i heart balsamic vinegar

Charlotte: “I’d like you to make 4 different vinaigrette’s using balsamic vinegar. Use whatever flavours you want, different textures and consistencies, different oils… but I need 4 to taste test tonight.”
Me: “Sure!”
Charlotte: “Whichever one I prefer will go on the new menu (starting Tuesday, June 1st).”
Me: “Seriously?! AWESOME!

3 reasons why this request got me so excited:
1. I heart balsamic vinegar… like, I could drink it straight up and be perfectly happy.
2. I heart challenges… especially culinary challenges.
3. How cool that something I create could end up on the new menu? I think pretty darn cool.

I took some time to think about what I wanted to make… after all, I was asked make 4 different options! So I started off my evening working on some other things:

Cleaning out the fridge and then reorganizing it. Check out all those supplies lined up on the counter. Pretty awesome eh?! I heart getting to the Whalesbone on Friday nights’ and getting to set-up the dessert station. Pulling out the sauces and toppings and organizing them so that I can quickly assemble the sundaes as the orders come through – LOVE IT!

strawberries

Making mini donuts, dipping peppermint fillings in melted chocolate, doctoring up the flambeed bananas, cleaning the fresh berries for that nights fresh fruit option (raspberries, strawberries, pineapple) – don’t those strawberries look so juicy and delicious? They were.

I then cleaned some more greens :0) It went waaaayyyyy better this time round – especially dealing with the dill. They seemed to cooperate with me better this time round.

I made some sundaes. I liked Davine’s choice:

2 scoops ice cream / strawberry coulis / chocolate ganache / espresso syrup / fresh fruit… lots of it all chopped up

Pretty eh? I though so. Especially that line of ganache. Sigh.

Then I started on the vinaigrette’s. Upstairs to the fridge for an egg, lemon, grapefruit, chives, garlic, Dijon mustard, creme fraiche. Back downstairs to pull out the balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, burnt honey, sugar, a selection of spices, and salt.

I started on the first option. I decided to call it India – since i used some garam masala and mustard seed. I thickened it up with some creme fraiche (rather than plain yogurt) and sweetened it with some brown sugar. It needed some lemon juice once I had added the balsamic vinegar and then the canola oil. This was a flavour profile that I would totally enjoy at home.

Number two was called Canadian – maple syrup was the star… along with the star anise that I ground up. Some garlic added a little flavour to it too… but other than salt, this was all about the maple syrup and balsamic vinegar. Again I used canola oil so that the oil wouldn’t overpower the flavour of the other ingredients.

Third option was thick and creamy – a Dijon and garlic base, coupled with lemon juice and lemon zest, honey, balsamic vinegar and an egg yolk. I then slowly incorporated the extra virgin olive oil… a slow emulsion. Nice and thick. It still needed something… salt was added.. but I still (even today) think that it needed an extra kick of flavour. But it was nice and thick, super creamy and really consistent.

Finally, the fourth one, and my favourite to make, my citrus vinaigrette. Diced grapefruit, grapefruit juice, finely chopped chives, salt, honey and the extra virgin olive oil to balance the grapefruit with the balsamic vinegar.

the final products… per blind tasting

I was super happy with what I had made and was excited to have the ladies blind taste test… BUT I did learn a couple lessons making these… although I heart the burnt honey on ice cream… it is completely wrong for the vinaigrette’s. Just plain ol’ honey would be much better. Secondly, I should have gone upstairs and taken some goodies from Charlotte and Jenna’s work station – some green onions, other herbs… I would have created a more chunky dressing along with the others.

But… in the end, the ladies sampled them with some beautiful tomatoes and liked the ideas I came up with. They’re going to work off one or two (perhaps creating a new combo?) of the vinaigrette’s that I had them taste test and round it out… make it a little less bitter or not too sweet.

Charlotte reaching in to sample

I still think it’s AWESOME that one of my ideas is going to end up on the menu June 6th. Even a tweak idea is UBER COOL!

For those of you interested in finding out which vinaigrette is going to be on the menu – hit up the WBOH as of Tuesday.

Oh! And if you could have made one… what would you have made? Leave me a comment and let me know! I heart hearing from everyone!!!!

ode to Jenna & Kshonze

So… another week, another blog entry about the Whalesbone. I know… you must wonder if I ever go home? I’ll admit… I do spend lots of time there… but you see, it’s just so much fun. And I don’t just mean the working part, I mean the people. I heart the crew.

You’ve already met Charlotte. She’s the head Chef. And she’s super cool. But there are lots of other super cool, awesome people that work there too. I want to introduce you to two of them: Jenna and Kshonze (or Kshonz-ay as Charlotte calls him).

Saturday night. Tasting menu. Jenna and Kshonze behind the saucier and me sitting directly in front of them. I think it’s the best spot in the house – I get to chat with the Chefs and see what they’re doing while eating some pretty amazing food. Yeah… incredible evening. Exceptional food.

You’ll notice the blurry pictures of the two Chefs… it’s because they move so fast! HA! Actually, just my playing with my camera. But I think the effect is pretty cool.

Notice how Jenna wears pearls while she works? She was also wearing “moderately” short-shorts… it gets really hot back there after all… you can’t blame a girl for wanting to be comfortable while working. She also makes the best desserts. Like her peanut butter chocolate cheesecake. DECADENCE in a bite. I took a picture of my piece. Jenna’s also the one who walked me through making chocolate ganache last Friday night. I heart her for that (and all her amazing talent).

Jenna and her moderately short-shorts

Then there is Kshonze. The first time I worked at the Whalebone he and I hung out together in the prep kitchen. He taught me how to cut carrots. Seriously. He also let me make cake. I heart him just for that. And the fact that he is cool as a cucumber. Pretty cool eh?

Kshonze… hard at work

My evening started off with some local bread, brown butter (a million sighs) and an assortment of oysters. East Coast and West Coast representation… B.C. oysters being my favourite of the evening. Kshonze got me some balsamic vinegar and we were good to go…

Jenna and Kshonze then created my tasting menu:

pickled beets and beans / seared albacore tuna / scallop ceviche / blue cheese

OK the blue cheese just played off the beets and the seafood perfectly. And honestly, the fish was melt in your mouth tender. And doesn’t the plate look pretty?

greens and radish / diced potatoes / spotted prawns / lobster tail

Two salads on the plate. Well, the block. You can see the trio getting plated.

and then I ate it all…

And now you can see my clean plate. Except for the prawn shells. So light and fresh. I heart lobster (thanks for listening to my request guys).

a shot of Sailor Jerry’s spiced rum

It’s gross. Seriously. The one thing I don’t recommend at the WBOH. But… it’d be rude to refuse right? So down it went. Maybe it was meant to clean my palate for the next course.

fiddle heads / asparagus / beans / seared pacific salmon / white wine butter sauce

The salmon was… in a word… perfection. The skin was crisp, the centre was tender and flaked apart. The sauce wasn’t heavy, it was light and just drizzled the plate. The bed of greens still had a bite and tasted so fresh. I heart this course.

Pascale’s vanilla ice cream / chocolate ganache / fresh fruit / salted peanuts … I don’t have a picture of the sundae. You keep seeing them and honestly, the picture just didn’t turn out. I personally would have added more ganache… but that’s just me ;0)

finally… I know, I know! I’m still eating!!!!

peanut butter chocolate cheesecake

Jenna’s decadent cake. It’s dense and creamy with a kick of cinnamon in the filling. Jenna also made an oreo cookie crumb crust. Seriously!

This my friends, is why I keep going back to the WBOH. Clean flavours. Major taste. But really… it’s the crew. They rock. I heart them. This is my ode to two of them.

Oh! I also added a picture of the Paella Valenciana… so that you can see what my paella portions look like when cooked ;0)

the paella!

wanna toffee break?

I heart it when I find a recipe and just can’t wait to try it. I mean, seriously, isn’t it great when you flip through a recipe book (or are surfing the inter-webz) and you find that one recipe that gets your taste buds going and your hands itching to pull out all those ingredients?!!

That’s how I felt about this recipe. That’s how I like to pick my recipes… sigh.

I’m back to the happy baker’s recipe book (well, she’s just so darn happy… and so am I, so why not right?)… Erin baked an (i’m not boy crazy) toffee maple shortbread… just the thought of maple and toffee together made my mouth water. There was only one thing… I didn’t have any maple extract. And I really try to stay away from imitation extract when possible… so I swapped out the maple for some vanilla. Am I ever happy that I did!!!

The shortbread ended up being nice and crunchy, with the surprise of the toffee bits (which luckily didn’t overwhelm the buttery base), and the vanilla was just a nice subtle compliment. I think I have a winner. AND I am totally inspired for my holiday baking (I know… it’s only May and I’m already thinking Christmas baking… sad, but true): cherry-chocolate shortbread. Yep. That’s right. I bet you can’t wait for me to share those with you eh? Well… knowing me, I’ll be making them sooner rather than later… I do need to test them out right?

If you’re in the mood for a delicious cookie (which I might add would go GREAT with ice cream and freezes well), turn on your oven and whip these together. Totally worth it. I promise.

Toffee Vanilla Shortbread
ingredients:
3/4 c. butter, room temperature
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. toffee baking bits

Preheat your oven to 300 F. Spray your 8-inch square baking pan with some non-stick spray and set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer (using the paddle attachment), beat together the butter and powdered sugar; increasing the speed to medium, you want it to get like and fluffy.

Add the vanilla extract and the salt. Continue to beat together.

Lower the speed of the stand-mixer and stir in the flour and toffee pieces.

Erin’s recipe says not to over mix… I took that to mean that the batter should come together and be as smooth as possible (given toffee bits).

Once the batter has come together, put it in your square pan and gently pat the dough out (get it nice and even); I used my fingers… just wet them a little and the batter will spread nicely.

Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Place your pan on a wire rack and allow to cool before cutting them into squares.

note: you’ll notice that I use my zester as my guideline for cutting my squares… I was able to get over 2 dozen shortbread’s out of this recipe… and they were evenly cut and sized! Gotta love that trick :0)