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Happy-Gourmand

The value of time

Summer is here, it’s official.

You might not have danced around a bonfire at midnight to celebrate the solstice, but I’m sure you have felt the itch of summer approaching.

You know that feeling of bliss from the sun and the lake, having cool drinks on the patio?

In Canada, we take special pride in enjoying summer, perhaps because of the ferocity of winter and the general reluctance of spring.

I have heard it said that one of the reasons Canadians make great comedians is because of our extreme climate.

You have to admit, with compatriots like Michael J. Fox, Jim Carrey, Dan Akroyd and Howie Mandel the list is impressive. And that doesn’t even count Red Green; you remember, the fellow who loved duct tape so much? That’s Canadian humour, for sure.

We come from a nation where people will spend their first camping trip in winter garb just to say they made the annual May long weekend trek, and where in years like this one, even planting the garden on that same famous weekend could be treacherous in some parts due to frost and wind.

But here we are, at the solstice and all those frostbitten memories are behind us.

In summer, we are happy to complain about the plethora of dandelions and the sudden heat rash we suffered from the first day out mowing or gardening.

Beverage coolers are dusted off, kiddie pools are seen dotting lawns again, and suddenly the sale of potato chips plummets and fresh veggies are popular as we all try to get back to bathing-suit-friendly shape.

Longer days give us a chance to pack more activities into waking hours, and more sunlight means more time outside, often shared with friends.

 It is not just the better temperatures that make for warmer memories from summers past. There seems to be some midsummer fairy magic that makes those times seem some of the best. Or the longer days may simply offer more opportunities for soaking in the good vibes.

I bet you can relate to these moments:

  • the joy of finding the perfect dandelion seed pod. My mom even figured out that larger pods could be preserved whole if you got them carefully inside and sprayed them with a bit of hairspray. How cheered I was to hear this is still special: one of my Guide leader friends told me that her little son likes to blow the seeds willy-nilly to the wind and then hand her the stem as a gift. I also discovered that despite technology they still thwart the average lawn aficionado – our neighbour was seen last Sunday with the vacuum cleaner under his arm, hose in hand as he tackled each stem!
  • I know this will sound corny, but I love the taste of water from the garden hose. It seems just slightly poetic that we have come around to a time when this might be acceptable again, what with the processing and cost of plastic water bottles. Kids might not walk to school (at least not unescorted) but at least when they play in their own yard they can drink the water.
  • the sound of kids playing is a summer sound, one that continues later at night as that lovely sun lingers on the horizon longer this time of year. I always felt decadent to know that I could stay out for so very long  as summer began; going home at dark when summer started could allow you time for a whole other adventure from the one you had before dinner!
  • There is all kind of wonderful and crazy food at any time of year now, but there is still more variety in summer here than in winter. And even if you don’t care about local versus imported ingredients, you must admit that the colours are brighter in the produce section these days. The taste of a garden carrot just rubbed in the grass and eaten fresh out of the ground is one of those experiences that even a five star restaurant cannot match.

I don’t know if you reminisce about childhood memories from long ago or if you have kids you regale with stories, but if you don’t then I think it is about time you gave it a try.

Here are some things you can do here in our part of the world that will give you an old-fashioned taste of summer…

  • Visit the local farmer’s market for veggies that still have dirt on them
  • Take a trip with your sweetie to Enderby to see a drive-in movie at the Starlight. Did you know it has North America’s largest movie screen?
  • Go for old-fashioned hard ice-cream cones with your kids and sit outside eating them, teaching them about how you have to push the top scoop gently down on the cone so it doesn’t fall off
  • Set up your lawn sprinkler and run through it (this is best done screaming – if the neighbours laugh, invite them over to try it!)
  • Pick a dandelion gone to seed, make a wish, and blow.

If you have kids, this will help show them the value of making those warm memories. If you don’t have kids, it will remind you we are never too late to have a happy childhood.

Time always has value, as long as you stop to notice.



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A day for someone special

Father’s Day is upon us, so again I’m thinking of family and quality time.

My Dad has been gone for more than 10 years now, and my grandfathers are long gone too, but I still think of them as summer gears up. Summer is a time for the fatherly types in our lives.

There is something about grilled food, mowed grass and bottles of beer in the back yard that makes me think of those gruff voices and lots of good stories (even if many of them were tall tales.)

My Dad was my hero. I always knew he would be there for me, have my back; as long as I did my best, he would tell me. He could be a tough fellow to deal with as well (he told me as a teenager that I could live with him, I could live with anyone. He was right.)

He was demanding (“the grass is getting long," was all he’d say). He was generous (if my grades were good, I could have a day off school once a year to spend with him and my Mom, shopping and going out for lunch).

He could be really goofy (once in a while after Sunday breakfast we would parade around the house, marching to the music from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice like the magic brooms Mickey created in Fantasia). He also adored my Mom, which was a wonderful example to have as a young woman.

I had a magical childhood.

My younger brother had a much more complicated relationship with our father, but I know he has good memories too. We were fortunate to be a close family, and we shared many good times over the years.

Families today are often different than in the days when I was a kid. I imagine Father’s Day in many homes is not so much like the Norman Rockwell images we laughed at, but could still recognize.

But just because there isn’t a male figure at the grill, or your family doesn’t flip burgers or maybe doesn’t have a back yard – that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate some quality time and appreciate someone’s company. Those people in our lives who help us grow and learn deserve to know how important they are to us.

How about this: why don’t we work on recognizing the special people in our lives more often?

Instead of worrying about taking Mom for brunch in May and buying Dad a new barbecue tool in June, why not just pick one day a month (or even one day a week if you’re feeling energetic) and showing someone special how much you enjoy their company?

No gifts need be involved, the gesture of spending time and saying, “Thanks for sharing yourself” is the main objective.

Moms and Dads deserve to be put on a pedestal, at least once in a while. It’s hard work, being a parent. The same goes for other caregivers, like school teachers and nannies and babysitters and coaches.

Once we get older, our support network is still crucial to a happy life.

We need to take the time to stop and check that they hear us when we say, “thank you."

One of my favourite food memories with my Dad was his fried egg sandwiches. In today’s world such a simple thing is dressed up with stuff such as sliced avocado or kimchi. Go ahead and fill your boots, I say; add whatever strikes your fancy.

I still like it straight up, with grainy toast slathered in butter.

  • Take a small frying pan and heat on a small burner at medium high heat. Add a dob of butter or olive oil.
  • Carefully crack fresh eggs, one at a time into the hot pan (maximum two in a small pan, but it’s best if you do them singly to avoid any mess)
  • Season liberally with salt and pepper. Prepare your toast. (Fresh artisan bread or buns is a reasonable alternative, but I like the crispiness of toast.) Add mayonnaise if you like
  • As the edges start to crisp up and the egg goes opaque, prepare to flip it – either onto your toast if you like “sunny-side up” or in the pan if you like “over easy”
  • Moving with confidence, flip the egg in one quick move
  • Be sure to remove and delectable crispy bits left in the pan after the egg is cooked. They will be the best parts of your sandwich.

Serve this sandwich in the company of a special person, with plenty of napkins and your sleeves rolled up in case the egg drips.

If your companion laughs as you make a mess, remember to smile and log the memory.



Be my guest

Did Be my guest make you think of Beauty and the Beast? 

It was the name of the wonderful song Angela Lansbury sang as Mrs. Potts, the teapot, in my favourite animated version.

The song is all about Belle enjoying a delicious and delightfully presented dinner.

Sounds like a party, wouldn’t you say? But an old-fashioned affair, to be certain, because who puts up that much fuss any more?

Well, I’m hear to tell you it’s OK to put up a fuss and make a big deal about hosting, or attending a party. This week, I’m talking about party etiquette. In other words, how to be cool and well-behaved at the same time.

I hope you’ll read on…

A party has two sides – the host and the guest. For it to be successful, everyone must meet certain expectations.

The host is the one in charge of organizing the event and inviting guests who will mix together to form an interesting group.

The guests are responsible for showing up and making an effort to have the kind of good time suitable for the event (as in, you don’t dance on the table if it’s a more reserved kind of evening). 

I’m going to give some tips for both roles, so we will have no excuses not to be fabulous at the next event we attend.

HOW TO BE A GOOD HOST

First, you have to make a plan.

  • Organize a group of people you know are likely to get along and have at least a few common interests.
  • Devise an itinerary, so you can prepare the details (food, drinks, entertainment, seating, etc.). Then, when your guests arrive, you are available to socialize.
  • Plan with contingencies. Most of life is about coming up with Plan B, so don’t get stuck if the music won’t play or the dessert doesn’t turn out. Have alternatives up your sleeve, so you can go with the flow.
  • Communicate with your guests. From the invitation to their departure, you want them to know what is expected of them – how they can have the best time.

Second, be gracious and outgoing.

  • As a host, it’s your job to lead the party – make sure people mingle, in part by setting a good example. Do your best to chat with everyone and introduce new friends to other guests. Advise guests of special details, like when a speech is about to start, or when dessert is being served.
  • Remember it’s “showtime." Use your brave face if you get surprised, say with an uninvited guest that tags along. Taking the high road will earn you points and keep the event going smoothly for all.
  • Be attentive and appreciative. If you can help a guest by refreshing their drink or leading them to join a conversation, do so. Be sure to thank people as they leave.

Even if the party you host is a potluck, as the organizer and location host, everyone will look to you to be in charge. Take charge with a positive attitude and you will help ensure everyone has a wonderful time, including you.

HOW TO BE A GOOD GUEST

The best way to show your appreciation to your host is to be engaged. This helps keep the energy up so everyone is interested and enjoys the event.

  • Confirm your attendance. This is your primary responsibility, so take it seriously. You should reply as soon as possible once you receive an invitation, letting your host know either way if you will attend or not. Then be sure to notify them if your plans change but be sure you commit to your responsibility (don’t say yes if you aren’t really planning on going).
  • Arrive on time and in proper form. We tend to be much more relaxed nowadays, but there are general parameters for dress and behaviour at group gatherings. Make sure you will not make others or yourself uncomfortable by stepping too far outside the box.
  • Just like the host, be gracious. Even if you are not keen on playing a game, if that is the prime activity at the time, join in wholeheartedly to show your support for the host and the event. You may even be surprised at how much fun you have.

Some of those old-fashioned manners work well too:

  • Offer to help out if you can. At a formal event this may not be appropriate but offering to pitch in is a gracious gesture. Whether it’s refilling water pitchers or glasses, or assisting with the clean up at the end of the party, your efforts will always be appreciated.
  • Be polite. Don’t overindulge. If you’re not sure how much is proper, watch others. When in doubt, less is better in this instance, even if you really want that third meatball or piece of cake.
  • Thank your host twice. I don’t mean you should repeat it as you leave – thank them at the end of the event, and then send a note or leave a message after to show your appreciation.

Some of this may seem like overkill, especially if you’re just heading to a friend’s house to watch the game or the latest episode of The Bachelor. 

But trust me, your efforts will be appreciated. You will have a better time, whether as a guest or a host.

As we entertain all those guests coming to the Okanagan this summer, we can knock their socks off. And if you are visiting friends or relatives, you’ll be sure to secure an invitation to return.

After all, look how it turned out for Belle – she ended up the guest of honour.



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Let's do brunch

Are you a fan of brunch? I guess it’s a popular thing in big cities for people who go out and party.

Sunday brunch as a hangover cure is a known rite of passage in places like Vancouver or Toronto. Here in the Okanagan, we run at a bit of a different pace. I like to think we know even better than big city folk how to enjoy a lazy late morning with friends.

This week, I thought I’d offer up some suggestions, but my motivation is also partly selfish. I’m hoping some of you will help me find new places to explore – if you have a suggestion, please share it on my Facebook page.

Brunch falls into a few categories. Taking it easy can’t just have one method, right?

There is the at-home feast of your favourite things, made for a large – or small – crowd. Big pots of coffee, possibly served with Baileys, are also on hand. This category I will save for another column to comment in detail.

Brunch buffets are something hotel chains made popular decades ago.

They are still offered by many hotels, but often as a sad affair. Check out what is available before you go. Mass-produced pastries from a box, scrambled eggs and sausages that have been left sitting in a chafing dish – these are not a good representation of the decadence that defines brunch.

I’m not saying there needs to be 50 different dishes, but they should be fresh, and there should be more than a few options if they call it a buffet.

If you want to splurge in the Okanagan, stay at Sparkling Hill and enjoy the brunch there the next morning. You can even attend in your luxurious robe.

Farmer’s markets can be a wonderful place for brunch. Just think about it: fruit and veggies in season, artisan breads and pastries, hot and cold beverages and sometimes even live entertainment.

My favourite in the Okanagan is the Penticton Farmer’s Market, but every town in the region has one, and they all deserve our support.

Gathering friends and/or family together at a restaurant can be challenging, but if you’re going to do it, brunch is the best meal for the occasion. Who can’t find something they like when two meals are included in the menu? That is my focus this week.

The Jammery is a classic brunch spot. After all, who doesn’t want to start the morning with jam? And a bit of a country drive is a lovely way to add to the fun.

This Okanagan landmark has been around since 2000 and offers a family-friendly environment combined with a bit of local flair (their adjacent gift shop offers their house-made jams and an assortment of kitschy kitchen fare). Not only that, they offer All You Can Eat Waffles.

I once took advantage of this offer after a week of suffering from a broken tooth and not having solid food, so I can heartily recommend it if you’re a waffle fan.

If you’re looking for more of a diner sort of place, Okanagan Street Food is my fave. It’s not open Sundays, but on Saturday, they make wicked Eggs Benny with from-scratch Hollandaise, until it runs out.

The other days of the week, there are classic breakfast items as well as fun specialties like fish tacos and pulled pork poutine (both of which I can highly recommend).

If you’re not with a big group, you can peruse the massive bookshelf of cookbooks for fun. Chef Neil Schroeter knows how to make a menu that’s got something for a variety of tastes, with just enough foodie flair blended in with a comfort food theme.

For the dependability of a chain restaurant with plenty of choices, one of the best options in Kelowna is Cora. This chain comes to us from Quebec; it actually made its name in the town where my hubby grew up, Laval.

There really was a Cora who came up with the original dishes, inspired in part by her children and a desire to make healthy breakfasts.

The menu at the Kelowna location offers a plethora of choices, surely something for everyone in your group. When we had a family reunion a few summers ago, this was the place we started the fun and it worked perfectly.

Maybe you want someplace that offers more of a specialty? I am a lover of pancakes, so De Dutch Pannekoek House is one I recommend. My roots are Icelandic, so the part-crèpe, part-pancake concoction is a dish close to my heart.

This small chain of restaurants started in Vancouver in the 1970s, thanks to a Dutchman who left the army and came to Canada to make his way.

I have many fond memories of family and friends gathering for brunch at various locations in the Lower Mainland over the years. The food with funny pronunciations was just as much fun as catching up with loved ones.

My last entry is one unique to the Okanagan. For us here, enjoying – and especially showing off – the land is a symbol of the good life we have in our piece of Paradise. As a representation of that, I feel obliged to include a winery option, being a wine geek.

There are not many wineries that offer brunch per se, but Terrafina at Hester Creek Winery outside Oliver does. You can certainly just head out for an early lunch at your favourite winery and this would still count in my book.

But for the purposes of this column, I can wholeheartedly recommend the team at Terrafina. Here you have an example of that “farm to table” philosophy you hear so much about, offering in-season fare fresh from a neighbouring garden.

Make a road trip out of it, or if you can splurge, then book a night or two at Hester Creek’s villa and live the dream.

Any way you cut it, brunch is about living life in slow motion. It’s a toast to decadence, to stopping and smelling the flowers. You might prefer to stay home, or perhaps enjoy a straight-up cup of coffee and a donut. So be it.

Since I’m a big believer of carpe diem, I’ll toast your good health with my mimosa. Here’s to having time for more brunch.



More Happy Gourmand articles

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About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."

 

E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com

 



The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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