Radio Interview on THE INFORMED TRAVELER: Talking about Tuscany

Thanks so much to Randy Sharman for inviting me to chat about Tuscany on the May 5 episode of his radio show, THE INFORMED TRAVELER.

I love the relaxed, conversational way that Randy’s show brings the latest in travel news and tips to his listeners.  Like me, he believes that “there’s no better learning experience than traveling the world and meeting the people who inhabit it”, and he’s dedicated to teasing out stories and insights from his on-air guests.

The INFORMED TRAVELER is heard Sunday’s on 770CHQR in Calgary, 630CHED in Edmonton and on 980 CKNW in Vancouver.

You can also listen to free podcast episodes on curiouscast.ca and omny.fm by searching Google Podcasts,  Apple Podcasts, or Spotify on your electronic device.

In the May 5 segment, Randy uses my City Palate article “Late to the Table: a Culinary Walk Through Italy” as a springboard for discussing why food is special in Tuscany and how best to explore the region’s culinary treasures.

You can listen to my segment here – or hear the full episode (including info on celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Los Cabos or volunteering abroad) on THE INFORMED TRAVELER website.  If you like what you hear, you’ll find past episodes available on the website, too.

I’m looking forward to chatting with Randy again sometime in the future!

Text and photos © 2019 Catherine Van Brunschot

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Late to the Table: A Culinary Walk Through Tuscany

Tuscan countrysideLet me be upfront:  I never read Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun. Never saw the movie. I’m unaccountably indifferent to pasta (and Italian food  in general, if truth be told). Yes, I missed the boat completely on the raptures of Tuscany.

Friends who’d spent time in the popular Italian region said this was a gap in need of remedy. Stat.

So I booked a culinary walking tour of Tuscany, offering hillside rambles and an abundance of wine. Now THAT’S something I could commit to…

Read the full story in the current issue of Calgary’s City Palate magazine.

Street Food and More in Mumbai

Kulfi from Sharma's Milky
Kulfi from Sharma’s Milky

As financial capital of India and home to Bollywood, Mumbai has long held a cosmopolitan outlook on culture and food.  And in a city of 18 million people – well, the possibilities for dining are practically endless.

With the help of knowledgeable locals – and a little sweet serendipity, too – I “discovered” these South Mumbai favourites (including some of the BEST street food vendors on popular Chowpatty Beach)…

 

Read more here or in the current issue of Taste & Travel International.

Tenacious Crete

lunch at taverna monastiri, chaniaI’m here on the water’s edge of what’s considered to be the most beautiful Old Town in Greece.  From my vantage point, I see a Venetian lighthouse standing sentry over a narrow harbour entrance and a Turkish mosque – now serving as an exhibition hall – opening its doors to the morning air.

This is Chania, second-largest city on the island of Crete, where the architecture provides just a sliver of insight into a turbulent history…

Read the full story here and in the new issue of Taste & Travel International magazine.

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

In Search of Venetian Fare

Gondola at the dockWhen you visit the magnetic city of Venice, two things are for certain:

1)  You will get lost.

2)  You will be hard-pressed to find quality Venetian food in the company of locals.

Thankfully, there’s a way to tackle both – and it’s guaranteed to be more than a little fun.

Find out how, in my latest article “In Search of Venetian Fare“.  You’ll find it on my website here.

Or look for it in the current issue of Taste & Travel International, now fully accessible online here.  (Give these last two links a dozen or so seconds to fully load – then click happily through the great travel content, photographs and recipes that you’ll find in every issue of T&T).

Because what’s better than a little armchair travel as we hunker down for the longest nights of the year?

(With apologies to southern hemisphere readers for my ethnocentricity).

A BeakerEats Preview

Toasted Canola Hay Gelato Profiterole

When your thoughts swing to gelato flavours, how often does canola appear on your  radar?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess:  never.

Fortunately, the mind of gelato guru Chef Mario Spina of Burger 320 holds no such limitations.

When the team behind Beakerhead – Calgary’s annual smash up of art, science, and engineering – dropped a load of canola hay, seeds, meal, and oil on his stoop, and asked him to produce an entry to this year’s BeakerEats program, he took up the challenge with gusto.  Notwithstanding a dramatic confrontation between his convection oven and the canola hay, Chef Spina came through with a toasted-canola-hay-infused gelato profiterole, topped with honey-chocolate sauce and a dusting of canola meal; a dessert that – judging by the moans of rapture emanating from my fellow diners – was right on the mark.

Canola sheafIt was the crowning finish to the BeakerEats Chefs’ Collaborative Dinner, a public event that previews some of the delights awaiting diners at participating restaurants throughout Beakerhead.  BeakerEats launches today, while the 2018 festival’s full lineup of activities, installations, talks and workshops – including a handful of culinary chemistry sessions – runs September 19 to 23.

Each year under its BeakerEats banner, the festival team selects a theme ingredient from Canadian farmers and producers, puts together a science kit of local products for Calgary chefs and mixologists, and challenges them to do what they do best:  apply their creativity to the fullest expression of outstanding ingredients.  The theme for 2018 is canola in all its forms – oil, seeds, meal, hay, and sprouts – a true prairie product grown by some 14,000 Alberta farmers.

As Beakerhead’s Paul Gordon noted at the outset of Wednesday’s dinner, canola itself has a long and interesting scientific history.  From its lowly origins as an inedible lubricant for the steam engines that powered Canada’s WWII navy, to its current position as one of the world’s healthiest edible oils (whose spent grain has also become a top-grade feed for dairy cattle), canola is a Canadian success story that speaks to the best of health-friendly science and to research both collaborative and tenacious.

Our BeakerEats walk through canola history was fueled by a Bloody Airdrie created by Spirit of the Wench, Wendy Peters.  It was a tasty tipple  that combined summer tomatoes, cucumbers, and red peppers with blended canola seed and Absolut Lemon vodka.

Bison Tataki

Then it was on to the tasting menu – and what a menu it was!

River Cafe‘s Chef Matthias Fong started us off with bison tataki, tucked cozily with Highwood Crossing canola oil sorbet and canola hay infused cream, and laced with Fallen Timbers mead, honey-crystallized canola seed,  and charred kohlrabi.

Brassica Family Salad

 

 

 

It was the perfect prelude to Chef Mitchell Carey’s Instagram-worthy salad of brassica-family vegetables, arranged with a cracker of spent canola & grains and honeycomb sponge toffee among pools of colourful canola infusions created by his Winebar Kensington team.

Spiced Canola Cake

 

Next up were spicy morsels of canola seed cake, created by Chef Liana Robberecht of WinSport, with bitey Highwood Crossing confit tomatoes, ninja radish, tomato skin petals, and canola shoots.

Chef Mike Pigot brought his Home and Away crafting style to popcorn-and-canola-meal tempura shrimp, with drizzles of canola seed caramel and a brilliant canola aioli.

Beef Bavette

 

 

The main course was provided by the dinner’s host venue, Brasserie Kensington, and featured a canola-hay-smoked sous vide beef bavette created by Chef Jorel  Zielke, sided with ABC Farms honey & parsnip saute and cold-pressed canola hollandaise.

And finally, that dessert:  Chef Spina’s toasted-hay gelato, sandwiched between choux pastry layers made from a canola oil/butter blend.

I could wax endlessly about the tastes, textures, and stylings of the night’s creative offerings – but go try them yourself instead.  You’ll find each dish on the menu of its creator’s home restaurant, from now until the end of Beakerhead 2018.

Be sure to ask Chef Spina about his canola hay tribulations.

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Sample more BeakerEats cocktails and food features at these other participating restaurants:  The Coup, Deane House, Oxbow, Yellow Door Bistro, and Shokunin.  Two dollars is donated to Beakerhead for every BeakerEats dish and cocktail sold.

Find the full line-up of Beakerhead events here.

For insight into canola’s fascinating scientific history, check out this overview at wdm.ca or the resources at albertacanola.com

Text and photos © 2018 Catherine Van Brunschot