December 23, 2009

Making Pâté


When I think of Christmas food in my family, the first thing that comes to mind is usually pâté. Pâté is Acadian meat pie, not to be confused with its lesser cousin, that Quebecois stuff, tourtiere (I actually like tourtiere but here I must play favourites). Pâté is made with chopped meat rather than ground, and usually has a biscuit crust instead of a regular pie crust. The spices can vary from recipe to recipe, but often include a mixture of coriander, summer savoury, marjoram and thyme.


When my dad was growing up in rural PEI in the 1940s and 50s, pâté was a Christmas Eve tradition. His family always celebrated Christmas with a big Réveillon after getting home from midnight Mass, and that’s when they ate pâté. The favoured condiment was mustard pickles.

As I got to know J’s family, I was surprised to learn that they eat pâté year-round. Well, why not? It’s so delicious that it doesn’t really make sense to save it for once a year. They also eat it with molasses. This also surprised me at first, but I’ve since learned that they pour molasses on just about everything.

I had never made pâté myself until this Christmas. When I was growing up my Mom made it sometimes, or we got some from my aunts to serve Christmas Eve. Two of my older sisters made it for a while every year, and maybe they still do. But it was never something I learned.


But this year, I got together with my cousin Natalie, who lives in St. Albert. Natalie’s father is my uncle Cyril, and he wrote out the Gallant family recipe, which I assume he originally got from his mother, my grandmother Regina (it may have been tweaked a bit by his wife Betty as well). In their family they make it every year, and Natalie and her three sisters sometimes get together to make it.

Pâté is best made in a group, because it is a lot of work. This year it was just the two of us, but our task for the day was made easier because Natalie had already cooked all of the meat, which is a huge step. All we had to do was make the dough, fill the pies, and bake them.


I’ve usually eaten pâté with chicken and pork, but the traditional recipe calls for wild rabbit or hare. J’s dad told us that when he was a kid, his remembers eating pâté filled with rabbit bones. Mmmm-mmmm.

Natalie showed me her dad’s typewritten recipe, which is more like a story than a recipe, and it’s probably how my dad would have written it too. But Natalie, in her organized, meticulous way, took that and created a table with all the ingredients and amounts. So great!


I felt like I was part of such a long tradition as we stood at the counter mixing our dough ingredients, adding the meat filling, and spreading the crust over top. I learned that the secret to a delicious crust is to use the stock from the meat as your liquid. Natalie, like her parents, always cooks her pies in big cookie sheets, rather than round pie plates, which is what I’ve always seen. I learned how to pat the dough on top of the meat filling and tuck it in all around to ensure no leaks. After baking, I came home with one huge rectangular pâté. I had to cut it into pieces so it would fit into our tiny apartment freezer.



Last week when J’s parents were visiting, we took out one of the pieces for supper one night. The crust was tender, the meat perfectly spiced. This pâté recipe is different from the Arsenault family recipe, but I knew mine was good when both J’s parents loved it.


Now that my Mom is visiting, I just have to try to find some mustard pickles before Christmas Eve.

December 5, 2009



I’d been curious about the Refresh Organic Bistro ever since last Spring, when I wandered into the Organic Roots store on Whyte Avenue and noticed that a small cafe was being constructed in the space.

When I walked by on another errand a few weeks ago, it looked cozy and inviting. Though it’s not in our neighbourhood, I knew J and I would have to return soon to eat there.

We stopped in for lunch a few Saturdays ago. It’s a small place, with an open kitchen and cafe area taking up one corner of the store. There is seating for about ten people, but you can also get your food to go.


The space feels comforting and vibrant all at the same time. For some reason – I guess it’s the slightly hippie vibe – it made me think of what Ithaca’s famed Moosewood Restaurant might feel like ( I was there once when I was about five years old, which I don’t remember). As we ordered at the counter, women in the kitchen were preparing sandwiches and mixing smoothies. A tray of unbaked cookies sat ready for the oven. It made us hungry.

At first glance, the menu doesn’t look all that exciting – sandwiches and wraps (including a raw nori roll), soups, salads, rice bowls and dips and crackers. But the food in the display case looked good. We each ordered a combo ($12) so we could try lots of different things.


We sat down at one of the tables in the seating area. Our food came quickly and looked delicious. Bright orange soup, a sandwich filled with vegetables, vibrant salads. The pumpkin peanut soup was one of the best soups I’ve ever eaten – rich and smooth with strong, earthy flavours.  The chicken salad sandwich was warm, and we could taste cumin, sharp mustard and bright pesto. The rice bowl with tahini-lemon sauce tasted remarkably like this wonderful dish, and I enjoyed the steamed kale, since I don’t usually eat it prepared in that way. The beet-apple salad and quinoa taboulleh were both delicious.


We were both very impressed. It’s great to go to a new, casual restaurant and discover such wonderful food. We sampled some desserts as well, and the vegan chocolate chip cookies ($3)  were the winner. They also have vegan chocolate mousse, bread pudding, other kinds of cookies, and raw carob balls. I would have tried the mousse for sure, but they weren’t serving it that day. The bread pudding was okay, but we wish it had been warmed up, and the raw sauces on top were too grainy for us. I liked the carob ball – called Raw Carob Bliss – better than J, who thought it tasted too much of dates.


vegan bread pudding with almond and berry sauces

The three servers who helped us at Refresh were all extremely friendly. It seems like a down-to-earth place. We spoke briefly to the owner, Friederike Aust, who told us that all the staff cook everything in the small kitchen. The only thing made off-site is the bread, which comes from Breadland Organic Bakery. 


nutty jam drop and raw cocoa bliss

Refresh Organic is the perfect place for lunch – with food this good, people this friendly, and such a great atmosphere, the name rings true: you will actually leave feeling refreshed.

Refresh Organic Bistro and Catering
10151 82 Avenue, Edmonton

December 4, 2009

We Eat Together


When Edmonton designer and illustrator Gabe Wong told me back in September that he and Julianne Mimande were collaborating on a cookbook, I knew it would be good. I had interviewed both Gabe and Julianna before, and I knew they both cared a lot about what they do. They’re the kind of young people I think this city needs: passionate, devoted and involved. We Eat Together shows just how much they care about Edmonton.

The whole idea behind We Eat Together is to focus on local farms in the Edmonton area. Over the summer, Julianna and Gabe visited nine farmers and food producers to find out how they make a living. The book includes profiles on each family, and a cute “get-to-know-you” question-and-answer page. Some of the recipes come from these families, some from other friends and family, and some Julianna created from all that beautiful farm-fresh food.


J and I went to the book launch last week at d’Lish. I was so excited to finally see the book I’d heard so much about. The room was packed when we first got there, but thinned out a bit over the next hour. It was nice to finally taste wine from en Sante Winery, which I’d seen at markets but never tried before. I enjoyed the Raspberry Delight, and J liked his Adam’s Apple ( the raspberry wine reminded him too much of a certain bright-red drink). There were also some nibbles from recipes in the book – the carrot dip was especially delicious. I’ll definitely be making that recipe.


And the book itself? My expectations didn’t disappoint. It’s outstanding. Gorgeous, clean design, with lots of white space, beautiful fonts and colours and easy-to-read recipes. The photographs – by Zachary Ayotte – truly showcase the bounty and beauty of Alberta. And the recipes look fantastic. Pulled Pork Tourtiere with Leeks and Goat Cheese, Wild Rice Pudding with Honey, Curried Chicken and Apple Soup … I can’t wait to cook out of this book.

It’s also a treat to read more about the lives of farmers we know, and buy from regularly – particularly Jenny and James from Sundog Organics and Emily and Sean from Mighty Trio Organics. I can’t wait to read the whole book and discover other farms near Edmonton too.

We’re already planning on giving this book as a Christmas gift to a few people. It makes us proud to be in a place with so many people producing great Alberta food – and those with the determination and skill to bring it to life in a book like this. 


Gabe, Zach, Julianna, and Alan Irving from Irvings Farm Fresh at the launch.

We Eat Together sells for $40 and is available at the Make It fair, Audrey’s Books, and for order at the website.

November 18, 2009

Tzatziki with Swiss Chard


Soon, the days of buying swiss chard and other greens at the farmers’ market here in Edmonton will be gone. We’re gearing up for the winter version of the market: root vegetables and not much else.


There might be a few more weeks left of greens, though, and this is a recipe that uses them up nicely. I found this recipe on Tea and Cookies, a wonderful blog with simple, honest recipes and beautiful essays and photos.

I’ve never even made regular tzatziki before, the kind with cucumbers. But this one was easy and delicious. I’m sure it would also work with spinach. I used goat’s milk yogurt from Fairwinds Fair, which makes it extra tangy. We ate it on toasted whole-wheat bread, but it would also be great with pita chips and raw vegetable, and on sandwiches. Make it now while you can still buy local greens.


November 1, 2009

Hallowe’en Pasta

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I know Hallowe’en is over, but kids are still eating candy all over town, so I figure this post is still valid.

We're not really Hallowe'en people. In fact, for the past few years we haven’t bothered with it at all. I'm sure once we have kids we'll get into it again, but for now we're fine with simply observing the holiday. The fact that we live in an apartment building with no trick-or-treaters also helps.

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I was cooking this pasta recipe for a late supper last night and I realized it could qualify as Halowe'en-y. I thought of it as soon as I dumped the red kale into the boiling water and it turned the water a dark shade of green/purple, edging on black. Spooky. It's interesting that the kale (though sold as red kale at the market, it's actually purple when raw) turns dark green when it hits the water. Then, when I added the spaghetti to the same water it took on a very slight purplish hue. All mixed up it doesn't look too scary, but given that I wasn't planning a Hallowe'en recipe I thought it was quite the coincidence.

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Doesn't it look a a little bit like a pot of something creepy bubbling away?

And as for the taste of the recipe? Very yummy. With tiny French green lentils and caramelized onions, the final dish is earthy and satisfying. Especially with a fine grating of Parmesan on top. It is rather labour-intensive to make, with each ingredient requiring its own cooking, but it's definitely worth it if you have the time. Next time I think I would make even more caramelized onions. Can you really have too many? The recipe also calls for short pasta, which may work better than spaghetti because it would be easier to mix together, and match better with the chunky kale.


Just one more note, I found this recipe on epicurious when I was looking for something to make with the big bunch of kale. I really like how you can search for almost anything on that site, and it often yields good results.

October 28, 2009

French Yogurt Cake


I've been doing a lot of cooking and baking lately, but you wouldn't know it by looking at this blog. I was going through some of my recent photos last night, and as usual, it reminded me about some of those delicious things I made. Rigatoni with comforting meat sauce … spaghetti with roasted tomatoes … and this delicious French yogurt cake.

I first read about this cake in a wonderful book called On Rue Tatin. It’s a food memoir by Susan Hermann Loomis about moving from the U.S. to France and discovering French food and French life in a little town. Among the many recipes Susan includes is one for a traditional French yogurt cake. She talks about the mother of one of her son’s schoolmates who brings this cake to school one day when Susan is teaching a class. It’s so good Susan asks for the recipe.  In typical French fashion, the woman shrugs and says it’s nothing special.

I didn’t make the cake at the time, but I filed it away in my memory box of recipes. A few weeks ago we had a big carton of Fairwinds Farm goat milk yogurt sitting in the fridge. I bought it because J has pretty much become lactose intolerant. I really like the yogurt – it has a musky tang like goat cheese, but smoother. But we were having trouble finishing the container and I remembered that recipe. I searched for it online and up it popped, on numerous blogs. I ended up going with Orangette’s version.


Ever since we polished off this cake I’ve been looking for an excuse to make it again. There are so many great things about it: It’s a one-bowl recipe (I’m always looking for ways to do fewer dishes). You will probably have most, if not all, of the ingredients in your kitchen already. And, probably the best part, it lends itself to variation. The original on Orangette calls for lemon zest to flavour the cake. But Molly also gives lots of ideas for other flavourings, and since I had no lemons, I decided to use vanilla and almond meal instead. It worked like a charm.


Because of the yogurt, the cake is extremely moist. It bakes up pretty and yellow (ours was probably extra yellow because of our organic, very yellow canola oil from Mighty Trio) and golden brown on the edges. Those caramelized, sweet edges were my favourite part. I wasn’t actually a huge fan of the almond flavour in the cake when I ate it by itself. I said to J, “If only we had some whipped cream to put on top.” His suggestion? More goat milk yogurt.

Yes, yes and yes. Wrapped in a soft blanket of yogurt and topped with a drizzle or two of honey, this cake comes alive. It became my favourite dessert, snack and breakfast. Then I started dressing it up with chopped Bartlett pears, and it got even better.


As I said, there are plenty of variations to be had. I think I’ll try the classic lemon version next time.

As you can read on Orangette, in France they measure the ingredients for this cake in a yogurt container, which equals about half a cup. I’m not sure which yogurt they’re talking about, because from what I remember about French yogurt, it comes in all sizes and shapes of container, from little clay pots to baby-sized plastic cups. The French sure love them some yogurt products.

Upper Crust Cafe

J and I went to the Upper Crust Cafe in Garneau over the weekend. Of course, my camera was sitting in my bag the whole time and I forgot to take it out even once to photograph the restaurant or the meal. I have got to do better at that.

We'd never been to Upper Crust before. We enjoyed most of the meal, but the big highlight was the salad plate. Oh my god. I'm actually still craving every one of those salads. They were so fresh and delicious. There wasn't a clunker in the bunch, and we tried six of them. They have got a great salad chef.

You can listen to my full review of the Upper Crust on Edmonton AM on CBC radio Thursday morning. It'll be on at about 7:50. You can also hear my past reviews on their website.

October 13, 2009

Vegan Breakfast

It’s time to introduce something new here at The Little Red Kitchen: my first ever guest post! I’ve written here before about my sister Claire, the vegan foodie and aspiring chef. Claire’s hoping to open a vegan restaurant in the future and is diligently cooking and studying every day in preparation.

I asked Claire to write a post on Vegan Breakfasts, mainly for my friend Elliott. Elliott is vegan as well and told me he is always pretty uninspired when it comes to breakfast. So here is Claire to save the day for Elliott and any other vegetarians or vegans out there. Or anyone who likes a tasty breakfast.  - Isabelle

Ooooh, breakfast. How I love you. How I love waking up thinking about you. I prefer you leisurely and drawn-out, maybe accompanied by a peaceful conversation or a crossword puzzle or a magazine. And definitely some tea or a cappuccino.

Hello! I’m Claire, Isabelle’s sister. I live in Halifax. I’ll be your guest host for this chat about the vegan breakfast table. I became a vegetarian in 2003 and shortly thereafter went vegan. Since then I’ve delved excitedly into vegan cuisine of all kinds. In this post I’ll focus on the savoury vegan breakfast.

The variety of the vegan breakfast or brunch is very vast indeed. Let’s kick things off with a few photos to whet your appetites.


Tofu omelette, tempeh bacon, and toast.


Poori Bhaji, my breakfast every day in India: deep-fried puffy pancake and spicy chickpea curry filling.


Smoked tofu, greens, and citrus béarnaise sauce for a vegan Benedict, accompanied by roast potatoes.


Tofu scramble and Toast in Vancouver.

A classic choice for a savoury vegan brekky is tofu scramble. This dish can pretty much be whatever you want it to be. A few basic principles I’ve observed: Using extra-firm tofu and keeping it on high heat in your pan until it browns up beautifully will give you a crispy and chewy scramble. For those of you who like things saucier, you may find that method yields a scramble drier than you want. If that’s you, try using silken tofu, which is sold unrefrigerated in vacuum-sealed boxes and with which you can achieve a softer, more tender-on-the-tongue scramble.

Tofu scramble is an extremely easy dish in which to eyeball all the ingredients. In fact, I’m going to estimate them all right here in front of you. Take a medium-sized onion and a few cloves of garlic, chop it all and sauté it with a generous amount of olive oil in a (preferably cast-iron) pan for quite a while (20 mins or so) until they get all wonderfully caramelized. Crumble in anywhere from 1/2 to a full block of tofu, mashing it in your hands before dropping the pieces into the pan. Don’t make the pieces too tiny yet, because they’ll break up while cooking. Toss that around in your pan until you get to the brownness you desire. At some point during that process, add herbs and spices as you wish. I like thyme, oregano, and lots of sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Taste it a lot as you go, to see what you need more of. You can add finely chopped vegetables at any time, say broccoli or mushrooms. When the tofu is done to your likeness, add two tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and a quarter cup of nutritional yeast (a cheesy, non-active yeast that can be found at health food stores and some grocery stores). Mix until those are incorporated. You’re done!

I just came across an extremely delicious take on scrambled tofu – Puttanesca scramble - in the recently published Vegan Brunch, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. You’ll find that recipe and several others on the book’s website. Isa’s book is a great resource for vegan breakfasts of all kinds. It just came out last Spring and I highly recommend it.

I recently made vegan sausages for the first time, also from recipes in Vegan Brunch. They are deelish and very easy to make. The main ingredient is wheat gluten flour, which can be found at health food stores and some grocery stores. It’s very high in protein and is the main ingredient in seitan. The sausages have a chewy texture and hold together beautifully, due to the gluten flour. I fry them whole or slice and fry them, and then eat them as a side for pancakes or with gravy and toast.

I often compose a breakfast plate from small amounts of many items. Potatoes of any kind are usually there, from baked to home fries to roasted. I often bake potatoes in the evening and then the next morning it’s very efficient just to chop and fry them. Sauteed tomatoes, baked beans, toast, biscuits with gravy (see recipes on Vegan Brunch website), cornbread, and tempeh bacon (see photo) are all very yummy in combo with one another. Tempeh is a cake of pressed-together soybeans that’s more easily digestible than tofu because it’s fermented; it also has a nice nutty flavour. It can be bought at health food stores mainly. To make tempeh bacon, take a block of tempeh, slice it up thinly into strips, and sauté it in olive oil and tamari soy sauce on high heat in a non-stick pan until it’s browned and crispy, turning the pieces over halfway through. Continue to add more sauce and oil as it gets dry. Like in the versatile tofu scramble, you can also add other things like crushed garlic, maple syrup, sesame oil, apple cider vinegar, or herbs and spices to your tempeh pan.

A simpler, less-cooking-required breakfast that has become a favourite of mine is toast with avocado slices on it, sprinkled with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. It feels really great to me to start my day with avocado. It’s like the much more exciting and beautiful relation of peanut butter. Relation as in …toast-topping family. Almond butter is also great on toast, and very high in calcium. Another great toast combination is nut butter, cherry tomatoes, and tempeh bacon or smoked tofu. As far as margarines go, most margarine brands are not vegan because they contain whey or buttermilk powder, and in some instances (Becel) they also contain gelatin. An extremely good vegan brand is Earth Balance, which tastes very much like butter and can be used wherever you might use butter, especially on toast! I make my own bread in my breadmaker most of the time, but there are lots of commercial breads that are milk-free and egg-free.

I also love to eat stuff for breakfast that is more typically lunch and dinner fare. Last night’s pizza, baked pasta, and particularly marinated, baked tofu are winning guest stars of the breakfast world.

There are also a lot of processed vegan breakfast items available at the grocery store. I like some of them, but have found that it’s cheaper and healthier, and also very easy, to make my own versions. Maybe someday soon I’ll develop a recipe for my own Earth Balance. When I do, I’ll let you know. For now, happy brunching!

October 7, 2009



Remember back in the summer, when I was on my crazy diet/cleanse? When I couldn’t eat much of anything? And yet managed to fully enjoy myself discovering quinoa, avocado, and asparagus all over again?

Well, as enjoyable as it was, it turns out it didn’t do much good. I’ve been told that my health issues don’t have anything to do with what I’m eating. Which is both bad and good. Bad, because I’m still trying to figure out the problem. Good, because I can go back to eating whatever I want.

I’m really happy I did that diet though. It was hard, but it showed me that I tend to eat the same stuff all the time without really thinking about it. It was great to be forced to think outside the box for my daily meals, to imagine combinations of food I had never tried before. More than anything, I think I ate more simply for those five weeks than I have in a long time.


I bought a cookbook called Babycakes when I was on the diet. It was when I thought I might be intolerant to gluten. You may have heard of Babycakes by now (click on that link and tell me you’re not swooning). It’s a vegan, sugar-free and mostly gluten-free bakery in New York City. The cookbook came out over the summer and has been getting a lot of good press. I profiled it for one of my cookbook columns on the radio back in August.

Even though I can eat gluten again, I am so glad I bought this cookbook. Not only because it’s cute, wonderfully designed and has amazing, down-to-earth photos. Not only because the recipes are absolutely to die for. But also because it’s perfect when you’re cooking for anyone in your life who can’t eat certain foods. It turns out there are a lot of vegans and people with lactose and gluten allergies in my life. And I still want to bake for them! That’s why Babycakes is so great.

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I made the ginger cookies right before leaving on vacation back in August. I was a little worried, because the batter (like most gluten-free batters) tasted disgusting. But when the cookies emerged from the oven, they were spicy and crackly and perfectly crisp, and tasted just as good, if not better, than any flour-filled ginger cookie I’ve eaten. I took some to work, and took the rest on vacation with me, and everyone loved them.

Then we decided to make the chocolate cupcake recipe for a dinner party we had.  We got lazy and just made it in cake form instead of in cupcakes. But either way, this cake is a revelation. It’s very different from our usual, go-to chocolate vegan cake recipe from the Moosewood desserts cookbook. If the Moosewood cake is the comforting Grandmother in a checked apron, the Babycakes cake is the sexy young thing in the little black dress. It’s dark, rich and extremely chocolatey. It’s so decadent that you might not feel like eating it all the time, but when you want it, you really want it. We paired it with a homemade sour cherry sauce and the whole thing was absolutely divine.


The ingredients in this cookbook can get expensive, and sometimes these cookies and cakes will take a bit longer to prepare than the average. I admit I’m not pulling this book down from my shelf every day. But even when you’re not cooking for people with allergies, the allure of sugar-free baked goods can be damn strong. Especially when they taste this good.


September 30, 2009

A little bit of news


I have a new, extra job at CBC Radio.

A job I would have dreamed about if I even knew it was a possibility.

Starting tomorrow morning, I will be reviewing Edmonton restaurants on the CBC morning show, Edmonton AM.


Needless to say, I’m a wee bit excited about this opportunity. It really is an amazing chance to discover new restaurants, write and talk about them, and learn more about the city’s food scene.

So tune in tomorrow morning (93.9 or 740 am) at about ten after eight 7:50 to hear my first review. We’re starting with lunch places, and I went to Van Loc, the Vietnamese sub shop in Chinatown.

My reviews will be on every two weeks. I have lots of ideas about where I want to go, but I’d love to get any opinions others may have about what restaurants deserve a review. Eaten at any good places lately? Any not-s0-good places? Let me know in the comments, or send me an email at

Hope you’ll tune in! (And I hope the review will be available on the website after. I’ll keep you posted.)

By the way, that picture up there has nothing to do with my news, but it is a lovely zucchini spice cake that I made a few weeks ago. I haven’t been posting much of my cooking or baking lately, so I thought I would show a little something. I really hope to be back here to do more of that soon.

September 20, 2009

Myers + Chang – Boston, MA


It’s been tough getting back into a regular blogging schedule. I forgot how busy things get when J is in school and we’re  just trying to get everything done around here. I’ve been doing a lot of great cooking and baking lately that I’d love to talk about, but first I need to follow up on a promise I made a few weeks ago. I want to tell about my beautiful birthday dinner we had in Boston.

How I love, especially when I’m travelling in a new city. When we decided to go out for dinner, I wanted to eat food that I couldn’t eat all the time in Edmonton, and my first thought was sushi. (Yes, I know  there are lots of sushi places in Edmonton, but after living most of my life near the sea where there is ready access to very fresh sushi, I am a little bit spoiled.) I read a bunch of stuff about Japanese restaurants, but they were all either extremely high end and astronomically expensive, or little noodle shops with great food but not much atmosphere or place to sit down. We needed something in between. And we found it at Myers + Chang.


Myers + Chang calls itself Asian-fusion food, which is what attracted me to it on Chowhound. It’s a funky little bistro offering a mix of Chinese, Thai, Taiwanese and Vietnamese food. This type of food is some of our favourite, so we were excited to see what it would be like.

I always admire restaurants where the chefs aren’t afraid to try new things, and this was one of those places. I’ve read a few reviews lately of Asian-fusion restaurants here in Edmonton that serve the same old Asian dishes that you can eat anywhere, but at Myers + Chang there were some really innovative items: tea-smoked spare ribs, wok-roasted mussels, and asian-braised short rib tacos among them. Unfortunately I was on the last part of my cleanse and I still wasn’t eating red meat. Since we wanted to share all of our food so we could try as many different dishes as we could, we were a little bit limited, but there was still plenty to choose from. 

Our server, like every server in the restaurant, was young and epitomized the word ‘hipster’. He was very nice and extremely knowledgeable about the menu, but he spoke so fast that it was difficult to keep up with him. As the birthday girl, J let me decide what to order, so I picked five dishes that I hoped would complement each other nicely. The waiter told us that there were no set courses and that everything came out of the kitchen as it was cooked. 

We began with drinks. There were several intriguing cocktails, and I chose the sake cherry sangria. J had a lychee cocktail with prosecco. The sangria was fine, but was missing the chunks of wine-soaked fruit that I usually expect in it. I preferred J’s drink, which was refreshing and fruity.


As we sipped we admired our surroundings. The restaurant is a small L-shaped space with no more than 20 tables. The decor is a mix of retro and modern, with red dragon designs on the windows and a wall of mirrors with drawings and writing in white marker. One side of the space is taken up with a long bar and an open kitchen. It felt funky and bright when we first got there, and started to get cozy as the sun set and it got dark.  


The first dish out was a roasted shiitake omelet with sambal on top. (As I learned that night, sambal is a spicy condiment made with chili peppers.) The omelet was okay, but I couldn’t really taste the shiitake. I think the eggs were also cooked a little too long for my taste – my favourite part was the crispy edges that had spent time in the oil.


But it was about to get better. Out came the wok-roasted mussels with lemongrass and grilled garlic toast. I tasted one, and immediately declared them the best mussels I had ever eaten. And I have eaten many a mussel. They were soft, juicy and so incredibly flavourful. I couldn’t figure out all of the ingredients in the broth, but it was spicy, salty, a little bit sweet and totally addictive.


As we dipped the mussels in the broth and pulled them off their shells with our teeth, the spice and salt started to get overwhelming. The thai ginger chicken salad arrived at the perfect time. The cool vermicelli and earthy ginger were the perfect counterpart to the flavours going gangbusters in my mouth.


By this point, our tiny table was so full of food and dishes that in my usual clumsiness I ended up knocking our mussel shell bowl clattering to the floor. And I hadn’t even finished my first drink! A waitress quickly came over and cleaned it up, offering us a new shell bowl. After that I was extra careful with where my elbows were.

Our lemony shrimp dumplings arrived soon after.  They were good, but I regretted not ordering the shiitake and Chinese greens version. The lemon flavour in the shrimp was overpowering and tasted almost chemically.


We were still busily eating from every plate on the table when our last dish arrived – the local corn and coconut soup, with a roasted corn and crab sambal on top. This soup was a miracle. I wish I knew how they made it. I suppose I could have asked but it didn’t even occur to me; I was too busy enjoying it. It was a velvety, frothy puree, which I assume was made with coconut milk. The taste was unbelievable. Sweet but not too sweet, with a kick from the sambal on top. It tasted like a cob of the freshest summer corn, complemented by smooth coconut. Even with the sambal, its milky sweetness was, again, the perfect antidote to the hot mussels, chewy dumplings and cool salad.


What I loved about our meal was how all of the flavours came together so wonderfully. The omelet was a bit of a dud, but when you’re ordering off a new menu you can’t hit a home run with every dish.

We didn’t have a lot of choice from the dessert menu because I still couldn’t eat chocolate, and  J realized this summer that he’s lactose intolerant. The only non-dairy, non-chocolate-cake option was the fresh orange granita with frozen vanilla bean parfait. The waiter kindly split it in two – J ate the granita and I ate the parfait (which tasted like a slice of dense ice cream). The parfait by itself was fine, but clearly the two were meant to be together. I stole a few bites of the granita with the parfait and it tasted like a delicious creamsicle.

We were lucky to find Myers + Chang. Now we just wish there was a place like it in Edmonton. But maybe there is, and we just have yet to find it. 

September 4, 2009

Lobster in New Hampshire


Hello again, friends. It's been too long. We've been back in Edmonton for two weeks now since our vacation ended, but life is as busy as ever. It's so nice to have J home again that spending lots of time together has been a priority. We've been cleaning, reorganizing, cooking and watching Six Feet Under on dvd (wonderful so far). I've also been thinking back on our extended vacation and realizing how wonderful it all was.

After spending an idyllic week in New Hampshire with my mother's family, we unexpectedly had two nights in Boston and then drove back to P.E.I. because of the death of J's grandfather. It was bittersweet, of course: home for a sad occasion but oh so happy to be there. I wasn't planning on visiting the Island this summer, so it was a big treat. I didn't make it to the beach (tear) but we had a little time to hang around downtown Charlottetown in the sunshine, and there were lots of country drives. I just stared and stared at the gently rolling hills, the creamy fields of wheat dotted with hay bales, the grazing cows and familiar landmarks, the magic of the landscape. After a year in Edmonton, I had forgotten how truly beautiful a P.E.I. summer is.

We ate fried clams twice: once a at a sketchy roadside diner in Maine on the drive North, and again at the Richmond Dairy Bar in Western P.E.I. We ate fresh blueberries and peaches, J's mother's delicious chili and fricot (Acadian chicken soup), biscuits and a fruit galette that I made. But I want to tell you about the two best meals we ate during the whole two weeks. They were complete opposites but equally delicious: one rustic, messy, outside by a lake and full of the bounty of summer; the other funky, unique, inside at a little table, full of new flavours and exciting combinations.


The messy meal, I'm sure you may have guessed, was the lobster. Our last night in New Hampshire, my family gathered at outdoor picnic tables with the rest of the guests at the resort where we were staying. The resort holds a lobster cook-out once a week, which must be an extreme amount of work: they drive all of the food and equipment, including a bar, over onto a little protrusion of land in the middle of the lake. But I think it's worth it. Eating there was a magical experience - a gorgeous, sunny evening, the stillness of the lake nearby, the casual atmosphere of a big group of people eating together outside with no waiters, no rules, and an abundance of napkins and lobster juice.

And then there was the lobster itself. It was cooked in big barbecue pits, layered with seaweed (I wish I had gotten a photo). None of us had ever heard of this method before, but damn is it a good idea. It was the tenderest, sweetest lobster I've ever tasted (and I've eaten my share of P.E.I. lobster). The shells were soft, too - I could practically break the claws apart with my bare hands. The meat melted in my mouth, and combined with the sweet corn lathered with butter, the company and the setting, I have rarely been as grateful for a meal.

The second great meal was at a cute Asian bistro in Boston to celebrate my birthday - and I will write more about that soon. Let's just say that after eating the best lobster of my life, I ate the best soup of my life. I'm still dreaming about it.