Thursday, February 26, 2009

barry's haweli haiku.

i just enjoyed a decadent lunch buffet at haweli restaurant. it's cheap, it's all you can eat, and the naan is something to cheer about.
hey naan you’re so fine,
you’re so fine you blow my mind.
hey naan! (clap, clap, clap)
who knew tomatoes
could merge with cream and spices
to make chicken soar?
sweet mellow fragrance
so better than rice pudding.
oh mango custard!

*haweli online
10220 - 103 street
edmonton, ab t5j o58

Monday, February 23, 2009

poll: barry makes the most of a bad situation.

the other day one of my buds was talking about a new phenomenon in north america: pink slip parties. bars across the country are hosting recently laid off workers (who wear pink ribbons), their supporters (who wear blue ribbons) and recruiters (who wear green ribbons) as they network with one another over a cocktail or two. definitely a fun way to start job hunting, although when i first heard the term “pink slip party” i thought it meant that you could bring your pink slips to the bar on wednesday nights and get a free drink…even more fun, i’d say.

during the 1930s it wasn’t uncommon to head on down to the bar to enjoy a cheap beer, sidecar or whiskey sour, and forget about your troubles…for a few hours at least. so here we are: in the midst of a world-wide recession, job hunting over a drink, or in some cases, under a few drinks. but why drink just any drink? i think that there should be a signature concoction for us to commiserate over our little recession, and i think we’re the people to get the ball rolling.

i need your help to pick a new cocktail for the year.

below are three possible recipes for a “pink slip”: a recession era drink that you can order when you go out and forget about the worries of the world for a few hours. i want you to vote on the poll (to your right) for your favourite drink of the three, and then comment why. whichever drink has the most votes by march 20 wins, and a new drink is born. after that, i want you to go out to your favourite bar and start ordering “pink slips”. you might need to bring the recipe along for the first few times, but after that the pink slip should start being a part of your bartender’s vocabulary.
pink slip #1.

1 part campari
1 part gin
3 parts pineapple juice
a squeeze of lime juice

shake over ice and garnish with a hershey’s kiss.

the campari represents the bitterness of the “pink slip” while the pineapple and lime juice represent the cayman islands, where you wish you hid all of your money.
pink slip #2.

1 part cherry brandy
1 part gold schlager (or for the poor man, cinnamon schnapps)
champagne to top it all off

shake brandy and schlager over ice and pour into champagne flute. top with champagne and garnish with a cinnamon heart.

okay, so it's not a frugal, recession-friendly drink, but it'll keep you warm now that your partner left you cold and alone for someone with money and a job. the gold flecks in the schlager remind me of a shattered man swallowing the last of his wealth before the bank can come and take it. hey, at least they're not diamond cufflinks in a balloon - right carlton?

pink slip #3.

1 part vodka
1 part southern comfort
2 parts cranberry juice

shake well over ice, and garnish with a cherry or starfruit.

meh - it's sweet, has alcohol and it's pink.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

barry's restaurant review: river cree's kitchen buffet and bistro.

friends, romans, seafood lovers, lend me your claw crackers. well, not really; those are provided for you at the river cree casino’s kitchen buffet and bistro for their friday night seafood buffet. this past friday, like every friday night, my little crustacean friends were brought in for the masses to consume. don’t worry about them – they’re not alone as salmon, shrimp, clams and mussels join them in their underwater dance to my plate, and they were also joined by some of their poultry and bovine friends.
the feast included a salad bar, peel and eat shrimp, smoked trout, clams (which one of our party commented, “tasted like the sea”), mussels marinara, paella, cheesy mashed potatoes, salmon, ginger chicken, a panache of vegetables, pasta pomodoro, clam chowder, and, of course, crab legs with little pots of butter to dip them in. this was slowly followed by a dreamy dessert bar of fresh fruit, hot fruit cobbler and various delectable cakes like tiramisu, black forest, and a deadly bitter chocolate mousse that was so rich, you could only eat a quarter of it before you started to sweat cocoa.

i know, but there’s more.
one of our group decided that seafood wasn’t for them, so instead ordered a steak. a juicy and succulent steak prepared by the bistro’s sous chef don, who graciously came out later on to see how we were doing. don’s steak soon became legendary at our table. it was created with a delicious sauce of cognac and portobello mushrooms, and accompanied with some deceivingly simple fries. they were the best fries i’ve had in a long, long time, and the steak was so tender that it seemingly melted in your mouth. this was a true masterpiece, and i highly recommend that you try it to see if it lives up to your expectations of good steak in the middle of beef country. trust me, it will.
but back to the main event. you might not think this would be a good place to meet new people, and yes, i was nervous to meet three new faces in the group when i knew i’d probably have food stuck in my hair, but how could you not bond over such a fantastic meal?! so what if crab shells were flying across the table as i hacked away with my claw cracker to get to the sweet crab meat? and so what if a shrimp tail accidently hit the stratosphere as i peeled my way to its juicy body, or that melted butter was dripping off my chin?
we swooned over the clams, shrimp and crab legs. we cried over the empty mussels marinara pan that was always picked over right before we got there in the buffet line, and we sighed over the not-so-great clam chowder or salmon because we had such high expectations from the rest of the dishes. the seafood buffet was a great leveler as we all got messier and messier in our quest for good seafood, and we all had to laugh at ourselves at the disasters that we left in. i now have three new foodies to discuss the ins and outs of world cuisine with. just don’t forget to order finger dipping bowls before you start – it helps to shake hands with clean fingers.

• only $19.95 per person! i know!! and if you’re a senior, you get an even better price.
• the crab legs were incredibly sweet.
• the shrimp and clams were incredibly fresh.
• three words: steak and fries.
• children are welcome (just don’t take them through the casino).

• they don’t take reservations. we got there after 8 pm, and were warned that it could be up to a 2 hour wait. luckily, it was only 45 minutes.
• the chicken was okay, but really, that’s not why we’re there.
• we missed out on the mussels because too many people liked them. go home mussel eaters and leave some for us!

• the clam chowder.
• the salmon was overcooked.

River Cree Resort & Casino
300 East Lapotac Blvd

Enoch, Alberta

Thursday, February 12, 2009

barry’s done with the pink!...well, after this post anyways.

last time you’ll hear from me this week…promise. today i’m posting two more recipes in the note of pink: an easy but super fun entrée and a really inexpensive way to tjuzs up chocolate cake mix.
the first recipe was made for a potato-themed food fest this past summer; from the surreal gourmet, they’re meatloaf cupcakes with pink “frosting”. they were a big hit with my friends who are kids at heart, and with my niece and nephew, who are just plain kids. this recipe is really easy, and great if you want to make an activity of it: have your guest(s) frost their own cupcake.

meatloaf cupcakes.
(from the surreal gourmet)

2 cups stale bread, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (500 ml)
2 cups milk, divided (500 ml)
3 tbsp olive oil, divided (45 ml)
1/2 onion, diced
2 lb. ground chuck (hamburger) (913 grams)
1 egg
1 tbsp fresh thyme, stems removed (15 ml)
1 1/2 cups cups italian parsley, stems removed, diced, divided (375 ml) (i didn’t use this, but substituted a bit more thyme instead.)
1/2 tsp salt (2 ml)
1/4 tsp pepper (1 ml)
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg (1 ml)
1/4 cup ketchup (60 ml)
4 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (i used butter and herb instant potato mix instead)
1/4 lb. butter (113.5 grams)
1 cup half and half (250 ml)
1 beet, roasted
1 bunch fresh parsley, stemmed and finely minced
1 cup indian fennel candies (the kind you get in a bowl as you exit indian restaurants) (i don’t like these so instead i roasted a head of garlic and used the cloves as the “cherries” on top.
oil spray

1. place bread in a bowl. add 2 cups milk and toss with bread. reserve.
2. in a sauté pan over medium high heat, add 2 tablespoons oil and sauté onions for approximately 4 minutes, or until they become translucent. reserve.

3. in a large bowl, use your hands to mix chuck, eggs, thyme, parsley, salt, pepper, nutmeg, soaked bread, onions and ketchup.

4. set oil-sprayed cupcake liners in a muffin and fill with meatloaf mixture. smooth tops so that they are flat. bake for 3/4 hours, or until fully cooked. reserve.

5. boil potatoes in a large pot of water until tender to the touch of a fork. drain water and mash with butter and half and half. mash until smooth. divide mashed potatoes into 2 separate bowls. add 1 tablespoon grated beet to one batch and all the parsley to the other. blend until you have a batch of pink and a batch of green potatoes. cover and reserve.

6. when meatloaf is done, "ice" half with pink and half with green mashed potatoes. sprinkle with indian fennel candies and serve immediately.

since you're using beets anyways, you might want to consider using them as a side dish too.

continuing on the cupcake theme, a bud of mine had the fantastic idea of making cupcakes by taking a chocolate cake mix and adding frozen cranberries to it, along with chunks of callebaut milk chocolate that they picked up from the bulk section at superstore. at first i was against the cranberries going in thinking that they would be too tart, but they were a fantastic balance with the chocolate chunks and helped moisten the cake. my friend topped each cupcake with peppermint flavoured green icing – instead, try using almond extract and red food colouring to store bought cream cheese icing for a valentine’s feel.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

barry has even more reddish recipes.

so, as it’s a special occasion, two or three courses are just not going to cut it. sorry, but your facebook relationship status is on the line here. drastic measures must be taken in the form of a primi course before the main event. sure, these recipes COULD be used as the main event, but why would you do that? this way, you get more food. yay! okay now, we once again have two recipes from last food fest (we really outdid ourselves cleaning out our freezers), so hopefully you’ll also have some of these ingredients on hand (read: on hand = cheaper). the first recipe is from my cookaphobic friend who really can cook, even if she doesn’t know it. yet. the second is something i whipped up to get rid of a package of frozen olivieri brie cheese and roasted garlic ravioli that was taking up valuable space in my freezer. the pasta is creamy but too mellow, so you need some punch in the sauce.

barry’s bud’s cornbread topped with mexican goodness.

(from the back of the purity cornmeal package)

3/4 cup (175mL) cornmeal
1 1/4 cups (3000 mL) milk
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (75 mL) granulated sugar (my bud wanted to use brown but it was too hard)
1 tbsp (15 mL) baking powder
1/2 tsp (2mL) salt
1 egg
1/4 cup (60 mL) vegetable oil (canola oil)
my bud added grated aged cheddar & frozen corn - maybe a 1/4 cup of each.

1. combine cornmeal and milk. let stand 10 minutes.

2. combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl.

3. add egg and oil to cornmeal mixture. (my bud accidentally added this to the flour mixture). mix well.

4. add to dry ingredients, stirring just until combined. (my bud thinks she over stirred. this is also when she added the frozen corn and the grated cheddar.)

5. fill greased muffin pans 2/3 full. (she did not use a muffin tin, nor did she grease the pan).

6. bake at 400F (200C) for 15-20 minutes. (make sure the bread doesn’t jiggle, and it should be cracked on top.)

makes 12 muffins (or the equivalent in non-muffin shape).

okay, step 1 is complete. by the way, you can do this all the day before. now my bud made homemade salsa (diced tomato, finely chopped red onion, minced garlic, 1 jalapeno and fresh lemon juice) and guacamole (mashed avocado, a little garlic and lemon juice). if you make these ahead of time, the flavours will blend very nicely.

let cornbread cool for an hour.

cut cornbread into rectangles about 3.5 cm thick (is that an inch and a half? go metric!)

heat up pan on stove and put a glob of butter on it.

pan-fry each side of the cornbread until it's nicely browned and a tiny bit crusty (make sure to get the edges too).

top with guacamole, salsa, sour cream and some grated jalapeno havarti. serve with enrique playing in the background.

cranberry and lemon ravioli.

1 pkg. olivieri brie cheese and roasted garlic ravioli (i got this from costco in sherwood park.)
1 onion, chopped
white wine (i ended up using 1/3 of a bottle)
pecorino, pienza, asiago or parmesan cheeses (as much as you like. i roughly used ½ cup of a pecorino/pienza blend.)
1 lemon, grated
1/3 cup cream
a pinch nutmeg
approx. ½ cup frozen cranberries
small handful craisins

1. prepare pasta according to package directions.

2. sauté onion in butter. add cranberries, craisins, and half of lemon zest. sauté until craisins start to plump up.

3. add wine and juice of half a lemon, reduce a little bit.
4. add cream and cheese. stir.

5. add nutmeg and remaining lemon zest.

6. toss cooked pasta with sauce and serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

barry hops on the band wagon and thinks pink.

i feel like a lemming right now. with v-day fast approaching, and everyone dreaming in reddish tones, i’ve decided to do the same and follow the masses over the cliff into a sea of pink froth. ugh. no, i’m normally not the kind of person who enjoys pink in any form, but in anticipation of the season i thought i’d help out anyone planning a menu for the weekend in the theme of red and pink. throughout the week i’ll be posting recipes that incorporate these colours in some form – all of them are easy to make, delicious, and inexpensive.

today i’ll start off with a few appetizers from our latest food fest. they’re great starters for a party or an intimate get-together…just as long as you like leftovers.

watermelon and feta appetizers.

1 small watermelon, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch cubes
8 oz. feta, cubed
balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil
basil (fresh and chopped up if you got it, dried is fine otherwise)

1. skewer watermelon and feta on toothpicks (watermelon on the bottom)

2. in a bowl, combine vinegar, oil and basil.

3. drizzle dressing on watermelon; serve.

note: this makes a great salad, just get rid of the toothpicks, add some greens and some crushed chilli flakes and presto:
you’re a gourmand.
surprise spread.
one of my all-time favourite recipes.

combine 8 oz. softened cream cheese, ½ cup sour cream and ¼ cup mayonnaise. mix until smooth. spread cream cheese mixture in a platter. sprinkle on a couple cans of drained cocktail shrimp. top with 250 ml (1 cup) cocktail sauce. shred 2 cups of mozzarella cheese; sprinkle on top then add 3 sliced green onions, 1 diced tomato and 2 diced green peppers.
with crackers.

Monday, February 9, 2009

barry’s bud seeks unattached ham man.

and now we bring you the another installment of "barry's buds" – a guest column of barry’s many comrades who share a love of all things food-related. in anticipation of valentine’s day one of barry’s buds discusses her search for love that’s spanned continents, years, and many a kinder egg.
it’s been four long years of searching. i’m seeking a man, age 4, with a black moustache and a penchant for ham legs (both for eating and clubbing people with). he might be violent, but he is one of the three musketeers after all. no, i’m not crazy, i’m just trying to hunt down the most elusive of kinder egg toys: i call him ham man.

my search began in late january 2005, in a quaint italian town in southern tuscany. i wanted to see if there was a difference between chocolate in europe and chocolate in canada, and on my student abroad budget, a kinder egg was the perfect (read: cheapest) way to test this. as soon as i opened my kinder egg toy however, the chocolate became inconsequential. i ended up with a toy musketeer on wheels wielding a sword – a great find to be sure, but it was the musketeer collection insert that really caught my eye; it was the first time i saw *him*, or at least an artistic rendering of him.

there he was; a feather in his cap, and a large hunk of ham in his hand with a bite taken out of it. it was true love at first sight. when you roll him on his little wheels he clubs people with his giant ham leg. dreamy. while i ended up with one of his fellow musketeers, it was him i really wanted. i’ve bought many a kinder egg over the years in hopes of finding him (i usually discard the chocolate – though a few times its indeed up in a banana loaf or bread pudding). alas and alack! no luck yet, but my search continues. in fact, i’m so enamored with ham man that I’ve dreamed up my ideal proposal scenario. future suitors take note:

scene: anywhere. it could be timbuktu for all i care.

me: oh, a kinder egg how nice.

handsome suitor: i’ve been wanting to give you this kinder egg for a while now…

me: oh. it isn’t….is it…?

(unwrapping the egg and breaking the chocolate and opening up the orange plastic capsule)

me: OH MY GOD IT’S HAM MAN! …oh, what’s this? oh, a ring. thanks. HAM MAN!!!!!! you really love me!!

…though i realize the following is the more likely scenario:

me: …is it ham man? …is it ham man?!

hapless suitor (grinning): just open it.

(unwrapping the egg and breaking the chocolate and opening up the orange plastic capsule)

me: oh. it’s a ring. um…nice. thanks.

hapless suitor: well, do you have anything you want to say?

me: yeah, where’s ham man?

hapless suitor: this is my grandmother’s ring, it’s been passed down for generations in my family…

me: yeah, yeah, yeah. grandmother. heirloom. got it.

hapless suitor: i was hoping you’d accept this ring…


me: ummm, so, seriously. there’s no ham man?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

barry’s back on a soup kick.

hello all. after being away for a couple weeks, i’m back … i missed you guys. i realize that i’m being sentimental – soup makes me feel that way. yes, i’m back on the soup kick with a new flavour i tried on the weekend. my buds and i have been having food fests whenever we can: food-themed evenings where we all cook dishes for each other. it’s cheaper than eating out, and you’re always guaranteed leftovers: win-win. this past weekend’s food fest was “clean-out-your-freezer-and-pantry-and-randomly-make-something”. tons of fun with that hint of danger: you never know if what you make will be completely edible. luckily for my buds and i, we all survived and didn’t have a single bad dish. one bud found a recipe for a carrot soup that they changed and made their own. it was a big hit, so i thought i’d share it with you all, with the changes my friend made. enjoy hunting around your pantries, potato bins and freezers for the ingredients to this delicious concoction.
carrot soup.
(originally courtesy of recipezaar; made even better by my friend.)

6 tablespoons butter (my bud generously used more)
1 large onion (minced)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
8 carrots (peeled, grated) (the fridge only produced 4 purple carrots, and a small bag of baby carrots, so that’s what we used)
2 plum tomatoes (chopped) (this was left out for food fest: no tomatoes on hand)
4 cups chicken stock (MUST be homemade!) - (my bud used oxo…recipezaar, what’s your deal?)
salt & fresh ground pepper (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup evaporated milk (my friend used 2/3 cup)
2/3 cup sour cream

1. heat butter in a pot. add the onion and garlic. saute 3 minutes.

2. add the carrots and tomatoes. saute 5 minutes.

3. add stock, salt and pepper, nutmeg and ginger. bring to a boil. reduce. simmer 10 minutes.

4. puree. return to pot.

5. add the milk and sour cream. heat through, but DO NOT BOIL.