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Food & Drink

Inside the kitchen of Beverly Crandon, sommelier and co-founder of Vinequity

Stocked with a mini cask, specialty Caribbean vegetables and an eclectic wine collection

By Caroline Aksich| Photography by Joshua Best
Beverly standing in her kitchen holdng a glass of wine

Until her late 20s, Beverly Crandon didn’t really care about wine—it was something she’d buy based on price rather than provenance. “I grew up in a Guyanese household, and we rarely had wine with dinner,” she says. “It was always rum and beer. There was this preconceived notion that our food just didn’t pair well with wine.” But then an oenophile acquaintance introduced her to how fantastically geeky wine could be, and she got hooked. “I was so fascinated by the science of it all. Food and wine are all just molecules that play off each other,” she says.

Cut to the present day, when Crandon’s entire life revolves around grapes. She’s one of the city’s best-known sommeliers, lauded for her prowess in pairing spice-forward cuisines (Caribbean, Thai, Haitian, Nigerian) with Ontario-grown varietals. She also helms the Spice Food and Wine Group (the wine tasting and events company behind Spring Into Spice and Fall Into Spice), and she’s a founding member of Vinequity, a not-for-profit that works with BIPOC wine professionals. Plus she frequently appears as a guest on The Social, where she’s billed as the talk show’s wine expert.

Beverly's kitchen, which is done in black with pops of orange and yellow

Crandon bought her home in 2005, when Liberty Village was a barren industrial stretch. “Everyone thought I was nuts,” she says. “I put a pre-construction deposit down when there was absolutely nothing here.” Over the past twenty years, she hasn’t made many upgrades. She loves that the layout is conducive to entertaining while she cooks, which she does at least once a week. In the summer, she’ll also host on her rooftop terrace, where she whips up jerk chicken wings and whole fish on the barbecue.

The bar, which is swaddled in faux fur, is more than just a quirky conversation starter. “For me, it symbolizes simpler times,” she says. “Growing up in Kitchener-Waterloo, we never went out. We just went to bars in friends’ basements.” It also provides extra storage space and is loaded with tasting glasses, serving platters and three fondue sets. She uses those for triple-fondue dinners with a cheese sauce, a savoury sauce for dipping meats and a molten chocolate to finish. The painting on the cart is by Trenedee Watson. She created it for Crandon’s event Black Grapes, which celebrates Black people’s contributions to winemaking.

Crandon's home bar, which is covered in faux fur

“When I was younger, I used to tell people to bring me home a shot glass from wherever they were vacationing,” says Crandon. “Now I just ask for a bottle of wine.”

Crandon's collection of shot glasses

This mini cask is used for barrel-aging Crandon’s favourite cocktail: the negroni.

A small wooden barrel

Back in the ’80s, Kitchener-Waterloo was a sleepy, homogeneous place surrounded by farmland. If the Crandon family wanted Caribbean groceries, they had to drive to Toronto, which they did twice a month. Today, Crandon gets most of her specialty Caribbean vegetables (thick-leaf thyme, dasheen) from the Ubuntu Community Farm near Downsview Park, and she hits up Caribbean Corner in Kensington for island condiments and spices (achar, green seasoning, masala). Sanagan’s Meat Locker is her preferred butcher, but she’ll pick up the occasional whole snapper from Hooked. For everything else, she frequents Fresh City Market.

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A look inside Crandon's fridge

Crandon’s fridge is relatively sparse right now because she’s just finished making a goat curry. What remains includes sea moss (a type of red algae recommended by her brother for its health benefits), scotch bonnet peppers, locally grown arugula, and Caribbean staples like steam sauce, green seasoning and jerk paste.

Some of the ingredients in Crandon's fridge
Some of Crandon's produce

Crandon has been known to occasionally pull a travel-sized bottle of hot sauce out of her bag. “I prefer hot sauces that accentuate the dish,” she says, “not ones that just burn my tongue.” She also has an ever-growing collection of homemade sauces gifted by friends. “My fridge is full of bottles that look a bit suspect,” she says. “But those homemade ones? They’re usually the tastiest.”

Some of Crandon's homemade sauces

Crandon loves Flow water and even uses it to make her morning protein smoothies. She never drinks untreated tap water. When her Flow supply dwindles, she’ll go back to boiling water and keeping it in the fridge (a habit she learned from her parents). She knows it’s not necessary for hygiene, but she stands by her assessment that it tastes better that way.

Some of Crandon's flow waters

Here are a few of Crandon’s pantry staples: cassareep (a cassava-derived syrup essential for making pepperpot), dried sorrel (which she turns into a drink by soaking the flowers in water for 72 hours with nutmeg, clove and allspice), married man’s pork (an indigenous Caribbean herb she uses in soups and curries), and Scorpion pepper jelly (which she claims pairs perfectly with blue cheese).

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Crandon's pantry staples

When cooking for herself, Crandon keeps it pretty simple: tuna-arugula salad, rapini and Sanagan’s sausage, cauliflower rice with some batch-cooked curry—all low-carb 10-minute meals. “I choose to take most of my carbs in the form of wine, so I try to limit them when eating at home,” she explains. When cooking for friends or family, though, she doesn’t skimp. “I still get grief from my dad about that one time I served cauliflower rice,” she says. “Never again.” Here’s the goat curry she made this morning in her Dutch pot, which her friend brought back from Jamaica 10 years ago.

Crandon's goat curry

When eating out, Crandon naturally gravitates toward restaurants with strong wine programs. “I love Salt Wine Bar, Archive and La Palette because I never have to worry about the pairings,” she says. “Plus the people and atmosphere at all three are great too.”

Some of Crandon's spices and rubs

Crandon is a self-taught cook. “I hate following a recipe,” she says. So it’s no surprise that she isn’t generally a fan of cookbooks. However, she does enjoy books that offer deep dives into the world of wine. Currently, she’s immersed in Foot Trodden, which explores esoteric Portuguese wines—she loves the country so much that she’s flirted with the idea of retiring there. She’s also reading Beyond Flavour, an exploration of wine-tasting, and Clinking Outside the Box, a travelogue by international wine judge Harry Drung.

Some of Crandon's books about wine

The bulk of Crandon’s wine collection is aging gracefully in her locker at the Vintage Conservatory. “I stash away anything that’s not ready for the corkscrew over there,” she says. At home, she’s organized her bottles strategically: those about to peak are showcased in the living room or kitchen fridge, and the wine fridge is a haven for those with a longer runway—mostly sparklers, whites and amber wines.

The collection of wine in Crandon's fridge
Crandon's large wine fridge

Here are a few wines Crandon can’t wait to uncork: a chardonnay from Nyarai Cellars, Canada’s only Black-owned winery; a friulano from northern Italy, which Crandon buys by the case because it’s both refreshing and weighty; a Grimsby Hillside chardonnay from Maenad Wine Co., a woman-owned virtual winery; and a natural orange wine from Alsace that’s all kinds of funky without trying too hard.

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Some wines that Crandon is looking forward to trying

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