Kicking a Habit

It’s not like it’s a real addiction. The sweets after everyone else has fallen off to sleep. Or, the extra teaspoonful of sugar cascading into a steaming mug of tea, waiting to envelope the granules into its caffeinated embrace. The chocolates sneakily popped into your mouth until suddenly there are so few left in the box. All these things are normal. Right?

Right? Perhaps if it’s once in a while. But, no.

Because it’s not just once in a while. Afterwards there is that spine clawing rush of anxiety, the digestive freak out, and we shall not discuss the dentist .

There is also the long family history of diabetes, a disease that felled my own father. You’d think I’d learn my lesson. That my system just cannot take having sugar thrown at it constantly and not face the repercussions.

I am fortunate in that I have never faced a (physical) health crisis. I would also like to think I am one of those people who can see the signs, make a connection and use my reason to say: Stop being a dumb ass.

At the end of the day, when we push away from the table where we have eaten and laughed, or eaten and cried, or perhaps even both, our health is all we have.

Without good health, playing with loved ones, toying with hobbies and pursuing our dreams become just that: A dream.

My dad liked to think of himself as a healthy man, just as I like to think of myself as a healthy woman; but, I don’t really think that’s true. I often joke that I am a “skinny fat” person, even though it’s not really a joke. I’m slender(ish – I had kids), I have enough energy and I look half decent in skinny jeans.

But. My energy isn’t where it should be for a healthy woman of 29, I’m prone to migraines and that little pooch that encased babies has yet to make a disappearance. Add to that my the knotty zits that randomly appear, prompting Boy to say, “Mommy, your face owie look bigger”. Thanks kid.

The point is, I don’t want my children to hear “total system shutdown due to diabetes, exacerbated by…”. I did. And it sucks.

I do not have diabetes. That is clear but my body is telling me to smarten the hell up, so I should. It’s just really, really hard.

I’ve been trying to cut sugar out of my life (earnestly) for one entire year. 365 days of blowing it.

That’s a lot of failure for one gal. So, I’ve started to measure how long I can go without refined sugar. Yesterday, I made it to 9 pm before I caved and made peanut butter and honey toast. For those about to decry honey, shut your trap. This is hard for someone like me who inherited her sweet tooth from a 6′ farmer called Grandpa.

Evening is always the worst for me. I have meds to take every night and I have to eat with them, lest I get sick. It’s at this time I always crave sweeeeeeetness, too.

One day down (kinda), one day to start again. I ate a pumpkin spice muffin from Tim Hortons and it was so good. But not good enough, so I’m restarting the sugar measure on today.

Halifax readers and winos: Natalie MacLean is coming!

A fun little email tipped into my inbox about a week ago. This email combined a couple of my favourite things: Reading, Writing and Wine. Natalie MacLean, author of Red, White and Drunk All Over will be coming to Halifax as part of her book tour for her newest book, Unquenchable:A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wine (I am having loads fun with it, be sure to check back soon for the review!).

Natalie will be at the Atlantica Hotel on November 27 for a beautiful multi-course dinner and (of course) wine-tasting. This isn’t your typical book tour stop and you’ll have the chance to hear stories from the lady herself about all the fascinating, and delightfully quirky, characters from her newest offering.  You can reserve your tickets now, here. The ticket price includes a personally signed copy of Unquenchable: A Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wine, the four course meal that will be paired with Natalie’s own red and white choices.

Hope to see everyone there! Especially since Natalie is a Nova Scotia girl, having grown up in Cape Breton and come down to Halifax for her summers.

If you’d like, you can find a rather amusing video trailer for the book here. If you don’t live in Halifax but would like to see you are on the list of stops for Natalie’s book tour, check out the Unquenchable tour!

A Restaurantin’: elements on hollis

elements on hollis

A few nights ago Mr and I eagerly rushed through a well-appointed lobby, across gleaming floors and into a quiet refuge at the end of a hallway that buzzed with a muted frenzy. We were on our way to meet a couple that is passionate about local food and supporting the myriad of farmers across this province. Tim had invited Mr and I to join him and his lovely wife Joy as guests at the newly reopened and astonishingly revamped elements on hollis. The restaurant, under the leadership of Chef Raj Gupta sources all ingredients from sources that are within a 50 mile radius, that is around 80 km. I am so pleased that I had the opportunity to visit elements, we are fortunate enough to have a number of primary (and secondary) producers in this province and it is definitely to be celebrated when a restaurant makes the commitment to using local.

rosemary brioche

That atmosphere of elements on hollis is, in the words of one certain Bubs, “it el’gant, mommy”, yet it is relaxing and inviting. The lighting is perfect for amicable dinner conversation, not so much for the photography but that’s not really the point (for other people). Our server Sophie was attentive, sweet and didn’t mind me taking a few shots of her freeing the steaming rosemary brioche from the can. Yes. A can. The inspiration is a little unclear to me but I like the quirky randomness of it and the brioche itself was lovely. Golden and very tender in the centre it soaked up butter like a proper piece of warm bread and the sprig of rosemary, left whole and in the centre, infused the entire thing with a slight woody flavour. That earthiness would continue throughout my meal as Mr and I shared the charcuterie board and then my entree of Oulton’s rabbit and gnocchi.

charcuterie board

The charcuterie board. This is not just a block of wood with meats randomly splayed on its surface. The wooden slats themselves are a lined masterpiece of golden and deep red woods, fashioned by Andrew London and together, they function as the perfect backdrop for locally cured meats from Rose Lane farm and a flower of smoked salmon. There were a few additions to the board that while tasty and lovely accompaniments, certainly point towards the restaurant’s commitment to the philosophy of supporting our local economy. It would no doubt be more cost effective for the kitchen to bring in locally sourced cucumbers and beans to preserve and pickle. Instead, Chef Raj is taking the challenge of sourcing locally to the next level and buying from what is known as a secondary producer. This decision, this seeming innocuous decision, is profound in that it causes us to stop and think about how we source our own food at home. It’s all well and good to use ground beef from Little Dorset Farm (our source for meat), but if you slather it in No Name relish that is made in Mexico, you defeate the purpose, yes?

Rose Lane produces spectacular cured meats. I was already eyeing up the contents of the board as Sophie passed Tim and Joy theirs, the meats appeared dry but they were anything but. Halfway through dinner I turned to the couple and said, “You know the best part of eating local meat? Being able to eat the fat and not worry about hormones or funky stuff”. This is precisely why the burgundy disks with the dried edges were so tender and melted against my tongue, that delicious fat content. I do like a little cheese on the board to buoy the meat with creaminess, but quite honestly, the dilly beans and sweet relish did that instead. The beans in particular added a welcome bite to the appetizer.

outon's rabbit gnocchi

I am always curious about eating game and when I saw the rabbit gnocchi on the menu, I knew what I was having for dinner. The gnocchi was crisp on the outside thanks to a perfect sear and the centre was creamy. The entire dish was technically perfect, the rabbit was moist and full of rabbity-y flavour thanks to the jus and expert cooking. I would have liked more of depth of flavour from the dish, the sage and rabbit jus complimented each other quite well but it did seem like the kitchen was a bit shy in ramping up the flavour of what looks to be a gorgeous dish.

blueberry creme brulee

The dessert menu at elements on hollis is playful, notably the milk and cookies with the 4% milk coming from Fox Hill. Despite my affinity for chocolate, I love creme brulee. It is highly satisfying to crack the burnt sugar top and whomever is in charge of creme brulee at elements, wields their sugar and fire with a practiced hand. Beneath the disk of cracked sugar I found a very creamy custard dotted with plump blueberries. The serving is surprisingly large but the flavour is not in any way diminished. Mr. partook of the chevre-cake, an intrestesting take on traditional cheesecake. The chevre was creamy and the swirls of caramel very welcoming. Part of the allure of chevre is that it does have a particular tang and creaminess and this version definitely fell on the sweeter side of the line.

The meal was fabulous in that we were well tended by Sophie and it is very obvious that elements on hollis brings a very skilled and attentive kitchen. Technically the food presented to us was perfect, but it was a safe meal. Delicious and a lot more than just satisfying, but it was still safe.

I think it is important to note the wine. The wine list is fantastic and a major focus of it has been that local wines are sold at (wholesale) cost plus $5. It immediately directs the customer’s attention to local wines like the spectacular Nova 7 by Benjamin Bridge or the award-winning Domaine de Grand Pré selections. It is my opinion that in the same moment that the menu deftly directs the customer’s attention to the local wineries (which the menu encourages us to support), it is also sending another message: Nova Scotia wine is cheap and that’s why you should buy it. This dichotomy is cheapening Nova Scotia wine when our wineries are some of the most prized in this country and outside its borders. If we want to talk value, I think it’s important to understand that value is not just about the digits attached: It is also about an intrinsic value of the thing, Nova Scotia wine is valuable because it is damn fine wine. elements on hollis makes its lovely home in the Westin hotel, it has a built in clientele of travellers and the “our cost plus $5” campaign is (again, this is my opinion) devaluing Nova Scotia wine to anyone outside of this province who may be visiting.  Should the servers not be recommending the wines based on their merit and not on their cheap dollar figure? This is even more apparent when you turn the page in the neatly arranged leather bound book to find the “serious wine list” of international wines, all priced at the expected restaurant prices. I dare say it is Wal-marting our local wine industry, this in spite of the restaurant’s admirable attempt to fully take part in and celebrate our local economy.

I had a lovely time at elements. It was a delight to finally meet Tim after so many Twitter exchanges and very kind of him to invite Mr and I. Chef Raj has successfully created a welcoming dining table away from home. I have a few philosophical quibbles but that needn’t detract from the beautiful experience of the night.