A Foodie Hostess Gift

Invited to a Christmas get-together?  Are the hosts  fellow foodies?  In the past couple of years, we have taken to replacing the traditional bottle of wine for the host, with a bottle of good olive oil!  What a great reaction this gift generates! Delivered in a lovely Christmas wine gift bag, it makes a wonderful alternative.  Flavored oils,  products of Provence and Puglia are a good choice.  Remember that, like wines, you pretty much get what you pay for, so the more it costs, the better it will be.  Calgary’s Italian Super Market, Lina’s and Williams and Sonoma are good sources.

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WHETting our appetites in Vancouver

WhetThe Edmonton Foodies joined us in Vancouver for Grey Cup weekend and we ventured out for our first culinary adventure to Granville Island’s newest eatery WHET.  Located right along the main drag on Granville Island, is Whet worth its weight? Or should hungry food fans look elsewhere? Read on for our quick review.

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Update: Unruly Children are NOTable

As Paul wrote in a previous post, NOtaBLE is a wonderful and welcome island in the sea of chain restaurants in Northwest Calgary. Duane and I enjoyed dinner there last night, a regular spot for our ‘date night’ dinners. Sadly however, the normally lively urban atmosphere was brutalized by various families who chose not to keep their children under control. At one table, a toddler screamed constantly while mom and dad ignored the wails. Another extended family enjoyed their dinner while their children ran (yes, RAN) the ‘loop’ of the restaurant squealing and shrieking their way past our table, over and over and over again. Even the servers were apologizing to us. One said, ‘after tonight, I will never have children’.

On the opposite pole to this experience, on a recent visit to Paul and Megan’s in Edmonton, we noticed a trend towards ‘adult only’ dining. What a concept!! What a breath of fresh air!! We dined just off Whyte Ave at a lovely bistro called Accent. Not a cranky child in sight! Signage outside restaurants in The Chuck will often identify the adult only eateries. And other tout signage indicating whether seating is currently available. Brilliant!

If you insist on taking your children for a nice dining experience, please, consider the atmosphere and the people around you. At very least, ensure your children are well behaved – we do not want to listen to them shriek throughout the restaurant. If we did, we’d likely have gone to McDonalds for dinner to enjoy the sights and sounds of their ‘PlayPlace’.

Come on, Calgary! Get with the program! Let’s bite the bullet here and learn something from our northern neighbors (tough to admit I know but this time its a good idea)!

As for our meals at NOtaBLE, I had the Chicken Stuffed Ravioli which was served with chunky carrots and green beans in a rich cream. Delicate and tasty. Duane had the Crab and Shrimp Bake, a nice cheesy concoction which you spoon onto bread rounds. Yummy. The Pear Upside Down Cake for dessert was in fact a very nice gingerbread with pear halves and a dollop of very thick cream. Dinner, as always, was fabulous, but they really do need to do something about the kids.

NOtaBLE on Urbanspoon

An Oatmeal Revelation

Quaker OatsI recently discovered something quite remarkable about baking muffins.  Odd, since I have been baking them for 45 years.  No matter, I am a big enough man (figure of speech) to admit that I can still learn new tips.   And this one  is so simple  it seems a trivial change to an ingredient.  But it makes a HUGE difference to the result. Seriously, I’m shocked that a) I didn’t know this before and b) how much it transforms your muffins from really pretty darn good to fantastic!


The secret is with the oats.  Before adding the oats to your muffins, add boiling water and let it rest 15 minutes.  The difference is in the texture of the muffin.  Lighter and somehow more flavorful.   For each cup of oatmeal, add 1/2 cup of boiling water.

Give it a whirl!

Really Good Oatmeal Muffins

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease or line muffin pan with muffin cups.

In a small bowl, combine:

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup boiling water
Grated rind of one orange
1/2 cup orange juice

By hand or with mixer cream together:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs
Mix lightly until combined.

Sift together:
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
Add to butter mixture and combine.  Add oat mixture and mix together.
Stir in:
1 cup raisins

Spoon into prepared muffin pans, filling 2/3 full.
Bake at 350 F  until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Makes 12 muffins.

Enjoy them as much as everyone here at my house did!


Childhood favorite!

Pineapple Upside Down CakeYou know, some foods have that uncanny power to transport you to a different place or a different time in your life.  I needed an idea for dessert to take to Leslie’s tomorrow – something classic, pretty to look at and over the top yummy.  Several things would fill this bill, but I knew I’d found the perfect recipe when suddenly I had the sensation that I was 12 years old,  sitting patiently at my parents’ dining room table waiting for my serving of Pineapple Upside Down Cake.  I would take tiny little bites to try and make it last.  Mmmmmm mmmmm.

This recipe is my grandmother’s (Paul’s great-grandmother).

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Granville Island Magic

Granville MarketEvery time I visit Vancouver I am dumb struck.  How can this beautiful place be only an hour away from Calgary, the world’s bleakest spot in winter??  Why do I not live here??  Vancouver is positively stunning in fall; the leaves are all manner of red, orange and green. Green grass, green hedges, lots of green that I know endures all winter long.  So, to all those people that say its too rainy and too gray in Vancouver, you have it all wrong!!

Green also defines the Vancouver food scene. Sustainable fishing, organic farming, freshness, vibrancy. These are adjectives commonly seen both eating out and cooking in .  And they particularly describe my favorite place to shop for groceries or prepared items: Granville Island Market. There is something  about this bustling wharfside market that is intoxicating, to say nothing of the exceptional produce, meat, seafood and baked goods available. Every meal I prepare here in Vancouver is 100% better, due entirely to the freshness of the ingredients.

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