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?

 

Dinner on the Ocean Floor

About two weeks ago, we were loaded onto a tour bus that was heading to Burntcoat Head Park on the Bay of Fundy, site of the world’s highest tides. There, we were to be treated to a feast on the ocean floor, paired with the new line of Alexander Keith’s small-batch brews, which are being made at the original Lower Water Street location in Halifax.

The bus ride to Hants County, Nova Scotia, took about an hour and a half from Halifax. After arriving at the park we were separated into two smaller groups and taken on tours. The constant mist and generally grey skies didn’t take away from the spectacular topography and stunning formations along the ocean floor, where the world’s highest tides ebb and flow. Most of us were wearing the proper footwear, so we trudged close to the ocean, checking out tidal pools and tiny crabs along the way.

Once returning from the tour we were greeted with an East Coast-style shellfish boil, complete with live Maritime-inspired music and lots of cold beer. We were each given a huge bowl of boiled mussels, clams and lobster claws, topped with fried dulse, accompanied by a delicious homemade biscuit. Lounging in a circle of colourful Adirondack chairs, we took turns throwing our empty shells into galvanized steel buckets that were placed in the centre. We were supplied with a seemingly unlimited amount of Keith’s newest small batch creation, Fundy Lowtide WIPA, a white IPA made with sea lettuce and dulce from the Bay of Fundy.

Second course surf and turf, succotash.

Second course surf and turf, succotash.

We headed back to the ocean floor, where a long white tent was set up for dinner. Tables decorated with tartan and centrepieces made of sea greenery were set up in the sand, waiting for us. First course was a cheese and house-made charcuterie plate with crispy flat bread crackers and mustards, which was intended to pair with Keith’s best-known beer, their India Pale Ale. The main course was a generous surf and turf, featuring a super flavourful poached lobster tail with saffron mayo, toasted barley succotash, and hop-crusted beef tenderloin; this was paired with Keith’s Cornerstone EPA. Dessert was wonderful, a stack of layered airy cinnamon phyllo, chocolate mascarpone cream, and sautéed cherries, topped with crunchy, pure cocoa nibs, paired with Keith’s Lunenburg Coffee & Cocoa Stout. The brewmaster, Stefan Gagliardi, acted as a host of sorts, mingling with guests and introducing each beer before courses at dinner.

This event was catered by Flying Apron Cookery, and was put on by Seaboost and Labatt (who own Keith’s). I was invited complimentary as part of a media and industry group.

Focus on my City: An exploration of Halifax

Wow, so summer flew by. But before it ended, Ford hooked me up in a big way with a sweet 2015 Ford Focus SE,  to cruise around HRM and (eventually, some day) blog about my experiences. Being me, I agreed, as long as I could explore in an edible way… as in, drive to different neighbourhoods and eat some food. Luckily, they were down with that.

My ride for the day!

My ride for the day!

I started with Quinpool Road area/West End, where I hit up a dumpling and ramen joint I’ve been wanting to visit for a very long time: Truly Tasty. Here, we ordered the vegetarian ramen and the spicy braised pork ramen, along with chicken dumplings to start. Awesome food. The dumplings were fantastic, pan-fried and fresh, made in-house. The ramen bowls were huge, beyond what I could eat — with homemade whole wheat ramen noodles, the vegetarian in a soy-based broth and the pork in a meaty broth. We both agreed the pork ramen was better, but the vegetarian still had a lot of great stuff (like delicious steamed mushrooms). I felt like I was eating for an hour and the broth never went down. I still feel like a whole table could split one bowl of ramen here.

The adorable North End.

The adorable North End.

Next up I cruised to the North End where I met an old friend for coffee at Lion & Bright. Nothing fancy, just fantastic coffee in the always-busy atmosphere of this great coffee / wine bar / workspace. Another chance to parallel park the Focus and use the backup cameras with reverse sensing system… a tool that actually helps you park better. I need that.

Spicy spaghetti with mussels, salsa verde.

Spicy spaghetti with mussels, salsa verde.

That night we decided to drive a little further — across the bridge — all the way to King’s Wharf, in Dartmouth, where Il Trullo, a new Italian restaurant had just opened. The place was packed, and it happened to be the same night as a food truck party (by The Coast) in the parking lot across the way. Another great vibe over there with tons of people milling about the area and a busy, hectic restaurant. Here we started with a caprese salad and beef carpaccio. My carpaccio was the star, with a great flavour, texture and powdered truffle on the plate. Our meals were hearty and tasty. Mine was surprisingly spicy — a handmade spaghetti with salsa verde and mussels (lots of them). I wasn’t expecting the rather large sliced chiles, but luckily I love some heat.

During my time with the Ford Focus SE, I tried out Sync, the fully-integrated voice-activated system, using the Bluetooth on my iPhone, the rear view camera (of course), the reverse sensing system I already mentioned, but, luckily didn’t have to use the brake assist. My bright red ride was very fun for a summer day in Halifax, exploring three neighbourhoods (one of which I don’t get to much — Dartmouth) as well as doing my usual business in downtown.

Explore the full photo gallery below!

 

 

Pizza, Wine and Jazz

There’s something so nice about strolling into the main stage area at TD Halifax Jazz Festival during the day. Especially when it’s sunny. There’s a mix of locals and tourists, everyone is eating or drinking, enjoying some chill, free jazz music, and it’s all right on the waterfront. There’s lots of places to sit. So yesterday I grabbed a slice of pizza from Bramoso, a glass of wine from the bar and took it all in for a little while.

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If you’re not familiar with Bramoso Pizza, their eat-in restaurant and takeout counter is located on Quinpool Road, in the same strip mall as the NSLC. When you walk in, though, it’s quite charming and there’s a real brick pizza oven, churning out creative pizzas that feature local ingredients

SORRY. This post is just a teaser. For the full post and photos, head on over to the TD Halifax Jazz Fest blog.

Tasty food truck action at Jazz Fest

Today I kicked off my official food blogging gig for the TD Halifax Jazz Festival. Not a bad assignment, given they’ve got food trucks and stalls onsite serving up everything from Caribbean oxtail curry to pizza to made-from-scratch egg rolls. Not to mention a beer tent serving Bulwark Cider (my favourite), wines and Garrison Brewing beer on tap. I’m a food blogger, not a music blogger, but anyone that lives in Halifax knows this festival brings in some major talent and incredible shows on not just the main stage, but venues throughout the city. So yeah, I’m pretty happy with the situation.

Good news for locals and tourists – the food trucks are not just for ticket holders. The festival is open to the public with free admission throughout the daytime hours on the waterfront at the Main Stage (Lower Water and Salter). This means anyone can come in and enjoy food from the vendors.

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Day One  – I met the lovely Chelsea Lund, owner and operator of Roll With It, a shiny black food truck with a charming hand-written chalk menu. Although the name of the truck makes sense, the menu was not what I was expecting. Roll With It does, in fact, make a weekly rotating feature: a from-scratch, original egg roll. Judging from their Instagram account (rollwithitHFX) they’ve done some pretty unique egg rolls. On top of the rolls, they’ve got burgers, panko-crusted fish and chips (or have it as a taco), poutine, and fresh cut fries.

SORRY. This post is just a teaser! For the full post and more photos, you’re going to the TD Halifax Jazz Fest blog.

Check back tomorrow for Day Two!

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!

NS Chefs Pop-up Series with Ray Bear

The Nova Scotia Chefs Pop-up Series made an impressive start just over two weeks ago, with chef Ray Bear inviting guest chef Dave Smart to help take over the kitchen space at the Scanway Bakery and Café on Grafton Street. About 18 lucky food enthusiasts, including myself, were just able to squeeze into the space and enjoy an exclusive meal from two of the most creative and artful Nova Scotia chefs around. It proved to be an intimate and, understandably, very social pop-up venue. Each chef, demonstrating his distinct style, created one dish per course, transforming your typical three-course meal into a six-course feast.  And yes, that means there were two desserts. Impeccable wine pairings were provided by Jenny at Bishop’s Cellar.

Dave's first course: confit squash, mushrooms, roasted pearl onions, brown butter, toasted hazelnuts, sage croutons, lemon-ginger.

Dave’s first course: confit squash, mushrooms, roasted pearl onions, brown butter, toasted hazelnuts, sage croutons, lemon-ginger.

First course was brought to you by Dave: A salad of confit squash, mushrooms, roasted pearl onions, brown butter dust (which melted in your mouth and became brown butter), toasted hazelnuts, colourful sage croutons, and tangy lemon-ginger gel.  Presented in classic Dave style, a gorgeous asymmetrical plate with styled pops of colour and a plethora of textures. But don’t worry — it wasn’t just pretty; everything about this salad came together in a nicely balanced way, a great first course.

Ray's first course: fresh ramen, vegetable infused pork broth, crispy bits salad, kimchi aioli, herbs

Ray’s first course: fresh ramen, vegetable infused pork broth, crispy bits salad, kimchi aioli, herbs

Second course (second first course, actually) was from Ray; I really enjoy when he uses Asian inspiration. This dish had fresh, house-made ramen noodles in a vegetable-infused pork broth. The broth was infused using a vacuum coffee maker, shortly before the course was served. I thought it was just so flavourful. Also in the broth was crispy bits salad (pork with crispy bits), fresh herbs, enoki mushrooms and, rimming the bowl, a kimchi aioli. Umami deliciousness.

On to Dave’s main course, cured and cold smoked scallop, cauliflower pureé, green apple, pickled raisins, and curried granola. Dave explained that the scallop was seared on one side only, bringing two temperatures to the plate and some colour to the top. The pickled raisins were perfect, a great way to offset the sweet-rich scallop and velvety cauliflower pureé. The crunch of the granola was fantastic, I was a huge fan of this plate.

Ray's second course: NS spring lamb, calamari, olive, fingerlings, almond romesco, saffron-vanilla pudding

Ray’s second course: NS spring lamb, calamari, olive, fingerlings, almond romesco, saffron-vanilla pudding

Ray’s main course had so much fun stuff going on, a Spanish-inspired lamb dish that showed off a lamb sausage stuffed purple shallot, calamari, olives, fingerlings, almond romesco sauce, and saffron-vanilla pudding. Showcasing both the calamari tube and tentacles gave this plate such a great visual aspect, and I loved the two different preparations of the lamb, both delicious. That heavenly well of jus inside the pudding was unbelievable. It was a beautiful main course.

On to dessert, which I typically skip. Dave’s dessert was perfect for me… it was savoury and involved cheese. An Urban Blue cheese cheesecake schmear, black currant, pistachio crumb, and beet sorbet. The earthy flavour of the beet really came through here, and again, all the flavours and textures were superbly balanced, it was, for me, the perfect level of sweetness (not much).

Ray's dessert: Butterflies & Drops of Jupiter

Ray’s dessert: Butterflies & Drops of Jupiter

Ray’s trippy-looking dessert, described on the menu as only “Butterflies & Drops of Jupiter” was a big wow for the crowd. Pete Luckett jokingly referred to it as the dessert Ray must have thought up on LSD.  In reality it was an amazing dessert with many intricately designed and placed elements. The main part (the green thing) was passionfruit around a white chocolate-lime Bavarian. The raspberry ball had rose water, elder flower juice and yuzu. The butterfly looked as though it would just be fondant or something similar but was a delicious paper thin biscuit. The other “drops” of foam on the plate were blueberry and blackberry. It tasted even better than it looked.

Keep an eye out for the next edition of the Nova Scotia Chefs Pop-up Series; I’m sure there are many more impressive meals like this one in the works.

Pop-up chef series finale at Front & Central

Fourth course - piggy (sous vide pork tenderloin)  in a mushroom blanket, roasted shallots, bread pudding and parsley sauce.

Fourth course – piggy (sous vide pork tenderloin) in a mushroom blanket, roasted shallots, bread pudding and parsley sauce.

What better way to avoid a Nova Scotia winter rut (food and morale) than design a series of delicious tasting menus with your friends?

Tasting menus are the way I like to eat. I enjoy running the restaurant that way,” says Dave Smart, chef and owner of Front & Central in Wolfville. “This was the second year for the series. I start them in January when the dust settles from New Year’s.”

The “pop-up chef series” for 2014 ended on April 25, and I was lucky enough to be invited, as Dave’s guest (his treat), to cover the last of the event via social media. The guest chef on this particular date was Peter Dewar – and man, do these guys’ styles work together well (not to mention Peter is a member of Culinary Team Canada). They presented a five-course tasting menu at an unbelievable price of $50 per person, along with an optional wine pairing at only an additional $25. Tickets were sold in advance.

Of course I brought Geir along (nothing like chefs cooking for other chefs) and we made a night out of it in Wolfville, taking advantage of the special rate for this event at Victoria’s Historic Inn. To make it even more convenient, the inn is within walking distance from Front & Central.

Second course (my favourite) - "bread and butter", which was chive hollandaise and rye bread pudding.

Second course (my favourite) – “bread and butter”, which was chive hollandaise and rye bread pudding.

From the pop-up series Dave says he’s “had lots of great feedback from guests, and many repeat diners.” It’s no wonder. The service is fantastic — it’s easy to tell the staff genuinely enjoy the tasting menu format — and the restaurant is beautiful. The food absolutely went beyond our expectation in creativity, taste and plating.

A highlight for me was second course, called “bread and butter”. This was chive hollandaise paired with a rye bread pudding, meant to be eaten together… each spoonful was better than the last. Check out our dinner, starting with some fantastic gin cocktails, course-by-course in the gallery below.

Pop-up chef series finale at Front & Central

Dessert course - White, milk and dark.

Dessert course – White, milk and dark.

What better way to avoid a Nova Scotia winter rut (food and morale) than design a series of delicious tasting menus with your friends?

“Tasting menus are the way I like to eat. I enjoy running the restaurant that way,” says Dave Smart, chef and owner of Front & Central in Wolfville. “This was the second year for the series. I start them in January when the dust settles from New Year’s.”

The “pop-up chef series” for 2014 ended on April 25, and I was lucky enough to be invited, as Dave’s guest (his treat), to cover the last of the event via social media. The guest chef on this particular date was Peter Dewar – and man, do these guys’ styles work together well (not to mention Peter is a member of Culinary Team Canada). They presented a five-course tasting menu at an unbelievable price of $50 per person, along with an optional wine pairing at only an additional $25. Tickets were sold in advance.

Of course I brought Geir along (nothing like chefs cooking for other chefs) and we made a night out of it in Wolfville, taking advantage of the special rate for this event at Victoria’s Historic Inn. To make it even more convenient, the inn is within walking distance from Front & Central.

Second course (my favourite) - "bread and butter", which was chive hollandaise and rye bread pudding.

Second course (my favourite) – “bread and butter”, which was chive hollandaise and rye bread pudding.

From the pop-up series Dave says he’s “had lots of great feedback from guests, and many repeat diners.” It’s no wonder. The service is fantastic — it’s easy to tell the staff genuinely enjoy the tasting menu format — and the restaurant is beautiful. The food absolutely went beyond our expectation in creativity, taste and plating.

A highlight for me was second course, called “bread and butter”. This was chive hollandaise paired with a rye bread pudding, meant to be eaten together… each spoonful was better than the last. Check out our dinner, starting with some fantastic gin cocktails, course-by-course in the gallery below.

Green curry-coconut spicy fusion tacos

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This has been the week of green curry. I brought home a can from Tian Phat on Monday and have been trying to use it in a variety of ways since. My favourite, so far, has been these green Thai curry-marinated tempeh tacos. You could easily make this recipe with the meat or seafood of your choice, but I think it’s delicious with tempeh or tofu.

Here are the elements that came together to make this delicious (almost vegan) creation…

Grilled masa corn tortillas + green Thai curry and coconut-marinated tempeh + spicy “Asian” slaw + Sriracha-citrus yogurt + daikon sprouts + crumbled peanuts + fresh cilantro = delicious fusion tacos.

This is my second run at fusion tacos, because as most of you know I am obsessed with the bulgogi style tofu tacos at Indochine Banh Mi on South Park Street. I tried recreating those once and something just wasn’t right. These are different, with the Thai curry influence, and I was extremely happy with how they turned out. I’m putting them in regular dinner rotation, maybe switching up the protein now and again. The marinating did take a little bit of time, but it was completely worth it.

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I’m not going to do a full recipe, just give you the basics. The tempeh marinade consisted of rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, lemon-infused olive oil, soy sauce, lime juice, freshly squeezed blood orange juice, fish sauce, green curry paste, more fresh ginger and garlic, fresh basil and of course coconut milk. I let that sit, sealed, for a couple hours. The cooking method to really infuse the flavour into the tempeh is to then put it on the stove, cover it in the marinade, bring to a boil them simmer for about 20 minutes. After that, jack the heat and let it completely reduce to nothing.

The Asian slaw I made had sliced napa cabbage, grated carrot, green onion, red pepper and cilantro. The dressing was hot (and tasted SO good the next day) with chiles, fresh ginger, rice vinegar, lime juice and lemon-infused olive oil. The Sriracha-citrus yogurt is simple, I used a mixture of Fox Hill plain yogurt, store-bought greek yogurt, Sriracha, lime juice and my secret ingredient, roasted garlic oil.

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Add your favourite Asian-inspired toppings and you’re good to go. I found amazing daikon radish sprouts at Selwood Green last weekend and they were perfect; those along with crumbled peanuts and fresh cilantro, and these were some spicy, yet beautifully balanced tacos.

Thanks to the Seaport Farmers’ Market I was able to use mostly all local vegetables, and grab fantastic handmade corn tortillas from El Gallo.

(To make these vegan, just leave out the fish sauce and use your favourite dairy-free yogurt.)

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