The minute you walk through the doors of The Nash everything old becomes new again. The restoration of this historical Inglewood building with a sordid past is completely mind blowing. Built in 1907, the National Hotel was originally built for the working class and transients who came to work in the nearby sawmill, slaughterhouse, CPR railway, livery stable, and brewery. Inglewood was a bustle of activity in those early days but the neighbourhood became shadier in its later years and, with those changes, ‘The Nash’ became a center of ‘dubious’ behavior; a hangout for criminals and the seedier side of the town. It was finally shut down in 1998.
Restoring a historical landmark is not without its challenges and keeping an accurate exterior representation of any historical building is high on the priority list. Example: The attractive neon sign (by Keli Pollock) now attached to the East side of the building initially caused a problem because exterior signage would have been fairly simple at the time of construction. However, as buildings undergo many changes throughout their history, it was argued that the neon signage could have been added at a later date.
Designing the interior of a historical building does not seem to be as restrictive as the exterior restoration. Sarah Ward (Sarah Ward Interiors) has designed the space to reflect the building’s history so effectively that I immediately felt as though I were stepping back in time (or onto a set of Boardwalk Empire). I see The Nash as less of a local watering hole for transient workers and more of an ‘upper crust’ sort of establishment…a classy joint. The space is divided into two, with one long bright airy space for the dining area and a smaller, darker, more sophisticated area for the Offcut bar. The dining area features hardwood flooring and a white painted wood ceiling accented with brass light fixtures reminiscent of hotel luggage carts. There is a roaring wood fireplace with a taxidermy moose rack; great for fireside cocktail sipping and chef photo ops (see photo below). I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t in love with the Offcut Bar. From the ‘offcut’ wood flooring to the period ceiling tiles I just can’t get enough of this design. The walls are grey green/blue further accented by the rad plaid upholstery on the bar and table chairs. The bar height tables in the Offcut bar were custom made using radiators found during the restoration and the bar was made in New York. Peering out from the far wall are the faded mugshots of local petty criminals from the time period. I like to imagine all the shady business deals they were involved in while I sample the top notch cocktails.
I arrived for The Nash opening night gala promptly at five and was able to get a few pictures in the fading daylight. Inevitably, I found myself at the bar where the very hip(ster) bartender already had a Quarter horse Cocktail with my name on it. It was pretty hard to say no to the fella, but with one sip I knew I couldn’t be driving home if I drank it all. I’ll be back with a designated driver in the future.
All the tiny versions of menu items looked delicious and I tried samples from every tray just to be sure. The tiny burger sliders were a huge hit with the crowd and I finally managed to snag one from the last tray coming out of the kitchen. Other highlights of the night were the pork belly with chorizo and charred corn purée, the adorable mini brioche Dungeness crab sammies, and the chicken liver parfait. I tried my very first crispy sweetbread and ate quite a few of the ocean fresh oysters. I couldn’t decided whether or not I preferred East or West coast, but the red onion mignonette was delicious.
It was a pity I had to leave early to attend a Vertigo Theatre play because I almost missed the tiny desserts coming out: Chocolate saffron créme bon bons, Stilton cheesecake, Buttermilk sorbet with candied carrots in a chocolate pot, and an assortment of tiny, but perfect, macarons. They were ALL delicious! Chef Noble introduced his team in an emotional speech. David Singleton, Restaurant director at NOtaBLE, is also the director at The Nash and Offcut Bar. Christie Mackay has left her temperate Vancouver home to become General Manager and the kitchen is left in the capable hands of Mathew Batey, formerly of Mission Hill Winery. It was clear from the way Chef Noble spoke that he holds each of these people in high regards and that he feels as though he can depend on them to bring The Nash and Offcut Bar to its full potential.
Calgarians, particularly residents of Inglewood, are lucky indeed. Not only has the restoration of this historical building revived the fading ‘historical vibe’ of such a modern city, but it has also contributed to the late night dining (and drinking) options available in the area. It is little wonder that Inglewood has recently been voted Canada’s Great Neighbourhood for 2014.
I can’t believe my baby is 14. This makes me feel old and also a little bit apprehensive because soon he will start asking if he can get his learner’s license and drive my car. Our oldest son became driving age during our time in Australia but I was okay with that because the minimum age there is 16 and much more appropriate. Though he learned to drive ‘Aussie style’ on the left side of the road I felt much more comfortable with his maturity level and experience once we arrived back in Canada. Our daughter really has shown no interest in learning and is pretty resourceful at getting where she needs to go via transit which is absolutely fine by me. I have a feeling this will not be the case for the baby of the family…though I’ve seen him play Mario Kart and there’s no way this kid is ready to drive just yet. He’ll just have to wait.
In the meantime I’m happy to make him a 14th birthday pie. He has never been a fan of birthday cake and though he will eat it, he always puts in a request for ice cream cake for his own birthday. In November. I absolutely hate ice cream ‘cake’ and think it’s a big waste of money (and I LOVE to bake for Pete’s sake!). It is way too darn cold for ice cream cake! I fear I am partly to blame because he ended up enjoying two ‘summer’ November birthdays when we lived down under. I think anyone with a drab winter birthday can relate (mine’s in February) to how excited he was to have friends over for a birthday pool party, with barbecue, Popsicles, and…ice cream cake. Now, back in Canada, there isn’t much to do for a 14 year old’s birthday. All the outdoor paintball and go karts are closed for the winter so it’s either a movie, laser tag or indoor paintball…again.
Once every third birthday I will splurge and get him an ice cream cake but last year he and his friends were pretty happy with the Banoffee Pie I made. I was looking for something similar when I read the new online issue of Eat In Eat Out magazine. Blogger Britt Stager (My Daily Randomness) had her Peanut Butter Pie featured in the holiday 2014 issue. It has the same graham cracker crust as a Banoffee Pie with the added goodness of a ton of peanut butter and chocolate. Could this pie get any better? Yes…because it’s extremely easy to make and doesn’t take a lot of time. It’s great for last minute bakers like me. When I say last minute, I mean it because on birthday Friday at 2:30 I was still thinking an ice cream cake would be my last resort.After a quick check to make sure there were no peanut allergies among his friends I went ahead with the pie. Let me tell you this pie is smooth. It’s silky and peanutty. And wow, is it rich! Make sure you have an ice cold glass of milk and you will be happy beyond words. I almost didn’t get photos for this post because after the party goers had eaten I had to stop hubby from eating the rest. I took the photos during daylight the next day then let him dig in.So how can you make one of these very decadent Peanut Butter Pies for your loved ones? Read on!
Peanut Butter Pie (Recipe from My Daily Randomness)
Modern Steak owner and manager Stephen Deere has put a new twist on what is probably the most ‘Calgary’ of restaurants, the steakhouse. We don’t have the nickname ‘Cowtown’ for nothing!
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at Modern Steak last night for media night. I’ve always loved the space that formerly held Muse which always seemed cozy and welcoming. The 3 1/2 months of renovation has breathed new life into the space with white and blue accents lending a light/modern feel while the darker gray walls and lighting still give that cozy feeling to the space. It’s a unique space, one that will host many great meals and memories for years to come.When I arrived at Modern Steak there was a man on a ladder fixing the signage outside and I wondered if I had scheduled myself to arrive on the wrong day (yes, that’s happened). I was further confused when I stood in the entryway for a few moments wondering what to do with my coat. I was pretty sure the coat check system formerly in place at Muse would still be available but there was no one at the hostess stand. I didn’t have to wait too long for Chef Kurt Warner to come down from the kitchen to take my coat. I joked for a bit asking him if taking coats was part of his job description and we had a chuckle. I’m glad I arrived during the hostess’s ‘powder break’ because I was able to meet Chef Kurt and get a sense of just how proud and excited he was to be at Modern Steak.
Now for ‘the business’. One remnant of the former Muse donned our tables last night…the restaurant’s acknowledgement of the past didn’t go unnoticed by the vibrant media crowd. We were all happy to see the return of the truffle popcorn. It was a quick reassurance of that Muse attention to detail and taste would be carried forward at Modern Steak. The dinner menu includes fresh seafood, smaller starters, soups and salads, as well as some larger plates with multiple proteins on offer. Modern Steak promotes the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program, choosing to feature sustainable and responsibly sourced fish and seafood. There are several cuts and varieties of steaks on offer but they all have one common factor…being truly Albertan in provenance. Modern Steak sources its beef from local producers; Northridge Farms Angus Beef (High River), Brant Lake Wagyu (Brant Lake), and Heritage Natural Angus (Camrose) and you really can’t get any better beef on the planet than here in our home province. The accompaniments are noteworthy by themselves; Parmesan Truffle Fries, Poplar Bluff Crushed Fingerlings, Sautéed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon. If you’re out on a date night, be sure to arrive on a Tuesday when you can get a porterhouse dinner for two, including dessert for $98/couple. If you’re out with a group of friends, try Thursdays for ‘buck a shuck’ night where you can also get 1/2 pound of peel and eat shrimp for $10 for the non oyster lovers. For other weekly specials refer to the Modern Steak website.
The lunch menu at Modern Steak is similar to the dinner menu but with the addition of a great selection of choice burgers and sandwiches for that lunch appetite. Speaking of appetites, if yours includes a lust for bourbon you would be well advised to visit Modern Steak for their brilliant selection of Bourbon spirits and cocktails.
Welcome to Modern Steak; the steaks are local, the bourbon is plentiful, and the comfortable chairs will make you want to stay all night.
Modern Steak 107 10A St NW; 403-670-6873
One chilly Sunday not too long ago I had a craving for a curry meal. Curry is not second nature to me and often I find following more traditional recipes fairly lengthy and time consuming, especially when I am making more than one dish. I have yet to find that ‘go to’ chicken curry recipe that is both easy to make and that never fails to satisfy with flavour and so I am still searching…
I managed to find two Vikram Vij cookbooks at the Library and immediately began to search for some of his family favourites. I decided that I would try the Chicken Curry recipe out of his Elegant and Inspired Vij’s Indian Cuisine because it didn’t look too complicated. If Vikram Vij’s family has been eating it for years it is definitely good enough for my family!
What do you serve with curry? Rice…check! Naan…maybe another day for us. I wanted a just a couple of dishes that were simple yet added a bit more to the meal. When I searched through the other cookbook, Vij’s At Home I found two recipes that appealed to me. The Red Bell Pepper, Onion, and Sumac Sauté looked like a fast dish and I had a few peppers that needed using up. I found that the sweet and sour nature of the vegetables went really nicely with the sumac and I would gladly make this dish again. The second dish was a bit odd and maybe didn’t go with the curry but I had to give it a try. The whole family loved the Spinach and Split Pea Mash so much that it is going on our regular rotation and may eventually replace our regular potato mash. The dish was a bit more involved because you have to soak the peas ahead of time but I swear it is well worth the extra effort. I found that there was an excess amount of split peas as we only ate half but kept the same amount of seasonings. Either doubling the seasonings or halving the peas would work. I recommend just making more seasoning because this dish is a stunner and also freezes well.
Unfortunately, this is the only dish I took a photo of. Oh, who am I kidding?! We ate it all before I could take photos.
Spinach and Split Pea Mash (From Vij’s At Home page 58)
In case you are interested in the other dishes, I’ve included the recipes:
Vij’s Family’s Chicken Curry
(From Vij’s Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine by Vikram Vij & Meeru Dhalwala)
• ½ cup canola oil
• 2 cups finely chopped onions
• 3 inch stick of cinnamon
• 3 Tbsp finely chopped# garlic
• 2 Tbsp chopped ginger
• 2 cups chopped tomatoes
• 1 Tbsp salt
• ½ tsp ground black pepper
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 1 Tbsp ground cumin
• 1 Tbsp ground coriander
• 1 Tbsp garam masala
• ½ tsp ground cayenne pepper
• 3 lbs skinless and boneless chicken thighs
• 1 cup sour cream
• 2 cups water
• ½ cup chopped cilantro (including stems)
In a large pan,heat oil on medium heat for 1 minute. Add onions and cinnamon, and
sauté for another 4 minutes. Add ginger, tomatoes, salt, black pepper, turmeric, cumin,
coriander,garam masala and cayenne. Cook this masala for 5 minutes, or until the oil
separates from the masala.
Add# chicken thighs to the masala. Stir well. Cook chicken for 10 minutes, until the chicken looks cooked on the outside.
Add sour cream and water and stir well. Increase the heat to medium high. When curry starts to boil, reduce the heat to medium, cover and cook for 15 minutes stirring 2 or 3 times until chicken is completely cooked. Poke the thighs with a knife and if they aren’t done, cook for another 5 minutes. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick. Stir in cilantro.
To serve: Divide curry evenly among six bowls. Serve with naan or rice.
Red Bell Pepper, Onion, and Sumac Sauté (From Vij’s At Home page 65)
Heat oil in a medium pan on medium-high for one minute. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges. Add bell peppers, salt, and brown sugar and cook, stirring regularly for 1 minute. Stir in sumac, turn off the heat. Serve immediately.
Repost from November 11 2013
Remembrance Day or Armistice Day is and always will be a special day to me. It doesn’t matter that I’ve never been in service to my country but only that I am grateful to those who have given up so much for the lives of others here in Canada and in other countries around the world. Each year on November 11, I chose to attend services to honour their sacrifices and to teach my children the value of their freedom.
This past May our family had the opportunity to visit France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. We took the time to drive up to the Canadian War Cemetery at Bergen Op Zoom in the Netherlands. We stood on the exact spot my grandfather Alec had 70 years ago as he paid his respects and said his final good bye to his brother Leo and it was a feeling I will never forget. I was overwhelmed with grief, pride, and a sense of the devastation that war causes. We took the time to walk through the tidy rows and read the names of real people who died so young, some at 17, 18, and 19 years of age. So many of the dates of death were the same, marking the effects of large battles fought for the control of the Dutch canals. My great uncle Leo was part of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada. There are amazing records of battles and advancements online these days and I was able to figure out that he was among the many who lost their lives during the liberation of Flanders, including the cities of Furnes, La Panne, Nieuport, Ostend, Knocke-Heist, Bruges, Eecloo and the northern suburbs of Antwerp. The two brothers Alec and Leo were separated into different Regiments as was the custom, to decrease the chance of families losing multiple sons during high casualty battles. This photo was taken during the last days the brothers were to be together at a base camp in the UK.
My grandfather was not a proud man. He did not share any war stories, nor take part in any official ceremonies though he was given a special service for his own funeral. He was one of the ‘lucky’ who landed on the shores of Courseulles-sur-mer at Juno beach during the third wave of the D-Day Invasion, June 6, 1944. The first two waves had heavy casualties and I don’t fault my grandfather for not speaking about the horrific conditions of that day so long ago. It had a huge effect on his pre war life and back in those days they called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ‘shell shock’. It wasn’t ever dealt with but was suffered most privately. Though they were married before the war started grandma always said the war changed them both and that they hardly recognized each other when they were reunited. For her part, grandma left small town life and traveled east with her sister to Toronto. There she worked in the Massey Harris plant, welding nose cones for artillery shells. She was an original Bomb Girl.
Standing on the beach in Normandy at Courseulles-sur-mer was amazing beyond words. It was the trip of a lifetime and I only wish I could have shared my photos and memories with my grandparents.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
-For the Fallen; Laurence Binyon
Mondays. They are a necessity of time. In order to make it through to the rest of the week you have to get through Monday. For me Monday usually means gigantic loads of laundry ( including hand scrubbing dirty football uniforms), my weekly volunteer shift at the YMCA, and finally…trying to make dinner out of the odds and ends left in the refrigerator from the weekend. I generally keep a pretty well stocked pantry so that Monday night rush to make dinner isn’t so crazy and soul sucking.
I think I surprised everyone when I threw this dish on the table at 8:30 Monday night.I have to laugh when I see this photo. It was a treat to have Porcini mushrooms (and the Fried Chicken Mushrooms) in the fridge Monday night. They were there because I visited the Mushroom Man. You might then inquire incredulously, “Do you know the Mushroom Man?” to which I would reply, “Yes, I know the Mushroom Man” and so on. Well the story is that I do know the mushroom man. His name is Keith and he runs a shop called Fifth Element Fine Foods. I made a point to visit him at the Crossroads Market on Sunday because he posted that he had freshly foraged Porcini mushrooms and they are just something that you don’t find fresh everyday. This fall season is great for certain mushrooms like Porcini, Cauliflower, Fried Chicken Mushrooms, Yellow and White Chanterelles, Matsutake (Pine Mushrooms), and Lobster mushrooms. All of these mushrooms are shipped to Keith within 24-36 hours of being picked so that you get the freshest wild mushrooms as possible, that is unless you go pick them yourself.
Though his focus is mainly mushrooms and truffles, Keith stocks some really delicious hard to find gourmet items such as fresh wasabi, ramps, samphire, Nefiss Lezziz olives, oils and vinegars, assorted grains and lentils, and black garlic. I’ve been eyeing the black garlic for some time now and as I wasn’t sure of the flavour or texture of it I didn’t buy any until this weekend. Keith mentioned he was bringing some of the mushrooms home for a risotto and I decided that I would do the same but also try cooking with the black garlic.
I get home from my shift at the YMCA pretty late on Monday nights and since I am not one to plan ahead and have something cooking away in the oven or slow cooker, I need something fast and delicious to feed the family. Risotto is the perfect Monday night dinner for our family. I make it so much I really don’t measure anymore. For this dish I started with a generous glug of olive oil and about 4 tablespoons of finely diced onions in a hot saucepan. After they became translucent I added a cup and a bit of arborio rice and stirred so that all the grains were coated, then I added a generous splash of whatever white wine was handy and that I may have been drinking. After the alcohol was cooked off, I added 3 chopped black garlic cloves. ‘Chopped’ is sort of an approximate term here as the cloves are quite caramelized and sticky. I discovered that they disintegrated when I added the stock later and they made the dish a bit darker in colour. Each time the stock cooked down I tested a grain of rice, then added enough hot stock to cover the rice, stirred the contents then repeated until I felt the rice was ready. I added some frozen peas and a bit more water, then stirred in a generous amount of grana padano when the peas had warmed up. The mushrooms were just fried in a pan of hot butter because that is the only way to do it in my opinion.
When I called the kids to dinner both of them picked up on the scent of the black garlic right away. It’s not like the scent is offensive or anything but they could tell I had added a ‘different’ ingredient to our Monday risotto. They said it smelled a bit sweeter than usual. When I tasted it, I did think the caramelized garlic was a bit sweet but also that it had a almost fermented umami property as well (though it isn’t fermented at all).
Back in the day, the completion of a fruitful harvest season meant a huge barn party. The beer flowed freely and the spirits were high from the accomplishments of the growing season. Being able to provide for your family and community was just cause for an epic annual celebration and last night’s FRESH dinner at Market Calgary was no different. The tables were set with simple place settings, accented with vegetables, and set communally so that everyone could visit and chat as if they had lived next door to one another for years. Friends, neighbours, community: We all took part in the harvest celebration and toasted Grow Calgary for a job well done this 2014 growing season.
Grow Calgary is a local organization spearheaded in 2013 by Paul Hughes; local father, food activist, visionary, and all around great guy. He believes that every Calgarian should have access to fresh, local produce and he has figured out a way to provide for thousands of needy Calgarians. Did you know that there are government land holdings and barren future transportation corridors within Calgary that lie fallow until roads are built or in some cases are unused forever? Grow Calgary has begun to petition for the rights to use these unused parcels of land and beginning with a small 4.5 Ha plot near Canada Olympic Park, Paul and his enthusiastic army of volunteers provide produce for the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank. This year the harvest was enough to fill 540 hampers that would otherwise be empty. This ‘small’ parcel of land near COP is just the tip of the iceberg though. Grow Calgary has requested the use another 254 Ha of fallow land throughout the city of Calgary. For Paul and Grow Calgary, the possibilities are endless and the goal to feed so many Calgarians is ultimately within reach.
Paul Hughes and Amanda Weightman
The 2014 Fresh Dinner at MARKET Calgary was truly THE dinner of the Autumn season. Final harvest at Grow Calgary began around 10:30 am and the produce (green onions, garlic, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, parsnips, beets, kale, and salad greens) was on its way in the Grow Calgary truck to the restaurant by 11:30. To ensure the produce arrived in a timely fashion, Calgary Police provided the truck with a two motorcycle escort for the length of 17th avenue. Upon arrival the produce was scrubbed and prepped within the space of hours to provide guests with the freshest dinner possible within the City of Calgary. 100% of the profits from the evening went to Grow Calgary as the restaurant space, service staff hours, and chefs hours (including those of executive Chef Dave Bohati) were generously donated by the restaurant.
Upon arrival we were greeted with a glass of Village Brewery’s Village Gardener Ale. The newest member of the Village Brewery family (and only available so far at Fresh Dinner) is a refreshing and delicious ale made with local malt and barley as well as several hop varieties grown in community gardens around Calgary. The starter vodka based cocktail also included beet juice, carrot juice, ginger, and honey from the hives at Grow Calgary.Then we were treated to some freshly baked focaccia bread with garlic and green onions provided by Grow Calgary. The slightly smoked garlic butter was amazing! There were trays at the front of the room which showed the ingredients used in our salad course and in the main course. Can you guess what we ate based on these ingredients?Our salad had the freshest, most amazing baby greens to be found within our city that night. Chef Bohati had them star in amazing salad accompanied by thinly sliced radish rounds, fresh roasted pumpkin seeds, cranberries, a kale and parsley purée drizzle with a buttermilk, preserved lemon and dill dressing. The main course could surely have been called the ‘Carrot Course’. Grow Calgary provided the potatoes and carrots in the gnocchi, the carrots in the carrot and cumin purée, the greens, and the parsnips which were made into delicious chips. Though MARKET is generally a ‘meat-centric’ restaurant, they sure knew how to make those vegetables stars in their own right.
Dessert was also carrot themed: Carrot cake with caramel corn, carrot and fennel purée, and a perfect quenelle of cream cheese ice cream.
And the sweetest dish of all? This Grow Calgary honeycomb straight from the hives. It was used throughout the dinner as a natural sweetener as well.
I had the opportunity to sit next to some Grow Calgary volunteers and they were continuously amazed at how the chefs at MARKET had transformed their vegetables. I think they realized then that all those hours on the barren patch of land scratching in the soil, planting seed after seed, weeding…were definitely worth it in the end.
If you have a natural affinity to soil or love growing green things Grow Calgary is always looking for volunteers. The season may be over now but they will be looking for people with sunny windows to start seedlings before next growing season. Please visit Grow Calgary to volunteer.
food lover, food maker, food dreamer