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Verses from my Kitchen: May 2011

May 31, 2011

Quinoa Cakes with Poached Egg and Parsley

I was dead to the world on Sunday morning. Outside, people had been awake for a couple of hours and my neighbours were rejoicing in the beautiful weather, yet I was in my dark cool place fast asleep. And I didn't feel guilty for a moment. There was no room for that on this day.

My wife and I were out at a wedding shoot most of the day Saturday, so when the time came to choose between sleep and an early start to Sunday, the choice was easy. Sleep is my friend, my landing pad when I need to recharge. I cherish the moments in my life when I can escape in the afternoon for a quick nap.It balances me. There's something about Sunday mornings tucked away inside my soft, delicate duvet that I really come to expect and enjoy. Love.
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May 29, 2011

Grilled Fish with Grilled Oranges, Quinoa and Mint

After a week that skipped along like an old vinyl record, Friday evening was met with equal parts relief and anticipation. Saturday was our first wedding shoot, and although the wedding was low key and smaller in size, it didn't take away those fleeting feelings of genuine excitement mixed with nerves and doubt.

Normally the long week that was disappears as quickly as it came. Friday night is met with a reunion of the minds between my wife and myself and it's followed by an early night to recharge and refuel. Usually we're asleep before a blink and dreams float through my mind at rapid pace, recreating past events. But not this Friday night. We woke throughout the night and struggled with rest. We were obviously jittery for the big day.
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May 27, 2011

Welcome to Spring: Rhubarb & Berry Crumble

It's amazing how the week following a long weekend always manages to wear me down. Each new day is just as relentless as the one before and the grind of the work day leaves me battered and bruised emotionally. I feel restless and tired and overworked. In four simple days my beautiful weekend away has been overturned by long days with shorter nights. Sleep disowns me.

The first couple of days back from an extended weekend seem particularly long and drawn out. The alarm in the early morning hour signals the harsh reality of work. The noise outside by house seems deafening as the early weekday traffic is already in full gear. My need for one more hour of sleep is immediately squashed when my cell phone starts ringing. This is my welcome back.
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May 24, 2011

You Oughta be in Pictures: Images and Recap from Eat, Write, Retreat 2011

The girls that showed me around town and the beers we desperately needed.

The fish market down by the marina

The White House. "It's not that big."

Left to Right: Lara, Dan, Kimmy and Ethan
My early morning routine in Washington
In the kitchen watching the team prepare desserts

Saturday's lunch at McCormick & Schmick's

More behind the scenes shots on the line and in the kitchen

Our CulinAerie session.

Sunday early morning
Domenica, Shauna and Jael

Domenica, Jennifer, Shauna and Jael

The weekend that was. Intimate. Inspiring. Gluttonous. And one of the best weekends I can remember. From the moment I stepped off the plane at Washington National Airport to the time my plane touched down in Toronto, it was a celebration of people and learning and community.

Very few events bring people together unselfishly and in the spirit of learning, but that's exactly what happened this weekend. Robyn and Casey created an event for food bloggers that did more than teach us how to improve and take our blogs to another level, it taught us about the goodness deep inside of people and the connections we can all make if we just let down the barriers inside. And it taught us a bit about ourselves and our weaknesses and how to be better in both regards.

Sure, we did learn about photography and styling and writing, and I'm not going to dismiss the impact those classes had, but it was as much about the people and speakers as the classes itself. Community was strengthened, networking was replaced by old school friendships and it was nothing short of a love fest. And I loved that.

We ate so much food that I felt like I was preparing to hibernate. But it wasn't just food, it was great food: American to Indian to El Salvadorian and Soul Food. Everything was incredible and the cocktails flowed as we shared conversations with our new found friends. Some meals were spent with people I didn't know when I arrived but left feeling like I knew some of them for a very long time.
When I walked into the meet and greet on Friday night I did so with jitters and nerves and eager anticipation. But I quickly discovered that they were all in the same boat as myself. We all just wanted to say hi and fit in. And those barriers came crashing down as soon as the food was served and the cocktails came one by one to our tables.

I could go on and on but I'll take this approach instead. The top 10 things to do when you're at a food blog conference.

  1. Be approachable. Extend a hand or smile and say hi to as many people as you can. Not everybody has the same social comfort levels and sometimes a quick hello and handshake can set the table for some great dialogue.
  2. Eat and drink. No brainer, right? Let down your guard and preconceived notions about different groups and experiment. We were blessed to try foods from different parts of the U.S. and world and I, for one, was not going to miss out on this unique opportunity.
  3. Put your camera down. I love taking pictures of food and people. But sometimes that camera can hold you back from truly learning in the classes you attend. Instead, take notes and be a great listener. Most of the people teaching the classes have a lot of valuable information that they're passing on.
  4. Attend the assigned workshops. While it may be fun to set off and explore the city you're in, missing out on a workshop or event could be the one thing holding you back from achieving your blogging goals. The organizers go to great depths to put together the best of the best to help you that weekend. Listen and learn.
  5. Be kind to the volunteers: No event can be successful without the help of volunteers. These people put aside their own plans and weekend off to help make your experience memorable and substantial. Thank them. Be nice to them. And show them the respect they deserve.
  6. Become part of the community. It's easy to stay inside your comfortable box. Explore and be friendly. Food bloggers are a wonderful group of people with obvious similar interests. Share ideas, tips and stories. Help each other out when someone asks questions. Share any knowledge you have with aspiring bloggers and be gracious when they ask.
  7. Come for the event, leave with the swag: One of the perks with conferences like these are the gifts and giveaways. Nothing feels better than being handed a bag filled with gifts that are suited to your needs and loves. For a brief moment it makes you feel like a celebrity.
  8. Thank the sponsors. Events need sponsors to run. They contribute time, energy and funds. Spend time getting to know the people behind the brand and thank them for taking part. They too have products that you might love, and if not, be open minded about trying it.
  9. Improve your blog. The obvious reason you're attending a conference is to make your blogging experience better. This will surely help. You can network and learn from the pros. You main gain some valuable insight from the least expected sources. But either way, you will go home with a better understanding of blogging success than before you arrived.
  10. Thank the organizers. In this case it was Robyn and Casey. The conference may only occur for three days but the planning and organizing takes months and months. It is with their hard work and dedication that we can experience such a memorable weekend. Without them there would be no conference. Thank you girls!

* I would like to personally thank the fine people at Canadian Beef for sponsoring my entry to Eat, Write, Retreat. Thank you so much! Because of your generosity I was able to attend a valuable conference and take away memories to last a lifetime.

**On a side note, for the first time in the company's history, Calphalon is offering the readers of this blog an exclusive 10% off deal between now and June 6, 2011. The promotional code is C95926 and can be used at this Calphalon link. If you're ever wanted something from this fantastic kitchen company, now is the time to do so.

May 20, 2011

Egg Fried Rice with Prawns

I met my wife three and a half years ago. In that span I've been fortunate to spend the vast majority of my time with her. We take holidays together, travel as such and do almost everything as one entity. We rarely spend nights away from one another, and I love it that way. In all this time we've probably only been apart for 2 days. Well, that was until a month ago when my wife shot a wedding out of the country and misery was my company and sadness was my friend.

And that takes me to this weekend and my trip to Washington.

Some people laugh when I say I don't like being away from my wife. They say it's healthy and good for you and only lets you appreciate each other more. I say that's bullshit. So, with a blogging conference set to start in a day, I'm faced with the obstacle of being away from  my best friend for three days. And it makes me appreciate where we are. And where we've come. Together.
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May 17, 2011

Cinnamon Poached Pear Cakes

Sunday and I have a love affair going. It's no secret. I long for the day in the week when errands have been crossed off, work has been set aside for another day and I can just get lost in my kitchen. Sunday dinners are my favourite meal of the week because I have time to throw my love into it. My heart steers my actions, my actions follow along. And this Sunday was the same as those before it. One step blindly following the other with familiarity as it's guide.

I heard the alarm clock go off and as quickly and gently as possible reached over to quiet the morning noise. I knew my wife had a wedding shower to attend and we had limited face time with each other, so I soaked up the morning and hoped it would bleed into the afternoon. Wishful, maybe. I love the serenity of Sunday mornings and the only sound I want to hear are the birds chirping in the forest out back and my wife softly breathing beside me.
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May 15, 2011

Roasted Vanilla Rhubarb with Honey and Spring's True Arrival

The last couple of weeks have played out in similar fashion and familiar disappointment. On consecutive Fridays the end of my week has greeted me with excitement and hope. Although the temperatures have been on a steady climb recently and we've experienced a bounty of warm weather and a surge in the colours familiar to the season we're enveloped in, my feeling is spring is only here with the arrival of one thing. Rhubarb.

Spring has finally made her entrance and is staying here for a while with the presence of rhubarb at the market. At least as far as I'm concerned. With that being my hallmark, I've been anxiously awaiting my local producer's haul from his farm to the table at his trusted place in the market square.
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May 10, 2011

Chocolate Cream & Raspberry Tartlets

I love early mornings during the week. The alarm starts singing before six each weekday and at first I pretend not to hear her warning. I play coy, although I finally succumb to the song that ends up playing on repeat in my mind for the next few hours. Once out of bed, I look out the back window and stare at the soft clouds dancing across the sky.

The beautiful beginning.

I head downstairs and start the coffee maker, and at that moment it's the only sound heard in my house. I pull back the curtains in the kitchen and watch the sun skip across my kitchen floor. And I pull up a seat at the high top in the kitchen with my morning cup of coffee and feel blessed that my life has unfolded in this manner. The day is ahead of me but the beginning has set the tone.
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May 8, 2011

My Mother's Day Story plus Prawn Curry on Rice

I often flip through my old photo albums, tattered and worn from years of misuse. I stop on the old pictures of my mom and I when I was just a kid, and my mind is momentarily transported back to that time and location. It feels so real. It was.

Some of my favourite pictures date from a time when my mom was raising a young, rambunctious boy with more energy that the electricity company. I would only settle down long enough to watch my mom making dinner and less time eating it. It was the story of us, when it was all we had.
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May 6, 2011

Apple & Vanilla Tart Fine


I woke up today to the muted colours in the forest behind our house and a pinch of light peaking from behind the clouds. It felt like rain, although I couldn't substantiate that from my position and with my eyes squinting and adjusting. It's my favourite moment of the day, partly awake and still kind of dreaming.

My wife was fast asleep, her eyes fluttering and her face so full of meaning. I stare at her across the bed from me and wonder if I'm dreaming. I could almost see the happiness hidden in that dream as a smile jumped on her face. I knew this would be a great, lazy day and the first moments would be spent watching her sleep. It's the small things that matter, especially when something is about to rip you from your bed.
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May 3, 2011

Sweet Disposition: Raspberry, Mint and Pistachio Crumb Tart

I remember when the sadness fell over me. I can almost pinpoint the moment when the emotional dagger pierced my skin. I had been the happy-go-lucky kid with a smile that was always painted on my face until that time. And then it ended. Suddenly, and without warning.

I grew up with my mom but as is the case with most split-parent households, I spent time with my dad. Although the majority of my time was spent in the brick house I grew up in, I would visit my dad on weekends and once in a while in between. One day that changed. I moved in with my dad full-time somewhere around age 13. It was different, but it would be fine. I thought.
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