I am one of the luckiest foodie writers ever; almost all my articles revolve around celebrations, big and small. From celebrating the arrival of spring and bbq season, to the transition of winter-warming soul food, and of course, everything in between here and Christmas!!
Naturally, this week is no different; but I will say that this celebration is a touch more personal. Without giving up too many incriminating details; I will share that I have enjoyed one-third-ish of my life and to celebrate the day properly, I intend on heading into the bush where my love of all things food flourishes.
As an early gift from my parents, I received a foodie adventure to Horfrost. This prairie gem of a restaurant has been beckoning me for a couple years now; so when the opportunity arose to take a foodie family trip, I jumped at the chance. Portage La Prairie, an unlikely foodie destination, with its city by-pass conveniently ensuring you merely pass by on every journey to and from Winnipeg. It is the perfect place to make a pit stop for lunch, snack, or supper.
With its quaint, yet highly-accessible location, Manitoba-focused menu, and passionate staff, we sat down into one of the most satisfying four-hour feasts I have enjoyed to date. Comfortable and honest, the décor was grounded with wood tables creating an atmosphere of authenticity. Reading the cardstock menu made me flitter with anticipation; I spent 10 minutes just deciding which cocktail to start my evening celebration with.
I chose an acai-infused vodka cocktail that was garnished with Saskatoon sorbet; it was as beautiful as it was refreshing. The difficult choices didn’t end with the cocktail menu; we decided to order an appetizer each to best travel the menu and discover all the flavours that were on offer. As we passed our dishes around the table, we voted the bison-mango spring rolls and the Saratoga-style chips with garlic dip as our favourite. My love affair with the chef laid not in the spring rolls and chips but rather in his liberal use of garlic. The roasted garlic and chili dip that came with the chips melted my heart. We each got a different entrée and shared them around the table as well, enjoying each unique flavour and texture. And like any good marathoner, we didn’t quit before the end, and really, no one quits when there is home-made ice cream…
We enjoyed a round of desserts that was highlighted by the trio of ice cream and a fudgy lava cake. The chef was appreciative of our dedicated food passions. He hand-delivered a complimentary cheese plate and as he spoke of the aged goat cheese that had the creaminess of a hard cheddar but finished on your palate with tangy acidity, I swooned with delight. It was food porn, and I love food porn.
Our experience overwhelmed me with a true feeling of satiety. I often write of soul food; tasting the passion of the cook within the dish. It happens quite easily in a home kitchen; but it is much harder to find in a commercial setting. I couldn’t help but feel lucky to know that Chef Jeff was still in love with food, and not because he told me, but because I tasted it. He graciously signed the Horfrost t-shirt I bought to commemorate my family foodie birthday present and because every good road trip needs a T-shirt.
Typically, I only have two major requests for my birthday: fishing and fudge pudding. Now, I’m not talking about a package of three-minute wonder pudding, I’m talking about a soulful chocolate dessert that is a more home-style rustic version of lava cake. While the Horfrost lava cake was almost as good as the fudge pudding I have come to know and love as my birthday dessert, I still prefer this heirloom recipe. A one-dish wonder with intense cocoa flavour, it is the cake and chocolate sauce in one. Genius! It’s not cloyingly sweet, as a lot of desserts tend to be, and it is served warm, to ensure maximum gooey-ness. Topped with vanilla ice cream, the contrast in temperature and rich chocolatey goodness are the perfect end to any meal or celebration; birthday or otherwise.
Birthday Fudge Pudding
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 cup granulated white sugar,
- 1/2 cup brown sugar or raw sugar
- 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, optional
- 3 Tbsp. plus 1/3 cup cocoa, divided and sifted.
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 T. butter, melted
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1-2/3 cups hot water
Pre heat oven to 350 F.
Butter a deep-dish 8x8 casserole. Double recipe for a 9x3 casserole
Boil water, set aside.
Mix flour, white sugar, 3 Tbsp cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a bowl, add nuts (optional) and stir to incorporate. Set aside. Mix milk, butter, and vanilla in another bowl, add to dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Place it into the greased casserole and sprinkle with remaining cocoa and sugar. Pour hot water into the casserole and place it in the oven immediately. Bake for 40 minutes.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 12, 2012