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Slow Down this Weekend


If you are in town this weekend, you should consider attending the Picnic at the Evergreen Brick Works (550 Bayview Avenue.) Top Chefs from Toronto will be offering a global menu on Sunday October 4, 2009 from 12:00 to 4:00pm.

With its backing from Evergreen and Slow Food Canada, the event definitely has a environmentally-conscious locavore slant.

“We expect a record turnout at the Picnic this year,” says Evergreen’s Seana Irvine. “More and more Torontonians and more and more people across the country are eating locally and eating well. Being a locavore is one of the most immediate ways we can help the environment and support local economies.”

Some of the local chefs cooking will be:
  • Carlos Fuenmayor from Sabrosito
  • Vertical’s Tawfik Shehata
  • Nobu Yamada from Kobo
  • Ted Corrado from C5
  • Food Studio’s Joshna Maharaj
  • Andrew Milne-Allan from Zucca
  • Yasser Qahawish from Artisanale
  • Deron Engbers from Amuse
To purchase tickets, call 416-596-1495 x300 or visit online. Foodies unite!

Joey Restaurant Launch

Since we are emerging from R*c*ss**n, some of us have grown accustomed to counting pennies, brown-bagging purchases from Holt Renfrew and religiously bringing lunch every day to work. The economic climate has dictated a less-is-more approach as companies manage their costs and reputations.

Well guess what? The recession is over.

I went to the launch party for Joey Restaurants in Toronto at the Shops at Don Mills and I felt as though I had been teleported back to the decadence of 1982. After a long day of work, I entered the restaurant via red carpet and immediately felt underdressed and slightly self-conscious.

Not to worry, it gets better.

I was quickly greeted by smiling and familiar face, Kathryn Boland from Maverick PR, a glass of Prosecco, and an hors d'oeuvre of boneless pork ribs on a spoon. Not a bad introduction.

Although it was barely 6PM, the place was hopping like Richmond street on a Saturday night. Were there strobe lights? I don’t think so, but it felt like there were. The Joey Restaurant lounge has massive! television screens covering every wall, lights flashing in every direction. Music was booming, people looked sharp, and drinks and food were flowing. It was hard to walk five feet without being offered something to consume.

I was told that they pulled out all the stops for the event, flying wait staff from other restaurants across the country to Toronto for the big opening. Staff looked scrubbed clean, smiley and had their A-game on.

I made my way to the back corner where I was told the blogger-types were hanging. I greeted Alexa Clark and David Ort who created the Cheap Eats guides, star photographer Rannie Turrigan, and Joseph Dee who manages online development at MaRS Discovery District.


One of the first food items I sampled was Joey’s famous lobster grilled cheese: atlantic lobster, brie & cheddar grilled cheese sandwich ($14.99 for the full size, served with fries & cocktail sauce on the side.) Buttery and decadent, it was everything I had anticipating from previewing the menu.


Bellini in hand, I was invited on a media tour with the startlingly young (and somewhat sexy) Executive Chef Chris Mills. You can read my interview with him from earlier in the week here. We met up with some other Toronto food bloggers and PR types: Stacey and Mark from Tasting Toronto, Sean Bailey and his beautiful girlfriend Herdeep Chauhan, and I was over the moon! to meet Kevin from one of my favourite blogs, Closet Cooking.

One of the most fascinating features of the restaurant was the Enomatic Wine Dispenser (see picture below.) This device allows Joey to maximize wine selection while minimizing waste from wines by the glass as the bottles are pressurized using inert nitrogen gas preservation. The flavours and characteristics of the wine remain intact for more than three weeks, as if the bottle had just been opened.


We made our way through the open-concept kitchen past the floor-to-ceiling wine rack. Chef Chris lead us upstairs into the men's washroom to show us the artwork above the men's urinals and eventually outside to the roof where they have plans to build a fantastic rooftop patio.


Chef Chris was fantastic: humble, charming and, did I mention handsome?

After the tour, we returned downstairs to sample more delicious treats. The Panang Prawn Curry Bowl had a remarkable kick! for a chain restaurant. I appreciated that fearlessness. (The price is $15.99 for the entrée size: stir-fried with vegetables in a red coconut curry cream with thai basil and peanuts.)


We also tasted Ahi Tuna Tacos seared rare with sesame ginger coleslaw and wasabi-lime aioli ($9.99). Next came Pesto Shrimp Flatbread with whole milk mozzarella, sundried tomatoes garnished with chipotle aioli and fresh basil ($11.99).

I am a huge fan of Butter Chicken. When I was at McGill, my college boyfriend and I used to scour the city looking to find the best version. (Note: it can be found at Star of India or Mysore, which, as it turns out, are owned by two brothers. Of course.) Joey's Bombay Butter Chicken did a great job of replicating the traditional dish's richness and complexity. Andrea from Canadian Foodie Girl criticized the dish for having no kick, but I bit my tongue. Butter chicken is traditionally mild as cooling yogurt is the basis for its sauce. The full serving comes with toasted almond basmati rice, grilled naan bread and lentil papadum for $15.99.

Drinks kept flying: Super Sonic Gin and Tonics (slushie), raspberry cocktails, wine-by the glass, and beer galore.

By the time the Cheeseburger sliders ($10.99) came around, my poor, little stomach could only finish half! Ice cream? Apple pie? I couldn't even get that far!

I left the party with a full tummy, a dizzy head, and a swag bag featuring a $10 Joey gift card, a mini-bottle of Appleton Estates Rum, and a Stella Artois glass and bottle-opener. 'Twas quite the soirée!

I can't wait to go back and try restaurant again. Chef Chris assured us that a downtown location is also in the works.

15 O'Neil Road
Toronto, Ontario
M3C 0H2
416.445.6391

Review: Frank @ AGO

I needed an extra day to digest the meal I enjoyed with my family at Frank, the Art Gallery of Ontario's restaurant.

Although it was Tuesday evening, we savoured a weekend-worthy meal, lingering over cocktails, lovely wine and delicious food, much food.


To start the meal off, I had a Surreal Mojito - cucumber, mint, pomegranate juice muddled with 2oz Bacardi, light rum, fresh squeezed lime juice and topped with soda ($11).

For a starter, I selected the "soiled reputation" greens with sherry vinaigrette ($6) although the house-cut frites with lemon mayo and rhubarb, ginger ketchup ($5) and panko crusted onion rings ($5) were awfully tempting.

Goat's milk butter and sea salt were served with bread in a darling half oyster shell. The butter was heavenly. Everyone was slathering it on the assorted artisan breads like frosting.


With dinner we selected Chardonnay 06, Le Clos Jordanne, ‘Village Reserve’, Niagara: bold, earthy Chard ($7 for 2oz/ $13 for 5oz / $55 bottle) which was perfect since I am taking part in the 30-Day Challenge with Wines of Ontario.

My main was the roasted organic pousin and Tuscan bread salad with, dried black currants, fresh red currants, pinenuts, red onions, flat leaf parsley, lemon thyme and red wine vinaigrette ($24).


Others selected the BC wild sockeye salmon Niçoise, poached in extra virgin olive oil with fingerling potatoes, French green beans, heirloom cherry tomatoes, picholine olives, farm fresh boiled egg and anchovy aioli ($22).


For dessert, I opted for the house made ice cream: strawberry triptych with Ontario strawberry sorbet, ice cream and white chocolate, strawberry ripple ($10). Others selected the chocolate squared chocolate layer cake cube with chocolate buttercream and hazelnut praline, served with Lindt milk chocolate ice cream ($12).

The evening was perfect. I already wrote about the gorgeous lighting and ambiance yesterday, but the atmosphere is extraordinarily uplifting. It's certainly fine dining, but our server was classy without being unpretentious. I love that kind of server: warm, witty and charismatic. Just lovely.

And the evening couldn't have been so perfect without such great company. Many thanks to my godmother, Vicky, for such a wonderful evening.

Rating: 4/5

You can book reservations at Frank online with this handy system.

Executive Chef: Anne Yarymowich
Chef de Cuisine: Martha Wright
Pastry Chef: Christophe Measson

Art Gallery of Ontario
317 Dundas Street West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M5T 1G4
416.979.6688

Frankly, Mr. Shankly

Last night, I enjoyed a lovely diner at Frank @AGO with my godmother and parents. My godmother insisted on the venue on account of the extraordinary ambiance. The lighting in Frank is deliberate, fresh, and charming, most notably the back-lit, floor-to-ceiling wine rack that occupies the entire western wall.


I'll be posting pictures of our meal tomorrow so check back. Frank now rivals Canoe as one of my all-time, top-ranked meal experiences so please prepare to drool. You can check out the full dinner menu here.

Interview with Chef Chris Mills from Joey


I had a chance to catch up with West Coast star Chef Chris Mills from Joey Restaurants regarding his recent venture into the Ontario market. See the interview below.

JB: This is your first Ontario location for Joey. What kind of differences do you forsee in the eating preferences of Ontarians versus West Coast people?

CM: It’s early to tell. I’ve had some experience with Toronto from working with the Metropolitan Hotels previously. I think Torontonians are very proud of their culinary choices and they really want to be won over. Joey has a very strong and loyal customer base out west with a lot of repeat customers. There’s sure to be a lot of competition in Toronto.

JB: Why do you think Joey has been so successful? I know you’ve opened 18 restaurants in B.C. What do you think Joey offers that other restaurants do not?

CM: Joey has a lot of strength with repeat customers. Before I worked there, it began as a pizza and pasta place and then there was a decisive move away from that. I think we have a lot of trust from our customers. Many of the people who are now with us were with us from the beginning, when we were serving something entirely different. I think they have a lot of trust in us. We also train a lot of young cooks so it’s a place where people can evolve and grow.

JB: You’ve done a lot of travelling. I know this has served as inspiration for the new Joey menu. Could you tell me which countries have had the greatest impact on your cooking?

CM: I think Thailand would have to be on that list because the cooking is really beautiful and the flavours are intense- it’s very ingredient-driven. You have lime, coconut milk, and fish sauce that show up in almost every dish.

CM: I’d also have to say Italy because I’ve been there a lot. The food is really honest. It’s cultural, driven by product and season and it’s a part of their lives there. People start every day at a café. They take a long break in the afternoon for their meals.

CM: I must mention Vancouver too because of the integrated influences. I know Toronto has this too- I’ve had some of the best dim sum in my life in Toronto. In Vancouver, I live in Chinatown and I buy most of my groceries there so it only seems fair to acknowledge its influence.

JB: You’re one of only two Canadians to have ever been on the original Iron Chef Japan. You also ‘performed’ for the James Beard Foundation in 2006 and competed in the Bocuse d’Or in 2001 to place fifth. Which of these experiences has had the greatest impact on you?

CM: Iron Chef was great. I did that with Chef Michael Noble from the Met. The one hour thing is really real and that’s exciting. Ultimately, it’s television though. For me the Bocuse d’Or was unmatched. You have 25 different chefs from 25 different countries: Norway, Italy, Japan, France, Spain, Brazil- it’s really exciting. Each country brings a judge too so it’s a real accomplishment in the culinary world to have these great chefs try food you’ve created. It’s really inspiring.

Cowboy Cookies



2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease baking sheets. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Gradually stir in the sifted ingredients. Stir in the rolled oats and chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing.

Miracle Fruit: the tasting


I arrive at the National Film Board for the third-ever Toronto Foodie Meet hosted by Andrea Chiu (@TOfoodie) and Suresh Doss (@spotlightcity) of Spotlight Toronto.

After riding my bike down on a perfect crisp and sunny Sunday afternoon, I see Stacey (@staceyfowler) and Mark (@markrodas) of Tasting Toronto as soon as I make my way inside the tasting room.

The bartender, aka Suresh, offers me a dry, sparkling white. It's crisp and delicious like the day outside. I also see new friend Bonnie Dean (@BonDean) and meet some of her lovely friends.

Different kinds of food objects are laid out in plastic cups around the room: tomato juice and white vinegar. There are lemon, lime and grapefruit wedges, grape tomatoes and goat cheese.


The room has an atmosphere of anticipation. Our hosts instruct us to put the fruit on our tongue and roll it around until the flesh disintigrates. The silence is palpable as the timer is set for two minutes. I whirl the fruit around on my tongue, but the flesh is stubborn. I pull the skin off with my teeth so I can reach the flesh. We're not supposed to chew, but I'm worried I won't get enough of the fruit's properties before the time lapses.

The flavour is initially sour, but quickly sweetens. It tastes kind of like a cranberry. I wonder if the change in flavour is less about me getting used to it and more about it affecting my taste buds.



I try lemon first. It tastes lovely and sweet like lemonade. Pickles taste like pickles, chips taste like ships. The flavour is better tested on sour foods. Limes aren't as fun as lemons, but vinegar is earth-shatteringly delicious. It tastes like lemonade or sprite, delicate and sweet.

We sample Rickard's Amber, White and Honey Brown with our dulled taste buds. Guinness gets saved for the end. The bitterness is replaces by a mapley-molasses sweetness.

This berry is weird.

Alternative uses for food

I hope you are enjoying a lovely, sunny Sunday.

The air is crisp and the sky is clear: a perfect day for a long bike ride to #foodiemeet. I can't wait to try the Miracle Fruit. One friend of mine said the drug-like inhibitors of the fruit lend your taste buds a pretty nasty taste hangover. Not looking forward to that.

Since it is Sunday, the perfect day to relax and unwind and pamper yourself, I've provided some recipes below. While they contain food ingredients, these recipes are intended to nurture your skin.



Moisturizing face mask for dry skin

1 tsp powdered milk or a dab of yogurt
½ avocado
¼ cup honey

Mash the avocado in a bowl, then stir in honey. Mix ingredients well, apply to face, let sit for 15 minutes, wash off with warm water. Rinse face with a cool washcloth. This recipe is enough for two.


Clarifying mask for oily skin

1 tsp lemon juice
2 egg whites
3 tsp honey
1 cup strawberries

Mash or blend ingredients. Smooth over face. Leave it on for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. This recipe is enough for two.


Soothing mask for Sensitive Skin

1 cup natural yogurt (just-out-of-the-fridge cold)½ cup oatmeal (any type of basic oatmeal works here)

Mix the ingredients together. Apply to the skin for 10-15 minutes. Wash off mask with a washcloth steamed in the microwave (careful that it's not too hot).


Exfoliants

Body: sugar + olive oil
Face: baking soda
Hands: sea salt + olive oil

Skin moisturizer for body

Olive oil which has similar properties to the lustre of our skin. (It was good enough for the ancient Greeks- they were on to something!)

Making salad isn’t cooking!

No, it’s not.

That doesn’t mean I can’t still write about the assembly of ingredients though. Sometimes I feel like I feature too many salad recipes on Sift, Dust & Toss. But then again, that’s why this is my blog, right?

Today’s post is brought to you by a Twitter exchange I creeped between two Toronto media/marketing/online types who I kind of know through Twitter and other places. Weird, eh? The exchange went something like this:

The list is divine and can be found here. It comes from the lovely and talented Mark Bittman.

Learning: you never know where food inspiration will come from! Enjoy the list, courtesy of @paiiige.

Guacamole?


Today at Union station in Toronto: 20,000 avocados are being given away. You can check out the social media release on CNW here from Avocados from Mexico.

Vino Locale


An article in the Globe and Mail yesterday discussed France and Italy dueling to be the world's top wine producer.

Last year, Italy stole the number one title from France for the first time in ages. But France is back, set to produce 4.81 billion litres of wine in 2009 according to an Italian study. Italy will produce 4.65 billion and Spain, 3.99 billion.

Amidst all this vying and positioning from the traditional wine-producing greats, Wines of Ontario is encouraging Ontarians to Think Global. Drink Local.

The argument? Great wines don't need to cost a lot –and not all great wines come from exotic destinations.

The Wines of Ontario website allows the user to explore Ontario wine terroir, wines, appellations and grapes. The 30 Day Challenge encourages its participants to drink only Ontario wines during this period of time.

Sign up on the button below if you are interested in participating in the challenge. You can also follow the dialogue on Twitter here. They have a Facebook group, but I don't care about Facebook lately so I didn't bother hyperlinking.


The locavore movement encourages people to eat local foods that in season. By transporting products minimally, they stay more fresh and can be picked more ripe. Local movements also help the environment by minimizing fuel emissions from transportation.

Supporting your local community never hurts either.

Consider taking the 30 Day Challenge from Wines of Ontario.


Restraint

One of the hardest things I've had to learn in the kitchen is restraint.

Not fiddling with items in the pan so they develop a proper brown crust.

Not putting cheese in everything.

Not over spicing.


That last one is particularly difficult for me, but I still try.

Tonight's dinner was a simple soup.

Olive oil, onion, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, stock, fresh grated nutmeg, pepper and salt. Fresh herbs. Sauté, simmer, purée.


Hummus, pita, fresh soup. Digestible like baby food. Restraint can be lovely.

Turning Lebanese



What a wretched, negligent, sorry excuse for a food blogger I've been. I’ve certainly been eating, but I haven’t been cooking.

Thankfully, my BF has been experimenting with Lebanese food and I have been reaping in the benefits. The following recipes are Nick's. These dishes are all keepers -and healthy too.

The one non-traditional alteration I have made is the addition of roasted garlic to replace raw. It still lends a pungent and aromatic quality to the dishes, but without the same intense acrid sharpness on your tongue. (I'd probably toss some parsley on all of it too- just saying!)

If you’re too lazy to roast your own garlic, go ahead and do it the traditional way. I don’t want to hear any whining about your breath though!

PS This food is recessionalicious because it’ll serve you for a few robust meals. Once you have the basic ingredients, all you need to purchase are canned beans ($3), onion($2), tomato ($3), lemons ($2) and pitas ($4) = $14. It’s a good basic.

Shopping List

2 cans of chickpeas
1 can of broad beans
2 tomatoes
2 onions
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1 bunch fresh Italian parsley
1 pkg pitas
any missing spices for Baharat spice recipe (see below)
1 jar of tahini

Baharat recipe

ground all spice
ground black pepper
ground cinnamon
ground cloves
ground nutmeg,
ground fenugreek
ground ginger

Blend.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can buy the spices whole and grind them yourself in a coffee grinder or morter and pestle.

Bean Dish Recipe with roasted garlic

1 cup chick peas
1 cup broad beans
1/3 cup lemon juice (juice of one lemon)
4-5 cloves roasted garlic
freshly ground pepper and kosher salt

Chop Garlic. Mix with all ingredients.

Hummus

2 cups chick peas (1 can)
5 cloves of roasted garlic
1/4 cup of Tahini
juice of one lemon (about a 1/4 cup)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or 1 tsp cayenne sauce (Frank's Red Hot)
pinch of cumin

Drain chick peas, rinse residual liquid off. Add all ingredients to food processor. Grind until texture of the hummus is smooth and silky.

Serve with lots of stuff, like veggies, pita, sandwiches etc.

(If you want to try another flavour, toss in a roasted red pepper.)


Falafel

1 cup broad beans
1 cup chick peas
1 tsp baking soda
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 med-sized onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
1/4 tsp Baharat (see above)
salt & pepper
1 tsp ground cumin.

Blend all together in food processor. Ball up falafel mixture to walnut-sized balls.

Traditional Method
Deep fry balls in a deep pan with oil.

Alternative Method
Pan fry the falafels with vegetable oil. Flatten like p
ancakes to cook each side evenly.

Serve inside a pita with hummus, tomato, onions, cumin, salt and pepper.

Learning: Taste


From The Toronto Sun, Wednesday September 2, 2009

The death of the home cook

This past Monday night, I had the opportunity to attend the Toronto Food Blogger Meetup at Edward Levesque’s Kitchen in Leslieville.



Sponsored by the Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC), the menu naturally included a lot of chicken. (Yes.)

The Chicken Farmers of Canada are a lobby group whose mandate is to represent chicken trade, both inter-provincially and internationally, and particularly, to represent the interests of chicken farmers and their industry.

Kudos to them for putting together such an elegant and thoughtful event. High five to them for being so clever and getting a group of foodies and bloggers (and food bloggers) together.

They stuffed us with food and wine, but this was no mindless gathering. Theresa Albert, from Food Network Canada's Just One Bite moderated a panel of food experts as they discussed the disappearance of the home cook.


The subject of discussion came from Michael Pollan's recent article for New York Times Magazine, Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch, which asks why we prefer to fetishize chefs' experiences through shows like Top Chef, The Next Food Network Star, and Iron Chef rather than experience cooking ourselves. The rise of these shows has, as Pollan writes, "paradoxically, coincided with the rise of fast food, home-meal replacements and the decline and fall of everyday home cooking." Activity has become spectacle.

Pollan refers to the newer culture of Martha Stewart perfectionism as a contrast from the endearingly imperfect live television of Julia Child. He also mentions the evolution of cooking ingredients, the prevalence of shortcuts available to today's consumer. Combine these variables with women in the work force and longer work hours in general, the rise of consumer culture, and the corporate redefinition of what it means to cook.

The result is a lot less home cooking.

The panel included:
Each brought an interesting perspective on the subject matter.

Ryan and his wife have been conducting an experiment where they make everything (every bit of every meal) themselves. Anna had more of a health slant because of her nutrition background and her involvement with liver health. Amanda embodied a passion and curiosity for cooking, a play-like and excited involvement with food.


It was a great event with smart organizers, thoughtful panelists and a passionate chef: a perfect food blogger meetup. I can't wait for the next one.

The subject matter was grave, but the environment was merry. They fed us guacamole with sausage and cilantro, egg salad, rosemary frites, chicken liver terrine with onion jam, chicken satays with coconut-sesame dip, rustic chicken pizza and fried rice balls.
I soaked it all in plenty of red wine.

Delightful.