Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More Batali tools...

The obsession continues... I've had yet another dream of Mario Batali, this time we were making risotto together using his nifty little tools. We prepped using his measuring cups, stirred using this risotto stirrer and made it in his risotto pan (which I'm just loving, although I'm not so sure that the handle is so necessary for anything less than polenta.

Hopefully this obsession my brain has with Batali will pass ~ I think seeing his endorsement of Nascar will do it for me, I just don't get that whole car thing...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

You know you have a problem when...

I think I have a food problem. Or at least a food addiction. It rears its head (I won't say ugly 'cause food only comes ugly in a few ways - monkfish, lobsters, crabs, celery root and broccoli) every now and again despite my best efforts to control it. Today it actually rose up twice.

First, it came overnight. I woke up in a cold sweat after just having had a dream where I was having dinner across the table from Mario Batali - a dinner that I'd cooked. A dinner of pasta that I'd made and he'd just shown up to see if it was up to scratch. I don't remember what he said, or did, but I remember thinking that I really liked his orange Crocs (I have a black pair - I rarely wear colour, you see...) and that it matched his hair. All the while, he was teaching me how to make proper bolognese sauce (he hated that I'd made Biba Caggiano's version instead of his, although they're basically quite the same, differing primarily in execution) and tossing around pieces of rabbit in some kind of caper and rosemary white wine sauce. Anyway, I woke up a bit discombobulated but nonetheworse for wear. That's the last time I read Food & Wine magazine before bed!

Second, I have become completely addicted to Quesada. I have to have it nearly every week - and sometimes I crave it so badly that I'd chew off my own right arm and have them grill it for me ~ burrito con Eric! (sorry, I just made that up, I know nothing about speaking Spanish...). I think it all started when I first had a Carne Asada Super Burrito at El Balazo when visiting a friend many years ago in San Ramon. Nothing has ever since come close to that complex and hauntingly delicious experience - that combination of meat, cheese, salsas to create the perfect umami experience. Until a few weeks ago when my boyfriend took me to Quesada and gustatory heaven.

I went back there tonight, in fact, after just missing the opportunity to have it last night when I went to meet the boyfriend for dinner (had the Tuscan Chicken Quizno's instead... Sensing a "Food Places Starting with the Letter Q" phase here...). When I knew that I was going to be on my own for dinner tonight I began to involuntarily salivate ~ I knew I was going to get my small grilled steak burrito fix. And fix it, I did. With cilantro-lime rice, slow cooked pinto beans, grilled sliced steak, chipotle tomato salsa, cilantro, jack cheese, chopped jalapeno, red onion, sour cream and guacamole all rolled into a very soft, very fresh tortilla; my day was now complete. I wouldn't normally call the act of loving a particular food and wanting to eat it once in a while a problem but its getting to the point where after polishing off my combo, I seriously contemplated getting another one to store for later. How bad could it be if I just kept one in the freezer for Quesada emergencies?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Little nibblies...

I've been collecting some interesting quick little bits of intel from different sources and rather than round them up on something like or something, I'll link to them now and again on here so that everyone can find them...

First, thanks to Pat for sending the link to the George Brown College Food and the Media certificate program. This is exactly what I've been looking for with regards to getting training for food styling. They are holding their next information night on Tuesday August 29, 2006 - I'll definitely be attending.

Second, thanks to Maki for pointing out this link to Nudo ~ several groves of olive trees in Tuscany need adopting and Nudo makes it happen. For 65 pounds a year plus shipping and postage you get the product of your tree for the year, including organic oil in the spring and soaps and more oils in the autumn. Not bad if you're into that kind of thing (and if you're not, you're SO on the wrong page here! ;-) The site is pretty cute, well-designed and even has a map and photographs of the trees available for adoption.

Third, I've got some older posts on my other blog, Virtualzen, about cooking and things. I'm thinking to import them here if there's enough interest. Drop a comment line and let me know if you'd like to read them (seeing that Virtualzen isn't really everyone's cup of tea, there's full warning here that I am VERY candid about my life and use language that may not be suitable for all readers or workplaces).

Cook's Illustrated Recipe Test: Pound Cake

Several months ago, after perusing the Cook's Illustrated website for some information on pans, I'd noticed that they had a link for recipe testers. Being culinarily curious, I signed up and promptly forgot about it. Until they sent me my first recipe on Friday to test. I've had a bit of a busy weekend up till this afternoon and the timing worked out perfectly to make a nice little cake during a well-deserved and welcome lull in the day.

After pulling together the ingredients (nothing difficult), sliding out the KitchenAid and a bit of mixing, folding and smoothing; the cake was in the oven and the apartment filled with the amazing scents that only butter, sugar and vanilla can properly combine to create.

About an hour and a bit later, I removed the cake from the oven, let it cool whilst I went to have dinner and came home to have a nice little dessert. Wow, talk about a nice crumb, rich and moist. Dense but light enough to be a bit spongy - perfect for absorbing my favourite topping - sour cherries with Port (I'll be making those again this year when the sour cherries come into season!).

Look for the recipe in an upcoming issue of Cook's Illustrated - I'm sure it'll be a big hit! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, June 22, 2006


Summerlicious. Yes, its that time of year again when we all dial and redial and redial again ~ all in an effort to get a reservation at some of Toronto's best and best known restaurants. We're not talking the newest of the new, but perhaps some of the finest dining we have on offer.

This year, that extends to 130 restaurants with $20 lunches and $35 dinners (with a few lower priced exceptions thrown in there). I had one or two places in mind that I'd like to eat at but had completely forgotten until today that the reservation lines were open! Thanks to Sam at Becks&Posh who somehow triggered my memory, I looked up the website, downloaded a few sample menus and made my selections. A few short minutes later I had made two reservations and was disappointed to find that my final selection was actually booked solid. So, my boyfriend and I (pending his availability from his employer) will be dining on July 18th at Centro and July 25th at Truffles at the Four Seasons. The menus are described thusly:


Crab & avocado salad, baby arugula & citrus vinaigrette
Orecchiette pesto with smoked chicken & crumbled goat cheese

Peppered tilapia filet, tomato, caper, & black olives with lemon mash
Oven roasted Australian lamb loin, ratatouille vegetables & mint aioli

Vanilla bean panna cotta, berry compotes
Strawberry sorbet shortcake


Watermelon Gazpacho, White Balsamic Granite
Grilled Asparagus and Summer Bean Salad, Deviled Quail Eggs

Pan Seared Rainbow Trout, Truffled Sweet Corn & Clam Chowder
Grilled Hanger Steak, Warm Potato and Pancetta Salad, Horseradish Creme Fraiche

Rosemary Panna Cotta, Grilled Peaches, Vanilla Mascarpone
Chilled Blueberry Parfait, Minted Blueberry Mojito Sauce

I have a good idea of what I'd like to have at each meal, but I may just surprise myself and have something different. I'll be sure to try and snap some photos of the meals but don't hate me if I'm too shy to whip out the camera - it could make for an interesting evening!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Food Styling?

I went out to coffee after work with my friend Kathy. We're both in the midst of a career transition/evolution/dreaming phase - she's planning a bit more drastic change than I am, but we're still here to support one another along the way.

For those who don't know me well, I work in a marketing agency the primary product of which is CPG design and production. In other words, we create the packages for a lot of food, hardlines, health and beauty aids and beverages that you might purchase in your local supermarket. I, myself, work as a project manager - co-ordinating with clients to ensure that the work is done to their satisfaction - on time and on budget (sometimes... anyone who works in this industry will know what I mean).

One of the best roles that I play comes when we do a photo shoot in our onsite studio and I get to work with the photographers, the client, the creative director - and most fun of all, the food stylist. I've worked with some of Toronto's top food stylists and photographers - award winners in some cases - and the thing I really liked most was the food styling. I really loved the photography at first, but seeing how the food stylist worked hand in hand with the photographer and the creative director to bring an illustrated vision to life are the most fascinating moments of my job.

So... how does this relate to my transitional state? Well, I'm thinking about a career in food styling. I'm doing some research and I'll be making some calls to see if anyone is taking on an assistant or apprentice. Its not as though I'm expecting heaps of cash for the job straight away, but I know for a fact that the going rate for a top stylist here in Toronto can be well over $800 a day (and the, well, less talented? they're still making $400 - 500 a day). I guess in posting this, I'm wondering if anyone who reads this blog has any kind of experience or advice for someone wanting to get into the industry. Feel free to either comment or send me an email - I'd love to hear from you!


Thanks to Apartment Therapy's Sara Kate I have just uncovered a serious flaw in my pantry. I am missing one very essential ingredient for so many of my favourite dishes! I'm plum out of capers! I have none in the fridge; not one pickled little bud. I have none in the pantry, not one salt cured crunchy morsel. I don't even know if my boyfriend likes them or not, but he'll learn if he doesn't already like them.

I have loved capers for a very long time, although how I got there is a bit of foodie lore. I used to work with this fabulous woman, we'll call her Nina (simply cause that was/is her name). Nina and I found in each other a complete fascination for all good food, to the point where we took our cooking classes and baking courses together. We even took a French cuisine demo class together, even though we were really not impressed that it was demo only. (Actually, the chef pulled us aside and told us off one night because we were rolling our eyes too much in class and smirking too much - he didn't realize, and we very smartly told him, that it wasn't him we were smirking at - it was this know it all snotty woman sitting in front of us who simply had to take over half the class time with her gastronomic tales. We frankly didn't pay to hear a 50 year old divorcee regale us with episodes from her dining days, we paid to be instructed on how to properly prepare sole meunier and daube de beouf etc... Situation corrected, chef told the woman to stop talking so much and we both got an A for speaking our minds... But I digress, back to the story...)

Nina and I used to go shopping in Chinatown after dim sum (she introduced me to chicken feet and other nasty looking but tasty things), buying longan berries and chinese broccoli and oyster flavour sauce and 5 spice powder and other cool stuff. But on class nights we would meet early, eat dinner that we prepared for each other and then go to class. One night, she brought smoked salmon, freshly baked bagels, cream cheese, sliced red onion and capers for a bit of a breakfast theme. I'd never had anything more exotic on my bagel than Philly so this was a bit of an experiment for the young, burgeoning foodie. I'd never experienced that briny, pungent, delicate saltiness from a caper before this and suddenly I felt as though my tastebuds had finally matured and become fully awakened. This was a definite revelation that there was more to tasting things besides salty, sweet, sour and spicy - this was a food thing that I could see working in concert with all the above - and more.

Fastforward a few years to my second trip to Australia. I was having lunch at Gecko's Café at the Ayers Rock Resort and ordered their smoked salmon risotto on the recommendation of the server. It came garnished with crunchy deep fried capers, crispy red onion strips and chunks of smoked salmon that were lightly heated with thin ribbons of lemon zest woven in and through the delicate grains of rice. I can only imagine the look on my face when I went to absolute gustatory heaven in one bite. I've since recreated it many times and for those of you who wish to have the recipe, I'll give you this challenge. Try making it for yourself. Make a pretty standard lemon risotto (but leave out the parmesan - Italians would never add cheese to a seafood risotto or pasta except in very specific occasions) then while its just finishing absorbing the beautiful sauce (I like to let my risotto rest about 5 minutes after adding the final bit of butter and mixing through - I find it gives it a better finished texture), then fry some red onion crescents and drain till crispy. Heat that oil up and pop in a bunch of capers (try the salt cured ones - rinse them but don't soak them that long - and make sure they are DRY or else you'll have them pop everywhere!) and remove when crispy. Don't worry about the amount of salt, remember you'll not add the parmesan so these will add that salty kick along with the salmon. Finally, mix the risotto a final time with the smoked salmon chunks, a few fried capers, some fresh lemon zest, and plate with the onions garnishing the top. Totally amazingly salty deconstructed smoked salmon goodness.

Bonus points: If you simply must have a creamier, cheesier version - add some mascarpone near the end - talk about gilding the lily!

Noshing in Montréal

For anyone who doesn't yet know, I've been participating in a few little threads over at Kitchen, by Apartment Therapy. We got into a very cool conversation about capers the other day (which has inspired a caper-filled post which I have yet to complete; patience my precious, patience!). Leeds, a contributer to the conversation, is from Montréal and had plenty to say about where to nosh and market in that fine city. Here's what we've got:

At Marché Atwater, check Premiere Moisson’s bread & (all butter) croissants. Les Douceurs du Marché for great tea selection, spices, oils etc.

Voted as having best croissants: Duc de Lorraine Patisserie, 5002 Cote des Neiges, all-butter croissants, cheeses, deli, great cafe au lait, in a bowl. It has a tearoom/terrasse; good for breakfast; close to St. Joseph's Oratory. At Marché Jean-Talon, 7070 Henri-Julien Ave.(Premiere Moisson has a shop here too), check cheese shops: Hamel, and Qui Lait Cru!?! (raw milk products, yum![And hard to find! Eric]) The excellent Le Marché des Saveurs du Quebec (All Quebec products, excellent selection, including fish, meats, patés).

Restaurants-too many to do justice. Enjoy! There’s ubiquitous Schwartz’ Smoked Meat on 'The Main'(Blvd.St. Laurent). I personally recommend Quebec Smoked Meat, 1889 rue Centre (514)935-5297; they smoke all their meats themselves, no nitrates, excellent products (no tables in the shop, they just sell you the components. Worth the detour. The rest: Smoked Meat Pete’s also got acclaim by Montrealers; it’s out of the way, but if you want to go for a nice drive: 283, 1Re Ave, L’Ile Perrot, QC. Le Cabaret du Roy is a restaurant in Old Montreal - the menu, entertainment, characters, decor, are just like it was in 16th century Quebec (Nouvelle France). Entertaining and educational.

Montréal Bagels: St. Viateur Bagel Shop, 263 St. Viateur, or Fairmont Bagel, 74 Fairmont; call for special orders such as 'all-dressed', etc.

In Old Montreal: Olive & Gourmando, 351 St. Paul, artisanal bakery
(breakfast/lunch), featuring fab brownies etc. AND on Friday and Saturday only: chocolate bread (not cake!), dark dense bread, not sweet, with a HUGE chunk of dark Valhrona chocolate baked into it! Good.

Miu-Miu: ice cream shop on St. Denis below Mt. Royal; very different flavours (mostly made with organic ingredients) features a selection of frozen soya milk ice cream.

For truly adventurous palates: at the Insectarium there is an ‘insect tasting’ featuring edible critters prepared by specialized chefs!

If you have the time and desire: La Route des Saveurs (The Flavour Trail) connects local cheesemakers, farmers and meat producers who open doors to public for tours, demos and tastings.

Book: Gastronomy and the Forest is now available in English, fusing the best of Quebec’s great outdoors & its fine cuisine, features photos & recipes for local favourites such as trout pie and caribou pot-au-feu.

Wow! That's quite the full listing! I'll have to see about adding the
Toronto-based version over the next little while!

Bon shopping, mes amis!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Soupe Glacée aux Fruits Rouges

I've recently been emailed by a very nice reader from France who lives in Lyon with his partner. His very nicely worded email (in English, although I do read and understand most French - speaking it is another matter entirely) inspired me to write back and suggest that we exchange recipes. Not only did he write back but included a recipe for a dish that I'd not had since I was a kid and recall my Polish grandmother making something very similar. I don't recall the variety of fruits in it, just cherries, but I don't think these will do any harm at all... The best part is that cherries have just started to come into season here in Toronto, evidenced by the fact that Dominion has them on sale this week for only $3.99 a pound. Sebastian went shopping yesterday and picked up a pretty big bag of them, so perhaps I'll make this soup tonight to have tomorrow evening. Thanks, Jérôme, for reminding me of this cool, oldfashioned dessert on these hot, humid nights.

Soupe Glacée aux Fruits Rouges

- 1 pound of cherries
- Pint of strawberries
- Pint of raspberries
- Pint of bilberries (can substitute wild blueberries)
- Jasmine tea
- Sugar(to taste)
- Pink peppercorns

Begin this recipe in the cooler morning for later that evening when its hot and sticky and humid. The Jasmine tea fragrance marries well with the fruits - the fresher the fruit the better the flavour of the finished soup.

Bring to a boil twice as much water as volume of cherries and add the tea. Infuse quickly and remove bags or strain so it doesn't get too strong or bitter. Add sugar to taste (make this less sweet than you would drink tea, remember the fruits have plenty of sugar, you just want a slight syrup) and the cherries. A lot of sugar will create a rather thick syrup, a little sugar a lighter syrup. Return the pot with cherries, tea and sugar to a medium low heat and simmer for 10 minutes until the water is coloured and the cherries to keep a little of their color. Remove cherries with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the syrup over medium high heat until thickened slightly, stirring contstantly to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature before placing in the refrigerator for at least three hours. Before serving, add to the syrup the reserved cherries, strawberries halved lenthwise, raspberries and bilberries. Add some pink peppercorns (can either be crushed or whole). Return to the refrigerator to chill completely and allow the syrup to permeate each berry.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Ribs, Wings and Potato Salad

Yesterday was Father's Day - day of what should have been barbeque or BBQ or barbecue for those who aren't brought to you by the letter Q. I went up to visit my parents (solo; my boyfriend has yet to meet them and he was working in any event), have a bit of a nosh and drop off his little prezzie. We were meant to have some nice pork ribs on the Q with some salad and pie for dessert but the weather just didn't co-operate. The sun was shining down and the humidity was pretty low, but the wind just didn't co-operate. Thankfully, my parents hit upon this braised rib thing they do where they boil the ribs to cook them completely before glazing and dropping on the grill for some flavour. Not gonna happen with the kind of wind we had yesterday so it was down to having them glazed in the oven - not a bad subsitute, but why they didn't think to use the indoor Jenn-Air grill they have, I'll never really get to ask.

Anyway, after a few glasses of Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush Sauvignon Blanc I volunteered to go with my Dad to pick up 5 pounds of chicken wings to add to the feast. We got 2 pounds of Creamy Caesar Parmesan, 2 pounds of Honey Jerk and 1 pound of this variety known as Canadiana (which I believe was nearly suicide pepper sauce with teriyaki on top of that - very strange but delicious nonetheless). Add to that my mum's homemade potato salad and we're talking a VERY meaty dinner that kept me well stuffed till this morning. Dessert was a nice storebought cherry pie with coffee - love me some cherry pie.

Right, so now here comes the recipe part...

Mum's Potato Salad

Take some potatoes (firm, waxy ones), clean out the eyes and scrub. Boil along with some eggs until tender (you can take the eggs out midway through when they're hardboiled). Cool both potatoes and eggs down and peel, cutting into 1/2" dice. Mix with Miracle Whip (or mayonnaise if you must), a bit of yellow mustard, a bunch of creamy horseradish sauce, salt and pepper. Add some sliced scallions if you like or minced onion if you prefer. Put into a bowl and sprinkle with some paprika - place in refrigerator for at least an hour to let the flavours come together. Eat with gusto and extra salt if you like.

See? Nothing much to it, the proportions and measurements are kind of irrelevant for this kind of dish as far as I'm concerned. This ain't no fine salade de pommes de terre et oeuves mayonnaise. This is simple, hearty and delicious potato salad to share. Give it a go!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

An interesting salad

I was at work the other day, just starting my day and drinking yet another cup of substandard but free corporate coffee and really trying to decide what the heck I was going to make for dinner. I knew I was going to be dining alone due to the boyfriend's working schedule, I wanted something a bit spicy and a bit exotic and a bit fruity... Opening up Bloglines for my morning fix of news, I found my answer in the Epicurious New Recipes RSS feed - Cucumber, Tomato and Pineapple Salad with Asian dressing. I had just bought a ton of limes, serrano chilies and new garlic, but I had a few things I had to pick up (along with some pork loin chops for grilling with my current favourite sauce/marinade - Memories of Tuscany Balsamic and Fig sauce) but nothing I couldn't find quickly.

One quick trip to the market later I had the English cucumber, vine ripened tomatoes, freshly peeled and cored pineapple (SO expensive for some reason when I could have easily and gladly done the work myself for less than half the price if they'd offered me a whole one), some mint, cilantro (mmm... fresh cilantro is a beautiful thing, isn't it?) and the ubiquitous fish sauce (I can't believe I didn't have any in my pantry! what has my stocking skill come to?)

A little bit of chopping, whisking and folding gently so as not to completely mush the very ripe veggies - a quick taste for seasoning (I found I needed a little more lime juice to get the right balance for my palate) and I set it aside to meld as I went to the rooftop to grill the pork.

Now, I'm the first to admit that when it comes to grilling, I'm really not that clued in. I'm nervous about lighting the barbeque to begin with and I'm more nervous about ensuring the doneness of the meat - so much so that I get into a bit of a panic over it. Is it better underdone and I'll just quickly zap it in the microwave or do I just let the thing char a bit longer on the grill and call it well flavoured? In this instance, I decided to put my recently acquired thumb fleshiness knowledge to the test. (I'll find the link for it somewhere, but basically its about the firmness of the pad below your thumb created by touching different parts of your fingers and comparing the feel of that to the resistance of the meat - trust me, its easier than it sounds).

Got the grilling done, plated up a nice little chop (actually, they were a great size), scooped out a bunch of salad (bit of a surprise as to how much liquid the dressing pulled out of the veggies, I'd almost suggest less salt to prevent some of this, but perhaps its the pineapple?) and ate. Holy serrano was it ever tasty! I have never really been confident in the power of mint to do anything for me but remind me of toothpaste and nasty powdery tisanes but in this instance it totally works. The bit of heat from the serrano mixed with the sweet/tart pineapple against the cool crunch of the cucumber was just amazing. It really did remind of a few things I've eaten in Vietnamese restaurants (but surprisingly, not so much Thai as I thought it would). The cilantro added that great herbal hit and the garlic (which I normally can't stand) actually just mellowed right out and blended into the background.

The second day of the salad was even better, if possible. A bit more crunch to the cucumbers now that they'd lost most of their water and became nearly picked in the asian-esque brine created by the dressing and the pineapple juices. My boyfriend took a huge bowl of it on the plane to eat for dinner, offering a taste to a colleague upon which she advised him to keep me around for a good long time (he told her I'm not going anywhere any time soon). Thanks Epicurious, for a great recipe, a terrific dish and for solidifying my relationship. Two happy thumbs up!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A nod to Well Fed (and Suzanne Goin)

I spent a good part of this absolutely stunningly gorgeously HOT day in Toronto hanging out at Indigo at the Eaton Centre. My boyfriend was off working this afternoon and evening so I took the opportunity to do one of my favourite things without him (he gets pretty bored in bookstores and cookware shops whereas I could happily while away the hours in either place). I ended up spending too much time there, as a matter of fact, causing me to be late in getting to the drycleaners to drop off some pants for him. Oh well, such is life with a cookbook addict.

I actually had popped over to The Bay first to check the prices on the Mario Batali cookware that I'd previously posted about. The 6QT pot retails for $169, the Panini Grill for $129 and the Lasagne Pan for $129 - pretty much the same prices that I'd seen at Golda's Kitchen , but then again you don't have to pay for shipping if you pick them up at The Bay. I have a whole other post about additional Batali cookware (sounds like I'm doing a commercial for them I know, but honestly I don't even have one piece of it... YET - a post for another day is how I work in marketing and branding and really find the power of a good brand irresistible - think Apple, Nike, RedBull and now Batali).

So now that I knew that getting these pans (yes, I want all three) won't break the bank I felt a bit lighter in spirit and headed straight for Indigo. I even managed to bypass the Apple Store for a change (managed by not looking directly into the glowing Apple - never look directly at it, just see it in your peripheral vision or you'll be sucked into the vortex of all that is Apple and good) and went straight to the cookbooks.

Now, I've just finished reading Julie and Julia and It Must've Been Something I Ate and I was still in the mood for food writing. Picked up a few likely candidates such as The Man Who Ate Everything (also by Jeffrey Steingarten), a few collected works on food writing from Gourmet Magazine, and this book about the Culinary Boot Camp run by the CIA (FAR too expensive for me to consider right now - I looked it up as soon as I got home... About 2 grand tuition for 5 days and that doesn't include accommodations). While they were all very interesting, I knew pretty much that I was going to go with Steingarten but then I recalled reading about Grant's success with the book Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin and went to pick it up.

There I sat in the window seat, in full public view as a tear nearly managed to escape my jaded eyes as I read each menu and experienced the perfection that each dish alone would create - and the sublime pleasure and culinary ecstasy that an entire MEAL of these dishes would create. I felt nearly sentimental as I perused the outstanding combinations of flavours, textures, ingredients and seasonality (seasonality of ingredients is what makes dining so special when its done right - and in fact, the book is organized this way) inspiring each menu.

Others have written much about how these meals would definitely take far more time than most cooks would have time for - taking into account the marketing for the ingredients, the hunting for a few special items, ensuring one has cookware up to the task but certainly not the inviting of friend round to sample, that would surely be the least onerous task involved - but the flipside is that these menus and dinners are inspired by the restaurant's Sunday menu and created by its brigade of cooks for goodness knows how many covers in one evening. From what I could tell these recipes are meant to feed 6 and are not really that difficult for the experienced and motivated cook. I, personally, would have no qualms about spending a good half day shopping for the raw ingredients and another half day in preparation for such a grand event as these meals are sure to support. Sadly, I had not enough cash on hand to purchase this lovingly written and outstandingly photographed treasure, so I placed it back on the shelf for the time being. Having said that, purchased online can save at least a third of the cover price and pretty much includes shipping so there's no real rush there.

On my way home, and even now several hours later, I am still taken with how much this book affected my sense of sharing and entertaining. I have visions of my boyfriend and I hosting dinners on Sundays for our friends that leave them sated, satisfied and substantially sloshed with equal measures of outstanding food, wine and conversation - all stemming from this lovely book.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Babbo NYC

Following my investigation into the whole Batali Pots, I've been doing a bunch of reading about the restaurant empire he has built with his business partners, including Babbo, Del Posto and a few others.

Reading this website's contents is actually pretty amazing - full of content (while being somewhat disorganized) and recipes and other cool stuff. Highly recommended.

Now, as for the REAL reason I'm interested in reading about this most hot of eating places - its STILL considered to be a difficult reservation to make and the food is meant to be second to none. Fresh ingredients used in traditional and new ways - the kinds of foods that I'd love to try and yet with none of the overly complicated messiness that sometimes can come with superstar food. I hear that its extremely difficult to get a reservation but I'm gonna try. This is indeed the place that I referred to in my last post. Have any of you eaten there? Was it difficult to get a table? Is it better to try to go mid-week?

Hook? I read a quick excerpt from The Babbo Cookbook on Amazon and I really liked what Batali had to say about his food and his restaurant, primarily that New Yorker foodies really want to eat things like tripe and cardoons that they wouldn't make for themselves at home. Line? He goes on to say that the book itself is written so that each recipe can be prepared exactly as it is served at the restaurant, complete with contorni and dolci and pre-dessert and dessert and you name it. And finally, Sinker! He includes variations for some harder to obtain ingredients and for people who want to make less complex versions of his dishes. He got me with that one. I'm going to get this cookbook for sure - I'm thinking that I'm getting a bit taken with Batali...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Mario Batali Cookware

I've been doing some research the past few days on some Italian cooking stuff. Between pasta varieties, pots and personalities I've been pretty immersed in it. I've been reading Under a Tuscan Sun (again) as I've finished reading "It Must've Been Something I Ate" and needed to pick up something new.

I've become completely enamoured of both Mario Batali's cookware and his restaurants in New York, but let's start with the cookware. In 2005 he released a 6QT pot, a panini grill and a lasagne pan (along with other accessories, I'll review those at a later date). They come in Espresso (brown), Crema (white) and his signature Persimmon (orange) - and this year he has added Pistachio (green) to the mix. I've seen all three pans at the cookware section of The Bay, originally when I was lusting over the Le Creuset sets. I originally dismissed these hefty orange numbers based on price and the "well, well - another celebrity endorsement - big freakin' deal" factor. I may have been wrong in my original assessment.

Besides the fact that I love the orange colour (the only one I've seen on display at The Bay), they are actually really well constructed, require no seasoning and man, do they weigh a ton. These really are pans that you'd be happy to leave to your children in your Last Will and Testament - "...and to little Luigi, I leave my Mario Batali cookware set - may it serve you well..." They really aren't cheap pieces that make you just want to suffer through an inadequately designed and inefficient tool. These really are made for the home enthusiast (the the point where they come with an entire instruction booklet that states quite emphatically that these are to be used at Low to Medium heat - they will conduct the heat well enough and do not require a high heat. But don't let that fool you - these pieces are constructed to go into the oven at up to 500 degrees - more than hot enough for a well roasted chicken or 3" steak.

So how much do these things cost? Well, I've done some research online and found that they are about US$100 each and about CA$150 - CA$175 depending on where you look. Golda's Kitchen in Toronto seems to have the best price including shipping so far (and they ship UPS so you know its going to be in pretty good condition when you get it).

Finally, I'm doing this - I'm comparing these to Le Creuset for an autumn timeframe purchase. I'm thinking that they are exactly what I want and need in a few new pans - and the fact that all the reviews I've read of these say exactly what I want to hear - good, even heat distribution; excellent heft and performance both on the cooktop AND in the oven - and best of all - less than half the price of Le Creuset.

Next up? Where I want to go for my birthday dinner... (hint: its in NYC and has 3 b's in the name - anyone care to hook me up with a reservation for September? ;-)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bienvenue Charlotte!

There comes a time in all of our lives when we have to do something that we're scared of doing. And sometimes we really have no choice in the matter but to suck it up (bitch) and get through it.

My biggest fear in the last little while is meeting my boyfriend's parents. While I was always quite sure that they were nice people with great personalities and an amazing sense of humour (if my boyfriend is anything to gauge it by) but the fact that they do not speak much English and I barely speak any French (well, not entirely true - I understand FAR more than I let on and I'm far too shy about speaking it to actually kick it in to gear unless I absolutely HAVE to) was a bit of a worry.

The reason for this whole worry is that his mother is visiting us. This week. Staying with us in our tiny little studio condo. I can't expect my boyfriend to translate the whole time, so I've had to pay very close attention to how we will communicate - trying to understand her accent being another difficulty to overcome.

Frankly, I needn't have worried. She is absolutely lovely and completely accepting of us and our somewhat quickly proceeding relationship (we moved in together after only about two months of dating and have been cohabiting for the past two months). She even bought me a little gift yesterday - a set of silicone potholders! They're VERY cool and exactly the kind of thing that we needed in our kitchen.

Anyway, I know that this post isn't really food related, more entertaining related, but I do have a food related point to make. After all the cleaning, worrying and fretting about how we would get on - the one common bond we share is cooking and entertaining our friends and family. I'll share more of our dining adventures over the next few days, stay tuned.

Bievenue chez nous, Charlotte! Bienvenue!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Espresso, please!

Moka Pot
Originally uploaded by virtualzen.
I'm starting a new blog. Yep, I am. I'm kind of tired of the old blog - not that I won't be posting there for a while, but I'm ready to move on to something new - namely a FOOD BLOG!!! Yay!!

So, until I get some decent posts up, just hang tight and have a nice espresso (or latte if you feel to) with me!