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.