Archive for May, 2008

It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood…

We had some beautiful weather in Toronto this weekend.  Lots and lots of sun for my plants to soak up and turn into food (hopefully).  I spent several hours on the roof-garden charting exposure and (not gonna lie) tanning in the hammock.  I think I’ve finally optimized the planter groupings in order to obtain maximum sun-hours.

I decided that I needed to pretty it up a little too, and bought a few flats of ornamental flowers and grasses to plant out, because veggie plants may be delicious, but they aren’t very colorful.  But, because I have a plant-buying disease, I also couldn’t help myself from buying 4 more strawberry plants.  I usually won’t buy edible plants or seeds unless they’re organic, and not GM’d, but my two strawberry plants were looking a little lonely, so now they have 4 Everbearing friends.

I also took some time to pot up my sugarbaby watermelon seedlings that had been chilling out in the grow flat on my dining table.  The only thing left in there now are my dozen corn seedlings that may or may not go into my community garden plot, depending on the rules.  I’m fairly certain that if I can’t grow them in the plot, they won’t be going on the deck, because as the Everyman says, it’s an awful lot of work for something that’s only going to produce 2 cobs each. He has a point, but I still think it’d be neat to grow corn.  But truthfully, the roof is not big enough, and I imagine it would just end up shading all the other plants from the sun.

After all the gardening was over, we decided to pop over to a little cafe down the street called The Palmerston for lunch.  Except it wasn’t.  We went in, asked for the menu, got intrigued enough to sit down, and managed to pick out our orders, and then when the waiter came over to take our order, were told that the lunch menu is not available until after 3pm, we could only order from the brunch menu.  It was around 1:30-2ish, and neither of us was in the mood for brunch; since I’d been gardening all morning I wanted more substantial fare.  So, rather than accommodating us, they said we could come back after 3pm if we wanted real food.  So we left and went elsewhere.  Duff’s actually.  They make the best wings in town, and incidentally, a pretty mean grilled cheese.  Sorry Palmerston, but until further notice, you’re cut!  The Everyman’s really looking forward to a place that’s in the process of opening up in our area called The Cornerstone.  It looks like just your standard pub to me, but he’s all over it.  I guess time will tell…

So, here’s an update on the growth going on on my roof.  Take a peek, won’tcha?

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I Got A Fever, And The Only Cure Is More Cowbell…

I do so love Christopher Walken :)

The Everyman and I decided to kick off our long weekend with a much anticipated (and long overdue) trip to Cowbell for dinner on Friday.  And I will definitely say, they did not disappoint.  Some people like to paint Chef Cutrara as a rebel, but I just think he’s producing really honest, delicious, playful food.  If only there were more people like him on the foodscene, the world (and our stomachs) would be a better place.

We started our culinary adventure with a shared appetizer course.  We ordered the Cowbell antipasto platter, and a duck salad, because when I see duck on the menu, I just can’t resist.

The antipasto platter was a generous sized portion of the chef’s housemade charcuterie (I love that word!) and pickled vegetables.  There was a deliciously salty elk salami, pancetta, a sausage round, a mortadella with pistachios, a chevre truffle rolled in pecans, a slow cooked egg, and pickled beets, carrots, brussels sprouts and red pepper.  I could’ve been completely satisfied just eating a larger portion of this for dinner.  And I’m not one for mortadella, but I cleaned my plate to the last crumb.  Unfortunately for the Everyman, several of the items I found tastiest he couldn’t even try (because of his nut allergy) but I let him have extra meat to compensate.

The duck salad was delicious too, composed of arugula, cranberry beans, berkshire pork belly and a Niagara vinegar, as well as the aforementioned duck.  I didn’t love this as much as the antipasto, but that is only because I loved the antipasto SO MUCH.

For our mains, I ordered the beef tortelli with 3 cuts of red angus, and the Everyman ordered the Cowbell burger with 2 year old aged cheddar, berkshire belly, and frites.

When the plates were put in front of us, I knew we were in trouble.  The smells were so intoxicating as to induce drooling.  I honestly was expecting that my 3 cuts would be marginally good, but Sweet Georgia Brown, I would come back just for those items.  Three decent sized tortelli were placed in the center of the plate, sauceless.  Biting into them released a salty and flavorful pocket of meaty beef goodness.  To the left of those was two perfectly grilled strips of rare steak – my favorite kind.  Next came a cigar-shaped pulled beef croquette, which was both crunchy and yielding at the same time.  And lastly, my favorite item of the plate, a hunk of beef shortrib, unctuous with fat.  Putting a piece of this in my mouth was like eating heaven.  The flavor and depth of this small square of meat will be with me for a very long time I’m sure.  The Everyman’s verdict on my platter was; I knew I should’ve ordered what you’re having. Luckily for him, I am constantly compelled to order dessert wherever we go, and therefore usually don’t finish my whole meal.  He feasted well off the steak and croquette that I left behind in anticipation of the sweeter things.

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The Foodie Garden

Before the Everyman and I got our house, we lived in a high-rise apartment with a balcony, and I tried growing things on it.  That didn’t work.  According to the Everyman, we were on the wrong side of the building for the sun.

So for Christmas a few years ago, the Everyman got me an indoor grow rig, with all the shelves and lights and the whole she-bang.  So I tried to grow some tomatoes and strawberries and stuff indoors.  Well, I didn’t factor in the effect of my cats, curious little buggers that they are.  What they didn’t chew on, they stepped on and killed.

I thought I’d be doomed to a life without growing things, but then we got our house.  It has this amazing wraparound rooftop patio setup, and since we moved in last winter I’ve been itching to get at it.  Probably about 6 weeks ago now I ordered a truckload of dirt and bought myself the entire section of giant sized planters from Canadian Tire.  I went and planted anything and everything I could get my hands on, and was ready for absolute success…

Well, it didn’t turn out exactly like that.  Along the way I’ve had some nocturnal pest digging up my melon and spinach seeds, I accidentally left a mini greenhouse on the fencing and it got blown off in a rainstorm and I’ve killed several things.

Buuuuuuuuuut, overall, it’s going really well.  Why don’t you take a look for yourself?

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I’ve Been Absent Lately…

I know it’s been awhile since I posted anything.  But I’ve been busy with my latest obsession, so I hope you’ll forgive me.

The Everyman and I moved from a crappy little apartment to a fantastic multi-level condo in November last year.  One of the biggest draws about the new place for me was the rooftop patio it had.  I’ve been impatiently pining all winter, day-dreaming about all the gardening I could do with that space.

So for the last month or so, most of my spare time has been devoted to my garden project.  I’ve been acquiring heirloom seeds for all the different plants I want to try.  We’ve got mini melons, tiny carrots, sweet peppers and peas, beans, beets, strawberry spinach, three different kinds of tomatoes, mixed herbs and lettuces and a blueberry bush.  I’ve been starting them all indoors with one of those heated propagator kits, and I’ve learned a whole bunch in the process.  Like how you don’t want to leave carrot seeds too long, or else they get “leggy” (who knew?) and then they can’t support themselves because the stem is too tall and thin.

And I’ll be honest.  I’m not a green thumb, but I am persistent.  I had a raccoon (or some other pest) dig up the majority of the seedlings I planted in April, but no matter!  I planted seeds directly into the pots and tried again.  And the funny thing is, the ones that I didn’t start inside seem to be much hardier and stronger than the pellet-grown ones.

Right now I’m  dreaming about being able to go up to my roof and pick a warm tomato for Caprese salad, or fresh peas to eat right from the pod.  I haven’t directly killed anything myself yet, so I’ve got my fingers crossed that something good will come of this.  I think it’s a really good thing for people to get closer to their food chain, and I hope that more people will get inspired to take on this challenge.

The Everyman just told me that the next restaurant we’ll review will be Cowbell, so I’ll let you know what comes of that when the time comes.

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Craft Burger

A few months ago my place of business moved into a larger office space.  And one of the first things I noticed was a little spot in the area called Craft Burger.  I hounded the Everyman to go there for what seems like forever.  Well, now that it’s finally springtime in Toronto, he decided to listen to me.

Craft Burger is exactly that; a perfectly crafted burger.  On my first visit I had what they call a Craft Spicy, which is a delicious, not overcooked patty on a sesame bun with spicy chipotle aioli and carmelized onions.  Delish!  I washed that down with a chocolate milkshake, and I must say, (aside from the Everyman’s homemade milkshakes) I have never tasted anything better.  The Everyman had an organic burger (courtesy of The Healthy Butcher on Queen West) and an order of fries.  His verdict: who doesn’t like burgers?  Now when are we coming back here?

About a week later we went back again, and this time I had the signature Craft Burger.  This is another perfectly grilled patty, topped with lettuce, tomato, fried mushrooms and roasted garlic mayo.  I had to take it to go, because I had a busy day at the office, but let me tell you, friends, that burger was so good that I licked the paper that it was wrapped in clean.  All sense of civility and decorum went right out the window when I mowed down on that thing.  It was primal.

Craft Burger has now been added to the office lunchtime rotation.  I used to despair the loss of all my favorite lunch spots when we moved (previously my office was across the street from the St Lawrence market) but now, I guess it’s not so bad.

Until next time…