Tuesday, June 1, 2010

That's what friends are for.

When I started this blog it was to be about what I'm eating and I mention in the blog preamble that sometimes it will be about food I cook or food that my friends cook.
I have very few good friends and while this blog could become a point of catharsis for me I'm going to deny myself the self psycho-analysis, remain a relatively screwed up individual and focus on the food. One observance of mine is that, food is usually as good as your company while you eat.

Anyway, periodically a core of friends get together and do an evening of potluck dinner with a healthy amount of alcohol consumption. (Although I find as our group ages we can't imbibe the way we used to.)
These evenings are always a very interesting time and the food supplied by the various attendees is usually of a high quality and tasty in the extreme.

If everyone is in town and of good health, New Years Eve is usually one of those times and hopefully we cram in a spring and an autumn dinner. Usually during the summer everyone is too busy at various locales in the world to gather.
Diane (or Lady Di as I call her) is usually our host because she has a great older house with a large refurbished kitchen open to an inviting and comfortable dinning and living area.
Pet allergies are a problem Lady Di suffers with and everyone else has multiple pets in their households so meeting at her house is the smart way to go.

The group usually consists of myself, Mrs B. and her BFF Brenda who is married to my pal Terry (they are also Godparents to our three children), Lady Di and sometimes her twin sister Dawne and or various friends and progeny but most of the time it's just us the five as it was for this auspicious gathering.

On these occasions we sometimes to do food themes, themes like Greek or fondue, but tonight that was more work than people had time for, so the ladies just decide on a main course and everyone works around that.
Usually the only snag is that Mrs B. has been a vegetarian for about 33 years now but that never turns out to be a problem as there is usually plenty of non-meat goodies on hand and she also makes meat substitutions as you will see later on in this overly verbose blog.


Tonight's main course came to Lady Di from her friend Carolyn which she reportedly stole from page 46 of the book Thai Cooking by Kurt Kahrs (the book is now out of print so if you see one, buy it).
The recipe is Thai Fried Chicken Breasts with Roasted Cashews
Lady Di expertly prepared the main dish and served it on a bed of steamed rice smothered with lightly sauteed peppers. Shown right sans spinach salad.

Mr's B prepared a Spinach salad made with spinach, raspberries, canned mandarin orange sections,pine nuts, flaked almonds topped with Renee's Ravin' Raspberry dressing.
As mentioned earlier because Mrs.B is a vegetarian she fried up some tofu in the same Thai sauce used to fry up the chicken breasts.
Her dish is shown here with her wonderful spinach salad.

Brenda prepared a desert that took me back about 35 years. It was the Covenant Woman's Cheesecake.
The Covenant Woman's Cheesecake recipe comes from a cookbook that was published in house at the Evangelical Covenant Church in Edmonton way back in the 70s. I loved it so much that it was the desert that was served when Mrs B. and I got married back in 76. It's served topped with thawed frozen raspberries (or you can substitute frozen strawberries). It's nummalicious.

Preparing complimentary foods for a meal is an art form that if done right goes completely unnoticed but leaves you strangely satisfied. Such was the case with this meal.
The main course was typical Thai, spicy, tasty and simply wonderful. The peppers and roasted cashews were the perfect compliment to the mouth watering chicken. I found the spiciness just right but Lady Di found it a bit warm.
Hence the spinach salad with it's light dressing that could put out a raging fire in your mouth. Regardless I loved it and I was left wanting more of the main dish. Perhaps that's why I have such fond memories of it.
The desert for me was comfort food with it's accompanying memories and tangy sweet flavor that just makes you smile. Mmmmmmmmmm.
However once I had consumed the desert I was indeed strangely satisfied.

Two Whites. One Canadian, One unknown.
Two Reds. One Canadian, One Australian.
Sorry I don't recall the varieties, vineyards or vintages.

There is nothing better in the entire world than being with people you love and respect, enjoying fine food and drink while you catch up on each others lives in a safe, warm, accepting environment. It is the best of everything that matters.
I cherish those moments when they happen because I don't know when or if there will be another.
I can say no more.

Thanks for reading.
I welcome your comments as usual.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

See Ya Later Ranch, Okanagan Falls B.C.

Executive Chef; Roger Planiden, Click on any photo to make it bigger.

As summertime 2010 is quickly approaching and people are starting to think about holiday travel I thought i would let you know about a place in the Okanagan Valley I've been to that was a treat to visit.
As you may (or may not) know Mrs B. and I have been spending our last two summers in the south Okanagan. I love it there and we plan to return again this summer as well.

Day trips to the various nearby wineries is what all the tourists do, but to much sampling without food in your tummy is not advised.
The vineyard owners know this and the more entrepreneurial owners have taken to including eateries on their properties.
Such is the case at the See Ya Later Ranch.

See Ya later Ranch is a short drive outside of the town of Okanagan Falls which is situated about halfway between Penticton and Oliver B.C. (the wine capital of Canada).
The Ranch, located up on the side of a gentle sloping mountain provides a breathtaking north view of Okanagan Falls and Skaha Lake. See Ya Later Ranch has long and interesting history. Click here to check out their website. But enough, on to the food.

The ranch-house is also the store where you can sample and purchase the entire variety of wines that See Ya Later produces. The outside deck at the back of the house serves as the eatery. The menu (seen right) is designed for light lunches with desert and wine suggestions for each dish.
Beware; buying wine per glass with lunch can be very expensive and this goes for all of the Okanagan vineyard eateries.

The day was sunny and clear (the week prior there had been fires in the Kelowna area which filled the valley with a light smoky haze down to Osoyoos) Mrs B. and I were accompanied by Jan, our longtime friend, fellow poodle owner and vacation condo neighbor.
Visiting wineries with Jan is a hoot and she loves the See Ya Later winery and restaurant so we went there often. During the course of the summer we were able to sample pretty much the entire menu. The daily soups changed with the days of the week and all were very tasty and expertly prepared. However for this, I will just concentrate on our first visit of the 2009 season.

I started with a Butternut Squash soup for the entree
Price $7.00
For the main course I ordered the Chipotle Chicken Wrap.
Price $15.00
The whole wheat wrap came with a garden salad with a sweet light oil dressing topped with a sliced strawberry.
Inside the wrap was more garden vegetables with a sliced tomato, chunks of chicken, cheddar cheese sprinkled in with Chipotle Aioli as the feature sauce.

My Impression;
The soup was outstanding. It had a fine cream consistency and a light flavour that didn't overpower the taste buds but it left you wanting more and that is the job of the entree.
I do remember that I was disappointed by the taste of the main dish.
The ingredients had all the potential for something good but for some reason the taste just didn't make it.
The bread had a tart wheat taste and the Chipotle Aioli had little or none of the spicy chipotle taste I was expecting but rather had an almost sour taste. The vegetables and chicken were just plain old and straight up. So over all the wrap had a tart, sour, bland taste which is not what I was expecting. It wasn't horrible or inedible or anything like that... it just wasn't what I had expected
The accompanying salad was by comparison very delightful.

For vegetarians the choice was from a Green Salad, a Caesar Salad or a Cheese Platter.

She ordered the Butternut Squash Soup
Price $7.00
And for her main course the Caesar Salad with a Chipotle dressing and a slice of garlic bread.
Price $11.00

Mrs B's Impressions;

She too enjoyed the soup as much as I did. She also liked the Caesar Salad.


Jan ordered the Pulled Pork Panini.
The Panini is supposed to come with an Apple Fennel Slaw but Jan and Apple don't get along so she just had the Okanagan Greens with a Stone Fruit Dressing as a substitute.
Price $14.00

Jan's Impressions;
As I recall Jan liked the Pulled Pork Panini and the Okanagan Green Salad.

Sorry I can't offer more information about Viv and Jan's meals.
I ask people what it is they liked about their meals but surprisingly most people lack the descriptive skills to be able to determine what it is they're liking even while or up to a few minutes after they've eaten it. I get answers like "it tastes good" or "I liked it".
It isn't their fault, I guess describing how food tastes and detailing the experience verbally is something that takes some practiced thoughtful consideration that most people just don't take time to think about. Or I may be out to lunch on that too.

No meal is complete without desert (except maybe breakfast but if you do it right you can have desert and breakfast at the same time...yeah!!)... and where I had experienced disappointment with my main course dish, See Ya Later more than made up for it in the desert department.

All three participants had the same desert: the Mascarpone Mousse.
Price $8.00

The Mascarpone Mousse came on a what they call an "oven dried berry scone" (seriously?)
Piled on the blah, blah, blah scone is the masterfully made Mascarpone Mousse, made from (what I suspect is) Mascarpone cheese whipped with cream until it has a mousseee consistency. It comes sprinkled with blueberries and flanked on both sides by sliced strawberries with swirls of a raspberry syrup for decoration.

My Desert Impressions;
Heaven is a word I could use to describe this desert.
It was a perfect blend of light and bold tastes. The scone was the perfect mate for the mousse and the berries added tartness to offset the creamy sweetness of the mascarpone. But the topper was the raspberry syrup. It surprisingly kicked the desert into a new level by adding a tangy sweetness to the menagerie of flavours.
Mmmmmmmmmm, I believe was the chorus heard from the table. And that is one unmistakably descriptive sound.

The girls both had a glass of the Gewurztraminer.
See Ya Later is a world class winery and their Gewurztraminer is their prize wine.
Price $7.00 ea.
I drank water as it was a hot day and I was the designated.

Over the summer we went back approximately 4 or 5 times so some of the serving staff got to know us on sight. They were all warm, pleasant and knowledgeable about the food, the wines and the tourist traps. They took the time to have discussions about things and most were genuinely interesting people. We tipped them well, as you should always do.

The See Ya Later Ranch Patio Restaurant is only open during the summer months which is an extremely brief time to set up, design a menu and hire good staff and find your legs.
To find a qualified world class Chef who is willing to take a job for only a three or four month period must be difficult. They also only do only one seating a day from 11am to about 3pm.
While the entree food is splendid, I found the main course dishes that I sampled over the course of the summer to be not as exciting as I had hoped. However the deserts are the slam dunk of any meal and they alone are worth the price of admission.
It's hard to know what the menu will be like this coming summer or if they will even be operating the restaurant again this season. I hope they do. Regardless a trip to the winery is worth it just for the wines and the view.
Bon Appetite, as Julia would say.
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