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