Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the (last two) weeks that were and are - september 23rd & 30th, 2009

With my departure from the city last week I wasn't able to publish my usual list of random food related items, so it's a bit of a combo week. Hopefully the last two weeks have treated you well. Is anyone excited for new TV shows? or new seasons?

  • There was an Edmonton Journal article about Edmonton's own Planet Organic a couple weeks back. Seems a bit of financial trouble may be on the horizon.
  • It looks like Mikado is expanding, with a new location set to open up in October on 170th street (9942-170 Street). A definite original in our city and though it's far from my choice, it's still good to see some expansion.
  • The Edmonton Potato Growers and the Greater Edmonton Alliance teamed up for the Great Potato Giveaway. It looks like there was a huge turnout, with around 100,000 pounds of spuds dug up. Sharon (Only Here for the Food) wrote a fantastic post about the event.
  • Chez Cora, the name behind Cora's restaurant, is adding an Edmonton location. I stopped by a few weeks back to find they were closed, but going back to get a picture this weekend, I realized they are now open. If the menu tastes as good as it looks, it will be a much welcomed addition to the breakfast scene here.
  • I received an email this week from the Culina group. They are putting on the first annual Molto Local harvest wine dinner on Monday October 18th. 5 Italian dishes featuring food from local farmers and 5 wines from Italy. I wish I could partake in this without the wine, as I'm someone who would rarely order a wine pairing, the wine portion of $75 dollars is pretty much a waste.
  • Ever wonder what the oldest man in the world eats? At 113, Walter Breuning, eats just twice a day, breakfast and lunch.
  • And really, if you are only going to eat twice a day..better catch up on your Calories Per Dollar info-graphic.
  • I can probably count the number of TV dinners I've had on one thumb, but I like the retro top 10 list of old school frozen dinners.
  • With No Reservations finishing the season in Tony's wife's home (Sardinia), the waiting game is now back on. Good thing Man V Food is staying strong as I'm really starting to like Adam Richman's personality. For a show based around an eating challenge, he adds a quirky and friendly element to each city. If only Andrew Zimmern's new show, Bizarre World, was better.
  • After discovering about Summer Side Asian Market in the mail, I stopped by for a look. A tidy little shop located just a hop and skip from South Edmonton Common (on 91st). Offering your standard fair - beans, flour, fruit, veg, music, dvd's etc. There is also a restaurant next door which seems to be part of the same ownership group.

  • To my surprise it was very much a McMuffin style week at the homestead. I ended up making 12 in total, with a few variations of ingredients. Turkey, ham, or roast beef lightly grilled was topped with an egg and either provolone, cheddar, or Asiago. I think I have the process down to an art now, and can't profess the love my toaster's bagel feature enough.

  • And finally, this beast. I've been experimenting with rye breads quite a bit lately for the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge and pulled this evil looking, but great tasting loaf out of the oven yesterday!

Read More......

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

starbucks via coffee

I stopped in to see my friend and barista extraordinaire, Sarah, yesterday. It feels like ages since I've had the shot of java courtesy of the crew at the South Point location, so it was nice to catch up. As we chatted about life, Sarah mentioned that today is the big launch of Starbucks new instant coffee, VIA.

To celebrate they are running a little in-store promotion. From Oct 2nd to 5th, you can hit up your favorite location and take the VIA Challenge. I take it from our discussion, you will be able to run a 'taste test' between VIA and their regular brewed coffee. You will also get a $1 off coupon towards your first purchase of Via. Which Sarah tells me, comes in 3 or 12 packs.

I've tried both varieties, Colombian and Italian, and they are pretty darn good. I didn't think about it until our conversation, but as a baker these instant packets will be handy to have around for more than one reason. If you aren't a baker and you want to change up your regular hot coffee, why not mix your VIA with cold water, cold milk, or hot milk for something different. Let me know if you try it.

Read More......

Monday, September 28, 2009

backyard bbq

I was recently invited to a little backyard soiree. It was with a group of friends that try and get together a few times each year and catch up. With people off in different directions these days, and the way stories and/or news and/or gossip fly around in our tech obsessed world, it is refreshing to catch up in person.

The theme, if you will, for the BBQ was Everybody Is Needed. Quite ingenious if you ask me. The hosts kindly asked everyone to bring a little piece of something to the party, so if you didn't show up/bring your product, the meal would haven't been complete.

For example, somebody had to brings hamburger buns and somebody else the toppings. Whoa, need sour cream and bacon bits, that's where 'insert name' comes in. How about soda pop, that was so and so's job.

Besides catching up, which was great, it was hilarious to see things unravel. One person, who was in charge of buns, ended up being an hour late, but it was OK because the person in charge of condiments was two hours behind. We waited patiently (who wants to eat a plain hot dog) and it eventually all came together. I wish we could do this more, heck we even agreed on monthly gatherings at one point, but life always has something else for us to do.

Oh, and my job...dessert. Easy as apple bundt cake if you ask me. But you'll have to wait until tomorrow!

Read More......

Sunday, September 27, 2009

light wheat - bread baker's apprentice challenge #18

So, with crackers on the menu for challenge 17, I knew I would need more bread to tide things over. So while the crackers did their thing, I started on this light wheat bread for recipe 18 of the bread baker's apprentice challenge. It's crazy to think how far we have come already, and there are plenty of treats left to coax out of our ovens!

I put this bread together twice. Yet for some reason, the second version did not rise. I can't figure it out. I didn't kill the yeast with water. I kneaded and kneaded until the dough was ready. But still after a few hours nothing...a few hours more..nothing. In fact I actually left this dough for almost 10 hours and did not see a thing. Very strange indeed, and upsetting.

Round one - ready for it's first rise!

Shaped and ready for the second rise.

Fully proofed and ready to bake.

Out of the oven! Look at the spring.

Freshly toasted with peach jam from the farmer's market.

As I've grown over the last 5 or 6 years, I've opted out of most white bread recipes so I was glad to have a recipe with some whole wheat. While I'm sure it's not everyone's bag of tea, I enjoyed this for sandwiches and toast. The loaf that did turn out, was light, airy and tasted slightly nutty. While I wouldn't throw away my 100% whole wheat recipes from Laurel's, this is something I would go back and visit.

I still can't thank Nicole from Pinch My Salt for rounding everything up for this challenge. Almost half way in and the BBA community on twitter is amazing. Some seriously amazing bakers, adventurers, and inspiring cooks. If you have some time, check out;

Something Shiny - Lovin' from the Oven - A Stove With A House Around It - Ahrelich Gesagt - A Tiger In The Kitchen - Bread Experience

Read More......

Saturday, September 26, 2009

dacapo caffe - edmonton, ab

dacapo caffe
8738 109 street

And just like that, the cooler weather was creeping into our lives here in Edmonton. So the Thursday before last, with the rain damping some spirits, I took a break and headed over to DaCapo.

Well known for gelato in town, they also offer a tidy little menu and a selection of great coffee based beverages. Our timing today was spot on as they were an hour away from closing for a private event when we walked in.

A clean, straight forward setup, the seating is situated in a U-shape around a clean, modern counter. Service was fantastic, and while my two DaCapo first-timers lingered on the decision making process, I was ready to sink myself into a Americano. Oh who's kidding, why not partake in a quick sample of rum raisin gelato...delish!

My cohorts eventually pulled up stools, and I waited to see their choices. Tiramisu to go with a latte.

And a piece of black pepper, ginger, cinnamon biscotti with...

I've totally lost it. Maybe a cappuccino?

Good times were had by all, while we enjoyed our beverages and treats. Do stop in if you get a chance, as it's a perfect place to sip a coffee, hang out with those crazy hipsters, or just watch the world go by.

Read More......

Friday, September 25, 2009

calling lake alberta

I recently took a few years off my life by accidentally smashing my head open. Being the bald young man I am, I don't have the added hair protection to soften the blow that so many other people do. So with a damaged noggin' and rest on order I decided to take in some relaxation time out of the city. I packed my bags on Monday and headed a few hundred kilometers north of Edmonton to Calling Lake.

The closest point of reference for those in Alberta is Athabasca,  located 60 km away. The hamlet of Calling Lake itself, isn't much to look at. With most of the population only around in the summer, you find a mix of older cabins in and around new (big money) developments along the water front. So if you, like me, are here in the off season, there is plenty of open air to breathe and space to stretch out your legs.

With things nice and slow this time of year, I was able to pick blueberries, go for walks, enjoy the water and ride the ATV's all by my lonesome. I also played a lot of domino's and did my best to cook up some delicious treats.

Speaking of berry picking. With all sorts of off-road vehicles in the area, a major berry picking site was fenced in to stop any unnecessary damage. Just like hearding cattle, pickers need to find a 'gate' to enter.

Even with low rain fall this year adding up to a disappointing crop, I was still able to gather quite a few blueberries.

I probably froze 10 cups for home, and still had some to bake with. Blueberry bran muffins!

With almost no year round population, you should pretty much bring anything you need from the city. There is the Moosehorn Market, run by a nice Korean couple, but you are going to be paying quite the premium. For example, a handful of grapes ($1.69), apples ($3/pound), and a pack of trident will cost you $3.

The lake, which apparently gets quite busy in the summer time, was a fantastic to look at during the day and night.

My family has a long history of playing domino's, so needless to say our family friends have been drawn into the game. The lake life almost begs for you to pass the hours with this game.

With no space in the cabin for myself, I spend the week inside of a gulfstream motorhome. As a tent camper, I've never slept in a tent trailer or 5th wheel; so I was blown away by the comfort of this gulfstream. Satellite TV, full sized bed, fridge, two burner gas stove, shower, jacuzzi tub, and the list goes on.

With the nice weather, I was able to spend an entire fun filled day out quading. No matter the machine - quad, seadoo, skidoo, or motorcycle, I love the feeling of rushing through the open air. There is something very peaceful about it.

Of course this doesn't mean you can't enjoy getting stuck either. All part of the game in the back country. Besides that's what winches are for!

We discovered some great parts around Calling Lake. From all the crazy types of wild mushrooms to an old seaplane dock (a smaller body of water - Hay Lakes - is located a few miles inland from the main lake and was utilized for its calm waters), the area around here is beautiful.

Of course nothing says appetitie, like a day in the woods. Good thing I brought along some pulled pork to fill that void.

Why not bring some cilantro too! That way we can eat fresh salsa while watching Satelitte TV in the middle of nowhere ;)

And for breakfast one day - french toast. I'm beginning to wonder if the only thing people use their electric griddles for is pancakes and french toast. Everyone seems to have one, but no one uses it for anything else. You?

All in all, it was a fantastic time. I've always enjoyed my time in Alberta, and can't help but think more people need to get out and enjoy the fresh air. People pay a good chunk of money for trips to animal sanctuary's, national parks and resort lakes without ever discovering the lesser known (and cheaper) parts of our own country. In less than a full week, I was able to see foxes, coyotes, bald eagles, bears, a beaver, some grouse, tons of ducks and our lovely Canadian geese. I think it was the perfect mix of conversation, good food, wildlife, and healing.

Read More......

Monday, September 21, 2009

lavash crackers - bread baker's apprentice challenge #17

I'm so backlogged with the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, I've pretty much lost everything I was going to say about these crackers. Silly me, I was even keeping a little diary at the start which has since gone by the way side. Where is that when I need it.

To start, I made this recipe twice. While the first round was good, I wanted to see if I could make it thinner on a second go-around.

The first version was topped with whole black sesame seeds, cracked black sesame seeds, paprika and poppy seeds. A decent little mix, but I also forgot salt.

Even before I decided to bake a second batch, I thought things looked a little thicker than they should. So I pulled my tape measure out to make sure I was past 15 inches! Oh well, into the oven.

With the second round, I subbed out the poppy seeds and included kosher salt and caraway. I also divided the dough into two chunks and baked each section separately. The result was definitely a thinner cracker, but really, no difference in taste.

The crackers were eaten fresh, and with your typical cheese/sausage options, but for some reason they went really well with some homemade fresh salsa. My favorite part, was cracking open the air packets and using them as scoops for the salsa!!

Now to get to work on the light wheat post. Phew! Do check out the #BBA tag on Twitter for other talented bakers...just try and read through the Big Brother Africa posts ;)

Read More......

Sunday, September 20, 2009

rice pudding

I've been wanting to make rice pudding for a while but I just couldn't seem to find my mothers recipe. Deciding to give the search a break, I turned to my copy Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything and found a baked rice pudding recipe. Rice pudding was always done on the stove-top in our house, so this would be different from the get-go. The more I read this recipe, the more I liked it. No stove-top spillage and no extra clean up! Just stir 4 cups of milk, 1/4 - 1/3 cup of rice, 1/2 cup of sugar, a pinch of salt, and cinnamon (I used two sticks) together before putting it in a 300 degree oven for 2 hours. You need to come back every 30 minutes to stir, and after an hour you can dump in your raisins. Three quarters of the way through, it says to check every 10 minutes and make sure you pull it before all the liquid is absorb. This is crucial as the rice pudding will coagulate as it cools and you need some moisture to prevent a crusty or dry product.

Unfortunately, this was strike two on the night. With the previous Tyler Florence BBQ sauce also a let down, my culinary adventure was disappointing. The problem with this recipe was the suggested time. After 2 hours it still looked like milk soup, with most of the rice in no way, shape, or form ready for our stomachs. I ended up pulling it at 3 1/2 hours (see photo) and it still wasn't in good shape. I salavaged what I could by throwing everything into a pot and letting it sit stove-top for a while. So much for unnecessary clean up!

It's been a while since I've made some unfortunate recipes, but all in due time I guess. Now I need to get back on the hunt and find my mothers recipe.

Read More......