Thursday, April 30, 2009

BBQ Steak and Asparagus with a Wilted Spinach Salad

Welcome to my tummy! As soon as we start barbecuing it doesn't end. Which makes even the cooler spring days feel like summer. My husband is great at a lot of things, he's best in the kitchen and even more so when cooking a steak on the barbecue. I've yet to eat a piece of meat as juicy and tender as my husband's. (Get your mind out of the gutter!) Seriously though, it even looks as amazing as it tastes. I never truly started loving meat until I met my husband. It just took someone who knew how to prepare it. He served this tonight with a wilted spinach salad and some barbecued asparagus.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

BBQ Halibut, Shrimp and Spinach Salad with BBQ Figues and Port Reduction

How on earth do I name this post without naming everything on the plate!? There are so many fabulous things in this dish it would be like the description of an elaborate meal at a fancy restaurant. Ok, if I were to name this for a menu, what would I say... BBQ Coriander Halibut and Shrimp served with a Wilted Spinach Salad in a Port Reduction. And the description would read: New Brunswick Halibut Broiled in a Coriander Mayo and Topped with Lemon Garlic Infused Barbecued Shrimp served with Toasted Walnut, Goat Cheese and Fresh Broiled Figs on a bed of Spinach in a Port Reduction. Ok, still too much, and I still didn't say all I wanted to. I would totally order this. Thank god i'm the luckiest girl in the world and this is one of my regular royalty meals. Seriously, coat your fish in coriander powder and then mix some mayo in before cooking and you've got yourself a delicious piece of fish. Montreal Steak Spice on the shrimp with garlic and lemon is like nothing you've ever tasted. And for the mature folk (something about figs makes me feel old but civilized when I eat them), barbecue them and you've got a fruit you can add to anything, like our spinach salad with toasted walnuts, goat cheese and the port reduction, which was made with Worcestershire sauce, red wine, port, molasses, sugar, onion powder, walnut and olive oil. A perfect meal to end a beautiful sunny spring day. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention we had some potatoes and olive bread too!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pork and Chinese Cabbage Dumplings from Dong Ling

A couple of friends of mine rave about the dumplings at Dong Ling. My husband and I decided to go there today to get some for dinner. It's a tiny little hole in the wall with a couple of freezers when you walk in. When we were there I didn't notice any menu other than the list of dumplings but from what i've read online I guess they do many other Chinese dishes for takeout as well. This place is now one of my new favourite spots. They have about a dozen different kinds of dumplings, I really just wanted to bring every kind home. Luckily they only took cash, and we had just enough for one bag, $8 and you get 40 dumplings, it's insane. We went with the Pork and Chinese Cabbage ones. The woman behind the cash was super nice too, and very happy to have us there. She had just brought out some warm meat patties. She noticed my husband eying them and let us take one free. It was stuffed with a tasty pork concoction and the outside was a bit greasy and dense – so delicious. I'd go back again just to get one of those. My husband cooked up the dumplings in his usual awesome way (he cooks everything perfectly) and served them with a zucchini and green bean salad tossed with a Japanese ginger dressing and sesame seeds. I love the way my husband makes this salad, he thinly cuts the zucchini length-wise with a slicer and it makes them almost noodle-like. The perfect side for what I think were some of the best dumplings i've ever had. You could really taste the freshness of the ingredients inside. The dumpling itself is also a bit thicker than a lot of dumplings i've had in the past. I can't wait to go back and get more. There will definitely always be a bag of these in my freezer going forward.

The dressing on the salad we had also deserves credit. If you like Asian flavours or are looking for a dressing to put over a salad to go with your dumplings, this one is fantastic. Renée's Japanese Ginger – so yummy!


I want to love this restaurant. The food sounds really good, it's cute and cozy inside and it has a lot of potential to be one of those best kept secret kind of places. Unfortunately my review is not so great. The service was ok, friendly, nothing exceptional but definitely not a tip jar submission thankfully. As stated above, the food “sounds” really good, sadly the end result did not meet my expectations. They have 3 choices on the breakfast menu, the Main, which is 2 eggs, double smoked bacon, grilled ham and house sausage, the Vegetarian, which is a sweet potato, leek and feta frittata, and the Vegan, blueberry pancakes with whipped banana coconut filling. All three are served with roasted tomato provencal, sauteed mushrooms, breakfast potatoes and a butter grilled baguette. Sounds great doesn't it? I ordered the Vegetarian. And now here's where it takes a turn for the worst. Our food took exactly one hour to be served. Now, this restaurant is small, there are just over half a dozen tables, so if it's packed, it's really not that busy. But for a Saturday or Sunday brunch in Ottawa, a restaurant like that should have at least 2 cooks, or at least one that can handle a full restaurant. They had one, and she was not very fast. The plate sizes during that hour wait went from pretty full, to quite small. I have a feeling they were running out of food. Half a tomato became a sliver of tomato. A serving of sauteed mushrooms was reduced to 3 or 4 tiny little mushrooms. The grilled baguette wasn't baguette anymore, it was a very thinly cut half toast. And to top it off, our meals were cold. I tried the double smoked bacon from my friend's plate and there was no smokey flavour at all. My food was ok, I don't recall there being any feta in my frittata and I think I saw one tiny little piece of leek. The frittatas were pretty airy and the entire meal wasn't really enough to satisfy, especially not for the $10.75 price that went with it. On the menu board behind the counter I noticed their lunch and dinner foods, soups, salads, sandwiches and one entrée, a lasagna dish. The soups looked really good, a mushroom trio, buttercoconut squash and one that caught my eye on the specials board, sweet potato and thai peanut. I almost ordered one to go but by the end of my breakfast I was just really anxious to leave. All that said, I will go again, one more time. I'm hoping they were just having a bad day. Perhaps someone called in sick, maybe they had a massive flow of people just before we arrived, who knows. My friend Donnie went the day before and really enjoyed it. The service the day before was also slow, but the food was plentiful. They also do take-out, which could be very useful on some days. They are located next to Barrymore's on Bank.

Imperial Food & Beverage on Urbanspoon

Smoked Ribs

Well, my husband finally broke in his new smoker yesterday, and did we ever enjoy it! He decided to make ribs for the first smoke of the season. What a great choice.

The ribs came from Aubrey's Meats in the market and were country cut, meaning tons of thick meat around the bone, a lot more than you would normally get with regular ribs. My husband had asked for 4 racks but they only had 2, so to serve the number of guests we were having he country cut them. My husband used his best friend Montague's Memphis rub recipe to flavour them. It's a mixture of 2 tbs of each garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, 3-4 tbs of paprika and 2 tsp of cayenne and is it ever delicious! Once all rubbed in, they have to sit for about 2 hours. My husband then smoked them for 4 hours using apple chips. About 3 hours in he sprayed them with some apple juice and added more rub. 10 minutes before removing them from the smoker, he coated them with barbecue sauce. 

The meat was just falling off the bone, and were they ever meaty. The smokey flavour was fantastic and with the rub was just heavenly. I don't think i've ever enjoyed ribs so much. I have no idea why anyone would cook them any other way. I want to smoke everything now. It may become an obsession. With this mouthwatering meat we also had some potato salad, coleslaw and really great wine. I carefully chose a suitable wine for this dish from my little collection and man was it the right choice. I went with the Saltram of Barossa Cab Sauvignon. It fits it's description perfectly, powerful, intense and full-bodied. It was so good, I would highly recommend this for any meat dish. 

My friend Dino also brought a wonderful wine of the same intensity, Faugères. So yummy. Overall, a pretty fun evening of eating and drinking.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spicy Fish Cakes with Potatoes and Green Beans

Oh my god I love fish cakes! I seriously can't get enough. My husband made so many of them tonight we even tried to get my friend Teresa over but I couldn't get a hold of her. She would have really enjoyed them, as did I. These ones were made with haddock. After cooking the haddock a bit my husband mixed it with some capers, dill, 2 eggs, flour, flax seed, bread crumbs, celery salt, garlic and onions. The spiciness came from the sauce which was a mixture of yogurt, chopped pickled hot banana peppers, dijon, horseradish and a bit of garlic. The horseradish is strong so go easy on it. The fish cakes on their own were fantastic, fishy and very tasty. With the sauce they became a spicy delight. He served them with potatoes and green beans. My husband is the best!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Maple BBQ Smoked Salmon and Veggies on Penne

I'm really not sure if i'm going to be able to describe this meal well enough so that you get the picture on how awesome it was. My husband is a king behind the barbecue. In fact, my parents proudly accepted him into the family after he perfectly cooked 3 different meats, fish and veggies on my dad's barbecue and served everything at the same time one year. He's done even more crazy things on ours at home. We often host large groups in the summertime, each with their own meat, all cooked by my husband. Our dinner tonight was a maple salmon barbecued until caramelized and blackened on the outside, moist inside. Those crisp, sweet bits just melted in your mouth, it was decadent. He also charred some asparagus, green beans and zucchini on the bbq that had been tossed in garlic powder and olive oil – i've never had asparagus so good in my life. They were almost like a snack, like chips or something. And if that wasn't enough, he served it all over some penne tossed in butter, lemon, garlic, fresh ground pepper and a tbs of dijon. Each item had such strong, mouthwatering flavours and combined was heaven. I told my husband he should open a restaurant, i'd seriously come back for this one again and again. He sprinkled some green onion over the top just before serving. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009


I was pretty excited for my evening at this restaurant from the minute I made the reservation. They were so friendly and happy to receive my call I figured the great service would just be a given. And I was right. Teresa and I decided we would take our friend Gina there for her birthday. It was a smart choice. The dimly lit restaurant as the day turned to dusk created a very warm and relaxing atmosphere. Our server added to that zen-like sensation as he was very attentive but not in-your-face and spoke almost poetically but with a side of humour. He was fantastic. My friend commented she would like to have him read her a bed time story. It's the service and entire experience we had that brought my rating to a four star. Now onto the food. At first glance confusion set in as I knew, trying to choose what to eat was going to be a very difficult decision. The Atlantic Lobster Salad was screaming out at me, as was the Steak and Frites in a port reduction, with the choice to add foie gras to it! I decided the main reason I was so drawn to the steak was more for what came with it than the steak itself, so I went with my other two choices, Alberta Spring Lamb Carpaccio to start and the Quebec Guinea Fowl Supreme as my main. The carpaccio was quite yummy and full of flavour due mostly to the olive tapenade, oregano leaves, preserved lemon, feta and tzatziki that was served with it. The Guinea Fowl was cooked exactly how my husband would do it if he made it. I almost had to ask if he was back there. It was fantastic. The skin on the outside was crispy and full of flavour, and the inside, tender and juicy. It was served with a satisfying risotto, peas, pea shoots and king oyster mushrooms. Even the risotto was cooked and presented similarly to my husband's way of cooking. I've never compared a restaurant to my husband before but I couldn't help but do it this time. My friends both ordered the Spinach Gnocchi as their main. It was served with wild mushrooms, grape tomatoes, pine nuts and arugula-lemon pesto. They too were quite pleased with their choice. I got to try a bit and I have to agree, it was very good. In addition to the delectable food choices they also had some good wines on the menu. Years ago I visited the Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz. Their wines are delicious and quite difficult to find. Any time I see them available on menu or in random liquor stores I buy them right away. They had a Sangiovese Ca' Del Solo in the reds which i've had before and loved, but we had decided to go with white, so I ordered the 2006 Le Cigare Blanc. I really don't know a lot about white wines, but this one was ok. I can't say it was the best white wine i've ever had – if I knew more about them and what to look for to get that taste that I do like, I probably wouldn't have ordered this one. But it went well with our meal nonetheless. As we were leaving, a man who I believe to be the owner or manager mentioned that once their patio is set up they allow you to bring your pooch on the other side of the fence. Fine dining with my dog at my side!? Is this a dream come true or what! I'll be back for sure, either with my dog or without. There were some pretty good dessert selections that we didn't have room for but that have our names on it. Apps range from $6 to $15 and mains from $18 to $26 and up.

Canvas Resto-Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 18, 2009

BBQ Chicken with Goat Cheese and Pomegranate

If you want an easy dish to make for your guests, this is it. Although a bit time consuming at the beginning when you have to roll out the pomegranate arils, the dish quickly and easily comes together when ready to serve. My husband made this last night for a group of us and it was so amazing. The chicken was barbecued to perfection with crisp bits on the outside and juicy on the inside. The addition of the goat's cheese, toasted pine nuts and pomegranate made not only a very pleasing dish to the eye, but fun for the taste buds too. The combination of the mild and creamy cheese with the fresh and fruity pom was heaven. He served this with a toasted pecan, warm goat cheese and balsamic glaze mesclun mix salad. The colours almost look Christmassy, but trust me, this is a summer dish at it's best. Yummy!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Zucchini Fritters and Pea Salad with Radishes and Feta

My husband always knows how to cheer me up. I've been feeling a little down in the dumps the past couple weeks because of a knee injury and since the weather's been getting nicer it's been even more difficult to cope with. Until this dish was set in front of me at dinner tonight. I love cakey things like fish cakes, potato pancakes or what we had tonight – zucchini cakes! (or fritters). It's one of my favourite foods and always seems to me like the most difficult thing to make. I've never successfully made anything like it. My husband sure has though. Every time he makes them, whether it be crab cakes, trout cakes or zucchini fritters, they have made me want to jump up and down for joy and then scarf down about 10. I held back tonight knowing i'd be able to enjoy a couple more tomorrow for lunch. These savory treats were fresh and aromatic, soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. He served them with tzatziki and a side pea salad, the same one he made at Easter and made again at my request. I must say, this recipe does take a bit of time to make. First grate the zucchini and then salt and toss it. Place it in a colander for an hour and allow the salt to draw the water out. My husband even puts it in a salad spinner at the end to get out as much moisture as he can. Next mix it with parsley, tarragon, dill, green onions, 2 eggs and bread crumbs. Form into little patties and fry them up. They are VERY yummy and you can make them with whatever fresh herbs you have. Zucchini is great at taking on whatever flavour you throw at it. I'm pretty happy now.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Dinner

My husband wowed us all again last night with another of his gourmet meals. He did a lot of prep the day before so although he was serving numerous little masterpieces, he was still being a mindful host. Everything from beginning to end was impeccable. Each course was as visually pleasing as it was tasty, from the pungent cheeses to the savory vegetables and smokey meat. Most of the recipes were taken from, I have linked each dish with the site. 

As people arrived, we served a much too large (that's my fault – my eyes have always been bigger than my stomach) selection of meat, terrines and cheeses. We had Faisan et Pistaches from Les Terrines du Terroir as well as another terrine from la Ferme de l'Oie d'Or. Some Chorizo Sausage, Smoked Ham, Guiness Cheddar, Morbier Lait Cru, my favourite, the Bleu Benedictin and a Spelt and Kamut baguette. Our friends Bruce and Gina topped that cheese list off with some delicious Smoked Cheddar and Roasted Garlic Cheddar. 

This all went really well with our first wine, Muscadet Sèvre & Main. 

Then the sit-down meal began. For our first course, my husband served a Roasted Asparagus and Leek Soup with Spring Herb Gremolata

We paired it with a Sauvignon Blanc – Natura that was featured in the Vintages magazine this month. This nourishing soup was highly flavoured by the roasting that had been done beforehand. A real winner in my books! 

Next came the Pea Salad with Radishes and Feta Cheese. It's tough to say with all the fabulous food that was served, but I think this was my favourite dish of the meal. This salad was so fresh and summery and so fun to eat. 

Our main was a Balsamic and Dijon Glazed Ham that was spectacular. The ham was sweet and a sumptuous feast with the addition of Olive Oil Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Potatoes and Roasted Pearl Onions. He even made a non-pork option – Cornish Hen.


We devoured this with a great organic Shiraz – The Hedonist and delicious Cab Sauvignon – Stormy Bay. 

As if that wasn't enough food, we finished off with a trio of desserts. My mother in-law brought a fresh out-of-the-oven Apple Pie and also made, upon her arrival and with my forcing her into it, her staple and my top choice – yummy Apple Crisp which I served with pecan and caramel ice cream. 

And Teresa surprised us with festive chocolatey Cupcakes made from scratch and stuffed with a Cadbury cream egg. Decadence at it's best, so rich and moist and topped with a sweet, Fluff-like icing and smarties. We did our best with these desserts. We were so full from dinner. Only Bruce and I managed to fit in the apple desserts in addition to the cupcakes. The others stopped after one. We served these with choice of sweet Sherry – Nectar, Limoncello, coffee or tea. I'm still full this morning. But as I write this, I can't help but want to go downstairs and grab another cupcake and bowl of apple crisp. So bad!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bistro L’Autre-Oeil

Ten years ago I went to this tiny little bistro when I moved to Ottawa. I lived in Aylmer for a few months and this was one of our regular hangouts. I hadn't been since but always wanted to return. We finally did today. It's about twice the size now (although still very quaint and small), and they have really extended their beer list. I remember they used to have beer tasting evenings, it's probably the first time I had something other than your typical lager. But the list now is beyond compare. They have a lot of private, LCBO and SAQ imports and the selection is incredible. I wouldn't recommend this spot if you're super hungry, the menu is quite limited, but it's perfect for a few afternoon beer and some munchies or an evening out with friends over drinks. They seem to have a large local crowd but outsiders are more than welcome. The service is great and the staff seem pretty knowledgeable about the insane number of beer on the menu. I was disappointed when the first beer I ordered wasn't available but our server recommended something just as good, if not better and very similar in taste – the Klack-a-Dulak, a beer cocktail from Les Folies on the menu. A section where they have mixed beer drinks. It was made with les Trois Mousquetaires noire from Brossard, Québec and Galliano, a sweet, vanilla-anise flavoured liqueur. The drink itself was a very sweet mixture of chocolaty-vanilla-coffee-like flavours and was pretty good. My husband had a Slaapmutske Blond, a Belgian beer (which they have a lot of) that was also very good. For his second beer, my husband had a Portuguese beer – Sagres, a pretty generic beer. And for my second, I decided against my first choice, after seeing the alcohol content at 10.5% (a German beer called Gouden Carolus Christmas, a brown ale with black licorice, vanilla and apple flavours with a peppery, chocolaty, roasted coffee finish), and went with the Stouterik, a Belgian brown stout with a light and bitter start, yeast and roasted coffee flavours, light bodied with a cabbage finish. Not sure I really picked up the cabbage finish, but the beer was good, much less sweet than my first choice. I have to tell you, these descriptions are taken from the menu, i'm not a beer connoisseur, and they are great. It really helps you pick and choose from the vaste selection. They also rate the body, aroma, bitterness, sweetness and aftertaste of the beer. In addition to our drinks, we had some yummy snacks, French Onion Soup and Cinq Gibiers Paté and Smoked Gouda. All-in-all, a great way to spend a Good Friday afternoon.

L'Autre Oeil Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sophisticated Comfort Food at The Urban Element

This is what my husband does when he's not cooking me dinner – he treats me to a demonstration cooking class that serves up insanely great food. This was my Valentine's day gift and i'd been counting down the days. This class was put on by the Red Apron at the Urban Element. Jennifer and Jo-Ann put together this hands-on class where they shared local meat and produce sources as well as tips and tricks for in the kitchen. The best part? We ate, and ate, and ate some more. The main ingredient was bison. In fact, they did a bison trio that included tartar, grilled tenderloin and osso bucco. It almost seemed as though we were having three different meats they were all cooked so differently. They did a fantastic job, were very engaging and really – REALLY know how to cook. I was so amazed at how relaxed they were and how smoothly everything went. Especially in front of a group of a dozen people, and especially after finding out this was their first time doing it. Here's what we had.

We started off with an Orange Tarragon Pâté that had a smooth, velvety texture and anise-like flavour that was heightened by the orange zest. They paired this appetizer with a fantastic, sweet Ontario wine – Huff Estates First Frost Vidal 2007.

Next we had Barley Risotto with Double Smoked Bacon and Le Coprin Mushrooms. This dish was very satisfying, the barley was full of flavour and the King Eryngii mushrooms are so meaty the dish was a meal in itself. My husband has made these before and they're great. They paired this dish with a French Wine, Magellan Pinot Noir 2007.

For the third dish, and my favourite, we had Bison Tartare. They recommended dicing the bison after allowing it to freeze slightly as it helps when you're cutting through it. This dish was so tasty and fresh and the meat so tender it melted in your mouth. This came with a Zinfandel – Mandolin 2005 which also carried us through the rest of the evening.

Up next was the Pan-Seared Bison Tenderloin on Wilted Arugula with Horseradish Dijon Sauce. I can't rave enough about the bison, in all it's forms. This very lean meat has so much flavour and if cooked to perfection, as it was in this dish, is so amazing. You want it rare or medium-rare at most, overcooked is not good at all and may make you actually dislike bison. To hold in all the juices, make sure to allow it to sit for 5 minutes before serving, otherwise the juices and blood will pour out and you will loose that wonderful tenderness that makes it so great.

The last course before dessert was the Bison Osso Bucco served with Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Bleu Ermite Cheese. I was almost more excited for the blue mashed potatoes, two of my favourite things! Although these were fantastic, they were even more so paired up with this osso bucco. Blue cheese and red meat go hand-in-hand and this meat was cooked for so long that the meat just fell off the bone and into pieces. It was so rich and juicy and just an absolute pleasure to eat.

The final dish was a heavenly Maple Crème Brûlée Cheesecake with Cranberry Preserves. As soon as my spoon broke through the hardened caramelized shell and into the soft, creamy cheesecake filling my heart just melted. It was so sweet and so exquisite I thought I was going to fall to the floor. The cranberry preserve that lined the bottom cut the sweetness just enough to allow me to finish the entire thing without it being too rich. Really, this was probably one of the best desserts i've ever had.

As you can see, this was quite the evening. I am so full and still in awe at the food I just had. I would highly recommend any meal from the Red Apron and even more so recommend any event that the Urban Element puts on. I've been to two and both have exceeded my expectations. I think my husband and I are going to plan to go at least 2 to 4 times a year. Not only do you get to eat fabulous food, but you also get to learn a lot about the things we already love. Local foods, and great cooking techniques.

Play Food and Wine

If you want to have a nice evening out with friends surrounded by yummy food, this is the perfect place to go. The menu has a fair selection of small plates, just enough to make the evening last, but not so many as to overwhelm your choice. The clean blue walls and simple décor are somewhat cold when you walk in but the glow of the candles at the table and fantastic service warm you in seconds. We started off with a glass of white wine that quickly turned into a bottle it was so good. I’m typically a red drinker but this Chardonnay (Triomphe, Southbrook 2006), which was very reasonably priced, couldn’t be passed up. I started to skim the menu. Normally I’d jump on the charcuterie selection but decided to skip it last night. My first dish, which was recommended by our server, was the coconut dusted Crispy Shrimp served with a light and summery cucumber sauce. At the same time we also ordered the Artichokes smothered in a parmesan polenta sauce and topped with a sweet, heavenly hazelnut granola. For the following dishes, I would normally have gone with the Pork Belly Bun and the Duck Confit but I wasn’t sure how the person we were dining with would feel about it, so we went with the Frites served with aioli and cooked crisp to perfection, the puffy Onion Fritters with tamarind dip, the Digby Scallops, velvety and browned on top, served with thick bacon slivers, cippolini and edamame, and my favourite dish of the evening, the Moroccan Lamb Panini, with raita and delectable harissa onions. At this point we were torn as to whether or not we should order another dish. That’s when the cheese selection jumped out at us. I quickly ordered a glass of the Grahams 10 year tawny and belted out my cheese selection – Le Clos St-Ambroise, a semi firm, sweet, beer washed cheese, the ever-so-flavourful and my absolute favourite – Smokin’ Back Forty, a firm, intensely smokey, rosemary and bacon cheese that is to die for; and last but not least, a soft cheese with a vegetable ash that wasn’t on the menu but will be shortly and that I unfortunately can’t remember the name of. Prices for the small plates range from $4 to $15. A great place to relax with friends and chat over some fun food and great wine.

Play on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Eggs, Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash

This is the sad part of my blog because it's the last meal made for us before having to head home. Zoya whipped together some grilled breakfast sausages, light fluffy eggs, satisfying sweet potato and onion hash and whole wheat bagels. This traditional breakfast was heightened by the addition of local maple syrup (to everything) and homemade strawberry jam for the bagels. I adore homemade strawberry jam, and Zoya's reminded me of the jam my grandmother makes, the one that made me fall in love with it to begin with. So this was a real treat. I didn't want to put that last bite of food in my mouth because I knew this was the end, the end of another fantastic weekend of eating like a queen. Actually, it's not the end for me so much as for my husband. I'm sure he enjoyed having someone cook for him for a change. I get to go home and continue the fun with my husband's dinners. I am so the luckiest girl on the planet, and I appreciate and savour every moment of it.

Duck Confit with Mushroom Risotto

If you can look at this photo without starting to drool I'll seriously be surprised. This duck was as succulent as it looks. Zoya made this duck confit herself and words just can't describe how impressive it was. The meat just fell apart and melted in your mouth. She served it with shiitake mushrooms,  a fig and wine sauce and boletus mushroom risotto, also made from scratch. Everything was cooked to perfection and had rich, luscious flavours. Luckily we had a very late dinner because the lunch kept us full for most of the day. The wine she paired with this dish was also unsurpassable – Cousino Macul, a deep and spicy Chilean Cab Sauvignon. And if all that wasn't enough, we had yummy date squares to end the meal.

Raclette, Grilled Bok Choy, Escargot and Homemade Rillette

This has got to be one of the most extravagant spreads I've ever had for lunch. We drove up to Tremblant late yesterday morning to visit with our friends Marc and Zoya. Now if you've read any of my older reviews about visiting with this couple, you'll remember that the meals we usually have with them are quite elaborate. This one is no different. Zoya really knows how to cook and how to make you feel extra special. There were so many dishes I don't even know where to start. 

This was my first time having raclette. She put together this fabulous potato and veggie mixture and topped it with the raclette cheese and cooked it to perfection – crispy cheese on the outside, warm and somewhat like a lasagna but without the noodles on the inside. I know you normally do it yourself on a raclette cooker but she did all the work for us. 

With that she served some delightful escargot cooked with onions and Pernod, they were to die for.


We also had some bok choy and green beans that had been grilled on the barbecue, tofu feta, capers, oil and balsamic for dipping the bread, and the absolute, most impressive and time consuming thing on the table, homemade duck and pork rillettes. 

This is not something I would ever even attempt to make ever in my life. And she did, and she did an insanely phenomenal job on it. It was so moist and tasty I couldn't help but overeat. This highly pleasing meal deserved a wine of equal stature, so we opened the Esporao I brought for dinner. It was even better than I built it up to be in my head, so that was great. I would highly recommend this wine! You won't even believe that she still had a fancy dinner planned for us later on. Seriously, are we being treated like royalty here or what?! We've got some pretty big shoes to fill for their next visit.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Coconut Curried Vegetables

The minute I walked in to my friends Katie and Jamie's I knew we were in for a real treat. I could smell the spices and my mouth began to water immediately. We don't see them all that often but when we do, the time we share together usually revolves around food at someone's house (my favourite) and great conversation. After a delicious glass of wine we moved into the dining room where the table was brightly decorated with candy coated, chocolate Easter eggs and a gold Lindt bunny – so adorable!

For dinner they served an exotic coconut curried vegetable dish taken from Vij's cookbook. Vij's is a highly rated Indian restaurant in Vancouver. The subtle spices of this dish blended so well with the vegetables and made for a truly warm and comforting meal, perfect for shutting out the cold, rainy weather outside. They served this with some basmati rice, cooked to perfection, and yummy naan bread. 

I regretted having seconds because along with the chocolate eggs, also came some decadent homemade crepes. These warm, sweet bundles of awesomeness were stuffed with pear and chocolate and drizzled with even more chocolate sauce and strawberries. It was to die for and went so well with the wine. At this point we were onto La Vendimia, which was a lighter, fruitier wine than we had to start – a perfect accompaniment to the dessert. I can't rave enough about the evening, it was the perfect prelude to the weekend.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Mystery Burger

Tonight we had yummy barbecued burgers. We pulled out some old frozen burgers that were leftover from last year. They were still very good. We assumed they were actually the PC veggie burgers, after my husband noticed how they were cooking on the grill. I can't remember if I posted anything about them last summer or not. In case I didn't, all the PC veggie burgers (they have quite a few kinds) are very good, and so much better for you than real beef burgers. Don't get me wrong, I love beef burgers. But if we're going to be barbecuing them on a regular basis, it's much healthier to throw the veggie ones into the mix. Besides, if you're like me and love to top your burger with everything in sight (there goes the healthy part of them), it won't even make a difference. Tonight I topped mine with relish, dijon, horseradish dijon, pickles, tomato, cheese and spinach. With our perfectly grilled burgers, my husband also made a delicious pecan and spinach salad drizzled with balsamic and some sweet mustard pickles. Bring on summer!

Wine, Wine and More Wine

Jean-Marc, this guy I work with, signed me up to receive the Vintages magazine that the LCBO sends out. I thought this would be a good way to start exploring new wines and learning more about their differences in the process. It's also, I recently realized, a way to empty your pocket book on a bi-weekly basis. There's something quite fun about collecting wine and then planning which occasion you're going to drink each bottle at. It's also discouraging to bring a wine you've been dying to try to a dinner party just to have it left there, unopened. Jean-Marc recommended I buy 3 bottles of each. One to try now, one to try at a later date, and one to try in the year it's meant to be drunk. I'm not sure i'm there yet. But I am going to do the other thing he recommended, which was to print out the description of the wine and have it with me when I do decide to drink it and pay attention to the flavours while reading the description. I think that's a fabulous idea and i'm looking forward to trying it. Tomorrow will be my first venture. I'm bringing a bottle to a dinner party. Saturday will be another, I've been saving this particular one for the couple I'll be with then. The following wines are some of the new ones that have made it into my liquor cabinet (I hope that one day I can change that to say wine cellar). In case, for some reason, I don't have the description of the wine with me, at least I'll be able to easily reference it on my blog. I'll keep everyone posted for when I do have these wines and let you know how they are.

This bottle was highly recommended by one of the gentleman who works at the LCBO. After a couple of the wines I had planned to buy were unavailable, he pointed this one out to me.


Wine, Red Wine,
14.0% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content : D

Made in: California/Californie, United States
By: Negociants Int'L Pty Ltd
Release Date: Jan 31, 2009

Voss Vineyards was founded by Australian Robert Hill Smith, whose family is also responsible for Yalumba Winery in Australia and Nautilus Estate in New Zealand. Intrigued by the quality of wines from Napa Valley, Robert ventured into California in the early 1990s. The fruit for this Syrah is sourced from the estate's vineyard in Rutherford and another block further south in Napa. It's packed with deep black fruit flavours, peppery spice and earthy notes. It's richly textured with cedary oak accents and medium tannins providing grip and structure.


Wine, Red Wine,
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content : XD

Made in: Australia, Australia
By: Foster'S Wine Estates Americas
Release Date: Mar 28, 2009

Tasting Note
A powerful, intense, full-bodied palate with blackcurrant and mulberry varietal character; stout tannins and oak underline the structure. Drink [until] 2020. Score - 93. (James Halliday,, Oct. 2007)

This is my Saturday night wine that i've been saving.

VINTAGES 606590 750 mL bottle

Wine, Red Wine,
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content : XD

Made in: Alentejo, Portugal
By: Finagra
Release Date: Oct 11, 2008

Since 1973 Herdade do Esporão has made several major investments in its winery and vineyards to become one of the the most infuential estates in the region. Made from a blend of Aragonês (a.k.a. Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon and Trincadeira, this dense, fruity, and charmingly rustic red is a great companion to any stewed, braised or roasted red meat dishes.

This is tomorrow night's wine choice. I've got 3 more of these so if we don't drink it I won't be disappointed.

VINTAGES 674564 750 mL bottle

Wine, Red Wine,
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content : XD

Made in: Rioja, Spain
By: Bodegas Palacios Remondo
Release Date: Mar 28, 2009

Palacios Remondo's La Vendimia is simultaneously modern and 'old school'. Modern, because they use every cutting-edge method at their disposal to make fresh, bright, flavourful wines; old school, because they use a higher level of Garnacha (a practice more common in Rioja Baja where superstar winemaker, Alvaro Palacios, is from). The blend here is 50% Tempranillo and 50% Garnacha. Look for aromas of blackberry jam, fresh raspberry and a hint of Mediterranean country herbs (called garrigue in the south of France). Enjoy this wine with beef ragout or even grilled liver and onions. It will also age gracefully for 4+ years.

VINTAGES 107185 750 mL bottle

Wine, Red Wine,
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content : D

Made in: Languedoc, France
By: Mas du Soleilla
Release Date: Mar 28, 2009

Tasting Note
Chewy, dense and powerful, with well-sculpted flavors of kirsch, dark plum, red cherry and hot spice flavors. Shows intense notes of mineral and hot stone on the finish. Drink now through 2014. Score - 91. (Kim Marcus,, Dec. 31, 2008)

VINTAGES 103432 750 mL bottle

Wine, Red Wine,
15.2% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content : D

Made in: Ribera Del Duero, Spain
By: Bodegas De Los Rios Prieto
Release Date: Mar 28, 2009

A Silver Medal winner at the 2008 Tempranillos Al Mundo competition. The wine is grown in the respected Pesquera area and aged almost 6 months in American oak and 6 months in bottle before release.

Tasting Note
This 100% Tempranillo from 40-year-old vines shows the virtues of mature vines in wine production. Opaque ruby colour with intense aromas of plum, almond, cocoa and wood spice. Dry, fleshy and rich with exceptional aroma replays on the palate. Medium full-bodied with a long, balanced finish. Match it to rich beef stews or lamb dishes. (VINTAGES panel, May 2008)

Chicken with Lemon and Tarragon

I know I've said before that I don't post anything that i've posted before but i'm reposting this one because it's been so long and cooking chicken this way is just so yummy and flavourful. This shot is of the chicken uncooked. To see the cooked shot, and for the recipe, just click here. My husband made this for dinner last night and with it he served the spinach and ricotta version of the PC ravioli that I love.