Apartment 1A Eats America: Part 1, New York City

Alright guys. I’m just going to brush past the fact that I’ve more or less ABANDONED YOU ALL for…well, an entire year, and get right back into the swing of things.


As some of you may know, Matthew and I recently took a jaunt over the border and graced America with our presence, and our meaningless Canadian dollar.


First we hit up New York City, for about 3.5 days, and then we jetted over to Chicago for about 4 days. Let me tell you: that is not enough time for either of those cities. But, alas, we are not MILLIONAIRES, and so our time was limited. We did fit an admirable amount of dining into our trip, however, and I am here to tell you all about it! Today, I present with a summary of our culinary adventures in NYC, and Chicago’s adventures with follow shortly after. (Or a year from now…we’ll see).


Our first day in the city, I don’t think we had any notable dining experiences. We got to our hotel in Chinatown and went in search of a CVS for some essentials we hadn’t packed, and then off to find a T-Mobile store so that we could purchase a precious data plan (which I blew through before we even left New York). Eventually after some wandering we found ourselves in Tribeca, which seemed a bit reminiscent of The distillery/Esplanade area in Toronto to me. By this point we were starving and there was nowhere nearby on my list of places to hit up. So we did the good old fashioned “How about this place?”…”No, let’s keep walking”, until we eventually settled for a place whose name I can’t even remember. It was perfectly passable, and at least had a decent beer selection, but otherwise failed to woo me. I determined not to let this happen again. There are only so many meals you can fit into a day, and in a city like New York, TOO MANY FOODS TO TRY. We couldn’t be wasting meals on random places that “look good enough”.

Our second day was more of a success.

We walked into Kat’z Deli on a Sunday morning and it was SWAMPED. We were ushered in and immediately overwhelmed. Clearly time is money in this place and we had about a minute to figure out the menu over the counter before someone was shouting at us for our order.

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I got half a pastrami sandwich and a bowl of chicken noodle soup. Matt got a whole Pastrami sandwich. Next we had to find a table. This was also a challenge. Eventually we found a dirty table that we had to share with two other diners, but it would make do. This place is clearly a tourist attraction, but from what I can gather, New Yorkers still go here too. The pastrami is THAT GOOD. The sandwich fell apart in my hands, which to me, has always been the sign of a delicious sandwich. The meat is SO MOIST and just falls apart. On par with the Main Deli’s smoked meat in Montreal. The pickles are ace. The soup was nothing special in exactly the way you want it to be. Your grandmother could have made it. Overflowing with noodles and big chunks of carrot and white meat. I, of course, took exactly zero pictures of the food. (I hadn’t yet officially made the decision to blog about the trip).

At Katz’ they give you a ticket when you enter the door and warn DON’T LOSE THE TICKET OR ELSE. You eat your meal, and pay on your way out when you present your ticket to the cashier. Even if someone else orders for you and you don’t use your ticket, you GOTTA return yours, or there is A PRICE TO PAY (literally, apparently). By some good grace of god, I managed not to lose mine.


We emerged from Katz’ chaos into a relatively calm New York morning. We then proceeded to basically walk for like 6 hours straight.

We found ourselves in the vicinity of Times Square which we pointedly avoided in order to grab a meal at Becco, which was recommended to us, and immediately made it onto our list because ALL YOU CAN EAT PASTA. This restaurant is owned by Lidia Bastianich and her son. For $24 you get an antipasto and then three daily kinds of ALL YOU CAN EAT PASTA. However, you may be surprised to find that it is difficult to eat all that much pasta. Apparently pasta is like, heavy or something? When we were there, there was an artichoke ravioli in a cream sauce, fettuccine with lamb ragu and a simple penne in marinara. Surprisingly, the penne in marinara turned out to be my favourite. The sauce was sweet and tangy and fresh tasting, and just the right amount of chunky, and each table gets their own generous bowl of parmesan. The antipasto was also quite tasty, with a variety of pickled veggies, some mortadella, calamari and a wee bocconcini. This was probably one of the best deals we found while we were in NYC. It was good, homey pasta in a bustling atmosphere. It didn’t blow me away, but it was good and fresh. Again. I got no photos. (WHAT IS EVEN THE POINT THEN, JULIE!?).


Before dinner at Becco, we found ourselves in the area with some time to kill. One of Matt`s coworkers, who used to live in New York, had recommended a bar that was nearby, so we decided to check that out, and have a few drinks before dinner. (A piece of advice: beers before all you can eat pasta is not the wisest choice!). As we were so close to Times Square, I must admit, I didn’t have super high hopes for this bar. I was expecting something large, possibly catering to tourists, loud, and rowdy. What we found when we walked into Beer Culture, was in fact quite the opposite. It was small, dim and cozy, with maybe 5-10 other people there. The walls were lined with beer fridges, filled with bottles and cans of various American craft beers. You made your selection, brought your beer to the bartender and he opened and poured it for you. The first thing I tried was Coney Island Brewing Co.’s Hard Root Beer. You guys. It tastes JUST LIKE REGULAR ROOT BEER. AND THIS IS NOT A BAD THING. It’s 5.8% ABV and I COULDN’T EVEN TELL. This is dangerous stuff, you guys. It was delicious. I was expecting something more beer-y, but it was, quite literally, rootbeer.

Then I had this Headless Heron Barrel Aged Pumpkin Ale from Central Waters, a Wisconsin based brewery, which they had on tap, and DAMN. THIS WAS DIVINE. It was deep, and dark, and spicy, and essentially tasted like an alcoholic molasses cake straight outta the oven. 10/10 would drink again. Matt had two beers as well, I don’t remember what they were, but he’s on a sour kick, so probably something very tart!


The next morning, for breakfast, we headed to one of the places I was most anticipating: the Russ and Daughter’s cafe. I`d heard so much about this place before coming to New York, that I knew I wanted to check it out. Their deli has been open since 1914 and it’s still family owned. At some point they opened this cafe location, and you guys, it`s beautiful. I appreciate attention to design in a restaurant and this place doesn’t disappoint. (Just look at those marble chevron floor tiles!). Happily, the food also did not disappoint. I got potato latkes, eggs, and smoked salmon, and Matthew and I shared a potato knish with mustard, and I wiggled delightedly in my seat the entire time I ate. I was very sad once the meal was over, and I wish I could have gone here many more times in order to truly exhaust their menu choices, but other restaurants called my name!


That day we headed to Williamsberg and explored brooklyn for a bit. Checked out a restaurant that was on my list that, ultimately ended up being relatively forgettable.

The next morning for breakfast, we decided to check out a corner diner on the edge of Chinatown that we’d walked by every morning so far, called the Cup and Saucer. This tiny little place has counter service and a few seats along the window, super friendly service, and it was everything we wanted from a breakfast. Cheap and good. They also had a case of mighty fine looking donuts that I didn’t end up trying, but might be worth looking into if we ever find ourselves there again.


This was our last full day in New York and there was STILL SO MUCH TO EAT. I was determined to get my hands on a great Chocolate Babka, as well as some other jewish favourites such as rugelach, and hamentaschen, and the iconic Black and white cookie!

For the babka, we went to Breads Bakery near Union square. Rumoured to have some of best Babka in Manhattan. Apparently they make babkas at least three times a day! They also had Nutella babkas, but we went traditional for our first time. We didn’t even eat the Babka until the next day, when we were in Chicago, but NOT A SINGLE DAY HAS PASSED SINCE THEN WHERE I DIDN’T THINK ABOUT THAT BABKA. You guys. BABKA. I’m now obsessed with making my own babka. I NEED TO. This babka, apparently, was too good to even take pictures of. Because I have none. Babkas are beautiful though.


My hunt for the rugelach, hamentaschen and black and white cookies brought me back to Russ and Daughters, but this time, we went to the original deli location. One side is the fish counter and other savoury items, and the other side is all baked items and candies and sodas. I got a few of everything I came in search of. I think the hamentaschen were my favourite, and may be the inspiration for some of my Christmas baking this year. The Black and white cookie was breakfast on our early morning flight to Chicago the next morning. A+.


As our last day in New York came to a close, we went on one final food related hunt. Before we left, we needed pizza. NEEDED. My understanding is that “best pizza” can be somewhat of a contentious topic in NYC, and that very few people agree on one place. My first choice was Di Fara pizza, in Brooklyn, whose reputation is lauded by many. However, as it turns out, they are closed on Monday and Tuesday, the only days I’d set aside for pizza-eating. So, unfortunately, it evaded me and I had to search elsewhere. This brought us to Joe’s Pizza in Greenwhich Village. A small place with standing room only. We got there just in time, the second we ordered a crowd came in the door behind us. We each got a piece of cheese pizza, and pepperoni, the classics. But then we made a mistake. We headed back to our hotel room in Chinatown before chowing down. We were POOPED, there was nowhere inside Joe’s to eat, and…I had to pee. So, by the time we dug in, it wasn’t as hot and gooey as it ideally should have been. And that’s how I know it’s good pizza, because it was STILL DELICIOUS. I mean, when ISN’T pizza delicious, really though? I preferred the pepperoni to the cheese. I folded in half to eat it, and it was in fact, even better that way.


Before I wrap this up, there is one other item I want to talk about. And that item is Cel-ray Soda.


This is a celery soda. Apparently it is fairly hard to find outside of NYC, but fairly commonplace in many NYC delis and restaurants. Apparently it’s best paired with salty meats, such as a pastrami Sandwich. I had mine with the Pizza we got. I do not like celery. I was not expecting to like this.  BUT I DID. It basically tastes like celery salt, in a soda. It’s sweet too. But somehow it works! I would buy and drink these if they were available in Toronto. I really don’t know how to describe this…kind of like a sweet, tomato-less, fizzy caesar? I dunno, but I like it!

There’s a lot of things we didn’t get around to. Our hotel was IN Chinatown and we didn’t have ONE single meal there, despite our best efforts. (Our plan was always to have a late night meal in Chinatown, but we consistently fell asleep too early). We never tried out any street meat of soft pretzels, or anything from one of the Halal food carts that are everywhere. Next time I’d love also love to go out for cocktails, which we never did! But there is no denying that we ate well, and plenty.

A theme which continued over the next couple of days in Chicago…

Baby’s First Turkey


Until this Thanksgiving, I’d never cooked my own turkey before. This is mostly because my dad makes a pretty mean turkey, and when I was away at school, there weren’t generally enough meat-eaters around to warrant an entire turkey. But this year, Matthew’s family asked if I wanted to cook the turkey for their thanksgiving dinner. There’s no time to cook your first turkey like a giant dinner with almost 20 people. No pressure!

Anyway, I accepted the offer, and began my research. There are many ways to cook a turkey and much dispute as to the best way. As for me, I like turkey, but I don’t love turkey. I’ll pass on white meat any day. It’s always too dry for my taste. Even a perfectly cooked bird is just okay for me. So, I think this made me the perfect person to cook a turkey. I am, er, discerning when it comes to turkey.

In the end, I decided on a few things to ensure a juicy bird.


I figured if you want a good bird, you have to go to the source. So I ordered a turkey from Rowe farms. Fresh, free range and grain fed. And I paid a pretty penny for it too. I’m not entirely sure if it was worth the money, or if I’d spend the same amount on a turkey again in the future. It’d be interesting to do a side-by-side taste test with a grocery store turkey prepared the exact same way.

Initially I was going to brine the turkey for optimum juiciness. But after doing some research, I decided to try a dry-brine, or salt rub. This involves rubbing the turkey with salt, and herbs if you want, a few days ahead of time, and letting it sit and season. Apparently the salt draws out the juices and then redistributes them throughout the turkey, along with the flavours from the seasoning, while a regular brine just infuses the bird with water giving it kind of an artificial juiciness. I threw some sage, thyme and rosemary into the food processor and combined the herbs with the salt. I did this thursday evening, and took it out sunday morning. Then I rubbed it under the skin with an herb butter: garlic, sage and thyme.


Unfortunately, this is also the point at which I forgot to continue taking pictures, because I was in a bit of frenzy getting ready. SORRY SUCKERS.

My next decision, concerning cooking method, was one I debated about until the last minute. But in the end I decided to go for it: I cooked the bird breast side down for the first hour. I also, for the first 35 minutes or so, cooked it at a higher temperature, about 425 degrees, then lowered it to 325. Then I flipped it over for the rest of the cooking time and basted it every once in while from there on out.

However, I didn’t plan for my giant 23 pound turkey to cook in a mere two and a half hours! But my digital thermometer did not lie, and after checking it several time in several places, that bird was cooked b 2:30 in the afternoon, and we weren’t due to be going over to his grandparent’s place for another 2 hours! So I wrapped the turkey in some tin foil, and covered it back in the roasting pan, and it stayed reasonably warm until it was time to eat!

Of course, you can’t have turkey without gravy. Now, while I may not be turkey’s #1 fan, I may very well be gravy’s. I love gravy. Because I am a healthy person. IT’S MEAT JUICE AND BUTTER.

My dad tipped me off to Jamie Oliver’s Get-ahead gravy recipe. I followed this recipe fairly closely, except that in addition to chicken wings, I used the neck and giblets from the turkey, and I was maybe a little generous with the red wine. I had Matthew help me strain it, but after it was strained once, we put all the mush into the some cheesecloth and really squeezed all we could out of it.

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I also found it didn’t thicken up as much as I wanted it to following Jamie’s method of only adding flour to the pan of roasted meat and veggies, so I also made a beurre manié (mix of flour and butter into a paste) and whisked it into the graving during the finishing step, after you’ve added your roast turkey juices. I was really happy with how this gravy turned out, and I definitely recommend adding the cranberry jelly. It’s the perfect finish.


I also made stuffing to go with my turkey. Though I guess technically it was dressing, since I cooked it separately from the turkey. But I’m not going to write about it, because while it turned out fine, it wasn’t really anything that exciting, and in fact, I messed it up and had to do a little damage repair.

Rest assured, despite the lack of pictures, it was beautiful thing, this turkey. It may have been the juiciest white meat I’ve had yet! I was pretty happy with it, and would make it using this method again, for sure. And, the best part is that Matthew’s Nonno declared my turkey a success part way through the meal, AND once again after the meal was over. So I guess I’m allowed to stick around!

East Coast Night: Donairs and Garlic Fingers


About a month ago, Matt and I went on a trip to the maritimes. Our good friends Kait and Graham were getting married, and we decided to take the opportunity to make a trip out of it. I went to university in New Brunswick so it wasn’t my first trip out east, but we rented a car and I have a bit more disposable income these days, so it was the first time I really had the chance to see the sights and enjoy anything other than Sackville.

Kait got married in Hopewell Cape, and from there we got to see the Hopewell Rocks and Cape Enrage, and I took Matt through Sackville and showed him the little blue house I used to live in with 4 other girls and 3 cats. From there we hit up Cape Breton Island, and did the Cabot Trail, then on to Halifax to visit friends, Lydia and Jenna, with a day trip to Peggy’s Cove, Mahone Bay, and Lunenburg.


It was a fantastic trip, and I really didn’t want it to end.

BUT. This is not a travel blog. I’d have to do a lot more travelling for it to be that. It’s a food blog. So I thought I’d better do a little east coast themed post. I wanted to try my hand at cooking something that we ate during on our trip, and I can’t just be buying lobster willy-nilly here in Toronto. So donairs and garlic fingers it was.

For those of you who don’t know, the key ingredient to both donairs and garlic fingers is donair sauce. A distinct and garlicky sauce made from sweetened condensed milk and vinegar. People seem to love it or hate it, but either way, you can’t have Garlic fingers out east without it.



To make the donair meat, I found this recipe over on allrecipes, and it was pretty good. They key is to slam the ground beef repeatedly into a metal bowl or pot, to kind of meld it together. This makes it so the beef is sliceable rather than a crumbly meatloaf texture. It’s also fun.




Once the beef is sliced, wrap into a pita, chuck in some lettuce, diced tomatoes, onions and, of course, donair sauce. Some people also like to add cheese.



Some recipes for donair sauce tell you to use evaporated milk and add sugar, and others suggest just going straight for sweetened condensed milk, and skipping the sugar. I opted for the latter. So one can of sweetened condensed milk and then garlic powder and vinegar to taste really. Around 4 tablespoons, but whatever.

Garlic fingers are ridiculously easy. Pizza dough, garlic butter, mozzarella cheese. This isn’t garlic bread though, it’s garlic fingers. So you have to cut them into finger shapes. Makes ’em easy to dip into the sauce.IMG_2226



I ended up with a ridiculous amount of food after making all of this though. I used to the leftover donair meat to make an impromptu poor man’s bulgogi.

I’m back! With tomato sauce!


Oh dear. Well, it appears that I’ve neglected this little blog. Summer has come and gone without an update, and I feel terrible about it! I won’t bore you all with my feeble excuses, except to say:

1)It appears that there are THINGS TO DO in the summertime. And blogging ended up lower on the list than I’d hoped. I did, however, get a fair bit of cooking done, some of which was even successful! Since I last posted I had a greatly successful wine and meat and cheese party. I made my first ceviche, this fantastic pork roast, a pretty good first-time paella, mozzarella cheese, panzanella, a cherry pie and who knows what else. So don’t worry. I ate well this summer.

2)I GOT A NEW CAMERA! I think part of the reason I didn’t bother posting throughout the summer was the photo situation. I like cooking and I like writing, but I’ve yet to catch the photography bug. This was due, in part, to having to choose between my sub-par camera phone, and Matthew’s monster of a DSLR. So, in order to remedy this, I bought a new camera! Something small and easy to use, but that produces high quality photos. So we bought a nifty Canon EOS M, and I’ve already been quite pleased with the results.


So. Onwards to the tomato sauce. This year, I was lucky enough to be included in Matt’s family’s annual tomato canning. We did 4 bushels total, two for ourselves and two for Matt’s parents. We ended up with just about 90 one litre jars of tomato sauce. Not too shabby!

Now, from what I can tell, every single Italian family has their own way of doing the tomatoes, and Matt’s family has tried a few different methods over the years, before settling on this one, which results in a tomato sauce in its purest form. Just tomatoes, maybe with a few sprigs of basil or oregano added, resulting in a sauce that tastes incredibly fresh whenever you open pop open a jar.

tomato baskets

First, the tomatoes are layed out to ripen for about a week, or maybe even more. Then they’re washed, and everyone pitches in to chop all the tomatoes roughly into pieces that can easily be fed through the machine. The photo above shows the bushels of tomatoes chopped and draining in their baskets, to avoid a sauce that is too runny.

Then the tomatoes are fed into the machine. As far as I can tell, these machines are literally just referred to as “tomato machines” or “tomato milling machines”. Matt’s family has one with a big ole engine, to expedite the process a bit.





Once all the tomatoes are transformed into this luxurious sauce, it goes straight into the jars, fresh and uncooked, lightly seasoned with salt, and fresh herbs if you wish.


Then we put every single jar into a giant barrel, set atop a propane burner, filled with water, and bring it to a boil for about 30 minutes. I think. We were eating a delicious lunch of Matt’s Nonna’s homemade pizza, alongside coldcuts, olives, and cheese around this time, so I may have been distracted.



And then you end up with the final product! Fantastic, of course, course for pasta sauces of all kinds, I like to add garlic and onions, and dried herbs, and cook it down for about a half hour for a quick week night sauce. I also throw in some red wine or balsamic vinegar, depending on what I have on hand, to add a little richness and depth of flavour, especially if I’m making a meatless sauce. I also use this sauce as is, or with some dried oregano as a fantastic pizza sauce.


Bresaola Part III: An Italian dinner

On tuesday, we weighed our bresaola for the final time and with about a 37% decrease in weight, IT WAS READY. So we took it down and unwrapped it. The pieces of meat were not the prettiest things at this point, there were some salt deposits on the outside of the meat, leaving white spots all over the outside, plus a little bit of (healthy) mould. But once we wiped them down with a bit of red wine vinegar, and then rinsed them off a bit, they were looking pretty good. Then came the moment of truth: slicing into it!


Looks pretty good, no? Not as lean inside as I’d hoped, but it doesn’t really bother me. But more importantly, how does it taste? Now, I should be clear that before this, I’ve never actually had bresaola before, so I can’t say whether it tastes how it’s supposed to, but I can say that it tastes pretty good! It’s earthy and spicy. You can really taste the juniper berry and the cloves from the salt cure mixture.


It also looks really lovely, I think. Not the deep red colour we’d seen in other pictures online, but nice and pink and pretty nonetheless. The texture seems pretty spot on to me. Nice and soft in the middle, but clearly cured. Nice and salty, but not overwhelmingly so. I officially declare it a success! I think we want to do duck prosciutto next.

So, with a nice supply of bresaola on hand, I decided I wanted to have a nice Italian meal to feature it. Doing some research online, it seems it’s commonly served, thinly sliced, on arugula, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. So that’s exactly what I did.


The salty, earthy taste of bresaola, the bite of the arugula and tang of the lemon juice, worked really, really nicely together. And then of course, we had to top it with shaved parmesan reggiano. A perfect starter.

Then I followed it up with a pasta carbonara, super rich and fancy, but pretty darn easy. I added some asparagus, because we love asparagus around here, and Matthew could eat it every day if he had the choice. All you need to do, really, is fry up some bacon, or pancetta with some garlic. Once it was done, I added some white wine to the pan, and let it boil down so that it wasn’t too liquidy. Mostly because I was holding a glass of wine, and I thought, “why not?” and splashed it in there. Then add some chopped, cooked, asparagus to the pan. You can cook the asparagus however you like. I blanched mine for about 4-5 minutes. At some point in the midst of all of this, you want to grate a cup of parmesan, and separate 4 eggs, keeping the yolks, and doing whatever you want with the whites. Mix the yolks with the grated cheese. Add a generous splash of cream. This is going to be your sauce. Set it aside. Then you add your cooked pasta to the pancetta-asparagus pan. I used linguine, but you can use whatever you like, really. This next part is the important part that makes it so rich and delicious. Turn off the heat on the pan. And then pour your sauce mixture overtop of pasta, and use some tongs or a pasta ladle to mix it around right away. You want the heat from the hot pasta to essentially cook the egg yolk as you mix it, but you don’t want it too hot, otherwise the egg will cook too fast and it will separate from the cheese and create a lumpier sauce. This is fine, and still tasty, but if you can get a silk smooth sauce, then why not, right?


asparagus and pancetta


We finished this meal off with a nice little cannoli from a bakery, which I didn’t take a picture of, and had an all around successful Italian meal.

Weeknight meal: Poor and/or Lazy Man’s Bulgogi

Alrighty. So in my last post I mentioned a dish that I like the call Poor Man’s Bulgogi. I call it this because you use ground beef, which is often dirt cheap. But it could also be called Lazy Man’s Bulgogi, because it’s really easy as heck. No slicing beef, no marinating it, NOTHIN’. I can make this meal in less than 30 minutes if I’m really on top of shit.

My bestie Cassie made this, after I recommended it, and she returned with the following review:

Okay what the hell that bulgogi was SO easy and SOO GOOD”

It really is. Really really.

ImageSo, I basically use this recipe,  from Damn Delicious which I found by googling “ground beef + bulgogi” because that’s exactly what I wanted to cook. And I used the very first recipe that came up, which was this one. And it was pretty perfect. I like to double the sauce, because SAUCE, and also add some sriracha (because sriracha. On everything. Yes). And I garnish with some sesame seeds, AND AND AND piece de resistance: A CRISPY BOTTOMED, RUNNY-YOLKED EGG. UGH. OH MY GOD. It’s so tasty. The spiciness from the sriracha against the runny yolk, with a hint of green onion and salty-sweet, fragrant bulgogi sauce? IT’S ALMOST TOO MUCH TO HANDLE.

I literally just ate this minutes ago, and I’m feeling pretty passionate about it.

So grab all your ingredients together. Chuck the soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes and brown sugar into a bowl, and mix it all together. Note that you can also just use dried ginger and garlic powder for a somewhat decent result, if you’re in a bind. Also you can play with the amount of each of the ingredients to make it just how you like: a bit sweeter, saltier, spicier, whatever.


Then just brown your ground beef right up.

ImageYou’ll probably want to drain a bit of the fat off. I used extra lean, and there was still a fair amount. You want to avoid a greasy sauce. Once it’s nice and browned and drained, throw that beautiful sauce right on that meat. Mix it all up. Let it bubble.


Of course, at this point I should probably mention that this is supposed to be served over rice. So before you start cooking the meat, put on a pot of rice. However much you desire. Once the rice is done, you can just turn off the burner, and let it sit there until you need it. Letting it sit somehow allows the rice to de-stick from the bottom of the pot. This is a good tip.

Next, we want to fry up that perfect egg. I am really into eggs. IT’S A FOOD WITH A BUILD IN CREAMY HEAVENLY SAUCE. Eggs are wonderful. Anyway, so heat up a bit of oil in a pan, and let it get nice and hot. We want the bottom of that egg to be super nice and crispy. Trust me. Once it’s nice and hot, crack the egg in there, and immediately cover the pan with a lid. Leave it for a couple of minutes. Usually enough time to scoop some rice into a bowl, and top it with out meat and some extra sauce. Then take the lid off. The top of the egg should be cooked from the steam, and the bottom should be nice and crispy, but you want the yolk still runny.

I didn’t get any pictures of cooking the egg.

But anyway, once it’s done, throw the egg on top of your bowl of rice and meat. Garnish with sesame seeds, green onion, and a zig-zag of sriracha, or more if you want.



Okay, now go cook this. Right away. And come back and tell me how darn good it was.

Dinner Party – Seared scallops, coq au vin, clafoutis

I have had such good intentions for this blog! I have had two different recipes planned, that I wanted to post about! I made the meals, and photographed every step of the process, but alas, I was not happy with the end result.

Good Friday, Matt’s family came over for dinner, and the salmon cannelloni that I made kind of fell a bit flat. Or at least I thought so. And then, a few nights ago, I made one of my favourite curries: a butternut squash, chickpea, and spinach curry. But I rarely use a recipe, and in my attempt to peg one down for this blog, I ruined it! So I wasn’t happy with this particular variation. Though it certainly looked good. I’ll work on the spice variations and get back to you on this one.


And then, of course, I made a really great weeknight meal, but wasn’t expecting it to be so good, so of course I didn’t take any pictures. (But, thankfully, Matt did!)


This was what I like to call a “Poor man’s bulgogi”, because it has essentially the same flavours but with ground beef instead. It’s super quick and tasty. Top it with sriracha, a crispy fried egg, some sesame seeds and green onions, and it’s aces. Super super good. Again, I want to come back with a full post about this one.

But that’s not what today’s post is really about. This post is about a dinner party I held over the weekend. Three pairs of us have started hosting rotating dinner parties every couple of months. This past weekend it was my turn, and the theme was french. So the menu consisted of seared scallops, coq au vin, and a nice clafoutis. And I broke the rule of never trying anything out for the first time for company, but I did, with every dish. And it turned out okay! I declared it a success.

I used Deb Perelman’s recipe for Coq au vin, over at Smitten Kitchen. And it turned out perfectly. I used all chicken breasts, cut in half, with skin and bones, and I dredged them in flour before browning them. Other than that, I followed the recipe pretty exactly. The trick is really reducing the sauce to get that delicious concentrated flavour. It’s damn good.

Somehow some mushrooms, onions, bacon, chicken and a fair amount of red wine turn into something amazing. Actually, it’s not really that surprising.





I went pretty simple with the sides, with some green beans and new potatoes, tossed with some butter and sauteed shallots.


Dessert was Orangette’s lovely recipe for brown sugar clafoutis with pears. It was good, but I’ll be honest, it didn’t blow me away. Part of me thinks this was because I don’t have a blender, so I made it in my mixer, and it left some lumps. It was tasty though, and looked mighty pretty right out of the oven. Despite the lumps:\


And personally, my proudest moment was the seared scallops we started with. On a bed of greens, with a nice little white wine pan sauce. I’m really glad these worked out, because they would have been an expensive mistake.


My friend Andrea brought some nice cheeses (a fucking DELECTABLE triple creme brie, and a great aged cheddar), and I supplied a nice Ontario pecorino for a local shop. I also put out some nice little spreads courtesy of my dad: a sweet chili pepper jelly, a red onion relish type thing, and the favourite, a spiced tomato jam. The cheese board was definitely one of my favourite parts of the evening.


(I need a cheese board that’s not just my cutting board)



It was just a really nice night.

Apartment 1A: The Kitchen Tour

So, I thought it might be a nice idea to do a bit of a tour of my kitchen. I feel like people who cook always like to see what other people have in their kitchens. Or at least I do. Mostly I like to covet fancy things. Most of my things aren’t that fancy, but I’ve got some gems here and there. And a pretty sweet kitchen, I might add.

It’s pretty small, as far as kitchen go. But for a kitchen in an apartment in a city, it’s actually a pretty decent size.


You’ll have to excuse the bike to the left (again, apartment in the city). But this is my kitchen. The giant butcher block peninsula is pretty much a life saver and basically makes the kitchen as great as it is. It’s HUGE, and I can prepare stuff on it at multiple stations, and store stuff on it, and there’s even room for seating on one side. Other things I like about my kitchen are the gas oven and stove, and the DISHWASHER. I don’t care what anybody says, having a dishwasher is the BEST. When it comes down to it, there’s not much about my kitchen I don’t like. Sure, I could always use some more storage, but we get by okay, and the pot rack we installed gives us some great extra space. The one other thing is that it doesn’t very much natural lighting, which makes taking pictures for this blog a bit of a pain, and means I’m often cooking in my own shadow. But all in all, it’s a pretty great kitchen.

This is the peninsula in all it’s glory:


This is the lovely little pot rack we installed when we moved in:


It’s nice to be able to display my nice cookware, a great 10 piece Lagostina set I got for a really great deal at Kitchen Stuff Plus.

And here is the true star of the kitchen:


Apart from the kitchen itself though, there are lots of things IN my kitchen that I love and am really partial too. This one is a big one:



I was lucky enough to get this beauty for Christmas this year. Because I am spoiled. And I know it. But I’m pretty okay with it if it means I get to use this swanky machine. Here are some other beautiful things in my kitchen:

A lovely glass cake platter


These wee little cat plates I found at Value Village. I discovered that I can buy the complete set at the Sanko store on Queen West.


 Our tiny Le Creuset collection


 These are danish dough Whisks!


My favourite milk glass vase


And here’s a bonus – a badly behaving cat



Bresaola Part 2

ImageSo, it’s been over a week since my last post. I was hoping to post 1-2 times a week, but I guess, as it turns out, I don’t always cook the most interesting stuff. There has been good food this past week, don’t get me wrong. There’s been crock-pot pulled pork with jalapeño cornbread and homemade slaw, there’s been cabbage, bacon and egg hash, and there’s been some damn good pappardelle at an east side italian restaurant. But either they just weren’t quite good enough for sharing with you all, or I forgot to take any pictures. And if there are no pictures THEN WHAT’S THE POINT!?

But I did take pictures of last night, when Matt and I began the next step of making the Bresaola. You guys, it’s going to be SO GOOD. It’s pretty reassuring when hunks of meat that have been sitting in our fridge for over two week still smell GREAT. It smells like mulled wine and nature and meat. All the best things, really. Last monday we applied the second  batch of dry cure to the meat and sealed it in fresh bags. By the time we took it out of the fridge last night it was sitting in a fair amount of juices, drained from the meat.

ImageImageAfter rinsing the cure off of the meat and thoroughly drying it, it was time to wrap it up. Some people get either natural or synthetic casings for their meats, others simply tie the meat. We chose to wrap ours in cheesecloth.


ImageThen we tied them (with the help of a few youtube videos) with some simple butcher’s knots so that they’re all ready for hanging.

ImageWe then hung the meat in our “curing unit”, i.e. converted wine fridge. Right now it’s sitting at about 11 degrees and about 58% humidity, which is a tad bit lower that we want, so we’re going to experiment with adding some more containers of water, or maybe a sponge or two to bring it up a bit higher. Ideally, for curing meat, you want the temperature between 10-15 degrees celsius and the humidity between 60-70%. But I think we’ll be just fine. Now we just have to weigh the meat weekly, and once it’s lost about 35-40% of it’s original weight, we’ll know it’s ready. I’ll make a final post about it at that point!




Anticipating Summer: Lazy(ish) Fish Tacos

I have many plans for the summer. One of these plans is to eat many fish tacos. There is something delightfully summery about them. So spicy and bright tasting. It just satisfies you. Add a margarita to the mix, and you’re gold. 

Often, when I’m craving fish tacos, I go to straight to the experts: La Carnita’s fish taco, “In Cod we Trust” plagues my mind on a pretty constant basis. In fact, pretty much everything they do plagues my mind. I’ve never had a bad taco there, but their fish taco is my favourite. They also do a mean margarita, and their street corn is pretty boss as well. If I could go there all the time, I would. But I can’t so I don’t. So every once in a while, I have to try my hand at my own fish taco.

I am no fool. You cannot improve upon perfection. And I don’t entertain ideas of being able to replicate perfection. So I went on a hunt for a recipe for fish tacos that I could replicate or at least approximate. I needed something that had the same satisfying array of flavours, blending so well but still distinct. And spicy. A fish taco has to be spicy. It just does.

So anyway, after a bit of research (ie: googling) I came across a recipe that seemed to capture most of what I wanted in my fish tacos. Bobby Flay’s Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw, Tomato and Avocado Salsa and Pineapple Hot Sauce is what I use as a rough guide for my much lazier (and probably just as delicious) fish taco. It’s a weeknight taco. Or a weekend taco. Or a midnight taco. Or an every minute of your life taco, really.

Here’s a rough overview of my recipe: Tilapia fish tacos with “whatever slaw”, pineapple jalapeño “salsa”, avocados, and a sriracha “crema”. 

First, assemble your toppings. Slice up dem avocados. Here’s a nice tip I read somewhere on the internet once: to make sure an avocado isn’t overripe, pop off the little nubbin/stem/whatever, and if it’s still white underneath, it’s all good. If it’s brown, put it down. HANDY. 

For the slaw, use whatever is easiest. In an ideal world, it’d be red cabbage slaw. But I don’t want to buy an entire damn red cabbage for a cup of slaw. So I pick up a bag of slaw from the store. Sometimes they have red cabbage, but mostly they don’t. Today I used a carrot-cabbage combo. So long as it’s crispy and colourful, you’re all good. Chop up some cilantro and mix it in with the slaw, then add a generous splash of rice vinegar and good amount of lime juice. Half a lime or a whole lime. Up to you! Let that marinade while you do the rest. 

Next chop up the pineapple and some jalapeños (canned, jarred, fresh, whatever, no judgement here) and fry them up in a pan until they get all delicious looking, charring and caramelizing a bit. Most foods are better if you can somehow get them to caramelize. Once that’s done put it in a bowl. That is my pineapple jalapeno “salsa”.

Grab a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, and mix it with sriracha sauce to taste. It should be pretty spicy. This is the “crema”.


As for the fish. I usually use tilapia fillets, because they’re cheap and easy to find, but you could use any old white fish you wanted, I’m sure. Season both sides with salt and pepper. I like to grab some breadcrumbs and zest a lime into them, and a good squeeze of lime juice. Mix that good stuff all together. Then I simply dredge the fish in these breadcrumbs and fry it up in a tiny bit of oil. Both sides. But you could also do the fish any old way you want, really. If you’re a better man that I, you could actually batter the fish! But that’s too much work. For even less work, you could just skip the breadcrumbs and do salt, pepper and some lime zest/juice.

Once the fish is done, grab a pile of corn tortilla and stick them on a plate. Cover them with a damp dishtowel, and microwave it for about 2 minutes. This kind of steams them and makes them lovely and pliable. 

Now, YOU ARE READY. Throw everything onto a pita and GOBBLE IT UP. It’s good right? Super good. Yea.