A Love Letter for Newfoundland

I hear an island of choristers singing “we coulda told ya, b’y.” Moving from Western Newfoundland to Kingston, Ontario 16 months ago, and I, well, have some perspective on travel and place: I miss Newfoundland.

Now, before we get all weepy here and break into song about the glories of Terre Neuve, I feel like the less-sentimental, and more pragmatic side of me has something to say: namely, that there are certain things I do not miss: hurricane season, losing power for days on end and the lonely isolation of winter being the top three. I think we can all agree on those.

I do, however, miss the beautiful autumn of the Humber Valley.

I miss the small but honest farmer’s market, where you can find jam, Newfoundland honey, and the season’s best vegetables at honest and fair prices.

I miss the landscape. The sea, the rough hills. I also miss hikes and walks followed by Jiggs dinner.

Well, I miss the idea of Jiggs dinner. I don’t actually miss cabbage hash and pease pudding — let’s be honest.

I miss having the time to run on Corner Brook’s steam trail. Even though my mind doesn’t miss all the hills and stairs, my body definitely misses the range of running terrain.

I miss the lovely ladies who work at the library. I miss their weekly phone calls to let me know a new book came in, or the latest issue of Food & Wine arrived. I miss the view from the stacks.

And I miss the architecture: Salt-box style houses, bright colors, and well-built designs with cozy nooks to read, write and hunker down (during hurricane season and snow-storms, of course).

But most of all, I miss the adventure in cooking. Perhaps it’s autumn, when the weather cools down long enough to turn on the oven and prepare a roast, perhaps it’s that delight of coming across a new menu with local ingredients, or perhaps it’s knowing just how difficult it is to find certain items elsewhere…like moose.

On the island, and in Corner Brook in particular, sometimes you just have to try harder to find the missing ingredient to make the meal you crave. It’s not about going out for dinner at that special new place in town — it’s about making your own place — and meals — special. Corner Brookers do that really well.

And there is something equally special about living within limits. It, ironically, expands you. It makes you more creative, more innovative. And, of course, grateful.

So, for any Corner Brookers out there who somehow come across this love letter for Newfoundland, or if you’re an ex-pat who misses home once in a while, I say this: enjoy where you are and what it has to offer. And know that one lowly Newfoundland visitor understands — and misses — how incomparable Corner Brook really is.

(Would you like to see a little of what I’ve been up to lately? Visit me at my new home, here, and feel free to drop me a line to say hi)

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Tap Tap Tap…

…is this thing still on?

Yes, it’s been a week, and while I’ve missed sharing my favorite meals, wine, and Corner Brook surprises, I’ve also been busy distracting myself with shelves of surprises elsewhere:

And eating some gourmet food on the go:

(Yes that is a deli sandwich, and no it’s not being eaten on an airplane)

And taking the time to smell the flowers:

Taking in a bit of art and architecture:

And shopping for some gourmet chocolate:

Oh yeah, and while I was away I was also hired for a job that will ostensibly liberate me from being Cornered in Corner Brook.

And that required a little celebration

Until that day, however, I want to use these pages to thank the Corner Brookers who have made Corner Brook (and the 4th city I’ve lived in in the last 4 years) a habitable and hospitable home.

So stay tuned…


Found Hiding in the Corner

Grenfell Campus’ Ferris Hoddgett Library is full of surprises. Usually those suprises are found in books. Except today, people. Did you know you can get little reusable tote bags at the circulation desk? For only $2?

Inside the little ball of green you see above is a tote sturdy enough to carry 2 hardcovers, 1 bottle of wine, and your daily recommended servings of Fruits & Veggies. When you’re not cramming for finals or grocery shopping, the bag stuffs into a neat 4-inch ball that you can keep on hand. Now, when you discover your own exciting treasures around Corner Brook (I’m thinking Farmer’s Market) you’re tote-ally ready.


To Go!

DISCLAIMER: What follows is a rant, that, while very much applicable to Corner Brookers, may be construed as a digression from the task at hand –namely, food. Please scroll down for less volatile, and more savory, content.

Folks, I don’t know about you, but I feel especially cornered in Corner Brook when I try to book flights with Air Canada outta here. Sadly, West Jet, with all their seat-sales, teal uniforms and in-flight goofiness, only flies in and out of the Deer Lake Airport from mid-May to October, leaving most Corner Brookers with the only other option of Air Canada (and Provincial Airlines if you’re flying locally and their seats haven’t already sold out).

Naturally, Air Canada charges premium rates for their flights because of this market share, and lately they seem to charge for a whole lotta other stuff too (a 2nd checked bag, meals, seat-selection, even Aeroplan points for some reservations).

With all the aggravation it takes to get off this island, I like to travel as unencumbered as possible. And I also like the option of eating something on a 6:15 a.m. flight without having to pay $15 for a questionable, 3-day old sandwich.

That is why I created the perfect travel companion: Empanadas. They are compact, easy to carry, and they keep well (my fellow polite passengers out there will heave a sigh of relief when I tell you that these empanadas are also inoffensive, so you don’t have to worry about smelling like the guy with the pastrami sandwich in row 20).

They’re also simple to make, so no hassle at home before your flight. Simply bring to a boil:

1 1/2 cup of water

2 Tablespoons of Unsalted butter

A pinch of Smoked Paprika

Pour the liquid into a bowl and let it cool, then add 3 1/2 cups of All-Purpose or Whole Wheat flour. Using a wooden spoon, work the mixture into a ball, then turn it onto a floured surface and knead it for about 2 minutes. Return the ball to the bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour or over night.

Then it comes time to use your imagination. My favorite way to fill empanadas is, while not exactly traditional, delectably vegetarian. I sauté shallots in a little olive oil, add mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms brown and soften. After removing the mushrooms from the heat, I stir in some goat cheese, and sprinkle the mixture with thyme and salt & pepper.

Next, it’s time to roll out the pastry and cut it into circles using a biscuit cutter (or large mug, in my limited kitchen).

Drop one tablespoon of filling onto each circle, wet the perimeter of the pastry with a few dabs of water, and fold the circle over to make a half-moon shape, pinching the edges as you go. Brush with a bit of egg for a glossy finish.

Bake the empanadas at 350° for 1/2 hour, or until golden.

The sky is truly the limit when it comes to filling the empanadas. Just remember to steer clear of potential flight faux-pas: avoid smelly deli meats and cheeses, and  forgo liquid fillings (like pizza sauce or chili) that have the potential for a mess no one wants to experience at high altitudes.

And while I cannot guarantee you’ll have a hassle free flight, you’ll be able to comfort yourself with comfort food, even at 30, 000 feet. Bon Vogyage!


Speckled Eggs

I don’t love Easter candy. I can’t stand jelly-beans or those hollow so-called “chocolate” rabbits, and the look of Cadbury Creme eggs is enough to make me gag. But I do love the idea of springtime baked goods like hot-cross buns, Ukrainian/Mennonite paska, and Italian Ciambellone. Oh yeah, and I also love cupcakes. So, on Thursday, inspired by these cupcakes, these gussied-up pound cakes, and armed with the world’s greatest yogurt cake recipe, I decided I couldn’t make it through the weekend without my own confections. The result? Let’s just say the Easter Bunny couldn’t do much better himself:

Happy  Feaster!


Easter Feaster

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Corner Brookers it’s that family comes first. This is especially true when holidays roll around: businesses and shops close early, traffic slows down (except at supermarkets) and families take to the stream trail together to feed the swans after feeding themselves at home.

Stream Trail Swan - Image Courtesy of Tom Cochrane via Flickr

Seeing families enjoy their holidays together always makes me miss my own scattered family and the delicious (although sometimes outrageous) food we eat.

Not being one to feel cornered in, I draw upon my own time-honored and festive recipe that makes me feel like I’m still the life of the party — after all, if I can’t be at home at least I can eat well. So, I begin the festivities with some sparkle:

When the bubbly’s poured, I prepare a delicious Lamb with White Wine and Mascarpone.

First, I cook 4 slices of prosciutto in a frying pan until crisp. Then, in the same pan, I sear 4 lamb loin chops (boneless lamb steaks are ideal; unfortunately, they’re also hard to find).

When the lamb chops are browned and cooked as desired, I transfer them to the oven to keep warm (I keep the oven at around 200°F so the chops don’t continue to cook and toughen).

I add 1 clove of crushed garlic to the pan and stir until a garlicky aroma fills the room. Next, I add 3/4 cup dry white wine and de-glaze the pan (scrape up the brown bits and garlic), bring the mixture to a boil, and then simmer until the wine reduces by half. Then I add 1/2 cup of mascarpone and 1/4 cup cream and stir constantly over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens.

Suddenly (and always to my surprise), my delicious meal for two is ready (seriously, it takes 25 minutes). To serve, I arrange two lamb chops on a plate and top each with 1 piece of crispy prosciutto. I drizzle the mascarpone sauce on top, and sprinkle the lot with a fresh thyme or tarragon.

And served with a ballsy Chardonnay like this:

My holiday meal for two is complete.

If ever I’m lucky enough to have a couple of family member drop by (hint, hint), I know this meal can double, triple or quadruple with equal ease and success,  leaving me with loads of time to share with the family.

What’s your favorite holiday meal?


Wine on Wednesday

Is there anything better than getting together with friends, dining like kings, and sharing an evening of laughs? There is: getting together with friends, dining like kings, sharing an evening of laughs, AND discovering a new wine. Like this one:

A good wine like this Mark West 2009 Pinot Noir is only improved when shared with friends. And I recently had the honor of trying this wine in the company of some of the most hospitable Corner Brookers I’ve encountered.

We ate the first BBQ of the season, enjoyed some spring asparagus on the side, finished the meal with home-made pie, and shared jokes and tales while sipping this lovely red late into the night. It’s fruity notes, its hints of plum and thyme, and its blueberry-and-pepper finish paired well with hearty steak and veggies, and the wine continued to surprise us with its versatile, cherry flavors long after the meal was over.

And now, when I pick up my own bottle to enjoy at home, I am once again carried away by floral notes and stone fruit, back to that night of good laughs, endless stories, and a night of genuine Newfoundland hospitality.

What wines do you associate with friends and merriment?