Devil’s Food Cupcakes

Last Thursday was my last day of work. I quit my job to pursue a new career path in the big city. Oh, and to live with GC.

I made Martha Stewart’s Devil’s Food Cupcakes for my co-workers as a thank you for how great they have been over the past two years.

The only thing I do differently than Martha is instead of letting my Chocolate Ganache Frosting to naturally and slowly thicken, I use an electric hand mixer to whip the ganache. I assume that changes this from ganache to something else that I have bastardized but the result is still silky, smooth, chocolate icing.

The reason these cupcakes are so good is the use of the sour cream in the cupcake batter. It makes the cake light and fluffy which is the exact texture of the frosting. The frosting doesn’t have that awful, gritty quality that a lot cupcakes tend to have. This is my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe – try it out!

 

Jumbo Empanadas

A couple of weeks ago, GC and I were looking for a quick bite to eat in Kensington Market and strangely enough, this was not as easy as it would seem/should be. Our first attempt was The Grilled Cheese and I’m pretty convinced I am destined to NOT eat here. We were told it would take 25 minutes for us to get our sandwiches. Why? In what world should it take 25 minutes to make a grilled cheese sandwich, especially when that is pretty much all your restaurant makes? Hipster fail. I think this is just another reason why my heart still belongs to Cheesewerks.

After our first failed attempt to satisfy our hungry, we wandered into a few more restaurants and still no luck. Hungry, cranky and pressed for time, GC suggested we go to Jumbo Empanadas.

For those who don’t know, an empanada is stuffed bread/dough that is fried and is common in Latin American cultures. Jumbo Empanada draws on inspiration of Latin culture in Texas and the decor has a southwest feel to it.

The menu is pretty straight forward but a little daunting if you don’t know anything about empanadas. We should have asked for a suggestion/what the best selling item on the menu is – next time we will do this. This is a good tip for any restaurant you go to where the menu is large and you are overwhelmed with options. You will get the best and most popular item as a suggestion and insight into the restaurant and it’s staff.

We opted to each get a chicken empanada – the empanadas are made in the morning and then warmed to order. You can get your empanadas to stay or to go or to eat on their patio.

This is the empanada before I tore it apart. The outside was crunchy but when you bit into it, it was doughy and soft.

Here is the inside of my empanada. Shredded chicken, herbs, spices, peppers and a hard boiled egg. The salsa added the perfect amount of heat and complimented all the ingredients. The egg kind of threw me off at first but it was cooked perfectly so there was no grey around the yolk and the yolk was soft and creamy.

These look huge but I think I could have eaten two but maybe I’m just a glutton. Despite its size, the empanada was light and didn’t leave you feeling like you had a rock in your stomach.

I want to go back in the summer and sit on the patio and make the people walking by jealous of my delicious food. If you are in Kensington Market and need a quick bite to eat, this is the place, and would be even if there was a plethora of options.

Hey Meatball

There has been an emerging trend in Toronto food culture of restaurants popping open that specialize in one things: various grilled cheese restaurants like Cheesewerks or The Grilled Cheese, the specialty sausage restaurant Wrvst and Hey Meatball, which specializes in nothing but, you guessed it, meatballs.

Of course, as someone dating an Italian, we needed to check out this place and compare the meatballs to the ones Nonna makes.

Located in the heart of Little Italy, Hey Meatball has to be good. All the ingredients used are farm sourced from within a 100-mile radius and everything is all natural. All the pasta used is made daily – this kind of quality would be hard to find in most traditional Italian homes.

The restaurant is open concept with a great view of the kitchen. In the kitchen the cooks are dancing, singing and joking – it is like that scene out of The Big Chill. You can see all the meatballs being ground and rolled fresh to order. The tables and chairs are a mismatch of styles and sizes, as if you are sitting down to a huge family dinner at someone’s house and chairs have been grabbed from every room of the house.The walls are lined with a combination of bad paint-by-numbers (clearly ironic), photos of old Italian ladies and scenes from Italy. Looking at the walls you can picture this eclectic combination lining the walls of your Nonna’s house.

The menu is everything you would except – meatballs are the main focus but you are able to get them several different ways. I think my favourite thing about the menu is the fact that you can get 3 meatballs with sauce. This is the perfect amount for a snack, and anytime I have the option to have a dinner option as a snack, I’m there.

You order at the counter, they tell you that the meatballs are a pork and beef blend (for all our Kosher, Halal et al. friends out there) give them your name and then take a seat. They’ll call you when it’s ready. Perfect. Why can’t more place operate like this?

I ordered the Mac & Cheese with Pork/Beef meatballs.

The pasta was tender and was cooked perfectly. It was creamy and so cheesy. When my order came up, they drizzled olive oil over my mac & cheese – so Italian. Adding olive oil on top of something that traditionally does not have olive oil on it is so Italian, in a good way. The meatballs were juicy and flavourful, and this was all because of the quality of meat not because of anything else that was added in.

I polished this bowl off. It was too good not to finish it all.

GC ordered the Rodfather – named after the owner and chef of Hey Meatball, Rodney Bowers.

GC compared the meatballs on this sandwich to the quality that his Nonna makes. Now that is an endorsement. The sauce was a perfect compliment to the flavour of the meatballs and the pesto rounded out the taste of the whole sandwich. The salad was light and had a nice vinegary flavour, it cleansed the flavour of the sandwich perfectly.

Homemade cream sodas to wash everything down. Sweet, rooty, delicious. I love this trend of restaurants now making their own homemade sodas. It kind of make you think that it isn’t quite as bad as having a glass of Coke.

Before we left, we talked to Rod and told him we loved what he was doing here. We gave him the biggest compliment you can give someone who makes meatballs, “These rival Nonna’s.” He told us how an old Italian lady had come into the restaurant to order some meatballs for her son. I’m pretty sure she passed these meatballs off as her own.

Definitely a place to check out as a meat-lover.

 

 

Buffalo Wild Wings

I don’t typically cover chain-restaurants because they aren’t anything new and exciting but in my quest for my favourite chicken wings I thought I would let you all know my thoughts on Buffalo Wild Wings.

GC and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings on Valentine’s Day which of course lead our server to ask if we are married. I guess when you go for wings on Valentine’s Day peope assume all romance has been lost and therefore you are married (I don’t believe this personally but I feel like society in general does). There are currently only three locations in Canada and for some strange reason, Newmarket got a location. Wing places come to die in Newmarket.

BWW is a mixture of bar and family dining which is something unique in a wing place. We sat in the bar area and there was about 4545332345674 televisions with various sports games – clearly this is a place where you would want to watch a game. In addition to all the televisions, they also have these game consoles that you can bring to your game and play games similar to what you would find on a smart phone. BWW is suffering from some major sensory overload.

Everything here is so cheap! And it came out so fast! And you know what – that’s how it should be! I realize all this food is processed and from frozen so therefore, why should I be paying tons of money and waiting half an hour for my food!

We started with the soft pretzels.

These were salty, and cheesy but I would have liked them a little softer. There was two different types of dipping sauce – a cheese and a mustard sauce. The cheese sauce was a little thick and reminded me of Cheese Whiz and then made me want celery. The mustard had a nice zing and was the perfect compliment to the salty pretzels.

Sweet potato fries. Pretty standard but always something that grabs me.

The wings.

Not the meatiest wings out there but great flavour. I think these are my favourite wing flavours I have ever had but not my favourite wings. I got a pound of the Honey BBQ and GC got a pound in two flavours (also something typically unheard of in wing culture. Typically, you can only split flavours among whole pounds, rather than half pounds): Honey BBQ and Parmesan Garlic.

The Honey BBQ had a sweet flavour and a nice heat. I am slowly trying to build my tolerance to heat and according to the BWW heat scale, this is above their medium. That is a pretty big deal for me.

GC said the Parmesan Garlic was salty and creamy but having a whole pound would have been overwhelming and would have killed his taste buds. Luckily, our server told us this and we didn’t kill our mouths or wallets for no reason.

Everything comes in a paper basket and the wings are marked with the quantity and the flavour. This avoids someone getting hot wings and burning their face off. I like the stickers, I don’t like the paper baskets. It just makes me feel like I’m at a pseudo-picnic.

Overall, great flavour but not the biggest wings. Luckily, we went on cheap wing night so you could order two pounds of wings for the price of one.

Valentine’s Day Treats for My Love

Happy Valentine’s Day! A week late!

Obviously if you are dating me you are going to get baked goods from me! I tried to make this festive as possible but not too cumbersome and annoying to unwrap – I used heart tissue paper and white and red curling ribbons.

On the inside there was three different types of cookies:

From left to right: Linzer Cookies, Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies and Red Velvet Cream Cheese Brownies.

1. My Linzer cookies. I made these the wrong way which, if you have eaten Linzer cookies before, you quickly realized I made these incorrectly. I forgot that the bottoms of the cookies are supposed to be solid rather than cutout.I also used my favourite sugar cookie dough rather than the traditional almond meal dough used for linzers.

2. GC said his favourite type of cookie is oatmeal raisin. When he requested this type of cookie for his Valentine’s treat I was a little surprised. I used the Betty Crocker’s recipe for Oatmeal Raisin cookies and I substituted the raisins for cranberries so they would be more festive. These were perfectly chewy – I think that can be attributed to the shortening and butter that is used.

3. Red Velvet Cream Cheese Brownies. These were terrible. I don`t know if it is because I used gel food colouring instead of liquid or because I doubled the batch. Regardless, I am not willing to try these again. They were really chocolaty though which was good. No close up – I don`t want to think about or look at these anymore.

 

Caplansky’s Smoked Meat

Caplansky’s is a traditional, Jewish deli located on College Street, near Kensington Market. They are known for their smoked meat sandwiches and their newest addition to the team, a food truck called Thunderin’ Thelma.

GC passes Caplansky’s on his way to work every day and therefore, he has been tempted every day for over four years. So we decided to succumb to temptation and go for Sunday brunch.

Caplansky’s is everything a good deli should be – busy, tables full of regulars, a deli counter where you can buy meat and bread, mismatched tables and chairs and checkered floor tiles. I would love to become a regular at this place but I would have to be careful what I order in that this is traditional, Jewish deli food – salty, fatty deliciousness.

I love when my place mat is my menu. I don’t know it’s just something that I get a kick out of. I think it’s because after I have ordered I can still look at the menu and salivate over all the options. I am already thinking of what to have on my next visit. I also love that you can order a side pickle. Sometimes when I go out for food I base my order on the fact that I will get a side pickle. Yes, my background is Eastern European and I love pickled products.

GC got the “Fresser” Smoked Meat sandwich. Fresser is Yiddish for glutton. I do love when Yiddish makes it way into every day conversation/menu and when it can find itself into a pun, The servers were wearing shirts that said something along the lines of being “old schul.” Perfection. Back to the sandwich. When you order your smoked meat sandwich you choose between lean, medium and fatty cuts of meat so you can be a little more sensible or a complete fresser. The meat is flavourful without being too salty, and can be complimented by a range of different mustards. And then topped with a pickle! And a side of sweet, vinegary coleslaw. This could be my new favourite meal. And I didn’t even order it.

This burger was the special that day – the patty is a combination of smoked meat and ground beef topped with a latke, a sunny side up egg, and some smoked meat. Juicy, tender, meaty yums. My only complaint – I wanted more smoked meat. And maybe a whole pickle.

On our way out we ran into a few old friends that I lived with in university. Good food bringing people together. Does it get much better than that on a Sunday morning?

Vanilla on Vanilla

A couple weeks ago I had a mad cupcake craving. Now the problem with living in the suburbs (yes, pill the main and only problem) is that lack of bakeries. If one is craving a cupcake or any other fresh baked good they have to go to the local grocery. Although these desserts are made fresh and are delicious, tadalafil sometimes you just need a something a little more fancy, rx a little more fresh. This resulted in me baking cupcakes.

Standard vanilla on vanilla cupcakes from Martha Stewart.

The cake was just your regular vanilla buttermilk cake base (except for some bizarre reason the recipe called for 5 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks! Why is that necessary!?) But the icing! I want to top every cake with this icing. It was sweet and buttery without having that awful gritty, sugar texture that a lot of icings have.

Happy cupcake baking and eating!

12 Tin Cupcakery

It would seem that I have a travelling cupcake addiction. I have the inability to go to a new town/city and not research a cupcake bakery. So Friday afternoon while I work I was Goggling cupcake bakeries in Niagara Falls and there is a severe lack of them. I realize Niagara Falls isn’t a metropolitan, booming city but it is a popular tourist destination! And there isn’t even a cute little shop(pe) in Niagara on the Lake. If this was an oversight on my part but if there is more cupcake bakeries – let me know!

We discovered a little bakery called 12 Tin Cupcakery.

1. This store was delightfully small – it was probably the size of a walk in closet and there was a counter with about 8 different cupcakes on a variety of cupcake stands. Up a little flight of stairs you could see the kitchen and icing station with all the hipsters icing the cupcakes. When we walked in they were all joking and laughing as if they were in the kitchen in The Big Chill. One of the bakers had to say, “Guys, we have customers.” We didn’t mind.

2. We were given 3 cupcakes for the price of 2 – normally, they have cupcakes that are made in jumbo muffin tins but they were out of them? It was very odd – from what she was saying it sounded like maybe they were baked elsewhere? Or maybe they lost the jumbo muffin tin? I don’t know. Regardless, I got more cupcakes. This is all that matters.

We got a Cheesecake Cupcake (Graham cracker crust, vanilla cake, cream cheese icing and strawberry jam), the Marilyn Munroe (Red Velvet cupcake) and the Devil Wears Chocolate (double chocolate cupcake). The Cheesecake Cupcake was interesting – the idea of putting graham cracker crumbs on the bottom of a plain, vanilla cupcake topped with cream cheese icing and claiming it now resembles a cheesecake is not accurate. This was good no doubt, but cheesecake cannot be imitated.

The Devil Wears Chocolate was so chocolatey. I loved it. The cake was moist, and the icing was creamy.

The Marilyn Munroe – boo to Red Velvet. Can I vow to never eat it again? I don’t think that would be an accurate statement because for some reason, even though I don’t like it, every time I see Red Velvet, it teases me. I think we can chalk this up to the fact that I love cream cheese icing.

3. The woman who served us was amazed by how important social media is in starting a new business. I was taking some pictures of the bakery and she said, “Don’t forget to post them on Facebook.” It is nice to see businesses embrace tools that can drive customers into their businesses rather than shy away from it because they fear change and learning.

Hopefully this place sparks a trend for the Niagara region and more cupcake shops pop up! 12 Tin Cupcakery is a good way to start a trend and a love for cupcakes.

4 Years Later

These were the cookies I brought to Niagara Falls for us to snack on our anniversary weekend!

My classic sugar cookies – again, I got lazy and did a slack job icing them. But I think the piping turned out pretty nicely. The cookie cutters are by Wilton and if you roll the dough to the proper thickness, the cookie cutter will imprint all the letters to make your icing easier.

And Red Velvet with White Chocolate Chip cookies. These are full of chocolate and sweetness. A perfect Valentine’s or anniversary treat. Next time I would like to use one of the recipes using Red Velvet cake mix. I think that could be interesting.

Peller Estates Winery

This weekend GC and I went to Niagara Falls to celebrate our anniversary (more on that later – there was loved themed baking involved). On Saturday we went to Peller Estates Winery for lunch.

1. One of the great things about living in Southern Ontario is how close we are to the Niagara wine region. There isn’t a lot of geography in Canada that allows us to produce good wine but the wine in this area is something truly amazing. I am biased because of my mother but I will always choose an Ontario wine over anything else. I think a wine tour in the summer is in order.

2. Jason Parsons is the chef at the restaurant in the winery and he is amazing. He is innovative and from eating his food, you can tell he is inspired by food, organic/fresh produce, the seasons and the relationship between wine and food. He is young and hip and his food is comforting. I am salivating thinking about it now. I think this is some of the best food I have ever eaten. If you can, make a point of getting to Peller to eat Chef Jason’s food.

3. We were seated at Mrs. Peller’s favourite table by the big fire place overlooking the whole winery. The table had a simple arrangement of little daffodils in polished rocks – it made me yearn for April. I was so at ease in this setting – it was warm and cozy and you just felt like you were at a friend’s house about to try their latest fresh-from-the-oven baked good.

4. Our server was amazing. She was knowledgable without being pretentious, and friendly without being clingy – just delightful. She supported all my menu choices and said they were her favourite menu items. She allowed me taste different wines to see what I liked best with my main course. It is nice when you are actually served at a restaurant as opposed to just being brought your food. She is part of the reason we had a great experience and want to go back.

5. They were serving the Sparkling Brunch which started off with a complimentary glass of Iced CuvĂ©e Sparkling wine. A mixture of ice and sparkling wine – a gentle, sweet taste as opposed to the dry quality sometimes found in sparkling wines and champagnes.

6. The Sparkling Brunch is a fixed price menu that also has suggested wine pairings. I love the idea of always having a fixed price menu – it is a great way to get a sample of menu items and learn about the menu and the chef. There is also the Seasonal Tasting Menu which is whatever Chef Jason has decided to put together that day. It is based on whatever produce has come in fresh that day and they also take into account any allergy/dietary restrictions one may have. I would have loved to try this but I wasn’t adventurous enough. I like to know what I am going to eat. Next time though!

My starter.

Chef’s Signature Parfait – Creamy Chicken Parfait with an Icewine Sugar Crust. I didn’t know what to expect when I ordered this but it sounded so intriguing that I had to order it. The chicken was creamy and had a smokey taste that you had to break through the sweet, sugary crust to get to. The compotes were so pure in taste (a berry, grainy mustard, and mustard seed) and had such unique tastes that all complimented the parfait perfectly. This is one of the most unique things I have ever eaten and I am glad my curiosity got the best of me.

My main.

Truffle Sea Red Diver Scallops with Butternut Squash, Goat Cheese and Sage Risotto. Can we all reflect on the size of these scallops? They are huge! They were perfectly seared with a perfect crunch and when you bit into them they were fleshy and juicy. I love seafood. The risotto was creamy and the goat cheese was smooth. The sage was incredibly fresh, it was as if it was picked moments before it ended up on my plate.

My dessert.

Cheese board with a selection of three Canadian Cheeses. I can’t remember what the first one is – second was a brie – third was a bleu cheese. Cheese plates are the greatest dessert ever. A nice, savoury way to end a meal. And no nuts! I love it!

GC’s starter.

Beef tartar with a fresh quail egg. The restaurant got in a fresh shipment of quail eggs so they were a fresh addition to some select menu items. Our server suggested that the Chef intended for the egg to be mixed into the beef and it works. I love tasting notes given by the Chef. And can we talk about this presentation? This is one of the best meals that has ever been presented to a table I was at. GC said the tartar was flavourful and the capers and pepper offered a nice heat and flavour. I have yet to try beef or any other type of tartar. I fear.

GC’s main.

Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder with House Baked Beans, Riesling Braised Winter Greens. And a fresh quail egg! The pork just fell apart under GC’s fork, he didn’t even need to use his knife. The beans were rich in flavour from the pork. This is such a hearty winter meal that should be enjoyed in a bowl curled up the fire – this is an adult deconstructed chili.

GC’s dessert.

Spice Cake with Roasted Apples, Honey Cream, Late Harvest Sabayon. A dense cake, complimented by the lightness of the honey cream and the sabayon. Cake should always come in a bowl so it can have a delicious sauce.

This is the best dining experience I have ever had and I am looking forward to going again. I would encourage everyone to go for a tasting, a tour and a meal.