Friday, 10 May 2013

Sambuca Cream Campfire Snails

Recently I was asked by a winter camping enthusiast, who otherwise enjoys fine dining: How do I prepare good food that can be enjoyed while winter camping? I'm a small town guy that now lives in the city and I"m happy to share my experiences.

I've learned of many opportunities in the city but have grown to appreciate the intangible things of the small town living I left behind. I certainly appreciate it more when I visit up north today. I grew up in Owen Sound, Collingwood and my home town of Orillia. All are located in the province of Ontario and at the southern tip of beautiful Georgian Bay. I'm no stranger to the great outdoors and roughing our Canadian four seasons. Iron and fire have been around for centuries and almost anything can be prepared when armed. Why, some of the best snails I've ever enjoyed were prepared over a campfire!

I spent 4yrs in Collingwood, ON when I was in elementary school. It's a small little town centered between gorgeous Wasega Beach and popular all season retreat, Blue Mountain. Some of my favorite memories are of wilderness there and everything imaginable outdoors. Our home was located rurally just off  HWY #26. I can remember waking on cool summer mornings to see people snail hunting in droves. All the way down our long gravel road you'd see people lugging their pails. Big white pails of  garden snails they collected from the dewy roadside rough.  All were in their rubber boots and wore back supporting belts. It was a peculiar sight for kid barely awake. I used to think they were all crazy! Now it's just a fond memory of something I was lucky enough to witness. It's a memory that can be appreciated of an ingredient that has inspired so many wonderful recipes.

I'm not suggesting you shine up your rubber duckies and start combing the roadside trenches. Snails are far more easy to buy canned in water at the grocery store. Although it might be a fun outing for friends and family, collecting snails is something that wouldn't be possible in relation to winter camping. Even if you were summer camping you'd hardly have time to prepare. Many of the toxins snails consume can be harmful for human ingestion. Snails have to be purged to safely avoid serious illness. A diet of lettuce leaves in a controlled environment, it's a process  that takes at least four weeks. You'd have to be the ultimate master of preparedness to properly ready your collection.

When I think of winter camping and the crisp northern air, I think about being huddled over a camp fire and absorbing the well needed heat. The best escargot in the winter fresh air is a sweet and creamy treat.  Something that will warm your belly and compliment a strong cup of black coffee. Sambuca cream campfire snails will be enjoyed by all that love good food.

You'll need:

2 cans snails, in water.
2 heaping cups fennel, cut into bite size chunks.
2 heaping cups leeks, chopped
1 tbsp butter
250 ml of 18% cream.
100 ml Sambuca (Not Black Sambuca)
pinch of salt and pepper

You won't be out in the winter cold too long without an active campfire. Use rocks to build a platform that will hold a BBQ grill. Get the fire nice and hot to create a bed of red hot coals. You have and iron pan and your ready for action.

Drain and rinse the snails and add them to a hot iron pan with butter. Start a nice sizzle.

Add fennel and leeks to the pan with a pinch of salt and pepper. Give it a nice stir until the leeks are bright green, still crisp.

Add the Sambucca and burn off the alcohol. There will be a little storm before the calm.

Add the cream and stir it in. Let it bubble for 2mins.

This is a very easy recipe that tastes so amazing. Toast a baguette with butter and  sop up this delicious sauce. It's enough to properly serve four. It's like having desert for appetizer. This also works fantastically with mussels!


Thursday, 2 May 2013

She'll Learn Everything Your Mother Taught You On One Dinner Date

In Canada we celebrate Mother's Day every second Sunday in May. It's a day to show our appreciation for the sacrifices our mothers have made. They are truly entitled to the annual recognition for their contribution to our families. Not to mention our very existence! You've been her life long project and she's corrected you along the way. Her patience wore thin but her persistence never wavered. She taught you how to present yourself and be mindful of your manner. There's no better platform to represent your mother than a dinner date with a lady.

In recognition of these most important ladies, I'm inspired to write a relative post about the influence they've had on our etiquette. It's strange days on the dating scene compared to the traditional courtships of old. A busy schedule can drive anyone of us to seek more convenient ways to be social. In a time where inter net dating is the rage, one thing has never changed. The best way to get to know someone is at a dinner table. She'll learn everything your mother taught you on one dinner date.

Choosing a restaurant: Attention to detail
When choosing a restaurant it's important to do your homework before entertaining your guest. What type of cuisine does she normally enjoy? What is her favorite restaurant? Allergies, intolerance's and gluten free can make things tricky when choosing the right spot. An upper casual atmosphere is perfect and somewhere you don't frequent. Without a doubt she'd be uncomfortable if the server, bartender and restaurant owner all knew you y name. If you have to host your new found friend in a place where you'd feel most comfortable, maybe you shouldn't stray too far from your mother in the first place! Pick something that is relatively new or somewhere you've never been. She wants an experience that is unique. One that she'll gladly tell when asked. The "how we met" and the "our first date" story will be told for as long as you know each other. Do some research for some flattering reviews or reserve on a friend's recommendation. Be willing to make the occasion unique and something new for both of you.
Meeting: Set the tone
You might already know a little of your guest but hardly enough to be at ease. Dashing into a restaurant to be seated right away could be uncomfortable to say the least. Never should a woman be asked to meet you at a restaurant nor should she ever have to enter one alone You've picked the restaurant so don't stop there. Know the area and suggest a cafe you can meet for the first time. It's a great way to break the ice and get an early vibe. A coffee and some early presence is the perfect place to start. Don't hesitate to talk up your excitement for a restaurant you'll both try. Walk to the restaurant together from there and she'll  appreciate your considerate plan.

Cocktail and wine: Be Responsible
You and I both know you are capable of copious amounts of your favorite beer or liqueur. She has a hunch you're capable too. You've picked a great spot so protect the comfort level. The time it takes to enjoy one cocktail it is all the time needed to ignite an appetite. She'll appreciate that you can cocktail responsibly and be confident in her presence. Enjoy the ambiance and discuss the wine list.The two of you will have to make some menu selections to properly determine the variety. Learn her preference for red or white and go from there.  A gentleman always accepts a wine and is always the first to taste. If the wine is corked or tainted in any way the lady is spared the unsavory experience.

People skills: Be respectful of others
Knowing your servers name is an absolutely crucial! Make a point to never forget. A restaurant is the perfect place to strut your social skills  She'll be watching, listening and learning at your every interaction. Your lady friend will quickly learn that you are conscious of others and know how to acknowledge them. Recognizing a person as someone will always build report but don't get too friendly with your server or encourage  personal talk. You are already in good company and she deserves your full attention. Appreciate your server's expertise and ask for recommendations. What are the daily features? What is their favorite dish? What is most popular? Make no mistake, your date is not your mother! She's not going to correct your interpersonal ineptitude. Although premature to think it, she has already envisioned her mother's impression of you if it were her her you were meeting for the first time.

Menu selection: Ladies first
You'll both be deep into the menus if your server hasn't enticed you with confident recommendations. She may be coy or simply polite but don't let her off the hook. Help her choose something substantial. It's acceptable to take away what isn't finished. Read her the menu and romance the ingredients of something that isn't common place. If you're the clever sort, you'll trust your server's recommendations or opt for a daily feature. Keep her choices in mind so that a single wine selection can be made. If you are unfamiliar with the wine list, ask for a bottle recommendation that will compliment both of your choices.

Communication: Be interested in people
Like any woman she's going to want to know that you can communicate. That means listening and remembering. It's easy to slide into negative conversation on a first date if the conversation is only of past experiences. Be careful where it leads and talk about positive things. Goals, dreams and action plans are the only things two hopefuls ever need to expand. At the very most throw a pet peeve out there. Something that can be laughed at. Like your mother, she only wants to say things once.You have all night to refer back to specific things that will show her she's been dually noted. Eye contact and listen to what she says because there will be a test later.

Eating: Be conscious of how you are perceived
A woman likes to dance when she's the only person in the room. A man likes to eat like he's the only person in the room. Eating is a very individual action that we all enjoy intimately. It's a natural, habitual action and it's easy to lose awareness. Know how you are perceived and let the your company set the pace. You're plate isn't going anywhere and she should still be your focus. You have all night and as long as there is food in front of you the more comfortable the table will be. I'd like to think that no one is ignorant of basic table manners. Self awareness and knowing how you are perceived will only make you more interesting. Your mother didn't raise a slouch that forgets where he is or the brand of company he is in.

Desert: An unexpected surprise
Every woman in the world has a sweet tooth and an incredible weakness for chocolate. They also have a discipline for passing on a sweat treat. It's not an occasion to count calories together. Take it upon yourself to make the irresponsible decision for both of you. You've had plenty of time to learn some of her favorite indulgences. Show her that you've been taking it all in and have noted her sweet confessions. Order two desserts and let her choose from both. She'll decide if you'll both share.

The cheque: Be a good host
I'm all for how we have evolved as a society and fully support the equality of men and women. With that said, it still doesn't seem proper to expect a woman to pay in full or in part on a first date. Always pay the cheque! You have enjoyed her company and the pleasure was all yours. Maybe next time she'd be happy to treat.

Good night: Be self assured
All good things have to come to an end. Know when to say goodnight. What a tragedy it would be if the most perfect of times was spoiled for no end  in sight. It might not only be you that wants the night to last forever. Be confident and make no error in judgement.  See her to her vehicle and at best a friendly hug. Keep things simple with something to look forward too. Much will be left to anticipate.

There is much to be learned from our mothers about our very presence. They've taught us how to treat a lady.and in many more ways than one. Our mothers have been working feverishly at our dinner tables at home. As long as there is food on the table our mothers are building men.

Don't forget Mother's Day!