Monday, December 12, 2011

the spices of life

lamb dhansak, chicken tikka masala, veg biryani, aloo gobi

We recently returned to Curry Village for the second time in just a few short weeks. You see, after trying Indian just once, my sister was hooked. So even with loads of dining options in Halifax, it was back to Curry Village for us. Having loved Indian for years, we were not about to complain. Besides going out for Indian with guests means you can order more dishes to share!

On our first visit to Curry Village, we wanted to showcase Indian food for my sister so we ordered the full meal deal: samosa, onion bhaji, tandoori chicken, beef madras, butter chicken, saag aloo, vegetable biryani, mango chutney, and garlic naan. I gotta say everything was wonderful. OK the garlic naan wasn't all garlicky and buttery like I am used to but the naan itself was great. The beef madras was quite spicy but the sauce was so delicious and the beef so tender that this was easily our favorite dish. Not one drop of sauce remained (thank you naan!). The butter chicken didn't disappoint either, sweet and creamy. Same story for everything else. Delicious.

So, it's easy to see why we'd return. This visit, we ordered the same staples-onion bhaji (yes, if you tried these deep fried oniony balls of deliciousness, you would think these are staples too!), veg biryani, naan, and mango chutney-but decided on entirely different curries. How exciting. We went a little crazy this time and ordered lamb dhansak. Crazy because I'm generally not a fan of the strong flavor of lamb and my sister, being more of a poultry girl, hadn't even tried it. Well, I'm glad we were feeling adventurous because that lamb was amazing. Once again, we enjoyed some incredibly tender meat bathed in a rich and flavorful sauce. Now this is lamb I can get behind! The chicken tikka masala was equally as delish, despite being different than other tikka masala's I have had. The cauliflower and potatoes in the aloo gobi were also well cooked and nicely spiced.

Once again on the food front, Curry Village delivered. But here's the thing. Curry Village isn't fancy. There's no modern decor, no fancy presentation, and the service is relaxed and attentive enough. It feels like a small family run business serving up some honest Indian food. And that's exactly why I like it.
Curry Village Indian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 24, 2011

an apple a day

It's that time of year again when the market stalls are filled with barrels of local fall apples. Until a few years ago, I can't say I was a fan. I'm not saying I hated apples or anything but it certainly wouldn't have been my first pick in the produce aisle. And if I did happen to pick one up, it would have been the characteristically sweet red delicious. But now, after gaining an appreciation for the rosy fruit, it's rare that there aren't apples in the fridge. I have come to love so many other juicier, crispier varieties that these days I wouldn't dream of eating the ol' mealy standby. In fact, I am munching on one right now. A sweet, juicy honey crisp. Talk about inspiration!  Our last trip to the market got us an entire box for $8. Awesome. But what to do with all those apples?

apple cherry almond crisp

Make crisp of course! Apple crisp for us has long been one of those lazy Sunday breakfasts. It's easy to prepare and you get to laze around, enjoying your cappuccino while it fills the house with that warm fruity aroma. I've made many a crisp in my day, primarily in planting camps. Apple cranberry, ginger pear, peach, berry, blueberry, almond, strawberry rhubarb, coconut mango. We made it all. That's one of the great things about crisp. It's so versatile. Pick any fruit, fresh or frozen, toss it with a little sugar and flavor of your choice like cinnamon or even some lemon zest, and top with a mixture of brown sugar, butter, and oatmeal (some folks add flour too). Or if you wanna get crazy, use two fruits, say local honey crisp apples and cherries, then throw some chopped almonds, flax, vanilla, and a hint of almond extract in to the topping, and viola. Our last crisp. Warm, fruity, nutty, delicious. It's got Sunday morning written all over it.

And, while I did mention butter, fruit crisps can be healthy breakfasts as long as you don't go crazy with the sugar. Fruit is naturally sweet and once you add yummy flavors like lemon zest and vanilla, you'd be surprised how little sugar you actually need. Of course, it is the fruit and oats that offer the most nutrition. Oats provide an excellent source of soluble fiber, important in lowering cholesterol and reducing your chance of heart disease. The fruit, well, being fruit, is always generally good for you. Apples, with the skin on, are a great choice, providing antioxidants that help maintain blood sugar levels and prevent heart disease. Other good bets are blackberries, blueberries, cranberries, any berry for that matter, and cherries

If only I wrote the recipe down while I was making it.....someday I'll remember. But in the meantime, Google yourself a recipe, head on down to the market for some local apples (it IS today!), and use this Sunday to relax while dining on some warm homemade apple-y oat-y goodness. It's like apple pie for breakfast. Only better.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Italian Soul

Last night I was fortunate enough to reunite with a long time friend and what better way to do it but over some amazing Italian food at The Bicycle Thief. And, wouldn't you know it, an old friend/co-worker was our server. This was easily shaping up to be the perfect evening! To start, we both chose the salad of arugula, hazelnuts, local goat cheese, and papaya with a Wildflower honey vinaigrette. As you all may know, I love my salads, but I have to admit this one was exceptional. Fresh, peppery, crunchy, sweet and not the least bit oily. Wonderful.

For my main, I ordered the crespelle from the second plates menu. Essentially like a crepe, the house made crespelle was nothing short of incredible. Filled with creamy ricotta and honey roasted pumpkin, the crepe was topped with more pumpkin, a bechamel heavy on the nutmeg, and, perhaps the best part, sweet amaretti cookies. Your mouth is watering right now isn't it? I don't know about you but the combo of sweet and savoury is the way to my heart. And that Chianti Classico just complimented every last morsel.

My friend, perhaps with some not so subtle hinting on my part, ordered the lasagna consisting of handmade pasta, wild mushrooms, young Montasio cheese, mascarpone, and, get this, a truffle infused bechamel. Some friends and I had tried this on a previous visit so I was well aware how rich and tasty it was. She agreed. Wild mushrooms are one of those ingredients I will always lean towards and in this dish they were perfectly matched with the rich cheeses and sublime truffle bechamel. This is certainly a dish I would order again and again.

But the meal didn't end there. I am usually not one for dessert, rarely saving room, but on this occasion my friend wanted the cheesecake and who am I to argue with that! So with a cappucino in hand (yes, that addiction is as strong as ever), we split an order. Oh my. Not only was this one of the best cheesecakes I have ever tasted, but the combination of the amaretto crust, caramelized pears, generous sized dollop of marscapone, and house made caramel sauce elevated it to a whole new level. Not to spoil this review with mention of a very disappointing visit to a desserterie in town, but the desserts at The Bicycle Thief were exactly what I would expect from a restaurant specializing in desserts: house made, quality ingredients, interesting (and complimentary of course) taste combinations, artful presentation. Yet The Bicycle Thief doesn't even specialize in desserts. That's how amazing The Bicycle Thief is. Period.

The Bicycle Thief on Urbanspoon

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thank you Anthony

Tucked away on Charles St. near Agricola, Chez Tess is the local creperie that, until recently, we sort of forgot about. But luckily at our most recent party we were reminded by a friend whom works there and, after a night of perhaps a few too many, Chez Tess was exactly what the doctor ordered. It certainly wasn't the standard greasy diner breakfast we all tend to crave after some heavy drinking but, let's be real, that's not really my bag anyway. Rather, our breakfasts were fresh, healthy and soooooo yummy. Surprise surprise, I ordered the crepe with pulled pork, poached eggs. housemade salsa, and sour cream which was one order away from being sold out. Lucky me. The buckwheat crepe was hearty yet light enough not to overshadow the other flavours and the meat was both succulent and juicy, exactly what I expect from pork of the pulled variety. To top it off, it was served with a wonderful house salad and a potato cake. I absolutely love establishments that go against the so called status quo and serve salad or unconventional 'hashbrowns' for breakfast. 

Brent had the eggs benny crepe with poached eggs, Sweet William's bacon, and brie. One word. Wow. This would easily have been the back up for me had all the pulled pork been sold. And because the benny was served on the same buckwheat crepe it was much lighter in terms of both taste and calories than the traditional english muffin version. Combined with some delicious Java Blend coffee and some complimentary mimosas (damn it helps knowing people in the industry!), this breakfast was not only delicious but memorable. With a menu full of interesting crepe combinations for breakfast, lunch and dinner, not to mention some amazing sounding dessert crepes, it won't be hard to find a reason to go back. That and it's a few blocks away!

Chez Tess Creperie on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 17, 2011


I love food. Pretty obvious, I know. But these days the term food doesn't necessarily mean it is something nature made or even that it has any nutritional value at all. These past few weeks I have had many conversations about food. Everything from eliminating MSG from your diet to, my favourite, trying to find healthier 'fast food' options. Both of these it turns out, are harder than you may think.

We live in a world of convenience where you can get virtually anything you want whenever you want it. Want a fast meal on the road, you got it. Want 100 cereal options, you got it. Want a soda that doesn't make you gain weight, you got it. But when I ask for real food, that's where things get shady. Walk into any grocery store and look around. Save for the produce isle (and even that may not be so real anymore), our 'food' has become something out of a science fiction movie, conveniently packaged in whatever serving or flavor or ethnicity you want. And cooking? Well, why would I cook when I can just pop something in the microwave for a fraction of the time? Cooking has, in fact, gone from an essential and rewarding part of everyday life to an inconvenience. Now, we have families with two working parents relying on convenience foods because it's cheaper and, in most cases, faster than preparing real food. I am not judging or anything but which would you prefer your kids eat: frozen chicken fingers composed of 'real' chicken if you're lucky but most likely mechanically seperated chicken parts, MSG, hydrogenated fats, and a hell of a lot of salt or some homemade chicken fingers with simple, real ingredients: chicken, flour, salt, pepper, olive oil. Somehow we have landed in a backwards world where eating real food is harder and more expensive than eating processed, factory made food (and that includes your meat). Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Look at fast food. The concept is great if it were real burgers, real fries, real chicken. But no surprise, there's not much real food in fast food. Even what you think are healthier options, say for instance a grilled chicken salad, are laden with chemicals and, you guessed it, MSG. And that's at every single fast food chain I researched. Is it really so hard to prepare and serve a grilled chicken breast without all the 'seasoning'. Wouldn't it still taste like chicken. Apparently not.

I am currently reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan and it's making me more concerned-or jaded-than I already am. Don't get me wrong, I've always been 'involved' with my food but only recently have I really started worrying about where my food is coming from or that it's even food at all. So begins my quest: try to learn more about my own food, eat only real food that I can actually pronounce, know where my food is coming from (luckily I live in Halifax where there is a thriving farmer's market open year round), and perhaps, more importantly, share this knowledge with you.

So, whether you're listening or not, let the ranting begin!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

i'm back baby

A lil preview of one of our breaky sammie creations - Brothers smoked bacon, roasted tomato, caramelized onions, basted egg, brie, and arugula - OH MY!
So, it has finally happened. We have packed away our camping gear and settled back into life in the city. OK, I know it's October and we've been back for months now, but between moving, painting, and my new position cooking at a local cafe, we've been pretty damn busy. But, of course, never too busy to get out there and grab a bite, especially to our favourite Halifax spots we missed all summer. On that list: Boneheads (I may have a slight pulled pork addiction, or at least I did when I finished my season, eating it four times in about a two week span!), two separate brunches at Coastal Cafe (which is now mere minutes from the house...perhaps not such a good thing!), some fantastic local fare and wine at Brooklyn Warehouse, an amazing dinner at daMaurizio, some quick Vietnamese at Star Anise, a lovely dinner with out of town friends at the Wooden Monkey, Talay Thai (where we introduced my sis to Thai and she loved it!), an oh so fresh banh mi at Indochine, The Bicycle Thief for some birthday appys and wine, and, of course, the list wouldn't be complete without a sushi lunch at Sushi Nami. Oh, it gets worse...just last night we went to Curry Village for a feast (but that blog is coming) and the list doesn't even include croissants and cappuccinos at Two If By Sea or a chocolate and NS wine tasting at Sugah! Wow, we eat out ALOT! And not only are we frequenting all these Hali restos, but we are cooking up a storm too with no blogs to show for it. That's why I promise this year will be filled with blogs a plenty including restaurant reviews, updates on the cafe, loads of recipes, and I am hoping some pieces on diet and nutrition.

So folks, grab your forks and stay tuned. It's gonna be a delicious ride.....

Sunday, July 10, 2011

the planting chronicles: part 1 - the dreaded lunch table

So, while I am aware I said I would post from my current life in the bush, I have sadly either not had the time or have had weak or no internet. But the time has finally come to shed some light on my life as a treeplanting cook. And what better way to start than the dreaded lunch table.

So every morning my co-cook and I get up at 4 am to prepare breakfast and around 5:20 am, put out a lunch table for the planters to pack a lunch for the block (that's where they go to prepared for alot of planter lingo!).  From camp to camp, well at least in the company I work for, there's a list of standard fare that is usually on the lunch table. These include egg salad, tuna salad, boiled eggs, a meat tray, a cheese tray, hummus, carrot and celery sticks, orange sections, a treat (think mint brownies or rice krispie squares or chocolate chip squares...the list is endless) , GORP (good ol' raisins and peanuts but these days GORP can include anything from dried fruit and nuts, to chocolate, to candy and even some bits n' bites type goodies), spreads such as pesto or a flavoured cream cheese, pickles, onions, peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, a fruit box of apples, oranges, and bananas, peanut butter, jam, something we like to call power spread (a mix of pb, coconut, chocolate chips, and honey), a selection of breads, wraps, pita, buns, and of course the requisite condiments. But, liking more variety, our lunch table also includes veggie pate, usually a baked tofu like sesame tofu, olives, beets, hot peppers, shredded carrot, sometimes artichokes, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, sauerkraut, horseradish, bean salad, pineapple tidbits, chipotle mayo, cinnamon butter, sometimes nutella, sometimes spinach and/or avocado, a selection of hot sauces, and always grapefruit sections. And sometimes when there are leftovers, they also make an appearance on the lunch table. We even have a planter at present who puts whatever leftovers are on the  table into a pita. Like a lasagna pita! It's rather amusing. While all of this may sound amazing, it's easy for planters to get tired of sandwiches. I know I would if I had to eat them every day for three months. But then again, you always have those that day after day eat nothing but pb and j sammies. In case, you have no concept of planting, you physically have to bend over thousands of time a day at 10-11 cents a pop. Think about doing that after eating a sandwich of meat and cheese that has been sitting in the sun for hours. Not so appetizing!

the lunch table pre-7am
So to continue with the story, at 6 am when the planters awake, the lunch table is immaculate. Check it out. Everything in it's place. But alas, there comes a time at 7 am when the planters depart that we go into the mess tent and finally witness the mayhem. ( I actually can't go in there while the majority of planters are making their lunch because my OCD kicks in and I want to constantly clean up. Best to avoid.) Not only is there food everywhere, but the tuna has somehow gotten into the the other end of the table! I am not quite sure how they accomplish this feat but everyday it seems they are better and better at it! We have even joked about setting up a secret camera to catch the action! At least we can laugh about it. Nothing left to do but clean up, pack up the leftovers and head to the kitchen to begin again. And so our day goes.
post-7 am: the looking on in horror
So, the next time you are making yourself a delicious sandwich, think of us. Perhaps a little tuna and never know!

Friday, April 22, 2011

goodbye real life

So the time has come to say goodbye to family and friends and embark on another season of planting. While it's sometimes sad leaving behind our 'real' life, the planting world allows us the opportunity to experience nature in all its glory (and I mean really experience it since we live in a tent for the duration of the contract) as well as the chance to spend time with a whole other group of friends some of whom we have known for years. But, more importantly, I get to cook up a storm for three whole months, making whatever I want! Perhaps I should put that into perspective: every single day (well, other than days off) I, along with another cook, prepare a full breakfast (I'm talking fresh baked goods, hash browns, meat, eggs of all kinds, fruit salad, and homemade granola), the most amazing lunch spread you have ever seen, fresh homemade bread and soup, and a huge dinner always consisting of salad, a main, a carb, some veggie sides, a vegetarian option, and dessert. Not only that, we make all sorts of ethnic foods including Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, even sushi. And since we generally do all this from scratch, this, my friends, is real cooking. Real food for real hardworking people.

While not a typical dinner, this was a final dinner for our BC contract before heading to Alberta. Since the whole camp was packed up, we made a dinner of bagged fries along with chicken ceasar, buffalo chicken, and roasted veggie wraps. Sometimes you just gotta make do!
Over the years, many friends and family wonder why I keep going back. It's the lifestyle, the friends, the knowledge that you can overcome anything nature can throw at you (although that kitchen trailer is some warm when it's snowing outside but don't tell the planters that!), the living in a tent with only the necessities, the power to make any menu I can dream up. I guess it also doesn't hurt that, as a cook, I'm one of the most loved folks in camp! But, honestly, there's no way to make anyone understand until they can experience it for themselves. So, while I am aware this blog is entitled eatHalifax!, I plan to continue blogging while out there in the bush (oh yes, we even have a satellite to get the Internet) in an attempt to let you experience a little piece of our planting life. No more restaurant reviews sadly but wait til you see what we`re cookin`up this season!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

a healthy challenge

As a contribution to Bacon Gravy's Come Dine With Me challenge for March, some friends and I cooked up a Mediterranean scran that was both healthy and delicious. Bacon Gravy's stipulations were simple: a healthy meal made without butter or heavy cream and easy on both salt and sugar. But, because a friend is on a candida diet (no sugar, gluten, alcohol, caffeine, or additives) for health reasons and another is gluten free, we were presented with a whole new list of challenges. Bring it on!

To start the evening off, we enjoyed some wine and snacked on olive hummus and tzatiki both served with fresh carrots, pita bread, baguette, and some rice crackers. As an appetizer, my friend made a roasted garlic and goats cheese 'pate' from a gardening cookbook I had given her for her birthday. She arranged each plate with a whole bulb of garlic that had been roasted with olive oil and fresh rosemary, a mixture of goats cheese, fresh herbs and walnuts, some pita bread or rice crackers, and a few extra walnuts. Believe me folks, this dish was as amazing as it looks! I won't even begin to express how great garlic is for your health, as I am sure most of you already know, but I believe even the smell of garlic roasting is enough to cure anything! And goat's cheese or chevre is not only lower in fat and lactose than cheese made from cow's milk but also higher in vitamin A and potassium. Just another reason to love it some more. Plus, walnuts are a superfood, packed with cholesterol lowering omega 3s. I eat them daily.

For our main meal, the same friend had prepared (and assembled along with some guests) stuffed tomatoes and peppers from a recipe she had acquired from a Greek friend. Stuffed with a mixture of brown rice, tomatoes, onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and, in half, organic ground beef, the tomatoes were fragrant and yummy (and I'm not one for rice unless of course it's wrapped around nori!).  For our protein, I sauteed up some lamb and pesto sausages from Sweet Williams (sorry they don't seem to have a site but you can find their sausages at the market) as well as some Windy View farm chicken thighs that had marinated in lemon juice, garlic, pepper, and oregano. To round out the meal, I made a salad of organic spinach, Ran-Cher Acres goat's milk feta, tomato, cucumber, olives, red onion, red and yellow peppers, and a dressing of freshly squeezed lemon juice, Tuscan herb olive oil from Liquid Gold Tasting Bar, fresh dill and parsley, some dried oregano, and freshly ground black pepper. With more pita for the gluten eaters as well as the remaining hummus and tzatiki, our meal was complete.

So, how did we do? Not only did we use no butter or cream or sugar or much salt, we were able to offer everyone at the table a fresh, healthy meal that wouldn't make any of us sick. Nutritionally, our meal was high in vitamins, minerals and fiber (and let's not forget a little heart healthy fat-oh, I forgot to mention how incredible that olive oil from Liquid Gold tasted-it owned that salad dressing!), was extremely well balanced and, I think more importantly, was made primarily from fresh, local ingredients with nothing artificial. Just real food. Simple. Healthy. Delicious.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vietnamese at home

I love me some pho. There's just something about customizing your soup that really appeals to me. And generally I jam all the usual accompaniments in mine. Basil, mint, cilantro, bean sprouts, lime, hoisin, and sriracha. All of it. The more flavour the better I say. There are several Vietnamese restos around town but none seem to come close to that one amazing bowl of pho etched in my memory. That incredible bowl of pho from a tiny Vietnamese joint in a strip mall in Australia will forever be with me. So, when I'm craving some pho, I tend to prefer to whip up a batch rather than hit up a resto. My version is vegetarian however, gaining all its flavour from a broth of simmering spices. Some day I'll make the real thing but until then here goes. And to make it more of a meal, because according to Brent soup is not a meal, we also made some salad rolls.

Vegetarian Pho 

4 c. veggie stock*
1 small onion, chopped
1 t. olive oil 
2 cloves garlic
2 t. ginger
2 star anise
a few peppercorns (1/2 t.)
3- 4 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 t. rice vinegar
1 T. soy sauce
1 t. honey
1/4 c. each carrots, broccoli, red pepper
1/4 block firm tofu, cubed
rice noodles, enough for 2
bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, basil, lime wedges, sriracha, hoisin sauce

To get started, saute the onion in the olive oil til soft. Add the garlic and ginger and saute a few more minutes. Add the remaining ingredients except the vegetables. Simmer covered for as long as you have, about 30 minutes to an hour. In the last five or so minutes, add the vegetables and rice noodles and cook til the noodles are soft and the vegetables done. Serve with remaining ingredients on the side. Although this soup tastes brilliant on it's own, it's all about the extras. Flavour away. Note: I didn't strain my broth before serving as it was easy to pick out the spices as we ate. If you wish, simply strain the broth before adding the vegetables and noodles.

*A word on stock. I don't know if there are any commercial stocks out there that do not include MSG as an ingredient (or whatever name they use to disguise it and there are many!). It's pretty easy to make your own stock and, in fact, it allows you to get everything out of your produce before composting it. Simply save all of your peelings (I mean everything- garlic skins, onion and carrot peels, broccoli stalks-everything) and, when you have enough, simmer in a big pot of water along with some bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt. You could even use your leftover bones or start off your stock the traditional way by sauteing some carrots, onions, garlic, and celery. Simmer covered for at least an hour and then strain before use.

Salad Rolls 
rice paper wrappers
red pepper

Peanut Sauce 
1/4 c. peanut butter
1-2 t. red curry paste
2 T. coconut milk
1-2 t. honey

For the salad rolls, soak a wrapper in warm water for a few minutes until soft. Working on a cloth, lay down the wrapper and place slices of cucumber, red pepper, and carrots in the center. Cover with spinach, mint, and cilantro. To roll, fold the back over the center, pulling it over the ingredients to tighten. Fold over the edges and roll out. Not only are salad rolls super easy to make, but you can essentially put anything in them. Some common ingredients include cold rice noodles, tofu, shrimp, and bean sprouts. For the peanut sauce, heat all the ingredients, whisking til smooth. Add more coconut milk if you find the sauce too think. But please use this recipe as a guide and make your sauce to taste (because you know I didn't measure mine!).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

daMaurizio does it best

It is a rare occurrence to go to a restaurant where everything is amazing. Generally, something isn't as satisfying, as decadent, as delicious. Well, our recent dinner with our food loving friends (let's call them A and S) at daMaurizio broke all the rules. It was utterly amazing. Not just my dish but every single piece of food I tasted. It was perfection. And I don't just say that about anywhere. After ordering a bottle of wine and snacking on some bread and butter (although, at a fine Italian restaurant like this, I expected fresh baguette or focaccia with olive oil and balsamic), we settled in for what would turn out to be a truly unexpected culinary adventure.

To start, I ordered the calamari alla Gradese with tomato, garlic, chilies, lemon and parsley. No word of a lie, it was easily the best calamari I have ever had. The coasting was so crisp and light, not the heavy, greasy batter you find at other restaurants. Furthermore, the simple yet delicious tomato sauce was the perfect accompaniment (and a nice change from cocktail sauce I might add). This was calamari done right.

Brent ordered the Lumache alla Trebbiano, an appetizer of snails sauteed with white wine, garlic butter, and parsley served on a crostini and topped with fontina. I'll be honest. I would never have ordered snails and I even went as far as suggesting he order something else. I'm glad he didn't listen to me (like he ever does!) because this dish may have been the highlight of the meal. It was simply amazing. 

Our friend decided on the Carpaccio al Tartufo, beef tenderloin crusted in peppercorns, seared rare and served with truffle aioli, capers, crostini, and Parmigiano Reggiano. I only got a bite of this dish but what I did taste-some perfectly rare beef with a nice peppery kick-was delish. However, while our friend did enjoy the carpaccio, he did not find it as amazing as I had previously thought, more likely because he was regretting not ordering the calamari which he had fallen in love with during a previous visit! 

Our other friend ordered the Radicchio alla Friulana, a warm radicchio salad with garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, prosciutto, and Parmigiano. Served with flatbread (we actually can't quite remember exactly what this flatbread was made of but it was quite yummy!) and a crispy serving of prosciutto, this salad was wonderful and plentiful to boot. The oil and balsamic dressing, while simple, was the perfect balance to the bitterness of the radicchio and the flatbread and prosciutto added both texture and a depth of flavour. She loved it.

With the taste of our appies still fresh on our palates, it was not long before our chosen entrees arrived.

A and I both ordered the Ravioli alla Zucca, a roasted pumpkin and apple ravioli served with the usual sage brown butter in addition to a balsamic reduction. You may remember I not so long ago made this (and dined on it with this very friend!) so we were extremely excited to order it. Upon first bite, we knew we had chosen wisely. The pasta itself was perfect and the flavours I was craving- pumpkin and apple and nutmeg and butter- were arranged in a subtle yet very delicious balance. But upon further tastes, we realized the flavours seemed stronger, somehow becoming richer and richer with each bite.  How they performed this magic, I do not know but I was glad to be part of it. The balsamic reduction was also a wonderful addition but, then again, I'm already a big fan. Thankfully, we both had ordered the appetizer sized pasta as I doubt we could have eaten another bite.

S had ordered the Gnocchi al Gorgonzola, something I too had my eye on. The gnocchi was perfect, chewy yet velvety, the Gorgonzola sauce was beyond rich, and the toasted pecans added an unexpected yet delicious crunch. This gnocchi may very well be another best I've ever had. S went big and ordered the larger entree size but just barely finished it both because of size and sheer richness. 

Brent, unlike the rest of us, decided against pasta and instead opted for an entree. His dish, the Scaloppinie di Vitello all'Astice, included veal scaloppinie and lobster in a sauce of garlic, tomato, brandy, and cream accompanied by mashed potatoes and a few side vegetables. Again, (clearly a repeating theme here) this dish was amazing. The veal, of which there were three substantial pieces, was tender, the lobster, perfectly rich and buttery, and oh, that sauce. What can I even say? Brandy, tomato, cream, garlic....insert drooling sounds here! I don't know how into veal I am but put this dish in front of me again and not one drop would be left behind. I would literally lick the plate. (And once again Brent, who was way more adventurous when it came to the menu, picked another winner.)

While finishing our wine, we were almost speechless. We discussed how the quiet ambiance and understated decor (think old world Italian) helped to show off the food; how the food was the experience. And the service, you guessed it, was perfect. I am counting the days til we return in the fall so I can try more things on the menu. Even now, weeks after dining there, I am still in awe. Wow.

Check out the menu but good luck deciding!

da Maurizio on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Maritime Makeover

meet my delicious friend
Nothing says the Maritimes more than cooking up some fresh live lobster, throwing down some newspaper, and literally digging right in. However, the typical Maritime lobster dinner generally consists of a fresh boiled lobster, garlic drawn butter, potato salad, a fresh roll and, in most cases, strawberry shortcake for dessert.  But wanting a tad more vitamins we decided to gave it a makeover: fresh NS lobster from Eastern Passage (bought direct from the fisherman of course), garlic butter, baked potato with sour cream, roasted garlic, and green onions, and a caprese salad of spinach, Roma tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil dressing.

the romantic setting
Of course, the star, Mr. Lobster, was incredible. So tender, so rich, so mmmmmm! Brent would not even consider eating lobster without the garlic butter so just to prove that you can enjoy lobster without the butter, I muddled together some lemon juice, lemon zest, a clove of garlic, a pinch of salt, some black peppercorns, and a few slices of green onion. I was right! It was fresh and delicious, with the citrus naturally complementing the seafood and the garlic still representing. Sometimes I find the richness of both the lobster and butter rather heavy although that's not to say I didn't have a dip or two of that wonderful garlic butter. The baked potato, replacing the potato salad, offered up more fiber (once you eat the skin) as well as a fraction of the fat. And every time I have roasted garlic I remind myself how amazing it is. On everything. The salad with a fresh dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, fresh cracked black pepper, fresh basil and a hint of maple syrup was equally as delish and added tons of vitamins and minerals to the meal.

All in all, we got our lobster fix, far more nutrients than the typical lobster supper and a heap more flavour. So, get that bib on and enjoy one of the best things NS has to offer! Believe me, the mess-and smell-is ALWAYS worth it!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Now that's a sandwich!

Needing a quick bite after driving home to Halifax from Montreal, we stopped in to Indochine Banh Mi, a small restaurant located in an apartment complex on South Park St., to grab some sandwiches. More the size of a take away joint with one sole table and stools along a window counter, their menu is small and simple, offering a selection of meat and vegetarian Vietnamese sammies (banh mi), pho (noodle soup), bun (rice noodle bowls), and bubble tea.

At first glance, I was a little surprised at the cost of the bubble tea ($4.50) since it is normally made with a fruit powder that is mixed with iced black or green tea and, if you want, milk. But since the smoothies and bubble tea were 50%  off with a sandwich purchase, we went for it. Much to our surprise, the counter attendant pulled out tubs of frozen fruit and real fruit purees. Ah, that explains the price! I ordered a mango bubble tea with tapioca pearls while Brent had a smoothie of kiwi, mango, strawberry and peach. While these smoothies were nothing like the bubble tea I was used to (although I am not quite sure if I was served a mango smoothie by accident or if their bubble tea is blended like a smoothie...oh wait, the website tells me they are bubble tea smoothies! Mystery solved.), they were super delish not to mention extremely healthy. Even at full price, they'd be worth every penny. Makes you wonder about the smoothies at other places who have to make the claim "made with real fruit". Well, what else would a fruit smoothie be made with? Oh, by the way, that 'plastic' cup is 100% compostable!

For our banh mi, I ordered the lemongrass chicken while Brent had the sate pork. Served on fresh French baguette with citrus mayo, all sandwiches had the additional options of pickled carrots and/or daikon, cucumber, fresh cilantro, and chilies. We obviously opted for all of the above and were glad we did. These sandwiches were remarkable. If 'fresh' had a taste, this would be it!  The chicken was cooked perfectly (a little surprising since it was pre-cooked yet not dry in the least) with a subtle hint of lemongrass, allowing it to pair well with the tang of the pickled veg, the heat of the red chilies, and that refreshing cilantro taste. Brent's sate pork may actually have been more delicious as the tender pork had just the right amount of sweet peanuty taste characteristic of sate without overwhelming the other flavours. Plus, everything from the baguette to the cilantro was noticeably fresh. But be warned, these sandwiches are huge, think 8 inches. I wasn't even able to finish mine. As an aside, I recently read a review on The Coast site in which an individual said they wouldn't go to Indochine regularly because, in their opinion, these sammies are $1 to $1.50 more expensive than their European counterparts. To clarify, the banh mi at Indochine range from $5.95 to $6.95. First, this is Canada and not even a big city in Canada where there are endless possibilities for ethnic foods but the small city of Halifax where we are lucky that banh mi is even an option. Second, how much is a similar sized sub at other fast food places? And how fresh exactly does that taste?  I just think it's ridiculous that a loonie would keep someone from visiting a great little restaurant like this where they are focused on offering healthy unprocessed 'fast' food, sourcing local products, and being as environmentally friendly as they can. I'm pretty sure that's worth a loonie alone!

Check out Indochine Banh Mi and decide for yourself. I doubt you'll regret it!

Indochine Banh Mi on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Vegetarian Three Bean Chili

Yesterday, in an attempt to start using all the supplies in the house (once again we are soon headed into the bush and putting everything in storage), I whipped up some vegetarian chili with the required (according to Brent!) side of cornbread. I had leftover black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans in the freezer and chili is just one of those meals that you can throw anything in. So, like always, I have no specific recipe to share but have estimated the amounts I used. One day, I really should just measure as I go. I've also made this via the ol' slow cooker. Simply jam everything in and turn it on. Bam, chili!

1 can crushed tomato
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeno, diced
1/2 c. green and red pepper, diced
1/2 c. mushrooms, diced
1/2 sweet potato, cubed small
1/2 c. corn (roasted is clearly best but canned is fine)
1/4-1/2 c. each of chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans
1 t. lime juice
1-2 T. chipotle puree*
1-2 t. paprika
1-2 T. chili powder
2 t. brown sugar
salt, pepper
olive oil
garnish: sour cream, avocado, old cheddar cheese, cilantro
optional sides: cornbread,  brown rice, or tortilla chips

To get started, start sauteing the onions in a bit of olive oil until soft. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and vegetables. Sauté until the sweet potato is party cooked (don't cook it all the way or it will later turn to mush). Add the crushed tomatoes, lime, spices and brown sugar. Simmer covered for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the flavours have developed, adding in the beans and corn in the last 10 minutes. Now taste and adjust spices accordingly. In fact, I generally add spice gradually when I cook chili until it has just the right amount of flavour and spice. So, while I have included approximate measurements for the spices, feel free to use more or less depending on your tastes. (To help: chipotle adds a smokey heat, chili powder adds that typical chili flavour with some heat, cayenne will just add heat, brown sugar, like always, cuts the acidity of the tomatoes, and both cumin and coriander pair well with chili but I was all out.) Also, we like our chili thick and hearty but fell free to use water or stock to thin yours out. Garnish with grated cheddar cheese (the older, the better I say!), sour cream, slices of avocado, and some fresh cilantro.

*The chipotle puree is a concept I adopted from rebar: Modern Food Cookbook. Based on vegetarian and vegan fare served out of a cafe by the same name in Victoria BC, the recipes are creative, healthful, and incorporate many different ethnic flavours. It was a staple in our kitchen trailer last season and I just had to buy it. The chipotle puree is made from a can of chipotles in adobo sauce that is pureed til smooth. Simple. It keeps quite a while in the fridge and you'll be surprised what chipotle isn't amazing in!!!  The cornbread recipe I used was also from rebar but because it wasn't the best I've made, I haven't included the recipe. It was healthier than the standard cornbread with half whole wheat flour but was not as moist as we would like. Don't let that deter you from buying rebar...we're just picky about our cornbread! From someone who has had tons of cookbooks throughout the years, this one's a keeper.

This recipe will feed about 4 and is even better the day after. In terms of nutrition, this chili is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein yet low in fat.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Roasted Squash Lasagna

So we finally did it after talking about it for made our roasted squash lasagna from scratch. That's the pasta and all folks! First, a big thank you to my old boss in Australia who first gave me a similar recipe to make for the hoards of backpackers at the Arts Factory Hostel. Lasagna has never been the same since.

Roasted squash mash:
1 small acorn or buttercup squash (those crazy Aussies call it pumpkin!!!)
1 T. butter
1-2 t. brown sugar or maple syrup

Marinara sauce:
1 can of crushed tomatoes or fresh if they're in season
1 onion
2-3 cloves garlic
red and green pepper (So we didn't have a lot of produce in the house when we made the lasagna and, thus, only added peppers. I would normally add whatever veg I had on hand especially mushrooms, broccoli, and zucchini.)
pinch brown sugar
handful fresh basil
salt, fresh ground pepper 
olive oil

2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 1/2 c. milk or soy/rice/almond milk
nutmeg, to taste
salt, fresh ground pepper

Spinach pasta (courtesy of
1 1/4 c spinach
2 T water
1 egg
1 1/4 c flour
1/2 t salt

as much cheese as you can handle (we used old cheddar and Parmesan but mozzarella would work too)

While this lasagna is our most fav recipe, it clearly has many steps and so requires some time and planning. First, you need to roast the squash. Peeling a squash, especially the hard shelled acorn or buttercup varieties we prefer, can be difficult so roasting is an easier way to get to the goods with less work. Simply, slice the squash into wedges, scooping out the seeds, and roast in a 350 degree oven, turning once, until it is tender enough to easily poke with a fork. Let cool.

While the squash is cooking, you can start your marinara sauce. Get some olive oil in your pan then saute the onions, then garlic, then whatever vegetables you have. A splash of red wine doesn't hurt either! Add the crushed tomatoes and season with a bit of brown sugar, basil, any other spice you like (oregano, rosemary or thyme), and of course some s&p. Now taste. This is the most important part. It should be full of tomato-y goodness without being too acidic or bland. Adjust accordingly. Then, let this simmer until you are ready to assemble.

Now on to the pasta. Luckily, Brent started the pasta while I continued with the bechamel sauce. It certainly helps having a team! For the pasta, we used a recipe that Brent's sis had included with the wonderful gift of the pasta machine.

Simply cook the spinach in the water til tender (keep covered). This should only take a few minutes. Blend the spinach, remaining liquid, egg, and salt in a blender til smooth. Then pour in a bowl and add enough flour to form a stiff dough. Knead on a floured surface a few times, incorporating more flour as needed. Then start pressing the dough through the pasta machine. This may take some time to get right but when you do, you'll feel the difference. (Note: we did not let the dough rest as the recipe states)

So, I know it may seem crazy, but I make my bechamel (and any white sauce for that matter) without a recipe. Essentially, to make a bechamel, melt some butter in a pan. Add flour and cook stirring for about 6 min. until it just starts to brown (this is called a roux).  Add milk, whisking to incorporate the roux. Heat til boiling then reduce heat and simmer til thickened. Add nutmeg and salt a pinch at a time til it tastes right. In case you haven't had the pleasure of being acquainted with bechamel sauce, the one I love should be creamy with a hint of nutmeg and just the perfect touch of salt. Because I don't expect you to wing it, here is a link to a bechamel recipe! (And clearly, I even cheat at making it the 'right' way. Also, half this recipe if you are only using it for the lasagna.)

When the squash is cool enough to handle, scrape out the filling and mash. Add butter and brown sugar or maple syrup. Since squash is inherently a little sweet, you could easily omit both the butter and the sugar but it does make it that much more delicious.

Besides grating some cheese, you are ready to assemble. First, put some marinara sauce in the bottom of a 9"x13" dish, then a layer of pasta. Cover this with more marinara as well as some cheese, then add a second layer of pasta. Spread the squash evenly over the pasta and cover with the bechamel. Add a third layer of pasta, covering it with more marinara and cheese. Repeat the same for a fourth layer if you have enough pasta, sauce and cheese. Make sure your top layer of pasta is smothered in sauce so it doesn't dry out (although those crunchy bits can be delicious!) Cover and bake for about 30 min, uncovering it for the last 10 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let cool about 5 minutes.

Now, get ready for the best lasagna you have ever tasted! Plus, it's packed full of nutrients: iron, vitamin C, and powerful antioxidants from the spinach, cancer fighting lycopene as well as vitamin C from the tomatoes, a whack of vitamin A from the squash, and calcium and vitamin D from the bechamel and cheese. Enjoy!

Makes 6-8 servings, depending on who you are feeding.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


After getting tired of the same ol' sushi (a highly unlikely thing to say I know but when you used to work at a sushi restaurant, you eat alot of it!), we recently tried out the Sushi Nami Royale Dartmouth Crossing location. Since it was late afternoon, the restaurant (which was quite modern in design and included two adjoining teppanyaki tables) was quiet yet inviting. Perfect for another split shift lunch.

To start, we ordered the honey avocado salad and sushi appetizer to share. The salad, to our surprise, was not a simple bowl of iceberg lettuce but rather a mix of iceberg and romaine lettuce with shredded carrot, red pepper, cucumber, and edame (soy beans). The salad dressing, while a touch too sweet, consisted, it seemed, solely of avocado and honey so that both flavours were fully represented. At only 45 cents more than the house salad at another popular sushi restaurant, this salad was bigger, more nutritious, and a whole world more delicious. The sushi appetizer which included one piece each of salmon, tuna, snapper and shrimp nigiri as well as a three piece California roll was both fresh and delicious.

As a main we ordered three rolls to share: the Vegetable Dragon Roll, the Rock n' Roll, and the Mini Kamikaze. The Vegetable Dragon Roll, pictured on the left, was simply amazing! Essentially it's a sweet potato tempura roll covered in inari (sweet tofu), avocado, and grilled vegetables. What a wonderfully delicious, and beautifully constructed, take on the sweet potato roll. Now this is something vegetarians can get excited about! The Rock n' Roll, pictured on the right and at the very top of the page, was a roll with deep fried rock lobster and cucumber all wrapped in avocado then topped with tobikko (roe) and crispy fried onions, garlic, and ginger. WOW! While the lobster was a little tough in some bites, the flavour and texture of the fried ginger, garlic and onions took this roll to a whole new level! And look at it, it's art!! The last roll, the Mini Kamikaze, was a deep fried roll of snapper, tuna, salmon, avocado, cream cheese, and jalapeno served with spicy sauce. While the roll was warm and tasty, it was hard to distinguish the flavours from one another since the entire roll was deep fried. Also, in addition to the spicy sauce (mayo based I assume) there was another darker sauce served with the roll. Excited that this may be unagi (eel) sauce (ok, that may sound disgusting but it's actually a sweet soy sauce that's perfect with any kind of sushi), I dug right in. To my surprise, the sauce was not in fact eel sauce but rather had a sort of molasses flavour that did not compliment the other flavours in the roll at all. So, while the Mini Kamikaze was yummy, the sauce made it a little strange but not so much so that we weren't able to finish every single piece!

Sushi in Halifax will always seem expensive to me (especially after living in Montreal where there is incredible all-you-can-eat sushi for 20 bucks!) but Sushi Nami Royale was worth every penny. It was fresh, exciting, and delicious. With a huge menu of interesting appetizers and a long list of fusion maki as well as cheaper 'tsu-nami hours' (because my sushi discount is sadly no more), you bet we'll be back soon. Perhaps even 'a guide to sushi' is in order....

Sushi Nami Royale (Dartmouth Crossing) on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lunch "off the beaten path"

While on a split shift the other day, Brent and I dropped into the Brooklyn Warehouse for a late lunch.  We had actually planned to eat at the market but sadly it was barren save for a few stalls. (But I'll take that organic apple cider pressed today thank you!) It's a rare occurrence that we are in Halifax in the afternoon so it was a treat to be able to try out Brooklyn's lunch menu. Everything about Brooklyn Warehouse is wonderful: the atmosphere, the drink selection, the staff, the commitment to local sources, that sexy espresso machine (Brent is widely obsessed with all things coffee right now!), and the food is no different.
Bahn-Mi NYC
I ordered the Banh-Mi NYC pulled pork sandwich with a side of oven roasted potato wedges. Even though I had never had a Vietnamese sandwich, Brent assured me I would love it (although not so far fetched of a choice since I do love the fresh flavours of Vietnamese cuisine). Piled high on a fresh, and perfectly soft, ciabatta bun, the pulled pork was oh so tender and seasoned lightly with just the right kick. Complemented by the tang of the pickled cucumber, carrot and daikon, the creamy cool cucumber mayo as well as the fresh flavour of the cilantro, this sandwich incorporated all the flavours I have come to love in Vietnamese cuisine, with no flavour so pronounced as to overpower the others. To top it all off, the oven roasted potato wedges were cooked perfectly with a crisp golden crust and a soft potato-y (that's a word right?!) centre. And might I just add that I love restaurants offering fare that is not deep fried. (Oh yes, you do see four little glasses of beer in the background, the draught taster including 6 oz samples of Brooklyn Dark, St Ambroise Cream Ale, Propeller Pilsner, and Garrison Hopyard. Yum, yum, yum and, let me see...yum! And it's only 10 bucks!)

Brooklyn Burger
Brent had the Brooklyn Burger and all I gotta say is how is it that another restaurant wins Best Burger in The Coast year after year? Having now tasted both, I simply do not understand. This burger is everything you would want in a burger: a juicy real beef patty, rich Quebec raw cheddar cheese, salty double smoked bacon from a local farm, and the requisite tomato, onion, pickle, and lettuce, or in this case sprouts. Add to that a side of creamy red pepper mayo and the same oven roasted wedges and you've got one hell of a burger. If taste alone isn't deserving of the title, there is always the fact that this is organic NS beef, not a premade patty processed and shipped from lord knows where. At Brooklyn, the burger is fresh, local, and nothing but delicious! So, to anyone that reads this, whether you "follow' or not, get your fingers to to vote for the real Best Burger in Halifax.

check out the full menu or read their inspiring philosophy:

The Brooklyn Warehouse on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 6, 2011

BBQ for breakfast

durty and delicious
Yesterday, during brunch at Coastal Cafe, we (yes, we both ordered it!) finally sank our teeth into the Durty South, BBQ eggs stacked atop pulled pork on sweet potato cornbread, finished with red-eye beans.  Everything about this dish was amazing. The pulled pork was tender and flavourful, the cornbread crumbly yet moist, and the beans smokey and sweet. Who'd have thought BBQ for breakfast would be so damn delicious? Chef and owner Mark Giffin, that's who! This really is breakfast redefined; no plain ol' bacon and eggs here. Now what to try next visit....

Oh, by the way, that is the Elvis, a buttermilk waffle sandwich of pb, banana, and bacon, drizzled with real maple syrup. Yes, you read right: pb, banana and bacon. The perfect marriage of salty and sweet. Nothing but yum here folks!

The Coastal Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The best breakfast in the city?

We love The Coastal Cafe. I think everybody does. The menu is small yet creative and the coffee is great. However, the space is so tiny you are always gambling when you decide on it for brunch. But with extremely fast service, you can generally get a table in a few minutes, especially if you're only two people. That also means, however, you eat and leave in a few minutes. It's certainly not the place for chatting over a coffee; there's always someone else waiting for your table. But that's ok. There's a certain charm to a place when we all have to share it!

As always we ordered cappuccinos and as always they were good (not nearly the caliber of Two If By Sea but not weak diner coffee either). This visit Brent had my ol' faithful, the McCoastal, a heavenly breakfast sandwich of a house made sausage patty, Havarti, and roasted tomato all on a toasted English muffin. Even though the McCoastal is rather messy to eat (it's huge!), it is so delicious. And that sweet house made maple sausage has made me begin to love sausage. It all works and has easily become one of my favourite breakfasts in Hali! This time, however, Brent found the sandwich too salty and I had to agree. Something was salted heavily when no added salt was needed at all. His McCoastal, however, included deep fried onions and no tomato. And now that I look at the menu online (it was down for awhile) it confirms the fried onions. Apparently, the menu has changed. Hopefully, the saltiness was a weird mistake and the the new McCoastal will be as addictive as the last.

I ventured far out of my comfort zone this time and ordered The Eggs Oslo: poached eggs, smoked salmon, parsnip dill rosti, butternut jam, and mulled red wine cranberry syrup. While I admit, I was a little scared waiting for my breakfast to arrive (I had actually decided on the Durty South only to find out they were all out...that popular, eh!), this dish turned out to be fresh and delicious. The poached eggs were my perfect medium and the star of the dish, the smoked salmon, was so fresh, it was more like sashimi. Amazing. With a patty of grated parsnips, that could have been cooked a touch longer, a sweet butternut squash puree, and a sweet red wine cranberry syrup, the dish paired hot with cold and sweet with savoury. It surprised me. And I ate every bit of it!

No doubt we'll be back to the Coastal Cafe soon. And this time the Durty South will be mine!
so for some reason you can't get to the menu from their web page but you can here:

The Coastal Cafe on Urbanspoon

Romance at Fiasco

Last night Brent and I decided to try out Fiasco as our post-Valentines Day dinner. Dining out on V Day when you work in the service industry is always impossible! And once again I did not take any pictures. Sorry.

While I could have easily chosen several appetizers from the first and second course menus, we decided to share the mussels. The server must have known how delicious the sauce was as she placed spoons on the table and thankfully so. It took all my strength not to grab the bowl and drink the remaining broth! That delicious. The perfect mix of tomato, garlic, and herbs.

For our entrees, Brent chose the tagliatelle with shrimp, scallops, lobster, chorizo, sherry and cream. The pasta, we think homemade, was thin and delicate. A great accompaniment to the rich sauce. And the spicy chorizo complimented the dish remarkably well. His only complaint was the lack of seafood: merely one scallop, two shrimp and a few small pieces of lobster.

I chose the Coquilles St Jacques which turned out to be the traditional dish served in a shell. Several plump scallops sat atop oh so creamy baked mashed potatoes all complimented by a wonderful bechamel sauce. While the serving was small, it would be hard to imagine eating a larger portion of this rich, buttery dish.

Overall, we really liked Fiasco; the space was classy and intimate, the food was simple and delicious, and the service was great (I was even given my martini at no charge because the bar was out of lychees! A garnish, albeit a delicious one, but a garnish non the less! I would have paid for this delicious martini made with real lychee puree with or without the lychee but thank you anyway). With a rather large three course menu full of seafood appetizers, some delicious sounding salads (you know me and my salads!) and a heap of mains, it'll be hard to think of a reason not to come back. Well, maybe the expense (think $30 entrees)....but sometimes great food is worth it!

Fiasco on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Art of the Salad

It's no secret. I love salad! Alot! As does Brent so we eat it all the time. However, it's certainly not the ol' standard garden salad or even your basic Caesar that we eat almost daily. Sure, we eat those salads too but ours consist of pears or apples or walnuts or goat cheese or caramelized onions or all of them! I think loving salad comes from knowing how to make a salad; how to combine ingredients of varying flavors and textures and, perhaps more importantly, how to make your own dressing. There is no bottled salad dressing in my fridge. Why, when it's merely oil and vinegar?

One of our favourites is spinach (we generally only use spinach and sometimes arugula, both more delicious and nutritious than any variety of lettuce), dried cranberries, candied sunflower seeds, goat cheese, and pear, finished with a splash of both olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple yet so delish! Sweet, rich, crunchy, creamy, tangy, fresh. This is what salad is all about! Nothing boring here. And it's easy to change it up: instead of pears, add in apple (honey crisp is my new fav), instead of the sunflower seeds, add walnuts or any nut for that matter, and instead of the oil and vinegar, mix up some sesame oil, maple syrup and a splash of rice vinegar. Suddenly, you've got yourself a whole new salad! This is why we eat it so often; it doesn't get boring and, let's face it, it's really good for us.

So, to get in on the salad action, follow some simple rules.  Get yourself some greens. The darker green, the healthier. Then throw in whatever veggies or fruit you have. If you're going for a sweeter salad, you may not want to throw in something like tomatoes but feel free to use onions as it will balance nicely with any sweet fruit whether that's dried cranberries, pear, apple, raisins, grapes, or strawberries. If you want a more savoury salad, think cherry tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, sun dried tomatoes, feta, onions, basil, arugula. Then throw in some nuts or seeds and finally, some cheese (or meat or beans) if you want. That leads me to another rule: goat cheese works with everything! Finally, mix up some dressing yourself. There are so many recipes out there and trying some will make you change the way you think about salad dressing. (And there is nothing, I mean nothing better than homemade Caesar dressing!) But if you're looking for simplicity, balsamic vinegar and olive oil is always delicious. Try mixing in some maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. The possibilities are endless.

So, start fulfilling those resolutions (I know you've all made them!) and eat your salad! Tons of vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals in one delicious bowl. Or wait a few months and I'll make you one....

Brunch at Nectar

For the second time, we recently had brunch at Nectar Social House in Dartmouth. Located right beside Two If By Sea, Nectar is stylish, super modern, warm, and comfy all at the same time. Well, just look at that photo! Nice, right?  

The place isn't packed which surprises me but it's also nice not to have to wait for a seat on a Sunday at noon. The coffee, non other than Kicking Horse out of BC, is delicious and replenished frequently, a huge bonus for this caffeine addict. This visit Brent chose lobster eggs benny since he was feeling rather celebratory and a side of Brothers bacon. He loved the benny especially the homemade hollandaise, a welcome change from the packaged versions at other breakfast joints. I ordered the crepes of asparagus, the same smoked bacon, scrambled eggs, and smoked applewood cheese sauce served with hash browns. The crepe and fillings were cooked perfectly, and thankfully, because there is nothing worse than poorly cooked asparagus! And ooooh, the bacon.We all know the joy that is bacon but this smoked bacon from Brothers on Agricola St. is something else. So smokey and salty and wonderful. A world better than any of that applewood smoked bacon that is all the hype right now. Your visit is worth it if not for the bacon alone. Really. Or you can head on over to Brothers and get a pound yourself! You will thank me.

I have read other reviews citing the brunch at Nectar as overpriced. I have to disagree. Sure, it is overpriced if you are looking for the standard greasy diner breakfast. But I am quite confident no one would expect that after walking in to the classy decor and modern design. Nectar is not about frozen hash browns, gargantuan portions, pancake mix or generic filter coffee.  Rather, Nectar offers up delicious food made in house from local and organic sources in a stylish yet cozy atmosphere. Throw in excellent service and you've got one hell of a restaurant. I highly recommend their brunch (there is even an eggs Bombay dish with a curry sauce on rice....interesting)! And I'll let you know when we finally get there for dinner.

Nectar Social House on Urbanspoon