Set those DVRs! Me-N-Paula = Oh My God

Dear friends, if you’re not doing anything this Saturday morning you can turn on your television and watch me a) cooking b) actin’ a fool c) trying to keep it together in the presence of Paula Deen. Ok, actually maybe they edited  c) out of the show, I don’t know. You never know what happens until you see the show.

Here’s the official show description:

There’s a party in the kitchen today, y’all! Paula Deen and her new friend Matt Armendariz are whipping up the perfect party bites to make any party an absolute blast. This shindig heats up with Paula’s delightfully flakey Hot Dog and Bacon Bundles and continues with Matt’s playfully delicious Chicken and Waffles. And, of course, no party would be complete without gooey finger-licking S’mores With Homemade Marshmallows. Now that’s a party, y’all!

As much of a ham as I am, I always feel like I’m going to pull a Cindy Brady moment whenever I’m in front of a camera. You know what I’m talking about? That little brat walked around telling EVERYONE how she was gonna be on tv, how hot she thought she was, that diva in polyester and pigtails, but when that little red light came on she was a TOTAL CHICKEN! So I can never tell how I’ll come across. If I do appear quiet, please be nice to me and realize that standing next to Miss Paula is a pure joy and she’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. But I ain’t gonna lie, I was nervous.

So yea, if you have nothing better to do watch me and Paula make some really fun recipes from my book On A Stick! Here are the air dates on Food Network:

  • Jun 30, 201210:00 AM ET/PT
  • Jul 02, 20125:00 PM ET/PT
  • Jul 09, 201212:00 PM ET/PT

And never let it be said that I’m not a party, y’all!

P.S. Meet me in person and I can tell you about all the backstage shenanigans. But only in person. Long story short: I freaking LOVE Paula Deen. And Brandon. And her entire crew.


2 Really Easy Salads

You know what my latest pet peeve is? People who talk about how busy they are. “I’m just so busy I haven’t had a moment to blog!” or “Things are so hectic I just haven’t had any time to update!”  You know what? We’re all busy. And you can’t be that busy if you still have time to tell us how busy you are. We get it.*

SOAPBOX OFF! Now that I’ve shared that with you I myself am going to try to do better and not complain about time or the things happening behind the scenes of my life. Because it’s quite a bit, a doozy even, in a good way though. And I love every minute of it and won’t/can’t/shan’t complain.

Having said that, I had two ideas for salads pop into my mind because it’s summer and I cannot be bothered with cooking just right now. I mean I can’t be bothered with Summer Main Dish cooking: ribs, burgers, whole chickens, you know what I mean. I’m happy just eating bowls of side salads right about now. Less time in the kitchen, you know. Something about being busy. And these salads are more ideas than anything else, really.

First, I roasted sliced grapes with a little olive oil until soft, then I sprinkled a bit of feta on top. Ok, two things (plus oil) don’t really make a proper recipe, but then again, it’s super fast and easy. And it tastes like perfect roasted fruit, plums even, and while I probably couldn’t eat an entire bowl of this, it’s marvelous once it’s on a plate with anything smoky/garlicky/sticky/salty. Oh man, it really is. It’s the perfect compliment to probably any grilled meat you might be cooking. That makes me happy. Plus I love feta. You could add more to it, really.

The next salad is one I could easily eat an entire bowl of. And I did, after shooting this photo. It’s a Corn, Frico and Dill Salad, and there are no measurements, you just gotta eyeball it. About the most difficult component in this salad is making frico, those small little discs of melted parmesan that come out just like cheese crisps. They get crumbled into fresh corn kernels, tossed with freshly chopped dill, a few tablespoons of olive oil and done. You can add a bit of salt and pepper if you’d like, but the cheese is mighty salty enough.

There you have it. Simple salads that take no time to prepare, leaving you with enough time to run out of time. Did that make sense?

Roasted Grapes & Feta
Slice grapes and toss with a bit of olive oil. Roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes at 375˚ or until soft, you decide. Let cool and sprinkle crumbled feta on top.

Corn, Frico and Dill Salad
You can roast ears of corn, grill them, boil them, whatever. Once cooked, slice off the corn and toss with crumbled frico and a few tablespoons of fresh dill. Add some olive oil and dig in.

For the frico: Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan onto a baking sheet that’s been lined with parchment or a silpat. Because you’ll be crumbling them you don’t have to be too careful about making perfect pretty circles. Bake at 350˚ for around 10 minutes, but keep checking as you don’t want them to burn (they’ll taste slightly bitter). Let cool and crumble into the salad.

*I have been this person before. I apologize.

My favorite places in Nova Scotia

Well folks, I wanted to share with you the two places in Nova Scotia that really left a big impression on me. Truth be told, all of them did, every single place. But these two places were so fantastic that I just had to write about them all by their little happy selves.  And they really couldn’t be more on opposite ends of the spectrum, but I’ll explain it in just a few.

John’s Lunch

They say they’ve been serving the best seafood since 1969 and something tells me they ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie. This is the place of my dreams, the type of restaurant that serves no frills and is packed with local flavor. It’s a landmark and as I type this I am a) crying and b) starving because I am obsessed with their Fried Haddock Tips and Fried Clams. It’s old school of the highest order, and when you travel the world eating course after course of precious food you need moments like this to bring you back to earth. It’s soul food, pure and simple. Not to mention it’s a pretty salty and crunchy (WHICH MEANS HEAVENLY) way to sample the local seafood.

Hey, did I mention I am obsessed with the Fried Haddock Tips and Fried Clams? Did I?

As luck would have it, I guess I was a little too vocal in my love and admiration of the fried seafood that was in front of me as we were offered another heaping mound of fried clams. Just cuz. “Here, you get to eat the mistakes”.  Mistakes? Hardly.

I’d hop on a plane tomorrow just to eat here.



Tangled Garden

I’d also hop on a plane to visit Tangled Gardent, located about an hour outside of Halifax. This store featured handcrafted condiments like jams, jellies, chutneys, vinegars, mustards and liqueurs all made with fruits and herbs that they grow in the back of the shop. But it’s not your regular “out back” kind of garden: this is a labyrinth of paths and passageways that fill your senses. It’s simultaneously relaxing and invigorating, with playful touches that make you feel as if there’s some magic happening here. It’s hard to explain but I was definitely enchanted here in a way I haven’t been in quite some time. It’s just magical.

I also know where my holidays gifts will be coming from this year :)

Top Ten Halifax Moments

I just returned from 5 glorious days along the Eastern coast of Canada, Nova Scotia to be exact. But you might already know this. In those days I visited Halifax, Dartmouth, the Annapolis Valley, Sambro, Ketch Harbor, Wolfville, and many points inbetween as part Canada’s Explore Like A Local campaign. In fact, I was one of the lucky three selected to hit the ground running and well, explore the area just like a local. And that I did! We ate, sipped, snacked and devoured the best Nova Scotia has to offer, and while I could easily spend an hour talking about the food, how about I just jump right into my Top Ten Halifax moments for you? It’s that good.

 10. Beer

Look, this is a beer-drinkin’ part of the world and Haligonians love their beer. Love. Their. Beer.  That doesn’t mean you can’t find some amazing cocktails at places like Nectar and The Bicycle Thief, because you can. But if you’re looking for a pint of local beer enjoyed in great company then you’ve come to the right place. I fully embraced my IBL (Inner Beer Lover) and I’m sure Benjamin Armendariz will be very very proud of me.

 9. A Drive. Anywhere.

Never have I been so non-specific! But really, it’s hard not to tell you to get in a car and drive somewhere, anywhere, in this beautiful part of the world. Idyllic views, beautiful waterways, rugged coastlines and crisp air beg to be explored (as long as you can tear yourself away from #10 above). Give yourself plenty of time and get out and explore Nova Scotia like I did. You won’t regret it.


8.  Blomidon Inn

I swore I stood in my room at the Blomidon Inn just waiting for someone to come in and dress me before walking down a grand staircase for dinner. It never happened, but that’s ok; this turn-of-the-century mansion enthralled me in so many other ways. While I don’t always throw out words like quaint and old-fashioned without a snicker, there will be no joking about this glorious hotel. It’s easy to go back in time here, especially with the afternoon tea served in one of the hotel’s magnificent front rooms.


7. Foxhill Cheese

I was lucky enough to spend time with Jeanita Rand, the owner of Foxhill Cheese House who, along with her husband and family, run this amazing micro-cheesemaking business on a sixth-generation farm in Port Williams. While you’ll taste some of the most delicious fresh quark and yogurt made from the milk of their own cows out back, it’s almost easy to be awestruck when you hear the family motto: “Quality, Service, Education”.  The dedication to their customers and the pure hard work they put into cheesemaking make you realize how special this place is. Oh, and another thing: there’s not enough space on the internet to tell you the lengths they went through to bring glass bottle milk to their customers. If only every business thought of their customers half as much as Foxhill Cheese.


6. Donair

First, you’ll need to read this article written by my friend Simon Thibault in The Globe And Mail. Read it now. Ok. Done? Now let me tell you why I love it, as summed up by Mr. Thibault himself: “Best eaten late at night and on the street, it is a sweet and savoury, tasty and messy snack for meat lovers.” Yes, it sure is. You can’t visit this part of Canada without trying a donair, and it’s exponentially better when enjoyed with friends after barhopping. While I admit it took me a while to get used to the sweet donair sauce on top of what seems to be a doner kebab, I can see the appeal. There’s simply nothing else like it. But since I’m all about discovery and trying new things, I wasn’t about to pass up the Donair Pizza, either. I actually loved it more, imagine that! One day I’ll return to try Donair Poutine. Who knew?




5. Fid Resto, Specifically This Blood Pudding.

We stopped by Fid Resto for lunch, where I discovered heaven in a bowl: warm smoked haddock sitting on top of a potato and spinach mash that’s been topped by a poached egg. That’s right folks: eggy, mashy, smoked fishy. Three things I adore all put together. Needless to say I felt right at home with Chef Dennis Johnston’s local creation. After snapping a few photos, he began to tell us about a special dinner he was doing that involved his own housemade blood pudding, and as luck would have it a small plate appeared on the table at the end of our meal. I’m going to tell you this right now: a piece of blood pudding (or sausage as we Americans call it) on top of creamy smooth mashed potatoes with cooked apples instantly became the highlight of the day. And before you get all squirmy squeamish on me (ewwww blood!!!!) I want to tell you that you’d most likely enjoy every savory bite of it, too. You would.



4. Tibs Family Dinner

You don’t really know how lucky I was to snag an invite to the Tibs Family Dinner Pop-Up at Dartmouth’s favorite local coffee shop called Two If By Sea. These regular dinners focus on a seasonal ingredient or theme, and with asparagus season upon us we enjoyed tempura, risotto, a savory cappuccino and a beet salad that rocked my world. It was great to see a community come together for a meal and was a fantastic way to really explore Halifax like a local.


3.  A Stroll Through The Halifax Public Gardens

Sunshine and gorgeous views made for a wonderful way to spend an afternoon at the Halifax Public Gardens. Created in 1875, these Victorian gardens cover 16 acres through a series of walkways, bridges and paths and feature a bandstand in the middle of the park.  Strolling through the park and admiring the beautiful plants and trees make for a perfect city experience.


2.  Digby Scallops

I get pretty excited when I experience something that I feel is the absolute best: salmon from the Copper River in Alaska, Ig Vella’s Dry Jack from my adopted homestate of California, and tart cherries from Traverse City, Michigan. Now add Digby Scallops to this list as I’ve never had a more perfect example: tender, fresh, flavorful, sweet but not too sweet, and just right. Of course I must give credit to the chefs who prepared them perfectly at both Chives restaurant in downtown Halifax and Le Caveau restaurant inside the Domaine De Grande Pré winery. This dish in the photo featured then crusted and pan-seared served on top of housemade kimchi. Um, hello? How do you say perfection?


1. The People Of Nova Scotia

I saved the best for last here, with good reason. I talked about Nova Scotia being “nice” in my earlier post, but I’m pretty sure I’m still not getting it across here. You see, I really do believe that people are good and nice; I spend enough time traveling the globe to know that mankind is generally, well, kind. But Nova Scotia? Oh you people, you do something different. You take friendliness to a whole ‘nuther level, in a way that takes this citydweller by surprise. Off guard, even.  All you need to do is strike up a conversation with a shopkeeper, with someone at the table next to you, at a bar, on the street…just about anywhere and you’ll see what I mean. Gracious, friendly, warm, welcoming. And if your town has a deficit in the Manners Department, we can all look to the entire province of Nova Scotia, Canada for having it in spades. It’s just the way they are.

Psst. There are two things missing from this list. Two things that needed their own posts, two places that I’m still dreaming about now that I’m home. Check back in a few days to see what they are.

Disclosure: As part of the Explore Like A Local Campaign, I am working with the Canadian Tourism Commission and all opinions and viewpoints are my own. Travel expenses have been covered by the CTC.

Halifax, Nova Scotia

So what can I say about my first day in Halifax? It’s nice. And before you say “Nice? That’s all?” I want to back up and say that I mean it in the strongest sense of the word, not in a “well I don’t have anything else to say so nice is a good harmless word” way.

I’m guilty of overusing the word, rendering it pretty bland. That’s not how I mean to use it here.

When I say nice I mean this: friendly, courteous, polite, jovial, approachable, wonderful, beautiful. Nice. From top to bottom. And it’s a place where one can feel at ease, walk around, take in stunning views and meet gracious residents along the way. It’s a contrast to the hurried urban scenes I usually explore.

And it’s also delicious.

In my first day I’ve sampled fantastic coffee, amazing pastry, deliciously local ingredients, and even a glass (or two) of wine from the area. I plan on full reports shortly, but I’m thrilled to be exploring Halifax like a local, taking in all the sites and sounds of this very special place. I’m so happy to be here.

Oh Canada, I love you!

More soon!

Explore Like A Local: Canadian Trailblazer Contest!

Howdy folks! Give me my camera and a notepad, set me loose in Halifax, Nova Scotia, throw in a fantastic dose of social media and your requests and what do you get? The Canadian Trailblazer Contest, part of the Explore Like A Local campaign from the Canadian Tourism Commission and Travel + Leisure magazine. And if you enter, you might win a trip of a lifetime.

And if you remember my last involvement with the program last year in Vancouver, I don’t need to tell you that it literally was the trip of a lifetime. One of the highlights of the year, actually!

First, how about a lil video? Don’t laugh.

Now here’s where things get really interesting. When you visit my Trailblazer web site you can recommend places in Halifax for me to visit. And I’ll visit them! I’ll report back through photos in all the usual places (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest) to let you know how they are and answer any questions if I can. I’m looking forward to eating and drinking the best Halifax has to offer, so hop on over and tell me where to go, will ya?

I’ll be leaving this weekend and I’ll be there all next week. I’m really looking forward to your suggestions and ideas. And you could win a trip!

Let’s keep up with each other, shall we? My stuff: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram: Mattbites