Friday, February 29, 2008

Hot Buttered Rum!

This delicious hot drink was made upon reaching the cabin at Maple Bay, where we went in late September for celebratory purposes, and for a much-needed weekend of relaxing, communing with nature (and the hammock!) and food-and-drink creation. Check out the entries on Maple Bay at Wedine. Hot buttered rum isn't too difficult to prepare, as you can see from the collage, which basically illustrates the stages step-by-step (click to enlarge). It is worth whipping up a batch if you arrive somewhere chilled after a journey and need a toasty beverage to warm you up. Very rich and tasty and perfect for autumn.


2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
pinch salt
3/4 cup spiced rum
2 cups boiling water
4 sticks cinnamon


Beat sugar, butter, honey and spices until smooth in large bowl. Add rum, then water, and stir until butter dissolves. Divide among four (or five, in our case) mugs and garnish with cinnamon sticks. Enjoy!

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A Trip to Maple Bay, Day One

With many thanks to Jim and Betty! Towards the end of September, we made our way to Meg's dad's cabin in Maple Bay for a weekend of celebration – there were thirtieth birthdays to be marked! So we celebrated the best way we know how: with lots of great food and drink. We left from Vancouver at the end of a working Friday, picking up people (and belongings!) as we went.

We took the ferry from Horseshoe Bay, and once on board, promptly snagged some seats in the cafeteria to enjoy the picnic dinner that we had all contributed various bits and pieces (salads and spreads, rolls and drinks, fruit) to. A potluck picnic dinner worked well in these circumstances, and we were pretty hungry by this point. And in need of some tea and coffee!

After dinner we braved the chilly outdoors to watch small islands passing by. And the other ferries far in the distance. The sea was beautiful.

It was windy!

Leaving the ferry behind, we headed to Thrifty foods (an island staple!) for a quick stock-up on all our last-minute grocery needs. Apparently this included a good many peppers and limes. Oh, and coffee and chocolate, of course.

When we pulled into the driveway in front of the cabin in Maple Bay, it was dark, but not too dark for some of us to catch a glimpse of a deer a few yards away. It was such a change to be away from the city, from the constant light and noise, and this was one of the things that showed us how different it was going to be. It was great to have a real break. We decided to celebrate our arrival in style – with a batch of hot buttered rum! Here's a sort of photo-essay on the making of hot buttered rum. For the recipe and method, check out the post on hot buttered rum on WeDrink. You can see the last step is first in this photo-montage: the drinking of the rum! But it otherwise proceeds more or less in order. Please click to enlarge (particularly to see the classic photo of me and Raisa licking the hand-mixer beaters clean! Yum!).

Betty left us some cookies (in a proper biscuit tin! It may have featured the Queen's wedding portrait) that were greeted with much enthusiasm. We paired them with the hot buttered rum. They were fantastic together. Thanks Betty!

Full of cookies and hot rum, we settled down happily for the night. More to follow soon – days two and three of food and fun at Maple Bay. You know you're curious about the destiny of the the eggs, garlic, heirloom tomatoes and chocolate cake in the opening collage. And there may have been more delicious mixed drinks too...knowing us! Happy Leap Day everyone!

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Post-Valentine's Chicken Shiitake Stew

Yesterday I had a deliciously lazy Friday. On that kind of day, I usually wander into the kitchen sometime in the middle of the afternoon and start flipping through cookbooks, thinking about a trip to the grocery store for dinner stuff. Yesterday, after flirting with the idea of making fresh pasta, I realized my heart was really calling for soup. Pasta would be too similar to the rich fluffy gnocchi I had had the night before at the Water Street Cafe. But soup – soup had the potential to be warm, fresh, satisfying and simple.

I've discovered this winter how easy and fun it is to make up soup recipes. Maybe it's because I always have homemade stock on hand now, or because I realized that there isn't really anything complicated or mysterious about how soups are created, but now it seems like soups just come together organically from whatever I have on hand. And there's a definite thrill in being able to throw a bunch of stuff in a pot and have it transform into a tasty meal.

Chicken Shiitake Stew with Yam, Sage, and Tomato
One word of warning about the following: I've been getting better at writing down quantities as I cook, but my recipe-writing skills are still lacking much – I never make note of any cooking times, and the kitchen warps my sense of time. So, use the times listed as a guide, but always trust your instincts before you trust me! And I promise I'll try to reign in my undefined creativity from now on...

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp corn oil

16 dried shiitake mushrooms
4 cups boiling water

1 large yam, cut into large dice
3 stalks celery, finely diced
1 tbsp fresh sage, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp Hungarian (sweet) paprika
1/2 tsp sea salt

4 cups whole canned tomatoes and tomato juice
shitake soaking liquid (about 2 1/2 cups)
3 cups vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice, cooked (a good use for leftover rice)
1 tsp maple syrup

1. Heat oil in a large pot over med-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and brown for 5–10 minutes on each side, until nearly cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside to cool. When cool, roughly dice the chicken.

2. Meanwhile, boil water and pour over shiitake mushrooms in a bowl. Cover the top with a plate, so that the mushrooms are submerged. Leave to soak for 20 minutes.

2. With the chicken browning oil still in the pot, add the celery and yam along with the herbs and spices. Saute for 5 minutes.

3. Pour in the tomatoes and their liquid, the shitake soaking liquid, and the stock. Dice the soaked shiitakes (removing and discarding the stems) and add these to the pot. Bring to a boil and then simmer until the yam begins to become tender. Then add the diced chicken and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the rice and maple syrup and simmer for another 5 minutes. Then you're done!

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Undoubtably the best burgers I've ever made

Mmmm, just looking at that gooey mess of blue cheese, caramelized onions, and watercress, I want to make these burgers again right now. The night I did make them was back in December, for my Dad's birthday dinner. His only menu request was that I make use of the cow.
Inspired by a blue-cheese burger I had at Beachcombers on our legendary Oregon road trip, and by my dad's controversial love of blue cheese (I remember occasions growing up when my mom would ask him to keep his cheese out on the back porch because it was so stinky), I sought out this recipe on epicurious.

I'd never cooked with andouille sausage before and the idea of pecans in a burger seemed really smart and exciting, so I was sold. Here's what the burgers looked like while they were waiting to be cooked:
They were so good. My dad enjoyed them. They were well-matched by a warm potato salad I made up based on suggestions from my sister (roast potatoes tossed with thinly sliced raw fennel and a simple lemon vinaigrette) and some Columbian rum my Dad brought courtesy of my Aunt who had just returned from my cousin's wedding in Columbia (it came in a juice box!). Perfect.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

The charming wine guy at the Metropolitan

In November, Erin and I went to Seattle with no other mission than to eat, drink, and buy lots of shoes. We had some difficulty with the eating part – two of the restaurants we had really wanted to go to turned out to be closed or shut down for good – but with the drinking part of the mission we succeeded effortlessly.

One of our restaurant searches left us eventually at the Metropolitan, on the advice of our cabbie. I wasn't really in the mood for steak, but I liked the classic, authoritative feeling of the place. And we got to sit in a really cute mini booth. But the best part was the sommelier. He was inspirational enough to make it into my sketchbook. As you can see above, he was a cute old man with short gray hair, glasses, and a bow tie. And, he loved his job, I noted. He drifted from table to table, always smiling. Their wine list was seriously long. So we needed his help. I managed to narrow it down to a riesling, and he matched us up with the J. & H.A. Strub Riesling Kabinett, 2005. And we loved it. The wine guy rules.

Other notable discoveries on our drinking tour of Seattle:

  • We enjoyed another Riesling the night before – American Thanksgiving, when the only restaurant open and not serving turkey was the 24 hr 13 Coins – Chateau Ste Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling 2006. This was preceded by Kim Crawford Pinot Noir from New Zealand, and followed by oversized bottles of Miller High Life...
  • At Vons, the only bar we could find open at 6 pm on Thanksgiving, Erin had a glass of beer that was practically as tall as her and I tried one of their variations on a Manhattan – a Southern Grandfather: Jim Beam + Amaretto + a cherry. Yum.
  • I tried Tuaca for the first time: a lightly sweet, amber Italian liqueur based on fine, cask-aged brandy, possessing a rich fruit-like flavor of vanilla and citrus. Mixed with Gin and garnished with an orange slice, I'd drink this again for sure.
That's it!

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

The hot chocolate of my dreams

I hardly ever drink hot chocolate. Usually it's too rich, and also filled with evil dairy. I remember my mom making yummy hot chocolate from scratch with soy milk, but I've never really put the time into figuring out how to replicate it. I guess I thought I just preferred my chocolate in solid form. Then, tonight, Ibarra changed everything.

I've know about Ibarra for years, as you can buy it in the market on Granville Island, and I've tried pretty much everything there is to try there. I'd snacked on it, but had never taken it through to its natural conclusion, hot chocolate. Even when I bought the box you see above last weekend, it was for a different purpose: ice cream. It made a really delicious ice cream, but as hot chocolate - oh my god.

Making it, I hesitated about whether or not to follow the directions. The tiny type on the bottom of the box said to heat milk (soy in this case) until hot and then blend it with the chocolate wedges in an electric blender. My instinct was that melting the chocolate into the milk while whisking it would make more sense. But I thought, what the hell, I'll try the blender. And I can now say, the blender is definitely the way to go. It produced the best hot chocolate I've ever had, frothy, creamy, totally heavenly without being rich. Ibarra is made of sugar, cocoa nibs and cinnamon – the warmth from the cinnamon is definitely a big part of this hot chocolate's dreamyness.

It was so incredible that halfway through the first sip I thought, I have to post about this! But then I couldn't stop drinking it. I tried but just kept gulping the delicious frothy... and by the time I grabbed the camera my cup was nearly empty. But I think you still get the idea. Now go to Granville Island and get some Ibarra!

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