Rainer Cherry Clafoutis

Clafoutis ~ I’ve heard the name tossed about on food TV frequently the past few days, and today it was all I could think about when I saw a stack of beautiful, blushy Rainer cherries at a Granville Island produce stand. This French dessert can be made with any stone fruit (think peaches, plums, apricots) or even with berries, but the classic version from the Limosin region of France uses black cherries.

Rainer Cherry Clafoutis with vanilla ice cream and cherry sauce.

Technically, a clafoutis using anything other than black cherries is a flaugnarde, so says the intertoobs, and in traditional recipies, cherry pits are not removed before baking. Leaving the pits is said to enhance flavour, but I didn’t want to have to pick around them, so I pitted my cherries.

Ingredients are simple: egg, milk, flour, flavour, a little butter or oil. Clafoutis batter is rather thin, like crepe batter, and is usually flavoured with almond or vanilla. It puffs up during baking and cuddles around the fruit as it sets. In fact, it’s very much like making a Dutch Baby pancake.

This was my first attempt at clafoutis, and it turned out quite well. Gingerman liked it, and we had the leftover portion for breakfast the next day. I half made up a recipe on the fly because I had only 2 eggs and a strangely shaped dish. A few more experiments, and I’ll come up with a reliable version of my own. Meanwhile, I found some inspiring recipes online and gathered a bit of clafoutis wisdom to share.

Baking Tips for Clafoutis:

  • Butter & Sugar the baking dish: Butter the bottom and sides of the dish, toss in a couple of tablespoons of sugar, and shake it around to coat the dish. Dump excess sugar that doesn’t stick.
  • Experiment with different fruits and flavour extracts or liquers.
  • Sift the flour to prevent clumps.
  • Bake individual clafoutis in muffin tins or ramekins.
  • Do not open the oven door until the end of baking time!

Recipes for Clafoutis:

Leaving a comment? I’m curious . . . how do you like to eat cherries?

Vancouver Farmers Market: Heirloom Tomatoes

I love buying tomatoes at the farmers market. Yeah, they sometimes cost more than tomatoes at the supermarket or local grocer, but not too much more. And these heirloom tomatoes are homegrown, with varieties of distinctive taste, texture, and colour that no storebought tomato can match.

~ lovely striped beauties fresh from the Vancouver Farmers Market ~

Homegrown Tomatoes by Guy Clark

Ain’t nothin’ in the world that I like better
than bacon and lettuce and homegrown tomatoes…

Plant ’em in the Spring, eat’em in the Summer
All Winter without ’em’s a culinary bummer…

Only two things that money can’t buy
that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes.

Support Free Folk Music @ FolkAlley.com

There are tomatoes for every taste: dense flavourful plum tomatoes that are excellent for sauces, as well as big juicy red, yellow, orange tomatoes that make the perfect slice for a BLT. There are citrusy tomatoes that add zing to your salads, and tiny pop-em-in-your-mouth-like-candy  tomatoes that taste like sunshine.

Look for homegrown/heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market [Vancouver].
Better yet, grow your own: Heirloom Tomato Seeds from Victoria.

For more farmers market goodies, see also:

To Market and Home Again ~ Sunday Morning Market Fare ~ Farmers Market Feast

Leaving a comment? I’m curious… how do you like your tomatoes?

Vancouver’s First Cupcake Challenge

The moment I found out Vancouver was having a cupcake bakeoff, I looked at GingerMan and said, “We’re going. They’ll have free samples.” He smiled at me and said, “You had me at Free Cupcake.”

My choice for Best Cupcake: The Neopolitan by Frosting Cupcakery

It was an overcast Vancouver morning, but it was all sweet frosted happiness at Yaletown Roundhouse. Throughout the day, 1110 people came by to taste the wares of top-notch local bakers and cupcakeries. My only suggestions for improvement: a slightly larger room and a free glass of milk. 8)

Vancouver Cupcake Challenge organizers Nicole Marie Events and Follow Me Foodie invited the public to sample delicious treats and help select the People’s Choice cupcake, while a panel of judges (including a few local foodies) put in their votes for the Judges’ Choice and Blogger’s Choice.

Fabulous door prize at the Vancouver Cupcake Challenge.

Congrats to Frosting Cupcakery and Big City Cupcakes! You guys take the cake. As a cupcake connoisseur, I appreciated the unique flavour combinations presented by all the contestants. Several memorable participating bakers (including the challenge winners) are profiled below.

Frosting Cupcakery ~ Winner of Judges’ Choice and People’s Choice

Smiling bakers from Frosting Cupcakery!

Cake and ice cream is a birthday party classic. Frosting Cupcakery immediately won me over with their Neopolitan cupcake: a vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry combination that really tastes like ice cream! Their exotic Love Potion cupcake marries flavours of mango and passion fruit, and the Caramel Crunch is a divine confection of buttery caramel and madagascar vanilla with bits of Skor Bar.

Based in Langley, I’d say this cupcake shop is definitely worth a trip! They have a fantastic assortment of delicious treats and wonderfully creative recipes for holidays or any days, plus they host birthday parties for kids and offer custom cupcakes for special events and weddings. Take a peek at their cupcake menu!

Scrumptious samples from Frosting Cupcakery

Big City Cupcakes ~ Winner of Blogger’s Choice Award

When they say “big” the’re talking about the cupcakes, too. Way more than a mouthful and loaded with yummy frosting. No skimping on the good stuff. Many of their cupcakes also have fillings! The best of the bunch is the Lemon Drop: Vanilla cupcake with tangy lemon filling and lemony buttercream frosting. They also offered samples of the Strawberry Cheesecake (yes it has cheesecake filling) and the Truffle, which has a ganache truffle filling.

Big City Cupcakes has three Vancouver locations: Downtown (1015 Howe St.) ~ Kitsilano (2206 West 4th) ~ Point Grey (4481 West 10th). See their website at bigcitycupcakes.com for a complete list of locations and menu of yummy flavours, including gluten free or egg & dairy free options.

Indulgence

Sweet ladybugs and flowers!

Pastry chef Clare Thomas offered three luscious little cakes including Pistachio Cupcakes with White Chocolate Buttercream, Vanilla Bean Cupcake with Tangy Lemon Buttercream, and a perfectly delectable Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Sweet Caramel Buttercream. The texture of the cake was divine (moist and not too dense) and it had a lovely deep chocolate flavour. I loved that some of their baby cupcakes were topped with candy flowers and tiny little ladybugs. So cute!

Cake Tease

Really creative and artistic bakers in North Vancouver with excellent taste. Their unique Oreo Cookie cupcake even had cookie crumbles in the cake! NOM! Not only does Cake Tease make yummy cupcakes, they also do fabulous structured and sculpted cakes, too. Have a look at their photo gallery.

Pink Sugar Cupcakery

Fresh ingredients, small batches, and no dairy or eggs! Pink Sugar calls their sustainable goodies “eco-chic party treats” and offered three fantastic little cupcakes to sample. The toasty coconut cupcake was a huge hit with Gingerman, and the Peanut Butter filled Chocolate cupcake was moist and delicious. An excellent flavour combo! The Chocolate Strawberry cupcake was also supertasty, with real strawberry puree in the frosting. People in Victoria are lucky to have Pink Sugar in their neighbourhood. Check out their inspiring menu of designer cupcakes.

Vancouver Events: The Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat racing began in southern China as a Summer Solstice fertility ritual to ensure a good harvest. During the fourth century BC, the story of  patriot-poet Qu Yuan becomes integrated in Dragon Boat history. Qu Yuan was banished from his beloved country and, in despair, leapt into a river clutching a heavy rock. The people tried to save him, racing out in their fishing boats, defending his body from fish and water dragons by beating drums and splashing with their oars.

#5 crew looks relieved to cross the finish line first

Modern Dragon Boat races still occur near the Summer Solstice and at the opening ceremony for race events, a Taoist priest performs an “eye dotting” ceremony to awaken the dragons and bless them, cleansing the racecourse and envigorating the paddlers.

2010 marks the 22nd Annual Dragon Boat Festival taking place in the waters of False Creek in Vancouver, British Columbia. Admission is FREE. Festival entrances are located near Concord Place and Science World. Take the bus or skytrain, ride your bike, or just hoof it and leave the car at home.

A gorgeous day for festival fun.

Of course, there’s plenty of festival food, from dim sum and perogies to Jamaican patties and kettle korn. Vera’s has a burger stand set up, and there’s no shortage of those cute and tasty Mini Doughnuts. Food vendors take Dragon Dollars instead of cash. PURCHASE Dragon Dollars at booths near entryways. Grownups can also buy beer/wine tickets and relax in the Beer Garden hosted by Granville Island Brewery.

About 180 Dragon Boat teams will participate this year, and races are frequent. There’s plenty of fun to be had, so go down and enjoy music from the World Beat stage or peruse goodies and info offered by vendors, companies, and local organizations. Don’t forget to see what’s cookin at the Aluminum Chef contest (finals on Sunday). You might even get to guest-judge a dish!

Find out more about the Rio Tinto Alcan Dragon Boat Festival.

Vancouver Street Food: Caramel Corn

It’s Italian Day today on Commercial Drive, and pedestrians own the streets. On either side for blocks there are ethnic restaurants of all varieties, organic markets, boutiques, cafes, and strange little hole-in-the-wall shops. The Drive is an interesting and diverse community, and every so often, they throw a pretty darn good block party.

We’ve been to The Drive a few times for festivals and events. They close the street to traffic (except for certain crossings) and vendors set up shop along the sidewalks. The smell of grilling fills the air, and there are so many tempting treats it’s hard to choose. Today, we were won over by a container of delicious caramel coated popcorn with nuts. It is perfectly crisp and buttery and mouthwatering—better than any other I have ever tasted—and I wish I could remember who sold it. Our supply will soon be gone.

Read more about Commercial Drive @ http://www.thedrive.ca/

Vancouver Farmers Market: Homemade Homous

Spread it on a cracker ~ Dip it with a chip ~ Slather it on pita

Bean Boy Creations makes Homemade Organic Homous in delicious flavours like Smokey Tomato Chipotle. Our favourite was the Curry Currant shown in the closeup. Smooth texture and vibrant flavour.

Excellent healthy snack treat under $5 and worth every penny.

The Barnyard Burger @ The Wolf & Hound

Once upon a time, Patty O’Lamb went out upon an Irish green and landed upon its buns. And so barely blushed inside, under a blanket of crisp wavy bacon and creamy cheese of yon goat, was drizzled with BBQ sauce. Verily, it was delicious. And so was my Manhattan. Did I mention there was live music and hockey on big TV’s?

The Wolf & Hound

3617 West Broadway
Vancouver, BC

Afterthoughts: Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games

My Olympic Fever has faded, and my Paralympic Hangover has passed. The city has more or less returned to normal. No more concerts or crowded streets. No more flag waving and fireworks. No more singing “Oh Canada, we stand in line for thee!” All in all, it was an amazing thing, being in an Olympic city.

I got more information about the protests and riots from Twitter than from CTV News. Yes, there was a mild riot in which some masked hoodlums busted display windows at the Hudson Bay store downtown. This act of vandalism did nothing to further the concerns or causes of those who protested peacefully. With the amount of money thrown at prettying up the city, trucking in snow, and installing temporary attractions (among other things), somebody is going to have to pay in the end. And it will likely fall on current taxpayers and their offspring to share the load. All that money could have been spent on social programs, schools, hospitals, any number of long term beneficial things. Oh, and they’ve raised bus ticket prices again to boot. Thanks so much, not really.

A number of restaurants around the city had a spike in prosperity, partly due to the practice of adding a 20% Olympic surcharge to each bill (see article at Spiffle). That was pretty sneaky . . . but people complained, especially the locals. During the Olympics, we went to Society in Yaletown with some friends, and yes there was a 20% addition to the bill. When we went to Earls downtown during the Paralympics, we asked our waitress before ordering if the surcharge was still being applied. She said they stopped doing it after getting backlash from unhappy customers (not surprising). We did have a fantastic lunch at Earls, by the way: Orchid martini and grilled chicken sandwich with melted brie, roasted apples, and fig jam. And dessert was ridiculous! Rich chocolate cake with caramel sauce and ice cream. If you’re going to go out for food, go all the way out.

The Paralympics were like Olmpics Lite. Fewer events, less uproar, shorter lines (the Zipline wait was only two hours instead of 7), and significantly cheaper tickets. We actually managed to snag seats for the USA vs Japan sledge hockey prelim and the wheelchair curling semifinals (US v Korea and Canada v Sweden).

The sledge hockey match was a lot of fun to watch, and very fast and physical. Athletes sit in a sort of single-track sled and use a short hockey stick in each hand  like ski poles to push off down the ice. Their arm and upper body strength must be amazing. It was fun being a fan in the stands that day. The US trounced Japan in the prelim (6-0), but the Japanese team fought their way back through the final games to meet the Americans again in the Gold Medal match (US won 2-0). Norway defeated the Canadian sledge hockey team in the Bronze Medal game (2-1).

Read more about Paralympic Ice Sledge Hockey.

Wheelchair curling was quite different than regular curling, as there are no sweepers. The Paralympic teams are co-ed, and the play was a bit like shuffleboard. It was my first opportunity to see a live curling match, and it wasn’t boring in the least. I suppose people are expected to be quiet during a match, but there were some great fans in the Korean corner, complete with a drum and a catchy cheer. I was really surprised to see both matches end in forfeit (which I don’t quite understand), but it was fun to sing Oh Canada with the crowd. The Canadian team went on to win Gold. Korea took Silver, and the Bronze medal went to Sweden.

Read more about Paralympic Wheelchair Curling.

It will take a while to see how hosting the Olympic Games will affect Metro Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia in the long term. It was all very exciting and dynamic from my perspective. I met some amazing random people and had a few rare experiences, and I’m glad for it. It’s time to retire my red-striped Olympic socks and put Quatchi on the shelf until the next Canucks game (which is tonight, by the way. Quatchi loves hockey!). Now I suppose I should get back to writing about food and go buy some peeps for Easter. Smeeps ahoy!

2010 Olympic Hangover: Hockey IS Canada’s game!

Wow, what a party. Over the past two weeks, the city of Vancouver has been bursting at the seams with an incredible positive energy, and it has been amazing to witness. For months (years, really) it built up slowly, crawling across red tape and protests and innumerable concerns and hopes among the populace who wondered if it would all be worth it. Well, I think it was.

post-game celebration downtown ~ photo by nofutureface

During the Olympics, I wasn’t just watching the games, I was also watching the people. I saw great displays of sportsmanship and comeraderie, not only among the athletes but also among the fans. There were a few sour grapes and some nasty attitudes about who won which medal, but that was mainly among those who believe that “second is the first loser,” and well, that’s not how everybody looks at it.

The media (yes, CTV, I’m talking to you) was for a while complaining about the dissapointment of not “owning the podium” but my how they changed their tune when Canada won all that gold. They’re so fickle, those newsmongers. For myself, I can say I was proud of every great performance I saw. To every athlete who gave their best, laid it all on the ice (or snow), and came in 4th or 10th or dead last, you should be proud. You should be really proud of yourselves, because I’m really proud of you.

Truth be told, the Olympics are just another competition, albeit a REALLY significant one. If you’re going to pick a time to shine, do it when the world is watching. These athletes have been training day after day—with a conviction and dedication I have never achieved myself—suffering injury and pushing forward through rehab, overcoming their fears and self-doubts, perfecting their techniques, so they can bring them to all of us and let us share a little part of their “thrill of victory, agony of defeat.” And I am fortunate enough to live in one of the cities that brought such a spectacle to life.

And on the last day, I watched the game of a lifetime. Two nations that hold my heart met to compete for hockey gold. No lie, I wanted Canada to win, but I wanted a good game, and I got a GREAT game. It wasn’t lopsided, and it was a real nail-biter. Oh, Luongo, I’m glad you were minding the net, but I think Sid the Kid had a little hockey angel on his shoulder that day.

high fivin' on the streets ~ photo by Michael F. McCarthy

After the game, Canada literally poured into the streets to celebrate, and I did something I never thought I’d do. Well, a couple of things, actually. I walked across the Burrard Street bridge, and I drank a Canadian beer. I’m afraid of heights, and I don’t like beer, but under the circumstances, how could I resist?

There was red and white everywhere. Flags were waving, fans were wooing, horns were honking, and people were high-fiving right and left. The atmosphere was electric and incredibly friendly. Here and there you’d see an American flag and a Canadian flag hugging it out. It wasn’t an “in your face” victory, at least not where I was standing. I watched a crowd of people pass by a group of US fans, and there were handshakes and high-fives and “good game” comments passing between them. We were all just happy. And the US team looked really pretty in silver, even with a few sour pusses in the picture.

The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics reminded me a lot of Burning Man. Being a part of this was like being on the playa, except with a lot less dust and a few less naked people. I have to say, kudos to the Vancouver Police Department for providing a security presence that was effective without being oppressive. Shutting down the booze markets early was a smart thing to do. It kept the crowds a little more family-friendly.

Sochi Mascot = Cutest thing ever! ~ by Duncan Rawlinson

I will remember you, stranger who took a bite of my pizza. I will remember you, the girl who gave me a Go Canada bracelet. I will remember you, Alice Cooper impersonator and Sochi mascot and crazy balloon-hat guy. I will remember you, too, smiling faces from far away places.

The Olympics are done, but the Paralympic games begin when the cauldron is relit on March 12th, and we’ll get to see a whole new kind of incredible. In the meantime, I really need to do some cooking and have a nice long nap.

P.S. HUGE THANKS to the people who shared their Olympic moments via Flickr Creative Commons so I could share them with you. My poor little camera is currently being held together by masking tape—no kiddin!

Flickr Creative Commons
nofutureface
Michael Francis McCarthy
Duncan Rawlinson @ The Last Minute Blog

Olympic Curling: Hurry Hard Canada!

Canadian Men’s Curling Team wins opener vs. Norway Harlequins!

Fans rockin' the Norway pants! ~ photo by kennymatic @ Flickr

Really, you must have a look at the pants made by ~ Loudmouth Golf ~ I am very fond of the Shagadelic pattern, but the Norwegian Curling Team’s uniforms are just the bee’s knees!

Yesterday I was roving downtown, watching the people walk by dressed in the colours of their particular countries. So much red and white and blue, and the occasional splash of yellow, green, orange. Stripes and dots and swirls and sparkles, and all these great patterns go walking by, sometimes with sparkles and feathers and balloon hats. There’s music in the air from concerts along the Yaletown stroll, featuring local Vancouver artists. Woo and Yeah are out in record numbers, and the Canadian National Anthem, I Believe, and that “like a waving flag” song are invading my dreams. And everybody is having a good time. It’s like an enormous street festival from one end of town to the other.

Hockey fans sporting Puckheads at the Torino Olympics (by A tee but no e @ Flickr)

While I was literally watching the world go by, here came a man wearing a curling stone hat. It even had a little handle on the top! It’s like a Puckhead, only it’s a curling thing. My sister is a big fan of curling. I’m still trying to figure it out. Curling has a huge following across Canada, and it’s been fun watching the coverage of the games.

According to the Olympic Curling info from VANOC, the game was invented some 500 years ago by people living around frozen lochs in Scotland, where life before TV was hard and there wasn’t a lot of fun to be had unless you made it yourself. I suspect the invention of this game was instigated by one ice fisherman who said to another, “I bet you can’t hit that ice hole with a rock.”

The playing field is called a sheet, and at one end of the sheet is a target area of concentric circles known as the house. Play is reminiscent of bocce (lawn bowling) or shuffleboard, as the object is to get your rocks in the house (i.e. on the target, preferably on the bull’s eye) and knock your opponent’s rocks out. One game is divided up into 10 ends (kinda like how baseball has 9 innings). During each end, each team has 8 rocks to throw, and each person on a team of four gets to throw two rocks.

Once a team member throws a rock, his (or her) team members can use their brooms to sweep the path in front of the sliding rock to change its direction and speed, making it “curl” so that it gets as close as possible to the middle of the target (the center of the rings at the other end of the sheet). You’ll hear the skip (team captain) yelling “Hurry!” or “Hurry hard!” to tell the sweepers to get a move on. “Woah!” means stop sweeping.

~ 2010 Olympic Curling Schedule and Results ~

Tonight we’re watching women’s curling (Canada vs China) and a movie called Men With Brooms. The other day we watched men’s figure skating and Blades of Glory. I haven’t cooked anything but cereal in two days. But it’s been a great party so far!

Curling Terminology

VANOC has a useful glossary of curling terms. There are strange names for just about everything related to the game; it’s funny that the stick used to measure rock distances is simply called a “measuring stick.”

Rock ~ the big ice puck with the handle.

Hammer ~ It’s good to have the hammer. It means you get the last shot in the end.

Skip ~ The team boss. Does a lot of yelling at the sweepers and usually throws the last two rocks for the team in each end.

House ~ The target area of circles, divided into quadrants. The center ring is the button (aka bullseye). The more stones you have in the house, the more points you get.

Hack ~ The bar used to push off when a player slides a rock.

Hog Line ~ A player has to release the rock before they get to this line on the sheet.

~ GO CANADA GO ~

Flickr Creative Commons
Loud and Proud by kennymatic
Puckheads by A tee but no e