Friday, June 24, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Though I choose “sweet” over “salty” 85% of the time, there’s something about this Popcorn, Indiana white cheddar popcorn that hits me right in my happy place. Like the bag says, it’s crunchy, crispy, sharp and savoury, all at the same time. It’s the best bagged popcorn I’ve tried, and I cannot. Stop. Eating. It. (Help!)
Friday, June 10, 2011
The recent launch of the stunning Pearl Brewery complex along San Antonio’s River Walk, anchored by the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) plus the school’s strong focus on the local Latino gastronomic aesthetic have helped give this rich and tasty American food culture the legitimacy it deserves.
Not that it needs a fancy culinary school to lend it legitimacy. But since over 80% of the kitchen workers in the southern states are of Latino descent, this gives them the opportunity to helm kitchens as head chefs with culinary degrees in their back pockets while cooking their own food.
In addition to the Latino-infused CIA, gourmet shops and restaurants like La Gloria (street foods of Mexico), there’s a Saturday Farmers Market in this River Walk extension, which together illustrate how Latin American food has become an important part of the larger American culinary cannon.
When I was speaking at a conference in San Antonio (or as I like to call it, Shvitzy Antonio) earlier this week, I was taken aback by bursts of colour and music everywhere, the kind people and the great food. From our waiter at Luke (star chef John Besh’s first restaurant outside of New Orlean’s), who joked about putting roofies in our French “75” cocktails, to the amazing receptions held at the famed Mi Tierra, and then the closing night event where a smiling group of Brazilian dancers conga lined us from the manicured lawns out onto our waiting river boats, the sweltering heat added even more exotica to this small but proud American city, where the tacos are great, but the margaritas are even better.
Friday, June 3, 2011
I don’t know why I was taking it so personally, but I was wracked with worry in the days leading up to the premiere of Top Chef Canada. As a big fan of the American version (and as someone who met with the producer prior to casting to give him some ideas re potential chefs), I cannot believe how good it is. It totally doesn’t suck. No “The Trouble With Tracy” lighting. No canned laughter. Just a great group of mostly talented chefs.
The bigger shocker? A lot of them even have big personalities; showboating and smack-talk included. (How very un-Canadian.)
The hosts are nice facsimiles of their American counterparts, and most of the challenges have been even more interesting than the U.S. ones, including one that had the chefs traipsing around Toronto’s unique ethnic enclaves to learn and cook recipes from another’s culture.
I’ve enjoyed the food of a few of the chefs (in real life), including Connie DeSousa’s, who is truly doing women chefs proud.
I visited Calgary last summer and toured around the city for a day with Connie and her Charcut co-chef/owner John Jackson, and also had a fantastic meal at their restaurant, where they make everything from scratch. During summer the place becomes a veritable pickling and jamming factory, where they can more than 1,000 jars of everything from tuna to berries to peaches and cucumbers. And then they use some of that preserved fruit in their ever-changing, dead simple, crazy delicious, no-bake cheesecake. I wonder if Connie will break it out if there’s ever a quick-fire dessert challenge.
Charcut's no-bake cheesecake
3/4 cup (175 mL) heavy cream
1/4 cup (50 mL) icing sugar
seeds from half a vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) cream cheese
1/4 cup (50 mL) graham crackers (crumbs)
1/2 cup (125 mL) seasonal fruit, fresh or preserved
1. In a bowl, whip heavy cream, icing sugar, vanilla seeds and vanilla extract until thick, then put it in the fridge.
2. In another bowl, beat cream cheese using whip attachment, frequently scraping down bowl until there are no lumps. Then fold whipping cream mixture into cream cheese.
3. Layer jam jars with graham crumbs, cheesecake filling and fruit.