Diner Delight

30 08 2011

The Guy F Mark

We were recently in Spokane, Washington for our annual road trip to the Goodguys Rod and Custom Association car show. We had a smaller contingent of folks take the trip this year, but was fun just the same. There were more than 1500 cars at the Spokane fair grounds, including the three we trailer’ed down. Since we were driving around in hot-rods what a great opportunity to check out some diners (like the show Drivers, Diners and Dives). I know, I know, real foodies flinch these days at all the ridiculous food reality shows out there (I’m one of them). However, the benefit to ‘Triple D’ is that we hopped in our cars and checked out a scene we would normally never have known about, and it made our night.

Our buddy Owen tasting Kids Mac & Cheese

We headed to Chaps (check out their website). A very cool and very fitting place owned by two friends. It is a throw back to the 50’s with spiked favourites like Lobster Mac & Cheese and Fish Tacos.

Our '67 Beaumont 'Della' in front of Chaps

A bakery is a part of the story which serves up lots of different pastries and cookies – which my mom bought a box of and I only tried one, boo. Sneaky lady. But the Chocolate Ginger I had was delicious!

Yummy, Chocolate and Ginger

That concluded three of four trips this summer, two of which were road trips. Now we head east to a wedding in Winnipeg, Manitoba….which I am sure I’ll have some lovely things to share cause the gal getting married is one of the loveliest I know.

T & I in front of the Chaps Truck

How has your summer been? Any food exploration? I love hearing from you, thanks for sharing your experiments and which recipes you have tried from the blog. Healthful eating (except for that Chocolate Ginger cookie:)) is important, happy to be on the journey with you.

Eat well, Be well,

Nat

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French Kiss

2 07 2011

I hope all you Canadians had a nice Canada Day. I worked in the garden, seeded more spinach, picked peonies (and weeds) and made a rhubarb-strawberry crumble. Summer has truly arrived.

Tony and I spent a few days last week at the Vegas house. It is more than summer there. The hottest it got was 42 degrees celsius. There was a lot of lounging by the pool and swimming going on. We were celebrating our third wedding anniversary and Tony’s 40th birthday. In doing so we hit up a favourite eating spot on Friday night, The Oyster Bar at Harrah’s Casino. An old but iconic casino. I, unlike most people I know, love fresh shucked oysters. For someone who has sworn off most meat for 20+  years, I still eat seafood. I am very conscious of the sort of seafood I eat though, and checked on my Seafood Watch iPhone app we were being responsible gluttons that night. In the research that I have done, a lot of high quality oysters are farmed  very responsibly. Farmed oysters are a ‘Best Choice’ according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

That night they had five varieties of oysters on the menu, which is an interesting sign of the economy in Vegas. When we were there last February they only had one variety, Malpeque. Sad but true, more money = more gambling and trips to Vegas. I digress. We had the always good Bluepoints off the East Coast US, French Kiss from New Brunswick (on the left in the image above) and Shigoku, a Japanese variety farmed in the Pacific North West (on the right above). They threw in a fourth for us to try, but I didn’t catch the name, they said they were ‘really special’ and we had to try them (the two small ones in the middle). They were good. Our favourite was the French Kiss. They were meaty and sweet.

Other information on oysters Canadian Aquaculture and David Suzuki’s site for eating for a healthy planet.

We got home in time to have 20 people for dinner. Thank goodness for friends and family that bring food and help cook. I had a cake made for Tony at Cakeworks here in town. They do wonderful cakes and if you’d like, with caricatures on them. Here is Tony driving our 1967 Beaumont.

Argh, just posted, but here’s an after thought: I have to share this with you too. Tony made the sweetest little table for our hallway as an anniversary gift. It is a joint effort actually. My brother Tim made the metal base and Tony did the woodwork. There is even a little drawer at one end, he is so talented. I also got a great big bread board, a man you knows my heart :). Can’t wait to blog about that one day too.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend and if you are in the US, happy Fourth of July.

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Miracle Lettuce?

29 05 2011

So last year I seeded a second row of lettuce in August (I write these things down in my garden journey). It sprouted and I realized it was way to late for it to grow enough to be edible, and noted that next year I would think to do that MUCH earlier.

Where the garden is use to be a 5 foot pile of snow 🙂 Well under that pile of snow emerged these little lettuce sprouts and leaves, green, looking alive. I left them and I am not really sure if they have grown since the snow melted, but then again that was just a few weeks ago. 😉 I tilled the garden last week and couldn’t resist just leaving that little row of miracle lettuce to see what would happen. Grandma says it’s possible….well it rained all week so nothing yet (and no sprouts yet from everything else I planted) but the sun was out today so this week I am sure I’ll be able to tell if it is growing lettuce or if it froze and defrosted in the exact state it was in!

I’ll keep you posted.

How does your garden grow?

Eat Well, Be Well,

Nat





Food Geopolitics, NFB and Piikani

21 05 2011

Finally a long weekend. The last few weeks have been so busy with work and extracurricular activities I have been hard pressed to stay connected. Now the sun is out and it’s time to get some stuff around the yard done. We have big plans today, starting with taking down a gazebo, trimming a very out of control pine tree, clearing the flower beds, tilling the garden, planting seeds and putting together our new patio furniture. When it is done, the yard will be a new oasis. Speaking of oasis, last night I got home late, it was dark, but when I walked into the yard the smell from the newly blooming plum-tree filled the air. I love this time of year and I {heart} that tree.

This morning I was able to get to some articles and surfing done I have missed. Found this very good article on the geopolitics of food (besides giggling my way through rapture articles, argh). This article goes beyond the symptoms of food prices but the building global scarcity of food, food production and secure sources of food. Linking political, agricultural and ecological systems. It reminded me how important understanding where our food comes from, how it is produced and the context of what we choose to put in our mouths requires more than a nanosecond of attention.

“The world now needs to focus not only on agricultural policy, but on a structure that integrates it with energy, population, and water policies, each of which directly affects food security. But that is not happening. Instead, as land and water become scarcer, as the Earth’s temperature rises, and as world food security deteriorates, a dangerous geopolitics of food scarcity is emerging. Land grabbing, water grabbing, and buying grain directly from farmers in exporting countries are now integral parts of a global power struggle for food security.”

My extracurricular activities this past month have included a recording session for the National Film Board with grandma Anne. The Bread Project (see previous posts) has been proposed as a digital archive that could be shared online. My good friend Mariette is behind this. Anne was interviewed about her life experience, her family immigrating from Hungry, growing up in Canada, her baking, cooking and what she had learned about life. I listened from another room, sitting in grandpa’s chair learning, laughing and crying as she opened up about her life. I wish I had that opportunity with each of my grandparents. Hopefully I’ll be able to share a finished product with you all one day.

Anne, the Bread Project group and I also set out on a field trip to the Piikani Nation this past month, south of Calgary near Pitcher Creek. Visiting the Peigan Indian Reserve was a special honour, as it is not something that you can easily do as well as have a tour. Charlotte’s family, one of the group members, is from the Piikani Nation. This picture is of her childhood home, in which our government felt it appropriate for two adults and eleven children to live in growing up in the 50’s-70’s. The residential school some of her siblings attended was a kilometre way, in site of the house, but the children weren’t allowed to come home for the holidays. Her mother would hang red cloth on the fence at Christmas so the children could see Christmas at home from the school windows. How did we possibly think we were doing any good and how can we continue to judge when we are so culpable? We took the group to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump museum and park afterwards. A very important and moving day for all of us.

My time to recharge is not only about getting chores done and relaxing, but staying connected to what is happening in the world , in food and society. I appreciate the downtime to expand my horizons a little further as it is so easy to get caught up in our own narrow worlds.

Hope you enjoy the long weekend. What are your plans?

Eat well, Be Well,

Nat





Early Garden Tips

5 05 2011

Gardening season is coming and I have started to plan what changes I am going to make based on what I learned from last year. You can reminisce with me by clicking here. It is so tempting to get out there on the first nice day, but we know here in Calgary we will get frost or snow yet. What I have learned though, is that you can plant some seeds now! Lettuce, carrots, beets, kale, radishes, spinach and peas are hardy enough. Now, with harsh weather, you might lose little seedlings, but I think the risk is worth it.  If you plant lettuce now, you’ll probably get two harvests from it.

I was chatting with a gardener tonight, she is a long time student at the yoga studio and we chat about landscaping and gardening all year-long. She taught a gardening class this year at the Calgary Zoo.  I wasn’t able to take it in this year, but it sounds perfect. She reviews the planning process, staggered germination timing, soil prep and planting. She does this in real-time so that the gardeners’ homework is their own garden.

Jane told me the BEST tip today, besides convincing me to plant seeds early to extend my harvest time, she said to plant the radishes with the carrots together in the same row. The radishes come up fast, and naturally help to thin out the carrots. I love this. I didn’t thin my carrots well last year and this helps PLUS it saves me a row in my modest garden for planting another row of greens, staggered from the other rows so everything doesn’t come to harvest at the same time. Jane buys seeds with different germination times and charts everything. That sounds fun (for analytics like me).

We’ve been looking at converting our garden space into a green house. I love this idea and my grandma has me convinced. She had this huge green house when I was growing up. With hale and such in Calgary, you can really benefit from a green house, and for busy urban gardeners like myself, it makes for less fuss and longer growing seasons. If not this year, then next. We’ll let you know.

Are you getting ready to plant a garden? How about a community garden?

Eat well, Be well,

Nat





Orange Groves of Portugal

6 04 2011

Well, we are back from our trip to Portugal, good to be home but uh, um, to a record breaking snow fall on Saturday. We were shocked back to reality as we peered out the airplane windows, but you should have seen the faces of those passengers visiting for the first time!

Portugal is wonderful. I already shared my favourite Portuguese treat, Pastel de Nata in my previous post, and yup, I kept on eating them, almost one a day with my tea. You can’t go to Portugal and not fall in love with the oranges. There are so many varieties, they grow them all year-long and apparently it was the Portuguese navigators and sailors that originally brought the orange to the Mediterranean. We had the amazing opportunity to visit a Portuguese family who has a small orange grove outside Faro, in the Algarve. A fellow yogi sweetly connected us to her family so we could experience her home country the way it is meant to be appreciated, by visiting local villages. The three of us count this as one of the highlights of the trip, if not the best part. Obrigado Liana.

We met Joe, Liana’s dad, at the “cafe across the street from the church on the main street of Santa Barbara de Nexe”. In his words, “you know where that is?”. Us, “Yeah sure, we gotta a map and we’ll meet you there”. Right. We found it, eventually, not withstanding a little back seat driver incident between Nat and Bro (Nat the back seat driver) 😉 We arrived to learn the church was the same church Joe was baptized in, it was in a quaint town and we had a cappuccino in the little cafe before following him to the homestead. I wish I could have captured the smell, there is nothing like it. The moment we arrived in the country side, all you could smell was orange blossoms. As we drove, we rolled the windows down to take in deep breaths of the sweet aroma.

We toured the house, met the dogs, the parrot, the chickens (which I want but can’t have, they get 10 eggs a day!), and then went for a stroll through the orchard, with grandma, Maria and Joe. Joe pointed out the winter oranges, tangerines, figs and apricots just starting to grow, two kinds of avocados and a little yellow fruit I forget the name of!

Unknown Fruit

Avocados

Baby Figs

Baby Apricots

Birds Nest

They were peeling tangerines, feeding us and filling shopping bags full of fruit as we walked. The farmer who tends the land pointed out a little bird nest, saying that the same birds lay only two eggs each time. Amazing. Sadly, since the EU was established, having personal orange groves, Joe has about 1000 trees, doesn’t produce the income it use to. A person needs many more than that to subsist on orange farming alone. We talked about the similarities in the wheat farming in Canada, orange production is controlled in a similar manner, all produce is cycled through a central channel.

Look at this pile of oranges we had – if you can believe we almost ate them all, we brought home the few that were left. We made juice from other oranges we would buy by the bag out of a grocery cart left on the street, leaving a 1 Euro coin in a can, love it.

Portugal has much to share,  its simplicity of life and its way of slowing one down. The freshness of the food, from the fruit, vegetables, breads, cheeses and fish. We enjoyed many meals of grilled seafood, caught that day by the restaurants owner or fisherman.

When you travel, do you attempt to get a better idea of the culture and way of life? What is your favourite travel food experience?

Eat well, be well,

Nat





Pastel de Nata

26 03 2011

Hi blog friends. I write this quick entry from Portugal. Land of the best oranges, vino verde (green wine as they call it but it is fresh white wine with a hint of effervescence), fresh cheeses, grilled seafood caught by local fishermen and Portugese hospitality.

I first came to Portugal with my mom in 2003. My folks have a timeshare in Albuferia in the Algarve along the beach. Tony and my brother and I find ourselves back in the Algarve for a sunny holiday. One week in and I have enjoyed the simple but oh so satisfying pastel de nata many times. They are little flan type pastries. Perfect with afternoon tea. Yum.

Here are some photos I’ve collected of my fave Portugese treat. One of them is of the little tarts hiding in a bag and me sneaking a nibble at the back of the bus on our tour to Gibraltar. More on that and other Portugese adventures another day. I hope all is well…

Eat well, be well, adeus
Nat