Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rendez-Vous des Chefs - A Pea Soup Challenge

This afternoon Hubby and I went back to the Festival du Voyageur for the Reunion des Chefs.  This is a pea soup contest which is currently in its third year.  Restaurants set up shop and offer a small taste of their own recipe of pea soup.  There was only 4 restaurants hawking their soup today, which made me kind of sad as I was looking forward to testing out more (and leaving with a full stomach!).

As you walk in the door, you pick up your spoon and a ballot.

Then you work your way around the room (in which ever order you can work out through the crowds!) and taste each soup.

The first soup we tried was made by Le Garage Cafe.  It was so very tasty.  Had a great consistency with bits of ham throughout.  These guys were also very helpful when my paper cup blew a hole in it and soup got all over my camera.  One of these fine fellows even got me a damp cloth from the back room so I could clean up!!

The second soup we tried was mad by Provence Bistro.  This soup was light in colour and thick.  Too thick to enjoy.  It wasn't really a soup consistency.  They proclaimed to have spent three days cooking this soup.  I did however enjoy the bacon brittle they served on the top of the soup.

The third soup was made by La Petite France.  This one was another thick soup with a smoky flavour to it. It was nice, but too thick for my liking.

The last soup we tried was made by Resto Gare.  This particular soup also had a nice consistency with some veggies still visible in it.  It was served with some pork on the top. 

Now for my verdict....drum roll please.......My favourite soup of the day was the soup made by the fine fellows from Le Garage Cafe!!

The boys at Le Garage Cafe knew what they were doing!

One of the other neat things we got to see today was a battle re enactment between the French and the English.  The French won today's battle but apparently the English won a battle last week.

First the French gathered for inspection and fired off a round.

Then the British got themselves ready....they look a bit out numbered...

Down to the river bank to fight! We watched from the top of the Fort so I had to shoot through the trees.
  Here we see the British laying the smack down.

The French retaliate and advance...

My picture of the British running away down the river bank looks just like a photo of a bunch of tree branches so I left it out.

For the very brave, there is an ice tower...Brave people can wander over and give ice climbing a try...I didn't do it.

  Well, that is all for the Festival du Voyageur this year.  Until next time, stay warm and eat well!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Welcome Back Baseball Pretzel Bites

Today is an exciting day in the Little Kitchen! It is the first day ball fans get to watch their beloved New York Mets play a game...of course we are in the comfort of our own living room and the Mets are in sunny Port St. Lucie but thank you to modern technology, we get to watch!!

We all know what this means!!  Pretzel season has officially opened!  I have been waiting so patiently for this.  I do love pretzels! So much that I make pretzel rolls, pretzels, and now pretzel bites and stuffed pretzel sandwiches!!  Have I gone off the deep end??

Perhaps, but that is another post.

Not too long ago, Kate over at Diethood posted her recipe for her pretzel bites.  If you have never clicked your way to her blog, you really should.....I drooled while I read the pretzel bite post, saved it and today was the day to make them!  Pretzels go so well with baseball. They were made for each other

Once I had the dough made and it had its chance to rise, I started rolling out ropes of dough and cutting them into 1 inch (about 2 cm) pieces.  An idea came to me....we all know how much I like to make fold over type of sandwiches so I grabbed the corned beef, cheese, mustard, and sauerkraut from the fridge and made a couple of stuffed pretzel sammies!!

I saved a couple smallish balls of dough and rolled them out.

Cut up some corned beef into smaller pieces and cheese into cubes.

Layer these with mustard or sauerkraut.
If I had some Swiss cheese and thousand island dressing, the sammie on the left would have been a Reuben!

Seal up the dough by pinching it all around the dough.  Make sure the dough is completely sealed.

Simmer in the hot water/baking soda bath, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with salt, and bake until golden brown....that would be about 15 minutes.

Pretzel Bites
·         2 cups warm water
·         2 tbsp light brown sugar
·         1 pkg active dry yeast (2 ¼ tsp)
·         ½ cup butter, melted
·         5 cups all purpose flour
·         3 tsp salt

Hot water bath
·         6 cups water
·         ¼ cup baking soda
Egg wash
·         1 egg
·         1 tsp water
Combine the warm water, yeast, and brown sugar.  Set aside for about 5 minutes and let it get all foamy.

Add the melted butter, the flour, and the salt.

With the dough hook, mix everything.  The dough will come together.  If the dough is sticky, add a bit more flour.

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and set it in a warm spot to rise until double in size, about an hour.

Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.  Once it is boiling, reduce the heat slightly to a high simmer and slowly add ¼ cup of baking will bubble up so add it slowly!

Roll out ropes of dough and cut each rope into sections that are about 1 inch long.

Simmer in the hot baking soda water bath for about 1 minute.  Transfer to a baking sheet, brush with an egg wash, sprinkle with salt.

Bake at 425F for about 15 minutes until golden brown.

 Serve with mustard and cheese sauce for dipping!!!

Until next time, stay warm and eat well!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Maple Syrup Taffy and Other Yumminess

Tonight the temperature dropped to -35C (with the windchill) so we decided to go back to the Festival du Voyageur....what were we thinking???  To be quite honest, we were thinking about food.  The line to the food tents were so darn long on Monday, we decided to give it a try tonight.  Luck was on our side.  We go to Voyageur park about 10 minutes before they opened, got a nice close parking spot, in the actual parking lot, and were some of the first people in the park!! 

Hubby and I opted for some Tourtiere, which came with beans and a bun.  We decided on no gravy on the tourtiere but in the end we probably should had gravy.  The tourtiere was a bit dry, but still tasty.  The beans were nice and hot with a bit of a sweet maple note to them.

The Boy had the Voyageur breakfast.  This was a big piece of ham with fried egg on a bun, served with maple syrup and some crepes.  He made his sandwich with the egg and the ham and proceeded to dip it in the maple syrup...he adored the sandwich and proclaimed the crepes to be some of the best he has ever eaten.

After dinner, we HAD to have some maple syrup taffy!!  This is one of my favourites!  Boil up some of the tastiest tree sap on Earth, pour it onto some clean snow, put a stick on one end and press it in.  Wait a few seconds and start rolling up your taffy....soooooooo goooood....this is why the line ups are so long!

 Hot maple syrup!!
The waiting is the hardest part!!
Roll it up!
Ready to eat!!

Maple syrup taffy is a sticky sweet and a little bit chewy.  So incredibly good!!

Dinner was in a tent so it was warmer than the outdoors and there was a live band on the stage to keep us entertained.  Honestly, the band wasn't all that good....the boys enjoyed when they switched to the speed metal type of music....French speed was interesting to say the least.

We also had a chance to visit some of the other things we missed on Monday due to long lines. 


Such as the black smith's cabin

And the tee pee to learn some things about the aboriginal ways of life!

We did have fun tonight, despite the cold....I still haven't had any poutine yet during the Festival but I will be back on Sunday.....Yes....Sunday, the poutine will be mine!

Until next time, stay warm and eat well!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Festival Du Voyageur - Winter Festival Fun

What do the fine people of the prairies do when winter seems to last forever?  We have a festival of course! Festival du Voyageur is is full swing!!  This 10 day long festival happens every February and highlights the Metis and French way of life during the days of fur trapping, the Northwest Company.  The French quarter, St. Boniface lights up with life during Festival.  You know Festival is gearing up when you see the giant blocks of snow being prepared for the snow sculptures.  Snow sculptures go up in key areas around the city to remind us Festival is close.  It is always interesting to see what the sculptors will come up with.

The nerd in me completely loves going on a tour of Fort Gibraltar.  The Fort is a replica of a fur trading post circa 1810 with all of the buildings inside manned by people in period costumes and working.  The black smith is plying his trade, the store has products on display, there are people 'relaxing' in the workers quarters.  All you have to do is ask questions and the 'players' are more that eager to explain things to you.

The man on the right is 'in charge' of the Fort and the man on his right is his body guard.

I know what you are thinking, an outdoor festival in winter?  Crazy!  You really do have to dress for the weather.  Long undies are essential, as is proper layering of clothes.  There are plenty of opportunities to warm up along the way.  There are fire pits set up all over the place to stop, listen to some tales and warm your tootsies.  Tents are also warm places stop and warm up.
The snow bar is always need to chill your beer!

The Boy and Hubby check out some furs inside the general store

A mill stone to make flour

This is a brick of tea!!  They would grate it on the metal micro plane type of thing and then steep their tea!

The tents house entertainment such as live bands, the souvenir tent, the food tent (woo hoo), and of course the beer tent.  Along with all the fun at Voyageur park, there are several venues around town  that house live bands and other fun events such as fiddling contests and the voyageur games.  These venues are called trading posts and do add to the fun.
The port-a-pottie for the very brave!

It has been a few years since we braved the Festival.  It is so difficult to get everything in that you really do have to plan ahead and pick and choose what you would like to do.  We went on Monday, which happened to be Louis Riel day, which is a long weekend Monday so it was ridiculously busy and we didn't even get near a couple of things we wanted, such as the 'Sugar Shack', which is the food tent....Luckily, we bought the Festival pass so we can go back anytime and check things out.  It really is best to go a couple of times during the week.

Our local paper has some survival guide tips here.

You can check out the official Festival du Voyageur website here.

I am almost too busy to cook during Festival!  I will try to keep up though!  We are going back to see some of the things we missed on Monday.

Until next time, stay warm and eat well!!

 I couldn't resist adding some more photos....

Here I am waving to the boys who are walking on the Fort wall. I end up wandering to the fire pit to warm up a bit!

The walk back to the car seemed so long!!