Thursday, December 6, 2012

chocolate fix

It's no secret. I love me some chocolate. But a long time ago I switched to dark and can't go back. Now milk chocolate merely tastes sweet with the sugar completely overpowering the cocoa. But since dark chocolate is far superior in terms of its antioxidants, I'm one happy camper.

A few months ago (yup, finally getting through those half finished posts) my girl Aimee and I were invited to taste some chocolates at the Choco Cafe, a combined chocolate shop (Chocolates by Design) and cafe on Lower Water across from Bishops Landing. Check out her post for more detailed info and a load more pics. The shop is pretty much a chocolate lovers paradise with crazy variety, crazy enough to please any palate. Chocolate covered dried mango? Check. Caramelized almonds dusted with cocoa? Sure why not. And the list goes on and on and on. You get the picture. And the chocolate love doesn't stop there. They also customize chocolates for parties or weddings or whatever your chocolate needs. Cool indeed.

We sampled a few chocolates and surprise, surprise they were delish. But what I really wanna share is the absolutely amazing hot chocolate. Now I'm not one to even order hot chocolate but when it's the real deal with actual chocolate and not some powdery mix of sugar and cocoa, I'm in. And this my friends was exactly that. Dark chocolate, steamed milk. Period. Although I totally went for the whipped cream and cocoa cuz go big right?

That right there is heaven in a cup. So incredibly decadent. For all you dark chocolate novices, I highly recommend it. The natural sugar in the milk provides just the right balance of sweetness but if that ain't enough of a sugar rush, they also offer it with milk chocolate. So next time you're jonesin' for your chocolate fix, hit up the Choco Cafe. Did I fail to mention they're open late?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

the buzz: dec 5

Well, it's December already. You wouldn't know it what with the rain outside. But no complaints here. And as if the holidays aren't full of enough food and wine, there's a ton of events comin' at ya this December. Food Bloggers of Canada's event listings have got ya covered. There was also big news over at FBC this week including announcements about the FBC 2013 conference as well as the release of some contest winners. And would you look at that, a blogger from Halifax wins the Manitoba Canola Growers cookie contest for an all expense paid trip to the conference. Banana chocolate chip cookies? Yes, please. Nice work Maya!

So, last week I reported that a new Cantonese bakery was opening downtown Hali. Well, Kee Hoeng has opened at 1532 Granville near Sushi Shige but I can't seem to find out any further information. Guess you'll just have to get down there and try it out. Also opening this week was a new Thai Ivory Cuisine on Quinpool Rd. With loads of Mediterranean food, a few sushi joints and now Thai, Quinpool Rd's food scene is really heating up. And one last opening very close to home. The Wooden Monkey in Dartmouth is officially open in the old MacAskills. So come on down and let me serve you up some awesome local food. And wait til you see the view!

I was lucky enough to be invited to Ratinaud's first anniversary shindig this past Thursday. For month's now I have had a love affair with Frederic's charcuterie. More importantly, however, is that it has opened my eyes to so many amazing foods I had never before tried. Rabbit rillette people. Do it. So it was no surprise that Frederic et al would rock a first anniversary party like no other. While there was pied de cochon (pig's feet baby), house smoked salmon, cassoulet, and an incredible cheese board, it was Frederic's maman's profiterolles that stole the show. And the French love does not stop there. It is with great pleasure that I am spreading the word about an exciting new venture from the Ratinaud team, The Kitchen Table. That's right, Ratinaud will be offering intimate rustic French dinners around their custom made kitchen table. Tres exciting. Details about the dinners comes out tomorrow in their newsletter The Cure so if you haven't already subscribed, there's one more delicious reason to do so.

I mean really.
Lastly, in celebration of their 15th year in the craft beer biz, Garrison Brewing Co is releasing a special Imperial Stout. With hints of vanilla and cocoa, it's right up my ally. It hits the shelves Friday so I'll let ya know when I get my hands on some. Big congrats Garrison. Here's to 15 more.

And that right there is your weekly buzz.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

the buzz: Nov 29

Big news this week. Well, big in my world anyway.

First up, if you didn't pick up a copy of last week's Coast or didn't check it out online, you totally missed seeing my mug in there! A few weeks ago Allison, the Food and Drink editor at the Coast, asked a few local bloggers their take on the food scene in Hali including our pics for best restaurant of 2012. And wouldn't you know it my top pick was also famed Coast writer Melissa B's fav too. Oh snap. Ace Burger Co right there on the cover. If you  have yet to try one of Ace's sick (as in awesome) burgers, now's the time. We can't all be wrong. GET SOME. For real. I may actually be heading there in a few hours to get my fix.

Also, this week, some food bloggers and I were invited to the Taste of Nova Scotia Prestige Awards Luncheon. Lord knows how I get on these guest lists, but damn, keep em comin! I gotta say, the Taste of NS event was incredible. Not only did we munch on some tasty lunch boxes from Jane's Next Door, but we were apart of something bigger, something magical. There's no way I could convey in words the feeling in the room; that incredible love and pride in NS, the passion of our chefs and producers, the sense that we are shaping our own food culture. I felt all warm and fuzzy and I admit at times I was almost a little teary. But for that I need to thank Doug Townsend, Marketing guru at Taste, for the incredible videos he produced, perfectly capturing the passion of each and every winner in a few short minutes. The videos are now up on YouTube so get those tissues and be prepared to love your province like never before. But without further ado, it is with mad local love that I give you this year's Taste of NS Prestige Awards winners:
  • Essence of NS Restaurant of the Year - Trellis Cafe (Hubbards)
  • Chef Inspired Casual Dining Restaurant of the Year - Wild Caraway (Advocate Harbour)
  • Chef Inspired Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year - Le Caveau (Grand Pre)
  • Innovative Product of the Year - Ironworks Pear Eau de Vie (Lunenburg)
  • Producer of the Year - Fox Hill Cheese House (Port Williams)
  • Server of the Year - Andrea Davidson (Fleur de Sel, Lunenberg)
  • Consumer Choice Product of the Year - Eel Lake Oysters (Ste Anne du Ruisseau)
  • Culinary Ambassador of the Year - Chef Craig Flinn (Chives Bistro)
In other restaurant news, a few openings and closings to note. Apparently, the newest Chickenburger location on Queen St is closing to make way for development. Seems like a whole lotta money went into building that location to simply close mere months later. But word is the Chickenburger will have a new home in the new development, whatever that may be More exciting, however, is word of a Cantonese bakery opening downtown. Now, while I cant say I've ever been to a Cantonese bakery, or any Asian bakery for that matter, I'm certainly stoked for something different. But if they have steamed buns, I'm there.

Lastly this week, is the news over at Food Bloggers of Canada. One very exciting piece is FBC's new Restaurant Roundup feature, a monthly column of the 'bests' from bloggers all over the country. This month was all about the best ramen. You really gotta check out these pics. While you will see my contribution next month, I unfortunately was unable to get into Truly Tasty, the one and only ramen joint in Hali, before the deadline. Ramen, I'm still comin for ya.

And just a reminder for you Xmas shoppers, the Halifax Crafters Holiday Market is this weekend at the Olympic Center on Cunard. I can't even begin to list all the awesome gift ideas you'll find. Last year I scored big so you might as well check it out and keep that money right here in NS. What have you got to lose?

Until next week...keep on eatin on.


A couple weeks ago I was contacted by Castello Cheese and asked to review a new line of their cheeses, The Bavarian Alps Collection. This was a first for me but when someone offers to give you free cheese, you say yes right?! So last week a few gift certificates arrived and I was off in search of some cheese. However, it seemed our local Superstore had only two of the four Alps varieties but that was the perfect amount for my charcuterie board for that night's party. That's right friends, you were all in on the product testing!

According to the website, the new line is "made from cows that live a life of privilege, grazing on Alpine grasses and herbs high up in the mountains during summer. Come fall, they are paraded back to warm homes and milked with care in a centuries-old tradition. Time-honoured recipes turn their distinctive, herb-infused milk into delicious cheeses that will transport you and everyone you share them with to a Bavarian mountain high." Sounds pretty amazing to me, especially for those cows. And it turns out that both cheeses were pretty darn amazing. And I'm not just saying that.

The Hirten was a harder, crumbly cheese, think parmesan, that is aged for nine months. With wonderful hints of caramel, it was rich and flavorful. Like party in my mouth flavorful. It was remarkably similar to Old Grolwer, a local aged gouda from That Dutchman's Farm. In fact, it was so much like the Old Growler that I would probably lose in a blind taste test of the two. Since I'm a huge Old Growler fan, two thumbs up over here for the Hirten.

The Weissbeir, more of a semi soft cheese, was much milder but creamy, buttery, and slightly nutty. Apparently the cheese is washed with Weissber beer from the oldest brewery in Germany three times a week during its 10-12 week ripening. Yum. I don't think I tasted much of the beer notes but just the thought of beer soaked cheese has me salivating.

Now, because I was in a mad rush to prep for the party, I didn't get a chance to snap a pic. But, luckily, enough cheese was salvaged from that wine-fuelled night that I could make these bad boys:

Mushroom Bruschetta with Hirten and Arugula

Mini Grillers with Local Honey Crisp Apple, Onion Jam, and Weissbeir

One word. Cheesetastic. I know this was a product review for marketing purposes but I'm pretty sure I'm the one that benefited most from this deal. So big thanks Castello. Anytime you need more cheese testers, I'm your gal.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

the buzz: Nov 20

So my life has quickly gone from 0-60 in a few short weeks. After completing the Self Employment Benefits program at CEED, I started doing cooking class a la Superstore as a second source of income. Well, now I find myself running from work to class and back again. But no complaints here. I'm thrilled to be spreading the love of real food and am especially excited to be getting our kids cooking. My six week program with high school students is going so well that it's more fun than work. Seriously. And next week I begin a four week program for students interested in doing a co-op in a local restaurant or hotel. Even if I ignite the passion in one student, I've achieved my goal. But honestly as long as they have fun, I'm happy.

Now on to the reason I started this post, the weekly buzz. First up, Food Bloggers of Canada as always have some great contests running although many are for members only. If you have a food blog and have yet to sign up, get on over there and do your thing. It's not only free to sign up, but it puts you in touch with a whole world of fellow bloggers, gives you access to information on photography and other blog related content, and, like I said, includes a ton of contests. And this lady likes her contests. Mostly cuz I win. Ask Lia, apparently my mojo can rub off!
In local news, last week the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia handed out some industry awards at their Restaurant Awards Dinner. Many were some of my favs so without further delay, the winners are...
And be sure to pick up this week's Coast out Thursday. I have a funny feeling I know it's cover story and perhaps a few contributors. ;)

Alright, so I know it's only November but the city is already alive with the Christmas spirit. I'm a firm believer in at least waiting til December 1st but I totally understand the desire to get that shopping done early, especially if it means avoiding the dreaded mall line-ups. But last year, I avoided the malls altogether and went all local on my shopping, opting to keep my money right here in NS instead of giving it to the Walmarts of the world. This year I'll once again be kickin it local and I invite you to do the same. I could go on and on about the importance of shopping locally but honestly, it's simple. When you shop local, you help your local economy grow by keeping small businesses alive. Period. And who runs small businesses? Well, regular folk like you and I. Think of the impact on our local economy if we all simply shifted just 10% of our spending to local biz. If that isn't enough to convince you, head on over to The Coast and sign their Buy Local Pledge. Spend 100 bucks at local, independent businesses this season and be entered for a chance to win one of 6 $500 shopping sprees. Booyah. But I'll make it even easier. Below is a list of awesome local businesses that would rock any wish list, many of which I shopped at last year.

Sugah - chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate!
Carbonstok - Lost Cod t's plus a whole store full of cool shit
Inkwell Boutique - hand made cards, letter press and super cool prints
Taz and Obselete Records - vinyl is totally making a come back people
Biscuit General Store- cool clothes, cool stuff, it's where the cool kids shop
J&R Grimsmo - great fashions for the ladies
P`lovers - for the eco-conscious on your list
Bishop`s Cellar - wine. Nuff said. (But may I suggest a NS wine)
Cucina Moderna - for all your houseware needs  (be warned, this place is addictive)
Nurtured - for the wee ones or the expecting mamma
Any of our Farmers Markets - all local, all the time

You'll also wanna hit up the Halifax Crafters Society's Holiday Market Dec 1-2 at the Olympic Centre. Think art, pottery, jewelry, leather, woodwork, handmade chocolates, and clothes all in one place. Last year I scored big. Plus, ain't nuthin better than a gift certificate to any one of our incredible locally owned restaurants or cafes. The ilovelocal site is a great place to start. (And be sure to follow the #shift10 conversation on twitter for more ways you can shift 10% of your spending to local biz.) Lastly, if after all that you still need some ideas, the lovely Drew and Gillian of the Local Traveler NS blog are also compiling their own local wish list complete with pics.You can thank me later for pretty much doing all your holiday shopping for you. I accept all food and wine related payments.

And while I bet there`s loads more news and probably a whole slew of food events that suddenly popped up, this gal is tired. Nuthin like a lil stomach bug to set you straight. So, take care of yourselves people and, like always, eat up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

the buzz: Nov 13

Damn time flies. Back at it again.

As always, a bit of news over at Food Bloggers of Canada. They generally have some sweet contests on the go so it's totally worth checkin out. Plus, the new Eat In Eat Out mag is out and, if you have no idea what I'm taking about, all the more reason to click that link. Nuthin but food , food, and more food.

Alright, let's rock the local news. First up, last week I mentioned I was off to the Grand Opening of Tempo Food + Drink, the new restaurant in the Delta Barrington. While I was too busy gettin' my chat on to try many of the tasty eats (and I think we were sitting at the end of the line if ya know what I mean), what I did taste was pretty awesome. Deep fried artichokes? Shit yeah. The buzz so far has been great but it certainly helps that they have quite the social media savvy lady on their staff. (She's actually shorter than I. Apparently that's possible!) Plus, I can't help but love that there's a young women, and a Newfie to boot, at the helm, Chef Leslie Ann Hull. OK, she may also have personally served up bacon cupcakes. Sold. I also just checked out the menu. Waffle sandwich? This Little Piggy? Touche Tempo, touche. Consider yourself on the 'list'.

Speaking of lists, there seems to be a constant supply of restaurants coming and going. Last week we heard of Ela closing, now there's word Robie Food, a longtime fixture in the Chinese food scene, has closed up for good. But don't fret, more restos are on the way with the Hali Deli on Agricola opening Thursday and a new pub, The Hideaway Bar & Grill, to open soon over on Clyde. But don't let me fill you in. Head on over to Shoptalk at The Coast to get the scoop.

Across the harbour, the news gets better. Anchored Coffee, the coffee roastery brainchild of Zane at Two If By Sea (for which he received a woppin $100G BDC award), finally revealed their location. Drumroll please...none other than right next door to the cafe. I can't imagine a better location. After the move back to the D Side, I find myself at TIBS more and more and I am stoked for the day Anchored Coffee cranks up that roaster, filling the hood with the intoxicating aroma of roasting coffee. The reasons to love Dartmouth just keep growing.

Want another reason? Yours truly is thrilled to announce that I'll be joining the Wooden Monkey team at their new Dartmouth location in the old MacAskills space in Alderney Landing. I love everything about the Monkey and now get to share that love with everyone. Look out Dartmouth, I'm comin' atcha! Oh, did I forget to mention I'll be serving?

Lastly, if you're at all tuned into the local social media scene these days, you've probably seen posts/tweets about the Aviva Community Fund. While I won't get into the nitty gritty, essentially the public votes on ideas to better their communities. The more votes, the better the chance of getting to the final round and the better chance of getting the idea completely funded. Folks in the North End are trying hard to establish the Community Carrot Co-op to make affordable, healthy food accessible to their community. Back in the day when Gottingen was the place to be, buying groceries was never an issue. Now residents, many low income, are left with no options but overpriced corner store food, much of which is processed, or a cab ride to the nearest grocery store. Check out a recent article in the Chronicle Herald then do your part by getting your vote on. One click a day could literally change the lives of families and individuals in the North End. Feels good don't it.

And there you have it, your weekly buzz. Read up, eat up.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

the buzz: Nov 6

Back at it again with your weekly news.

First up, some news over at Food Bloggers of Canada. I know much of the news can sometimes center around other parts of Canada but I would really love to have some food blogger workshops and events right here in NS. I was attempting to plan such a meet-up months ago but life got busy. Real busy. Despite my crazy schedule, I hope to get back in the game and continue the planning for the first ever Atlantic Food Bloggers Meet-Up. So, if you're interested, feel free to leave a comment or contact me via email/fb/twitter. Let's do this! And, in fact, this past Sunday some foodie folks and I had our first foodie tweetup. Now I'm not entirely sure what one does at a tweetup but to me it's all about bringing your twitter connections to life. Meeting folks in person to chat about those mutual interests that brought you together on twitter in the first place. Right? Well, regardless, five other food loving folks and I ate some yummy brunch and talked food, food, food. Best conversation ever. We plan to continue the foodie tweetups so if you want in on the action, either follow my food obsessed tweets @kathyjollimore or check back here or on my fb page.

Alright, on to some more tasty news. Today, the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia released the top three nominations in several categories for their 2012 Restaurant Awards. While many of my favs including Morris East and Chives made the short list, I'll let you check out all the nominees on their fb page. Winners will be announced at their Restaurant Awards Dinner Nov 15 at Casino NS. Somehow tickets are still available so get 'em while you can.

Sadly, it was announced today that a fixture in the Halifax Greek restaurant scene Ela, formerly known as Opa, is closing their Argyle St. location after twelve years in the biz. I don't yet know much about the reasons but you can still enjoy their eats at their Dartmouth Crossing and Bayers Lake locations. It is thoroughly disappointing that yet another business is closing downtown. Hopefully there's a silver lining in this cloud with the opportunity for a new business to take over the space and enliven our downtown. Speaking of enriching our downtown, Tempo Food + Drink, a new restaurant in the Delta Barrington has recently opened. I'm actually headed to their Grand Opening tonight so I better make this quick!

If you haven't heard, Easter Seals NS has a pretty sweet-if you're addicted to all things food like me-fundraising on the go with their Out & About Lottery. There's only one grand prize but it includes, among other things, 52 NS dining experiences for 4 people. 52!!!!! My luck better be on my side with this one! Of course, there`s also that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from helping Easter Seals help children and adults with disabilities live happy and fulfilled lives.

Lastly, the Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in the North End, a drop-in centre that offers assistance to Halifax`s homeless, is looking for chefs and volunteers to assist with their holiday dinner this December. If you have some spare time, can donate some food, or help cook up a big scran for the homeless, check out their fb page and get involved. If all goes to plan, I`ll see you there. It`s probably the best Christmas gift I will give this year.

Until next week...Eat Up.

Monday, November 5, 2012

farewell Coastal At Night

While I'll admit this post is weeks late, it is with great sadness that I write that Coastal At Night is no more. The brainchild of Graeme Ruppel, formerly of Brooklyn Warehouse and Getaway Meat Mongers, Coastal at Night was a sort of pop up dinner joint taking over the Coastal Cafe kitchen each weekend. Guests were offered locally inspired set course menus and a small a la carte. What's even sadder is that we, despite living mere minutes away, not once took advantage of the incredible menus ($35-$45 for a five course menu is a sweet deal!). Instead we stopped by on their very last night to sample some items from the a la carte menu. Well, one item to be specific, the famed chicken n' waffles. After seeing it grace the cover of The Coast, I longed for it to be mine. Apparently it took the restaurant closing to get me in there. Shame on me.

a la carte
To our surprise, the place wasn't packed although they did sell out of chicken n' waffles. We started the meal with an IPA and the polenta appy, a course on that week's Organic Menu in honor of organic week. Featuring roasted local sweet peppers, a crispy yet meltingly soft polenta cake and some shaved That Dutchman's Old Growler, this dish was awesome. I'm still learning to love polenta and, if it always tasted like this, I'd be all over the cornmeal. Then came the moment we'd been waiting for. And let me tell you, me and that chicken, we had a moment. The first bite-eyes closed-heart warming-mind blown kinda moment. The chicken was so crispy and juicy and seasoned so perfectly that I'd even go so far as to say it was some of the best fried chicken I've ever had. On it's own, the chicken could have easily satisfied my craving but it was all made exponentially better by the perfectly crunchy exterior and soft interior of the waffle all drizzled in sweet maple syrup and crisp julienned apples. And did I forget to mention the apple butter? Oh, the apple butter. Sweet and buttery and fruity. It added a whole world more flavor and I ate every last buttery bite. That's right. Me and butter? We tight.

I left Coastal at Night so extremely satisfied but saddened by the realization that this would be my first and last meal at the hands of Chef Graeme. It was apparent in every locally sourced ingredient, in the artful yet simple plating, in the perfect execution that this guy has mad love for food. How unfortunate that our city, and I'll include my self, didn't embrace such passion. I won't begin to offer an explanation as to why so I'll simply continue to hold out hope for a Coastal at Night revival or, at the very least, a Chicken n' Waffle Pop-Up (wink wink nudge nudge).

Coastal@Night on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

the buzz: Oct 31

Another week, another news update.

First off, check out the news over at Food Bloggers of Canada including two new members straight outta NS. And I highly recommend clicking on the latest featured blog, The Gouda Life. Nothin but incredible photography and amazing recipes. You can also give Kelly the ol' twitter follow @thegoudalife to stay up to date on all her posts.

Now on to the local news. Tomorrow, being Nov 1st, means Brooklyn Warehouse releases their new dinner menu. In case you haven't heard, they've gone completely mad and are doing monthly menus. Talk about eating seasonally! I totally missed out on the October action so I really need to get it together and get in there. Otherwise, I just feel like I'm missing out. Aren't you glad you can now feel that way too?!

If you're looking for something to do this week or this month for that matter, look no further than the event listings at FBC. Just when I thought things were slowing down with the cooler temperatures moving in, NS brings their A game once again with a month full of food and wine and beer. Fingers crossed that lotto ticket is a winner cuz I wanna go to ALL of it!

While not on the listing, this Saturday Pete Frootique`s is celebrating 20 Years of Yum. Twenty years in business is reason enough to celebrate but Pete`s is spreading the love with in-store specials, samples, and prizes at all three locations. Way to go Pete. Here`s to 20 more.

Speaking of celebrations, Two If By Sea is turning 3! And as a birthday gift to you they`re offering $1 bevvies at the original Dartmouth location. One dolla cappuccinos? Why yes please! It's no secret that TIBS is our fav cafe and we are thrilled to be back on the D Side living mere minutes away. Yup, three years ago, while living in Dartmouth, TIBS got us hooked on perfect capps and reminded us that there ain't nuthin' wrong with a good dose of butter. Know what's even cooler? My very first blog post was on none other than TIBS. Pretty f'n cool. So, join us Saturday in sending some love their way. You might as well eat some butter while you're at it. I know I will.

In other delicious news, our awesome NS wine is once again getting some press. Check out the Top 25 Best Wineries in Canada countdown over at Wine Access Magazine where Gaspereau Vineyards ranked in at #16. Incredible. Gaspereau is one of my favs and if you have yet to try their Muskat, go get it now. Thank me later. Or get your ticket to this Friday's Wine and Chocolate Tasting Event in support of The Canadian Parapelegic Association. There's no perfect way to taste a variety of wines including NS favorites while snacking on creations from local chocolatiers. My girl Moira of Unwined will be there workshopping some of her NS pics including Avondale Sky and, well looky looky, Gaspereau. Did I mention the Muskat?

Lastly, Local Connections, a magazine promoting local biz and intent on "connecting you to your community", is at it again with new Meet Your Local events. Starting in January, they are offering intimate evenings hosted by local businesses. First up, is Ratinaud Charcuterie and Avondale Sky. They will not only guide you through three courses of food and wine, but also share their contributions to the local food movement.  So, get your ticket and get your local love on. I pretty much bought mine the second I saw the tweet.

Well, there you have it folks. Until next week, EAT UP.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

City Harvest: the twitter edition

First off, I wrote a lil article for friends Tom & Frederic over at Ratinaud French Cuisine for the first issue of their newsletter, The Cure. Check out my local love plus Frederirc's  recipe for gratin dauphinois which is probably to die for. And don't forget to sign up. If there was one newsletter to read, it's this one.

Speaking of local love, if you were out and about on this gorgeous fall day in Halifax, I'm sure you couldn't help but feel a certain vibe in the air, a vibe filled with mad love for local food and shopping. Today, City Harvest, essentially Open City's fall edition, had finally arrived. And what a day it was. It was almost like Christmas morning. For real. While I could easily go on and on about what an awesome day it was to be a Haligonian, I decided to follow in the footsteps of my Open City post and kick it twitter stylz.

And I just can't finish up before thanking the one and only Gordon Stevens of ilovelocalhalifax. He took an idea from HalifaxReTales and created the awesomeness that was Open City then brought it to life once again with City Harvest. Like the I Love Local mandate, City Harvest is all about supporting our local businesses, strengthening our community, and proving that Halifax is an incredible place to eat, shop, and live. The scene out there today was certainly one of local love and it's only day one. Oh snap.

OMG OMG OMG when I wake it'll be !!!!!!!!!! Best day to live in Hali ever. Thank you & all local biz takin part.

Alright , let's do this! Having a hard time deciding where to start...but good thing I'm starvin! 

@JavaBlendCoffee @hfxseaportmarket to startup . Double shot baby!  

thanks for the short ribs ! Gonna be delish!  

The new totally autumn bars are amaze-balls! Perfect start to a day of binge eating!   

Damn! winter warmer & fish taco. Thx tacofairy !  

And big ups to Mother Nature for givin us a sick day to explore our city and all the #locallove that is !  

@BishopsCellar rockin the #locallove with @WinesofNS tastings paired with local cheeses. #CityHarvest

Just a lil refreshment break @carbonstok w/ @ShipBldrsCider & @GarrisonBrewing tall ship amber. Shopping never tastes so good! #CityHarvest 

Got me a sick new t from @LostCod and it's 25% off @carbonstok! you continue to amaze me. #locallove

@brentdarbyson gettin his pork on & it's the last one! Triple pork threat back here tomo!  

Been waiting all day for my ice cream ! And it's FREE! Now that is !  

Might as well follow ice cream w/ the newest fusion tacos chicken tikka! Holy f!  

@SmilingGoatSpro for my much needed second caffeine injection. Love me some clover.  

@RatinaudHFX true kitchen door stylz. That's dinner taken care of!  

Check 's sweet pics from day1! Got several in there including the bestest of !

Amazing right?! And there`s a whole second day to eat and shop and show your true love for Halifax. Follow the ilovelocal links to see the complete-and utterly mind blowing-listings. And remember to keep up the local love each and every day. Cuz you know who's awesome? We are.

Friday, October 26, 2012

local love: Elmridge Farm pumkin cranberry bread

Well, fall has finally arrived. The leaves are all aglow in reds and oranges and yellows and chilly temperatures have replaced the warm summer breezes. But there's no better sign that it is autumn than the sudden pumpkin mania gripping the world. There's just something about fall that makes people throw all other ingredients to the curb and focus on those big orange gords. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin. It's literally everywhere you look. While I do love me some pumpkin, I doubt I would ever drink a pumpkin latte and my pumpkin pie craving is easily satisfied by a single piece at Thanksgiving. But that didn't stop me from grabbing a cute lil' pumpkin from Elmridge Farm at the Halifax Seaport Farmers Market. Elmridge out of Centreville is a mainstay at the market with shelves bursting with local goodies. They pretty much have everything you're looking for.

I originally had visions of pumpkin bundt cake but this bad boy ended up in pumpkin cranberry bread. Last season planting I remember serving a similar loaf and folks went nuts. I mean, what's better to come home to on a cold planting day than a hot bowl of soup and a moist pumpkin bread all slathered in butter. Nothing. But this version went all vegan on me since there were no eggs to be had. A quick internet search led me to this recipe over at All Recipes which I then made my own. And so I give you:

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

1 3/4 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. plus a few pinches nutmeg
1 t. cinnamon
few pinches allspice
2 t. vanilla
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. canola oil
1/3 c. coconut milk
1/3 c. pumpkin seeds (raw, unsalted)
1/2 c. dried cranberries

If you are making your own pumpkin puree (local is best baby!), get that pumpkin a roasting. Perhaps 425 for 20-30 min should do it. When its all soft, scrape out the flesh and puree til smooth.

Preheat oven to 350. Sift together dry ingredients. Mix in the wet ingredients til all the flour is absorbed. Fold in the nuts and cranberries. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour and 15 min. The crust did brown quite a lot so next time I'd probably cover it in the last 15 minutes. When done, cover with foil and let it steam for about 15 min. This helps keep all that moisture right where you want it, inside.

This loaf was moist and delicious and proves that vegan food isn't missing anything. However, I do think the loaf could easily have handled  more spice. More nutmeg and perhaps some cloves which I didn't have on hand.

Brent just had a piece and says we should buy more pumpkin. So, I guess I am joining team pumpkin after all.

Monday, October 22, 2012

the buzz: Oct 23

Woohoo, my first weekly news installment. Here`s hoping I can keep it up.

First up, the news over at Food Bloggers of Canada. Each Monday, FBC posts food related news from across Canada. Check out this week's news for some sweet contests like a members only cookie contest for a chance to win a trip to FBC 2013. Oh, did I forget to mention Food Bloggers of Canada is hosting a big ol' food bloggin' conference in April 2013? Awesome indeed. And, in case you're looking for some new blogs to follow, Food Bloggers of Canada also feature blogs every Friday. I've been lucky enough to be among the chosen and, let me tell you, it's feels freakin' awesome.I'll be sure to re-post all the other lucky folks.

Alright, so what's going on this week in Hali? Well, like always, shit loads. Let's start with the Successful Canadian Women's Dinner hosted by Adsum House. After attending their annual Blooming Tea (you can read up on my post here), I was so touched by all the incredible work they do to help women and children better their lives. And that got me thinking. Sometimes we forget that even the smallest of gestures can make a big difference. So, despite not being able to attend the dinner, I decided to bake up a totally decadent chocolate cake and donate it as part of the auction portion of the dinner. With three inspiring female honorees, a fabulous meal, and loads more goodies up for auction, I'm sure the event will be a huge success. Lucky for you, there's a few tickets left. Check out their site for all the details.

lucky guests, right?
In other news, last Monday, our very own Jeffrey van Horne kicked some cocktail ass, winning both the judge's and people's choice awards for the Made With Love cocktail competition. So, if you have yet to check out JVH's incredible concoctions at the Bicycle Thief or Wednesday's at Untitled Eats, best get your cocktail on. But this week, for the first of what I hope to be many times (because I cannot go), JVH along with the chef at Untitled Eats are hosting a cocktail paired dinner. Ah-mazing. If there are any tickets left, call NOW. At the very least, check out JVH's blog Dash of Dartmouth for more cocktail love.

And the big news, this weekend is City Harvest!!! Can you tell I'm more than a little excited? After the overwhelming success of Open City in May, the ilovelocal powerhouse is once again bringing us two days of deals on local shopping and sweet back door take out at local restaurants city wide. If you're looking for a reason to fall in love with Halifax all over again, look no further. C'mon just check out the listings! And you will no doubt you see on the list. We really wanted to pop-up as The Record Shop but sadly the stars were just not aligned. I'm sure it'll happen someday but for now, we'll take advantage of City Harvest and eat, eat, eat! I suggest you do the same. If you need more convincing, check out my post from Open City and get droolin.

Also, the event listings I compile for Food Bloggers of Canada will be up early next week but in the meantime, there are a few fab looking dinners this weekend. Damn, if only I won the lottery already.
  • Fall Wine Dinner at Nectar Restaurant and Wine Bar. Mon. Oct 29, 630 pm. Five courses complete with wine pairings from the fine folks at Bishop's Cellar. $120. For resos, hit up their site.
  • Tidal Bay Tasting Dinner at Brooklyn Warehouse. Sun. Oct 28, 6 pm. Five courses, five NS Tidal Bays. 75 bones. (Can you say sick deal?!) This one'll go fast so check their fb page for deets.
And one last thing, the charcuterie genius Ratinaud is starting a newsletter, The Cure. Yes, charcuterie is the cure for anything. The first issue hits your inboxes this Thursday and I may just know someone in it (hint hint!). Best get signed up.

And just like that, you're on the 'in'.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

gobble gobble

Well, it's that time of year. Turkey day. Time to chop a bunch of local veggies, rub that local bird down with some butter and herbs,stuff it with savory bready goodness, smother everything in creamy gravy, and have one helluva family feast. I for one love turkey dinner. There's just something about loading your plate up with a little bit (or a lot!) of everything: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, squash or turnip, carrots, asparagus, cranberry sauce, and gravy. And we still somehow always manage to fit in dessert. Take that stomach! This year we're kicking it local apple and pear crisp but mom will most likely whip up one of her famous pumpkin pies too. Oh snap, double dessert.

But despite it's epic deliciousness, turkey dinner is a shit ton of work. While my sis is hosting this year with help from yours truly, perhaps this year you'd rather spend that time relaxing with the fam. What's great about living in an awesome city like Hali is that you can head on over to one of our amazing local restos and let them do the cookin for ya. So, here are three pics and amazingly enough they all source locally.

Saege Bistro - Sunday. The cool thing about Saege's dinner this year is they're doing it family style. This means big plates of food for the whole table to pass around and share. Pretty damn cool. For resos and the menu check out the fb page.

elements on hollis - Monday. Elements loves showcasing local and I doubt their holiday feast will be any different. Resos and the menu here.

Edible Matters - Not only are they offering a free range turkey dinner for dine in or take away, but they're also selling local turkeys. Booyah. Their fb page has more deets.

So whatever form your turkey dinner takes, whether you're getting a steam facial mashing that huge pot of potatoes or relaxing over a glass of wine while being served a delicious meal, let's celebrate the NS bounty and keep it local. We even got ourselves a Gaspereau Tidal Bay to round out the local feast. Pretty sure living in a province full of incredible local farms and producers is reason enough to be thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

local love: Noggins Corner Farm plum dutch baby

Well, the blog has been a tad ignored these past few weeks but, in case you didn't see it, I did pull together a guest post for my gal Lia over at Se7en's a Banquet, 9ine's a Brawl. And it's a crazy one. Eggs Benny Hors D'oeuvres with Quail Eggs and Latkes. Sheer madness I tell ya!

But we also found a new home, subletted the apartment, packed, and moved to the other side of the bridge. Yes, we are now livin' it up on the D Side. Downtown Dartmouth to be precise. And we couldn't be happier. The house is huge, there's loads of friends in the hood already, Two If By Sea is mere minutes away (trouble for my croissant addiction!), and, get this, Noggins Corner Farm has recently opened a shop in Alderney Landing open seven days a week. Local produce minutes away available every day??? It doesn't get any better.

So, in honour of our new neighborhood and love of all things local, here's a lil' breakfast recipe I whipped up the other day using some Noggin's plums: Plum Dutch Baby, otherwise known as an oven pancake. Be warned though, this isn't your typical bready pancake but rather it's eggy cousin. I've been making both an apple and a pear version for years. (Simply use 2 apples/pears thinly sliced plus some cinnamon/ginger in place of the plums.) In these, the fruit magically rises to the top, making a nummy caramelized fruit crust. The plums, however, stayed on the bottom, making it a sort of upside down pancake. It was also more tart but every bit as delicious. And once again, it's all iphone and no Canon SLR. Yes, I suck.
Plum Dutch Baby

2 T. butter
3 T. brown sugar
plums, halved, enough to cover the bottom of a 9" cast iron skillet

3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. almond milk, I used unsweetened vanilla
3 eggs
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. almond extract

Preheat oven to 425. While preheating, add the butter to the skillet and melt. Once melted, mix in brown sugar. Arrange plums cut side down until the pan is covered. Whisk together the remaining ingredients and pour over  plums. Bake about 20 min til puffed and slightly browned. Serve with maple syrup to amp up the sweetness (or add a few teaspoons of sugar to the batter).

Serves 4 or 2 depending on who you're feeding!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

wedding cake take 1

Alright, so I haven't been around for a few weeks. But trust me, I've been mad busy. One of the reasons, was a 9 day trip to Montreal for two weddings. Yup, two. And not only that, I was making the cake for one of the weddings. My very first wedding cake project.

In the week leading up to our departure, I figured out a plan and tried a few recipes. I decided on a three tiered cake as follows: 12 " chocolate cake, 9" vanilla cake, both three layers with fillings of dark chocolate mousse and white chocolate mousse, and a 6" half chocolate and half vanilla cake with dark chocolate mousse for the bride and groom to keep. The whole cake would be iced in a white chocolate buttercream. For my first cake, I was certainly not going with fondant and, besides, who even likes the taste of fondant anyway!

Luckily Deb Perelman, the genius behind Smitten Kitchen, already jumped into her own wedding cake project, making it easier for the rest of us. You can find her whole story as well as both the chocolate and vanilla cake recipes here. I must note, however, for the chocolate cake I added half the cinnamon and a few extra tablespoons of cocoa. i like my chocolate rich! In order to maximize our time, the cakes were baked two days prior. After they got brushed with a syrup of vanilla, sugar and Galliano for the vanilla cake, and coffee, Kahlua and sugar for the chocolate, they were wrapped tightly in plastic wrap,and refrigerated til the big day.

The chocolate mousse was adapted from an Alton Brown recipe on the Food Network but I did make some changes: I substituted Kahlua for the rum, used 2/3 extra dark chocolate and 1/3 milk chocolate, and added some brown sugar to adjust the sweetness plus a good pinch of sea salt. The result was rich and chocolatey with great coffee undertones. For the white chocolate mousse, I simply used white chocolate in place of the chocolate, vanilla for the Kahlua, but added more whipped cream to account for the sweetness. It was a fluffier, lighter tasting mousse that complimented the dark nicely.

As for the buttercream, I simply went for it. Butter, icing sugar, clear vanilla, lemon juice, cream, and some white chocolate. I made two batches, giving the sister-in-law's KitchenAid a run for its money, and adjusting the taste as I went. Yes, it was mad sweet but when combined with the cake and mousse, it totally worked. I kinda ran out of time and was icing the cake the morning of the wedding. Yup, shit got real. But luckily, I have the world's best boyfriend and he helped me every step of the way. We delivered the cake in layers before the wedding, doing the final assembly and decoration before the reception.


awesome plating by the hotel staff
even better plating for the bride
While it wasn't perfect (we were a tad rushed!), it was both beautiful and delicious but, most importantly, the happy couple loved it. If that's not a success, I don't know what is. Oh, and sorry for the iphone pics. Did I forget to mention both Brent and I were in the wedding party?!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

local love: Hutten Family Farm cherry tomatoes

It's that time of year in the Maritimes. The time when the markets are abound with loads of local produce and one of our favs right now are the fresh local tomatoes. There's just so many varieties to choose from. Big small, red, orange, green, yellow. Then there's these lil' beauts, the cherry tomato. I have only recently started enjoying the cherries, always being somewhat freaked out by the inevitable burst. Now I'm all 'bring on the cherry tomatoes'.

We got these bad boys from Hutten Family Farm, a fixture at the Historic Brewery Market. This weekend we opted to change up the Saturday morning market routine and instead went back down memory lane at the old market, the original. Honestly, it was a little sad to see it so empty. Well before the Seaport was built, The Brewery Market was slammin'. Always packed and so unique with its maze of a layout. Cool little corridors leading to cool little rooms. All filled with anything you could want. Loads of produce, fish, meat, coffee, bread, herbs, endless food options, and let's not forget the quintessential market breakfast, the cinnamon roll from Mary's Bread Basket. Oh yes, we were also there for the cinnamon rolls. Always somehow still warm, these may very well be my favorite cinnamon rolls. Although my girl Georgia's got some mad cinnamon roll skillz too. Anyway, the rolls were, as always, incredible. Delicious buttery gooey nostalgia. I admit there were few market visits where I didn't make a visit to Mary's and even now every bite brings me back. I'm glad the Brewery Market lives on.

What's also cool about the Brewery Market now is the number of farm stands and the variety of produce. The Hutten stand alone had so much so choose from like little kinds of eggplant, potatoes, plums, corn, melons (a kind of small yellow watermelon that was ridiculously juicy and delish), onions, greens, peppers, you name it. And, of course, loads of beautiful tomatoes. These tomatoes were destined for a salad as part of a backyard BBQ. We also got some Hutton corn to grill as well as spinach and garlic for the salad from another vendor, Four Seasons Farm. With a visit to our girl Jessi over at Storehouse Butchery, dinner was complete. The all local all delicious Saturday backyard BBQ: steak with blue cheese butter, grilled corn, and cherry tomato salad with maple bacon dressing. Shit yeah. And for once I actually measured something!

Cherry Tomato Salad with Maple Bacon Dressing

2 slices of thick cut bacon, cubed
2 cloves garlic
2 T. balsamic vinegar
3 T. maple syrup
3 T. olive oil
2 t. dijon
salt and pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 c. spinach
handful of basil, the more the better

To make the dressing, fry up the bacon on low to really render that delicious fat. We used Brother's bacon which I generally love, being so very smokey. However, this time the bacon was-get this-too meaty! A bacon with a bit more fat would have been perfect. (Please note: with a fattier bacon, you could likely use less olive oil.) Add the garlic and saute a few minutes. Feel free to drain off the fat if that's your thing but I simply whisked the remaining ingredients right in the frying pan and seasoned to taste. This dressing is thick and tangy and sweet and salty but, like always, feel free to adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. For the salad, simply chop up that spinach, chiffonade (oh, fancy word!) or, rather, thinly slice the basil, halve the cherry tomatoes, and toss with the dressing. This salad was killer. I swear basil and tomatoes may be one of the best food combos out there. So freakin' perfect for each other. Like chocolate and pb but that's another post all together... It would also be amazing with lil' cubes of boccaccini or some goat cheese. Or, if you're a veggie lovin' kinda person-I'll easily eat your share of bacon!-omit the meat. Vegan salad dressing. It's that easy.

So how easy is it to eat local here in NS? Pretty damn easy I'd say. One visit to a market and you're set. And doesn't it just feel right? Like the way things used to be. No million ingredients with chemical names. No factory farmed meat. No traveling millions of miles to get to your plate. Just real food grown by real people. People you can actually meet and form a relationship with. In fact, Sunday, September 16th in Nova Scotia is Open Farm Day. I can't believe I'm away for this one but it's your chance to visit one of the numerous farms, and believe me there are loads, to meet your farmer and literally learn where your food comes from. Amazing I know. So load those kids into the car (because how important is it in today's world of convenience foods to teach our kids about real food), pick a farm, and enjoy an awesome day exploring your Nova Scotia.

And if all goes to plan, I will continue to regularly feature recipes using seasonal local produce. Let's see if I can keep it up. Suggestions always welcome. I'll see you at the market.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

cakey bacon

First, watch this video. Trust me. Just do it. It'll be one of the best things you've ever done.

Amazing right?! Big thanks to Coastal at Night (Graeme I'm assuming?) for finding this sucker and sharing via the twitter. And what could I do in turn but share with the rest of my bacon loving com padres. One such friend, a chef at work, was thrilled. And, since he was about to embark on some travelling in Europe, what a better way to send him off than Cakey Bacon. Yeah, that's right. It happened.

Inspired by this hilarious video, I got out Big Red and devised a cake of bacon awesomeness. First, I made some candied bacon by tossing bacon with brown sugar and pepper and baking til crispy. This bacon, however, turned out on the chewy side so candied bacon, we shall meet again.

Next up, the cake. To compliment the bacon, I decided on a Brown Butter Cake. I knew its nutty buttery flavor would be perfect. If you have yet to experience the magic that is brown butter, I suggest you get on it. It's like butter's delicious cousin. I know right? As if butter could get any better! You can find the recipe here thanks to Food & Wine.

Once the cake was cool, I whipped up some Maple Bacon Frosting using butter, bacon fat, maple syrup, vanilla, and icing sugar. Best.Frosting.Evah. Hold on to that bacon grease people. Stuff is pure gold. So it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you:

Cakey Bacon!

No cakey bacon would be complete without bacon roses.
No surprise, this cake was incredible. Salty and sweet and buttery and so very bacony. While this cake is not something you could indulge in often, it was worth every single bite and most certainly something everyone should experience at least once. You may even see it make a special guest appearance at The Record Shop.

So listen to the Meat Wizard. Embrace the salty lil' pig strip. It's filthy tasty!

Monday, August 6, 2012

feelin' like family at TIBS

We finally did it. We made it to a Two If By Sea Family Dinner. And not just any dinner either. Their annual pig roast. When pig was mentioned, I knew I had to switch my shift or I would forever be regretting it. Pig is easily one of my favorite foods. I mean c'mon. Bacon, panchetta, prosciutto, pulled pork, roast pork, ribs....what's not to love!

And to add to my excitement, I was finally going to meet Rene Lavelle, The Feisty Chef. I have followed her blog and tweets for awhile now and have mad respect for her culinary skills and approach to food. And let me tell you, she's even cooler in person. OK she may get brownie points for being a shortie like I but it was awesome to see her with her hands all up in that pig, pulling away for our eating pleasure.

The amuse bouche to start was an ol' fashioned deviled egg with smoked paprika and Tabasco atop salsa verde which I could have licked off the plate. So minty and fresh. There was also watermelon and, although it sounds crazy, pickled watermelon rind. Sweet and tart and a wonderful way to use something we all normally throw out.

And way to go TIBS, filling us up on cheesy croissant sticks before the meal. Like we could resist.

The appetizer course was a cold cucumber soup with avocado, like huge awesome chunks of avocado.  It was smooth and tangy and refreshing. Exactly what us sweaty diners needed. It was literally over 30 outside and with the sun shining in, I bet even hotter inside. I didn't grab a pic, but big ups to Zane for making some killer BBQ lemonade to cool us off. And lemonade with coffee in it? Awesome.

Now the moment we'd all been waiting for..drumroll please...the main course. Served up buffet style, apparently unlike other TIBS dinners, the main consisted of cheesy corn casserole, iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese dressing, potato salad with roasted peppers and capers, baked beans, four sauces to choose from, tamarind, salsa verde, habanero, and Carolina gold, and, of course, the guest of honor, Terrance the pig from Getaway Farm.

If the pic is any indication, this dinner was incredible. The stuff dreams are made of. And, be still my beating heart (ha!), there was pork in almost everything! Pork belly in the beans and bacon in the corn casserole. That Renee knows how to bring it. The baked beans, pork, crackling (crispy fatty pork skin oh my!), and the tamarind sauce were among my favs but, honestly, everything was absolutely delicious.

We were well on our way to a food baby at this point and there was still a course to go. But how can you say no to Zane's cappuccino and anything Tara bakes up? You can't so you might as well just loosen that belt.

As you can see, another perfect cappuccino and one awesome traditional strawberry shortcake a la TIBS. Please forgive me stomach but it had to be done. We were so very full, we even walked home to Halifax. In fact, I could do nothing but lay on the couch for the rest of the night rubbing my food baby. So, was it worth it? Hells yes. And I'd do it again in a second.

Mad props to the whole team at TIBS, Zane, Tara, Alexis, Adam, Renee, and Doug. They really do a fab job at these dinners and you'd be crazy not to get in on at least one. And no matter who you go with, it really does feel like a big ol' family dinner. I even met two bloggers I follow. How bout that.

And, last but certainly not least, a big thank you to Terrance for being so freaking delicious. Oink.

Friday, August 3, 2012

celebrate local

It's a no brainer that Nova Scotia has abundant produce, especially at this time of year. Markets are alive with greens and tomatoes and berries and so much more. So what a better way to celebrate than Farmers Market Week! Starting tomorrow, Farmers Markets of NS begins a week long celebration in honor of our 40 or so markets around the province.  "Experience fresh, Celebrate local, Taste summer in NS". I guess you know what you're doing tomorrow.

Visiting the Halifax Seaport Market each Saturday has become one of our favorite weekly rituals. We not only stock up on local produce, meat, and eggs, but also visit with friends, some even vendors like the Made With Local ladies and the amazing artists Shelagh Duffet and Daina Scarola.Sometimes we'll even find our friends playing some good ol' country tunes. Of course, there's also the great coffee and all the amazing food.

So to get you excited about your local market, here's a wee recipe inspired by some market finds.

Basil, Sun dried tomato, Kale, and Smoked Chicken Pasta

But why don't we first explore our ingredients and meet our farmers.

First in the spotlight, local, organic basil. I wish I knew the name of the farm but I don't believe it's posted. It's a stall of bright green containers with gorgeous organic produce tended by a lovely women and her tiny baby. The bags of basil weren't perfect so were ideal for pesto.Well, it wasn't really a pesto, more a puree of basil, olive oil, garlic, and a touch of asiago. Pesto is something you can play with. Jam some basil in the food pro, add some garlic, salt and pepper, a hard cheese like asiago or parm, toasted pinenuts or other nuts if you got 'em, and puree away. Once you get the hang of it, you'll figure out the proportions that work for your tastes. And don't stop at traditional pesto. Go crazy and try using arugula, spinach, dill or sun dried tomatoes. The possibilities-and uses-are endless. If she has these bags of basil again this week, you bet I'll be grabbing another.

Next up, the chicken. I have had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Jason Pelley of Fiddle Hop Farms. This guy is something else. I mean just take a look at his TED talk. Nuff said, right?! Well, he is also in the process of forming Pelley Foods, locally sourcing anything and everything local restos may need. I luckily enough got in on some local, free range chickens and no surprise we decided to smoke one. In the homemade smoker of course. (They"ll be a post on that sometime soon!) So delicious and more than enough for another meal. And what a better use of leftover chicken than pasta. In a time where we are well aware of the ethical and health implications of eating factory farmed meat, I'm all for free range. It's how our grandparents ate; it's how we were meant to eat. So big thank you for Jason for keeping me in the loop and we are so very excited to work with him as we source for The Record Shop.

Finally, kale. I see a lot of twitter chat about folks not knowing what to do with kale. At first bite, it's bitterness can easily put you off of kale for good but saute that til tender in some olive and a good helping of garlic and you'll be a lifer. Better yet, cut it into pieces, rub it with some oil and s&p, and bake til crispy. If there's one thing that'll turn you on to kale for good, it's kale chips. This beautiful kale was purchased from Elmridge Farm, a mainstay at the Halifax Seaport Market. Elmridge is always one of our Saturday morning stops and we regularly buy carrots, kale, onions, potatoes, beets, and loads more seasonal goodies. Located in Centreville in the gorgeous and fertile Annapolis Valley, Elmridge is a small family owned farm, and exactly what this celebration is all about.

Now for the recipe. Once again, this was something I whipped up last night without ever measuring a thing so bare with me. But if there's one thing I've learned in all my years of cooking, it's that recipes are mere guidelines. It's all about your own taste. So go ahead and change it. Spice it. Add different herbs. But most importantly, have fun. You are your own celebrity chef!

basil pesto (see notes above)
pasta, we use brown rice pasta
1 T. olive oil
1 lg shallot, diced
2 lg handfuls sun dried tomatoes, sliced
2-3 stalks kale, sliced, with the hard stem removed
2 cloves garlic
smoked chicken (as much as you want!)
asiago cheese, grated
Liquid Gold Milanese Gremolata olive oil
balsamic reduction

First, get that pasta cooking (in salted water of course). Saute the shallots til tender. Add garlic and kale. I like a lil crunch to my kale so I don't blanch it first like you'll see in other recipes. I'd say give it about 3-5 min. Add sun dried tomatoes and chicken and cook til heated through. Add pasta and pesto and toss til it's all coated in basily goodness. Season with salt and pepper. I added a little splash of Liquid Gold Milanese Gremolata olive oil because, frankly, the stuff is awesome. To finish, sprinkle with asiago or parm and some balsamic reduction. Et viola, dinner. Now doesn't the market taste great?

I also failed to mention that tomorrow is Food Day Canada. According to their website, "Food Day Canada, Saturday August 4th, is a chance for all Canadians to join hands in one massive celebration in praise of our farmers and fishers; our chefs and researchers…and, above all, our home cooks."  And what a more perfect way to honor the day than heading to your local farmer's market and preparing your own locally sourced meal. Hell, why not snap a pic or write a post or share a recipe and we'll put together one big Food Day Canada/Farmer's Market Week post. You in?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

the gentle island

PEI The Gentle Island - photo courtesy of PEI Tourism
Somehow lately I have mad luck. I've been winning everything from film fest tickets to air miles. Yes, I know. It's time to buy some lotto tickets. More recently, by simply answering four questions about PEI on the local travel writer Cailin O'Neil's blog, I was invited to a PEI Tourism media event here in Hali with celebrity chef Corbin Tomaszeski. Media you say? While I tried my damnest to invite my food blogging pals, none were available. Luckily, two food lovin' girlfriends, one appropriately from PEI, were free so we headed down to the Lower Deck to check it out.

What we didn't realize is that we'd be cooking along side Chef Corbin in an intimate event with perhaps 30-40 others. How cool is that? And, in case you don't know who Chef Corbin is, you can spot him on such TV shows as Dinner Party Wars (which every time we watch, Brent and I think we'd totally school everyone!), Restaurant Makeover, and Crash My Kitchen. He is as cool and chill and funny in person as he appears on TV. Really. While he doesn't hail from PEI but rather farm country in Alberta, he has mad love for the island and its cuisine. Like NS, PEI has loads of local food to be proud of. And I'm not just talkin' potatoes! In PEI, they're all about the seafood. So how appropriate that all the dishes we were about to prepare featured PEI lobster.

Chef Corbin. Those two gorgeous ladies on the left? They're with me.
To start, Chef Corbin whipped up a fresh yellow tomato gazpacho with peppers, onions, cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro. Top that off with some fresh lobster and that's one refreshingly awesome summer soup. What was even more refreshing, however, was Chef Corbin's passion for food. For him, it's all about the connections we make. Food should bring us together. It should build memories. It's smell and taste should remind us of times spent with family and friends. I couldn't agree more.

gazpacho shots with PEI lobster
And the best part, here's the recipe!

Chef Corbin's Yellow Tomato and Lobster Gazpacho

1/2 lb fresh lobster, cooked, chopped
1 lb yellow tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled
2 yellow peppers
1/2 jalapeno
1 white onion
1/4 c. cilantro
juice of 2 limes
1 1/2 c. veg stock
Tabasco sauce
cherry tomatoes to garnish

Coarsely shop all vegetables. Puree tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumber and jalapeno in a blender with lime juice and stock until smooth. Season with salt, pepper, Tabasco, and cilantro. Add fresh lobster. Serve in clear shot glasses garnished with red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Apparently, gin loves lobster so feel free to add a splash!

But on to the part where we got to play! Teamed up with strangers, we went to work, first, creating an appetizer consisting of fresh lobster, crostini, a charred corn and zucchini relish, and a wonderfully smooth Bernaise made by one of the participants. I believe it was her first time so Bravo! I think it's pretty evident by the photo, these were not only incredible but gorgeous (our mad plating skills at work).

charred corn relish in the making
lobster and Bearnaise toast with charred corn relish
To finish up, we threw together a lobster salad with avocado and bacon. Three of my fav foods together at last. Nuff said. (If you want recipes for either the salad or appetizer, get at me!)

lobster BLT salads
After snacking on our creations-and perhaps a little extra lobster-we headed out to the courtyard for some complimentary snacks and drinks. PEI how I love you already! Not only were we treated to an open bar and wonderful food from the folks at the Lower Deck, but also tunes from PEI natives Meaghan Blanchard and the Paper Lions. And it doesn't stop there. We also met loads of great folks, media and bloggers alike, and each walked away with huge gift baskets of PEI goodies. Oh, did I forget to mention, my girlfriend won the grand prize of a 5 day trip to PEI!? Yes, lucky indeed.

Gift baskets - photo courtesy of PEI Tourism

Meaghan Blanchard - photo courtesy of PEI Tourism
The Paper Lions - photo courtesy of PEI Tourism
We are so very lucky in the Maritimes to have such amazing scenery and food and culture. Being from Pictou, I have always felt a little connected to PEI. Until the Confederation bridge was built, the ferry out of Pictou was the only way to get to the island by car. While I haven't been in years, I have fond memories of visiting as a child and always mean to revisit. With the upcoming PEI Fall Flavors event in September, it's high time I grab the ferry and explore my neighbor. Not only will Chef Corbin be there with his refreshing sense of humor, but also a whole slew of celebrity chefs like PEI's own Chef Michael Smith, Chef Anna Olsen, Chef Mark McEwan, the recently named Top Chef Canada Chef Carl Heindrich, even Chef Suser Lee. If the lobster's not enough to get you there, I'm pretty sure that is!

For information on traveling to the gentle island, including vacation packages, visit PEI Tourism.or give them the ol' twitter follow @gentleisland. Psst, it's a perfect weekend getaway for us city folk.

Chef Corbin and the PEI team - photo courtesy of PEI Tourism
Big thank you to Cailin O'Neil, the Lower Deck, Chef Corbin, PEI Tourism, and Samantha Farnum of the Mosaic Team.