Apple Cream Pie

March 31, 2009

Makes 8 Servings

1 unbaked pie shell
3 cups (750 mL) apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cinnamon
1/3 cup (80 mL) granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 Tbsp (45 mL) butter, divided
4 oz (125g) light cream cheese
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
3 Tbsp (45 mL) brown sugar
1/4 cup (60 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped, toasted nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180° C).
2. Place apples in pie shell and sprinkle with cinnamon.
3. In mixing bowl, combine granulated sugar, eggs and 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of the butter until creamy.
4. Add cream cheese and vanilla and blend until smooth. Pour over apples.
5. Combine brown sugar, flour, remaining 1 Tbsp (15 mL) butter and nuts, if using. Sprinkle over pie and bake for 1 hour.

Courtesy of BC Tree (http://www.bctree.com/recipes/index.php)

Per serving:
Calories: 312
Carbohydrate: 25 g (41%)
Protein: 4 g (8%)
Fat: 10.5 g (46%)
Fibre: 1.7 g
Sodium: 142 mg

Forget your cheeseburgers, pizza, apple pie, meat and potatoes and other tried-and-true traditional dishes; the North American palate has evolved in recent years, fueled by a desire for new, risky ethnic flavours.  “Chinese food” and “Mexican Food” used represent the consumer’s foray outside of their culinary comfort zone, but an influx of cultural influence has thoroughly infiltrated the food landscape.

The reasons for these changes have been out of both necessity and interest.  For food manufacturers and restaurants, experimenting with new flavours is viewed as a great way to spice up traditional offerings.  It’s much cheaper to add spices such as tandoori, curry and jerk to your average chicken dish than revamp an entire operation or menu, and consumers can’t seem to get enough risk with their food.

The Spanish are probably one of the most under served and under appreciated demographics in North America, but that is beginning to change.  This vocal plurality carries a tremendous amount of consumer influence, and companies have downplayed their significance for far too long.  Plus, their food is flavourful, passionate, invigorating and complex.

MediaPost highlights a report on what kind of products are hitting the scene: “Epazote, Seville oranges, aji amarillo chiles and sofritos, according to a new Culinary Trend Report on next-wave Latino foods from Packaged Facts and the Center for Culinary Development (CCD).”

“Epazote is a Mexican culinary herb that smells like “grassy turpentine” in its raw state, but when simmered in a pot of black beans, “mellows to a rich, grounding presence that more and more chefs are finding addictive,” report CCD’s trend-spotters.  They expect the herb to move beyond upscale Mexican restaurants to become a common ingredient in canned and CPG products.

Seville oranges are becoming increasingly popular ingredients in sophisticated contemporary Latin restaurant fare, and CCD predicts that CPGs will soon be using the oranges’ somewhat bitter citrus flavor to add “Caribbean tang” to a variety of products.

Aji amarillo chiles, the most popular variety in Peru, offer a distinctively fruity flavor while retaining chile bite.  The combination adds up to crossover appeal similar to that previously shown by now-ubiquitous chipotles, making aji chiles prime candidates for inclusion in “everything from spicy wings at QSRs to jarred salsas,” reports CCD.”

Other trends MediaPost points out:

•    “Rotisserie chicken flavored with authentic, regionally inspired flavors from Latin America. CCD believes this trend is destined for wide adoption by food manufacturers and restaurants because it offers the familiar comfort food roast chicken with a novel twist, as well as built-in nutritious, wholesome positioning.

•    U.S.-made versions of Mexican cheese varieties are in demand by Latinos and non-Latinos alike, and marketers are gradually catching on. Wisconsin’s Hispanic cheese production has doubled since 1997, and big national brands like Sargento and Tillamook have added Mexican cheeses and shredded jack-and-cheddar quesadilla blends, notes CCD.

•    Bland tableside guacamoles are being reinvented as consumers look for fresh, healthy ways to snack. Freshly made, hand-mashed, chunky varieties that can be customized to taste with more/less onions, chiles and other seasonings are hot–and CCD stresses that marketers should look to apply the same lessons to many other types of food offerings.

•    Soft-corn tortilla tacos–which offer both health and flavor advantages over the crunchy variety–are popping up in QSR’s and casual dining restaurants, and becoming more available in supermarkets as well.

•    Mojito isn’t over. While mojito cocktails may seem old-hat to some, seemingly endless variations on the basic tart lime/mint flavor are now finding their way into soft drinks, marinades, chocolates and even chewing gum. Far from reaching saturation, this Cuban flavor profile “will go on inspiring CPG manufacturers across a broad spectrum of products,” predicts CCD.”

In the small, out of the way place that once was the Aurora Bistro now sits The Wallflower, owned by couple Matt and Lisa Hewitt. It’s only been open since the first of the year, and, sadly, Lisa and Matt are “headless” in the chef department. Headless, but looking to be headed.

When I spoke with Lisa, she told me this was really a family affair, right down to her participation cooking on the line. She also told me that the menu, in fact, taps into her motherly wisdom. I have a mother and she fed me well, so, in my opinion, this is a good thing. As for selling this brave concept to the rest of the “trendy” Vancouverites, I fear this might be a bit of a battle. But I really believe that her biggest advantage is being somewhat “out of the way” of the firing line of those snootier than thou. That curse I wish on no one.

The first thing I noticed about The Wallflower upon visiting was the interior; nothing crazy or trendy, just a cozy little spot that’s both warm and inviting. The seating was comfortable, and the ambiance rather tolerable. Aside from the giant Plasma above the bar playing cartoons silently, at no time did I feel uncomfortable in any way. As a matter of fact, there are flowers on the wall; it’s not just a name! My wife and I were there to meet friends who know enough about restaurants to tell between good and bad, but not much more. They had ordered drinks by the time I arrived, so the “help” had been not much more than a casual nuisance at this point.

We ordered. My wife and I shared their rendition of the classic duck spring roll. The dish came promptly, and while warm and not too soggy, I noticed the blandness was a bit overpowering. It was simply there not hurting anyone, doing its job quieting hunger to a dull roar, but nothing really beyond that. The sauce had a bit of zip to it, but all in all not much more. I felt that it may have been pre-made or some sort of dressed-up Sysco creation, which I might add isn’t a bad thing. Most good barbecue sauces have some sort of store bought goodness to help them become a much finer creation, but I would say in this case the bottled sauce was the creation. And by that I mean nothing struck me out the ordinary, keeping in mind it’s just a sauce.

My main course was fish and chips. Yes, the classic British delicacy and, once again, not bad. They offered one and two piece selections of their finest halibut dipped in a rather bland beer batter served with fries and tartar. I found the batter a fairy typical mix of beer, flour, S&P, and the fries possibly store-bought; again nothing to rant and rave about. All in all, I found no error in the method of culinary expertise as far as proper temperatures and preparation etc. In fact, the dish was quite tasty, and I rather enjoyed in as a whole. It showed general care and effort in its creation.

The rest of the table’s food was much the same. My wife had some sort of wrap, what kind escapes me. I do remember that when I asked about her food she merely shrugged and turned to the large flat-screen T.V. to avoid any more harassment on the subject. I’m assuming it was fairly typical blandness fused with nothing of any consequence to the art of culinary expression; just generally good food. And that’s it.

As for the service, I could tell that we were experiencing an unqualified and unprofessional anomaly of a server, who had managed to schmooze his way in to a position with this unsuspecting establishment. His banter was a mix of profanity and awkward silence reminiscent of an episode of the Office. He may have single-handedly ruined the whole dining experience had the food not been ok….at best. I have to admit I do not plan to make this review a bad egg to spoil the bunch. And in light of the fact that Lisa and Matt have worked hard to see this venture succeed (that much is very clear just on sight), I will not discredit their establishment over one hired help’s arrogantly condescending nature. All this aside, it was my first impression. Unfortunately, it was not a great one. I’ll leave it at that.

A member of our party had a hankering for desert and ordered off an ever changing desert menu that would be difficult to put on paper because of its frequent alterations. Outside of the wait and the collection of profanity and tasteless banter that accompanied the item in question, I think that may have been the best part of the whole meal. I love a dessert menu that is made entirely in-house and changes every day. That my friends, is the stuff that dreams are made of. And made with great care, at that. When I tried a little taste, my response was an orgasmic roll of the eyes. 5 stars for my piece of apple pie goodness.

It’s obvious to me that after talking to Lisa, the server isn’t a reflection of their overall service. And Murphy’s Law was in full effect on this one. Let me say that it isn’t a bad restaurant. They showed me a lot in the learning curve department, but an almost equilibrium of potential in the success department. I mean that sincerely. The food, though somewhat lacking in taste and creativity, was prepared and presented well, and the price was right. I believe with a few tweaks here and there (and a better server) that success is right around the corner. That said, for a Tuesday night with a wallet on the light side and a stomach following suit, this is a solid place to get some “comfort” food. Hey, it could have been uncomfortable, after all…

The Wallflower Modern Diner

2420 Main St. (north of Broadway}

604-633-9588