Thursday, February 28, 2013

food truckin Brooklyn Warehouse style

Well, today is the day. The last day to send some love Brooklyn Warehouse's way by contributing to their kitchen reno crowdfund campaign. Sure, you get amazing meals and/or your name on the wall in return but to entice you a little more, here's how they've handled their kitchen reno. And, by handled, I mean rocked a small plates menu out of a food truck while simultaneously reno'ing. If that isn't reason enough to support the campaign, than I don't know what is.

Nomad meet Brooklyn
the boyz 
I'll have one of everything please.
Bridge Farmhouse on tap
short rib poutine & lobster roll
smoked duck Caesar 
and the winner is....
true love
As you can see, the crew rocked that food truck like they'd been doing it for years. The food was every bit as delicious as any regular Brooklyn menu. From the braised rabbit mac n' cheese with truffled crouton to the smoked duck salad with polenta croutons, panchetta and That Dutchman's Dragon's Breath dressing to the lobster roll with Brother's bacon and tarragon aioli to the red wine braised short rib poutine. In-freakin-credible. I gotta say my fav might have been the poutine despite the fact that I don't actually like poutine. It was that good. But I can't forget the real star, the maple whisky waffle with bacon ice cream and maple glaze. Yeah, that's right. If true love had a flavour...

Brooklyn really delivered on this one. All the awesome service and atmosphere they're known for plus straight up street food plating. God damn can they get any cooler. It's pretty obvious we've once again contributed to the crowdfund because if I can do anything to help Brooklyn reduce their debt load and keep them in business longer, then hells yes I'm gonna do it. And if after all that you still need more convincing, jump on over to their site for all the info. Oh, that food truck menu only runs til Saturday. Tic toc people.

And big thanks to Mark and Amir for the amazing eats and to George and Joanne for always taking care of us. Mad love.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Summer Fresh Challenge: Butter Chicken

Back at the Summer Fresh recipe challenge with the second fresh sauce, Butter Chicken. To be honest, I made another recipe, a biryani, using the sauce but because it was labour intensive, I went back to the drawing board. And since I will put just about anything in a taco, I give you...

Butter Chicken Tacos with Tamarind Chutney, Yogurt and Mint

4 wheat or corn tortillas
4 chicken thighs, sliced
3/4 cup Summer Fresh Butter Chicken sauce
4 tbsp plain yogurt
fresh mint leaves to garnish
5 tbsp tamarind
3/4 cup water
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp coconut oil
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp fresh ginger, grated

Marinate the chicken in 1/2 cup of the sauce while you prepare the chutney. Bring the tamarind and water to a boil over high heat. Add the sugar and boil til the tamarind becomes soft and the liquid is reduced by 1/3. Let cool. Be sure to pick out any pits that may still be in there. Heat the coconut oil over medium heat and toast the spices til fragrant, about 3 min. Combine the spice mixture with the tamarind and process in a food processor til smooth. There will be some leftover which will make the perfect condiment the next time you use the remaining butter chicken sauce.

Preheat the oven to a high temperature broil. Broil the chicken til browned and cooked through. This will only take a few minutes depending, of course, on how small you sliced the chicken. This would be even better grilled so feel free to fire up the BBQ.

To assemble each taco, heat the tortillas in the oven wrapped in damp paper towel until warm and soft. Heat the remaining 1/4 cup of the sauce. Spread one tablespoon of sauce on a tortilla, followed by 1/4 of the chicken, a tablespoon each of the chutney and yogurt, finishing with some mint leaves.

Fusion tacos are always a winner in my books and this one was no different. I will admit the only thing missing was some heat. So slice up a spicy red chilli, add some cayenne to the chutney, or squeeze on a lil' sriracha love.

Summer Fresh Challenge: Mushroom Marsala

I got into this blogging thing merely to express myself and share my love of food with the world. But sometimes being a food blogger has its perks. You get invited to cool events and sometimes get to test out products. Recently, Summer Fresh sent me a boat load of their new fresh sauces along with an IKEA wok as a thank you. The goal is to develop a recipe for each of the five sauces as a friendly competition with 15 other food bloggers in ON, QC and here in Atlantic Canada.  The winning recipe will then be featured on Food Bloggers of Canada. With stiff competition like my girl Kelly here at home, the Summer Fresh folks are in for a treat.

Up first, the mushroom marsala, the sauce I was the most excited about. I love me some mushrooms and this sauce delivers. Slightly earthy with a touch of wine and loads of real mushrooms throughout. It could easily be tossed with some pasta or simmered with some chicken. However, I would most certainly add some cream to the sauce to enhance it's richness and provide a creamier texture. But this mushroom lover knew just what to do...

Mushroom Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Panchetta, Gruyere, and Arugula

14" pizza crust (I'd give you my recipe but then Brent would have to kill me!)
Summer Fresh Mushroom Marsala sauce
1 tbsp butter
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup button mushrooms, sliced
48 g (8 slices) panchetta
1 cup gruyere, grated
handful arugula
truffle oil (optional)

Preheat oven to 425.  Melt the butter in a skillet and caramelize those onions. This process generally takes some time but I like to speed things up by adding a touch of brown sugar and then deglazing the pan with some water. I know it isn't authentic caramelized onions but hell, it's a touch sweeter and saves some time when you're about to eat your arm off. When the onions are all golden brown and your dough has risen, sprinkle a pizza pan with cornmeal. To assemble the pizza, spread the mushroom marsala sauce over the crust and top with the mushrooms, onions, gruyere, and panchetta. Pop it in the oven and bake til the crust is golden brown, about 15 min. Serve with a hanful of arugula and a drizzle of truffle oil.

Sweet, salty, peppery, savoury, earthy. That right there was some beautiful pizza. Now on to the next sauce...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

the new kid in town

Well it's that time Halifax. Time to welcome the newest member to the gourmet burger scene. After months of renovating and playing the inevitable permit game, The Works is finally opening it's doors. What's even cooler though is their first day is going all to charity. Yup, you read right. This Thursday from 11-2 and 5-8 stop by The Works with a cash or food donation to Feed Nova Scotia and get yourself a free meal. It's a win win situation. And just how incredibly cool is it that their first day of profits are going to a local charity that feeds people. Pretty damn cool indeed.

slick design
Despite it being the first outside of Ontario, I'm well acquainted with The Works, hitting it up every time we're in Ottawa. But I know what you're all thinking. Another burger place, really? First off, it's downtown, an entirely different area than the other burger hot spots. Secondly, there are a few things that set it apart from other burger joints in town. Perhaps the biggest, it's got table service. With a menu of 70 different burgers and 420 possible combinations, counter service would most certainly mean the longest lines of all time. Cheers to sitting down, ordering up a beer or one of their ridiculous milkshakes, and perusing the menu. Ok, more like hankering down to read a novel sized menu! Furthermore, it's got mad style. Because The Works is a franchise, the brand and decor is consistent at all its locations. But that does not make it any less cool. In fact, the industrial design was one of the first things I fell in love with. I'm not saying there aren't other cool spots in Hali but c'mon, exposed ductwork, brick, metal, wood, cool lighting, branded tables, thoughtful murals, personal touches. Instant atmosphere. This is exactly what a thriving downtown needs. 

it's all in the details
personal touches
But what about the food? First of all, good luck deciding. The menu is astronomical and everything sounds delish. A burger with pb and cream cheese? Go for it. My girl Kathy actually swears by it. How bout a burger with KD on it? Yes, I said it. Kraft dinner on a burger. There's worldly burgers, cheesy burgers, spicy burgers, saucy burgers, veg loaded burgers, burgers exploding with meat and chilli and anything else your lil' heart desires. If choice is what you want, you've got it. Six different patty options, three buns including gluten free, numerous sides, and a ton of burger upgrades. I think they've thought of everything. I can't say I've ever had a bad burger at The Works (nor the same burger twice!) and yesterday's press launch at the new Hali location was no different. That bad boy right there is the Beaver Bank, named by one of our own. Oozing with caramelized onions, chipotle ketchup, havarti and loads of double smoked bacon, it was nothing short of awesome. Lia, the Food Wife, had another locally named burger, the Shipbuilder's Dream, piled high with avocado, bacon and gouda. She even added a lil chipotle mayo for that extra smokey kick. We had also both decided on the elk burger which was flavourful and moist despite its leaner cut.  With some spicy die-cut chips, sweet potato fries and a load of dipping options, we went to town. And devour we did. 

If the success of The Works brand, the line ups at the Ottawa locations I've been to or the passion of owners Alan and Jody are any indication, The Works Halifax is here to stay. So, tomorrow grab some cash or non perishable food for Feed NS and head on down to 5431 Doyle St to welcome the new kid in town. Then start planning your next visit. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

the buzz: Feb 20

Alrighty. It's buzz o'clock.

First up, the big V Day is over. In preparation for the big day of romance, Food Bloggers of Canada put together a round up of the country's most romantic restaurants but this lady totally dropped the ball. Stuff happened and I couldn't get my post done in time. My bad. However, if you are wondering where to find that romantic je ne sais quoi here in Hali, I put the question out there to some food lovers. I must add, however, that 'romance' will mean something different to each of you. While I can find romance in the loudest, most happening jam packed resto, you may require more privacy, more quiet. So here we go in no particular order.

1. Stories. Apparently Stories, which I-gasp-have yet to visit, is right up there in the romance category. Stellar food, exceptional service, intimate dining rooms, special overnight packages with the Haliburton Hotel. They even do blind menu tasting menus. I really gotta get in there.
2. Chives. While Chives serves up romance in it's casual fine dining atmosphere, great wine list and amazing food, they've got an ace in their pocket, the vault. A remnant from the days when the spot was the Bank of NS, the now wine cellar vault provides the most intimate of settings with a table for 2-4 all awash in candlelight. It does not get more intimate than that.
3. Brooklyn Warehouse. No surprise this is on my list. Yup, it's loud and busy but that's what gives it that award winning atmosphere. Pair that with crazy inventive and mind blowingly delicious food, awesome service, and great cocktails and you're got one helluva romantic night.
4. Morris East. While limited seating may have you mere inches from neighbouring diners, the impeccable service and warm atmosphere will make you forget everyone else except your date. But, honestly, the pizza alone will have you falling in love with whoever happens to be sitting across from you. Get the pear pizza and tell me I'm wrong.
5. Gio. I'm adding this to the list since we actually dined at Gio this past weekend (thank you Big Day Downtown visa card win!). Even though they were much busier than they were staffed to handle, it turned out to a wonderfully romantic date. Great service, great wine, a seat beside the fire place, and some incredible food. Plus, sweetbreads people. There were sweetbreads. Nuff said.

And how amazing is it that all of the above source locally? That alone makes me feel romantic. Now that I've got you wanting to make another February date, Dine Around is in full swing and you only have til the end of February to take advantage of the awesome menus. Anyone up for a daMaurizio date? You paying?

As if that isn't enough to get you salivating, the moment has finally arrived. Tomorrow and for the next two weeks Brooklyn Warehouse is food truckin. Yup, the kitchen reno has started and the BW crew has taken over Nomad Gourmet. Put all that genius behind BW and the talent of Chef Mark Grey in a food truck and no wonder I'm stoked. I'm most likely heading there in a few hours because, let's be real, I ain't waitin. I also gotta remind y'all that Brooklyn is reaching out to the community, that means you, to help them fund said reno. You help a small local business succeed and in return get some free stuff. Sweet deal. Get your crowdfund on.

In other non-restaurant news, weekly news over at Food Bloggers of Canada including some FBC 13 conference updates. If any of you food bloggers were on the fence, there are only 13 tickets left after less than a month. With an overwhelming response like that, I'd say we're in for one awesome experience this April. Get 'em while you can.

And that, folks, is your buzz. Hungry yet?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

the Korean addiction

kimchi love
Not so long ago I finally got my first taste of Korean cuisine. And now I'm addicted. When we're thinking take out, all I want is Korean despite not being able to get it on the Darkside. I even started making the stuff at home. I pretty much crave it all the time. There's just something about kimchi, all fermenty and delicious, that keeps me wanting more. And the Korean version of chili sauce, gochujang, is my new favourite thing. If you haven't heard, it's totally the new sriracha. Like for real.

We've already checked out three local Korean joints: Arirang in Clayton Park, Song's on Quinpool Rd and last week, Seoul in downtown Halifax. What I love most about all three is that every menu is different. Sure there are things you'll find at each place, like kimchi fried rice and bibimbap, but certainly dishes unique to each. And if there's one thing I love, it's variety. 

the Seoul feast
While it's bibimbap, a rice bowl with a myriad of toppings and fried egg or egg yolk all smothered in a gochujang based sauce, that has held my affection lately, at Seoul I decided to mix things up. Instead, I went for the bulgogi, a sweet sesame marinated beef, accompanied by rice, salad, and miso. The salad was of the standard iceberg variety akin to Japanese restos although the tangy rice vinegar heavy dressing added a load more flavour. The miso was well, miso. Other than making it too weak, how can you really mess that up? The bulgogi itself was tender and flavorful, being sweet and savory all at one. But, standing next to Brent's spicy pork (I think called jayuk bokkeum), my bulgogi ranked second. That pork was incredible. It was all about the spicy, sweet sauce that most definitely had guochang at its heart. See what I mean? I would literally put that shit on everything. I even got it on the side and added it to every single bite. Like I said, addicted.

While Seoul wasn't my fav local Korean joint, it certainly was delish. No doubt I'll be back again soon. Most likely for that pork. Hell, it's not the worse additcton I could have.

Seoul on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 7, 2013

orzo salad with sun dried tomatoes, goat cheese, and mint

I know it's mad cold out there right now and the last thing you're probably thinking about whippin' up is a cold salad. But generally our weekly meals need to be quick and easy and sometimes eaten on the fly when reheating isn't even an option. I've also been meaning to post some of the recipes from my cooking classes that get rave reviews and this orzo salad was one of 'em. If you're a giant fan of sun drieds and goat cheese like I am, then this one's for you.

    Orzo Salad w/ Sun Dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Mint

1 1/2 cup uncooked orzo
1/4 red onion, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes packed in oil, sliced
2 tbsp fresh mint, thinly sliced
140 g goat cheese
salt and pepper

3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup fresh mint
1 tsp honey
1 clove garlic

Get a pot of water on to boil and salt it up. Once boiling, add the orzo and cook until al dente or your preferred doneness. Drain. Cool or rinse under cold water.

To make the dressing, I simply jammed everything into the magic bullet and pulsed away. No chopping required. Our bullet pretty much broke the first week but I will say it's great for smaller quantities of dressings and sauces. You could simply just chop the mint and garlic and whisk together the ingredients.

Combine all the ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper. Viola! Minty fresh orzo salad. Hell, if it ain't gonna warm you up, might as well remind you of summer.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

put an egg on it: Indonesian fried rice

I don't know what's happened to me. I go from eating eggs only on those days when you just need some greezy brekky to cure you of the night before to putting the damn things on everything. Well, not everything. Mostly bowls of fried rice and noodles. I just can't get enough of the stuff. Lately I've been mad addicted to all things Korean but wanting to switch it up, I got out the recipe binder from my planting days and went to work on my version of Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian fried rice. If you've got leftover rice, it's the perfect quick and easy meal to fill you up while packing a flavour punch. And fyi, this is only enough for one hungy lady.

Nasi Goreng

1 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 onion, diced (I used the other half to crispify)
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp red pepper, finely diced
olive oil
1 tbsp tamarind
hot water
3 tsp soy sauce
1-2 tsp honey
2 tsp curry powder
salt and pepper

Soften the tamarind in some hot water, just enough to cover. Be sure to pick out any pits that may still be in there. If you don't have tamarind, I've also made it with dates although, being a tad sweeter, you may want to decrease the honey. Drain off the water, reserving it. Add the tamarind, soy sauce, 1 tsp honey, and curry powder to a small chopper, blender or food pro and process til smooth, using the reserved water to make a think sauce. Now taste that sauce to make sure it's your thang. Your curry may be sweeter/hotter/bitter than mine so add more honey or soy sauce to balance it out.

Heat up some oil in a frying pan and get those onions cooking. When they start to brown, throw in the garlic and peppers. I've also been known to throw in some thinly sliced cabbage. Add in the rice and sauce and fry til heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Now fry an egg sunny side up and jam that thing on top. I added some crispy fried onions but it's also killer with fresh diced tomatoes, cucumber, raisons, or some toasted almonds.

So when you can't decide what to have for dinner, do the only logical thing. Put an egg on it.

the buzz: Feb 6

Before I get to the feature presentation, a few exciting pieces of news. First up, loads of great news over at Food Bloggers of Canada. And will you look at that, my girl Kelly won silver in the Ninjamatics Weblog Awards art and photography category. No surprise there. Girls got mad skills. Loads of other FBC members won in many of the categories so big congrats all round. Do yourself a favour and check out some of these blogs. Totally inspiring.

Like always tons of exciting stuff also happening locally. Last week Chives Canadian Bistro announced they are opening a second resto, Two Doors Down. And, yes, it is literally two doors down in the space recently occupied by E-Pin Grill House. The new space, unlike Chives, will be open for lunch, dinner and Saturday brunch and allow the team to offer items not suited to the casual yet fine dining fare Chives is known for. Most exciting though, heading up the kitchen is none other than Chive's current sous, Andrew Farrell. I guess I'm a tad biased since Andrew is from my hometown but, with his talent and passion, no doubt he'll rock it. And I just gotta say in the restaurant market of late where second locations seem to be popping up at every end of the city, props to Chives and the team for opening something fresh and exciting.

Speaking of exciting, the beer scene in Hali just gets better and better. Since Bridge Brewing has opened, they've been so damn successful that they keep running out. I've had both the Farmhouse  (my personal fav) and Gus' 60 Metre Ale and it's no surprise folks are lovin' it. In fact, we love our craft beer so much here in Hali that both Propeller and Garrison are expanding. Delicious news.

On the other side of the harbour, the roaster has finally arrived and Anchored Coffee has hit the shelves. While I have yet to grab a cup, notes of apples, brown sugar and molasses can't be bad right. Big congrats to the Two If By Sea gang for adding more cool to the hood. Drinkin' drip and eatin' butter like it ain't no thang.

If that ain't enough to get you salivating, it's wine and food February in NS! Both the Savour Food and Wine Festival and the Winter Wine Festival kick off this month, reminding us that no sub zero temperatures are gonna keep us from havin' one helluva good time. Check out my event listings at FBC for all the deets and get your eat on.

Last but certainly not least, the moment I've been waiting for. The Brooklyn Warehouse folks are at it again, heating up the scene like nobody's business. First, they've started a new crowdfunding campaign to raise the cash for a much needed kitchen reno. On behalf of the Record Shop, we supported the last crowdfund campaign that allowed Brooklyn to enclose their patio thereby increasing seating. In return, we got our name up on the wall and an invite to an amazing farm to table dinner. Think duck fat fried oysters, braised beef cheek, and lamb leg ragu with brown butter gnocchi kind of amazing. And that was only three of the seven courses. Uh huh, seven. Plus, it does feel pretty damn cool to know you are helping a small business renovate interest free so they can keep doing what they're best at. And that, of course, is being awesome. So, no doubt we'll be jumping on board with this crowdfunding campaign too and I suggest you do the same. But wait, it gets better. While the kitchen is being reno'd, the Brooklyn crew will be commandeering my buddy Nick's food truck, Nomad Gourmet, for ten whole days starting Feb 18. Shit just got real.  I nearly died when I read the menu.  This, my friends, is precisely why Brooklyn Warehouse is the best restaurant in town.

Well, looks like there's a whole lot of eating to do this month so best get started.