Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Confessional Follow Up #1

January9

A week has past since my New Year’s Confessional and I thought that an update was in order.  I’ve been out walking more frequently, started Zumba again and cooked and cooked and cooked.  I  have cooked up some successes and some flops.  I go to extremes.  It is probably enough that I am consuming only what I have made from scratch.  I have filled the larder with whole grains, beans, lentils and nuts, eliminated white flour, white rice and white pasta. Where I have gone over-board is that I have attempted to also reduce sugar and fat.  This is where some of my flops come in.  Moderation would do the trick.

The hits:

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Baked Potato with Tuna Salad and Lemon Mayonaise

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Salmon Fillets in Rice Paper Wrappers, Carrot Salad with Moroccan Dressing

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Ingredients for Oatmeal Banana Muffins

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Wheat Berry and Grilled Corn Salad

Other hits (with no photos): Quinoa Chocolate Chip Cookies, Five-Grain Muffins, Low Fat/Low Salt Nuts & Bolts

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The flops:

Nick Malgieri’s Fudge Brownies (ingredients above)-I replaced the sugar with Monk Fruit in the Raw, yuck.

Asiago Drop Biscuits -don’t think my oven had pre-heated and they spread all over the pan.

I plan on focusing on what I have gained instead of my usual doomed missions regarding what I have lost.  I have gained energy and am sleeping well.  I am not as winded as I bundle up and lug the dog along for his walks.  My appetite has shrunk but I am still craving salty snacks. I have enjoyed being alone this past week and only fixing a small something as my appetite dictates. One week down, 51 to go!

Let me know if you want any of the recipes mentioned above.

Kath’s quote: “Without wishing in the slightest degree to disparage the skill and labour of breadmakers by trade, truth compels us to assert our conviction of the superior wholesomeness of bread made in our own
homes.”-
Eliza Acton

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Love-that is all.

 

“Antonia & Her Daughters” by Marlena de Blasi

January8

I have read many non-fiction books by Marlena de Blasi: “That Summer in Sicily”,  “A Thousand days in Venice”, “A Thousand Days in Tuscany”, and “The Lady in the Palazzo”.  I have been absolutely enthralled by them all.  De Blasi, a chef and food writer, is an ex-pat American who marries a Venetian and relocates to Italy.  Her food narratives make my mouth water.  I typically don`t create a post on a book until I am finished reading it but I came upon this yummy lunch description last evening and just had to share.

This excerpt is from Pages 163-166 of the Kindle edition

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I step out of the terrace traffic into the greater choas of the kitchen.  At one of the five-burner stoves, Luce tosses plump pink chicken livers in butter and olive oil, sears them over a fast flame.  Her thumb over the mouth of a litre bottle of vin santo, she splashes the livers with dry-sweet wine, tosses the mass into a grand marble mortar. Cheeks flushed, laughing aloud at something Filipa recounts from half a hectre away, she is an alchemist grinding a wooden pestle into the steaming pluck of twenty chickens, keeping rhythm while pinching in sea salt and capers, lemon zest chopped fine as powder.  Never breaking stride, she drops in bits of cold, sweet butter and droplets of cognac, pounds it all to a rough paste.  A two-kilo round of charred-crusted bread she slices thinly, lays the pieces on a grate over white ash in a deep, flame-scorched hearth.  The bread grilled on one side only, she deftly drags the untoasted side through a bowl of rich warm chicken broth and lays the bread, broth side up, on a tray.  She smears the paste smoothly over the bread.  Right palm upraised, she balances the laden tray on it, ports it to an iron-legged, stone-topped table set outdoors on the flags.

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I wander over to Filippa as she works through a small mountain of artichokes, trimming the leaves, scraping the dead chokes-barely formed on these beauties-and peeling the nearly foot-long stems.  Into each here she presses mint leaves, crushed unpeeled cloves of garlic, thin slices of lemon, piles them into a huge copper bacinella, pours in white wine, water, oil, heaves in more mint, sea salt, covers the pot and turns up the flame.

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They won`t take long at all.  Let`s drink some wine, she says.

On the oak dressers placed here and there against the veranda wall there are tureens of thick faro soup with new potatoes, blue and white oval platters of red wine-vinegar braised chicken and Filippa’s borlotti mousse, its final decoration a great tangle of fried sage leaves.  A wheel of young, still creamy pecorino sits on a marble near a glass bowl of caramelised peaches and another of fresh ones, some still on their leafed branches.

A tavola, tutti a tavola, invites Antonia, though she still stands- a hand folded on her hip-in front of her place at the head of the table.

From the speckled green jugs of wine passed about, everyone pours for someone else.  Àlla nostra.  Alla nostra.  To us.

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Giorgia arrives with a copper tray, the sausages, charred and crackling from the fire and laid on a bed of wild rosemary branches.  At the last it`s Filippa and Luce-each one holding a white cloth to a handle of the steaming bacinella of gorgeous purple-leafed artichokes.  They set it down in front of Antonia’s place.  A stack of shallow soup plates before her, she takes one, places as artichoke in it, spoons on some of the lemony, winey broth from the pot, pours thick green oil over it from a two-litre anfora, passes it down the table.

Buon appetito echoes like a prayer.

De Blasi has swept me to Tuscany even though I am alone here in my little house on the frozen prairie.  My evenings pass with pleasure as I imagine eating artichokes at a table with my sisters. I will keep you posted as my reading concludes (my next Italian adventure has already arrived to my Kindle).

Kath`s quote: “They eat the dainty food of famous chefs with the same pleasure with which they devour gross peasant dishes, mostly composed of garlic and tomatoes, or fisherman’s octopus and shrimps, fried in heavily scented olive oil on a little deserted beach.”-Luigi Barzini

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Love-that is all.

Cafe Savour

January7

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Café Savour at 956 St. Mary’s Rd. is pretty much what I imagine our little restaurant would look like, if D and  I ever stopped talking about it and actually did it.  From the hand-painted tables, toss cushions, twinkle-lights and turquoise wine glasses to the photos adorning the walls from the places they have traveled together, this place reflects our personal taste and eclectic style.

We could never duplicate the skill level coming out of the kitchen though.  Chef Louise Briskie de Beer’s menu is imaginative and her creations, oh so delectable.  Her partner Faiz de Beer personally takes care of every table himself and his service is attentive, warm and comfortable. They are the only staff in the restaurant so they only open the limited hours of Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.  We imagined them sharing a bottle of wine when the evening was through as they were tackling all of the dirty dishes.

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Their prix fixe menu, offers three courses for $35 or five for $45.  If you are concerned about quantity but want to sample as much as possible, you could follow our lead and order one three course and another five course and share it ll.  As a result, we started with an amuse bouche of house baked breads and dukkah which is a Middle Eastern spice and nut mixture to enhance the tasty breads.  Even though the recipe is a middle-eastern one, they discovered it while travelling in Australia.

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Next up were bowls of piping hot soup, in fact the hottest food I have ever had while dining,  Many soups are “held” for the kitchen’s convenience but Louise must heat small portions up when she receives an order.  I could not decide between my savoury bowl of sausage, mushroom and wild rice and my husband’s of cauliflower, potato and curry.  Bother were perfectly balanced and appealing in their own distinct ways.

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We shared a South African appetizer trio of “Dhaltjie”-spinach and chick pea fritter, “Frikkadel”-masala flavoured tuna patty and Cape Malay spiced samosa.  All were enjoyable and we concluded that we like the fritter the very best.  We also shared a deconstructed and reconstructed Greek salad where the wheels of tomato and cucumber were presented in a tower accompanied by rings of purple onion, green peppers, olives and feta.

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My husband opted for a slow roasted lamb shank smothered in au jus and sweet onions, while I tucked into an unusual eggplant parmigiana that we guessed had been made to order rather than the typical casserole style.

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But wait; there was still dessert to come: a chewy cherry crisp and a decadent chocolate apricot pate.  You might suggest that we would have been exhausted by eating such a quantity but the owners provide the perfect sized tastes of the starters and you are more than satiated with the portion of the entrée.  Every taste from start to finish was divine, made even more so by their reasonably priced wines by the glass.

Cafe Savour on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Savour: enjoy something unhurriedly, to enjoy something with unhurried appreciation“

Love-that is all.

“Where the Sky is Born” by Jeanine Lee Kitchel

January6

I had reserved this book at the library years ago only to find that it had been lost in the circulation system.  I kept holding out hope that it would one day surface and so I did not cancel my reservation for a year or so.  After which, I conceded that it was unlikely that I would ever get to read it.  Then one day near the end of my time on Isla, I was in the lobby of our little villa (3 suites) and I spied it on the shelves of books that other guests have read and left behind instead of lugging home.  I have poured over every word because I have this gift of being transported to anywhere I am reading about (I have to be very careful with my selection of reading material).

The story is so intriguing to me as it is the story of a couple who decide to abandon their hectic life in America and opt instead for the laid back lifestyle of a little fishing village by the name of Puerto Moreles.  The book was published in 2004 and her memoirs of the building of their Mexican home went back as far as 1985.  I am sure life in the Yucatan was different then.  Very different.

This is one of the many reasons why we love the island of Isla Mujeres so much, because it feels as if it grew less quickly than Cancun and Playa de Carmen.  To my delight, Jeanine and her husband loved the island too and had this to say (p 137):

At that time, twenty years ago, the travel agent hadn’t heard of Cancun nor the nearby island of Isla Mujeres, and Paul had to convince her to get out a Mexico map so he could show her the location.  A month later we were on the a Mexicana flight, stopping only at the Cancun airport to catch a cab, then onto Isla Mujeres by boat, known only as the people’s ferry.

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We fell in love with Isla.  Adored North Beach with the shallow, turquoise ocean bumping up onto a white sand beach that stetched seemingly for miles (standard fare for the Mexican Caribbean we were soon to find out) and especially loved Maria’s, a small resort with French restaurant serving excellent cuisine.  Maria had only five rooms to rent, bungalows fit for a tropical highway paradise, with palapa roofs, and a bountiful exterior garden brimming with hibiscus, crotons, and areca palms.  A narrow cement walkway, etched with geckos and tropical flowers, wound its way down to two prized bungalows, close enough to the beach to hear the waves lapping at the shore at night.  Although we’d started out in the less desirable rooms closer to the restaurant, we stayed long enough to nab one of the sought-after bungalows below.  We spent long hour’s on Maria’s lonesome beach, sharing the ocean with her ancient loggerhead sea turtles that swam in the ocean by day and by dusk returned to a funky zapote cage that straddled the sand at the water’s edge.  We hunkered down in Mexican style Adriondack chairs, sun-bathed, talked, napped and dreamed, and I think it was right then and there on Maria’s beach, that we decided somehow we would escape northern winters and city life and life in Mexico.

I “get” Jeannine and so would my siblings and friends who are in love with Isla as well.  By reading this book though, I see that it is not specifically Isla that must have smitten us but the experiences of this laid back time that Isla still has managed to retain (p 7).

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Coco palms were planted in a line all the way up the way down the narrow two lane road.  Mangrove swamps with shallow brown water bumped up to the roadway, a few ducks in attendance.  Lazy dragonflies hovered aimlessly at the waters edge.  No cars passed us, only an ancient bike ambled by a young driver balancing a pot of tortillas on the handle bars.

At el centro my first impression was that of a rustic, unpolished little pueblo with a few shops.  The town square, known as el zocalo in Spanish, lacked foliage, either by design or lack of interest, except for a large almendon, or almond tree, dead centre and a couple of scruffy pinones or pines.  A basketball court, though off to the side, predominated, its backboards lacking hoops and nets.  Several concrete park benches donated by the town fathers lined the pathways.  One or two of the benches needed repair….

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…The handful of locals working that day nodded to us in passing, exchanging smiles and greetings.  Friendly.  No doubt about it, the place was authentic.  No gringos, save us.  We eavesdropped on conversations, thankful they were in Spanish.  Could this be the place we’d been searching for? It had just the right amount of funk.

Giddy, we decided to ground ourselves with a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants before finding Alejandro’s house.  We chose one right on the beach with a large thatched palapa roof .  The waiter dressed all in white, meandered over with menus and asked quietly if we would like something to drink.

“Let’s drink to our good luck,” Paul said. Then he ordered two margaritas….

After a Yucateca style lunch featuring the local cuisine-fresh camarones with garlic for me and pibil chicken, a Mayan specialty with the fowl wrapped in banana leaves for Paul, and zesty lime soup-we sat for a moment on the outdoor terrace and took everything in.  From the tiburonera fishing boats docked nearby to the rustic, neglected beach to the calm that emanated everywhere, this was certainly Mexico.

(page 15)

At night we walked into town along the dark jungle road, slowly becoming accustomed to finding our way without the aid of a flashlight, guided only by the rays of the moon.  In Puerto Moreles we were getting used to the streets, the people, the tempo of life.  We knew when to find the bank open; what day the vegetable vendor set up his stand; what time we could find the sporadic baker selling bread.

We noticed the friendliness of everyone from children playing in the street to taxi drivers to shopkeepers.  We started to become accustomed to the polite nods or the occasional “buenas tardes” from people we didn’t even know.  We were fitting in.

The story is primarily about the years that it took to muddle through all the illogical red tape of securing land in Mexico and the agonizing process of building their precious Casa Maya right on the beach, devastating hurricanes and all.  This too, we know is authentic.

Did they live happily ever after, in their little Casa? Apparently not. I was watching House International recently, which is one of my HGTV addictions and a couple from Edmonton made the adventurous decision to purchase an abandoned villa that was a shell its former self, to restore it to previous grandeur.  The property? Casa Maya.

Kath’s quote: Mi casa es su casa.”

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Love-that is all.

 

 

Ringing in the New Year

January3

The roads in Winnipeg are a nightmare-no other way to describe them.  Being close to the restaurant business we know that this made for cancelled reservations and a spike in no shows for businesses on New Year’s Eve.  There was a corresponding peak in people ordering in and picking up, so it is not that Winnipeggers did not want to celebrate with food.  D suggested that because we had spent so much time at home over the holidays, that we dine out but choose a location in our neighbourhood.  It would have been a long walk, but one that we sometimes do in fairer weather.  With reports of Winnipeg being colder than Mars, this was a non-decision, we took a car.  Both of our vehicles have remote starters, an absolute must if you live here and do not own a garage. D’s also has heated seats so we were quite comfortable as far as the temperature was concerned.  Tre Visi, our destination on that evening is on Grosvenor Ave. and is the street which runs perpendicular to ours, a half a block away.  But with both of our vehicles trying to fit into a parking pad edged with ever-growing snow banks, we had to head into the opposite direction to get out of our spot.  This meant that we had a single city block to travel in order to get back to Grosvenor Ave.   D had not even touched the brake when we started to slide and spin.  Thank heavens there were no parked cars and it must have looked as if we were simply pulling a “U” in the middle of the block to park on the opposite side of the street.

Vivid thoughts of amazing food was our focus and our motivation to make the trek that evening and Tre Visi did not disappoint.  We spotted that there were marinated vegetables on their antipasto platter and so we eagerly ordered the board remembering the ones that we loved while traveling in Italy.

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This was our favourite from Cumpa Cosimo, high up on the mountainside in Ravello, Amalfi Coast.  A couple of these were marinated and all served cold.  In Italy, antipasto plates highlight the best of what the region has to offer, sometimes all seafood, others all cheeses, etc.

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Tre Visi’s included paper-thin slices of cured meat, shards of cheese, pickled onions and peppers.  Every taste was a lovely surprize and  when coupled up on fork tines, produced other delectable taste combinations.  We would have appreciated some crostini or baguette to stretch the morsels further, but perhaps that is passé with so many diners avoiding gluten.

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D’s choice was the gnocchi with the pesto cream sauce which he remembered from an earlier visit.  I could see that he was trying to exercise restraint as he speared each fluffy pillow.  Near the end of the time with our plates though, he might have decided that the portion was too generous and that perhaps we should have shared the plate and mixed tastes up with another item.  Next time….

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D could tell that I was torn between my original choice and the special of a rib eye with parmesan French fries.  This is one of the many reasons why I love him: when it was time to order, he asked our delightful server if the chef would provide the fries to accompany our appetizer.  What a guy-he knew that it I was on the cusp of New Year’s resolution time and wanted me to savour one last indulgence.

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In the end I selected the Frutti de Mare which is often my choice.  Tre Visi’s version was as delicious as I have eaten anywhere with plump scallops, fresh shrimp and mussels and easy on the pasta.  The secret was in the sauce which was light with tomatoes but luxurious with what I imagined to be butter.  I supped up the last spots of sauce with my spoon, not wanting to let a dribble go unconsumed.

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We enjoyed the festive ambience of the open room and imagined that some diners would carry on to a New Year’s party while others lived close by and would carefully make their way home.  There was one table of six just over my shoulder who were all Italian and spoke the romantic language throughout our meal which of course really swept us away to meals of times gone by.

Tre Visi Cafe on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people.
So overweight people are now average. Which means you’ve met your New Year’s resolution.”-
Jay Leno

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Love-that is all.

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