Foodies Unite!


I’m looking forward to this…

Dine Out Vancouver Festival is about community, collaboration, and sharing Vancouver’s culinary story.

Along with the Wines of British Columbia, and a host of other Community Partners, Tourism Vancouver is proud to continue to showcase Vancouver’s culinary talent as well as the many different culinary and cultural experiences that only a city like ours can offer.

It all started with an idea. A group of food and wine enthusiasts got together with the team at Tourism Vancouver back in 2002 and pitched the idea of a fixed-price menu deal to get Vancouverites out and into restaurants during a normally slow time of the year. Fifty-seven restaurants jumped on board and from that stellar yet humble beginning, Dine Out Vancouver Festival has grown into Canada’s largest food and drink festival.

Today, the festival is a promotional umbrella that brings together hundreds of chefs, more than 300 restaurants, wineries, craft breweries, suppliers and more for a month of dining, food-forward virtual events and experiences designed to give culinary enthusiasts the opportunity to taste the best flavours of the city. Dine Out Vancouver Festival also includes special hotel offers to help make an overnight Dine Out experience both safe and relaxing.

For 2021, we wish our out-of-Province and International friends could join us, but unfortunately for now, non-essential travel into Canada is not permitted and not recommended into and within British Columbia. BC Residents, let’s do our part by continuing to follow current public health orders.  Stay local and support local, with your immediate household or bubble in accordance with the latest guidelines.

Runs February 5 – March 7, 2021.

Ask For Luigi

Source: “about”

Check out the participating restaurants and hotels:


Food in the Forest: pilgrimme

pilgrimme on Galiano Island is a foodie dining out discovery.  It may be off the beaten path, but even so, it’s not easy to get a reservation.  It has been voted in Canada’s 100 TOP Restaurants for good reason.  I called a couple weeks in advance and was considered lucky to get a table for four during my recent stay on Galiano.  And what a dining experience it turned out to be.

plgrimme, the restaurant.  It’s worth the ferry ride over.

For years, Galiano remained a well-kept secret, its charms known mainly to the farmers and artisans who called it home.  The cozy wood cabin previously existed as a much loved French restaurant for years before present owners Leanne Lalonde and Jesse McLeery put their name above the door.  Leanne had previously worked for Rosewood’s King Pacific Lodge in the great bear rainforest where she first met Jesse.

Jesse made the inspiring journey to Denmark to spend the winter in the kitchen of Copenhagen’s acclaimed Noma, a two-Michelin-star restaurant . Returning west with new ideas and a reinforced vision, Jesse, with Leanne, opened pilgrimme working with the growers and artisans of Galiano Island.  Everything is made fresh from scratch, locally sourced, farm-to-table, creatively plated and extremely tasty.  Even the ceramics are made on the island.  They have a nicely curated wine list too.

Some of the shared plates created especially for us

Here’s the thing that impressed me the most.  The restaurant created an all vegan menu which was absolutely delicious because out of our group of four people, two and a half of us are vegan.  I must admit that I had my reservations about that at first because I thought that vegan food would be less tasty but everything turned out to be surprisingly excellent.  As good or better than anything I’ve had in a restaurant all year.  And it made me change my mind-set.  In a perfect world we would all be vegan and everything would be better off.  Although I’m not quite ready to totally live up to that.  I’m not perfect just yet.




Avocados – the new FRUIT on the block

Okay, technically avocados are a fruit but most people treat them more like a veggie which is unfair considering how versatile they are.avo2

I just ate avocados from Mexico for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  Granted as much as I love avocados, that doesn’t usually happen.  It’s just that on Sunday I spend part of the afternoon at the Northwest Culinary Academy of Vancouver for the second Avo Showdown Event with chefs who prepared amazingly creative dishes using avocados from Mexico.  It inspired me to incorporate avocados into more dishes.  You should have seen what these chefs came up with and how delicious everything tasted with 10 savoury concoctions and 7 desserts.  Avocado toast is so 2015!

20160410_140641It was difficult for the judges to decide on a first place winner (the winning prize was a trip for two to Club Med Cancun) but the Cannoli where the pastry chef substituted avocado in place of ricotta cheese was the outstanding #1 winner.    

Justin Darnes from Drinks Undressed demonstrated a unique cocktail using smoked avocado and banana infused Cachaca (sugarcane liquour) and passion fruit. avo9avo8 He garnished it with cinnamon dusted banana & avocado coins. Divine! Chef Jonathan Kinney from the academy demonstrated an elegant layered parfait with granola, yogurt and fresh fruit in a wineglass (or sundae dish) topped with sliced avocado and toasted coconut.  Simple but amazing.  And that’s the thing – it is so simple!

Since I am not in favour of wasting food I try to combine leftovers in my fridge into some kind of edible substance, and I like being creative so…..


I did not enter but I think my original Avocado/Tofu Ceviche recipe is a winner. Next year!
I did not enter but I think my original Avocado/Tofu Ceviche recipe is a winner.         Next year!



I make my own homemade granola so using what was in my fridge I just layered it into a margarita glass with yogurt, sliced mango, blackberries and sliced (a little riper than I like) Mexican avocados.  It worked together extremely well and tasted great.


Tuna Avocado Salad on Hearts of Romaineavo11For the dressing I mixed a small amount of mayo and ripe avocados – creamy and perfect! A healthy alternative to mayonnaise. Chopped cucumber, green onion, cilantro & red pepper were mixed in the bowl along with the albacore tuna and avocado chunks.  Hearts of Romaine are a healthy alternative to bread.


MexiGreek Salad for starters – a chopped salad of not overly-ripe Mexican avocados, sweet onion, grape tomatoes, cilantro, cucumber and feta cheese (black olives; optional).  Dressing: lemon olive oil, S+P.

My skin is already looking so much better.  Now I’m not sure if it’s on account of the La Mer Concentrate I’ve been using combined with my own skincare, or the avocados. or all of the above.

The Winners
The Winners

Do you have an original simple recipe using Mexican avocados that you’d like to share?

Photos: d. king






























Food – Palm Springs Perfect

I’ve been coming to Palm Springs for one or two months every year for several years. Not to escape the snow but to escape the Vancouver damp and cold.  Not a snowbird exactly, more of a wet bird.

with other wet rainbirds
with other rain birds – at Woody’s

The sunshine is a big draw although this time it rained heavily for a few days and a medium strength earthquake shook me out of bed one morning. I enjoy a good shake in the morning but mostly after a workout.

There are a lot of things to enjoy in and around Palm Springs. I get to swim almost every day and pick fresh grapefruit and lemons for my good morning start. I love the food here.

Oh, speaking of food…for this post, let’s focus on the Food.

Chilean Sea Bass at LuLu
Chilean Sea Bass at LuLu

There is unbelievably good cuisine to be found in and around Palm Springs.  Of course, I haven’t been to every single restaurant but I can recommend a fair share of superb and varied places. So here are my pics with a short review and I’m certain many of them are considered to be the Pride (no pun intendedof Palm Springs.

DEBBIE’s baker’s DOZEN (in no particular order):

Woody’s Burgers: 317 N. Indian Canyon Drive – 760.230.0188

Music & Burger Heaven
Music & Burger Heaven

From the outside it looks like a typical 1950’s diner but once inside you realize it is not your typical diner.  That’s what I love about Woody’s.  In short, they have excellent burgers but the real draw is when you step into the back room.  There you’ll find a blue dining room complete with a stage, professional sound system and great live music.  This former bus station is the place where top jazz and blues artists perform every night of the week.  It’s where I bumped into my friend Michelle from Vancouver with her family and some friends sitting at a nearby table (photo above).  Then for sure I knew it was a cool spot. Bonus: no cover charge, but reservations are recommended.

Copley’s of Palm Canyon: 621 N. Palm Canyon Drive – 760.327.9555

Magical at night
Magical especially at night

I wanted to go here based on the fact that it was formerly Cary Grant’s estate. Built in the 1920’s, this inside/outside restaurant has kept the flavour of the original Spanish architecture with its red-tile roofs, fountains and tile patios.  It has consistently been rated among the top restaurants in the valley by Zagat’s and New York Times.  A welcoming atmosphere with inspiring food and fire pits best describes this romantic spot.  The only thing that would have made it perfect is if I had been sitting across from Cary Grant instead of my friend Colleen (but don’t tell her that).

PHO533: 1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive 760.778.6595  20151230_204428

In short, this is PHO sure the best Vietnamese (fusion) food I’ve had to date.  They are noted for their Vietnamese Crepe but I ordered the summer mango rolls, chicken lemongrass meatballs & slow roasted Pho (broth) with rice stick noodles, herbs, spices and kaffir lime. Satisfaction guaranteed!

TRIO: 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive – 760.864.8746

Bread Pudding - TRIO
TRIO Bread Pudding
LuLu - chocolate ganache & coffee crème brûlée
LULU – chocolate ganache & coffee crème brûlée

Trio is a treat.  It’s casual but cool and has classic comfort food like Mac’ n 5 Cheese, St. Louis Ribs and an original vegetarian ceviche.  Oh; you don’t consider ceviche to be in the comfort category? You should try it!  This is where I stole the recipe.

Sherman’s Deli & Bakery: 401 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way – 760.325.1199

Sherman's Summer Salad
Sherman’s Summer Salad

After leaving your name with the host you’ll have a relatively short wait but it’s worth it. Focus is on very casual, unbeatable platters, sandwiches, soups and salads.  Everything you want in a deli.  Bring a hearty appetite and give the chefs a chance to show off – as the menu states. You will not be disappointed! Also, this is the place where my friend Cher and I made national news (twice in one day) when we were questioned re the vibe surrounding Palm Springs at the International Film Festival.  Didn’t you see it?  We were awesome!

Lulu California Bistro: 200 S. Palm Canyon Drive – 760.327.5858

Lulu Ahi Tuna Tower
Lulu Ahi Tuna Tower

One of my all-time favourite hangouts when in P.S.  It’s located in the former space of a major art gallery.  A lively atmosphere with an extensive, value-priced menu celebrating California casual cuisine.  It’s just a memorable place with very good food.  One of my favourites is the tuna tower.  I spent New Year’s Eve here twice.

Tropicale: 330 E. Amado Rd. – 760.866.1952tropicale1A chic and sophisticated décor  with “world class” cuisine.  The Coral Seas Lounge, a hip mid-century style bar is lined with sexy black leather bar-stools and is reminiscent of the upbeat lounges of old Palm Springs. It wraps around the dining room and leads outside to a lush, tropical, 2000 square foot dining patio where a variety of specialty cocktails and old-school favorites are mixed – an ideal place where friends gather and martinis are sipped under the starlit desert sky. How could that not be attractive?

Bill’s Pizza: 119 South Indian Canyon Drive (they don’t take reservations)20160105_193953Two of the best pizzas I’ve ever tasted – that’s all!

aldenteAl Dente: 491 N Palm Canyon Dr. – (760) 325-1160


This relaxed trattoria with a cozy patio and European atmosphere serves Italian classics. Everything is homemade using the freshest ingredients.  It was one of the first places I dined at when visiting Palm Springs.

Sammy G’s Tuscan Grille: 265 S Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs – (760) 320-8041sammygs

Casual yet elegant vibe, traditional Italian mixed with updated classics are on the menu.  I really loved sitting outside under the heat lamps while being serenaded by the guitarist.  Thursday through Saturday night the lounge becomes energetic where you can dance the night away to live music and enjoy some signature cocktails.

Morton’s (Palm Desert): 74-880 Country Club Dr, Palm Desert – (760) 340-6865mortonsSo this is really in Palm Desert but it had to be included. Aside from offering some of the best steaks in the world, this steakhouse has one of the best happy hour menus ever. We enjoyed filet 3 ways (bearnaise, bleu cheese & chipotle), beef short rib tacos, tuna tacos, crab sliders and parmesan/truffle string fries. Very reasonably priced happy hour too.

Melvyn’s: 200 West Ramon Road – 760.325.232320160109_105422

My friend Colleen told me that this restaurant which is located at the Ingleside Inn (an historic landmark) and is very “Old Hollywood” is really old.  She said she went for drinks and there were lots of lushes hanging out but the Inn itself was very interesting. Hmmm….it piqued my curiosity so I had to check it out. After all, the brochure claims it “One of the World’s 10 Best.” The smaller print under that says…according to “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”  But that show is waaay before my time. So I went for brunch.  I see what Colleen means; it’s living in the past but to be fair it has a somewhat elegant atmosphere and the brunch was very good.

In the piano bar
In the piano bar – some alumni photos
The lovely pond view
The lovely pond view at Melvyn’s

I had prime rib hash with a poached egg over top and scalloped potatoes.  Did I mention the endless champagne?  I say it’s worth checking out because it’s been here for more than 40 years and the b+w who’s who photos lining the wall with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Heidi Klum is glamorous memorabilia and fun to look at.  At least a drink at the piano bar in the evening would be worth it. p.s. when strolling the property I stole oranges off the tree.

Elmer's "looking for sun" omelette, blueberry buttermilk pancakes & potato pancakes.
Elmer’s “looking for sun” omelette, blueberry buttermilk pancakes & potato pancakes.

BEST in BREAKFAST: Elmer’s hands down: 1030 E. Palm Canyon Drive  – 760.327.8419

A family-style restaurant offering exceptional American-style breakfasts.  Memorable food & gracious service make this a must. *Their German pancakes look awesome.


p.s. I’m told by some very reliable sources (Michele & her mom Vicki) that restaurant & lounge Eight4Nine (west coast modern cuisine) located at 849 (no kidding?) N. Palm Canyon Drive is excellent.  760.325.8490  *I haven’t been yet – the decor does not appeal to me but I intend to try it.

Oh; I cannot forget my all-time favourite flan (after my friend Rosa’s) is from JJ’s Oasis Latino

My second favorite flan
My second favorite flan

located at 1550 N. Palm Canyon Dr.  This family run Mexican restaurant which has been here for ages has the greatest coconut flan…..ever!  Trust me, I know.

I know, I know…those in the know will say she missed Spencer’s but really there is only so much I can eat and as you can see…I’m doing a pretty good job of it so far (but I have to run and swim more on account of it).  As I write this I’m looking at the bougainvillea room at Spencer’s (their stunning outdoor patio allows dogs so you know what that means.  It means more working out).  It never ends….

Spencer’s Restaurant:  701 W. Baristo Road – 760.327.3446

Photos: d. king  (Tropicale and Morton’s – google images)

Now for the Detox


Food – Wicked Spoon

One of the many things that brings me enjoyment from writing this blog is to share personal recipes that I find exceptionally good.  Another thing is to share exceptional dining experiences. 


bone marrow with kimchee glaze
bone marrow with kimchee glaze
coffee almond cake with milk chocolate & coffee mousse
coffee almond cake with milk chocolate & coffee mousse

I just spent some time in Vegas and with the multitude of restaurants available to choose from it can be a conundrum as to which places are worth trying. There’s something for everyone and Vegas is now a world class dining destination with top chefs striving for centre attention.

Some of my personal favorites have been the Picasso restaurant at the Bellagio with authentic Picasso paintings throughout the restaurant (as you can imagine this really adds to the whole ambiance), Joe’s Stone Crab at Caesars Palace, Mon Ami Gabi (a classic French Bistro at Paris where they serve you warm fresh baked french bread in paper bags), Mizumi sushi at Wynn, Carnegie Deli at the Mirage (where size counts as much as quality), Satay Thai Bistro & Bar on Paradise Road (excellent Pad Thai & Panang Curry)  and now Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan hotel (this is the sparkliest hotel on the strip).

steak au poivre with peppercorn blend

One late afternoon turned into early evening with 3 others eating at Wicked Spoon (I did stop for a break once in a while before getting up to fill my plate again) because guess what?  It’s a buffet!  Wait a sec…it’s not your typical traditional style which has been around for decades and which nearly every hotel offers. You know the ones that offer the regular salad fare, carving station with sides and desserts.buffet4buffet2

The wicked Spoon buffet at the Cosmopolitan hotel has turned tradition on its ear.  It’s a fine cut (pun intended) above. Here you don’t need to worry about filling up on one thing too quickly or accidentally getting a large helping of something you don’t really like. Most items are served in a reasonable portion on a small individual plate or in a tiny individual metal saucepan. And since they’re of gourmet quality, chances are you’ll probably like everything.

caesar salad
caesar salad

Much like any buffet, the Wicked Spoon is divided into sections, beginning with a salad area. But don’t expect the traditional bowl of lettuce with dressings and toppings, though. Instead you’ll find items like Italian panzanella bread salad, chickpea salad, hummus and pita slices and a nice selection of cheeses. There’s a traditional carving station, serving things you’d expect like prime rib and pork, but you’ll also find out-of-the-ordinary items like roasted bone marrow, turkey wellington, meaty beef ribs, lamb and bouillabaisse which included giant gulf shrimp. Sidenote: the Southern fried chicken served in their little individual frying cages was delish.

kalua pork & kimchi fried rice and vegetable gyoza
kalua pork & kimchi fried rice and vegetable gyoza

There are a wide variety of side dishes to accompany the meat. Don’t miss the truffled scalloped potatoes. Other choices include “angry” mac and chesse, which has a smoky, chipotle flavor. Vegetables include a delicious brown butter roasted cauliflower and a ricotta creamed spinach.

barley risotto with cauliflower & goat cheese
barley risotto with cauliflower & goat cheese

An Italian food station is filled with a variety of pizzas and pastas you’d see in the finest Italian restaurant including an asiago gnocchi in lamb ragout; a goat cheese ravioli; and a tomato and asparagus risotto.

The last station is an Asian food bar that offers items like orange chicken, Korean barbecued ribs in kimchi, sushi and cute tiny Chinese takeout containers filled with just the right amount of rice or noodles.

With all of the amazing food choices at the Wicked Spoon, it is hard to pace yourself and save room for dessert, but trust me, you must. The dessert bar features an impressive and colourful array of treats including enormous chocolate-covered strawberries, red velvet cookies and pastries galore. For those with health concerns, there is a large case of sugar-free desserts.

a tiramisu cone?
tiramisu cones with chocolate?

I heard that the gelato bar is an absolute must-try offering a wide variety of flavours including strawberry balsamic and salted caramel peanut.  But at this point I really did not have room for one more morsel…and I LOVE gelato.  This was the buffet to end all buffets (at least for now).

the beef ribs were crazy good
the beef ribs were crazy good – sweet potato & marshmallow, roasted curried cauliflower
Carnegie Deli - if you order the "Woody Allen" make sure to share it.
Carnegie Deli – this is a regular corned beef sandwich but if you order the “Woody Allen” make sure to share it with 3 friends.
The Bellagio fountain is right across the street. Usually I sit outside but it was a bit too chilly this time.
The Bellagio fountain is directly across the street. This time it was a bit too chilly to sit outside even under a heat lamp.

Photos: d. king

Food – Sweet & Savoury

I find INSPIRATION everywhere – sometimes in the strangest places

cutting up the ginger & getting ready to make cake
chopping ginger & getting ready to make the cake with all ingredients in the background

These delicious recipes came to me just last week when I was lying in my dentist’s chair with headphones on looking up at the TV on the ceiling (anything to divert my attention away from the work at hand) watching the Food Network channel.  Can you think of a better way to spend an hour while having your teeth cleaned? The two recipes that I saw looked so appealing that I made them both on the same day to rave reviews.

The first recipe is sweet and perfect for guests coming over around or on Christmas day, and the second reminded me that I had not made lasagna in ages.  Both were excellent and I was told that the lasagna was the best ever.  I’ve never followed a recipe for lasagna before but this one looked too good not to follow…with a slight diversion as usual.

Gingerbread Jars with Cranberry Curd

You can use different sized jars - fun way to serve
You can use different sized jars – my version
Nancy's original
Nancy’s original – you can decorate as you like

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted, plus extra butter at room temperature for greasing the pan
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup molasses
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup crystallized ginger
Cranberry Curd:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cranberry juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pats
Sweetened whipped cream, for serving

Make the gingerbread: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-by-8-inch cake pan with a little softened butter and line with parchment paper, letting any excess hang over the edges of the pan.

Place the orange juice and raisins in a measuring cup and set aside to soak. In a mixing bowl add the melted butter, molasses and sour cream, whisking until well combined. Add 1 2/3 cups of flour, the ginger, baking soday, cinnamon, cloves and salt and whisk together until combined. Drain the raisins, then add them to the batter along with the remaining 1 cup of flour and the crystallized ginger. Combine with a silicone spatula, then pour into the prepared pan and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven and set aside to cool completely before cutting the cake into 1-inch cubes.

While the cake bakes, make the cranberry curd: Into a saucepan set over medium heat, add the sugar, cranberry juice and salt and whisk until smooth. Once the sugar is dissolved, whisk in the egg yolks, then add the butter. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until the cranberry curd thickens and reaches 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the heat and transfer the curd to a bowl to cool.

To assemble: Place a few pieces of the gingerbread cubes in a small jar, add 2 tablespoons of the cranberry curd on top of the gingerbread and top with *whipped cream.

*TIP: I added a little pure peppermint extract to the whipping cream. You can also make it a lot easier and just slice or cut the cake & drizzle the curd over it.

This Recipe courtesy of Nancy Fuller – Farmhouse Rules (the Food Network)

 Lasagna alla Besciamella20151211_195854Ingredients
Meat Ragu:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, pushed through a press
1 pound ground beef
2 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
2 links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Freshly ground black pepper
Three 26.5-ounce boxes strained tomatoes, such as Pomi
1 cup dry red wine

3 cups whole milk
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

1 pound no-cook lasagna noodles, such as Barilla
2 1/4 cups finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
One 8-ounce package part-skim low-moisture shredded mozzarella

To make the meat ragu: Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Add the ground beef, sausage, salt, basil, Italian seasoning, oregano and pepper to taste and increase the heat to high. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned all over. Add the tomatoes. Pour some of the wine into the empty tomato boxes to rinse out the last bits of tomatoes and add to the pot, along with the remaining wine. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the sauce thickens and the flavors come together, about 1 hour. Add a healthy amount of black pepper.

To make the besciamella: Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until just simmering, then turn off the heat. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour to the butter and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and then loosens again, about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook, whisking almost constantly, for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and use immediately.

To make the lasagna: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread an even layer of the meat ragu over the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over the sauce lengthwise across the short side of the pan. Avoid overlapping or allowing them to touch the sides of the pan because they will expand as they cook. Press down slightly to let the sauce spread around them. Cover with one-quarter of the besciamella and sprinkle with one-third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add another layer of ragu. Add 3 more noodles, arranging them in the opposite direction from the first layer and breaking 1 of the noodles in half if necessary to fit. Add one-quarter of the besciamella and half of the mozzarella. Make a third layer of ragu, noodles (alternating directions again), besciamella and one-third of the Parmigiano-Reggiano. Add another layer of ragu, then the remaining mozzarella, noodles (alternating the noodles again), besciamella and ragu.

Cover the pan with foil and bake until heated through, about 35 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the top is brown and bubbling, about 20 minutes more. During the last 10 minutes of baking, scatter the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano all over. Let the lasagna stand for 10 minutes before serving.

*TIP – instead of the besciamella (Béchamel) sauce I used old-fashioned Ricotta cheese which Valerie’s mother makes and prefers and I did not use any wine for this (surprised,are you?).

Adapted from “One Dish at a Time” by Valerie Bertinelli

Recipe courtesy of Valerie Bertinelli
SHOW: Valerie’s Home Cooking
EPISODE: Ho! Ho! Ho! Company’s Comin

p.s. I have a thing for wearing aprons while cooking and have a little collection going on.  The one I’m wearing in the photo was a gift from my sister & it came with matching pot holders from a little boutique in Vancouver called “Wishlist”.  I have a vintage “Kenzo” with daisies & pockets that a friend picked up in Japan, animal prints from Africa, original white chef aprons and one that says “Living in Zin” that was a gift from friends I visited Napa with.  They all have a story, they’re all very useful and I feel like I’m getting down to business when I put them on.

Do you wear aprons? 


Food: Italian Potluck – Milan Expo 2015

From May 1 through October 31, Milan is a hosting an international pot luck dinner antipasto-platterat Expo 2015, that once-every-few-years universal world fair where countries come together for a thematic event. This year’s theme, “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” will explore food culture and sustainability as seen through 170 country and corporate participants.  This is my kind of Expo!

Together they are bringing food conversation to the table in a multi-cultural village of pavilions, theaters, conference halls, and parks where food finesse is just an hors d’oeuvre and tastings plus table talk are the main courses.

Naviglio canal at night
Naviglio canal at night

Pavilions make up the core of Expo 2015: Unique stand-alone structures that share food ideas and concepts and are architectural celebrations in their own right.

The Italian Pavillion
The Italian Pavillion

Focusing on food discussions, the Expo village brings together countries and food concerns in different Clusters. Countries will ask you to think differently about what you know about food through dedicated topics like grains, coffee, chocolate, and climate zones. The Slow Food pavilion celebrates the Italian-born movement and radicalizes it for the 21st century. Pavilion Zero and Future Food District (created with MIT’s SENSEable City Lab) are poised to take you back to the future. And if you’re bored, there’s always Cirque du Soleil‘s Allavita! at the open-air theater.

It’s food. It’s a celebration of food. And it’s chefs celebrating. Some of the world’s biggest kitchen names will be heading to Milan for demonstrations, conversations, and even a little giving back. Italy’s top chef Massimo Bottura and 40 of his famous friends will take host a charity kitchen and cook with Expo leftovers at the Refettorio Ambrosiano.

Spaghetti Bolognese
Spaghetti Bolognese – I just made a batch

If you go: It’s a six-month food party. You’ll need a game plan and a great pair of walking shoes. Visiting the Expo is like heading to a food-focused theme park. You are going to want to take your time and to be there for more than one day.  Why don’t you make it a holiday? Milan for Food and Shopping...Cosa c’è di meglio (what could be better)?

From Milan: The Expo is in Rho, 20 minutes northwest of Milan’s city center.

Source: Forbes.com – Erica Firpo for Fathom

CooKing – Crazy for Curry

It’s been too long since I made an Indian curry. curry3Now that I have I won’t leave it so long until the next time.  Kind of crazy because curries are one of my favourite foods.

This recipe from scratch comes courtesy (sort of) from a friend’s grandmother who was from England and lived in India for many years.  When I used to visit her she always fed me this amazing curry and I always wanted her recipe.  Only thing was she didn’t have one.  So I asked her to invite me over the next time she made it and I sat and watched and copied down everything she put into it.  This is the way I work sometimes.

A lot of the spices you might already have.  If not, buy them and you’ll be using them over and over again.  Plus these are so beneficial (especially turmeric) for you health wise.

Chicken Currycurry4Chicken (either 1 medium chicken, disjointed with the skin removed, or boneless chicken pieces).

Two medium size russet potatoes (cut into bite size cubes)

3 Tbsp. organic coconut oil

3 medium onions (finely sliced – they boil down)

1 tsp. Himalayan salt

1 tsp. powdered ginger

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. coriander

1 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. turmeric

½ tsp. allspice

½ tsp. dried mustard


Juice from ½ squeezed lemon

3 Tbsp. plain greek yogurt

2 Tbsp. ketchup

  • Season dry chicken with dry spices (mix of lemon pepper, masala curry powder & everyday seasoning). Rub all over chicken.
  • Brown chicken with a bit of coconut oil in an oven-proof skillet. Sauté on all sides until nicely browned & remove from pan.
  • Next, in the same skillet heat the 3 Tbsp. of oil & sauté the onions until slightly brown.
  • Mix all ingredients (omitting the lemon juice, yogurt & ketchup) with half vinegar & half cold water to form a paste. About 4 tsp. of each (not too thick but not watery).
  • Drop paste into skillet with onions & fry gently for 5 minutes, stirring over medium heat.
  • Place cut up (already browned) chicken pieces in skillet with the potatoes & stir to prevent sticking.
  • Add 2 cups of hot water or *chicken stock (I prefer using stock) and simmer with lid on and cook until tender. At least 30 minutes. Do not let liquid dry out – if so then add more water.
  • When cooked through add the lemon juice, plain yogurt & ketchup to skillet and stir well until mixed thoroughly.
  • Serve with plain white *basmati rice (well rinsed) or savoury rice. Don’t forget to get your add-ons like lime pickle & mango chutney.  Also Tandoori Naan bread. Some of the breads now you can put right into the toaster. Garnish with cilantro.

    sweet mango chutney, lime pickle & mango/coconut sauce.
    sweet mango chutney, lime pickle & mango/coconut sauce.

*For this recipe I prefer using plain basmati and mix a bit of raisins or currants, a little peas & carrots and sliced almonds into the pot at the end. Top with saffron.

For savoury just add a bit of curry powder & turmeric.  Use bouillon in hot water for the liquid.



Festive Food/Drink/Dresses – to ring in a New Year

 New Year’s Nibblies

Whether you’re hosting a New Year’s Eve party or attending one — you don’t want to spend what’s left of 2014 cooking in the kitchen.  Here are three perfect party solution appetizers with only 5 ingredients or less to make it easy for you.roasted-gnocchi-sundried-tomato-olive-stacks

They are taken from Justin Chapple, Food & Wines Test Kitchen senior editor.  Enjoy!

Roasted gnocchi, sundried tomato & olive stacks (photo above)

Ready made gnocchi make a perfect base for a bite-sized canapé that’s easy to make and perfect for a party platter or casual nibble with drinks.


500g pack of fresh gnocchi

4 tbsp olive oil

40 pitted green olives

40 sundried tomatoes

40 basil leaves

Heat oven to 350F. Tip the fresh gnocchi in a roasting tin and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Thread the roasted gnocchi onto cocktail sticks with pitted green olives, sundried tomatoes and basil leaves. Serve while the gnocchi is still warm.

Recipe from Good Food magazine, November 2014

Smoked Salmon with Artichoke Hearts

Photo: Linda Pugliese/Food and Wine
Photo: Linda Pugliese/Food and Wine

Total time: 25 minutes

Servings: Makes 32 Hors D’Oeuvres


16 small marinated artichoke hearts, drained, plus 1 teaspoon of the oil from the jar

1/2 cup packed celery leaves

1/2 pound thinly sliced smoked salmon, cut into thirty-two 4-inch-by-1-inch strips

1/2 small red onion, cut into thin 1-inch-long strips

Preheat the oven to 450°. Pat the artichoke hearts dry with paper towels and halve them lengthwise. Arrange the artichoke hearts cut side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet and roast for 5 minutes, until sizzling. Carefully transfer the artichokes to a plate. Arrange the celery leaves on the baking sheet and coat with the reserved artichoke oil. Roast for 3 minutes, until the leaves are crisp.

Wrap each piece of the smoked salmon around an artichoke half and a few of the onion strips and transfer to a platter. Garnish with the crisp celery leaves and serve.

Bacon-Wrapped Cherry Peppers

Photo: Lucas Allen/Food and Wine Magazine
Photo: Lucas Allen/Food and Wine Magazine

Total time: 30 minutes

Servings 4 to 6

These genius hors d’oeuvres call for just three ingredients. The recipe can be made ahead of time, so it’s great for parties.


6 jarred hot cherry peppers- halved through the stem, seeded, drained and patted dry

1/3 cup cream cheese, softened

12 thin bacon slices (6 ounces)

Preheat the oven to 350°. Stuff each cherry pepper half with a heaping teaspoon of cream cheese and wrap with a slice of bacon; secure with a toothpick.

Arrange the stuffed peppers in a large ovenproof skillet and cook over moderate heat, turning, until the bacon is browned, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the bacon is crisp and the cream cheese is hot. Serve the stuffed cherry peppers warm.

 Other simple standard staples:

fig & stilton squares (on thawed out puff pastry that is baked in the oven) or even stilton spooned into hollowed out figs garnished with a halved walnut on top.

Photo: Tina Rupp/Food & Wine
Photo: Tina Rupp/Food & Wine

baked mushroom caps (stuffed with crab & cream cheese or your choice).

cheese platter (mix of soft & hard)

cut up veggies and dips (always a hit)

Party platters don’t have to be all too time consuming & crazy  making. Have fun putting them together.  They should be pleasing to the eye and the palate.  Your guests will enjoy your company and a good glass of bubbly.©LauraManske.CostaFavolosa.Prosecco1ac

Yes…..a bubbly person is always best!


champagne-sparkling-wine-food-pairings_612Champagne is the classic wine choice for parties and celebrations, it’s true. But if you ask people who’ve been in the wine business what their “desert island” wine would be—the wine they could see themselves drinking for the rest of their life—the answer is almost invariably

Champagne (and not just because it’s served cold). The reason is simple: Champagne and other sparkling wines—Cava, Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti, included—are not just great party wines, they’re also the most versatile wines for pairing with food.

What makes all these sparkling wines so food-friendly? Consider these factors: Most bottles are blended from different vintage wines, resulting in a cuvée that’s greater than the sum of its parts; they tend to showcase minerality, a characteristic that adds depth to fruity, savory, meaty, and gamy flavors; and these wines possess an unparalleled acidity that cuts through rich, fatty dishes and surmounts even high-acid ingredients such as tomatoes or vinegars. And of course, there’s the celebratory feel that sparkling wines add to any occasion. They’re playful enough for a casual weekend brunch and double as the go-to drink for more formal occasions.  Source: epicurious.com

WEAR:  when in doubt go for the classics like the never fail LBD.

Photo: Bazaar Magazine
Photo: Bazaar Magazine

It will never let you down, you can dress it up in so many ways (especially with something glittery) and you’ll wear it way after the midnight countdown.hbz-the-list-lbd-9-gareth-pugh-sm

 And if you’re planning to give someone the cold shoulder do it in a strapless LBD.




Food – more more more

Mole, mole mole…(mole-ay) is one of my favourite Mexican dishes not only because it is rich and flavourful but because one of the ingredients is chocolate.

Chicken breast marinated with purslane, cactus and sweet potato chips with black mole.
Chicken breast marinated with purslane, cactus and sweet potato chips with black mole.  El Restaurante Catedral.

These intricate sauces, made by toasting and grinding spices, seeds, and chiles, are truly the hallmark of the Oaxaca region and in fact was invented there. The wide variety of “mole” in Oaxaca is enough to satisfy the most demanding palates. The different types you won’t find anywhere else – they include black, red, yellow, green, “coloradito,” “chichilo,” and mole with almonds.

This is chicken wrapped in rice and red mole.
This is chicken wrapped in rice and red mole.

If you’re craving a burrito you’ll have to go elsewhere.


 If you’re a cheese lover you might miss certain varieties like sharp cheddar, creamy brie or blue but they have a cheese, known as “quesillo,” which whether alone, in quesadillas, or with snacks, is a Oaxacan specialty that you should certainly try.  Grasshoppers are another typical dish of Oaxaca.

Chapulines at the Benito Juárez Market  - goes well with honey.
Chapulines at the Benito Juárez Market – can be sweetened up with honey.

You can find them everywhere – even the top hotels and restaurants (so be aware the Spanish name is “Chapulines” otherwise you might think you’re getting some exotic sounding beef because when it’s covered in mole you can’t really tell).  These delicious (so they say) fried insects are eaten in tacos, and the tradition says that whoever eats grasshoppers, will return to Oaxaca.  Oh, oh…I didn’t know about this before now.  Where are the little buggers when you need them?  I don’t remember the last time I saw a grasshopper here in Vancouver – I think they all mistakenly moved to Mexico for the warmer weather.

After that a taste of something sweet.  The "best" coconut flan with dulce de leche & soaked in mexcal.
After that a taste of something sweet. The “best” coconut flan with dulce de leche & soaked in mexcal. Topped with pecans.  Zandunga.

Other typical dishes from Oaxaca are “Tamales” stuffed with “mole,” poblano chili strips, or beans, and wrapped in banana leaves. “Tlayudas” (tla-u-da) are another appetizer that you can find almost anywhere.  I shared one in a market which was topped with delicious Mexican chorizo (a cut above – with less grease or fat), avocado, tomato, beans & cheese and it tasted great on a crunchy tostada. Other traditional dishes are the beef called “tasajo,” jerky, and “chiles rellenos” or stuffed chile.

Fantastic Chilean salmon at "El Quinque" - a great little restaurant.
Fantastic Chilean salmon at “El Quinque” – a great little restaurant.

In short, everything we ordered tasted superb and the care of presentation was impressive.  Of course getting a tumbler of mexcal before your meal ensures everything will taste good.

A starter of gazpacho at "Les Danzantes" for the pre-fixe lunch.  Excellent!
A starter of gazpacho at “Les Danzantes” for the pre-fixe lunch. Excellent!

But honestly, I have nothing but rave reviews for the culinary skills of Oaxaca.  Squash blossom flower sauce anyone? During ten days my friend Judy introduced me to some of the finest places to eat so if you plan to go just let me know and I’ll be happy to recommend a few places to drink spots.

chili chocolate brownie
chili chocolate brownie

Next week I will post an authentic red mole recipe but I’ll forewarn you that it is time consuming and maybe 1% of you will actually make it.  It is however less expensive than travelling all the way to Oaxaca.

Photos: d. king  (click to enlarge)