Archive for December, 2008

A Little Wisdom And Grace

Admittedly it’s long overdue, considering that I visited this particular restaurant about 5 weeks ago, but as I’ve mentioned several times before, I’ve been super busy lately.

It was probably about 6 months ago I noticed that Grace restaurant had opened down the street from our house.  I was intrigued to go for a visit when I read about it on Sweetspot, but the Everyman wasn’t too keen at the time because their menu seemed devoid of things he would enjoy.  So, as I often do, I bided my time and waited for the menu to change enough to something he would fancy.

Flash forward 6 months later, and this is where he decided to take me for my “congratulations on the first week of your new job” dinner.  Grace is a beautiful, warm, homey space, covered with pictures of the owner’s grandmother (who it happens to be named after).  It was also quite a popular place on a Friday night, with quick and friendly service.  Based on the ambiance of the room alone I would be likely to return.  It gave off an overwhelming feeling of comfort.  If I’d been any more comfortable, I’d have to be wearing bunny slippers and my bathrobe I think.

But, on to the reason we’re all here; the food. First off, even though the menu offerings are outstanding, I have to knock the actual menu.  It has no discernible order, and actually makes trying to order a meal quite difficult.  I mean, if the waitress actually has to explain to you where certain items are meant as appetizers and others as mains, then your menu is obviously not well laid out.  Seriously.  It shouldn’t take 5 minutes to explain the mechanics of a menu (especially when none of that time is being used to discuss the actual food).  Anyhow, I’ll stop ranting now.  The menu design is bad.  Enough said.

The food more than makes up for it though.  I chose to order the pork charcuterie of the day, which turned out to be a porcini dusted pork belly on a parsnip puree.  It was absolutely outstanding.  I wished at the time that I knew more about cooking pork belly so that I could replicate that kind of texture and unctuousness at home.  The Everyman had ordered a French onion soup with Gruyere crostini, but being that he doesn’t eat a great deal of French onion soup (or seem to be much of a fan of it) he was a bit flummoxed by the overly hard crostini floating on his soup.  The flavors were definitely there, but -10 points for ease of use.

For mains the Everyman had a striploin with mushrooms, sunchoke and celeriac gratin, and some sauteed greens.  The Everyman was happy; if red meat or bacon are involved, he’s pretty easy to please.  I particularly enjoyed the bite of sunchoke and celeriac gratin that I stole off his plate while he wasn’t looking.  It reminded me of something similar we’d had at Eigensinn over the winter.  My main was a roasted pheasant with a chestnut and parsnip tart and some roasted brussels sprouts.  I’ll start out by saying that I’m not a fan of the parsnip at all, and yet, that night I enjoyed two dishes with parsnips components in them.  The tart was by far my favorite part of the plate, although the brussel sprouts were a close second.  As I’ve gotten older I find that I enjoy brussels sprouts more and more.  I even invented an amazing roasted brussels sprout and squash soup recently which I’ll post a recipe for at the end.  The pheasant was quite nice too, but there were sections of it that I wouldn’t eat because they were much too rare for my taste and frankly tasted weird.  But overall, the meal was entirely pleasant.


Favorite New Foods Of 2008

Since I think it’s about to get nutty around here, what with the holidays and all, I thought I’d pre-preemptively post a year end wrap up before I go away to the cold, cold world that is Winnipeg.

So, without further adieu, let’s jump right into my favorite new foods of the year;

1- Beef Shortribs – As the Everyman succinctly reminded me the other day, until I tried them at Cowbell I never did much like the shortrib.  It’s true, but what a convert I am.  Now I must have them at least every 2 to 3 weeks or else I feel like I’ll go batty.  I even convinced the Everyman to prepare his version of something I saw on Brad Long’s Veritas menu; a grilled cheese and shortrib sandwich.  Heaven is a shortrib bounty.  It tastes almost exactly not like a hamburger, in grilled form.  Delicious.

2- Carpaccio – I always have loved raw fish, but this year was really when I finally turned on to raw meat.  I still can’t stomach tartare; it must be the egg that’s the problem.  And again, this transformation is primarily due to Cowbell and Brad Lamb.  I first had an amazing beef carpaccio at The PT Club which started my intrigue with the dish, and then fell completely in love once I tried a few variations at Cowbell over the summer.  I think we can safely say that my mantra for 2008 has become Eat. More. Meat.

3- Pork Belly – I’ll be honest.  I used to hate pork belly.  Really, really strongly hate it.  Then one night I had it at Globe Bistro with a couple of sea scallops and thought, hmmm, this is pretty darn good!  Then there was a low period where I hated it again after I had it at Treadwell (which I’d like to reiterate from my post on it is completely overrated).  But I persevered, and now I actually like it.  It’s rich for sure, but in small doses you just can’t beat it.  I even had some fun this year cooking with it at home; though I will say if you’re inclined to try that, good luck, it’s really hard to find in Toronto even at high quality butcher shops.

4- The Hamburger – OK, before anyone gets bent out of shape, let me clarify this.  I know hamburgers are not new and I have always enjoyed a good one (or cheeseburger for that matter).  What I am trying to say is this is the year that I became fully obsessed with all things relating to them.  I believe this can mostly be attributed to a little website I’ve mentioned before called A Hamburger Today.  My discovery of this internet treasure is directly proportional to how frequently I now consume and dream about the humble hamburger.  Mmmm, I could sure go for one of those right now.