It’s a PZA Parlour Party!

PZA Parlour recently opened up in south Calgary and I couldn’t have been happier to have had the chance to welcome them to my area of town. The appearance of a family owned Italian restaurant on MacLeod Trail in the former Ceili’s space is a happy occasion, indeed. While there have been several businesses operating at the same location over the years, I think owner Tony Nicastro has found the secret to success with this family style traditional, yet modern, Italian restaurant. The mostly white and black space is really bright and modern, yet welcoming. Special touches, like the PZA Parlour Vespa scooter near the entrance, and Piaggio Ape (a Vespa truck) that forms the centre area in the bar, add some quirky Italian flare to the space. The huge windows bring in plenty of sunshine and the yet to be opened patio is going to be quite popular. pzavespa

Having come from a family background with deep roots in the Calgary restaurant scene, Tony has a good idea of what it takes to run a successful business. He grew up working in his Nonna’s restaurant (The Stromboli Inn) and comes from a long familial line of restaurateurs, including his uncles Domenic (Pulcinella) and Peter (Stromboli Inn). Of course there was a time when he went away to learn about life outside the family business but, as is most often the case, he eventually decided to come back to Calgary to work in the industry he knew and loved most. Tony became a part of his uncle Frank Nicastro’s business, the Tudor Rose, then took over the business side of his father’s restaurant, Villa Firenze. pzamenu

During the weekend of April 28-May 1, PZA Parlour celebrated their grand opening with daily specials, tastings and prizes. Many local bloggers, including myself, were invited to enjoy a night of feasting and celebration. While a huge part of the business is dine in and take out pizza, the extensive menu includes traditional favourites such as Spaghetti and Meatballs, Lasagna, Cannelloni, and Veal Parmiggiana. The dishes the kitchen (run by chef Chris Galbraith) brought to our table were all outstanding and gave us a great sampling of the entire menu. threesalads

The three salads we sampled are sure to become crowd favourites and there is one for every taste, including one with Italian sausage (Salsiccia) and one with honey candied bacon (Spinachi) for all the meat eaters forced to eat salads by their families. If you want a salad with no meat, then I suggest the Caprino.

theothersThe crispy Calamari with smoked lemon aioli was some of the best calamari I’ve had in a while and I love that it is also served with some amazing marinara for extra dipping. Then there was the Pesto Gnocchi. This housemade potato gnocchi was outstanding and the basil cream sauce was so decadent. It’s the sort of dish that you should share with others, even if you want it all to yourself.

The Pizzas were fabulous, however I only managed to get a decent photo of the Nonna Teresa, a ‘margherita’ style pizza named after Tony’s grandmother, Teresa Tudda. The other pizzas we tried (Johnny G and Gio) were named after some of Tony’s favourite Calgary Flames players, Johnny Gaudreau and Mark Giordano. All the toppings are super fresh and high quality while the dough recipe for the crust was created by Tony’s uncle Domenic, specifically for PZA Parlour. The dough uses a blend of Canadian flours, ages for 24 hours, and goes through two proofing cycles before it becomes your pizza. I’m a big fan of ageing dough as I find it much tastier and easier to digest.Nonna Teresa

Just when we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, the desserts arrived! Delicious ‘family recipe’ Tiramisu in a jar and Ciambelle (Italian doughnuts) which were still warm and covered in nutella. As a thank you, we were given tiny take-out boxes containing the perfect little Limoncello Cream Puffs which I ate the following day with a nice cup of tea. It’s difficult to say which dessert was my favourite, but I will have to go with the cream puff. It was almost like a Baba au Rhum, but with Limoncello!
pzadessertsI enjoyed the experience and food at PZA Parlour and I am hoping to take the family there for dinner soon. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of those Limoncello Cream Puffs!

PZA Parlour

297 – 9737 Macleod Trail SW


David Lebovitz’s Salted Butter – Caramel Chocolate Mousse – CTBF

Oh, my poor neglected little blog…I’m so sorry! How is it that whenever things get to be a touch hectic around my house, YOU are the one that suffers?

It’s food festival season here in Calgary. We do things a little different here in Cowtown…our favourite foods become the centre of attention for a whole week (sometimes more) and I’ve been working on each food festival in one capacity or another. I was so thrilled to have been invited as media to the annual ‘Gravy Bowl’ for CalgaryPoutine week, then I joined a team of taco lovers to create the first annual YYCTacoFiesta; an epic celebration of tacos across our city. This week is the largest festival for Calgary food enthusiasts…it’s Alberta Burger Fest!  This year there are 105 restaurants participating and the rules are pretty specific: Rule number one specifies that each restaurant MUST use Alberta grown and raised ingredients in their burger (whenever possible), the goal being to showcase our Alberta producers to the best of our ability. The second rule states that the burger entry cannot be on the restaurant’s regular menu. This basically forces the participating restaurants to get as creative with their burgers as is possible. Being creative and creating a tasty burger is to their advantage because this festival is a competition.  There are definitely a wide range of new and interesting dishes to try in all the festivals, but the best thing of all is that they all have a common goal: a portion of the sale of each item goes to a local or national charity. Some of the charities that have benefited are Mealshare, Kids Up Front Calgary, Calgary Homeless Foundation, Calgary Food Bank, Ronald McDonald House, Kids Cancer Care, Missing Children Society of Canada, and Bullying Ends Here. Taking part in these festivals (whether it’s by eating or organizing) is a win-win for everyone.

Phew. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve had very little time to cook and when I have cooked, we’ll just say that it’s nothing to write about. I’m so glad I joined the other bloggers at Cook the Book Fridays (even though it’s Tuesday and I’m just writing this now) because when they picked the Salted Butter – Caramel Chocolate Mousse (page 258; My Paris Kitchen) as our first May recipe, I knew I would be making it for sure. I even had all the ingredients in my fridge AND I made it on Friday.

The recipe seemed easy enough as it really only called for basic ingredients; sugar, butter, chocolate, salt, cream, eggs. These basic ingredients are common components of any pantry but when you combine them in the way David did….they equal some kind of magic. saltedcaramelchocmousse1I say ‘David’, because my experience was not so magic. I ran into some trouble while making the simple caramel when the whole thing seized up inside my whisk. I almost tossed the whole thing into the garbage bin, but I soldiered on and added the cream anyway. Eventually the cream got up to a hot enough temperature that the caramel released it’s death-grip on my whisk and became one with the cream. Once all the caramel chunks were gone, I was finally able to add the chocolate. At the time I wasn’t sure if the mixture would have the proper consistency, but it did fold into the beaten egg whites. In the end, it had the proper texture and lightness one would expect from a mousse.

I’m looking forward to a little quiet time after BurgerFest is over so that I can read how everyone else in the group enjoyed making and eating this mousse. If you would like to read about their experiences, the links to their posts are here. If you would like to make the Salted Butter – Caramel Chocolate Mousse on your own, I encourage you to buy a copy of My Paris Kitchen as it’s highly worth it. A quick google search will also turn up this exact recipe, reprinted with David’s permission but then you wouldn’t have access to all those other great recipes! saltedcaramelchocmousse2

Small Businesses Matter – Spaghetti Café Prairie

One day, just out of the blue, I received an email from a man called Takeshi Yamaura inviting me to eat at his restaurant, the Spaghetti Café Prairie.  At the time, I had so many events and meetings planned for the next couple of weeks that I really didn’t want to agree to a visit when I wasn’t sure if I would be able to visit at all. He explained his concept, Japanese-style spaghetti, quite nicely in the email:

[The] Japanese Economy developed so much in 80’s. That diversified Japanese culture, include food culture too. That made people can enjoy so many kind of authentic foreign food like French, Indian, Chinese, and Italian. Especially Italian pasta became one of people’s favourite because it looks fancy but not pricey. Japanese people are not just eating, they learned how to cook pasta authentic way, many Japanese chefs went to Italy to learn how to cook. Then, they found that they can use any kind of ingredients for pasta, if keep based on authentic. You can find Spaghetti Houses in almost every shopping malls in Japan. They usually have 20 variety of spaghetti include traditional Italian style, Japanese style and unique ethnic style.

Now I was curious to visit…

When I looked at his location and my schedule, the stars aligned perfectly for a visit the following Thursday, right before my son’s late football game. The Spaghetti Café Prairie is located right across from the football fields at Shouldice Athletic Park and game time was 8:30, more than enough time to get the boy loaded up with carbohydrates. Arranging the visit was the easy part, the tough part was finding the café which is in a tiny strip mall with a difficult to access parking lot. The good news is that if you miss it, you can turn on the next right and drive around the block again.  It is very easy to access via Calgary Transit, in fact, my hubby rode the bus in from the city core and found the café with no problems at all.

We were quite early, but we weren’t the only customers in the café. The space is brightened up by the sunny orange tablecloths and the smile of Akie, who is Takeshi’s only employee. The café is very informal; you order and pay at the front counter, then chef Takeshi makes the food and delivers it to your table. As with many small businesses, Takeshi works long hours to ensure the business is successful and he takes great joy and pride in his food. Despite this, he knows his concept is quite foreign but he hopes it will become popular much like the Japadog has in Vancouver.

031I’m going to start with my favourite, the Creamy Nuts Spaghetti. Peanut butter, cream, garlic, and ginger on perfectly cooked spaghetti and topped with chopped peanuts. It was the perfect dish for me as pictured, but you can add shredded chicken on the dish for an extra couple of dollars.
037Hubby was in the ‘football mode’ so he ordered a classic tailgate food, chili con carne with a twist. Of course it was served on spaghetti and topped with cheddar cheese.
JapanesechickenMy son and I both wanted to order the authentic Japanese Chicken Spaghetti, so we compromised and asked for extra plates so that we could share in a taste of all the dishes.

All the dishes were flavourful and the spaghetti was perfectly cooked. Best of all, the prices are quite reasonable and you can feed the entire family quality food for less than nearby fast food joints. I do recommend seeking this little hidden gem out, you will be pleasantly surprised at this unique Calgary restaurant.


Spaghetti Cafe Prairie
Unit-B 4708 16th Ave NW Calgary
403 455 7187


Sunday Soup – Roasted Asparagus and Garlic

It’s a cold, wet, rainy Sunday and I couldn’t think of anything better to make for lunch than this roasted asparagus soup. Last weekend was such a hot busy blur that it feels so good to just stay home and listen to the rain fall while re-watching Game of Thrones season 5. The season 6 premier is tonight and we are all just killing time until showtime. It’s not that difficult for the kids because they have finals to study for, but I am too excited to do anything at all. Cooking this soup really helped calm me down and the extra bonus is that I get to share it with you!

I had just under a kilogram of fresh Okanagan asparagus that my sister brought me last weekend, just waiting in the fridge to be used up. I’m really so jealous because she says it just grows wild in the ditches there…I think she must live in the promised land or something. Since the asparagus was on a ‘need to be used’ alert I decided the best way to eat it was all at once, in a soup.

I’ve been roasting asparagus for about 15 years now. My experiences with this vegetable had previously been quite grim so I had avoided cooking it in the most common way… by steaming. Then one spring we visited my hubby’s grandparents and his grandma showed me how she roasted her asparagus. I was hooked. Now I look forward to spring asparagus season every year.004
Roasting asparagus couldn’t be an easier. Just wash the stalks in a sink filled with cold water and drain. Splash olive oil over top and season well with salt and pepper. Spread the stalks in a single layer on a parchment lined baking tray and roast at 450 F for 12 minutes. asparagusFor this soup I threw a couple of garlic cloves in with the asparagus. They don’t get fully roasted and caramelized, but they do soften in texture and flavour. It takes a while to blend the soup in batches, but the end result is so worth it!

asparagussoupRoasted Asparagus and Garlic Soup


  • 2 lbs (900 g) fresh asparagus
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock


  1. Preheat oven to 450 F
  2. Wash and drain asparagus well.
  3. Drizzle asparagus and garlic with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Arrange asparagus and garlic in a single layer on a parchment lined baking tray.
  5. Roast in oven for 12 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly. Peel garlic.
  6. Place 1/3 asparagus stalks and one garlic in blender with 1 cup chicken stock. Blend until smooth.
  7. Repeat with rest of asparagus and chicken stock. You will need to add some of this blended soup back into the blender to add the final cup of chicken stock.
  8. Warm soup up in a pot on the stove over medium heat it until it reaches your desired temperature. Do not over boil.


Calgary Poutine Week – The Gravy Bowl


What began in 2010 as a small poutine crawl has five years later morphed into a triumphant week long poutine party. For some of us, it’s better than Stampede. This year Calgary Poutine Week kicked off at Saturday’s Gravy Bowl where competing chefs teamed up with members of the Calgary Stampeders to create their dream poutines. If you know me at all, you know that those are two of my most favourite things right there: Football and Poutine. Though I must admit that it felt strange to me to be cheering on the boys in red when I’m a die-hard Saskatchewan Roughriders fan. We’ll just say that I did it for the love of poutine.

Seven heavyweight teams competed for the chance to win the 2016 Poutine Week Championship and man did these teams give it their all! Four referees from various fields of poutine expertise had their mouths full and work cut out for them while they deliberated on a winner. poutinejudges

The first two teams to throw down were Chef Matt Davidson (Blanco Cantina) with Stamps Quarterback, Drew Tate and Wurst Calgary Chef Rudy Schmid with Stampeders Defensive Back Adam Thibault. Now that my son plays DB for his midget team, we were secretly cheering on Adam and Rudy to take that cup home. They worked really well in the kitchen together and produced the mouthwatering Smoking Duck Poutine which included duck fat fries, cheese curds, green peas, speck gravy, truffle oil, topped with Duck confit.rudyadamCollageI thought Drew Tate would be a little more hands on with the Blanco Cantina Blanco Poutine Burrito (Shaved skirt steak, cheese curds, spicy Mexican gravy, house cut fries, coriander scented onions) but he seemed to let Chef Matt take care of the offensive play which he was tied up with a beer from Village Brewery. This is the only one that I didn’t get to try so I can’t comment on how good it was.mattanddrew CollageAs soon as the first poutines were out of the neutral zone, the next two teams were up and cooking. Chef Sean MacDonald (Market Calgary) and Rob Cote (Stampeders Running Back) were in it to win it. They took a page from the Market Calgary playbook and produced the most complicated (and most photogenic) poutine of the Gravy Bowl.  Their Carbonara Poutine came with a black pepper bechamel, peas, pancetta, curds, pea tendrils, parmesan and sous vide eggs. seanandrobcollage

Chef Xavier Lacaze of Briggs Kitchen and Bar teamed up with Tim St. Pierre (Stampeders running back) to make a deceptively simple, yet oh so refined Newf’s Poutine, topper with chunks of lobster and lobster cream sauce.  Roy threw the plates over the short pass, while Tim made the reception which became the winning touchdown right onto the judges table. briggsteamcollageHome field advantage went to Chef Roy Oh for his wonderfully spicey ‘Poutine for your Seoul’. This Korean curry tater tot poutine with classic curds, carrots, and green onion was my absolute favourite. Since I had brought my son along for this event, he learned quite early on to  wait until the judges had finished their portions, then politely ask for their leftovers. He sampled all of the poutines, but this one ended up being his favourite as well.

anjucollabAnother tater tot based poutine came from the kitchens of The Unicorn Superpub. Their twist on a classic dish was the Tacotine with golden tater tots, Quebec cheese curds, house queso cheese sauce, AAA Alberta chilli, fresh pico de gallo, lime cream fresh, cilantro & scallions, all served inside a crispy flour tortilla shell. Charlie Power, another Stampeder running back with good hands in the kitchen, powered his way through the line to serve up this first down(ed) poutine.

teamunicorncollageCam Dobranski (The Brasserie Kensington) and Rene Parades (Stampeders kicker) decided to go for the field goal on the last down with their Oxtail Poutine. Perfectly seasoned fries, rich red wine duck gravy, and unbelievable chanterelle emulsion…ah so good. They get bonus points for the appealing plating in my play book.camrenecollageBesides the fact that everyone went home with fulls stomachs and fun memories (I don’t think I’ll ever see so many chefs and Stampeders doing post-game shoju shots again!), the real winner is Mealshare. Mealshare is a non profit organiztion that pairs with restaurants in order to alleviate (or eliminate) hunger. For each mealshare item sold from a participating restaurant’s menu, one meal is donated to a youth in need. Poutine Week has been with Mealshare from the very beginning in 2013. With every poutine sold throughout the week, a meal is donated. Last year 5,000 poutines were sold in 7 days…quite an epic number of donations! With 2 days left, there’s still time to be enjoy a poutine (or two) and help out a great cause. For more information, check the Poutine Week website for poutine descriptions and participating restaurants.

Canadian Beef – Around Our Goofy Family Dinner Table

The funny thing about blogging and food blogs in general is that nearly everything seems to be perfect in that online world. What you see is photos of perfectly coordinated and stylized shots of impossibly gorgeous food and scenes of domestic bliss. I’m guilty of wiping a few plate edges and failing that, editing out the ‘ugly bits’ of photos so that they look more attractive. Most of the time, my extended family isn’t subject to this strange behaviour, but when they are present for my food blogger shenanigans, they are always kind enough to make the best out of the situation.canadianbeef1

When Canadian Beef asked me to write a sponsored post requiring a shot of my family enjoying beef at our dinner table, I was initially excited. Then my excitement turned to worry because the reality of our family table, on most week nights, isn’t what you see on your computer screen. As our kids were growing up we always made a point of being together for dinner, even on a week night with scheduled activities. Sometimes that meant eating at 4:30, other times we wouldn’t eat until 9 pm. Now that our daughter is vegan, she makes and eats her own dinner because she doesn’t want to wait to eat at 9 pm any more. Being busy with football nearly every night of the week has us perpetually delaying dinner time and our family table has become a ‘table of convenience’.

Last week a surprise phone call from my sister, who lives in Vernon, B.C., had me preparing the spare room for their weekend visit and thinking about what to serve for dinner.  Even though we both had our weekend fully (but separately) booked, I wanted to have at least one sit down meal (on a football-free night) during their visit.  The opportunity to serve and photograph our Canadian Beef family meal had presented itself.

On Friday, I bought the baseball cut beef sirloin from a local butcher and marinated it in garlic and red wine with a bit of salt and pepper. It really was the easiest thing to do. Ideally this marinating would be done overnight in the fridge but I only had 5 hours so I left the bowl of meat to marinate at room temperature. I knew that the beef was fresh from a local source but I wouldn’t recommend doing this if you don’t know where your meat comes from. Just before grilling, I threaded the chunks of marinated sirloin onto fresh rosemary sprigs.

006And here’s where the crazy family hi-jinx really started:

While hubby was grilling the beef, I was busy propping the table and setting up the camera for that perfect shot. My sister finished the Greek salad and kept an eye on the roasted lemon potatoes which I had set under the broiler and forgotten…

Then someone literally grabbed an olive and I freaked out (Never, EVER prop with an even amount of food items)!

By the time everything was on the table and ready for photographing, everyone was freezing because it’s April and at my request we were eating on the deck. They left to get their jackets and I had to wait so that I could get them into the family shot. canadianbeef4Then there was my annoying, yet loveable brother in law, who squeezed that lemon for what seemed like 5 minutes, while pretending to pick his nose and contort his face into all manners of disturbing poses. I don’t know how I managed to get any photos at all, I was laughing too hard!
canadianbeef2Then my eldest son says, “hey mom, come over here, this is a pretty great angle” and you know what? He was right!

Someone spent an awfully long time holding beef skewers…

After all the photos were taken, we were still giggling over how my brother in law is such an idiot while we ate our cold but delicious dinner.  Someone suggested we should have made a video of our Canadian Beef family dinner fiasco but I think some things are better left out of social media.

This dinner was fun and it drew us together as a family and gave us a shared memory that we can cherish for years to come. It was almost like we were back on our family farm, eating together out in the open prairie during Spring seeding while our laughter kept us warm in the crisp spring air. I was always in charge of looking after my sister, while mom cut the roast beef and covered the mashed potatoes with pan gravy. Keeping that connection between family, the food, and the land is so important for the future of farming and the future of our food system.

On my last visit to the Canadian Centre of Beef Excellence, I enjoyed a family style burger battle between local celebrities and their friends/families. There were so many great people there to support Canadian Beef as they revealed their new partnership with Canadian grown and raised country singer, Paul Brandt. He’s the ideal complement to the Canadian Beef brand and watching the videos make my heart proud to be Canadian and come from a farming background.

Thank you Canadian Beef for sponsoring this post, for bringing our family together one more time, and for supporting our Canadian beef farmers.

Disclosure: I was financially compensated for this post. As a former beef farmer’s daughter I’ve got my own opinions about Canadian Beef and I am pleased to be able to share them with you.

The Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off

Macaroni & cheese. Beloved comfort food through the ages and blank canvas for creativity. What better way to showcase Canadian milk products and cheeses than to host a mac & cheese cook off between several of our country’s most creative chefs?

On April 8, four Canadian chefs flew to Toronto to compete in The Grate Canadian Cheese Cook-Off sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada. This yearly event had the chefs cooking their ultimate mac & cheese dishes for the chance to win the title of the ‘Grate Big Cheese’. Each chef brought their own creative regional spin to the competition and after much delicious deliberation, chef Alexandra Feswick (Chef de Cuisine The Drake Hotel; Toronto, Ontario) squeeked by with a win. Her Nutty Home-Style Mac & Cheese with cheddar, sage, mushroom, hazelnut, blue cheese, and Jerusalem artichoke had everything the judges were looking for.

Our regional competing chef, Nicole Gomes (Executive Chef Nicole Gourmet & Cluck ‘n’ Cleaver; Calgary, Alberta) was in it to win it with her Apple Beer Mac & Cheese. While her spin on this comfort food classic didn’t win the competition, I had the chance to serve it to my family and it was a winner in our home! We loved the combination of flavours from the beer (an IPA), the sweetness from the Golden Delicious apples, the bite from the dijon mustard (I always put mustard in my version of mac & cheese), and the combination of cheeses including locally produced Sylvan Star Smoked Gouda.


CanadianCheese 002The recipe had quite a few more steps and ingredients than my basic mac & cheese recipe.
applesauteSautéing grated apples in butter. Don’t they look like cheese?
sauceThe sauce was ultra rich and creamy, made with butter, milk, and crème fraiche.
CanadianCheese 0805 kinds of Canadian Cheese; Black River Medium Cheddar, Canadian Muenster, Gunn’s Hill Five Brothers, Sylvan Star Canadian Smoked Gouda, Canadian Raclette
macncheesecloseupTop with Panko Crumbs and Bake until golden!
CanadianCheese 140b

Below is the recipe for Chef Nicole’s Apple Beer Mac ‘n’ Cheese that I made at home. If you would like to try the recipes from the other three competing chefs, visit

Apple Beer Mac & Cheese

(Chef Nicole Gomes, Executive Chef Nicole Gourmet and Cluck ‘n’ Cleaver; Calgary, AB)


The Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cups (750 mL) milk
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) crème fraiche
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) strong IPA beer (7%)
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) salt
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) freshly grated nutmeg

Pasta Apple Cheese Layer:

  • 3 cups (750 mL) mini lumaconi or elbow pasta
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) unsalted butter
  • 3 cups (750 mL) peeled and gratedGolden Delicious apples (about 3 large)
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) Panko breadcrumbs, toasted
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
  • 2 cups (500 mL) lightly packed shredded Black River Medium Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Canadian Muenster cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Gunn’s Hill Five Brothers cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Sylvan Star Canadian Smoked Gouda Cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) lightly packed shredded Canadian Raclette Cheese


Preheat oven to 350°F (180°F).

In large pot, melt butter on medium-high heat.  Add flour and bay leaf and whisk until smooth; cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Whisk in milk in a slow steady stream. Whisk until smooth; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat spoon, about 8 to 12 minutes. Turn off heat. Whisk in crème fraiche, beer, mustard, salt, and nutmeg. Remove and discard bay leaf.

Pasta Apple Cheese Layer: In large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta 3 minutes under the package directions (this is important, 3 minutes is perfect because the pasta will cook more during baking). Drain and rinse lightly. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in medium skillet, melt butter on medium heat. Add apples and any accumulated juices; sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. In small bowl, combine breadcrumbs and oil; set aside.

Spread one-half of the pasta in 13×9-inch (3 L) glass baking dish. Pour one-half of the sauce, top with one-half each of the Cheddar, Muenster, Five Brothers, Smoked Gouda, and Raclette cheeses. Top with one-half of the apples and stir lightly. Repeat with remaining pasta, sauce, cheeses and apples; stir lightly.  Sprinkle evenly with reserved breadcrumb mixture on top.

Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake uncovered until hot, breadcrumbs are light golden brown and edges are bubbling, about 45 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Enjoy!macncheeseplate

5 Quick Mac & Cheese facts:

  1. Cheddar Cheese is the most popular cheese used for making mac & cheese in Canada.
  2. Want wine with you mac & cheese? The most recommended wine pairing is Burgundy wine.
  3. The world’s largest mac & cheese dish, made in 2010, weighed almost 2,500 pounds.
  4. There’s a crayola colour named ‘macaroni and cheese’.
  5. The first recorded mac & cheese recipe was from 13th century in Italy.


Sarap YYC Dinner at Bro’kin Yolk

I’ll be the first to admit I know next to nothing about Filipino cuisine. My experiences include a less than traditional adobo from Jay at Eats of Asia, plus a portion of whole deep fried fish and a taste of leche flan one time when I picked my son up from his friend’s birthday party. One thing I do know for sure (here’s my Oprah moment) is that Filipino people really like to eat and they like to share what they are eating with friends and most importantly, family.

Filipino food culture is hugely under represented here in Calgary and even across the country.  Despite the massive Filipino community here in Calgary, there are really not many places to try authentic Filipino cuisine. Even though I’m quite ignorant of this demographic’s representation in our food community, I do remember seeing two places that serve primarily Filipino cuisine. There was (is?) a small Filipino food kiosk in the Pacific Place Mall and another small cafeteria style place in nearby Midnapore. I peeked in one time, lured by the smells of cooking curries, but everything was so unfamiliar to me that I left without ordering anything. I may have been a bit more adventurous if there hadn’t been a language barrier, call me crazy but I do like to know what I am eating.
Last night I had my Filipino food education. It came courtesy of the chefs of Sarap YYC; a collaboration of chefs working together to to bring Filipino cuisine to the forefront through pop-up, supper clubs, and guerilla events. Several young Calgary chefs, including Jay del Corro (Eats of Asia), John Nidua and Saturino Ong. Jr. ( both from Oohmami Pares House and Noodle Bar), Jeffrey Lazaro Carlos (Bro’Kin Yolk), joined together with Winnipeg chef Allan Pineda (from Baon Manila Nights and Baon Craft Lumpia) to celebrate contemporary Filipino food with a ten course dinner at Bro’Kin Yolk.

If you are wondering if I was a bit freaked out that the dinner had ten courses, I will let you know I was a bit intimidated. Then I remembered way back to that kid’s birthday party, when we went to pick up our son (after having dinner out), when we stayed to visit and ended up being force fed another dinner. Everyone who says that Italian nonnas are famous for making you ‘Eat! Eat!’, have never been to a Filipino family gathering. Actually, come to think of it, that is what last night really felt like: a family gathering.

melonmartinisWe were welcomed with these delicious Melon Martinis

Our first course was a very simple deconstructed Ukoy from Jeff (Bro’Kin Yolk). The original is more like a prawn or seafood omelet, but John wanted to serve this comfort food classic with a whole marinated prawn, sweet potato fritters and an unbelievable calamansi gastrique. The gastrique was so good, this dish was one of my top dishes for the night.
jerkchickenThe next dish was very difficult to take a photo of as the Pancit (noodles) were all along the bottom of the container. Allan, the visiting chef from Winnipeg, added a bit of a cross cuisine twist with the jerk chicken. The dish was just the right kind of spice for me and I loved the crispy textures that the fried lotus root and chicken chicharon added to the dish.
BrusselSproutsChef Jay was next and he brought his Gulay A-game with the perfectly roasted and caramelized Brussels sprouts, coconut caramel and patis (fish sauce) dish that he sometimes serves on his food truck.
bistekI had no idea that steak tartare was a popular Filipino dish, but this Bistek made from AAA Alberta beef had a bit of a more contemporary feel to it. The pickled red onions really cut the richness of the meat. As always though, there’s never enough toast!!
PFCWell. It’s true…I didn’t know ‘Pilipino’ Fried Chicken (Manok), but now I know…it’s damn good! We had three different styles of fried chicken in that tiny bucket and they were all amazing. This was also the first time I had collard greens (with coconut cream) and bibingka corn bread. This ‘southern’ trio was served in a whole new way by the chefs at Oohmami, entirely Filipino style!
WaffleBennyBro’Kin Yolk’s chef Jeff served us a version of Itlog (salted egg) in breakfast form! The Ube (purple yam) waffle with adobo duck confit was topped with a poached egg and salty beet chip. Let’s not forget that black garlic hollandaise! There are some rumours going around that Bro’Kin Yolk might open a second location in the deep south and I’m crossing my fingers that the rumours are true.
SalmontunaWhen the next course arrived, it was right about the time I was thinking that I would really welcome a palate cleanser. Kinilaw is a type of Filipino ceviche made with raw fish, in this case salmon and tuna. The fresh fish was ‘cooked’ with coconut vinegar instead of citrus juice like the latin American version. It was still light and fresh, the perfect palate cleanser that I needed to continue.
baoThe airy steamed Tosino (pork)  bao from Jay (Eats of Asia) were very familiar to me because I’ve eaten them on several occasions. They are a typical Taiwanese street food but when they contain 16 hour sous vide pork belly and pickled daikon, no one complained. In fact, the crowd let out a huge cheer when Jay declared it time for the pork belly to be served.
CrabFatRisottoAt the very end, it was finally time to eat rice. This Kanin course was quite spectacular with the rice cooked in butter, Parmesan, and crab fat. Did you know crabs had fat? They don’t. It’s a sneaky, better sounding term for the liver and pancreas bits of the crab. Somehow I knew there would be some nasty bits thrown into this dinner, but I will admit this ‘crab fat’ was pretty damn tasty.
dessert Unfortunately I couldn’t really eat the dessert as I’m allergic to undercooked squash. It looked wonderful though and I did try a bit of the pandan Leche Flan, the ube crumble, and the gastrique.

So now, thanks to Sarap YYC, I do know a little bit about Filipino cuisine and maybe next time I get the chance to order Filipino food from a vendor I won’t be so intimidated.

Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil – Cook the Book Fridays

I was so extremely grateful that my friends at the Cook the Book Fridays group chose a relatively quick recipe for this week’s CtBF. Still, I knew that getting away with assembling a quick tapenade seemed a bit too easy. Having learned my lesson from the last recipe which involved an all day process of baking a quick bread and a slow braising the stew, I made sure to review the tapenade recipe ahead of time. Aha! My suspicions were confirmed…David’s recipe required the extra step of heating the olive oil with rosemary. The process of heating and cooling oil would definitely add a chunk of extra time to this seemingly quick tapenade. Was it worth it? Probably. Did I already have herbed olive oil in my pantry? Yes! I went with that. Sometime in the future when the herbed oil runs out I will make my own because it’s a fairly easy process and I always have fresh rosemary on hand.

I’m going to be pretty honest here. I’ve never liked olives. So why…you might ask…would I vote for a tapenade recipe? I absolutely LOVE artichokes and my love for artichokes is so strong that I could handle a few pesky olives. David’s recipe doesn’t specify what kind of olives to use, he only mentions green and pitted. So I made a special trip to the nearby Italian Centre so that I could pick out olives that were slightly more tolerable to me. I had always thought olives were a ‘love them or hate them’ kind of snack, but recently (and because of the Italian Centre) I have discovered two kinds that I can tolerate. One is the really dry wrinkly black olive and the other is a bright green, globular one called a Nocellara olive. The Italian Centre was really a one stop shopping for this dish because they also carry capers and quite a few varieties of canned artichokes. I was pretty excited when they opened their store last year because they carry almost any culinary item and ingredient imaginable and they are only a 10 minute drive from my house. 134

After picking up the ingredients, I hurried back home to make the tapenade and hand shaped orecchiette. The dough I had set out to rest while getting the olives had to be rolled out and shaped before we had to leave for football. Time was running short! Even so, I took some liberties with the tapenade recipe, as I most often do. These specific liberties actually added on more prep time because they involved hand chopping every ingredient rather than chucking it all in the food processor. There are some things that just should not be made in the processor and tapenade is one of them (salsa is another). I’m kind of old school that way, plus I like my tapenade super chunky. Of course David mentions throwing the ingredients into a mortar but there was definitely no time for that. By the way, I tried to get the olive pits out by hand but that wasn’t working so I got out the cherry pitter. It actually worked really well on the Nocarella olives.135My attempt at making orecchiette was pretty lame so you won’t ever see a photo of it but I have plenty of photos of that amazing Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil. We ate it on the gorgeous rustic potato bread (also from the Italian Centre…they have an amazing bakery!) and warmed up with some leftover chicken on the nightmarish orecchiette for a quick dinner. It was delicious!147

Then we spent the next two hours watching our son’s football team win their first game of the season. 149

Generally our group respects David’s ownership of each recipe that we cook from My Paris Kitchen by not posting the recipes from the book. There are a few renditions of the tapenade floating around on the internet, including one on David’s site.

Artichoke Tapenade with Rosemary Oil (Recipe adapted from David Lebovitz)


  • 1 can (14 oz/400 g) artichoke hearts; drained
  • 1/4 cup dried black olives; pitted
  • 1/4 cup Nocarella olives; pitted
  • 2 cloves garlic; minced
  • 1 tbsp capers; rinsed and squeezed dry
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/3 cup rosemary oil ( you can buy pre made herbed oil or make some according to David’s directions)
  • sea salt


  1. Quarter and finely chop up the artichoke hearts, add to bowl.
  2. Very finely chop the olives and capers, add to bowl.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix. Season accordingly with sea salt, if the olives don’t add enough saltiness for you.

To use as a ‘pesto’ on pasta, warm slightly and mix with boiled and drained pasta. Add warmed chicken if you wish.


Mexican ‘Tapas’ at Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence

Many people have told me that they love visiting Mexico. Though it sounds wonderful and the people are so friendly, I’d never placed it high on my ‘to visit’ list until I had a sampling of the lively flavours of Mexico at the Canadian Beef Experience Tapas event at the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence (CBCE). I was blessed to be included among 24 Calgary based influencers invited to this delicious event.

The Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence is the headquarters for Canadian Beef and serves as an important catalyst between the Canadian beef industry and the rest of the world. The centre allows them to showcase Canadian Beef farmers and to host, educate, and train global consumers under one roof. Recently eight of Mexico’s top chefs came to Calgary to learn more about our Canadian beef industry. They spent a week or so touring local farms and beef processing centres, then had the opportunity to cook with some of the best Canadian beef available. The flavours and techniques they used while creating the Mexican ‘Tapas’ showcased Canadian Beef in the most wonderful ways.

Team 1 –  Chefs Jonatan Gomez Luna and Fernanda Silva. Chef Gomez Luna and Silva worked seamlessly together to create an Inverted Tostada which was presented upon a rich mole and topped with pickled red onions, radish, and onion ash. The ‘wedge cut’ of beef that they used was a small cut near the rib area which they marinated, then cooked sous vide for 20 hours. The results were ultra tender beef that melted in my mouth. I would give anything to learn how to make that mole!team1collage

Team 2 – Chefs Patric Cros and Alexis Bostelmann used braised chuck flat (Montreal steak) to create this tapas based on sopes, a popular Mexican street food. Besides the chuck flat, they made tiny beef chorizo-style meatballs with Saskatoon berries and a hibiscus morita sauce. All those flavours went really well with the little sip of mezcal provided.team2collage Team 3 – Chefs Federico Lopez and Javier Plascencia were quite ambitious with their tapas, using two different cuts of beef and two separate tapas. The first was a small tostada that was literally a party in my mouth when I ate it.

javierandfedericoThere were so many amazing flavours in that carpaccio style petit filet. I loved the burned onions and garlic, jalapeño powder, and especially the pickled puréed blackened onions aioli with a burned radish relish. All these smoky flavours were highlighted with the finishing touches of mint, lemon & jalapeño with shaved toasted hazelnuts to finish.

The second tostada from Team 3 was marinated & grilled tri tip with cucumber, scallions, red onion, cilantro, & lemon. Again, it was a lively mouthful…especially heightened by the little slices of hot peppers used to finish the tostada. 
federico3aTeam 4 – Chefs Josephina santa Cruz and Guillermo Gonzalez Beristain really knocked it out of the park with their Mexican twist on Vietnamese Banh Mi. They braised, then shaved some chuck flat and served it marinated in soy sauce, star anise, pineapple juice and fish sauce. It was wonderful with the traditional pickled carrots, cucumbers, onions, and cilantro.

Dessert was a small sweet bite. Just a simple poached pear,  caramelized brown sugar and cinnamon, and creme fraiche. Just enough sweetness.peardessert

beefcoverChefs love to eat Canadian Beef too!


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