Monday, December 3, 2012

25th Anniversary of the Hermannator

I remember the Hermannator Ice Bock coming out in the late 1980s so I guess it has to have been 25 years.....  

On Saturday the Vancouver Island Brewery will be offering the Hermanntor at the brewery store from noon till 6 pm.   You will also be able to buy 650 ml collector's bottles of the beer at the brewery as well on Saturday, but act fast because the supplies are limited.   Their Doughhead Gingerbread Ale 650 ml bottles have already sold out in the brewery store.

I will be going down to get a taste from the cask and buy a couple of bottles.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vancouver Island Brewery Doughhead Beer

Due to so many things going on I have not had a chance to talk about the tasting of the Vancouver Island Brewery Doughhead Ale on Saturday.   I went into it with trepidation because so many of the wilder beers I have had over the last couple of years have been duds in my opinion.   The five local breweries and four brewpubs offer something like 75 to 80 different beers depending on the time of year.   Not to be too critical, there are least a few brews that have been released that I think were done more for attention than the quality of the flavour.   With so many choices you have to stand out somehow and a gingerbread ale felt like that.

The idea of a gingerbread beer was something I had trouble reconciling in my head but Rob Ringma of Vancouver Island Brewery convinced me to come and try it on Saturday.

I was pleasantly surprised at the flavour.   Sheila and I had just made a large batch of ginger snaps the night before so we had a strong sense of a gingerbread flavour in our minds.   The beer delivered enough of the flavour to make the beer interesting but not so much as to smack me upside the head.   A good gingerbread has a strong spicy and bitter flavour along with the sweetness.   Gingerbread is really a very earthy or umami aspect to it and it is this that came through in the beer.   I could really get the bitter and sweet notes of the molasses along with the spice of the ginger.  

My biggest fear was that the beer would be overly sweet or taste like drinking raw gingerbread dough and nothing else.    Neither of these were true, the beer was very well balanced.

The brewery had some food pairings for the beer - a blue cheese and crackers (I think?).   I am not sure any longer what they were but I did think the pairings did not work for me.   I am not sure what I would pair this beer with.   The gingerbread flavour is there but subtle enough that I would need to find a food that enhances the flavour and does not over power it.   With the cheese I lost a lot the complexity from the molasses.

I like the beer enough that I will be buying some bottles while the supplies last.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Vancouver Island Brewery

Tomorrow Sheila and I are going to try this new beer from the Vancouver Island Brewery - the Doughhead Gingerbread Ale.   We are doing this because I expressed my skeptism about the very idea of gingerbread beer but Bob Ringma at VIB has convinced to come and try it.

We talked back and forth on email a bit and I mentioned that I had noticed last summer how so many of the small independent breweries in Canada had been purchased by international companies but that in Victoria we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to independent brewers.

Here is his part of the conversation:

You are very correct. The big boys now know that artisan craft breweries are growing and they do not fully understand our side of the industry so often the easiest way to gain entry is through acquisition.  We started brewing at the same time as Granville Island (now Molson/Coors) and Okanagan Spring (now Sapporo) yet we are still owned by a 74 year old farmer from Cobble Hill by the name of Barry Fischer!
These same global corporations make sure to keep these acquisitions quiet as they know it will affect their credibility and future sales of the craft beer brands they purchased.
Although we are the oldest, we certainly are not the biggest in BC as breweries such as Phillips now export their beer to Alberta and Ontario and have surpassed us in size. We still do over 85% of our sales right
here on Vancouver Island and we are proud of that.
Please feel free to come by on Saturday, we open at 10am- 6pm. I think they will have the cask ready to go at 12pm.  I will be in attendance but may be in the back warehouse, hand wax dipping the tops of  a
special 25th Anniversary edition of Hermannator Ice Bock!
Please have one of the employees in the store come get me as I would like the opportunity to meet.
We will bring the camera and report on what we think of the beer.....

Monday, November 19, 2012

Vancouver Island Brewery - Gingerbread Ale???!?!

I have to say this does not make me want to drink the beer - I can not reconcile gingerbread and beer

Vancouver Island Brewery News Header
Dough Head Header
Vancouver Island Brewery 
NOVEMBER 19, 2012
Press Release!
Dear Bernard, Dough Head Gingerbread Ale

Our Brewmaster has been hard at work baking some new ideas for a craft brew...

Local brewery mixes brewing and baking to craft a Holiday Classic!

When you think of the holidays and times spent with loved ones, sweets and treats seem to find their way into the picture. With that holiday inspiration in mind the brew crew at Vancouver Island Brewery set out to craft a beer that brings the best flavours of the season into a unique beer perfect for the holidays.

Dough Head Gingerbread Ale is the result of combining the best of baking and brewing and the local brewery has brewed up a fresh limited release batch as part of its seasonal 650 mL bottle series. Crafted carefully, Dough Head Gingerbread Ale unites these two worlds into a handcrafted beer with a touch of ginger and spice that is balanced with a malty sweetness.

"The holidays are times to be enjoyed and this beer is a feel good brew, crafted to bring a smile to your lips." stated Jim Dodds, General Manager at Vancouver Island Brewery. "We love brewing unique, flavourful beers and this gingerbread ale is a fine example of combining spice and malts perfectly balanced for a drinkable winter treat."

The brewery is also hosting an open house and cask tasting event for Dough Head Gingerbread Ale on Saturday Nov 24th from noon - 6pm. This is a great opportunity for beer enthusiasts to come down, sample Dough Head Gingerbread Ale and go on a brewery tour to see how the local brewery crafts their beers. They will also have fresh Gingerbread Ale draught available in unique 1.9L glass Growlers at the brewery.

Crafted in small batches there is a limited supply of bottles available at local beer stores and at Vancouver Island Brewery's on-site beer store.

Flavour: Ginger and spice balanced with a pinch of sweetness
Aroma: Spice, molasses and malt
Colour: Gingerbread brown

About Vancouver Island Brewery
In 1984 Vancouver Island Brewery started with the mission of crafting local, all natural craft beers for Islanders to enjoy. Beginning with the careful selection of the finest quality ingredients, we use skill and patience to handcraft our family of ales and lagers in small batches. Our goal is to bring
our passion for craft beer to the brewery each day and brew unique, flavourful beer for you to enjoy.

Thanks for your time! I hope you enjoyed the update and can make it down to the brewery on Saturday, Nov. 24th for a tasting of Dough Head Gingerbread Ale.
Adam Ball
2330 Government Street
Victoria, BC V8T 5G5
Vancouver Island Brewery
Socialize with Us
Find out what's going on at the brewery on Facebook and Twitter, and share your craft beer experience on Untappd.
© Vancouver Island Brewery - 2012
VIB Brewery Tour
Coupon must be printed and presented in person. $2.00 savings applies to the brewery tour fee of $10 which includes a branded VIB pint glass. Coupon is transferable so please share this offer with friends and family. For more brewery tour info please click  here.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Aaron Hall goes to Wannawafel

Aaron Hall is the host of Shaw TV's local foodie show Delicious and this time he checks out Wannawafel.

I have tried their waffles, my problem is that they are a style that does not appeal to me.  These are well made proper Belgian waffles, but they are simply too sweet for me.

Wannawafel on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 9, 2012

Aaron Hall goes to Foo Food

Aaron Hall is the host of the Shaw TV program Delicious and this episode he goes to Foo Food.

This is a hard one for me to write because I know they are good but the experience for me has always been not quite right.   I put it down not to a problem on their part but really a frame of mind thing on my part.   I have either come there and it has been very busy and I was annoyed and a in a rush, which is not their fault. Or I went with someone else that wanted to go there and it was not what I wanted to eat.

Here is my horrid admission, I really am not a pad Thai fan, I can tell when they are good but something about them does not really work for me.  I think it comes down to the tamarind flavour, nothing else would seem to make sense.

Very cool is that they make use of the Health Nexxus Food Tracker app.

Foo Food on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Saanich Food Roundtable November 20th 11am

CR-FAIR header
 Saanich Food Roundtable
November 20, 2012
11:00am - 1:00pm

District of Saanich, in the Annex
770 Vernon Ave Victoria, BC
Come to learn and share about emerging issues and actions in Saanich related to the Food System including:
  • District of Saanich planner Jane Evans will update on planning and food related initiatives
  • Sustainability Office Communities in Harvest vegetable growing contest set for 2013
  • Community Kitchens Network Coordinator, Diane Andiel
  • Panama Flats, Gorge Community Gardens, Commonwealth Community Gardens, Food Scrap Recycling Program…
  • Update on the Regional Food Policy, and the efforts to support land access for farmers in motion.
This meeting is a roundtable format for networking and sharing information, please bring updates and any materials you would like to distribute.

Aaron Hall goes to Street Level Espresso

Aaron Hall hosts another episode of Delicious on Shaw TV.   This time he is at Street Level Espresso.

Street Level Espresso on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Making bread at home

Some time back I found an interesting recipe for a crusty white bread so I thought I would try it.   I am stunned at how well it works and how forgiving it is.   The bread I get at the end of the process is better than most of the average breads I can buy in the stores and bakeries.

Here is my recipe:
  • 750 ml hot water 
  • 10-12 grams of yeast
  • 10-12 grams of salt
  • 900 grams of flour, I have been using 600 grams whole wheat and 300 grams white
The oven set up I use
  • Bloom the yeast in the water.
  • Add the yeast and water to the flour and salt.  
  • Stir till the flour is combined - this will be a wet bread dough.
  • Do not knead the dough, just dump it in a bin to rise - if using your hands make them wet when handling the dough
  • Let rise for 12 to 18 hours
  • Punch down and divide into two loaves and let them rise for half an hour to an hour - use wet hands for this
  • Heat your oven to 440ish Fahrenheit with two pizza stones and a bowl of water 
  • Sprinkle a pizza peel with some cornmeal and then drop a loaf on the peel, push it into the oven, repeat for the other loaf  (If you do not have a pizza peel, I recommend buying one, they are only about $25 and we have found it important for anything we do on the pizza stones)
  • Bake for 45 minutes to 50 minutes.
Points to know
  • A wetter dough tends to be better than a drier dough - I had some drier doughs that ended up dense
  • An all white dough will be very light and fluffy
  • Punching down and rising and then punching down and making loaves will give you more even holes
What I like about this recipe is:
  • The bread is amazing
  • The actual work time involved is short - maybe ten minutes of your time.  I can make the dough while having breakfast and bake the loaves after dinner.

The cost is about 35 cents a loaf.   In the store a similar bread will sell for $3 to $4.   At 8 loaves a week, I am about $25 ahead by making this bread.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Aaron Hall goes to Clive's Classic Lounge

Delicious is a TV series locally on Shaw which is hosted by Aaron Hall.   In this episode he checks out Clive's Classic Lounge.

I am a huge fan of the return of the cocktail culture, though with a bunch kids and other responsibilities in the community I really have not had the time to enjoy the lounges that there are in this town.  I am sad to say I only been for drinks at Clive's once and then I had a beer.....   What I saw of the atmosphere impressed me, what I know of the bartenders gives me confidence this is a good place for a drink.

Clive's is located in the Chateau Victoria which will be host to many of the events of the Art of the Cocktail October 13th-15th.

Clive's is named for local hotelier Clive Piercy.  

  Clive's Classic Lounge on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Aaron Hall goes to 2% Jazz

Next in the series of the Shaw TV local foodie series Delicious hosted by Aaron Hall is a visit to the new2% Jazz location in the new Hudson development on Douglas.

I know that 2% Jazz is very popular with their fans, but their first location on Douglas beside the TC put me off because of a number of issues, none of them to their coffee.   All the reports I have heard about the new location says to me this would not be a concern and the reports have been right.

I stopped in the other day when I was downtown to get a coffee so I can not speak to the quality of the food, but the location lives up to what friends have told  about it.

2% Jazz on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 17, 2012

Aaron Hall goes to Spiral Cafe

Another one in the Shaw TV series Delicious hosted by Aaron Hall.     This time at Spiral Cafe in Vic West, the more or less complete opposite of Starbucks when it comes to coffee shops.

This place defines what a great hang out is to me.   My only regret is that it is not in my neighbourhood.  This places feels more like hanging out in the home of a friend with a funky style than anything else.   There is no sense of rush, no tension, just a laid back vibe.

The coffee is good, the goodies are hippesque in style but still good to eat.   The live music is never so much a performance as a jam session you were lucky enough to be able to listen to.

The Spiral Coffee Co. on Urbanspoon

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Aaron Hall goes to the Cornerstone Cafe

Aaron Hall has this nice local Foodie TV series called Delicious, it is well worth watching and therefore I am posting the episodes here over the next few weeks.

This episode he is at Fernwood NRG's Cornerstone Cafe 

      Cornerstone Cafe on Urbanspoon

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Aaron Hall goes to the Parsonage Cafe - Fernwood Coffee Comany

Another episode in Aaron Hall's local foodie series Delicious.

I have only been in the Parsonage once for coffee, but I have been buying their coffee for years.   The Fernwood Coffee Company grew out of the Parsonage.   I really think that you can only get the best coffee if you have it roasted on site and done well, I have had dodgy small scale roasting though never from these guys.   It was about 20 years ago in Kitsilano at the venerable Yoka coffee that I first truly understood how much fresh roasted by a good roast master matters - which I only just found out moved to Victoria in 2010!

I really need to go to the Parsonage for the food.

Here is a bit about being a barista and more of a focus on the Fernwood Coffee side of things.
Parsonage Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 14, 2012

Aaron Hall goes to Cafe Fantistico at the Parkside

I like Aaron Hall's local TV series Delicious.  Not enough of people are seeing them so I am going post all 12 episodes here over the next few weeks.

This episode is Cafe Fantastico at the Parkside - Tre Fantastico.  I really like this location but so rarely got the area to spend any time there.  This location allows for beer, something that we really need to lighten about in this province and let more places sell it.

I very much enjoy all the locations of Cafe Fantistico and what I really love about the chain is that each location is so very unique.  I also very much like there coffee, I find their roast one of the best in town.

Tre Fantastico on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Making Pizza at Home

We have been getting better and better at making pizza at home, the Neapolitan style.   Sheila has a naan bread recipe that we use as our pizza cough and it is working well for us.  When we recently made them I quadrupled the recipe and we ended up with 21 shells.

Stephen is practicing his pizza tossing skills that he learned at the course he took at Cook Culture downtown.

Having a pizza peel and good pizza stones has made the process easier.   We bouhgt the pizza peel for like $25 at the Real Canadian Wholesale Store in Esquimalt.   The pizza stones are from

 It took some time for Sheila to work out how to best get the done pizzas into the oven, but that is a skill she now has.  We have also had to figure out what temperature to have the oven at.   At 475 the oven gives off smoke from the residue on the stones and sets off out smoke alarms, at 425 they do not cook fast enough

We are finding the oven is working better than working with the barbeque.  The fact the heat only comes from the bottom does not allow the bbq to properly melt the cheese.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Shizen Sushi - 1706 Government Street

On Saturday our 17 year old took on the task of installing the new to us dishwasher in the house and since he managed it by himself and needed no oversight we told him we would take him out to lunch.  Daniel wanted sushi, no surprise there.

We headed out just before 2 pm on Saturday and ran into a major problem, most of the places we had need to were all just closing for lunch.   We finally found out that Shizen Sushi would remain open long enough and had a decent rating on Urbanspoon.

The side of the street Shizen is on is mainly rather run down establishments, you could easily lose them because of the neighbours which is why none of us in the car could think of where it was located.

View Larger Map

Once we were inside I was impressed with the look and feel.

We were in a rush for a number of reasons so quickly ordered about 8 different roles.   The were decently done though not stellar, but this is Victoria and not the sushi Mecca that is Vancouver.  The only complaint we had was that on the tuna and salmon rolls the nori was ripped and they were falling apart - I assume being there at the very end of service and this being Victoria they figured it would be ok.  It was not serious enough to send back even if were not in a rush.

We also ordered some udon noodles for Max, which, because it came with a lot of veggies, Sheila and Daniel shared with him.

The prices were decent for what we got.

One odd thing, the website seems to be uncompleted because the pages are all filled with place holder text.

Could we do better at home?  Not really, our knife skills and rolling skills are not good enough.

Will we go back?  I suspect so because it is in a reasonable location and does decent food.

Shizen Sushi on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

This ain't my Momma's cake!

Lazy Daisy Cake
Well, actually it is, but not quite.  For a while now I have been wanting to make a Lazy Daisy Cake which is a basic white cake with a coconut topping that I remember from being a kid.  I do not actually remember my Mom making it often but I have this small vignette memory of asking her about the name and liking the coconut topping and that has made the nostalgia factor quite high.

After getting the 'fancy' coconut sometime ago and using most of it for something else I finally got to the lazy daisy cake last Thursday night.  My first challenge was finding a recipe.  Though I remember my Mom having it in her personal recipe book - a little book of clear index card protectors with hand written recipe cards (they said "recipe card" at the top in orange script and were lined in orange with a special spot to note the source of your recipe) - it is not one that I have anymore and my Mom isn't around to ask either.  I was a bit skeptical about typing "lazy daisy cake" into the search bar but I got lots of results and chose this recipe at

It turned out to be the easy, quick recipe I was expecting and the much anticipated coconut topping that you baked on was there too.  Everything went well, the baking time was right on and I placed my topping on the warm cake, spread it out and put it back in the oven at low broil.  I walked away.

When I checked back things looked pretty good, the edges looked right and the topping was quite brown.  I took it out and realized that all was not as great as I had hoped, the centre was still very moist and slightly sunken.  Drat.

I could have just left it, and that is likely what my Mom would have done.  Putting it back under the broiler would have burnt it and there was nothing inedible about it.  Aaaanndddd, here is where we leave my Momma behind.  Faced with the dilemma of how to brown and crisp up the centre to perfect the cake I did what any self-respecting 21st century foodie with a very well equipped amateur kitchen would do - I got out the blow torch.

Lighting up the torch I began moving it briskly over the centre of the cake.  Quickly the coconut topping began sizzling and shortly I had some browning.  I kept at it though trying for the crispness of the perimeter.  In not too long, I started to have blackening - uh-oh.  I shut off the torch and re-assessed.  I could have walked away.  Instead, realizing I still didn't have the dry, crispness I sought I moved some of the topping around, thinning the centre slightly and moving some of the dark bit out of the line of fire.  Back to the torching, same process, its getting closer now.  Oh, starting to blacken again.  Torch off.  And out.  Enough I decided.  I did not have look as right as the edges but it was closer, and I was starting to be sure that I would be serving Cajun-topped cake if I didn't just walk away.
...and now with the blackened bits...

I realize that ending is a bit anti-climactic.  No burning cake - or kitchen - and it was even quite good eating, but let's look at the aftermath a bit.  As I said, it was a good cake.  Light, moist and buttery with the topping offering a slightly caramel crunch.  Then there was the middle of the top, not so much caramel, but rather chemically and charred.  As I ate I was reminded of my blow torch technique with each charcoal flavoured and fuel scented bite.

I am happy with the cake, and some nostalgia was served, but next time I will just not dump all the cold topping in the middle of the cake but spoon small amounts over the whole top and spread from there in hopes of minimizing the issue I encountered this time.  I will also accept a slightly moist, chewy topping in the middle if I must and pass on the blow torch topping.  Not crisp seems preferable to chemical charcoal for me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is Corn Maltodextrin the same as Tapioca Maltodextrin?

I tried to make an olive oil powder with the maltodextrin I bought yesterday at Lifestyles Market.  The olive oil powder is supposed to melt in your mouth, that is not really what happened.  The result was nothing worth eating and it left me with a small gummy bit of something in my mouth.  

There are two reasons it may not have worked - either I made a mistake in the recipe or the maltodextrin is not the right type.  The one I used was made from corn and the recipes seem to call from tapioca maltodextrin.   I can not find anything online which definitively tells me that the difference matters.   The corn based maltodextrin I bought is supposed to be good for many of the uses expected such as thickening a smoothie and such.  

I followed the recipe as it was outlined though I needed a lot more maltodextrin.  Various other recipes said I would need a much larger portion of maltodextrin than this recipe called for.   The result looks like what I saw in the pictures so I really think there has to be a substantive difference between the two maltodextrins.

Playing with my food

I will be posting some pictures and videos of what I have been doing soon, but here is a bit of what I have been experimenting with in the house.

Exploring molecular gastronomy online - there are some interesting videos at youtube by Molecule-R.  A lot of it is not very hard to do at all and after having watched numerous videos I am convinced I can do most of it.  I thought I would start with what I had in my kitchen - agar agar.

Agar agar - I have used it to make sheets of the following:  apple cider vinegar, lemonade, and peach juice.  The liquid with agar agar was brought to boiling and then poured on a cookie sheet.   The liquid gelled rather quickly, only a few minutes and I could lift the sheets off of the cookie sheet.

The sheets of the liquids are cool and have an interesting texture when you eat them.  I have not tried using them in any dish yet.  This is mainly because I am experimenting with what it takes to create the sheets.  I have had one that was a bit too firm, though this made it very easy to handle.  Another one was not firm enough and I had trouble getting it off of the cookie sheet.   I will film the process sometime later this week.

I also used it to help set some peach jam, I was short on pectin.  This seems to have worked well and therefore I decided to try it on some blackberries and see if I could make a functional small batch of jam.   The stuff set but it is too firm to be a jam.  

Exploring what supplies I can get at Lifestyles Market - they have a large and interesting selection of ingredients you need to experiment with your food.  They have agar agar, maltodextrin, xantham gum, soy lecithin, citric acid, Irish moss, and more.  The only thing they do not have is sodium alginate/calcium lactate.

I did not buy much at Lifestyles but I did buy some maltodextrin yesterday and want to try experimenting with it.   The stuff can make a liquid into a powder that melts when it comes in contact with moisture.  The most common thing people seem to make is olive oil powder which I will try later today.

I also purchased some Himalayan rock salt.  It is a bit pricey as a salt, but as a cool item it is cheap.  I bought half a dozen salt rocks, and rock is the right word as they are 1 cm by 2-3 cm in size.   My youngest son thought they were ice cubes.   I need to find a good way to take pictures of them.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stephen at the pizza making course

Stephen took an adult cooking course last night at Cook Culture in the Atrium from Dwane MacIssac.  This is a few moments of Stephen assembling his own pizza - I did not think to grab the phone fast enough to get it all.

Sheila took some pictures and I will post them up here shortly.  

Stephen was much younger than all the rest of the people in the course which made it a bit strange to see him there and to drop him off.   Stephen is 12 now, but he is a young looking 12.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Two visits with a Pig

Pig Decor

A couple of months ago when Daniel was graduating and getting a haircut at Liberty Barbershop we decided to lunch at Pig BBQ Joint as both located in the Atrium building on Blanshard between Yates and Johnson.
I fell in love with pig over a buffalo and blue cheese schnitzel slider they served at the 2011 Culinaire Event but Bernard has always been less of a fan, though not a hater, as you can see by his initial review of the place.  On this particular Saturday they had a full size variant of the schnitzel slider on which is what I had and I continued my love of Pig.  Bernard on the other hand continued his rather rocky relationship when he opted to try their Brisket Burrito.  The meat itself was, as it always seems to be at Pig, quite tasty.  However, the rice that accompanied it in the wrap was not stellar at all.

Now, Bernard tends to be more critical than I when it comes to dining out, and also more willing to say something about it.  This has created some stress in our dining experiences both because I am a bit uncomfortable with bringing it up and because it often becomes a minor confrontation that doesn't end well - at least for me.  In his defense, Bernard does have legitimate complaints, and that overcooked, mealy, gluey rice in the burrito was no exception, but his complaints are often met with some level of hostility or apathy that is upsetting and really not ideal customer service.

Why am I writing about this now, over a month later?  Why am I on about reactions to complaints? To answer the second question first - because we experienced a very different response to Bernard's complaint that day. He debated even saying anything not wanting to be brushed off or to argued with about the crappy rice.  Finally, he did go and talk to the woman at the till.  He returned impressed, and a bit surprised, they had not only accepted the validity of his complaint and offered him a different meal but when he turned down a replacement they gave him two $5 gift cards.  He was very happy, not just with their honest concern about the food but that they actually offered him something to compensate him.

I was happily finishing my schnitzel burger, relieved that no uncomfortable scene unfolded, when I noticed one of the staff erasing something form the inside menu board, and then proceed to the outside one.  With some amazement - and much delight - we realized they had removed the offending food from the list.  Hoorah!  We thanked the staff member for their very good response to Bernard's concern and applauded their great customer service.  The staff member was a bit confused that we would be so excited - after all she said - that rice wasn't right and we wouldn't want anymore people getting poor food.  What a delight it was to see that attitude.

Now we go back to the first question about why I am writing this so long after the fact - and for that matter - what's up with the title?  Tonight we were dropping Stephen off for a pizza making course at Cook Culture that his grandparents gave him for his birthday and decided to make use of our gift cards to Pig.  What was our experience this time?  Sadly, no schnitzel sandwich for me - but I enjoyed their basic pulled pork sandwich and Stephen devoured his absolutely smothered Chili Cheese Dog.

The Chili-Cheese Dog
The crowning moment though was Bernard's dinner.  After all it was his dubious lunch that had got us the gift cards so would our return visit redeem the Pig?  Bernard ordered a special again, this time the honey garlic chicken wings.  I noticed he worked his way through them quite quickly and with no complaint, so I knew they were okay, but the final word came a bit after dinner on the ride home when he told me they were the best wings he had ever had.  A tasty but not overpowering sauce, very crispy skin and juicy, succulent meat.  On a bit of a butcher's side not they looked like legs rather than wings - but they definitely came from a chicken and weren't the fingers either.
Honey Garlic Wings

A happy ending for this tale of two Pig visits and kudos for the good business and food practices that turned a rocky visit into a triumphant return trip.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Stephen's Strawberry Jam

My 12 year old son Stephen makes and sells jam.   At the moment he has strawberry jam available in three sizes, 125ml, 250ml and 500ml.

The jam is made with strawberries from Galey's farm, Pamona's pectin, lemon juice and sugar.   The jam is low sugar with 2/3s of the jam being fruit as opposed to most homemade jams that are more than 50% sugar.

The prices he sells them for:
125ml - $4
250ml - $6
500ml - $10

You can purchase it from him by calling 250-298-7501

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Famoso Neapolitan Pizza

Sheila and I were part of the group of people here in town invited to the opening evening of the new Famoso Neapolitan Pizza in Market Square.   We were surprised by the invite but it seems this blog caught their eye.

We could not bring our normal camera because we broke the SD card earlier in the day and we need to buy a new one, so the pictures I have do not do justice to the food or restaurant.

There is no way Famoso is going to ever avoid being compared to Prima Strada which is not really going to be fair on them as the two restaurants are not really direct competitors.

Prima Strada is a great restaurant but it is really a place for serious foodies and and in many ways not the general public as such.   Famoso is a much more accessible place to be introduced to real Neapolitan pizza and with a broader menu it allows groups with less adventurous people to come along.

Prima Strada is in a wood fired oven, Famoso seems to use a purpose built gas fired oven.   This means Famoso has more control and consistency over the baking of the pizzas.  When they are up to speed the pizzas should all be consistent day in and day out.   At Prima Strada the wood firing means that the crust often has bubbles that have burnt.  Most times there are only a couple but I have had some where there are really too many and the whole pizza gets a carbon aftertaste.

Both places offer Neapolitan pizza which is not what the term pizza means to most people.  In North America the public has become used to the pizza as a huge mass of toppings with think gooey cheese and a lot of sauce with all of this baked at a lower temperature than is ideal.   The North American pizza is not about the dough and Pizza Hut takes this to the ultimate extent with their stuffed crusts.   Neapoltian pizza is something very different and requires a rethink of what you understand to be a pizza.

A Neapolitan pizza is made with OO flour, a very fine low gluten flour from Italy - I had no idea it was low gluten and was surprised at this as I expected pizza dough would need to have a lot of gluten to stretch enough.   The pizza is covered with a small amout of sauce and toppings and the cheese never coats the whole top of the pizza.   It them goes in the oven for 90 seconds at a temperature of 900 degrees.

We arrived for the 8:30 sitting and were ushered to our table.   We were given the oven roasted olives with a spicy olive oil as a starter, I was impressed as these were the best olives I have ever eaten in my life.  We are also both given an Italian Spritz cocktail to start - prosecco, aperol and soda water.

I had the Siciliana pizza and it clearly had the basis for a great pizza but the execution fell short.   There was too much sauce on the dough and this meant that as soon as it was cut the pizza started to get soggy.   A Neapolitan pizza requires a thin skiff of sauce and that really takes time for the people making them and for the public eating them to get used to.  When the first Prima Strada opened on Cook Street the soggy pizza situation happened there.   I also have to question the choice of one of the hams on the pizza, it was a salt cured ham that is naturally damp and I suspect added to the soggy crust.

Sheila had the Margherita and it was well done.   I did not get a chance to try a slice so I can not tell you how it tasted, but Sheila seemed very happy with it.
Sheila's Margherita

I had the lemon sorbetto, I love a good lemon sorbetto, something that is so easy find in much of Europe but something way to rare in Canada.  Famoso has a relationship with Fiasco Gelato of Calgary, who supply them.   The lemon sorbetto was very good and the portion was generous.   James from Fiasco was on hand for the opening and we talked with him for awhile.   Hopefully in the future Fiasco Gelato will be for sale by the pint at Famoso.

Sheila ordered the Dolce & Banana desert - it was more than big enough for two people but only $7.  It is oven roasted bananas covered in caramelized brown sugar, crushed pecans and a caramel sauce.  It is then topped with a scoop of the Fiasco vanilla gelato.

The prices are generally quite reasonable with some good deals such as a free gelato scoop for kids 12 and younger.

After the meal there was a talk by one of the founders, Justin Lussier, about the story of Famoso and then a demonstration of how the pizza is made.

Famoso was started by Justin together Jason Allard and Christian Bullock in Edmonton not that many years ago, the partners all look like they are only around 30 years old.   They have expanded quickly with 15 locations already.   As of now there are eight in the Edmonton area, two in Calgary, one in Jasper, one in Vancouver, two in Toronto and now the newest on in Victoria.

Wednesday night was a training night, a dress rehearsal before opening to the public this weekend.   In general things worked well though a few minor glitches happened but I am sure those will be gone by now.

My biggest concern about the restaurant is how loud it is, there were times when the noise almost made conversation impossible.   We talked with the local franchise owner, Corey Arsenault, about this and I hope that he finds some way to soften the walls or ceiling so that the noise is not over powering.

Could I do this at home?  No, I can not cook the pizza at the temperatures needed and we do not have the right dough to make the pizza.   The gelato is of a quality that we can not do in our house, we would have to invest in a bunch of equipment to make it.

Will we go back?   Yes because it will work better for us with the kids than Prima Strada.

  Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria (Market Square) on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 30, 2012


This sounds very interesting, but I am almost 100% certain I can not go.
September 14-16, 2012 in the Cowichan  Valley

 You've heard about food forests. Maybe you've seen the videos or visited the websites. Now is your chance to plant an actual food forest under the guidance of Richard Walker, 30 year food forest veteran, in a weekend workshop on September 14-16. Richard will be explaining the basic principles we will be employing in the structuring and planting of the food forest on Friday night after a site visit. On Saturday, the planting will begin and will continue into Sunday.

Friday: 7-9:30pm; Saturday/Sunday: 9-4pm

The future food forest site is currently a 1/4+ acre field at Mossy Banks Farm in North Cowichan. We will be converting the prepared field into a food forest with nut trees, fruit trees, medicinal trees and herbs, berries and much more. Registration is limited to 25 people, so sign up now. This number cannot be extended. Cost for the weekend is $200; $230 if you are camping on the farm. Meals are included. (Lunch and dinner, Saturday; lunch, Sunday; and breakfast both days for those camping.) Please let us know any dietary restrictions when you register.

To register, e-mail Lynn at or call 250 597-3513.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Naan Bread

I ended up making the dough and was concerned I would not need it long enough, but it turns out I made a very good dough.  Sheila cooked them and they turned out better than any we have done before with them end up like the pita bread that has the pockets. 

Sheila has tried making the naan in the past with roasted garlic but it has never managed to have much of a garlic flavour come through.   I was short of time so I could not roast the garlic and used garlic powder instead and we were impressed with how much more of a garlic flavour this imparted.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chef Heidi Fink and her classes on local harvest cooking

I like what Chef Heidi Fink is doing at Cook Culture with her cooking courses for the public.

On July 9th she has a course on what to do with berries.  Since I already do a lot with berries I am not sure there is much for me at this course, but if you do not make your own jam, you should consider taking it.  Once you make your own jam you will not go back to the store bought stuff.

The course I was interested in was the Local Harvest one on July 17th, but it is sold out.  

I have been trying to focus on cooking with what is local and in season for years now, but there are still things I am not sure what to do with and when it is really ready in this area.   I was sort of hoping to sign up for the one of the 17th to get more inspiration.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pirate Cake

Stephen wanted to bring a pirate cake to school today as they were doing an all day pirate theme.   He baked and iced with his mother and Sheila last night and this morning to make the cake.