Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mamma Mano! Decadent dishes at Ristorante A Mano!

A couple weeks ago, some friends and I went for a much anticipated meal at Restaurante A Mano. I had been to this spot during its first year, and had made many attempts to go since, but it never quite worked out.

On my first experience, I had rich risotto balls in a smokey tomato sauce and an equally indulgent pizza of tomato, brie and pecans. These sinful toppings, served on a crispy homemade crust, were my idea of heaven…That was until I tried A Mano’s fluffy, cloud-like pillows of gnocchi.

My friends and I started the evening by sharing an order of calamari. Tossed in a light, crisp batter, these were devoured just as quickly as a bowl of popcorn. The garlic aioli on the side was just slightly sweet and so good that we asked for another helping.

One of my friends decided on a pizza after my own heart. A fellow olive-lover, she created her own pizza with kalamata olives, spicy pepperoni and mushrooms. In one bite, there was an explosion of flavor: salty, spicy, earthy, and ooey-gooey - that's the cheese! These flavours came together to create the perfect pizza bite. I filed that order in the back of my brain for the next visit – then, it’s ‘zaa' all the way.

Meanwhile, my other friend ordered the lamb pasta. A simple but rich dish of lamb-filled pasta, topped with a sage-brown butter sauce. This dish was fantastic, as I knew it would be. The tender meat enclosed within the al dente pasta was lovely. My only complaint here was that the entrĂ©e portion, though rich, looked and filled like an appy moreso than a main. Now, I’m all about not over-indulging in pasta, and I do believe in “less is more”, however, I did think the serving was a bit stingy... Just sayin’!

I on the other hand, went with the gnocchi. Our group had the very good fortune of counting our server among the best of friends who counselled me several weeks before, that "You have to try the gnocchi”. Armed with that passion in mind, I decided on the basic peparation of the dish, trusting the resto to provide the best in simplicity. My gnocchi was served in a light tomato sauce, with a generous dollop of creamy ricotta cheese and a mound of spicy arugula.

Oddly enough, for a group of people who don’t tend to go the way of the sweet tooth after a filling savory meal, we decided to split dessert between the three of us. Again, on the urging of our server, we decided on the Nutella crepes topped with vanilla gelato, chocolate sauce and chocolate covered nuts. A great sharing dessert, there was plenty for three people. And to top it all off, a foamy cappuccino was the perfect ending to our Italian outing.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Dinner Ideas

For those of you trying to decide what to eat this Easter, I thought I'd share my post from last year's family dinner. On my family's request, I cooked a ham and added a few special touches with an Asparagus Tart and Lemon cakes. Since I got so many requests for the recipe for said tart, I've included that as well.

Asparagus Tart

I hope you all enjoy a lovely Easter Dinner
with family and friends!

And to all the little ones out here, Happy Easter Egg Hunting!
I hope you have an 'Egg'celent time :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Slow Food Nova Scotia's Second Annual Spring Supper!

Well, Spring has sprung, and in the culinary community of NS, who pride themselves on using local ingredients, this means that it's time for the second annual Slow Food Nova Scotian Spring Supper! Proceeds from this event, sponsored by Taste of Nova Scotia and the Winery Association of Nova Scotia, will go to Slow Food Nova Scotia and Feed Nova Scotia.

On Saturday, May 7, some of Nova Scotia's most beloved chefs will come together to cook an incredible 7-course meal - paired with Nova Scotian wines - using the province's finest culinary products in their dishes. Chefs Darren Lewis of Chives; Renee Lavalle, The Feisty Chef; Dennis Johnston of Fid Resto; Paolo Colberto of Jane's on the Common; Kim Stacey of Emma's Eatery; Chris Velden of Ryan Duffy's; Graeme Ruppel of Brooklyn Warehouse and Michael Howell of Tempest.

To give you an idea as to the luscious, local menu, I thought I'd start you off with a few photos from last year's incredible offerings:

So now, take a look at this year's menu, and start saving some room! This year's Spring Supper will be held at Christ Church Community Centre, 61 Dundas Street (around the corner from Two If By Sea), Dartmouth. The reception starts at 6:30 pm, with dinner occurring at 7 pm sharp!

Tickets are $75 (Members) and $85 (Non-Members). Did I mention already that the wine pairings are indluded? Seriously - this is the Best Deal Around! Tickets are available at Chives, The Brooklyn Warehouse, Fid and Jane's on the Common. Limited tickets are available, so make sure you get yours soon! For more information, contact




Homemade Biscuits & Butter
Kim Stacey, Emma's Eatery

Curried Indian Point Mussel Chowder, Petit-de-Grat Snow
Crab Cake,
Preserved Peach Chutney
Darren Lewis, Chives

Riverview Arugula Salad, Broken Roasted Garlic & Mustard Vinaigrette
Ricotta Wafer, Crispy Black Olive
Paolo Colberto, Jane's on the Common

Harpoon Caught Swordfish, Salsa Verde,
Wild Rice Risotto, Lobster Chili Oil
Chris Velden, Ryan Duffy's

Nova Scotia Lamb Shawarma, Tzatziki, Pickled Turnip,
Herb Salad, Chickpea Socca
Renee Lavalle, The Feisty Chef

Slow Roasted Windsor Valley Pork Belly, Local Sweet Potato
Dennis Johnston, Fid Resto

"Jigg's Dinner" Granite Irish Stout Braised Beef Rib,
Haddock Brandade,
Savoy Cabbage, Fiddlehead Mustard Pickles
Graeme Ruppel, The Brooklyn Warehouse

Noggins Warm Apple Pocket, Rhubarb Panna Cotta,
Fox Hill Gelato Michael Howell, Tempest

Friday, April 8, 2011

Snacks, Apps and Entrees at Estia

I've eaten a fair amount at Estia on Spring Garden Road in the last couple of months. As opposed to doing individual blog posts, I thought I'd combine the meals to provide a good snapshot of the offerings on the appetizer, entree and dessert menu.

Estia is located in the same spot as the ill-fated Sebastien's restaurant, and the space of the former Deco Restaurant. When I first saw its Aegean blue awning, I thought: "Oh great, another Greek spot in Hali." Little did I know that I'd soon refer to Estia as "The best Greek spot in Hali."

Estia is truly one of those restos that, upon walking through the door, makes your mouth water. The aroma of freshly baked bread is the first scent to meet you. This seasoned caraway bread comes to the table with a zesty lemon-oregano dipping oil to take the edge off your hunger. Now I'm the type of person who generally considers the bread basket as filler, however, I would go to Estia simply for a glass of wine and a bread basket - Yeah, it's that good.

Some of my favorite apps include the Saganaki; melted oeey gooey cheese flambeed with brandy, ans served with THE bread. Another favourite is the crispy calamari, served with the richest, creamiest tzaziki I've ever encountered. Lastly, is the Greek Nachos - a fantastic idea and a dish that lives up to its name. Deep fried pita chips are layered with black olives, green onions, tomato and topped with Mozzarella, Romano and Feta cheese. With cheese that stretches as you pull the thick, hearty chips apart, this dish should launch an all new category of 'Best nachos in Hali'.


Pan-fried kefalogravieria cheese flambeed / Metaxa Brandy


served w/ tzaziki

Greek Nachos

Deep-Fried Pita Chips sprinkled w/ Mozzarella, Romano & Feta Cheese

topped w/ green onion, tomato & black olives

served w/ creamy tzaziki

The Greek platter is great for 3-4 people wanting to try a bit of everything. With all the Greek

specialties, the platter provides a taste of the traditional Greek dishes. My personal favorite is

the stuffed tomato.

Greek Platter for 2

Moussaka, pastitsio, stuffed pepper & tomato, chicken & pork skewer.

Served with lemon roasted potatoes, rice & tzatziki

Estia also does a great breakfast/brunch. I only wish I hadn't been so hungry so as to devour my Aegean omelet before taking a photo. However, lunch provides a good mix of options as well. My BF always seems to go for a sandwich/soup combination, so I've pretty much tried them all; Smoked Applewood Cheddar Panini with Pineapple Chutney or the succulent Lamb Burger with Tzaziki and Feta. He tends to pair these with soup; the traditional Avoglemono egg-based soup or the Tomato soup with Lamb and Orzo pasta. The panini below is so tasty, it could almost do without the chicken for a killer vegetarian sammy...again, with the melted cheese...

Grilled Chicken Pesto Panini

Charbroiled Chicken Breast, Roasted Red Peppers,

Melted Provolone and Basil Pesto

And, when you're jonesin' for something light, the Greek salad always fits the bill. A meal in itself, a small salad and one of the tasty soups is a fantastic pairing.

Greek Salad

Romaine, Feta Cheese, Kalamata Olives,

Red & Green Peppers and Tomatoes

I'm not normally one who goes for dessert in restos. A big piece of cake may appeal to some, however, I'd rather use that extra stomach space for savoury items. However, when I dine at Estia, it's tricky to resist the homemade Ekmek. Somehow, this desert contains all the elements of richness; whipped cream, vanilla custard and honey-drenched phyllo, but still appears light on the palate. Sneaky...


Shredded phyllo, honey-syrup, vanilla custard &

whipped cream topped with pistachios and almonds