Like Picasso with a paintbrush, Scotland with a tartan, or The Grinch with Cindy Lou Who, some things just go together. So it is with food and beverages—pairing your drink with a particular food item opens up a magical world of flavour combinations that complement, highlight, and excite the palate. Whether it is wine and cheese, porter and steak, or whisky and chocolate, there is no end to the wonderful pairings that simply work. The best part is that a well-paired food and spirited libation often brings out certain flavour notes that might be overlooked if one or the other were consumed on its own.
Food and beverage pairings are capturing the collective imagination and creativity of foodies everywhere. Here in York Durham Headwaters we have some wonderful artisan/producers of both the food and the beverage variety. We want to tell you about them…
But if you know us at all, then you won’t be surprised to learn that we’re not interested in feeding you the every-day, run-of-the-mill pairing suggestions. Nope, what we have to offer is our signature unique twist: unusual food and beverage pairings that we’re sure you haven’t thought of.
Bonus: Make it a three-course meal! Are you feeling adventurous? Have some free time on your hands that you’re looking to fill? Spend the day with your special someone travelling around our region to find these items, and make a full date-night meal out of it. You won’t be disappointed!
Appetizer: Spiced Pickled Beets from Landman Gardens and Bakery
No charcuterie board is complete without a pickled item of some kind. Of course, the large-chain supermarkets have entire aisles dedicated to the ordinary pickle. But let’s be honest: it’s simply not the same to open a jar that has been processed in a factory as it is to open a hand-canned jar of pickled preserves made with love and care. Plus, it is far more impressive to offer a handmade pickled delicacy if you are serving guests.
Landman Gardens and Bakery in Grand Valley is a family-owned business committed to providing quality food. Onsite at its farm kitchen pantry, or through its online ordering platform, Landman Gardens offers a wide variety of preserves—including the humble pickled beet. Of course, when we say “humble” we are being a bit tongue-in-cheek, for there is nothing humble about these beets. These are spiced pickled beets. These deep red babies bring to mind flavours of the old country, with rich, sweet notes of traditional pumpkin pie spices. This hearty fall vegetable will be the pickled star of your charcuterie board.
For pairing, we suggest:
GoodLot Farmstead Brewing: Breakfast in Bed
This rich porter is brought to you by the innovative farm-to-barrel brewers at GoodLot in Alton. It is a collaborative effort that features a generous, aromatic helping of Smile Tiger’s Ethiopia-Yirgacheffe coffee bean roast, cold-brewed with fresh local market basil herbs and Ontario Cascade hops. We already know that coffee and spices like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg are a perfect flavour combination, so pick up a bottle of Breakfast in Bed and enjoy a unique spin on this classic palate pairing.
Hockley Valley Brewing Company: Amber Ale
If porter is not your thing or you’re looking for something a little lighter, then Amber Ale from Hockley Brewing is sure to please your tastebuds. Inspired by the warmth and colour of a Canadian autumn, this rich red ale will delight you with aromas of toasted malts, warm biscuits, and fresh bread. Your charcuterie board will be sure to impress with Landman’s spiced pickled beets complimenting the delicate caramel finish of Hockley’s Amber Ale.
Entrée: Bison Steak from Thunder Ridge Bison Company
A fine steak and a good red wine—that’s the stuff of culinary dreams. Yes, you could go out for a steak dinner at your favourite steakhouse, but we have another idea: make your own. In keeping with our theme of unexpected food pairings, we suggest you try not a ribeye, not a T-bone, not a strip loin… but a bison steak!
You can get fresh, farm-raised bison right here in York Durham Headwaters. The Thunder Ridge Bison Company in Uxbridge is a family-run business that offers quality natural bison meat products. Their sustainable breeding methods are designed to encourage the growth of the once decimated bison population. Thunder Ridge bison are pasture-fed native grasses along with a healthy supply of the farm’s own apples. Help the Arnold family of Thunder Ridge Bison support the Bison One Million initiative to help rebuild the North American bison population.
For pairing, we suggest:
Holland Marsh Wineries: 2018 Ephemere Gamay Noir
What? We’re not suggesting a cabernet sauvignon to pair with your bison steak? We must be out of our minds! Okay, we readily admit that cab sauv and steak go well in any situation. And if you’re a die-hard cab sauver, then Holland Marsh has a number of delicious, full-bodied cabernet sauvignons and cab sauv blends that we would not hesitate to recommend. But hear us out: traditional beef steak has a greater proportion of fat than bison steak. As any good red wine enthusiast knows, a tannins-heavy wine like cabernet sauvignon pairs well with a well-marbled steak because the tannins soften the flavour of the fat.
With a leaner meat like bison, a gamay noir is perfectly suited. Holland Marsh’s 2018 Gamay Noir is fruit-forward, with aromas of ripe red fruit like strawberries, black currants and blueberries. It is called a white-drinker’s red for a reason. This red, which is lighter on tannins, balances well with milder, leaner meats. As the winery states of its Ephemere collection, “Ephemerality is the concept of things being transitory, existing only briefly. These wines pay homage to those moments.”
Did you know that Holland Marsh Wineries offers a home delivery wine club? You can choose from the Connoisseur or the Sommelier packages, and both include access to HMW’s e-newsletter, as well as a recipe card that provides pairing notes. Begin your wine pairing journey with the 2018 Ephemere Gamay Noir and the Thunder Ridge Bison Steak, and then let the team at Holland Marsh Wineries lead you on a journey of other delectable flavour combinations.
Dessert: Cider Donuts from Tyrone Mills
These babies aren’t your traditional coffee shop donuts. They are made fresh onsite at Tyrone Mills with the mill’s own apple cider. This historic location is a hidden gem tucked away in the hamlet of Tyrone, which is north of Historic Downtown Bowmanville. Brimming with charm, this working watermill built in 1846 is open year-round and is a magical spot to visit for all kinds of baked goods and other hand-crafted and specialty items. The cider donuts in particular are a Bowmanville favourite which burst with old-time charm… but don’t tell the locals that we let out their best kept secret!
For pairing, we suggest:
Last Straw Distillery : Darker Side Moonshine
For those that don’t know, moonshine has come a long way since its days of notoriety in the height of Prohibition. This product by Last Straw Distillery in Concord is a traditional southern moonshine recipe, distilled from corn and sugar. Aged for four months in a heavily-charred cask, it drinks like a young bourbon, without the up-front bite but plenty of warmth in the belly. It’s no wonder this lusty libation won a silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2019. This rich spirit is the perfect accompaniment to the sweet cider flavour of Tyrone Mills’ cider donuts.
Slabtown Cider Company: Legendary Cherry
In homage to the cider portion of the humble donut that we’ve recommended, we suggest you try one of our craft ciders brewed right here in York Durham Headwaters. Slabtown Cider Company in Uxbridge offers a twist on its Founder’s Dry recipe, adding a kick of Niagara tart cherries—a perfect balance to the sweetness of your cider donut. This cider is slightly tart, yet refreshingly crisp and easy to drink. The perfect end to your unique pairing meal.
Plan ahead and safely. Please check with all the businesses for hours of operation and protocols.
Story by Katherine Ryalen