Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Agricultural fairs like they used to be!

Like they used to be in my hometown of Stockton, California, that is...Not in Canada, where the fair/harvest festival season is in full swing -- including the 183rd Edition of the Port Hope & District Agricultural Society Fair ("Farming, Food & Fun") this past weekend. It was quite a show!

Rice Crispie cookie shaped like
farm animal (3-5 years!)
It was a thrill -- I kid you not! -- to see the results of the baking (many w/ specified ingredients) and canning (fab pickles of every kind!) competitions, not to mention all the things made by children. And then to see entire families scanning the results, learning about all sorts of things, and just having a great time.

There were prizes for vegetables/fruits, and even hay bale cuts. And how about that elementary school spelling bee and the cooking demos? I was touched and mesmerized...remembering when that all happened at the San Joaquin County Fair, which is now just a shadow of itself and on the brink of extinction.

The Goat Show
On the second day, I visited South Field where the animal competitions took place, along with a variety of very cool exhibits like all stages of the Monarch Butterfly (live!)...4-H Clubs were well-represented at the cattle show. There was also a Goat Show, while the Maplewood Stables Drill Team showed-off their moves following an equestrian competition held the day before. Geese dominated the fowl tent (with no mention of foie gras). The Children's Pet Show hit a high note as kids and their cats/dogs vied for an array of awards for shortest legs, longest tail, weirdest coat color, etc.  And the weather cooperated!

Did you know that: "Despite being classified as a red meat, goat meat is leaner than both lamb and beef. Because it is so lean, goat is particularly good when braised or cooked with moist heat so it won't dry out, preserving the tenderness." Saw an interesting recipe for "Goat Water" from Montserrat in the "Enjoy Goat" display...Look for Chevon, Cabretto or Cabrito when shopping at your local grocery story/butcher shop -- though you might have to place a special order. (Price Choice Market in Miami, here I come!)

Geese make the
best "watchdogs"

Of course, I supported the Lions Club both days by consuming my share of their awesome fries (practically the national dish!).  But then I did walk around for about 8 hours total -- finishing up with a look at a slew of vintage chain saws, about 200 vintage cars/trucks, the horse pull, and vintage tractor guys competing to see who had the slowest tractor. The Port Hope Fair covered all the bases and then some -- Double OPA!

Looking forward to the 184th Edition ("Denim Dreams")...Meanwhile, planning to visit the Roseneath Fair (9/26-28) and the Wesleyville Harvest Festival (9/28), too. In Canada, that's a Hat Trick!

NOTE: After checking out all the baking competitions/rules I saw one for "Any baked item containing coconut." Next year in Port Hope, with Esta Friedman's macaroon recipe! 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ode to Greek wines, including Retsina...

I actually love retsina, though the large barrels of authentic, room-temperature brew no longer dominate taverna dining rooms like they once did. Poured into ubiquitous metal carafes refilled over-and-over again, retsina used to be the mainstay of 3-4 hour dinners where wine and spirited conversation ruled the night.  Retsina is Greek wine flavored w/pine resin that has been made for over 2,000 years, and is an  acquired taste worthy of acquiring...(In a pinch, chilled bottle-capped Malamatina retsina will do just fine, but you really must eat something with it.)

Greece is home to 300 grape varietals -- the most well-known being Assyrtico, Moscholfilero, Savatiano, Roditis, Agiorghitiko, and Xinomavro. Now mass Greek wine production and European favorites have been challenged by a new breed of small production wineries championed by partner distributors like Cava Spiliadis (beautiful website!). Andreas Zinelis and Canadian Sommelier Elyse Lambert recently presented its line at Wine By the Bay in Miami.

We tasted 10 wines from Domaine Biblia Chora, Driopi, Domaine Gerovassiliou (in Epanomi, not far from Thessaoliniki), Domaine Katsaros, and Parparoussis. Epanomi native Evangelos Gerovassiliou has benefited from working with Emile Peynaud of Domaine Carras fame and also makes wine under the Biblia Chora label. The Gerovassiliou Malagousia 2013 (100% Malagousia) is a unique white mouth-filling wine from a grape referred to as Greece's answer to viognier (in its own way).

But it was Parparrousis, a small organic winery near Patras  run by founder Athanassios Parparoussis and his two daughters, Erifili and Dimitra, that caught my full attention. "Gift of Dionysos" 2013 (100% Sideritis) is an unoaked white beauty. The "Taos" 2005 (100% Marvrodaphne) was amazing for what it wasn't. Previously I had only drunk Mavrodaphne as a chilled dessert wine. "Taos" (Ancient Greek word for peacock) is a memorable dry red wine with eucalyptus and gingerbread flavors that opened up new vistas -- Double OPA!

Some of these wines can be found in Miami at Wine By the Bay,  Sunset Corners Fine Wines & Spirits,  Vintage Liquor & Wine Bar -- and wherever else good Greek wines are sold.