Food Musings

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

Breaking Bread B&B in Stratford, ON

October10

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Stratford, Ontario with its old-world culture and charm has long been on our “must-visit” list.  As we have family and good friends in Toronto, we are often in the area and yet had never set aside a couple of extra days to head to this gorgeous destination.

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We arrived a bit too early for lunch so headed to Revel Café.  After getting our bearings, we visited our first of many fabulous places to grab a bite.  We took our Grub-to-Go packages (recommended by our B&B hosts) and walked through the Shakepearean Gardens until we found a picnic table to plunk down at.  The gardens are adjacent to the Avon river and opened in 1936 and are filled with the many plant varieties mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays. Violets are cited 18 times!  The original roses in the garden were provided by Queen Mary who also did so for the Stratford on Avon garden in England.

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Our B&B dubbed Breaking Bread is perfectly located to stroll the quaint downtown area and many green spaces or if you are more adventurous, even make the trek to the Festival Theatre on foot.

I swear the bed which we shared in the Birmingham Room was the most comfortable one I have ever slept in.  We have a double at home and this was an oversized King (actually two twins attached together).  The high thread count sheets and duvet covering felt luxurious.  The en suite bathroom was sparkling clean and very conveniently located just steps from the bed.  In fact, the entire space at Breaking Bread glistens with freshness.  We understand that B&B owner and host Doug is responsible for the impeccable house cleaning.

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The main floor entrance was always equipped with bottles of water to set by the bed or take out for a walk.  The living and dining space is wide open and light floods the space from early morning.  Perfectly brewed coffee (D prefers a stronger, dark roast that I can’t stand) is served as of 7 am and after my one allocated cup, I switched to Scottish Breakfast tea.

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Breakfasts were an absolute delight.  The first morning we enjoyed a parfait of Greek yoghurt with peaches and almonds and

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then an apple pancake and thick cuts of pea meal back bacon. Host Holly has sent me her coveted apple pancake recipe.  If you are interested in my posting it, leave a comment and I will do so in a future post.

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The following morning started with a warm banana muffin and fruit salad and then we tucked into a crustless quiche and the most perfectly cooked thick-sliced bacon that I have ever enjoyed.

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This was accompanied by toast from the local bakery and home made strawberry preserves.

Holly is the other half of the husband and wife B&B team and is the creative genius behind the menu and in the kitchen.  She also handles the reservations and general correspondence for their home.  Best of all though, she is a Shakespearean expert and avid Stratford Theatre attendee for decades.  Ask her anything, she will either have the answer or know where she can find it.

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We enjoyed the easy banter that Holly and Doug promote around their breakfast table.  We got a big kick out of the dynamics between the two of them as husband and wife and business partners.  Their passion for the Festival and the community of Stratford is so apparent.  They love to share suggestions about their favourite places to dine and shop and every tip was bang on, in our estimation.

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I am sure that there are many B&B options in Stratford so why would Breaking Bread get your booking?  If your priorities are convenient location, cleanliness, warm hospitality, luxurious beds and delicious, carefully prepared breakfasts, Breaking Bread is for you.

Kath’s quote:  “When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed.”-Acts20-11.

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Love-that is all.

 

Food for taste, nourishment and to know love

October9

I live a blessed life.  I have just spent a glorious week in fascinating Toronto, beautiful Stratford and glorious Niagara on the Lake.   I have had a chance to reconnect with old friends and spend romantic moments with my husband of almost 30 years.  In Niagara on the Lake we had an absolutely gorgeous room in a small inn with a great dining room and splendid views of the perfectly groomed vineyard estate next door.

While I was away, my Mom was admitted to the hospital and since my return I am taking my share of the bedside shifts.  I am happy to be with her and able to relieve my family of the round-the-clock responsibilities.  I was struck by the contrasts of life in my first 24 hours back home.  From visiting our last vineyard, purchasing a bottle of exquisite wine to add to the case that we brought home and visiting a favourite restaurant for a second time, to trying to coax my Mom to have a few sips of soup, to try to swing her legs over the edge of the bed to dangle her feet.  I have sustained myself with cups of tea from her meal trays that she does not want to drink herself, but does not want to go to waste.

As I open another bottle of Ensure to encourage her to drink, I am struck anew with how complex feeding and eating and taste and nourishment all is.  How complex food itself is…  My Mom once had a robust appetite, although it has been less so of late.  Today even though there were potatoes and gravy on her plate which are likely the food that she loves most in the world, she said that she would only eat to oblige me and swallow what she could to get her strength back.  She would eat not for pleasure but because her body required it and she did so for my sake, for love.

Later that same evening as I arrived home from a long and emotional day, there were candles lit on our dining room table.  D had prepared a delicious pasta from grilled vegetables from our crop share and an abundance of tomatoes that were starting to over ripen.  A glass of wine was poured at my seat.  D was showing me how much he loves me in a language that I understand.  Not only was the meal absolutely delicious but he knew that I would be fretting about all the fresh produce that had accumulated in the fridge while we were away and so he cleverly utilized it all in one fell swoop.

His other project this weekend was determining which three favourite suppers that Daughter #2 would like before her imminent departure overseas.  By batch cooking this weekend, he made her feel special and loved and provided the additional bonus of my not worrying about what to fix for supper when I get home from a day at the hospital.

I am struck anew by how interconnected love and food is and by how complex and varied love is: Love of our spouses, our siblings, our elderly parents, love of our children and I am so especially blessed to know the fierce new love of a grandchild.

Kath’s quote: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” ― Charles M. Schulz

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Love-that is all.

 

Beef in a Jar

October8

I am writing this as part of the Canadian Food Experience Project which began June 7 2013.  As we the participants, share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice.

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Our topic for this month is “Preserving: Our Canadian Food Tradition”.  I am not a “canner”.  I so wish I was.  I even purchased my first preserving recipe book this spring and then life swept me away this summer (new grand-baby and all) and I didn’t get a single jar into the larder.

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I am fond of pickled beets and a really good polski ogorki.  I also love jams and jellies of every kind but my very favourite food is jarred beef (believe it or not).

This Canadian Food Experience takes me back to my little Polish Grandma as it did in my previous month’s entry: http://foodmusings.ca/recipes/desserts/grandma-felicias-polish-cake/.  Living in southern Saskatchewan there was always plenty of beef and often a surplus.  Every fall, Grandma Felicia would “put down” (her slang for canning) jars and jars of beef stew.  I am surmising that the reason was financial as well as practical.  Although there was always food on the table, cash flow must have been an issue for my grandparents.  In addition, they did not have a chest freezer in those days and the small one on top of their fridge could not accommodate all the meat required for a winter.  When winter storms hit and they often did, a jar could be fetched from the hand dug mud cellar, and a warm dinner could be on the table in minutes.  Boil some potatoes and root vegetables. also from the cellar and presto-fast food!

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The other reason that beef was jarred was that it made the meat taste so darned good.  The preserving process contributed to the tenderizing of the meat producing a tender and savoury mound of beef, onions and gravy.  Homemade bread would be cut into thick slices, speared with a long fork and toasted over the coal fire that was lit summer and winter.  We would tear the bread into kid sized pieces to mop up that gravy.  Oh my, I can taste it now…..  I have never tried to do this myself and I do not have Grandma’s recipe to follow, but here is a link to a recipe and process that must be pretty close: http://www.wikihow.com/Can-Meat

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The only time that I have even heard about canning meat is when my eldest daughter asked me if I wanted to volunteer to can meat because the Mennonite Central Committee’s  mobile canning unit was going to be in town.  Here is some information about this resourceful practice that feeds people all around the world.

 Today the canning unit is mounted on a flat-bed trailer, enclosed with fold-up sides. Four MCC volunteers operate the canning unit, traveling to 34 locations in 13 U.S.A. states and two Canadian Provinces: Manitoba and Ontario.  Operating a seasonal schedule from October to May, local meat canning committees purchase meat and arrange for facilities, fundraising and volunteers. The work of the local committees is the heart of the program.  Currently the canning unit processes an average of 9,000 pounds of chunked turkey thighs per day; 9,000 pounds of pork; or up to the equivalent of 20 head of cattle per day.

Who knew?

Kath’s quote: “The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday, but never jam today.”-Lewis Carroll

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Love-that is all.

 

Ferraro 502 Toronto

October7

On a weekend where we had already gathered for a casual help-yourself breakfast, been out for a dim sum lunch and had plans to celebrate a monumental birthday in the evening at a cocktail party reception, we decided to assemble for a supper of salad at a neighbourhood restaurant.  We have dined at Ferraro many times over the years that Bro D has lived in midtown Toronto and we have visited and stayed with him.

All the ingredients that are assembled into salads, pastas and pizzas are hand-made on premise with a light tough.  Their tomato sauces as I recalled and then tasted again that evening allowed the fresh tomato taste to shine through,  without masses of garlic and/or herbs.

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There was no tomato sauce on our salads, but one member of our group couldn’t resist his favourite item on the menu and ordered the Pescatore Spaghetti.  This is how I got to sample the delightful sauce that I remembered.  Pescatore means fish and this dish was chock full of mussels, calamari and shrimp.

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When Bro D drops in for a quick salad dinner, they often select the Griglia con Pollo.  We are crazy for grilled red peppers and zucchini that provides the base of the salad. The addition of chicken tossed in balsamic vinaigrette with more dressing on the mixed greens provides deep and pungent flavours.

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Montagna is another of their favourite.  Black olives, roasted red peppers & feta cheese are also tossed in balsamic vinaigrette before being laid a top of more mixed greens.

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I knew that the Eggplant & Arugula would be my favourite taste of the evening as soon as I spotted it listed in chalk on the black board and my hunch was right.  The thinly sliced, crispy breaded and lightly fried eggplant was a delight when complemented by freshly sliced tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella.  The dish was a bit like Eggplant Parmigiana meets Caprese Salad.  I was in heaven.

Ferraro on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “When I was alone, I lived on eggplant, the stove top cook’s strongest ally…. “-Laurie Colwin

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Love-that is all.

Guest Blogger:Sister #3-Deer+Almond Revisited

September30

I have had a few more occasions to visit Deer + Almond this summer and I continue to enjoy the food and atmosphere of this trendy little tapas restaurant in Winnipeg’s Exchange District. 

My bestie was in town to celebrate her 50th so I thought Deer + Almond would be a place where she would enjoy the food and we could have a leisurely visit with a couple of cocktails.  As usual our dinner started with a bowl of seasoned popcorn, an on-the-house amuse bouche to get your appetite going as you review the menu.  From the regular menu we tried the house salad of thinly sliced beets, creamy goat cheese, mixed greens and pecans in sherry vinaigrette.

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I have long wanted to try the grilled zucchini which in reality has very little zucchini but lots of hummus, tabouleh salad and tzatziki sauce.  It is served with lightly toasted pita, which we could of used a few more slices of to scoop up all that goodness.

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From that night’s special board we selected a prawn dish cooked with cilantro and tomato and served with garlic toast.  I liked it but long for the return of Chef Mandel’s Sultry Prawns. We also tried the steamed pork buns which I thought rivaled any I have had at a dim sum house. 

Being a special occasion we had to finish with dessert.  The sound of the affagato appealed to my friend so that is what we ordered. Although this dish of ice cream with crumbled amaretto biscuit and espresso had an enjoyable flavour, it is not an easy dish to share as by the end it is more a coffee drink than a dessert.  

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My most recent visit to Deer + Almond was for lunch.  Members of our department are spread out among three hospitals so we often meet in the Exchange District as it is a central location. The gang was looking for recommendations, so this was my recommendation. The tastes and levels of adventure when it comes to food are diverse in this group, so my hope was this place would offer something for everyone.  I must say I was impressed with the value at lunch. 

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The sandwiches and wraps included your choice of house salad or grilled corn on the cob. 

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My boss tried the soba noodle salad which proved to be too much food for her but was apparently still delicious as lunch the next day.

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A few of my coworkers had the smoked lamb pita which they thoroughly enjoyed.  A few of us had the chicken salad sandwich. Chunks of chicken with grapes, cherries and walnuts, however I could not find any cherries.  It was topped with alfalfa sprouts and served on delightful toasted pumpernickel.  Others had the pulled pork wrap from the daily feature board which met more mediocre reviews than the regular menu items.

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The dish that most intrigued me was the sprouted pulse ancient grains salad.  A mix of butter lettuce, radish, beets, carrots and grapes, enoki mushrooms with hemp and chia seeds in a goji dressing.  It is then topped with a soft boiled egg that has been soaked in beet juice making this a visually stunning plate.  I can’t wait to try it on a future visit.  

Deer + Almond on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after thee”.- Martin J. Nystrom

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Love-that is all.

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