Tuesday, March 27, 2012

community of food

In the past few months, I've had the pleasure to attend several food related community events. We really do have mad love for all things food here in Hali and I revel in it. What a perfect environment to open a lil' resto-cafe.

Back in the winter I  joined twitter and I can't say enough about how great it is for staying in the loop - whatever that loop is for you- and for me it's all food all the time. Without the twitter (which I have come to affectionately call it) there is no way I would have, first of all, followed the blog Food Je T'aimme and then, found out about the EatWild Project community potluck back in January. The EatWild Project formed by Noah Markson and Bronwen Vienna organizes social food events internationally. Their most recent endeavor was to recreate the path of Samuel de Champlain from Nova Scotia to Ontario as Culinary Explorers, discovering local food along the way. For someone new to the Hali food scene (yes, I did have my blog already but leaving for the bush every spring meant I was never able to really immerse myself in it) this was exactly the kind of potluck I wanted to be in on. Not only were we excited to meet Noah, Bronwen, and Aimee, but we were stoked for the food. Somehow potlucks always make me feel like I'm getting a free dinner despite contributing a dish. Because this was an adventure in local eating, we surveyed the fridge for some local goodies that could really showcase our community. I decided on a gratin of PEI organic Yukon gold potatoes, wild mushrooms, and smoked Gruyere while Brent whipped up a crisp with local apples and pears accompanied by a whiskey sauce. I swear he would add whiskey to anything! And man, were we right to be excited: potato scallop, fresh oatmeal molasses brown bread, salt cod fishcakes, beef stew, biscuits, marrow butter, and some duck and rabbit rilette. Plus, we didn't even realize we'd be meeting so many other food bloggers and local business owners: Asheley Ramey of asheleyeats, Kim Stacey owner and chef at Emma's Eatery in Eastern Passage, Frederic Tandy owner and charcuterie master at Ratinaud French Cuisine, and Jessi Gillis owner and chef at Highland Drive Catering and the soon to open Storehouse Butchery in the Hydrostone. Successful night, yes indeed. We were having so much fun, we even continued the conversation at a local pub over some pints. You can check out this video by the EatWild Project about the potluck in which-as a total surprise to me-Brent speaks of our business plans. I didn't even know there was a camera rolling! A big, big thank you to Noah and Bronwen for the fantastic time and the most perfect start to our own culinary adventure.

A few weeks later, Aimee invited a bunch of ladies, mostly food bloggers, over for tea. Aimee's goal was simple: to build community through online connections. And man, were connections had! There I met many of the other food bloggers I had recently followed on the twitter namely: Sheena Clark of Butter Versus Burpees, Kelly Neil of kellyneil.com or the amazing handle baconandbaileys, and Allie Kincade of Allie's Changing Kitchen. I also had the pleasure of meeting some other inspiring women: Shelagh Duffet, an artist and blogger at aliceinparislovesartandtea, Chara Kingston owner of Love, Me Boutique, Nancy Stapleton from Adsum for Women and Children, and once again the wonderful Kim Stacey. Tea, a buttload of sweets, and great conversation with some amazing women; the perfect Sunday afternoon and the beginning of something special (but more to come on that later!). Check out Aimee's post to see some incredible pics from that day but prepare to do some drooling. (Kathy, perhaps a bright green tupperware was not the best way to go. Note to self! And those dark chocolate almond cookies were both vegan and sugar free. Booyah!) 

Then, in celebration of International Women's Day, Brent and I along with the ever lovely Aimee attended a community potluck at Emma's Eatery in Eastern Passage. We wanted to finally check out Kim's place and show our support for her community focused resto. With loads of homecookin' lining a long table, it wasn't hard going back for seconds. Baked beans, meatballs, mac n' cheese, taco salad, Irish lamb stew, lemon thyme chicken, fried rice, and salmon artichoke dip (a la Aimee) were only some of the offerings. And then there was the dessert table. Apparently, everyone had chocolate on the brain so the dessert table was a chocolaty wonderland. There were two varieties of oatmeal cranberry chocolate chip cookies, a heavenly orange chocolate mouse made by the youngest guest, a chocolate trifle, an incredible flour less chocolate cake, and of course I added fuel to the fire by bringing a gluten free brownie covered in a chocolate ganache. I can't believe I'm saying this but it was chocolate overload. I didn't even make it through half of the items. As if. Besides the food, the best part of the evening was meeting everyone and sharing stories of our relationship with food. It was interesting to hear how so many women learned their skill from their mothers and how the most cherished recipes were those handed down by mothers and grandmothers. Us women are all about food. We always have been. It was certainly the perfect way to celebrate the occasion.

And now-in case you are not on the twitter-some foodie folks and I are trying to get a community potluck together. But this ain't your ordinary potluck. We're talkin' the bringing your best local dish to a room full of others-chefs, food bloggers, foodies-who love food as much as you do kind of potluck. There's even a risotto throwdown. Sounds awesome doesn't it. Well, if you want in, go to the fb event page for all the deets. And the events don't stop there. Everyday I find out about special dinners or other food related community events happening around the city. But alas time and the ol' budget just don't allow for everything. It has certainly been a pretty amazing start to our lives as aspiring resto owners and members of the local food community and I am thrilled to see where the road takes us.

If you are interested in finding out more about local food events check out the listings at Food Bloggers of Canada, compiled by none other than the beautiful Aimee. Or follow me on the twitter cuz I'm a mad retweeter when it comes to food. What can I say.

Monday, March 26, 2012

beer & Hartbreak

I don't know if you're down with the whole groupon/teambuy/whatever-you-call-it craze but I've gotten some pretty sick deals. But then again, I really only buy the ones I know I will use. Like those for local restaurants. Most recently I purchased a teambuy for The Hart & Thistle, a gastropub and brewery in Historic Properties right on the waterfront. We'd never been and what better way to try it than with a sweet discount. Somehow lucking out big time and getting off work early this past Wednesday when it was over 25 degrees, we took the opportunity to meet downtown in search of a late lunch and a cold beer. Teambuy to the rescue. Unfortunately, but totally understandably, the patio was closed. It was after all only March 21st. But with those giant windows facing the water, we were still able to enjoy both the summer weather and the stellar view.

Now on to the most important part, the beer. I generally am not a big beer drinker but on hot days such as this, ain't nuthin' like a cold brew. The Hart & Thistle actually houses a small brewery so we were excited to try their specialty but surprised they only offer one. Today's was a double IPA. Being huge IPA fans, we were stoked. Hoppy and yummy and cold and exactly what we were looking for.

For our starter, we ordered the sweet curry battered scallops only to find out they hadn't gotten their scallop delivery.  No biggy because they had calamari, one of our go-tos. Served on a cool black slate with sweet chili mayo and tomato jam, the calamari was crispy and tender yet not as flavorful as expected,  almost like a frozen product. It was also apparently panko crusted but considering the appearance and texture of that crust, it must have been more of a panko flour. The best part, that sweet tomato jam.

For a main, Brent ordered the Thistle's Bigger Burger with a grilled Italian sausage, peppered havarti and the usual fixins. But wires got crossed somewhere and he was served the Hart burger with aged cheddar and smoked bacon. So, the server brought the sausage almost instantly (hmm, precooked perhaps) and voila, a fusion burger. I don't know about you but Brent and I like condiments on our burgers or at least on the side. But for Brent, who didn't want to call the server over again, settled for old reliable, ketchup. Unfortunately, Brent's burger was overcooked, dry, and almost burnt.  Very disappointing. And, I wish I could say the place was busy but with maybe three other tables, it sadly was not.

check out that sun!
I chose Josh's Big Crunch Chicken Sandwich served on an onion bun with ancho chili mayo. While the bun was fresh, it didn't have that typical sweet onion flavor I associate with onion buns. The chicken certainly was crunchy but the crust was curried, something the menu failed to mention. Good thing I like curry. And the ancho chili mayo was so mild especially next to the curry that it could easily have been plain ol' mayo. The sandwich was tasty but overall nothing special. Plus, our fries were so heavily salted, they were almost inedible.

The Hart & Thistle is certainly a cool spot with great wooden details and a fab location on the waterfront but it misses the mark on the food front. Reading the menu, I expected more than your typical pub fare but was given just that. Ah well, at least we tried. Despite the burger mix up, the service was pleasant and that double IPA almost made up for the food. Well not really, but it sure was refreshing.

Hart & Thistle Gastropub And Brewery on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 19, 2012

quinoa salad with avocado lime dressing

I admit that I'm the worst food blogger when it comes to posting recipes...partly because when I cook at home, I just throw things together and partly because I am developing recipes for the cafe that are totally top secret. Some food bloggers I know (ahem Butter Versus Burpees) have this crazy ability to post a recipe almost daily that looks incredible, sounds delish, and is uber healthy. Well, today I am fighting back! Tonight I made a quinoa salad with an avocado lime dressing. It's ridiculously easy. It's fresh. It's mad healthy.  And I gotta say, it looks pretty damn tasty.

1/2 c. quinoa
1 c. water
1/4 avocado
zest and juice of 1/2 lime
1-2 t. honey
1-2 t. oil
1/4 c. cucumber
3 T. red onions
1/3 c. broccoli
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. chopped walnuts

Bring the quinoa and water to a boil then reduce heat, cover and simmer til tender. Let cool. In the meantime, prep your cucumber, broccoli, and red onions. Feel free to change any of the amounts to suite your tastes. Besides, I am totally guessing at those measurements anyway. Alright, on to the dressing. Blend together the avocado, honey, salt and peppa, lime zest and juice, and about a teaspoon of oil. I added a bit more oil to get the consistency I wanted, using a combination of the amazing Milanese Gremolata olive oil from Liquid Gold and some grapeseed oil. Toss it all together and viola, you got one hell of a nutritious salad. Complete protein from the quinoa powerhouse, vitamin E from the walnuts, heart healthy oil from the avocado, and a slew of vitamins from the veggies. What else could you really ask for? Perhaps some local trout with a maple orange glaze and a side of sauteed kale and garlic. But, hey, that's just how we roll.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

club sugar and butter

This past Sunday I attended the first-of what I hope to be many-meetings of the Halifax Baking Club. I can tell you are jealous already. Started by the beautiful and talented Kelly Neil of Bacon and Baileys (yes, not only is she a fab food blogger who has the deepest appreciation for bacon and Baileys but she's also a sick photographer...I mean have you seen her photos?!), the Halifax Baking Club is really just a way to meet others interested in baking and celebrate all things sugar and butter. Sounds amazing I know. But whats really cool is that there is a theme each meeting revealed a week before. This past week's: New Year New Recipe. Having baked for quite some time including several times a day in the planting world, I admit I was at a loss to find something new. I was gonna go all crazy and make turnovers with homemade puffed pastry but then some drinks at the Carleton the previous night foiled my plans. After surveying the fridge, I found fresh thyme, lemons and, damn, not much butter. A quick search of the net and I had found my new recipe. Introducing: Lemon Thyme Olive Oil Cupcakes with Balsamic Buttercream.

Photo courtesy of Kelly Neil
Thanks to The Cupcake Project for providing the recipe and inspiration. Here's the deets but I did add twice as much lemon zest for a tangier cupcake. Also, instead of the Balsamic Whipped Cream she paired with her cupcakes, I used what little butter I had for a balsamic buttercream.

1 c. sugar
2 T. lemon zest (about 1 large lemon)
2/3 c. olive oil
3 eggs
2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 T. thyme fresh, chopped  finely

Balsamic Buttercream
2 T. balsamic vinegar
pinch brown sugar
2 c. icing sugar
1/2 c. butter, room temperature
splash milk/cream

garnish - sugared lemon rind, thyme leaves

Mix lemon zest with sugar. Rub it together to release all that lemony goodness. Lick your fingas when no one's looking. Whisk in the olive oil til combined then the eggs, one at a time. Sift dry ingredients together. Add half of the dry ingredients to the wet, alternating with half the lemon juice. Repeat. Fold in the thyme. I made daintly lil' mini cupcakes (greasing the pan with grape seed oil) but go for the original size if ya like em big. Bake at 350 for about 12 min for the minis or 20 for the regular. (Note: her recipe says 375 but my oven is carazy so I constantly have to adjust.)

I totally didn't use a recipe for the buttercream but it went a little something like this: reduce the balsamic (to about 2 t. or til syrupy) by simmering with a pinch of brown sugar.  Beat the butter til soft, gradually adding sifted icing sugar til soft and fluffy. Add in the balsamic reduction once cooled. Add in some milk to reach desired consistency.

And there you have it, new year new recipe. A total success. Not only were these tasty little bundles of sweet and tangy, but they were a hit with everyone in attendance. But what, you ask, did everyone else bring? Well head on over to the Halifax Baking Club's Facebook page and have a peek. Kicking yourself for not going? Yes, yes you should. But all the more reason to 'like' that page and get on board for the next meet up. Because, let's be honest, there ain't nuthin' wrong with a little sugar and butter.