Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
June 2010 Edmontonians

There’s something about cooking outdoors. Food always seems to taste better.
Most campers/RVers today use portable BBQs like the one my colleague Linda has. Her portable Coleman grill is so versatile and easy to use, it’s a must for beginners or pros who don’t want a lot of fuss and muss.
But nothing beats going back to the days of our forefathers, when everything was cooked over an open fire. You just can’t duplicate the flavour—that slight taste of smoke as you slow grill over a bed of coals. Besides, it’s not outdoor cooking unless you get a face and lung full of smoke.
I thought I’d share some of the basics of cooking over an open fire, so you can give it a try this summer. Some of the techniques also apply for grilling on a charcoal barbecue.
Bob Chapman, the GM of Wholesale Sports, says that it’s unfortunate the good old days of cooking over an open fire may have gone the way of the little red caboose. He estimates that 10 percent or less of today’s campers actually cook over a bed of hot coals in a fire pit. It’s a dying art. 

Outfitting your campfire kitchen can be a simple task. There are a number of stores that outfit campers and hikers in Edmonton. Wholesale Sports, on St. Albert Trail just off the Yellowhead Trail, has one of most extensive cooking sections I’ve ever seen.
For basic cooking utensils, you’ll want a cast iron frying pan, Dutch oven and sauce pan, as well as a coffee pot, a few wooden and slotted spoons and spatulas. The modern campfire kitchen includes a grill basket to cook meat, fish or vegetables over the coals. You can buy a sandwich maker, kebob skewers that are three feet long, enabling you to safely hold them over the open fire as you cook. There’s even a popcorn maker and—are you ready?—a special grill to make pizza over an open fire.

You’ll find the Dutch oven perhaps one of your favourite and most versatile tools. Make sure you get one with a tight fitting lid and three small feet on the bottom. This pot can be used on a tripod or grill, or you can bury it in coals and place a few coals on the lid. This is where it gets its name from—the heat on top and bottom act like an oven. It’s incredible for roasts, stews, casseroles and soups. I’ve even seen cakes and breads done in them. It’s your best all round tool.
Back in the early days of cooking over an open fire, a wooden tripod was used with grills suspended at various heights over the fire. Now, tripods are made of metal and can easily be adjusted for height. On average, they run around $27 and are easy to use and transport. They make cooking and keeping food warm a snap—your stove top/warmer all in one.
Don’t forget to bring along some heavy duty oven mitts, the professional type is best. Or make yourself a sturdy hook device to lift your Dutch oven off the coals. Be careful and keep in mind, it is cast iron and red hot! I’ve seen many a stew and pot roast end up in the coals because someone tried to lift the Dutch oven off with a tea towel. 

When campfire cooking, we have to think safety first. Where possible, you should dig a fire pit… at least a foot deep and two to three feet round. Save the dirt to one side to fill in the pit when you’re done. Ideally, surround the pit with rocks to contain the fire and provide a base for a grate.
Campfire cooking is not hard once you get your timing and heat control down. The key is your heat. Light your fire 20 to 30 minutes before you need your coals. Hardwoods like oak, cedar or wild Alberta willow are best. Cherry, apple or plum give off a nice flavourful smoke. If you attempt to cook over open flame, any grease dripping off the food will cause the flames to flair up and burn your food. So make sure you have a good bed of coals. I like to heap them toward the center so you can move your cooked food to the edges of your grate to keep warm.
A few things to remember: Have a shovel for moving the coals as you need to adjust your heat, to overturn your coals as you pour water over them to extinguish your fire, and fill in the hole when you’re done. A pail of water should be kept next to your wood pile in case your campfire gets out of hand. And, as any outdoorsman/woman knows: Make sure your campfire is out—cold to the touch. And check for fire bans in the parks or wilderness areas you plan to visit.
Happy cooking!


Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
June 2010 Edmontonians

1 perch fillet per person—2 if they are small
1/4 cup of butter
1 tsp. Fresh dill-diced fine
1/4 purple onion diced fine
2 cloves of diced garlic
Wedge of lemon per person
Salt & pepper to taste
Vegetable spray or Pam


1.      Make sure your coals are arranged properly with the hottest in the centre and fewer and fewer coals to the outside to ensure a medium and low heat.

2.      Take a baking rack or small grill and spray well with oil.

3.      Lay fish on top of small grill and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

4.      In a sauce pan, combine butter, dill, onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent.

5.      Set to side of grill over fire pit. (Low or no heat)

6.      Place rack containing fish on top of your regular grill over fire over medium heat. Baste constantly with dill sauce. Fish should be cooked 3-4 minutes per side if thin. Thicker pieces should grill 5-6 minutes per side.

7.      Serve with a wedge of lemon with rice, and vegetables like grilled cob on the corn. Yum.

Serves four.


Posted by Linda Bodo of Absolute Bodo 
June 2010

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
The next best time is now.            ~ anonymous

It can be modified to almost any degree; coaxed into a magnificent manor or a leaf so thin we can wrap a package in it. Organic and renewable, this substance harvested from the stems of trees boasts an impressive portfolio of accomplishments… including the ability to generate fuel to take the chill off a blustery winter’s day or toast a S’more to perfection.
I have been known to drool over a mid-century chair coaxed from a single piece of teak or weep at the sight of a monumental grain elevator gracing our prairie landscape. But, I also appreciate the diverse properties of wood in the raw—that hard fibrous lignified substance veneered in bark, logs, branches or twigs. Although these leftovers often meet their fate in a pile of firewood or in a chipper, they can be morphed into objects d’art for the home and garden with a little imagination.
Here are a few favourite raw wood projects from my books, columns and to-do folders. I use a pair of sharp pruners to cut smaller branches and a jig or table saw for larger units. When working with natural timber, be sure to dry it for several days to prevent finished pieces from warping or shrinking after completion. Alternately, soak branches or twigs in water overnight to keep timber pliable for shaping if you will be adding decorative elements to your finished project. Use exterior wood glue for adhesion if the finished product will be subjected to the elements; otherwise high-strength hot glue is perfect for wood-on-wood bonding. Finally, seal surfaces with beeswax or furniture wax to add a subtle sheen and offer protection.
So, before you put another log on the fire, consider the possibilities.

You don’t have to sap your pocketbook to create these groovy garden gadgets. Thin branches or willow reeds can be transformed into obelisks for climbing vines or veggies… or al fresco privacy screens.

Stop barking up the wrong tree. Organic furniture does not have to cost a branch and a trunk. Fashion these stylin’ stools from leftover logs or branches. Cheap and chic.

Dramatic lighting is the root of all good decor. Whittle up a chandelier, pendant or table lamp by dressing up a lamp kit with branches or driftwood.

If your thumb happens to be evergreen, you’ll love assembling these crude tables from sticks and stems.   

Leaf traditional hardware behind and construct natural hangers, hooks and rods from unprocessed materials harvested from your own backyard.

Spruce up existing furniture or accessories with twigs or branch discs. Awesome for a cabin or lakeside retreat.

Yew will love these candle holders, simple to make and easy on the pocketbook.

Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
May 2010 Edmontonians

Heeee’s back! Smokey Joe Goldfedder, the master of southern BBQ has returned to his roots. After several years of retirement Joe decided to help new owner Jenny Morris resurrect his namesake diner on the corner of Stony Plain Road and 152nd Street to its original glory. Several previous owners tinkered with the recipes and it just didn’t work, according to Joe.
There is nothing quite as unique as the flavour of Oklahoma Pit BBQ. Since the 1980s, Joe and his family served up the best BBQ for lunch or dinner I have ever tasted. Bear in mind, the style and cooking that we call BBQ/barbecue/barbeque is not the American way. Our version involves grilling our meats, poultry and fish over charcoal briquettes or natural gas/propane burners and closing the lid on the cooker. Oklahoma Pit BBQ involves low temperatures and plenty of hickory smoke for a long period of time. You can use whatever type of wood you’d like for smoking but, to my palate, hickory is the best.

John and Joe

Joe brines some of his meats before smoking and, let me tell you, the meat just falls off the bone. Smokey Joe’s, which has had several previous locations—the most notable at Meadowlark Mall—uses a huge commercial smoker, especially designed by Joe. Hundreds of pounds of beef, pork, chicken, turkey and ham can be smoked at one time. For blocks around, the sweet aroma of hickory smoked meats wafts through the neighbourhood.
The house speciality has to be Joe’s very popular beef ribs. Best have a good appetite, ‘cause these are not wimpy beef bones. Billed as “brontosaurus” bones, they pack plenty of meat. Or, if your preference is for pork ribs, you can’t go wrong with these St. Louis-style succulents.

John helped Joe and Jenny re-launchSmokey Joe's

Joe also serves up an excellent BBQ beef brisket that’s very tender and flavourful. Then there’s the chipped beef on a bun: essentially the ends and leftover chunks of the brisket, chopped fine in a food processor and served on a sesame bun. Top it with Joe’s homemade BBQ sauce (mild or hot) and you have an irresistible sandwich, which just screams bring on the baked beans, fries and coleslaw.

Seanna Collins of EZ Rock & Global, Tara Lopez of CJCA The light, with Edmontonians publisher Sharon MacLean and the legendary Joe.

If it’s chicken you’re after, Joe’s smoked wings simply can’t be beat. And when the menu says “mild or hot”, ask for a sample—here, “hot” means southern USA hot, not the kind that’s slathered on the wings at the neighbourhood pub. And, the smoked turkey and ham are equally delicious.
Can’t decide? Consider the “Big Oh” meal that gives you plenty of everything, including sides. Just make sure you bring three friends to help you devour the 10-pound platter.
The other thing that is unique to Smokey Joe’s is Joe himself. He’s indeed a piece of work. Always ready to greet new customers and old alike with a smile, he quickly follows with a barrage of redneck heckling. He makes any redneck comedian on TV today look like a nursery school teacher. Yet, after decades of this abuse, people keep coming back not only for the food but to be insulted. It just wouldn’t be the Smokey Joe experience without the octogenarian making the timid run for cover.

Maria and Graham Hicks of the Edmonton Sun with owner Jenny Morris

The decor is still back-road diner… the tables are still covered with trademark brown butcher paper… and crayons are still provided for the little and big kids. And usually the good artwork finds its way to the walls.
There’s a whole new generation of Edmontonians who have yet to discover what real BBQ tastes like. But, after their first bite, the look on their faces is one of discovery and delight.
As Joe would say, “What’s stopping ya? Git on in here and try some.” It gets busy mid-week and on weekends… “So y’all best be callin’ ahead.”—780.413.3379. √

The Smokey Joe's team for Media Night: Lucy Noble, owner Jenny Morris, Chef Claudio Ergui, Smokey Joe, Chef/MC John Berry and Emy Almeria

Posted by Linda Bodo of Absolute Bodo 
May 2010

" A Friend is one who knows all about you and likes you anyway." - Christi Mary Warner

An oxygen machine pumps a line of air through a slender tube. He rests on a sheepskin-covered chair with a heating pad on his legs and an afghan on his shoulders. He is perpetually cold yet craves icy cold popsicles. An IV hangs above him, filling his veins with hope. Med bottles line the counter and a box of disposable gloves is nestled in a reserve of needles. I look into his shiny blue eyes and see him a year ago, when we worked on DIY projects together, shared secrets and clinked our way through happy hour. I remember how he loved to slow-cook dishes and the fab meals we prepared together. Now, he has lost his taste for food. I give him a hug but my heart is filled with guilt. Why has it taken me so long to reconnect with my dear friend? 

We can have a bad hair day, spill our guts over a break-up, forget a special occasion, or embarrass ourselves routinely; yet true friends remain loyal and compassionate. They make us laugh when we feel like crying, hug us when need sympathy and make setbacks temporary. Much like pets who offer unconditional love, these dermis-clad two-legged relationships are often regarded as the thread in life’s fabric; an extraordinary gift to be respected. Companions, buddies, pals, soul mates… no matter how you phrase it, there is nothing as comforting as the company of a friend.
Friends lower our stress levels. They enliven our days with humour, answer us honestly and keep embarrassing secrets to themselves. They celebrate with us, encourage us, support us; but can enjoy a silence that means more than words. Friendships get better with age and good friends go that extra mile—even when wearing heels.
Unfortunately, the same daily demands that make friends necessary, also infringe on our time to spend with them. When our lives include a partner and a job, young children and aging parents, a house and a yard, a car, pets, and the need for a little solitude, friendship seldom gets the ranking it deserves. So why do they do it? Why do they stick with us and continue to offer companionship? The reasons for giving vary as much as the people who do it. Compassion, duty, love, guilt, all motivate us to share time, money, and energy. But what they get in return as the giver reaps the biggest payback.
Time zones, hectic schedules or pressures from the daily grind should not take their toll on our relationships. The friends we hang on to—the ones we visit even if it requires a prop plane or a four-wheel-drive vehicle… the ones we call first when something goes slightly or tragically wrong—are absolutely priceless.
Make the time to call, text, e-mail or visit a close friend soon. Friendship. Where would we be without it?

Surprise a chum with these über-cool gifts
on Friendship Day, the first Sunday in August. 

"A friend is omeone who is there for you when he'd rather be anywhere else." - Len Wein

Moët & Chandon’s ‘Bucket of Bubbles’ set includes four mini champagne flutes (simply place on opened bottle for sipping) accompanied by four mini bottles with a carrying case that doubles as an ice bucket. Perfect for celebratory get-togethers. Available at www.luxist.com

Digital Photo Frames are the
perfect gadget to reminiscence with friends. A picture frame wrapped around an LCD screen displays multiple photos in a slideshow format to recapture shared memories. Available at electronic or photo suppliers. 

“It is the friends that you can call at 4 A.M. that matter.” – Marlene Dietrich
“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Share this new generation of greeting cards with a fellow green-thumber. These magic beans sprout in two weeks with special messages for that unique friend. Simply add water. Available at www.wrapables.com 

Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
March 2010 Edmontonians

Chefs Christophe Ithurritze and John Berry

The Edmonton culinary scene has added another star to its bevy of top chefs with the arrival of Christophe Ithurritze from Wolfgang Puck’s empire. He was in Edmonton, consulting at the River Cree Resort when the head chef at Sage, its fine dining restaurant quit. Talk about being at the right place at the right time!
Chef Ithurritze was born in the Basque region of France and learned how to bake from his mother. At the tender age of 17, he earned a culinary degree from the acclaimed L’Ecole les Rocailles in Bayonne. In 1989, he moved to the U.S. and began a long relationship with internationally renowned chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck. He rose to the position of corporate pastry chef for all five of Puck’s restaurants in Las Vegas, and was part of the team that helped launch five more of his restaurants in Hollywood, Vegas and Chicago.
But why Edmonton?
“I used to live in Chicago, so I wasn’t afraid of winter.” The challenge running a top drawer, first class restaurant appealed to him. “I want to bring the best possible product that’s available to the table. You’re going to pay for it, but it will be the best meal you can buy.”

Chef Christophe Ithurritze

For example, the chef has spent the past six months tracking down top notch John Dore (fish) from New Zealand. He’s made the contact, and it’s being imported for his patrons. He also incorporates the best local produce and meat, fish and poultry whenever possible. He’s currently serving up Spring Creek Beef, Cold Lake Pickerel, organic chicken and vegetables, and fresh baked breads. He’s a firm believer in buying local first. For us, that means quality and freshness unsurpassed.
Chef Ithurritze wants to make Sage a fantastic dining experience… a first class experience for everyone. “Sometimes people will look at a menu and not understand what an item is, or there are words or terminology that they’re not familiar with, so they walk away. I don’t want that to happen. I don’t want people to be afraid to come here.”
Consistency in both service and quality of food is his goal. And, to that end, he is also part educator, using his kitchen as a training ground.
“My staff have to buy into what I’m selling. If not, it doesn’t work. I’m passing on as much as I can from my past chefs like Wolfgang Puck.”
Oh, what a wonderful resource to tap into. If I was a young chef under Ithurritze’s guidance, I’d be a sponge soaking up all I could. Chef whipped up some pan seared scallops and served them on a bed of risotto with a delightful tomato salad. Incredible.
Sage is definitely a spot to head to if you are in the mood for a most excellent meal.

Posted by Chef John Berry of MenuMagic
March 2010 Edmontonians

Serves 3-4
In a sauce pot, bring 5 cups chicken stock to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer.
In a pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medum heat. Add 1 small onion, diced, and sauté for 4-5 minutes until transluscent. Add 1 1/2 cups arborio rice and sauté for 1 minute. Increase heat to medium high and add 1 cup dry white wine and cook for 3-4 minutes, until alcohol cooks off and wine is reduced by half. Reduce heat back down to medium. Add 1 cup of chicken stock to the rice and simmer until most of the stock is absorbed. Repeat adding stock and cooking until the risotto is al dente, or still has a little bite to it. You may not need all 5 cups of chicken stock.
About halfway through cooking the rice, add 1 cup fresh peas.
Add 1 cup of good quality grated Parmesan cheese. Stir to incorporate. Add salt and pepper to taste.
While the rice is cooking, heat a pan (I recommend that you do not use non-stick) over high heat. Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, add 12 large scallops which have been thoroughly dried, salt and peppered.
Allow scallops to caramelize and do not attempt to turn them over until they release themselves from the pan. Salt and pepper the top sides and flip. Cook on the other side until they caramelize and release.
Serve scallops over risotto immediately. √