Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fancy pants dining in Toronto - Fuzion

I was staying with a friend who is very conveniently located downtown. It's in close proximity to so many yummy restaurants. We took a little stroll up Church street, past the gay Baskin Robbins to Fuzion Resto-Lounge and Garden. We managed to snag a spot on the patio because our reservation was for 3 and there was only 2 of us.

I had the Grilled Quail. Mini birds but maxi on the flavour. It was really dark by the time we got our entrees, so I had trouble framing the shot. I also had side of garlic sesame rapini for the ruffage and the vitamins.

My dining companion went with the seafood risotto. The scallops were gigantesque!

We were both too full for dessert so we'll have to try that a different time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Zoo Food

One of my favourite places to go on summer vacation used to be the Toronto Zoo. I still remember the "big foot" prints painted on the ground that marked one of the trails. They are still there, but are a little faded. I went with a friend who used to be a member of the "little foot" club which I think is now called "zoo kids". This kangaroo was disobeying the sign and the subsequent one could read. Oh wait, maybe the sign was for us human animals.

All that tromping around makes one hungry and thirsty. There are strategically placed vending machines along the pathways. Wanta Fanta??! Do I look like a Fantana?

Luckily, at every pavilion there is a "Harvey's" which is a tasty Canadian hamburger chain owned by Cara operations Ltd. They are also responsible for Swiss Chalet, Kelsey's, Milestone's and Montana's. A plethora of Canadian restaurant chains!

I had the Angus Burger combo and they also have a very tasty veggie burger that is not at all bean-like or suffering from the falling apart phenomenon. I have always been suspicious of the non-meatiness of the veggie burger, but have been assured that it is just texturized veggie protein.

My favourite rest-stops are the combo Tim Horton's, Wendy's, Harvey's. Heaven by the roadside.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My hometown has diversified

I grew up in a sleepy suburb of Ottawa called Blackburn Hamlet. I haven't lived there since 1998 but I still visit every once in a while since my parents still live in the house that they moved into when I was 2 and some of my high school pals are there too.

It was a great place to grow up -- lots of places to dig in the dirt and collect crayfish and tadpoles. However, variety was never it's strong point. I was one of the only non-White kids in the school (aside from Brian Cheng the Chinese kid) and at that time the restaurant options consisted of a selection of fast food chains. It's a good thing my mom is such a good cook.

So two of my friends from high school took me to a new chain establishment, Moxie's, that apparently the entire eastern suburb of Ottawa also decided to frequent on a Thursday night. It may have been due to the scantily clad hostesses and servers, but the food was decent. The extremely loud 80s and 90s music playing overhead was a little odd. I think their goal was to bring a bit of the "big city" feel to the 'burbs.

I tried the Beef Tandoori, which the server warned me was very very spicy. It was spicy, but I don't think that it warranted the very very for me since most of my taste buds have been burned off by previous cooking experimentation. It was very pretty.

Even prettier was my tea bag that I had with my dessert. Soooo silky!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cilantro cupcakes?? Sous-titre: Cleaning out the fridge before vacay

Summer means fresh produce and fragrant fresh herbs. But it also means planning when shopping because I don't want to over buy and then have things rot in my fridge if I go away for several days.

From my next several posts you will see that I am taking an Ontario tour to see my friends and family. What that means is that my man friend will have to fend for himself in terms of meals. I tried to pump him full of vegetables before I left, but didn't get the chance to use all the yummy veggies that I bought from Russo's (a great family-owned and operated market in Watertown). Knowing that all the remaining vegetables would be left to increase the ethylene concentration in my fridge and thus begin the decomposition process, I thought I would experiment with freezing herbs!

Doing a quick google search gave me varying opinions on the tastiness of frozen cilantro. Many people said that it works well but others said that the herb is best served fresh and gets black and yucky if frozen. Seeing as the cilantro left in my fridge would be going to waste anyway, I thought I'd give it a shot and deal with the consequences later. I figured it couldn't be terrible because most sources said that the frozen cilantro would be mushy but could be used in sauces. This sounded not unlike the Recaito, which is a Goya product, that I've added to many stewy type meals.

Here is my cilantro washed and happy on the chopping board prior to pulverization.

I put the herbs in a bowl, snipped coarsely with my kitchen shears. Then I added the juice of a fresh lime, some olive oil, salt and pepper.

Then, the mixture went into a silicone mini cupcake tray that I purchased at my beloved store, Target! Popped them in the freezer and when I get back from my Canadian holiday I'll let you know how it turns out!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Let's "cook with a book" - cooking with kids!

Here goes some shameless family promotion. (For significantly more, see "My bro's page" in sites that make me hungry on the right hand side.) My niece, Fionna is both extremely cute and extremely smart. I'm saying this not only from a biased auntie's perspective, but from a professional perspective. I've seen a lot of kids in my line of work and Fionna and Abby (my younger niece) rank in the top 99th percentile of cute and smart. Yes, the confounding factor is the reporting by a family member, but I've already fully disclosed that conflict of interest.

Contributing to their cuteness/smartness factor, may be the fact that Fionna attends Montessori school where "play" is "work" and they are taught from the beginning that finding their own stuff to be interested in is key. This is clearly demonstrated by the phase that Fionna went through of shining silverware. She had a little toothbrush that she would use to clean some sort of candelabra at school so this translated into a lot of clean, shiny things at home as well.

So recently, she saw her mom cooking in the kitchen and so demanded that she also be allowed to "cook with a book". Only thing is she picked this book! Apparently to a young thing, all books can be cookbooks despite the lack of cooking instructions in this picture board book.

The following kitchen fun ensued and thus she will have a higher likelihood of being in the kitchen when she is a teenager than standing in the line at McDonald's? Is this how we should be addressing childhood obesity? Maybe, if only we could encourage her to make vegetables instead of cupcakes in a 10:1 ratio then we'd be successful!

If our vegetables containers had cute silicon feet like this cupcake holder, I bet it would be easier. Also of note, is the way our genetics cause us to "house" food in the same manner.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Land and Sea

Last year I went to the New England Sand Sculpting Festival and took pictures of the crazy sand creatures there. During one of my Japanese lessons, I showed my Japanese friend the pictures and tried to explain what it was like. Then we got on the subject of the famous "Lobster Roll". So I decided that this would be a perfect field trip!

On Revere Beach, which is T-accessible (that's the subway here), stands "Kelly's Roast Beef". It's a local chain and there is also one near the Wellington T on the orange line and also one in the monstrous Jordan's furniture IMAX complex in Natick. Really what more could you need if you have lobster, mattresses and a huge movie screen?! From the name, it doesn't sound like they would have much seafood, but in fact there is a large seafood menu. There is controversy in Boston about where you can get the best lobster roll, but this is definitely one of the front runners. It's not really a fine dining experience as you have to be very vigilant... if you're not paying attention you could get your eye pecked out by a very large sea bird. Some people think that $17.00 is way too much to pay for a lobster sandwich, but with the meat of 2 1 lb lobsters, it seems pretty worth it. Especially when your dining partners are two other small Asian women and our bellies can fill up pretty quickly. We shared a lobster roll and a clam plate.

Here is me showing them how it's done.

As you can see "Kelly's" was one of the sponsors of the competition. I bet Iron Man could put back a few roast beef sandwiches!!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Monkeying around in the kitchen

As promised, here is my awesome monkey vegetable peeler. I like how he lives on my paper towel dispenser and looks like he is going to climb around in my decorative lucky bamboo. This is the same peeler that I nearly peeled my thumb nail off with in the post about the fruity Smarties. We bought him in Europe but then found out that he is manufactured in Boston. Well, I guess he was meant to come back to his home land with us!

Also along the lines of monkeys is our monkey-scrubbing-pad-holder-thingy. I got him at Economy True Hardware in the North End, where they have a surprising amount of great kitchen tools.

And here is a mango that I sliced up with that blue knife that someone with good taste liked. I love mango and apparently I love all things orange.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Presto!! Basil and Pumpkin Seed Pesto

Another farmer's market find was this fragrant bunch of basil. I brought it home and "planted" it in a glass of water in the fridge and covered it with a plastic bag while I thought about what I would do with it. Because I was thirsty, I used a few sprigs to mix myself a drink. Mushed up the basil in my Flavour Shaker, added some fresh lime juice, a sprinkle of sugar, some gin and some bubbly water. Very refreshing!

This left me with the majority of the basil bush still left, so I thought I'd make some pesto, eat it with something and freeze the rest. Living in Chinatown without a car sometimes makes non-Asian groceries difficult to find if you just want to walk a few blocks. Since Asian people don't often eat pine nuts, I gave up on looking for these. I walked over to Sagarino's that often has a very good selection of cheese (I needed parmesan) and did not find pine nuts of course, but thought these pumpkin seeds would do. I also thought about using walnuts, but curiously there was not a walnut to be found in the joint!

So here goes the pesto.

1 cup of pumpkin seeds and 3 cloves of crushed garlic.

I blended these up with my hand blender. I initially made quite a mess since the bowl was too big and the blender flung seeds everywhere. I'm still picking them off of the floor!

Then I blended up the basil leaves (the whole bunch) and mixed it with freshly grated parmesan (about 1 cup). This mixture was rather dry, so I mixed in a bit of olive oil until it was more unctuous.

The next night for dinner I grilled up some chicken, red peppers and mixed it all with some spaghetti! The rest I'm planning on freezing in individual servings (since I only needed a few tbsps. per meal, so there's still a lot left!)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

クッキー = kukki = cookie

My Japanese language skills are improving, although I think my vocabulary is expanding, the grammar is still very challenging. This was made very obvious to me when I tried writing a "thank-you" card to the parents of my Japanese friend. They came to my Canada Day party and in traditional Japanese style came bearing presents. They gave me some deeeelicious Yoku Moku cookies (kukki) and some beautiful bookmarks with drawings of Kabuki. I drafted up something for Mayumi to check to make sure I wasn't calling her parents, "stinky fish face" or something else insulting. Much giggling ensued because I wrote everything out of order due to my English grammar translating into Jap-lish. Here is the final edited version of my card.

Japanese things are always so pretty -- packaging is esthetically pleasing and there are often opening instructions. Portions are smaller but flavours were delightful. Orangey and lemony goodness.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Farmer's Market Finds

Walking around on July 4th in downtown Boston requires some strategic tourist avoidance. The plan has to include getting an early start as people start camping out on the lawn in front of the Hatch Shell to get a good fireworks and Boston Pops viewing spot.

We had plans to do some errands around the Pru, so happened up the farmer's market in Copley Square that is there on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Yummy produce abound! We bought these funky rainbow carrots and some odd coloured beets. I didn't notice the urinary pigmentation this time since they aren't as dark red. Here are the beets, but I won't show you the salad as it was very similar to a salad that I wrote about earlier. I used goat cheese purchased at the farmer's market instead of gorgonzola.

Here are the rainbow carrots.

I made a tasty veggie side using string beans and a citrus marinade (lemon rind, orange rind and juices of both fruits). And served it alongside my beef brisket that I made in my slow cooker.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

We've been looking for these for 3 years! Fruity Smarties

We first encountered Fruity Smarties on a trip to Germany - the land of Haribou. Haribou is the company that brings you all different forms of gummy candies. Most notable would be the gummy bear. Does anyone else make the tricolour gummy bear? I like to bite different coloured ones into three pieces and then glue the head to a different coloured torso and then to a different coloured pair of legs. Once when I was a kid, I did this and saved one of them in one of those plastic bubbles that houses the toys you get out of a vending machine at the movies.

I know the idea of fruity smarties sounds gross, but these are surprisingly good. They have a hard candy coating and gummy candy in the middle. Sounds a little like Skittles, but much tastier and a bit bigger.

We found these candies in a imported chocolate and candy store in Copley Place, called Gourmet Boutique:
It's the same store where we first bought a Bacon Chocolate Bar by Vosges. Also very gross sounding but exceedingly tasty.

Here is what they look like in cross-section. You can also see in the picture where I nearly peeled off my own fingernail while peeling carrots. Ouch! I needed to off-set my candy consumption with some beta-carotene.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

So It's Canada Day, Eh?

Being Canadian and living in the U.S. there are times when I say things that give me away. Examples are: "Would you like to go out for some poutine?" or "It's cold outside, you may want to wear your toque." and "... I was oot and aboot"

To introduce some of my Boston pals to these great cultural phenomena, I thought it would be fitting to have a Canada Day party at my place. Most of them didn't even know when Canada Day was (It's July 1st), but everyone was very eager to try Canadian beers and pretend that my indoor pool was the cool and refreshing Lake Ontario.

I went on a search for Canadian items and came up with some essentials.

Canadian flag - $2.99 on

It is surprisingly difficult to find cheese curds here. I called Whole Foods and they recommended that I try some of the Armenian markets. I almost gave up on making poutine (ingredients = french fries, cheese curds, gravy), but then my friend Meagan came to the rescue with 4 packages of cheese curds from Trader Joe's! I think that traditionally, the French Canadians prefer white cheese curds, but seeing as my options were limited, these turned out sufficiently greasy and unhealthy tasting.

Also displayed proudly in the party room was a container of Tim Horton's coffee. This is nearly sacrilegious in the land of Dunkin' Donuts, but people seemed to be okay with it.

Kappy's Liquor had a surprising variety of Canadian beers including some of the Quebec Unibroue favourites like, Maudite.

All in all a fun time had by all!