Posts Tagged ‘The Stop’

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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Do The Math – Remembering The Hungry Years

Having spent a fair number of my formative years living on the meagre amount of support doled out by the government to my father, I can heartily sympathize and relate to the plight of people struggling to live off the small allotment for food on social assistance.  While many argue that allowing people on social assistance more money only encourages them to stay on aide longer, I believe there is something to be said for allowing the dignity of having a healthful, satisfying meal without automatically assuming that money is being funneled to drink or drugs, etc.

The Stop, one of Toronto’s foremost community advocates is currently promoting their Do The Math challenge, in which 10 high profile Toronto residents attempt to live on the contents of their standard 3 day emergency food hamper for as long as they possibly can.  You can read about the participants’ efforts on this blog, and also in this article by The Star’s Corey Mintz.

As someone who has lived at or below the poverty line at times I feel quite strongly about it, thus I urge you to check it out; hopefully it will be a stepping stone to bring about the seeds of change.

Until next time…

Exclusivity

There seems to be no shortage of fringe dining events and clubs in Toronto lately.

In many cases, the exclusivity of it all really equates to expense.  By that I mean that most of these private dining parties and secret events aren’t really all that exclusive, you just need to be willing to pay (sometimes through the teeth) for them.  From secret supper clubs, to private dining, to charitable events and associations, when it comes down to it, it’s all about money; even when the people preparing and participating in it aren’t.

For example, from what I’ve been hearing lately, the only private dinner club that actually is somewhat exclusive is the supper club that Karen Viva-Haynes of Viva Tastings puts on twice a month.  It’s called 6* (Degrees) Underground and basically in order to score an invite, you have to know someone who knows someone yadda yadda yadda who knows either Karen or Anne from Viva Tastings.  After reading more about it on their own website, I wonder whether having met Karen in her store while shopping there would count.  In the future I just might try to test that theory, since before they decamped from their College St storefront, I did enjoy shopping there.

On the other hand, there’s also Charlie Burger that’s being marketed as an anti-restaurant.  Basically once you sign up on their website they’ll forward you a questionnaire about your opinions on food-related things, and then they vet your answers.  The funny thing about it is that I’ve never heard tell of anyone not being accepted into the fold.  It’s possible that the whole selection process is a gimmick, but the very nature of the events ensures they are semi-exclusive.  We’re not talking about massive banquets serving hundreds of people here, rather 20-30 diners breaking bread in a small, intimate setting.  Since I signed up in February I’ve been invited to 2 events, but have been unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.  From what I heard of the March event, there were only about 30 seats available but they received over 250 RSVPs (as it’s a first come, first serve operation).  Here’s hoping that the third time’s the charm…

Being a longtime advocate for the pleasures and benefits of slow food in my own quiet way, I finally looked into membership in their Toronto Consortium.  I’ll admit that my decision to sign up was spurred on more by a banner ad for their Do It Slow Banchetto that’s happening next weekend at U of T, than anything else, as I tend to walk to the beat of my own drum.  I don’t really feel I need to be part of an organization to believe in something or practice it in my own way (you too, organized religion), but in this case I think the membership donation not only supports a good cause, but gives me access to attend exclusive dinners like this one.  And it turns out that because the Everyman and I are under 30, our couple membership is almost half the price of the standard one… I guess they’re trying to encourage a new generation of slow food activists to take up the cause, and you can count on me, brother!  If there are still tickets left, I’d be really interested in attending this one next week, even though they run $125/head ($150 without membership).  Past posts over at Charcuterie Sundays have made reference to the fact that The Black Hoof crew are preparing some special charcuterie offerings for the event, too.  Plus Cowbell will be there, and we all know how much the Everyman and I heart them.

And lastly, there’s also the somewhat exclusive nature of events like Outstanding In The Field or soon, Eigensinn Farm.  For Outstanding In The Field, this will be their first dinner in Ontario, but from what I gather it’s expected to host upwards of 200 guests.  So really, it’s more like an open air banquet, and the exclusivity is dependent more on people’s willingness to travel overnight in the middle of the week for interesting food, I think.  The Everyman and I will be there with bells on because Mark Cutrara happens to be cooking for the Ontario installment.  And Eigensinn Farm is supposedly drastically cutting back on the number of dinners they’ll hold a month, in order to focus on their new, low(er)scale venture Haisai.  The place was already exclusive enough what with only taking reservations for 12 diners a night, but now that they’re scaling back to hold only a few nights a month, the waiting lists will probably be astronomical.  At times like this I’m very grateful and happy that the Everyman and I got out there last year (again, best Christmas present ever!).  But it sounds like it will probably be a long time (if ever) before we manage to get out there again.

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