Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category

Plan Your Ultimate July 1 Barbecue with a New Wine Mobile App

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Our favourite wine expert at Ingredient Hotline, Natalie Maclean, has done it again with game changing technology that allows you to instantly scan 150,000 wines in the LCBO! The Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings app lets you use your smartphone camera to snap a picture of any bottle label bar code in the  liquor store. With one click, you get tasting notes, scores, and food pairings.

Natalie MacLean, the editor of Ontario’s largest wine web site at, created the tool to make buying wine easier for consumers:

You’re in the LCBO wondering if you should buy the bottle with the castle on its label or the one with the fluffy squirrel, now you just point and click to find out if that shiraz actually is a good wine to go with your pepper steak, or if the sauvignon blanc would work with your grilled veggies. No more guesswork based on castles and critters.

No more shopping lists either since you can scan the wines right in front of you in the store. The app’s key features allow you to:

  • Instantly access tasting notes, scores, prices, recipes and food pairings
  • Search 150,000 wines at the LCBO and other liquor stores across the country
  • Get real-time stock for every wine at the store in which you’re shopping
  • Check the number of bottles in stock at nearby stores via GPS real-time inventory search
  • Track your purchases in your virtual cellar with just a few clicks
  • Create a wine journal with your own wine notes and pictures in the app
  • Share your favourite wines and pairings on Twitter and Facebook

The new Wine Picks & Pairings app is the next generation of Natalie’s mobile app, which was selected among the top five food-and-wine apps by both Computerworld Magazine and the New York Times. It’s the only one featured on Apple’s iTunes store under App Essentials for both “Food & Wine” and “Date Night.”

Fans use Ontario’s most popular wine and food app to get more than 700,000 wine picks and food pairing suggestions a month—the number of users has grown 230% over the past year. The app, designed by Fluid Trends, bundles a suite of 10 wine apps including reviews, cellar journals, recipes, food pairings, articles, blog posts, a wine glossary, a bi-weekly newsletter, a directory of wineries around the world and excerpts from Natalie’s bestselling book Red, White and Drunk All Over.

A certified sommelier and winner of the World’s Best Wine Writer award at the World Food Media Awards, Natalie wrote and vetted all the pairings and wine reviews in the app rather than relying on computer-generated algorithms and crowd-sourced material.

Make sure you check it out!

Download the free Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings app for iPod Touch or iPhone:

For BlackBerry, visit App World:

For Droid, Nexus One, Nokia, Windows 7 and other smartphones, use the mobilized web site here:

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Ingredient Hotline Christmas

We’re about to check out and start enjoying the holiday with our family. Before we go we’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Wines for the Top 10 Tough-To-Buy-For People on Your Holiday List

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Our favourite wine connoisseur, Natalie MacLean, has put together something a little unconventional and fun for your holiday wine shopping. Instead of pairing wine to food, she’s pairing wine to the people on your Christmas shopping list!

Wine is one of the few presents that makes both the giver and the receiver look good, you look like you spent a bundle on the gift (even if you didn’t) and the recipients are happy that you think they know something about wine (even if they don’t).

Natalie MacLean is the self described “e-sommelier” behind, Canada’s largest wine web site. This holiday season, anyone can tap into MacLean’s expertise via her free web site and mobile apps for iPhone, BlackBerry, Droid and other smartphones. They help consumers with a whole new type of pairing: wine with the people on your Christmas shopping list. The app and site also pair wines to thousands of dishes, including holiday favourites, such as turkey, goose, duck, and even partridge in a pear tree.

Here’s a sampling of Natalie’s Top Gift Wines for your …

  • Hairdresser: For the person who combines humour and optimism every time she styles your mop. Go for a light, gulpable wine like a dry rosé. It’s versatile and fuss-free—a great quaff for your coif.
  • Psychiatrist: Of course, he’ll analyze whatever you give him so choose a wine that’s all about balance. Easy-drinking pinot noir is medium-bodied yet packed with flavour. Surprise him with a large-format bottle, like a magnum. Big thinking means big progress for you. This wine also works for psychologists, marriage counsellors and bartenders.
  • The Boss: Pick too pricey a wine and your boss will think your last raise was too much; go cheap, and she’ll think you lack judgement. Focus on a label with a lot of white space since that makes the bottle look more expensive. A castle in the distance also works, but avoid fluffy animals.
  • Personal Trainer: Think a muscular, robust red would work? Hold that position. Instead, try riesling: this light white wine pairs well with a health-nut diet of salad and seafood, plus it’s low in alcohol. You can also give it to Pilates instructors, yoga masters and Tai Chi coaches.
  • Financial Planner: You and he both know it’s going to take decades before your portfolio recovers after the crash of 2008. With that long-term view, vintage port makes the perfect gift. This fortified wine from northern Portugal, with its long aging potential, will be around for both of you into your retirements.
  • Travel Agent: She’s been everywhere and seen everything, so go local with your choice of wine. Even better, if you live close to the winery, get the bottle signed by the winemaker.
  • Teacher: If you can’t find a suitably obscure wine with a Latin name, there’s always cream sherry. It’s the tipple of Oxford dons, not to mention the centerpiece of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story The Case of the Amontillado.
  • Mail Deliverer: Go for a winery that’s consistent year after year in producing a wine that can be enjoyed in snow, rain, sleet or hail. Try an Australian shiraz or Argentine malbec.
  • Mechanic: Yes, there’s a wine called Red Truck, but try to be more imaginative. Why not give a wine made by Mario Andretti in California or Ferrari in Italy?
  • Online Date: So you’re on your second or third rendezvous with the person you met on eHarmony or If you’re not sure yet whether marriage is a possibility, try something middle-of-the-road, like merlot. Yes, it’s the soft jazz of wine, but until you know, play it safe.

Natalie also sagely reminds us not to forget yourself:

…even Santa’s little helpers need more than milk and cookies. Try something with high-alcohol like Italian Amarone or Rhone syrah: these big reds easily drown out tone-deaf carolling and pair beautifully with tired feet.

For Natalie’s favourite wineries, tasting notes and recipe matches for all the wine types mentioned above, please visit:

Creative Commons License photo credit: Paul Davidson

Could You, Would You On A Train?

Monday, August 16th, 2010

It’s the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham and that’s a special anniversary for this book considering that Dr. Seuss only used 50 words to write the book! Believe it or not, but the book actually came into being when Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’s publisher, wagered $50 that Seuss could not write a book using only fifty different words. The book became the fourth best selling english children’s book of all time. It’s also an especially fitting book for us, being based the idea of trying something new: like yaconquinoa and chia!

Here’s ABC News on Green Eggs and Ham turning 50:

Dr. Seuss’ ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ Turns 50

We’d also like to give a shout out to our friend Jim who pointed us to this story!

I do so like
green eggs and ham!
Thank you!
Thank you,

2 Great Resources for Taking Pictures of Food

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010


While we’ve taken pictures of the ingredients we sell for marketing purposes, we also like to take some snapshots of dishes at restaurants and of our own culinary creations. Since we got involved with Rick Bayless’ twitter contest, we looked into the whole subject of food photography because Rick is judging the pictures of the food, not the food itself! He even went out of his way to give some picture taking tips, suggesting that “a flash is food photography’s greatest enemy”. Well, we don’t really agree with that completely – a direct flash is probably food photography’s greatest enemy. If all you’ve got is the flash affixed to your camera, then yes, turn it off and take your picture by a source of natural light like a window or doorway.  Otherwise, the use of indirect lighting can add amazing effects to your food photos.

Besides that tip, here’s a couple of the resources we’ve used in our quest for the optimal food shot:

Food photo submission sites: both TasteSpotting and FoodGawker are great sites where you can look at literally thousands of food images submitted by admirers on the web. Believe it or not, these sites are known as food porn sites! Well, I don’t know if we’re crazy about that term being applied to food, but if you want to take better pictures of food, there will definitely be lots of inspiration, if not examples you can emulate to be found on these sites.

Digital Photography School: this site, started by blogging star Darren Rowe, aims to provide “simple tips to help digital camera owners get the most out of their cameras”. They’ve got a few articles on photographing food, including the following:

Of course, you can also surf Flickr, and the greater web for tonnes of examples and articles on food photography. By the way, the picture attached to this post was our submission for the Fiesta at Ricks Twitter Contest Week 4. We didn’t win! Denied! It was still great fun, and I’ve got to tell you, the ribs were absolutely delicious. At least we got an amazing meal out of the deal!

Here’s one more tip: subscribe to Ingredient Hotline and stay informed on unique, natural ingredients. Be sure to follow us on twitter and facebook.

Mexico – 140 Characters at a Time

Friday, August 6th, 2010


Rick Bayless, the famous chef at the Mexican restaurant Frontera Grill in Chicago, and the man behind the television show Mexico – One Plate at a Time (available on PBS), has got a pretty interesting Twitter contest going on right now. Every week, Rick tweets a recipe no more than 140 characters in length and you prepare it and send in a picture of your rendition. Rick reviews the pictures and selects ten winners each week. The winners receive an autographed copy of this new cookbook Fiesta at Rick’s: Fabulous Food for Great Times with Friends

We’re huge fans of his television show. We wanted to try out his new restaurant XOCO when we were in Chicago for this year’s IFT, but alas it is closed on Sundays and Mondays! Anyhow, on week three of the contest we decided to give it a shot. The recipe was for a scallop ceviche:

8oz slicd raw scallops+1c grapefrt j:45 min.Drain;blend 2/3c juice,1-2 chipotles,4 rstd grlc,2T br sgr.Mix w scal, red on,trop fruit,jicama

That certainly left a lot to the imagination! We’ve attached a picture to this post of our masterpiece as well as a shot of the ingredients. Sadly, we didn’t win, but it was a lot of fun trying out a new dish and getting involved in the contest. If you’re a fan of Rick, or authentic Mexican cuisine, you might want to try joining the contest this week yourself! Make sure you let us know how you did.

Ceviche Ingredients

Delicious Smoothies

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Smoothie Ingredients

Supposedly the making of pureed fruit beverages, or smoothies, in North America goes back to the 1930′s and were originally based on recipes from Brazil. A smoothie is a blended, often chilled, beverage made from fresh fruit. Sometimes they contain crushed ice, frozen fruit, yogurt or sweeteners. Some smoothies are just fruit! One thing smoothies shouldn’t contain is milk (otherwise it’s a milkshake!).

Here’s how we make our morning smoothies at Ingredient Hotline. Put the following in a blender:

  • 1 fresh banana
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup orange juice (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup plain unsweetened yogurt (or to taste)
  • tablespoon chia seeds

This result is nicely chilled because of the frozen berries. Besides pumping up the nutritional value, the chia also acts as a thickener. It’s quick, easy and delicious! Kids love it, and we didn’t need to add sugar.

Do you have a special smoothie recipe of your own? We’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Canada’s First Wine & Food Mobile App

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Natalie MacLean, the woman behind Nat Decants, has just released Canada’s first wine and food mobile app. Natalie MacLean is a wine writer, speaker and judge. An accredited sommelier, she is a member of the National Capital Sommelier Guild and the Wine Writers Circle. She has also written a book about wine: Red, White and Drunk All Over.

The new, free mobile application for iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Droid and other smartphones was developed by Cerado, and includes:

  • 380,000 professionally tested food and wine pairings not generated by computer algorithm
  • Access thousands of wine reviews by an independent journalist rather than by the wine store or winery that represents the wines
  • Search the reviews by winery, price, score, region, grape, vintage, food match, LCBO product code
  • Check how many bottles of a particular wine are in LCBO stores (you can narrow this by your postal code to see what’s in your closest stores)
  • Track your wines in your virtual cellar and add your own journal notes and scores
  • Search a directory of 10,000+ wineries to buy wine or plan a visit
  • Find thousands of tasty, tested recipes for every wine
  • Get wine savvy with articles, glossary definitions & blog posts
  • Share on Twitter, Facebook and e-mail with friends

If you like food and wine as much as we do, you’ll want to check out this new free mobile app! Let us know what you think about it in the comments. You might also want to take a look at Natalie’s website – a lot of really great content for the wine lover in all of us.

Here’s another thing you’ll want to do today: subscribe to the Ingredient Hotline blog and stay up to date on innovative food ingredients and related topics. You can also follow us on twitter and facebook!

Lucuma Ice Cream

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

How about a diary free, sugar free, wheat and egg free caramel flavoured ice cream? Sound too good to be true? Ani Phyo, the raw food author shows us how to make lucuma ice cream sweetened with yacon syrup. She suggests putting the blended ingredients directly into a container which goes in the freezer. We’d recommend putting them into your ice cream maker first to get a better consistency, but either way lucuma ice cream is delicious!

Chinese Food at Bayview Court

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

In North America, there is Chinese food and there is Chinese food. The former always includes chicken balls with a half inch batter coating served with a high viscosity artificially intense orange coloured sauce. This kind of Chinese food is not usually consumed by Chinese people and can often be found for sale in food courts and suburban strip plazas. The latter does not include the aforementioned chicken balls and is consumed by actual Chinese people. In Toronto, these real Chinese restaurants can be most often identified by a prominence of Chinese writing on the signs over, or even to the exclusion of, English. If you want great Chinese food, you have to find one of these kind of restaurants (in our humble opinion anyway!)

One such spot is Bayview Court at Major Mackenzie and Bayview Avenues in Richmond Hill. The food is so good, I ate half the prawn balls before remembering to take a nice picture for the blog:

Prawn Balls

I also highly recommend the “house special” seafood fried rice. Last time out, we tried the deep fried chicken because, well, anything tastes better deep fried:

Deep Fried Chicken

We offset the damage by purchasing some health credits in the form of a Fish and vegetable dish:

Fish & Vegetables

Great food. We highly recommend Bayview Court!

Bayview Court on Urbanspoon