Archive for 2009

Frigid Fare

Sabodet

Gratefully lucky to have the last week of the year off, I spent the morning running around town exchanging other peoples’ presents for them.

A gift for the Everyman was exchanged for several others in a more suitable size, while a duplicate Avedon book for his brother in-law was returned until something better arises.

After braving the calmer-than-expected Eaton Centre, I intended to head over to the AGO to wander around a few exhibits and then have lunch at Frank, but the blisteringly cold weather had other plans for me.  Losing the feeling in my fingertips, I opted to hop a streetcar and head to The Hoof Cafe for lunch instead.

Once I arrived, I noticed that one of Toronto’s favourite food writers (Corey Mintz) was having lunch in the window, and as much as I might’ve wanted to introduce myself, I’m no groupie, so I kept to myself and hunkered down at the bar.

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Christmas: In Cookies

As I get ready to go off into the great white yonder to spend Christmas at the Everyman’s family’s cottage, I’d like to leave everyone with my best wishes for a wonderful celebration, and some pictures of the holiday edibles that will be gracing our dessert table this year (courtesy of yours truly).

No matter what you may get up to tomorrow, I wish you all the best in doing it!

Dutch Apple Pie Bars

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Ho Ho Holidays

Well, festive readers of the internest…

It’s about that time of year when I seriously kick into high gear baking mode.

So, with that in mind, I’ll be signing off until the new year.

I wish you all a safe, silly and delicious holiday.

I’ll be seeing you on the other side.

Until next time…


That’s How I Roll

Limbless Cookies

Despite the fact that I may have a Santa hat that I typically wear every day once December 1st rolls around (for the past 7 years anyway, this year a coworker reminded me that I didn’t have my hat on until the 8th), I really fucking hate most things about Christmas.

Particularly, it’s all the commercialized crap that I don’t like so much, like the greeting card industry, the frenzy for the hot new toy, the people who make those ugly sweaters and the expectations behind what often feels like forced, uncomfortable revelry.  There are all sorts of parties that you’re obligated to attend that are full of food you don’t want to eat, and people you might not want to spend time with, but heaven forbid you appear unfriendly or unsociable by just saying no, so you go.  As if that wasn’t enough, people then start throwing around ridiculous sums of money in a holiday pissing contest to try and find each recipient the “perfect gift”.  As much as we all enjoy the surprise of unwrapping a good present, 99% of the time nobody has any idea what you like or what you want anyway, so money is essentially wasted.  And though it may be the thought that counts, sometimes you just can’t fathom what thought the other person was trying to have in the first place. As was drilled into us at that course I took last month, “people will tell you everything you need to know if you just think to listen” which is a smart mantra t0 keep in mind when hunting for a gift is required. If you still have no clue by the middle of December, perhaps you shouldn’t be buying that person a present at all because you either weren’t listening, or you don’t know them very well.  Personally, I think that no gifts are better than bad gifts because then the other person doesn’t have to put on the pretence of liking said gift, which is exhausting all on its own.  Ever gotten something you wanted to re-gift as soon as you opened it?  Then you probably understand exactly what I’m talking about.

Last night I got to thinking about how my own family hasn’t really had too many holiday traditions to make the whole rigmarole seem worthwhile.  As a young child of divorce, all holidays thereafter seemed disjointed and false without my family assembled in one room.  In fact, I can’t even remember any that we spent together before everything imploded either, being I was only 6 or 7 when that happened.

My few fond memories of Christmas include the time my stepfather bought my mom that hideous purple leather jacket (and our reaction to it), the annual quibble between my dad and I over the last slice of mincemeat pie, and the Perreault family gift exchange that often devolved into friendly fisticuffs from all of the plotting and stealing that ensued.  Beyond that, the separation of our family somewhat dampened celebrations (despite my older sister’s best efforts to keep them going), to the point that it just stopped being a big deal.  Spending the holidays with each of my parents became a dichotomous affair.  Dinners with mom were always perfect fetes complete with plum puddings, croquembouche-like towers of Godiva truffles and champagne, while those spent with my dad were restrained and quiet, usually consisting of nothing more than a roasted chicken or small honey ham and a box of Stovetop stuffing.  For the most part the two versions left me wanting to just pack up and forget the whole event altogether, so while I get that some people love the holidays, they just don’t resonate with me.

To be clear, I don’t hate the holidays; they just don’t mean much to me.  More than anything it’s just an excuse for me to find new and wonderful things to bake.

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Unintentional Blasphemy

Wee Loaves

A little over a week ago, Larbo over at This Little Piggy posted about his discovery of Fergus Henderson’s trotter gear (a gelatinous porky broth made with (what else?) braised trotters.

Until I read Larbo’s post, I’d never heard of this magical liquid before, but had often contemplated the versatility of a pork-based stock.

There are plenty of recipes out there for beef, chicken, veal and vegetable variations, so why not a similar frenzy for pork, I wondered.

After ruminating on Larbo’s post for a little bit, I started to consider the possible uses for trotter gear.

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Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3

The Leg On The Bar

The Everyman and I had this past Friday off, and we both kind of decided that there was nowhere we’d rather be on such a cold, blustery day than The Hoof Cafe.

In fact, we have this coming Friday off too, and after a visit to the AGO, that’s probably where we’ll end up again.  Lucky me, I have Fridays off until the end of the year, plus the last week of December off too (due to an abundance of leftover vacation days I had to use up).  I’m sure you can imagine what I’ll be doing for lunch on most of those days…

One week in, the staff is still wowing us.

Visiting on a Friday afternoon is a much different experience than visiting for brunch.  For one, it’s quieter, (which I like) and there’s more one on one interaction (which is entertaining because they have amazing floor staff).  When we arrived there was only one other pair eating, and by the time we left, there were an additional 2 tables chowing down.

Having been only 5 days prior, the menu had not had a chance to change yet, but we didn’t mind.  The chef was testing a few specials, so we opted to sample what he had to offer, in addition to the Everyman’s standard ploughman’s lunch.  A new addition since our last visit was the giant leg of ham screwed down to the bar, just waiting to be sliced.

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Overwhelmed At The Megamart

Pocky

I don’t venture out into the great big wide world full of corporate consumerism often.

And by that I mean I don’t spend an awful lot of time in shopping malls and grocery stores.

Although, suffice it to say that since moving my working life to the ‘burbs, I spend more time at the mall than I ever used to, if only to stave off the insanity and boredom that comes along with a lack of decent food.

Perhap my naiveté is showing, but I prefer the small scale operation; one where you can still get a sense of the human touch.  Because of that, we buy 95% of our food groceries from an organic delivery service called The Clean Food Connection, and whatever they don’t have I source from small local grocers (like Friendly Magnolia Fine Foods or Fiesta Farms) in my area.

So, it would be safe to say that I’m not really up to speed on current grocery store trends, which is partially why I was so gobsmacked by my visit last night.

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The Foodie 13 – All I Want For Christmas

Prezzie

Within the last week or so (or pretty much since US Thanksgiving rolled around) it seems that everyone and their dog has been compiling lists of gift ideas for the foodies in our lives.

But instead of telling you about great things to buy for everyone else, I thought I’d turn the idea on its head and do a round up of the various bits and bobs that I’m hoping to get this year.  You are welcome to provide your own gadget-y suggestions in the comments, of course.

However, before you start thinking that the publishing of this list is nothing more than a poorly veiled series of hints for the Everyman (or various other people in my life) I will assure you, it is not.  You see, I’ve made kitchen stuff off limits as a gifting inspiration for the Everyman.  A few years ago he bought me a gorgeous Peugeot red pepper mill as part of a Christmas gift (which I loved), but then for a birthday he bought me one of those ginormous chocolate fountains (which I was a little less stoked about).  To be fair, he had at one point heard me say that I wanted a chocolate fountain, but I’m very particular about the larger appliances that I allow into my kitchen, if for no other reason than the premium on our space.

Plus, to me a loved one should never give practical presents; that’s what my parents, friends and acquaintances are for.  Presents from loved ones should be frivolous extravagances that you are deserving of, but would probably never bother buying yourself, which in my case would be stuff like jewelry or spa days.  And there’s always that phantom ring that everyone’s been asking about and keeps hovering over our heads, because you know, shacking up is like so 2007… so put a ring on it already, right?

But no.

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Gloating About Our Bloating

Suckling Pig Benny

First off, a disclaimer of sorts.

This is not a review.  No, no, nothing of the sort.  As Sheryl pointed out to me long ago, I am much too familiar and vested in the goings’ on at The Black Hoof to be objective about anything they might be doing on any given day.

No, this is more like a retelling of what I had for brunch yesterday in a ‘na na na na na, look what I had that you didn’t‘ kind of way.

Obnoxious?  Perhaps.  But who would’ve thought that reverting to 5 year old-like boasting would be so wickedly delicious?

We entered the former Chelsea Room space shortly before noon on Sunday.  Tipped off to the opening by Corey Mintz’ Porkosity, after I mentioned it to the Everyman on Saturday night, he suggested that we visit immediately upon waking Sunday morning.

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Battle Of The Bird

As anyone who has read my Taste T.O. wing comparison would be able to gather, I have a bit of a soft spot for the venerable chicken wing.

The hiatus that I’ve taken from consuming them since I wrote that piece was abruptly brought to an end last week, after I pointed out one of the latest in the crop of wing joints to open in Toronto (The Wing Company) to the Everyman.  You see, the Everyman is also quite a fan of the chicken wing, and once he took a gander at the menu, his eyes glazed over with that barely concealed lust that he reserves for daydreaming about his junk food of choice.

Inevitably, it wasn’t long before he was trying to cajole me into ordering delivery, but as fate would have it, The Wing Company (thankfully) only delivers 3 days a week (Thursday through Saturday).  Which meant that he had to wait until Thursday to take them for a test drive, dovetailing nicely (for him) into our weekly “survive the Everyman’s cooking” night of the week, when he is supposed to provide (read: cook) our dinner.

Without having tried them, it seemed that the main appeal of a place like The Wing Company is the customization aspect.  Wings are their metier, thus their focus is on little other than the coatings of said wings and the sides that’ll go with them.  As of this writing, the count of sauces/coatings tops out at 40, which is impressive to say the least.  On the first occasion, I ordered the hot buffalo blue flavour, whilst the Everyman selected the smoked lime tequila sauce, with a side of poutine.  The buffalo blue was tangy and slurpable, but hardly what I would consider hot (probably for the best) and the Everyman’s smoked lime tequila had a well balanced spiciness, but gave off the faintest whiff of curry (another flavour option) leaving me to wonder whether the toss bowls were properly cleansed between uses.  Overall though, the wings themselves were crispy, fat and juicy, and not at all the disappointing nubbins that hardly have any meat to them at all.  The poutine was remarkable for something that arrived by delivery, and while the Everyman adored it, I found the gravy a touch too salty.

On Sunday afternoon, the Everyman had a hankering for poutine in the worst way and wanted to order from The Wing Company again, but a call placed to them shortly after opening confirmed that they do not deliver on Sundays.  Recalling that another wings-only company had opened in the area recently, I set about finding a menu for Wing Shop 366, which is available through Grub Canada.  They sported a remarkably similar concept t0 the one at The Wing Company, though they also dabble in burgers and salads, with a sauce/coating count sitting at a respectable 52 options.  Noting the numerous overlaps between the two, the Everyman was game and hoped for the best.  His wings of choice were a half pound of jalapeno pepper sauced with the balance of the pound done in traditional BBQ, while I opted for a half order of dry parmesan and a mini 2 ounce burger.  To be fair, the burger was well charred and probably would have been more palatable if I’d enjoyed it piping hot, but I found it reminiscent of the way McDonald’s used to taste when I was a wee foodie whose parents threw her 3rd, 4th and 5th birthdays in their party room (i.e. made of something resembling real food, but still mediocre).  The wings were exceptionally crispy but repellent, tasting only of the aged oily sludge they were probably fried in.  The parmesan tasted of funky sawdust that likely came from a green cardboard can, while both of the Everyman’s selections were so unappetizing that he didn’t finish either of them.  Their version of poutine was a soggy hodgepodge; the experience on a whole guaranteeing that we’d never order from them again.

As if those weren’t enough wings for one week, last night the Everyman and I ordered in from The Wing Company again, this time opting for traditional BBQ for him, BBQ blue for me, and a sampler of the dry salt and malt vinegar.  Both BBQ’s walked the fine line between sweet, savoury and heat, with the blue cheese adding the appropriate amount of zest, but the salt and malt vinegar stymied us both.  The salt flakes were visible, but no aroma or zing could be detected.  No matter.  After consuming that many wings in the past 7 days, it didn’t hurt either of us to stop well before finishing the combined 3 pound order.  The one curiosity I’ve noticed about The Wing Company is their propensity to send only celery sticks with their meals, which leads me to believe that they must not like carrots.  Not that the tiny bags of veg in any way balance out the excess that is a typical wing dinner, but it’s funny to wonder why, nonetheless.

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Comfort Food Times Two

Soup And A Bun

As I mentioned to DMSinTexas the other day, I spent the better part of an afternoon this weekend flipping through How To Cook Everything Vegetarian in an effort to get inspired.

After a bit of random perusal I gravitated towards the soup chapter, which coincidentally is one of my most favourite kinds of vegetarian meals. As much as I generally love poring over a good cookbook and becoming immersed in it, I’ve come to realize that the only time I cook from a recipe is when baking is involved, and even then I’ve taken to winging it more often than not. Of course, since I have such difficulty following a recipe, I didn’t make anything from the book that day, but it did set a few ideas whirring around my brain.

So, it should come as no surprise to my readers that the first recipe I did make was not technically a vegetarian recipe at all (if only because it contained no vegetables) but rather a bread recipe.  With the aid of a little advanced planning, I managed to turn out a fairly decent version of Bittman’s overnight French baguettes.

But, before any of you start getting indignant and accusing me of copping out and picking something that is only inherently vegetarian, allow me to explain;

I picked the baguettes because a) they’re a pretty decent litmus test for the general usability of a cookbook’s recipes and b) I needed something to mop up the vegetarian soup I decided to invent.

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Fashioning A Silk Purse From A Sow’s Ear

A Little Slice Of Heaven

There’s almost nothing I dislike more than waste.

Having a CSA share every summer means that I’ve learned to get pretty creative with its contents so that they don’t end up going into the trash.

But, now that summer has taken it’s final bow, we’ve gone back to receiving what our organic grocer Bob from Clean Food Connection calls a “vegpak” in every order, which basically amounts to a box full of fruits and veggies that his staff will pack up for me, based on my likes/dislikes/preferences.  So, while everything we receive is always something we’ll enjoy, sometimes it means we end up with produce that we weren’t necessarily expecting.

And sometimes that produce will sit around my kitchen almost until the brink of decay.  Which is exactly how I ended up having 6 overripe bosc pears sitting on my counter with no immediate plans for them yesterday.

At first glance, it seemed like an ideal opportunity to make a pear crisp, but once I started to peel the pears, I realized that there was no way they’d be firm enough to stand up to that.  Which is how I ended up making a puree.  And once I had that puree, it was only a mental hop, skip and a jump to deciding that a pear-based quick bread was the way to go.  Fortifying my general quick bread recipe with the addition of oats and a pinch of camphorous cardamom put the finishing touches on the bread.

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Gimme Da Loot, Gimme Da Loot

All The Stuff That's Fit To Eat

I’ll be honest.

As much as I love handmade, lovingly prepared artisanal products, I generally opt out of the giant twice-a-year One Of A Kind Show And Sale, for a variety of reasons.

1) The shows can get really cramped and uncomfortable and I despise that slow, laboured crawl that it takes to navigate them

2) People can get really rude and pushy over this kind of original stuff

3) I find a lot of what’s on offer to be prohibitively expensive

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