Monthly Archives: October 2013

Nasty habits – all by myself

Tonight I’m in Rossland, a ski bum town in winter and a mountain bike Mecca in summer. This time of year it’s just the friendly locals and me, who liked the look of the funky B & B here better than the hotel in Trail where I am doing my seminars tomorrow. Good decision – this is one cool place!
Dinner is more laid back tonight – time for some good old-fashioned pub food. Again i looked to Trip Advisor for some comments on a fun place and the one that attracted me was the Flying Steamshovel. I didn’t ski off the calories but I did do a good work our this morning and I talked for 4 hours so I think I deserve a break. Starting out with a local IPA called Nasty Habit seemed like a good way to start the evening 🙂

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Once on a roll one should continue, don’t you think? The server mentioned it was wing night but I can’t eat a pound of wings alone so I compensated by peering potato skins, which she advised are “awesome”. They should be here any minute – hey look!

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Nasty habit number two, check ! I might have had an easier time eating the wings, but what the heck. Caramelized onions, tomato, bacon, smoked cheddar… And the menu does say they’re “dressed “, not “garnished”. Not for the faint of heart this stuff.

If you’re a movie fan like me, you may know that Rossland was the real-life town used in the Steve Martin adaptation of the classic tale of Cyrano. This pub doesn’t look big enough to be the one Steve and his fireman pals frequented in the movie but it is just down the street from the Fire Hall 🙂 if you’re not a movie buff, you can enjoy the real history of the place, worthy of a movie script. The place is named for a contraption built by a local fellow that was meant to operate like a helicopter. It did get off the ground and cleared the building but then crashed horribly. Luckily the inventor was not killed but he was smart enough not to make another attempt. I feel it’s a worthwhile thing to toast his good luck.

You know, a great dining experience doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be true. This holds for any customer experience I think. I teach people that to deliver a WOW, you have to consistently and constantly provide an experience which exceeds customer expectations. I don’t expect white glove service at a pub. I expect a good time from tasty food and drink and friendly, knowledgeable service. The gal who has served me tonight is fantastic – the kind of server an owner usually wishes they could clone. She is younger than me by probably two generations and yet she called me sweetheart when she came to see how I was doing. I loved it!

Rossland is up the hill from Trail, and The Flying Steamshovel is a bit off the Main Street – both are worth finding. And if you want to stay the night (why wouldn’t you?!) then check out The Red
Barn Lodge B & B, as it operates on the same level – quaint, cozy, true to itself. Kudos to you, Rossland, you know how to enjoy life!

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PS. I’ll post links for these great places in my mobile posts as soon as I’m home.

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A Night on the Town … All by myself

I’m on the road, working. It’s nice to have the chance to experience different places and sample the local gourmand fare, but dining out alone has its drawbacks. Lack of conversation is one of them, which is why I am posting this “live”, as it happens. Beats staring out the window all night 🙂

There is a little alley in Nelson, BC called Hall street that houses not one but two funky little wine bar/ bistro type restaurants. It was tough to decide as both Bibo and All Seasons Cafe looked enticing – both even have charming patios nestled into the hill with lovely twinkle lights – but a peek at the All Seasons menu posted outside revealed duck on the menu a few ways and that drew me in. The cozy room with funky art and assorted antique chairs matched to equally eclectic wood tables made me stay. I sat into an old chair with a pre-formed leather seat (very comfy) and decided it was going to be a good night.
Being a food geek I can’t just have one dish on a night out so I sampled the Scallop Gyoza to start with my glass of Quails’ Gate Chardonnay. Nice to see it was Ocean Wise seafood, as I do like the feeling of supporting sustainability. I toasted my day’s work and settled in to enjoy.

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The scallops were chopped fine as a filling so there was less texture than I expected but the taste was pleasant, with a bit of spice – was that from the jicama and carrot slaw? The menu did say it was spicy. The Dungeness and lemon aioli was delightful as well. I couldn’t eat all 5 or I won’t have room for the duck, though. I hope the chef won’t be insulted…

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OMG! (I would never write that on my computer but on my phone it seems okay as a sentiment). I hope my wonderful husband forgives me for having this meal without him – duck is his favourite thing and cherry smoked, it’s out of this world! The truffle scented beets and fingerling potatoes aren’t too shabby either. Even the radish sprouts piled on top are inspired. And if I do say so myself, the pairing with the Chardonnay is divine. Thanks to Mr Grant Stanley (the winemaker for this vintage – no longer there, as a side note) for such a beautiful example of the varietal in the Burgundy style!

Another limitation of dining alone is that you lose the opportunity to share things. As much as I would have loved to have dessert, I now have no room. It’s a good thing I didn’t have more than a nibble of the focaccia the server kindly brought “for dunking in the sauce” . It was nicely charred on the grill but my deft work with the cutlery and potatoes enabled me to consume almost all of the sauce anyway. I’m not sure my Lab, Ella, could have licked the plate cleaner, quite frankly 🙂

I should point out that I raise my glass to the Chef at All Seasons not only for great food but also for great judgement on proportions of sauce to the dish. In both the appy and main course the Chef offered up enough sauce to enjoy a taste with every bite, allowing for the chance that I might actually eat the whole dish. Kudos! I am not one of those people who likes 3 dots of sauce on my plate – that might look artful but it doesn’t give me a real chance to taste the flavours. It makes me happy when I can enjoy the same flavours throughout the dish.
I’m satiated. I’m delighted. As a customer you have exceeded my expectations, All Seasons Cafe. I shall record my kudos on Trip Advisor as well, as after all that is where I found you (and your compatriot down the road). It’s nice to know when others enjoy an experience but it’s even nicer to come to my own decision. Maybe I’ll have a chance to bring my husband back here sometime – hopefully the duck will still be on the menu, and if I play my cards right I’ll even get to share a dessert 🙂

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Thanks for sharing my evening with me.

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<img src=”http://happygourmand.file

Apples Galore

It’s harvest season in the Okanagan and apples are the feature at the moment. I asked my husband Martin to weigh in this week, as he is a chef and a big fan of apples. He even offers his recipe for apple compote, which he calls “goop”. Please feel free to offer your two cents in comments with a favourite apple recipe or variety!

apples galore Okanagan Happy Gourmand

She says:

Apples are a symbol of so many things – certainly autumn, as they fill the fruit stands by the bin and taste of the fresh crisp fall air; also good health, being the quintessential simple nutritious food that could “keep the doctor away”. They have become a symbol of technology too – Steve Jobs apparently liked the apple because of its simplicity and beauty. Maybe there is a lesson in all that symbolism, that life itself can be simply enjoyed.

Apples are one of the first foods ever recorded, being a symbol for not only knowledge but also temptation. Did you know that as far as the 17th century, all fruit and even some vegetables were referred to as a kind of apple? Tomatoes were “love apples”, and cucumbers were “earth apples”. Apples have been at the centre of many tales in history, both true and fictional… Snow White succumbed to an apple from the evil witch, Sir Isaac Newton is said to have come upon the idea of gravitational forces and apples abound in religious and mythological stories from Norway to Greece to Wales. They certainly seem to have an impact on our lives, so I think it behooves us not to make sure we enjoy them. candied apples

apple bobbing Happy GourmandIf you can’t think of anything better, perhaps a bit of apple bobbing is in order for Hallowe’en? At least a candy or a caramel apple seems appropriate this time of year. If you want festivities, check out your local events calendar for fall fairs and farmers’ markets. The Kelowna Farmers and Crafters Market happens outside through the end of October. There are lots of great vendors featuring local products, including my friends from Westbank Harvest who have a delicious apple cider they only produce in the fall. The Family Pumpkin Fest is on at Davison Orchards in Vernon this weekend, and they have very tasty caramel and candy apples 🙂

Kristin

He says:

Well, believe it or not the summer is over and apple time is back. Most orchards are just picking the last fruit off the trees and soon will be closing their doors until next summer.

My daughter is now 20 years old and like most kids that age, hanging out with dad at a fruit stand is not as much fun as it used to be. barrel of applesThe good news is that I did that many times with her when she was younger so my hope now is that she passes it on to my grandchildren one day. Food values are not something that comes naturally to our children like many other values, we as the parents need to educate, show by example and even push upon them that eating one apple a day is still a good idea. Eating something that grew on a tree has to be more important to them, more so than eating any old thing – like frozen pizza pockets flushed down with a Red Bull.

Food values come to children just the same way as if you tell your children eat broccoli and don’t eat soap. Early on in their lives, you decide what is good for them and what isn’t and later on you hope that these short lessons stuck with them so that as they grow older they make the right choices. Guess what, eating dinner, sitting down at a table the whole family together is still the best place for those lessons.

If you are having a hard time selling this to your kids, try showing them the IPOD, or IPAD or even a MAC computer… and show them the logo… “yes honey, it’s an apple, and guess what there’re a bit missing in the apple to show you that apples are good for you, honey!”

Good luck

Chef Martin
waffles with apple goop

Make Apple Goop with your kids this Sunday and show them that cooking is simple and good for them.

Recipe Testing – you win some, you lose some

recipe box

So I decided to try some recipes that I saw in my surfing this week… I must admit, I still do more surfing in good old-fashioned print than I do online, but nonetheless there is lots to sift through. I have taken to pulling pages from magazines to minimize the stock in my recipe bookcase, as after 25 years of surfing I would be suffocated otherwise 🙂

Fall always makes me want to cook, with all the goodness of harvest overflowing at the market stands. This last week I found a few fall dessert recipes and I got to making 3 of them. Two were a hit, one was a miss. I am posting the links to both here, and would love to hear comments – have you tried them,, or similar recipes? Did you like them? Do you read recipe reviews? Do you believe them? Do you trust recipes in print more than online, or vice versa?? When I started gathering recipes they were the ones I had tasted or had come from cooks I knew (my Mom, my Aunts, my best friend… you know how it used to work). One of the recipes I made was supposedly from a restaurant chef, and yet it was a total fail. How do I know in today’s remote world what to trust? Help!!

The first recipe I made came from a blog that is hosted through a shop I love in Seattle, World Spice Merchants. They have the most complete selection of spices and herbs I have ever seen under one roof, and their staff are extremely knowledgeable. Cardamom and Olive Oil Cake was the title. I was interested by the uniqueness of the recipe, and how it offered an “outside the box” combination of ingredients. I have posted on the blog asking if I made some error in the recipe preparation but I have not heard back.  (I printed the page and followed the listed directions explicitly, using the noted weights and not measurements in hopes of being the most accurate).  I’m still interested to try the recipe if there is something I missed, but the way it came out it’s not my cup of tea. I suppose I should have taken a picture but it was so sad – only 1 cm (1/2 inch) high, and pale and oily. Not nice.

The second recipe I made was a much more mainstream item but it looked good.  Apple Cake with caramel sauce It came out of a Walmart magazine if you can believe it 🙂 Apple Coffee Cake. We live in the Okanagan and it’s harvest season so an apple cake seemed like just the thing. Full disclosure: I did tweak this one a bit by adding dried cranberries along with the apple. It’s not racy, but it works, even if you want to go more healthy and omit the caramel topping. (We almost always have homemade caramel sauce on hand so I used that for a few pieces and we ate the rest plain.)

buttermilkThe third recipe I also found online, through a search based on an ingredient.  We had a litre of buttermilk in the fridge that was nearing its expiry and so I thought it would be good to make some muffins using buttermilk. This recipe from Williams Sonoma looked to be the best reviewed of the ones I found. I tweaked this one too at the last minute, adding a few spoonsful of mixed peel just for fun. These were tasty – great breakfast muffins. banana buttermilk muffins

It’s coming up on Thanksgiving and I’m thankful I’m not testing recipes on my guests for the holiday. I’d hate to have something “not nice” come out of the oven and have to make excuses for friends and family. Having a husband as a chef that is a cardinal rule in our house – we test things at home and might use each other as guinea pigs, but people we invite get treated to tried and true recipes we know and love.

Do you have any cooking disappointments? What’s your philosophy on cooking a new recipe for guests? At the end of the day I suppose the most important thing is gathering people together around the table, so even if it’s to decide as a group that pizza needs to be ordered, well that’s OK too.

Happy Thanksgiving. May your kitchen be full of good smells and good company.

Revelstoke, B.C. – a funky small town for food and drink

the Revelstoke Farmers' Market is a warm place even on a cool grey day.

the Revelstoke Farmers’ Market is a warm place even on a cool grey day.

We spent a weekend in Revelstoke recently and had the most amazing time. I remembered this small mountain town from my childhood, but more as a stopping-place when we camped in the region or a pit-stop driving from Calgary to Vancouver. Although the small peek you get of the river as you cross the bridge is a pretty view, you are missing the fun if you don’t go into the town itself.

We were fortunate enough to arrive on a Saturday morning when the farmer’s market was on. The sincerity of the vendors was absolutely charming, and the small businesses that operate on McKenzie Street were the perfect pairing to compliment the market. I had a deliciously seasonal pumpkin latte made with a homemade sauce from Conversations Coffee House. That made for the perfect way to warm up to the market ambience.

There was a live turkey on display (he looked a bit nervous). One of the farmers was displaying her pumpkins for their natural art – the designs created on the skins. She was getting all kinds of feedback from people, and so I ask you to join in the chat… what do you see?  🙂 There were homemade baked goods and breads, stone roasted coffee, farm fresh eggs and sausages, and some pretty interesting artisan accompaniments. We picked up some of our ingredients for dinner and headed on our way to meet our friends and look for our main ingredient.

what do you see in the pumpkin?

what do you see in the pumpkin?

this vendor had Vampire's Jelly too... perhaps to fend off possible Hallowe'en attacks?

this vendor had Vampire’s Jelly too… perhaps to fend off possible Hallowe’en attacks?

The main purpose of our trip was to hunt for wild mushrooms. Yes, we were going foraging – that cool new pastime that’s all the rage with foodies these days. Autumn is mushroom season, and with the weather we had this year (moist, and then warm, and then moist again) it made for perfect conditions. My chef husband was very excited; going into the forest to look for mushrooms is his version of spending time at the spa. He has been foraging since long before it was cool.

It was a humid grey day and our friends took us deep into the forest above town. WIthin a few minutes we saw a number of different mushrooms, but we were looking for specific species. We expected to see lobster mushrooms, and we hoped to find some chanterelles too. We got lucky on both counts. The lobster mushrooms are easy to spot, as they are the colour of cooked lobsters. It’s a great sense of accomplishment, especially if you are a novice picker, to see something like this in the woods and know it can be part of dinner.

lobster mushrooms peek out from under the moss

lobster mushrooms peek out from under the moss as they grow

It was a magical afternoon, wandering through little clearings that sported all manner of fairy toadstools amidst a thick blanket of moss. The views we got along the ridge were spectacular, showing the flood plain of the Revelstoke River far below us. Even the dogs were inspired. We headed back with bags full of our harvest and ready to celebrate with a glass of wine. If it had been earlier we would have stopped in at Mt Begbie Brewery for a beer tasting 🙂

Martin made beautiful ravioli with mushrooms in a cream sauce for dinner, and we enjoyed some bruschetta with the last of the heirloom tomatoes brought from our garden at Rabbit Hollow and bread from Okanagan Grocery to share with our friends. The magic of the forest seemed to permeate our evening as we shared stories along with the food and wine in a stunning house that showcased the view. That’s what weekends should be all about!

NOTE: If you’re interested in recipes from my husband including some with wild mushrooms, check out his website The Chef Instead.

both Ella and I enjoyed the view overlooking "the flats" as locals call them.

both Ella and I enjoyed the view overlooking “the flats” as locals call them.

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