Friday Roundup

Here are my favourite Pinterest finds this week!

Best dessert idea

Favourite casual look

New way to wrap wine

Beautiful vintage wedding dress

List of Italian cheese

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Restaurant Review: Vivo

So, I finally made it out to Vivo this weekend. I have wanted to go for awhile, as I absolutely love Italian food. The restaurant is in an unassuming strip mall in Lessard, make sure you’re looking for it or youmight just miss it. The décor is typical of new restaurants, although a bit too dark for my liking. The concept at Vivo is family-style dining, meaning all the plates are meant to be shared. I would not recommend going here as a couple (unless you eat a lot in one sitting) as the sizes/prices are better suited to a group of four or more. We went as a group of four and we don’t need a lot of food to fill us so we found the half orders of all of the plates to be enough.

 The service was impeccable. Our server was very knowledgeable of the menu, ingredients and preparation and offered suggestions on sizes, dishes and wine. Be warned, that all groups of six or more will be automatically charged a 20 per cent gratuity.

The wine selection was fairly good, especially if you can afford to drink off of the reserve list. They don’t have many wines by the glass, however I did have a nice cabernet sauvignon from a boutique vineyard in Napa.

 To start we had the night’s special. It was in-house smoked duck salami with fresh BC pears, fresh baked fig and olive bread and an arugula pesto. It was all very good.  

 Next we ordered the caprese salad which was beautifully dressed with five kinds of tomatoes, and some half sun dried, the creamiest, most flavourful bufala mozzarella I’ve ever had and basil pesto. I’m not normally the biggest fan of caprese salad, as I usually find it a bit bland, but this was incredible. I would definitely recommend ordering it. We also ordered the beef carpaccio to accompany the salad (and although I did not have any I was told it was good).

 For our secondi dishes we ordered the risotto de mare, which was a creamy, tasty risotto dish with prawns, blue tipped mussels, clams, halibut and scallops. I really like this dish, but then again, I love shell fish! We also ordered the gnocchi dish with toasted walnuts. I was disappointed with this order.

                                                                                                                                The gnocchi was too mushy and the flavour very bland (and just generally not tasty). Wish we had just ordered a larger dish of the risotto.

 By the time we had finished all of this we decided we were to full to order a meat dish and thought we would just have some dessert. Again we were disappointed. They only desserts they had were fruity gelato, tiramisu and one more thing that I can’t remember. We were hoping for some sort of torte or chocolate. So we left without dessert.

 All in all, I don’t think that I will be going back to Vivo. While the service was fantastic, the prices are a bit steep for the quality of the food (also, the majority of their ingredients are not local). If you are in the mood for Italian I think that your money would be better spent at Corso 32.

5 drinks for summer

I love a good drink in the summer. Fruit is fresh, the sun is hot and a fruity drink just hits the spot so well. Here are five drinks sure to make your backyard the place to be this summer. All drinks found on Pinterest.

Blood Orange Margarita (Makes 1 drink)

Ingredients:

  • 3 oz fresh Blood Orange Juice
  • 2 oz Tequila 
  • 1 oz  Triple Sec
  • splash of agave nectar (syrup)

Directions:

1. Rub the rim of a glass with an edge of a blood orange slice.  Swirl the rim through a small pile of sea salt to salt the rim.

2. Combine all ingredients into a cocktail shaker, add ice and shake for 15 seconds.

3. Put a few cubes of ice in your glass.  Strain the cocktail into the glass and enjoy.

Electric Lemonade (Makes 1 drink)

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz blue curacao
  • Lemonade to taste (I like Simply Lemonade best)

Directions:

1.    Add a handful of ice to a tall glass

2.    Add blue curacao and vodka

3.    Top off with lemonade to taste

Pink Grapefruit Maragrita (Makes 4 drinks)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup ruby red grapefruit juice
  • 1/2  cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 4 limes)
  • 1 cup triple sec
  • 3 cups ice
  • 1 cup  silver tequila
  • 1   lime cut in wedges

Directions:

1.    Rub the rim of an old fashioned glass with an edge of a lime slice.  Swirl the rim through a small pile of sea salt to salt the rim.

2.    Combine the grapefruit juice, lime juice, triple sec and ice in a blender.

3.    Pour into a large pitcher (or just keep it in the blender) and pour in the tequila, stir.

4.    Garnish with a lime wedge and serve!

Strawberry Champagne Spritzers (Makes 1 pitcher)

 Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle Sake – any kind will do
  • 1 bottle Champagne
  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 6 meyer lemons
  • 3-4 springs of mint
  • Vanilla Stevia

Directions:

1.    Slice your strawberries into vertical slivers, tear mint leaves roughly, and add both to a large pitcher.

2.    Squeeze the juice of 6 meyer lemons and gently muddle (muddle = mash) the ingredients using a wooden spoon.

3.    Add equal parts sake & champagne, and lots of ice.

4.    Squeeze a dropper full of vanilla stevia into each glass before serving.  

Strawberry Watermelon Mojito (Makes 1 pitcher)

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 15-20 fresh mint leaves (amount depends on the size of leaves)
  • 4 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 cups watermelon, 1 inch cubes
  • 1 cup strawberries, halved or quartered
  • 6 oz light rum

Directions:

1.    In a large pitcher, combine sugar, mint leaves, and lime juice.  Muddle the mint leaves with the end of a wooden spatula.

2.    Fill the blender with watermelon and then add strawberries.  Blend until smooth and combined.

3.     Pour watermelon mixture into the pitcher.  Add rum and stir well until combined.  Serve in chilled glasses and enjoy!

How to: Make an awesome Cucumber Gin Fizz

Now that the weather is getting warmer, I’m starting to crave my favourite summer cocktails. Gin & Tonic has always been one of my favourite go-to summer drinks (especially the Super Sonic Gin & Tonic at Joey’s). Last year however, I tried a Cucumber Gin Fizz and fell in love. Most recipes call for lime juice; personally, I think fresh lemon juice tastes the best. I also recommend using Hendricks gin, as it is infused with cucumber and really makes your drink top notch. So, here you go, if you love gin, you are sure to love this recipe!

Cucumber Gin Fizz

 – 3 cucumber slices (1/3 inch)
 – 2 oz gin (Hendricks)
 – 1 oz fresh- squeezed lemon juice
 – .5 oz Simple syrup (optional)

Muddle cucumber in bottom of shaker, add other ingredients and ice, shake and strain over ice and top with club soda. If you are serving to company, add a cucumber peel and sprig of rosemary or mint to garnish.

Hunger Games, Swan Lake and Mad Men…My weekend recap

How was everyone’s weekend? There was tons to do in Edmonton this weekend, lots of places I wish I could have been, but you can’t be everywhere at once. My weekend was great! Like I mentioned on Friday, I had a full schedule of things to do and nothing disappointed. Here’s a recap of what I did:

Friday

Went to see The Hunger Games (do not read this blurb on the movie if you have not seen it yet and do not want spoilers!!!). LOVED it. I am so happy they kept the movie true to the book. The book was better, but that is always the case. Hunger Games is a tough book to adapt into a movie because a lot of the book goes on in Katniss’ head. You can’t have the same sort of emotional connection and inner struggle that you get from a book (in my opinion at least).  Jennifer Lawrence played Katniss perfectly. It is so refreshing to see a strong female lead in a book/movie. I’m so over, wimpy, helpless women (ahem, Twilight) who need a man in their lives to keep them strong. I like Katniss, and the fact that people rely on her to take care of them. Master of Ceremonies, Caesar Flickerman, brilliantly portrayed by Stanley Tucci, was one of my favourite characters in the movie, a much needed comic relief.

In a perfect world this movie would have been filmed to an “R” rating, I mean, the plot revolves around a group of kids trying to kill each other in an arena for the amusement of the masses. However, since its primary demographic is pre-teen and teenage girls (as evidenced by the squeals of delight coming from them during the movie) they obviously had to keep the rating to PG-13. For many parts of the film they used shaky-cam captures, which effectively keeps the exposure to violence to a PG-13 level while simultaneously allows for the killing and violent mood. At times the shaky-cam makes me a bit dizzy, but I do see the point of using it in this film. Overall, I think they did they book good. Having read the book I had a deeper understanding of the film and the characters (especially the Peeta-Katniss love story which I would have had a hard time buying into had I not read the books) but reading the book is not imperative to enjoying the movie. I’m pretty sure I’ll be going to see it again soon; I can’t believe we have to wait a year and a half for the next one.

Saturday

Went out to dinner at The Bothy. This is my second time there and I was not disappointed. The Bothy is a wine and whisky bar located on the south side of Edmonton (although they’ll be opening up a 124th St location as well soon). I tried a new red wine, Laya from Spain, it was quite nice. To eat we had the Cajun Shrimp and Scallop appetizer which had a nice kick to it. For my entrée I had the Turkey Club, which had a fried egg on it. It was fantastic. I honestly think that everything tastes better with some egg yolk on it, it’s just a fact of life.

After dinner we went to Alberta Ballet’s production of Swan Lake. I love classical ballets; I’m not really into modern dance or the like, so this production was right up my alley. The female lead, the Swan Queen/Black Swan was wonderful. Her pirouette sequence was fantastic and spot on. The sets were also incredible. My only qualm with the ballet was that it was too long. Personally, two intermissions is one too many and while I am a huge fan of dance, a three hour ballet is just too much for me. Overall, a brilliant production. The leads were poignant, striking and technically prepared. The story beautifully told. Another success for Alberta Ballet and Kirk Peterson.

Sunday

Sunday was the two hour season five premier of Mad Men. As you all know, I was very excited for this, a year and a half wait, come on! I thought the episode was great (especially the fashion). You can tell that the times are changing. The civil rights movements are picking up, the era of free spirits is in full swing. It’s a changing generation, one that it seems is a bit unsettling to Don, as his new wife is fully immersed in it. The party scene was my favourite, riddled with awkwardness and misjudgement. Sterling was just as entertaining as ever, spoiling the surprise, envying Don’s life and hating his wife. Megan, Don’s new wife is sure to become one of my new favourite characters. That sultry French love song that ends with a discreet version of a lap dance, her hair, her dress. Love, love and love. I can’t wait to see more of her in the upcoming episodes. No Betty and her pretty, sourpuss face this week, but I’m sure she’ll be back in full force soon enough. Definitely looking forward to the rest of this season!

Monday night spinach salad

After a weekend of eating snacks, treats, pub food and beer I am craving a healthy and light dinner tonight. On nights like this I like to throw some chicken on the BBQ and make a fresh, tasty spinach salad. Here’s what I put in mine:

Ingredients

  • ¼ medium sized red onion (thinly sliced)
  • 2 bunches baby organic spinach, rinsed
  • 4 cups sliced strawberries
  • ½ cucumber, diced
  • 1/4 cup almond slices, toasted
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 large chicken breast, grilled and cut
  • Blue cheese salad dressing

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients. Pour dressing over salad, toss and serve.
  2. For a different flavour combination, replace the almonds and blue cheese with pecans and goat cheese.
  3. Pairs nicely with a crisp white wine. I like Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio (see my review here)

Does anyone else have a go-to healthy meal they’d like to share? If so leave your recipe in the comments!

 

Restaurant review: Corso 32

Good morning everyone. Like I mentioned on Friday, I had dinner reservations at Corso 32 on Saturday. This was my second time there, and let me just say, it did not disappoint. I’ll tell you a bit about the place and my experience there, but honestly, just go try it for yourself. If you love food, you will not be disappointed. Unless you don’t appreciate real food with real ingredients. In that case just stop reading now.

Chef Daniel Costa named his restaurant after patriarch Mario Costa’s street address back in Italy, before he moved to Canada. There are also only 32 seats in the restaurant. So the adage “reservations are suggested” is more appropriately, “you must make a reservation,” like way in advance if you want a weekend seating. We had a reservation for four people at 7:30 p.m. and it took about two months to get it. So worth the wait though.

Costa is committed to using as fresh and local ingredients as possible, cooked in a traditional Italian way. That is why the menu frequently changes, to align with what is in season and available. The whole restaurant is simple and minimalist, from the décor to the tables to the one page menu. But, simple doesn’t mean plain. Corso 32 makes all pastas by hand, cures all meats in house and promotes late night dining,” it’s easy to see why Edmonton foodies are in love.

We started out with the arancini (which are crispy rice balls), recently changed to radicchio & taleggio ($11). Like the first time I tried them several months ago they were fantastic. Crisp and salty on the outside, creamy and cheesy on the inside.

 Next we had my favourite item on the menu. Last time I was here I said I would never share this dish again. Unfortunately I did, and that’s my only regret of the night. I could eat four of these to myself. The grilled cheese, boschetto al tartufo, charred onion, sunny up egg, umbria truffle ($14). To call this a grilled cheese is a gross understatement. The creamy, flavourful cheese, the onion, the egg yolk. I’m practically drooling right now just thinking about it. If Costa ever takes this off the menu I’ll be heartbroken. It’s just that good.

 Next, everyone had their own entrée. The men ordered the fried short rib, Okanagan pear & arugula salad ($23). I didn’t try it but I heard it was pretty good. Not great, but good.

There was also the pappardelle, house made wild boar and fennel sausage ($19). There is something to be said about homemade pasta. It just doesn’t get any better. The pappardelle noodles were cooked perfect, the dish, spicy and satisfying.

I had the Black Truffle Fonduta Ravioli, Brussel leaves,and  butter. I don’t remember the price as this was just added to the menu and isn’t online yet, but I’m sure it was around the $20 – $25 mark. I’m pretty sure I would win the award for best meal of the night. I picked good. This ravioli was unlike any I have tried before. I inhaled this dish. First one done. The pasta melted in your mouth it was so light. Had it been any thinner and it wouldn’t have been able to stay whole. I’m not a huge pasta person and I could order this over and over again. I highly recommend it.

Finally, never one to turn down dessert we split the chocolate torta, with salty hazelnuts ($9) and the vanilla panna cotta, vin cotto, pistachios, & honey grappa ($10). This was the second time I had the torte. If you love chocolate you will be in heaven. Warning though, this dish is extremely rich. We couldn’t even finish it between three women. And that’s saying something! The panna cotta was wonderful. Creamy and light and completely satisfying.

To drink we all split two bottles of the Medici Concerto Lambrusco, Emilia Romagna IT ($45). I tried this wine for the first time here and it is one of my favourites now. It is a sparkling red that you drink chilled like a prosecco. It was the perfect accompaniment to our meal.

If you can’t tell by now, I highly recommend this restaurant. It’s definitely my favourite, and one I will return to many, many times in the future.

Food: 5 of 5 *** Service: 4 of 5 *** Ambience: 3.5 of 5

Travel Tuesday: Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Bonjour mon amis! Happy Travel Tuesday. As I mentioned in a previous post, Paris has far too many wonderful aspects to fit everything into one blog post so I am slowing breaking down my three trips there into multiple posts. Today I am going to tell you about the Jardin du Luxembourg. The Jardin du Luxembourg is the second largest public park in Paris and is located in the 6th arrondissement. It is a beautiful park, which makes you feel like you are no longer in the heart of Paris, rather, that you are on a French estate, in the countryside. I am assuming that that is precisely what Marie de Medici intended when she commisoned it in 1611. Marie was the widow of Henry IV and the regent for the King Louis XIII. She decided that she wanted to build a palace in imitation of the Pitti Palace in her native Florence.

She commissioned Salomon de Brosse to build the palace and a fountain, which still exists (the the photo of the Medici Fountain below). In 1612 she planted 2,000 elm trees, and directed a series of gardeners, most notably Tommaso Francini, to build a park in the style she had known as a child in Florence.

Today the palace in home to the French Senate and the park is open to the public. Children can often be found racing motor sailboats in the fountains, or running around in the grass. People come to sunbathe in the chairs surrounding the water, or to picnic in the grass amongst the statues. It’s a wonderful retreat after being immersed in the city all day. We stopped by a little shop on our way in and bought a box of decadent macaroons and a bottle of champagne to enjoy as the late afternoon sun shone down on us. It was a perfect Parisian moment, the kind that you need to savour so you can remember it when you’re back in your office, typing away at home. If only everyday consisted of macaroons and champagne in a Parisian park.

Awards Season 2012: The Oscar’s

So, the Oscar’s were last night. What did everyone think? I found them pretty boring, the red carpet pre-shows too, which is kind of disappointing. I’d like to think I would be a much better host/interviewer than someone like Lea Miller. I think we should start a petition to have either Emma Stone or Melissa McCarthy host next year’s show. I can almost guarantee you it would be fantastic. Those women were the highlight of the show for me. Emma Stone played her bit so well, you would have thought she was high or drunk (but in a good way)! Octavia Spencer’s speech after winning best supporting actress made be tear up a bit too, I love when people are that genuine and grateful to win. My awards show festivities were fun, here’s a glimpse of what my evening entailed:

 

 Now for the good stuff. The fashion. Who did you guys think was the best dressed last night? While there were quite a few pretty dresses, there weren’t too many people who knocked it out of the ball park for me. If I had to pick my absolute favourite gown, I would probably choose Octavia Spencer’s with Milla Jovovich coming in a close second. Here are my picks for best dressed last night:

Octavia Spencer looked GORGEOUS in a crystal-embellished Tadashi Shoji

Kate Mara in Jack Guisso Couture

The incredible Mellisa McCarthy in Marina Rinaldi

Sandra Bullock in a draped Marchesa gown

Milla Jovovich looked stunning in Elie Saab Couture

Gwyneth Paltrow in white Tom Ford (with a cape!)

Michelle Williams in a peplum Louis Vuitton

How to: Pair cheddars and wine

I love a good cheddar cheese. Really I love any cheese, but a fantastic, aged cheddar is just perfection in my opinion. I’m not talking about the orange cheese you find in the grocery store either. Many people automatically associate cheddar with an orange cheese, but, as my mom likes to say, have you ever seen a cow with orange milk? This colour comes from dyes being added to the cheese for a change in colour (kinda gross right?). Cheddar cheese also has different flavours, which are dependent on the make of the cheese as well as the aging process.

According to the Australian Dairy Corporation, there are 13 types of cheddar cheese. I know, I was surprise too, I knew there were a few but 13 is a lot! Below are the various different types of cheddar cheese, now you‘ll sound just as smart as your cheese monger when you go to buy it!

Processed Cheddar – has a smooth texture with a uniform mild flavor, and is good for sandwiches, on vegetables, in baked goods and salads.

Cheedam – combines the characteristics of Cheddar and Edam cheeses with a fresh and mild flavor. It is used in salads, sauces and cheeseboards.

Steppen – is a firm, low-fat cheese similar to Cotto.

Double Gloucester – has a distinctive high color and a fine, tangy flavor. It is excellent on toast or on cheese boards.

Matured Cheddar – is 6 – 12 months old, and sometimes called ‘tasty’. It has a tangy flavor and is ideal for souffles and sauces.

Flavored Cheddar – is usually matured cheddar cheese with a flavor added to it, e.g. port wine, cumin, caraway seed, bacon, garlic, etc.

Cheshire – has a mild, slightly acidic flavor or a more pronounced flavor depending on age. It is an ideal all-purpose cheese.

Cotto – is a fresh, mild-flavored cheese made from skim milk. Ideal for the diet conscious, it is good for grating and slicing.

Flavored Processed Cheddar – has an added ingredient such as pecan nut, spring onion, curry or garlic.

Red Leicester – is noted for its faint lemony bite. Its red is from a natural vegetable dye (annoto); it is an excellent melting cheese.

Vintage Cheddar – has been aged up to 18 months. Also known as ‘extra tasty’, it has a full-bodied to biting flavor.

Semi Matured Cheddar – has been aged for 3-6 months and has a rich full-bodied, but not sharp, flavor. It is good for the cheeseboard and in soups and quiches.

Mild Cheddar – has been aged for three months and has a delicate children’s sandwich taste.

My favourite types of cheddar are Vintage Cheddar, Aged Cheddars and Double Gloucester. I love the sharp, flavorful tastes and they way they accompany wine so perfectly. I’ll let you know what I think are the best wines to pair with my favourite cheddars.

Far a general wine, one to pair with any type of cheddar, you can’t go wrong with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Champagne or Sauvignon Blanc. If you want to get more specific, so as to match you wine and cheese perfectly, decide on either the wine or cheese you want to serve first then match the other accordingly.

For sharp cheddars, such as your Mature and Vintage Cheddars I would suggest a Merlot or a Cabernet Sauvignon. Overall, most red wines pair nicely with a sharp cheddar.

For milder cheddars, an unwooded Chardonnay or a Pinot Noir pair nicely.

For Double Gloucester cheese, I would suggest pairing it with a Sauvignon Blanc or a spicy red like a Syrah.

Does anybody have any other cheddar and wine pairings they think I should try? These are just a few of the many possible pairings you could try, and if you prefer a different wine go ahead and give it a try. At the end of the day you can’t go wrong with wine and cheese!