I felt badly that I had missed their anniversary. When they married over thirty years ago, there was a very small gathering of parents and siblings but we were one of two couple of friends. I realized that the significance of my visiting on that weekend was not lost on them when R said sincerely “Thanks for being at our wedding” for I stood beside M as her maid of honour. The night of their anniversary, I was at another restaurant across town with my friends from FBC 2016. They were at a little spot in their neighbourhood. The next evening they cooked filet mignon’s with all the trimmings. So my opportunity to celebrate with them came on my last evening in town. They suggested Ascari Enoteca, not far from where they lived. They had visited there before. Ascari Enoteca is named for famous Italian race car driver Alberto Ascari. The Enoteca (wine depository) was celebrating half price wine night and the little spot was jammed with Monday night diners. In fact, I could hardly follow our conversation over the din. This did not embarrass me as friends R & M are half a year older than me and our conversations often centre on a part of our body which is no longer working. M had told me about an item from the list “In Compagnia” (things to share) that they liked to order. Broccolini Fritti was lightly battered broccolini crowned with lemon zest and pecorino cheese. The batter was light and salty like a tempura batter and the citrus and cheese was so satisfying that I tipped the serving bowl onto my side plate and scooped it up with a spoon. R made me perfectly comfortable with my brazen table manners by saying that a friend of his had done exactly the same. When we each ordered our pasta, R selected another sharable of Cavoletti di Bruxelles. The shaved Brussel sprouts were tossed with guanciale (an Italian style bacon made from pork jowls), garlic chips and toasted walnuts. They too were so satisfying that I plan on getting my mandolin out and shaving some Brussel sprouts sometime very soon. M chose a salad of charred romaine hearts that she was happy to share with us. Dubbed Insalata Americana, the boats of blackened romaine were filled with oven-dried tomato, tiny slivers of radish and a creamy oregano dressing. Sunflower seeds and fried shallots added extra crunch. I was eager to have a taste of M’s Linquine alla Puttanesca with the traditional ingredients of tomato, anchovy, caper and olives. She liked the unusual addition of smoked cod. My taste of the latter revealed an overwhelming salty and smoky taste. I was glad that I had not been tempted by her choice and tucked into the evening’s special of Tajarin Ai Fungi. My favourite pastas are lightly tossed with a few simple ingredients reminiscent of our recent time in Tuscany. Fresh and delicate Tajarin noodles (like spaghettini but square not round) had been tossed with beurre fondue (melted butter), tarragon, chanterelles and “heavens be praised” truffle oil! We have travelled through many regions of Italy but not yet Piedmont where Tajarin noodles are a specialty. Each spin of the pasta was concluded with a spearing of chanterelles. The fungi (mushrooms) complemented the musky dab of truffle oil. Simply divine. We washed everything down with a wine of R’s choosing-a light and slightly acidic Basadone from Casetto Di Verduno. The wine also hails from Piedmont, so it was a tremendous choice. Upon further research, this is what I discovered: “The Barbera d’Alba label has a drawing of poppies which are called Basadone in local dialect (papavero in Italian). Basadone in dialect also means a little kiss – local tradition has it that Pelaverga is an aphrodisiac!” We concluded the evening with a lemon pudding and three spoons, remembering a time when they as a couple took me under their wings and provided companionship after a bumpy time in my life. Although my timing was a couple of days off for this dinner, it was a lovely celebration of their love, marriage and our long lasting friendship. Kath’s quote: “You may have the universe if I may have Italy”.-Giuseppe Verdi Love never fails.
When I was a child my Mom would make donuts on a fairly regular basis so that my older brother could hand them out to fellow newspaper carriers. The big tarp covered box where the newspapers would be dropped off was in our yard. Over the years, my definition of a doughnut became a Tim Horton’s version. Now I am happy to say, donuts like Mom use to make are making a comeback. I might add, with some fun improvements.
“Bronuts” is the creation of brothers Brett & Dylan (assisted by wife/sister-in-law Meghan) and I have a hunch that a family recipe may have something to do with the success of their Exchange District shop. I understand that the place is jammed each morning with hipsters who work nearby picking up their tea and/or coffees with the sustenance that a donut can provide.
Bronuts don’t use artificial colouring or flavours and they make all the toppings, jam, and custard from scratch. I might add that they go easy on the sugar which is unexpected at first bite. That is what allows the yeasty dough taste to share the stage. I couldn’t make up mind the day that I stood in front of the display case in their sparkling shop, so I ordered one of each to go.
I had a gang over for coffee that evening so I had an ulterior motive.
The vanilla glaze tasted most like my Mom’s. Everyone had their own preference from the myriad of toppings. The pumpkin cheesecake donut with cream cheese glaze was a hit
as was their most popular peanut butter and jam. My sister declared that it tasted like a homemade sandwich.
The peach pecan fritter was my personal favourite
and chocolate lovers leaned towards the chocolate cake donut called Margot or the cookies and cream one.
One of the brothers told me how they typically sell out of product in the early afternoon which means that they can start fresh in their kitchen for the next day. So when you visit, keep this in mind.
Kath’s quote: “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do”? -Matt Groening
Love never fails.
We were so glad to have included San Gimignano on our way home. The the medieval towers provided the set for the movie “Tea with Mussolini” (standing in for Florence).
After spending the afternoon in the beautiful village we made our way back to Montecatini on the back roads. They were not particularly scenic and very difficult to navigate.
We had one very stressful incident. In order to avoid what D thought to be a fatal car crash, D slammed on his brakes. We could see a truck coming around a corner but knew that those behind us could not. The fellow in the car behind us was not happy with D and came up to knock on the car window. He was cursing and waving his hands around and was very, very angry. As soon as D explained that we were not Italian, he cheerfully apologised and let us continue on our way. Phew. The exchange could have gone in a very confrontational manner because D absolutely believed that he had saved the Italian’s life!
Kath’s quote: “Arabella, you might love art, but art certainly doesn’t respond to your affections”. -Lady Hester in Tea with Mussolini
Love never fails.
I have waited for what seemed like eons for the time to come when I could visit Clementine at 123 Princess St. in the Exchange District. I spotted Owner Chef Adam Donnelly who I have long admired for his tapas restaurant –Segovia, as I sat down. As with Segovia he is teamed up with his wife Caroline Konrad. They have added extended family members Reya Konrad and Chris Gama for this venture.
Some say “anything worth doing is worth the wait” and in this case I would whole heartedly agree! We were perched at a high table in the cosy lower level as every other table was full with other enthusiastic diners. From this vantage I could spot another Winnipeg Chef (a very good sign) arrive to sample Chef Donnelly’s fare.
My lunch mate groaned when she found out that they were out of waffles that day (with blueberries, pecans, maple syrup, maple cream and rhubarb compote) and settled upon the porridge. This was not just any porridge-made with almond milk, apple butter, kiwi, blueberries and pecans; she was so satisfied that she took half home for her next breakfast.
I on the other hand, went past my satiation point and ate the entire order of Fried Chicken Toast. The chicken was so crunchy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside and beautifully balanced with pickled carrots and a maple drizzle that I would moan as I cut into another bite. If you are like me and love sweet and salty tastes as well a variety of textures, you will love this dish.
I was prompted ahead of time that the Braised Bacon Benedict was fabulous, as well as their Home Fried Potatoes. Thinking about Segovia’s Patata Bravas that I have long loved, I ordered the home fries for “dessert”. Actually, I sampled a fabulous bite and then took the rest home to my husband as compensation for not being able to join me on the visit. The Salsa Negra and Lime Mayo take the humble fried potato and elevate them to a starring role!
“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.”
― A.A. Milne
Love never fails.
Honey Fungus mushrooms are called “peedpenky” by the Ukrainian community. They are best stored frozen or canned. Drying tends to toughen them. My method is to clean them, without washing, as best I can, discarding stems from bigger mushrooms as they can be tough. I cut them into the size I prefer, measure out 1 lb and freeze them raw using my vacuum sealer. They can be stored this way in the freezer for at least a year. These mushrooms are almost as good as fresh when thawed.
When ready to use them I let them thaw and because they can contain a mild toxin I boil the peedpenky for 3 -4 minutes in slightly salted water. They are then rinsed, which provides the washing of them as I do not wash before freezing. They are now ready to cook as you wish. You can sauté them with onions, garlic and parsley, thickened with a little cream and served with pasta or perogies. You can also add them into your gravy while it is cooking.
Another method of preserving peedpenky is to clean as best you can, cut into appropriate size and rinse. They should then be blanched for 3-4 minutes, then drained and frozen using fresh water. When you are ready to use them they can be thawed, rinsed and then sautéed and put into gravy or other dishes.
Find out more:
Kath’s quote: “The sudden appearance of mushrooms after a summer rain is one of the more impressive spectacles of the plant world”.- John Tyler Bonner
Love never fails.