Browsing: Uncategorized

Siloam Mission-Love Beyond Imagining

February21

The weather had warmed up to -32 with the wind chill this morning. I was a little bit ticked when my remote car starter didn’t fire up my van for me. This meant that my toes were cold as I started it up in the old fashioned manner. I was so ashamed of my arrogance as I remembered this moment when I arrived at Siloam Mission. Imagine having to line up for a warm bed and a hot meal?  Hundreds of people do so each day at Siloam. I was there at Daughter #2’s urging as the Frenchman is now employed at Siloam and she had heard so many great things about volunteering in their kitchen.

And she was absolutely correct! From the moment I was greeted by a volunteer co-ordinator and introduced to Kitchen Managers Corrie and Chris, I was so impressed. The time passed so quickly as I learned new kitchen techniques and got to work alongside dedicated volunteers including an entire crew of students from the University of Western Ontario who had given up their reading weeks to spend the time as volunteer kitchen assistants!

As I arrived, the breakfast service was just commencing.  Because of the cold, Chris wanted all of the patrons to have a bowl of something hot so porridge was served with toast, peanut butter and fruit.  Hot coffee is unending.  Chris thought that French toast would be nice for tomorrow and he happily mentioned that there are times when he can serve the patrons scrambled eggs or omelets from Burnbrae Farms. I met the good folks from Burnbrae at a bloggers event in Toronto; they will be happy to know what joy ther donations bring.

I was on lunch detail with the rest of the crew.

On the menu was a choice of turkey noodle or mushroom potato soup, a slice of pizza (generously provided by Little Ceasars pizza), a freshly made ham sandwich and a sweet.  In the summer months, Siloam substitutes the soup with a salad.  One of the dessert choices was my favourite Mennonite treat of blueberry platz.   I was tasked with slicing the ham and then took my place on the sandwich assembly line.  The Western team made quick work of the sandwiches because Chris had promised them that he would teach them how to make pasta from scratch to be the “noodles” of the turkey soup.

They were an enthused bunch and kept remarking how they couldn’t believe that they were in a “soup” kitchen and not a multi-starred restaurant.  This is what I was most impressed with.  Chris could cut cooking corners and used packaged stocks filled with additives and excessive salt but he painstakingly made the stock from scratch to ensure the quality.  In addition, from scratch cooking is truly the best use of food and monetary donations and Chris and the folks at Siloam must intrinsically know this.  Of course, “from scratch” methods cannot occur every day, but as often as Chris has the volunteer resources to do so.  Everything is carefully used BUT when I say everything, quality is never compromised.  A volunteer preparing the lettuce for the sandwiches asked Chris if she should use the lettuce if it was discolouring and he responded “the rule of thumb is-we don’t serve it to our patrons, if we wouldn’t eat it ourselves”.

Another of my tasks was slicing up pulled turkey for the soup.  Chris explained how the roasting of 150 turkeys has already commenced for Easter dinner and that every single bit of the bird is utilized.   Turkey necks and wings had been roasted the day before to make the nutritious (and tasty) stock.  When the sandwich line was cleared away, Chris began his pasta making session.

All of these steps went in place, to produce this delicious and nutritious soup.  Why go to this much trouble?  Because food=love and the patrons of Siloam are loved beyond their wildest imaginations.

Our Frenchman and Chris.

Do you have a not-for-profit food focused charity that deserves a special mention in this blog space?  Let me know and I would be happy to visit them.

Kath’s quote: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” –Matthew 25:35

Love-that is all.

A Foodie’s Serendipitous Life

November27

The last 24 hours have been a long, winding strand of spaghetti.

The first time I ever ate a fresh oyster was when a friend and co-worker (actually my boss at that time) taught me the fine art on a Saturday afternoon at the Norwood Hotel here in Winnipeg. Now this was some 30 years ago so imagine my surprize when I went to create the link to the hotel above to see that Seafood Saturdays are still going on (from September to June) at the hotel dining room.

My instructor that afternoon was an oyster aficionado, showing me how to douse it with various sauces (my favourite being lemon and Worcestershire), how to cup the shell in your hand, how to tip it into your mouth but first tilting your head back slightly, so as to open the back of your throat.  I have enjoyed many an oyster, ever since.  My oyster mentor was Doug Stephen creator of Wow! Hospitality and many wonderful Winnipeg restaurant institutions.

Last evening, he greeted us at the door of Terrace in the Park in his robust manner.  Together with Chef Simon, the story unfolded that WOW! believes that the city needs a fish and seafood house and that the beautiful atrium which holds the restaurant formerly called Terrace 55, is just the place.  When the room was filled with invited guests who are friends and suppliers of WOW!, sipping on fine wines and sampling little tastes from the new menu, the room was literally vibrating with warmth and enthusiasm.  If last night was any indication, the concept will be a resounding success.

I limited myself to a single glass of wine because I knew that I had to get up very early this morning to work as a food stylist for The Best of Bridge Slowcooker Cookbook tour.  The publicist is a fellow that I have know even long than WOW!’s Doug, having met Rorie over 35 years ago when we both worked in the book department at Eaton’s.  Ron Robinson (of McNally Robinson fame), another “bookie”, worked there as well.  Years later when I was full time at The Keg Steakhouse and Bar, Rorie and his bride Sally asked The Keg to cater their wedding reception (not something they were asked very often) as they had sentimentally enjoyed many favourites from the appetizer menu together.  (Gord Howard, the owner of the Winnipeg Kegs was at the reception last evening too).

Sally Vaughan Johnston, who is the cookbook author, has been touring Canada to promote the book and when she and Rorie were chatting (as I put together the food set) they found that Sally’s stylist in Regina was a Chef by the name of CJ Katz who I will be food styling for next week when she starts her tour for the cookbook entitled Taste-Seasonal Dishes from a Prairie Table.  If she were to include Edmonton on that tour, Sally would style for her!

Shortly, I will head out the door to meet Sally and Rorie again, this time at the Prairie Ink Restaurant at McNally Robinson Booksellers (there, it is happening again!)  I have had a long and lovely career in the restaurant and food business and in the last 24 hours I can see so clearly how it is all woven together into a never-ending loop.  I love my work and my life as a foodie.

Kath’s quote: “Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table.”
Charles Pierre Monselet

Love-that is all.

(The rest of) 10 Foods that will Rock Your Socks Off

November23

The answer to yesterday’s query is the Barley Risotto also contained these three items from Mairlyn Smith’s list: canola, dark green leafy veggies and onions & garlic.  Here are the rest of recommended foods from our wonderful evening at Be Well Connect.

4. Canola Oil is high in two “good” fats that are essential in your diet because your body can’t make them. One protects against heart attacks and strokes by helping to lower bad cholesterol. The other is important for the brain and for the growth and development of infants.  Compared to all other vegetable oils on the market, canola oil has the lowest levels of the fats that are “bad” for human health.  One serving of canola oil each day will deliver about a quarter of all the vitamin E you need. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and is known to protect against cancer and memory loss.

5. Onions & Garlic (and Scallions) act as powerful antioxidants, stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. Mairlyn also added that they are anti-fungal so maybe I can clear up the mossy stuff that is growing between my toes (JK wanted to see if you were still awake).  These are so easy to add to so many dishes.  Tonight as an example, we enjoyed left over prime rib in sandwiches on dark pumpernickel rye bread.  I sauteed up a mess of onions and garlic (in canola oil) to top the meat.  Oh, yum.

6. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables have the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They are a rich source of minerals (including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. (I didn’t even know that there was a vitamin K).  I particularly like arugula for its peppery taste but you can also include more kale, spinach and bok choy into your meals.  Mairlyn suggests that you build your evening meal around a leafy green vegetable which will be a mind shift for me, as I typically create my meals around a protein and a carb.

7. Nuts! Well I wouldn’t call Mairlyn nuts but she is pretty kookie…   Mairlyn is very petite and she scopped up a small handful of almonds (she prefers walnuts) to illustrate that even though nuts are a very important inclusion in your diet, you should limit them to a small amount.  I imagined the quantity would be just right to top a salad or my morning yogurt.

8. Berries are the easiest of the list for me to get really excited about.  Mairlyn adds that she only eats locally harvest fruits which are now out of season so she substitutes frozen berries at this time of year.  I too always have a wide selection of frozen berries to choose from.  Some bags are the flash frozen strawberries from u-picks in our area and other are the wild blueberries that are now available in the freezer section.  Not only do I always have something available to whip up a quick dessert like Platz but we love berry sauces with pork tenderloin, or mixed with garlic and balsamic vinegar as a salad dressing. 

9. Orange fruits and veggies hold an abundance of antioxidants, vitamins and  fiber and are good for your skin, eyes and heart, and they may also decrease your risk of cancer. The best-known nutrient in orange foods is beta carotene, a powerful antioxidant which gives sunny fruits and vegetables their brilliant color. Experts say beta carotene is not only good for eye health it can also delay cognitive aging and protect skin from sun damage. Orange foods are chock full of vitamin C, an antioxidant which boosts the immune system, protects against cardiovascular disease and helps rebuild collagen in the skin.  Mairlyn even referred to the benefits of using orange zest, which may explain why I am often compelled to eat the skin of my oranges.  Perhaps I should listen to my body more often.

10.  I can’t for the life of me remember Mairlyn refering to salmon but I understand that it is on her list.  So here is a good illustration that I need to eat more foods that a) will help with my hearing or b) inrease my memory capacity. Perhaps it was because we were also sipping on a rich deep red wine at the time or that we were tucking into our barley risotto, so I was admittedly distracted.

So, there you have it.  Focus on eating more of these and you will find that you are eating less of the empty calories! Be well.

Kath’s quote: “The onion and its satin wrappings is among the most beautiful of vegetables and is the only one that represents the essence of things. It can be said to have a soul.”-Charles Dudley Warner

Love-that is all.

Chef Mary Jane Feeke of Benjamin’s

November20

The first time that I met Chef Mary Jane was a couple of years ago when I was fortunate to be invited to an Olympic Culinary Team Dinner.  At that meeting she was up to her eye balls in plates and trays in the vast kitchen.  I assessed in moments that MJ was a “behind the scenes” style of chef who ensures that every detail was taken care of.  So too, when D and I arrived at Benjamin’s in Selkirk last evening, she was at the door to greet us and ensure that we knew that the path through the courtyard might have some slippery spots.

Inside, and down a flight of stairs, I was instantly in love with their new space.  110 year old stone and brick walls of Selkirk’s former bank have been exposed and brought back to luster.  Every nook of the wide open area has a special charm but we were particularly enthralled with a glass room where Mary Jane envisages Chef’s Tables and Dinner Clubs.  The space is still “a work in progress” and we had been invited for a special preview.

We started with nibbles of a mushroom tart kissed with the sweetness of birch syrup; a soft turnover of brie that was accompanied by Manitoba apples but not just any local apples, they were her own Grandpa’s apples and a Saskatoon topped chicken brioche.

Other small plates were served over the course of the evening including a barley risotto

and a Lefsa (potato pancake) that was wrapped around smoked salmon, cream cheese, and asparagus and placed upon pumpkin puree.  This struck a special cord for D and I as Lefsa is a Scandinavian dish that his Mom prepares every year for Christmas dinner.  D’s family enjoys them buttered and rolled with sugar instead of bread, but now that Chef Feeke has demonstrated other options, we are excited to experiment.

Thin slices of succulent roast pork came next with a red and green pepper couscous and stuffed white baby turnips.

We got to participate in the making of our salads with a demonstration in molecular gastronome.  We observed that when a thick dressing concocted of pureed rhubarb and cherries was plunged into an agar solution, a ball of dressing was formed.  We also dropped a balsamic reduction by eye-droppers into a cold canola oil which produced tiny little balls of dressing.  When both these items were placed on top of mixed greens the tastes were a surprizing delight.

Our final tastes of the evening were a variety of cheeses, petite fours

and luscious cupcakes contributed by another guest-Constance Popp.

The conversation while courses were served was absolutely enlightening but I will save that chapter for another day.

Benjamins gourmet foods on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Anybody can make you enjoy the first bite of a dish, but only a real chef can make you enjoy the last.”-Francois Minot

Love-that is all.

Kid Friendly Dining in Winnipeg

November14

Here is an article that I was reminded of today.  I originally wrote it for Dish Magazine. 

What is your criteria for a child-friendly restaurant? The answer will be different depending upon the age of your child (or children).  My husband and I met in the restaurant business and we always knew that dining with our children would be a part of our lives

 Here are some guidelines that helped us over the years:

Since deep-fried options weren’t our first choice for our children, we became experts at scoping out the affordable places with grilled cheese sandwiches (Kay’s Deli, Star Grill), mac and cheese (Bistro 7 ¼, Saucer’s), falafels (Falafel Place-Caution: cash only) and spaghetti (Bellisimo, Old Spaghetti Factory).  Of course pizza was always a good option too (Mona Lisa, Santa Lucia).

Many kids, including our own, like to experiment and create food of their own and so ethnic restaurants where they can choose their own items to have grilled (Mongos Classic Grill, Palatal) or stuff into a fajita (Don Pedros, Los Chicos) are a great choice.  Vietnamese was often a favourite choice for our youngsters.  We taught them at home how to handle rice & lettuce wraps before we ventured out (Little Saigon, Viva).  Moo shi was another favourite and one order could feed three kids quite nicely (Spicy Noodle House).  Let your kids have messy fun.  Why not?  You don’t have to clean up after them for a change.

Dim sum always did the trick for us because the food could be delivered quickly (Dim Sum Garden, Kum Koon Garden).  We would often let the kid’s have a turn making a selection for all of us and the parade of carts circling around was fascinating to them. 

Buffets also empower kids when they can make their own decisions (East India Company, Buffet Square).  They are more likely to eat what you’ve paid for, if they decided to select it in the first place. 

Of course it is always a bonus, if a restaurant has crayons or an activity sheet (Kegs, Olive Garden).  We always considered it our responsibility though to engage our own kids so we would play games of 20 questions or eye spy.   

Milk, real fruit juices and smoothies (The Don, Smoothie Bar at the Forks) are always welcome items on a menu too.  If the restaurant is able to provide a top for a toddler’s glass, that is a bonus.  It is difficult for a child to grasp the concept of not “crying over spilt milk”.

High chairs and booster seats make sense as well as wide spaces in between tables where you can wheel in a stroller (Stella’s, The Grove).  The offer by a staff member to heat up a bottle is a nice gesture.  Disposable bibs and wet-naps are always a welcoming sight; as well as the knowledge that there is a change table or a family bathroom available.   

A bright, clean, cheerful, casual décor with easy to clean surfaces is always appreciated.  Lots of visual stimulation is a plus as well.  The Old Spaghetti Factory does a great job of providing this.  We used to take the kids for a stroll to see the fish in the huge fish tank that they once had.

If you haven’t done your research and you arrive at a place with low lights, a hushed atmosphere and worried looks on the hostess’s face, you’ve likely shown up at the wrong place.  A noisier atmosphere (Hermano’s), where you will not be stared down if your infant has a cry or your toddler a temper tantrum is a better choice.  Hey, even the best behaved child has a bad day.

One last point, it is always a good idea to choose a restaurant close to home (Jonnie’s Sticky Buns, Baraka Bakery).  Walking to and from will help work up an appetite.  A short drive time will ensure that you have not used up your child’s good behaviour on the car-ride over.  A spacious parking lot (Confusion Corner, Clay Oven) where you can load and unload the rinky-dinks safely, is a key point too.

Brooklyn’s Bistro named their restaurant after their daughter.  There are images of her on the wall and the food is excellent.  I would put them on my family friendly list, if I were you.  So too, Bistro 7 ¼ where they make whatever a child would like to eat.  One time, the staff even ran to Safeway for chicken to make chicken fingers). Kids love to watch Chef Alex cook and I have seen his son help out in the restaurant with his own pair of chef’s whites on. If you bring a baby around, Danielle will carry him/her while you eat.  They will also let kids draw on their chalkboard.  Now they know how to welcome a new generation of food lovers!

Kath’s quote: “Ask your child what he wants for dinner only if he’s buying.”-Fran Lebowitz

Love-that is all.

« Older EntriesNewer Entries »