Tag Archives: Cookbook Store

Scrambling for Valentine’s gifts Toronto? Relax, have some chocolate…cheese..and a saucy cookbook or two.

XocoCava will have you swooning before you even take a bite.

Swoon before you even take a bite.  Xococava’s milk chocolate with espresso bean, candied lemon and fleur de sel.

Remember that old Blondie song “Rapture”?  Well, I think it was written about the above hand-made chocolates from Xoxocava.  (Also, my friend Rina and I won a lip-sync contest in high school singing that song–my hair was big and that was pre-perm.)

Usually when I buy some good chocolate to keep squirreled away in the cupboard I buy a bar of something delicious like the salted dark chocolate from Stubbe (when I can get a west-end friend to pick it up).  Somehow buying individual pieces like this for myself never occurred to me until I was knocking these back……like the lady I am.

And if that wasn't enough to make you drool...

Drool! Dark chocolate with sour cherries, pistachio and candied rose petal. (xococava)

Beautiful, individual chocolates have been fortuitously dropping into my lap lately.  A friend of mine gave us a box of nine caramel-themed chocolates from Soma (Distillery District) which contained morsels such as Fleur de Sel, Caramel Kiss and Pecan Butter Crunch.

Honestly, you cannot ever eat a Smartie again after that kind of delicious.  Now that Xococava and Soma have spoiled me and made me a xoco-snob  I may head to the Belgian Chocolate Shop on Queen East to check out chocolate making in my hood.  (anyone been there?)

chocolate xoxocava bag

The above gorgeous chocolates come delivered in this cute, witty package ($14.75/bag and there are over a dozen pieces)

I think an easy but spectacular finale to a romantic dinner (for those non-bakers) would be a plate of the above chocolates served with a beautiful, creamy cheese.

Neufchatel with red pepper jelly

Neufchatel with red pepper jelly

And if you want to be thematic with your Valentine cheeseboard you’ll grab this heart-shaped Neufchatel from France’s Normandy region.  It’s a Camembert style cheese that’s creamy, decadent and perfect for sharing.

La Sauvagine, QC

La Sauvagine, QC

And there’s the triple cream, La Sauvagine.  (If it rhymes it’s poetry right?)  I just wrote about this guy for The Wedge so here’s the cheat sheet.

Sauvagine and friends...

Sauvagine and friends…

Or you can get a few petit fours to accompany your cheese fetish.

cheese markers knives

If you would like to bring a gift to your cheese lover, I adore my stainless steel cheese markers (you stick them into your cheese to identify them–sometimes I just write “back off” on my favourites).   This set from Lee Valley comes with a set of 6 cheese knives and a cool case.

Cheese Tiles

Cheese Tiles-write on, wipe off

I was also sent an email about this cute little guys.  Same function as the stainless steel markers but they’re called cheese tiles.

Cheese tiles

Cheese tiles

They come in a variety of styles such as Fleur-di-Lis, Shell, Vine and more. Retails for $29.95 for a set of 4, they can be purchased online at www.placetile.com

And finally, what you’ve all been waiting for, give the ultimate in S&M themed foodie gifts….

Fifty Shades of Chicken

I mean, it’s pretty hilarious right?

I got in touch with Toronto’s Cookbook Store and asked what they would recommend and apparently this 50 Shades of Chicken was a hot stocking stuffer for 2012, but if you didn’t grab it then, now is your chance.  (I took this picture from amazon.ca where you can also order it).

Fork me, Spoon Me

And they also recommended these two options……(it’s going to be a long winter right?)


So, I think you’re set for gifts and food for this coming February 14th.  (FYI, the xoco cava chocolates are great bites while you wait for toast to brown in the morning, just sayin’)

 How is that lady pigging out at the fridge so skinny?


Filed under Local and Community Toronto, Restaurants and Products, Uncategorized

My Ottolenghi Obsession, Jerusalem and The Boss

On October 21 I saw Bruce Springsteen….. (Because the Night  video from that show)

Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi  (picture from the Ottolenghi site)

..and also attended The Cookbook Store’s event featuring Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi who were introducing their latest book, Jerusalem. The recipes all come from their shard home city, where they were born in the same year, Sami on the Arab east side and Yotam in the Jewish west.

I honestly don’t know which I was more excited about.  (I did not wear plaid to the cookbook event but I did wear plaid to the concert.  No bandana, I swear.)

If you read Cheese and Toast occasionally you may know that I am obsessed with their vegetarian cookbook Plenty.  Why?  Because the recipes look amazing, taste amazing and they always work.  Really.  I do have a bit of a track record of experimenting with new dishes for dinners I’m hosting.  Like clockwork, 45 minutes before guests arrive, unwashed hair and pajama pants on, I’m panicking in the kitchen with dramatic wails of “just call Pizza Pizza, it’s going to be a disaster!”

But to be honest, that was years ago before I figured out the folly of my ways.  So much better to make a simple roast chicken and caesar salad, be mellow and enjoy a glass of wine rather than clutching the Chianti bottle, face pressed against oven door hoping the souffle will rise.  This does not tend to set a relaxed tone for guests.

All of this to say, that I would make any recipe from the Ottolenghi series of cookbooks for the first time even for The Boss himself.  They’re foolproof in my experience.

For this reason, I was really interested to hear Yotam and Sami talk about their testing and recipe writing process surrounding their third book, Jerusalem.

Did I mention they were warm and charming?  Utterly even. I do not think anyone there would have disagreed.


Sami and Yotam explained that their goal when writing the recipes was to “not think like chefs”.  They put a lot of effort into testing and their testers were home cooks.  The Jerusalem cookbook uses quite a few ingredients that might be tricky to find in a pinch  (But as they joked, “once you Ottolenghize your cupboard, you’re OK”) so they list substitutions 90 percent of the time for more difficult to find items.  And though they obviously take great care with combining ingredients and flavours it was a bit of a relief to hear “if you miss one ingredient, you’re OK”.

(this was an interesting contrast to the Thomas Keller event (for the Bouchon Bakery cookbook) where though all the recipes are carefully tested til perfect, Chef Keller said he doesn’t really aim for the “home cook” because he can’t define the term.  He knows home cooks that can barely boil water and some that are as good as himself…and then I am sure he winked right at ME in the 18th row. Oh stop.)

(from top) Cannelini Bean and Lamb soup, Hot Yogurt and Barley soup and Chickpea Soup with rosewater and ras el hanout (from Jerusalem)


They’re definitely not shy on flavour, referring to themselves as strong and gutsy with the belief that the food should taste as vibrant as it looks.


Sami confessed to eating store-bought tortelleni with Parmesan and pepper when lazy (what a relief!), Yotam said his most comforting food was lentils and rice with some yogurt and caramelized onion.

One of the beautiful market images from the book.


They both agreed that though they tested and made many more recipes that were included in the final version of Jerusalem, they only put in anything they truly, truly loved and dropped anything else.   They also talked about the photo shoot for the book (as you can see from the soup pic the photos are stunning) explaining that they did not use a food stylist, preferring to have the food presented “as it fell on the plate” without too much intervention.   So they actually shot about 8-10 photos a day (which is apparently unheard of).

Spice Trader


In Toronto helpful audience members recommended Spice Trader (877 Queen Street West) and Arz Fine Foods (1909 Lawrence Avenue East).  Both are worth a trip whether you need anything or not, so it will be a fun and delicious mission.

You can also order online at the Ottolenghi website to buy ingredients such as Palestinian za’atar.

As if I wouldn’t show off the signed book!

If you want to try a couple of recipes before purchasing this book, I’ve blogged about a few from PLENTY such as the vibrant Sweet Winter Slaw, Socca with Roasted tomato and onion and the Celeriac and Lentil Salad with Hazelnuts and Mint.

The Lentil Celeriac Salad..

Or just get the damn books.  Best excuse to visit The Cookbook Store three times in a row.


Filed under Cookbooks, Magazines (+recipes from), Travel and Food, Uncategorized