A sneak peek of @RightSomeGood, #Halifax edition

Something very special is happening in Halifax this weekend: the folks behind Cape Breton’s annual foodie festival, Right Some Good, are setting up shop smack-dab in the heart of downtown.

They’re shutting down Spring Garden Road this Sunday (June 29th), transforming the main drag into a pedestrian-only pop-up paradise of local products coupled with impressive culinary talent. An interesting side note: the last time Spring Garden Road was closed for an all-day event was 15 years ago, for the Word On The Street festival.

This gourmet street fair will feature 12 visiting “master chefs” competing alongside local chefs on the culinary stage. These teams will collaborate on street food creations, which will then be offered up to the visiting public (while supplies last, of course) between 9:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. (admission to Sunday’s street fair is free, but you can buy tickets to sample food and drink).

Today, I was treated to a sneak peek of the types of seasonal, local ingredients that may be included in this weekend’s events, and I have to say, it looked Right Some Good to me… :)

From HardyWares, which makes pickles, relishes, jams, jellies and preserves, I sampled an impressive Blueberry Grand Marnier Jam and a Whiskey Marmalade, which I was suspect of at first, but is actually really lovely. This small, home-based business based out of Necum Teuch, Nova Scotia (I had to GoogleMap it, I won’t lie), regularly sells their products at Alderney Landing Farmers Market, but you really should look for their booth this Sunday at Right Some Good.

And if you haven’t yet had the experience of trying the Haskap berry, you really should. Grown in Blockhouse, Nova Scotia, these berries are a member of the Honeysuckle family, and were first introduced to Canada around 1967. They are apparently pretty good for you, too: they’re high in anthocyanins, vitamin C, phenolic compounds and other antioxidants. They kind of look like elongated, bumpy blueberries, but most importantly, they’re absolutely delicious. The folks at Haskapa have created some very cool products from these berries: everything from juice and cereal bars to ice cream and jellies. I was really impressed with the jalapeno haskap jelly, and will do my best to visit the Haskapa table early on Sunday, before they run out of Haskap ice cream :)

Another berry will be making an appearance on Sunday: the tried and true blueberry. Bloo juice hit the shelves of grocery stores in November 2013, and was a finalist for the Retail Council of Canada’s Grand Prix Product Award. Each bottle contains juice from approximately 600 blueberries, grown right here in Nova Scotia. Not only is it good for drinking, but the company has collaborated with local chefs to develop some innovative recipes that use their juice as a key ingredient.

After sampling just a few of the ingredients and products that will be on offer at Sunday’s street fair, I definitely plan on making my way down to be a part of this pop-up experience…

And if fine dining/fancy is more your thing, two very impressive dinners are being held as part of the Right Some Good festival, as well! On Friday, Michelin-star chef Cristina Bowerman has created a five-course menu that will be served up to guests at the Stadacona Drill Shed (tickets are about $125 with taxes and fees), and on Saturday, guests will dig into New York chef Ed Cotton’s sumptuous-sounding four-course meal aboard the HMCS Preserver (tickets are about $164 with taxes and fees). While the price-point may seem a wee bit steep, it’s actually a very good value for what’s sure to be an incredible dining experience!

I’m really pleased to see an event that promotes local products and talent is coming to Halifax this year, and that it’s being showcased in the heart of downtown Halifax. I hope it’s successful, and becomes an annual affair. :)

Let’s talk about how much I love @TheCanteenNS

A lot.

This place opened in the space above Two If By Sea just a few months ago, and I’ve only managed to make it here three times. Which is actually pretty impressive, given that I work in Burnside, and don’t make a habit of traveling to downtown Dartmouth to eat lunch.

Still, the food here is well worth the trip.

Plus, while you’re here, you may as well treat yourself to an iced latte from TIBS :)

The owner/chef of The Canteen is Renée Lavallée (aka Feisty Chef), and she and her team are doing a damn fine job of creating innovative and fresh sandwiches, soups and salads. There’s always at least one veggie option, and seasonal/local ingredients are a staple. Today, I had the lamb gyro:

Lamb GyroEverything is super fresh and flavourful: a crunch of cucumber and pickled onion, creamy garlic dressing, and seasoned lamb are well balanced and satisfying. Simplicity seems key in this kitchen, and it’s a winning recipe for The Canteen.

If you haven’t made the trip to check it out yet, I recommend doing so soon. :)

 

Back with a bang: Flourless espresso chocolate cake

Yeah, I suck. No posts in months… What can I say? It’s been busy in my world for the past little while.

BUT, I’m on vacation now, and I have some making up to do in the blog department.

So, by way of an apology, please feast your eyes on this incredible creation:

Flourless chocolate espresso cake

Okay, it may kinda look like a collapsed cake, but it’s actually Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Cake with Espresso Glaze (and it’s supposed to look like that!)

It was Kevin’s birthday yesterday, and I try and bake his cake every year (I don’t think I’ve bought one yet!). As you can see from previous years’ creations (last year and the year before), he kinda has a thing for chocolate. I tried to persuade him to let me make something lighter/fruity this year, but he was having no part of it.

So, after a bit of time with my good friend Google, I found a recipe that was simple, but classic: a decadent chocolate dessert, which used coffee to temper some of the sweetness.

IMG_20140609_112347_hdr_editIMG_20140609_112759_hdr_edit IMG_20140609_124714_hdr_edit

The recipe was easy to follow and really didn’t feature any odd ingredients (you can find everything you need at your local grocery store). Since there’s no flour in this recipe (NO, I am not gluten-intolerant, or gluten-free, or whatever you frigging call it these days), the cake’s volume comes from a meringue that you fold into the chocolate/espresso batter. I had a moment during this part of the baking process where I lost faith and started to panic, thinking that it wasn’t going to turn out properly, but I soldiered on (planning to go to Dairy Queen and get an ice cream cake, if all else failed).

Thankfully, it turned out perfectly! Well, aside from my terrible writing on top (it’s really hard to write on a cake, okay?!) I actually had these cool chocolate scribbler things from Laura Secord (thanks, Mom!) but even with those handy little things, my writing was pretty messy.

Anyways, topped with a drizzle of warm espresso glaze, we quickly forgot about my poor icing-penmanship. :)

TIP: If you make this recipe, I’d serve it warm, with French Vanilla ice cream.

Mini carrot cake + cream cheese frosting = Happy Valentine’s Day!

Screw the Valentine’s Day cards… skip straight to the sweets, please!Roses, just for you!

I know that Valentine’s Day is just a commercial holiday designed to make money… and I don’t normally buy into it, much. But this year, I came across some adorable Valentine’s Day-themed cupcake accessories at the grocery store, and remembered a recipe I came across in a new cookbook I received from a good friend for Christmas.

Before I knew it, the kitschy cupcake paraphernalia was in my shopping cart.

Cupcake Accessories

The recipe I was using was actually for mini cupcakes, but I decided to make full size ones (because, let’s face it, who wants JUST ONE BITE of carrot cake?!) I rather liked how the recipe turned out — fluffy and flavourful, with just a hint of orange and spice), but I prefer my carrot cake to be a bit juicier (with raisins or pineapple). I also added some cinnamon to my cream cheese frosting, which worked nicely with the flavour of the cake).

Spiced Mini Carrot Cupcakes

They turned out quite well, I think! (Kevin ate NINE. NINE!) I wish I could eat nine cupcakes without gaining 40 pounds. Life isn’t fair. Just sayin’.

...With Cream cheese frosting

We Dine Around #Halifax (@restassocNS)

Did you know that for the entire month of February, a bunch of restaurants are offering prix fixe menus? It’s a great promotion for restaurants to entice new customers in to try out restaurants they might not otherwise, and generally is a great value for the consumer, with menus ranging between $25 to $45 per person.

Kevin and I decided to head out the first night of the promotion to visit daMaurizio. Unfortunately, there was an hour-long wait for a table because we failed to make a reservation, and we weren’t overly interested in waiting at the bar. We headed out back into the cold, dejected… but perked up when we realized that, right next door, was CUT, which is also participating in the promotion.

I’d yet to check out CUT yet, so we saw this as a great opportunity to visit a new spot.

The Grill by CUT (which is supposedly the more casual part of the restaurant, located on the lower floor) is offering the prix fixe menu, which was $35 per person. You can choose between two appetizers (a parsnip & pear puree or NS short rib ravioli), two entrees (duck ragout or Arctic char) and two desserts (upside down Annapolis Valley apple cake or gingerbread pudding).

I started with a LaHave cocktail (a concoction of Absolut Pear, St. Germain elderflower, LaHave Forest’s haskap juice, & Bolla Prosecco), which was a fizzy treat flavoured with the distinct haskap berry juice.

I opted for the Parsnip & Pear Puree, a rich, sweet dish with a slight spicy kick from the parnsip, coupled with the earthy and creamy goats cheese.

The Arctic Char was light and flaky, served on a bed of seasoned green beans and swiss chard, a buttery crouton and a splash of that delightful haskap reduction.

Finally, to finish, we both ordered the gingerbread pudding, which was every bit as delicious as it looks. A warm square of well-seasoned gingerbread, served with maple syrup and a small scoop of  slowly melting vanilla bean ice cream. Perfection.

Kevin and I also really enjoyed the dining room atmosphere: music was playing at just the right level, the decor was hip enough to be interesting, but not so bizarre that it came across as pretentious, and the service was warm, attentive and frankly, impeccable.

A fabulous meal, all-around.

Storm snacks, anyone? Sorry, but #stormchips ain’t gonna cut it on a #snowday

Well, here we go again: another blizzard is headed our way. *sigh*

As we ready to hunker down and weather the storm, one of the most important things to consider are our provisions. I’m not talking bottled water here (that would be far too practical). Nope. I’m talking delicious, hearty, warm-you-to-the-bones grub that will make you perfectly content to go into full hermit mode.

My suggested pantry items/meals/snacks to help you survive any storm:

BOOZE

My elixir of choice is wine: I picked up a bottle of red (Trapiche Broquel Malbec) and white (Wyndham Estate Bin 222 Chardonnay) on my way home the night before the blizzard. Don’t worry, I don’t plan on drinking both. If the storm isn’t too bad, the white will suffice. If I need to shovel 40 centimetres out of my driveway, well, the Malbec may be in order.

CAFFEINE

I stock up on espresso and made sure my tea selection hadn’t dwindled too badly… warm drinks are a must. Bailey’s isn’t a bad idea, either.

SOUPS & STEWS

Bust out the slowcooker, chuck in some root veg (I had onion, turnip, mini potatoes, carrots and parsnips on-hand), chunks of browned stewing beef, seasoning and some liquid, and you’ll have a warm, hearty dish to dig into for lunch and dinner (no need to make multiple meals). Best served with baguette and butter, of course:

Beef stew

If you’re a vegetarian, I suggest curry sweet potato soup, instead: roast 3-4 sweet potatoes in the oven and scoop out the insides. Set aside. In a large pot, saute a diced onion and two cloves of garlic in two tablespoons of melted butter, then add in 2 tbsp.of curry powder and 1 tsp. cumin. Stir until the spices are mixed in, then add your sweet potato and mix well. Add 4 cups of veggie stock and 1 cup of milk (I like the creaminess), plus salt and pepper to taste. Again, best served with baguette and butter (most things in life are).

SNACKS

Forget chips, give me cheese. After you’ve shoveled out the driveway, you’ll want something warm, gooey and delicious. My suggestion is cheese fondue. It isn’t hard to make (really) and you can even invite the neighbours over to share (especially if they’ve helped you shovel). I always use this recipe (http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/cheese_fondue/) minus the kirsch (because what the fuck is that anyways, and who actually has it in their kitchen?)

Cheese Fondue

Anyways, those are just my personal tips for surviving a blizzard. I’m sure you have your own suggestions! What are your favourite #stormsnacks?

Birthday celebrations with @Unwinedwmoira & friends!

My birthday is on Christmas Day *cue the sympathetic “ooh that must be awful” reaction*

Actually, I don’t really mind sharing my day of birth with the Big Guy’s son… To me, it just means there are usually more people around to celebrate! Growing up, I was also very spoiled by my parents, partially because I think they felt guilty about their timing… so they were always very careful to celebrate my birthday independently from Christmas (separate gifts, cards, a cake: you get the picture).

It can be kind of tough to manage to get people together this time of year, though, so this year, I tried to make it as appealing as possible: I decided to host a wine tasting party!

And since I know very little about wine, I brought in an expert to show us the ropes. Moira Peters, of Unwined Tasting Parties, is a certified Sommelier. She works with clients to select an assortment of wines, then comes to your home (or office, or other venue), to teach you a bit more about the art of enjoying and appreciating wine.

Even after spending a few years hobnobbing on Whistler’s fine dining scene, where I was fortunate enough to attend a few luxurious winemakers dinners, I must admit I still don’t know much about wine, apart from what I generally enjoy. So when I heard about Unwined, I was pretty excited.

Contrary to what you might expect from a wine tasting, this is NOT a pretentious affair. I gathered a group of about 10 friends & family members into my almost-completely-renovated basement, Moira brought along all the stemware, tasting notes, clipboards, pencils and spitcups (don’t worry, we didn’t waste too much), and we started sniffing, swirling and sipping the night away!Unwined Tasting

Moira does a great job of making the world of wine accessible to everyone, explaining how to evaluate any wine with the eye, nose and mouth. Personally, I learned quite a bit from the evening: like what “legs” are, and that you should never judge a wine at first sip! I think it’s also safe to say we had loads of fun in the process, too… with some Christmas carols playing in the background and a few goodies to nibble on throughout!

Tasting notes!

Ladies wine tasting

I think the pricing for the event was reasonable, as well: Moira’s fee varies depending on the size of the group, and the price also depends on wine package you select (she actually kind of blended 2 packages for me). Our evening of wine tasting at home with 10 friends (and no glassware to wash at the end of the night), was under $400. Well worth the experience, I’d say!

Happy Birthday to me! :)