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Before I jump into a quick 3 question interview with the lovely Elizabeth from the Unrefined Olive - I want to say hugs and congratulations to Ruth Charron who has won a ticket to Bon Appetit! I’ll be in contact soon Ruth!
Now – on to the mini interview I did with Elizabeth! Unrefined Olive will be at Bon Appetit on May 7th. If you can’t make it out, or you do and just need some more amazing oils and to try – check out their store in the Glebe on Second Ave just next to the Urban Pear!
(Me) What made you decide to participate in Bon Appetit Ottawa? You guys are just opening and I’m sure you have your hands full! Was there a particular cause that appealed to you?
(Elizabeth) I decided to participate in Bon Appetit because of the charitable support it lends to a very worthy cause. When local business’ can network with each other, gain exposure to a greater public audience, and support local charitable initiatives it is a winning combination. This event will allow me to introduce my business to a wider audience of potential customers and fantastic local food and beverage business as well.
How did you love of quality olive oils and balsamic’s begin?
My love of olive oil and balsamic began through travel, using them in my own kitchen, and a desire to open a business that featured healthful and delicious ways for culinary uses as well as sustainable agricultural methods and smaller scale artisanal production.
What do you recommend people look for in a great oil?
For a great olive oil look for an unrefined premium extra virgin olive oil that provides a crush date of production. If the associated chemistry like acidity, peroxide value, or polyphenol count is available; even better! It should be in a dark glass bottle; or in an air tight and light-proof stainless steel container where you can taste it first. With over 700 varietals of olives, two hemispheres of global production, and multiple countries involved, it is always best to be able to taste first. Everyone has such individualized palates and olive oil tastes range from peppery to grassy to hints of banana or artichokes!
Thanks so much Elizabeth. I picked up a sample pack of oils along with a peach white balsamic from the Unrefined Olive the other day – I’m simply giddy with possibilities! So far, I’ve found the peach balsamic on a poached pear with a little ice wine syrup is just heaven.
If you are anything like me, the haze of the holidays has worn off and you actually can’t remember having any days off at all. What you need (and me too… desperately) is a night of amazing food and drink. Enter the Red and White! You might remember this fantastic fundraiser from last year or at least from my teaser post a few weeks ago.
The part I’m looking forward to most (besides ALL OF IT), is dessert. Which will once again be provided by Little Cakes. Last year the cupcakes were so amazing – I’m pretty sure I tried all four flavours at least twice. Don’t do the math. I don’t want to admit to eating that many cupcakes… even if they are mini.
I had the pleasure of speaking to Shakira Whitton from Little Cakes about this year’s event.
Simply Fresh – I’ll start off by saying I’m so happy you are doing the red and white again this year – your cupcakes were such a hit last time!! What made you want to get involved in the event??
Little Cakes – Being successful business women and mothers, with safe and happy home lives, Colleen and I both strongly support charities such as Youville Centre and Harmony House. We believe every woman and child in need deserves a brighter future and we respect the work these organizations do for women.
We have been donating graduation cupcakes to The Youville Centre for the past 3 years and when [we were] contacted about the The Red and White event for Harmony House, we were very eager to participate. The event would feature savory foods being prepared by top chefs, as well as local wine and beer. Mini cupcakes to wrap things up seemed like a perfect fit!
The evening was a huge success and we are delighted to be back this year!!
That’s great how do you feel about the line up being all female chefs this year – and all from Ottawa no less??
YES the all female line-up of chefs is super exciting – GIRL POWER!!
And now for the most important question – what kind of cupcakes are you making for the event this year??
We’ve chosen a few cupcake flavors to serve up this year; 2 of our classic favorites and 2 scrumptious new ones! From last year’s event - Bananarama and Chocolate Brownie and the new flavors – Raspberry White Chocolate and Black Forest.
I don’t know about you, but my mouth is watering already.
The Red and White is next week – Wednesday, January 16th, 2013 at Ashbury College, 362 Mariposa Ave. at 7pm. Tickets are $60 and can be purchased here.
All profit from the event go to support Harmony House Women’s Shelter. Do some good, eat some food and drink some wine. Can there possibly be a better evening?? Not in my books.
It’s been a long while since the Ottawa food scene has so hotly anticipated the opening of a new restaurant, but Gezellig (337 Richmond Road) was worth the wait!
From Stephen Beckta and Chef Michael Moffatt (the duo behind Beckta and Play) comes a new venture that wants to be Westboro’s go-to neighbourhood restaurant. A place where you can relax at the end of a long day with family and friends. Where the food is as tasty as it is comforting.
White bean truffle spread
So far, I’d say they are doing a kick ass job. I went for lunch with some of the lovely ladies I work with and we were all happier than could be with our meals between the table of us we tried the mussels, the tagliatelle and the duck stew. Not to mention a few desserts including the infamous butterfinger (which is awesomeness in its purest form).
The restaurant itself is so much transformed from its former purpose (a bank), that if it weren’t for the vault in the basement (which is being used as a wine cellar) you wouldn’t believe that a space could be repurposed so beautifully. It’s bright, comfortable and elegant. Great place to bring a date, but an even better place to bring family and friends to enjoy a wonderful meal together.
I was so sorry I agreed to split this… so, so, sorry.
Much to my amazement, Chef Moffatt agreed to spend some time with me to talk about Gezellig, the restaurant business in Ottawa, and what little sleep he requires. Because he’s camera shy I agreed to stick to photos of the restaurant itself, but ladies do yourself a favour and google images of Chef Moffatt. You’re welcome.
Try as he might to distract me with those pretty blue eyes, I was still able to sputter out a few questions. I could try to pretend that I wrote down word for word what was said, but that’s just not true. So here is the summed up, in a nut shell version of our conversation. According to Chef, everyone deserves a great meal. And that’s what they plan to give their Westboro patrons every night. They truly want to be a neighbourhood restaurant where families come in every week or a few times a week. And luckily the neighbourhood is responding warmly. They are offering up feedback and suggestions so Gezellig can reach its potential.
There has been a few harsh words about Gezellig. But the truth is that they have just opened. And even though it is their third restaurant, every new opening had its own unique challenges. Chef says it took 5 years for Beckta to be exactly the kind of restaurant they wanted it to be. It took Play 2 years. It’s hoped that Gezellig will take even less time, but there are still some growing pains to be sure. On one hand having a reputation like Beckta’s and Moffatt’s means you aren’t given the leeway that many other opening restaurants are given. But on the other Moffatt says it is that reputation that pushes them to be better and to set their standards higher and higher.
What it boils down to is that they are here to make you happy, and they are good at what they do.
I’m already in love and hoping to be back soon.
A little while ago Camino, an Ottawa company that focuses on fair trade products was on a CBC television show called ‘The Big Decision’. You can actually watch the episode online here. The show features two companies that are in need of some advice and a cash injection. If one or both of the companies are found to be able to rise to the challenge of changing as set forth by the two host / entrepreneurs, the company is given an investment.
I recently had a few questions answered by Camino CEO Jennifer Williams!
(Me) Camino specializes in fair trade items, something that is becoming more and more popular today. What makes Camino different?
(Jennifer) Camino is a bit of a pioneer of fair trade cocoa, sugar and chocolate products in Canada: We have been fair trade AND organic since 1999 – a bit ahead of the curve! As part of this commitment, we certify all of our products through Fair Trade International, an independent, third-party system that guarantees the traceability of a product from a small producer in the south, to the actual chocolate bar or hot chocolate sold in Canada.
At the core of our mission is building vibrant sustainable communities; for us, this means not only buying agricultural commodities at fair trading prices, but also ensuring the transformation from raw material to finished goods is done wherever possible in rural communities in the global south. For example, our brown sugar is grown, processed, packaged and exported retail ready by a co-operative in northern Peru. In doing this, the rural communities have not only the income from the cane itself, but also from all the additional value add processing that occurs. This type of work has enabled the children of these communities who have gone away to university/college the opportunity to come back to rural areas and find work with the co-operative in these processing centres. Other products that have this same value-add include our baking chocolates, our coconut and our golden cane sugar.
I notice that Camino is particularly proud of the relationship it holds with its producers – do you have any stories or examples of how working with Camino has benefited these producers?
One that immediately jumps to mind is our partnership with Peru’s CEPICAFE. We first met with the General Manager of the CEPICAFE Co-operative in 2008 in Canada, who, at the time, was seeking a market for the co-op’s newpanela (unrefined whole cane sugar). Up to that point, coffee had been CEPICAFE’s primary output.Panela, however, was a product that would allow the co-op to generate added value through processing. We felt that this was a very timely opportunity for Camino and CEPICAFE to collaborate around the development of new products, especially since we see ourselves as match-makers in a sense, linking products from co-operatives in the south with demand from Canadian consumers.
Having studied the needs of the Canadian market, we found that a whole cane brown sugar would meet market expectations. With that in mind, we worked with CEPICAFE to quickly develop all of the necessary formats and packaging, as well as agree on an annual import schedule. Since we launched the product, we noticed that it has been very well received by the Canadian market and we are currently importing approximately 4 containers per year.
Also, until CEPICAFE developed an export market for panela, cane was a very marginalized commodity and had virtually no commercial value. Cane was also frequently used to make a local alcohol calledaguagardiente, which had serious social and economic impacts on local communities in that many cane communities suffered from high levels of alcoholism.
The financial and social impacts associated with processing cane into a high-quality, whole brown sugar have been truly astounding. CEPICAFE has experienced:
· 483% increase in income for members of their cane crops;
· 6-fold increase in the number of new producers (from 100 to 600 people);
· 6-fold increase in the amount of organic cane grown (from 120 hectares to 700 hectares);
· Dramatic reduction in alcoholism in the area;
· Investment in new processing technology and development of new processing centres in rural regions of the Sierra of Piura;
· Vast improvement in the quality ofpanela in the region;
· Reduction in the overall costs of production.
For so many years, panela had such little perceived value in the region, despite having a much higher nutritional value than that of white sugar. The members are now experiencing a validation of worth, which stems from the knowledge that their product which is made in rural Peruvian communities holds such a high value in other parts of the world. There is a fresh and strong sentiment of pride amongst co-op members: In fact, an annualpanela festival is held every September in Montero (unofficially named the capital ofpanela) to celebrate this traditional product.
You offer a line of juice that is made using puree rather than just extracted juice – it results in a healthier drink because of the fibre that remains. Was this a health choice, a production choice, or just for taste?!
Quality has always been core to our Camino brand and our products. When we tried recipes of the juices that were more watered down, they just didn’t do justice to the ingredients. This was the primary reason that we developed and launched these recipes, though any puree health benefits are a bonus.
How has being on CBC’s ‘The Big Decision’ changed things at Camino??
Having Arlene’s insight into our business had a large impact on our perspective about where we could take the brand. The national exposure has been great for attracting new customers, as well as reminding others about who we are. There hasn’t necessarily been major changes in our structure as a result, but overall, appearing on The Big Decision was a great experience and great exposure.
Thank you so much Jennifer for your time and for the goodies that Camino passed along. It’s not just great treats, but also baking supplies! Sugar, chocolate chips and baking chocolate. I made some mini muffins I made with the chocolate chips. It’s true that good quality chocolate really does improve your baking. There were such complex flavour in the dark chocolate! For a full list of products and where to find them make sure you visit Camino’s website!
Hello there Ottawa parents… specifically those of school age children. I’m working on a little project and could use your help. I want to find out how different schools in the area treat lunch. What is lunch time like for your kids?? I have a quick set of questions that I would be thrilled if you would talk over with your kids and send me.
If you are interested in participating, just send me a quick email to simplyfresh(at)live(dot)ca with the subject line ‘Ottawa School Lunches’.
You’re the best! But you already knew that didn’t you.
** Updated ** Some pretty awesome Dad’s have pointed out that they would be keen to help to. Sorry Dad’s – this post should have been a Call to Ottawa Parents!
(Moi) So.. why Chutney?
(Andrew) Well, you’re right, it’s not the most common of condiments… But It Should BE! The back story really is that I was working as a restaurant Manager when the Markets crashed in 2009. At the same time my father and I had been talking at length about the family history. Dad’s getting older and wanted to make sure I knew more of the history. Back to the crash. The money wasn’t great working as a manager and Christmas was approaching. I had the idea of doing some Crafty Christmas gifts and remembered an old family recipe for Chutney. Dad use to make it once every few years. As it turns out, it was a recipe from my Great, Great Grandfather – The Major. I set out to make a batch… but you can’t just give one jar of home made chutney… so I made a few other flavours. I hate to admit it but I began to look at products in specialty food stores with the curiosity to figure out how these local companies got their products on the shelf. The feedback from Christmas was fantastic from coast to coast. So, reasearch, research, research… talk, talk, talk and the right connections were made. I knew from the start that I had some special products and that chutney would be a tough sell. I was on the leading edge of Chutney taking the country by storm! I still am!
Well the easiest description is that it is essentially and sweet and savoury fruit relish. It is generally used as a condiment rather than a dip, however, Chutney is easily mixed to make a great dip.
One of the first principals for my chutneys was to use local farm produce. In fact it was at a Savour Ottawa meet and greet that I connected to some of those farmers and my production factory. So in a nut shell, good ingredients that I know their origin. If it’s not local we take great care in sourcing our ingredients. From there it’s about making sure we have great recipes. We won a National Award last year so I feel good about having accomplished that.
I tend to eat most condiments straight from the jar, like a wild animal. What’s your favorite way to eat chutney?
We started out just eating it with roast beef. Now we eat it with everything. I have a few favorite dishes, but I really love Roistti Potatoes with goat cheese and Classic Caribbean chutney. Oh wow is it ever fantastic… It’s one of the two recipes on my website (I highly recommend trying it).
I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS! The back story is that, well to be honest, last year kind of sucked for sales… for everyone I know in the industry it was the same thing… but most specialty food companies I know have several types of products or product lines. I knew Major Craig’s would have to expand to survive so I began to look for not so common condiments I was actually going to do chimichury and Piri-piri sauce but as I tested recipes one of the big companies came out with exactly those two… very weird, the universe spoke -”Dont go there!”.
I was interested in local produce and Garlic stood out in my mind. About the same time I had been introduced to Black Garlic. I was thrilled with the idea and the flavour and this area grows a lot of Garlic! But how do I make it? That was another question. Fortunes, and the Universe, kept pushing me in this direction. I met the right people that helped me make the right connections and so began my research project with La Cite Collegiale to unlock the secrets of Black Garlic. We have discovered some great things about using local garlic vs the cheep Chinese garlic that other products on the market use (there is 1 in the US company and a few in China and Korea that make Black Garlic). The quality will be out of this world, the antioxidants are double regular garlic and the flavours are spectacular!
A huge difference will be that Major Craig’s will be the Only company offering it in a powder form for culinary use. At the moment I have a steak marinating in the fridge with just Black Garlic and red wine… it smells so amazing. This product will be the next culinary phenomenon in Canada! There have been some doubters but the way we will present the product will turn doubters into lovers. The potential has been unlocked and is now unlimited in its use.
Andrew has a few other surprises up his sleeve… and all will be revealed in due time. Until then… get yourself some chutney!
Thanks so much to Chef Jeremy Charles for taking time out of his schedule to take a call from me. Chef Charles is the Executive Chef of Raymonds in Newfoundland and a pretty busy guy.
I actually did a little research before my call to Chef Charles… I know, I know… not my forte. And I remembered why I try not to do too much of that… it makes me nervous. Seeing all the amazing things this Chef has done (Silver medal in Gold Medal Plates last year, cooking all over North America for more than 10 years, voted best new restaurant in EnRoute Magazine… the list goes on) is a bit intimidating! And he kind of has a lumber jack look to him that I can see working in Newfoundland, but would scare the hell out of you on a deserted street in Ottawa.
Maybe it’s the beard… or the stern look but it’s telling me “Eat this. And enjoy it. Or else.”
I started by asking Chef Charles how he was feeling. I had attempted to call the day before but he had a horrible tooth ache that he assured me he was on meds for now, and while interview his teammate Chef Korecki, he happened to mention that he had fallen down the stairs the night before. He let me know he is doing much better, and he isn’t normally so accident prone.
So I went on to ask if he had ever been to Ottawa before…
My wife and I lived in Montreal a few years back, and we came to Ottawa for Canada Day once. But I haven’t really dined there, so in my books I haven’t really been there. I’m looking forward to the visit for sure – it will be a nice change of scenery. I’m looking forward to seeing and eating as much as I can in the 4 days I’ll be in town.
Over the last decade, you have cooked everywhere from L.A. to backwoods fly fishing camps in rural Quebec. Where are you most comfortable cooking?
I really enjoyed my time in Chicago and Montreal and I think travel is necessary for any great Chef, but I’ve really enjoyed being home. I’ve got my garden, love to fish and my family is near by. This industry can be grueling at times and having that support of friends and family make it much easier to bare. But about 2 or 3 times a year I take the time to travel and explore. For example we were out in BC last year for Gold Medal Plates. I took an extra day or two to drive around and enjoy the area, source ingredients and suppliers. It was great.
Your bio says that your culinary goals are to redefine rustic East Coast cuisine. What do you define as ‘rustic East Coast Cuisine’?
The people here can relate to hunter / gatherer cuisine. They are hunters and fishermen so seeing Moose, partridge, rabbit and fish on the menu isn’t too far a reach. We just try to put our influence of Italian and French technique on it. Right now on the menu we have a crispy rabbit ravioli that is just awesome.
Speaking of rabbit, Chef Korecki said that you will be doing a rabbit dish for the Celebrity Chefs of Canada Event this March (TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE) - can you tell me a bit about it?
I guess you could call it a tasting of rabbit. I have a friend up here who supplies my rabbit from the West Coast of Newfoundland and I’ll be bringing them with me. They have a diet of White Spruce which gives them a bit of a different flavour. And they are huge – for some reason everything is bigger on the West Coast. Rabbit is just such a great ingredient: relatively cheap, organic and readily available. I love working with them.
What about working with Chef Korecki? You said you have a French / Italian background… while he is a bit more on the asian side of things. How did that work out?
Yeah… my style is nowhere near Chef Jonny’s, but I think it’s turned out great. Everyone brings something new to the table, you know? And he’s such a lovely person – it’s been great working with him. I started cooking with my Mother and Grandmother making traditional Newfoundland food. Working with my hands always came natural to me, and most of my family I guess. I tried a semester of business when I was in Montreal, but it really wasn’t for me. Luckily I found culinary school while in Montreal and now I can do what I love.
Business wasn’t for you?? You must hate that side of being an Executive Chef!
It’s not my favourite part that’s for sure! I struggle with that all the time, but everyone has their strengths. Mine just happens to be cooking.
So are you comfortable with the title of Celebrity Chef??
Ha! Not really. I mean, I don’t think of myself that way. I’m very privileged and honoured to be coming down for this event and I’m so proud of what we have accomplished at the restaurant over the past few years… but celebrity. No… not so much.
Our conversation ended with Chef inviting me to call him anytime if I need anything. He may regret that…
To buy tickets and meet Chef Charles in person, click the banner below.
As mentioned in an earlier post - I’m once again blogging for the Celebrity Chefs of Canada event! This year I am covering the dynamic duo of Chef Jonathan Korecki from SideDoor Restaurant and Chef Jeremy Charles of Raymond’s in St. John’s.
I visited SideDoor Restaurant earlier this year and loved it! But this was my first chance to get to speak one on one with Chef Korecki. What a great guy. Not only didn’t he fake a stomach ache to get away from me and my odd line of questions, he even gave me a quick tour of his kitchen! Korecki is not only an Ottawa Celebrity chef but he is a Top Chef Canada contestant in season two which will be airing starting this March. Check out his audition video here:
Chef Korecki is so mild mannered and polite, my first question was to ask him how long until he gives that up and starts acting like a real celebrity chef? How cold must his latte be before he will throw it at his assistant. Speaking of which, when will he be getting an assistant?
(Korecki) No no! That’s the number one thing you want to stay away from. I don’t let it get to my head, because then you are ‘that asshole’. The best part of being part of all this is that I get to work with other Chefs that I might not have had the chance to work with otherwise. I can head out to where they are and cook, and I can bring them in here to see what we are all about.
Ok. That’s all well and good. I can tell that it’s really about the cooking for you. But you also have a side business – head bands. It’s one of your trademarks and you actually have a line of them for chef’s and other professionals who sweat a lot. I don’t know about you, but they kind of remind me of ninjas. Are you in fact a ninja? And would you show me some of your ninja moves?
Ha! Um … it would be more like Beverly Hills Ninja than an actual ninja.
Back to food. SideDoor will be one year old this Valentines Day weekend – how has the first year been?
It`s been a fast learning curve! But it`s so cool seeing something grow from an idea into reality. It`s been a really cool ride. We are so much farther along now then we were at this point last year. The kinks have more or less been ironed out, like the doughnuts for example. They are done to order all night. So getting the recipe right so that they come out the same at any point was challenging, but we got it down now. And more of the staff know how to complete the dishes so I have more time for fun and menu development.
Speaking of menus, you have been working with Chef Charles for Celebrity Chefs of Canada. What can you tell me about your dish?
**As if his ears are burning, it is at this moment when Chef Charles calls Korecki to talk about a last minute idea for this dish… and to tell him about how he fell down the stairs the night before**
Jeremy and I have been chatting back and forth for a couple of weeks now, but it was only yesterday that we actually hammered out the real idea for the dish. It`s going to be rabbit. Jeremy has a contact in St. John`s who can get him some really amazing local rabbits. There will be a terrine, pate with homemade pickles (which we have already started working on) and ravioli… it is going to be quite the dish.
That sounds amazing. How do you enjoy working with Chef Charles?
Jer is great. He is just so super cool. He is relaxed but focused, which I like. And as an added bonus I used to work with his Sous Chef back in the day when I was in Toronto working with Susur.
Are you looking forward to seeing Susur again?
Of course. I`m really looking forward to connecting with Susur. That guy is funny as hell.
So last year some (by which I mean most… by which I mean all) the chefs went out for a little meet and greet the night before the event. Let us just say that the 8am demos were a little groggy. Do you have any plans for that this year?
Not so much. We will save the party for after the event. Plus it doesn`t get started until noon this year, which is a big help. 8am for any chef who is still working the line is difficult.
Thanks so much to Chef Jonathan for his time. I know he is going to make a rocking dish for Celeb Chefs and is going to kick ass and take names on Top Chef!
To order your tickets for Celebrity Chefs of Canada – click the banner below. Come on out and meet chef Jonny – he’s wicked cool.
I just finished washing my sweaty palms after a phone interview with Lynn Crawford. I’ve got to tell you folks, she is just as nice on the phone as she appears to be on TV. Not only did she laugh nervously at my attempts at humour, but she answered what is sure to be some of the odder questions she will be asked today.
Our conversation went something like this:
(Simply Fresh) Hello. *secretly screaming inside because I know who is on the other end of the phone but I’m trying to play it cool*
(Chef Lynn Crawford) Hi Jodi – It’s Lynn Crawford.
Holy crap on a cracker! Lynn Crawford… on my phone!
What? Oh – ha! Yes. How are you?
(Pleasantries are discussed while I try to calm down and get to the questions… this takes about 4 minutes. I was pretty wound up.)
So you are coming to Ottawa for Winterlude – amazing! Do you have any plans to explore the city or perhaps come back to visit when our farmers markets are in full swing?
I would love to! But honestly with the show (Pitching In) and appearances and the restaurant, I haven’t had a day off in … well… 3 years! I love exploring and a good road trip – it would be fun to see the foodie side of Ottawa. And you have so many dedicated foodies. You know? True lovers of food in that city. It’s amazing.
So yeah, between Pitching In, old episodes of Restaurant Makeover, commercials for stuff like Inniskillin wine and guest spots on stuff like Iron Chef, I have calculated that your face is on Food Network every 10 minutes. Have you ever considered asking them to change the name of the channel to ‘Lynn Crawford’s Food Network’?
Really?? Every 10 minutes! Wow.
But seriously, how do you have any kind of work life balance?
What’s that? Kidding – I do what I love! It’s a passion and I work with amazing people who I love so it’s not work and life. It’s just life!
Do you have any trouble watching yourself on T.V.?
I don’t have time to watch myself on T.V.! But I have watched several episodes and I don’t have a problem. I’m so proud of the show and everyone who works on it. It’s amazing the people you meet along the way and I’m just happy that people are enjoying watching it too.
Are you nervous at all getting ready for your big dinner to kick off Winterlude?
Oh no! I’m excited! I’m working with George Laurier and his amazing team. We are going to have an amazing meal and have fun together. Then there is a fireworks display – how is that? Fun right?!
They go all out for those fireworks – it’s a great time.
Then I realized I was pretty much out of questions, wished her luck in her travels to Ottawa and put my head in between my knees to put a stop to that light headed feeling I’ve been having since I picked up the phone. Too much excitement for one day.
Thank you so much to Chef Crawford. Tickets to her Winterlude kick off dinner are available here until Monday. If you are going – I want to hear all about it!
Two posts in one day?? Go team! Well… they kind of go together so I figured I would post them on the same day. Wini Moranville is the author of The Bonne Femme Cookbook – the next book in my cook along book club project! She has graciously given me a bit of her time to answer some questions. Thanks so much Wini!
Simply Fresh – In the ‘About Wini’ section of your book’s website, you mention that you have been spending the summers in France since the early 90s. In all that time, while learning the French Food culture, what would you say was the biggest surprise, or difference, in the way the French approach food compared to us those of us in North America?
Winni Moranville - For me, what is surprising is how little the French fuss when entertaining. Most cooks that I know on this side of the Atlantic really knock themselves out when gathering friends in their homes. But I just loved the easygoing way that French women cook for friends. They’ll bring a few of their favourite dishes to the table, yes, but round out the offerings with the best artisanal foods their towns offer: great charcuterie and olives, fabulous cheeses and breads, and gorgeous pastry-shop treats. Often in my book, I offer ways to round out the menu with such items so you truly do not have to go crazy in the kitchen when having guests.
What has been your favourite French dish to eat out? And which is your favourite to make at home?
I love Sole Meuniere (sauted sole finished with a browned butter) and other bonne femme classics, like choucroute garnie, coq au vin, beef bourguignon, and any number of French daubes (stews). In summer, I’m a huge fan of composed salads—I just love the way the way chefs at seaside resorts combine really good fresh ingredients for main-dish salads.
Many of these dishes are also home favourites, but at home, I cook a lot of dishes in the “Sauté, Deglaze, and Serve” mode. I devote an entire chapter to the book; each recipe calls on sautéing the nights meat in a pan, deglazing that pan with wine and broth while stirring up those yummy pan juices; each recipe comes with its own touch, apples and apple brandy for Chicken Calvados, olive and garlic with lamb chops, capers and mustard for pork chops, etc. It’s 30-minute cooking at its true-to France best.
Thanks so much Wini!
What made you decide to write a cookbook?
As a food writer and editor, I was often surprised at how many home cooks think that French cooking is expensive, indulgent (lots of butter and cream), and difficult. Yet everyday French home cooking isn’t necessarily any of these things. French women work outside the home as much as we do—but at the end of their days, they want to eat splendidly, night after night. I decided to write a book about how they do it.
My readers and I are planning to cook a few recipes from The Bonne Femme as part of our Cook Along Book Club – do you have any recommendations for recipes from the book that we simply have to make?
That’s a hard question! I suggest making whatever sounds really good to you. As for my personal favourites: For sit-down start salads, I love the Roasted Beet Salad with Blue Cheese, the Melty Goat Cheese Salad with Honey and Pine Nuts, and the Belgian Endive Salad with Blue Cheese and Walnuts.
For a quick weeknight meal, try the Pork Medallions with Apricot-Sage Sauce (use pork chops if you prefer), the Chicken Francese, or the Coconut Shrimp. Serve these with Any-Night Baked Rice. Also try the Choucroute Garni Mardi Soir—even if you think you don’t like sauerkraut, you should give this a try—once you’ve had sauerkraut the French way, you may change your mind.
For friends, try my Blanquette de Pork or the Boeuf Bourgignon. Both are great with the Any-Night Baked Rice.
For dessert, everyone should try Floating Islands at least once in their lives—and remember, you don’t have to make the caramel and chocolate sauces yourself. Buy high-quality purchased sauces (make sure the caramel sauce has butter or cream as an ingredient). I would also suggest the Crêpes Belle Helene, and the Chocolate-Cherry Pound Cake Bonne Femme.
If you could let the masses know anything about French cooking and cuisine, what would that be?
That the joys of the French table are open to everyone, no matter where you live or what your means. The French prove again and again that you can live modestly, yet dine splendidly, night after night.