Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Farenheit makes coffee right

A friend of mine is a coffee connoisseur and wanted to meet up at a new coffee shop called FARENHEIT at Jarvis and Lombard. The only indication that this place was a coffee shop was a small sandwich board outside of the front door with a big letter F in red on it and in small little letters underneath it said Coffee.

It's almost like a secret club location. You would never know about it unless you happened to walk by and noticed the sandwich board or you knew someone who was an ex Starbuck's employee with an affinity for coffee. The owner is obviously passionate about making a quality coffee and has won awards doing it. I got to meet the owner and their in house baker while I was there. They were both very sweet and I hope they have a successful place.

I tried the Mocha and was impressed by the hand poured Turkey design on the top.
For me the mark of a good coffee is when I don't have to add sugar or milk to take away any bitterness. I don't like regular coffee and prefer cappuccino style or flavoured coffees. I normally have to add lots of sugar to most coffees I order but didn't have to add anything in this case.

I also tried the lemon Madeleine's. Nicely made and tasty.

What I am worried about is that this place may be missing out on potential business and may have a hard time sustaining itself. There is no sign that it is a coffee shop on the window on Lombard Street so you wouldn't know what the place is unless you looked in the window. If you are driving by and see the F sign you wouldn't know what it was because you wouldn't be able to read Coffee at the bottom of the sign. When you walk by and see the window you see unfinished wood counters that make the place look like it's still in progress. There is no seating whatsoever making it difficult to meet friends there unless you plan on standing at the counter tables. The only food is about half a dozen sweet baked goods so it won't promote people going in at all hours and spending more money. You would never know the quality of the coffee unless you knew someone that knew the owner or his previous shops.

So I do hope word of mouth spreads so that this coffee savvy owner has the chance to compete with the big coffee guys. Support your small local businesses and give FARENHEIT a try.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

White Beans elevated with Spanish flavours

I was watching a food network show from Spain recently and they were making a recipe with white beans and Chorizo so I thought that would be a pretty good combination so I attempted my own version today. As I finished it I was watching Jamie Oliver who was also making white beans and he added a dash of red wine vinegar at the end so I tried that with and without the red wine vinegar and I have to say that it gave it a really great boost of flavour.

Here's what I did to make it:

No measurements ... experiment to your liking on quantities.. I didn't use a recipe so you shouldn't either. I just used an influence. That influence was Spanish flavours. I took a little trip to Spain in my kitchen today.

Starting off yesterday I soaked a couple of cups of white kidney beans in water over night.
I rinsed them a couple of times this morning and then drained them.

I sliced about a 3/4's of a Chorizo Sausage. I used a Mild one but if you like it spicier you can use a hot one.

I diced a white onion
I small diced one stalk of celery
2 cloves of garlic
Bay Leaf
Dried Thyme
Smoked Paprika
Salt and Pepper
Bacon Fat
Water or stock
Tomato paste for color

I first started off rendering off the sliced Chorizo Sausage. I went lightly on the browning but would recommend getting a bit of color on them. Then I added the celery and onion and cooked them until softened.
I added the drained white beans and then added some stock and water to cover.

I added a Bay leaf and some dried thyme.
Add salt and pepper to taste

I tossed in some chunks of Garlic but you can crush it and add it when you toss in the onions. I was going to pick them out but they are big enough to fish out if you don't want them.

There will be scum that rises to the top after you cook the beans for a bit so make sure you skim that off.

Add a lot of paprika and I added some smoked Paprika for a smoky flavour.

I also added some chopped cilantro and fresh parsley for a little fresh flavour.

Let the beans cook for about an hour.

Just before they are done in a seperate pan cook a roux mixture of butter, flour and more paprika and cook until it the flour is cooked a bit.
Mix that into the beans.

You could add wine to the beans if you like. I added about a tablespoon to the butter/flour mixture.

At the end I added about a half tablespoon of red wine vinegar.

Cook the beans until they are soft and tender and the juices are like a gravy instead of a soup.

You can be fancy and garnish with the cilantro and parsley but I just dished it up as is in a bowl.

The beans should be creamy like mashed potatoes in the middle and the sauce should be velvety and spicy but it can be as spicy as you like it depending on how hot the Chorizo is and how much smoked Paprika you add.

I have had the dried beans in my cupboard waiting for a great way to make them and I think this way really makes it work out great.

I have been wanting to find new recipes for beans so that it encourages me to eat them more since they are cheap and healthy. I hope this recipe inspires you to cook some beans up soon.

Give your beans a Spanish Kiss and Enjoy.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Bread to Bread Pudding

I got a new Kitchen Aid mixer recently and decided to give it a test ride making a batch of bread. I never bake bread so I thought this would be a good test to see if it would be easy to make a loaf at home anytime I wanted fresh bread and didn't want to have to go to the store just to buy bread. I decided to use the recipe that came in the cooking instructions in the box just to see if it would work out. The only thing was that I didn't have enough all purpose flour so I mixed some whole wheat flour in with it. The whole wheat flour made the loaf a lot denser but at least it upped the health content. The batch I made mixed 2 loafs. It took about 3 hours to complete the whole thing so it wasn't a quick process when you add up all the resting time but mixing it was pretty easy. I would finesse it a lot more next time I make it and probably just use all purpose flour but other than that it came out pretty good.

Since it made 2 loaves of bread and I didn't have enough room to put one in the freezer it got really hard after about 2 days so I had to decide what to do with it. After all the work and time put into it there was no way I was going to just throw it out.

I had 3 options as I saw it.
1. throw it out.
2. Make bread crumbs or
3. the Best idea.. Make Bread Pudding

I decided on making the bread pudding. I could use all of the leftover bread to make something delicious. I suppose bread pudding was created in the lean years when people couldn't afford to waste any food but really even if you can afford to waste money on food it's still a delicious dish to make.

I made mine with a traditional custard mix of milk, eggs and sugar and then added cinnamon and vanilla. For a little extra kick I added some Brandy.

I tossed in some dried cranberries and dark chocolate chunks.

You have to make sure you cover all the bread with the custard mixture and let it soak in the fridge until the liquid is absorbed by the stale bread.

Mine was a little under on the custard so the whole top was like crunchy french toast.

This is another one of those great winter comfort foods that makes you want to stay at home and just relax with great food.

This is what the bread to bread pudding looked like. I added some french vanilla ice cream but you could add whip cream, yogurt, caramel sauce or whatever you like to top it or just eat it as is.

And since you asked.. they both turned out great. The bread was very dense but it had good flavour.

The bread pudding turned out fantastic. The top was like crunchy little french toast croutons and the odd bit of chocolate and cranberry here and there gave it an extra layer of flavour. The middle of the bread pudding was like a very moist cake and the bottom had more crunch bits and was more cookie like in taste as it caramelized and crunchified.

Most people have bread, sugar, milk and eggs and a few spices in their pantry or fridge so this is a great last minute pull together brunch or dessert item for drop in friends and family.

Try it and I am sure you will love it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Red Rocket Coffee moves to the Danforth


I just read this and my heart sank a bit. I have a special place in my heart for this little coffee shop. The owner Liako was kind enough to allow me to shoot my short film "Urban Zombies" there. We filmed it one afternoon while the regulars milled about the shop. After spending a few hours there I realized what a great neighbourhood cafe this place was. This place is like the Cheers of coffee shops. People go there everyday and bring families, dogs, friends and themselves with their laptops, books and newspapers. They grab a great housemade scone or cookie and a great tea or coffee and chill out for a while. I found this place very homey and relaxing and if I lived in the area I would have called this place my second home. I try and stop in whenever I am in the area and will miss it very much even though I don't get to go often. Even when I drive by I smile because I felt welcomed there and my short film couldn't have been made anywhere else. Even one of the staff members appears in my cast of characters.

Red Rocket Coffee will truly be missed in Leslieville but I hope that it's new home on the Danforth has as much or more success. I will drop by to support them whenever I can.

Good Luck Red Rocket. Hopefully your regular extended family will make it up to the Danforth to your new home.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gourmet Food & Wine Show - wine it up

I just got home from the Gourmet Food and Wine Show at the Metro Convention Centre. Well for a person that doesn't drink wine it's an odd place for me to be hanging out I guess. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against wine but I really only like to cook with it but the big reason for me going to the show was to see Chuck Hughes from Chuck's Day Off on the Food Network. Even though he says he isn't very good at doing the standing up in front of an audience and talking and signing autographs don't believe him. He is great at it. He cracks jokes and answers questions all the way through his cooking demos, although on his second demo his assistant Tracy pretty much did all the cooking while he was like a moving target roving around the audience answering questions. He is one of the most entertaining chefs I have seen at one of these food network demos, the only other one that comes close to the same humour and warmth is Chef Lynn Crawford. They both entertain while cooking amazing food. Chuck's Day Off is one of my favourite food network shows at the moment because Chuck pulls back the curtain on the restaurant industry and shows all the people it takes to run a successful restaurant, from the suppliers to the regular customers to the prep cooks and even friends that support him. Chuck is a very tough on the outside but big heart on the inside kind of guy who doesn't take himself too seriously and enjoys every minute of his culinary career. He cooks and lives with a lot of Passion and it translates into his cooking and to the people he meets. Even though Chuck didn't win The Next iron Chef he is going to be one of the chefs to look out for because I believe he is going to be a Jamie Oliver, Rachel Ray kind of big time celebrity chef. Loads of fans and trying to do good things. He will be coming back to Toronto on Nov 26-27 for Bobby Flay's Chef Challenge a huge Charity Event for Mount Sinai Hospital for Cancer research. You have to raise $2500 in donations just to be at the Challenge to compete. I would enter if I could raise that kind of money. Maybe next year.

So Look out for Chuck on a TV or at a show near you again soon.

You probably want to know about the rest of the Food and Wine Show too right? Well I only tasted one wine that was a sangria and it was the Barefoot something wine. It was good but I am no wine expert so I don't even want to try and give you any wine information. But what I did love was the Margarita mix. Great lime and Strawberry slushi margaritas. It was so hot in the convention centre that it went down so well.

Food to note that I really enjoyed was at the Barbados booth. Great Fish cake and they had sorrel and rum drink. I tasted a bunch of cheeses, my favourites being the goat cheeses with herbs and red peppers on them. I had some nice chicken curry as well.

The most fun food item was a huge sub that the chef from the Drake Hotel made. You name it and it was in it. I got a sample of that and it was packed with flavour.

Early in the day when I arrived the show was very subdued but by the time I left at 8:30 it was like a wild night in a club on a friday night. Friday and Saturday nights are quite the party so if you are looking for somewhere to go and drink instead of a club this would be a good choice for you.

The show ends on Sunday so it's not to late for you to go and check it out.

Chuck Hughes has probably already gone back to Montreal but there's lots of wine to be had if you like to try all kinds of different wines from around the world.

A couple of things to note. Return your glass before you leave and $1 will be donated to Second Harvest and please don't drink and drive.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Jamie Oliver chats in his front room

I went to see Jamie Oliver last night at Roy Thompson Hall and all I got was this Cookbook.

But seriously... as Jamie said when he walked onto the stage: "Welcome to my Front Room" which was kind of how the evening felt.

I saw Jamie last year at the Metro Convention Centre where he was whipping up a couple of simple dishes and the smell of grilled meat that we couldn't taste was killing me. We got bags of chocolate chips on the way out but that didn't quite satisfy the beef craving that we had after smelling the cooking demo. We ran right over to a burger joint and inhaled a burger after the show.

This time Jamie was doing a sit down chat with Rosey Edey from ET Canada. They sat in some fancy black chairs on stage and just had a chat and Jamie answered audience questions along the way. It was like a chef talking about food with a thousand friends. A little weird for a chef to be just sitting there talking about his food likes, dislikes and food politics but he is a master story teller and has stories of all kinds of odd experiences from around the world.

He spoke about his Food Revolution show and movement that he has championed to make changes in both Britain and America.

He said he only does the sit down chat in Canada. Not sure why. Maybe it's because we have a whole lot of foodies here that like to talk and eat food.

I don't know but he was entertaining but I would have loved to have a Jamie Oliver amuse bouche or something at the show. I was a lot smarter this time and had dinner just before the show so I wasn't starving throughout the hour plus long food chat.

I love what Jamie Oliver has done and think it's great that one chef could change so many people's lives with a little help.

The power of food never ceases to amaze me.

Food makes a home feel like home

"A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body."

— Benjamin Franklin: was a Founding Father of the United States

I love this quote because it really is true.

This morning I woke up and felt like baking so I made a batch of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies. There is nothing that says home more than the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. I had to go out for a few minutes and when I walked back into my place I could smell the chocolate chip cookies wafting throughout my apartment. The best air freshener ever.

The best thing about these particular cookies are that they are almost guilt free. The recipe I used called for no eggs but I found that the last time I made them it was a bit dry so I added an egg to bind it a bit better. It has a lot of healthy substitues in the recipe such as Coconut oil instead of butter, shortening or oil and the flour is whole wheat flour. I even tossed in some Chia seeds to boost up the protein quotient. The sugar comes in the form of honey or maple syrup. I used both. There is chopped walnuts to add some omega 3 boost and you can use organic dark chocolate chips to boost the flavour while still staying on the healthy side. Oatmeal is also added for some great fibre so this cookie has all good things in it.

But the best part is the taste. It doesn't taste like a healthier cookie it just tastes like a decadent chocolate chip cookie with a hint of coconut and oatmeal walnut. A really great combination.

I found this recipe online and really love it and now prefer to make this recipe to regular chocolate chip cookies.

Try substituting some healthier ingredients for your traditional baking ingredients and experiment until you get the desired effect. Once you get it right you will never go back.

You can do it too...


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Good cooking choices - yo mamma was right again.

I received an email with this article from the Environmental Working Group. They promote making better environmental choices in the products you purchase.


I thought I would pass this along for those of you trying to build your cookware and pantry's.

It turns out that once again your momma and your grandma were right. Cast Iron and Stainless Steel pots and pans are the best option in cooking and for the environment so why did we screw it up and make toxic things we don't need to use?

Also we should go back to cooking real food, the kind that requires a knife to prep it and some sweat equity to make it into a healthy meal. Buying a can of something or a processed package of something really isn't the best choice but we have grown to choose these choices more and more with the lightning speed pace that our world is going in. I would suggest that after you read this article you get off the computer and go to a farm or farmers market and buy something organic and go home and practice your knife skills and prep it and cook it in your grandma's cast iron skillet and feed it to your family instead of sitting in a chair and staring at a lighted screen. Do this a couple of times a week and you can change the world. Yes really. It all adds up.

Bring back Sunday Suppers and go out on saturday and shop at a local market and plan for your sunday with friends and family. Spending quality time with friends and family is not only good for your health but good for the world.

Get inspired. Cook something Great and pass it on.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Frank's Kitchen - Review

I was at the Women's show all day on friday and was sampling away on little bits and bites but at the end of the day my friend came to meet me at the show after work and after we left the show we decided to go grab some real dinner somewhere. Where to go around the Metro Convention Centre? Well we couldn't think of anything great so we started driving and then we got up to Queen's Park and I thought we could try going to ICI Bistro on Harbord. My friend is a friend of JP Chalet's. It's a tiny place and it was full but JP gave us a recommendation to go to College Street and check out Frank's Kitchen. I never heard of this place surprisingly. I don't go to College St. often because I find the parking is tough to find especially on friday and saturday nights but we drove around for a while and got lucky and found a spot near the Royal Cinema. Just so happened that we were also able to stop in there and see the guy I am filming a documentary on working at the Reel Asian Film Festival on our way to the restaurant. So we ventured over to Frank's Kitchen with no expectations and only a recommendation from Chef JP. We walked in and immediately liked the look and vibe of the place. Not extremely noisy and very cosy but not cramped. We waited a few minutes and got a table near the back and across from the Chef's kitchen. What we learned from sitting there was that Frank was a former chef at Centro on Yonge Street and had many years of high end experience. Well it showed in the details of his own restaurant.
The service was immediate and friendly without being pushy.
We were presented with fabulous mini loafs of different breads with olives and a tasty dip.

My friend and I ordered the Tuna Tartare and the Seafoood Cocktail to share. We love tuna tartare and order it all the time when we go to Nota Bene so how would it stack up at Frank's?
Well I loved it. It was similar but different with a more acidic flavour to the tuna.
The seafood cocktail was a deconstructed plate with shrimp and lobster with an obviously homemade cocktail sauce. It was very fresh tasting and I loved the presentation. There was also a guacamole style dip that came with it.

Then we were presented with lime palate cleansers presented on lovely little spoons. It tasted a bit like grapefruit to me but I wonder if it was a mix of citrus.

Then we shared the crispy gnocchi... something I have never heard of before. I love gnocchi so I was curious to see what it was like. It was almost like a gnocchi tater tot. a light potato crunchy little gnocchi shaped and crouton looking bite in a pool of gorgonzola cream sauce. It was very interesting and a bit of a twist on the usual gnocchi. I liked it very much.

I ordered the desert to try to see what they were like. I was presented with a shot glass with some sort of milk shake concoction.. not too sure what was in it exactly. There was also a tiny scoop of rasberry sorbet and a 2 bite molten lava cake which I thoroughly enjoyed. Nothing out of the ordinary with the lava cake but it was still delicious.

We were then presented with tiny little chocolate truffles and our meal was complete.

We ended up with a great meal that we had no expectations about. I think that's the best way to check out a restaurant. Go on a recommendation of someone you trust that has a great palate and be open to whatever they have to offer and hopefully you will be pleasantly surprised.

Frank himself was very entertaining telling stories to the man at the table next to us. So it was a very enjoyable dinner and I would highly recommend going there and trying it for yourself.

Frank's Kitchen is east of the Royal Cinema on College Street.

J.P. Challet opens Bakery on Queen East

I have been hearing about this for awhile p glad it's coming soon.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Cooks big tools

KitchenAid© Professional 5 Stand Mixer | Canadian Tire

I have been wanting to get a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer for quite a long time. They are kind of an investment piece with the price being about $299 and up. I finally deiced to pick this one up at Canadian Tire and add it to my Cooks arsenal of tools. There are so many models of this Kitchen Aid machine that it was tough to decide which one to get but when you can get the Professional 5 quart for what the normal classic one costs it's time to buy. I saved 40% or $200 so even though it was still $299 I was getting a better model. So I would recommend picking one up if you are in the market for this mixer.

I used to use my mother's old Stand Mixer but it was kind of ugly and after years of use was kind of grungy so it was time to say goodbye when I moved and I only had a hand mixer which doesn't quite cut it if you are looking to make something like bread or something dense. So I have been wanting this mixer for a long time. It's kind of drool worth for a foodie cook. It just looks like a piece of art you want to use to create art food.

I hope to do a bit more experimenting in the kitchen this winter and hope that this piece of equipment will be put to good use for years to come.

It also made me think of what were my favourite tools in the kitchen.

My pics would have to be:

My nice red Paderno Knives
My cutting board
My Cuisinart toaster oven... matches my new mixer too.

These seem to be the tools I use everyday and get the most use from.

What are your favourite kitchen tools? If you are a heat up and go it's probably a microwave... if you are salad person it's probably a bowl and a knife... What do you use the most in Your Kitchen?

If you had to only have 3 things what would they be? This is my Iron Chef challenge to you.

I suppose these would be my three.... assuming you get a plate and utensil to go with whatever you are making.

What would you choose?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Food and Wine Expo

Food and Wine Expo

I am planning on going to this Food and Wine Event in a couple of weeks. Chuck Hughes returns to Toronto for this show. He is becoming a very hot chef now that he is on the Next Iron Chef series. Although he has been one of my food network favourite chefs for a long time so I am rooting for him to win.

The Food and Wine Expo is at the Metro Convention Centre from Nov 17-20.

hope to see you there.