Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve wishes & resolutions


I planned on writing a post for New Year's Eve celebration tips but I was too busy planning what I wanted to do on New Year's Eve.  It's now a few hours away from the New Year and I wanted to wish all of my Blog readers a very Happy and Healthy Food Filled New Year and I hope all of your wishes for the New Year come true.

This holiday season I decided to
"Be the Change you want to see in the World" as they say in my own life.  In my case i wanted to celebrate the Holidays doing the things I wanted to do.

For Christmas Eve this year I went to a friend's party for a few hours and was amazed at how many people she had turn up on a Christmas Eve.  Since I don't celebrate the Holidays with family but I do enjoy the Turkey dinner's that I didn't get to have growing up so I decided to stay home and cook my own Turkey Roll from Whole Foods dinner and duck fat roasted potatoes, sauteed green beans and clementine glazed carrots.  I had a lot leftover and was planning on making Turkey Pot pie but I got lazy and turned it into Turkey Tettrazzini again.  You can probably find a previous post about this.  It's an easy way to turn Turkey leftovers into a whole new thing.

Anyway, for New Year's Eve for the past few year's I have stayed home to watch all the countown's on TV.  I just eat whatever I have usually but this year I thought it might be fun to invite a small group of my friends over to chill out with me.  I dug out my New Year's Eve box of noise makers from my storage locker and I made these clock and date cookies today.  I also picked up some Greek Honey balls from Athens bakery on the Danforth and added some gold spinkles to dress them up.  I really wanted Italian Struffoli but there isn't any around near me and I didn't have time to make some.  My neighbour used to have them every Christmas when I was a kid.  Nobody else I knew had them so it was a treat.

I still have a whole lot of sweets leftover from things my friends gave me as gifts and things I had from my party plus a whole lot of Skittles that I got at the Skittles Pawn shop for trading in the rest of the stuff I have been trying to get rid of.  

So that's about all the effort I have put into New Year's Eve this year because we are going to order Chinese Food.  Maybe this will become a new tradition if it works out.  I was invited to a party downtown but I wasn't in the mood to trek downtown by myself and squeeze into packed subways with drunk people.  I will stay in and avoid it this year.  Yeah a sign I am getting old but I was never one for going out and "clubbing" on New Year's Eve.  It's over priced and over-rated and not so much fun if you are single.  

I hope this year it's an easy breezy stress free start to a New Year.

This year was a year that I lost a couple of friends and gained a whole bunch of really great food blogging community friends.  I am hoping for bigger things in 2016.

Some of my Resolutions for the New Year include:

  1. Work on my food styling and plating
  2. Get better at decorating cookies... shaky messy hands.
  3. Spend lot's of time meeting up with my blogger buddies and having great food.
  4. Keep improving my photos and my blog posts.
  5. Find some new and interesting events to attend this year.
  6. Spend more stress free time entertaining and hopefully more tips for you.
  7. I hope to do some travelling outside of the city and find some foodie adventures.
  8. I want to have a balance of cooking at home and eating out.
  9. Try and eat the best quality food I can get.
  10. I want to waste less food and money.

That's what I have on my mind and I am sorry I didn't have a more interesting food post for you but I hope to do a follow up of my New Year's Eve adventures.   I skipped the Christmas one but if you want to see what I made you can find those photos on my Instagram feed @lindamatarasso.

I hope you all have a fabulous New Year filled with only the Best Things.

Please remember as I always say each year at this time to make sure you Don't Drink and Drive!

Stay safe people and go into the New Year with Bang but not the kind with a car..:) not funny but punny.

More foodie adventures in 2016.   

Thanks for reading all of my rambling blog posts.  I hope you are enjoying them as much as I am writing them.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Ugly Sweater Holiday Party


I kind of started a tradition among friends and then I guess they liked it so much that they kind of expected me to do it every year. It started as a Swag Swap gift exchange to clear out things accumulated during the year.  Last year I didn't do it because the one I did 2 years ago after the Ice Storm was extremely difficult and kind of burnt me out.  Last year a few of my friends got together at my friends place to do a gift exchange and that was nice.   This year I wasn't going to do it because I have had a bad financial year and it costs me a couple hundred dollars to do these parties with the food, decor and gift bags etc.  After deciding that I needed to do some de-cluttering after accumulating a lot of things after a year of food events and generally spending too much time moving things around my small space to make them fit.  Every time I have a party I spend a few days afterward trying to tuck things back into their place.  Because of blogging and my shopaholic tendencies I had accumulated so much stuff I didn't know what to do with and since this year more than others I couldn't afford to go out and buy my friends actual new gifts I decided to have a Not So Secret Santa Ugly Christmas Sweater Party.  Yeah I decided to hop on the Ugly Sweater bandwagon.  Comfy and fun.

Not so Secret because I was the Secret Santa giving gifts of things I didn't need anymore to my friends.  I asked them NOT to bring anything to exchange and told them I didn't want anything I had to store somewhere and the point of this party was to clear my space, get together with my friends all at the same time and give them gifts I can't go buy right now.  Most of the things were things like T-Shirts that aren't my size from events I attended.  Some of the housewares that I didn't have room to store or haven't used, homemade treats and some of my impulsive buys that never got used.  I gave one of my friends a small makeup case and a whole bunch of makeup I got as samples or stuff I never used and she was really excited about it.  For me the makeup kit was too small to use Professionally and I didn't have the space after re-organizing my makeup kit.  For her she was thrilled to try new makeup that she couldn't afford to buy.

One of my friends just moved into a new place so I gave her an orange serving tray and placemats and other stuff for her.  She is also a blogger and we always need new things to style out photos.  Turns out she didn't have a tray and I have like 4 so it will be used instead of moved around here.

What I did was wrap up different things and some had specific people that I thought would like it and a few things could go to a few different friends.   I passed out the gifts and gave them the option to trade for something else once if they didn't like it.  I got down to the last 3 girls and I couldn't decide who to give what to so I let them choose and then let the group decided if they could keep it.  It made it a bit more fun.   As it turns out nobody wanted to trade for anything else.  The only one that traded was one of my friends afterward wanted a candle holder instead of a large book box.   No problem.  The point is that I somehow managed to choose things I didn't need anymore that were new gifts for my friends.  Yes they all knew the plan.  They know I am not working steady and can't buy gifts and the fact that I had all kinds of food at the party and they didn't really have to do much made them pretty happy.

I only asked for them to bring a few things that they could choose if they wanted to bring something for the party like Wine, Pop and salads.

This was the first year that I was running behind and didn't have everything set up before my friends got there so I had one of my friends help set up a cheese and charcuterie board. I actually didn't have time to even take a photo of it but here's the board with some cheese.

I also had some entertaining food from winning a Sobey's gift basket and also St. Hubert Poutine bites that I had to blog about that I knew I couldn't eat by myself so I thought it was perfect for a party.

For the Food I made the Poutine bites which were what they call "insideoutpoutine".  They are mashed potatoes stuffed with cheese and gravy and coated in breadcrumbs.  All you have to do is heat them for about 15 min in the oven and serve.

Even my friend's 1 year old daughter tried one and I think she was a bit confused trying to figure out what it was.  She just started eating regular food so it's all new for her.  The tiny bites were huge in her little hands.

My friend somehow also managed to find time to bake the most amazing Gingerbread Bundt cake in a Jewish Star Mould. Unfortunately everyone was so stuffed that not everyone had room to try it but I did and loved it.

I had 3 bottles of BBQ sauce in my fridge so I decided to make meatballs and since I didn't have a lot of time I just bought some store bought ones.  Unfortunately not a big hit as they weren't very good.  Homemade is always best so next time I skip the meatballs.
I also made both Mac and Cheese and Vegetarian Lasagna the same time that morning.  Now I know how Chefs feel juggling dishes.  The Mac and Cheese was ok but the Lasagna turned out fantastic.  I used some no cook Molisano noodles that I haven't tried before and they were great.  I will buy them again for sure.  I mixed frozen spinach into ricotta cheese with grated parmesan and that was my veggie bonus layer.  The rest just tomato sauce and cheese.  I still have some left in my freezer.  Yes I always make too much food.  I never know what will turn out and what won't and who can eat what so I make more just in case.  I also wanted to have the leftover lasagna for myself because I don't make it often just for myself.  My friend lent me her Pro Catering Chafing dish that took up a lot of space on the counter but freed up my oven at least to make other things.

As part of a Gastropost Mission Challenge I had to make something with Walmart Canada's Brownie Mix and Wine Gums so kind of as late as I could make it I decided to make a Mocha Coconut Ugly Sweater Brownie Cake.  I had it at the party but didn't serve it up because I baked it too long and the bottom was a bit burnt so it was kind of dry.  Nobody was hungry anyway since I had so many other treats but it looked nice.

Along with the Ugly Sweater Cake I had an Ugly Sweater Contest where I encouraged my friends to dress very festive and I had a prize.  My friend Fabian won with his handmade sweater decor and his festive socks and slippers.  He was determined to win.
He won a Starbucks Ugly Sweater Gingerbread Men cookies, Dufflet's Cigar chocolates, Smores and chocolate crisps.  He was very happy as you can see. Oh and also a little ugly sweater ornament.
I made a whole assortment of sweet treats like Chocolate Chip cookies, chocolate covered apricots, Peppermint bark, Coconut macaroons, cinnamon roasted almonds and my friends mom's cookies, and there was lot's of chocolates too.

One of the things I made that I will make again was Ricardo's recipe for a Cheeseball.  It was so easy and it was so good.  Only a few ingredients,  Cream cheese, sharp cheese like cheddar, jalapeno and green onions.  It's all blended and rolled into crushed pecans.  I sampled it at a get together with Ricardo and liked it and I will make it again maybe next year and skip some of the other cheeses.

It was a lot of fun and for the first time I still had energy at the end of the party.  For me that's a successful party and my place wasn't a huge mess of wrapping paper everywhere this time.
As you can see some of my friends ditched their ugly sweaters before the party ended and I was the only one left wearing the Ugly sweater, although I was smart and most of it was just pinned on so I eventually took off the pins and just had a red cardigan and now it's just back to a regular sweater.

My place is all cleaned up again and feels a little less cluttered.  I want to encourage you to think outside the Shopping Mall and rethink Holiday gift giving.  Some of my friends did bring me gifts but mostly gift cards and a Starbucks mug and some other small things that will get used up.

I had to rethink my budget, and in the process helped the environment I think.  I want to make 2016 a year of less waste.  Less wasted money, food, stuff and time.  I hope I have inspired you to do the same or at least have an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party next year.

From me and my friends may you have a Very Happy Holiday and a Fantastic New Year!


Monday, December 21, 2015

St. Hubert introduces "Appy Hour" Poutine Bites

I was given a couple of boxes of St. Hubert's new Poutine Bites to sample recently. It's their new"Appy Hour" quick heat and serve appetizer.  They are what they call an #insideoutpoutine.

They are bite size quick to make appetizers with mashed potatoes coated in breadcrumbs and stuffed with cheese and gravy.  Less mess and you can eat them with your fingers even.

All you have to do is either quickly deep fry them or you heat them in the oven.  I heated them in the oven for about 15 minutes.  You cook them from frozen so they are great to stash in your freezer in case you don't have enough food or someone drops in unexpectedly.  You never know.  I was surprised that the box didn't even take up much space in my freezer which is tiny and always full.

I served them up at my Holiday party on the weekend.   They don't come with a dipping sauce but I served them with a bit of BBQ Sauce on the side.

My friend's 1 year old daughter even had one.  For her tiny fingers and mouth it wasn't a one bite but more of a squish and eat a bit.  But she seemed to like it.  I think she was trying to figure out what it was since she just started eating real food.

So if you are looking for more time to spend with friends and family during the holidays and still have a stress free Holiday dinner party then this is a good way to start it off.  You don't have to have a lot of culinary skills to present a cool looking platter.  Just a baking tray an oven and a serving platter and some toothpicks is all you need to get this out to your guests in a hurry.

Look out for them in your freezer section of your grocery store soon.

They are also great for Football and other sports parties and also kids birthday parties since they don't leave a trail of gravy like traditional poutine does.  They would probably also be a great after school snack for starving teenagers.

For more on what's new with St. Hubert follow them on their Social Media:
Facebook: /sthubert
Twitter: @StHubert_Can
Instagram: @StHubert_Can

*Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Poutine bites were provided by Group St-hubert, Retail Division and I am being compensated monetarily for this post but all of the opinions in this post are my own.

Starving Foodie's top 10 Party Hosting Tips

My Top 10 Tips for Hosting a Party

I thought I would put together a list of my Top Tips for Entertaining that I have learned over the years hosting parties in my home and also things I learned attending other people's parties, blogger events and in studying Event Management at Humber College.

Pick a Theme or a reason to host a party.  People will ask and it will give them a better idea of what to expect.  Example:  I just had an Ugly Sweater Party (post to come).  That indicated that it was a relaxed party and people were encouraged to wear something festive and I even offered a prize for the best effort. And make a list.

Try and set the mood with the decor as much as you are able to.  Arrange the furniture if you can to let people sit or stand and have space to move around.  For the holidays I really like the battery pack LCD christmas lights.  Especially the white ones that are little and can be tucked into things to create sparkle and ambiance.  Might not be great for selfies but it's very festive and adds great ambiance.
Try and keep colors to a maximum of 3 main colors otherwise it looks like you just threw things you could find together.  Safe colors are always, silver, gold, white and red.  Red can be for the holidays and valentines day and even Halloween if you know what I mean.

I can't tell you how many parties I have gone to that have only had beer or wine.  I don't drink either and always appreciate it if people have bottled water or other beverages available.  I always like to have an assortment of Beer, wine and plain water and I like to do a fruit infused water and a juice.  I also have a whole assortment of flavours of tea.  I could make coffee but it seems like people prefer cold drinks with their food.
Set up a bar area where people are able to get refills on their drinks or water and also if you are busy greeting people or organizing the food they don't have to wait for you to serve them a drink.

What I have learned over the years is that nobody shows up at the same time and you need to be able to have some food set up and ready for people to nibble on when they arrive and wait for all the guests to arrive.  I love a good cheeseboard but don't forget that there are a lot of people that are gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant or don't eat pork products for religious reasons.  So if you are going to set up cheese and charcuterie make sure you add some assorted nuts and dried fruits.
The cheese is best when it is softened for about a half an hour but don't leave soft cheeses out for a long time as they can develop bacteria very quickly.   Sometimes it's hard to judge.  The last time I had the cheeseboard ready and people didn't show up until an hour after the start time.  This time I didn't have time to set up all the cheese but got help from one of the guests to set the rest of it up.

After taking a food handlers course I learned how important it is to keep food at the proper temperature.  Don't leave your party food out for hours.  Try to not leave hot or cold food out for more than an hour.  You don't want to be that person that makes your guests sick from the food.
Take the food away and serve up the next course after no more than an hour.  For my Holiday party I borrowed a Pro Catering sized Chafing dish that could fit 2 large try inserts.  I had one with Mac and Cheese and one with Lasagna.  I also had a Crockpot that had meatballs and guests were able to return for seconds and the food was kept warm.  One thing I really dislike is where people cook it all in different stages and then just place it all on a table like a Potluck and half of the food is cold. Not only does it taste bad it's a food safety thing.

Try and have all of your serving dishes and utensils ready for your food.  Also have some platters, bowls and serving spoons and knives handy in case people bring things that they need a dish for.  Case in point.  My friend brought a chickpea salad and needed a bowl.  Another friend brought a cake and it needed a serrated knife. Be prepared for unexpected dishes.  Lay out the appropriate utensil for the dish it is supposed to be used for.  Cheeseboard has special cheese knives and spreaders.  Casseroles require large spoons.  Bread, don't forget the serrated knife.  It's common sense but you would be surprised on how many people forget about this. It happens a lot more when you host a Potluck because most people just bring the food and don't think about the serving part.

Try and see what dietary restrictions people have and try to accommodate as much as you can or inform them what the menu is so that they can bring something or are prepared in advance.
I like to make things from scratch but I always seem to run out of time to make all the stuff I want since I have limited space in bother my fridge and counter.  It's ok to use some store bought convenience items to simplify your prep and make your time management easier.
St. Hubert Poutine Bites

There are a lot of fun appetizers you can pick up that you can just heat up and serve.  At my Holiday Party I tried St. Hubert's new "Appy Hour" Poutine Bites, #insideoutpoutine, mashed potatoes with cheese and gravy inside them.  They were very quick to heat and serve and something different and bite sized.  Even my friends 1 year old was able to eat one.
Don't forget to have a variety of foods here too for the people with restricted diets.  But also you are not a restaurant and you don't have to make 20 different meals.  Just make sure you provide options if you can.

I have found that the best parties are all about the people and if they are like minded even if they have different backgrounds and ages.  Invite people you know but sprinkle in new people but make sure that you either introduce the new people to each other or let people know who the people are in advance and how you know them so that everyone feels comfortable.  Also if people can't respect your time and show up at the end of your party and expect everyone to accommodate them then it's your choice to not invite them to other parties.  Also if people like to be the centre of attention or dominate all conversations it sort of puts a damper on everyone feeling like they are participating.  It's challenging if they are friends and family but hopefully it will all work out if you get the mix right. And what about kids? Can you keep you space safe for them?

This applies to 2 different areas.  Keep the details of your event clear.  With your start and end times, the location and how to get there.  TTC or Parking info if needed.  What to bring or wear if it is a themed event.
Also keep your space clear.  I have a small space and I try really hard to clear things away before the next courses now because it leaves a lot less of a pile up at the end of the night.  If you have space to store the dirty dishes and deal with them after the party or you can get rented dishes or hire help then that's great but if not consider disposable dishes and cutlery.  They are a lot nicer than they used to be and trust me you don't want to spend hours washing all the dishes and serving platters by hand after the party.  The older I get the more important this becomes.  People don't care that they had their food on a disposable plate if it's a nice one and the food is good.  People remember a mess and bad food and people they don't like but if you have a small gathering under 6 then go for it and you can do a sit down with all the proper place settings.  Consider the space and the amount of people and if you are going to be doing the cleanup all by yourself or you have a bunch of people to help.

At the end of your event there are a couple of things that you need to keep in mind.
Are they ok to get home or are they intoxicated or extremely tired.  Consider a way of dealing with this.  If you are having a house party sometimes you have a lot of food left and some people would love to take some home.  Have ziploc bags, tupperware or aluminum foil at the ready in case they want to take something home.

This happens a lot with dessert because people are too full.
Make sure you say goodbye to everyone when they are leaving and thank them for coming.
A nice touch is if you have a small token gift for them to take when they leave.  I always forget because my friends come and go at different times.  I had candy canes and little baggies with tea on a small table in the hallway and still forgot but if everyone leaves at the same time it's a lot easier.  It never happens in my case and as one friend put it there is an "after party" of stragglers that will hang out after most of the people have left.

I could probably write a whole lot more things I have learned over the years but these are pretty important to making a party seem like it's a snap to host.  My friends have come to expect me to have a Holiday party and start to ask me about it  weeks before December.  Last year I skipped it because the year before I spent 2 weeks prepping and days afterward getting things back in order.  That's why I keep trying to change it up and find better ways so that I can enjoy the party too.

And yes the most important thing is that you are able to enjoy the party that you are hosting or what's the point of doing it.

I would love to go all out and do as much as I can and as much as my body will let me do.  I like to entertain when people enjoy it and appreciate the effort that goes into trying to create a great meal and a great party.  If people are ungrateful stop inviting them or just stop doing it.

I wasn't going to host a party this year but I had a reason to that made sense for me.

So I hope these tips are helpful.  I know it's a long one but I think these things are common sense until I see that people don't know how to do them.

One last tip from my guests comments.  If you bring beer or wine to a party or food you don't take it back with you unless the host tells you to take it.

And one last from me.  Don't bring the host things they don't have space for or don't need.  Find out what they need and bring that.

Go forth and Party and Enjoy!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS and Don't drink and Drive.

*Disclaimer:  St.-Hubert's Poutine Bites were sponsored by Group St.-Hubert, Retail Division and I have been compensated for the product but the opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Mocha Coconut Ugly Sweater Brownie Cake

For the past few years I have been taking photos of different weekly challenges for Gastropost.  Gastropost is part of Postmedia who own the National Post.  Every week a few photos are chosen to appear in the Gastropost section of the Saturday edition of the National Post in Toronto and versions across Canada as well.

Recently the team at Gastropost chose 8 of us Gastropost Bloggers to complete a sponsor Challenge for the Holidays.


We were given a couple of different items from a couple of different sponsors.

I was given a Brownie Mix and Wine gums from Walmart Canada.

After scratching my head to come up with an idea of what to do with these items I decided to tie them into the Holiday Party Theme I am doing for a party with friends this weekend.


What I did to transform and turn the products into a Holiday Treat?

I decided to make a Mocha Coconut Brownie Cake.
I knew I wanted to frost it with Coconut so it made sense to compliment the flavours of a chocolate brownie mix with Espresso flavour and coconut.

I tried to turn the wine gums into stained glass ornaments but that didn't work out as well as I would have hoped so I just used the Wine gums as decoration for the Brownie Cake.

I decided to make it round instead of the traditional square brownies to make it look more like a snowy cake and also so that I can cover it on a cake stand.  A practical reason for sure.

Directions for the Brownie:

I added about a tablespoon of Espresso powder to the mix because it enhances the chocolate flavour.
I also added about 3 tablespoons of shredded coconut to the mix.
I added the required water and 2 eggs but had to substitute the vegetable oil for Olive Oil but I wouldn't suggest this.  I didn't have any vegetable oil and didn't have time to run out to get some.  I probably would have substituted in Coconut oil if I had some and I know that would have further enhanced the flavour.

I mixed it up and then baked it.   There are directions on the box to tell you how long to cook it.   I tried to do the toothpick test to see if it comes out clean and cooked it longer but I think because I used Olive oil and added the coconut it was a bit too long and the edges burnt but these things happen sometimes.  I just cut off the brown edges when i frosted the brownie.  It takes a bit of time to bake and you have to cool it completely before you frost it.

For the Frosting:

I whipped up some white buttercream using just a couple of sticks of softened butter and a couple of cups of icing sugar and added coconut extract to it to boost the coconut flavour.

Because I only had the one box I couldn't make another one so I had to try and get it right the first time around.

I frosted the cooled brownie with the white buttercream and then added shredded coconut to make it look like snow.   I added red food coloring to the little bit of leftover buttercream and piped the outline of a sweater on the cake.

I added colored sprinkles to the inside of the sweater outline and then added a few whole and cut wine gums for the buttons on the sweater.   I also added wine gums to the border of the brownie around the edges to tie it all together.

And Voila,  and Ugly Christmas Brownie Cake.

I wanted to cut it and show a slice of it but then I would ruin the surprise for my friends  at my Holiday Party on the weekend.   So you will have to trust me that it looks good on the inside and is very chocolatey.

I will post a photo of a cut piece on my Instagram account @lindamatarasso once I cut it this sunday.

Thank you to Walmart Canada for the goodies and thank you to Gastropost for organizing a few of us crafty Bloggers.  You can follow along on Twitter and Instagram to see what the others have done by using the hashtag #GastropostHoliday.

I hope to have more photos with the Brownie cake after the weekend so look out for more soon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Jamie Oliver's Italian Restaurant opening in Toronto

Jamie Oliver is opening his first Jamie's Italian Restaurant opens in Toronto on Sunday December 6th, 2015 but I got a special preview tasting invite from my fellow Food Revolution Ambassador,  friend Denise,  owner of Petits Chefs Academy in Vaughan to join her and her staff for lunch at Jamie's Italian at Yorkdale Mall today.  The restaurant is training it's staff this week and they have invited a few people to sample the food and give them feedback and get their staff used to the menu and the operations of the restaurant.
The staff are extremely exhausted as they have been working night and day training and getting things ready for the official opening on the 6th.  Appropriate date for the 6ix don't you think?

The sign out in front of the restaurant isn't up yet but there is a huge photo and sign at the side beside the entrance to the mall.  The interior is completely ready and is gorgeous and spacious.  With the bright teal blue bar seats contrasting the rustic wood interior, the 2 story feels both warm and airy with the light spilling in from the large storefront windows.  We were seated at the back near their pasta making station which doesn't have natural light so my photos are a bit yellow from the lighting so it doesn't do the food much justice so you will have to take my word for it that it looks much better in real life.

The staff are both exhausted and excited for the opening.  They are all very friendly and accommodating.  Denise and I briefly spoke to Jamie's partner Chef Rob Gentile of Buca and Bar Buca and the person responsible for making sure that the restaurant runs at Jamie's standards.  We also met Chef Francisco and the General Manager who were all interested in feedback to make sure they get everything right before the general public walk in the door.

There were 5 of us there to sample some of the menu and we decided to all pick different things so that we could all share and try a lot of different items on the menu.  We pretty much ate about 75 percent of the menu I think.

Some of the things we tried included:

  • Rabbit Cassarece
  • Fried Polenta,
  • Shrimp linguine
  • Pear and Prociutto salad
  • Mushroom Fritti
  • Arancini
  • Chicken puttanesca
  • Steak and frites
  • Jamie's Italian sausage Tagliatelle

and we demolished the whole dessert menu of:
  • Tiramisu
  • Sorbetto Gelato
  • Panna Cotta with Blueberry and raspberry sauce
  • Affogato
  • Lemon Meringue cheesecake pie
  • Extreme Brownie with ice cream and popcorn

My favourite dishes were the Chicken puttanesca with a great smokey flavour.  I didn't try the Arancini but they looked good.  Jamie's Italian Sausage Tagliatelle had great flavour too.

My favourite dessert was the Extreme Brownie which tasted kind of like a flourless chocolate cake.  Not too sweet but full dark rich chocolate flavour.  I also really liked the Lemon Meringue pie.
Denise pretty much inhaled the Affogato so I think she liked that too.

There were a couple of menu items I would have liked to try but they had sold out already but I hope to return to try some other things in the new year.

They are still working out the kinks of a new restaurant and are extremely focused on getting quality control right at this time and they want to have everything perfected by the weekend.  They have 150 staff who have been working really hard during the training period and I hope they all get a bit of rest before the opening because it's going to be an extremely busy place.  It's pretty much the best restaurant choice at the mall and as Chef Gentile put it he has been eating at the food court during the building process and he is really happy that the restaurant is finally up and running.  

Jamie's Italian Canada is located beside the Crate and Barrel at Yorkdale Mall (Dufferin Street) in Toronto, Canada.  It's the first Canadian restaurant chain for Jamie Oliver.  

I don't think Jamie will be around for the opening as he was just in town recently but the staff are all pretty excited at the fact that he might show up at any time when he comes to town.


Jamies Italian Yorkdale Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

*Disclaimer:  Our meal was complimentary but all of the opinions and photos are my own.  

Saturday, November 28, 2015

20 Foodie Gifts from the One of a Kind Show

The One of a Kind Show and Sale is back at the Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place and I went for the media preview on thursday morning to check it out.  

I picked out 20 Gifts you can buy for the FOODIES on your Christmas List.

Who doesn't love food gifts?

A one stop shop.  Most of these things are food but there are a couple of other fun things foodies would appreciate.  

Besides all the Artisan foods you can get all kinds of arts and crafts and there is lots of pottery to pick up for people to eat and drink all this food from.

Deck you foodie's halls with all of these goodies at the show.


1.  Fancy Jelly Tree
2.  Better Than Sex coated fruit and nuts
2.  Forbes Wild Foods Mustards and pickled vegetables
3.  Foie Gras Pate
4.  Hot sauces and marinades
5.  Crab and Lobster dip
6.  Macaroon soaps
7.  Monkey Butters - Dark Chocolate Cherry
8.  Distill Cocktail Kit
9.  Shut Ur Pie Hole - Apple Pie in a Jar
10. Chocolate and Caramel covered Apples
11. Hot Chocolate Dippers
12. Multi Flavour Nougat candy
13. Honey Pepper, Tandoori and other flavour Beef Jerky
14. Cheese shape Soap
15. Dehydrated vegetable Framed Art

Non Food - Foodie Gifts

16.  Retro cartoon printed Dish towels
17.  Chef and Cook ornaments
18.  Quotes and photo coasters
19.  Artisan hand made pottery - Not made in China
20.  Recycled Beer bottle glasses

 There are a whole lot of other food treats and really cool artwork that you can pick up as a special gift for those hard to buy for people in your life.  Get a One of a Kind Gift that they will remember.

One stop shop.

One of a Kind Show and Sale

Show runs from November 28 to December 6, 2015
Weekdays & Saturdays 10am to 9pm  Sundays 10am to 6pm  Late night shopping on Thursday Dec 3

Friday, November 27, 2015

President's Choice Holiday PopUp

President's Choice has created something really new and fun for a large grocery retailer.  They created a Holiday Environment Pop Up on King Street West at Blue Jays Way.The really great part is that it runs for a couple of weeks before Christmas and it's totally FREE to check out and to sample bites of their special holiday PC food items.It's closed on mondays but open until 7 most nights and there are also special events there in the evenings that you have to sign up for.  I stopped by after I attended another event to check it out.  When I got there I was immediately drawn to the Nutcracker's in the window display.  It's located on the corner of the block in a pretty large space.  There is a red carpet style entrance and when you walk in you are asked to sit on a large bench while they organize a certain amount of people for the tour.  It takes about 20 to 30 minutes to go through it in groups of about 8 I think.  The entrance is beautifully decorated in holiday decor and then when you walk in you are brought to 4 different rooms.  The first room we entered had a moving train set up that moved through the town space and had places of food samples as the cargo.  It was so cool and impressive.  We sampled the cherry chocolate cake and the waffles with cookie butter and bacon maple syrup. We were then let into the Mingle room where it was decorated in greens and lighted acrylic trees displaying the dishes.  The appetizers where from the Thai appetizer collection and we also sampled some Gochichang chicken wings, butter chicken poutine and 3 of the different Thai appetizers which were all very good.
The next room was the Dinner room where we sampled a beet pasta, a piece of country ham, brussel sprouts and a potato stack.  Then we had the vanilla bean cheesecake with raspberry sauce.  We were pretty full by this time.  The last room was the Gift Room.  I thought this room was really cute with wall to wall colored boxes and were given the choice of their chocolate covered popcorn in a little clear box and another sweet treat but I can't remember what it was unfortunately.

The space is gorgeous and the fact that they sample all of these products at one time to showcase how you can entertain for the season is a great idea.   You can't purchase the foods at the pop up space but they will tell you where you can get them near you if you ask.  
I would totally recommend checking it out while you can just to see how cool the space is even. You can get great decor tips from this space and I would love to see other big retailers do something like this for the holidays.  It's fun and I know it's all marketing and meant to drive sales but it's a fun thing to do.  Be prepared as I heard that there are lineups sometimes and I am sure there will be more as people hear about it being there.  Go hungry and enjoy.

This is not a sponsored post.  I went on my own and the opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Holiday Entertaining Tips from Ricardo

RICARDO'S Entertaining Tips

I had the pleasure of spending a great couple of hours on a lovely sunny day in an office overlooking the Lake with the amazing Chef and Entrepreneur Ricardo Larivee a well known TV personality from Quebec.  A select few food bloggers, writers, food industry people were invited to chat with Ricardo about Holiday Entertaining in an informal sit down chat.  Ricardo was there to answer any questions we had and also discuss some of his tips and tricks and where he wants to go in the future.  He said he would like to be "the Celine Dion of food" meaning he wants to be a Canadian representative for food around the world.  Kind of a cool thing to aspire to.  He also wants to share the knowledge and collaborate with people like all of us bloggers to move toward the future and be ahead of the curve of where food is going and also the media industry with his magazine Ricardo, his online website and his products and any future TV or other kind of media.
Who knows what's next but he wants to know and wants to be ready for it.

We enjoyed a lovely spread of food that is featured in the Holiday edition of the Ricardo magazine. Appetizers that your guests can enjoy as the arrive at your party.  They could also be the kinds of things for drop in guests.

Some of the things we sampled were:

  • Local Quebec cheese and cracker platters
  • Fresh mixed crudite with from scratch mayonnaise
  • A Pecan crusted cheese ball
  • General Tao mini sausages
  • Chocolate covered apricots and almonds
  • Wine cocktail

I always struggle to with hosting parties even though my friends think it's easy for me.
I asked Ricardo what to do about guests that don't show up on time and have multiple food restrictions.  He said "I don't know I don't have friends like that".  Actually he said that he can get pretty tough on the start of his parties and how long he keeps the food out.

Some of Ricardo's tips for entertaining:
  1. Have food that people can nibble on and serve themselves when they arrive at the party.
  2. Only give people about a half an hour to arrive before you start serving the main dishes.
  3. Don't put out all of the food at the same time.  Start with the nibbles and then remove them after an hour and put out the next course.  
  4. Never leave a course out for more than an hour.  It's best for food safety and also for clean up and keeping the party moving.
  5. Serve them wine or have some pre mixed drinks that they can serve themselves but limit it and make sure they have food before they start drinking.
  6. If you know they are going to bring you wine ask them to bring specific wines that you want that will go with the food you are serving at the party.  
  7. If they have so many restrictions you might suggest that they bring something that will be safe for them.
  8. You decide on what you want to serve and you don't have to cater to everyone but he also takes notes on what people like and don't like and makes changes the following years.
  9. He generally invites the same people so he knows what they like.
  10. Put the food away after each course is done but let your guests know that there is some in the fridge if they would like some more.
  11. Don't make too many things.  
  12. Keep it simple.
  13. Think about the kinds of appliances that you are going to need to make all the food.  
  14. Use crockpots to keep things warm or free up on appliances.
  15. Make as much stuff in advance as you can and you can freeze or make ahead a lot of the food.
  16. Ricardo heats his plates in the oven to keep the food warm longer.
  17. If you can't find unsalted pistachio's you can rinse salted ones and then roast in the oven to dry them out.  He recommends toasting all nights to bring out the flavours.
  18. He doesn't do the dishes until after the party so that he can spend more time with guests.
  19. He believes that the one job the guests have is to entertain themselves and bring the party.
  20. He makes sure he has everything ready so that he can greet his guests and they can make themselves at home when he is greeting other guests.

I must say that I have tried to do a lot of these things but I am going to try a few other of his tips.  My challenge is that I have a small kitchen and no dishwasher so there is only so much space for the dishes but if I host a party this year I am going to consider some of these tips and make a few adjustments.  

I hope some of these tips help you enjoy your holiday gatherings with your friends and family.
Ricardo and I wish you a very happy holiday entertaining season.

Ricardo and me