Instant party – just add friends


nickgardner:

Since it is a sunny holiday Monday, I had a craving for something decadent, so naturally, my mind lead me to hummus.
Smoky, salty, nutty and thick hummus, and in so doing I remembered that in 2006 I wrote a column about the wonders of the garbanzo dip. I called it internally, Hummus Nature but it was published as “Instant Party, just add friends”.
Enjoy.

Originally posted on off the eating path:

There are too many shows on television telling you how to throw a good party. Most of them involve the Martha Stewart-ization of house and home in order to impress your guests.
Let’s face it – Newfoundlanders as a people are the party sort. We love a good time surrounded by friends and family. We’re also uncomplicated folk. Not simple, but humble and honest. A party for us is the pleasure of each other’s company and a good time.
Over the weekend my wife and I experienced just that – a good time with friends. We went out Saturday night to a concert and afterwards friends asked “Hey, how about drinks at our place?” Who can say no to an invitation like that?
The trick to a good party is sometimes in the planning and other times it is in the spontaneous invitation of a few friends in for a…

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The One Shot: XIX


In this little miniseries called The One Shot –  I’ll give the joint one shot to make that one good impression. Win me over and I will sing praises; fall flat and, well…

Getting together with family is always a treat, and when we sit together at the table it is, in my mind, some of the best memories I could ever wish for.

This year for Easter we decided to go have “brunch” instead of a familial repast at one of the parents’ homes.  My dad was the one who suggested we try XIX, or Nineteen, the club restaurant at Clovelly Golf Course.

Now I have worked at Country Clubs (read: golf clubs). In my former life I worked the hotline and large banquets for hundreds of people during the busy summer wedding season. So I know a thing or two about what to expect in this type of service.

Here are some things to observe when eating brunch:

The early bird gets the worm – if there are two seatings, especially in buffet form, go early and go often.  You will find that the food is the same but the quality delivered is a bit more sharp.

Look for simple – I had a great time today by mainly sticking to breakfast type foods (we were at the second seating).  The eggs Benedict had soft yolks and the pea meal bacon was cooked but not brittle.  Little sausages were cooked well  and not dried out by the chafing dishes. The tray of bacon was cooked by someone who likes perfectly cooked bacon – I could have eaten 10 pounds of the stuff.

What am I eating here? There were little signs near each station identifying the food; unfortunately they were on the outside of the chafing dishes instead of where one would generally look.  I would recommend in the future a smart tablet displayed at the front that can be read at a distance and substitutions made through service if needed.

Everything starts with good training –  the staff employed were the most unobtrusive but attentive wait staff I have encountered.  They were alert and always ready with extra coffee or tea and happily supplied double lots of milk for our table. In addition, manager came to our table to personally invite our little one to enter the colouring contest (even though she is only 2) and present her with a loot bag filled with non-edible but happily playful treats. A warm touch and it was well noted by our table.

Here’s the rub: it is a golf club, not what I would call a destination. There are better places in the downtown but our table had the vista over the ruddy brown greens, a view of sparkling fingers of silver thaw on the trees. We could only imagine that spring and a warm summer are soon on the way, and that was worth its weight in gold.

With happy memories and a full belly, XIX, you have won The One Shot.

The One Shot: Mohamed Ali


In this little miniseries called The One Shot –  I’ll give the joint one shot to make that one good impression. Win me over and I will sing praises; fall flat and, well…

When it comes to good food, variety is the the spice of life.

For too long in this little city of ours we have been dragging our ethnic heels, especially where food is concerned.  A decade ago you wouldn’t have ever seen anything exotic.  A handful of Chinese spots, a Thai spot a couple of curry houses and that, was just about it.

Now we can sport an authentic Korean joint, several Japanese inspired places, the same Chinese and curry houses but in the exact same spot where once was a Thai place on Duckworth Street is now a very cool hole  in the wall and it is called Mohamed Ali.

5 things that make an ethnic joint cool

  1.  Be authentic –  this place oozes authentic.  Form the cardamom coffee and spice spiked teas to the hot shwarma and kebab platters.  This place is authentic as it gets.
  2. Play to your strengths –  the menu is compact with few real choices but all of them are good.
  3. No music –  some places like to “put you in the mood” by playing over the top music of a specific geographical origin.  This place doesn’t.  Just the loud chatter of patrons and the walls covered pictures for sale by a local Middle Eastern artist. Simplicity at its finest.
  4.  Serve hot food hot and cold food cold –  no problems there.  From ordering to service in under 10 minutes and the contents of the kebab in a pita wrap was as hot as if it came off the grill.  Cold dips like hummus all cold from coolers.
  5. be of good value –  style points there.  We had an appetizer, two shwarma wraps, some cardamom spiked tea as well as baklava all for under $30.  Excellent value.

In all the years of living in this fine city I not once thought that a true Middle Eastern restauraunt would open. Now that it has I can say happily that Mohamed Ali has won its One Shot.

 

The One Shot: Red Rocks Grill


As someone who has worked in the food industry I am going to let you in on a little secret –  we really try not to talk out of turn when it comes to other food joints.  Sure we cut each other up when at the bar or having a drink with others, but we know that we might need a quick job at some time and our words follow us around – in some cases like stink –  so we should always be mindful of what we say.

That in mind I am starting a little miniseries called The One Shot –  in which I’ll give the joint one shot to make that one good impression. Win me over and I will sing praises; fall flat and, well…

Red Rocks Grill is on Topsail Road.  It used to be the old Home Hardware Store, before it became a video store before it became an average restaurant before it was transformed into Red Rocks Grill.

I give you 7 Tips to make a average first impression.

  1. Try seasoning food: that implies a little salt AND pepper.
  2. Try to leave the foil off the baked potato when serving it to guests. We are paying for dinner service not a backyard BBQ.
  3. Try and get the order right the first time: 7 tables and 18 covers does not a busy spot make
  4. Don’t serve BS to customers: chef lost your order ticket is euphemism for it got 86′d on the line and he couldn’t be arsed to check the tape are not the same thing when forgetting 2 out of 8 items on a 3-top.
  5. 33$ for grocery quality veg and average cooking skills isn’t highway robbery but it sure isn’t good business.
  6. If you give sauce, have enough for every bite. Not a spritz.
  7. A baked potato implies it came from an oven. A microwave oven does not count.

Here’s what you can do to improve:

Season as you go. Sprinkle salt and pepper a little at a time and taste food occasionally.  Use a bit of acid.

Make plates look nice.  We eat with our eyes first. Presentation and a little care can make an average looking plate look spectacular.

Have a call system. Call the order at the pass and repeat it verbally to the line.  Therefore if the server doesn’t hear a menu item it can be corrected on the line and on the fly.

Simple, honest answers work best.  Instead of “Chef lost the dupe,” say “We are sorry that the line misplaced your order for the sides you wanted. Shall I take them off the bill?”  Clear, simple and it provides a solution before the customer has a chance to become irate.

The rest speak for themselves.

Too often we walk into restaurant expecting one thing and getting an entirely different experience.  I had hoped the food would be good enough to return but when a simple mid week dinner costs nearly $100 without a single drop of wine and the food was average at best…I am sorry, but it doesn’t deserve a second chance.

Red Rocks Grill, you lost your One Shot.

To Veg-out


So I am a carnivore.  Or as my friend likes to say “Man didn’t get to the top of the food chain just to eat salad”.  There is a point to that –  or is there?

I love to eat meats of all sorts and I am  not afraid of any of them –  off cuts as well as underutilized parts as well.  It is just that we are getting into a rut lately and we have enjoyed the times when we have added at least one vegetarian meal to the weekly mix.  I can honestly say that I make a pretty killer veg curry now.

But this is it.   Is it just enough to say that there is room in our kitchen to experiment with vegetarian cooking or it it time to take a larger step and look at going vegetarian for a week, a month…a year?

This is not a cry to be convinced this is a lifestyle choice. and I have no real ethical dilemmas in eating any animals –  raised or wild. I think that as a consumer of them that if you understand where it comes from and it is not wasted in any way then it is all right.

I am just thinking that as a whole nose to tail eater of meats perhaps it is time to become a root to tip eater of vegetables –  I mean throw myself into the deep end and go for it and make the same commitiment that i make when I buy meat  to the vegetables that come along with it.

I think it is time for a real carnivore to look at eating only vegetables for a bit even if it comes to being only a week. Give the vegetables a chance to shine.  Give peas a chance. :)

Enter title here


Hi folks –  my blog needs a name.  Anyone with a good title –  I am all ears.  :)

I could use the one it comes with –  but it is little, i don’t know…blah.

I’m looking for a suggestion –  funny or witty or even just a play on words.  Hit me with your best shot…I’m listening.

Will you remember me when I am gone?


It is hard to imagine not being here any more.
It is not about the journey through this thing called life that is wonderful but it is about the people we meet, the lives we can change and incredible strength of the human spirit.
My Last Days: Meet Zach Sobiech – is a documentary about the final days in the life of a 17 year old with terminal osteosarcoma.
I am not a sentimental person, by any means, but yesterday as I was quietly surfing across the internet, this video came to my attention. I am a grown man and have not cried over a movie in years, I watched until the tears running down my face blurred my vision.
We can learn a lot from Zach. If we were 10% as nice to others as he was in this world – we would all be in a better place. This is the reason the internets are so great – we can learn and “maybe-perhaps”, as my little-one likes to say, we might all be the better for it.