Colour Me Happy

Some of my favourite memories of grilling for my friends has been on the road. As a teenager at camp, sneaking into the woods to bbq in the middle of the night over an open fire. Grilling on camping trips with a portable grill in northern Ontario. And by far my favourite – grilling for the guys on the various sports trips I’ve taken to baseball and football stadiums across North America. Popping up a portable grill in a parking lot, cracking open a beer and throwing around a football at ten in the morning may not seem like your idea of nirvana from the outset. But throw in 50,000 hard core sports fans, a handful of your good friends and it really is one of the greatest experiences there is.

I remember one time in Buffalo it started raining so hard that we decided to grill in the trunk of my friend’s mom’s station wagon. A great solution at the time… but his mom’s car smelled of smoke for the next three years…

Or the time it was so freezing at an NFL game and my friend Daniel decided to warm his gloves on my grill. This normally would have been fine, except I was just in the process of burning off the build up on the grill over high heat and his gloves melted. I still have his handprints on the outside of my grill!

Or the time we popped up shop at an NFL game and decided to grill every single meat we could find at the butcher’s that day. We could barely roll ourselves to the game following the dozen or so courses of grilled delectables.

By far my favourite event every year has become the annual Detroit Lions Thanksgiving game. The weather is always spotty, the football is somewhat entertaining, but the parking lot tailgate celebrations are bar none! The fans dress in team gear from head to toe and the parking lot is a sea of blue, silver and black.

Fortunately Weber has now come out with a line of portable grills in an array of colours that allow me to join the crowd and show my support with my grill colour. The Weber Q 1200 grill comes in numerous colours and provides 189″ of grill space. More than enough to fill space to grill up a feast for a hungry pack of travelling tailgaters. So this year that grill with the melted gloves on it can find its way to the back of the garage. I can’t wait to show off my blue and black portable Weber and make some new grilling memories!


KettlePizza: Increasing Facebook friend counts since 2010

PicMonkey Collage2

Every winter I wait patiently for summer to arrive. Not because I won’t grill through the winter – I’m happy to light up the barbie as much in the cold as I am during the summer months. Sure, it takes a little more bundling up and my wife is forever yelling at me for leaving my snowy boots on a small towel in the corner of our kitchen by the back door… but all-the-same I’m out there rain or shine, sleet or snow. Happily, stubbornly grilling my way through whatever mother nature can throw my way. However, there is no substitution for the glorious days of summer when the sun is high in the sky, the kids are playing in the backyard, the bbq is fired up, and we get to hang out with friends enjoying some good food.

This year in particular summer could not come quick enough. Back in December I bought myself a KettlePizza kit – an adapter to a standard Weber kettle grill that turns it into a backyard pizza oven. I’ve done pizza on the grill many, many times but am often faced with the challenge of keeping the heat in. A challenge as I constantly need to lift the lid to check on the pizzas and move them in and out of the bbq. Inevitably I end up with pizzas that are cooked on the bottom, but not quite done on top. The KettlePizza kit resolves this problem by adding a middle band to the kettle grill that acts as a pizza oven door and enables the heat to stay where you want it. There is no longer a need to lift the lid off the top. Brilliant. Beautiful wood-fire charred pizza beckoned… I just needed the snow to thaw.

This past Sunday I finally put the call out on Facebook. What better way to inaugurate my new pizza oven then an open invite to all of my friends to come by and sample my wares! I spent the better part of the day fine-tuning my pizza-making techniques. The KettlePizza was sublime in its simplicity and success was not difficult to achieve as soon as the grill was fired up. The steps were as easy as:

1) assemble the KettlePizza kit

2) light the charcoal and hard wood

3) wait for grill to reach “pizza” cooking temperature (approx 700 degrees)

4) Get grilling!

PicMonkey Collage

The KettlePizza paddle and pizza stone made feeding the pizzas in and out a breeze, and otherwise it was really just a matter of occasionally feeding the flames with some additional hardwood to keep the temperature at a high enough level. Charcoal alone can get the grill hot, but it’s the hardwood that pushes it up into the “pizza hot” stratosphere.

Over the course of the day I had a lot of people stop by and help, and even more people stop by and eat! We cranked out about 20 pizzas over the course of 3 hours and made some solid Grade-A wood-fired pizzas. Brushing garlic-butter and sprinkling Parmesan on the crust really helped propel my backyard pizzas to ridiculous levels. There’s nothing better than spending the afternoon hanging out with friends and sharing some good food. The KettlePizza removed all of the obstacles to making great pizza on a traditional grill and had very little fuss or muss to worry about so I could focus less on minding the grill and more on hanging out and enjoying some great food! I’ll definitely be putting out the “pizza signal” on Facebook again the next sunny Sunday I get.


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Homemade pasta

pasta bowl

Yes – I made that bucatini pasta from scratch!

Recently I went on a culinary trip to Italy. I knew before I stepped foot on the plane that the food there would be amazing, and it was. What I wasn’t prepared for was the beauty in the sheer simplicity of Italian eating. Dishes focused on great ingredients that are not complicated by additions to the plate. Fresh, seasonal produce that speaks for itself in flavour and freshness. It really reminded me a lot of why it is that I’m on this food journey to begin with.

Sure I love making and eating delicious food. But it’s about so much more than that. It’s learning about where our food comes from and what food I put in front of my family. It’s about food that doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. It’s about knowing how to pronounce everything we eat, knowing what season our food is available locally, and understanding the relationship we as Canadians have with this bountiful country of ours. It’s about sharing that knowledge with my readers.

It’s why I threw my kids in a car a few years ago and made off for the east coast for a month. Stopping at farms, fields, fromageries and fisheries along the way.

In Italy I had the opportunity to stop at an organic wheat mill and meet a family who proudly continues their family tradition in Val d’Orcia, Tuscany. The pride the family members all had in the products really struck home with me (not to mention the overflowing bowls of pasta they kept putting in front of us.) Passion & simple ingredients. Flour, eggs and water. No magic. I knew that one of my gifts for my kids from Italy would have to be some ’00’ flour to make them some fresh pasta at home.


I’ve never made pasta before so I turned to my friends at KitchenAid for some help with this. They sent me their Gourmet Pasta Press which took a lot of the pressure off. There was enough worry about making pasta for the first time for my three kids without having to be concerned about forming the pasta too! It just pops on the end of my stand mixer and forms the pasta dough into fun shapes.


Making pasta from scratch really isn’t that difficult, and if you’ve got a mixer to get the dough started then it’s strikingly simple. Easy. Simple. Delicious. Right up my alley. You don’t need a pasta press to form the pasta but it will make it incredibly easy to create complex shapes like bucatini or rigatoni that would be impossible with a simple pasta roller.

I decided to throw one of my favourite recipes for a ragu of shredded beef short ribs in the slow cooker that morning so that I could focus on just making the pasta for dinner. I got my kids involved helping me knead the dough and feed the pasta press. Everything turned out perfectly – I great homage to my visit to Italy and a great eye opener for my kids who just assumed pasta was born in plastic bags at the grocery store.

KitchenAid and I would love to give one of my Canadian readers a pasta press. A chance for you to give homemade pasta a try at home. Simply tweet out your family’s favourite shape of pasta and be sure to include @gavmartell and @kitchenaid_ca

Winner will be chosen by random number generator on March 20, 2015

Contest winner: Kat Inokai. Congrats!


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