Summer Wines Under $20

If there is anything better than a good bottle of wine, it’s certainly a good bottle of wine that doesn’t break the bank. You certainly don’t need to be utilitarian toward the nectar to leave LCBO with a few bottles in hand and money left in your pocket for cheese, charcuterie, and other goods for an afternoon in a park or a balcony. Here is a list of wines we’re drinking this summer under $20 not just because we’re on budget but also because we know what’s good for us.

Anselmi San Vincenzo — $16.95

Made with Garganega grapes, those familiar with Soave will find that Anselmi San Vincenzo is a good alternative with distinct aromas of lavender and tropical fruits. The dry white wine has a touch of sweetness that goes well with light meals and it’s surprisingly great with raw dishes, like sushi or ceviché.

Roscato Rosso Igt Provincia Di Pavia — $14.95

I had a chance to try Roscato Rosso at iYellow Wine Cave the other day and, though I’m not usually a fan of sweeter wines, it won me over completely with its ruby color, berry flavors, and tantalizing bubbles, which it gets from a secondary fermentation process. It’s best chilled and, though I haven’t tried this myself yet, I imagine its fruity notes will be a fantastic addition to an afternoon sangria.

Clos de Beauregard Vieilles Vignes Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2015 — $16.95

This extra dry bottle is nothing short of a great muscadet. It has a unique minerality and saltiness in addition to notes of apples that earned it 75th place in the 2016 Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Best Buys, which may seem like a small thing until one considers how many bottles of wine are produced in the world each year (something like 31 billion). If you want to expand your white wine palette, this is the place to start.

Kuhlmann-Platz Riesling 2014 — $16.95

This Alsatian riesling is from Cave Vinicole de Hunawihr, a cooperative dating back to 1958, which has since earned a fine reputation for its quality. This particular bottle has notes of honey and fresh fruits, which would be perfect to drink in an afternoon while waiting for things to happen or slouching toward the dinner table.

Château Lamartine Prestige du Malbec 2013 — $19.95

Cahor is a lesser known region in France — it was ravaged by frost and politics alike, which left its economy and reputation in the ditch for a while — but its history dates back to the Ancient Romans. Its wines are known as black wine for their inky color and depth. This particular bottle is a good representation of Cahor’s malbec wines. It is tannic and smoky but also layered with black fruits. This rich wine was also wood aged, which gives it an extra layer of depth.

Bars Around Town: Cocktails as Odes

Artwork by Michelle Cheung for Novella Magazine

Famous Last Words is what is known as a book-themed or a literary-themed bar; it has shelves of books, book-inspired names for cocktails, typewriter typography on the menu that’s divided into chapters and adorned with literary quotes as footnotes. However, FLW is neither an ill-conceived ode to particular authors known for their drinking habits — Hemingway, Bukowski, etc. — and the kind of masculinity that’s mistakenly associated with them, nor a botched attempt at some Oxfordian quaintness. Though the namesake of the bar is Timothy Findley’s 1981 novel, Famous Last Words, it is clear, when one sees the bartop made of 11,000 Scrabble tiles, that FLW is not meanly precise about its literary allusions, but generous in spirit and playful, a bar made and run by an avid reader with equal passion for cocktails. It is less a themed bar and more of a place where books and drinks just pleasantly happen to commingle. Which may be disappointing to those looking to indulge in picture-taking and bibliophily, but highly rewarding for someone looking to have a drink or two, read a book, and talk about this or that author, sentence, comma.

The cocktail menu is divided into three chapters: the Beach Reads (this one, seasonal), the Modernists, and the Classics. Of the Beach Reads — summer cocktails designed to go down smoothly — ‘Fool’ (the title of Christopher Moore’s 2009 novel) is made with gin, vanilla black-tea syrup, lemon, cream, and egg whites, and is frothy and sweet. It is somehow coconutty and dangerously easy to drink. ‘Everyone Brave is Forgiven’ (the title of Chris Cleave’s 2016 novel), from the second chapter, is also gin-based and is made with earl grey-infused Bombay Sapphire, lillet blanc, lemon, and lavender. It has the bitter sweetness of the bergamot and the freshness of the lemon. A few petals of dried lavender float on top and they reward with subtle flavor and beauty. The cocktail isn’t finely strained so that refreshing cracklings of ice sit on top. And last but not least, Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel), is FLW’s take on the Old Fashioned. It is made with Forty Creek Copper Pot Whiskey (which I was told was a rye), maple simple syrup, bitters, and flamed orange zest, and is served with a single ice cube. Though a bit on the sweet side — I’m not sure if this is due to the whiskey or the syrup or the ratio or something else entirely — Fahrenheit 451 is an approachable old fashioned. Most cocktails are only around $12 but are made with ingredients and skills one would often associate with posh speakeasies.

On a recent visit, the only thing I found amiss was Taylor Swift’s voice on the radio. But soon the bartender switched it off and put on the XX’s latest album, I See Youand made everything nice again. It was a hot day and the door and the patio doors were left open to let the breeze in from Pacific Ave. There was a group on a table for three by the patio that steadily grew in number and the bartender quietly brought out chairs from the backroom. A young couple sat on the couch and discussed furniture; at the bar, a baseball fan watched baseball on his phone; a book club gathered in the back of the room. Everyone was at ease.

Famous Last Words is located on 392 Pacific Ave. in the Junction and is closed on Mondays. Check out their specials like Whiskey Wednesday ($2 off whiskey drinks) and the figurative graphic of Napoleon’s Russian Campaign of 1812 in the men’s bathroom marked as ‘Oscar Wildes’ in Scrabble tiles (the women’s is marked as ‘Jane Austens’).

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Toben Food’s Take on Family Style Catering

Brother and sister duo Toben and Elana Kochman are co-owners of Toben Food by Design, an international culinary experience. Executive chef Toben Kochman graduated from Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts in Paris and stayed to work at Apicius, a two star Michelin restaurant. He came back to Toronto and worked under Susur Lee as his sous chef at Lee. Then he and his sister Elana combined efforts and Toben Food by Design was born over ten years ago.

“It’s kind of a global cuisine inspired by parts of Asia, to more classical French to Italian to right here within our landscape in Ontario,” says Elana. “It’s really kind of this fusion of international cuisine coupled with the freshest, most seasonal available ingredients that we can get our hands on.”


The team finds itself often asked about its family style wedding catering. Essentially a shared meal, it evokes the nostalgia of Sunday night family dinners or holiday meals spent passing around the mashed potatoes and roast chicken. Except in this case, everyone’s passing around Grilled Whole Sicilian Branzino (recipe at the end of this post) and Fingering Potato Salad, which include lobster, grilled corn, bacon lardons, scallions, and chives.

At the moment, their most popular dish is the Southern Barbecue Braised Beef Brisket smothered in a Memphis style red wine molasses barbecue sauce. Elana recalls her favourite dish, the Watermelon Salad , which combines ingredients like sheep’s milk feta, black beans, corn, and mint. “It’s the most refreshing thing ever!”

The most interesting dish? A house made apple chip, first poached and marinated in star anise and allspice, then oven dried and topped with smoked chicken sausage, red wine braised cabbage, and mustard, all house made. Hours of process and assembly packed into a bite sized hors d’oeuvre.

To keep it fresh and local, family style menus depend on the season. If a client is interested in this style, Toben will pull out their short list of salads, mains, and sides to choose from. Clients are usually asked to choose two salads to start, two mains (protein, usually a meat and a fish, although there are vegetarian options available), and two or three sides. Dessert can also be served family style on the table but after sitting for so long, more people choose to have a dessert table.

Guests are essentially sampling double what they would in a family style setting as opposed to a plated meal. “Even though you’re not doing the sides and mains for 100 percent of the guest count each, you still need to prepare 75 percent of each dish.”  While guests are eating a 4oz portions of the brisket rather than an 8oz portions, and a smaller 3.5oz piece of fish, everyone will still want to try everything.

Kids also have their own menu of flatbreads, chicken fingers, little cones with french fries, and mini crudité cups, all served family style as well. This way, everyone can join in on the fun!

GRILLED WHOLE SICILLIAN BRANZINO

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 whole Branzino fish (sometimes referred to as European Sea Bass), scales and innards removed
  • 4 cups fennel, shaved on a mandolin
  • ½ cup fennel fronds, rough chopped
  • 1 whole lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 whole lemons, sliced into ½ cm thick rounds
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tbsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 3 whole oranges, peeled and sliced into segments
  • 3 whole grapefruit, peeled and sliced into segments

METHOD

  • In a small mixing bowl combine the lemon juice, half of the olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper and mix with a fork and set aside.
  • Preheat a clean grill to medium-high. Combine the remainder of the olive oil, lemon zest, salt and pepper and rub generously all over the interior and exterior of the cleaned fish.
  • Assemble the sliced lemon rounds on the interior of the fish.
  • Gently lay the seasoned fish on the preheated grill and cook for 5-7 minutes per side with the lid closed if using a BBQ. Gently flip the fish over and continue to cook on the other side.
  • While the fish is cooking combine the shaved fennel, orange segments, grapefruit segments, lemon juice and olive oil mixture from step 1 and gently toss to combine.

To serve, carefully remove the whole fish from the grill and transfer to a platter and assemble the shaved fennel and citrus segment salad alongside. Garnish with a sprinkling of the rough chopped fennel fronds and serve immediately.

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Novella’s Summer Sangria Recipes

The sun is shining, the temperature has reached above 20 degrees celsius, and patio season has officially arrived! You know what that means? Sangria. Nothing quite goes hand in hand like patios and sangria. In case they aren’t already, sangria recipes need to be a part of your summer entertaining, immediately. With that said, I have officially dubbed the summer of 2017 the Summer of Sangria! So, for the days you want to indulge in a refreshing batch of the famous Spanish beverage without venturing to a patio, here are two simple sangria recipes to make at home!

Red Wine Sangria

Wine takes the center stage when it comes to sangria; it is the livelihood of the drink. To make a more traditional Spanish red sangria, choose a medium-bodied red wine that is dry and slightly fruity, like a merlot. If you want to make it truly authentic, use a real Spanish red wine like Tempranillo, Garnacha, or other Rioja wines. Just a reminder, the wine doesn’t have to be fancy and expensive to make good sangria!

  • 1 bottle of red wine
  • 1/4 cup of cherry brandy (you could also use rum)
  • 1/4 cup of orange liqueur (Cointreau)
  • 1 orange
  • Handfuls of raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries
  • 200 ml of orange juice or 1-3 tbsp of sugar or simple syrup (optional, depending on the desired level of sweetness)

Slice the orange and add berries to a pitcher. Add booze and wine and give everything a good stir. It’s sangria, don’t over think it! Tuck the pitcher into the fridge and leave for at least two hours to let all the flavours steep together and allow the contents to chill.

Instead of adding carbonation to the actual sangria pitcher, this sangria will more enjoyable if bubbles are added to top off your glass. The best way to serve sangria is over ice and topped with club soda, lemon or lime soda, or even sparkling water. Now relax and enjoy!

White Wine Sangria

Don’t fret! If you’re not a red wine person, you can still enjoy a variation of the Spanish favourite. In Spain it is also known as “sangria blanca.” Similar to the red, when choosing a white wine for sangria, you want to pick something that is dry, crisp, and unoaked. Sangria is supposed to gain sweetness from fruit or a touch of sugar, so picking a drier wine is always best. Pick something like a Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, dry Riesling, or a Portuguese wine like a Vinho Verde.

  • 1 bottle of white wine
  • 1/4 cup of triple sec
  • 1/4 peach schnapps
  • 1 orange
  • Handfuls of pineapple slices and strawberries
  • 170ml of pineapple juice or 1-3 tbsp of sugar or simple syrup (optional, depending on the desired level of sweetness)

Just like the red, mix everything together, let it stand in the fridge for as long as you can (at least a couple of hours), and serve over ice and dilute with bubbles of your choice!

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Where Toronto Eats: Latin World

Latin World is a Mexican and Latin American restaurant located on Bloor West.

Latin World is a grocery store taqueria that offers, alongside the traditional tacos, dishes from other parts of the Latin America. As with many grocery + taqueria combos, Latin World is, despite its yellow and orange banner outside, a small hole in the wall you can easily miss, perhaps distracted by the looming castle-typography adorned gentleman’s club just a block away. What’s harder to pass by, however, is the smell of the food wafting out of the door onto Bloor West. It’s tantalizing on a late afternoon when the store keeps its door ajar. On a recent visit, I wasn’t even hungry but went in anyways. It’s that irresistible.

Once inside, the signs are clear: this is going to be good. A long wall is covered with shelves of Latin American pantry stables; some of them familiar like P.A.N cornmeals, El Yucateco hot sauces, cans of chipotle, dried chili of various colors and sizes; some not, like cleaning products, mysterious canned goods, drink mixes, etc. It’s the equivalent of walking into a Chinese noodle shop and seeing four things on the handwritten menu — this is going to be, in today’s ambiguous parlance, authentic.

Though in what ways and to what extent visual signs and cultural cues signal authenticity or quality in an ethnic restaurant is unclear and ethically questionable, Latin World gives the non Latin individual with a taste for tamales the cravings, the excitement of having come a step closer to the real. After all, most people are both physically and financially very much detached from Tulum, Mexico, and René Redzepi’s kitchen while dizzyingly familiar with the representations of said world of luxurious authenticity (thanks, Jacob Richler).

But, unfortunately, and, to a degree, inevitably, Latin World is not that slice of a Latin world on Bloor. Though the complementary chips and hot sauces, tamales oaxaqueños — tasty masa, spicy pork, and little chicken — with mole, and the enchiladas are good, the tacos, the crown jewel of a taqueria, are highly disappointing. Perhaps this is harsh. But then again, perhaps cochinita pibil, my absolute favorite, — Yucatan-style roasted pork (traditionally a suckling pig marinated in citrus and wrapped in banana leaves) — shouldn’t be chewy and so damn spicy and not sweet and tangy. The carnitas and the fish were decent, if not great.

I’d be amiss to say that my stance on Latin World — neighborhood joint with great service, decent food, and daily specials— is entirely dependable, as my experience with pozole or flautas or variety of other offerings are limited. My fellow customers, who seemed familiar with the cook and the waitress, ordered a plate of quesadillas, enchiladas, and tampiqueña, and enjoyed themselves thoroughly. As it is the case in every ethnic restaurant, perhaps it’s a matter of knowing what to order. In this sense, perhaps, I’m wrong to say that Latin World isn’t a slice of the Latin world on Bloor. Who knows? Perhaps in Yucatan, unbeknownst to everyone outside, cochinita pibils are actually chewy and spicy and not melt-in-your-mouth, sweet, and tangy. The matter of Latin World’s authenticity, whatever that means, isn’t for me to judge. What I do know is that the other customers seemed perfectly happy, that the tamales are good, and that I know how I like my cochinita pibil.

Latin World, 1229 Bloor St W, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., though it’s sometimes open past 10. Continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.