A touching Thanksgiving for the Rome Family with Loblaws

Thanksgiving is just around the corner… in Canada at least as it will take place weekend. For our dear neighbors to the south, I am sure many are already planning their menus and trip arrangements to see family. In my family it is a small and quaint affair as this is the weekend we close the cottage. Which ever way you do celebrate Thanksgiving, the message is the same everywhere….

The love of food ties families together

Thanksgiving is about two things – food and family. Ask anyone what kind of stuffing they like, or how they prefer their mashed potatoes and there is a good chance the will say how their mom, dad or grandparent has been preparing it all their lives. These recipes are as much a part of a family’s history as the memories of the times they’ve enjoyed them.

Through the years, a family’s shared love of the food that is only theirs, ties them together. Just look at what’s on the menu for a family feast and you have a unique view of how different cultures converge to form who that family is today.

This is very much the case for the Rome family. A combination of Croatian, Ukrainian and Italian recipes all have a place at their table. After losing a vital member of their family, Matthew along with his daughter Cheryl work hard to keep the love alive through the food and gatherings of their family.

Chris Karsisiotis, store manager for the Loblaws Burnhamthorpe, was excited to have Matthew and Cheryl in-store. He said they a have a lot of “Matthew”, family members who love food and want to keep memories alive, who come into the store looking for ingredients and suggestions on how to make things taste just like they remember. At Loblaws, we’re proud of the role we play in helping to keep these traditions going.

What an awesome video. Did you need to reach out for a Kleenex like I did? I thought it was truly a touching story and family, and it makes me want to prepare a family recipe book too.

What recipes would be in your family cookbook?

This post was sponsored by Loblaws

Guest post on ici et here

I am so proud to share with you today a link to my guest post on ici et here, entitled…

Ethnically Tasting Montreal, Frugally

 

In this special post I discuss why we are a city of foodies and tell you about my favorite ethnic hangouts.

PLUS you can listen to an audio interview I did with Fait Ici this week.

The ici et here concept is simple and brilliant: ici et here is a group blog with a fixed lifespan of 52 weeks where 52 posts will be published by 52 different people in both French and English. This blog endeavors to document the interplay of food and life in Montreal. Today is my turn for post number 29.

We had also a fabulous pot-luck launch party back in November 2010 where we got to meet most of the participants and our host Fait Ici. Remember my Best Thai Curry Tofu Ever, our hosts loved it so much they make it once in a while for their lunch menu.

I encourage you to check out the other guest posts on ici et here if you want the real inside-scoop of food in Montreal!

Project Food Blog 2010: 1 of hopefully 10 future posts

VOTING IS OPEN TILL SEPT 23th 6pm PST…vote here for me

I am so very excited! For what you ask? Why today is officially Day 1 of the Project Food Blog 2010. And what is this challenge you ask? Organized by Foodbuzz, “the Project Food Blog is the first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges…”.

Participants have been fussing over their contest profiles (you can see mine here) for some weeks. But today we can submit our very first of ten challenge entries: #1 Ready, Set, Blog! No recipes to prepare yet, no meal to host. No, our first challenge is a very simple yet a so daunting one: sell ourselves in words…or as we say in Quebec ‘vendre sa salade‘. I have to tell you, my reader, why I think I am Food Blog Star material.

Not only is this going to be an hard personal exercise but only 400 out of about 1800 participants will move on to round 2. Think about it: 80% of the participants will be eliminated in round #1. I am going to give it my best shot…here is my (not so) humble submission for you dear readers, voters, bloggers, Dana, Nancy and Pim.

Foie Gras Pizza, Pho Soup, Nepalese Momos

Voting will begin Monday, September 20th, I hope I can count on YOU to vote for me.

A Food Blog Star Menu

Exquisite menus, just like food blog stars, are the result of a delicate balance of taste, timing, experience, exotism, small portions, comfort and surprise!

Hors d’Oeuvre

I have been eating since the day I was born for one thing. And my parents made sure I was exposed to as many tastes and smells as possible. At 3 my main meal in restaurants was garlic snails. My dad loves telling the story of one of his biggest mistakes with me: taking me for lobster a second time: the first summer I hated it but the second summer I loved it. To my mother’s surprise – and a bit of fear – I made muffins one Saturday morning as my parents were sleeping…oh I must have been 8. By the age of 14 I was inviting friends over for 4 course meals. Cooking and eating for pleasure is in my blood.

Appetizer

Although food has played an important part my entire life it really took a precedent about 3 years ago when I started a dinner group called Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Now with over 250 members, for the past 3 year I have organized bi-monthly dinner outings to reasonably priced restaurants. It has been a wonderful experience turning strangers into friends over a wonderful ethnic meal. This dinner group was a perfect channel to mingle my love of food with imparting my knowledge to others.

Homemade Mascarpone, Peach Salsa, Ice Cream Petit Four

Main course

Soon followed the Cheap Ethnic Eatz blog where at first I would review the restaurants we visited during these organized group outings. Over the years the blog has greatly expanded and now includes recipes, food challenge entries, exotic food discoveries, contests, articles and kitchen gadget reviews. I have also written several articles on food related websites. As the name of the blog suggests I lean greatly towards ethnic recipes and foods. I am of, and also have always had friends, of very a diverse ethnic background. Lately I love going to ethnic grocery stores  to buy an item or two I am not familiar with and I run home to research my discovery. I love sharing my new treasures on my blog and I hope I can inspire others to go out and eat outside their boundaries.

Granita

It is wonderful to introduce new foods to people…but it is just as important to give back to my inspirations. For the past 2 holiday seasons I have run a fund raising campaign in the name of the dinner group and donated the money to an organization called Kiva. Third world entrepreneurs apply for loans with Kiva so they can start a business. Once the money gets paid back I just reinvest it in a new applicant. It is the gift that keeps on giving.

Salad

I am no stranger to food challenges and socializing with other foodies. In fact I partake in a few monthly online friendly food challenge groups. I participate in both the baking and cooking challenges from The Daring Kitchen. I even co-hosted one challenge. Another fun monthly challenge is the International Incident Party where we can run wild with our imaginations as long as we stay within the month’s theme.   Online is fun but I wanted to meet the local Food bloggers. I searched them out online and sent out a brunch invitation. Twelve people showed up at the first outing and we have been meeting up about once a month for the last year now. Other local food bloggers have joined our secret group since then. We all instantly bonded and can talk about food for hours.

Playing with the unknow: Black Horn Nut, Palm Sugar, Sesame Leaves

Cheese platter

Through a simple food swap and a blog post another project saw light: the Foodie Exchange. This group is for foodies from around the planet who wish to exchange their local food specialties as a care package with other foodies. I built and manage a forum website facilitating foodies to find a fellow partner with whom to have a care package exchange. This has been a truly rewarding project.

Dessert

Never ask the cook before the meal even begins what the dessert will be. Dessert should always be a surprise. I like to tease a lot and leave things in suspense. And I love making little jokes and keeping the mood light. This is a perfect recipe for leaving them wanting more. I hope my personal dissertation has shown you how passionate I am about food, teaching and sharing with others. In other words I think it makes for a perfect recipe for a Food Blog Star. So what is the dessert? Hopefully being in the top 400 and having the opportunity to complete challenge #2.

Citrus Mezcal Sherbet, Homemade Bread, Orzo & Pomegranate Salad

VOTING IS OPEN TILL SEPT 23th 6pm PSTvote here for me

Click the box below to see my progress and official participant profile

now

Grand Opening today: FAIT ICI

Meet Lindsay and Jackson. They are officially opening the doors to their new urban general store FAIT ICI today, June 09th 2010, in Montreal’s Saint-Henri district. This opening will be marked at 2pm with an information session on sustainable, organic production in Quebec. Bloggers, journalists, social media figures, marketing agencies, family and friends will be present…some taking notes for the first public write ups of this new store.

Fait ici’s product mix is eclectic. Our selection is inspired by the general stores of old...always a fun surprise to be uncovered.

I however got a very special tour of the store and an interview with Lindsay and Jackson during a much needed break prior to the arrival of their contractor for last minute touches on Monday evening. We quietly sat down and I got to chat with the couple for a good 2 hours. It was laid back and in no time Jackson offered me a beer. We traded stories and personal experiences. We talked about food…a lot.

They are a fun, energetic, positive, happy, easy to talk too couple. I liked them both instantly. I would also bestow both with what I consider the highest compliments I can give: sincere and genuine in their motives. I truly believe those very two qualities will be the key to their eminent success.

I hope you will enjoy learning more about this lovely couple and about this new store by reading the interview (below) I had with Lindsay….

"we’re an urban oasis of organic foods and sustainably produced goods. most of what we sell is made right here in Quebec."

Fait ici is an eco-conscious general store that showcases high quality products primarily made in Quebec. What does that mean in laymen terms?

We wanted to create the old style general store feel, take things back to a feeling of simplicity and make it an environment where we can connect with our customers and the community. Our goods include an eclectic mix, like the general stores of the old days, of Fresh Food, Prepared Food, Home Life, Body Care, Baby Wear and Care, and Gifts like ceramics and paper products. We tried our best to deal with socially and environmentally responsible  producers and  suppliers, and to source locally as best we could. Not everything is local but when we can we do.

CEE notes: Lindsay plans on setting up workshops on topics like canning, natural food preservation, etc.

How did the idea for the store start?

Like most brainstorm ideas this concept came out of a problem. I grew frustrated when shopping in big grocery stores. The most upsetting was the lack of information about where the products were from or how they were made/grown/raised. In our store we did our homework on everything we sell.

Do you have partners working with you on this?

We are a 2 person team. I (Lindsay Davis) run the store and I work with my partner Jackson Wightman: right hand man and PR agent.

How do you split the work?

CEE notes: On paper Lindsay is the owner and runs the whole store; and Jackson does the PR. In reality both say they could not do anything without the other (awwww).

Your products: you know who makes them, where they’re made, and how their produced. A business is based on creating relations of trust with clients, suppliers, employees… How do you create and maintain yours?

We spent some time visiting the farms and fields where we considered buying our products, such as Ferme Diane Victor Blais and Ferme Sanders.  Those were some very happy cows, or the lambs would follow us like house pets. We also spoke directly to certain companies like Kashi (which yes is owned by Kellogg’s so we are keeping an eye on things to make sure it falls in our criteria). We have come up also with unique tags for our products that tells the buyer who made this product, where are they, how far are they from the store, and if it is an organic product.

We want to provide our clients with as much information as possible about the choices they have regarding consumption. We seek to inform you as much as possible about who made what you are buying, as well as where and how it was made.

CEE notes: Lindsay wants her customers to tell her what their needs are and what products they would like to be able to buy. If she can stock it she will so talk to her!

How did you come to choose this neighborhood and what is the reaction, if any.

I love the area and we live very close by. I went out to meet the neighbors and introduced myself. The reaction was very warm and welcoming. I knew I wanted this specific local as I loved the vibe. The past renter was hesitant to stay for a while so I visited every few weeks and one day she said she was ready to let it go. It was ours.

What is the competition like (Atwater Market, Super C)?

We don’t see it as a problem as we stock some quite unique products. The big stores are not a threat. As for the market sure they have organic products but often they come from very large corporate organic farms and the guy behind the booth has no info on what he is selling.

Describe two moments of maximum fear and maximum satisfaction that you have lived or may face.

For the satisfaction part it is seeing how well received our business ideas is and how we already have a feeling of  a community being established. We want to have fun and we want our customer to have fun when coming to the store.

For the fear it would be the consequences of dealing with small scale farmers: will the delivery be dependable, how consistent will availability be, constant quality could be an issue. In general re-inventory is scary for now.


Where does your passion for food and the environment come from? When did you adopt this lifestyle change?

For food definitely from my mother as she encouraged us to cook at a young age. I love to cook.

For the environment I just grew up with it. I am from Nova Scotia and as a child the city had regular pick up of compost, garbage and recycling. It was the standard and was accessible. I find Montreal is light years behind.

CEE notes: Lindsay is neither a vegetarian (but is cutting down on weekly meat nights) nor a granola freak. You won’t be hassled to change your life style when visiting.

What is your professional background? What were you doing before?

I was in interior design with a a big firm. I got laid off during the recession but was not enjoying my work either. I am not an office ‘behind the desk’ person. I looked into SAJE Montreal Metro which helped make this store a reality.

CEE notes: SAJE Montreal Metro offers a number of services for entrepreneurs, including the self-employment support program and the Young Promoters program. Check it out.

Is there a website or social media link where we can see more about your project and/or yourself?

Yes our website is FAIT ICI. We are also on Facebook, Twitter and You Tube.

You have a blog since March 2010, what direction do you want to take it in?

Made Here [the Fait Ici blog] is our blog and I want to fill it with useful info, help the readers make educated choices on their consumption decision, I want to SCREAM out loud who is doing bad practices, and share related news in general.

_______________

Thank you again to Lindsay and Jackson for welcoming me so warmly into their store and sharing so much with me. I strongly recommend you go and check out the store when you can and stop by for a sandwich and a chat. You won’t regret it.

FAIT ICI
2519, Notre-Dame O corner Charlevoix
Montreal, Québec, H3J 1N6
514.439.3888

Karyn Nakhleh: A Pastry Chef Portrait

Mint bark!
Peanut brittle!
Sucre à crême!

These are the little treats my great friend Karyn Nakhleh brought over just before Christmas. She made them all herself. She actually sells them during the holiday season. They were so good! Last Christmas, 6 months ago, this blog had started. You see Karyn is a trained pastry chef and she creates her masterpieces as a sideline. What a great interview opportunity! She graciously answered all my question and its a great and funny read. Enjoy!

When did you start baking?
I have been baking since I was a little girl. My mom was always baking or cooking something so I was always exposed to activity in the kitchen and wanted to make my own things. I was probably 8 or 9 years old.

Wedding Cake

Who got you started in this art?
Well, that would be my mom and my granny. Both cooked as well as baked all sorts of things, and since my family is made up of two very different nationalities, I had exposure to many different types of ethnic desserts and sweets. My mom was always making things like banana bread or poached pears with chocolate sauce and my granny used to make mamoul (arabic cookies, some filled with dates, others with nuts) so I was exposed to very different desserts from a young age.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in food?
Well, it sort of occurred to me one day that I might be good at that sort of thing. Before I had considered going to pastry school, it was the norm for me to make a dozen different types of cookies at Christmas time, paired with sweets, dessert sauces, and candies. Furthermore, I’m a very creative person, so I thought I’d be good at wedding cakes and designing my own creations.

Is there a website or blog where we can see something about you and your baking?
Yes, I have an online portfolio that I update on a regular basis. It really gives people an idea of what I’m able to do, and for me personally, it’s a diary of what I’ve made from my insane collection of dessert cookbooks.

Sugarwork Rose

What culinary training have you received? Where have you learned more, in class or by experimenting?
I attended the Pearson School of Culinary Arts, which is part of the PACC (Pearson Adult Career Centre). It was an intensive, 15 month program, 6 1/2 hours a day, 5 days a week, and I was working full time at the same time. School definitely gave me the basis to grow on and I think it would be a very accurate statement to say that I learn something each time I make a new dessert. You always see a better way to do things.. or learn a better way from the recipe in question. You never stop learning, and even when I am not successful at something I attempt, as long as I learn from it, or understand what went wrong, I’m pleased.

How and where did you get your first job as a professional baker?
Once I graduated from school, I apprenticed for a few months at a wedding cake baker, and then I landed a job doing dessert service and light prep at 40 Westt, which is a high end restaurant in the West Island. Actually, I had applied to another restaurant with the same owner and he asked me to go to 40 Westt, which I was quite intimidated by. Working there was a great experience. I was there for 2.5 years and learned a lot about working in a restaurant including doing huge group service and helping out on the hot side.

How would you define your style?
Hmm.. interesting question. I am not subtle.. I like bold flavors, looks, colors.

What is your favorite ingredient to bake with and why?
I would probably have to say chocolate, but good quality chocolate. It is so versatile and touches all aspects of pastry. Also fruit purées in general. You can do so much with them and the flavor that you get in a good purée is fantastic.

What is your signature dish or your favorite recipe?
I usually try to make something different every time I can, so this is a hard one. I’d have to say my mango mousse cake. Everyone loves that one.


Tobi’s Chocolate Shoes   –   Cupcake Wedding   –   Raspberry Marshmallows

What is your favorite baking gadget?
Oh my… I have so many very very cool pastry gadgets.. one of the coolest things I have are a set of Magyfleur molds. They are from France, and sell for around 400$ a set.

Who have been the biggest inspirations in your career?
Jacques Torres was a big influence on me. Seeing his TV show and the wonderful creations he would just effortlessly whip up with not many exotic tools made this metier so appealing. I was lucky enough to meet him on two occasions and he is a gracious man who always has time to say hello.

Buttercream Wedding Cake

Do you have an funny kitchen incident to share with us?

Oh my yes. I was delivering a wedding cake to a reception hall, and had to finish assembling the cake on site. It was a 3 tiered, butter cream cake with different piping patterns on each level that had to be added on site. The bride had ordered her flowers for the cake topper, but the florist didn’t make a bouquet for me, they just gave me the flowers. A friend of mine had come to assist me with the cake and while I was piping the pattern onto the cake, made a nice bouquet with the flowers, and wrapped the stems in saran so the stems wouldn’t come into contact with the cake. Once the bouquet was inserted into the cake and the piping was done, I took a final look at my creation, and found that I could see a bit of the saran sticking out from the cake. I took my pliers (pastry chefs have ALL sorts of tools.. ) and pushed the stem into the cake.. OK.. perfect. I was done, and moving away from the cake, pliers in my butter cream coated hands.. and the pliers fell out of my hands and plunked themselves perfectly into the 2nd tier of the cake, sticking out like a huge sore thumb. The bride was less than 30 minutes away at this point and there was no time to panic. I calmly pried the pliers out of the cake, got my spatula, extra butter cream in both the icing and piping colors and proceeded to repair the damage. The cake was given a 1/4 turn and it once again was perfect. I asked my friend (also a pastry chef) what she was thinking as I was doing all of this, and she replied that she would have been crying. My response to her was that there was no time to panic or cry and that the bride was on her way and I had to fix the cake prior to her arrival, there was no other option. And fixed it was. The only regret I have for this episode is that I should have taken a picture of the cake with the pliers in it.

If you were stranded on a deserted island for one year, what dish would ask to eat after your rescue?
Only one dish, and not a meal? No fair.

If any chef in the world could prepare a meal for you, who would it be?
Oh boy. First hand I would say Fernand Adria in Spain.  He is a master at what he does and in a league of his own, a real pioneer or Molecular Gastronomy. That would be a meal of a lifetime.

Single Knot Egg Buns

Is there something you hate to see when you go to a restaurant as a customer?
Desserts that are not made in house. Some restaurants will go all out for the savory meals they serve, and then when it comes to dessert – the last thing you will eat before leaving – they serve some pre-made, shipped in, lesser quality item. Oh and fake whipped cream. Nothing turns me off more, and some restaurants will defend this act as one that is necessary because real whipped cream is not only expensive, but also won’t hold itself in a cake, for example. This is false, and there are ways to overcome the delicate nature of whipped cream, it just takes a bit more effort.

What tendencies do you see coming on strong?
I see more people experimenting with exotic fruits, which is very nice. Mango’s time has come.

What new techniques are you interested in learning?
I would love to learn more about Molecular Gastronomy. I find it very interesting and it’s a hot topic in the food world. People are pretty divided about it, as we’re mixing chemicals with our food that we eat.. but the results can be phenomenal.

Rainbow Jello Mold

What advice would you give to someone in high school who would like to pursue a culinary career?
First of all, it’s a very rewarding field to be in, but it’s a lot of hard work. It is not easy to work in a kitchen. You have long hours and you are always on your feet. Try and find a kitchen that has chairs in it for it’s employees, it won’t be an easy task. It is very different from say, an office job. If your goal is to be on TV like Anthony Bourdain or Gordon Ramsay, know this: it probably won’t happen and those guys put years of hard work into their careers before they made it big. And don’t think you’ll get rich doing this kind of work either. The real reward is seeing the reactions and smiles on the faces of the people who taste your creations.

What would you say to a novice in the kitchen to help them get over their fear of baking?
Don’t be intimidated by measurements. The biggest thing that people say about baking is that it’s such an exact science because of the chemical reactions that are required to make cakes rise etc.. it’s very different from cooking. Check measurements twice, take your time, and be organized. Always read the whole recipe before you start. Don’t be afraid to attempt anything! Write down any changes that you make to a recipe, because you might not remember what you did later on, and if you’re going to multiply or divide a recipe, do your calculations before hand, and check them twice!

All foods were made by and photographed by Karyn Nakhleh

If you would like to contact Karyn for an order please email her at knakhleh at live dot ca