The Road to Gold


Every four years a huge global event takes place – the Olympics.  Here in Canada we are proud to support the Canadian Olympic Teams.

In support of the Canadian Olympic teams, The Canadian Culinary Championships held each February in Kelowna, BC and each province gets to send their best for the title shot.

Long time food columnist and respected television host, Karl Wells, is the head judge for the Newfoundland round of Gold Medal Plates.  His latest column in The Telegram has a great overview of the competition and the competitors facing off this November 12.  You can read it here.



We all want to reduce things in our life.  Oh, come on now, don’t be shy – we all know we have something to have a little less of. I could lose the body weight of my 4 year old daughter and still not look the way I was ..many years ago –  but I am digressing form the topic at hand.

Reductionism is the process of reducing something to its essence.  I mean all we want to do is get the best out of the foods we produce and make it the most concentrated version of that food.  Isn’t that what a sauce really is –  a stock that has been reduced to its basic essence.  Isn’t what cooking is all about in the first place?

When I am invited to a friend’s home for supper (and don’t worry this does not happen all the time) and they are cooking I like to try to get a peek into their process. We can all learn a thing or two every time we go out, so why not peek a bit and see if I have missed something spectacular. Hey, haven’t we all been surprised when a friend has dazzled you at the dinner table?

The first thing look at is how many pots on the stove have lids.  Now lids are very important pieces of kit – it helps keep things moist and it is important to keep most of the heat in when looking to make a pot of water reach the magic mark of boiling.

However putting a lid on a sauce like a Ragu a la Bolognaise would be tantamount to a cardinal sin. As adding any additional liquid other than what was used to flavor the sauce in the first place is the opposite of the result we want to achieve in the first place.

I wrote, nearly a decade ago, a piece called Saucy by Nature and it was a good explanation on how to use reducing a liquid to make a basic pan sauce.  It is one of my favorite things to do watch the endless process of liquids evaporating and concentrating flavors to make something magical.  I have always equated the process of sauce making with alchemy.  it is turning all the “burned bits” into the element that makes a simple meal turn into the most elegant of occasions.

The French have  saying about sauces – “An ounce of sauce hides a multitude of sin” – they are right.  I have witnessed first hand the evils of over saucing a poorly cooked protein.  Hey, it happens. But the ultimate sin would be to undo the beautiful art of reductionism.

Here endith the lesson.

Targa Newfoundland: Racing Hurricanes

There is an island in the middle of the North Atlantic where hurricanes come to die.

This island, hewn from the rock of the Great Canadian Shield and comprised of 500 million year old stone is called Newfoundland Labrador.

When the Vikings settled in the northern tip of the province millennia ago, they knew living here would be tough. Even the mighty Vikings didn’t stay long.  Of the people who remained, some still make their fame and fortune and others lose their lives in the ocean that surrounds and protect our island.

Newfoundland is a destination island.  Like Hawaii or Fiji, you can’t accidentally arrive here. Plane or boat are your only option and if you come by boat prepare for a long drive.

What some call inhospitable and bleak, we call home and every fall a great motor event takes place on the public roads – Targa.

Targa Newfoundland

Targa Newfoundland is one of three internationally recognized Targa Motorsports events in the world. From their website at

“The annual rally will cover more than 1,600 kilometers of the challenging, twisty roads of the central and eastern portion of the island of Newfoundland, including over 440 kilometers of closed-road, flat-out Targa stages.”

This weekend is the start of the annual Targa.  Now in its 13th year, cars come from all over Canada, the US and from as far away as New Zealand to participate.  Over the years the race organizers have seen mismatched exotics (Lamborghini Gallardo, Ferrari 360),  old classics (1950 Austin Healy, 1969 BMW 2002), classic muscle cars (1969 Chevrolet Camero, 1970 Ford Mustang Fastback) and modern runabouts (Mini Cooper Clubman, Shelby GT 500). All manner of racing enthusiasts enjoy both the racing and the opportunity to meet and talk to the drivers and owners of these fine automobiles.

This year and on this weekend, we are expecting the arrival of Hurricane Henri to our south coast and will just pass by as the race begins on Sunday, September 13.

Ferrari Crash

In 2012 another hurricane barreled down upon Newfoundland on Targa weekend as it had done several years before that but this time it claimed at least one special competitor – a Ferrari – and by accounts one of the only ones to run in the competition’s history. The Ferrari in question was a “typical” Enzo (one of 400) which was converted into a special one of one FXX Evoluzione in 2012 for a special client in Calgary. In 2012 the car and the owner’s crash went viral as shown in this YouTube video.

This year competitors will drive their 1000 miles around our rugged coastline in three divisions.  Timed against the clock it is man versus machine versus weather in the annual Targa Newfoundland.

Targa Newfoundland runs from September 13-18, 2015 see for more details.

The untold truths about being a dad

Memes of this sort of thing pop up all over the interwebs.  For me, these are some of my personal observations. These are mainly directed towards men and new dads.


There are many untold truths to being a dad.

The first is that the smelliest and hairiest man in the quiet of his own home will not refuse the xth cup of tea from his daughter if asked. He will however deny it ever happened if asked.

That the first time your little one, walks across the room towards you reaches their arms out hugs and says “I love you Daddy” – nothing prepares you for that – it is life changing.

The untold truth to being a dad is that if you let yourself be taken away with the experience of being a dad – playing games, reading books, coloring in a book or as simple as just giving the little one a hug and a kiss every time they are near – it changes your life for the better.

The untold truth of being a dad is the fact that it changes you – it makes you a little more sympathetic the next time you are in a restaurant and a little one cries – for we all know it happens to all of us so you better get used to it. It makes us a little more prepared – as in there is no way that you are ever going to get out of the house in 15 minutes if the 16 things you need to pack including the kids are not ready to go laid out or already standing by.

The things that you aren’t told about are the things you are meant to discover on your own- it is almost a dad’s rite of passage – the secret handshake to show you were really there – here are a few things I learned going through the first child delivery and birth:

Your wife is stronger than you are, no joke – so labor for my wife was in the vicinity of 40 hours. That is like having the worst stomach ache followed by the pain of tearing flesh and then the feeling of a hard head being squeezed through an opening the size of your fist…yeah, and she endured the first 38 with no drugs..until there was no choice.

Plan like you are heading into battle

Pack the overnight bag like you are going on a mission in the middle of the woods not like you are heading for the 4 Seasons – face it you could be in hospital for two days like I was and have nothing. Or you could have packed like a real man and planned to have granola bars, some water maybe an energy drink and for the love of god – some really good chocolate for your wife. I mean splurge a little on some Belgian or imported chocolates – she will love you forever.

Be gentle with her – and I mean each and every time she screams, hits, punches or does not make the contact you need to get through the event – she is the one feeding off you – be the strong man you need to be – get the ice chips or a popsicle if asked. The docs will not let you do anything other than that until the baby is born then break out the chocolates (see 2). In some cool cities (like ours) you can even ask for a can of Beer. Yes, in fact they recommend Guinness for women after birth as it can replace lost iron from delivery. Some cities forego this as it can be risky if wifey is breastfeeding, but ask it might just be what you need.

Something’s need to be private so if you are a prolific twitterer or bookfacer, leave it alone and focus on the task at hand, namely your wife and yet to be born child. There will be lots of time to do that stuff when the baby is born. The nurses, doctors and staff need you focusing on the task at hand. Remember that YOU are going to have to make decisions for your wife/partner because she is too busy with labour. If a doctor asks you a question, like, does your wife have any problems with drugs or any medical conditions not listed, you better bring your “A” game. Two or more lives are in this now – so stop being selfish. Suck it up and focus. When it is all done – go wild.

Real men gown up and get in the room – NO Questions asked

Since my wife was not able to hold onto K once she was born, the team of nurses handed me the baby first. The thing about it was that until that very second the nurse said “hold her in the crook of your arm like a football.” that was the Very. First. Time. I had ever held a child. Was I nervous? In a word – terrified.

How did I get over it? I sang to her.

I sang to her for 20 minutes while my wife was receiving some treatment. I sang every lullaby, song, or nursery rhyme I could all the while gazing into the face of a wet, wrinkled baby. The room was full of people but it didn’t matter.  Don’t be afraid.  Sing to your new child, no one is there to judge you.

When the doctors were finished with my wife, I gingerly brought her over to her and asked we get our first family portrait. Save it. Print it. Cherish it.

You get out of it what you put into it

The real untold truth of being a dad is that you get out of it what you put into it. If you decide this is going to be  the singular transformational change in your life then embrace it with all the passion and vigor at your disposal and you will be rewarded with a child that adores and loves you and a warm feeling that you have, indeed, made the world a better place.

The One Shot:  Papa’s Pier 17

“Dpapa-s-pier-17on’t judge a book by its cover” is a pretty good adage to apply to the restaurant industry.  We see all sorts of gadgets and gizmos and doo-dahs to get the punters through the door.

Some work extremely well – like the mecca of molecular gastronomy in Chicago, Alinea.  Dine on smoke and foam and puffs of scent.  Dining becomes theatre as well as a destination of choice.

Others are kitschy at best and at worst it becomes a distraction. IPad as menu, dining in the dark or even rube Goldberg machines that serve your food  surely make it a fun time but it begs the question –  is the food any good?

Enter Papa’s Pier 17.

When I was a little boy – and this was not yesterday – it was THE destination after a concert. The Arts and Culture Centre is around the corner from Papa’s Rowan Street location. It used to be that very few restaurants were open late and when you have a carload of hungry musicians and kids – Papa’s Place (as it used to be called) was a special place to be.

I remember as a kid I could go in and be greeted as I came in through the door. It was always neat as a pin and the chairs (which I think are still used to this day) mimicked the twirly chairs we just left while sitting in the box seats of the ACC. I can’t comment on the menu as it used to be but when talking to my dad, he reckons that Papa’s was as authentic Greek as we were going to get in the city.

Fast forward nearly 30 years and things have changed a lot.

When you look in the windows of the restaurant on Rowan Street they are filled with mechanical toys, this season dressed as traditional mummers.  The animatronic figures turn their heads and twirl a bit. It is possibly the most entertaining part of the experience.

We had an early reservation as we have a small child.  This sort of planning ahead is not uncommon for people who like to go out to dinner.  Seated in the main dining room we were in the middle of the action with the waiter and waitresses scuttling about around us.

Ordering was a simple proposition as it was two pages, neat script upon plain white paper. My wife had a shrimp appetizer and Greek cod; my daughter had fettuccine and red sauce; I endured cod tongues and Greek version of beef burgundy.

To be blunt the food as a whole was not very good.

My cod tongues were well cooked but not seasoned or finished. My pilaf of rice looked, tasted and smelled like it was a box of instant rice and flavorings. Quite insipid. The Greek version of beef burgundy was under seasoned and claggy. The side Greek Salad was served with Italian dressing – a little cultural fusion going on?

I didn’t have a chance to try my wife’s shrimp but they seemed cooked well as did the cod so there were no problems there.  My father in law didn’t mention but seemed to have suffered heavily burnt bacon wrapped scallops. He liked his fish mains.

It was the pasta and red sauce that caused us the most grief.

My daughter is very young and at the age where she is a little more particular about her meal time. Her pasta and red sauce looked ugly, including the mass of melted cheese over the top of the lot. While eating it she continuously told us she didn’t like it but we encouraged her to have more and so, it is here that the review ends and my true feelings come out.

The meal that was served to my daughter made her sick. 3 hours after she ate at the restaurant she was sick from “both ends”.  Quite violently in fact.  We spent the entire night awake, tending to her, cleaning and sanitizing.  Never mind the loads of laundry the next day – 4 sets of bed sheets, pyjamas, towels, cloths…

The food she ate was either not fresh or improperly heated.  Here is the thing: of all our meals she was the only one to get sick. We all tried each other’s food (except hers) with no symptoms.  She was not sick beforehand but we have been suffering ever since.

My wife called the restaurant in the light of the next day, on my recommendation, as all I wanted to do was yell and be angry.

My dutiful wife called and with all her patience mainly wanted to inform the manager of the restaurant that an incident had occurred.  The restaurant’s response was along the lines of “ARE YOU SURE? HAVE YOU TAKEN YOUR KID TO THE DOCTOR? IS IT CONFIRMED?? NO ONE ELSE COMPLAINED.” Sympathy, I am afraid in the eyes of the management was to be found in the dictionary between shit and syphilis.

Sad state of affairs, but there it is.

So here are some tips to make it all better:

  1. Never step foot into Papa’s Pier 17 lest you get sick or verbally abused.
  2. Always adhere to #1

So I am afraid that Papa’s Pier 17 has spectacularly lost their One Shot.  Just adhere to my rules – that’s what we will be doing from now on.

The Veg Out: Day 1

There has been a lot of writing over the decades about what one should have as a Final Meal.  What would yours be?  Mine would be a slab of seared foie gras, gastrique  and a fine Sauternes; main would consist of haunch of venison with sauce chasseur duchesse potatoes,  turned vegetables and a 1945 Chateau Neuf de Pape; the fish course would consist of several pieces of toro and o-toro sashimi, served with iced sake; a selection of fine cheeses and ports to match and to finish a dram or three of cognac. Life would be very, very good at that point.

Which brings me with why I just wrote that.

See, I should be happy. This is Day 1 of The Veg Out, my experiment with my willing participants (my family) on a month of vegetarian eating. But somehow I feel conflicted.  My final meal of meat for a month was….not stellar, and I will write about it here in the days to come.  Needless to say the company seated at the table vastly outstripped the performance of the food. But enough of the bad.. on with the good!

I was skeptical at first as to what the food would bring and I am happy to say that The Lady knocked it out of the park!  She did it with the help of our favorite food friend du jour  Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.

HFW or Whittingstall, as The Wee One likes to call him, is English and a farm-to-table advocate.  His books and philosophy line up with what we feel would be ideal, if only we had access to the farms near him.  So we make do with what we have, what we can scavenge at the local mega-mart, and supplementing with our bounties from the Organic Food Cooperative we belong to as well as the harvest we grow at my parent’s home in the country.

The Lady took the first night opting for 2 dishes, both of which were poo-poo’d by The Wee One,  *sigh*.

HFW Carrots and Chickpeas

HFW Carrots and Chickpeas

The first was Seedy Spinach Salad. This was made with local organic spinach and lots of seeds: pumpkin, sesame, poppy and cumin.  It was lightly dressed with cold pressed olive oil, flaked Maldon sea salt and pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice.  Just summer-full and refreshing.

The other dish took us both by surprise how filling and wonderful vegetarian cooking could be. Spicy Chick Pea and Carrot Pita Pocket. This warm delight was served not in the aforementioned cardboard like pita pocket, but oven warmed naan breads.  As a wrap and topped with a thickened yogurt it was both filling and satisfying.

That is one of the things that we are finding with this adventure: how fantastically satiated we are after we eat just veg.

Was it a success?  It sure was. Day 1 of the Veg Out was a total success! It has even doubled our resolve to stick with this adventure for as long as we can.

We’re in it to enjoy it, and to share with you, readers, The Veg Out.

The Veg Out: A Miniseries

So, I have mentioned before on this blog something that I have been  toying with, and that is wanting to take a month and go vegetarian.  I understand for the hard core fans of eating this way, this is a bit of a cop-out as it is just 30 days and not much of a social commitment to eating less meat.  I think they are wrong –  here’s why.

We are a little family of 3 –  that is the Lady, the Wee One and I. We eat animal protein 6-7 days of the week, and as I have mentioned before we are doing better by incorporating at least one vegetarian meal in a week cycle, but sometimes, that gets lost in the business of life. So we end up pulling something meat based from the freezer and having our pound of flesh.

That means we are eating a minimum of one pound of animal protein per day –  that is 30 pounds in a month and more likely over 400 lbs a year! So if we can cut that for even one month we are going to do well the health benefits alone are going to be startling.

But, I am not going to lie to you Marge, this is going to be one epic test of personal self control. I have days when I crave animal protein –  absolutely crave it.  As in I could eat as much as I can cram into me in one day and not be satiated.  What will I do if I get the meat-shakes during my month of only veg?  How can I curb my cravings?

I have been told that the meat based cravings will go away –  but can I take it.?  Will I wake up in the middle of the night with the bacon sweats?

So in preparation we have been adding more vegetables into our repertoire and encouraging the Wee One to help choose the vegetables we use each night.

Tonight The Lady made for us all a pasta with a goat cheese sauce.  The vegetables as selected included peas, asparagus and french beans –  it was excellent and it has made the shortlist of things we are going to eat during the big Veg Out. But we are not ready to get there yet.  We have decided that the month of July is going to be our month and I have decided that it is going to make a great little miniseries of posts.  From the big pig out on the day before to the final repast, stay tuned for we are going for the big Veg Out!