Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Best souvenir ever

This one was pretty good. As was this. But the fact that the Viennese invented the snow globe, and have been manufacturing them locally since 1900 using real glass in lieu of plastic, won my heart. That, and the fact that this particular souvenir happens to be filled with puppenkrapfen!

Monday, February 22, 2010

An inspired side

It has been said that the average North American evening meal rotates around the same 5-8 dishes each and every month. Pizza Tuesdays, fish stick Fridays, and so on and so forth. Boring!

And if the main courses are that uninspired, just imagine how lackluster the accompanying side dishes are: Baked potato Mondays, sliced tomato Tuesdays, creamed corn Thursdays, etc.

Well, I’m here to change all of that. For starters, I’m putting two vegetables together that don’t necessarily go together, and then I’m adding some sweet heat and browning them off in the oven.

Say hello to Sweet & Spicy Butternut Squash and Green Beans Saturdays!


(Serves 6)


2 big handfuls green beans, tipped, washed and dried

1 medium butternut squash

1 tbsp sriracha sauce

1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

pinch of sea salt


Cut squash in half lengthways, scoop out seeds, then place cut-side down in an inch of water in a microwave dish. Cook on high for 10 minutes, then rinse in cold water or let cool, and when not too hot to handle, cut into wedges and slice pulp off of skin as you would a melon.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

To a baking sheet lined with foil, pile on prepared green beans and squash, and toss with sriracha sauce, brown sugar, olive oil and salt. Spread out evening on pan, and roast for about 15 minutes, or until there’s a little browning going on, tossing once midway. Serve alongside a boring workaday main course.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tasty Vancouver Winter Olympics

I'm still here in Vancouver, blogging about the food scene during the 2010 Winter Olympics -- and loving it. But when not eating Olympic themed food or drinking 2010-specific cocktails, I'm walking around, meeting up with pals, going to parties and taking in the sights and sounds.
The city is alive. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom and it's 15 degrees out with peacock blue skies. My friend and I went for a bike ride to Granville Island yesterday and then stopped by the docks on the way back to Kitsilano for some wild salmon tacones at Go Fish.
It sure doesn't feel like winter.
But I'm not complaining.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Getting jiggy with cauliflower

Behold the Parmesan-crusted, truffle-hit head of cauliflower – elegant in its simplicity, daring in its wholeness.

Seriously, when’s the last time you saw a cauliflower presented as an entire head? For me, it was a few years back, at Dymond Lake Lodge when I was out in Manitoba searching for polar bears and building igloos.

I had never seen one before, and haven’t since.

I’ve made some changes to the lodge’s simply perfect cauliflower recipe, including adding a kick of Dijon and a drizzle of truffle oil, but even without the truffle it’s smack-your-mama good*.

On a side note, I'm blogging from the Vancouver Winter Olympics for Food & Wine magazine. Check out the fun and tasty times here.

*(Or rather, just about as good as a head of cauliflower can be. And please don’t smack your mother.)


(serves 4-6)


1 head cauliflower, leaves and bottom core carefully removed so head remains intact

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 tsp Dijon

fresh cracked pepper

drizzle of truffle oil (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place prepped cauliflower in a microwavable bowl with a bit of water in the bottom and cook (steam) on high until it’s al dente (about 7 minutes.)

Mix together Parmesan, mayo, Dijon and pepper.

Remove head of cauliflower from microwave dish, drain of excess water, then place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Spread with cheese mixture and bake for 15 minutes, then broil for a minute at the end so it gets slightly browned.

Drizzle with truffle oil and present it whole. Eager eaters can just spoon out their portion.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This just in: Monks have a sweet tooth

Just when I start thinking that life can’t possibly hold any more culinary surprises, I find myself at Auberge la Montagne Coupee, a lovely resort and country inn nestled into the crown of Montagne Coupee in Saint-Jean-de-Martha, Quebec, when co-owner Marie Prefontaine points out a striking modernist building o’er yonder.

“It’s the Abbaye Val Notre-Dame,” she explains.

“An abbey, like where monks live?” I say, amazed by my seemingly endless supply of religious knowledge.

“Yes. And they make wonderful chocolates full of a caramel sauce that they are very famous for.”

I don’t stick around to ask any more questions. Instead, I’m off, Speedy Gonzalez-style hightailing it from the hilltop through the snow, over to the car and down the mountain to the large shop at Abbaye Val Notre-Dame, all the while thinking that, maybe, just maybe, the monks hold the secret to the Caramilk bar.

About 20 monks live within the wood and glass structure, where Gregorian chanting can be heard from on high. The shop boasts all manner of religious books, jewelry, as well as a huge selection of local cheeses, sauces, jams, cured meats and ceramics.

I buy some of the chocolates, a jar of the specialty caramel, plus another one hit with local maple syrup.

And they all taste as good as sin.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The instant party

You’ve got last minute drop in guests (the nerve!), everybody is feeling a little peckish, and you want to throw together some memorable nibbles for an impromptu cocktail hour.

Here’s what to do: Warm up some nuts (either in a pan, or in the oven with some olive oil and dried rosemary), put out a bowl of good olives, a loaf of baguette, and make this easy shrimp dish.

It’s like five minutes to fancy.


(makes one tapas-sized dish)


1 head roasted garlic (see recipe below. If you don’t have a roasted head hanging around and don’t have a spare hour, thinly slice a few cloves of garlic and cook in a pan of olive oil until crisp and browned. Drain on paper towel.)

21-24 raw, shell-on easy peel large shrimp

lots of good salt and pepper and chili flakes and olive oil


1. For roasted garlic, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut ½ inch off the top of the cloves, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and wrap in foil. Baked for about 35 minutes or until soft.

2. Preheat oven to 500 degrees (or hit the broiler button). Toss dry shrimp with a goodly amount of salt and pepper and chili flakes and olive oil and the roasted garlic that you’ve squeezed from the clove casings. Mix well, then pour into a snappy oven-proof baking dish and cook for 5-6 minutes (stirring once midway) or until shrimp or pink and cooked. Serve with baguette or other favourite crusty dipping bread.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


I'm in Vienna right now, trying to decode the cafe culture of this glorious city.
On my first day I visited eight different coffee houses, some famous, some hidden gems. So far, so good.
Except did they really expect me to eat my mini puppenkrapfen with a fork?
This is a special treat made around carnival time, an apricot jam-filled donut topped with powdered sugar.
At Cafe Sperl they sell snow globes depicting a plate of puppenkrapfen -- the "snow" drifting around the globe being the icing sugar from the donuts.
I think I may have to buy one.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Easy smoked fish schmear

The only reason I made this delicious fish spread was because I had a craving that needed to be satiated and I wasn’t about to drive up to Daiter’s (where, besides the delectable smoked fish selection, their fine curd cottage cheese is still sold out of cheesecloth and tucked into their handmade blintzes), or fly to Newfoundland to get the job done. And don’t you just figure that that’s how some of the greatest recipes are created -- necessity being the mother of invention and all?

I schmeared this on a bagel, but you could spread it on crackers or even serve it with crudité.

Either way is kosher by me.



8oz block of cream cheese, softened at room temp (can use light cream cheese if you want)

200 grams smoked whitefish or mackerel

1 tbsp mayonnaise

juice of half a lemon

few shakes onion salt

couple of shakes cayenne pepper

few grinds, black pepper


Remove skin and any bones from fish and flake into a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Refrigerate for an hour to let the flavours meld. Schmear over a toasted bagel, or serve in a snappy bowl, sided by crackers.