Wine -Destination : Niagara, Ontario

world wine Ontario
About an hour and half away from Toronto, the Niagara region once only known for its magnificent waterfalls is now a prime destination for a wine lovers. With nearly 100 wineries spread across the area there is enough to keep you busy for days. If you get bored with wine-tasting which is very unlikely, there is always the distilleries, the craft beer breweries and of course the falls.

The has a wine route planner to custom your own wine tour itinerary. You can cycle the trails, Segway the vineyards or even fly over in an helicopter. At Pebble Soup, we only had to hop in the car with our designated a driver. We are very lucky to have friends who immigrated to the area and though we miss them a lot, while we were dithering about visiting Canada, it gave them years to conduct applied research which they did with a thorough dedication for which we are grateful.
Niagara region

Somehow, I'd like to start with our last stop in Beamsville and a holding belonging to friends of our friends. The reason I want to do so is that meeting the proprietors of these vineyards has been refreshing experience. Their openness, fresh marketing drive, uncomplicated approach and readiness to approach organic viniculture is in stark contraction with the French Vignerons' way imbued in the notion of "terroir".
Ontario Wine - wine tasting - Niagaria area

But first, a tasting stop at the recently re-opened Kew vineyards with its incredibly beautiful mansion, its tasting patio, its crisp Riesling, soft Chardonnay, two of the original wines grown in the area and my favourite: a seductive sparking blanc de noir with tiny bubbles, hints of summer fruits and citrus.
Ontario Wine - wine tasting - Niagaria area

Then, our party trotted next door where a South-African couple hires out their vines to a co-op. To my utter surprised I was told, "A few years back, "ceps de vignes" in Bordeaux suffered a plague which devastated the harvest. Beamsville sent vine replacements and saved the day".

By contrast, we visited a castle-like-winery with vineyards on epic proportions: 13th Street in St Catherines where their, "Very first vines were planted in 1976. In the years since, they' ve planted Gamay Noir, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Gris and now have amassed more than 40 acres of estate vineyards in the VQA Creek Shores appellation of Niagara". It was interesting to see that here again, the first impression was, the hospitality, the openness.

13th Street is a well-oiled business. For $5 you get a flight of 3 tasting wine of your choosing. The wine is not pretentious, I rather liked the Riesling which has got such a bad reputation in Europe but somehow in Canada seems to have drop its "Nun habit" turned dryer and much much more robust.

More stops, a little tasting here, another there and we needed food which took us to a must visit  the Brewery in Silversmith, set in a beautiful, restored, old church.

Ontario craft beer movement has certainly grown fast over the past decade or so: according to Beer Canada, the number of licensed breweries in rose almost by 50% between 2008 and 2013.
The craft beers got the thumb up from him. And the pickle watermelon rind had me lost for words for a little while, a rare occasion indeed.

We had only one last stop to make on our way back: Dillon's distillery who produces a number of gins, vodkas, white whiskies, absinth..... and bitters. Alcoholic ingredients mixed with herbal essences, with the renaissance of cocktails' recipes, bitters are growing in popularity.

In my opinion, Ontario wine is much more adapted to the modernity of our lives. Generally refined by technology, wines produced in the area are better drunk young. In general, they didn't wow me, the way some Californian wine did, but it was a very pleasant experience so bring it on, export.... but leave ice wine behind please.

Next we crossed Canada from East to West by train. Read all about it soon in Trip Reporter.

Summer Soup: Coco Beans & Chorizo - Cold Soup-

First of all, I'd like to thank Pebble Soup readers for their patience. I disappeared without a word for a month but I promise if was for a good cause. I came back with loads of material and a few surprises in my bag and I look forward to reading your comments and reactions.
It all started in June when he solemnly declared that we needed a holiday NOW. So we hoped on a plane, direction Vienne. Not the Austrian capital, the Roman town, south of Lyon, on the way to the Riviera.
In spite of its regional importance, being the second largest county (department) town after Grenoble and all that, Vienne is off the tourists' radar. Its roman past left substantial remains still visible in the modern town, every year a jazz festival is held in the roman circus. From its association with the kingdom of Provence, there is a medieval castle but what draws me to the area is food and friends. Today, Vienne specialises in the food industry. Is it cause to effect? I know not, but there are numerous lovely restaurants in the area.
This time round, we were introduced to Le Brocard in Serpaize where Julien Taurant delights his clientele with subtle and tasty dishes. The place looks like a café but don't be fooled, the menu is on a par with the best in Lyon, capital of French gastronomy. All without the price tag  nor the pretentiousness attached to "haute cuisine."  
When we visited for lunch the menu was already wearing its summer clothes and I started with a cold soup. The dynamic chef would not reveal its secret so back home, I tried my hand at Coco Beans and Chorizo soup, the colour was different, the taste too but this is a keeper for the summer.
Coco Beans and Chorizo -Cold Soup-
      • 2 tins of cannellini
      • 2 pints of bouillon (I use my trusty marigold powder in hot water)
      • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
      • 2 garlic cloves
      • 1 large fresh rosemary sprig
      • 1 bay leaf
      • 1/2 a chorizo or 150g
      • 5tsp thick cream (optional)
      • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
      • 2 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
      • Small cubes of white bread (optional)
Place the drained cans in  the broth with salt and pepper and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, partially cover, and simmer.

In the meantime, in a frying pan add 1 tb of olive oil. When the oil is hot add the onion, smashed garlic rosemary and bay leaf. When a lovely smell tickles your nostrils and the garlic has slightly coloured add the chorizo.

Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid. Puree the beans in a blender with some of the liquid, the proportion is entirely up to you and how you like the consistency of your soup.

Sieving gives a smoother finish. Return puree to pot. Stir thyme, chorizo, and cream. Can be made 1 day ahead.

Chill uncovered until cold. Cover and keep chilled.
Before serving fry the croutons if using, salt and pepper.

What's New in the Kitchen #11 : On the Go

When hunger strikes, snacks and bite-size are handy. At Pebble Soup we have tried new products and here is what we think:

Nature Valley -Two New protein bars -  RRP £2.89 for 5 I am a fan of Nature Valley range. Their two new bars at 140 calories are available in multi-packs of 5 or individual bars. Both peanuts flavoured one with chocolate the other with seeds.
          When I tried them out, at first, I loved them, soft and tasty, the chocolate one looks really indulgent with its chocolate base. Then came along another brand to taste. Was it enough to change my mind to which is the best bar?

Yes, Tracker's Crunchy peanut bars RRP 1.99 for 5 with 127 calories at first glance looks smaller but the salted peanut taste comes through much stronger and therefore is more satisfying, so you would have thought that the winner had been found.
It was without counting on the Fabulous Bakers' bars RRP 1.50 for 5

The bars are unusual as they are thick and you can really taste all the ingredients. They are soft and not too sugary but they are not all equal in taste, in my opinion some work better than others. Mango and Pineapple tastes really fresh. This bar was my favourite. Between 130 and 150 calories per bar.

Each of the three brands had they own qualities: Nature Valley's looks indulgent and sometimes a little "pick me up and makes me feel naughty" is required. Tracker's taste indulgent with all the salty and peanut taste as for the Fabulous bakers bar they are scrumptious, even if snacking is not very healthy, these bars will give you the impression that it is.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the brands for sending their new products over. I was not requested to write a positive review.

Medieval Glamping at Warwick Castle

When I was a teenager, I came over on an exchange and stayed in Leamington Spa, a few miles away from Warwick Castle.
From 1000 miles away, my parents had selected Leamington, only as the blurb indicated that the town was right in the center of England. 

My host family took me everywhere. We travelled the length of the country. We, even, tripped down to Cornwall for  one day but never did we explore the surrounding area. 
Mind you, Warwick Castle back then, was probably a far cry from its present incarnation. Run by Merlin which is the same company looking after famous British tourist attractions like Alton Towers, the London Eye, Madame Tussauds and Thorpe Park, Warwick castle is much more that a boring medieval attraction. It's a whole experience which includes glamping in the beautiful castle grounds.

The Glamping site has 38 large tents, a couple of extra large one by the river, a banqueting/bar  tents, ample loos  and showers facilities. The tents are divided in houses, ours was in the house of Plessis. 

Though I was a little dismayed when reading in the Glamping pack that our Lord knight was the one who lost this magnificent castle to its enemies.

The tents are very comfortable. Each sleeps two adults and two children in wooden-framed beds. Bed linen is provided. This is far cry from a normal camping experience. Be aware, it gets a little chilly at night, but then nights in May are never very warm. 

The glamping experience includes two days Priority Castle tickets. My favourite attraction was the Time tower. A 15 minutes history of the castle recounted by framed portrait which jump from one frame to the next. The characters interacting as history rolls from one century to the next.
My least favourite was the Castle Dungeon which saw us herded in the bowels of the castle to listen to actors re-enacting tortures and trials. it's a long and dark 45 minutes filled with plague, rats and misery.

Then, there are the views from the castle ramparts walk, nothing breaks the view as far as the eyes can see. When up high looking down it's not hard to comprehend why in Warwick, all roads lead to the castle.
What is included in the price?

Glamping starts from £200 per night. It includes
an overnight stay for 4 with two days priority castle tickets, cooked or continental breakfast served in the Medieval tent.
VIP parking for two days

Free evening entertainment Jester’s School,  Knight’s School and have-a-go archery


Would I recommend it?
Absolutely, it makes for a fun packed week-end in an amazing setting. Where else would you have a go at archery, fly birds of prey and pretend you are a knight or a princess and be treated like one?

For more information see and to book call the
Glamping Hotline on 0871 663 1676 (lines open Monday – Friday 9am-5pm).

Read more about Glamping at Warwick

Disclaimer: we spent a week-end glamping at Warwick courtesy of Merlin Experience. My thanks to the staff of Warwick Castle and the White Tiger PR for making us so welcome and facilitating this post

RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Of gardening, I don't know very much. This being my first ever visit to Chelsea Flower Show. The floristry impressed me more than the garden did. Elaborates scenes made out of flower arrangements, of which some where truly incredible.  

Asparagus Soup

Asparagus soup #nationalvegetarianweek

I have written over 600 posts for Pebble Soup. With time, it would be pleasing to think that I know the recipe to write recipes.  That would imply that no blank screen is "scary" and by enlarge it is true.

Except when it comes to asparagus. Pretty much everything has been said about this spring vegetable. Comments have been passed on the increased UK production, now grown all the year round, soon we will not depend on Peruvian spears.

Even the Guardian devoted space to mercaptan, the sulphurous component which will make some people's pee smell, depending on the genes.

You see, there is little I could add to all this therefore I will let this much loved vegetable do the talking with a soup recipe. One word of warning though the amazing fresh spring green colour will depend very much on the asparagus cooking time, don't be tempted to overcook them and always salt the water before dropping the asparagus in.

Asparagus soup
400g of asparagus (cut off the woody bit a the end)
600ml vegetable or chicken stock
pinch of salt
a squeeze of lemon
ground pepper
To get the right consistency keep the proportions
Bring the stock ( personally, I favour chicken stock) to boil, add the salt, drop the asparagus in for 5 minutes
Liquidise transfer back to the saucepan add the lemon, the pepper, warm the soup for a little longer and serve.

The Londonaise & The Cochonette at the Angelus

"The Londonaise", a three days Pétanque tournament, now in its second year, is becoming a ‘hipster’ event. On the afternoon of Saturday 6 June a free Doubles Melee competition will take place in Barnard Park, Islington and you will be taking part. Mais oui! oui!
What's Pétanque?  
Pétanque is that funny boules game, old men play wherever you look when you holiday in the South of France. It involves a lots of hand gestures, near arguments resolved with another dose of Ricard and  another round of throwing hollow silver boules as close as possible to a tiny wooden ball called the cochonnet. 

Who would have thought that this oldfangled game was popular in London? As it happens among the "fana" of the game there is  the Angelus’ owner Thierry Tomasin.
He is so passionate about French boules that he put his mind to organising the UK’s largest public entry International Petanque tournament and  call it the ‘The Londonaise’ .....
It was an instant hit. This year, the festival will run over 3 days and host 128 teams.  It’s open to absolutely anyone from novices to experts with lots of prizes on offer.
The angelus Hyde Park LondonEveryone is invited to play on the 6th and if the day is anything like the evening he and I spent in the Angelus, Thierry Thomasin's restaurant. An art nouveau-style brasserie with fixed-price options and a lengthy, Franco-centric wine list, the event is going to be the friendliest, warmest sporting event of the year.
To promote the event The Angelus'  kitchen team have created a special dish entitled ‘The Cochonette’, which will be served as part of the restaurant’s set lunch menu for the whole of June.

Thierry explains, "Each element of this dish draws on the subtle nuances of the game of Petanque  for ‘A Sud de France’, experience that is savoured in the colours, textures and smell of the dish, all in honour of the Londonaise.”

‘The Cochonette’ special consists of braised shoulder of Provençal lamb encased in a golden, round case of pastry that represents the boule, and pulled pork rolled in crisp breadcrumbs to represent the cochonette. Both are accompanied by a Mediterranean vegetable tian and rich and moreish Champagne sauce, and balanced by fresh cos lettuce purée and charred herbs.
Angelus cochonnette menu preview Pebble Soup Petanque Londonaise

The Angelus' team was kind enough to make this dish especially for Pebble Soup to preview. We spend a cosy 2 hours eating boules and cochonnet and never before, the petanque looked so amazing nor tasted so good. It was a real wow moment. The lamb melting in its soft pastry case was a pure delight.

There was a moment when I regretted that the game is not played with more cochonets but as it was the portions were perfect, leaving us to dream about coming back to play, sorry eat some more.

Angelus cochonnette menu preview Pebble Soup Petanque Londonaise

Now for the practical details:
 The Londonaise Pétanque festival will see a 128 teams take part, as well as ‘Artisan British and French food stalls’. The festival also aims to raise funds for its associated charity ‘The Mercury Phoenix Trust’ which was set up in memory of Freddie Mercury and is responsible for raising awareness and funding charities globally in the worldwide fight against AIDS.
For more information and to enter, visit:
The Angelus
Address: 4 Bathurst Street, London W2 2SD
Phone:020 7402 0083
open from 10.00 for breakfast/brunch until 11.00
 Disclaimer: my grateful thanks to the kitchen team at the Angelus for re-creating the cochonette menu especially for us. This is not a paid post, words are my own.
Angelus on Urbanspoon

Give Away #30 : Lakeland's Picnic Party Cool Bag

Time to think picnic. At Pebble Soup HQ, we love picnics, for many years we organised a yearly friends and family event where by we tried to get as many people as we could to join us on One Tree Hill in Greenwich park. We stopped doing so 5 years ago but the event is due for a revival.

To make your picnic more enjoyable, the lovely Lakeland team is teaming up with Pebble Soup to offer a lucky reader this bright, family-sized cool bag which has a showerproof outer, terrific insulation and reflective, wipe-clean lining to keep contents cool. Worth £24.99
29.5 x 24.5 x 28cm. 15 litre. 

To be in with a chance to win enter via the rafflecopter below -Last entries Tuesday 19th May at midday - Good Luck

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Related Posts with Thumbnails