Food Musings

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

Santa Maria Pizza-Thompson

March17

What constitutes good pizza in your opinion?  Is it the thickness or thinness or the crunchiness of the crust?  Is it a variety of contrasting toppings?  Is is the amount of cheese?  Is a lot of cheese a good thing?

In my world it is variable.  It can be any or all of the criteria above.  It is the same for hamburgers.  Sometimes I get a craving for a Big Mac.  Other times, the desire is for a made from scratch burger with all of the upscale trimmings.

Today I ventured out to find that another of the Thompson restaurants that I had been hearing about was just around the corner.  Well my walk was a titch longer than that but so far everything in this little city is within walking distance of my hotel.  So too, Santa Maria Pizza which was recommended to me on the very first day that I arrived in town.

I arrived at 1 and I guess the lunch crowd had abated because I approached, I was not even sure if the place was open.  Sure enough though, there were two tables inside and another couple of tables arrived while I was there.  As I am finding in Thompson, everyone is served a cup of coffee as soon as you sit down.  In fact in this case, the waitress kept coming over to refill my coffee cup when I was actually drinking water.

When the Meat Only pizza arrived, it was exceptional.  That is to say if your criteria is for easy on the sauce, a veritable stack of meat and tons of stringy cheese.  What I especially liked was the sprinkling of mixed Italian herbs that were sprinkled on top (just the way my Dad used to make our pizza).

I enjoyed the very first piece and then I had to request a take away box.  There was so much protein on the little wedge, that I was quickly satiated.  Lucky for me I love cold pizza perhaps even more than hot.

Oh yea, there was something special abut their Meat Only pizza and that is mushrooms!

Santa Maria Pizza & Spaghetti House   on Urbanspoon

Kaths quote: “There’s a pizza place near where I live that sells only slices. In the back, you can see a guy tossing a triangle in the air.”-Steven Wright

Rembrandts Bistro

March16

In simpler days before TV on demand, movies on demand, on line books, etc. , one primary form of entertainment was going for a drive.  Not a car ride to get anywhere in particular but for the pleasure of the journey.  Since our brood grew up in East Kildonan our destination was often out Henderson Hwy. to Lockport.  Sometimes we would have a play on the grassy area by the St. Andrews locks, sometimes a crunchy foot-long hot dog at Skinners and other times we would slow down by the old St. Andrews Church and imagine all the history that lay sleeping in the graveyard there.

Our Mom still likes going for drives and so when the three sisters informed her that we were going to pick her up for a Sunday brunch treat in Lockport, she was delighted.

The unusual addition of Red River Cereal to a traditional creme brulee starts off every brunch date at Rembrants Bistro.  The nuttiness of the cereal offsets the sweet creaminess of the custard.  I even gobbled up the blueberry garnish, the tastes were so divine.

Corned Beef Hash was spied by both Sister #2 and our Mom and they were very happy with their choice.  I had a little taste and thought that it was a little bit overwhelming, but to each their own.

Sister #3 finds it hard to resist the buttery lemon flavours of hollandaise sauce and so she ordered the Eggs Benedict to savour the taste.  Sister #2 simply ordered a side of hollandaise for her hash-there are no rules when you simply love food.

Omelets are often my brunch choice when done well and Rembrants Bistro does an excellent job especially when Remmis pan roasted potatoes and a little cup of fresh fruit are served alongside to complement the tastes.  The eggs were so stellar, I dont even recall what was stuffed inside.

Our server was absolutely perfect including his insistence to take our photo for us.

Rembrandt's Bistro on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Mother’s words of wisdom: ‘Answer me! Don’t talk with food in your mouth!'”-Erma Bombeck

Too Much Tuscan Sun

March15

I have just completed reading another piece of non-fiction entitled Too Much Tuscan Sun-Confessions of a Chianti Tour Guide by Dario Castagno with Robert Rodi.

Dario is a native Tuscan and in this recounting he recalls some of his more remarkable clients.  This chapter in entitled Intervello-the Dutch.  Here is an excerpt.  I don’t know what I was more enthralled with-the detailed accounting of the dishes and wines or the Dutch’s capacity to consume them with relish.

For lunch we stopped at Foscos place.  He sat us under the shade of a large oak and served us a sumptuous meal composed of Tuscan appetizers, tagliatelle in wild boar sauce, ribolitta, an abundant tray of mixed, grilled meats, gigantic forentina steaks, and stewed rabbit with olives-all of which the group washed down with the most expensive vintage Brunellos.  Afterward, when they complained of needing sugar, Fosco brought out a tasting of his best sweets (cooked cream, tiramisu, homemade jam tarts) and some different types of vin santo and sweet sparkling wine.

We had no sooner got on the road than we found ourselves stopping at the bar in Viagliagli where, for digestive purposes, we had a tasting of various grappas and amari.

By the time we finished, it was almost time for dinner, so we moved from the bar to the adjacent restaurant and started again from the beginning-porcini mushroom appetizers, polenta served in hare sauce, and crepes stuffed with white truffles, followed by casseroled guinea fowl, wild boar, and still more desserts-everything accompanied by bottles of Chianti Classico, Nobile de Montepulciano, and fortified wines for dessert.  Toward midnight, unsteady on my feet, I accompanied the happy group back to their hotel, where Han proposed some grappa nightcaps.  I fled in terror….

The next day.  Mario came to greet us himself, holding a wicker basket filled with porcini and ovolo mushrooms, and with a wink told us that in just a few moments a friend of his would arrive with some truffles hed just unearthed.  No sooner had he said this than the friend entered the garden with his truffle-sniffing dog close behind.  Under our very noses he unrolled a white paper wrapping to reveal a bounty of the precious tubers.  As soon as they were freed from their confinement, they released their uncanny aroma, making our mouths water.

Mario put them to good use for us, whipping up a series of black and white truffle sauces on homemade sliced bread, followed by a raw mushroom salad, taglierini with truffles, tagliatelle with porcini, steak fiorentina for Han, gigantic grilled pecorino cheeses and homemade honey ice cream.  At close to five in the afternoon, when with tremendous difficulty we managed to stand, I counted twelve empty bottles of Brunello, two of Moscadello, and one of grappa.

Kaths quote: “Presently, we were aware of an odour gradually coming towards us, something musky, fiery, savoury, mysterious, — a hot drowsy smell, that lulls the senses, and yet enflames them, — the truffles were coming.”-William Makepeace Thackeray

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The Northern Inn-Thompson

March14

When I knew that I was going to be spending some time in Thompson Manitoba, I asked my twitter followers where I should dine.  Almost immediately, I got a response my cyber-friend Shel, including a photo of her Thompson lunch.  I made a mental note to check out the Northern Inn.  Ive been in the city for a number of days now but typically have lunch with students in the location where I am teaching.  I did not know until today that the Northern Inn is just steps away from where I am staying.  What I wasn’t aware of, was that even though it was a balmy spring day, the wind was whipping around at 55 kms/hr and walking that short distance was an adventure indeed.

I arrived at 12:30 and the place was hopping.  I was able to find a little table though and had a look at the menu.  Ive often wondered what it would feel like dining alone and you know, as soon as I get my nose into a book, the world around me disappears, so in short, it was not awkward at all.

With one look at the menu, I knew that I would order my summer-time favourite of pickerel and chips. When the server automatically inquired if I would like gravy on my fries, I knew that I had come to the right place.  The selection was actually from the dinner section, but my request was very cheerfully accommodated.  Lunch started with a from-scratch bowl of chicken noodle soup.  The broth was hearty and there were real nuggets of chicken floating around with the broad, wide noodles, turnip and plenty of onion (which IMHO makes for a good chicken broth).

When my lunch arrived I was bowled over to see how much food was on my plate.  I know that I had ordered a dinner but since I was only paying $14 for pickerel, I did not expect to be served such a substantial platter.

I passed on the veggies but really enjoyed the garlic toast, fries and mound of vinegary cole slaw.  I intentionally left some on my plate with half of everything else, so that I could enjoy the left over meal for dinner.  Unfortunately the veggies survived the walk back to my hotel but the delicious cole slaw had been scraped into the garbage.  It is almost supper time right now and lucky for me there is a microwave in my room to warm up my supper before I figure out where I am going to watch the Jets game tonight.

Wow-good ole fashioned, home cooking.  Shel was right.

Could not resist taking a photo of my hotel room door-painted the exact colour of my accessories!

Northern Inn & Steak House  on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “It is odd how all men develop the notion, as they grow older, that their mothers were wonderful cooks. I have yet to meet a man who will admit that his mother was a kitchen assassin and nearly poisoned him.”-Robertson Davies

On Rue Tatin

March13

I just recently finished a wonderful non-fiction book entitled On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis about a young family who takes on the dream of renovating a historic home on an ancient little street in Louviers, France.

I loved her writing style and her honest recounting of their wonderful and sometimes trying adventure.  Most of all, I appreciated her relationship with food.  This is an excerpt from earlier in her journey:

That year and all through college I cooked whenever I had free time.  When I wasn’t cooking I was reading about it, planning my next meal, designing my next dinner party.  After earning a degree in communications and working at newspapers and in public relations, it dawned on me I could incorporate food into my professional life, which is what lead me to La Varenne.  I wanted to be a food writer, but first I had to learn how to cook.

So here I was in 1980 in a two-hundred-year-old building in Paris, near the Place de Invalides, basking in the world`s best butter; the fattest, most pungent pink garlic; spinach whose leaves were so firm and meaty that they stood up on the table instead of lying flat; brown eggs whose yellow yolks tasted as rich as they looked.

I thought that I knew good apples, fragrant strawberries, juicy pears.  But never had I tasted the likes of the fraises des bois I had on a tart at la Varenne, and the pears I sniffed made me want to fold them into cakes, slather them with chocolate, poach them in fragrant herbs and spices.

The food was so whole.  Chickens came with the head, feet and pinfeather, and so did the pigeons and quail; the fish looked at me with big, dreamy eyes as I took them from the cooler; the lettuce still had soil clinging to it.

Once my onerous receptionist stint was finished I moved to washing dishes at food demonstrations, a job I much preferred.  At least I was in contact with food.  I lived in a blessed cloud of ecstasy about food, the flavours, the techniques I was learning.  I jumped at the chance to run errands at the market, the cheese shop, the bakery.  When I wasn’t at La Varenne I took jobs cooking for embassy families, catering bar mitzvahs, making canapes for special occasions.  Anything to be with food.  Whenever I could I went to spend the day at a bakery or patisserie, often getting up at 1 am and arriving when the baker did, so I missed nothing and could still get to work on time.

Kath’s quote: “France has found a unique way of controlling its unwanted critter population. They have done this by giving unwanted animals like snails, pigeons, and frogs fancy names, thus transforming common backyard pests into expensive delicacies. These are then served to gullible tourists, who will eat anything they can’t pronounce.”-Chris Harris

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