A burger to die for

It’s not all about the pickle, but it helps

When I was little, my dad used to say that there was nothing that tasted like a homemade burger.

Since spring has officially “sprung” and the days of grilling on the deck can now begin, I thought I’d usher in the season with a burger tribute.

Although Daddy did make a mean burger with special spices and just the right amount of charring on the grill, some of the reason for that great taste was the choice of toppings.

We had garden lettuce and homemade mayo and mustard and cheese and onions… it was awesome, really.

Whenever you go out to a fast food place the burgers never even come close to looking like their “pin-up” counterparts from advertisements – they are the sad, soggy cousins; the wallflowers that could not dream to hold a candle to something so vibrant.

(Well,OK, so maybe fresh crunchy lettuce and a slice of ripe tomato isn’t as appealing as a girl in a swishy dress, but you get my point.)

Everyone has their favourite burger joint, depending on all kinds of elements. I remember on summer holidays finding out that my cousins swore by the special sauce that White Spot used on their burgers.

Our part of the family was not a fan of any “special sauce,” but I never thought then that made us burger snobs. I only realized later in life that coveting a special independent joint was something not everyone did.

Perhaps it was part of my prairie roots – the chain restaurants were not prominent where my parents came from. When we lived in Calgary, it was Peter’s Drive-In that had not only great milkshakes, but also the best burgers (if my Dad wasn’t making them, of course).

When I lived in Kitsilano in Vancouver in the ’90s, there was a nostalgic place called the Moderne (Burger). My Dad and I and the rest of the family, depending on who was available, shared many nostalgic lunches over heaping plates of home-cut fries and cheeseburgers there.

You could even drink your milkshake out of the steel container if you wanted.

Here in Kelowna we hadn’t found such a place until recently. Now, we can happily report that we have discovered another independent joint with a cool name: The Burger Baron, in Rutland.

If you blink as you round the corner of Highway 33 and Rutland Road you will miss it, but if you pay attention you will notice the rather steady stream of people wandering in hungry and going away happy.

Do take note: this is not a fancy place. The cutlery is plastic, and the choices on the menu are simple. The most complicated part is deciding on whether to add cheese or bacon or mushrooms.

But the burgers are delicious, the lettuce was green and crispy, the tomato was juicy, and they have pickles… what more could you want out of life?

Fling yourself into spring

I don’t want to jinx the positive trend we seem to be experiencing, but it seems like we may have gotten through the worst of it.

Spring is just around the corner and if any of that “luck of the Irish” rubs off on Sunday (St. Patrick’s Day) then maybe we’ll see green. We could all be dancing with the fairies by the Equinox.

Spring is a tumultuous season. We can either feel giddy from a mild sunny day or depressed on a grey day with chilling winds and low clouds.

To make sure you can stay on the upswing, I have a few suggestions along the line of a “spring fling” — a seasonal celebration of sorts.

In the spirit of the season being a time for lovers frolicking in the grass, let’s start with aphrodisiacs. I was inspired after seeing a featured aphrodisiac menu at a creative Italian restaurant; they had diners giggling about the “libido enhancement value” of oysters and how the heat from a sauce with garlic or mustard could translate to the bedroom experience.

I rather doubt anyone needed much encouragement to indulge in chocolate or whipped cream; you can use your imagination.

I don’t want to leave out anyone who isn’t in a romantic mood. How about more straight-forward energy boosters?

It’s a bit early for ice cream cones outside, but soon they will have the affogato at GioBean Café and the combination of espresso and ice cream is just the thing for spring. Or perhaps you want to sink your teeth into the featured pastry at Sandrine’s?

She changes up the filling to correspond with the season.

For those committed to a goal, a healthy indulgence could be the way to celebrate. Enjoying the view on those more-likely sunny days is a nice inspiration: a hike up a mountain, or even to a rooftop will do the trick.

You could walk along the lakeshore in many places in the Okanagan; Kelowna’s City Park is beautiful, as is the Peachland stroll and Penticton lakeside. If you want a meal to channel spring, look ahead to garden season with a salad for dinner.

I did say spring was tumultuous. It’s hectic, full of change. Maybe the best thing is just to aim for a low-stress existence as the world swirls around us, waking up for another summer.

If that’s how you feel, I have a simple celebration for you: Chocolate Wacky Cake. This stuff is dairy free and can be made gluten free with any cup-for-cup GF flour. It’s so easy the kids can make it for you over spring break.

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). In a 9-inch (22.5 cm) square baking pan, mix the following ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • Make 3 wells and pour each of the following in one:
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • Mix together the following and pour over the pan ingredients:
  • 1 egg plus water to make 1 cup

Mix the entire preparation till smooth and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until knife inserted in centre comes out clean. (Internal temperature 195F/90C.)

Ice with chocolate frosting, or dust with icing sugar, or your choice of topping. It’s also good straight out of the pan.

Good and bad go together

One year of my university education occurred in France, and, as you might expect, the culture was a bit of a distraction.

My professors taught me language and literature, but the best education I got was learning about French food and drink, especially wine.

My year in France stuck with me, and so when opportunity knocked, I took up wine studies as part of my hospitality career. I found a passion I had never imagined.

I was enraptured not only by the myriad of flavours I could experience in the glass, but also by the intricacies of history, geography, geology, and climatology that created those flavours.

OK, I’ll admit it: I’m a wine geek.

Often, you’ll see sommeliers in restaurants advising patrons on which wine to pair with their meals. Here in wine country, sommeliers are even more common, in tasting rooms and in the cellar.

The study of wine can be quite a technical pursuit, involving the entire process from planting and caring of vines to the making and cellaring of the wine, to the serving of a specific bottle with a meal.

My mission as a certified wine geek has taken me down a humbler path. I like to show people that anyone can “geek out” on wine.

People who try to convince me they couldn’t possibly see the value in a higher quality wine are totally capable of just that, and more. They just have to be willing to try a new experience.

You see, it’s all part of my philosophical theory that you can’t have the good without the bad.

We all need points of reference when we learn. Whether it’s about the consequences of cooking on a hot stove or choosing which wine to drink, we have better success when we know the range of possible experiences.

For example, someone who has burned themselves on that hot stove is usually more careful than someone who hasn’t; they know what’s at stake.

By the same logic, once you have tried that higher quality wine, then you know what it tastes like and you can decide knowledgeably if you like it better. (The same is true about Brussels sprouts – don’t tell me you don’t like them if you’ve never had one. Yes, I’m that kind of person.)

This philosophy translates to everything in life. My chiropractor told me about a patient who is extraordinarily optimistic. This fellow is in his 80s and despite the trials of age and having been through the Second World War, he has a positive outlook.

When asked to share his secret, the fellow said being a reconnaissance agent in WWII he was shot at by people he didn’t know. Men he’d never met were trying to kill him. He was one of about 30 men who survived from a team of almost 1,800.

He says now that any day no one is shooting at him is a good day.

I know, this is an extreme example to illustrate the value of tasting wine, but I’m hoping it might inspire people to venture out. I’m espousing half of the Roman adage, Carpe diem, loosely translated as:

“Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.”

We shouldn’t need to be on death’s doorstep to enjoy life. But the more we understand the range of experiences possible to us, the more we can appreciate the spectacular bits.

The next time someone offers you a taste of something exotic, think of it as “Let’s carpe the heck out of this diem!”


Don't get fat on Tuesday

Did you know Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday?

Yup, the name is straight-forward; the day before Ash Wednesday is traditionally the last day to binge on all the rich foods and other excesses you would be giving up for Lent.

It is a day to consider in what areas of our life we might need to improve, and how better to do that than over a great meal?

While I am not a member of a congregation that takes on this traditional belief, I don't mind the opportunity to enjoy the spirit of the day.

Rich foods such as donuts and pancakes have been customary on this day as they were a good way to use many of the rich foods in the pantry before Lent began, like eggs and milk and sugar.

I'm making pancakes to celebrate Fat Tuesday. Since they are such a traditional food for the day, some call it Pancake Tuesday.

It strikes me that the rich foods of winter start to become less popular about this time of year even in secular circles. Even those without religious background can look upon this day as an opportunity to reflect on the coming of the lighter and often healthier fare of spring and summer.

A lighter attitude is also part of the warmer weather. In England, there is a town that has held a pancake race since 1445 as part of the Shrove Tuesday festivities.

The race is in honour of a parishioner who apparently lost track of time and ran out her door with her pan of pancakes in her hand when the church bell rang to signal the service starting.

Today, contestants dress up like housewives in aprons and kerchiefs and must carry their pan (complete with pancake) over a 415-yard course through town. They are even required to flip their pancake at the start and finish of the race.

I’m hoping they make fresher pancakes to consume after.

In Iceland, my heritage on my father's side of the family, the day is called "Sprengidagur," which translates as Bursting Day (don't you love the sense of humour?)  

Salted meat and peas were the traditional fare, but I think I would have preferred Icelandic pancakes, called Ponnokukur. If you’re feeling adventurous, try out my recipe.

Despite my lightheartedness at describing these activities, my aim is not to belittle the serious religious custom that is at the core of Shrove Tuesday.

"Shrove" is the past tense of the English verb shrive which was to obtain absolution for one's sins through confession. Your last chance to be shriven was on Shrove Tuesday, as Lent begins the next day and penance would start.

Similarly, Carnival (spelled in various ways in different languages) comes from the Latin carne levare, meaning to take away meat, a common practice during Lent.

The festivities of Carnival — dressing up, dancing, indulging in rich foods and other decadent pastimes — were other ways of celebrating the excess before Lent.

The masquerade, where people covered their identities with a mask, was said to sometimes offer a chance for lovers to be together in public.

This is perhaps the culmination of all things excessive and is a famous part of the Carnevale in Venice, Italy.

The Bauta mask is one of the oldest styles, worn traditionally by men with a black cape. This mask signified anonymity and was even used in democratic voting sessions.

Whatever you do in the coming weeks, as the year edges on and spring comes ever closer, I hope you will have a chance to reflect on how you can make the most of it and how you can enjoy your blessings.

I think that might be the simple truth of this ancient holiday.

More Happy Gourmand articles

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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