Browsing: Restaurant Features

The Pleasure is all Mine

February4

I chatted about my post yesterday with a friend who directed me to one of her favourite food books that was neglected from my list.  This clever book is written by Suzanne Pirret and is a  a combination of recipes and a narrative about being single and wondering why eating alone has gotten such a bad rap.

I quote:  “This is a book about cooking for yourself decadently.  There are serious cookbooks written by serious chefs and light and breezy cookbooks written by wholesome cooks.  This is both.  It’s naughty and doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Each chapter begins with a short story based on my experiences living in New York, Los Angeles, Paris and London followed by my repertoire of recipes that have been inspired by modern classics, some great chefs, my travels and, I might add, a far amount of successful experimentation.  They’re all for one serving and written in a fairly simple style….Think solitude at its most celebratory. ”

My friend tells me that these recipes are so delicious she still cooks from this book now that she’s is an old married lady (celebrating her first anniversary this weekend).

This is her favourite:

Not Suzanne's Version

Not Suzanne's Version

“Best Mac “N” Cheese

Nothing fancy or weird.  This is the real deal.

Cook a c of elbow macaroni in boiling salted water with a little oil added.  Meanwhile , in another saucepan, make a bechamel:  melt a T of butter, whisk in a T of flour and cook until bubbly.  Add a c of cold milk and continue whisking until thickened,  Season with salt, white pepper, a nice pinch of hot chili powder and some chopped fresh thyme of flat-leafed parsley (or just a simple grating of nutmeg).  Stir in a cup of grated cheese, such as a combo of white and yellow cheddar, or some parmigiana and/or Emmental-whatever you favourites might be.  You have a lot oif choices.

Drain the pasta and toss into your bechamel.  Spoon into a small casserole dish, sprinkle with toasted fresh or panko breadcrumbs, place on a baking sheet and stick in a 400 degree F oven until golden and bubbly, about 15 minutes or so.

Drink whatever you want.”

I would respectfully challenge my friend to a mac and cheese cook off.  My family loves my version adapted from The Best of Bridge.  You decide.

Gourmet Mac and Cheese

A delicious Mac and Cheese from The Lobby on York

A delicious Mac and Cheese from The Lobby on York

Cook and drain 2 1/2 c macaroni and set aside. Melt 1/4 c butter over medium heat; stir in 1/4 c flour; mix well. Add 2 c milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Add 1 t salt, 1 t sugar (sounds strange but just do it!) and 8 oz. grated cheddar cheese. Mix well. Mix 2/3 c fat free sour cream and 1 1/3 c cottage cheese into sauce. Mix with macaroni. Sprinkle another 2 c grated cheddar cheese and 1 1/2 c bread crumbs over top. Dot with 2 T butter and sprinkle with paprika. Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes. Serves 6.

The District-by my first Guest Blogger: Denise

February2
A foodie with a conscience…not as great as it sounds
Here are some things to know about my foodie background. I come from a rather large french family who plans meals weeks in advance. I’ve been groomed to savour food, finish your plate and enjoy the amazing culinary experiences brought before you by aunts/moms/grandmas. Much like Kath’s family, we show our love through sharing great food!
During the week I’m fairly laid back in the kitchen; nothing to complicated unless both Doug (editor note: her Doug is Doug #2 as my Doug is Doug #1) and I are home. But usually once a month we book a “grown up” date with our favourite foodie couple to try out a new restaurant. This month we decided on “The District” in Winnipeg’s exchange district.exchange-district-winnipeg-lg One of Doug’s good friends is a manager there, and after he was done work he sat down to dinner with us to show us some of the highlights of this great restaurant.
Having opened just over a year ago, The District is a unique downtown dining experience.3842514277_f3e987739f Dinner is served in an open, airy room that feels elegant but still comfortable. We started with a lovely red wine (which of course I will never remember the name of, but apparently we really liked it judging by the number of bottles we drank).
For appetizers we tried an amazing Berkshire Pork. I love the way their menu is laid out, and basically tells you all of the elements of the dish you’re about to try.
Ex: Berkshire Pork
Confit belly lemongrass ginger poached granny smith apple
brioche french toast smoked walnut maple puree!
That’s right, Pork and French Toast…a match made in heaven.
We also went for the appetizer special of the evening which was a simple but delicious bison ravioli. To die for. Something to note is that pretty much everything in this place is made in house, and usually fresh that day.
I was torn between the halibut, but ultimately went with something that I would never usually consider in a restaurant: rabbit. Here is what the menu described.
Rabbit
black olive roma tomato braised leg
smoked loin pearl barley risotto cumin roasted carrot (substitute for asparagus because cooked carrot is about the ONLY thing I can’t stand).
I was staring at my menu thinking “how often am I going to have the chance to eat a well prepared piece of rabbit. If I’m going to form an opinion about this type of meat, I might as well try it in an upscale restaurant paired with my favourite side dish (i LOVE risotto).
So, I ignored the slight nagging voice in my head (and the voices at the table teasing me for my ethical dilemma) and went for it. The meal came, and despite my friend sitting across the table wiggling her nose in bunny fashion at me, the meal was amazing. The risotto was creamy and done perfectly with big chunks of chorizo in it, and sauce that came with the rabbit was beautifully done and featured a lot of Mediterranean flavours.
3842514291_861a71c875We finished the meal with a yummy desert and then headed to the lounge side of the building for a night cap and some pool. The lounge is across the hall, and what a beautiful room it is! Deep red walls, paintings of jazz musicians and big comfy leather chairs invites you in to the warm atmosphere (we lost track of time which resulted in a very tired me for work the next morning).backroom
I’m still feeling pangs of guilt for eating a rabbit, but it was something that i had to at least try. Being a city girl I’m slightly removed when it comes to my dining choices, but I think this meal made me take steps in a positive direction to understand and be thankful for where my food is coming from.
So there you have it…meaning found behind a meal and a fabulous downtown restaurant that I would highly recommend to Winnipeggers looking for something different!

The District on Urbanspoon

Pickerel! (aka Walleye)

February1

About this time of year my heart really starts yearning for a walk along the beach of Lake Winnipeg.  People that know me really well, can see that I am lying here.  I am yearning for a walk along the beach of the Is la Mujeres but this year that is not to be.  As I am a practicalist,  I just switch up a couple of details in my head-Lake Winnipeg it is.

ahh Isla

ahh Isla

If you’ve never tasted Winnipeg Goldeye-you deserve to give yourself the treat.  It is a oilier and more solid fish than salmon and is fabulous in your favourite smoke salmon appetizer recipes.  We’ve also started enjoying White Bass from the lake.  It is easier to catch seems more plentiful these days.  Dusted in flour and fried in butter-we eat it by the basketful on the deck with ice cold beer.  There’s usually a horseshoe or boccie tournament going on.

But the prize catch of Lake Winnipeg is Pickerel. Just caught pickerel actually comes alive and dances in your mouth.  I kid you not-that is the most accurate way that I can describe it.  My family loves it very simply prepared but I’ve enjoyed many other versions over the years including fried in crumbled Old Dutch potato chips!

The Lobby's Pickerel and Chips

The Lobby's Pickerel and Chips

There are a number of Grand Beach area restaurants that do pickerel very well.  One of our favourites is the Idyl Thyme where we often celebrate our September wedding anniversary.  In Winnipeg, I’ve loved nut crusted pickerel at Restaurant Dubrovnik’s and panko crusted at The Lobby on York.

Fishing Lake Winnipeg at Sunset

Fishing Lake Winnipeg at Sunset

The best place to buy just caught pickerel is from a local bootlegger but because I will try not to promote any illicit activities, I will not sketch any details here.  There are also multiple Gimli Fish locations in Winnipeg.  Our favourite is the heart of Winnipeg’s North End at Dufferin and McGregor which we always include when we a do a North End Shopping Spree.  I’ll include all of our stops in another entry.  The NE Gimli Fish shop is a corner store-literally.  When you walk in you are struck by the aroma of fish in a very pleasant way.  Perhaps it is made more pleasant by all of the helpful faces of the females behind the counter.  We buy our Panko flakes here as well as mixed seafood for “fruita de mare” recipes and everyone once in a while a treat of pickerel cheeks.  Also the only Winnipeg store that I know of that sells frog legs.  Neechi Foods is another great place to experience and pick up pickerel.

On this night ever cast produced a catch

On this night ever cast produced a catch

The cheek is the little nugget of flesh that can be popped out when your are filletting a pickerel (demonstrated in this U tube link).  I have personally never had this honour but I understand it to be so.  We sautee them in lemon and butter and fresh dill.  They are the close to a small scallop in texture and the taste is totoally unique.  If you don’t live in Winnipeg-come visit us in the summer.  If you do-eat lots of pickerel…it is excellent for your health and the hard working fishermen of Lake Winnipeg will thank you.

Clay Oven

January29

Winnipeg has many wonderful Indian restaurants.  Both Taste of India and India Palace have great reputations and I have to admit that for as long as I’ve intended to try them out-I never have.  On the other hand I have enjoyed Ivory, Charisma and East India Company.  On my hit list is Red Fort Tandoor House where I understand they grind their spices daily.

IMG_2347A number of features make the Clay Oven a pleasant choice on a frosty January evening:  it is adjacent to Indigo (where my husband and I spent the rest of our date night), it is next door to a Starbucks where we grabbed a post-dinner coffee and if you have any room left…also next to a Marble Slab Creamery (we did not have any room left).

The decor was surprizingly sleek and comfortable at the same time.  Charcoal walls and fabric dividers (for privacy) set the scene and we nestled into a bench seat lined with tangerine cushions.  We were in a strip mall but you would never know it once inside.murgh-malai-tikka-kabab-1-500x384

The hospitality was outstanding with many cheerful faces bustling around the open kitchen.  And the food….delicious!  We shared a Maharajah Sizzler which allowed us to sample tiger prawns, pan fried scallops, Chicken Tikka and Saffron Malai Tikka with fresh seared vegetables.  We really enjoyed the mint/yogurt sauce for dipping.  It was likely intended for the fish and chicken but the Naan was also enhanced by the flavour.  This is served with Basmati rice and would have been enough for a shared meal.  We also ordered an assorted Naan basket and now have enough left overs for lunch.  I loved the garlic Naan but especially the Mozzarella Naan.  I appreciate the hoppie taste of a Indian beer and was delighted that they offer Kingfisher at the top of their imported list.

The menu starts with a Spice Primer (the benefits of Indian spices)-who knew!  The place was bustling with an equal number of people stopping in to pick up supper to go.

Here’s a version of the Mint Yogurt Sauce:  In a small bowl or blender, stir together 1/2 c plain yogurt, 2 sprigs of fresh chopped mint, 1 t sugar, 1 t salt and 1/4 t cayenne until well blended. Serve immediately or chill for a while to let the flavors come together.
Clay Oven on Urbanspoon

Comfort Food for a Cold

January27

My friend Laura (honourary sister) is an amazing cook.  Yesterday, she posted on FB that she was cooking for her husband because he had a bad cold.  She sent me the links to what she was preparing.  My goodness recipe use has changed…. when I was little everything that was prepared was made from memory or from a hand-written recipe card.  My Mom had the Madame Benoit Cookbook and that was about it.  When I was married in the 80s a cookbook collection was a must: I started with the Joy of Cooking, then the Best of Bridge Series and then by the time I decided to purge I had two complete Time Life Series that had a dozen volumes each.  Currently on my shelves are cookbooks by Canadian Health experts Anne Lindsey and Bonnie Stern. Jamie Oliver’s Italy, another entitled The Food of Italy-a journey for food lovers, The Soup Bible and a wonderful new one Eat Well from Williams-Sonoma.

But as is my style, I digress… Here are the links to her Mexican treats for her ailing husband:  Chiles Rellenos and Sopa de Limachile-relleno

If the chilies pictured here had a crumbling of a “feta” type cheese on top, they would resemble the most amazing Chiles Relleno in the world!  These are consumed at a little place called La Lomita on Isla Mujeres, Mexico.  Here’s their version entitled Ophelia’s Chiles Releno.

Ophelia’s Chiles Poblanos Rellenos (Stuffed Chiles)
Yield: 4 servings    Heat Scale: Mild to Medium
Tomato sauce:
4 roma tomatoes, chopped

2 small onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup water
Salt to taste

In a pan, sauté the tomatoes, half the onion, and the garlic in 1 tablespoon of the oil for 10 minutes. When cool enough, purée the mixture in a blender with the water until smooth. Meanwhile, sauté the rest of the onion in the rest of the oil over medium heat until browned and soft. Add the purée and cook, covered, over low heat for 10 minutes to blend the flavors.

Chiles:
1 1/3 cup prepared tomato sauce
4 poblano chiles, roasted and peeled
12 ounces Mexican white melting cheese (i.e. Supremo’s Oxaca), cubed
16 toothpicks
Canola oil for deep-frying
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, separated
2 tablespoons heavy cream, at room temperature
4 tablespoons feta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Slice off and reserve the caps of the poblano chiles. Carefully seed and rinse the chiles, keeping them whole. Stuff each chile with the cheese and secure the caps with at least 4 toothpicks each. In a deep pan or wok, heat oil (enough to cover chiles halfway) to 350 degrees F.

While the oil heats, mix the flour, salt and pepper into a shallow bowl. In a separate small bowl whisk the egg whites until frothy. Add the yolks to the whites and whisk until blended.

Just before frying, dip each pepper into the egg and then the flour, covering completely. Lightly shake the pod to remove the excess flour, and carefully return to the egg mixture. Use a spoon to cover the pepper with egg once again, and then return to the flour mixture for a second coating. Shake gently to remove any excess. (This “double dipping” will ensure that the flour sticks and provides an extra crispy coating.)

Using tongs, gently place the pepper in the hot oil. Take care, as it will splatter. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until browned. Turn the pepper once and cook 3-5 minutes more, until browned. Take care not to overcook or the cheese will escape. Drain the cooked peppers on a rack over paper towels for a minute.

To serve, ladle 1/3 cup prepared tomato sauce on a plate and place a chile on top. Garnish with ½ tablespoon heavy cream, 1 tablespoon feta and ½ tablespoon chopped cilantro.LaLomita

I have to get on with my day so I’ll leave Sopa de Lima for another time.

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