Sip ‘N Slurp

Oysters…there are a few different thought processes on them, you have tried them and love them, you have tried them and hate them or they are too slimy and scary to try so you have never tried them. I am from thought process number one, I have tried them in many different ways and love them.

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Now that we have tried Oysters in all their glory came the trouble of what do you pair with oysters for drinks. Beer? Cocktails? Wine? With those questions rattling around in our heads we came across the perfect solution, an Oyster and Wine pairings event held by Co-op Wine and Spirits in conjunction with Rodneys Oyster House. Here is what we learned in this glorious evening of sipping and slurping….

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Oysters, oysters, oysters, there are so many varieties and types! Every oyster looks a bit different from the outside and although they look very similar inside each oyster has its own texture and flavour. Tonight we were eating our oysters raw with just a bit of fresh lemon and fresh grated horse radish to pick up the true taste of the oysters. After learning a bit about oysters our first lesson of the night was how to taste the wine with the oyster. First sip the juice known as the “liquor” then take a sip of your wine, from there go ahead and slurp down the oyster and make sure to follow it up with more wine! Something to note is that if you are using sauces for your oysters you should pair your wines to the sauces instead of the oyster.

When having or serving oysters and you are not sure what to have, go with a bubbly. As with most things you can never go wrong opening a bottle of bubbly and tonight we matched beautiful real Champagne with the beautiful small and delicate “Savage Blonde” oyster. We had the Pol Roger Champagne Brut which was just sweet enough to cut through brine of the oyster. This was a pairing I would go back to again and again!

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Next we tried a bit of a bigger meatier oyster. The Duxbury Prime oyster was a little meatier than our first oyster and paired beautifully with the Chateau St. Michelle Reisling.

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Our next oyster was the cadillac of oysters. Considered the steak of oysters the Cotuit oyster really was big and meaty with a bit of a mushroom taste and a much stronger brine taste to it. Wonderfully delicious, it paired excellently with the J. Moreau Et Fils Chablis (a great white wine made with Chardonnay grapes but completely unoaked). The fresh citrus base of this wine was a perfect accompaniment to this meaty beast of an oyster. With this wine pairing we also had the Lameque Verte oyster, still a meaty selection but the brine was much less salty and had a bit of a sweeter end that again matched perfectly with the Chablis.

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Our only Pacific coast oyster of the night was the Fanny Bay oyster. A special treat due to the breeding issues that BC coast oysters are having. This can be a two bite oyster depending on which one you get. Another big meaty oyster but with a sweet taste it was one of the favourites of the night. It paired excellently with the big and bold Jolivet “Attitude” Saviognon Blanc.

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Through the night we also paired a Village Bay oyster with a dry Sherry, the biggest shrimp cocktail I have ever seen with a dry rosè “Fragile” by Orin Swift and finished off the night with a great smoked salmon and cream cheese pancake matched up with a 50th Parallel Pinot Noir.  (Somehow those managed to get eaten before I could snap any pictures!)

The overall learnings for us were that there are more Oyster varieties than you can ever imagine and they cover everything from light and delicate to big and meaty. Fresh grated horse radish is not near as sharp or spicy as its processed counterpart, try is out and you might find that you enjoy the light peppery flavour! When you are pairing a wine to these look to pair acid with acid, pick fresh whites with a citrus base to cut the brine and bring up the sweetness. If you are using sauces, pair to the sauces and if you are using a hot sauce stick to a sweeter wine to cut the heat. Overall this was a great night of fun and education for us and we are looking forward to a lot of shucking in our future!

Learning the art of sipping and slurping, I am Your Everyday Foodie.

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Chef Playground Challenge

We recently attended an event hosted at Starbelly Open Kitchen & Lounge to raise funds for the Auburn Bay school to build a playground. For a ticket of $125 per person all inclusive we had the chance to watch two of Calgary’s great Chefs compete against each other to see who could create the best meal with wine pairings from Noble Ridge wines from B.C.

The evening started out with the restaurant rocking to a great DJ and a cocktail hour where we had the choice of Peach Cider by Big Rock Brewery or two house wines.We were lucky enough to be sat at a table with a great view of the open kitchen where we could watch the chef and team of cooks prep and serve each course. While we were enjoying our cocktails and the ambiance, one of the owners of Noble Ridge wines located in the lovely Okanagan Valley came around and introduced herself. A boutique winery producing only 5000 bottles of wine a year the winery is owned by a lovely couple that until recently resided right here in Calgary. Their story really is great, they are wonderful people and I would recommend heading west and visiting the winery if you ever have the chance. If not check out some of their amazing wines and support a great canadian winery.

With cocktails done dinner was about to begin. The first course was presented by Chef Rogelio Herrera of Alloy Fine Dining. He gave us a Mango and Marash chilli cured BC salmon which was wonderfully paired with the 2011 “The One” vintage sparkling wine from Noble Ridge. An amazing start to the meal this one would be hard to beat!

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Next up was Chef Jonathan Sobol of Starbelly Open Kitchen who presented us with a dish of Roasted Bacon with a pineapple BBQ sauce and apple slaw. This amazing dish was paired with a 2013 Stony Knoll Chardonnay from Noble Ridge. The dish really blew us away with the smoky sweet bacon combination. the Chardnonnay was fabulous and although this dish was nothing short of awesome, somehow this pairing didn’t hit the mark and our points went to Chef Herrera for this pairing.

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The next course was headed up again by Chef Herrera and he indulged us with a Braised Waygu Chuck Flat with Truffle Gnocchi and was paired with the 2013 Estate Hermatige from Noble Ridge wines. When the pat of black truffle butter malted into the sauce this dish was buttery, creamy and super flavourful. Again Chef Herrera managed to pick a perfect wine pairing for his dish.

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With course four Chef Sobol came to win and presented an Alberta Quail with Foie Gras stuffing. This beautiful dish was paired with a wonderful and full bodied 2011 Pinot Noir from Noble Ridge Wineries. This was really going to be a tough choices for the panel of judges.

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With dinner over and the judges cards being tallied we enjoyed our final course of the night, Rhubarb and Tonka Bean Macaroons.

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Overall the evening was really well put together the food was amazing, the service was stellar and the wines were a great discovery for us. Big kudos to the Starbelly crew for maintaining the amazing service and great ambiance through out the night. And for those that are wondering the judge declared winner at the end of the night by a small margin was Chef Rogelio Herrera of Alloy.

After being spoiled with these amazing creations I would highly recommend that you head south of downtown Calgary and try out both of these fabulous restaurants and add to your wine tasting list some of the great wines offered by Noble Ridge Wineries. We will definitely be planning many visits to both of these restaurants in the near future!

Enjoying chef challenges across the city, I am Your Everyday Foodie.

 

Comfort Food At Home

I can’t think of any comfort food that is much better than a warm bowl of home made beefy stew on a cold and cloudy day.

Stew can be an easy to make dinner that doesn’t have to take the whole day to prepare or cook in a slow cooker to get great flavour. I am not always the greatest dinner planner so when the thought strikes me to make a dish like stew, I have an easy go to recipe that makes a fast but amazingly flavourful dish.

Start of course with your beef, there is nothing better than some great Alberta Beef. I like to go beyond the regular stewing beef because I really believe in the adage that you should cook with great ingredients for every dish. Tonight I chose a nice 21 day aged simmering steak. Cut the steak into a size that will be comfortable in your spoon when its time to eat. This portion of the cooking is what takes the longest as you need to sear each piece of beef so that each one is well caramelized on the outside. Make sure to keep your oil sizzling but not smoking as you are going to keep all of those crispy brown bits as the base of the stew. Be patient as this is where the great full brown flavour of your stew will come from.

Once all of your beef is nicely browned, keep all of those beautiful brown bits in your pot and add in all of your veggies. Stew is such a personal adventure and this is where you can decide how to personalize it. I use a couple of carrots, a couple stalks of celery, an onion or two and instead of regular potato I like to use sweet potato chopped up. I also add in a medium can of chopped tomatoes and a small can of tomato paste along with a container of beef broth. Pick out a bottle of big beefy red wine that you would like to drink, have a glass for yourself and pour the rest in to top everything off.  Add lots of salt and pepper and a couple of bay leaves and set the pot to boil. Once it’s boiling turn it down to simmer and leave it only stirring occasionally until you are ready to eat. Let the stew cook for at least an hour but the more it cooks the bigger and better the flavours grow and blend.

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Since I like my stew to be pretty thick I like to finish mine up with a bit of corn starch mixed with some milk or cream then added to the stew to thicken it up. Adding the cornstarch to the cream instead of water will help to emulsify any extra fats that have cooked out of your beef and make everything smooth.

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Serve out big steaming bowls of beefy goodness, garnish if you like and enjoy!

Enjoying comfort food at home, I am Your Everyday Foodie.

Charcuter-what?

Charcuterie (/ʃɑːrˌkuːtəˈriː/ or /ʃɑːrˈkuːtəri/; the french word that is for the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork.

Extremely popular in many of todays restaurants I decided we should sample our way through some of the ones that we have seen on menus and others that have been recommended to us. So over a couple of weekends we hit the town and here is what we discovered.

The Selkirk Grill located in the Gasoline Alley building at Heritage Park.

  • For $19 you get a generous selection of house cured meats including thinly sliced dried beef, house made salami, smoked salmon, anise cured duck breast and head cheese. The Head Cheese is where my inner foodie really came out as it seems like a strange kind of item. It is a slow cooked meat that is set into a terrine mould and set with a broth that when chilled forms a type of jelly that supports everything. Along with the delicious selection of meats were two types of hard cows cheese and a great ash covered soft goat cheese. Other accompaniments included an onion jam, whole grain mustard, house made sweet pickles, house made pickled beets, crostini, cheese crackers and a few house made pork rind puffs. This Charcuterie board can easily feed two people as is however, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fresh made Bannock with house made butter ($6). There really is not much that is better than this bannock dough fried until puffy and then lightly salted. Both items are fantastic and will have us returning for more!

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Fergus and Bix Restaurant and Beer Market in Marda Loop

  • Here they do the Charcuterie a little different. You have the choice of the Beer Board for $29 (or $20 during happy hour daily from 3-6pm) or the Wine Board for $25. We decided to try out the Beer Board for our hunt today. The board came with an assortment of cured italian meats including Calabrese and Cappicola. Two grilled locally made sausage one pork and leek and one chicken and apple. The board also included a fresh mini pretzel loaf, root chips, cheese, thinly sliced asian pear and pickled peppers. Our favourite part of this board were the accompaniments, the house made bacon jam is amazing! This board is a good size but would best serve as an appetizer rather than a meal for two.

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Bow Valley Ranche in Fish Creek Park

  • For $26 the Charcuterie board at the Bow Valley Ranche comes with an assortment of well seasoned house cured meats that included Cappicola, anise cured salami, a mild and spicy cured venison and cured duck breast. There were also house made olives and marinated vegetables, a soft brie and a harder cow cheese along with 3 fresh in house made condiments a ginger chutney, melon chutney and a cranberry grainy mustard. The board also comes with house made bread and a bread stick that was light and crispy. This is a board that is easily shared with two people and will leave you quite satisfied although once you have looked at the other menu items it will be hard to resist ordering a full meal.

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There are so many more to explore but if I waited and tried all of them this blog would never get finished. With these boards popping up at many restaurants you can be sure we will keep indulging in them at every turn.

I do love different charcuterie boards. The opportunity to taste all of the various house cured meats and sauces. The best part of the board for me is trying all of the different accompaniments with each of the meats. This is the chance to let your imagination run wild, be adventurous and try all kinds of matches.

Discovering new boards everywhere, I am Your Everyday Foodie.

Cocktails For A Cause

Carnival Cocktails for Cancer is an amazing event that has been put together in memory and honour of Jennifer Gardiner AKA Jen Unplugged. No ordinary woman, according to her friends she was larger than life loving fashion, food, wine, cocktails and friends. In turn this event is no ordinary fundraiser with all funds directed specifically toward clinical trials at the Tom Baker Cancer centre right here in Alberta.

This event is not your everyday food and drink tasting event. Set at the Hotel Arts you can be prepared to have all of your senses amazed as you enter a true old fashioned carnival. Each of the 20+ participating restaurants and bars are assigned a different carnival theme and a base liquor and are then challenged to come up with a one of a kind version of carnival food or carnival cocktail to serve to the crowd goers for the night.

No where else are you going to see a lion pouring and shaking cocktails,

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a card reader that will determine which drink is best for you,

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strong men lifting bar bells while pouring drinks full of rum, cream, cinnamon, egg and milk with a donut hole,

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and a bearded lady to read your fortune among just a few of the delights.

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As we explored this amazing setting with the DJ pumping out great music we came across Deep Fried Smoked Butter with bone marrow and spicy mayo from Proof.

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Also from proof was their drink offering, the Old Flame a great drink with gin, sweet vermouth, citrus, 5 spice and of course fire!

Tamales de Chivo with goat barbacoa and salsa verde and a side of Esquites, a braised corn dish with queso fresco and cilantro from Native Tongues Taqueria.

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Anejo provided one of our favourites of the night with their take on chicken and waffles as Chicken and Churros.

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Black Pig Bistro offered up a BBQ Spiced Chicharron with crunchy slaw and a Graceland Donut with banana chips, bacon and a warm peanut butter filling.

And where else would you be able to try Heritage Angus Tongue Pastrami with an arugula sponge and juniper foam paired up with a Chika-Cherry Cola drink mixed with gin, cola syrup, lime and cherry jam both the inventions of Cannibale.

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Brasserie Kensington offered up a perfect treat of Brasserie Waffles with chocolate covered bacon and vanilla bourbon maple syrup. A whole bin of chocolate covered bacon…..how could you go wrong?

Add of course the Hotel Arts had an amazing showing with a Mole in the Hole interactive drink where you had to “whack a mole” and smash your ancho ice ball to mix it with whisky, 5 spice syrup and chocolate bitters and a combination of Guaca-Mole with a citrus cured albacore guacamole cone and a mole braised chicken leg on a puffed corn chip.

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The food and drink selections went on and on with a new discovery at each turn. The night was amazing with a feeling of excitement and fun. Not only did the night offer amazing food and drinks but table after table of silent auction items and raffle tickets where the lucky winners would take home two tickets for any West Jet destination and over 80 bottles of wine from the wine tower!

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We have all in one way or another been touched by cancer and I can not imagine a better way to honour someones memory and continue raising funds to fight the good fight than a night like tonight. The all inclusive tickets for the night were $150 a ticket which is a small price considering the cause and the amazing event. We are already looking forward to next years event and will be watching for the tickets to go on sale in late fall. I can’t wait to share the news about this wonderful night and encourage more people to come with us next year.

Exploring the carnival and supporting a cause close to all of us, I am Your Everyday Foodie.