I always forget how ridiculously easy mussels are to make. They cook in hardly any time at all. They’re great in pastas, sans-shell in soups, even chilled with some seafood sauce, but, best of all? They’re cheap! A couple Sundays ago, I wanted a quick and easy dinner, so thought mussels would be the way to go. This vodka tomato sauce would also be pretty stellar on some spaghetti with some homemade meatballs. Just saying…
If you’re not a booze hound like me, feel free to leave the vodka out. It just adds a nice little kick to the sauce.
With a double elimination in the second episode and some, um, tension between Caity and Ruth, I thought it might be less dramatic in my kitchen for this second round of recreating if I didn’t do it alongside someone else. And, especially not anyone named Caity! Kidding…sort of…
Anyway, as per my usual weekly routine, I swung by The Calgary Farmers’ Market to grab some ingredients for the dish I was recreating. For a second week in a row, I was (happily) assigned to reimagine a dish by Calgary’s Nicole Gomes, a plate Arctic Char with Tomato Emulsion and Chorizo that she created in episode two with Rory White. In lieu of making my own chorizo at home, I settled for some great sausages from the Spragg’s Meat Shop, as well as some beautifully fresh char fillets from Blu Seafood.
As you can probably guess, I’m an avid home cook. I whip up dinners comfortably (usually with the help of a sous chef or two) for groups of friends. I can turn the miscellaneous contents of my refrigerator into some semblance of a ‘charcuterie’ board if I have guests popping by unexpectedly. Yes, it would seem that I am slowly, but surely, becoming a kitchen wizard of Hogwart’s proportions.
Having said that, I can occasionally get so carried away, making something unusual or attempting to meld odd flavours together on a plate that I forget about the tastiness that can come out of the uncomplicated approach to cooking.
I’ve read Bon Appétit for years. I use it for inspiration in my kitchen, staying informed on the culinary happenings in North America and, regardless of the time of day/week/month/year, as an appetite stimulant. The magazine has started off the new year with a “Cooking School” issue. A good chunk of its pages are filled with how-tos and tips to get you cooking more often.
A lot of the pointers, guides and recipes I read through weren’t necessarily things that I did not know how to do, but, rather, things that I forgot to do. I am definitely the type of person that needs constant reminders in all aspects my life, and reading through this January issue of Bon Appétit was my culinary reminder for 2013. ‘Tis the season, so let’s consider this a resolution too.
Finally, in seven days (March 12th, 10 p.m. ET/PT) the second season of Top Chef Canada will return to Food Network Canada. I’ve been filling my Top Chef void with ‘Chopped’ and ‘Pitchin’ In’. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love both of those shows…’Chopped’ stressed me out (oh, the pressure!) and Chef Lynn Crawford on ‘Pitchin’ In’ always makes me laugh, but nothing quite gets me going (no, not like that) like watching a brand new episode of Top Chef Canada!
Last year, I spent every Monday night at Charcut, a restaurant owned by one of season one’s finalists, Connie Desousa. The excitement in the restaurant week after week was amazing. It was like watching a football game, but actually interesting!
This year, with a new line-up of sixteen competitors, there is only one chef from Calgary. Xavier Lacaze, executive chef at Muse Restaurant. It’s too early to place any bets, but judging from Xavier’s work at his restaurant, I think he’ll be a contender for the top title.
Naturally, I am biased, but you’ve got to root for your own city’s representative, right? Go Xavier!
I’m really excited to be attending the season two premiere at Muse next week. If it’s anything like the show opener at Charcut last year, it’s going to be a very memorable evening.
The show will air every Monday night for thirteen consecutive weeks which, leads me to my announcement…
I am pleased as spiked punch to announce that I have signed on to produce thirteen online, interactive pieces for this new season of Top Chef Canada.
So…what exactly does that mean? It means that I’m going to have to cook…a lot. Not high pressure, ‘pack your knives and go’ kind of cooking, but, rather, I will be recreating some of the series’ favourite dishes week after week.
Each Monday night, Top Chef Canada fans will vote (via Facebook, Twitter and FoodNetwork.ca) for their favourite dish from the episode. Once the voting has concluded, I will be assigned the viewers’ favourite dish to recreate at home, in my own kitchen. Fun? Yes. Scary? More so. Following each episode, we’ll share my cooking experience (successes and failures) on the Top Chef Canada site, along with a recipe so that you too, being the avid home cooks that I know you are, can cook up a Top Chef Canada quality dish at home. Can we all be ‘top chefs’ at home? Well, I am going to try and find out!
So, feel free to let any Top Chef Canada fans that you have in your life know that they can partake in this dish recreation adventure with me by voting for their favourite dish each week!
Anyway, saying that I am excited for this Top Chef Canada engagement is an understatement. I’m beyond elated to take on this fantastic culinary experience. Having the opportunity to recreate delicious dishes from some our country’s top chefs is definitely an honour and I will do my best not to let you down!
I love Calgary, I really do, but sometimes a quick trip to the mountains can clear your head and provide you with that feeling that is so rare to find in the hecticness that is downtown life: Relaxation.
Last month, Casel Marché and Cassis Bistro graciously hosted a Monday night potluck event for us last month, they also created a little contest to go along with the food. The group voted for their favourite dish of the evening and the creator of that dish would win a weekend stay in Canmore. Sweet! Sadly, I did not win, but luckily, the winner, Chelsea K., invited some of us to come enjoy the weekend in Canmore with her!
Since so many of us are used to hectic night lives, we decided to keep things low key, just staying in, talking, occasionally frequently laughing and playing board games.
One of the board games in particular, Settlers of Catan, which Mitchell brought, was new to most of the group. I could tell they were skeptical, Mike especially, about the game and how nerdy it might be, but everyone was soon paired up, plotting and strategizing against each other. Yes, it soon became a board game blood bath between teams of nerds.
On Saturday morning we went for brunch at Chez Francois, which was not the tastiest breakfast food I’ve ever had, but provided us with some much needed greasy fried goodness.
Next, we headed over to Communitea, which is probably the cutest little cafe that I’ve seen in a long time (sorry Higher Ground, I still love you too!).
They had a staggering selection of teas, about eighty I believe, and a food menu that was gluten-free and vegan friendly. Hippies rejoice!
Jokes aside, it was a really adorable space and I will definitely be making a point of coming back here next time I’m in Canmore. And, yes, this picture below is of myself, wearing a tea cozy…and Lori’s glasses…in Communitea…and, no, I had not been drinking.
I know, right? Nice moustache…
Once we’d had our caffeine fix, we strolled the main street, popping in and out of shops with names like ‘Arty Farty‘ and ‘Gingerella‘, but as charming as these places were, nothing could compare to a run-in with Santa Claus and his motorcycle.
Apparently the reindeer were too hungover to make a public appearance this weekend, so Santa was out buzzing around town on a two-wheeler. He graciously posed for a picture with Lori, then went on his merry way.
After heading back to the condo, we took a quick dip in the hot tub, did some yoga (lesson courtesy of Jacinthe) and went to buy some groceries for supper.
Jacinthe and I prepared dinner in the kitchen, while Chelsea K., Sarah, Mike and Jacqueline built a gingerbread house for dessert. It was a kit with instructions, so I knew they’d be fine unsupervised.
I have been on a few mountain getaway weekends before and I know that though the kitchens are generally well equipped with tools, they lack spices, oils, etc…that help make a great meal. Unlike my regular city self, I planned ahead and packed up a bag full of miscellaneous spices, vinegars, etc…to aid us in creating a feast fit for Sasquatch.
For starters, we dished out some lemon and white wine risotto topped with garlic butter shrimp.
For the main course, we served a simple roasted chicken (seasoned with Charcut’s top secret Alley Burger spice mix! Yes!), confit rutabagas, rosemary roasted butternut squash, braised kale and zucchini. A very rustic, hearty mountain feast indeed.
Following dinner, and demolition of freshly built gingerbread house (dessert), we busted out the board games for another night in. That evening’s game of Settlers of Catan took closer to three hours to complete. I think by the time winner had conquered, we were all too mentally exhausted to do anything else and just went to bed.
Sunday came so quickly and it was time to pack up and head back to Calgary. Feeling relaxed and refreshed, we grabbed one more drink to go from Communitea and got onto the highway. Every single time I drive away from the mountains I also think to myself that I don’t come visit them nearly enough as I should. This year, that shall change!
For now, I’m refuelled and ready to face another busy week. Can’t wait for the holiday parties to start, how about you?
(Note: All photos, aside from Lori with Santa, are courtesy of Mitchell and Chelsea K. Thank you both for capturing some great moments throughout the weekend!)
Twitter in attendance:
Ok, I just have to sneak these two shots in. If you can guess which ladies these are, you win a fantastic prize pack. (prize pack still TBD)
Do you have a favourite go-to recipe? Something you love to cook and are always proud to dish out to friends or family regardless of the occasion? I bet you probably do! Three lovely young food enthusiasts here in Calgary knew that too and decided to start a neat little project. They put the word out to the community that they were in search of as many fantastic, trusted recipes as they could find. Cookies, cakes, meatloaves, salads, it didn’t matter. If there was a person with a cherished recipe, they wanted it! Now, that idea hatched back in the early spring, so let’s fast forward to September and you’ll find their hard work had finally paid off; a Calgary community cookbook has come into existence. Kind of sounds a bit like a foodie fairy tale, doesn’t it?
Erin Woodward, Lisa Schindel and Katie Radke are the young women behind Calgary’s newest cookbook. Their book, the Club Club Community Cookbook, ended up having over one hundred contributors and more than two hundred recipes. Submissions came from anyone from teenagers and grandmothers to food critics, writers, and even a few food bloggers (perhaps myself included). It seemed like everyone in the city was more than happy to contribute their favourite dishes to the book.
For the launch of the book, the women organized a giant potluck, where they invited all contributors to bring their signature dish so that everyone could have a taste of what could be found within the pages of their new publication.
During the celebration, I had a chance to sit down and chat with the trio about how the book came to be…
When did you come up with the idea to put together a community cookbook? Back in January, we formed a club of sorts—which was mostly just an excuse to hang out as friends—where we’d do different activites every week (craft club, crib club, croquet club etc.).
At the first meeting the idea of a community cookbook was suggested and it just took over. We thought it would be great to own a book of all the favourite recipes of our friends and family, but once other people heard about it and wanted to be a part of it, we realized it could be something much bigger.
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