I Tried a Technical Challenge from the Great British Baking Show

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Every time I finish an episode of the Great British Baking Show and head into the kitchen, I feel like a kid cartwheeling in the living room after watching Olympic gymnastics. There’s something about seeing those athletes—I mean, bakers—schvitzing in the hellishly hot conditions of the tent that I find not only entertaining but also fomenting. It lights a fire under my butt and launches me straight toward the stand mixer with hopes that, with enough creaming and folding (and maybe some lessons in British pronunciations), I too could be in that tent, attempting the impossible: an ice cream bombe made from scratch in 90 minutes and 99° weather, a “selfie” constructed from cake, a chandelier of sugar cookies, a handshake with Paul Hollywood without crumbling to the floor.

And since this wasn’t actually the Olympics, my aspirations weren’t all that irrational. These tasks were something I—an avid home baker, just like all of the show’s actual contestants—could really, possibly, maybe, theoretically do. Hadn’t my years of baking brownies on the weekend (and—okay, okay, I’ll admit it—a few stints in professional kitchens) prepared me for this very moment? So, to see just what sort of baking chops I really had, I embarked on a journey to make just one recipe straight from one of the show’s technical challenges. How would I fare at the judges’ table?

The recipe

The constraints of a true technical challenge include a bare-bones recipe, a stunningly short period of time, and bakers groaning all around you (also: equipment spontaneously combusting and proofing drawers that seem intent to sabotage any dough that’s put inside). Since no one wanted to play GBBS with me, I would be on my own. And since I’m no masochist, I decided to give myself plenty of time and to choose a recipe from early on in the contest. It didn’t need to be anything totally wacky—no raspberry blancmange or two-tier lavender and lemon curd fox cake for me. Just something most of the bakers had made with moderate success.

So, I landed on Le Gâteau Vert, a lemony pistachio cake colored green with spinach (!), and the technical challenge from 2018’s cake week (episode 2). First of all, it was supposedly Claude Monet’s favorite cake, which he ate every year on his birthday. I love Monet! Who doesn’t? Second, did I mention its Kermit-green hue comes from spinach? Monet, you crazy artist, you. Third, it’s decorated with edible flowers. So twee. Fourth, could it even taste good (have I mentioned the spinach)? I had to know. And fifth, it’s made up of several components—marzipan, génoise sponge cake (pronounced gen-o-ease in British speak), buttercream, fondant—that would each present ample opportunity to flounder flourish. (If you’ve watched the episode…poor Karen!) Finally, it was short and simple, but less in the reassuring, “this’ll be easy” way, and more in the “holy cow, how do I make a sponge cake without any details about what the batter should look like” way.

The set up

Since I was only a contestant on the GBBS of my imagination, I had to source everything myself: multiple types of sugar (icing, caster, and “fondant icing sugar,” which does not seem to exist in the U.S.); 500 grams of pistachios (which, as it turns out, is a lot of money); kirsch (cherry brandy); and the impossible-to-track-down pistachio essence.

Now’s a good time to confess that I took some liberties here: Why buy pistachios when I could buy pistachio flour and skip the shelling and grinding? Why buy caster sugar when I could grind regular ol’ sugar in a food processor? And why order “fondant icing sugar” from the U.K. when I could just…find a poured fondant recipe consisting of white chocolate, corn syrup, and confectioners’ sugar? I wasn’t going to walk into a burning building blindfolded, okay?

The moment(s) of truth

I spread out my process over two days. (Call me an imposter—I’d say I’m a realist.) On day one, I made the marzipan and the génoise, both of which I chilled overnight. On day 2, I made the spinach buttercream and the fondant, which set me up to assemble the cake.

I started with the pistachio marzipan—baby steps!—which was easy to make. Mix ground pistachios with confectioners’ sugar, an egg white, and “pistachio essence” (equal parts vanilla and almond extract, in my version), then knead it together into a Play Doh-esque mass. The only problem was that one egg white did not even moisten the dry mixture. I added another, grateful that neither Prue nor Paul was looking over my shoulder, and trudged on.

Next came the “sponge” (a.k.a. the cake), which was doomed from the get-go. For a notoriously difficult cake (leavened with only eggs, rather than a mixture of baking powder and baking soda, génoise are known to fall flat), the instructions were vague. So…I started to read other recipes. But just for some reassurance! How “thick and pale” should the eggs really be? I wondered. Could I pour hot butter into that sensitive mixture without tempering it first? All of this outside research felt a little bit like taking an open-book exam—i.e. condoned cheating. The down side? It totally shook my confidence: What would I have done in the tent, with no access to well-written sponge recipes?

But once I saw that the cake didn’t rise high in the oven—it was a fairly squat thing, only an inch or so tall—I knew I should’ve separated the eggs, whisked the yolks until they held ribbons, and folded in well-whipped whites. Basically, I should’ve followed a different recipe altogether. Instead, I wrapped up my small friend, stuck it in the fridge, and tried to forget about the fact that I’d have to cut it in three horizontal slices the next day.

The following morning, I set out to make the French buttercream. First step: “spinach water,” made of blanched spinach blended up and squeezed through a cheesecloth. I then used this pond scum to make a simple syrup, which I brought up to 235°F. (This I also had to research, frantically Googling, “At what temperature does sugar syrup form a thread between two spoons?”). I streamed it slowly into egg yolks before adding softened butter, ground pistachios, and, for some reason, kirsch. It was at this point in the process that the entire Bon Appétit Test Kitchen began to smell so strongly of hot spinach that everyone walking by said aloud, “What is that smell?” I promised them the result would be delicious, trying to convince myself the same.

sarah jampel spinach cake

Photo by Chelsie Craig

Spreading the spinach buttercream over the first layer. The second “layer” is on the bottom right.

Next, I had to slice the sponge into three layers. This was a fool’s errand: No matter how many videos I watched about how to evenly divide a cake into layers, no matter how many toothpicks I used to mark where the slices should be, no matter how long and sharp my serrated knife, it was impossible. Senior food editors Molly Baz and Chris Morocco, standing nearby, grimaced. I got halfway through trimming off the first paper-thin layer when I decided to turn back and slice the cake in two instead. But this was sort of like deciding halfway through a bob haircut that you actually want a trim. The cake was butchered: The top “layer” was thin shavings of disparate pieces connected by the puniest of crumbs. If I were in the tent, Noel and Sandi would’ve come over to my station at this moment to offer some comedic relief. Instead, I had only the glares from BA’s food editors.

There was only one way forward: I smeared the bottom layer with spinach buttercream, pieced the crumbs on top, then covered the whole situation with more of the green stuff, hoping no one would notice that, where there were supposed to be three layers of cake, I had just one and a half. I rolled out the marzipan and draped it over the cake, an extremely satisfying process because it covered the whole mess in a smooth surface—the equivalent of stuffing the cake into Spanx.

sarah jampel spinach cake 4

Photo by Chelsie Craig

If an even marzipan cover hides all the mistakes, did they even ever happen?

The final step: fondant. Since I followed a different recipe entirely (forgive me, God), I had no problems. I poured the mixture—melted white chocolate, corn syrup, confectioners’ sugar, water, and leftover spinach water—over the cake and watched it drip down the surface and over the sides in thick ribbons. Now the cake wasn’t only smooth—it was also shiny. The one thing it wasn’t? Very green. The white chocolate muted the spinach’s green into something just shy of white, like the color of my sneakers after one day of wear.

sarah jampel spinach cake 3

Photo by Chelsie Craig

Pouring the fondant over top. It should’ve been a vibrant green but, instead, leaned towards off-white.

Thankfully, festooned with pansies and $50-per-pound Sicilian pistachios, it actually looked presentable. I wouldn’t have been so ashamed to bring it to the judges’ tables.

The part where we eat it

The cake sliced nicely: There was a layer of fondant and a layer of marzipan followed by a mash of sponge cake and buttercream.

Chris Morocco gave it one look and decided he wouldn’t deign to taste it: Génoise, he told me, was meant to rise, then be sliced into beautifully discrete layers. Chris, I said to myself (because I would never actually talk back to Chris), I was just (kind of sort of) following the recipe!!! Would the génoise have been fluffier, taller, prouder had I used Natasha Pickowicz’s extremely detailed recipe? Why, yes! Did the GBBS bakers have the knowledge and wherewithal to skip Prue’s instructions and go with what they knew to be a better technique? Clearly! With episodes that jump between nearly a dozen contestants, how the heck was I supposed to grasp the sort of wizardry going down when the cameras cut away?

sarah jampel spinach cake 1

Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Sarah Jampel

It’s not so bad but, hey, where are the layers?

But Morocco missed out. Because it tasted…fine! The extreme amount of buttercream in comparison to sponge produced a sweet, tender, and not-at-all dry effect. The marzipan was pleasantly chewy, and the fondant, since it was mostly white chocolate and corn syrup, was candy-like. People liked it! It was nutty and lemony, with no detectable spinach. Some folks at the office even asked to take slices home. Maybe my cake, with its short stature, ill-defined layers, and dirty-white hue, wouldn’t have placed high in terms of looks, but it got the flavor down pat. It lost the swimsuit competition but won the talent segment.

So what did I learn, besides the fact that television is deceptive and that spinach is a suitable but stinky natural food coloring? Well, as much as people say baking is about precision, that’s only true if you’re following a recipe you trust. As soon as you sense that something isn’t right—like that sponge cake isn’t going to work if you pour hot butter directly into whipped eggs or that the dough is lumpy when it really should be smooth—that’s when baking becomes about instincts and improvisation. Those contestants aren’t just good bakers, they’re forward-thinking problem-solvers.

And on that note, I also learned that I won’t be tossing my hat into the GBBS ring any time soon.

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There Are Rules to a Great Super Bowl Party. Rules, People!

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Every Monday night, Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport gives us a peek inside his brain by taking over our newsletter. He shares recipes he’s been cooking, restaurants he’s been eating at, and more. It gets better: If you sign up for our newsletter, you’ll get this letter before everyone else.

For those of us in food media, it’s hard to say whether the Super Bowl is our Thanksgiving or if Thanksgiving is our Super Bowl. Either way, I know that at 6:30 p.m. EST this Sunday, I will be sitting down to far more food and drink than any self-respecting dad with a day job and early-morning school run should be indulging in.

I also know, after many years, that like any questionably officiated NFL game, there are rules to a Super Bowl party, some of which should even be enforced. Here are mine:

summer beer cans

Photo by Alex Lau

Drinks

Beer and wine. Period. I am too old to pound cocktails on a Sunday night. (Remember the part about the day job and the school run?) However, I know my guests will expect something other than the cans of Budweiser I rely on, so I will heed the advice of Alex Delany and stock up on the increasingly easy-to-drink craft beer varietals that come in those cool, smartly designed tall boys. And speaking of easy to drink, I’ll also jam my cooler full with some Marissa Ross–approved pét-nats, complete with pop-off crown tops.

Speaking of coolers. You should absolutely lug your Yeti or Coleman in from the garage, place a beach towel beneath it, load it up with ice and put it to good use.

Also, who am I kidding? I do have younger friends, and friends without day jobs. So, about that cocktail. This year, as I yammer on about on Wednesday’s upcoming Super Bowl-themed Bon Appétit Foodcast, I’m thinking of a DIY paloma bar: a pitcher of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (it’s citrus season, remember?), a bottle of quality silver tequila, a bucket of ice, crisp seltzer, and lime wedges. Okay, I’ll have one.

Want this letter before it hits the website? Sign up for our newsletter!

50 dollar dinner party creamy kimchi dip

Alex Lau

Appetizers

There will be dips. Lots of dips. We have a bazillion recipes, but I particularly dig our Slow-Roasted Onion Dip, our Creamy Kimchi Dip, and because it’s not the Super Bowl without copious amounts of molten cheese, the world-famous Bob Armstrong Chile con Queso. I’ll slice up a bunch of fennel, some radishes, and whatever else looks good and set those out with some good tortilla chips and potato chips. (While I’m generally an Utz loyalist, I will admit that you need a sturdy chip when dip is in the equation, so I will defer to Cape Cod kettle chips in this instance.)

20180125 MOB25043 1

Photo by Alex Lau

Main course

A) Halftime is dinner time. B) Once the last note of the Star Spangled Banner is sung, I’m done cooking. So, in the interest of getting things done ahead of time…

I am all about the Italian hero bar, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Set out the thinly shaved cold cuts, shredded iceberg (a.k.a. shrettuce), pickled red onions, Calabrian chili spread, oil and vin, dried oregano, mayonnaise (deal with it, all you mayo-haters), and cottony soft hero rolls. And let people have at it. You can get the actual recipe here.

On a similar note, I’m also considering getting started a day ahead and making Basically’s Sriracha-Braised Brisket Sandwiches. And then rewarming it and shredding it and setting it out with potato rolls and homemade coleslaw for DIY sandwiches. Hard to argue with.

Or, speaking of the podcast, maybe I’ll run back last year’s Hail Mary of an idea, the Bo Ssam-Style Pulled Pork Sandwiches, perhaps the greatest sandwich ever conceived in the halls of BA.

Man, quite the playbook we’ve got coming together.

Basically brisket sandwich

Photo by Chelsie Craig, food styling by Anna Billingskog

Dessert

Dessert? Seriously? We’re all adults here. Do we really need dessert? And if you’re on the east coast, shouldn’t your kids be home and in bed by the second half?

The Important Stuff

The over-under, as of today, is set at 56.5 points. I’m betting the under. I think Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh are going to get to Brady. And I think Belichick will figure out a way to stymie Goff. So, yeah, bet the under. You’re welcome!

Get the recipes:

Paloma
Slow-Roasted Onion Dip
Creamy Kimchi Dip
Bob Armstrong Chile con Queso
Party-Ready Italian Heros
Sriracha-Braised Brisket Sandwiches
Classic Coleslaw
Bo Ssam-Style Pulled Pork Sandwiches

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Ambassador John McCallum says it would be ‘great for Canada’ if U.S. drops extradition request for Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou

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VANCOUVER—After his earlier comments on Meng Wanzhou drew calls for his firing, Canada’s ambassador to China is now arguing it would be “great” if the United States relinquishes its attempt to extradite Huawei’s chief financial officer.

“From Canada’s point of view, if (the U.S.) drops the extradition request, that would be great for Canada,” John McCallum told the Star on Friday.

Canadian Ambassador to China John McCallum said it “would be great for Canada” if the U.S. dropped it’s extradition request from Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
Canadian Ambassador to China John McCallum said it “would be great for Canada” if the U.S. dropped it’s extradition request from Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.  (Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo)

The Star’s reporter, speaking to McCallum at a charity lunch in downtown Vancouver, identified herself as a journalist at the beginning of the conversation and held out a recorder while they spoke.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday he is standing by the ambassador, in spite of Conservative calls for McCallum to be fired for saying Huawei’s Meng has “strong arguments” to fight extradition to the United States.

In a series of surprisingly frank comments earlier this week, McCallum also revealed new details about the strain on Canada-China relations and the pressure Canada faces from allies to ban Huawei.

He told the Star on Friday that if the U.S. strikes a deal with China, it should benefit Canada.

“We have to make sure that if the U.S. does such a deal, it also includes the release of our two people. And the U.S. is highly aware of that,” he said.

The Prime Minister’s Office did not reply to Star requests for comment.

Roland Paris, former senior adviser to Trudeau on global affairs, told the Star that Canadians should not be used as “bargaining chips.”

“I don’t have a comment on that scenario,” he said when asked for his thoughts on McCallum’s most recent comments.

Canada's ambassador to China, John McCallum, front centre, poses for photo with former B.C. premier Christy Clark, front left, at a dim sum charity luncheon in downtown Vancouver on Friday.
Canada’s ambassador to China, John McCallum, front centre, poses for photo with former B.C. premier Christy Clark, front left, at a dim sum charity luncheon in downtown Vancouver on Friday.  (Joanna Chiu/StarMetro)

“I think though that it remains really important for Canada, it is very important for Canada to build international support,” he said.

“The Chinese should not be holding any Canadians for diplomatic leverage, if that’s indeed what they’re doing. And the United States should be backing Canada, should have Canada’s back because we are paying a price for fulfilling the terms of our extradition treaty.”

Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor remain in custody at undisclosed locations in China. Kovrig is being kept in a continuously lit room and is being questioned several times daily by Chinese authorities, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG), Kovrig’s former employer.

The ambassador stressed to the Star Friday that his “priority is to see our two detainees” after he returns to China on Saturday.

McCallum told the Star he is allowed to visit Kovrig and Spavor once a month.

“Physically he’s fine, by looking at him,” McCallum said about Kovrig. He added both men are able to exercise and practice yoga regularly.

Joanna Chiu is assistant managing editor of StarMetro Vancouver. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachiu

Wanyee Li is a Vancouver-based reporter covering courts, wildlife conservation and new technology. Follow her on Twitter: @wanyeelii

Michael Mui is a Vancouver-based investigative reporter. Follow him on Twitter: @mui24hours

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Edible Glitter Is Great and I’m Not Afraid to Say It

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Welp, I fell into a pile of glitter and came out looking like Mariah Carey’s ugly kid sister.

I’ve been caught with my paint brush in the golden pot of edible glitz (a.k.a. luster dust), carefully coating senior food editor Chris Morocco’s Snickerdoodle Party Cookies so that they’ll glimmer like gemstones from across the room. (I can implicate my colleague Hilary Cadigan—also guilty as charged.)

Purists can hate on edible glitter all they want, but they can’t deny that it turns otherwise regular old ‘doodles into party doodles. Fashion doodles, even! And come to think of it, a dusting of glitter could take nearly all doodles—Golden Doodles, Labradoodles, Saint Berdoodles (yes, they’re a thing)—from monochromatic to dynamic.

As someone who received one tube of pink facial glitter from my cool babysitter when I was eight, then used pea-sized drops on my nonexistent cheekbones for the next ten years (and only on the most special occasions), I’ll gladly admit that I’m as attracted to glitter as the next silly human. Oooh, sparkly! is just about the only thought that goes through my head when I see something that catches the light in the right way.

churros

Photo by Laura Murray, Styling by Judy Mancini

These churros have lots of sparkle, without the funny business.

While these snickerdoodles certainly do not need glitter—they already have lots of tricks, like cornflakes, cardamom, brown butter, Chris Morocco’s blood, sweat, tears (a.k.a. “love”)—their appearance certainly benefits from it. Edible glitter is the wellness serum that gives otherwise dull cookies that festive glow appropriate for a season alight with Christmas trees, Hanukkah candles, and your cell phone screen as you scroll mindlessly through the web before bed. It’s glitter that makes them stand out at the cookie swap or holiday potluck before anyone’s even had a chance to taste.

But consumable glitter can—and has, in many instances (see glitter lattes and gold wings)—gone too far. Put simply, to use sparkles as a crutch is an abuse of their power. To judge whether glitter is a welcome accent rather than a hasty cover-up or just straight-up Instagram bait, I think about my romantic partner dressed up in a fancy outfit. I want to love the person (or food) whether or not it’s adorned and I don’t want the decoration to be so over-the-top that it makes the person (or food) off putting or unrecognizable. A bagel that looks like it’s going to corrode my esophagus or a pizza that may or may not be molding is too much glitz: What’s fun about questioning whether I’m about to incur bodily harm from a metallic sprinkle mix that’s non-toxic but not necessarily edible? Where’s the joy in setting myself up to, pardon my language, crap rainbows?

And there are plenty of ways, thank the iridescent angels above, to make food shine with none of these worries. Tell me morning buns or sugar-coated churros, or raspberry rugelach, which get their pink sequined look from a mix of freeze-dried berries and regular old sugar, aren’t sparkly. Even steak looks like a gosh darn shooting star with a little help from flaky salt. The stuff we already have in the kitchen—coarse sugar, confectioners’ sugar, pyramidal salt—makes food glitter and taste better without warnings from the FDA. Just look inside yourself (and your pantry!): You’ve got all you need to sparkle just sitting in wait. You just have to unleash it.*

But when you’re grasping for a little extra holiday magic, you have my blessing—for whatever that’s worth—to reach for the luster dust. Just make sure it’s clearly labeled “edible,” okay?

*And yes, I am available for all your inspirational speech needs.

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‘Inaction is not an option’: Cost to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes triples

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Fortifying an Illinois waterway to prevent invasive carp from using it as a path to Lake Michigan could cost nearly three times as much as federal planners previously thought, according to an updated report.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers this week released a final strategy plan for upgrading the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Ill., which experts consider a good location to block upstream movement of Asian carp that have infested the Mississippi and Illinois rivers.

Scientists warn that if the voracious carp become established in the Great Lakes, they could out-compete native species and harm the region’s $7-billion fishing industry.

The new plan by the corps is similar to a draft from August 2017, but the estimated price tag has jumped from $275 million to nearly $778 million

« Basically during the past year, some additional engineering and design work changed the scope to bring it up to that current cost, » Allen Marshall, spokesperson for the district office of the corps in Rock Island, Ill., said Wednesday.

The biggest increase is for building an « engineered channel » at Brandon Road. The lock-and-dam complex is on the Des Plaines River, which forms part of the waterway link between Lake Michigan and the Illinois River, a tributary of the Mississippi.

Asian carp first started showing up in North America in the 1970s, when they were brought in for the aquaculture industry in the U.S. and for the live food fish industry in Canada. (Illinois Department of Natural Resources)

Under the plan, the channel would contain devices, including an electric barrier, noisemakers and an air bubble curtain to deter fish from swimming upstream and remove those that don’t turn back. The adjacent lock would be retooled to flush away unwanted species floating on the water.

The draft had proposed using water jets to dislodge fish that might be stunned or caught in gaps between barges. But the new version says a better method would be generating a continuous, dense curtain of air bubbles in the channel.

The army corps is accepting public comments through Dec. 24 and expects to submit the plan to Congress in February. Its timetable envisions congressional authorization and initial funding next year and the signing of building contracts by July 2020, with work completed by March 2027.

Several states that border the lakes, including Michigan and Illinois, agreed previously to discuss sharing the costs. The escalating price could complicate those negotiations.

Carp have infested much of the Mississippi River basin and are threatening to gain a foothold in the Great Lakes through rivers and canals. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

« Now that the cost has nearly tripled to $778 million, we need to have a better understanding of how this project, with all the proposed components, actually reduces the risk of Asian carp and other invasive species getting into our Great Lakes in a fiscally responsible manner, » said Ed Cross, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Tammy Newcomb, water policy adviser for the Michigan DNR, acknowledged feeling « sticker shock, » but said it shouldn’t derail the project.

« Given the costs of Asian carp invading our Great Lakes, inaction is not an option, » said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat and co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force.

Carp are filter feeders, which means they eat the base of the aquatic food chain. This starves out native fish species. (CBC)

Illinois officials and business groups have questioned the need to drastically re-engineer the lock and dam, particularly if it would slow barge traffic on the busy commercial waterway.

Lynn Muench, a senior vice-president of the American Waterways Operators, which represents barge companies, said the army corps report sidesteps whether Asian carp are likely to reach Lake Michigan in sufficient numbers to thrive. It also has no cost-benefit analysis of the proposed deterrents, she said.

Meanwhile, environmentalists were concerned that the army corps budget for next year includes no money for pre-construction engineering and design work to get things moving.

« How serious is the Trump administration about getting this project constructed if they haven’t put the necessary funding in to keep it moving on schedule? » said Molly Flanagan, a vice-president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

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Bomber great auctioning off Ring of Honour jersey to pay for visits to sick son – Winnipeg

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Gerry James, one of the all-time greats in the history of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, is selling his coveted Ring of Honour jersey in order to visit his sick son.

“A jersey is just a jersey — my son’s life is a little more important than that,” said James.

The running back spent a decade in blue and gold, and he’s one of the select few chosen to be inducted into the Ring of Honour.


READ MORE:
‘Coming up here was so different’: Bombers’ Hall of Famer Robert Gordon

Today, the 83-year-old lives on Vancouver Island.

James’ son has been in hospital suffering from a serious infection that will require skin replacement surgery. The former football player is looking to sell his Ring of Honour jersey to cover some of his travel expenses to and from Victoria so he can visit his son.

James said his son’s health was uncertain for a time, and it has cost him about $50 to $60 per trip, which he does two or three times a week.

“It builds up,” James said. “To offset the costs of travel and some of the other stuff we’ve been supplying for him would be helpful to us.”

“It’s hard. It was and it still is. We’ve discovered a lot of things about ourselves and our commitment to our son,” he added.

James also spent time in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs and is looking to sell his hockey sweater.


READ MORE:
‘It was kind of a whirlwind experience’: Winnipeg’s Geoff Gray back from NFL after signing with Blue Bombers

When asked if he had considered starting a GoFundMe, James brushed it off.

“I don’t know how that works. I’m not a technical guy, and my wife and I don’t think we should go to the public and try to raise money,” James said.

Anyone interested in helping out can call James at 250-468-1574.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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In Canada’s Niagara Region, Sommelier Ashley Ragovin Hunts for Great Wine

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Ashley Ragovin is on a hunting expedition. Not for big game in the traditional sense, but for bottles of rarified vino, which today has lured her from Los Angeles to Canada’s lush Niagara Region. A longtime sommelier, Ragovin has honed her palate to seek out the distinctive and uncommon—wines that convey a point of view, a place in time.

“I’m always inspired by small family vineyards that make wine the local people are proud of,” Ragovin muses from the passenger seat of a rented Jeep. She returns her gaze to the window, through which a mesmerizing display of thick, curled grapevines flick past in neat rows that stretch to the horizon. “You won’t find out the nuance of that if you don’t come.”

Her plan is to unearth gems within the area’s still nascent wine scene; perhaps she’ll find vintages to pour in her all-day cafe All Time, or to feature in her highly curated online bottle shop Pour This, which offers rare and highly sought-after wines you won’t find in your average liquor store. The air, cool and moist, is full of possibilities.

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Niagara’s unique geology and climate have long stoked Ragovin’s curiosity about the area, which has an agricultural heritage going back centuries. For years now, she’s heard tales of the area’s temperate climate, where summers aren’t too hot and winters aren’t too cold. The year-round rainfall is especially kind to agriculture, and true to form, it’s been raining off and on since early this morning. Indeed, puddles fill the vine-filled countryside.

Farmers have grown fruits like peaches, cherries, plums, and pears here since before anyone can remember, Ragovin says, but grapes have dominated the scenery since the 1980s. Thanks to the natural erosion that’s carved the landscape over a millennia—the same geological phenomenon that created Niagara Falls, she notes—the soil here is wonderfully rich and fantastically varied, with pockets of different minerals and nutrients in each field. “It’s perfect for growing grapes that burst with character and originality,” Ragovin says.

Today promises to be action-packed. We plan to hit up six wineries in a single day, each chosen for its individual way of expressing the Niagara Region in a glass. That may be through the grapes it chooses, the types of wine it makes, or its winemaking methods, Ragovin says. Even the personalities of the winemaker him or herself can affect one’s perception of a wine.

The car comes to a halt. First up is Megalomaniac, which rises magnificently above the 80 acres of vines that surround it. “You can tell this isn’t a scrappy operation,” Ragovin says, eyeing the fields. The varieties of grapes grown here are ones we’ll see all day long: Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. They’re Old World grapes that have proven themselves here in the New World, and in the Niagara Region in particular.

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We’re met by the winery’s founder, John Howard. “On a clear day, you can see the spray coming off Niagara Falls from the second-floor patio,” Howard tells us as we enter a chandelier-dotted tasting room. The name of the operation, he continues, is meant to poke fun at the more sober-faced, inward-facing types prevalent in the wine industry. In contrast, Megalomaniac gives its wine fun names like Selfie, Narcissist, Bigmouth, and Bravado. But don’t mistake playfulness for frivolity, Howard cautions. “We take our vineyards and our wine very seriously,” he says. The vineyard’s winemaker Sébastien Jacquey appears; he pours several vintages, including a 2016 “Frank” Cabernet Franc.

“I think Cab Franc does really well in the Niagara Region, based on the wine and the soil,” Ragovin says between sips. “With Cab Franc, there’s an earthy complexity that lends notes of smoke and pepper and wet rocks,” she explains. “It’s exciting to witness the focus on that grape, » she explains. « I think Megalomaniac represents an affordable, accessible starting point for most people.”

Next up is Hidden Bench, a short drive away through winding vineyards, orchards, and rolling fields. Owner and winemaker Harald Thiel runs out to meet us in front of the main building, a handsome, green-roofed country house lined with dark, weathered wood. The whole operation spans 84 green acres and is certified organic, Thiel says. It’s also heated and cooled with environmentally friendly geothermal energy, and a massive solar panel helps reduce the winery’s reliance on the electrical grid.

“We’re also experimenting with natural wines,” Thiel tells us with a wide grin, pointing toward a pair of hulking wine-filled concrete “eggs,” which have grown in popularity in the nature winemaking world. In the tasting room, we sample the Estate Riesling, which packs a floral nose with notes of white peach, orange rind, and wet stone. There’s a major Austrian influence at play; Thiel’s mother is Austrian, and he speaks fluent German.

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“The Riesling’s juicy and fresh on the palate,” Ragovin says as we leave. “They just tasted really true to what they were, really focused and pure and unmanipulated.” The eggs were encouraging, too, she adds, explaining that the ovular shape is thought to create a continuous flow of wine within the vessel, naturally producing a more homogenous liquid. “His approach was rooted in tradition and he wasn’t trying to be too experimental, but he was open-minded, which I thought was cool.”

We pile in the car and head to Thirty Bench, our halfway point for the day. The winemaker, Emma Garner, meets us out in the vines. “For me, it’s about listening to what the grapes have to say,” Garner tells us. Minimal intervention is key, she continues, and creating a tantalizing wine is “about that balance between art and science.” In the light-filled tasting room, which looks out onto verdant fields, we sample an exquisite, fruit-forward Cabernet Franc with just the right amount of dryness.

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“Their Cab Franc was so impressive to me,” Ragovin says on our way out. “It was developed and thoughtfully made. It tasted very Niagara. Just a nice drinking wine.”

We soldier on to Cave Spring Cellars, which is nestled in a historic winery building in the quaint village of Jordan. The structure dates back to 1871, making it the oldest functioning wine cellar in Ontario. Cave Spring Cellars itself plays a significant role in local history: More than three decades ago, its founders helped to pioneer the cultivation of noble European grape varietals on the Niagara Peninsula.

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Winemaker Angelo Pavan and his protégé, Gabriel Demarco, join us with bottles in hand. “We’re cutting back on the number of varieties we work with, we’re not expanding,” Pavan says. The idea, he continues, is to hone in on a few grapes and guide them toward perfection. “We make sparkling wine as good as anywhere in the world, with the exception of Champagne in France because they have all that history,” he says, eyes bright. “But we’ll catch up.” Ragovin raises a glass of 2009 Blanc de Blancs CSV to her lips, and nods with approval.

“The wine was clean and thoughtfully made,” she says as we head back to the car. “It just tasted good, and it wasn’t manipulated and overproduced.” It’s encouraging to see younger winemakers like Demarco joining the fray, too, she adds. “It represents a new generation of good winemaking,” Ragovin says.

Back in the Jeep, we follow a mud-packed road to Pearl Morissette, the imaginative outfit from non-interventionist winemaker François Morissette. Its fields go as far as the eye can see here, with creeping vines in one direction and pastures dotted with cows, sheep, and chickens in the other. The twinkling sound of birdcalls permeates the air, punctuated by loud cannon booms that echo across the landscape.

“It’s a recording of birds in distress, to keep birds out,” explains Svetlana Atcheva, a former Toronto-based sommelier who’s since become Morissette’s collaborator. The booms scare away other predators, protecting the grapes without forcing the winery to use harsh chemicals. It’s reflective of the overall ethos at work at Pearl Morissette, where traditional winemaking methods are more evocative of a farmhouse than a chateau.

“It’s interesting to work with something living,” Morissette says, stepping out from behind a hulking fermentation vat. Using natural yeasts and as little added sulfur as possible results in wines that are funky and playful, he says. We sample a handful of still-in-the-works vintages: complex Chardonnays, Rieslings, and others.

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There is no tasting room at Pearl Morissette, but those who want to taste the wines near where they were made can sample them at the on-site restaurant. Dinner here means a sprawling multicourse meal in a modern farmhouse setting; the airy dining room is hemmed in by glass walls on either side and finely burnished wooden floors are made with planks culled from the 200-year-old barn that once stood on the premises. The seasonal French menu changes constantly, but is always inspired by local ingredients, from rare bluecap and lobster mushrooms to petite wild pigeons.

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“Francois represents the future in winemaking to me, and he has a very irreverent approach,” Ragovin says, clearly impressed. “He’s not making wine for the masses. He’s making wine with a higher goal in mind, which is to express a place and stay out of the way, but guide it in the best possible way. I find it noble and sort of altruistic.”

It’s late afternoon as we depart, and the sky threatens rain. We step inside our final destination, Big Head, just as a sudden downpour begins to pelt the warehouse-like space’s metal roof with furious intensity. We’ll be here for awhile. Good thing that Jakub Lipinski, the head of operations and the son of Big Head’s head winemaker Andrzej Lipinski, has plenty of wine for us to try.

“Dad and I, we butt heads, but it’s never violent,” the younger Lipinski says with a laugh. The pair have markedly different wine philosophies; Andrzej favors big and bold flavors, while Jakub goes for profiles that are more complex and unconventional. Jakub is the guiding force behind the winery’s latest Syrah, a wild fermented wine packing notes of black pepper and smoked meat. It’s something of an “acquired taste,” he admits, but his father is on board.

“It’s my first time getting involved in the winemaking,” he says. “I need something dirty and funky to get my brain going. For me, that’s beautiful.”

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Ragovin sips, and her eyes brighten. “How do I get a case of it?”

“Just leave me your address,” Lipinski replies, smiling.

Ragovin steps outside, her tour complete. The sky is clear for the first time today, and paddles soak up the last of the late afternoon sunshine. “For such a young region, I think there’s more going on here than even I expected,” she says, piling into the car one last time. Interesting things, particularly at Pearl Morissette and Big Head, where an emphasis on natural fermentation—which relies only on yeast present in the air—results in flavors that are intensely specific to this region, from dry and tangy to earthy and flinty. It’s exactly what Ragovin is looking for. She’s already trying to figure out how to get some of their bottles into Pour This.

“There’s a lot of energy and a lot of pride,” Ragovin continues. “Everyone really wants to capture Niagara in their winemaking, as opposed to making it like the Finger Lakes or California,” she says. “There’s already a lot of exciting wine being made here and it’s only going to get better.”

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‘Enormous breakthrough’ for great white shark expedition off Nova Scotia 

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The Ocearch research team came to Nova Scotia this fall on a hunch.

Could the movements of two tagged great white sharks – dubbed Hilton and Lydia – suggest the mysterious predators have an undiscovered mating site off Canada’s Atlantic coast?

The team hoped to capture and tag one shark on their first Nova Scotia foray.

Instead, they saw more than 10 sharks, collected samples from seven, and tagged six.

Expedition leader Chris Fischer was to leave Nova Scotia Saturday after wrapping what he called an “historic” expedition that offered an “enormous breakthrough” and opened new horizons for the organization’s work to solve the complicated puzzle of the endangered North Atlantic white shark population.

“It was really surprising to come up here and see so many animals,” the American researcher said.

“I think that there’s a lifetime of work to do up here based on what we saw, for many people.”

READ MORE: ‘Holy smokes I finally made it to Newfoundland!’: Hilton the celebrity shark on the move

The Ocearch team, which includes 26 researchers from 19 U.S. and Canadian universities and labs, were in search of new data on the species, hoping to shed light on their life patterns and get scientists a bit closer to stabilizing their population numbers.

Satellite tags affixed to the sharks will collect data on everything from water temperature and salinity levels to their movements and feeding behaviours.

Fischer said the data could help teach scientists more about the linkages to great white populations tagged near Cape Cod, Mass. – or reveal new patterns altogether.

Three of the newly tagged sharks, males Nova and Hal and female Luna, were named for Nova Scotia, Halifax and Lunenberg, N.S., respectively. Another female, Jane, was named for the ship captain’s mother.

Along with new friends Jefferson and Cabot, the public will be able to follow the sharks’ movements on Twitter. Both Lydia and Hilton have more than 40,000 Twitter followers, bringing a wide audience to the group’s research.

Fischer said the Nova Scotia team has heard from all the newly tagged sharks so far except for Jane, but expects to hear from her soon.

The information gathered from the sharks’ tags and samples should help scientists paint a picture of the North Atlantic species’ lives in a clearer way and plan a path forward to protect them.

WATCH: To catch a predator: Studying great white sharks in the Great White North






Fischer says this requires an international effort, one that was evidenced by the presence on the expedition of Canadian federal fisheries scientists.

Federal scientists had also tagged their first great white shark in Canadian waters in mid-September.

“Now that we know we can get them (sharks) here, we’re hoping to see a lot more Canadian scientists jump on board next year,” said Fischer, saying Ocearch is already discussing the logistics of a return trip in 2019.

Fischer noted that the age and sex ranges of the sharks found here have marked Canadian waters as an untapped gold mine for researchers — and notably, put the area on the map as a rare place with predictable access to the elusive creatures.

READ MORE: Hilton the great white shark brings Shark Week to Nova Scotia

Nova Scotians have been watching the team’s activities with great interest, but luring sharks so close to popular beaches have worried some residents.

Ocearch’s activities near Lunenberg raised some public concern about whether baiting sharks close to shore could change the animals’ patterns and pose a risk to beachgoers.

Federal fisheries officials issued a statement that they had advised Ocearch to move away from busy coastal areas while working. But they also noted that “it is not anticipated that white sharks will change where they forage for food as a result of any chumming that occurs as part of this research.”

For Fischer, the public concerns demonstrate some of the misconceptions and fears people have about shark behaviour and their presence in nearby waters.

“People have an idea in their mind that the big white sharks live out in the ocean. They don’t, they live right on the beach,” Fischer said.

Fischer added that the presence of seals near the beach draws sharks, and many of the animals were captured without the team chumming the water.

WATCH: Great white shark tagged in Atlantic Ocean






The overall health of the ocean depends, he said, on saving the top-of-the-food chain predators like the Atlantic great whites, who he calls “balance keepers,” and “lions of the ocean.”

He said the sharks keep other species in check, including those relied upon by fishing industries like lobster and cod.

The real thing to fear is not the animals themselves, but a world without them, he said.

“We should be terrified of an ocean that’s not full of large sharks,” he said.

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The Great Pumpkin Bread Recipe Is Here

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There’s no other way to say this, but this pumpkin bread is moist. (DEAL WITH IT.) It’s even moister—which isn’t a word—the day after baking. No one wants a dry pumpkin bread, a mouthful of over-spiced regret, and no one certainly wants a mushy loaf, a soggy forkful of fall’s failings. We want a moist loaf. M-O-I-S-T. Find out what it means to me.

It means a lot. And to Molly Baz too. She developed this new recipe and didn’t want a typical vegetable oil quick bread. “Let’s resurrect the pumpkin bread from its sad sorry Starbucks state!” She declared. Okay!!!!

Olive oil brings a buttery, barely grassy note that goes well with pumpkin (“because pumpkin…comes from the earth,” she told me to which I replied 🤔) and it’s what makes the bread moist but never mushy. Molly played with the ratio of flour to fat for weeks until she reached perfection. And since I tasted it, I can concur. Perfection.

What else is inside this thing? A heaping dose of AUTUMNAL FLAVOR, that’s what! Cinnamon, nutmeg, a pinch of clove. This specific canned pumpkin. And fresh ginger, not the dry powder stuff. “I didn’t use pumpkin spice mix because I don’t believe in all the spices in that blend,” said Molly. She doesn’t believe in ground ginger. “People use ⅛ teaspoon a year and then it gets stale and flat in their pantry. Use fresh!” It brings a spicier, more dynamic flavor.

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Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Kate Buckens

ZOOMSCOPE: Crunchy rooftop.

On top we’ve got a rooftop of crunchy pumpkin seeds and sugar to make the whole thing shimmer in the evening moonlight. “Basic b*tches love glitter and so do I, let’s be honest,” said Molly.

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Photo by Chelsie Craig, Food Styling by Kate Buckens

MAPLE BUTTER.

Don’t forget the side dish of whipped maple butter, light and airy and just a bit salty. It’s best made with an electric mixer, but you can paddle the maple syrup into room temperature butter with a spatula if you can’t be bothered. It won’t be as fluffy, but you’ll have maple butter. There are worse things.

“If I’m not picking apples this weekend,” Molly concluded, “I’ll be making pumpkin bread, and I hope the rest of the world is too.”

Get the recipe:

ba-pumpkin-bread.jpg

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This Vegan Queso Is Great Even for Cheese Lovers | Healthyish

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In these trying times, not many things give me more comfort than dunking one tortilla chip after another into a bowl of molten queso dip. I love partaking in this gooey pastime at restaurants, but at home it’s a different story. A quick glance at the ingredient list on a jar of grocery-store queso is enough to make me jump back in terror. Just what exactly is “sodium hexametaphosphate?” Recently I found a queso brand with ingredients I can get behind that also tastes amazing, but there’s one catch: It has zero cheese. I’m talking about vegan queso, specifically Siete’s Spicy Blanco cashew queso, and I’m obsessed.

Austin-based brand Siete was launched in 2014 after Veronica Garza could no longer indulge in the foods of her Mexican-American heritage due to an autoimmune condition. After going grain-free to alleviate her symptoms, her six family members (mom and dad included) joined her in forgoing grains. Eventually, Garza got tired of lettuce wraps in lieu of tortillas and delved into the world of grain-free tortillas. “She got in the kitchen and solved her own problem by making a tortilla out of almond flour,” says Miguel Garza, CEO and co-founder of Siete. “We all thought, ‘Wow. This is actually really good.’”

Siete’s lineup began with grain-free tortillas and tortilla chips, but Veronica had been fiddling with a vegan queso recipe for years. “We grew up eating queso in our house. We ate it with tacos at breakfast and we would eat it with fajitas for dinner,” says Miguel. While Veronica isn’t vegan, she gave up dairy when she discovered that it’s another inflammatory culprit. Miguel says, “She created this product to solve this problem of [wanting] the nostalgia of our heritage but in a way that conformed to our current dietary restrictions.”

There are two varieties of queso, mild nacho and spicy blanco. Of the two, I prefer the blanco with its zesty flavor and rich, creamy texture. What’s most impressive is how the ingredients are all whole, plant-based foods like cashews, tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, jalapeños, and coconut milk—and yet somehow it all works together to create a “cheesy” dip.

Pure bliss comes when you pop the queso in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it through, then get to dunking. Miguel likes to spread the queso over a tortilla and drizzle it with hot sauce. “It’s almost like a quesadilla.” He’s also heard of customers drizzling it over mashed or roasted potatoes. And the milder nacho queso works well as a base for macaroni and cheese.

So I say to vegans and non-vegans alike, embrace this spicy blanco queso. Not because it’s dairy-free but because it’s delicious and full of ingredients you actually want to eat.

Buy it: Siete Foods Spicy Blanco Cashew Queso, $7.99

All products featured on Healthyish are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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