Calgary's Pig & Pinot Festival on Jun 15!

>> Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Just the other day I was chatting with some of my friends about Calgary’s bustling food scene and how I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to have seen those changes and share my stories throughout the years. I was telling them about how I still remember one of the first events I attended when I was just starting to explore the culinary world which was the Pig and Pinot Festival!

I’m so glad to see that the festival has been such a success year over year and now is in it’s 7th year of supporting CalgaryMeals on Wheels. Hosted by City Palate the festival allows guests to sample multiple succulent pork dishes made with Spragg’s Meat free range pork paired with different pinot wines from 12 chef teams and sommeliers representing Calgary’s wonderful restaurants. You really get an appreciation for how wine brings out different flavours of each dish and there are few things in this world that beats a good wine and food pairing!

The event also hosts a silent auction and this year the items will be highlighting Canada’s 150th! Along with that one of the chef teams will be awarded the coveted “Divine Swine” trophy. I’m excited to see what they will be cooking up and pouring for the event this year.


I still remember what a great experience it was for me that first time (and every time since) because my girlfriend and I were supposed to meet up for dinner but at the last minute decided to attend the event instead and ended up having a wonderful girl’s night!

If you’re interested, the event will be held on Thursday June 15 this year from 7-10pm at Hotel Arts. Links to the tickets and additional info can be found here!  

*Photos from City Palate

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White Chocolate Toasted Coconut Popcorn Recipe

>> Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Spring is definitely in the air. The bulbs are starting to come out on our trees and soon the flowers will going to be making their appearance. Now that Easter has passed everybody's probably itching to get their garden started and planning for summer. But wait! What do you do with all that extra Easter chocolate? Well if you have a bunch of white chocolate lying around. I've got the recipe for you. 

White Chocolate Toasted Coconut Popcorn! It would work with milk chocolate too but I find that white chocolate is a bit lighter  which seems to fit this weather a bit better. Here is my recipe and I hope you enjoy whether it be at the park or in your backyard soaking up the warm sun. Hope you can put your Easter chocolate to use!



White Chocolate Toasted Coconut Popcorn Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup Popcorn Kernels or already popped options like SkinnyPop Popcorn
1/2 cup White chocolate chips
1/2 cup Unsweetened coconut flakes




Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prep a flat sheet pan and spread the coconut flakes evenly on the baking sheet.

Leave in for roughly 10 mins or until the coconut flakes start to turn brown. 

Meanwhile, pour popcorn kernels in popcorn popper as per machine instructions or if using SkinnyPop Popcorn you can skip this step!

Microwave the white chocolate chips until melted approximately 30 seconds.

Slowly drizzle the melted chocolate over the popcorn until evenly distributed.

Mix in the toasted coconut flakes all over the popcorn so that it adheres to the melted white chocolate.

And that’s it! A simple but tasty recipe for all to enjoy!



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Truffled Mushroom Risotto

>> Thursday, April 6, 2017


A guilty pleasure of mine is watching cooking competitions, but not just any cooking competition. I watch Top Chef, Masterchef and all that, but I quite enjoy watching the original Australian version of My Kitchen Rules. I’m not sure why, probably because their catch phrases make me giggle. My husband and I always joke about how we would act and react if we were on the show. Since there always seems to be something going wrong in the kitchen.

Although we’d probably never go on a cooking show, it’s still fun to cook together at home and we often do. Trying different recipes and going outside the box to make dishes to see how we can handle cooking different cuisines. One dish that often seems to cause issues is a risotto dish. I can see why since people all like their risotto a little different, more or less runny, al dente, etc. Plus it would be hard to get it right for a large group of people if you’re not serving it straight out of the pan. Once risotto cools a bit it automatically turns gluggy.


So the other day I was craving risotto after watching an episode of MKR and decided to whip some up, expecially since I recently was sent a lovely bottle of truffle extract. What better way to use up some truffles that in a lovely Mushroom Risotto. Here is my recipe below, I thought it was lovely right off the stove top…but not sure how it’d handle being served to a group or a team of judges. Luckily for me I’m not going to be needing to worry about that, just about how great it tastes when I gobble it up!

Truffled Mushroom Risotto Recipe


Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped
A handful of cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1-2 tbsp Bitarome truffle extract*
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper


Preparation:

In a medium skillet, warm up 1 tbsp of oil over medium heat and stir in the onions.

Let the onions cooks until translucent, approximately 8-10 mins.

Stir in the mushrooms and let them cook down for another 3 mins.

Spread the mixture to the side of the skillet and add in the rice. Cook for roughly 2 mins. This allows the rice to slightly crisp on the outside and create that al dente texture.

Pour in the white wine to deglaze the pan and stir until the wine evaporates.

Add in the truffle extract as well and also cook out the alcohol in the extract.

Scoop in 1/2 cup of the broth and slowly stir the rice so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.

Keep adding stock once the rice starts to absorb the liquid. Add a bit at a time to allow the flavour to develop in the risotto. Don’t add too much at a time to prevent the rice from being overcooked. Adding about 1/2 cup of liquid a time allows you to control the consistency of the risotto.

Once the consistency of the risotto is what you’d like or try some (best way to cook!), remove from the stove and finish with the butter. Stir in the butter and let it melt. If you choose to use cheese as well you can shave some over top or mix it in.

Flavour with salt and pepper to taste and serve with your favorite protein or on its own. You can also top with additional truffle oil to really bring out the truffle flavour!


*Bitarome truffle extract provided by Qualifirst

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Restaurant Review: Hayden Block Smoke & Whiskey

>> Thursday, March 23, 2017

It feels like BBQ season is just around the corner and I can’t wait! After being cooped up inside all winter long, I’m extremely excited to break out the grill and whip up some favorite BBQ recipes of mine. Although we’re not quite there yet…almost. For the time being, to satisfy my BBQ cravings I’ve been heading down to Hayden Block to get my fill!

Atmosphere: Pub style interior with long benches perfect for larger groups or chatting up your neighbour!

Price Range: Mid $10s


Food & Drinks: The menu at Hayden Block is split between either 1/2 lb orders for specific cuts of meat versus single orders of their chicken, short rib or hot link aka sausage. It’s a great way to sample all the items on the menu if you’re not sure what to order. Their items are all smoked for 14 hours using a dry rub. If you like your BBQ ‘wet’, they offer different BBQ sauces to mix and match for all your dipping needs.

We decided to start with the Brisket (you can’t go to a BBQ place and not get the brisket!), the Pork Spare Ribs, and the Hot Link with sides of Cornbread, Coleslaw and Green Beans. The brisket came in nice thick slices and had wonderful flavour. I liked that it was tender but had a nice texture to it. It was delicious on its own but would probably be equally wonderful in a sandwich. The ribs also used their signature dry rub, although I’m personally enjoy ribs that are smothered in sauce, I didn’t mind these because you could taste the smokiness of them.


Surprisingly one of my faves for the evening was the hot link, which had a perfect ratio of fat and spices to the meat. Often sausages can be salty and overwhelming after a couple bites, but these were different. They were tasty without being heavy. We contemplated ordering another link however there was still more on the menu to taste!

The sides are a must to put a bit of a breather between all the meat heavy components of our meal. Coleslaw and cornbread is quintessential, being as much a BBQ necessity as ribs and brisket. The green beans were crunchy and sweet. All in all good accompaniments which lots of other selection available as well.

We decided to add an order of the Smoked Wings as well and they were delicious! They brine them for 24 hours which really packs in the flavour. They’re also on special every Wednesday for half off which makes them an even better deal!


To top off the evening, we had to try their Pecan Pie. It’s the proverbial icing on the cake. Nothing better than finishing the meal off with something sweet and sugary. The chewy center was perfectly balanced with the crunchy pecans and the sweet whipped cream on the side.

My Picks: Smoked Wings, Hot Link

Overall: With different daily specials, you can always count on Hayden Block to satisfy your BBQ needs. I’m looking forward to heading back for their wings and also try out other items on their BBQ menu such as the pulled pork and the short ribs! Also while you’re there don’t forget to check out their whiskey menu such as the smokey old fashioned, lovely twist on the original. They do have whiskey in their name for a reason.

Hayden Block Smoke & Whiskey
1136 Kensington Road NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 283-3021
Website: haydenblockyyc.com

Hayden Block Smoke & Whisky Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Big Taste Calgary 2017

>> Monday, March 6, 2017

Wow, it feels like I blinked and its already March! Although here in Calgary snow is still on the ground making it feel more like winter so it’ll probably be a while before it actually feels like spring. Luckily for us the Big Taste Festival - Calgary's dining week is currently on making it a great time to get out and try a new restaurant! Even amongst this cold weather.

The Big Taste festival runs from March 3-12 this year and has many of Calgary's downtown restaurants showcasing some of their delicious cuisines through specialized set lunch and dinner menus or through special Big Taste events! For a full listing of the restaurants involved check out the Downtown Calgary website.

I'm always excited to try out the menus each year and have a couple reservations made for the upcoming week (reservations are highly recommended!). To kick start our dining journey we stopped by Buchanan's Chophouse for their delicious 3 course menu.


Buchanan's offered 2 options for each course, which allows you to pick and choose the dish to satisfy your cravings. For the first course it was a choice of either a Cajun Seafood Chowder or Sweet Chili Glazed Pork Belly with Mixed Green Salad. I opted for the latter because who doesn’t love a good pork belly dish? The sauce was sweet and tangy which helped cut through the fattiness of the pork. The lightly dressed greens were also refreshing. I did wish that the pork belly was a bit more tender but aside from that thought it was a great start to the meal.

Next was a choice between the New York Steak with red wine balsamic peppercorn reduction, fresh seasonal vegetables, Yukon gold mashed potatoes or Charbroiled Spring Salmon Filet with wasabi cilantro vinaigrette, curried rice and fresh seasonal vegetables. Since we were at a chophouse, I decided on the NY strip and was not disappointed. The steak was cooked perfectly to order with a good amount of seasoning. I enjoyed all the accompaniments, especially the creamy mashed potatoes. Sometimes you just can’t beat a good meat and potatoes dish especially when paired with a glass of Bordeaux.


Finally for dessert it was either the Sticky Toffee Pudding or Apple Crumble with vanilla ice cream. I went with a combo of the two choosing the sticky toffee pudding with an extra scoop of ice cream on the side. The pudding was covered with a lovely caramel sauce which I couldn’t stop swooning over. I was extremely happy that I added the ice cream because it did help balance out the pudding itself which was quite sweet due to all the chunky dates. Although the sweetness did go quite nicely with a cup of coffee to end the evening.

Overall we were quite satisfied with our selection and was happy that we made it out to kick start the first day of the Big Taste! I’m looking forward to our other meals this week and am debating whether I should check out more places before I blink again and it’s all over. Be sure to make your reservations if you’re interested because the Big Taste ends soon and the reservations are already booking up quick!

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