Easter 2016

It is Easter Monday and seemingly everyone else is off from work except me. The subway was empty this morning; I didn’t have to do my typical wait on the train for 10 minutes in the tunnel north of St. Clair West while empty trains are sent through for more important people. The offices at work are empty and it is a slow, rainy day.

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Easter weekend was relaxing, spent outside with beautiful weather and with amazing people. On Friday we made our traditional Italian pasta appetizers, calascioni. This is something that Ninni remembers making as a young girl in Italy, when these types of expensive meats and cheese could only be bought at Easter. This tradition has been passed on to me and Giancarlo and we now share this tradition with his best friend Nick and his wife, Rachel. The day is spent rolling out homemade pasta dough, cutting out perfect circles, filling each ravioli-like pocket with the meat and cheese mixture and baking in the oven until they are golden and oozing cheese. After a few hours of hard work, we enjoyed dinner, wine and Yahtzee.

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Patois

My first delicious brunch of 2015 was at Patois. In the first weeks of January we headed over to Dundas West to meet up with two old friends, Victoria and Laura. We met them separately and then together: GC has known the girls since high school, and I met them in university. Patois is the perfect spot to catch up with old friends – it is Asian cuisine meets Jamaican-soul food, combining comforting old standards with fun contemporary twists. It is food that personifies the past and the future: dishes you have come to know and trust but looking forward to innovation, change and new, exciting things.

The restaurant is small but cozy, reminiscent of a tiki bar on a beach. Yes, I do realize tiki bars are not Jamaican but the atmosphere is consistent with being on vacation: natural materials, golden pineapples and floaty toys hanging from the ceiling. We were seated at a table for four past the bar, half of us sitting in booths, half on chairs.

Be warned: when you go to Patois for brunch, coffee is expensive and adds up. They do not have regular drip coffee, so you will be ordering Americanos that do not come with free refills. It is a small thing but it will add up quickly and do you really love coffee that much that you want to spend 1/4 of your brunch cost on it? I think not.

Universal Grill

As 2014 winds down, the BlogTO Top 50 is slowing being crossed off and whittled down. I have 6 more restaurants to go and 8 more to write about – not bad for a list that was released in August 2013. The yet-to-visit list consists of East-end spots and one vegan restaurant – no surprise there that I haven’t eaten a vegan brunch yet.

A few weeks ago we visited Universal Grill. We pass this spot constantly as we drive along Dupont and its brightly coloured exterior has always appealed to me. The inside is your typical retro diner, with stools at the bar and lots of booths. When we arrived on a Saturday morning the restaurant was full but not packed. Given this, I was disappointed that we were shoved in the corner. The spot was tight and awkward. GC and I are not obese or huge, but we are also not small people. This was not a nice fit for us.

Maybe it was because we were hidden in a corner, but we waited too long to be served. Tables that arrived and were seated after us were served before us. When we did finally order, it took FOREVER to get our food. I’m not speaking in hyperbole here: we waited at least 45 minutes to get our order. Ok. I guess this would fall under hyperbole but still a ridiculous amount of time to wait. This is a ridiculous amount of time to wait for any meal let alone brunch which heavily features eggs which take hardly any time to cook.

GC ordered The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich. IMG_2516

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich with spinach, bacon, farmer’s Swiss, cheddar, goat cheese and tomato on challah with spuds.

GC was apprehensive at first that the combination of cheese would be too much and would create too much contrast. Instead, the various cheeses added depth of flavour and texture that worked in harmony together. It was oozy and gooey. Despite all the cheese, it wasn’t overly salty. The spinach and tomato added the perfect amount fresh, crispness to cut the richness of all the cheese.

I ordered the Huevos Rancheros.

IMG_2518The Huevos Rancheros with grilled tortilla, spicy red beans, fried egg, cheddar, guacamole and sour cream.

This was a tasty huevos. The crispy tortilla spears were a great garnish, giving a balance of tortilla crunch through the dish rather than just supporting it. Often the tortilla supporting the whole tower will become crispy and soggy, this ensured you would still enjoy a crunch with every bite. The beans were the right amount of spy. The egg was a little too fried for my liking: there was no oozy, running egg all over my rancheros. The guacamole was too thick and I prefer mine without tomatoes. It allows the guac to be smooth and creamy with the occasional chunk.

This place is cute and is obviously a neighbourhood hot spot. If I lived down the street, and this was my local brunch spot, I might be able to tolerate the service since the food was fairly decent. Since I have to trek out this way, I won’t become a regular.

Happy munching!

Uncle Betty’s

Is there anything better than discovering a delicious brunch spot? Yes! Discovering a delicious brunch spot near your house! I love our little house, for sale but it is hard to find a decent brunch spot north of Eglinton (if this comment is offensive, please suggest away). When a friend suggested we check out Uncle Betty’s we jumped at the opportunity. Brunch, less than 10 minutes away from our house and it’s good?! Yes, please!

Uncle Betty’s is a cute diner-style restaurant, with bright walls and lots of windows. There are mustaches painted on the walls and it is very family-friendly. If you aren’t into small children screaming, crying and jostling you while you eat your brunch, don’t come here. Since I can tolerate near-anything if I am eating good food, this isn’t a problem for me.

I ordered The Ultimate Grilled Cheese.

IMG_1643 IMG_1644 IMG_1645White bread with melted white and classic Cheddar cheese, a slab of homemade Mac ‘n Cheese, topped with pulled pork and drizzled with roasted garlic aioli.

This was delicious and ridiculous. Do you need to eat this? Probably not. Should you? Probably yes. It was cheesy, rich and messy. For some reason, messy food always tastes better. I loved the combination of textures from the mac ‘n cheese, slightly spongy, contrasted with the shredded pork and the oozy silkiness of the cheese.

GC ordered The Breakfast in a Bowl.

IMG_1642A breakfast-style poutine with home fries topped with sausage or bacon, two eggs, gravy and Cheddar cheese.

Overall we enjoyed our brunch at Uncle Betty’s. The food was a good solid take on your typical brunch menu. There were a few over-the-top menu items but they were not too ambitious that the execution failed. The rest of the menu was solid, hearty brunch that was at a decent quality for the price. The service was ok, not great, but everyone else seems to enjoy brunch at a bit more of a leisurely pace then I do.

Since we had a good experience when we went to Uncle Betty’s back in October, we decided to go again, especially to try the Dreesen’s donuts. GC ordered The Breakfast in a Bowl, a good indication that it was good and I decided to be decadent and order the Betty’s Benedict.

Betty’s Benedict

2 poached eggs served on a Dreesen’s Donut with a slice of peameal. Topped with a lemon hollandaise and served with home fries.

IMG_2360 IMG_2362I was disappointed. I expected each egg to be on its own donut. I know this is decadent and ridiculous but you are putting my eggs Benedict on a donut, I think it’s a fair assumption that this should be ridiculous. The donut was dry and had no flavour. It didn’t have sourness or sweetness of a plain donut. The Benedict as a whole was also fairly plain and flavourless. There was no zestiness or zip to the hollandaise sauce but my eggs were oozy.

This time the service was much slower as the staff was preparing for a big group. I understand large groups need to be accommodated but do not do this at the expense of your other customers.

We bought a half-dozen donuts to take home even though the donut in my benny wasn’t fantastic. The donuts were delicious. They were fresh, airy and light. My favourite was easily the cinnamon-sugar donut.

Uncle Betty’s isn’t my favourite choice for brunch but if I am looking for something local, it makes the cut. 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!

Lasagna Grilled Cheese

As March comes to a close we can finally look forward to April: warmer weather, Easter, and of course, National Grilled Cheese Month. I plan to fully embrace this month-long celebration of one of my favourite foods. In preparation of April I have to look back to a sandwich I made a few weeks ago: the Lasagna Grilled Cheese.

IMG_5541 IMG_5544Recipe: Joy the Baker

I think this sandwich, while delicious, is misnamed. There is no tomato sauce, and more importantly, there is no meat and real lasagna has to have meat. Sorry vegetarians, I love you but real lasagna needs and should have meat. A more appropriate name would be a cannelloni grilled cheese. But really, what’s in a name? The important thing is delicious, simple and amazing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe combination of cheese is a perfect blend of creamy, salty and sweet. The ricotta is creamy and smooth but at the same time has a coarse, saltiness to it. The mozzarella is milky, thick and rich. The use of two cheeses in this sandwich brings it to the next level – from snack to full-on meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cheeses are both mellowed out and complimented by the basil and the tomatoes. Both are sweet but salty and taste like an Italian backyard in July. This recipe was fresh, simple and makes me yearn for summer. I will be making this grilled cheese again and again this summer using fresh ingredients from the garden.

Check out the recipe on Joy the Baker’s site and maybe check out this recipe too – it’s what I will be making next.

Happy munching!

Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese

Another day, another grilled cheese sandwich. Last weekend I made the Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese by Simply Scratch featured on BuzzFeed’s list, 31 Grilled Cheeses That Are Better Than a Boyfriend.

IMG_5475 IMG_5476I love this grilled cheese! The bread is smothered with a cream cheese-green onion mixture. I could eat this cheese blend by itself. It is creamy and fresh and should be spread on everything. Do not overload your bread with this spread because it will cause your sandwich to slide all over your grill and create an oozy mess on your grill and not in your mouth!

I am impressed with myself because although this recipe uses jalapeño peppers, I was not afraid to make it. I did not wear gloves but I was very conscious of where my hands were at all times. No burning seeds in my eyes! This recipe has inspired me to make more things with jalapeño peppers, maybe even actual jalapeño poppers! The jalapeño peppers are tender and keep that crispy and smoky flavour. I grilled the peppers in the oven and I can only imagine the intensity of flavour that would come from grilling these peppers on the barbecue.

The cheddar cheese adds another level of cheesy ridiculousness that is indulgent and a bit extreme. I would love to try this recipe with colby jack (the other cheese Simply Scratch recommends).The buttery, crispy bread simulated the flavour and texture of deep fried batter. Yums.

If you are craving bar food and can’t make it to a bar, make this grilled cheese. If you are craving a grilled cheese sandwich, make this grilled cheese.

Happy munching!

Baked Potato Grilled Cheese

I have a love-hate relationship with grilled cheese. Ok. love-hate is a bit strong; it is more like love-like. I love it because it is buttered-toasted bread and melty, stringy cheese. I only like it because to make a specialty grilled cheese at home involves as much effort as cooking a full-fledge meal but you are only making a sandwich. And to order a specialty grilled cheese at a restaurant is more money then I want to spend and seems silly because they are telling me everything that is in the sandwich and therefore I could make it myself.

Despite these conflicting feelings, it is a trend I can’t and don’t want to ignore. It seems every other day BuzzFeed is releasing some list about grilled cheese sandwiches (here, here, here and oh, over here too) and there is always another restaurant opening or event happening featuring grilled cheese.

This past week, Cynthia came over for cocktails and dinner and we decided to make the Baked Potato Grilled Cheese.

The photo and recipe are from BS in the Kitchen. This grilled cheese is one of the more decadent, ridiculous things I have eaten lately. The Cheddar melts into the sour cream, making a cheesy, gooey sauce. The potato is crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside. The bacon adds crunch to the inside of the sandwich which compliments the crispy, buttery outside of the sandwich. The green onions add freshness that momentarily trick you into thinking that you won’t have a heart attack. And of course, we dipped our sandwiches in more grilled because we are ridiculous like that. This is a great sandwich that gives you all the best parts of a baked potato but without the leathery, dry skin.

I am slowly going to work me through this BuzzFeed grilled cheese list – stay tuned!

Happy munching!

Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

For my sister Liz’s birthday we went for brunch at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. We went right when it opened to avoid waiting in excessive but typical brunch line ups and only had to wait about 5 minutes. We were seated inside because although there is a patio, it doesn’t get much sunlight and was a little cool in the morning. The interior is spacious but slightly cavernous and cold – not the warm and cozy atmosphere you look for in a restaurant at brunch time.

I was the only one who got a cocktail with brunch (typical) and I ordered the Bungalow Island Caesar.

IMG_4159The Bungalow Island Caesar: vodka, clamato juice, signature rim, curly celery and fresh horseradish.

The presentation of this cocktail was slightly ridiculous – the curly celery was overwhelming and I didn’t know if I was supposed to eat it, so I just mashed it into my drink. The chopsticks were cute but again, I didn’t know what to do with them so I took them out of my drink. I assume the idea is you eat the celery curls with the chopsticks but I don’t know why you would want to do that and what it would add to your cocktail experience. I have since found out from a coworker that when you eat the celery curls they are infused with the taste of the Caesar. Once I got over the garnish I was able to taste this cocktail – it was spicy and zesty. It was a decent Caesar but not my favourite by far. Also, someone please remind me to stop ordering Caesars when I am eating food! It just results in me feeling stuffed like a beached whale.

Liz, Theresa and I ordered the Mrs. Biederhof’s Legendary Light & Fluffy Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes. served with Lanark County maple syrup & whipped cream.  I ordered a side of house made fennel sausage and Theresa ordered a side of crispy rosemary potatoes. IMG_4161

Mrs. Biederhof’s Legendary Light & Fluffy Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes: served with Lanark County maple syrup & whipped cream.

As far as buttermilk pancakes go, these are good. Fluffy and light but still dense and filling with hints of sourness from the buttermilk, these are tasty pancakes. I was extremely disappointed by the amount of blueberries in my pancakes. There was not nearly enough and they tasted as if they were from frozen. All the blueberries sank to the bottom of the pancakes rather than dotting the pancake throughout. These are good for buttermilk pancakes, not good for blueberry pancakes and definitely not worth close to $15.00. Sorry!

Our server later told us that the recipe is online and that people try to recreate them but can’t – CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. When I eventually get around to making these (add it to the list of the other 80 million recipes I want to try) I will let you know how it goes. I think I should be able to recreate them; the recipe is fairly straight forward and similar to other buttermilk pancake recipes I have tried and mastered.

GC ordered the Little Kay’s Favourite Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

IMG_4162Little Kay’s Favourite Grilled Cheese Sandwich: grilled sourdough bread with apple tomato relish, aged cheddar and mozzarella with side salad and a side of crispy rosemary potatoes.

GC liked his sandwich but it wasn’t the best grilled cheese he had ever had (that obviously goes to Cheesewerks). From the bite I had I couldn’t taste the apple tomato relish which is unfortunate because I think that would have tasted insteresting. The combination of cheese was good but cheddar overpowers most things it is paired with.
Overall Mildred’s is good for brunch but not great. Our bill was close to $100.00 which is excessive for brunch especially when it is not great. I would suggest a visit to Mildred’s for dinner or cocktails but maybe skip the brunch!
Happy munching!

Meals in Minutes – Tomato Soup

Meals in Minutes: Tomato Soup. Image from the cookbook.

1. This soup is everything a tomato soup should be: warm, roasted, with hints of basil and completely rustic. The tomatoes taste as if they were freshly picked off the vine by Nonna. It is hearty, healthy and full of vegetables.

2. We paired this soup with grilled cheese made using caramelized onion cheddar. It was delicate, creamy and with perfect hints of onion. I opt for using flavoured cheeses when making the basic grilled cheese in lieu of adding other ingredients (have a mentioned that April is apparently grilled cheese month? More on that later).

3. Add a dollop of creme fraiche or sour cream if you don’t want to be quite as decadent. Any soup that I can add sour cream for I am totally game for.

4. I also recent made Potato Leek soup using the recipe found here. It turned out extremely green on account of using too much of the leafy bit of the leek. It was ok, but not great.  Next time I will have to bust out  my Julie Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking for the first time and try her version of it. It uses heavy cream so of course it’s going to be infinitely better.

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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