Monday, October 1, 2012

Continuing on our Canadian vacation we visited Hernder Estates to purchase some truly unique vinegars created by NiagaraVinegars.  My favorite is the Empire Apple. They also create dipping oils, jams/jellies, sauces. Perfect little jewels of treats that make great gifts. Take some time to brouse around their "store within a store". If you are lucky to find the owner, John, putzing around..he's a font of information and very passionate in what he does. If there is a glut of certain stone fruits in the area, you can be sure that John will turn those into some magical food stuffs. At this posting, Niagara Vinegars doesn't ship to the states, so you need to make sure you purchase everything you want, because it's a long trip back for a jar of jam!

My destination that day, though, was a small, boutique winery located along the Beamsville Wine Route, a little bit north of Beamsville.  Daniel Lenko is a third generation grower who continues the excellence his father started 40 years ago. Their Unoaked Chardonnay is a true treasure.  The wines aren't sold in any stores, in fact the winery is only open for tastings on Saturday and Sundays.  Other days by true chance.  We took a chance that Daniel would be there and, hurray, the vintner was in!  We were invited into the kitchen where tastings are offered of his various wines.

                                                                                                                                                               Don't miss the special bottling of the Unoaked ChardonnayGay.  $1 of  each bottle's purchase price goes towards AIDS research.

There are many wineries along the clearly marked wine trails. The small towns along the routes are a browser's delight.  You can definately make a day out of sampling the wines of the Niagara Region.  Don't miss the specialty Ice Wines; most every winery bottles it.  It's a phenomenal dessert wine that is truly worth every cent.

Another special little treat is visiting the Comfort Maple.
It is believed to be over 500 years old, stands 100 feet tall and has a circumference of 20 feet!


Panna cotta with basil syrup and passionfruit
For the panna cotta
1-1/2 tsp. gelatin
1 Tbsp. cold water
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

For the basil syrup
3 or 4 sprigs basil
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

1 passionfruit

1. Make the panna cotta: In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water to soften. In a pot, mix the heavy cream, half-and-half, sugar and vanilla bean and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Transfer some of the cream mixture (say, 1/4 cup) to the bowl with the gelatin, and stir to dissolve. Transfer the cream-gelatin mixture back to the pot, and stir. Remove the vanilla bean. Divide the contents among four ramekins, leaving space for the syrup and passionfruit. Cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Transfer to the fridge and chill until set, about 4 hours.

2. Make the basil syrup: combine all ingredients in a small pot, bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes to infuse.  Cool the syrup.

3. To serve, pour some of the cooled basil syrup over the panna cotta (still in the ramekins). Halve the passionfruit, and scrape out the pulp, dividing between the ramekins. Serves 4


Thursday, August 2, 2012

I've been asked to share some of my past and recent travel jaunts so I'll be posting some restaurant pics and adding some quirky little finds thrown in for good measure.  It seems as if lately, everywhere I go there has been some connection of sorts with the people I meet.  Happy happenstance.

I love meeting and talking to people, because where else are you going to find the small little treasures that every town has around the bend that no one ever finds..But leave it to me, I have a knack for that.


A few months ago, I had the opportunity for a quick trip to Canada to visit a friend and purchase some delicioso wines.  Driving was a pleasure, it was a beautiful sunny day and a stop in Buffalo at Schwabl's Restaurant took the edge off the no breakfast/no lunch issue.  This little icon is totally worth the 5 minute detour from I90. 
It's been written up in Jane and Michael Stern's "Road Food"

Or if you prefer Yelp:

A close view of beef on weck shows the character of the roll: salty, tender, able to absorb plenty of good beef juice.Schwabl's is known for their "beef on weck" and to do it justice you really do have to eat the sandwich at the restaurant. Take it from me, a soggy bun isn't the best way to eat this sandwich. With it's crusty roll that comes freshly baked from a local bakery (the name escapes me but it begins with an "E") and embellished with course salt and caraway seeds, down to the thinly sliced roast beef (you can tell them how you like your beef cooked) the sandwich is just perfection.  Included in the carryout is a little container of hot horseradish.

Thanks to Road Food for this pic...................

Continuing on after passing through customs, my sister and I detoured and took the leisurely Niagara Parkway River Rd N drive that winds its way alongside the Niagara River.  You are in Canada now, so it's okay to slow down and smell the grapevines :)  Passing by Niagara Falls is always a thrill; I am always in awe of all that water..and the many, many, many people walking around.  A veritable United Nations of people walking around.  I love it.  Past Queenston and into Niagara on the Lake with so many little stops along the way, you can spend weeks here and not see everything.

We finally reached out destination, 376 on Johnson, one of the nicest B&B's I've ever stayed in.  It's almost out of town, but still walkable to both downtown and a lovely little neighborhood beach with the most spectacular sunsets.  Breakfast every morning is a three course affair ending with dessert.  Innkeepers Trevor and Phillip work hard at keeping the grounds and flowers blooming, and the rooms are absolutely spotless. We loved it so much, we extended our stay for another night! And since I had recently visited South Africa and both Trevor and Phillip emigrated to Canada from South Africa...we enjoyed long hours of conversation about that gorgeous, troubled country.  And in a nod towards the odd coincidence, Trevor knows a distant relative living in his old hometown in South Africa!

One of my favorite places to eat near NOTL, is in St. Catharines, a short drive of maybe 15 minutes along Niagara Stone Rd.  Treadwell's is a Farm to Table restaurant concept that has become terribly popular in the past few years.

              Their menu reflects all their food vendors and sources. it's trendy, but the food is TO. DIE. FOR.


FISH AND CHIPS     ................................................     RABBIT & MUSTARD PASTA

After enjoying your meal at Treadwells, turn right and go to Lakeshore Park in Port Dahlousie.  Take the hike (or if you prefer the term "walk") to the end of the pier where a comfortable bench awaits.  You'll have an almost 360 view of the water.  What a great way to end your day.

SunnyBrook Farm Winery creates something that sets them apart from all the other vineyards near NOTL:
Gerald Goetz (pictured below) creates his wines from the abundant fruits that grow in the region.
Gerald says if you sip a bit of cherry wine each day, your heart will thank you.
I'm working on it!
Gerald also spoke of how he visits the Mennonite community near Holmes Co, OH...a hop and skip away from my little town.  Another familiar coincidence :)

Another fun excursion is driving around, getting lost and finding a country backroad that parallels the Welland Canal. 

The canal allows ships going from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie or vice versa.    I promised my sister we'd try to find one and lo and behold we found ourselves checking out this beauty from Hong Kong that had just passed through  Lock 3.  Lock 3 also sports the Welland Canal Museum if you are so inclined.

And apparently the last remaining French/Anglo telephone booth!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


can be found at

Laredo's Restaurant in Ft. Wayne, IN

Do I have a picture? 

No..because I ate the entire bag along with a quart of salsa in two days.  I am ready for another road trip. No joke.

Living in Ft. Wayne in the mid-late 70's (yes I am that old) I became addicted in the best possible way.  Every week I would head down Broadway, past Taylor Rd to tortilla nirvana.  Benito Trevino has been in business since the early 70's operating Ft. Wayne's original tortilleria.  Pregnant with my son, I would scarf down bags of chips accompanied by the most delicious salsa this side of heaven.  Truly it is that good.  First the heat perks up your taste buds and you start to sweat maybe a little, but then you taste that smoky flavor of whatever chile is used...I have a hunch but why make it when I can drive 4 hours to buy it???? 

And the chips....SIGH.  I am a tortilla chip snob, I do fry my own BUT, unfortunately, I do not make my own tortillas from fresh masa.  So right away I am at a disadvantage. 
The freshly fried chips are some salty, hearty, corny deliciousness.

So, in my drive down memory lane (Rte 30) heading home, I stopped in Ft. Wayne to check out the old neighborhood and perhaps meet up with some memories.  The first place I stopped was Laredo's.  The place has been painted since I'd visited years ago and when I walked in, I was greeted by a waiter.  I asked, almost nervously, "Is Bennie here?"  The "waiter" turned his head to the back room and said "Grandpa, someone's here to see you".  Well, if that didn't start a conversation that went back 35 years and continues to this day.  Abraham, Bennie's grandson, works alongside his grandpa continuing the family legacy of good food and passion for hard work that has made Laredo's a MUST VISIT when you are in the area.  Anything on the menu will not disappoint.

It is not a fancy place, don't kid yourself.  But it is tidy, clean and the food is great.

It's been operated by the same family for 40+ years
that is a HUGE accomplishment in this day of chain restaurants.

What more could you ask for?? 

Laredo Restaurant & Grocery

1854 Broadway, Fort Wayne, IN,   46802-4381

Here's one of my favorite recipes for using tortilla chips:

Top with shredded beef, pork or chicken.  I usually use whatever left overs I have.

Drizzle with some avocado crema    (a fancy name for avocado puree that's been thinned
          down with a little bit of sour cream or whipping cream.)

Use your imagination and add some black or pinto beans...chopped tomatoes....pico de gallo...
chopped jalapeno......or a red onion and cilantro relish.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

After living in NE Indiana for 10 years, I grew to absolutely love the wide open spaces.  In fact, I feel somewhat claustrophobic by these hills I find myself surrounded by now.

So driving back from Chicago I detoured south of  South Bend and found myself on Rte 30, Lincoln's Highway heading east to Ft. Wayne.  As the vista grew increasingly flat, I felt more and more the freedom of looking 360 around and seeing as far as I could see.

But then I got off the highway and slowly drove on unpaved farm roads...
listening to the wind
through fields of corn
so high
I could see nothing else.



Ah, I was back home, if only for a little while...................

Time stands still in some of these little communities and nothing much has changed for decades. 
This is the quintessential farmstsead off some little road in the middle of nowhere.

Just as I hit the Ohio border, I felt as if I part of some weird sci-fi episode. 
 It was truly eerie driving down the road and viewing, for miles & miles, these wind farms.  I had to get off the road and again, follow gravel farm roads to view these spectacular, but somewhat spectral, mechanical windmills.

I know, I know...not too much local traveling has been going on this past month.  In fact, I think I've been out of town more than in town.  But bear with me...fall is coming and I'll be staying more local.
Meanwhile, I've been traveling to Chicago to visit family.  I decided to drive the 6 hours since I would probably spend that much time in airports traveling and besides, I love to drive.  Just the act of backing out of my driveway and knowing I am going somewhere gets me in an adventurous spirit...that and having a SUNNY driving day.  I now sport that "drivers" know the one?  Where your arm is hanging out the window and you forgot the suntan lotion, because, really? Why would you need it?  You are only driving west 6 hours in bright sunlight?  Ouch.  Thankfully the other arm now has the same hue, since it was sunny driving home.  Note to self...suntan lotion is a must in the glove compartment. 
Once in Chicago, with the temps hovering around 100 the entire visit, I opted for hanging around anyplace with airconditioning.  So my time spent outside was pretty much nil and hanging around the pool, which was 93degrees, with crazily dressed children. 

Since venturing into downtown Chicago wasn't going to happen, checking out restaurants in the suburbs was interesting.  Downer's Grove offered up this little gem: Parker's Restaurant & Bar.  My dinner at Parker's was very simple, yet brilliantly done.  My appetizer was a duet of golden and red beets, chevre, pistachio and cherry balsamic reduction. The freshest piece of Alaskan Halibut was grilled on a cedar plank and paired with simply sauteed garlic and spinach from the Chef's Garden along with mashed potatoes.  Too full for dessert we opted for a DQ hot fudge sundae an hour later.  Yep, the ying and yang of eating :)

What I really like about Parker's is they source some of their produce from Chef's Garden, a specialty farm that supplies some of the most well known restaurants, based in Huron, OH. 

Back in the early 1980's, when Lee and Bob Jones' business was known as Farmer Jones, I would drive up to Huron and bring back loads of farm fresh produce for my catering clients.  Those were the days of baby vegetables, squash blossoms and heirloom tomatoes, items now taken for granted on many menus.  How times change and so has Farmer Jones..that's another story.
How to roast beets:
Strangely enough, an important tip was left out of this tutorial.  Either use a paper towel to take the skins off the beets OR wash your hands immediately after working with cooked beets, or you will have the most lovely pink colored fingertips and hands for at least the next few hours!

My Beet (called Beetroot in other parts of the world) Salad Recipe:
  • Chunk or slice your beets and toss lightly with a simple vinaigrette of 2 parts olive oil to 1 part vinegar of choice. Or you can just drizzle them with some walnut oil and sherry wine vinegar. 
 At this point you could add the following based on your preferences
  • sliced orange segments, orange zest and some chopped chives
  • toasted walnuts
  • bits of local soft goat cheese or feta, gorgonzola is great too
  • arugula or rocket

  • Here are some other delicious and different beet recipes.  


    Sunday, July 1, 2012

    Shelling peas and making memories

    I grew up sitting on my grandmother's huge summer porch helping her shuck peas, peel peaches, slice berries, whatever was in season.  Then I'd hop on my grandpa's lap and ride the huge lawnmower and away we'd mow while Nana made dinner, but that's another memory and post. Later during the summer months we'd pick apples and pears and plums.  What a life :)

    We spent many hours, just the two of us, my Nana and me, sometimes laughing, sometimes in silence.  Just soaking up each other's company and creating memories I will never forget and obviously, cherish to this day.

    Channeling my grandma's spirit, I want to create these memories for my oldest grand-dot Kaelin. 

    And while I don't live on a huge farm, just spending some
    time shucking peas, picking some mint and chopping it up to create our dinner veggies, gave her the knowledge to pass along someday.

    She went from "Mimi, I don't like peas" to "Yummy". 

    I'd say it was a positive day, all in all.


    Yep! Special Memories....CHECK!

    And if you are looking for a killer English pea recipe in the French style, you can't go wrong with this serving 4 people
    2  servings
    if you really love peas and that's all you are going to eat!

    • 2 T butter 
    • 4 green onions, chopped
    • 2 C sliced lettuce (romaine, head or bibb lettuces work well)
    • tsp sugar 

    • 1/2 C vegetable or chicken stock or water
    • 1 lb fresh or frozen peas (If using fresh=1# hulled peas not in pod)
    • 2 T heavy or whipping cream (optional)
    • fresh mint to taste

    1. Gently heat the butter in a large saucepan and add the onions and lettuce. Cook over medium heat until the onions and lettuce soften about 5 minutes.
    2. Pour in the stock/water and add the sugar, bring to a boil and continue to cook on a fast boil for a further 3 minutes. Taste and season with a salt and black pepper.
    3. Add the fresh or frozen peas to the stock with the onions and lettuce. Cook over low to medium heat for 10 minutes for the fresh peas or 5 minutes for the frozen peas - or until they are cooked through, but NOT mushy or too soft; they should still retain their vibrant green color.
    4. Just before the end of the cooking time - add the heavy cream and chopped mint and gently mix; allow to heat through for about 1 to 2 minutes. Check the seasoning once more and adjust to taste.
    5. Serve immediately with some additional sprigs of fresh mint on top for garnish, if you choose.

    Amish Produce Auction in Homerville..who knew?

    Browsing through a local food group posting, I came across some info devoted to fresh produce in my area.  Well, 30 minutes away still qualifies as local in my mind, so I was thrilled to have found a new travel and foodie destination.  What was even better was to find a like minded soul to share this experience with.
    Diane, Chef/Owner of Humble Pie Baking Co, offered to show me the ropes of auction bidding so on a sunny late afternoon in early June I drove to the Homerville Produce Auction and met up with her. 

    Exiting highway craziness onto a slow moving country road puts me in a great frame of mind for entering Amish country where the mode of transportation is the horse and buggy.  I've got to remember that the next time I put the pedal to the metal in my quest to get someplace faster.  What's that old saying?  "The hurrier I go the behinder I get"  Well, there was no hurrying here. 

    I met Diane in front of the office, registered for my paddle number and we started our leisurely stroll browsing the produce and checking out the people.  Mothers, with small children in tow, had brought small amounts of produce, fresh from their garden, to sell at the Table Lots. Bidding starts at 5:30  for these small produce lots; a few radish or asparagus bunches, a few dozen eggs; peck of peas that type of thing.  Diane purchased 6 dozen eggs and then turned to me saying "Can you use some?  How could I not buy them at $1.75 per dozen!"  So of course, I became the new owner of 36 pristine and oh-so-fresh eggs...some with feathers still attached.  I bought a peck of gorgeous yellow squash and Diane went crazy for pecks of those first of spring, sweet English peas.  I must say it's easy to get caught up in ""auction fever" so it's a good idea to get a general knowledge of what a product is worth to you and then STOP BIDDING when you've reached that point. 

    Then starting at 6pm the serious buyers (Diane and me included) moved over to the central barn to bid on cases of tiny, jewel-like strawberries, zucchini, and asparagus that Amish men had unloaded just a few minutes before.  The produce is stunningly fresh and the flower pots were bursting with pinks, reds and purples.  I left with three cases of berries, squash, eggs and peas.

    Unfortunately my inside pics are non-existant in deference to the Amish culture which consider graven images in direct opposition to their central belief of humility. But check out this gorgeous produce!!!!

    If you want further info on the Homerville Produce Auction just check out this link:

    Leaving the auction I came across the small town post office, probably soon a dying speciman.

    And what would an Ohio countryside jaunt be without the requisite red barn pictures?
    Passing a barn on my way to the auction.............
    Evening's diffused light going home.