What I did on my long weekend, part 1

I had a busy, busy Saturday. My adventure started with a short volunteering stint as a “food sample girl” over at the downtown City Market. Saturday was Canada Food Day and to celebrate, the City Market held a number of food demos from chefs. Once the food was made, I helped to distribute the goodies out to the hungry crowd (at least, for the first demo).

setting up

setting up

The first demos were from Chef Brad Smoliak, whose first recipe was Ukrainian Eggs Benedict. Chef Smoliak started off by doing some prep work, including putting the Irvings Farm Fresh pork chops (or, as the Chef called them, bacon chops) in a pan to begin frying.

bacon chops

bacon chops

He made an effort to point out places in the City Market where he had grabbed the ingredients – from eggs to herbs. (Unfortunately I didn’t jot down where everything came from.)

Chef Smoliak talking about herbs

Chef Smoliak talking about herbs

He cooked Mo-Na mushrooms, fried eggs, flipped the chops… the smell was torturing everyone in the audience.

almost time to eat!

almost time to eat!

The final product looked like a giant open-faced sandwich. And it probably could feed at least two people.

the assembled benny

the assembled benny

My duties were over, but I stuck around to catch the second demo where the Chef presented a summer salad.

adding finishing touches to the salad

adding finishing touches to the salad

the salad, complete with edible flowers

the salad, complete with edible flowers

One of the Chef’s last tips was that if you were doing a buffet style party then you might want to pick up some candle votives and utilize them to serve the salad. I’m not sure if I would use votives though, unless you were sure that the vessel was safe to use with food. I’ve seen this technique used in Las Vegas, although they used cups that were smaller, like shot glasses.

salad in a votive

salad in a votive

Also hanging around the market was fellow volunteer Eating is the Hard Part, and Only Here for the Food who was helping to man the Slow Food Edmonton booth.

So what did I do for the rest of the day? Well, if you have been following my tweets then you’ll know. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for my next post to find out what happened next.

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Red Ox Inn, Edmonton

It’s Fork Fest time again, and this time I managed to eke out a little time to take advantage of one of the offers and have a meal at the Red Ox Inn last night. Fork Fest is run by Original Fare, a collective of independent restaurants in Edmonton. For 2 weeks, Monday to Thursday, each restaurant on the list offers a special set meal for either $20 or $35 per person. It’s an excellent way to try a new restaurant without shelling out a tonne of cash.

This was my first time dining at the Red Ox Inn, although I have heard many good things said about the place. The restaurant is very, very small. I took a quick count, and it seemed like there were only 30 seats in the dining room (although you may be able to squeeze a couple more people into one of the booths). I’d say reservations are vital. The place is decorated modernly but is warmed with wood floors and the small size gives the dining room a cozy feeling. It’s a good place to go with friends for a nice dinner.

What struck me most about the food I had at the Red Ox Inn was that for the majority of our meal there was one outstanding element on the plate, but that the remainder of the dish was good and perfectly cooked without being extra special.

For appetizers, there were two choices – a soup (purée of wild mushroom with Madeira and Gruyère-mushroom rye crostini) or a goat cheese salad (medallion of warm chèvre with spinach, almonds, bacon, and cranberry port dressing). We both wanted to try the soup, but opted for the salad instead as we both needed more vegetables in our diet.

The star of the salad was the warmed goat cheese. Coated and lightly fried, texturally the cheese felt like biting into a crispy-on-the-outside crab cake, but with gooey cheese in the middle. The cheese was relatively mild too, which is nice because sometimes I find some goat cheeses are too sharp. The rest of the salad was good but didn’t seem like anything I couldn’t have made at home.

Medallion of warm chevre with spinach, almonds, bacon and cranberry port dressing

Medallion of warm chèvre with spinach, almonds, bacon, and cranberry port dressing

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Soy sauce marinade

My stepmother has this magical marinade recipe. It is a fairly flexible seasoning, and gives food like chicken wings or pork chops a wonderful flavour. I made pork chops with this marinade last night, but was too busy eating to take photos.

My stepmother’s soy sauce marinade

This recipe is for a large amount of meat such as 8 pork chops or 30 chicken wings; adjust as necessary for the amount of meat you are marinating. If you are preparing pork chops, beat them up with a meat tenderizer first. The marinade can also be customized to fit different flavours. My stepmother recommended adding various items like galangal, lemongrass, fresh garlic, etc.

Ingredients
1 cup of light soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
small pinch of salt (She claims it’s a requirement but I think the soy sauce is fairly salty already.)
white pepper to taste
garlic powder to taste (can substitute minced or pressed garlic, but the powder will integrate better with the rest of the ingredients and give a more even flavour)
water, if necessary

Directions
Place meat in a large, sealable plastic bag (easier for shaking) or in a large bowl. Add in all the ingredients and mix. If there is not enough liquid to cover the meat, you can add water. For a less salty marinade, substitute part of the soy sauce with water instead (no more than half of the cup).

The meat can be marinated for anytime from 1/2 hour to overnight; the thicker the meat the longer the marinating time needed. If you are marinating your meat in a bag, make sure to turn the bag over every so often to make sure all the meat has equal marinating time.

Remove the meat and discard the marinade. The meat can be barbequed on a grill or broiled in the oven on a baking sheet. Serve with your favourite carbs and veggies.