29 August 2007

No food today.

I am alive. The kitchen renovation (and work!) has taken over my entire life. The house is a mess, I can't find Lady Victoria (my Mac) half the time, my camera is hiding away somewhere, and I can't even find my desk. In fact, I am typing right now, on the covers on the couch, waiting for more take-out, I've uncovered the television in order to watch a little Food Network.

But the good news is...the bulk of the reno is going to be finished on Friday, so we will be reassembling our kitchen and COOKING this weekend and food pics and updates will follow!!!

Hope all is well with everyone, and looking forward to coming back...

19 August 2007

Kitchen reno's, eating on the fly and dust.

It's been a crazy week. Our kitchen renovations have started. Currently, we have no kitchen. Just a concrete floored room where the kitchen used to be.

So this was the first day devastation. We have terrible lighting in our kitchen so I apologize for the krap-ness of these photos.

No kitchen means lots of eating out, which is fine, except it gets really tiring. REALLY tiring. We went for pizza at this place called Brass Taps, which is slightly sketchy seeming. But, we had a two-for-one coupon and a dream of something that we had not yet had. So off to Brass Taps it was.

And good thing.

It was fantastic. I had the pizza called Charlito's Way, which was pepperoni, bacon and mushrooms. OMG. It was absolutely perfect. The crust is thin and tasty, the pepperoni is spicy and not greasy, and perfectly cooked, and the cheese was the right amount. With a cold beer, it was a really nice, our house is a construction zone, meal.

It was even better than it looks.

G had the lasagna, which was on special for $10.99. (I think my pizza was$11.99.) The lasagna is not crazy cheesey (even though it seems it on the top) and the tomato sauce tastes very fresh and sweet.

It was really really nice. And for the price (especially since it was free with the two for one coupon!) it couldn't be beat. Truly some of the best pizza I have had in T.O so far. And really, it was nice because it was in our neighborhood, had some great '80's music in the background, and a good all over vibe.

The kitchen reno continues (though not today, because both the Lord and our contractor needs a day off).

Here's where the wall between the kitchen and the living room used to be.

The sink will go back there, but the counter will go straight into the living room, instead of going up to a bar sink pass-throughy thing like it was.

This is the same place, but from in the kitchen. Our washer and dryer used to open into the kitchen, but we've had that wall changed so that it now opens into the hallway, which will be much nicer.

The reno continues tomorrow. We are having our floors installed, with a quick dry solution so we can come into the house tomorrow evening. On Tuesday morning, our new kitchen cabinet and counter are being delivered. On Wednesday it will be installed. On Thursday and Friday, the kitchen will be gussied up and painted. And on Friday our new stove will be delivered! Our sink and faucet have already been delivered, and we're keeping the fridge and dishwasher as they are both new... Exciting times at Chez Us.

The cats have managed. Sasha hides and Bello just rolls with it. He has made do with his favourite chair being covered by sheets...

12 August 2007

Better than what they served next door!

I am not sure where to start this post.

First, I want to say that one of the things that I have most enjoyed about the last few years of my life is the ability to do things I once dreamed about. Travelling, going to *nice* restaurants, buying food magazines with only a marginal glance at the cost... it's been quite excellent. With this, there have been some disappointments. Going to the Tate Modern in London and expecting to be blown away, but being a bit disappointed by the lack of shiny movie like quality. And some unexpected surprises. Looking out at Paris from the Eiffel Tower.

Food has hit me with that elation and disappointment, as well. As I have said many times over, Fifteen in London was a high point. Susur in Toronto was a disappointment. So it was with some trepidation that we embarked on dinner last night at chef Susur Lee's more casual and tapas style restaurant, Lee, right next door (and next to Thuet, which is a culinary adventure for another time, I hope!).

I was immediately taken by the excellent decor that was welcoming and warm. Our waiter, who looked like a younger better toothed Ethan Hawke was very sweet. And the food all sounded interesting.

Young Ethan approached our table after bringing us drinks by suggesting that we allow the restaurant to pick our dishes, as we were a large-ish party of 7, and it made deciding not an issue. Our only concern was that one of our dining companions is an absolute no on fish due to a very serious allergy (which I was secretly pleased because I really dislike fish)... Young Ethan said he would talk to the chef and get back to us.

Drinks were served, and much chatting ensued, as we celebrated a birthday (my friend D) and caught up with friends. When YE announced that the chef would replace the cod we would have gotten with the duck confit dish, we all applauded M's allergy, and let the chef have his way.

It was amazing. The first dish was Tomato Beet Salad (described as blue cheese, horseradish dressing, brown sugar cane, basil). There were red and golden beets and beautiful yellow tomatoes... the result was heavenly.

This photo is funny, because it looks like a giant mess, but it was really quite delicious, and something I never would have ordered due to my general dislike of all things beet related.

Following this came the Singaporean style slaw, which had no description, but then, it sort of defied description with its deliciousness. (And kudos to YE for his indulgence in letting me take very dark photos of this beautiful food.)

The salad was then mixed into perfection. There were cukes, flowers, carrots, cabbage, and deliciousness all throughout this salad. It was really light and refreshing.

Our next dish was a Chickpea Sweet Onion Fritter (with ginger mango, minted yoghurt). Yum. Like a cross between pakora and an Outback Bloomin' Onion (would Susur groan to hear me say that?!).

Yes my son. Delish.

Next came the biggest surprise. Spicy crisp tofu (wildflower honey and chili soy glaze, mushroom and pepper compote). OH MY G-D. Can I hear an amen!

The tofu was gorgeously crisp and fluffy on the outside with a meltingly tender inside that was almost like a fresh ricotta cheese... the sauce was spicy and sweet with just an amazing amount going on... It was truly unbelievably good. I am starting to like tofu... I am going to have to figure out how to make it.

Then came the absolute most crazily wonderful ahhhh inducing plate of them all. Duck Confit Roll (with spiced nuts, oven dried pineapple, goat cheese).

This picture fails to capture it. But it was truly unbelievable. A tour de force. The confit was shredded inside, and in my gluttony and greed, I failed to snap a shot of it. But it was rich and delicious, brave as my beloved Jamie Oliver would say. Really heart stopping. If I were going to order another round of any of the things we had and keep it all to myself, it would be this one.

Then the final course. Slow Braised Beef (sour cream, potato leek puree, crispy shallots).

This was the least gasp inducing dish, and being that it was also unbelievably delicious, you get an idea of what we were dealing with at this dinner. It was spoon tender, and honestly, tasted like something your grandma (and I do mean yours, my grandma made nothing like this, at least that I remember) made slowly all day just in time for dinner after church. It was crazily good.

We all had dessert, and the clear winner at our table was the Molten Chocolate Cake.

Pictures were taken of the other desserts, but they were by far worse than this one, so this is it for dessert. Really good, but it pushed me over the edge into way too full for words.

So all in all, Lee is a great choice. It wasn't too expensive (each of the dishes above cost CDN $11, $16, $12, $11, $17, and $17, respectively) and for a nice night out with a group of groovy people, it was well worth it. With the chef making the decisions, sometimes YE would bring two or three orders of each thing, and we'd share them on our little long plates. The quality of the food was amazing, and while it felt rushed with plates arriving ever so often, our full dinner still took just over two hours, so it wasn't as if it sped by. Just really amazing food.

08 August 2007

G's Brilliance and My Takeaway.

Last night, G decided to use up some of our veg from a week or so ago, and went to work to concoct a beautiful stuffed veg dinner. She stuffed the bell zukes, the large yellow squash, a tomato and a red pepper. The stuffing was made from ground meat and rice, and it was excellent. G always makes something fancy. Here it is...

So tonight was my go. Work wore me down today, lots to do and the day felt long and way too short all at the same time, so I couldn't think of a single thing...

So I ordered Chinese takeaway, as I have been craving Chinese food, and it was easy. We ordered from a new place, and it was pretty darn good. Here's the buffet...

Fried meat dumplings... not fried enough and not worth it.

From there... we can look at the lovely Tingly Szechuan Beef in Black Bean Sauce. Oh yeah, it was really nice.

I don't know what it is about chinese beef that it is always so soft... but this was really tasty, and the veg were cooked nicely! We also ordered a Shanghai Soft Noodle (I think), which we ordered vegetarian. It was big fat noodles in a really light sauce... delish!

Oh it didn't end there. Then there was Fried Chili Chicken and this ROCKED the clock.

And we also got a free order of Cantonese Chow Mein.

There's some noodles under there, really!

Anyway, all in all, we ordered way too much, and I enjoyed it way too much. So my dinner, while not made from my own hand, was ordered on the phone by me, and I opened the door and took the food, and.... okay. No comparison. But still, I enjoyed it all the same...


It's been a looooong time....

Good evening! Well, camping was a success. At least, we all lived through it. I didn't get to take many pictures, helping to prepare meals for about 14 adults and 10 small children didn't leave a lot of time to take pics! It was crazy! But we did have the usual camp fare, hamburgers and hot dogs, salads, sandwiches, and spaghetti and meatballs! That's right, this group of people were organized enough to make spag and balls for dinner on Sunday night, WITH garlic bread AND this beautiful tomato and pearl bocaccini salad...

All good.

But I can't complain. We had gorgeous weather up by beautiful Georgian Bay, the water was warmish, everyone swam and lounged on the beach. I read several food mags and started pouring through Nigel Slater's 'The Kitchen Diaries" which I was entirely chuffed to buy recently at my beloved the Cookbook Store, AND, I even began reading this old Kim Stanley Robinson book called 'The Memory of Whiteness" that I recently purchased. It can't be beat, no way.

I also brought along some lovely Ontario Pinot Grigio that was tetra packed. It was good, and gave the adults a nice drink to sip while waiting for the water to boil.

Also... on our way to go camping, the traffic was quite awful, so we decided to stop at McDonald's for breakfast. Now I used to loooooove McD's but have given it up this year in my challenge to stop eating so much fast food. And now I find, after only having four or so times in the past 8 months, I am not crazy about it. But I digress.

I love the food pornographer's blog, and she has written on many occasions about her love for the McD's Big Breakfast, which has apparently met it's demise down under. So when I saw it on the menu, I had to order it! Here it is...

It was excellent.

More to come.

03 August 2007

South St. Burger's and Home Depot.

G and I are remodeling our dinky little kitchen, and we have decided to splash out on a proper 30" stove. Oh yeah. Getting rid of the dinky apartment model feels so grown up! So last night, we went to Home Depot to look at the stove we both like (a nice GE model) that we can't find anywhere else. More on the stove once we actually have it in the kitchen...

But yesterday was one of those "bird glued to your head days" (I love the movie "Forget Paris"!) and I was in a bit of a foul mood. So imagine my surprise to see that a South St. Burger (owned by NY Fries) had opened up in the same suburban squalor shopping plaza as the Home Depot! We picked out the stove and went in for a look!

Looked pretty good! And while it doesn't seem like it from this photo, the place was hopping!

The menu is basic. There are four things on the main menu. Hamburger. Chicken. Veggie Burger. Kiddie Burger. Then there are the options of bacon and/or cheese. Then fries or onion rings (which were dear in price, but delicious), poutine or just gravy, and drinks. They take your order (Hamburger. Cheese. Bacon. Fries. Gravy. Sprite.) Then down the little row it goes for someone to build your hamburger from the patty up!

The bun is grilled (score!) and the toppings are generous! Avocado, four different types of cheese, sauces, jalapenos, bbq sauce, mango chutney and so on. I had a lot of toppings because I kept discovering more as I waited for my hamburger to finish cooking!!!

The food comes in this cute little metal tray.


And it was good in that Canadian homeburger/hamburger way. I loved it and will definitely go back, though next time, no bacon or gravy. It was a first time only sort of thing. But the number of toppings and sauces I had made it a little difficult to eat!

The price was alright, for dinner out. I think it came to around $12. Oh, and G had the rings...


So if you find yourself in Leaside... give her a whirl.

We are off in the morning for a long weekend of camping with G's fam. We are stocked up on granola bars, gatorade, and rice krispie treats. There will be some nice dinners, so I will try to take pics of the action and post them when I return. Until then, I bid you PEACE!

Shawarma me baby!!!

I may have discussed this before, but I really love shwarma. It's not something that we had in good ol' OK, USA, at least not something I was aware of. So it is has been with great pleasure that I have embraced the world of the shwarma!

And yes, I do have a favorite shwarma place in Toronto. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't mean that there aren't a million other good places. A particular fave is the Armenian Kitchen. But my very fave... well...

Doner Kebab House on Yonge and Gerrard.

And the red stuff is hot sauce. Lots of hot sauce. But it's unlike any hot sauce I know. It's hot, but not killer, only the slightest bit of sweet, but BURSTING with flavour. It is a triumph. Honestly.

And what does this triumph cost? Well, for the plate you see here, under the hot sauce there is meat shawarma, rice (which is beyond delish), potato, and a side salad is $6.99. Oh yeah. There's no stopping the love.

Doner Kebab.

02 August 2007

Salad to Die For.

One night, while browsing through blogs, I came across a beautiful Salad of the Gods recipe on Making Food. Eating Food. I knew I would make it someday. And someday was Tuesday.

I bought lots of great fresh veg at the farmer's market, so there were fresh potatoes, fresh steamed green beans, fresh Ontario field tomato, and some lovely market olives and free range hard-boiled eggs. The result was splendid, and the dressing, well, Making Food Eating Food has it all figured out. I don't want to repost her recipe, so go check it out. It was definitely a hit and one we will make again!


Cooking at home had gone horribly wrong. We had to go back to the basics.

Cook with Jamie -- Disaster Number 2.

Why does Jamie Oliver hate me?!

I have made many many Jamie recipes over the years and they are almost always good. But recently, the ones we've made have just not been tasty.

I decided to try the gnocchi recipe last Sunday for my "I am in a good mood let me make some good food" mood. Well, the good mood lasted through the two hours of making the gnocchi and ended with the pot of mashed potato that greeted me upon it's disastrous cooking.

Gnocchi, for those of you who don't know, is a potato dumpling that is used as pasta. I love gnocchi, and Jamie's recipe (which he claims is the one from Fifteen) made excellent gnocchi when we were there. So trying the recipe seemed like a no brainer.

I tried to me smart and organize myself in the wee kitchen.

I baked the potatoes, I gathered my ingredients, I took my time. I did a little research online that suggested using as little flour as you possibly could in order to ensure that the gnocchi are light and tasty, but hold together. So I did.

I riced the potatoes, I put in the egg, I put in the flour, I dashed in the nutmeg, I stirred it all up, it held together. Hmmm. I rolled it out, I cut them up, I put them on the tray, and I let them sit for their twenty minutes.

Now, one suggestion that Jamie had that I should have followed was to boil off one of the gnocchi's right away to make sure it holds together. I didn't. I should have. So while I am mad at Jamie, I am also mad at myself.

So I made the sauce.

I put the water on to boil.

I put in the gnocchi. I took them out.

They fell apart.

I collapsed in a heap of disappointment and couldn't photograph the devastation.

Another one bites the potato.

So we ordered Chinese food. Full stop.

Monkfish...ummm....no thanks.

Cook with Jamie is such a beautiful cookbook with some great ideas.

So, when G saw a recipe for monkfish with mash, she thought, Fish from Jamie, it'll be great!!!

And it did look nice...

The fish had an olive-y tapenade thing on it, and G cooked up some of our fresh zukes.

The mash was good.

The zuke was good.

The monkfish... well... it wasn't so good. It may be our inexperience with cooking fish, but it was really rubbery, with a texture almost like lobster. Which would be fine if you liked lobster. But I hate lobster BECAUSE of its texture, so the monkfish was really just not working for me.

I ate about half of the fish, all the mash (I had seconds) and the squash.

Thanks Jamie but no thanks.


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