Food Musings

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

Guest Blogger: Sister #3- Amici at the Niakwa

August15

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Each year I attend a dinner at the Niakwa Country Club as part of the Pink Ribbon Ladies Golf Classic for Hope.  This event is a major fundraiser that supports the work I do at CancerCare Manitoba Breast Cancer Centre of Hope.  I never golf in the event, even if I was good enough to golf in it (which I am not) I would not be able to get a spot as it sells out each year to repeat supporters.  I do however enjoy joining the ladies as they get off the links and sit down to an evening of good food and great conversation.  In the past the food has been very good, so last year when I heard that Amici had taken over the food service I was very excited.  I have to say I was terribly disappointed.  So much so that I didn’t bother blogging about it. Like mom says, if you don’t have anything nice to say….. I am happy to report that Amici has worked out the kinks and the food this year was lovely.

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The banquet room is always packed with tables adorned in shades of pink. This year’s theme was “Angels Walking in our Shoes”. The shoe motif was everywhere, from our napkin rings to the centerpieces and even our dessert. The angel theme was reflected in the set of white feather wings on the back of our chairs.  We were all encouraged to take our wings home with us, just in case we want to pretend to be Victoria Secret runway models I suppose.  The décor is always beautiful and the planning committee so creative with amazing attention to detail.

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Our meal started with the Mista salad, AKA Amici’s house salad, one of my favourites.  Tender butter lettuce with house dressing and toasted pine nuts – simple and classic.

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Our main was once again Chicken Wellington, which I guess is a safe choice when feeding a room full of women.  The chicken breast was stuffed with mushroom duxelle; a paste of mushrooms, onions, shallots and herbs, wrapped in puff pastry. I was impressed that the puff was still crisp and not made soggy by being topped with an herb jus. It was served with wild rice and mixed vegetables.

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The dessert this year was these delightful Stiletto cupcakes courtesy of the Cupcake Corner.

Congratulation to the committee for another wildly successful event!

Amici at Niakwa on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “When one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat.”-Mark Twain

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Love-that is all.

Guest Blogger: Sister #3-Sushi California

August14

My friend and I arrived early for our lunch date with our former pastor who is now living and working in England and was home for short stay.  When I had asked him where he would like to meet us for lunch there was no hesitation, Sushi California. Turns out our friend was a Sushi California regular when he lived in our fair city.

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We were already seated when he arrived. When he entered you would have thought the owner was welcoming home a long lost relative.  We were immediately moved to a larger table closer to the action. After we placed our order, three beautiful bowls of sweet, chilled cucumber soup arrived at our table.  Topped with red pepper and tiny, tender scallops, this item is not on the menu but supplied as a special treat in honour of our friend’s visit.

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Next came our miso soup which was hot and tasty, accompanied by three precious fish appetizers in sauce.

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Our bento boxes; California roll for me and yam rolls for the gentlemen, where the next to arrive.  I love a bento box.  There is something about the lacquered compartments that really appeal to me.  I’m not sure if it harkens childhood memories of cafeteria trays or just pleases my slightly obsessive sense of order. Besides our rolls the boxes contained perfectly cooked edamame, crisp green salad, cold rice noodle salad and two tempura dipped fried gyoza.  Perfection!

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The owner then sent over dessert, a darling ice cream sandwich shaped like a Koi – gold fish; the Japanese symbol of perseverance. A trait we needed in order to finish it all. Like most of Winnipeg’s Sushi restaurants owners this family has come from Korea. They are very hospitable and really value their regular customers. So I thought I should look up the meaning of the Koi symbol in Korean culture.  Turns out it symbolizes self-discipline, not a trait that is easy to exhibit with all the delicious options at Sushi California.

Sushi California on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Serve soup. Believe it is chocolate.” -Stephane Grappelli, (gypsy violinist)

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Love-that is all.

Uncork that Bottle and Fire Up the Grill!

August12

D and I are currently on our annual two week stretch at our little beach house on Lake Winnipeg.  The days have a lovely familiarity: in the morning the sun works its way over the thick, tall pines and starts to filter through the poplar leaves.  In the first sun of the day, D and I enjoy coffee together on the deck before he leaves to meet the guys at the tennis court.  On these mornings, I go back to bed with my second cup of coffee and read.  After the dog is walked and last night’s dishes are placed in scalding, sudsy water, (so that I do not have to work very hard to wash them), I write.  As my reward for getting some work done, I will go for a bike ride and perhaps collect heart stones on the beach.  In the afternoons, various projects are accomplished or persons visited.

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When I plan our menus, I try to keep the new harvest of garden produce in mind and things that will make great leftovers and picnic lunches.  D doesn’t mind what I have planned as long as he gets to cook it on the barbeque.  For him, the routine of choosing a beer and firing up the grill, is an integral part of our lake life.

We have tried everything on the barbeque from a rotisserie turkey to seafood pizza with varied success. In the end, our greatest achievements are vegetables and chops of some description. We recently enjoyed Certified Angus Sirloins, grilled mushrooms and tri-coloured peppers.  About a month ago, I received a lovely wine package, which we strategically hid away to be packed up for our time at the lake.  That evening we opened a precious bottle of Montecillo Reserva Rioja.  It is clean and brilliant and went beautifully with our grilled steaks.  Crafted from tempranillo and viura grapes and oak-aged, the multiple award-winning Bodegas Montecillo wines are wholesome, well-balanced and fruity with a touch of oak.  We long to travel to northern Spain where the wine originates.

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Another evening we paired a wine appropriately called Place in the Sun Sauvignon Blanc with Thai Grilled Coconut ChickenThe South African wine originates from Stellenbosch, a place that we know much about even though we have not visited.  Daughter #2 and The Frenchman have had the pleasure.  She has photos of the vineyards and of their wine tastings.  Surprisingly, Place in the Sun Sauvignon Blanc, is only available only in Manitoba.  With an upfront aroma of passion fruit and tropical notes, and a palate that’s crisp with a hint of pineapple, the sauvignon blanc was perfect with our tropical chicken but would also work well with green salads, fish and pasta dishes made without cream.

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Last evening we uncorked the Place in the Sun Cabernet Sauvignon which is also only available in Manitoba. It is a big-hearted wine with a refreshing juicy berry palate tempered by gentle oaking.  The cabernet sauvignon has an aroma of succulent red and black berries.  It paired well with our flame-grilled pork chops, pita bread and hearty Greek salad.

We are heading into the city for a family celebration dinner tonight but will drive back out this evening so that we can start the familiar days all over again.

Kath’s quote: “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are”. -Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

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Love-that is all.

Fitzroy

August9

The south Sherbrook area of the Wolseley neighbourhood  is enjoying a lovely boom recently, with the opening of new living and dining spaces.  As my daughter-in-law and I took a short cut alongside the outdoor patio of Stella’s, we could not help but notice that there was not a table to be had.  The newly opened Fitzroy is almost next door and will likely enjoy the same popularity once word gets around.The food section of the menu, which is delivered on a metal clipboard, divides the small plates into Savoury and Sweet sections.  Our helpful server suggested that they could be ordered separately, as courses, or to share.   I love this style of dining-we called it “grazing” in the old days.

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My daughter-in-law had been to the restaurant before and knew immediately what to select.  Her choice was unappetizingly called Salt Beef.  Don’t let the name dissuade you, because the carved beef which is stacked high on City Bread Rye, is melt-in-your mouth delicious and is actually less salty than most smoked or cured meats you may encounter.  This is achieved when the meat is slow cooked in a piece of high-tech equipment which is a steam cooking system.  The soft rye from Winnipeg’s own City Bread has long been my favourite.  The Keg Steakhouse has served it as their bread preference for decades.   The glass cylinder of cucumbers that accompanied the sandwich aren’t quite pickled enough to be called pickles but are lightly marinated.  They were crunchy, different and delicious.

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I had already heard from my husband, who grew up noshing on Captain Crunch every Saturday morning, that the cereal was a key ingredient in the Crunch Chicken.  I could only detect a hint of sweetness but enjoyed the guilty pleasure, simply because I have long been a good old fried chicken lover.  The spicy dipping sauce and marinated watermelon sides provided a satisfying taste combination when all three were speared together as a forkful.  Rounding off our lunch was a chopped salad with a lemon and olive oil dressing and just a hint of Korean “gocho”, which I mistakenly thought was going to be spicy.

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The dining room is pristine and uncluttered.   The look is appealing but as a result, there is nothing to buffer the music system and therefore I found that it was a bit hard to hear my soft-spoken lunch date.  Go for the food and have that intimate conversation some other time.

Fitzroy on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “On a hot day in Virginia, I know nothing more comforting than a fine spiced pickle, brought up trout-like from the sparkling depths of the aromatic jar below the stairs of Aunt Sally’s cellar.” –Thomas Jefferson

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Love-that is all.

Chris from Siloam Mission is My Food Hero

August7

As a participant in the Canadian Food Experience (began June 7 2013. As the participants share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity.),  I have been asked to declare a local food hero and the gentleman that I would like to point the spotlight on is Chris of Siloam Mission.

I have heard it said that we are all two paycheques away from homelessness.  The causes of homelessness are numerous (this excerpt is from Siloam’s 2012 Annual Report):

…poverty, migration, famine, unemployment, prejudice, mental illness, urbanization – all of which we can find in Winnipeg.There is no doubt that homelessness negatively affects children and families. Children in families experiencing homelessness are more likely to have health, emotional, academic and behavioural problems. Many have been exposed to violence and trauma. Families experiencing homelessness are more likely to suffer separation, and homeless mothers are more likely than other mothers to experience major depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and drug abuse.

For the last 25 years, Siloam Mission has been seeking to address the needs of the less fortunate – homeless
persons and families – in Winnipeg.

I have been aware of Siloam’s good works for years but even more so now that “The Frenchman” (our youngest daughter’s beau) has been hired as one of the few paid staff members.  He continually told me about his new friend Chris who head’s up Siloam’s Kitchen and their meal provision program.  I volunteered at Siloam Mission this past February so that I could meet Chris face to face and learn more about his passion for Winnipeg’s homeless.  As I arrived, the breakfast service was just commencing.  Because of the cold, Chris wanted all of the patrons to have a bowl of something hot so porridge was served with toast, peanut butter and fruit.  Hot coffee is unending.  Chris thought that French toast would be nice for the next day and he happily mentioned that there are times when he can serve the patrons scrambled eggs or omelets from Burnbrae Farms. I met the good folks from Burnbrae at a bloggers event in Toronto; they will be happy to know what joy their donations bring.

I was on lunch detail with the rest of the crew.

On the menu was a choice of turkey noodle or mushroom potato soup, a slice of pizza (generously provided by Little Ceasars pizza), a freshly made ham sandwich and a sweet.  In the summer months, Siloam substitutes the soup with a salad.  One of the dessert choices was my favourite Mennonite treat of blueberry platz.   I was tasked with slicing the ham and then took my place on the sandwich assembly line.

The other volunteers that I worked with that morning were an enthused bunch and kept remarking how they couldn’t believe that they were in a “soup” kitchen and not a multi-starred restaurant.  This is what I was most impressed with.  Chris could cut cooking corners and used packaged stocks filled with additives and excessive salt but he painstakingly made the stock from scratch to ensure the quality.  In addition, from scratch cooking is truly the best use of food and monetary donations and Chris and the folks at Siloam must intrinsically know this.  Of course, “from scratch” methods cannot occur every day, but as often as Chris has the volunteer resources to do so.  Everything is carefully used BUT when I say everything, quality is never compromised.  A volunteer preparing the lettuce for the sandwiches asked Chris if she should use the lettuce if it was discolouring and he responded “the rule of thumb is-we don’t serve it to our patrons, if we wouldn’t eat it ourselves”.

Another of my tasks was slicing up pulled turkey for the soup.  Chris explained how the roasting of 150 turkeys has already commenced for Easter dinner (update: they already have all their turkeys cooked for Thanksgiving 2013) and that every single bit of the bird is utilized.   Turkey necks and wings had been roasted the day before to make the nutritious (and tasty) stock.  When the sandwich line was cleared away, Chris began a fresh pasta making session.

All of these steps went in place, to produce this delicious and nutritious soup.  Why go to this much trouble?  Because food=love and the patrons of Siloam are loved beyond their wildest imaginations.

Our Frenchman and Chris.

Kath’s quote: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” –Matthew 25:35

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Love-that is all.

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