Cool Climate Chardonnay Festival

Niagara on the Lake was a beautiful place to be this weekend.  Especially if you were looking to fill your stemmed glass with a cool Chrdonnay.

This weekend in July of 2012 we celebrated Cool Climate Wines and Viticulte.  There were many lunches, wines, and conversations to be discovered.

I turned to taste the Chardonnay’s of Niagara with the hope of a creamy, buttery, french oaked delight and there were many to be found. My top three picks from the weekend were; 2007 Paul Bosc Vineyard, Chardonnay, Chateau des Charmes; 2008 Triomphe Chardonnay, (Certified Organi) Southbrook Vineyards; and 2008 Neufeld Vineyard, Chardonnay, Palatine   Estates.

A delicious three course meal pairing perfectly with Chardonnay would include a warm goat cheese salad to start.  Next, a poached salmon with steamed      vegetables and basmati rice.  Finally, top it off with assorted Indian Dessert    such as Burfi.

I look forward to a rainy day to taste some of the cool climate Chardonnay’s and cook a delicious meal with local produce from ‘one of the prettiest little town’s,’ Niagara on the Lake.

 Laine Slade
 ~A Thirst For Exploring Wine

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XXX Martini


As we bid adieu to Baron de Coubertin’s 30th games, nothing says triple X better than something hot and dirty! Be naughty and enjoy a stiff one tonight: take a crack at the Refined Chef’s filthy, fiery martini!

London Dry Gin

Brine from a jar of olives

Brine from a jar of hot pickled peppers

Blue cheese-stuffed olives*

In a mixing glass, filled with ice, add 2 parts London Dry Gin, 1 part olive brine, and ½ part hot pepper brine. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with blue cheese-stuffed olives.

*NB: You can purchase blue cheese-stuffed olives, but I prefer to make my own. I use large, pitted Spanish olives and then stuff them with a premium blue cheese, which I have rolled in crushed red pepper flakes. The creaminess of the blue cheese complements the saltiness of the brine in the cocktail, and the crushed red pepper adds a little extra spanking to the XXX. If it makes you feel better, come up with a safety word for you and your drinking partner, in case the heat is too much! Miss O.

London Iced Tea

London Iced Tea

Afternoon tea, a long-standing British tradition, often involves dainty cucumber sandwiches, scones, and tasty miniature pastries. Well, this ain’t your nana’s tea; savour the Refined Chef’s irreverent interpretation of English heritage and sip on a London Iced Tea!

Iced Earl Grey Tea

London Dry Gin

Orange Liqueur

Lemon slice

Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add 2 parts iced* Earl Grey tea, 2 parts London dry gin, and 1.5 parts premium orange liqueur. Stir. Add a straw and garnish with a lemon slice. Cheers, and don’t forget to lift your little finger!

How to make ICED Earl Grey Tea (Yes, I KNOW, it’s sacrilege!)

In a preheated teapot, add 1 teaspoon of Earl Grey tea leaves for each 0.5 cup (100 mL) of water. Bring fresh, filtered water to a rolling boil, and pour IMMEDIATELY onto the tea. The teapot should be only HALF full… or half empty, depending on your frame of mind. Cover with a lid. Steep the tea for 4 minutes. Fill the rest of the teapot with ice; then, strain the tea over a glass of ice. (For the cocktail, I strained the tea, but didn’t strain it over a glass of ice, as it would be over ice with the gin and orange liqueur.)

If you only have tea bags, I would use 1 tea bag for a cup of tea (about 8oz/200 mL), and fill the cup half way with boiling water. Steep the bag for 4 minutes; then, fill the rest of the cup (with the tea bag still in it!) with ice. Pour over a glass of ice. Miss O.

Imperial Kobe Beef vs. Wild Rose Beef

Imperial Kobe Beef versus Wild Rose Beef

The age-old pursuit of finding the best tasting beef has driven chefs and foodies to travel, import, and explore the world over. While many think high cost must have a direct link to better quality, this theory usually does play true in the food world. For the most part, you do get what you pay for in terms of quality, selection, and creativity. I set out to conduct a blind taste test with a small group of food enthusiasts to settle the score. In the fight for best beef I selected two obvious opponents, Imperial Japanese Kobe Beef and Wild Rose Alberta Beef. Using strip loins that share similar thickness and ageing I set out to settle the score in black tie style.

Every Canadian knows one of Alberta’s greatest exports and contribution to the world is its beef, or if they don’t, they should. There are distinctly different practices used to raise cattle all over the globe. In Alberta, calves once weaned from their mothers are back-lotted, a practice that refers to a young calf given a forage diet in pasture. This results in a happy mobile ‘free range’ cow, low feeding cost, and an incredible rate of natural growth. By allowing the animal to move around naturally the meat develops a richer flavor. Once the cow reaches the desired weight they are moved to the finishing stage in the feedlot. The animal’s diet is drastically changed to almost exclusively grain to jump start growth and develop the best possible marbling. Many feedlots outside of Alberta, like in the U.S., finish cattle on corn. Corn is a less expensive readily available feed that produces a flavorless and yellowish cut of meat.

 Over 90 percent of beef produced in Alberta achieves A, AA, AAA or higher grade. This fact is absolutely astonishing and a testament to the developing farming practices in the province. In Canada, an AAA Alberta strip loin costs approximately $19 per pound from the local butcher.

Kobe cattle refer to the specific breed Wagyu, raised in Hyogo, Japan. Kobe beef is strictly regulated from its lineage, its feed, where it’s raised, plus how and where it is slaughtered.  These tight restrictions and practices result in an incredibly well-marbled and flavored meat. Farmers in Hyogo, Japan feed their cattle strictly grain and the animals are brushed on a regular base to settle the fur. Due to the lack of grazing land in the valley the cattle are unable to get proper exercise, which has changed the genetic characteristics in the cattle, thus creating an extremely well marbled animal. Also, because of the lack of exercise, the cows must be massaged to prevent soreness and loss of appetite. Believing that soft skin produces more tender meat, workers also rub Wagyu cows with sake or Japanese rice wine. As champagne must come from Champagne, France to be referred to as champagne, Kobe beef must come from Hyogo, Japan. Due to the restrictions, plus tight import laws, getting your hands on actual Kobe is almost impossible in North America and if you do, it is extremely expensive unless you have the right connections in the food industry.

 Incredible practices and isolation have resulted in this unique animal, unlike any other cattle, producing rich, well-marbled beef higher in grade then AAA or prime. These particular strip loin steaks came at the extravagant coast of $76 per pound, plus a few personal favors.

We began the black tie evening with cocktails, discussing the facts of each animal and the different practices used in raising them. We talked about that the way the meat may look and the possible differences in fat content. Once we were well into conversation and cocktails the anticipation grew to a tipping point. I served fresh Atlantic lobster risotto to start my guests’ palates. The risotto was rich in texture each adored by a piece of lobster claw or tail. Accompanied by bottles of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, it was an incredible tease that almost had every one forgetting about the main event.

The steaks had been set on the counter in the kitchen seasoned with simple salt and pepper warming to room temperature and the grill heating. I excused myself to complete the meal knowing the blind taste test was about to begin. Each steak was grilled to perfection medium rare so that there would be no difference in the cooking process. Then the steaks were sliced on different cutting boards to prevent cross contamination of taste. Each plate had Kobe beef placed on the left A and Alberta beef on the right B. Dividing the main course was a vegetable medley and spring mixed potatoes, both abundant in colour and flavor. With no one other then I knowing which strip loin was which, the plates were taken into the dining room and put before my eager guest judges.

 Advising Beef A is on to the left and Beef B to the right, we began to enjoy our meal appreciating each bite, our palates exploring the differences between the two. I paired the beef with a bold Wolf Blass Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia. The wine was selected deliberately to draw out the natural rich flavors in the beef. Many made the observation that A, the Kobe, was very well-marbled and had a rich subtle flavor with hints of grain, grass, and almonds. B, the Alberta product was said to be more vibrant in taste, less marbled with hints of grass, sweet sugar cane, and lemon zest. The conversation and wine continued throughout the dining experience until everyone was ready to cast their vote.

The verdict was one for A and six for B. Alberta beef had won this contest almost unanimously. Our incredible evening came to a close with a certain and clear answer. Chefs and farmers all over Canada can be proud to produce and serve Alberta beef, the best in the world, which comes at a fraction of the price of Kobe. Undoubtedly, my guest had a night they were thrilled to be a part of and soon won’t forget. Laine Valin

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G8r AiD

A swimmers cocktail

G8r AiD

Was 3D TV, specifically, invented with diving, swimming, and beach volleyball in mind? After the action at the London aquatics zone over the weekend, all I can ask is: Michael, who?  A toast to the man responsible for Team USA’s first gold medal in London: Gator alumnus, Ryan Lochte, whose abs have graced many a girl’s dreams and the cover of Vogue! G8r AiD: a panacea for your pool-side parties.

Blue Curaçao

White Rum

Freshly squeezed lime juice

Orange twist

Fill a shaker with ice. Add 2 parts blue curaçao, 2 parts white rum, and 1 part freshly squeezed lime juice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with an orange twist, naturally! Pull up a chaise longue, pull on your sunglasses and imagine your nation’s swim team, sipping on G8r Aid, at your next pool party… oh, Jeah! Miss O.

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The Classic Gin Martini

The Classic Gin Martini

James Bond and I share a few similarities we both pull off a tux flawlessly and our drink of choice is the classic gin martini! Bombay sapphire gin, dry, “shaken not stirred”, and just a dash of olive juice. This drink is not for the faint of heart and packs a punch but when sipped in London this Olympics or just watching the games at home you’ll be doing it in British style!

-2 oz Bombay gin

-1 teaspoon olive juice

-a splash of dry martini

Combine all ingredients in a martini shaker full of ice. Shake well until the shaker is frosted, strain  into a martini glass and garnish with 2 large olives. Sip and enjoy! Laine Valin





I could barely contain my excitement, when the Refined Chef announced our new theme: a quadrennial sporting event, in which most countries participate, hosted by London, one of our favourite cities. Could it be time again for the Bar-lympics? YOU know… those competitive drinking games, originating in the ancient city of Barlympia, situated halfway between de Baa and de Lew. Drinking IS a sport, right? I’m fairly certain that all of the Refined Chef contributors are medalists and representatives of their nations’ drinking teams… Just in case he meant that OTHER global sporting event, practise our twist (double full in, full out, OF COURSE!) on the classic Olympic cocktail, our Opening Ceremony. Let the games begin!

Brandy,Orange Liqueur, Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice, Orange Zest

Ground Nutmeg, Match(es)

Fill a shaker with ice. Add 1 part premium orange liqueur, 2 parts of brandy (I used a VSOP for its smooth taste – no need to break out the XO for a mixed drink!), and 2 parts of freshly squeezed orange juice. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Add a dash of nutmeg. Flame* an orange peel over the drink, rub the peel around the rim, and garnish the OC with the orange twist. Let’s face it – drinking is a perennial event for the Refined Chef contributors. We don’t recommend attempting strenuous activity after imbibing an Opening Ceremony.

*How to Flame an Orange Peel

Peel a strip off an orange, about the length of your forefinger; a bit of pith on the zest is ok – it makes it easier to squeeze. Make sure there’s nothing above your cocktail that might be set alight. Light your flame (I prefer a match to a lighter), and hold it above your cocktail (if you hold 3 fingers together on their sides above the rim, you have the right height). Hold the orange peel with the zest side closest to the flame (not too close that you blacken the peel; you want the peel about the same distance from the match that the match is from the cocktail). Squeeze the peel over the lit match. Enjoy the pyrotechnics of your very own torch, before you douse it in the cauldron. Practise makes perfect, or you may get to know the local fire brigade – it’s a win-win situation! Miss O.

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