cinnamon, mesquite BBQ, thai coconut lemongrass, and chocolate. After trying all the flavours (thanks to the folks at The Good Bean for hooking me up!) my favourite is the good old fashioned sea salt, but honourable mentions go to sweet cinnamon and smoked chili & lime.

One serving of these roasted chickpeas has as much protein as almonds, as much fiber as two cups of broccoli and as much folate as three cups of spinach! Minimally-processed, GMO-free, ethically traded, and a great healthy snack to satisfy that afternoon or evening craving – what more could you want? These are a nice addition to the food scene in Canada!

KIND3

My other recommendation are KIND Bars. These all natural bars are really convenient to just pick up and throw in your pocket or purse when you’re on the go. KIND launched in 2004 with 8 different varieties and now offers 22 different bars to satisfy any preferences. Many snack bars on the market contain a lengthy list of ingredients that you might not recognize as “food”, in addition to lots of added sugar (or worse, high-fructose corn syrup), plus preservatives, additives, etc. Not these!

KIND bars are made with simple, real ingredients (none of those things you can’t pronounce) including nuts, fruit and whole grains. High in fibre and a good source of protein, they are also suitable for those following gluten-free, and for many of the bars, vegan diets. And for those who are concerned about GMOs, they’re GMO-free too.

My favourite is the Almond-Cranberry which is made with almonds, dried cranberries, macadamias, honey, glucose, crisp rice, chicory root fiber, and sunflower oil. The Almond-Coconut is also really good, but other options include: Almond & Apricot, Blueberry Vanilla & Cashew, Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew, among others.

Happy healthy snacking!