Archive for January, 2012

Sunday was a gorgeous day in Toronto so we decided to high tail it up north and do a little skiing at Mount St. Louis Moonstone. We made for an early departure because it’s about a two hour drive from our house and we didn’t know how busy it would be. It turned out to be quite empty and not particularly too cold (although that wind-chill on the lifts was pretty bitter!). We packed our lunch so we wouldn’t have to endure the disgusting deep-fried slop that’s generally served at these establishments. They have a great little area where you can eat your own lunch and quite surprisingly, it was chuck full!

I knew we’d be pretty tired from a day’s skiing, particularly since we haven’t skied since two years ago, and even then we skied only once or twice, so I dragged out the crock pot and assembled the Navy Bean and Mushroom “Risotto” the night before. I refrigerated the mix overnight (without the water) and in the morning, I just tossed the whole thing into the crock pot and added the water so that it can cook all day. I love coming home and being greeted by the warm and comforting smells of home cooking! I also made some biscuits to go with our tasty dinner, but you’ll have to wait for that post another day.

I love Navy Beans because they are so darn creamy, that is why I think of this dish as “risotto”. You can make this vegetarian by omitting the sausage and the prosciutto in the scones!

Navy Bean and Mushroom “Risotto”

Now that's a tasty looking meal!


  • 1 cup dry navy beans, rince well
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 cup chopped shitaki mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup of celery root, chopped (I had a bit left over so I needed to use it up)
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped (I had a bit left over so I needed to use it up)
  • 1 sausage, your choice, chopped
  • 4 cups water, yup, plain old water!
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • salt
  • Parmesan cheese


  1. I like all my ingredients uniformly chopped, but that’s personal preference.
  2. Put all ingredients except the Parmesan Cheese into the slow cooker, give it a good stir and turn it on high for about 35 minutes (while you’re getting breakfast ready). Once it has warmed up, turn it down to low and cook for 4-5 hours or until beans are done.
  3. Serve with shredded Parmesan Cheese and some tasty Maple and Prosciutto Scones.
  • You may need to boils off some water if the beans didn’t soak it up, so do that before you add the cheese!

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  • We’ve been to a few Vietnamese restaurants in Toronto and one in Montreal and its the only restaurant nationality I’ve ever seen the self-serve order check! The menu items are all labelled with numbers and you write your item number, size and price on the form. There is NO TALKING. Now my friend Barb, from Profiteroles and Ponytails can attest, I’m not a big fan of small talk – but I must admit, I find this custom is quite strange! Even the Japanese establishments we frequent with freshly landed Japanese wait-staff suffer through the language difficulties without the order-by-number form. Is this custom world-wide? Do other cultures use it? Please do comment and let me know!

    Fill out your order, there will be NO TALKING!

    My favourite Vietnamese place close to work (Asia 21) know me as #102 small, I don’t even have to order. I just walk in (OK, I fill out the form, but she places the order to the kitchen before I fill it out) hand the lady my cash (they don’t take credit or debit) and they hand me my soup to go. Rare Beef Pho (pronounced Fa). I could eat this every day, except for the sodium content (my rings are tight even thinking about it!)

    Pho Huong is a relatively upscale Vietnamese restaurant; it has great lighting and very nice contemporary décor (compared to Asia 21 which still has light blue ‘fake ship motif’ décor, remnants from the predecessor Greek place, and fluorescent lighting). And, it’s close to our hood, it’s a bit further north than Bloor West Village in The Junction. It’s usually packed and this past Saturday was no different. JT and I stopped in for lunch because it was a drizzly, snowy grey day and I wanted soup! And they give you free tea!

    I order the Pho with rare beef; I love this soup because it takes time to eat it. First, you have to add all of the inclusions: sorrel, thai basil, a squirt of lime, bean sprouts (if you wish, I usually don’t) and Sriracha Sauce and Hoisin Sauce. JT’s polished off half his lunch before I even start! And then the soup is really, really hot, so you can’t guzzle (not that I would :-P).

    These are all the inclusions for the soup

    The soup it so hot, it actually cooks the thinly sliced raw beef. I like to add Srirachi sauce to spice it up a bit!

    JT gets Bunn or something like it. Lots of fried stuff.

    Overall rating of Pho Huong (in my opinion. I’m rating this compared to other Asian restaurants in Toronto): Decor 4/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

    Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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    The other day I was watching Jamie’s 30 minute meals (hey, I was on the elliptical doing a 30 minute cardo routine!!!) and saw a short part of a Celeriac Remoulade (it’s a mayo-type dressing) that I knew I would have to make for dinner. It turned out to be only an inspiration due to ingredients on hand but after searching the web, I came across Laura Calders Celeriac Remoulade, which resembled my salad a lot more (really, I only spotted it after I made mine for dinner the other night, really!)

    It was already dark out, that's why the photo sucks! 🙂

    One of the things that caught my eye in Jamie’s recipe was the prosciutto, but I completely forgot to add it in the end so we just had it plain :-(. I have to admit, I did not love the dressing and if I were to do this again (very likely as I adore raw celeriac) I would alternate the dressing to something else…I thought it was a bit too acidic not enough balance, but I really did love the contrast of the smooth Dijon to the Grainy Dijon (maybe all I needed was to add a touch of honey, since my granny smith was not as sweet as Jamie’s pear?).

    Celeriac Remoulade


    • 1/4 to 1/2 of a celeriac, cleaned, peeled and julienned (I have a wonderful julienne grater that makes this so easy)
    • 1 granny smith apple, washed but not peeled and julienned (the green of the peel adds a lovely light, fresh colour)
    • a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley


    • 2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
    • 2 tbsp grainy Dijon Mustard
    • 2 tbsp white wine or champagne vinegar
    • 4-6 tbsp EVOO
    • 1-2 pinches of flaked hot peppers


    1. Mix the celeriac, apple and parsley together well and toss with the dressing.
    2. Enjoy.
    3. If you plan to have this on more than one day, I would only dress what I am eating now, so that it doesn’t get all soggy!

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    Years and years ago I was invited to one of our freelancer’s home for a pot luck dinner. Lisa (our generous hostess) made a Greek Salad that really was bang on for me and then I made it for JT and he loved it and we’ve been making it ever since. It’s really not rocket science, but it is a wonderful combination of colours and tastes and I just had to share it with you because I recently made it for Sunday dinner with Brian! This is simply a mix of proportions to your liking!

    Lisa’s Greek Salad

    A burst of colour to brighten a dreary winter meal


    • 10 small yellow tomatoes, washed and sliced in half (I love the cocktail sized campari)
    • 10 small red tomatoes, washed and sliced in half (I love the cocktail sized campari)
    • 10 Kalamata olives, cut into thirds
    • 3 mini English cucumbers cut into a similar size as the tomatoes
    • a good handful of hand broken Brebis sheeps milk feta (less fat than ordinary feta and much creamier)
    • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 3-4 tbsp EVOO


    1. Toss the vegetables together.
    2. Mix the balsamic and the oil and dress the salad just before serving.

    Ok, now the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the big draw and the give away winner.

    We've tabulated the entries and made lovely entries with everyone's names (those who answered correctly, that is). BTW, this is an authentic Goulash pot (miniature)!

    Now we need someone to make the draw…

    JT was kind enough to make the draw...

    and the winner is….

    Oh my gosh...Kristy of Eat, Play, Love - our family food adventures, CONGRATULATIONS!

    Congratulations Kristy. Please email me your info and I will send you the cool salts!

    Thank you to everyone who participated. My first give away was a very fun event for me and I so appreciate your participation.

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    Sunday dinner with nephew Brian is quite the meal. I usually like to have a few courses consisting of an hors d’œuvres, an appetizer, a main, a salad and a dessert. I blogged about the Saganaki that we had as an hors d’œuvres. And then there was the salmon cake with Cilantro Pesto, now for the appetizer.

    A few days ago, Charles at Five Euro Foods posted a recipe for Curry Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke Soup which peaked my interest on a number of levels. First, I have never had, or even cooked Jerusalem Artichokes and secondly, there are not too many of our friends or relatives that will eat and enjoy curry, and Brian is certainly one of them — so I thought, perfect. He’s a good guinea pig and like Mikey will eat almost anything.

    The Jerusalem Artichokes were not inexpensive so I added a potato to the mix to help increase the volume (5 smallish heads were about $4.00 Canadian). This recipe ended up making about 8 cups, so I’m going to freeze it for another time. To see the original Charles’ recipe, please click here. This is a highly flavoured soup with a touch of heat. Would I make this again? I have to say that even though I was not overwhelmed by the Jerusalem Artichokes I would certainly take the spices in this soup and make it with other vegetables, such as cauliflower. The flavour certainly hit the spot, thanks Charles!

    I read a tip quite some time ago, to lessen the oil used for oven roasting vegetables; fill a bowl with cold water and add 1-2 tbsp olive oil, then dump your evenly cut vegetables into the water — they will pic up the oil as your remove them with a slotted spoon. Works like a charm!

    Just grab a piece of bread and dip already!

    Curry Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke Soup


    • ~5 medium-sized Jerusalem Artichokes
    • 1 medium sized Yukon Gold potato (or another potato that is creamy and not starchy)
    • ~1 litre low sodium vegetable stock or water
    • 3 tbsps Olive Oil
    • 4-5 cipolini onions
    • 1 small head of garlic
    • 2 tsp Garam Masala
    • 2 tsp Curry Powder
    • 4 tbsp Greek yogurt with 2 tbsp milk or cream (to loosen a bit)
    • Salt


    1. Pre-heat oven to 375°F.
    2. Peel and clean the artichokes and the potato and cut into even pieces. Peel the cipolini onions.
    3. Mix the garam masala and the curry powder together with a pinch of salt. In the method described above, ‘oil’ the vegetables and place evenly on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the spice mixture.
    4. Remove the outer skin from the garlic and place into a small ramekin; drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Cover with foil. Place in the corner of the baking sheet with vegetables.
    5. Once the vegetables are cooked through to soft, place them into a large bowl; remove the roasted garlic cloves and add to the bowl, sprinkle the olive oil onto the mixture.
    6. Pour the vegetable stock over the cooked vegetables and blend well with your immersion blender. Add stock or water until the desired thickness and consistency is achieved. Press through a fine sieve for a velvety smooth and creamy texture.
    7. Serve in a small bowl drizzled with the yogurt mixture.
    8. Enjoy.

      Did anyone see where I left my glass of wine?

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    Sunday was a relatively quiet day, recovering from our very first Robbie Burns dinner organized by my fire-fighter friend (Christine). She’s been doing it for years and I’ve always managed to have something else planned, but this year we bit the bullet and committed early. What was my hesitation, you may ask? Well, they serve Haggis. Now you might say that, “Eva, you have eaten some very unusual items, what’s with the Haggis?” It’s really the unknown, all that weird innards stuff ground up and stuffed into the stomach, cooked in the stomach and served in the stomach (it’s pretty grey, by the way). They have an actual ceremony for the Haggis and then they cut it up and serve it as a side dish along an enormous pile of roast beef. I couldn’t even get through it all. I did have some of the Haggis, it was heavily spiced and let’s just say I didn’t hate it, but you won’t see me running to the front of the line for another bowl! On top of it all, I think it gave me the worst heart-burn I’ve had in ages.

    I own nothing tartan, nothing. So a week before the night I made the pilgrimage to the mall to pick up something nice in tartan but not too expensive and to my surprise, there was nothing but lumberjack shirts to be had and you know what a lumberjack girl I am! So I came home empty handed when I got a text from my friend (boss) Kim that she had a little tartan mini she would be happy to lend me! I was ecstatic! I have been told that see myself through ‘fat eyes’ and so this was no exception, I looked at the skirt and thought “this isn’t going to fit” but then I gave it a go, and it did, quite nicely, I might add! I paired it with a cute little black top, solid black tights and my slouchy suede red boots (5″ heel)! I was ready for the prom, I mean the Robbie Burns dinner.

    The skirt was very short, but with the opaque tights it worked like a charm, and the boots.

    Slouchy Red Suede Boots

    JT found himself a very fetching plaid tie at the dollar store (guess how much it was?) The evening was a lot of fun, a little Scottish dancing (some local kids) and then the DJ started with the dance-hall music. We danced until midnight, screaming our heads off, bouncing around on the dance floor. My legs are killing me today, but it was well worth it.

    This is the second course of our Sunday dinner with nephew Brian. No, I haven’t forgotten about the give away…I’ve been a bit busy! Stay tuned, I’ll make the announcement a little later this week!

    Baked Salmon Cakes with Cilantro Pesto on Greens

    Makes 3 huge ones, or 6 much smaller appetizer portions


    • 1 can low sodium, Skinless, Boneles salmon, drained
    • 1/2 cup mashed potato with roasted garlic (you can use instant for this, but I made this when I had left overs)
    • 1 egg slightly beaten
    • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
    • 1 tsp horseradish
    • 2 green onions finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup panko
    • 2 squirts of non-stick spray for baking


    1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
    2. Mix everything but the panko and the non-stick spray together, making sure all the flavours are evenly distributed.
    3. Roll in panko evenly.
    4. In a large frying pan, heat and squirt one squirt of non-stick spray. Gently fry each side until golden brown, place on sprayed cookie sheet until all have been browned and place in oven for 15-25 minutes, until cooked through.
    5. Serve with Cilantro Pesto on a bed of leafy greens.

    Cilantro Pesto


    • 1 cup cleaned and dried cilantro
    • 1/2 cup cleaned and dried parsley
    • 2 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 small clove garlic
    • 3 tbsp white and black toasted sesame seeds
    • 1 tsp soy sauce
    • 2-4 tbsp lime juice (to taste)
    • 1-2 tsp agave nectar


    1. Place all the ingredients (except the lime juice and agave) into the bowl of an immersion blender and blend until desired consistency is achieved, adding the lime juice slowly.
    2. Taste, add more lime juice and a little agave to achieve the correct balance of sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

    The earthy, slightly sweet pesto made a wonderful accompaniment to the salmon cakes

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    OPA! Saganaki

    Sunday dinners are always special chez nous because from time to time my lovely nephew Brian (I have to be nice, he reads my blog) comes over for dinner, and yesterday was the day! Other than mushrooms (and he’s trying them to see if he might like them now), he’ll try almost anything, and he usually brings a good appetite so I am challenged to make something new, sometimes unusual and always delicious! Year’s ago I started keeping a food diary detailing what I cooked for whom and when so that I don’t duplicate (too often) — you know, we all have our favourite meals to cook, so I know what I served the last time he was here, or even a year ago. I now keep this diary on the cloud so I have access to it on my mac, my iPhone and my iPad! It’s very handy particularly when I’m at the grocery store and they are out of what I had planned, I can check back for an alternative option that hasn’t been had in a while (who are you calling “type A”? Hmmmmm!).

    Last week, JT and I were mulling around at the grocery store, checking out what’s new and we both (at the exact same time) spotted the Saganaki cheese in the deli section! We looked at each other and went for it. Now this is not one of those foods you read the nutritional values for, you either commit to it or you decide for the better and put it back. It was not very expensive and we found a piece that was not too large and we both thought, OK, let’s do it. As it turned out, it was our supper that night, it’s a very filling dish.

    Saganaki is a very fatty cheese that is pan fried until golden and then doused with Ouzo and set a flame (en flambé), and served to the table. Wikipedia claims that the flaming tradition was developed in 1968 at The Parthenon restaurant in Chicago’s Greektown (John or Bill, you’ll have to verify that for us!). I didn’t have Ouzo on hand, so I used the Pastis (French version with the same anise taste) and it worked out beautifully. We are going to start our dinner with Brian with this cheese dish ; it’s not light, but it will help us with the absorption of the copious amounts of alcohol we generally consume with the man — he is such a bad influence!

    OPA! It's best not to wear anything flamable; and for safety's sake, tie that crazy mop with all the hairspray back!



    • 1 container baking soda or 1 fire extinguisher (always be prepared 😉)
    • 100-400g Saganaki cheese
    • 1/4 cup plain white flour
    • 2-4 tablespoons of oil (something with a high smoke point, like peanut oil)
    • 2-3 tbsp Ouzo (or Pastis as I had on hand)
    • 1 fresh lemon
    • Fresh bread (JT made his no knead bread and we added sesame seeds to it for extra flavour)


    1. Have the baking soda handy or bring out the Fire Extinguisher to a handy location.
    2. Remove the packaging from the Saganaki cheese. Dredge with flour, coating both sides really well.
    3. Heat the oil and add the cheese and cook until it is golden brown, flip and repeat.
    4. Douse the cheese with the Ouzo and light.
    5. Present to the table with sliced bread and wedges of lemon. A quick squeeze of lemon juice with stop the flames.

    This is a dangerous appetizer, it’s best to have it with adult supervision!

    Oh ya, I almost forgot. I must say a HUGE thank you to all who have participated in my very first give away. What fun I had reading your comments and I was so pleased that some of you found interesting posts from the past, and thank you for commenting on them. This is the best part of blogging, the feedback that we get and give. We had a great turnout, and I am very pleased that we had some new folks enter too, thank you and welcome. But I am also pleased that many of my loyal followers participated! I am so excited about giving away the salts. I have tabulated the entries and will be making the draw soon, so you’ll have to come back this week when I reveal the winner. Good luck to everyone, and THANK YOU!

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    Although it has been unseasonably warm this past week in the big smoke, it’s been crazy rainy and windy. It’s a perfect time to stay in and make some healthy comforting food that is great for lunch the next day. I posted this recipe in 2009 because it is an incredibly tasty and easy dish for a week night, but I find myself craving to repost as I really hated the old photo! This is still JTs signature dish so I won’t alter his recipe other than how it has morphed over the years, and it has morphed a touch over the years. But I will say, please make this, it is really, really, really good!

    And don’t forget to enter the giveaway! I’m really excited about the give away and what creative things you will make with it and blog about. I did forget to detail the time the draw closes: 12pm Eastern Standard Time, that will give me some time to get the correct entries together and have JT do the draw! As well, the Just a Pinch salts were purchased entirely by ME! It is not linked to any other promo! Time is a tickin’ people, better enter soon!

    And did I mention that a couple of the answers are found in more than one post? Oops! Good luck!

    A hearty but healthy dinner on a cold winters night

    JTs Chicken Cacciatore

    Adapted from Fannie Farmer, December 1984 (originally published in 1896!).
    Serves 4 (2 dinners and 2 lunches in our case)


    • 400g chicken breasts, skinless, boneless
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 28g dried mushrooms rehydrated in about 1 cup warm water, set liquid aside (make sure you strain through coffee filter to ensure no sand gets into it)
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or low sodium chicken stock)
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/2 red pepper, sliced (we used green this time because that is what we had)
    • 1 tbsp tomato paste (put remaining tomato paste into an extra ice cube tray and freeze, remove from tray into a resealable container and voila, tomato paste as required!)
    • 2 cups canned Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
    • 1/2 tsp allspice
    • 1 bay leaves
    • 1/2 tsp thyme
    • Chili peppers to taste
    • Salt to taste
    • Grated Parmesan, if you wish


    1. Preheat oven to 350°F (or you could just cook the entire dish stove top with the lid on)
    2. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven and cook the chicken until lightly browned on all sides.
    3. Add the onion and sauté a minute or two and then add the wine and allow to boil up.
    4. Lower the temperature and add the garlic, tomato paste, tomatoes, pepper and the mushrooms.
    5. Add the seasonings, bay leaves and the mushroom liquid.
    6. Cover and bake in the hot oven for about 1 hour, or until chicken is cooked through. If you like a dryer cacciatore, leave the cover off so that some of the liquid evaporates; I prefer mine a bit wet so that it makes a tasty ‘dressing’ for the greens.
    7. Remove bay leaves, taste and season if required.
    8. Serve on a bed of mixed baby spinach and baby arugula leaves. You can also serve with grated Parmesan and a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, but we’re reducing our intake this week, so we omitted it.

    Tips: You can also add black olives (chop in half) and crumble some sheeps milk feta on top instead of the Parmesan for a slightly Greek version of the dish.

    I had to update this post with a photo I recently took with my iPhone at work. I just loved how rich the sauce looks and how luminous this photos is.

    Our studio has amazing light. And yes, that surely is cayenne pepper on the chicken.

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    Hi there, me again! Didn’t want this great giveaway to get lost under the murk, so here is another little reminder! It’s really easy to enter! Hope you do! Good luck!

    The first give-away on Kitcheninspirations, click here to link back:

    Would you like a pinch?

    Would you like a pinch?

    I’ll give you another entry if you can tell me the name of my most favourite pet. 🙂

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    I’m a bit grumpy today :-(. It’s not because it’s Wednesday, or that it rained ALL day, or that it’s STILL winter, or that we’re NOT drinking wine during the week (or other libations, in effort to be healthier) — no, it’s because I have been called, YET AGAIN, my FOURTH TIME to jury duty. Few Canadians are bestowed with this honour (read extreme sarcasm here). In fact, my 87 year old father-in-law has NEVER been called, nor had his 75 year old wife (who sadly passed away many years ago), nor had either of my parents (both deceased), brother, brother -in-law, sister-in-laws, or for that matter, any of my friends. JT was called, twice! FOURTH FOR ME. Why ME? The second time I was called was about 2 months after the first time so I was excused (why can’t I be this lucky in the lotto? Hmmmm? WHY?). The third time I was simply warned that I may be called, thank goodness it never happened. And now it is the real deal, again. February 15. I am to show up at 8:30 at the main courthouse downtown. There is nothing even remotely interesting down there. Oh god, I hope they have WIFI so I can blog about it (you are allowed to do that, aren’t you?) Rest assured I’ll be texting all my friends and emailing; you really don’t want me bored, do you? I guess I can read. I hope there is no weird-o, freak-job case on the docket this time — last time I was spared a week away from serving on the Bernardo jury (I don’t think I could have stomached that). I wonder if they will let me off, after all, I am one of two people in a two person company? Bleh. Sorry about all the caps, I’m really grumpy.

    A quick update that I received a questionnaire on September 23, 2014 to see if I am eligible AGAIN, DAMN, DAMN, DAMN! I’m hoping that my current employment status will eliminate my requirement.

    We were invited to a brunch this past weekend and were asked to bring nothing! Nothing? I am not one to show up empty handed so I made chewy chocolate brownies. There will be a whole mess of kids there so the sugary, chocolatey squares will certainly be appreciated, even hours after we’ve bid our fair wells!!! 😉 Good thing I made dessert, because another guest brought 4 of them! Yup, we had a lot of delicious food. JT and I didn’t even have dinner (well, unless you call the saganaki we experimented with, I wish I had taken a photo).

    I left out nuts as I am unsure if there are any allergies, but go ahead and add them, if you choose. What’s interesting about this recipe is the absence of large quantity of fat, in fact, most of the calories are derived from the variety of sugars used in the concoction; but fear not, they are moist and chewy and not as tooth numbingly sweet as you might think. The original recipe came from the Toronto Star about 20 years ago, and approved by the Heart and Stroke Foundation at that time.

    Oh, and don’t forget to enter the giveaway! The entries are pouring in, some more correct than others ;-). I noticed that some of you questioned a particular year, and yes, that was a trick question. I hope you can get all 5 entries to make it a real challenge. I can hardly wait to make the grand prize draw for a very lucky winner!

    Chewy and chocolatey brownies. A treat for all ages.

    Would you care for coffee or tea with that? or maybe an Irish Cream over ice?

    Chewy Chocolate Brownies

    Makes about 20 brownies (or make them in mini muffin pans for a smaller, bite-sized treat)


    • 1 cup all purpose flour
    • 1 cup icing sugar
    • 4 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 1/2 oz (45g) semisweet chocolate chips
    • 3 tbsp butter or margarine
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
    • 1/2 cup water
    • 2 tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 egg whites


    1. Sift flour, icing sugar, cocoa powder and baking powder.
    2. Melt butter or margarine with brown sugar and chocolate chips, add vanilla, corn syrup and water.
    3. Beat in the egg whites (if the liquid is still hot, temper them so you don’t get scrambled eggs!)
    4. Add dry ingredients and stir well.
    5. Pour into a prepared 9″ x 9″ pan, or mini muffin tins (I generally just use Pam in the muffin tins or line the pan with parchment paper). Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm (10-12 minutes for the mini muffin tins). You can also bake these in mini muffin cups, like I did in 2008!
    6. Option to frost with a butter icing, but not necessary as this brownie is very moist and flavourful.

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    Click here to link back to the very easy giveaway. It’s a shame not to enter!

    Would you like a pinch?

    Do you need a pinch?

    Also wanted to mention that my photographer friend Edward Pond is down in Nicaragua teaching underprivileged kids camera skills; he took over 20 donated cameras with him. Check out his story, it’s pretty cool, and there’s drama too!

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    We were finally able to get into Ici Restaurant in Toronto; I say finally because, believe it or not, we made reservations between Christmas and New Years! It was on our list of places to try, but alas we had not been able to get in until now! Ici opened in November 2010 on Manning Avenue in Toronto after two years of fighting ridiculous issues with a City Councillor; not sure what the hoopla was over since it’s a very small French restaurant and not a after hours club! They serve “modern French food” with classics such as Lobster Bisque, Steak Tartar and Chicken Suprême.
    I have to say, having to wait three weeks to dine with a reservation, I had expectations. It was a blistery cold day in Toronto and this place is in a residential area (the Annex), with street parking only. We had our first snowfall the day before and not everyone shovels their sidewalk as they should; we had to park about a hundred metres from the restaurant and I wore satin sling backs (OK, I’m well-known for inappropriate footwear so this should be of no surprise!) We arrive and the place is T I N Y – seating for maybe 25, half if which is along the bar and kitchen counters. We were sat at the bar. I said, “but we had reservations” this is all we have, was the response. Hmmmm. It’s REALLY S M A L L. No where to hang your coat — they could have used hooks under the bar. The door is covered with heavy velvet drapery, but it’s still not enough to stop the blustery cold from interrupting our comfort. People are turned away at the door, you really do need a reservation. The décor is quaint but nothing special. The napkins are linen tea towels, I like them. There are place-mats at each place on the bar, and we are not overly crowded (I can’t even reach over to touch the next two diners, not that I would want to). The kitchen has a window so you can see the action, and it’s pretty obvious that they are not overly taxed.

    The staff is attentive; we are immediately welcomed with a small but very tasty goats cheese tart amuse bouche; it had caramelized onion baked with the tart, creamy goats cheese — it was delicious, which makes us both excited about our meals. The menu is short, only about ten things and they come in two sizes, appetizer portion of meal portion, which works out well for me. We order six oysters as our starter, they are small PEI oysters for $3. each; they are served with grated fresh horse radish, lemon wedges and a classic Mignonette garnish. They are quite lovely with a hint of brininess (I actually like my oysters a bit brinier!) and they are a lite great starter without taking up tummy-space. Because the restaurant space is small and there are not many people, it’s a little quieter than most hot spot eateries, which is nice because I have a difficult time competing with noise, my voice tends to be the same level and I can’t even hear myself talk! I ordered the steak tartar; the server said it was delicately seasoned with shallots, cognac, mustard and cornichons (not capers). I ordered the appetizer portion and it is served as two good sized quenelle shapes with similarly shaped deep-fried mashed potatoes. Although I am not a huge potato eater, my preference would have been the beautiful match-stick fries traditionally served with this dish. I ate half of one of the potatoes and gave the other half to JT. The tartar was tasty, not the best I’ve ever had, but certainly up there. JT had the Seared Braised Beef, Artichoke & Black Trumpet Ravioli, even the appetizer portion was a healthy serving. The meat was so tender and tasty, it was right up there for taste and quality. He said it was good but not the best he’s ever had. We finished with a couple of very delicious espressos. The dinner was nicely spaced out, with reservations at 7:30 we left around 9:30.

    Overall rating of Ici (in my opinion): Decor 2.5/5, service 3.5/5, food 3.5/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

    Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

    The first give-away on Kitcheninspirations:

    Would you like a pinch?

    Would you like a pinch?

    I picked up these wonderful little Just a Pinch sample packets of flavoured gourmet salts during the Christmas Holidays at Longo‘s new store at the Air Canada Centre. I was so intrigued by them, the possibilities are endless. To enter is easy:

    • Answer the following four questions correctly (all of the answers are found in my blog) in a comment on this post will get you one entry.
    • For additional entries, leave one comment on the correct post in which you found the answers; each comment (limit one per post, per person) on the correct post will gain you one additional entry.
    • Bring a new person to comment on my blog (and they actually leave a meaningful comment), please tell me the person’s name in a comment and you will get an additional entry AND the new person will get one entry.

    Contest open until January 22, 2012 at which time I will tabulate the entries and all correct entries will go into a draw. JT will officiate the draw. All five little packets will be won by one lucky individual, anywhere in the world. I will release the winner’s name during the week of January 23. Good luck to you all.

    1. What inspired me to create this blog?
    2. What month is my birthday?
    3. How did we travel to Montreal in the fall of 2011?
    4. How many pictures did I upload in 2010?

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    My friend, Barb (Profiteroles and Ponytails) went to Australia several years ago and shortly after we visited her in Vancouver; for our premier dinner she made us the Thai Coconut Soup that is so famous in restaurants and it was delicious! I had no experience cooking Thai food at home and as a gift she bought me a Thai cookbook called Australian Woman’s Weekly, Easy Thai-Style Cookery. It is really my ‘go to’ cookbook for Thai food, my favourite being Lemongrass Soup. It has great step-by-step instructions on how to with very clear photos. You really can’t go wrong. I have made this soup so often I don’t even look at the recipe anymore and basically just eyeball and taste it, so you’ll have to excuse my loosey-goosey measurements! I have served this soup at several dinner parties and I am told by some of my Thai food-lover friends that it is very delicious!

    Thai cooking is about balancing salty, sweet, spicy and sour so you really have to taste, taste, taste and adjust as you go along. My Lemongrass soup is my favourite to the restaurant variety as I find some too salty and too sweet. Most restaurant versions also don’t include fettuccine-sized rice noodles (half centimetre wide) in the soup, but there was one place across from the Eaton Centre on Yonge Street that always had the noodles in the soup and I really enjoyed it, so I usually include them!

    This soup comes together very quickly, the hard part is waiting for the rice noodles to soften up. You can also substitute shrimp for the chicken.

    Comforting lemongrass chicken soup

    I always make an extra huge batch so I can take some to work for my lunch the next day.

    A mouthwatering delicious balance of salty, sweet, sour and spicy; can I get you a bowl?

    Thai Inspired Lemongrass Chicken Soup

    Serves 3 in large bowls


    • 1 tbsp flavourless vegetable oil
    • 1 tsp sesame oil
    • 3oog boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced thinly
    • 2 cups thinly sliced plain white mushrooms (I like a lot of mushrooms in my soup)
    • 1/2 cup finely sliced onion
    • 2 cloves garlic finely minced
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
    • 1 tsp ginger (ground is fine, fresh is better)
    • 2 tbsp finely chopped lemon grass
    • 4 kafir lime leaves
    • 2 small bits of dry galangal (Thai ginger)
    • 1 tbsp fish sauce
    • 1 tbsp lime juice
    • 2-4 tbsp sugar (or I used agave nectar)
    • 1/2 tsp chili flakes (or to taste)
    • 4-6 cup water or low sodium chicken stock (I did a mix of the two to mitigate calories)
    • a good handful of fettuccine-sized rice noodles


    • 1/4 cup finely sliced green onion (forgot to add for the photo)
    • 2-4 Thai basil leaves, chiffonade (did not have this, nor did I miss it)
    • handful of chopped cilantro (did not have this, but I surely missed it)


    1. Heat the water in your kettle until boiling. Pour over the rice noodles and allow to sit until they are totally reconstituted, 10-15 minutes. Do not over soak, you want a bit of a bite to it.
    2. In a large soup pan, heat the two oils until hot but not smoky (the sesame oil has a very low smoke point). Add the onions and stir until slightly translucent. Add the chicken and brown a bit. Turn the heat down to a simmer.
    3. Mix the cumin, coriandre, ginger and lemon grass together, sprinkle on the chicken and stir until you can really smell it. Add the garlic and stir once. Add all of the chicken stock, kafir leaves, galangal, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and chili flakes. Stir well. Heat so that the chicken cooks through. Once the chicken is cooked, taste for salty, sweet, spicy and sour balance and adjust accordingly. Remove the galangal and kafir lime leaves, discard.
    4. Put one third of the cold noodles into a large decorative white bowl. Add ladle-fulls of the chicken soup with bits of chicken, onion and mushrooms. Garnish with the green onion, chopped basil leaves and cilantro leaves. Enjoy.

    Cooks tips:

    • Store your fresh ginger knobs in the freezer in a resealable container; grate on a fine micro-plane grater when required, you need not peel it! Keeps indefinitely.
    • I usually buy a large quantity of lemongrass and chop them finely in my food processor, and then I freeze them in a reusable container. I can usually break off what I need.
    • If you are taking the left overs to work, I recommend storing the cooked noodles in a separate container to the soup so that they don’t absorb any more liquid. When you reheat the soup, do so to just before boiling (so the chicken doesn’t cook further) and that way when you put the chilled noodles in, they will cool it down to a palatable level.
    • Fish sauce is used in thai cooking instead of salt.
    • To save time, I have sometimes used Rosa’s Lime Cordial instead of lime juice, but you have to remember NOT to add the sugar.

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    My blogger friend Sharyn of Kale Chronicles recently bestowed the Food Bloggers Unplugged award to me; I am quite flattered and very touched that she has now given me two awards! Thank you, Sharyn. The Food Bloggers Unplugged is designed to allow the blogger to divulge a few personal details about their blogging motivation.

    Awarded by Sharyn at Kale Chronicles

    What or who inspired you to start your blog?

    I started blogging in early 2007 as a chronicle of our renovation. It ended up being a bit of a venting place for me; we had issues with our renovator. But I enjoyed blogging so much that when the reno was complete and the party was had I decided to continue with Kitcheninspirations and document cooking in my new kitchen. I enjoyed blogging but I never really understood the value of commenting until I started to gain a bit of a following and in turn, get to know a lot of great people.

    Who is your foodie inspiration?

    I would have to say that my foodie inspiration were my parents. My Father had a very refined palate and my mother was a home cook, undaunted and unafraid of any recipe or ingredient. My father used to say, “why should I go out and pay for a restaurant meal when your mother can make it so much better.”

    Your greasiest most batter splattered cook book is?

    Five Roses Flour Cookbook. For $1 I sent away for this basic cookbook in the late 1970’s and it’s been my Go To cookbook for basics. That and the Fanny Farmer Cookbook which I was given as a wedding present 25 years ago!

    The best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it and what was it?

    Bouillabaisse in Marseille, France. I had never had the real bouillabaisse before but had read that it was invented in Marseille so I had to give it a try. I have never really been fond of fish soup, but I can tell you, that soup with the rouille and the crostini, sitting on a patio on a gorgeous fall day overlooking the harbour was breathtaking and unbelievably delicious. JT ordered the steak frites but had wished almost instantaneously that he had ordered the bouillabaisse instead. Fading into to dreamy land….

    Another Food Blogger’s table you would like to eat at?

    So many and so little time; but to name a few: Sawsan at Chef in Disguise, Ann at Cooking Healthy for Me, Kristy and Mike at Eat, Play, Love, John at from the Bartolini kitchens, Charles at Five Euro Food and Lorraine’s at Not quite Nigella (I would add Barb’s at Profiterols and Ponytails, but I have actually eaten at her table and enjoyed it immensely!) and many more.

    What one kitchen gadget would you like Santa to bring you? (money no object)

    A warming drawer; I wish I had worked it into my kitchen reno but alas it was not so.

    Who taught you how to cook?

    My dear mother taught me the basics of cooking. She also taught me not to be afraid of trying something new, if it doesn’t work out, start again. Years of watching Food Network and early TV cooks, I have honed my skills.

    I’m coming to you for dinner, what is your signature dish?

    Barley Risotto. I always have dried woodland mushrooms on hand, barley, stock and parmesan cheese. Flourless Molten chocolate cake for dessert.

    What is your guilty food pleasure?

    Escargot in garlic butter with lots of crusty bread. Or steak tartar.

    Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?

    My favourite pet in the whole world was my gorgeous little brown bunny rabbit named Dustie. She passed away almost six years ago and I have been able to bring myself to get another.

    Tag five other Food Bloggers to answer these questions:

    1. Hotly Spiced, Charlie Louie is a beautiful Mom with some very sophisticated recipes and a lovely way she weaves a story about her family into her posts.
    2. GenYFoodie, Dara puts together healthy, local ingredients into comforting meals. And she wrote a cookbook.
    3. Ichigo Shortcake, interesting food and travel adventures.
    4. Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, good down to earth recipes.
    5. The Big Fat Noodle, recipes and anecdotes.

    Thanks again, Sharyn, I really appreciate the award. Now, I must contemplate some requirements for an upcoming giveaway! Very exciting…indeed.

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    We awoke this morning to a light dusting of snow, not enough to shovel (yay!) but very pretty with the sun shining on it and making it sparkle like diamond dust!
    We’ve been good. No Really, we have been. We’ve been eating healthily, not imbibing and some of us have been exercising (well, I have an excuse, my darn gym was closed this week! 😦 ) But the first week back is always a little tricky, it could be crazy busy or dead. Guess what it was for me? Yup, on Tuesday I landed with both feet running! I even had to call in our trusty freelancer (Jay). So as a ‘reward’ we decided to continue our new restaurant exploration series and try La Forchetta in Little Italy. Little Italy on College (we have Little Italy’s and this one is more or less the one people think of) is not too far from our home but decidedly not a good public transit local from our home, so we drove.
    Because I am trying to detach some of the ‘goodness’ that I acquired during the holidays, I decided to have only one appetizer (generally, I’ll have two, or JT and I will share one and I’ll have another as my main; it’s easier to keep things in check and there is usually no risk of over eating!)
    If only they didn’t bring the home-made bread drenched in a wonderfully robust (peppery) EVOO, rosemary and sea salt! That’s where ‘the plan’ fell through! (Not to be confused with “the plane, the plane“). I had three delicious slices (I chose the smallest ones :-)!)
    La Forchetta (pronounced La Fork-etta in Italian, meaning the fork!) is right in the middle of Little Italy; and the hood has gone wild with their Christmas lights! Usually they have ‘the boot’ in lights on every light standard along college, but the also tightly wrapped each tree along the main street with blue lights and there are three gorgeous angels made of lights along side of Scotia Bank! It really is a sight! The beauty of this Little Italy is that every second store front is a restaurant!

    La Forchetta is a relatively small (maybe seats 40-50?), family owned authentic Italian restaurant (great shot, click here). Our very nice waitress said it’s been open for 15 years and everything they serve is house made; that bread was seriously delicious! It is dimly lit with very nice contemporary chandeliers and there is a real candle on every table. It has windows across the front, a mirrored side wall (it may have been a smoked mirror) and a small bar at the back. The kitchen is not quite an open kitchen at the back, it has a medium sized opening so you can see the action should you choose (even the kitchen’s lighting is subdued so that there isn’t a rush of fluorescent streaming in). There are two Green P public parking lots near by and there is street parking if you’re lucky enough!)

    When we got there at 7:30 and it wasn’t full but as the evening progressed it got a great vibe with more people. The young one’s started coming in around 9ish! We reserved through Open Table and they actually had a table “reserved” for us! Even though we only had ‘two’ courses our waitress timed our food perfectly, we didn’t finish until after 9:30. We tried walking around a bit, but the wind had picked up and a cold front was definitely on the horizon.

    JT ordered the Caesar salad; it was chopped Romain lettuce, with a small bit of crispy fried prosciutto and lots of finely grated Parmesan and a few house made croutons. The dressing was perfect, just the right creaminess with a hint of the anchovy and a nice splash of lemon juice. It was really delicious (although, if I had to complain about something it would have been that the romain was cut into too small bits). I ordered the grilled calamari with caper berries and grilled lemon and green zucchini with a chipotle mango coulis (very delicious) and it was a decent portion for my dinner. JT ordered the slightly unorthodox sweet potato gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce; it was the perfect combination of Gorgonzola and cream, it had just the right amount of bite! JT said it was one of the best he’s ever had. I think this restaurant is a keeper! There were several things on the appetizer menu that I could and would order for example the goats cheese filled portobello cap, or the Caprese (but not in the winter!). They also had several wines for less than $50 a bottle and their half litre was reasonably priced too!

    Overall rating La Forchetta (in my opinion): Decor 4/5 (great lighting), service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

    Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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    Many of you have been doing a year in review with the most popular posts and I was thinking all week about doing the same. In reflecting on this data and going back through my blog, I again realize how much your visits/comments mean to me. Thank you everyone for your kind words and your encouragement, you have certainly enriched my blog experience more than you can know. I did do a review post last year, but showed only b-o-r-i-n-g stats, so this year, I am going to learn a lesson from my fellow bloggers and review my fourth year of blogging with more interesting things, like photos; I may have to interject some stats too…:-)

    This blog received an ‘amazing’ 20,000 hits in 2011 (WordPress said it was ‘amazing’!) which apparently is 7 sold-out performances in the Sydney Opera House! I did a total of 141 posts with 423 photos! The busiest day of the year on this blog was September 17th with 301 views; the most popular post that day was TIFF and a test Moroccan Dessert Sellou (Sfouf). I think it was because George Clooney was in Toronto and everyone was searching TIFF!

    It seems that these photos were the most popular in 2011 (even though they were from past posts), I’ll bore you with only four of them (note that some of the photos were taken with a Nikon Cool Pix, not an SLR)!:

    The Best Flourless Chocolate Cake

    #1 Molten Chocolate Cake by Michael Smith

    Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Salad

    #2 Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

    Hungarian Cheese Sticks (Sajtos Rúd)

    #3 Hungarian Cheese Sticks (Sajos Rud)

    Old Fashioned Date Filled Oatmeal Cookies

    #4 Old Fashioned Date Filled Oatmeal Cookies

    My favourite photos from 2011 are :
    Anzac Biscuits

    Chewy and not as sweet as you would think

    The Moroccan Dessert Trio

    From left to right: Coconut Lemon Cake, Fig Tart and Sellou

    Cheddar, Green Onion and Prosciutto Scones

    Cheddar, Green Onion and Prosciutto Scones

    Cauliflower and Celeriac Mashed “potatoes”

    Celeriac Cauliflower Mash

    I usually don’t make resolutions, but this year I decided I would use fewer plastic zip lock bags. We’ve gone almost bagless, using reusable bags for everything else, even when I buy shoes, so why not ziplocks too? Wish me luck!

    And with that, I bid you good day. I hope you enjoyed this little trip down memory lane as much as I did.

    PS, I only really learned how to use my SLR this year; my previous photos really sucked!

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    My niece who is doing her post graduate degree in Law at the University of Western Ontario was visiting family up in Peterborough over the holidays. She had given her boyfriend tickets to the latest Cirque de Soliel in Toronto so they were coming to the city on Thursday night. We met up with them for drinks as they had to have an early dinner (we’re not seniors, yet), but then they came back to our house for the night so they wouldn’t have to drive home in the middle of the night! I made Cheddar, Green Onion and Prosciutto Scones for breakfast and they turned out extremely well so I thought I would share the recipe. We may have stayed up late chatting and drinking wine…or not. I mixed all the dry ingredients together and the wet separately, leaving the cheese, prosciutto and onion separate. In the morning I just mixed it all up, rolled it out and baked it. I had to make sure it was really easy since I wasn’t sure how hungry (ya, that’s it ;-)), we would be!

    Particularly good if eaten hot out of the oven

    The recipe is originally from Company’s Coming Muffins and More by Jean Paré, but of course, I changed it up a bit by adding the green onion and prosciutto.

    Flaky scones with bits of prosciutto and green onion, the cheddar gets all melty inside (I should'ave photoshoped the prosciutto in this front one, it was there, really!)

    Cheddar, Green Onion and Prosciutto Scones

    Makes about 15 to 18 Scones, depending on the size you make them.


    • 2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 4 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (you can use frozen butter grated on the largest grater)
    • 1 large egg
    • 2/3 cup milk plus 2 tbsp
    • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
    • 1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
    • 2 slices Prosciutto, cooked until crisp, blotted for oil and then broken up into little bits


    1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
    2. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder together with the salt.
    3. Cut in the butter until crumbly.
    4. Fold in the green onion, cheese and Prosciutto
    5. Mix together the egg and milk and beat until slightly frothy.
    6. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Mix well.
    7. Turn out onto a lightly floured board, and knead a few time (we don’t want the butter to melt, so careful if you have hot hands).
    8. Roll out to about 1 cm or 1/2 inch thick and cut with your favourite round, square or traingular cookie cutter.
    9. Brush the tops with the 2 tbsp milk.
    10. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the tops are golden.
    11. Enjoy with unsalted butter.

    I had rounds, squares and triangles! They all taste the same, silly!

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    A quick note that you may have noticed that I am now following you; I have been following you for quite some time, but had not figured out how to do it in WordPress! Well, I’ve finally figured it out and it’s done!

    We weren’t going to go out for dinner last night but at the last minute decided to try out Bannock, the new Oliver and Bonacini restaurant at the corner of Queen and Bay Streets downtown. We made reservations on Open Table and got our preferred time. We took the subway to be on the safe side. The restaurant is decidedly contemporary, but the walls are lined with rough cut lumber darkly stained — the National Post called it “woodsy faux voyageur”, I didn’t mind it. It is has several lighting styles throughout. It’s not a huge place, maybe seating a hundred people. The cuisine is said to be Canadian Comfort Food and we are excited about the menu which boasts things such as the Prairie Grain Salad, Shaved Button Mushroom Salad, Mac and Cheese (with a granola topping) and Biff’s fried bologna and eggs! Decisions, decisions!

    We arrived a little late but were seated within a couple of minutes. I mentioned lighting styles above and for the most part they are warm, contemporary soft subtle lights which will do a lovely job on various skin shades and textures; we were seated at the “wall of light” that had a 1000 watt LED cool bulb every 2 feet shining down right onto the unsuspecting patrons — yes, you know what I mean, just slightly better than fluorescent bulbs! Our waitress came over and asked if we needed a few minutes (we just got there) and if we wanted water; she sent over the water guy. I had to shield my eyes from the light to read the menu (did I bring my sun glasses?) We did not see our waitress for 10 minutes, no, I lied, she came by several times, looked directly at me and walked on by. We wanted to change our table but by the time she would have come over, the tables had been filled, the place was really busy. We got up and left. We’ll get back there again one day, likely for lunch when I have my sunglasses!

    We ended up at Mercatto on Bay Street. We were immediately drawn to the beautiful modern but comfortable Italian décor with lovely crystal chandeliers (dimmed to the perfect level). There are several black-boards throughout with menu items, nice sayings and such. It’s very friendly and fortunately for us, not busy at all. Our waitress was chatty and available. We shared the Crostini which was generously spread with ricotta and topped with prosciutto, arugula and grana padano. It was fantastic, the ricotta might have been a bit thick, but I wasn’t about to complain. We agreed we would both order it again. I had the Polipo which was grilled octopus with spicy ‘nduga sausage (they weren’t kidding about the spicy), fingerlings and swiss chard; another total winner. The sausage did overwhelm the delicate octopus, but again, I loved it. JT had the Chitarra “carbonara” with guianciale (unsmoked Italian bacon), brussels spouts and pecorino — very delicious. I really loved this place and would go back in a second. They have a great pizza oven too!

    Overall rating Mercatto (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet). The restaurant was pretty quiet, I would imagine it gets pretty loud at night if it’s busy. Our waitress mentioned that they were full booked for New Years Eve.

    Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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    We had a very good friend and her hubby over for brunch during the holidays; she is gluten intolerant so I like to make things she can easily enjoy, AND I don’t like to make two of everything so whatever I cook/bake has to be delicious enough that her husband can’t tell the difference ;-)! My good blogger friends Kristy and Mike at Our Family Food Adventures made a raspberry tart the other day, and it looked absolutely wonderful, so I went about the internet to find a gluten free pie pastry. I made a few alterations in the filling recipe to make it gluten free and a smaller tart size. Sadly the GF crust recipe I used was not the best so I won’t list the recipe, but I used this one, cutting it in half for the smaller tart pan!

    The pastry in our little tester up front turned out a very hard and leathery, I would probably suggest a bit more butter in the pastry or a different recipe!

    Do you like my tart server? Why yes, it is a shoe, thank you for noticing!

    The raspberries were a little tart, so adjust your sugar accordingly

    Raspberry Filling Ingredients:

    • 3 c raspberries (I used frozen)
    • 1/3 c sugar
    • 1/3 c tapioca starch
    • 2 tbsp non-fat Greek Yogurt
    • 1 tsp butter
    • 1 tbsp sugar
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

    Raspberry Filling Directions:

    1. Pre-heat the oven to 375°F.
    2. Defrost the raspberries.
    3. Sprinkle with the 1/3 cup sugar and 1/3 cup tapioca starch, mix well.
    4. Add the Greek yogurt and mix. Set aside.
    5. Combine the 1 tbsp sugar with the cinnamon.
    6. Rub the butter on the bottom of the tart pastry until it is completely used up. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.
    7. Pour the raspberry filling into the tart pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the crust is lightly golden and the filling has set.
    8. Allow to cool. Serve cold or at room temperature.

    I added a heap of fresh raspberries on the day I served it

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    I wasn’t going to review La Societé again as we have been there before and the food and service is always consistently good, but we had such an amazing experience on New Years Eve, I just had to blog about it.

    Would you like to place your order all at once, or as the evening goes on?

    We made our reservations for 9 so that we’d have half a chance of ringing in the new year at the restaurant; we didn’t make it, the food was so delicious we had a really hard time eating s l o w l y (and anyone who knows JT will attest that it is no easy feat!). We both got dolled up to celebrate the new year of 2012. We did the responsible thing by subwaying downtown so that we could imbibe. The subways were running well which really surprised me*.

    The restaurant was not as crowded as I had thought it would be. This was their first year and to our surprise they did not take a deposit for our reservation (La Select took one last year and the year before; apparently Torontonians are famous for not showing up for a reservation!). We were seated quickly at a centre table for two — I hated it immediately and asked to be moved, the hostess said she didn’t have another table. Grumble, grumble, grumble. As we were settling in, and our waitress was pouring the water and I happened to say “wow, is it ever noisy” and it was. She immediately picked up on it and asked if we’d like a lovely little table tucked into the corner by the window. We jumped on it. She moved us and we settled in. Coincidentally, the following patrons at that same table requested a change of scenery as well! Note to restaurant: that little table in the middle is in the way, no one likes it, not even the wait staff — they keep bumping into the diners sitting there. It’s best to remove the offending table than risk your patron having only a so-so time.

    The meal began with a little amuse bouche of toasted brioche with lemon scented goats cheese and tomato confit, it was lovely. Our lovely waitress paced us well, we just couldn’t pace ourselves! I ordered Spicy Tuna Tartar which was diced tuna, apple, ginger, pine nuts and fresh coriander — so delicious. The little bites of crunchy apple and pine nuts really complimented the smooth texture of the tuna, and the ginger was quite refreshing and added a bit of heat to the dish. I couldn’t stop eating, the portion was huge 150-200 grams of the tuna — they really could have cut it in half. JT had the Braised Bison Short Rib with smoked bone marrow and cauliflower purée. The short rib was braised to perfection, simply melting off the bone. The flavour was rich and satisfying. I didn’t try the cauliflower purée but it looked wonderful. Now I’m absolutely full, and I still have my steak to contend with.

    Next we ordered our mains; I had the Grilled AAA 10 oz Striploin Steak, rare (they didn’t have my steak tartar on the menu so I had to go with this instead. Plus I NEVER order cooked steak so it was a lovely change. They served the steak with Delmonico potatoes with woodland mushrooms (an incredibly decadent dish of potatoes, a cheesy white sauce and buttered mushrooms) and a brandy peppercorn sauce. Let me start by saying the portions were incredible. I barely got through 1/4 of the 300-400 gram steak and barely touched the potatoes. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying. It was wonderful. The steak was cooked rare, melted in your mouth and the peppercorn sauce added that little bite. The potatoes were incredibly creamy and the mushrooms sooo delicious, I picked through and ate them before I gave JT a chance to try it. Fortunately I was able to bring my leftovers home! JT had the Pan-seared Pheasant Breast with roast chestnuts, apple foie gras butter and a celery root purée and brussels sprout leaves. The pheasant breast was cooked perfectly and paired well with the sides. It was a more manageable portion.

    I didn’t have much room for dessert so I didn’t order one, but instead had a spoon of JTs Hazelnut Chocolate Bar with salted praline and caramel ice cream. WOW! Although I was glad I didn’t order one, I would have truly regretted finishing it off! 😉

    The restaurant noise level was a bit louder than usual, people reveling and enjoying their dinners, and around 10pm they brought in a DJ who slowly raised the volume of the 1980’s music higher and higher. By 11pm we were no longer able to converse, so we decided to head home and bring in the new year by the fireplace and a glass of wine. I was a little disappointed in the music as I would have expected more Jazz instead of 1980s pop from a French restaurant.

    The subway ride home was entertaining thanks to the inebriated passengers and fortunately, on time without issues. Had we stayed until mid-night, the TTC would have been free.

    I have to say something about the service: exceptional. Our waitress was attentive but subtle and always around when we needed something. Our wine glasses were never empty, nor were our water glasses. My regret is that I wish I had gotten her name so I can pass along my great experience to the restaurant.

    Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 1/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet). This restaurant is never quiet.

    Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

    In case you needed some more reading:

    *On Friday night we also took the subway down, and just as we were coming home around 10:30, they announced that there was an issue which caused the subway to be shut down. The terminal was crowding quickly as passengers were accumulating, so we decided to surface and take a cab before they became extinct. Traffic was also brutal; as it turns out, there was a fire at St. George station which caused backups along Bloor Street – our route home! The 10 minute cab ride ended up setting us back $30, including tip! Yikes! To recap, we spend $4 for the car park at the subway station (ya, we live close enough to walk but it was raining!), $10 for the subway ($2.50 each way per person) and then $30 for the ride home! That’s $44 and we haven’t even had a bite!

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    Happy New Year! I do hope you had a fabulous time bringing in the new year. JT and I enjoyed a four course dinner at La Société with champagne and wine. Don’t worry, we took the subway (Metro) which was free after midnight! We have a busy day on Sunday entertaining our neighbours for cocktails and then heading over to our friends for dinner; Rae and Monica just returned from a Christmas cruise with their three girls so there will be a lot of stories to tell!

    I thought this was the last installment of our restaurant reviews this holiday season, but it’s not. The Bowery is in Old Town Toronto on Colborne Street near the St. Lawrence Market and King Edward Hotel. The restaurant is divided into two sections (two buildings were linked for additional space); the first space seems to be more clubby and it’s where the bar is, and the second space is more dining-y where the open kitchen is. The décor is contemporary New York with exposed brick, casual wood tables and cosy booths. The open kitchen is lined with a bar & bar stools along the length for diners to see the chef do his magic. There is a very cool neon light that says You+Me in a pink neon heart on the brick wall! The lighting is great. The cutlery is mismatched antique silver and stainless – it’s very cool.
    We made reservations for 7:15 on a Thursday night in the middle of the holidays and we were late but called so they wouldn’t give away our table; we needn’t have worried, it was sadly very empty except for a couple of smallish office parties on the bar side. I liked the décor but there was no vibe, I suspect because it was empty. It was also UNBEARABLY cold inside. We complained and the waitress brought over a heater mentioning that they have also complained to the management. I ate my entire dinner wearing my winter coat, my feet were freezing. You could say that it’s an old building and it’s difficult to heat, but then half that area are restaurants and they don’t have a problem!
    We ordered an appetizer to share, the Crostini Platter which was quite lovely with sautéed Mushrooms, Haloumi (Greek brine cured cheese), Pepperonata (caramelized peppers), prosciutto, Pierre Robert (a triple cream cheese) for $14; we had to ask for more crostini but other than that it was quite delicious. I ordered the Grilled Octopus appetizer as my main (in effort to control volume!). It had roasted peppers, nicoise olives, pea sprouts, chickpea panisse (think chick pea polenta) and pickled vegetables for $15, very tasty indeed; other than one tentacle being slightly chewy the rest were grilled to perfection. I could have used a sharper knife. JT had the Waygu and Prime rib burger with shallots, aged cheddar and garlic aioli $15 and the spaetzle with bacon, caramelized onions & sour cream $6, and it was incredibly delicious. We brought some of the spaetzle home it was soooooooo good.
    The food totally rocked but I would only go back in warmer weather, unless they fix their heating issues. I can’t even tell you how chilly the bathrooms were!!!

    Overall rating (in my opinion): Decor 1/5 (this is where I captured the insufficient heat, otherwise it would have been 3.5), service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet). The restaurant was empty, I would imagine it gets pretty loud at night if it’s busy. We checked Open Table for Friday night and they were fully booked!

    Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

    Chef de Cuisine – Jason Maw
    Executive Chef – Tawfik Shehata

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