Category Archives: beer

The Blue Plate Special

Comfort food often harkens back to one’s childhood. There are cozy memories of having eaten such foods and getting that warm fuzzy feeling. Sometimes they helped us get over a stressful situation or past a fear. One of my favourite foods as a kid was fried bologna. A piece of fried bologna on toast was something my dad used to make in an old frying pan I now have in my kitchen. It was not only a tasty memory that symbolized the simplicity of childhood.  Here was a food that I shared with the guy who cheered me on whenever I needed it most. My warm fuzzy feeling wasn’t just for the taste of the bologna, it was for the taste of confidence.

When I was at a local butcher this week I found the deli case calling my name. Sure enough, a big chunk of bologna soon found its way into my grocery tote, along with a package of locally made frozen sauerkraut and bacon perogies. Tonight my hubbie made me a “Blue Plate Special” dinner, complete with carrots sautéed in the pan with the bologna. Pan-fried onion rings, along with sour cream and a bit of Dijon were perfect accompaniments.

I did want to be making the meal, but unfortunately I was on the injured list tonight (I had a mishap with some pruning shears in the garden, but I’ll be back in the kitchen tomorrow.) Feeling a bit less than one hundred percent, I really soaked in the comfort aspect of our dinner. It was almost like having a hug from my dad. Thanks to the gift of a deliciously refreshing homemade lager from a friend we were able to toast to the perfect end of a less-than-perfect day.

What’s the comfort food that makes you feel like things are okay after all and you’ll make it into tomorrow?

No green beer here, but soda bread is tasty stuff

I love special days, holidays. At their root, all of them involve food in some way. It’s fun to explore special foods and traditional dishes, especially in the ambience that surrounds such a day. The other part of these days is the social celebration. Gathering together to share the food and the spirit of the day is essential to the fun. What’s not to love about all that?

I am not so much a fan of commercial efforts to popularize a holiday; green beer, for example, is not my thing. It’s not an Irish tradition to have green beer on St. Patrick’s Day, but rather a Guinness or other Irish brew. I like the opportunity to try the local specialty. Even as a kid I was not a fan of the then-trendy Shamrock Shake at McDonald’s.

Some say that it’s a travesty to bastardize tradition by commercializing the essence of a holiday, but sometimes there are benefits. In the mid-70’s McDonalds used some of the proceeds from Shamrock Shake sales to fundraise with the Philadelphia Eagles. This not only benefited the child of one of their players but also helped to create the Ronald McDonald Houses.

St. Patrick’s Day food is all about the meat and potatoes. Corned beef and cabbage is a popular dinner, as is colcannon (a combination of mashed potatoes and cabbage) usually served with lamb or even sausages. There is traditional bread too – brown bread and soda bread. I find it a bit filling to have potatoes and bread at one meal, so I like to have soda bread for breakfast. It would be delicious with Beef & Guinness Stew as well, though. The stew takes a bit of time to make, but it’s worth the wait.

Ultimately the best part of St Patrick’s Day is to share one’s good blessings with a friend. Even if you only get down to the local pub for a green beer, you can at least enjoy that fraternal sentiment. In case you’re not familiar with an Irish toast, here is an easy one to use: “Sláinte”. (That’s “cheers!” in Gaelic, pronounced “slancha”.)

One last bit of advice before you head out, from the Irish themselves:

Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toasting to his health.
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again.

 

Dinner a block at a time 

One of the things I love about Mexican cuisine is the way it lends itself to casual eating. Simple foods with fresh ingredients shine. So, last night we had a dinner of street food. 

Our first stop was a pizza place recommended by Trip Advisor. Okay, not traditional Mexican food but a testament to the booming tourist industry here. Still, the “hole-in-the-wall”‘style of the place is typical to every street vendor. 

Next we needed a dose of local fare so we set out in search of something suitable. A shining “Tacqueria” sign down a side street from the circus of 5th Avenue shone like a beacon so we ventured towards it. 


Next the smell attracted us even closer…

The sight of the cooking meat was enticing and the ubiquitous plastic chairs and yellow decor screamed authenticity. The sincerity of the waiter on the street clinched the deal: “Quieres un taco?” We had pork tacos (from the cooking tower of slices in the go) with tender gently spiced meat and soft tortilla that melted in our mouths. The tacos were rendered sublime by the homemade condiments and the Corona with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Condiments included pick de gallo, hot sauce, pickled onions and an avocado sauce that resembled thin guacamole. All of them were delicious and unique.

We wandered some more and thought about another savoury nibble but our tastebuds were satiated. We watched the people, and chuckled at the hucksters and their spiels for the tourists. We were amazed that a young vendor thought we were a likely sale for drugs (“señor! Do you want cocaine? Ecstasy?) We were also dismayed by the fact that embracing each other seemed to brand us as “honeymooners”; so many North Americans are uncomfortable with displays of public affection. 

By the time we saw The Chocolate Cafe our minds were made up – dessert was in the offing. I had a Mayan Hot Chocolate and Martin had a piece of chocolate cake. In Mexico chocolate means cocoa, so the flavour is different than his French-styled sponge with ganache filling. The texture is less silky but there remains a richness to the flavour; it’s just not as buttery.  We watched as Friday night energy built up, with some locals leaving work and more tourists hitting party mode. 

Rejuvenated by our latest morsel we headed back to our “pension”. The promenade after eating and our leisurely conversation punctuated by the street’s entertainment was the perfect digestif. 

And so are foodie memories made on vacation. A healthy dose of spontaneity, a pinch of a sense of adventure and a few cups of energy to keep you propelled until you are satiated. Dusted with the magic of a foreign place, it makes the perfect recipe for a memorable experience. 

Trendy Recipes and Foodie Bloggers

eat different sign

I write a weekly column for a local website, Castanet, about foodie stuff and last week I featured some of the popular food trends of 2015. Food and eating has become more trendy in itself, with quotes everywhere and information to be had behind every click of the mouse.

There were some interesting recipes I found in my list, so I thought it would be fun to include them in my archives here. I’m also going to mention here some of the bloggers and chefs I find myself returning to often for recommendations and ideas. I hope you enjoy this meander into the web of seemingly infinite opportunities!

My first mention was BURGERS – go figure. All kinds of weird and wonderful ingredients are possible… I don’t know about some combinations (a squid slider?!) but I did have oyster burgers a few times and they were delicious. My favourite recipe for this is from Jamie Oliver – his Carpetbag Burger (great name too, don’t you think?)

Next up was WAFFLES, with savoury toppings. I do have a great recipe already, for Pecan Waffles. They are equally good with fruit compote and yogurt, maple syrup and sausages, or BBQ – chicken or pulled pork both work 🙂 pulled pork and waffles I’m also a big fan of the food truck, Wafels & Dinges. I got to eat from one of their trucks on a foodie trip to New York a bunch of years ago; now they are so big you can do a tour of their factory in Brooklyn.

The trend of making up words entered into the next entry, “BRINNER”. Well, my mom used to serve apple pancakes for lunch on a cold winter day, so waffles and BBQ for dinner wouldn’t be a big reach. Years ago when I lived in France it wasn’t uncommon for us to make a salad for dinner on a busy weeknight, with a bit of bacon and poached egg. If you like poached eggs, it’s a nice change from meat and potatoes. You can pair some interesting wines with it too.

Doughnut Plant pb&j

an all-time fave, the PB and J from Doughnut Plant NYC

GYROS and DONUTS are foods that aren’t exactly practical for many to try at home, but it can be fun to find a local haunt and support them. Big cities are full of fun ethnic foods and fusion combinations that can broaden your horizons.  This speaks to the next trend in my list, the I DARE YOU foods.  In smaller communities, my experience is that farmer’s markets can hold wonderful secrets (and vendors often know about places that use weird and wonderful ingredients).

CRAFT BEVERAGES are also very trendy, and the locations and atmosphere have become increasingly competitive and innovative – more fun for customers. My humble advice here is check out social media and look for knowledgeable staff at establishments who can help make recommendations for you. Here’s a  great craft beer primer and a few cocktail possiblities to get you started.

Preserved foods are a big category, and a few items are especially trendy. SALT COD or baccalau as it’s called in the Mediterranean, is a tasty fish. I loved the flavours when we sampled it for the first time in a tapas bar in San Sebastian, Spain. To use it you have to rehydrate it and cut the saltiness which takes a couple of days, so if you want to cheat you can try a recipe with fresh haddock instead. Mario Batali has recorded a traditional favourite salt cod recipe from Italy if you’re game.

I like pickles

My inspiration for the article was PICKLES and so I have to include a link for you on that topic. One of my favourite bloggers is Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen and she has a great recipe for a sort of pickled salad that is designed for people who aren’t pickle fans, so that should motivate just about everyone! dr Seuss pickles

Whether you try any of these recipes, or just enjoy a bit of armchair virtual nibbling then Bon Appetit. And if you’re looking for some other bloggers to follow, might I suggest checking out the Saveur Magazine awards list? There are lots to choose from, including a Special Interest category that has bloggers with dietary restrictions or preferences and other passions they want to share!

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