Tag Archives: Reviews

December – Eatin’s Canada

The end of the year, December is always about making sure we remember to celebrate our families and friendships. Parties, dinners, brunches, and celebrations in general give us the opportunity to share food with our loved ones.

Not only is it a good time to gift them with some of those pickles and tomatoes you canned in the nicer weather, there are still things you are able to preserve in December.

Like cabbage. It’s a great time for Kim Chi, which is nicely spicy and helps cut through the cold and drab days. Right now we have two recipes: Philly’s Easy Kim Chi is a traditional style, and Joel’s Smoked Mackerel Kim Chi is a bit of serendipitous fusion. There will be an accompanying recipe for Bulgoki Beef soon, I promise.

We also have a recipe for No Knead Sourdough, and will have more for you soon. Not only the usual how to plan a party and make food for holiday events, but also how to pack for your plane trip home. Who cares what kind of food the airlines are serving? You can have the best!

Potato Latkes are a great seasonal dish if you are cooking for Hanukah, or invited to a potluck. When fried in oil, they are excellent at room temperature.

We’ll be adding more to this soon, but wanted to make sure that it was begun.

Enoteca Sociale – Bella Cucina

Review and photographs by Gayle Hurmuses

Enoteca Sociale is one of my favourite restaurants. I’ve been there a handful of times…the food is invariably excellent, and the service is outstanding in an understated way. The first time there, I had a wonderful Boston Lettuce, Blood Orange, and Hazelnut Praline salad that was so good I can still taste it. My companion had ordered a pork dish that was beyond delicious and while firm and satisfying, was nevertheless so tender that it was truly possible to cut it with a fork.

Enoteca Sociale = Wine Social
Enoteca Sociale = Wine Social

It had been the recommended dish of the evening.  While we were placing our orders and asking the server about dishes on the menu, she had offered the pork as her favourite on the then current menu, almost whispering to us that it was marinated in brine overnight, dropping her eyes just a bit and smiling like a lover, clearly remembering the taste like the memory of a kiss. It was merited.

Sadly, I had been accustomed to my companion’s usual restaurant suggestions being uninspired at best, so had not expected anything good, had eaten a bit before going, and had to restrict myself to the salad…which thankfully was a superstar and helped make up for some of my disappointment. It even led to my second visit to the restaurant, to revisit that dish and try others.

My version of the salad, sadly, I do not have an image of the version from the restaurant. Will replace as possible.
My version of the salad, sadly, I do not have an image of the version from the restaurant. Will replace as possible.

On that second visit, I again had the salad, and a wonderful rack of lamb that was the special for the evening. The server was again, personable, but not omnipresent, tastefully offering suggestions and always tactful if it was necessary to interrupt to advance the meal. The salad was again wonderful, and I recall asking about the excellent bread, which I was told they make in house. I was on a bread fast at the time, which was happily broken that evening, as there was not a chance that I would pass up this sublime treat. We may have asked for more bread. *hangs head*

That salad reminded me of the opportunity to use juices as the acid component in a salad dressing, to use fruit juices more in general, and also (along with my discovery of Sweet Georgia Browns, more about that next month) inspired a spate of salted praline making. Among other dishes, it inspired my take on the salad.  

Holger removing potatoes for gnocchi from the oven
Holger removing potatoes for gnocchi from the oven

Naturally, I’ve wanted to write about Enoteca Sociale for quite a while, but kept putting it off…then while looking at a blank screen, contemplating the month’s theme, got an email from their

Holger preparing rosemary for the focacia.
Holger preparing rosemary for the focacia.

publicist, asking if I wanted to publish their Rosemary Foccaccia recipe for Bread Day on November 17. In the end, the timing didn’t work out, but it led to the chosen theme of Bread and Soup for November, and for that inspiration, I am again thankful.

Focaccia Dough
Focaccia Dough

They make 8 loaves of bread a day, except on Saturday, when they make 16, and sell half to the first 8 lucky people to arrive…and there is always a lineup at noon, when the sale begins.

I arranged to interview Holger, the Bread Baker and Pasta Maker at Enoteca Sociale, during his morning baking time. It was intended to be a video interview,

Holger mixing focaccia dough
Holger mixing focaccia dough

unfortunately, the combination of borrowed equipment and the discovery that my extra data cards were with my lost camera and not the recording device scotched that, but happily, the photos came out well.

Informally trained, Holger has been cooking since childhood, and has been at Enoteca Sociale since the beginning. A lifelong baker, he proposed the bread program as one of the ways of

Holger mixing focaccia dough
Holger mixing focaccia dough

distinguishing the restaurant, and of supporting its slow food mandate. For Holger, making both bread and pasta are the epitome of food artistry, requiring a keen understanding of (in the case of bread) a living chemistry that must be carefully nurtured. This is especially true of their sourdough, which is a wild yeast that he trapped himself, and which assures the unique character and flavour of their bread.

Holger rolling Gnocchi
Holger rolling Gnocchi

He also uses the slow rising, no kneading method popularized by The New York Times food column recipe, but certainly used elsewhere, and which he points out was made truly possible by the invention of the electric refrigerator. Holger loves that it gives variable results, not completely predictable, and again, requires delicacy and finesse to truly master. I watch, and try not to interrupt his flow as he works with the bread and the gnocchi and speaks about his history with food.

Holger rolling Gnocchi
Holger rolling Gnocchi

These two processes are interleaved, and he moves from peeling baked potatoes, mashing them, adding flour and salt, to stirring the huge batches of dough with his hands. As with his bread, Holger likes a basic approach to gnocchi, eschewing other ingredients to lighten them, such as egg. “Flour, salt and potatoes are the only ingredients you should need. This is another area where expertise really shows.”

He moves quickly and gracefully, with

Holger pushes the completed  Gnocchi onto the tray for drying
Holger pushes the completed Gnocchi onto the tray for drying.

few wasted movements, measuring and mixing the ingredients with his hands, pulling out a piece of dough, rolling it with his hands into a long rope, then cutting this rope into equally sized pieces, quickly, quickly, then just as fast, taking a cooking sheet and rolling them onto this using the same dough cutter, all in one movement, making an evening’s worth of gnocchi while waiting for the bread to rise.

Holger's focaccia in trays.
Holger’s focaccia in trays.

Then, he gives the bread one last turn with his hands, before moving it into the large pans that the focaccia is cooked in for the final resting before being baked.

Holger setting the focaccia out to cool.
Holger setting the focaccia out to cool.

As I re-read this, it sounds like this all happened at one time, in one go, butHolger has been in constant motion, moving one batch of dough upstairs, putting another into the oven, before going back to the prep kitchen in the basement to prepare the next batch, and to make his gnocchi. Normally a meditative time for him, before the rest of the prep staff arrive, he’s been doing all of this while also patiently answering my questions and offering explanations.

Holger removing the sourdough from the oven.
Holger removing the sourdough from the oven.

A gracious host, he makes me a cappuccino to enjoy while waiting for the next loaves to come out of the oven so that I can photograph them, and goes back downstairs to complete the next batch of something. I photograph the loaves when the time arrives, and make plans to be first in line one Saturday to buy a sourdough from them. I will absolutely savour the bread with greater gusto the next time I am there.

Skinned-knuckle free grating!

“It’s a poor carpenter that blames his tools, but nevertheless, bad tools suck.”
Me (Quote that as much as you want to. :-))

Article and photographs by Gayle Hurmuses,

A well designed tool does its job with style and grace, assisting in the task in ways that transcend the obvious: A blade that begins and remains sharp, a grip that reduces fatigue and helps transfer force to a blade, a sheath that protects.

A thoughtfully designed tool makes work easier and often safer. The Microplane graters do an excellent job of the former, and the glove does the latter beautifully. Use the gloves properly, and you will never have a shredded knuckle again.

These things are freaking awesome. First, Nancy Whitmore, their charming PR rep, sent the long, slim citrus grater and the glove. I immediately  put them both to the test, grating frozen Parmesan and taking it to the tiniest piece I could hold, blithely careless of my fingers.

The grater did a beautiful job of grating frozen Parmesan rinds, which was the toughest test I could dream up. It did a masterfully impressive job, shredding the cheese into fluff. I remain in awe, especially considering that I’ve never owned a food processor that could handle even fresh Parmesan rind, let alone frozen…and this is just a handheld manual grater. Bonus, it comes with a plastic cover that will prevent any accidental finger shredding while rummaging through drawers.

The glove was great, protecting my fingers from harm. It is  made to be cut resistant and and as such,  does its job excellently. It’s not impossible to damage the glove however, so you should still be watching your hands to make sure it isn’t in the danger zone.

Since then, Nancy has sent me a couple of their ‘Elite Series’ graters, the covers of which also serve as a bowl and measuring cup for the grater when you reverse them and attach them to the blade in the opposite direction. Quite a clever design.

I’ve used the larger gauge grater to demolish a potato for latkes, a task it accomplished with velocity, and the smaller gauge again for the frozen Parmesan rind test, and it was like grating mild cheddar, easy, quick and really felt like nothing at all.

On Monday, they’re going to demo this year’s new products…and I can’t wait to see them!

Microplane Elite Series
Microplane Elite Series and frozen Parmesan rinds. The toughest test.

Review: Andean Flavours 2014

Review by Gayle Hurmuses

Andean Flavours 2014, an event was organized for a group of growers & farmers and hosted by  EcoCanopy Andino , and the Trade office of Peru And Ecuador based in Toronto, was held at The King Edward Hotel on May 26, from 5pm to 9pm.

It was a nice choice of venue; even the conference rooms there have an elegance to them that enhances good food, and the staff are silently excellent.  Unfortunately, I arrived a bit late for the event and so missed the presentations, which were all in the first hour, but it was still a pleasant time being at the event, which was nicely thought out on a culinary level. A good thing, since its function was to showcase wonderful food from the Andean region…and it worked, since over 150 people attended this year’s event.

Fortunately for me, there was still a great deal of evidence of this thoughtful approach remaining and I was able to enjoy much of what had been presented.

There were several racks of Maca-herb crusted lamb chops, with artichoke salsa, remaining, perfectly cooked, tender and succulent, as it should be. These were prepared and presented by Chef Dennis of Hunter’s Landing and offered with a drizzle of Don Joaquin pepper sauce. The lamb paired well with the Quinoa and summer vegetables salad with Peruvian hot peppers vinagrette, and might have paired well also with the Quinoa noodles with Avocado Oil & tomato-palmito-artichoke salsa still being served, but I found that a bit too al dente for my taste. Also still available was an excellent Halibut ceviche with sacha inchi nuts, which was filled with chunks of delicious Halibut and had a nice fresh flavour.

I missed the Merken smoked chili pepper, spiked shrimp, exotic fruit drizzle, but am already a dedicated user of the Merken spice mix, which I regularly use to make a quick “chipotle-esque” mayo, as well as roasted chicken. I likewise missed the Hearts of Palm dip, living sprouts, so can’t comment on that, but am willing to believe based on the evidence, that I missed two excellent dishes.

The room was lined with vendors presenting their products, everything from the always wonderful Pacari chocolate to Olave oils, with a lovely and pungent single source pure olive oil that was delicious on its own and would be lovely as part of a garlic and Merken shrimp dish…this booth also had an excellent Avocado oil and the vendor was extremely knowledgeable about his product. Casillero del Diablo was sampling several nice wines and featuring their new and refreshing Rosé.

An enjoyable event made more memorable by the chance sighting of Bishop Tutu in the hotel lobby, he was there for another event, but graciously agreed to a photograph. My life is complete.

GayleWithBishopTutusm

Eatin’s Canada – April

ESSENCE:

  1. The intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, which determines its character:
  2. An extract or concentrate obtained from a plant or other matter and used for flavouring or scent. (Oxford)

There may in some quarters be a debate about what is the most Canadian food, but here at Eatin’s Canada it is recognized that Maple Syrup is the essence of Canadian spring..and the most Canadian of foods.

This year, given the long and harsh winter, April is the month of the essence, when the warming of the weather allows the sap to run freely, filling buckets with pure liquid, almost like water, but ever so slightly sweet.  JP Campbell returns with part two of the sugarbush story.

Maple Syrup, The Essence of Spring, our feature Food for Thought article takes us from tapping, though the cooking process, to the final product. Later in the month, we’ll be featuring an article on another wonderful essence…Honey, but more on that when it arrives. When time permits, there will also be a follow-up and progress report on the seedlings.

Meanwhile, we have reviews and recipes for your reading and cooking pleasure:

Reviews: GaddAboutEating’s review of West Coast Seeds. For those that have not yet begun their gardens, as I did last month, there is still time to get seeds and start them indoors. Through the month, we’ll also be reviewing some other products and some events, watch for updates.

Recipes: In honour of the season, Gurpreet Chana has created a Canadian version of Gulab Jamun, an Indian classic dessert, using a maple based syrup, rather than a rosewater scented one. Lindiwe Sithole has provided a new Zimbabwean comfort food, Oxtail Stew, and Glen Synoground has returned with a delicious and tempting Crispy Szechuan Chicken recipe.

Before you go…don’t forget to sign up for our mailing list and get a FREE copy of our eCookbook, Easy Date Oven, with simple and delicious recipes for easy entertaining.

Free Cookbook Offer! Eatin's Canada - Easy Date Oven
Free Cookbook Offer!
Eatin’s Canada – Easy Date Oven

Book review: “Practically Raw Desserts” by Chef Amber Shea Crawley

Practically RawReview by Alison Cole, recipe © 2012 by Amber Shea Crawley with permission from Vegan Heritage Press, LLC.

For those who love experimenting with wholesome, healthy ingredients to create plant-based versions of a large variety of traditional desserts, this is the book for you. On the heels of her first cookbook “Practically Raw” (2012), Chef Amber Shea Crawley has published its successor, “Practically Raw Desserts”, which came out last year. Amber is both a popular blogger and highly trained raw chef who presents her expert knowledge about food and raw food preparation techniques in this beautiful volume. Its colourful photographs and palatable layout serve as enough alone to entice and satisfy the reader into at least visually devouring the recipes within.

What does the term “practically raw” mean, you might ask? This is where the theme of flexibility leads as a role in the book, offering its readers a variety of substitutions and variations for every recipe. Not only are you given multiple options for ingredient substitutions, but many of the recipes also offer the choice of making the dessert “raw” or “cooked”. For those who don’t own a dehydrator or care too much about the nutritional advantages that raw food offers over a cooked dessert, this book becomes much more accessible for the average reader who wants to dabble in raw cuisine but may not be ready to take the full plunge in. Variations for lower fat, nut-free and lower-sugar versions of the recipes are also presented, truly making this a compilation that everyone can use and enjoy!

Many of the best desserts I’ve ever tasted are raw, and the ones in this book easily reinforce that claim. In utilizing key ingredients such as nuts, nut flours, maple syrup and coconut oil, to name some, no richness is absent from the cookies, cakes, puddings, ice creams, pies and more that grace the pages of Chef Amber’s tantalizing collection.

Care for a Dark Chocolate Truffle Tart with Macaroon Crust? Some of the most chewy and delicious Chocolate Chunk Cookies you’ve ever tried? A cashew-based New York Cheesecake that is more delectable than any of its dairy-based counterparts you have ever tasted? It’s all here in the book, including the creamiest ice creams I have ever made, plus the Famous Five-Minute Blondies II that stunned me with their toothsome taste, put together with just handful of simple ingredients. You’ll find it difficult to stop popping these little treasures into your mouth one after another.

This book serves as a delight to read and an innovative adventure to undertake. Under the guidance of Amber’s encouraging and inspiring voice throughout, you’ll find yourself exploring the recipes one by one to be pleasurably impressed by these raw (or practically raw) wholesome treats.

The Mexican Vanilla Plantation – Magic Beans

vainilla-portada-origenesAt the 2013 CRFA Show, I met Eleazar Hernandez, the Canadian importer of vanilla from The Mexican Vanilla Plantation.

At the end of the show, he handed me an envelope with some vanilla beans in it, almost apologetic that they would not be good enough, as the package had been opened and closed throughout the event.

To the contrary, they were so wonderful that I had to have an interview to learn what made them so exceptional.

I used the pods throughout the year and then, as it was drawing to a close, tossed one of the beans into a pint of rum to make some Vanilla Extract. The last time I had tried to make extract, it had taken 3 months and 6 pods bought from various stores to obtain an acceptable vanilla flavour…

This time, the year old bean from a pouch that Eleazar had worried might not be good enough after only a weekend, created a beautifully aromatic extract in just 3 days.

¡They may come from a lovely orchid, rather than a legume vine, but these are truly magic beans!

In this interview, Eleazar explains what makes the beans from the Mexican Vanilla Plantation so special, their variety and the painstakingly careful method of curing the beans, and a bit of the history and legend of Vanilla.

Thinking I’ll go and savour the fragrance of the extract for just a moment right now, and plan how I’ll use the last remaining beans.

GaddAboutEating at Tibisti Grill

Article and photography by GaddAboutEating, Voiceover by Lew Williams. 

February is the Month of Love.

I love food.  I love sharing food.  I love sharing food with the people I love.   It’s lovely.

I must have written about this place a half dozen times; visited too many times to count.   Watched, years ago, as the renovations were done to the space and were eager to see what was being brought to life in the neighborhood.  (I really don’t have to GaddAbout very far in order to enjoy some incredible food). Tibisti has that ‘family’ feel;  you will be welcomed on your first visit and treated as if you were a long-time friend.

Tibisti baclawaAbsolutely the BEST baclawa.  Yes I realize I am reviewing the last part of the dinner first.  I cannot be expected to leave the best to last.

Best Baclawa Ever.  It doesn’t get any better than this.  My partner theorized that the key was in the honey used.    When complemented on its excellence the chef said it’s his specialty – a secret.  I asked if the secret was the honey or the sweet water he used;   I got  no reply from him other than ‘he makes his own syrup”.  So it remains a mystery…. but isn’t that what magic is all about?

…and why should I have to save the best for last?…

http://tibistigrill.com/

Mirgaz or Merguez.   What a lovely word.   What delicious food.  It’s a North African and Middle Eastern food.  Spiced ground meat with seasonings.  Sometimes it is put into a casing – made into a sausage. Tibisiti style is wrapped on flat long skewers and grilled.  Fresh.

Tibisti hummusHummous.   The food of the gods.  An ancient food made with basic ingredients.   Delicious and freshly made and like everything else at Tibisti:  it is the best.

Tender, lemony roasted potatoes.   Drool factor about Tibisti lemon roast potatoesan 11 on a scale of 10.   I’m making myself hungry while I’m typing this up.  I’ve managed to figure out a fairly decent recipe for making these at home but no matter what I do – they are never as good as the real thing made by Chef Mohammad at Tibisti.

Tibisti ribeye steak dinnerHalal meat from the butcher’s case, sliced fresh and grilled to  absolute perfection.  Tender and tasty.

Tibisti offers an eat-in, take out grill with a variety of tender and juicy Lebanese and South Asian dishes.  Great service and atmosphere. When they say “This is the best ______ you’ve ever had”, they’re telling the truth.

Tibisti Foods & Grill
(604) 737-1000
6990 Victoria Drive
Vancouver, BC

Reviews

Roasted by Social Coffee & Tea Company on January 6, 2014
Sampled 10 days after roast – Review by Wayne Kwok

Living in Toronto, we’re a bit divided on coffee. From my observations, most Torontonians prefer roasty and bittersweet European coffees. The third wave specialty coffee movement (popular on the west coast of North America, Australia, and Scandinavia) sees coffee as an artisanal product. Beans are roasted lighter to allow the drinker to appreciate the subtleties of flavour and the distinctiveness of a varietal in a particular growing region.

As a roaster, Social Coffee & Tea sits on the progressive end of the spectrum. Farmer’s Collective Organic Espresso is obviously intended to be brewed in an espresso machine, but it also makes a decent drip-filter coffee. This seems to be Social’s attempt to appeal to those who like their coffee a bit more traditional. “Nice” seems to instantly come to my customers’ minds when they drink it. I agree. It’s like that reliable friend who would rather be described as pleasant than exciting. Even someone who believes espresso should be a party in your mouth will occasionally appreciate something smooth, mellow, and sweet.

Not everyone likes big, bright, fruity espressos. This one sits on the fence. It’s definitely not a wild west coast espresso, nor is it a dark and roasty European. Nothing about it smacks you in the face. There’s a subtle brightness in the beginning followed by strong nutty notes, ending with hints of bakers chocolate. It has a very mellow and balanced taste and mouthfeel—so balanced that Social says you could trust it to run a nation.

Using the same beans, I also made myself an Americano and a drip-filter style brew using an Aeropress (a full-immersion brew method like a french press, but the liquor is pressured through a paper filter). As an Americano, the cup I had was a bit brighter, sweeter, and fruitier with much more of a roasty, candied nut taste. The Aeropress brew was a bit flatter all around.

In a latte, the milk really brings out the aroma of hazelnut. If you like nutty aromas, you won’t be disappointed.

If you’re someone who just likes a pleasant cup and isn’t looking for green apple and tea rose flavours in their espresso, this is a great everyday blend.