Saturday, February 20, 2010

Le Papillion on the Park (guest blog by Amy)

Saturday night: my husband and I met our friends at Le Papillion on the Park, a French & Quebecois restaurant on Eastern Avenue in Toronto. From the outside, the building doesn’t look any different than a regular old brick house, but inside it has been transformed into a fabulous space with dark wood, an exposed brick wall, high ceilings, funky art, and a wood-burning fireplace.

The restaurant is spacious enough that it holds over 100 people. While being taken to our seats, we noticed that the dining area was packed with people of all ages; even so, tables were far enough apart that you didn’t feel like you were eating with your neighbour. Soon after the bubbly hostess sat us, we were welcomed by a lovely waitress who brought us over a basket of fresh bread and rolls. The four of us started off sharing a delightful bottle of Syrah and each ordered an appetizer— escargot in garlic butter, french onion soup smothered with Swiss cheese, jumbo scallops in a light cream and brandy lobster sauce, and broiled tiger shrimps in garlic herb butter. YUM is all I can say! We all raved about our appys. The menu also has 3 different sizes of poutine, which I may have to try the next time I’m there.

There is a wide variety of mains on the menu, including almost 20 different crepes. I decided to go with the Crepe Francois, filled with bacon, diced tomatoes, garlic mushrooms and cheddar cheese. It was quite large, but oh so good—not wet or greasy like some other crepes I’ve tried.

The vegetarian at our table asked for no chicken in the fettuccine asparagus pasta special, which wasn’t an issue with the kitchen staff. She did, however, feel that the fettuccini was a little undercooked. The others ordered lamb shank and Steak au Poivre—the latter coated with a brandy, Dijon, and black peppercorn sauce. Both dishes received glowing reviews…especially the steak.

My hubby and friend each ordered a dessert, but we all had a little taste of the Meringue Glacee (meringue, ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream) and the Crepe Banane Royale (bananas, almonds, ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream). The Crepe was delicious, but my husband felt there was too much meringue in the meringue dish. Nonetheless, he devoured it.

This place was divine and very reasonably priced. Le Papillion has been around for 35 years. Recently the restaurant’s founding partners went their separate ways and opened their own restaurants—Le Papillion on the Park and Le Papillion on Front. I hear the one on Front is equally amazing.

I’m a small town girl who now resides in Toronto and can’t get enough of it…especially the restaurants! What can I say? I love to eat! Sometimes I wonder if I’m addicted to food. As one of Menu Maniac's roomies from university, I watched her whip up a roast leg of lamb while others ate Kraft Dinner. Her adventurous cooking has inspired me to attempt to cook, and although I try, living in Toronto is so hard when there are many tempting places to eat out. I’m an east-ender hoping to bring you some good options next time you visit Toronto.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Ceili Cottage (guest post by Amy)

Mac 'N' Cheese

Two of my friends that I usually work out with, decided it was time we get together for a good meal instead of a good sweat. We decided to hit up The Ceili (pronounced kay-lee) Cottage in Leslieville – an Irish pub which was once an old auto shop. I started off with a Mill Street Lager and roasted and spiced Ontario peanuts – the beer was perfect, but the latter was neither roasted nor spiced. As I waited for my friends I noticed the smell of a wood burning stove that filled the air with a warm, “cottage-y” (go figure), type feel.
When my friends arrived through an entrance with virtually no signage, they sat down on wobbly chairs and ordered our mains from a not-so-friendly waitress. A sucker for a good mac and cheese I decided that I had to order just that, even though it’s not typically Irish fare. I must say, I was disappointed – it was ok – but quite bland and not rich and creamy like I was hoping for. ET had the special – a mutton burger with green tomato salsa and mixed greens and a Pinot Noir-McManis Californa 2007. The burger came with a side of some sort of dijon, horseradish spread which added a kick to the lamb and made me wish I had ordered it. SA ordered a Merlot - Tin Roof, CA 2005 and the Celtic and Canadian cheeses with Sausage Partners’ preserves and bread – the bread was delicious.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

To finish, my friends decided to split the sticky toffee pudding (note: waitress getting happier as night went on). For a girl that doesn’t like sweets, and I’m talking hasn’t eaten a birthday cake since her 4th birthday, I truly believed I wouldn’t like the dessert my friends demanded I try. Wow! I couldn’t have been more wrong, this was heavenly goodness. I even had a second bite, and a third, and ok, I even had a 4th. It was divine! I’d consider going back to this place for a few pints, but I definitely wouldn’t rush back for the service – the table beside me even commented on the waitresses’ attitude problem. The food was very reasonably priced, but it seemed to be hit and miss and that wood burning stove that cut the winter chill also made my hair & jacket stink for 2 days after!

I’m a small town girl who now resides in Toronto and can’t get enough of it…especially the restaurants! What can I say? I love to eat! Sometimes I wonder if I’m addicted to food. As one of Menu Maniac's roomies from university, I watched her whip up a roast leg of lamb while others ate Kraft Dinner. Her adventurous cooking has inspired me to attempt to cook, and although I try, living in Toronto is so hard when there are many tempting places to eat out. I’m an east-ender hoping to bring you some good options next time you visit Toronto.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

jamie oliver's chickpea & leek soup

I spent part of my day in Detroit doing a walk-through of the GM stand at the North American International Auto Show. Tomorrow is the first of two media days and I'm helping out with some of the broadcast interviews. Let me tell you, it was very chilly in the convention center today. Very chilly. All of the big doors were open so cars and trucks could be loaded onto the show floor. Seriously, I couldn't warm up so I decided to make a pot of my favourite soup for dinner -- chickpea and leek.

Tip: You can quickly make this soup on a weeknight if you change the first step. Rather than soaking the chickpeas and boiling the potato, use canned chickpeas and microwave the potato until soft.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

need some food inspiration?

While I'm on break, check out my three favourite food sites:

Fresh Eats - Maria is a Detroit-based writer and communications professional who prides herself on using fresh ingredients and incorporating the fifth food group...pancetta.

Big Girls Small Kitchen - Phoebe and Cara are 20-something food bloggers from New York City. They update their site regularly with tasty concoctions and plenty of recipes.

Food 52 - a food community led by Merrill and Amanda who are working on a cookbook created by user content. Loads of ideas, weekly recipe contests and an online shop.

Talk soon!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

going on hiatus

I thought I would be cooking a lot over the holidays but I'm not. In fact, I'm going on a little hiatus. Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

bloggers, cupcakes and chevrolet

Yesterday was National Cupcake Day in the U.S. Who knew? Well, these folks did. (Video from When Tara Met Blog)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

chili con carne and cheesy garlic bread

Have I told you that I go to school on the weekends? I'm in an MBA program at the University of Windsor that supplements my time away from work. Yah! Busy. Last Saturday while intently listening to my fascinating accounting prof discuss the new IFRS accounting standards, I glanced out the window and noticed the snowflakes. In my brain (or stomach) the first sign of snow, means the first chili should be made. And, what better to way to complement chili than with gooey-cheesy garlic bread (and I mean stupid-gooey-cheesy garlic bread)?

Pioneer Woman's Garlic Cheese Bread
~I substituted Mozzarella for Monterrey Jack cheese~
Jamie Oliver's Chili Con Carne
~I used a cinnamon stick instead of ground cinnamon and added a small can of tomato paste~
The evening ended with us playing Taboo by the fire. Almost as cheesy as the garlic bread...I know.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

gnocchi gone wild, making it for my first time

Picture this: I'm flipping through Cook With Jamie, trying to find the perfect meal to impress our friends George & Kara. They were driving in from Toronto so I wanted to make something special. I noticed a recipe for Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms & Sage. Yum, right? Best of all, it appeared I could make the gnocchi a day ahead and then cook them for a fabulous Saturday night dinner.

The first step in the process was finding a potato ricer. That only took three stores...I should have hit Little Italy first! Next, I baked the potatoes...easy peasy.

Once I turned the potatoes into dough, I placed the gnocchi on a semolina flour lined cookie sheet and left them in the fridge overnight. Pretty.
The following day, I made crispy sage and sauteed wild mushrooms for the sauce.
When the sauce was almost ready, I placed the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water. And, here is our "gnocchi" with wild mushrooms and sage.
Wondering what happened to my beautiful homemade (filled with love) gnocchi? Well, something went terribly wrong and I had a total gnocchi fail -- they disintegrated. My hard work disintegrated in front of my very eyes...and my guests' eyes. So I did what any good hostess would do, I pretended that I wasn't absolutely heartbroken and I threw a bag of brown rice pasta in another pot of boiling water. And, then proceeded to talk about how F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S brown rice pasta is for your's lot easier to digest and much better for you than regular pasta or gnocchi, ya know!

Monday, November 30, 2009

help me with chicken and leek pot pie

Some people say I'm relentless. Of course, I always take this to mean driven, ambitious, dedicated, committed, etc. So, I guess it's not surprising that I tried to make Jamie Oliver's Chicken and Leek Pot Pie again. The last time I made it was for my good friend Mishka and I forgot to take the puff pastry out of the freezer. This time I made it for George & Kara and it was too runny. I used flour (maybe not enough), simmered for much longer than recommended by Jamie (maybe not long enough) and chilled the stew in the fridge for a few hours before reheating (maybe not for long enough). Any suggestions on how I could have thickened the stew?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

simple thai menu

While my American friends were celebrating Thanksgiving, I was having an impromptu dinner with two friends and their new baby boy. Craving some kind of Asian fare, I decided on a simple Thai menu. I don't have recipes for the spring rolls but I've included links to the chicken and pineapple rice (just omit the shrimp in the recipe) both from Nancie McDermott's Quick & Easy Thai.

Pineapple fried rice

I encourage you to give Thai home cooking a try, and let me know how it goes!