Food Musings

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

Happy New Year

December31

On Sundays at Mandatory Dinner for our family, we often go around the table and share three things: 1) the best thing that happened that week 2) the big disappointment of the week and 3) the thing that you are most looking forward to in the week to come.  Last evening over an early New Year’s fondue we changed the framework to be the year.  The reflections were varied from landing a job, seeing Ireland, spending time in Montreal to starting a Fantasy football league, going to a Bruce Springsteen concert and starting new studies and businesses.  The anticipations are equally thrilling like an upcoming family wedding, a baby’s birth, starting grad school and possible travel.  We decided not to share disappointments.

It occured to me that the same could be true as far as food and dining is concerned, so here are my highlights:

  • Our year started on Isla Mujeres where the food literally sparkles in your mouth and is expertly prepared (and so affordable) such as pork chops and beans at Fredy’s, breakfast at Rooster’s, fruita de mare pizza and pasta at Angelo’s & Brisas Caribe, chiles relleno at La Lomita, Tino’s weekend ribs, and literally everything at Basto’s Grill.
  • Teaching in Thompson Manitoba.  I shared my knowledge of food and beverage service with them and learned a couple of things of my own like the beauty of the north and that good food is not only found in major cities, discovering Nanny’s Diner and Santa Maria Pizza.
  • Travelling to Ireland, noshing on mussels and pork belly at an ancient pub in Galway, walking to a five star restaurant in a thatched cottage in Adare, lunching at The Falls Hotel in Ennistymon (near the cliffs of Moher),  trying bangers & mash and shredded duck salad in Limerick and purchasing cider, scones and black and white pudding to eat at our gorgeous villa.
  • Writing for the community newspapers and my first time visits to Sonya’s, Luda’s and Magic Sushi 2. The food was amazing but the people who run these little places even better.
  • Winning the opportunity to attend a Foodie Conference in Washington, DC.  I met fascinating people that helped me improve my blog, toured a gorgeous city and got to eat at The Old Ebbitt Grill and my first time at a “raw” restaurant..
  • Spending the summer at the lake and loving the crepes, poutine and burgers at Le Gouter in Albert Beach in addition to our own family brunches and barbeques.
  • Loving our garden share and roasting beets and carrots and Jerusalem artichokes into the fall.
  • Travelling to western Manitoba with the Canola ladies to meet farmers and producers and feasting on the amazing local specialties at our field lunches and dinners.
  • Heading to another food bloggers conference in Toronto and walking the board walk at the beach with delicious wraps in hand, even though it was late October.
  • Loving the incredible restaurants within walking distance of our house: Inferno’s and Pizzeria Gusto on Academy and Bonfire Bistro on Corydon.
  • Celebrating birthdays and holidays at Deseo’s, Rudy’s and Hermanoes.
  • Trying other places for my first time like the Modern Taco Company, Saigon Jon’s Kitchen, Corrientes Argentian Pizza and the new fish house at Terrace in the Park.
  • Food-styling for a number of top Canadian chefs and especially working alongside Chef Michael Allemeier.
  • Cheering on the Manitoba Culinary Team that won silver in Germany this fall and celebrating Chef Osten Rice’s win at the gold plates.  Osten is the son of a good friend and I have watched his culinary rise to success over the years. 

I am off to Isla Mujeres and Thompson again in the next couple of months.  I have already booked D’s birthday dinner at The Promenade and I was thinking that it was high time that we walked to Fusion for an upcoming dinner (perhaps Valentine’s). I will be travelling to the Hockley Valley Resort in rural Ontario (where Top Chef Canada was filmed) for another food bloggers event and then look forward to time again at our beach house.  There are no plans as of yet for the fall but we are always on the watch for deals to Europe and hope to get to Spain soon.  AND most of all continuing to cook for my family and friends to demonstrate to them how very much I love them.

Happy New Year…I wish all my readers good health, happy hearts and joy in food.

Muah-Kath.

Love-that is all.

“The Hills of Tuscany-Turn Left at the Madonna” by Ferenc Mate

December28

I have a “gift” of being entirely swept away by books and movies.  This can be a difficult burden when I despair over the sad ending of a movie or the conclusion of a book, even if it had a happy ending, but simply because I will miss the characters as part of my life.  The great part though, is that when I read a story set in a foreign place, it is as if I am living there too (this really saves money in our travel account).  So too, when I read well-written descriptions about food, I can smell and savour and ridiculous as it may sound, feel “full”.

These are the hills of Sicily (not Tuscany) where we have traveled.

I have just finished this wonderful accounting of a couple’s desire to live a simpler life and their move to rural Italy to do so.  It is entitled “The Hills of Tuscany-A New Life in an Old Land”.  I have a crush on Ferenc Mate.  He is originally from Eastern Europe (like my Dad), lived for a while in Canada (the best country in the world!) and then the Caribbean, Paris and New York (all of my favourite places on earth).  He writes so beautifully about very simple pleasures which ring so true for me.  He also loves abundantly-his wife, his little piece of property and food!  Here is his description of dinner at a little Tuscan Trattoria.

 

The food was as simple as the place.  For appetizers there were assorted crostini-fire-toasted bread, some smeared with chicken livers, others with sauteed mushrooms.  Then of course came pasta.  We both had pici– a homemade, hand-rolled, unevenly thick spaghetti-Candace with a sauce of wild boar and I with a sauce of mixed wild mushrooms.  We were slow in eating, savoring every bite, and looked up as the little girl’s Mamma came and asked if the sauces were fine.  Candace complimented her on the food and apologized for eating so slowly.  A big smile broke on her face, “Piano, piano, con calma,” she said.  Slowly, slowly, with calm.  The came the meats: for Candace roasted pheasant with parchment-like brown skin, and for me wild boar stew marinated in red wine and juniper berries and tasting like heaven, and a plate of Tuscan white beans drenched in olive oil and crushed garlic, and a salad.  And we kept emptying wine glasses, toasting the little girl, her Mamma, Tuscany, the boar, the beans, the toasts.

We ate, with calma, and drank, with gusto, and the little girl and her doll had said good-night long ago, led upstairs by Nonna, Grandma, from behind the bar, and then Mamma went up, too, to say good–night, and we swooned from the heat of the fire and the wine, and thank God Nonna came back and brought us two espressos to bring us to, then she quickly thought it over and brought two glasses of grappa, to sink us once again.

As we left, they both came and said good-bye-handshakes and smiles as if we had been acquaintances for years.  Then we went out into a silver flood of moonlight.

We breathed the night air deeply, utterly content.  And it wasn’t just the food and the wine, but also the family.  There was something heartening in three generations together there-at home.  We felt as if we had dinner at someone’s house.  And the place was so honest, unpretentious, that you knew what counted was not the walls and floors, but the people they comforted.  And it felt reassuring that the vegetables came from their gardens, the wine from the small vineyard across the road, and that the boar and the pheasant were hunted by Grandpa.  We talked about this as we ambled in the moonlight.”

For a moment, didn’t you feel as if you were there with the heat from the kitchen, the smell of roasting meats and basking in the attention of this Grandma and her daughter?   Come back for a couple more installments in the days to come.

Kath’s quote: “Arm in arm in the autumn light, calmed by the warmth and the pitcher of red wine we had at lunch, we ambled in contented silence up the hill towards the piazza where the mosaic facade of the cathedral blazed like a million tiny stars.”-Ferenc Mate

Love-that is all.

Caramel-Pecan Bûche de Noël

December27

We have enjoyed many celebrations and meals over the past four days and I managed to take a break from recording every detail of everything that we ate and drank (for your sake and mine).  The abundance in our lives was apparent by the bounties under the tree.

We are so blessed to host so many family members for dinner that I could not fit everyone into a single picture and even then, I neglected to get Daughter #2 and my 86 year old Mom to squeeze in.  They sat to the far left and right (and D was still in the pantry opening wine).

Of all the baking and roasted meats and gravies, I think the crowning glory was Sister #3’s traditional Christmas dessert that she made especially for The Frenchman (but we all got to enjoy).  If you get “sugared out’ over the holidays, this is a lovely alternative as it is rich and meaty with nuts and butter but not overly sweet.

 

Caramel-Pecan Bûche de Noël
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 16
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups pecans, toasted, cooled
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup plus ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  • Frosting and caramel sauce
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1¼ cups heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • Fresh bay leaves or lemon leaves
  • Powdered sugar (for sprinkling)
Instructions
  1. For Cake:
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Line 17x12x1-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment; butter paper. Pulse nuts and flour in processor until nuts are finely chopped (not ground). Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in very large bowl until foamy.
  4. With mixer running, gradually beat in ¼ cup sugar, beating just until stiff peaks form.
  5. Using electric mixer, beat yolks with ⅓ cup sugar and bourbon in large bowl until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add yolk mixture to egg-white mixture.
  7. Sprinkle nuts over; gently fold until almost incorporated.
  8. Add butter; fold gently just to blend.
  9. Pour into prepared baking sheet, spreading batter gently to form even layer.
  10. Bake cake until edges begin to brown and cake is firm to touch, about 14 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.
  11. For frosting and caramel sauce:
  12. Stir 1¼ cups sugar and ⅓ cup water in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  13. Increase heat; boil without stirring until deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes (time will vary, depending on size of pan).
  14. Remove from heat; immediately add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk in butter, bourbon, and salt.
  15. Stir over medium heat until any caramel bits dissolve.
  16. Transfer 1 cup caramel sauce to small pitcher.
  17. Add chocolate to remaining caramel in saucepan.
  18. Let stand off heat 5 minutes; whisk until smooth.
  19. Transfer to bowl.
  20. Let frosting stand until spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
  21. Spread 1 cup frosting over cake in even layer.
  22. Beginning at 1 long side and using parchment as aid, roll up cake jelly-roll style.
  23. Starting 1 inch in from each end of cake, cut off 3-inch-long diagonal piece from each end.
  24. Arrange cake, seam side down, on platter. Spread cut side of each 3-inch cake piece with some of frosting.
  25. Attach 1 cake piece, frosting side down, to top of cake near 1 end. Attach second piece to side of cake near opposite end.
  26. Cover cake with remaining frosting.
  27. Run fork in concentric circles on cake ends.
  28. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead.
  29. Cover loosely with waxed paper and let stand at room temperature.
  30. Garnish platter with leaves.
  31. Sprinkle cake lightly with powdered sugar.

Kath’s quote: ” . . . réveillon, this word says it all; it is just as well that it comes only once a year, on 25 December, between two and three o’clock in the morning. This meal. . . is designed to restore the faithful, who are exhausted after a session of four hours in church, and to refresh throats hoarse from singing praises to the Lord. . . . A poularde or a capon with rice is the obligatory dish for this nocturnal meal, taking the place of soup, which is never served. Four hors d’oeuvres, consisting of piping hot sausages, fat well-stuffed andouilles, boudins blancs au crème, and properly defatted black puddings, are its attendants. This is followed by ox (beef) tongue, either pickled or (more likely) dressed as it would be at this time of the year, accompanied by a symmetrical arrangement of a dozen pigs’ trotters (feet) stuffed with truffles and pistachio nuts, and a dish of fresh pork cutlets. At each corner of the table are two plates of petits fours, including tarts or tartlets, and two sweet desserts, which may be a cream and an English apple pie. Nine more desserts round off the meal, and the faithful – thus fortified – retire to their devotions at the early morning Mass, preceded by Prime and followed by Tierce.”-Grimod de La Reyniere

This single blossom appeared on a south facing window sill this week.

Love-that is all.

 

MTC Modern Taco Company

December24

I feel that it is appropriate that I set the stage here.  I do not profess to be skilled in any way to produce delicious Mayan fare (I leave that to Sister #3 and BF Laura).  But I have been traveling to the Yucatan for over 20 years and I have sojourned to Isla Mujeres (which is a culinary gem) for eight consecutive years.  When we do so, we live like the locals, purchasing our fresh ingredients in the markets and dining primarily at loncherias.  There is not a single multi-unit restaurant on the island and we hope that it stays that way.  There are some ex-pats who have brought along their spins on Mexican recipes, but we find ourselves gravitating to the food from the locals.  So what I am saying is, we know good Mexican food!

I have tasted great Mexican food in my travels to Minneapolis, New York and else where in Canada.  Surprizingly, Saskatoon has a couple of really good places.  Restaurants in Winnipeg have earnestly tried and there are a couple of dishes that I enjoy at a couple of spots, but we just can’t seem to get it perfect.  By “perfect”, I mean with just the right amount of cilantro so that the flavours sing in your mouth balanced by just enough fire provided by the abundant variety of chilies and freshly squeezed lime juice, that I think makes everything taste better (even my beloved French fries).

Suffice it to say, the bar is set very, very high.  We have watched with interest as the Modern Taco Company has renovated a little place in our neighbourhood that has been a German bakery and then The Frenchway Cafe.  Last weekend as D was out walking the mutt, he saw a line snaking out the front door and we knew that the long awaited spot had opened.  Someone offered to hold onto the dog, so that he could go in and have a look around.  Since we didn’t have any plans for dinner that evening anyway, we called Sister #2 and husband and made a date.

The place has been absolutely transformed but looks vaguely familiar.  It has the same flow as Unburger and Saigon Jon’s for instance.  You enter the premises and look up towards the menu boards (including a long list of cervesas and tequilas) before placing your order at the counter to the front of the open kitchen.   The place was busy but we managed to get a table so I plunked down to reserve it.  I love watching my food get prepared so next time I may opt to sit at the stools that face the grill.

We started with  a spicy tomato & roasted jalapeno soup garnished with pico de gallo and avocado crema

and tortilla chips, with more pico de gallo & guacamole.

We also added a side of slaw with jalapeno vinaigrette.

For our mains, we choose tequila shrimp, composed of grilled shrimp, slaw and  chipotle crema,

pulled jerk chicken, caramelized pineapple, cilantro.

You can order a single variety for a trio or

a platter of three of a kind.

The tacos taste fresh, with high quality ingredients.  You can tell that the tortillas themselves are freshly made. Do they taste exactly like the ones that we enjoy while on vacation?  Of course not, but they are pretty darn good.  And besides we would have to have our toes in the sand and be sitting under a palapa on the Caribbean to replicate that taste.

Modern Taco Company on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “One morning, as I went to the freezer door, I asked my wife, ‘What should I take out for dinner?’ Without a moment’s hesitation, she replied, ‘Me.'”-anonymous

Love-that is all.

 

Deseo at Christmas Time

December20

This was one of those evenings where you arrive at the appointed hour and in what seemed like moments later, it is time to go.  The time was precious and wonderfully spent with old friends to celebrate the joys of the past year with optimism for the one ahead.

The main floor of Deseo Bistro was jammed packed with merrymakers doing exactly what we were doing and the room felt alive with the energy of fellow Winnipeggers.  Our server was cordial, efficient and very attentive, even though he thought he had not been.  He came and apologised to us at one point for needing to focus on another party.  Truth was, we did not even notice.

The evening started with Deseo’s own versions of Bloody Caesars which had a wonderful kick and warmed up the evening.  Every couple decide to share a small plate including the Crunch Salad which I had tasted on other occasions and totally regretted not doing so again.  The crunch is contributed by celery, edamame, pistachios, peanuts, crispy onions and distinctively by jicama, a taste which I can’t get enough of especially when it is enhanced by lime and cilantro, which this was in abundance.  It also includes mojito vinny-huh?  I have no idea what that is.

D and I shared the Black Truffled Gnocchi which was an inventive combination of crisp black quinoa, black garlic and black boar bacon.  The tones were dark and earthy and you could taste the forrest.

I then went ahead and ordered another pasta for my large plate which was a seafood spaghetti topped with a poached egg and D chose the Monk-fish.

 

Mine was rich and creamy and D’s was light, so tastes from each plate were a satisfying combination.  Both were from their special features.  Our meals were lovely but I was fixated on another regret which was that I had not ordered the same dish as one of our friends – Roasted Brussel Sprouts. 

Marcona almonds, bacon, ginger, ponzu dressing and feta created a sweet and salty combination, which my readers know I love.

There were oohs and ahhs from other place settings at the table where Lamb Albondigas and Mussels & Chorizo were being tucked into. 

But the happiest of all was the birthday girl who loves pork as much as I do and after much deliberation decided upon the pork belly.  I had described it from my other tastings as being a veritable loaf of meat and even though I obviously remembered the portion incorrectly, she was overjoyed with her choice.  Perched  on top of the slowly roasted pork was a Serano wrapped prawn mousse and was accompanied by crisp chicken skin and  parsnip puree.  The tastes were complemented by both romesco sauce and sherry syrup.  At one point I heard her declare that it was the best meal that she had ever had at any restaurant (and this from a world traveller).  High praise, indeed.

A couple of after dinner liquers  and desserts were enjoyed.  In the mean time, gifts were shared as well as the tales of future Christmas adventures.  The love amongst us was evident and it was a memorable way to celebrate the many of life’s blessings together.

Deseo Bistro on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “It is a curious fact that no man likes to call himself a glutton, and yet each of us has in him a trace of gluttony, potential or actual. I cannot believe that there exists a single coherent human being who will not confess, at least to himself, that once or twice he has stuffed himself to bursting point on anything from quail financiere to flapjacks, for no other reason than the beastlike satisfaction of his belly.” –M.F.K. Fisher

Love-that is all.

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