Roasted vegetable salad

Cut assorted vegetables into evenly sized pieces. Toss baby eggplant, zucchini, red, orange and yellow peppers, tomatoes and onions with olive oil, salt and pepper and other herbs and spices. I chose sage.

Place vegetables on a cooking tray. Cook in an oven at 400ºF for 10 minutes. Remove more delicate vegetables like tomatoes. Turn vegetables over to the other side. Cook for another 10 minutes until vegetables wilt slightly.

Toss with fresh basil, parsley and cilantro (or any of the three.) Add vinaigrette to the hot salad. Mine had olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, anchovy paste, mustard powder, sage and roasted garlic.

Top with goat cheese. Be generous.

To roast garlic, cut the top off a garlic clove. Drizzle with olive oil to get inside the cracks. Cover in tinfoil. Roast in a 400ºF oven for 35 minutes. Cool until you can touch the clove. Squeeze garlic like a tube and paste using fingers.

Red Earth

This is the soil in PEI.

It is red. It is amazing.

The island was formed on top of sedimentary bedrock of soft, red sandstone, which produces rich, red soil.

The soil is red because it has a lot of rust and iron in it. These nutrients act as natural fertilizers to create a super soil.

You can grow anything more easily.

So everyone grows stuff because it's such a pleasure.

Holt's unveils new cafe menu

Holt Renfew’s café recently unveiled a fancy new menu and I was grateful to be invited to the after-work celebration.

The Holt Renfrew website describes the café as an attempt “to embrace the European ideal of the café:” a meeting place with friendly service that serves as an appropriate locale for a rendez-vous avec les amis pour dejeuner. The café has previously been famous for its Poilâne bread, flown in directly from Paris every 24-48 hours. Fear not, that custom is not going anywhere.

Ironically, in spite of such decadence, Holts is marketing the café as a more affordable and less elitist option than the previous menu offered with most items in the $7-$16 range.

While chatting with a prominent and powerful fashion insider, he joked that we (he and I) were the only people in attendance to actually sample the food. Others stood around self-consciously, wanting to be noticed in the fashionable environment.

Try-hard fashion types clustered around the bar, sucking in their stomachs and sticking out their implanted chests. I’m generally not one to get too intimidated by this kind of carrying on. (Early in my PR career, I helped out with the publicity for Carlie Wong during L’Oréal Fashion Week for her debut collection.) Nonetheless, this was not the friendliest crowd. I sometimes think I would like to work in the fashion realm; but then I am always shocked at the amount of bullshit therein. It surprises me every time.

The serving staff were simply lovely, meeting the ideal of friendly service that the new café strives to achieve. The freely-flowing drink of choice was a Thyme Collins, accentuating the traditional Tom Collins concoction of carbonated water, sugar, lemon juice and Gin with an additional sprig of fresh thyme. My tolerance is low in my old age (joking!) and I certainly noticed the effects of two cocktails. I found the thyme inclusion refreshing and original. I’m generally a big fan of herbs in cocktails. (I previously wrote about herbaceous drinks concocted by Frankie Solarik from barchef at the launch of family-owned and operated Victoria Gin.)

The menu tasting commenced with chicken pot pie ($14 for the full size). I thought the petite version was très mignon served in a little espresso glass. A lovely start to the meal.

Next we sampled the CT burger, named after Chef Corbin Tomaszeski. It came with sliced heirloom tomato and basil pesto on a classic brioche bun. My boyfriend was not a huge fan of the bun, but I didn’t mind it: eggy and sweet. The full burger comes with frites, truffle chips or mixed greens for $12.

I think there may have also been shitake mushrooms on the burger. In fact, I think there were shitake mushrooms in everything, including the chicken pot pie. They also brought around hors d’oeuvres of seasoned and sautéed mushrooms in little Parmesan cups. As far as I’m concerned, you can’t really go wrong with shitake mushrooms. I say put them on everything!

The desserts excited me. We sampled a pear-stuffed carrot cake that looked like a French Madeleine. The heaping mound of butter cream aided the French authenticity of the dish.

Following that was a charming little cube of chocolate and hazelnut bread pudding ($7, full size), topped with a raspberry. My boyfriend found it a little heavy. I figure bread pudding pretty heavy in its very nature and was grateful that we only ate a bite-sized amount.

Chocolate mousse with ganache in a chocolate shell was the grand finale, something any chocoholic would appreciate.

The Holt Renfrew Café is located at 50 Bloor Street West on the Mezzanine level (map)
Telephone: (416) 922-2333

Monday- Wednesday: 10 AM -6PM
Thursday - Friday: 10 AM - 8PM
Saturday: 10 AM - 7PM
Sunday: 12 PM - 6PM

Robust Island Foods

I just returned from lovely PEI where my parents have a cottage. I've included some highlights and a few foodie pictures from my trip.

Above is the famous blue albino lobster. Ask anyone in Charlottetown and they'll know that you're talking about the one in the tank at the Water-Prince Corner Shop. His name is Donald (in spite of the fact that he is actually a she.) You can read all about the allure in the CBC article here; people have been visiting from miles around to see the rare spectacle. He is not available for eating. (I asked.)

Next come the famous Boston beans!

Every Sunday, my parents attend a church breakfast that helps to subsidize the Tracadie Lion's Club. For a mere $6 you can eat a bounty of sausages, beans, pancakes, fresh local fruit, homemade sweet breads, pastries and jams. It's an upbeat and social gathering that everyone attends from the area- a great time to catch up with friends and meet new people. It's also the best deal on the island! There's an older article about the successful event in the Guardian here if you'd like to learn more.

The beans in the image above were a special maple-sausage recipe from a Bostonian gentleman who knows his stuff. I love nothing more than beans at breakfast in that traditional English way.

For my dear mother's birthday, we feasted on seafood at the Trailside Cafe and then enjoyed the serene music of Laura Smith. I found her music to be a little somber for a birthday celebration, but she was pensive and cerebral and had a strong and haunting voice. I'd recommend her to any folk lovers out there.

The Trailside Cafe is located on the Confederation Trail, which is a gorgeous bike path along the Island. It's a great little spot to stop for a bite to eat and a little rest along the way.

We ate at the Gahan House pub, which boasts it's own brewery of multiple offerings and also lays claim to the best chowder on the island. (I had it - delicious!) One of the more charming drink options is the sampler tray (pictured above) where you can try a selection of the brewery's beverages. I'm a sucker for stout (far right), but I really enjoyed the variety and recommend the sampler to anyone visiting PEI.

I'll be posting some more pictures tomorrow so check back for more PEI food.

Savoury Oranges

I had a lovely dinner last night to celebrate the birthday of my very dear friend, Shantrelle. In spite of having had knee surgery only one week before, my courageous pal made his own Egyptian chocolate birthday cake so that he could “brag about it.” The double-layer cake was delicious with its hints of coffee and cinnamon and whipped frosting.

Those of you who read this blog will know I’m not much of a baker (or will have deduced that from the lack of baked recipes provided.)

Sweet Shantsy’s mother made a lovely salad that we enjoyed with gourmet pizza: orange salad. I asked her what the recipe was and she told me the ingredients, listed below. She also mentioned the recipe is from Morocco. It's the kind of salad that does better to marinate in itself for a few hours before serving. I thought it was simply genius!

Anne-Marie’s Orange Salad

5 oranges, peeled & cut into pinwheels (slice as thinly as you like- I like very thin)
10-15 mint leaves, sliced into slivers
1/4 of a red onion, sliced into slivers
a dusting of cinnamon powder
a pinch of cayenne pepper
A drizzling of olive oil

Ta-da! Toss ingredients together and relish in the refreshing flavour combination. Delicious.

Five bucks a hit

Nothing gets me more excited than the emergence of a new Superfood Supreme. Matcha, açai, goji, and noni, please make way for The Miracle Fruit!

The miracle fruit comes from Ghana and is a loose translation of taami or asaa from some of the regional dialects.

Apparently, the miracle fruit doesn’t have a lot of flavour, but its miracle comes from what it changes in your taste receptors. Bert Archer from The Globe and Mail wrote that, “After you've eaten one [miracle berry], a shot glass of white vinegar can taste like Sprite with a touch of gin.”

These berries are being sold for about $5 a piece, flying in from Miami on dry ice with much drama. I’ll let you know if I can get my hands on some. If you’re reading this, you should send me some please!

Feast your eyes

With Julie & Julia opening today in theatres, you might be inspired to watch a marathon of movies about cooking!

CBC has put together an excellent list of culinary films to whet your appetite. (Be sure to check the comments too for more great suggestions!)

Girls + Girls = Fat

Information about a new food study came out today in the National Post. It suggested that men are not influenced by the people they eat with, but women tend to eat less when around men than when they are alone or with other women.

The head researcher, Meredith Young, believes that the study demonstrates the belief that the eating habits of women are connected to their notion of attractiveness to the opposite sex.

I found this interesting, but I must disagree.

I find the generally less calorie-conscious influence of guys usually makes me eat more or at least more poorly. I’m way more likely to eat a hamburger with cheese, bacon, fries and a milkshake while in the company of a dude. (Enablers!!) My friend Jayme can attest to this fact as I used to participate in grilled cheese-eating contests at summer camp. (I always lost, for the record. Serves me right for challenging a 200+ pound rugby champion.)

When eating with women, I often find that someone will usually be on a diet which will guilt-trip me into eating something a little lighter.

The study, which observed more than 460 students in three cafeterias at McMaster University will be published in the behavioral nutrition journal Appetite.