Party time - Queso Fundido Cheese dip - rated HOT · 21.07.13 by colin newell
Who doesn’t like something hot and spicy to get the party rolling? Andrea’s and my take on a great Mexican snack dish cannot be beat – it has the blazing hot molten appeal of sharp cheeses dangerously tinged with the bite of chipotle peppers (to taste!)…
Not only that, it is served right out of the oven so it has double-trouble heat – but seldom a complaint is heard as it disappears entirely before it cools.
Shred 2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese (older the sharper the better)
Shred 1 cup Monterey cheese
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 4 oz. can chopped green chili peppers (drained)
1 to 2 tablespoons of finely chopped, canned, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
Combine and mix in a large bowl.
Spread into 1 quart baking dish.
Baked in 375 oven for 20 – 25 minutes stirring once.
Remove from oven – stir again.
- garnish with chopped green onions,
tomatoes, and even some sliced black olives or cilantro if you are so inclined.
Serve immediately with Tortilla chips and the frosty Cerveza or two of your choosing
Eating the Island's best - at Deerholme Farm · 14.07.13 by colin newell
In the 30+ years I have been paying attention to the Island food scene, one concept has emerged to a much broader understanding and acceptance: Local and seasonal farm to table cuisine.
Locally sourced fruits, vegetables, meats and local/regional cuisine conceptualization is finally coming into its own.
Photo – L to R – Chef Bill Jones, Patrick Barber and Don Genova coordinating the next plate with impeccable timing.
And it makes sense. When you look at the hard reality of how little of our Vancouver Island food supply is actually produced here – well, it is kind of staggering and it makes any level headed person ask… “Why!?”
Well, the times they are a changing – and leading the charge on experiencing, learning and savoring the fruits of our harvest is none other than Chef Bill Jones of Deerholme Farm
No stranger to global cuisine, Bill Jones has wowed Island residents for 8+ years within the realm of “Farm to table”, seasonal cooking and the ever popular “foraged foods” – utilizing his star power to promote the areas incredible collection of seasonal morels (mushrooms).
Last night (Saturday – July 13) Andrea and I and two dear friends had the distinct pleasure of joining Chef Bill Jones (photo-Left), food journalist Don Genova (photo-Right) (CBC Food Matters and his own well read blog over at Blog.DonGenova.Com ) and avid food enthusiast Patrick Barber (Son of the Urban Peasant James Barber no less…)
Chef Bill Jones dining room holds a couple of dozen folks comfortably – keeping in mind that the farm is not a restaurant in the truest sense of the word – and when you have successfully “applied” to attend one his special events, you are indeed within a learned circle of enthusiastic food folks… in a space that is very open, friendly and conducive to group interaction and learning.
On our particular visit to the Deerholme Farm in the Duncan area, the single challenge was getting there. That said, the 4 of us were kind of reading from several sets of instructions – and for me, it was quite by accident that I ended up at the end of the very short Stelfox Road – not quite in the middle of nowhere but not far from it. Note the map below.
The Deerholme farm is quite unassuming and very farm like – so do not expect an obviously purpose built farm/food showcase. Because it’s not. It is a very active working farm that is also center stage for Bill Jones culinary experience.
Dinner at the farm often runs from 5 PM til 9 PM. We arrived fashionably early and took the opportunity to wander the rustic farms herb garden noting the grandeur of the area.
By 5 PM all the guests were seated and the first plate was in front of us: A savory Thai chicken sate (local organically grown chicken) complimented with freshly grilled Porcini bread and a smoked eggplant puree… a very gentle and easy going introduction to what would be a fascinating evening of brilliantly crafted “small plates” – portion sizes oriented towards enjoyment and learning – each course accompanied by Bill or Don giving us a little lecture on where (and when) the ingredients came from. Photo above – Bill and Don connect the timeline of the ingredients to each plate.
Within a 1/2 hour or so, we settled into a handsome salad of Argentinian inspired grilled flank steak over local farm greens – the steak (amounting to a couple of ounces of meat protein) topped by a Chimichurri dressing (Chimichurri is often made from finely chopped parsley or Cilantro, minced garlic, olive oil, oregano, and white or red wine vinegar…) – the steak is served medium-rare and you could almost cut it with a fork.
By 7 PM or so and a chance to stretch legs, get to know the folks at the table we were sharing – cleanse our palates with some mineral water, engage in conversation, etc and it was time for the next course:
A BBQ Bean soup – (a mixture of beans, the white beans being from Saltspring Island), ham hock with smoked salmon, sweet pea salsa (hot!) and grilled Pasilla pepper puree. This was a very rustic and flavorful soup that would be perfect any time of the year – but especially enjoyable in mid-summer with all fresh and local ingredients.
Photo above – long smoked beef brisket.
By 8 PM the star of the show was about to roll out: Photo – Slow cooked smoked beef brisket – with grilled red onion-mushroom jam, kale polenta, Providence Farm baby tomatoes, fresh garlic, basil and bread sauce. The brisket was portioned at around 3.5 ounces (perfect for the overall pacing of the meal) – rich with a complex and dark smokiness in the flesh – this brisket being grass fed and free range, is very low in saturated fat – so although the portion is slightly fatty, the fat portion is quite reminiscent of pork belly… melt in your mouth and healthy!
By 9 PM we were all very content and almost right on schedule an incredible dessert was presented: A local fennel and pear tarte tatin with a hazelnut caramel mousse, smoked pecans garnished with a maple-candied dehydrated bacon slice (surprisingly it fit in perfect…)
Any one of these plates would have made a delightful centerpiece on any other meal somewhere else – but taken as a whole, this grouping left a clearly lasting impression that will not be forgotten soon – as a local coffee enthusiast mused, “Of my top 5 meals I have had anywhere, 4 of them were at Deerholme…”
And considering the selection of great food and drink on Vancouver Island,
that says something!
For our group, the Deerholme Farm represents a unique and memorable eating experience – Hey, Andrea and I try (on principle) to eat out once a week (somewhere nice) and Deerholme is not like anything you have ever experienced – If anything, it makes me hopeful about how we see food on Vancouver Island – and the road to (at least a bit more) self sufficiency.
By all means contact Chef Bill Jones over here and consider attending one of his events. They are generally on Saturdays, year around. Deerholme Farm is located near Duncan, British Columbia – click on the small image above for the bigger view of the area.
Talking Thermomix with Don Genova · 4.07.13 by colin newell
Listen to the Podcast |
As most of my readers know, I have been playing with coffee machines for a decade and a half – and in some of my in between times I do take the opportunity of horsing around with related gadgets that are used in the kitchen (that could also have a coffee connection…) and some not so much.
And it was with great delight that Andrea and I managed to arrange a loan of a Thermomix “food appliance” from Island food journalist and author, Don Genova – locally of Cobble Hill, B.C. and a regular on CBC Radio “Food Matters”. We had seen the Thermomix in use at one of Don’s popular cooking classes – on the subject of pasta. And guess what, Don had the Thermomix handy for not only making the pasta but also making the sauce for the pasta! And for this reason and a few others, I do not call the Thermomix a food processor – because (much to my surprise), it is much more than that.
The Thermomix is a powered blender, chopper, stirrer, mixer, digital scale and labor saver – Designed in Germany and manufactured in France, the Thermomix is more industrial grade multi-purpose tool than the kind of single use device that many people would spend almost as much on.
Many folks, in fact, often pick a Vita-Mix over the Thermomix as a cost saving measure – and as awesome as the Vita-Mix is (I have a lighter duty Cuisinart version of it…) – because it does what it is supposed to do really well, it cannot cook anything. And where the Thermomix really, really shines – is that it can prep a dish and then cook it… or steam it. Or do both at the same time for goodness sakes!
In the video below, Don tackles a recipe we tackled a couple of times… with awesome results!
Andrea and I gave the Thermomix a work out with a couple of variations of a popular and relatively challenging recipe: Risotto. For those who have made Risotto, it is labor intensive and requires your attention for the duration of the process.
Apart from getting the ingredients together and getting them into the Thermomix in the right order, the bulk of the work was done by the Thermomix with little interaction from me – the primary thing with Risotto is, of course, the stirring – often 10 to 15 minutes of stirring… which the Thermomix does gently and steadily. We ended up with a restaurant grade Risotto that we would have proudly served any chef in the city… or any of our friends.
We chatted with Don Genova on the subject of the Thermomix this afternoon at Victoria’s Cafe Roaster 2% Jazz at the Hudson – and future home of the Victoria Public Market. When asked, Don pointed out in the audio recording above, that all kinds of people buy the Thermomix and they buy it for a variety of reasons – the main thing for us was labour saving, streamlining processes in the kitchen and making food better – and maybe even saving some money in the journey and eliminating some waste – because the Thermomix measures everything very precisely, the end results are exactly the same every time.
The Thermomix is clearly well made (designed and built in Europe) with heavy duty components for years and years of service. Interestingly, you cannot buy the Thermomix online or in a store – it is sold by a network of dealers in Canada that are particularly hands on when it comes to training and initiation of new users to this very useful tool.
I had the Thermomix for around a week – and I think I may need to borrow one again for another couple of tests (my main loan this month was interrupted by a trip to Hawaii!). In the meantime, if you need any information on where you can find one in B.C. (or anywhere else in Canada…) just drop me a line!
For more information on what Don Genova is up to and where you can see/hear him, pop on over to his Blog
Podcast – If you cannot see the audio player above, click here for the mp3.
Pasta - Scallops in lemon pepper and butter · 13.05.13 by colin newell
Toast 1/4 cup of Panko bread crumbs
Put some pasta on to cook – enough for 2.
Into Saute pan put 1/4 cup of quality Extra virgin Olive oil to heat.
Put in 1/4 cup of butter
Cut 5 large Scallops into quarters – season with lemon pepper
Toss in the Scallops into Saute pan. Cook for 2.5 minutes.
Remove the scallops to paper towel – add another sprinkle of lemon pepper.
Add some more butter to the pan – add 1 heaping tablespoon of chopped
garlic + heaping tablespoon of capers with some caper liquid.
Put in 1/3 cup of lemon juice to saute pan.
Add 2 heaping tablespoons of dried parsley.
Put on low simmer.
Remove toasted breadcrumbs from oven and toss 2 tablespoons of fresh grated Peccorino Cheese to the hot bread crumbs.
Put 1/2 cup of hot pasta water into saute pan and toss.
Return scallops to pan.
Drain pasta – add pasta to saute pan.
Sprinkle 1/2 of the toasted bread crumb and cheese mixture onto saute pan and toss.
Plate the pasta between 2 plates – sprinkle remaining cheese and breadcrumbs.
Bed and Breakfast in the Cowichan Bay - The Damali · 7.05.13 by colin newell
Andrea and I did a wine and cheese pairing in Cowichan Bay a few weekend ago – and in the name of safety and enjoyment we decided to spring for a good Bed and Breakfast in the Cobble Hill – Cowichan Bay area. And it was on very short notice that I did a quick Google of B&B’s in the area. Some very attractive places jumped out and one of the most attractive was the Damali B&B Lavender Farm and Winery. Inasmuch as that is quite the mouthful, the website was very compelling and attractive.
The Damali B&B is a purpose built building that feels somewhat more like a spa-lodge for its spacious layout, awesome great room and cozy kitchen area. The folks that run the place really loving presenting this multipurpose facility and it shows – with a wide variety of loving touches, impeccable cleanliness, thoughtful extras and all that passion that you really need to engage strangers (like Andrea and I) on a regular basis.
And good for us as we literally phoned in less than 48 hours earlier looking for a place to sleep – luck would have it, all 2 rooms were available.
Damali, as I mentioned above, has a lot on the go – from a functional lavender farm to a winery. So, depending on the time of the year there are a lot of neat things to do there.
As we were attending a special event that night (At the Cow Bay Conference Center) hosted by Hilary’s’ Cheese of Victoria and Cow Bay, we had the good fortune of hanging out with two of the partners from the Damali Farm; Dave and Marsha – great folks who love their job.
The Damali B&B Winery and Lavender Farm are on 13 Acres on Telegraph Bay Rd. (on the left 50 yards before the Hutchinson Rd Junction — pay attention for the sign, you might miss it!)
By and large it is a great location, whisper quiet apart from the occasional dog bark and the evening air is filled with the sounds of crickets.
Check in is pretty informal – a quick orientation, and introduction to Chevy Chase, the sweet Jack Russell Terrier and a discussion of how and when we would like our breakfast and we are off to the events of the evening.
Sleep came super-easy in the comfortable and well-appointed rooms — the bonus being the quiet and darkness and the fresh air – knocks you out in minutes!
Breakfast was a brilliantly presented combo of fresh fruit in Yogurt, and a set of proteins; an nice egg dish with some thick cut bacon and artisan whole grain bread – tasty and perfectly portioned for a weekend morning.
Overall, a great experience – the only regret was leaving after one night! I could have stayed a week.
You can contact the Damali at:
3500 Telegraph Road, Cobble Hill,
British Columbia, Canada V0R 1L4
For BED & BREAKFAST Requests & Bookings
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 250 743-4100 Fax: 250 743-4170
Toll Free: 1 877 743-5170
Waiting on the farmers and public market chapter one · 6.05.13 by colin newell
Hey everyone! Thank you for your patience. It has been a while since I have blogged regularly – no excuse at this point… and it is not like there isn’t a lot going on to report on… because there is. So let’s dig in already!
Living in the urban environment of Victoria B.C. comes with a dynamic and ever changing set of variables when it comes to hunting and gathering – because let’s face it folks: Food and drink is the one thing that you spend the most time thinking about – go ahead, deny it. It is likely true.
For instance, when I am making breakfast, I am probably thinking about lunch and dinner (the latter more likely) and I am often looking forward a couple of days. Our weeks (lucky us) almost always include a date night. And date night means a dinner out – generally on Thursdays. We cook in virtually all the other nights and this is our reward. It is also a good habit to get into – it is good for the economy and it is great for a relationship.
And for those people that know Andrea and I, I might just be a little guilty of frequenting favorite places to the exclusion of a little variety and risk taking. But that is OK too – because becoming a regular at one or more local joints has it advantages.
Back to the gathering for a moment. One of my bad habits, locally, is not making much effort to do fully sensible shopping – and that would include going to farmers markets, local markets, even corner stores or natural food stores that go that extra mile to bring you local produce and products. I will not name any names but I shop at a local “Canadian owned” mega-mart that used to (they probably still do…) sends Island grown products to Vancouver for sorting – and then ships them back to Victoria – which is utterly and inexcusably bad on so many levels.
Anyway – just around the corner is the June opening of the Hudson’s Public Market in the old Hudson’s Bay building on Douglas, Blanshard, Herald and Fisgard blocks. I am so ready for this – and yes, I know there are markets like the “Moss” that is closer that I do not currently take advantage of. My bad. Baby steps right.
Victoria’s last year round Public market closed in the late 50’s – so technically, I have been waiting that entire time for a public market in Victoria. There have been a few sad attempts in Victoria… but clearly, they never succeeded. So. It’s coming. I am excited. And I really hope that the city of Victoria embraces this market – because we need it – for Oh so many reasons.
On one hand, there are great food products around us – which is awesome. On the other hand, there are some fabulous products and foods being produced on the Island that are not readily available – maybe until now – and yes, I get that there are various neighborhood markets… but they are only open on the weekend.
So expect to see me in the front of the line on opening day!
This is the first in a series of hunting and gathering on southern Vancouver Island – how important it is to better understand our food supply – and to embrace and preserve natural, healthy and holistic food production on Vancouver Island.