Tuesday, December 23, 2008

barry's cup o' joe.

so when the german came down to visit me last week, i knew that i would need some activities to keep him occupied, while at the same time making sure he was well fed. enter my dear caffeine-addicted friend who suggests we take the german down to new york bagel café for edmonton’s supposed best coffee. intrigued yet skeptical, we headed over to gateway boulevard through the frigid weather and, lo-and-behold, we really did have edmonton’s best coffee. i’m normally not a coffee drinker, but their house coffee was so flavourful and smooth you couldn’t help but be impressed. the process felt like a japanese tea ceremony as you added the brown sugar and the steamed milk on the side, making drinking coffee an event.
this was in stark contrast to the cappuccinos and espressos we had later in the day at da capo. although i normally rave about their authentic cappuccino (see my da capo restaurant review from november), we were underwhelmed by the concoctions we received that were bitter and unflavourful and the caffe itself was freezing.

sorry da capo, maybe next time.
in the meantime, you might want to try new york bagel for their heavenly house coffee to warm you up during this deep freeze.

Monday, December 22, 2008

barry gets confused.

metric, imperial, metric, imperial, metric, imperial AHH! for my inaugural use of my new favourite book, david rocco’s dolce vita, i decided to try his spaghetti alla carbonara recipe for a friend visiting canada for the holidays. i’ve been on the hunt for an authentic carbonara recipe since coming back from italy three years ago, and was excited to finally have found one. i headed down to the italian centre on 51 ave for the pasta, pancetta and pecorino, i laid out all my equipment and ingredients for ease in preparation, and i even allowed witnesses to join me in the kitchen while preparing the dish. i was ready to go… and then i screwed it up.

although david clearly states that this dish needs 1 lbs of spaghetti, my metric instincts kicked in and i foolishly converted the 1 lbs of pasta to 1 kg, thus roughly doubling the amount of pasta required for the recipe. i blame my high school math teacher for drilling all things metric into my head. the result was an oh-so-tasty and incredibly dry pasta dish that could have fed the thrashing crew during harvest, but instead left me with leftovers that i thought would never end.
carbonara take 2:

with so many leftovers to work with, my brain luckily cleared up. by reheating the pasta and adding additional eggs, milk and cheese, i was able to give my dried up pasta new life, and have a proper spaghetti alla carbonara for my leftovers. may the metric system never fail me again.

Friday, December 19, 2008

barry's book review: david rocco's dolce vita.

we all need a little bit of the good life, and david rocco makes sure that we all get some.
his new book is a spectacular combination of simple recipes and amazing photography that will make you want to sell all your worldly possessions, buy a pair of oversized sunglasses and hop on a flight to the boot. i love this book! i actually sat down and went page by page until i was finished - it took me three hours. i reread the whole thing again the next day.
the pictures will make you envious that there are people out there who actually live like this, and you’re not one of them. the recipes are so amazingly easy, which, as he comments throughout the book, is part of dolce vita: slowing down, taking it easy and enjoying the everyday.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

barry says goodbye to an old haunt.

this is difficult for me to write. pharo’s pizza, a staple of the garneau community for years, is closing its doors in mid-to-late january. the 80-year-old owner wishes to retire, and so has sold the building. i know. it gets worse though.

the building, which includes the garneau theatre, has apparently been sold with plans to modernize the look of the two businesses. with this being one of the few art deco buildings left in alberta, it seems shocking that anyone would want to change the décor! according to pharo’s pizza waitress jill, the plan is for the theatre entrance to be moved to the side of the building on 87 avenue, and the whole façade modernized. i was very surprised that i hadn’t heard of this earlier, as i imagined that there would be an uproar in the edmonton community, but it seems that not only will we be deprived of mouth-watering popeye pizza and delicious greek salad, but we will also loose an edmonton landmark to modernization. there is one month left for locals to pay their respect to this fantastic eatery, so go out, grab a popeye pizza and toast this garneau landmark.

Pharos Pizza & Spagetti House
8708 109 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T6G 1E9
(780) 433-5205

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

barry's word of the day: pranzo.

my vocabulary was expanded this past weekend as my family and i gathered at the santa maria groetti community centre in edmonton for a traditional italian dinner (pranzo) sunday afternoon. wave after wave of food was brought to us, and in true italian style, we ate until it was physically impossible to eat anymore. we had two antipasti courses (cheese, meat and marinated vegetables and rice with a beef stew), a prima (rotini with a marinara sauce), pork chops and breaded chicken with gravy, roast potatoes, salad and mixed vegetables, and finally chocolate cake for dessert. i think that’s everything, but with so much food, you can’t blame me for forgetting something. my family loved this home-style meal.

i’m going to be honest: i didn’t.

the food was okay, and yes, there was plenty of it, but the sauces and chicken looked and tasted as if they were store bought, and nothing stood out in my mind as being extremely tasty or even tasting authentically italian. as my sister pointed out, nothing was wrong with the meal, and i have to agree with her; nothing was wrong with the meal. but when you go out to eat, particularly for a nice family get-together, do you want to have a meal with nothing wrong with it, or would you rather have a meal that was special and excited you, made you wish for seconds, or in this case, made you think of an army of italian grandmothers preparing this meal in the kitchen simply because of their love for food? i didn’t feel that way unfortunately, and was particularly looking forward to this meal since i had heard such wonderful reviews of the pranzi served up by the community centre.

maybe the cooks were having an off weekend, but after this meal, i feel that if you’re looking for a “nothing’s-wrong-with-it” meal, head on down to albert’s. it’s cheaper.

Santa Maria Groetti Community Centre
Sun (11 am - 2 pm)
11050 90 Street NW
Edmonton, AB T5H 1S5
(780) 426-5026

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

recipe for a gingerbread army.

run as fast as you can. actually, you don’t need to run that fast: this army of gingerbread men is pretty out of shape with all their candy and doughy goodness. and they are oh-so-tasty! enjoy the recipe - it’s perfect with kaluha hot chocolate and mulled wine (we *ahem* thought it best to test it out. for quality assurance of course…)
gingerbread army:

½ c. shortening (i used margarine)
½ c. sugar
2/3 c. molasses
1 egg
3 ½ c. sifted flour
2 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. ginger (or more if you like)
1 tsp. cinnamon (again, i used more)

1. melt shortening and let cool. add sugar, molasses and egg; blend well.

2. sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and spice. mix well.

3. wrap dough in waxed paper and chill in refrigerator. take out a small amount of dough.

4. roll out on lightly floured board to ¼” thickness. you may have to warm dough in your hands, as it may be too crumbly otherwise.

5. bake on greased cookie sheet at 375F for approximately 8 - 10 minutes.