This week I would like to talk about some of the surprising experiences I had in Canada...notably sampling the most delicious peaches I have had in the Northeast, as well as the vineyards. Sorry for the week delay but we were unplugged for that long for this delightful trip.
This summer we decided to take a road trip instead of risking a plane trip with crazy passengers and flight attendants, and travel to Ottawa, Toronto and Niagara Falls. While most of the food choices in that part of Canada seem to be hamburgers and anything fried, and very British-influenced (which is to say unconcerned with any kind of interesting cuisine) I was delightfully surprised at the quality of the fruits and vegetables in some of the local markets. We got a hint of this in Ottawa when we visited the fun and always hopping Byward Market, a concentration of fruit and vegetable markets, crafts, and interesting restaurants as well as a great people watching area, right in the middle of this majestic and architecturally interesting city. As it was the beginning of our trip, and with no place to store them, I felt I had to forgo purchasing any of the fragrant and attractively displayed fruit. I was so tempted to buy mounds of local peaches, grapes, blueberries and even fresh, and loose, cranberries. I wish there had been a way!
When we arrived in Niagara Falls for the last leg of our trip, I had no idea what was in store when we took an unexpected trip to Niagara-on-the-lake, a half hour trip northward along the Niagara River. We had arrived from Toronto, filled with bar food for the most part, and had already spent a couple of days ogling the Falls in total awe. Even though Niagara Falls itself is very commercial and busy, and again seems to revel in chain restaurants and bar food, we were lucky to be tucked in a hotel in a quieter section of the Falls area, with a picture window overlooking it all. I had given up, however, on any other than routine food experiences until we took our little trip to that small town up north.
We found out that the Niagara River and the lake it empties into, Lake Ontario, is surrounded by very rich and fertile land. There are numerous fruit farms and orchards in the area, which grow the most delicious fruit. We were told that most of the small farmers could not hire enough workers to maintain their orchards so many of the farmers converted their land to vineyards with much success. That section of Ontario has ideal growing conditions for fruit, especially certain kinds of grapes and happens to be at the same latitude as the Bordeaux region of France, surprisingly.
Niagara-on-the-lake, located on Lake Ontario, is a picturesque town with many cultural amenities. It has a walkable town center and with interesting shops and restaurants, surrounded by lovely homes. It has many bed-and-breakfasts, and numerous opportunities for wine tours, which is a major attraction. After spending a day in the town, we visited a few wineries on the way home and sampled some of their most delicious wines, including ice wines which are very expensive and made by extracting drops of the sweetest juices from grapes that have been frozen on the vines for three days. Ice wine is sweet, but not with the cloying sweetness of some German wines or port. It has the taste of the sweetness of fresh fruit...sweet with a satisfying hint of tartness. Their red table wine and red wine blends are also lovely, as is their un-oaked dry white wine. But their peach wine...Lord was that good. I got away with only buying six bottles, including some second-press ice wine which was yummy but not as expensive as the real stuff, which is upwards of $60 to $90 for a very small bottle.
Anyway, to the peaches: we also visited a couple of fruit markets on the way back and because we were returning home the next day, I bought several pounds of peaches, concord grapes, apricots, pears and the freshest corn you can imagine. The best of the lot were the peaches which tasted as delicious as the Sicilian peaches I sampled last year. They were freestone peaches, with flesh that was fragrant, sweet and tart, perfect for a peach.
HOW TO BUY A PEACH:
I bought my peaches at the side of the road from a Finnish lady who assured me that these were the best peaches ever. Although they were hard, they were deliciously fragrant. Buy them hard but avoid them if they have no smell! They will be tasteless and mealy even when ripe. When ripe a good peach will give a little: eat them immediately or refrigerate them for no more than a couple of days.
What do you do with a peach besides eating it fresh and unadorned?
GRILLED PEACHES with Vanilla ice cream
This is a simple recipe: Just cut along the peach, along the line, and twist to pop it apart. Then pop the pit out. Brush the flesh side with melted butter and dust with cinnamon and sugar if desired. Place on a medium grill which as been oiled and grill for about 5 minutes until the flesh shows grill marks. Take care not to burn! Turn over and grill the skin side for about 2-3 minutes. The peach should be tender but not mushy.
Serve hot with a scoop of vanilla ice cream...Haagen Das or another full fat totally rich brand!
PEACHES WITH WINE: a variation on the Italian version
Cut up a small peach into chunks. You can peel or leave on the skin, whichever you prefer. Place them in a wine glass. Fill the glass with dry white wine or half wine and half sparking water. By the time you finish the drink, the peaches will have soaked in the wine...enjoy the fruit! It is a refreshing treat on a hot summer day...
Enjoy the rest of the summer!