Tag Archives: cookies

Salt Spring Island weekend mini-vacation

I’m not sure if it’s a sign of getting older, or the fact that I moved from a house into a high-rise apartment building, or the fact that there are two construction sites across the street from me, but I’ve been finding the city tiresome. Don’t get me wrong. I love Vancouver, I love my neighbourhood (and its impressive 95% score on a walkability index) and I love not having a car.

View from Salt Spring Island getaway house

This is an arbutus tree. I never knew they were red. Or so pretty.

But still, it’s nice to have friends who invite you to islands for long weekend mini-vacations. Friends with parents with houses on Salt Spring Island. You know, friends with parents with houses on Salt Spring Island with views like this from the back porch.

And speaking of said porch, candelit dinners with friends are also wonderful. One night it was barbecued ribs, another night handmade pizza.

And piiiiiie. One strawberry-rhubarb, one blueberry. I did not, however, bake them in this darling little wood stove—I used a convection oven. But they sure look pretty on top of it, so let’s just pretend. Let’s also pretend that this picture isn’t blurry. And I’ll pretend that I hadn’t been drinking wine in the sun all afternoon.

Pie!

Pie! One strawberry-rhubarb, one blueberry. Both delicious.

Salt Spring Island, for the uninitiated, is a mecca of educated hippie artistic fantasticness. Where nary a multi-national chain can be found, and where there are no fewer than three soap companies. (These are clean hippies, understand.) And at last weekend’s Saturday market, it seemed that the entire island could be found at the city square.

And what a market it was. Gorgeous pottery, hand-knit hats, sock monkeys, carnival masks, tie-dyed yoga pants, hula hoops: it was all there. And, of course, lots of artisan food vendors and stunningly fresh produce. The farmers market aisle was fragrant with the scent of basil, and everywhere you looked there was an heirloom tomato more perfect than the last. And stripey Portuguese garlic, all coy in its basket.

Portuguese garlic at Salt Spring Island market

Stripey!

I discovered that Foxglove Farm, with its farm dinners, accommodation and education programs, has the best raspberries that I’ve tasted in years. I ogled the selection of fresh goat cheeses from Salt Spring Island Cheese Company (almost too pretty too eat).

And yes, I found chocolate.

Salted caramels from Chocolate Beach

Caramels with Himalayan sea salt. Tasty.

Chocolate Beach is a teeny tiny chocolate company run by Joanne and Rob Burns. She’s the chocolatier, formerly goat cheese maker, formerly something else. She’s now retired and making chocolates with certified fair trade chocolate from Cocoa Camino. Her sea salt caramel, a pleasantly chewy caramel dipped in chocolate and topped with pink Himalayan sea salt, was lovely. Rob manned the other side of the booth with an impressive display of fudge.

While I didn’t try this tarte au chocolat, it’s awfully pretty. And I’m a sucker for a cursive chalk on a chalkboard. It helps that this table was run by a very friendly French couple who spoke like zees.

Tarte au chocolat

Cue accordion music and Audrey Tautou cameo appearance.

My sweet tooth also spied other treats: stacks of buttery shortbread from Bite Me! Gourmet Treats and honest-to-goodness cannoli from an Italian food stand.

And, because I clearly hadn’t had a decadent enough day, I had a pineapple-coconut popsicle from the Salt Spring Island Fruitsicle stand. Self-proclaimed “creators and purveyors of delicious, fruit based iced lollies,” these were the hit of the market. Popsicles that taste like real fruit. How novel.

All in all, a great weekend away.

Stacks of shortbread

Stacks of shortbread from Bite Me! Gourmet Treats

Cannoli

I love cannoli, but I can't get a good cannoli in Vancouver. These were good (but not like the stuff you can get in Montreal).

Chocolates from Chocolate Beach at Salt Spring Island market

An assortment of chocolates from Chocolate Beach

Candlelit dinner on Salt Spring Island

Life was made for candlelit dinners with good food, good wine and great company.

Sunset, glorious sunset from the porch.

And now I'm just being mean by posting this. But look! Stunning!

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Christmas cookies

I’m such a delinquent blogger. But see, I have excuses. I disappeared to Portland for a week, which was lovely and glorious and relaxing. There was lots of chocolate. As much as I love these mini-trips across the border, I’m always a bit relieved to get back to Canada. This informative sign was at the Seattle train station. Just in case you wanted to know what you can and cannot bring across the border.

And then I got back and this craziness we call the holidays came at me, starting out like a wee snowball at the top of a mountain. And by the time it got to me, well, it was a not-so-wee snowball.

Mostly, I’ve been drowning under kilograms of flour, sugar, eggs and stuff that needs to be piped. I’ve been making the same two cookies (gingerbread and cranberry shortbread) every year for twelve, count ’em, twelve years. You’d figure I could get the recipe right, especially having gone to Le Fancy Culinary School. This year, the part of my brain responsible for reading and following instructions just wasn’t working. I have one batch of dough in the fridge that was supposed to be gingerbread. However, it has twice as much butter as it’s supposed to, and no ginger. I’m afraid to bake it. Maybe I invented molasses shortbread?

Speaking of shortbread, I forgot the cornstarch this year but made up for it by putting in twice as many cranberries as I was supposed to. They’re, erm, festive.

At least the macaroons turned out. Oh, and chocolate caramel. The wonders of caramel never cease to amaze me. You can put bacon in it and it’s all wacky and weird and delicious. But chocolate caramel, with its classic simplicity – it hides in dark corners and gives you that look, and before you know it you’re in over your head with dark, delicious chocolate mingled with smoky caramel, and just a hint of salt.

All of these things combine to form Christmas Goodies Fantastico, which contains:

  • “Economic downturn” gingerbread, which feature sad faces and fancy suits. Because, well, we’ve got to keep up appearances in these tough times. But in the crazy market this year, some of these gingerbread folks lost an arm, or a leg…or, a head.
  • The aformentioned cranberry shortbread, looking very festive indeed.
  • Chocolate macaroons, beautiful and classic. In my original plan, I was going to make a rainbow of these (espresso, pistachio and raspberry) but then I snapped back to reality.
  • The much sought-after chocolate caramels. For those of you lucky enough to receive these, you may want to hide these. I don’t want to have to say I told you so.

As I probably won’t be posting before Christmas, have a safe and happy holiday. I hope there are cookies in your future.

Voya’s petits fours: coffee chocolates

I’m rounding out my discussion of the petits fours plate at Voya, which features six bites of deliciousness. The selection changes frequently, and I got to sample lemon spritz cookies, sparkly coffee cookies, pineapple pate de fruit, cherry cordials, hazelnut praline chocolates, and coffee chocolates.

While tasting, I saved the coffee chocolate for last because I expected it to have the most punch. It was a beautifully shiny chocolate shell surrounding a great ganache: dark, rich, perfectly smooth, with just the right level of denseness. I think I wanted it to have a bit more coffee punch, but maybe I was spoiled by the sparkly coffee cookie I had eaten earlier. In any event, it was a great way to end the night, and paired perfectly with the freshly brewed decaf Americano that I ordered.

Voya (in the Loden Hotel)
1177 Melville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 639-8692
Voya Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Voya’s petits fours: hazelnut praline chocolates

We’re almost there, kids! The petits fours plate at Voya features six tasty little things, and I got to sample lemon spritz cookies, sparkly coffee cookies, pineapple pate de fruit, cherry cordials, hazelnut praline chocolates, and coffee chocolates.

Now, here’s the thing with hazelnut praline and chocolate. It’s one of those combinations that 99% of the population loves, and the 1% that doesn’t love it is weird because they don’t like hazelnuts. Think about Nutella, Purdy’s hedgehogs, and Ferrero Rocher – they’re all based on hazelnut praline and chocolate.

Now, just so everyone’s on the same page here, hazelnut praline is a very particular concoction. It’s shelled, peeled, toasted hazelnuts that are incorporated into caramelized sugar. The entire mixture is spread on a sheet and allowed to cool into, for lack of a better term, hazelnut brittle. The mixture is then broken into pieces and whizzed around a food processor until it forms a paste. This paste includes the best of both worlds: the toastiness and nuttiness of the hazelnuts, and the sweetness and caramel notes of the sugar.

Hazelnut praline is usually combined with milk chocolate for a deadly combination that few people can resist. For this reason, I’m a little bit skeptical when I see it on chocolate menus, because people like it regardless of how well it’s done.

Well, this hazelnut praline chocolate at Voya is impressive. It has clean hazelnut flavour, and isn’t too heavy or rich. Even better, there are little bits of praligrain inside. These toasted, caramelized pieces of hazelnuts give a sugary, caramel-y snap as you bite into them. It’s a great contrast to the otherwise creamy and smooth inside of the chocolate.

Voya (in the Loden Hotel)
1177 Melville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 639-8692

Voya’s petits fours: cherry cordials

Well, I’m halfway through talking about the petits fours plate at Voya. While the specific items change quite often, I’m hoping you’ll have a chance to try some of what I had: lemon spritz cookies, sparkly coffee cookies, pineapple pate de fruit, cherry cordials, hazelnut praline chocolates, and coffee chocolates.

When I think of cherry cordials, I think of those gross things that came in cheap boxes of chocolate at Christmas. They were cloyingly sweet, the chocolate was cheap and waxy, and the cherry tasted like anything but a cherry.

Well, cross your fingers and hope that you get to try pastry chef Maurizio Persichino’s cherry cordials. Encased in the thinnest possible dark chocolate shell, the cherry cordial puts emphasis on the “cherry” rather than the “cordial” part of the name. The cherry is plump, succulent and just boozy enough, and the surrounding syrup is pleasantly sweet.

One of these days I’ll have to tell you the magic behind making cherry cordials. But that’s another story for another time.

Voya (in the Loden Hotel)
1177 Melville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 639-8692

Voya’s petits fours: pineapple pate de fruit

If you’ve just joined us, I’m dissecting the petits fours plate at Voya. It’s a delicious assortment of beautiful little things, and the plate I had featured lemon spritz cookies, sparkly coffee cookies, pineapple pate de fruit, cherry cordials, hazelnut praline chocolates, and coffee chocolates.

I love pate de fruit. Directly translated, it means “fruit paste” and that’s exactly what it is.  Just think about it: delicate little squares of fruit puree, concentrated and slightly sweetened, and rolled in sugar so it sparkles. Slightly sticky, tangy and tart, it’s like candy for grown-ups.

Voya’s petits fours plate came with pineapple pate de fruit, and it surprised me. I was expecting tart, brash pineapple that would make my tongue pucker a little bit. Instead, it was a kinder, gentler pineapple that started out a little bit shy, and then became bolder as it melted on my tongue. The flavour developed even further on the back of my tongue and throat.

Not what I expected at all, but lovely nonetheless.

Voya (in the Loden Hotel)
1177 Melville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 639-8692

Voya’s petits fours: sparkly coffee cookies

If you’ve just joined us, I’m waxing poetic on the petits fours plate at Voya. It’s a changing plate of miniature deliciousness, and the plate I had featured lemon spritz cookies, sparkly coffee cookies, pineapple pate de fruit, cherry cordials, hazelnut praline chocolates, and coffee chocolates.

So, what’s this about sparkly coffee cookies?

That’s probably not their real name, and it really doesn’t do justice to just how pretty they are. They probably have some fabulously Italian name that means coffee-almond-bites-of-eternal-and-undying-love, but I’m just going to call them sparkly coffee cookies.

They’re perfectly round, loonie-sized cookies that are dusted in sugar and garnished with a coffee bean. Coffee bean aside, these cookies pop with coffee flavour, and then mellow to the slightly sweet and nutty almond base. It’s like a chewy version of a coffee amaretti. But prettier.

Voya (in the Loden Hotel)
1177 Melville Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 639-8692