Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Celebratory Soup

My good friend Adele came over for dinner tonight. We were celebrating a big win of hers, and a wonderful achievement. On the menu:

Curried Cauliflower soup with Apple and Roasted Garlic Spread on Crostini.

Curried cauliflower soup is one of my favorite things to make. I make it quite often too, because it's fairly low-maintenance cooking. It involves three steps, well four, if you include eating: roast, simmer, puree. I was sneaky, and made this on Sunday afternoon. The good thing about this soup is that it freezes really well. I often have a batch in my freezer for impromptu gatherings such as this.

Here's how it goes:

1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/2 large onion, or 1 small, chunked
3 cloves of garlic

1 1/2 cups of chicken stock (low sodium is best)

1 1/2 cups water

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. curry powder
S&P to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss cauliflower, onions and garlic in oil, S&P. Roast for approx 15-20 minutes, or until they get a crispy golden.

Toss them in a large pot. Add the chicken
stock, water and curry powder and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for around 15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is soft.

Transfer to blender or food processor in batches, and puree until smooth. Feel free to add some more water or stock if the soup is too thick. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Garnish with chopped apple, my fave is Cortland, and fresh cracked black pepper.

Although the thought of this soup makes me giddy, yes, GIDDY, I was much moreso at the thought of roasted garlic spread! I had never made this before, though I've seen it in numerous recipe books and cooking shows. Tonight though, I thought I'd try my hand at it.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Slice the top off of a whole garlic bulb. Drizzle with olive oil and S&P. Wrap in tinfoil, and toss it in the oven for around 20 minutes, or until soft.

Oh the aroma of roasted garlic! Once it was done, we schmeared it on top of multi grain baguette that I had purchased from Staff of Life on Quinpoole. Trust me, they've got goooooooood bread.

Roasted Garlic Schmear
And there you have it- A gourmet spread, simple effort, all in record time.

Brunch at Brooklyn

This Saturday, I went out for some good food and conversation. I met my friend Joanne at the Brooklyn Warehouse for brunch. I know, again with the Brooklyn. This should be a testament my friends, to this resto's great food, prices, atmosphere, service, and...I'm gushing-Moving on.

I was mulling over something new and different on this brunch outing, but Joanne quickly nipped that idea in the bud. She was going with the Benny eggs & hot smoked salmon and assured me that if I ordered anything different, I was bound to have a serious case of food envy. So, I went for the Benny, and was happy I did.

The smoked salmon was rich and meaty. I love the combo of egg yoke and salmon; it's like a million dollar bite. This was served atop a huge English muffin, toasted just slightly to still be a little soft. We both ordered a different side and split them; crispy roasted potatoes, and Brooklyn's house salad. The salad consisted of mixed greens with jicama and carrots, tossed in a sweet and tangy maple-Dijon dressing.

I'm excited all over again because rumor has it, that Brooklyn has changed their menu. Looks like another visit is in order!

P.S: Brooklyn just might have THE best coffee in the city.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bear River Vineyards

Within Bear River lies a sleepy vineyard-on the outside at least. Bear River Vineyards is quickly emerging as one of Nova Scotia's most adventurous wineries. Chris and Peg Hawes have a beauty on their hands. The wine store and tasting center is located within a barn structure attached to their home.

The winery produces 6 wines in total, with the 2005 Baco Noir being their best seller. My personal favorite however is Isoceles, a blend of Baco Noir, Marechal Foch and (yummy) Pinot Noir. Bear River's Red Eft, a Rose, came a close second.

The wine tour takes one's curiosity through a warm cellar and winemaking room, filled with the sweet smell of yeast and pulverized grapes. This was by far the most informative, interactive wine tour that I've ever been on. Chris took us through the entire process; from aspirations for his winery, through to his winemaking processes and objectives as a vitner.

We were fortunate enough to see and smell the process; a vat of Pinot Noir was fermenting in Chris' "workshop". He is the only vitner in the province gutsy enough to grow the 'heartbreak grape', nicknamed so due to its high-maintenance character. There was also a vat of Marechal Foch, aged only 7 days. We were lucky enough to get to taste this concoction. Though a newborn wine, this batch hold a lot of promise.

The 2008 Pinot Noir Harvest
Thousands of yeast cells having, as Chris described:
"a big farting party."

Touring though the facility, Chris showed us his Power Room. This winery is the only one in the province to use Bio-Diesel, Solar, and Wind energy to fuel its operation. From a sloping facility, enabling a gravity-fed winemaking process, through to Photo voltaic solar panels, supplying energy for all the winery's bottling equipment, Bear River Winery truly embodies the word 'green'.

Just harvested Chardonay grapes awaiting their turn to become the winery's
Greater Yellow Legs Chardonnay

Bear River Winery is also embarking on another 'first'. It is, not only the sole Pinot Noir producer in the province, but also the first Nova Scotian Winery to attempt production of Gamay Nouveau. Here they are, clinging to the vine to suck out the last bits of sugar.

Gamay Nouveau

Though my first impressions of the winery were warm and tingly ones, they quickly changed to excitement and anticipation for the wines to come. Many thanks to Chris and Peg for their warm hospitality and enthusiasm. They have a wonderful facility and great product, which makes Bear River Vineyards a one to keep your eye on.

Visit Bear River Vineyard's website at http://www.wine.travel/

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Food for Thought

The only way to get rid of temptation
is to yield to it...
-Oscar Wilde

Vanilla Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, Caramelized Pears and Candied Nuts

Fresh & Local at Chives Canadian Bistro

This past Thursday I was in for a treat- a ridiculously indulgent one. It was a cold windy night as I made my way to Chives' Canadian Bistro for the launch of Chef Craig Flynn's first cookbook: Fresh and Local. I was greeted at the door by a TDH (tall, dark and handsome) server with a tray of festive sparkling wine. Not a bad way to start an evening. This was, after all, a night for celebration. Craig has been working on this cookbook for a while, and this was his way of gathering together friends and loved ones who labored over this endeavor with him.

And the story unfolds...
Chapter 1

A delightful bag of Chives' Signature Buttermilk biscuit arrives at the table with maple butter

w/ Jost Prost

I've had these treats before, and was filled with glee when I saw their presence on the menu. Warm, flaky biscuits melted the sweet maple butter, turning my taste buds on for the blissful event that was to come.

The afore-mentioned bubbly was Jost's Prost, whose name is German for "cheers". Made from Nova Scotia's signature grape; Acadie Blanc, this fun, citrus sparkler was just the right pairing for this opening course. Cool, crisp and effervescent, the Prost's acidity was in perfect balance with the rich, buttery biscuits and smooth maple butter.

Chapter 2

Roasted squash soup with sauteed sweet corn succotash and maple balsamic drizzle

w/ L'Acadie Vineyards L'Acadie Blanc

This was, hands down, the best soup that I have ever had. In my whole life. I dunno what kind of magic was going on in the kitchen that night, but it must have overflowed into the dining room. Here's the gist of my experience with this first course. The soup was placed in front of me. I, along with the table, marveled at the simple, yet elegant presentation, and then, I dipped my spoon in, and raised it to my lips. You know that feeling when you're so overcome with happiness that you become oblivious to what's going on around you? Yup, that's the one! With the first spoonful of this soup, I closed my eyes, and the chatter in the room seemed to melt away. It was sublime; smooth and velvety. The crisp corn succotash added a crunchy texture while the maple balsamic had a tang that both enhanced the soup's sweetness, and contrasted it at the same time. Now here is a dish with intrigue.

The soup was paired with L'Acadie Vineyard's L'Acadie Blanc. The only organic winery in the province, L'Acadie is also Nova Scotia's newest. The crisp citrus tones of this wine were well suited to even-out the rich, earthy squash.

Chapter 3

Heirloom tomato salad, boccanccini cheese, 12-year aged balsamic vinegar, basil oil, fleur de sel

w/ Gasperau Vineyards Seyval Blanc

OK, so cheese and tomatoes never get tired for me. Especially when I'm presented with a variety of flavors such as those included in this dish. Juicy red, yellow and green heirloom tomatoes came together with soft, slightly chewy boccanccini cheese. Fresh basil added another flavor layer of deep anise and lemon. The luscious, syrupy balsamic kicked this dish up a notch.

The tomato salad was paired with Gaspereau Vineyard's Seyval Blanc; a gold medal winner in the 2008 Taster's Guild Competition. With nuances of orchard flavors and a touch of honey , this semi dry wine accented the salad's bright flavors.

Chapter 4

Caramelized sea scallop on Westphelean ham, Swiss chard, wild lovage and lemon risotto

w/ Jost Eagle Tree Muscat

What's not to love here? Especially when there's 'lovage' involved. Sorry- couldn't resist! I hate to use the generic phrase "cooked to perfection", but this dish actually merits it. Look at the factors here; scallop and risotto, two ingredients that are more than often overcooked. However, the kitchen brought their 'A' game on this one. The scallop was caramelized with a sweet crust on the outside and supple within. The risotto was cooked just as it should be; creamy with bite, while the touch of lemon added zing. The ham provided another layer of salty goodness.

Jost's Eagle Tree Muscat, a two time silver medal winner was the pairing here. I can't think of a wine that would have better matched this dish. The fresh, fruity flavors of apricot and honey nicely balanced the citrus in the risotto, while showcasing the scallop's caramelized coating.

Chapter 5

Brown sugar cured and confit of house bacon, navy bean, kale, celery and horseradish ragout

w/ Gaspereau Vineyards Vitis

Mmmmm, bacon. And not just any bacon at that; mouth-watering, house cured bacon. The yielding meat was so tender, no knife was necessary. The spicy horseradish rounded out the sweetness of the brown sugar, while the navy beans added a lovely, creamy base for the meat.

Gaspereau Vineyard's Vitis was a great choice for this hearty dish. The wine, a blend of Lucie Kuhlman, Baco Noir and DeChaunac grapes won gold at the 2007 All Canadian Wine Competition. The intense blend of red berries and chocolate was just the thing to enhance the meat's sugared glaze, while cutting through the blanket of lush, buttery beans.

Chapter 6

Lamb shoulder "pot roast", toasted barley pilaf, rosemary and golden beets

w/ Domaine de Grand Pre Castel Vitner's Reserve

For the main event, Craig chose lamb, a favorite of his, and largely by his influence, mine too. His take on a pot roast was nothing like my momma's- and I wouldn't have it any other way. The lamb was unreal; pink and juicy, with mouth-filling flavor. The choice of starch was a nice surprise, and a welcome change from the potato that normally accompanies a meat dish. The barley's consistency was reminiscent of risotto but with an intense, almost nutty flavor. Yellow beets added a bright accent to the dish's deep, savory character.

I once overheard at a wine function that Grand Pre's Castel Vitner's Reserve was THE most full-bodied red wine to come out of Nova Scotia. I couldn't agree more. This rich, peppery wine was a wonderful compliment to the toasted, earthy barley, and brought out the sweetness in the lamb. It was also a lovely flavor pairing to the rosemary.

Chapter 7

Pumpkin cranberry brioche bread pudding, maple pumpkin compote, crystal ginger ice cream

w/ Sainte Famille Port

I was thrilled to discover that Craig had combined all of my favorite fall flavors into an inventive, delectable dessert. My sweet tooth can sometimes get me in trouble. When it comes to ice cream, I'm like Dennis the Menace. The ginger ice cream was both hot and cold, with heat coming from the spicy ginger. This bread pudding was only slightly sweet, a characteristic that I enjoy with this kind of dessert, as the real sweetness came from the touch of maple pumpkin compote. The tart cranberries added a delightful tang.

Sainte Famille's Port was the last drop on the menu. It's interesting that I always thought of port as a little old lady wine. I couldn't have been more wrong. Now, whenever I drink Port, it induces the "shiver effect". Sainte Famille's Port did just that with it's ripe black berries and toasted vanilla. The slightly smokey aroma heightened the bread pudding's spices while balancing the maple compote.

And so the so the night ends there, but the story is just beginning. There seemed to be a general consensus at my table, in that no one could truly pinpoint their favorite dish. I shared this feeling right along with them. Congrats to Chef Craig, and all those involved for a spectacular evening. I'm looking forward to seeing what else this gastronome has up his sleeve when Fresh and Local hits the shelves on November 1st.

Chives Canadian Bistro http://www.chives.ca/
All of the wines featured on the menu can be found on the Winery Association of Nova Scotia at:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Just Us!" Coffee- Just what I need

This morning I woke up, got out of bed, and immediately went for my morning coffee. While I stood grinding the beans in my sleepy, half-awake state, I realized just how much I enjoy this morning ritual. With a bit of reflection, and a little analysis, I realized that my first cup obsession was due to my new found favorite brew, "Just Us!" Coffee. I started buying Just Us! this past summer, and haven't bought another brand since.

Just Us! Coffee Roastery Co-op is located in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and is Canada's first Fair Trade coffee roaster. The name, is a play on the word "justice". They also produce tea, sugar and chocolate. Perhaps I'm so drawn to this brand because they provided not only delicious java, but it's Fair Trade AND Organic! How could you go wrong?

My personal fave is the Sumatran; a rich, fruity blend. Eventually, I'll try another. Not anytime soon though, cause this one seems "Just Right!"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Thanksgiving Day Feast

I went to my Aunt's house for Thanksgiving dinner this past weekend. My parents were stopping in on their way to Manhattan to visit my sissy, and it just so happened that they arrived on Thanksgiving Monday. Now, my family is fairly traditional when it comes to turkey-lurkey, so I made them a deal: they let me make whatever I wanted, and I would make it all!

I started prep at 6pm on Sunday night, started again at 8 am on Mondy, put the bird in the oven at 9, and sat down to eat at 1pm. It was a great meal and a great day...plus, I have tons of ideas for my Christmas turkey!

More to come on this one...I just love the photo!
-Courtesy of my cousin Robbie

Oatmeal-brown bread stuffing with Cortland apple, pecans and crunchy celery

Carrots and Sweet potatoes drizzled with Nova Scotian maple syrup

Broccoli, brussel sprouts and green beans tossed in olive oil, hot chilies and bacon.

Red-skinned potatoes mashed with butter, cream and rosemary.

Pumpkin pie with cinnamon whipped cream and hot buttered rum sauce.

Obviously, the main event is the gobbler, so I made sure that it was irresistible.
Yup, I sure did dress the bird with bacon!

That's all folks!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Celebrate World Food Day!

Here's some food for thought, courtesy of Slowweb http://www.slowfood.com/

World Food Day
By: Bess Mucke

‘World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bio-energy’, is the theme of this year’s World Food Day activities, expected to involve more than 150 countries. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) celebrates World Food Day each year on October 16 to mark the date on which the organization was founded in 1945.

‘Hundreds of millions of small-scale farmers, fishers and forest-dependent people will be worst hit by climate change,’ commented Assistant Director-General for FAO’s Natural Resources Management and Environment Department.

‘Global warming is already underway and adaptation strategies, especially for the most vulnerable poor countries where most of the over 920 million hungry people live, need to be urgently developed, reviewing land use plans, food security programs, fisheries and forestry policies to protect the poor from climate change,’ stated Mueller.

The FAO Committee on World Food Security, with representatives from more than 100 countries and a number of civil society organizations, are meeting in Rome over October 14-17 to assess trends in world food security and nutrition.

Major events to mark World Food Day are planned in Albania, Egypt, Morocco, South Korea, a number of Asian and Latin American countries and throughout Europe during October. In Ireland, the Freedom from Hunger Council has organized a seminar in Dublin and similar events are being held throughout Italy. In Spain, the annual WFD Telefood gala will take place on November 8.

Together with the European Professional Football League (EPFL), FAO also launch its Professional Football against Hunger initiative yesterday in Rome. This campaign involves 960 EPFL clubs in raising awareness among young people.


Bess Mucke

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A few thoughts courtesy of the Amateur Gourmet...

On my Google reader, I receive daily updates from other food bloggers about their delicious meals and recipes, as well as general foodie tid-bits.

Some of these tips, are essential to livin' it up with a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget. Example, The Amateur Gourmet's advice on saving $ at restos. I don't go that far, but it was good for a laugh...thought you might enjoy one!

"Some Tips For Saving Money At Restaurants in Hard Economic Times"

1. Go for lunch, not dinner;
2. Ask for bread;
3. Order something you can dip the bread into (a bowl of steaming mussels);OR
4. Order something you can make a sandwich out of (a tomato feta salad, for example--just tear the bread open and stuff the tomato and feta inside);
5. Feel full and happy and realize that, with the free bread, your fancy restaurant meal was less than $10.

And that's how to save money at restaurants in hard economic times.

-The Amateur Gourmet, October 9th

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dill's Atlantic Giant Pumpkin Farm

pumpkin welcomeThis weekend, my friend and I decided to go to the 24th Annual Pumpkin Regatta in Windsor, part of the Windsor-West Hants Pumpkin Festival. The festival features a weigh-off, carving contests and pumpkin recipes. Howard Dill, the man who started it all passed away this past summer at the age of 73, so sadly he wasn't here to see what this year's seedlings have become.

lifting pumpkinHere's me lifting one of Dill's beauts, a a 500 pounder. I almost had it...really!

This place is incredible. Dill's Atlantic Giant Pumpkin Farm features not only Cinderella's coach-type wonders, but a variety of little guys as well; gourds, squash and itty-bitty, fit-in-your-palm type pumpkins. Another high-light was the little kiddies bubbling with excitement to go home and carve their treasures.

giant pumpkinAnd so, we got ready to leave this children's (of all ages) playland, and headed back to the city. I couldn't resist taking one last photo. As I walked away from this slumbering gourd, I couldn't help but wonder what the night would bring. Would it be sprinkled with magic dust and come alive to take the princess to the ball? Or become a million pumpkin pies? I guess we'll never know...


Friday, October 10, 2008

'Tis the season for Pumpkin Cookies!

My good friend and co-blogger Maria made THE most delicious cookies the other day. She's a sneaky lady that Maria - She made pumpkin cookies, and then threw in some chocolate chips to entice her kiddies to eat them! I, on the other hand, needed no such urging...

Here's Maria's post from her blog "The Right Coast":
Pumpkin Cookies
I received these cookies in a basket a few years ago. These beauties are soft and chewy. I add chocolate chips and sometimes walnuts.

Pumpkin Cookies:

1/2 cup margarine (or softened butter)
1 1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1 cup chocolate chips (or raisins)
1 cup chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugar together, mix well. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and pumpkin. Stir in remaining ingredients. Mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet.

Bake in 375 oven for about 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Then invite me over for tea :)


Monday, October 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Alexander Keith!

Seeing as I'm conducting research to be a walking encyclopedia of food, wine, beer and booze, I knew that I had to attend the much anticipated birthday of the father of Nova Scotia's darling, Alexander Keith. When I heard that the line-up included some of my favorite Nova Scotian bands,I was even more determined. I don't really like to consider myself a "groopie", but if the shoe fits... As of noon today I didn't have a ticket and mulled over this predicament all morning until my friend Adele phone me at 3 pm to extend the invitation to join on her group pass.
Success-Problem solved!

It's funny that, growing up in St. John's NL, and REALLY growing up on George Street, my treat at the end(or beginning) of a long night's shift was a pint 'o' Keith's. I'd sit on the barstool and watch the bubbles rise in the amber ale while my friends would make fun of how huge the pint glass looked in my little hand. It wasn't until I moved to Halifax in 2005 that I realized Nova Scotia's serious loyalty to their brew.

I'll never forget my first night downtown in Halifax. At the Lower Deck, I asked for an India Pale Ale, thinking that I would get my fave Newf beer with the Newf dog on the label. The server passed me a bottle of Keith's. I corrected him of course, in my gutsy, scrappy way, that he had given me the wrong brew. I'll never forget the look on his face that said "$#@*^ tourist!" Then he slowly (and quite arrogantly) pointed out the INDIA-PALE-ALE across the front of the Keith's label. Bygones dude, I clearly learned my lesson.

Keith's Brewery produces several fine beers in the form of Keith's India Pale Ale, Keith's Light, Keith's Red Amber Ale and Keith's Traditional Ale. Not one to ever order a "light" beer, I indulged in the latter two for the evening.

Now, I'll apologize in advance for these awful photos, but when you're 5" nothin' in a crowd, could you really expect anything better?

Set in the Halifax Citadel, tonight's B-day celebrations would have made Alex proud. Slowcoaster, a trio of lads from Cape Breton set the party mood with their fun mix of high energy rock meets hip-hop meets reggae tunes. This band certainly got the crowd going for a great party. Though I would love to post a video, I decided against it because they're all so jumpy. I can't help it- These boys make me bop around. But I did get some photos, so "Here's the money shot for ya"...(Well, not really, but you get the idea!)

Wintersleep closed the night with some new tunes and crowd favorites. These guys continue to impress me with their mix of hardcore tunes and poetry. Again, another band that simply won't let me stand still...no complaints here!

I'm pretty pumped that I lucked out with my free ticket. After all, how often does one get to attend a celebration on historic grounds to celebrate a man who shaped the party scene for Nova Scotia? I think one word sums up this night fairly well...Sociable!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sainte-Famille Winery Annual Grape Stomp

This past sunny Saturday, a friend and I rented a car to drive to Falmouth in the Annapolis Valley. We were on our way to visit Sainte-Famille Winery for their 15th(!) Annual Grape Stomp. Owner Suzanne Corkcum remarked that they have done this event on the first Saturday of October for 15 years, and not once did they have a drop of rain. Dionysus must have his eye on this event.

The Grape Stomp featured three sets of stomps for adults, as well as a kiddie stomp in the afternoon. This event is a great way to spend the afternoon with local producers bringing in food to go along with Saint-Famille's products. It's a good laugh to see these grown adults dance around in a kiddie pool full of grapes. It's even better to see the smiles on their rosy cheeks, and know that they're having a blast as well.

This year's winner, appropriately enough, was the Winery Association's Team, coming in with 27 lbs of juice, not bad in my opinion! Here is a video to give you some idea as to the hilarity of the event. Yes, that's my cackle that you're hearing in the background.

Once we had out fill of the grape stomp, we took advantage of the vineyard tour which runs daily at 10 am and 2 pm. Corckum not only went through the wine-making process, but explained the history behind the grape varieties, as well as the origin of their names. She also allowed us to sample the grapes. These are much smaller than the grapes you see at the super market, and way more adorable. The white grapes were both tart and sweet, while the red had a distinctive jammy taste about them, making it almost definitive that they will turn out a lovely wine.

Sainte-Famille has a fairly large portfolio and are a well-loved producer by the locals. Making 18 different types of wines, they have something to appease every palate. As they are a smaller, boutique winery, Sainte-Famille does not sell their products at the NSLC, but simply on-site and at the Halifax Farmer's Market.

I got to try their two best sellers: 2005 Foch Reserve and 2006 L'Acadie Blanc. Perhaps these little guys will make their way into a bottle sometime soon...

Marechal Foch