Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spanish Tapas night!

Long before the lamented Nova 7 recall, I had some friends of mine over for a Spanish Tapas night. I love getting together with this group of friends, however, its often very difficult to coordinate. We had planned over a month in advance, which gave me over a month to decide on the perfect components to a (simple) Spanish Tapas night.

I had picked up two btls. of wine, a btl. of Spanish White from Bishop's Cellar and a btl. of Nova 7. My friend's bf - the gem that he is - also surprised her w/ a btl. of N7 for her night with the girls!

What a feed! Prosciutto (which is Italian, I know...details...) roasted chickpeas, spicy olives, roasted red peppers, almonds (I couldn't find the classic Spanish almonds, Marcona), fresh fruit, a selection of cheeses, and our friend who works at Ristorante Amano brought their house-made hazelnut and pistachio gelato.

It was meant to be - the Nova 7 matched my tulips!

And here is the spread....

Spicy Olive Mix, among others...

Watermelon, peaches and strawberries

Roasted Red Peppers


Tamari Almonds

Pistaschio & Hazlenut Gellato from Pizzaria-A-Mano

And coming up next? French Supper Club w/ Brie & Bordeaux!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cheese & Asparagus Tart

Since blogging about my Easter dinner asparagus tart, I've had several people ask me for the recipe. Truth is, it's sort of a mis-mash of recipes' from Martha Stewart and Jamie Oliver, with my own little twist. This tart is fantastic for lunch with soup or salad, alongside eggs for breakfast or as a side dish with a steak dinner.

Cheese and Asparagus Tart

2 c. Mozzarella Cheese

1 c. Gruyere Cheese

¼ c. melted butter

2 bunches asparagus, trimmed

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F.


Blanch asparagus in boiling water for a minute and transfer to an ice bath to maintain their colour.

Line a large sheet pan with a layer of parchment paper and brush with butter. Layer 10-12 sheets of filo pastry brushing each sheet with butter until desired thickness is achieved.

Remove asparagus from water and dry thoroughly. Sprinkle pastry with cheeses, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until filo is golden brown.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rabbit Rillette

This blog post is incredibly late - I forgot about this one, but wanted to share it with you anyway because of the fact that it's about one of the best products at the Halifax Farmer's Market. On this particular occasion, I went to a friends house for some snacks before going out on the town. We all brought contributions, and mine included a jar of Rabbit Rillette from Ratinaud -a company created by a sous chef at Bish, Frederic...? Can't seem to find his card at the moment.

It's incredible that a product so rich and meaty could come from a jar, and contain so few ingredients. The Rillett is comprised of rabbit, duck fat, pork fat, thyme, garlic and. So...I suppose it's not really an everyday food - moreso a special occasion one - but certainly not one to be missed.

Ratinaud has a line of various pates, etc. but the Rillette is by far my favorite; it's meaty, luscious and creamy with just the slightest whisper of salt- making it a wonderful pairing with a thick-cut tangy sourdough loaf or baguette.

Of course, I couldn't justify us having a gourmet snack without providing one to the pooch. After all, his owner and I have some pretty picky palates, so one would imagine he does too! I treated Chowder to three dog biscuits from Katie's Farm Organic Bakery, Canada's first Certified Organic Pet Bakery!

Cheese, Apple-Oat & Cashew Nut-Butter Biscuits


Sustainable Seafood Series # 8- Seasons Wine Bar & Bistro

I recently attended the 100 Mile Dinner created by Chef Luis Clavel of Seasons Bistro & Wine Bar. Luis is new in his role as Executive Chef and is determined to run his restaurant in an ethical manner in addition to providing a delicious dining experience. The dinner consisted of a 4-course meal, with as many ingredients as possible having been soured within 100 miles.

Luis is a champion of local cuisine and a supporter of Nova Scotian seafood. Hand in hand with this support, is Clavel's enthusiasm for purchasing seafood that has been caught/processed in a sustainable manner; "At our restaurant we focus in respecting and understanding all aspects of our food products so that we can create the best dinning experience for our guest."

Being able to support the local market as well as the economy is very important for Clavel, and he emphasizes the need - both as a chef, and as a consumer - to build respect for the catch.

Clavel adds that he has a great relationship with his supplier. Robichaud’s Fisheries is a local small business dedicated to delivering great seafood. The fish is line caught from long liner hooks, while the nets are split to catch only the right size of fish. This allows those that are not fully developed to escape and continue to grow to maturity.

"I buy all my fish from them" he says, "with our commitment to supporting local vendors we can illustrate and educate that you don’t have to travel far for a great experience".

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bday Bites at The Bitter End

On the eve of my sister's  ?  th birthday, as she was visiting from Manhattan, we went for celebratory snacks and drinks at the Bitter End Martini Bar. We wanted to eat a busy place, and were mostly interested in the booze, so I quickly found a spot for two at the bar and we set to work on our vodka martinis with a side of jelly worms. 

As we were heading out for a night on the town, we wanted to some smaller plates to take the edge off of our noisy stomachs. We settled on two snacks from both end of the taste spectrum; a light salad, and an obscene amount of ooey-gooey baked cheese.  The Pear salad was served with mixed greens, red onion, walnuts, Bartlett pear and smoked Applewood cheddar with honey dijon vinagrette.  I'm not normally a fan of dressings, and usually get them on the side, so I was bummed when the salad arrive - dressing on - ad I realized that I had forgotten to make the request.  No matter though, as the dressing was sweet and tangy and complimented the other items in the dish nicely.  I'm always a fan of Applewood Cheddar, and it's nutty bit was a lovely contrast to the fresh, juicy pear.
Pear Salad
How can you go wrong with Saganaki really?  Kasseri cheese sauteed in olive oil and black pepper and flambeed with Sambuca and Brandy is my idea of a good time.  Though certainly not for someone watching their waistlines/blood pressure/cholesterol and all that, it's a tasty, salty bite that pairs particularly well with a bit of bubbly, which the bartender had just popped open once the cheese arrived.

This was a nice little snack for two, and with all that cheese, we filled up quickly!  From there, a couple of our cousins joined us, we had a few more drinks and then made our way to Obladee for some more wine to finish off the night. Though given the option, I'd likely pick Manhattan to celebrate my bday, I think we did a pretty good job to show that New York City gal some fun on her Bday in Halifax!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sustainable Seafood Series # 7- Ryan Duffy's Steakhouse

You might consider it odd that I'm featuring Ryan Duffy's, a steakhouse as one of Halifax's prime sustainable seafood restaurants. I'm not disagreeing with you - it is odd - but in a great way. Ryan Duffy's is known for its terrific steak, but in addition to that, the resto is known for its champion chef, Chris Velden. Velden is a Master Chef, having worked in restaurants across the globe for over 25 years.

During his time spent in Vancouver, Velden began working with the Ocean Wise program. Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood. Velden has continued his work since his move to Halifax as their Atlantic Canada Representative.

Velden states that, "the most important thing about sustainable seafood choices is to get informed; read about what is going on in our oceans, check out the Ocean Wise web site, Seachoice and the Monterey Bay Aquarium." He also emphasizes that diners need to be conscious consumers and ask the restaurant's service staff the proper questions: "Where is your fish from? How is it caught? Is it local? etc." Velden encourages you to ask the same questions when you go shopping, and if you don’t like the answer, don’t buy it! One can really start to grasp the seriousess of the situation when Velden adds, "We need to do whatever we can. Otherwise we'll be eating a lot of jelly fish in the near future. "

Velden shares with me his local suppliers, including Nic Budreski for Oysters, Clams, Sea Urchins, harpoon-caught Swordfish, Striped Bass, Sable Fish and Wild Salmon. He also relies on Indian Pointe for Mussels, Scotian Halibut for land based farmed Halibut and Char, and Goldwater Seafood’s for hand-line caught Haddock.

Another indication of this chef's dedication to his craft and principles is his Chef's Blog, whereby Velden shares with his readers news of sustainable seafood deliveries, updates on Ryan Duffy's daily specials. On another sustainable note, and continuing Velden's passion to promote - and produce - local, the chef has created a rooftop garden atop the Radisson Hotel, whereby he is able to grow his own herbs for the resto, as well as keep honey bees to produce all-natural organic honey!

Halibut w/ Sweet Potato Risotto


Friday, September 10, 2010

Martinis with a Purpose!

I recently went for drinks with a member of the Autism Golf Ball Planning Committee at Onyx. We were there to try one of the three delicious martinis being featured as part of the Drink, Vote & Win! contest. RCR Hospitality, who is a great supporter of the Autism Society and one of the sponsors of the Autism Golf Ball taking place on October 16th at the Cunard Center, has put together a menu of three different martinis at three of their properties and customers can vote for their favourite!

The last day to vote is September 19th, and the winning drink will be announced during the Martini Contest Taste-Off event at Onyx on September 28th. At just $40 a ticket, the evening's festivities will include samples of all three martinis along with yummy appetizers and entertainment. Tickets for the Taste-Off can be purchased at the door and all proceeds retained will benefit the Autism Society.

The three featured martinis are the Thrill Ride, Ring My Bell and Hole in One. I had the opportunity to try all three; the Hole in One goes down dangerously quickly, while the Thrill Ride was a delicious sipper!

Thrill Ride

Onyx's Thrill Ride
A sophisticated cocktail composed of Citrus Vodka topped off w/
Prosecco and a floating shot of Chambord

The Victory Arms' Ring My Bell
A refreshing mix of Vanilla Vodka, Pineapple juice and lime

CUT's Hole in One
A flavourful smorgasbord in a glass with Vanilla Vodka, Coconut Rum, Super Cassis & Pineapple and Cranberry Juices.

Ring My Bell (r) & Hole in One (l)

For more information on the Autism Society's Annual Golf Ball or for the Martini Taste-Off, contact Renee Fournier at, or visit the website:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day of Excess at aMano & Red Stag

What began as an innocent trip to grab some brunch, suddenly became a day of excess. While a friend and I decided to go to brunch and visit another friend and server at Ristorante aMano, we arrived just as said server was finishing her shift. Instead of dining without her, we decided to wait around and go somewhere where the three of us could eat instead. So...what does one do to kill time while hanging out at aMano on a blisteringly hot day? Have a gelato breakfast! Since I was having an enormous amount of trouble making up my mind (story of my life), I decided on two distinctly different flavours; a cool, refreshing mint and a rich, almost chewy-like peanut butter-chocolate. As we licked our spoons clean, we agreed that it was one of my more genius ideas lately! :)

When we finally moved on for some "real food", it was around the corner for a quick burger at the Red Stag Tavern, located in the Keith's Brewery Market. We managed to get a seat on the patio and proceeded to laze in the sun as we awaited our meals. Still feeling like I could devour a full cow myself, I ordered a huge (for me) Admiral's Burger; a charbroiled sirloin patty topped with bacon, cheddar and a garlic-horseradish aioli. God, I love a good burger! The patty was think and juicy, and the salty bacon and greasy cheese did it even more justice. The potato wedges on the side were pretty good too - I always prefer a wedge to fries. Though they were unseasoned, I did enjoy them dipped in my side of chipotle mayo.

Admiral's Burger

On a side note, I didn't grab a photo of this one, but I recently had a lunch meeting at the Rd Stag and was pleasantly surprised with the tasty dish set before me. I ordered a bowl of the Steak & Pale Ale Chili and was shocked at how quickly it filled me up. With a tomato and Keith's IPA base, this chili was created with chunks of steak as opposed to the usual ground beef...real meat...mmm!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beat the Heat with Stutz Hard Cider

I'm sitting on my balcony this Wednesday evening being thankful for several things; thankful that I'm not moving today (Sept. 1st), thankful that there is a slight breeze way up here on the 4th floor; thankful that I'm not the crazy jogger who just ran by; and thankful that I have a refreshing bevy in hand.

You's currently 40 degrees...for real! I've lived in NS for 5 summers now, and never have I experienced this kind of heat. I'm not really complaining either....except that there is only 1/2 of my bottled beverage left, which means that I'll have to go to the store - at this point, there's no way my life can go on without this icey-cold treat in my hand.

The icey-cold treat in question? It's Stutz Cider, what else? There's only one word for Stutz; delicious, no two; refreshing, wait three; crisp....well you get the idea. Stutz Cider was developed in 2002 and has been amassing a devout following ever since. It hails from the Stutz family in just outside Wolfville at Grand Pre Vineyards. Sure, I could easily drink a Strongbow cider, but why would I want to when Nova Scotia offers a delicious equivalent?

Seriously, this is a drink that not only tastes great, it makes you feel great for supporting a local business. And talk about feeling great? As the ad indicates, when you drink Stutz, you've got serious Sex Appeel!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Susie's Shortbreads' 2nd Birthday!

This past Saturday, I met up with a childhood friend of mine and her little one for a fun-filled trip to Susie's Shortbreads. Susie's, a local bakeshop that specializes in shortbreads, but has become renowned for their cupcakes, was celebrating its 2nd Birthday!

I remember opening day, 2 years ago, when my bestie and I stopped in to Susie's just after the first annual IncrEDIBLE Picnic at Garrison Grounds. On that particular visit, I tried the light, innocently sweet Strawberry Fields cupcake. Last year, for Susie's 1st Birthday, I ordered the delightful Swiss Alpes cupcake with a creamy chocolate buttercream and a chunk of Toblerone on top.

This year's Birthday, though, was by far the best. In addition to it being a beautiful sunny day, we decided to hang out on the grass, in the shade on Citadel Hill, let the little one run around and savour the sweetness both the cupcakes and the last days of summer. My choice this year was the Better than Butterfinger; a white cake studded with pieces of Crispy Crunch, and topped with a chocolate-peanut butter buttercream.

Better than Butterfinger

For me though, Nico, my friend's two-year old daughter was the best part. As we discussed her upcoming Birthday and my mind turned over the Birthday present possibilities, Nico ran around, squealing with delight, holding her mushed up, grass and dirt covered cupcake... With icing all over her dress, face and hands, I realized that life just doesn't get any sweeter than this.

little Nico :)