Deep November

November Sunrise - Calgary

NOVEMBER IN CALGARY: it’s the perfect juxtaposition of dwindling daylight hours and increasing social expectations that’s destined to wreak havoc with your serenity.

Still, the silver lining of this time of year is witnessing a stunning prairie sunrise as you grab that first (or second!) morning coffee at work – and a mountain sunset as you make your commute home.

Those rose-hued skies of late have put me in mind of a couple of my favourite things to lighten the holiday season.

November Sky cocktail (Cirque Restaurant, Fernie, BC)
My rendition of the November Sky (Cirque’s is much prettier)

The first is the November Sky – a warming combination of brown spirits and red wine that is one of Aileen Shipley’s gifts to the cocktail-sipping community.  Shipley conjured it up for her apres-ski guests at Cirque Restaurant & Bar in Fernie’s Lizard Creek Lodge (and allowed me to share the recipe in my basil column last winter).  The cocktail’s evocative sweet and sour layers are up to the dual tasks of pleasing your holiday guests or lifting your spirits as you work through your seasonal checklist.

And my second favourite go-to? Broiled Feta Crumbles & Fennel on Mixed Micro-Greens – a quick and delicious topper for crostini or crackers that was taught to me by Chef Crystal McKenzie of Peasant Cheese Shop in Kensington.  The recipe for this appetizer inspiration has recently made its way to the website of Taste & Travel International where you can access it for yourself.

[You’ll notice T&T’s photo presents it plated like a salad – a delicious option – but Crystal likes to spread a thick layer of tiny sprouts (pea shoots are terrific!) across a small platter, then sprinkle the toasted cheese crumbles and roasted fennel bits across the top, for a layered ensemble that guests can simply scoop onto their bread].

Mmmm – warm, salty cheese and greens, together with an elevated whisky sour.  For me there’s no better combination for easy entertaining or a little self-care in the midst of holiday chaos.

Or for simply curling up and looking ahead to powder ski days in the Rockies.

Text and photos © 2018 Catherine Van Brunschot

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Privileged Travel

Kids in a Syrian refugee camp
Kids in a Syrian refugee camp (Used under Creative Commons License: Muhammed Muhelsen)

I have a special privilege when I travel.

I get to take home for granted.

I choose when to leave it.  It’s always there when I want to come back.

In a world where one in every 113 people have been forced to flee their homes because of war or persecution, that’s a rare privilege indeed.

Today on World Refugee Day, we recognize and celebrate the resilience and strength of those living in refugee camps and those struggling to create a new life in their adoptive countries.

While politicians and policy-makers wrangle about the best ways to address (or ignore) the refugee crisis, we can take time to understand the issues better.

Check out this video as you turn to FIFA World Cup today.

Check out these popular books by Canadian authors to supplement your summer reading.

Check out UNHCR Canada  for the full picture on refugees in the world today.  (Prepare to be overwhelmed).

And check out these stories and video clips (Soap and Starbucks) to find out what refugees are doing in Calgary, Victoria, and Surrey, BC.  (Prepare to be inspired).

#WithRefugees

Following Vernon’s Culinary Trail

Paddling with ELEMENTS Adventure Company
Photo credit: ELEMENTS Adventure Company

When I came in search of food experiences in British Columbia’s North Okanagan Valley, I didn’t expect to find myself HERE.

Pine forests tumble down the Monashee mountains and cottonwoods throw shadows over the canoe, as I float with seven other paddlers down the Shuswap River.  Other shadows flit below the water:  Chinook and Sockeye salmon returning to their birthplace to spawn.  A Bald eagle whistles from a tall snag, but before I can locate his partner, my guide, Charles Ruechel, sounds his call to stroke hard on my side of the canoe.  By the time we clear the “sweeper” – a tree laid low over the water – we’ve left the eagle behind.  No matter.  Minutes later, another eagle splits the October sky.

Read the full story in the Summer Issue of Taste & Travel International magazine.

Okanagan Food & Wine Writers Workshop 2016

Okanagan Valley
Okanagan Valley

With writing deadlines pending, public trials at YYC Calgary’s new International terminal to attend, and a little Thanksgiving cooking and travel to enjoy over the past two weeks, I’m just now sorting through my notes from the Okanagan Food & Wine Writers Workshop held at the Manteo Resort in Kelowna Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

Jennifer Cockrall-King with Hank Markgraf
Jennifer Cockrall-King with grower/horticulturalist, Hank Markgraf

Those of you familiar with the workshop will know it’s the love’s labour of Jennifer Cockrall-King, author of Food and the City and Food Artisans of the Okanagan, who splits her time between homes in Edmonton and the Okanagan Valley (when she’s not on the road researching articles for various print publications).  This was my first appearance at the Workshop – now in its 7th year – but it’s safe to say I’ll be joining the ranks of previous alumni who return regularly to the event for more.

More of what, you ask?

More opportunities to meet the chefs, growers, and winemakers who’ve put the Okanagan Valley firmly on the map of North American oenophiles and food lovers.

More engaging workshops designed for food, wine, and travel writers, regardless of where they are in their careers.

Lunch at Manteo Resort
Lunch at Manteo Resort

Workshops like Timothy Fowler‘s interactive session on “The Pleasure and Discipline of Daily Writing”, complete with short-but-sweet writing exercises to stimulate the creativity in anyone.

Or “How to Find Great Stories in Food”, presented by Sunset Magazine‘s Food Editor, Margo True – who took us behind the scenes of her award-winning stories at Gourmet, Saveur, and Sunset, to share her own lessons learned  and sources of inspiration.

Jill Foran, Editor of WestJet Magazine, helped us hone our query skills in “The Art of the Pitch” and Jennifer Cockrall-King brought it back to the personal with “Authenticity and Connection in Good Writing”.

Summerhill oyster
Composed Oyster, Summerhill Bistro

Woven between these plenaries were bonus presentations by Tourism Vernon, Quails’ Gate Wines, and Carmelis Goat Cheese (replete with treats, I might add).

And then there were the field trips:  an orchard experience and hands-on galette-making with Hank and Darcel Markgraf representing B.C. Tree Fruits; a tasting of Kitsch Winery’s newly-minted award-winning 2015 Riesling with winemaker Grant Biggs; and Gabe Cipes’ sunset tour of the biodynamic gardens at Summerhill Pyramid Winery, followed by a 4-course gastronomic experience created by Summerhill’s new Executive Chef, Alex Lavroff and hosted by CEO Ezra Cipes.

Kitsch 2015 Riesling
Kitsch 2015 Riesling

Back at home base, the kitchens of the Manteo Resort and Hotel Eldorado took our fueling needs to new heights, with the Eldorado’s Vince Van Wieringen recreating a veritable flower garden on our lunch plates and the Manteo’s Marc Schoene and his culinary team pulling out all the stops with spectacular breakfasts, a seafood-inspired lunch, and a true Okanagan farm-to-table harvest dinner.

Kudos to you all for the generous sharing of your talents and passion.  And special thanks to Jill Foran and Margo True for your positive feedback on my own new work during our 1:1 Blue Pencil sessions.

I can’t wait until next year…

Hotel Eldorada salad
Roasted Apple & Spinach Salad, Hotel Eldorado

Text and photos © 2016 Catherine Van Brunschot