31 August 2009

CSA and the G/J Household.

As I have previously mentioned, G and I have signed up for a summer meat and veg allotment. The meat for the most part has been fantastic, which is a great treat. The veg is also great, though we get so much of it that sometimes it feels like a total waste. We've been freezing strawberries left and right just to make sure that we squeeze as much from our box as possible!

It's given us some good locavore dinners!


Sausages from Cumbraes with peas, sauteed zukes, and mashed potato. All veg from our box!

Roast chicken with potatoes, corn on the cob, roasted carrots, and green beans. The veg in this box, while all starchy, was DELICIOUS! Every bite of this veg was amazing. When G served the carrots, our friend Pat thought we were being very British and serving sausages!

You may notice a theme. We eat this veg all pretty simply cooked. It's so delicious on it's own that we've done very little to it and just enjoyed all the natural flavours. G did make a green bean stew in the pressure cooker, though...

...that totally kicked it. The green beans in this were so soft, they honestly reminded me of the green beans my grandpa used to make when I was a kid. My grandfather died right before I entered high school, and I remember so vividly the holiday dinner when we finished the last of grandpa's canned green beans. It was like really letting him go, losing this center of the family that held us all together. There were lots of tears (and a few right now just thinking about it) because it was like losing someone all over again. It's amazing how this memory has lasted with me, and how fast life can change.

My mom and I have tried quite a few times to recreate the flavour of grandpa's green beans, looking for that delicious taste and that tie back to a person we loved so much. It hasn't happened, but this was pretty close. Next time Mom visits, it's on the menu!

29 August 2009

Not Such a Good Experience.

My friend J and I met up for dinner a couple of weeks back. She suggested a Mexican restaurant that she had wanted to try, and who am I to say no to Mexican food?

We met at Chimichanga at Yonge and Eglinton one evening after work. I had poured through the menu on-line to make certain that I had an idea of what to eat, and was excited to be giving it a try. I was excited by the sound of the food, lots of tacos and enchiladas, fresh sounding ingredients and a menu of diverse but different things. My interest was peaked!

We started with the "table made" guacamole. This was not really table made. It was made behind our table, about three tables away, for a whole bunch of tables throughout the restaurant. It was actually kind of disturbing, but it tasted nice...

It seemed okay so far. We just chatted away and waited for our pork enchilada's to come tableside. We were having a great chat, catching up on work, wedding plans (hers!), and plans for the future. Then the food arrived...

Beans, rice, and corn enchiladas with pork innards and salsa and sour cream on top. It was okay, really greasy and somewhat off tasting. But of course, I persevered and ate my dinner.

Big mistake.

By the time we left, J looked not well. I thought she just might be really tired, so I didn't say much about it. My stomach was crazily rumbling so I decided to head home via a bit of a walk. That didn't last long as my stomach kept gurgling.

I came home, went to bed, and just completely collapsed. I went to sleep completely out of sorts with myself. Then I woke up at around 2pm and vomited for quite some time. It was brutal. The next morning, I wrote to J and she said that she had been sick as well, different stomach upset but stomach upset all the same. I can't say I will ever go back there, though the wait staff was completely awesome and very nice to us. And I know the reviews are mixed, but I just can't get behind a place that made me so crazily sick. Who knows.

Chimichanga on Urbanspoon

Another French Resto Experience -- M'eh.

I don't get it.

French food is delicious. Simple. Tasty. Or at least it's supposed to be. Somehow in Toronto, it isn't working. (Or if you know some place where it is working, sign me up and email or comment.) Either way, we haven't had a lot of success.

We went to a restaurant down near the St. Lawrence Market, Le Papillon, after seeing the Toronto FC/Real Madrid game. I really wanted steak, and I had had a really nice steak there in the past, so it seemed like a good bet.

We started with one of their specials, a poached egg salad with lardon and potato.

G and I split this between us, and let me tell you, it is difficult to split a perfectly poached egg! But we managed. The salad was under-dressed, but the lardon and tomatoes were a delicious treat since this is something we don't tend to make at home. I wouldn't order it again, but it was a nice starter.

Then came the steak frites.

It was a really really skinny steak that had an odd, somewhat off-putting flavour. I am very sensitive to smell and taste, so I wasn't sure what was going on with this steak. I asked G to try it, which she gamely did, and agreed that while the steak had an odd flavour, it didn't seem off necessarily, so I ate a bit more of it. The frites were perfect, but then, they should be! I have to say I didn't enjoy this steak so much that I am unlikely to ever go back there. The only thing that could lure me back on my own accord would be the lovely space. It's where Izakaya used to be, and it's such a beautiful big open restaurant. I absolutely love being in that space. But honestly, it's not worth the questioning meat.

Le Papillon on Front on Urbanspoon

28 August 2009

Local Food Tastes Good!

We've been subscribing to a meat and veg CSA box this summer and it has been a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it's given us some amazing meat and vegetables to eat, and a curse because there seems to be this ABUNDANCE of meat and veg to eat staring at us all the time!

If you aren't involved in a CSA program, I highly recommend it, though. Ours is through Cooper's Farm and Maze, and the quality of ingredients we have been getting has been amazing! Our biggest down-side for this farm (and a large part of why we may find something different next year) is that it's quite far away from us so it's a bit of a mission to get there every week.

Nevertheless, we've had lots of nice things to eat, peas, carrots, zukes, eggplant, tomatillos, lettuce, chard, and lots of lovely meat! The chickens have been amazing and the beef is very flavorful and fresh tasting, even when frozed! This meal was a very "local" meal for us, in that just about everything on the plate came from the farm!

The yellow is a sauteed zuke that was nicely cooked, but had a very bitter after-taste. Maybe it's the skin? The white to the side of that is a scalloped potato I made from a recipe in America's Test Kitchen Cooking for Two magazine (which I HIGHLY recommend if you are a bit like me and have a hard time cutting down recipes to feed only two of you!) and a lovely steak of some sort pan grilled with sauteed red onion and mushrooms. Pretty much all local and all made at home.

Cooking at home is also a blessing and a curse. You may not think so, but with cooking and eating there is always clean up of dishes to do that, when you get home late to begin with, means the "dinner time" activities can often take up a couple of hours of the very short evening. I am trying to get past that, and I have realized that doing the dishes takes less time than complaining about doing the dishes, so it's been productive in that sense. It's really important to us though to start eating more at home. Long talks with my cardiologist (nothing major wrong, no need for concern, but I do now officially have a cardiologist) suggest that eating at home more and cutting down the portions (my biggest issue) would improve the issues I am having significantly because I would then have control over what's going into my food. Add to that the cost of eating at home being substantially cheaper than eating out, it's a win-win right now.

Plus, and I don't know if this is just us or what, but we are so tired of everything that there is to eat here. We still go to Rashnaa, and I love it to bits, but there is little else that is reasonably priced and inspiring to eat these days. Very little holds any interest, and I don't know if that's just dining out fatigue or what, but it's very much there. So eating at home more (even when that dinner is simple scrambled eggs and toast) has jumped in to save the day. Fortunately, the kitchen at Chez Hunger Over Thirst generally serves up tasty treats!

26 August 2009

Wedding Feast.

I've not been to many weddings. I find them so interesting, I don't know how the bride and groom and their family's don't cry through the whole thing.

Well, I was very excited to be invited to my friend's J's wedding. J is one of the people I have met since moving to Toronto and I truly value her friendship. As often happens, I don't see her as much as I would like, but we always seem to meet over a great meal and have great conversation. As her and her now husband (also J) are both very into food, I knew the wedding menu was going to be amazing! So what better way to celebrate a couple's true love then in a beautiful Canadian art gallery with good food, a lovely set of family's, and great friends.

But wait, let's talk about the food....that's what this blogs all about....

First up was the beautiful ceremony. Fighting off the oncoming storm, we sat a top a little hill and watched J and J exchange vows. It was absolutely beautiful, and it started sprinkling right when the ceremony ended...excellent timing!

We went to the gallery and had an assortment of starters along with champagne and wine. The starters were wonderful, but no photos because it was too complicated...but let me give you a description of them...

There was an amazing crostini topped with an eggplant pate, feta cheese and very small slivers of strawberry. Delish!!! Then there was a lovely fried shrimp with a pineapple/mango (I think) sauce. It was a bit thick and wouldn't really go on the shrimp so I didn't get to taste it! Tere was a fried shredded sweet potato pancake that had a cinnamony flavour and was topped with creme fraiche and a candied pecan. Grilled lamb chops came by with their own G-d given handles which made for easy nibbling (it's too bad the bones aren't edible, because you end up standing around with bones like an idiot...). Then we move into my top two aps... oh yeah... the mini sliders with carmelized onions. They tasted like pork, had a very coarse consistency and were on the absolute lightest egg buns ever. Truly amazing. Then the piece de resistance... Tortilla spoons (baked not fried) with a dollop of mac n cheese on the end of each spoon!!!!!!!!!!!!!! There truly aren't enough exclamation points to mark how fantastic that one was!!!!!!

Yeah, so I probably ate a few too many of them. I don't drink alot so no one ever gets their money worth out of me at an open bar, but I can put some major damage to appetizers.

We then sat down and listened to wonderful speeches and stories, had wonderful conversation with our tablemates, and just really enjoyed the moment.

But then our main courses came. And my job dropped.

I couldn't remember what I had ordered, only that it was beef. And oh yeah, beef was what was for dinner!

Mash, asparagus, sauce, lovely. I ate very bite including all of the jus. It was superb.

There was also a fish served.

The woman sitting next to G had the fish (I believe it was sea bass) and said it was lovely. But honestly, I could not get get over how amazing the beef was. And from the looks of all the empty plates being sent back to the kitchen, I believe I wasn't the only one who felt that way!

After a few more speeches, and a few tears, the aiter staff brought out a little dessert tray.

This held white and milk chocolate truffles, and skewered berries drizzled with chocolate sauce.

But that wasn't the end of it, oh no. There was an entire dessert buffet filled with fruit, cakes, and pastries. I had one chocolate cake on a stick and could have eaten every one of them had I not been so crazily full that there was no where for that cake to go!

Phew! What an amazing evening! The bride was BEAUTIFUL, the groom was elated, the family's were bursting with pride because both bride and groom were amazingly beautiful and so in love with one another. The food was certainly not the most important thing in that room that night, love and life was. I was so glad to share it with my friends.

24 August 2009

Tati -- Dining Out French Style in Good Ol' Toronto.

We had friends visiting from Ottawa, and it happened to be one of their birthday's. P and M were in town for a family wedding, and came over Saturday afternoon to spend the evening with us. It was wonderful!

When they arrived on Saturday, G and I had already been busy bees visiting McEwan and buying a few goodies for their visit. We knew there would likely be a few hours before dinner (P had booked us in for dinner at a restaurant called Tati on Harbord Street), so we bought a few odds and ends...

P and M had brought some bubbly. We bought a few cheeses, had some chili biltong and french sausages, along with olive ciabatta, blueberries, and balsamic drizzled sliced tomatoes. Lovely! I had also bought some McEwan's pickled chili beans...

We chatted and ate our way through the spread and had a lovely time (if I do say so myself).

From there, we changed clothes and ventured out into the crazily hot Toronto evening to have dinner at Tati. I was excited about going, they had cassoulet on the menu online and I had read a few reviews that said it was amazing. Despite the hot night, I knew I would order it.

When we got there, we were seated on their upstairs patio. It's an absolutely lovely patio with a tree in the middle and we had a nice seat. I was a little on squirrel guard (long story but I hate squirrels), but I relaxed into it as it seemed that bees were the only really pest moving about.

The menu was interesting. A macaroni gratin of course caught my eye. Even though I knew with the cassoulet that it would be far too much food, I had to order it. The waitress suggested having it as a starter with a green salad. Which I did...

It was good, but (and I hear your collective groans) my macaroni gratin (or macaroni cheese as we say in good ol' Canada) was/is better. But it was good, and enough that both P and G had a good few spoonfuls!

Then came the cassoulet...

Meh. No bread crumbs, which was okay, but the broth was incredibly thin, the beans were not nearly cooked enough, and both the duck and ham were lacking in flavour. Granted, it was way too hot to eat this sort of food, and I was sweating like mad. I ate it a solid bit of it, it wasn't terrible, but it was no where near the cassoulet I had in Chinon, France, and (groans again) it wasn't as good as the "Gourmet" version that I made myself.

All in all, Tati was okay. I would definitely try something different the next time, and certainly try and eat a bit more weather appropriate...but in the end, the conversation was good, the wine was nice, and the meal certainly didn't suck. Happy Birthday to M! He's a good friend and amazing guy and we were very happy to spend the day with him and P.

Tati Bistro on Urbanspoon

23 August 2009

You Sweet Talker, Betty Crocker.

There it is, y'all. My first cookbook. Well, it's not the actual one, that one's still at my Mother's house in Oklahoma. But this cookbook used to fill me with hours of wonder, flipping through the pages, trying my hand at making my first white cake and chocolate chip cookies. I loved this cookbook so much, that when I saw a copy available on ebay, I had to snatch it up straight-away.

Coookbooks are a funny thing. When I was a kid this was the only cookbook I remember having. I remember watching food shows on tv, Julia Child, the Galloping Gourmet and the Frugal Gourmet tempered with a little Justin Wilson, the cajun cooking G-d. But I don't remember ever reading any other cookbooks. This was it to me. Food was made like the food in this cookbook, and Julia and everyone else just made variations on the Betty Crocker theme.

I suppose in a sense that's accurate. But now, it made me laugh when I put my Betty Crocker classic on my (bulging) cookbook shelf. There's Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Ricardo, the Alinea cookbook, Vij's, the Splendid Table, Julia Child, Moro, Gluten-Free books, the beautiful book 'A Mediterranean Feast', and countless others. There are books by scholars and bloggers, British food writers and critics (yeah Jay Rayner), and then countless countless food magazines all clamoring for my attention.

And I love them all. I recently had a book purge (I buy books like some people buy drinks in a bar. It's a sickness, truly). I had to clear out some room on my bookshelves, and there were a few who had no business hanging around anymore. They were cookbooks that I never related to or enjoyed looking at, or made a single recipe from, and really, what's the point of that? But it all goes back to this Betty Crocker cookbook.

I don't know how I didn't end up with a career in food. But thank goodness for being able to blog about food, to share what I like and don't like, to talk to others about what makes them happy and how and why food is so often tied up in that. I don't want to go all new age-y about it all, but having this Betty Crocker cookbook in my house finally makes it feel like my home. It was the piece that was missing, and I didn't even know it was lost.

Grilled Cheese, if you please.

I absolutely love Grilled Cheese sandwiches. LOVE THEM. As a child, college student, and now adult, I could eat grilled cheese sandwiches at least once a week and not be sad at all.

Feeling a need to use up some of the leftovers in our fridge, I decided to engage my inner Top Chef cook and make a duo of grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner.

Ahhhhh.... gooey cheddar cheese and fillings....

The bottom one is cheese, mayo, salt and pepper and left over roast chicken. The one on top is cheddar cheese and prosciutto. It never occurred to me that people would make grilled cheese in different ways. G makes hers in the oven, two open pieces of bread, no butter, heating into toast, then she smooshes them together to make a sandwich.

Me? I am a bit old school when it comes to grilled cheese. Buttered bread, sandwiching the toppings, put in a hot skillet and fried while constantly smooshing the thing down to get it thinish. I don't know why I have always smooshed it down. As a kid, I was told that I was ruining it and making it horrible. Now with the country's great love of panini's, I just feel like I was a bit of an innovator even in elementary school with my "pressed" sandwiches. (tee hee)

Fast Dinner.

I don't know about you, but when life gets hectic and the summer air gets hot and I get home late and tired, it's not all about fancy food. Heck, it's not even about going out to eat anymore because that just means more time away from home! It's really just about getting some type of not horrid food on the plate that will make me full and happy. I mean, yeah, it still has to taste good, but I am not feeling overly creative.

This dinner arose from that. It's based on a recipe I saw on tv years and years ago and modified to suit my tastes. (I was going to say "palette" but that seems a bit over the top for a girl like me!)

Pasta with Fresh Sauce and Chicken! It's super fast and super easy, I am sure you have a version of it in your own repertoire. Here's how I did it...

Boil pasta until it's to your liking. (I used Tinkyada penne in this one.)
While it's cooking (or when it's done if you want to use the same pan, just let it drain on the side), pour a splash of olive oil in the pan, when slightly heated, toss in diced fresh tomato, red pepper flakes, grated garlic, salt and pepper. Heat through. Add some diced cooked chicken (we had aleftover roast chicken to use up) and then stir in the pasta. Once heated, grate on a ton of fresh parmesan cheese (or use the green shaker can, who am I to judge?). Pour into a bowl and dig in!

22 August 2009

Mister Bello Likes the Table

We can't keep this cat off of our dining room table. It's his favorite resting spot! I'm sure stopping to take the picture instead of shooing him away doesn't help all that much in the strict discipline department, but he's such a good boy otherwise...

15 August 2009

Korean Food is Good.

I have fallen in love with a Korean staple dish, bibimbap.

It's everything you could want in a hot stone bowl... rice, meat, veggies, sauce, and a fried egg. Bring it!

I've had it a couple of times now, though this one from a Korean restaurant up the street came to the table with the egg on top and then the waiter stirred and stirred the whole thing together, mixing the egg with the rice and veg. Then he also used this amazing sauce that was spicy and hot but not uncomfortably so...

This blogger, Maangi, tells you how to make it (with a video to boot!). I just might give it a try.

14 August 2009


In the bottom of NBC Studios (next to the entrance to the NBC Store) there's a little chocolate shop. We stopped in because they had my favorite sweet in all the world... macaroons. Not the nasty coconut abominations, but the real French macaroon deal.

Not cheap, oh no, and they were really only okay, not jaw-droppingly-stop-in-the-street-with-tears-in-your-eyes-because-you-only-want-to-eat-this-one-thing-for-the-rest-of-what-you-thought-would-be-miserable-but-now-is-exquisite-life good. No not at all. The winner of that title is Laduree in France.

But this was okay...

Chocolate innards? No thanks. Too much. I want vanilla. Pure delicious vanilla. Mucking it all up with chocolate is so American. (tee hee, I can say that being American, you see...)

Anyway, you'd think I'd have taken some notes while in NY so these entries would be more than 'there's this place over there with some food" but hey, you can't teach this old dog new tricks.

Pasta Perfection.

While in NYC for G's birthday, we went to see "Waiting for Godot" at the Studio 54 theater. It was fantastic! Nathan Lane, John Goodman, and Bill Irwin (and some other guy who's name I can't remember!), all giving it their best for an amazing performance. I really enjoyed it. We had found a website where you order directly from the theater but enter a code and you get 50% off the ticket price, so the price was right on the money and our seats were spectacular. I had never seen "Waiting for Godot" live and really enjoyed how engaging the show was.

One of the usher's recommended an Italian restaurant around the corner from the theater. I totally can't remember the name, but it's been there for sometime and I doubt it will be there much longer. It was totally old school. Old Italian men in white shirt and ties as the server, lots of options, fresh pasta and a totally old NY vibe. And it was pretty empty save for the table in the corner with some college kid who had apparently gone all Republican in college much to the dismay of his not-Republican parent.

But the food was really interesting. I started with a polenta with sauteed mushrooms...

The mushrooms were in this amazing sauce from being lightly cooked with large pieces of grilled off polenta. Really phenomenal.

G had a carpaccio starter, but the photo didn't happen. She said it was good.

For her main, G had ravioli...

...which you probably can't see under all that CHEESE! It was homemade and very simple and traditional and 100% delicious. It was such a basic cheese ravioli but so superbly made, I wished I had ordered the same thing!

I ordered one of the specials, lasagna.

Not what I expected. The sauce on the outside was like a rose sauce, which was lovely. I suspect that the meat inside was veal, and it has an almost boiled like consistency which while not unpleasant, didn't really rock my world either. The pasta tasted handmade and was really perfect, the cheese was gooey and oozey, just like it should be, but the meat really kept if from being a total winner for me.

The waiter was not overly friendly, but my glass of house chianti made up for it. Big and bold, it really hit the spot on a rainy post-surreal theater night.

I wish I could send you there for dinner. Go to Studio 54, if you have your back to the theater, go to the right. Go down the street, cross at the light, and it's right there... until it's not.


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