Duchess Bake Shop – Cookbook Launch

One does not attend the beautiful surroundings of Duchess Bake Shop (especially when a string quartet is playing) when one has a red, raw, drippy nose, wads of damp Kleenex up sleeves, in pockets, in hand) and a cough that sounds like a sea lion arf arf arfing for a fishie at Sea World. No indeed. One stays at home and employs two drinking buddies (albeit social media junkies and food lovers) to go in their stead.

@habanerogal (Laurel) and @super_su (Suzanne) seemed keen, so off they went. Their mission? To be the first to see the Duchess Bake Shop’s new cookbook, sip champagne, and getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the Duchess kitchen.

While at home in my ugliest pajamas, a corner of tissue rolled to a point and stuffed up one nostril, I kept an eye on the Twitter feed to see what I was missing. I wanted to weep. The pictures, as you can see, are amazing. And I wanted to weep not only because I was missing the event, but because I was so proud that Edmonton has such an elegant, tasteful shop within its heart. And Duchess just isn’t pretty to look at. The products it produces are beautifully created and, the best part, taste absolutely sublime.

I’ve been going to Duchess since it opened and have always been partial to their lemon tart, key lime pie and pretty little macarons. At the last Earl’s menu launch, fellow food appreciator Gail Hall and ladies washroom partner (you know what I mean…. we ladies go in pairs) of Seasoned Solutions was explaining that Duchess has The Best almond croissants. Tell me this…. how can you hear the words, “Best Almond Croissants” and not rise to the challenge? How? I know some (perhaps a lot) of you can, and that’s why you are at a reasonable body weight. But when I hear “best of” I think impossible! How? Let me be the judge!

Early the next morning I was in the car zooming off to Duchess to be there at opening to see/taste for myself. Did I buy one? Heavens no. When judging, you must buy two, just to make sure the quality is consistent! And it was. My toes curl as I type… the kind of curl toes do when the body is in rapture.

Anyone who goes into Duchess will feel special and will reach for their heads to make sure their crowns and tiaras are in place. The service and attention you receive at the counter is consistently polite, efficient and eager to please. You will feel part of the beauty of Duchess.

Lucky for us, Duchess has captured their recipes in their new cookbook. I have not seen it myself, but have seen some of the recipes they are sharing, like one of life’s pretty treasures, Vanilla Madeleines. Other than having a special Madeleine baking tray (you more than likely have a friend with one that has it buried in the back of the cupboard and if you ask nicely would lend it to you), these are super simple to create in your very own kitchen.

So friends….if you are in Edmonton and haven’t been to Duchess yet, please go. It is perfect when you want a place to have coffee with a friend, when you want to gain friends and influence people by sharing a Tarte Montreal at work, or when you want to take home almond croissants to have with coffee in your pajamas in front of the TV.

Here’s some great photos @habanerogal took from the event. Kudo’s to both @super_su and @habanerogal for doing an awesome job of taking in the ambiance, sampling the food and drink, and giving me the swag bag (you two are real pals. If it were me, I would have kept it run off to Mexico) and reporting back! Good work, both of you!

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The F-Words: Food Fun Family Friends Flowers

It’s Mother’s Day. I have had an ache in my chest for most it. But rather concentrate on what I no longer have, decided, after a pleasant afternoon nap and head clearing walk, to concentrate on what I do have.  And rather than provide you with an Oprah list of those things, let’s take a wordy and winding pictorial walk and see a few things that I am grateful for:

Discovered THE coolest little pub on Vancouver Island called the Stonehouse Pub. As you can see by the following pictures, it is buried in among BC’s trees and shrubbery. Michael and I were tipped off about this place as we arrived in Swartz Bay and were lining up to disembark the ferry. I was looking at my iPhone and remarked, aloud, that there should be a Pub Finding App. As it happens one of the crew overheard me say this, and helpfully recommended this place. It’s our new favourite on the Island. The food was delicious. The beer beery. The surroundings, absolutely amazing. Two different patios, lush greenery all around. Loved it enough we were happy to go a second time and invite friend Bonnie with us. We sat outside for hours, despite the chill in the air. We Albertan’s are hearty. It was April. Things were green. It wasn’t raining. We WILL sit outside.

The Stonehouse Pub, complete with tenant that lives upstairs. YES! Just like Coronation Street! (Without the street).
We were sitting on one patio, and this is a picture of the second patio, and side entrance. Can’t wait to see this place in the middle of summer.
Bruschetta. My go-to appy to please the Canada Food Guide people who insist on vegetable intake.
Bonnie and I chilling on the patio.

3rd STREET CAFE – Sidney, BC
If you know me well, you know that I am on a quest for the perfect poached egg. Friend Leslie came back from BC shouting the praises of the 3rd Street Cafe in Sidney. Michael and I went. Three times in one week. Each time? The PERFECT poached egg.

You are looking at the PERFECT poached egg. A little poke in the yolk, and we had oozy goodness for toast dipping.

This place got a very high rating on Urbanspoon. It did not disappoint us and was one of the highlights of our culinary adventures in BC. It was raining this evening, and off to the right, you can see the tents he set up. Tents for two. Lucky for us, one of the tents were available. It was cozy warm for the space heater. Ambiant with the rain pitter-pattering on the tent. The food was outstanding. The price shockingly reasonable. It was a special evening.


Back in Edmonton, Earls makes Michael and I  happy and nostalgic. Despite its modern look, it still takes us down memory lane every time. They are reliable, consistent and always make us feel at home. A few weeks ago we were invited over to Earl’s to sample a few of their new food and boozy items. We had a great time, and love the enthusiasm and hospitality of chef Rui, sous chef Riley, manager Jessica and server Rachel. And honestly, if you are thinking of a career in the food industry, think of Earl’s. I am always impressed to hear how they treat their staff and happy they promote from within.

BBQ Pork Buns. Adorable and delicious!
My ribs. Go away. My ribs. NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM. I’ve never enjoyed ribs so much in my life. These were succulent. Messy to eat. Definitely not first date food. But definitely 28 years together food.
Crispy Tuna Sushi Cone. My kind of sushi, which means, if you have textural issues, you will be able to eat this and love it.
The Mad Hatter. Vodka, pear, black tea, Kaffir lime, coconut water. A little dry ice for MYSTERY and EXCITEMENT. It was icy cold, refreshing and perfect for patio season. Yet you can still look like a teetotaler.

The BEST poutine. The BEST steak frites. Their prices are starting to rise a bit, but even then, probably the most economic yet perfectly cooked steak in town.

Steak frites with peppercorn sauce. Yum. The wine menu is decent, and that there bottle of Malbec made for a perfectly relaxing evening.


That’s a ham steak. Served with corn and mashed potatoes. There is nothing else to say. So shush. Don’t judge.

Very lucky and grateful for the opportunity that presented itself by the BC Wine people. Wine aficionado and friend Keith and I went, and enjoyed a brilliant afternoon of blind wine samplings – comparing BC wines against their global counterparts. (I reaaallllly enjoyed it because I don’t spit out my samplings – tee hee).

IMG_2312 IMG_2309Learned quite a bit at this event, mainly because Edmonton’s famous wine expert Gurvinder Bhatia (@edmontonwineguy) was in attendance and generated some informative commentary/discussion.

If you are into British television, you may have seen Broadchurch. Well, Broadchurch, is English. And apparently the American’s don’t understand English, so they had to remake Broadchuch for the American audience. And they were doing this in Canada. In Sidney. So here is your sneak preview of Gracepoint.

A bit of a surprise to see the American and Californian flag flapping over what used to be Mineral World in Sidney BC.
Inside the Gracepoint police station.

IMG_2139We were lucky enough to see David Tennant (from afar), and watch a few takes. The security staff surrounding the set were friendly and happy to explain what was happening and shush us up when the camera was rolling. We met up with some crazy David Tennant fans who were not shy about taking pictures of him. I have a few I took myself, but I was shy and the picture quality sad. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that I saw this Dr. Who icon live and in person. He’s tall by the way. Really tall.


Soaking up some April sunshine on the patio.
Our techno savvy family/friends from the USA. They speak English by the way.
Best friends.
Lawn bowling/hot dog eating friends from Victoria.

And other than my quest for the perfect poached egg, I am always in the pursuit of natural beauty in flowers. Michael’s and my favourite place in the world is the beautiful Butchart Gardens just north of Victoria near Brentwood Bay. Our little game is to arrive just at closing time, which gives us an hour to view the gardens with no one around, and then wait until we are politely asked to leave.

A view from our tea spot.
My favourite bench in the gardens.
The view from my favourite bench in the gardens.

So there you have it… a hodge-podge of things that make me happy. Nothing extravagant or expensive. Just simple things – good food, friends, family, flowers and a sense of fun.
















Spring has Sprung at Earl’s

The patio furniture is out, the sun is shining, and Earl’s has it’s new Spring menu!

Nothing says spring (especially for those of us without barbecues at home) quite like a 16 oz bone-in Certified Angus rib eye steak, rubbed with olive oil, gluten free soya sauce, minced garlic cloves, fresh lemon juice, fresh basil, fresh rosemary, fresh parsley, dried ground porcini, and cayenne).

Earls Certified Angus Beef Rib Eye SteakThat’s Earl’s picture. I don’t take pictures that nice.

Michael and I were invited (and jumped up and down with excitement when we did) to a Wine Maker’s Dinner at the downtown Edmonton Earl’s. We were introduced to CedarCreek Estates Winery, the people that make Earl’s house red and white wines.

Hang on, I was given photo of that too, let me find it…

Professional photo (and exactly how I figure I look when tasting wine – with a sophisticated air, carefully swirling, sniffing, swishing….):

cedar creek rascal 1My reality (filler ‘er up! right to the brim please!):IMG_1469As always, Earl’s knows how to show a person a good time. But it’s not all about the show, it about the food, and the people, and Earl’s gets it right. Every time.

Even when Michael and I are aren’t at an “event”, the food at Earl’s is consistent, and delicious. The Earl’s girls always seem to be enjoying themselves and enjoy the work they do. Chef and his crew provide delicious food and a consistent menu for those of you stuck on Dynamite rolls as well as new things like a scrumptious Rocket Salad.  This salad was toe curling delicious – citrus dressed arugula, beets, pears, goat cheese coulis, and candied pecans.

This definitely is my own picture. It’s the quality of picture you’ve come to endure:IMG_1465It was a terrific night, and cheek kissy-kissy to Earl’s Cate Simpson, Gareth Smith and Chef Rui Carvalho for hosting such a fun, tasty event.

A shout out to table-mates:  Brian Allen of Vintage West and his vast knowledge of wine and his engaging personality.  To beautiful, spirited Nisa of Focus Communications. To the colourful, one of a kind Edmonton foodie extraordinaire Gail Hall.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I finally had the opportunity to meet Edmonton’s delightful uber foodie, Liane Faulder!

Let’s do this again sometime. All of you! Invite to watch the Canada Day fireworks is still open.

A 2012 Photo Essay

Wishing all our family, friends, fellow bloggers, Facebook friends, the Twitterverse, and  everyone involved in the food and wine industry, success, happiness and good health in 2013.

Providing photographic evidence that Michael and I do more than just eat. I have captioned some of the photos – to read the longer ones, click the picture to make it big.

Earls – Who Knew

I was invited to a tasting event at Earls Campus location last week, to which I said yes too, then had to bail on the day of because life happened. So that was the end of that, or so I thought.

I received a message from the event coordinator, cate (I type that in lower case, as that is how it appears on her business card), asking for my mailing address because they wanted to send me a package.

A package? For me? Indeed. A semi-perishable package at that.

Intrigue! GIMME GIMME GIMME GIMME, shouts the 4 year old girl inside me, but with the decorum and patience of a peri-menopausal 45 year old, I give our address.

So today is Monday, and as with most Mondays I got through the day wishing from time to time that I didn’t have to work, that Michael and I had a carefree spirit and just quit our jobs, packed backpacks, and moved to Mexico to drink margaritas on the beach.

Well, people, careful what you wish for, because wishes can come true, although they can manifest themselves in ways you least expect. And today, my wish partially came true.

Michael came home carrying a mysterious dark box.  When I saw the Earls logo, I grabbed it from him shouting GIMME GIMME GIMME and pulled out the following delights:

Seriously!? Booze! Pineapple! Limes! A bottle of ginger potion! A glass! In a box! On Monday! It contained all the fixings for a Pineapple Ginger Margarita. Stand aside! I have a margarita to make!

I moved faster than I have all day – the pineapple chopped and muddled, limes squeezed, the kitchen an aromatic haven for all things tropical, and 12 stress relieving shakes of the shaker, and here’s the finished product. Chin chin!

And yes. Thank you YES. It was delicious. Divine. Loveliness. And I sit here now in my happy place. (Quiet please while I imagine the ocean catching one of my flip-flops and taking it out to sea and I’m too relaxed to care).

Earls is promoting their new menu, which is focusing on fresh local ingredients. Earls has come a long way since potato skins, chicken fingers, frightening parrots and Mateus wine.  I’ve been on a decade long hiatus, but the new menu, friendly (but not so friendly you are worried they will want to come home with you) staff, makes Earls something you will want to revisit.

Thank you cate! Thank you Chef Doug! We’ll be seeing you soon.