Thursday, February 23, 2012

love at chives

Being uber busy these days-and there's that whole boyfriend in another province thing-meant we totally missed V Day . Generally we celebrate by going for a nice meal. But not going Tuesday was probably in our favor since we missed out on the crowds. I've served at a popular restaurant on V Day before so I know how bat shit crazy it can get. Lucky for us, our own personal V Day was this past Sunday. The setting: Chives and I'll admit it was our first time. I know, I know.

We arrived to a warm inviting space and were led to a large table set for two. How nice. Our server was a lovely lady who, when I ordered a bottle of Bodegas Juan Gil Petit Verdot, engaged me in a conversation about the wine, wanting to ensure I 'd enjoy it despite having never tried it. She very clearly knew her stuff. To start, Brent chose the oysters (no surprise there) and I opted for the beef short ribs off the Dine Around menu, part of the Savour Food and Wine celebration. (OK, I may have been obsessed with reading the Dine Around menus over and over, trying to decide where to go. If only I got paid to sample them all....a girl can dream.) The cajun oysters were ah-mazing. Corn flour dusted, flash fried and paired inventively with a slaw, chipotle aioli, chorizo BBQ sauce, and sweet potato puree, these were nothing short of incredible. Sweet, salty, acidic, crunchy, tart, creamy, savoury, spicy. Did I miss anything cuz I don't think they did. I want more now, like four orders more. But equally as delish, was the balsamic glazed short rib with smoked tomato ragout, cheddar polenta, and hickory sticks. Again, these chefs know how to bring it when it comes to representing a variety of flavours and textures. Don't even get me started on how incredibly tender those ribs were. Insert drool here. And apparently I do like polenta, at least the creamy, cheesy Chives version.

For his main, Brent chose Bill Wood's local lamb dish (another no brainer especially since he never gets it at home- ew lamb). I am going to say the craziest thing now but I-gasp-thoroughly enjoyed the lamb. Crazy I know. That slow braise made for some incredibly tender lamb that somehow tasted less lamby. Make sense?! Brent kept feeding me bites of the succulent meat not because he was big on sharing but rather to turn me onto lamb. And I did not complain. His dish also included a toasted barley risotto, chestnut gravy and some sauteed brussel sprouts and parsnips with cranberry. All very delicious. And one more word on the lamb - how cool is it that this dish is named for the farmer. Pretty f'n cool I'd say. Read this article from another local food blogger Simon Thibault and it becomes that much cooler: He's "that guy'' You know the "lamb guy"...

From the three entree options off the Dine Around menu, I went for the pan roasted Steelhead trout served with roasted fingerlings, creamed savoy cabbage with double smoked bacon, pickled heirloom beets and a lemon fennel salad. I'm not one to order fish when dining out-although I have no idea why- but this dish made me rethink my ways. Sometimes I find trout or salmon a tad underdone even though I know a lot of folks like it medium. But at Chives the fish was cooked perfectly. Tender and juicy with a nice crust. The buttery creamed cabbage expertly complimented the tender fish with the bacon providing the requisite salty touch. I'll take bacon as my salt any day! (Hmmm bacon salt. I'll get on that...) Even though I always love me some beets, the pickled ones in this dish provided yet another element.  Can you say yum. I don't know if I missed it or if the other flavors were more pronounced but I can't recall the lemon fennel salad component. I may have detected a hint of citrus but I certainly didn't taste fennel. There were some coriander seeds for a nice unexpected pop of flavor. Regardless, I never for one moment thought anything was missing, lemon fennel salad or not.

Because this was our V Day and I had chosen the dessert inclusive Dine Around menu, we went for it. My dessert, "The Peanut Buster" was pure bliss, if bliss was a fluffy, chocolatey flourless cake with creamy peanut butter ice cream all drizzled in chocolate ganache and dulche de leche. Oh, there were candied peanuts too. Yes, take a moment to yourself. Brent's dessert consisted of a local apple stuffed with brioche bread pudding, served with cinnamon gelato and and butter toffee sauce. The bread pudding was especially moist and yummy and that gelato was off the hook. Brent did enjoy it but, after tasting mine, was very clearly jealous. Chocolate and peanut butter will always trump apple cinnamon. But that's just me.

With our wine pick a clear winner, we enjoyed one of the best meals we have ever had in Hali. For real. The atmosphere was casual yet still romantic, the food very clearly divine, and the service impeccable. It's quite funny actually. She asked if Brent was a chef because every time she came to the table we were obviously deep in conversation about the biz or other food related things. Love it!

The folks down there at Chives are doing it all right. If their well rounded menu of locally sourced fare isn't evidence enough, head on down there and see for yourself. If you need a date, I'm game but perhaps we'll keep that to ourselves! And FYI, that Dine Around Menu is only 35 bucks. Seems like a steal doesn't it? That's because it is.

(You may have noticed the lack of delicious foodie photos. It was a special night out so I opted to keep the cell in the pocket. I was glad I did.)

Chives Canadian Bistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 11, 2012

cross one off

OK so I have a list. You know that list of cafes and restaurants to try that we all have. Well, at least I know all you foodies out there have one. But despite all the eating out we do, that damn list never seems to shrink! Before Xmas I finally got the chance to cross Talay Thai off the list. And once again it was with my sister and her fella (wow, is he gonna roar when he reads that!). We love family style dining (aka sharing so you get to eat EVERYTHING!!) so we went for it and ordered four different dishes: cashew chicken, pad Thai, masaman curry, and ginger beef. It was awhile ago so forgive me if I don't go into detail but the gist is...yum, yum, yum, and let me see, yum. Everything was remarkably flavorful, spicy enough (although we only ventured into the one chili ratings), plentiful (easily enough for four very full tummies), and crazy well priced. With tax and tip, I'm talkin' 16 bucks a person well priced!

Despite all that we hadn't gone back since. Frequently whipping up some pad Thai or red curry noodle at home means Thai is just one of those foods not on our radar when we go out to eat. But recently we had a new mission:  to prove to our British friends that you can find a good curry in Hali. Talay Thai to the rescue. Once again, family style dining was the way to go with each of us choosing one dish to share: spicy chicken, spicy seafood noodles, duck curry, and cashew vegetables.

OMG the duck curry was off the hook! I'm not one to order duck but this was frikkin' awesome. Red curry, coconut milk, grapes, pineapple, lime leaves, and duck of course. All kinds of wonderful. This was probably my favorite of the evening and I would even go back for this dish alone. That.Good.

And now comes the heat. Three chilies really means three chilies at Talay Thai. The spicy chicken was a whole world of spicy yet even this wimp could enjoy the tender chicken and yummy chili-basil sauce.

At two chilies, the spicy seafood noodle still packed a punch. Loaded with vegetables, perfectly cooked rice noodles, stir fried egg, and enough seafood for four to each get some, the spicy seafood noodle won us all over.

Last but not least, the cashew vegetables, similar to cashew chicken minus the chicken of course, was that perfect balance of sweet and spicy that I adore. And I gotta mention the green beans. In most of the dishes, the 'long' beans were so perfectly cooked that they almost stole the show. No photo of this dish though...being the last to arrive on the table, my guests were not about to wait for me to take a photo. Us food bloggers really love our photos sometimes much to the dismay of our hungry guests. Have you seen "shit foodies say"? Watch it and you'll know what I mean.

But what, you may ask, did our British friends think of the meal? Well, obviously they loved it, every last morsel of it...I'm talking almost licking plates here folks! And there you have it. You can find a good curry in Hali. Scratch that. You can find a frikkin' amazing curry in Hali.

Find out for yourself:

Talay Thai Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Record Shop

When I first started this blog over a year ago, we had hopes of using it to garner support for our dream of opening a cafe in Halifax. Well, that day has finally come! As of January 9, we were accepted into the Self Employment Benefits Program run jointly by the Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development and Employment NS. Essentially, we are given a living allowance, access to a series of workshops covering everything from developing a business plan to networking, as well as the guidance of a business adviser. Sounds amazing, right?! Folks seem genuinely shocked when I tell them the support we are getting to open our own business and, honestly, we do feel rather lucky. I cannot say enough good things about CEED and their incredibly supportive staff. If it wasn't for them, I'm not sure all this would be happening. It's no surprise CEED, either through the SEB or through their funding, is behind a lot of the small businesses in Halifax. Check it out.

But don't think for one sec that this whole business planning thing is easy! It's long ass hours of researching and writing and reading and researching and writing and rewriting and so on and so on. But CEED does a great job of breaking it all down into manageable parts. Much less overwhelming. One of those parts was the development of a market research survey. Last week we launched our survey and within hours had reached our limit (damn trial versions). We certainly didn't expect the overwhelming response but it was pretty frikkin' cool. So, we re-posted a second one and it's live if you care to put your two cents in. Oh, and did I forget to mention the name of said cafe?! Duh duh duh....introducing The Record Shop resto-coffee bar.

We've even gotten a little press. Last week I had contacted Hilary Beaumont at OpenFile Halifax to let her know of our survey just to expand its reach. I mean we LOVE all our friends sharing but we wanted to try to get some folks outside our own circles. Well that little twitter message resulted in a phone interview and then an awesome article and then many retweets and then new followers and well, you get the picture. It's been pretty incredible. So thank you Hilary and everyone else out there for sharing our story, giving some great feedback, and, most importantly, supporting us.

If all goes to plan, we open this summer. But stay tuned to the blog or the fb page for updates as they happen. Now how to tune out all the social media (can you say addicted!) and finish that report for Friday...