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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Road Trip - Grand Rapids

Back in 2012 we visited Grand Rapids, Michigan for the first time and we loved it!  At the time it was the #1 beer city in the USA.  Since it is less than 4 hours from home, we had to check it out.

This summer, circumstances conspired to get us back there again.  We wanted to see Dolly Parton on tour but the dates close to home were on weeknights meaning booking a day off work so we could stay overnight rather than drive 2 hours home after a concert.  But she was playing Grand Rapids on a Saturday night, so we could make a mini-vacation out of it! 

Some things have changed a lot since we were last in Grand Rapids.  It's still a beautiful, clean, vibrant city, but there are so many new breweries, bars and restaurants.  The hotel we stayed in had only been open for two weeks!  We visited lots of new places and some old favourites from our last trip.  Here are the highlights:

We stayed at the brand-new Homewood Suites downtown.  The hotel is nice and the location is fabulous.  All the rooms have a full kitchen.  The building is a converted furniture warehouse and has some odd features, like interior windows that face into empty hallways, and a second-floor lobby that can be hard to find from the street.  But we really enjoyed the room and location.  We could walk anywhere downtown easily. 

But the first thing we did after checking in was hop in the car and head to Siciliano's Market for local craft beer and cider for our hotel room fridge.  Then it was off to Greyline Brewing Co. for our first drinks of the day.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Happy Hour Two for One: Negroni & Boulevardier

I'm fascinated by the world of cocktails, both classic and all the new craft cocktails being created in bars popping up all over. 

You can't read much about cocktails without coming across the Negroni, a beloved, bitter Italian aperitif. 

The first time I tasted a Negroni I was astonished that anyone would choose to drink something so bitter. I'd describe it as bracingly bitter. But, strangely, the Negroni grows on you.  And so I bought a beautiful bottle of Campari so I could have Negronis any time. 

But once you have a bottle of Campari you have to find other things to do with it. You can make a simple Campari and soda, or you can break out the bourbon and make a Boulevardier.

I prefer to buy the liquor with the most whimsical cap. 
Both the Negroni and the Boulevardier share the same basic recipe, but one is made with gin and the other with bourbon.  As you might imagine, the Boulevardier tastes sweeter and richer, while the Negroni is more crisp and sharp.  

I garnished my Negroni with the traditional orange peel but added a cherry to the Boulevardier to complement the bourbon. 

I have to admit a slight preference for the Boulevardier. The sweet depth of the bourbon offsets the bitterness of the Campari in a way I enjoy.  But in the heat of summer it's nice to have a classic Negroni for a refreshing change of pace. 

Here are the recipes, cheers!

The Negroni

1 1/2 oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Red (sweet) vermouth

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice.  Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of orange peel. 

The Boulevardier

1/2 oz Bourbon
3/4 oz Campari
3/4 oz Red (sweet) vermouth

Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice.  Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry or twist of orange peel. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Pasta Salad with Prosciutto and Melon

I adore melon and prosciutto together.  Especially now when ripe melons are available at the markets. I also love a good pasta salad - cold pasta with vinaigrette and veggies is one of my favourite meals. 

So I decided to combine these loves in a pasta salad with prosciutto and melon. 

I received a Galia melon in my CSA box.  It's a small green melon that tastes similar to honeydew.  This salad would also be great with cantaloupe.  

I used medium shells for the pasta.  Orecchiette would also be great here.  Any short pasta will do but I like the way the shells mimic the shape of the scoops of melon.

I think this is the first time my melon baller has been used for melon!  You could certainly just dice the melon but I like the little half-balls.

For the dressing, I made a quick white wine vinaigrette right in the pasta pot after cooking and draining the pasta. This made it a one-pot meal, but you can make all the components separately if you prefer.  

I mixed the prosciutto into the salad, but it has a tendency to clump together.  I'd advise adding the proscuitto to each individual salad once it's plated so it keeps it's vibrant colour and stays separate.

The result was a wonderful, cool, refreshing, salad that made a great summer dinner.  I ate it for lunch the next day too and it kept surprisingly well.  

Here's the recipe:

For the salad:
500 grams (1 lb) medium pasta shells, orecchiette, penne or pasta of your choice
1 small Galia melon or half a medium cantaloupe or honeydew melon
1 sprig of basil leaves, sliced if large
1 green onion, thinly sliced
125 grams (1/4 lb) thinly sliced prosciutto
125 grams (1/4 lb) diced or crumbled feta or ricotta salata

For the dressing:
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper


  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.  Drain and rinse under cold water until cool.
  2. Meanwhile, halve the melon, remove the seeds, and use a melon baller to scrape out balls or scoops of melon. Alternatively, peel and dice the melon.
  3. In the empty pasta pot or a large bowl, combine the vinegar and red pepper flakes.  Whisk in oil until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  4. Add the pasta to the dressing and toss well to combine.  Gently add the melon, basil and green onion.  
  5. Plate the salad in individual servings and top each serving with torn slices of prosciutto and cheese.  Sprinkle generously with black pepper to serve.