Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival – Cheers to 20 Years

On Friday, Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival will be gathering Calgarians to celebrate 20 years of the best wine, beer, spirits, and delectable dishes.

“The Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival (RMWFF) got its start 20 years ago by three rag-tag friends working as beer brand reps in Ontario. After attending beverage trade shows out east, it struck them that they could do the same thing in Calgary where such an event didn’t yet exist. It was a “rocky” start (pun intended) but in 1997, the first annual Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival was hosted, with 30 booths and 1000 guests.”

One thousand guests is pretty amazing attendance for  the first year of a festival! As the event grew each year, organizers realized that there was enough interest to expand northward to Edmonton in 2007. Ten years later, RMWFF has grown into one of Alberta’s largest wine and food festivals with hundreds of booths and over 25,000 in attendance. I’ve been fortunate to attend three years of the Festival and I find it a great way to try wines and spirits that I wouldn’t normally get to try (due to availability) or go out of my way to purchase…it’s a great way to expand your palate on a budget! Where else would I have been able to try the entire line of Japanese Nikka Whiskies? Some of my favourites last year were quite surprisingly, ciders from the BC Tree Fruits Cider Co and Reverend Nat. Less surprising were some ‘new to me’ gins from Rig Hand Distillery (formerly Big Rig Distillery) and Boodles British Gin. 

This year’s festival wines feature 17 different countries including a large list of Canadian wines and previous crowd favourites from Moldova. For a full list of available wines click here. While your there, be sure to also check out the extensive list of beer, cider, and distilled spirits. Some new and ‘not to miss’ 20th Anniversary highlights are:

  • BLUE WINE from Marqués de Alcántara is making it’s Canadian debut at RMWFF. The brilliant indigo blue hue in your glass, is due to the natural pigmentation extracted from the skin of the grapes used in production. Festival-goers will have the opportunity to sample both the Sparkling and Frizzante versions.
  • GOLD VODKA  – Royal Dragon Imperial Vodka from China is not your average vodka, it’s exclusively distilled with a Russian formula from the finest winter harvest rye – Five times distilled and accented with 23 carat gold flakes.
  • Tolaini Valdisanti Tolaini creates great wines that celebrate Tuscany’s rich tradition in culture and life. You don’t want to miss out on this cellar-worthy sip, ask for a recommended food pairing as you enjoy this big rich red.
  • Alberta Craft Breweries –  Alberta has some seriously great beers to share with the world and at RMWFF they are all under one roof! Check out true-to-Alberta brews from:
    Banded Peak Brewing, Big Rock Brewery, Freehold Brewing Co, Wild Rose Brewery, Rapid Ascent Brewing, Hell’s Basement Brewery, Cold Garden, Half Hitch
    Brewing, and Banff Ave Brewing Co.
  • Taylor Fladgate 1967 Single Harvest Port – It’s a PARTY! Why not break out this special occasion ultra-luxe 50 year old port to celebrate?!

Of course this is a FOOD blog and this year RMWFF’s is putting on a huge bash, complete with delicious food from nearly 50 vendors and artisans. Besides my returning festival favourites, there are some new and exciting tasty treats to pair with your sips!

  • Paper Street – Street food flavours from a range of tasty global cuisines crafted using ingredients from our own backyard. They will be serving up Tuna Poke Nachos and BBQ Pork Steamed Bao Buns.
  • Workshop Kitchen + Bar  – In 2016 Workshop Kitchen + Bar was named one of OpenTable’s top 100 Restaurants and earned a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. They will be dishing up creative, chefdriven and adventurous seasonal cuisine such as Lamb Tartare, Olive Oil Poached Salmon, and Tuna Tiradito.
  • Run Pig Run – One of the newest meat centric 17th Ave restaurants, proudly serving handcrafted, fresh, and chef-driven Alberta cuisine. Stop by their booth to enjoy Pulled Pork Sliders and a BBQ Pulled
    Pork Dip.

Then there are the delicious sweet treats from Sweet Tooth…rolled ice cream is the most instagrammable way to treat yourself and Sweet Tooth has it down to a delicious science. Crowd favourites Master Chocolat and Old Coal Chocolates are back again too, just in time to pair with that 50 year old port from Taylor Fladgate.  It wouldn’t be a party without some giveaways…stop by the Liquor Connect booths to enter to win a $100 gift card to Pig & Duke along with two tickets to the 2018 Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival. This year’s grand prize is an All-Inclusive Alpine Getaway for two at the beautiful SunshineMountain Lodge. The winner will enjoy two night’s accommodation, VIP parking, dinner for two, full mid-mountain rental packages for two, and next day lift tickets on “Canada’s Best Snow” at Sunshine Village.

I believe that part of the reason the festival is so successful is that the organizers have a huge opportunity to ‘give back’ and they do!  In 2016 alone,  the Festival donated over $21,000 to local charities and organizations, thanks to help from Festival guests and sponsors. This year, the Rocky Mountain Wine & Food Festival aims to donate even more to these fantastic organizations: Calgary Food Bank, SAIT and for the first time, The Leftovers foundation with $1 from every Front of the Line ticket sold donated to this worthwhile organization.

Tickets and Information:

Tickets for each tasting session are sold online or at the door (based on availability). Sampling coupons are $0.50 each and available inside the Grand Tasting Hall. To purchase tasting session tickets and learn more about Rocky Mountain Wine and Food Festival please visit www.rockymountainwine.com

Event Details:

Friday Oct. 13; 5-10pm

Saturday Oct. 14; 12-4pm

Saturday Oct. 14; 6-10pm

Stampede Park BMO Centre, Halls D & E

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A Taste of the Heartland – Stettler Long Table Dinner

It’s that time of the year when the leaves are turning glorious colours and gardens everywhere are being harvested. The farmers can barely get in a few well earned zzzz’s before heading back out the the fields again. Long table harvest dinners are popping up in little towns everywhere, showcasing the fruits of their labours. My very first long table dinner was a few weeks ago when the leaves along main street Stettler were still in their late summer glory and the harvest from local producers was a source of pride on each plate.

Photo: Christine Boake Photography

My table mates and I were treated like royalty; picked up in a limousine and whisked 5 minutes away to the blocked off main street section in front of Brenda’s Cozy Cafe, where all the dishes were being prepared and plated. The long table sat in the middle of main street Stettler, all decked out in prairie finery and several tables skirted the outer edges containing local products which were to be featured during the dinner. I tasted some delicious locally made cream cheese from Mary Ann Stevenson of Applejack Ranch and learned that you can make vegetarian cheese…using an extract made from thistles instead of sheep’s rennet. Then I had an absolutely wonderful cocktail from Hanson Distillery‘s Spiced Peach Moonshine.  Owners Kris and Shayna continue the Hansen family tradition of distilling quality products using 100% ingredients sourced from Alberta, except the peaches of course. After sampling the cheese and enjoying a cocktail (or two) I took my place at the long table. Set out before me was the evening’s feast and I was thrilled to see that we would be enjoying beef tenderloin supplied by the folks at Buffalo Hills Natural Beef. To see the pride on their faces was a thrill in itself. It’s not often that producers are able to see their product enjoyed in such a setting. 

To begin the dinner, prairie style Caprese Salad was passed around by the volunteer servers. Chef Riley Kay (from Cilantro and Chive) strung the sweet, juicy Kempf’s Greenhouse tomatoes along with Applejack Ranch fresh mozzarella onto wheat stalks and drizzled them with balsamic vinegar. 

Late summer flavours danced within the tiny bowl of the Zesty Gazpacho created by Chef Brenda Brinson of Brenda’s Cozy Cafe. This simple chilled soup elevated the finest tomatoes, zucchini, and basil grown at Kempf’s Greenhouse.

Our salad course contained another favourite prairie ingredient in the vinaigrette; Saskatoon Berries. The vinaigrette was also punctuated with a touch of prairie spirit…wine from Fireside Winery & Market Garden. The baby spinach greens, sweet pepper, and cucamelons were grown at Kempf’s Greenhouse while the surprise boar bacon at the bottom was supplied by Canadian Heritage Meats. Everyone likes a little bacon in their salad, right?!
We were kept well watered throughout the dinner, with Lacombe brewed Troubled Monk beers, wine from Fireside Winery & Market Garden, and spirits from Hansen Distillery.

Larry and Marcie Heck from Fireside Winery & Market Garden

The delight on everyone’s face, but especially on Quinn and Janelle Hayden of Buffalo Hills Natural Beef was evident when Chef Jimin John (Otherside Restaurant, Delburne Bistro) presented the Roasted Herbed Beef Tenderloin. It was perfectly roasted and finished with a Border Cross Whisky Sauce featuring Hansen Distillery’s Border Crossing Rye Spirit. It sat on a bed of creamed spinach (made with Primrose Farm‘s fresh cream) surrounded by seasonal veggies, all from Kempf’s Greenhouse. 
In case you’re wondering if that wonderful boar bacon from Canadian Heritage Meats would make an appearance again…I can say that it made another surprise entrance in our dessert. Not only did Chef Lutz Kintzel give us bacon for dessert, but we also had a zucchini brownie and Saskatoon Berry cream filled cream puff. The Saskatoon Berry sauce made with Fireside Winery & Market Garden wine was also a huge hit at our section of the long table. The bacon, chocolate and berries left everyone with a smile on their faces. I was asked to join in the Taste of the Heartland long table dinner as a guest of Destination Stettler. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Stettler, years in fact.  Way back when the kids were small we used to stop overnight at a cousin’s house to break up the long trip to Saskatchewan. I can honestly say that I didn’t get a good sense of what Stettler was like as a community back then. As a guest, I struggled to find the right words for what I had experienced during Open Farm Days and the Taste of the Heartland long table dinner until the event MC Shawna Benson spoke these words, “You should go visit them, they’ll treat you like family.” Truer words have never been spoken, I can honestly say that it felt like I was visiting family again.

Chefs Lutz Kintzel, Brenda Brinson, Riley Kay, and Jimin John at the Taste of the Heartland Long Table Dinner

Around the World in Twelve Plates – Japanese Chicken Curry

I can’t even begin to tell you what these first 3 weeks of school have been like for our family. Suffice it to say that if your teen ever changes high schools, make sure that you know all the policies surrounding the switch…including those related to high school athletics. To make a really long and emotional story short, our family ended up having to appear before an appeals committee to prove that he didn’t move schools for athletic reasons. It was quite surreal having to defend him against these accusations; a boy who is the kindest, quietest, most respectful boy I know. It was also disappointing for him (and us) to see how petty and vile adults can be when they are given ridiculous power over children. It was the first time that someone else was making a decision for my son other than me and it was terrifying.

Don’t worry though, the story does indeed get better! His appeal was accepted and he has been able to play football (and other sports) at his new high school. In case you are wondering why he switched schools to begin with, he was drawn to the commercial cooking course that was available at his new school. He wants to be a chef and I couldn’t be more proud! Since starting school he has come home every day telling me what he’s learned and I know the day is coming when he’ll tell me I am doing a technique wrong or criticize my knife skills.

When the September Around the World in Twelve Plates country was revealed to be Japan, I got pretty excited because there are so many options! The obvious ones may be sushi and ramen, but I’m also a huge fan of dishes like karaage, katsu, teriyaki, and various izakaya (bar snacks). There’s Japanese binchotan grilling and those gorgeous Japanese cheese cakes, mochi (check out my Red Lentil Mochi here), and one can never forget gyoza! So many possibilities and I love them all. I really need to get to Japan!

Did you know that there was such a thing as Japanese Curry? Ever since I made dumplings with Carol from The Office Broccoli I have been wanting to try and make a Japanese Curry.  We used the pre-made curry roux that comes in a box as a flavouring for our dumplings and I wanted to explore this flavour more but never did. It turns out that making the curry roux yourself is not that difficult, just time consuming. The flavours of a Japanese curry are what you would think a curry made with curry powder would be like but with other flavour aspects such as sweetness from the grated apple and honey punctuated with a bit of heat from the cayenne. Huge thanks to Gabby for giving me a gentle push I needed to make Japanese Curry for this month’s challenge!

If you’re wondering what the rest of the ATW12P regulars cooked this month, check out their links here:

Sugar Love Spices made Raw Vegetable Nori Wraps

The Food Girl in Town made some izakaya dishes to share with friends

I know that we made the right decision in supporting our son. He’s so much happier and focused at his new school. Now I know he’s also making friends too because yesterday it was game day and two of his team mates came over to chill before the big game. They arrived just as I was finishing this curry photo shoot and each had a huge bowl. I told them it was magic curry and that it would give them extra power during the game, little did I know that they would go on to win and all 3 of the boys were a huge part of that win. The boys came to see me after the game to let me know they were convinced the win was due to ‘CURRY POWER’ and that they’ll be showing up next week on game day for more of that delicious Japanese Curry.

Japanese Chicken Curry (adapted from Just One Cookbook)

Ingredients 

  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 medium onions; cut into large pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic; peeled and minced
  • 1 inch piece ginger; peeled and minced
  • 1 lb chicken thighs; cut into bite size pieces
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 small sweet potatoes; peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 2 large carrots; peeled and cut into large pieces
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 apple
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • curry roux
  • splash of acid; either lemon juice or rice wine vinegar or ketchup

Ingredients for Curry Roux 

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

Method 

  1. Add canola oil to a large pot, then add diced onion. Cook until the onion begins to soften then add the garlic and ginger. Cook a few more minutes.
  2. Add chicken pieces, season with salt and pepper, then cook until they have changed colour with intermittent stirring.
  3. Add sweet potatoes and carrots then cover with chicken stock. Grate the apple into the pot and add the honey. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. While the chicken is simmering, make the Curry Roux.
  5. Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan and stir in the flour. Stir continuously for 20-30 minutes until the roux changes colour and looks like a copper penny.
  6. Add the spices to the roux and cook for another minute, stirring continuously.
  7. Add enough ladles of the simmering chicken stock to the roux so that it becomes somewhat fluid. Add roux/stock into the simmering chicken pot.
  8. Add your splash of acid.
  9. Serve with rice and some sort of pickle; pictured below is pickled ginger but you can pickle daikon or garlic scapes as well. You can also add a soft boiled egg.

Olive Oil Roasted Baby Artichokes

Do you have a food ‘bucket list’? Have you ever waited what seemed like forever to cook with a specific ingredient? There are quite a few on my food bucket list, including some fresh fruit and vegetables rarely seen in North America or most impossible to find in my city, Calgary. On my wish list of fruits & veggies are bergamot citrus, the delicious flavour that IMHO makes Earl Grey tea so special. I would probably make some kind of bergamot marmalade or curd with it and right now thinking about it, my mouth is absolutely watering. Next up is honest to goodness legit Hungarian dried paprika made from peppers by little old Nagyanas…but I’ll have to travel to Hungary for that experience! A third food bucket list item of mine is to try cooking with hops. I began working on this item this spring when I planted our very first vine of Cascade hops. They didn’t grow too much this summer but hubby still had enough to fresh hop a new batch of beer. I’ll have to wait until next year to experiment with them.  While shopping at the nearby Italian Centre Shop, I found the fourth food bucket list item; tiny baby artichokes at the peak of their season. They fit into the palm of my hand and I could tell they were still quite fresh as they were plump and tight at the same time. Back at home, I knew exactly how I wanted to cook them…Italian style! I say that they are olive oil roasted but really they are quite close to confited because they were engulfed almost entirely in olive oil. I added some of my fresh garden lemon thyme and rosemary to the oil as well as a few cloves of garlic. Will they were in the oven, I added some more herbs to finely ground breadcrumbs. Mixing some of that herb flavoured olive oil into the breadcrumbs after the artichokes were finished roasting and scattered the breadcrumbs over the artichokes completed the dish both visually and texturally.

Olive Oil Roasted Baby Artichokes

Ingredients

  • 9 baby artichokes; fresh and firm
  • 3 cloves garlic; peeled and crushed
  • lemon
  • fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 – 2 cups olive oil
  • 1/3 breadcrumbs

Method

  1. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Juice the lemon and add the juice to the water along with the lemon halves.
  2. Remove outer petals of the artichoke until the lighter, more tender petals appear. Snap off the long stem. Place in acidulated water immediately.
  3. Once you have prepared all of the artichokes, slice off the top centimeter of each artichoke.
  4. Place artichokes in a pot and cover with the acidulated water. Place a heatproof dish or container over top so the artichokes stay under water.
  5. Boil for 10 minutes.
  6. Scatter fresh herbs into a bake proof ceramic/glass baking dish that is just big enough to fit your artichokes. Arrange artichokes stem side down in the baking dish.
  7. Re use the boiling pot to fry the crushed garlic cloves in some oil, taking care to remove them when they just begin to turn golden.
  8. Add garlic to the baking dish. If there is still a lot of extra room in the dish, feel free to add a few root vegetables or mushrooms to fill in the gaps.
  9. Bake at 400°F for about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool slightly.
  10. Drain artichokes on a paper towel. Mix the breadcrumbs with a tablespoon of the oil and add more fresh herbs if you wish. Season with salt and pepper.
  11. Scatter breadcrumb mixture over the artichokes and serve.

Around the World in Twelve Plates – Peru

August has flown by in a heartbeat. I’m trying to savour these last summer moments and already dreading the cold days of winter. Fortunately we have a bit of a buffer season and I am hoping we have a nice, long drawn out Autumn with sunny, crisp days and cold nights. Just enough to throw another quilt on the bed. Until then, I’m loving the warm weather and the wonderful selection of fresh local produce available at the markets. When Gabby announced that this month’s Around the World in Twelve Plates country was Peru there was one dish that immediately sprung to mind. One dish that I have remembered for almost 21 years from my very first mulit-course dinner as a newlywed. One of our groomsmen had so thoughtfully given us a gift certificate for a local Peruvian restaurant and offered to babysit our son for the night. This wasn’t just any restaurant in the city of Saskatoon, it was ‘Hole in the Wall’ restaurant, located along the surrounding rural backroads. This was back before the days of GPS navigation and Google maps, so we actually needed a paper map! Surprisingly we made it there on time with few complications and were treated to a feast of foods that were entirely new to us. I can remember the meal like it was yesterday. Cheese Stuffed Dates to start, followed by THE DISH; Papa a la Huancai­na. I couldn’t get over how delicious this one simple dish was. Boiled potatoes covered in a spicy cheese sauce usually served with black olives and boiled eggs. It turns out, Peruvians (especially those in the Andean village of Huancayo) love to cover everything in Huancai­na sauce and for very good reason. The combination of spicy Aji Amarillo Peppers (another much loved component of Peruvian cuisine), and Queso Fresco is magical.

Potatoes are a staple food in Peru. This tuberous starchy delight is native to South America, though it’s not known what area of the continent it originated from, though the oldest records of domesticated potatoes are from around 10, 000 years ago. It would have taken a lot of time, patience, and innovation to cultivate these wild potatoes as they are naturally very toxic. There are over 3800 kinds of potatoes that grow in Peru…I think I’ve found my next travel destination!

For the main course of our dinner we were treated to tequila roasted Cornish game hens, yet another dish I would like to somehow recreate here at home at a later date. Our dessert was a simple bowl of fresh strawberries covered in a sweet minty ‘gremolata’. It was a meal worth remembering. Another seasonal ingredient I wanted to incorporate into my Peruvian feast was corn. Though more Meso-American in origin, corn (maize) cultivation in Peru became evident around 6700 years ago. It became one of the four traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine along with potatoes, Amaranthaceaes/grains such as quinoa and legumes.  Our Alberta grown sweet Taber corn is at it’s peak right now and I couldn’t wait to use it in these Green Tamales. The husks were still very fresh and pliable, something to look for when you have to fold them into tight little packages. Even though I took the time to strain out a lot of the sweet corn milk, the tamale texture was not quite present in the finished product. I’m wondering if adding a bit of quinoa would help hold it together a bit more while at the same time incorporating another traditional Peruvian food staple. The prawns were not part of the original recipe but I thought they would go really well with the spicy Aji Amarillo paste and sweet corn. As suspected, they were a delicious addition! 

Tamalitos Verdes (Green Tamales)

Recipe from Qué Vida Rica Makes 8 tamales

Ingredients

  • 6 cobs fresh corn with intact green husks
  • 2 cups cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup fresh arugula (or spinach)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup Peruvian yellow pepper (Aji amarillo) paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 large prawns; cleaned and split in half lenthwise
  • Fresh corn husks; as needed

Method

  1. Shuck the corn by grabbing each side of the husks and pulling downward along the cob. Make sure to keep at least one on the larger side. Set husks aside.
  2. Cut corn from the cob.
  3. Blend the corn, cilantro and arugula/spinach. If the corn gives off too much liquid, place in a clean dish towel and twist to drain the corn milk. Transfer the processed corn to a container.
  4. Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add the onion, sauté it while stirring so it becomes soft but not too brown.
  5. Add the processed yellow pepper and garlic and sauté it for a few more minutes.
  6. Add processed corn and mix to combine everything. Season with salt and pepper,  stir with a wooden spoon for about 15 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, wash the cornhusks. To assemble the tamales, overlap two cornhusks, add 2 tablespoons of the dough right in the center, top with two prawn halves. Fold the cornhusks to make the tamales and tie in the center with a piece of string or a strip made from the cornhusk.
  8. Add a layer of cornhusks to the bottom of a large pot. Place the tamales on top. Add 2 cups of water, cover with more cornhusks, cover with lid and bring to a boil.
  9. Steam the tamales for about 25 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

These Green Tamales are called ‘tamalitos verdes’ because fresh husks are used instead of rehydrated dried husks. The fresh cilantro and spinach also add to the ‘green theme’ and flavour of this dish.

The Huancaina sauce recipe makes a lot of sauce…and that’s okay! As I mentioned earlier, you’re going to want to put it on everything. I roasted some cauliflower the next night and used the remainder of the sauce and the boys loved it. As I’m not a big fan of cauliflower, I can definitely say that I would eat this dish over and over again.

Papa a la Huancaína (Huancayo Style Potatoes)

Recipe from Peru Delights

Ingredients

  •  6 medium yellow potatoes; peeled and boiled
  • 2 tbsp aji amarillo chili pepper paste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 soda crackers
  • 8 oz. queso fresco (fresh white cheese) save a handful for garnish
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  •  lettuce leaves
  • 1 tbsp annatto seeds
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • Salt
  • Fresh Cilantro

Method

  1. Arrange lettuce on the platter.
  2. Add pepper paste, vegetable oil, soda crackers, queso fresco, and evaporated milk to a blender. Blend until sauce is smooth and thick. A Vitamix on setting 10 is especially handy here because it can warm up the sauce at the same time.
  3. Slice potatoes and arrange on top of lettuce.
  4. Pour Huancaína sauce over top of the potatoes; garnish with extra queso fresca and cilantro.

A huge part of the fun of ATW12P (besides finding out what the next country will be) is reading the posts from the other participating bloggers. Will they make the other recipes that I was looking over…will they go for a full meal or keep it to one simple and tasty dish? To read the other blogger’s ATW12P Pervian experiences, simply click on one of the links below:

Gabby cooks up a Peruvian feast at The Food Girl In Town 

Nicoletta and Loreto at Sugar Love Spices with Avocado Cream Cheese Roll on Toast

And welcome to newcomer Evelyne Budkewitsch at Culture Eatz with her Peruvian Quinoa Flan

 

Alberta Open Farm Days – A Visit to Stettler County

This past weekend I was invited to tour several farms in Stettler County, Alberta during Alberta Open Farm Days (August 19 & 20) as a guest of Destination Stettler. As I battled the city rush hour traffic heading north out of Calgary, I focused on the blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds and knew that the same sky would be waiting for me out in the country along with open fields, fresh air, and peaceful quiet. Once we were out of the city, my co-pilot Linda Garson kept the conversation flowing and in what seemed like no time at all, we arrived at the our destination and were greeted with prairie-style hospitality along with a special treat from a local bakery.

Cream John from Blokes Bakery

After a restful sleep in the hotel, Linda and I drove 5 minutes out of town to the brand new Stettler County Public Works facility where a fortifying pancake breakfast awaited us. We met Stacey from Destination Stettler, the other member of our media group; Anastasia from Travel Alberta, and our tour guide for the day, Quinton Beaumont, who is the Director of Agricultural Services in Stettler County. 

Pancakes & Sour Cherry Syrup made from local sour cherries; Hash Brown Casserole – A Prairie Staple!

Soon we boarded our bus and were on our way to the first farm destination; Fox Country Goats. I’ve only ever been on one other goat farm near Kelowna, BC. and that was mainly for goat milk and cheese. Tim and Lori Fox began as farmers in Saskatchewan but moved to Alberta when this farm came up for sale in Stettler County. They have a mixed breed herd of around 400 goats which they raise primarily for meat which is referred to as chevon. Right now, demand for goat meat exceeds production and as a result over 4 million dollars worth of chevon is imported into Canada annually. Based on previous goat farm experience I had prepared myself for that ever present eau de goat but the barn and pens were spic n span for the Open Farm Days tours so it was really not bad at all. The goats were lively and hungry…did you know that goats graze underbrush and eat noxious weeds? This makes them attractive alternatives to manual cutting and chemical applications, especially near waterways and in cities (like Calgary!). Along with the goats, Tim and Laurie also raise chickens and have a huge garden to feast from all summer (and beyond).

Tim and Lori Fox from Fox Country Goats; Goats! 

Remember that fresh country air I was so excited about? We got plenty of it at the next stop of our Open Farm Days tour…at Buffalo Hills Natural Beef overlooking the eastern shores of Buffalo Lake. The wind blew gales off the lake and right up the hill to the farm but that view was magnificent! Buffalo Hills is a third generation family farm intent on raising beef from birth with zero antibiotics, hormones, or growth stimulants. There’s lots of space for the small herd to roam around on the rolling grassy covered hills, lots of space and a great quality of life. The same can be said for the farming family that lives there. After years in the corporate boardrooms of downtown Calgary, Quinn Hayden was laid off when the economy took a downturn a few years ago. He went back ‘home’ to help his dad, Greg, during calving season and realized that he missed the farm life. The decision to move his family to Stettler County and return to his roots couldn’t have been easy but already the rewards are endless and the family is closer than ever. Buffalo Hills Natural Beef were one of the main sponsors of the long table ‘Taste of the Heartland’ dinner in Stettler later that evening and they also fed us delicious beef burgers for lunch. Their beef is available locally, direct from the farm and in larger packages starting with 1/4 side throughout southern Alberta. 

Two new calves and a cow; that view overlooking Buffalo Lake; Quinn and Janelle Hayden

After lunch we boarded the bus again for a quick jaunt over to Rairdan Grain Farm to learn about advances in farming on a 5th generation family grain farm. On the way there our bus guide Quinn explained the importance of crop rotation on the soil and in pest/disease prevention. Farming is one of the most risky businesses around with huge sacrifices of time, work, and money made for sometimes very little return. Advances in farming technology and agricultural research have made today’s grain farmer the most efficient to date and though no one can ever control the weather, these advances ensure that farmers can support the food demands of our growing population as efficiently as possible. Jack Rairdan and his family had all their ‘toys’ out shined up and proudly on display; a few millions of dollars invested in their farm from the crop-spreading cones on the sprayer to the auger/bagging system which allows the crop to be stored right there on the field until the truck is ready to take it to the elevator. Each machine has an advanced GPS system (RTK) that basically drives it around the field in an almost exact line for each pass. For Jack, there are many positives to being in the agriculture business, the most important is that farming allows Jack to be close to his family because they work together everyday.

Jack Rairdan & several pieces of John Deere farm equipment; Anastasia from Travel Alberta aboard the combine. 

Our final farm tour was at one of only three dairy farms open during Open Farm Days. The Haustein family have been dairy farmers near Erskine for 40 years and the new generation, brothers Calvert and Conlee Haustein, have brought in some really big changes to the way they do things on the farm. After much research, they have invested in a fully robotic milking system which means much less work for them and no more 5 am milking times. Each cow is fitted with a transponder collar that contains all of their information; how long they feed for, how often they are milked, general body wellness and breeding history. When the cow steps up to the chute to get milked the collar is read by the computer and if the cow hasn’t met their daily milk quota, they receive a treat, get their teats cleaned, massaged and finally…they get milked. The robot does all the work, including testing the milk for irregularities (if the cow has a slight infection or has recently given birth). That milk is separated from the human grade milk that goes through the cooling process and is stored in the 6,000 litre tank. In addition to the 2 miking robots, the Haustein’s have invested in special bedding mats which have reduced the need for straw bedding and a recycled lagoon water flushing system which aerobically treats the water used to clean the barn floors. This aerobic floor flushing greatly reduces the growth of the bacteria that makes the floors slippery. In all, the time actually spent milking, feeding, cleaning, and watering the 100 head of dairy cows has been greatly reduced and the other conservation practices ensure sustainability for the farm and industry. 

Doug, Calvert and Conlee Haustein; ‘Space Orbit’ in search of a treat in exchange for milk; Feeding cows & robot feed pusher; A newly born calf and mother; Con(lee) Haustein

Who knew the County of Stettler had so much to offer? As a farmer’s daughter I can tell you that people often take what they have in their own backyards for granted. Easy access to local grown fresh produce and hormone free/humanely raised protein is a way of life in rural areas, it’s not a farm to table ‘movement’, it is a reality through hard work and determination. Alberta Open Farm days is a great initiative to get urban (and rural) people to see where their food is grown and to get to know the farmers and producers. In addition to Stettler County’s many and varied farms you can visit on Open Farm Days, there are many things to do and see in and around Stettler on every weekend of the year…

  • Travel back in time with Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions and if you are lucky enough, you’ll experience an authentic train robbery.
  • Take some time to shop our main street with its unique and diverse stores and pick up an infamous “Cream John” at Blokes Bakery along the way.
  • Visit Alberta’s 5th Largest Pioneer Museum and see how things have changed since our early days on the Canadian Prairies.
  • Enjoy a picnic at any one of our local beaches or provincial recreation areas and take a dip to cool off.
  • Go for a leisurely stroll on any one of our paved trails and stop to watch the waterfowl at the connected ponds.
  • Observe the inner workings of the P&H grain elevator, a landmark of Stettler and one of the last restored ‘living; museums of its kind in Western Canada.
  • Grab a specialty tea or coffee at the Coffee Tree and enjoy the warmth of the sunshine out on their patio.
  • Let the world slip away… just not the fish! Discover our locally stocked ponds.
  • Stop in at our newly renovated recreation centre and work up a sweat, go for a swim or simply relax with a book.
  • Bring a lawn chair to enjoy an evening of fresh air and free entertainment with ‘Entertainment in the Park’ at West Stettler Park (June to September).
  • Unwind as you drift down the Red Deer River on a tube, canoe, or floaty while enjoying the wildlife and scenic views.
  • ALL ABOARD! The Night Before the Night Before Christmas train rides are sure to put you into the spirit. Enjoy a taste of Alberta Prairie Steam train as they offer free short excursions with entertainment and snacks.

List sourced directly from Destination Stettler, check out their website for more information. Huge thank you to Stacey at Destination Stettler for hosting me for the weekend.

Around the World in Twelve Plates – Turkey

I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun I am having with Around the World in Twelve Plates. It’s like travelling the world without even leaving your home and since we don’t have any plans to leave Calgary any time soon I’m just going to think of this series as a food staycation. This month Turkey was not so randomly chosen as our country because Gabby (The Food Girl in Town) WAS actually travelling there for the whole month of July. It wasn’t really a vacation though, because she was going to Cadir Hoyuk to work on an archaeolgical dig. Funny the things you learn about each other through blogger collaborations, I have a degree in Palaeontology but my digging experience was also archaeological in nature.The greatest thing, however, is that we both love adventurous cooking. I was excited to learn that there is a very easy, nutritious and absolutely delicious traditional soup that is eaten at the beginning of many meals in Turkey and even sometimes as breakfast. Ezo Gelin Corba is a spicy soup made with red lentils, bulgur wheat, spicy red pepper paste, and tomato paste. It is finished using traditional Turkish flavourings such the combination of dried mint and lemons. I made this soup the same day I made the full Turkish meal for dinner, so it was a pretty busy day but both my hubby and son really enjoyed the special soup for lunch that day.
The great thing about the meal I made is that you can make some of the dishes ahead of time. In fact, both the Tabbouleh and Piyaz salads are better when they’ve sat overnight in the fridge. With only a little searching on the internet I found a really informative and traditionally styled Turkish blog called Ozlem’s Turkish Table. It’s a bit difficult to navigate but if you know what recipes you are searching for you can just use the search feature. Ozlem’s blog contains a treasure trove of Turkish recipes and it’s worth checking out. I only included the recipes for the Ezo Gelin Corba and Piyaz Salad below. If you want to look up the other recipes I made, here are the links:

Tabbouleh here. I’m not actually sure if I used a recipe but this is a general, though more herb-y tabbouleh than the one I made for this post.

Sauteed carrots in olive oil and garlic yoghurt here.

Kadinbudu Kofte/Lady’s Thigh Meatballs here.
The Sautéed Carrot in garlic yoghurt and olive oil sauce is just so good. It’s amazing. It made the perfect bed for the Kadinbudu Kofte, or Lady’s Thigh Meatballs and it would be great slathered all over some traditional Turkish bread too. I don’t really know the back story of why anyone would want to name a meatball after a lady’s thigh but it probably has some sort of historical context. We just really enjoyed the flavour of the beef/lamb mixture. I can appreciate how these would be better coated in bread crumbs and fried but I just don’t do that. They worked out just fine being baked in my oven.

I was pretty happy to have found a great recipe base for one of my favourite Turkish salads. For a while I was pretty addicted to the delicious Piyaz sold at Anatolia Restaurant in the Crossroads Farmer’s Market. Their version has navy beans in it so I just added a cup of cooked beans to Ozlem’s recipe to adjust to my liking.

You might have noticed that all of these dishes have flat leaf parsley in them (except the soup). I had a huge amount growing in my garden in the back and ended up using it all for this meal! So, if you have an abundance of parsley this year, try cooking Turkish cuisine to use it all up.

Piyaz Salad

from Ozlem’s Turkish Table

Ingredients

  • 3 medium tomatoes; de-seeded, quartered and roughly chopped
  • 1 red onion; halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley; roughly chopped
  • 1 cup canned navy beans
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 15ml/1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 10 ml/2 teaspoon ground sumac
  • ½ teaspoon paprika flakes – optional –
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Rub and work sumac and the salt into the onion slices with your hands really well (this will soften the onions and help spices infuse in well).
  2. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, parsley and paprika flakes, combine well.
  3. Whisk together the extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and pour over the piyaz salad. Season with more salt (if needed) and freshly ground black pepper.

Ezo Gelin Corba/Turkish Spicy Red Lentil and Bulgur Soup

from Ozlem’s Turkish Table

Ingredients

  • 290 gr/1 cup split red lentils; rinsed and drained
  • 1 onion; finely chopped
  • 45 ml / 3 tablespoon coarse bulgur wheat; rinsed and drained
  • 1.75 litres / 7 1/2 cups chicken  or veggie stock
  • 60 ml / 4 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 15ml/ 1 tablespoon Turkish hot red pepper paste (I used mild)
  • 30-45 ml / 2-3 tablespoon olive oil or butter/ghee
  • 15 ml / 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 10 ml / 2 teaspoon red pepper flakes / paprika flakes (I used 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges to serve

Method

  1. Put the lentils, bulgur wheat, onion and the chicken stock or water together in a pan.
  2. Bring to boil and then on a low heat simmer, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes or until the lentils and bulgur are tender.
  3. Stir in the butter (or olive oil), the dried mint, the red pepper flakes, Turkish hot pepper flakes (optional), and the tomato paste.
  4. Mix well and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, until the soup has a creamy consistency.
  5. Add the lemon juice and more water if required, then season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot with lemon wedges.

A huge part of the fun of ATW12P (besides finding out what the next country will be) is reading the posts from the other participating bloggers. Will they make the other recipes that I was looking over…will they go for a full meal or keep it to one simple and tasty dish? To read the other blogger’s ATW12P Turkey posts, simple click on one of the links below:

Korena at Korena in the Kitchen Turkish Simit Bread

Gabby at The Food Girl In Town experienced THE REAL DEAL during her month in Turkey

Nicoletta and Loreto at Sugar Love Spices Swiss Chard & Feta Turkish Gozleme

 

 

agaga

The Friday Flame

One day we went to Maui and we never really came back. Our bodies are located in Calgary but our minds (and spirits) reside beside the ocean watching the sun go down as palms sway in the breeze. The funny thing is Maui would never have entered my mind as a travel destination but our son (and daughter-in-law) insisted they needed to be married on a beach at sunset.  I always say that ‘mother knows best’ (because I’m a mom, duh) but in this case my son was wise beyond his years. I fell in love with Maui…hard.

Photo by Cole Hofstra

For the last two months I’ve been wearing my Maui gear; cool swirly skirts, palm tree print blouses, khakis, and beach sandals as the weather allows it…and it does because, damn…this summer is a scorcher! The only souvenirs I brought home from our trip were a new daughter and a two-face Tiki mug. I had no reason for buying it other than I thought it was a kitschy throwback to some really wild island days and because it seemed like a ‘proper’ souvenir one would bring back from Hawaii. He sat on our shelf for a few weeks before I started to crave rum. Now, if you knew me at all, you would know that I’ve never really cared for rum. Let’s just say I had a few run-ins with my parent’s liquor cabinet back in the day and rum (especially white rum) could always ‘be replaced’, if you catch my drift. Mr Tiki mug was sending Tiki vibes and I was receiving. One Thursday night I just looked at my hubby and said, “Hey, do you want to make some Tiki cocktails?” TBH I have NEVER seen him jump off the couch that quickly and within minutes I had him zesting and juicing a bag of limes. I think this is where our lines got crossed though, because he seemed to think we were just going to make a cocktail and that was it. What I really meant was, “Hey, do you want to join me on a new life path where we become obsessed with everything Tiki?” Because that’s what it is, it’s an OBSESSION. We began by making simple syrup and velvet falernum which is an infusion of limes, almonds, fresh ginger, lime zest, sugar, cloves, and rum (!). Then I began making orgeat syrup, which is a multi-day process similar to making almond or any other nut milk but requires multiple soaking/massaging cycles. Yes, I massaged nuts. It soon became apparent to hubby that he wasn’t getting a damn cocktail that night and he was bitterly disappointed. I realized I was losing my partner in crime and allowed him to break from script and make himself a Moscow Mule. He was momentarily appeased.  

When the orgeat and velvet falernum were ready, we set upon our Tiki adventure together. What we didn’t realize is that (Holy Hell) there are so many kinds of rums. We couldn’t really make too many drinks from our tiki cocktail book because we weren’t very well stocked with rum varieties. As with all hobbies, one must invest a little money in order to delve further into the depths of madness. So, we bought rum (s); Gold Rum, Aged Rum, Demerara Rum, Dark Rum, White Rum, Spiced Rum, Rhum Agricole, and Coconut Rum. Pretty much the only rum we don’t have is over proof rum because I am still looking for it. It’s a good think we already have a pretty well stocked liquor cabinet so we had some nifty extras such as Amaretto, Cointreau, King’s Ginger, Absinthe, and Green Chartreuse to use as added flavours to our cocktails. It was enough to delve deeper into some serious tiki cocktails, anyway. Other tiki essentials are fresh squeezed citrus juices, some bitters, and you can never EVER forget the garnish. Sometimes the garnish includes a flashy stir stick, crazy straw, or parasol but you can get pretty creative with just fruit.One of the cocktails in our tiki book really caught my eye because it has a hollowed out lime half filled with green chartreuse as a garnish. The green chartreuse is lit on fire and allowed to burn for a few seconds before being tipped into the cocktail. Who wouldn’t want to try a flashy cocktail like that? The cocktail I created for Connecting Over Cocktails (a blogger cocktail creative extravaganza) uses this same garnish, some rum (okay a lot of rum), my home made blueberry jelly, velvet falernum, lime juice, white rum, and demerara rum.  It’s called The Friday Flame. 

The Friday Flame

Ingredients

  • 1 oz white rum
  • 1 oz demerara rum
  • .5 oz fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tbsp blueberry jelly warmed up
  • 1 oz. velvet falernum
  • green chartreuse
  • half a lime and blueberries for garnish
  • ice

Method

  1. Place an old fashioned or mint julep glass in the freezer and allow to chill for at least half an hour.
  2. Arrange fruit for garnish.
  3. Place first five ingredients in a cocktail shaker and give it a dry shake (with no ice) for about ten seconds.
  4. Add ice to shaker and shake until the shaker becomes frosty.
  5. Place loose ice in glass and strain cocktail over ice.
  6. Place garnish on glass, fill lime with green chartreuse and light with a match or lighter.
  7. Allow to burn for 15 seconds, then gently blow out and tip liquid into the cocktail.

If you would like to make your own velvet falernum (and you should, it’s not difficult) here is the recipe from Tiki Cocktails: 200 Super Summery Drinks by David Adams.

Velvet Falernum

Makes 750 ml

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp blanched slivered almonds
  • 40 cloves; crushed
  • 3/4 cup white rum
  • 9 limes; zested
  • 3 1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger; peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract

Method

  1. Toast the almonds in a frying pan over medium heat until they become golden. Transfer to a clean quart jar.
  2. Add the rum, lime zest, and ginger. Shake vigorously and leave to steep at room temperature for 24 hours.
  3. Strain the mixture through a muslin cloth, taking care to squeeze every last bit out. Discard the solids.
  4. In another clean jar, combine the sugar with 3/4 cup warm water and shake until the sugar is dissolved.
  5. Add the rum mixture to the sugar water along with lime juice and almond extract. Shake well.

Mixture will keep in fridge for up to one month.

I’m pleased as Rum Punch to be a part of Connecting Over Cocktails with some very amazing and talented bloggers…this month our theme is fresh, seasonal summer fruit! Check out the other great fruity boozy concoctions from the other participating bloggers:

Sean Bromilow at Diversivore  Currant Gin & Tonic with Maraschino Liqueur 

Justine at Justine Celina Watermelon Frosé Cocktails 

Dana at Killing Thyme  Blueberry Lemon Vodka Fizz

Jen from Mud on Her Boots Honeyed Black Currant Cordial

Samantha at My Kitchen Love Spiked Peach Iced Tea

Jessica at Cooking in My Genes Cherry Bourbon Lemonade Smash

Mandela Day at Safari Grill with Vine and Dine

Vine and Dine is a unique local small business run by Canadian National Wine Examiner, Calgary Wine Examiner, and Editor-in-Chief /Publisher of Culinaire Magazine;  Linda Garson. After traveling the world and gaining knowledge through working with various wineries, distilleries, and other related industries, Linda arrived in Calgary in 2003.  Realizing that Calgary connoisseurs have a taste for fine wine and food, she began hosting food and wine pairing evenings in 2005 as a hobby. What initially started as a passion for great food and wine quickly turned into a successful thriving business with events that sell out on a regular basis. For each event, Linda consults with chefs from local restaurants to create a unique vine and dine menu featuring wines from the restaurant’s wine list or wines that are new to the Calgary market. Wine and Diners (as Linda is fond of calling them) benefit from Linda’s knowledge which she shares throughout the course of each evening and also have the opportunity to fill their cellars with great wine at the conclusion of each Vine and Dine evening. In addition to the regular Vine and Dine evenings, Linda also runs private and public tastings, corporate events, Fine and Dine evenings (often with the winemaker/owner in attendance!), tea tastings and pairings, and other special events.

If you follow Linda on social media (@vineanddine on Twitter and Instagram) you will notice that one of her favourite restaurants in Calgary is Safari Grill. Even though she will tell you she’s not much for red meat, preferring fish and seafood over red meat any day, this Manchester native has a soft spot for curry and the exotic flavours of East Africa. Safari Grill features halal meat in their dishes and the flavourful food can only be described as a fusion of Indian and African…it’s an entirely exotic entity. I’ve been to Safari Grill several times but when Linda mentioned she was hosting a very special South African Fine and Dine to celebrate Mandela Day, I couldn’t resist her invitation to join in this special celebration.

Mandela Day began in 2009 as a way to honour the sacrifices one of the world’s most important leaders and proponents of human rights. This United Nations world wide movement calls upon us to commit ourselves to 67 minutes on July 18, in honour of the 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted to democracy, equality and learning. Mandela Day is a day of world wide remembrance, but in Africa it’s an especially important celebration of life.

Our Vine and Dine featured Safari Grill’s delicious dishes paired exclusively with South African wines. We celebrated our first course, Mishkaki Ya Kamba (Marinated BBQ Prawns) with a glass of bubbling Graham Beck Brut, a special treat as it was enjoyed in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s release from prison on February 11, 1990.

Our next course featured a luscious Fleur du Cap Chardonnay paired with delicious Spinach Pakora with Potatoes and Peas. Chardonnay is never my wine of choice, but Linda always manages to feature Chardonnay’s that are approachable and even enjoyable. I trust her judgement completely!

Next was a lovely dish of Safari Grill’s Signature Salmon and Safari Garden Salad paired with Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. I took the opportunity later to order a couple of bottles of this wonderful rosé to have on hand at home. 

It’s a year later and I am still drooling over these Mishkaki Ya Kuku…Marinated and Grilled Chicken skewers. They were so delicious when paired with the Spier 21 Gables Chenin Blanc! 

If you find the Safari Grill menu as overwhelming to read as the décor is to look at (it’s a little over the top, but it all adds to the amazing experience) just order the Marinated BBQ Beef Short Ribs and Pili Pili Mogo. I could probably eat a bucket of those ribs and I don’t think you can get cassava fries covered in pili pili sauce anywhere else in Calgary. These bold flavours called for a bold wine from Durbanville Hills…2013 Shiraz.

Dessert was extraordinarily exotic. I’ve only seen Baobab trees in Australia and never eaten any of the fruit but the owners of Safari Grill ordered in some baobob fruit in for this amazing Ubuyu Baobab Kulfi. It tasted like creamy raspberry cotton candy, perfectly paired with Two Oceans Moscato.

Mandela Day is tomorrow and you can still get in on the celebratory feast at Safari Grill featuring South African wines, email linda@vineanddine.ca (403-870-9802). If you can’t make it, you can still honour Nelson Mandela by doing 67 minutes of good tomorrow and on any other day.

Safari Grill is located at 255, 28th St. SE in Short Pants Plaza; 403-235-6655

 

Around the World in Twelve Plates – Vietnam

Has it been a month already, since last we’ve chatted? It’s definitely been a month since I have published a post. It’s shameful, really. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating…I’ve been quite busy in that respect. There’s been a lot going on in Calgary, so many openings and fun events to go to, so much great food to eat. On the nights when I am at home, I keep a more relaxing pace and eat more simply. That usually means barbecuing some kind of protein (which I’m not organized enough to marinate) with sauce such as my Rhubarb BBQ Sauce, or mostly just plain with salt and pepper. Exciting, I know. Then we round out the meal with a salad or two.

Cooking for ATW12P forces me to think ahead, snap some photos, and do it up right! I pick a block of days when there’s nothing else going on to find or think of a recipe/meal I want to try, shop for all the ingredients, then spend the time to take photos. This month’s theme was my favourite so far! I love heading out for a bowl of noodles with charbroiled chicken (Bún thịt nướng) or a steaming hot bowl of Vietnamese soup (Pho). Strangely enough, all the restaurants here in Calgary serve their Bún thịt nướng hot even though the dish is commonly served cold in Vietnam. I learned this little factoid when we lived in Australia and the few Vietnamese places that I could find around Perth always served it cold. Traditional or not, I like mine served warm. 

Lemongrass marinade ingredients

Another dish that you’ll always see on the menu is Thit Heo Nuong Xa or Vietnamese Pork Chops. Since I always go for noodles or pho, I thought I would try to make the lemongrass based marinade and add this dish to my barbecue repertoire. The marinade is quite a bit of work, but I think it would be easy to make up a huge batch at once and freeze some for a later date. Also, since I’ve made this recipe, I’ve bought a Vitamix which I’m sure would make short work of all that lemongrass!

I think we’ve all cooked meats with a high sugar marinade, right? We’ve all been there. Everything is going great until BAM! It isn’t. The heat from the barbecue begins to caramelize (yum) then quickly begins to burn (not yum). The first thing I did was rinse all the marinade off so there was less sugar on the surface of the pork chop…then I just watched them like a hawk. They got spotty, but otherwise turned out okay and with no major flare ups.  I served them with some simple steamed rice and some Vietnamese Salad Rolls (Gỏi cuốn) with Spicy Peanut Sauce. This dinner is perfect for those hot summery nights when all you want to do is grill. The salad rolls take a bit more fore thought and a bit of know-how. Once you have all the fresh ingredients that you want to use as filling prepped (pickled carrots, lettuce, bean sprouts, shrimp, Thai basil (mint), spring onions, rice noodles), the only thing you need to worry about is soaking the rice paper wrappers for the right amount of time. I started out with boiling water which is unnecessary, you can just use warm water. Soak the wrappers only until they have softened then lay flat on a surface that has been slightly moistened, like a granite or marble counter top.  I tried to roll them on my wooden cutting board but they stuck to it like crazy.  Arrange your shrimp halves and basil leaves near the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper, then cover with lettuce (I used butter lettuce, it acts as a ‘shield’ or a second wrapper so the ingredients don’t poke through). Pile the other ingredients in a line over top of the lettuce. Begin wrapping by folding the edge nearest your body upward, then fold in the sides. Continue rolling in an upright manner. Serve with Hoisin Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce.

A huge part of the fun of ATW12P (besides finding out what the next country will be) is reading the posts from the other participating bloggers. Will they make the other recipes that I was looking over…will they go for a full meal or keep it to one simple and tasty dish? To read the other blogger’s ATW12P Vietnamese posts, simple click on one of the links below:

Korena’s Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls at Korena in the Kitchen

Gabby at The Food Girl in Town

Nicoletta and Loreto’s Crispy Shrimp and Bean Sprout Vietnamese Pancake at Sugar Love Spices

Lemongrass Chili Grilled Pork Chops

A tasty Vietnamese-inspired Pork Chop recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 stalks lemongrass
  • 1 shallot; finely minced
  • 5 cloves garlic; finely minced
  • 1 red Thai chili pepper; de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 4 bone-in pork chops

Method

  1. Cut off the top half of the lemongrass and save for use at a later date. Slice the bottom in half lengthwise, then peel away layers that seem woody keeping the tender inner layers. Finely mince the tender lemongrass portions (you should have at least ¼ cup of minced lemongrass).
  2. Combine all ingredients together in a large Ziploc bag or glass bowl. Add pork chops and seal, releasing as much air as you can from the bag.
  3. Marinate pork chops in refrigerator at least overnight and up to 2 days.
  4. Before grilling remove pork chops from the refrigerator and rinse off marinade. Grill on a pre-heated grill until the meat reaches 160 °F (71°C). Serve with rice.

Shrimp Salad Rolls

Ingredients

  • 1 package rice paper round rolls.
  • 6-8 large shrimp; cooked and split in half
  • 6-8 fresh Thai basil (mint) leaves
  • 6 butter lettuce leaves
  • ½ package vermicelli noodles; cooked to package direction and drained
  • 1 cup fresh sprouts
  • Spring onions
  • 4 carrots or other root vegetable such as daikon (these taste best when pickled in advance)

Method

  1. For the carrots, peel them then cut into matchsticks.  Place in a small bowl or jar with 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons white sugar, ¼ cup rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon lime juice, ¾ cup boiling water. Allow salt and sugar to dissolve. Let carrots pickle for at least an hour, preferably overnight and up to one week.
  2. Prep all your ingredients BEFORE you start assembling your salad rolls.
  3. To assemble salad rolls begin by filling a shallow tray with warm water. Carefully dip one rice paper round in the water until it is just softened. Focus on keeping the rice paper from crumpling or tearing and lay on a slightly moistened counter top or smooth surface.
  4. Place shrimp halves and basil in a pattern on the lower half of the rice paper, then lay a lettuce leaf over top. Ensure there is enough rice paper peeking out so that you can fold it over the fresh fillings.
  5. Place a small amount of vermicelli noodles, sprouts, pickled carrots and a spring onion over top the lettuce leaf.
  6. Curl the bottom of the rice paper round over the lettuce leaf, tuck the sides over and roll in an upward direction until the entire rice paper round has been rolled over the fillings.
  7. Place on a platter and repeat until the rest are rolled. If not eating immediately, cover tightly with cling wrap before refrigeration.
  8. Serve with Hoisin Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce.

Hoisin Peanut Butter Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 4 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 4 tbsp Hoisin Sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well. Add chili sauce (or chili flakes) to taste.