“Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it’s getting!”

Vin Room
2310 4 Street SW, Calgary, T2S 1X2
403.457.5522

 

When Calgary tries to go cosmopolitan I think there is often something lost in translation. And while the Alice in Wonderland meets modern art deco setting of Vin Room is a bit of lost in translation for me, it also serves as a welcome relief to enjoy an intimate wine bar and lounge in Calgary. Even better it appears to have a good appetizer menu as well, although I didn’t indulge the night I was there. The wine and beer selection is excellent and as far as comfortable place to go with a date or a few friends to lounge and chat without the noise and rowdiness of the typical Calgary bar scene, this is a great place. Prices moderate and it is has lots of seating both upstairs and down that is well partitioned to allow for private conversations. The only thing I’d warn against for sure is those crazy low chairs (not a fan) so pick a banquette if you can. Thanks to Valerie for the pick it was perfect for the occasion.

 

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A Great Sandwich for Strawberry Season

Strawberry Chicken Club Sandwiches

Rachel Ray does drive me a bit crazy, but more importantly she’s got some good stuff especially in a couple of my favorite categories – like sandwiches. Valerie picked this awesome sandwich recipe to make for us which has a surprising but delicious combination of flavors – avocado and strawberry! Rach’ calls these triple decker strawberry chicken club sandwiches, which is a bit redundant as club sandwiches are by definition triple decker. But Valerie made these just single layer which worked really well so you could actually fit the sandwich in your mouth. The other awesome thing she did was substitute bacon with bison bacon, which I can eat and is yummy. I love bison bacon! Strawberry Chicken Clubs get a Dish it! again n’ again!

 

click here for the recipe for strawberry-chicken-club-sandwiches
 
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Happy Birthday Girl Friday…Mexican Martini Throwdown!

Because of the half marathon the full on celebration part of my birthday was a bit delayed (there were many different birthday celebrations this yearJ). The best part of my delayed birthday celebration was the birthday Mexican Martini throwdown (Bobby Flay style)! The Mexican martini, lesser know than the Margarita, is a delicious tribute to Tequila!! The rules of the throwdown are that each participant must submit a recipe for the perfect Mexican martini to an independent judge who will ensure there is no recipe duplication and coordinate ingredient acquisitions to ensure maximization of ingredients (for example only one bottle of cointreau, or tequila needed, unless participants require special liquors). The party’s host put together a Mexican feast smorgasbord that delighted the senses…Spicy Bison Taquitos, Refried Bean Chalupas, Flour tortilla appies, queso and chips…yum, yum! The results of the competition are as follows:

 

The first Martini is the Austin classic (casa Trudy’s) and is an easy drink with well balanced flavours with the secret ingredient being Sprite! The second Martini is the Gayle twist, and is a bit more sour, but I love it…so in short it is a dead heat depending on what you are looking for!! But be careful, these things are addictive!

 

Trudy’s Mexican Martini (The original, from Trudy’s in Austin)

 

2 fluid ounces tequila (Herradura Silver)

1 fluid ounce Cointreau liqueur

1-2 fluid ounce Sprite

1 fluid ounce orange juice

1/2 lime, juice of

 

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Gayle’s Mexican Martini

2 ounces premium tequila (silver, 100% agave)

1 ounce orange liqueur (cointreau)

1 ounce lime juice

1 ounce lemon juice (sweetened with sugar to taste)

 

DIRECTIONS

1. Moisten the edges of martini glasses with a little lime juice mixed with 2 generous dashes of chipotle sauce (chipotle powder in the salt would also work), and then dip moistened edges into coarse salt. Place a decorative pepper in each glass (be careful they aren’t too spicy so they don’t transfer flavour!).

2. Pour remaining lime juice into a cocktail shaker, and then add tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice, and sweetened lemon juice. Fill shaker with ice, shake vigorously, and strain into prepared glasses.  

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If you’ve made either of the recipes above share your comments or providing ratings!

This ain’t your mama’s pantry – a road map to truffle pasta

Many of us recall pantry dinners of our adolescence, classics like the tuna casserole made up entirely of preserved, shelved ingredients. Pantries of the 80’s and 90’s were stocked full of cans of tuna, salmon, Campbell’s soups, condensed milk, and boxed rice, Kraft dinner, cereal, pudding powder and more. Just in case of a hurricane, unexpected invasion, or some other apocalyptic occurrence our mothers would have been fully prepared. Despite thinking we know better than our moms, with our busy schedules a few well chosen pantry items can ensure we’ve got something quick and good to eat when we get home late and don’t feel like ordering pizza. But to forge out on our own and add a bit of flare to the mom classic we have our modern pantry. To start, the modern pantry doesn’t generally contain enough food to sustain a family of 10 through a week of isolation, and the contents tend toward the more gourmet. Modern pantries are well thought out and stocked to be a bit more of a just in time inventory. The contents are premium including items with truffle, capers, tuna packed in herbed olive oil, and other fine foods shipped from around the globe…it is a whole new world, and this ain’t your mama’s pantry!

 

The first pantry dinner feature is truffle pasta with truffle butter. This dish, dished up by the divine Valerie, is so easy I’m not going to give you a recipe, but more of a road map. The truffle pasta, truffle butter (or oil), and truffles themselves can be purchased at specialty gourmet shops (this is where you will find many of the contents for your modern pantry). If you are using real truffles you can skip the truffle pasta, and just use premium pasta. So here we go. Boil some water (generously salt the water so it tastes like the sea). Add the truffle pasta and boil until al dente. Reserve a quarter cup of the boiling liquid in a cup and then strain the water. In a frying pan large enough to hold all the pasta at low to medium heat melt several tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of truffle butter (just melt the butter, don’t burn or brown). Add the cooked pasta to the pan and toss with the melted butter. Add a bit of the reserved boiling liquid to the pasta and serve. You can shave a little fresh parmesan on top or just serve straight up. To speed things up this was made as a two pot dinner, but you could melt the butter in the pasta pot and make this a one pot meal. Fresh tomato toasts are a nice side…but does venture you solidly out of the pantry dinner which requires fresh ingredients in the fridge! Truffle pasta gets a Dish it! again n again rating. So to start your modern pantry off make sure you’ve got a bag or box of gourmet pasta, and something with a little truffle in it.

 

Just a couple of my favourite specialty food shops:
Calgary: Cookbook Co., Mercato
Vancouver: Meinhardt, Edible British Columbia
Montreal: La Vieille Europe

 

If you’ve got a favorite specialty food shop share it in the comments!

Breakfast for Dinner

How could something as good as Huevos Rancheros be bad for you? Well it must be, because this recipe claims to be ‘Good for You’ Huevos Rancheros. I’m guessing that is because it calls for low fat sour cream, doesn’t have any meat products in it, and no part of it is fried. Despite the lack of calories it is yummy and was dished up by the only hope Calgary has for Tex Mex, the ever so fine, Valerie. This is a Rachel Ray magazine find, created by The Liz Pearson. I’m going to look up more of her recipes and try them, because this one was so great. Inexpensive, easy to make, healthy, and delicious this dish gets a Dish it again! And again…

Valerie’s tip: Instead of plain old sour cream dish it up with some of the chipotle lime sour cream (brilliant!).

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Tasty Tijuana Tilapia Tacos!

 

So I’d call these Tasty Tijuana Tilapia Tacos, but the creator of this recipe calls them Grilled Fish Tacos with Chipotle-Lime Dressing (click the link to find the recipe). This meal was dished up by the divine Valerie. With a craving for fish tacos and an eye for a good recipe she tracked this one down on allrecipes.com and whipped it up. These fish tacos will leave you dreaming of more. Make sure to use authentic corn tortillas if you can and also to taste the dressing as you are making it to ensure sure it isn’t too hot. A bit of planning ahead is necessary as you have to marinate the fish, so if you’re anything like this dinner’s architect you may have to squeeze in a few minutes for making the marinade after your 5am run and before your 7 am meeting!! But the great news is after a really long day with the marinating fish sitting in the fridge it is a meal from prep to table in about 20 minutes. The price point is good, it is a Quick ‘n Easy, and it is sooo yummy. This gets a Dish it! again, and again.

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At Ouisie’s Table I was welcomed home.

Ouisie’s Table
3939 San Felipe Drive Houston, Texas
713.528.2264

 

Sitting on Lucy’s porch last weekend I was reminded of the spirit of my great grandmother, Nana, who owned and operated a tea house in a small lakeside community in the mid 1900’s. And in reading more about Elouise Adams Jones, the proprietress & Executive Chef, I understood why. Her establishment is clearly a labour of love and each room and menu item is thoughtfully arranged and prepared. While I love my life and work, Ouisie’s (pronounced We’ – zee’s) made me dream of a life of afternoon lunches in sundresses and heels with my girlfriends. And sitting there with two of the most beautiful women I know it didn’t take too much imagination. We started with The Original Taster Plate that included amazing egg salad, pimento cheese, and saltine crackers. My main course was Sautéed Belly of the Salmon & Deviled Eggs. I haven’t seen devilled eggs on a menu before, but they were great, and what is more the salmon belly was amazing. I’d eat at Ouisie’s Table again and again, so it gets a Great. And if I lived in Houston I host showers and birthdays here.

Special thanks and congratulations to V.A.J. and S.O.J.B. 

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Roasting and toasting at home in 2009

I first read about cocooning for 2009 on my friend Alyssa’s blog, but since then I’m seeing it everywhere. Popular media has been telling us we are going to spend 2009 indoors making crockpot foods, knitting, and playing scrabble. And while it may be true now, I’m not sure how much of it is because they told us that is what we are going to do, or because it is actually what we had in mind? As part of my new year’s resolutions I have decided to eat meals at ‘home’ a bit more (even if home means a corporate apartment), and saving those nights I eat out for special restaurants and experiences. This is primarily in pursuit of healthier food choices, but an added benefit is the financial savings. So perhaps the trend is a result of the economic conditions and not the seed that CNBC or The Globe and Mail  planted in our minds.

Recipes: Spicy Tuna Melts and Roasted-Tomato Soup

And so in the spirit of my new resolution I was the sous chef the other night to a great meal, and I’d like to share the recipes with you. Spicy Tuna Melts and Roasted-tomato-soup (click on the links for recipes). The Spicy Tuna Melts recipe is compliments of Rachel Ray (who despite having some good home Cook recipes, usually drives me a little nuts, and I’m not the only one). We didn’t use the chipotle chilies, because we couldn’t find them in the store we shopped in, but they were as she would say ‘yummo’. They make a great quick meal. The Roasted-Tomato Soup is a recipe by the former executive chef of West, David Hawksworth featured in this month’s Shape magazine.  It takes an hour and half to make it because you roast the tomatoes, but it is very simple to make, and devine to eat. Your biggest challenge will be finding tomatoes ripe enough in winter, but it is worth the effort. We warmed it up for our lunches later this week to mixed results and we haven’t tried to freeze it yet, but I’m not sure it would stand up well in those conditions. The soup gets a Must Try, and the the Tuna Melts get a Yummy Quick Eats.