Posts Tagged ‘Taste TO’

Mana’ From Rana

Manakeesh

Though I’d heard of the middle eastern spice mix za’atar many times before, it wasn’t until earlier this year that I truly started to see its potential.

Za’atar is a blend of spices generally comprised of sumac, toasted sesame seeds, thyme, cumin and salt, though recipes differ depending on where in the middle east they come from. Back when I was reviewing Good Food For All for Taste T.O. one of the dishes I sampled was a za’atar-spiked chicken burger, which (incidentally was fantastic) left me with a cupful of the blend to continue using afterwards.

But as much as I enjoyed using za’atar in western preparations, it wasn’t until a Lebanese friend educated me about her culture and food that I learned some of the ways that they would use it traditionally.  One afternoon when we ordered food from a Lebanese restaurant, I fell head over heels in love with a flatbread-like object called manakeesh.  Slathered with labneh and sprinkled with za’atar, it was a doughy delight unlike any I’d ever tasted before, sort of like a cross between a pizza and a toasted bagel slathered with cream cheese.  Ever since that moment I have craved these za’atar and labneh manakeesh on nearly a weekly basis, but the restaurant is a fair distance from my house.

But on Meatless Monday this week I decided I wanted to make something to accompany our asparagus, fig and parmagiano salad, and I happened to have a ball of my frozen pizza dough on hand, so I thawed it out and stretched it into a large round.  It didn’t take long to connect the dots and add the strained yogurt that I normally eat for breakfast and a liberal amount of za’atar to the unbaked pie.  A quick rest in the oven was all it took for it to get puffy and golden brown.  It wasn’t a purist’s manakeesh by any stretch of the imagination, but man, it was still freakin’ gold.

I think Rana would be proud.

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You Don’t Know Gorp

Granola

Until about 6 months ago, I never really understood all of the hoopla about granola.

Granola bars are alright I suppose, but even they aren’t something I ever get a craving for.  Granola always seems too sweet, too greasy, too dry or too flavourless to merit any time in my mouth, not to mention that I’ve often associated it with old people, specifically my dad.  For lack of a better explanation, it just reeks of aging hippies crunching on tofu, muesli and bean sprouts, which I know is a very stereotypical thing to say, but the mind thinks what it wants.

But, about 6 months ago, Pierre Lamielle (of Kitchen Scraps fame) changed all of that.

You see, I was reviewing his cookbook during my stint at Taste T.O. and one of the recipes I opted to test was his granola ratio.  Once I got over the concept of granola having a set recipe, I freed myself up to start making a concoction I could actually enjoy.  Since then, I’ve been making a batch of granola every 2-3 weeks to keep the Everyman and myself in crunchy breakfast heaven.  In my case, it’s served over a thick, strained whole yogurt, but the Everyman prefers to eat his nut-free version plain.  Our versions are nearly identical, but in his the omission of nuts is replaced by extra raisins and the occasional bittersweet chocolate chip.

This gorp is so hunger-inspiring that you might even want to try making some yourself.  My version (replete with alterations and substitutions) is detailed below, but you can also find the original in the Kitchen Scraps cookbook.

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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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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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The Foodie 13 – 13 Things You Didn’t Know About This Foodie

Beet-or and Fun-ion

I know, I know, I know.

It’s been like forever and a day since I last posted a Foodie 13.  The funny thing about it is I actually have one that’s completely written that I’d prepared back in August for while we were on vacation, but I just haven’t felt like publishing it since then.

Between work, Taste T.O. and various other ongoing stuff, I haven’t really had much of a chance to devote to this medium.  I heartily apologize.

Since I’ve been running this website for nearly 2 years now, I suppose it’s about time that I tell you all a little more about who I am and what makes me tick.

So, without further adieu, let’s take this opportunity to get a better acquainted, shall we?

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Birthdays At The Foodie’s House

Angel Food Cake, Figs And Strawberries, With Crown Royal Ice Cream

Yesterday was the Everyman’s 29th birthday.

If you were to ask him, he’d probably tell you that it is a holiday in Ontario because he was born (he’s so ridiculous).  It’s funny too, because I know 3 people who were born on that day; the Everyman, his sister in law, and an old coworker/friend from my previous job.  The Everyman tells me he also shared this birthdate with one of his grandfathers, but I never got to meet him.  It’s a small world after all, I guess…

Aleppo Chicken, Wheatberries And Chili Corn

At any rate, one tradition I’ve always loved is allowing the birthday celebrant to pick whatever they’d like to eat, and then preparing it for them.  We’d been to The Black Hoof on Sunday after having a craving for ‘nduja (what with mine not being quite ready yet) plus we’d been out to eat for lunch as research for an upcoming Taste T.O. piece I’m working on, so we were both really jonesing for some home-cooked fare.

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Some News

I’ve been deliberating for a little over a month now about whether or not I wanted to share this with all of you readers of the webosphere…

I’ve finally come to my decision, and have opted to cut a swath through the anonymity of Foodie And The Everyman to let you in on my little secret.

Just under two months ago I accepted a freelance writing job for a little Toronto-based web publication that you may or may not be familiar with; Taste T.O.

If you’ve come to be a fan of my writing during the last year and a half, some of you may already have put two and two together and realized that Porsha Perreault and mochapj are one and the same.  In that case, I applaud your deductive prowess.

For the rest of you, this is just a heads up to let you know that there is now one more place to find my particular brand of writing on the interwebs.  So if you’re interested, I encourage you to check it out.  My writing for Taste T.O. generally tends to be a little more sharply focused than the more generic rants over here, but is nevertheless entertaining.

Over the next little while I hope to add links to my published articles to the sidebar for those of you that care to look.

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So This Is What It Must Be Like…

Today was an interesting day.

Shitty insofar as work goes, but entertaining nonetheless.

For starters, I received my first press release as a member of the Toronto food-blogging community this afternoon.  I guess that means I am now somewhat recognized (good heavens!)  Either that, or our blog comes up in a Google search of Toronto food writers or they’ve poached the blogroll off Taste T.O. Who knows?  Whatever the case or how  inconsequential, it put a smile on my face for about 20 seconds during a catastrophically grueling day.

What I found rather droll was that the restaurant in question was none other than Marc Thuet’s new place, Conviction, which Toronto Life gave a nod to in their online blog yesterday.  I haven’t written much of consequence about Thuet since I started this blog, other than oblique references to the one visit the Everyman and I paid to Bistro Bakery Thuet (now Bite Me, oh wait, no, that’s become Conviction) back in December 2007.  Or the occasional swoon over his (really superb) artisanal bread.  Over the years I can say I’ve been a fan of some of his concepts (bistro, charcuterie, etc), but have not thought much of their executed excess.  To me, the man just doesn’t know when to hold back (the exception to the rule being those aforementioned loaves).

Which is why I found the concept of Conviction so intriguing.  At first glance it calls to mind comparisons between Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen or “Chef Jeff’s” Posh Urban Cuisine.  Even more closely, it’s the grownup equivalent of a niche restaurant I frequented in the early 2000′s on Roncesvalles called River.  The idea that salvation and reconciliation of one’s demons can be found in the kitchen is not new.  And I can’t argue that turning it into a reality show isn’t also a slight bit tacky on their part.  But it is refreshing to see that Thuet seems to have grown so much as a person as to want to give something back to the community.  As they state in the press tidbit, he’s no stranger to addiction or run ins with the law, so clearly apparent from reading any article written during the last 20 years in Toronto.  A common theme journalists tend to gravitate towards when immortalizing him in print is a portrayal of the bad boy chef.  While there’s no shortage of those in any town, the thought that one of them wants to help people find their second chance is heartwarming.  To my mind one of the first steps on the road to personal reformation is to stop being so concerned with oneself, and start thinking about how you can help everybody else.  It would appear that Marc Thuet may now have found that place in himself.  Or (as the cynic in me might think) he’s just trying to cash in on the reality TV craze.  Who can tell?  It’s possible that the motives are not entirely altruistic, but my interest has been piqued at any rate.

Perhaps even enough to break my self-imposed ban on their restaurants and see what it’s all about.

Until next time…

National Grilled Cheese Month, You Say?

Sweavoury Sammy

News has been flying all over the interwebs lately that April is National Grilled Cheese Month.

By all over, I mean on foodie blogs, Tastespotting, Photograzing, Foodgawker et al.

It was first brought to my attention via a post round-up over at Taste T.O. - one that this blog coincidentally happened to be mentioned in…

Over at Closet Cooking, blogger Kevin opined on his combination of grilled cheese with a newly prepared mango cardamom jam.  More than anything, the comments left on his blog were what surprised me.  People seemed astounded to consider the marriage of the two, but I posit this; do you not enjoy Brie-like cheeses with tangy fruit compote, or a figgy jam with a platter of cheese and crackers?  The evolution of grilled cheese to include some form of fruit is pretty natural, and one I would consider borderline mundane.  It’s a pretty close relative to bagels with cream (cheese) and jam, after all.

His post did call to mind a peculiar habit I used to have of slathering my cheeseburger buns with strawberry jam, though.  I’ve often been one for somewhat off the wall flavour combinations; as a child I eschewed ketchup and preferred to dip my french fries in the chocolate shake.  When I moved out on my own, it wasn’t uncommon to find me slurping up a cone of ice cream doused with sriracha before bed or chowing down on a pork and peanut butter sandwich for breakfast.  After our lunch at Mercat Ala Planxa last year, I’m constantly dreaming about garlic dulce du leche every time I eat charcuterie, and the list could go on and on.

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Cor, Limey!

Spring has sprung

The grass is riz

This is where

The good stuff is!

I can’t quite remember where exactly that comes from, but my brain is leaning towards The Simpsons for some reason.  Given the current conditions here in Toronto, it seemed kinda fitting.  The weather is balmy, the breeze is warm, and I actually got to spend some time turning and cultivating soil today.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m just itching to get back to my garden, so this weather couldn’t have come a moment too soon.  The plants in my basement are coming along nicely, though the last batch of seeds I put down have yet to germinate, but it’s only been a few days.

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