The Puggle. And peanut butter cookies.


I grew up with cats.

As I was raised somewhat like an only child, with a half-brother almost a decade older, cats made sense because they like to be alone, they are quiet, cranky, a lot like I was.

When I met my partner, he was all DOGS DOGS DOGS. He had one, back in Calgary, but having grown up with them, talked about having more. All I could think about was hair and slobber and claws on your legs and climbing on you while you are trying to enjoy a tea on the sofa.

But he loves to teach. So he taught me about dogs.

When we lived in Calgary, we also lived with his daschund-jack russell mix, so I learned about dogs through him, with sort of a test-run dog.

We looked at French Bulldog rescue sites for months, the idea of a dog had become okay, I was happy to talk about adoption. On a whim one day I looked up an SPCA in Quebec, not expecting to find anything because most abandoned dogs are large breeds or chihuahuas. They had a puggle. We weren’t sure what that was, but we decided to go out and meet her.

She came running out of the back, pulling on her leash in all directions. They handed it to us and told us to take her for a walk, that she had just been posted that morning, that we were her first visitors as she’d only been there a week, that she was two, and that her name was said to be Summer, but that she didn’t respond to it.  No one thought she had any training, or even if she understood French or English. She’d been left there, the man who dropped her off tried to run off without filling out the forms.

We didn’t say anything about it until we got home. The Canadian said “I really liked her.”

“So did I.” We drove back to Quebec, paid 600.00 and filed the paperwork. She came with a bed and a leash.


He was working nights when we first got her.  “I don’t know what to do with her. She just looks at me.” I watched hours of Caesar Milan, but it didn’t seem any amount of dog whispering would calm her. She had boundless energy, despite being walked 75km every week for three weeks. She barked or howled at everything, dogs, loud noises, squirrels, cats, people on bikes. I had no ability to control her, she saw the Canadian as an alpha but viewed me as her competition.

I tried being assertive, but my assertion comes across as anger or intollerance. It didn’t work. It became clear to us that she had lived with children, because she is drawn to them and very patient with them, and that she had been hit, and probably tied up outside alone. She had never played fetch. She knows basic commands, like sit, stay, no, and that she understands English. She is also younger than we’d thought.


The Canadian taught me how to teach her. The weeks of making her sit at street corners, turning her away from other dogs as she screamed for friends, or walking her in circles  when she wouldn’t listen paid off. She still doesn’t understand drop, and every time we put her harness on she tries stick her head in it. In time we could pick her up, and eventually she learned to cuddle with us, as she didn’t understand what that was.  And after we took her camping, let her play in the dirt, hike in the woods, chew sticks, play at the beach (she’d never been swimming either), and reassured her when we figured out she was afraid of the dark, she realized we weren’t going to send her away.

Peanut Butter and Ginger Cookies – Makes 24

I love PB cookies. I’m a sucker for those with the fork prints. For the uneven edges. For a slight saltiness. Long ago I fell for the combo of peanuts and ginger when I had a Ginger Chime ginger chew of the same combo. Since then I’ve tried to convince people the two work outside of savoury applications of asian style noodles or salad dressing. It’s a tough fight. I’ve updated the classic PB cookie with fresh ginger and a touch of sesame oil, to help enhance the peanut flavour, which I find is often fighting with the sugar and butter.

225g Butter, soft but still cold, cubed

250g Brown Sugar

1 Egg

175g Peanut Butter, freshly ground if possible, or Chunky Natural

2 tbsp Ginger, Freshly grated

1.5 tsp Sesame Oil

275g All Purpose Flour

5g Baking Soda*

3g Kosher Salt, or 2 big pinches


Preheat your oven to 350F (if non-convection, 325 with convection)

Cream butter and sugar on med-high in your mixer, just until smooth but not aerated. Add egg and combine well, then add peanut butter, ginger, and sesame oil fully. Add sifted dry in three batches, on low. Do not overmix. I prefer to under mix in the mixer and finish by hand to keep the cookies tender.



Dough should be soft and cold, not sticky. Weigh them to 40g, shape lightly, squash with a wet fork. Bake for 17 minutes.


*Baking soda is needed in cookies not for leavening (this is done by the egg) but for colour. Depending on how you like your cookie, adjust the baking soda to your liking. These cookies are done when they are golden just around the outer edge and just set looking on top. They are soft with a slight crispness when cooled.

The Puggle would eat the whole jar of these if she could.


A dish or menu is like a story to a chef. It’s consumed and enjoyed, or not, and probably misunderstood, but as people who spend more time with organic matter and misfits, its a better story than the one about the rude customer or the fake allergy.

The nice thing about these stories is that over the years the bits and pieces accumulate and the task of telling something fresh and new becomes easier because we have a rolodex of plot elements.

I used to forget the stories I wrote, and in re-reading them would often surprise myself. When I started this blog I began documenting the food I made, photographing everything in stages and final presentation, every dish a potential post. Not everything made it, most didn’t because I would be too busy and move on to something else, thinking that my own boredom with that story meant it wasn’t useful to anyone else. Scrolling through the photos I never got around to writing about is like revisiting old stories, a reminder of the experiences I’ve had, the stories I was telling through food.

Given that the call for pastry chefs around here is nil, no beating about the bush, I’m pretty bummed about my ho-hum job, I suppose it can’t all be kitchen fires, cranky Yelpers, and after service beers, this is the first of several archival posts, until I figure out my next tale.

Chocolate, Ginger, Chili

In Calgary I noticed a lot of menus had chocolate and chili. A popular combo, an automatic hit, it made sense. The West happens to have a high percentage of Korean, Chinese, and Japanese. Also, I imagine, the Wild West was all about the chili and cornbread. And flapjacks.


My first Chef had given me Wild Sweets, a book by a Vancouver couple, trendsetters when it came to unlikely food pairing and use of molecular techniques in the Great White North. I decided to test their candied red pepper and dark chocolate macaron mignardise on a quite Monday and my gears started moving.

Chocolate desserts are an exciting challenge to me, but as a customer I loath them. They can be heavy, rich, overly sweet, and just plain boring. I can’t think of a chocolate dessert I’ve ever ordered that I’ve not regretted. No one challenges chocolate. Chocolate sells, they make something with it, and slap it on a plate.


This dish was the gateway to my no longer working dinner service. I’d put my foot down to 90hr weeks, 12hr days were plenty for me, so Chef hired a girl to help Garde Manger and plate my desserts a few days a week. I had to design something basic, something no experience could handle, but that was still stunning and utterly delightful to the palate.

The chocolate mousse is easy, I lightened it by swapping a whole egg in the mousse and adding more water. This made it more cost effective, every cent counts in a kitchen.


Having a few spare yolks around because of my daily macaron production, I made a ginger-infused bombe mixture for the drippy centre, then popped in a layer of chocolate bark softened with a bit of oil so as to deliver a fudgier texture at once heavily textured with cookie chunks and cocoa nibs, Maldon salt and chili flakes. A simple chocolate sponge gave it something to sit on without overwhelming the other elements.



The plating was reletively easy, the liquid bombe centre provided the adequate sauce (above photo was taken still frozen), so just a sprinkling of cookie crumbs, chocolate curl, and pickled ginger (which I honestly just nicked off garde) was enough.

Chocolate Mousse – makes 4 servings.

2 Yolks, 1 Egg

75g Water

40g Sugar

200g Chocolate, melted and warm

225g Cream, whipped soft and reserved in fridge

Have 4 molds ready, half spheres, rectangles or rounds.

Set a sauce pot on to heat, plop your egg and yolks, sugar and water, into the bowl of a stand mixer, then whisk the mixture to hot, ribbony foam (60C) over the boiling water. Whip with your mixer until cool.

Fold melted chocolate in (should be around 40C at this point), then fold your cream in. This mousse is very soft, so carefully pipe or ladle into your molds. Use a piping bag to fill with a bombe mixture, then press in chocolate bark and a sponge. Freeze fully before unmolding. Glaze and serve room temp.

Taking steps is easy, standing still is hard.


Returning to Ottawa a 5 months ago had me initially feeling pretty shitty.

The restaurant scene here changed dramatically in the years I was gone, and frankly I haven’t the money or the interest to try more than a couple. My priorities have changed, we have a german car as expensive as a child, and we want a dog and a place of our own. I’m out of the loop and my focus is now more about bread.


My rule has always been to work minimum one year. After 3 months you get into your groove but it’s still a good challenge, after 7 months you have the routine down, past that you can take anything thrown at you (for the most part). Past a year it can get too comfortable verging on boring.

Working in four different restaurants/hotels in England was a circumstantial blip, but my I learned more in that time than any other. I became a professional once I left. 

The thing about moving around so much, while still clearly being an employee who can commit, you tend to…always start back in the same income bracket. The money you make as a commis, for example, to a chef de partie isn’t much of a leap. And unless you work in a hotel or golf course, the pasty sous chef position isn’t available until you’ve worked somewhere long enough to prove yourself and they give you the title to justify a raise. Most of the time, you’re just tossed the Pastry Chef title, even when all you do is cut pre-fab cake and scoop ice cream, and you make what the CdPs make.

Having always focused on becoming the best pastry whatever I can be, I have moved around to have a thorough background, catering, fine dining, hotels, garde mange, hot line, tasting menus, bread, ice cream, pies and muffins, cakes. Through the years I have had to work mostly alone, relying on my own instincts, heavy reasoning, and research, grasping at what I could learn from other cooks and chefs where possible.

So when I come back here and see so many chefs in this city who have stayed in one restaurant for 6+ years, moving up the chain, maybe hanging out at sous for 4 years then grabbing Chef de Cuisine finally when the owners open a new place or if the previous chef moves on…I was bummed mostly because they can afford their hydro bill and feel comfortable in their place of employment and people talk about how great the food is on the internet. I’m the same age, but due to my desire to not stagnate I chose to galavant instead and I don’t have a locally beloved restaurant to unlock every morning.

I work with a baker who used to pastry chef, he worked for some amazing places over the years, then switched over to baking, probably for the same reason I bake more bread these days than make mousse — because it’s just so laid back (and better for me). We chat as often as our busy days can accommodate, and one day he asked if I was a collector of great recipes.

“Absolutely. I like to find the best, then adapt them to suit my style.”

“I’ll send you some of my recipes then.”

The next day he’d hand scrawled two pages of recipes from a place he worked at in the 90’s, a restaurant in Montreal that had been opened by a Chef now best known for being a Master Bread Maker (Jeffery Hamelman of King Arthur Flour has described him as the King) but who also studied classic Pastry and Cuisine intensely. His restaurant was considered one of the best in North America, and they served classic French food, but the real classics, not the Julia Child classics.

My heart fluttered because I was so excited to try them out, and I hoped I could do them justice. It was less about having the recipes and more about having the chance to step back in time.

Since my down time has been more about being a person and baking bread than sugar, I decided to give the honey-rich lemon curd, which my Calgary chef raves about, a go in a dessert for the Canadian’s birthday.


I love the Tarta de Santiago, a Galician almond-meal cake, sometimes baked in a crust, sometimes not, flavoured with cinnamon and lemon as a simple but very delicious treat.


Too simple for a birthday, but the flavour triad of bitter almond, lemon and cinnamon is one of my favourites, so I  bulked up a dacquoise recipe with spice and extract (used sparingly I find it divine), layered it with the curd, a mead chiboost, and raspberries, and finished it with lemon and raspberry flowers.

Not especially seasonal, but it seemed a fitting ode to tradition while being inspired by my good luck in having the opportunity to work with someone who shares my passion for pastry.


Raspberry, Lemon, Cinnamon.

Cinnamon Dacquoise

makes 3 6” discs

190g Almond flour

190g Icing Sugar

pinch salt

6 Egg Whites

75g Sugar

5g Cinnamon

2 drops natural almond extract

Preheat your oven to 350F

Prepare a sheet of parchment paper by outlining three 6” circles on the underside of the parchment. Have a piping bag and 10mm piping tip ready.

Sift or blitz your almonds, cinnamon, salt, and icing sugar.

Whip your egg whites on medium-high, gradually adding the sugar after they begin to foam. Once medium-stiff, fold your dry into the egg whites in three batches carefully without deflating the whites. Upon your last couple of strokes, add your extract.

Using a bit of the batter, stick the corners of your parchment to your cookie sheet.

Starting in the centre, pipe batter in circular motion, finishing by neatly dragging the tail into the previous circle.

Dust with icing sugar. Bake for 15 minutes, the top should look a touch crusty and firm but still soft and yielding to the touch, the outside ring should turn to a pinkish beige.

After they are baked, remove from tray while hot, transfer to a cooling rack and pop back into the oven for 5 minutes to help dry them. This will keep them from becoming soggy.


Mead Chiboost

This is simply a pastry cream with italian meringue and gelatin. I chose this over whipped cream mainly because whipped cream is airy but heavy (fatty), and while I don’t strive to make diet desserts, I focus on achieving the textures and flavours with less fat and sugar than normal. It’s easy to whip cream or make a ganache and call it done, making a dessert that is cheaper, less fatty, and less sugary without anyone noticing is not.

Though there is little mead in this, it had a surprisingly prominent flavour without fighting with the lemon or raspberry. Bang-on.

Honey Wine Pastry Cream

50ml Mead

200ml 3.25% milk

75g sugar

2 yolks

18g Cornstarch or Flour

3g Vanilla bean paste, or 1/4 bean

Combine mead, milk,vanilla, and half the sugar in a small sauce pot.

Whisk the cornstarch or flour with remaining sugar. While the milk heats on medium, whisk the cornstarch/sugar into the yolks, whisking until light.

When the milk begins to simmer, pour a small amount over your yolks and whisk quickly. Once incorporated add a bit more. When the eggs feel quite warm, whisk them into the sauce pot and whisk vigorously while the mixture cooks until it begins to boil. Take care not to over cook, it only needs about 20 seconds at a boil.

Pour onto a cookie sheet (or a pie pan), cover with plastic wrap or parchment and place in the fridge or on your porch until cool.

Honey Meringue

This is a very small batch because it is a small cake, so watch the honey it will cook very quickly. When heated, honey will boil over easily, so don’t cook this in a shallow pan.

3 Egg whites

150g wildflower honey

20g sugar

1g sheet gelatin, bloomed in cold water

Heat your honey on medium.

Whip your whites on medium-high. Add sugar when foamy.

When your honey reaches 120C, remove from heat and slowly pour it down the side of the bowl while your whites whip. Squeeze the water out of the gelatin and add. Turn to high and whisk until just warm to the touch.

Soften your pastry cream by transferring to a bowl and whapping with a spatula until smooth. Fold in your meringue in three stages, then transfer to a piping bag with a fancy tip.



Serve the (public) servants… a lesson in Freshness *


*it’s a rant.

“So what’s fresh today?”

Truth be told I’ve, as I chuckle half-heartedly about it, sold my soul in some vein. I can’t conjure romantic images of a cutesy corner bakeshop when recanting the daily trials to people who ask “how’s work going?”


But the health benefits outweigh the untrained, let’s ruin everything hahaha staff, and then the no staff to the new, getting-there I can breathe now staff.

The exchange, though not what was originally promised, has allowed me to do one thing: not think about work on my day off. Magically, as though it doesn’t even exist, or rather that it will most certainly continue to exist even if I didn’t, my worry that things will go to hell as soon as I exit the building has disappeared.

Maybe this is because I know things will go awry but that for today that’s none of my business, as my contract states that I must maintain a proper work-life balance, until I have to fix, whatever I must fix, tomorrow. I’m curiously okay with this.

What is another all too challenging issue is how closely I am to customers. I don’t often talk to them, not because I don’t want to, but things being as they are, I just don’t have the time. But on the rare occasion a dialogue begins, it’s often with the same opening.

What is freshly made today?

Can I be honest? Between you and me?

Probably nothing.

Then again, how do you gauge freshness? What are the requirements? On days when we have fresh fruit tarts, I mean sure the fruit is fresh because it hasn’t been dried, but let’s not kid ourselves here, there’s no strawberry patch upstairs. These strawbs are from Peru. They travelled here by train or boat, do you know how long that takes? Does that qualify as fresh? If it does than your concept of fresh should have some flexibility.

So I assembled the tart today, but let’s be reasonable here, tart shells are a pain to make. I have always made them in-house in the past, but this is a different beast, these are not house-made, they can’t be. They travel in boats from France. Fresh? Still crisp, still fresh.

Considering I don’t arrive at work until 7 and it takes an hour and a bit just to put finishings on and tag the product and get it into the display case, I absolutely did not make the pastry cream this morning. Consider this:

Pastry cream, made en-masse quantity needed in a place like this is like 7 litres at a time. You must cook pastry cream, per-litre, one minute for it to be considered safe. Seven minutes boiling time, not to mention the 20 minutes it took for it to get to that temperature in the first place (nor the scaling of ingredients), then it must cool down (at least 45 minutes in the fridge on a sheet tray) and congeal, then be whipped again for nice smooth consistency before going into the shell (fresh from France) then garnished with the (fresh from Peru) fruits, which takes like 30 minutes to prepare.

If I had an army of little pastry peeps whisking away back here, we could, if we started at 2am every morning, fill the case with fresh product every day. Let’s be serious guys, this is not a boutique. 


Do you know how much that would cost? I mean, pastry is a skill. Technically a trade. You are buying pastries from the shop because you don’t know how to make them, yes? That is a skill you must pay money for, a service if you will. Maybe you do know how to do this but you are all “I don’t have time for all that!” Okay, I understand this but we run off the same clock. We have time to do the work we do because we are paid for it. But considering I can’t employ twenty people to make fresh pastries all day long, I can’t think of anyone who can save for Domenique Ansel who will be opening an 80% made to order bakery, but lets be honest Chef, don’t you mean assembled to order?

Someone is spreading a rumour that mousse cakes need to be fresh… I’m sorry to say, they cannot stand on their own if they are to be as fresh as you want them to be, so no that wasn’t made this morning either. Not real mousse, like what we make with fruit puree, egg white, sugar, and cream, nor this horrendous thing a lot of other places call mousse:


How long does it take you to make a cake at home? 4 hours start to finish? Longer? In pastry, sometimes we have expensive things like blast chillers which cool things in minutes, these cost $20,000 and are $$$ to run, but they save hours, which translates to money. Few places can afford things like blast chillers to save them a few hours.


People who are professionals in the pastry world are not magicians. We don’t conjure up anything, we actually work within the same time frame you do at home when you bake a cake. We are just more efficient and more confident. Oh yes, and skilled.

Fact: We don’t have ovens that bake cakes in 5 minutes. That doesn’t exist. It takes the same amount of time to bake a cake in a bakery as it does for you at home. That’s not lame, or lack of technology, it’s called science.

How can we make… 30 cakes in a day when you struggle to make one? We don’t. We likely baked the cakes one day, freeze them. Then we make the frosting or the mousse or whatever and assemble another day. Or several days after that. Then we freeze the whole thing. The process takes several days. I can assemble and finish a cake in 6 minutes, but that’s about as quick as it gets. Everything else takes the same amount of time.

Fact: The freezer keeps things fresh. Not indefinitely, there is certainly a finite lifespan of a frozen product, but it’s 1-3 months if stored properly. My preference, as is the preference of most proper pastry peeps, is to keep it frozen for as short a time as possible, and always practice proper rotation (first in, first out).

Fact: Pastry products, like wine, actually improve with age. I don’t mean months, unless it’s a soaked cake like fruit cake, but a day or two does wonders for flavour. Ice cream makers tend to allow the base mixture to sit at least a day to allow the flavours to mature, before churning. Custards develop their proper texture and full flavour, cake has a different structure from fresh out of the oven to the next day when it has fully baked.

A croissant will not taste better the next day. It will be dry. You eat croissants the morning they are made, please don’t hang on to them “for later” unless…


You turn them into almond croissants. Almond croissants exist to add longevity to a delicious, highly laborious and costly product that has an extremely short shelf life. A dunk in some syrup (to eliminate the dryness), filling and topping of a soft, almond and butter-full sponge (frangipane) and a re-bake to refresh and cook the eggs — please keep in mind that re-baking will literally refresh or even improve a two day old loaf of bread, that is both science and magic — and voila! You have a new product, totally delicious in every way, and it is shelf-stable for more than a measly day, you could have that in several days and it would have better flavour than the day they were baked.


So here is my plea, remember dear shoppers: Bread is for today, always buy your bread today, it will keep for the days you want to eat it, but don’t buy bread from yesterday, or as is the case of baggy bread, months ago (sorry, that Wonder Bread probably sat in a freezer for up to 6 months! Fresh??)

Cake is full of sugar and maybe chocolate and fats of all kinds, creams and soft things. Cake does not have to be from today. It lasts a week or more, if properly stored. And as with most things, as soon as it is sliced the shelf-life declines (think of ganache and buttercream as a kind of tin can, heck pie dough was the original tin can).

A cake I made 5 days ago but that sat in the freezer until yesterday? It’s still fresh. It will be tomorrow and the next day, the day after that. No worries.

It’s the cellophane straight-jacketed chocolate cake with the star-tube frosting in the freezer isle you should be concerned about.

All work and no play never made me lose it.


When I left Calgary I kept an open mind to where my next experience might be. I tried not to think about how my skills had narrowed to a level that wasn’t really useful anywhere else.

In the past I’d avoided trying to go further, that is to say, I shied away from Michelin level work in the UK for two reasons:

I was afraid I couldn’t cut it.

Michelin doesn’t live in Canada. There are few restaurants that could, if they considered us, gain a star or two. They are in Vancouver, the Rockies, the Toronto area, and that’s about it.

I’ve worked with people who’d set their careers at the Michelin level, then taken jobs in more casual places, either because of location or demotion or stress, and they’ve struggled. Brilliant chefs, highly technically inclined and ridiculously devoted, hard workers, who just can’t keep up with bistro level. If there is anything I can say about the fine dining industry, it’s easier to go up then to come down.

I pushed myself to produce some really neat things that for me were fulfilling creatively before I left Calgary, knowing that I’d not have the chance for several months due to new training. I didn’t expect any employer to take me on and give me carte blanche for the menu immediately.



Black Forest Japanese Cheesecake

Of course I’d also tried to remind myself that not only had I been fortunate to have complete freedom in Calgary (along with a good deal of responsibility and stress that found me ill for a majority of my stay), but I was lucky to work for a Chef who responded so positively to my desire to push the dessert menu to new heights, even using it to push himself regarding the rest of the menu.



Chocolate mousse, smoked cream, truffle ice cream, toasted dacquoise, popcorn.

While I love to be useful in a kitchen, and have over the years taken on more responsibility than is expected in general, I wasn’t prepared to be hired as a pastry chef to be tricked into working as a kitchen bitch.

This bitch is supposed to make cake, she does not prep and cook lunch with little to no help, nor does she clean up filthy kitchens while others scoff she’s in the way, leaving her a few (2) hours in the afternoon to devote to her career and specialty while trying to not cross contaminate her desserts with all the filth left behind by the dirty cooks who think they are clever because they know who Thomas Keller is. I was mocked for the way I made products, like anglaise, except the pastry chef who had been there wasn’t even cooking the products properly, putting customers at risk. I quickly learned that my standards of style and hygiene were no match, I couldn’t just “slice and serve” overly fatty, too sweet too little flavour slabs and garnish with out-of-season fruits.

Needless to say, when I had decided to keep an open mind about a new experience upon returning to my home town, I didn’t think quitting after 3 weeks would be the one.

Now I’ve taken a lateral shift. I’m in more of a pastry/bakery atmosphere. I’ll actually be a bitch who makes cake, I made 25 the other day. It’s weird but new and something I’ve never really been good at. I’m happy to become proficient in something new in my field. Often people think pastry chefs are pastry chefs, they know all the pastry. And they probably do, but unless they’ve worked in restaurants, cake shops, and pastry shops, they aren’t fluent in all the pastry.

But what I wanted to talk about here and now is the idea that restaurants desserts have to be complicated to be beautiful and delicious.

They don’t.

Before I hit the road, I designed a new dish for the resto that was easy, seasonable, and so bloody tasty. Beautiful, too. But so easy. They didn’t really have anyone to replace me (I trained someone, they didn’t work out, then a couple more didn’t work out, so they still don’t really have anyone, just the Chef), but I wanted to give them a transition dessert, something that would feel like I was still there but without all the cranky pants pouting (“why won’t anyone else put in a meat order??”) or coffee consumption (I’m down to 1 a day by the way). It had to be asian inspired, but also make sense in the Canadian market.


Green Apple Tarte Bourdaloue

The base of this traditional French “tart” is frangipane, that delicious egg leavened almond sponge similar to a financier, baked with halved poached pear. It bakes up crisp on the outside and soft and fragrant inside. I used apple because pear just never sells. I love pear, but no one wants to buy them in my experience.

The secret ease of this dish is vodka. Orient Apple Vodka.


I sliced some Grannies and compressed them with a spiked vanilla simple syrup to give the apples some oomph, without a vacuum pack machine one could easily soak these for an hour or so. Pipe the frangipane into a tart shell or well greased tart ring (I make them sans-tart shell) on parchment lined sheet pan, then press the slices into the frangipane. I chill the tarts while the oven pre-heats to 350.


Bake the tarts until a knife comes clean, usually individuals come out after 20 to 30 minutes. They will have pulled away from the tart ring when fully baked. Remove rings.

Before serving, dust with icing sugar. I top it with ginger-oat granola and fresh brunoise of Grannies.

To really give the dish that intense apple flavour while using products in-house (as opposed to adding another thing to make or order in), I took vanilla ice cream, threw some into a frozen Kitchenaid bowl, and as it softened with a paddle, I poured the vodka (and boosted the vanilla) into the ice cream creating a flavourful vodka spiked soft serve. Chill for 45 min before serving.

The only “complicated” part is the “sauce” — I really dislike the use of anglaise, basically because it’s better frozen as ice cream, and unless it is infused with incredible flavour, what does it accomplish? More dairy and sugar and vanilla?

I’m good thanks. I prefer fluid gels. They are not as difficult as people think they are and they can be whatever you want, think or thin, acidic or sweet, alcoholic or fruity. In this case I chose sake as the base.

Sake Fluid Gel

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup Sake

5g Agar Agar

dash cider vinegar

Boil water and sugar , once dissolved, add agar and whisk for 4 minutes while boiling. The agar must hydrate fully, essentially cooked for several minutes or it won’t set. Once hydrated, remove from heat, add vinegar and 3/4 of the Sake. Pour into a loaf pan and chill until set, about 20 minutes.


Once set, remove from cooler and score with a paring knife. You want to slice it into little cubes. Scrape into a blender, add a dash of sake and blend. Add more sake as needed until it is thick but moves freely in the blender. If it is too thin, no worries. It will still taste great, you just won’t be able to pipe it.

Smear or squeeze a healthy dose of fluid gel on your plate to anchor your tart. Finish as desired.


So this dish hits several important checks:

Tasty. Yes.

Gluten-free (if you replace the flour in the frangipane with corn starch,) yes.

Inexpensive. Very.

Fast. Absolutely.

Pretty. I think so.

Everyday Should Be A Holiday Pt 2…Vagabonding days 12-29


Where did I leave off? Wisconsin?

Our trek across ‘Murica was a first for me, going so long without working or having a home base. 4 weeks is past the threshold — at two I wanted to stop, we moved camp every night, only staying in Yellowstone two nights, but then you’re like Oh, we still have another 5,600km to go, guess we better re-pack the car.

The second half of the trip is almost void of photographic evidence. Staring at the world wiz by through the windshield started to lose its excitement before Elko, Nevada, and became downright exhausting by Idaho, where, thankfully, the speed limit rose from 70mph to 80mph (that’s 128km, so 140km was the average) because people do not want to hang around in Idaho. Flash-forward to Wisconsin.

Milwaukee was not a place I’d ever expected to go, so having done no research I pulled up some info on my phone only to discover that Milwaukee is quite stabby — and since we’d had to spend $300 we didn’t really have to cross Lake Michigan at 6am the next day, a hotel was out of the question. I located the safest neighbourhood, which happened to be a 5 min drive from the ferry, we had a long, delicious but not too expensive dinner at a bustling hipsteraunt, then had a horribly uncomfortable sleep in the front seat of the car. And by sleep I mean the Canadian snoozed lightly and I remained awake fearing we’d be arrested or shot.

The next morning we crossed Lake Michigan, which was sadly the waters were incredibly choppy, so 50% of those on board (like 30 people, it was a small ferry) vomited the whole time. My sea legs were not up to the ferocity of this great lake.

Once back in Ontario, we went up to Parry Sound for the weekend to visit friends, then over to Ottawa for a couple of days, then started up again, going to Montreal to eat bread and croissants.


We crossed into Vermont. The boarder guard sounded like he only peaked into the car because he’d spent time in Germany and knew our model MINI had a suicide door and he wanted to see it in action. Smallest border crossing ever?


Originally we’d planned to make it to Massachusetts, I’ve wanted to go since I was a witch and ghost story-loving kid and to visit Berkshire Mountain Bakery, but then we checked our bank accounts and decided we didn’t have the gas money to get there.

Zipped through New England to get out to Nova Scotia via the Saint John ferry, a much smoother ride than the Lake Michigan vomit-fest from the previous week. Saint John looked the same as every time I’ve been there.



Lunenburg, NS is impossibly cute.


We’d driven around like mad people trying to find fire wood in Bangor, apparently no one uses it there. The kids who work at the grocery store don’t even understand (“Why don’t you just cut down a tree?”). We had to buy a pre-fab xmas log from Walmart. So we picked up fire wood as soon as we could, excited to set up camp on the hill in the centre of the town.

Silly us, NO FIRES AT THE UNESCO Heritage Site. Pub it is.

The view of the Back Harbour at sunrise was worth the wind storm that kept us awake all night.


Halifax was as charming as ever.


We stayed in Glace Bay for 5 days picking berries, hiking, and searching for ocean treasure with the Canadian’s sister and her family.


On the way back we drove a bit of the Cabot Trail, a wonderful time of year for driving through the East Coast.

IMG_6574 IMG_6547

We slugged through New Brunswick, which in all honesty, I admit I don’t go to the East very often because you have to traverse this intensely boring province to reap the rewards of fresh fish and fiddlers. It was his first trip through, and he’s agreed we will somehow avoid New Brunswick in the future.

In an effort to avoid Quebec driving (let’s face it, the roads are horrible) and because New England is the happiest place on American soil, the plan was to cross into Maine.

Except the US Border guard did not want to let us in.

We’d met with some concerned faces at border crossings when we declared having bear bangers (I have an intense fear of bears), which are flare-like noise makers many people outside Canada (and bear country) have heard of. This time, however, it seemed the combination of the bear bangers and the lack of employment or home triggered their radar and they hastily proceeded to strip the car.

The border guard proudly waltzed back inside holding up a baggy, booming “AND WHAT ARE THESE?”

We’d taken to seed saving, I’d forgotten the Canadian had collected wine grape seeds from a vine in Glace Bay.

“Those are grape seeds.”

“OH WE’LL SEE.” He consulted with another guard, who assured him it wasn’t a bag of pot seeds. “ALRIGHT WELL, THESE WILL NOT BE GOING BACK WITH YOU.”

He proceeded to accuse use of attempting to become illegal aliens, “YOU HAVE NO JOBS AND NO HOME, WHAT IS TO KEEP YOU FROM ACCEPTING A JOB IF YOU ARE OFFERED ONE?”

This is where we both wanted to say aside from the minimum wage in this country? Instead the Canadian says “No offence, I’m half-American and I have never wanted to live here.” Admittedly we were scared of being declined entry, we didn’t want to go back to New Brunswick.


“Family?” NO “Friends?” NO “Our things?” NO.




“We are moving. So we started in Calgary, drove to Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, through the Redwoods to Chico, across Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, then — what’s the one next to Minnesota? The double-u one –” Mid sentence the guard is shaking his head, eyes closed. He grabs our car keys from behind the counter and before I can finish listing off all the states, pushes them desperately towards us, begging


I’ll give him credit, he re-packed our car perfectly.

Everyday Should be a Holiday…pt 1…Vagabond days 1-11.


Leaving isn’t easy for me, though in the last few years given how much I’ve moved around, it probably seems like I’ve got the hang of it.

I haven’t. That part of me that wants routine and familiar faces, comfort and stability, that part of me that allowed me to work in one place for 5 years still exists, even if my desire for adventure had expanded exponentially.

We left Calgary on the 31st of August for several reasons, the major one being that fact that we still didn’t have an apartment. The cost of living was too high, and even though I’d begun to really like it there, we wanted more independence.

So we drove across the continent.


I use the word continent because what started as a simple drive-across-Canada somehow developed into a more complicated, 8700km journey across 5 provinces and 15 states.

Some mishaps like the car outlets blowing, leaving us with no power for our gps, cellys, and computers, as well as my brilliantly forgetting my laptop power cord, I was unable to post regularly on our adventure. Travelling for 31 days and living off of bread, cured meats, yogurt, and coffee, living out of our car and mostly camping was more exhausting than we’d anticipated, but it was still amazing. We fee very fortunate we were able to do it.


We drove to Vancouver, feeling it was appropriate to start at one sea and head to the other.

Seattle happened. Seattle is a horrible place to drive. Don’t drive in Seattle. Ever. But then we saw the Hotel used for the opening credits for Twin Peaks, and the diner used in the pilot, had some pie and coffee (dream come true, luv u 4eva Agent Cooper). That took the edge off the Seattle incident.


Portland was amazing. And full of homeless youth. Apparently, people move to Portland just to live in Portland. No doubt, this is why there are so many (SO MANY) well-dressed homeless 20-somethings living out of shopping carts. The doughnuts were really great, though we couldn’t finish them, and our trips to Ken’s Bakery and his resto Trifecta were great, even got to shake his hand (eeek).

We saw the Redwoods in California. Just go. I can’t say anything else.


Met Dave Miller, famed in bread circles, at the Chico Farmers Market. Considering the drive (along the white-knuckle route 36 through the northern California mountains, 140 miles of roads so narrow and corkscrewed there were often no dividing lines in some portions, no guard rails, highest elevation was 4,077ft — this road is a 3.5hr attraction in itself) and the hotel, these three loafs are likely to be the most expensive I will have ever purchased. Worth it. Kamut, Chico Nut, and Einkorn, his whole grains are delicious and nutritious. I hope to be as good as he is one day.


Reno was not a place we ever thought we’d go.


Honestly, we just went to the car museum (awesome) and had a mediocre dinner. Then spent over a day doing this:



Which was better than Idaho. But we only discovered this when we had 5 hours of Idaho left.

We hit Montana for about 5 minutes. West Yellowstone is an adorable old-timey settlement at the Western entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Experienced a brief but sweet dust storm-rain storm which was confusing but exciting. Bears in a truck and a dead moose? Check.


Yellowstone needs no explanation. It’s amazing and stunning. People approach bison with their cameras held high like zombies going for brains. Darwinism right there, on the other side of your windshield. Wow.

IMG_6405 IMG_6394

Wyoming was stunning. I’d anticipated a boring drive akin to Idaho, but the landscaped changed at least six times. The most refreshing part of our trip I think. Almost no photos were taken because I knew a camera couldn’t adequately capture the landscape. “Saw” Devil’s Tower, but not really the fog was too thick.


South Dakota interested me mainly because the wild west began there, there is a ridiculous drug store of american-roadside fame called WALL DRUG, and Black Hills National Park, which sounds pretty badass. Sadly the Black Hills are only a small part of a long state that turned out to be a lot like Nevada but flatter, and Deadwood is supported by gaming, which was banned in SD but allowed in Deadwood to keep the city’s history alive. Sadly, most of Deadwood burned down like 45 years ago, I didn’t know that before we showed up.


Wall Drug, however, is insane and kind of awesome. SD also has the world’s only Corn Palace. You read that right. A palace made of corn (apparently it is actually a gymnasium and when we saw it, it was being dismantled to be re-corned, which they do every year — a google will show a more impressive palace than the one below).


On an aside to SD, the highways are a little gut wrenching — almost everywhere an automobile death occurred is an X on a small sign, some of which say simply THINK (to remind drivers to be safe) or WHY DIE? The number of X signs is shocking.

Minnesota is where we realized we’d only seen white people since Reno.

Wisconsin was our next big stop. We were rushing to get to THE HOUSE ON THE ROCK, an attraction built in the 50s by an eccentric collector/architect who built this house on and out of a large rock in the rolling hills south of Madison. Inspired by asian architecture, he allowed for trees and the original rock itself to help bring the natural landscape into the bachelor style home that was mainly designed for beatnik parties.

It was a location Neil Gaiman mentions in American Gods, the main character at one point is overwhelmed by the carousel, which is the largest in the world, swirling in the glow of red and white lights, carved angels hung overhead, booming music being played by an automated orchestra that hangs from the ceiling and walls. The house is interesting, but the collections beyond the original structure are truely overwhelming and an intensive sensory experience. It felt like being inside magic, which doesn’t make sense but if you’ve been to the House, you probably know what I mean.


America is so fucking weird.



Why you probably shouldn’t go to culinary school: a rant and a summer menu.

For months I’ve been racking my brain in hopes that I’ll find something positive to write about.


We escaped for a bit. It was nice. I felt better.


It was nice to see others enjoying themselves.

I don’t want this to become an emotional dumping ground of negativity. If it’s funny, that’s one thing. But laughing to keep from crying is altogether different.

There is a pattern I am starting to notice, working with culinary students, grads, and self-taught kitchen folk, and I can only infer from my own, somewhat demented experiences, but is it just me or do grads and students, people who pay to learn how to cook and work in kitchens, lack shockingly fundamental knowledge?

Like hygiene. And food safety. Personal safety.

Like responsibility and accountability.

Or how to tell if your equipment is on fire. How to put out said fire. Or to at least pay attention to how someone else is putting out the fire so if one day it is your responsibility you will know what to do.

The first day we made a cake in school, slicing the cake with our custom Wustoff Le Cordon Blue bread knives proved difficult to those with little knife experience; three people cut themselves. What.

More than likely, “Chef” school will teach you mother sauces, different knife cuts, how to cook meat in various ways, maybe give you a false sense of pride during a crash course in breads, and teach you how to make a cake or two.

They will probably skim over information about cross contamination, health and safety laws, proper organization of coolers, freezers, dry stores, proper organization of daily functions.

What it probably won’t teach you is how to order for your station or do inventory correctly, how to manage food waste, how to watch over a kitchen, how to see and hear everything that is happening, how to speak up when something is wrong, how to keep the kitchen from catching fire, how to put out a fire, deal with floodings, break-ins, front of house relations, how to wash dishes, the difference between a soap and a sanitizer, how to cost a menu, how to maintain good relations with suppliers, how to find suppliers, how to inspect orders, how to work efficiently, how to work in small spaces and large spaces, how to organize sharing equipment, proper use and care of equipment. How costly equipment is. How much your employers blood will boil if you treat their equipment like shit. How much it costs to run a restaurant, bakeshop, bar, that it is harder to make money selling food than almost anything else.

To taste your food. Do you know how many people I’ve worked with who won’t taste what they make?

Maybe schools do teach these things and most of the people I’ve met in kitchens have mysteriously forgotten all this less important stuff. It’s not cooking right? I can’t help but think somewhere along the line they picked up this notion that kitchen life is like that of Josef K. in the film The Trial, a workplace that begins and ends by the clock, you arrive, you work in a linear fashion, you leave.

A school can’t teach you to care. I can’t teach anyone to care. Caring just happens, it appears seemingly out of nowhere. Am I scared about the direction this industry is taking, where a Food Network celebration of the Chef has given us cities overflowing with restaurants, most of which claim to be “local and sustainable”? Where everyone with a 200$ rustic, handmade knife kit filled with 500$ handmade Japanese knifes they likely don’t bother sharpening or cleaning properly thinks they are a fucking chef? Yes. Yes.


Needless to say, inspiration has been few and far between. This years’s summer menu has been the most difficult one so far.

Strawberries have finally come to Cowtown. Yes, the elevation and the old-west local meant I had to wait with only three dessert options, but it seems this summer’s complete menu reads more like an homage to brilliant chefs.

Cheesecake is back, but the “souffle” aspect was a hard-sell to cheesecake lovers, may work in Japan, but not in Calgary. This time I incorporated an eastern aspect with Ispahan flavour trio (Pierre Herme) of rose, raspberry, and lychee. With bubblegum and red wine to round it out.


Smoked cream was a discovery for me after reading Michael Pollan’s Cooked, he visits Extebarri in Basque country and experiences the tasting menu created from various grilling and smoking methods, with various wood harvested each day. My rendition is surely nothing like his, I cannot get away with serving smoked butter without a bread accompanyment, so I serve cab sauv smoked cream with a double chocolate tart also made with smoked cream and toasted almond and rye shell.


So finally to round off the summer menu, a David Lebovitz- inspired dish. Lebovitz recently posted about the discovery of miso ice cream, and in attempting it he folded strawberries in at the end. Curious about the combination, I added a miso anglaise to my strawberry shortcake of intensely pure strawberry sorbet, yuzu spiked macerated strawbs, roasted mirin-tossed wee strawbs, szechuan peppercorn shortbread, and plain old cream.


I’m sure eventually I will remember how to write a coherent blog post.

This land was made for you and meeeeeeee: In defence of Canadian Cuisine


Perhaps it’s due to having grown up in the capital, seeing the same iconic buildings over and over again desensitized me, but from my first visit to the Canadian West just before highschool, I’ve always felt as though the west is far more representative of the iconic Canada.

Was it the totem poles? We had one in Ottawa, in front of the Scouts Canada building. And there were some across the river in a museum. Surely it was the mountains. And the abundance of skiiers and snowboarders. The London Bridge tube station boasted large Ski Banff ads at the entrance of the Northern Line, which gave me a small sense of pride. The Lodgepole Pines or Alberta White Spruce might be what does it for me. The plaid shirts? The Moose?


Calgary, to me, is a city of juxtapositions. Financially, it booms with the commerce of black gold, is the home constituency of our Conservative PM Harper, who incidentally, when I was in school, was tied with a group plotting to leave the country, similar to the more vocal strife of the Party Quebequois. There are a good deal of large, gas guzzling vehicles on the pro-car (ahem anti-pedestrian) infrastructure, plenty of privatization, right wing government. But while citizens are up-in-arms over the proposition of bike lanes, I see plenty of cyclists daily. Calgarians are great lovers of fish and seafood even though Alberta is land-locked and the province is known for its outstanding cattle. They also love Italian food and Tacos. Downtown is filled with art, maybe for the lack of an art gallery (okay, there is a small one), independent art stores are a regular sight, and they mayor is gay, muslim, and a lefty. He talks back on twitter and people love him for it.

Maybe Calgary is an excellent representation of Alberta, despite Edmonton being the capital, because geographically alberta is so varied, with its prairies, rocky mountains, foothills, and badlands. The demographic diversity here is reflective of the multicultural Canada. The US lives by a ‘melting pot’ rule, where dual citizenship is denied, the Canada I was taught about in school was about acceptance and diversity, a mosaic if you will.

Perhaps this is why it is appropriate that I’m employed at a fusion resto, a bilingual Ontarian with French culinary training working in an Asian influenced restaurant that pulls flavours from many cultures as well as local ingredients.

So when a “highly influencial” blogger from Vancouver, a city whose demographics are so varied that 52% of the population does not speak English as a first language (source: Wiki), balked at the diversity of the menu…

I stopped and thought about it.

Gorgon Ramsay has several general rules, outlined in Kitchen Nightmares, for running a successful restaurant. One is keep your menu to one page, the idea is that if you have a lot on your menu the likelyhood of making it all well plummets.

Another is to stick to one culture. But keep in mind, England is a bit more melt-potty than Canada. They are also really into classism. I feel as though the country prefers to, ahem, compartmentalize.  On the other hand, they serve curries in pubs. So technically, menus should have themes for coherence, boundaries if you will. Which I get, I totally get that concept.


Canada, however, is the land of the free. From sea to sea.

And in Canada we don’t really have a lot of ‘Canadian’ restaurants. Because modern Canadian food is varied, influenced in part by the fact that only 32% of the population claim Canadian as their ethnic origin. And also the 9,984,670 square kilometres and the short growing season up here above the 49th parallel.

The point I’m trying to make here is that maybe in Canada, if the Chef knows flavours, it’s okay to serve pasta and tacos and tataki and tiramisu? Should it not be about GOOD FOOD rather than a category? I mean, if you CAN make good food Canadians like, who gives a shit?



Initially I think I was going to talk about food costs and politics and limes. But then I just got kinda pissed off and looked at my cowboy boots and thought about pine trees and the subject changed. But this dish still works, considering this is a mishmash of influences in a bowl.

I started with the idea of Key Lime Pie, something I’ve loved grudgingly for quite a while. When I discovered how it was made, condensed milk thickened with lime juice, I was bothered by the insistence that condensed milk be used, since I’m not one for highly processed ingredients. I wanted to make dish that was better than condensed milk, cause I’m a snob?


Flash forward 4 years. I’m in England and it has just sunk in that posset is made with the same science, cream thickened with acid. I am determined to make this into a key lime pie. It takes me about a year, but it exists now.


However, I decided to spice it up a bit with some multiculturalism, Canadianify it, eh?. Served frozen, I replaced the water in the meringue with Tequila, gave the limes a bit of kick with Thai chilli, and added coconut because a) it loves limes and b) we had some in the dry stores and I don’t like to be wasteful. I finished it with housemade graham crumbs and salted honey tuile. American-English-Mexican-Thai-Canadian.


Fusion Confusion?

I haven’t heard any complaints, just that’s it’s fucking delicious. Maybe this is what we should strive for as Canadian chefs.



There’s no Canada like French Canada.


While in university studying “communications”, a wonderful degree for people who weren’t sure if they wanted to study philosophy, art, psychology, or business, a degree that promised reasonable marks for just showing up, I constantly worried over my country’s cultural existence.

A good part of my cultural exposure during my formative years were veiled by the elephant in the bed (the United States), if not because most of the products and entertainment was American, but by what the Americans had that Canadians didn’t weighed heavily on us, hence the excitement for a good exchange rate and a race across the border to buy groceries.

Growing up with regular trips to Kelsey’s and Harvey’s (albeit a Canadian hamburg chain) left me feeling like Canada was without a national anything aside from a flag that was difficult to recreate freehand, politeness, and Nanaimo bars. Uni profs were faced with multiple ranting essays about how the best way to define Canadianism would be a list of things we are not.


And though I work in a fusion restaurant, I am still in Canada and occasionally am faced with the urge to produce something that feels like Canada in your mouth. And aside from sprinkling butter tarts on everything, the only way I can do this is with maple syrup.

Considering Quebec is the main producer of maple syrup, and I’ve recently started replacing butter with duck fat (our confit duck main leaves us with a good deal of beautiful, underused fat) in many recipes. The first was madeleines. In London we made mads with olive oil instead of butter, which left them with a more tender crumb that held up over service, whereas butter mads must be eaten as soon as they are cool enough to not scald the tongue. Since I love substitution experiments, I finally decided to try duck fat.  I glazed them in brandy as soon as the came out of the oven. They were delicious.

Since then I’ve been serving duck fat and orange financiers on the occasion when I don’t have the time/energy/creativity/patience for macarons, and a lack of brandy had me turn to Calvados for the glaze. This was a most excellent discovery.


The weather has made this week a dull one, and I couldn’t stop staring with some despair at the mounting pile of beautiful baguettes leftover from evening services. Every time this happens I have a fleeting thoughts of “bread” and “pudding” but it tends to be a nicer thought than practice so instead I force loafs into hands as staff shuffle out for the night.

This time, I thought, “fuck it”, so I made an apple, cheddar, and duck fat bread pudding sweetened with maple syrup.

I’ll note I consider this to be somewhat of French Canadian influence because it was common in Quebec for less affluent families to use rendered fats (drippings saved from cooking) in place of expensive butter on toast. The point of this dish is to keep costs low and use up leftovers, so old bread and duck fat are ideal for this exercise.

Apple & Duck Fat Bread Pudding 

750ml Milk*

3 Eggs

150ml Maple Syrup

70g Brown Sugar

125g Browned Butter

75g Clarified Duck Fat, with extra for greasing

2tsp salt

1 Diced Apple, tart variety

80g Smoked Cheddar, Shredded

500g old bread

Smoked Cheddar Crumble

140g Whole Wheat Flour

140g Butter

100g Brown Sugar

50g White Sugar

60g Smoked Cheddar, shredded

1tsp Cinnamon

Freshly grated Nutmeg

Salt to taste


Grease a 9×12 pan with duck fat. Slice your old baguette or cube old bread and set aside. If it is still soft,  you can slice it and leave it for min of 4 hours before soaking. Line your pan with bread, then sprinkle liberally with apples and shredded cheddar, then finish with another layer of bread.


Brown your butter by heating it in a small pan on the stove past the boil. It will foam a good deal. Pull it off when the centre begins to brown. Add your duck fat to liquify, whisk in the sugar and set aside. Whisk the eggs and maple syrup into the milk, then slowly whisk in the fat. Pour the liquid over the bread and let stand for a minimum of 30 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 340F.


To make the crumble, place all ingredients into the bowl of a strand mixer and combine on med-low with the paddle until crumbly. Finish your pudding with a good layer of crumble, adding an even sprinkle of sugar if you’re feeling frivolous.


Bake for 50-65 minutes. The pudding with puff up a bit and pull away from the sides of the pan when it’s finished. It will also smell of duck fat awesome.


I served this with lightly pan seared apples finished with Calvados and Orient Apple Absolute and a local vanilla gelato.