Browsing: Food Celebrations

Mardi Gras 2014

February13

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The folks at the RBC Convention Centre are once again helping Winnipeggers get through the long stretch of winter by presenting the 2014 version of Mardi Gras on February 14th &15th.

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At the Mardi Gras preview held recently, D immediately tucked into a Fried Oyster and Provolone Po’ Boy Sandwich.  These are served on every corner in the French Quarter of New Orleans and start with a classic French baguette.  The softness and freshness of the baguette is key and he indicated that this one was perfection.  His was adorned with shredded lettuce, tomatoes and pickles.  A huge fried oyster in a crunchy batter is the prize at the centre of the sandwich.

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We sampled Peel and Eat Shrimp, fabulously Freshly Shucked Oysters and Louisiana Gumbo Soup-all terrific. There are three new fantastic menu items this year.

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The Rose Farfalla Pasta is an assembly of cubed chicken breasts and spicy sausage pan-fried with capicola, red peppers, onions, mushrooms and a charred tomato sauce. The result is hearty and complex.

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I enjoyed the Jambalaya which is also new.  In spite of the fact that I had just made jambalaya for our dinner at home the previous evening, I was willing to dive right in.  Their version of a classic Creole stew was chock full of shrimp, Cajun sausage, grilled chicken, tomatoes, bell peppers, rice and okra. 

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My favourite of the evening was yet to come.  The Bourban Flamed Garlic Pepper Shrimp were expertly prepared before my eyes and pulled off the heat just as they changed colour and texture, which ensures a firm and crunchy shrimp. 

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These had been marinated in smoked paprika, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and old bay spice and then pan-fried in butter, garlic, coarse black pepper and cayenne pepper before the Bourban is added and tipped towards the flame to sear and finish the dish.

Tickets for Mardi Gras 2014 are available at Ticketmaster.ca.  Besides the authentic cuisine, entertainment is provided all night long by Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers.

Kath’s quote: “The great dish of New Orleans, and which it claims having the honor of invented, is the GUMBO. There is no dish which at the same time so tickles the palate, satisfies the appetite, furnished the body with nutriment sufficient to carry on the physical requirements, and costs so  little as a Creole Gumbo. It is a dinner in itself, being soup, piece de résistance, entremet and vegetable in one. Healthy, and not heating to the stomach and easy of digestion, it should grace every table.”-William H. Coleman

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Love-that is all.

 

Raw Almond-Two Worlds Collide

February12

Many of my media friends are members of Canadian Women in Communications and they recently staged a very special event.  Raw Almond is the world famous* pop up restaurant on the frozen Assiniboine River near the famous junction of the Red.  *I say world famous because originator Mandel Hitzer announced when we were there, that a Swiss media outlet declared Raw Almond one of the top ten things to do in the world!

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Somehow organizers Morgan and Sara Comrie were able to convince Mandel to open the tented venue for a special lunch.  Mandel has not only been working tirelessly to operate the unique temporary restaurant for 21 days in total (the last evening is this coming Thursday evening) but he is also sleeping in a tent on the river to raise funds for three charities near and dear to his heart.  And what a huge heart he has-passionate about the local culinary scene, passionate about Winnipeg and Manitoba and passionate about its hardy citizens especially those with disabilities and others facing social hurdles.

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As we found our fur covered stools fashioned from tree stumps, freshly baked bread arrived at our tables, tipped out of brown paper bags. I sampled both the whole wheat baguette and the rustic raisin loaf.  The parade of dishes arrived family style and first up was one that I had enjoyed previously at Deer + Almond.

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Mandel has deconstructed and then reconstructed a traditional Caesar salad, and the result is a sparkling platter of lacy kale with slices of green apple, shards of parmesan cheese and a dressing with heady tastes of caper and anchovy.

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While we were munching away, and feeling so healthy doing so, pork and apple sausages with pungent mustard arrived.  They were lean and clean tasting with a minimum of salt.

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I would love to nab a kilo of them for my freezer.

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Shimmering beets and huge scoops of sheep milk cheese as white as the glistening snow which surrounded us, were perched upon a bed of grilled rapini which came along as a prelude to the main event: Whole chickens that had been stuffed with rosemary and sage leaves under the skin.

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Savoury notes were guaranteed by lemons, whole bulbs of garlic and huge cuts of onion that were wedged in the cavity of the birds.  Each roasted fowl was surrounded by purple, white and yellow potatoes, roasted whole with their skins on.  In spite of our robust outdoor appetites, we could not manage to eat all the offerings that had been laden upon the table.

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As delightful as our meal had been, the best part of the day was still to come as the guest speaker rose from his place at our table to share in his famous adventure.  I am referring to Tim Sr., half of the father and son duo who won Canada’s first Amazing Race in the summer of 2013.  I took away two key messages from Tim’s eloquent tale: “Cease striving” is a moto familiar and comfortable with me from Psalm 46.  The message is tattooed across Tim Jr.’s back and was their wake up call about half way through the race.  Secondly, was the importance of perseverance as it related to the race last summer and to Tim’s battle with Parkinson’s disease.  It was this message that spoke to me the loudest and made me so very proud.  I am not surprized that Tim and his son won this coveted honour and that is because he is from Winnipeg and when you are from the frozen prairies, you know what adversity is all about.  But Tim Sr. and everyone who calls themselves a Winnipegger is triumphant.  We not only survive in a climate that on some days is colder than Mars; we thrive and laugh at winter by dining on a frozen river!

Kath’s quote: When the world says, “Give up,” Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.”~Author Unknown

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Love-that is all.

Wedding Plans-Episode Two

January29

The next major step for the lovebirds was finding the ideal venue for the wedding.  The church was not an issue as they attend the same church and in fact their Pastor was instrumental in creating the opportunity for them to court.  While they were together in South Africa, they were visited by the gentleman (who would eventually become their pastor) whom offered the Frenchman an internship in Winnipeg.  So, in the fall of the year that they returned to Canada, the Frenchman had an excuse (or perhaps a second one) to move to Winnipeg.  When their engagement was announced to the congregation, their Pastor lead a chorus of “It is about time!”  I guess true love is an obvious state.

Harder though, was finding the right venue.  There were so many things to consider.  They wanted a fall wedding and so they looked for a place to reflect the cozy and rustic season.  They wanted a casual feel because they are laid back people.  They were hoping that there could be some outdoor space because they are also the outdoorsy types.  They hoped that it could somehow be close to the neighbourhood of their many dates and engagement on the Provencher Bridge.  They also wanted a place that would reflect the blending of their cultures: first generation French and more distantly- Scottish Metis.  They needed to consider a central location close to hotels for out of town guests.  The facility had to be wheelchair accessible as there will be a number of guests who use wheelchairs.  Of course, of utmost importance would be the imaginative and authentic taste and presentation of the FOOD.  They knew that their search was going to be difficult, in fact close to impossible.  After a couple of stressful weeks, much research and many rejections,  they found THE perfect venue!

I am not going to reveal all of their special arrangements with Fort Gilbralter but I will tell you that their event planner Angie and Shawn who will take care of all the food details, could not possibly be more helpful with suggestions and things to remember and consider.  We know that the food will be excellent as we dine as often as we can at Shawn’s nearby restaurant The Promenade.  In addition, Fort Gilbralter’s website is fantastic with video views so that the engaged couple can actually visualize the room, the placement and flow of their guests in the room and how to set up the room for maximum space and mobility.

Kath’s quote: May their joys be as bright as the morning, and their sorrows but shadows that fade in the sunlight of love.” -Minna Thomas Antrim

Love-that is all.

Contented Christmas

December27

At Christmas time I try to be helpful and take the stress off my family by offereing up suggestions of things that they could give me at our gift exchange (still to come).  But the truth is, I was once given the most incredible gift of all and now I am very difficult to buy for.  I do not know if this gift was inheriterd from my Mom and Dad, or given to me as a reward for going through some really tough times in my life or for some supernatural reason that I will never understand.  The gift that I was given, is the gift of contentment.  I am so satisfied with my life, that I cannot think of another thing that could/would improve it. The only thing that occurred to me was that I would love a mechanical pencil with a good eraser to do my sudukoes in the morning.  I kid you not, I really had a hard time coming up with more than this.  Here are the reasons why:

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Cousin time

  • Our youngest has just announced that she has accepted the proposal of her long-time beau (referred to as the Frenchman in this space) so we have a wedding celebration to plan and look forward to.
  • We are absolutely thrilled to be first time grandparents.  We could not imagine loving anyone more than how much we love the “wee one”.  Every time she smiles, perches an eyebrow, or cries out with her husky voice, we are captivated all over again.
  • Our son has finished his formal post-secondary education and our daughters are still enrolled: one in honours and the other, her masters.  We are not only thrilled that our children value their education but are grateful that we have the where-with-all to support them financially in their pursuits.
  • There are some health issues in my extended family but my Mom who is in her late 80’s feels blessed to receive such good care in a sparkling clean, spacious and safe environment.  She was well enough to join us on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

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Four generations

After we open our gifts in the morning, we will sit down to a family brunch.  I will serve “Domestic Partner Saver” (the politically correct version of wife-saver), grilled sausages including venison garlic sausage that my brother-in-law provided, smoked gouda direct from Holland gifted by another brother-in-law, Land of Nod Cinnamon Buns, banana loaf that was given to us, a fresh fruit tray and a double crusted oatmeal apple crisp.

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First Canadian Christmas for the Aussie-he says he always wears shorts on Christmas!

I am glad that we have a couple of days between the feasting that we’ve done with both sides of the family, to have some time with our very own.  Last weekend we celebrated our first Christmas with D’s family and amidst the turkey and ham, I discovered a fabulous new salad that was contributed by one of my talented sister-in-laws.  It was so good, that I produced my own spin on it and served it on Christmas Eve with my extended family.

Beet & Feta Salad with Basamic Fig Vinegarette
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Fusion
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Includes sweet and salty tones which I love but also crunch from figs and nuts, all balanced by the pleasant acidity of the balsamic vinegar.
Ingredients
  • Cello box of mixed greens
  • ½ cello box of fresh spinach
  • 1 quart of homemade pickled beets (my mother-in-law's are pickled with lots of whole cloves), drained
  • 200 grams feta cheese (I used a "light" variety)
  • Sugared or smoked nuts (quantity to taste), such as toffee covered cashews
  • 1 bottle of PC Memories of Tuscany: Balsamic Vinegar & Fig Marinade & Sauce
  • ⅓ bottle balsamic dressing
Instructions
  1. Toss cleaned greens and spinach in a very large mixing bowl
  2. Add drained pickled beets (chop or slice into smaller pieces if desired)
  3. Run feta cheese through a food chopper or processor so that it is a fine crumb consistency, and add to bowl.
  4. Mix together the fig sauce with the balsamic dressing.
  5. Pour onto salad and toss.
  6. Garnish with candied or smoked nuts.

Kath’s quote:“Hallo! Whoop! How are you! Merry Christmas!” Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’

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Love-that is all.

Mano a Mano

December18

I loved Civita on Corydon Street in Winnipeg, although I didn’t get a chance to dine there very often and now that it is closed, I have regrets.  In its place is another Italian Bistro Called Mano a Mano.  Interestingly, the restaurant name comes from the Spanish and Portugese phrase meanning “hand to hand” and was used originally for bullfights where two matadors alternate competing for the admiration of the audience.  I cannot guess the signficance of this in relation to the special lunch that we celebrated there.  Without looking the phrase’s original up, I assumed that the restaurant would be a hand-made tappas place.  Once I got small plates in my head, I steered the selections to that area of the menu.

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We started with Blistered Snap Peas-perfectly stir-fried with mint (a little bit too light on the chili flakes) but delectable when set aside a drizzle of plain yoghurt and a heavenly mound of fresh ricotta cheese.

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Next up was Gnocco Frito with a Fontina Fondue. Enormous pillows of dough had been fried and then sprinkled with a glistening of salt.  They were fun on their own and extra savoury when dunked into the gooey cheese fondue.

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Somewhere along the way a shrimp cocktail arrived.  I was paying less attention as the conversation flowed and our glasses were continually filled with the lovely Malbec that we had chosen.

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The birthday girl requested Beef Carpaccio and was well pleased.  I appreciated the twists of crispy capers and white anchovies, adding a heady, salty layer.  The thin slices of beef tenderloin were perfect on the thick wedges of homemade bread that tasted as if they had been toasted over an open-flame.

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Last but not least were pan seared scallops which were plentiful even if they were not quite the larger size that I prefer.  The crumbles of ham and tart apple pieces added both sweet and salty tones that I crave.

All of these selections were from their dinner menu as they do not offer a separate lunch menu.  This was explained as a result of them only being open for Thursday and Friday lunches.  Service was prompt which was not terribly surprising as were the only ones in the dining room until two business acquaintances came in to share a pizza.  It might be best to call ahead to ensure that their lunch hours do not change.

The refurbished décor is clean, stylish and warm, but then again, I loved Civita’s décor too.  Theo’s is the name of the bar/lounge area and I understand that they will have their lovely enclosed balcony open again next summer.

Mano A Mano on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Nobody really likes capers, no matter what you do with them. Some people
pretend to like capers, but the truth is that any dish that tastes good with capers in it tastes even better with capers not in it.”-
Nora Ephron

Love-that is all.

 

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