Monday, February 26, 2007

Bogart's Restaurant Review

When your dinner companion asks you at the end of the evening "was that really worth $125?", you have to question your restaurant selection. For years now we have had a "like" versus "not so crazy about it" relationship with Bogart's. I used to live close by so it was great fun to stroll over for a good bloody caesar and a nice appetizer. They used to make a great hummus back in the days before Tim made his own. Then they changed the menu. Tim was so disappointed at the time that we stopped going.

Every once in a while we give Bogart's another try. They have a solid menu of fine dining classics. Veal Osso Bucco, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Rack of Lamb, Roast Duck, etc. Last week we tried it again. They always make a fuss about having reservations. In the city of Moncton a reservation on a weeknight for 2 people is rarely needed unless you are going to the Windjammer or Pastelli's. Few other restaurants are that busy during the week. I called ahead. This time they had lost our reservation in the 30 minutes that elapsed between the time we called and the time we showed up there. They were still able to seat us given that the restaurant was only about 20% full.

We were served drinks fairly quickly which as you all know is one of my pet peeves. Don't leave me sitting there without a cocktail! I can eat at home and have a cocktail in my hand in a timely manner! The bloody caesar was okay but not one of the better ones I have had. Tim ordered a brandy and the waitress had to bring out the whole selection for him to pick one because she knew nothing about brandy. Okay, I could let that slide.

Tim ordered the fish chowder as a starter and I ordered the roasted duck salad. We never got our bread until we already had our appetizers on the table. And we had to move our own bread plates out of the way for the waitress to put our appetizers down. These are little things but when you are paying fine dining prices, you should expect fine dining service. She kept saying how I was the first one who had ever ordered a duck salad in the 6 months since she had been there. That should have been a sign.... I now know why no one orders it. It was mostly salad with a little duck that was basically tasteless. The greens were nice and there were lots of them. The dressing was lovely too. But there was really no need for the duck. Except that it was called a "duck" salad. And for $12.99, I wanted to taste some good duck! I was a little disappointed. Tim's chowder, on the other hand, was fantastic. Full of flavour and rich. It even had corn in it which Tim does not like but he thoroughly enjoyed it anyway.

For our main courses, Tim ordered the Chicken Aphrodite. It was an interesting dish of chicken stuffed with walnuts and cooking in phyllo pastry. It had a sweetness about it. It was interesting but Tim was full after the chowder so he was a little disappointed that he couldn't enjoy his main dish more. This is why sometimes we just go out for appetizers or don't bother ordered them if we are being sensible.

I had fillet of sole stuffed with shrimp and crab. It tasted just like the ones you can get at the Costco. Isn't that a terrible thing to say?! But I've had the ones from the freezer at the Costco and they are pretty darn good. Now we should point out here that the kitchen at Bogart's is open for all to see so I'm pretty sure they aren't whipping out boxes from the Costco. The fillet was served on a bed of creamed leeks and spinach which was divine. I also had the rosemary mashed potatoes which were lovely.

We shared a bottle of Germany Pieroth Riesling, had cocktails to start but no dessert. So was the meal worth $125. For us I'd have to so no. I can do most of the dishes at home but I am The Gourmet Goddess. For most folks looking for the fine dining standards, this is a good place to go and it's not too fussy so you won't feel embarrassed if you don't know which fork to use.

If you have a different view or something to say, leave a comment. We all work hard for our entertainment dollar so let's share our experiences!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Braised Dinners - Quick and Easy

I love winter but even I feel like it's dragging on at this point. Here is a meal I like to make to help me cope with those cold nights. Braising doesn't take a lot of effort and is a great way to make an inexpensive and perhaps not so tender piece of meat melt in your mouth. The smells of the dish simmering away in the oven will fill your whole house with warmth.

For this recipe I'm going to show you how to braise chicken legs but you could use beef, pork, lamb or turkey. You do want something on the bone as this will help flavour the dish. I cut off any visible fat or skin to help lower the fat content.

Braising consists of 3 simple steps - 1. Brown 2. Add everything to the pot 3. Simmer.

First we brown our meat. Use a 1-2 Tbsp of oil. Heat it in an oven safe frying pan with straight sides and a lid like I have here or use a dutch oven (biggest pot out of your set with 2 handles). If you don't have either then do all you work on the stove in a pan and transfer everything to a round casserole dish before you put it in the oven. You must have a properly fitting lid - this is a must! Heat the oil to medium high. Brown your meat on both sides, about 5 minutes each. Remove them from the pan and put them on a plate to add back in later.

Next brown your aromatics - onion, celery, carrots, garlic, ginger, whatever you want. I used onion and carrots in this dish.
Once they are brown add in your liquid, herbs and flavorings. I used a small can of diced tomatoes, 1 cup of red wine, 2 cloves of garlic, chopped rosemary and a smidge of anchovy paste. Stir it all to blend well and scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. You should still have the pot on the stove so it should all start to simmer together. Add back in your chicken.
Now you are ready to go to the oven. Preheat your oven to 350. Cover your dish and cook it for 40 -50 minutes until the meat is falling off the bone. That's it! That's dinner. You can serve this over rice, pasta, couscous, potatoes, whatever you feel like. Make your own combinations. Just Brown, Mix it all together and Simmer. That's braising!

The nice part about this dish is that it is truly elegant enough for company and you can have it in the oven before dinner guests arrive. But it is also quick and easy enough for a week night. You could even brown everything the night before and even have it all mixed together in a container in your fridge, just put it in a oven safe pot or casserole when you get home, cover it and pop it in the oven. You will have to cook it a little longer to allow time for the food to warm up from fridge temperature. I'd add 10 minutes to the cooking time.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Perfect Weekend Indian Chili

Why does chili have to be Tex-Mex inspired? If you have a crock pot and some ground meat, you can make all sorts of variations of chili. This one is easy to assemble and if you don’t want to wait all day for it to cook, put it in a big pot on the stove and it will cook in about an hour. Remember though, all chilies – no matter what the variety – taste better after they have sat a while. So think about making this a day or 2 before you want to eat it.

I used all frozen veggies in this. During the winter months I find frozen veggies tastier. And it is definitely more convenient!

Serves 8

• 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
• 1 onion, chopped
• 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped fine
• 2 tsp or 2 cloves of minced garlic
• 1 lb, 454 g ground lamb, extra lean beef or buffalo
• 540ml can of chickpeas
• 14 oz./398ml can of tomato sauce, no salt added
• 1 cup low sodium beef broth
• 2 Tbsp Curry Powder
• ½ Tbsp 13 Spice Curry Blend or ½ tsp each – cumin, coriander, chili powder and turmeric
• 4 cups frozen cauliflower
• 2 cups frozen diced turnip or one small fresh turnip, diced small
• 2 cups frozen peas
• 1 cup fat free yogurt


1. Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat

2. Sauté the onion and ginger until softened, about 3 minutes

3. Add in the garlic and cook one more minute. Empty the pan into the crock pot

4. Return the pan to the stove. Brown the ground meat. If using lamb, drain it and rinse under hot water to remove the excess fat. Add it into the crock pot.

5. Add the next 7 ingredients to the crock pot (from the chickpeas through to turnip)

6. Cook for 4 -6 hours on high or up to 8 hours on low

7. Right before serving, stir in the peas.

8. Put a dollop of yogurt on each bowlful before serving.

9. Enjoy!

This dish freezes beautifully. If you want to lower the fat content then go with the extra lean beef or buffalo. You may need more broth if you are using fresh veggies or are cooking this on the stove. Just be sure this is enough liquid to cover the other ingredients.

Serve with mashed potatoes or basmati rice, white or brown.

Nutritional Information Main Servings with Ground Lamb: 323 Calories, 14g Fat, 5g Saturated Fat, 0g Trans Fat, 37 mg Cholesterol, 400mg Sodium, 8g Fiber, 32g Carbohydrates

We ate in?! The Signature Fish Dish, Roasted Veggies and Smashed Potatoes

Last night we had a meal that was elegant enough to be from a restaurant yet simple and quick enough to put on the table after a long week. And most of it came out of my freezer! The meal consisted of my signature wrapped haddock, roasted brussel sprouts (other veggies work well here if you don't like brussel sprouts - but why not? what did a brussel sprout ever do to you?!) and smashed crispy potatoes.

First we start with the potatoes. These are fresh, not frozen. You need to give them a wash then boil or microwave them until soft. Not quite ready to eat soft but soft enough so you can poke them with a fork and then smash them down. Use a dish towel and place the potato inside. Now use the palm of your hand to squish the potato down to about 1/2 inch thick. Put the smashed potatoes on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil and then a layer of parchment paper if you have it. Sprinkle on Olive Oil and salt or salt substitute. They get cooked in a 425 oven for 30 minutes.

Next we prepared the brussel sprouts. I used frozen brussel sprouts - much easier. Just toss them with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a little pinch of salt or salt substitute. The can cook in the same oven as the potatoes during the last 15 minutes. You could also use frozen asparagus but it will only take 5 minutes in the oven.

Now on to the fish. The fish cooks at 350 for 15 minutes or so. The rule is 10 minutes per inch of thickness of the fish. All I do is smear some Laughing Cow light cheese on the top. If you don't have this then use light cream cheese. Want to shake it up some - use a flavoured light cream cheese like herb and garlic or vegetable! You only need about a Tablespoon per fillet. Lay a slice of prosciutto on top of each fillet. That's it. Put it in the oven. I have a toaster oven so I used it to cook the fish while the potatoes and brussel sprouts were in the big hotter oven. Once the fish was done I topped it with some shredded parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh basil which I had on hand. It's optional.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Valentine's Day Dinner- Creme Brulee

Last night we stayed in for Valentine's Day. As my rant from yesterday states - we went out the night before Valentine's Day for dinner. But just because we weren't going out doesn't mean we weren't planning a nice evening in. Oh contrare. I had a great menu planned. Raw Oysters on the half shell, Rack of Lamb Persille on my signature creamy spinach and for dessert, Creme Brulee. We love Creme Brulee and I figured as an experienced cook, I should be able to handle making it myself. Honestly, I was pretty worried that I'd screw it up.

First off I had to shuck the oysters. I had picked up an oyster knife a while ago because the very first year Tim and I shared Valentine's day I had made oysters and didn't have a proper knife to open them with. So this year I was all set. It isn't that terribly hard. The box of oysters didn't look pretty but only one out of the 14 I shucked was bad. It was easy to tell it was bad because I could smell it before I even got the shell fully open. What a stink! One of the serious advantages of having oysters out in a restaurant - you don't have to deal with the bad oysters. It can ruin your appetite. But we persevered and it was worth it. We had them with a little cocktail sauce and they were great. We also had a bottle of Italian Champagne - Prosecco with it. Oh my god, it was perfect. If you haven't tried this sparkling wine I highly recommend it. Smoooooth

Next we had our rack of lamb. I just drizzled it with lemon juice and rubbed chopped rosemary and bread crumbs on it. I cooked it at 400 for 15 minutes and then reduced the temp to 325 for another 10 minutes. We like it rare but you could cook it longer. I made my signature spinach dish to go with it (I'll enter that recipe as a separate blog entry). We had a nice Shiraz with it.

For dessert we had creme brulee, my first attempt at making it even though I've had all the necessary tools for a couple of years now. You must have a small kitchen torch to make this properly. Although a long lighter may work. It was really easy to do! The ingredients are simple

For 2 Creme Brulee

Just under 1 cup of whipping cream

2 egg yolks

2 Tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract, the real stuff, not the imitation stuff

Rock sugar or regular to sprinkle on the top.

Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until it starts to simmer. I added in the vanilla with the cream.

Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks and cream in a medium bowl.

Once the cream starts to simmer, take it off the stove and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Add a small amount of the cream to the egg yolk mixture, whisking quickly. This is called tempering the eggs. You are trying to bring them up to temperature without scrambling them. It's really easy.

I then added a little more cream into the eggs a second time just to be sure I wasn't going to scramble them before I added all the cream. Then I added all the cream. All the while whisking away. But try not to whisk in bubble or you'll end up with a bubbly top on your custards (which is what the creme brulees are, a custard)

Pour the mixture into small au gratin dishes for each serving.

Boil a kettle of water. You will put the dishes in a bigger baking dish and then pour the water in the bigger baking dish to a depth of 2/3 up the side of the littler dishes with the creme brulee in it. I put the whole thing on the oven rack before I pour in the water.

Bake at 300 for 40 - 50 minutes until the custard is firm. Take it out and let it fully cool. We put ours out in the snow after it had come to room temp.

Sprinkle with sugar and light your torch! The most sober person should do this job. I put ours on a tea towel to protect the countertop. You heat the sugar until it is golden brown and you have a nice crust.

I forgot to get a picture until I had half eaten mine. It was delish!! We finished it off with a nice glass of port. What a lovely evening.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


I thought I had already written about the move Maverick's has made but I can't seem to find it in the archives which is fine since we went again last night and I have more to say.

For those of you who don't know yet, Maverick's has moved from it's downtown location to the Future Inn on Mapleton Road. I was concerned that it would have lost it's charm. It's different for sure. But is some ways it was a good change. There is more seating which was why when we decided to drop in for dinner last night we didn't worry about having a reservation. Tuesday night before Valentine's day didn't seem like a big dinner out kind of night. We ended up waiting a good 20 minutes for a table. However, this was not because they were full by any stretch of the imagination. They tried to put us at a table along the wall where everyone is lined up but I don't like those seats. There is no privacy and since Tim was in the mood to complain about work, I figured privacy was best. They have booths and nice tables in 2 rooms in the back. We could have a better table but we'd have to wait. It seemed the hostess was seriously overwhelmed. I didn't recognize her so I assumed she was new.

She finally seated us amongst many empty tables...and without a wine menu! Number one rule of fine dining - never let your customers sit for more than 5 minutes without someone taking their drink order. Hard to do when we weren't even given a menu to choose from. We waited for about 10 minutes when someone came over and asked if we had been looked after. Apparently the server who approached our table had been told we had been when in fact, we had not. I was not impressed. She did not get us a wine menu or take our drink orders but told us she would send someone over. Unacceptable. When our server finally came over I was losing my patience. When I go out to dinner I want a glass of wine in my hand immediately! This server took our food order and then brought us a wine menu. Okay, that order is wrong but at least there was a sign of hope that we'd get something tonight.

Now here is the clincher. We got our appetizers before we got our drinks! I'm a huge fan of wine and food pairing. I had ordered a pinot grigio to go with our calamari and all I had was water to drink with it. When the server finally showed up with my wine I asked if they were seriously understaffed tonight. She told me no! Now I should mention that one of the chefs was out on the floor serving food. That was definitely a sign that they were understaffed. And I can appreciate that sometimes life happens. But if they weren't understaffed then they had to be seriously incompetent. Maverick's, as one of the better places to eat in town, should also have excellent service. And for years they have had excellent service. Which left me wondering if the move from fine dining establishment to hotel restaurant hadn't hit them in the service department. I have a hard time with poor service when I eat out. Remember, I can make most of these meals at home so when I go out it's for the luxury of having someone else provide the experience for me.

The meal itself was good as expected. On our way out the hostess mentioned that they were short staffed. Apparently she had been there since 6 AM! Okay so that explains why she didn't seem on the ball. It was sheer exhaustion! Why our server denied this, I do not know. I would have appreciated her situation much more and not made the assumption that they had a bunch of incompetent people working if she had just shared the truth with us.

Moral of the story may be to wait until Valentine's day to go out for dinner. The hostess told us they were fully staffed for Valentine's day and they were fully booked. The jury is still out about this move Maverick's has made. Some of it's charm is definitely gone and it seems some of it's more experienced staff is too although I think, due to the longer hours the restaurant is now open to accommodate the hotel guests, that they are spread out more during the day. They do need to work on things a bit. I overheard someone say last night that there is a Keg restaurant going in a new building downtown. That will be serious competition for the steak crowd here in Moncton.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Mexican Lasagna out of Leftovers

I took my Super Bowl Chili (which had been frozen) and made it into a Mexican Lasagna yesterday. It is really simple to do this. You only need a couple of ingredients. You can make it up and freeze it for another time. And you all know how I feel about freezing meals! It's just a great idea!!

If you don't have leftover chili, don't worry. You don't have to take the time to make some... Buy it in the can or even better yet, go through the drive through at Wendy's and order 2. Wendy's chili tastes great and is on their $1.99 menu if I'm not mistaken. It'll be the perfect substitute for the homemade leftover stuff.
This serves 4 in a square pan like the picture above.
2-3 cups of leftover chili
5 tortillas
1/2 jar of salsa
1/2 cup of corn, frozen works best.
Cheddar or tex mex cheese blend. I used some of each and I got the light cheddar.
Layer a bit of the chili in the bottom of the pan, just enough to cover the bottom. Cut to fit a layer of tortillas. Then put in the rest of the chili on top. And top with some grated cheese.
Cut to fit another layer of tortillas.
Top with the salsa and corn and some more grated cheese.
Cut to fit another layer of tortillas
Top with cheese and fresh cilantro if you want or sprinkle with some chili powder.
I used a Spanish Cheese, Queso Manchero because I had found some at the grocery store. Try any "queso" cheese if you can find it.
Oh, and by the way, this meal is low fat and nice and healthy! You can assemble it and freeze it. And you can freeze any leftovers after you cook it.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Spinach Salad - It's not just for Popeye!

Spinach salad doesn't have to be boring. Here is a simple way to stretch your creative juices without spending the whole night making dinner. For this variation on spinach salad I used toasted walnuts (yup, I toasted them for about 5 minutes on a baking sheet at 350.), dried cranberries and crumbled blue cheese.

I made a dressing out of the following:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
and with the toasted walnuts I also roasted a small shallot. If you don't have a shallot, finely slice some red onion and roast it. Or if you have neither, add a sprinkle of onion powder!
Whisk it all together and that's it!

Now isn't that a healthy looking meal! I roasted both white and sweet potatoes in the oven for 30 minutes at 350. I had some pork pieces with I just rubbed with a salt free herb mixture and sauteed in a pan. Excellent!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Quick and Easy Spaghetti Squash

(I don't reheat in these margarine containers, I just store in them and reheat in microwave approved dishes)

I've preached about the virtues of spaghetti squash before. It's cheap, tasty and a nutritious replacement for regular spaghetti. Just cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds and place it cut side down on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. You can then use a fork to scrap out the spaghetti like strands. An average size squash will feed 4.
Here is a super quick way to serve spaghetti squash. We do it as the main meal but if you have a meat obsessive in the house, add a pork chop or chicken breast on the side.
Prepare the squash. This can be done the night before while you watch TV! Then it's all ready to go the next night for supper.
1 red onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic
1/3 - 1/2 a head of broccoli chopped or 2 cups frozen broccoli
2 cups of fresh spinach or one box frozen
1/2 cup light cream cheese
1/2 cup red or white wine
2 tsp Italian seasoning or 1 tsp dried basil and 1 tsp dried oregano
Saute the onion in a tbsp of olive oil until soft, add the broccoli and garlic and saute until the broccoli becomes that vibrant green colour. Add in the spinach and cook until wilted or heated through if using frozen.
Add in the cream cheese, red wine and seasoning. Mix until the cheese is melted and it's all blended. Add in the spaghetti squash and toss it all together. That's it. Dinner is done!
You end up having a plate of veggies for dinner!
If you don't like spaghetti squash simple boil some spaghetti while you are making the veggies and sauce and toss it in instead of the squash.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Bowl Sunday!

Are you ready for some football!!! We sing that every Sunday around here. Makes the dogs crazy... I made my chili and pineapple salsa yesterday so the flavours could meld. I still haven't added the fresh cilantro to the chili. I'll wait until just before serving to do that. I also added 1/2 a bottle of beer. It really does add a great flavor. When I open a can of chipotle peppers, I use what I need and then freeze the rest in ziplock bags. I put one pepper per bag. Most recipes only call for one so then I can just take out what I need. I also used roasted garlic in my chili so the garlic taste isn't strong.

I did the pineapple salsa in the food processor. I think I liked it better done by hand. It looked nicer but the processor made it up in a snap!

GO COLTS!!!!!!!!