[caption id="attachment_293" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="A footed cake stand shows off a beautiful (and delicious) Blueberry Frangipane Tart."][/caption] The request came in early spring to teach a cooking class at Viewpointe Estate Winery on Lake Erie, near Harrow, Ontario. The winery sounded interesting and ambitious, especially with its added focus on culinary arts and it's being part of Lake Erie's north shore burgeoning wine area. Esther Reaume, the winery's event coordinator who did the inviting, is the sister of Ann McColl who owned one of Canada's finest cookware stores in London, Ontario until her retirement a few years ago. I had been a cooking guest at Ann's shop many times and relished each visit. Esther, like her sister, owned a cookware store beloved of cooks in Windsor where it was located. The clincher - it had been a few years since I visited the warmest, most southernmost and surely one of the lushest growing area in Canada. It was time to check out the winery and surrounding region. Yes! Esther and I agreed that the cooking class would celebrate wine country and its abundant produce. The area's famous for its greenhouses, with roadside stands proclaiming the availability of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. Essex County, where Viewpointe is located, is peach country, and is a berry-growing region when June brings strawberries, and bowls filled with raspberries and blueberries carry on right through to Thanksgiving. You would need at least two extra sets of hands to count all the fruit and vegetables that comes from this county where Windsor, Ontario is located. As for wineries, they've gone from the two pioneers, Colio Estate Wines Ltd. and Pelee Island Wines Ltd. to numbering in the high teens ... and growing. Lake Erie North Shore is a designated viticulture area. [caption id="attachment_304" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="Jean Fancsy, wife of partner Steve Fancsy, pours a serving of a Viewpointe Chardonnay mixed with passion fruit juice and a veritable salad of fresh berries and melon. It's a 'winetail", and very summer-cooling."][/caption] Blueberries proved to be the inspiration. When Heather Howe. Adell Shneer and I were creating new recipes for The Complete Canadian Living Baking (Transcontinental Books, 2008, $34.95) we knew the book that called itself "complete" needed a frangipane tart. But we had already done the traditonal one - plums nestled into a ground almond filling in a previous book, and couldn't just republish the recipe. So, we moved on from plums, choosing blueberries to blanket the frangipane filling. And for the gloss? Melted red currant jelly or seedless raspberry jam added just the right sheen and sharpness to mild mannered blues. Edging the tart with sliced almonds was the last touch needed to create a new tart. And while I'm pretty fond of a classic top and bottom crust blueberry tart, the frangipane version is a dazzler. [caption id="attachment_295" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="The pat-in-pastry starts out by whisking the dry ingredients."][/caption] Blueberry Frangipane Tart To say this tart was a hit with the guests/students seated at tables around the demo area in Viewpointe's large kitchen and teaching area, would be an understatement. A big understatement. The pat-in crust is easy to do and baked golden brown has a real shortbread quality. Almonds complement blueberries, and of course, blueberries are both local and special. Resident chef and cooking school instructor Mary Ann Marshall plated wedges of the tart with a dollop of whipped cream and a quick sauce of simmered blueberries, sugar and water. The blueberries for the sauce were frozen and a gift from Klassen Blueberries - one of Ontario's largest cultivated blueberry farms just down County Road 50 East from the winery. 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) blueberries, wild low-bush or cultivated high bush 1/3 cup (75 mL) seedless raspberry jam or red currant jelly 1/3 cup (75 mL) sliced almonds 1 tbsp (15 mL) icing sugar Pat-In Sweet Pastry: 1-1/2 cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour 2 tbsp (30 mL) granulated sugar 4 tsp (20 mL) cornstarch Pinch salt 3/4 cup (175 mL) cold unsalted butter, cubed Frangipane Filling: 2/3 cup (150 mL) blanched or unblanched whole almonds 1/4 cup (50 mL) granulated sugar 2 tbsp (30 mL) all-purpose flour 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter, softened 1 large egg at room temperature 1/4 tsp (1 mL) almond extract . Set out a 9-inch (23 cm) tart pan with a removable bottom. . Pat-In Sweet Pastry: In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture clumps together. With floured hands, press evenly over bottom and up side of tart pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. [caption id="attachment_296" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="By the time the butter has been cut to this ragged-looking stage, the pastry will pat in evenly and won't be dry and crumbly. "][/caption] . With fork, prick pastry at 1-inch (2.5 cm) intervals all over; bake in bottom third of 350°F (180°C) oven until light golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool on rack. . Frangipane Filling; In food processor, finely chop almonds with sugar. Add flour; pulse to combine. Add butter, egg and almond extract; pulse until well blended, about 1 minute. Spread evenly in tart shell. . Sprinkle blueberries evenly over filling. Bake in bottom third of 375 °F (190°C) oven for 25 minutes. [caption id="attachment_297" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="You can always add a few more berries to fill the top surface."][/caption] . Meanwhile, place seedless raspberry jam in small saucepan or liquid measuring cup. Heat on stovetop or in microwave oven, stirring often, until melted and smooth. Remove tart from oven. Brush top of tart with all but 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the jam. Sprinkle sliced almonds on glazed berries around edge of the tart - like a wreath around the berry centre. Return to oven to bake until almonds are toasted and cake tester inserted in centre comes out clean, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool on rack. (Make-ahead: Set aside at room temperature for up to 8 hours.) [caption id="attachment_298" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="To remove the outside ring, support the base with your hand, letting the cold ring slip down. Then, transfer the tart to wide flat serving plate."][/caption] . Remelt remaining jam; brush or spoon over visible blueberries. [caption id="attachment_299" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="The easiest way to melt the seedless jam or jelly is in the microwave. Add a little water to the seedless jam if necessary to help it melt."][/caption] Dust almonds with icing sugar. Remove ring and, supporting the tart with a large wide spatula, transfer to a flat serving plates. Dust the edge of the plate too, if you like. [caption id="attachment_300" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="Place the icing sugar in a small fine sieve. Hold it over the almonds, tapping it on the side to send a shower of icing sugar over the almonds."][/caption] . Makes 8 to 12 servings. I fancy the 12 servings as an elegant slim wedge of the tart looks lovely on the plate - and is frankly quality over quantity. Vanilla ice cream or lightly whipped cream are good additions. Tips: . You can make the tart shell a day ahead and let it stand still in its tart pan on a rack. The frangipane filling is also a day make-ahead but needs to be refrigerated in an airtight container. It will be easier to spread if you pull it out of the fridge an hour or so before filling the tart. . When cutting the tart, use a chefs knife and wipe the blade between cuts. Where to Find the Good Stuff in Essex County First, check out Essex County Buy Local, a brochure that, on one side is map that locates farms, roadside stands, markets and vineyards that sell directly to consumers. The products range from Lakeside Jersey Dairy's 40% cream to Chana Food's whole wheat, chick pea and spelt flour with much more that includes muskmellon, greenhouse cucumbers, cauliflower, apricots, cherries, gooseberries, beans, beets and blueberries. The Buy Local brochure also has a listing of farms and wineries by district. So, if you're in the Leamington area, you'll easly find Jones Popcorn and Highline Mushooms. Meanwhile, a little further west in Kingsville, the listing includes Raymont's Berries, Cornland Corner, Sun Parlor Honey Ltd. and Pelee Island Winery. Maps are available from the sponsors which include the county's municipalities, Scotiabank, RBC, the Essex County Federation of Agriculture (ECFA), and Windsor Essex Trolley Tours - a not-for-profit community organization that offers great service for visitors and local alike to tour the county, see the sites, stock up on local produce without having to drive and pour over a map at the same time. Check out www.wetrollytours.com. Upcoming tours include one this Sunday, June 28, Harrow, Take a Peek Tour and continue Sundays. Custom tours are available. To download the super-helpful map and charts, go to www.ecfa.ca and click on Buy Local. Viewpointe Estate Winery that hosted the cooking class, holds regular culinary arts classes lead by Mary Ann Marshall. The winery's opening celebration is June 27 and June 28 with tours of the barrel cellar, sensory and culinary experiences. [caption id="attachment_302" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="Mary Ann Marshall cooks global with local foods. On the patio of Viewpointe Estate Winery you can sample a selection of Mary Ann's tapas-style snacks with a glass of the winery's finest."][/caption] And of course, there's the opportunity to sit on the patio and enjoy the amazing view out over Lake Erie. But be careful, patio viewing can be so restful you may never want to leave.