Of Food and Tea and TV

Well, I survived an iced tea-free weekend. Actually, it wasn’t completely iced tea-free: the Formosa Tea House downtown was open on Saturday, so I had a lemon iced tea there, and I whipped up a nice batch of homemade rooibos on Sunday to tide me over.

Speaking of tea, I’ve discovered a money-saving chai trick that would make my grandmother proud. Here at Mavor’s at the Confederation Centre of the Arts, a “chai latte” in a big bowl costs $4.50. If you order a “chai tea,” however, and then add milk yourself, you end up with a reasonable approximation of same for only $2.35, with the added bonus of being able to sweeten to taste.

On the food front, I’ve become addicted to the Food Network. I never thought it could happen — it’s a rare day when I darken the kitchen’s door at home — but it has. Three shows have dragged me in.

Chef At Large, hosted by local chef Michael Smith, moves out of the kitchen set and into the real world of “food logistics.” My favourite episode looked at how much profit Earl’s in Vancouver makes on a $27.99 steak dinner (it’s less than $1.00).

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares is a British show hosted by uber-chef Gordon Ramsay. The show is like “Dr. Laura for failing Restaurants.” Each week Gordon visits a restaurant on the brink, and over the course of 7 days, through “tough love” and lots of swearing, works to right them. Ramsay is bombastic, but in a completely compelling way. And his medicine actually seems to work. Besides the drama, the show provides an interesting look into what the real challenges of running a restaurant are (food and labour costs, discipline, cooking).

My unlikeliest Food Network passion of all is Jamie’s Great Italian Escape, hosted by British food phenom Jamie Oliver. It’s hard not to think of Jamie Oliver as a lightweight “TV chef” in the same vein as Emeril, Nigella and company. But this new program, wherein Oliver travels to Italy in a VW camper van to “get away from it all” demonstrates a creativity and wit, to say nothing of an excellent command of Italian, that I never expected was there. Yesterday’s episode saw him visit The Abbey at Farfa hoping to dip into a thousand year old cooking tradition. What he found was fish fingers and boiled vegetables. His reaction is to try to enliven the place with fresh food: he replants the dormant herb garden, gets the monks cooking, and it’s all very comical. It’s good entertainment.

Otherwise in the food world, Oliver (my Oliver, not Jamie) and I took the bus to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday: the chill was gone out of the air enough to allow outdoor wandering. The Sherwood route stops right at the door, and you can catch the bus back from the Superstore about an hour later, so the timing is perfect. Roy tells me that the buses will come alive with the sound of music this weekend in a big Earth Day promotion put together by the eco people; thebus.ca can get your where you want to go.

Oliver and Catherine are off to Ontario for two weeks starting Wednesday, so I’m either going to have to learn to darken the kitchen door or go hungry. I may have to call on Catherine Hennessey to whip up a batch of macaroni and cheese.


Jevon's picture
Jevon on April 18, 2006 - 16:33 Permalink

I just recently discovered the same Chai-Beverage trick. One added bonus: As for “a shot of Vanilla” in your tea, it will cost about 25cents extra but it gives you all the sweetening you want without sugar or “sweetener“ ‘s.

They will usually also add the milk for you, and put some foam on top too, if you ask.

Tracey Postill's picture
Tracey Postill on April 19, 2006 - 11:26 Permalink

I have met Gordon Ramsay, on the shoot for one of the Kitchen Nightmare series. The swearing and the bravado is all part of the job and for the TV, whereas in real life he is a kind, patient & charming man.