Monthly Archives: December 2011

Happy New Year and well, thanks

OLD YEAR, NEW YEAR.

HAPPY NEW YEAR and a giant THANK YOU to all you people who visit my blog.   Because I can only click “LIKE” once on anything I write.

Cheese and Toast needs you and I’m grateful for your eyeballs (and mouse hand).   So eat some good stuff Saturday night.

Before I go, an end of year Haiku (reversed, 7-5-7).  I’m going rogue.

Food Metaphor

Empty hole in cookie dough

Can mean everything

Or nothing. Damn food blogger.

3 Comments

Filed under Food Haiku, Ruminations on the Edible, Uncategorized

Toast Post: Cheese Wedges to Fill Your Stocking Toe


There’s always too much good cheese and not enough space in my Globe column to include it all so I’ve listed a few other cheesy ideas below (with advice from our local cheese mongers in Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver).

SOBEYS (Ontario)

Fiscalini Ageing Rooms (photo from Fiscalinicheese.com)

Fiscalini, Clothbound Cheddar:

Andy Shay, the cheese buyer at Sobeys has just brought this California cheese into stores within the last week.  Made in traditional English style, this cheddar is a world-class award winner (including “outstanding Cheese of the Year”).  I’ve been looking forward to this one like, well, like a kid at Christmas.  (Also ask for it at Les Amis du Fromage in Vancouver)

Juliet Harbutt’s Line of British Cheese:

(For a detailed list of the whole line see my post on British Cheese)

Specially picked for best quality (and also keeping in mind being stored at a larger retailer) all these cheeses are fairly hardy and can be left out for an afternoon of nibbling.  The Stilton is made by Cropwell Bishop who make some of the most outstanding examples of this product.

A TASTE OF QUEBEC (Toronto)

Pied De Vent (photo from fromagesduquebec.qc.ca)

Located in the beautiful Distillery District the store carries only Quebec products.  Aside from amazing cheese you can get Quebec honey, charcuterie, preserves and lots of other easy to prepare nibbles.  Suzanne at the store recommended the following:

Pied de Vent

The name of this cheese refers to the sun’s rays peeking through the clouds. It has a copper-coloured rind and buttercup yellow paste. Until recently, Pied de Vent was only available in Quebec. This luscious cheese has a supple paste with a full, meaty aroma. The flavours are buttery, robust and nutty. A great after-dinner cheese all by itself.  (Also at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, and Les Amis de Fromage, Vancouver)

La Tomme des Demoiselles

A hard pressed  cheese aged more than 6 months with salty and fruity flavours.  Made by the producers of Pied-de-Vent and also raw milk.

EVERYTHING CHEESE (Edmonton)

Chaource (photo from aritisinalcheese.com)

The scoop from Tania and Lydia at this great new (just over a year old) cheese shop in Edmonton is the following:

Chaource

This decadent double-creme is made in France’s Champagne region and is the perfect pairing for your bubbly.

Gingha Fruit Cheese

This  “Scottish Pear” is made with a mix of Scottish cheddar, cream cheese and pear Schnapps. It is formed in the shape of a pear and covered in wax.  (See how easy it is to eat more fruit?)

They also carry Shropshire Blue and classics like Epoisses, Valencay (so gorgeous on a cheese board), and Robiola (Heaven is a gooey Robiola).

LES AMIS DU FROMAGE (Vancouver)

Cropwell-Bishop Stilton

Allison at Les Amis was kind enough to stop and email me some ideas in between the holiday rush.  I’m putting my money on the Ported Stilton– apparently it’s going very fast!

Ported Stilton

The right way to marry your port and Stilton–have a professional do it.  “We pierce the outside of the Stilton and pour Port into the wheel, we start at the beginning of November and give it at least 6 weeks,” says Allison.

Goat Cheeses

They have lots of fabulous little goat cheese with fresh ash, Espelette peppers, aged pyramids, logs buttons, leaf-wrapped and soaked in Marc.

(these types of goat cheese are so lovely they must be seen to be appreciated, go immediately)

Mountain Cheeses

My favourite  cheese category–they’ve got lots reports Allison,  including Abondance from Savoie and Le Marechal from Switzerland.

BLUE CHEESE

Blue Juliette (photo from Provincial Fine Foods)

Today’s column, The Spread was based around Stilton and Roquefort and blues in general.  It was quite a struggle to whittle down, and here are a few other blues that you might consider (amongst dozens!  I know!)

Blue Juliette, pasteurized goat, BC

This soft, creamy, shadow of a blue is made from goat milk and hails from Salt Spring Island, BC.  There ‘s no oxygen allowed into the interior of this soft-ripened cheese so the mold only develops in a lace-like blue/green pattern on the rind.  Beautiful on a cheese board and only mildly feisty.

Montbriac (also known as Roche Baron), pasteurized cow, France

If Cambozola’s been your blue cheese compromise, ditch it for a sexy French ally.  A brie-like bloomy rind cheese that gets silky and runny when ripe, its exterior is a striking charcoal colour due to the ash covered rind.  Blue mold is minimal but creates a rich, tangy flavour with a hint of spice.

Erborinato al Cacao e Rum, raw cow, Italy

Tis the season of pampering, and if you’re hoping to indulge your guests look no further than this Erborinato from Italy’s Piedmonte region.  This blue is Infused with 8-yr old rum and coated in cocoa powder.  A hard-to-get cheese with an appropriate price tag, it’s currently available at Toronto’s Cheese Boutique. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Ruminations on the Edible, Toast Posts

Thumbprint Cookie Throwdown: Bacon Jam vs Bacon Marmalade

PC Bacon Marmalade in the left corner and Skillet Bacon Jam in the right.

I’ve been meaning to do a tête-à-tête with my two bacon spreads for a while so why not kill two birds with one stone?

I was making thumbprint cookies for the holidays and they have convenient little holes for filling.   I hoped bacon might infuse some sweet/savoury magic into my cookie tins.  Plus bacon in dessert is so overdone already, what better time than Christmas to overdo it?

The President’s Choice Bacon Marmalade, though a knock-off of the Skillet Bacon Jam, is actually quite different.  It’s made with caramelized onion and balsamic vinegar and is much sweeter than the Skillet Spread.  Great with an aged cheddar on a cracker or in grilled cheese, it has a more typical marmalade consistency with spice and orange peel.  The bacon element adds savour but as an afterthought.

Skillet Bacon Jam and PC Bacon Marmalade

As you can see there is a clear winner in the looks department.  The bacon jam is a BEFORE picture and the marmalade is the AFTER (once the jam has shaved, flossed and waxed).

Skillet bacon jam is meaty, smoky, pulled pork like in consistency.  It has bacon flavour full force.  It’s “smack me so I stop eating this” kind of good. Smoked bacon is the first ingredient in the Skillet product and sugar is the first ingredient in the PC marmalade.  Depends how much jam you want in your bacon jam.

Back to the cookies.  I am happy to report that all cookies turned out pretty tasty.  The sweet/sour character of the Bacon Marmalade’s balsamic vinegar and caramelized onion base was very complimentary to the buttery cookie.

Quite lovely, no?

But it was the Bacon Jam thumbprints that surprised me.  Because to be perfectly honest, I had a hard time taking a bite.  It’s the image problem again.  You’d rather get a piece of coal in your stocking than have this show up at your door.  It’s like The Cat Came Back in a cookie.

Now I'm thinking hide the bacon jam INSIDE the cookie.

They look furry, to put it kindly.  But they tasted fantastic.  The sweet, the salty–it was a darn good combo.  But you’d have to serve it to people at night, with no lights on.  No candles.  Not even Scentsy.  But, on the bright side you could all be comfortably naked.  And blissed out on bacon.

3 Comments

Filed under Blogs with cooking tips, Restaurants and Products, Ruminations on the Edible

Fake Food News: Plastic Grapes have Meltdown

The Plastic Grapes were often bullied by Real Grapes (dramatization)

Early Wednesday morning a bunch of plastic grapes jumped onto a hot burner and instantly deteriorated.  It seems the grapes had been  bullied for months by a bunch of real grapes.  Hate graffiti  was found scrawled across the side of the plastic kitchen where the plastic grapes resided.  Phrases like “Go Juice Yourself…NOT!” are under investigation.

“He was the best buddy a banana could have, other than another banana or a monkey” said the plastic banana.

A plastic eggplant declined comment.

1 Comment

Filed under Strange but Tasty, Uncategorized

Screw the Sugar Cookies: Christmas Macaroon Fix in the East End

What could make a better hostess gift? Nothing, don't even try thinking about it.

If Toronto foodies can go west West in search of a good bite, I will traverse the east East.

It was the first “snowfall” (windy wet snowstorm) of the season last week when I set out.  I was looking for a new pastry shop called J’Adore Cakes on the Danforth.  In my hood.  But kind of further east than the east I called home.  I found myself trudging sans hat, with flimsy scarf wrapped around my ears and mascara smudges on my cheeks towards a little window promising shelter and sugar near Victoria Park/Danforth.

The windows of J’Adore Cakes were steamed up from the warmth of the ovens which had been going all morning and I could just make out the hazy shape of a macaroon tree in the window.

Macaroon tree if you've never seen one in the wild.

Once inside I was greeted by owner and pastry chef  Isabelle Loiacono and her very charming mom, who was helping at the counter.  The store is teeny–J’Adore’s first retail outlet.  Cute, charming, cozy are all words that apply.  For lunch, dessert or esperesso it’s a “pop-in” kind of place without even a table to sit down (one little table would be nice!).  But the individual desserts looked artful and mouth-watering while the macaroons were as they should be: crunchy and tender on the outside and chewy, soft in the middle.

They also make beautiful cakes which you can order with a phone call or by visiting the J’Adore website.

I stole the picture below off the site and there are many more examples  (I also stole the Macaroon Tower and Holiday Macaroon photos–full disclosure)

Let me leave you with a list of a few of the macaroon flavours J’Adore features:

There were more, I ate them. Why I should not do my own photo shoots.

 In random order: Lavender Maple, Coconut Dulce, Cashew Honey, Red Velvet, Praline Crunch, Sea Salt Caramel, and Pistachio Rosewater.

Isabelle has been featured on the Marilyn Dennis Show, in Wedding Bells magazine and competed on The Food Network Challenge.

She also grills a mean ham and swiss baguette to comfort you when your eyelashes have frozen to your face.

5 Comments

Filed under Restaurants and Products

Cheese Whiz: British Cheese Tasting with Juliet Harbutt

That’s a half-wheel of Stilton (producer is Cropwell-Bishop)  staring you straight in the face.  And holding it is Juliet Harbutt, British cheese guru and knower of all things cheese-related. (There, I think I’ve deftly summed up Juliet’s dense full page resume of achievements).  Juliet, among many other things, started the British Cheese Awards in 1994 to help recognise excellence in British cheese.  She was in town last week (at The Cookbook Store) promoting a selection of British cheeses in Canada.

The entire selection consists of sixteen traditional cheese that have been consistent medal award winners at the British Cheese Awards. Only about 30% of 900 entries each year garner a medal and 22 “rise to the top” says Juliet.   Sobey’s is carrying six of her sixteen choices exclusively at their stores. (There is a bonus 7th cheese on the plate below)

So shall we get on with our tasting?

Starting at NOON (with the vibrant orange Red Leicester and moving clockwise)

1. Red Leicester

This was interesting for me.  I love Red Leicester and usually only buy the farmhouse clothbound version.  Tasting it next to the larger scale industrial version, there is no comparison.  But Juliet introduced us to this younger non-clothbound version which is made at a big creamery, but using artisinal methods.  It is made by The Pembrokeshire Cheese Company, a farmer’s cooperative in West Wales.

This wedge was younger than what I was used to but still had the savory-sweetness that intensifies as it ages.  Beautiful on a cheeseboard and easier to slice for a snack (or sandwich) when it is softer and younger.

2. Creamy Lancashire

Have you ever had a cheese and thought it was so-so and thus never tried it again?  (bad–don’t ever do that. Give Cheese a Chance)  I did that with Lancashire.  I had a crumbly, drier wedge one time and gave up.  This has me converted.  It’s buttery, tangy and richly mouth-coating.  Made with a loose curd, you can see the delineations where they been pressed together to form the cheese.  I mention Lancashire in my Globeholiday cheese column ….(PLUG!)  Juliet described the Lancashire as having a “raw onion tang”

3. Double Gloucester

Hailing from Lancashire England, the producer of this Double Gloucester is Butler’s Farmhouse Cheese.  It is made using traditional methods in open vats, cloth bound and matured for up to 8 months.  There is a slight hint of orange-pink to the paste as it is coloured with annato (a natural colouring from a South American seed also used in orange cheddar and the Red Leiscester).  Dense, nutty and firm textured.

Pale Orange Double Gloucester

4. Oak Smoked Lyburn Farms

Loved this one.  The smoke is subtle and delicate.  It’s naturally flavoured over oak chips and the milk comes from the cheesemaker’s own farm.  The cheeses has a caramel coloured rind and will win you over if you’ve been turned off by over-smoked fellows that leave a campfire in your mouth.

5. Wyfe of Bath

This was the “bonus” cheese and is not available at Sobey’s.  Wyfe of Bath is a creamy, buttery cheese made from organic milk and molded in cloth-lined baskets..   Juliet’s  identified a “rubber boot aroma” (that sharp, pleasant new-ness).

6. Special Reserve Shropshire Blue

The bright orange blue cheese on the upper left of the plate is the Shropshire Blue.  Made at Cropwell Bishop (as is the Stilton) it’s based on the Stilton recipe but was actually created in Inverness, Scotland in 1970.  Annato gives it its colour.  Peaks  at 3 months.  Not as strong as Stilton you still get buttery, cocoa notes and a real punch of colour on the cheese board.

Half-Stilton

7. Special Reserve Stilton

Only five producers make Stilton. Cropwell Bishop is one of them and the family has been making Stilton for over three generations.  Milk suppliers are hand-picked to ensure the quality of this famous cheese.  Also peaking at 3 months, this 13 week old piece was buttery, spicy with a dark cocoa flavour on the finish. You can see the beautiful, and typical “shattered porcelain” veining in the piece Julia is holding at the top.  Stilton is a dense cheese so the blue veining spreads in a finer, spidery pattern than seen in a looser blue like Roquefort.

Finally, if you’re looking for a great reference book of the cheese sort, The World Cheese Book edited by Juliet is great.  You can just have it sit by the bedside and nightly flip through pictures and well-written, succinct information about the world’s major cheeses.

Then you will hop out of bed for a midnight snack.

3 Comments

Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Ruminations on the Edible, Toast Posts

Skip the carton, Make a Pitcher of Homemade Nog

One serving appears more ladylike when divided into three small glasses.

Today is the day we decorate our tree.  The Christmas Tree is my favourite part of the holidays.  As unexcited as I am to dig through the pile of boxes in the basement on the annual ornament hunt (why do I have two bins of Easter decorations?  Really?) I am pretty psyched to get the tree going.

Thinking that many of us might be putting up lights, Christmas shopping or lamenting the start of carols on the radio, I figured egg nog and alcohol could settle us right down.  Cursing also helps immensely.

If you’re going out for the weekend grocery shop, you only need  few ingredients to make your own egg nog: eggs, milk, cream, sugar. (I know! Why have you not done this before?)

My friend swears by the Mac’s Milk version (and I too admit to glugging the store-bought) but this is lighter, frothier and fresher and really a cinch to make.

HERE IS THE LINK TO MY CHEF BASICS  EGG NOG MAKING VIDEO.

Once this becomes your signature holiday drink–you can move onto your own egg nog serving set.

.

EGG NOG RECIPE

Make sure you use the freshest eggs possible and have an alternate beverage available for guests like pregnant woman, children or the elderly who shouldn’t consume raw eggs.

Servings: 6

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Ready In: 45 minutes (includes 30 minutes cooling)

Ingredients

4 eggs, separated

1/3 cup sugar (reserve 1 tablespoon)

2 cups whole milk

1 cup whipping cream

fresh grated nutmeg

pinch salt

Method

With an electric beater whisk together egg yolks and sugar until sugar dissolves and yolks are pale and fluffy. Add milk, cream and nutmeg and whisk until well combined. Refrigerate until cold.

Just before serving whisk egg whites (at room temperature) and a pinch of salt to soft peaks. Add teaspoon of sugar and whisk until firm peaks.

Fold into eggnog to make it extra light and fluffy.

If you want to add alcohol you can whisk in 2 to 3 ounces of bourbon or rum before adding the egg whites.

Another opportunity to use my beloved nutmeg grater. (purse size convenience!)

11 Comments

Filed under All Recipes, Blogs with cooking tips, Ruminations on the Edible, Uncategorized