Friday, October 22, 2010

Zen Kitchen

Zen Kitchen opened in Ottawa about a year ago and people have been raving about the restaurant ever since.

I'm not usually one to seek out vegan food, but when you know the people making it really care about food -- you can't help but want to jump on the gluten free, vegetarian, raw (if desired), whole food bandwagon.

I joined two friends at the restaurant on a nice day to try out Zen Kitchen's brunch menu.

One of my friends ordered the gourmet salad with organic greens, spiced pepitas, dengaku tofu skewers, with soup. The salad was fresh and flavourable.

Another friend ordered the breakfast burrito, with scrambled tofu, market vegetables, Mornay sauce, tomatillo salsa and spicy rice. I tried some and thought it tasted good.

I think my friend was still hungry after eating it though.

I had the house granola, local seasonal fruit, vanilla bean cream, served with lemon scone and berry jam. I thought my dish was really pretty. The overall flavour and texture were good. It also included a scone and banana bread, with house-made vegan butter. The banana bread was good, but dense. It benefited from the butter.

In terms of the scone, it wasn't my favourite. I think it just needed more sugar and something to moisten it up a bit. That's just me though.

The service was helpful, friendly and not intrustive. Caroline, the chef, came out to the table to say hello and see how we liked the food.

Overall, it was really a good experience. So much so that I'm going back for dinner soon.

Check out Carole and Dave's (the owners) show that aired on The W Network here.

I was also happy to also see Zen Kitchen at Field of Feasts.

They made vegetarian burgers. The bread was excellent and flavour combination was good.

The Table, a vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa, also had a interesting collection of options. The salad was not a bad idea, in theory, but the weather wasn't cooperating that day and there was lettuce flying everywhere.

Field of Feasts was quite a while ago. I had mixed feelings about the event, but would be open to going again if the venue and weather looked good. I was very impressed with the sustainable approach. But, I did find that there was minimal interaction with the chefs and farmers. I think there would be several ways to promote greater interaction between the farmers and event-goers (e.g., presentations, classes, greater online awareness about the farms, etc.), but the venue had to be different (or at least set up differently).

I'm sure if I had gone with Giz, I would have at least been witness to more interaction with the farmers. Every week she comes home with new stories and interactions from the market.

ZenKitchen on Urbanspoon StumbleUpon

Monday, October 18, 2010

Flour Shoppe Cupcakes

Friends that love food are the best! Of course, human decency is nice too. But there's just something about being able to share food experiences with people who get excited about food.

That's how this napkin activity came about:

It all started after I kept seeing amazing posts about the Flour Shoppe (like Rachelle Eats Food's post and Le Mien's post featuring Don and Jenn from foodiePrints).

I was thrilled when I managed to convince my food-loving friend to go eat cupcakes with me, get four cupcakes that we would share and rate each one on appearance, flavour and texture.

We chose German chocolate:



and Marshmellow Smores:

In the end, despite some original hesitation in selecting it, the carrot cupcake won!

I'm already trying to find an excuse to go back and get more cupcakes.

I also wanted to draw your attention to some new pages that I added. If you look just below the header images, you will see two additional pages, one for knitting and one for travelling. Please check out the pages! Suggestions on how to spruce them up are welcome!

Flour Shoppe on Urbanspoon StumbleUpon

Saturday, October 16, 2010

World Food Day - October 16, 2010

Let's take a moment to be silent and thankful for everything we have and think about how we can make a difference to those who are much less fortunate than we are. No food today ... just reflection.

When we come out of reflection...we need to get mad!!! each and every one of us - just get mad!!!

United against Hunger

The theme of this year’s observance is United against hunger, chosen to recognize the efforts made in the fight against world hunger at national, regional and international levels.

Uniting against hunger becomes real when state and civil society organizations and the private sector work in partnership at all levels to defeat hunger, extreme poverty and malnutrition.

In 2009, the critical threshold of one billion hungry people in the world was reached in part due to soaring food prices and the financial crisis, a “tragic achievement in these modern days", according to FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. On the eve of the hunger summit, Dr Diouf launched an online petition to reflect the moral outrage of the situation. The “1 billion hungry project” reaches out to people through online social media to invite them to sign the anti-hunger petition here On this World Food Day 2010, when there have never been so many hungry people in the world, let us reflect on the future. With willpower, courage and persistence – and many players working together and helping each other – more food can be produced, more sustainably, and get into the mouths of those who need it most.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cranberry Scones

I generally have 2 market days. On Wednesday I attend a local tent style market set up in a local shopping mall parking lot. My dogs love this market. They get to go for a ride (I can't even say that out loud), they get to sniff other dogs who come to the market (we call it exchanging business cards) and the absolute favourite thing is to drag me over to the stall that sells sausages. Thank goodness the vendor is a dog lover and always has some samples of low sodium turkey kolbassa to give them as treats.

Each week I tell myself I'm absolutely not going to go over to the vendor who sells the absolute best scones I've ever tasted. I try to get the recipe each week and each time she laughs at me and tells me she'll have to shoot me if she gives me the recipe. When asked what her secret is, she simply says baking powder and cream cheese. AHA!!!! It's all in the cream cheese. So now I'm on a mission to duplicate those scones. has some recipes with cream cheese so I started with their Scottish Blueberry Scones substituting the blueberries for cranberries.

1 3/4c unbleached flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 oz. cream cheese
1/2 c milk
1 egg yolk, beaten with 1 Tbsp milk
1/2 c sugar
2 Tbsp butter
1 c dried cranberries

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Use metal blade in dry food processor. Add flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cream cheese and butter to machine. Process until cream cheese and butter completely disappear. Add milk and mix with 1/2 second pulses until dough begins to clump.

Remove blade and stir cranberries into dough. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Coat baking sheet lightly with shortening or line with parchment paper. Pat each piece of dough into a 4" diameter cushion. Transfer to baking sheet, brush tops with egg glaze.

Bake on middle rack of oven for 20 minutes or until tops are golden brown. (mine took 15 minutes).

Verdict: Next time I'll double the recipe and make the scones larger. These were very close to market lady's recipe. I'll see if I can get a little more in tips this coming Wednesday :).


I went back to see my scone lady at the market and told her I attempted to replicate her fabulous scones. I shared with her that although the flavour was pretty similar, the size and the tenderness were different. After getting another tip!!!! "add a little baking soda" - yayyy. I'm not sure how much is a little but I'll make them again and try with 1/2 tsp to start. I couldn't resist taking a photo of the comparison between hers and mine.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Stratford: Part II

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you're recovering well from turkey dinner.

Let me tell you about more of our recent trip to Stratford (Part I can be found here)...

Aside from Savour Stratford, we got to experience a small piece of Stratford during our mother-daughter not going to kill each other weekend.

We learned our lesson the hard way when going to Prince Edward County a couple of years ago -- book well ahead of time during food festivals (otherwise you end up in a chain hotel in Belleville). We stayed at Duggan Place, a charming Victorian B&B owned by Laura and Tony.

(Photo source)

Since Giz is the type of person to make friends with complete strangers, breakfast at this B&B was totally in her element. Tony keeps everyone chatting while serving Laura's delicious breakfast creations. I am not so much of a morning person (and may have been a bit hung over from previous day's wine), I would have been content to eat in silence.

The meal was great! I really loved the attention to detail.

The scones were very nice. I'm going to look for a scone recipe with raisins and cranberries. (Giz says: Watch for my upcoming post on scones)

The fruit was really refreshing and well put together, but dainty -- I would have loved even more of it.

The main plate was an egg souffle of some sort, over latke-type hash brown. It's the type of dish you start to miss as soon as you put your cutlery down.

After recuperating from the chocolate and wine tasting, we went out to Foster's for dinner. The space is nice (maybe a bit cold by the front window), colourful but simple with a partially visible kitchen. The service was attentive and down to earth. The food was mixed. We ordered the "asian sampler, a combination of shrimp dumplings, pork potstickers and a vegetable spring roll, served with pickled ginger, a peanut sauce and nuoc cham".

I quite liked the potstickers, but found the dumplings overcooked and the spring roll too bready.

We had heard that Foster's was known for its steak. So, we both ordered it, mine medium rare and Giz's medium. My steak was nicely grilled. I quite enjoyed the sauce options (e.g., bbq, chimichurri, etc.) they offer to add on to the plate.

Even before Giz cut into the steak, I wanted to compare the feel of a medium and medium rare steak. When I pushed down on it with the back of my fork, I remarked how much harder it was than my steak. I'm surprised the chef let it leave the kitchen. Even the waitress was surprised how cooked it was. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that it was just an anomaly.

They happily redid the steak. But, a nice dinner out isn't the same when your steak comes 10 minutes after the rest of your plate is finished. Plus, it was quite awkward when they took the main plates away and brought Giz's steak back on its own on a little appetizer-sized plate. I don't know what to really expect in that sort of situation, but it's irritating to have such a disjointed meal, yet pay full price.

Foster's Inn on Urbanspoon
After dinner, we quickly made our way to the theatre to see Kiss Me Kate. You can watch clips from the show here:

I thought the voices of the leads were generally strong. Some secondary characters were hard to hear. Overall, not my cup of tea. Personally, I found it simultaneously overstimulating and boring. But, I think theatre reviews are a very individual thing -- Tony (the B&B owner) emphatically disagreed with our lackluster review of the show. So, go check it out for yourself and let me know what you think.

The next day, before the main tasting event, we walked around the city centre. Since my more recent knitting project is coming to a close (there's optimism for ya), I decided to go check out the knitting store (Close Knit Quality Yarns) in Stratford.
There's something so calming and mesmerising about a wall full of wool. If you're into knitting, check out their website, they have a variety of free patterns.

I decided to go with another baby pattern, since it seems (among my friends) that babies are the "new black".


Saturday, October 2, 2010

LiveSTRONG With A Taste of Yellow: Chocolate Cupcakes

It's the fourth annual LiveSTRONG With A Taste of Yellow, an event hosted by Barbara of Winos and Foodies. October 2nd is LiveSTRONG Day. As Barbara puts it, "It is through the LiveSTRONG presence, governments and corporations are made aware of cancer issues, not just in the US, but worldwide. Thanks to organisations like LiveSTRONG there are new treatments, new drugs, more research. event which supports and raises awareness for cancer issues worldwide".

For this event, the photo must include a yellow food and it must feature a heart in it. So, I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with lemon icing:

For the cupcakes, I used the Barefoot Contessa's Ultimate Chocolate Cake recipe. As always, it was moist and not too sweet. The icing recipe comes from this site. It reminded me of a cream cheese icing. StumbleUpon
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