3 minute read

Cooking Up a Storm

By Martine Mackenzie

“At Strewn, terroir is a concept best experienced firsthand. It’s all here waiting for you!”

Strewn Winery is situated just outside of the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and a wonderful experience awaits you with Strewn’s award-winning VQA wines and dining. Visitors can look forward to tasting flights, cellar tasting experiences, engaging wine-education seminars, and special events. Guests can dine onsite at OLiV Restaurant or roll up their sleeves in a hands-on class at the Wine Country Cooking School

This is where Jane Langdon comes in! And this is where you “Learn. Cook. Eat. Drink. Repeat.”

Trained as a journalist and communications specialist, it’s easy to see why Jane is such a great fit to lead the Wine Country Cooking School. With her gregarious, welcoming, inquisitive, creative, and helpful nature, guests are sure to love the experience from beginning to end.

Here’s her story:

“Joe Will, who is the President, Founder and original winemaker and I have been friends for years. We were in Napa in 1995. I love the cuisine and winery tourism there, and we passed by the west coast campus of the Culinary Institute of America. We had talked about opening our own winery for years, and I thought, ‘Let’s do a cooking school within the winery!’ Flash forward to 1997 -- a vineyard was planted, and the original buildings were extensively rebuilt to create the visitor centre at Strewn and the classrooms of the Wine Country Cooking School.”

Jane is no stranger to the kitchen. While studying journalism and communications at the former Ryerson University, now known as the Toronto Metropolitan University, she worked part-time as an assistant at a demonstration cooking school in Toronto. “I’ve always loved working with food and being inspired to create with ingredients local to the region. Once Strewn was born, we literally had a marriage of food and wine. But I did not want to do a traditional chef’s training. I wanted to work with real people who can appreciate seasonal and local foods that fit easily into recipes and lifestyle.”

When asked what inspires her recipes and menu creations, Jane says, “I’m inspired by the seasons, and I learn by doing.”

The Wine Country Cooking School has a gourmet kitchen equipped with state-of the-art appliances and cookware. Paired with the best ingredients that Niagara has to offer during our four seasons, taking one of Jane’s classes is sure to be a recipe for success.

“I offer hands-on recreational classes on Saturdays that last roughly 4 hours and 20 minutes. Two people come together and go through the entire preparation and cooking process to produce a 3-course meal which is then shared by them in our private dining room and enjoyed with wine pairings for each course.”

This great concept gives guests a very personal and delicious experience where they have fun with what they are doing. They learn by doing then put what was taught into practice.

Jane goes on to say that: “I shop local as much as I can. When the seasons change and we are on the cusp of certain ingredients, I will change up the menu offerings. Summer is a great time to visit local market stands to get heirloom tomatoes and just picked fresh produce. Our guests see that you don’t have to buy exotic ingredients to make real food for real people in real time.”

Jane has noticed a new trend developing in the food industry as well. “People seem to be more interested in bringing back that generation to generation sharing of recipes and traditions. And men have really gotten interested in cooking!”

With luxury, gourmet grocery stores popping up everywhere, younger people are also on board with changing up their food choices, steering away from fast foods. “Grocery stores now have great offerings compared to what they used to have not so long ago. It makes for a bigger variety of food choices,” she adds.

Recipe development is Jane’s second favorite thing to do right behind teaching these innovative cooking classes. “I like to incorporate ingredients that may not be as traditional, into otherwise traditional dishes. For example, adding flax seeds into breadcrumbs for cutlets. Flax seeds are so healthy, and they give the breading that extra crunch.” From using wonton wraps to make ravioli stuffed with asparagus in a lemon and tarragon sauce, to adding a touch of mustard to the milk used in the breading process to give that extra little zing of flavor, guests to the cooking school are sure to be amazed by their experiences.

Of course, there are a lot of things to be considered besides what ingredients are available locally at any given time as Jane plans her exciting menus. “People are eating differently now, and there is also the adjustment to dietary issues that need to be considered. This is why I post menu options so that potential guests can pick and choose accordingly. They know what to avoid and what they can make without putting their health in jeopardy.”

The Wine Country Cooking School also provides kitchen experiences for corporate and group events, as well as providing a new take for such occasions as engagement parties, wedding showers, anniversary parties, etc.

Jane will take you every step of the way as you engage in this gastronomic delight!