Thursday, December 31, 2009

the week that was and is - december 31th, 2009

Happy New Year's Everyone. With 2009 just hours from being over, I wanted to wish you all the best in the upcoming year. Play safe tonight, and if you have any crazy stories, come back and share! I mean we are the sharing kind around here. ;)

  • If you haven't had a chance to read some of my thoughts about the decade in food, do have a read when you get a chance. I would love to hear your thoughts about the decade.
  • Are you hoping to see a particular style of restaurant or trend for 2010 in your city?
  • Pizza Hut in the US of A is starting 2010 with a bang, and a hell of a pizza deal - "customers can order any size pizza, with any crust and any toppings for $10"
  • I hope you are ready for more Guy Fieri. That famous bleached head is going to be part of a new game show on NBC called Perfect 10.
  • Speaking of TV shows. Food Network is finally broadcasting Top Chef Masters. having already watched the show, I can tell you it's an enjoyable break-off from Top Chef and may help non-foodies put a face to a few world-class chefs.
  • Keeping with the Top Chef theme, the Voltaggio Brothers of Top Chef Las Vegas fame, are starting 2010 by starring in a "web series focusing on their favorite ingredients, techniques and gadgets".
  • Seeing as it's New Year's, check out this lady in South Dakota who recently rocked a blood alcohol content of .708 (.o8 is the legal limit). Can you believe that!! I think that is the second highest record BAC in US history. "A blood-alcohol level of over .40 is considered extremely dangerous."
  • Drinking and driving is stupid!! So I have no idea what a funeral home in Georgia is offering free funeral services for anyone who is high/drunk and dies on New Year's. WTF.
  • Instead, why not watch this handy Chow video for Preventing a Hangover before heading out. And if you do tie one off, catch a ride with your designated driver, friendly cabbie, or metro bus.
  • 2009 was a hell of a year for giant food records. From the largest hamburger to the largest cupcake. Check out this interesting list of giant foods.
  • I'll leave you with the National Restaurant Association’s list of the Top 20 Food Trends for 2010:
1. Locally grown produce
2. Locally sourced meats and seafood
3. Sustainability
4. Bite-size/mini desserts
5. Locally produced wine and beer
6. Nutritionally balanced children's dishes
7. Half-portions/smaller portion for a smaller price
8. Farm-/estate-branded ingredients
9. Gluten-free/food-allergy conscious
10. Sustainable seafood
11. Superfruits (e.g., acai, goji berry, mangosteen)
12. Organic produce
13. Culinary cocktails (e.g., savory, fresh ingredients)
14. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
15. Nutrition/health
16. Simplicity/back to basics
17. Regional ethnic cuisine
18. Nontraditional fish (e.g., branzino, Arctic char, barramundi)
19. Newly fabricated cuts of meat (e.g., Denver steak, pork flatiron, Petite Tender)
20. Fruit/vegetable children's side items
Stay Safe Everyone! I Wish You The Best in 2010

Read More......

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

union bank inn - edmonton, ab

Wedding time. Not for me silly, but for the lovely Yarmen and Elleker families. With the lucky families deciding to have both the ceremony and reception at Union Bank Inn, I was pretty excited to be Sarah's guest. The wedding would be held in the UB's largest room, (giverny) and the meal would be catered in-house. Nothing like a plated service to get the foodie in me excited.

The room was beautiful and created a very pleasant backdrop for the actual service. Quick and too the point, the actual wedding was a breeze. Everyone was quickly whisked out of the room while pictures took place and the room was torn down and set up for dinner. I couldn't help but wonder how they would get all of us seated for dinner.

Menu cards were already located on the tables when we arrived for cocktails, and after a few twoonie priced beverages, the show was ready to roll. Up front, I should say the one thing I really like about this plated service was the seamless inclusion of food throughout the event. The staff were absolutely amazing. From serving all the ladies at the table first, to water and wine refills, to replacing dropped cutlery at an instant. Very professional, very discreet and very happy to be working and catering. What a customer service treat!

For the starter we received an Organic Baby Greens Salad w/ Crispy Noodles, Candied Pecans, Sweet & Spicy Vinaigrette. The noodles were indeed crispy, the pecans were candied, and the dressing was both sweet and spicy. A solid salad, my only issue was with the pile of pecans everyone seemed to receive. Nothing like eating 10-15 sugar coated pecans to shun any health benefits.

Next the main. For the meat eaters, Chicken Supreme with Roasted Shallot Relish w/ Wild Mushroom Quinoa, Fresh Herb Beurre Blanc & Market Vegetables. The chicken was cooked to a solid result. A mix of slightly dry and slightly moist, it was riding the perfectly cooked chicken line. Cooked with the skin on, I couldn't help but notice every diner at my table removing it. So while it may help with falvour, it obviously isn't a crowd favorite. The shallot relish was sweet and very tasty. The vegetables were OK, bordering on soft, while the quinoa (which I happen to cook at home) was very blah. The only thing that kept it from totally failing were the mushrooms, which added a great level of earthy tones.

And for the vegetarians, a tomato and wild mushroom quinoa base topped with goat cheese and market vegetables. I was lucky enough to have two vegetarians located next to me, making the photo op a lot easier. They seemed to enjoy the dish.

Dessert was a Petites Fours Trio, Chocolate Truffle, Lemon Curd Tartlet, White Chocolate Pecan Brownie & Fresh Seasonal Berries. Easily the weakest part of the night in my mind. The truffle was good. The brownie was dry, lacking any pecan, and the tartlet was rock hard with what seemed like canned lemon curd. I was unaware that blackberries and gooseberries were seasonal fruits around here, and it didn't surprise me that the blackberry was terrible. Something brought up by others at the table as well. I suppose a selection of small desserts is a good option, as many diners didn't finish the trip, instead choosing their favorites and even trading.

Soon enough, it was time to dance and for the first time in my wedding experience, the entire dance was taken care of by an iPod. A great way to save money, it did show how a well thought out play list will do more than suffice.

About an hour after digesting supper, the light lunch-style offerings started to appear. Far from the basic meat and cheese platters, the quality of food carried over here as well. Great looking platters of assorted fruits and vegetables along with meal sized wraps, bagels and buns.

Finally the cake, or should I say cupcakes. It seems to be a very common thread at most of the weddings I've been to as of late. The biggest difference on this occaision was that these were made by a family member. Tasting exactly like a store bought generic cake mix, I suppose the family bakers played it safe and the final result showed just that.

Overall, the entire experience was great. Besides a beautiful wedding, the service was fantastic, and the food, while having hits and misses, wouldn't stop me from suggesting or recommending this venue.

Read More......

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

lemon poppyseed bread

OK, in all honesty, there are still Christmas treats at the homestead. Roasted nuts, tarts, lamingtons, shortbread cookies, assorted squares, etc. However, I woke up and realized I was looking at a pile of lemons that are soon going to be seeing the crappier side of life. I needed to put them in action.

I thought about making lemon squares, but that seemed too close to the Christmas treats we are already swimming in. So I ended up heading in the lemon quick bread/muffin recipe direction. Browsing around, I settled on yet another recipe from Joy of Baking. Seriously, go bookmark this site if you haven't already. You'll love it.

I wasn't going to add a lemon-sugar glaze to this loaf, so I opted to chop (not grate) the zest of one entire large lemon. This as you can see, adds quite obvious pockets of lemon goodness to the slices. The result was a success. Without the glaze it's not nearly as sweet, and almost feels healthy compared to those Christmas treats we've all been eating. Give it a go if you like this sort of thing.

Lemon Poppyseed Bread

*adapted from Joy of Baking

3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (60 ml) milk
1 1/2 cups (210 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted
3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest of one lemon, chopped
3 tablespoons (30 grams) poppy seeds
13 tablespoons (184 grams) unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Spray with a non stick vegetable oil, the bottom and sides of a loaf pan (8 x 4 x 2 1/2 inch). Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and spray again.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla extract, and milk. Set aside.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, lemon zest, and poppy seeds until combined. Add the softened butter and half the egg mixture and mix on low speed until moistened. Increase the speed to medium and beat for about one minute. This aerates and develops the cake's structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the remaining egg mixture in two batches, beating about 30 seconds after each addition. This will strengthen the structure of the batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. You may have to cover the bread with buttered foil after about 30 minutes if you find the bread over browning.

Cool the loaf in the pan for about 10 minutes then invert onto a greased wire rack. Dig in!

Read More......

Sunday, December 27, 2009

new traditions with a side of chrismas eve

Seasonal traditions. Everyone has them I think, whether you know it or not. Maybe you sit by yourself eating Kraft dinner or maybe you fill the kitchen of a family elder with 25 people. Having virtually nothing to do on Christmas Eve, and my family traditions a thing of past, I accepted an invite to spend a few hours at Sarah's parents house.

With open doors, Christmas Eve at this house is full of food and laughter and people. Between the cousins, sisters, brothers, parents, and family friends, conversations were varied and, at times, very strange (in a good way).

Munchies get put out early in the evening and are continually refreshed; shrimp, assorted sausage, collections of crackers, cheeses, dips, chips, pickles, olives, hot items and more. Of course Christmas treats are out at all times with, I guarantee, something for everyone. Tarts, shortbread cookies, Skor cookies, Mexican wedding cakes, gingerbread and candy canes along with actual dessert offerings. Seriously, enough delicious food to fill your belly and some.

Supper was vegetarian lasagna, to comply with certain dietary requests, and was accompanied by caesar salad and garlic bread. The lasagna, which was a kitchen sink variety, included everything from broccoli to spinach and was very good and very cheesy.

How good...good enough that Sarah didn't know where it all went! The highlight of the night was when we 'attempted' to off Sarah's cousins husband who, unfortunately for him, has a seafood allergy. Not having the product packaging, and the purchasers away at Christmas Eve mass, we were unaware that EVERY single hot item included seafood. Thank our lucky stars, we figured it out relatively early (after he ate a couple) and were able to bring the situation to a happy ending. Nothing says Christmas like a scare!

While very different from my Christmas celebrations of the past, I couldn't have asked for a nicer or more heart warming time. A big thank you goes out to everyone at the house!

Read More......

Saturday, December 26, 2009

the decade in food 2000 - 2009

It's been one of those months. Like every December before, this one is no different in that it brings out the lists. The best music, best news stories, best pictures, best dog names, and so on. Lucky for me, the lists also make a stop at food. Yet, this years list isn't as simple as reviewing one year. As we close this decade, it becomes something bigger. 10 years of food. Heck I can't even remember what I ate for my birthday this year, so I took a few moments to think about everything. I know we've changed a lot, so bear with me and add your thoughts at the end. After all, I'm just one man with one brain.

Coffee. Can you believe one drink changed it's image as much as this. I remember thinking how hard it was to become a barista back in the day, and now they are everywhere. In high school, the only time anyone drank coffee was to supplement the Jolt Cola they were using to cram for exams. Oh the times have changed. Starbucks, which passed 10,000 locations in 2006, and currently has over 16,000 shops may just be the main reason many of us can't go to work without a double, half sweet, venti white mocha latte.

Food on TV. If you watched food television before 2000, it was probably on the weekend and probably on PBS. Or maybe like me, you were watching Wok with Yan on your local channel. While Julia Child and Jacques Pepin will always be iconic figures, the world changed when it was given Rachel Ray. Here was a bubbly woman, in a colourful kitchen whipping up 30 minute meals while professing her love for E.V.O.O. Suddenly the lights came on, and chefs were becoming stars. As the Food Network went in search of the next big thing, it started to remind me of the hunt for the next big Seattle band in the early '90s.

Diets. As somebody who has changed his lifestyle completely in the last half of this decade, I may see things a little differently. Of course, I was never sucked into the world of diet mania; instead changing the straight forward and simple way (diet/exercise). It's hard to think back and realize this decade saw the rise of every possible diet combination known to man kind. From the Lemonade Diet to the South Beach Diet. From high protein diets, to people only eating mushrooms (I kid), I know that until this decade, I'd never heard anyone say - Oh, I'm not eating carbs this week.

Organics. With ingredient lists looking like science lessons, it was probably only a matter of time before organics would explode. The last five years have seen everyone (even some hip grand parents) talking about organic this and free-range that. We saw the total sales of organics leaving the $1 billion in sales mark to the 90's, and heading north of $20 billion in the US alone. Heck, even the Obama's planted the first ever organic White House vegetable garden. I'm not going to say it isn't good, as I do think we should try to figure what is in our food, but like any quick rise, I hope it isn't a 'hip-movement' thing. And not everything has to be organic. In my opinion, you shouldn't be buying organic asparagus from Chile, when you can buy from a local non-certified farmer close to home.

Recession and Comfort Food. Our decade saw a lot of turmoil. From 9/11 to the financial meltdown. So it was no surprise to me, to hear about people (or the media I might say) talking about good home cooked meals. Fear and uncertainty are sure to drive those back into the kitchen we all heard. But has it really. As a cook, baker, and food lover, I didn't notice any friends or associates really trying to put roots back in the kitchen. Sure, people weren't eating out as much, but they weren't exactly trying to cook the food at home either. We live in a quick society, where pre-made meals come in every form. Gone are the dried out salisbury steak dinners, and here for the moment are the gourmet mac n' cheese, braised lamb shank, and coq au vin meals. It's like you never left the restaurant, let alone learned to braise and slow cook.

Food Bloggers/Reviews. Sure cities, much bigger than Edmonton, have had quite the head start, but bloggers seem to be popping up everywhere now. Want to know where to go for authentic Italian or the best schnitzel. Just pop online and have a look at UrbanSpoon and Dine Here. Or maybe a quick Google search of your local blogger community will fill you in. Both good and bad, I don't think this genre is going anywhere. Too many people, with too many knee jerk reactions will always keep the review sites packed, while others will continue to show a slice of their life with educational, well thought out and fun updates. Thank you all for the latter!

Cookbooks. I know, I know. Cookbooks have been around for as long as we can remember, but I bring this point up, because they are different now. Sure there are classics like The Joy of Cooking and The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, but they seem to be lost among a new generation created this decade. What generation is that? The food porn generation*. Throw a sexy picture, add a catch phrase, and sell it. Sell it hard! Seriously, just go to Chapters and check out how many discount ghetto cookbooks are available. Bah. Half the time it seems people buy these food porn cookbooks on a whim and never even work through a page. I want quality from my books. Passion and taste, that's what a cookbook should bring. Try this, this, this, and this. *don't get me wrong, I love great looking food.

Discovering Food. I think this decade found many people become at least vaguely aware of food. From a wide range of new products to new restaurants popping up. Both areas showed us a level of food diversity as yet unknown in many parts; we are discovering foods. For example, how many types of cheese were kept in the kitchen when you were young? Cheddar, Swiss, Processed? Now you might find 10 in some cold boxes, ranging from soft to hard, fresh to aged. Heck even the pre-shredded packages contain 4 or 5 cheeses. What about meat. Instead of bologna, we have wild organic meats of every kind; boar, venison, calf moose. I can only imagine the possibilities available in the homemade school lunch now-a-days. Gourmet for kids anyone.

Besides actual products, I think we branched out ethnically. It seemed in my experience, the major players in ethnic food 10-15 years ago were Chinese, Mexican and Italian. Now, many people are not only eating cuisines from different cultures, but even breaking those ones down. Maybe you prefer Northern Indian dishes over Southern. Maybe you like Hunan instead of Schezwan. Maybe, like me, you want pho instead of chicken noodle soup when you are feeling down and out. Our world is brimming with tasty food and we are finally catching on. Amen.

I know I'm just touching the surface of food trends and changes in the past decade, but I wanted to get some thoughts out. It's amazingly strange/difficult to think back 10 years in my life, let alone in food. Edmonton, while I love it, seems to spend it's life perpetually catching up in the food world. We have lagged behind in everything from cupcakes to charcuterie, so I'm assuming the current, maybe even passe trends, will soon be knocking at your door. Which is actually nice at times, because then I get a preview before it arrives.

To the next decade of food. Be you as delicious as the last.

Want more to look back at ;
10 Best Food TV shows of the Decade.
The Best Food books of the Decade.
The Top 10 Biggest Food Network Foodgasms Of 2009
Top 20 Worst Food trends of the Decade
10 Worst Dining trends of the last Decade
The Decade in News Photographs

Want more to watch;
What's wrong with what we eat - Mark Bittman

Read More......

Friday, December 25, 2009

merry christmas

I hope everyone is safe, warm and full of food (even if it's a bowl of Frosted Flakes). Merry Christmas from me, to you and yours!

Read More......

Thursday, December 24, 2009

chocolate peanut butter pie

Another staff potluck party at Sarah's work, meant another dish to make this week. Seriously, they always seem to be having a potluck! What gives? But hey, let's get back on track, because it doesn't matter how many potlucks they have, I love 'em. Even if I'm not getting to eat, it means I get to unleash a cooking adventure on the world. I told you eating was the hard part!

Twice we've made Alton Browns Mac N' Cheese (conquering the 'main' side of things) to rave reviews, so I wondered about a dessert or appetizer. Dessert won out, and I set my brain to work. A few ideas were starting to float around, when I remembered a chocolate peanut butter pie concoction over at The Pioneer Woman. With Sarah hip to the plan, we headed over to Superstore to retrieve our goods; butter, Oreos, cream cheese, cool whip, peanut butter, and icing sugar. I bet you're salivating already. In honor of Ree and her shot by shot blog method. I'm going to attempt a reenactment.

First the Oreo's get crushed up, yes, even the white parts. Use a food processor if you can.

Then mix in the melted butter; because chocolate, butter, and Oreo cream is heavenly.

Press the mixture into a pie plate, while trying not to eat any of course.

See, it looks good enough to eat.

Letting the crust bake for 7 minutes in a 350 oven, gives you enough time to put together the filling.

A cup of delicious peanut butter.

And 8 ounces of cream cheese.

Get blended together.

Once combined, start mixing in the icing sugar (1 1/2 cups). Be careful of the icing powder spray.

Then start on the 8 ounces of cool whip.

Continue mixing until everything comes together into creamy goodness.

Now go get your pie crust from the oven and don't burn yourself.

Pour everything into the Oreo crust.

Now smooth your pie-top with a knife (or a rice paddle) and cool.

Oh why not add a few more of those delicious, thigh bulging Oreo's. I mean we've gone this far already.

Seriously. Make this recipe.

Read More......

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

the week that was and is - december 22nd, 2009

Merry Christmas everyone. I know it's a couple of days early, but this update will obviously be the last one before the eventful night. I hope everyone stays safe and warm. Don't forget to leave a cookie or two out for Santa, because really, he never goes on a diet and doesn't need those low-fat wafers.

  • As a bread making man, I'm a little sad that Treestone Bakery has been sold. The plus side of things though, is that we may get our first taste of proper Montreal bagels...but will they be kosher?
  • Sharon (Only Here for the Food) recently attended a twitter based food night. A great way to combine technology and hungry stomachs.
  • It looks like Kai Asian Grill has made the news with their Naked Geisha sushi nights. I for one, as a big fan of sushi, can think of better ways (and places) to eat my raw fish.
  • "Want an easy way to sum up how Americans ate during the first 10 years of the new century? Three words should do it - Sushi at 7-Eleven"
  • While I'm talking about sushi. It's headed to space for the first time thanks to a Japanese astronaut.
  • Jaime Oliver wins the $100,000 TED prize for 2010.
  • The cutest gingerbread houses around!
  • Finally, never say it doesn't pay to enter those silly draw boxes. Especially at liquor stores around Christmas. Thanks to Sobeys liquor store, the homestead received this lovely Gran Marnier gift basket. Included were two glass, a bottle of grand Marnier, and a bottle Navan, which my friends is deadly good.
One last thing. If you have some time off this week, why not go see Avatar. I saw the movie this weekend in 3D, and it was unbelievable. Maybe not life changing, but damn did it look good. Bring some snacks though, as it starts to creep up on 3 hours in length.

Read More......

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

pretzel and nut mix

If, like me, you enjoy food and twitter, you are always looking for interesting people to follow. One such person in my opinion is David Lebovitz. Pastry chef extraordinaire; he spends his time in Paris, tweeting the intricacies of food and culture in France.

I've checked out the recipe a few times for his "best holiday snack" idea and with a fresh supply of nuts from Bulk Barn, it was on. Very easy, and very quick. Turn on your oven. Roast the nuts. Combine with sugars and spices, before stirring in the pretzels and warming through. Highly addictive, visitors to the homestead this week found themselves going back for more and more, making me wonder if this actually is the best holiday snack around. I know I'll be making it next Christmas as well...if not sooner.

Read More......

gingerbread house '09

This is a first. What you see is the first gingerbread house I've ever erected that actually looks like a a house. So many horror stories and crack houses in the past, that I cheated this year and picked up a gingerbread house from Michaels.

With everything in the package, all you need to do is whip the icing and decorate how you choose. Of course, even with the candy included you can make a jump to the store and buy a few extras. For me, it was the cedar shake roofs (aka Shreddies).

The experience was pretty fun. I have no problem baking as you probably know, but this is quick and painless, and I can totally see the benefit. It only lasted a few days before being consumed, which brings me to another thought. Ever notice, how the gingerbread house starts to deteriorate just one candy at a time (like no one will notice). Then, when it's obvious that 20% of the candy is missing, it becomes fair game. That my friends, is the gingerbread eating game!

Read More......