Posts Tagged ‘Czehoski’

We Can Rebuild It; We Have The Technology

Choco-Rosemary Bacon

That niggling chill in the air meant that yesterday morning I pulled the final mini slab of vanilla pink peppercorn bacon out of the freezer after I’d used the last thawed bits in a crockpot of fall-appropriate baked beans.

Thus, it seemed like as good a time as any to get started on my next batch of bacon.  Since bacon requires a 7 to 10 day lead time before you have finished product, it was imperative that I get it curing, lest I run out of delectable home-cured porkiness.

Magical Ingredients

While considering the next methods of flavouring, it occurred to me that I hadn’t yet gotten on Scott and Larbo’s choco-bacon train (though I’ve been meaning to).  Being a rabid consumer of my chocolate-covered guanciale toffee, I knew there was serious potential in the choco-bacon combo, but I wanted something more.  Leave it to me to prove that nothing exceeds like excess.  Recalling a dessert that I love at one of our favourite local haunts (Czehoski) formed the basis for this inspiration.  The chef there makes a rich and melty chocolate ganache flavoured with rosemary that is out of this world, so my mind immediately thought chocolate + bacon = good and chocolate + rosemary = also good, therefore chocolate + rosemary + bacon must = out of this world good.  And of course because I never do anything by half measures, it also occurred to me that a little pure Ontarian maple syrup might not be a bad idea either.

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An Interesting Use For Bacon

Corn. Figs. Lamb.

Right now the Everyman and I are touring around Quebec City, but I leave you with this novel idea I had while preparing dinner the other night…

As I mentioned earlier this week, our house has been blessed with a glut of figs left over from my jam-making endeavours.  Most mornings I’ve just chopped a couple of them into quarters with a banana and some strawberries and called it breakfast, but even at that rate I didn’t think we’d get through them all before the delicate, honeyed orbs went bad.

I immediately recalled an appetizer we’d once been after at Czehoski that was right up the Everyman’s alley; satan on horseback.  Now, everyone knows devils on horseback, which are usually made with prunes or figs stuffed with blue cheese, chutney and bacon.  Then there are angels on horseback which replace fig with an oyster or scallop.  But satan on horseback was a piece of pork belly wrapped in bacon and served with chutney.  The Everyman had seen it on the menu, gotten himself all worked into a lather about it, and then found himself exponentially disappointed when we arrived and it was no longer being offered.  What they did have on the menu at the time was a variation of the aforementioned devils on horseback (which he also enjoyed), so I decided to grill a few figs in that style.  I split the figs in quarters, stuffed them with a tiny spoonful of ricotta and slid a few shards of my newly made bacon inside.  Secured with toothpicks and cushioned by foil, the packet was ready to pop on the grill.

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A Local I Wish Was My Local

Since moving to Little Italy a few years ago, the Everyman and I have been on the hunt for a local haunt.

Paramount to him has always been a decent beer list and classic, pub-style fare, but I’ve been searching for something more.

I don’t drink beer, so that’s never been a consideration for me, and I prefer food that’s slightly more thoughtful than your run of the mill wings and veggie sticks, or chicken fingers.  The Everyman’s just as easily satisfied by a club sandwich as he is by a steak, so it can be challenging at times for us to find common ground.

The closest we’ve come to having a regular spot would be Czehoski, where the comfort food is fancified, the drinks are top notch and the staff are hip, but the furthest thing from pretentious.  I also have a soft spot for chef Leor Zimerman, who always has a kind word for us whenever he sees us sitting at the table in the window, and even comes out to deliver our meals occasionally or ask how we enjoyed his specials (note to Leor, please please please put that delectable tamale on the regular menu!!!)  Czehoski excels at simple, delicious edibles, makes a fantastic homemade burger (those milk buns!) and also serves a decadent brunch, with a croissant bread pudding that is not to be missed.  The menu is small, and the room lends itself to lounging, and considering we have not found a true brunch place in the area that isn’t overrated, it’s where we typically head when we want to get our morning weekend eat on.

But sometimes, you really do just want someplace you can go to have a well made cocktail (or in the Everyman’s case, a beer) where the staff are friendly, and the food (if you want it) is good.  A place that has ambiance, that is more like a bar.

Recently, we found that place.

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The Foodie 13 – Desert Island Fare

I probably spend more time than is normal thinking about what I would do if I ever became stranded on a deserted island.  I can assure you there’d be no montage of Castaway or Blue Lagoon moments, but if there were other people trapped with me, I imagine it would quickly devolve in a similar manner to Lord Of The Flies.

Because of that, I keep a mental list of comestibles I’d want to have with me if that were ever to go down.  The ironic thing about that statement of course, is that if (heaven forbid) it really did happen, there’s no way I’d be prepared enough to have all these good eats with me.  But a (slightly delusional) girl can always dream, can’t she?  With these 13 paradigms of culinary excellence to keep me company, I’d never be wanting for more.

So without further adieu, but in no particular order…

1- Czehoski‘s bacon poutine - There’s nothing better on a grey and blustery day than digging in to a bowl of this salty, creamy, crispy perfection.  If you’ve never tried bacon gravy before, you’re probably asking yourself, what’s the big deal?  Can it really be that different?  Trust me hombres, it can and is.  This poutine is what dreams are made of… decadent, curd-filled dreams.

2- Fat Willy’s ribs - Fat Willy’s is a little hole in the wall barbecue joint in the suburbs of Chicago.  I never expected we’d fine transcendent barbecue in Illinois of all places, but ever since we came home, I’ve had vivid dreams about the smoky tang I experienced there, sometimes to the point that I’m awakened from chewing on my own pillow.  Delish!

3- Terroni‘s mezzo mezzo - This appetizer platter is constantly changing, but always includes some meat, some cheese, some bread and some fruit or veg, plus a small dish of honey for dipping.  My favourite has always been the roasted pear that’s often a mainstay of the dish, and marries well with so many things.

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There’s No Place Like Home

Flavored Syrup

Imitation is supposedly the sincerest form of flattery.

I never felt that was the case when I showed up at work only to find another coworker had bought the same purse, belt or other accessory to an outfit that I’d worn the week before.  If anything, it would aggravate me when another person wanted to be just like me.  I sometimes wonder if chefs feel the same way, and I often assume that they do.  So I do feel a little bit of guilt when I take something of theirs and try to make it my own, but not too much…

I’ll admit, on top of creating my own unique dishes, I enjoy going out to restaurants and then recreating (and improvising) their signature dishes at home.  I can credit Grant from The Black Hoof with inspiring me to get back into charcuterie and (I think his name is Jeff) from Czehoski with reigniting my love of mixing cocktails.  Call me greedy, but sometimes I just want to be able to enjoy the thing I want (a drink, cured meat or other) in the comfort of my own home without having to get all dolled up and spending most of my night in a crowded, noisy restaurant.  Sometimes the need to be able to hear oneself thinking outweighs the love of a killer cocktail.

So in honor of that, I give you my take on the infamous Czehoski cocktail.

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Mother Always Said You Have To Eat Your Greens

The First Fruits Of Spring

I’m a bit of an odd duck.

Ever since I was a child I’ve loved to eat my greens (with the exception of green peppers, which I think are absolutely repulsive).  In fact, I’ve never met another person who prefers green vegetables more than any other kind (like I do).  I might even go so far as to say that I’d choose them over fruit.  Astonishing, I know!

Which is exactly why spring just happens to be one of my favorite times of year.  Sure, over the winter months you can get your fair share of (greenhouse) microgreens, broccoli and heartier leafy varieties (like kale, cabbage, chard and brussels sprouts) but none can compare to the pungent sweetness of the first ramps, fiddleheads and asparagus of the season.  For the other 10-11 months that asparagus is not in season I have extremely vivid dreams of nibbling on those pencil-thin nutty stalks and spears.  Clearly I’m slightly obsessive.

Earlier in the week our organic delivery service brought us a pound of fresh fiddleheads and a deuce of asparagus, plus I had the leftover bounty of topless ramps from the farmer’s market, and the clock was literally ticking for them to get used before they went bad.  Another thing to note about fresh, new spring greens; they have a shorter shelf life than your typical root vegetable.  But, if you just treat them simply, they’ll be the star of your meal (and possibly give you funny smelling pee!)

Over the weekend the Everyman and I returned to Czehoski on a desperate search for more of those divine tamales, (which we were unable to procure, by the way).  After 2 meals out (both at Czehoski, no less) in 72 hours, I felt the need for lighter, spring-inspired fare to combat the decadent cheeseburger and fries with bacon gravy I’d wolfed down at lunch.  The pile of green veg hanging out in the fridge seemed the perfect antidote to grease, bacon and fat, so I set to work cleaning the lot of them.

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In Brief

A crazy day at work for both the Everyman and I spurred us on to dinner at Czehoski last night.

On the back of another excellent dinner (and a few delicious cocktails) the Everyman has pronounced it his 2nd favorite restaurant in all of Toronto.  It’s refreshing to be able to go somewhere that is unpretentious and serves really excellent comfort food.  In all the times we’ve been there, I can’t recall anything I’ve tasted that I did not like.  The Everyman and I have somewhat diverging tastes in food (and everything really), but there is always something to pacify the meatavore in him and the minivore in me.

The thing I like most about Czehoski is that the chef there is really friendly and personable.  More often than not when we’re there, he comes out and delivers the food to us himself, so you know he’s humble.  Last night he brought out our mains because he wanted to ask how we’d enjoyed a starter from his specials menu.  Oh, we did alright!  I’d even go so far as to call the pulled pork tamale with a side of achiote rubbed pork belly and tomatillo salsa transcendent.  And that is not a word I use lightly.  The tamales were so good that I could’ve made a meal of a plateful of them alone.  As the Everyman commented to me on the way to work this morning, any time the pork belly in a dish isn’t my favorite part of the meal, you know it must be fantastic.

On top of that I discovered another killer chick cocktail to wash down my tamale – their namesake Czehoski Cocktail, which is a blend of several vodkas, apple juice and honey.  It’s a dangerous drink because it tastes like candy, but I saw the bartender make it and there is a healthy amount of booze in there that you just don’t feel.  A couple more of those and I’d probably be dancing on a table or some other non-made-for-dancing surface.  Trust me, it’s not a pretty sight.

We received the chef’s assurances that he planned to keep the tamale special on the menu until Saturday, and we’re planning on returning before then for some more; they make great drinking food.  Happy long weekend everyone!

Until next time…

An Old Classic Gets A New Lease On Life

Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster

We’re debuting a new semi-regular feature here at Foodie and the Everyman this week; one focused solely on the Everyman!

During the Everyman’s more formative years he spent time slumming and slinging drinks in a bar.  Since then he’s moved on to an exciting career in plastics (ooh, ahh) but still carries with him some mixologist tendencies.  Every now and then he’ll invent a new drink for me to sample, and most of the time, they’re quite delicious.  Our new section is going to be called The Everyman’s Tipples, and will be a place for him to share his newest libationary creations.

Today we give you his updated version of the Pan-galactic Gargle Blaster, inspired by the Tequila Meggy from Czehoski.

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To Market, To Market, To Fetch A Fine Pig

I don’t really have anything useful or profound to contribute to the website today.

I could sit here and tell you about the drink I ordered at Czehoski’s that the Everyman loved so much he had to chat up the bartender and then get denied the recipe (a tequila meggy, incidentally).  Or about how I’m still stunned that the local bakery owned by a guy I went to highschool with (Messa Bites) was supplanted by some hipster-looking coffee house called Ezra’s Pound.  Or I could even talk about how tired all the swine flu references are becoming (point it jumped the shark for me was when someone in my monthly all-hands meeting at work coughed on me and then said I hope you don’t mind, I had ham for breakfast).  But no, today I won’t dwell on those matters…

I’m a bit flummoxed. Over a week ago I sent in an order to Homeland to secure dirt for the garden that is rapidly expanding and outgrowing my basement.  After not hearing back from them for a few days, I decided to call.  The person I got on the other end of the line was at best indifferent and at worst rude, and basically told me they were on the other line talking to someone and they would call me back later.  So, being the kind-hearted soul that I am, I again gave them the benefit of the doubt.  That was 4 days ago.  I still haven’t heard back from them, and I refuse to call again.  Clearly they don’t need my business that badly if they can’t even be bothered to call me back.  To make matters worse, all of the other places I’ve contacted for quotes on dirt have not gotten back to me either.  Though in the process of searching I did unearth a new and potentially delicious garden product; cocoa nibs as ground cover.  I’m sure they smell heavenly, and as long as they mulch half decently, I think I know what I’ll be going for.  Unless, (as the Everyman suspects) they attract more rodents.  I spent all of last summer involuntarily giving my melons away to the squirrel and raccoon population that terrorized our deck; I do not plan on a sequel.

In the meantime while I wait to get my own garden in order, I can take comfort in the Trinity Bellwoods Farmer’s Market for homegrown produce, which starts a week tomorrow.  I was most looking forward to getting in touch with the cheese vendor who turned me on to Oh My Stars last year, but for the life of me I can’t remember who it was (my gut is saying either Monforte or Ewenity, though neither make mention of it on their website).  If it happens to be Monforte I’m essentially out of luck, because from what I read on their website recently, 2009 is their renaissance while they are in the process of raising money and building their new state of the art facility, thus no new cheeses are being produced.  Mostly, I just can’t wait to run my fingers over the bushels of fresh, local foods.  Get me to a farmer’s market and I’m like a kid in a candy store, unable to control myself.  If you’re an old reader, you’ll remember how crazy my coworkers thought I was when I showed up with 12 quarts of strawberries after visiting the Metro Hall market one lunch hour (the spoils of which are still cluttering my preserves cupboard).  Or how nutty the Everyman thought I was when I insisted I needed to buy 2 dozen ears of corn to roast on the bbq and save for winter (he rolled his eyes at the time, but once he tasted it, he changed his tune; too bad our cat sitter left the freezer open all Christmas break and all my quick frozen summer produce got ruined).  Primarily I’ve been wondering what else they’ll have for me that’s new.  I do so love the surprise and uncertainty that weekly fresh marketing holds because it’s impossible to plan a menu until you get there and feast with your eyes.  And feast I will and so should you!

Until next time…

Simple Pleasures

I’ve noticed a bit of a pattern lately.

When Thursday rolls around I’ve been getting an itch to go out for dinner.  Thursdays used to be the one day a week I expected the Everyman to cook for me, and we jokingly named it Survive Everyman’s Cooking night (as he’s a huge Survivor fan). Sadly, I can’t remember the last time we had one of these nights, and yesterday I did not feel like cooking.  Halfway through my day I pinged the Everyman to find out if he was receptive to going out.  My plan had been to call Cowbell.  Unfortunately, it took so long to hear back from the Everyman while I was in meetings that by the time I called, all that was left were the super early or really late seatings.  My hopes dashed, the Everyman and I set to thinking about where we could go for dinner instead that would not be a disappointment after the possibility of Cowbell.

We’ve always had a relatively good time at Czehoski, so when the Everyman suggested it instead, it sounded like a reasonable alternative.  I’d quietly considered The Black Hoof for a few seconds beforehand, but vetoed it on the basis that I didn’t feel like being bloated (there’s nothing wrong with the food, I just always eat too much).  We set off for Czehoski and the thought of a comfort food dinner, (something that their kitchen seems to specialize in) danced in our heads.

When we got there, the Everyman easily chose the burger, (having craved the Cowbell burger before we found out we couldn’t make it there) but I had a bit more trouble.  I knew I wanted to try the poutine, but I had no idea what I wanted to eat with it.  Out of frustration I selected the macaroni and cheese, flummoxed by their drastically pared back menu that left nothing complementary to order with poutine.  I knew the Everyman would inevitably steal half of my poutine anyway, (even though his burger came with fries) so I wasn’t overly concerned about how much food there would be.

The poutine was fabulous.  It was crunchy, chewy and toasty, with a savoury bacon gravy and perfectly gooey, springy curds.  I’ll admit, I’ve glanced at this poutine on the menu pretty much every time we’ve been in, but the thought of the bacon gravy always scared me away.  Last night I found that I’d had nothing to worry about, as it was superb.  I wish I could say the same for my mac and cheese, which was soupy and floury tasting, and in desperate need of texture.  But I didn’t care, I’d had mind-blowing poutine.  As usual, the Everyman’s burger was excellent, and I stole a tiny bite, wishing I had poutine left to go with it.

Our dinner was typical of past experiences at Czehoski; they’re pretty good at preparing most of the things on their menu relatively well.  And they’re a good place to stop if all you want are the simple things.  But I’ll still be going to Cowbell this weekend if I can get in.  Sometimes there just isn’t any other way to satisfy a craving…

Until next time…

Frank(ly) My Dear, I Don’t Give A Damn…

And so as quickly as it had come, my birthday is gone again.  With the exception of several acquaintances and the Everyman, nobody remembered this year either.

To his credit, the Everyman finally decided to indulge my wishes to eat all food via chalice, and presented me with a giant one from him, and a tiny one (really an egg cup) from the kitties.  While delighted by the chalice, I was slightly miffed that for the third year in a row he forgot to get me a birthday cake.  How the man can remember the sports stats of hundreds of complete strangers but can’t even remember where I wanted a cake from is beyond me.  I guess I know where I fall in the importance hierarchy. That’s fine though.  For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction.  His will be an addition to the no-bake list.

He also tells me I can have another cat.  I’ve wanted another cat for approximately a year now, ever since Cuddles, my 21 year old beast passed away.  Several months after she passed I found an excellent one too, and even named her Burger, but at the last minute the owners decided to play a bait and switch and tell me (and probably everyone else who met this kitten) that they hadn’t promised her to anyone.  With my heart broken, I decided I did not want a cat, and haven’t really thought seriously about it since.  Well, except for harbouring fantasies of rescuing a semi-ratty neighbourhood cat that I refer to as Stubbs (because he only has half a tail) who always looks like he doesn’t have a home, that is.  I don’t really know if I can handle another cat, or even if the two we have already can either.  Our youngest, Tuna, is a very jealous cat and doesn’t like it when we spend time with the other cat, Rupert Q Thunderbum, so I can only imagine what it would be like if we brought a kitten home that monopolized all our time.  But alas, this blog is not named Kitty and the Everyman, so I’ll stop blathering about kitty minutiae and get back to the fooding already.

For my birthday day, I wanted to indulge my inner geekdom and go check out the Teck Gallery of Gems and Minerals at the ROM.  When I was a wee foodie, I dreamed of one day becoming a geologist.  I used to go around the neighbourhood collecting rocks and chipping away “samples”.  One year for my birthday my dad even bought me a rock tumbler.  I know, I know, how exceptionally dorky.  Anyhow, after wandering around for a while, the Everyman started to get hungry, so we went in search of food.  The ROM has two options for food, C5 in the stupid, cancerous Crystal, and Food Studio.  We went and checked out the menu for C5 first, but they were serving hoity toity high tea when we arrived and it all looked like crap, so we headed to the basement to check out Food Studio instead.  It was a good thing we did, too.  The Food Studio is a bright little Movenpick-type cafeteria, with many different stations for your perusal.  Knowing that we were going out for dinner in a few hours, I opted for a personal size pepperoni pizza, some blueberry lemonade and a tiny banana cream pie tart.  The Everyman seconded my pizza, and chose a regular lemonade for himself.  The pizzas, while good, were nothing to write home about.  Mine was not heated all the way through, so the cheese sat on top like a congealed, greasy mass.  The blueberry lemonade had a great flavor, but was chunky with blueberry skins, which was quite a turn off for me.  The banana cream tart was excellent though, with nice fresh slices of banana covered in whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate.  If I was hungry at the ROM again, I’d probably come back here.

Flash forward several hours later to dinner.  When asked, I’d given the Everyman two options for places I’d like to go for dinner that we hadn’t been to yet; Trevor Kitchen and Bar and Frank (at the AGO).  I told him I’d checked out the menu at both and he should pick one and surprise me.  I usually leave final decisions up to him because he is a lot more picky about his food consumption than I am, and he also has more of a dietary restriction than I.  While I’ve developed an allergy to some shellfish over the years, it’s pretty easy to avoid that part of a menu.  Unfortunately for the Everyman with his nut allergy, restaurateurs put nuts in everything these days.  It could be baked into your bread or sprinkled over your salad, it may be crusted on your main course or incorporated into your dessert.  It’s everywhere.

The Everyman chose Frank, which was a surprise to me.  Trevor had a bacon in bacon sauce appetizer that seemed right up his alley, but it was served with a chestnut dumpling, so it was out.  Frank is the brand new restaurant on the main floor of the redesigned AGO, and was created by Frank Gehry.  It is a bright, light, inviting space, but is kind of reminiscent of Susur with its backlit seating and bizarre, glowy quality.  They have a really awesome wine wall that runs the extent of one side of the restaurant from floor to ceiling, and is also backlit, so all the wine glows.  I’m not sure how good that is for the wine and the storage of it, but it sure is pretty to look at.

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Scratch Wintervicious, Part 2

As you may recall, the Everyman and I had plans to trip the light fantastic at Veritas for Winterlicious this past weekend.  However, due to an ailment and some negative reviews I read on Chowhound, we didn’t end up making it there.  I felt really bad about canceling the morning of, but I was having some pretty bad chest pains and wasn’t up to making the trip out there for potentially crappy fare.

We did get to Czehoski for lunch though, and yet somehow still managed to get foiled by them.

You see, last weekend we tried to get in to Czehoski for a Winterlicious dinner, but they were packed and the wait was at least half an hour long.  We’d been there during previous ‘Licious‘ and never needed to make a reservation before, so this was a bit of a surprise.  Being absolutely ravenous, neither of us could stand to wait so we walked down the street to our old standby, Terroni.  One thing we both realized after our dinner at Terroni is that their food, while good, is nothing to write home about.  It’s just standard Italian comfort food.  For the most part the Everyman goes there for one reason only; the mezzo mezzo platter.  It’s basically just an antipasto plate with cured meats, cheeses and breadsticks.  In fact, most of the time the ones we make at home are better.  But it’s only after we finish eating dinner that we wonder to ourselves why we keep coming back there.  Most likely because it’s a safe bet, I’d say.  Walking in you know you won’t get anything mindblowing or spectacular, but you know it will be decent, solid cuisine.  We probably should’ve gone to The Black Hoof instead.  The food would have been better by leaps and bounds, and it isn’t nearly as noisy and the service is much friendlier.

Anyhow, as we were approaching Czehoski on the weekend, I had an ominous thought.  We had our mind set on the Winterlicious menu (for the second time), but it occurred to me that because it was the weekend and before 3pm, they’d probably be offering the brunch menu instead.  As we stepped over the threshold, I realized that I was unfortunately right.  We gave the brunch menu a once-over, then decided we both just wanted a burger (which is on the brunch menu) anyway and sat down.

Servers at Czehoski are a unique breed altogether.  While ordering my cheeseburger, the waitress asked me how I would like it.  I answered by saying “as rare as you can legally serve it to me!” knowing full well that there are laws against serving burgers anything less than done.  That doesn’t change the fact that I like to enjoy them that way every chance I get though.  Funnier still was the waitress’ answer of “we can serve it to you any way you’d like!”  Sitting at the table waiting for my meal I was giddy at the thought of finally getting a properly restaurant-charred medium rare burger.  You see, when I was a youngun’ and working in my mom and stepfather’s kitchen, my stepdad introduced me to the joy of griddled, bloody medium rare burgers.  I make them at home, but they never taste the same because I can’t get the right level of heat to char the surface properly on the stove.  So, the possibility of being moments away from one was like Christmas to me.

When the burger finally arrived, it was misshapen, but large.  You could tell that it was handmade at least, what with all the flecks of red pepper flakes, onion slivers and parsley bits.  Within the first bite it became clear that this burger was nowhere near medium rare, but it was still juicy and flavorful.  The Everyman remarked to me that the waitress probably had no clue about burger regulations, got to the kitchen, tried to order it, and then got set straight by the kitchen staff.  Oh well, my dream of medium rare burgers will have to continue unabated until I return to the US or somewhere else where this is not regulated.  At any rate, the burger was quite tasty, with a flaky quality to the patty, and a nice kick from the red pepper flakes.  It was also served with a rosemary chipotle aioli that sounds like a strange combination, but works surprisingly well.  As usual, the fries were stellar, although this time they were not served in a chalice (BOO!).  If you don’t understand why that is a big deal, let me explain.  [Last fall the Everyman and I went to Czehoski for lunch on a rare day off.  We had delicious steak frites and bottle of red, and whiled the afternoon away while laughing at all of the suckers who were at work instead.  The aforementioned frites happened to be served in a rather large, stately brass chalice.  I decided that day that eating from a chalice was way too much fun, and that I would endeavor to do it all the time from that moment on.  I even went so far as to avow that I hoped to one day be rich and famous enough that I could bring my own chalice in to any restaurant I wanted and make them serve my food to me in it.]   All in all, the burger at Czehoski was much better than I had expected, and though it sort of reminded me of meatloaf because of all the additives, it was a nice, satisfying meal and miles ahead of most of the burgers served in Toronto.  I’d go back for one in a heartbeat the next time I crave a decent burger and don’t feel like grilling it myself.  I suggest you try it some time.

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(Winter)time Is Here, Happiness And Cheer…

I’m paraphrasing the Charlie Brown Christmas song; so sue me.  I love Charlie Brown Christmas, what with it’s dorky misfit tree, and Linus carrying his blanket.  While it is nowhere near Christmas right now, this song seemed fitting for my next topic; Winterlicious.

I wholeheartedly support the idea of Winterlicious/Summerlicious in the city of Toronto.  Not necessarily for the tourism it’s supposed to attract, but because it gets people who wouldn’t normally go out to dinner (because it’s too cost prohibitive) out and into some really great restaurants.  And experiencing more than crappy, mass produced food.

I  cook probably 90-95% of the food that the Everyman and I eat on a regular basis; I make my own bread, butter, stock, jams, jellies, preserves, ice creams, soups, etc.  If there’s a way to make it at home, I probably do.  What I can’t make myself I try to source from the most local, organic, sustainable and small businesses I can.  But, every now and then you just want someone else to cater to your every whim.  Usually when one person in a couple does the majority of the cooking, it’s nice to ease the burden on them occasionally.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  I willingly perform all of these tasks because I like to know what’s in my food, or conversely, what’s not.  And I love to cook.  Growing up with a parent and step-parent in the industry, going to school to learn about it, and even working in it myself for a while, it was only natural that I would develop a love of cooking.  But when you think about it, for the person who doesn’t cook, it’s sort of like having a restaurant meal every day.

Winterlicious is going to be my cooking Spring Break of sorts.  Of the 150+ restaurants participating this year, the Everyman and I have agreed upon 4 to visit.  We each had about half a dozen more that we wanted to check out, but they were vetoed in one way or another.  The list of 150 is automatically pared down to reject places that serve Asian food (the Everyman doesn’t like),  places that are farther than a 10-15 minute cab ride away (we’re lazy), places that are pretentious, and places that I wouldn’t want to visit even if someone else was paying (most of what’s in the theatre district, Chez Victor obviously not included).  I still haven’t managed to get the Everyman to agree on Senses (even though I’m dying to go) but I’m working on it.  Every time he looks at their menu, all he says is Blah.  My desire to visit has only intensified since I heard that Patrick Lin won the Toronto Gold Medal Plates cook off this year too.

There were a few notable exceptions this year that I had intended to visit, but that didn’t turn up on the list this time.    This would include Nota Bene, Colborne Lane, Trevor and Lucien. Maybe they only do the summer version, who knows.  I know these sorts of promotions are probably a loss leader anyway, and some people don’t see the value in participating, but I think there is merit.  For instance, last summer the Everyman and I went to Czehoski during Summerlicious.  We probably wouldn’t have ventured in for another 3 or 4 months otherwise, given the high volume of good food near our house, but after we tried it we liked it so much that we’ve been back a half a dozen times since.  It’s walking distance to home, the food is decent, and the cost isn’t outrageous and you’re getting great quality products.

This time around, we settled on Celestin (I’ve wanted to visit ever since I read the article about Pascal Ribreau in Toronto Life; the man is so passionate that nothing will stop him and adversity is clearly not a word in his vocabulary), Noce (it’s Italian, close and I think reminds the Everyman of those glorious years he spent in Abruzzo), Veritas (because I have a soft spot for Brad Long, who thanks to his appearance on Restaurant Makeover I now refer to as the Huckleberry Hound, and because I loved his food at The Pt Club ), and we’ll probably also make a stop in to Czehoski again, just for shits and giggles.  Not a bad round up to accomplish in 7 days.

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