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!

Apple & Salted Caramel Pops

Apple and caramel are a classic fall combination. Salted caramel is a sophisticated twist on this simple, rich treat. Last week I took this classic combination and made it into a delicious, cool as fall treat: Apple and Salted Caramel pops.

My only complaint with these pops is that they are far too sweet. This recipe calls for both salted caramel and simple syrup which is completely unnecessary. Apples are already sweet and the salted caramel is incredibly sweet on its own. i would suggest not adding simple syrup to these pops.

Recipe is below the cut. Happy munching!

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La Carnita – Part III

On Friday night I went to La Carnita with my friend, Laura.

We both ordered two In Cod We Trust. Below is our tray once we each had had one of these delicious beauties.

In Cod We Trust – Voltron sauce, lime crema, pickled red cabbage, green apple & cilantro. These were just as good as the first time I tasted them. It seemed like they have made the taco shell slightly smaller but all the taco components are the same size and spilling out of the shell.

My third taco was the Special (pictured left) and Laura’s third taco was the Tostada de Lengua (pictured right).

The Special – braised beef cheeks, fresh avocado, jalapeño peppers, and sauteed shallots

The Tostada de Lengue – beef tongue, Westcoast verde, orange sauce, grilled pineapple radish & beet sprouts

The Special was amazing. The beef cheeks were moist and fell apart with each bite being perfectly braised. The avocado was fruity and bright, incredibly fresh and perfectly ripe. I like my avocado slightly firm but still sweet. The jalapeño peppers added the right amount of heat, a slow sizzle in your mouth. The sauteed shallots added a slight sweetness and crunch that tied the entire taco together. This is a taco I would like to see on the menu.

And for dessert I ordered the Blueberry Paleta (pictured below) and Laura ordered the Churros (not pictured – how many time can you post the same picture of churros?)

This tasted like it was made with wild blueberries from the Northern Ontario Canadian Shield. Sweet, but slightly tart with a few whole berries speckled throughout.

Happy munching!

Homemade Popsicles

My latest summer treat is homemade popsicles. They are sweet, simple to make and don’t require me turning on my oven – perfect for summer. I’ve been using one book for my popsicle recipes, People’s Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn’s Coolest Pop Shop. People’s Pops started as a pop-up food vendor in Brooklyn and eventually expended into a store, supplier and even an author of a cookbook. Their recipes are simple, playful, and pair unique ingredients to create brilliant flavour combinations. It also features boozy pops. The cookbook is divided by seasons, and then further into early, mid and late of each of those seasons allowing for the freshest, most in season fruits and vegetables to be used. If you are thinking making popsicles and you are looking for ideas and flavours, definitely pick up this book. I also have Perfect Pops but I don’t find the recipes as unique.

I have made two recipes so far, Cucumber Watermelon Pops and Raspberry Basil Pops

1. The CW pops were cool and refreshing, with the perfect contrast between sweet and a slight tartness. This recipe is also a great way to use up watermelon. As a couple or as a single person, it is hard to eat an entire watermelon over the course of only a few days but this recipe is a solution to that problem.

2. The Raspberry Basil pops were unreal. I have been feeling this combination of berries and savoury this summer and GC’s grandmother’s garden was just calling me to me. The aroma from the basil as it was freshly picked was completely consuming. The basil infuses the simple syrup and adds a warm and peppery note to the pops. I think for aesthetic purposes it would look nice to add roughly chopped basil to the pops, for a splash of contrasting but complimentary colour.

Check out the recipes below and happy munching! Or licking, however you prefer to eat your popsicles!

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Butler’s Barracks – Tragically Hip

On June 30th, GC and I went to a Tragically Hip concert at Fort George’s Butler’s Barracks in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

This concert did something new and different – instead of having traditional, overpriced, sub-par concert food, it had food trucks and vendors. I didn’t know this at the time of purchasing tickets and it was just a happy coincidence but it made the concert experience far more enjoyable.

1. There was a VIP area of the concert. I am completely ok with that. What I am not ok with is the fact that two trucks were locked away from my hungry tummy – El Gastro and Roaming Buffalo. I understand VIPs need special priviledges and perks in order to make them VIPs but come on, don’t deny me food!

2. There was over 20 trucks and vendors. When the gates opened, there were no line ups but between 5 pm and the end of the concert the lines were typical of any food event. This was not the crowd that was used to this type of waiting but I think they learned it was worthwhile.

3. Our first stop was Tide & Vine. It was only appropriate to visit the truck that got me onto oysters. They were serving up oysters with three sauces: white vinegar and Bombay gin, red wine vinegar and red onion and traditional cocktail sauce. The best sauce was the traditional cocktail sauce – it was spicy and fruity. The white vinegar and Bombay gin was a big disappointment; it just tasted watery. The red wine vinegar and red onion was not concentrated enough and because the hole in the nozzle was so narrower, there was no delicious chunks of red onion on my oysters. It was good for me to go back to Tide & Vine and get a little perspective on oysters – yes they are good, but all of the oysters themselves I have eaten have been the same quality. It is just the sauces that have varied in quality and flavour. I will always have oysters when they are available to me but I will stick with the traditional toppings of cocktail sauce and horseradish.

4. We went to Dobro Jesti where we got two rice balls and an order of garlic donuts. I love these garlic donuts and we made them even better by dipping them in the marinara sauce that comes with the rice balls. Next time I order these garlic donuts, I’m going to ask for a side of marinara.

5. We had a few more items to snack on before ordering dinner. First, a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing from The Cupcake Diner.

And then some gourmet popsicles from Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops.

I ordered the Strawberry Basil Lemon ice pop and GC ordered the Watermelon Lemon Mint ice pop. Both were refreshing, light but tasted primarily of their base, fruit flavours.

6. We sat back and enjoyed some music. After The New Pornographers we decided to have some dinner. GC wanted to try Rome n’ Chariot so we ordered two orders of the Holy Trinity: one order with Eggplant Parm, Veal Parm and Meatball and one order with one Veal Parm and two Meatball sliders. GC said it was very good and that he liked the meatballs better than Hey Meatball which he likes more than his Italian grandmother’s meatballs. With that logic, he should like Rome n’ Chariot more than his grandmother’s but he doesn’t. Regardless, this was another successful visit to Rome n’ Chariot and I’m glad my Italian approved.

7. On our way back to our seats we grabbed some drinks from The Grind House.

I ordered the Homemade Mint Lemonade and GC ordered an Iced Coffee. Delicious and refreshing. The lemonade made me want to make my own lemonade with fresh mint… Apparently they have a location in Kensington Market so this is something I will have to check out.

8. Our last bit of food was from Shriner’s Creek Kettle Popcorn where we got three bags of popcorn to take home – two Cheddar and one Cinammon Apple Pie.. Whenever I encounter them I feel like such a fiend because I get at least three bags.

This was a great event. It would appear that this is an annual Canada Day weekend concert that the Hip puts on and it is a show that is definitely worth checking out. The food trucks and vendors being there was just a happy surprise but it made the day all the better. I hope this is a trend – food trucks/vendors and concerts – that is going to stay. When we went to see The Beach Boys in June, Blue Donkey and Gorilla Cheese were both there and from following the various trucks on Facebook and Twitter, many other trucks have been at other concerts. Food and music are just a logical pairing and it’s great when it’s good music and good food that are rocking together.

Another beautiful day with food, music and of course, GC.