Sausage Fest 2016: Morris East

Morris East (downtown) is widely known for two things: wood-fired pizza and keeping the menu very seasonally inspired. Chef Tim Andersen says he likes to do things well and make a simple pizza that lets the ingredients shine. Andersen says the pizza for Sausage Fest Halifax 2016 was inspired by Nova Scotia: “I love Nova Scotia apples and I always try to work them in this time of year.” One flavour led to another, and Andersen found himself incorporating caramel, apple and fennel to create a pork sausage that would go on the pizza loose, outside of casing.

The base of the pizza is a lemony ricotta cheese, it is topped with sliced, spiced apples, crumbled sausage meat, and caramelized onions that are rich in colour and deeply flavoured. The combination of apples baked in the wood-fired oven, hints of cinnamon, super savoury caramelized onions and caramel notes give this pizza a super cozy, autumnal feel. This pizza is perfect for people who love sweeter, aromatic pizzas, and autumn spices.

Sausage Fest 2016: Ace Burger

What happens when you ask a burger joint to participate in a festival of sausages? They find a way to turn a sausage into a hamburger. Which really isn’t  that hard, when you think about it. Take the ground meat out of the casing, form it into a patty, slap it on a burger bun and you’re in business. Ace Burger did much, much more than that for their decadent Sausage Fest Halifax 2016 creation.

Chef Andrew Prince has interpreted a historical sausage recipe, the first ever appearance of hamburg meat (this is not fact checked) in a written recipe. According to Prince the recipe is titled “To Make Hamburgh Sausage”. He says “the ingredients listed are pepper, cloves, nutmeg and a great quantity of garlic, bay salt, red wine and rum. Those are the ingredients I used as well.”

“The 1758” — named after the year the recipe was published — does taste much different than your typical all-beef patty. The additional seasoning and spices give the beef a sausage-like vibe, and the insanely rich toppings bring it to a place of pure indulgence. The bun is buttered with bone marrow, there is a thick slathering of whipped blue cheese, big, crispy bacon bits and the patty itself is smothered in a smoked tomato and onion jam that comes off more like a sauce. Underneath the patty is a crunchy peppercorn cabbage and apple slaw. In the end, the flavours and textures do balance out to make a very memorable… sausage burger?

 

What I ate at Dine by Design East Gala

Two weeks ago today, a day of crazy rain showers gave way to a wonderful evening of food, drink and design at the third annual Dine by Design East gala event.  This fundraiser for the NSCAD Amber Harkins Memorial Scholarship is part of the overarching Dine by Design East, a four-day long affair of fashion, design and fantastic food, presented by East Coast Living Magazine. Read more about the event and it’s backstory.  I also attended a cooking demo by Diandra Phipps, vegan chef and owner of Envie: A Vegan Kitchen, on the Saturday afternoon following the gala.

Entering the Olympic Community Centre, this year I was again struck by it’s transformation. Talented and imaginative local designers and architects completely (from scratch) built their spaces (a 10×10 booth), making the hall completely unrecognizable. Each designer or design team is paired with a local chef — I was lucky enough to be on the media tour, so we had early access to the food and drink. Strolling through with East Coast Living’s editor Janice Hudson, and a food-writing colleague of mine Lia Rinaldo, we had the luxury of sipping on the delicious welcome cocktail, chatting with the chefs and getting descriptions of what we were eating. Along with a bubbles bar, a cash bar featuring cocktails made byJeffrey Van Horne of Lot Six (plus local beer and nice wine), music, an upstairs art gallery and silent auction — the Dine by Design East Gala really nailed the atmosphere and offering. Plus the crowd was well-dressed, enthusiastic and really into the food. My kind of people! Here are a few food highlights:

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King oyster”scallops” with charred pepper clay, hana nori, presented on oyster half-shells. By Diandra Phipps with Envie.

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Soy confit duck with curry crumb, five spice BBQ, kimchi foam and fresh cilantro. By chef Luis Clavel.

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Brown sugar-cured salmon, pickled cherries, creme fraiche. By Field Guide. Their food had a theme of Rolling Stones songs.

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Beef brisket with deep-fried gnocchi, curds. By Kitchen Door Catering.

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Dennis Johnstone serving from a chunk of ice. His theme was “no waste”.

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Mascarpone filled local cherry tomatoes with crispy basil, balsamic drizzle. Scanway Catering & Stubborn Goat Gastropub.

Check out the full photo gallery below:

Caribbean Bliss brings the heat

On my last day at TD Halifax Jazz Fest, I was treated to a generous feed from Caribbean Bliss. Although the best-selling stewed oxtail was already sold out, they were super excited for me to try a variety of items from the menu they were serving out of their food stall, including: veggie Jamaican patty, chicken curry, jerk chicken, mango punch and coconut cream pie.

The Jamaican veggie patty, which they make from scratch, was filled with peas, corn, curried potato and spinach, all enclosed in a flaky pastry shell. I really enjoyed the chicken curry, mild yet very flavourful with just a touch of background heat after a few bites; the meat just fell from the bone. The sauce was vibrant in colour, with lots of it, and was accompanied by rice and peas.

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It was the jerk chicken that really impressed me; when I opened the container it was covered in a deep brown sauce with a reddish hue. It just looked spicy. When I dug in with my fork there was the most tender chicken underneath, no knife needed. I’m not privy to their recipe, but I can only guess that they use a stewing or braising method for this, it’s that fall-off-the-bone. I started to sweat while I ate it, the satisfying kind of heat, from the jerk spice, that slowly raises your body temperature. All of these dishes were perfectly complemented by the refreshing mango punch. I had to take the coconut cream pie home with me, because of my ambitious attempt at eating everything else I was given, but when I did try it, it tasted every bit as home made as I’d expected.

Everything from Caribbean Bliss was so obviously made with care, from scratch, with distinct, vibrant flavours. I’m definitely going back their location on Novalea Drive to get the oxtail.

Devour! Dinner & a Movie… Cinema Paradiso

It sure is tough being a food blogger sometimes. Last night I was treated to a complimentary ticket (thanks Lia!) for Devour! Dinner & A Movie Series, inspired by Cinema Paradiso. Which meant a five-course Sicilian feast, paired with fantastic Italian wines. Yeah, it was a hard night’s work.

Executive director of Devour!, and chef, Michael Howell teamed up with chef Scott Colwell of Certainly Cinnamon to serve up flavourful Sicilian dishes, while screening the Italian film Cinema Paradiso. Lia Rinaldo, managing director of Devour!, explained to us before we sat down to dinner not to feel obliged to quietly watch the film, it’s about having fun and feeling relaxed. I’m not sure anyone at our table even glanced at the film, but it created a fantastic atmosphere to have it playing in the background while we enjoyed great food, wine and company.

The venue!

The venue!

The venue was Certainly Cinnamon’s new catering kitchen on the north side of Barrington Street, what was formerly a car wash. It has high ceilings and real industrial vibe, but felt cozy with the strung lights and added touches by the Devour! team.

While all the courses were delicious (I love Italian food), the boneless lamb osso bucco (pictured at the top) deserves to be singled out. This dish was amazing. Having been slow-braised, the lamb absolutely fell apart and melted in your mouth, the Primitivo-enriched demi brought out deep and complex flavour; the polenta was soft and supple, and the gremolata atop the lamb was just perfect, offering fresh acidity and bright parsley. I ate every bite. Including my helping of the family-style side dishes: perfectly cooked, lemony asparagus and roasted spring vegetables with fresh mint and eggplant caponata. The shrimp alla diavolo seared in saffron brodo, our first course, also stuck out for me; the sauce had a real kick (as it should), and really danced with the fresh parsley.

Sicilian shrimp alla diabolo with lemon couscous

Sicilian shrimp alla diabolo with lemon couscous

The Dinner & A Movie series is a great idea, this was the first one I’d been to. There’s a real social, relaxed vibe, even with the service. It felt like a big dinner party with friends… and once again proved there’s something so comforting and satisfying about eating from-scratch Italian food. I have to give a shout-out to Jenny Gammon with Bishop’s Cellar, who nailed her pairings and did a great job explaining the wines before each course. Salute!

Zuppa Theatre: Pop-up Love Party at Lion & Bright

On opening night for Zuppa Theatre‘s Pop-up Love Party we snuck in just a few minutes before the scheduled start time, grabbing two seats at the bar in a packed Lion & Bright. The vibe was energetic and exciting; luckily we had enough time to order a couple fantastic negronis and settle in before the show began.

Pop-up Love Party is an interactive theatre and food event. Inspired by Plato’s Symposium, the show consists of three actors (Ben Stone, Stewart Legere and and Susan Leblanc) giving monologues about love. A paired seven-course snack menu, designed by executive chef Daniel Burns yet executed by local chef Dennis Johnston, accompanies the production. The menu claims to “heighten moments of the production,” with its flavours and textures. 

E.T. sandwich

E.T. sandwich

We’re not regular theatre folk, so I’m not going to review the performance in that way, but let’s just say we really enjoyed ourselves; there was comedy, music, aerobics… and just lots of fun. The snack menu was thought-provoking, at times delicious, and at time perplexing. I’d like to think I caught on to the performance-paired moments of the menu, for example, while Stone gave a rather heart-wrenching speech about how everyone we love will eventually die, the ginger sorbet with lemon we were served had so much zing… it was just, well, a little hard to swallow.

The wine was flowing and the venue was full of enthralled people, enjoying every moment of the show. In the end, the food left you with a lot to contemplate, just like the performance. Congratulations to Zuppa on the sold out run (they wrapped up on March 29), and thank-you to their marketing gal Jennifer for the complimentary tickets!

Travel Diary: My birthday in Thailand

A few days ago I returned from an unbelievable, dreamy two-week trip to Thailand, where I celebrated my 30th birthday. We booked this adventure last August, giving ourselves lots of time to plan fun excursions (Thai cooking class, speedboat tour, etc) and make suitable birthday plans.

Here, I will chronicle my out-of-the-ordinary birthday in Phuket, Thailand (usually I’m snowed in somewhere in Halifax drinking copious amounts of wine and enjoying a cheese-heavy meal with loved ones), focusing mainly on the food.

Fresh mango on our terrace.

Fresh mango on our terrace.

The day began with freshly cut mango, which we had purchased from one of the nearby fresh fruit stores in Kata Beach. We were staying at the charming Metadee Resort, in a deluxe pool access room, so I enjoyed my cup of mango and yogurt on our terrace by the pool, then jumped in for a dip. The temperature by this time, in the early morning (the cooler part of the daytime), was about 27º or 28º C.

A big part of the day involved a spur-of-the-moment bus trip to Phuket Town from the area we were staying in, Kata Beach. After splurging on a European breakfast at The Viking Restaurant (owned by Danes), we hailed the bus. There seemed to be a few types of public buses in Phuket, the long blue bus being more touristy, making less stops, and going from each major town to the next (although they’ll stop any time you bang on the window), for only 35 Thai baht each, which is currently $1.35 CAD. With the hilly terrain, weak engine and semi-frequent stops of the open-air bus, it took us about an hour to travel to Phuket Town, which is actually only 10km away if you take a direct route. But, we got to see a lot of the island this way.

A little sweaty and a little tired, in Old Phuket Town.

A little sweaty and a little tired, in Old Phuket Town.

Once arriving in Phuket Town, which is the largest town on the island of Phuket (which is the busiest tourist destination in Thailand), we didn’t really know where we were going or what we were looking for. Phuket Town has a population of over 91,000 people and I have to say it was bigger than I had anticipated. I had heard tell of an “Old Town” section being charming and historic and whatnot. After walking aimlessly (in the wrong direction) for about 25 minutes, we stopped at Kaffe, an air-conditioned, hipster-looking coffee shop, where I refuelled with a creamy egg sandwich on beautiful bahn mi style bread and an iced coffee. We connected to the wifi and made some more solid plans. We got the direction to Old Phuket Town down, partly on our own and partly from advice of one of the many taxi drivers trying to sell us a tour. He told us the beautiful buildings that the tourists like to see were on two specific streets, so we headed in that direction on foot. (Ah, traveling.) This was all on a sweltering (to us) 32º C full-sun, 90% humidity kind of day, (that’s pretty much every day there) so we were drinking LOTS of water and reapplying sunscreen like crazy.

Once we made it to Old Phuket Town, it was indeed special, showcasing historic Sino-colonial mansions and preserved shophouses. This part of the town was “built on the riches reaped from Phuket’s tin boom of last century,” (phuket.com). The buildings are grandiose and ornate, colourful and charming. Many of them house cafes, restaurants and printing shops. We stopped at one particularly high-end looking cafe once we noticed some bottles of craft beer and cider in the cooler case out front (hard to find in  Thailand), for a beverage break. After strolling through the area we headed back to where to catch the bus back to Kata Beach. (How we got on the wrong bus, had to get off, walk back into town, find an air conditioned cab to make it back to Kata for our dinner reservation is another story — ah, traveling.)

Once returning to our resort, we of course had a well-deserved dip in the pool, showered and got ready for dinner. I had made a reservation a month prior at a picturesque and popular Thai restaurant called On the Rock, housed at the Marina Phuket Resort, directly on the water.

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The service at On the Rock was unmatched by anything else we experienced in Phuket, the price point, for Thailand, was high and it was clear they catered to many tourists. We started with some prosecco, to celebrate, then I picked out my very own fresh red snapper, which was on display with the other fresh seafood for the day as you enter the restaurant (this is customary here). For first course, I had my first tom sum, a spicy green papaya salad with green beans, almost the style of a slaw, with a very flavourful dressing of chiles and garlic, fish sauce, and some sweetness. This was delicious, and not to be my last on the trip. Geir had tom kha gai which is a mild coconut-based chicken soup with great flavours of kaffir lime leaves and ginger, a very common Thai soup.

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The red snapper was prepared nicely on the barbecue and was served with thinly sliced peppers, ginger and chiles on top. I enjoyed this super fresh fish with some classic steamed rice. Geir had a duck with mango sauce. They played happy birthday for me, and presented me with a fresh cut fruit plate with candles to blow out. The sun had set over the ocean during first course, and we went for a walk on the beach after dinner. My second birthday ever to be spent in a hot climate, with beach time (my 24th birthday was in Bondi Beach, Australia). On the walk home, we saw an elephant! The only elephant of the trip, as I’m not into exploitative animal-based tourism. I’m not sure whose elephant it was, or how they treated it. I didn’t give them any money but snapped a photo. This was a very small elephant.

A very different, but very fun 30th birthday. And the next day was birthday number two… as it was my birthday on Halifax time…

Get Ready for the Second Annual Dine by Design East

“We’re a city that creates things,” said Jonathan Legate to the crowd at Tuesday night’s Dine by Design East media launch event. Legate is a co-founder of the event and a prominent member of the design community in Halifax. It was invigorating to hear him speak briefly at NSCAD seaport campus about the inspiration behind helping create this particular event, for our city, which is gearing up for its second edition later this month.

Presented by East Coast Living magazine, Dine by Design East is an affair where the art of design is paired with the art of food. Dubbed a “lifestyle event” by organizers, this year it has expanded into a four-day experience, integrating fashion and workshops, alongside design and culinary expression.  Suzanne Saul of Attica Furnishings, the other co-founder of the event, will be working alongside Atlantica Hotel Halifax chef Luis Clavel on an Avant Garde Cuisine seminar, happening on November 1.

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For the gala event on October 30 at Olympic Gardens, 10 local chefs are paired up with 10 Nova Scotia designers for a stunning sensory experience. At each booth, guests will sample three or four hors d’oeuvres that were created by the chef, and inspired by the design partner’s space. Other elements to the gala evening include drink sampling by Garrison Brewing, Ironworks Distillery, Picaroons Traditional Ales, and Petite Rivière Vineyards,  a “bubble bar” designed by Heather Waugh Pitts, and a silent auction.

All the funds raised from this event support NSCAD’s design program, through the Amber Harkins Memorial Scholarship Fund. Harkins, a long-time editor of East Coast Living, passed away from cancer in 2012. Last year the first edition of Dine by Design East raised $20,000 for the scholarship fund.

Event co-founder Jonathan Legate, speaking to the crowd.

Event co-founder Jonathan Legate, speaking to the crowd.

Events like this “bring artists here, and keep artists here,” said Legate on Tuesday. They also help grow local artists, with the first scholarship being awarded to a Nova Scotia design student this winter. For full event and ticket details visit Dine by Design East’s website.

Check out more photos from the media event in the gallery below! (Including tacos by Habaneros!)

Rock the Leftovers: Taco Edition

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One part of cooking I enjoy is the challenge of taking leftovers and making them new again. Working from home, I have the opportunity to make my own lunch, in my own kitchen, several times a week. That, paired with the fact that we regularly cook dinner together (and it’s usually awesome), means there are often leftovers in the fridge.

There’s something inside me that just disagrees with recreating the exact same meal two days in a row. Often I have separate elements of leftovers that I can rework. So, I do this. And I’ve decided to blog about it more.

On Friday I decided it was the night for tacos. I made three different fillings: spicy pepper mix with onions, basil-lime sauteed mushrooms, and saucy tomato sausages with roasted garlic. Plus I made a yellow heirloom tomato-jalapeno pico de gallo (with some heat), guacamole, red cabbage slaw, lots of chopped green onion and fresh cilantro. So basically a sweet spread. So good I didn’t even really take photos. I just settled in and ate.

On Saturday I was solo and planning to rock my leftovers with a brunch creation. That I did. I made a double-layered Mexican brunch tostada of sorts. Okay, so it’s not THAT different from the tacos — but it was very delicious.

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First layer: masa corn tortilla, spicy pepper and basil-lime mushroom mix, fried egg, crumbled Ran-Cher Acres goat cheese, chopped green onion. Second layer: another tortilla topped with sunny-side up (runny) fried egg, a bit more cheese and green onion, fresh cilantro. Accompaniments: guacamole and pico. Side dish: red cabbage slaw. A big glass of OJ.

Brunch happiness.

Red cabbage slaw.

Red cabbage slaw.

Pesto for breakfast, lunch and dinner

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As a pizza fanatic, I often have a jar of pesto on hand at all times. I prefer the crunchy, herby, garlicky base rather than traditional tomato sauce. I’ll admit, though, the pesto is not usually made by me, but by Riverview Herbs.

Due to the abundance of beautiful herbs growing on my patio, I decided to make a batch myself. What I created was a deliciously fresh, earthy and (very) garlicky pesto, great for a variety of dishes. Obviously I used it on pizza, a couple times, but I wanted to  branch out from that. Here are three other very easy-to-make dishes that incorporate pesto for an intense flavour boost, all day long. And no, I didn’t eat all three of these meals on the same day!

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Breakfast: I threw together a market veggie scramble with pesto and goat’s cheese; one of my favourite, quick meals for the morning when you want something healthy and substantial.

How I did it: Heat the pan with a little olive oil, throw in some sliced onion, then chopped red pepper, asparagus, and a minute or two later, cherry tomatoes. Season. Allow them to cook about halfway. In a bowl, scramble your eggs with creamy Fox Hill milk, salt and pepper, then some pesto (a tablespoon or two). Pour in the pan and scramble away. Add swiss chard (spinach is good too) last and let it wilt. Dish into a bowl, adjust seasoning if you need to, and crumble Ran-Cher Acres goat’s cheese on top.

IMG_4125Lunch: Using my trusty panini press, I made pesto grilled cheese with sliced yellow tomato. If you’re making grilled cheese anyway, I definitely recommend adding some pesto in there. For this sandwich, I used Ran-Cher Acres goat paneer, which has a really unique texture. After buttering the bread (a really hearty multigrain loaf I buy at Local Source), I spread pesto thick on one side, layer both sides with sliced cheese, and put the tomato in the middle (or else it makes the bread soggy). Just remember that something needs to buffer the tomato’s moisture.

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Dinner: Light up the barbecue for grilled trout with creamy pesto sauce, forbidden rice and asparagus. This was the perfect summer meal. And pretty healthy. I had the rice done in advance, as the black rice takes about 50 minutes to cook on the stovetop.

How I did it: Everything on the barbecue. I reheated the rice in a little pot, just adding a touch of water, butter and some fresh thyme. For the fish, I oiled the skin side and grilled it skin-down, on medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes. In a pan, I heated up some pesto with a tiny bit of butter, and simply whisked in creamy Fox Hill whole milk, until I had the consistency I wanted. I also grilled some asparagus. When it was time to plate, I used the rice as a base, topped with a piece of crispy-skinned trout, asparagus, doused everything in some freshly-squeezed lemon juice, and topped with the pesto sauce. The citrus really brings everything together as there are a lot of flavours competing in this dish, but it is lightened considerably and balanced by the lemon and works really well.

If you’re wondering what I put in my initial pesto recipe, it was something like: Fresh parsley and chives (main ingredients), thyme, toasted pumpkin seeds (second main ingredient), Parmesan cheese, fresh garlic, roasted garlic, olive oil, meyer lemon infused olive oil, roasted garlic olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a touch of water.