March 30, 2011

Top Chef

Sigh.

I feel like I dropped the ball but can't get around to updating. Plus, it was a 2 episode week!

I do have to say, I knew Carla wasn't gonna make it far but before Tiffany! wow.

Mike has really stepped it up. Good on him for doing the research before coming to the island.

Antonia, she seems to be doing well enough.

I'm tired of hearing Richard's insecurities. Seriously?

Any highlights for any of you?

Richard, Mike and Antonia as final 3. I wasn't surprised.

March 26, 2011

Waskily Wabbit!

Waskily Wabbit

Easter might be next month but I caught the waskily wabbit making an appearance!

He left lots of what looked like tiny "cadbury eggs" in my backyard. uh huh.

March 25, 2011

Chocolate Pear Cake: Photo Friday

Chocolate Pear Cake

My mom made this delectable cake for my birthday a couple weeks ago. Visually pleasing and so good.

Have a great weekend folks!

March 23, 2011

Hardware Grill - Eating Out

I joined some fellow Edmonton foodies at the Hardware Grill some time ago. (Ok, it was probably 2 months ago and I'm only NOW getting to posting it! tsk tsk). I was looking forward to getting together with some new and old foodies and pushing my taste buds to newer levels.

I am not too adventurous in the carnivore department. It took me almost into my adult life to actually eat and somewhat enjoy meat. I have also not eaten game or most seafoods and I certainly do not even know how to prepare most of it. But, I've always thought if I was going to go out to an upscale restaurant, this is where I would try these things since they usually offer extraordinary tasting & innovative meals.

Hardware Grill Chef Tasting Menu 1

The chef's table was reserved for us and a 5-course chef tasting menu (~$90) with optional wine pairing ($35) was presented. We were seated at the chef's table, which is 6 seats, facing all the action of the kitchen. The first course arrived, an starter of ultra thin slices of duck.

Hardware Grill Chef Tasting Menu 2
The next course was a beautiful sea bass with scallop and lobster on a bed of creamed spinach. Followed by kobe beef carpaccio with perfectly seasoned potato chips and aioli dip. I also opted for the wine pairings, which matched wines with each course.

Hardware Grill Chef Tasting Menu 3
Quail atop a red wine risotto and camembert cheese, followed by venison with squash and gnocci in a cherry reduction. I believe I ate enough food to feed many, many people. My mother would be very surprised to see all that I ate too. I'm finally a child that will at least try and eat the food off her plate!

Hardware Grill Chef Tasting Menu 4
The end of the meal came with a scotch pudding and cinnamon donut. If you have been counting, you will notice that we were treated to 1 extra course!

Overall, everything was top notch. Meal, wine, service and atmosphere. We had mixed reviews on what was the favorite course. I love rich foods with lots of flavour notes so I found the quail course my favorite. I really enjoyed the alioli and chips and the warm, sugary-sweet donut was so mouth watering with its flavor and texture. I think I would have preferred a chocolate or fruit based dessert at the end of my meal but that did not stop me from scraping the bowl clean here!

As I mentioned above, for someone who has never eaten such a variety of meats and seafoods, I think I can say I accomplished at lot with this adventure. Duck, beef, sea bass, lobster, scallop, deer and quail! I have become a meatatarian!

In addition, I would highly recommend wine pairings, if you are offered it. I wish I had written down what some of the glorious wines I imbibed because I was pleasantly surprised with the quality and different tastes! I think I will have to get more educated about wines as there is so much to learn there too.

...

Hardware Grill
9698 Jasper Avenue
Edmonton, AB

March 22, 2011

Top Chef Tuesdays: S08 E12

Join me on my blog for Top Chef Tuesdays, as I recap the highlights? I'm aware that Top Chef All Stars has already been airing in the US and we Canadians are a couple (*ahem - maybe more than a couple) episodes behind. So please, all you folks who are ahead of the watching, please, no spoilers. I'm recaping in my own personal opinion and it is all in good fun. Please join me in the comments.

...

Richard is bummed with Dale going home since he wanted to go to the end with him. I'm still not impressed with sending Dale home last week. Seems like if you cook mediocre food, you can make it nearly to the end since you are out of danger from the bottom but you will never be on top.

Padma's ears must have been ringing, since she appeared right when Antonia asked "is Padma coming?" causing the chef's to go in a tizzy because she "freaked their freak". Maybe Antonia does have a 6th sense, as the others put it.

They are given their quickfire challenge of creating a dish using only what they find on the ferry's snack bar and in the time it takes to get to Ellis Island.

Richard's dish was hot dog/beef jerky sandwich and he used an MRE packet? He carries around an MRE packet? He's ready for war I guess :) The judges thought it was tasty and creative.

The judges felt that Tiffany's dish was a throw away, since she made nacho's with cheese (that was something already available on the ferry!) and popcorn with candied mangos and pineapple. That's definitely below mediocrity, if you ask me.

The judges thought Antonia's technique for grilling on the hot dog grill was creative but grilled cheese with apples and raisin bread isn't enough to win the challenge. I gagged when I saw Mike's "peasant" bread soup. I thought his comment that he wouldn't even serve it to his cat was spot on.

Carla took the prize with her orange and papaya salad with carrot/rosemary juice. I was wondering where she got the rosemary but found she had rosemary chips she soaked to infuse her juice. Clever and the judges thought it was innovative and refreshing. Richard thought otherwise and was bitter over the win.

Elimination: Create a dish based on your ancestry. The chefs have had their lineage researched by a genealogist and were presented with stories of families that came before them. They are also surprised with having their own families come for a visit.

Richard has Irish/English background. Apparently, he had a relative that was a chemist! and another that owned a meat market. Runs in the family, huh? Tiffany and Carla both have southern roots. Carla finding out that she had a great-great grandfather that was in the civil war and was a printer who owned his own business really touched her heart. Mike and Antonia are Italians (Antonia is also 1/4 Jewish). Not only that, they discover that they are related to one another. They started calling each other cousins. That was just too funny.

Mike presented gnocci with pork ragu. Antonia had veal with fava bean risotto and rapini. The judges were impressed since both gnocci and risotto have been foods that sent past chefs home this season.

Tiffany's short ribs with stewed okra and mustard greens converted Tom into a Okra lover. Richard also presented short ribs but with bone marrow and potatoes and Carla had pork should with fried grits and cheddar biscuits.

Antonia won the challenge and then the judges did something that surprised everyone. They could not pick out any weak dishes and they eliminated no one. That meant that instead of 3 finalists going to the Bahamas, it was all 5 of them competing in the final challenge.

I wasn't cool with that. I still think they should have sent people home. I know, I know, they were all good but this is a competition, people! I think they just wanted to add extra shows to this season. Guess they got me hooked in for a bit longer.

March 18, 2011

Browned Bananas: Photo Friday

Ripe Bananas

Some of you may see rotten or spoiled bananas.

I see yummy banana bread in the making!

Have a super weekend!

March 17, 2011

Chef Susur Lee: NAIT Chef in Residence Luncheon

menu chef susur lee

When I heard that this year's Hokanson Chef in Residence was celebrity chef Susur Lee, I didn't wait long to purchase tickets for the luncheon offered. Ok, I didn't wait at all, I called the restaurant ASAP! Sold out event for 120 people!

Susur Lee Nait Lunch- Course 1

Chef Susur Lee is world renown and he's is Canadian! I have watched him on Top Chef: Masters, where he was a finalist, and have seen him on Iron Chef America.

Susur Lee Nait Lunch- Course 2

I was excited to sample his food. As you can see, it's so visually BEAUTIFUL. I was eating with my eyes before I even tasted it. Everything was so very good. Wonderful textures and tastes. My hubby, Mr. Maki (hehe), and I were commenting on how we felt that there were so many different flavor notes. We joked how we now understood how judges on Top Chef and Iron Chef can describe the "symphony of flavors dancing together in harmony" in our mouths.

Susur Lee Nait Lunch- Course 3

I have to admit, I was a bit star struck so when he was going around to different tables, I forgot to take a picture of the third course, the dessert! A big THANKS to A Canadian Foodie, who was kind enough to allow me to use her dessert picture above. Thanks so much!

Susur Lee Nait Chef in Residence

Chef Susur is definitely a sincere, wise soul. Seeing him in person, you can feel his humble and gentle nature.

Stand up chef, stand up food. FANTASTIC experience. Worth every penny and would do it again in an instant.

March 16, 2011

I'm Lovin' It.

I'm Lovin It
*scanned McDonald's flyer

I was going through my mail the other day and the McDonald's flyer caught my eye.

I like the look of the food photography. Nice styling and soft lighting. I like the shallow depth of field too. I'm surprised not seeing the logo'd fry box!

The cardboard/paper under the burger with it's curl on the end and the white paper crinkle under the chicken nugget really works. I like how the fries are placed just so and LOVE the drip of mayo and crumbs.

Huh. Who would have thunk it?

Nice job McDonald's! I'm lovin' it!

...

{These are my own opinions, as always on my blog, and am not associated with any way to McDonald's or receive any compensation of any kind from them.}

March 15, 2011

Top Chef Tuesdays: S08 E11

Join me on my blog for Top Chef Tuesdays, as I recap the highlights? I'm aware that Top Chef All Stars has already been airing in the US and we Canadians are a couple (*ahem - maybe more than a couple) episodes behind. So please, all you folks who are ahead of the watching, please, no spoilers. I'm recaping in my own personal opinion and it is all in good fun. Please join me in the comments.

...

Hey y'all!

It's Paula Deen and she wants the chefs to deep fry! Yeeee-haw. I have to admit, I think she's a very sweet lady but how can you not mock the whole Paula Deen persona. She cracks me up.

I'm getting tired of seeing Richard with that damn nitrogen tank. Come on now boy, move on, you are not a one-trick pony. Though I really like the idea of deep-fried mayonaisse. Pretty cool.

I thought Tiffany, who's from BEAUMONT, Texas, y'all, would make some delicious fried chicken alongside the fried pickles (neato!) but the Paula & Padma didn't go for it. They didn't like Dale's flavorless steak/egg wrapped oyster (yuck) and Paula thought Carla's hushpuppies looked like spitballs... awesome.

Paula loved Antonia's fried avocado and shrimp so much that she would have won if it wasn't for a technicality of not plating two dishes. That must just burn. It was neck in neck for first place with Mike's fried chicken oysters and Richard's fried bacon with mayo. Mike won the challenge and I was mad.

Mike, who stole Richard's idea, won the Quickfire and Richard had every right to be angry. It didn't even seem like a dish that Mike would have come up with on his own either. The ladies spoke about it later that it was bad chef etiquette and Antonia is correct about the "chef law", you just don't steal people's ideas. I bet Richard will be guarding this stuff now. Trust no one Richard.

The chef's are presented with the Elimination challenge of feeding 300 people for a benefit using Gulf Coast seafood. The chefs have to pick past eliminated chefs to be their sous chefs and complete the challenge.

I laugh when Tiffany picks Marcel the "white shrimp". So perfect. Richard, of course, picks Fabi'oh', yay! Poor Carla, she picks Tre, thinking he has some southern cooking experience and he looks at her with a 'deer in the headlights' expression as she rattles of some southern foods. Apparently, he's a city boy and hasn't even eaten much less prepared southern foods.

Antonia, Richard and Mike make the Top 3. Antonia's crabcakes was complex and delicate. Mike's grit crusted shrimp were sublime but it was Richard's fried fish and grits that won the trip. Didn't you just want to high-5 Richard when he said he's taking Fabi'oh' along with his family on the trip? So sweet. I'm liking Richard more. Wondering if Fabi'oh' brings his pet turtle with him? :)

I'm not overly suprised to see Dale as one of the bottom 3 since he himself says "I make asian food!" but, Carla and Tiffany? Them southern girls put the south to shame. Y'all, Beaumont, Texas is not happy with Tiffany.

Carla doused her fried grouper with hot sauce and mustard. Tiffany's overcooked shrimp and sauce on it make people gag. I still can't get the image of Paula Deen saying she was looking forward to sucking the head. eww. Bad, bad visual.

I was shocked, SHOCKED, that Dale went home for his amperjack stew that had raw potatoes. I know there was mention of "flavour warfare" as there was too much mustard on the crouton and the fish was lost in the stew but please, please tell me, how Beaumont, Texas Tiffany keeps flying under the radar?

March 11, 2011

Photo Friday

Hummus Balls Appetizer

Yesterday's post of baked sesame covered hummus balls but with a sweet chili sauce instead of tzatziki. Looks prettier but I prefered the tzatziki.

March 10, 2011

Baked Sesame-Covered Hummus Balls

Hummus balls

In my last food entry, I posted about my red pepper hummus. I was thinking about how people usually eat hummus with pita chips and how that can be boring after a while. It had me thinking of a different way to use it. Just like the time I came up with my hummus in cucumber cups appetizer.

After mulling around different appetizer ideas, I came up with hummus balls! Baked sesame-coated red pepper hummus balls, to be exact. I was super excited with covering it in sesame seeds since my hummus recipe uses tahini, which if you don't know, is sesame paste! I love when light bulb moments light up the sky for me!

These are perfect little appetizers. I dished them up into individual little plates with some tzatziki sauce. I think it would look stunning on a long thin platter with tzatziki and a line of hummus balls. Presentation people, it's all about presentation! You too can be the hostess with the mostess!

AND you don't have to be bored with just eating hummus with pita chips anymore.

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Spoon out golf ball sized balls of hummus and roll into a bowl of sesame seeds, covering thoroughly. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes at 425F. Remove from heat, allowing to cool for a few minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Great with tzatziki.

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Looking for ways to simplify? Pre-buy your hummus and tzatziki from the grocery store.


March 9, 2011

Top Chef Tuesdays: S08 E10

Join me on my blog for Top Chef Tuesdays, as I recap the highlights? I'm aware that Top Chef All Stars has already been airing in the US and we Canadians are a couple (*ahem - maybe more than a couple) episodes behind. So please, all you folks who are ahead of the watching, please, no spoilers. I'm recaping in my own personal opinion and it is all in good fun. Please join me in the comments.

...

The reason I started doing Top Chef Tuesdays is that I was hoping I'd get into a regular routine on my blog. Maybe I was trying to become more disciplined or had some stupid New years resolution but I'm finding it's becoming a bit of a chore. Unless, I'm getting paid, I don't have any urgency to complete the deadline and my blog is my personal space to write as little or as much as I want. So, I'm changing it around a bit, making it a bit less choresome. You've watched the show, so forget the recap? I'm just gonna write about my personal likes/dislikes.

Quickfire:

Sesame Street? Seriously? How many children between the age of 0-5 yrs are watching Top Chef Allstars? I'm really embarrassed seeing Cookie monster asking for a "COOOOOOOKIEEEEEEEE" next to Padma. I wonder if the chefs were asked to giggle nonstop anytime there was a muppet around? They all were acting like 5 year olds!

They have to make a cookie and I'm astounded that so many of these chefs (ie: Angelo, Mike and Dale) have never made cookies. NEVER? I call bullshit. How can people who get into the food industry and cook/bake never make a cookie? uh huh.

I have to admit, if I didn't have a recipe, there would be no way I could bake a cookie well. It's hard and I'd probably end up with well spread cookie like Antonia's "cow shit" patty. I'm also tired of seeing Richard and his nitrogen tanks and I agree.... that is NOT a cookie, it's frozen ice cream. I can see how people would disagree with Dale winning with his pretzel chocolate "cookie" thing that isn't baked but it actually looked really good and I've had cookies that haven't been baked either. Yum.

Target

Did anyone feel embarrassed for Angelo? Ok, maybe some of you thought it was cute but I believe he must have enjoyed being a 5 yr old with the muppets because his socks were yanked up so high that I'm sure my 5 yr old would ask "why is that guy wearing his socks like that?" Maybe having all his leg hair aerodynamically contained within the socks gave him the lightening speed ability we witnessed. Holy did he launch off the start line! I'm sure he looped Carla 683 times for her one time around Target.

Oh Carla... you are a blissful, "what will be, will be", slowpoke. I personally feel she was toking the g-a-n-j-a in the ladies restroom earlier. But on to other things.

Soup.

Yeah, lots of it. Not really my choice of food at 3am in the morning or before I start a early shift at work but considering they were using little cooktop appliances I get it. I think I would have made a yummy mac and cheese. Hmmmm.

Mike calling Angelo sweety was perfect and watching them as a couple was amusing. I'm amazed at the "bro-mances" this season. Richard & Fabio and now Mike & Angelo. Who's next?

I'm really liking Dale more and more as this season is progressing. And his tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches deserved to win. Awesome. But I also thought Antonia's egg dish was right up there too. That was a lot of work.

Oh Carla, you must be getting the munchies now, so you will enjoy your flavorless soup all to yourself. And why would Tiffany use a prepared spice mix? That's not Top Chef material! It's like the chef's eating frozen buitoni pasta dinners. Oh yeah. tee hee.

Angelo's salty soup sent him home, with Mike missing his boyfriend and his pulled up socks. I guess salt is the kiss of death in Top Chef.

March 7, 2011

Red Pepper Hummus

Red Pepper Hummus

I had my friend ask me for my red pepper hummus recipe and then I realized that I hadn't posted it on the blog.

Hummus, love it. Whether it's eating it straight up with pita chips or as a spread in a sandwich, it's a fantastic dip. I often make a big batch and pack half of it into the freezer so that I can enjoy it at a later time.

This time, I added fresh red pepper to my usual hummus. It was a nice twist to an already delicious recipe. I can only imagine what a roasted red pepper would do with this dish! Next time.

...

Red Pepper Hummus
makes about 2 cups

1 fresh red pepper, cored, seeds removed and chopped
1 - 19 oz can (540mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup tahini
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt or more to taste

Place the chopped red pepper into the food processor and process until very fine. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to process until smooth.

I prefer to put it into a covered container in the fridge for at least a couple of hours or overnight to enhance the flavors.

March 6, 2011

Weekly Photos: Camera Cake

Camera Cake

Hope you are all having a great weekend. Mine has been fantastic so far.

My hubby asked my daughter" "Look what daddy made! What does it look like?"
Daughter: "Uhhhh... a hammer?"
Hubby: "No silly. What does mom use all the time?"
Daughter looking over at me while I mimic using my invisible camera.
Daughter: "A camera?"

Ha ha. Too funny.

It's a camera cake with what I think it a massive telephoto lens! A chocolate cake with chocolate ganache icing. Hubby made me a camera cake for my birthday this weekend.

I'm a lucky gal and apparently not the only one with some cake decorating skills in this house!

:)

March 4, 2011

Edmonton Eating Links

Have you seen Avenue Magazine's 25 best things to eat in Edmonton? The list is diverse and sounds so appealing. From penang curry, to thai goddess chocolate and hickory-smoked beef brisket sandwich, I know I'll be eating my way through the list in the coming months!

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Starting today until March 13th, Downtown Business Association is putting on 10 days of eating with it's 8th Annual Downtown Dining Week. Edmonton's downtown restaurants are serving up multi-course meals at 3 fixed prices: $15, $25 or $50 per person. No matter what your budget, you'll find mouth watering meals.

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Make sure you pick up the March 2011 issue of Western Living Magazine. They have a list of Top 40 Foodies under 40. You'll find quite a few Edmontonians that made the list. Congrats!


March 1, 2011

Top Chef Tuesdays: S08 E09

Join me on my blog for Top Chef Tuesdays, as I recap each episode. I'm aware that Top Chef All Stars has already been airing in the US and we Canadians are a couple (*ahem - maybe more than a couple) episodes behind. So please, all you folks who are ahead of the watching, please, no spoilers. I'm recaping in my own personal opinion and it is all in good fun. Please join me in the comments.

...

The chefs come into the kitchen and are faced with making a unique fondue as their quickfire challenge. Peeps, I don't know why, but I got really excited! Maybe because the last couple episodes were a snore or maybe I just love the idea and creativity associated with this challenge but I started clapping and cheering watching the chefs run a muck in the kitchen. I instantly messaged the hubby telling him we need to do a fondue get together with friends. FUN!

No immunity for this challenge and the chefs would be judging each other. Tiffany's apple fritter dipped into a hazelnut chocolate fondue was one of the bottom 3. Sounded boring to me too. Though, Fabi'oh's creme fraiche/fromage blanc/bourdain wine fondue sounded very delicious and promising, I imagined all the billini's topped with caviar weren't the best thing to dip. Little fish roe swimming against cheesy fondue currents, meh. I also was very excited about Mike's spiced lamb kebabs with feta cheese fondue. It looked so appetizing but he rounded out the bottom 3.

Angelo's endive with walnuts dipped into goat cheese fondue followed by a beet juice shooter just looked clunky to me but he actually was one of the top 3! Antonia's cream fraiche/fromage blanc fondue with smoked salmon on toast dippers sounded comforting. But it was Dale's "Pho-ndue" of beef and bread in pho broth that won.

I thought it was funny that everything I seemed to dislike/like were the opposite picks for winners and losers. But then, I'm not a chef or professional foodie. Still had fun guessing who would be the winner.

The chefs are told to head to Rockefeller Center and they find themselves on Late Night on Jimmy Fallon's show. Their elimination challenge is to cook one of Jimmy's favorite dishes for his birthday lunch.

I always think these kinds of challenges aren't fair. Making beef tongue delectable sounds much more challenging than pulled pork or chicken pot pie. I often think that they should have more challenges like they do on the show Chopped, where they are given the same ingredients and have to come up with something creative and delicious.

I'm sure Antonia is very grateful for Richard's help with the using a pressure cooker to cook her beef tongue, as she makes the top 3. The judges were impressed with it, especially since she's never even make or ate beef tongue before herself. How stressful would that be!

Angelo's pulled pork with coffee, dill and cilantro shocked the judges considering they (and I) would never think those ingredients would be good together. Love how the table of judges and Fallon's friends were laughing so hard over the one diner's comment that Angelo can "pull his pork" anytime and how he really enjoyed Mike's sausage. Good ole raunchy jokes always a winner amongst folks. haha.

But, in the end it was Carla's chicken pot pie that won her 3rd challenge. The lucky gal is pretty much travelling around the world with her 3rd travel win to Toyko this time. You have to love Carla, she may be crazy but its' a good crazy. The woman nearly hyperventilated on just getting to make chicken pot pie and with the win... I thought they would have to bring out a defibrillator!

Tiffany, Dale and Fabi'oh were brought in for the least favorite dishes. Tiffany's chicken and dumplings was nothing what it should have been. The dumplings were flat, there were too many elements that basically masked the chicken and it wasn't even comforting. All the judges felt as if it was just a clear soup with flat noodles.

Dale's philly cheese steak could have been decent if he only tasted it. Every element had salt and when put together, it was over kill. They all were so thirsty from eating the salt lick.

This is where I screamed out a loud "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO". My fave, Fabi'oh', non-hamburger dish sent him home. He made a what the judges called meatloaf with chuck brisket. It didn't have the texture or juicy moistness of a good burger and the curdled cheese sauce sent him packing his knives.

I really was hoping it was Tiffany that would be going home but I do admit, Fabi'oh' definitely hasn't been pulling his weight in the kitchen this season. I'll miss you Fabi'oh. Arrivederci, Ciao, Bye :(

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