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Archive for June, 2009

If you haven’t checked out Books.Google.com yet, jump on over!

The search engine offers a wide listing of books – some are simply reviewed, some are offered in limited prview and others offered in full view (all electronically of course).

Here are a couple of samples:

We have found greater success when avoiding simple searches such as food or recipe.  Searching titles of books brought the best results and paying attention to the related books can also have strong results.

Enjoy – and share links to your faves!

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Got back from Utah on Friday – a wonderful place with an odd culture around alcohol (odd to me of course and perspective is everything – I understand and appreciate that if I were in Utah I would be the odd one and respect that).  I write from my own perspective and experience and, therefore, Utah is respectfully odd about it’s views on alcohol.

I stayed at the University of Salt Lake City and respected it’s dry policy.  I actually found it interesting that the University was dry and actually thought it made a lot of sense.  When I went to school, many of us invested our evenings at the bottom of a glass.  The summer student population seems to be settling into a different pace here – everything from nightly strolls, bike rides and coal BBQs.  It seemed to have a great sense of community and appeared to work.

The decision to go for a beer became a 6-mile walk (I took a cab home both times).  It is a lovely place and the weather was fabulous.  I walked past a theatre which was releasing a frantic crowd from the first night (of 3) of the Miss Utah qualifiers.  Larger than life outfits and fans with huge support buttons of the women they supported poured onto the streets.  It’s a lasting memory and such things are some of the rare benefits of travelling for business – it’s a moment I will not forget for a long time.

I made my way to Squatter’s Brew Pubin the heart of Salt Lake (thanks again to Graeme and his beer network).  I clamoured onto a bar stool and was presented a beer menu and knew I was off to a good start.

Squatter’s is naturally cozy and charming.  The staff were friendly and the beer was plentiful.  The warm interior welcomed visitor’s with it’s glow of exposed brick and natural wood beams:

I was excited to see that they had a sampling/ tasting menu and was quick to order a round.  The pub chooses 6 for you to try.  I was initially disappointed by this apparent totalitarian selection process and then understood the advantage to their choosing – each sample is lined up on a place-mat which labels each taste and describes the tasting notes.

I found the placemat system remarkably gratifying – I would sample a beer and attempt to detect my own tasting notes.  I would then refer to the menu to see if I could match my thoughts to their description and then used the placemat to determine how accurate I was.  I’ll admit to being stumped at least once!

I tried one of their nitro condition brews and sampled my way through the line until I hit the Provo Girl.  This lady is a Pilsner – something fairly rare in North America (it’s Czech in origination and not entirely common if you are counting by the total number of options presented to us in North America).  A Pilsner is also my favourite type of beer in the world.  They tend to be crisp, dry and are quite often bitter with Hops.  Provo Girl is the best Pilsner I have ever had from the United States – it was simply wonderful.  I was surprised to learn that the beers on tap were all limited to 4.0% alcohol by order of the state of Utah (who also just legalized home brewing of beer in March of 2009).  I am a raving fan.

I had a quick nibble as well – hummus complimented with other tastes of the Mediterranean (fresh feta, olives and fantastic slow-roasted tomatoes):

Squatter’s is celebrating it’s 20th anniversary and if you find yourself at the airport, in town or in Park City, check out one of their three locations.

A few more shots to give you the feel of the bar rail:

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What a weekend!  We had a wonderful stay in Prince Edward County (more posts to come) – we went with old friends, visited some newer ones and shared food with many.  Fresh strawberries are in full tilt, asparagus is still haunting local stands (it’s as thick as your thumb) and the vineyards are starting to come to life.

A giant thanks to Norman Hardie for a wonderful afternoon and some stunning samples – he is a gracious host and such a talented wine maker.  We tried a few more samples (his Pinot Noir Cuvee L was a new taste for us and is tasty enough to make you weak in the knees).  We watched him continuously offer kind introductions to all who walked through the doors and I cannot emphasize enough how much we enjoy what he does and recommend you check the vineyard and it’s products out.  We have certainly become biased – it’s not something we’ll apologize for!

We were camping on a rather cold and rainy weekend – it occurred to me that many have not grown up around a campfire and it may be interesting to learn how to cook on a natural fire…

The first step is the fire itself.  You want a lot of heat without a lot of flame.  Start by building a decent sized fire and don’t be concerned about a lot of flame to start.  You want to burn enough wood to form a sold coal base that you can cook over.  It can take 45-90 minutes depending on the weather and how dry your wood is.  You can spread the coal out once you are ready to cook as well and a little flame is fine.  Be careful not to through plastic or coloured paper into the fire (not a good practice at any time – sickening if you are choosing to cook with the fire).

Hearty fruit and veg (like potatoes or cored apples stuffed with brown sugar) are easy to cook.  Wrap them in foil (we added green onions, salt, pepper and olive oil) and drop them right in the coal.  You’ll need tongs to move them around and want to make sure your package is well sealed so it does not get filled with ash:

You can grill the rest of your dinner – and old pots are perfect for the grill (any pot will do but be prepared to have it permanently altered by soot and it will no longer be decent for your kitchen):

At ths point, it’s just like using a BBQ.  You can add a few wood chips or small pieces of wood to add further smoke – however it is not likely that you need to.  Some people worry that the fire has gone out – the residual heat will last for hours so just be patience and your efforts will pay off.  Be careful not to disturb the ashes less you cover your dinner with them.

Last night was a wonderful feast of potato, green onion, asparagus, portabello mushroom and spinach.  It was a delightful feast shared with wonderful friends and a restocked fire which cracked and sputtered the night away.  Dreamy.

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There’s not much difficult about grilling with wood.  It is, however, a mystery to many.

The main concept is simple: create smoke to add flavour.  The details aren`t much more complex: avoid burning the chips in open flame (they burn off too quickly and produce ash which can cover your food).

Here is what to do:

  1. Make the chips yourself or buy them at a hardware or outdoor store (Canadian Tire as an example) and bring them home.
  2. Soak them in water – about 4 hours should do, overnight is fine as well.
  3. Wrap them in foil (shiny side in).  I like to make a pack that is the same width of my BBQ.
  4. Poke holes in the foil pack with your fork as if you were ventilating it – lets some heat in and some smoke out.
  5. Rest the foil pack in or near the flames you cook with and presto!

Let them smoulder and enjoy the flavour of smoke (cook with lid down for best results).  Donèt be alarmed if the bag is all charred when removing – the heat will eventually burn all of these off.

Now for a recipe that blew us away on the weekend (using apple wood wood chips):

  1. Cut bosch pears into quarters.  Remove any seeds with a spoon.  Place on hot grill and ease off the heat.  We kept the lid open as we wanted to warm the pears and stimulate natural sugars but were not trying to turn them soft and mushy.  A few grill marks, a little browning and patience were key.
  2. Remove pears and place in a bowl.  Toss with maple syrup (maple syrup and wood and a natural match of course).  Put back on BBQ – be careful to make the heat medium to low – we are not trying to char or caramelize.  This heats the syrup and slightly candies a few of them.
  3. Remove from heat, toss in Peach Butterscotch preserve (well put the recipe up in peach season – I promise!)
  4. If this is for friends, serve in a communal bowl.  Sticky fingers are part of the fun.  If they are for strangers (or more formal), place in bowls – even with ice cream!

These had a smoky undertone followed by a few layers of sweetness – Paul J gets huge kudos for his work (he really cooked these up for the crowd at our fete!).

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I am an only child.  I try to share (sometimes effectively).  I try to play nice (and I do on the good days).  I have always enjoyed the company of adults (from the time I was little).

I also had two very close cousins (Cachelle and Chantal) who were geographically, demographically and philosophically close enough to become surrogate sisters.  It was a kind of best of both worlds (other than lonely days when I would play Monopoly against myself).

Being an only child had some wonderful upsides.  It allowed me options that I may not have the opportunity to try as one of many.  It allowed me access to adults and their mysterious world.  I had the time to observe and learn.  As a child of the 70s I learned to make a Rum and Coke for the adults around me very early on.  I loved serving them beer and other “adult” things.  The adult world brought wonderful questions and observations and curiosities.

This fascination led to controlled experimentation.  I avoided alcohol almost entirely before I turned 21 (it is legal to consume at age 19 in Ontario) so I focused my explorations on food.  I was the kid who would eat anything!  I loved when grown-ups looked in shock that I could pull a lobster apart (a right of passage for my east-coast kin), eat sheep brain in Tremblant (only did it once but loved it) and adored my Grandfather’s blood pudding.  Liverwurst was another favourite.

I don’t believe I have ever told the following story.

I was visiting one of my favourite places on earth – Arisaig, Nova Scotia.  Family was there and people were having fun.  I was about 11 or 12 – not yet a man, not still a child.  The BBQ was going and I awkwardly played volleyball (hit my own face with the ball) and was a little better at badminton (I still love lobbing a birdie high into a summer sky).

My cousin David had a Kawasaki dirt bike – green and black.  He was learning wheelies in a field with mixed results.  I rode on that bike several times and always with a smile.

The Oysters came out.  I didn’t remember trying them before but I recognized these were things adults liked.  The “kids” ran away (for the most part) and the older “tweens” dove in with the adults.  I knew that this was something to do and something I should love – after all, it was an adult thing.

I bravely took a half shell and popped it back – the reaction was exactly as intended – people were impressed that a “kid” from the city would try these things.  I was told not to chew, just swallow.

I faked it.

I walked to the high grass, past the wheelie wipe outs and spat it out.  I was defeated.  I was supposed to like these things and if I couldn’t, I would never be the type of adult I wanted to be.

It took years before I was brave enough to try again.  To this day I chew every bite (and love it!).  Oysters have become one of my favourite foods – but now it’s because I like them, not because it will impress people that I will eat the slimy things.  I often think back to that day – especially when in Nova Scotia or when eating Oysters.  It reminds me that being an adult means that I have to do things for me – not just those around me.

And I love them with fresh horseradish…

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Oh Goodness!

I am home for the summer after a crazy 6 months were I travelled almost half of it.  Itès so good to be back in TO (with no disrespect intended to any of the fine places I have been).

I was home for 10 minutes before we got in the truck and are on our way to Prince Edward County for a weekend of camping, exploring and finding local food sources.  Ièm sure there will be some new discoveries to share – and we will!

Posts are scheduled for the entire weekend – hope you all have a great one!

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We’re excited to go camping this weekend in Prince Edward County. Just bringing the basics and the plan is to shop local for all our provisions (including wine and beer!). We’ll be posting about our weekend trip next week, but check out some of our previous posts on the County and some links in the meantime:

Norman Hardies vines back in the early spring (on our last visit to PEC)

Norman Hardies vines back in the early spring (on our last visit to PEC)

– Our first trip to the county

– Definitely some love for Norman Hardie

– Last time we stocked up on cellar apples and Joel made EXCELLENT applesauce (i had some last night!)

– I may have to hunt down a Buddha Dog!!!

– And some Barley Days!

Some favourite PEC links:

Taste the County

Experience the County

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