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).

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Delicious Solidarity: Celebrating the 15th Anniversary of Food Day Canada

Berry harvest

In 2003, when international borders were closed to Canadian beef by our largest trading partners, Canadians responded with the World’s Longest Barbecue.  Chefs across the country came on board, sanctions were lifted over time, and that show of solidarity with our beef farmers morphed into Food Day Canada/Journée des terroirs, a nationwide party held every August long weekend in celebration of Canadian food.

Food Day Canada logoFifteen years on, with our blustery neighbour once again preoccupied with building walls, and our food producers under fire (from those, I believe, who would be allies if they better understood the reality), I have to agree with Food Day Canada founder, Anita Stewart, when she says that “Today we face similar, perhaps even graver, challenges”.

And I’m definitely on board with her call to all Canadians to not linger on lament but to throw a party instead, to “honour our own ingredients”.

Perhaps it’s my usual giddiness at the bounty that’s all around us at this time of year, but my personal Food Day Canada will be a celebration of delight as much as solidarity.  I’ll be pulling out some sweet discoveries that I made for my Canada Day barbecue in 2017.

spruce tip and rose hip syrup - webI’ll start things out with my favourite summertime cocktail, the Dominion Dram, created by Calgary mixologist, Myles Petley.  This drink has me gleefully picking new spruce tips in my backyard, and features a gin with botanicals traditionally used by the First Nations of the Arctic tundra.

We’ll nibble crostini baked from Canadian wheat flour, topped with aged Ontario cheddar and a drizzle of birch syrup that I sourced from a producer on the shores of Lake Winnipeg.  We’ll crunch through more than we should of Lobster Roll Bites (riffed from the delectable lobster rolls of Atlantic Canada, via George Brown culinary school alum/instructor, Annabelle Waugh).

Birch syrupMy husband will rule the grill with his famous West Coast Salmon (from a recipe shared by an old friend in Nanaimo) and *Nish Kabobs created by Aboriginal Television’s Chef David Wolfman (another George Brown notable. *Note:  “Nish” is slang for Anishinaabe First Nations).  With a few more mouths at the table, we might add Quebec Maple Pork Skewers to the platter, or some Bison Cherry Burgers (always a family favourite).

I’ll turn to Chef Wolfman again for Three Sisters Corn Relish salad, loaded with zucchini, onions, and peppers from my favourite Calgary Farmers’ Market producers.  And there will be heaps of Alberta-grown greens, carrots, and cucumbers, and sweet tiny tomatoes picked fresh from my garden pots.

Still to be determined are which Okanagan wines to drink.  So, too, is dessert – although it’s likely to feature the just-ripened fruit from my Juliet sour cherry tree (bred for Canadian prairie hardiness by the diligent researchers at the University of Saskatchewan).

Before the Plate film
“Before the Plate” directed by Sagi Kahane-Rapport; produced by Dylan Sher (Photo credit: Before the Plate)

To mark this 15th anniversary of Food Day Canada, Toronto’s CN Tower will light up the sky, and the film Before the Plate will make its sold-out premiere at that city’s Isabel Bader Theatre.  (This documentary, which takes one plate created by Chef John Horne at Canoe restaurant and traces each ingredient back to its Canadian source,  includes revelations about modern farming and distribution that are sure to surprise.  Watch for it – this doc is destined to appear at film festivals and indie cinemas everywhere).

Chefs will be hosting Food Day Canada events across the country; look for one near you from the list of restaurant partners at fooddaycanada.ca.

SO REGARDLESS OF WHAT YOU’RE INCLINED TO CELEBRATE – be it solidarity with our country’s farmers, delight for Canadian-grown/raised/fished/foraged/brewed/distilled/aged or otherwise-crafted ingredients, or simply a glorious long weekend in our oh-so-short summer – be sure to rustle up some culinary treasures from your local farmers and food artisans this weekend or hustle down to the digs of your favourite chef-creator of Canadian cuisine.  There’s a patio or deck with your name on it somewhere and a cornucopia of Great White North flavours close at hand.

Wherever you are, be sure to share your discoveries on your favourite social media platforms using the hashtags #FoodDayCanada and #CanadaIsFood.

Food Artisans of Alberta

 (And for my Alberta homies, there’s a brand new resource out there to help you find all that delicious local goodness.  Food Artisans of Alberta by Karen Anderson and Matilde Sanchez-Turri combs every corner of the province to highlight the best growers and producers harnessing and nurturing our unique terroir from land and water to plate, jar, and bottle.  Once you read their stories, you’ll want to track them down – and much of their fare is closer than you think!  Find this guide at bookstores, cafes, cooking schools, food artisans – even the odd gas station around the province – or online at Chapters/Indigo.)

 

 

Text and photos © 2018 Catherine Van Brunschot (except where noted)

 

A Calgary Kind of Craving

Peace Bridge, Calgary
Photo credit – D. Mulligan (via Creative Commons license)

You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know that Calgary is a great food town.  It’s kind of a well-kept secret.

Except to those who’ve been paying attention…

If Calgary hasn’t been on your radar for awhile, find out what you’ve been missing – and the best ways to (re)discover it – in my piece “A Calgary Kind of Craving” in the new issue of Taste & Travel International.

You can read the full story here – or check out the complete Spring Issue of Taste & Travel on Zinio, Pocket Mags, Flipster, PressReader (free from your local library), or with the new T&T app (available on iTunes and GooglePlay).

Snapshots of Croatia

Dubrovnik at nightStunning Dubrovnik – with its old city walls jutting into the Adriatic Sea and its evocative Game of Thrones settings – is Croatia’s brightest calling card for good reason. Our early morning walk atop its ramparts brings heart-stirring angles across the red-tiled roofs. A gondola ride up Mt. Srd provides even more great photos – plus an opportunity to peruse the passionate exhibit “Dubrovnik During the Homeland War” housed in the Napoleonic fortress.

But it’s the evenings, when the cruise-ship day-trippers have disappeared and the sun shines rosy on the tiled streets, that the Old Town is most magical…

 

Come along for the ride as I collect “Snapshots of Croatia” from tip to tip of the country’s Adriatic coast – then check out Calgary’s best sources for Croatian food and libations.  You’ll find it all in the current issue of Calgary’s City Palate.

Passion for Perigord

Chefs Fudge and Meret depart Château Montastru
Photo credit – Steve Dunk

It’s 9:30 am and I’m elbow-deep in foie gras in a château in southwest France.  Not literally to the elbows, mind you, but I’m as up-close-and-personal as I’m likely to get, thrilled and terrified in equal measure as I tease vascular tissue free from the prized duck liver.  Despite the cooling armour of the castle’s thick walls, the foie gras seems to be melting under my fingers and I’m beginning to sweat.  My mentor, Chef Thierry Meret, reassures me with his usual bonhomie – and a shot of plum brandy.

Read the full story in the Winter 2018 Issue of Taste & Travel International magazine.

Croatia’s Pelješac Peninsula

Salt pans from Napoleon's road, Croatia
Photo credit: C. Van Brunschot

If I could design a perfect day in food-travel heaven, this would be it:

A gentle hike on a mountain trail, overlooking vineyards heavy with fruit. A meet-up with a winemaker and a lingering visit to his cellars and tasting room. Perhaps a breezy float on the bay to take the heat out of the day. Then a long picnic lunch of shellfish just plucked from the sea.

Lucky for me, today IS that day.

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

Big Tastes of Spring

(NOTE:  WINTER IS COMING GOING) 

Tulips

 

Know what always tells me that spring is actually on its way?

It’s not the tulips that appear at the checkout, whispering tight-lipped promises that they’ll open their hearts, if only I’ll take them home.  (I do, and they prove true to their word).

Nor is it the bare patch that emerges in my garden after a long Chinook, reminding me of where my rhubarb lays sleeping.  (That just makes me sad.  BUT I’ve found an antidote for that, which I’ll share later on).

It’s the moment when I take my last luscious YYC Hot Chocolate Fest sip (thank you, February!) and open my browser to the listings for The Big Taste – Calgary’s annual festival for food lovers.  Those ten days in March when hundreds of city-centre chefs put on their best show, with multicourse meals that remind us what a terrific food town we live in.  This year, more than 90 restaurants make their pitch for your heart and mine.

Big Taste 2017But the festival’s not all signature events and gourmet dinners (though there’s plenty of those, with menus whose read is its own delicious indulgence).  Our chefs and restaurateurs know – perhaps better than most – that we’ve been hurting here in Calgary during this economic downturn.  So they’ve also included 3-course lunches for only $15 and $25 dollars, and Happy Hour specials featuring all your favourite and soon-to-be-favourite drinks and snacks.

So even if the belt is tight at the moment, there’s good excuse to loosen it up just a notch and treat yourself to a little morale boost.  To celebrate the news that we’ve turned the corner and – though the climb is still long and slow – better times lay ahead.

To venture down to the new-kids-on-the-block like Royale Brasserie and Mill Street Brewpub on 17th;  Klein/Harris on Stephen Avenue;  or Provision in Memorial Park.  Stave off the winter blues with a new-to-you cuisine at Hapa Izakaya (serving Japanese),  Paper St. Food + Drink (featuring international street food),  or Foreign Concept (helmed by Gold Medal Plates winner, Chef Jinhee Lee, and her mentor, Duncan Ly).

King salmon - The GuildMaybe it’s time to check out the food scene stars that you’ve just never made it to, like Pigeonhole  or  Whitehall.  Or to splash all-out: at SAIT’s Centennial Celebration in their spiffy downtown culinary campus – or at The Guild toasting Canada’s 150th birthday in the iconic Hudson’s Bay building .

Whether your inclination is to explore new food frontiers or rediscover old favourites, know that scores of our culinary best are working hard behind the scenes to coax fabulous flavours and colours from our province’s larders and root cellars.  They’re tapping local greenhouses – and sourcing fresh crops from our neighbours in gentler climes – to remind us of what we can look forward to as the days grow longer.

They’re bringing spring back to Calgary. Time to show them a little love.  It’s been a long cold winter for them, too.

The 2017 Big Taste Foodie Festival (#BIGTASTEYYC) launches this Friday, March 3 and runs through Sunday, March 12.  Find restaurant listings, menus, and reservations links at http://www.calgarydowntown.com/the-big-taste.

Okanagan Spirits Rhubarb Liqueur

AND FOR THOSE LIKE ME WHO CAN’T WAIT FOR THAT FIRST TASTE OF RHUBARB:  Track down a bottle of Okanagan Spirits’ Rhubarb Liqueur – my favourite springtime discovery. In an inspired turn of crowdsourcing in 2016, Vernon’s craft distillery asked Okanagan residents if they’d like to share their spare rhubarb for a little experiment.   Okanaganites responded in droves – with everything from truckbeds of rhubarb stalks in dirt, to sealed baggies of carefully-chopped fruit.  Distillery staff painstakingly washed and hand-chopped all 650 pounds – to produce a spirit that’s so tart and fresh, you can almost hear the crunch.  Look for it at fine liquor stores in Calgary or order it online while supplies last.

Text and photos © 2017 Catherine Van Brunschot