here and there

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sumac Ridge dining on the first day of 2010 Fall Wine Festival

While in the Okanagan, in trying to book a reservation for supper, we found that the restaurant, the Cellar Door Bistro was closed for a private function, Feast for your Senses at Sumac Ridge.  To our delight we found out that there were 2 spots left for the dinner menu wine paring that evening, the first day of the fall wine festival. 


"Oh.. I don't think we should wear these!!!"





On arrival, we were greeted with Sumac Ridge sparkling wine and given eye blinders and asked to use them before each dish was served. It was a four-course meal paired with wine with commentary by Christa Lee McWatters-Bond and blindfolding was to heighten our sense of taste and smell.  Some of the people like Boris and Sonja were not too pleased to be blindfold and that was the beginning of this couple bickering most of the evening.


Warm Spot Prawn salad with Smoked Heirloom Tomatoe Froth paired with 2007 Black Sage vineyard Chardonnay

The prawns were plump and juicy.  Although the tomato froth was sweet and tasty, none of us could distinguish the taste as been smoky.  The variety of greens used were not recognised by anyone us.
Wild Mushroom Soup with Forest Essence

With blinders on, we were asked to identify the smell of the next dish.  The presentation was very clever!  A bowl off mushroom soup was placed into a larger bowl that had fresh cedar, pine, rosemary and thyme.  The fragrance of cedar and pine filled the air as hot water was poured over to release the forest essence.  The soup, although tasty was served lukewarm and did not scream out wild mushrooms given the variety of wild mushrooms pureed for the soup, ie oyster, chanterelles. lobster mushrooms, pine. 

Mushroom soup pared with 2007 Black Sage Vineyard Carbenet Franc
Beef Tenderloin, Vanilla Olive Oil powder, Smoked Potatoe Croquette and Okanagan Vegetables , 2006 Black Sage Vineyard Mertiage red
For this serving when blindfolded, large martini glasses were passed around with chopped green peppers, coffee beans, and peppercorns and after smelling each glass we were asked to taste and identify the wine.  Only one person was able to identify the wine as a meritage. 
Sumac Ridge was the first winery outside of the United States to produce.  Meritage are wines blended from traditional "noble" Bordeaux varieties according to set standards. 

The beef tenderloin was served with a small bowl with about ¼ cup of vanilla olive oil powder.  This was to be sprinkled on the beef which I unfortunately sprinkled all of it on my meat and it tended to over power the taste of the beef,  Bill felt the piece of meat was very small.  The smoked potato croquette, which plated with the meat on top was soggy and didn’t compliment the dish.  

 




 Chocolate Pana Cotta , Mint Syrup with 2007 Gewurztraminer Ice Wine 


The remarks around this dessert where comical as the American at our table kept trying to decide whether it was Crème brûlée or mousse.  The Chocolate Panna Cotta was heavy, firm and not very chocolate tasting!  The texture was not creamy.  It really lacked taste, even with the mint syrup.  Paring with the dessert with Gewürztraminer icewine was way too sweet.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dining with Edible British Columbia- Granville Island Market

With great anticipation, we looked forward to this dining experience.  From the web site we gleaned the following expectations.

Join us – and BC’s Best Chefs – for a gourmet feast in an incredibly unique and iconic setting – Granville Island Public Market, after-hours. Enjoy a multicourse market-inspired dinner with sommelier selected wine pairings in an intimate venue that is unlike any other in the province.

What can you expect? A chance to spend an interactive evening with a professional and well-known chef, a multicourse meal prepared in front of your eyes, BC’s top wines paired with each course, black linens and candlelight in the working market after hours, gracious serving staff and hosts.

Your chef will prepare seasonally inspired sumptuous dishes while you watch, taste and enjoy. Since the goal of the evening is just to relax and enjoy the experience, we will email you a copy of the recipes and wine pairings from the night along with photos documenting the food and evening.

Each night is limited to only 20 guests.
http://www.edible-britishcolumbia.com/events/public-events/

The tables were set up in the hallway next to the edible British Columbia kiosk after the market was closed.  A limousine had brought a party from the suburbs to celebrate a birthday party and the number seemed more than 20.

Amuse bouche or “mouth amuser “was cured salmon served on a deep fried wonton wrapper with fresh horse radish and juniper berries on the plate as garnish.  After some of us had popped in a couple of berries, we were told they were inedible as might cause stomach upsets!   The vodka-cured salmon with grated fresh horseradish was delicious, although the cold soggy wonton crisp was not!  This tidbit did offer what the chef had in store, use of juniper berries and other aromatic spices.


The martini was attractive to look at with its pale peach colour.  I was excited to try it as I had seem Jamie Oliver make tomato water on his show where he smashed sun ripen heirloom tomatoes and let the juices drip through cheese cloth.   Having grown up on sun ripen tomatoes, I eagerly tasted this only to have a bitter over powering taste hide the taste of the tomato water!   What a disappointment! I could not finish the drink, as could not others!

Butter poached spot prawn with heirloom beans clam, bacon

Sous-vide (pronounced /suːˈviːd/), French for "under vacuum" is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for a long time.  The shrimp had been cooked first then reheated in butter.  I question this method for shrimp as they cook so quickly as they did tend to be rubbery and tasteless.. There was a lot of hype regarding the darkest brown and beige Heirloom beans, that were not locally grown but in fact dried and from Italy.  Although they provided colour, they did not provide any flavour to the dish.  Although interesting addition was spiced Tomato Orb, the end result was biting into a cold gelatine like balls of V-8 juice.  Cherry tomatoes were suggested in place of tomato orbs and would have added more flavour.  Although, the presentation was lovely, it photographed better than it tasted. 
The wine paired with this was a sparkling white wine

Smoked qualicum scallops and chanterelles.

These pump scallops were smoked with cherrywood, then sautéed in butter.  Chanterelles were also sautéed in butter. 
The bay foam was potato and bay leaves that had been boiled and then put through a blender then along with cream put into an ISI container. Again, although the scallops were chosen, as no phosphate added, the scallop was rubbery and tough, and did not have the creamy rich taste.  Although the use of a pressurised canister was unique, The texture was not thick like whip cream out of these canisters and quickly disappeared on the plate.  Although all of the ingredients work together, they were not tied in with the potato foam. 
The drink pared with this was a syrupy pear wine. 

Birch syrup and pepper glazed venison, celery root , black  garlic truffle  sauce.

The venison was marinated in port, raspberry vinegar, garlic, ginger, bay leaves, rosemary and thyme for 2 –3 days. Sous vide was the method used to bring the venison to raw, then finished off to medium raw just before serving.
 
All the drippings in the sauté pan were combined with birch syrup.  Fermented garlic was used along with sautéed shallots and added to vinaigrette of truffle oil, apple juice and mustard.  The venison was excellent and all the flavours worked well with the meat!  The fermented garlic, which is from California, did not over power the vinaigrette.  The birch syrup, which one could buy, was a dark brown and less sweet than maple syrup with slight bittersweet notes sold for $29 for a litre.  http://www.moosemeadowsfarm.ca/index.html .

For the dessert, the chef made ice cream flavoured with Thai basil by using dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) as the cooling agent and also adding dramatic flare in making the ice cream.



The colour of the ice cream due to the basil was a lovely green along with a strong flavour and although everyone like the play of this dish by added different toppings to the ice cream, none of the toppings complement the flavour of basil.

With the new drinking laws in BC, one of the patrons had previously requested a non-alcohol paring for his meal as well as I did not drink any of the heavily oaked wines.  This was disappointing as I really think there should be other options for those that were not drinking.  Having a mouse run through the room to feed on the crumbs from the cottage pies cooler was also most unappetising.  Overall, the chef use of multiple aromatics tended to take away from the freshness of the products at hand, only a robust game meat like venison could handle all the flavours added with out being over taken by them. 

Overall it was positive experience as it was great to see the chef explain his preparation and watch him execute the dishes for his guests.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mushroom hunting in Sicamous BC

This year, Bill’s power system course was planned around the wild mushroom festival at the end of September in Sicamous! 

On their first festival, we had stumbled on the festival when driving home from an IEEE meeting in Vancouver.  On the wine route, Bill got his first project as a consultant.  We stayed the evening in Sicamus as Bill worked on his assignment, I attended a talk by Paul Kroeger on Magic Mushroom and the culture arising in BC.  What amazed me was the number of tables filled with different mushrooms that had been picked that day in a guided tour through the forest.  There was a table of poison mushrooms, aromatic mushroom and edible. 

http://www.fungifestival.com/photo.html

This year, registration was once again at the Red Barn.  In side the barn, were tables of mushrooms labelled with bright pink neon as poisonous and green for edible, along with yellow or ”not sure”!  The group gathered, with brown paper shopping bags, to listen eagerly to the instructions given as to location and use of the whistles, which everyone received.  In our midst was Paul Kroeger grey ponytail, with a grizzly beard in a red and black flannel shirt as his followers greeted him warmly.  Yard Creek Park a few miles east on Highway number one was our destination. 

Spending a few hours enjoying the sights and smells of the forest, lush green, lightly cool and damp, yet musty from the decomposing was peaceful and restful.  Although I enjoyed this greatly, I was on a mission to not only find pretty unknown mushrooms but I did want to find chanterelles and lobster mushroom! How difficult would it be to find these bright red lobster coloured mushrooms in the green forest!  But I was unsuccessful!  The chef from the Grizzly in Banff who was also one of the guides came to my rescue. http://banffgrizzlyhouse.com/  “Come” he said, “ I saw lobster mushrooms when we drove into the park.”  First, we first found one solitaire white chanterelle sitting proudly above the ground about six inches in size.  According to him, lobster mushroom and chanterelles go hand and hand and usually under cottonwood.



The fresh earthy smell of the chanterelle mushroom was delightful, but I wanted more!  We walked further and there were the lobster mushrooms hidden under moss as they poking out.  Beside the lobster mushroom were the Chanterilles, which were more visible.  The lobster mushrooms were heavy and covered in a lot of dirt as they pushed through the ground.  With Fran’s help, we were able to gather two shopping bags full. 



We also found honey mushrooms, smaller sized round brown caps that grow in clumps on tree stumps or on dead trees.  They were referred to as “edible but not incredible”.  I wondered if Mom would agree with that label for pidpenky!

These honey mushroom or “pidpenky” as they are referred to in Manitoba where in large clusters around trees and up tree trunks, very aggressive yet beautiful. 

With two large bags of earthy smelling mushrooms, the challenge was “how do I keep these mushrooms until I get home?”  One of the guides said to treat it like any fresh vegetable.  They both should be keep in a paper bag with the lobster mushroom keep in the refrigerator and the chanterelle not!   This advice also varied as some said that the mushrooms should be kept dry, others said to keep under a damp tea towel.  All agreed the best method was to sauté them and eat them right away.  Some did say to parboil the lobster mushrooms first.  The lobster mushroom that we had in the lasagne during our guided tour was a disappointment; the mushrooms in this dish were large slices, chewy and tasteless.  This disappointment was especially apparently in the young chef from the restaurant le plateau in Kelowna. http://www.leplateaubistro.ca/.  Darren had found a bag of lobster mushroom along the riverbank that he was going to use for his Soupe du Jour that evening. 

According to one of the women from Burnaby, her advice in preserving the mushrooms was to chop up the mushroom and whip into butter, then shape in to a log, freeze and cut off what you need for your recipes.  In a blog “nourishing” kitchen”, in the recipe for wild mushroom butter, the mushrooms are first sautéed along with shallots, thyme and mixed into a cup of butter and then shaped into a log.  This should keep one to two months in a refrigerator as fat acts as a natural preservation.  http://nourishedkitchen.com/wild-mushroom-butter/

Since we were travelling, I was not too sure how we would be keeping the butter cool.  Overnight, in the hotel room, I left the chanterelles out on newspaper and the lobster mushrooms were kept in the refrigerator in a paper bag. 


In Vancouver, I kept both mushrooms in a refrig and checked them every day, The lobster mushroom seemed to like being in the refrig as looked the same where as the white chanterelles started to lose their lovely white and shrank in size. 

The advice from different chefs in Vancouver also varied from the French chef in La Bretagne Creperie on Jarvis, who the waitress assured us grew up picking Chanterelles in France, the Chef at the Cactus Club on Burrand, to the chef in Towne Hall on Alberni.  All their varied advice made me think that although they knew how to cook with mushroom, they were not familiar with long storage of wild mushrooms.  Hilarious solutions as to what to do with all these mushroom from chefs, including a chef from Granville Island who was doing edible BC meals.  In fact, one of the chefs was using golden chanterelles in one of his feature dishes.

On Thursday, on arrival at out B&B, Grape Escape in the Okanagan, the owner said she could dry both of the mushrooms in her Electrolux oven that had a drying feature.  The two huge heavy bags of mushrooms were dehydrated, into two small bags! Yes, I had been advised that Chanterelle do not dry well although lobster mushrooms do, but this seemed like the best solution.

The following morning she sautéed in butter some of the lobster mushrooms. The mushrooms retained the red covering but were very tasty and did go well with the heirloom tomato galette she had prepared for our breakfast. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/aug/14/tomato-galette-recipe-vegetarian-ottolenghi

How interesting, we were stumping through the woods on the same mushroom hunt with the writer of the blog sun hammered
http://jill-stanley.blogspot.com/2010/09/incredible-mr-intrepid-scores-again.html

In talking with my Aunt Florence about mushroom hunting she was most interested in my experiences.  She talked about mushroom, pidpenky or under the stump, which they picked every fall.  These were the honey mushrooms that I found in BC and was told to leave behind for others who were not as successful as me as in their words these mushrooms were “edible but not incredible”.  She talked about Kozare which were a wavy reddish brown top mushroom found in the summer any where close to water on the farm under bushes.  I remember seeing these beautiful mushroom poking out through the ground under the bushes along the south road of the farm. 

Golden chanterelles were also found on the farm.  In fact, Aunty relayed a story on how Mom and her visiting the elderly woman who lived on our farm in her own little cottage and to whom Dad would refer laughing as the Grandma he bought with the farm.  The elderly woman had on her table a basket of golden chanterelles and my Mom was wondered if they were safe to eat.  The elderly women assure my Mom by saying, they were perfectly fine as she and I had eaten the mushrooms the day before and in her words we were fine!  Needless to say my mom and aunt were horrified that she had done this when she was looking after me as a toddler! 

In posting pictures of the wild mushrooms found on facebook, a friend asked, “what is this obsession with mushrooms?”  Now I know this obsession was formed very early in my life!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reaching out to others results in a recipe for Pumpkin jam

On Oct 18, Calgary elected a new major with a lot of hope and in a purple haze!  One of his popular platforms was to come in touch with one another. 

The next day at Superstore, a woman eyed my large pumpkin in my cart as she bought my cart for four quarters. She commented that she needed to buy a pumpkin to make pumpkin jam.  Having never heard of pumpkin jam, but thinking it must be similar to zucchini jam, I asked with interest, for the recipe. 

To my surprise, she said she soaked pumpkin cubes in a lime solution. She went on to mention that it was not the juice from a lime fruit but bought at Home Depot! To my horror, I had a flashback of my mom in heavy plastic gloves and steam of cloud, as she pouring lye into rendered fat to make soap!  Wait! What did she say, lime, like calcium hydroxide! Not the green lime fruit!  The pumpkin is soaked over night in the lime solution and then washed three to four times until water is clear. According to her, the lime prevents the pumpkin from absorbing the sugar and becoming mushy!  Next, the pumpkin is cooked in sugar and lime juice. In her words, “delicious “ and a Mediterranean recipe. In goggling Pumpkin jam, a Mexican recipe pops up and the above directions are very close to making pumpkin candy or Dulce de Calabaza (Candied Pumpkin).  There was also some discussion as to quality of lime if bought from Home Depot http://www.razzledazzlerecipes.com/flavorsoffall/candied-pumpkin.htm
Pumpkin Candy from site listed below


http://laylita.com/recipes/2009/02/11/dulce-de-zapallo-or-squash-in-syrup/

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

third annual Christmas baking day


After a few delays due to sickness, we finally got together on All Saint’s Day.  Peroghies were the plan for our third annual Christmas prep day! Each of us was to make our own dough recipe and bring a filling.

Year’s ago, I had collected family recipes for a cousin’s shower and to my surprise, each Aunt had her own recipe, which varied from adding sour cream, egg, milk, baking powder and using various temperature of water.  The recipe I used was the closest to my Mom’s and the simplest.  I remember her using flour, water and Mazola oil.  The recipe I used is from my Mom’s friend, Emily who is in her nineties.  6 cups of flour, salt, 1/3 cup of oil, 2 ¾ cup of lukewarm water.  Mix together and let stand for a few hours to help the dough relax.

The dough recipe used by my sister and her sister in law was Arlene’s and used ½ cup of sour cream. My sister felt her dough with the sour cream was easier to roll out, the second dough from the same recipe was not.  I had made my dough at 8:30 am as had Sam, where as Pat’s was made at noon and the first to be rolled out.  Yes, most cooks say that the longer the dough rests the better. However, time could have been a factor but also the amount of flour added when the dough was rolled out.  I also used 3 cups of water as I do like my dough a little wetter than my sister does.

The three of us were making peroghies for the traditional meatless Christmas Eve supper.  For me, I make these Ukrainian delicacies, once a year as store bought ones are crap and I get nothing but complaints if I do not make them from scratch.  Where as my Mom made these dumplings it seemed effortlessly especially during lent when Wednesday and Friday were meatless.  Fresh peroghies were made weekly and usually not frozen as they are now for Christmas Eve.

With each of our annual baking days, we are learning from our mistakes.

For the prune filling, Pat and I both use the prunes uncooked, where as Sam and my mother cooked the prunes first and flavoured the filing with lemon juice and sugar.  It is always good to double-check your package to see that you actually picked up the prune that have been pitted! They become messy to work with, cooked or uncooked if with pits!

The potato filling, which had been cooked and mashed, had been seasoned with salt, pepper, fired onions and butter. We did try to make peroghies with this but the filling was just too wet to work with and we could not fill or seal the dumplings.  The filling was just too wet and we needed to add cooked yellow baking potatoes.  Sam had used red potatoes, which do contain more water, although I do find the red potatoes tastier.

A discussion resulted on potatoes for peroghi filling as to undercooking potatoes, using older yellow potatoes and not as much butter.  My Mom and I always add dried cottage cheese to the potatoes and lately I have found adding ricotta to my mixture results in a taste closer to the home-made cottage cheese my mom used to make on the farm from her cows’ milk.

The sauerkraut for the filling had been boiled to soften the leaves and remove the salt and then wrung dry!  Pat had seasoned her filling with fired onions.  She had used two of those large jars of sauerkraut from Costco.  I usually rinse my purchased sauerkraut and dry sauté the filling to further remove the excess moisture.   My Mom also just washed the sauerkraut and did not add any fried onions to the filling as my Dad could not tolerate fried foods, especially fired onions. I do the same!




Even the very young want to help
 
Certainly this pinching bee did not result in uniforn peroghies!  Many of them would have been rejected by my Mom or the ladies from my town.  I remember in a spontaneous gathering of ladies at my home town to teach my daughter how to make these delicacy, how uniformed the peroghies were and how they were laid out in a pattern, then reversed in order in the next row. The results were perfectly laid out on a clean tablecloth.

Three hours later, I left with 6 dozen of plain potato, almost 6 dozen of sauerkraut and 2 dozen of prune peroghies.  Each peroghy was laid out on a cookie sheet that had been covered in plastic and frozen until solid and then put into a ziplock bag.  Although I never cooked my perghies but like Mom froze them on a tray, Pat had always boiled the peroghies first before freezing them but to my surprise her thoughts were now similar to mine.  Why add all that butter/oil before freezing cooked peroghies only to have to add more again when reheated and served.  This change in thought may have resulted from the last Christmas Eve meal when they had their meal in two stages due to the children’s Christmas mass, they returned to a solid mass of peroghies.  This has always been a challenge for me as Christmas Eve meal with 12 dishes is a time management thing to get everything out on the table hot.  Cooking the peroghies early meant that you had to be paying attention to them all the time and adding more fat to them to keep each dumpling separate.  Yes, at country weddings, I have seen large roaster full of peroghies being kept hot in an oven until needed and being tossed regularly to avoid clumping!  My solution to this was to have hot boiling water ready to go and boiling the peroghies just before serving. This certainly reduced the amount of fat need!

I left the third annual baking bee more confidant that the secrets of this simple yet complex dish were being slowly mastered.  To my amusement, in talking to my brother, a couple of days later, I learned that my sister had saved the peroghi making session!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Teaching your child to be a confidant traveller


Recently, a question was asked of me, when did we first start travelling with children?  This question was prompted by our son’s experience travelling with their one year old.  A five-hour trip to Maine took nine hours due to frequent stops as the child was fussing. Similarly in August, a 6 hour trip from the Okanagan Valley to Calgary turned into a 12 hour trip.  Certainly safety was an issue after travelling  that length of time.  Furthermore, nothing makes my blood boil more than hearing that things are so different now and we just don’t understand!  

On reflection, I realised that my husband and I had been across Canada by car 5 times in one year with two children under 3 and on the first trip the youngest was still breast feeding.    The following year, when my husband was in Iran and I lived in Northern Manitoba with my Mom, I would frequently pack up the car and drive to Winnipeg four hours away with the two small boys to visit the Zoo and their little cousins.  So just how did we survive these long trips with very young children?

As parents, we too were very concerned with safety!  We did not let the children out of their car seats and seat belts once the car was in motion. We too planned stops around feeding, changing diapers and potty training. As the children grew older, these stops were also planned around fun activities, such as play in playgrounds, dip on a beach, attending a fish fry or PowWow!

Involvement of children even very young children, in planning for the trip was most beneficial.  New sunglasses, rubber boots, beach toys, umbrella, flashlight, sun suit added to the excitement of the trip!  Sewing that extra large net using a metal clothes hanger for catching minnows or making a fishing rod out of a special found branch added to the anticipation of the trip!

Sewing a colourful organiser for each child to hang on the back of the front seats and filled with age appropriate toys, books and crayons.

Having handy a stock of surprise items of age appropriate toys, books, crayons, action figures that were pulled out as the trip advanced especially at any lags in the trip, i.e. road construction.

A great idea was a foldable tray that fit onto the car seat.  These trays much like those in a plane were great for meal times and play.

Timing was a big factor as we would drive early in the morning, be on the road by 7 am and then stop for breakfast at 9 am. The kids would play as we ate our breakfast.  Most of our stops would be picnic areas even in the winter as sitting in a restaurant was just not relaxing for any of us.  The children would then usually eat breakfast on the road in the car.  Again lunchtime break was play time for the children as we ate.


Although, our trips covered long distances, we planned each driving day to end at mid afternoon allowing for setting up at the campsite, plenty of beach time, then supper with bonfire time. Chocolate milk with marshmallows for cold weather or s’mores or popcorn along with the routine bed rituals to end the evening !  A rest day was always planned after two or three driving days, although a rainy day did become a driving day! 

Books and music played a big part while driving. Many times and hours, I would spend sitting between the children to read old favourites or a new book.
Old favourite cassette tapes such as those by Raffi, Penner along with those from the public library were played and singsongs were great fun for all of us. 

Car games were also played like I spy, counting semi trailers or cars. Most of these were developed based the each child’s interest.

 A hamper was filled with quick snacks, yoghurt and fruit and within quick reach. Breakfast cereals that came in individual serving boxes could be opened to become a bowl were handy for breakfast but also as a snack.

Most importantly we enjoyed travelling and travel days were just as much fun as the rest day.  Even when on one of our holidays, the camper tires blew five times on our holiday to the Maritimes, we still made this a fun experience and made good use of the time it took to repair the camper alignment.  We spent a great afternoon on an old CPR locomotive run by retired railway employees in Hillsborough, N B rather than sit at the garage.

Yes, we would always laugh that on a long trip, it would take a day to develop the rhythm of travelling as it would to reorganise the packing in the car and camper.
 As parents, travel was as much fun as rest days for us and the children would pick up on this!  

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Boudain asks?

Foodies: What does it mean to cook food well?http://bourdainmediumraw.com/



Boudain 's favorite answer will be published in his book!  Wow..  

Tour of Paris with David Lebovitz!

Raspberry sorbet in Paris

Watch this delight video as  Anne Ditmeyer of Prêt à Voyager, hits the market in Paris and then makes a shorbet with David .

Friday, July 30, 2010

AGLIO, OLIO & PEPERONCINO italian culinary adventures




Check out this Blog.. It is wonderful and so makes me want to go back to Italy- soon!!!!.. I understand an acquaintance is returning for 6 months in Sept to study Italian.. Oh how I envy her!

 Aglio, oli and Peperoncino is also on facebook..and she does answer any emails! her last blog was on

Smile and say "formaggio!"

Ciao

Sunday, July 25, 2010

It Should Happen Down at the Zoo


“Where’s Rick Steves when you need him” asks Bronwyn Eyre, a columnist with the Saskatoon Star Phoenix on her recent trip to Drumheller’s Royal Tyrell Museum and Zoo.   Although she was armed with the “standard issue floor guide”, she found them unsuitable as well as some of the lights in the displays did not work. Then she got “half –lost” looking for the “museum’s rarest exhibit, Lords of land” and found this exhibit most ‘disorientating “ as needed “snappy – readily accessible details” instead of “bill-board –inscribed pensees by Charles Darwin. On through a tunnel past” coiling water”, which she felt needed some explanation and on to a dark room with a “transparent floor ‘to observe “fake sea life”. However, “loud muffed voice-feed” drowned out her voice and “interactive TV monitors” were not helpful.

Similarly at Calgary Zoo, lack of information on the animals, especially their habitat, adjustment to the zoo,” etc” was lacking in her opinion. Although she did see telephone type guides, she found these “notoriously confusing” and they ‘were picked- up by kids, at any rate - only to be promptly hung up again.”   Again, the writer longed for a “Rick Steves-like children’s guides” at the zoo.

As a former Regina resident, I quickly dismissed Bronwyn’s comments as another disgruntled Saskatooner, thinking, “here they go again!” Then I thought “wait a minute, I’m a Calgarian now”, but her article stayed in my mind as I tried to figure out exactly what her point was!

Yes, travel guides have their place while travelling; however I find them more a distraction. It’s not to say I don’t do the research on the culture and life style of a country, a long with health issues, personal security and currency for one’s safety and enjoyment of the country.  Yes, I spend hours familiarising myself with a country before visiting but to be slave to a guidebook takes away from responding to one’s surrounding, the people and the moment! That is the true experience of travel!

Some of my disappointing moments were seeing the Mona Lisa and the Taj Mahal for the first time, not because they were not beautiful but there was a sense of knowing that took away the sense of discovery. Coming upon the beautiful red and white marble Hindu temple in New Delhi was sheer joy and most exciting!

More exciting to me is speaking to locals in any country to discover local eateries, markets, wineries or landmarks.

Furthermore, in the writer’s opinion, Rick Steves guidebooks are so much better written that she found her self reading parts out loud so others with poorly written guidebooks could also benefit from her book.  To illustrate her point, she referred to Steves guidebook on Madonna and Child by Giotto in Florence’s Uffizi Gallery, Rick wrote, “the real triumph is Mary” as behind her robe she had a “real live body- her knees and breast are especially prominent.”  By prominent or drawing attention, does this meaning that since Mary’s knees and breast were huge, it is a real live body!!  Two other thoughts come to mind, does one really need a guide book to recognise that a painting or statue is in proportion.  Furthermore, do others really enjoy hearing other’s reading out loud from their guidebook?  Certainly she did not like loud muffled voices in the Museum.  On another point she assumes everyone around her understands English and lacks knowledge!  Art students spend many hours familiarising them self with the art.

But I digress!  After establishing her credibility as a world traveller and user of travel guides especially Rick Steves, she describes her frustration in her visits which should have been such a learning experience.  She suggests that due to this lack of information at the museum and the zoo for her 5 year old son, the highlight of both places was the playroom! 
In reading her article, I wondered how much of her frustration was transferred to her young son and hinder his learning experience.  

She suggests the need for “Rick Steves- like children’s guides” to make it a true learning experience.  However, freedom to play in the play zone without adult input, any travel guidebook or telephone guide information should suggest to this Mom that when her 5 year old was allowed to respond to his surrounding  freely in the play zone, this was a true learning experience for him.  For her 5 year old son, this was not an evaluation of the museum or the zoo shortcoming as she may have seen them, but a true experience of learning through play.  

The Picture is of a 3 year old who is responding in terror to the “real live body” statue without the aid of a Rick Steves guidebooks.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Aubergine - in 1981, Camden, Maine

Aubergine

A French Restaurant in the new style- a small romantic inn



In a visit to Maine in the summer of 1981, Mom  Kennedy took the 6 of us to this small romantic inn in Camden. The restaurant was in a Victorian house built in 1890 and restored to its original state with antique pieces and period wallpaper.



Aubergine had been written up in the June issue of 1981 Gourmet Magazine and Ruth, my husband’s sister in law wanted to order the same dishes that were featured in the article. I can honestly say that I do not remember the starters or the salads that we ordered. However, I do remember ordering for my entrée the medallion of lobster, as did Ruth.



Medallion of lobster is slices of lobster tails, thus looking like medallions. Being accustomed to devouring a whole lobster and any one else’s if I can, the small portion was laughable.

Two medallions of lobster, shelled were served with some greenery on a very large plate.



Although dessert is not on the menu, I do remember a dessert cart that was rolled to each table for patrons to pick their own dessert. Lovely arrangements of different cakes or torte mainly chocolate were on the cart.



Not being a dessert person and thinking some of the desserts looked dried out, I asked the waitress if I could have a serving of fresh berries in cream. It was Blueberry season and I had seen blueberry stands on the road but had not tasted any of the berries. After some confusion in the kitchen, a large parfait glass filled with fresh Maine Blueberries with sweet cream was served to me. For me, that was the highlight of the meal and from some of the expression on tasting their desserts some of the rest wished they had done the same. Ruth, however, was delighted with being able to taste everything that had been featured in the magazine.



It was a delightful evening, one of the last with all of us together. Mom was delighted to host this dinner for us.
 Although I do not have a picture of Aubergine Resturant, here is a picture of all of us that summer in Maine

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie Dinner in Winnipeg



The last couple of days, I have been bringing my albums and old pictures to the same room so as to scan some of them. I did run across pictures taken in Winnpeg when my mother in law preparing the chicken pie for a dinner party in the apartment that my now husband and his freind had rented from a couple who wintered in the states.




Thursday, May 13, 2010

What is Cuban Food????


Thinking about Cuban food as we flew into the beautiful tropical island, it just had to be seafood and wonderful tropical fruit.  Knowing the history of this island, colonization by the Spaniards and African being brought in as slaves, these influences should be seen in the cuisine.  

 
Chickens roaming everywhere including the streets of Varadero and seeing pigs in one’s yard along with cattle in the fields and some cattle carefully tied along the side of the roads to graze on greener grass.







           Although we are in a resort, which would cater to the western taste, local products should be in abundance on the menu.  We were told that rice was scarce, although this certainly was not apparent at the resort and made me think twice about leave any on my plate.  Although we had seen trucks with bags of potatoes, mashed potatoes and potatoes chunks were in some of the stews, potatoes did not seem to be a staple.  Steamed pumpkin with no seasonings was served frequently and was delicious

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Pork was referred to as the national dish.  In travelling to Havana, we did see a pig on a spit that was being cooked for those camping in the cottages by our beach.  This beautifully browned BBQ pig looked most appetizing as a line of people stood waiting for a slice of barbecued pork.   









The resort did have a BBQ on the beach for Cuban Days. A leg of pork was roasted and served with a bun, coleslaw and roasted plantains.  






 



At Cuban Days, they used coconuts as containers to serve rum drinks.  I especially enjoyed the fresh coconut after the chef used a long craving knife to hack the coconut open. To my surprise the actual coconut was about 4 inches in height, very small. 




Mahi mahi fish that was in a batter or flour coating was served separately or in a sauce.  Arroz con Pollo, Rice with Chicken" in Spanish, is a classic dish of Spain and was served in Cuba.   At the dinner buffets, roast of beef, pork, ham and roasted turkey and chicken were featured at different days and portions were craved by a chef.  Overall the chicken was my favourite.



As hot dishes, rice and beans were served separately or cooked together, along with dishes of cubed pork, lamb, beef or chicken.  The hot dishes were served in red rectangle cast iron dishes and sat on element of heat and these dishes tended to dry out.   The dishes were delicious if you were there shortly after they were prepared.. The fish that was grilling that I took of the grill was most delicious, although the chef was most upset that I took it of the grill before he thought it was ready.  My thoughts are that they may tend to over cook food due to the tropical temperature and are concerned about spoilage.
At lunch time, one could have a self designed pizza, pasta dish or Panini as could one do the same for omelettes at breakfast.

A salad bar with sliced tomatoes, lettuce, sliced cucumbers, grated carrots, shredded cabbage and beans (navy, black or red kidney).  Prepared dressing such as ranch and vinaigrette with fresh herbs, along with balsamic vinegar and Olive Oil was offered.








 

  
The fruit bar did have tropical fruits, slices of pineapple, guava in quarters, along with slices of watermelon and melons.  The pineapples were small as were the bananas and not as sweet or juicy.  I learned that apples do not grow in the tropics!  I learned how to eat guava properly, one eats all the fruit, including the rind.  Now I still don’t know if I can accurately describe this fruit, tasted like creamy strawberries, not a distinct taste that jumps out at you, yet the texture is unusual as you see a pink center with creamy color and tons of hard seeds with  a green rind, a miniature watermelon.  I can’t say I enjoyed the taste, yet the fruit did intrigue me.   

This fruit was used in many desserts and as fillings in pastry much like apples would be. Overall, the fruit was a disappointment, although the papaya was not, it was sweet and juicy. 



 




Two types of cheese were always served, both sliced; a mild cheddar and soft young aged cheese with a tangy taste.






 
 
The desserts were lovely to look at and I did enjoy the rice pudding that was very similar to my Mom’s recipe, creamy and snow white!
 










The breads were attractively displaced everyday.  The dough was sweet with eggs and sugar although they did have savory bread with jalapeños.  

The wedding meal for Alicia and George was held in one of their smaller restaurant.  An attractive salad plate and rock lobster which was fresh but overcooked was part of their wedding menu.   






 Just had to include pictures for the reason we were here!!!










  I think this was one of the only time we ate inside, the rest of the time we at on the Patio. The tables were always set in white linens. The waiters were dressed in smart short sleeved shirts,yellow with black dolphins and black mini pencil skirts or pants for the men. Black fish net stockings seemed to be most popular.


 Overall, the food was delicious although not that differently from what we would have at home.  The dishes were mildly seasoning with most common spices used in Cuban cuisine being garlic, cumin, oregano and bay or laurel leaves.   I left thinking how globalized we are as I truly can not tell you what  is Cuban food!