February 12, 2010

Celebrating the Vancouver 2010 Olympics with a British Columbia dinner

We love watching the Olympics, especially the opening ceremonies.  So to celebrate tonight's pageantry, we decided to make ourselves a Vancouver-inspired dinner with products from British Columbia.

I remember traveling to Vancouver a few years ago.  The mountains could be seen from downtown and the air was fresh and crisp.  Everyone was active as nearby Stanley Park provided a year-round get-away from urban life.  But the most memorable part of the trip was, of course, the food!

Vancouver, being so close to the Pacific ocean, serves some of the freshest seafood (I'm still thinking about a sky-high seafood tower I shared with a friend).  Nearby Okanagan Valley houses many wineries, most notable being Mission Hill Family Estate.  And Nanaimo bars, a local dessert named after the city of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, are a delectable sweet treat.
For our Vancouver 2010 meal, I knew I had to have seafood.  I trekked out to our favorite NYC fish shop, The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market, for inspiration.  There were some great-looking fresh B.C. oysters, but thought carrying a platter of them on the subway would not be a good idea.

Looking around, I opted for the bright orange Atlantic Salmon fillets from British Columbia.
How I was going to prepare the salmon was easy - we love slow-poaching salmon in the oven.

All I needed to do was place the fish on a oven-safe serving dish (that was drizzled with olive oil), season the fish with salt, pepper, dill, and fresh scallions, and place it in the oven at 200F for about 45 minutes.

My husband scoured NYC for British Columbia wines. They're really good wines but due to small production, are often hard to find outside the province - let alone NYC.  He succeeded at Astor Wines and Spirits in the East Village.  He found a red wine from B.C. - the 2004 Mission Hill S.L.C. Syrah.

The wine was perfect for our meal.  At $30, it’s not an everyday wine, but it is certainly food friendly. The syrah has more of the Northern Rhone style iodine and licorice overtones with fleshy tannins (it does have some age on it now), pepper and plum notes. It’s definitely a smooth, cool climate syrah, more Old World than New, but is coming to the end of its drinking window.
Nanaimo Bars are a tri-layer no-bake dessert.  Nanaimo Bars were created by a housewife who entered a contest with these creations and named it after her hometown.  Now these desserts, often viewed as Canada's favorite dessert, can be found everywhere in Vancouver (and many places beyond).
Because the dessert needs to chill and set, I made these bars last night.  There are many recipes for these sweet treats, so I used this one from Go Nanaimo.

Nanaimo Bars (makes 40 bars)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
5 Tbsp cocoa
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup chopped almonds (walnuts would also work)
1 cup shredded coconut
2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 Tbsp vanilla custard powder (I found this ingredient at Kalustyan's in NYC.  If you cannot find it, instant vanilla custard powder will work)
3 Tbsp cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups icing sugar

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for 100 grams of chocolate)

The Base
1. Melt the unsalted butter or margarine, sugar, and cocoa powder in a double boiler over the heat (I put a glass mixing bowl fitted over a pot of boiling water).
2. Add a beaten egg and mix well until it thickens.
3. Remove mixture from the heat
4. Stir in the almonds or walnuts, grated coconut, and graham wafer crumbs.
5. Press the soft mixture firmly into an ungreased eight-inch square pan.
6. Put the pan in the refrigerator to chill. 
The Custard Middle
7. Combine the vanilla custard powder, cream, softened unsalted butter (the softer the butter, the easier the mixing!), and icing sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth. 
8. Spread this mixture evenly over the base layer.
9. Place the pan back into the fridge to stand for 30 minutes.
 The Chocolate Topping
10. Melt the unsalted butter or margarine and semi-sweet chocolate over low heat and stir until smooth.
11. Allow the liquid to cool slightly and pour over the filling.
12. Place the pan back in the fridge to chill. 
13. Using a hot knife (have a large cup of hot, boiling water nearby to heat up the knife), cut into 40 bars and serve.  To store, keep the bars refrigerated and you're all ready for a Vancouver 2010 Olympic viewing party!


  1. The Nanaimo bars look incredible! What a great celebration!

  2. Great timely post... Now where can I get a pair of those gloves???

  3. @ A Year on the Grill - The gloves are from The Bay (a Canadian dept store) and are available online as well:


    They're a hot item (called Torchbearer mittens as everyone who carried the torch across Canada wore them) - and all proceeds go towards the athletes.

  4. @FLB - Thanks! I made a whole batch, so if you're around this long weekend/early next week, I can bring you a couple of bars!

  5. Fun idea! Wish I'd thought of it! I love the Olympics too, esp skating.

  6. Of course Nanaimo Bars-gosh I forgot about those-are you from TO-I am from Ottawa originally-your photo is better than mine-I need to do a better photo but I wanted to get the post up. If you do not mind-I am going to link readers to your post. You did this well-thank you for stopping by.

  7. Go Canada! I love the opening ceremonies too! We had a dinner party but was Italian themed - in keeping with Neil's cooking classes this term. Yours looked like so much fun!


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