Browsing: Food Celebrations

Canadian Culinary Federation President’s Gala Dinner

February6

D and I were invited to attend this prestigious event by Jennifer and Ellen of the Manitoba Canola Growers.  They were the perfect hosts and we had such a surprizingly, hilarious evening.  Before the evening was over, I felt as if I had made new lifelong friends.  See how food connects us together?

I could never do the Chefs of the Canadian Culinary Federation justice by trying to describe, in mere words, what each element of their artistic food creations were like.  There are not enough superlatives for the eleven course masterpieces.

So instead, I hope you will indulge me as I take you on a picture tour of the evening:

Appetizers were served in the lobby and although we missed out on Shish Taouk Wrappers, Scallion Pancakes with Smoked Salmon and Wasabi, Arepas with Blue Cheese Pico de Gallo and Greek Style Quesadillas, we did sample Barbequed Oysters, Inside Out Sushi and Lebanese Chicken Wings. The wings were our favourite and we had wished that we had a vat of them to serve on Superbowl Sunday.  Chef Carl Oman and his students from Red River College were the creators of these offerings.

The Fish course was Farm- raised Saskatchewan Steelhead Trout Gravlax with Pickled Cucumber Orange Basil  Mayonnaise and Ceviche of Ahi Tuna with Mango Jalepeno Salsa and Micro Greens.  This was served with a Riesling to offset the saltiness of the Gravlax. I was especially drawn to the Ceviche.

I was relieved when the Game Course was Smoked Duck Breast with Roasted Beet Salad, Vegetable Chips and Beet Canola Vinaigrette.  Tiny slivers of the duck meant that we would have room for all that was still to come. Chef Joe Lindhorst and students from College Sturgeon Heights Collegiate handled these offerings beautifully.

The Soup Course turned out to be my favourite of the evening.  The Chicken Vermouth Soup was topped with a Seared Saffron Medallion, a swirl of Spinach Canola Oil and Tomato Concasse.  I applaud Chef Raymond Czayka & students from Kildonan East Collegiate.

The Sorbet Course provided us with some challenges.  We were not sure what was intended to be edible and what elements were simply the base to present the sorbets, but the Blackberry Merlot  and the Lemon Rosemary Ice were heavenly.  These were prepared by Pastry Chef Ainsley Long, staff & students from Kildonan East Collegiate.

We took a break just as we were to tuck in to the Main Course of Beef Tenderloin, Mushroom Duxelle & Puff Pastry served with Veal Jus, Mixed Bean Cassoulet and Assorted Baby Vegetables to go on a kitchen visit were we were able to congratulate Team Manitoba in person.

The Salad Course was a Mixed Herb Canola Salad with Toasted Mixed Seeds and a Herbed Parmesan Strip. Chef Andy Ormiston & students of Lord Selkirk Regional Secondary School beautifully assembled this offering.

One of the members of our table squealed in delight when the Dessert Course was served.  Red Velvet Cake Square, Napolean Torte, Cognac Truffles and Orange &  Pomegranate sauce.  Chef Helmut Mathae & students of Louis Riel Arts & Technology Centre presented this sweet art.

A variety of wines were poured all evening long.  I was so fixated on the food details that I spent too little attention on the wine selection.  Suffice it to say, some were Canadian selections and all were perfect pairings.  Cognacs and creme liquers were served next.

By this time, we were given permission to taste Le Cirque au Chocolate Centrepiece that Pastry Chef MJ Feeke of Benjamin’s Gourmet Foods had created.

And lastly was a Bothwell Cheese Station.  I visually searched and found my favourite Black Truffle selection which was perfectly enhanced by Homemade Crackers prepared by Baker Terry Willerton & students from Tec-Voc high school.

By this time, we were shocked to know that it was 11 pm.  Hugs and good-byes were shared, knowing that the bond created on that night would connect us in the future. 

How blessed we are to live in Manitoba, with so many amazing local food choices right at our finger tips; made even better by the skill of world class chefs!

Kath’s quote: “You ought to have seen Frédéric with his monocle, his greying whiskers, his calm demeanour, carving his plump quack-quack, trussed and already flamed, throwing it into the pan, preparing the sauce, salting and peppering like Claude Monet’s paintings, with the seriousness of a judge and the precision of a mathematician, and opening up, with a sure hand, in advance, every perspective of taste.”
-Leon Daudet describing the preparation of pressed duck at the restaurant, La Tour d’Argent

Fredy’s-Isla Mujeres Day 1

January11

This will be my first post regarding our recent trip to Isla Mujeres and will also double as my trip report. 

Arrival Day

We enjoyed a pretty smooth travel day although it was a bit lengthier than when are lucky enough to get a reasonably priced direct flight.  We had a quick plane change in Chicago.  In Cancun, our bags, Best Day transfer and the ferry all arrived without a hitch. 

Our daughter-in-law is an Isla Newbie

I have so many memories of my days on Isla but I still so clearly remember my very first ferry crossing years ago.  I was absolutely startled by the colour of the turquoise water about half way across and I have been fixated by the colour ever since.

First sunset through the screen of our hotel room

When we arrived at our hotel, we were warmly greeted by Don Salome and had just enough time to drop off our bags and dress for Christmas dinner. 

 

Fredy’s Pork Chop is legendary-Please don’t ask if I ate it all

D was delighted with his sauteed spinach-but I should have had him spin his plate around for a better view of these gorgeous shrimp

Mexican plate featuring Fredy’s bean casserole (Sister #3 is crazy about them)

Fredy was waiting for us but he was the only one from his family there and so was very busy.  D and I were treating  (it was Christmas dinner after all) and were prepared to blow the proverbial wad.  In the end the 5 of us stuffed ourselves with pork chops, Fredy’s shrimp and Mexican Platters and had our fill of his fabulous free-poured lime margaritas and vino tinto- the bill was less than $100. 

Crispy crepes

Churros being made right before our eyes-slow food at its finest

Plantain chips on the top, potato chips on the bottom

After supper we strolled Medina for banana nutella crepes and then wandered over to the zocalo for churros and home made potato chips.  It wasn’t Christmas pudding but we were in our favourite place in the world and dessert and our first day was delicious.

Kath’s quote: “Oh!  All that steam!  The pudding had just been taken out of the cauldron.  Oh!  That smell!  The same as the one which prevailed on washing day!  It is that of the cloth which wraps the pudding.  Now, one would imagine oneself in a restaurant and in a confectioner’s at the same time, with a laundry nest door.  Thirty seconds later, Mrs.  Cratchit entered, her face crimson, but smiling proudly, with the pudding resembling a cannon ball, all speckled, very firm, sprinkled with brandy in flames, and decorated with a sprig of holly stuck in the centre.  Oh!  The marvelous pudding!”-Charles Dickens

Christmas Morning 2011

January9

Here I am still writing about Christmas festivities, when it is already half way into January.  This is my last Christmas blog post before I start recounting our fabulous food adventure in Isla Mujeres.

Since most of the family were leaving for Mexico very early Christmas morning, we actually faked the morning and celebrated on the 24th.  The kids all decided to sleep overnight and even though we could have slept them in comfortable spaces, the youngest one organized that they would watch “A Christmas Story” and then all bunk in together in the downstairs family room.   

It really did feel like Christmas morning to have them all assemble to open their stockings and exchange our gifts.  We drank champagne and orange juice and listened to Florence +the Machine (as it is our tradition to immediately put on music that was gifted that morning). 

I thought that I was really clever by assembling brunch the night before.  I made the “wife-saver” that I renamed “domestic-partner saver” and had posted the recipe for in a previous blog entry, a cranberry cheese ball was contributed and I dug up this recipe for “Land of Nod” (I didn’t name that one!) Cinnamon Buns.  I’m included it here:

20 frozen dough balls (I made a batch of dough in the bread machine, then formed into balls and froze)

1 c brown sugar

1/4 cup vanilla instant pudding (I omitted)

1-2 T cinnamon

3/4 c raisins (optional)

1/4-12 c melted butter (I used a 1/2 c to replace the moisture lost by omitting the pudding)

In the evening: Grease a 10″ bundt pan and add the frozen roll,s.  Sprinkle with brown sugar, pudding powder, cinnamon and raisins.  Pour melted butter over all.  Cover with a clean damp cloth and then leave on the counter at room temperature.

In the morning, bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Let sit for 5 minutes and then turn over on a serving plate.

We put leftovers away for part of the family to enjoy again on the real Christmas morning and I wrapped up the squares of “domestic partner” saver and we ate in the early morning hours at the airport on our way south.

Kath’s quote: “There is a vast difference between the savage and the civilised man, but it is never apparent to their wives until after breakfast.” Helen Rowland (1876-1950) ‘A Guide to Men’

 

Christmas Eve 2011

January6

I remember a Christmas eve vividly from decades ago.  We were allowed the special privilege of opening a gift early and I spotted a small rectangular box that I was certain was my long-awaited Barbie doll.  What I opened was my first bottle of cologne which was lovely of course but I was SO disappointed.  And then I remembered that Santa hadn’t come-no wonder Barbie wasn’t waiting for me under the tree! And in truth, she wasn’t there the next morning either as Santa thought that I would prefer the red-headed Midge doll.  I will admit here that I was disappointed again, but as is my attitude in life- “a gift is a gift” and I mustered up a way to be delighted by the gesture.  Besides, Midge did look a little bit like Ann Margaret in Bye Bye Birdie……

My Mom and Dad always did the best they could with six kids and one modest income.  Many items were hand-knit and hand-sewn but Santa always came through.  What I do remember perfectly is the indulgence and abundance of food.  My Mom would spend an entire day making potato and Velveeta perogies (she is convinced that Velveeta is better than cheddar), another day holopchi (with lots of sauteed onions, bacon and ground meat in the rice mixture), another day for egg rolls (over-stuffed with bean sprouts, celery, carrots and chicken), another day for her home-made buns and still another for her butter tarts.  Dad was assigned with going to shop at his friends’ who made the best kielbasa in Winnipeg.  But this practice had to cease because no one would sit near us at Christmas eve service later that evening.

On the day of the dinner Mom would make a huge batch of breaded chicken legs and thighs (she can’t understand why anyone would prefer white meat) or a batch of slow cooked ribs or more recently a prime rib roast.  The prime rib is always assigned to Brother #1 who is an expert in ensuring that the middle is served medium rare.  And there always has to be two meat choises, just in case, God forbid, she missed the mark with the first offering.  She prefers turkey but knows that everyone else in the family will dine on turkey the next day for Christmas dinner.

These days, my sweet Daddy is gone and Mom is not able to host any more or manage all these tasks in her kitchen.  Brother #3 and his “saint” of a wife (she hates it when we call her that) have been the hosts for the last number of years.  But Mom is still the co-ordinator of some items and she makes her lists and her phone calls and assigns who will find the best Baba-made perogies and how they must be served with sauteed onions and bacon.  Each item is carefully considered and takes hours in the planning.  So even though Mom is 85 this year and my own kids are grown, my Mom is still gifting us with the indulgences of our childhood-not in things per se, but in demonstrating the abundance of her affection for all 35 of us with food made with love.

 Kath’s quote: “In my experience, clever food is not appreciated at Christmas. It makes the little ones cry and the old ones nervous.”-Jane Grigson

There was an emptiness in our hearts this Christmas; a void left by the absence of my beloved Brother #2.  Tom you always made Christmas a time to honour the traditions of our family and we had to find a way to gather strength and carry on those traditions without you.  You were missed terribly, especially by Mom.

The Gift of Giving

December22

My favourite kind of cookbooks are the ones that include personal reflections and anecdotes about a person’s life and their relationship with food.  I have received one such collection this Christmas from my Mom-in-law and I wanted to share this Christmas story with you.

“If everything special, warm, and happy in my formative years could have been consolidated into one word, that word would have been Christmas.  So, by the time the building blocks of my days had piled themselves into something as formidable as late adolescence, Christmas had a lot to live up to.

Christmas, by then, meant fireplaces and the bustle of a big, excited family complete with aunts, uncles and cousins.  It meant great smells from the kitchen, home-made bread, and cranberries bubbling on the stove, pumpkin pies and turkey. It meant Grandma’s cheery voice raising to be the first to holler “Christmas gift!” as we came in the door.  It meant real cedar Christmas trees, handmade foil ornaments, and lots of secrets.  It meant unfolding in the arms of our great family the lonely or forsaken of our village who had no place to go.  It meant all the good and lovely things we said about Christmas being in your heart and the joy being in giving.

Then came another year.

There were many things that conspired to bring me to the situation in which I would test all my glibly accepted theories.  Grandma was gone, leaving in my heart a vacuum that wouldn’t go away.  My sister was married now and had the responsibility of sharing her holidays with her husband’s family.  The other relatives were far away …… I wasn’t there when they moved from the parsonage to a tiny cottage at the lake that a concerned businessman had helped them build.  Nor was I prepared that winter day for the barrenness that can be found only in resort  areas build for summer fun.

There was no fireplace.  There was no bustle of a big excited family.  Gone was the sense of tradition and history that only the aged can provide, and gone was the thrill of the immediate future that comes with the breathless anticipation of children.

The dinner was going to be small, just the three of us, and there just wasn’t any ring in the brave attempt at shouting “Christmas gift!” that Mother made as I came in the door.  Daddy suggested that because I’d always loved it, he and I should go to the woods to cut our own tree.  I knew that now, of all times, I could not let my disappointment show.  I put on my boots and my cheeriest face, and off through the knee-deep snow we trudged into the Michigan woods.  My heart was heavy, and I knew that Mother was back at the stove fighting back the tears-for all that was not there. 

There was a loveliness as the forest lay blanketed in its heavy comforter of snow, but there was not a comforter to wrap around the chill in my heart.  Daddy whistled as he chopped the small cedar tree.  (He always whistled when there was something bothering him).  As the simple tuneless melody cut though the silent frozen air, I got a hint of the quiet burdens adults carry, and for the first time felt myself on the brink of becoming one.  So as I picked up the end of the scraggy, disappointingly small cedar, I also picked up my end of grown-up responsibility.

I felt the times shift.  I was no longer a child to be sheltered and cared for and entertained.  My folks had put good stuffing in me.  Now, as I trudged back through the snow, watching the back of my father’s head, his breath making smoke signals in the morning air, the weary curve of his shoulders, I vowed to put some good stuff back into their lives.  The day was somehow different after that.  We sat around our little table, stringing cranberries and making foil cut outs.  This time it was not the activity of a child but sort of a ceremonial tribute to the child I somehow could never again afford to be and the people who had filled that childhood with such wealth and beauty.”

Excerpt from Gloria Gaither “He started the whole world singing”

Kath’s quote:“There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.”-Erma Bombeck

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