Monday, November 5, 2012

Not Far From the Tree's End of Season Party

Mini Cherry Galettes at the Fifth Birthday Party at Not Far From the Tree

For the last six months, I've been involved with an organization called Not Far From the Tree. I've mostly been focused on blogging, communications, and web analytics, and have learned much from a great group of engaged and charming people. Not Far From the Tree is a food security organization intent on making sure that Toronto's hidden fruit bounty doesn't go to waste. In a nutshell (no pun intended), you register your fruit tree with us, and we organize volunteers to pick it, sharing the fruit with the tree owner, the tree pickers, and a food bank or other non-profit.
In our fifth season, the non-profit is having our fifth End of Season party on November 9th. Who doesn't like a party to celebrate local Toronto fruit that is shared with the community?
I've really learned so much about local food, have honed my skills as a pastry cook, and really just had fun! 'Cause what's more fun than seeing the lovely city for all of its invisible fruit potential? It's really incredible how much fruit there is in this city, and sadly, how little of it gets picked.
Click here to read all about it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities: A Culinary Bucket List For Montreal

I'm back home with the folks this weekend, while has included much talk, a little shopping, and many, many carbs. I really don't think my parents eat anything else! I've introduced them to Greek Yoghurt, a meeting that was met with trepidation and finally begrudging acceptance. Ah, parents!
Being here on what is mostly a family visit has gotten me thinking of my culinary bucket list for a future visit to   Montreal. There is so much in the city that I haven't seen and experienced, despite having lived here for 25 years. So, here we go:

  1. Cabane a Sucre (Au Pied du Cochon). I've been to the original restaurant, but who wouldn't want to go sugaring off, fine dining style? Located 45 minutes outside on Montreal and with a prix fixe menu, I'd love to try out Martin Picard's take on a Quebecois classic excursion.
  2. Oreilles de Crisse. Quebecois pork rinds translate to Christ's Ears in English, and yes, they are heavenly. A lot of Quebec's culinary traditions are rooted in simpler, rustic foods, and pork and pork products are essential to any omnivore's visit to the province.
  3. A Bagel Tour of the Island. With St Viateur being my fave bagel bakery in Montreal, I'm wondering, am I missing out on other, equally exciting bakeries? Doing a tour of the island to taste-test all the different varieties of Montreal bagels would be such a great way to send an afternoon.
  4. La Banquise: What would a trip to Montreal be without a taste of the province's unofficial regional dish? La Banquise is located in the Plateau, and open 24 hours! I definitely need to make a pit stop there to try one of their 20 poutine varieties. Nom nom. 

Hmmm, I'm wondering if I should plan another trip for March, when the maple sap is running? What a great way to end the winter!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Leaping the Divide Between Home Cook and Professional

The last few months have been filled with job times two, writing, and the slow, exciting immersion into a new culture. And somewhere along the way, my priorities and thoughts about the future changed. Earthshift. Which is all really incredible, I just wish I could sleep through the night without anxiety over the way my life is changing waking me with a jolt at 3 am. Can I really become a chef? I'm not sure, but I can sure try.
The first interview I went to was at an uber-hip west end establishment. It was a job fair, something that didn't promise much really, but still I took the long slow streetcar into hipster territory, and without any plaid that would allow me to blend in. I get to a closed cafe and see a long wait ahead of me; the job fair had started an hour ago, and there were rows of seated attendees in mild business casual. When putting my name and desired occupation down on the awaiting clipboard, I saw a line of would be bartenders and servers. "Are they even hiring back of house staff?" I wondered.
I was seated near the HR guy, Jeremy, and so could listen in to interviews on the sly. It seemed that the sociology undergrads wanting to work the summer away serving Toronto celebrity royalty (and Johnny Depp, when he's in town) were out in full form. And then I was called.
"You're a pastry chef! Wow. Y'know, pastry, you either love it or hate it, it's like onions versus oranges, which do you want to cook? Most people have a difficult time with pastry." Jeremy talked at a quick clip, and called the female coworker who gave him a coffee (and me, when I left) "darlin'". I was thrown off guard, mostly because I'd never had such a positive reaction to my resume before. I quickly focussed, and started to talk about my work at my current pastry job, interest in back of house, and love for cooking.
We left it with Jeremy giving me the card of the HR manager and pressing me to call in a week. I walked out of the hotel a little confused, a lot exhilarated, and now seriously thinking that I might work at this incredibly cool restaurant. And just like that, I eased into thinking about a new career path. Pastry.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mulliga-what? Making the Perfect Moolgatunny Soup

This blog is slowly morphing into a record of the Cooking Party meetings, but I'm totally fine with that. For our second session M and I combined sea salt chocolate, the Beach, and mulligatawny soup, and came up with a relaxing and invigorating hangout. Mulligatawny is a soup that is traditionally from the Anglo-Indian population in India, and is like a daal, but with coconut milk added. Here we replaced the milk with 3/4 of a cup of coconut powder, and about a cup of water. We also made it vegetarian with no meat in it. Oh, and it tastes divine the day later; the spices merge and intensify and there's really a depth there that wasn't before.
As for the pronunciation- The Mixmaster really has a laugh at how I pronounce this soup. What can I do when I first learned of it from the TV show Seinfeld? The way you correctly pronounce it is the second way it's written in the title. This is really a recipe to try- quick and easy and inexpensive.
Here's Epicurious' version:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Cooking Parties and Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie recipe

Well, I haven't been writing much about cooking because I've actually been cooking. I've started working as Front of the House (FOH) at a restaurant in a farmer's market. Working in the food industry is so awesome for a foodie that I literally spring out of bed at 5:30 am (!) on market days. I live for it.
Recently I've started to have cooking parties (my name, not the official name) with my friend, M, in efforts to pool food knowledge, hang out, and make meals for the week. What could be better than smelling the scents of vegetarian Shepherd's Pie wafting through the apartment while flicking between Fashion Television and Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food? Not a whole damn lot, I'll tell ya! After our first session I thought I might come back to this space and encourage others have similar parties with their friends. And coincidentally, our plan is not unlike Oliver's own; to make good food accessible to ourselves, cut down on take out and dinners out, and share knowledge. Hopefully with whiskey martinis the next time we do so. Hmmm....

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie*
2 packets Yves veggie ground round, chicken flavour
Corn kernels from two cooked ears of corn
4 russet potatoes
one carrot, small dice
one onion, small dice
two cloves garlic, minced
one stalk broccoli, cut into small florets
8 leaves fresh basil, sliced
olive oil
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp veggie stock powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp butter

  • Cut potatoes in a large dice (peel on) and put in a pot of water, set to boil. Cook until the Potatoes are fork tender. Set aside to cool, and peel when cool.
  • Using a large pan, saute onions and garlic in a little olive oil. When translucent add carrots and cook for 3 minutes on medium low, and add broccoli and cook another 3 minutes. Add fake meat, herbs, stock powder, and cook for 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, so the mixture isn't too dry, and mix. Set aside.
  • To make the mashed potatoes, mash with milk and butter. Add salt and pepper.
  • Using a large glass dish, layer fake meat mixture, corn, and top with mashed potatoes. Place in a 350F oven and bake for about 1/2 an hour, or until golden brown on top.
*The potato section is an estimate, as I wasn't doing it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Au Revoir, St. Clair West

Moving is Hell.
I've been in my new neighbourhood on the Danforth for about two months, and we're still not unpacked. Boxes, boxes, boxes. Add to that research, work, and other stresses, and we are b.u.s.y.
But, the last time I wrote, I said I'd write about St Clair West, and so here it is.
On to the farewell...
When we think of great eats in this city, we think of the brunch places in Leslieville, or Sri Lankan food in Scarbs, or dim sum in Chinatown. St. Clair West isn't a destination that pops into the mind, and for pete's sake, it's off the Bloor line! But if you happen to find yourself in the neighbourhood and it gets around meal time here are a few options:
1) Mezetta Cafe and Restaurant at 681 st. Clair West- What could be better than middle eastern tapas? Maybe tapas that only costs 2.22$ a dish? Check out Mezzetta on a Monday or a Tuesday for amazing deals. Their chicken cigars are sinful, and a "must try". I'd try and order less than the menu recommends; 3-4 dishes a person is plenty if you're very hungry. Dinner for two including wine and tip comes out to 40$ on one of the reduced price nights.
2) Filippo's Gourmet Pizza at 744 St. Clair West (ph) 416-658-0568- This pizza place is one of the pioneers of gourmet pizza in Toronto, and their pizzas are fresh, the selection of pies is satisfying, and the service is stellar. Be warned that their pizzas are a little on the large size. The prices range from 10-16$, from memory. They have a great patio that is great for a date or intimate dinner.
3) What's better than a farmer's market? Maybe a farmer's market at the Green Barns where the Stop Community Food Centre hosts their Stop Market Cafe every Sat from 9 am to 1 pm and serves delicious, rustic food like a Farmer's Frittata sandwich, fruit Galettes, and Strudels that change with seasonal fruit? You can find out about the Stop here. They are located at 601 Christie, at St. Clair West.
4) Want a quick bite, and are not afraid of large helpings and fusion? Eastern Twist at 505 St. Clair West (At Bathurst) has pan-Asian meets Caribbean foods, and their rotis are a dream. Don't forget the achar, but be warned, it's spicy!
And that's a quick tour of my beloved former 'hood. I could mention that the Goodwill for thrifting and the Joe Fresh for inexpensive clothing deals are must-sees, but that would be out of the scope of a food blog, right?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Nothing says "I Love You" Like Smuggled Cheese From the Netherlands

On this rainy and cold Saturday, I'm wistfully remembering the tasty and bold round of gouda that my younger sister had brought back from Amsterdam several weeks ago. It was a whole wheel of cheese a little bigger than my palm, but such pleasures are meant for sharing, and so I passed one small wedge on to The Mixmaster, and my friend, M.
The cheese is from a maker named Henri Willig, and after the last precious morsel of creamy, peppery, milky goodness had disappeared, I googled them, and found that to my dismay, they ship just about everywhere but Canada. If you're in the Canary Islands, or Hong Kong, you can get Willig yumminess, but sadly we go cheese-less. I paired my gouda with PC 7 Grain Original Flat Bread, a quick grocery store buy. The cracker was lightly salted, and went well with the sharp, pepper taste of the pepper gouda.
Ah, the glories of cheese... In Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, one of the most intriguing characters to me is that of Ben Gunn, the hapless marooned British man who hasn't "'spoke with a Christian [for] three years'" (Stevenson 79). And what does he ask for when he meets up with the treasure hunters from England? A "'Christian diet'"; he says "'You mightn't happen to have a piece of cheese about you, now? No? Well, many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese" (79). Luckily, the ship's doctor, who is coded in the text as a true gentleman, has a small piece of parmesan in his snuff box, which he gives to Ben Gunn, hoping to save him from the dread fate of "going native" (102). This text, which I'd re-read last fall, highlights the hierarchies of processed versus unprocessed foods, which I've spoken of before. Cheese is civilized and "Christian". Papayas, or even rum (though it is processed, it is linked to the Caribbean), are not. Western society seems to prize food that is removed from it's natural state.
Now to figure out a way to get to Amsterdam to smuggle some Henri Willig cheese back. Not the most likely thing to try to sneak into T.O. from the rather progressive nation...
I'm moving from my beloved St Clair West area to a new neighbourhood. I've been here for over three years and have really come to love the place. If I have time in the middle of all the packing and sorting through stuff, I'm going to try and write a food farewell to this lovely part of town.