on sundae

vanilla ice cream with balsamic syrupThe old aphorism “opposites attract” probably best describes this pairing. The slightly acidic tang from the balsamic syrup with the softly sweet vanilla is a winning combination. Elegantly simple. Vanilla pairs perfectly with so many things that we made the ice cream our vehicle for taste testing several different flavoured balsamic vinegars. Fig, black cherry, chocolate, pear…just a few of the versatile vinegars from the Unrefined Olive, and all delicious. David Lebovitz’s recipe for vanilla ice cream has been my go-to. I was so excited to get a double batch done while family was visiting (so that we could have our balsamic tasting experience!) that the second batch might not have been completely frozen…I tried to pass it off as soft serve. Continue reading

berkeley birthday

In contrast to the chilly October weekend that just passed, my twin brother and I celebrated our birthday last year in sunny California. Between hiking along the coastal beaches and under sequoia canopies, and roaming the hilly street of San Francisco, we spent a night and a day with most of our family in Berkeley.On our birthday-eve (not something we typically celebrate!), we wandered through town in time to hear the tower bells on campus, and back too late for the farmer’s market. Upon having our ID checked at Jupiter, we were challenged to a birthday beer race by our server (we lost, obviously). There were birthday candles floating in our stout which was a big enough win for me. We ate pizza and then my brothers and I fell asleep while watching Harry Potter in the motel room; a great way to ring in another trip around the sun.

Before driving across the bridge to San Francisco the next day, we had a late lunch at Chez Panisse Cafe. I will attribute the same-day reservation that my parents made to being a birthday miracle.

My mum had introduced me to the name Alice Waters and her restaurant Chez Panisse many years ago. When the assigned reading for my high school French class was Marcel Pagnol’s Marius & Fanny, the connection to the character named Panisse, in my mind, was the Californian restaurant. I thought it was an exciting coincidence at the time. (It’s not a coincidence, of course.)

The significance of Alice Waters’ influence on American cuisine is expansive – extending far outside of Californian kitchens, into farms, schools, and global communities. Many more skilled writers and cooks than I have described her impact in the industry and beyond. I’ll just add that it was a real treat to sit in the sunlit café on my birthday, with some wonderful people, eating delicious, simple food that was a testament to all the good things I had heard before getting there. Another birthday candle, this time in my persimmon pudding, was icing on the (birthday) cake. I can’t wait to go back.cali bday (1)
We left with one of Alice Waters’ cookbooks, with recipes ordered by season and ingredients. It’s almost encyclopedic, and wonderful to flip through for inspiration. The recipe I’m sharing is certainly not Continue reading

Out Like A Lion [Cream of Walnut Soup]

slow thaw (12)Driving in the sunshine today–I had the windows down and radio turned up–it felt an awful lot like the big thaw was on the way (granted, I was still wearing my big winter jacket). And then a few hours later the sun dipped behind the clouds and winter let us know she wasn’t quite ready to pack up and go.slow thaw (6)slow thaw (1) So it would seem that winter will be going out like a lion. Spring has been postponed; it’s #winterforever, if you’re into prefacing your thoughts with a pound sign. The snowbanks are shrinking, though we welcomed the first day of spring last weekend with a slushy snowfall. I can’t deny that I am eager to be able to run out the door without all the layers this winter weather requires, but I don’t mind the cold. It’s a little more conducive to sitting at my desk and getting work done. Or making rich desserts. Both of which I would like to count as being productive.espresso(Or! Great weather to do fun Ottawa things: we stayed warm last week by ducking into the National Gallery, one of my favourite buildings in Ottawa (the M.C. Escher exhibit is fairly mind boggling) and running across the street to peek inside the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica (it’s certainly not on the same level as the Notre-Dame, but it’s pretty and I couldn’t believe I had never been inside), before getting cozy for dinner at town, where I tried bone marrow for the first time and had a delicious cocktail made up of whiskey, nebbiolo and sherry– that’ll warm up your innards.).slow thaw (2)slow thaw (3)slow thaw (5)slow thaw (11)The recipe for this walnut soup Click to continue reading…

Going Beyond the Pale [Beer Brownies]

btp (20)Beyond the Pale Brewing Company turned two last weekend! (Come celebrate our beerthday with us!)btpbtp (25)
There was a post from the brewery at the top of my Facebook newsfeed one morning in July; they were looking to hire. I didn’t know much about BTP except that I loved their beer and their ‘help wanted’ ad made me chuckle, and so I sent off my application (which included some brewtal beer puns). A couple pints and two interviews later, I found myself working at this great little brewery in Hintonburg.diving for mash
After spending the first part of my summer travelling and being funemployed, starting at BTP certainly felt like a change of pace, but a mighty fun one. (My mum, who hated me going around saying that I was “funemployed”, likes to joke that I became “funnERemployed”.) Compared to my past few summers at a student government job it was a huge change of pace. …I sell beer. I don’t brew (yet?!), although I do occasionally zest the grapefruit that goes in to Pink Fuzz, so I like to think I have some part in the beer creation. Sometimes muscles are sore at the end of a long day (beer is heavy!), and some of the initial novelty of working at a brewery might have worn off a little bit, but overall it’s just been a ton of fun. The friendly bunch at BTP was super welcoming and has been a hoot to work with. I’m learning more than I thought I’d ever know about beer, I get to talk to people all day who are as excited about the craft brewing scene as we are, put my social media addiction skills (#employability?) to good use (you can follow along with the brewery here, here, and here), and it’s been great to meet all these wonderful people in an industry that I’m happy to be a tiny part of.btp (11) Click to continue reading…

The Great Food Blogger Swap, Year 3 [Chewy Ginger Chocolate Cookies]

cookieswap2014Three years ago, I discovered The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap, probably while procrastinating school work and perusing food blogs. I had just started my little blog at the time, so I eagerly signed up for an email that would let me know when I could sign up for the following year.fbcookieswap2014_whiteLGTwo years ago I was living in Spain (wah, where does time go!). Suffering from a serious case of FOMO, I signed up for the cookie swap even though I was out of the country, and my wonderful mother baked and mailed my cookies for me.  She even froze the cookies I received in the mail until I came home for the holidays. I know, I’m so spoiled.cookieswap2014Last year, I created a biscotti blizzard in the kitchen and might have prioritized cookie swapping over studying for finals. Just a little bit.cookieswap2014This year, I swore I’d be more organized. I wasn’t. But! Somehow, cookies were made and mailed. I’ve almost survived another exam season. And the novelty of receiving pretty packages full of cookies in the mail continues!   Click to continue reading…

Peras al vino especiado

cook & tastecafe con lecheThough it was a little bit of a splurge given the student budget I was travelling on, my day at Cook & Taste Barcelona was well worth it in my books. My friend Jane and I got up early to grab our cafes con leche on the way, and then arrived at Cook & Taste’s lovely space in the heart of Barcelona’s gothic quarter. (SO lovely. I wanted to stay and live in their kitchen.)cook and taste (5)cook & tasteWe started with a little exploring through La Boqueria. I had walked through Barcelona’s famous market a few times before, but it was great to go with our guide/teacher/food-guru for the day, María José, as we stopped to speak to each of the vendors while buying our ingredients. Jane had to jet off to Italy, so I was on my own for the cooking part of the day but my “classmates” were all super fun and friendly. I made friends with a lovely Dutch couple as we prepared mussels for the paella, and seemed to mistify a couple of nice older men from Scandinavia as to why on earth I was traveling by myself, chatted with a fellow Canuck about a certain crack smoking mayor that was making headlines at the time, and bonded with the two Aussie sisters who were charged with making sure everyone had full wine glasses. Everyone was kept busy with tasks in the kitchen and the day went by quickly. Though I had made a couple of the dishes on our menu before, it was great to follow along with a professional. We spent a couple hours getting everything ready, and then enjoyed our delicious little feast starting with tortilla de patatas con pan con tomate, salsa romesco with seasonal vegetables, the showstopping giant pan of paella de marisco, and finishing with these beatuiful burgundy pears.cook and tastecook and taste Click to continue reading…