#WineWednesday: A Midwinter Night’s Dream Edition

As you may have seen from Monday’s post or my Instagram feed, I’m super excited that A Midwinter Night’s Dream was featured on one of my favourite lifestyle blogs, Camille Styles on Monday. Camille always puts together the most gorgeous entertaining features and I was so happy to be featured talking about my dream dinner party guests, my entertaining rules and, most importantly, my wine pairing tips. I wanted to delve a little deeper into each of the wines (and spirit) that were presented in the feature.

Read below for my pairings with Creamy Tomato Soup, Barons of Beef Roast with Crispy Kale and a Chocolate Pomegranate Cake.

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Hugues le Juste Viognier with Creamy Tomato Soup

In the winter months, it’s really nice to start off dinner with a small bowl of vegetable soup. For this dinner, I wanted something warming yet elevated. Oftentimes having a creamy soup to start off can make you feel full and heavy, which is why I paired this with a bright white wine. There are some tropical flavours to this wine and it’s really nicely balanced between richness and acidity. It has a crisp finish that leaves you feeling refreshed, your appetite whet for what is to come. At $14.99, it’s a no brainer this holiday season and would be perfect served at your next holiday get together, or as a table wine during upcoming dinner parties.

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The Chocolate Block Red Blend with Barons of Beef Roast and Crispy Kale

There’s truly nothing like red wine and red meat. Instead of serving this beautiful piece of meat with something heavy like mashed potatoes, I wanted to lighten up the mood with some (equally delicious) kale chips. I also love how the colour of the kale kind of blended in with the meat and the other tones of the table. It all came together very well!

I’m quite familiar with South African white wines, but haven’t tried a ton of their reds. That’s all going to change now that I’ve tried The Chocolate Block Red Blend. Not only is it a beautiful bottle (love that font!) but the wine is equally is gorgeous. Small hints of spice are layered underneath this ripe-blackberry-flavoured red. It’s light tannins are perfect alongside the intensity of the meat, and the finish is perfectly smooth.

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Calvados Père-Magloire Jack Rose cocktail with Chocolate Cake (topped with Pomegranate Seeds)

Have you ever had a French Eaux de Vie? Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? This particular Eaux de Vie is an apple brandy from Normandy. It’s an absolutely perfect gift for the holidays (along with a couple cool martini glasses or a martini shaker perhaps!) The bottle is beautiful and it’s insanely delicious. I mixed this up with lemon and grenadine for a “grown up Shirley Temple” and it was the perfect way to finish off the meal. I used this recipe and couldn’t have been happier with it. The spirit has a strong apple flavour that refreshes your palate while helping you digest your food. Enough said!

What sort of food and wine pairings are you planning this holiday season?

Photos: Christie Graham Photography

Cozy Date Sunday Night Dinner: Dark & Stormy

I love pairing wine with food, but sometimes it’s nice to switch things up a little bit. A few months back, I had my first Dark & Stormy. I was surprised with how refreshing and light it was considering the name of the drink. I had a feeling it would pair really well with cheese – especially a mixture of smokey and creamy cheeses, and boy was I happy I was right! The refreshing nature of the cocktail (coming from the fresh lime and ginger beer) made it a perfect complement to the heartiness of the cheese. At the same time, it got my appetite ready for a heavy meal ahead. Read below for the easy recipe. This is something I’ll be making through every season.

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Dark and Stormy

Makes 1 cocktail

1 large ice cube
2 oz. Angostura dark rum
3 oz. ginger beer
1 oz. lime juice
lime wedge to garnish

1) Add ice cube to your favourite cocktail glass.
2) Add rum, ginger beer and lime juice. Stir to combine.
3) Garnish with lime wedge.

Make sure to check back tomorrow for the #WineWednesday post to accompany this Sunday Night Dinner!


Photos: Christie Graham Photography

Cozy Date Sunday Night Dinner: Beef Bourguignon & Truffle Herb Popcorn

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Yesterday I shared a cozy date night Sunday Night Dinner. Today, I want to share two very easy recipes that can both be made in advance and elevate your date night in to another level. When I think of comfort foods, my taste buds immediately gravitate to a few things: savoury, salty, and rich. That’s why I started the night off with a small selection of cheese and my favourite olives (castelvetrano). I paired this with a Dark and Stormy cocktail (more on that tomorrow). A small cheese plate and cocktail is always a great touch to whet your palate for the meal to come.

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In my mind, there’s nothing more wintery and cozy than a beef stew. Take it to the next level by making Beef Bourguignon and pairing it with a fancy-sounding red wine (more on that Wednesday). Read below for the Beef Bourguignon recipe.

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Most people like to end their meals with a little something sweet. Me? I prefer savoury. I popped up a big batch of truffle herb popcorn and served it with champagne. Easy and delicious.

Beef Bourguignon (adapted from Barefoot Contessa) with Parsnip Fries

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
8 oz bacon, chopped
2 pounds of stewing beef, dried
salt and pepper
1 pound of carrots, cut into 1 inch rounds
2 white onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bottle of cheap, dry red wine
2 cups of beef broth
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1/2 lb portobello mushrooms, cut into 1 inch pieces
handful of baby parsnips
olive oil
salt and pepper

1) Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the end off of the baby parsnips and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper.
2) Roast parsnips for 30 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside.
3) Change the oven temperature to 250F.
4) In a dutch oven (I have this exact one), add the olive oil on medium high. When hot, cook the bacon until crisp. Remove from pot.
5) Add the beef, one layer at a time, and brown on each side. Add to the bacon plate.
6) Add the carrots and onions with salt and pepper and cook until softened (10 mins).
7) Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (30 seconds).
8) Add back the meat and bacon. Add the bottle of wine and beef broth along with tomato paste and thyme.
9) Bring to a simmer, add the lid and put in the oven for 1 hour.
10) Meanwhile, sauté the mushrooms in 3 tbsp butter.
11) Mash up flour and 1 tbsp butter and add to the stew once removed from the oven.
12) Add the mushrooms and cook for 10 more minutes on the stove. Salt and pepper to taste.
13) Serve in a bowl with parsnips on the side.

Truffle Herb Popcorn  

Serves 4

1) In a small bowl, add a pinch of each dried thyme, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.
2) In air popper, pop 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels.
3) Add herb mixture and popped popcorn to big bowl with 1 tbsp truffle oil. Toss to combine.
4) Serve in individual bowls and topped with a sprinkling of grated parmesan.

Make sure to stop by tomorrow for an amazing Dark & Stormy cocktail recipe!

Photos: Christie Graham Photography

Sunday Night Dinner: Cozy Date Edition

During the cold winter months, there’s nothing I like more than cuddling up by the fire with warm food and a glass of red wine. It’s the best time of the year to get your house winter-ready by adding a new faux-fur blanket to your couch or even sprucing up your old throw pillows. The benefits of staying in? You’re most likely saving money, eating healthier, and it’s infinitely more relaxing! Why not move your date night in this month and enjoy the comforts of home? This Sunday Night Dinner is all about savouring quiet moments by the couch with good food, good wine, and even a good movie!

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: a small flower arrangement (by The Flower Factory) goes a long way. Try tying in the palates of the dinner: red berries stand out with the red wine, the white spray roses complement the marble table and thai orchids bring in the warmth of the gold.

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Eating around the coffee table is a comfy way to enjoy a night in. Just plop some furry pillows on the ground and you’ll be good to go!

sophie october- christie graham photography-4908It doesn’t get more simple than a tray of popcorn and champagne. Spice up your popcorn with your favourite mix of dried herbs and some truffle oil and you’ve elevated your savoury dessert to a whole new level.sophie october- christie graham photography-4898sophie october- christie graham photography-4931sophie october- christie graham photography-4833

Sunday Night Dinner – Cozy Date Edition

This Sunday Night Dinner was all about rich foods: cheese paired with a warming cocktail, beef bourguignon paired with a Burgundian red wine that is full of flavour, and popcorn and Champagne enjoyed while cozying up on the couch.

The goal for this Sunday Night Dinner was to keep things simple: a small flower arrangement, a few candles, but most importantly, time spent with someone you love. You don’t have to go over the top to enjoy a night in. Make it easier for you by making your favourite foods and enjoying a couple different types of drinks!

This idea would be as good for a date night in as it would be for a girls night at your place. The cheese plate is as easy to assemble as 1-2-3, the beef bourguignon can be made in advance, and what’s easier than popping up a bowl of popcorn? Not much. Entertaining at your home can be easy and special.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting my favourite beef bourguignon recipe along with an easy way to spruce up your popcorn. Tuesday will be focused on my favourite new cocktail recipe (umm, how delicious is ginger beer!?) and Wednesday, of course, I’ll be delving deeper into the food and wine pairings.

Pictures: Christie Graham Photography

Flowers: The Flower Factory

Rum for Dark & Stormy: Angostura – 7 Year Old Dark

Wine: Marquis de la Tour – Brut, Savigny Les Beaune Premiere Cru

Styling & Concept: Sophie Collins of Sip Savour Share

Table runner: West Elm

Gold flatware: West Elm

Pillows: Chapters

#WineWednesday – Fall Harvest Sunday Night Dinner Edition

As you all know, one of the main focuses of my blog is finding great-priced, attainable, delicious wines. When roaming the liquor store, I tend to stick to a $20 price point (this may seem outrageous for my American readers, but I assure you this is reasonable here). While there are places to splurge: a special occasion, champagne, port, table wine needs to be accessible and affordable. Luckily, there are a lot of affordable wines out there so I’m happy to share them with you all!

I really like doing wine pairings with my meals. It may seem fussy (not what I’m about) but I assure you with a few tips and tricks, you’ll get the hang of it in no time. I wanted to serve a white with the butternut squash soup and harvest salad, a red with the chicken and a port for dessert. I often tend to stick to this variation: start with the lightest wine, move to a heavier option for dinner, and finish with the heaviest (and sweetest) in small quantities. Sometimes, I throw all of the rules out the window, but for the most part I like to progressively get heavier with the wine pairings. By the end of my dinner parties, after a nimble of port, you’ll be ready to snooze (or dance).

Read below for my pairings for the Butternut Squash Soup & Harvest Salad, the Chicken Marbella, and the Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes.

Bringing in the bottlesSip October-47 Sip October-46moschofilero boutari + harvest saladFirst wine of the night: Moschofilero Boutari

Moschofilero Boutari 2012 with Butternut Squash Soup and Harvest Salad

At $15.99 (this wine is on special until Nov 1), this Greek white really surprised and delighted me. Greek wine has a reputation for being very light – which is perfect with Greek food, but doesn’t lend itself to heavier flavours. The Moschofilero, on the other hand, is bursting with aromatic flavours and floral scents and stood up perfectly with the soup and salad.

With the Butternut Squash Soup, the wine tasted crisp, had hints of apple flavours, and cut through the creaminess of the dish. It was a perfect start to the meal, especially with the contrast of warm soup and refreshing wine. The wine brought out the sweetness of the soup while still injecting a hit of acidity. A great way to end the summer and start the fall.

With the Harvest Salad, the crispness of the wine matched the salad perfectly. It was a foil for the gouda honey thyme cheese as, again, it’s zesty profile cut through the creamy cheese and brought out the stronger herbaceous flavour.

This is the type of wine you can drink by itself or with light dishes.

red to go with the chickensecond wine: cotes du rhone brunel de la gardine

2012 Brunel de la Gardine Côtes du Rhone with Chicken Marbella

It is rare to leave the liquor store with a great French wine that is under $20. At $17.99, this wine’s value is unparalleled. Upon first taste there are hints of blackcurrant and light tannins on the end. Throughout the meal, the wine completely opens up and shows more of its complexity. For this reason, I would reccomend pouring it into a decanter even just for a few moments to allow some oxygen through the wine. It has a good balance and the after taste is reminiscent of green pepper and blackberry.

It’s light, which allowed the strong chicken flavours to stand out, and fruit forward, which complemented the sweet undertones of the dish. The slight chocolate flavours allow the richness of the chicken filled with capers, bay leaves and olives to come to the surface. This is one of those reds that most people will gravitate towards, and is a safe bet for those who are new to red or new to wine pairing. It can be aged in your cellar (or wine rack) due to its Mourvèdre grape, allowing the smokey undertones to develop more and more.

cap off the night with some port: dow's ten year old tawny portport + pumpkin spice cupcakes

Dow’s Ten Year Old Tawny Port and Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

When planning the Harvest Dinner, I wanted to keep it pretty simple. This, for me, meant buying dessert. While this may have been eschewed decades ago, in this day and age, sometimes you simply don’t have time to do it all. Enter Sweet Bake Shop, my go-to bakery in Yaletown for desserts and birthday cakes alike. Luckily, they had added some fall items to their menu, namely this Pumpkin Spice Cupcake which was perfect for finishing off the meal with. And, what is more perfect then some port at the end of a long dinner party?

At first sniff, the port is jammy and reminiscent of brown sugar and raspberries. As Port is much higher in alcohol, you can smell this ruminating off of the glass, but it is cut with the sweet undertones.

With the Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes, the intense dried fruit flavour allows you to sip slowly and enjoy. Surprisingly, the port cuts the sweetness of the cupcakes, allowing the spiced flavours to stand out and linger.

See – easy peasy! For your first wine pairing meal, trying pairing one or two wines and work your way up to it! It’s a fun process so enjoy!

Photos: Christie Graham Photography

Flowers: The Flower Factory

Wine: The Bacchus Group

Styling: Sophie Collins of Sip Savour Share

Sunday Night Dinner: Fall Harvest Edition

There is something so romantic to me about the falling leaves, cozy nights by the fire and even the rainy mornings that fall brings. What better way to spend a fall evening than enveloped in the aromas of fall’s best produce, drinking some (reasonably priced) perfectly-paired wine and finishing off the night with seasonal treats? For this Sunday Night Dinner, I wanted to emulate the fall wine harvest that happens around this time every year. Leaves have turned colours and the grapes are ready to harvest. While we weren’t actually on a vineyard, it certainly felt like it. Between the colours of the flowers by The Flower Factory and the big red wine glasses, this easy-to-put together family-style feast transported me straight to Napa in the fall. I hope this Sunday Night Dinner brings you around the table with your loved ones to sip great wine, savour great food, and share the memories you’ll certainly make. Make sure to stay tuned all week as I recap the recipes and wine pairings as well!

All photos by the incredibly talented, Christie Graham Photography.

Fall Harvest Flowers by The Flower Factory

Fall harvest flowers by The Flower Factory

Bringing in the bottles

Prepping for the fall harvest dinner

Ready for the harvest dinner to start

Catching the last of the afternoon rays

Details are of utmost importance

Small details can make a big impact

First wine of the night: Moschofilero Boutari

First wine of the night: Moschofilero Boutari

moschofilero boutari + harvest salad

Moschofilero Boutari + my harvest salad

Sip October-16

Butternut squash soup

chicken marbella

Chicken Marbella

ready to be served

Ready to dine

Sip October-12

Candles always set the tone

fall harvest floral closeup

Fall harvest flowers closeup (The Flower Factory)

ready to dig in

Bon appétit!

it was a success

Plotting the next Sunday Night Dinner (to come next month!)

looking forward to the next Sunday Night Dinner!

Happy Fall!

Sunday Night Dinner – Fall Harvest Edition

When hosting a wine pairing dinner, you don’t have to worry too much about what your table will look like. Cooking whole, natural foods and pairing them with delicious wine will look beautiful enough! However, if you want to take your dinner party to the next level (don’t we all), I would suggest investing in a couple of items. First and foremost, a flower arrangement can really bring everything together. Gloria from The Flower Factory hit the nail on the head with her arrangement of cabernet-toned dahlias, rich snow berries, perfectly placed greenery, and even some dried wheat to tie it all together.

When picking up a new book at Chapter’s, I found these gorgeous serving boards made of real wood that complemented our table. I loved the variation of heights on the table and think it made the whole tablescape a little more interesting.

Now, onto one of my favourite parts of the table: the wine glasses. Ever since starting to watch Scandal a few months ago, I’ve had my eyes on these wine glasses. What can be more romantic and elevated than super tall, big red wine glasses? While they aren’t the most practical, that’s ok! Not everything has to be! It’s nice to have a few different types of glassware for different occasions. These are going to become my go-to wine glasses for dinner parties.

Overall, when entertaining I always remember to keep the focus on the food and wine and let that shape how I plan the rest of the night. Most importantly, flowers make a huge impact and they last for a week so don’t be afraid to buy a small arrangement for your next party. You’ll be glad you did!

Coming up tomorrow and Tuesday – all of the recipes from the food you see above. Most importantly, make sure to stop by on Wednesday for a full recap of the wines pictured here as well as their food pairings and tasting notes. It is #WineWednesday after all!

Pictures: Christie Graham Photography

Flowers: The Flower Factory

Wine: Moschofilero BoutariBrunel de la Gardine Cotes Du Rhone 2012Dow’s Ten Year Old Tawny Port

Styling & Concept: Sophie Collins of Sip Savour Share