A Night with Lynn Crawford and Catelli Ancient Grains Pasta!

>> Thursday, March 26, 2015

 
Last week I had the honor of attending a special event hosted by Lynn Crawford and Catelli introducing the Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains Pasta collection. I’ve used Catelli Healthy Harvest pasta in many of my dishes before and was looking forward to testing out this new version in their product line. The difference between this new variation (which is only available in Western Canada for the time being) and what they offered before is due to the 5 ancient grains, so called due to the fact that they’ve been around for a very long time and is used in many various recipes around the world. (Contest to win a year's supply of Catelli Ancient Grains Pasta at the end of the post!)

The most familiar of them all would be Quinoa, all the rage right now due to its heart healthy aspects. The other four ‘supergrains’ are slightly more mysterious to us but has been a large part of staple diets in African and Native American cultures. Amaranth has been used by the Aztec civilization for a millennia. They would create sculptures of the gods from Amaranth and later break them apart and share it amongst the community as a type of communion. Amaranth like quinoa is rich in protein and key vitamins and minerals.

 
Teff is mostly used in Ethiopia, some people might have tried it without knowing. If you’re familiar with injera, the spongy bread served as a side at Ethiopian restaurants, than you’ve eaten the ground up version of teff. Normally they’re poppy sized grains that can come in a variety of colors. It has a mild nutty flavour and is a great source of protein, calcium and iron.

Sourghum is a staple food source in Northern Africa. It can be milled in to flour similar to all the other grains highlighted here and can be squeezed to make syrup similar to molasses. It’s naturally gluten free and has a nutty flavour perfect for pasta. The fact that it’s also a great source of vitamins and minerals such as B6, thiamin and magnesium making it a great option for those looking to boost their vitamin intake.

 
Last but not least, there’s Millet, often associated to bird seed due to its grain size, when cooked millet produces an amazing fluffy texture similar to that of mashed potatoes. Although it looks small in size, don’t doubt its healthful benefits, it packs a punch with providing heart healthy properties.

Although I’ve heard of these amazing grains I’ve never actually cooked with any except quinoa, so I was extremely excited to taste the ancient grains pasta. We got the opportunity to sample the pasta on its own, without any accompaniments to fully appreciate the nuttiness all those ancient grains provided. The pasta was cooked with various times to allow us to choose the perfect al dente chew we preferred. My favorite was the 6 min cook on the pasta (there was 6, 7 and 9 min), although still quite chewy. I believe after the pasta is mixed with a sauce or dressing for a salad, it would help soften it a bit further without losing that al dente mouthfeel. However, it is all a personal choice at this point!

 
Lynn Crawford provided some great tips on how to cook pasta and some things never to do and watching her demonstration was definitely a fun time. She cracks me up plus her pasta dishes were divine! Here are some things I hope you’re already doing in your kitchens:

• Salt the water thoroughly to ensure the pasta picks up flavour while simmering
• Use a large pot to avoid sticking and skip the oil which will prevent the pasta from picking up sauces
• NEVER rinse your pasta afterwards – a huge no no because you get rid of all that rich starch which in turn helps thicken up sauces


Afterwards we also got the opportunity to try our hands at making the Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing using Catelli Ancient Grains Spaghettini noodles. It was extremely fresh and a great way to showcase the pasta aside from the usual pasta sauce.

Overall, I had a great time learning about all the ancient grains and watching Chef Crawford do her thing! I can’t wait to experiment with the pasta myself to see what other unique creations I can come up with, but for now here’s the recipe we tested that evening, with a few slight tweaks I made on how to combine the dish, I hope you enjoy!

 
Pasta Salad Ingredients:

1 pkg Catelli Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains Spaghettini
2 cups snow peas, thinly sliced
1 cup shelled edamame beans
1 small English cucumber, thinly sliced
2 cups napa cabbage, finely shredded
3 stalks green onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp black sesame seeds
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, thinly diced

Vinaigrette Ingredients:
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
3 tbsp canola oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
wasabi powder to taste

Preparation:

Start a pot of water boiling and add in a generous amount of salt (think ocean salty).

Add in pasta and cook accordingly to package directions. Remove from water and set aside to cool – DO NOT RINSE!

In a mason jar, mix together all the ingredients for the vinaigrette dressing. Shake until well combined.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the noodles with the dressing until well incorporated. Toss in the snow peas, edamame, cucumber, cabbage, green onions, and black sesame seeds.

Thinly slice the avocado and set aside.

Plate the salad in to individual portions and garnish with avocado slices and cilantro leaves.

Or if saving for later, store in an air tight container and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

Makes 4-6 servings

 
 
For those that are interested, please comment below or email me your contact info for a chance to Win A Full Year's Supply of Catelli Ancient Grains Pasta! Good Luck!!!
 

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Restaurant Review: Rodney's Oyster House

>> Tuesday, March 17, 2015

 
Both my husband and I love seafood, although to be honest, I don’t think I know anybody that loves seafood as much as he does. I am still shocked to this day how much shellfish that man can stomach in one sitting. It’s quite amazing. So when I heard that Rodney’s was opening a location here in Calgary, I couldn’t wait to check it out with whom else, my husband.

Atmosphere: Bright and open the space is able to transport you mentally to a seaside town by the ocean and far from land locked Calgary.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20s


Food & Wine: We’ve been back several times since they first opened and the food has been consistently amazing. The shellfish is always fresh, which is extremely important when you’re enjoying rare oysters. Although it’s tough deciding on which items to order since everything is delicious. We usually tend to start with some fresh oysters. For those that aren’t quite certain of their taste for rare oysters, I suggest staying with the East Coast options, which tend to have a mild briney flavour and are less chewy in texture. Village Bay, Ruisseau and the Raspberry Point were my favourites. Since they’re all less robust in flavour I can easily choose any of the ones on the list.

As for West Coast Oysters, they’ve definitely got a creamier texture to them. My favourite west coast selection is the Kusshi, smaller and out of Vancouver Island, they have a nice briney flavour and a lingering taste. I also enjoy all the sauces that Rodney’s provide. It’s fun to mix and match the different flavours to see which combo works best for you. I’m still somewhat traditional and one of my favourite combos is horse radish, mignonette, tabasco and a squeeze of lemon. If you’re a fan of spicy foods, then give the “Back From Hell” a try. My husband and I really enjoy it but be careful if you’re not used to super spicy foods.


If you’re looking for more shellfish, the Mussels are a great appetizer in addition to the oysters. They come in an amazing garlicky white wine sauce which is perfect for dipping your bread. The mussels themselves are super sweet and meaty. The server told us it was roughly a pound of mussels, but I’m not certain if it’s because of the size of each mussel, but it sure seemed like there was more.

Another great option is the Soft Shell Steamers, which are a bit larger than your typical clam but just as if not even more sweet than normal. Be sure to have the server show you have to eat them since they have a membrane surrounding them which needs to be removed or else it makes the whole clam extremely chewy. Although we were hoping for the Quahogs (an even bigger clam), but they were out the last couple times, now that we know they have the soft shell steamer clams, we’d definitely order these again.

 
Next up was the Clam Chowder, easily the most notorious dish at any seafood restaurant. The clam chowder by far one of the most ordered items off the menu. Here at Rodney’s they have both the New England (cream based) and Manhattan (tomato based) versions. We’re both partial to the New England version and ordered a large bowl to share. I really liked the creaminess of the soup, but more so how many clams there actually was in the chowder. I’m not a huge fan of too many potatoes so I found that Rodney’s version had a nice balance of the ingredients.

For our main we had the Fish Hot Pot, which isn't a traditional hot pot with boiling water and a mini stove top aka Asian style, but its more reminiscent of a cioppino with a bit of each type of seafood. My only qualm with the dish was that it was quite a bit smaller than what the description led us to believe, but aside from that all the ingredients were perfectly cooked and extremely fresh.


We couldn't leave without a bit of dessert and had the Lime Pie, which isn't in the form of your typical pie, but more of a trifle. The lime custard was extremely smoothly with just the right amount of tartness, when mixed in with the gram crumble and whipped topping it really pulled the 'pie' together.

If you’re looking for some wine to accompany your meal, I would suggest a nice white or even some bubbles so the delicate seafood flavours aren’t overwhelmed by the robustness of the alcohol. For those that enjoy their cocktails, they serve a bourbon iced tea, which reminds me of a sweet old fashioned or try the Rodney’s Caesar which comes with a shrimp as well!


My Picks: Oysters, Mussels, Soft Shell Steamers

Overall: We’ve had great means at various Rodney’s across the country and are glad to report that the food in Calgary does not disappoint. If you too are a seafood lover then you really can’t go wrong at Rodney’s. There are so many great dishes to try and even when you think you’ve had them all, they offer daily features which can definitely switch things up. Just make sure to make reservations so you can avoid the wait.

Rodney’s Oyster House
355 10 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 460-0026
Website: rodneysoysterhousecalgary.com

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A Quick Bite at Corbeaux Bakehouse

>> Friday, February 27, 2015

 
As someone who celebrated the Flames Stanley Cup run in 2004, I was shocked to hear that Melrose Café closed their doors on the infamous red mile. It truly was an end to an era and it was a surprise to everyone who has ever frequented the establishment. However, with all change it always opens its doors to new opportunities and ventures. So when we heard that they were opening a bakery where Melrose used to be. It was quite the surprise. However, after visiting the new Corbeaux Bakery and seeing all the hustle and bustle of the packed café. One can say that Calgarians definitely embraced the new change, showcasing how much our city has evolved over the last couple years.

When you first step in to Corbeaux, you could hardly even recognize what the space used to be. Featuring a large bakery display with many delectable desserts and pastries, a large open dining area and coffee bar, the designers did a great job of transforming the restaurant part of the old Melrose in to a cozy and contemporary café establishment. There is the option of ordering straight from the bar or having a sit down meal which includes a separate menu. Since we were there for a quick snack, we decided to order from the bar. It’s debating which item to order that was the difficult part, since everything looked beyond wonderful.


After a bit of confusion due to the relatively new staff trying to get their bearings on the constant influx of customers, we were able to get a table and enjoy our afternoon snack. We started with one of their gourmet sandwiches made from their delicious baguettes with bacon, ham, cheese, arugula and grainy mustard. The bread was chewy and the sandwich itself was very flavourful, helped that the cheese was warm and gooey making the bite perfect. Next up I had to order the Almond Crossiant, which was covered with marzipan and almond flakes. Ripping off a piece (just like how the French do it…when eating a French pastry right?), I could already feel the flakiness of the pastry and couldn’t wait to taste it. As suspected, it was buttery and soft with a nice chew covered with almond goodness. A Fratello cappuccino was the perfect drink to wash it all down.



My husband ordered the Lemon Curd Danish and although I’m not usually one for citrus desserts, I couldn’t help but try it since the custard looked amazing. The pastry was crisp and crumbly, the curd was slightly tart, not overpowering but just enough to give it that lemony zing. My husband really enjoyed it and surprisingly so did I. We also took a quick peek at their serviced menu and were intrigued by some of the dishes that were offered. We’ll definitely have to stop by again at a later date, possibly also at a later time to avoid the crowds. Apparently the counter service is open till midnight if you’re also looking for a late night bite.


I’m happy to live in a city that continues to evolve and change. These last couple years in Calgary have been some of the most exciting for me, seeing all the new restaurants, public art pieces and development in the city has really brought Calgary forward as the new up and comer. 17th Avenue is no longer just the street for bars and pubs, but an area with distinctive culture and artistic flare. Closing of Melrose and modifying it to a busy café was really just the beginning. Here’s looking forward to what else this city has in store for us and I believe we’re all excited.

Corbeaux Bakehouse
730 17 Ave SW
Calgary, AB
(403) 474-9214
Website: corbeaux.com

Corbeaux Bakehouse on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: The Nash

>> Friday, February 20, 2015


We were lucky enough to be one of the first individuals to see the new Nash in Inglewood last year and after sampling some of the delicious menu items I couldn’t wait to go back for more. So for a girls night out we decided to drop in for a bite or two.

Atmosphere: Amazing contrast between the dark cool colors of the Off Cut Bar and the bright open dining area of The Nash, featuring an open kitchen concept with unique décor from the original National Hotel.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $30+


Food and Wine: My friends and I love fresh baked bread and that was the first thing we ordered when we saw that it was available, so we could munch on it while we decided on the rest of our meal. The bread was made with grain flour that evening and had a nice outer crust and airy center. It went nicely with the homemade unsalted butter. To start we had the Brown Butter Gnochetti, which are smaller versions of gnocchi tossed with winter squash, sage and walnuts. The texture of the gnochetti was nice, slightly chewy and went well with the butter sauce. The squash and the sage helped cut through the slightly heavier sauce while the walnuts provided a nice crunch. Overall it was a notable way to begin our meal.

 
We also couldn’t pass on the Hand Cut Frites and Aioli and were glad that we didn’t. They were crispy and delicious. Each fry was cooked and seasoned perfectly. They were a great side and I would highly recommend them, especially if you needed something to accompany your drink. For my main, I ordered the Bison Flank Steak served with Brussels sprouts, onions and topped with a sweet bbq style glaze. The steak was cooked to perfection especially since bison tends to be a leaner meat, but I did find that it was slightly over seasoned. The sweetness of the sauce did help with the saltiness. The Brussels sprouts retained a good crunch and the onions also helped round out the flavours of the dish.

It was hard to pass over dessert, especially how intriguing they sounded. We finally decided on the Aerated Mascarpone Mousse which reminded me of an unbaked cheesecake. It came with a very tart cranberry sorbet to contrast the sugary spiced wafer and meringue. The server mentioned that everything on the plate was meant to be eaten together and not separately. So we made certain to get a bit of everything in each bite. Surprisingly everything managed to balance out, although we did end up with quite a bit of leftover sorbet. I’m personally not a huge fan of tart desserts so I definitely stuck more to the mascarpone cream which was extremely smooth. It hit the spot.



My Picks: Gnochetti

Overall: It’s great to see the old National hotel location transformed in to such a great restaurant space. I’m looking forward to going back to the Off Cut Bar to check out some of their unique cocktail offerings and definitely will grab another bite at the Nash to see what new and exciting changes they have planned.

The Nash Restaurant and Off Cut Bar
925 11 St SE
Calgary, AB
(403) 984-3365
Website: nashyyc.com

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Winefest Tickets Giveaway 2015!

>> Thursday, February 12, 2015

 
Its Winefest time again in Calgary, held at the Stampede Park BMO Building next weekend February 20 and 21. I have a set of tickets to give away for the Saturday February 21st Afternoon session from 2-5 p.m! So respond to this post and I’ll do a random draw next Wednesday for the winner.

For all of you that are interested, here’s a bit more information. Plus there are still additional tickets available for purchase during the Friday night session and the Saturday afternoon session.

Highly Anticipated Winefest Returns to Calgary

WHAT: Calgary’s all-inclusive wine event is back at the Stampede Park BMO Centre on February 20 – 21. Celebrating its 23rd year in Calgary, Winefest invites guests to sample from a wide selection of local and international wines from 16 of the world’s top wine regions. Wine experts will be on hand to share their knowledge and suggest tasting notes, as attendees sample their way from booth to booth. Attendees can nibble on a delicious selection of hors d’oeuvres from Stampede Catering, Springbank Cheese Company, Ollia Macarons & Tea, Rosso Coffee Roasters and Nefiss Lezizz.

During the event, attendees can stop by the on-site Sobeys Liquor store to purchase their favourite finds to enjoy at home. One ticket includes all-inclusive wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres, as well as a complimentary Riedel wine glass and Tasting Notebook.

WHO: Novice and seasoned wine lovers alike will enjoy a decadent afternoon or evening of all-inclusive wine tasting paired with delicious hors d’oeuvres. Winefest is a chance to enjoy a fun outing while discovering new wines and increasing wine knowledge.

WHY: Celebrate and sample from 266 wines from the world’s most renowned wine regions! Winefest is the perfect opportunity to ‘try before you buy’ and to discover new favourites in a casually refined atmosphere.

WHEN: February 20, 2015 7-10 p.m. Friday Evening Session
               February 21, 2015 2-5 p.m. Saturday Afternoon Session
               February 21, 2015 7-10 p.m. Saturday Evening Session *Sold out!

WHERE: Stampede Park BMO Centre, Hall E
                  20 Roundup Way
                 Calgary, AB T2G 2W1

TICKETS: Friday Evening Session - $85
                    Saturday Afternoon Session - $80
                    Saturday Evening Session - $85 *Sold out!

For ticket information visit:
http://www.celebratewinefest.com/calgary.html

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Restaurant Review: Lava Dining

>> Wednesday, February 4, 2015

 
Tucked away in Kensington is a relatively new restaurant featuring fusion cuisine with an Asian flare. I first found out about it when we were walking around the neighbourhood last year and when our friends asked about a new restaurant to try I suggested it. Needless to say I was quite excited when they came back and told me that the food was beyond amazing! I definitely had to check it out for myself.

Atmosphere: Contemporary and open, the space is really used to showcase the food itself.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $20+


Food and Wine: We decided to start with the Rare Seared Albacore Tuna Salad featuring a variety of fresh seasonal vegetables with a tarragon vinaigrette and garlic aioli. This wasn’t your typical tuna salad. The plate was stunning and beautifully arranged. You know what they say about eating with your eyes first. Luckily for us it was also extremely flavourful and refreshing. I really enjoyed the tarragon vinaigrette, which highlighted the taste of the tuna exceptionally well and all the different vegetables were a nice addition.

Next we had the Thai Chili Calamari which came on a bed of grape tomatoes and arugula salad with key lime vinaigrette. Again, this was another light dish since the calamari was grilled as opposed to deep fried. I really enjoy arugula and this was a good use of the peppery greens along with the tangy tomatoes and vinaigrette to tie the whole dish together.


We definitely had to try the Asian Sliders and ordered one of each. The Kakuni Pork Belly was my favorite since the extra fattiness from the pork belly itself provided that extra unctuousness to the steamed bun. Although the Braised Beef Short Rib was also quite tender and delicious. The short rib had a nice robust flavour blending well with the cucumber kimchi and jus. Lastly the Confit Duck Leg was an interesting choice and it reminded me of Peking Duck, the flavour profiles being very similar. I thoroughly enjoyed all of them, but did wish that there was a bit more greenery to cut through the heaviness of the sliders themselves.

For dessert we ordered the Lava Style Ice Cream Volcano which sounded quite exotic. It comes as your choice of different ice cream selections with a baked meringue and chocolate fudge sauce. We chose green tea and mango ice cream, which wasn’t an exact match but was what we were craving at the time. The ice creams were tasty and the dessert was satisfying, but we were expecting some sort of volcano or lava flow. Maybe that’s just the kid in me expecting a baking soda vinegar volcano, which probably wouldn't taste too good, but more so for effect.


We accompanied our meal with the Sumac Ridge Cabernet Merlot which is a blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot varietals. A medium bodied wine that features dark cherry notes and a smooth finish, it definitely held up well against all the different dishes we sampled that evening.

My Picks: Albacore Tuna Salad, Thai Chili Calamari

Overall: We were glad that we stopped by because all the dishes we sampled were delicious. It was a bonus that they’re using local ingredients and gluten free options are also available for those that require it. I’m glad that we saw it when we were strolling through the neighbourhood and like our friends we definitely enjoyed our meal.

Lava Dining
314D 10 Street NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 283-8608
Website: lavadining.ca

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Restaurant Review: Modern Steak

>> Friday, January 23, 2015


When I heard that Muse was closing, it was inevitable that I was saddened by the news. My husband and I have had some pretty spectacular meals there plus we celebrated our anniversary there making it extra special. An institution of sorts in Kensington, so when it was revealed that they were going to turn it in to a steakhouse, there were lots of skeptics. Saying Calgary already had too many steakhouses and don’t need another one. Well we are the province of steak and we’ve all got a penchant for it at heart. I was lucky enough to be able to attend a soft opening late last year and afterwards I couldn’t wait to bring my husband back to check out the newly renovated space and most importantly the updated menu.

Atmosphere: A contemporary space designed by the owner, really showcasing the beautiful split level design with lighter colors that really opens up the room.

Price Range: Mid $10s - $40s

 
Food and Wine: I had the honor of tasting their wonderful seafood selection the first time so I figured I’d stay with the steak and potatoes route this time order the Beef Tartare to start. Being a huge fan of tartares I’ve found that I’m very particular about the ingredients they use to flavour the meat. The version at Modern Steak was done perfectly. We really enjoyed the subtle tanginess which brought out the fresh flavours of the steak itself. The plate is served with house made salt and vinegar poplar bluff potato chips, but we opted to go with toasted crostinis which I found was easier to scoop up the tartare with and held up better as well. Although salt and vinegar chips are tasty!

I’m a sucker for Tenderloin and ordered the 8oz Heritage Natural Angus, which is sourced locally. All of the steaks come with a choice of side and I got the Sauteed Exotic Mushrooms. The steak was succulent and cooked to a perfect rare, I personally like my steaks rare especially when it’s tenderloin due to its lack of fat. I enjoyed that it also came with some roasted garlic which added some umami to the dish however I wouldn't have minded a bit more char on the exterior. Mushrooms were a classic choice, but the medley included crimini, shitaki and oyster mushrooms to change it up a bit.


The hubby ordered the Arctic Char served with crunchy Brussels sprouts, fingerling potatoes, capers and a pistachio lemon butter sauce. Everything on the dish complimented each other well. All of the ingredients were fresh and nicely cooked. The fish was extremely moist and flaky with a nice crispy skin. I liked the light but flavourful sauce, which didn’t overwhelm the fish. It’s definitely a great option for somebody looking for something aside from steak. We also ordered some Parmesan Fries and they were truly addicting. Each one was crispy and crunchy, it was hard not to eat them all except for the fact that I was already so full from everything else and I knew there was still dessert to be had.

We saw Cinnamon Bun on the dessert menu and could not pass it up and I’m glad that we didn’t. It was decadent and chewy with a crispness that only comes with a good amount of butter used to form the dough. Couple that with the gooey caramel sauce on top and creamy vanilla ice cream and you’ve got yourself a winner. I couldn’t stop eating it!


Wine for the evening was a beautiful Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley called Foppiano. It was a good wine for both those that are eating seafood and steak. Not overly bold or tart, the pinot had enough body to hold up to a steak but won't overshadow the fish. With lots of cherry and bright fruit flavours, it also makes for a great drinking wine.

My Picks: Beef Tartare, Cinnamon Bun

Overall: Although it was sad to see Muse close its doors, I’m glad that the space has been reinvented to a restaurant that isn’t only a steakhouse but does steak with a twist. Somebody once told me that change is good and I have to agree, but I’d say that change is delicious!

Modern Steak
107 10a St NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 670-6873
Website: modernsteak.ca

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