Monday, November 30, 2009

August 2009: Slow Food Pelham’s year of living well

With August, Slow Food Pelham’s membership is gearing up for our second annual Featherstone Winery Lamb Roast. Every year, Dave Johnson, the winemaker and vineyard manager (and tractor driver, delivery man, floor sweeper, plumber, electrician, construction engineer, maintenance man, and occasional salesman) at Featherstone brings in a flock of lambs to thin the grape leaves on his vines, allowing the sun to fully ripen the grapes. The result is excellent wines from this small Victoria Road winery… and delicious lamb. Slow Food Pelham roasts two of Dave’s lambs on a spit at the winery and serves up a complete meal of lamb and local vegetables, accompanied by the outstanding Cabernet Franc produced at the winery. This is just one of the events that Slow Food Pelham has presented over its short lifespan.

It was only in February of 2008 that Slow Food Pelham introduced itself to the community with an information night at de la Terre bakery in Fonthill, followed by a gourmet dinner with Henry of Pelham wines at Wildflower restaurant in March. In July of last year, the group had a sensory evaluation and tasting activity under the expert guidance of Brock University’s Isabelle Lesschaeve, and followed the late August lamb roast with a visit to Jacobs Apple Farm on the outskirts of Fonthill to understand the problems faced by local producers.

This year, the group had an introduction to the mystique of cassoulet with a tasting and virtual demonstration in March. That was followed in April with a special presentation for a Seeds of Destiny talk: Slow Food Pelham provided lunch for those in attendance, emphasizing locally grown produce.

June was especially busy, with the Slow Food members enjoying a potluck lunch and comparative tasting of Meritage wines at Alvento Winery in Vineland. Meritage is the name given to red wines blended with Cabernet and Merlot… the traditional wines of Bordeaux. This blind tasting of Niagara’s 2006 vintage was especially interesting because, unknown to the tasters, two of the wines were identical. This serves both as a benchmark of the taster’s skill, and a humbling reminder of the difficulty of definitively evaluating wines. June also saw a Slow Food display at Fonthill Library, featuring some of the food-related books that Slow Food Pelham has donated to the library, and a presentation at Pelham Market that featured a taste comparison between California and Niagara strawberries (guess which won unanimously!) Later in the month, the group had an exclusive guided tour of Clos Jordanne winery… a facility normally not open to the public. This tour was just a week after Clos Jordanne’s chardonnay had stunned the wine world by winning a blind tasting in Montreal against all the best chards from both the New World (California and Australia) and Europe.

June peaked with a meal to remember at Fonthill’s ZEST Restaurant. Chef David Watt presented a five course spectacular that highlighted specific local farms and producers, including Lake Erie perch, greens from Pelham Market, Cumbrae Farms beef, and local strawberries… among other delights. Each course was paired with a matching wine from Alvento Winery and introduced by winemaker, Bruno Moos. The forty guests declared the evening a triumph.

It’s been a busy year for Slow Food Pelham and for Renée Giraud who is the leader of the Pelham Convivium and inspiration behind many of the group’s activities. And these are only the public events over the past year. Monthly meetings in members’ homes always feature great food prepared by members according to a monthly theme (from Asian to Spanish to French Canadian), and excellent wine, along with lively conversation in an appropriately “convivial” atmosphere. It doesn’t say anywhere that promoting the virtues of local food, well prepared, and served at leisure in a relaxed setting can’t be fun! For more information or to join, check the Slow Food website or email

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