Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Hey everyone! Well it's finally here; the day when absolute strangers hand over chips, chocolate and candy...and like doing it!

I hope you all have a

frighteningly fun, cryptically crazy,

spellboundingly super,

spOOktacular night!


Halloween Brunch at the Prince George Hotel

This little menu just popped up in my email and I wanted to share it with all my readers who might be looking for a fun activity - in addition to Trick or Treating - to do with the family! The Prince George Hotel's Terrace Restaurant always features a Sunday brunch from 12:00 - 2:00, and tomorrow's meal will have a spooky twist. Reservations are required. See the menu below for details...The desert options in particular look ghoulishly good...!


Mummy Hands = Game Burgers
Remains of.= Espresso BBQ Pork Ribs
Witches Cauldron= Green Curry Chicken
Abracadabra= Black Forbidden Rice
Headless Horseman= Roasted Spiced Squash
Eye of Newt and Wing of Bat= Smoked Tomato Soup

Salad Selections & Cheese

Sushi Bar & Gnocchi Station

Eggs Benedict, Bacon / Sausage, Home Fries

Waffles with Cream, Syrup and Berries


Death by Chocolate = Coffin Shaped Brownies
Bludgeoned Jack-o- Lanterns = Pumpkin Cream Roll
Hansel and Gretel = mini Apple Pies
Scary Berry= Strawberry Crisp
Snow Whites Poison Apples = Candy Apples
bbbbBlood Cakes =Red Velvet Cupcakes
Along came a Spider= Cob Web Cheesecake
From Beyond the Grave = Graveyard Cake
Double Double Toil and Trouble, Fire Burn and Cauldron Bubble = Blood Orange and Chocolate Moussecake
Bone Meringues

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sustainable Seafood Series # 10- The Wooden Monkey

The Wooden Monkey strives to support sustainable agriculture from land to sea. As part of their mission statement, co-owner Lil McPherson says that, "WM makes a continued effort to offer healthy local and organic food choices while also providing awareness on environmental issues."

People choosing sustainable seafood are avoiding endangered species making them part of the solution. Their choices will also influence the way producers fish. We have to prevent the ‘clear cutting’ of the ocean. The ocean is vast and resilient and can continue to provide us with food if we just give it a chance to replenish and cleanse.

The Wooden Monkey makes conscious choices to partner with suppliers who provide local sustainable food (as indicative of their 40+ local suppliers). By doing so, their business provides a good platform to bring awareness and education on environmental issues. They have also consulted the Ecology Action Center in the past to get their advice and note that it's "great that there are organizations out there doing the ‘grunt work’ when it comes to seeking out the best choices available."

When approaching a supplier, the WM inquires as to how the fish was caught or the process behind it if it was farmed. McPherson discusses the difficulties that arise when there is conflicting information about a certain farming process; the closed container units are useful if they have the proper filtration process and don’t interfere with other fish in their natural environment, but usually the case is they have to supplement with antibiotics. "All of our suppliers know what the mandate of our restaurant is and they are conscious of the product they are providing" McPherson says. "There is a lot of trust when it comes to seafood and it takes a while to build a rapport with a supplier."

When it comes to sustainable seafood, The Wooden Monkey serves:

  • Hook and Line-Caught Haddock and Lobster from Sambro Fisheries
  • Mussels from Ship Harbor, Indian Point, or Prince Edward Island
  • Dulse from AC Covert
  • Kelp Alginate Extract from Aqua Nutrients. This is an extract from the Digitata Laminaria Kelp Seaweed of Nova Scotia. Containing everything essential for human life (including 15 Vitamins, 5 Naturally Chelated Minerals, 8 Essential Amino Acids and 4 Digestive Enzymes), this kelp is also one of the ocean's best renewable resources available in Nova Scotia.

As long as it's sustainably caught or produced, the WM sometimes serves long line by-catch Halibut, Farmed Arctic Char from Truro, hand dived oysters and Yellow Fin Tuna (troll/pole) from Mike’s Fish Shop. McPherson adds that, "They (Mike's Fish Shop) are very aware of our concerns regarding sustainable seafood and only provides us with fish he knows we would want." McPherson adds that, "If he only has long line caught Tuna, he doesn’t offer it to us."

McPerson goes on to say, "We can encourage sustainable seafood through informed choices and partnerships with sustainable producers." She concludes,"We want to educate our customers and make them realize that the power of the consumer is a very powerful force!"

Friday, October 22, 2010

KWV Wine Dinner

Last Friday, I was a guest at the KWV Wine Dinner at Gio restaurant in the Prince George Hotel. I've always been a big fan of Gio, but ever since I started the CAPS course (Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers), food has almost taken a backseat to wine...Almost. You can check out my pal Jonathan Wilson's review of the wines on his website He actually is a sommelier.

I was looking forward to trying a variety of South African wines from the KWV portfolio all at once and was fortunate to be surrounded by the brand's representatives, who spoke extensively about each wine's character, as well as the wine and food pairings that we were about to enjoy.

As guests arrived, we were greeted with a glass of KVW Sparkling Cuvee Brut; a sparkling wine made from the Chenin Blanc grape. This wine's crisp and fruity character was just right to set the tone for the evening's celebration of South Africa's wines.

The Menu
as prepared by Chef Vince Scigliano

The first course was such a treat; an amuse bouche of the tenderest squid I've ever had - really. I suppose that my palate has been tainted by the deep fried rubber bands that some restaurants serve as calamari, but these squid rings were on another plane altogether. With a lightly dressed green salad to cradle the seafood, the flavours were slightly sweet and a lovely compliment to the wine; KWV The Mentors 2009 Sauvingnon Blanc/Semillion, whose green notes hinted of lime, green pepper and a slight chili piquancy.

Amuse Bouche

Squid Salad

paired w/ KWV The Mentors Sauvingnon Blanc/ Semillion 2009

The first course consisted of a plump, tender scallop, served on a mound of spicy corn salsa, a smear of sweet corn puree and crowned with a lardon of crisp tempura bacon. The flavour profile aside, this was an engaging plate due to the full spectrum of textures; the juxtaposition of crunchy corn salsa, crispy bacon tempura and velvety corn puree created a palate of taste sensations upon which the scallop rested.

This course was paired with KWV's Cathedral Cellars 2008 Chardonnay, a wine whose round, buttery-soft mouth-feel complemented the scallop's lush texture, while its light citrus notes were a great match to the creamy corn puree and lightly spiced salsa.

Sidebar - wanna make bacon even more amazing? Tempura batter-it and deep fry!

First Course

Seared Scallop /Tempura Bacon /Corn Salsa Jalapeno /Corn Puree

paired w/ KWV Cathedral Cellars Chardonnay 2008

The second course saw my first encounter with pheasant. Now, I can't be sure whether it was the fois gras talking, but I enjoyed its meat infinitely better than I do generic poultry. With a richer flavour and certainly more moisture, the pheasant was stuffed with a savoury fois gras mixture and served on a bed of (insert sigh here) wild mushroom risotto. The bright blackberry-Bordeaux sauce added a perfect amount of tang to the plate while cutting though the risotto's richness.

The pairing here was KWV's Cafe Culture Pinotage 2009. Though the novice wine student in me was a little skeptical, I soon learned that pinotage is a common pairing with game birds. The wine's ripe, juicy flavour successfully matched the moist pheasant, while its notes of coffee and chocolate also seemed to compliment both the savoury stuffing and earthy risotto.

Second Course

Fois Gras stuffed Pheasant Breast / Fois Gras Torchon
Wild Mushroom Risotto / Bordeaux Preserved Blackberry

paired w/ KWV Cafe Culture Pinotage 2009

The main course was one that I had been particularly looking forward to. Normally, this would have been due to the combo of so many lovely things; lamb chops, cocoa, pistachio, coffee, parsnip (I'm a sucker for parsnip), but no, in this case, it was the two beautiful reds cascading into the glasses before me.

Yes, this course was slightly indulgent! With the duo of wines, diners were given the opportunity to select which one to pair with each component of the meal. Those served were the KWV Cathedral Cellars Cabernet Sauvingnon 2007; a slightly smokey wine with a hint of berry flavours and the KWV The Mentors Orchestra, 2007. A more elegant wine - and my favourite of the two - The Mentors is a blend of 5 wines whose complex character hinted of red berries, cigar, and spice.

The entree was an even balance of sweet and slightly bitter notes, with the pistachio-crusted lamb's touch of sweetness being further enhanced by the parsnip puree. The "bitter" notes were quite pleasant in fact, represented in the form of both coffee and espresso within the sauces. On the side, Chef Scigliano added a little present in the form of a sweet and savoury lamb mixture within a light crust.

Third Course

Lamb Rack Cocoa Pistachio Crust /Parsnip & Coffee Puree
Bobotie Ball /
Lamb Bilton /Espresso Jus

Paired w/ KWV Cathedral Cellars Cabernet Sauvingnon 2007
KWV The Mentors Orchestra 2007

For dessert, we were served an enticing trio of both flavours and textures. A decadent bite of flaky, phyllo-enrobed chocolate disappeared immediately, swiftly followed by a shiver-inducing green apple sorbet. One bite of the luscious lemon panna cotta's tangy smoothness was the last morsel I could handle.


Chocolate Crunch Cake / Lemon Panna Cotta / Green Apple Sorbet

The After Dinner:
KWV Platinum 20 year old Brandy

I didn't partake in the after dinner brandy myself, but chose instead, another glass of The Mentors Sauvingnon Blanc/Semillion. This white, and The Mentors Orchestra were my personal discoveries of the night, though the Cathedral Cellars Chardonnay won't soon be forgotten. Having tasted only a couple of the more accessible KWV wines, I was thrilled to expose my nose and palate to such a charming array. The Cafe Culture Pinotage and Cathedral Cellars Cabernet Sauvingnon are currently available at the NSLC....Fingers crossed the others wines of the evening, aren't far behind.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner 2010

When I arrived at my aunt's house this past Thanksgiving weekend, I was met with the sweet and spicy aroma of a freshly baked pumpkin pie. The house was filled with the scents of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, that made my mouth water and induced me to ask the genius question "Can we eat dessert first?" After laughing at me for a second, my aunt actually agreed that that was a great idea. By having our pie before the main meal, we could mitigate the "I'm too full for dessert" feeling that generally awaits us after a turkey dinner.

Zie pumpkin pie...

But before we could savour our annual slice of pumpkin pie, a bit of work had to be done -getting the bird in the oven. One of my favorite challenges of turkey dinner is finding a new way to dress the turkey each year. This year was no different, as I decided that lemon would be the star of the show. While in NL, my aunt picked up a pkg. of blueberry dressing mix that she wanted to use to stuff the turkey. As blueberry and lemon are a well-known complimentary combo, I decided to top the bird with lemon slices during the last 1/2 hour in the oven so that the sweet citrus might perfume the meat.

But why stop there? In order to ensure that the white meat on top of the turkey didn't get too dry, I mixed up some softened butter with lemon zest and fresh oregano from my uncle's garden. I then proceeded with the somewhat revolting task of separating skin and meat, and slathering the butter mixture in between...

Butter w/ fresh oregano and lemon zest

Adding moisture and flavour with a bita buttah...

Once the turkey was in the oven, we settled in for a hot cup of tea and slice of pie. As the kitchen's lingering aroma of pumpkin and spices was gradually overtaken by that of the roasting bird, we planned the fixin's.

Pumpkin pie w/ cinnamon whipped cream

Preparing the squash...

The bird! Topped w/ lemon slices for the last hour in the oven...

Mashed potatoes w/ butter, garlic, cream and my uncle's fresh chives

Green beans and tomatoes tossed in butter &
fresh basil from my uncle's garden

Kale sauteed w/ onions, garlic and white wine,
finished w/ ricotta cheese

Roasted Kabocha Squash

Blueberry Stuffing

The Spread...

As I said, I love the challenge of coming up with new ways to dress a turkey and prepare the sides. If you ever want some new ideas, check out my posts for Thanksgiving Dinner 2009 and 2008 as well!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

100 Mile Dinner at Seasons Bistro

Last week, I managed to get some tix to attend the 100 Mile Dinner at Seasons Bistro & Wine Bar in the Atlantica Hotel. I had caught wind of the dinner through a friend at Atlantica, and was even more enthralled when I realized that the evening would be hosted by Chef Luis Clavel in his new role as the hotel's Executive Chef. Clavel took on the role a couple of weeks ago, and started off on the right foot with this initiative; to create a dinner using (predominantly) sourced local ingredients paired with Nova Scotian wine.

Clavel also invited Sean Buckland, a sommelier from Ambassatours and champion of local wine, and Brian Titus, President of Garrison Brewery to add to the fun. Buckland introduced each wine pairing, while Titus discussed Garrison's newest (and limited) beer, 3 Fields Harvest.

The evening started with a reception that featured some of the evening's wines as well as Stutz Hard Apple Cider. I've always been a Stutz fan, but after it being a staple during the heat wave in the last few weeks of August, I was happy to reconnect with an old friend.

Once seated, the service staff brought out a lovely selection of artisnal breads paired with 24 Carrots Lavache whipped butter and an apple fennel jam. I don't often tackle a bread basket, but when it's a house-made selection of soft savory loaves and crispy flatbreads, I'm all over it. The kicker here was the apple fennel jam. Upon further investigation, I found out that the butter was laced with fennel seeds, and topped with a sweet mix of apple and blueberries.

Apple & Blueberry Jam atop Fennel-laced Butter...

The first course was an experiment in asparagus with two distinct presentations; a salad of shaved pickled asparagus topped with a crispy Foxhill Parmesan-dusted spear, and a poached asparagus tip atop a lusciously tart lemon compote with buttery brioche breadcrumbs. On the side, Clavel served a rich truffle vinaigrette that complemented both of the bites. This course was paired with Gaspereau Vinyards' 2009 Seyval Blanc, one of my favorite Nova Scotian wines, whose smooth palate of honeyed citrus fruit paired beautifully with the fresh, clean flavours of this dish.

Next came the "liquid", a silky broth caressing a pairing of some of (Nova Scotian) land and sea's best attributes; a Digby scallop and 48 hr braised pork belly. The broth consisted of some of Clavel's signature ingredients; sweet blueberry and creamy coconut milk. The voluptuous scallop had a caramelized sear, while the pork belly was first crisp then tender. While blueberries scattered the display, my tastebuds were turned on by the bacon foam that crowned the dish. The pairing here was Grand Pre's L'Aadie Blanc Reserve - a slightly spicy white with a buttery finish.

After a palate cleanser or Stutz Cider and Ginger sorbet, the main course was served; a smoked short rib with a ravioli of wild NS mushroom, celeriac puree and roasted root vegetables. During his intro, Chef Clavel guaranteed that he would refund the cost of the meal should the meat not "fall off the bone". Well, if their meat was anything like mine, my dining companions should have paid full price.
The short rib lived up to Clavel's expectations to the extent that I needed only my fork to cut through the meat. While a smoky, earthy sauce complimented the meat's richness, it was paired with an equally indulgent puree of celeriac - a pleasant alternative to potato. The one mushroom ravioli on the plate was a tease; both musty and sweet at the same time, I found myself hoping that it would appear on Season's final menu...hint, hint...

The entree was paired with Blomidon Estate's Baco Noir, a NS red wine that packs a punch. Its aroma of vanilla and spicy oak certainly complimented the meat's sweetness, while accentuating the subtle savory notes of the celeriac puree and roasted root vegetable accompaniments.

For dessert, Clavel served a trio; an apple fritter-type bite with a warm, spicy cinnamon sabayon, a chocolate-raspberry tart with a dusting of caramel powder and a Bavarian creme cube with a sensual liquid center and chocolate drape.
Though filled to the brim at this point, I have difficulty resisting dessert, so I indulged in a few bites. The Bavarian consisted of a lovely mouth-filing creme, while the chocolate raspberry tart was velvety smooth and studded with raspberry pulp. Shockingly (as I'm not particularly an apple dessert type of gal), the apple fritter was my favorite bite. With a crisp, deep-fried crust enclosing warm, melted apple, it was pretty hard to resist. The dessert plate was paired wih L'Acadie Vineyard's L'Acadie Soleil 2007, a sweet dessert wine made in the Ripasso-style.

Me & Luis :)
in front of the sign for the NEW Seasons Bistro
The resto has since opened with a new menu and is certainly worth a visit!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sustainable Seafood Series #9- Fid Resto

As I stood by the prep table in the kitchen at Fid resto watching Chef/Proprietor Dennis Johnston carefully pack away portions of hangar steak for the following lunch service, I couldn't help but feel a little warm and tingly that I was in a position to chat with someone so concerned, caring and dedicated to his craft. As we chatted about sustainable seafood, I knew that this was a chef who was as dedicated to supporting sustainably caught seafood as he was to his steak.

When I asked Dennis why he thinks that the term 'sustainable seafood' is becoming so buzzworthy, he responded with quite a logical answer, that "people are asking more questions as to where their food comes from." In other words, consumers are starting to care as to the methods that the fish on their plate was raised and caught.

The fish on the menu at Fid changes frequently, but on any given day, there will be sustainable seafood on offer; scallops, haddock, steelhead trout and harpoon-caught swordfish, to name a few. Johnston ensures that the seafood he serves in his restaurant is sustainable by doing his homework, working with reputable suppliers, and making sure to talk to producers when he's putting in his orders to find out the origin and catch method.

When I asked why it was so important to Fid Resto to use sustainable seafood, he responded that "It's a choice we've made because we believe that there are too many poorly managed fisheries." Johnston concluded that, "Eventually, we're going to have to learn a lesson."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mouthwatering Meal at CUT Steakhouse

Earlier this spring, I did some work for an organization writing about various restaurants and food festivals in Halifax. In exchange, I ended up with a gift certificate to CUT Steakhouse (my choice) for a staggering sum...

Yeah, that's right...300 bucks!

When asked what resto I really wanted to visit, CUT was at the forefront of my brain. Certainly not cheap, it's the kind of resto that I was saving for a very special occasion. With my GC in tow, I knew that I could spend without a care in the world (relatively), which just enhanced the vibe of Marie-Antoinettish indulgence.

Now the best part about this meal was that I invited my best foodie friend and told her NOTHING about the night! OMG - I had so much fun taunting her! For weeks I told her how amazing the mystery was going to be. The night arrived, and I went to J's place and was thrilled when she had a glass of sparkling wine prepped for my arrival! We finished that off, called a cab, and I whispered the address to the cabby, who played along with my little game. When we pulled up at CUT, and I whipped out my GC, the look on J's face went from confusion - to shock - to sheer delight as she realized what was in store.

We started off with cocktails; mine was my 'usual' a straight-up Grey Goose martini w/ loads of olives. J went with the Berry Foam Collins; gin, fresh raspberries and lemon, shaken and topped w/ Prosecco. Our server quickly followed up our drinks with an amuse bouche-type course; a tangy goat cheese-based dip with crudites, followed by CUT's breadbasket. With a selection of soft savory loaves and crispy breadsticks it sated our virtually empty stomachs! Sidenote- I rarely fill up on bread in restos, but in RCR Hospitality's restos, the bread is pretty hard to resist!

After much, much consideration, we finally decided on our orders. As apps, on our server's recommendation, we chose 1 Shrimp Almondine each - he said the dish was very rich and filling. In addition, we ordered the broiled bone marrow to split.

Ah, the shrimp! These suckers will absolutely, positively make it on my list of Top Ten Memorable Bites of 2010. The shrimp themselves were plump and perfectly cooked- not a hint of chewy-ness. These were served on a beurre noisette with (what I think was) a puree of almonds. The contrast of juicy seafood, crunchy almond slivers and crisp breadcrumbs along with the velvety puree, had my tastebuds doing a happy dance indeed. It's not often that you find a dish whose components work so harmoniously together.

The bone marrow...well, it's not for me. I just wasn't a huge fan of the texture, though the accompanying jams were delightful and fragrant!

Jumbo Shrimp Almondine
U8 Jumbo shrimp, pan seared w/ almond slivers & garlic, beurre noisette

Broiled Marrow au Gratin
Broiled marrow bone topped w/ black truffle cheese,
brioche crisps & fig and apple-cinnamon jams

So as to avoid food envy, we both ordered the Kobe Beef rib eye- also on our server's suggestion. More on that later...For our enhancements and starch we chose a potato, mushrooms and onion rings.

I knew the O Rings were a good choice, as those at Onyx (one of RCR's other properties) are out of this world. While the onion rings were crisp, the mushrooms were tender, with an incredibly earthy flavour and aroma - a fantastic addition to the table. The potato was the perfect combo of both of these textures; a smooth truffle infused mash was wrapped in a layer of crispy potato to form...well, the phallic-like shape below - heretofore referred to as Penis Potato. Yeah, said it.

Tempura Onions Rings
w/ Smoked paprika-saffron mayonnaise

CUT Pommes de terre
Yukon Gold potato strings surrounding
white truffle infused mashed potato

Sauteed seasonal mushrooms

You're probably wondering how a 5", 100 lbs. chick put this all away by now hey? Well, it took a lot of effort, but absolutely worth it when the melt-in-your-mouth piece of meat arrived before me. This steak was the epitome of all the characteristics you want in your beef; tender, flavourful and rich, and smooth throughout - without any annoying bits of grizzle.

Kobe Beek Rib Eye
Sake & miso rubbed

Holy cannoli- this steak was like crack!

And here we are; two very content little ladies. This was a great experience in ways above and beyond the food. The service and hospitality at CUT certainly enhanced the evening and determined that a return trip is definitely in the future!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Steve-O-Renos's morning fix - and not just for coffee!

If we follow each other on Twitter, you'll probably see that, at some point on Sat/Sun, I'm tweeting from Steve-O-Renos on Brunswick Street. This spot is my favorite coffee shop in the city; they're a hop from my apartment, the staff are sweet and friendly and the buzz within provides a great background for me to work/blog. And that's just the cafe itself. Not only does Steve-O-Reno's have delicious java, but they also have incredible baked goods - and I'm a sucker for baked goods! FYI - Cabin Coffee and the Daily Grind also have fabulous creations. Java Blend gets its baked goods from Deli Green Catering whose muffins are the moistest I've had in Hali.

Famous for its Morning Glory muffin, I've recently been trying out the blueberry baked goods to see how they compare. I've never been one to crave a blueberry muffin, but when it's 7:30 am, and I'm on my way into work, stopping for a coffee, it's pretty tough to resist.

And this weekend, as I sat, finishing up some blog posts for the coming week, I ordered a blueberry scone to go along with my dark Italian roast. With a lovely crunchy crust and a moist interior, Steve-O's scones provide the perfect contrast of textures for whatever suits you mood - and all in one baked good!

I've yet to try one of Steve-O's breakfast sammies, but I can't imagine that an English muffin or bagel topped w/ egg, tomato, red onion and sprouts could be anything but delicious!