What’s in Your Chocolate?

It’s the season for treats and there’s not anything better than great flavourful and creamy chocolate. There are so many options out there but do you really know what goes into making great quality chocolate? Have you ever wondered is all chocolate made the same? Is coco powder real chocolate? Why does only some chocolate melt in your hand?

We recently had the chance to attend a chocolate making class with one of Calgary’s premier chocolatiers, the one and only Bernard Callebaut. From big business to farmers market booths Bernard has covered them all but the most striking thing about him is his love and passion for what he does.

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Anything you ever wanted to know about chocolate you can learn from this master. He answered all of our questions from the beginning right to the end product.

Did you know that you will not see a forest of coco trees? They are actually most often planted near mature banana trees because they need the shade and not the sun to grow in their early years. The coco bean in its raw state is almost tasteless, and once it is dried, roasted and turned into coco nibs the taste is still almost nothing with a touch of bitterness. Once it’s pressed the nibs become the purest form of chocolate which is still not a flavour that most people would enjoy. This pure form of chocolate is referred to as the chocolate liquor and can be pressed out to separate the coco butter (yep the same thing that is fought over by the beauty companies to put in our creams) and coco powder. The content of coco butter in the finished chocolate is actually what gives it that smooth and melty texture.

Bernard’s enthusiasm is contagious and I could go on and on about everything that we learned but lets get to the tasty stuff. We tasted the chocolate in all of its forms while learning all there is to learn and trying hard not to dip our fingers into the huge vats of melted chocolate nestled on the edges of the surprisingly small but intimate work room.

After our chocolate lesson, it was time to get our hands “dirty”, a delicious creamy chocolaty dirty. Bernard generously filled up large bowls of the melted chocolate of our choice (milk or dark) and took us through the proper process of tempering. Tempering chocolate is not actually the process of melting but the cooling down and aligning of the crystals within the chocolate before you start working with it. This process simply boils  down to patience.

After the long process of tempering it was time to start filling moulds. With the hard work done, this is where the fun really kicked up. We filled moulds for solid chocolate bars then chocolate suckers and shapes from hearts to snowflakes.

Next Bernard demonstrated how to make filled chocolates. With the surprisingly easy three step process we all made amazing trays of Bernard’s famous salted caramel filled chocolates.

At the end of a three and a half hour night we un-moulded all of our chocolate creations and the ever generous and patient Bernard gave us boxes to take home all of our amazing creations. It has been a couple of weeks now and we are still enjoying all of those creations and talking about the amazing experience.

So what makes Bernards chocolates worth the extra cost? He puts love and passion into making and selling his craft chocolates (you will often find him manning the booths at the Calgary Farmers Market or one of the other many craft fairs). Each of his chocolate blends are unique since he blends all of his chocolate by hand using years of family recipes to make each blend special. All of the fillings are made from quality locally sourced ingredients and he uses coco from sustainable fair trade practices. All of that combined with his generosity is enough to make me a customer for life and makes what seems like a little bit more expensive product worth every penny. You can find Bernard’s products at Master Chocolate Bernard and Sons (now five generations) and various farmers and craft markets around Calgary.

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Here are a few tips that we learned if you want to do some chocolate work at home:

  • Start with a high quality chocolate
  • Chop your solid chocolate as small as possible before melting it
  • Melt your chocolate in a double boiler, bring the water to a boil but take it off the heat before you put your chocolate bowl on top to melt
  • Don’t melt all of your solid chocolate, save some for the tempering process
  • Once your chocolate is melted ,check the temperature with a digital thermometer you are aiming to bring it back down to about 32 degrees celsius before you start checking to see if its tempered
  • Keep your melted chocolate over a pot of hot tap water (but not touching the bottom of the bowl) while you are tempering it and add in small amounts of your leftover hard chocolate a little at the time then stir till smooth to help bring the temperature down
  • Keep stirring! Patience and lots of it is the key ingredient now
  • Once you hit the right temperature start checking your chocolate by smearing a little bit on a piece of parchment paper, if it doesn’t harden within a minute or so with a consistent shine its not ready so keep going!
  • A properly tempered chocolate will harden quickly and have a beautiful consistent shine, it will shrink up to 9% when it cools making it easy to get out of the moulds and will have  a crisp snap to it

Happy chocolating!

Highly addicted to the art of chocolate making using high quality local products, I am Your Everyday Foodie!

Will Volunteer for Food

Have you ever wanted to attend a food event in your area but just weren’t able to find the funds for the tickets? Well in this economy that may be happening more and more so here’s a little twist that we came across the other day.

The Brewery and the Beast meat festival was coming to Calgary and had sold out but was looking for volunteers. I excitedly signed us up for a shift that ran the morning of the festival where we were able to help load in all of the vendors that were going to be participating in this amazing event.

This was a great chance to see how an event comes together as well as an opportunity to see how everything happens behind the scenes. Not only did we get to “meat” all of the chefs and their teams as they entered the site but we had an early chance to peruse all of the food offerings that were going to be presented.

With a little bit of sweat equity we bought ourselves full entry to the festival including all the food and drinks we could handle, some great relationships and even each scored a festival shirt.

I think that after this kind of behind the scenes experience I will be looking for more volunteer opportunities like this. After all, everything tastes a little better when you know you have worked off all the calories prior to enjoying all the indulgences. Your wallet will also appreciate the break!

Searching out foodie volunteer experiences everywhere, I am Your Everyday Foodie!

 

 

Foodie Fridays

Calgary is a city that despite the short season, is ingrained in the sport of Golf. Almost every community has a golf course in it or near by.From city run public courses to community private courses and everything in between the options are vast.

Located on the southern outskirts of Calgary just off of Dunbow Road in DeWinton is the beautiful gem of Heritage Pointe.

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Heritage Pointe is a quiet lake community and nestled in the centre is the Heritage Point Golf Club. An amazing golf course that offers 27 beautiful and scenic holes one of which was included in the Calgary Heralds Best Calgary Golf holes list. Not only is this course some of the best public golfing but also has one of the best restaurants that should be on any foodies destination list.

Here Executive chef Heather Clark and the team in the clubhouse restaurant has put together a variety of dining experiences that is beyond compare.  The regular menu boasts everything from Tuna Poke Tostadas and Beer & BBQ Duck wings to the Exotic Elk burger and traditional Fish and Chips.

My favourite thing about Heritage Pointe however is the multitude of special foodie nights and events that they hold over the year. Here you can enjoy everything from a romantic multi-course valentine dinner by the fireplace to a family Christmas Brunch. Beyond the amazing choices and events is the fact that you do not have to be a member to either golf or indulge in everything they have to offer.

Tonight we enjoyed the Foodie Friday, Wine Night Out event. A a three course menu selection for $35 per person and accompanied by $20 bottles of wine. There was a great selection from 6 bottles of white or 6 bottle of red wine to choose to accompany our dinner.

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For our appetizer there was a choice of Bison Carpaccio with fried capers and  Dijon balsamic drizzle or a Lobster Bisque with avocado herb creme fresh. We both ordered the Bison which came not only beautifully presented but wonderfully balanced. The fried capers provided just the right amount of umami to the smoked dried bison.

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Luckily we somehow also managed to steal a bowl of the lobster bisque. This was a soup that I would pay for by the bucket full. Even without the chunks of lobster the broth was rich and creamy, so full of lobster flavour that I was wondering if there might be lobsters swimming around somewhere in the bottom of a big pot in the kitchen with chef Heather singing to them (alla Cinderella). My brain cant think out any other way to coax out such full rich lobster flavour in a broth than that.

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For the main course there was a choice of Grilled Lamb Sirloin or Chicken Supreme. Although a tough choice with our bottle of red wine both of us fell into the trap of the grilled lamb with Alberta wild mushroom ragu, sweet potato puree and baby bock choy. We were presented with a huge portion of grilled lamb that was perfectly cooked to medium rare and paired with the wild mushroom ragu it made for a very quiet main course as we savoured every bite.

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Finally for dessert we were presented with a choice of a house made chocolate plate with truffles and a jalapeño peanut brittle

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or a summer fruit topped bread pudding finished with a salted caramel sauce.

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Not only is the food at Heritage Pointe amazing and the scenery is beautiful but the service is attentive over and above. I highly recommend you head out to any of their foodie nights, for under a hundred dollars including a bottle of wine and taxes we enjoyed an amazing night out.

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View from the patio

Every Friday through the summer is pasta night but coming up on September 16 is their Street Food Junkie night where for an amazing night you can sample an all you can eat selection of fresh made street foods from around the world. We cant wait to head back for that and will be making our reservations soon.

Looking forward to many foodie experiences in a beautiful setting, I am Your Everyday Foodie.

 

Japanese Pub Experience

Here in land locked Alberta most everyones idea of Japanese food consists of Sushi or Edo but if you look around a little and are willing to open yourself up to a new experience you can find an amazing little spot located along the very popular 4th street in Calgary that goes by the name of Shokunin.

Shokunin loosely translated to english means craftsman and here in this well put together but small restaurant you will truly find a craftsman in Chef Darren Maclean. He is bringing together a fabulously unique Japanese pub experience with adventurous, delicious sharing dishes and drinks. Everything in this great space has been well thought out from the modern decor with a hit of Japanese art to the dishes that the chef spent days with a local artisan searching out just the right clays and glazes for. At first glance the menu is a little intimidating using many traditions japanese words and descriptors so we thought that our best chance at checking things out would be to try the Omakase, a 5 course chefs menu ($65) that highlights the best of what they do here.

We picked seats at the “chefs bar” with nothing but a clear piece of glass between us and the authentic japanese grill (where they cook most everything over a Japanese White Oak that the chef brings in directly from japan)

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and where we could watch the chef and his team do their magic.

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Our first course was a beautiful Hamachi nigri with fresh wasabi. The hamachi (the fattiest part of the tuna belly) was thinly sliced and then lightly seared with a torch just to bring out the fat and flavour. I loved seeing the fresh wasabi as I have only seen the processed version and this is the only place in Calgary that you will find the fresh real thing. It is similar looking to a ginger root however it is green and much much harder according to the chef who was wonderful enough to listen to our chatter and answer all of our questions. The wasabi was fresh ground on a wooden board and added to the top of our hamachi. This was a delicious one bite starter. The hamachi melted in my mouth and the fresh wasabi was the perfect amount of freshness and spice combined. It even disappeared before I was able to grab a snap shot of it!

Our next course was a Duck Tataki with foie snow. Thinly sliced cured duck with an amazing vinaigrette. The care of spice and “umami” that is added to the dish had us both wanting to lick the plates at the end.

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Our third course was the special of the day, local asparagus tempura with kimzu (a beautiful egg based sauce that is created similarly to a buerre blanc sauce with egg yolks and japanese vinaigrette instead of butter) and sautéed chantrelle mushrooms. The tempura was light and crisp and I really loved the sharpness that the vinaigrette added to the sauce.

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Now it was time to head on to the Yakatori. Yakatori consists of a variety of skewered items cooked on the grill with different seasonings and sauces. Along with the skewers came a side bowl of rice, a selection of house japanese style pickled accompaniments including carrot and egg plant and a soy egg dip (the egg yolk is added whole to the soy and spices and when you are ready, you mix it together to form a delicious creamy dip for your Yakatori).

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We enjoyed the shiitaki mushroom that had a great savoury and smoky flavour from the grill and spices,

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the chicken hearts (which were very flavourful and much like perfectly cooked beef),

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chicken tail (also known as the popes nose or the chicken butt as I like to call it) they were wonderfully crispy and juicy,

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and the chicken thigh with a teriyaki sauce.

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Our dinner ended with a dessert of miso and yuzu creme brûlée. The addition of the miso to the dessert was excellent, it made the dessert less sweet and added a nice savoury quality to it that both of us really enjoyed. The sugar on top was perfectly browned and crisp and was the perfect way to  end this great dinner adventure.

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With so much more on the menu to discover we couldn’t resist trying several of the craft cocktails including one served in a smoked sphere and several of the sakes that are served at the restaurant (many of which are exclusive to Shokunin). You can even add the Sake pairings to your chefs menu dinner for $40.

We also couldn’t resist getting one more of the specialties and ordered the Scallop Isoyaki. A large bay scallop grilled directly in its shell with soy and butter then topped with bonito flakes (dried, cured and paper thin slices of tuna) which is then presented at your table on its own mini grill. This was an amazing treat, sweet and salty with a bit of smoke from the grill. Similar to but so much better than a scallop and bacon dish!

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Overall I would highly recommend that you adventure out of your comfort zone and try everything on the menu here. If you don’t know what the menu means don’t be afraid to ask or be intimidated as Chef Darren has created an environment that is open, inviting and completely unpretentious. Wander in and belly up to the bar  or cozy into a table for an amazing Japanese pub experience!

Enjoying a little corner of Japan in the city, I am Your Everyday Foodie!

 

Brunch With A View

Easter brunch is almost a pre-requisite it seems. So not wanting to buck the trend we decided to head out somewhere a little special.

Today’s Easter brunch adventure was to be out at the beautiful jewel in the foothills Azuridge Estate just a short drive 15 minutes west from the south end of Calgary on the 22X. A turn off the highway at Priddis, follow the signs to just one more turn and you are on the mysterious wooded road that leads up into the foothills then seems to magically pop you out at this beautiful location.

Once a private residence, it is now One of Canada’s only estate hotels complete with butler service and an amazing resturant that overlooks the beauty of the foothills.

The hotel and the resturant are both very intimate with a small number of rooms and an equally exclusive feeling in the resturant.

We were seated at a small table along the bank of floor to ceiling windows with a beautiful view of the vistas beyond. Shortly after being seated we were offered a complimentary drink with the choice of fresh red berry or white peach sangria. After admiring the view, enjoying our drinks and a hot coffee we decided it was time to venture up to the special Easter Extravaganza brunch.

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A large selection of salads, breads, Charcuterie plates and beautifully smoked salmon were just the beginning. The lunch features included dishes like vegetarian lasagna and roasted chicken with mushroom sauce just to name a couple. The breakfast line up was even more impressive with apple pancakes, the most amazing bacon, sausages, roasted creamer potatoes, creamy scrambled eggs and a selection of vegetarian and traditional eggs Benidicts. At the end of the buffet line stood the carving station with the most beautifully roasted ham and roast beef of course with all the accompaniments.

The view here is beautiful but the food really was the star. Each dish was perfectly seasoned and each sauce was perfectly balanced not too light and not too heavy. I love a resturant where  there is no salt and pepper on the table and you never once miss not having it because everything is prepared to perfection.

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With so much to choose from we sampled our way through the line then the beautiful dessert bar and lounged the morning away drinking coffee and enjoying the ambiance. With a live jazz duo in the corner and the sun shining in we enjoyed top notch service. Not once did we have empty coffee cups or an empty dish left at the table. With a second brunch seating at 1PM we never once felt rushed or neglected.

Azuridge is a beautiful setting tucked away in the beauty and silence of nature. With great little events like fondu night in the foothills, a casual dinning lunch, evening a la carte menu and what looks like an amazing fine dining chefs tasting menu there are options for every dining experience. At $65 per person for Easter brunch, we were expecting the best and Azuridge delivered on every front. We are looking forward to trying the tasting menu and will keep an eye on any upcoming events being held here and maybe even a chance to spend the night.

Discover more about Azuridge Estate on their web site at Azuridge Estate Hotel or take a relaxing drive west towards the mountains, follow the signs and stop to explore the possibilities!

Brunching with a view, I am Your Everyday Foodie.