Rave: Spain vs. Portugal Wine Tasting at the University Club of Toronto

We work with a private members’ club called the University Club of Toronto. Recently, they held a private wine tasting, featuring wines from Spain and Portugal. We were able to invite a few of our food-loving friends to the evening, and we all enjoyed the delicious dinner and wines at the Club.

Tucked away in an innocuous-looking building on University Avenue, the UCT is a bit of a surprise when you first enter through its simple doors. The gorgeous black and white checkered floor leads to several little rooms tucked off the main hallway, each decorated with original Canadian art (from the likes of Tom Thompson and A.J. Casson). At the end of the hallway is a cozy, wood-panelled lounge, complete with overstuffed club chairs and a crackling fireplace.

Upstairs, the Club has several formal dining rooms, each with soaring ceilings, pillars and pretty chandeliers (they rent out these spaces for private events – it’s one of the best-kept venue secrets in the city, and you don’t need to be a UCT member). Here, amongst the crisp white linens, candles, and even more original artwork, is where we experienced the featured wines.

The company was great, and the talk quickly turned to a serious discussion about wine with William Delgado, member of the Portuguese Wine Trade and Arlindo Beca, also representing Portuguese wines.

Each dinner course was paired with either a Pieropan or Resalte wine, matched to chef Patrick Desmoulins’ precisely prepared dishes. As others have mentioned, the discreet service was impeccable, allowing us to enjoy every moment of the night.

Resalte’s winery in Spain.

Among our faves were the grilled prawns with garlic sauce and red pequillos. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the garlic sauce was delicious. We had to stop ourselves from licking the plate.

The homemade Parisienne-style gnocchi was light and melt-in-your-mouth, with a savoury pomodoro sauce. For dessert, the whole plate was amazing, which included brandied plum ice cream, but the handmade Spanish churros were the stand-out for us.

Of the fantastic wines sampled, the clean Pieropan Soave Classico White (2009) and the Resalte Vendimia Seleccionada Red (2009) pleased our palates the most.

The UCT offered a unique experience to taste wine and sample delicious cooking. Of course, a night with good conversation and good food will make any wine enjoyable, but this experience taught us to look for Spanish and Portuguese wines the next time we’re at the LCBO. Oh, and if you’re interested in becoming a UCT member, make sure to check out their membership offerings. Salud!


Yum, yum: Arroz con Mariscos

Plan now for a weekend feast: Arroz con Mariscos (Portuguese seafood with rice)

Add a little calor to your life with this delicioso Portuguese dish. The combination of fresh seafood, rice and simple seasonings get an extra kick from spicy Piri-Piri sauce. It’s quick, tastes divine and will give the (false) appearance you’ve spent hours slaving over a hot stove. Enjoy with a chilled vinho Branco (Portuguese white wine).

Image courtesy of http://www.terra.com.pe/
– 1 large onion, finely chopped
– 4 cloves of garlic, minced
– 2 bay leaves
– 1 bunch of parsley
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 4 cups rice
– 2 cups shrimp broth*
– 2 cups water
– 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
– 1 tbsp. tomato concentrate
– pinch saffron

– salt
– Piri-Piri sauce (a delicious Portuguese hot sauce made from Piri-Piri hot peppers)
– 2 pounds fresh seafood (if possible) – shrimp, mussels, white fish, scallops and octopus. If not fresh, frozen works well. Make sure to thaw and drain well before cooking.
– cilantro for garnish


1. Sauté onion, garlic, bay leaf, tomato concentrate and parsley in olive oil in a Dutch oven or stovetop-friendly casserole dish.
2. Add rice and mix well to make sure completely covered.
3. Add broth, water, salt, red pepper, saffron and Piri-Piri sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook until rice is soft (about 30 minutes).

4. Mix in seafood, cover and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the seafood!
5. Remove from heat, garnish with fresh cilantro and serve.

*Shrimp broth: after peeling shrimp, save the peelings, add 2.5 cups of water and simmer for about 30 minutes over low heat. The shells pack tons of flavour and will make a delicious broth.