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Eating Our Way Through Victoria... Pumpkin Time!

Hello Dear Reader!

Well, we’ve had a few culinary adventures to share with you this month.

Before we get to that, however, earlier this month Marcia went out to dinner with the folks she works with at a restaurant downtown.  She ordered the equivalent salad to the one we’d shared at Café Brio last month; in her estimation there was no comparison.  Café Brio was far superior.  She found the service at this restaurant was good but the restaurant was somewhat dark and the food overly salty, so in keeping with our only ‘rule’ about our food posts we’re not going to mention them – at least until we have a second opportunity to try dinner there.  Café Brio we recommend without hesitation!  Actually, we planned to go back there this month, but plans changed.

As we mentioned here, we had a somewhat ‘unconventional’ Thanksgiving this year.  We went to Vancouver to visit family on Sunday/ Monday, but on Saturday night we went out to dinner with our son Nick at a Japanese Fusion restaurant called ‘Bon Sushi‘.  They have two locations in Victoria that we know of: one is in Oak Bay, but the one we went to is on West Saanich Rd. at Royal Oak Plaza.  If you’re familiar with the Royal Oak area, Bon Sushi has taken over at what used to be the Lemongrass Café.  We’ve had Japanese food before but we’re definitely not connaisseurs so we were quite happy to let Nick do most of the ordering.

We found the staff quietly reserved but friendly, which is typical for Asian culture.  When the server came to take our order she listened attentively and asked for clarification when required.  We weren’t sure of the portion sizes so we ordered more food than was probably necessary, but it was all delicious.  Every platter was elegantly presented, with clusters of pickled ginger ‘flowers’ and wasabi paste in the corners (no fresh wasabi, but it’s expensive, hard to get, and doesn’t ‘keep’ long).  We may have ordered more food than we should have, but we managed to down every mouthful, along with copious amounts of tea.  Having been there once, it’s definitely on our list of places to visit again!

Continuing our quest for the perfect coffee, when we were in Oak Bay a couple of weeks ago to see the show at Lúz Gallery we wandered down the street to Discovery Coffee.  From their website:

“Our new shop proudly boasts the first vacuum pot and halogen bar in the city and we’ll be glad to tell you all about it while we brew some stellar single origin coffees, one cup at a time to order, or one of the other drinks you have come to know us for.

With a build up like that, we’re not going to say any more about their drinks.  You’ll have to go and find out for yourself!  We found it intriguing that most of the tables in the café are old sewing machine trestles (sewing machines removed).  The  tables are just the right size for two people to get cozy.  They also have a turntable (it’s nice to know we’re not the only ones) and some classic vinyl.  For anyone born after 1980 or so, an LP is like a CD, only bigger, more fragile and without the digital tracks.  It may be ‘retro’ for the staff, but quite familiar to us!  The staff are very diligent in what they do, and they’re also open and always willing to share a smile.  If you’re in the area, it’s worth dropping in.

October 26 marked our 8th Anniversary of the day we were married (our 96th Monthaversary).  We were originally planning to go back to Café Brio to celebrate, but it turned out that the 26th was also the day of Nick’s convocation from Royal Roads University.  The ceremony was held in the morning at the Royal Theatre, and after the ceremony and photographs and paparazzi (okay, so we exaggerate a little) we headed to Floyd’s Diner.  Floyd’s was the subject of our first ever food post, and remains a favourite downtown lunch spot for us.  It was as boisterous and as good as ever, and the staff still give great hugs.

Hugs,
M&M

P.S. I’ve been threatening to share some recipes in these food posts for some time, and as Hallowe’en draws to a close the one thing of which people will have a surfeit (okay, beside candy and possibly hangovers) is pumpkins.  In their honour, I’m offering two pumpkin recipes.  Both are amalgamations of different recipes from others, so I offer my appreciations to those cooks who provided the inspiration!

Mike.

MIKE’S PUMPKIN PIE

1 un‑baked 9 inch pie shell*
2 large eggs
½ cup (125 ml) sugar
2 tbsp. (30 ml) molasses
½ tsp. (2 ml) salt
¼ tsp. (1 ml) baking soda
1 tsp. (5 ml) ginger
1 tsp. (5 ml) cinnamon
½ tsp. (3 ml) cloves
½ tsp. (3 ml) nutmeg
2+ cups (500 ml) of cooked pumpkin, mashed and drained**
1 cup (250 ml) sour cream
½ cup (125 ml) milk

Prepare the pie shell with a fluted standing rim, and preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Mix the eggs, molasses, sugar, salt and spices in a blender or mixer until well mixed. Add the baking soda, sour cream, milk, and pumpkin and blend well. Turn the mixture into the prepared shell, and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 400°F (200°C) and continue to cook for about 30 minutes more.

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* For years and years and… I went in search of a good pastry recipe.  I tried many that just didn’t measure up, and tried and tried again.  One year for my birthday my mother bought me a copy of ‘More Food That Really Schmecks‘, by Edna Staebler, and in it was a recipe called ‘Barbie’s Perfect Pastry‘ (named for Edna’s friend, not the Mattel toy).  Without much enthusiasm, I tried it and was amazed by the results!  It was great!!  I was so excited I showed it to my sister Liz, who said, “That’s just like Grandma’s old recipe.”  All those years and nobody told me about it…

** COOKED PUMPKIN

Wash pumpkin and cut into quarters; clean away the seeds and stringy fibres. An ice-cream scoop works great for removing the seeds and fibres.  Place the quarters in a low-sided baking dish containing ½” (12 mm) of hot water.  Bake at 350°F (180°C) for about 40 minutes or until tender. Remove pulp from rind and mash or rub the pulp through a sieve or food mill. Alternately, you can add the pulp to a blender and blend on high, stopping occasionally to stir and push down the chunks.  Pour the purée into a large colander and let drain – preferably overnight.  Pack 2 cups (500 ml) at a time into freezer bags, leaving ½” (12 mm) headspace. Seal and freeze. Keeps for 1 year.

NB: If using canned pumpkin (shudder!) with this pie you may need to add a little more liquid to the mix.
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MIKE’S PUMPKIN BISQUE

~3 cups (750 ml) good stock (chicken, turkey, vegetable, whatever)*
1-14 oz (400 ml) can coconut milk
4 cups (1L) + cooked pumpkin, mashed or blended
1 tbsp. (15 ml) balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. (30 ml) olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed or chopped
1 tsp. (5 ml) salt
½-1 tsp. (2-5 ml) cayenne pepper (be careful with this, depending on your palate)
1 tsp. (5 ml) nutmeg
½ tsp. (2 ml) black pepper

Combine the stock, coconut milk and pumpkin in a large pot and heat on a low heat.

Add the onions and the olive oil to a frying pan at low heat and cook until brown – about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Cooking the onions on a low heat caramelizes them and adds flavour.  Cook them until nicely browned; when the onions are about halfway there, add in the garlic.  Toward the end of the cooking time add the spices, salt and pepper and stir to mix.

If you have an immersion blender, add the contents of the frying pan to the soup pot and blend to mix.  Otherwise, add the mixture from the frying pan to a blender and add enough soup stock to allow this to blend easily.  Pour the contents back into the soup pot.  Add in the balsamic vinegar, stir and serve.

Can be served alone, with a nice chunk of bread, perhaps with a sharp cheese or with pepitas (roasted spiced pumpkinseeds).

* The amount of stock can vary a little depending on how much liquid is in your pumpkin mixture and how thick you want the final soup to be.  Canned pumpkin tends to have less moisture.

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Enjoy!  And if you prefer pumpkin coffeecake or pumpkin muffins or pumpkin bread or… let me know.

P.S. You can read more of our Food posts and restaurant reviews here.

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