Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Urban Element – California Wines

OH MY GOD I love the Urban Element. I think I'm officially obsessed. I just got home from the California Wines tasting and what an experience! I've always wanted to take a wine tasting class but I've always been afraid the people would be too pretentious (I'm just assuming that's what it would be like because I know nothing). To be honest, I adore wine, but I'm not smart at all when it comes to describing them or appreciating the effort that goes into making them. Since I've been there before, I figured I'd be comfortable enough to venture down the wine path, and I was right! Not only did I feel comfortable asking every question I had, but I also had the best time ever savouring the food that went along with it. Ok, so I know it's not all about the food, but in my mind, it is. It's that added bonus. And not all wine tasting courses offer that luxury. Chef Candice Butler made it that much more special!

I'll start by talking about the host. What a magnificent man. He was so full of energy that even after a long, exhausting day of stressing at work I didn't once yawn. I'm a big yawner. Especially when I have to listen to someone else talk for a period of time. This man kept me on my toes, just dying to learn more. He was so charismatic and honest and really, REALLY knew his shit. Pooch Puciloski from Sacramento, California is a certified wine educator who has been running the wine competition at the California State Fair for 20 years. I would do anything to go to Sacramento and take one of his classes. He literally makes learning fun. Combine that with something you're interested in and it becomes magical.

As soon as we arrived we were coupled with a 2002 Schramsberg sparkling wine from the Napa Valley. Moments later a smoked salmon rosti with a dill, whipped cream cheese and Chelsea Boucanerie smoked salmon was served to enhance the experience. Talk about the wine, picked by hand, made by hand, began. I learned that a sparkling wine has a second fermentation that takes place to make it “sparkling” and that it is quite labour intensive – explains the price right!?

Then the questions began. The majority of wines are best up to 5 years for reds and 3 years for whites. We tend to keep wines too long, which can compromise their flavour. Once a bottle is opened, storing it in a smaller container (with less air) and in the fridge, can make it last longer. It slows down the oxidation. If you're doing it with a red and need to bring it back to room temperature, simply put it in the microwave for 15 seconds. Try it out and continue adding 3 second spurts until it's perfect. Microwave + wine, who knew!?

Next came a delightful white wine (I'm not a huge fan of whites but this could change me) – 2007 McManis Viognier. This is where the real tasting began. I've never done this before so it was really quite exciting. First we tried the wine. Then we sucked on a lemon and then tried the wine again. Bread. Wine again. Then we had some salt; back to the wine. More bread. Wine. Sugar and then some more wine. With each step we focused on the feeling in our mouths and the flavours that came from the wine. The lemon for example, smoothed out the wine and made it less acidic. Doing this allows someone, who knows little about wine (me!), to figure out what foods to pair the wine with.

Then the next dish came. I have to say, this is by far, the absolute best tart I've ever had, and went so beautifully with the wine. A caramelized onion and blue benedictine tartlet with spiced nuts. Sooooo heavenly.

The questions kept coming (and so did the wine and food!) Wine is best kept at a consistent temperature. Heat, light, vibration and fluctuation of temperature are all bad for wine.

A roasted heirloom tomato strata with chèvre and arugula and basil oil came next, paired with a 2006 Noceto Sangiovese from Shenandoah Valley. This wine is the perfect example of a California winery making an Italian wine. I would have thought this was my favourite; until the next one arrived...

Smelling is the most difficult thing to do for a human as we always associate smells with imagery. Which is what can make picking the smells out of the wine so difficult. We kept smelling this next wine as a group and yelled out what we smelled as we sensed it. As soon as you heard someone say something you caught the scent. Then you found your own. In order to get good at this you have to do it often, and write it down! It's most fun when done in a group. Like we did with the 2006 Noceto Barbera, which was amazing. Everything about it reminded me of some of my favourite evenings at home with friends and a heavy red. I loved this wine! They served this one with a wild Le Coprin mushroom risotto with sage oil.

I mentioned that my father gets headaches when he drinks certain wines. He has always blamed it on the tannins. I learned tonight that that is a myth. But that it is possible the wine is causing an allergic reaction, producing histamines. Taking an antihistamine tablet can reduce the headaches. I can't wait to tell him!

The 2007 McManis Petite Sirah was by far my favourite wine of the evening. They served it with a mouthwatering venison pot pie, topped with celeriac mash and served with home made red pepper jelly. Flavours of apple, juniper berries and thyme melded in. So comforting. The combination of wine and this dish made me want to curl up in front of a fireplace and finish the bottle.

Our final dish was a sliced hanger steak on a creamy, herbed polenta with salsa verde and it was paired with a 2006 Chiarello Bambino Cab Sauvignon. Yummm.

I can't rave enough about my evening. Every time I've gone there I just have the best time ever. I'd have to say the learning experience and interaction from this event was probably one of the best of all. I love that we have a spot like this in Ottawa. Everytime I go I just keep thinking of the other people I know who would enjoy it so much and whom I'd love to bring (I actually just got a gift certificate for a friend as a wedding gift – I would LOVE something like that!)

So worth checking out!


Home Made Sausage, Roasted Red Pepper, Zucchini and Sun Dried Tomato Pasta

Wow, it's been a while since I've had a meal worthy of a post! Last night's dinner finally got me going again. Then the mouse on our computer wasn't working. Which is why I'm posting now. This is going to be a quick one since I'm off to another fine dining experience at the Urban Element! But I had to get this one in before I went.

A co-worker of mine brought me in a delightful treat a few weeks ago. Home made sausages. They've been sitting in my freezer patiently waiting for the right dish to join. My husband made them feel like royalty setting them alongside some roasted red peppers and zucchini last night. He fried the zucchini and thinly sliced garlic in some olive oil and then added the chopped red peppers and sun dried tomatoes. He then placed the mixture on top of some whole wheat spaghetti mixed with basil and tomato sauce. The entire combination of flavours was breathtaking. And the sausage, mild and tasty, went beautifully. Thanks Jenn! You rock! And my husband too of course, for bringing it all together!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Steak and Tomato Salad

Welcome to salad day number 4. Tonight we had a pink, juicy steak with fresh, peppery arugula and warm plum tomatoes that popped at the touch of a fork. My husband sprinkled Montreal steak spice on the meat and seared it for 3 minutes each side. The tomatoes were cooked with chopped garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Such a great meal and so easy!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Roasted Tomatoes and Cipollini with Squash Soup

I don't think I've ever used the word decadent to describe a salad before. Although that was the first word that came to mind while I was eating this magnificent dish tonight. Then my husband said, well, it's not really a salad. So then I questioned, what defines a salad? I guess it's usually greens topped with a dressing. But there are warm vegetable salads that have no leafy greens. This salad indirectly had dressing, olive oil, which is all I often put on a salad anyway. I checked out the definition on wikipedia but it didn't really help to answer my question. Salad or not, it was fantastic.

The warm, sweet onions just melt in your mouth, and the juicy tomatoes are bursting with flavour. Roasted garlic brings the entire dish together. I had fun spreading it on some garlic and rosemary Art-is-in bread too.

My husband also used some Himalayan salt for flavouring. This salt has a rich mineral content that if consumed on a regular basis (in moderation) can support proper nutrient absorption, eliminate toxins, normalize your blood pressure and increase circulation!

He found this recipe on one of my favourite blogs, Smitten Kitchen. My friend Teresa introduced me to this magical site. Deb makes the yummiest looking meals and takes the most beautiful shots (I told my husband there was no way we'd make a better photo tonight, and I was right). Definitely worth checking out.

My husband also made this warming squash soup that started to bring memories of Christmas to mind. Yikes! I know. But doesn't it make you just want to curl up in a blanket in front of a fireplace? I love that feeling, when it's blistering outside and you're all warm in your house slurping up your favourite soup. We had some acorn squash and potatoes that needed to get used up. He didn't measure anything so this is the best I could get out of him.

What you’ll need
1 acorn squash
3 potatoes
1 onion
Chicken stock
2 tsp curry

What to do
Chop and cook everything (except the ginger and curry) together in some butter. Add some chicken stock, 2 big chunks of ginger and the curry and boil for a really long time. Put everything in a food processor and purée.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sort-Of-But-Not-Really Cobb Salad

Salad day number 2. Unlike day 1, I did not feel comfortable after this salad. It was HUGE and super filling. My husband has made many variations of Cobb salad. This one has quite a few additions and some omissions. Hard boiled eggs, chicken, avocado (on his only), beets, tomato, green onion, corn, ham and iceberg lettuce all topped with a lovely blue cheese dressing.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Farmer’s Market Salad

After a week of indulging in rich pastas, breads and cheeses my husband and I are ready to return to normal, light dinners. Stepping away for a while really makes you appreciate that wonderful feeling of just being comfortable after a meal rather than stuffed. It has taken me quite a bit of time (and coaching from my husband) to learn how to not overeat. I've been overeating my entire life, and I've been very uncomfortable as a result. Light meals just make you feel full of energy!

This salad made the switch back super easy. Not only was it absolutely delicious, it was also quite fun to eat. My husband picked up some fresh greens at the Byward Fruit Market, Go-green Salads to be exact. This bag, chock-full of minerals and vitamins, packed in over 30 different kinds of greens (and flowers!). It was amazing. Check out some shots of what was found in this mixed medley of yumminess.

And as if the selection wasn't enough, my husband added in some fresh beet greens and arugula. Grilled portobello mushrooms, toasted pine nuts and shredded Beemster 2 year old Gouda topped with an olive oil, dijon, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper vinaigrette made this earthy salad to die for.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Raclette and Cheese Fondue

I love parties that revolve around food. Especially when you get to experience something new. Last night my husband and I were surrounded by amazing people and lots of cheese. The reason for this culinary adventure? My friend Zoya's birthday.

Marc planned the evening to a T. Even arranging to have this fancy schmancy raclette burner in place.

We started off with 5 cheese fondues lined up on the table. Gruyère, Old Cheddar, Raclette, Jarlsberg and Emmental, all carefully prepared with either beer, wine or brandy and wine. There was no skimping on the food for dipping either, roasted cauliflower, broccoli, white and whole wheat breads, sausage pockets and Granny Smith apples were readily available. I even learned that the “religieuse” is a delicacy and can be asked for after your fondue at La Savoie. It's the cheese that has been stuck to the bottom of the pot. Crispy and yummy. It's called religieuse in reference to old crusty nuns.

The most impressive part of the evening was watching the raclette burner in action. Pat brought this magnificent French creation (one of only 4 in Quebec and imported from France) from his work, Restaurant La Savoie in Mont Tremblant (they even had to rewire the plug to fit our North American outlets). I've never been to this restaurant before but given the experience I had last night, there's no doubt in my mind that this would be a very fun place to go with friends and pig out on raclette and fondues. In fact I think I may have to do that on our next visit. The half wheel of raclette cheese was even imported from Savoie, France.

In addition to the fondue sides listed above, a trio of Rosette de Lyon were carefully placed near the burner. Thanks so much for making everyone's evening so special Pat!

Lorrie brought these beautiful and sweet little cupcakes. Time and effort made these not only nice to look at but super fun to eat.

Awesome party Marc! Thanks so much for having us and to all the new friends that made us feel so welcome, and fat.

Comforting Meals at Their Best

How do you take away any stress involved with having company? Simplify the cooking. If it wasn't for my husband, the arrival of my family would have had me on edge, especially after an insanely busy week of work. The night before their arrival, as I cleaned the house, my husband went nuts in the kitchen – and did it EVER smell great! Within a few hours my husband had dinner for Wednesday night ready to go, breakfast and lunches for Thursday and Friday, and a plan for meals in the evenings.

Wednesday night was the lasagna. Not just any lasagna, my husband's grandmother's lasagna. Already prepared, we just had to pop it into the oven. What a hit, so cheesy and comforting. Here's the recipe.

What you’ll need

1 medium onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbs olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 280 ml can sliced mushrooms
1 225 ml can tomato sauce
1 5 1/2 oz can tomato paste
2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
3/4 cup water
1 280 g package frozen chopped spinach
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 container creamed cottage cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 170 g package sliced mozzarella cheese
1 500 g package Catelli lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

What to do
Sauté onion and garlic in half the oil; add ground beef and brown, breaking it apart with fork. Stir in mushrooms with liquid, tomato sauce, tomato paste, half the salt, oregano and water. Simmer 15 minutes. Combine egg, spinach which has been thawed and thoroughly drained, cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, remaining oil and salt. Spread 1/3 of meat sauce in a 9" x 13" baking dish. Cover with 1/3 of lasagna. Alternate another 1/3 of sauce and lasagna. Spread cottage cheese mixture over and cover with remaining lasagna and sauce. Arrange mozzarella cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Breakfasts were equally insane. Along with greasy bacon and whole wheat toast came one of the best quiche's I've ever had. Dad said it was in fact THE best he'd ever had. Dense and filling, the flavours in this dish were outstanding! My husband made this recipe up so it's less detailed than the others. Sorry, no photo, I was so excited to eat I stuffed my face before realizing the photo hadn't been taken.

What you’ll need
6 eggs
3/4 cup cream
1 cup emmental
4 green onions
1 cup ham

What to do
Mix everything together in a bowl. Sprinkle in a bit of nutmeg. Poor into a pie shell (frozen one you would buy at the store). Bake at 400 for 45 minutes.

Celery Root and Cèpe Soup
Sophisticated and rich, this soup is sure to impress. We ate this soup along with the Bell Inn biscuits my husband made. I absolutely love the taste of celery root. My husband got this recipe from an old Food & Drink magazine.

What you’ll need
1/2 oz (15g) dried cèpes (or porcini)
2 medium onions
1 celery root, about 5 inches (12cm in diameter)
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup light cream
Fried bread croutons, optional

What to do
Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour over 3 cups boiling water. Leave the mushrooms to soak for 20 minutes.

Peel and dice the onions and celery root. In a large frying pan with a lid, heat the butter and oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions, celery root and salt. Stir to coat the vegetables in the butter and oil, cover and cook gently for 15 minutes.

Remove the dried mushrooms from the soaking liquid, chop them coarsely and add to the vegetables. Carefully strain the soaking liquid through a fine sieve and pour into the pan. Cover and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 minutes. Season with pepper and more salt if necessary and let cool slightly.

Purée the vegetable mixture in batches in a blender, then pour into a saucepan. Add the cream then heat the soup gently. If it seems too thick, add more water.

Serve topped with croutons, if desired.

For dessert mom got some strawberries at the grocery store and chopped them up with some sugar. That, along with a little whipped cream turned our leftover biscuits into strawberry shortcake heaven.

Dinner on Thursday was the impressive barbecued margherita pizza, Friday was the equally awe-inspiring smoked beer up-the-butt chicken.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Domus Café

Run. Run as fast as you can to Domus and order the Braised Beef “Shortrib” and C’est Bon Goat Cheese Ravioli” before the menu changes.

My husband received a Domus gift certificate from Lily, a local artist and friend of ours who got my husband to do some design work for her. This is my husband's absolute favourite restaurant in Ottawa. And obviously one of my top too. Thanks so much Lily (and my husband of course for sharing!), as you'll see below, we had a magnificent meal.

I've reviewed Domus before. This time I've upped my rating. The second I took my first bite of the ravioli starter I knew it would change. I haven't been in awe like this in a while. The flavour of the tender meat in each little pocket was so powerful that even with the goat cheese on top, you could clearly taste it. Each ingredient only complemented each other more and more with every morsel.

My husband ordered the “Memories of Manitou” Warm Summer Tomato Puff Pastry Tart served with yellow cherry tomato salad, green basil pesto and C’est Bon goat's cheese. Also very yummy.

Our mains were equally delicious. My husband went with the Cast Iron Crispy Skinned Barbarie Duck Breast and Ian's Brown Smoke served with yukon whipped potato, pan roasted sweet corn, cauliflower, swiss chard chutney and jus. I tried his duck, cooked rare, and it was fantastic.

My main, the special of the day, a rare cooked venison steak served with similar sides as my husband, as well as Le Coprin mushrooms, and bathing in a red wine and garlic jus was simply to die for.

The wine, 2007 Thirty Bench Red from Niagara Lake.

Every single food item on this menu is local. I would have to say that this is THE place to bring someone who is from another town in another country far away if you want them to experience local foods at their best. The service is also consistently impeccable. You are guaranteed to have an amazing evening.


Domus Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Bell Inn Biscuits

About a year ago I did a post about The Bell Inn in Dorchester, NB. One of their specialties is their biscuits. Tonight my husband was preparing some dishes for the arrival of our company tomorrow. Pre-made lasagna, quiche, celery root and cèpe soup with yummy biscuits (the actual recipe from The Bell Inn!). The house smelled phenomenal. Stay tuned for recipes on those fantastic dishes.

During the Christmas of 2007, my husband received a cookbook from his aunt. This book was filled with recipes that his grandmother used to make on a regular basis. And, since they're related to the owner of The Bell Inn, I guess it only makes sense that they would be given the recipe to their marvelous biscuits. It was one of his grandmother's favourite recipes.

What you’ll need
3 cups flour
1/2 t salt
3 t cream of tartar
1 t soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 T sugar
1 cup shortening
1 egg and enough milk to make 1 1/3 cups

What to do
Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

Heaven. And the perfect side to your favourite soup.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

“Imaginary” Europea – Montreal

This is the first post of it's kind. I did not eat at this restaurant. Although a very trusted source almost pushed me to the break of insanity last night. I think it's pay-back for all the torture I've put him through with my mouthwatering meals over the past year.

As I lay on the couch eating my popcorn last night, a series of emails came through that made me wish so badly that I was somewhere else. That place was Europea. I've never been to this restaurant, but my colleague Jean-Marc has never stopped raving about it. He and his wife go every time they're in Montreal. Since he has only guided me in the best direction in terms of wine, I trust his taste in food matches mine to a t. Which is why i'm going to share with everyone, the torture I suffered last night. I won't rate the restaurant, since I haven't actually eaten the food, but I will depict each plate as JM did throughout the evening.

It started with a series of amuse-bouche. Coconut shrimp in coconut milk. Goat cheese and parmesan lollipops with purple basil. Followed by a mise en bouche of lobster cream cappuccino with truffle shavings.

Two additional amuse-bouche were thrown in as a surprise, a trilogy of melon (cute little squares that would have taken a rookie chef about an hour to cut) served on oriental soup spoons with a sauce that JM didn't pay attention to as they described it because he was in too much awe by the visual of the treats in front of him.

Appetizer of seared and smoked salmon, celeriac and crab salad, granny smith apple caviar - oh my! Scallops and veal sweetbreads. Parsnip and bok-choy cabbage with wine reduction.

For the main, fresh ravioli with ricotta and shiitake mushrooms, porcini emulsion, grilled portobello, alba truffle sauce and roasted scallops with Blanche de Chambly beer beurre blanc emulsion, barley risotto, rice lettuce espuma.

Wine – Anvers Shiraz from Australia.

All this was followed by a wave of 2 desserts. The first one being a baignet, crême brulé, coconut mousse with passionfruit. Second was an assortment of bite size pastries that were so incredible, he had to put his blackberry away because the keyboard was getting wet.

Final dessert (as if the others weren't enough) – freshly spun cotton candy and madeleines. The cookies were just out of the oven. Oh, and another surprise, home made smore ice cream bar.

Insane. The table d'hôte is 56.50 per person. JM would pay twice that for the experience he had. The wine was $70 (probably $30 in the liquor store). Service is the best of anywhere he's eaten. And if all this wasn't enough, with the bill comes a nice bag that has a homemade loaf of zucchini bread to take home.

Reservations: 514-398-9229

Thanks Jean-Marc, thanks a lot. I hate you.

Oyster Po-Boy and Chowdah from the Whalesbone

I've not been eating well these past few days. I've been so consumed with work that my dinners on both Friday and Saturday were embarrassing to say the least. Dill pickle chips on Friday, Popcorn on Saturday. Pathetic or what!?

Lunch yesterday made up for both. I picked up an Oyster Po-Boy Sandwich, Halibut Cheek Sandwich and Chowdah from the Whalesbone. The chowder contained some chopped up potatoes and fish swimming in a pool of buttery goodness. For the sandwiches my husband chose the halibut, I've had it before so I was excited to try the oyster variation. The light batter surrounding the deep fried colossal oysters was heavenly, especially the crispy bits on the end, but I must say, it was almost a bit too rich for me. I could barely finish mine. I'll probably stick to the halibut next time.

Their prices have also gone up, but given the fish they are using, it's all relative. In a previous post prices were $5.50. Yesterday they were between $6.50 and $8 depending which one you got. I imagine the time of year and the fish being used determine the price. Still, each one is worth every single penny.

Whalesbone Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Best Beet Salad Ever

Sometimes, if my pictures don't turn out the way I like, I don't bother doing a post. If I can't portray how delicious a meal was with my photo alone, then it's not worthy of being on my blog. Unless of course, the meal was so amazingly fantastic that I just can't stop thinking about every little bite I had, which is the case tonight. A simple beet salad. Maybe. But after working 12 hours with no break, it's exactly what I needed. I'm not particularly happy with this photo, it doesn't do it justice. Whatever.

My husband wasn't home when I arrived from work. But he made sure I was well taken care of. I'll have to get the exact recipe from him later but from what I can tell, fresh, local arugula, beets, caramelized onions, toasted pine nuts and feta make this the best beet salad I've ever had. Ever.

I just got the recipe from my husband so here it is!

- couple of swigs of cider vinegar
- two dollops of dijon
- one dollop of grainy mustard
- 6 big glugs of olive oil

then whisk.

- boil fresh beets and chop, or add two cans of beets, halved
- caramelize one onion in salt and oil
- toast pine nuts
- crumble feta

serve on top of arugula, or steamed beet greens.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Quail Stuffed with Poultry, Foie Gras and French Plums

I'm scrapping my idea of not posting dishes I've already talked about. I've been getting a lot of new visitors lately and guaranteed they haven't gone through everything on my site. So to some, this may be a completely new post. Besides, how can you pass on a meal so worthy of having it's picture taken? Actually, this version of the mouthwatering stuffed quail was even better because my husband cooked it. When I did it, it turned out quite dry. You can find these tasty treats at the Chelsea Smokehouse (yes, I believe I am spending my life savings there). But you never know, when I get old and things start to happen, I may loose my taste buds! I'd better live it up while I can! We've also tried the poultry and caramelized onions with port version. If you're stuck there staring at the two and can't decide, I have to say I was more in awe with the taste of the port one than the foie gras, but both are fantastic.

My husband also made this meal even more scrumptious by adding a blackberry mead (a gift from his dad from PEI) reduction with red onions, and some comforting squash (is it that time of year already!?) on a bed of spinach.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Steak au Poivre

I swear we are the luckiest people in the world because of the amazing friends we have. One of my best friends of over 30 years (yes, we have literally known each other since birth) recently moved here with her fiancé. I'm sad that they didn't move right next door to my house, but I am happy to have them within driving distance. How did they entice me to leave my bubble and make my way over there? Food of course! I'm kidding, I love Amy to death and would drive far out to the burbs for her any day and for no reason at all. But last night she definitely outdid herself, cooking us the most mouthwatering and heavenly dinner I've had in a while, and serving the best wines from their stash. What a treat!

We started out with a delightful cheese plate of parm, brie, prosciutto and fresh figues.

Moments later, a yummy Caprese salad was staring us in the face. We quickly devoured each tomato in anticipation of our main course that we could smell grilling on the barbecue.

While Andrew took care of the meat, I went inside where all the action was. Amy was making what was soon to be one of the best sauces I've ever had, flambé style! She had never flambé'd before but did it like a pro. I'd never even venture down that path for fear of burning my house down.

The final product was well worth the effort. A succulent steak, so tender and juicy topped with a spicy peppercorn and mushroom sauce. Every single bite was a taste of heaven and went beautifully with the thin asparagus shoots and potatoes that layed beside it.

As if all that wasn't enough, a light and chocolatey mousse made it's way to my tummy with a silky espresso.

Last, but definitely not least, the trio of wines we had the honour of tasting was to die for. When they drove to Ottawa from out West, Amy and Andrew passed through some wonderful vineyards. One of their stops was at the Burrowing Owl Estate Winery. We enjoyed every second of this oaky 2006 Meritage. If you're ever in that area of the country, this vineyard is sure to impress. It's the second bottle I've had of theirs and it does not disappoint. They also shared another delicious wine – 2005 Merlot from Hester Creek. And the Portuguese one I brought (originally given to me from my friend Donnie) was also quite lovely, 2007 Duas Quintas, Ramos Pinto.

Thanks so much guys for the memorable evening. If you keep that up, you may find me over more than you want!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Afternoon Munchies and Beer

I worked all morning. At noon when I got home my husband was relaxing in our beautiful backyard. I immediately sat down to start soaking up the sun. Is it too early for a beer I asked. Something really light and refreshing would be perfect. Within seconds my husband was off to the beer store. 3 Corona Light's later (why they made a light version is beyond me – besides maybe the drop in alcohol percentage – you can't really get much lighter than the original), this beautiful plate of random items from our freezer and fridge was staring me in the eye. A poultry, duck and port mousse, bison spring rolls, and smoked mackerel from the Chelsea Smokehouse, gorgonzola, toasted ezekiel bread and mini quiches completed the perfectness of the afternoon. I don't remember the last time I relaxed this much.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Maple Salmon Skewers with Sweet Potato Fries

My husband made yet another awe-inspiring meal tonight. He picked up some maple salmon skewers from Hartman's, heated up some leftover mashed potatoes, baby spinach and cut up a sweet potato to make the most delicious sweet potato fries. Montreal Steak Spice is the secret to these savory treats. You don't need condiments for dipping when the fries have this much flavour!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fresh Local Garlic and Blue Cheese Bison Burgers

There's nothing quite like the pungent taste of fresh, local garlic. Our new neighbour brought us some a few weeks ago. This stuff can go a pretty long way given it's strength. You could use much less than called for and still get an intense overall flavour in any dish. It's also a lot juicier than the regular garlic you'd buy at a supermarket. This time of year, local garlic is pretty easy to find. In fact, we were in the Byward Market a few days ago and most of the stalls had a ton of braided garlic (for insanely hight tourist prices mind you – $30 for 16 bulbs or so – a little too insane for me). But if you do come across some for a decent price, I highly recommend picking up a few bulbs.

We stuffed some lovely bison meat with one clove and some gorgonzola and topped it all with arugula. Fresh green beans on the side and voilà! So yummy!