Food Musings

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

Luda’s Deli

January18

As I sat waiting for my husband to arrive for our lunch date, I had a great opportunity to soak up the quaint surroundings of this little place -Luda’s Deli at 410 Aberdeen Ave. at Salter in Winnipeg’s colourful North End.  Day time TV was displayed over the front door for ambiance, perhaps, or to comfort and entertain the diners who were there for a meal on their own.  Two merry old gentlemen walked in with the salutation: “Hi ya girls!”  I was to learn that the “girls” were Kristie who takes care of all of the tables by herself and her look-a-like Mom Tracey who is in the kitchen and at the till.  Both are big-eyed, full-lipped Ukrainian beauties. Shouts go back and forth when someone known to them arrives and in some cases hugs and kisses are exchanged (at least this was the case on the day that I was there).

Come noon, the place was full and I observed two finely dressed businessmen walk in, look at the full room and announce that they would try again tomorrow.  They were unsurprised and not put out, in the least.  By this time, I am thinking that Tracey’s home style cooking must be something else and we were not disappointed!

Coffee and water is self serve, which is a good thing because Kristie is too busy taking orders and ladling out soup-on this day the choices were Bean and Bacon or Borscht. We sampled the latter and loved that it was chock full of match stick sized beets that were the perfect texture.

“Kristie’s Clubhouse” was a delectable combination of tomato, lettuce, crispy bacon and sliced turkey.  The wedge of meat had been put right onto the grill to warm it and pop up the flavour.

Sauerkraut and corned beef equally shared the space between the pumpernickel rye bread from nearby Gunn’s bakery and was as delicious a Reuben as I have ever tasted (and that includes Montreal and New York). The plentiful hand-cut shoe string fries were worth noting as well.

Kristie patiently explained, when I asked if the diner had been named after Luda, that the word is Ukrainian for “the people”, in other words this popular little place represents the  “neighbourhood” and there are various menu items named for different real life persons.  I wonder what they would put into a “Kathryne”.

Take cash and go early to avoid disappointment.  Parking is only on the street and there are a couple of steps up to enter the premises.  The businessmen determined that doors open at 7 am for breakfast and lunch from Monday to Saturday.  They may be closed on the weekend over the summer.

Ludas Deli on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Food is a subject of conversation more spiritually refreshing even than the weather, for the number of possible remarks about the weather is limited, whereas of food you can talk on and on and on.”-A.A. Milne, ‘Lunch’

Love-that is all.

Burrito Splendido

January17

My niece, who is a restaurant expert in her own right, knows that I am constantly on the quest to find authentic Mexican, but more specifically Mayan cuisine, in Winnipeg.  Not only am I drawn to clean, fresh flavours of this healthy way of eating but the tastes transport me (via my imagination) to summer time or, as I consider myself blessed to be able to say-my annual sojourn to Isla Mujeres.  So when she told me that a really great, little Mexican restaurant called Burrito Splendido had opened on west Portage (A4-3380 in Westwood to be precise), I had to put it on my “must try” list.

When we pulled up, I thought that we must have come to the wrong address because from the outside, I thought it was a sub place.  It definitely has a “fast food” look to the place.  And then I thought, well why not, as tacos and burritos are fast food, meant to be consumed like a hamburger on the run or for a quick meal.  They even had our favourite brand of Mexican fruit soft drinks.

The pair of fish tacos that I chose was quite petite as compared to my husband’s hearty burrito.  In three chomps one was done and yet the portion size is consistent with our times in the Yucatan.  With most meals a little package of the same sized corn tortillas will come to the table so that you can scoop up from your plate and blend the flavours for each bite.  Each bite of the taco, sparkled with cilantro, shredded lettuce, crunchy cabbage, queso fresco (which I didn’t even know that you could purchase in Manitoba), a well-prepared pico de gallo and one of my favourite tastes in all the world-pickerel.  I was one happy camper.

But then to my husband’s chagrin, I started eyeing up his burrito.  Everything the taco had not been, the burrito was-hearty, substantial and bursting with chicken, rice, beans and shredded cheese.  Once all of your selections are spooned into a customized bowl at the serving counter, it is then edged onto a whole wheat tortilla and folded together but then (and I think this is the key), it gets put into the arms of a big, hot griddle to seal the edges and just begin the melding process of the ingredients.

So do not be surprised when you arrive at Burrito Splendido, yes you have arrived at a “fast” food restaurant, but it is so much more.

I got an email from the owner Ken Livingstone this afternoon.  We have one of those small world connections as he and my niece worked together at the now defunct Pasta la Vista restaurant (I still yearn for one of their dishes called “That Ole Black Magic”).  Years ago, my niece and Ken’s wife traveled around the world together.  He took the opportunity to tell me more about his restaurant’s commitment to quality:

“Our cheese (that I didn’t know could be purchased in Winnipeg), is made in house daily. It`s super simple. I also wanted to let you know that we stay local where and when possible, our pork, beef, chicken and pickerel, for our fish tacos, are all local. The organic flour for our whole wheat and white tortillas also comes from Manitoba.”

I am sure that this great little place will do well as it is discovered by foodies and Mexican food lovers alike.

Burrito Splendido on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “I don’t like to eat snails. I prefer fast food.”-Roger von Oech

Love-that is all.

 

“My Berlin Kitchen-Eating for Heartbreak” by Luisa Weiss

January16

I emotionally eat for a variety of reasons:-to celebrate, yes, that is a great excuse of mine.   Others are to reward myself for a difficult task finally accomplished, when I am blue or under the weather, when I am stressed or hurried.   I don’t recall eating for heartbreak not because this has never occurred, but that I have successfully blocked the feeling from my consciousness.  My “consoling” foods are often warm and slurpy pastas that create that sense of physical fullness.  I suppose I rationalize it this way: if my heart cannot be full, perhaps my full stomach can replace the sensation.  I am far too “carb” focused to ever consider a salad as a comfort food, but when so beautifully described as Luisa Weiss does here, I would consider having the provisions on hand (in case of an emergency of the heart).

Now, I’m not talking about big leafy green salads.  Those won’t do for heartbreak.  What I find to be a very reliable meal in times of misery involve a little bowl of what some people might call an abbreviated version of a Greek salad.  What’s important is that you find yourself a snappy little cucumber without any give (I like seedless Kirbys or Persian cucumbers), a handful of cherry tomatoes that actually taste like something, mercifully available all  year long now, a small slab of feta cheese (Greek or French, it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s fresh), and dried oregano (Greek or Italian, please).

 

Don’t bother peeling the cucumber, but slice it in half lengthwise and then in little half-moons.  Cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters and the feta into small cubes.  Combine all of this in a bowl and sprinkle judiciously with oregano, plus a good pinch of flaky salt.  Don’t skimp on the salt because of the feta.  trust me, it’s a mistake.  Your body needs the salt; haven’t you been crying your eyes out?  Replenish.  Then add a good glug of olive oil and the smallest drip of vinegar (I use white wine vinegar; but you could use Champagne, I suppose, or sherry vinegar; whatever you do, no balsamic, I beg of you), and toss the whole thing together until the tomatoes glisten with olive oil, the herbs are dispersed, and the fetas is starting to break down, ever so slight;y at the edges.

Now if it’s summer; and I hope it I because at least then you’ve got a leg up on the the poor winter heartbroken who definitely have the rawer end of the deal, go out on your balcony, your backyard, or, all else failing, your front stoop.  I find it rather important to eat this little salad, which might be all you can stomach in a day, in the setting sun.  As you crunch your way carefuly through your bowl, the sun makes you squint and warms your hair,and the soft evening breeze will feel like a caress, which I think you need almost as much as you need the salad.

As your fork spears every more hungrily, you can start to daydream about that trip tp Greece you’d like to think about taking where you can eat feta and tomatoes, all day long ever day, and great big olives too, and nice warm bread, and there will be a few handsome waiters winking at you as you sit by the bar with your glass of retsina and your sun-kissed tourist glow.  Suddenly, you’ll find yourself scraping the bottom of your bowl rather lustily and you might feel sheepish, or at least a little guilty, for enjoying the simple meal so much when you thought you might never eat again. 

Don’t worry the heartbreak’s not entirely gone, and it won’t be until it skulls away of its own accord.  But in the mean time, you snuck a meal past its shadowy figure and you are felling rather good, like you wouldn’t mind another one of those,or at least a spoon to get at the dregs of the dressing at the bottom of the bowl.  Here’s a little tip from me to you: no one, but no one, will notice if your raise your bowl to your lips and tip it back, letting the herbed oil and vinegar, flecked with bits of feta and tomato seeds, pour down your throat.  You might cough a bit if its too sharp, and you might feel just a little greedy.  But it’s worth it, I think, to feel your appetite and your lust for life come back to life, one cherry tomato at a time.

I hope that these couple of excerpts have tantalized you to pick up My Berlin Kitchen for your own.  I haven’t even told you about the great recipes which eat each and every chapter…….

Kath’s quote: “I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.”-Nora Ephron
 

Love-that is all.

“My Berlin Kitchen-Stunningly Complete” by Luisa Weiss

January15

In this second excerpt Luisa Weiss recounts what I have struggled to appropriately describe in the past; that moment when I have become overwhelmed with that utter bliss that comes after a well-prepared meal, surrounded by loved ones and often times in a beautiful setting. 

I am happy to report that my life has been made up of a string of these moments: on my many travel adventures, whilst on our precious Isla Mujeres,

a sunset walk on the beach at our summer house and indeed, even in my own backyard-lying in a hammock, or cuddled up around our fire pit or sitting under the blossoming plum tress that have been strung with white lights.  I think what I am trying to say is that Luisa Weiss “gets” me and I “get” her….

But pavlova felt too fussy for this languid afternoon.  I leaned back on the couch and closed my eyes, hearing the faint hum of the traffic from the outdoors and thinking about our day.  I remembered the buttermilk we’d shared, creamy and sour.  It occurred to me that buttermilk and berries would make the perfect summer dessert.  In my collection of clipped recipes from so long ago, I found the recipe I was looking for almost straightaway: buttermilk pannacotta.

The dessert consisted of not much more than buttermilk, heavy cream, and sugar, with a a little gelatin for suspension and wiggle.  To serve with the pannacotta, I decided to sugar red berries, letting a syrupy, ruby-red juice form.  Their sweet-sour pop would be a good contract to the nursery-dessert quality of the pannacotta.

The pannacotta was simple to make, but when the time came to unmold the set cream from its ceramic mold, I struggled to loosen it from the sides.  Max walked into the kitchen just as I was starting to lose my cool and ended up helping me, the two of us giggling at the pannacotta’s luxuriant wobble as it settled onto the serving plate.  Then I spooned the juicy berries and their syrup all around the pannacotta, almost obscuring the creamy mound.  As Max drove us to Muck and Jurgen’s house on a leafy street in Zehlendorf, I held the serving plate gingerly in my lap as the fruit syrup slid back and forth precariously.

Out on their deck at dusk, we ate pink-fleshed lake trout poached gently in fennel broth, small boiled potatoes, waxy and sunflower-yellow and dusted with chopped parsley, and a little salad of soft greens studded with toasted sunflower seeds.  There was a cold bottle of Riesling and a sharp and creamy horseradish sauce mixed with grated apple for a bit of sweetness to dollop on the fish, its flesh tender and barely warm.  Later, when the sky had grown dark and we sat outside in candlelight, full of fish and potatoes and wine, everybody oohed and aahed as I spooned out trembling portions of pannacottaand sweet-sour berries into little dishes that Muck had brought out.

As we ate, the buttermilk cutting the richness of the cream and the sugared berries a sharp contrast to the soothing blandness of the pannacotta, we listened to the neighbor’s children play in the garden next door.  The table soon fell quiet and as our spoons scraped against the china and I saw the light draining from the sky, my world suddenly felt so stunningly complete, so full and rich and just as it should be, that I almost lost my breath.

 Kath’s quote: “Life is not measured by the breaths you take but by its breathtaking monents.”-Michael Vance.

 

Love-that is all.

“My Berlin Kitchen-The Apple of His Eye” by Luisa Weiss

January14

No secret here-I love to read.  This winter, I have averaged 2-3 books per week and I have a stack of them waiting for me on my night table.  Although I have been drawn to fiction all of my days and have had dalliances with some non-fiction travel writing, I am crazy about what I call the newest genre- the blogger/book author.   I too have a book in my head but not enough hours in the day to actually get it out of there or to put my “real” work aside, (the work that pays the bills while I support my “writing” habit).  So I am fascinated by the bloggers turned authors who have managed to pull all of this together.  And I love the authenticity with which they write: recounting the disappointments and indeed heartbreaks  but also the joys and triumphs in the kitchen and in life.  Luisa Weiss is my latest fascination.  In this excerpt she is writing of her relationship with her Dad which has so many parallels to my own.

My sweet Dad was as much my food mentor as my Mom.  I inherited my Dad’s inventiveness when I make “refrigerator” soup and I would attribute my natural instincts of knowing what foods will pair well together from him.  My love of salty/sweet is all about my Dad.  Just this Christmas, I was so hoping that someone would ask me about my recipe for the ham glaze because I intentionally mimicked my Dad’s style: throw open the fridge door, get your head and arms in there and start pulling out jars and bottles of sauces and chutneys and marinades, mixing homemade preserves with Asian, Italian and French concoctions.  The result was fabulous (in my mind at least) perhaps because it tasted like “Christmas past”.

And so here is an excerpt by Luisia Weiss. But do not limit your reading to here, go out and buy My Berlin Kitchen.

But best of all, my father gave me a family tomato sauce.  He says he got the recipe from my mother’s mother, Nini, whom he adored, but my mother says that couldn’t possibly be true, because Nini hated to cook.  They always like to argue about who was right on this count.  “Ree-chard, don’t you think I’d know if my mother ever made that tomato sauce.” Oh, get out of town.  Are you telling me that I don’t remember who taught me how to make it?”  I didn’t mind the arguing; it was nice hearing their voices together in the same room.  And besides, I didn’t really care where the sauce came from-to me, it was his sauce.

It may seem a little funny to talk about tomato sauce.  Chances are you scarcely need a recipe for one.  The thing is, this is where it all starts for me.  This sauce was one of the first things I ever made.  It’s the only thing I tend to cook when there’s nothing in the kitchen and I need a quick dinner: its what I cook when there’s nothing I’d rather be doing less than cooking.  It’s what I make when I need steadying and reassurance.  Its smell reminds me of my father and my Italian Grandmother and I like to think that, one day, it’ll be the first recipe my children inherit from me.  If it’s not a family heirloom, then I don’t know what is.

To make it, he would dice up an onion and throw it along with a clove of garlic into a pot of olive oil warming on the stove.  The smell of the cooking onions would drift past the pantry into the living room, where I’d sit in anticipation.  When the onions were soft and fragrant, he’d add chopped carrots and canned tomatoes into the pot and the whole thing would simmer together until it got sweet and saucy and I could hear my stomach growl.  He’d boil a pot of water for spaghetti and break the long strands in half to cook them.  Then he’d dress the whole thing.  We’d sit down at the drop-leaf table in the kitchen and we’d eat together and talk about the day.

Sometimes before bedtime, after he’d finish singing to me and he’d said good-night, he’d turn at the doorway, ready to switch off the light, and tell me I was the apple of his eye, the love of his life.  But I’m not sure he ever really needed to.  I knew it all along.

Kath’s quote: “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm17:8

Love-that is all.

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