Archive for November, 2011

November 22, 2011

‘World’s Best Dark Ale’ only available in Ontario


Unibroue brewmaster Jerry Vietz and BeerBistro chef Michelle Usprech toast to the release of Grand Reserve 17 to LCBO stores. (Julia Pelish photo)

TORONTO — You don’t know Jerry Vietz, but if you like beer he’s no doubt brought joy into your life. Vietz is the brewmaster of Canada’s most acclaimed craft brewer, Unibroue, which will exhaust you of superlatives if you try to describe what its roster of beers has meant for the international reputation of Canadian brewing.

Since debuting with Blanche de Chambly in 1992, Unibroue has delivered flavourful, Belgian-style ales that stand up to Trappist stalwarts like Huyghe Brewery’s Delirium Tremens and Rochefort’s top brews. It’s also earned all the accolades to live up to its stature as one of the best breweries on the planet. La Fin du Monde, the top-selling Unibroue beer in the U.S., has won five platinum and six gold medals from the Chicago Beverage Tasting Institute’s World Beer Championships, and Unibroue beers have won 152 awards overall.

On Wednesday, Vietz was at BeerBistro in Toronto to unveil perhaps Unibroue’s finest creation, Grand Reserve 17, which in 2010 was named the World’s Best Dark Ale from the annual World Beer Awards in London. About 30 of us were invited to the event that also featured servings of BeerBistro chef Michelle Usprech’s Unibroue-infused cuisine and a special serving of a Christmas ale Vietz first made in his home. It’s not a surprise that Grand Reserve 17 is a delicious beer, what you will raise your eyebrow at, though, is how light it feels on your palate. Rather than a thick, rich ale like Maudite that announces the intent of its 8-percent alcohol content upon the first sip, Grand Reserve 17 is immensely smooth and easy to drink. It costs $9.95 for a 750-millilitre bottle and is available only at LCBO stores.

This beer with 10-percent alcohol content was the first Vietz created when he took over as brewmaster in 2007, after working at the brewery for more than four years. He calls Grand Reserve 17 “my baby.”

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November 17, 2011

Cool Copenhagen gives Toronto a treat

kings garden copenhagen

A walk through pristine King's Garden is one reason to visit Copenhagen. (Julia Pelish photo)

The Danes in Copenhagen sure know how to do things right.

They’ve got the best restaurant in the world, some of its finest architecture and a public transportation system any Torontonian would envy. On Tuesday, about 100 of us received the opportunity to enjoy an exceptional evening at the Gardiner Museum, where our province’s own phenom chef, Jamie Kennedy, teamed with one of Copenhagen’s greats, Paul Cunningham, to deliver a meal worthy of an award itself.

Called “Cool Copenhagen,” the night was about filling in guests on the splendour of life in Denmark’s capital while indulging in some top-notch cuisine and first-rate music by A Friend in London, who are in Mississauga recording their debut album and have a growing fan base in Ontario.

Kennedy started things off with a silky soup featuring pumpkin and sunchokes (or Jerusalem artichokes) harvested from his Prince Edward County farm on Monday. A sunchoke chip that crackled with flavour topped the dish, a terrific opener that was followed by the meal’s highlight: the Cunningham-prepared smoked mackerel and parsley salad that was salty and textured. The choice of fish was typically Danish (“we try not to overfish salmon and cod,” the Michelin-starred Cunningham told guests) but the presentation and flavours were distinct. Kennedy’s main course of Roast and Confit of Pork was served with brussels sprouts and beans from his farm. The roast pork was fabulous, with the tenderness of well-marinated duck and juicy flavours. Cunningham finished things with an interesting dessert of goat’s milk sorbet with a herb meringue that featured Chinese medicinal herbs as well as parsley and thyme. It was refreshing and impressively inventive.

“There are definitely differences,” Kennedy said about his way of cooking and Cunningham’s. “Danish cuisine is very traditional. Here, we’re still developing our cuisine. We’re a young country and we have a lot of different cultures. We won’t develop a national cuisine, I don’t think. It will be regional, and that’s because of a lot of factors, including proximity to water, or not, in some cases.”

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November 11, 2011

Frank Dodd, Jason Parsons are good friends running separate wineries

[Story first appeared on]

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, ONTARIO—Survive war and you’ll have friends for life. For chefs Frank Dodd and Jason Parsons, the field of battle was Cliveden House, a 160-year-old manor built along the Thames in a suburb of London. With a turreted roof and massive opulence, it looks like the kind of place a tyrant would call home and, according to the chefs who’ve apprenticed there, one has.

frank dodd hillebrand winery

Frank Dodd is the chef at the outstanding Hillebrand Winery, close to his friend's restaurant at Peller. (Julia Pelish photo)

Dodd spent six months training in the British armed services and says the best thing about that experience is it prepped him for Cliveden. Parsons calls the 12 months he spent at Cliveden between 1995-96 the toughest of his 37 years of life. His wife, Meg, says the man who used to run this particular hell’s kitchen “makes Gordon Ramsay look like a pansy.”

His name is Ron Maxfield. During his time in the Cliveden kitchen, he churned out a good amount of chefs and at least one pair of brothers in arms.

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November 3, 2011

This woman gave it all up to travel — would you?

SANTIAGO, GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR — Barbara Weibel says she’s no inspiration. If you’ve ever been tempted to spend your entire life seeing the world, you might disagree.

Barbara Weibel of Holeinthedonut

Barbara Weibel runs the popular travel blog

Weibel left her career in commercial real estate five years ago to explore Earth and she has no intention of stopping. With no fixed address, next to no personal belongings other than what she can fit in her backpack, no debt and no ambitions to return to the corporate world despite being down to $17,000 in her savings account, Weibel leads a nomadic life that has won her a sizeable audience for her blog,

Illness made the Floridian, by way of Illinois, commit to a dramatic change in her lifestyle. Weibel suffered from the most severe form of lyme disease, which is potentially fatal and kept her bed-ridden for weeks. “During my time in the hospital, I really had time to think about what I really wanted to do with my life. And I remembered when I was a teenager, I wanted to be a journalist, I wanted to be a war correspondent and travel to far-off places. But my father always told me that I needed a job and I needed to save for retirement and so that’s what I did,” said Weibel, who is 59.


She said she has started to bring in enough revenue from advertising on her blog and through freelance sales of her articles and photographs that she can continue pursuing her passion of seeing the world for the foreseeable future. Weibel’s focus is on telling stories of the different cultures she encounters, which are often far, far from the tourist path.

“So many of us wouldn’t do this because we worry about what our families would think of us, what our friends would think of us, what society would think of us,” said Weibel, “but when I was sick, I had to decide what was most important for me, what made me happy and what did I really want to do with my life. And this was it.”

In 2006, she loaded her backpack and left for Vietnam. “I thought it would be cathartic for me, because I am of the generation that went through the war.” She awoke to how another culture can have a distinct perspective on events. “The fact that they call it the American War, not the Vietnam War, that was eyeopening for me.”

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