Factory Girl

Waiting for a girl who’s got curlers in her hair. Waiting for a girl she has no money anywhere. We get buses everywhere. Waiting for a factory girl.

Last week GC and I went to see The Rural Alberta Advantage and Dan Mangan at the Danforth Music Hall. This is a great venue – it is a former movie theatre that has had its seats torn out and is now general admission for shows. Both bands are great – high energy but with tunes to sway and relax to, a great example of contemporary Canadian music.

We never venture east of Yonge – we typically don’t even venture east of Spadina so we were a little lost along the Danforth. We wandered along Danforth just past Broadview and we settled on Factory Girl (hence my Stones reference).

Factory Girl is your standard gastropub with exposed brick walls, dark corners and booths and tables. The walls are adorned with classic rock posters and classic rock is playing from the speakers. It has a very laid back, casual vibe – if I lived out here I think I would spend many a night on its back patio. Yes, it has a fenced in back patio.

Thursday night was that night last week that was about 20 degrees and full of sunshine but Hurricane Sandy ruined most thing so we were able to sit on the patio. I love any time I get to sit  on a patio in late October – it is just one of the many reasons I love October and fall in general.

We ordered a couple of pints and some dinner to munch on before the concert. I ordered the nachos.

Nachos covered in cheddar, mozzarella, tomatoes, beans, jalapeno peppers, shredded lettuce and Cajun chicken. Served with guacamole, salsa and sour cream.

These were amazing! Not as good as Sneaky’s but pretty close. The looked gorgeous, which is something you don’t usually hear about nachos. They were piled in a neat little pile, perfectly covered in cheese and they didn’t get soggy. I liked that a blend of cheese was used instead of just one type, as you typically find. All the ingredients were in large quantity and well spread out except the beans but I didn’t really notice/care. The chicken was spicy, tender and moist – I definitely suggest you add the chicken to your nachos and don’t waste time with the grilled chicken. These nachos were yummy enough that I might considering making the trek down to the Danforth just to eat them…

GC ordered the Prime Rib Hoagie.

Prime Rib Hoagie topped cheddar, sauteed mushrooms, and onions with au jus on the side.

GC liked this sandwich and it was so juicy that he didn’t need the au jus on the side.

A great meal, followed by great music with the greatest person I know.

Happy munching!

Crock Pot Carnitas

In the past year I have become a huge fan of Mexican food. It started off with the arrival of Chipotle in Canada and then the Mexican restaurant that opened up on Main Street in Newmarket. Sicne then, I have tacos at least once a week and crave some form of Mexican food at least once week.

Last week I broke out my Crock Pot again and made homemade Mexican pulled pork or Carnitas.

1. Of course, being something that is made in a crock pot, this is extremely easy to make. It is worth getting a crock pot just to make this recipe. Before I went to work in the morning I through all the ingredients in, and set it on low for 8 hours. I called GC around 3:30 to put the crock pot on warming and when I got home it was ready to shred. The meat just fell apart with the touch of a fork.

2. After tearing the pork apart you put it on a baking sheet to get brown and crispy. It takes the pork up a notch. I would suggest spreading the pork in a thin layer to allow it to become incredibly crunchy. You will probably have a ton of leftovers if you aren’t serving about 6-8 people so don’t crisp all the pork. Crisp it when you are ready to serve it next.

3. The pork is moist, sweet, and spicy. This pulled pork is comparable to any that I have had at Mexican restaurants. Next time I would kick up the spice a notch. I didn’t add the beer because I didn’t have any in the house. I used a chunkier salsa to allow larger chunks of tomato to shine through. The citrus flavour was subtle, yet apparent and was highlighted once more lime was squeezed on top of the completed taco.

4. We topped our tacos with avocado, sour cream and cilantro. Simple but delicious.

Recipe below the cut. Happy munching!

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Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

Happy birthday to my friend, Rachel!

On October 21st, Rachel celebrated her birthday. I wasn’t able to go out for the delicious dinner that was planned for that evening so we met up with our boyfriends (who are best friends and this is how we met) on the following Tuesday for mini pizzas and cupcakes.

1. I will always make cupcakes for your birthday if a) I love you and/or b) if you ask. Keep that in mind, friends! You can always get baked goods from me. Also, if you don’t want cupcakes but I love you, you will also still get them. This seems like a win-win situation for everyone.

2. I decided to make these cupcakes because I had debated making them for my own birthday. I know that seems slightly selfish but when it was my birthday, I had run the possible cupcake flavours past Rachel and she was intrigued by both the pumpkin and the apple, so I am a good friend, I promise!

3. These cupcakes were sweet, moist and had a warm blend of spices. I would have liked a stronger apple flavour. The recipe used applesauce rather than real apples but still used butter. This is interesting because typically recipes use applesauce so they can be vegan, but this recipe just used it for the flavour. This is valid but I am always on the lookout for a good vegan recipe because I have yet to find one for cupcakes and it is just good to have in your baking arsenal.

4. My favourite part was the icing. It was cream cheese icing but it was made even better by the addition of brown sugar, rather than icing or white sugar. This icing was unbelievable, you don’t even know. With my new mixer I can whip cream cheese and butter into submission and make velvety smooth and light icing. The brown sugar added a spicy, sweetness and it worked perfectly with the cake base. I would never think of adding a sugar that wasn’t icing sugar to an icing but this worked amazing. It piped out perfectly and held its form nicely.

These were a hit and made the birthday girl happy, which in the end, is all the matters on someone’s birthday. Happy birthday, Rachel! Hope it was a great one and that the upcoming year is great!

Recipe is below the cut. Happy munching!

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Gourmet Bitches

On Monday I went to the Monarch Tavern with my friend Caitlin to try Gourmet Bitches.

Gourmet Bitches teamed up with the Monarch Tavern and is doing a pop-kitchen from October 15-28. Tonight November 4 is the last night so if you haven’t been, I would suggest you run over there and try some delicious food! Do it now!

The Monarch Tavern is two storey building and the Bitches are set up on the second floor. The MT is similar to any other pub – a little seedy, lots of tables, some old regulars but a general good, comfortable vibe. It is the type of place you know you can enjoy some good conversation and a drink without being hovered over.  One of their draws is the fact that they serve a wide variety of craft beers so we enjoyed a few pints while munching on the fare from GB.

We each started off with an order of their fish tacos.

White Fish Taco in a coconut and banana chip crust with kale, avocado,  habanero, pickled pear and carrot slaw on a gluten free tortilla. This was a tasty taco. My only complaint was that the piece of fish was a bit small. The fish was flaky and tender, and the crust was sweet and crunchy. The kale was leafy and fresh. Kale is a new topping for a taco that I haven’t seen on any other menu and I wouldn’t think would work, but it definitely does. The avocado was smooth and creamy. The habanero added a subtle heat that grew with every bite. The pickled pear and carrot slaw added a sweetness which further complimented the sweetness of the crust on the fish. The other thing I wasn’t crazy about (so I lied, there is two things I wasn’t crazy about with this taco) was the gluten free tortilla. It tasted fairly similar to a normal tortilla but it didn’t seem to be able to hold the weight of the ingredients. If that is the only negative thing that can be said for a substitute tortilla, I think that is pretty good. Plus, people with gluten allergies should be able to enjoy this deliciousness too!

We were still hungry so I ordered the pulled pork taco and Caitlin ordered the chicken wings.

Cuban pulled pork taco with plum salsa and kale. Ok, this is the amount of filling I expect in a taco. This taco was packed with ingredients and flavour. The pork was tender and moist, with a hint of spice. The salsa added the sweet, fruitiness that works perfectly with pork. This taco confirmed that kale is a natural pairing for tacos. Kale is so crispy, and has such a bright, green flavour – there is no other way to describe it. And it is amazing for you! High in anti-oxidants, calcium, vitamins and so many other things! Good call, ladies.

Dry rubbed Asian Cuban chicken wings. A combination of Asian and Cuban heat smothered over chicken wings. That is fantastic. I don’t typically go for dry rub wings but I think the next time I happen upon GB I will have to try their wings because these looked so enticing.

A great night of food, drinks and conversation with the lovely Caitlin. If you can get to Monarch Tavern tonight by November 4, please do because you won’t regret it. If you can’t, because of my failure as a writer and I didn’t give you enough time (I’m no longer a failure because of their extension), then try and track down Gourmet Bitches because these lovely ladies certainly do know how to bring gourmet food to the street level.

Happy munching!

Gastropost – Cheese

This week’s Gastropost featured cheese and I was asked to host the mission! They sent me an email on my birthday asking me to host the mission because they knew I was a huge cheese lover. It was a great way to start a birthday!

You can see the full pages here and here. My love of cheese found me at Chabichou on Borden Street. Chabichou is a cheese shop and cafe that makes cheese based items like grilled cheese and croque monsieurs. It is very French and cozy inside: wooden counters, pastries, bistro sets, and prints and photographs of the French countryside covering the walls. I went here years ago with GC for croque monsieurs and from what I can remember, they were delicious. I will have to go back to order a croque monsieur in my attempt to find the best one in the city. But my visit last week served one purpose, to buy a wedge of a new cheese.

How perfect was it that the day I decided to visit this little cheese shop they would be sampling cheese? They were sampling Oha and another type of cheddar. I tried the Oha and it was sharp, with a slightly nutty taste. After looking at the countless types of cheeses, I settled on two types of cheese: an Applewood Smoked Cheddar (which I have had before and is therefore still in my fridge) and Guinness Cheddar.

The Guinness Cheddar appealed to me because of its rich colour and marbling. I don’t love Guinness, but this past St. Patrick’s Day I came to terms with it and I can handle it now. I prefer Kilkenny because although a similar type of stout beer, it has a richer, more caramel flavour. This cheese didn’t really taste like Guinness. It had a very sharp, deep flavour, but it tasted aged rather than having beer in it. It was a good cheese and it would pair well with beer (obviously). If you are looking for a good cheese, check this cheese out. It is also available at the Maple Leaf Gardens Loblaws if that is more convenient for you to get to.

Happy munching!

Homemade Pancakes

I always joke that my goal in life is for GC to make enough money so that I don’t have to work and I can stay at home. I say that if this is ever the case, I will make literally everything from scratch – all our bread, our salad dressings, even our mayonnaise. This is obviously more work that I can even imagine and will most likely never happen but it something I always have in the back of my mind.

Anyway, the point of the above homemaker tangent is the fact that I made homemade pancakes last week. I think pancakes are one of those things that people think are more work than they are worth but they really aren’t.

Homemade Chocolate Chip Buttermilk Pancakes.

1. These are just as easy to make as Aunt Jemima from the box. They require a few more ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt) but that’s the only difference. The wet ingredients are all the same.

2. I usually don’t make big pancakes but something seemed fitting about making a hearty big stack rather than a pile of little silver dollar pancakes. The problem with making big pancakes is allowing them to cook all the way through without letting them burn.

3. I used milk chocolate chips and they are amazing. The original recipe called for blueberries and I thought I had blueberries in the fridge, but turns out, we had raspberries and blackberries. Would those make good pancakes? They stayed solid until you bit into them and then they just melted in your mouth. I assume this would be the case with semi-sweet chocolate chips but milk chocolate chips are just so much better. Smooth and silky, with a milky flavour; they turn breakfast into dessert.

4. These reheated well in the microwave. I would have toasted them but I didn’t want to add crispiness to them. If you are going to refrigerate pancakes, make sure to put wax paper between them otherwise they will stick together and you will completely mangle them.

Recipe below the cut. Happy munching!

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Pain Perdu

Last Saturday we went with GC’s parents to Pain Perdu on St Clair Avenue West for a birthday brunch – yes, another birthday celebration for me. I promise this is the last post related to my birthday. And soon I will actually start talking about other peoople’s birthdays!

We have been to Pain Perdu countless times and it is a great spot. If you have not yet been after hearing me sing its praises, I suggest you go. It is a cute French-style bistro with baguettes, croissants and other French yums. We sat at a pair of tables right next to the window looking onto St. Clair so all my pictures are sun kissed.

I started off with a bowl of latte.

How much more European can you get than a bowl of milky, frothy latte? This could have a stronger espresso flavour but I’m used to lattes made by Italians. There is something so comforting about having to hug a bowl this big and keep it close to you with every sip. I would like to buy some coffee bowls for my house.

GC’s parents and I order Croque Monsieurs.

A croque monsieur is a French grilled cheese with ham and Gruyere or Emmental. I love croque monsieur and even more, croque madame (with an egg on top) but it can be tricky to find a good one. I have yet to find one in Toronto so if you know a place that can do this successfully, you will have to let me know. This was good, but not great. The problem is this sandwich is made early in the morning, and then is reheated when ordered. This sandwich is loaded with cheese but is not creamy, gooey or moist due to the reheating. The ham was flaky and there was a lot of it. The sandwich did have plenty of crunch to it though. I liked the little gherkins on the side. Their acidity cut the richness of all the cheese.

I would not order this sandwich again.  Next time I would stick to the quiches and the breads.

GC ordered a slice of quiche.

Every day they have approximately 6 different quiches you can buy slices, or halves from and you have the option to buy whole quiches as well. This is a slice of bacon and onion quiche. There is probably more to it then that but quiches are always simple – a few ingredients on a delicious egg base. The quiche is slightly expensive: per slice it is $6 which isn’t too bad but a whole quiche runs you upwards of $30. For a quiche loaded with expensive French cheese that would be a steal but for a quiche with simple, inexpensive ingredients you aren’t always getting your money’s worth. Make sure to get a quiche that would run you more to make at home then it would to buy at Pain Perdu.

GC also ordered a croissant. The croissants have become slightly smaller in the past few months, and the taste is slightly different, but they are still flaky, buttery and delicious. I haven’t tried a croissant in Toronto that I like more then this one, but my comparisons are limited to chains like Starbucks and Tim Hortons (blasphemy, obviously) and Frangipane Patisserie, which I haven’t been to in years. This is clearly needs to change.

When you visit Pain Perdu, stay for a light breakfast or take it to go and enjoy it in a neighbouring park. The options are endless but I would recommend a latte, a slice of quiche and a croissant.

Happy munching!

Nachos from Sneaky Dee’s

As someone who has lived in Toronto for the past 6 years it is shocking that I had never been to Sneaky Dee’s. That’s not altogether true – about 2 years ago I went to a birthday on the second floor but left shortly after saying my “Happy Birthday” to the birthday girl. Sneaky Dee’s is a little seedy, a little grungy, with walls covered in graffiti and the staff wearing shirts ironically. The crowd is a mix of young and aging hipsters, everyone there to enjoy the classic rock and Mexican food.

Last Friday night I went for Birthday Nachos (this should become a thing) with my friend Jaclyn. We split the Kings Crown Nachos, which have been named the best nachos in Toronto by BlogTo.

The Kings Nachos – Crisp corn tortilla chips covered with salsa roja, piled high with frijoles, ground beef, tomatoes, onions, mixed peppers, jalapenos, melted cheese, topped with guacamole & sour cream.

1. I think nachos fall into the category of “do not photograph well” along with chili, stew and raw meat.

2. These were the best nachos I have ever had. There was more than enough topping for the amount of chips we were given. I actually wish we had been given a side basket of chips because we ran out. There was a good blend and distribution of all ingredients; no chip was lacking a certain topping or flavour. There was a good heat from the salsa but it was not overpowering. Every bite was creamy and cheesy, topped with the perfect dollop of sour cream and guacamole.

3. This dish needs to be eaten quickly. Everything quickly becomes soggy due to the amount of moisture from the salsa, sour cream, guacamole and beans.

4. I honestly could have done without the beans. I am not a huge fan of beans, and usually only enjoy them in a burrito but they have to be pinto beans, not black beans. These beans turned into a slightly mush which had an off-putting texture.

These nachos were delicious and have started me off on a nacho kick. It is my goal to try all the nachos on Sneaky Dee’s menu (apparently even the vegan nachos are delicious) and I want to try all the nachos that BlogTO deems as delicious.

Happy Friday and happy munching!