Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fine Wining and Dining with Barton & Guestier at Nella Cucina

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It's B&G Time!

Ahead, a memorable evening of preparing French dishes and becoming enlightened with a diverse range of French wines to compliment. We were able to discover the beauty of Barton & Guestier, the number one wine brand name of France, and further to partake in a hands-on cooking class.

The evening was taken place at Nella Cucina, home to The Annex. Upon entry of Nella Cucina. you are first welcomed by their retail front, then led up the stairs to where their regular cooking classes take place. The first glass I was presented with upon arrival was the B & G Passporte Bordeaux Blanc, it was crisp and held a light and fruity aroma. Mingling away, we observed the bustle of Chopped Canada winner, Brianne Nash and her team hastily working away to present the two hors d'oeuvres to pair to our wines: Shrimps laid in a light Chili-oil, and the second was a sliced Crostini topped with Ricotta, wine-infused carmelized Onions and Fig.

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As soon as we were settled and seated, Clementine Quereax - Barton & Guestier's Export Manager and Global Brand Ambassador sweetly welcomed and presented us to our new acquaintances: her pride and joy, the wines that we were to discover to be infused into our dishes and by side as pairings throughout the evening.


In the next stage, we were set into three groups: one in charge of assembling the salad, the second for the main and the third working on the side dish. 

I was set into the preparation for our main, a Grilled New York Striploin. I'll admit that before a month ago, I had a very low appreciation, and subsequently, a stubborn lack of knowledge of steak. I mean, come on, I thought that J's Kitchen in Sydney was sickeningly amazing. So, provided with all of the relief of winging it, we were completely guided by the expertise of Nash. I was truly mind-blown by the simplicity of it all: Nash first taught us how to gauge the level of doneness of our steaks by pressing the fleshy part of our palms and comparing it to the meat on the grill; this step could otherwise be beautifully accurately achieved with a meat thermometer, gauging at 120 degrees for medium rare perfection - the latter is my preference.

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The New York Striploins that we were all very happily experimenting with were supplied by Beretta Farms - Nash pridefully and excitedly expressed to us that these Striploins are absolutely organic and hormone-free, she confidently said that we will truly be able to taste the difference.

Our group rotated in practicing our method in seasoning the meats and tossing it on the grill, rotating at 45 degrees, and flipping it, repeating the process to achieve the consistent, and admirable, 'diamond' crosses throughout.

Photo by John Tan | PostTwitter

(hint: distribute when seasoning, placing the meat in one hand, and sprinkling from at least 30cm above will ensure a full, even coverage)

We were then advised of the importance of resting the freshly grilled the meats on an elevated rack to halt the meat from further cooking and enable the meat to breath (just, genius). She brought up a great range of pointers, I was two-thirds convinced that this Steak would be delicious. I certainly enjoyed how hands-on it was and the amount of great tips Nash shared. With all of the knowledge we were taking it, it only made me curious of what the other two teams absorbed!

Nash went on to demonstrate the creation of the 'jus' wine reduction, created using one bottle of B & G Partager La Gardie Cabernet Sauvignon, a roughly sliced Shallot, sprig of Rosemary and Butter.

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Freshly coated side of truffle-roasted Fingerling Potatoes ready for the oven!
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We wandered into the set dining room to prepare for the indulgence of our creations. While we were receiving our first wine pairing and settling in, Quereux began with an introduction of Barton & Guestier and it's great background: founded in 1725, it is the oldest wine merchant in Bordeaux, France. Before each of the courses made it's way around, Quereux passionately spoke of the vineyard the grapes derived from, visually detailing the beautiful area, the process of it's creation, our expected tasting notes, it's most suitable pairings and why they fit so well.

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The first to arrive was the very vibrant, Beet, Fennel & Apple salad with a Honey-Mustard dressing made by our fellow attendees. This salad was paired with a sweet-scented and medium-bodied B & G Partager La Gardie Merlot ($9.95, LCBO). This wine was a fine complement to the crisp and tart elements of the salad.

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The second course made it's way around and it was out of the waters of what I anticipated. The NY Striploin was juicy, well-seasoned, and beautifully complimented with the addition of Blue Cheese sauce. I may be biased because it was our own creation, but, I can easily say that it was the best piece of grilled steak that I have ever devoured. The sides of glazed Green Beans and Truffle-roasted Fingerling Potatoes were also two wonderful complements to the dish that I wish to replicate on my own in the future. The wine pairing for this dish was their medium-bodied, blackcurrant scented B & G Partager La Gardie Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.95, LCBO), this was a double pure kill - the same wine is used in the reduction swirled around our medium rare sirloins, altogether, this wine provided a rich depth and truly elevated the flavours.

The two dishes we've prepared in a team effort and by the wonderful guidance of the Nella Cucina team were fantastic. To conclude the experience, we were presented with a Dark Chocolate Brownie served with a Sour Cherry Compote. Completely created by the Nella Cucina team, this was paired with the B & G Les Charmes De Magnol Medoc ($18.95, LCBO), it is a lovely blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Full-bodied, it is a smooth, lightly spicy and wonderfully bold wine filled with distinctive scents of blackcurrant - without a doubt, my favorite of the night.

Barton & Guestier hosted an interactive evening of learning how to cook French cuisine and the importance of savouring wine along side. Each attendee had a memorable experience by the fine guidance of Chef Brianne Nash and the Nella Cucina Team. Great thanks to Clementine Quereux and Barton & Guestier, along with Butter PR for hosting and executing this wonderful event.

Find out more, here:
Barton & Guestier:
@BartonGuestier #itsBGtime

Nella Cucina
@NellaCucina

Monday, February 23, 2015

Aft Kitchen & Bar, Riverdale

AFT KITCHEN & BAR
686 Queen Street East
Toronto, Canada
BBQ - Bar - 11am~2am - Weekend Brunch
$$ 


On a Wednesday night, I was on the hunt for a BBQ spot that was a short distance from my campus. A quick search, and Aft Kitchen & Bar was immediately brought to my attention. It was a pleasant 20 minute walk to the end of King Street, and trialing over the bridge onto Queen Street East. Upon entrance, I knew that this spot was going to be fantastic. Beautifully dimmed, cozy bar seating is available, two chalkboards: one with drinks and the next with specials - this spot was already bustling at 6PM on a weekday. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lee Restaurant, King West

LEE RESTAURANT
601 King Street W
Toronto, Canada
Asian Fusion - Bar
$$$
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With a lucky (luckee, heh) win on a reposting contest on Lee Restaurant's Instagram, I was blessed with a Winterlicious dinner for two at the acclaimed restaurant of Sursur Lee. Amazing. Situated in the sweetest spot Stopping into the Forno Cultura Bakery next door to try out each of their Biscottis and into Home of the Brave just upstairs of the charming bakery to enjoy a bottle of The Poet's Oatmeal Stout and a pint of Naughty Neighbour APA. Well-made treats and craft pints are always a swell start to the evening.

Warmly welcomed by Lee's Social Media manager, our coats taken away, and we were seated for out 8PM reservation. The interior was definitely a sight. It was spacious upon entry, and the bar that aligned the first room had a hotel sort of feel, led into the further dining room, it was spotted with glass tables, high rustic brick walls and a floor to ceiling window along. Our server was friendly, speedy and efficient. Not once did I have to think of reaching for water, and I was very surprised wandering back every so often to find my napkin folded up and placed to the side.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Caplansky's Delicatessen, Little Italy

CAPLANSKY'S DELICATESSEN
356 College Street
Toronto, Canada
Deli - Sandwiches - All-day breakfast - Open until 10PM
$$

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I've walked past Caplansky's Delicatessen plenty of times during the summer, but at that time, all I wanted was a patio! The dining experience was far from what I expected. I imagined the spot to be half of it's size, and filled with only bench seating. But,  seating was plenty, and they have a bar which has five beers on tap! This is also an awesome spot for all-day breakfast. Very pleased to roll into this cozy (and clean!) old-school feeling diner after an exhausting two days, and still a long night ahead, I just needed a pint in my system. The service was fantastic, our server was super timely with everything, my tastebuds may also have been swayed after comping one of our orders after a mix-up and providing us with gluttonous maple-bacon donuts. Both of us, new to Jewish cuisine, we formerly decided to go for something fitting for this chilly weather, so we of course had to get their signature Matzo Ball Chicken Soup.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Rose City Kitchen, Queen West

ROSE CITY KITCHEN
406 Queen St W
Toronto, Canada

Sandwiches - Middle Eastern - Take-out - Poutine - Salad
$$

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Rose City Kitchen is most definitely an undermined eatery in Queen West, located just West of Queen & Spadina. I avoided this spot (like many other Queen West spots) while residing in the neighborhood since I believed that it wouldn't be worth trying, but really - it deserves all of the praise! Their incredible fresh flavour combinations, made to order. Sandwiches are served up in a half-cut pita. "1 for a snack, 2 for a meal, 3 if you’re starving..." is recommended - but I was strangely super stuffed after sharing (!!!) a poutine, we were struggling to finish up our two half-cut pitas. The beauty is that you start with choosing your protein - Chicken ($5), Falafel ($4), Steak ($5) and Halloumi ($5), then onto the style of condiments and seasoning, there are the "RCK" Original, Greek, Lebanese, Morrocan and Egyptian to choose from. Check out their sweet, sweet menu, here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Inspire Restaurant, Markham

INSPIRE RESTAURANT
144 Main Street Markham N, Unit 1
Markham, Canada
Asian Fusion - Brunch/Lunch/Dinner - Closed Mondays
$$

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Located in Unionville, Inspire Restaurant couldn't have chosen a better location for them to truly shine! It is exactly the charm that I expected, and plenty more. I've had this spot on my mind for the longest time, but, their beautifully crafted dishes and fair pricing - it all seemed much too good to be true. All I knew was that I wanted that funky looking dessert with the eggshells and whimsical caramel swirls. Parking can be found right behind the restaurant. Seated for lunch for two with a reservation at 2PM on a Saturday, this was the perfect time. The crowd was dwindling down and we had the option between Brunch and Lunch, the latter appealed to us. Selections made, deeply facinated by the modern interior, we were twiddling our fingers in anticipation of the quirky dishes to come.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Magic Noodle, Scarborough

MAGIC NOODLE
2190 McNicoll Avenue #119
Scarborough, Canada
Open 24/7 - Chinese
$

A 24/7 treasure in Scarborough. Rolling in on a chilly evening at 3AM after a late-night shift, this was exactly what I needed. Upon entry, we were blessed with swell the welcoming of no line. Subtle foreign murmurs and amusing sights of girls stumbling in throughout. A young fella is seen through a window a long the kitchen continually working his magic (see what I did there) with both hands, clutching a log of dough, pulling and thwacking it against the table. "The apprentice taking place of the absent (regular) old man", my friend went on to tell a tale.

The standard expectation of a Chinese restaurant, quick and simple. A litre of water by your side to quench your own thirst and chili oil, salt & pepper and vinegar for taste. Food in 15!

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1. Sizzling Tofu ($1.50)
Our tofu appetizer came first, and this was a true delight. Wow! So beautifully crispy, and seasoned in, what tasted like a fine mix of Chinese and Indian spices.