Farmer’s markets are a great weakness to me. I don’t think I’ve ever been able to resist spending money at a farmer’s market save one time when I didn’t have my wallet on me. It’s damned near impossible for me to resist the urge to get fruits, vegetables and bread that are easily of a higher quality than any supermarket around.
Maybe it’s something about the fresh air or the fact that the vendors sitting in their tents peddling their goods are the very people who have grown, picked, concocted or invented whatever it is they are selling, but I am a complete sucker for them. When I lived in BC farmers markets were a dime a dozen and I would always show up at the house with heaps of fresh ingredients that I would turn into a feast for myself and any one of my starving roommates who would always appear “magically” right when I got done cooking.
Today I took my lunch at the Metro Hall Farmer’s Market and, boy howdy, did I drop a nice wad of coin. Before I knew it I had a delicious burger with peameal bacon on it, bought some beef jerky and pepperoni sticks, ate a bunch of fruit including yellow watermelons and a butter tart that Kelly, who met up with me there, insisted I try. I did and it was awesome. If I wasn’t on the way back to the office I would have bought a ton of stuff. The Metro Hall market is on till Oct 16th then they are gone like the dodo till next year but I will probably get there before that with a huge backpack and a healthy appetite. My wallet is already weeping but it’ll be worth it.
Sometimes I go to the Wychwood Barn farmers market at St. Clair and Christie or the Trinity Bellwoods one and it’s not too bad with some of the same vendors as the Metro Hall one but in my opinion, Metro Hall is awesome. I’m told that there’s one at Nathan Phillips Square so I’ll be checking it out. By no means am I any kind of expert on farmer’s markets but they seem to keep finding me. I’m definitely putting someone’s kid through college just like I am doing for that guy who walks around downtown with roses. He always finds me, puckers up with a pathetic face and thrusts some roses into my hands. If you’ve ever been to Loser karaoke at Tequila Sunrise you know who I’m talking about. He keeps getting my money because 50% of the time he comes round it’s someone’s birthday or I’m with a lady. Bastard.
Ken Seto, my colleague and CEO of Massive Damage Inc, creators of a great and super fun iPhone and iPad location-based zombie killin’ game called “Please Stay Calm” has recently picked up an obsession with “bulletproof” coffee (or was it called bullet coffee?). The main ingredient apparently is “grassfed” butter and I took a look for the stuff with no success today. I thought I saw a tub off it but the vendor wasn’t sure what that was and looked at me like I was mad before handing me a piece of cheese and telling me to bugger off. If any of you have any idea what that is and where to get it let me know. I’m making it my farmer’s market quest.
In today’s edition of Nusgourmet I take you to e11even. Although it’s always a joy to cook at home it’s important to go out and get inspired by the creations of other great chefs to expand your repertoire of dishes or develop a new appreciation for ingredients you don’t usually work with. There’s also a lot to be said for creative uses of common ingredients that can really enhance a meal. The key to developing new tastes is to find that balance between the approachable and the edgy. When you do to a restaurant with an inviting atmosphere you’re more likely to find new appreciations for familiar flavours while opening up to unique creations from the minds of real pros.
e11even takes a very classy and delicious approach to North American cuisine with a few memorable twists on some classics – they also consider wine to be serious business. I had the pleasure of being taken on an adventure in food and wine courtesy of the great team at e11even and both heart and palette have to thank Samm (Social Media Manager), Graham (Chef de Cuisine), Jonathan (AGM and Sommelier), and of course our friendly and helpful server, Rachel, for a wonderful night.
I’d like you to join me on a recap of the superb experience we had by giving you 11 reasons to love e11even.
1. The hospitality
Straight off the bat from the moment my dinner companion, Reb, and I walked in, all the staff from the hostesses right up to the above mentioned people made us feel right at home. You have to understand that although e11even is a very posh looking place (but not so stuffy that you can’t come is as casual as you please) and is situated on some prime real estate right in Maple Leaf Square across from the Air Canada Centre AND has a wine and spirit collection that it almost dizzying, you still feel at complete ease whether you’re in the main dining room or on their new and beautiful patio. If our server was any indication of the rest of the staff there, then you’re in for service that is genuine, warm, and enthusiastic about what they put on your table, drink or dine.
2. Impeccable attention to detail
By virtue of the placement of our seats we were able to have a full view of the overhead mirror that reflects the kitchen’s finishing line where Graham is perched like a much more personable, but no less unyielding, Gordon Ramsay. We were not the only diners in the restaurant but it seemed that Graham treated each plate as if they were meant for a VIP who accepted nothing but the best. We watched as he inspected each and every dish that came out of the kitchen and even send some right back if they did not meet his standards. Each dish looked artful in its appearance and was a feast for the eyes before it ever hit my tongue.
3. Can make a proper old fashioned cocktail
Ever since I started watching MadMen I’ve gotten back into drinking old fashioned cocktails. It’s simple, elegant and really embodies the art of mixology. An old fashioned has to be mixed carefully and any imbalance in the proportions (i.e. bad bourbon, too much or too little simple syrup, a wax cherry vs an Amarena cherry) can make an old fashioned old news. I can now gauge a bar’s strength by how well they make this cocktail and e11even was just as impeccable in making our pre-dinner cocktails for us as they were at preparing food from their menu. My companion had a classic gimlet with a cucumber. It’s a forgotten art to use gin in a gimlet instead of vodka and the bartenders passed the test and made the right choice to use gin and present it beautifully in the correct glass. Based on this alone I highly recommend e11even for cocktails after work or after a game at the Skydome or Air Canada Centre. Being able to browse their wine, beer and spirits list on iPads was a nice techy touch too.
4. Fresh juice of the day
Samm told us that every day the restaurant has a new fresh juice of the day brought in and urged us to try it. The day we went, we had a concoction of strawberry vanilla melon and it was most refreshing. It’s nice little things like that which make the experience so much more pleasant, especially on a summer day. Of course the bartenders are more than happy to dream up a new cocktail that uses that juice for your enjoyment. You may just be the first person to try a cocktail not yet invented!
Just as I gauge a bar by its ability to mix a proper old fashioned I gauge any restaurant that serves steak by their ability to cook the steak right and use the best meat. I made sure to tell Graham that and he got the message loud and clear. He insisted that I try the dry aged ribeye and when Rachel asked about how I would like it cooked, I asked her to inform Graham that I will let him make that call. The kitchen did not disappoint. They know that a 14 oz steak, dry aged needed to be served up medium rare and juicy with nothing on it other than salt and pepper. I also noticed that they let the steak rest before bringing it over with some roasted garlic, grilled asparagus, mashed potatoes and artisan mac and cheese. Smart. Dear God, forgive my gluttony, but that was a damn fine steak that I won’t soon forget. Go have a steak at e11even.
6. The ambiance
Take a date here. Don’t ask why, just trust me. If you can’t make magic happen there, then nothing short of a trip to Paris will work. Enough said.
7. Everything is delicious
Reb is a very picky eater. She doesn’t usually like salmon, most seafood, cucumbers, bread that makes too many crumbs, and cereal because it gets soggy. I once lived with a guy in college that HATED cilantro and would never convert no matter how much I told him how awesome it is. One day I made my guacamole recipe and he tried it and loved it. My face turned into a s**t-eating grin when I told him that I used lots of cilantro in it and he had to accept defeat with the caveat that if one could make a dish using a disliked ingredient so delicious, then even he would accept eating it. Fast forward to our dinner a few nights ago at e11even and I could not believe that Reb was trying her hardest to stay polite and not snatch the last piece of in-house smoked salmon during appetizers before later completely disintegrating all of the huge scallops that lined her entree plate. The epicurean in me really appreciated the maple sherry bacon and what has to be the best tuna tartare I’ve had in a long while.
8. The sommeliers are the real deal
Jonathan is the Assistant General Manager and one of the two main sommeliers at e11even. He travels the world tasting wines and visiting vintners bringing back with him a wide selection of exceptional wines to add to their massive wine collection. When you walk to the restrooms you can’t help but notice the large, temperature controlled, glass walled, walk-in wine cellar. They stock wines from all over the globe and are one of the few to carry magnum sized bottles of some truly interesting vinos. The table-side iPad was very useful in browsing their extensive collection. When Jonathan joined us not only did he recommend the correct pairings but we enjoyed stories of how the wines come to be, where he got them and what to notice when tasting different types of reds and whites. it was fascinating and really made me appreciate our wines that much more. The best part was that in no way was he ever patronizing if we didn’t know something. He was only too happy to teach us where we needed teaching and looked genuinely pleased that he could bring us a little bit into his world.
We were so stuffed from our most delicious extravaganza that when dessert came we would have waved our white flags if not for the coffee. Although we ordered key lime pie, once again the kitchen wanted us to try their other signature items including a devilishly good peanut mousse and cookies and milk. Yes, you read right; cookies and milk. Simple as it comes but the cookies were fresh and warm and the milk was a carefully selected “cereal milk” that is particularly frothy and rich. I didn’t think milk could be made gourmet but I’m sure milk farmers treasure their milk varieties every bit as much as Jonathan treasures and curates his wine, so I won’t argue.
10. Let’s talk about portions
I don’t think I’m alone in feeling stupid when I go to a nice restaurant, lay down a lot of coin and get plates of food that look more like a minimalist painting out of Piet Mondrian’s sketchbook. I keep thinking of this scene from Demolition Man when I go to a restaurant and leave lighter than I arrived because of the meal and the hit on my wallet. Besides, every crappy restaurant that wants to be a fancy shmancy joint does it now and nobody is fooled. I don’t mind spending good money as long as my intelligence is not insulted with pretty looking food for pretentious birds. At e11even you really get what you pay for in terms of portions, top-notch quality and everything I mentioned above. It’s worth every penny and you will always get the best when you’re there.
e11even. Enthusiasm and pride in what they do
I think one of the main reasons we felt so at home at e11even was because everyone there seemed to love their jobs. In fact it was almost hard to imagine anyone was at work even with all the impeccable service. Rachel was prompt, energetic, personable, and would double check on everything to ensure communication lines were smooth. Samm came in on her day off to set it all up for us (and we thank her for that), tell us all about the place, its philosophy and urge us to try everything and invite friends – she wants to see you all there! She also really gets social media and it shows, just follow her on twitter and see for yourself. Jonathan was a treat to hang out with and, as talked about above, was a real pro and just loves, loves, loves his work. Graham kept sending us little surprises both from the menu as well as off-menu because he insisted we try his favourite dishes and let him know what we thought. One off-menu item he sent our way was delicious lobster sandwich amuse-bouche with homemade slaw and yukon gold fries. He was always proud and completely transparent about where they get their ingredients and we could sense how excited he was that on Sunday (the only day of the week that e11even is closed to the public) he and the staff were going on a tour of a cheese factory to further educate their palettes across the board. I commented on the right amount of cheese to put on a burger and before I left Graham challenged me to come back and try his burger on him. He’s sure he will make a convert our of me and beat the Burger’s Priest for top spot. I aim to take him up on this challenge.
Wrapping it up
If you’re not convinced by now I would be surprised. Believe it or not I was not paid to write this post, this is my honest opinion because, quite frankly, I was completely impressed with e11even. It’s a classy place with great food and the people there are beautiful and warm. You will leave happy.
The first rule of sales is that people buy from people they like. I’m sold.
15 York Street
Toronto, ON M5J 0A3
It wasn’t too long ago when a friend of mine from Montreal asked me is there was a Beer Festival in Toronto. I honestly had no idea but I assumed that, this being Toronto and all, there had to be so I said “yes.” I almost regretted saying that right away because if there was no Festival of Beer I would be a liar, so I started searching Google fervently for redemption before I had to redeem myself. Thank heavens there turned out to be one and in fact a REALLY big one. Although I could never imagine how much of a huge shindig it was until the day we set foot in CNE bandshell park the other on the Sunday August 7th portion of the 4 day long Toronto Festival of Beer.
A big thanks to Big Thinker for sending us into the fray and for making it so much fun that before we knew it, we have stayed the entire day from 1-7pm! We didn’t originally plan to stay that long but we learned, as many others surely learned, that there is SO MUCH to do and experience at the TO Beer Fest. Our mission was to try all beers that we have no tried before. The first beer of the day cam highly recommended by Jon and was called “Beau’s.” If I had to rank all the beers we tried (and we tried a lot!) I would still say that Beau’s Lug Tread Lagered Ale stayed firm in the top 3 without a doubt.
This year there were a whole lot of unusual beers being served up by a number of fringe breweries and one big one, Great Lakes. There were so many new flavours to try as well that were outside of the traditional hops and barley flavour of most beers. Flying Monkeys beer seemed to be one of the most adventurous brands at the festival with mango, berry, and lemonade beers which were all well crafted and flavourful as well as “sidewalk paint” and “bubble scream” flavours which, though strange, were just as well crafted. The other flavour major adventurers were Great Lakes Brewery and their Caskapalooza tasting. Basically the story was that Great Lakes had made casks of beers with bizarre flavours such as curry, pepper peach, banana, maple and a whole bunch more and got their own huge portion of the fairgrounds to let people try it in limited quantities. The rub was that you had to pay two tokens for a half glass and, to be honest, their beers not only tasted somehow watered down and weak, but also NOTHING like the purported flavours. Very disappointing but we were soon cheered right up by the Napoleon Grilling Tent near Caskapalooza.
Mark Cutrara, Chef and Owner of Cowbell restaurant in Parkdale treated us to a demonstration of carving up a 120 lb side of premium aged beef as we drank Hoegarden (pronounced ‘hoo-garden’ – apparently) in awe of his knowledge and ability to make skirt and flank steaks emerge from that massive animal. Mark is quite the site to behold in his bright orange alligator skin cowboy boots, leather hat and diablo goatee and it wasn’t before too long that we were munching on medium delicious rare strips of steak that he cooked himself. You can bet that I’ll be paying Cowbell a visit soon.
The theme of beer and food was not lost on anyone there and another real highlight in the way of food was “Hey Meatball!” which is a soon-to-be opening restaurant somewhere in town later this month – at least that’s what the word on the street was. For four well worth it tokens you got a fresh, spicy, basil topped meatball on a bun covered in delicious sauce. Sounds so simple but good God, those were some good meatballs. The sign outside their booth said “you’ll love the taste of our balls!” and judging by the huge line to get one a whole lotta people got a mouthful of balls that day.
The rest of the festival was just a blast with the “social tent” for the Toronto twitterati and lots of fun little games to play all over. I was particularly good at throwing Wellies into a basket (first shot win!) and laughed my tipsy head off at games of cornhole, hairy smoking clowns, and custom beer carton hats made by the awesome, hard working people at Steamwhistle. I’m still a Stella Artois man but there’s no denying the dedication of those Steamwhistle craftsmen and women who worked their fingers to the bone to make those beer hats for free! No tips!
With the Holy Trinity of Happiness in mind the Toronto Festival of Beer actually completes the trifecta if you think about it. You got your love from all the friends you likely made there and the ones you brought along, you got your sustenance – whether in the form of meatballs or beer – and you got your expression – the music. There were bands playing literally all day culminating in the last two exciting acts, The Sheepdogs and every beer drinkers favourite rock band, The Trews. The Trews and the Sheepdogs have something sort of in common and that’s the fact that they owe a good portion of their fame to winning a contest. If you recall, the Trews got their big break when they won the CHTZ-FM ‘s “Rock Search” contest in 2002 and now fast forward to only a week or so ago and you find the Sheepdogs becoming the first ever unsigned band to grace to cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Both bands are from Canada and both sounded great on the stage at Beerfest. I was partial to the Sheepdogs and hung out with them for a bit at the social tent before they took the stage and rocked the house in the rain! The audience didn’t care one bit and it was Woodstock all over again, complete with mudslides. Yep. Contest or no contest, the bands really brought their A-game.
Sounds to me like good old-fashioned rock n’ roll is making a comeback and it’s not a moment too soon as there’s only so many pairs of prescriptionless, thick rimmed glasses and Chuck Taylors I can handle before I have an aneurysm. Bring back the rock is all I gotta say.
Speaking about beer, music, and awesomeness stay tuned for the big announcement for the winners of the tickets to the Stella Artois Legere Ultimate Block Party! The party takes place on August 13th and I will draw the names this Wednesday so you have one more day to tweet the magic phrase to get your chance at one of two pairs of tickets to the next big summer party so get in on it. Click here to read the post and enter the contest!
It’s been some time since I’ve done a NusGourmet. It’s not like I haven’t been cooking – this summer I have been concocting all kinds of yummies when I invite friends over. The only problem is when you have a lot of guests coming over and the clock is ticking, it takes too long to document all your cooking and the last thing you want is to still be preparing when your guests arrive.
Today I’d like to show you a quick and easy recipe for guacamole. I have found that strangely enough that for all the people who love guac, many don’t seem to know what goes into a good one other than avocados. Most people are perfectly content to eat prepared guacamole out of a container or at a restaurant but for those of you who want to make your own fresh guacamole at home so you can brag about how good yours is to your friends (and trust me, I’ve rarely met a maker of guacamole who has not bragged about their homemade green mush), NusGourmet has a simple and delicious recipe for the perfect summer condiment. Aside from using it as a dip for nachos, you can put it on your ostrich or kangaroo burgers (yes, last weekend we ate ostrich and kangaroo. Delicious) or give some to Emma Brooks who will just eat the stuff out of a cup because she’s awesome like that. Thanks to Emma for providing the pictures of Nuscabana and the mojito preparation.
Since it’s summer, mojitos are in so I will also show you a simple mojito recipe that uses fresh pineapple as an ingredient. As usual, these are easy peasy to do and take little time so you can get on with your life!
Guacamole (serves 2-3)
2 ripe avocados – you know they are ripe when the skin is mostly black and they are soft – but not too soft.
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped fine
1-2 fresh limes
half a red onion, diced fine
1 small tomato, diced (optional)
1 tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
The great thing about simple recipes like this is that if you have more guests coming than the recipe portion allows for, all you gotta do is double up.
Slice the avocados in half lengthwise. The trick is to just sink the knife in one side until it hits the hard seed in the middle and then just turn the avocado carefully around the stationary blade. That should halve your avocados in the blink of an eye.
To remove the seed just gently tap the seed with the sharp edge of the knife. It will embed itself into the surface of the seed. From here just twist the knife clockwise or counter clockwise and the seed will come out, stuck to the blade. Carefully remove the seed from the knife (if you’re prone to cutting yourself because you have your hands growing out of your ass, use a kitchen towel to grab the seed and pull it off).
Using a spoon, scoop out all the avocado meat and fling it into a bowl. Grab a fork and mush it all up into paste.
drop in the diced onion, chopped cilantro, optional tomato, chili powder and combine.
slice off the stem of the jalopeno and then cut the jalopeno in half lengthwise. If you don’t like your guac spicy because you’re a huge wuss then grab the spoon and scoop out all the seeds before dicing up the jalopeno and tossing it into the bowl. You can add the second jalopeno if you’re a champ.
Roll the limes back and forth on the table a few times with the palm of your hand to get the juices flowing. Squeeze all the juice from one lime into the mixture and then TASTE YOUR GUACAMOLE. The secret to good guac is to taste it to get the right flavor. You want it to be limey and delicious but not overly so. Finding the right balance is delicate work so depending on any number of variables, including personal taste, you may use just one or both of the limes. You also want to strike the right balance of saltiness so add salt and pepper slowly. As soon as it tastes good STOP! DO NOT ADD ANYTHING MORE even if you have some leftover ingredients. Make some limeade or something with the extra lime or better yet…make a mojito! here’s how.
A bunch of mint
Some limes, wedged
White rum (I use Bacardi white)
In a pitcher drop all the above solid ingredients and muddle them with a muddler, a masher, or just a plain old wooden spoon. The sugar will provide the grit to really get all the juices out.
Add the rum and club soda with some ice and stir till sugar dissolves. A good measure is usually 2 parts soda to 1 part rum but feel free to reverse that order if it’s your birthday.
Good on ya.
So we heard that the world was supposed to end on Saturday May 21st at about 6:00pm and figured what better day to have a BBQ! I mean if the world is going to end why not be with good friends, cold beer, and good music while consuming some of the good Lord’s bounty. So it was off to the butcher and the market to get some beautiful steaks and veggies to cook up on the grill for our last meal on the mortal coil. Although we were preparing for our impending doom and the second coming of the Christ I figured that I should take some pictures JUST IN CASE it didn’t happen because if it didn’t I would still be on the hook to give you guys a long overdue Nusgourmet. Well, I’m sorry to say that it’s the day after and we’re still here and I’m still alive and roaming the earth so let me share a family tradition passed on to me about a unique way to cook and eat steak.
Here at NusCabana we eat steak a little differently than the traditional. My stepfather feels that any meat one takes cannot be unannounced or unaccompanied by proper representation. To him, steak is a lady. A lady that’s juicy and not the usual every day meat that one would enjoy the company of. Kind of like a classy call girl at a chic bordello. Steak is luxurious and decadent but it must be paired with a savoury vegetable mix he calls “pezevenk” which is Turkish for Pimp. Because, as you know, you can’t have the lady without the pimp. Look… it was way funnier when we had a bunch of Turkish guys over and we all had a few too many shots of Arak. Nevermind, here’s what you’ll need.
Steaks – well marbled, thick cut, aged. You’re going to want to go a to good butcher for this. I like Rib eyes and top sirloin.
Hot yellow peppers
Potatoes and/or yams – wrap them in tin foil.
Salt (sea salt of kosher salt is best), Pepper
Persian “Taftoon” bread (you can use naan too if you’re no where near a Persian grocer)
Lots of beer.
Invite some friends over and make sure they bring lots of beer and wine.
Light your bbq, close the lid and let it heat for a while, until the thermometer is at least over 400 degrees. I use a gas grill, but you can use a charcoal fire too as long as you keep it very hot.
If your grill is dirty get out the wire brush and scrub like mad. Use a half a lemon to give the grill a good disinfecting while the fire is on.
Take your foil wrapped potatoes and put them on the grill and shut it. Crack a few beers and let them hang out on the grill for about a half hour before you move on to the next step.
Put the rest of the veggies right on the grill – you can put the peeled garlic in some tin foil then toss it on. If you’re starving, throw on some corn as it will cook faster and you can snack on it while you wait. leave the potatoes on the grill they’re still cooking.
Let the vegetables cook until they are soft, take them off the grill and put them onto a plate. Have your friends shred them all to little pieces and mix them. You’ve now made “pezevenk!”
Leave the potatoes on the grill, they’re still freaking cooking (they take forever).
Season your steaks with salt and pepper. Nothing else – no BBQ sauce, no glaze, no nothing. This is steak and it’s a sin to ruin it with heavy flavourings. If you do, you will not be raptured.
We do one steak at a time to make sure all our attention is on that one steak. Throw it on the grill, close the lid and don’t freakin’ touch it for about 2 minutes! open the lid and touch the center of the steak, It should be still soft with a *hint* of a spring in the meat. Flip the steak once, close the lid for 1.5 minutes.
How to eat Steak Pezevenk
Note: The following process is also illustrated in the slideshow below.
Take the cooked steak off the grill and put it onto a wooden cutting board with a piece of the taftoon under the steak and another large piece on top. Let it rest for about a minute.
You can now take the damned baked potatoes off the grill and load them up with sour cream and chives to your heart’s content.
Slice the steak widthwise into strips and present to your pals.
All you gotta do is rip a piece of taftoon bread off, put a strip or two of steak in there and smother it with the pezevenk roasted veggies.
With a mouth full of steak, scoff under your breath but audibly at the idea of the rapture. “pfft rapture…”
For great justice!
Ladies and gentlemen, I feel like the Tony Montana of chocolate.
Yesterday my good friends at Strategic Objectives extended the proverbial golden ticket to myself, Sean and Lauren. We had the distinct honor and pleasure of getting the opportunity to tour the Cadbury Chocolate Factory in Toronto and see how Cadbury Creme Eggs and Cadbury Mini Eggs are made! Needless to say this is one of those things that is probably a fantasy for many of us since the Creme Egg was introduced in Canada back in 1973! It took a little bit of nudging but we convinced Cadbury to let us film the process of creating these chocolaty delights! Here it is!
Pardon the pun, but the folks at Cadbury were very sweet. So sweet that they sent us home with over 100 Creme Eggs, a whole case of Crispy Crunch, some fresh Coconut bars and gift baskets filled with all the variations of Mini Eggs! For those of you who are curious: yes, Cadbury employees do have a great dental plan, but the dentist is not allowed anywhere near the factory. I don’t know what amazed me more: the fact that the factory makes 1000 Creme Eggs a minute or the giant Creme Egg that they keep in their museum! We may have walked away with 100 eggs but that’s chump change when you consider that Cadbury makes around 100 MILLION Creme Eggs and almost 1 BILLION Mini Eggs a year – and they are only sold between January and Easter! Yep, Canadians like the eggs so much that they added production to their facility in Toronto to meet the demand. Those of you who knew that I would be visiting the factory before I went there yesterday sent me in with your egg orders. I guess that makes me the Easter Bunny.
First you get the chocolate, then the fondant, then the eggs, then the power…
This week I went on a fresh foods frenzy at the market so it’s time for another NusGourmet. Today’s recipe is “Japanese” curry. This Japanese curry is a little different than traditional Indian or Thai but it’s not a whole world of difference. I find that Japanese curry has less of a cumin taste and you don’t need to use milk or coconut milk in the stew – also unlike many Japanese curry rice recipes, this one uses chunks of meat (or tofu) rather than the ground variety. This particular recipe was taught to me by my Aikido Sensei who visited me in Victoria from Toronto when I was studying there. He was in town for a big aikido demonstration and hated the food on campus so he went shopping for a few ingredients and his favourite Japanese style curry mix. We all enjoyed the meal together and were ready to throw people the mat with the curry coursing through our veins! In Aikido there is always an “uke” (the one who receives the throw) and “nage” (the one who throws uke) and I noticed that just about all the ingredients come in pairs so I called this recipe “Curry a l’Aikido” due to the symmetry and the fact that I learned it from the man who taught me the martial art.
When I was sick of crappy college food this delicious stew would always please my friends and I as a comfort food. The best part is that, like many NusGourmet recipes, it’s easy to make, costs relatively little (especially considering the recipe will yield about 8 generous servings) and just tastes great.
Japanese Curry a l’Aikido
1 lb (450g) of stewing veal or beef, (vegetarians can use tofu and it will still be awesome!)
2 sticks of celery
1 red pepper
2+2 cloves of garlic (I like garlic!)
2 cubes of Glico Hot Japanese Curry – available at Japanese grocers like Sanko
Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, Simon, Garfunkle (All you really need is thyme though)
1/2 cup of Flour
Rice (to serve)
Since you will likely be buried under a mountain of chopped goodies it’s good to stay organized and keep in mind what you will need to have set up before beginning. Make sure you have a big bowl on hand to put the chopped veggies into as you go, a small plate with the flour on it set aside, and a big, deep pot on the stove for when you’re ready to cook. You will want to chop the onions and garlic last as you will need to put them in the pot first. Also it’s a good idea to prepare the rice before you start, especially if you are using brown rice, so you don’t have to wait for it when you’re done making the stew. If you have a rice cooker then you’re in good shape.
Note: As far as pot sizes go, a regular saucepan won’t do, you’re going to want to break out that big pot with the two handles that you never use, yet took with you anyway because your mom insisted.
Peel the potatoes and carrots. Cut potatoes lengthwise, rest them on the board flat side down and make evenly spaced (1.5 cm) cuts along the length of the half, then cut widthwise to yield cubes – throw them in the bowl.
Halve the carrots lengthwise, rest them flat side down and chop them lengthwise to yield half-moon pieces. Throw them in the bowl.
Wash celery, tip and tail them and just chop widthwise to get natural half moon shaped pieces. Throw them in the bowl.
Halve the red pepper, core it (just grab the seed core and yank it out) and cut into squares. Throw them in the freaking bowl!
Peel the garlic, mince them, leave in a pile on the corner of the cutting board. De-skin and halve the onions, chop in the same manner as the potatoes (no need to get fancy – you want big pieces).
Roll meat/tofu in flower and set aside. If there are any pieces that are abnormally larger than the others just cut them in half before rolling them in the flour.
Put about 2 tbsp of oil in the pot on medium high heat and throw the garlic and onions in. Sauté for a minute, constantly stirring to avoid burning the garlic.
Add the flour coated meat/tofu and slightly brown them. You will notice that the flour creates something similar to a roux forming that will help thicken the stew. Observe it then ignore it because you probably would not have cared had I not mentioned it in the first place.
Add the thyme and some fresh ground pepper to taste.
Add all the chopped vegetables, mix and sauté it all for another 3-5 minutes then fill the pot with water – just until it barely reaches the tops of the vegetables. You don’t want to fill the entire pot or you will have a watery soup rather than a thick stew.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low-medium, cover and cook for 20 mins.
When 20 minutes are up, break up or cut up the 2 curry cubes and stir them into the stew. Take it off the heat and cover it again for 10 minutes. The flour “roux” and the curry cubes will thicken the rest of the stew.
Serve over the hot rice.
Special thanks to Chris Brooker for manning the camera as I cooked.
For nearly 900 years a humble order of monks at Grimbergen Abbey in Belgium have been been raising chalices filled with Grimbergen Dubbel with a cheerful cry of “Gesondheid!” in times of rejoicing, I think that beer drinkers and even non-beer drinkers will rejoice when they try this unique brew. Quite simply it’s honestly delicious and after about seven glasses – just to be sure – at the Bier Markt I was compelled to express my gratitude to Carlsberg and Strategic Objectives for bringing this slightly sweet, strong and easy drinking beer to Canada for the first time. It only took over 880 years for it to get here but it was well worth the wait for what they call “The Beer of Legend.”
Until yesterday I had never heard of Grimbergen and was actually kind of getting tired of beer in general because, quite honestly, the base flavour domestically is pretty much the same. Some may be lighter or darker than the others and while many of them are still enjoyable, if you put aside your pretense you may just agree with me. You don’t have to fancy yourself a connoisseur to see it either. A place like Bier Markt exists to introduce your palette to new flavours from around the world and it’s a nice reprieve from the standard fare. If you’ve been there you know what I’m talking about and have likely enjoyed beers from all over the world to your hearts’ content. There is something to be said of a beer recipe that has been made and curated by monks for nearly a millennium (since 1128). A millennium! If it’s been around that long I think it’s safe to say that the brewers have had ample time to road test the beer over the span of generations.
With the blessing of Abbot Erik de Sutter and Father Karel Stautemas I was delighted to enjoy a beer quite unlike any other I’ve tried that’s been around since medieval times. If I could describe it, I would say Grimbergen is subtly sweet to the smell and the palette and extremely easy to drink with a 6.5% alcohol content. It doesn’t have the harsh and overly bitter finish that is characteristic of many “meat and potatoes” beers out there, which leaves you wanting another. Father Karel. Abbot de Sutter and I got along famously and we became fast friends over quite a few chalices and stories of the Belgian Abbey’s history.
Fascinatingly, the Abbey has been rebuilt three times after being destroyed by fire and war since its establishment. Fittingly, the Fathers of Grimbergen adapted the phoenix as their emblem and the motto, “burned but never destroyed.” Through all that, the recipe and the beer has survived and both myself and my cohort Chris were thankful.
Bier Markt is officially updating its menu and adding a Grimbergen tap so you should get down there ASAP to try before the kegs run dry. Yes, it’s that good. It’s not yet available in bottles (although those of us at the launch even were given bottles of it on the sly thanks to SO PR and Carlsberg) so the only way to try it for the time being is to make a pilgrimage to the taprooms.
Ok I’ll stop with the religious puns.
There’s been quite a bit of media coverage and in one instance I appear in the Toronto Sun tasting the Grimbergen for the absolute first time.
You can also read more about the event at:
I Guess it’s been a while since I’ve done a NusGourmet for you so here’s one that’s in season. Right now is the best time of the year for seafood. As the native waters of our crustacean friends get colder the harvest is ripe as they’ve grown to full size and the meat is just better.
Something about the practice of eating lobster has always perplexed me when it comes to the scruples of those who eat it. Vegetarians excluded, obviously, it seems many people in western culture have some sort of moral issue with eating lobster since the traditional and best way to eat it is live. Not live as in still moving but live as in fresh from the ocean or the tank where they are kept alive until it’s time to cook them. I find it strangely ironic that the typical restaurant patron will go to the restaurant, order live lobster, and even be given the opportunity to hand select the one they want (which they almost always accept) and not bat an eyelash over the fact that their repast was alive not 10 minutes before touching down on their table served with a side of butter and lemon.
Unlike beef or chicken, lobster cannot be kept for days and days especially if it has left the mortal coil. In fact cooking dead raw lobster can be toxic as they process of decomposition sets in shortly after their demise by whatever cause other than cooking. So if you’re going to prepare lobster at home then it’s best not to get too emotional about the fact that you, or someone in your house with the stomach for it, will have to move from the moral dilemma of selecting which lobster dies to actually doing the deed.
As my parents were not born and raised in Canada, I come directly from a background of Continental European sensibilities so I suppose I am more utilitarian than most pure-bred westerners or 3rd + generation Canadians so the idea of eating another creature for sustenance does not really faze me as much. I think an old commercial from Heineken beer says it best when it comes to comparing continental sensibilities to those of westerners:
Yeah it makes light of the moral dilemma but life is too short to take it so seriously. I know that many vegans and vegetarians have little sense of humor about eating living things but if comedy is itself not meant to help people cope with the most serious subjects then what is comedy for? That’s the whole point of comedy. For me and my family, all things are alive – including plants – and are part of the world in which we live in. It’s just the way of life to eat what mother earth provides but I would like to make it clear, even apologetically so, that I was taught to always respect the animal that I consume by making sure I don’t waste any of it.
So, for those of you who always wanted to know how to cook lobster the following is a video I made with Yarden and my new pal Matt. Paul Crowe recently got back from Halifax and chivalrously delivered some fresh lobsters to a bunch of tweeps around town so we thought we go ahead and record the evening and show you how to cook and prepare lobster! Enjoy.
This past weekend I caught another Ruby Spirit show, this time at the Toronto Underground Cinema. Since I last saw them at the Great Hall lots has gone on: in particular, I’ve gotten to know their guitarist, Alex Pulec, a lot better since sharing a stage with him at Electric Christmas and it’s also exciting to see that they have begun to play successful gigs in New York garnering even more buzz as they keep plugging away.
The venue was a bit awkward since it was full of theatre seating but it all worked out in the end as myself and other fans got all intimate with the band by cramming into the 10 or so feet of standing room in front of the stage.
What really astonishes me is the work ethic of this band. I got a chance to chat with the Ruby Spirit’s manager, Peter and he told me that the band constantly practices with at least 3 rehearsals a week, along with constant writing. I think that the band have become consumate professionals in their trade and definitely believe that the show must go on. Talking to the band before their set, It was apparent that their lead singer, Paige, was pretty sick that night. As a former touring musician singing in a band I remember getting sick before a show from time to time and could feel the pressure.
There was Paige with a big mug of Tea or juice and a bottle of NyQuil. I held my breath as the band took the stage and didn’t know what I’d hear with their singer under the weather. I gotta tell you, if she was really that sick no one who didn’t notice that very same bottle of Nyquil and mug accompanying her on stage would have known. The Rubies just killed it and Paige sounded great. That’s showmanship. I could not help but be reminded of a story often told by Alice Cooper about a performance he gave where he was swinging his Errol Flynn sword around (as he is known to do) and attempted to stick the sword in the stage, but ended up skewering his leg instead, spurting blood everywhere. Legend has it that he went backstage, was told he needed to stop the show, but instead poured whiskey into the gash and completed the entire concert getting ever more delirious as he lost blood before getting rushed to the hospital immediately after his set (he talks briefly about it in this video) Of course Alice Cooper’s example is more extreme but the spirit is the same and I have a lot of respect for any performer that sucks it up and give the fans what they want.
The Toronto music scene seems to be undergoing a rebirth and we’re starting to do away with all the cookie-cutter screamo bands and getting back to music that pays homage to the old classics while also doing something new and fresh. Band like the Ruby Spirit and Wildlife have the potential to start a whole new movement and you’re fortunate to be around right now when this is all happening. Take a break from the schmooze cruise and get your rock on. Listen to some of The Ruby Spirit’s work right HERE. I recommend “Sound of the Bell” in particular.