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Curds and Eh: Is it cheating to make cheese with pre-pasteurized milk?

Harvest Moon, Tiger Blue, Naramata Bench Blue and Okanagan Double Cream

Harvest Moon, Tiger Blue, Naramata Bench Blue and Okanagan Double Cream

CHEESE FOR THOUGHT–ANOTHER POST FROM KELSIE.  PLEASE LEAVE YOUR THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS!

One of my favourite blogs that I follow is Much To Do About Cheese. It’s written by Ian Treuer a home-cheesemaker from Edmonton, Alberta who maintains an honest and uncommon look into the world of a DIY cheesemaker. Recently he posed a question on his Facebook  page.  He asked, “Can a Cheese Maker be considered an Artisan Cheese Maker if they use pre-pasteurised milk? Why or Why Not?”

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Purchasing pre-pasteurized milk is a cost saving option for many small producers as High-Temperature Short-Time (HTST) pasteurizers cost a ton of money and even vat pasteurizers can be time consuming. Heating milk to 162F and holding it there for 16 seconds (or 145F for 30min) isn’t where the art of cheesemaking comes into play.

There are three small-scale professional cheesemakers that I know of in Canada that use pre-pasteurized milk. The cheesemaker at each factory produces every cheese by hand, adjusts the recipe according to the weather, the feel of the curds, and the taste and smell of the milk. Their cheeses are all unique. Not only do I consider them all to be artisans but they are also some of this country’s best.

The Stove-top where magic happens at Five Brothers

The Stove-top where magic happens at Five Brothers

Surrounded by vineyards in Penticton’s wine region are two cheese companies – Poplar Grove Cheese and Upper Bench Creamery. Both purchase jugs of pre-pasteurized milk and also cream from D Dutchmen Dairy, which is located 190km north in Sicamous on Shuswap Lake.  This isn’t a secret – Upper Bench proudly states the source of their milk on their website. D Dutchmen Dairy is known for their high-quality milk, flavoured cheeses, and their ice cream, which causes lineups that extend to the parking lot on a hot day. Their milk comes from their own herd of cows.

Adam Blanchard of Five Brothers

Adam Blanchard of Five Brothers

Five Brothers Artisan Cheese is the only artisan cheese company in Newfoundland. Cheesemaker Adam Blanchard actually purchases cartons of milk from his local Sobeys grocery store and then transforms it into cheese in stock pots on the stove-top. He started by making cheese in a friend’s kitchen but then decided to make a living doing it. He rented a commercial kitchen and the rest is history. There’s no way he could have afforded a pasteurizer when he started. Why give up on a dream if you can’t afford a $12,000 piece of equipment?

Perhaps several decades ago we could have asked whether cheese makers that use commercially available cultures instead of a mother culture could be artisanal. The industry has changed so much and now using mass produced culture is the norm. The basic ingredients have changed over the years too but as long as the figurative ‘hand of the cheesemaker’ is present in the cheese then I believe they deserve the title of artisan.

I’m not fond of debating the semantics of a term but I feel that labelling a producer as an artisan or not also suggests level of respect for producing a handmade product. Cheesemakers that use pre-pasteurized milk work incredibly hard, just like those that pasteurize on-site. I believe both deserve respect for labouring for long hours and transforming milk into my favourite food.

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For some reason I feel many people also associate a certain level of quality with the term artisan. That’s one aspect that is usually not debated when it comes to defining the term but it is just as possible for ‘artisan’ cheese makers to produce poor quality products as much as it’s possible for them to create extraordinary ones. What really matters, is not the label ‘artisan’ but the story of the cheese company (is it something that excites the customer and the owner is proud of?) and the quality of the products.

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Abandoned House or Trendy New Toronto Resto?

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The Edison bulb….

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Aaah yes, our menu–it’s hand scrawled on our blackboard far, far across the room.

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No, we don’t take reservations, but we can seat 2-6 people.

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Minimalist pine tree to remind our guests we’re green…. (you can eat it for dessert)

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Everything is local.

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And please don’t forget your foraged leg braces after you’ve had one too many of our hand crafted cocktails.

My husband photographs abandoned houses as a hobby and they are fascinating.  Things are just left as if people had walked out minutes before.  I became fascinated with the list of items in the kitchen cupboard in this house (Campbellford, Ontario) and it just got silly from there….click on any picture to enlarge.  Thanks to Tad Seaborn for sharing his photos.  

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Fried Chicken for the Masses: It’s the Fried Chicken Battle Royale at the Drake

Fried Chicken Battle

Well, the above just about says it all.  But, Ivy Knight, organizer-Royale has more to say about this lip smacking event where I get to be a judge.  A judge of fried chicken… I picture myself with a drumstick gavel and greasy paperwork.  Can Monday night come fast enough?

Here is what Ivy has to say about how and why she pulled together this first (annual) fried fiasco.

I have been wanting to do a fried chicken battle ever since watching David Chang go head to head against Questlove on Jimmy Fallon. I just really wanted to fill a room with people eating lots and lots of free fried chicken. Unfortunately I don’t have a budget to buy a bunch of chickens so I got in touch with my old friend Peter Sanagan and asked if he’d be willing to donate the birds. I barely got my request out before he said of course. So then I talked to some of my chef friends, Matty at Parts & Labour, Fan at Happy Child, Teddy at the Drake, the girls who run SNACKS (famous for their food at the Junction Flea) and Brandon at Bar Isabel, we picked a date and I started thinking about judges.

I didn’t want to have  chefs come in to compete and be judged by their peers, I wanted the judges to come from outside of the peer group – so I often look to cookbook authors and media. The guys at Munchies were an obvious choice, they suggested Bad Day Magazine and since I know and love you I figured we’d bring you in to add a little class to the panel (Ivy knows how easily I fall for sweet talk–don’t worry, I’ll never bring a lot of class, perhaps just a cufflinks’ worth SR)And of course, Peter is a judge since he’s the reason we’re able to pull this off.

This is the first of what I hope will become a yearly tradition where I give away five hundred pieces of fried chicken to the masses.
So… friends, foes and people who accidentally got to this page and are thinking WHAT?  THANK GOD I FOUND IT, don’t wait til next year.  Come on down next week!
And no, I’m not sharing my chicken.  Get your own damn chicken.  8pm, Monday night.  It’s FREE y’all.

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Zuni Cafe, Hope and Anchor and boy is it hard to park in San Francisco

The beginning of San Francisco

The beginning of San Francisco

We drove to the Zuni Cafe straight from the airport with loads of time to get there.  Or so we thought since we allowed not too much thought for finding parking (you’d think coming from Toronto…) but I suppose we were in vacation mode.

Anyway, 40 minutes later, many one way streets and devastating parking spot “sightings” that were not parking spots because the street cleaner has priority wed between 12-2pm we found a place.  And headed down to the Zuni Cafe

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The famous made-to-order Caesar salad and house cured anchovies.

Here’s a little excerpt of history from the website–read the whole thing it’s quite a great story….

“Billy West opened Zuni Café in 1979, with a huge heart and exactly ten thousand dollars. In the early years, the restaurant consisted of a narrow storefront with a creaky mezzanine, roughly one quarter of its current size. To capitalize on the neighboring and highly visible corner cactus shop, (where Billy had been a partner, until it became clear cactus sales wouldn’t support three partners), he hand-plastered the walls and banquettes of his new space to give it a southwestern adobe-look. He chose the name Zuni, after the native American tribe, and decided to offer mostly simple and authentic Mexican food, drawing inspiration from Diana Kennedy’s cookbooks. A Weber grill was an important early investment, and was rolled on to the back sidewalk for each day’s service. Next came an espresso machine, which doubled as a stove since you could scramble eggs with the milk steamer.”

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Tad’s lunch: roasted quail…

I started with a glass of white wine (my actual request was local and not excessively oaky) and ended up with a lovely glass of minerally Zuni Chardonnay which hails from a vinyard in Santa Cruz.  Felix has the best apple juice he’s ever sipped-organic, fresh pressed.  Tad had an Anchor Steam beer.  His main was the Wolfe Ranch quail with quail egg, pan-fried sweet potatoes, kale salad and harissa.

It looked a lot less phallic when it was on the table in front of me I promise you.

I really was torn about posting my lunch photo which was described as house-made  Llano Seco Ranch fennel sausage (so juicy and delicately flavoured it was heavenly) with escarole, roasted Yellow Finn potatoes, cracklings, watermelon radish and caper-shallot vinaigrette— but somehow my photo has turned it into something phallic.  Avert your eyes if you have to.

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So while Felix used the best manners at his disposal to finish his pasta and tomato sauce (with a side of fennel sausage) Tad and I decided we made the wrong decision by skipping the fresh oysters and remedied the situation.

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We shared a pair of Pacific Hog Island Oysters (bottom, from Tomales Bay just north of San Fran) and Marin Miyagi’s (top, also from Tomales Bay).  Here is a great blog piece about the Tomales Bay oysters and area.  We liked the Hog Island the best, lighter and a little sweeter but both were lovely–the ocean in your hand.

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And then dessert.  Meringue crisps, coffee and chocolate whipped cream with chocolate sauce and toasted almonds.  With a coffee.  And Felix only ate a bit–too full.  Spoils for me.

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Moe proof we were in San Francisco–Felix watching the cable car being turned.

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Anchor and Hope on Minna Street

Our second day we went for lunch at the Anchor and Hope (thanks Janice!)  Here is their lunch menu-there was definitely a business lunch scene happening but the overall atmosphere is casual, open and funky space with huge nautical ropes strung around the ceiling beams.

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Kettle Chips and garlicky aioli arrive when seated.

And would have been nice had we all been there at the same time–again not knowing the parking secrets, it took Tad about 35 minutes to park and finally Felix and I had to order without him.  I had the Cubano, roasted pork, jamon de paris, swiss cheese, pickles, Dijon, taro chips and Tad had their extremely juicy burger.  Felix had their fries, aioli and ketchup. (yes, I just gave in to maintaining calm child while people negotiated business around us.)

The beer menu was impressive and long and a satisfying read in itself if you like beer.

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S’long San Francisco…..may we only ever take the amazing vintage style trolley next time we visit.

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I am flying 6 hours to get to lunch on Wednesday.

Zuni Cafe Lunch Menu

CLICK ON THE MENU TO SEE FULL SIZE AND BE JEALOUS

HMM, I guess the above menu could have used an outline or something.  Well, let’s just call it free form blogging.

So I am off to San Francisco tomorrow and still have to pack, wash hair, pay some bills, charge iPad, iPhone and laptop, remember to pack passports, panic that I forgot to pack passports, panic that my name does not match my passport on my ticket and figure out how to wake at 4-year-old gently at 4am knowing we have 15 minutes to be out of the house.

And snacks.  Must pack snacks.

But otherwise–check out the deliciousness that will greet me at 1pm California Time.  Will report back from the ZUNI Cafe.

And did I mention my reservation at Chez Panisse?    Oh boy oh boy.

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Curds and Eh: Breaking News-Fifth Town Cheese Back in Production

This scoop is by Kelsie Parsons.–SR
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Exciting news for all the curd nerds out there!
After closing their doors 8 months ago, Fifth Town Artisan Cheese has now been bought. Today is the first day back for a couple of the Fifth Town employees who are busy cleaning the plant and preparing for construction to start.
Fifth Town will start making cheese again in 8-12 months.
Cape Vessey (coutesy of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival)

Cape Vessey (courtesy of the Great Canadian Cheese Festival)

A year is a long time but it’s comforting to know that we’ll soon have access to they’re prized cheeses again. I’m crossing my fingers that they’ll continue to make Cape Vessey, Lemon Fetish, Isabella, Operetta…and many others.
Update Jan 9: Confirmed that Fifth Town was sold to Patricia Bertozzi (of Bertozzi Importing) in Nov 2012. Her daughter Patricia Bertozzi is the new owner.
Background on the situation can be found at this post for cheeselover.ca , and here for the official closing news. SR

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Sauce on the Danforth: Craft Beer, 1920′s Cocktails and Music

I’ve been walking by the old location of Classy Nails wondering why they couldn’t stay classy (oh Ron Burgundy!) and what the little teeny sign above the liquor license application meant, “sauce” it said.

Now it is a a HUGE sign.  Which seems like good progress.  Something to be excited about.  I found the LinkedIn page for “MichelleB” who is supposedly opening the lounge and here is what it described our new east end bar as:

An East-End Toronto Lounge with a Victorian-Goth Bordello-Chic Design.
We offer:
– fresh hand made pasta with your choice of Sauce
– a vast selection of Craft Beer on Tap and in Bottle
– an array of 1920′s inspired cocktail offerings
– Top shelf Tequilas, Bourbons, Scotches & Vodkas
– music, music, music… you never know who you’ll hear

Conveniently located steps from Greenwood Station.

(which it is, it’s between Greenwood and Monarch Park, just east from Bomb Wellness and west of Gerry’s grocery).  For those not in the hood, it is between Greenwood and Coxwell subway.

This comment on Chowhound cracked me up:

“Ha, I think there’s a few places on the Danforth doing the Victorian-Goth-Bordello thing without knowing it! “

Still–craft beer, top-shelf tequila?  1920′s cocktails?  Bring on bordello-chic.  Opening in August.   www.sauceonthedanforth.com

Here are the latest photos!  http://www.sauceondanforth.com/pictures.htm

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Musings on Toronto’s Chef legacy


Not to flog a well-ridden horse (ok, I will)  but I’ve been meaning to get back to posting about the Terroir 2012 conference  and while looking through my notes got to thinking about the dialogue surrounding the 50 Best Restaurants List.   There was outrage, insult and a lot of defensiveness felt at Canada’s chefs being excluding from the rankings.

I read a few interesting opinions as to why we are being “overlooked”  and even why we may not yet deserve to be there.  Some writers seemed to feel that cuisine in Toronto (or across Canada) is very good, excellent even, but  plays it too safe– no real risks are being taken.  Or perhaps not enough.  Maybe this is partially due to clientele.  A restaurant has to survive in an incredibly tough business.  A kitchen must cater somewhat to the palates (and wallets) of the customers as much as the chef may be dying to expand his diners’ comfort zone.

On my initial visit to Chantecler in April I asked which dishes were the “hits”.  The answer was “depends who you ask”.  The regular customers had certain faves and the industry people who ate there had others.

All of this was running through my head as I thought back to the Terroir 2012  “Culinary and Drink Trends” session.  The first half seemed to focus more on food trends in general than just drinks, and a fascinating conversation evolved about where cuisine in Toronto was headed.  Grant Van Gameren, executive chef at Enoteca Sociale (formerly of Black Hoof fame) was very outspoken and raised some interesting questions about the legacy of Toronto’s chefs as leaders.

He said that as new interests develop and old trends fade (so long charcuterie) we need more chef-leaders in the city. A lot of  small restaurants are being opened by newer, younger chefs and a lot of the “grandfathers” are doing TV.  Which wasn’t a criticism, just a question about who is out there teaching these new up and comers?  In Van Gameren’s opinion, “we’re in a 5-year block of transition” to what our food scene is going to be.  And which of these younger guys/gals is going to still be around?

He went on to say that the need to break free, expand your creativity in your own kitchen is understandable but are 27 and 28-year-old chefs ready to set the pace for the next generation?  He suggested that many chefs in Toronto need to travel more, stage more around the world.  Get a more international perspective.  Right now no one in Toronto is doing much to stand out.

He even singled himself out saying sometimes that when he is mentoring his crew, he will find himself wondering what more he can learn–so he can better lead those under him.

Van Gameren also acknowledged that in order to sustain a groundbreaking restaurant like Chicago’s Alinea in Toronto you would need investors to take on the risk and also the local support of Toronto’s diners–people need to be willing to shell out cash for more than just comfort food.

He pointed out that a lot of the smaller places opening these days take on the same formula– reclaimed wood, edison bulbs and copper accents–and some chefs do serve  avant-garde cuisine in these cozy rooms–but often the stereo is blasting so loud you can barely hear your server describing, with great care, the dish you’re about to eat.

Which brings me back to the type of restaurants that are featured on the Top 50 list; true “fine-dining” venues with a less laid-back atmosphere.  Places where the chefs are moving cuisine forward, maybe even before the diner is ready to take the leap.  Though hopefully they have enough faith to jump.

Do we have these kind of leaders (and diners)  in Toronto? In Canada?  I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens next year.  Or in the next five.

For some interesting perspectives on the Top 50 list (and how it’s is judged) you can check out these links:

Lesley Chesterman, The Montreal Gazette

Chris Nuttall-Smith, The Globe and Mail

Adrian Brijbassi, Vacay.ca

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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….

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