Food Musings

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

A L’epi de Ble-French Bakery

November14

sunshine8.jpg

I happened upon L’epi de Bleu (1757 Main St.) by chance.  Although I had intended to visit ever since I sampled their macaroons this summer at my grandbaby’s welcome party, I had actually intended to pick up lunch at another bakery in the area-Baraka Pita Bakery.  When I tugged on the locked door to the latter and then read the notice indicating that they were closed for a religious holiday, my brain immediately changed gears from a pita to a croissant!

I was glad that the few tables by the window were occupied and that there was a line up of patrons waiting to make their selections,  This gave me the opportunity to gaze upon each of the artistic offerings in the front display case.  I also spied a baker’s cart in the corner that seemed to be filled with savoury rather than sweet confections, so I knew that I would not go away empty handed.

french1.jpg

Nathalie Gautier, the proprietress, helped me make my selections.  The pastry of the ham and bacon quiche was lighter than air, as were all of the pastries I sampled.  The hearty meat flavours were offset with a delicately whipped egg mixture producing the likeness of a souffle in a pastry shell.  The bakery serves meat pies of traditional ground beef but I decided to try the mixture of ground chicken and pork.  The shape of the pie is atypical, as opposed to round, it was more tubed shaped.  The taste was unusual too, retaining a deep and pungent flavour.

french3.jpg

The fourgrasse which Nathalie described as having pizza-like dough was filled with feta and pesto and was also delicious, but I was more inclined to the French specialties like the croquet monsieur.

french2.jpg

Just as I was having my “to go” items wrung in, Nathalie mentioned that she has designed savoury macaroons that she has made available in roasted red pepper, chevre and the one I sampled-foie gras!  The meringues had just a touch of sweetness and contained a surprising smear of duck liver in between the wafers,  Ooh lala.

French is enthusiastically spoken in the shop that once housed the Hartford Bakery.  Nathalie indicates that they have occupied the space for the past two years.

A l'Epi de Ble ~ French Bakery on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Light, refined, learned and noble, harmonious and orderly, clear and logical, the cooking of France is, in some strange manner, intimately linked to the genius of her greatest men.” Rouff [Marcel] (1887-1936)

BeFunky_524412_326771280729870_631299276_n.jpg

Love-that is all.

Idle Thyme

November13

Whenever D and I get the yearning to leave the city and set up a little business in the lake, I stop myself with two thoughts: 1) the busiest time of year is also the time that we would like to be doing what everybody else is out there doing: enjoying the long and warm days with the family, reading in a hammock, walking the beach, riding bikes in the forest and (for D) playing tennis every morning and 2) the off-season must be such a challenge to pare back staff and supplies and keep a close eye on expenses to make it to the next lucrative summer season.

We know the restaurant business and understand these challenges, so we were non-pulsed with the reaction from the owner and our server at Idle Thyme at the Traverse Bay corner of Highway 59, when we asked if she served decaff coffee (I am trying to cut back and I had already had my two cup limit of half caff that morning).  She hesitantly admitted that she did have decaff but that she would have to put on a fresh pot and “that we had better drink the whole thing”.  We also could not help but notice that there was no peanut butter, jams or jellies served with their delicious brown and rye toast.  When we requested some, she scooped it out of a “home use” jar behind the counter.  It happened to be our favourite variety so this too, was not an issue.

idle1.jpg

I ordered a “Build Your Own Omelet” of cheddar, mushrooms and red pepper.  The concoction was delicious and perfectly prepared and was enhanced by both the toast made of bakery whole wheat bread and little half moons of fresh potato that were browned up on the grill.

idle2.jpg

D thought that he was back in the States when he spied Corned Beef Hash, a combination of pan fried potato, corned beef, onion and horseradish which came with two (also perfectly cooked) easy over eggs and rye toast.

We both thought that our selections were first rate, affordably priced and we left satisfied by our late fall breakfast at the lake.  Our only concern would be for those guests, especially visitors to the province, who might not know what a struggle it is to keep the doors open once the off-season arrives.  Would they be as understanding of the humphing and sarcasm?

Idle Thyme on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “Canned soups can be magnificent, the lowly meatball wildly exciting, and old-fashioned corned beef hash an emotional experience.”-Cosmopolitan (1952)

Love-that is all.

 

 

 

Ravine Vineyard Restaurant, Niagara on the Lake, ON

November12

notl7.jpg

I spent the morning running errands in St. Catharines, while D took a beer tour of the Oast House Brewers.  By the time we reconnected it was time for lunch and to start our vineyard tours.  Lucky for us, we had been briefed by friend Perry of Stone Road Grille that Ravine Vineyard Restaurant would be just to our liking.  No surprise-he was absolutely right.

notl8.jpg

 

notl9.jpg

 

notl12.jpg

 

notl13.jpg

 

notl15.jpg

 

notl14.jpg

I loved the homey, farm-style ambience and the food was exceptional.

notl10.jpg

 

notl11.jpg

We perused the menu and could have ordered a half dozens dishes.  We loved everything we saw and had a very difficult time making up our minds.  Knowing that we had an entire day of nibbling and sipping ahead, we decided on sharing a Margherita pizza.  In our opinion, if you want to judge a good kitchen and a great pizza, order this variety.  The ingredients are basic and simple but when handled with expertise, the results are divine.  The crust was light and crispy but firm enough to support the sparkling tomato sauce and rich bufala cheese.  Slivers of fresh basil and a glistening olive oil, crowned the creation.  The ingredients literally danced in your mouth and it is not surprising when you study more about the chefs of the establishment.  “We are among the few self standing restaurants that bake our own bread, raise our own pigs, grow our own certified organic vegetables while pairing our meals with the guidance and discriminating palate of a wine maker.”  We had enjoyed a bottle of their fine Merlot the evening before and took another one home in our specially wrapped case of the best that the region had to offer, so we did not indulge with lunch.  Instead we tried another couple of the exceptional craft beer from the region.

Ravine Vineyard Bistro on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.” Dave Barry

BeFunky_IMG_4993[1]

 

Love-that is all.

 

The Riverbend Inn and Vineyards-Niagara on the Lake, ON

November8

I was never one of those travel deal seekers.  Sure, when we had our dates for our annual sojourn to Isla Mujeres, I would shop around and try to get the best flight deal.  But the dates that we travelled always took top priority as well as staying in a place we knew in a neighbourhood we were familiar with on the island. My sister-in-law on the other hand is a travel deal guru and this how it came to be that we were whisked away to Ireland, a couple of springs ago.  In truth, we didn’t even know that we wanted to go to Ireland!  But it was touted as being one of those once in a lifetime deals and so it was.  Since that time, I too have subscribed to the Travel Zoo weekly newsletter with hopes that one day the stars will align and we will take that dream vacation to Prague, the Azores or Scotland.  In the mean time though, Travel Zoo proved to be serendipitous when we were planning a short vacation to Niagara on the Lake.  D actually did the booking and so I am not as familiar with the details as he, but as I understand it, we got a 2 night stay where each night was less than the other properties that we were investigating AND morning breakfasts, vineyard tours, a gift certificate towards an evening meal in the dining room and a departure gift of two bottles of wine.  For a modest fee, D upgraded us to a superior room and ensured that we enjoyed a full hot breakfast as opposed to the basic one.  Here is one little travel tidbit that I have learned with Travel Zoo-their upgrades all represent the same great value as their basic offers, so consider them.  In Ireland we changed our arrival city from Dublin to Shannon, went from a midsize to a full size car and switched from manual to automatic shift.  These affordable add ons, made a lovely vacation into an extraordinary one.

notl46.jpg

Still, when we book a deal on line we are skeptical that there is going to be some fine print that we didn’t scrutinize and we try to protect ourselves from disappointment.  When we drove up to the Riverbend Inn that afternoon, we knew that we had nothing to fear.

notl45.jpg

Our home for the next few days was a historic mansion with a fascinating history.

notl2.jpg

The late afternoon sun was pouring through the terrace doors as we arrived to see our lovely room.  With a fireplace in the corner and a gorgeous view of vineyards next door, we were well pleased.

notl3.jpg

We poured out a bottle of fine wine and lingered in the warm sun.  Wi fi was available on the terrace, so we were content to get caught up on the world and life at home.

notl4.jpg

We saw directly below us that there was a verandah where friends were meeting for a glass of wine and small plates and we made a note of it for the next evening.  In the mean time, we had made arrangements to visit old friends who owned the Old Stone Road Grille that evening.

notl5jpg

We spied these chairs at the edge of the rows of grapes and concluded that we would not leave the area without spending some time perched there.

notl6.jpg

Our beautifully appointed room and adjoining bathroom were luxurious and that evening after an incredible dinner, we slept like babies.

notl42jpg

Had we stayed longer or the weather had turned out to be not as fair, I could have imagined myself reading and sipping tea in the number of cozy sitting areas that dotted the inn.

notl49.jpg

notl50.jpg

These were our views of sunset the next evening.

notl41.jpg

The dining room and terrace that we had spied the evening before was equally charming and the food was exceptional.  The chef “draws fresh inspiration from each passing season while using local specialties. Enjoy farm to table freshness from our herb and vegetable garden located just outside our kitchen doors.”  Indeed, it was all true.

notl40.jpg

This was a sample of our full breakfast-a bacon, cheddar and brussel sprout omelet.  D was so thrilled with his basic bacon and egg breakfast that he ordered exactly the same thing, two days in a row.

notl56.jpg

Later that evening after a day of nibbling and sipping, we were tuckered out and wanted just a quick bite before retiring to catch the football game on TV.  The mussels of course were not local but they tasted as they might have been with enhancements of local wine and herbs.

notl55.jpg

Our special indulgence was the slow roasted bbq pork sliders.  The mild yet pleasantly salty meat was made sublime when the fat melted with it on our tongues.  Oh my.

Riverbend Inn on Urbanspoon

notl47.jpg

Later that evening we made our way to these chairs in the dark.  We sipped another glass of the region’s fine wines and contemplated that this inn in this area was like being in rural France or Germany without the cost or jet-lag of a trans-Atlantic crossing, in fact in the province right next door to our own.  We marveled anew at all the amazing places we have yet to visit in Canada.

notl48.jpg

On the morning of our departure, the weather had turned and rain was on the way.  This was my last glimpse of all that the Riverbend Inn had to offer.

Kath’s quote: “A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine.”-Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Love-that is all.

 

Old Mother Hubard

November7

purge1.jpg

Have I mentioned that I am frugal?  I love the challenge of rummaging around in the freezer, fridge or pantry and whipping supper up with a couple of unearthed ingredients.  Lately though, this particular cupboard wasn’t producing any gems, so I decided to shake out the cobwebs and completely emptied the mess and reorganized.

purge2.jpg

I had made a quick trip to a cash and carry restaurant supply store in town and picked up three different sizes of clear deli containers.  Once I had everything repackaged and restacked, I stood back in amazement at the number of items that I didn’t know that I had.  While I was still purging I slow roasted pretzels, Shreddies and popcorn and took it to a Poker party as psuedo nuts and bolts. I thought that it was delicious and I heard at least one other snacker declare so.  Since the weekend, I have made a ham and split pea soup and have plans for homemade granola utilizing the coconut, dry mixed fruit, hemp hearts, wheat buds, whole flax seed, ground flax and sprouted chia and flax seed powder that I now apparently own in abundance.  In combination with the two cases of my Mom-in-law’s preserves that I actually went through in the basement pantry, I am also going to make a pear and peach crisp since I have more oatmeal (both whole and instant), than you could ever desire.  In the crock pot at this moment is 13 Bean chili which came together in a jiffy with her preserved garden tomatoes and her home-made salsa.

Homemade, wholesome food is so satisfying to spoon out and place down in front of my family.  When I have done so without making a trip to the grocery store, it makes it even more so.

Kath’s quote:

“Beautiful soup, so rich and green
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!
Beautiful soup! Who cares for fish
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth of beautiful soup?”

Lewis Carroll

Love-that is all.

« Older EntriesNewer Entries »