Monthly Archives: March 2012

Toast Post: Merlot Bella Vitano for your weekend munching

I only had enough change for a skinny piece!

Wine and cheese in the same package.  Perfectly portable and legal for the underage too.  I didn’t know that the award-winning Merlot Bella Vitano ( from Sartori cheese in Wisconsin) was gettable up in these parts.

But I went to the new Leslieville Cheese on Donlands and there it was.  It’s referred to as a cheddar-parm hybrid in some reviews and does have the creamy quality and acidity of cheddar mixed with the savoury, sweet crunch of the Reggiano.  In this one you also get a bit of that fermented grape tang.

I asked the cheese monger to write the other flavours on my cheese package/notepad–it also comes washed in raspberry ale, balsamic vinegar and rubbed with espresso.  If you like the coffee-cheese idea you can also get the delicious lavender/espresso rubbed Barely Buzzed from Sobeys.  Or you can read about my coffee and cheese pairing experience here.

Have a fantastic weekend!

6 Comments

Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Toast Posts, Uncategorized

NY NY: Fat Radish, Lost Cheese and Beer Braised Tongue Tacos

Our first morning in New York we forced ourselves to get up so we could be at the Friday Union Square market to get some fresh sheep’s milk ricotta before it was all gone.   An eye-opening, creamy latte from coffee truck (no such genius coffee trucks yet seen in Toronto) was consumed en route.  It was a gorgeous day.  We wound our way to the very last stall but found no ricotta making in progress anywhere.  Disappointment was quickly squelched when this was unravelled…

The couple that sell their cheese at this stall have roots in Italy. Jody was a shepard and their traditional Italian cheeses are made mainly from sheep milk.  This one is covered in wine must sourced locally in New York.  The flavour of the grapes worked its way into the paste.

This Caciotta is made from cow (Jersey Cow-can you see how intensely yellow the paste is?) and their milk comes from an elderly farmer next to their farm.  Sadly it will soon be phased out as the farmer will be giving up his business.  After a lengthy chat we asked him if he knew who sold this incredible ricotta.   And guess what!  They are the ricotta makers-but they weren’t happy with the recent batch and thus had none.  Sigh.

There were a few other cheese stalls in the market selling fresh chevre, goat milk Camembert, Alpine style cheese and aged cheddar.  And if you care about stuff like  fruit, veggies, greens, lavender and breads, they had that too.

Market Stalls made us hungry for someone else to make us market-fresh food so we headed over to the The Fat Radish on Orchard Street.

Tad had the BLT with poached egg, crispy bacon and oven-roasted tomatoes.

And I had the Market Plate of veggies which featured heirloom carrots, turnip, kohlrabi, radish and  cauliflower all either steamed or roasted and seasoned perfectly and tossed lightly in a walnut vinaigrette.

Brown rice with crispy onions on the side and some carrot-ginger puree.  If this is vegetarian I am IN.

It was a day dictated by cheese destinations,  we walked everywhere and had a good tour of the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village.  Below is Murray’s cheese counter (Bleecker Street Location).  Take a number and try a whole bunch of cheese.  Everything smartly organized by style from soft and bloomy to blue.

Or buy some artisinal yogurt, cultured butter or chestnut honey from France.

And if you’re me, buy a 1 pd wedge of a cheese called Dante (plus wildflower honey) for your cheese club, carry it for hours and then forget it on some random steps in the city after stopping to reorganize your purse.

But when you lose cheese, buy more cheese!  We wandered over to Lucy’s Whey which is in the Chelsea Market and tried some amazing American artisinal wedges.

Dinner was at Empellon Taqueria in the West Village which will be 1 yr old next week.  Chef Alex Stupak (formerly of WD-50) has chosen to focus on tacos at this restaurant (and tequila if you happen to be handed the booze list).  He recently opened a more “fine dining” version of the restaurant called Empellon Cocina.

Damn iPhone can’t take stunning gorgeous food photos in the dark but imagine you were dining with us by candlelight…

You can order tacos in pairs or in threes.  The above is beer braised tongue with potatoes and Arbol chile salsa and we also had soft-shell crab tacos,  scallop tacos with cauliflower, capers and raisin puree and over-salted fried Yuca chips.  The service could have been a bit better, although had the waiter come by more often I would have drank way too many Margheritas.

Overall, it was fairly lip-smacking and Tad and I ended the summery evening on a lovely but touristy note walking around Rockefeller Plaza. (my request, I wanted to be surrounded by big NY buildings.  I love doing that.  Reminds me of the first time I came here and just kept looking up as I walked.)

8 Comments

Filed under Restaurants and Products, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

NY NY: One pork bun too many before dinner at Prune

The Wild Blue Yonder

Departing Toronto and flying to NY on Thursday, we arrived just in time for all the trees to bloom.

East Village in Bloom

Once set-up in our apartment on St. Marks Place we ran to grab some lunch around the corner at Momofuku Ssam Bar.

We really did run as it was almost 3pm and they close until dinner at 3:30.  Tad had had their buns of deliciousness before so he  craved reunion while I was happy to finally be introduced.

Better than a circle of friends.

My picture cannot really convey the deliciousness which caused me to eat one pork bun too many when I was already bursting.  But the eyes would not back down and I shovelled the last one in feeling equally satisfied and slightly queasy at the same time.  In hindsight, an hour later, I have no regrets.

Bun-ravelled.

We had two steamed pork buns each and a pulled duck bun.  The duck bun was lined with smoked mayo and sauerkraut and the pork was accented by cucumber, scallions and hoisin sauce.  The bun was soft like newborn Wonderbread, crust removed.  Fresh, tender, sweet, salty flavours.

As I perused the drink list and I noticed a Riesling from Tawse Winery.  I said to the server, “Oh how nice, I’m from Toronto so happy to see a Canadian wine on the menu” and she replied, “Yes, wine making is getting popular in Canada.”

Why yes- yes, it is!!!

After some R&R at our apartment we wandered out again before dinner.  It as a gorgeous night.

The Cooper Union Building

We wandered around and I went into a couple little boutiques where jeans came in waist sizes for women from 23-28 (well, ok, it was the sales table but they were all beautifully laid out and not a bigger size in sight).  We headed to Prune for dinner at 7:30.

Prune (NYTs review) has been in the East Village since 1999 and is at 54 East 1st Street. Chef Gabriella Hamilton won the 2011 James Beard Foundation Best NY Chef Award and has recently written a biography called Blood, Bones and Butter (excerpt here from Bon Appetit magazine).

The pictures below were necessary but taken under duress as the place only seats 30, and it’s elbow to elbow.  Obnoxious food blogger iphone antics seemed out of place and I was extremely self-conscious.  Tad twisted my arm.  Lighting sucks but “picture it” all in better light. And btw, I don’t think you come here without ordering the bone marrow.

Roasted marrow bones, parsley salad (with capers) and sea salt on the side.  Served with grilled bread.  The sum of the parts –the fatty, rich,  mouth-coating marrow with the sea salt cleansed with the bright, fresh flavours of the parsley salad was luscious.  You really are temped to stick your tongue into the bones (once the little spoon renders itself useless) to dig as deep into the crevice as your would like.

Our mains--see the clams and pork in the back?

The mains were also lovely.  I had Arctic Char (with the crispest, sweet skin I’ve ever tasted) on a lemon rice which was like a light risotto mixed with fresh peas.  Tad had pork shoulder with Littleneck clams in a broth filled with kale and white beans.  The tender, delicate pork was sitting in the broth surrounded by the sweet, tender clams.

Not too sweet, a little espresso bitterness in the chocolate. Perfect conclusion!

Dessert was a chocolate semifreddo (an Italian chilled dessert usually softer than typical ice cream) on slightly sweetened whipped cream and I think it had little caramel bits around it  (we’d finished a bottle of wine and a negroni at this point).

So excuse my bad photos, tomorrow I hunt for cheese.  Til then….

Leave a comment

Filed under Restaurants and Products, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

Whoot! New Leslieville Cheese Market opened at Donlands and O’Connor

Last time I got excited about the little strip mall at Donlands and O’Connor is when I spied a little confectionary store that sold “British Candy”.  Visions of Jelly Babies raced through my head as I entered but was sorely disappointed by the old and dusty looking stock.  (What, there’s not a huge demand for Fruit Pastilles?)

But as of last week, my hopes are high once again.  Michael Simpson, owner of Leslieville Cheese Market has opened another store in this east end “forgotten zone” as he calls it.

We've been found!

As a resident in this neighborhood  I have to agree that it’s bit thrilling to get noticed by a fine food proprietor.  And there are lots of families in the area that are probably salivating at the thought of artisinal cheese, Rahier croissants, St. Urbain bagels and artisinal breads in the neighborhood (not the neighborhood next door, or the one next to that).  Located across from Fresh from the Farm (which sells local, farm-fresh,hormone and drug-free meat) Mr. Simpson is hoping to start a trend to inspire other food shops to open.

The store wasn’t open Monday when I stopped by, but here’s a little peek into the wee space.  See the cheese!!  Glowing enticingly.  I can’t wait to stop by after school with Felix and pick up cheese for after dinner.

So I hope if you live in the area you’ll come out and support the new store and maybe as Mr. Simpson hopes–”inspire more businesses to come out of the woodwork”.  Then us “other” east-enders can stop referring to our neighborhoods as “close to Leslieville” or “next to Riverdale”.

HOURS ARE:

Mon Closed
Tues 11-7
Wed 11-7
Thur 11-730
Fri 11-730
Sat 10-7
Sun 11-6

3 Comments

Filed under Restaurants and Products, Uncategorized

Trigger Happy- My slightly obsessed efforts to get a Momofuko Ko reservation

I’m going to New York this weekend with my husband.  The weather looks like it will be fabulous, we’re flying Porter so will avoid Air Canada nonsense and we found a great apartment to rent for 4 days in the East Village.  Yet despite all this and the simple pleasure of wandering New York itself, I am obsessed with getting a reservation at Momofuko Ko.

If you like to eat, and you like to to travel  then like me,you probably prepare your food itinerary before you do anything else.  I am slightly concerned that I overplanned but more concerned that I won’t be hungry enough to eat all things I want to eat.  And I do want to eat a giant pastrami sandwich which takes a while to digest–which could kill at least three hours without food.

We’re having dinner at Prune Thursday night,  Friday we are doing Mexican at Empellón Taqueria, Saturday lunch at Artisinal with friends (cheese and wine flights here I come)   and Saturday night was to be at Momofuko Ko.   I had it all figured out.  You can only reserve at Ko on-line 7 days in advance.  You get a password and enter the site, and then hold your finger over the mouse pad until the second hand hits 10:00 am and then you FIRE.  If you’re lucky you’ll see one slot in the 12-seat restaurant still showing a green check mark and not a BIG RED ‘YOU LOSE” X.

After already spending 1 1/2 hours on the phone (the Monday 5 weeks in advance that I was allowed to call)  trying unsuccessfully  to get a seat at the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare I was pretty turned off by the “cross your fingers and hope to eat” reservation system.  I had already rescheduled my day to phone Prune at the exact right moment.  But, this on-line thing seemed simple.  I tested my speed on the mouse button on the Momofuko site.  How fast could I be?

Like a gunslinger in the old West practicing to draw his six-shooter I was ready for this Sunday, March 18 which would hook me up with a Saturday night reso.

But then my son’s first soccer practise got scheduled for the same time on the same Sunday.  First as in, “first ever”.  He’s 3.   After a brief but serious discussion with Tad about which was more important (Felix might not like soccer, I was sure I would like dinner) we decided I would take Felix to soccer and he would stay home to make the reservation.  BUT HE HAD NOT BEEN PRACTISING.  I didn’t mention my concern as it seemed slightly….crazy.  But I left detailed instructions.

I got the call as we headed onto the filed.  ALL BOOKED.

I felt loss then anger–why did these stupid restaurants have to be so exclusive?  I could eat a hot dog and be happy–I  was lucky enough to be in new York!  And there was the Shake Shack to think about.

And yet, just this morning there I was, finger hovering over the the mouse pad, and I did it.

See how easy it is?  And only a $150 charge and loss of your reservation if you’re fifteen minute late.  This is my lucky day.

Only problem is Sunday night we were planning to have dinner at Colonie in Brooklyn.  They don’t take reservations there so maybe we’d get in, maybe not.   Sigh.  Maybe I should just go wander around  the MoMA.

2 Comments

Filed under Restaurants and Products, Travel and Food, Uncategorized

Toast Post: Tomme de Savoie (can keep you skinny)

Sometimes we fall in love with a food, eat it endlessly and then forget about it for months (or years like my Supernatural Brownie recipe).  That is what I felt like when I bought a wedge of Tomme de Savoie recently.  In fact I thought, really, I forgot about this?  I mean look at this guy–he couldn’t be more photogenic.  And more pokeable than the Pillsbury Dough Boy. The paste is so rich and unctuous that it holds promise of creamy fullness making it impossible not to touch.

The word “Tomme” refers to small to medium-sized alpine-style cheeses from France and usually the region’s name is attached (Savoie in this case).  The word Tomme is used also used a bit more freely to describe a smaller style of cheese which is good for ageing, has a rustic rind and a semi-soft interior.  These “other” Tommes can be found in Canada (such as Tomme de Grosse Île and Tomme Haut Richelieu).  Originally a Tomme would be made from the milk of several different herds, not just from one farm, but always from animals that grazed in the same region.  (Thank you Steven Jenkins and Max McCalman for this last bit of information.)   I also have read that these smaller “Tommes” originated to use the the skim-milk left over from bigger, richer cheeses like Beaufort.

In case you wanted to get closer. And kiss it.

Tomme de Savoie is a raw, cow’s milk cheese (bask in its beautiful colour) and it has a thick, rustic inedible rind.  I can just picture this cheese in my pocket when cross-country skiing or in my hand at the kitchen counter while I procrastinate from cross-country skiing.  You’ll get flavours from the pastures the cows’ grazed in, a slight herbaceous, grassy quality with nutty milky notes and a beefy mouth feel to match its earthy, pungency.

AND, because you will want to eat a tonne of it (or a tomme of it! drum roll pls) , since it is still traditionally made with skim-milk it actually a lower-fat cheese (with high-fat flavour).

Leave a comment

Filed under Cheese/Cheese Related, Toast Posts

I will not shut-up about you Socca (aka chickpea flour pissaladière) with crème fraîche

Click on this for deliciousness in detail.

Today I am the drunk person that will not shut-up. This is the first recipe I ever made from Plenty (the vegetable cookbook from London’s Ottolenghi) when I bought it and it led to a love affair (whirlwind even) that has not ended.    And may yet seem endless to you my bloggies, as I have a few more recipes coming and feel gushy about all of them.  I may soon be the Julie and Julia version of Plenty except with a really awkward title.  (Plenty of Cheese?  Sue and Ottolenghi?) The recipes work exactly as promised, with clear defined directions and honestly, turn out just like the picture in the book.  See for yourself:

The book image for your "compare and contrast" pleasure.

Despite the fancy photo shoot, what you see is what you get.  Beautiful dish in cookbook becomes beautiful dish on your dinner table.  In order to save some obnoxious gushing for future posts, let me show how this recipe comes together.

Take 2 cups of cherry tomatoes, slice in half, and toss with some olive oil and salt and pepper.  You’re going to roast these, cut side up, at 275°F for about 25 minutes.  You don;t want them to dry out completely.

Then chop a couple of sprigs of rosemary (the recipe calls for thyme but we had none on hand) and toss with about 2 lbs of thinly sliced white onions adding some olive oil, slat and pepper.

Put this in a large pan and cook n high for about a minute, then reduce the heat to low and cook for about 25 minutes (I think we did 40 minutes last time though) until he onion is light brown and sweet.

At the end mix in 1/2 teaspoon of white wine vinegar.

When the tomatoes are done you need to bump up your oven temperature to 325F.  And now to make the Socca batter with your chickpea flour.

Combine 1 3/4 cups chickpea flour, 2 cups water, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt plus a grind of pepper in a bowl and whisk by hand until smooth and well combined.

Ina  separate bowl you need to whisk two egg whites to soft peaks and then gently fold them into the batter.   Now line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside to put your pancakes on as you make them.

In the cookbook one is to use a small 6″ pan to fry the pancakes but I just used a regular non-stick frying pan, keeping the pancakes about 6 ” in diameter.  Put a teeny bit of olive oil in the pan, then you want to pour the batter about 1/4 ” thick and then just wait for the bubble to start appearing on the top.  Give it a flip and cook for about another minute and pop onto the parchment lined cookie sheet.  Make the rest of the pancakes (4-6 total) and then put them all in the oven for 5 minutes.

Top the pancakes generously with the caramelized onion and then add the tomatoes. You can warm this in the oven for a few minutes before serving.

The crème fraîche can be served on the side but we just popped it on top. And I would say–make extra onions.  I always seem to want more.

We served this with a Thai-style salad from the same cookbook, which also kicked ass, and I will post that recipe down the road.

You know how I felt about this?  Kind of like The Cure Song Just Like Heaven.  That was a good song.  Especially after a few Keg sized Iced Teas on a first date. But as they say on the Riverbank, that’s another story.

3 Comments

Filed under All Recipes, Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from)

What Am I? Need Help Identifying Mystery Kitchen Tool!

My friend Johanne (of fashioninmotion fame— would add fortune but not sure if fortune has happened yet) emailed me with this photo.

This ceramic beauty was abandoned with some great plates in a box behind a now defunct Leslieville kitchen store.  It now has a home but no identity.

So I ask for your help–do you know what this is?  Please pass on, or PIN on Pinterest and together we can Nancy Drew ourselves out of this mystery.

It’s two pieces btw, and Johanne says  it makes the most awful screeching sound of ceramic on ceramic when you move the top piece along the shaped ridges,  quite horrific,  so the idea that maybe it is used for grinding spices/pesto/herbs makes Johanne shudder.

Here are a few other photos or our ear-piercing, door knobbish friend-

I don’t know why the pictures are uploading crooked and it is 4 am so I am just not worrying about it.

(4am is when all mysteries become so mind-boggling that they must be posted right away)

This is over $20 bucks worth of something useful.  Potentially.

Nice manicure Johanne.

Any and all guesses are welcome!

13 Comments

Filed under Ruminations on the Edible, Strange but Tasty

It Doesn’t Get More Local Than This

We often drive by Strickland’s Choice Meat (Greenwood and Gerrard) on our way south to Queen Street.  Recently we noticed it was closed until March 21.

Why?  Well, let’s take a closer look:

Len is having surgery.  Basically the sign is saying, “the whole neighborhood knows who Len is and knows him well enough to be privy to the fact that he’s having surgery.  And to care.”

And I bet if you stopped someone in the neighborhood they could tell you what kind of surgery poor Len needs.

I hope Len is OK.   I’ve driven by the sign enough times that I’m starting to wonder if he’s in good hands, if the surgery went well and is it too soon to expect him back in a mere 3 weeks?

Get well soon Len!

May 3, 2012:  Here is a bit of history about Stricklands (thanks Lisa!) :   from the Beach Metro news

One feature for history buffs is a butcher and meat shop called Stricklands Butcher Shop. This shop was located at different locations on the Danforth and other places for close to 80 years. The current shop on Greenwood Avenue is still run by two jovial Strickland brothers, who also happen to carry the Beach Metro News in their store.

5 Comments

Filed under Ruminations on the Edible, Strange but Tasty

Supernatural Brownies still Supernatural after 5 years in drawer

I had offered to bring a dessert to a friend’s house this weekend (she was making dinner) and needed something that was both adult and kid friendly.  In my drawer of recipes I rediscovered this one for “Supernatural Brownies” clipped from the New York Times in 2007.  I  made them many times in 2007 and then kind of forgot about them (either that or I’ve been in a chocolate coma and just woke up in 2012).  Other than the fact that they’re not dairy-free (my friend Meredith can’t eat dairy–and I totally forgot that too) they seemed perfect.

To avoid being a total dessert jerk I brought Meredith some Mango Gelato from Ed’s Real Scoop (I know a pretty feeble gesture) while the rest of us enjoyed these brownies which turned out as moist, chewy and chocolatey as I remembered them.  So I thought I would share the recipe or rekindle your memories of it if you too had once loved–and lost– it.

This recipe originally come from a piece in the New York Time by Julia Moskin  which included 3 brownie recipes (French Chocolate Brownies and New Classic Brownies).  I stopped trying alternate recipes after I tried the Supernatural recipe as it seemed there was no point in exploring further.

This is the NYT’s recipe, as adapted from “Chocolate: From Simple Cookies to Extravagant Showstoppers,” by Nick Malgieri (Morrow Cookbooks, 1998).

I got chocolate on the dish. Messy picture. Sorry!

1. You need to butter a 9 x 13 ” pan and then line the bottom with parchment, and butter that.  Now preheat the oven to 350 °F.

2. In a double boiler or a stainless steel bowl set over a wide pot, melt 8 oz bittersweet chocolate with 2 sticks of unsalted butter.  You can give it a stir once in a while. then  when melted and combined set aside to cool slightly.  (you can melt theses  in the microwave as well)

3. Now you’re going to put your eggs in a large bowl and whisk them lightly with a hand blender and then add in 1 cup white sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp salt and 2 tsp vanilla.

4. Pour the chocolate mixture into the egg batter and whisk the two until combined.

Brownie worlds collide.


5. Now add 1 cup all-purpose flour and gently fold it in with a spatula until just combined.  Don’t over mix.

6. Pour the batter into the greased dish and bake for about 35-40 minutes.  Until the top is just cracking and becoming glossy.   Remove and allow to cool before slicing.

I prefer to cut the pieces smaller as they are very rich.  And it sounds better to allow your self two rather than one, or a dozen rather than just six. (Once you eat more than 6 you should consider it a meal.)

The final brownies will be shiny and cracking on top with a rich, mist and chewy middle.

And here is your shopping list of ingredients:

2 sticks (16 tablespoons) butter, plus extra for greasing pan
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup flour

Other than the baking and cooling, preparing this is fast and simple.  A good one for potlucks, birthday parties or Apocalypse planning sessions.

10 Comments

Filed under All Recipes, Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Ruminations on the Edible