Posts Tagged ‘The Black Hoof’

And I Killed Some Prawns, Just To Watch Them Die

See The Whites Of Their Eyes

As someone who developed a fairly serious allergy to most varieties of shellfish during the past few years (severe enough that I now carry an epi-pen) I don’t often consume much in the way of shellfish.

But last year, after eating smoked prawns at The Black Hoof, I fell head over heels in love with one of the few crustaceans I’m still capable of eating.  BC spot prawns are generally sold fresh (read: alive) and are only available for a few brief months each year, starting in May and usually stretching through to July or August.  I can’t quite explain it, but there is something so much more creamy, sweet and delicately briny about spot prawns than any other shellfish I’ve ever sampled before.  Being that they also don’t induce anaphylaxis in me doesn’t hurt either.

I’ve tried in vain to find them frozen on several occasions, only to come up empty handed.  A few weeks ago when I searched for them at the St Lawrence Market, 2 out of 3 fishmongers had no idea what I was even asking for and the third outright said they didn’t carry them.  Faced with being at a loss for a second season in a row, I half-heartedly reached out to the obsessives on Chowhound who were surprisingly adept at pinpointing several places in the GTA that could help a sister out (I’ve had mixed success with reaching out for help on Chowhound, so I honestly wasn’t expecting much).  Most of the suggestions were out of the way for this non-driver, in the burbs of Scarborough and such, but one happened to be right downtown.  The T&T Supermarket on Cherry St even had spot prawns advertised in their circular, so I emphatically coerced the Everyman into letting me take my practice drive for the day over to said grocery store.

Once we got there, we found a large tank at the back of the store teeming with the vibrant pink beauties.  The tank was overcrowded though, so the spot prawns didn’t seem as lively as I had expected them to be, though they were certainly still alive.  Asking for 2 pounds, the fishmonger deftly scooped them out of the tank with a net, which set the previously docile prawns to wildly thrashing about.  Once bagged and tagged, I didn’t waste much time before exiting the store and returning home.  Live stuff generally doesn’t stay alive for long when trapped in a small plastic bag.  As a last ditch effort at giving me the finger, the spikiness of the prawns managed to pierce a hole in their bag unbeknownst to me and leak seawater all over the floor mat of my car.  Note to future intrepid purchasers of live prawns – always place them into a cooler or some other hard bottomed storing device when travelling, so as not to suffer the same fate, unless you enjoy washing floor mats for fun.

At home, I had no concept of how to prepare live prawns, and after turning to the internet I was faced with the realization that I had to rip off their heads.  The picture above is what was left of the prawn heads once I accomplished that task; an experience I found more than a little chilling since they were still moving about.


You Choo-Choo-Choose Me?

The Big Whoopie

I know, I know.

That clichéd Simpsons line has been popping up in stories all over town this week but I really do love the Simpsons and specifically enjoy that episode.

We’re not really fans of the big “V-day” here at Foodie and the Everyman (which I tend to refer to in my head as venereal disease or victimized delusions day, for no particular reason).  In fact, when the Everyman and I first started seeing each other, it was only a few weeks before V-day (and my birthday which is one week after) and we both agreed about how ridiculously stupid it is.  So generally speaking, we don’t tend to celebrate it.  I prefer to think that the person I’m with is going to do nice things for me all year round instead of being bludgeoned into submission by some industry’s made up excuse for a spending spree.

And for the most part the Everyman does and so do I.  Though he doesn’t often bring me the “traditional” gifts of chocolate or flowers, he does regularly indulge me in other ways, such as expanding my love of restaurants and travel.  In fact, just last week he told me I could start planning our next vacation to wherever I wanted to go, and to me that’s more romantic than a February 14th drugstore chocolate sampler any day.

But because we both love to eat, we did go out for dinner on V-day one year (to Mistura) but like that article in the Globe earlier this week, I wouldn’t necessarily consider it a worthwhile experience (though it was one of the last times I ate lobster before I got sick).  The whole time we were there the service was so rushed and you could tell the meal had been hastily prepared.  At the end of the night it was apparent that their main objective was maximizing bums at tables and gross consumerism is just so sexy, you know?  So, we just don’t bother anymore.  If the Hoof wasn’t constantly overrun with hipsters, I’d probably have gotten on board with going there for an anti-V-day meal, but it’s packed every night of the week anyway, so that was pretty much out of the question.  I don’t enjoy busy restaurants on a good day, so amplifying that by adding a “holiday” to the mix makes it even less appealing to the both of us.


Silencing My Inner Critic

I grew up in a restaurant family.

While other kids got to have play dates and scheduled outings with their moms and dads, I enjoyed an absentee relationship with mine; 2 of 3 being terminally addicted to their kitchens.  In the years that my parents were together I barely saw my mom because she’d leave for work while I was still at pre-school and not return until 2 or 3 in the morning.  After my parents separated, my mom and stepdad were too busy chasing their restaurant dreams to worry about things like family all that much, so I lived with my dad and only saw them a couple times a year.

Despite many wonderful things I learned and was inspired by during my time in their restaurants, the one thing that continues to irk me to this day is the overly critical nature that they’ve imbued in me.  It was never more evident in them than on the rare occasions when we would go out to eat as a family.  Rather than enjoying the brief time we had together, they would categorically pick apart whatever we were eating, regardless of whether it was a cheap trattoria or a fancy French bistro.  They’d then move on to analyzing whether they could make a particular dish better, and consequently discuss how to do so.

It drove me nuts.  Had I been older it probably would have driven me to drink, but at that young age all I could muster was a withering roll of the eyes.  I didn’t see them often, so all I wanted was to make the most of our time, but they never let up.  For years I vowed I would never be like them, determined to be happy with whatever was set before me, instead.

But, over the last few years I’ve found their somewhat unsavoury trait rearing its ugly head more and more in my demeanour.

Between working in their kitchens and stints at culinary school I’ve had plenty of time to develop an overly picky palate.  In a lot of ways it’s been for the best; I’ve gained a certain level of disdain for junk, fast and pre-packaged food-like substances in favour of slow (or what I like to call real) food.  On the flip side, it also makes friends and lovers (unnecessarily) nervous wrecks when feeding me, and coworkers assume I’m some sort of snob because I choose not to eat their hydrogenated oil filled crap or corn syrup laden goodies.  Even though I’m relatively quiet about my beliefs and standpoints on food (preferring to internalize rather than proselytize) most people assume I’m some sort of elitist crank or cow hugging moon maiden, anyhow.  That I don’t care what anyone thinks of me or my habits seems to stymie them all the more.

I often try to rationalize that I’ve only taken on the best parts of this annoying habit from my parents.  Instead of critiquing things for how bad they might be, I strive to only indulge in tastes of ridiculously good food because I think it satisfies your body, soul and cravings more.  Of course, that’s a mantra that’s easier said than done…


Rabbit; The Final Frontier

Joli Lapin

When I was growing up I wasn’t exposed to much in the way of game meat.  Aside from the occasional curried goat roti (a nod to my mother’s Caribbean heritage) or a festive Cornish rock hen (often my father’s answer to preparing holiday meals for 2) I didn’t really develop a taste for wilder fare until I was in my early 20’s.

Without a doubt, the one meat I’ve been an exceptionally slow adopter to is rabbit.  This is partly because the skinned carcass of a whole rabbit too closely resembles that of the small felines that share my home.  I make no bones about eating cute, fuzzy animals if they taste good, but the possibility of questionable provenance has held me back in the past.

It’s taken a few years, but I’ve gradually warmed to the idea of rabbit.  It may have started during a meal at Cowbell or perhaps tasting a terrine from The Black Hoof, I’m not quite sure.  While we were in Quebec City in the fall I enjoyed shredded rabbit confit linguine at Le Lapin Saute, and for our anniversary I consumed a similar dish at Splendido.  I’m still not a fan of rabbit rilettes, but I think I’ve made substantial leaps and bounds (har har!) towards getting over my mental distaste for it.

Recently, I even went so far as to buy a saddle of rabbit at Fiesta Farms, a place I know I can steadfastly trust not to sell me skinned kittens.  But for several days the packet of rabbit sat on the bottom shelf of the fridge, taunting me.

At first I’d considered using the Ratio app to make another batch of dough for tagliatelle, but pasta seemed an awful lot of work, and also not very far outside of my past 2 rabbit experiences.  I briefly toyed with confit as well, until I realized the duck fat was frozen. (more…)

Frigid Fare


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.


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.


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.


I Came, I Saw, I Drank A Boatload: The Gourmet Food And Wine Expo 2009

To The Victor Go The Spoils

Over the weekend, the Everyman and I visited the annual Gourmet Food & Wine Expo here in Toronto.

This year I was fortunate enough to have free admission courtesy of my editor Sheryl, so all that stood between us and deliciousness were those pesky strips of sample tickets.

And even though every year we leave the Expo lamenting how there is way more booze than food, every year without fail we also go in with many more sample tickets than we’ll possibly need.  This year, we went in with 100 tickets between the 2 of us, which I could tell was probably too much, but we were both looking forward to hitting up the fancy wine room and trying a few expensive wines like we did last year.

I’d also wanted to see Grant’s presentation on the Food Network Stage which happened to be the first of the day, so we ended up getting there just as the show opened.  The unfortunate thing about arriving so early is that most booths aren’t quite ready for service yet, and since we’d decided not to have breakfast beforehand, we were absolutely famished and starving for options.

In order to push back the lightheadedness, we stopped at the first booth that was open, which in this case happened to be Sassafraz.  The Everyman helped himself to a pulled meat mini sandwich, while I grabbed what they were hyping as the world’s best brownie.  The sandwich was decently textured, but super bland without a generous helping of the various condiments that were available.  The brownie was tasty too, but much too sweet to be considered the best of the best.


Over The Lips And Past The Gums


Several months ago when I purchased a quarter of a grass fed cow, a rather large and unwieldy package stamped simply with the word tongue found its way into my freezer.

And for months, I couldn’t fathom exactly what I should do with it.

I’d had tongue on several occasions in the past, including at The Black Hoof in the form of a thinly sliced sandwich (among other things), but I’d never felt the need to tackle this offal matter at home.

But then one day, I felt like making these, figuring that instead of the pork cheeks, I’d substitute in the tongue.  Not knowing too much about tongue, I assumed that the results would be similar since tongue is a rather fatty, gelatinous cut.

So, before I left for work one day, I tossed the requisite ingredients into my handy dandy slow cooker alongside the tongue, and went on my way.


Culinary Recycling

2nd Gen Pickles

A while back I read about an interesting idea over on Grant’s blog, Charcuterie Sundays.

It had to do with the potential inherent in re-using a pickling liquid over and over again so that it would end up resembling a complex melange of flavours, similar to a 100 year old sourdough starter.  I’ve pretty much bastardized the retelling of his intent, so if you’d like, you can check it out word for word here.  I didn’t realize exactly how long ago it had been until I went to look for it…

This is an idea I’ve toyed with before, particularly last year after I’d made a batch of gherkins and had a fair bit of brine left over.  I threw together a bunch of mixed veg (carrots, cauliflower and broccoli) and started poured over the steaming hot brine.  I probably would’ve had something really awesome if I weren’t for the white, wriggly caterpillars that took that opportunity to disengage from wherever they were hiding in the nooks and crannies of my CSA share cauliflower.  Being somewhat squeamish about bugs, I tossed out the whole batch without even getting the chance to test drive the recycled brine idea, but I swore that the next time I made pickles, I would do just that.

Harvested Celery


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.


Summertime, And The Eating Is Easy

There are an awful lot of naysayers out there still, but despite all of them, the Everyman and I continue to enjoy the Summerlicious/Winterlicious promotions.

As I’ve said in the past, in order to maximize the experience, you just have to go into it with the right mindset.  Don’t expect that you are going to have the greatest meal of your whole life, take it for what it is; a cheap way to test out potentially delicious establishments.  Plus, there’s a lot to be said about the customer service one experiences during the ‘liciouses.  If a restaurant still manages to provide outstanding service during such a stressful time, you know that you’ve found a good one.

For the summer version this year, we picked 4 new restaurants to visit, all of which I’d heard good things about and had been wanting to sample for some time.

First off, there was opening Friday at Senses at the Soho Met.


The Death Burger

Death Burger

Hot on the back of our ‘nduja fun over at The Black Hoof last week, I decided to revisit the blisteringly addictive jar of minced Terroni-brand pepperoncinis I had in the fridge.

Other than the ‘nduja and a random side I’d made a few months ago, it’s been languishing in condiment alley, hidden amongst so many other preserved delights.

In the summer (and really, anytime) the one thing I love to cook is burgers, and as the resident Queen of the grill around these parts, I probably cook them about once a week.  I have lots of different versions I like to make, from cheese and jalapeño stuffed chipotle burgers, to tomato powder-infused green chile mozzaburgers, to plain and simple s&p only burgers; there are few occasions where I don’t approve of (or can’t find a way to improve) a burger recipe.

Recalling the cooling sensation of the olive oil and prawns counteracting the ‘nduja heat, I imagined that a lump of cheese would perform similarly.  Luckily for us we had some fresh bocconcinis in the house from the paninis the Everyman and I had made for lunch.  I envisioned a tablespoon-sized quenelle of the pepperoncini hidden beneath a luxurious melting of mozzarella; sweet, spicy, smoky and piquant.  That was all the convincing I needed, so I set to work.

Keeping the seasoning simple, the burger itself was nothing more than organic grass-fed beef, a sprinkle of s&p and some cold water to keep the patties fluffy.  Cooked to a tasty medium rare, during the last few minutes of grilling I topped the burgers with the spoon of pepperoncini and lumps of cheese while I toasted the buns and waited for the melt.  Unfortunately the bocconcinis took too long to liquify, even though I’d sliced them thin, so the burger was a few shades past medium by the time I pulled them off, but miraculously still maintained their juiciness.