Congratulations Nicolino Cucina Italiana

June5

We were invited to a special party recently at Nicolino’s. The occasion was their “impossible to believe” 30th Anniversary. We spotted a number of on air media types, some suppliers and persons who I imagined were regular customers. I was never really certain why we received an invitation, but I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

We do know that we are of the same mind set as Nic of Nicolino’s. This is what he states on his website:

We are in love with high quality food and drink. We care about the people who produce the food, and the places it comes from. We have dedicated our lives to promoting a real understanding of high-quality food and drink. We know that by ensuring we create and offer the best quality products, we improve the lives of our family and yours.

We’ve enjoyed over 25 years of business in Winnipeg, MB taking the traditions and recipes from our home town in Muro Lucano, Italy and bringing the “family style Italian dinner setting” to Winnipeg, MB. We know that Food tastes better when you eat with your family, and we consider all of our staff and customers famiglia.

We were certainly impressed with his family of staff. They tripped over each other trying to serve and make you feel appreciated and welcomed.

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You can taste the love that he refers to in the food. Last evening there were hot out of the oven, crunchy crust pizza that were in circulation. We ate our fair share and remarked about the spritely sauce and exacting use of cheese.

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We LOVED the selection of meats and cheeses

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but especially the truffle salami and truffle cheese. I went so far as to snatch one last wedge of that cheese and we headed out the door. So too the ravioli that we sampled in little bowls.

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We watched with fascination as the chef poured ample amounts of brandy into an enormous hollowed wheel of what we expected was Grana Padano.

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He then ignited the liquor and poured the ravioli into the cheese made gooey by the flame. The results were sensational and if we were not polite Canadians, I may have gone up to the Chef’s table over and over again.

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We washed it al down with a lovely rose poured by old friend Andre Lambert.

In the end, it should not be a surprize that Nic has been in business some thirty years. With his passion for food and his guests, he has a winning philosophy.

Kath’s quote: “If your mother cooks Italian food, why should you go to a restaurant?”- Martin Scorsese

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Curry Dinner

June2

While writing this post, I have really been thinking a lot about my own premise i.e. food=love. I think that a really integral aspect of this statement is “time”.  Time is so precious that when someone very intentionally sets aside time to plan, shop and prepare a meal for someone, it is a substantial investment of themselves towards another .

Recently we were invited to a friend’s home for a curry dinner. These folks have been cooking curry for a long time and knew that D and I were unschooled in the essence of curry cuisine.

When we arrived there were the most amazing aromas wafting from the kitchen. With little pre-amble we sat down to a veritable feast.

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This Tandoori Chicken was deliciously spicy. I removed the skin where the intensity originated and experienced a more subtle flesh. Typically Tandoori chicken is marinated in yoghurt (which increases the tenderness) and spices and then baked in a tandoor oven. I am quite sure that the latter was skipped but the resulting dish was equally fine.

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The Spicy Shrimp in Coconut Milk was my favourite dish. I could have helped myself to a bowl of rice, ladled this sauce over top and been quite content. Somehow the shrimp remained firm and meaty in spite of swimming in the sauce.

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Being a lover of potatoes, any potatoes, I was over the moon with the Bombay Aloo enhanced by two of my other fav foods: garlic and cilantro!

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The delicate and ribbony Basmati rice was spiced with tumeric and pumpkin seeds.

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A lovely way to offset the spice was with a cool and cleansing Raita dip made with yoghurt and cucumber.

Of course we had Naan bread and various pickles to scoop up and enhance the tastes.

Kath’s quote: “Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you“.-St. Augustine of Hippo

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Picasso Feast at The Winnipeg Art Gallery

June1

You may have heard that the Winnipeg Art Gallery is hosting a special exhibit of the works of Pablo Picasso this summer. In celebration of this fabulous exhibit, the restaurant at the Gallery, headed up by Chef Mark Andrews is hosting a special dinner and gallery tour entitled “Feast: Picasso & Mediterranean Cuisine”.

“Feast” is both a noun and a verb. Recently some of my social media friends and I were treated by the WAG (Winnipeg Art Gallery) to a Picasso Feast. This was in celebration of the unique opportunity to view the “Picasso in Canada-Man & Beast” exhibit. We feasted upon three Mediterranean Cuisine courses as Picasso was born in Spain but lived in southern France for much of his life. The dishes themselves were exquisite to look at and we feasted with our eyes.

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We commenced with a first course of omelette nicoise, cherry tomato gazpacho and root vegetable ravioli. I chose this option and was delighted by the tartness of the gazpacho to balance the savoury ravioli and omelette.

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The non-vegetarian option featured a lamb rib instead of the ravioli.

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Our Main Course was free-range chicken with lemon paella cake, baby spring vegetables and the piece de resistance: saffron balsamic syrup! The vegetarian entrée substituted a wild mushroom and mixed bean paella.

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Stuffed to capacity, I do not know how I had the room for dessert but somehow managed to slurp down a banana caramel custard topped with sherry and coconut. The dinner from start to finish was absolutely delectable and enhances the Picasso exhibition with symbolic food choices. See if you can connect the significance of the cherry tomato gazpacho to the Picasso story.

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Our subsequent feast for the eyes was moving to the upper galleries for the Picasso exhibit. We were particularly blessed to have Rachel Baerg, head of education at the WAG along as our personal tour guide. Having studied the history of art as my second minor in university I knew that Picasso was a man way ahead of his time and was truly a genius artiste. Rachel’s enthusiasm absolutely bubbled over and I became to know more about Picasso the man, the husband, father and womanizer.

The installation is awe inspiring with hundreds of prints from The Vollard Suite as well as enormous and significant pieces on loan from other Canadian Galleries. I won’t tarnish your experience by revealing too much.  I had my favourites and so will you when you visit, and  visit you MUST!

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An artist’s (or a chef’s) hands have always fascinated me. How does the vision of the finished product move from the head, past the heart and into the fingers that then puts the piece on a canvas or a plate?

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I had never seen this gorgeous depiction of one of Picasso’s many muses. Her beauty is breathtaking and lovingly put to paper.

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My personal favourites were and always have been Picasso’s simple pencil drawings. He is so masterful that the simplest line is perfection!

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I also got a significant kick out of his self-portraits. What was it about this man that attracted younger lovers in a string over the decades?

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The exhibit is beautifully laid out.

The Feast at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (300 Memorial Blvd.) is available June 8, July 6 and August 10th, 2017. Dinner is at 6 pm dinner and the tour at 7:30 pm. Tickets to Exhibit Only are $18, to the Feast & Exhibit $70 and $65 for WAG members. Reserve your spot at http://wag.ca/visit/events/specialevents/display,event/991/feast or call 204.789.1290.

Kath’s quote: “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.”- Pablo Picasso

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Bertha’s Isla Mujeres

May26

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Bertha’s is owned by the same  family that has Rooster and is equally fine. When we started out we had a little difficulty being understood bu the Italian server.

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Then Enrico came along and his English is exceptional and he made us feel right at home (even though we were the only table in the restaurant).

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Sister # 2 chose camarone (shrimp) on seafood rice

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and my bro-in-law a chicken with an unusual pasta presentation.

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They shared a grill vegetable salad. D and I followed suit and we were delighted with the taste and presentation.

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Another friend was gutsy and selected the whole octopus. He LOVED it!

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We rarely order dessert at an Isla restaurant because the entrée portions are typically huge. But on this night, six of us shared an order of churros with dipping sauces which we all enjoyed immensely.

Kath’s quote: “With the exception of octopus, I don’t think I’ve met any food that I didn’t like. And by the way, sometimes I do like octopus. I’m just not crazy about it by itself. I love sea urchin. I love uni. If I’m going to die of anything, it’s going to be gluttony”. -Justin Timberlake

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Amar Peruvian Restaurant-Isla Mujeres

May25

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The Amar Peruvian Restaurant on Isla Mujeres was very obliging when they said that they could accommodate our large group on a Sunday evening. The place had a nice vibe and was comfortably appointed.

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When we arrived the place was not terribly busy but by the time we ordered, every table was occupied. This caused extensive delays and our dishes came out of the kitchen one at a time. In fact one dish ordered by the Frenchman, never came out of the kitchen at all!

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Niece Dani ordered the vegetarian ceviche and the quinoa salad to share with the folks at her end of the table. She especially enjoyed the citrusy dressing of the latter and made note of the variety of textures and crunchiness.

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She thought that her main of shredded chicken was one of the best meals she had eaten on the island.

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Sister #2 selected the crispy chicken but thought that they over did the soy sauce in both the chicken and the fried rice.

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My Bro-in Law also had a chicken dish and his portion was three times the size of his wife’s.

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Many enjoyed the fish of the day with garlic sauce.

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D and I asked our server to suggest the most “Peruvian” item on the menu. He suggested the tapas of three ceviches. We loved all three but particularly the crispy version which had been coated in panko flakes and fried.

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For our main we shared a bowl of seafood paella which was very hot (temperature not spiciness) and was chock full of seafood especially calamari rings. The taste of saffron which is characteristic of the dish was not apparent. I would also say that it did not have that paella pan taste of haven been lovingly turned over throughout the day.

Service was very apologetic about the long delays. They tried to make amends with caramel and passion fruit panna cottas. D and I quite enjoyed our choices but the table got pretty grumpy because of the trouble in the kitchen. With so many fabulous choices on the island, I am not sure that we twill try Amar again.

Kath’s quote: “The 3 basic ingredients are rice, saffron and olive oil, with seafood, chicken, vegetables and a wide variety of other ingredients that may also be included (pork, rabbit, duck, etc.). Paella originated in the Valencia region, traditionally cooked outdoors and eaten right from the pan”. Food Reference

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