Thursday, October 22, 2009

Meatless Days continue, just maybe not always Monday

I'm still doing Meatless Mondays but I'm done trying to document them. It hasn't turned out to be the grand cooking experiment I had hoped but it has made me more mindful of my eating.

Last week, I ate some of my brother's deli sandwich on Monday, again, forgetting what I was doing just because food was in front of me.

So this week, I couldn't go meatless on Monday but I did Tuesday and today. And I didn't miss meat either days. I think that's a huge improvement from when I started actively challenging my regular habits two months ago.

I'm not sure what my "ultimate" goal is, but I know as time progresses, I will continue to lessen my meat intake. I still expect meat to be a regular part of my diet but I hope to change the frequency.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Torito Tapas Bar

It took nearly two months but the fine Twitter foodie dinner for four finally happened.

One is vegetarian, does eat eggs and cheese. Another rules out pork because of religion. The third is wildly (my word) allergic to mushrooms (but luckily not truffles). And the final will eat anything in sight that is edible. Can you guess which one is me?

Individually, the food restrictions aren't that challenging but together I thought it may pose a problem since we were doing tapas, sharing-style. But it turned out to be an excellently executed ordering of various food stuffs: Spanish tortilla of egg and potato, roasted beet salad with goat cheese and lentils, chickpea stew, quail with sweet potato mash and a pomegranate glaze, and grilled sardines with a romano bean-parsley salad. For dessert, churros and an almond cake. Oh, and a hard-hitting Spanish red wine from the Rioja region.

No pictures. Despite the mass food blog-iness of the table, we were too busy enjoying one another's company and the very, very good food.

First time tapas, first time real Spanish food (aside from chorizo sausage and Iberico jamon) for me. I can say confidently all dishes were a great mix of simple but intense flavours. If something was supposed to be light, it was light. If it was supposed to be warm and comforting, it most definitely was. And I think four is definitely the perfect tapas number. We evenly split the bill at $35 each (including tip) and I think we all walked away with satisfied stomachs.

Plus the space is very nice -- warm and inviting, and service is pretty good. Restaurant got quite busy after 8, and unexpectedly loud so it became difficult to hear conversation from across the table. May have needed more wine.

Overall, in conclusion, hurray for food&drink&city lovers! :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Apple Tarts

I adore the new cookbook Earth to Table, written by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann, head chef and head pastry chef at the Ancaster Old Mill, respectively.

Jeff and Bettina (I feel like I can call them by their first names because we're Twitter buddies; follow them @Earth_to_Table) are huge advocates of using local, seasonal produce. I love that the cookbook is divided into seasons -- after I finished the intro, I skipped right to fall.

The book is very beautiful and inspiring. The recipes are easy to follow and things like duck confit and fennel pork loin have never seemed so accessible before! But those heavy mains require more time and focus so I decided to start small with apple tarts this past Thanksgiving weekend.

The first batch on Monday didn't turn out like the cookbook's photo, and when I later tweeted about it, @Earth_to_Table told me to bake it longer till golden and crispy. So for my next batch today, I did exactly like that. And they were much better! Definitely crispy.

L: First batch of apple tarts; R: second batch

They still didn't look like the photo in the cookbook though. I think I'm piling the apples too high, and the apple slices may be too big. The butter doesn't drip on to the pastry to make it as golden as I think it should be.

Anyway, I give myself an A for effort, and maybe a B- for execution? It was fun and easy to make. I haven't baked anything in a long time and it's always fun trying something new, even if it's not exactly as gorgeous and tasty as it is in your head.

I'm sure Jeff and Bettina's apple tarts are much better than mine. :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Throwndown at Mesa Grill: Winner?

Sunday Brunch: Mesa Grill (102 5th Avenue,

I love Bobby Flay. I really do. I get that some people aren't over the standing-on-cutting-board Iron Chef original fiasco, and some never see him ever lose on Throwdown, but he cooks so damn well. Every time one of his Food Network shows ends with the black screen and writing of him owning Mesa Grill, I always think to myself or say out loud, "I want to eat at Mesa Grill." And so I did.

Here's the thing: Even though I hyped it in my head from television, reading scores and scores of New York Times dining reviews, made me realize I was going there for the food, yes, but for the star power as well. Just as I did at Morimoto in Philadelphia. But whereas Morimoto lived up to his name (I met him there after all!), Mesa Grill did not.

The decor seemed strange. Kind of cheap and tacky actually with the fake flames overhead to ... do what ... ? Give a southwestern theme? I felt like I was in Calgary. Service was pleasant but oddly hurried for a relatively non-busy Sunday brunch/lunch hour.

We ordered fresh juice to start. It was great. Very fresh. For $4.50 (all prices in USD). Is that really how much fresh juice costs?

The bread basket was an interesting mix of sweet raisin breads, which were really more like cakes, and little jalapeno scones. For entree, I saw a server carrying Bobby's version of eggs benedict, which I had to have -- two poached eggs on top of cajun chicken with sweet potatoes in an ancho chile hollandaise sauce ($14). It was very filling. And everything was cooked nicely -- egg perfect consistency of runniess; chicken & sweet potatoes tender; hollandaise sauce velvety. But midway through, everything started coming out too sweet, which I thought was weird for a dish that really, seems like it should be more spicy.

It was nice to go, and the meal did it job, and the prices were not too bad, but I couldn't help feel I missed an opportunity to discover a local New York gem of a Sunday brunch place.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sick on Meatless Monday, Week 6

I went to Montreal last weekend to visit my sister Martha. My eldest sister Marie came as well with her husband Georges and their son Raja, but they drove while I took the train. We basically spent the whole of Saturday eating. (What else is new, right?) But throughout Saturday, my slightly Friday-morning sore throat blew up to a full-scale hacking cough with runny nose and I felt absolutely horrible by night dessert time.

On Monday morning, back in Toronto, I woke up, got ready for work, and realized what a very foolish idea that was. I sent some work off, crawled back into bed and prayed that my body wouldn't feel like an anvil had smooshed me.

Lacking energy and taste buds (my mouth felt like sandpaper...), I made plain congee with... you guessed it... frozen peas! And ginger-honey tea, with real ginger and honey.

I felt better but my head still hurt and a 3-hour nap following didn't really cure it.