Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pan Seared Fois Gras

Living in Ottawa has made it pretty easy to get great food to cook with. From our wonderful butchers carrying the best of local meat, to farms delivering fresh veggies to your door, it's very easy to eat well. On those occasions where you want to step it up a little, there are plenty of specialty stores in the area where you can find everything you need. There's even a website based out of Montreal called Ogourmet that offers delectable treats such as this fois gras available to ship within one business day.

My husband seared this sinful, silky treat to perfection. Beneath it, layers of peppery arugula drizzled in balsamic and oil, toasted hazelnuts and earthy brown rice infused with garlic and mixed with chunks of meaty shiitake mushrooms.

And if that wasn't decadent enough, every rich bite was chased with a refreshing and sweet wine from Prince Edward County – Exultet Estates 2009 Dolce Ghiacciato.

Friday, February 25, 2011

$12 In – Shanghai

Wow, I was starting to think I'd never post another tip jar submission ever. It's been a very long time – thankfully. But tonight, well, tonight could not go unnoticed.

We used to go to Shanghai quite often. I've always really enjoyed it there. My favourite dishes – Shanghai dumplings, pad thai, and coconut curry shrimp. I don't know what happened tonight though, food was good as usual, service – non-existent.

- 20 minutes+ before getting our first drink, 1 hour for the app, another hour for the main (some apps didn't even come with the others and snuck their way in just before the main), over an hour for the bill.
- My friend got the wrong app, and my husband got the wrong main. Unfortunately at this point he was so hungry he couldn't bare the thought of waiting another hour for a new dish so ate the ginger beef he was served. Oh, and he's really not a fan of ginger.
- Our server spilled my friend's beer into his dinner. Her response: “Oh, now it's going to taste like beer. Do you want me to do something about that?” Nothing was done.

My friend Gina said it beautifully – there's a way to give bad service well (having been in the industry). A few apologies, even a fake excuse, anything would have made me feel somewhat better. But she was clueless. And I don't think she had any idea that anything was going wrong.

To make matters worse, after about 40 minutes of waiting for our bill, even after having asked our server to bring it, approximately 50 people piled through the doors in about 10 minutes. Our chances of getting a bill now were hopeless. Another 20 minutes or more go by. We shuffle through the people to get to the bar, begging for our bill. No success, Don who was working behind the bar had to get the bill from our server. We waited some more, and the live act that had just started (a strip spelling bee) began. His first words: “I know there's still people eating here - so you should finish and leave.” Oh trust me, we want to! We wanted to an hour ago. We finally got our bill, our server still with no idea anything was even wrong, no apology, nothing.

I don't think the evening could have ended any more poorly. So sad. I really did used to love this place. So there you have it, $12 tip now in my empty little jar, waiting patiently for the next outing we have with impeccable service!

Side note: if you have an event going on that's going to box in your guests and pretty much reduce the service to nothing, warn them when they call for a reservation – at least.

651 Somerset Street West
Ottawa, Ontario

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cake Heaven

Teresa does it again! Blowing us all away with her side talent as specialty cake maker. No party is complete without one of her jaw-dropping creations. Maybe it's because there were 3 birthdays tied into these cakes – whatever the reason, these ones seemed to raise the bar immensely.

After hours of laboring away, 8 separate cakes molds and detailed frosting like I've never seen before, Teresa proudly delivered the best cakes ever. Layers of either chocolate or white moist cake separated by velvety frosting. The crowd that piled into our dining room to break into these were, to say the least, trembling with excitement as they patiently waited for their slice of sweetness. Some on the other hand, couldn't contain themselves and dove in with two hands (you know who you are!)

Thanks so much Teresa! Birthdays would not be birthdays without you!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pork Belly with Onion and Peanut Relish

My husband's first pork belly dinner. And what a way to dive in! Flavours of coriander, star-anise, kaffir lime, cinnamon and chili flakes offered an explosion of unique flavours that you don't often get to experience together. Such an exceptional way to cook this sinful meat. I especially loved the peanut relish, amazing.

Of course, it probably won't surprise you that the recipe was taken from Jamie Oliver's magazine. But this wasn't one of his recipes, in fact, it was a feature about chef Lance Edwards, of Sauce, a small traveling circus restaurant. So after the exhilarating show, guests can enjoy a 3-course dinner. My husband cooked two of those dishes, the other being the Asparagus pâté app. You really can't do one without the other. They're both to-die-for.

Asparagus Pâté

What you’ll need
3 bunches of asparagus, blanched
3 tbs clotted cream

What to do
Blend ingredients together. If you can find it, add in 1 tsp spicy chilli strawberry jam and then season with salt and pepper to taste before giving it one last whizz. Serve with your favourite crackers or bread.

Pork Belly with Onion & Peanut Relish

What you’ll need
1 tbs coriander seeds
10 black peppercorns
5 star-anise
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1.5kg pork belly boned with skin scored
1/2 tsp crushed chili flakes
1 tbs olive oil
boiled potatoes and greens, to serve

For the onion & peanut relish
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chili, finely chopped
4 large shallots, finely chopped
2 tbs sugar
3 tbs unsalted peeled peanuts
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1tbs each soy sauce and sesame oil
juice of 1 lime
handful of chopped fresh coriander

What to do
In a food processor, blitz the coriander seeds with 2tbs of sea salt and peppercorns. Add the remaining spices and blitz until fairly fine.

Put three-quarters of the spice mix in a roasting tin and place the pork on top skin-side down. Add the water to come halfway up the pork. Bring to a boil on top of the stove then turn down and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Take the tin off the heat, then remove the pork and pat dry with a tea towel or kitchen paper, brushing off the spice mix. Cover with a baking sheet and sit a heavy object on top to flatten the pork. Leave for 1-2 hours in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 425. Add the chili and olive oil to the remaining spice mix and rub it over the pork skin. Put on a rack in a roasting tin and roast for 20 minutes, then turn down to 350 for 1.5 hours. Remove and rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, over low heat, sweat down garlic, chili and shallots. Add the sugar and let the mixture caramelize a bit. Add the peanuts and ground coriander and mix well. Remove from heat and add the soy, sesame oil and lime juice and stir until combined. Add the coriander before serving with the pork, some potatoes and veg.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cookie Monster Cupcakes

Over the past two months I've been having a serious debate in my head about whether or not I should continue blogging. Not because I haven't been eating wonderfully, just that I honestly haven't been feeling quite as passionate about the writing part. My day job has been draining me, and no matter how wonderful dinner is when I get home, I just don't have the energy to finish it off with a post.

But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about the wonderful relationships I've made over the past couple of years, some of those blossoming into friendships that I'm sure will last a lifetime. This blog has brought me so much more than a place to go back and drool over past meals. Do I really want to close the door on something that has brought me so much joy? Not to mention the many culinary experiences that I would never have had the opportunity to be a part of otherwise. And well, the final answer was no, I'm not ready to close this chapter.

I may not post as often as I used to, but rest assured that when something is worth telling you about, you will know. Which brings me to the final straw on what helped in my decision-making – something that reminded me about how excited food gets me – something that brought the passion back and that could not go unshared. I screamed out loud when they were revealed – COOKIE MONSTER CUPCAKES!

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?? Not only do I adore Cookie Monster, I can also relate to him as I have an obsession with chocolate chip cookies. Bring that all together into a cupcake and, well, let's just say I still get tears of joy when I look at these photos.

Look at him! Look at the details of his sweet blue fur, his googly eyes so giddy with excitement because of the homemade chocolate chip cookie jammed in his mouth! I know exactly how he feels because my eyes did the same thing when I ate him. Teresa, thank you so much for making my day with these! They were THE BEST!

And thank you to all the other foodies and bloggers who have become such a huge part of my life. This whole experience would not be the same without you.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Pickled Goodness

Back in November we had a little dinner party in honour of a visiting friend. Carolyn, a woman I met through my friend Gina, is a wonderful and super fun person. But I think where we really hit it off was through our similar interest in food. Knowing how much my husband and I enjoy food-related gifts, when she took it upon herself to send us a thank you for the dinner, she put a lot of thought into surprising us with something both local and homemade.

After considering all her options, she picked out the best of the best pickled goodies made by friends and family. And all of it coming out of their backyard gardens!

• Her mother's corn relish, beets and cucumber relish
• Her sister-in-law's bread & butter pickles
• Her good friend Loretta's giardiniera

Although a thank you gift was definitely not necessary, now that I've dipped into these delectable gems, I can say how excited I am that she took the time to do this for us. Yum-ola!!

Thank you so much Carolyn, and please thank all the wonderful people who poured their hearts into these yummy treats.