Early this year, Edible Canada at the Market opened as a full-service 150 seat bistro located a few steps away from Granville Island Market and the two Granville Island stages of the Arts Club Theatre Company.
My heart beat faster as I saw the invitation. A Cooking Contest to be held over two nights on Vancouver Island - and I was invited to be one of the judges. I sipped my freshly-brewed coffee and watched the lights across the waters of False Creek blink out as the morning sky lightened. Perhaps it was the caffeine because my dreams were certainly not opium-induced but my thoughts took off and "ran down pathways measureless to man".
"The Cooking Contest's Judge Gillian - wow. Move over Mark McEwan - I too could become a Celebrity, and then a Star and then perhaps a gig on "Dancing With The Stars" could be in my future. Derek, Tony, Mark, Max - fantastic teachers all - how to choose?
or do they get assigned? Eight hours dancing a day - fantastic. I would never whine like some of those wimpy "stars".
Patches of blue sky were gradually appearing above the rose coloured clouds in the East above False Creek. I took another sip of coffee and thought some more deep thoughts. "How did the Food Network find me? It must be the incisive foodie writing on my Sipping and Supping Blog."
One way to find out. It was clearly time to read the email.
Rocking Horse Pub 2038 Sanders Road
Nanoose Bay Nanaimo District, BC
Ph: (250) 468-1735
As we drove up to the Rocking Horse Pub, I saw what looked like a large house standing amidst green fields. The exterior did not hint at the comfortable English pub ambience that we encountered when we entered. Six of us were seated at a nice sized table. I chose to sit on the "church pew" bench which meant the table was just at the right height for me.
The desserts designated for the first Cookbook Critique event were cakes from the second cookbook that I have for review. It's called Piece of Cake! by Camilla V. Saulsbury, and the recipes are all designed to be "one bowl, no fuss , from scratch cakes." In other words not to belabor the point, theoretically the recipes should be "a piece of cake" to make. But could they also satisfy the discerning palates of the SASSY foodies and cake-baking friends?
For the first of what I hope will be many Cookbook Critiques on this website, I enlisted the help of my fellow foodies of our SASSY Supper Club to try out a range of recipes from Pat Crocker's "150 Best Tagine Recipes."
Since we were simultaneously trying out recipes from Camilla Saulsbury's "Piece of Cake!" cookbook, we enlisted 5 additional couples as "honorary SASSYs" for the evening. Three of these guests volunteered to make recipes from the salad and dips sections of the Tagine book. Three guests (two regular and one occasional cake baker) undertook to provide desserts from the cake recipe book. (The SASSY Club Eats Cake)
150 Best Tagine Recipes by Pat Crocker
240 pages with 16 colour photos
Publisher: Robert Rose Inc.
Cover price US$ 24.95 Can 27.95
When I first examined the brightly coloured cover of this paperback cookbook, my attention was caught by the description of the author as a culinary herbalist. I assume that the herbs and spies that are so widely used in the cuisines of the North African countries of the Maghreb (Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia) must make these foods particularly interesting to a writer with a strong interest in culinary herbs.
After a brief summary of the culinary specialties of North African cuisine, the author introduces the concept of tagine and tagine cooking.
A Tagine is a two part, conical-domed cooking dish based on the traditional Moroccan clay pots used for slow cooking of stews on stove top or in the oven. The term tagine" is also used as a name for the food prepared in one of these vessels. She describes how modern tagines have been derived from the traditional clay pot, provides a table for comparison of four popular brands of tagines and talks about the use of tagines in meal preparation and service.
I liked the illustrated section on herbs and spices that make up a North African Flavour Footprint. A series of recipes for rubs and other spice combinations is followed by recipes for tagine dishes. The sections include recipes for poultry, lamb, beef, seafood and vegetables. Other recipes include those for dips and sauces, sides and salads, beverages and sweets.
Before you read any further, it is necessary that I explain that I am not renowned for my prowess in the kitchen. My qualification for food-writing lies in the fact that I am a dedicated foodie who loves eating "not wisely but too well".
My cooking skills have definitely improved since the time that my Bolognese sauce imploded showering the walls of our kitchen and our avocado green appliances (that dates this event!) with a burst of red speckled sauce that Jackson Pollock would have admired. However my meal prep these days tends towards baking salmon and chicken or occasionally barbecuing steak or sausage.
With the introduction of Cookbook Critiques on ReviewFromTheHouse.com, I decided it was time to get back in the kitchen, sharpen my knives and restock my herbs, spices and condiment shelves.
But if the results of my cooking do not look like illustrations in a cookbook, it's not necessarily the fault of the recipes but my partly my kitchen skills and also that I am not a "food stylist." My food photos are all WYSIWYG - 100% authentic, unstaged and taken by my "point-and-shoot" camera.
Piece of Cake!
by Camilla V. Saulsbury
Publisher Robert Rose Inc.
Well I confess that from sheer metabolic necessity ( I put on weight just thinking about food) I rarely eat cakes or desserts but the picture of a luscious Cream Cheese Frosted Red Velvet Cake on the cover of Piece of Cake! was not to be denied. I paged through the book looking at more mouth watering pictures and reading recipes. Who can resist the thought of Mocha Cake with Coffee Buttercream or Butterscotch Blondie Bundt? I just had to try some of these cakes.
So with the help of my SASSY Supper Club, I persuaded some of my friends who regularly bake to produce some cakes from this book as desserts for a dinner in which we would evaluate two cookbooks.
From time to time I receive offers of new books to review. Recently my attention was captured by the titles of two new cookbooks from Ontario publisher Robert Rose Inc., and I thought that as a natural expansion of our SASSY Suppers, undertaking practical evaluations of recipe books would be a useful new feature in the Sipping and Supping food-writing section of ReviewFromTheHouse.
Our SASSY (Serious About Sharing Suppers, Yeah) group's supper themes have included Moroccan and Spanish, and after I became determinedly (but intermittently) "Low Carb", we also tried recipes from Karen Barnaby's 2004 book on low carb cooking, a moussaka recipe and cauliflower fried "rice". So when I approached my fellow SASSYs about trying out recipes from these and other new cookbooks, I got enthusiastic agreement.
So enthusiastic in fact that our kickoff SASSY Cookbook Critique evening has morphed into a 16 person supper. We will be tasting tagine entrees and appetizers from Pat Crocker's "150 Best Tagine Recipes" and cakes from Camilla V. Saulsbury's "Piece of Cake!". For this special evening in addition to 6 of our 8 core SASSY group members, we have enlisted 5 couples, all enthusiastic foodies who enjoy baking and experimenting with new recipes.