Sunday, April 18, 2010

More Game Dinner...

My non-food related rundown of last night's game dinner is here.

Game Dinner 2010 Rundown - Food Edition

So, last night was the big annual event that I look forward to every year: the Nelson Rod & Gun Club Game Dinner! I love this. Every year, as a fund-raiser, the club puts on a banquet featuring locally-hunted game meats (and some ham & turkey if the odd person there doesn't fancy the other stuff) donated by the hunters in the club. In addition to the food, there are prizes galore, the gun club awards ceremony (my dad always wins a big trophy and so he did again last night), a lot of camo, gun & archery vendors, and loads of taxidermy. This year, my dad got the tickets for the four of us (my brother & SIL came, too) and we all went together as a family.

Last year, the food was superb and the club brought in a professional to cook up the roasts. Her name is Jennifer, and she is the proprietor and chef at Vienna Cafe in Nelson, somewhere I frequent when I visit that city. I was thrilled to see last night, when I popped my head into the kitchen before dinner, that Jennifer was back! I knew the dinner would be excellent.

And so it was. And it was quite different, too, as there were some new dishes on offer I guarantee you wouldn't find anywhere else on this planet.

Exhibit #1: Roast elk. I didn't have any of this, as I was gunning for the roast moose. I like elk, but sometimes it's rather dry. I didn't get a picture of the roast moose (the buffet was very busy and it was awkward to take pictures) but I can tell you that it was excellent. I really love moose meat - so tender & tasty!

Exhibit # 2: Elk sausage in some kind of sauce. Again, I skipped this dish because I knew there was more moose on offer farther along the line. Apparently this was OK, though.

Exhibit #3: Moose goulash. Now we're talking! Jennifer at the Vienna Cafe makes a homemade goulash, and I suspect this is a game-spin on that dish of hers. This was one of the new dishes to make an appearance at the game dinner, and it was so good. I can't describe for you how good it was, in fact. Just superb. This went very fast and there were no leftovers, unfortunately.

Exhibit #4: Ginger elk. OH MY GOD!!!!! This was the dish of the evening - completely fabulicious. Jennifer of Vienna Cafe made the sauce for it and it was so delicious. This tasted just like the Chinese ginger beef dish you get at any westernized Chinese food place - only much better, and way less fatty & greasy. This was probably the most popular dish at the meal. I snapped this picture between the time the game dinner attendees served themselves and the kitchen staff came out to eat, and as you can see, the kitchen staff were pretty much going to be SOL with this one, because there was very little left after all the diners had gone through the line. I didn't get seconds myself because the pan was scraped bare after the kitchen staff were done. Oh, man, this was a killer dish!

Exhibit #5: Spatzle. This is something they serve at Vienna Cafe, too, and I suspect Jennifer's hand was in its appearance at this dinner. I didn't have any because it was near the end of the line and my plate was already full! I don't know how much of it was eaten in the end; this picture was snapped at the same time I took the elk ginger one, so it was just before the staff served themselves. My dad had some though and he really liked it. I'm not sure how something like this would have gone over with this crowd; most probably didn't have a clue what it was or what was in it, and it's a bit...shall we say..."cultural" for these folks.

Exhibit #6: My plate! OK, here is the plate I piled high for myself. Clockwise, starting at 12:00: Bun (obviously); stuffing; moose goulash; white tail deer meatloaf (awesome and so moist!); salmon (not great; it might have been steamed, and it was almost waterlogged); baked potato; salads (a coleslaw & a green salad were available); roast moose; and in the centre above the potato in the foil, the ginger elk. Also served at the dinner were a bunch of homemade pickles, different olives, and some homemade cranberry sauce. There was also turkey and ham available for the people not so keen on game meats, and there was gravy for the roasts.

Exhibit #7: Dad's plate. Dad likes his veggies, and there was a dish of steamed mixed veggies available. Dad had the spatzle, roast elk, and moose goulash, amongst other things. Shan had the elk sausage in the white sauce and she said it was OK. Everyone had the meatloaf and loved it. Shan and Jem had turkey, too.

There was no bear this year - thank God. And no cougar, either - thank God again. Before dinner, as people mulled around the prize tables, appies were offered: elk beer sausage, elk pepperoni, and elk garlic sausage, and mini moose meatballs, along with crackers, cheese & pickles. I had a moose meatball and it was delish.

Dessert is not even worth mentioning. You do not go to this event for the desserts, let me tell you. They are always el-cheapo supermarket crap desserts, and last night was no different.

As I mentioned, there were a ton of prizes to be won via door prize draws and bucket draws, where you buy a book of tickets for $20 and put the tickets in a "bucket" attached to a pack of prizes. I have never won anything, but my dad always seems to win all kinds of stuff. But last night was different: I actually won something! My prize pack included two beautiful, etched glasses; some hickory smoked sea salt; a six pack of organic beer made by the Nelson Brewing Company; and a $25 gift certificate to a clothing store in Nelson. I was totally stoked!Now, I do not drink beer at all, so I am looking for ideas to use the beer in my cooking. Actually, it's a honey ale, to be precise. Shan suggested BBQ sauce and making some beer-battered fish. I plan on making a sourdough starter with one can. I can put it in beef stews, too. Do you guys have any ideas?

The hickory smoked sea salt is my first flavoured salt. I have some ideas for that, too. It will be great on popcorn, for one thing. Also on fish and chicken.

So, an excellent evening, when all was said and done! Now all I can do is look forward to next year!

The full Flickr set from last night is here.

Non-food related rundown is here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cookbook Review: Bromberg Bros. Blue Ribbon Cookbook

The flap reads, "When the first Blue Ribbon restaurant opened in 1992 in downtown Manhattan, it ushered in a new era in dining, one where reservations aren't taken and delicious food—dressed up or down—comes out of the same kitchen. On a menu suited to satisfy every craving, Herb Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Sage, a favorite with neighborhood regulars, shares equal billing with Beef Marrow Bones with Oxtail Marmalade, the late-night dish most often requested by the celebrity-chef crowd. After seventeen successful years, Bruce and Eric Bromberg, the brothers behind the now nine-restaurant Blue Ribbon phenomenon, share their secrets for exceptional American fare."

Well, I am not from New York, so I cannot say whether or not the Bromberg Brothers have created a "phenomenon," and I certainly had never heard of these guys before, but I can tell you that this is a really nice cookbook.

Blue Ribbon Cookbook, named after the bothers' series of restaurants, has a little bit of something for everyone, covering the categories of main dishes, desserts, veggies, and my personal favourite, brunch. I do love good brunch ideas and recipes! Which is probably why the baking in this book is what appealed to me the most. Beef Marrow Bones with Oxtail Marmalade (page 84) and Seared Long Island Duck Breast with Orange-Cassis Sauce (page 104) and all well and good, but I was more excited about the Blueberry Muffins on page 178 and the Light and Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes on page 177.

The two recipes I made from this book were both total winners: the aforementioned Blueberry Muffins were excellent, as was the Country White Bread on page 203. The bread had a higher salt content than I am used to, but it was a really flavourful loaf with a nice chewiness and a texture reminiscent of an artisan sourdough loaf. It didn't last long!

There are quite a few other recipes I plan on making from this book, including the pancakes (which I will turn into waffles), the Doughnut Muffins on page 182, and the Raisin Walnut Bread (for which I will use pecans) on page 202.

Lots of good stuff to choose from in Blue Ribbon Cookbook, and the pictures are so mouthwatering, too. There is also a handy chapter entitled "Building Blocks" which features recipes for stocks, sauces, and condiments. The sandwich chapter also looks very promising - who doesn't love a good sandwich? At $43 CAD this book is a tough sell, though, as it is relatively slim at just over 250 pages. There are definitely some great ideas in here, however, especially if you're into more high end recipes.

Will it stay on overtaxed kitchen shelving unit? Oh yes!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

She's Back!

For well over four years now, my lovely Cuisinart food processor has been in storage. She was actually broken and needed a part glued back on, but because I always lived in a place furnished with a food processor already, I never bothered fixing her until the other day. I got some crazy glue and...she's back!!!

And now that she is back, I realize how much I missed her! Woo-hoo!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Book Review: The Spice Necklace

The flap reads: Spices and herbs are the heart and soul of Caribbean cooking, adding more to the pleasures of the table here than perhaps more than anywhere else. In The Spice Necklace, award-winning food and travel writer Ann Vanderhoof embarks on a voyage of culinary discovery, as she follows her nose (and her taste buds) into tiny kitchens and fragrant markets, through rainforest gardens and to family cook-ups on the beach, linking each food to its traditions, folklore, and history.

Oh man, did I ever enjoy this book! Now, when I think of Caribbean cooking, the word "jerk" immediately comes to mind, and I am not a fan of spicy foods at all. But The Spice Necklace really opened my eyes up to the enormous variety and versatility in Caribbean cuisine. Actually, the word "jerk" doesn't even appear in this volume, which surprised me; but then again, Receta (Spanish for recipe), Ann and her husband Steve's boat, didn't travel to Jamaica in this book, sticking instead to the Windward and Leeward Islands, which include Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, Martinique, St. Kitts & Nevis, and Dominica, amongst others. Having taken a two-year break from their bustling lives in Toronto, Ann & Steve embark upon a sailing adventure around the Caribbean, eating, cooking, and discovering a cuisine as they go.

Ann & Steve don't just stay on their boat, either, enjoying the more immediate luxuries of freshly caught fish and local markets. They often rent a lemony vehicle and drive well off the beaten tourist path to seek out the most unique culinary experiences a particular island has to offer. They endure a horrendous drive in the Dominican Republic to taste dishes made with local goats who feed on wild oregano; they hunt fresh water crayfish in the rain forest of Dominica; they seek out decadent tarts called "The Torments of Love," a specialty of Guadaloupe; and they eat a vegetarian and locally-foraged Rastafarian feast back in Dominica. They visit rum distilleries, cocoa and vanilla plantations, and while all this is happening, Ann provides a fascinating glimpse into the production, history, folklore, and personal stories of the people who make, grow, harvest, and cook a seemingly endless array of exotic ingredients - many of which we take for granted here in North America.

Each chapter is a delight and I found myself so looking forward to whatever Ann & Steve encountered next in their travels because I knew it would be something cool and unexpected. I was never disappointed. And bonus - this book comes with over 70 recipes, too! I plan on having a Spice Necklace-inspired family dinner using recipes from the book!

The one recipe I have made already is the Grenadian Banana Bread with Chocolate, Nutmeg, and Rum, found on page 21. I even went to the liquor store to buy rum (though I didn't want to invest in a relatively expensive bottle of dark rum when I could get a mini of amber rum for $7). This banana bread is unlike any I've ever had before; the spices hit the back of your mouth just as the rum starts tingling on the tip of your tongue. This is no mere banana bread; it's a sensual experience to savour. Kind of like the book!

The only thing I didn't like about this book was that (apart from not having any pictures in it), it didn't have an index, and I found myself quite frustrated at time trying to keep information straight in my mind because I couldn't easily reference it via an index.

Nevertheless, this book is a keeper, and despite its lack of photos, Ann has a web site here where she has a photo gallery.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Easter Dinner's Dessert: Clafouti

Clafouti is a dessert that has intrigued me for a while, especially after I cut a recipe for it out of Thrifty Foods' (man, how I miss that store!) magazine God knows how long ago. I actually have two recipes for this baked custardy dessert, the other being in my copy of Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cook. I have avoided making clafouti because it requires a lot of eggs, and I have previously been stingy with my eggs since they are not cheap. But, times change, and so has my budget; I decided to make clafouti for Easter dinner's dessert.

Though my budget has changed, I wasn't willing to part with 6 egg yolks, which is what the recipe in Le Cordon Bleu calls for. Instead, I opted for the recipe from Thrifty's since it requires 6 whole eggs. I hate having a whole whack of egg whites, or yolks for that matter, kicking around, so I tend to avoid recipes that call for only parts of eggs rather than the whole egg.

The write-up in Le Cordon Bleu book did tell me, however, that clafouti is a dessert from the Limousin region of France, and that it is traditionally made with seasonal cherries, or plums or pears (how "traditional" this dessert is I don't know; it certainly didn't make our curriculum at the French-focused culinary school I attended). The Thrifty's recipe is for a pear version, utilizing canned pears. How pedestrian! I have so many berries in my freezer that I thought this would be an excellent time to use some. I made a Blueberry Clafouti!

The original recipe is here.

I made two substitutions: the first was obviously the berries; the second was a few drops of orange oil instead of the orange liqueur. I also used a whole vanilla bean, one of many that came in Jodi's wonderful Christmas parcel (also, this parcel is where the orange oil came from). I baked the dessert in a 9" deep dish pie pan.

The result: iffy!

I added the berries halfway through the baking because I didn't want them to all sink to the bottom. Unfortunately, the berries were still cold when I added them to the half-baked clafouti, and this ended up changing the temperature of the centre of the dessert drastically, necessitating a longer baking time. As a result, the sides of the clafouti were very overbaked, and the centre wasn't very custardy at all.

Kinda looks like a large Yorkshire Pudding with berries in it. I was not overly impressed with it, though there were no leftovers and everyone else thought it was fine.

I would try this again, only using the learning I gained with this experience: room temperature fruit added at the beginning of the baking. Oh well. We live and learn.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Cookbook Review: Giada at Home

I am a huge fan of Giada de Laurentiis, so I was very excited to get my hands on a copy of her new cookbook, Giada at Home: Family Recipes from Italy and California.

As usual, Giada's slim volume is packed with drool-worthy recipes and cool ideas that never fail to inspire me. This book, as the flap states and as the title indicates, incorporates traditional Italian dishes with the fresh, clean flavours of California. In typical Giada style, this new book also heavily features pictures of warm get-togethers with friends and family, with a heavy emphasis on Giada's new baby daughter, Jade. I have to admit, I was a smitten with the baby as I was with the recipes!

Giada always uses clean, whole ingredients in her recipes, focusing on fresh veggies and seasonality. Divided into the usual cookbook categories of appetizers, soups & sandwiches, desserts, etc., there is also a brunch chapter with some recipes I can't wait to try. The Pancetta & Cinnamon Waffles on page 228 being at the top of my list. My new waffle iron is going to get a great workout with this one. The dessert chapter also tantalized me with a very mouthwatering take on tiramisu, this one using lemon and hazelnut instead of the traditional coffee flavours. I cannot wait to make that.

The one recipe I have tried was the Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Sauce on page 80. I had a friend over for dinner last week and I thought this was the perfect time to try a new recipe out. This was a simple dinner, though I had to make some substitutions because marscapone cheese is way too cost prohibitive for me; I used some light cream cheese instead and it worked fine. For the mushroom assortment, I used a portabella, some regular button mushrooms, and some enoki mushrooms. Instead of white wine, I used some cooking sherry. This was a great dish! I wouldn't spend the money on enoki mushrooms again, though; they didn't really add any big flavour to this. The portabella mushroom was totally worth it, however!

This is the third Giada book I have on my cookbook shelves, and once again, it's well worth the precious space there!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Easter Dinner 2010

Last night we gathered next door at my brother & SIL's place, where we had a wonderful Easter feast, prepared by my awesome SIL herself. We had ham, roasted potatoes, Caesar salad, asparagus, green beans, buns, and dessert made my yours truly (post will be upcoming). Here are the highlights.


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