Archive | June, 2012

RECIPE: Rhubarb Lemonade

15 Jun

Spring and summer mean many things for the culinary community – namely a new abundance of tasty fresh vegetables, fruit, and other garden goodies to brighten up your dishes and add some much-needed vitamin intake to your blood stream.

One of my favourite spring/summer ingredients is rhubarb with its tangy-sweet flavour and endless versatility. Not to mention almost everything it touches is bestowed with a pretty pink hue.

I was recently inspired by a a batch of rhubarb picked from my parents’ garden, and decided to make a rhubarb lemonade. This incredibly refreshing bevy is delicious on its own or goes well with vodka for a fun cocktail.

The original recipe calls for you to discard the rhubarb once you’re done with it, but I would recommend keeping it and sautéing it with some freshly sliced strawberries for a delicious compote. I eat mine with yogurt, ice cream or sometimes just on its own. Many compote recipes require you to add sugar, but because the rhubarb has already been soaking in sugar water, I find it sweet enough.

Rhubarb Lemonade with Fresh Mint

 Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water, divided
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 stalks rhubarb, greens removed and stalks chopped (about 2 1/3 cups)
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Fresh mint sprigs
  • Ice cubes

Method:

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of the water and 1 ½ cups of sugar to a simmer
  2. Add rhubarb and cook, uncovered, until it starts to soften (about 10 minutes) *don’t cook the rhubarb too long or it will become pulpy
  3. Strain the sugar syrup into a large pot or bowl and set rhubarb aside for compote
  4. Stir in lemon juice and remaining 4 cups water.
  5. Place in mason jars or keep in pot with the cover on, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until cold.
  6. To serve, place a couple of mint sprigs in each glass. Add ice cubes, and pour lemonade over.

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Summer Food Fest Frenzy and Culinaire Re-Cap

8 Jun

Summer is just around the corner, and for Victoria that means an abundance of outdoor food festivals.

This weekend Fort Rod Hill will host ICC Food Fest, which brings together a cooperative community of chefs and food and beverage professionals with the goal of raising awareness and funds for regional food security, the preservation of farmland, and the development of local food systems. (click here for more)

ICC Food Fest 2011

On June 24, Fernwood NRG will be holding the 3rd annual Fernwood Bites event, showcasing the gastronomic talents of Fernwood businesses as well as other local eateries and chefs from around southern Vancouver Island, all in support of raising funds for this growing neighbourhood. (click here for more)

Buckwheat pancake with morel mushrooms & cured and smoked trout with homemade sodas (black tea, steeped with lavender and lemon balm) from Devour Food and La Piola’s table at Fernwood Bites 2011

On September 16, as summer is beginning to wane but the harvest season is just taking off, Farm Folk City Folk will be hosting their longstanding event, Feast of Fields, to raise money and awareness about local and sustainable farming and food.

Of course, throughout summer Victoria locals can continue to support the local food scene by attending some of the outdoor markets such as the VDPM’s Wednesday market in Market square, or the Sunday market on Langley street above Bastion Square.

A chorizo sausage sandwiche from El Guapo Grill, at The VDPM Wednesday market

But as I write various stories for EAT Magazine about these foodie playgrounds, I can’t help but reminisce about the first local culinary event I attended this year (and evidently the first I have attended in this city), long before the sun started peeking through, luring locals outside. It’s been over 2 months since Culinaire, but I’m still dreaming of the delicious delights that I saw, smelled and tasted. Never have I experienced so much culinary talent under one roof – I feel so proud that my hometown is host to such an outstanding gastronomic scene, not just in the summer, but throughout the year as well.

For those of you who were able to attend Culinaire 2012, there’s no doubt that you share my lingering reminiscence of that fantastic night. And for those of you who sadly had to miss this years’ event, let me share with you my experiences in hopes that you won’t necessarily feel as though you missed out, but more so excited to grab some of your own tickets to next years’ installment.

Inside the Crystal Garden Convention Center for Culinaire 2012

Even before doors opened for the first seating, a long line-up quickly formed outside of Victoria’s Crystal Garden Convention Center. You could almost see the drool dripping from the mouths as event goers eagerly clutched their tickets. The gates opened, the people poured in, and so did the wine, beer and other spirits offered by some of the 52 vendors. Participants sampled beverages in small tasting glasses that were brilliantly held in rather stylish wooden boards, generously provided by Phillips Brewery.

I spent my first lap sizing up each vendor, carefully forming my plan of attack. While I was there to work (I hosted a video for the event), I was able to sample many of the offerings (for research right?), but with so much to choose from, I had to be strategic about my course of action.

Grilled Scallop, Red Pepper Gelee, Chive Caviar by Truffles Catering

The team at Aura and their Porkbelly Lettuce Wrap

Clam Ceviche from The Marina Restaurant paired with a Dos Equis & Grapefruit cocktail

I’m sure most people would want to start small to warm-up their palettes, but this girl went straight for the gold with a juicy bison burger from Bin 4, which was almost immediately followed by some chocolate porter from Canoe Brewpub. A strange combination I must say, but the stomach wants what the stomach wants.

Bin 4 burger and a tasty craft brew

The rest of the night was a bit of blur as I sampled a delicious Caesar from The Tudor House Pub, served with a skewer of grilled octopus (definitely a first for me), as well as some gorgeous desserts from Bubby Rose’s Bakery, cupcakes from Ooh La La and an adorable, and incredibly tasty mini meat pie from The Roost. Other highlights included freshly shucked oysters from Oyster Bar, cheese creations from Hilary’s Cheese, a sweet and spicy chili cocktail from Veneto, a tuna tartar canapé from Lure, and a brilliant dish from The Fairmont Empress Hotel, which served succulent lamb with a mint cotton candy garnish on top of a creamy risotto. The list is truly endless, and if you’re curious to see what else is offered by dozens of Victoria’s finest, then I suppose you’ll have to experience it for yourself!

Tuna Tartar, Curry Crisp, Scallion Gel
Lure Restaurant – Delta Ocean Pointe

Hilary Abbott of Hilary’s Artisan Cheese serves up his delicious creation

Moroccan Veal Cheek Tortellini from Feys + Hobbs Catered Arts

Although this was my first Culinaire adventure, many say that each installment is better than the last as vendors strive to outdo their previous successes. So don’t be surprised if you see me next year at the very front of the long line, standing in a puddle of my own drool, clamping down on my tickets as I count down the minutes until those doors open and I’m set-loose on Culinaire 2013.

Until then, I look forward to seeing many of you out and about at all the fun summertime events, smiles full of food and hearts full of pride for Victoria’s ever growing culinary community.

*For more on this years’ event, you can check out the video I hosted, my previous article on Culinaire, or their website at culinairevictoria.com

*Culinaire and ICC Food Fest photos courtesy of Maryanne Carmack. To check out more from this talented photographer and foodie, please visit her website at www.maryannecarmack.com

Mexico Munching: Final Highlights

4 Jun

Day 5 would bring one of the most eventful nights of the trip, as we headed down to a restaurant called Del Lago, which hosts a Mexican style buffet along with live entertainment.

Inside of Del Lago

A creative light fixture at Del Lago, made from baskets

A weekly event, guests of the resort are invited down to this beautiful venue situated on a lagoon, where they receive various greeting gifts, including a delicious tamarind margarita, the first of many unlimited refreshments of the night.

Tamarind margarita

After I polished off this exotic flavoured margarita, I decided to go for the more commonly consumed lime variety, and then went to scope out the vast offerings of food, spread out on tables decorated with whimsical designs.

Lime margarita

Del Lago buffet

Tortilla soup station

Guests choose from an assortment of traditional soups, salads, mains and desserts, with truly something for every appetite. My plate was adorned with a colourful spread containing the usual suspects of tortilla chips, guacamole, salsa, beans and corn salad, as well as an easy-to-eat corn-on-the-cob…on a stick. I also enjoyed pulled chicken served on a hand-packed corn tortilla, a beef toquito, and some flavourful Mexican rice that they garnish with peas, corn, hard-boiled eggs, and grilled plantain.

For dessert I stuck mainly to  fresh fruit, but couldn’t resist a Mexican crêpe drizzled with dulce de leche. A glass of rice and cinnamon water was a stand-out treat for me, and although some may find it a tad gritty and rather peculiar tasting, I really enjoyed this unique beverage as I finished off my feast and began to watch the evening’s entertainment of dancers, singers, and acrobats displaying the history of Mexican culture through performance.

Mexican style crepe

Agua de Horchata: rice and cinnamon flavoured water

Performance at Del Lago

A floreadore (trick roper) backed up by a mariachi band

The final days of my vacation were filled with even more fantastic food and delicious drinks as I soaked in the last of the warm rays before returning to rainy Victoria. A casual dish of grilled fish served with lettuce, avocado, tomato, and a collection of spicy sauces, as well as a classic piña colada made up my final lunch, after eating my only hearty breakfast, once again at the buffet style restaurant of Del Lago (clearly no gym trips were attempted after this giant feast).

Empanada and grilled plantain

Grilled fish on corn tortillas

Piña colada with a heart-shaped pineapple garnish

One of most wonderful things I was introduced to during this vacation was cajeta. Made from goats milk instead of regular cow’s milk, this sweet treat is the Mexican version of the before mentioned dulce de leche, and makes an excellent topping for almost any dessert. Naturally, I couldn’t resist picking up a last-minute jar at the airport’s duty free store, so that I could bring home a bit of the sweetness of my vacation.

Cajeta de Cabra

A week of fun, food, delicious drinks, sunshine and most important of all, wonderful times spent with family – a great start to a summer that will no doubt be filled with all these amazing things as well!

For more, check out Mexico Munching: Day 1 and 2, and Mexico Munching: Day 3 and 4