"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Happy Hour: Themyscira Wonder Punch

This post comes from Matt, the Beer Baron, who likes craft beer and creating superhero-themed cocktails.  Follow him on Twitter or Instagram @geekcanuck

Even before we went to see Wonder Woman, I was toying with the idea of coming up with a cocktail to celebrate her big screen solo debut (and director Patty Jenkins becoming the first woman to direct a superhero blockbuster). I’d had some fun ideas about rimming the glass with sugar to represent a tiara and using lemon curls as the Golden Lasso of Truth but I hadn’t quite cracked the concept for the actual cocktail -- until a quick trip to Toronto before the movie.

The Clockwatching Tart and I were meeting an old friend for lunch and enjoyed some truly fantastic D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) pizza, whose ingredients all come from specific regions of Italy. While the food and service at Pizzeria Libretto were wonderful, my eureka moment came when I spotted Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers Cherry Gin in a cocktail on the menu.

I’d been toying with the idea of starting off with a base similar to an Aperol Spritz, which is something the Clockwatching Tart had recently tried and enjoyed. An Aperol Spritz combines brut (dry) prosecco with bitter-sweet Aperol and club soda. To even come close to doing Wonder Woman justice, I decided to do away with the club soda entirely and add in the Dillon’s Cherry Gin.


Between my original garnish ideas, the addition of blueberries to match the colour scheme of her outfit, and the Dillon’s Cherry Gin to make the whole thing fittingly stronger and more powerful, the ingredients are as follows:

  • 4 ounces dry sparkling wine
  • 3/4 ounce Aperol or Luxardo Aperitivo
  • 3/4 ounce Dillon’s Cherry Gin
  • Yellow sanding sugar
  • Lemon curl
  • Blueberries

We used Canadian brut from Nova Scotia but any dry sparkling wine would do.

Add the Aperol or Aperitivo and gin and give it a good stir.

Garnish to bring out the Wonder Woman in your drink and then enjoy! We felt the Themyscira Wonder Punch turned out wonderfully well. It was herbaceous, lightly floral and not overly sweet, while also being alluring, balanced, approachable and strong but not overbearing, all of which seemed fitting for Wonder Woman.

As for the movie, [spoiler alert] it was awesome and unabashedly positive and inspiring. It was one of my favourite theatrical experiences of the year and I loved that there were women dressed up as Wonder Woman there and that the movie seemed to live up to their expectations. Go enjoy the movie and then follow it up with a Themyscira Wonder Punch!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Happy Hour - Homemade Gin Smash

Last year a terrific new pre-made cocktail hit the shelves of the LCBO, Georgian Bay Gin Smash.  We tried it at a food & wine show and fell in love with the fruity but not-too-sweet flavour.  We weren't the only ones.  It was extremely popular in Ontario and very hard to find for a lot of the summer.  At one point we came across a full case of 24 at the LCBO and grabbed it to stock up.  

But when it wasn't available, and we were craving the flavour, I decided I could make my own Gin Smash.  I used Bulldog gin, but it would be even more authentic with Georgian Bay gin

All you need is gin, club soda, limes, lemons, tangerines and mint. 

Muddle the mint and fruit with a shot of gin. Muddling just means to crush the fruit and herbs together to get their juice and essence into the gin.  The peels add a lot of flavour as well.  If you don't have a muddler, use a wooden spoon.  

I made the smash two ways.  One was muddled in a cocktail shaker and strained, the other was muddled directly in the glass so all the fruit remained in the cocktail when served.  Both were topped with club soda.

I think I liked the strained version slightly better, for ease of sipping, but both were delicious! 

You can be creative and add different fruits and herbs to make your own smash.  I am heading to Georgian Bay for a girls weekend soon, and I'll be bringing both the pre-made Gin Smash, and ingredients to make my own. 


Monday, April 17, 2017

Split Pea Soup with Ham

Sometimes when you cook a delicious Easter ham, you'll be lucky to have a ham bone left over.  That's the perfect excuse to make split pea soup with ham!

It doesn't look terribly pretty, but it tastes delicious!

Split peas come in yellow or green.  I used yellow peas for this recipe, like traditional Quebecois split pea soup.  

Like so many great soups, this one starts with sauteed carrots, celery and onions.  You can puree the soup later to make it smooth, but I like to keep the texture of the vegetables.  

Add the dried split peas, the ham bone, diced ham and water to the veggies and simmer for an hour. 

That's it!  Easy, warm and delicious. 

Here's what you need:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil or butter
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 ham bone and 1-2 cups diced cooked ham
500g split yellow peas
8 cups water
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper 

In a large dutch oven, saute carrots, onions and celery in oil or butter until soft. 

Add split peas, ham bone, ham and water.  Add bay leaf.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for an hour until peas are soft and broken up.  Add more water if soup is too thick.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.   

Serve with fresh bread and a salad for a hearty lunch or dinner. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Homemade Gummy Bears

My husband loves gummy bears but doesn't always want to snack on pure sugar. So I decided to make him some fruit juice gummies in his favouite flavours!

Making gummies at home is very easy. I got these gummy bear molds that worked wonderfully, but if you don't have molds, you can set the gummies in a baking pan and cut them into cubes or shapes. I will say that the droppers really help to fill the silicone molds, and the bears come out beautifully.  There are plenty of cute mold shapes available online too. 

I decided to make most of the gummies with 100% juice and no added sugar, and they were lovely.  But I made a small batch with a small amount of added sweetener and I have to admit they were even better.  The honey brought out more flavour in the juice.   I chose wild blueberry, Matt's favourite flavour, and apple cherry juice. You can use any juice you like except pineapple, which doesn't work well with gelatin. 

The other ingredient is the gelatin. I used these standard envelopes of unflavoured gelatin available in any grocery store, but you can get large canisters of grass-fed gelatin online.  The recipe requires a lot of gelatin, but makes a lot of gummies!

Here's what you need to make gummies at home:

1 cup fruit juice
4 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin (equal to 4 pouches in the box above)
1-2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup (optional)
Silicone gummy mold and dropper or metal or silicone baking pan

Place the juice (and honey, if using) in a small pot and slowly stir in the gelatin.  Let it sit for a few minutes, then warm over medium heat, stirring until the gelatin dissolves. Don't let it boil - you just want the gelatin to melt and the mixture to be thin and shiny.  

Remove from heat and use a dropper to fill the gummy molds.  If you get a lot of bubbles, you can use the dropper to suck it back up and fill the dropper with non-bubbly juice to re-fill.  Make sure you place the mold on a baking sheet before filling so you can easily move it to the fridge once full. 

If you're using a metal pan you will need to coat it with non-stick spray or coconut oil before filling.  

Place the filled molds in the refrigerator for 2 hours until completely set.  The gummy bears pop easily out of the molds!  

If you've set the gummies in a pan, carefully use a spatula to remove the set gummies from the pan, and use a cookie cutter or knife to cut into shapes.  

The gummies will keep in the fridge for a week or two.  Don't leave them at room temperature!  They have no preservatives and will get moldy quickly so they must be stored in the fridge.   

This is a fun project with kids and makes an easy, healthy snack!  

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Beer Baron - St. Patrick’s Day Showdown

This post comes from Matt, the Beer Baron. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @geekcanuck 

When Oskar Blue Brewery released their Ten Fidy imperial stout in Ontario for the first time, I was pretty excited and wrote a pretty glowing review, calling it the Chewbacca of beers -- high praise, indeed.

I had squirreled some away and was planning on having one for St. Patrick’s Day, since I have long espoused the enjoyment of Russian imperial stouts rather than merely dry Irish stouts on St. Patrick’s Day. Just before the big day, I noticed that the LCBO had another treat in store: Dieu du Ciel’s Grande Noirceur.

Both beers rate a perfect 100 overall on Ratebeer, with Grande Noirceur taking a 95 for the style and Ten Fidy besting it with a 98. Both beers clearly kick ass and at 9.0% abv for Grande Noirceur and a whopping 10.5% for Ten Fidy, both would no doubt kick my ass too. Clearly, no cars or heavy machinery were operated during this showdown.

Dieu du Ciel in Montreal makes some truly incredible stouts, including Peche Mortel and Aphrodisiaque, which has earned them some pretty awesome bragging rights. As for Grand Noirceur, it is more of a pure imperial stout and isn’t brewed with cocoa beans or vanilla or coffee like Dieu du Ciel’s more famous stouts. That said, it still has strong notes of chocolate on the nose, followed by almost bracingly bitter dark coffee once you take your first sip. It hides its alcohol level well but lacks the oily and sticky mouth feel I tend to associate with my favourite imperial stouts.

When they say let the wookie win, it is because they are known to rip your arms off if they lose. In this case, it wasn’t such a clear cut victory, but Ten Fidy still pulled it off. Ten Fidy actually smelled a bit more bitter and couldn’t mask its higher alcohol content, but once you tasted it, it was sweeter, sticky and while there was still a dark coffee bitterness, it was balanced by dark fruit and notes of sweeter chocolate.

Regardless of which beer won, I was obviously the real winner, as I got to enjoy two wonderful imperial stouts for St. Patrick’s Day. I hope you were just as lucky this St. Patrick’s Day. Cheers!  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Beer Baron’s Day Out

Thanks to the grand opening of London Brewing Co-op’s new space on Saturday, February 25th and a special Winter Pop Up Bar presented by Forest City Beer Fest over the weekend, it was a special weekend for craft beer fans in London.

To celebrate, we decided to make a day of it and the unofficial Forest City Craft Beer Day was born. We started the day in the newly trendy Old East Village and enjoyed a flight from London Brewing Co-op (including their robust Tolpuddle Porter, which I’ve always enjoyed) while marvelling at their expansive new space and equipment. They’ve come a long way since their pop-up shops!  

Our next stop was literally right around the corner at Anderson Craft Ales. I’d tried their beers at various craft beer festivals but am embarrassed to say I hadn’t visited their brewery before. Both the space itself and the beer were better than I was expecting, so I’m glad to have taken that visit off my to-do list.

As luck would have it, Anderson had been releasing one Belgian-style beer each weekend in February, saving the strongest - a 10.6% ABV Dark Strong that was similar to a Belgian quadrupel - for last. It was an unexpected and special treat, boozy but balanced and enticing. Sadly, I couldn’t bring any of the limited-quantities Dark Strong home but happily brought home some IPA in a fancy new growler approved by the Clockwatching Tart.   

After hitting up both London Brewing Co-op and Anderson, it felt right to pop over to Forked River Brewing to complete the trifecta. We were rewarded with the availability of two of my favourite Forked River brews: Reforest Kelly, a sour, barrel-aged imperial stout brewed with black cherries, and Hansel and Brett’el, a farmhouse blonde aged in chardonnay barrels. They are both tart and complex and will ensure that my unofficial Forest City Craft Beer Day is still appreciated in a few weeks when I crack them open.

We stopped in to Museum London to check out their amazing Brian Jones exhibit and lo and behold, the beer-related fun with “Canadian Eh? A History of the Nation’s Signs and Symbols”.

Even though it was unofficially Forest City Craft Beer Day, we are still just human, and besides, a friend from the best craft beer bar in the city, Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium, recommended Ritual Cafe, so who were we to argue? Both the dark roast coffee and Mexican mocha were excellent, so we repaid the favour by heading to have dinner and drinks at the aforementioned Milos’.

Presented by the Forest City Beer Fest, the Winter Pop Up Bar was held in a nice spot around the corner from Milos’ at the Hassan Law Gallery and featured a selection of carefully selected bottles and cans to sample from and a larger selection of 20 draft taps. As soon as we walked in, we were faced with bottles of Bellwoods Brewery’s 3 Minutes to Midnight, an imperial stout brewed with cherries, and Bounty Hunter, an imperial coconut porter, which is a wonderful way to start an evening.

On the draft side, we started off with a selection of Paradise Lost sour ales from Blood Brothers Brewing, sampled a new imperial stout from Cowbell Brewing, worked out way through a barrel-aged cherry sour and a sour brett porter from Indie Ale House, then finished the night with a sticky sweet, intense and unique “chewy imperial stout” brewed by Sweden’s Omnipollo while visiting Toronto’s Brunswick Bierworks. Any beer that is described as “deep-fried graham cracker chocolate chunk caramel bar” seems like a fitting end to a day of craft beer adventures. Cheers!

This post is my Matt, the Beer Baron. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @geekcanuck

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Happy Hour - Cosmopolitan

The Cosmopolitan is a classic cocktail that happened to become very popular in the 90s.  I think it's time for a comeback!

Don't worry, it's not too sweet.  It's actually a vodka sour, quite boozy, with an awesome pink hue from the small amount of cranberry juice. 

It's super refreshing and easy to make so I highly recommend mixing some up for your next party or night in.  

Here's what you need:

1 1/2 oz vodka (or citrus vodka if you have it)
1/2 oz triple sec (or Cointreau or Grand Marnier)
1/2 oz cranberry juice
1/4 oz fresh lime juice
lime twist for garnish

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, mix all ingredients and shake until cold. 
Pour into a martini glass and garnish with a twist of lime peel.

If you double the recipe you can make two at once, or make a whole bunch in advance for a party!  Cheers!  

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Road Trip - Alberta, Canada

This past year Matt and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary!  The year we got engaged, and exactly a year before our wedding, we traveled to Alberta and drove the Icefields Parkway to Jasper, and then drove through British Columbia to Whistler, Vancouver, and back to Calgary via Kelowna.  It was a beautiful trip and we decided to recreate part of it for our 10th anniversary.  We traveled in September and it's taken me all this time to blog about it! 

If you've never seen the Rocky Mountains, put it on your bucket list.  We've lived our lives in Ontario which has plenty of natural beauty, but the Rockies are at a whole other level.  Whether you are an avid hiker or less physically inclined, there's so much to see and do in the mountains.  

On this trip, we arrived in Calgary on a beautiful early fall day. We explored Prince's Island Park, a wonderful urban oasis.  

We had coffee and played some board games at Hexagon Boardgame Cafe in Kensington Village.  

We had a very special dinner at Model Milk in Calgary with family.  We started with with wonderful cocktails, fricassee of calamari, scallops and grits and a baked oyster. 

For entrees we had lamb, rabbit and duck.  Dessert was an outstanding apple pie with cheddar crust.  I'd say this was one of the best meals we've ever had in a restaurant, and the service was great too!  

We also explored the town of Cochrane, Alberta, just outside Calgary.  They have a new brewery called Half Hitch Brewing that was just opening when we were there so we had to try it!

Then it was time to head for the mountains!  We left early in the morning to drive to Lake Louise. Seeing the foothills change to mountains on the highway is an amazing experience!

We arrived in Lake Louise and took the gondola to the top of the mountain. The views are spectacular. Lake Louise itself is always packed with tourists, but it's lovely.  You can rent a canoe here for an exorbitant price, but we moved along to somewhere even prettier. 

Moraine Lake is one of my favourite places in the Rockies. It used to be on the Canadian twenty dollar bill. It is less crowded than Lake Louise, and the glacial water is even more blue. There's a short, easy trail for different views of the lake. 

We stayed the night in Banff and had some food and drinks, but nothing memorable. The streets and restaurants were crowded with tourists.  I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would. 

The next morning we were headed to Jasper. We made a stop to hike in Johnston Canyon, then headed to the Icefields Parkway. 

In Jasper we stayed at the Mount Robson Inn, which was a great choice. We were so happy that Jasper was just as wonderful as we remembered. The townsite is inside Jasper National Park and is surrounded by mountains. Its not as busy as Banff and Lake Louise, but even more beautiful, in my opinion.  

It's also full of wildlife!  This elk greeted us on the road into town.  When we were walking home at night we encountered a female elk in someone's front yard.  It was rutting season when we were there, and we would hear the elk screeching in the night. It was very unnerving at first, but pretty neat once we realized what it was. 

Jasper is beautiful and there's tons to do. But even just driving around is enough to find some gorgeous sights. 

One of the best views was on the Path of the Angel Glacier. The road to the glacier itself was closed, but we had a fantastic view just off the road. 

There was a sign warning of bears, particularly one that does not yield the trail to hikers! But we didn't see any bears during our trip.

Back near Jasper we drove to Lake Annette (above) and Lake Edith for more gorgeous views. The weather was beautiful. We rented a boat on Pyramid Lake and walked to Pyramid Island for more beautiful views. 

Then we drove to Miette Hot Springs, and saw a herd of bighorn sheep on the way.  We made it to the hot springs right before a large school group, so we were lucky!  The drive was beautiful and swimming in the hot springs in the cool mountain air was a great experience. 

The next day we drove all the way to British Columbia to see Mount Robson, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies.  The mountain is beautiful and so was the drive. 

We also visited Reargaurd Falls at the base of the mountain, an easy and pretty hike. 

That afternoon we headed back to Jasper and on to Maligne Lake.  It's an hour drive from Jasper but the drive is scenic, of course.  

We took a boat cruise to Spirit Island, a tiny island in Maligne lake that is one of the most photographed places in the Rockies.  

The boat ride was definitely worth it. On the way back we heard there are a lot of moose in the area and I was very excited hoping to see one. 

Well we saw three! First we saw a female laying in the grass.

Then we saw a male and female moose crashing through the woods at the side of the road!  We didn't get a good shot of the male.  You can just make out his antlers in the picture above.

But the female was very close to the car. 

It was amazing to see them so close.  The experience of a lifetime. 

On the way back down the Icefields Parkway we made one last stop at Peyto Lake.  It's a bit of an uphill hike, and it was snowing in the mountains, but it is stunning. 

We arrived back in Calgary and checked in to Hotel Le Germain for our last night in Alberta, which was also our 10th anniversary!  This is a much fancier hotel than we usually stay at, and it was a very special treat.  We loved the room furnishings and breakfast the next morning was fabulous!

For our anniversary we stopped by Catch Oyster Bar for oysters and sparkling wine, which was a decadent way to start the evening.  Then we walked to Proof cocktail bar for fantastic craft cocktails. 

Finally, we had our anniversary dinner at Charcut, a famous Calgary restaurant that was right inside our hotel.  I had butcher steak with chimichurri and wild arugula.  Matt had bison brisket with mushrooms and boar bacon.  And we shared poutine.  It was way too much food but so delicious!  

At the end of the meal they gave us a lovely dessert, even though we were too full to eat it. We had an amazing anniversary and flew home the next day.

The Rocky Mountains are amazing and I wish everyone in Canada could experience them at least once.  We were so happy that Jasper was still such a wonderful place.  Banff has more shopping and restaurants, but Jasper is friendlier and more beautiful.  I hope it won't be another 10 or 11 years before we return!