"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Happy Hour - Cosmopolitan

The Cosmopolitan is a classic cocktail that happened to become very popular in the 90s.  I think it's time for a comeback!

Don't worry, it's not too sweet.  It's actually a vodka sour, quite boozy, with an awesome pink hue from the small amount of cranberry juice. 

It's super refreshing and easy to make so I highly recommend mixing some up for your next party or night in.  

Here's what you need:

1 1/2 oz vodka (or citrus vodka if you have it)
1/2 oz triple sec (or Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
1/2 oz cranberry juice
1/4 oz fresh lime juice
lime twist for garnish

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, mix all ingredients and shake until cold. 
Pour into a martini glass and garnish with a twist of lime peel.

If you double the recipe you can make two at once, or make a whole bunch in advance for a party!  Cheers!  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Road Trip - Alberta, Canada

This past year Matt and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary!  The year we got engaged, and exactly a year before our wedding, we traveled to Alberta and drove the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, and then drove through British Columbia to Whistler, Vancouver, and back to Calgary via Kelowna.  It was a beautiful trip and we decided to recreate part of it for our 10th anniversary.  We traveled in September and it's taken me all this time to blog about it! 

If you've never seen the Rocky Mountains, put it on your bucket list.  We've lived our lives in Ontario which has plenty of natural beauty, but the Rockies are at a whole other level.  Whether you are an avid hiker or less physically inclined, there's so much to see and do in the mountains.  

On this trip, we arrived in Calgary on a beautiful early fall day. We explored Prince's Island Park, a wonderful urban oasis.  

We had coffee and played some board games at Hexagon Boardgame Cafe in Kensington Village.  

We had a very special dinner at Model Milk in Calgary with family.  We started with with wonderful cocktails, fricassee of calamari, scallops and grits and a baked oyster. 

For entrees we had lamb, rabbit and duck.  Dessert was an outstanding apple pie with cheddar crust.  I'd say this was one of the best meals we've ever had in a restaurant, and the service was great too!  

We also explored the town of Cochrane, Alberta, just outside Calgary.  They have a new brewery called Half Hitch Brewing that was just opening when we were there so we had to try it!

Then it was time to head for the mountains!  We left early in the morning to drive to Lake Louise. Seeing the foothills change to mountains on the highway is an amazing experience!

We arrived in Lake Louise and took the gondola to the top of the mountain. The views are spectacular. Lake Louise itself is always packed with tourists, but it's lovely.  You can rent a canoe here for an exorbitant price, but we moved along to somewhere even prettier. 

Moraine Lake is one of my favourite places in the Rockies. It used to be on the Canadian twenty dollar bill. It is less crowded than Lake Louise, and the glacial water is even more blue. There's a short, easy trail for different views of the lake. 

We stayed the night in Banff and had some food and drinks, but nothing memorable. The streets and restaurants were crowded with tourists.  I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. 

The next morning we were headed to Jasper. We made a stop to hike in Johnston Canyon, then headed to the Icefields Parkway. 

In Jasper we stayed at the Mount Robson Inn, which was a great choice. We were so happy that Jasper was just as wonderful as we remembered. The townsite is inside Jasper National Park and is surrounded by mountains. Its not as busy as Banff and Lake Louise, but even more beautiful, in my opinion.  

It's also full of wildlife!  This elk greeted us on the road into town.  When we were walking home at night we encountered a female elk in someone's front yard.  It was rutting season when we were there, and we would hear the elk screeching in the night. It was very unnerving at first, but pretty neat once we realized what it was. 

Jasper is beautiful and there's tons to do. But even just driving around is enough to find some gorgeous sights. 

One of the best views was on the Path of the Angel Glacier. The road to the glacier itself was closed, but we had a fantastic view just off the road. 

There was a sign warning of bears, particularly one that does not yield the trail to hikers! But we didn't see any bears during our trip.

Back near Jasper we drove to Lake Annette (above) and Lake Edith for more gorgeous views. The weather was beautiful. We rented a boat on Pyramid Lake and walked to Pyramid Island for more beautiful views. 

Then we drove to Miette Hot Springs, and saw a herd of bighorn sheep on the way.  We made it to the hot springs right before a large school group, so we were lucky!  The drive was beautiful and swimming in the hot springs in the cool mountain air was a great experience. 

The next day we drove all the way to British Columbia to see Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies.  The mountain is beautiful and so was the drive. 

We also visited Reargaurd Falls at the base of the mountain, an easy and pretty hike. 

That afternoon we headed back to Jasper and on to Maligne Lake.  It's an hour drive from Jasper but the drive is scenic, of course.  

We took a boat cruise to Spirit Island, a tiny island in Maligne lake that is one of the most photographed places in the Rockies.  

The boat ride was definitely worth it. On the way back we heard there are a lot of moose in the area and I was very excited hoping to see one. 

Well we saw three! First we saw a female laying in the grass.

Then we saw a male and female moose crashing through the woods at the side of the road!  We didn't get a good shot of the male.  You can just make out his antlers in the picture above.

But the female was very close to the car. 

It was amazing to see them so close.  The experience of a lifetime. 

On the way back down the Icefields Parkway we made one last stop at Peyto Lake.  It's a bit of an uphill hike, and it was snowing in the mountains, but it is stunning. 

We arrived back in Calgary and checked in to Hotel Le Germain for our last night in Alberta, which was also our 10th anniversary!  This is a much fancier hotel than we usually stay at, and it was a very special treat.  We loved the room furnishings and breakfast the next morning was fabulous!

For our anniversary we stopped by Catch Oyster Bar for oysters and sparkling wine, which was a decadent way to start the evening.  Then we walked to Proof cocktail bar for fantastic craft cocktails. 

Finally, we had our anniversary dinner at Charcut, a famous Calgary restaurant that was right inside our hotel.  I had butcher steak with chimichurri and wild arugula.  Matt had bison brisket with mushrooms and boar bacon.  And we shared poutine.  It was way too much food but so delicious!  

At the end of the meal they gave us a lovely dessert, even though we were too full to eat it. We had an amazing anniversary and flew home the next day.

The Rocky Mountains are amazing and I wish everyone in Canada could experience them at least once.  We were so happy that Jasper was still such a wonderful place.  Banff has more shopping and restaurants, but Jasper is friendlier and more beautiful.  I hope it won't be another 10 or 11 years before we return!  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Larb! (Laotian Ground Chicken & Rice)

Larb doesn't sound like the most appetizing name for a dish, but this dish is truly fantastic. It's easy, cheap, filling, endlessly customizable and tastes delicious. 

Larb is a traditional dish of Laos, in Southeast Asia.  This version isn't traditional, but it has the qualities of Larb and is so simple. 

All you really need is ground chicken and rice, and any additional veggies you like. The simple sauce is sweet and tart, made with easy-to-find Asian ingredients.  It's awesome. 

Pickled onions add some crunchy tang to the ground meat and rice. 

You can serve the larb over rice or along with rice in boston lettuce leaves.

Either way this dish is a winner.  You can adjust the spice level with more or less chilis, add mushrooms and/or greens, or any other veggies you like.  My favourite addition is water chestnuts - I love the crunchy texture. 

Here's what you need...

1/2 a medium red onion
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lb (around 500g) ground chicken (you can also use ground turkey, pork or beef)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small hot peppers, minced 
1 bunch green onions, sliced
4 tablespgroons soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon Sambal Oelek (chili garlic sauce)
Butter or Boston lettuce leaves for serving
Cilantro for serving
Lime wedges for serving

Optional additions:
Finely chopped mushrooms (cooked with the ground chicken)
Chopped greens such as bok choy, kale, or spinach (added with the sauce and wilted)
Chopped water chestnuts 

First steam some rice and make quick pickled onions by thinly slicing half a red onion and soaking it in rice vinegar while everything cooks.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and add the ground chicken, breaking it up and cooking until no longer pink.  Add the garlic chili peppers and white parts of the green onions and continue to cook until the liquid evaporates and the chicken starts to brown. 

Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar and sambal oelek, stirring to combine.  Add the green parts of the green onions and any other additions (leafy greens, water chestnuts) and cook until liquid is mostly evaporated. 

Serve over rice, topped with pickled onions, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.  Even better, serve it all wrapped in lettuce leaves. 


Friday, January 13, 2017

The Beer Baron - Get It While You Can: Oskar Blues Ten FIDY

Do you like stout? Do you like things that are awesome? If so, please stop reading this and head over to the LCBO website to check to see if there is any Oskar Blues Ten FIDY left at a store close to you. Yes, it is just a little can. And yes, it is $4.85 for that little can -- but it won’t be around for long and you’ve probably had coffees that cost that much.

Now that I’ve said the important part and assuaged any guilt I might feel if you don’t get any Ten FIDY, let’s move on with some context: Ten FIDY is a Russian Imperial Stout (which I’ve lovingly written about in the past) from Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado. It has a near-perfect score of 100 overall / 98 style on Ratebeer. It was among the first really epic craft beers to be available in a can. And before now, it has never been available in Ontario.

So, what’s it like?

It’s the Chewbacca of beers, that’s what. 

It is strong (10.5% abv), powerful but friendly, dark, wonderful, aromatic and it comes out of a grey 
metal object -- like the Millennium Falcon -- that some people might underestimate at their own peril. Also, if you have too much of it, I have to assume it would rip your arms off.

Geekery aside, we are lucky to have Ten FIDY at the LCBO. It has a viscous pour like engine oil, a beautiful dark brown head, aromas of roasted malts, vanilla and toffee, a deliciously sticky smooth mouthfeel, and tastes of bitter chocolate, dark roast coffee and molasses that would embarrass any $4.85 drink from Starbucks.

So, a high five to Oskar Blues for sending their delicious Ten FIDY up to Ontario. Get it while you can (that’s a pun because it comes in a can) because it won’t last long.

This post comes from Matt, the Beer Baron and you can find him on Twitter & Instagram @geekcanuck

Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy Hour - Hot Toddy

Is this a cocktail or is it medicine?  Many cocktails were created to be medicinal and a Hot Toddy is often said to "cure" a cold or flu.  Speaking from personal experience I can say it does relieve cold symptoms!  

The heat of the drink can clear sinuses and, along with the honey, ease a sore throat.  The lemon is good for vitamin C, and the bourbon just makes you feel better in general before helping you get to sleep.

This drink couldn't be easier, so even someone weak from a cold can handle the recipe. 

Simply stir bourbon, lemon juice and honey with hot water until the honey melts, and drink while relaxing. 

Hot toddies are sometimes made with other whiskey, rum or even brandy. You can use whichever you  prefer or have on hand. Personally, I love the sweetness of bourbon in this drink. 

Here's my recipe but feel free to adjust to your own taste:

2 oz bourbon
1 tablespoon honey
1 oz lemon juice
1/2  cup hot water (just below boiling)

Stir together all ingredients in a large mug until the honey is melted.  Top with a slice of lemon if desired.