Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CFMF + Charcut

Every year some of the Edmonton Folk Festival staff head down to Calgary for one or two days. In the past 'Fence Day' has kept me from this joyful weekend, but my new position with the Festival this year meant I was one of those people that got to head south.

The Festival itself was excellent. We arrived in town Friday evening and I caught the last bit of Patrick Watson's set. On Saturday The Head and the Heart, The Once, David Wax Museum and Matt Anderson wooed crowds at Stage 6 and 4, and at the after party we danced all night to Socalled. On Sunday morning I fell in love with Rev. Peyton's Big Damn Band and the lady rockin' the washboard.

Both Saturday and Sunday morning we stood in long lines for the excellent cappuccinos coming out of the Phil & Sebastian booth. There were also some excellent fish tacos from Dos Gringos and pitchers of Sangria in the beer garden.

In anticipation of k.d. lang at EFMF in a couple weeks, we (Brenna and I) skipped Saturday evening's mainstage, opting for late evening drinks and a charcuterie board at Charcut. All our dishes - beet salad with creamy, house made goat cheese, charcuterie board, warm Raclette and rhubarb cheesecake in a jar - were excellent and service certainly matched. Favourites from the board were the pistachio and truffle mortadella and a lovely lamb sausage. I walked out with a good amount of leftovers, and armed with a ciabatta bun from the Slow Food Calgary tent, I had an excellent sandwich for lunch on Sunday.

A little too short, but in the end a fantastic weekend with excellent music and food.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ricotta cherry muffins

Back in January I raved about the daily muffins at Café Leva that became fairly regular breakfasts on my way to class. While the café is on my way to work this summer, I made a batch of Leva-esque muffins recently that had me set for a couple weeks.

I worked from this recipe for ricotta blueberry muffins and ended up swapping out the blueberries for fresh cherries (which someone graciously dropped off at our office) and reduced the sugar by a 1/4 cup. I also made the ricotta in house after being inspired by the DIY post over at Cream and Sugar. They're right - it is a truly easy cheese to prepare. Making it myself also meant I got to choose the type of milk used - a combo of milk and cream from Avalon and D Dutchmen dairies that we already had in the fridge. The two left the cheese with a beautiful creamy-sweet flavour.

The muffin recipe itself was excellent. I forgot the sugar on top, but they were certainly sweet enough without it. While the inside was moist and fluffy, the exteriors became lovely and crisp - so Leva-esque.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cask Night at Next Act

The Next Act has been doing Cask Nights with Alley Kat, similar to Sugarbowl's, for several months now. Finally a first Tuesday of the month aligned with my schedule and Brenna and I met after work for a cask aged brew.

I've been shut out of several of Sugarbowl's Cask Nights - stuck at the door without a pint - so was happy to find Next Act fairly full with a couple tables to spare about 30 minutes before the cask would be tapped, with a small lineup forming once 6pm arrived.

After enjoying a pint of Brewberry Blueberry Wheat Ale along with a fish sandwich for me ($14) and a veggie burger (aka. The Drama Queen; $13) for Brenna, the cask was announced. We were looking forward to a pint of the Neopolean Neapolitan Stout but unfortunately found that the cask would be sans the strawberry and vanilla.

In the end the chocolate stout was a little too hoppy for our liking and wasn't as enjoyable as the creamy, slightly sweet Neapolitan Stout released last summer (it has also been re-released this summer and is available at Sherbrooke).

This cask certainly wasn't our favourite, but as we left we realized what we love about cask nights or new bottles of beer is that you never know quite what you're in for. Sometimes it's amazing, and once in awhile not so much. So I'm still hoping many more of my first Tuesdays of the month will include a trip to The Next Act for more cask sampling.

P.S. A couple (semi-sunny) weeks ago we finally got around to opening a lone bottle of the now retired Single Star - Alley Kat's Three Bears Oatmeal Stout aged in a Jack Daniel's barrel - that had been in the fridge since April. I really loved this one - rich with all the caramels from the whisky, and very enjoyable with Sunterra's bison, salsa and cheddar burgers.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A few bottles of Hitachino Nest

Back in the middle of June Charles and I stopped into Devine Wines to pick up our silent auction item from Al Fresco - two tickets to Symphony Under the Sky - and of course I couldn't resist checking out the selections in their beer fridge. We ended up with a few bottles of Hitachino Nest from Japan's Kiuchi Brewery.

A+ for marketing - love the owl.

Though the brewery started with sake and continues to produce it, their ales are quite lovely. Since these three, we've also tried the Espresso Stout and XH at Sugarbowl. Our favourite by far is the White Ale. It's bubbly, ultra smooth and incredibly refreshing - the perfect patio beer. With some of the selection we tried, particularly the Nipponia (brewed with ancient Japanese barley and hops), we were left wanting a little more crispness, but otherwise the Hitachino Nest brews are truly enjoyable to sit down and sip.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Grilling Pizza

Awhile ago I bookmarked this grilled pizza dough from Chow and we finally got around to making a batch this past week. We got six discs out of one batch of dough, similar to the Neo-Neapolitan (from The Bread Baker's Apprentice) we usually stick with. Three discs were placed in the fridge overnight while the other three were frozen for a later date.

Round One

This was definitely the test day. I ended up stretching the dough far too thin and it was difficult to get the rounds onto the grill. That said, there was sure some exciting (and possibly dangerous) tossing action...

Success! Dough on the grill.

In the end we didn't find grilling added much flavour. The plus, however, was that we avoided heating up our entire apartment with the 500° oven necessary for pizza stone utilization. Toppings were Prosciutto from Valbella (they have quite the selection at the Lendrum Sunterra), onion, yellow peppers and bocconcini on a tomato base.

Round Two

With a little experience our most recent grilled pizza attempt went much better. The pizzas were smaller and easier to handle, and I made sure to keep the dough at about a 1/2" thickness. A little more thought also went into the topping situation this time round. We rode over to Sunterra Sunday afternoon and ended up with hickory-bourbon BBQ sauce and venison smokies (again from Valbella). I caramelized some onions and after discovering a block of cheddar gone bad, we utilized a wedge of the 'Drunken Goat Cheese' from Smoky Valley Goat Cheese (which is amazing, btw).

The combination of a little more heat control and the use of canola versus olive oil made this version far more enjoyable than our first attempt (and there was no scary throwing of pizza dough). Though I still don't think the grilling adds much flavour versus the pizza stone, we both agreed the chewy texture of the dough was a nice change. And I'll certainly trade the positives of the pizza stone for a cool-ish apartment over the next couple months.

P.S. Happy Canada Day, everyone!