Sunday, October 25, 2009

International Day of Climate Action in Moncton

Yesterday was the International Day of Climate Action. According to, the organisation behind what can only be described as a phenomenon, there were over 5200 demonstrations planned in over 150 countries! Wow! Really. That's quite a mobilisation of people who are demanding, peacefully, for delegates to the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December to take action so that we reduce CO2 part per million below 350. We are presently at about 390 parts per million.

In New Brunswick, most people live on the coast. With the advent of rising sea levels and more vicious weather, it is crucial that this province does something to do their part. I don't know if we can rely on our federal government; not only are they generally incompetent but they are, I believe, too detached from individuals. What we need is action on the municipal and provincial levels. If every municipality in Canada does it's part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it really doesn't matter what the federal government does beyond slapping the wrists of the big industrial polluters. For now, however, we're being led by a shark of a politician whose the BFF of Canada's big oil companies. Stephen Harper's an idiot politician who couldn't care less about the lives of Canadian citizens. He represents the corporate pockets of Canada. Hopefully his time will be over soon.

On a different front, I think it's terribly important that people participate in any social efforts for environmental initiatives or other. It's like voting; you might not be able to see the immediate impact of your vote (ex: your candidate loses) but the actual act of being an active citizen and of encouraging others to be active as well means that there is a body of people demanding change towards a better world. Look at yesterday's activities for example. We were maybe 30 in Moncton which may seem meanial and irrelevant. But if there were only 30 people in each of the 5200 demonstrations which happened all over the world that's a minimum of 156 000 people. And ours was not nearly the largest gathering. If world leaders ignore these pleas the only result is that there will be disgruntled citizens and from there you're only asking for the radicals to gain a foothold. Plus, it's just idiotic to ignore the implications of climate change. Freak weather patterns. Millions of environmental refugees. Destruction of biodiversity. Desertification. Mass coastal flooding. These are only a few and are already all underway.

So action needs to be taken on climate change. Only by being active citizens can we ever hope that anything will ever be done to save this planet.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who came out yesterday! It was great!

Jamie's Warm salad of crispy smoked bacon and Jerusalem artichokes

The modern palate, it has been said, has been kept from bitterness. We love sweet, salty and at times sour. But that fourth part of our tongue is too often neglected. Except for really hopped up beer.

This recipe comes from Cook With Jamie. Once again, the recipes from this book are simple perfection. You can't mess up a Jamie Oliver recipe unless you're incompetent in the kitchen.

The crown jewel of this particular dish, for me, is that the Jerusalem artichokes come from my own garden. I hadn't tasted them yet since I don't often eat potatoes and what I heard about JAs is that you should treat them like potatoes. Maybe so, but they are very different. This recipe called for the JAs to be boiled. Their texture is softer than potatoes; more like rutabaga in that regard. Their taste is delicate, slightly sweet. Kept warm, they went perfectly with the radicchio, Boston lettuce, parsley, cooked smoky bacon from the market and fresh red onions. The vinaigrette is simple: olive oil and balsamic vinegar. I put the vinaigrette in with the bacon and onions, tossed in the JAs, warmed, tossed with the lettuces and served.

Topped with thin slices of parmesan, this was really a delicious salad. We ate it as a meal in itself which can get a bit much if you're not used to the bitterness of radicchio and the richness of the JAs. But it really is a gorgeous salad. Who knew warm salads could be so pleasurable?!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Culinary Paradise at L'Idylle

At the farmer's market every Saturday I cross Emmanuel Charretier, the owner and chef at L'Idylle. We visit the same merchants. We buy many of the same products. However, after going through the culinary experience that Emmanuel and his kind wife provided us with, I will no longer be able to look at the market in the same light.

My girlfriend and I decided that we would treat ourselves and go for the full Idylle experience; the dégustation menu with wine pairing. Now it's true that unless you've got heavy pockets, this is only something you can permit yourself on a yearly basis. But is it ever worth it!

The meal started off with a mise en bouche which consisted of a soft mousse of red pepper with a delicious little bit of lobster on top. This was paired with a light rosé which, we were told, would remind you of southern France.

The second course, was a marinated sole filet, crunchy on one side and slightly raw on the other. Along with this were pearls of raspberry vinegar, carrot oil, and a lemon gelé. The textures were perfect and the tastes were subtle but exquisite. A white wine complimented the dish beautifully.

What came next was truly a fall dish. Once again paired with a white wine, we were served pan cooked oysters from Shippagan with hazelnut oil and Jerusalem artichoke cream. The oysters were perfectly cooked and the little layer of nutty hazelnut oil which surrounded them was excellent with the rich but not too rich Jerusalem artichoke cream.

Next came one of my favourite dishes of the meal. Homemade ravioli stuffed with buffalo marrow and foie gras sitting on top of wild chanterelles mushrooms. The stuffing was absolutely exquisite. And it goes without saying that the chanterelles were the pure embodiement of autumn. For some reason, I can't remember the wine for this particular dish.

The next dish was truly beautiful for me because of its Pino Noir pairing. The wine smelled lightly of butterscotch but was a clean drinking. The aroma complimented beautifully the sesame crusted scallop which sat on top of a green tomato marmalade which bathed in some sort of sweet sauce underneath a green foam. This really struck it home that wine and food were meant for one another. I'd never experienced that before.

Main courses finished with a rich dish of veal sweetbread on risotto along with a drizzling of an orange reduction. Sangre de Toro, a full bodied red, was the accompanying wine. Now I love offal. My girlfriend, not so much. Especially after I'd asked our waitress where the sweetbread was sittuated. She also gave us the medical name: thyroid gland. This didn't turn me off. It was a wonderfully rich dish. And I also got to finish my girlfriend's sweetbread. Bonus.

After main courses came the end of the wine but the arrival of coffee. The trend I seem to be noticing is that more and more places offer you an allongé instead of percolated coffee nowadays. The coffee came along with the cheese dish. This was a simple chèvre brie from Au Fond des Bois on top of homemade apple compote served with a nut bread crouton. Simple and delicious.

After the cheese course came the fruit course. I don't know what I was expecting but it surely wasn't as ornate as what we were presented with. At one end of the square plate was a ground cherry followed by a homemade vanilla icecream dollop in the middle of the plate and concluding with a small cripy tower sitting on top of more ground cherries and stuffed with a light maple cream. Under all of this was an orange flavoured syrup and a crispy wafer sat on top. Gorgeous.

The last item before the end was the chocolate course. At the bottom of the plate was my favourite thing; chocolate sauce flavoured with szechuan pepper. This, for me, almost managed to outshine the mini eclair and the chocolate ring which was filled with yet another bit of cream.

The meal ended with a mignardise. We weren't told what this was since it was apparently a surprise. What it ended up being was candied rhubarb under a rhubard mousse. This was a great pallate cleanser. Unfortunately, it signalled the end of what was undoubtabley the greatest meal I've ever had.

Emmanuel then came out to chat with us. It's absolutely fantastic to be able to appreciate him in his element. We chatted informally but I was in awe of this man's talent and of his wife's wine pairings. They take everyday items that everyone has access to and transform them into something celebratory.

If you're in the Moncton area, it would be a sin not to save your pennies and visit L'Idylle. It's an experience you're never likely to forget.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Materialism in Generation Y

Apparently, I'm part of Generation Y. Whatever that means, I don't know. What I do believe though is that there is a shift in the attitudes of our predecessors. Let me elaborate.

My grandparents, the Boomers, had nothing. They were poor and worked very very hard to have a nice comfortable life. Their offspring, the so-called Generation X, started from this comfortable life and wanted everything. Not only did they want it all and more, like some perverted version of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, but they wanted it all by the time they were 21. Unreasonable? Quite. Barely possessing their grade 12, they wanted a family, two kids, a large house, two vehicles, a boat, two snowmobiles (in my neck of the woods at least), to be able to travel at will, and have a constant stream of high income pouring in at all times. Some achieved this. However, most of this generation have gone through divorces, have lost everything at some point, and work like their lives depend upon it.

Now you have my generation. They aptly named Ys. (Please be advised that the following are vast generalisations that may not be based on reality.) We are weary of embarking in relationships and having children unless we can have some sort of certainty that it'll work. We don't like to overwork ourselves; prefering to sacrifice certain material pleasures for more time to ourselves. We are aware of the fact that one cannot have everything at the tender age of 25 and that those things which our parents wanted are not necessarily desirable. We want to travel the world but not for the bragging rights of having the financial capacity to do so. It's about the experience. Maybe I can resume by saying that we're must more concerned about the experiences, the details of life and not it's decor.

Why should we work overtime for granite countertops?
Why should we bring children into this world which we cannot support emotionally?
Why isn't happiness enough of a goal?

What's the rush?