Hot Soup, Cool Jazz

Yet another foodie-friendly event in St John’s, Newfoundland! And this one is community-friendly, too.

Hot Soup, Cool Jazz will feature live jazz, silent/live auctions and a gourmet soup competition with contributions from Aqua, Bianca’s, Basho, The Gypsy Tea Room, Hungry Heart Café, Portobellos, Raymonds and the Yellowbelly Brewery as well as Choices for Youth and the Jimmy Pratt Memorial Soup Kitchen.

To top it all off, funds raised at this event will help youth in our community who suffer from homelessness and poverty.

This event takes place on April 5 at the St John’s Convention Centre.

For more information, check out their poster or visit the Facebook group.

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Drink of the Week: E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage, 2006

This week, we’re featuring one of the Guigal wines that was showcased during a very special evening at Raymonds Restaurant two weeks ago.

Tom Beckett and the crew at the restaurant teamed up to prepare a delicious evening to show off the wines of E. Guigal along with some delectable eats by chef Jeremy Charles, silver-medal winner of the Gold Metal Plates championship. The menu, pictured below, was an exploration of that mouth-watering and often under-rated meat: pork. Yes, that’s right, we had a five-course meal in which the only meat was pork, and it was absolutely divine! House-made pork terrine and guanciale, bacon, braised pork shoulder and local blood pudding… it was wonderful to taste the variety of flavours that came from this locally-sourced meat.

The absolute highlight of the menu was the house-made pasta, which was permeated with the smokey and salty flavours of the bacon and guanciale. Simple and splendid. I’d love it to be added to the permanent menu at Raymonds!

Our menu for the evening, featuring Guigal wines paired with Jeremy Charles' creations.

Our favourite wine of the evening was this Crozes-Hermitage by E. Guigal which went excellently with the smokey flavours in the pasta dish. With peppery scents and a hint of berries, this wine has a deep ruby colour and refined tannins. It would also pair well with lamb, game and smokey cheeses.

Needless to say, we went straight to our local purveyor and grabbed a few bottles for future enjoyment! This wine is ready to be enjoyed right away, or can be cellared for up to 10 years.

Cheers to a great weekend!

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Drink of the Week: Hétszölö Tokaji Aszú

I had the pleasure of trying this beautiful wine last weekend and wanted to share it with all of you. Planning a dinner party soon? Looking for a wine to pair with dessert or to finish off the meal? Look no further than today’s Drink of the Week.

Tokaji (usually pronounced Toe-kah-ee in English) wines are produced in Hungary – they are so highly-prized that they are even mentioned in the country’s national anthem, whose lyrics include the phrase (roughly translated): “on Tokaj’s vine stalks you have dripped nectar.” A fitting ode to this sweet, dessert-type wine.

Any wine produced in the Tokaj-Hegyalja region of Hungary can be given the name “Tokaji,” which is literally translated as “from Tokaj.” However, in North America, this term is usually used to describe the sweeter wines called “aszú” which are made using a type of fungus (called Botrytis cinerea). When grapes are touched by this beneficent organism, they become endowed with the ability to make sweet delicious wine such as the one we’re featuring today.

The 2001 Hétszölö Tokaji Aszú has a beautiful amber colour and boasts hints of apricot, honey and walnuts. It can be enjoyed alone or paired with foie-gras, blue cheese, or dessert (my personal favourite).

We paired it with my fiancé’s delicious chocolate mousse and enjoyed it immensely. I hope you will, too!

Cheers – have a great weekend!

Available at the Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation for $54.

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Raymonds Restaurant: Putting St John’s on the Culinary Map

Chef Jeremy Charles of Raymonds Restaurant, won the silver medal this month at the Gold Medal Plates Canadian Culinary Championship!

The Canadian Culinary Championship (or “CCC”) invites the top chefs from the Gold Metal Plates provincial competitions across the country to participate in a weekend of competitive cooking. This year’s event was held last weekend in Kelowna, BC. At the “Grand Finale,” Montreal’s Martin Juneau of Newtown restaurant won the gold medal for his showing. The silver medal went to Jeremy Charles, who created an intricate dish using Newfoundland rabbit that he trapped himself. Robert Clark from Vancouver took home the bronze.

Charles also won the People’s Choice award on the first day of the event, on which the competing chefs were given a challenge: they were given an unlabelled bottle of wine and asked to create a dish to pair with it. They were allowed 24 hours and a $500 budget to create the meal for 350 people! What a feat.

A detailed description of the event can be found on the Gold Medal Plates website.

Congratulations to Jeremy Charles and the team at Raymonds! Your brilliant artistry and enlightened food-philosophy are definitely raising the bar in St John’s.

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In the Kitchen: Challah Bread

Our finished product - Challah with poppy seeds.

I’ve always found the concept of bread-making rather intimidating.

Many Newfoundlanders bake their own bread or are accustomed to seeing their parents and grandparents do so. Having never had this experience, I was always fascinated by the idea but a little bit afraid to try it. So, when a good friend of mine invited me over to make his favourite challah recipe I jumped at the chance to learn.

Challah is a sweetish egg-bread that is often braided and usually adorned with sesame or poppy seeds. In St John’s, it can be found at Manna European Bakery & Deli on Freshwater road.

Here is a link to the recipe we used to make our delicious bread (stand-mixer with dough hook required). It was much easier than I thought! Below, you will find my photographic montage and a few tips from our bread-baking afternoon. I highly recommend trying it. There is nothing more satisfying than eating bread you’ve baked yourself!

Pounding the dough was one of the funnest steps in the process…

Action shot!

We decided to make four medium-sized loaves of bread instead of the “two large loaves” that the recipe recommends. Each loaf is made up of three braided strands, or ropes, of bread. Dividing up the dough and rolling it out brought back memories of Playdough from my childhood.

We experimented with both tighter and looser braids, and found the more tightly-braided breads had a nicer appearance once baked.

Noah showing off the fruits of our bread-making labour

Have you experimented with bread-making? What is your favourite bread to make?

Share your tips with us below!

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Drink of the Week: Tom Collins w/ Lime

As I write this post, I am currently performing a taste test of this week’s Drink of the Week. It is one of the many hardships of being a food blog writer – one of the necessary duties that I, a fearless explorer of the world of food, must fulfill. And I do it just for you!

Photo by Darwin Bell via Flickr

Our featured drink is inspired by a classic: the Tom Collins, a combo of gin, lemon, sugar and soda. I am in more of a lime-ish mood this evening and so I decided to try something a little different.

This drink is a delicious taste of spring – just what I need to help me pretend that we haven’t gotten over a meter of snow in the past 17 days. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients:
– 2 oz gin
– 1.5 oz Rose’s Lime Cordial
– Juice of 1 lime wedge
– 5 oz sparkling water

Mix together in a highball glass over ice and enjoy!

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Review: Piatto Pizzeria and Enoteca

Could this be the new “best pizza place” in St John’s?

I’m very excited to have discovered Piatto this week. If what you crave is authentic, Italian style pizza with fresh ingredients then this is the new place to go in town.

What makes Piatto so great is their authentic approach to pizza: it’s cooked in a traditional wood-burning oven at 900˚C for just 90 seconds. The tomato sauce and thin crust are deliciously fresh-tasting. Toppings are arranged in just the right amounts. This is the real deal – pizza as it was meant to be – a far cry from the cheese-and-tinned-mushroom-overload you get from an American chain pizza place.

In addition to pizza, they offer a selection of salads, appetizers and calzones. You won’t find any pasta on this menu: this is a pizzeria rather than an “Italian” restaurant and they rightly focus on their specialty dish.

Good prices, great food, a combination of local and imported fine ingredients… all in a friendly atmosphere. Thank you, Piatto, for bringing your excellent and authentic pizzas to St John’s! You are a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.

Recommended Dishes:
• The “Cesare” salad with pancetta, romaine and house-made dressing;
• The Margherita pizza – a classic!
• “Della Terra” pizza with fresh basil, mozzarella, olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts and parmesan;
• If you have room for dessert, try the flourless chocolate-espresso cake with crème anglaise!

Visit Piatto’s website at www.piattopizzeria.com or check out their menu here.

Salute!

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Drink of the Week: Storm Brewing

Storm Brewing is a very small brewery based in St John’s, Newfoundland. Because they produce limited amounts of beer, and because what they do make is so darn good, their products can be hard to find in stores.

Storm’s Coffee Porter is only available in winter and in limited amounts. When I heard that my neighbourhood NLC had just put a batch out on the shelves, I couldn’t resist grabbing a few 650 mL bottles for our fridge! I usually enjoy Storm’s Island Gold Ale or a pint of The Duke’s Own (only available at the Duke of Duckworth Pub) and was curious to try this dark, mysterious brew, which is in its 11th year of production.

I’m not usually a fan of darker beers like porter and stout but Storm’s version won me over. It has a smooth finish and aromas of roasted coffee. Made with “imported black malt and dark roasted mountain grown Arabica coffee beans,” it’s a perfect winter bevvy.

Chef Stephen Vardy of Atlantica Restaurant recently featured Storm’s Coffee Porter as the beverage pairing for his entry into the Gold Metal Plates event in November, 2010. We can see why. Tonight’s food pairing at our house was vegetarian chili… slightly more modest fare, to be sure, but perfect for a winter night at home.

See Storm Brewing’s website for more info on where their beer can be found in St John’s.

Cheers!

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Staying Warm: Red Lentil Soup

Finding myself stranded at home due to a run-in with a snow drift at the edge of my driveway, I thought I’d share this lovely soup recipe that my mom and I made together when we were in Ottawa this past month.

The recipe is from Anne Lindsay and is found in some of her recipe books, including my copy of Lighthearted at Home. This soup is delicious, warm, filling, and perfect for a snow day like today! It’s also deceptively easy to make.

Ingredients:

0.5 c. dried red lentils
2 small onions, chopped
4 c. vegetable or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 large clove garlic
1 c. sliced carrots
2 tbsp long grain rice
14 oz/398 mL can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 tsp each crushed thyme and oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
0.25 c. chopped fresh parsley and/or cilantro
Salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

Directions:

1) Wash and drain lentils.
2) Place lentils, onions, broth, bay leaf and garlic in a large saucepan. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Continued below…

3) Add carrots, rice, tomatoes, thyme, oregano and cumin. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until carrots are tender and lentils are soft.
4) Remove bay leaf. Add parsley, coriander, salt and pepper.
5) Enjoy!

Addendum:

If you’re looking for fresh herbs in St John’s, I’ve found that the store with the most consistently good selection is the Sobey’s on Elizabeth ave. at Torbay road. If you’re finding yourself fresh outta luck, however, try hitting Dominion for President’s Choice’s amazing fresh-frozen herb dispensers… they’re perfect for recipes like this!

Available wherever PC products are sold, these lovelies have saved many a recipe of mine.

Image from President’s Choice

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Grocery Cart: Moishe’s Cole Slaw

Cole slaw always reminds me of summer, even during winter-warning weather like tonight’s!

I found this little gem at my local Costco: Moishe’s Cole Slaw, product of Montreal. The very best! Fresh-tasting and crisp… a little taste of summer.

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