Category Archives: Restaurants and Products

Places to eat, drink and be merry

A cocktail at Tundra may lead to….dinner at Tundra.

Tundra Launch Party (I danced my heart out… ok, its not really me just my body double)

In mid-September I was invited to drop by the re-launch of Tundra restaurant located at University and Richmond–a hop skip and jump from anywhere you might want to be downtown.  Which is what I was thinking about when I needed to pick a spot to meet some friends on Saturday night.  Afterall, why wait on a windy street corner when you could order a Manhattan at the beautiful horseshoe-shaped bar (with built in electrical plugs for workaholics!) sit back and not care how late anyone is.

The Tundra Manhattan

The Manhattan I strategically wove into my intro is pictured above– and I have been able to secure us all the recipe.  I will pause while you go make one and then we can continue together.  If you are reading this at the office at 9am I hope to God you mixed it in your styrofoam coffee cup–this isn’t Mad Men.

Tundra Manhattan

2oz Knob Creek Bourbon

1oz Taylor Fladgate Late Bottle Vintage Port

Dash Orange Bitters

Dash premium maple syrup

Shake or Stir with fresh ice and strain into chilled martini glass.  Garnish with 2 maraschino cherries

Seared scallops with celery and cilantro emulsion

While you’re sipping your drink, look around and check out the newly revamped room which was designed by Montreal firm Lemaymichaud.  What I like is that there’s space to be social in the bar/restaurant area and but there’s also space for quiet conversation  (“Great doing business with you”  or “Why does it always take you so long to order?”)

The wooden sphere by west coast artist Brent Comber (apologies for shoddy iPhone photo….)

Tundra’s warm cozy feeling comes from the wood used throughout the design and the entrance features a very cool sphere carved from one giant piece of Vancouver Island Redwood.

And then there’s the menu which you may casually pick up while you sip your drink.   May I make a few suggestions from the new Fall dinner menu; firstly the the scallops (in the Small Plates section) which featured seared scallops, celery and cilantro emulsion, chorizo, coconut curls, and crisped salsify.

House cured gravalax

Also on the Small Plate men is the house cured gravalax with rye bagel crisp, preserved ramps, mustard cream cheese, dill and radish.  It was the mustard cream cheese that called my name, but the preserved ramps were also a nice refreshing touch.

Roasted Heirloom Carrots

My main was Roasted Heirloom carrots, radish, cauliflower steak, watercress, oven dried ricotta and fig vinaigrette.  (Is there a vegetarian-steak revolution in Toronto- I just had grilled and smoked carrot “steak” at Yours Truly a few weeks previous.)  Anyway, this plate is quite lovely, no?

Northern Ontario Rabbit Confit

And then I sampled some of my friend’s Northern Ontario Rabbit Confit, which was as good as comfort food (fancy comfort food!) gets. Soft, tender and juicy.

Dessert and Cheese Sampler at Tundra

We rounded off the meal with a sample of dessert–that is the addictive pine nut brittle in the front, there were soft, chewy macaroons and a deconstructed creme brulee, mini-meringues and some lovely cheese.   And could the cheese/dessert board itself be more rustic?   I feel like that was ripped right up from an old barn and polished up.  A floor I’ll eat off of anytime.

And if you really want to hit the town and then not have to make your own bed, there are the trendy and luxurious Hilton suites.   We got a sneak peek at the launch.

Executive Chef at Tundra is Kevin Prendergast and the kitchen team sources local foods, wild ingredients come from a Quebec-based organic forager and other herbs come from the hotel’s garden.  Cheese is from that wonderful place, Cheese Boutique, in the west end.

Most importantly you can get jerk wings off the “nibbles” menu until midnight.

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Snacks in Halifax–beer… lobster… beer and lobster….Wayne’s World

Lobster’s from Wayne’s World. Really. Keep reading, eh.

We were on holidays in Nova Scotia and PEI for 10 days and had an outstanding time.  I was disappointed to be such a terrible blogger in the last couple weeks as I had so many delicious moments, but between problems uploading pics and just travelling with child, I kind of gave up.  But, I will now start sharing.  One huge thing for me was my conversion to beer over wine for most of the trip.  You would switch sides too if you tasted how good the local brews were.  Perfect with our food and the sunny, hot weather.

Like a fish to water, Tad and Propeller IPA

I had planned on branching out ever since Heather Rankin at the Obladee Wine Bar in Halifax (along with beer and wine writer Craig Pinhey) organized a local cheese/beer pairing post on this blog which featured Canadian brews (and Canuck cheeses), three of them from out east.

In Halifax Garrison’s brewery right beside the Seaport Market was our second stop after a quick bite of some amazing, and well spiced, Indian food in the market itself.  Tasting glasses were only $2 each and we tried several, leaving with bottles of the Tall Ship Amber Ale and Raspberry Wheat Beer (very subtle in fruity qualities, which I liked).  We drank these with some spicy tapenade that evening before donning old T-shirts to dig into the lobster fest (see the first picture) on a backyard patio.  Butter, white wine and nothin’ else.  Well, a lot of paper towels.

The Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia

Which brings us to Wayne’s World via the Eastern Passage (where the weather is apparently really different than nearby Dartmouth-sweater vs T-shirt I hear, on some days).  It’s a little fishing community with many “I must take a picture…or 20” worthy little coves and piers.  We were there on an especially beautiful evening as the sun was on its way down.

Wayne’s World—of Lobster!

But enough sightseeing.  Back to Wayne’s World. This is where the locals go for lobster.  They don’t cook it themselves–heck no.  They do take-out.  Truthfully, I don’t know about all locals, but I do know about at least two locals who have Wayne on speed dial….we had some damn good lobster at their house later that night.

Fish cake and beans at Henry House.

I’m getting all ahead of myself talking about lobster when the first meal I had on the east coast was fish cakes and beans.  And here’s a good laugh for you Atlantic natives, when I saw this I thought, “how novel!  Beans with the fish cakes”.   Ha ha ha ha.  Only to see this on every menu everywhere.  This delicious plate was eaten on the patio of Henry House in Halifax.

Henry House in Halifax

Henry House was built in 1834 and has some great pub food and quite a beer menu (see how easily my beerification began?)

Uncommon Ground, Halifax

Right across the street I had steaming after-lunch coffee from Uncommon Grounds.  Felix was a little boisterous and may have pissed off some customers but I just smiled in embarrassment and looked at him as if he was the cutest imp I had ever seen.  Denial works.

Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market

Which bring us back to the Seaport Farmer’s Market (I know, I’m too excited and jumping all around!) we visited on a weekday so not quite as bustling as it must be on Saturdays but still–wild blueberries for $3/pint!  And truthfully, tonnes of great food to be looked at, admired and purchased when you’re a tourist like me.  And when one has a stroller–NOT CROWDED is awesome.

Butcher Seaport Market

I checked out the grass-fed steaks at the butcher…

And veggies to go with the steak..

Or maybe you just want to grab some lobster poutine to eat by the water?

Lemon Ginger lovely-ness.

And wash it down with this locally made soda (grandma’s recipe!).

Forget chocolate and peanut butter.

And I found this at the Garrison brewery.  And we hadn’t even gotten to the sno-cones we had after the Theodore the Tugboat tour.  (Man, sno-cones aren’t as good as I remembered them.)

So what did I learn in my first 24 hours in Nova Scotia?  Fishcakes come with beans, the beer out East is great and don’t take the light pink crayon if you want to properly mark anything on your Theodore and Friends map.

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Go to Cheese School this Fall! Classes start in September.

Cheddar making tools

Wondering why there’s a rake lying in a bathtub?  Time to go to cheese school.

The Cheese Education Guild (where I took my first cheese classes) is back up and running and offering an introductory Cheese Appreciation course starting September 11, 2012 and running 8 weeks until October 30, 2012. (hey, you can give out cheese for Halloween!  With a little note that says, “Eat the rind scaredy pants!”)

I went to cheese school and look–(messy) counters full of cheese greet me every day!

My colleagues and the new owners of the school, Lisa McAlpine and Marla Krisko are both graduates of the 3 level certificate program (originally run by Kathy Guidi who created it as the first certified cheese program in Canada) and will be teaching the course.  They are excellent and experienced instructors who are also a lot of fun.

Hmmm, bloomy rind, buttery paste, ripe interior and gorgeous manicure.

You may or may not do all three levels but this first course is eye-opening and inspiring for anyone who has a love or learning and a love of cheese.  It’s a lot of fun–but you also have to study a bit….which may mean putting out a cheese board.  (hmmm, my first degree was in film which involved studying by watching movies…am I lazy?  or genius? )

Here is more info:
Time and Location:  6:30 – 9:30 p.m. at University of Toronto Faculty Club

Cost:  $575 + HST = $649.75

Contact:  info@artisancheesemarketing.com

Cheese Appreciation 1 Classes include 8 weeks (Tuesdays) of training, 3 hours per evening, course curriculum materials, tasting of 8 – 10 cheeses per class, testing, and final certificate.

These classes allow the student to discover the vast knowledge surrounding the production of cheese, its history, cultural influences and the nuances of terroir.  In addition, the student is taught how to actually taste and categorize cheese and to appreciate its subtle qualities.

Cheese Appreciation classes are casual, but extremely informative, allowing the student to relax while learning about cheese and enjoying the company of other like minded caseophiles (cheese lovers!).  Students attending these classes range from pure enthusiasts to retail and culinary students wishing to specialize in the exciting World of Cheese.

Established in 2005, the Cheese Education Guild has trained hundreds of cheese lovers, ranging from enthusiasts to food and wine professionals, and has played a significant role in encouraging the production and distribution of artisan cheese across Canada and the U.S.

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Fruli Strawberry Wheat Beer chills out with Italian Cheese

Do you feel like you could take a sip?  Tempting, isn’t it.

When it gets as hot as it has been, I don’t like to turn on the oven.  Removing things from the fridge on the other hand, that I can do.    I had some Fruli Strawberry Wheat beer chilling  and had been planning on doing a cheese pairing.  No time like the hottest day ever.  Fruli is a Belgian fruit beer that is fermented with 30% real strawberries. It’s also scented with coriander and orange peel.  If you find beer too bitter but cocktails too cloying, this might just hit the sweet spot. It’s refreshing and easy to drink (and only 125 calories per bottle–ideal during bathing suit season, unless you have a wrap, in which case go for it with the iced Frappucinos).

The Fruli is fruity, sweet, with a soft carbonation and a little bit of tang.  A classic pairing would be to serve chevre, with it’s creamy texture and smooth acidity.  But I wanted to indulge myself. (Hey, if the beer’s only 125 calories…)

Piedmonte’s La Tur is made with a perfect balance of cow, sheep and goat milk

I treated myself to a wheel of La Tur which is also a bright, tangy cheese (aged about 10-15 days before hitting the market) with a buttery mouthfeel.  Made in Piedmont, Italy, it has a wrinkled bloomy rind and ripens from outside in, usually firm in the centre. There is an earthyness to the cheese and mushroom notes at the rind which worked nicely with the natural fruit flavour of the beer.

La Tur, wedge

The Fruli’s bubbles cleansed the palate between bites–allowing me to enjoy what is a fairly rich cheese for a humid, hot day.  The sweetness of the strawberry beer contrasted nicely with the tang of the wedge.  This combination would make a great finish to a special meal. (Or just at any time of day–like Tuesday at 4:17 pm).

Ricotta Salata, Italy

Ricotta Salata (salata means salty) was my second pairing.  This is a sheep’s milk ricotta which is pressed and aged about 3 months giving it a firm, slightly spongy texture.  The salt-factor was a perfect counterpoint to the sweet flavours of the beer but the cheese itself was mellow and milky so didn’t overpower the Fruli.  This cheese goes well with grilled veggies and I think the strawberry wheat beer, this ricotta, fresh bread and some grilled zucchini would make a fine, fine meal.

Also a very portable and picnic friendly match–cheese in one hand, Fruli in the other.  Someone rubbing sunblock on your shoulders.  That’s the life.

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Ribs as Fast Food–when it’s Tuesday night and you’re panicking

Quick ribs with baby new potatoes (dill and olive oil) and arugula salad.

I love ribs.  You love ribs.  We all love ribs.  Last time I made them (last summer) we ate at 10:30 at night.  I thanked the rib-Gods that the guests I had invited over for my homemade smoked ribs had cancelled last-minute.  Whatever they ended up doing was probably more fun than politely pretending, “oh no, this bag of chips with salsa is totally filling us up until the moon comes out, a wolf howls and your Weber grill spits out its slow-cooked creation.”

But–I will say the ribs kicked ass.

Still, I was curious (as a rib craver) to try a new product from Mastro.  They held a tasting at St. Lawrence market in June and I got to take home some of their prepackaged ribs.  Ready in just 15 minutes!

I finally pulled them out a few nights ago when I came home to a starving family and not a minute to spare before we settled on  a meal of Triscuits and some old mum-mums from Felix’s teething days.

My hesitance with the pre-cooked ribs is kind of a guilt/snobby/ foodie annoying thing.  Ribs should be made with a secret sauce, over a smoky charcoal grill, basted at regular intervals, internal temperature monitored, sweat wiped from the brow, anticipation building…..yada yada yada.

But–when it came down to a meal of ribs or a meal of stale carbs, I chose ribs.  I opened the package, popped them on a cookie sheet (on foil) and baked for 15-17 minutes, flipping them halfway.  You can also heat them on the grill (which is where you put them 5 minutes before guests arrive and then fake some perspiration on the brow I imagine).

The ribs were great.  I tried the balsamic and fig (my fave) and spicy fire-roasted tomato (had a good hit of spice) — there is also a roasted garlic and tomato flavour.

They are about $14.99 and I think could serve 4 people–or 2 super hungry people.

So, I’m passing on the info, you can decide for yourself if it’s possible to come terms with pre-packaged ribs. I think I would have to make my own on a weekend or if friends came over (dury calls and all that) but let me tell you, in a pinch?  Hit the spot and timeline.

Enjoyed with a little of this.  I must admit the bottle came in my gift bag from the tasting event, but I keep a couple of these bottles around for some weeknight sipping so I was pretty content with the match.

Ascheri BARBERA D’ALBA 2008

Here is a bit more info from the company about ingredients and make-process:

Mastro starts with lean, top-quality pork ribs, seasons them with Italian herbs and spices, individually oven-cooks them, and then smokes them over hardwood hickory.

The ribs are always shipped to your grocery store fresh, never frozen. You don’t have to thaw them – don’t have to pre-cook them – and don’t have to sauce them.  They are available at Sobeys, Metro, Royal Canadian Super Centres, and No Frills.

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Roll with the heat by embracing Cheese Boutique’s old school Gelato

The gelat-area.

In this heat you may want to climb into the little freezer area that stores Cheese Boutique’s scrumptious house-made gelato, but I am pretty sure that is a no-no in terms of health and safety standards.   But it would bring you cheek-to-frozen cheek with the authentic gelato that Cheese Boutique has started making this year.  They had an Italian gelato expert come in and train their gelato-maker (I forgot to ask his name-rude) but there he stands (saddened by my bad manners) behind the counter.

You can see the gelato process right in the gelateria.

They start by pasteurizing the cream themselves, which is how it is traditionally done.

Many flavours all made with natural ingredients (and using real Italian words).

Felix and I tried the hazelnut (nocciola), the fior di latte (fresh cream) and settled on splitting the lemon gelato.  It was all pretty frigging divine.

When I asked Afrim Pristine for his favourite’s at the family store he mentioned the above three and the Frutto di Bosco (wild berry).  He also suggested 25 year old balsamic on the Fior Di Latte (damn, that guy has good ideas).

Best of all– The Cheese Boutique gelataria will be open until 9pm all summer starting next week (July 9).  And you can buy tubs to go!

Address: 45 Ripley Avenue, Toronto

FYI Gelato is slow churned and has less air whipped into it than ice cream.  It is denser, very silky and smooth, intense in flavour and can be kept at a warmer temperature– so gelato is creamy and softer in texture.

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Fruit Salad with Moutard A l’ Ancienne (mais oui!) for Father’s Day

Fruit salad and mustard, the best of both worlds: hot dog meet farmer’s market.  (Is that where you thought this was headed?)  Actually, what I will will be sharing with you is the easiest recipe for a dessert, brunch, baby shower or watching Nik Wallenda cross Niagara Falls on a tight rope.  In fact, I dare (devil) predict that you will keep this little recipe in the roster for so long that soon it will become, “that fruit salad with mustard that Jane always brings” followed by, “yes, with mustard, I know weird but so good, seriously.”  And then the other person will say, “you know they make chocolate with chilis too?” and so on….

It’s not the creamy mustard that you use for the salad (that you’re probably thinking of)  it’s the Old Style Mustard which is crunchy and so tangy and with an inviting bite.  This recipe came from the Maille company themselves actually.  They have a new campaign which is being promoted across Canada and a few weeks ago I popped down to check it out and taste some of their wares which included the Old Style Mustard (above), Dijon, Honey Dijon.

The French Maille mustard company was founded in 1747.  The original recipes used the mustard seed for medicinal recipes but by the time Antoine Maille Jr opened the Maille shop in Paris they were official “condiment suppliers” to Royal Courts in France, Hungary, Russia and England.  Roasted game begs for Dijon I imagine.

I inquired what made the Maille mustard different from other “dijon” brands. The distinction is that when Maille cuts the seeds for the mustard, they don’t crush them–they cut them, which gives the mustard a unique texture and pungency.  Which makes me want to do a side by side taste test.  (Hmmmm.  I’ll get back to you on that.)

But back to the recipe.

I chopped up the fruit beforehand and then made the dressing.

And I tossed everything together  just as Nic Welenda was stepping onto the wire to cross the Falls (aka just before serving).

We had friends over who acted as taste testers and we all liked it a lot.  There is not a lot of dressing and with a bit of honey in it you get a nice, crunchy, acid/sweet tang to the salad.

The original recipe is posted below as is, but I only used half the cantaloupe and 1 pear.   Which was a perfect size salad for us four (and a good ration of fruit to fruit).

Maille Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 pears, diced
  • 1 cantaloupe, diced
  • 20 strawberries, halved
  • 20 red grapes, halved
  • 2 kiwis, diced

Dressing

  • 15 ml (1 tbsp)  Maille Old Style Mustard
  • 10 ml (2 tsp)  Balsamic vinegar
  • 10 ml (2 tsp) Cider vinegar (I did not have this so just used a bit if white wine vinegar)
  • Salt and pepper

Mix fruit in a bowl.  In another bowl, mix dressing ingredients and pour over fruit.  Mix and serve.

Note: For a smoother creamier dressing, add 10 ml of 15% cream and 5ml honey.

*** don’t forget  you could use a grainy mustard for a great potato salad: boiled baby potatoes, olive oil, fresh herbs and some of the mustard, bit of vinegar and S&P.  At the Farm and Food Care tour the other day  we had mashed potatoes with this mustard mixed into them for lunch.  Quick meal with crispy roast chicken perhaps, or grilled chicken thighs.

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