Until Next Time

Do you ever experience moments when, for no apparent reason, you start craving rather peculiar foods?  Instances where a wee voice peaks out of your subconscious and whispers “psst… I’m hungry…”, when your attempts at ignoring it are futile and the hunger evolves into an overpowering of conscious thought, and the voice, no longer at a whisper says, “I asked you nicely the first time”.  You know the cravings I’m talking about.   

What’s different about these cravings, from let’s say a regular sugar fix, is that the hunger will be for a food that I wouldn’t normally eat.  I’ll yearn for pancakes loaded with butter and syrup, which I eat about once a year (during Stampede) and don’t even like.  Or I’ll suddenly long for the peanut butter and Cheese Whiz on toast that I ate when I was a kid (don’t knock it, it’s good).  Or, for example, the other night when I was walking home from the bus, my mind was focused on a Denver sandwich.

When I got in the door I immediately set to putting the sandwich together.  No time to waste.  I had a bag of asparagus ends in the fridge that were left over from something, so I peeled, diced and fried them with the onion and red pepper.  Then I added an egg  and cream, lightly beaten and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  When the egg was done I flipped it onto the toast, draped it with a big slice of Swiss cheese and a piece of black forest ham. 

It was so yummy.  And it must have satisfied my Denver desires, because the little voice retreated into the darkness.  But, I’m sure we’ll meet again.

Tag I’m It

Tag I’m It

I’ve been tagged by the lovely Ana of Pumpkin Pie Bungalow for the cookbook meme.  Yeah!  This will be fun to fill out.   Here we go.

1.  Total number of (cook/food) books I’ve owned:
I’ve got about 35 at the moment, but that number seems to grow with a frightening frequency.  I don’t know if it counts or not, but I also have a lot of magazine’s including Bon Appetite, Gourmet, Saveur, Cuisine at Home and Fine Cooking, Olive, Delicious and Chile Pepper.

2.  Last (cook/food) book(s) I bought:
The last two cookbooks added to my collection were given to me for by birthday.  I got Baking Illustrated and Wings Across America.  I’ve been able to use Baking Illustrated a couple of times and I’ve been really happy with the results!

3.  Last (cook/food) book I read:
The last book I read was On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.   It was an intriguing read and I learned a plethora of interesting food facts.  It’s really only for food fanatics though, extreme food fanatics.  

4.  Five (cook) books that mean a lot to me:
a)  My Goose is Cooked – this great book is full of family recipes and the charming stories of the people behind them.  Everything that I’ve made from it has the distinct taste of home cooking from the heart.  Even when I make something new, it tastes and feels like a childhood comfort food.  Jason bought a signed copy of the book last Christmas for us, and he’s really not a kitchen type person, so this was a rare event.
b)  The Professional Chef – This book is my cooking school.  I refer to it for techniques and for basic recipes.  It also has a number of recipes for spice mixes and sauces that I use frequently.  I can’t imagine cooking without it. 
c)  Baking Illustrated – Although I’ve only had this book for a short time I love it.  I love that the test kitchen explains the processes and results of their trials.  It truly allows you to learn from someone else’s mistakes.    
d)  Dessert by Pierre Herme – I love this book for it’s unique desserts.  The instructions are easy to follow, making even the most complex recipes achievable, although still time consuming.  The lemon curd is heavenly (I still have to post about it).
e)  I know it’s not a book, but I have to give one spot to my Cuisine at Home Magazine Subscription.  I’m sure I cook with them at least once a week.  Each one is packed with great recipes, incredibly easy to follow instructions, kitchen tips, appliance reviews and an “All About” section that highlights a specific food and tells just about all you’d ever need to know.  What I like about the issues is that they don’t rely a lot on hard to find ingredients, so you can usually whip something up.

5.  Which 5 people would you most like to see fill this out in their blog?
Nic – Baking Sheet
Moira – Who Wants Seconds?
Orion – The Confabulist
Jennifer – The Domestic Goddess
Angela – A Spoonful of Sugar

Blue Rare & Beyond

This is a little taste of the steak tartare that I’ve always known to be my Grandmothers.  I’m sure it seems yucky to some of you, but it’s just something that I grew up with.  It might not be your standard comfort food, but piled atop fresh white bread it’s one of the best things around.   

To make this batch I bought a sirloin from Hoven Farms at the Farmers Market and had them double grind it for me.  They trim all your meat right there in front of you.  What a great place! 

To make it I add all the seasonings to taste, so no two batches are alike.  Throw in salt, pepper, lemon juice, 1 egg, Maggi seasoning and lots of diced onion.  Then, if you have the patience, I let it sit in the fridge for awhile.  It does taste better when the flavors have had a chance to mingle a bit.

Be brave, give it a try.  You just might like it.

Downtown Dining Week

Downtown Dining Week is running in Calgary from March 3-12 and it features numerous restaurants located in and around the downtown area.  All those participating have set menus for lunch and dinner for $15 and $25.  And to make it extra easy for all us epicures to shop around, the website lists the restaurants and their menus. What a fantastic idea to promote the downtown dining scene.  Let us eat!

Eager to get started, I hauled my faithful companion Lisa for dinner at Simone’s Café on Thursday night.  The menu looked appealing, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was the sticky toffee pudding that sold me on the venue. 

The restaurant is located in a rather industrialized area just off the train tracks on 10th Avenue, between two empty parking lots.  This was a rather unexpected location, but once inside, its surroundings were completely forgotten.  The décor was upscale and trendy with various works on display from local artists. 

The Dining Week menu was comprised of an appetizer, a choice of three entrees, and of course the dessert.  We ordered drinks (which were Coke, not wine, sorry) and placed our orders for dinner.  We checked out some of the art and watched a couple of trains as they went by.  Let me tell you those trains are close, and there’s no doubt that in the case of a derailment the entire building would be completely leveled.  Well, there’s nothing like living on the edge.

The appetizer was a tomato, red onion and basil bruschetta served on a toasted bun. It was slightly heavy on garlic, but still fresh tasting.  The dish was well plated and overall it was enjoyable. 

For the main course I ordered the pork tenderloin in a port fig demi-glace and Lisa ordered the chicken and prawn in the creamy lime sauce.  Our orders arrived in a timely fashion and were well presented.  The pork was served cut into 4 portions, specifically 3 medallions and a 4th much larger cut with roasted potatoes and steamed vegetables.  The vegetables and potatoes were good but the pork was very poorly prepared.  The larger portion was very rare, while the medallions which were about ¼ the size, were completely dried out and tough.  The fig and port demi-glaze was a disappointment as well, and could better have been described as simple chopped figs. 

The dessert (to their credit) was a huge improvement.  The sticky toffee pudding was a gooey brown-sugar cake that resembled a cross between pound cake and fudge.  It was amazing.  Oh no, wait.  After a few bites, Lisa discovered that hers had pieces of parchment paper stuck to it in several places.  Come on guys!   

I’d have to say that my experience at Simone’s Bistro was not a superb one.  The decor was commendable and one of the waiters (who unfortunately wasn’t ours) was positively charming, but after checking out their regular menu there’s no way the food is worthy of the price.  As well, our waiter was not overly friendly or organized.  He visited our table twice to refill coffee, but left our empty dessert plates at the table both times.  In the end it was the other waiter that ended up clearing our dishes. 

In my personal, and certainly unprofessional opinion if a restaurant is going to participate in this type of event they should be striving to entice their guests, and should be prepared to go the extra mile to sell themselves.  So given that expectation, I was especially unimpressed by their efforts. 

If only there wasn’t that sublime sticky toffee pudding.