A PERi-PERi Adventure

Everyone has a favourite chicken joint be it take out or dine in, fried, baked, rotisserie, BBQ, smoked….the options go on and on.

The other day we were invited to attend the pre-opening, sneak-peek of a restaurant that is not only fairly new to many in Calgary, but was opening a brand new location on the famed 17th Avenue this weekend. I had heard of Nando’s in passing and had even come across the one location in the NE end of the city recently but since I didn’t know a lot about it I passed on by.

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As I now know, Nando’s is a mix of a take out and eat in, partial table service restaurant that offers a unique blend of african spices mixed with Portuguese style open flame grilling. Having originally started in South Africa in 1987 they now have over 1200 locations through out the world. Peri-Peri means African Bird’s Eye Chili which is the exact thing that gives Nando’s its special flavour. After sourcing their authentic Peri-Peri chili’s, Nando’s now has a breed of the chili that is specifically theirs (which is why they spell theirs PERi-PERi instead of the traditional way) and they continue to support its sustainable growth and harvest in South Africa. The chicken is marinated for a minimum of 24 hours then grilled to perfection over open flame with your choice of spicy heat creating a unique Afro-Portugese flavour.

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As we arrived, the line up of invited guests gathering on the street and the live DJ on the small patio pumping out the tunes was inviting a lot of buzz and attention. As soon as you enter you can see that this location will be a star on the famous 17th avenue strip. From the beautiful artwork above the bar commissioned and completed by a South African artist (as is all of the art in the Nando’s locations)

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to the clean lines, great lighting and open patio.

We snagged a table and were introduced to the PERi-PERi experience by one of the staff.

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We explored the sauce bar (an amazing selection of sauces of varying heats that you can take to your table to add any sort of spice you like),

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the futuristic looking pop machine that has a choice of over 100 drinks to choose from and the rest of the restaurant that includes an upstairs seating section and a hand washing station right in the main dining room to avoid any possible accidental spicy eye rubbing incidents!

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Shortly there after, with a glass of sangria in hand (by they way they have sangria on tap, we were already off to a great start) the food started to arrive.

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We had hummus with PERi-PERi drizzle and roasted red pepper dip with pita slices,

 

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marinated mixed olives and PERi-PERi nuts,

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Portugese garlic bread (that I could eat order after order of), and PERi-PERi sliders which were amazing with a sweet tasting sauce that mixed great with a bit of the spicy sauce.

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All of that was followed with PERi-PERi fries (with a spicy salt and aioli), chicken skewers

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and finally the amazing chicken. The chicken lived up to every thing we had expected and more. Perfectly grilled it was the juiciest and most flavourful chicken we have had anywhere.

With just a little room left we indulged in dessert, a Natas which is a Portuguese custard tart. The pastry was amazing, crunchy and chewy and the filling was thick, creamy and not too sweet. It held up beautifully to being eaten by hand and I had to give my husband the stink eye to keep him away from mine.

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Overall I think that we have found a new favourite chicken joint. Not only is it a healthier grilled version instead of fried but we can’t wait to try the multitude of spices and flavours from mild to super spicy that you can add to any chicken. A quick look at the menu shows prices that will be hard to beat anywhere else and we are already planning our next trip back. If you have a Nando’s in your city and you have been avoiding it because you were not sure what it was I highly suggest you visit soon!

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Exploring a new addiction to PERi-PERi, I am Your Everyday Foodie!

Just a note, although we were invited to attend this event all comments and reviews are my own and have not been solicited.

 

 

Smoking -101.4, Ribs

Ribs….the golden standard of grill masters everywhere and the word that makes the mouths of most BBQ fans water. I couldn’t wait to try them out so as our next smoking adventure I loaded up.

I purchased a package of pork ribs with memphis season already on them from Costco. The package was about $27 and had what looked like 2 large racks of ribs in it. I purchased the pre-seasoned ribs as it was already half way through the day and I thought this would speed up the process.

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This time we switched over to maple wood pellets. According to the package they are good for smoking pork and beef and should impart a sweeter smoky flavour.  I should also mention here that the the smoker we have comes with a convenient door at the back of the pellet hopper that opens up so you can change out the wood pellets with ease.

I picked a recipe from the Traeger site for competition ribs as it looked pretty simple. Since I had the pre-seasoned ribs,  I skipped over the rib preparation and seasoning portion and moved right to the cooking. The recipe says to smoke (on the smoke setting) the ribs for 2 hours so on they went.

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(again I noticed that the smoke setting seemed to be running high at 220 degrees so I called the Taeger help line through their 1-800 number to get some advice. They were very helpful and were able to walk me through the steps to lower the factory settings so that we could smoke at a lower temperature.)

After the two hours on smoke the next step was to remove them from the grill,

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sprinkle with dark brown sugar, butter and honey then wrap tightly in tin foil and return to the smoker at a higher setting of 225 degrees for another 2 hours meat side down.

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After a painstaking 4 hours Cook time we were almost there! I took the ribs out of their juice filled foil and put them directly on the grill to start the saucing.

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They do provide many options for sauces but I just grabbed a bottle of one of our favourites from the pantry and forged ahead. The recipe suggests this final grilling takes anywhere between 20 minutes and one hour depending on how tender your ribs are when they come out of the foil. Our ribs were fairly tender so I grilled them for another half an hour basting generously in sauce before taking them off.

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At this point I have to admit that it was pretty much impossible not to steal a bit of the crispy edge off for a taste but try to hold off and Leave them to rest for 15 minutes. This lets them rest the juices back into the meat and firm them up enough to cut. Finally we happily and greedily dug in!

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I have to say that these were by far the best ribs I have ever had. They were tender enough that you could easily bite through them and they would pull right off the bone with a great smoky flavour. Overall they were tender and juicy, sweet and sticky the perfect rib. Even the leftovers the next day served cold were moist and delicious.

A little in love with home smoked ribs, I am Your Everyday Foodie.

 

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.

Culinary Treasure Hunt

This weekend we participated in Culinaire Magazines second annual Treasure hunt. Set up as a race across Calgary to various foodie locations that included restaurants, culinary shops and liquor stores. The race portion meant that the teams had a set amount of time to visit the locations, complete your tasks and get back to the finish line with a full race passport. The treasure hunt portion had us collecting all sorts of swag from each location to take home.

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Early morning at the market, ready to go!

 

Going all in we decided to dress in our best steampunk apparel and named our team the Culinairy Cogs. Arriving at the starting line of the Calgary Farmers market the teams were registered, handed a passport and a clue list of 30 possible locations to figure out. Here’s where the competition really began. Teams huddled in at their tables with their coffee and tablets or phones in hand and started figuring their way through the clue list. With only one hour to solve your clues and start planning your route through the city the game was afoot.

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Ready at the starting line!

At 10:00am the race was on. The list was as vast as the city is big with locations in almost every quadrant. We started with the few locations that we thought were there at the Calgary Farmers market and soon discovered that not all of our clue guesses were correct! Not deterred we continued on and headed out into the city.

One of our first stops was a visit to Oyster Tribe, a supplier to many of the big locations in the city we learned to shuck oysters. As a reward for shucking our oysters perfectly the first time we each received our own shucking knife to take home. Now that we had an idea of what we were in for our excitement level amped up to full.

A few more stops along the way and we were headed into the core of the city to mark off a few more locations. Here we visited a few of Calgary’s best restaurants and completed a blind tasting of bourbon and scotch at One18Empire and had some amazing lamb meatballs at Murietta’s.

Heading north of the river some of the locations we visited had us filling Cannoli at SCOPA, and sorting steaks at Modern Steak.

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As we continued through the day we sorted wines based on their taste descriptions, hand painted truffles at Hotel Arts,  learned how to properly froth a shaving brush at Kent of Inglewood, shucked more oysters and had many delicious food samples.

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Our journey through the core, the beltline and Inglewood complete and with what we thought were quite a few stamps in our passport we decided to head south from the core. Along the Mcleod Trail corridor we dressed as Gauchos at Gaucho Brazillian BBQ, sorted cheese by taste at the Itallian Centre Shop, explored and visited 5 locations at the Market on McLeod, sorted through cheeses at Springbank Cheese, cut pasta at Soffritto Oil & Vinegar Bar in the deep south and played dress up at The Selkirk Grille in Heritage Park.

With time almost up we headed for the finish line at the Crossroads market. We were happy at 4:30pm to turn in our passport with 24 out of the 30 locations visited, put up our feet and enjoy some treats provided by some of the vendors at the market.

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Feet up at the finish line

At the end of the day everyone that participated was a winner. There were enough prizes that every team was able to receive one even after the big winners prizes were handed out. Just taking home all of the experiences, finding so many new locations that we didn’t know about and all of the swag that we brought home made this a great experience.

At $50 plus tax for an entire day of adventure for a team of two people, I would recommend watching for this race to happen again next year. Get your data plan ready to search out the clues around the city, fill your gas tank and take a really big bag along to collect all of the swag. Get together a team of two or put together several sets of people to make a larger team and enjoy the hunt!

Hunting here there and everywhere, I am Your Everyday Foodie.

 

Stop Saying No

 

I found that the easiest way to stop saying no and really start my foodie journey was to start slow.

I had never really had oysters before so one day I ordered some butter parmasean fried oysters after all how can they be bad? Still with a little laugh and some trepidation I gave them a try. First thought……YUM! With those under my belt the next time I decided to give raw oysters a shot. Again with a nervous laugh and a grin down they went. This result was also great, I found them wonderful and refreshing. I have since repeated this so called formula with many items from sushi to beef tartar.

Be adventurous. That’s what I tell myself every time I see a menu. It is so hard not to order your favourite go to item at every restaurant. This is where I find tasting menus, tasting events and small plates a great idea. You can try a little of everything, find something you love, have more of it! Tried Something you hated, at least you tried it without having to commit to a whole meal!

Tasting events are my favorite and can range in price from $40 to over $100 per person depending on the food and if there are drink pairings included. They have given me a chance to try all kinds of gastronomical delicacies that I would never have thought to order had I seen them on a menu. Foie Gras mousse with confit blood orange on a chicken skin cracker? Ale-cured salmon roe on a trout skin crackling with smoked creme fresh and dill? Cognac soaked chicken livers on a crostini? All amazing tastes on small plates that I got a chance to try without committing to any specific one.

If you are going to a tasting here are my tips:

  • Don’t be shy! Get in there, ask questions and try try try.
  • You don’t have to love or even like everything that you try, don’t be embarrassed if you didn’t like it just continue on and try something else.
  • Trust the chefs, they have amazing palates and can match together products and tastes you would never think of.
  • Just because you have tried a base product and didn’t like it don’t be afraid to try it again. A new garnish, sauce or cooking method can make all the difference!
  • Don’t listen to the nay Sayers around you, the “yucks” and “I tried that once and it was horrible” comments shouldn’t sway you. It’s your foodie adventure!
  • Watch your local community magazines or simply do an Internet search for upcoming tasting events. They are held everywhere from formal resturants to liquor store tasting rooms.

One last thing, my husbands tip when we go to tastings is: unless you have a food allergy, taste the food first then read the information on what’s in it. Then you can say yes to your senses. Let your eyes, nose and tastebuds make the decisions and not to your trepidations!

Be adventurous, stop saying no and taste on!

Cheers from Your Everyday Foodie