Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tomato and Spinach Soup

Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
It’s Sunday and I’ve had a hard day of shopping. I’d frozen a couple of servings of the lovely roasted tomato soup I made last Sunday, and needed to use up some spinach.

So, I was going to make tomato and spinach soup.

Easy enough, you defrost the soup, add some spinach and heat until the spinach has wilted. Blend, et voilà, a whole new soup for another week.

One thing you must always remember, is to wait until the soup is cool before you blend it. Because if you don’t, you run the risk of shattering the blender and, if the universe is really conspiring against you, the lid coming off the blender and ending up covered in an arterial spray of roasting hot soup.

Luckily only the latter happened to me tonight. I'm with Baudelaire. Laugher is human and often prompted by the misfortune of others. But never again will I laugh when someone slips on a banana-skin or a child gets hit in the head with a swing. Because a jet of soup to the face, chest, floor and kitchen cupboards is no laughing matter.

I’ve just picked a lump of spinach out of my hair and have spent the last three hours with an icepack on my face.

No, really, stop laughing.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tomato Soup and Cafe Vue

Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
You already know that the weather here was glorious on the weekend. I ate some lovely ice-cream, I spent a morning at a spa being massaged to within an inch of my life and I invested in a winter coat that, according to the sales girl, will see me to -20 degrees.

Sunday saw me eating at a vegetarian restaurant, and I think that this is where it went awry. It's called The Coup and, given I'd just done a really intense yoga session and was craving some protein, I bimbled merrily along, assuming that it was a chicken joint based entirely on the fact that chickens live in coups.

Of course, I was wrong.

We shared a platter of what can only be described as compost. Readers of a gentle disposition might want to look away now, but they served a curry cream cheese dip, garnished with banana. *Involuntary gag*. I'll admit that the yam chips were OK, but really, this kind of food isn't going to convince anyone that not eating meat is a positive lifestyle choice. For the record, I have nothing against vegetarianism or vegetarians. I save my disdain for the vegans. But really, this place was a new low on the deliciousness scale.

The irony is, I was going home to prepare some vegetables.

I'd had a sensational tomato and basil soup at Vue Cafe on Saturday, and so had spent more than a couple of hours attempting to procure some decent tomatoes to replicate the dish at home. Vue is a sweet little place, in the middle of an art gallery and serving a really simple menu, along with some wines and beers.

I love any place where the wine list has a sense of humour, and Vue is set up to put a smile on your face. The service is relaxed, chatty and attentive. The menu an example of knowing what you do well and not being scared to serve it. The cheese and herb biscuit that came with my soup was a perfect example of warm, busomy, biscuity goodness. They dealt well with an oil-slick Binky, so relaxed from my massage that I was at risk of sliding off my stool.

But back to the tomatoes. The ones in the photo weren't *quite* as good as the heirloom tomatoes I picked up at the Farmers Market last week, but once they were roasted, pricked with chili and soused with some smoked salt, then liquidised with some garlic and onion, they made a perfectly delicious roasted tomato soup that was head and shoulders above the vegetable abominations I'd been served earlier.

The Coup is at 924b 17th Avenue SW Calgary, Alberta Canada
Ph: 403.541.1041. Really, I would give it a wide berth.

Vue Cafe is situated inside Virginia Christopher Fine Art at 816-11 Ave SW. Ph 403.263.4346

The Newbury Spa
is at 720 – 11th Avenue SW Ph. 403.265.7499

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Monday, September 15, 2008


Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
What an amazing weekend! It was about 22 degrees in Calgary, so everyone was walking the streets semi-naked.

Of course when it's hot, it's gelato time* and I was lucky enough to find an interesting spot in Kensington.

So do you know what the difference is between ice-cream and gelato? I always prefered gelato. It was lighter and the flavours truer than ice-cream (although I'm never going to pass up a scoop of any icey-goodness, if the truth be told). Turns out that gelato is made with milk (generally full-cream, natch) but generally speaking, the fat content is much lower than that of ice-cream (7-10%, as opposed to 15+%), which is made using a hell of a lot of a cream (the clue's in the name, see?). You'll also find that a lot less air is added during the commercial gelato making process (cos traditionally, they'd use a really long wooden spoon), meaning that you're getting a denser, richer product. Which also means it melts more easily, as you'll see in the photo. Not that I believe Fiasco stir their gelato with a wooden spoon. It's the march of progress. *Big sigh*.

Hazelnut is my gelato flavour of choice, followed by strawberry. Or Ferrero Rocher. This developed during a lovely trip to Sirmione, where every day I intended to try a different gelato, but just couldn't get past the hazelnut. It can be an elusive flavour; if too much sugar has been added, the roasty, toasty flavour of the hazelnut is lost. It's also a bitch to make.

I think I am in a position to give you a round up of where to get the best hazelnut gelato...

1. Gelateria Cafe 2000. Sydney. Tonino Lo Iacono is Sydney's best gelato maker. I'd walked past this place a hundred times before I popped in, and my tongue nearly fell out of my mouth when I tried his hazelnut gelato. He makes tiny batches, all by hand and even makes his own fruit/nut bases. Sadly many people use commercial bases these days. He even grinds his hazelnuts by hand, to make sure that his hazelnut gelato is perfect.

2. Scoop. London. Everyone was wetting their pants about this place when it opened. London isn't really a gelato town...Let's just say that it was a good job I had left for Sydney when this place opened. It's about 150 meters from my old office. My gelato was served by a 13 year old boy. I'd like to see more child labour in the gelato industry.

3. Any gelato place in Sirmione, Lake Garda. Really. Just go. It's a lovely trip. I can recommend some hotels if you'd like. And a great place for osso bucco.

4. Fiasco. Calgary. OK, so it's probably not a world's best and the caramel gelato was just yeuck (think foamy, sugary nothingness, rather than strident, almost burnt caramel which I was expecting) but the hazelnut was pretty damn good. They'd got the sugar balance right and there was that extra creamyness that you get from the hazelnuts. Very yum.

Gelateria Cafe 2000 is at 650 Darling Street, Rozelle, Sydney. They also serve a limited Italian menu, which is variable in quality but earnest in its authenticity. I'd just have the gelato and a flat white, to be honest.

Scoop is at 40 Shorts Gardens, Covent Garden, London.

Fiasco has three locations. Check out their website for more details.

*Actually, I don't really care if it's hot, I'll eat gelato anytime, but I wanted to gloat about the weather. You'll get your own back when I am snowed in, eating triscuits.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sun Chui Kee BBQ Restaurant

Steamed Tilapia
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
I’m lucky, I appear to be surrounded by people who know where to get the best out of Calgary’s restaurants. Tonight’s meal at Sun Chui Kee BBQ Restaurant was...delicious.

There’s nothing worse than going to a Chinese restaurant and discovering that everyone else wants chicken with cashew nuts or a spring roll. Luckily tonight I was surrounded by people who love to eat, as well as someone who knew how to get the most out of the menu.

We started with some tiny little dried, salted anchovies and peanuts, while Eileen ordered for us. We ended up with a feast. Some amazing crispy skin chicken with salt and soy for dipping. Sichuan style aubergine. Fabulous silken tofu with pork, dancing with bonito flakes sprinkled over at the last minute. Some amazing pea shoots, sweet yet metallic with freshness. Thai style beef flank with boy choi in a spicy, umami rich sauce. Clams with black bean. Singapore noodles. Shirley Bassey fried rice (oh, OK, Big Spender rice, with roe, scallops, squid and prawn). And a whole Tilapia steamed with ginger and spring onions.

There wasn’t a dish that wasn’t good or very, very good. Well, apart from the complimentary coconut tapioca pudding, but that’s just not my thing. I tried some, because you allegedly live for an extra 75 days every time you try something new.

The restaurant is next to a good sized Chinese supermarket, so I was able to stock up on fermented, salted black beans, wonton wrappers, tofu and bok choi. I just wish I had at least one of my Chinese cookery books with me…I would be cooking adventurously this week.

A pre-visit Google turned up very little, apart from the news that Sun Chui Kee was closed for health violations in 2006. I don’t care though, believing that the deliciousness of a Chinese restaurant, is often inversely proportionate to the cleanliness of the kitchen. I was proved right tonight.

Sun Chui Kee is at 1423 Centre Street NW.

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Breakfast in Calgary

Galaxy Diner Bill
Originally uploaded by Suzi Edwards
I'd started to give up on breakfast in Calgary. An historically bad plate of some sort of industrial by-products at Lido Cafe in Kensington (which online reviews had said served "great food at amazing prices", whereas the only amazing thing is that it's still in business after all these years) and the look of perplexion on my servers face when I asked for poached eggs at Moxies Grill, had re-calibrated my expectations to zero. And forced me to search out an organic, free-range egg supplier.

However, more searching has turned up two fabulous places.

First up, Diner Deluxe. OK, so it's a ways out from my downtown location and I had to wait in line for 40 minutes (and I got so lost on the way back that I ended up attempting to cross a 40 lane highway on foot) but this 50's styled diner is just rocking. It serves Kicking Horse coffee (from BC, using organic, fair-traded, shade grown beans, which means that you can drink three or four cups *and* be doing some good), Farmer Cliff's eggs (just outside of Calgary and free range) and amazing pork products from Regina's Fine Meats. They also grill a pretty mean Roma tomato, meaning that your plate of food looks all purdy. It's also next door to Urban Baker. Despite the fact they objected to me taking photos (and accused me of working for a rival bakery) their chocolate cranberry sourdough is a work of genius and will be turned into french toast the next time I go there. This batch was used to bribe waitresses to give me names of tattoo artists and for snacking on during the Calgary Tattoo Fair.

As good as Diner Deluxe (and within walking distance for me) is the Galaxie Diner. This place is smaller, but also retro styled. My steamed eggs benedict with Montreal smoked meats (served on a croissant, but I'll forgive them the inauthenticity) could have fed a family of four, but was just right on a morning when I felt like the floor of a minicab. One by-product of living in Calgary is that you find yourself doing the oddest of things, and my karaoke debut of "You're So Vain" seemed like a good idea after 74 Gray Goose and tonic.

Of course there's still the problem that I can't quite get my head around the bacon they serve here. It's a bit like eating bacon rind. But Diner Deluxe had a couple of bacon options, so I am prepared for next time. The search continues...

Diner Deluxe
is at 804 Edmonton Trail NE, Calgary, AB T2E 3J6
(403) 276-5499. The website is worth checking out.

Galaxie Diner is at 1411 11 Street SW, Calgary, AB T2R 1G7
(403) 228-0001

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