Thursday, December 31, 2009

Puffs of Heaven

My love affair with the simple marshmallow started way back when I was 18 and working in my first real job. It was so long ago, that now as I try to remember the name, I can't. I was a waitress and there was a French chef, well, now I can't even remember if he really was French, but it makes for a good story. It was a cold wintery day and he made all the girls (lucky us!) hot chocolate from scratch with pillows of fresh marshmallow on top. It didn't even have time to set up, it was still all gooey and sticky and melted oh-so-perfectly when you stirred it in. Wow, it's been a long time, but that was a really great day.

My family also goes camping every year in Victoria over the Easter long weekend, and have you ever seen a campsite without marshmallows to toast over the fire? I love campfire marshmallows two ways - the first is to hold the marshmallow (on a long stick, of course) over the flames and let the outside burn to a crisp, nice and black and cirspy, and then eat it in one mouthful. The outside is piping hot and the middle still feels like a normal marhsmallow, slightly warmed. The other way is to hold the marshmallow over the coals and let the whole thing heat through and the outside is perfectly caramelized. You have to be careful though, this way needs care and attention so that the gooey goodness just doesn't fall plop into the fire. Those marshmallows become pretty slippery when they are warm. Also, if there are lots of people toasting marshmallows and not so many marshmallows. you want to go for option #1 because it's quicker, and you will get more of them!

I was in the UK a couple of years ago wandering through the food halls at Harrods and wouldn't you believe it - a whole section devoted to gourmet marshmallows. Of course, I bought some strawberry flavoured and shaped ones, which until they were devoured over two nights and I arrived home to see the credit card statement, I paid about $25 for a 1/4 lb bag. But they were well worth it to me (not so much to my husband).

My most recent marshmallow purchase was in Florida in October where I found a bag of limited edition "swirlmallows". Yum. Chocolate and vanilla swirls in one bite. Who could resist?

I love marshmallows folded through ice cream, floating on top of hot chocolate, in rice crispie squares. I love them chocolate covered. I like the mini ones, the big ones, the gourmet ones, the funny shaped ones. I love them all. And now I know I can make them myself!

only adapted a tiny tiny bit from the Joy of Baking
Makes 1 pan 13"x9"x2"

1 cup (250ml) cold water, divided
3 x 1/4oz (21g) envelopes unflavoured gelatine
2 cups (400g) white sugar
1 cup (240ml) light corn syrup (but you can use dark if you like)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
lots and lots of icing sugar (about 4 cups)

Very lightly grease the pan and line the bottom and sides with parchment. I sprayed too much oil onto the bottom of my pan and it somehow came through the parchment and left yellow-ish spots on the botoms of my marshmallows. I assume the only reason for the greasing is to make the parchment stick to the pan.

Then sift 3 tablespoons icing sugar over the bottom of the pan (on the parchment). Trust me, this will help you get those marshmallows out.

Place 1/2 cup cold water into the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatine over the water and leave to dissolve for 15 minutes.
This is where I went a little off the path - I have only worked in a very limited capacity with powdered gelatine and each time I have dissolved it in warm water, so I put my whole mixer bowl with the gelatine and the water over a saucepan of simmering water and dissolved it that way. On reflection, the heat from the sugar mixture would probably dissolve the gelatine when it is added, so it is entirely up to you which path you take.

Meanwhile, place the sugar, corn syrup, salt and remaining 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until the sigar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let boil for about three minutes to allow any sugar crystals to dissolve from sides of the saucepan (I really like this trick - it should work with other candy making adventures too).

Remove lid and cook until temperature reaches 240F. I used my digital probe thermometer. You could use any thermometer, but you want to take it to the soft ball stage, if you know how to test with a glass of cold water.

So now attach your mixing bowl back onto your stand mixer (if you used my heating method) and with the mixer running at low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatine mixture in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Gradually increase the speed to high and beat until mixture has tripled in volume and is very thick and stiff, takes about 8 - 10 minutes. Add vanilla and continue beating to incorporate.
The pink marshmallows you see in my photo, I made two batches of marshmallows and the second batch I added red gel paste food colour when the marshmallows were about a minute away from adding the vanilla. You could add any colour or flavour here*.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into prepared pan and spread with a damp offset or rubber spatula. And, as the original recipe says, it is really sticky so just smooth it out as best you can. Dust the top with another 3 tablespoons sifted icing sugar and leave to set up overnight, or at least for 12 hours.

To remove the marshmallows from the pan, I turned mine out onto a very well icing sugar dusted piece of parchment paper (here's a big NO to scraping and scrubbing that off my counter tops). Peel off the parchment as best you can, and then the easiest way to cut them is to use a pizza wheel. I know, sounds wierd, but I tried a chefs knife, a stainless pastry scraper and the pizza wheel and it honestly worked like a charm. I also used scissors, but they got really gummy really quickly. They still worked though. Use lots of icing sugar to dust the cut edges, and there you have it - fresh home made marshmallows.

The original recipe says you can store them for up to two weeks in an airtight container at room temperature, but really, who are they kidding....there's none left after today :)

*I think pink coloured, rose water flavoured marshmallows would be delicious. Or use orange colour and orange blossom water...decadent!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Feelin' Beet?

OK, so not my most glamourous photo, and you can't really tell, but there are six pieces on the platter...maybe too much Horseradish Cream? I don't know. Can I blame it on the new camera?

Beets are so delicious, I can't understand why they get such a bad wrap. My husband hates them, although he did eat one of these gems because I asked him to. I told him if he didn't like it, he didn't have to eat the whole thing, but he did, so it can't have been that bad.
I wonder if it's the pickled variety that gets shoved to the back of the cupboard. But then you think about the Canadian obsession with dill pickles, that it just can't be so. I often wonder if it's because people have forgotten how to cook them, and are really not sure what to do with them. Kind of like turnips and rutabaga, and parsnips, come to think of it.
There's just something so glorious about the colour of beets, that jewel-toned red purplish colour, that screams "eat me". It's almost a fashion statement on your plate. Regarding the colour, a few years ago my friend and I were going to start a paint company and name all our colours after food - beetroot was going to be one of them. You can tell we needed something more interesting in our lives, and it obviously never eventualised. I have a few business ideas that never made it off the ground...hmmm...
Back to beets, they are wonderfully healthy for you too - folic acid (for those of us trying to get, or already are, pregnant), calcium, iron, vitamin A & C, vitamin B6, they keep your liver healthy (metabolising fats properly and helping you lose weight (yay!)), lower colesterol, full of antioxidants and are beneficial against fighting cancer.* Wow, we should be eating these daily!
I have seen some beautiful heirloom varieties that are striped yellow and pink, or white and pink, and star shapes inside. The golden ones and albino ones are really pretty too. You can choose whichever beet you like for this recipe, but I love the ordinary vibrant hued beet here.
Beet & Sweet Potato Rosti (not a real rosti, no, but for the love of a name)
Makes 6 cakes
1 medium sized sweet potato (350g), peeled
4 medium sized beets (600g), peeled
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup canola oil (for cooking rosti)
Shred the sweet potato and place in a large bowl. Shred the beets and before placing in the bowl with the sweet potato, squeeze out the excess juices (using your hands - wash them straight after and they won't stay dyed pink all day). Discard the juice or save for another purpose. I used my food processor for the shredding and I did the sweet potato first, so that the red juices didn't dye everything.
Combine all the other ingredients with the shredded vegetables (except the oil, of course), and mix well. Your hands will go pink again, but wash them straight away and you will be fine.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over med-low heat. Divide the shredded vegetable mixture into six equal portions and kind of squash into a patty-shape. Place in oil and gently press to flatten. You want the oil to be hot enough so that it sizzles, but not too hot that it burns the sugars in the vegetables. And, let me tell you, these are easy to burn because the colour is so dark to begin with. You want to be able to cook the patties about 6-7 minutes on each side. They are fairly delicate, so be careful when you flip them over.
Transfer cooked patties to a baking sheet when done and keep warm in a 350F oven while you cook the rest. Serve warm with horseradish cream - recipe follows.
Horseradish Cream
Makes about 1 cup
3/4 cup sour cream, or creme fraiche
1/4 cup horseradish (or more if you like it spicy)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Place all ingredients in a small bowl, mix well. Adjust seasoning to your liking. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
I think these would be amazing at a holiday party, because of their festive colour, made small into little appetisers and topped with some smoked salmon and fresh dill.
*All health information was collected from - I'm not a nutritionist, but I like to know when something is good for me.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shedding Tears

Onions are in season and it's cooling down outside. I won't say it's cold yet, because I can still dash out to the car without a coat or jacket on. When I have to find a coat each time I go out, then, it's cold.

Today was a typical November day - cool and overcast, that gave me a craving for soup. But not just any soup, I wanted onion soup. I would call it French Onion Soup, but I don't know if anything I used today, or the techniques used today resemble anything French. So, it's just Ontario Onion Soup. White onions, leeks, sweet onions and red onions. I like that.

To help stop the tears from streaming while you cut the onions, make sure you have a really sharp knife and I find that if you put your onions in the refrigerator overnight there is hardly any irritation at all. This works the best for me. Even at work, I store 50lb bags of onions in the cooler and I can peel and slice that whole bag without one tear! I have also heard that wearing your sunglasses (or other eye glasses) helps too, I have never done it because I think the minute I did it someone would catch me and I'd look like a complete fool.

Our kitchen, and our whole house, smell amazingly good, the caramelized onions, red wine and beef stock were simmering away for a couple of hours.

The soup is also deceivingly good. I used red wine, instead of white as it calls for in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, because I didn't have any white wine on hand. I actually opened a lovely West Australian Shiraz...mmmmm.....I'm finishing off the bottle right now. When I added the wine is turned a gross purplish-brown colour, so I left it on the stove a while longer hopig for a miracle, and a miracle is what I got. The onions are silky, sweet and soft, the broth is rich both from butter and beef stock and the purple haze has gone. Enjoy!

Ontario Onion Soup
Makes 12-14 cups, depending on how long you leave it on the stove.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 lbs onions, thinly sliced (I used white Spanish onions, leeks, red onions and sweet onions, but you can use whatever you have)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
2 litres beef stock
1 & 1/2 cups red wine
salt and pepper, to taste

10-12 baguette slices, about 3/4" thick

3 cups gruyere cheese (about 375g), shredded - to make it more economical, because Gruyere is insanely expensive, but well worth the price, you could do a blend of 50% gruyere, 50% swiss

In a large pan heat the butter and the oil. Add the onions, stir well and then cover and leave to cook over med-low heat for about 30 minutes. They should be nice and soft, with barely any colour to them. Remove the lid, increase the heat to med-high and add the sugar and the salt, and cook, stirring until onions have turned a glorious rich brown colour. This will take another 30 minutes or so, depending on how big your pot is - the wider the base, the quicker the onions will caramelize. Be careful here, because they can burn quickly, and you don't want to have a "smoked" onion soup to deal with.

Add the flour and stir into the onions. Cook this out for about 5 minutes. Add the beef stock and the wine (beware of the wierd purplish hue) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until soup has thickened slightly, returned to a rich brown colour and tastes sublime.

Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

Toast the baguette slices until quite crisp. Portion the soup into ramekins, top with a slice of toasted baguette and sprinkle with cheese. Place under broiler until cheese has melted and is all gooey and bubbly with just a hint of colour. Serve immediately, reminding your loved ones that the bowls are really really hot!

And, apologies for not having a picture - I received a new camera - a Nikon 3000D - and I am still figuring out all the buttons, and how to get a quality picture! Next time, I promise!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

#9 Peach Cranberry Jam

A long time ago, I used to work at Thyme and Again. I was the girl who made your coffee, packed your sweet treats and asked you to pay. It was a fun job, I did it to fill some time "in between" work. Mostly, all the people I worked with were wonderful. The thing I loved the most was the pride they all took in the foods they produced. The bakery bakes from scratch daily (the cheese biscuits are still wonderful). The cuisine kitchen is tiny and crowded, but the quality and quantity of food that emerges, continues to amaze. It's been quite a few years since I saw it from behind the scenes, and I can only imagine how much the production has increased, but the passion remians the same.

I am not a jam lover. I admit it. It's an extremely rare occasion that I will sit down and put jam on something. Occasionally a flaky, all-butter croissant with cross my lips with a smearing of handmade raspberry jam, and that's really about it.

Until now.

I was skeptical of a jar of jam making the "101 things to try before you die" list, but really, I think this will now become a staple in my pantry.

This jam from Thyme and Again on Wellington is really, really delicious. It's red (well, cranberry) in colour, but with such an aroma and taste of peach. The cranberries are whole, the peach slices are big, and it's sweet. It's lightly set, unlike a commercial jam which leaves a scoop impression each time you literally dig into it.

Jam, in my mind, goes with croissants, but really, I didn't have the time to make croissants from scratch, so scones were my next best bet. These scones are great, and even better the next day when heated up in the oven.

Cranberry Lemon Scones
adapted slightly from a recipe from King Arthur Flour
Makes 8 large scones

2 & 3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1 & 1/2 cups dried cranberries
zest from one lemon
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk (you might need a touch more depending on weather)

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Rub in butter with fingertips until the mixture is crumbly. I would normally use a food processor to "rub" in butter, but I thought I would do it the traditional way this time. However, if I were to use the food processor, I would put my cold butter cubes on the bottom, and then add the dry ingredients on top - it just mixes better that way.

Stir through the cranberries and lemon zest (you could use whatever combination you like - chocolate chips, dried blueberries, currants, nuts, baking spices etc etc).

In a smaller bowl, combine the eggs and the milk, and blend together.

Make a well in the flour mixture and gently mix through the liquids. If I were using the food processor, I would turn the dry mix into a bowl, and then mix in the fruit and wet ingredients by hand. You want the dough to come just together. It will be a little sticky, but whatever you do, don't mix too much.

You can shape your scones any way you want. I pulled off chunks of dough for a rustic looking scone. You could use a round cutter for a more refined look, you could roll your dough into a long rectangle and cut into triangles, or, you could roll your dough into a circle and then cut into wedges. Whatever you do, you obviously want the sizes to be similar so that they all bake at the same time.

Place scones onto a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes. King Arthur says to do this for the best texture and the highest rise.

Pre-heat oven to 425F and bake for 20-25 minutes. The scone will be cooked when it is nicely golden all over, is not shiny, and it you can stand the heat, pick one up and make sure the bottom is golden too. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Serve warm - YUM!

One final thought, why is it, that whenever I visit a food shop to purchase ONE thing, I end up walking out with bags of goodies? My husband, I am sure, would also love to know the answer to that one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

For the love of corn!

The weather is beautiful and clear during the day and so cool and crisp, and wonderful for sleeping at night, that it feels like fresh local corn may not be around for much longer. This, combined with the fact that I knew my husband would love this for Sunday brunch, was the motivator for what started out as an idea for the humble fritter.

To be honest, I have been making these fritters for years. We used to do them for breakfast at a restaurant I used to own, and from time to time you might see them on a menu here in Ottawa. But, today, because of the nature of the establishment I work in, they are generally just plain old fritters, with none of the other goodness that I put in this morning.

As I had invited guests over at the last minute, I bought the corn, the to-die-for double smoked bacon, Campari tomatoes, Hewitt's sour cream and the organic baby arugula from my local Farm Boy. No time for a trip to the Ottawa Farmers Market.

The corn, right now, is delicious. Nice and sweet, and the cobs are full of kernels. I only checked a couple by peeling back the top layer of silk and I wasn't disappointed with any of the dozen I purchased. A side note, I hate the way people decide to "peel" their corn in the store. First of all, it makes a huge mess, it takes them forever to peel twelve cobs and don't they understand that the corn will last longer and taste better if they leave that silk and husk on until it's ready to eat. Oh, and I hate when stores have those big bins of corn, and you are forced to rummage through everyone else's mess. Ugh!

And to balance the natural sweetness of the corn, I felt the urge for some of Farm Boy's double smoked bacon. Hello, it is so good! I can normally only eat about 2 slices of regular bacon before feeling all greased up inside, but this double smoked piggy, I could eat half a pound. It has a natural smoky flavour (duh), and it is lovely and salty, and cooks up so crisply - even the fat goes crispy. Yum, yum, YUM! It comes from the deli area, they slice it freshly for you.

The Campari tomatoes, I know, come from the US, but seriously, they were the tastiest looking tomatoes I could find. Plus, I liked the fact that they still had the little stems attached. I just rolled them in some olive oil and salt, pepper and herbs and roasted them at 400F until the went soft.

As well, the baby arugula hailed from the States, but it was delicious. And not a leaf was wilted.

And, everyone loved brunch! Who couldn't? And then, my husband added ketchup.....:(

Sweetcorn Fritters
Makes 8 large-ish fritters

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika (you could sub in cayenne for a spicy bite)
kernels from 2 cobs of corn (use them raw in the batter)
1 red pepper, diced
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped coriander
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Mix all the ingredients, up to the paprika, in a large bowl, to make a smooth, stiff batter. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

Heat oil in non-stick pan and cook fritters slowly over gentle heat. The batter is really thick, so it does take a while for the fritter to cook through. Flip like a pancake, when golden, and finish cooking on the other side.

I only have a little non-stick pan, so I put the fritters on a wire rack over a baking sheet and put them in the oven at 300F while I finish the rest.

I serve mine with sour cream, crisp bacon, roasted tomatoes and a little salad of some kind. But you could drizzle with maple syrup if you prefer.

And now, I think I will go eat another one with a fresh cup of coffee!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Oh My Nectarines!

I love the local summer fruit and the way it comes ready to go in those little paper baskets - so market-ish with that freshly picked feel. It's just too bad that you have to let them sit on the counter for a few days until you can eat them, and then I find myself swatting fruit flies for a couple of days before I give up and they get put in the fridge.

Where, inevitably, I forget about them becuase they get pushed to the back, and then in my crusading way to give all food a second chance before it gets thrown away, I am struck with the idea that they would (fingers crossed) make a delectable upside-down cake. Adios pineapple and hello nectarine!

The poor, slightly shrivelled, nectarines come out into the sunlight and are smothered with caramel and a rum infused batter, and it's as if they get a new lease on life.

Upside-down Nectarine Cake
adapted from Gourmet Magazine, February 2000

This is a wonderfully easy recipe, and it so moist. It keeps well on the counter, but you could refrigerate it for a couple of days longer (if it lasts that long), just bring it to room temperature before eating.

7 fresh nectarines
85g unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar

85g unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup orange juice

Oven to 350F.

To make the topping: Prepare the nectarine wedges*. Melt the butter with the brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into a 9" cake pan (no need to grease the pan), spreading quickly before it cools, to the edges. Arrange nectarine wedges in circles. I started from the outside ring, placing the nectarines so they looked pretty facing up, and then realised that I had to flip the wedges over so it would look pretty on the outside when I turned the cake out.

To make the batter: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla and rum.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and add half to the butter mixture, beating until just blended. Add the orange juice and mix well. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat slowly until just combined. Here I found that the batter looked slightly split.

Spread batter evenly over the nectarines and caramel. Bake in the middle of the oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Leave the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert carefully onto a large plate. Be careful, the caramel may still be hot. Luckily, all my nectarines turned out, but if any happen to be stuck to the bottom of the pan, remove and replace on the cake.

*To cut the wedges, I cut out one wedge from the nectarine and then continue slicing wedges around the pit. There may be a way, but I couldn't figure out how to get the pit out cleanly.


#2 Pascale's All Natural Ice Cream

OK, so finally we are in full swing of our very dismal summer here in Ottawa. And, here I am sitting at my computer with two (now kind of empty) pints of hand-crafted delight. What could be a better way to cool down after a long day of work?
I visited Pascale at The Piggy Market in Westboro last week to sample some of what is described as "decadent" and "made with heart and a whole lot of cream, eggs, and sugar", by the Ottawa Magazine crew. I couldn't agree more.
Pascale is just lovely. She is so down to earth and completely loves what she does. I had known that she is the former Pastry Chef at the Wellington Gastropub, but had forgotten. Oops.
I bought a couple of flavours, but what I am really holding out for, and one of my reasons for visiting again, is the Peanut Butter with Salted Caramel. Luckily, for me, it was in production at the time I visited and Pascale gave me a scoop right out of the churner. OMG - I need a pint of that goodness right now! Pregnant women beware - this is all you will crave for nine months. Husbands - go and find the store now, so you know where to go when she calls.
I bought the Raspberry Cassis because I absolutely adore raspberries. It was delightfully fresh with a luxurious creamy finish. I can definitely taste the raspberries and I am fairly sure I can taste the cassis portion too. It's good, really good, and as proof, over the last few days, I have managed to polish off the whole pint. My mouth and my hips are in total agreement.
The Fifth Town 70% Choc Chevre was an adventure for me as I'm a pretty "vanilla" person (note the pink and brown ice cream I bought). I can't say I would have picked out the goat cheese in a blind tasting, but there is something about it that you know it's not just plain-jane chocolate. I was wary of buying it, but I love that it's not too sweet with a touch of bitter cocoa and the tartness of the goat cheese all seem to meld together perfectly.
Pascale also makes designer scoops which got me thinking about what I would like in an ice cream. How about Lemon Meringue Pie (creamy but tart lemon ice cream with whisps of meringue swirled through), or, Pina Colada (coconut, lime and rum), or, deep dark chocolate oce cream with cocnut macaroons? I could dream all day. I might need to plan a party and have some of these flavours made up for a special event...ooh, what about fresh peach ice cream with raspberries?
The Piggy Market itself, could do with a touch of retail therapy, the store is pretty empty and walking up to it I couldn't even tell if it was open. And, I had a hell of a time trying to find it. Feels like I drove around in circles for a very long time. Even though the address clearly states Winston Avenue, my not-so-trusty iPhone decided to try and tell me the address was Wellington. Not funny. But nowhere, and I mean nowhere, does anyone or anything tell you that Winston does not run into Wellington, it rather becomes a dead-end onto Wellington.
I was cursing while driving around the block to find the front door. There was no way I could park on Wellington and walk down the street. I am the kind of girl who likes to park right out the front of the place I am going. I am usually wearing some ridiculous not-meant-for-walking-long-distance shoes (more for show than anything else). You can imagine the very loud cursing when I discovered that you can't park outside the Piggy Market and I had to find a space two blocks away. I was very tempted to park in the driveway to the right of the entry time I just might.
Enjoy your ice cream.
PS - My last post was on Aug 27, it's almost two weeks later, that means if I continue at this rate, it's going to take me more than two years to complete "the list". I had better get eating!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

#1 Beau's Lug Tread Beer

Who knew that that Beau's All Natural Brewing Company was practically on our doorstep and who knew it was stocked in a lot of places in Ottawa? I found my bottle at my local LCBO and I think it was $7.65 (or thereabouts) for a 750ml bottle.

From their website, you can find Beau's beer almost all over, even on tap at some local pubs. Looks like I have to get out far more than I think I do. But, you know, I have had this beer before - right at the beginning of summer I was in my LCBO and bought it purely for the bottle. It's a gorgeous ceramic bottle with one of those swing top lids. To be honest, I thought the bottle probably costs more than the actual beer inside. But like most of us, I buy things because they look pretty.

This time though, I bought it to begin "the list".
The beer inside is quite refreshing. It's nice and light, and for a girl like me, it's just what I want. Nothing too complicated, nothing I really have to think about. Just something I can drink on a hot summer afternoon. It's a little bit bitter, but really nice and crisp. Maybe I'll buy some more.

I wanted to keep the bottle, but then I remembered, I have so much junk, that one beer bottle isn't really going to make the cut. So, in the recycle box it will go. It's a pity I don't live in a more countrified life. It would fit in perfectly filled with dish soap, or a daisy, or something. My brother, who collects trophies from drunken nights, would like it. Maybe I will hold onto it for a little while longer - that's what a basement's for, right?

And, I was right. After a quick look at Beau's website, it is named after a trucking sort of term, it turns out, a lug tread (I think) is the mark made by a tractor tire in the mud after it has passed by. Does that make sense?

If my husband is lucky, I might insist on visiting the brewery personally in the near future for one of our Family Sundays, which can be anything as long as we are spending quality time together as a family.

Bottoms Up to #1!

(You can return the empties to depots around Ottawa and Beau's will donate $0.40 for each bottle returned to Operation Come Home)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Project 101

I was looking for a project and I think I've found it. I am going to find and eat all the foods and drinks listed in the September 2009 issue of Ottawa Magazine. The article is "101 Must-Try-Before-You-Die Tastes". I'm a pretty picky eater, but I will try everything on the list.

What I am looking forward to mostly is the discovery of new places and the way the list will "force" me to go to places that have been on my must-visit list for a long time, but I am too lazy-assed to get there.

It will be my own Julie/Julia project, as there is no way I have the stamina, or really, the will to cook my way through MtAoFC (or any other cookbook). After almost finishing the novel, and laughing wildly out loud in some parts, I have no desire to cook or eat much of what was described. It would be great to have a copy of the book (birthday wishlist) to read as I think it would be fascinating, and perhaps I'll try a few of the recipes, but definitely nowhere near all of them.

Here's the list:

1. Beau's Lug Tread Beer - wierd name, although I am sure it will make sense when either I have seen the bottle, or tasted it. Kind of sounds like truck tires right now.
2. Pascale's Ice Cream - yum! This may be one of my favourites on the list.
3. Bryson Farm's Baby Salad Greens - I have had these before. In Ottawa, who hasn't?
4. Memories Triple Berry Pie - cafe is OK, not much going for the decor, but the food is generally OK and the prices are good.
5. Lamb Tourtiere from Les Fougeres - love the restaurant, only visited the food shop a couple of times, but looking forward to going back for tourtiere now that Fall is on it's way.
6. Great Aunt Gerty's Tomato Chilli Sauce - name sounds a bit dinky, but perhaps it will be good with the tourtiere? I'm not really one to go for the dinky name....
7. The Red Sea Coffee Beans - not entirely sure why this made it onto the list as the introduction to the article says the only parameters are that it had to be made in Ottawa, unique to Ottawa, (oh) or hard to find elsewhere...hmm...there's the catch. The Red Sea is not so close to us.
8. Milk from Cochrane's Dairy - tried it, it's good, but I think I like the bottle more than the milk. It would be good to see a double cream or something.
9. Thyme & Again's Cranberry Peach Jam - Thyme & Again, an Ottawa landmark in itself. What don't they do well?
10. Piggy Market Peameal Bacon - I smell breakfast.
11. Art-Is-In 12 Grain 7 Fennel Seed Dynamite Baguette - hmmm...I may have this one covered, as I just bought one and wolfed down half of it in the car on the way home.
12. Kefir - Russian yoghurt, can't be that bad.
13. Red Apron's Peanut Butter and Banana Handcrafted Gourmet Granola - too wordy for me, but I'll try it. Peanut Butter is generally not my favourite flavour, but I do like granola...maybe on top of my kefir.
14. Free Range Eggs - the title makes it feel like a cop-out, but I will try them from the farm they suggest, Beking Poultry.
15. Spicy Fennel Sausages - to finish up the last days of summer bbq'ing. Is fennel the new flavour?
16. Whalesbone Brown Bag Lunch - let's hope there is one that doesn't contain fish. But if not, I will at least take one bite, and it better be good.
17. Tower-O-Rings from the Works - done and done. An onion ring, bleah.
18. Chicken Tikka Wrap from Shafali - Indian in a sandwich is the new fad.
19.Restaurant Barbe's Roast Pork Sandwich - not dissing the Barbe, as I haven't been there yet, but the photo is not too appealing. Square white sandwich bread does not do it for me anymore, unless it's for a grilled cheese made with Kraft singles. Surely a sandwich from Dirienzo's should make it first.
20. Meatball Sandwich at Parma Ravioli - this looks good. My husband would appreciate it. It actually looks like a man-wich, it's so big.
21. Knish from Saslov's.
22. Sweet Potato & Connamon Bread from True Food Ecostore - I can't say I have heard of this, but I am looking forward to having a look.
23. Glengyle Garlic's feta garlic spread - from Ottawa Farmers Market. I better get my skates on as I am sure this bountiful market comes to an end shortly, and lots of things on this list are available there.
24. Rustic Hand Formed Miniature Pies - again Ottawa Farmers Market (OFM).
25. Heritage Tomatoes - from Ferme Orient at OFM.
26. Christophe's Organic Mushrooms - Le Corprin Farm at OFM. A question, are they grown in organic manure? from organic animals? Just to ponder....
27. Asian Fruit Salad - Not having tried or seen it, not sure what to think. From Saigon Meats & Vegetables. Interesting.
28. Paczki - took me a long time to type, the letters don't make sense to my English-only mind. But doughnuts of any kind are welcome in my belly.
29. Lobos - apples, woo hoo. It better be a good apple to have made it onto the must-try list. From Cannamore Orchards. Maybe I will go and pick my own in the Fall.
30. Raspberry Mini-Cheesecakes from Second Avenue Sweets. Yum, and yum. Do they make them only when the raspberries are fresh?
31. Scones from the Scone Witch - Heather Matthews has done well here. Her original Scone Witch is on Albert, but rumour has it she's opening a second location on Crichton in New Edinburgh. Easier access for me, as I hate trying to find parking downtown.
32. Lover's Leap Ceylon Tea - from Tea & Ginseng on Bank.
33. Queen Elizabeth Cake - this surprises me that I find this cake everywhere. It's just a wierd thing to see in a lot of places. Specifically, I should try it from Bread & Roses on Beechwood. I think I can get Cochrane's milk there too.
34. Shortbread La Gaillarder from Pastina in Wakefield. Does Wakefield really constitute "Ottawa". I don't think so. I don't even know if Wakefield constitutes the National Capital Region.
35. Dried Lavender from ADC Fines Herbes in the Byward Market. I haven't really used lavender in cooking, so it will be fun.
36. Baklava from the Middle East Bakery on Somerset - will it be the best I have ever had? Who knows.
37. Black Irish Plain Porter - I had to read the blurb to know it was beer.
38. Sterling's Porthouse Steak - love this restaurant, so an excuse to re-visit is wonderful. I think I was tipsy/bordering on drunk the last time I was there and I was invited to look in the kitchen, but honestly, I can't remember a thing. I don't even know if my steak was good. That's a bad thing. Fingers crossed I didn't say anything that will embarass me at a future date.
39. Burfi from Desh - not too sure, doesn't sound too good from the title. Oh, but on further reading, it's described as Indian fudge with rosewater. Things are looking up.
40. Tiramisu from Nicastro - this had better be orgasmic, because I make a kick-ass tiramisu.
41. Island Flava's Caribbean Hot Sauce - not sold by itself, I have to order a goat roti. I'm beginning to have some doubts about my list.
42. Shrimp Rice Noodles from Wa Kiu Foods on Somerset.
43. Rabbit from Luciano Foods.
44. Aubrey's Merguez Sausage - this I can do.
45. Ground Pork from Saigon - it doesn't say why is it different from the ground pork I might normally buy elsewhere? Hopefully there's a good story behind it.
46. Organic Frisee from Ferme Orient at OFM.
47. Serrano Ham from Misto - instead of the serrano ham, they should have put canoli on the list. The canoli sold here is brought in from Montreal only on the weekends. Call ahead to reserve. I can eat six of those canoli in one sitting, that's how good they are. One morning I waited more than half an hour for the delivery, If you are not there early enough, or don't place an order, chances are you won't get any.
48.Glengarry Fine Cheese from Nicastro. I like cheese.
49. Lemon & Salt Pistachios from Shiraz on Preston. I like pistachios, I am especially liking the salt & pepper pistachios from Costco at the moment. They are my healty snack alternative.
50. True Loaf's Decadent Bun - OK, I tried to find this bakery when it first opened. I read about it in the Ottawa Citizen, drove back and forth along Gladstone until the residents thought I was a stalker. Couldn't find it. About a week later, I went back with my husband to try and find it, and in the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday, it was already closed. This frustrates me to no end. But, because I am doing the list I will hunt for it one more time.

Half way there.

51. Berg en Dal Honey - oh, from the Piggy Market.
52. Zaatar from Aladdin Convenience on Carling.
53. Rosélianne Rosé Cider - made on Montreal's North Shore, available from Marché Vieux-Hull on Laval. Alcohol is an easy one for me.
54. Cocoa Camino's Dark Chocolate Bar with Orange - bring it on!
55. The Table's Chocolate Cheesecake - yum! Are we in the chocolate section???
56. Florentines from Le Moulin de Provence in the Market. Apparently this is what US President Obama should have bought.
57. Giant Handmade Peanut Butter Cups from Truffle Treasures on Richmond - my husband will love me even more!
58. Stubbe's Caramelized Hazelnuts - yummo!
59. Banoffee Pie from Allium - ooh, I have had this, and it's good. I really like this restaurant. Although, they could improve their air conditioning capabilities, I almost melted away over the course of dinner. Even the wine couldn't dull my senses that night.
60. Pure Cranberry Juice from La Trappe a Fromage - hmm...unsweetened. I'll be a brave girl that day. Let me think about what I can do with unsweetened cranberry juice. I am sure it's good for you though. Bottoms up!
61. Cambodian Satay Hot Sauce from Phnom Penh Noodle House.
62. Coconut Lagoon's Travancore-style Fish Curry - not sure what Travancore is, but looking forward to finding out.
63. Poivre Long from Ottawa Bagel Shop and Deli.
64. Argan Oil from Byward Fruit Market - apparently it is liquid gold.
65. El Meson's Castelo Dourado - I have never been to this restaurant, and was just the other day, asking someone if the restaurant was still there. Now I have a reason to go.
66. Clover Coffee at Bridgehead - coffee...mmm.....maybe tomorrow morning.
67. Fraser Cafe's Homemade Doughnuts - more doughnuts in my belly. I do like the use of the old-fashioned and traditional spelling of doughnut, as opposed to the horrible North-Americanised version of donut.
68. Kouign Aman - a Breton pastry only available Saturdays at Cyclelogik...does that sound right? Pastries available at a bicycle store?
69. Braised Veal Sweetbreads from La Table in Papineauville - this must be a stretch, and surely because it is WAY out of the guidelines, I can give this one a miss.
70. Strawberry Pie from Bella Vista - sounds good, as long as it is not a jellied pie filling.
71. Mariposa Duck -again, who in Ottawa hasn't had Mariposa Duck? It's everywhere.
72. Mohammara Sauce from Coin du Chiche on Eddy.
73. Bison from Pykeview Meadows - available at OFM.
74. Canadian High Tea at Zoe's - I still haven't tried this. We tried to get in for Mothers' Day, but we left it too late. It was booked out on both the Saturday and Sunday - book early! I want the one that comes with the champagne.
75. Sufganiyot - jelly doughnuts from Rideau Bakery..yum, yum, yum.
76. Edamame from Oz Cafe - not one of the foods that I have become crazy about, and just recently I read a story about how too much soy is a bad thing.
77. Pickled Turnip from the Garlic King - something from here had to make it on the list. Can you believe that guy?
78. Soul Food from Jean Alberts in Hallville - where? Google maps to the rescue.
79. Ottawa River Sturgeon from Chelsea Smokehouse.
80. Amber Garden Perogies - who doesn't love carb-on-carb action?
81. Rice Pudding from Boushey's Fruit Market.
82. Bison Egg Rolls from La Trappe a Fromage in Gatineau.
83. Absinthe Steak Frites - Great restaurant, but I wish they didn't move from their old location. I understand they needed more space, but they old space was just so funky and comfortable. The new space is too slick and open for me. I still love the food.
84. Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes from Stoneface Dolly's - I've been here a few times too, but never for breakfast. Oh, I lie, once I tried to get in for breakfast/brunch, but was told it would be a 45 minute wait outside in December. Not happening.
85. Jellies from Les Delices de Laura available at La Trappe a Fromage - if I am not mistaken, these could be the jellies that have the beautiful flower petals floating throughout. They look gorgeous, although I have never tried them before.
86. Salmon Sausages from the Red Apron - interesting, and probably healthy.
87. Tapioca Pudding with Pineapple and Coconut Milk from Fuschian on Somerset - I am personally not a huge fan of tapioca, but it has been about 20 years since I've had it.
88. Grass-Fed Beef from Brylee Farm available online at
89. Cinnamon Twists from Rideau Bakery - what about the rye bread? or does everyone know about it already?
90. Acorn Creek Farms Melons available at OFM.
91. Beef Randang from Chahaya Malaysia - I have heard good things about this restaurant.
92. Cupcakes from the Ottawa Cupcakery - seems good things come in small packages :)
93. Mekong's Nu Han Dumplings - another favourite place to eat in Ottawa. I am positive I have had these dumplings, but let's take another opportunity to go back for more.
94. Pumpkin Fudge Pie from Penny's Fudge Factory in Fitzroy Harbour - good, something to disguise the pumpkin flavour.
95. Laksa Soup from Singapore - thank god I can get this dish here. If done well, it's wonderful.
96. Cheese from Jacobsons on Beechwood - lots of good things going on in there.
97. Hot smoked Salmon from Pelican Fishery on Bank.
98. Elgin Street Diners Chocolate Banana Milkshake - is it really better than any other?
99. House of Goergie's Legendary Pizza with Gravy on Gilmour - sounds too good to be true.
100. Lebanese Cucumbers -are you kidding me? this made it onto the list.
101. The Beavertail - this made it, and poutine didn't?

There's a couple of cop-outs and things I don't think should have made it -especially those not found in OTTAWA!

Anyway, cheers to the list, the beginning of a long, but fun project. I'm off to the LCBO to pick up my beer for tonight!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ooey-Gooey Soul Satisfying Goodness... it a sin, in this low-fat, low-carb, eat-healthy world, to admit that I love poutine?
It probably isn't politically correct, but then I'm not usually one to go with the conventional thought of the day. I eat what I like, when I want, and if that means meatloaf for breakfast, cereal for dinner, or poutine for lunch, then I'm really the only one who has the right to complain.
I also admit (only this once) that I don't mind a cheese burger every now and then, as a matter of fact, I sometimes crave that beefy cheesey flavour. It reminds me so much of good times growing up. I will also admit that you will never find me inside that "family restaurant". I will be the one in the drive-thru, secretly pleading that no one I know can see me, while I salivate at the perma-smell coming from the cashiers window.
Back to poutine.
The best place I have discovered in Ottawa/Hull, to enjoy the French-Canadian guilty pleasure, is La Pataterie at 311 boulevarde St Joseph, in Hull. It is one of those tiny, out-of-the-way places, that unless you know what you are looking for, you might drive right past it and not give it a second thought.
My love affair with the greasy goodness started almost ten years ago when I arrived in Ottawa. I was sharing a house in New Edinburgh, had a few too many cocktails one night, feeling worse for wear the next day, I definitely needed some grease to line the stomach.
Before then, a simple egg and bacon brekky would have done wonders, now, only the poutine from La Pataterie can cure the dullness of over-imbibing.
Driving on the Quebec-side of the Ontario border is quite the challenge, and when you are not 100% focused, it does take a while to familiarise yourself with your surroundings. Everything, and I mean everything, is in French. No English. Nothing. It is quite the experience, not having French under my belt and navigating to a place I've never been. Rather than the 15 minutes it might take someone to drive, it took my girlfriend and I close to 2 hours to find our way there.
Oncce there, the smell of fried potatoes draws you in. There's absolutely nothing to compare to the ooey-gooey soul satisfying goodness of the combination of freshly cooked, hand peeled and cut potatoes, fresh salty cheese curds and lashings of warm gravy.
The great "poutine chefs", are the ones that layer the fries with curds and gravy all the way from the bottom to the top. By the time you make your way to the bottom, the squeaky curds are stretchy and warm, mingled with gravy and fries, and just perfect.
I order a Pogo as well, but it's really only because I love the combination of La Pataterie's sweet mustard with the deep fried hot dog. And, of course, a Pepsi to wash it all down with.
These people know poutine. I have sampled a lot of poutine in my ten years in Ottawa, and nowhere comes even remotely close.
A word of warning though, when making the trek to La Pataterie, you may want to visit during off-peak times, as the parking lot only holds about 6 spaces. Otherwise, park your car about 8 blocks away, so afterwards you can walk and feel good about eating the best poutine in the city!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

This is my first post EVER. It's the first thing I have written for public consumption, and it's a bit scary. I am not a writer, I am writing for the pure pleasure of remembering great food moments in my life, and hopefully sharing them with other people who feel similar.

I write and talk as I think, which sometimes gets me into trouble, no doubt. The intent is not to offend anyone, just offer an opinion of which will hopefully interest some people, but perhaps it might not be to everyone's liking. Oh well, what can we do?

Most of all, I love to bake. My day job sees me nowhere near a pastry kitchen, you know they say "the grass is always greener". Perhaps if I had to bake every day for a paycheck, I might not enjoy it so much.

We just celebrated a wonderful Canada Day, finishing with this pie. The strawberries I picked myself, on hands and knees out at Proulx Berry Farm earlier in the week. I go there every year only because that's where I went my first time, and the berries are so good that I have no need to try anywhere else. I was lucky the first year I picked, as raspberries were ready for picking too. My car smelt wonderful on the way home, the strawberry daiquiris were refreshing and my berries seemed to last a really long time in the refrigerator before I had to freeze them. The same holds true every year.

Come on, what could be better than fresh berries picked (almost) right in your back yard?