summer break

Hi all,

Just a quick post to say that I’m taking a short hiatus for the month of August to focus on some new things happening in my life.  I think it’s a good time to take a pause on this blog; I’m hoping the time away will allow me to get refreshed and give me some time to think of new things to do here.

A big thanks to my regular readers and lurkers alike for your support and for continuing to stop by my humble little blog.

Enjoy the rest of your summers and I’ll see you back in September!

xoxo Cindy

grumans catering and delicatessen

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Earlier this month we headed over to Grumans Catering and Delicatessen for a lovely Saturday brunch.  We had our day pretty much mapped out to a T: early morning workout (a very pathetic attempt at a 5k run by me while Mark had no issues), brunch, then watch the Argentina vs. Belgium game.  It was the first weekend of Stampede, but since we’re not huge fans of it (I only go once a year with my Stampede buddy to indulge in corn dogs and doughnuts), we bypassed all that craziness.

I know Grumans from my early career days through their catering.  Many meetings and team gatherings were catered by Grumans and I always enjoyed their food, so I’d been wanting to have a meal at their new location for quite a while.  They specialize in classic Jewish deli items, of which I’m not very familiar with, but trying new things is always a new and welcome adventure.  Besides their catering and dining facilities, they also offer their items for take-home so you can have a meal and take some goodies if you feel so inclined.

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Whether it was because of Stampede or perhaps we had hit that sweet quiet zone, only a couple of tables were occupied when we got there.  The space is bright from the large windows letting in plenty of natural light, and it’s clean and modern with ample booth and table seating.  We snagged a booth seat and settled in with the menu and a couple of mugs of fresh hot coffee.

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Mark chose the Grumans Reuben (smoked meat, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, russian dressing, grilled rye bread) with potato salad and coleslaw.  It came with a side plate of pickles and hot mustard.  Mark is a huge fan of smoked meat, having enjoyed it during his youth living in Eastern Canada.  When I asked how it compared to what he’s had, he said he was pleasantly surprised.  I tried a bit of the meat and it was moist, juicy, and flavourful.  I might have mentioned this before, but when Mark eats, he gets what I call “happy mouth”, which means he makes whatever he’s eating look delicious and incredibly enjoyable, like it’s the best thing he’s ever eaten (which is why I think restaurants should hire him to be in their commercials if they want to market their food).  When our server came by to see how we were doing, Mark was in the middle of a huge bite and even she remarked, “he looks so happy!”  See?  That’s his happy mouth, and he was happy eating that delicious sandwich.

grumans5I opted for a more traditional brunch dish and got the Eggs Benedict (pancetta, lemon hollandaise, confit home-style hashbrowns, fruit salad).  Strange thing is, I used to dislike eggs benedict because of the hollandaise sauce, because I’m a weirdo and have a strong aversion to most sauces.  It’s only recently that I’ve started to enjoy eggs benedict, so I think that’s a sign that my palate is maturing as I get older.  Does that mean I’ll be munching on blue cheese any time soon?  Uh, heck no… baby steps first.  So back to this lovely eggs benedict.  I was mostly intrigued by Grumans version as they use potato latkes in place of English muffins.  Crispy shredded potatoes are always a good thing in my book and they worked really well overall in this dish.  They were crispy and well-seasoned, holding up to the rest of the ingredients and providing the perfect vehicle for the eggs and sauce.  My eggs were perfectly poached – medium with some runny yolk, just the way I like my eggs.  The lemony hollandaise sauce was creamy and bright, while the pancetta brought a welcome saltiness to round out all the flavours.  After the richness of the eggs benny, I welcomed the cup of fresh fruit that came on the side.  I think anything else would’ve been too heavy, so the fruit is a good choice.

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Of course, no meal out would be complete without some dessert.  I chose the Cheesecake Square, which happened to be an apple caramel flavour (I think).  The server was nice enough to get us two squares for sharing, woohoo!  Mark said it was a little too sweet for his taste (since he’s mostly a savoury-food eater), but it was the right amount for me.  The creaminess of the cake combined with the caramel and the crust and a dollop of whipped cream was the perfect bite, and the perfect way to end our brunch.

I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to eat at Grumans because if the meal we had is any indication, we should be going there more often.  I wish I had gotten the name of our server because she was so lovely and friendly with a great sense of humour, and at the end of our meal she said that we were some of the nicest people that she’s served, which was a really awesome compliment seeing as we’re very conscientious of being polite and courteous diners wherever we go to eat.  Overall, a wonderful first experience dining at Grumans, and we hope to return there again very soon.

Grumans Catering and Delicatessen
230 – 11 Ave SE
Calgary, AB T2G0X8
Phone: (403) 261-9003
http://grumans.ca/

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yummie nation

Screenshot of the Yummie Nation Home Page

Screenshot of the Yummie Nation Home Page

About a month ago, a curious email landed in my inbox.  While I normally ignore most of these emails (as they’re generally of the bad grammar and obvious super scam variety), this one in particular intrigued me.  The email made a claim that “life is about to get yummier for you.”  Oh, you are sending me a lifetime supply of pork belly?  No?  Ok, so my dreams are a bit lofty.

For some reason, I had been targeted to join a new community of entertaining experts, food writers, competitors, and home cooking pros. I was especially intrigued by this part:

YN Contributors are hand-picked for their distinctive voice and engagement with the home entertainer. There is no cost to serve as a YN Contributor. We simply seek one blog submission per month that will be featured on your YN blog page.

I don’t get hand-picked very often.  In fact, I don’t remember the last time I was hand-picked for anything positive.  I’ve always regarded this blog as just some tiny speck amongst a sea of bigger, better, and bolder food blogs, a place where I come to share things that I ate and made only because it brings me tons of happiness vibes.  I don’t pretend to be something I’m not; I really am a picky eater foodie wannabe, I still suck at photography, I’m a hopelessly awkward introvert who becomes paralyzed at the mere hint of the word “networking”, and I really, truly only do this because it’s an immense pleasure in my life.  The fact that others have noticed this corner of my world really does make me feel wonderful.

So yes, I absolutely signed up to be part of the Yummie Nation family.

What exactly is Yummie Nation?  They say it better than I could articulate:

A dynamic online gathering of the best of the best bloggers in home cooking and entertaining. United they stand. Each with their unique take. Indivisible in their quest for the yummiest inspirations. Regular folks dishing out tips, tricks, pics and videos on how to keep the yum strumming in your life. One nation of original ideas to embolden home entertainers for inspired living.

Pretty awesome, right?  I even have my own page – click here to visit and see my first post.  Yup, I’m doing some shameless promotion, but don’t just check out my page – go check out the other YN Bloggers too!  If you’re also a food blogger, why not think about signing up and joining the YN family?  And no, they didn’t ask or sponsor me to promote YN here, but they’re awesome at promoting my blog through social media so I’m doing my part to get the word out there.

See you all on the Yummie side :)

fresh mint & lime ice cream

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Summer has arrived with a fury.  It’s like it knows that its only allowed to come out and play for three short months, so it’s making the most of that small window of time.  After a particularly long and dreary winter, I can’t complain about the sudden onslaught of gorgeous sunshine and bright blue skies, but damn… my apartment is a sauna.  I promised myself this year that I wouldn’t complain about it because it’s truly a #firstworldproblem and things could be much, much worse.

To encourage those happy feels, I made a batch of Fresh Mint & Lime Ice Cream, inspired by David Lebovitz’s Mint Chip Ice Cream recipe.  I left his recipe largely intact; his ratio of milk to cream to sugar to egg yolks is my favourite combination and one that I use as the basis for all of my ice cream flavours.  I find it has the perfect balance of richness, creaminess, and sweetness for that ideal ice cream texture and mouth feel.

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So why mint and lime?  Why not stick with the classic mint and chocolate?  I wanted to try something a little more refreshing to beat the summer heat.  When I was thinking about mint combinations, lime became a top contender.  Of course they pair well together – just think of Mojitos or Mint Juleps.  The herbaceous, woody quality of mint is balanced by the brightness of the lime.  Ooooh yes, it would work well indeed.

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What would work really lovely in this would be key limes.  I didn’t have any luck finding them at my local grocery store, so I stuck with regular limes.  Either type would work, but it will take more key limes to get the amount of zest and juice noted in the recipe.  I found that the amount of zest and juice I put in was ideal, but it can always be adjusted to personal taste.

The resulting product is certainly unique.  At first, I was taken by the resulting beautiful pale green of the ice cream; no need for any artificial colouring here.  I admit that when I tried my first spoonful, I didn’t know what to make of it.  This is not your typical mint-flavoured ice cream.  This is much more floral, with the fresh mint flavour quite prominent with the first bite that finishes on the bright lime note.  Because I was unsure of it, I kept eating it.  The more I ate, the more I started to like it.  It’s like the flavour builds with each spoonful and gets better and better.  If you’re the adventurous type (or you really love the flavour of fresh, herbaceous mint), I recommend you give this a try.

I can see how this mint base would work really well with some dark or bittersweet chocolate chips, so if you’re into the classic rendition, stick with David’s original Mint Chip Ice Cream recipe.  Either way, you can’t go wrong with this; it’s cool, refreshing, and perfect for summer.

Fresh Mint & Lime Ice Cream

  • Servings: as many as your heart desires
  • Print

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups packed fresh mint leaves
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp lime zest
  • 6 tbsp fresh lime juice

Heat the milk, sugar, 1 cup of heavy cream, mint, and salt in a medium saucepan until it starts to steam (do not let it boil).  Cover, remove from heat, and let sit for 1 hour at room temperature.

Pour the remaining 1 cup heavy cream into a large bowl or container and place a mesh strainer on top.  Set aside.  Reheat the mint milk mixture until steaming, being careful not to let it boil.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks.  Slowly pour tablespoonfuls of the warmed milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly.  Scrape the mixture back into the saucepan.

Place the saucepan over low heat and stir constantly with a rubber spatula, being sure to scrape the bottom of the pan as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula; it should only take a few minutes.  Make sure not to let the custard boil, otherwise it will curdle.

Pour the custard through the mesh strainer.  Press onto the mint to extract as much flavour as possible.  Discard the mint.  Place the bowl over an ice bath. Stir occasionally, until the mixture is cool. Cover and transfer the custard to the refrigerator until completely chilled, at least 8 hours or overnight.

Right before churning, gently whisk in the lime zest and lime juice.  Mix thoroughly.  Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Enjoy often and enjoy liberally, because ice cream is awesome.

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cerezo cafe & bar – dinner edition

Our first visit to Cerezo Cafe & Bar certainly wasn’t our last.  We’ve gone back for more lunches and had a lovely Mother’s Day Brunch this year with my parents, and we’ve been spreading the word about this hidden gem to anyone who would listen.  The one meal we hadn’t yet tried was dinner and the experience was even dreamier than that first time we stepped foot into Cerezo back in January that I just had to write about it.

We headed over there for a late dinner one Thursday evening.  Mark’s work day had been particularly uninspiring and we were both tired of eating chicken with brown rice and vegetables (our diet staple for the past couple of months), so I suggested giving Cerezo’s dinner menu a try to lift our spirits.  When we got there, only a handful of tables were occupied and we welcomed the relative quiet of the space.  The interesting thing about Cerezo is that it turns into a full-service restaurant for dinner, while it operates more like a cafe/casual eatery by day.  Their dinner menu is a fascinating fusion of tapas-style items and some larger entrees and in the end we settled on a couple of “shareables” and one of their specials.

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Whenever there’s a pork belly dish on a menu, I can’t help myself but gravitate towards it.  Cerezo’s version is a Thin Sliced Soysauce Braised Pork Belly, served beautifully with a fine dusting of toasted sesame seeds, thinly shaved green onions, and a sauce made with the braising liquid.  This is what I can only describe as true foodgasm.  I have found the ultimate pork belly, the pork belly to end all pork belly dishes.  Each slice was melt-in-the-mouth tender, moist, and perfectly seasoned.  The green onion gave each slice a fresh bite, while the sesame seeds provided a nice contrast in texture.  My god, this is exactly what I imagine pork heaven tastes like.

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Continuing on our meatfest theme, our next share plate was the Yakiniku Short Ribs (grilled beef short rib with original sauce marinade), neatly presented around a stack of lightly dressed cabbage.  The short ribs really reminded me of childhood summer BBQ’s full of Korean-style marinated beef short ribs (“galbi”) and it was a welcome nostalgic moment.  Each rib was grilled to perfection and well-seasoned, but surprisingly the real star of this plate was the cabbage.  I never thought cabbage could taste so good.  Oh, lowly cabbage, how I have wronged you over the years and thought you to be boring and pedestrian.  BUT NO.  Cerezo has worked their magic on the humble cabbage, which was dressed in a light and refreshing soy-based dressing.  CABBAAAAAGE.

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The star attraction was this gorgeous Striploin Tagliata with Japanese style Beef Jus and Peperonata Mashed Potato, one of their specials (can you see the protein-heavy theme we have going here?  We sorely missed pork and beef).  When it was set down at the table, our eyes grew wide because this plate was a thing of beauty.  “Tagliata” is an Italian sliced steak, typically served with Parmigiano Reggiano, arugula, and roasted potatoes.  Cerezo’s interpretation certainly has its signature Japanese flair and originality.  The striploin was cooked to about a medium-well; normally I prefer my steaks medium, but their preparation actually worked really nicely.  Each slice was tender, juicy, and well-seasoned.  The pile of lightly dressed arugula provided a welcome freshness and bitterness that balanced out the richness just perfectly.  As for the pepperonata mashed potato, this was a pleasant surprise.  Smooth, silky, and creamy mashed potato with a beautifully rich roasted pepper flavour, it was a complex balance of sweet and savoury that rounded out the plate.  This was exactly the pick-me-up, manly super protein meal that Mark needed to boost his spirits.

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I’m never one to turn down an opportunity for dessert, so we settled on the Lemon Tart served with House-made Vanilla Ice Cream.  This is not just dessert; it’s a work of art.  Our server apologised that this took so long to get to our table, but good god, I couldn’t complain.  The plate was rimmed with squares of fresh pineapple and dusted finely with icing sugar.  The lemon filling was refreshing with that unmistakeable lemon brightness, encased in a not-too-sweet crust.  Their homemade ice cream had a lovely vanilla flavour and you really can’t go wrong pairing any kind of pie or tart with a scoop of ice cream.  We polished off every single item on that plate, even all the pineapple pieces.  I figure if they go to all that trouble to make it all pretty, the least we can do is eat every edible morsel available.

By the time we were winding down, we were the only table left.  One of the cooks came to chat with us and it was nice to get to know her background and what led her to Cerezo’s kitchen.  Originally a nurse from Japan, she started apprenticing under the Head Chef, who used to work at numerous fine dining establishments before heading the kitchen of Cerezo.  It’s an interesting change of career for her, but she spoke passionately about the food and we could really feel how connected she was to her job.  I mentioned that we’d tried their brunch previously and she asked if I’d tried their hash potato (which I had, super awesome by the way).  She mentioned that it took them NINE MONTHS to perfect the recipe.  Nine months!  It’s basically like their potato baby.  That is true dedication to their craft and the meticulous attention to detail that I so admire about them.

While we were settling the bill, we also chatted with a couple of other staff members.  They seem to be a close-knit team and they told us that they bounce new ideas off each other for future menu items.  Their spirit of camaraderie and genuine friendliness are incredibly refreshing and heartwarming.  Not only does Cerezo have excellent food, they have excellent people.  It’s that whole package deal that really sets them apart from some of the other restaurants in Calgary and we’re excited to continue going back to discover what other amazing goodies they can come up with to delight our taste buds.

CEREZO Cafe & Bar
1002 Edmonton Trail
Calgary, AB T2E 3K2
Phone: (403) 250-8894
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Cerezo-cafe-bar/120321404785668

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