Friday, October 10, 2008

All the Best Fine Foods: Order your Thanksgiving dinner and chat with Bob Rae

This just in from Olivia Bolano, Executive Chef at All the Best Fine Foods: this Saturday, October 11, former Ontario premier, Bob Rae, will be at the 1101 Yonge Street location from 4-5PM to help them promote their take-out Thanksgiving dinners. This election-themed promotion offers two complete Thanksgiving dinners: a "Conservative" one called Harper's Turkey Dinner Extravaganza with classic apple sage stuffing, roast garlic mashed potatoes, and turkey gravy, among other delicious things, and a "Liberal" one named after Dion with twists including Berkshire sausage/pear stuffing and cardamom mashed potatoes. For just $25.95 per serving for either choice, it's an amazing deal. You can also add a la carte items such as Wild Mushroom Veloute, Pumpkin Buttermilk Biscuits, and Apple Cinnamon Pie. I'm starving just thinking about it. I wonder if you'll have to place your order behind a curtain?

All the Best Fine Foods
1101 Yonge Street (@Marlborough Avenue)
M-W: 8:30AM-6:30PM
F: 8:30AM-7PM
Sat: 8:30AM-6PM
Sun: 10AM-5PM

Sunday, October 5, 2008

$2 grilled cheese sandwiches saved us during Nuit Blanche

Last night, I went to Nuit Blanche for the first time and braved crazy crowds on Queen West that were a combination of Nuit Blanche attendees and club kids making it impossible to walk or find anywhere to eat that wasn't packed to the rafters. At Queen and Palmerston, Marcelo spotted a small sandwich boarding saying that $2 grilled cheese sandwiches were available all night at Kensington Market Organic Ice Cream just north on Palmerston and happily there was only one other person in the small shop.

None of us had ever been there before and while we were waiting we enjoyed reading their cheeky ice cream flavour names like Strawberry and the Devil (strawberry, anise, and eastern black pepper), Emotional Rescue (vanilla and cardamom). They had really dark, decadent-looking vegan chocolate as well. I'll definitely go back for ice cream as soon as I can.

I have a feeling that the man serving us was Brad Kurtenbach who is the owner and founder. He was so cheerful, sweet, and patient with all the patrons, including the loud, drunk girls. While we were there he told a young guy that he'd brew him some fresh coffee and bring it out to him so that the kid could keep dancing in the crazy performance art thing that was going on just outside. True to his word, he went out there, coffee in hand, trying to find him in the throngs of dancers.

We each received our classic grilled cheese sandwiches (cheddar on white bread) in cute little brown paper bags and ate them sitting on the curb outside watching the strange lip-syncing, flag-waving, go-go dancing. Nothing could have been better at that moment. I forgot to ask if they have them all the time or if it was just for Nuit Blanche. I'll have to go back to see.

Kensington Market Organic Ice Cream
650 1/2 Queen Street West (entrance on Palmerston)
Toronto, ON

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ward's Island Day Trip: Barb's Jams and The Rectory Cafe

Today my friends and I fulfilled a long-standing date to go to Ward's Island and have lunch at The Rectory Cafe. We took the ferry nice and early from the foot of Bay street at 9:45AM and had a leisurely walk around the residential areas where we coveted many quaint and interesting houses. The people who live there really are so lucky. And kitty cats run rampant through the sidewalk-like streets unafraid and adorable.

Pretty early on in our walk, we found Barb's Jams at 9 Third Street. Barb actually took the ferry over with us after having spent the early morning grocery shopping in the city. She has two large cupboards in her living room filled with jams, jellies, chutneys, and pickles that she makes from scratch. She has many different, delicious-sounding varieties, including rhurbarb, peach, blueberry, saskatoon berry, cranberry, eggplant, carrot, beet, etc. In the end, I decided on the eggplant chutney (which tastes very similar to the eggplant pickles made by Edna's Pickles, which I love), cherry jam, and mustard pickles. It's $5 for any small jar and $10 for a large. Her place is quite hidden and we felt quite lucky to find it. She said that she'll be selling at a Chirstmas bazaar organized by the Algonquin Island Association on Saturday, December 6.

We got lost between Barb's and The Rectory Cafe, so we worked up quite an appetite walking in circles (no thanks to me; I have no sense of direction). The restaurant is warm and cozy inside and they have a lovely heated patio where you can enjoy the crisp fall air and enjoy a view of Lake Ontario. If you make a reservation, they'll save a table for you underneath the umbrellas that keep the heat from the lamps circulating around you.

For starters, we shared the crabcakes, antipasto, and hummus. My favourite was the crabcakes. Large and full of plump, genuine crab alongside fresh greens.

For my entree, I had the lamburger, which was a manageable size with lots of delicious blue cheese. Heavenly.

For dessert, we shared that day's Luisa cake (made by a local baker), which was a hazelnut chocolate cake, and the bread pudding. The hazelnut cake was dense and rich with lots of thick chocolate icing. I haven't had much experience with bread pudding, but it was warm and comforting with oozy caramel and whipped cream.

The Rectory Cafe has a large lawn with an archway leading toward the path and lake, which make it the perfect place to have a wedding.

I hadn't been to the island in years and I'm so happy I finally did. It's a wonderful was to spend a fall day and it's quite easy to get back and forth to the city. Now I must rest up for Nuit Blanche tonight. Hope to have some great pictures for you tomorrow!

Barb's Jams
9 Third Street
Ward's Island, Toronto
To order: 416-203-0866

The Rectory Cafe
102 Lakeshore Avenue
Ward's Island, Toronto
Phone: 416-203-4152
Reservations recommended

Friday, October 3, 2008

Guest Post by Jane: Friday Night Is Pizza Night 3 - Pan-Seared Shrimp with Chipotle-Lime Glaze and Parmesan-Crusted Sweet Potato Pizza

(Shrimp topping adapted from Cook’s Illustrated No. 67.)

Shrimp baked on top of pizza can end up rubbery and tasteless. Cooking them on top of the stove while the pizza bakes allows for perfect timing and a sauce that is addictive. The addition of besan (chickpea flour, available in Indian and Pakistani grocers) gives the crust a pleasing nuttiness and makes it brown beautifully. The O’Henry variety of
sweet potato, which has yellow skin and flesh, was used in this recipe.

For the crust – substitute ½ cup (125 mL) hard whole wheat and ½ cup (125 mL) besan for 1 cup (250 mL) of all purpose flour. See Friday Night is Pizza Night 1 for ingredients and method.

Pizza Topping
1 lb (500 g) (2 medium) sweet potatoes washed and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
2 tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
2 tbsp (30 mL) Parmesan, freshly grated
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
2 tbsp (30 mL) adobo sauce
1 tbsp (15 mL) brown sugar
4 tbsp (60 mL) lime juice (half a juicy lime)
4 tbsp (60 mL) chopped cilantro, more for garnish
2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil
1 lb (500 g) shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ tsp (1 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) freshly ground black pepper
pinch sugar

While dough rises, make sweet potatoes. Heat oven to 400 F (200 C). On baking sheet or in cast-iron skillet, mix sweet potatoes with oil, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Spread evenly, place in oven and bake, scraping and stirring a couple of times during baking, until browned and barely tender about 20 to 25 minutes.

Increase oven heat to 500 F (260 C).

Pizza Base
1 unbaked crust, rolled out
olive oil for brushing on the dough
6 oz (175 g) fontina, provolone or other cheese of your choice, grated

Transfer dough to pizza pan and brush lightly with olive oil. Distribute cheese evenly on dough then top with baked sweet potatoes. Place in oven.

While pizza base bakes, make sauce and shrimp. Stir together chipotle, adobo sauce, brown sugar, lime juice and cilantro. Remove 2 tablespoon of sauce and set aside for later. Heat vegetable oil in 12-inch (30 cm) skillet until smoking. Meanwhile, toss shrimp with salt and pepper in medium bowl. Add shrimp to pan in single layer and cook until spotty brown and edges turn pink, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat. Using tongs, turn each shrimp over, then add sauce, cover skillet and let stand off-heat 2 to 3 minutes until cooked through.

Remove pizza from oven when edges and underside are nicely browned, about 10-12 minutes. Place crust on cutting board, top with shrimp and additional cilantro. Sprinkle with reserved dressing, slice and serve immediately. Makes 8 slices.