Food Musings

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

L’Arche Tova Cafe

August27

My husband’s family once resided in Transcona and every time we drove to his families’ home, he would observe and remark about all the changes along Regent Ave.  Now that the family has dispersed all over Canada and the US, we rarely make the trek.  Somehow though, “Downtown” Transcona has retained its small town charm.  Right in the centre of it all is L’Arche Tova, a special café that will captivate you.  Upon arrival, a number of servers came over in turn, to ensure that we had whatever we needed.  We were introduced to one “assistant” in particular.  He is a participant in L’Arche’s alternate Day Program and his smile and enthusiasm was contagious.  He is one of the reasons that the café exists.  You may be familiar with the incredible work of L’Arche Winnipeg.  Their mission is “to create homes with people who have an intellectual disability”.

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My lunch date (J2’s Mom) had visited the café before and could attest to the quality of the Double Decker sandwich, and the “made on premise” strudel and cheesecake.  The latter, she exclaimed was “amazing”!  We asked our server to help us decide what to order.  He immediately recommended the Savoury Crepe and so my selection was made.  Crepe-making is a fine art and these were delicate and yet sturdy enough to be stuffed full of a hearty bacon, ham and cheese blend.

Truth is, our server was the dashingly handsome eldest brother of our daughter-in-law J2!  He is a talented musician with an enormous heart.  He does a beautiful job of interacting with the day-program attendees.

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The burger my companion ordered and I tasted, comprised of a hand-formed patty that had been pressed while cooking on a flat-top grill.  I appreciate this extra touch, because I enjoy a patty with a crunchy exterior.  The salad that accompanied it was topped with a house dressing that was light and lemony.  We loved every morsel and were certainly satisfied to go on our way, but my lunch date mentioned that I should really try the German potato salad the next time that I visited.

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Not knowing when that might be, we decided to order it for dessert!

The kitchen is adeptly staffed by members of the Kildonan East Culinary Arts program.  The food is of such high quality that you cannot imagine what additional training will produce.

Breakfast and Lunch Menu available Monday-Saturday 8 am – 2 pm.  Important to note that they are closed for staff holidays from August 18-31, 2013.

L'Arche Tova Cafe on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Love is a fire of flaming brandy upon a crepe suzette”-10cc

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Love-that is all.

Celebrating the Wee One

August26

For many years, Daughter #2 has been dubbed, a little Martha Stewart (even before the term might be considered derogatory).  Her recent efforts to celebrate the birth of her first niece (my first Grandbaby) beautifully demonstrated her creative talents.  She started with the thought “You Are My Sunshine” even before we knew the sex of Wee One and she set the date before the bundle of joy came into the world.  The tumultuous weather of late, made us all a tad nervous about whether we would have to change locales.

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In the end, the grey clouds parted and the sun shone brightly on the day (just like song lyrics that were her selected theme).

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Here she is with her Grandma (our Mom) wearing yellow, of course.

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This is her other Grandma cuddling with Wee One.

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Her yellow colour theme was beautiful against the lush green after the recent rains.

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She thought of everything including a Dream book for the baby, where we all recorded our hopes and dreams for Wee One.

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The big hit was the opportunity for us all to demonstrate our artistic abilities.  She purchased onsies in various sizes along with socks and bibs and we were invited to decorate them to ensure that Wee One has a funky wardrobe.

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She had set up a double clothesline in advance where the articles could be pinned while the paint dried.  This also gave us a gallery to admire each other’s handiwork.

Were the refreshments good, you ask?  She had thoughtfully put out huge urns and red and white sangria, along with a berry punch.

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She recruited the three sisters to provide the savouries.

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She wanted everything to be served at once and had designated the gazebo to be the food and beverage station.

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This meant that we could all participate in the festivities, with the exception of Sister #3 who somehow got stuck keeping the yellow jackets away from the food.  At least the pesky yellow insects came appropriately attired!

The savoury menu included:

An array of garden party cucumber rolls up, cherry, carmelized onion, goat cheese bruschetta  and her infamous phyllo wrapped asparagus were provided by Sister #2,

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along with her spicy pork tenderloin which is delicious cold.

Sister #3 made from-scratch Humus (including peelinge every single chick pea), Baba Ganesh with baked pita chips,

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Prosciutto and Parmesan Palmiers,

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and these gorgeous Antipasto Skewers which were as delicious as they looked.

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I provided a stack of Artichoke Nibblers,

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Cauliflower Strudel, Chili-Rubbed Shrimp

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and what turned out to be a new favourite: Bacon-Wrapped, Cheese-Stuffed Figs.   I am going to provide the recipe for these in a subsequent post and if you would like any of the others, please simply leave a request in the comment area.

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Desserts were volunteered by a number of participants.  No wonder the wasps were attracted to the table, the colours were as vibrant as an exquisite garden in full bloom.

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Daughters of Brother #3 looked smashing in their dessert coloured dresses.

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Speaking of smashing, these beautiful cake pop Party Favours were lovingly provided by our friend Caroline whom is an expert cake maker.

Wee One and her gorgeous Mom were showered with love and beautiful gifts.  The afternoon was a lovely way to celebrate new life and family and friends (who are just like family).

Kath’s quote: “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are grey, you’ll never know dear, how much I love you, please don’t take my sunshine away.”

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Love-that is all.

Guest Blogger: Sister #3-Clay Oven at Shaw Park

August22

If you read this blog often you will know that we are big fans of the Clay Oven.  I have never been to the location on Inkster, but I consider myself a bit of a regular at Kenaston Common.  A third location is now open at Shaw Park and I have had two opportunities to check it out for lunch.  Located in the old Hu’s on First, the restaurant is now sleek and sophisticated.  It features a very large party room as well as a sprawling patio overlooking the baseball diamond.

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I was impressed to see the addition of a special Hakka menu at this location.  Hakka cuisine is a fusion of Southeastern Chinese and Indian food.  My friend and I selected a great noodle dish with lamb from that menu to accompany our old standby of Butter Chicken with Naan bread.  As usual we had more than enough to feed us both with leftovers for my lunch the next day.

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On my next visit there was a large group of us from work attempting to have lunch with a limited amount of time.  Not something I would recommend at this location at this point in their development.  The staff seemed a bit overwhelmed by the terrace full of hungry patrons. A few of us arrived early so decided to order the white fish appetizer from the Hakka menu only to wait 45 minutes for it to arrive, long after the rest of our friends had arrived and ordered their lunch. Although it took forever, the appetizer was delicious with a crispy batter and spicy tasty sauce.

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Because each of us was ordering individual dishes I ordered a Thali platter. I am used to dinning with friends who are willing to share a couple of dishes so ordering just for myself was a new adventure.  The Thali platter provides the dinner with lots of different dishes all on one plate.  This of course fed me with leftovers for a full lunch the next day which is par for the course no matter what I order at Clay Oven.  My platter included butter chicken, rice, salad, chick peas, potato, papadams (crunchy flat bread made of lentil and rice flour), warm naan and yogurt sauce.  Thali platters even have a little compartment of Keer – rice pudding to enjoy for dessert.

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I also had a taste of my coworkers Palak Paneer, a pureed spinach sauce with spices and chunks of home made cheese.  A great vegetarian option.

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Another co-worker had the tandor chicken salad which I will keep in mind in order if I am looking for lighter lunch in the future.

Clay Oven on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “If you’re afraid of butter, as many people are nowadays, just put in cream!”-Julia Child

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Love-that is all.

Guest Blogger: Sister #3-Thanh Houng

August21

It has been a few years since I have been to Thanh Houng on Sargent Avenue.  My mom, sisters and I used to visit years ago, but our need for wheel chair accessible locations has taken us elsewhere.

This particular day my friend and I felt it vital to go have Vietnamese food for dinner.  We had just attended the wedding our friend Susan. She owns Winnipeg Nails, a shop that we both frequent often.  Susan (AKA Suong) was marrying her sweetheart Doug in a ceremony at Calvary Temple. In honour of Susan’s culture both she and Doug wore traditional Vietnamese wedding attire resulting in a breathtaking vision of colour.  Over the years I have had lots of occasions to chat with Susan about travel, life and love.  She is so kind and I really enjoy the time we spend together.  I will often sneak in for an appointment without any of my friends just so she and I can have a good visit.

After the wedding ceremony we took the short trip to William Avenue to Little Saigon, my favorite for Vietnamese.  Unfortunately they are not open Sundays so we decided to drive to Viva on Sargent, which it turns out is also closed on Sundays.  I then remembered that Thanh Huong was just a block down the road so we ended up there by default.

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We started with cold bottles of Tsingtoa Chinese beer to drink a toast to the happy couple.  We thought we were being very wise only ordering three items but it proved to be way too much food for the two of us.  Thank goodness for to-go containers.

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First to arrive was our Satay Beef Rice Noodle Soup, #6 on the menu.  This spicy little number was tasty and served piping hot.  It is always a challenge to transfer this soup from the main bowl to individual bowls due to the long, slippery noodles but it proved well worth the effort.

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Next we tucked into # 46, Charbroiled Pork with fine rice vermicelli, lettuce, cucumber, mint, fish sauce and rice crepe. I love to assemble these sweet little salad rolls.  I tend to over fill them and bust through the rice crepe after the first bite resulting in food falling everywhere as fish sauce rolls down my arms, but what fun is eating without a bit of a mess! I also like to alternate between peanut sauce and fish sauce to change up the flavour.

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Lastly we had #62 Combination shrimp, beef and chicken Lo Mein.  The vegetables were perfectly cooked, the noodles tender and there was an abundance of meat, though I didn’t see many shrimp.

All in all, it was a good meal and a fun way to celebrate a very special woman on her very special day. Xin chúc mùng Suong!  Congratulations Susan.

Thanh Huong Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “The table was set up inside the cartshed. On it there were four sirloins of beef, six fricassees of chicken, casseroled veal, three legs
of mutton and, in the centre, a beautiful roasted sucking pig, flanked by four chitterlings with sorrel.”-
Gustave Flaubert, the wedding breakfast from Madame Bovary

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Love-that is all.

Aftertaste (A Novel in Five Courses)-by Meredith Mileti

August20

Just after giving birth to her precious Chloe, Mira finds that she has been deceived and deserted by her husband and she is pissed off!  No, I mean anger that I have apparently never experienced; anger that is so explosive it lands Mira in jail.  This is anger, as I have never known.  You see, I don’t get “anger”.  I do experience a full range of emotions and I do know what anger feels like, but I don’t “get” it.  Some people don’t get dark humour or pure joy (thinking, surely she can’t always be this happy), but I don’t get anger.  So I was intrigued by the beginning of Mileti’s story, but not in that “I can’t put this book down”, way.  The ball really started rolling for me in the second third of the book, as Mira starts to create relationships and begin rebuilding her life in an admirable way.  By the conclusion of the novel, I was completely smitten by all (most) of the characters but primarily rooting Mira along and she discovers her passion and her joy and that her anger has been washed away.  She even tries her hand at being a food writer, which I got a particular hoot over.  Here are a couple of my favourite excerpts:

Even from across the room, the smell makes me want to swoon.  Jake has made my favourite dish-his signature take on cassoulet, made with wild boar sausage braised in Barolo, cannellini beans, fennel, and sweet red peppers.  I can hear the hollow snap as he breaks the delicate crust of toasted bread, garlic and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.  He fills a shallow bowl and places it reverently in front of me.

“It’s not exactly summer fare, but I know that it is your favorite.  I missed making it for you this winter.  It actually works nicely with you pizza recipe which has always been one of my favorites.  We make a pretty good team, don’t you think?” he says softly. “Go ahead, taste it.”

“Aren’t you going to join me?”

“Of course,” he says, raising his eyes to meet mine.  I watch as he fills his plate, picks up a bottle of wine and two glasses, and joins me at the table.  He pours us each a glass of red wine.  “Well?” he asks, his eyes focused, unblinking, on my face.

I spear a piece of meat, which yields easily to my fork, and raise it to my lips.  I take a deep breath and close my eyes.  I give Dr. D-P’s anthropologist one last desperate try, but all I can taste is Jake.  The flavours are at once complex and earthy.  I taste every ingredient: the thick slightly gamey taste of the boar; the subtle undercurrent of the fennel, which, when braised, releases a delicate licorice perfume; the gentle creaminess of the beans; the smoky heat of the roasted peppers; the harmonious balance of the wine.

It tastes like love.”

chapter 30, page 313

I also loved this thoughtful analysis, just slightly later (chapter 31, page 317):

The great gourmand, Auguste Escoffier, once said, “Good cooking is the essence to true happiness.”  Did he mean happiness is to be found in the act of cooking?  Or in the appreciation of the result?  If the former, it should follow that all good cooks are happy.  But most of us aren’t, at least the ones I’ve known.  Most of the cooks I know are looking for something.  The lucky ones, people like Boulie and Silvano, seem to have found it, while the rest of us soldier on, searching for love, or adulation, or affirmation, gathering scraps wherever we can find them.

Maybe what Escoffier meant was that true happiness is to be found in one’s ability to satisfy a basic human need so spectacularly.  Those of us content to take our happiness secondhand cook because what we want, what we crave, is to be needed.  Nurturers extraordinaire, brokers of comfort, we hope to turn the tables on our own needs by filling the stomachs and souls of the world.

In Mereith Mileti’s postscript, she adds:

I am not Mira.  I’m an untrained, albeit incredibly enthusiastic, home cook.  That said, I’d like to think I’ve learned a few things from my research and testing for this novel-Mira has been a fine teacher.  Please don’t hesitate to improvise and make the recipes your own, because cooking, at its best, is both an expression of self and a gift of love.

Kath’s quote: ” I’ve set the board: henceforth ’tis yours to eat.”-Dante

Heart Book

Love-that is all.

 

 

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