Sunday, February 26, 2012

Snacky things for Oscar

I just returned from vacation and I’m still on Club Med time, but since the Oscars are tonight I thought I’d be as uncreative as traditional media and do a quickie post about snacky things you can serve to guests while watching the big show.

Leafing through past blog posts, I had almost forgotten about my new favourite olives, while these lemony mushrooms have been part of my regular repertoire for a decade.
Feta red pepper dip? So easy! (Tip: Why not make some hummus while you’re at it?)
Shrimp are both tasty and fancy.
And everyone loves homemade caramel corn.
Meanwhile, a party can only be improved upon with the inclusion of Ritz Bits.
Oh, and offering something sweet is a must.
So, that's it. Good luck on your Oscar pools, and here’s hoping that the big show won’t be as lame as this blog post! (But seriously, there's a lot of good info tucked in here.)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On eating with a cold

This week it finally hit: I got a cold. But not just any old cold. This one woke me from a deep sleep at 3:30 a.m., filling my sinuses, ears and throat with such pressure that I thought my head would pop off. It was the most sudden cold onset ever! I hopped out of bed, popped an Advil, blew my nose and it was game on. About four days, 1.5 boxes of Kleenex and a few envelopes of delicious NeoCitran later, the cold is basically gone. But with a busy schedule this past week, what with a food shoot and finishing up at one job before starting another tomorrow, I had to push on through.

I tried to sneeze into the crook of my elbow while trying to enjoy my nights out, and along the way devised some tips on how to eat with a cold. Here they are:

1. THINK TEXTURE. I was invited to dinner at Colborne Lane at the height of my cold and it was too late to cancel. So on the one hand, I couldn’t taste a damn thing -- what a waste. But on the other hand, I took more notice of the gorgeous-looking dishes being served and reveled in all of the amazing textures. Crunchy, airy, smooth, cold and warm, my tastebuds may have been dead but my tongue was alive! At home if you feel like snacking, think apples, celery, popcorn, whole grain cereal and other good-for-you foods that will fight hunger and boost your system without you caring whether or not they taste great. Because you can’t taste them anyway!

2. EAT ORANGES. I had been expecting this cold for about a month. Everyone at work had been sick and I was convinced that my seasonal mandarin orange habit was keeping the cold at bay. Sure enough, the day after my third crate ran out my cold stormed in. I honestly feel if you OD on vitamin C you will not get a cold. If you don’t want to eat them, juice ‘em.

3. NO FINGER FOODS. Now is not the time for sharing. Keep your mitts off the chips and M&Ms at get-togethers and don’t indulge in shared fries or finger foods because you’ll just lick your fingers, then on spreads the virus. Ask your host for your own plate and fork even if none are being offered, then keep your food and germs to yourself. No hugs or air-kissing either. Don’t even clink wine glasses. Wash your hands often, with soap. Try to be thoughtful and soon enough your cold will be gone -- and your friends won’t blame you for passing it on to them.

And that’s what I learned this week. I’m heading off to sunnier climes next weekend so I’ll report back in two weeks time. Adios amigos!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Trend Alert: Canadian Eats

The more I travel the more I learn that every area in Canada has its signature dish. From Acadian country’s Rappie Pie (pictured here) to Thunder Bay’s Persian doughnuts, while these recipes are everyday eats within a town’s borders, they're mystically almost unheard of elsewhere. Still, they are all part of the edible social fabric of Canada, where a tasty new chapter has just begun.

No ifs ands or buts about it, Canada is having a moment. It started with our winning ways at the 2010 Winter Olympics and continued when our economy didn’t tank as badly as the rest of the Western world's. Now, part of the trickle-down effect is our blooming indigenous culinary scene.

Canada is a young country with no true old guard to speak of. For this reason, our chefs tend to be youthful, multi-ethnic, homegrown, experimental, and their food, proudly delicious. Which is why right now is an exciting time to be a Canadian chef, or (better still) a Canadian restaurant-goer.

The first Bannock restaurant launched in the flagship Hudson’s Bay store in Toronto this fall, with a focus on traditional Canadian comfort food (everything from bannock pizzas to poutine and chicken pot pie). Then there’s chef Michael Stadtlander’s off-the-grid woodsy dream that is Haisai in Southhampton (the godfather of Canadian cookery, chef Stadtlander has also spearheaded the important cause of stopping a proposed mega quarry.) Vancouver has the Oakwood (try the Nanaimo bar custard for dessert) while other Canadian anthems include Martin Picard’s seasonal Caban au Sucre, as well as his meaty Quebecois comfort food temple, Au Pied de Cochon.

There’s also Edible Canada, which opened on Vancouver’s Granville Market, and Halifax’s Chives Canadian bistro, which just celebrated its happy 10th. These are just a few examples; the good news is that there are many more.

But for money, the restaurant that has it all – great looks, creativity, hot chefs, and overall deliciousness, is chef Aaron Joseph Bear Robe’s aboriginal Keriwa CafĂ©. Judging from brunch alone, from the basket of freshly baked goodies and homemade preserves to the brown butter eggs Benny (why have I never had this magical take on hollandaise before?) with its local Red Fife biscuit base, crispy homemade bacon, not to mention the cleverly tasty roasted root veg tossed with salad side, I’ll be shocked if someone can find a better brunch in town.

Or, a more Canadian one.