What to Ask the Sommelier with Lesley Brown, Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers

Introduction Lesley Brown has been a part of the Canadian Wine Industry for the past 17 years and works with several high profile wine agencies. She holds an International Sommelier Diploma and has taught wine courses to hundreds of students. Lesley is currently the BC Regional Sales Manager for The Bacchus Group and she also sits on the board of directors for the Import Spirit and Vintners Association and has recently taken over as the President of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers (CAPS) BC and the Vice President of the CAPS National Board.   Highlights How did Lesley’s travels […]

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Ontario’s Best Sommelier to Compete for National Title

  Last night, we were joined by special guest Emily Pearce-Bibona who has just been named Ontario’s Best Sommelier in a gruelling day-long competition. Click on the arrow above to watch the video. We went behind the scenes with Emily to chat about what it was like to compete (and win) in this competition hosted by the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers. Plus, she shared her expert tips on tasting and enjoying wine, including how to choose a great bottle from a restaurant list, with the help of your sommelier, of course ;) You can read 69 comments here and make […]

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Vertigo Flights of Wine: CN Tower Restaurant Wine List Dazzling (and Dizzying)

James Muir, is the sommelier and maitre d’ at the 360 The Restaurant at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto. James manages the world’s highest wine cellar and has served many celebrities from Michelle Obama to John Travolta. What was your first wine experience? It was likely some low-end import wine from the depanneur, the corner convenience store where I lived in Montreal. I also tried Baby Duck at some point back then. However, more interesting wines were those from British Columbia in the 1980s. At that time, I experimented with pricier, imported bottles when I went out […]

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Sommelier Secrets on Weird Wine and Food Pairings, and Dream Cellar

In our latest sommelier profile, Jay Whiteley, who has been the sommelier and wine director at several of Canada’s best restaurants, most recently, The Chase in Toronto, shares his favourite and weirdest food and wine pairings, as well as tips on choosing from a restaurant wine list. What was your first wine experience? Learning how to say the word Gewürztraminer. Why did you move from BC, where you were working at one of the top restaurants in Vancouver, to join The Chase in Toronto? I moved for some personal reasons, but also to learn about the LCBO distribution system. Toronto […]

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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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