here and there

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sumac Ridge dining on the first day of 2010 Fall Wine Festival

While in the Okanagan, in trying to book a reservation for supper, we found that the restaurant, the Cellar Door Bistro was closed for a private function, Feast for your Senses at Sumac Ridge.  To our delight we found out that there were 2 spots left for the dinner menu wine paring that evening, the first day of the fall wine festival. 

"Oh.. I don't think we should wear these!!!"

On arrival, we were greeted with Sumac Ridge sparkling wine and given eye blinders and asked to use them before each dish was served. It was a four-course meal paired with wine with commentary by Christa Lee McWatters-Bond and blindfolding was to heighten our sense of taste and smell.  Some of the people like Boris and Sonja were not too pleased to be blindfold and that was the beginning of this couple bickering most of the evening.

Warm Spot Prawn salad with Smoked Heirloom Tomatoe Froth paired with 2007 Black Sage vineyard Chardonnay

The prawns were plump and juicy.  Although the tomato froth was sweet and tasty, none of us could distinguish the taste as been smoky.  The variety of greens used were not recognised by anyone us.
Wild Mushroom Soup with Forest Essence

With blinders on, we were asked to identify the smell of the next dish.  The presentation was very clever!  A bowl off mushroom soup was placed into a larger bowl that had fresh cedar, pine, rosemary and thyme.  The fragrance of cedar and pine filled the air as hot water was poured over to release the forest essence.  The soup, although tasty was served lukewarm and did not scream out wild mushrooms given the variety of wild mushrooms pureed for the soup, ie oyster, chanterelles. lobster mushrooms, pine. 

Mushroom soup pared with 2007 Black Sage Vineyard Carbenet Franc
Beef Tenderloin, Vanilla Olive Oil powder, Smoked Potatoe Croquette and Okanagan Vegetables , 2006 Black Sage Vineyard Mertiage red
For this serving when blindfolded, large martini glasses were passed around with chopped green peppers, coffee beans, and peppercorns and after smelling each glass we were asked to taste and identify the wine.  Only one person was able to identify the wine as a meritage. 
Sumac Ridge was the first winery outside of the United States to produce.  Meritage are wines blended from traditional "noble" Bordeaux varieties according to set standards. 

The beef tenderloin was served with a small bowl with about ¼ cup of vanilla olive oil powder.  This was to be sprinkled on the beef which I unfortunately sprinkled all of it on my meat and it tended to over power the taste of the beef,  Bill felt the piece of meat was very small.  The smoked potato croquette, which plated with the meat on top was soggy and didn’t compliment the dish.  


 Chocolate Pana Cotta , Mint Syrup with 2007 Gewurztraminer Ice Wine 

The remarks around this dessert where comical as the American at our table kept trying to decide whether it was Crème brûlée or mousse.  The Chocolate Panna Cotta was heavy, firm and not very chocolate tasting!  The texture was not creamy.  It really lacked taste, even with the mint syrup.  Paring with the dessert with Gewürztraminer icewine was way too sweet.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dining with Edible British Columbia- Granville Island Market

With great anticipation, we looked forward to this dining experience.  From the web site we gleaned the following expectations.

Join us – and BC’s Best Chefs – for a gourmet feast in an incredibly unique and iconic setting – Granville Island Public Market, after-hours. Enjoy a multicourse market-inspired dinner with sommelier selected wine pairings in an intimate venue that is unlike any other in the province.

What can you expect? A chance to spend an interactive evening with a professional and well-known chef, a multicourse meal prepared in front of your eyes, BC’s top wines paired with each course, black linens and candlelight in the working market after hours, gracious serving staff and hosts.

Your chef will prepare seasonally inspired sumptuous dishes while you watch, taste and enjoy. Since the goal of the evening is just to relax and enjoy the experience, we will email you a copy of the recipes and wine pairings from the night along with photos documenting the food and evening.

Each night is limited to only 20 guests.

The tables were set up in the hallway next to the edible British Columbia kiosk after the market was closed.  A limousine had brought a party from the suburbs to celebrate a birthday party and the number seemed more than 20.

Amuse bouche or “mouth amuser “was cured salmon served on a deep fried wonton wrapper with fresh horse radish and juniper berries on the plate as garnish.  After some of us had popped in a couple of berries, we were told they were inedible as might cause stomach upsets!   The vodka-cured salmon with grated fresh horseradish was delicious, although the cold soggy wonton crisp was not!  This tidbit did offer what the chef had in store, use of juniper berries and other aromatic spices.

The martini was attractive to look at with its pale peach colour.  I was excited to try it as I had seem Jamie Oliver make tomato water on his show where he smashed sun ripen heirloom tomatoes and let the juices drip through cheese cloth.   Having grown up on sun ripen tomatoes, I eagerly tasted this only to have a bitter over powering taste hide the taste of the tomato water!   What a disappointment! I could not finish the drink, as could not others!

Butter poached spot prawn with heirloom beans clam, bacon

Sous-vide (pronounced /suːˈviːd/), French for "under vacuum" is a method of cooking food sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath for a long time.  The shrimp had been cooked first then reheated in butter.  I question this method for shrimp as they cook so quickly as they did tend to be rubbery and tasteless.. There was a lot of hype regarding the darkest brown and beige Heirloom beans, that were not locally grown but in fact dried and from Italy.  Although they provided colour, they did not provide any flavour to the dish.  Although interesting addition was spiced Tomato Orb, the end result was biting into a cold gelatine like balls of V-8 juice.  Cherry tomatoes were suggested in place of tomato orbs and would have added more flavour.  Although, the presentation was lovely, it photographed better than it tasted. 
The wine paired with this was a sparkling white wine

Smoked qualicum scallops and chanterelles.

These pump scallops were smoked with cherrywood, then sautéed in butter.  Chanterelles were also sautéed in butter. 
The bay foam was potato and bay leaves that had been boiled and then put through a blender then along with cream put into an ISI container. Again, although the scallops were chosen, as no phosphate added, the scallop was rubbery and tough, and did not have the creamy rich taste.  Although the use of a pressurised canister was unique, The texture was not thick like whip cream out of these canisters and quickly disappeared on the plate.  Although all of the ingredients work together, they were not tied in with the potato foam. 
The drink pared with this was a syrupy pear wine. 

Birch syrup and pepper glazed venison, celery root , black  garlic truffle  sauce.

The venison was marinated in port, raspberry vinegar, garlic, ginger, bay leaves, rosemary and thyme for 2 –3 days. Sous vide was the method used to bring the venison to raw, then finished off to medium raw just before serving.
All the drippings in the sauté pan were combined with birch syrup.  Fermented garlic was used along with sautéed shallots and added to vinaigrette of truffle oil, apple juice and mustard.  The venison was excellent and all the flavours worked well with the meat!  The fermented garlic, which is from California, did not over power the vinaigrette.  The birch syrup, which one could buy, was a dark brown and less sweet than maple syrup with slight bittersweet notes sold for $29 for a litre. .

For the dessert, the chef made ice cream flavoured with Thai basil by using dry ice (solid carbon dioxide) as the cooling agent and also adding dramatic flare in making the ice cream.

The colour of the ice cream due to the basil was a lovely green along with a strong flavour and although everyone like the play of this dish by added different toppings to the ice cream, none of the toppings complement the flavour of basil.

With the new drinking laws in BC, one of the patrons had previously requested a non-alcohol paring for his meal as well as I did not drink any of the heavily oaked wines.  This was disappointing as I really think there should be other options for those that were not drinking.  Having a mouse run through the room to feed on the crumbs from the cottage pies cooler was also most unappetising.  Overall, the chef use of multiple aromatics tended to take away from the freshness of the products at hand, only a robust game meat like venison could handle all the flavours added with out being over taken by them. 

Overall it was positive experience as it was great to see the chef explain his preparation and watch him execute the dishes for his guests.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mushroom hunting in Sicamous BC

This year, Bill’s power system course was planned around the wild mushroom festival at the end of September in Sicamous! 

On their first festival, we had stumbled on the festival when driving home from an IEEE meeting in Vancouver.  On the wine route, Bill got his first project as a consultant.  We stayed the evening in Sicamus as Bill worked on his assignment, I attended a talk by Paul Kroeger on Magic Mushroom and the culture arising in BC.  What amazed me was the number of tables filled with different mushrooms that had been picked that day in a guided tour through the forest.  There was a table of poison mushrooms, aromatic mushroom and edible.

This year, registration was once again at the Red Barn.  In side the barn, were tables of mushrooms labelled with bright pink neon as poisonous and green for edible, along with yellow or ”not sure”!  The group gathered, with brown paper shopping bags, to listen eagerly to the instructions given as to location and use of the whistles, which everyone received.  In our midst was Paul Kroeger grey ponytail, with a grizzly beard in a red and black flannel shirt as his followers greeted him warmly.  Yard Creek Park a few miles east on Highway number one was our destination. 

Spending a few hours enjoying the sights and smells of the forest, lush green, lightly cool and damp, yet musty from the decomposing was peaceful and restful.  Although I enjoyed this greatly, I was on a mission to not only find pretty unknown mushrooms but I did want to find chanterelles and lobster mushroom! How difficult would it be to find these bright red lobster coloured mushrooms in the green forest!  But I was unsuccessful!  The chef from the Grizzly in Banff who was also one of the guides came to my rescue.  “Come” he said, “ I saw lobster mushrooms when we drove into the park.”  First, we first found one solitaire white chanterelle sitting proudly above the ground about six inches in size.  According to him, lobster mushroom and chanterelles go hand and hand and usually under cottonwood.

The fresh earthy smell of the chanterelle mushroom was delightful, but I wanted more!  We walked further and there were the lobster mushrooms hidden under moss as they poking out.  Beside the lobster mushroom were the Chanterilles, which were more visible.  The lobster mushrooms were heavy and covered in a lot of dirt as they pushed through the ground.  With Fran’s help, we were able to gather two shopping bags full. 

We also found honey mushrooms, smaller sized round brown caps that grow in clumps on tree stumps or on dead trees.  They were referred to as “edible but not incredible”.  I wondered if Mom would agree with that label for pidpenky!

These honey mushroom or “pidpenky” as they are referred to in Manitoba where in large clusters around trees and up tree trunks, very aggressive yet beautiful. 

With two large bags of earthy smelling mushrooms, the challenge was “how do I keep these mushrooms until I get home?”  One of the guides said to treat it like any fresh vegetable.  They both should be keep in a paper bag with the lobster mushroom keep in the refrigerator and the chanterelle not!   This advice also varied as some said that the mushrooms should be kept dry, others said to keep under a damp tea towel.  All agreed the best method was to sauté them and eat them right away.  Some did say to parboil the lobster mushrooms first.  The lobster mushroom that we had in the lasagne during our guided tour was a disappointment; the mushrooms in this dish were large slices, chewy and tasteless.  This disappointment was especially apparently in the young chef from the restaurant le plateau in Kelowna.  Darren had found a bag of lobster mushroom along the riverbank that he was going to use for his Soupe du Jour that evening. 

According to one of the women from Burnaby, her advice in preserving the mushrooms was to chop up the mushroom and whip into butter, then shape in to a log, freeze and cut off what you need for your recipes.  In a blog “nourishing” kitchen”, in the recipe for wild mushroom butter, the mushrooms are first sautéed along with shallots, thyme and mixed into a cup of butter and then shaped into a log.  This should keep one to two months in a refrigerator as fat acts as a natural preservation.

Since we were travelling, I was not too sure how we would be keeping the butter cool.  Overnight, in the hotel room, I left the chanterelles out on newspaper and the lobster mushrooms were kept in the refrigerator in a paper bag. 

In Vancouver, I kept both mushrooms in a refrig and checked them every day, The lobster mushroom seemed to like being in the refrig as looked the same where as the white chanterelles started to lose their lovely white and shrank in size. 

The advice from different chefs in Vancouver also varied from the French chef in La Bretagne Creperie on Jarvis, who the waitress assured us grew up picking Chanterelles in France, the Chef at the Cactus Club on Burrand, to the chef in Towne Hall on Alberni.  All their varied advice made me think that although they knew how to cook with mushroom, they were not familiar with long storage of wild mushrooms.  Hilarious solutions as to what to do with all these mushroom from chefs, including a chef from Granville Island who was doing edible BC meals.  In fact, one of the chefs was using golden chanterelles in one of his feature dishes.

On Thursday, on arrival at out B&B, Grape Escape in the Okanagan, the owner said she could dry both of the mushrooms in her Electrolux oven that had a drying feature.  The two huge heavy bags of mushrooms were dehydrated, into two small bags! Yes, I had been advised that Chanterelle do not dry well although lobster mushrooms do, but this seemed like the best solution.

The following morning she sautéed in butter some of the lobster mushrooms. The mushrooms retained the red covering but were very tasty and did go well with the heirloom tomato galette she had prepared for our breakfast.

How interesting, we were stumping through the woods on the same mushroom hunt with the writer of the blog sun hammered

In talking with my Aunt Florence about mushroom hunting she was most interested in my experiences.  She talked about mushroom, pidpenky or under the stump, which they picked every fall.  These were the honey mushrooms that I found in BC and was told to leave behind for others who were not as successful as me as in their words these mushrooms were “edible but not incredible”.  She talked about Kozare which were a wavy reddish brown top mushroom found in the summer any where close to water on the farm under bushes.  I remember seeing these beautiful mushroom poking out through the ground under the bushes along the south road of the farm. 

Golden chanterelles were also found on the farm.  In fact, Aunty relayed a story on how Mom and her visiting the elderly woman who lived on our farm in her own little cottage and to whom Dad would refer laughing as the Grandma he bought with the farm.  The elderly woman had on her table a basket of golden chanterelles and my Mom was wondered if they were safe to eat.  The elderly women assure my Mom by saying, they were perfectly fine as she and I had eaten the mushrooms the day before and in her words we were fine!  Needless to say my mom and aunt were horrified that she had done this when she was looking after me as a toddler! 

In posting pictures of the wild mushrooms found on facebook, a friend asked, “what is this obsession with mushrooms?”  Now I know this obsession was formed very early in my life!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reaching out to others results in a recipe for Pumpkin jam

On Oct 18, Calgary elected a new major with a lot of hope and in a purple haze!  One of his popular platforms was to come in touch with one another. 

The next day at Superstore, a woman eyed my large pumpkin in my cart as she bought my cart for four quarters. She commented that she needed to buy a pumpkin to make pumpkin jam.  Having never heard of pumpkin jam, but thinking it must be similar to zucchini jam, I asked with interest, for the recipe. 

To my surprise, she said she soaked pumpkin cubes in a lime solution. She went on to mention that it was not the juice from a lime fruit but bought at Home Depot! To my horror, I had a flashback of my mom in heavy plastic gloves and steam of cloud, as she pouring lye into rendered fat to make soap!  Wait! What did she say, lime, like calcium hydroxide! Not the green lime fruit!  The pumpkin is soaked over night in the lime solution and then washed three to four times until water is clear. According to her, the lime prevents the pumpkin from absorbing the sugar and becoming mushy!  Next, the pumpkin is cooked in sugar and lime juice. In her words, “delicious “ and a Mediterranean recipe. In goggling Pumpkin jam, a Mexican recipe pops up and the above directions are very close to making pumpkin candy or Dulce de Calabaza (Candied Pumpkin).  There was also some discussion as to quality of lime if bought from Home Depot
Pumpkin Candy from site listed below

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

third annual Christmas baking day

After a few delays due to sickness, we finally got together on All Saint’s Day.  Peroghies were the plan for our third annual Christmas prep day! Each of us was to make our own dough recipe and bring a filling.

Year’s ago, I had collected family recipes for a cousin’s shower and to my surprise, each Aunt had her own recipe, which varied from adding sour cream, egg, milk, baking powder and using various temperature of water.  The recipe I used was the closest to my Mom’s and the simplest.  I remember her using flour, water and Mazola oil.  The recipe I used is from my Mom’s friend, Emily who is in her nineties.  6 cups of flour, salt, 1/3 cup of oil, 2 ¾ cup of lukewarm water.  Mix together and let stand for a few hours to help the dough relax.

The dough recipe used by my sister and her sister in law was Arlene’s and used ½ cup of sour cream. My sister felt her dough with the sour cream was easier to roll out, the second dough from the same recipe was not.  I had made my dough at 8:30 am as had Sam, where as Pat’s was made at noon and the first to be rolled out.  Yes, most cooks say that the longer the dough rests the better. However, time could have been a factor but also the amount of flour added when the dough was rolled out.  I also used 3 cups of water as I do like my dough a little wetter than my sister does.

The three of us were making peroghies for the traditional meatless Christmas Eve supper.  For me, I make these Ukrainian delicacies, once a year as store bought ones are crap and I get nothing but complaints if I do not make them from scratch.  Where as my Mom made these dumplings it seemed effortlessly especially during lent when Wednesday and Friday were meatless.  Fresh peroghies were made weekly and usually not frozen as they are now for Christmas Eve.

With each of our annual baking days, we are learning from our mistakes.

For the prune filling, Pat and I both use the prunes uncooked, where as Sam and my mother cooked the prunes first and flavoured the filing with lemon juice and sugar.  It is always good to double-check your package to see that you actually picked up the prune that have been pitted! They become messy to work with, cooked or uncooked if with pits!

The potato filling, which had been cooked and mashed, had been seasoned with salt, pepper, fired onions and butter. We did try to make peroghies with this but the filling was just too wet to work with and we could not fill or seal the dumplings.  The filling was just too wet and we needed to add cooked yellow baking potatoes.  Sam had used red potatoes, which do contain more water, although I do find the red potatoes tastier.

A discussion resulted on potatoes for peroghi filling as to undercooking potatoes, using older yellow potatoes and not as much butter.  My Mom and I always add dried cottage cheese to the potatoes and lately I have found adding ricotta to my mixture results in a taste closer to the home-made cottage cheese my mom used to make on the farm from her cows’ milk.

The sauerkraut for the filling had been boiled to soften the leaves and remove the salt and then wrung dry!  Pat had seasoned her filling with fired onions.  She had used two of those large jars of sauerkraut from Costco.  I usually rinse my purchased sauerkraut and dry sauté the filling to further remove the excess moisture.   My Mom also just washed the sauerkraut and did not add any fried onions to the filling as my Dad could not tolerate fried foods, especially fired onions. I do the same!

Even the very young want to help
Certainly this pinching bee did not result in uniforn peroghies!  Many of them would have been rejected by my Mom or the ladies from my town.  I remember in a spontaneous gathering of ladies at my home town to teach my daughter how to make these delicacy, how uniformed the peroghies were and how they were laid out in a pattern, then reversed in order in the next row. The results were perfectly laid out on a clean tablecloth.

Three hours later, I left with 6 dozen of plain potato, almost 6 dozen of sauerkraut and 2 dozen of prune peroghies.  Each peroghy was laid out on a cookie sheet that had been covered in plastic and frozen until solid and then put into a ziplock bag.  Although I never cooked my perghies but like Mom froze them on a tray, Pat had always boiled the peroghies first before freezing them but to my surprise her thoughts were now similar to mine.  Why add all that butter/oil before freezing cooked peroghies only to have to add more again when reheated and served.  This change in thought may have resulted from the last Christmas Eve meal when they had their meal in two stages due to the children’s Christmas mass, they returned to a solid mass of peroghies.  This has always been a challenge for me as Christmas Eve meal with 12 dishes is a time management thing to get everything out on the table hot.  Cooking the peroghies early meant that you had to be paying attention to them all the time and adding more fat to them to keep each dumpling separate.  Yes, at country weddings, I have seen large roaster full of peroghies being kept hot in an oven until needed and being tossed regularly to avoid clumping!  My solution to this was to have hot boiling water ready to go and boiling the peroghies just before serving. This certainly reduced the amount of fat need!

I left the third annual baking bee more confidant that the secrets of this simple yet complex dish were being slowly mastered.  To my amusement, in talking to my brother, a couple of days later, I learned that my sister had saved the peroghi making session!