Food & Drink | Thanksgiving is great, but Friendsgiving is better!

I think as I’ve gotten older, I have come to appreciate that time at home with friends is more important than I once thought. There is something so relaxing about gathering together a few friends over a delicious home cooked meal, some good wine, and much needed laughs. I was reminded of just that when I sat down with friends and colleagues at Antler Kitchen & Bar to enjoy a delicious meal created by Chef Michael Hunter paired with four of the nine new wines that are hitting shelves just in time for the fall at your local LCBO. So much so, that I am planning my very own ‘Friendsgiving’ before the Thanksgiving season begins. Come and see what we will be eating & drinking, all inspired by the new #LCBOtastelocal fall mantra: Live. Love. Taste Local. 


So what exactly does a Friendsgiving Feast entail? It’s about gathering your friends together who appreciate delicious food and fabulous wine. To get you inspired, I’ve pulled inspiration from the Wild Thanksgiving recipe book that can be found in stores now to pair with a few of the nine new delicious wines just in time for the fall. “The book is a creative and festive collection of recipes – with a keen focus on local game, paired with local VQA wines.”


13th Street Burger Blend VQA – $14.95 

This refreshing red has just the right amount of acidity and I would recommend you serve it to your guests as they first arrive. Pair it with charcuterie from your local butcher, some fun cheeses & crispy bread to showcase the freshness of this approachable fruity blend. “This sustainable Niagara winery lured its award-winning winemaker from France. Ripe with red berries, this blend of Gamay, Pinot Noir and Merlot is excellent with red meats.”



Chateau Des Charmes Pinot Noir Estate Grown & Bottled VQA – $16.95

Pinot Noir, in my opinion, is the red wine to seduce both red wine lovers and those who think they don’t like red wine. It’s fruitiness & acidity pair beautifully with most dishes and can allow you to get creative in the kitchen without worrying if the wine will overpower what you are serving.  “Pinot Noir flows through the veins of winery founder Paul Bosc, a fifth-generation winemaker from Burgundy. This red’s silky tannins harmonize with duck, lamb or mushroom dishes.”


Game Changer The Obstinate Red VQA – $14.95

How could I not recommend a game changing meal to pair along with this namesake new wine? Although beef is a classic for a Friendsgiving feast, why not change the game and cook Bison or wild game instead? Rich in flavour and slightly more complex, “serve up succulent game dishes with tips from Michael Hunter, chef at the Toronto restaurant Antler, which serves local, seasonal and wild foods. Every grape in this Niagara red blend was selected by a revolutionary optical grape-sorter — the only machine of its kind in Canada. The red blend’s field-berry notes flatter venison or red meats.

Get adventurous in the kitchen with this amazing Venison Rack with Lingonberry Sauce recipe that will have your friends wondering if you’re a five star chef!



¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil, divided
2 racks venison
2 tbsp (30 mL) lingonberry jelly
1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard
1 tsp (5 mL) cinnamon
½ tsp (2 mL) ground ginger
¼ tsp (1 mL) chili flakes
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup (250 mL) fresh bread crumbs
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped parsley


½ cup (125 mL) port
2 cups (500 mL) chicken stock
1 tbsp (15 mL) lingonberry jelly


  1. Heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Sear venison, fat-side down, for 2 minutes. Turn and sear other side for 1 minute. 
  2. Stir together 2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil, lingonberry jelly, mustard, cinnamon, ginger and chili flakes. Brush over venison and let stand for 1 hour. Season venison with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat oven to 325°F (160°C). 
  4. Toss bread crumbs with parsley and remaining 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Pat bread crumb mixture over top of venison. Place in a roasting pan and roast for about 45 minutes, until medium-rare. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes.
  5. For sauce, drain fat from skillet (do not wash). Add port to skillet and bring to a boil. Add stock and boil for about 3 minutes, until thickened slightly. Stir in lingonberry jelly. Simmer for 1 minute to combine flavours. 
  6. Cut venison into chops (remove string if racks are tied) and serve with sauce. 
Serves 6


Henry Of Pelham Baco Noir Old Vines VQA – $19.95

Baco Noir is one of those hidden gems in the red wine world that can truly help to make a meal shine. Smooth and with flavours of deep red fruit, it pairs beautifully with venison and beef because it can stand up to their bold flavours. “The Speck brothers’ much-decorated winery sits on land once owned by their great, great, great  grandfather. Serve this dark, jammy Baco Noir with duck, venison or beef.”

If you’re never tried to cook duck, here is the Perfect Roast Duck recipe!




2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
½ cup (125 mL) chopped onion
1 large apple, peeled, cored and chopped
3 cups (750 mL) torn bread
½ cup (125 mL) chopped prunes
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped tarragon
1 tsp (5 mL) grated orange zest
⅓ cup (80 mL) chicken stock or more if needed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


1 duck, 5 lb (2.2 kg)
2 tbsp (30 mL) soy sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) balsamic vinegar


1 cup (250 mL) chicken stock
½ cup (125 mL) orange juice


  1.  For stuffing, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add apple and cook for 1 minute, until coated with oil. Stir in bread and cook until edges are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add prunes, tarragon and orange zest. Add stock. Cook for 2 minutes or until stock is absorbed and mixture is combined. If it seems too dry, add a little extra stock. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve.
  2. Preheat oven to 250°F (120°C). 
  3. For duck, using a fork, prick duck skin all over to help release fat. Fill cavity with stuffing. Place on a rack in a roasting pan. Combine soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, and brush over duck. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake for 3 hours, basting with soy sauce mixture several times during roasting and pricking skin again after 1 hour to help render fat. 
  5. Increase temperature to 350°F (180°C). Bake for about 30 minutes, until skin is crisp and juices run clear.
  6. Place duck on carving board and let sit for 10 minutes before carving. 
  7. For sauce, discard fat from the roasting pan, leaving all juices. Add stock and orange juice. Bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from pan bottom. Boil for about 2 minutes, until sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into a sauce boat and serve with duck. 
Serves 4



McMichael Group of Seven Collection Cabernet Merlot VQA – $14.95

If your friends aren’t down for adventurous wild game, you can always prepare a twist on a burger but using bison and serving them with truffle fries. Trust me when I say that this wine will play will these rich flavours and elevate the meal to one that is both Instagramable but also so memorable! “This local masterpiece features Group of Seven artwork to celebrate the McMichael Canadian Art Collection’s 50th anniversary. Its red-berry flavour partners well with venison or bison burgers.”


River Road Cabernet VQA – $14.95

Friendsgiving should incorporate all kinds of friends, and all kinds of cuisines. For those vegetable dishes and main courses, River Road offers bold flavours to pair with hearty dishes such as cabbage rolls or the delicious Farro & Mushroom–Stuffed Kale recipe below. “From one of Niagara’s founding wine families comes this Cabernet brimming with black-cherry flavour and a dash of spice. Pair with lamb, beef or mushroom dishes.”



1 cup (250 mL) semi-pearled farro


1½ cups (375 mL) beef stock
1½ cups (375 mL) passata or puréed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
Sprig thyme
2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
Pinch each salt and freshly ground pepper


1 cup (250 mL) boiling water
½ oz (15 g) dried porcini mushrooms
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb (500 g) assorted fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped thyme
3 cups (750 mL) beef stock
½ cup (125 mL) crème fraîche
3 oz (90 g) crumbled Gorgonzola
Freshly ground pepper to taste
30 large lacinato or dino kale leaves, each 5 to 6 inches (12 to 15 cm) wide


  1. Soak farro in enough cool water to cover until needed for stuffing. 
  2. For sauce, combine stock, passata, bay leaf, thyme, butter, salt and pepper in a medium saucepan. Simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 20 minutes. Set aside.
  3. For stuffing, pour boiling water over porcini mushrooms in a small heatproof bowl until rehydrated, about 20 minutes. Drain through a fine-meshed sieve set over a bowl. Gently squeeze porcini mushrooms to release excess liquid; reserve liquid and set aside. Rinse porcini mushrooms well under running water. Coarsely chop and set aside.
  4. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add fresh mushrooms, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms begin to soften and sweat. Stir in garlic and thyme, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until mushrooms are golden. Drain farro. Add farro and reserved porcini mushrooms to pan. Cook, stirring, until farro is dry, about 2 minutes. Add stock and reserved porcini mushroom liquid, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally in the final 15 minutes, until farro is tender but some liquid remains. Remove from heat; stir in crème fraîche and Gorgonzola. Season with black pepper; taste and adjust seasoning.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).
  6. Working with 1 leaf at a time, trim kale leaves by removing most of tough centre rib: Beginning 4 inches (10 cm) from top of leaf (furthest from stem) use a knife to cut right next to, and parallel to, rib to bottom of leaf. Repeat on other side of rib; remove and discard rib. Blanch leaves in plenty of boiling water, working in bunches if necessary, for 1 minute; drain.
  7. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling 2 inches (5 cm) from widest end of 1 kale leaf. Working from narrow trimmed end, fold and roll kale around filling to form a roughly 3-inch (8 cm) long roll. Repeat with remaining kale leaves and filling; arrange seam-side down in a 13 x 9-inch (3 L) baking dish. Pour sauce overtop, cover and bake for 40 minutes. Divide rolls among plates and spoon a little sauce overtop each.
Serves 4


Sandbanks Riesling Gewurztraminer VQA – $15.95

Is there anything better than pairing sweet & salty? This wine is perfect to accompany a salty cheddar after a delicious meal or paired with pork to showcase its honey and apple flavours. Sandbanks is a personal favourite in my mind and reminds me of childhood memories with my family, so it should be no shock that wine from the region embodies this same familiarity. “Bring home a taste of Prince Edward County with this succulent white blend. Its apple and honey notes make it an ideal partner for cheese, roasted pork or chicken.”


Seriously Cool Red VQA – $15.95

In the mood for tomato dishes or a tomato sauce pasta? Seriously Cool offers a seriously cool way to play off this savoury meal option with an easy drinking glass or two of red. “Look for three different mod labels on this sustainably farmed Ontario red blend with dark-red fruity notes. Serve with steak or tomato-based dishes.”


Sue-Ann Staff Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White VQA – $14.95

I love the playfulness of Sue-Ann Staff and this new release lives up to the brand. Pairing this citrusy & almost effervescent white wine with a creamy soup will allow the wine to cut through a rich dish. Should you be serving chicken, you’ll note that your meal tastes more buttery and the wine will dance on the tongue. A perfectly playful pairing that will leave everyone smiling! “This approachable Ontario white comes from winemaker Sue-Ann Staff who’s racked up over 500 wine awards. Its zippy citrus notes match well with vegetable soup, chicken or seafood.”

Try out this delicious Kale & Chestnut Soup with Wild Mushrooms recipe!



2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
1 onion, chopped
1 small McIntosh apple, peeled, cored and chopped
2 cups (500 mL) peeled and chopped chestnuts
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped thyme
5 sage leaves
6 cups (1.5 L) homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
4 cups (1 L) chopped kale, centre stems removed
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
8 oz (250 g) mixed wild mushrooms, sliced or torn
1 tsp (5 mL) chopped thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 clove garlic, finely chopped


  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until lightly golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Add apple, chestnuts, thyme and sage. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in kale and cook for 4 minutes. 
  2. Using an immersion blender, purée soup, leaving visible flecks of kale. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm while preparing garnish. If making ahead, let soup cool, then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Reheat before serving.
  3. For garnish, melt butter in a large sauté́ pan over medium-low heat. When bubbly, add mushrooms and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened and golden. Stir in garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. 
  4. To serve, divide soup among warm bowls. Top each with garnish. 
Serves 6
Looking back on all the amazing dished that we got to try at Antler, here are a few of our favourite food & wine pairings that I will use as inspiration to create the perfect Friendsgiving for my closest friends along with the wines and recipes above. It’s time to get inspired in the kitchen and to fall in love with food again with the perfect pairings. 

If these meals, wines & photos aren’t inspiration enough, make sure to click here to learn more about LCBO’s Live. Love. Taste Local. on the LCBO website. To join in on the social media conversation around Thanksgiving and Friendsgiving, make sure to follow @LCBO on Twitter & Instagram, and ‘Like’ their Facebook Page. Use and follow the #LCBOtastelocal to show us how you celebrated the season with your friends and what dishes you paired with these nine new amazing VQA wines. We can’t wait to join in on the celebration with you!

For more behind the scenes of this and other amazing brands we are working with around the world, make sure to follow along with the #DoTheDaniel Instagram account. We would love to have you join on our adventures! AND yes. we’re on Snapchat too! – click here to follow us! 

Photos: LCBO, Julio Reyes. Daniel Reyes & All Social Media accounts listed above


Daniel Reyes

*Please note that this is a sponsored post – our disclosure can be found at all times by clicking here.