Lucky Dip – Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

First of all, a tweet from a visiting chef about the smell of the city really isn’t a story, ya’ll are streeeeetching it there, Toronto Life. And more importantly, at this time of year, Chinatown/Kensington smells of more than just dried fish. It’s a complicated melange of durian, those long fried bread sticks, rotting produce, cooking soybeans, and chicken shit, plus a bit of fish, BBQ, and coconut bread, depending on the day of the week. [Toronto Life: The Dish]

Sick of Yelp? What took you so long? It seems that people are finally cluing into the fact that their tastes and criteria for “good food” may not match up with that of strangers on the Internet. [Bon Appetit]

Some new fast food items with over the top calories, fat and sodium. (I am craving the Hawaiian pancakes now, I don’t care.) [The Beast]

Sustainably-raised, LOCAL shrimp – in Las Vegas?? Baby, the things you can do with old shipping containers! [Good Food]

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The Premium Chocolate Experience

cluizelbars

My first encounter with Michel Cluizel chocolates took place a few years back when I happened across the entire line of estate plantation bars in a shop in St. Lawrence Market. I ended up buying the whole line, setting me back about $50, and the experience completely changed how I think about chocolate.

Like coffee and wine, chocolate from different regions offers distinctive flavours and characteristics that denote the specific terroir in which the cacao is grown, making each chocolate unique.

This past week, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a chocolate tasting event at Cava where the various chocolates from Michel Cluizel were paired with spirits.

The tasting was led by Yves Farges, CEO of Qualifirst Foods Ltd, a family-owned company that has been importing specialty foods since 1957. The line of Michel Cluizel chocolates is their most well-known product, but with a philosophy of offering the best quality products as the guiding concept of the company, Qualifirst offers everything from truffles and foie gras to tea, coffee, preserves and vinegars, and the evening began with a selection of canapés prepared by Chef Chris McDonald of Cava, and featuring products from the Qualifirst selection that ranged from smoked sea salt to a vegan caviar.

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Where Can I Find – Rugelach

rugelach

My first encounter with rugelach was in the early 90s when I worked for a company owned by a Jewish family. During the Jewish holidays, they’d bring in platters of treats to share with the staff and the little rolled cookies had me coming up with all kinds of reasons to wander by the break room.

 

Yiddish for “little twist”, rugelach was originally made with a yeast dough, but American Jews introduced a dough made with cream cheese. The pastry is rolled around fillings such as chocolate, raisins, nuts or preserves such as apricot or raspberry.

 

 

 

Rugelach are supposedly easy to make at home, but while I consider myself an accomplished baker, I’ve never been able to get the cream cheese pastry to work well for me, despite trying a variety of recipes. As such, I’m always on the lookout for places that sell the things, because rugelach are quite addictive.

 

And while I’m sure there are any number of Jewish bakeries and delis in the north end of the city that make fantastic examples of this cookie (please feel free to share your favourites in the comments), I’m sticking to what is accessible to me, a car-free downtowner.

 

Note that as rugelach is considered a seasonal item, not all the places listed may have it at all times. While it should be readily available for the next week or so until the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah have passed, I’d advise calling ahead if it’s out of season and you really need a fix.

 

Future Bakery (93 Front Street East, St. Lawrence Market) – cream cheese or raspberry filling.

 

Harbord Bakery (115 Harbord Street) – offers a variety of flavours with chocolate being the most popular.

 

Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (287 Augusta Avenue) – a variety of flavours, likely seasonal as they don’t show up on their website.

What a Bagel
(421 Spadina Road, and others) – carry the cookies year-round, with 4 flavours plus a sugar-free version.

Whole Foods
(87 Avenue Road) – offers rugelach seasonally, sold pre-packaged, by the kilo.

 

Yitz’s Deli (346 Eglinton Avenue) – sold singly or by the kilo, there’s usually a nice mix of flavours including cinnamon and walnut.

 

I’ve also bought rugelach at Benna’s (135 Roncesvalles Avenue), but the person I talked to on the phone for this piece didn’t know what I was talking about, so I can’t guarantee they have them all the time.

 

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There’s No More Room on the Bandwagon

Okay, so I’m flipping through one of the happy housewife magazines that I subscribe to, eating lunch and not really paying attention to what I’m reading ($160 is too much to pay for a hot trend item that looks good on exactly nobody and will be out of style in 6 months) when I come across an ad that makes me choke on my soup.

The eeeeevilest of evil corporations has gone organic.

Sweet motherfucking hell.

Currently Kraft is only offering crackers, salad dressing and coffee in organic form, but you can bet your sweet patootie that there’s more to come.

Although organic products have recently gained an increase in recognition, organic practices are deeply rooted in traditional agricultural methods. Organic farming practices employ a variety of ecologically stable methods to help sustain a healthy environment. Composting, recycling and crop rotations are just some of the holistic practices farmers utilize to ensure a sustainable land, where crops are grown with natural fertilizers such as manure and without the use of synthetic pesticides. Animals raised on organic farms have access to pasture and open air runs to foster their health and natural behaviour, and are raised without the use of growth hormones.

Kraft organic products are created with carefully selected organically grown ingredients, and their organic qualities are maintained at all stages of production. Organic foods are minimally processed and contain no artificial preservatives or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

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Who You Calling Cupcake?

cupcakegroup1

As I mentioned last week when discussing sandwiches, there are a number of food trends that have taken off south of the border that just never got a footing here. Cupcake bakeries or boutiques – shops dedicated solely to cupcakes – is one of those trends that seems to have passed us by.

It looked like Toronto might ride the waves of buttercream frosting when The Cupcake Shoppe opened a few years ago, but no real competition stepped up. Sure there were plenty of bakeries that started offering the tasty treats in addition to their regular selection of pastries, but none willing to deal exclusively in the little, sweetly decorated cakes.

Which leaves anyone jonesing for a cupcake fix with no choice but to run around searching for good ones. Because not all cupcakes are created equal.

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Manic Organic – Part 1

A few months back I read something in one of the newspaper food columns about how relatively easy it was to get organic produce at local supermarkets. The article specifically mentioned the No Frills in Dufferin Mall, and it left me scratching my head. See, I shop at that No Frills and I can’t really recall seeing a whole lot of organic produce there.

This provoked the desire to start exploring. Maybe there were hidden gems in my local shops that I wasn’t even aware of. So over the past few weeks, I’ve been wandering the supermarkets of the west end of downtown to see exactly what there was out there in terms of organics.

You’ll notice that I stuck to supermarkets and chain grocery stores, as this is where most people shop. My own grocery shopping excursions take me regularly to St. Lawrence and Kensington Markets, Whole Foods and Pusateri’s, as well as a variety of farmer’s markets, shops in ethnic neighbourhoods and small health food stores, in addition to frequenting the stores listed below.

In my travels for this article, I looked for specific items such as milk and soy milk, eggs, produce and prepared foods.

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