Every year at this time, I nervously scan all the weather channels and websites to find the one that will lie about the weather.  Why, you may ask?  Well this weekend coming up (January 16 & 17) is traditionally Icewine Festival in Jordan.  For the past several years that I have been involved with the event, I along with the hearty souls of the local community, the Twenty Valley Tourism Association (TVTA) and my Good Earth team have frozen off our tushes and other parts to help create the picture perfect “winter wonderland”.  I look forward to this with about as much enthusiasm as going to the dentist for a root canal or in my case, working out on an elliptical machine in a gym for a few hours — YUK!

Nevertheless, after a weekend in the deep freeze, doling out some hot soup or stew to a cheerful public and many hard core “earthlings”, somehow I manage to thaw out and decide that, well… it really wasn’t all that terrible!  I think it’s perhaps the same phenomenon that’s hardwired into the human race where we are able to forget horribly uncomfortable and painful things – like childbirth, or so I am told, having never extruded a baby from my loins!

This year is going to be really different.  For one thing, the TVTA is fully responsible for putting on this event this year.  As a result we have THIRTY, count ’em 30, wineries from the Twenty Valley pouring some of the best wines being made in these parts!  It’s inspiring to see so many neighbours coming out to pour their wine, as well as all our favourite local food types doling out yummy morsels.   The enthusiasm this year is palpable.  Just goes to show that when you give people ownership of something, they knock themselves out!  Added to this is a positively balmy forecast for temperatures hovering at about freezing!  Woohoo!!  Bring it on. This is a HUGE improvement on the minus 12 with howling winds that we have persevered through over the years.

If that isn’t enough to get you out to Jordan Village for a little adult fun, then might I direct you to Cheffer’s blog where he brags about his soup making prowess!  Patrick, is indeed a master of the soup ladle.  On Monday, Jerry from The Butcher Shoppe showed up with cases of beef bones.  Within a half hour Isa had those bones roasting in the oven (the rendered fat from the beef bits, scooped away by Patrick to be snuck into some tastebud tantalizing dish down the road!).  Half a day later four large stock pots were simmering on the stove tops, steaming up the kitchen with the yummy smells of a good stock (I often wonder if we couldn’t patent the “stockpot steam facial” – it seems a pity not to share that yumminess with one’s pores!).

Yesterday, that stock was strained and portioned off for safe keeping.  Today, pounds of onions were peeled and chopped (no easy, peasy Cuisinart application for this crack team of chefs!!) and lovingly sautéed in butter and oil.  Yes, the much anticipated and bragged about French Onion Soup was taking shape.

We like to use a recipe inspired by non-other than the legend herself – Julia Child.  When we were struggling with what to offer at the event this year, I suggested this soup.  For me it is the epitome of winter comfort food – a meal in a bowl.  It’s origins are thought to be from the lowliest peasant table – raw onions, dipped in some broth or gruel with stale bread.  Doesn’t sound too terribly appetizing BUT add some butter, wine and cheese and voila – you have a masterpiece.

Julia, in her cookbook Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home tells of sampling a bowl of this soup at 6 am in one of the cafés near the open market in Les Halles accompanied by – are you ready for this – a glass of red wine!!  Now that’s what I call a hearty breakfast!  The soup has also been haled as a great hangover cure and so remains a staple on bistro and café menus throughout France.  It seems a natural choice for this year’s Winter Winefest.

Come out this weekend and join in the wine, food and fun.  You won’t want to miss some good times in the Twenty Valley.  I know that when you sample a bowl of Patrick and Isa’s soup, you’ll be clamouring for the recipe, so here it is – ENJOY! and as Julia would warble – bon appetit!

French Onion Soup

Yield:  Serves 8

5  Cups Vidalia or Spanish onions, thinly sliced
4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp  vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp all purpose flour
6 oz  dark ale, stout or red wine
8 Cups beef broth or stock, hot
1 Tbsp salt
½ Tbsp ground black pepper
1 French-style baguette
½ Cup grated Gruyere or Cheddar cheese


Over low heat, in a large heavy bottomed pot, warm the butter and oil.  Add the sliced onions and sprinkle with salt.  Sauté stirring occasionally for approximately 10 minutes.  The onions will begin to colour and become very soft.

Stir in flour and stir mixture into the onions to incorporate fully.  Cook for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Add the ale, stout or red wine as well as the beef broth.  Return to heat and add the balance of the salt and pepper. Simmer for 40 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning as desired.

Slice 8 slices (approximately ½ inch thick) of the bread.  Layout on a baking sheet and top with the grated cheese.   Pop into an 375 °F degree oven and bake until the cheese begins to bubble.

Ladle into bowls and top with the bread.