Tuesday, June 30, 2009

summer lovin'

Proof point:

I'm not a food snob. Some of the best meals are the simplest meals. Like a hotdog topped with sauteed onions, sweet-hot mustard and ketchup.

Have a hot dog party. Check out Bon Appetit's Global Hot Dog Guide.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Niagara: Treadwell's Farm-to-Table Cuisine

Disclaimer: I apologize for the photography. During the meal, the shots looked great. Must have been the wine goggles. Now, I can see that as our evening progressed, the photo quality significantly declined.
Dining al fresco by the water was an absolutely perfect way to celebrate our five year anniversary. Even better, Treadwell's Farm-to-Table Cuisine is my favourite restaurant in Canada. I supposed if Rob Feenie was still at Lumiere, it would be a close second but I definitely enjoy Treadwell's more than I ever liked Susur's in Toronto or any other number of restaurants in Ontario's capital! The service is impeccable but friendly. James Treadwell, the sommelier/owner, is young, knowledgeable and one of the Ontario Hostelry Institute's top 30 under 30. The food is fresh, mostly local and carefully prepared without being pretentious! Not unlike so many other evenings, we began with a glass of 13th Street Cuvee 13 Brut. This one was complimentary -- thanks James!

Amuse Bouche: "Strawberry Kool-Aid" - pureed strawberries strained through cheesecloth and topped with fennel pollen
Bread: Fred's Bread with local canola oil and blueberry vinegar (must remember to find and buy this vinegar for home!)

My Menu

Appetizer: Cured Lake Huron Trout with a Rosti Potato, Hard-boiled Quail Eggs and Sauce Gribiche
Glass: 2008 Riesling "Featherstone Vineyard" Twenty Twenty-Seven Cellars

I kid you not, this is now my #1 favourite appetizer of all time. For the past two years, Craftbar's White Anchovy Bruschetta, Soft-Cooked Egg, Braised Leek was at the top of my list but it's been bumped. Treadwell's dish was the perfect blend of textures (soft, crunchy, chewy) and fresh flavours like capers, mustard and gherkins. I'm in love.

Main: Seared Lake Erie Pickerel with Mushroom Duxelles, Smoked Bacon, Chanterelles and Tarragon Foam
Glass: 2007 Pinot Noir "Red Paw Vineyard" Coyotes Run
Dessert: Selection of cheeses with raisin nut bread, homemade quince preserve and homemade truffle honey/honeycomb. Truffle honey is not on the menu, but our story about the cheese guy at Langdon Hall caused Treadwell's to rise the occassion! My favourite cheese was the Tiger Blue from Poplar Grove in British Columbia.

Hubby's Menu

Appetizer: Goat Cheese Ravioli with Local Asparagus, Fried Free Range Egg, Asparagus Veloute
Glass: 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Nyarai Cellars
Main: 60-day aged Cumbrae Farms Beef Rib-eye with Asparagus, Pomme Frites, Green Peppercorn Sauce
Glass: 2007 Cabernet Franc, Lailey Vineyard
This steak was remarkable. It tasted like a cow (go figure!); unlike some of the meat you find at some large supermarkets. Cumbrae's cattle graze on fresh grass and alfalfa hay and are finished on grains for flavour and marbling. Also, they are patiently aged to allow for tender, flavourful beef.

Dessert: Homemade ice creams...no surprise here! (4 flavours: strawberry-lavender, strawberry-balsamic vinegar gelato, sour cream, honey)
An enormous thank you to Sharon & David and Elaine & Howard + all the girls for treating us to a wonderful anniversary dinner! We had an amazing time and loved every moment. xoxo

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

let's eat @ Festival Epicure

This will be my sixth summer in Windsor and I've only had a chance to attend one Festival Epicure. We're usually on holiday but this year we'll be in Windsor and I definitely plan to attend. Anyone interested in joining me? C'mon Detroiters!

According to the festival's Facebook page:

2009 marks the 15th annual Festival Epicure: A Celebration Of Food, Wine and Music. Every year the bar gets raised higher and this year is no exception. With it's eclectic, high caliber approach to every facet of the festival, Festival Epicure continues to kick off the Windsor-Detroit region's summer festival season with a bang.

Last year's visitors enjoyed both scrumptious taster portions and fantastic full meal offerings from the Festival Epicure food vendors. Wine vendors also offered sampler servings or wine by the glass. Wiser's Canadian Whiskey and Polar Ice Vodka will be this years spirits vendors with a full array of spirits in their Summer Refreshment Tent! Of course, your Epicurean experience wouldn't be complete without entertainment! Festival Epicure 2009 will deliver toe tappin' tunes featuring the area's top R&B, pop, jazz, swing and Latin artists.

THE $5.00 MENU IS BACK AT FESTIVAL EPICURE 2009!!! All restaurants will be featuring incredible offerings from $4.00 - $6.00 CDN (excluding Woody’s full servings of their incredibly delicious ribs). Couple that with the best R&B/Jazz, blues, Motown, & indie rock, you have a can’t-miss weekend. It all culminates Sunday with performances by award winning nouveau flamenco artist, Johannes Linstead; legendary Motown artists, Rare Earth; and closing with the Kimmie Horne Show!!! Just bring your appetites, sunshine is always included.
See you July 10, 11 & 12.Portion of proceeds to benefit the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Visit http://www.festivalepicure.com/ for complete details.

Monday, June 22, 2009

yay for menumaniac

How excited was I to find out that the LipstickRules blog nominated me for a blog "award"?!?! Thanks to Michelle who has a very fun make-up blog!

Before passing on this award, you must follow the RULES:
1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his/her blog link.
2. Pass the award to other blogs that you've newly discovered. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

And, now I’d like to nominate:
Maria @ FreshEats (http://fresheats.blogspot.com/)
Stephen @ Biking Across the Country (http://bikeforandrew.blogspot.com/)
Annalisa @ Indulging my A.D.D. (http://addindulgence.blogspot.com/)
Mel @ The World of All Things Mel (http://theworldofallthingsmel.blogspot.com/)
I'm enjoying so many blogs right now but these five are all relatively new and I'd like to share them with you! I would be remiss if I didn't give my little bro an award too. So, Harris consider yourself nominated:
Harris @ Sports, Entertainment and Smack (http://sportsentertainmentandsmack.blogspot.com/)

yay! Thanks again Lipstick Rules!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Toronto: Lee Garden

We had a reservation at Joso's to celebrate our five year anniversary; it was where we went on our first date! Unfortunately, I came down with a cold and just couldn't imagine sitting down to fancy dinner with such a stuffy nose and sore throat. ugh!

So we packed up the car and decided to stop in Chinatown before making the trip back to Windsor. Of course, we picked our favourite Chinese joint Lee Garden for dinner. Lee Garden has been in business for nearly 30 years and it's always packed with Chinese diners and Jewish bubbies. Need I say more?

Shrimp Won Ton Soup

Sweet & Sour Pork with Pineapple and Peppers

Beef with Ginger and Green Onions Sauteed Green Beans in Garlic Szechuan Sauce Vegetable Fried Rice Thank you Jay for a beautiful anniversary weekend complete with Chinese food and Cokes! I love you.

Toronto: Hank's

We spent Saturday shopping in the rain around King St. E. Around 2 p.m., we were both ready for lunch. Looking for something that wouldn't take too long but would warm us up, we headed to Hank's.

Hank's is named after Jamie Kennedy, Toronto's famed chef -- his full name is Henry James Kennedy. Like Jamie's other locations, Hank's is known for unpretentious, fresh, local food. It's a wonderful spot to grab a coffee or glass of wine along with a light meal. Menu items included a soup and two stews of the day as well as a few different sandwiches.

For lunch, Jay enjoyed a meatloaf sandwich and I devoured a bowl of chicken and mushroom soup. The soup was rounded out with chunks of carrot and parsnips as well as sauteed scapes (ingredient de jour!)

If you're in the area, be sure to pop by Hank's for a shopping break or an afternoon tea.

Toronto: Sidecar

Hubby and I went to Toronto this weekend to celebrate our anniversary. We started the festivities with a dinner at Sidecar with friends. Located on College St. in the heart of Little Italy, Sidecar has a simple menu with reasonable prices. Great place!

I started with a romaine heart salad topped with crispy pancetta and a fresh ricotta-smothered crostini.
Next Sheris and I both ordered the grilled lamb sirloin. The sweet pea risotto cakes and mint vinaigrette sold me on this entree. Jay and Jay both ordered the steak frites. I ate all of their fries! The evening ended early with creme brulee.

Sorry for the poor photo quality in this post. Sidecar was dimly lit which is great for romance but challenging for amateur photographers!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

wednesday night wok

Spring is almost summer. That means that local asparagus is just about done for the season. However, as long as it's available, I'm buying and cooking.

Tonight's dinner criteria, according to hubby, was that he wouldn't have to barbecue. I guess he's afraid of the rain. So, I picked up some green veggies and boneless skinless chicken breasts for our evening meal.

We started with Ping's homemade spring rolls served with Thai Sweet Chili Sauce for Chicken. We're lucky that Ping makes spring rolls for us. They are the perfect size and perfectly spicy. In an attempt be healthy, we bake rather than fry this appetizer. Set your oven at about 400 degrees and bake for 18 minutes, turning once.
For our main, we tried a Chicken, Asparagus, Broccoli Stir-Fry; a recipe I found on BonAppetit.com. I added a thumb-sized piece of chopped ginger to the wok for some added flavour. If you decide to try this recipe, I suggest you do the same. With or without the added ginger, I have a feeling that this dish would be great choice for a family meal with kids or for picky eaters (it was a little boring!). For my vegetarian friends, why don't you try it with a chopped red pepper or shrimp instead of the chicken?Do you have a weeknight stir-fry recipe that you'd like to share? We could use suggestions.

Monday, June 15, 2009

sticky balsamic ribs summer menu

In celebration of a Sunday dinner, Jay picked clematis from our garden and set the table.

It's unexplainable but Sundays are the best cooking days. This week, I was planning to make Aunt Susan's Ribs but was missing a number of the ingredients so I started browsing through my favourite food sites. I decided on Gourmet's recipe for Sticky Balsamic Ribs. yum!

Thinking about what would pair well with this main course, I came up with a fabulous summer menu:
  • Smoked Trout Spread with pita wedges seasoned with smoked paprika and fresh garlic (The spread was adapted from Bonnie Stern's Smoked Whitefish Spread in Essentials of Homecooking. You can find a similar recipe here.)
  • Sticky Balsamic Ribs
  • Mashed Potatoes with Corn and Garlic
  • Tossed Salad with romaine lettuce, tomatoes and fresh dill

The smoked trout spread was great for sharing on the patio with a glass of champagne. The only problem was that I should have doubled the recipe!

As for the ribs, let me first praise the glaze! This brown-sugar, balsamic combo made for a soft toffee-like coating. The only change that I would make to the recipe is that you should probably only grill the racks for a few minutes per side. Six minutes per side was a bit too long and some of the ribs were crunchy (not what you're looking for with baby backs!).

Do you have a summer menu that you think I should try?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

grilled chicken sandwich with charmoula mayo

Often I read recipes and think "why didn't I think of this myself?"
Recently, we tried grilled chicken sandwiches with charmoula mayo. After a quick google, I found out that charmoula is a marinade generally used in Moroccan cooking. In this recipe, you mix it with mayo (I chose low-fat, olive oil mayo) to top a brown-sugar rubbed, grilled boneless skinless chicken breast. At the suggestion of recipe author Bonnie Stern, I also grilled a large red onion and red pepper which complemented mix of sweet and spicy.

While the chicken was cooking, I put some corn on the cob in boiling water and made a simple salad. Everything was washed down with a bottle of Ironstone Obsession Symphony, which I know didn't "match" but we didn't care. Actually upon reflection, the wine pairing wasn't too far off since the sandwich had a bite to it!

By the way, for my vegetarian friends, charmoula (minus the mayo) is typically used as a marinade for fish or seafood dishes in North Africa. I suggest that you try a version of this sandwich with a fresh peice of halibut or swordfish.

Do you have any sandwich recipes that you think I must try? I'm always game.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Aunt Susan's Bar-B-Q Ribs

I haven't had a chance to try these yet but Aunt Susan swears by them! This will be a "must try" for me one day this summer. If you make them before I do, I look forward to a review. - JS

Aunt Susan's Bar-B-Q Ribs

4 slabs pork loin back ribs

First Stage Dry Rub:

  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup paprika (I use hot Hungarian)
  • 1/3 cup garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 8 tablespoons chili powder (I use more and use different kinds of chili powder)
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper
  • 1 TBSP salt
Second Stage:

  • 1/2 cup apple juice per slab
  • 1/2 cup grape juice per slab
Third Stage:
  • 3/4 cup First Stage rub
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar

Finishing Stage:

  • 1 1/2 sauce
Raw Preparation: Place slab of ribs bone side down on table. Slide knife under the membrane and against the end bone to separate the 2. With a dry paper towel, grasp the edge of the thin membrane and pull. The entire membrane should separate from the rib.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Combine First Stage rub and mix well. Generously apply rub onto the front and back sides of ribs. Gently pat to ensure that rub will adhere. Place ribs meat-side up on a tin foil pan and bake for 2 1/4 hours. Remove ribs from oven. Place each rib meat-side down on its own doubled aluminum foil square. Foil should be large enough to completely wrap rib. Mix the Second Stage juices. Pour 1 cup of liquid over each rib. At the same time wrap and seal each rib tight. Return to the oven for 1 hour.

Remove wrapped ribs from oven. Remove from foil and apply a medium coat of the Third Stage rub to the meat-side of the ribs. Place uncovered in oven meat-side up for 40 plus minutes. Remove ribs from oven and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees. Cut the ribs into two rib pieces and brush sauce on both sides of ribs. Place ribs in oven for 10 minutes (sometimes longer), or until sauce caramelizes.

Ribs reheat and freeze well.

Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutesCook Time: + / - 5 hours

Saturday, June 6, 2009

grill chicken wings and baby back ribs

A spontaneous dinner with friends always makes for an entertaining evening. We ran into a couple of friends today at Windsor's Art In the Park and threw together a menu that was perfect for drinking Corona splits and wine!

  • Guacamole and salsa
  • Zwiebacks with butter
  • Jay's favourite chicken wings
  • Aunt Shelley's baby back ribs
  • Tossed salad with shredded mozzarella
Zwiebacks are a crispy, sweetened bread. Our friend picked up a dozen from the United Mennonite Educational Institute Community Festival in Leamington, Ontario. We popped them in the oven for a few minutes to warm them up, split them open and smothered them in butter. If something this good was available at the local grocery store, I would be in real trouble; they were that fabulous!
Jay's favourite chicken wings are typically made by placing split chicken wings on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle them with a garlic and roasted red pepper spice medley. Bake them at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. When the chicken is cooked, place the wings in a bowl and toss with Frank's Red Hot Sauce and a little celery salt. If you want to increase the authenticity of these Buffalo-inspired wings, include some melted butter when you toss. Tonight, the oven was full, so we barbecued the wings instead of baking.
Aunt Shelley used to make baby back ribs at least once a month for me. Her recipe is simple and foolproof. Put the ribs in a roasting pan, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1.5 hours. Remove from the oven, brush with your favourite barbecue sauce and grill them on the barbecue for about 5 minutes per side. Surprisingly, they are really tender and always a hit!The nice thing about this meal is that it's really hard to screw up so it's good for relaxing with old friends on a summer night.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

weeknight italian

It was a dreary day in Windsor and Detroit. I'm thinking that's why I felt like making tomato sauce. It started with a can of San Marzano tomatoes that I found in our cupboard. Most chefs deem the San Marzano tomato superior to other varieties. I now believe.
Seriously, the San Marzano tomotoes yielded a much sweeter and less seedy sauce than the typical Roma.
For our evening's appetizer, I painted sliced Calabrese bread with olive oil mixed with minced garlic and kosher salt. Next I topped it with crumbled feta and dried thyme. After 10 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees, we enjoyed garlic bread with a glass of Cellar No. 8 Cabernet Sauvignon.For the main, it was breaded veal scallopine with brown rice spaghetti and tomato sauce. We've been stuck on brown rice pasta for the past year or two. It just digests better. There is never a feeling of cement in your stomach. In Martha's words, that's a good thing!
To make the tomato sauce: Saute a chopped clove of garlic and chopped basil stalks in olive oil. Add a can of San Marzano tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Add a hunk of Parmesan rind. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Throw in splash of your best extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver's Naked Chef)

To make the veal scallopine: Put a handful of flour on a plate. Lightly beat an egg in a bowl. Mix bread crumbs or panko with freshly chopped garlic, dried oregano, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Drudge the veal in the flour, next dip the veal in the egg and lastly in the bread crumbs. Fry in a non-stick frying pan. Probably 3-4 minutes per side on medium.
Buon appetito!