Browsing: Food & Travel

P.E.I. Shellfish Festival

January9

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We are a hardy crew in Winnipeg and this is one way that we cope. About the middle of January, we head away for sunny beaches and if we cannot, we at least dream about them. Another way is to ditch the winter stews and prepare food that is typically enjoyed in the summer time.  I have a gorgeous cookbook entitled “flavours of PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND a culinary journey” by Jeff McCourt, Allan Williams and Austin Clement. The over sized photos are expertly taken and breath-taking. To really sweep you away, imagine this scenario as described in the cookbook, taking place on one of those sandy beaches…..

Assemble a small charcoal barbeque  and start the coals burning. Let them burn for about 15 minutes then rake them to distribute them evenly. Cover the bottom of a large roasting pan with seaweed, making a layer about 2 inches thick. On top of this arrange the clams and mussels. Put in the onions, garlic and ginger and then cover them with a 2 inch layer of seaweed. Load on the potatoes, corn and hotdogs or sausages. Pour half of the beer over everything and cover with a clean, damp potato sack (or lid). Place this on the barbeque and begin steaming.

Once the steam starts, let everything cook for 1 hour. Add some beer if steam is escaping and add more charcoal if the fire degrades.

Serve family-style (that is, letting everyone help themselves) with melted butter and lemon.

Can’t you just feel the heat from the fire, smell the yeasty steam escaping the roaster, hear the fire snapping and taste an ice cold beer while you await your feast to cook?  Of course, the seaweed would have to be replaced with tinfoil on the prairies but other than that, there is nothing stopping you from enjoying fresh P.E.I. seafood next summer on the beaches of Lake Winnipeg. If you don’t care to wait, you could place your roster in the oven or dig out the barbeque and place the roster in there.

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Our extended family celebrate each Labour Day weekend with a dinner on the beach. The menu is typically comprised of local delicacies like chicken, veggie kabobs and the like. The fun is in the cooking process itself and the time spent together in anticipation of our upcoming meal. When the sunsets, we sometimes wash our dishes in the lake and then head back to our beach house for a round of crib or a televised football game.

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But we also dream of eating authentic clambake again, having done so years ago on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. With the current state of the Canadian dollar a more realistic alternate to the Cape would be the shores of PEI- a journey that we would love to make as we have only ventured to Nova Scotia and never set eyes on the other maritime provinces.

The good folks at WOW Hospitality must be dreaming of summer too, because they have decided to host the first PEI Seafood Festival right smack in the middle of winter. See here for everything you need to know:

Members of the Prince Edward Island seafood Community will be descending on Winnipeg January 16th, 17th and 18th with their products for the first ever PEI Seafood Festival. Take in one event, two events or all the events and enjoy the feel of PEI.

Friday, January 16th
Gala Dinner – 6pm at the Pavilion Centre in the Pavilion in Assiniboine Park
Tickets are $250.00 with net proceeds going to SOS (Share our Strength), a charity that works to alleviate and prevent hunger and poverty in our city including a program near and dear to my heart: St. Aidan’s Christian School in Winnipeg’s North End.
Tickets available by calling 204-942-1090 ext 230

Saturday, January 17th
9am Black Box Competition
Come out an watch top Winnipeg Chefs compete in the Black Box Competition. What will they creative with the products they are given in their box?
Yours truly is a judge.
Tickets: $25.00 Available by calling 204-942-1090 ext 230

1pm Oyster Schucking Championship – The Forks Centre Court
A competition to find the best Oyster Schucker in Manitoba.
Winner will represent Manitoba at the Canadian championship.

6pm East Coast Kitchen Party – 295 York
A Kitchen Party in East Coast style.
Enjoy sampling the best of PEI at different food stations while listening to East Coast Entertainment, Watch the Best Caesar Competition and meet members of the PEI shellfish Industry.
Tickets $40.00 and are available at any WOW Restaurant or by calling 204-942-1090 ext 230

Sunday, January 18th
1pm Best Mussel Competition – 295 York
Come Out and Watch Top Manitoba Chefs compete in the Manitoba Best Mussel Dish
No charge

3PM Best Seafood Chowder Competition – 295 York
No Charge

6pm Champagne & Oyster Tasting – 529 Wellington
Tickets are $100.00 and are available by calling 204-949-1090 ext 230

Kath’s quote: “We found some large clams…which the storm had torn up from the bottom, and cast ashore. I selected one of the largest, about six inches in length, and carried it. along…..We took our nooning under a sand-hill, covered with beach grass…I kindled a fire with a match and some paper, and cooked my clam on the embers for my dinner…..Though it was very tough, I found it sweet and savory, and ate the whole with a relish. Indeed, with the addition of a cracker or two, it would have been a bountiful dinner.”-‘Cape Cod’ Henry David Thoreau

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Live simply, laugh often, love deeply.

 

Dreaming of Positano

December10

When winter sets in, I day dream about warm weather travel to places I have never been and others I have already been. Today I am remembering our trek to Positano.  On this particular day we were travelling from Sicily up half of the leg of the Italian boot to the Amalfi Coast.  The day started at 5 am with a van ride from the cozy home of our friends in Castellammare Del Golfo to the Palermo train station.  Driving in Palermo is so stressful that I was thinking about a big glass of Chianti by about 6:30 am.

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We had a reservation in a first class car and thought we were set.  Unfortunately another family thought the same and we spent most of the day with people who virtually ignored our existence.  Of course there was the language barrier which was our inadequacy not theirs.  But they held boisterous conversations while we tried to sleep, stretched their legs and leaned on us when they wanted to sleep and passed their shared lunch passed our faces when they wanted to eat.  And they were more accustomed to the heat than we were and thought it was just fine in the confined space without the AC.  But D and I always try to make the best of everything and so we spent the hours staring out the window at the Mediterranean, going for walks up and down the train cars and going up on deck when the train was boarded onto a ferry for the crossing from Messina, Sicily to mainland Italy.

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By 4 in the afternoon we had reached our transfer destination in Salerno- a hectic/crazy seaside town and boarded a bus destined for Amalfi. I mistakenly took a window seat and although the vista is “to die for”, I didn’t particularly want to do so in the middle of our second honeymoon.  The hour long leg was extended because now it was almost the dinner hour and we found ourselves in the midst of Italian rush hour.  Amalfi was even more frenetic and we managed to just barely get onto a jammed bus before departure.  Someone offered me a seat at the back of the bus and D was stuck standing next to the bus driving.  “No worries, it’s only a 20 minute trip” our eyes said to each other.  Minutes later a tremendous thunderstorm rolled in and the bus literally parked on the mountainside.  Once the torrential rain passed we would surely be on our way-but no.

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I had done my research and knew that it was feast day to celebrate the saint of Prairiano’s (10 minutes from Positano) home church.  What we didn’t know though was that there is only one road in and out of town and that the road that we were planted on was temporarily closed so that the townspeople could enjoy their procession to the church carrying their saint and the ensuing fireworks.  D tried to converse with the bus driver to determine how far from the town we were because now that 20 minute bus ride had taken and hour and a half.  When we finally arrived in town we determined that we had been one mountain curve away and could have walked it in five minutes.  Ah well, when in Rome…..

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By this time we were so frazzled that we glugged the champagne that D had arranged would be chilling in our room and set out to find some supper.  Our first choice was a famous place that was very busy and I was so overheated by the humidity and champagne that I insisted that I would have to sit at one of the tables by an open window.  Because they were set for four and we were only two, we were refused and so we declined.  The owner was exasperated with us and made his frustration quite known to the rest of this diners. We had created quite the scene. Our second choice was close and we knew by our research that they served on their rooftop terrace.  But of course, it was closed due to the storm that had just passed but the lovely owner of La Strada could totally see my distress so she pulled a table next to an open window and brought me my own fan!

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We shared a Quarto Pizza and Fusilli with langostino and asparagus.  The taste of the food was amplified by our day’s events, so to describe it as delicious and satisfying is such a gross understatement.  By the time we wandered back to our hotel for a Limonciello our whole psyche had been transformed.  We were in an ancient town with views of Positano from our window.  The rain had stopped and stars were making their appearance. We booked this perfect hotel here on this website. We highly recommend its use. Easy to navigate and perfectly trustworthy.

Kath’s quote: “One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” ~Luciano Pavarotti

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Love-that is all.

“Mastering the Art of French Eating-Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris” by Ann Mah

December4

When I read a culinary novel (my obsession), I make note of the pages which do a particularly appetizing job of describing the food or a feeling evoked by the dish or an unusual recipe that I have had the pleasure of tasting.  Often times I have 2-3 pages noted but in the case of scouring through Ann Mah’s recounting of her solo time living in Paris, I had scads and scads of pages noted.  Her book is that appealing to a foodie like me.  After making a really tough decision (“oh poor Kath” you might be thinking -“if only all my decisions were so gruelling”…), I have decided on this excerpt.  Read on and then I will explain why.

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From page 171.

I had come to Alsace with the intention of eating choucroute at every meal.  But whenever I sat down in a Winstrub, the same thing happened: I looked at the menu, resolved to order the choucroute garnie, summoned the waitress, and asked for…something else.  I was cheating on choucroute with tarte flambée.

Despite its fiery name, tarte flambée is not a pie filled with burning embers.  It’s a sort of pizza with crisp edges, topped with crème fraiche,  onions, and bacon, cooked in a wood-burning oven.  In Alsatian it’s called flammekueche, or “flame cake”, and was traditionally a plat du pauvre, prepared every two weeks on bread-baking day, when the village’s communal wood oven was lit.

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A lump of dough is rolled thin, spread with luscious crème fraiche, strewn with slivers of raw onions and bacon and singed golden in the kitchen’s ancient wood oven.  “It only takes one minute to cook” Roth said.  The restaurant also serves a non-traditional version, sprinkled with grated Emmental cheese.

I ate both the plain and gratineed varieties under Roth’s watchful eye, savouring the contrast of tangy cream against the luxuriant salty-sweetness of smoked bacon and onions.  Roth brought them out one at a time, waiting until I finished the first to produce the second.  “It’s best eaten hot” she admonished me when she caught me photographing my food instead of eating it.  And when I had finished both, she wanted to know which I preferred.

 

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The first anecdote which came to mind from this excerpt is that D always teases me that he has not eaten hot food since I started “this blogging thing”.  The second is this: Winnipeggers do not need to travel half way across the world to eat authentic tarte flambée (French) flammekueche (Alsatian which sounds German to me) because we have Chez Sophie where they dub their version “French-style Pizza” to avoid confusion.  They still use the onions and bacon but add tomatoes and instead of the traditional thin crust they also offer medium and thick.

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The third goes like this.  I have never been to Alsace but it is on our list of “must travel to” destinations.  D and I have long been intrigued by the region which is quite literally half French and half German being geographically on the border of both and having changed hands back and forth during wars fought over territorial rights.  When we first tasted Alsatian wine we were delighted that the flavours were like a bottle of French and German white wines that had been blended together.  We were sharing a bottle at a restaurant that no longer exists, the first time I told D that I loved him (he would ditto my sentiments but not until a couple of weeks later).  Tastes are often associated with milestone events in my life.  Is the same true for you?

Kath’s quote: “What keeps me motivated is not the food itself but all the bonds and memories the food represents.”-Michael Chiarello

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D and I the evening of our 30th wedding anniversary before dining out in Boston where we had honeymooned.

Love-that is all.

Seafood Paella

November24

I had the good fortune to travel to the Spanish island of Majorca many, many years ago.  I still remember the people and the beaches.  The clearest memory was of the seafood.  We had been travelling through Europe that spring and had arrived back in England where we still had another week of vacation before we flew home.  The time was May and although it had been warm and pleasant in Greece and Italy, Britain was suffering through a late and miserable spring.  Instead of enduring the rain and gloomy skies, we decided to see if we could find an affordable warm spot to spent the dwindling days of our vacation.  We went back to the travel agency that had booked our original tour and trusted them to point us in the right direction.  Our spending money had dwindled as well and upon arrival, we decided that we would find a market and stock up on fruit, cheese and lunch fixings and only dine out once a day.  On our second day we longingly watched people stream into the dining room and inquired about lunch details.  Lo and behold, we were booked into an all-inclusive without even knowing it and were missing out on our three meals per day!  That lunchtime, we were served a cold whole lobster salad and from that moment on, the seafood meals came in a continuous stream.

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Friends for 40 years

The same friend that I traveled with that spring. now lives in Toronto and she told me about a paella party that she and her husband had attended.  Supposedly a huge paella caldron was set up in the yard of their friends and they got to watch and participate in the preparation of this famous dish.  It has been years since I’ve enjoyed paella in Winnipeg but understand that both Hermano’s and Bonfire Bistro include it on their menus.

This past weekend, we dined at the home of good, good friends.  She is Italian and an amazing cook.  I know that we would have loved anything that they put in front of us.  To our delight, it was their favourite paella recipe.  She showed me the Anne Lindsay Heartsmart cookbook that her recipe came from but unfortunately it was not one that I had in my Anne Lindsay collection.  I have had the pleasure of meeting and being cooked for by Anne, a very long time ago (about the same time as this European adventure) and I remember the time (and the food) fondly.

I searched on line to try to find the recipe and could not come up with anything.  I found instead this one that looks to be pretty close.  It is from the Epicurious website and is credited to Claudia Roden-The Food of Spain.

Seafood Paella
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Spanish
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 5 T olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed to a paste or finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • ½ t sugar
  • salt
  • 1 t sweet paprika
  • a good pinch saffron threads
  • 4 cleaned small squid, bodies sliced into ¼-inch-wide rings, tentacles left whole
  • 2 c medium-grain Spanish paella rice or risotto rice, such as Arborio or Carnaroli
  • 3 c fish or chicken stock, plus more if needed
  • 1 c dry white wine
  • 12 jumbo shrimp in their shells
  • 16 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
Instructions
  1. Fry the onion in the oil in a 16-inch paella pan until soft, stirring often.
  2. Stir in the garlic, and before it begins to colour, add the tomatoes.
  3. Add the sugar, salt to taste, paprika and saffron, stir well, and cook until the tomatoes are reduced to a jammy sauce and the oil is sizzling.
  4. Add the squid and cook, stirring, for a minute or so.
  5. Add the rice and stir well until all the grains are coated.
  6. (You can prepare the dish to this point up to an hour in advance).
  7. Bring the stock and wine to a boil in a saucepan.
  8. Pour over the rice, bring to a boil, and add salt to taste (even if the broth tastes a bit salty, it will not be salty when it is absorbed by the rice).
  9. Stir well and spread the rice out evenly in the pan (do not stir again),
  10. Cook the rice over low heat for 18 to 20 minutes, moving the pan around and rotating it so that the rice cooks evenly.
  11. Lay the shrimp on top after 10 minutes and turn them when they have become pink on the first side.
  12. Add a little more hot stock toward the end if the rice seems too dry and you hear crackling frying noises before it is done.
  13. When the rice is done, turn off the heat and cover the pan with a large piece of foil.
  14. Steam the mussels with a finger of water in a pan with a tight-fitting lid. As soon as they are open, they are cooked.
  15. Throw away any that have not opened.
  16. Arrange the mussels on top of the paella.

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Toni’s version did not include squid but did include Italian sausage, chicken and clams.

Kath’s quote: “Do not overcook this dish. Most seafoods…should be simply threatened with heat and then celebrated with joy.” –Jeff Smith

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Love-that is all.

 

Boston Arrival Day

November20

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Our plane touched down just as the sun was beginning to set on the city of Boston.  By the time we retrieved our luggage and caught the shuttle to the water taxi stand, it was gone but there were still gorgeous colours in the western sky.

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Our water taxi driver was a lovely gal who asked if we minded taking a couple of extra minutes to rendezvous with another boat.  She explained that her parents had arrived by water from their home and had her dinner for her.  Hey, we’re laid-back folk from the Canadian prairies, it certainly sounded neighbourly to us.

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Boston harbour is gorgeous.  I guess we should not have been surprised by the number of huge yachts also enjoying the waterway.

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We came closer and closer to what we found out would be our hotel for our stay-the Battery Wharf Fairmount.

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After a quick check in, we ventured out again to see where we could scrounge up a late dinner. There were a number of cozy looking restaurants all within walking distance of our hotel.  It was going to be hard to choose.

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We had done our research and we knew that we wanted seafood as fresh as we could get it.  An restaurant dubbed the “sea” in Italian presented itself as a likely candidate and we were able to secure the last table at Mare Oyster Bar.

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We commenced with a couple of local beer and knew that we had come to the right city and would be in good hands.  We had been tempted to order the Shellfish Tower which included 18 oysters, 6 clams, 4 jonah crab claws, 4 shrimp cocktail, and 1/2 chilled lobster, when we had seen it delivered to other tables.  I was glad that we had restrained ourselves.

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We cleverly settled for a platter of oysters on the half shell.  They were amazing but our server seemed taken aback when I requested my customary Worcestershire sauce to make them even more stellar.

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Our jumbo shrimp cocktail blew us away.  They were $6 for each shrimp and were so enormous that we had to eat them with a knife and fork like a lobster tail.

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Next up were two absolutely enormous pan seared scallops, the likes of which we had never seen before.

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These were the seafood meatballs composed of calamari tentacles and shrimp.  We were more than satisfied with our first tastes of Boston and decided to stroll and do some more exploring.

Mare Oyster Bar on Urbanspoon

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We walked through this door into Mike’s Pastry a.k.a. cannoli heaven!

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D loved his pistachio cannoli and I managed to limit myself to a single bite.

We couldn’t believe that we had only been in Boston for four hours.  We headed back to the gorgeous Battery Wharf Fairmount  to rest up for the next day.

Kath’s quote: “And this is good old Boston, The home of the bean and the cod…”-John Collins Bossidy

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Love-that is all.

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