4 posts tagged with “Niagara College”

  • Giving the gift of Niagara: The 2016 EN Holiday Gift List

    Cue the Dean Martin. It’s the time of year when I share that tiny iota of wisdom I’ve been granted and point you to great made-in-Niagara Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali and any-other-reason-to-give gifts.

    I usually reserve my holiday gift list for my column in the local papers. But that real estate will be used up this year by a list of Strip Mall Gems I wasn’t able to write standalone stories about — a different kind of gift list, really.

    So here goes. Many of these are great last-minute buys that fit as perfectly into a stocking as they do under the tree.

    (Note: there are no affiliated links in this post. One day I’ll get my act together and set up something with the mighty Amazon.)

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  • Peach Tree
  • Radler slushies and nostalgia

    MADD Virgin Craft Brewed Lager

    I was 16 the first time I got drunk.

    No, I didn’t raid my parents’ liquor cabinet and go crazy with the Sambuca, nor did I sneak a six-pack to the park to drink under the slide with friends.

    This intoxicating experience came compliments of my dad. I call it part of the curriculum of Life Lessons with Ludwig. I’m sure there were other teachable moments brought to me by my dad prior to this one, but they would have happened before my folks split and so, those poignant parenting episodes have just blended into one another in the era PD (pre-divorce). It wasn’t until after my parents’ marriage breakup, my dad landing back in Germany for a time, that Life Lessons with Ludwig became more defined, each with a beginning, middle and end. Getting drunk is the first one I remember vividly, despite my beer goggle vision at the time.

    It was the summer of 1993 and my sister and I were visiting my father in the land of beer and schnitzel. Like all good German burgs, his hometown of Zweibrücken had a summer festival whose central activity was — wait for it — drinking beer. There’s a good chance they have similar festivities in spring, fall and winter, too, but this particular celebration was called the Staadtfest, the Town Fest, so all drinking was purposeful, done in honour of Zweibrücken. Continue reading

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  • Peach Tree
  • Meet Janine Hall, Niagara’s almost famous chef

    For the past several weeks, Janine Hall has been trying to show a full venison strip loin who’s boss.

    The student at Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute has been dishing out $100 every time for the game meat so she can perfect cooking it. She does it with the hope of nailing every detail in its preparation and wowing judges at the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chef regional competition on Feb. 25 at Cirillo’s Culinary Academy in Toronto.

    “Each time I try different aspects to make sure I’m being consistent with the quality every time,” Hall said. “I do the entire competition every week.”

    That means, in addition to shelling out big bucks for the main ingredient, she also sets the timer for two hours. That’s all she’ll get next week when she has to churn out 10 identical plates — each requiring eight steps to be ready to present to judges — of venison with a Jamaican-inspired jerk rub, cranberry, Swiss chard, butternut squash, pigeon peas, plantain pureed with parsley root, and beet and potato frites.

    It’s not a lot of time to even perform the 80 steps to plate the intricate meal that features the sweet, spicy and tart flavours of her Jamaican-Dutch ancestry, let alone cook it. But as a student about to graduate, Hall refuses to settle for less than perfection in the pressure cooker setting of a culinary contest. After all, there’s a year’s worth of apprenticing under the best in business and $20,000 up for grabs.

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  • Peach Tree
  • Chocolate, beer and fermented dreams

    These hops were used to make barley wine  at Niagara College
    and had the most beautiful lime and floral smells. 

    Shh.

    Don’t tell anyone but I’d choose a pint of porter over a Riedel of rosé.

    I don’t like to say that too loudly living in a wine region but I can’t deny it. I’m a beer girl. While people from afar visit Niagara and dream of one day living in a vineyard and having their own winery, I secretly pine for life in a brewery, spending days breathing in that malty, hoppy, grainy, yeasty smell that brewmasters are lucky enough to inhale daily.

    That’s not to say I don’t love a good glass of vino but wine, to me, is like that person with whom I really want to be friends but I just never feel entirely comfortable or like I can relax in their presence.

    Beer is the one I know won’t judge me, no matter what I do. The cool cat that has an uncanny ability to put a person at ease. It’s magical. Seriously. If you ever have an upset stomach, drink beer instead of Pepto Bismal. You can thank my German relatives for this bit of wisdom.

    It’s people, such as Ian Watson, brewmaster of Niagara’s Best beers, or the students in Niagara College’s brewmaster program whom I credit with romanticizing suds for me and leaving me dreaming of another career in an alternate universe. Just me, a kettle and a keg and everything I’d need to create the beauty that is a brewski.

    Not your usual root beer float: A mint chocolate
    porter and vanilla ice cream float.

    Last weekend, my love for all things barley and malt led me to the college where a team of brewmaster students showed off some of the most thoughtful and creative keg creations. It was a chocolate-themed beer tasting and that meant beer that tasted chocolaty or something chocolaty served with beer. Paradise, really, given these are two of my favourite things, next to kale.

    My inner cicerone was in heaven as I sipped icewine cask ale and noted a mild hoppy, citrusy flavour, downed a rich mint chocolate porter and enjoyed refreshing choc-o-wit, a Belgian wheat beer that married chocolate and orange. There was German Schwarzbier (jawohl!) and barley wine, too.

    As I sat in a tasting lab with about two dozen beer buffs, I wanted to be one of the select few students who get accepted to the college’s small but highly sought after program and make beer like this. Hundreds apply while only about 35 students gain entry. Cue the envy.

    Each student who shared their custom brew made for this event spoke so passionately about how they combined mint extract and fresh mint to make their dark, smooth elixir, or added icesyrup, the sticky, sweet liquid made from frozen grapes, to their ale at just the right moment, providing the yeast with a sugary feast to give the beer its effervescence.

    The barley wine, a.k.a strong ale, and its buzz-inducing 10.8 per cent alcohol, aged for three months and made with nearly wild Bertwell hops, warmed with its whisky colour, thanks to the bourbon barrels in which it fermented.

    Salmon poached in a chocolate-orange wit beer. The rich
    fish paired well with a light, citrusy Belgian wit beer.

    Each beer was paired beautifully with food — salmon poached in the wit beer, lamb in a mint sauce with the porter (I just ate the veggies) or a porter ice cream float, white, milk and dark chocolate wafers munched with the barley wine, and bacon-wrapped chicken with a spicy barbecue sauce offset by the sweet icewine cask ale (I had a lick of the sauce and indeed, those two were meant for each other).

    Unlike wine, which has acidity to cleanse the palette while you eat by cutting through fatty foods, beer relies on its glorious carbonation and the bitterness of the hops to do that. It does it well, too.

    But I swooned just a little bit as I savoured a sauerkraut chocolate cake matched with a Black Forest Schwarzbier. The black lager — “a porter with a German twist” — had a kilogram of cocoa and some tart cherry concentrate added to it. If ever there were soulmates in the world, this beer and that cake were it. This pairing alone was worth the $25 admission to an event that left me well fed and watered.

    Despite all the fertile ground in Niagara that goes into grapes, there is a beer culture brewing here. This region could easily be birthplace of the next craft brewmaster, whose ale outshines the rest. You can even taste some of what’s to come at the brewery store on campus. Really, these students deserve a glass raised in their honour.

    And this girl will go on to dreaming…

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