Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best of 2008

A quick list of some of my favourites from 2008:
  1. Sushi chez Mom and Dad: Toro, maguro, shrimp, scallops, cucumber.

  2. Omakase at Hiro Sushi

  3. Pastrami sandwich at Katz's Deli, NYC

  4. Guacamole at Rosa Mexicano, NYC

  5. Chocolate iced cupcake at Magnolia Bakery, NYC

  6. Veda's Choice at Mildred's Temple Kitchen

  7. Dim sum at New Treasure Restaurant

  8. Venison pate sandwich and arugula pesto pasta from All the Best Fine Foods

  9. Vegetarian squid at Simon's Wok

  10. Bozena Shero at Lalibela

  11. Roast Pork at Bassell's, Niagara Falls

  12. Udon chez Mom and Dad

  13. Scallop pasta chez Mom and Dad

  14. Pumpkin pie and blueberry grunt at Darcy's folks

  15. Ham and cheese sandwiches chez Mom and Dad

  16. Lobster salad sandwich chez Mom and Dad

  17. Pork tenderloin, baked potato with sour cream and bacon, and mushroom risotto made by Darcy

  18. My own grilled ham and cheese sandwiches on sourdough with an egg over easy

  19. Grilled lobster sandwiches at Eat to the Beat

  20. Pulled pork from Carolina Rib King at Burlington Ribfest

  21. Momos from Kathmandu Restaurant at Tasty Thursdays

  22. Chorizo Hash at The Kitchen

  23. Garden Maki at The Kitchen

  24. Banana and Jack at The Kitchen

  25. Chocolate mousse at Lil Baci

  26. Crab at the Smiths' on Fogo Island

  27. Dessert dim sum at Susur

  28. Crispy fishies at Meze

  29. Fish and chips at Kingsway Fish and Chips

  30. Pork thingie at excellent restaurant in Markham that Ming took us to

  31. Mildred Pierce potluck at Diane's

  32. Fries at Phil's BBQ

  33. Blueberry pancake, turkey bacon, and hash browns by Darcy

  34. Ragu at Mangia e Bevi

  35. Tiramisu and bacetti at Mangia e Bevi

  36. Taro puffs at Restaurant Lotte, Montreal

  37. Mixed plate at Mazurka, Montreal

  38. Homemade ham, cheese, basil panini, tomato salad, and buttercup squash soup at Koto's, Montreal

  39. Toaste and poutine from Frites Dorees, Montreal

  40. Tamago sushi at Ematei

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Second Harvest Turkey Drive: Goal Reached

A big thank you to everyone who donated to the Second Harvest Turkey Drive. Donations made between Sunday and today made up for the missing 290 turkeys, so all of Second Harvest's agencies can enjoy a turkey dinner this holiday season. Y'all are the best!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Second Harvest Turkey Drive Extended

Even in these harsh economic times, Loblaws shoppers were very generous and bought 4,710 turkeys during the 2008 Second Harvest Turkey Drive, which is tantalizingly close to the goal of 5,000. Second Harvest have extended the drive by accepting donations on their web site that will go toward buying the remaining 290 turkeys. If you would like to donate, please visit:

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thank you, Second Harvest

I'd like to say a big thank you to the great people at Second Harvest for being so generous with their time while I was researching my piece on the Second Harvest Turkey Drive. I learned so much about the organization that didn't make it into the article, but I plan on doling out that information here in future installments.

I'd also like to send my best wishes to Zoe Cormack Jones who will be leaving Second Harvest this month after 12 amazing years as Executive Director. Zoe is an inspiration to anyone who meets her and I am in awe of her kindness, generosity, and desire to take care of people and help them grow. We're lucky to have her in our city.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ketel One at Kultura

So, an interesting thing happened to me last week. I know this probably happens to famous writers and bloggers all the time, but little ol' me was contacted through this blog to attend a Ketel One vodka tasting at Kultura by Matchstick, a 'word-of-mouth' marketing company. We were told that we'd have a formal tasting of luxury vodkas followed by cocktails and gifts. I brought Marcelo, who knows way more about vodka than me.

Everyone there was a blogger of some sort from Toronto, so there were people who write about food, drink, fashion, music, pop culture, and many other things. That itself was pretty cool. I met Carlos Weisz, a music blogger for BlogTO. Carlos is from Mexico City and has been in Canada for 10 years. I'm not sure what the actual name of his day job is, but he's like a DJ but with video. So one of the things he does is splice video live for parties and events. Cool day job. I, of course, asked him if he liked any Mexican restaurants in Toronto and he said Milagro for Filete a la Tampiquena (grilled beef dish) and Taquitos Rosaritos (shrimp tacos), and Tacos el Asador, which is El Salvadorean.

I also met Jesse Ship who writes for Format Magazine, an urban arts and fashion blog. Jesse had crazy, Sideshow Bob hair and was definitely the most sociable blogger there. He has a brand new blog about art and music called fubitch.

As soon as we got there, a very hip and friendly photographer hired for Ketel One got us to pose in front of a Ketel One logo. It was the closest I've ever come to doing a photo shoot. He directed us on how to pose and what to do, "Hold up your scarf...make a gesture..." So funny. My friend Ayngelina who writes about food for BlogTO very aptly said that that we should have done the photos at the end after the tasting and free drinks.

While we were waiting for everyone to arrive, waiters circulated with hors d'oeuvres and they were all amazing! We had Crispy Tofu with Garlic Chips and Miso Consomme (best ever - soft tofu with crisp exterior), Mediterranean Chicken Samosas, Caprese Salad Canapes, Miso Carpacci on Prosciutto Crisps, and Tandoori Beef with Tamarind Sauce and Coconut. If you want to throw a great party and have buckets of money, Kultura is a beautiful, large venue with fantastic food. The room we were in was small and intimate and seated 20 people comfortably, but there are larger rooms as well.

After the hors d'oeuvres and a Ketel One martini, we all sat down for the tasting. Nadia, Ketel One's "Ambassador", told us about the history of Ketel One and their distillation process. My notes from the night are pretty messy due to having the equivalent of 5 drinks, so the details are a little fuzzy. But I do remember that it's called Ketel One because they still use the original copper still from 1691. The company has been in the same family for the 10 generations and someone from the family must taste a sample from every 300-gallon batch before it is bottled for sale.

For the tasting, we had room temperature samples of Ketel One, Grey Goose, and Absolut. Nadia had us smell and taste the Ketel One first and said that it doesn't have a strong smell or overly boozy taste. Then we did the same with the Grey Goose and Absolut. They definitely were very different from each other and the Ketel One was the easiest to drink straight and warm. My husband tried the bottle I brought home that night and he was surprised by how unaromatic it was. Nadia said that this was because it is distilled and filtered longer and more times than other vodkas. I am by no means an expert on vodka or booze of any kind, but I did like it the best. And it's cheaper than Grey Goose, so it really is a good choice for a premium vodka. If you're mixing your vodka with Crystal Light though, you can probably go with the Absolut. :)

We closed the evening with one more Ketel one cocktail, a Cosmo for me, and they gave us all taxi chits to get home safely. On our way out we saw a huge sausage party on the first floor and realized that mayor David Miller was in the middle of the sea of grey.

Ayngelina, Marcelo, and I topped off the evening with an East Coast-style donair from College Falafel. It really is the closest thing to the real deal that I've had outside of Nova Scotia. And pairs well with Ketel One. :)

All photos courtesy of Ayngelina Brogan.

Monday, December 1, 2008

I Heart New York Food: Final Day

After the marathon day before, Diane and I slept in by mistake and got a bit of a late start. Darryl had already been out and had a bagel, but we didn't eat until after 10 so we were raring to go to Barney Greengrass on the Upper West Side.

Brunch: Barney Greengrass

I saw this place on a Tony Bourdain show. They must have cleared out the restaurant when they shot the show because it was crazy crowded. We got lucky and were seated almost immediately because the people in line ahead of us didn't have their entire parties there. We were squished into a small table for two, but it was totally worth it.

Barney Greengrass specializes in smoked fish like sturgeon, whitefish, sable, and salmon. The menu was enormous, so I just asked to waiter for whatever was the best. He said the lox scrambled with eggs and onions, so that's what I had. With it, you could have a bagel or a bialy. I'd never heard of bialies before. It's like a bagel, but smaller and with English muffin qualities. I loved it. The eggs were hearty and delicious. The lox was in chunks instead of sliced and the onions were so caramelized and sweet. Yum.

A different waiter brought a plate of potato pancakes out of the kitchen and was going around the room showing them to everyone saying they weren't on the menu and there were only a few left. It true; they're not on the menu, so we had to have them. You can't really have too many potato pancakes in one weekend. They came with generous bowls of sour cream and applesauce. I love potato pancakes.

The service at busy restaurants and cafes in NYC is incredible. The waiters move fast and plates are whisked away as soon as they're empty. They never leave you waiting for the cheque and at Barney Greengrass they call you "doll". I thought that was cute.

They have a large, mouthwatering takeout counter with huge slabs of smoked fish, salads, chopped liver, and other goodies. If only I could get it across the border.

Zabars: Food Heaven

So, embarassingly, most of what I know about Manhattan comes from Sex and the City. Carrie mentioned Zabar's in the episode when she was dating the short story writer whose mother was Valerie Harper. Since we were in the neighbourhood, we snuck in for a peek.

Oh. My. Lord. It was incredible. I have never seen that much gourmet food in one place in my entire life. The cheese alone was enough to make you pass out. The cheese section looked to me like the size of my apartment. They have the same size bread section, gorgeous prepared food, a whole counter dedicated to smoked fish, they roast their own coffee, plus all of the non-perishables. I'd never seen anything like it and I was amazed. If you like food at all, GO!

Darryl overheard a cheeky conversation between the man behind the counter and a lady ordering lots of food. He said that she must be having a party and she said she was. Then he said, "You know, when I have a party I cook."

Outside there were a few tour buses parked and when they opened their hatches, we saw that every single person on the bus had a huge cooler down there. People were coming out of Zabar's with bags of stuff and loading up these coolers. I'm not sure where they were from, but I think it's a kind of long distance Zabar's shuttle bus. I'd do it to if I lived within driving distance.

Snack: Last cupcake at Magnolia Bakery

Another day, another cupcake. This time I got the Hummingbird cupcake, which is banana and pineapple with cream cheese icing and pecans. I guess it is based on a classic southern cake. It was delicious. And the young server was so sweet. He said it was a really good flavour and that he hoped I enjoyed it.

Dinner: Last supper in Little Italy

We ended up in Little Italy later in the afternoon, but we didn't already have a restaurant picked out. The main street in Little Italy, Mulberry Street, is almost entirely made up of Italian restaurants, each with someone outside trying to lure people in. It reminds me of Old Montreal in that way and I think they're both tourist traps. We went to Buona Notte because there wasn't anyone standing outside and there were a lot of people inside. But, I think the person standing outside was just on break because he was there later on.

The food was decent, but not outstanding. I had a spicy, seafood pasta dish that was good and the portion was a nice medium size. Service was excellent.

Miscellaneous Food Sights

Early in the evening and we walked past a different restaurant on Mulberry Street where the waiters, cooks, and busboys were having their staff dinner. It looked so cool with them all dressed in their uniforms and chef's coats digging into food together. And they were eating with such voracity. It was quite a site to see.

Also in Little Italy, we walked past Di Palo's Fine Foods that had a magnificent display of cheese in the window. Upon Googling on my return I see that it's a very popular place. Again, too bad I couldn't get any of it across the border.

One of the last things I saw was a cluster of little Japanese girls buying hotdogs from a cart and giggling. It was cute.

Thank you, New York. We love you!