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Archive for July, 2009

The birthday month culminated at Forte Bistro and Lounge downtown in the financial sector. It is a lovely restaurant right across from the Canadian Opera Company. Parking is complimentary which is amazing in the Big Smoke, this could cost anywhere from $10-25 depending on what’s going on that night! The restaurant was beautiful, it reminded me somewhat of Susur’s place in New York.

After driving around once and unable to find the complimentary parking, I walked in and asked where it was. A gentleman sitting a one of the lounge tables jumped up and said he would look after it and walked out to greet JT who was waiting in the car (the gentleman turned out to be the owner). The place was unfortunately empty (8pm, which is dinner hour in TO), only one other couple at a table. Now normally that would frighten me, but we had read some excellent reviews and decided to try it out regardless. Service was excellent. Our server was around when needed but never just hanging around our table.

We sat in the lounge area, ordered our wine and reviewed the menu. Of course, I already knew what I was having because I’d seen the menu on line. After a while we went to our table. We asked that the meal be spaced out as we were not in a hurry. I ordered the dungeness crab and avocado salad (with ruby grapefruit, crispy sunchokes and a chilled tomato consomme) – it was exceptional, and a lot, it could have easily been my main course. JT ordered the french onion soup dumplings which were like mini onion soups all wrapped up in a dumpling. Very very tasty. 5/5 for both of them.

For our mains, I ordered bouillabaisse. Amazingly presented and so much food; the variety of fish was unbelievable (and only $25, this is a deal!) The broth was really tasty too. What was different than the bouillabaisse I had in Marseilles was that this one was more brothy than creamy and the chef added little four puff pastries disks drizzled with aioli – which gave it its authenticity for taste but without the heaviness. Wow, 5/5 for sure.

JT ordered the roast leg of lamb (Dijon mustard and garlic breadcrumb crust, mint couscous salad). This looked really tasty too, although I didn’t taste it as I don’t love lamb. I’m guessing JT would give it a 5/5 too!

We were just finishing our wine and the waitress mentioned that the owner would love to buy us dessert in celebration of my birthday, not being a dessert eater (and having just ate a massive quantity of food) we opted for a special coffee instead. It truly was lovely experience. I really hope they survive.

Overall rating: Decor 5/5, service 5/5, food 5/5 and Value 5/5.

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The festivities have been non-stop since my actual birthday last Wednesday. A friend from work took me for lunch on on Tuesday (day before my birthday), then my boss took me out on my actaul birthday and JT made a delicious Hawaiian pizza for dinner on Thursday night and Friday and Saturdays we went out for dinner. I haven’t been doing much cooking, so I thought I would blog about the two restaurants JT took me to.

Fressen Restaurant, Vegan Cuisin 478 Queen West, just west of Spadina. Surprisingly this was JT’s suggestion but his response was that he had been consuming a lot of meat so he wanted something else and it’s something new. It’s just west of the really cool strip on Queen West on the North side. It is a long narrow space with contemporary décor – much sleeker than what I might expect a vegan restaurant to be. Service was good and the food was great! We also got some excellent value in their wine selection. The only down side was how quickly the food came out. It’s mainly a sharing/tapas place and we ordered three items which all came out at the same time. It would have been a bit better to space it out more. The portions were perfect for sharing and three courses were plenty for dinner without making you feel stuffed. The presentation was also really good.

The pre-birthday dinner:

Shredded jicima & celery root – marinated in lime, chilies, herbs and hemp oil served on a bed of crispy watercress. This is a refreshing asian-like blend of fresh crisp jicama and celery root. It comes with 2 papadams which were also tasty. We gave this 5/5!

Warm avocado and corn – salsa sandwiched between fluffy spinach blinis accented with pepper purées. This dish was the weakest of the three, mainly due to our personal tastes. Blinis, I thought were small crepes, but in this case they were more like a very soft cookie which tasted very green. The corn and avocado were sweet and creamy but I am not a huge fan of warm avocado. The pepper purées were sweet which was a nice contrast to the spinach. The flavour was OK but it didn’t hit either of us. 3/5

spinachblini

And last but not least, we had Sliced shiitake and crimini mushrooms mixed with shredded spinach in cashew cream wrapped in a filo pastry puff. This was absolutely the best. The flavours were right on (almost like a butter chicken sauce) and the textures were great. JT could not stop eating the sauce. Another 5/5.

ShitakiMushroomPuffPastry

They’ve got a pretty limited wine list and what’s kind of odd is that they don’t list the brand, just the country and local area and the type of grape, for example, we ordered Niagara, Ontario unoaked chardonnay for $34. We were pleasantly surpriced when a bottle of Malavoir arrived at our table – this was surprising because restaurants generally tripple the LCBO price on their menus and this bottle is about $21. Now that was a deal. Great food, nice ambiance and great deal on wine. What more can you ask for?

Overall rating: Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4/5 and Value 4/5.


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Today is my birthday.

A very good friend has decided to go on the Bernstein diet (yes, that is 5 referrals for me!) and we were having them over for brunch this past Sunday to celebrate our July birthdays. I had to come up with a brunch that was Bernstein friendly and JT did one for the men. I decided that a vegetable frittata on a bed of greens would do the trick (Serves 2: 8 egg whites whipped until frothy, 4 oz sautéed vegetables on a bed of greens with a lemon garlic Dijon dressing – it was very tasty!) For dessert I whipped up a treat of frozen strawberries. The water tends to float to the bottom of the mold creating a lovely jewel-like top when plated. I prepared the same dessert for the men, but instead of egg whites, I had a 1/2 cup of whipping cream left over from the Frozen Lemon Mousse, so I used it (I actually got 4 whipped cream treats out of that batch!)

Frozen Strawberry Dessert

Frozen Strawberry Dessert

Frozen Strawberry Dessert

Serves 2

  • 7 fresh ripe strawberries
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2-3 mint leaves
  1. Purée 4 of the strawberries until smooth.
  2. Chop one of the remaining berries into small pieces.
  3. Whip the egg white until firm.
  4. Fold into the strawberry purée and fold in the remaining berry pieces.
  5. Scoop into a flexible mold and freeze overnight.
  6. About 1/2-1 hour before serving, remove from freezer and put into the fridge.
  7. Garnish with mint and the whole berry.

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Here are a few shots of our lovely tomato harvests…we are getting about 5-10 every couple of days. Although entirely home grown organically, I am rather disappointed in the lack luster taste, they are OK but not great.

Our Best Harvest so far

Our Best Harvest so far

My Craft. We had this old window which used to be a mirror in our house at The Upper Beach until it came to its untimely demise on the living room floor. I kept it knowing that one day I would like to use it in our garden (our decor now is not so much cottage as it was in the Upper Beach days).

My Craft

My Craft

The new deck needed a décor element to take your eye away from our neighbour’s ladder hanging on the side of his house, so I thought, what better way to use our ancient window?

I say “my craft” with some humor since I actually did very little of it. JT kindly prepped and painted this lovely ancient window frame, cut out the plywood board inserts and painted them too. All I did was the fun part: cut out and apply the tin, and then create a hanging mechanism for the tea light holders.

Close up of My Craft

Close up of My Craft

The distressed tin background is meant to reflect the candle light.I used little silver thumb tacks to ‘rivet’ the tin onto the plywood background. I am really pleased with the results. So that is “my craft”

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I have a friend from KPMG days, actually from Peat Marwick days whom I have been meeting for lunch every quarter. Everytime we meet, we alway say we should get together as couples, but it never happened, until now. They kindly invited us for dinner on Saturday evening, for which our contribution was a Frozen Lemon Mousse (originally from Martha Stewart, but I made a slightly healthier version).

Frozen Lemon Mousse

Frozen Lemon Mousse

Ingredients:

  • 2 large eggs separated
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • rind of 2 fresh lemons
  • Juice of 2 fresh lemons
  • 1/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/2 whipping cream
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
  • Strawberries, mint and lemon zest as garish
  1. Combine melted butter, graham cracker crumbs, coconut and brown sugar until moist.
  2. Press into the bottom of an 8″ spring form pan.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes on 350°F and allow to cool completely.
  4. Warm the juice of two lemons and the sugar in the top of a double boiler, until sugar has melted completely.
  5. Slightly beat the egg yolks and pour a little of the warm lemon juice to bring up to temperature. Add remaining egg mixter to lemon juice and return to double boiler, stir until thickened (about 2 minutes).
  6. Add lemon rind and allow to cool completely.
  7. Whip egg whites until firm (adding a pinch of cream of tartar).
  8. Whip whipping cream until firm.
  9. Fold both whipped egg whites and whipping cream into the lemon curd mixture until smooth.
  10. Pour into the cooled spring-form pan with the graham cracker crust.
  11. Freeze until solid. About 1/2 hour before serving, remove from freezer and refrigerate so it is easier to cut into and eat.
  12. Enjoy!

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I’ve blogged about this recipe before, but I haven’t listed it. It’s a fantastic combination of leeks and wild mushrooms in a tasty garlic base from the LCBO. Of course, JT’s version is a healthier version substituting Carnation Evaporated Milk (not  sweetened condensed milk) for the whipping cream, but then he adds prosciutto, so all is not lost!!!

The pastry should be a traditional 1:3 made with whole wheat flour (the whole wheat adds to the sweetness of the tarts and makes this a healthier choice). Serve with a tasty salad.

  • 1½ cups (375 mL) Carnation Condensed Milk
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 large egg
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) unsalted butter
  • 8 oz (250 g) mixed mushrooms (shiitake, porcini, cremini, oyster etc.), stems removed where necessary and thickly sliced
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) chopped garlic
  • 1 bunch wild leeks cleaned well and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) lengths
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) white wine
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) chopped fresh thyme
  • One 4 x 13-inch (10 x 33-cm) tart shell, partially baked
  • 2 long slices of prosciutto, or 4 small rounds
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. Place Evaporated Milk and garlic cloves in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring  to a boil then turn heat down to low and simmer gently for 25 minutes or until milk is flavoured with the garlic and reduced to 1 cup (250 mL) and garlic is very soft. Set aside to cool. Remove garlic cloves, mash with a fork and return to cream. When cool add egg and beat until uniform. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp (15 mL) butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until browned. Add chopped garlic and sauté for 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper to taste and scrape into a bowl.
  4. Add remaining tablespoon (15 mL) of butter to pan and heat over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté for 1 minute or until they are softened. Add wine and thyme to pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more or until leeks are limp and the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.
  5. Arrange mushrooms and leeks in tart shell and pour milk overtop (making sure that mushrooms and leeks peep through the cream.
  6. Top with prosciutto (this will get very crispy).
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until set and lightly golden. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4 to 6

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This is my last attempt at growing vegetables. Let me reminisce for a moment.

The first summer in this house, I turned the garden into a vegetable garden  (which later became our cocktail lounge and then the addition) and planted tomatoes, peppers and zuchinni. No sun, no success.

The following year, during the winter, I bought a kit to germinate seeds in my back room under fluorescent lighting. The mice ate all the plants. We got rid of the mice. That summer, I bought cherry tomatoes to plant in containers in the back. I figured I could move them around to follow the sun. No such luck.

I gave up on tomatoes for a while and decided to plant lettuces in containers just outside the living room. I generally got one batch of lettuce out of it and it was tasteless. The slugs got more of a meal than I.

Then there was the celery; when we were in Europe last year, my Aunt Agi had celery growing in her garden, so I thought, if she can do it… my celery was not that much celery as more shrubbery.

So here I am in 2009 and decided on my last ditch attempt at container gardening with tomato plants on the garage roof (it gets sun from around 10-sunset). JT and I hoisted up 3 full containers of soil (Yes full. Not well thought out) I generally save my soil with last year’s roots over the winter so it composts. Then I mix plant food for the current year and plant. Usually works out well, when the pots are on the ground. Except that they are quite heavy. Our neighbours came over because they heard us moaning as I lifted from the ground and JT pulled them up with rope. The garage roof is their new home forever, needless to say.

I planted three types of tomatoes, hoping to have bounties for salad all summer long. We have harvested 3 yellow cherry tomatoes so far. Not so bountiful, but at least they are producing.

Yellow Cherry Tomatoes - July through September
Yellow Cherry Tomatoes – July through September
Super Sweet Cherry Tomatoes - August - September
Super Sweet Cherry Tomatoes – August – September
Red Cherry Tomatoes - July through September
Red Cherry Tomatoes – July through September

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As an add-on to last night’s post: On the front lawn I put out all the decent sized lumber pieces left over from our project (minimum size 3′ maximum size 5′) hoping that someone with a smaller project would pick them up. Well, during cocktails, a guy pulled up in his sedan and did just that; and then he came back and picked up MOST of our lumber from our previous deck!!! I am SO GLAD. Both JT and I had concerns that Billy would have to make several trips (and that just means more $$$$ for us!). I just LOVE that this guy thought our lumber was good enough to reuse (he actually asked if he could and he mentioned he had a cabin up north that he was building, so the lumber was great for him!).

By the way,  it did rain last night.

Trip #6 to The Depot and oh, look…rain!

Weather July2

We only had to build the steps today, so we were done by 11am! Check out the finished Steps:

The Finished Steps

The Finished Steps

The new view from the living room:

The Room with the View

The Room with the View

And finally, the finished deck:

The FInished Deck

The FInished Deck

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Weather July 1

Today is Canada Day, therefore everthing is closed (thank goodness we stocked up from The Depot, the LCBO and Metro!).  We got off to a great start and skirted the back of the deck. By 12:30ish we had the arbour up and capped. Lunch was a tasty wrap and a tower of tomatoes and buffalo mozarella….YUM.

Wraps with Tomato and Buffalo Mozerella Tower

Wraps with Tomato and Buffalo Mozerella Tower

Although the weather forecast called for rain, we didn’t get any! YIPEEEEEE. We worked like crazy to get the top box finished for the steps from the living room and by the end of the day, JT was skirting behind the BBQ and I was cleaning up.

The deck is done, but the steps to the patio still need to be done, and you know what that means…Trip #6 to The Depot tomorrow morning!

The Cocktail Lounge Arbour

The Cocktail Lounge Arbour

The Cocktail Lounge

The Cocktail Lounge

The Reclaimed Dining Area

The Reclaimed Dining Area

Cocktails with Hungarian Cheese Sticks (my Aunte Agi’s recipe) will be served promptly at 5:30 on the New, Mother of All Mothers, Cocktail Lounge (furniture is TBD, we will use this in the meantime). Shortly thereafter, dinner will be served de plein air (as they say) in the newly reclaimed dining area! Cheers!

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