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New site is up and running!

December 10, 2009

With the help of my brother and autofocus I have moved my blog over to my own site at www.closetchef.ca and am super excited about the design.  Keep checking back as I make little adjustments and tweeks.

As well, anyone who is interested in having a custom blog designed please contact me and I will get you in touch with my brother who is a web developer.  He has experience designing blogs from scratch using wordpress.

Thanks for all your support!

Fol Epi Bakery

November 23, 2009

Victoria BC is really growing into a foodie mecca and Cliff Leir’s beautiful breads are leading the charge!  I had to feature this beautiful bakery as it satisfies both my design and food desires.  Cliff has set up shop at Dockside Green complete with a hand built wheat grinder and a brick oven that sits half inside and half outside. The name Fol Epi mans “wild wheat stalk”.  Fol Epi breads are probably the closest I’ve tasted to the French and European breads I’ve had.  The shop is designed beautifully with reclaimed wood, slate for serving platters, iron and brick.  The breads are made in a traditional manner with starters and ferments.  Then they’re hand shaped with care and attention.

I was lucky enough to spend about an hour or so hanging out, taking pictures, laughing and trying a sip of some amazing apple eau de vie that Cliff made at home.  What I learned is that Cliff doesn’t take himself seriously.  When I asked him why bread he said that an Old Russian guy convinced him to build a brick oven in his driveway and well…the rest is history.  Does he love what he does…his answer is like anyone who is working their passion, “sometimes yes, sometimes no”.  “I don’t always love getting up at 3 in the morning and I sometimes don’t love having rain pelting me as I ride to work.  But then sometimes the feel of the rain on my face is soothing and amazing”

I hope that the pictures above shine some light onto a beautiful craft and convince you to go and try some of Cliff’s breads.  If that isn’t enough then maybe heading next door to dip your all butter croissant in a Caffe Fantastico cappuccino will convince you.  Here are the directions.

Food to celebrate

November 4, 2009

party-essentials

I’m lucky enough to work part time at an amazing Italian Deli/cafe where my love for all things cured, fermented and aged has grown immensely. Re-designing their newsletter has inspired me to share with you some pantry ingredients to have around or to get in a pinch when you have some people over.  Ottavio Italian Bakery and Deli is an amazing resource for such items here in Victoria BC but I’m sure that wherever you are you will be able to source out a great deli/bakery.

The items photographed above and listed below are probably not things most people have or would have around the house but this is where I would love to change your mind about that.  Our culture isn’t set up the same way as the Europeans.  We are less likely to have an impromptu get together as they are.  They are also used to spending the time between 4-8 not rushing around trying to get dinner done but instead relaxing after a days work, having a drink, something to nibble on and sharing this with friends.  Dinner can come after.  You’ll be in a more relaxed state to decide what to have.  It’s not always easy as most of us are stuck in the same routines but I urge you to try it out.

Here are a list of things that can set you on your way to try this lifestyle out.   Look to spend around $100.  This would include stuff you can save for next time along with a selection of wines or beers.    So what’s $100?  A pair of shoes that you can’t eat…that’s what that is!

1. Have a small selection of cheeses on hand – Here are some different styles of cheese.  You could choose 3 styles or more but 3 keeps it simple and affordable.  Don’t be overwhelmed by all of these cheeses.  Any good cheese monger or deli should be able to help you out.  It’s worth it!

Hard ( Parmigiano, Pecorino, Aged Cheddar, Manchego)
Semi Hard ( Tete de Moine, Ossau-Irraty, Gouda, Comte)
Semi Soft (St Nectaire, Morbier, Pont l’Eveque)
Soft (Camembert, Chevre, Triple Cream Brie)
Blue ( Stilton, Fourme d’Ambert, Dolce Latte)
Sheep/Goat ( Macedonian Feta, Chevre Paillot, Valencay)

2. Have some cured meats like Prosciutto, Salami, Saucison, or even some cooked hams like Rosemary Ham

3. Olives – Source out some great olives even if it means driving all over town – I can’t stress this more.  I will usually take olives in brine and season them myself at home with some fennel seeds, rosemary, fresh lemon zest and olive oil.

4. Some nice baguette or Italian style bread.  Keep these in the freezer as they only take about 15mins to thaw.  Also a mixture of crackers along with some grissini (Italian breadsticks- see top picture) if you can get your hands on some.

5. Dried fruit, mixed nuts, and some fresh fruit as well.  Fruit compotes and chutney are great as well.

6. And of course your beverage of choice.  It’s really easy to find wines under $15 that represent great value.  Wines that work well are soft, fruity reds like Aussie shiraz, Pinot noirs, and basically anything with low tannins and acidity for reds.  For whites it’s best to get that acidity as it acts like a palate cleanser.  So think Sauvignon Blanc.  Rieslings and Gewurtztraminer (awesome with stinky and blue cheeses) and a Dessert wine is always amazing for a different experience (Blue cheeses being the typical pairing). Beer also is an amazing pairing.  Especially the hand crafted beers that offer a bit more complexity that just your run of the mill lagers.

Why I want a Bulthaup kitchen!

October 30, 2009

Untitled1Untitled2Untitled3Untitled4Untitled5

These pictures speak enough of why I want a Bulthaup kitchen.  If you’ve never seen or heard of this company than you need to either go to the showroom or visit their site. Bulthaup is a German company who have a long history of producing kitchens without any unnecessary decorations.  Everything you see has a function which makes it a dream kitchen for anyone who is serious about cooking.  I’m a minimalist by heart so these kitchens are just my thing.  I really love the mixture of materials plus the juxtapositions of modern and rustic.  Using wood gives the kitchen a really grounded and earthy feel. I love modern but I don’t want to feel like I’m cooking in a space movie.

So please enjoy, dream, drool and start planning your kitchen.

Warm fall salad & bruschetta

October 28, 2009

warm-salad

Who doesn’t love a salad?  That is until it becomes repetitive and boring.  I’ve gone through a streak like that but then I decided to be daring and try different combination’s.

Spring salads are exciting with their fresh tender greens, peas, young early vegetables.  Summer salads are focused around outdoor eating and grilling.  Think big juicy ripe tomatoes, grilled veggies and some prawns on top.  But for me, warm fall salads are where it’s at.  I still use baby greens but top them with grilled or sauteed fennel, onions, wild mushrooms and roast carrots.  Toast some nice sourdough or french bread, rub loads of garlic on it and top it with tomatoes, olives, fresh herbs or all of the above.  Making bruschetta is less about specific recipes and more about finding food from leftovers, seasonal ingredients and anything you really love to put on top.  Traditionally the housewife would use leftovers to create spectacular hor d’oeuvres in France, tapas in Spain and antipasto along with bruschetta in Italy.  So no rules here.

The following is some ingredients and produce I love using for warm salads.

Fennel
Sweet Onions
Roast Carrots
Roast Parsnips
Broccoli
Bacon & Brussels sprouts
Roast squash
Green beans
Wild mushrooms
Avocado
Marinated artichokes
Roast garlic
Baby greens
Arugula
Yams
Bacon (it’s a vegetable isn’t it??)
Pine nuts
other toasted nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds)

Here is a fantastic dressing as well

1/4 cup Olive oil
Juice of one orange
salt
pepper
splash of red wine vinegar
2 cloves fresh garlic crushed or minced
small handful fresh thyme

mix all ingredients together and store in a jar or use all at once.

Thanksgiving on Salt Spring Island

October 25, 2009

This Thanksgiving was all about indulging in food, drink and friends on Salt Spring Island where I didn’t have to do any of the cooking!  I also didn’t feel the need to try to record Thanksgiving dinner through my lens.  Instead the evening was spent drinking, discussing, eating and laughing.

Our hosts were Danish so naturally we started with a lethal dose of Aquavit, a Danish aperitif with hints of dill and caraway, followed quickly with a good chaser of beer.  My kind of start!  The food was stunning.  Organic, free range Turkey from a farm down the road, gorgeous big creamy potatoes, squash, glazed carrots, stuffing topped with beautiful gravy and more Aquavit.  The aperitif turned digestif.  The night capped off with one of each pies; an apple and pumpkin pie.  A real memorable evening and one that I am truly thankful for.

So below are a collection of  images not from that evening but instead from the days spent roaming around with my ipod plugged into my ears capturing anything that caught my eye.  Oh, and if you’re looking for a place to stay when you go to Salt Spring Island then look no further than here….(a shameless plug! It’s my Mom’s b&b)

vintage-pearsfruit-&-vintage-cart

ssi-fall-leaves

ssi

chairs-&-peter-pan

side-table-with-rocks

art-&-driftwood

potted-herbs

ssi_2

arbutus

ssi-market

blackberry-picking

mouats-&-pub

mouats

treehouse-&-pumpkin

antique-bistro-set

newspapers-&-bench

crab-traps

barnacles

ssi-dock

ssi-fishmonger

boats

ssi-beach

ssi-litter-sign

beach-stairs-&-levaes

cobwebs-&-vista

ssi-artist

ssi-driftwood

ssi-pup

ssi-kids-boat

vesuvius-village

vesuvius-bay

5 reasons I love chanterelles

October 17, 2009

chanterelles_2

It’s that time of the year again.  Wild mushroom season!  Or at least it is in my part of the world.  There is something amazing about eating wild food.  For a man it’s all about being the forager, the hunter gather that resides within. Trekking out into the damp forests and bringing home a bounty to rejoice and feast on.  Exactly the kind of activity that I’ve had little success with!  These gorgeous Chanterelles were picked by a friend.  The ones we gathered were mushrooms that resembled Chanterelles and luckily were not harmful.    But the act of foraging was very exciting and enjoyable and I recommend it to anyone.  Just get a good mushroom book, a good pair of boots and pack a lunch!

There are so many varieties and so many flavours and textures.  From silky, soft and buttery to meaty and earthy.  Chanterelles fall into the more buttery catagory with slight earthy tones.  Here are 5 ways that I love to cook and eat Chanterelles.  The season is short so take advantage while you can get them.

1. Sauteed for a Bruschetta

Roughly cut a few of handfuls of Chanterelles and saute over med to high heat with some olive oil in a large pan.  Add some salt to help release the juices and some pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes but not too long or they will shrink and taste horrible.  Meanwhile, toast some sour dough bread  and rub with garlic.  Cover bread with sauteed mushrooms and drizzle olive oil all over. Sprinkle fresh thyme (orange or lemon thyme is amazing)   Grate fresh Parmesan if you’ve got it.

2. Wild Chanterelle & Smoked Salmon Omelette

Saute Chanterelles as per recipe above omitting the thyme and set aside to keep warm.  Gently beat 2-3 eggs, melt some butter in a  6inch diameter non stick pan over medium heat.  Once butter is melted and foaming, add the eggs and turn the heat up a bit.  When the eggs start to set, use a spatula to lift up the edges to let the uncooked egg run under to cook.  The omelette is done when the bottom is golden brown and the top is still moist.  Transfer to a plate.  Fill with mushrooms and pieces of smoked salmon.  Grate some Gruyere cheese or a Swiss Emmental.  Fold over and serve.

3. Grilled Rib-eye with Chantrelles & Vincotto

Season a Rib-eye steak with salt and cracked pepper.  Sear or grill steak to desired doneness.  (1 inch steak needs 5 mins on one side and 4 on the other. Or with an internal temp of 130 F to 135 F)  Saute Chanterelles as per first recipe and add two or more tablespoons of Vincotto at the end.  Serve steak with mushrooms on top.  Vincotto (literally “cooked wine”) is a dark, sweet dense grape must produced artisanally in the south of Italy. Kind of like a reduced balsamic.

4. Chorizo, Chanterelle and Broccoli Tapa

Saute a couple of chorizo sausages(preferable the dry ones) on medium heat for a couple of mins.  Add a couple handfuls of rough chopped or torn Chanterelles (not too small, you’ll get better flavour if they are kept larger), garlic clove, salt and pepper and continue to cook for a few mins.  Meanwhile par boil one broccoli crown cut up into bite sizes.  Add par boiled broccoli to pan with the chorizo and mushrooms with some olive oil and stir to coat.  Serve in a bowl with warm bread and let people tuck in.

5. Sauteed with Roast Butternut Squash

Cut butternut squash into wedges and drizzle olive oil over pieces.  Season with salt(try a smoked salt or another flavoured salt if you can get some) and cracked pepper.  Roast side down on a pan lined with parchment paper at 350 F for about 40 mins.  Check it after about 20 mins and if brown on one side then flip over to brown the other side.  This method really caramelizes the sugars in the squash.  Saute Chanterelles as per first recipe and serve squash with mushrooms on top.

Chanterelles_3

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