Category Archives: Special Topics

Burns Supper

Originally published January 25, 2011.

 

If you’re not already acquainted, let me introduce you to the proud institution that is the Burns Supper.

A portrait of Robert BurnsRobert Burns was born on January 25, 1759, in Ayr, Scotland. He grew up on farmland leased by his parents, and wrote several poems and songs about that rustic life, hence his famous epithet, “the ploughman poet.” His first book of poetry, published in 1786, was an explosive success, and he was quickly accepted into Edinburgh society, becoming a Freemason and working as a tax collector.

His poetry was written in an old Scottish dialect, one that modern English readers find more difficult to understand than Shakespeare. Even so, you probably know some of his verses. … Continue reading.

The Physiology of Taste by Brillat-Savarin

The title page of Brillat-Savarin's The Physiology of TasteOften cited as the most influential food book ever published in the western world, The Physiology of Taste was written by Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.  Born in 1755 in Belley, France, “B-S”[1] grew up to become first a lawyer and then a judge in provincial France during, well, a fairly tumultuous time in European history.  The details of his life are fascinating.  My copy of TPT includes a brief biography containing lines like “crossed swords with Robespierre” and “incurred the displeasure of Napoleon”.  While he did live in exile in America for a short while, B-S managed to keep his head and most of his property throughout the Revolution and the Napoleonic years.  It was in the last years of … Continue reading.

Cretons

Originally posted December 15, 2009 (if you can believe that).  Re-posted today with some major corrections.  I first read about cretons in an article in The Ottawa Citizen by then-food-columnist Ron Eade.  He presented cretons as a Quebecois variation on rillette.  A while back Emmanuel (Manu) of Pied Cochon, Joe Beef, and Woodwork fame gave me the skinny on cretons, and they really are not like rillettes at all.  I am not able to find that original Ron Eade article to expose it.  Presumably someone from the lower St. Lawrence forced him to remove it as libel or lies.  Anyways.  

A ramekin of cretons.Cretons is a pork spread made by simmering ground pork and aromatics like onion, bay, and clove in milk or … Continue reading.

Squash and Barley ‘Risotto’

Squash and barley risotto with roasted autumn vegetables.Risotto is a traditional northern Italian dish of short-grain rice cooked in broth and finished with butter and grated hard cheese, usually parmigianno.  The “ris” in the name refers to the rice, so “barley risotto” is sort of an oxymoron.  There happens to be an Italian word for barley cooked in the same style as risotto: orzotto.[1]

Anyways, this morning I prepared a squash and barley risotto on Global Edmonton and promised to post the recipe here.  This is a dish we do at Elm Catering throughout the autumn, a re-imagining of the traditional risotto using some local fall ingredients.  It would be a great addition to a Thanksgiving dinner, perhaps in lieu of mash potatoes.

You can use … Continue reading.

Greek Food

Any country that pickles its national cheese in brine and adulterates its national wine with pine pitch should order dinner at the local Chinese place and save its energies for other things.

-Jeffrey Steingarten, on Greek food

Dawn at the harbour at Iraklio, Crete

As the above quote from Vogue’s food critic demonstrates, Greek food is not often taken seriously in North America.[1]  In fact, a trip to a Greek restaurant is not even about the food, as the food is more or less the same at all Greek restaurants.  In our part of the world, dining at a Greek restaurant is about the experience, an experience that usually involves tables for twelve, bazuki music, belly dancing, liquor, repetition of the phrase “Opa!”, smashing plates, and … Continue reading.

A Chardonnay Tasting

A few weeks ago I led a Chardonnay tasting for a private event at Little Brick Café and General Store.  I thought I would post some notes from that session.  If this type of info interests you at all, I’m going to be hosting a tasting of Belgian beers on Thursday, April 21, as part of Little Brick’s Home School series.

 

chardonnayFor this event we did a style of tasting that we do a lot with our wine group at work.  We call it a semi-blind varietal tasting.  This isn’t a technical term, or even a commonly used term… it’s just a name we made up.  Three or four wines of the same grape varietal are selected, but … Continue reading.

Grüner Veltliner and Other Austrian Wines

Some shameless self-promotion:  if the type of information contained in this post interests you at all, I’m going to be hosting a tasting of sparkling wines on Thursday, February 11, as part of Little Brick’s Home School series.

 

Three examples of Grüner Veltliner available from wine shops here in Edmonton.I’ve been meaning to write about Austrian wine for some time.  Years, actually: ever since I wrote this post on Heurigen, which are rural taverns that serve young wine and cider.

Last week the Elm wine group did a tasting of Grüner Veltliner, the national grape of Austria, so I thought I would finally put down some info on Austrian wine.

If you haven’t had Austrian wine before, you’re not a freak or a philistine: there isn’t a whole … Continue reading.

A Really Good Griddle

griddleTonight is Pancake Tuesday, which is how Catholic Canadians celebrate Mardi Gras or Shrovetide.  If you’re unfamiliar with the tradition, I wrote a bit about it here.

So yes, I’m eating pancakes for dinner tonight, which means I get to use one of my very favourite appliances, my West Bend counter-top griddle.

My parents received this griddle as a wedding present in 1981.  It takes 120 V electrical and runs at 1500 W.  It is a simple, flat, metal cooking surface, roughly 10″ by 16″, with a shallow trough along three sides, and a deeper, broader trough on the fourth to collect rendered fat. It is supported by hard plastic brackets that hold it above the counter on which … Continue reading.

Citrus Juicer

Juicing limes to make a cocktail called The Last WordThis is my citrus juicer.

It belonged to my grandma Suddaby.

It’s made of something called Depression glass, a tinted, translucent glass that was manufactured from (roughly) the 1920s to 1940s, hence the name.  It came in several colours, but most commonly funky neon green, or pastel pinkish orange.  Those are terrible colour descriptions, but that’s why I cook for a living instead of naming new shades of paint.  I imagine these colours were hyper-modern in the 1930s, though I have no source to confirm or deny this.  Depression glass was mass-produced and most often distributed as a free gift for people buying groceries or attending a show.  In other words it was Depression-era swag.  I asked my parents if … Continue reading.

Liptauer

A pot of liptauer with chives.This is a tasty spread I often serve at Austrian cooking classes.

Liptauer is originally from Liptov, in Slovakia, formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.  The dish became quite popular in Austria-proper, and is now considered a classic part of that country’s cuisine.

In Austria Liptauer is made with a soft, fresh cheese called Topfen.  Topf is the German word for pot, so Topfen can be translated as “pot cheese”.  It goes by the name Quark (pronounced “KVARK”) in many other parts of Europe.  Austrians will scoff, but the recipe below approximates Topfen by using a mixture of cream cheese and sour cream.

Besides cheese, the other essential ingredient in Liptauer is paprika, which is ubiquitous in several Eastern … Continue reading.