Local Fare: Village Ice Creamery

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If you know me, you know that I LIVE for an adventure. It can be monotonous activity such as getting groceries, but if we can somehow spin it into an adventure…I’m in. So you can imagine my delight when I park on a random street in the East Village and see a sign that says, “Village Ice Cream, this way”…I followed, and another block see another sign, and on and on. Seriously I followed the street signs for 3 blocks and when I entered the fantastic and charming little store announced, “I followed the signs!!!”

Village Ice Cream is a new little boutique creamery located essentially in a parking lot at the end of the East Village. 10th Ave and 3rd St SE Calgary. It is owned by Billy, and his icecream scooper extraordinare, Bailey, gave me a serious tour that included tasting all 15 flavors of ice cream.

It really is the best ice cream I’ve ever had. That’s a pretty big statement right? Billy taught me all about High Fat/Low Sugar ice cream, which is exactly the opposite of what one may think is a)healthy, or b)yummy. Not true. This ice cream is rich before sweet and the details and subtleties of the flavors are evident. Billy was telling me that dairy is the expensive part of ice cream, so manufacturers in commercial ice cream are continually decreasing the amount of dairy fat and instead are filling it with all sorts of non-food things we shouldn’t be consuming: polysorbate, monodiglycerides…gross stuff. Billy uses recipes that are 100 years old and only the finest ingredients (organic pecans from California, he knows the grower personally), coffee beans from our very own Phil and Sebastian, etc.

Personally, I LOVED the Huckleberry and the Toasted Coconut is ridiculous. The Salted Caramel is their big hit and they have a couple of summer features I need to go back and try: Spiced Banana and Bourbon Maple Pecan.

Check. It. Out. Tell them Fig and Fennel says hi!

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Eat Local: National

Hello Friends!

Welcome to a slightly adjusted theme to this blog, that I love. I still believe in and love and eat healthy whole food. I cook this way in my regular life and I want my kids growing up knowing that carrots taste great with a little dirt on them and raspberries in season are better than any processed anything they will ever eat. However, I’m working a few contracts downtown right now and realistically I’m spending a lot more time booking dinner reservations and mixing drinks. Time to embrace it on the blog. So perhaps some recipes will be happily interspersed, but for now, you get Calgary foodie reviews, where to go, what to eat etc. It’s gonna be fun.

Which brings me to this week’s adventurous night out…For those of you who know Calgary, you may remember about 10 years ago when 17th Ave was the. place. to. be. It kind of disappeared for a while but in the last few years some incredible places have opened up: Una Pizza and Wine, Ox & Angela, Chilitos Taco House, Cibo, 80th & Ivy, just to name a few. We went, this week, to National, which has been open for a few months. I’ve been a couple of times with “the girls”, but Sexy Husband and I thought we would check it out and actually eat something.
National is set up like a German Beer House, with long communal picnic tables, a huge patio, and a stock exchange style screen of the 100+ beers you can try. As people order a beer, it moves up on the screen in popularity. So fun. We met some friends and shared about 100 oysters (by we I do not mean me, because of an inconvenient shellfish allergy). Then we had a green salad, which was served in a mixing bowl large enough to feed the table. It had some great and surprising tastes including toasted walnuts and thinly shaved fennel with a really light buttermilk dressing. Delish. Then we got some deep fried pickles. Why oh why do I have to love deep fried pickles so much. And we topped things off with their classic poutine. It was a) an enormous portion, perfect for sharing, and b) the best chicken gravy I’ve ever tasted. Loved it. Other people ordered burgers and fish tacos, all which looked delicious. We finished the night with deep friend mars bars. They were yummy but pretty tiny and I’ve made better ones at home.

All in all I was really impressed with the food. The environment is great too and the patio is huge. Our server was great and always showed up at the right time. The music was so loud that it made it hard to talk, but I’m adding National to my regular stops!

Thoughts On: Beauty

Like all Mommies, I think my kids are beautiful. Of course we think our kids are beautiful. And really, they all are. Full of life, full of questions, full of jokes, full of attitude, small, beautiful humans. Since the first moment I walked outside the hospital with little Picky Princess, people have crossed the street to tell me what a beautiful child she is. And while I see what they do in her magical face, the things I find so beautiful about her are the things that come with 6 years of observation. I think the one freckle so perfectly placed under her right eye is so beautiful. I love that she is a wild mess most of the time, crazy haired and rainbow clad. I love how her pristine face stands out as a pocket of white paint on a graffiti’d canvas. I love the moments when she laughs for real. In those moments I find her too beautiful to look directly at. When she sleeps I can hardly tear my eyes away from her little face. It’s so white it glows.

It’s also interesting to me how a child, particularly a girl, processes all this attention. With a big wide world telling her she is so beautiful, she definitely has come to agree. She is quick to comment on being beautiful, yet doesn’t necessarily seem to place a lot of value on it. She will say, Of course I’m beautiful, with the same matter of fact tone of, Of course my socks are blue. She doesn’t seek to enhance it with tiaras and make up and princess dresses. At least not very often.

It’s important, how little girls wade through the beauty topic. It’s important what she sees in the women around her. For every comment I hear someone make to her about her beautiful blue eyes, I try to make my own to her about her incredible creativity, her kindness to her little sister, her willingness to help. The things that make her a Beautiful Soul, not just a Beautiful Face. I think my friends are some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. But even in how I talk about them to my girls, I try to comment on their beautiful character, that they are great listeners and generous friends.

I believe in a family culture of honor. When, God forbid, the meanness of the world creeps in and tells her anything other than that she’s beautiful, my hope is that a lifetime of being honored for the beauty of her soul, will resound louder and longer than the crack of the hurtful.

So tonight we have dinner in honor of our recent Kindergarten Graduate! She has requested sea bass(of course, most random request ever) and caramel cake. So we have fish tacos, salsa verde, watermelon and caramel cake on the menu. I made THIS caramel cake from Deb at Smitten Kitchen, and whipped up a twist on salsa verde, recipe below. Tonight our family who are friends and friends who are family will gather and honor the Beautiful: that her teacher said she was kind and inclusive, that she was a strong leader, that she is incredibly artistic, that she worked hard to learn how to read and speak spanish and sing harmonies. A little Beautiful Soul (with incredible beautiful blue eyes).

Salsa Verde:

10 small tomatillos

1/2 jalapeno, most of the seeds removed

juice of 2 limes

large handful of cilantro

1 mango

sea salt to taste

Directions: chop all ingredients very finely. Stir together. Best if left to sit overnight. Serve with tortilla chips or on fish tacos!

Think Fresh: Spring Clean

No sweeter words ring through Sexy Husband’s ears than when I say, “Love! Let’s do some spring cleaning this weekend!” Seriously. It’s therapy to him, he’s the cleanest most organized man alive. Or perhaps it’s pure shock when I suggest such a thing because I’m a little bit oblivious. I like it clean. I like it tidy. But I also don’t seem to notice things like the laundry basket overflowing, and honestly I don’t even know WHERE he takes the recycling to. But it’s true, there is something therapeutic about reordering closets, removing clutter, examining processes and finding ways to move through our very full lives smoothly and with as little tripping up as possible.

This week, however, we thought we’d do a little INSIDE spring cleaning. We had a weekend of total indulgence. Sexy Husband wanted pub food for date night, and while I initially thought…ugh, I happily dove into the pulled pork and caramelized onion poutine and peanut buster parfaits of the evening. It tasted great. For 3 minutes. The over indulgence coupled with the realization that my jeans aren’t doing up quite as easily led to a conversation where we decided it was time to refocus on the food we put in our bodies and how much control we have over our health. Here we have all this knowledge and all these resources and even a little bit of talent when it comes to kitcheny things…there really is no excuse for tight jeans and gut rot. So we’re spring cleaning. Our insides.

The plan is simple. One week of ultra clean eating, mostly fruits and vegetables and protein in the form of nuts, seeds and beans. Another week of adding in a few organic animal based proteins, fish or dairy, and then onto a long term (re)commitment to general clean eating. Treats are treats.

I’m only 3 days in but am feeling great(probably because I’m still drinking coffee). (ok, and yesterday I drank a beer). And obviously not everyone is interested in or inclined to eat healthy all the time. But whatever little adjustments you can do, cutting out sugar, not drinking pop, packing a lunch…do it! It’s spring. Time for new habits!

Local Fare: Aria’s Save The Lemurs Bake Sale

There are lots of proud moments as a parent. Some of them are skill based, those moments when you realize your kid is the only one who scored a goal in the soccer game, or when you hear your 5 year old sing harmony for the first time. Those are great moments, call the grandparents moments, point your child in that direction moments. Then there are proud moments for character based reasons. These really are the deeply and truly satisfying ones. Like maybe you’ve done something right with your little people. Maybe they get it. Maybe they understand that they are here to contribute to the world and make it better, more than they take from it and hurt each other.

I had such a moment last week. Picky Princess, who just turned 6, learned(via organics kids cereal box) that deforestation is causing lemurs in Madagascar to lose their homes. 22 of the 70 species of lemurs are endangered because of it. She was (rightly) horrified. And determined that she MUST do something to save the lemurs. I told her I would help her in any way and to let me know how she thought we could save them. I even offered suggestions: lemonade stand, benefit concert…But nope, she had already decided, BAKE SALE.

So thanks to social media, and our generous friends at Cornerstone Music Cafe who hosted us, we had to bake about 5 trillion cupcakes this past weekend. Ok it was 600. It was a wonderful day. Picky Princess gave her monologue, over and over, about how we need to save the lemurs. We baked and sold and baked and sold. Thank you to my beautiful friends who supported my beautiful activist child. Between all day friends and family who stopped by with coffee or to lick icing bowls, to late night friends who stopped by to drink wine with me when I was still baking at midnight…it definitely reminded me that…it takes a Village.

All in all, $300 or so was raised to save the lemurs. We will be sending a cheque to the Lemur Conservation Foundation. And I probably won’t bake cupcakes for a while.

Recipe: Almost Spring Salad

As I look out my sunny window, the brightness from the snow doesn’t really scream of spring being near. But the warmth of the afternoon sun these days and the slow influx of color at the Farmers market makes me think that yes, spring will return. This salad is a mixture of tastes, some winter, some spring. A blending, if you will. Roasted balsamic beets, nutty cashews, warm comforty tastes of winter. Sweet pea shoots, the color of springs first grass.

Almost Spring Salad

1lb beets – rinsed, trimmed, roasted until tender and then thinly sliced

4 cups baby spinach

4 cups sweet pea shoots

1/2 cup roasted salted cashews

good quality balsamic reduction (or you can easily make your own by simmering balsamic vinegar until it is reduced by half. cool and drizzle

option: thinly sliced natural ham, baked in a hot oven until crisped

Directions: Assemble the greens on a plate. Top with cashews and roasted beets. Drizzle with balsamic reduction. Enjoy. Obviously the ham can be omitted for a vegetarian version.

Local Fare: Bake Sale!

Hello Friends!

Long time no chat. So much to catch you up on! First of all, I have fig&fennel cookbooks in again finally. They look awesome! If you would like one, email me at alison.leontaridis@gmail.com and I will send you one. They are $30 and you can pay me by paypal or email transfer. There are a few retail outlets in Calgary that will have them as well…Should have a list to you by the end of the week!

In other exciting news…Calgary Food Bloggers are joining forces to put on a bake sale this weekend!!! All proceeds will go to the Brown Bagging project with the Calgary Kids Society. There are going to be amazing, delicious treats, and it’s going to be a lot of fun, SO, you should come and visit me there this weekend! Feb 11 and 12, 10am-5:30pm at Casel Marche at 17th Ave SW and 24th St. I will be there Saturday, Feb 11 from 10-12. I will actually have cookbooks available too if you want to pick one up from me there.

On a personal note: I survived January with nary a scar. It was the most beautiful January ever. Lots on the go: Picky Princess is loving Kindergarten, I have changed Foodie Baby’s name to Baby Light because she lives on about 10 calories a day and no longer loves food. Sexy Husband and I are working on some exciting things including The 1Night Benefit Concert, that we produce every year to raise money for a local charity. This year we are hoping to raise $50,000 for the Calgary Dream Centre. You should come, it’s going to be a great concert. Check it out here!

Hope to see you Saturday!

Recipe: S’more Cookie Bars

heaven

‘Tis the season for Christmas cookie exchanges! Something about Christmas seems to make even the least kitcheny person a little bit more likely to bust out a rolling pin or cookie cutters. I learned a really brilliant lesson this Christmas Cookie Exchange Season, in fact I’m relieved to be learning this now in my early 30s. Ready? Cookie bars. This is the answer to parties where you need to have 9 dozen cookies perfectly packaged. It’s not the mixing that takes long, nor the actual baking time. It’s the rolling/cutting/or even dropping a zillion evenly placed cookies onto rotating baking sheets, parchment, silpat and the like. Cookie bars solve all this. Mix, bake, cut, give. Then instead of cutting the cookie bar into little pieces, I gave them away as a big bar, maybe 6″x6″, wrapped in parchment paper and ribbon. SO EASY.

I came across this recipe from Here . It is so easy, works out great, and pays tribute to (let’s be honest) the most loved confection of all times, the S’more. So Thank you Lovin’ From the Oven for my new absolute favorite cookie bar recipe! (You may also remember my honest and vulnerable confession about my obsession with marshmallows).

I wanted to take a minute to thank the Calgary Herald for listing Fig&Fennel as one of Calgary’s favorite food blogs! And thank YOU for reading! That was a very nice surprise to wake up to yesterday.

S’more Cookie Bars

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)

1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.  Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. 2 king-sized Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick. Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme or fluff. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small shingles and laying them together). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.
Makes 16 cookie bars.

graham dough

chocolate layer

Recipe: Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

Well Hello!!!

It’s been a long time! I hope you are all warm and well with people you love. I can’t believe fall is gone and Christmas is nearly upon us. I’m finding myself drawn to simpler things this year. Other years I find time and inspiration for decor and crafts and elaborate desserts and dinner parties and new recipes galore. This year I’m happy to read the girls Christmas books, toboggan, and meet friends for a glass of wine. But I am grateful for the season. Grateful for winter magic in little girl eyes.

Mini Cookbook update: I know. I know. I’m working on it. It’s too long and dreary to explain but let’s just summarize: new publisher, new format, first experience outsourcing(amazing), new graphic work, not a lot of free time, setting up online purchasing, soon.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t cooked anything since I last blogged which was…2 months ago. It’s true. Sexy Husband is on tour, Picky Princess and (super picky) Foodie Baby eat about 1 calorie each for supper, so I slice a lot of apples and boil a lot of eggs. I’m unapologetic. It’s the season. And seasons change all the time.

THIS recipe, however, is amazing. It is a no-fail-go-to-every-winter-binge-worthy dessert. It is easy and was handed down to me by a lady named Gail, who is wonderful. Gail is a friend of mine from Saskatoon, where I went to university. I was just there to watch a show Sexy Husband sang in and…she made it again! It brought back the happiest most nostalgic memories, even though I’ve made them myself every winter. Something about Gail making them, reminded me of cold COLD winters in Saskatchewan, surrounded by the warmest people I’ve ever met. I can’t actually find the original recipe she gave me, but it’s one that I can make in my sleep because it’s THAT GOOD. If you have holiday parties, cookie exchanges, or boring lonely nights when your husband is away on tour: this is a great treat. I’ve discovered this year that is pairs nicely with red wine(go figure).

Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup icing sugar

2 cups flour

1/2 can sweet and condensed milk(Eagle Brand)

1 bag(approx) chocolate chips

raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and stir to combine. Press 2/3 of dough into a 8×8 glass baking dish. Bake for 15 mins. Remove from oven and drizzle with Eagle Brand, chocolate chips, small dollops of raspberry jam(try to space evenly for a little on every square) and the rest of the dough. Bake for 20 minutes more until edges are turning golden. Remove and cool completely. Cut into small squares(or large ones, whatever). They are much easier to cut if they’ve been in the freezer for a little bit.

Happy December!

Cookbook: Release Party

amazing and beautiful friends and family

prepping in the kitchen

 

 

seriously beautiful friends

I can’t believe it’s come and gone! We had such a great night. A deep and heartfelt thank you to all of you who came out to the Fig & Fennel Cookbook Release Party. I had such a beautiful night and feel deeply loved and supported! Cookbooks are sold out but I have another order in and will get an online order system set up soon! In time for Christmas orders!

A few things:

Thank you to Phil&Sebastian Marda Loop who were the most incredible and gracious hosts. It was a crammed full coffee shop and they made latte after latte, friendly as can be. Warren, gave up lots of space in his kitchen for us and was about the sweetest guy in the world. Brodie at Phil&Seb’s was so great to work with, and Kate who ran the night was sweet and lovely. I seriously couldn’t be more grateful.

Thank you to my amazing family for all the support. Jacquelyn who like the beaters, my Dad who stayed up way later than normal, my Mom and Auntie Rosie who ran the kitchen, my cousin Alex who came all the way from Toronto. They delivered sample after sample, and made sure it was a happy party. I couldn’t have had better help. I know they were prepared to buy my entire stock of books too, in case I needed them to step in.

Thank you to Leon and Graham for organizing music and sound. What’s a party without music? All week they worked for me, instead of the other way around. So grateful. And to the beautiful and talented Sarah Vann who came and sang and played and lit the room up with her incredible smile.

Thank you to the most supportive group of friends I have ever had. You have all treated me like the cookbook was equivalent to a Nobel Peace Prize. I was overwhelmed by one friendly face after another. It was honestly one of the most beautiful nights of my life.

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