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Spirits

Spirits and Cocktails

Wolfhead Distillery – A New Addition to the Windsor Spirits Scene

November 7, 2016
Wolfhead Distillery Coffee whisky is made with real cold brew espresso.

Driving into the parking lot of Wolfhead Distillery on our recent visit to Lake Erie North Shore, Shawn and I were surprised that it was attached to a lumber yard – not your traditional setting for a distillery. But as soon as we walked into this new building, all thoughts of lumber were quickly forgotten – the place was hopping. Only ten weeks after its opening and on a Wednesday night to boot, Wolfhead was packed with a dinnertime rush that was pretty darn impressive.

Wolfhead Distillery in Windsor/Essex, Ontario is one of the region's newest distilleries.And the excitement over this new business is not misplaced. They seated us at the bar for a tasting of their spirits – three whisky and three vodka – and was hard not to be impressed. The vodka is wheat-based and seven times distilled with limestone filtration to remove impurities and impart a bit of minerality and salt.

The plain vodka is very good and would make for an excellent martini, but it’s the grapefruit vodka that impresses me most and I’m not surprised to learn it’s a best-seller. The flavours on this one really pop and there’s not that confected sweetness some flavoured spirits have. It tastes a little bit like good quality ginger ale and would make an excellent cocktail or be fine to drink on its own. Wolfhead believes in using natural ingredients in their spirits and that shows through in the quality. The third vodka, the banana caramel, is more like a liqueur and a bit too sweet for my tastes, but I’m also not a big fan of banana flavours in general.

The whisky, which they had to purchase and then blend since their own will not be ready for several more years, is all Canadian and had more corn, making it closer to a bourbon. Surprisingly, the coffee whisky is a clear winner here. Made with cold brew espresso grounds it is not too sweet and has a nice bitterness from the use of real coffee. The apple caramel whisky is very approachable and would make a nice option for someone who wanted an alternative to American Honey.

A grapefruit vodka mojito at Wolfhead Distillery is a fun option at dinner.The Wolfhead team has invested a lot in their business, we take a tour of the distilling area and the equipment, imported from Italy, is high-quality and speaks to their seriousness. They are also very passionate about the water they use in their distilling process and there’s no expense spared in that part of the process. Right now the focus is on small blends and they are all hand-bottled and labeled. This is a craft operation, with a focus on making high-quality spirits that can be sipped alone or in a cocktail.

At the end of the tasting and tour, my favourites are the premium whisky (the plain) and the coffee whisky, as well as the grapefruit vodka and I purchase both flavoured spirits to experiment more with them at home.

Ahi tuna at Wolfhead Distillery's restuaraunt is a great dinner option.We’re seated for dinner shortly after the tasting and I order the drunken shrimp and scallops (made with Wolfhead vodka, of course) and Shawn has the ahi tuna. I also order one of the mojitos, made with Wolfhead’s grapefruit vodka. It’s a great cocktail and a lot of fun, but with no mint or rum, it’s not really a mojito – with that caveat, I highly recommend trying it.

The food is very good and the quality high, the flavours pop and each dish is vibrant and delicious. You can see why the restaurant is packed on a Wednesday night after only being open such a short time. And many patrons are moving from the dining room to the adjacent store after their meals, which is another good sign – sales of the spirits are brisk. This is a fun and friendly place for a meal or tasting.

Since our visit in August, Shawn is almost out of coffee whisky and I think we’re both hoping to see it appear on LCBO shelves soon for easier access.

*I was a guest of Ontario’s Southwest and Tourism Windsor Essex, so my meal was complimentary, but my opinions are my own. And I bought two bottles of Wolfhead spirits, so I definitely really, really liked them.

Food & Wine

Summer Wine Adventures

September 19, 2016
Fresh Wines at the iYellow Wine Cave.

I can hardly believe how fast this summer flew by, but given the humidity and the oppressive heat in Toronto this year, I’m kind of OK with that. Shawn and I did have some pretty fabulous adventures this summer and I’ll continue to share posts from our trips to Germany and Lake Erie North Shore, but I wanted to mention a few others too.

There were way too many things happening this summer to do individual posts, but I didn’t want to miss mentioning these great events that Shawn and I were lucky enough to be invited to attend. As always, you can follow along with our adventures in real time on Instagram and Twitter. Each feed features different content, so I encourage you to check out both!

Cocktails at the Toronto Wine & Spirits Festival at Sugar Beach.

Toronto Wine and Spirit Festival – Sugar Beach

Oyster Boy Oysters at the Toronto Wine & Spirits Festival.Shawn and I declared the Toronto Wine and Spirit Festival the perfect date night a few years ago and this year’s event lived up to that billing. This June festival is always one of our favourites, we love the laidback vibe, the Sugar Beach location and the opportunity to try a wealth of different types of food and drink. The attendees at this event always seem more relaxed than at other drinks-based festivals. Maybe the beach just puts people in a really chill mood or it’s just super well-run (I think it’s a combo), but this is one where you can sip a cocktail while watching a band, eat oysters while enjoying a beautiful view of Lake Ontario or just wander from booth to booth deciding what to try next. Highlights for us this year? Mama Ratty’s meat donuts, Oyster Boy oysters, Berentzen apple liquor and Flora de Cana rum cocktails.

iYellow Summer Wine Jam

It may have been the night before our big trip to Germany, but Shawn and I couldn’t miss iYellow’s Summer Wine Jam this year, especially since it marked the tenth anniversary of this fabulous and fun wine club! Angela Aiello, founder of iYellow Wine Club, has always been a big supporter local bloggers (myself included) and a cheerleader for so many Ontario wineries – her positive attitude is really inspiring. Along with her amazing team of iYellow ‘wine angels’, she has helped make wine accessible to a whole new group of wine lovers and encouraged them to discover local wines and explore Ontario wine country.  It was so much fun to celebrate with this team and I can’t wait for the party to mark twenty years!

Fresh wines sparkling Riesling has a beautiful label.Fresh Wines Launch

Travel kept us away from many of the summer wine events in the city, so Shawn and I were happy to pop by the Fresh wines media event at the iYellow Wine Cave in late August. Fresh wines are made by Niagara’s Diamond Estates and they’re very much easy-drinking, patio or party wines. The packaging is pretty and colourful, featuring artistic renderings of modern women – the type of ladies this wine is clearly being marketed towards. Full disclosure, most of the wines in this line are on the sweet side and that’s not really my thing, but I’m trying super hard not to get all wine snobby about these patio wines because, hey, I drank Arbour Mist back in the day, and if sweet wines are your thing, you’ll really like these. The sparkling Riesling had my favourite label and it would be a good choice ice cold on a patio, as would the Moscato. I also enjoyed the Satin Red, which is a very drinkable, fruit-forward red wine blend.

Did you have any summer wine adventures? What were your favourites? Share them in the comments below or on social.

*We were guests at each of the events, but our opinions are our own. Especially my somewhat judgey ones about sweet wines. I said I was trying not be a wine snob, I didn’t say I was succeeding.

Food & Wine

A Wine Blogger at Wacken Open Air

October 21, 2015
Wacken Open Air Mudfighters T-Shirt
Shawn and I earned our shirts at WOA.

Being married to a heavy metal musician makes for an interesting conversation starter, but it also means that once a year I become a heavy metal widow when Shawn flies to Germany to spend a week at the world’s biggest heavy metal festival: Wacken Open Air (WOA). Spending several days camping with more than 80,000 metal fans is not my idea of a good time, but for my husband it’s the pinnacle of his year. When, in 2014, he wrote the 25th anniversary theme song for the festival (listen to it here) and got to perform on the main stage, I’m pretty sure it was the highlight of his life (wedding be damned).

Sunset over Wacken Open Air
Enjoying the sunset over Wacken.

So when Shawn scored a room for two on the MS Wacken Boat Hotel, a floating hotel moored just a few minutes from the festival grounds, I decided to take the plunge and find out why my husband loves this festival so very much. First, some background, while I like some of the more melodic metal bands, I’m not a huge metalhead. And camping is pretty much the thing I like least in the world. So WOA and I were not made for each other.

Rainy day at Wacken
Warming up with tiny Jäger on a cold and rainy day

Oh, and then there’s the whole lack of wine. We had spent a week in Europe ahead of Wacken and I was primed to enjoy even more of Germany’s finest, except there wasn’t much of that to choose from. In fact, the only wine on offer seemed to be mead (I still haven’t acquired a taste for that) or fruit wine (maybe in small doses).  This didn’t seem to bother most of the attendees, as one thing heavy metal fans (in particular those in Europe) are known for, is their love of beer. And it certainly flows at WOA. But I’m not a big beer fan, so I went with the only other option easily available to me – Jägermeister.

You remember Jäger, right? It’s the black licorice flavoured liquor you may have done shots of in your university days, but you probably haven’t thought much about since. Well, in Germany Jägermeister is extremely popular. It was one of the festival sponsors and readily available in the camping area, the town of Wacken and on the festival grounds. Now, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t walking around downing Jäger shots all day, but it turned out to be a really nice option throughout five days of mud, cold, rain and metal.

Mud at Wacken Open Air
Where did our feet go?

And, here’s the thing, despite being the muddiest WOA in recent memory (seriously, ankle deep at all times, calf deep in places), I had a blast with my husband.  I’ve never been so happy to have a pair of Walmart rubber boots, but the overall vibe at WOA is just so positive and engaging that I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. The shows were spectacular, even the bands I wasn’t especially interested in put on impressive performances, and the festival is full of things to see and do even if you don’t want to spend all your time watching the multiple shows happening throughout the day.

Store at Wacken Open Air
One of the many Wacken Stores in town.

There’s a Viking village, a Mad Max style village and the entire town of Wacken shuts down to create a WOA party in the streets with bars and shops set up on just about every front lawn. The 80,000 people who descend on the town are pleasantly toasted most of the time, but so very positive and polite. I saw no fights, no aggression and I didn’t even have people knocking into me all the time like at shows in Toronto. Sports fans could learn much from these lovely, muddy people.

MS Wacken Boat
The welcome sign at the boat hotel.

Having a room on the boat is what made this really work for me. Camping in the mud and rain would likely have put me in a miserable mood, but the M.S. Wacken was a warm, dry space to come back to each night. Our room was tiny (we had bunk beds!), but it was clean, dry and cozy. There was a bar on the ship where we could hang out when we weren’t heavy metaling and the staff was absolutely fabulous. If we could afford it, I’d happily go back to Wacken again if staying on the boat was an option. Really, even though I cannot stress enough how much mud I dealt with over the course of five days, I would still go back. Because WOA is such an incredible experience and I had a fabulous time doing something completely outside my comfort zone.

Amorphis at Wacken Open Air
Watching Amorphis with so many people was a lot of fun!
Milkshakes at Wacken Open Air
Spiked milkshakes – these were beyond delicious.

And Jägermeister was part of that. It’s not something I would have chosen before this trip, but I ended up really enjoying the flavour, and it came in handy as a tipple on the colder days. When you’re completely freezing (I had on jeans,
double socks, a tank top, a t-shirt, a light hoodie and a heavier hoodie at some points, and I was still cold), a shot of Jäger is actually pretty warming. I also credit it for keeping me from getting sick in all that wet, cold weather. I stand by the theory that alcohol in moderation can stave off a cold. It certainly seemed to in this case.

While I didn’t indulge as much as some folks, I’m glad I had a little bit of liquid courage to get me through the rougher points of an outdoor festival with weather challenges (thankfully the last day was really warm and sunny), and I’m glad I got to rediscover Jäger as an adult. When we got home, Shawn and I picked up a bottle and we’ve been experimenting with cocktails and other ways to enjoy this spirit.

Mud at Wacken Open Air
Shawn strikes a pose before the crowds descend.

And, no, it doesn’t fit into my newly sugar-free lifestyle (there is some added sugar). However, I have declared it a worthy “cheat” option once in a while and when paired with sugar free mixers.

In honour of my big once-in-a-lifetime experience, I asked the amazing people at Jägermeister Canada if they would provide some cocktail recipes, which I wanted to share here.

While I will forever have memories of Jäger attached to my heavy metal adventure, it made me want to remind my readers that this is a surprisingly versatile addition to your liquor cabinet that pairs well with much more than metal.

Some more stylish ways to experience Jägermeister.

 

http://www.jagermeister.ca/en-ca/home/

 

http://www.jagermeister.ca/en-ca/home/

 

http://www.jagermeister.ca/en-ca/home/

Have you ever had a Jager cocktail? Or rediscovered a drink on one of
your travel adventures? Share your thoughts in the comments or on
social.

Food & Wine

Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival – The Perfect Date Night

July 8, 2015

Shawn and I have something of a love-hate relationship with big ‘wine shows’, especially those that involve standing in long lines to get in and then again for each vendor booth. So we were a bit leery before we wandered onto Toronto’s Sugar Beach on a beautiful June evening to try the Toronto Wine & Spirit Festival (TWSF) for the first time. This laidback, fun event turned out to be the exact opposite of what we’d feared – this is one big festival I can’t wait to attend again.

TWSF is one of the best run events I’ve attended and we had a fantastic time. We both agreed that it was a pretty fabulous date night. First off, Sugar Beach is the perfect venue for an event like this – there was plenty of room for the vendors to spread out and attendees could sprawl out in a beach chair or in the sand to watch one of the bands or just chat with friends. All this space meant it didn’t feel too crowded, even on a busy Friday night. Those of you who have had to fight your way through a crush of elbows and spilled beer to get to a vendor’s booth will understand why this is awesome.

There was also a good variety of vendors, meaning you could try interesting new drinks and find something for everyone. Shawn fell hard for Station Cold Brew Coffee with Jameson Irish Whiskey and I have decided that Pisco Gobernador and pineapple juice is a perfect summer cocktail. I also learned that I never, ever want a smoked watermelon cocktail or sake with cucumber juice again (although some people seemed to love them).

The wine selection wasn’t as strong as the spirits, but Creekside Estate Winery had some very good wines on offer and there was a booth featuring the wines of Twenty Valley. We also tried two wines from Silver Bay, which I wasn’t familiar with prior to the event. I’m looking forward to visiting the winery to do a proper tasting. This wasn’t a good environment for wine tasting and Shawn and I decided to just enjoy ourselves rather than write tasting notes. Sipping a glass of wine together while looking out on Lake Ontario is sometimes better when you’re not talking about malolactic fermentation (sometimes).

One of the best parts of the night was the food. No over paying for tiny samples at this event! There was an area set up with food trucks offering everything from gourmet vegetarian to barbecue. Shawn and I were both impressed with The Saucy Pierogi (we may have gone back for seconds…) and I enjoyed checking out the vegetarian food truck while Shawn tried a pulled pork sandwich. I also couldn’t resist of plate of Oyster Boy oysters (my food kryptonite – my willpower crumbles when I see oysters on a menu). All the food we purchased was reasonably priced for the quantity and the lines moved very quickly.

And huge kudos to the organizers for partnering with Beck Taxi. When we were ready to head home we stepped outside the gates and right into a waiting taxi. This venue was easy to get to and there were lots of safe and easy options for getting home at the end of the night.

While our entrance fee was complimentary, we paid for our own food and beverages and all opinions are our own.