Tag Archives: Loblaws

Centre Ice is now the Tuna Aisle (but the cheese wall makes you forgot your woes)

The line-ups were back outside Maple Leaf Gardens yesterday.  I arrived at 7:15am for the Loblaws grand opening, shocked to be greeted by a cue of people winding from Church Street back towards Yonge.  Loblaws employees were handing out muffins and tea and media were huddled outside the entrance waiting to witness the reveal of what one photographer referred to as an “airport-size” grocery store.

For nostalgia’s sake, here is centre ice (check out the funky orange grocery carts, might help the sadness melt away).  At least canned tuna is puck sized.

I don’t know if it’s cool or uncool to like this store.  But, I liked it.  I would like shopping here–it’s a grocery store, has all the same products you expect (from detergent to Cambpell’s soup) but caters to foodies without the price tag of Whole Foods.  So, certain products are more luxurious…..look at the dried mushrooms on offer (the fresh mushrooms were also amazing).

Realistically many of the shoppers here will be Ryerson students who can still find KD, diet coke and Mr. Noodle.  And maybe pick up a caramel cupcake at the cupcake wall (they’re big on the food walls here).  I should mention they make their own donuts in the bakery.  Apparently the recipe began at Zehrs and word is they are pretty good for dunkin’.

Loblaws is also trying to cater to ethnic tastes and have incorporated T&T to set up a sushi bar and have some of its products for sale.  Plus, there is a section just for asian greens. I love that this could be part of my everyday shopping.  (cuz I need more variety of vegetables going bad in my crisper–how I hate myself sometimes…)

Another nice touch is the ability to pay for items in each section of the store.  You can buy a juice at the juice bar, pay for your cheese at the cheese counter.  Makes shopping more efficient and if you forget an item (and I always forget an item) you don’t have to go back through checkout at the front of the store.

The aisles are wide–here’s a shot of the produce department from the upstairs kitchen (where all the “to go” food is prepared daily.  The chef told us that their goal -though they do work with Second Harvest–is to only make as much food as they will sell in a day.)  There is a butcher and fishmonger off to the left.

In a first impression I tweeted that the space was like a loft– it’s open, industrial, when you walk in they’ve kept part of the original wall from the Gardens.  There’s a sculpture made from the chairs in the original stadium in the shape of a Maple Leaf.   But— let’s get to that cheese wall.

Pretty impressive, right?  I kind of imagined it more open–like maybe I could actually climb it, finding toeholds amongst wedges of Gruyere and Comte.  But, this will do.

What is actually most impressive (and I hope this is kept up) is the quality of the cheese.  In the display case across from “the wall” were many soft and semi-soft cheese, all looking very ripe but the rinds still intact and in great shape. This is tricky at a large retailer when often you have to prepackage this type of cheese in unbreathable saran wrap.

Voila–they have introduced–breathable cheese paper for your fresh cut product. (Sobeys is hoping following suit–retail revolution people!!)

The cheese department here  will cut cheese on demand.  You can still reach into the fridges (those are sliding doors in the picture) and quickly grab a pre-cut piece of Mimolette (yes, they have Mimolette.  SCORE!) or cheddar.  But you can also turn around and have wedges cut smaller or request a taste.

On opening day Gurth Purdy (the cheese buyer and passionate supporter of artisinal cheese) and his team were cracking full parmesan wheels in the traditional way.  Check out this short demo from Whole Foods.  Quite an art.

They also are the exclusive Ontario carrier of a soft washed-rind, raw milk, Quebec cheese called Pied-de-Vent.  it used to be snuck into the province years ago but was not federally licensed.  It looked droolingly delicious.

Living in the east end, I’ll probably be sticking to my hood for the groceries but with a large parking lot beneath the store I might just head over from time to time to stroll the aisles. There’s a Joe Fresh and LCBO upstairs too. Eat, dress, drink.

No word yet if you can bring in a hockey stick for a quick face-off with some canned salmon.

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Caramels: The Cure for What Ails Ya

Some might recommend antibiotics for pneumonia (those would be the doctors) but us food bloggers like something that is more indulgent.  Like caramels.  If you’re craving caramels, no matter how sick, you know you’re generally OK.  And is it not a bucolic  ideal to be eating bons bons while lounging in bed?  Realistically, no one has time for that –except when taken ill with only enough strength to strip the crinkly, bright wrappers off the naked chocolates .

The caramels look much less 1970s than in this photo.

I recently had the opportunity to curl up with a box of the above. Fortune smiled upon me and said, “hey, get yourself some pneumonia and some bons bons”. The pneumonia arrived courtesy of the devil (I can’t be sure of that,  just a guess) and the chocolates came courtesy of President’s Choice.

It’s actually a chocolate and toffee “collection” (I’m giving up stamps immediatly -what was I thinking?) and the first thing I noticed is that all the 11  flavours on the chocolate map (see below for some blurry details) were tempting.  Not a chocolate brandy cherry in site.  I think I would eat the orange fondant last but my dad would head straight for it.

The chocolates are imported from England and you do feel like you just nipped into Marks and Spencers for a fix.

You can go ahead and buy them for as a hostess gift, but they’ll never make it, particularly if you’re too weak to get out of bed.

See, there’s an upside to congested lungs.  No, actually there’s not.  But eating these caramels will make you forget your woes for a bit.  (Take note Daytime TV).

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It’s a chocolate chip miracle!

It’s not everyday I gasp aloud in delight (aside from everytime I use my nutmeg grater) but I did squeal a little when I saw these Mini Butterscotch Melts from Presidents Choice.

I mean, I think the delight is self-explanatory, if you haven’t almost peed your pants in excitement as this point, I don’t know how to explain the new heights this will take your cookie baking.

Instead let me show you more pictures—

See, they are smaller than a peanut (though I acknowledge that this peanut appears monstrous).  So the beauty here is, you don’t have to add less chips or call your cookie “chocolate chunk”, it’s still chocolate chip but SUPERCHARGED.  (I also saw a suggestion to add them to banana bread which peaked my interest-or how about throwing them into a trail mix).

I caution you to not open a package before eating breakfast.  You may have a light bulb moment prompting you to put these into a bowl and cover them with milk.   This is a delusion.  Please toast some whole grain bread and melt the chips on top!  It’s just like Nutella but more nutritious.

Here’s what the pack looks like.  I got these in as part of a gift bag when I was invited into the President’s Choice Test Kitchen to try some new holiday products.  It was a bit of Willy Wonka experience (though not the trippy Gene Wilder version of the 70s) and I was fascinated to hear about the product development process.   I’ve always been curious.  More on that coming up.

For now– crave the chips.

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Top Chef: Episode 9

Bunkies Connie and Andrea are getting ready to hit the GE kitchen and Connie reveals she’s never roomed with anyone before she met her husband.  Maybe that’s what is preventing her from freaking out–ballerinas only cry alone?  She says, “I’m feeling the pressure, I want to prove I can cook great food, I’m here to represent.”  She looks shaky. Maybe she’s been having nightmares of “I’m in it to win it” Andrea smothering her with a pillow.

Quick Fire

Guest Chef is Roger Mooking owner of Nyood and Kultura and host of TFN’s “Everyday Exotic”  The challenge “cook by numbers”.  How well can each chef put together a dish using a specific number of ingredients?

They draw knives and it goes down like so:  Dale 12, Dustin 8, Francois 14, Connie 10, Darryl 4, Rob 16, Andrea 6.   Salt, pepper and oil are freebies.

Darryl is slightly panicking–he may cook simply but 4 ingredients is basic.  Once he grabs a protein, starch and veg he’s only got one item left.   Does sweat count as an ingredient?

Dale of course is not fussed, “I don’t know why everyone is stressing out.”

Connie gets intense and decides to make her own pasta in 45 minutes.  Andrea goes the other route– “hard to screw up” as she says.  Hello butternut squash soup.  (seriously?)

But you know what–her plating looks gorgeous, the roasted butternut squash soup is contained a bright blue Le Creseut pot with maple, foie gras and hazelnut oil, garnished with garlic and squash chips.

Dustin’s squab also looks great as does Francois’s grilled sardines and grilled peach, though I think most of his 14 ingredients are lamely hidden in a bunch of “different” salad greens.

Chef Mooking thinks that Dale’s mussel broth might be a bit too saffrony. “Not too saffrony” Dale shoots back.  (are too! am not!)

He also is surprised that Connie would make pasta that needs resting time with only 45 minutes.  She one-ups him, “yep, especially since I used semolina.”  Translated: I can pirouette on your ass.

Rob used about 12 kinds of radish (red, black, green, mauve….) to make up his salad for his 16 ingredient dish.

FINAL JUDGEMENT:  It comes down to Connie and Andrea as stand-outs.  But Andrea takes the Quickfire with her “bold flavours and great balance–you’ve hit it out of the ball-park.”    Losing apparently causes Connie to lose all motivation in the Elimination round.  Or inspires a great need for comfort food.

Elimination

The elimination challenge this week is summed up by Thea as, “taking your personal cooking style and translating it into a recipe that any home cook can understand.”  Translation: we’ll be cooking with products supplied by our sponsor, Loblaws.

Chef Mooking tries to make it all feel more exciting by describing the challenge as “satisfying the home cook–and chef–in all of us.”  I sum it up as the home cook in me saying, “just defrost something for God’s sake” and the home chef in me  saying, “let’s order hand-rolled sushi for pick-up”.  (If you’re Chef-At-Home though you conveniently find some hand-rolled sushi in your pantry and make a stew with it.)

Each chef picks a bunch of PC products (and let me say right now that I love the PC line–my darling sparkling fruit juice) and shops at Loblaws for the rest of the ingredients.  They each have $50 to prepare samples for 35 people.  Andrea, winning the Quickfire has an unlimited budget and buys a whack of black cod (they swim in whacks actually….).

Insert a bunch of shots of the chefs talking…all very boring and repetitive and space-filler style stuff…

Connie has a wicked gleam in her eye.  “I saw puff pastry and was inspired!”  But wait for it, she’s essentially going to make pigs in a blanket–the twist being that she’s making the sausage.  One: you’ve already made sausage, Con.  Two: No one is going to make sausage at home, even the Italians only do it once a year recruiting their entire families and getting through it by drinking a tonne of home-made wine.

She then adds, “we need to cater to housewives and other people who shop at Loblaws”  (yes, us housewives always on the search for a new devilled egg or pastry-wrapped sausage recipe).   She says this as she purees foie gras and starts rolling sausage in saran wrap. Connie–are you cracking?!  Hang in their girl!!

Rob sums it up, “I don’t know why anyone would make sausage at home when they can just buy a hot dog.”

And then there is the stunned look on the shoppers faces as Connie explains that “making foie gras truffled sausage is easy–maybe an hour and half of work!”

Dale is kicking ass with his BBQ pulled pork with coleslaw on a bun.  A square of salty watermelon on the side.  He knows what he’s doing this time–this is no Milestones challenge, “BBQ has a power over people.” And he’s right.  He is also Dustin’s BFF!  Cut to Dale happily folding Dustin’s colourful socks.

Dustin, ‘I like a little flare in my socks’ and Dale, “I like standard undergarments. Black and grey.”

Are there cameras in the bathrooms too?  Is this material we’ll see next week when there’s one less chef to use up screen time?

I do enjoy the juxtaposition of this exchange back to back:  Rob (with a slight repulsion) , “Wow, people love free food.”

Darryll, “My girlfriend and I love to sample, we have a strategy so we can double up on the hand-outs.”

But to the judges:

They are in love with Dale’s BBQ sandwich.  Devour it actually.  Even a housewife could make it they conclude.

Andrea’s marinated black cod dish– the flavour is there but needs seasoning.  Underwhelmed.

Francois makes a yummy looking chicken confit in phyllo and is having a great time demo-ing how to fold the phyllo pastry to curious customers.  The judges conclude that though you can buy this type of dish frozen, Francois has elevated it by making it from scratch.

Unlike, Connie’s pigs-in-a blanket.  Judges with raised eyebrow, “just a simple foie-gras truffle sausage? uh-huh.”  And sadly it doesn’t taste any better than the frozen version.  I am getting flustered, what is happening to Connie?

Dustin redeems himself from his gnocchi flop last week with gnudi in brown butter.  Chef McEwan finally admits that Dustin’s “cute-factor” is getting to him.  In a warm, fuzzy way.

Rob kills it with his dessert, its also redemption time for him after the poo-log he served up last week.  He creates a maple-syrup custard with caramelized banana on top.  Everyone from the housewives to the judges are literally, eating it up.  Chef Mooking freaks out at its deliciousness. “Everything about this is right.”

And then there’s Darryl, where everything about his manicotti is just…wrong.  It’s simple that’s for sure but it is also amateur say the judges.  It did not elevate the food to…well..anywhere but the plastic plate it is served on.  I think the real epiphany should have been when a 20 year old college kid says, “hey, I could totally make this!”

Judges Table

Top Three:

Francois, Dale and Rob.  But it is obviously between Dale and Rob.  (I must say though, look at Francois–kind of staying middle of the pack and then slowly rising to the top over all these episodes. Things that make you go hmmmmm.)

All the judges drool over Rob’s dessert but Dale wins the prize.   And indeed there is a prize. Five thousand dollars worth of President’s Choice money (this show is better than Monopoly) which Dale says he will partly use for his son’s school.

Bottom two:

Obvious, yet kind of shocking.  Connie and Darryl.  Chef Mooking sums up Darryl’s issues with, “this show is called Top Chef, not Good Cook.”

And then everyone is a total over-the-top jerk to Connie “are you tapped out?”  “did you choke?” until she actually starts to cry.  And then cries harder for being seen crying on TV and not being a strong female role model (Then I  start to cry.)  Someone wrap her in a puff pastry blanket and give her a hug!  Andrea does.

As expected Darryl is sent to pack his knives.  “He’s still a young, young chef”  is the judges’ conclusion.   I hope next time he’s at Costco they have really super samples waiting for him!  Bye Darryl.

Next week:  the chefs prepare 3 meals, “a day in the life of Canadian Food”.  Huh?  (I think Gordon Pinsent might play the voice of the back bacon sandwich.)

Til next week.

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