Food Musings

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

Isla Mujeres La Vida es Dulce – Life is Sweet


 Another installment of Sister #3’s March Isla adventure:

“This year on isla I have eaten more dessert than is typical for me.  Traveling with a woman with a sweet tooth, who often opted for a much lighter meal in order to indulge in dessert, meant I was obliged to follow her lead. 

I discovered revisited some sweet treats that I have tried before and (unfortunately) found event more to tempt me on future trips to Isla. 



Imagine a waffle cone rolled like a burrito and stuffed with banana or sweet cheese and your choice of caramel sauce, dulce de leche or nutella.  Available at carts along Rueda Medina after 1:00 every afternoon for only 20 pesos! Yum.


Great music, lots of action on the main drag and delicious dessert, what could be better? The Pastel de Chocolate was huge, moist and had just enough salt to highlighe the chocolate.  My friend had the Plantanos Flameados which we didn’t realize came with a table side show.  Brandy and banana liqueur are flamed with sugar and cream then your banana is cooked in the sauce and finished with ice cream.  Too sweet for me, but perfect for my dear friend. 


Paletas tuggui 

Because I don’t love “overly- sweet” sweets, the homemade lime popsicles on Isla are a perfect treat for me.  The tangy citrus is the perfect refresher on a hot day.”

Kath’s quote: “Once in a young lifetime one should be allowed to have as much sweetness as one can possibly want and hold.”-Judith Olney


Isla Mujeres – Fruta del Mar (Fruit of the Sea)


Sister #3 wrote these blog entries soon after her arrival home from Isla this past March.  I was getting ready to leave for Ireland and then took a long time getting caught up on a backlog of restaurant posts so I have been delayed in getting these published.  But just as our trip to Isla Mujeres every year is worth the anticipation and savouring, so too are these posts. I can just smell the sea air now and the faint scent of sea creatures even as I read and write this.

“Life on Isla Mujeres is all about the sea.  Swimming in it, sailing on it, snorkeling to explore it, and of course, fishing it.  Surrounded by abundant schools of fish and seafood, the locals have had a lifetime to master preparing the fruit of the sea. Here are my favourite fish and seafood delights from my most recent visit to the island of women (and fish).

Brisas Grill – Located on Medina this sea side restaurant lets you enjoy the sound of the waves lapping up on the sand accompanied by some very lovely local musician.  Here we enjoyed a Black Grouper Steak and crunchy, oversize, coconut shrimp with sweet mango sauce with just the right amount of kick.

Sunset Grill – located on Playa Norte (the North Beach). It had been a while since I had visited the grill but our hungry tummy’s got the best of us as we strolled the beach and we decided to get out of the heat and enjoy some lunch.  I was thrilled with my choice of fish tacos.  The fish was cut into chunks and marinated Yucatan style.  Served on three flour tortillas with pico de gallo, crema, and their fantastic guacamole.  I eat a lot of fish tacos on the island, but these were a little different and so far are my favourite.


Cockteleria Justica Social (The Fishermen’s Coop) located on Medina across from the navel base. Your fish is guaranteed to be fresh since this place represents many of the fishermen themselves.  My Parmesan fish was perfect! Piping hot, crunch, cheesy coating over flaky, moist fish and at 90 pesos (under $7.00 Canadian) you cannot beat the value.

Cockteleria Picus – also located on Medina. Eight years ago, this was my first ever cockteleria experience, I loved it then and I still love it today.  The garlic fish I had this time around was buttery, and melt in your mouth tender.

Fredy’s Bar & Restaurant – is located on the north end of Hidalgo.  Now all my friends will tell you that I love me some Fredy’s.  Both the man and the restaurant.  This year, because I was traveling solo for a week of my stay, I gravitated to Fredy’s so I could visit with my dear friend as I enjoyed my meal.  I am addicted to Fredy’s Mexican Plate, but on one of my visits I tried his baked shrimp.  The shrimp where big and juicy and full of flavour.  The rich, melted cheese, the delectable sauce… Fredy knows the way to a girls heart!

Angelo’s – also located on Hidalgo.  For years I have heard my sister rave about the Frutti de Mare at Angelo’s and this year I tried it. Now I know exactly what she means.   The pasta was perfectly cooked, the seafood was abundant and fresh, the sauce, the Parmesan, the wine. What can I say, it was one of the most delightful dishes of my trip.

But now my sister tells me there is a version of this dish at another place she likes even better, so add it to my list for next year.  After all, my flight is already booked.  Less than 300 more sleeps till Isla. Buen Provecho!”

Kaths’ quote: “With earth’s burgeoning human population to feed we must turn to the sea with understanding and new technology. We need to farm it as we farm the land.”-Jacques Cousteau

Love-that is all.


Stella’s Catering


At this time every year, the fall TV line up is announced by the local stations.  In former (more prosperous) times this meant golf tournaments, steak dinners and lavish prizes of trips; or lunches catered by private chefs in glass-walled board rooms.  As media has converged and down sized for efficiency, those times are history.

But because for this media buyer, it is all about the food, I was delighted to attend the CBC luncheon event this week.  The timing overlapped with a teaching opportunity, so I arrived and hour after the event had begun, just as guests were being whisked off to the presentation room.  This meant that I had the platters of Stella’s Canapes to myself!  I very carefully made my decision of the Pickerel Cheeks which was so sensational, that I scooped up as many as I could recognize and stood at the doorway of the speaker’s room so that I could see and hear and savour my lunch at the same time.

Photos were not an option as I was trying to be discreet about my consumption.  Besides, I did not even remember to bring my camera along, as hurried as my day was.  So even though I cannot offer you the eye feast of this event, I can tell you that the canapes were sublime.

I pulled this list off of their website in hopes that the words might make up for my lack of images:

Asparagus Frittata, Prosciutto, Roast Beef, Shrimp & Egg, Blue Cheese and Walnut, Chevre & Pepper Jelly, Smoked Salmon, Vegetarian Muffaletta, Roasted Asparagus & Chevre, Mushroom and Caramelized Onion, Gravlax (Scandinavian Cured Salmon) and Bison & Saskatoon Jelly.

The artisan breads that they were served upon were equal to the fine ingredients perched on top.  The dessert trays looked just as tempting with bakery made Nanaimo slice, carrot cake, brownies and macaroons.

I highly recommend that you include Stella’s on you list of potential caterers for a casual midday event.

Kath’s quote:  Sandwiches are beautiful, sandwiches are fine.  I like sandwiches , I eat them all the time.  I eat them for my supper and I eat them for my lunch.  If I had 100 sandwiches, Id eat them all at once. -Fred Penner

Love-that is all.

The Villa Girls-Nicky Pellegrino


I am very enamored by the novels of Nicky Pellegrino-not only does she set her stories in Italy but she explores the variety of professions that focus on food: a baker, a sous chef, a cookbook writer, to name a few.  In this delicious recounting, a woman becomes a professional food stylist, all the while discovering that there must be balance in indulgences and in life.  I can literally taste the food and she describes it!  Here is a lengthy (and mouth-watering) excerpt:

“On a cold winter’s night, I’d take refuge in the soft creaminess of a buttery risotto, in the flavours of fried cauliflower and taleggio cheese or the earthiness of field mushrooms.  I grew hungrier and greedier.  When Beppi wasn’t at home I rummaged in his food stores searching for things to cook and eat.  The kitchen was a treasure trove.  I found bundles of home-made pasta, carefully dried and wrapped in linen tea towels; sauces and soups neatly labeled and packed away in the deep freezer.  I started to play with ingredients I unearthed, making a salty, pungent dressing from anchovies and garlic to drizzle over vegetables, simmering a meaty shin bone in a sauce of tomatoes and red wine to serve with rigatoni.  One night I made what I considered my triumph, a huge fish soup with prawns and mussels that Addolarata had brought home from Little Italy, flavoured with lots of fresh flat-leaf parsley from the pot on the window sill and slugs of peppery olive oil.

Beppi was never particularly complimentary about the dishes I served up to him.  ‘That was not too bad,’ he would declare once he’d wipes a crust of bread around his plate to soak up the last of a sauce. ‘Quite nice, I suppose.’

‘Take no notice.’ Pieta told me later,  ‘He never has a good word to say about the meals other people have cooked.  The tastier they are the grumpier it seems to make him.’

Pieta was the only one who noticed how the food looked.  Each time I served up a meal she commented on the plate I’d chosen or the way I’d arranged it.  ‘You’ve got a really good eye,’ she told me once or twice.

To me it never felt as though what I was doing was clever.  ‘I’m only trying to make the food look as delicious as it tastes,’ I told her.

Sometimes I got things wrong.  I’d forget to stir a sauce and let it stick to the bottom of Beppi’s cracked old Le Creuset casserole.  Or I’d try to fry a delicate fillet of white fish until it was dry and rubbery.  Beppi was kinder to me when I failed.  He gave advice and offered to teach me a few dishes.

‘Watch him like a hawk,’ Addolarata warned me.  ‘If you don’t pay attention he’ll sneak in a pinch of or two of some secret ingredient so that you never can get your food to taste quite the way his does.’

But Beppi showed me flavours I’d never have thought of myself.  Red mullet baked with raisins and pine nuts the way the Romans cooked it.  Laid out in the dish ready to go in the oven it looked so pretty.  When I told him I’d never made pastry he taught me how to make a tart of ricotta custard topped with cherries cooked in brandy.  Desserts opened up a whole new world of eating for me and for the first time ever I felt my stomach strain against the waistband of my jeans whenever I sat down.

For a while I didn’t care if my thighs spread and my stomach bulged because I had discovered there were other delicious things you could do with ricotta like bake it with lemon zest and saffron or stuff it into soft pillows of ravioli.

Cooking was an easy way to lose myself and make a bad day seem better.  When I was piling a rich purple beetroot risotto into a clean white bowl or resting a roasted leg of chicken on a mound of gently stewed caponata I forgot about thing’s like builder’s dust and dry rot.  Instead of worrying about the apartment or the latest drama at work, I planned the next thing I would try to make and pestered Addolarata for the ingredients.  I wanted squid ink for a risotto, smoked paprika for a stew, spicy sausage laced with fennel, interesting new bowls and platters to display them on.

I grew used to listening to the noises of the house, and when I could tell Beppi wasn’t in the kitchen, I would creep in and find something to quickly chop and bury in olive oil.  I loved mixing flavours, colours and testures, often firing off a couple of photographs of the finished dish as I anticipated the moment of spooning it into my mounth.

Eating became my way of punctuating each day with pleasure.  I couldn’t understand how I had taken so long to discover it.”

Kath’s quote: “They eat the dainty food of famous chefs with the same pleasure with which they devour gross peasant dishes, mostly composed of garlic and tomatoes, or fisherman’s octopus and shrimps, fried in heavily scented olive oil on a little deserted beach.”-Luigi Barzini


Dim Sum at Noodle Express


We were headed to Dim Sum Garden on Rupert Ave. (the “we” being the 3 Sisters & our Mom) to have a belated birthday supper together.  Unfortunately, there was a note on the door saying that they were closed for renovations.  I had arrived first and because it is a bit of a chore to get my Mom places by car, I quickly scanned around for an alternate spot to dine.  Right across the street is a place that I knew to be formerly called Noodle Express.  Currently, there is a banner blocking the sign that indicates that they serve a Dim Sum Happy Hour where the prices are two for one!

The decor is no great shakes but it is clean and bustling with other diners awaiting their orders.  Carts are not wheeled through the dining room.  Instead you must order from their menu and if you are not familiar with the name of dim sum items, this can be a challenge.  We were in the clear because Sister #3 not only has a stellar memory regarding food items but she actually travelled to Beijing last summer.

I did not get pictures of all the items because: 1) I was too hungry 2) I was talking too much and 3) the steam from the basket was fogging up my camera lens. But I didn’t manage to capture these for you.

Their pork dumplings were very good and in my case that means that they are prepared with a minimum of fat.  Our kids called these dumplings “little brains” when they were growing up.

These were the shark-fin dumplings and we also sampled the shrimp and the shrimp & scallop-all excellent.

We were hoping that these pork dumplings would have come pan fried not deep-fried but no matter, they were fabulous!  We also sampled the barbecue pork buns which were equally delicious.

Our preference is for Dim Sum’s Garden’s sticky rice; Noodle Express’s was just okay.  The highlight was the Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli)  that we saw being consumed at another table and ordered for ourselves.  The kitchen was at the end of their supply and could only produce a half order but it too, was amazing-perfectly stir fried with plenty of garlic and a butter tasting broth.

The mailing address for Noodle Express is 107-180 King St. but the entrance is on the Rupert street-side right across from Dim Sum Garden.  It may prove confusing to find but make the effort.  Our delicious dim sum feast for 4 came to $27 with Chinese tea.  What a bargain!

Noodle Express on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper, and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.”-Brendan Behan

Love-that is all.

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