Friday, June 22, 2012

Mill Street Brew Pub's 2nd Brewmaster's Dinner - April 26, 2012

Hi there!

Alright, I'm not exactly a master of timely blogging sometimes, but I've been pretty damn busy cranking out posts for the past couple of months that I kind of overlooked blogging about the second Brewmaster's Dinner at the Mill Street Brewpub. So better late than never!

I must admit right off the bat that I was a teensy bit disappointed with this edition of the Brewmaster's Dinner compared to the March 15th masterpiece. While there were some elements of this dinner that were better than the first one, overall I was more impressed by the inaugural event. But that doesn't mean I won't be going back on June 21st for the third edition, nor that it was by any means a waste of time or money!

As I mentioned in my post reviewing the first Brewmaster's Dinner, there really isn't much better value for the dollar than this dining format: five plates (mostly small except the main which is quite hearty) and five beer pairings for 60 dollars (plus tax), with gratuity included!

So with that being said, let's explore the second Brewmaster's Dinner!

Here's the menu:

First Course - Shrimp Ceviche with Belgian Wit Beer

As with the last dinner, this was the "amuse-bouche" - just a little bite to start the evening. I liked the shrimp very much, but I'm an easy sell on ceviche. It's freakin' tomato, lime juice, cilantro, seafood and other bits of tastiness! How can you go wrong? I did have some objection to the phyllo pastry cup in which it was served. It somehow lacked the buttery texture I think of in connection with phyllo and was rather more like a pappadum - a bit too dry for my liking.

Having forgotten to photograph before eating, I was fortunate to be able to get an image of the Shrimp Ceviche from a neighbouring table.  

As for the Belgian Wit beer, I was more than skeptical, having a strong aversion to both Belgian-style and wheat beers. I've had Hoogarden before and my reaction was more or less "meh" with a little revulsion to the aftertaste. This had a similar flavour profile but was about a million times better. Clean, refreshing, beautifully complimented by a slice of orange, it was a very pleasant surprise to start the evening. Kudos to the brewers on this one!

Second Course - Corn and Chipotle Chowder with Portage Ale

These guys know how to do soup! While this course was not quite the life-changing soup that the Lobster Bisque from March's dinner was, it was another bowl of exceptionally good flavour. It was rich without being heavy, and laden with smoky, spicy sweetness. It even had little homemade hickory sticks on top for a bit more crunch and texture. If I have one complaint, it's that the little corn kernels in the soup were a bit tough and chewy.

2 for 2 on soup courses
The pairing was with Portage Ale, a fairly easy-drinking cream ale. I enjoy it normally as a quaffing beer as it has a light refreshing flavour typical of cream ales. I don't really know why they paired such a subtle tasting beer with such a flavourful soup other than as a foil to the heat from the soup, which it was.

Third Course - Salad with Maple Fig Vinaigrette, Pears, Figs and Goat's Cheese with Valley Irish Red

OK, I'll admit it, this one kind of disappointed me. Not because the salad wasn't good, nor because of the beer. In truth, I kind of feel I got ripped off on portion size. The salad was TINY! It was pretty damn tasty, though, especially the goat cheese, which really was best eaten on its own  because the strength of the tangy cheese flavour kind of decimated all the other elements. The figs, pears and lettuce were really good on their own, but I was finished in two bites. Sigh...

Hey salad, be bigger!
Now, the beer, the Valley Irish Red, is one of my favourite offerings from the Brewpub and it's only available here in Ottawa (so far as I know). The beer here was the winner, probably my favourite of the evening. What's interesting is that there was some kind of boo-boo with this batch: it was not quite as carbonated as it was supposed to be. But that really didn't matter that much to me, it was delicious and paired beautifully with all the elements in the salad. I've since come to call Valley Irish Red my #3 Mill Street brew, only surpassed by the reliable Tankhouse Ale and the ephemeral Vanilla Porter.

Fourth Course - Duck Breast with Bok Choy, Rice and Lime-Coconut Sauce with Doppel Pils

I must admit that I was super-backflip-excited about this course when I'd first seen the menu weeks ahead of time. When I was served, my excitement dissipated a little. This is one of those cases where the presentation DID matter to me (which is rare). Maybe it was the excess of white on the plate: white plate itself, white rice, and white sauce. I just found it not very appetizing to look at. Also, the duck was overcooked. Siiiiiiiiiiigh... I'm not a duck expert, but I'm pretty sure the centre is supposed to be a lot darker than pink and it's supposed to be a LOT more tender than this was. I suspect this was a case of "lowest common denominator" cooking and there may have been complaints if the duck was cooked as it should be; maybe not everyone knows that duck is supposed to be served rare. It was certainly tasty though and all the elements worked well together. I do think the sauce could have used more heat and colour - both issues solved with a decent application of red curry paste.

Tasty plate, off-putting prezzo - something about a thick milky-white sauce...? I'll let y'all figure out what I'm hinting at... 

As for the Doppel Pils, it was a very tasty Czech-style beer that I'd definitely like to try more often, but the pairing didn't quite work out for me. The hoppiness and bitterness weren't marrying well with the sweet creaminess of the coconut milk. All in all, this was maybe the big disappointment of the evening because, while it was a pretty good main dish, it wasn't the heavenly meat masterpiece that the Lamb Shank from March's dinner was.

Fifth Course - Blueberry Cheesecake with Blueberry Wheat Beer

I think the Mill Street Chef (Shawn Jackson) and Master Brewer (Joel Manning) and I might share the same love of the blueberry. It's such a versatile little fruit, good in both savoury and sweet cooking. Here it was certainly the star. The cheesecake was cheesecake, it was tasty and rich as cheesecake should be, although the base was a butter pastry dough instead of a graham cracker crust, something I personally enjoyed because it kept the dessert from being too sweet.

But it was the blueberry sauce that was the highlight of the plate. It was bright and tart and blueberry-y, without being super-sweet, which is such an easy mistake to make with blueberries. Not much more to be said than that!

A lovely little ending to the meal.

As for the beer? Well, let's just say that my long-standing grudge against fruit beers has finally been ended after a glass of the Blueberry Wheat. It was refreshing, delicious and not over the top with the fruit. And again, not too sweet, which is the main problem I've historically had with fruit beers. Turns out this would not be the last time this beer would be appearing at a Brewmaster's Dinner...

So, there you have it. A very good meal with some great beers, but not the "OMG! SOOOOO GOOOOOOD" experience that was had in March. Because damn, that was good Lobster Bisque (I know, I'm obsessed, I admit it).

This is by no means a bad review of the second Brewmaster's Dinner, more like "when the last time was an 11 out of 10, an 8 is a little disappointing". Still one of the best ways to spend 60 bucks and 3 hours on a Thursday evening that I know of!

Coming soon, Brewmaster's Dinner Episode III - Revenge of the Short Rib!

Until then, cheers!

Monday, June 18, 2012

BBQ MacGyver & Pulled Pork revised


It's probably something of a cliché to say that a good BBQer is part cook, part mad scientist/engineer. I'm sure you've all seen guys on TV or the Web with their home-made smoker, crazy-ass Burning Man-style flamethrower and God knows what else. And Lord knows, if I had the space and time, I'd be making my own Uber-Smoker of Doom, but unfortunately I live on a second-story downtown apartment and all I have is my simple offset smoker and my own ingenuity. So, there'll none of these in my near-future:

Baddest-ass Smoker ever!

Luckily, I usually have a fun little toy or two to help me along the way. Or I invent things that help. So, today I'm exploring couple of 'toys' that make my BBQ experience easier and might help yours!

Now, this post is inspired by a recent foray into Pulled Pork (which I've blogged about before). I will say this: the rub I used in last year's post has been updated and is very similar to the rub I used when I made Wild Boar Ribs last month, with one exception in that instead of white pepper I used mustard powder and added a tiny pinch of ground cardamom. Now, Pulled Pork is a long process, taking anywhere from 6 to 10 hours of cooking, depending on the size of your hunk of meat. As a result, it can be hard to keep the fire going at the right temperature without a little bit of help.

Here's where a simple camping accessory becomes the "low and slow" BBQers best friend.

1) Air Mattress Pump

Um, what? We inflating a bed while we wait for the pork to cook? Nope, not even close. If you're like me, you might not be Grizzly Adams and able to start a fire with a flint and tinder. For me it's pretty easy to start a nice fire using lump charcoal with my electric fire starter (as mentioned in my first post about smoking), but keeping it going after 8 hours gets tricky, especially if you've had to step out of the house for a while and the fire dies down on you.

Enter the air mattress pump. In the past I'd used a piece of boxboard to help fan flames when re-igniting a dormant fire, but I've since learned that this simple tool makes your life SO much easier!

20 bucks at any hardware store
You simply pump air with your foot on the bellows-looking part, then put the hose in as close to the fire as possible without risking melting the plastic of the nozzle.

A little air and your fire is back in action!
Now, this does kick up a lot of ash, but a little ash never killed anyone, right?

So, yeah, a little "MacGyvering" is always a sign of a good BBQer!

2) Meat Claws

Now, another pain in the (pork) butt when working with huge hunks of meat like pork shoulder is that it's really hard to move them around in the smoker when you have to rotate cuts or move them around to get less/more smoke, or when removing them from the smoker altogether once they're done. BBQ tongs aren't big or strong enough and even one's bare hands and be a little unwieldy.

Not exactly easy to manipulate! Tasty-lookin' though...

Along comes my sweetheart with Meat Claws. Meat Claws are little devices designed to help you manipulate large chunks of meat easily and shred pork or chicken once cooked.


And they make you look like Wolverine:

Hugh Jackman I'm not...

Turns out they were quite useful in the manipulating part, but when it comes to actually "pulling" the pork, your hands are always best.

And there we are, just a few more inventions to help you make your smoking/BBQ experience a little less annoying.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

Festibière de la Gatineau

Hi there!

I like beer, you like beer, every good Canadian likes their beer! Surprisingly, the Internet just told me that per capita, we're barely in the top 20 beer-drinking countries (#19). The Czechs are number 1, which is no surprise whatsoever, since they kind of invented the beer-brewing process as we know it and make really freaking good beer!

But I digress...

I think it's fair to say that Canadian beer is pretty delicious. Some of my favourites include Mill Street's Tankhouse Ale and Vanilla Porter, Creemore Springs Lager, and Amsterdam Nut Brown Ale, all brewed in Ontario.

But on the weekend of May 25-27, it was our Quebecois friends across the Ottawa River's turn to show their stuff. The Festibière de la Gatineau was held in Parc Lac-Leamy, just down from the Casino Lac-Leamy, currently the premiere gambling establishment in the area (although it would seem that we're getting one in Downtown Ottawa).

It was a fantastic time, beautiful weather, hilariously trashy crowds and AMAZING beer (and tasty food to boot!). So, instead of going into some great comparative beer tasting, I'll simply take you on a photographic tour of the Festibière.

Day1 - The beer drinking masses amass

The event was remarkably kid-friendly. To the left (unseen) is a bouncy castle for Mommy to take spawn while Daddy gets boozed up. Also, ice cream and face painting. As an aside, what a view!

Random beer facts

Steampunk Stilters - why not?

Hot redhead beer expert. I love Quebec!

Micro de Bromont's "Chanvre Rouge" (Red Hemp Beer) - best beer of the weekend - Deep rich hoppy flavour with only the subtlest of "weedy" undertones.

Flash car!
Flash bike!

Down and out...

...But not for long! (I love Quebec!)
Sun setting on the 'fest

Day 2 - Sunday brunch courtesy of Pain voyageur

Unibroue tent
Ranch panoramique - They had very tasty food (Bison meatballs!)
Another hot beer expert!
Barbacoa BBQ truck - very tasty ribs
La Micro de Bromont - They do amazing things with hemp and hops!
A little musical entertainment
Festival Organizer Mario D'Eer talking about the plight of the whopping crane. Or maybe, possibly, beer.
The menu at Brasseur de Montreal - The Ghosttown Absinthe Stout was definitely one of the more unique beers I've ever had! Yet still tasty.
The menu at Brasserie Grimoire out of Granby - Their "Desérables" maple beer was by far Kari's favourite of the weekend.
Au revoir Festibiere! See you next year!

So, those are just a few of the sights and sounds of the 2nd annual Festibière de Gatineau. It was a really fun time even if it was basically walking around drinking and eating and people-watching. I tried many a delicious and interesting new beer, got to see some of the processes involved in running a microbrewery, and got to spend two days drinking outside! And to top it off, Kari insisted we hit the slots at the casino (we all have our weaknesses) and I won about 40 bucks! 

Ironically, we went to Montreal a couple of weeks later and popped into Le Mondial de la Bière. Instead of being held outside, this event was at Place Bonaventure. It was kind of like they moved the Festibière from a beautiful sunny park into a Cold War bomb shelter. Point: Gatineau!

And that's about it for this post! I hope you get the chance to try some of the microbrewed beers offered by our Quebecois neighbours. It'll be worth your while!

Enjoy! Happy Drinking!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Travels in Taste - Ice House - Montreal

So it would seem that my destination of choice is Montreal, eh?

In this case, however, this was kind of a last minute decision. I was supposed to head to Montreal to visit a friend for the day, but those plans fell through at the last minute, after I'd bought my non-refundable bus ticket. So, with a spirit of last-minute adventure, Kari was able to book the day off at the last minute, we booked a cheap hotel, and off we went to Montreal!

Now, one of the main bases of any trip Kari and I take to Montreal is to try out a new resto. And then eat Schwartz's at some point.

This time, with the trip being kind of last minute, we hadn't really had the chance to save a lot of money and we were looking for something tasty on the cheap. Fortunately, both of us had heard good things about Ice House on Roy (right near Saint-Laurent - ironically-ish, just around the corner from Schwartz's!) so we decided we'd give it a go! I'd normally post a link to their Web site, but such a beastie doth not currently exist!

So, we arrived and were sat on the terrasse next to a couple of nice ladies and immediately got our forcefields up (oh well, sometimes shared seating leads to new friends, sometimes it leads to strangers ignoring each other; we got the latter).

Now, first thing to keep in mind is that this place is anti-fancy. It's low-key, you share tables with strangers, you use industrial paper towel as napkins, there are NO actual dishes (i.e. plates, bowls, etc.) and the kitchen is about the size of a walk-in closet... a very small walk-in closet... But, I've seen tiny kitchens, including my own, produce some amazing food and these guys wouldn't have a rep if there wasn't something to their food. Or their drink. There were repeated suggestions that partaking of the Bourbon Lemonade was a must... Naturally we ordered a round! More accurately, I ordered Bourbon Lemonade, Kari ordered Bourbon Iced Tea.

A cup of bourbony goodness!
 Wow, that was one hell of a drink! Really sweet, but countered well by the sourness of both lemon and bourbon. The bourbon was Maker's Mark, which is apparently to Jack Daniel's what microbrew is to Budweiser... (aaaaaaaaand here come the shoes, or biker boots, to the head). Either way, Maker's Mark and lemonade > jack n' coke. I enjoyed this drink so much that I had a second and NO beer. That, my friends, is rare like platinum.
Next came the food. Keeping up the vein of "anti-fancy", there were no menus, but rather a chalk board that listed all the items of the day and their cost. An added touch I thought was pretty cute was that the chalkboard paint was on a bunch of surfaces, so you to poke your head under an overhang to see what was for dessert...

Quite the interactive menu...

We figured tacos were a good way to go, so we each ordered one. I had the Pulled Pork Taco (or in French, "porc effiloché") with Dr. Pepper sauce, watermelon pickle, chicharonnes (pork rinds), candied almonds (although the menu said pecans, but they were almonds) and cilantro. Kari had the Teriyaki Beef Short Rib Taco with Green Goddess dressing, daikon radish slaw and jalapeno. Both were 8 dollars for two tacos.  

That's a pretty tasty-looking taco!

To be honest, what made the Pulled Pork Taco good wasn't the pulled pork. It suffered the same fate as many a batch of "porc effiloché" in that the meat itself was not as tasty as it could have been, it had a sort of wateriness to it. The DP Sauce (their term, not mine), chicharonnes and candied almonds were really awesome, unique flavours that mixed well to save the dish, but the pork was average (not enough rub?) and the pickle had little assertion in its flavour.
Since we had two tacos each, Kari had my second taco and I hers. Funnily enough, we enjoyed what the other had ordered more. The Short Rib Taco was spicy, but the flavour of the beef was front and centre with richness and depth. It was Just a great bite of beef.
But I needed more, I needed some sort of 'side'. When I saw 'beignets de crabe', it was "FRAK YES!" time. And I was so right to have ordered them, even if they were a bit pricey (12 bucks for 2 crab 'beignets'). Verdict? TOTALLY worth it! They were rich, buttery and loaded with crab, also coated in, I believe, potato chips, which was brilliant. They came drizzled with a Ranch sauce, but its flavour was outstripped by the cake itself. It did add a nice depth of creaminess though... Definitely the best part of the menu, except, maybe the Lemonade...

Best. Crab. Cake. EVER! (despite it being called a 'beignet')

Now, being crazy people, we decided to get MORE food and another round of lemonade after this first course of pigging out. I had the "Red Fish" Taco while Kari ordered the Popcorn Shrimp.
The taco was tasty (not sure what fish the "Red Fish" actually was) with black beans and chipotle adding a lot of flavour. The fish was also well cooked, if maybe a tiny bit overdone. There was also pineapple in the taco, but I could barely taste it. I suspect canned pineapple is the culprit... Either way, it was quite tasty and light. Too bad I already had two tacos and a beignet in my belly by then... Kinda getting full...
It didn't help that Kari had maybe 4 pieces of the Popcorn Shrimp before announcing her incapacity to eat another bite. So, being a human goat who prides himself on never letting food go to waste, I tried my best to finish them off. Well, they WERE super-tasty - an odd combination of sticky and crunchy and sweet and tangy, with just a tiny bit of peppery heat to bring it all together. I almost got through it all, but even the mightiest must fall. I could not get through the last 4 shrimp...

The mound of crustaceans that did us both in...
 And that was that. Our bill came and for all that food and booze for two, it was still less than 100$ (before tip). 
The rest of the night was spent walking off the meal, drinking a few beers (with some difficulty) and shuffling back to the hotel in a food-zombie-like state where we would pass out by 11:30 pm... WE ARE PARTY ANIMALS!!!!!!!!! But really, who doesn't enjoy a good food coma now and then?
So, if you're in the area and looking for cheap and tasty Tex-Mex/Soul Food, definitely check out Ice House. I'll be going back, because apparently they also have Buckets of Ribs or Fried Chicken...

Monday, June 11, 2012

Feeding the Fringe, Year 2 - An Evening with Scott Thompson

Getting ready to be hilarious
It's that time of year again - festival season is descending 'pon our fair city. And the one that usually kicks things off for me is the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Now, being friends with the 'second-in-command' (Festival Administrator and Assistant Producer), Bryony Etherington (@ladylovewell) comes with certain perks and responsibilities (or both in this case!). Last year, I helped her put together the food for Fringe opening party. So, being the nice guy that I am and having enjoyed the challenge of cooking for a crowd on a budget, I asked her if she needed my help again. Turns out that she needed some help putting together the spread for a June 1 benefit event featuring Scott Thompson of Kids in the Hall fame doing a stand-up routine. It also meant I got to see the show!

It was one hell of a show - remorselessly crude, tongue-in-cheek humour from a Canadian comedy icon. And after the show, Scott made sure to do the rounds during the reception and talk to everyone. He was a real class act and I was glad to have helped in making the event unfold in a fun way, if only in a small way.

Now, I was given the task of creating one hors d'oeuvre and one dessert item for the event. Yup, dessert. Ugh...

But then, the ideas started to percolate... I kept thinking how you never see dessert on crostinis like you do for pretty much any other 'party food'. So, I thought of Dessert Crostinis. Now, what would you make that out of? Well, this being the year of "doughnut usurps cupcake as hip dessert food", I thought that plain doughnuts split in half and... Damn... then what? To the Internet! As it turns out, a friend of mind told me on Facebook that baking them at a low temperature for an hour or so would have the desired effect of making crunchy surfaces upon which to put sweet goodness.

The next step was figuring out what to put on top. For some reason, I'm partially obsessed with blueberries. Maybe it's because they work really well in both main dishes and desserts. They're also supposed to really good for you! So, I figured I'd make a sweet sauce to go over the doughnut bits. One more step down, but I wasn't done; there needed to be some creaminess to this concoction. For some reason my mind instantly jumped to goat cheese (or chèvre as I like to call it, call me snobby)- it's creamy but tangy at the same time and would be a good counterpoint to the sweetness of the blueberry sauce. And as a finishing touch, the whole thing needed a touch of mint. There were some creaks in putting it together, but in the end, I think it was a pretty tasty bite of sweet. I also tweaked the sauce to add blackberries, thus giving it the name "Black and Blue" Berry Sauce.

The funny thing is that I didn't actually put the appetizers together. I topped the crostini with the cheese at home, brought the whole spread in various tupperware and a giant IKEA bag and when I got there, a lovely volunteer took care of topping it with the sauce and serving the spread! Delegating, wow... I gotta do more of that!

So, today's recipe is my Blueberry-Chèvre Doughnut Crostini. At least that's what I'm calling it this week... It's split into 3 parts: the crostini themselves, the chèvre with mint and the sauce.

Blueberry-Chèvre Doughnut Crostini

Makes 64 pieces

Doughnut Crostinis


- 8 cake-style plain doughnuts
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter


- Heat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slice each donut in half, then cut each half into 4 even pieces.
- Melt butter in microwave or on stovetop.
- Brush tops of doughnut pieces with melted butter.
- Bake in oven for about 40-60 minutes, until doughnut pieces are crunchy. I found these were REALLY crunchy, like maybe too much so, but once topped with the chèvre and sauce, the bite is softened a little bit. Still crispy, but not REALLY crunchy.

Minted Chèvre


- 1x140 g package of goat cheese
- 2 tsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp sugar


- Leave goat cheese out in room temperature for an hour to allow it to soften.
- Using a fork or spoon to fold mint and sugar into goat cheese.

"Black and Blue" Berry Sauce


- 1 cup frozen blueberries (I prefer to use organic and wild berries, they're tastier)
- 1/2 cup blackberries
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp brown or demerara sugar
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- pinch freshly ground cardamom
- pinch salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- splash red wine
- a few drops vanilla extract (best quality)


- Place berries and water in a saucepan and cook on medium heat until bubbling, stirring often.
- Stir on sugar, nutmeg, cardamom, salt and pepper. Cook for another 15-20 minutes. Sauce should start to reduce.
- Stir in wine. Turn heat down to low (I usually go with 2) and let simmer for another 10 minutes, allowing the alcohol in the wine to evaporate.
- Stir in vanilla and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool. Puree sauce with a hand blender.

Putting it all together 

For the presentation, I thought it would be a good idea to serve the dessert in little paper baking cups, mostly to avoid a mess. Doughnut Crostinis tend to wobble...

About an hour before serving, spread enough Minted Chèvre on a Doughnut Crostini to make a thin layer covering the whole piece. Place in a paper baking cup and repeat for every piece. Doing this ahead of time allows the cheese to soften up the crostini a bit and makes it a much better bite.

When ready to serve, top each piece with the Black and Blue Sauce. Serve on a large tray and let the guests have at 'em!

Not everyone needed a baking cup, I guess...
As for the other hors d'oeuvres, I decided to go with Smoked Arctic Char on Sourdough Crostini (the bread was from Bread and Sons and delicious as always) with a Cucumber and Chive Yogurt Sauce (half an English cucumber, a cup of plain yogurt, 5-6 minced chives, a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste).  I also noticed noticed we had some tomatoes lying around at home, so I whipped together a Bruschetta (with some red pepper added for good measure), if only to placate the vegans.


And there you go! More guerrilla catering from yours truly!


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Breakast Goodness - part 3

Good morning!

So, it's been over a year since I took a look at the most important meal of the day, but this morning (OK, afternoon, it's Saturday and I don't have to work till 3, cut me some slack for staying in bed till noon) I felt like blogging about a quick and easy rendition of hash browns.

Hash browns, in my mind, are essentially refried potatoes with some added tasty bits. So, having a whack of organic happy potatoes acquired weeks back at the Farmer's Market, I figured it best to use some of them before they go off.

Quick Hash Browns

Serves 2


- 2-3 medium sized potatoes
- 1 small onion
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 small tomato (or 2 cocktail tomatoes, which is what I used)
- 1 tsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp olive oil
- pinch dried oregano
- pinch dried thyme
- tiny pinch nutmeg (this is key)
- salt and pepper to taste


- Wash and dice potatoes. Peel them if you prefer not to have skins, I keep them on (more vitamins, maybe?).
- Set pot of salted water to boil. Once boiling, add potatoes and boil for about 10 minutes, until potatoes are tender.
- Peel and dice onion, mince garlic, and dice tomato. Set aside.
- Once potatoes are cooked, drain in a colander and set aside.
- In a frying pan on medium-high heat, melt butter and add olive oil, stirring together.
- When butter is melted and pan is hot, add potatoes, onion, tomato and garlic. Mix together.
- Add oregano, thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- As the hash browns cook, the potatoes will soften, giving the whole thing a bit of a mushy and sticky texture. Using a spatula, flatten the mixture, making a kind of cake.
- Fry until golden brown, turn over and fry the other side.
- Serve with ketchup and red chili flakes for heat, or whatever you like on potatoes!

Mmmmmmm... caaaaarrbs...

And that's it - all you need for a quick breakfast that fills the belly and warms the soul.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Farmer's Market Season!

Hi there!

Spring has (finally) sprung here in Ottawa and that means the Farmer's Market is back in action! This year, it's moved locations from Lansdowne Park to Brewer Park in Ottawa South. I personally think the change in locale is a welcome change that allows for a bit of a more natural setting, with lots of grass on which to sit and relax while stuffing your face and perusing your purchases.

So, for those who might be asking what the heck goes on at a Farmer's Market as opposed to a regular seasonal market like Byward or Parkdale? Well, first of all the Farmer's Market operates once a week (Sundays from 8 am to 3 pm in this case, but there are lots of Farmer's Markets across the city with various operating hours), while others are open week-round. They also are much bigger and more of an 'event'. You can stroll in, buy various bits of yummy prepared food goodness and then shop around for any number of ingredients. Also, the produce and meat being sold at the Farmer's Market are almost invariably locally produced. That isn't always the case with the Byward or Parkdale markets.

Stalls full of goodies!!!

On our first trip, we managed to pick up Elk Sausage, Organic Eggs, Potato-Onion Bread, Red Onion Jelly (great on toast), Ground Beef from happy cows who had names, and finally, Wild Boar Back Ribs from Trillium Meadows farm.

But all this only happened after we snarfed some Back Bacon on a Bun from Bearbrook Farm. Yay alliteration!

Mmmmmmm back bacon...
So, a couple of days following our outing, I did up the Boar Ribs (they'd been frozen, but thawed quite quickly in the fridge - we were at the Market on Sunday and I made the Ribs the following Tuesday).

While the ribs weren't necessarily as meaty as what you might find in the supermarket, I chalk that up to them not being pumped full of hormones! Now, as you may know, I've been trying for a while to perfect the art of smoking ribs. The first few times , I've used the '3-2-1 method', where the ribs are rubbed, left overnight in the rub, then smoked. I'd had mixed results with this method. A later attempt incorporated the use of a mop sauce during the cooking process and the ribs turned out more tender, but I could do better.

So, with these lovely Boar Ribs, I decided to add yet another step to the process: brining. In case you forgot, brining, in the context of smoking and/or BBQ, is when you soak a piece of meat in a solution of water, salt, sugar and seasoning for a period of time in order to impart lots of moisture to the meat, making it tender.

Now, this is a long process. You'll need a couple of days prep time to get it right. That being said, let's see how it turned out!

Wild Boar Ribs

- 2 lbs. wild boar back ribs, membrane removed


- 8 cups water
- 1/4 cup kosher or sea salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. crushed juniper berries
- 1 tsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 4 bay leaves

- Mix all ingredients in large non-metal container.
- Submerge ribs in solution and place in fridge for 8-12 hours (overnight). If necessary, cut the ribs into smaller sections to ensure they can be submerged. You may have to put a plate or some other weight over the meat to keep it submerged.

Once you've brined your ribs, remove from the solution and pat dry. Set aside in the fridge while you make your rub, if it isn't already prepared.

I put this rub together on the fly mainly due a lack of both cayenne and paprika. Turns out arbol and guajillo chilis fill in more than adequately!


- 2 cups brown sugar
- 3-4 arbol chilis
- 1 guajillo chili
- 2-3 allspice berries
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3-4 star anise pieces (NOT the whole pod, just the seeds and/or fragments of the seed casing)
- 1 tsp. black pepper,
- 1/2 tsp. white pepper
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 2 tsp coriander

- Grind all spices that need it, mix all spices together and mix into to sugar.
- Coat the ribs with a thin layer of oil or prepared yellow mustard and coat with the rub, ensuring you 'rub' the spice into the meat well. Return to fridge for another 8-12 hours (overnight).
- Remove from fridge and let warm up for an hour.
- Mix together Mop Sauce (1 1/3 cups apple cider vinegar; 2/3 cup olive oil; pinch of rib rub if any remaining)
- Start fire in firebox using lump charcoal (maple). Place handfuls of wood chips in bowl of water while fire is starting. I used a mix of cherry and hickory chips for this recipe. Worked great!
- Once fire is going, set ribs on grill and create smoke in firebox using soaked wood chips. You're looking to smoke the ribs at about 225-250 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 hours.
- Apply mop every 30-45 minutes - don't apply during last hour of cooking.
- After 5 hours, rubs should be cooked through and tender. Wrap in foil and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Serve with Blueberry BBQ Sauce, Apple-Carrot Slaw (see below) and Cornbread.

Apple-Carrot Slaw

- Shred 1 apple, using the large holes of a box grater.
- Peel and cut 3 carrots into thin matchsticks.
- For dressing, mix 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tsp tarragon vinegar, and 2 tsp maple syrup. Stir into slaw and let sit for 30 minutes to blend flavours.

Smoked Wild Boar Ribs - Yup, you heard me right...

And the verdict? By far the best smoking job on ribs I've done up to now. I don't really know if it's because of the meat or the method, but my God they were good ribs! Nice and tender and moist and full flavour. RIB WIN!

So, there's just one example of the tasty goodness that awaits at the Farmer's Market. Trust me, there's plenty more where that came from!