Saturday, December 18, 2010

Comfort Food

For the most part I consider slow cooked meaty dishes to be the ultimate comfort food. But my mom's seafood casserole could very well make the top of the list. It's decadently rich and creamy and filled with giant chunks of yummy shrimp, lobster, crab, scallops and cod. It's heaven-in-a-bowl for any seafood lover.

I haven't been feeling much in the Christmas spirit this year. But a trip to New Brunswick and this dish specifically, reminded me that we are here. I may actually make some Christmas cards this weekend!

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Whalesbone Oyster House

I am in love. The Whalesbone just updated their menu and it is filled with delectable treats. The other night my friend Lara and I managed to make it through a few of the new plates, opting for apps so we could try as many dishes as possible – each one very easily shared. A bottle of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir escorted us the whole way and the chefs selection of oysters set the evening, and what was soon to be one of my best food experiences ever, off to a great start.

It seemed the world around us vanished as we engulfed in conversation, coming back to reality only when our dishes were served. First, Bigeye tuna, flesh tender and surrounded by decadently arranged halved caper berries, celery, fleuron, fennel pollen, black olive, vanilla and a sinful dusting of bitter chocolate flecks.

Next, a picturesque dish of ruby red raspberries, wild salmon crudo, bonito (I admire Charlotte's devotion to the mackerel family as I too am a huge fan), seaweed, black herring caviar, crème fraîche, almonds, lemon and sinful truffle oil. We reveled in every morsel, each one differing from the last as we opted for a more savory bite one minute, and then loaded up with the sweet berries and crème on the next.

Whoever says you need vegetables with your meal is out to lunch. Our third dish, bone marrow and foie gras served on a wooden board, is rustic in nature. Being tasked with digging out the marrow made the dish that much more special. I can still remember watching my grandfather patiently sort through the, what seemed like, millions of bones in his fresh-caught fish. Although way more tedious in comparison, I still feel that last bit of fat found in the bone equally rewarding. And if you don't get your fill of richness from that, the tantalizing piece of foie gras perched on perfectly crisp toast will have you feeling very satisfied. Surrounded by this melt-in-your-mouth pocket of richness was a graceful tumble of parsley, salt, dijon, white fish caviar, Balkan yogurt and sweet honey.

Finally, a lovely cheese plate served as a segue into our final dish – a yummy seasonal Christmas cake. And the last few sips of wine sadly brought the evening to an end. Bellies full and oh-so-satisfied.

Service, as always, was exceptional and every detail made for a memorable evening. Impatiently waiting for my next visit.

Whalesbone Oyster House
430 Bank Street
Ottawa, Ontario

Whalesbone Oyster House on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Steak Frites

I've been soooo craving meat recently. I think I must unintentionally deprive myself of must-needed nutrients now and then because my brain eventually kicks in and starts yelling at me, reminding me of what I'm missing. And when it does, I must listen. Luckily we had a dinner planned with two other meat lovers, Marysol and Simon. So we went all out.

Can we serve beef as the app AND the main? I think I may have pushed a bit for this one, and I'm glad I did because my husband did a marvelous job. As usual.

We started off with a carpaccio salad. Bright red fleshy slivers of fresh, raw beef. We actually called the butcher at the Glebe Meat Market ahead of time to request it. What they do is take a beautiful piece of meat and then freeze it a bit so it's easier to slice. My husband served it as a tower, layering arugula between the slices and topping it all off with shavings of parm and dollops of spicy dijon, lemon mayo dressing. I was in heaven.

Our main was equally delicious. A perfectly seared tenderloin topped with a delectable herb butter sauce – minced shallots, garlic, parsley and chives. Sautéed mushrooms were actually made to accompany the meat but were sadly forgotten in the pan until the last few bites. But it's never too late for mushrooms – and they were quickly devoured. And the frites, so carefully prepared. My husband followed the recipe on how to cook the best fries in his Cooks Illustrated magazine. I swear this magazine is like a mechanic's instructions manual, but for chefs. The secret to these golden beauties? Cornstarch and double frying.

Along with all this mouthwatering food came a lot of really good wine too. We actually started off the evening with a cheese plate served with Hinterland's sparkling White Cap – one of my favourite drinks to start the evening with and unfortunately only available in Prince Edward County. With the app, we enjoyed Sandhill One, a 2007 Cab Sauv blend from the Okanagan Valley – amazing wine. This also brought us into our main, until we finished it off and reached for Lockwood Vineyard's 2007 Cab Sauvignon, not a match to the first but a great pairing for the dish. And finally, I served my overcooked chocolate molten cakes (they were kind of lacking on the lava side) with a ruby port, Fonseca Bin 27 Reserve.

Amazing food, company and wine = happiness all over.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Braised Lamb and Polenta

If a meal like this doesn't turn a cold day into something positive, I don't know what would. Fall and Winter are what make meals like this possible. And living in what can be a very cold city has them happening a lot! I love walking into the house to the smell of lamb simmering away in a concoction of goodness. This one even went overnight – leaving me to dream of the final results during my unconsciousness.

I knew exactly which wine I wanted to pair with this meal. A couple of hours before dinner I pulled out my bottle of 2006 St Hallett Blackwell Shiraz. This wine was meant to be drunk with this meat. A heavenly pairing to say the least.

My husband filled the slow cooker with some port, red wine, beef bouillon, garlic and thyme before setting the lamb in for a long nap. He chose a cheaper cut since he knew he'd be cooking the hell out of it. The final result was a fall-off-the-bone, tender and full of flavour piece of meat that made your heart sing. A few tomatoes were thrown in a couple hours before serving to help cut the richness of the dish. And a spoonful of smooth polenta served as a cushion to the meat, as well as a sponge to soak up more of the delicious juices.

I'm so thankful my husband likes to cook. I seriously don't know what I'd do without him.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do You Love Chicken?

Photo courtesy of the Chicken Farmers of Canada.

I know chicken often finds it's way on our plates. Luckily new tasty ways to cook and prepare it make it exciting each time. My husband is great at doing that, from chicken skewers, to chicken and pork burgers, chicken Marsala, goat cheese stuffed chicken, smoked beer-up-the-butt chicken, and the list goes on.

Another fun spot to get ideas and recipes is the Chicken Farmers of Canada Web site. With tons of mouthwatering recipes, easy tips and tricks – like buying local and how to brine a chicken, videos, and even personal interviews with local farmers, the site is pretty much your one-stop-shop for anything chicken. And right now they just launched a new site that's much more user-friendly and with even more info. Check it out!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Few of my Favourite Things

The things that keep me going in life are the simplest, most pleasurable things many people would just overlook. And it's so important to remember these little things, they're what keep us going every day. If you're just waiting for the next big thing, you're not living life to the fullest.

This past month has brought on many simple pleasures. Here are some of my favourite.

Marysol's (chez Edgar) warming sweet potato and coconut milk soup. So comforting.

Relaxing tea from Cha Yi teahouse, also available at Edgar.

And decadent buttermilk pie made by Lynne (the twisted chef) is all you need to put a smile on anyone's face!
Have you ever seen a happier Marysol!? (thanks for the photo Lynne!)