Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rich and creamy treats at the market

This Saturday, I deviated from my usual baked treat and thought I'd give something else a try. I stood in the mile long line-up at Boulangerie La Vendienne, thinking that whatever I get, judging by the line-up every Saturday, their goods must be spectacular.

I was gonna go for a pain-au-chocolat; a delicious chocolatey croissant, but once I got to the front of the line a delicate flaky pastry with slivered almonds on top called out "try me!", and so I did. My original plan was thrown out the window and I bought a wonderful concoction of chocolate croissant meets almond cream and apricot goodness. There was so much going on within this sneaky pastry's sweet, innocent exterior, that I was surprised... pleasantly, but surprised none the less.

From Ted Hutton I purchased yet another oddity; a buttercup squash. I'm slowly going through the species here, and am enjoying it immensely. The buttercup squash is richer than most. With a bright orange flesh, the sweet squash was beautiful roasted with rosemary, sage, hot chili flakes and full cloves of garlic. Another piece of vegetable candy; garlic cloves, roasted with their skin on, lose their piquant taste and become sweet and mushy.

And so, it was yet another day of delights at the Halifax Farmer's Market!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nova Scotia Fall Wine Festival 2008

As the days get shorter, and the nights colder, what better way to pass the season than to spend some time with a good glass of wine!

Get out and sample some of the province's spectacular wines and delicious food at the 2008 Fall Wine Festival presented by The Winery Association of Nova Scotia. The festival runs from September 4-October 26, and features over 30 events within the province.

Check out the event schedule here:

Attend an event and get a chance to win $100 from the Nova Scotian Winery of your choice. Fill out your survey and ballot for your chance to win!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fine Food and Friends

This past Saturday, I was one lucky gal. I got to attend the Fine Food and Friends dinner at White Point Beach Resort as part of the 2008 Nova Scotia Fall Wines Festival. White Point's Executive Chef Alan Crosby prepared a delightful meal highlighting fresh, local produce with a special nod to the province's spectacular blueberries currently in season.

We started the meal with an amuse bouche; a bite of something used to excite your taste buds and whet the palate, and that's exactly what it did. Crosby prepared a scrumptious beef and blueberry taco. That's right folks, a mini taco bowl filled with seared strip steak seasoned with spicy Dijon, served with crispy lettuce and complemented with several fat, juicy blueberries.

The appetizer was a simple organic tomato from Selwood green, oven dried and smothered in spicy cracked black pepper. Served along side was crispy crostini, and some of the creamiest goat cheese imaginable. This was garnished with a lovely lemon thyme spring. Knowing full well that a garnish is used to enhance a dish, I picked the delicate leaves off the sprig to add a hint of lemon to the plate. To pair with the appy, Crosby chose Gaspereau Vineyard's 2006 L'Acadie Blanc; a Silver medal winner at the 2008 Taster's Guild International Competition. The wine was delicate with hints of citrus that did the trick to cut through the richness of the cheese.

The next course was a smoked butternut squash risotto; rich and creamy risotto with a hint of squash, lovely salty bacon lardons and a nutty Grana Padano. To pair with this dish, Crosby chose Blomidon Estates 2006 Chardonnay. The wine's full body was in perfect balance with the creamy risotto, and it's crispness put forth a refreshing contrast to the salty bacon.

Crosby created a fantastic chicken dish for the main event. Now, in a restaurant, I don't normally order chicken. I tend to stay away from menu items that I feel capable of cooking at home. However, even in my best attempt, I could never cook a bird to this caliber. We're talking some of the most mouth-watering poultry I've ever tasted, and a great presentation too!

Essentially, the dish was chicken, two ways. The chicken breast was marinated in earthy sage and refreshing citrus, while the jus, originally 20 L worth, was reduced to just 5 cups, resulting in the most flavorful chicken broth imaginable. The meat was served atop a buttery smooth whipped potato. Alongside was the other chicken element; a tender confit of chicken leg enclosed within a wrapping of Nappa cabbage. Domaine de Grand Pre's 2006 Reserve Foch was the pairing here. A full bodied wine with flavors of red berries, Grand Pre's Foch has won countless of awards, the most recent being a Bronze medal at the 2006 Canadian Wine awards. The rich and creamy elements of the chicken dish helped to balance out this wine's powerful punch.

For dessert, we were served a trio of miniature blueberry desserts; lemon panna cotta with a blueberry gelee, lavender honey pound cake with crumbly Blue cheese, and a blueberry Foch gelato made with the aforementioned Grand Pre's Foch. My apologies, melting ice cream was at stake, so I prioritized and dug in instead of taking a photo! The pairing of blueberry and red wine was a fantastic notion and made for a sinfully sweet dessert, with a hint of spice. The panna cotta was light and refreshing, while the pound cake with blue cheese really balanced Crosby's choice of wine pairing for the dessert course; Gaspereau Vineyard's Reserve Port; a Gold medal winner at the 2008 All Canadian Wine competition.

In my opinion, this wine added a forth dessert to the menu. With nuances of creamy toffee, this liquid velvet dessert wine coated my throat in richness on it's way down. This is, by far, my favorite product from Gaspereau Winery.

Many thanks to the Winery Association and to the F&B staff at White Point for a fantastic meal and a great night. Congratulations to Chef Crosby for the successful execution of a spectacular menu showcasing the culinary gems of Nova Scotia. There are still plenty of events to come, so check out the Nova Scotia Fall Wine Festival 2008 events calendar on the Winery Association's website.

The Winery Association of Nova Scotia

White Point Beach Resort

Gaspereau Winery

Blomidon Winery

Grand Pre Winery

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mezza: Mediterranean Soul Food

Tonight, I let my friend choose a place for dinner. Actually, it was more so the fact that I always have the responsibility to choose a resto, and I wanted none of the pressure. Nope, tonight, I just wanted to sit back, relax and be fed.

We ended up at Mezza on Quinpool Road. This place is fantastic! We walked into a beautiful space, decorated with vibrant orange that matched the equally vibrant aroma of sweet garlic and roasted meat-mmmm, meat.

Our server Jacinda really helped us out when faced with the massive selection. Her description of "the smoothest and creamiest hommus in the city" made it impossible to pass up, likewise with her lamb kebab description. She also helped us map out our game plan where, in a resto with so many small plates, a strategy is seriously needed.

We went for Mezza's Mezzet Sampler; a huge platter blanketed in lettuce leaves cradling mounds of creamy hommus, baba ganoujh, zesty taboule and fatoush salad. Dotted around the platter was a selection of delightfully crispy, salty and deep-fried treats including kebbe, vegetable kebbe, warek enab, and phylo cheese rolls.

Since we are both avid carnivores, a little more meat was needed, so we ordered a roasted lamb kabab to share. The lamb kebab, it seems, was made to refer to the term "succulent". I was delighted to find out that Mezza proudly features only Nova Scotian lamb.

We were served more food than we could ever eat; a dazzling platter with a selection of familiar dishes, and those a little less so, but all making me bite my lip in restraint. After all, when you're served this much food, the trick is to pace yourself, and I never eat without a plan.

Mezza Mediterranean Grill
6383 Quinpool Road


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Diamonds are a girl's best friend!

I went to visit some of my relatives this past weekend, and when I arrived, the sweetest little treats were awaiting me. These sweets weren't candy though, far from it. My uncle had seen some napkin rings and thought that I should have them as dinner-table jewelery!

I'm pretty fortunate in the fact that I'm sort of notorious for my food obsession. Whenever my birthday, or Christmas comes around- which are very close together, I get food-based gifts. And I wouldn't want any other way. Actually, it just so happens that some of the best gifts that I've ever received have been of a culinary nature, case end point: these little beauties.

Here are my top fave foodie prezzies- in no particular order:

1. Blow torch. Yeah, that's right. My sis got me a blow torch from Williams-Sonoma, created for
the specific purpose of melting the sugar atop of creme brulee.

2. Popcorn machine. My friend Claire gave me an invaluable gift of an air-pop popcorn machine. I have an odd fixation with popcorn, I generally have a bowl of it every day, and have often astounded people with the amount that I can eat in one sitting. I mean, why not- It's just air

3. Back to my sis, who gave me another gem from Williams-Sonoma. The mother of all piping bags, which allows you to decorate cakes with adorable frosting techniques, or, the ultimate
sweet indulgence, pipe even more icing into the middle of a cupcake!

4. A cake caddy. Yup, I'm one of those girls. My friends Hayley and Chelsea gave me a plastic cake caddy composed of a tray on which to place the cake with a dome cover that locks AND has a handle. It's so damn cute that I've contemplated using it as a purse. JK!

5. "Diamond" napkin rings...need I say more?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Friday night feast at Morris East

pizzaThis past Friday, I went to Morris East for dinner. With the restaurant's sparkling reputation, I don't know why I figured we could get a table for two at 8:30, but that's beside the point. When we arrived, the line-up was curling out the door and spilling onto the street. It's a good thing they still have their patio furniture because that's where we perched for the 10 minute wait.

Pleasantly enough, some foolish souls abandoned their place in line, and we were bumped to the front. Once inside, the smell of garlic, tomatoes and cheese hit me like a heat wave in August. We were seated at a nice two seater in the middle of the resto and proceeded to review the menu. I use the term "review" in a literal sense as I have frequently studied the menu! I had decided on the pork, peach and goat's cheese pizza, while my friend went for the spicy pepperoni.

The service at Morris East is spot on. Less than 10 minutes after we ordered, we were served two steaming pies. My pizza was phenomenal; sweet grilled peaches with salty prosciutto and creamy goat's cheese. I chose the whole wheat crust, which I dipped in the resto's signature chili oil.

I do wish that they had been a little more generous with the toppings however. After all, the combo of flavors were so delicious, I could eat that pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner., I take that back, as I'm excitedly anticipating what my friend ordered, the spicy pepperoni and banana peppers, for my next visit.

Morris East
5212 Morris Street


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Uncommon goodness at Uncommon Grounds

sconeThis morning I was feeling somewhat less that my usual "perky". I needed a fast snack to get me started for the day. On my way to work, I stopped at Uncommon grounds on Argyle Street for a sweet treat, and some severely needed java.

I ended up with a delicious white chocolate and cranberry scone, and an even better steaming medium roast. Thanks to the staff at Uncommon Grounds for re-energizing this bunny!

Uncommon Grounds
Argyle Street


Friday, September 12, 2008

Pleasantly surprised at Pete's Frootique

soupI really, really wanted a nice healthy dinner. I was on my own for supper, the first in a long time, which meant that my dins destination was entirely up to me. I wandered into Pete's Frootique, and did my usual once a week exploration session for research purposes.

When my stomach pains got unbearable and I noticed some people react to the growling emerging from within, I succumbed to the fact that it was time to stop my food daydreaming and enter food reality.

It was a chilly afternoon, one that makes me crave my warm fleece blanket. Just to clarify, this is not my "blanky" from childhood-I never had one, really! Anyhow, on a day like this, my first instinct is to get something that will warm me up. My wise friend Laura always said that soup is like a hug from the inside.

As I moseyed over to the deli/smoothie/snack bar area, I was amazed, and slightly surprised at the selection. That's right folks, I had never been to that side of Pete's before. Pick your jaws off the floor! Normally, when I go to this food mecca, it's to get ingredients to make my own stuff.

The salad bar was mesmerizing. Seeing as how it takes me forever to judge the validity of any ingredient within a combo of ingredients to make up a salad, I quickly sidestepped this section. I made my way over to the soup tureens from whence the intoxicating aroma of baked beans, chicken soup, beef stock and sweet root vegetables was emerging.

I decided on the Santa Fe Chicken; a creamy rose soup with chunks of chicken, kidney beans, peppers and onions with Southwest seasonings. Then, I went home wrapped myself up in my blanket, and settled in for a nice, warm hug.

Pete's Frootique
1515 Dresden Row


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fun at The Fireside

scallops Some foodie friends of mine are in town, and tonight we had snacks at The Fireside. First of all, the Fireside on a Monday night is one hoppin' place. With all martinis on special for $4.50, taxes in, it's no wonder!

After about 15 minutes of feeling like a lioness stalking her prey, we finally spied a table and settled in with the menu. Since the Fireside's online menu features photos of some of their most popular dishes, I had already decided that I would dine on their seared scallops. My friends chose an order of three cheese nachos with cheddar, mozza and Jarlsberg.

The scallops were served on top of tender, sliced portobello mushrooms. With a fresh salad of arugula and alphalpha sprouts, the dish was completed with a wasabi dijon sauce. The plump scallops had a slightly crisp, caramelized exterior, which was nicely complemented by the tangy sauce. I paired it with Jost's L'Acadie Blanc chardonnay, whose crisp acidity balanced the velvety sauce.

nachosThe nachos certainly had potential, but I think a little more effort might be required. It was almost as if the toppings had just been thrown on top. Clearly, they just need a 'lil more lovin'! I have to give the kitchen props though-the idea of Jarlsberg on nachos is mildly euphoric. We were also provided substantial servings of sour cream and salsa. Normally, my portion cups are empty after two scoops.

Once we were seated, the service was good, the place was buzzin, and we definitely had a "buzz" on. Not a bad end for the beginning of the week.

The Fireside
1500 Brunswick Street


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fall Harvest at the Halifax Farmer's Market

It's that time of year again! I love autumn. It's my favorite season actually; the leaves start to change colour, I take out my warmer sweaters, and put that extra blanket on my bed. It's also my favorite season because of the Fall harvest!

pastry As per usual, my day at the market started with a trip to Julien's bakery for a phenomenal baked good. I got a delightfully flaky pastry with a creamy custard on the inside and sweet, juicy apricots.

Happily, Brian Boates was back at his post with apples and cider today, his first day back since the summer season. Though I'm eagerly anticipating the return of my favorite, Cortland apple, I got a bag of Gravenstein, newly added to Slow Food Nova Scotia's "Ark of Taste" for endangered culinary products. I'm a firm believer in the 'apple a day' superstition...normally, I tally it up to about three!

squash At Ted Hutton's spot, I bought an interesting carnival squash, eggplant and cute little pattypan squash. I foresee a rich veg stew in my future! That makes two newbies added to my culinary repertoire as I've only eaten eggplant, never cooked with them.

I also got a tub of Hutton's grape tomatoes. It's funny, that until about a year ago, I didn't even really like tomatoes. Now, these things are so good, I eat them like popcorn! Sprinkled with salt and pepper! They're little snacks that burst in your mouth.

Waiting it out the at The Argyle

My sister and I were walking up Blower's street this afternoon when we got caught in a downpour. My logical response to this predicament was that we stop in on Argyle Street, grab a beer and wait it out.

We popped in to The Argyle on Argyle and got two pints of Rickard's Red. After one sip, we were craving a salty munch to go along with our libations, so we ordered some nachos with chicken and guacamole.

It was a great little snack in the middle of the afternoon and exactly what we wanted; salt and spice and everything nice. Not bad for a plate of good grub under 10 bucks, and, mission accomplished, it satisfied our craving and kept us dry!

FYI- The Argyle also has a GREAT Blue cheeseburger!

The Argyle
1575 Argyle Street


Nova Scotia Fall Wine Festival Launch

This evening I was fortunate enough to attend the launch of the Nova Scotia Fall Wine Festival at Taboo nightclub on Grafton Street. Taboo, located in the old Attic location (sniff, sniff-I loved that place) has been newly renovated into a swank club for private functions. The wines were set up at separate stations, and paired with snacks from local restaurants and various producers.

I was thrilled to try some new wines, and refresh my palate with old favorites. At Gaspereau vineyard, Lucie Kuhlmann has been my long standing favorite. After tonight though, Lucie's got some competition in the form of Gaspereau's 04/05 Vitis, a Gold Medal winner in the 2007 Canadian Wine Competition. I had been to a wine tasting at the winery before, but I would have remembered this one. Vitis is Gaspereau's Premium Blend, combining the vineyard's Lucie Kuhlmann, DeChaunac and Baco Noir grapes. Perhaps I was drawn to this wine as it suggests nuances of my favorite characteristics; red berries, mocha and chocolate.

I also tried the winery's 2007 L'Acadie Blanc, a silver medal winner at the 2008 taster's Guild International Competition. This wine was light, crisp and tasty; a delightful pairing with J. Willy Krauch's luxurious morsel of smoked salmon and marscapone cheese. Now there's a rich dish.

Domaine de Grand Pre's Vitner's Reserve Ortega 2006 is always a winner for me. It also won a bronze medal at the 2007 Canadian Wine Awards. This made a wonderful pairing with The Five Fisherman Fish's bite of cucumber, tuna and capelin roe . The acidity of this wine was a fantastic complement to the salty caviar, melt-in-your-mouth tuna and crunchy cucumber.

I also got to try two newbies for me; Vitner's Reserve Foch 2006 and Vitner's Reserve Castel 2006. The Castel was a gold medal winner at the 2007 All-Canadian Wine Championship show, while the Foch has, quite frankly, won too many awards to list! The Foch is a failry light, fruity red, while the Castel was, without a doubt, the most full bodied Nova Scotian wine I've tried to date.

Unfortunately, I had a prior commitment, so I couldn't stay to taste all of the delectable offerings. Conveinently enough, though, most of these wineries offer their wares for sale at the Halifax Farmer's Market, as well as various independent liquor stores such as Luckett's, and Bishop's Cellar. I have to mention that I did swipe an unbelievably rich and creamy chocolate from The Sweet Spot Chocolate Shop for the road.

It was a great event, showcasing the province's wonderful wine selection, as well as as the partnerships formed between the wineries, Nova Scotian producers and local chefs. Congrats to all involved as this event served it's purpose, if only for one indivudual; to get out and seek out all that Nova Scotia's vineyards have to offer.

Contact the Winery Association of Nova Scotia for more information:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Onyx: Halifax' best Wednesday night deal!

We decided to do it up at Onyx tonight. The initial thrill was the fact that on Wednesday night, Onyx has, in my opinion, the best 'bang for your buck' in Halifax, with 1/2 priced appetizers. Tonight, though they showcased the food aspect, I have to say that I received some of the best service Halifax has to offer. Not only did our server Jessica recommend some delicious dishes, but she actually presented each dish in detail; how often does that happen?

We were quite ambitious with the menu. We started off with fois gras, the Burgundy sampler, Ceasar salad and the Kobe Beef. Next, we had the Venetian sampler, and calamari. Though I normally love describing everything in detail, there was just too much to describe...So here we go, jot-note form:

-Ceasar Salad; phenomenal- crunchy romaine, lightly seasoned, salty double-smoked
pork belly and crispy Parmesan tuille.

-Burgundy sampler; rich escargot, sweet artichokes and a stunningly prepared Gougere
w/smoked salmon and boursin cheese.

-Fois gras; picture this, the BEST pate you've ever had; sweet and salty, with
pickled yellow plums that explode in your mouth.

-Venetian sampler; spicy sausages, luxurious, creamy asparagus with white truffle
risotto and jumbo seared shrimp.

-Calamari two ways; cooked with a mild salsa verde, and deep-fried with a sweet
apricot sauce.

-Tender Kobe Beef: 'nuff said.

Believe me, I've had delectable treats at Onyx before. But I say with as much enthusiasm as I can: GO, you'll have an evening of great food and great service. Unfortunately, there are not many places in Hali where I can assure you both of these fine things. Fortunately, at Onyx, I can.

5680 Spring Garden Road

update sister is in town from Manhattan, which obviously means that I'll be eating good meals straight for the next 4 days- I'll keep you updated on all that Nova Scotia has to offer!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Spicy Greens & Fried Green Tomatoes

I love going for dinner at my aunt & uncle's house. Ah! The sight of a well-stocked refrigerator; such an extravagance is seriously underrated. Anyhow, when I got to their place on Monday evening, I was informed that we were having haddock for supper. That was fine by me, as long as I got to do the cooking.

On my way over to the refrigerator, I spotted some green tomatoes on the counter. My first thought, why fried green tomatoes, of course! (Also a great movie, FYI.) My first encounter with fried green tomatoes was at Bobby Flay's Bar American in New York. Ever since, I'd been looking for an opportunity to work with them. So, my obvious train of thought was: " What theme could I use to incorporate haddock, amaranth and fried green tomatoes? I immediately decided on Cajun-type cuisine.

So, the star of the show was , obviously the haddock; fillets poached in white wine, lime juice and cajun seasoning. The tomatoes were coated in a spicy breadcrumb mix, and the amaranth was sauteed with onions, garlic and hot banana peppers and a few pats of buttah. You know what they say:"Everything's betta with buttah." Hollah!

Amaranth with hot peppers 1 bunch of amaranth 1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of hot banana peppers
2 tsp. butter

Sautee onions in oil until soft, add garlic. Add the
amaranth and cook until it wilts down, then add the hot peppers. Just before serving, toss in a few pats of butter to make it rich and creamy!

The finished product:

Monday, September 1, 2008

A plea for Alexandra's!

A friend of mine mentioned the other day that he heard that Alexandra's Pizza had a great poutine. This is a fact to which I am very familiar! As per my usual brain function with any type of food, as soon as I heard the word 'poutine', I had an immediate craving.

So....I indulged myself today. Come to think of it, I noticed that I've been indulging quite often lately, but until I see that effect on my waistline, I have no intention of curbing my food enthusiasm.

I called in my order, and waited with baited breath a full six minutes out of the advised 15 minute wait. When I got to Alexandra's, and my turn came, I asked the girl behind the counter "Is it ready yet?" a la five year old on a road trip. She laughed and handed me a warm package, adding "enjoy Kristen!" as I skipped out the door. When I arrived back at my cozy little apartment, I poured a glass of pinot noir (what else would you have with fries, cheese and gravy?), and dug in.

The small poutine is, well, huge- a mound of crispy fries, chewy mozzarella cheese curds, and a thick, salty gravy. The ultimate late-night, or, as in my case today, thunder and lightning storm snack. For a few weeks, Alexandra's had a 'mini' poutine, which, for mini people like me was more than enough. Sadly, as often as I voice my objections as to the loss, it seems to have little effect. So again, I plead to the owners and staff of Alexandra's "Please bring back the mini!"

Alexandra's Pizza
1263 Queen Street