Sommelier, Writer, Public Speaker, and Consultant Jamie Drummond

“Jamie Drummond is an extremely talented sommelier, possessing this unwavering ability to conduct beautiful harmony between food and wine as he expertly guides the diner to the conclusion that the experience is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Chef Jamie Kennedy
Toronto, Canada

13780941594_b2a3d2abcb_k

Picture by Wyatt Clough (2014)

Jamie Drummond is available for all manner of wine and food related projects: Sommelier services, private dinner party presentations, writing assignments, large corporate events, staff training, cellar management, wine program design, and more.

If you need convincing, click here for some recent testimonials.

Contact Jamie personally at jamie@jamiedrummond.ca

“Jamie tells the story of a wine. He goes beyond its origins, or how it was made, or what it tastes like. He digs for its essence, which always lies in the people behind the liquid in the bottle.”

Thomas Pennachetti, Vice-President
Cave Spring Cellars, Canada

19284524718_b7f5e4255c_o

“Jamie is part and parcel of our terroir.”

Charles Baker, Director of Marketing and Sales
Stratus Vineyards, Canada
Owner, Charles Baker Wines, Canada 

About Jamie Drummond:

Hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland, Jamie read Cultural Studies (B.A. Hons) at the University of East London where he developed a keen interest in music journalism. After writing for a number of UK music magazines, Jamie returned to his hometown, and began working as Sommelier at the Michelin-acclaimed Atrium restaurant for four years, while studying up to Diploma level with the Wine and Spirits Education Trust.

Moving to Canada in 1997, Jamie has worked as the Sommelier for both Toronto’s prestigious Granite Club (five years) and Chef Jamie Kennedy’s numerous restaurants, notably the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar (five years).

Jamie now acts as Director of Operations/Senior Editor of Good Food Media, an online publication dedicated to educating people about good food (and wine, beer, and spirits!) through the website Good Food Revolution, www.goodfoodrevolution.com

As well as writing for a number of publications (City Bites, Ricardo Cuisine, Wine Access), wine judging (Biovino, Intervin, Ontario Wine Awards, Royal Agricultural Winter Fair), Jamie also serves on Ocean Wise’s Ontario Advisory Board, and the organisational board of Toronto’s annual Terroir symposium, which is now entering its ninth year.

Over the years Jamie has published hundreds of audio, video, and text interviews with wine, food, and music personalities including Jancis Robinson MW, Hugh Johnson, Peter Gago (Penfolds), Chef Fergus Henderson (St. John), Chef Magnus Neillson (Faviken), Chef Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana), James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), Sam Neill (Two Paddocks), Randall Grahm (Bonny Doon), David Shrigley, Alberto Antonini, and Jamie Goode (Wine Anorak).

In March of 2012 Jamie was awarded a Fellowship of the Ontario Hostelry Institute for his contributions to the culinary, hospitality, and tourism industry, along with his personal and professional industry achievements.

From 2012 until 2014 Jamie Drummond took on the role of Wine and Beverage Columnist for Chatelaine magazine, one of Canada’s highest distribution print magazines.

“Bone dry, laser-sharp, with a touch of mischief and occasional deviations into wilder country, and just at that perfect stage of maturity when things get deep and complex, a fine Vintage Drummond is what I’d like around the table at my next dinner party or wine tasting”

John Szabo Master Sommelier
Toronto, Canada

Relevant Work History and Experience

Cultural Studies BA (3 Years), University of East London

Diploma from Wine and Spirits Education Trust

Relevant Work History and Experience

1993 -1997: Sommelier, Atrium Restaurant, Edinburgh, Scotland

1998 – 2003: Sommelier, Granite Club, Toronto

2004 – 2009: Wine Director, Jamie Kennedy Restaurants, Toronto

2012 – 2014: Wine Columnist, Chatelaine Magazine

2004 – 2016: Wine Director, Executive Committee, Terroir Symposium, Toronto

2012 – 2016: Member of Advisory Board, Ocean Wise

2009 – 2016: Freelance Writer (Wine Access, City Bites, Ricardo Cuisine, amongst others)

2009 – Present: Director of Programs/Senior Editor of online publication Good Food Revolution


Try This: 2012 Andrew Peller “Signature Series” Cabernet Franc

Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 10.28.15 AM  2012 Andrew Peller “Signature Series” Cabernet Franc, Four Mile Creek VQA, Ontario, Canada (Alc. 14%) $45.20 from winery While it usually takes some time to convince certain people that Ontario Cabernet Franc has the potential for making great wines, it’s pretty hard to deny the quality of this 2012 “Signature Series” release from Andrew Peller. Whilst dropping $45 on an Ontario wine may not be all of our readers idea of a fiscal good time, this particular bottle is well worth the money, and may be just the thing to convince the naysayers, with enough concentrated oomph to sway even a one-track-mind wine snob… in fact this would make for the perfect bottle to serve blind to such folks. Made entirely with estate fruit from the Carlton and Clark Farm vineyards, the wine saw substantial skin contact, giving us a many layered wine with incredible concentration and richness. The warm and dry 2012 vintage was extremely kind to Cabernet Franc, removing all traces of that dreaded greenness that so many equate with lesser Ontario wines. A year and a half of French/American oak, with over half being new, may seem excessive, but the deep, dark core of black fruit can certainly handle it, and in combination with the wine’s assertive tannic structure and alcohol, promises considerable longevity in the cellar. Aromatically one will find a intriguingly complex combination of black berry fruits (with just a whiff of ripe raspberry), woodsmoke, dried tobacco, sandalwood, vanilla pod, and nuances of exotic spices. Despite a strikingly sweet, ripe attack the weighty palate is firm, grippy and dry, with a seemingly endless spicy black fruit finish. While this could benefit from a few years sleeping on its side, it is drinking surprisingly well right now, just be sure to put it through a decent decant and drink slowly over a couple of hours to see how it develops on the table. I’d pair this up with more flavoursome lamb AKA mutton, slow roasted. Ah, my mouth is watering just thinking about that divine combination. Okay… time for lunch… 5 apples out of 5 (Five apples out of a possible five)… Outstanding.


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And this is a killer bottle.

The Grape Hunter: Grignolino

Grignolino

A bunch of Grignolino grapes just hanging around the other week. Spot the millerandage (uneven ripening), YIKES!

Any of you readers in any way familiar with Good Food Revolution will be more than aware of my passion for the wines of Beaujolais. As my palate evolves I have continually found myself craving the lighter hued, delicate tasting reds made with Gamay, Trousseau/Bastardo, Loire Cabernet Franc, and, of course, Pinot Noir. Now I can add to this list wines made with the Piedmontese Grignolino.

Whether the name Grignolino comes from a reference to the number of seeds in the berries (three in Grignolino, two in almost all other grapes), or the fact that the wines natural austerity can make one grimace (from the Piemontese Grignolé), there’s no denying that this is one wholly intriguing varietal.

Once known as Barbesino the grape was widely planted in the region, highly prized and often fetched the same prices as Barolo. Today Grignolino makes up a scant 1% of Piemontese plantings. When one looks at the details it’s not hard to see how this poor grape fell out of favour, seeing as it requires the most well exposed sites to come into its own, and, yes, those sites are almost always planted to grapes that reward the grower with healthier fiscal returns (read: Nebbiolo)… Yes, it’s the same old story once again.

The Grignolino is also prone to about everything going, whether we are talking about a terrible talent for succumbing to rot due to the vine’s tight clusters, through some old virus-ridden biotypes, to a propensity for chronic millerandage that can see some of the most uneven ripening I have ever witnessed. Oh yes, and due to the small berries and larger mass of pips, the bunches yield so much less juice that most other varietals.

So as you can see, the cards are hardly stacked in Grignolino’s favour.

And then there are the wines themselves: light in both hue (cranberry-hued with an orange rim is typical) and booziness (usually 11.5% – 12.5% alcohol) and inherently high in acid and tannins. As I stated at a recent seminar in Barolo “The wines of Grignolino are not for everyone, but they are certainly wines for me”; You see I happen to enjoy wines with such qualities, with delicate aromatics/flavours of tart raspberries, red cherries, and white pepper (a hint of rotundone perhaps?), and thankfully free from the cosmetic application of oak (more than enough tannins in there already thank you very much).

And of course with such acid and tannins the wines of Grignolino are delightful with all manner of dishes, making for some of the best food wines out there. Track some down today.


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And although this is not a grape for everyone, it is certainly a grape for me.

The Pleasures Of Picpoul with Claude Jourdan

Winemaker Claude Jourdan of Domaine Félines Jourdan enjoying some oysters by the sea.

Picpoul Winemaker Claude Jourdan of Domaine Félines Jourdan enjoying some oysters by the sea with some mighty firm sea breezes (is is evident in the video).

I can honestly say that I find there to be no finer a match for French oysters than the wines of Picpoul.

I’m sure I’ll ruffle a few traditionalists’ feathers when I beg you to forget about matching such specific shellfish with your overrated, overpriced Champagnes, your paint-strippingly unbalanced Chablis, and your manky murky-water Muscadets. For me these oft-referenced partnerships simply fade into insignificance beside my perfect combination.

With a crunchy, snappy, lip-smackingly acidic allure and an unmistakable in-your-face salinity, the better wines of Picpoul placed alongside bivalves pulled from salty Gallic coastal lagoons and bays are, for me, the absolute pinnacle of food and wine pairing.

"Heaven is exactly like where you are right now..."

“Heaven is exactly like where you are right now…”

With this in mind, you can imagine my delight when I was invited to taste through an array of Picpoul wines with simply massive platters of the local oysters upon the shores of Étang de Thau (Lake Thau), Languedoc.

After an afternoon in the sun (and brisk sea breezes) enjoying the briney bounties of the region, I took some time to chat with Winemaker Claude Jourdan of Félines Jourdan about her family’s estate and the wines of Picpoul in general.

A simply beautiful way to spend the latter part of a summer day… although those breezes certainly took their toll on the audio track, hence the subtitles!

If you are having trouble viewing this video please click here.


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And that Picpoul coupled with those local oysters was simply divine. Ahhhhhhhh…

Harvest of Hope: The Parkdale Co-op Cred Program

Eugene_Robbie
It was only recently that I heard about a marvellous community project in my old neighbourhood of Parkdale, and I was so impressed by the progressive thinking behind its workings that I felt moved to cover it for Good Food Revolution.

We sat down with volunteer Diana McNally to explore the innovative structure of the Parkdale Co-op Cred program.


Good Food Revolution: So Diana, how would you explain the Parkdale Co-op Cred program, and how and why did you come to be part of it?

Diana McNally: An instructor of mine in the Community Worker program at George Brown College, Robin Buyers, introduced me to the Co-op Cred program at the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC). It is an incredible example of a progressive food initiative in the city – one that builds the capacity of people to become truly food secure, instead of locking them into a perpetual cycle of ‘looking for the next meal’.

For context, most community food initiatives do the latter; that is, they only address the immediate hunger needs of participants. Beyond forcing folks to spend incredible amounts of time going from location to location just to have enough to eat, there are also no guarantees about the quantity, quality, nutritional value, dietary or cultural appropriateness of the food given. Food banks and drop-in meal centres are the most obvious examples of this type of food initiative, and unfortunately they exist only to provide emergency relief for hunger. That is, the systemic and systematic reasons as to why so many people are hungry are left unaddressed or acted upon – only the base need to not be hungry ‘in the moment’ is serviced.

In 2014, there were over a million visits to food banks in the GTA, with nearly 400,000 of those visitations occurring in downtown Toronto. We live in one of the richest countries in the world, so how can we have so many individuals and families struggling to find their next meal? To me, this points to a crisis in the ability of Canadians to access and afford food, and to deeper issues of economic marginalisation and the problematic notion of food as a commodity – not a necessity for life. Looking at those numbers, it’s apparent that emergency food initiatives are crucial, but that they are not a solution in-themselves – more so because the use of food banks in Canada is actually growing. More people are using them, and for longer periods of time. We need to rethink our food programs, our food systems, and our economic relations to food as a whole. I believe that it should be everyone’s fundamental right to never experience chronic hunger.

What drew me to Co-op Cred was it really goes beyond merely addressing hunger to look directly at some of the root causes of food insecurity in Parkdale.  In downtown Toronto, visitors to food banks primarily live alone, and most have a disability. There are lots of reasons why people may be disabled, including mental health barriers, addiction and recovery, chronic physical health conditions, having been injured on the job – the list goes on. I mean, if you live long enough, you will eventually have a disability, as will everyone.

In a neighbourhood like Parkdale, you’ll find that many economically marginalized and food insecure folks are older and disabled. They have a difficult time finding decent work, often because of stigma and the unwillingness or inability of employers to accommodate them. Because of this, lots of people have to go on social assistance – especially the Ontario Disability Support Program, or ODSP. Most of Co-op Cred’s participants are on ODSP. The issue with this is that the maximum monthly allowance for anyone in ODSP is only $1,098 a month, which is intended to cover rent, utilities, and basic living costs, like medication and food. It’s not surprising that lots of people may have trouble consistently affording healthy meals. The thing is, if you are on ODSP, and you go out and for wages just to have enough to live on, the provincial government only allows you to earn a maximum of $200 a month before they start taking your excess earnings away – 50 cents on every dollar you earn, to be exact. This is called “clawback,” and it is a huge barrier for people with disabilities in becoming truly income secure. However, individuals on ODSP can access other supporting benefits, and this is key within the Co-op Cred model.

How Co-op Cred works is that participants receive food credit at the West End Food Co-op, a community partner of PARC, as a benefit through their own voluntary labour – no currency is exchanged. Co-op Cred participants can then use this credit to shop for their choice of healthy, fresh, organic food and produce either at the Co-op, or at the Sorauren Farmers’ Market. As for volunteer labour, participants grow produce in the neighbourhood’s community gardens, which are managed by our other partner, Greenest City, or participate in retail services and kitchen preparation at the West End Food Co-op. The produce grown in the gardens is organically farmed and redistributed to the local food bank, whereas the pies, jams, condiments, and other goodies produced in the West End Food Co-op’s kitchen are resold to the public in its grocery store. We also have people who facilitate diabetes education programming at the Parkdale Community Health Centre. So, our people are actually contributing to the neighbourhood’s economy and social welfare in a very tangible and meaningful way, and for their efforts they receive the benefit of a living wage in food credit. I should also mention that everyone who joins the Co-op Cred program is invited from among PARC’s own membership, and in particular from our community leadership initiative, the PARC Ambassadors. Co-op Cred’s program model is so intelligent, dignified, and well-designed that I schemed with Robin, my professor, in order to develop it even further, primarily through PARC as well as in conjunction with our community partners.

Bonnie_Sorting

GFR: So in essence the participants learn skills, like how to grow their own food, but at the same time through their volunteer work earn food credits that they can then spend on food at the Sorauren Farmers’ Market or the West End Food Co-op? And with no money being exchanged, the participants are not going to be subject to any government clawback on their Social Assistance payments. Are you aware of any other programs that follow this particular model?

DM: That’s a much more succinct description of the program! Still, I think it’s important to know the context of food insecurity in Toronto as well as the limitations of social assistance in order to understand the progressive structure of Co-op Cred. Food banks are pretty limited as an answer to these issues.

As for other progressive food security initiatives in the city, the Stop Community Food Centre certainly tackles a lot of issues surrounding food equity and access, particularly with its Do the Math campaign a few years ago, which asked people to compare their monthly budget to that of someone on social assistance. Organizations like FoodShare also have amazing programs, such as the Cross-Cultural Food Access Innovation Hub, which includes the Black Farmers and Growers Collective. This collective tends to the Black Creek Community Farm in Jamestown, and their organic produce and prepared foods are distributed among food insecure groups in the area.

In terms of programs that use our specific work-learn model and alternative currency – I’m not aware of any others, although there certainly could be similar programs. With some tweaking, I do think that Co-op Cred has incredible potential to be replicated in other neighbourhoods. Obviously, the community partners and scope of the placements would be tailored to suit the needs of the residents.

GFR: Yes, it was the specifics of this particular model I was most impressed with.

It has been stated that in 2011 one in eight Canadian household were worried about having enough food… do you have any figures with how that relates specifically to the priority neighbourhood of Parkdale today?

DM: In 2010, PARC released a report on food insecurity in Parkdale called Beyond Bread and Butter. This document detailed that 45% of the residents in South Parkdale, i.e. the area south of Queen Street, live below the low-income cut-off line with a median income less than half of the rest of the GTA. The 2011 National Housing Survey pointed to an incredible 47% of South Parkdale residents spending 30% or more of their monthly income on rent, which is generally considered to be the limit of affordability.

Food insecurity is inextricably linked to income insecurity, and furthermore both have significant impacts on the overall health of individuals with poor nutrition. This can mean more diseases, chronic conditions, slower healing, and their associated health care costs. In this sense, food insecurity is everyone’s problem because of the burden it unnecessarily places on our health care system.

With that in mind, Parkdale isn’t a food desert exactly – there is, in a sense, food everywhere. Certainly the number of businesses offering food in the area has grown significantly over the last decade – anyone familiar with the gentrification of Queen Street West can attest to the growth in nightlife and restaurant establishments. That said, these businesses are not to the advantage of Parkdale’s low-income residents, and more to the benefit of out-of-neighbourhood visitors with cash to spend. Unfortunately that influx of money into Parkdale doesn’t flow easily into resources for the folks that need them most.

We do have Co-op Cred to provide a model for economic inclusion and food security, as well as other resources of varying effectiveness in the area: the Parkdale Community Food Bank, various small and ethnic grocers, drop-in meal programs. Still, we need more opportunities for equity and food access to prevent further marginalisation.

Amy

GFR: Yes, I certainly agree with you here… despite the gentrification it can certainly be a food desert for those on a low income.

So where are these community gardens located, and how large are they?

DM: The gardens that Co-op Cred participants farm are located in the Dunn Parkette Learning Centre, which is on Close Avenue just south of Queen Street. The gardening space isn’t the size of a farm, to be sure, but it is productive: in 2014, we managed to harvest 300 lbs. of organic produce, including tomatoes, lettuces, kale, and other vegetables, which we then donated to the Parkdale Community Food Bank. Again, we do believe that food security isn’t about getting the next meal, but about eating and living well, and supporting other community members to do the same. Our people are proud to cultivate healthy, organic produce for other residents experiencing food insecurity.

GFR: How has the community embraced this project? What kind of numbers are we talking about in terms of participants?

DM: Co-op Cred was piloted in 2013 with just seven participants, so the scope of it was quite small in the beginning. Our only community partner at that time was the West End Food Co-op. With that in mind, the personal growth of the participants as well as the overall success of the program in building neighbourhood relationships was so fruitful that we expanded to 26 Co-op Cred placements. We also formed bonds with two additional community partners: Greenest City, who manage the gardens, and the Parkdale Community Health Centre.

We are hoping to expand the number of placements even further and collaborate with more community organizations and programs in the area. For example, I am in the process of co-writing a grant to expand our Co-op Cred placements to include a baking apprenticeship at the West End Food Co-op. I’m also looking into ways to develop a communications placement, which would include program outreach through the development of multimedia skills, as well as build more opportunities for workshops and other participatory learning sessions.

We are aiming large, but we are also following the paths that Co-op Cred participants themselves wish to take, and there has been a lot of interest in having further opportunities for popular education and skills development.

I think the general population of Parkdale is just beginning to learn about the Co-op Cred program, but the word is slowly getting out there. Within PARC’s membership and through the membership of the West End Food Co-op, a lot of people are aware of Co-op Cred and the opportunities it provides for both its participants as well as in the community. That said, don’t be shy about spreading the word, or about engaging with us directly here at PARC!

GFR: Are there challenges switching people over from the processed and canned food that they would previously have received from food banks to the fresh fruits and vegetables that come with Co-op Cred? I’m guessing that an education in food literacy is key here? How does that happen?

DM: Food literacy is an issue, and it certainly is a contributing factor for many folks who experience food insecurity. Co-op Cred participants do find that the program makes them much more literate about what they eat. They learn the processes behind how we get our food, how to understand ingredients and eat nutritiously, as well as how to cook. They are also able to adjust their diets to treat their own health conditions, such as diabetes. A lot of this education comes into play as a by-product of their placements, as well as through discussion groups and participatory learning sessions. Recently, 18 of our participants completed a Food Handler’s Certification course with the support of Toronto Public Health, which is fantastic. To celebrate their achievement, we are holding a big feast of Tibetan momos here at PARC.

GFR: How is the program funded? Do you receive any funding municipally, provincially, or federally?

DM: Our program receives funding from the Metcalf Foundation as well as the Echo Foundation. We are also funded largely by a dedicated charity cycling event called Ride4RealFood. Finally, members of the West End Food Co-op are able to donate at the cash of the Co-op’s grocery store. I’m excited about the fact that we recently received a grant from the Catherine Donnelly Foundation to expand the educational and skills development component of Co-op Cred.

Trevor_and_Bonnie

GFR: Now please excuse my ignorance here, but how does the program operate throughout our unforgivingly severe winters?

DM: Well, in terms of the gardens, it doesn’t – we have to follow the climate’s lead! If we had the funding and the space, it would be incredible to establish a greenhouse to expand our urban farming Co-op Cred placements. That said, we still maintain our placements at the West End Food Co-op as well as at the Parkdale Community Health Centre. The more we grow our partnerships with other organizations, the more we can provide year-round placement support.

GFR: If any of our readers would like to know more or make some kind of contribution, where should I be sending them?

DM: Get to know the neighbourhood and the residents. Go ahead and scope out the West End Food Co-op and the Dunn Parkette Community Garden. Become a member of the West End Food Co-op and donate to us at the register. If you are interested in becoming a community partner, come on down to PARC.

If you want to learn more about the local food system and would like to support the program, join Ride4RealFood – you can either participate in the charity bicycle ride yourself, which ends in a fantastic picnic at McVean Farm in Brampton, or else sponsor one of our amazing cyclists. You can also donate directly through the Ride4RealFood website. The money raised through Ride4RealFood goes entirely into the Co-op Cred program, and every $600 pledged will support one full-year placement for a low-income Parkdale resident.

Just as a side note – because clearly I haven’t spent enough time talking – I would also ask people to consider food not just as something that staves off hunger, or as a pleasurable combination of flavour, scent, and texture, or as something that only benefits your own health and nutrition. Food always has an environmental, economic, and political dimension that impacts the world around us. Because of this, give consideration to what and how you eat. Think about what’s important to you – maybe it’s animal rights, or the effects of overfishing, or the unsustainability of industrial farming, or the ethics of migrant labour – and apply those when you shop for food or go to a restaurant.  You can never conquer every issue related to the leviathan that is the global food system, but you still have the power to make choices that support what you value through how you eat.

GFR: Thank you so much for your time Diana. Your thoughtful and inforative answers have given us a valuable insight into one of the most forward thinking community food projects I have ever seen.

I’m really looking forward to interviewing some of the participants over the coming weeks.


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And if he can convince the family you’ll be seeing him at the Ride4RealFood

Charity Anaïs Is A Snail Rancher

IMG_6779

Back in the early days of Good Food Revolution, a friend of ours wrote a short piece about musician Sammy Hagar and his love of wine.

Fast forward five years and the same young lady, Charity Anaïs, is now farming snails in California and is looking to crowdfunding an expansion of her project. We caught up with her to discover what lies behind her affinity for snails.


Good Food Revolution: So… Charity… please tell us about how you moved from wine into snails? Thats quite the move, non?

Charity Anaïs:  It is and it isn’t. Before I was a sommelier I worked in worries, much of the time in the vineyards, and I’ve always wanted to get back outside. And working as a somm took me to Burgundy, France, on multiple occasions. Really there is no better place to fall in love with escargot. Which of course I did. I must have eaten escargot at every meal. Then when I returned to California and ordered it in a restaurant it was never even close to the same experience. I think I went back and forth between Burgundy and San Francisco four times before I finally threw my hands up in the air, decided enough was enough with the canned products and started my own farm. 

GFR: And what is the story behind EscarGrow? 

CA: EscarGrow Farms began as a giant dream: to feed the world with snails! It’s scaled back momentarily, baby steps and all that. Now we just want to prove that California can raise world-class escargot too. We’re lucky, early french immigrants brought the petit gris over with them years ago and of course, they got out, multiplied and are in just about every county out here. Where other people see pests, I see appetizers. 

GFR: Tell us more about this crowdfunding that you are doing?

CA: Barnraiser.us is a an awesome site! They love, local, small, sustainable food systems and are doing their part to help change the face and pace of food in America. They have been incredible, very hands on through out the entire process. They really want to see us succeed too. And though it seems like we are still a long way from our goal we are working together to make sure we get to where we need to be. 

GFR: And how could people find out more and/or donate?

CA: They can go to our campaign page http:/bit.ly/FundEscarGrow or check us out on our website www.EscarGrowFarms.com and find us on Facebook and Instagram @EscarGrowFarms

IMG_6906

GFR: Tell us about a day in the life of a snail farmer?

CA: I call snails watered activated so every morning I give them a little spritzing. Then i make sure they have plenty of fresh greens to munch on. I also go through and pull out snail caviar twice a week. I try to keep it all as fresh as possible. By lunch time it’s all business and paperwork and in the afternoon I’m out hand delivering snail caviar to whomever is next up on the list. I have a wait list about a month land a half ong for the stuff so it keeps me pretty busy. 

GFR: Is there a huge market for snails? Is anyone else doing anything like this? In the USA? Canada?

CA: There is a HUGE market! I’m not sure about Canada but I know the US imports millions of dollars of snails every year. And right now we are one of 4 farms in the US. All small farms like us too. What’s even more exciting though is that we are the only farm doing caviar d’escargot or snail caviar. North America is the only continent in the world that does not have a viable escargot industry. I aim to change that permanently. 

IMG_7409

GFR: And what do you feed the little blighters on?

CA: Organic greens! Lots and lots of organic greens. They love kale, cucumbers, carrots, daikon radish, grape leaves. Gosh, the list is endless and we are lovingly supported by Fifth Crow Farms down in Santa Cruz, California. They come to the farmer’s market right out our front door each week and donated bags of goodies to the snails. So grateful to those guys!

GFR: I know that most of the canned ones we see here some from Indonesia… any thoughts on those?

CA: You know I do! Canned anything is just a shadow of its former self. Canned tomatoes versus an heirloom off the vine? There’s really no comparison. And snails are the same. Why consume canned when you can have fresh? And really good news for Canada here too… we are working with potential farmer down in St. Catherine’s to bring fresh escargot to Ontario too! 

IMG_7479

GFR: Knowing what I do about you, I’m guessing that the whole project is super sustainable?

CA: We wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m developing a system right now to collect all of their waste product, to circle back into production or to sell to local farms to help increase their soil nutrition. It’s a really fun and exciting development. I’ll keep you posted. 

GFR: What is your favourite way to prepare your snails?

CA: I like to keep it simple. I love them sautéed in a little white wine and shallots. Let their flavour shine I say. They are so savoury and a little bit earthy. Why hide all of that behind butter and garlic? Though that’s really yummy too! 

GFR: And your favourite snail-related wine pairing?

CA: Why Burgundy of course! 

IMG_7802

GFR: Now… WTF is Snail Caviar? I’m not sure if I like the sound of that…

CA: Haha, yeah, just about everyone has the same initial reaction. You’re probably thinking they are slimy or salty, but you’d be wrong on both counts. They are delightfully smooth, and springy, and taste of delicate spring onions. We brine them to help preserve them and clean them but other than that we don’t do anything to them. The texture is great too, far more firm than caviar or roe. They will bounce if you drop them. 

GFR: And your favourite applications for that?

CA: The options are endless! We have a restaurant who uses them in a cocktail! Love that one. Also they are used in caviar service, as a garnish, alongside escargot in a soup. Really people are just having fun with them and I couldn’t be happier. 

IMG_8071

GFR: Are you finding much support from the Chef community in California?

CA: The community here is incredible! My very first restaurant, 25 Lusk, has been so supportive. When I first started working with the snail eggs I literally walked into the kitchen with a tub of dirt and snail eggs. Chef Mathew Dolan basically taught me how to do my job. Same goes with Chef Sean Gawle. He was working at Bright’s Les Clos Wine Bar at the time and I had no idea how to process the snails for escargot. I showed up with a bucket of snails and he did all the rest. The SF restaurant community is one of the closest I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. I feel truly blessed. 

GFR: What does the snail offer us nutritionally?

CA: Wow! What don’t they? They are such a super food. Packed with protein, magnesium, calcium and very little fat. Theoretically, if you could bake a loaf of bread using just snails you could survive off of a walnut sized portion for a day. Snails rock!

GFR: This is a great story, Charity… we wish you all the best in achieving your goals! All the best from Toronto.


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he does enjoy his snails now and again… now he just needs to try some snail caviar.

Talking Grappa with Bottega’s Andrea Minguzzi

The man behind the Bottega Grappa, Andrea Minguzzi.

The man behind the Bottega Grappa, Andrea Minguzzi.

It has to be said that until relatively recently grappa was a complete mystery to me. I had found the many examples I had tasted over the years to be quite harsh, and brutal upon my oh-so-sensitive palate.

That was until I paid a visit to Bottega‘s grappa producing facility, where I met the friendly and enthusiastic Andrea Minguzzi, who gave me my first real lesson into what makes for a good grappa.

Bottega, although known the world over for their Prosecco, actually have their roots in the production of grappa, and so I was in good hands joining them for my grappa 101…


Good Food Revolution: So, for our GFR audience, how would you describe your position at Bottega?

Andrea Minguzzi: My function at Bottega is to prepare grappas and liqueurs before they are bottled. I work to perform the best possible production procedures, and to constantly improve our products, teaming up with the research and development department.

GFR: And how important is the distillation side to Bottega’s portfolio compared to other areas?

AM: Bottega SpA was established in 1977 as a distillery, hence grappa represents the origins of the company, and has been its most important product for years. Nevertheless, Prosecco and sparkling wines have now taken over the bigger portion of the portfolio, and it is likely that this trend will continue in the future.

GFR: In your mind, what sets Grappa apart from other distillates?

AM: The aromatic complexity of the various grapes make Grappa a very varied, diverse product. Grappa is a unique and flavoursome spirit, it is versatile and has a great consumption potential, also due to the many different consumption options: it can be either drunk after a meal, on its own, in coffee, as an ingredient for cocktails or even for Italian cuisine recipes.

GFR: Please describe the specific method you use to produce your Grappa at Bottega?

AM: I start by preparing a mixture of grappa, demineralized water and sugar (in a very low percentage, maximum of 1%). I cool the mix down to about -20 °C, to ensure that all oils become solid and are easily removed by filtration. Filtration comprises two steps: the first eliminates the coarser parts, the second obtains a perfectly transparent product, akin to water. This process allows me to get a milder grappa, easy to digest, smooth on the palate and suitable for all tastes – including younger people and women.

Where the magic happens: Bottega's Grappa stills.

Where the magic happens: Bottega’s Grappa stills.

GFR: And what would you say to those who turn their nose up at Grappa, saying it is too rough for them?

AM: I would say that probably they have not tasted a Grappa by Bottega! The are generally known to be smooth and easy to drink!

GFR: And so what is it that makes for a smoother style of Grappa?

AM: The preparation is an important part of the process; by the way, distillation is also crucial. Like all secondary processes, distillation enhances all the original features of the raw material: we will get a good spirit only if the pomace (raw material) is a good quality material.

GFR: How did you find yourself in this particular role? Did you set out to become a Grappa maker? What paths led you here?

AM: When I attended the Oenology High School in Conegliano – the oldest Oenology school in Italy – grappa was not a main subject. While lately it has gained the importance it deserves, becoming a more important studying subject. But I have learnt most of the things I know now, while working.

GFR: How many different grappas do you make at Bottega?… and at the end of the day how do they differ?

AM: They are too many to be counted! They differ because there are single varietal grappa (made from pomace obtained from one single grape) and blended grappa (made from pomace obtained from different grapes). Moreover, there are “young” grappas and “aged” grappas: and this is the aspect that I like the most.

GFR: And do you believe that the single varietal or blended, say Amarone, Grappas are better?

AM: I personally wouldn’t say that single varietal are better than blended, or the contrary. This is more a matter of taste. While, I would say that aged grappa are more complex and intriguing.

GFR: I’m always surprised that tannins (and/or pigment) from a more tannic (and/or pigmented) wine make it all the way through those distillations to the final product?

AM: Yes, and this is what differentiates grappa from other distillates.

GFR: Now Ageing of Grappa is a relatively recent development… What are your thoughts on that and what do you believe it brings to the glass?

AM: As I said before, I love aged grappas. Due to its complexity, grappa ages very well. Moreover, the grappa maker can choose between many ageing options: e.g. selecting from a wide range of wood types and different toasting of the barrels, resulting in great products of very high quality.

If you are having trouble viewing this video please click here.

GFR: In your mind, what is the perfect way to serve Grappa?

AM: It depends on the type of the grappa: a young grappa can be served at room temperature, even “on the rocks”. While, in my opinion, an aged grappa or a very aromatic grappa should be served at room temperature. The choice of glasses is also very important; and, after swirling the glass, one should wait a few seconds before smelling – otherwise the aromas are overwhelmed by the alcoholic sensation.

GFR: I’ve heard that having Grappa alongside coffee is a good way to analyse the product, as doing so highlights both the flaws and the positives… is there any truth in this?

AM: I don’t think so. Yet, drinking grappa alongside a good coffee, possibly espresso, is always a good choice!

GFR: Grappa has seen a fair bit of use in cocktail culture as of late… do you have any favourite applications there?

AM: Well I am not a cocktails’ lover. But I think grappa, thanks to its personality, always leaves its mark, wherever and however it is used.

GFR: Honestly… how much Grappa do you consume in a week?

AM: I am lucky enough to taste a lot of grappa when I am working. So, when I am not at work, I don’t drink a lot of grappa – and I only drink aged grappa

GFR: Andrea, thank you so much for your time. Much appreciated.


Jamie Drummond

Edinburgh-born/Toronto-based Sommelier, consultant, writer, judge, and educator Jamie Drummond is the Director of Programs/Editor of Good Food Revolution… And he’s learning to appreciate the finer side of grappa.