Welcome to the WINE of the MONTH CLUB BLOG

Shari Darling
April 27, 2014 | Shari Darling

Asparagus is in Season!

Asparagus is in Season!

Spring is finally here. And asparagus is now coming into season. The old wine adage states that asparagus does not work with wine. Hogwash! Asparagus, when incorporated in a dish with other ingredients, works extremely well with specific wines.

With weather warming white wines are more desirable as well and they happen to complement dishes with asparagus as an ingredient.

Sauvignon Blanc is crisp and refreshing with citrus tones and big acidity. This acidity nicely offsets saltiness. This wine’s acidity nicely contrasts with grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto as an hors d’oeuvre. Wrap around the centre of each cleaned asparagus a piece of shaved prosciutto.  Do several wrapped asparagus and then set them tightly in a barbecue vegetable rack.  Grill the asparagus until the prosciutto is crispy. Serve hot with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  Be sure to buy a couple of bundles of local asparagus as this hors d’oeuvre is highly addictive when served with this wine. Pair this easy hors d’oeuvre with an Ontario Sauvignon Blanc.

This simple recipe can also be served as a side dish, using bacon instead of prosciutto. Wrap several asparagus in bacon and grill or roast. The same wine pairing rule applies. The saltiness of bacon complements a white wine with crisp acidity like Sauvignon Blanc.

If you choose to serve this same Sauvignon Blanc throughout the main course and highlight fresh, local asparagus in the side dish, try Quinoa with fresh asparagus in a lemon olive oil dressing.

Chardonnay can be quite lovely when partnered with barley risotto with asparagus and hazelnuts. Buy 1 ½ pounds of local asparagus. Cut top third of each asparagus stalk diagonally into 1/2-inch-thick slices, reserving tips and slices together. Coarsely chopped the remainder. Steam asparagus until tender, then add to a food processor or blender. Add 2 cloves of fresh garlic. Puree. Set aside. Then steam the asparagus tips and slices for about 3 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and rinse under cool water. Set aside. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, cook 1 medium onion, finely chopped with black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon salt in 3 tablespoons of olive oil until softened, about 7 minutes.  Add 1 ¼ cups of barley to the onion and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add ½ cup of white wine and boil, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 4 cups water. Bring mixture back to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 35 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

When barley is cooked, stir in asparagus-garlic purée. Fold in asparagus tips and slices. Add more boiling water to get right risotto consistency. Let mixture cook through until hot. Add freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano as needed. Serve hot sprinkled with more cheese, fresh lemon zest and toasted hazelnuts. (You can toast the hazelnuts in a dry fry pan and let cool.)

Winerytohome Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay that work well with the recipes above are as follows:


Check out the Wine Pairing Club Amazon Kindle Book Store. 


Harmony on the Palate

Shari darling


Time Posted: Apr 27, 2014 at 10:00 AM
Shari Darling
March 25, 2014 | Shari Darling

Pinot Noir and Beef

Pinot Noir and Beef

Pinot Noir and BeefPinot Noir is considered, in general, a light, fruity red wine, an ideal companion for salmon or other fatty fish and, perhaps, chicken. But Pinot Noir can have enough structure, character and weight to stand up to beef. It depends on the Pinot Noir grape and the winemaking and the beef dish. But it is workable, for sure.

Ontario Pinot Noir will harmonize with beef-based dishes. When vinified in a cool climatic region, like Ontario, the wines attain ripe fruit flavours over the long, warm growing season and refreshing acidity due to the cool nights. This acidity cleans the palate between bites. Heavy beef dishes with gravy are best suited to a more full-bodied red wine. But lean beef prepared in a variety of ways will complement Pinot Noir and vice versa.

Beef carpaccio with arugula is one example. Or try herb-crusted beef rib roast to complement Ontario Pinot Noir.

Here is the recipe:

Herb-Crusted Beef Rib Roast

For the herb crusted rib roast recipe you’ll need an inexpensive but whole bottle of Pinot Noir (see below). Do not use a $20 Pinot Noir for cooking.  Place a beef 4-rib roast on a rack in a roasting pan. In a food processor or mortar and pestle add ¼ cup of mixed peppercorns and grind. In a small bowl mix the crushed peppercorns with 3 tablespoons of kosher salt, 2 tablespoons of fresh thyme and 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the mixture. Coat the outside of the roast with the peppercorn mixture. Let the roast stand for about 1 hour. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 450 F.  Make sure the oven rack is on the lower third. Roast the beef for about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 F and continue roasting for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Use a thermometer inserted into the center of the meat. Let the thermometer register 110 F. Then pull the beef from the oven. Set it on a platter. Let it sit for about 40 minutes. The roast will continue to cook. At 130 F, the roast will be medium rare.

Discard fat from the pan juices. Set the pan over 2 burners. Add 1 cup of inexpensive Pinot Noir, bring to a boil and deglaze the pan, scraping up the hard bits. Pour the pan juices into a cup.

Cook ½ cup of chopped shallots in 1 tablespoon salted butter. Cook until translucent. Add the wine mixture from the cup, along with the wine remaining in the bottle, and boil over high heat until mixture is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 10 minutes.

Add 2 cups of beef or chicken broth and continue to boil over high heat until mixture is reduced to 1 1/2 cups. Whisk in 3 tablespoons of butter until it is melted and incorporated. Season sauce with salt and pepper if needed. To carve the roast, slide a carving knife along the inside of ribs to separate the meat from the bones, then cut the ribs into individual bones. Slice the meat and serve with vegetables and Pinot Noir jus.

Suggested Wines: Ontario Pinot Noir has enough weight to stand up to the beef. Its crisp acidity will nicely offset the saltiness in this beef rub. Find one at WinerytoHome.com:

Inexpensive Pinots (cooking):

Higher Quality Pinots (drinking):

Check out the Wine Pairing Club Amazon Kindle Book Store to find that perfect food and wine pairing book. 


Harmony on the Palate

Shari darling


Time Posted: Mar 25, 2014 at 9:15 AM
Shari Darling
March 11, 2014 | Shari Darling

Riesling Partnered to Coconut, Lime & Cilantro au Jus Chicken

Riesling Partnered to Coconut, Lime & Cilantro au Jus Chicken

I’m a devoted fan of Riesling, especially Ontario-born versions. The winemakers of our province produce world class Riesling, in fact. If you love to pair wine with food, this is certainly a variety worth exploring.

Riesling (pronounced ‘rees-ling’) was born in the Rhine River region of Germany and its history stems back to medieval times to 1546. German botanist, physician and author, Hieronymus Bock, mentioned this grape in his book called Herbal. Today, Germany continues to produce delicious Riesling. But so does Ontario and its nice to know we have world-class gems grown in our own back yard available for purchase.

The wine’s aromas and flavours can resemble fruits ranging from lemon and lime to peaches and apricots, tangerine and pineapples. Sometimes Riesling can be more petrol in character, as well.

What I love most about this grape is its versatility, producing white wines that can be bone dry, to off dry to late harvest to Icewine. Riesling has enough character to stand alone with screaming and refreshing acidity as its predominant taste sensation. Or it can swirl with an tanginess and sweetness in several levels.

I often see articles praising Riesling as a wine that works with spicy and Asian dishes. This is only partly true.  It depends on the wine’s level of sweetness. The sugar code is key, determining whether Riesling will work with a particular spicy or ethnic dish.

If the dish has sweetness, one’s Riesling must be more sweet. If the dish is spicy, this white requires even more sweetness. But don’t be alarmed. When vinified correctly Riesling doesn’t taste sweet. That’s because of its backbone of acidity. When made by masters, the wine’s sweetness will show up on the forefront of your palate, but only to suddenly disappear as it dances with the sweetness. A tango of taste sensations.

Some of us cherish the bone-dry versions that complement foods offering similar tanginess or saltiness as primary bridging ingredients in the dish.

Dry Riesling works with yogurt and sour cream based dips and salty cheeses and charcuterie and cured meats. Pair Riesling with Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP, Grana Padano Aged, Pecorino Romano, Asiago, prosciutto, capocollo, Pancetta and Parma Ham, to name but a few. If you want to highlight Riesling with an entrée, choose one that uses lemon or lime as an accent flavour. Sole drizzled in lemon complements bone dry Riesling. Perfect partners.

I decided to create a chicken recipe to complement Riesling’s predominant lime flavour and zesty acidity.  Pair this wine with Rustic Chicken with Coconut, Lime and Cilatro Jus. I use in the recipe coconut infused rum. Adding a spirit to the dish increases its level of roundness and depth of flavour called umami. The fresh lime flavour in the jus bridges perfectly with the wine’s lime acidity as well.

Here is the recipe:

Coconut, Lime and Cilantro au Jus Chicken

Serves 4
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 to 4 cloves of garlic minced, depending on preference
¼ cup of coconut infused dark rum
1 cup chicken broth
Juice from 2 limes
4 chicken breasts
4 small carrots, chopped
1 leek (white part only), sliced
½ bulb of fennel, sliced
½ sweet onion, sliced
½ yellow or orange pepper
½ cup fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Saute garlic until aromatic. Sear chicken breasts. Set chicken breasts in oven proof baking dish. Deglaze pan with rum, scraping up browned bits. Add 1 cup chicken broth. Let simmer for 2 minutes. Pour vegetables mixture over chicken. Add cilantro. Add broth. Pour juice from 1 lime over vegetables. Set in middle of oven. Roast for 45 minutes or until chicken is desired doneness and white inside. Transfer chicken and vegetables to plate. Wrap with foil and keep warm in oven. Place juice in sauté pan. Bring juice to a boil. Reduce to medium and let simmer until reduced by half. Transfer chicken to serving tray with vegetables, drizzled in jus. Squeeze with fresh lime juice just before serving.

Suggested Wines: Find the perfect Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon at WinerytoHome.com:

Discover the 3 secrets that 90% of people don’t know about pairing wine with food.  


Shari darling


Time Posted: Mar 11, 2014 at 1:49 AM
Shari Darling
March 3, 2014 | Shari Darling

Polenta Rounds with Stilton Paté

An Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon is the perfect austere wine to pair with Polenta Rounds with Stilton Paté. The saltiness in the cheese nicely offsets the tannin and astringency in Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon. This austere red also has enough viscosity, fattiness, to stand up to the fattiness in the paté.

Polenta, a native dish of Friuli, Italy, is a wonderful ingredient to utilize for hors d’oeuvres and appetizers. It’s simply cornmeal that’s made into porridge or mash. But when boiled, polenta may be left to set, then baked, grilled or fried. Polenta is a fabulous base ingredient that can be partnered with a variety of ingredients and paired with wine.

I’ve been editing my cookbooks to make the Kindle savvy and came across this recipe this morning. It’s so easy and delicious and a harmonizing partner for any austere red wine.

You’ll need to make the polenta rounds from cornmeal. The pre-prepared polenta tubes available at supermarkets won’t work here; the rounds made from those tubes are too large to serve as bite- sized morsels. The ready-made polenta also can’t be punched with a cookie cutter. Besides, slow-cooked polenta is much tastier, in my opinion.

Polenta Rounds with Stilton Paté 

Serves 4-6 (makes 16 rounds)

8 oz  cream cheese
4 oz  crumbled Stilton
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 cup milk
1/2 cup fine cornmeal sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste corn oil (for frying)
rosemary sprigs (for garnish)

To make the paté, combine the cream cheese and Stilton in a bowl. Mix them together until they’re well blended. Mix in the garlic and fresh rosemary. Cover the mixture and refrigerate it until it’s needed.

To make the polenta, bring the milk almost to the boil. Add the cornmeal in a very slow stream, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low. Continue stirring in the same direction while the cornmeal thickens, about 15 to 20 minutes. The polenta is done when it peels easily off the sides of the pot. Season it with salt and pepper. Remove it from the heat. Pour the polenta onto a sheet of aluminum foil. With wet hands, smooth it into a thin, even sheet. Let the polenta cool. Cut out 16 rounds, using a 2-inch (5 cm) cookie cutter or the rim of a wine glass. (Fancy cookie cutters work nicely, too.)

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the polenta for about 2 minutes on each side, until lightly golden.

Meanwhile, spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Set the fried rounds on the baking sheet.

Top each round with 1 tsp (5 mL) Stilton paté. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the rounds until the cheese is melted, 3 to 5 minutes. Watch closely so the pate just melts, but doesn’t slide off the polenta. Garnish the rounds with the rosemary sprigs. Serve them warm.

Suggested Wine: Choose an austere red, such as Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon.

Find the perfect Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon at WinerytoHome.com:

Discover more delicious simple and gourmet cheese recipes paired with wine in this FREE e-cookbook.

Click the cover to download.   

Shari darling


Time Posted: Mar 3, 2014 at 11:30 AM
Shari Darling
February 20, 2014 | Shari Darling

Zesty White Wine Paired with Fresh Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Salad

My brother Jay is an avid home cook, a chef really. While home from Vancouver, he created this lovely salad for our family. I love fresh mozzarella. It’s so easy to make. Below is a recipe for making homemade mozzarella from scratch. When fresh, mozzarella is not rubbery, but creamy, adding wonderful texture to salads and entrees. In this particular salad, the primary taste sensation is sourness from the balsamic vinegar. Choose a crisp, dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc with enough acidity to match. If you cannot find balsamic pearls, then substitute white balsamic vinegar in the recipe to work with the wine.

Tomatoes are best to be consumed in the summer when they’re local, fresh and ripe! But tomato salads are so tasty, it’s nice to enjoy them in the winter, too.  Be sure to purchase your tomatoes about 1 week in advance. Put them into a paper bag in a cool area away from sunshine and heat. Let the tomatoes ripen slowly over 5 or 6 days. 

Fresh Mozzarella
There are several recipes for making fresh mozzarella. Here is a basic recipe to start off your journey in making this cheese. Over time you’ll develop your own measurements to taste.  For this recipe you can use goat, buffalo or cow’s milk.

Large pot, big bowl,
2 gallons of non homogenized whole milk
1/4 of vegetable rennet tablet (dissolved in water), available at health food stores
1.5 tablespoons of citric acid, available in a pharmacy
1 tablespoon of salt

In a small bowl add 1/4 cup of water. Add 1/4 rennet tablet and let dissolve. Pour milk into a large pot. Turn stove to medium-low heat. Gently heat up milk to 95 degrees F. Add citric acid and salt. Slowly stir it into the milk. Stir and check the temperature.  When the temperature reaches a stead 95 degrees F, add the rennet and stir for about 30 seconds. Turn off the stove. Cover the pot with a lid and move the pot off of the heat. Set the timer for 25 minutes and let the milk sit.  Cut the curds in a patched style. Using a slotted spoon remove the curds from the way, draining all the whey.  Place the curds in a cheese cloth over a bowl and drain the reminder of the whey. Let the curds sit in the cheese cloth for 15 minutes. Pour the whey into a bowl and set aside. Add some cold water to the whey. Let cool.

Heat up water bath. Be sure to wear rubber gloves so as not to burn your hands. Place come curds into the hot bath of water.  Let sit for 2 minutes. Pull the curds out of the bath and pull together into a ball, then start to stretch the curds. Pull all the smaller pieces out of the water and add back into the large ball of curds. Fold the curd ball in half, turn it 90 degrees and fold it in half again. Keep kneading the cheese until its shiny and smooth and stops being grainy. Put the finished ball in the bath of cool water and whey. Work another piece of curd.  The longer you work the curds, the more firm the cheese becomes.  Be sure to make balls of cheese about the size of the fresh tomatoes to be used in your salad. Store the cheese in the whey bath in the refrigerator and use as needed.

Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Salad with Basil and Balsamic Pearls

Serves 4
Olive oil (as needed)
1 French Baghuette, sliced
Kosher salt (as needed)
4 tomatoes (variety of choice)
Fresh basil
Balsamic Pearls or white balsamic vinegar (as needed for garnish)

In a iron skillet heat oil. Pan fry slices of baguette on both sides until golden, about 5 seconds per side. Drain on paper towel.  Sprinkle toasts with kosher salt.  Let toasts cool. Slice the tomato into slices (of desired thickness). Slice the fresh mozzarella into the same sized slices. Lay fresh basil leaf on toast. Add slice of fresh mozzarella. Add slice of tomato. Add balsamic pears or drizzle with balsamic dressing. Serve.

Suggested Wine: Choose a white wine with crisp acidity to harmonize with the acidity in the white balsamic vinaigrette.

Choose one of the following from WinerytoHome.com:

Harmony On The Palate is used in colleges and universities across Canada for chef and sommelier training.
To Learn, Discover and Enjoy The Art of Pairing Wine with Food Click the Book Cover Below.   

Shari darling


Time Posted: Feb 20, 2014 at 6:00 AM
Shari Darling
February 11, 2014 | Shari Darling

Chardonnay, Risotto and Kale - The Three Musketeers

I like to cook with the baby plan-leaved variety. It is tender and less bitter, resembling baby spinach. It's a wonderful ingredient to add to salads, side-dishes and entrees. Because of its pleasant bitterness, Kale adds that additional taste sensation to offset tanginess, saltiness and sweetness and therefore round out the flavours of a dish.  
A variety of kale exists, such as the curly-leaved, plain-leaved, rape kale, leaf and spear and Tuscan variety.  

Around the world Kale is enjoyed in a variety of ways. In the Netherlands it is combined with potatoes and bacon in a dish called ‘stamppot boerenkol’. In Ireland it is added to mashed potatoes in colcannon. The Asians add Kale to stir-fries, while the Portuguese add it to soups or side dishes like feijoada.

I added to a variety of dishes when possible because Kale is loaded with beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C and is rich in calcium and indole-3-carbinol, a chemical that boosts and repairs our DNA cells.

Kale has a pleasant bitter after taste, making it an ingredient that harmonizes well with red wine. It does depend on the dish in which it is incorporated as well. I like to add Kale to spaghetti sauce and risotto to boost the dish’s nutritional value.

Chardonnay offers lovely pleasant bitterness on the finish, especially if it has undergone barrel contact. Chardonnay and Kale are companions.

Here is creamy risotto celebrating Kale to harmonize with a big, fatty white wine. Choose a Chardonnay with higher alcohol for viscosity. Make sure the wine has enough weight to match the density of this dish. A Chardonnay with some barrel fermentation and aging and/or sur-lie aging would work well with this dish.

Creamy and Cheesy Risotto with Baby Kale and Peas

This recipe will serve 4 side-dishes or 2 entrees.

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cups dry white wine
2 cans (370 mL) condensed fat free milk
1 cup baby fresh kale
1 cup baby frozen peas
Kosher salt as needed
Freshly ground black pepper as needed
Chicken broth (if needed)
2/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a skillet over medium heat, heat oil with 1 tbsp. butter until melted. Sauté onion, stirring, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring, until garlic is aromatic. Stir in rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Stir 1 can of warmed milk into rice and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding more milk, about 1/4 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, 18 to 20 minutes. You’ll add both cans of milk. Fold in fresh kale and warmed peas. Let kale wilt completely. Thin mixture with some of broth if necessary. Remove from heat. Fold in cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Add remaining butter. Transfer risotto to plates. Garnish with more grated cheese.

Choose one of the following from WinerytoHome.com:

Harmony On The Palate is used in colleges and universities across Canada for chef and sommelier training.
To Learn, Discover and Enjoy The Art of Pairing Wine with Food Click the Book Cover Below.   

Shari darling


Time Posted: Feb 11, 2014 at 7:33 AM
Shari Darling
February 5, 2014 | Shari Darling

A little tropical warmth on an icy day:

Pairing Riesling with Hearts of Palm, Mango and Lime Salad

In this cold weather with abundance of snow, it's fun to taste a little bit of tropical warmth and sunshine. Ontario Riesling is the ideal wine for creating such an experience. It has lots of steel-like acidity to clean the palate, all the while offering aromas and flavours reminiscent of grapefruit, peach, pineapple and tangerine on the nose and palate. It's sunshine in a glass. And hearts of palm is the perfect ingredient to add to dishes and salads that are paired with Riesling. Hearts of palm is firm and tender, but subtle in taste, making it an ideal texture-forward ingredient for refreshing salads.

Hearts of palm comes from the interior of palm trees. The heart is bright white and tender and  lies beneath the 5th layer of trunk within the tree. Today, this vegetable is farmed in Costa Rica and Hawaii within the USA. It also grows wildly throughout Brazil and so is a staple in the Brazilian diet.

An alternative to wild hearts of palm is a domesticated farm species called peach palm. Peach palm is the most widely harvested for canning. It is a multi-stem variety that grows as many as 40 stems per plant. Due to all the stems, harvesting in moderation does not kill the tree.

Hearts of palm is hand-harvested and takes extensive time to undertake because of the many layers of bark that must be removed to get to the tender heart. For this reason it is considered a delicacy. It is also nutritious, a carbohydrate with some protein and fibre and high in calcium and vitamin C. It adds such wonderful texture to dishes but is subtle in taste and so will let the other flavours within a dish take centre stage. It's the contribution of texture to a dish.  

This ingredient is mostly used in salads, but can also be incorporated into dips and sandwiches, pastas and risottos. Massa ao Molho deFrango e Palmito, known in English as Pasta with Chicken and Palm Hearts, is a Brazilian classic featuring this ingredient. Hearts of palm can be used has an affinity with ingredients like artichokes, avocados, tomatoes, chicken, shrimp, to name a few.

This salad sings with the tropical flavours of mango and lime, a wonderful interlude to our winter blues.

Here is the recipe:

1/4 cup of fresh lime juice
4 tsp Dijon mustard
1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 can (14.5 oz) hearts of palm, drained, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt as needed
Freshly ground black pepper as needed
2 heaping tablespoons of finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 head Boston lettuce, washed and dried

In a bowl whisk together the lime juice and mustard. Set vinaigrette aside. In another bowl combine mango, onion, hearts of palm and half vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide lettuce among 4 plates. Top with mango mixture. Drizzle remaining dressing. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro.

Suggested Wines: This salad has refreshing tanginess from the lime vinaigrette. Normally a crisp, white wine would be the idea companion to match this lime tanginess. However, because the mango is sweet, the salad requires an off dry white with tanginess and sweetness to match. Choose one of the following from WinerytoHome.com:

Discover how easy it is to pair the right wine with a dish in Harmony On The Palate e-Cookbook.  


Shari darling


Time Posted: Feb 5, 2014 at 10:07 AM
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