Best Wine Class in Toronto? IWEG WSET Wine Courses

By Marnie Williamson, IWEG Looking to take a wine class in Toronto, but perhaps having difficulty deciding where to study? Here are the top 10 reasons to choose the Independent Wine Education Guild (IWEG): 1) Leader in Education – IWEG has been leading wine and spirits education in Canada for almost 40 years. In 1977, the IWEG became the first Approved Program Provider (APP) for the Wine Spirits and Education Trust (WSET) outside of London, U.K. 2) Depth and Breadth of Instructors – 25 certified instructors, subject-matter experts, with extensive experience in the wine and spirits industry, dedicated and passionate […]

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Top Sommeliers Compete for National Title: Video Part 2

I’ve updated this blog post that was published previously with the details of this year’s sommelier competition. The discussion in the video remains relevant. You can get more details and to get tickets to this year’s competition for Canada’s Best Sommelier here. You can also read other sommelier profiles here. We continue our video chat below with Master Sommelier Bruce Wallner about Canada’s Best Sommelier Competition in Halifax this month. We find out why the Quebec sommeliers are such fierce competitors (think Cobra Kai in the Karate Kid) and the next competitions for the successful candidate. You can also watch […]

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Canada’s Best Sommelier Competition: Bruce Wallner Video

In the video chat below Bruce Wallner, recently named Ontario’s Best Sommelier, talks about participating in the Best Canadian Sommelier Competition this month in Halifax. He’s already a certified Master Sommelier and has worked in restaurants around the world, including Australia, Spain and the UK. We also talked about what made him want to become a sommelier originally (some interesting comparisons with the world’s oldest profession), the role of a sommelier and what he enjoys most about the job. Tell us about the competition: who enters and what do you have to do to compete? This event is hosted by […]

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Sommelier Loves Pairing Wine with PEI Shellfish and Seafood

Lesley Quinn, Sommelier, Sim’s Corner Steakhouse and Oyster Bar in Charlottetown, PEI Was wine a part of your family’s meals when you were young? I grew up in a small farming community on Prince Edward Island, with two older brothers. Wine wasn’t a part of our meals at home. However, my mother worked in the tourism industry, and she was host to journalists from around the world. She’d take me with her to meals with them, and it was during one of those dinners, that I had my first sip of wine. Apparently, I described it as tasting like sour grape juice. What […]

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Toronto Sommelier at Four Seasons Pours a Glass for Chef Thomas Keller

Drew Walker, wine director at Café Boulud & D Bar in Toronto’s Four Seasons Hotel. Where did you grow up? I grew up in Niagara, in Port Dalhousie, with my parents Bruce and Nancy, and my older sister Kate. Tell us about a time when your life was different? When I was 19 years old, I lived in the Caribbean and worked long hours as a bartender in a great little bistro in the Cayman Islands. It was my first experience in the food and beverage industry, and it shaped me quite a lot.  I learned so much from the […]

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Hot Child in the City: Beckta Restaurants Ignite Ottawa Dining

Note: I’m finally posting this story online: it was originally published in Ottawa Magazine, the sister publication of Toronto Life, back in 2003 when Steve Beckta opened his first restaurant on Nepean Street. Why now? Two reasons. First, the story still gives you an insider peak backstage at a top-notch restaurant and what’s like to be in a small, hot, high-performance kitchen. Second, Steve is about to move from his original location on Nepean to Grant House at 150 Elgin Street, which was built in 1875 and is undergoing a $3.5 million renovation (pictured above) for a November 19 opening. […]

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The Passion of Steve Beckta: Hospitality and Service

Continued from Part 1: Steve Beckta Restaurant Eight months later, the capital has become bricks and mortar. This morning, the restaurant is dark, cool and silent like a stage set. Even in shadow, the Mediterranean tones are soothing: the azure sky splashed on the walls, the amber setting sun on the suede chairs and the field-flower dappled yellow of the maple floors. The glassware on the tables glints like sun catching on the sea. Paul Quinn, the general manager, comes out from the back to the bar and offers me a cup of tar-black coffee, then, with a shaky hand […]

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Backstage at the Hottest Dining Ticket in Ottawa

Continued from Part 2: Steve Beckta Restaurant Pastry chef Rebecca Macmurdo isn’t listening to the banter; she looks as though she’s trying to defuse a bomb hidden under the caramelized bananas. She works with small, deft hand movements, her face is inches from the plate. She’s responsible for both desserts and canapés, she is the first and last person to touch every diner’s meal. “I like prep,” she says cheerfully as she sets up her line of ingredients—golden beets, baby heirloom tomatoes, micro greens, beet and sugar jellies and caramel crunch. Later in the afternoon, I venture downstairs to another […]

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How do You Define Restaurant Hospitality? Take it with a Grain of Sea Salt

Continued from Part 3: Steve Beckta Restaurant At 5:30 p.m. Beckta greets the first guests, chats amiably for a few minutes, and then hostess Anique Montambault escorts them to their seats. Soon, the early guests are floating through their conversations on their first glass of wine. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the first wave of canapé and appetizer orders hits Macmurdo. The servers buzz around her “pass,” the eye-level counter where she puts up the amuse bouche canapés and salads as they’re ready. It’s the narrowest point in this river of activity where the pace either flows or chokes. Ripples of […]

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Why Do Restaurant Reviews Dismiss Wine?

Continued from Part 4: Steve Beckta Restaurant Tonight, though, there are no kids in the place; and the adults have moved beyond their starters to the main courses. In the kitchen, the first ripple hits the entrée station. Vardy, now standing between Fraser and cook J.P. Filion, tapes his wristwatch to the beam of his station. “How long you looking at Ross?” Vardy asks. “Five minutes,” Fraser replies. He’s searing foie gras, which will be topped with a caramelized blini made by Filion and then Vardy will finish them both with apple butter. In minutes Fraser and Filion contribute their […]

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