October 11, 2014.

After 7 and a half years of dating, GC and I tied the knot on October 11th, 2014. The weather was gorgeous: it was sunny, clear and crisp. It was the perfect fall day. Our ceremony took place in the gardens at the Columbus Center, an Italian community center close to our house that GC took various lessons and classes at as a child.

audrey&giancarlo0217I walked down the aisle with both of my parents to “We’re Going to Be Friends” by the White Stripes, a song that encapsulates our relationship as more than just boyfriend and girlfriend but as best friends and falling in love as kids in university.

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Gusto 101

To celebrate my birthday, the lovely Cynthia took me out to Gusto 101 for dinner. The atmosphere in Gusto is great – it is a converted auto garage with exposed beams and ventilation but warmth from the banquette seating, the natural wood tables and the dim lighting. There is an entire wall of fresh Italian loaves that taunt you as you wait to be served. It has a very industrial Italian feel to it; a converted space that has been completely redefined as a space of good food and good company. It reminds me of traditional Italian cantinas or cold cellars: spaces that seem cold and uninviting but when filled with people make pasta and drinking good wine, are the best spaces in the house.

We started with some glasses of house red (served at $1/ounce!) and beef tartare.

Photo Credit: Gusto 101 website
Beef tartare with fresh fig compote, ricotta cream, and truffle oil.

This is not what ours looked like (we only had one but it was still good). It restored my faith in beef tartare after what happened at Union. The fig compote and ricotta cream added a lightness to the dish which you don’t usually find with tartares. The meat was chunky and loosely packed, allowing it to spread across the crostini and your tongue with every mouthful. The red wine complimented this perfectly.

Cynthia ordered the Fettuccine ai Funghi

Photo Credit: Peggy’s Toronto Food Adventure
Fettuccine ai Funghi  with portobello, porcini, oyster mushrooms, truffle paste, in a light cream sauce.

This is the most substantial and filling vegetarian pasta you will ever eat. The sauce was creamy and light, and as it cooled, it became richer and thicker. The flavours were comforting and bold – woody and nutty, with that soft, fleshiness of mushrooms. If you are a mushroom lover, this is a must-try dish.

I ordered the Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia.

4ltUXtjPhoto Credit: The Food Files
Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia with manila clams, shrimps, mussels, baby scallops, peperoncino white wine, and grape tomatoes.

The only difference between my meal and what is pictured is that my pasta was black from squid ink. This was actually the first pasta I have ever eaten that has been infused with flavour and colour. If you are not into seafood, do not order this plate of pasta. It is overloaded with fresh seafood and is definitely worth your money. My only complaint – the scallops could have been slightly bigger, but I will always ask for bigger scallops. The tomato sauce brought out the fruitiness of the seafood which was tender and fresh. The pasta was al dente and retained a good amount of firmness to it. I also liked how they kept with Italian tradition and did not serve it with parmesan as it was a seafood dish.

A great dinner, with even better company – happy munching!

Penne Carbonara


Sometimes it is hard to maintain a food blog. You feel lazy and uninspired with your cooking so you go out for dinner. But instead of trying new and exciting places you opt for the good ole standbys. For us, this includes wings, sushi and unfortunately, a lot of Wendy’s. This has been my problem for about the past two months. Life has been chaotic lately and the weather has been unbearable with humidity and rain so my interest in food has fallen by the wayside.

BUT good news brought good food. Things at work brightened up so we had a celebratory dinner of pasta carbonara.

1. The recipe I used was from Michael Smith. I had taken a personal day the week before for an appointment and some shopping and while bumming around on the couch I stumbled across this recipe. It looked too good to not make as soon as possible.

2. Do not be scared by seemingly raw eggs! (They aren’t seemingly raw, they technically are).The hot pasta cooks the eggs and melts the cheese and makes for a creamy, delicious, stringy nest of yums.

3. This meal is the perfect hit of salt if you are craving savoury food. The quick fry of the pancetta and prosciutto brings out the fatty, salty goodness which is a natural pairing for the creaminess of the pasta.  The two types of Italian pork make this dish decadent and completely ridiculous.

4. The oregano is the  third component of this meal and it completes the dish. It brings a freshness to the dish that offsets the richness of the cheese, meat and egg. My brief stint in gardening is not resulting as well as I had planned and unfortunately my fresh herbs are shrivelled and pathetic. Instead of a summer with fresh herbs from my garden I have had to settle on fresh herbs from the grocery store. However, regardless of where the oregano is coming from, it makes this dish complete.

5. This might be my new favourite meal to make. It takes about 15 minutes to make and is filling, satisfying and a completely delicious. It is like a piece of Italy in a bowl that you can just hug close and drift away on a cold, rainy, gloomy day or a bright, sunny, happy day. That is the best kind of meal – a meal that brings comfort regardless of the  context you make it in. The only downside of this meal is the cost. Because of the limited number of ingredients: Parmesan, prosciutto and pancetta, they need to be very high quality and therefore expensive. It is probably a blessing in disguise because although it is delicious it is extremely not healthy.

6. GC said this is the best and creamiest carbonara he has ever had = seal of approval from an actual Italian = you should all make this now.

Happy munching!

Meals in Minutes – Puttanesca

IMG_3418Meals in Minutes – Puttanesca

1. In Italian, Puttanesca literally means “whore’s style.’ Italian has an amazing way of making something dirty and crass sound exotic and beautiful. The pasta is called as such because it used a mixture of cheap, pantry items that anyone would have lying in their home.

2. I love how fishy (think whore’s style pasta…) this pasta is. The tuna and the anchovies are salty, but lean with subtle flavours that are highlighted by the fruitiness of the tomato and the olives.

3. This is a quick and easy pasta that if you love tuna you should give it a try.

Recipe below the cut, happy munching!

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Meals in Minutes – Trapani-Style Rigatoni

1. This is a simple and fresh pasta. The sauce tastes like a summer garden and is tossed and lightly coats the pasta. I didn’t use the almonds in my sauce which caused the sauce to be slightly lighter and not as thick. I loved the pesto quality of this sauce and how quickly it came together. I made the sauce using my immersion blender, rather than a food processor (no, I still do not have one!) and it worked perfectly. I love that the sauce is completely infused with the flavours of garlic, tomato and basil and then the pasta is dotted with chunks of these veggies.

2. Rigatoni is not my favourite pasta. It is too thick and bulky to eat in this way. Next time I make this pasta I will use penne instead. Shells or rotini would work great as well.

3. This pasta is going to become a staple in the summer – using fresh basil and tomatoes from the garden. Quick, easy, and fresh – a great recipe for summer. I think this pasta would even taste great served cold as a side for a barbecue.

Recipe below the cut – happy munching!

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Valentine’s Day – O & B Café & Grill

Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays that I have always liked but not because I expect to be showered with flowers and chocolates. I like it because it’s a day to tell everyone I care about how much I love and appreciate them. Although it was over a month ago (what is wrong me lately – blogger angst) I just want to say I love you to all of those who are close to me and those who are reading this and I hope you all had a great Valentine’s Day filled with love and smiles. If not, there is always next year!

IMG_3311Valentine’s Day found me and GC at O & B Café and Grill for dinner followed by a concert at the Air Canada Centre. The food was divine and the concert was The Arkells and The Tragically Hip – an amazing way to spend a Valentine’s Day. But you don’t read my blog to hear how I love everyone or to read what type of music I am into, you read it for the food!

Because of the overindulgence experienced on our anniversary, we decided to keep it simple for VD and just order mains and share dessert. GC ordered the Egg Fettuccine Carbonara.


Egg Fettuccine Carbonara with smoked speck ham, Parmigiano-Reggiano and black pepper. Romantic candlelight makes for poor conditions for taking pictures of food. GC loved this, it was rich but still light, smoky and nutty from the ham and the cheese. A simple pasta with classic toppings to round out the dish perfectly.

I ordered the Sea Scallops and Risotto.

IMG_3315Roasted Sea Scallops & Risotto with wild mushrooms, San Marzano tomato jam and wilted winter greens. This dish had far too much going on with it. The individual components were delicious but when put together it was overwhelming chaos. The scallops were tender, fleshy and had a crunchy sear on them. The risotto was creamy and earthy from the mushrooms. These two elements should have been separate and left simply like that – they are perfect and don’t need to be paired together.  The tomato jam, and wilted greens were completely unnecessary and made the plate messy and again, chaotic. Sorry O & B, this was a big miss for me but dessert more than made up for it.

For dessert we ordered the Fondue for Two.

IMG_3318Fondue for two with Mayan spiced chocolate, long stem strawberries, fruit kabob, sponge sugar and marshmallows served with 1 chocolate raspberry shot and 1 chocolate cherry shots. I cannot get behind the trend of spiced chocolate. It is an off putting flavour – hot from cayenne pepper and cinnamon but then rich? It is too much flavour to deal with. The fruit was perfectly ripe and I loved the sponge toffee. The marshmallows were easily the best part – homemade, fluffy, light and super sugary! I just wanted a giant bag of them to put in cups of hot chocolate. I want to make my own marshmallows but this seems unnecessarily labour intensive. The shots were great – I love the idea of having shots with dessert in a classy, adult way rather than dirty and frat boy-like. We both preferred the cherry shot, it tasted more like a cocktail than a strong kick of alcohol.

A romantic meal, a fun concert and all with my best friend and love of my life; a perfect Valentine’s Day in my books! I hope yours was just as good! Happy munching!


Meals in Minutes – Cauliflower Macaroni

Meals in Minutes - Cauliflower Mac & Cheese1. I LOVE THIS. I think this is a great alternative to your traditional mac and cheese. The cauliflower adds a wonderful vegetable component which makes you feel okay about eating something so rich, creamy and fattening. Cauliflower is such a hearty vegetable, and can withstand all the cream and cheese without being lost in the pasta I didn’t macerate my cauliflower too much, so there were gorgeous florets dotting the pasta. The pancetta rosemary crumble on top is salt, earthy, and sweet – the perfect topping for mac and cheese. It is another fun alternative to breadcrumbs that adds crispiness but with actual flavour.

2. This recipe is also extremely easy to make. I love that the cauliflower and the pasta cook silmultaneously in one pot and that the pancetta is crisped up in the oven in the dish that you will later use to cook the pasta. Simple and very little clean up which makes it my kind of meal.

3. This casserole reheats beautifully. Because of all cream and cheese it becomes a gooey mess all over again, as if it was just pulled from the oven. Perfect for leftovers and for making your coworkers jealous. It’s aroma will fill the entire office and have people drooling over your desk.

4. This recipe doesn’t use my key ingredient of mustard but that’s okay. The sharpness of the cheddar, and the pine-tree taste from the rosemary do more than enough to flavour this pasta.

I know you are probably all thinking, “No. I love my traditional mac and cheese and I don’t want to change the recipe I use.” But I insist you try this recipe, even just once.

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Meals in Minutes – Pregnant Jool’s Pasta

Photo from cookbook, Jamie Oliver’s Meals in Minutes

1. When I read the title of this pasta, I wanted an opening paragraph about his wife and how this was her comfort food when she was stressed or anxious about her pregnancy. I think that is one way this cookbook is lacking, there are no personal stories or personality behind the recipes. You don’t really get to know Jamie Oliver through this cookbook.

2. This is a hearty and filling pasta. The sausage and fennel add a warmth and heartiness that fills you up. This is a substantial pasta and could stand alone as a meal. The combination of vegetables, spices and herbs is intense but perfectly play with each other to create a well rounded dish.

3. My version did not remotely resemble this. The pasta was not soaked with red intensity from the tomatoes but rather glazed over in a pale, dull burgundy. I did not let the sauce thicken enough and made slightly too much pasta for the amount of sauce I had. All of his recipes call for 1 lb of pasta – it seems like in the UK pasta is sold by the pound, rather than by 900G which I find in the grocery store. If someone knows a good chart for converting pasta portions when dry for a certain number of people – please send along! Or if anyone would like to get me any one of these for measuring spaghetti that would be great!

4. This recipe and cookbook in general has inspired me to grow a small herb garden this summer. We have a number of pots that Ninni has given to us and I would love to be able to walk out and grab fresh thyme, basil, cilantro and green onions. Since it is winter and the produce is lacking lately in the stores, I have been using dry herbs as a substitution.

This recipe restored my confidence in this cookbook. It was a delicious meal and got me excited about everything else I will be cooking. This is a recipe worth checking out -and it is below the cut! Happy munching!

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Meals in Minutes – Broccoli Orecchiette

My first meal courtesy of Jamie Oliver – Broccoli Orrechiette with Zucchini & Bocconcini Salad (which I didn’t make) and Proscuitto and Melon Salad.

1. I wasn’t crazy about this pasta. I don’t think mine turned out exactly how it is supposed to because my sauce didn’t turn out. Not having a food processor makes this impossible to make. There wasn’t enough broccoli tossed with the pasta, making it not substantial enough to make it a main course for a meal. This pasta would work better served cold and as a side for a summer BBQ.

2. There was a nice saltiness from the capers and the anchovies. Anchovies make frequent appearances in Jamie Oliver’s recipes – they add a rich, salty, deep flavour which ties the whole dish together. I had never liked anchovies before trying some of JO’s recipes but I am sold on how great they are to take your dish up a notch.

3. The prosciutto and melon salad is delicious and a classic Italian dish. You need to use good quality prosciutto in order to be able to actually cut through it. Pre-packaged prosciutto is not great – go up to the deli counter and ask for it. By doing this, your prosciutto will also be sliced thinner and will be leaner. The balsamic vinegar brings out the natural sweetness in the prosciutto and highlights the sweet, summer taste of the melon.

4. This is an easy recipe but I didn’t love it. It’s a good introduction to cooking and to Jamie Oliver but after that introduction, I don’t think I will be making that again, at least not the pasta. There are too many recipes and too little time to waste on making okay recipes again. I think the prosciutto and melon salad will become a staple at our house this summer, using fresh basil from Ninni’s garden.

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

A few weeks ago GC had surgery. It was nothing major, just a day surgery that required lots of rest and relaxation afterwards. While taking care of him, my menus shifted from quick and easy to classic comfort foods.

I made my first Shepherd’s Pie, a fairly simple dish that requires lots of time and preparation in order to capture the depth and fullness of flavour associated with this dish. This dish was a success and has made its way into my recipe book of classic comfort foods on a cold winter’s day. I will not be sharing the recipe here yet, but when I make it again, which will hopefully be soon before it warms up too much and suddenly becomes spring, you will see it featured here.

I also made my first Macaroni & Cheese. If you have met me or read my blog once or twice you must know that I love cheese and that macaroni & cheese is my go-to comfort food. What better food to make you feel cozy and rested than a big bowl of mac & cheese? I didn’t use my mother’s recipe but rather the recipe in the Williams-Sonoma Comfort Food Cookbook. The two recipes are very similar and use the secret and key ingredient of mustard.

IMG_3342These recipe is cheesy, creamy, and works great with rotini which is what I used. I actually prefer my mac & cheese with a different pasta that has more crinks and pockets to hold all the cheese goodness. My only change would be to use LESS breadcrumbs. You need just a sprinkling on top to add some crispy, crunchiness.

Recipe below the cut and happy munching!

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