here and there

Friday, October 31, 2014

Cafe eating in the Prairies..Homemade food!

Are there great eating places in Canada to eat at while travelling, just as there is in Europe.  Couple of weekends ago we travelled to Manitoba for the Thanksgiving Weekend and tried three cafes in three different places instead of eating at small fast food chains which are quick but leave you asking why did we eat there. 

Using Trip Advisor, we found places with good reviews and where pleasantly surprised with the quality and taste of the food, along with the ambiance of the places. 

At present, Dauphin, Manitoba has lost three restaurants, one which we were disappointed it had closed as it had a patio, licensed and great food.  While in the area, Corina's on Main had another place open on Boulevard which we tried.  Corina has taken over the restaurant in the Boulevard Hotel.  The menu is the same as that in the other restaurant and both are not licensed.  The place is always busy with tradespeople and ladies lunch group with service at one's table.  We have eaten here many times and although the services varies it is always pleasant.

Peppery beef Sandwich and South Western chicken sandwich.
Chicken Vegetable soup
My homemade soup was thick and chunky that was served piping hot!  It was delicious, but I kept thinking it must have been so much better at noon as at 2pm, the vegetables were mushy. 

Grand opening

Both places are decorated in dark colours with the new place in burgundy and brown. 

South Western Sandwich with chips. 
My husband usually orders the Parkland beef burger which he enjoys greatly, although he did eat the South Western Sandwich, he said he wouldn't order it again.

On the Road from Winnipeg to Regina on the TransCanada, we stopped in Brandon, Manitoba for lunch at the Wildflower Cafe.  Wildflower Cafe serves local products and is organic.  It is licensed and serves Farmery EstateBeer which is a local beer from Neepawa, Manitoba 

The Wildflower Cafe was packed at lunch time as one ordered their food at the counter and found a table to wait for the food to be served.  The special was Tortilla soup with a Cheddar Cheese Biscuit which I ordered.  My husband ordered Chicken Vegetable Soup with an Egg Salad Sandwich. 

Dessert Counter

The place is narrow with seating at the front of the counter and at the back on the second level.  There is a patio that was in full sun but sadly was closed in spite of the warm weather. 
Edd Salad Sandwich with Chicken Vegetable soup

Tortilla Soup with biscuit

The tomato soup was hot and tasty but more like a chunky tomato soup than a Tortilla soup as lacked Mexican flavors such as spices, chilies, avocado lime or cilantro.  Oh Bite It shared her recipe for Chipotle Tortilla Soup in her blog that is full of Mexican flavors. 

Saskatoon Pie
My husband was surprised that that I ordered a Saskatoon pie even though the waitress did warn me that it was super sweet.  And it was, my husband enjoyed every bit of it!

Inspire Cafe, Gallery and Studio

The next stop was in Medicine Hat, Alberta at Inspired Cafe.  It was out of our way and increased our trip by an hour.  The Inspired Cafe, Gallery and Studio are in the historic Hargrave-Sissons Block.  

Checking out the menu

The place was bright and pleasant with white walls and glossy red table and chairs. The walls showcasing off local artists' work.  A sculpture class for children was in process when we arrived.  Clumps of clay were beginning to be worked by the children.

Inspire Cafe

Cheeseburger soup with Tortilla

My husband ordered the daily special, Baked Italian Sandwich with Potato and Onion soup. The homemade soup came piping hot, although the open faced sandwich looked dried out!

Lunch Special

I also ordered the daily special of Cheeseburger soup and tortilla filled with vegetables. My soup was not piping hot and I did send it back to be heated up.  As you can see by the picture, my tortilla was not light and fluffy but dried out!  I was disappointed in my soup as I expected some garnish on the soup like croutons and cheddar cheese along with being chunky.  

Bacon Double Cheeseburger Beer Soup

Now this is what I had envisioned when I ordered Cheeseburger soup in a small cafe last week! I was so disappointed when the soup arrived as although it had ground beef in a cheese sauce, it lacked this visual appeal.. we really do eat with our eyes!! 

Vintage Wedding show

Each of the Cafes had their personal charm! Inspired Cafe in Medicine Hat stole my heart with their concept of studio, gallery and cafe along with the ambience!  Unfortunately, my husband and I did not find the lunch "inspiring" and it fell down in taste.  My husband liked the Wildflower Cafe in Brandon the best all around for atmosphere and food!  Even though the place was packed, a couple invited us to share their table in true Prairie fashion.  For me, Corina's food is always consistent, true to it's self and the food it serves, not pretentious.  Just delicious home made food that would be found served in one's kitchen in that area! 

It was an great experience we would do again when driving on a holiday!

Monday, October 6, 2014

German Pretzels

German pretzels 

For years, I have wanted to make bagels or pretzels, but I have hesitated in doing so because of the step of pre-boiling the pretzel or bagel before baking them.

In making the authentic pretzel, the formed pretzel is first dropped into boiling water with lye for a few seconds before baking.  This process gives you that deep Mahogany color!
Boiling pretzels before baking

As a child, I remember my mom making laundry bar soap from rendered fat and lye.  I still have memories of her carefully adding the lye from a small metal tin and the resulting chemical reaction.  The bubbling and fizzing sound of lye being added to the mixture was intriguing to me as a child.  There was always extreme caution and warnings from my Mom to stay far way from her and the mixture as she handled it carefully with long rubber gloves.  The resulting product was small bars of soap that she used for laundry, especially my father's work overalls for the farm.  The bar of soap was rubbed into the dirty spots and then scrubbed using a wash board!

 Based on my early childhood memories, I opted to use Baking Soda in the water when boiling the pretzels before baking.  Boiling the pretzels in an alkaline water bath for 30 seconds gives them that chewy crust and unique pretzel taste.

Before doing this recipe, I did google recipes and found that the recipes were very similar.  The liquid could be milk, water, beer or a combination of these.  I was surprised to find that egg was not used in the dough.  The recipe is a plain bread dough consisting of flour, liquid and a fat.

German  Pretzels

Here is my modified recipe.

  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 T  traditional dry yeast
  • 1 Teaspoon of salt
Soften the yeast in the warm water for about 10 minutes
  • 4 to 5 cups of flour
  • 2 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
Once the yeast has bubbled, add the flour slowly while mixing until the dough is mixed.  With clean hands turn the dough on to the counter to knead, add just enough flour so it doesn't stick to your hands.. In total, I used about  4 1/4 cup of flour.  

Oil your mixing bowl, place dough into the bowl and give the dough a turn so it is all covered with oil.  Cover the dough with Saran Wrap.  Let the dough rise until double.  Since it is traditional yeast, you can punch it down when double in size a few times until you are ready to make the pretzels.

Divide your dough.  I made 16 pieces or balls from this dough.  Roll out into ropes from 20 to 24 inches in length.   Twist the dough twice at the bottom of the loop, then attach the ends to the top of the loop to form a pretzel.  Let rise for  about 15 to 20 minutes.

Pretzels waiting for the water bath

While the dough is rising, bring water to boil.  I added about 1/2 cup of baking soda to the boiling water.  Each pretzel was boiled in this mixture for about 30 seconds, with the pretzel being turned half way through this step.  Preheat heat your oven to 450 degrees.

Lift the pretzel and place back on to the baking sheet.  Egg wash the pretzel before baking.  I  mixed about a Tablespoon of water into an egg yolk.  You can sprinkle coarse salt on the pretzel. 
Bake in a preheated oven of 450 for 14 to 16 minutes  once you have finished popping all of the pretzels into the boiling Alkaline water.

Golden goodness!

Enjoy with a homemade Mustard or cheesy dip!

Pretzels, Sausage and German beer!