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So we’ve been away and busy. That’s life. We’re back now and I’ve got a few things up my sleeve for upcoming posts (#1– we made mustard! It was great and easy!), so please forgive us the absence. Just because we’ve been gone doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing at all, though. I’ve managed to eke out my monthly booze columns for Vue Weekly. You can check out my not-always-expert examination of and cocktail recipes for Fernet Branca (yum!), Pisco, Goldschlager (yuck), shochu (love it), grappa (firewater, but tasty) and Poire William(delicious, delicious pear) over at the Vue site. I also did a feature for the Hot Summer Guide where I got some local bartenders’ input on summer drinks. You can check it out here. Unfortunately, I took pictures of all the drinks and the one they featured on the site looks pretty but tastes… well, just don’t make that recipe. Try any of the others; they’re all great, but “The Bender” is, um… not.

Also, we went to a great meetup yesterday with some other Edmonton bloggers and cooks. It was fun, though very cold. Carlo pointed out that it’s pretty sad when you’re discussing wind chill at the end of June. Such is life. Also, we didn’t bring our camera (delinquent bloggers that we are), so we have no evidence of the event to show. We had a great time talking with Court and Brooke, Sharon, Mack, Chris, Kevin, Maki, Grace, and Béné and Christian (who don’t have a blog yet but absolutely should. Can’t wait to see that!). If you’d like to get a better rundown, check out Sharon or Chris’s blogs. We’re lucky to be in contact with such a great group of people! I can’t wait until meetup #3. If you’re Edmontonian and would like to come to the next one, keep an eye on the wiki.

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I think I’ve made this clear before, and any of you who know me in the real world are well-aware, but in case you didn’t know, when it comes to food, I’m novelty-seeking to a fault. If there’s something I’ve never heard of on the menu, that’s what I’m going to try. I have a hard time going back to recipes. And if I find out about an ingredient I’ve never used before, I have to try it, preferably as soon as possible. Also, if you can make ice cream with it, I will probably neglect all other life responsibilities in order to own it. Immediately.

Hence the three newest additions to my pantry– masticha (paste), sahlab, and mountain tea.

The sahlab (or salep) I bought is in drink mix form, and the instructions say to mix it with milk, bring it to a boil, then and rose or orange blossom water before “decorating” it with cinnamon and nuts for serving. I think I might make ice cream with it. Surprise.

I bought the mountain tea– which came dried but still green in a cello bag–because I read that it’s Greek grandma’s answer to every ailment, and I thought I’d test it out on my mild cold. That, and I’ve never tried it before.

The lady at the cash register didn’t blink at the sahlab (or salep) and mountain tea, but she did hesitate at the masticha. It is a glass jar with a thick white paste inside it. On the front is a picture of a glass full of water that has a spoon full of white goo resting in it.

The cashier looked up at me and asked “have you every tried this before?” I said no. She said “in Greece, they put a spoonful of it into water.” I said I would try that, and then added that I thought I might try to make ice cream with it. I am obviously obsessed with ice cream. She nodded politely, then told me “It’s a bit… um… goopy.” She’s right, it is… it’s really thick and sticky, almost chewy (which makes sense, as mastic  was actually probably the world’s first chewing gum). Anyway, now I have this jar of… goop. And it tastes pretty good, very much like a plant, with a bit of a pinesol flavour (in a good way). We’ll see what’s going to happen with it.

Have you ever heard of mastic or salep, or mountain tea? Have you got any uses for them?

p.s. If you’re in Edmonton, you should check out Hellas Foods on 109 Ave, just off 124 St. They’ve got some great stuff!

I’m seeing a bump in stats and a lot more hits than usual on our “About” page, so I’m guessing that people are coming in from our mention in the Journal today. We’re new/returning to the food scene here in Edmonton, as we’ve recently moved back home from a four-year stint in Montreal, where we had great food experiences and learned a lot about cooking. It was that experience that inspired us to start blogging.

We’re pleased to be recognized here in Edmonton and hope that you’ll stick around and join in. We’d love to be in touch with more Edmonton food lovers. We focus on recipes, our cooking experiences and food discoveries, so while much of our information isn’t local-specific, we can promise you recipes with ingredients that are available in our area (or I’ll let you know where I found the stuff online).

This month we’re participating in NaBloPoMo, so you’re guaranteed something new every day this month. And if, for some reason, our daily ramblings aren’t enough for you, you can read about my explorations of obscure liquors, booze in general, and the Edmonton food scene in Vue Weekly.

Welcome, and bon appetit!