Big Crow

You know those friends you haven’t seen in forever but when you finally meet up you pick up where you left off and it is the most natural thing? I had a dinner like that last week. Last week I met up with my friend Laura and we went from dinner at Big Crow.

Big Crow is by the same guys who do Rose & Sons, and for those of you who don’t remember, I did not enjoy my experience there. Despite this, I was eager to try Big Crow. I was intrigued by what they were doing there: a patio only restaurant, cooking up barbeque at the back of an existing restaurant.

When we arrived, we were quickly seated at a picnic table close to the smoker where we could watch all the action. The result of this was my hair smelling of bonfire by the end of the night which I did not mind. That is one of my favourite smells in the world. We started with a pitcher of Algonquin Iced Tea which is their spin on the classic Long Island Iced Tea. It has vodka, gin, tequila, rum, blackstrap bitters, and ginger beer. It was delicious.

Next, we had the All Beef Verscht.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset All Beef Verscht with apricot glaze and mustard.

This was basically Montreal smoke meat style barbeque so it was obviously delicious. The meat was smoky, fatty and charred nicely. The apricot glaze was sweet and thick, smothered over the meat and complimenting the richness of the meat. The mustard was spicy and grainy, a nice balance to the sweetness of the glaze.

Then, we ordered the JW Bird.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe JW Bird – Cornish hen with sour pickle brine and salsa verde.

DELICIOUS. This hen was so incredibly moist. It was juicy and tender. The skin was crispy and kept all the juicy goodness inside. There was a slight sourness from the brine but it did not overwhelm the bird and make you think of pickles. The salsa verde was fresh and light. It added a different type of crunch to the bird.

We ordered sides of Picnic Potato Salad and Mexican Broccoli Salad.IMG_0919The Picnic Potato Salad with buttermilk ranch dressing, eggs and asparagus.

This potato salad was good. The dressing was light and thin, but it was slathered on a bit too heavily. The potatoes and asparagus were tender and retained a slight bit of crunch. I don’t typically like egg in my potato salad but this egg was in small chunks throughout the salad, giving a bit of smoothness and thickness to the salad. And it would be easy enough to recreate at home! Yums.IMG_0922The Mexican Broccoli salad with pepitas, tomato and avocado.

Broccoli salad is so underrated! Barbeques are fraught with pasta, bean and potato salads but rarely does the broccoli salad make an appearance. This was delightful. It was fresh and with different flavours then what filled the rest of the menu. The pepitas, a Spanish word for pumpkin seeds, were nutty, crunchy and completely tasty. These should be sprinkled on everything. Again, this would be such an easy salad to recreate at home for your own barbeque.

And lastly, we finished off with the S’mores Ice Cream Sandwich.IMG_0923An ice cream sandwich on a brioche bun?! Heck, yes! The brioche was sweet, fluffy and airy. Due to the sheer size of the bun it overwhelmed the contents of the sandwich.The ice cream was slightly too cold to make biting into the sandwich enjoyable or easy. The graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow were not incorporated enough into the sandwich to make this truly a s’mores ice cream sandwich. The graham crackers should have been mixed in with the ice cream or sprinkled on top. The chocolate should be a piece of chocolate rather than chocolate sauce.

After tasting this, I plan to get a quart of Greg’s Ice Cream’s Roasted Marshmallow  ice cream and make my own version of a s’mores ice cream sandwich. Or maybe that will be my next ice cream venture – s’mores ice cream. Who’s in?

I loved my meal here. It was fresh, juicy and tasted like summer. I am looking forward to more visits to this back patio, especially when the days of summer are long behind us and our only connection to hot summer nights is food that brings back those memories.

Happy munching!

Summer 2014

We are officially into summer 2014. The days are longer, hotter and spent outside. With the intense humidity, warm air and stickiness I try to keep it simple and basic. Here are my top three inspirations for summer 2014.

Summer Inspiration1. Picnics – Photo Credit: Your Intrinstic Beauty – when in doubt, eat outside. This is going to be my mantra this summer. I will be taking to parks, backyards and curbs munching on foods thoughtfully prepared at home. A picnic doesn’t require a basket or a gingham blanket, just some good food shared with even better company. Hiking, beaching, and parking (meaning to sit in a park not to sit in a stationary car) are just some of the places you will find me this summer with good food. What picnics am I most looking forward to? I still owe a friend a birthday picnic and I plan to indulge in some appetizers and cocktails at one of Toronto’s many outdoor films this summer.

2. Barbeques – Photo Credit: Abu Dhabi Confidential – Why turn on your stove, let alone your oven to cook in the summer? Whether it is propane, charcoal or gas, food just tastes better from the barbeque. Hot dogs, burgers and steaks are the favourites of my grill but this year, I have more ambitious plans. I want to use my barbeque as a smoker, an oven to bake something sweet, a grill for sweet pineapple and peaches and of course, the way to cook epic amounts of August sweet corn. Yummms.

3. Popsicles and Iced Treats – Photo Credit: Endless Simmer – There is no better way to cool down on a hot, sticky summer day than enjoying a cold, iced treat. Ok, maybe a beer is the best way to cool down but I don’t plan to get in brewing. Yet. I plan to keep my freezer stocked with homemade popsicles and to venture into the land of sinful booze pops. If that wasn’t enough to cool me off, I want to FINALLY (yes, I’ve said that before) use my ice cream maker and this might just be the recipe to try. And if I have homemade ice cream in the house why not making my own cookies and have ice cream sandwiches?

What are you inspirations for summer 2014? Happy munching!

Monterey Chicken Grilled Cheese

April is officially here and although I don’t have a huge attachment to this month there are some highlights:

  1. It is Le Faz’s birthday. Easily one of my favourite people and her birthday is always one of my favourite days of the year.  Give her some love on April 5th.
  2. Easter is later this year which maybe means I will actually bake, physician cook and craft Easter-themed things
  3. I will be making Matzo Ball soup for Passover. It is a combination of being constantly mistaken as Jewish and living in a very Jewish neighbourhood with a very Jewish grocery store that has inspired me to make Matzo Ball soup for Passover. More on that later.
  4.  NATIONAL GRILLED CHEESE MONTH. I don’t know which nation we are referring to but I also don’t care. It involves cheese therefore I am in.

Another grilled cheese recipe to get you psyched for National Grilled Cheese Month in April – the Monterey Chicken Grilled Cheese by Iowa Girl Eats.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPlease go out and buy these ingredients right now and make this grilled cheese. It is easily one of the best grilled cheeses I have ever eaten. It is sweet, thumb salty, crunchy, chewy and saucy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALet’s start from the beginning: The suggested instructions on how to cook the chicken are perfect. This is the simplest and moistest chicken breast I have ever eaten. Literally put your chicken breast on a baking sheet, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 20ish minutes at 400°F. Does it get any easier than that? I plan to incorporate more chicken into things now that it is this easy and I don’t have to worry about salmonella.

The bacon adds a perfect crispy quality that works with the fleshiness of the tomato. And to top it all off: barbeque sauce. The BBQ sauce ties the entire sandwich together. It adds more sweetness to highlight the tomato, saltiness to compliment the bacon and sauciness to add even more moisture to the chicken. And the perfect topper of this sandwich: instead of butter, the bread was lathered with olive oil. It was easier to spread and added such a different flavour to the sandwich. It was a very adult grilled cheese.

Make this now. Please. And thank you. Happy munching!

The Stockyards

On Thursday, GC and I went to The Stockyards Smokehouse & Larder.

Located on St. Clair West and about a 5 minute walk away from two of my sisters’ apartments, this could be trouble. It is so close to home, and my home-away-from-homes that I might develop an unhealthy barbecue addiction.

When we walked into the restaurant it was packed with hungry people crowded around the butcher block cash counter. The Stockyards does take out and dine in so at the dinner rush, it is incredibly busy here. But rest assured, we were seated almost immediately. I think in the future we will probably order take out and go to a nearby park or maybe take over someone’s apartment with a barbecue picnic. I think if you show up at someone’s house with traditional southern barbecue they won’t object to you coming in and sharing with them.

The interior of the restaurant reminded me of the Old South and not in the racist, awkward way but rather the rustic charm and simplicity of the antebellum period. How you would expect to find Paula Deen’s kitchen in the south – utensils that have been around for years, lots of wood counter tops and evidence of grease stains from years of good times and good food.

We sat at the long bar which opened up onto the kitchen – some people don’t like/love open kitchens in restaurants but I love them. I can see why – you see the mess, there is a lot of noise and you don’t always want to know what the kitchen staff is doing to your food. I think for anyone who doesn’t like an open style restaurant kitchen needs to come here. The two chefs who were working truly were kitchen performers. There was no shouting or arguing or dropping anything. They worked effortlessly together and they had such a rhythm together. From their tattooed arms to their cooking ability, everything about the pair was entertaining. Watching how all the various meals were prepared made me want to eat each and everyone that much more. The burgers were pulled out of the fridge, made fresh and formed into little balls and placed on the griddle with a little bit of coarse salt. Then smashed. I could have watched that for hours. Next time I will be ordering a burger.

This time, however, I ordered the Pulled Pork Sammy. I thought since this place specializes in barbecue, I should get something that is traditional barbecue.

Hickory smoked pork shoulder topped with coleslaw, Stockyards BBQ sauce, on a squishy bun served in a cast iron skillet. The pork was tender and sweet with a little hint of heat. The coleslaw was salty and tart and had the perfect hit of fennel, which is a flavour I don’t typically like but it worked so well with the richness of the pork and the tartness of the slaw. I stole GC’s container of slaw from him because I liked it that much. This is officially my favourite coleslaw of all time. All served in a cast iron skillet – this made me feel like I was a cowboy in the wild west eating my dinner over an open flame with tumbleweeds in the background. Perfect and authentic.

GC ordered the Stockyards Fried Chicken Dinner .

4 pieces of Buttermilk marinated chicken served with fries, coleslaw, and hot sauce. The chicken was crispy on the outside but tender and juicy on the inside. The buttermilk tenderized the meat while giving it a hint of sweetness that set off the salty breading and frying. This doesn’t look like it, but it’s a lot of food – GC had leftovers.

Authentic, traditional Southern babeque without the trip to the South. Sounds perfect to me – how about you?