How to Buy and Taste Olive Oil

Olive Oil is the Essence of Mediterranean Culture

• There are as many olive oil varieties as there are grapes, and twice as much variability in taste.
• Italy has twenty different olive oil producing regions all with different character, taste and flavour.
• Italy has over 700 different native varieties of different cultivars
• The major olive oil countries in the Mediterranean are: Spain, Italy and Greece. They are the largest producers and the largest consumers, producing 4/5 of the world’s crop. HOWEVER, while Italy exports to the major retail markets, exports from Spain and Greece are overwhelmingly used as wholesale to Italian “blenders”. Continue reading “How to Buy and Taste Olive Oil”

Where to Enjoy Maple Syrup in Ontario

It’s Maple Syrup Season! Like all good Canadians, I pour that stuff on everything: toast, coffee, marinades, shot glasses; or just squeeze that bottle straight down the gullet. I would argue that maple syrup is Canada’s national beverage, since we provide the world with 80 percent of its global supply. (70% of the world’s maple syrup comes from Quebec.)

Like me, maple trees store starch in their trunks. That starch converts to sugar. In late winter, early spring, the sugar rises in the sap. Holes are drilled into the trees to tap the sap. You can’t tap at night, because cold temperatures inhibit the flow. Watch what the great culinary legend, my mentor, Buddy, has to say about maple syrup:

Where to Buy Pure Local Maple Syrup and Enjoy Festivals and Sugar Shacks:

  • Where to Buy, Local Events, Recipes Across Ontario: ontariomaple.com/where-to-buy
  • Toronto Sugar Shack, March 9/10: sugarshackto.ca
  • St. Mary’s Maple Syrup Festival at McCully’s Hill Farm, Weekends in March: Learn how maple syrup is made! Take a horse drawn wagon ride through the sugar bush. Enjoy a delicious pancake breakfast. mccullys.ca/view.php?public/For_the_Kids/Maple_Syrup_Festival,_2019
  • Prince Edward County, “Maple in the County”, March 30/31: Celebrate the first harvest at participating sugar bushes. Enjoy pancake breakfasts, taffy on snow, S’mores, petting zoos, BBQ sausages, lumberjack show, artisan vendors, wineries and more. mapleinthecounty.ca
  • Maple Weekend, April 6/7, Local Sugar Houses: mapleweekend.ca
  • Huntsville, Muskoka Maple Festival, April 27:A full day of fun and activities, vendors and displays, live music, street performers and delicious food! Local restaurants, bakeries and cafés will be serving up unique maple inspired offerings. Discover pure maple syrup, maple beer, and unique maple inspired dishes from sweet to savoury. muskokamaple.ca/maple-festival

Next time you’re making a bowl of cereal for breakfast, slowly pour in some maple syrup while bobbing your head to this song:

Five Facts About Maple Syrup:

  1. It takes about 40 years for a maple tree to grow big enough to tap for maple sap
  2. It takes 50 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup
  3. Maple Syrup contains high amounts of manganese, riboflavin, magnesium and zinc, as well as 24 different anti-oxidants
  4. The colour of maple syrup darkens the later it is harvested. Golden maple syrup has a delicate taste. Amber coloured has a richer taste. Dark syrup is more robust. Very dark maple syrup has the strongest taste. Which one you choose has to do with personal preference and recipe.
  5. Ontario Maple syrup pairs beautifully with Ontario cheddar; Ontario whisky; mixed with soy sauce in a marinade; or as a healthier substitute to refined sugar.

Only in Canada…

One of the most expensive robberies in Canadian history was the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist that occurred over several months between 2011 and 2012 in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, Quebec. 10,000 barrels of maple syrup, equalling nearly 3,000 tons, and valued at $18.7 million were stolen. Seventeen men were busted in connection to the crime.

How to Brew Japanese Tea

Japanese monks brought tea to Japan from China in the 9th Century. At that time only the religious and royal classes were consuming it. From it’s popularity among nobility came the Japanese tea ceremony. Today, Japanese typically drink green tea or oolong tea—hot or cold. Chinese green teas are pan-fired for a more roasted flavour profile. Japanese green teas are typically steamed to maintain nutrients and elicit sweet vegetal notes. However, to extract their optimal flavour, green teas must be brewed at lower temperatures and for less time than most other teas. Brewed too hot or too long and it all becomes bitter tasting. Continue reading “How to Brew Japanese Tea”

Haskap: The New Superberry

The Haskap Berry, also known as Honeyberry, or Blue Honeysuckle, or Edible Honeysuckle, or Sweet Berry Honeysuckle, or Swamp Fly Honeysuckle–or we can just refer to it by it’s Latin name, Lonicera caerulea–is enigmatic for its unique nutraceutical qualities as much as for its journey to Canada to become the most sought after “super berry” today. Originally grown in Siberia, it is an extremely hardy northern climate bush, and can withstand winter temperatures of -47° Celsius. When introduced to Japan centuries ago, it became known as “Hasukappu”, meaning, “gift at the end of a branch”. Continue reading “Haskap: The New Superberry”

Nobody Knows The Truffles I’ve Seen

January marks the end of one of my favorite seasons of the year. The Truffle season begins in mid September and lingers aromatically until the end of December. During this time, upscale restaurants throughout the world add truffles to their menu, knowing that a certain clientele will be waiting to indulge in the annual truffle fest. Continue reading “Nobody Knows The Truffles I’ve Seen”

Planting Ahead

Terroir and Thermal amplitude (cool nights and warm days), enable olive oil production in the same area as wine. Olives are planted at the same time as grapes, and ripen immediately afterwards. Touring the Zuccardi Winery in Mendoza, Argentina I’m introduced to a rich olive oil industry growing up along side the wines of Argentina. Lunch at Zuccardi offers a range of options like Wine Pairing menus; a Tealosophy menu of inspired infusions and blended teas; and an Olive Oil Tasting menu, including bull Carpaccio with Parmesan cheese petals, beetroot, quince syrup, and charcoal oil from the vineyards. Continue reading “Planting Ahead”

Sweet Smell of Success

Garlic: everyone from Homer to Aristotle, and from modern scientists to Doctor Mom, has praised its uses. Egyptian pharaohs kept garlic in their tombs to keep themselves healthy in the afterlife. Ancient Greek Olympians used it as a performance enhancer during games. Roman legions are said to have eaten it to give them courage in battle. Even the bible mentions the usage of garlic. Long thought of as vampire deterrent, this internationally grown plant, revered for its nutraceutical qualities is now attracting tourists by the droves to Stratford, Ontario. Continue reading “Sweet Smell of Success”