s is for stemless.

You may have noticed the glassware in my last post about the boy's tasty concoctions (it was sadly hiding behind the soup bowls). Check them out in greater detail (and without wine):

I fell in love with Spiegelau's Authentis Casual stemless glassware about a year ago. Sadly, my inner klutz constantly reminded me that it was a Bad Idea to be purchasing Really Nice Glassware on a student budget if it meant constant replacements were to be bought. Having been on the lookout for more affordable stem(less) ware since then, I recently stumbled upon these lovlies. A set of 4, with carafe, only dented my wallet by 12$!


an at home dinner date

Ever since dining at Casa Tapas and Zumaia (which has sadly closed its doors recently), the boy has been itching to recreate some of the lovely food. Namely some sort of red-pepper-goat-cheese concoction, and a garlic-saffron-tomato soup. Last Thursday, I definitely wasn’t going to complain if he wanted to whip up a feast of sorts. Served with lovely grilled potatoes from the George Foreman and a small plateful of kalamata olives, we washed down the meal with some of the boy’s wine (he’ll need to do another order soon, that’s for sure).

Note the proud display on the recently acquired dining table. (mostly) Functional, though a little rickety, and not the most aesthetically pleasing thing. But (mostly) functional. Which is fantastic!


brunch at trattoria amore

This weekend landed me in Toronto, and happily reunited with a dear friend who's been missing in action for 5 months. Okay, not really MIA per sey, unless you count disappearing to Berlin for the summer as such. Sadly, our academic paths have led us to be in different cities, but alas! It gives me yet another excuse (beyond my mother's rendition of oh-so-good Chiu Chow styled duck) to come visit.

We caught up in the yuppy neighborhood of Yonge + Eglinton, where yummy mummies were plenty, dog-walking (and child-walking) on sidewalks. With Sunset Grill being packed (and neither one of us extremely craving the greasy spoon: to be honest, I'm still recoiling from the Quebec protein of August), we sauntered north along Yonge. A few restaurants seemed to serve brunch, but Amore caught our eye with its menu displayed prominently beside the door. C-Food, for example, had this silly little tv screen on the patio, that stayed too long on the '15$ prix fixe' screen, without divulging the details of this special. It wasn't that Amore had a spectacular menu, per sey, it just, well, had a menu.

Reasonably priced enough (brunch items seemed to mostly hover at 9$ or so), we took a seat on the 'patio' - a crammed 3 table space in front of the restaurant. Unfortunately, it proved not to be the best seat of the house, as the autumn winds and shade quickly cooled our ordered items. I suppose I'm still in denial that summer is quickly fleeting.

I was sorely disappointed with the overly lemony hollandaise sauce on my bennys. Which leaves me still on a quest to find the perfect rendition of this sauce. The last time I had eggs benedict, I was in North Bay where the joint served a way-too-thick version of the sauce (did they put cornstarch in it?!). And unfortunately, my dear friend was unimpressed with the undercooked potatoes that came with her spicy italian sausage frittata (the bread was a redeeming factor, however.) Coffee was standard, as far as coffee goes when it's served at 2.3$/mug.

Spending QT was more of a priority today, so I think I wasn't actually as frustrated (vocally, anyway) with the food as I would usually be. Sometimes, even good service can't make up for the food. When I'm in the area next, however, I'll probably be venturing elsewhere. Like Grazie Ristorante, for example (a fave of my dear friend's).

Amore Trattoria
2425 Yonge St.
* * (of 5)


fridge woes and tuna tales

We have a new apartment!

The boy and I moved into our new place at the beginning of September: same (sketchy) building, larger unit. What sold us? The really really large kitchen. Well, relatively so anyway, as far as apartment living goes. But, but, but... we had no fridge until a good week later. No joke: it was Sept 7th before we convinced them that doing groceries was integral to my well being. Eating instant noodles and pizza for a week had me wondering how people survive on these types of food for the entire academic year. Ewww.

The building management had promised us a new fridge (a few new ones were on order), and kept saying that they'd be here 'either today or tomorrow'. Definitely more than a few 'tomorrows' passed by, so we knocked on their office door. The solution to the not-yet-arrived fridges? Them pulling out a fridge from an empty unit. Meh, it'll do for now - not to mention that it's a better fridge than the one on the boy's old studio. Besides, it seems like they haven't forgotten about the new fridge, which means perhaps one of those by the end of the month? I've learned not to assume anything around here. I'm just crossing my fingers on one of those soon, so we'll have a functional freezer. Not that the one now isn't functional, but it's one of those ice-boxes-within-the-fridge type deals. Not very cold.


We lucked out at the grocery store last week: tuna was mislabeled as shark! We couldn't believe our luck at finding this stuff for 11$/kg. It turned out to be okay, but not fabulous (unfortunately), in our rendition involving soy sauce, wasabi, and sesame seeds. I'm not sure I'll be using the george foreman again for tuna without modifications (it didn't grill... it steamed the fish - too much liquid!).

In other kitchen news, our oven has no temperature markings.
Any suggestions?


northern ontario (chinese) food: treeplanting (pt. II)

You may recall how I raved about the food at our camp this past contract. Well, treeplanting didn't have us always eating in the bush - in fact, we function in shifts of 4-6 days, with a night/day off. Typically, the last day of a planting shift will be an early one, so we're planting until 2 or 3 (instead of 6 or 7). We almost always head straight to town from the block (the land that we plant), meaning we show up with dirt on our faces (and everywhere else) in our smelly sweat ridden and blood stained work clothes (which were probably the same ones worn yesterday, the day before, and the day before that). Once in town, planters are responsible for feeding themselves. That night's dinner, and the next day's food (though we head back to camp on that next day, we're not fed).

With our 7 or 8 days off this contract, the first two were spent in Timmins, and the others (with an exception of one night in Hearst) were in Kapuskasing. Having grown up in Toronto, and lived in Montreal for the past 4 years, I wasn't really expecting much in the way of food, way up there. A little bit of a stuck up city mentality, I suppose.

Over the last several years, the boy had become familiar with Timmins, as he frequented this town on days off of previous contracts. Both nights we were in town included Chinese food at the Cozy Corner (24 Mountjoy St S). Just next to the Days Inn at which we stayed, the restaurant is owned and operated by a speaker of Cantonese (I suspect he's an immigrant from Hong Kong). The boy has been returning for years, but hasn't had a chance to order off the back menu until now. I was amused - during our first day off, I had to convince the two young women working in the front that I wanted to speak with their chef/owner for dinner. They may not have known what to do with a Cantonese speaking girl still in dirty dirty clothes. Not bad, actually! Just priced twice as much as Toronto: rice noodles with beef, along with Shanghainese bok choi with garlic and spring rolls. The second time we were there, we decided to eat in, ordering a seafood concoction off the menu. Scallops were way over cooked, although the shrimp were still okay. Dinner was even costlier this time (as expected, with the seafood), at over 40$ for two. (Costly, you say? Why yes! compared to dining in Toronto for Chinese food - if you find the right places, you can be paying as little as 15, 20$ for two).

During our one night in Hearst, we had dinner at King's Cafe (824 George St.), where Robert Munch declared they made the best chicken balls, ever. Though we didn't end up trying to aforementioned deep fried spheres, we found out that the bean sprout chop suey dishes comes with... toast! Yes, a stack of buttered and toasted white bread. The things you learn about Canadian-Chinese cuisine, I suppose. I must confess that I didn't even know what an 'authentic' chop suey dish was supposed to contain until that night: 'chop suey doesn't exist as a dish in China'. I think the waitress at King's was amused that the boy decided to chopstick the toast. And one of the cooks was surprised by the appearance of a Cantonese speaking girl, still in unlaundered work clothes.

We found ourselves in Kapuskasing for the remaining days off, where we had a chance to try two of their Chinese-Canadian restaurants. To be honest, the two restaurants tasted the same to me, with their standard over-cornstartched sauces. Not to say that the food was bad, of course! It's just that I'm not sure I'll ever be used to "Chinese" food that's been catered to the Caucasian crowd. I was actually quite surprised at the frequency of Chinese Canadian restaurants in Northern Ontario - all of the ones we ended up going to were all Asian-operated, too. Of course, there's a serious lacking of many Chinese staples (such as the various "speciality" vegetables found easily in the city), and I understand from the owner of Hong's Take-Out (48 Queen Street) that shipments from Toronto are only monthly. As just mentioned, their fare was pretty similar to the food at Thong La's (16 Riverside Drive, Kap). In other words, all the noodle dishes featured the same ingredients, switching up the meat and sauce to exponentially expand the menu. Not quite a taste of home, but my expectations were surprisingly exceeded (according to the boy, the sweet and sour soup at Thong La's was pretty good, too). I definitely would go back for their Singapore fried noodles though - authentic to the tee, and not at all frugal with their ingredients. Chicken! Shrimp! BBQ Pork! Bean sprouts!

The boy is currently planting in northern Manitoba, and I understand from him that there are various Canadian Chinese restaurants up there, too. Perhaps I'll have to snag myself a contract on province over next year, and find out for myself. Until then, I'm more than satisfied with the Asian eats of the city.


bush camp life and food: treeplanting (pt. I)

That's right! I'm back in the city after two months of living and breathing in Northern Ontario, treeplanting for one of the largest reforestation companies in Canada. Blood, sweat and tears, anyone? It was pretty much the most demanding thing I've ever done, period. Both mental and physical stress add up to a little (or a lot!) of 'bush craziness'.

You may be wondering: why the heck is she mentioning these adventures on a food blog, for crying out loud?

The answer is simple: I wanted to ramble about the food I've consumed during the months of May and June. It's not every day that you're eating at a bush camp. And it's not everyone who has the opportunity to do so for two months. I'll even throw in some details regarding food consumed on days-off, when we partied it up in Northern Ontario small towns (namely Timmins, Kapuskasing, and Hearst). So here we go:

First, regarding the bush. Many vets on my contract corroborated the fact that our camp was pretty much set up to be the Cadillac of bush camps. Complete with a mess tent (where breakfast + dinner are consumed, where things get schloppy during in-camp parties, where general hanging-out while drinking hot chocolate/beer and reading/playing cards/playing scrabble/etc occurs), dry tent (for the somewhat drying of clothing/boots after rain days - though in reality, things never really dry completely), shower trailer (that nobody actually used - yes, treeplanters are dirty dirty people), cook shack (propane fueled for all cooking needs), and shitters (our portable outhouses that divulge quite the odor after 3 days).

The day begins at 6am, when we're rudely roused by the honkings of our supervisor's truck (or sometimes, a chainsaw). This usually translates to me trying to ignore the blasts until my own alarm sounds at 6:15, rolling around in my sleeping bag until 6:23, getting up and getting dressed, and rolling out of my tent by 6:30-6:40. Time for 1) breakfast and 2) packing a lunch in the mess tent, all to be had/done in the 15 minutes before our buses leave at 7am sharp, whisking us away to the block for a long day of planting. Prior to actually living the bush life, I was skeptical about the copious amounts of food that would be consumed. Specifically breakfast-related, I didn't believe I'd be doing the daily breakfast meats (there was always either bacon or sausage), but your body definitely can do with the extra fat and protein. And ensuring that breakfast included carbs, fats, and protein helped diminish the effects of hunger's first wave at about 10am. Along with the bacon/sausage, there was always a hot breakfast, too - from french toast, to pancakes, eggs, and BLTs, breakfast burritos, to english muffin sandwiches. Perogies and grilled cheese sandwiches, endearingly named 'grillies', were both favourites of mine, and were ultra portable for consumption during the bus ride. The trick for the former is stealing almost empty cartons of sour cream, filling them with perogies, and bringing a fork for the bus. Also present daily were one or two types of fruit - canned peaches and pears, fresh melons (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon), sometimes even kiwi, bananas and pears. There was always a homemade breakfast bread (chocolate chip, cranberry, poppyseed, blueberry, to name a few), and of course the various selections of cereals. And caffeine presented itself for all in the form of teas and coffee; I quickly learned that my thermos was worth its weight in gold.

I also learned various tricks for packing lunch, including the lovely halfers of PB+J, or hummus + cucumber. Because we had no set lunch break, and eating all of your lunch at once would cause much discomfort when planting, I was partial to eating a little bit of food (a half sandwich or fruit or vegetables or something sugary) every time I was at the cache bagging up. ("Cache" being where the bins of seedlings are stored, and "bagging up" being when we fill our planting bags with more trees once we've "bagged out" and have planted the last "bag in". Food and large water jugs (mine being 12L) are also stored at the cache, along with your day-bag containing things like extra clothes, rain gear, sunscreen, and bug dope.) This translated to about a 1/2 dozen 'cache breaks', and splitting my lunch into that many pieces. Half sandwiches are key: take one slice of bread, throw on the toppings, fold in half, et voila! Save on cold days, I usually stayed away from lunch meats (selections of ham, tuna, roast beef, salami, and sometimes tuna), since rancid and greying sandwiches weren't really my cup of tea. My lunchbox was an extremely large tupperware container, fantastic for minimzing the amount of squished sandwiches, and being spacious. On an average day, it held 3 apples or oranges (or peaches, the one time those existed! needlesss to say, the large box did not last more than a day for a camp of 75 people), a sandwich bag full of veggie sticks (carrots, celery), my 4-6 halfers, and 1-2 lunch treats, if I'm in the mess tent early enough to snag some. Lunch treats ranged from various cookies and cookie-like biscuit-y things (chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, butter cookies...) to rice krispy/cereal squares, to granola bars. Some planters choose to pack leftovers for lunch, if any exists from yesterday's dinner; meatloaf made for great sandwich material.

As a camp, we definitely went through a lot of bread, (especially whole wheat) and a tonne of food in general. Personally, I was eating twice as much as usual (literally) and that still didn't add up to the calories expended while treeplanting! When we were in town for our days-off, the cooks were busy doing food runs so that we would be well fed during the next shift. Orders from Sysco, and runs to the grocery store filled pretty much the entire back of a bus, and then some (a good chunk of seats are taken out of the former school purpose buses to allow for storage of gear and such).

But it was the dinners that made bush camp food on this contract so impressive. From various vets, I understand that food varies from camp to camp, and is highly dependant on the cooks. Though planters must be fed, and cooks are a must, reforestation companies do not place the highest priority on hiring cooks - for them, it's all about about production and numbers, and amount of trees in the ground. Our camp certainly lucked out, though! Our head cook recently graduated from Stratford Chef School, which meant everything was pretty tasty and almost all homemade. It certainly helped with staying on budget, too, compared with camps where cooks would purchase many more prepared/processed goods. It's amazing what the head cook and her assistant (who is starting his first year at Stratford this fall), managed to do with their budget. Which was a mere 10$/day/person.

The two months did, however, make me crave cooking - I'm oh-so looking forward to our fantastically large kitchen at the new apartment. During our 40+ days, there were almost no dinner repeats, save crowd pleasers like meatloaf (which I personally didn't understand - exactly how is plain ground beef exciting, again?). I can now say that I've had scalloped potatoes (yes, another secret confession), and good potato salad. Homemade salad dressings, plenty of soup (fantastic when coming home from rain/snow and/or generally cold days), and plenty of dessert (pies, chocolate and vanilla cakes, butter tarts, make-your-own-sundaes...). Dinners ranged from ribs to burgers (and other goodies off the grill) to mac+cheese (which made me miss the boy's rendition), pork chops, ham, lasagna, burritos, curried chicken, and on our last night, a 'christmas dinner' of turkey (!) complete with stuffing and cranberry sauce. And we were also once surprised with a cheese platter, crackers, prosciutto (!) and veggies + dip. For my birthday, they made vanilla cupcakes with strawberry icing - I was immensely pleased.

Would I do it again, this treeplanting thing? Most probably. Stay tuned for a 'part II' posting, with regards to days off in Northern Ontario, and food in Timmins, Hearst, and Kapuskasing.


< || > paused: returning july.

An update from my end of the world:

The past week has found me in an interim between school and work, gearing up for a treeplanting contract in Northern Ontario. Three seasons of summer work in an office left me craving for something different. And in the spirit of antitheses, I certainly won't be wearing cardigans come June.

1 part apprehension.
1 part scared shitless.
8.42 parts excitement.

(Projected consumption of 3000-3500 cal per day. To keep weight. Boo yeah!)

The contract is projected to last until the end of June, so I should be back at the beginning of July. With lots of tasty things and such (including another review of Garçon, plus a revisit to Casa Tapas - courtesey of end-of-semester-per-parental-units).

Until then: bon appétit!


brewing cider, part II

Earlier this month, I mentioned that the boy has taken on a homebrewing project of making cider. Unfortunately, I still haven't figured out the science of the art (or the art of the science?), but I've been promised that more brewing is to come in the fall. A larger apartment awaits us when we return to Montreal in September (yes, I've finished my finals for the semester!), so I'm hoping we'll manage to vent the system for beer (which will give off fumes more potent than those innocuous ones from the cider).

The cider bubbled incessantly for the first two days or so, and was quick to clarify - you can see the progression of quick change between days two and five:

This is what the cider basically looked the next day when the boy syphoned it using a rather ad hoc set up. I quickly learned the beauty of bleach and tubing (kept straight by attaching to a large chopstick). And realised yet another use for mason jars.

The stuff still tasted acrid and sharp, but is exponentially mellowing. Now, we wait. It'll be worth it (hopefully) if we just forget about the bottles for a few months before 'rediscovering' the brew.


a is for artichoke

Chinatown yields exotic, at reasonable prices. A friend, needing to finish a photography assignment, suggested for me to tag along. So there I was, armed with a camera, cavorting through the streets on a beautiful day.


shepherd's pie is made with: ____?


I must sheepishly confess that this little fact was unbeknownst to me until four days ago. When I did find out, however, I did one of those hand-slap-to-forehead gestures: of course it's made with lamb! It's not not called cattle rancher's pie for a reason.

My first encounter with shepherd's pie was in elementary school, and I remember feeling indifferent about it. Looking back, I suspect it was because 1) the mashed potatoes were rehydrated from powder, 2) the ground meat was rather boring, and 3) the corn was never inside of the pie, but served instead on the side. Naturally, I've always had a pallet for Asian food, and they weren't serving any of mum's cooking in school. Instead, I was exposed to mediocre cafeteria versions of white-people food: they certainly didn't make mac and cheese, or chicken à la king in a memorable manner. My introduction to the actual world of caucasian cuisine was only a recent phenomenon. As I've been asian-ifying the boy with noodley concoctions, turnip cake, and shitake mushrooms, he's directed my affection towards his renditions of mac and cheese (which I will have to blog about soon) and shepherd's pie.

Woah. WOAH!
Can a true Asian claim that meat-and-potatoes = beauty?
I think so.

Since those early years, the consumption-count of 'real' shepherd's pie is at a pitifully low '3' (sure to change, of course). They were all courtesy of the boy, and uber tasty - though made with ground beef, times 1 and 2 should be aptly named cottage pies. The latest version was a 'proper' one, made with ground spring lamb. You may already have guessed that our dinner last Wednesday was mighty, mighty fine.


a simple tomato sauce

It's been a while since store bought pasta sauce has entered my stomach. Why bother with the overly sweet stuff on the supermarket shelves, when you can make it at home, to taste?

Our cupboard is always home to at least one or two large cans of whole tomatoes, which are easily sauce-able. And though I'm an advocate of fresh produce, a tomato sauce from the canned goodies surpasses the 'real' deal when examining their respective price/quality ratios.

The secret is that there is no secret. No 'recipe', either, but I always start out with:

one large can of whole tomatoes (of the 28oz variety)
about 4-5 cloves of garlic
one goodly sized onion
canola or olive oil, depending on what my hand reaches first
Our trusty wok has been my cooking instrument of choice, as its large capacity easily handles the sauce. To start, I brown the garlic and onions with the hot oil: these two tasties have been chopped, depending on my mood, anywhere from a fine mince, to a chunky dice. Once the onions are verging on translucency, I dump the contents of the can into the hot wok, and usually spice it with a combination of basil, oregano, thyme, and black pepper. At this point, I'll usually start attacking the tomatoes with a wooden spatula to poke them into the right size - leaving chunks can be rather tasty, too, especially if I've opted for the coarsely chopped onions. This step can actually be done whenever, really. After a stir or two, I turn the stove to a medium-ish setting, so that the tomatoes are left to simmer (watch out for a very red splattered kitchen when boiling tomatoes on high).

And then, it's just a matter of patience!

I usually stir the concoction every once in a while, and about 30-40 minutes later, most of the watery substance will be gone. A little bit of sugar will be added to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. On various occasions of sauce or stock making, I've made the mistake of adding too much salt, too early on, forgetting about the reduction of volume that is to occur - so I usually stick to adding salt near the end.

Simple? Yes! Multipurpose? Also, yes!
This stuff works wonders on pizza, too.


homebrewing cider

For four days now, I have been bombarded with fermentation-related jargon.

With it being the season of final exams and all, my scholastic apathy was forced, 180, into sudden studiousness, so unfortunately, I've been unable to digest too much of the boy's babble. I did, however, happily capture photos of his new one gallon carboy, currently housing his first batch of cider. Stay tuned for updates, and the how-to's of it all.

Anyone else find the airlock mechanism phallic?

Look at the yeasties go!

Staring at his new pet:


all in the name of a good meal

A part of my finger is now missing.

Only a small, small, small part of my left pointer (like, 1/8 of my nail, and the flesh beneath it), though, so it's not all that exciting. I would post photos, but I wanted to spare those who are squeamish at heart. It may not come a surprise that it was thanks to a kitchen accident, and occurred while prepping pizza toppings - chopping green onions, to be exact. I've been told a million times to not have dangling appendages from my guide hand, as my right hand grips the knife to slice and dice. But since my first handling of a Chinese cleaver at age 8, I haven't been able to shake the bad habit of not curling fingers out of harm's way. And this isn't the first time it's happened, either. Only last time it was the tip of my thumb.

I laughed the injury off (really, it didn't hurt too much), and proceeded to finish the business of pizza. The boy, as always, made some tasty herbed rendition of pizza dough in the bread maker. This time, our lovely pizza sported mozzarella, green onions, brown button mushrooms, roasted garlic and red peppers, Italian sausage, and feta on the adventurous half. The other side - prepared as we didn't know the specific taste buds of our our dinner company - sported the first 3 ingredients. It definitely turned out to be a tasty, colourful meal.


knead-less to say, it'll be in a wok

The boy, dorkus magnus, was quite excited to try his professor's bread recipe.

At McGill, there are a handful of courses offered by the chemistry department that cover tidbits of everyday trivia-type stuff. This semester, these 'world of chem' lectures included one on food (incidentally, it's available for the public online). Having been stuck on a baking phase for the past while, I wasn't the least bit surprised when the boy excitedly directed my attention to a bread recipe passed down from Prof. Harpp's mother.

One caveat: we don't own enamelled cast iron cookware. And this recipe calls for the baking to occur in such a device. And, as much as these things are beautiful and durable through decades and are certainly heavy enough to implement in knocking-out-home-invaders, it was going to be a little bit of an investment. A purchase that had to be planned in advance, anyway, since we're living on budgets fit for student living. (A Cruset, along with a good quality espresso maker, are among many kitchen toys we're considering for September.)

Time to get creative: He reached for the wok. Bread in a wok? Well, the wok is rather large, and cast iron, so it implies that the final temperature of the cooking vessel will be a little higher, no? And it has a lid (which was necessary, since the first part of the baking is done with a lid on). I confess I was a little skeptical since I'm sure the expansion/contraction rates of the glass lid differed from the metal trimming. But we've had several loaves of this stuff since the first baking, and the lid is still (quite) intact. And the bread's been getting tastier. Nothing beats fresh bread for breakfast, especially when the boy decides to wake up an hour before me to bake a loaf that was left to rise overnight. I do believe my ancestors would be proud of this clever wok usage, resulting in yummy, crusty bread without fail.

Here's the recipe (all measurements are approximations - the best way is to fiddle with it for a loaf or two, and tweak until complete satisfaction!):

4 cup flour
1/2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
2 cup water
Mix the ingredients in a large bowl: since this recipe doesn't require the dough to be kneaded, it's a good idea to mix everything thoroughly enough so you don't end up with extremely salty bits here and there. Cover the mixed dough with a damp towel, and let it sit for anywhere between 9 to 15 hours - the boy plops it in the oven (off, of course) overnight, as the oven stays at a relatively stable temperature despite open windows and such. Once you've exerted all of that patience, the dough is put into the cooking vessel - (insert enamelled cast iron pot here) in our case, the wok. Preheat the oven to 450F, or 500 if your oven lets you do so. The cooking times are about 30 minutes with the lid, then the lid is removed for the remaining 20 minutes (though for our oven, the last 20 have been shaved down to about 15).


ottawa feasts, midnight snacks, and lunch

Part of the long weekend was spent in Ottawa, during which, unsurprisingly, there existed a repeated theme of food. Easter dinner with the boy’s family included: a creamy broco-cran salad, a lettuce salad with uber sharp red onions, spiced butternut squash soup, turkey (served with a nutty pecan stuffing), clove-studded ham, vegetarian quiche, sweet potatoes, apple pie, cherry-apple pie, lemon meringue pie. (!!)

Onwards, post dinner adventures: brief catch-ups with friends, meeting of the fiancée, cigars on the rooftop of a 20-something story building. And then? Someone wanted shawarma. Do you know how difficult it is to find a joint that is open on the Sunday night/Monday morning of the Easter long weekend? Scouring downtown Ottawa shortly after 1am, we finally landed on the corner of Elgin & Gladstone. Marroush International is a very moderate joint, with a very nutsy balding and mustache wearing owner. Entertaining. Random. And “full service” entails a dramatic unwrapping of your sandwich, complete with the rip-plus-toss-with-a-flair of the foil covering. All in a farcically sexual (but so very unsexy) manner. I was trying to parse the expression on the face of a North Bay-er: was she creeped/shocked/entertained/laughing/etc? I didn’t order anything myself, but snuck a bite (or two or three) of the boy’s sandwich. Thumbs up from him.

After sleeping off the randomness, we met with an old friend of the boy’s for lunch. It seems that cross-city franchises have different expectations at their various locations. The boy, when in Winnipeg last summer, had positive remarks regarding drinks and cocktails at Moxie’s. I, on the other hand, encountered a version in Toronto (the one at Fairview mall) that left me wanting much, much more. If memory serves me, I had ordered the soup/sandwich combo - my soup was tepid, and my club sandwich was lacking bacon and tomatoes. Due to my preconceived notions of Moxie’s nation-wide, I had to do a slight double take this past Monday: we walked into a modern looking venue that was large and two-storied, with an open kitchen (though the fake wood-fire oven was disappointing), and attractive waitstaff. I soon discovered tjat the washrooms were just as trendy (I’m a fan of the tiled trough sink). Then, the food. For what it was, it certainly surpassed my expectations (the fries did, however, leave me parched for the remainder of the afternoon). I ordered the portobelo baguette-sandwich, and the boy and friend seemed to find their respective steak sandwiches just dandy (open-faced steak sandwich, which was the special of the day, and greek salad steak wrap).

Back in Montreal, the snagged turkey leftovers (now sitting prettily in the freezer), hopefully imply that we’ll finally get around to making a savoury, curry pie.


sweet potato fries

Perfectly complimentary to sweet dinner company, and baked 5-spice ribs plus asparagus. I think next time, I'd like to try spicing them with cumin.


mondo fritz, revisted

Not long ago, I was raving about the yummy poutine at Mondo Fritz (we had had a hankering for grease after beer @ Brutopia). Within two weeks of that outing, I revisited Mondo Fritz for more of a lunch time meal, to catch up with a friend. Visite numero 2 has left me with complex sentiments about the restaurant, which I shall share:

Still a thumbs way up for their service: speedy, and pleasant, like last time. I ordered one of their burgers (I believe it was the "Danoise") with a side of fries - fantastic toppings of blue cheese and sundried tomato, but the crux of the burger left me craving my own rendition (secret ingredient = soy sauce in the ground beef). The meat patty was a little off, size-wise, in comparison to the rather large bun (to be fair, the kaiser was quite tasty and fresh), but it was pretty standard fare, and rather overdone. As were the fries, they were much darker than the last rendition - though I wonder what the poute would've tasted like sans gravy. Crispier fries are certainly better at holding themselves up to ladles of gravy, but when when they're on their own, even the Mondo Fritz's tasty variations of mayo (the basil/pepper one rocks) can't save overdone/burnt ones. Portions were, again, quite generous.

pizza dinners

Bread machines are awesome! The boy's pizza crust has only improved/diversified over the past year, and this last (herbed) rendition was topped with roasted garlic, onions, mushrooms, and cheddar.

cinnamon swirl bread, v2

Version two was sans walnut in the swirl, which definitely helped the roll/swirl stay put in its shape and such. I couldn't resist capturing its full glory:


pork and napa dumplings

The boy wanted dumplings for dinner on his birthday. Done! I've been making them with my grandmother as long as I've been using chopsticks, and though it's a time consuming effort, the results are well worth it. It really doesn't matter what you throw into the filling, though I'm partial to ground pork as the meat base. These ones also sported copious amounts of ground ginger, shredded napa, and rehydrated shitake mushrooms. As per usual, swigs and dashes of soy sauce, sesame oil, ground pepper, and garlic powder were added to the concoction that amassed into the filling - my secret tactic for spice balance was to pan fry a glob of the filling to taste-test (plus I was feeling a little peckish). Then, onwards and upwards with placing the filling in store-bought wrappers (I should really make my own one day - it's merely flour and water). Needless to say, these pan fried beauties were consumed in a matter of minutes:


instant jellyfish

Yes, jellyfish! Quite edible, and non poisonous.

Jellyfish has been something that I've grown up with, and definitely not considered odd in my book of edibles (then again, it would be quite difficult to try and deter me when it comes to food). It was most fun to introduce it to the boy and a brave friend, who agreed upon viewing the package, that jellyfish was 'goopey looking'. [Package consisted of: pre-soaked, pre-shredded, insta-serve jellyfish in a sealed packet, alongside envelopes of MSG related seasonings plus sesame + chili oils]. Despite the floppy looking texture, one mustn't be fooled: jellyfish has a distinct and pleasant crunch! Random as the textures may be, it may help in explaining the fact that we often refer to jellyfish as 'rubber bands' in Cantonese.

Jellyfish itself is neither fishy nor seafood-like, and actually isn't very flavourful in general: it all becomes a function of the marinade in which it's thrown. Interestingly enough, jellyfish is associated with banquets for me, and has only been consumed out of that context rarely. Though the aforementioned packages are quite convenient, I look forward to buying the stuff that hasn't been pre-shredded to make my own rendition of jellyfish 'salad' - combining soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, and perhaps some rice vinegar and sugar. Sesame seeds are also fantastic additives for an extra nuttiness.


oatmeal peanut butter chocolate chip cookies

Procrastination left me in the kitchen, again. This time, it was in avoiding a short 4 page essay for my class on personality. Seeing that 1) our cupboard recently acquired a new bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, 2) the no name PB has been sitting untouched because of its below average tendencies on bread, and 3) we still had about 1 cup of oats, I made a small batch of yummy yummy PB-oat-chocolate chip cookies. I used approximately:
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup br sugar
1 egg
1/2 - 3/4 cup PB
a (large) splash of milk
splash of vanilla
3/4 cup all purp flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup large oats
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
Cream the butter and sugar until homogeny, then add egg. Combine the remaining wet ingredients, and add the dollops of PB. Stir in dry ingredients, then the oats and chocolate. Bake the (10 goodly sized) cookies for about 15 minutes at 350F (until golden). Enjoy with tall glass of milk.