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Let’s Eat: Jalapeño Mac & Cheese Latkes with Italpasta

Mac & Cheese Frittatas- Instalpasta

Although box mac & cheese is such an inexpensive pantry item, it seems like such a luxurious snack to me. Mainly because the first time I had one of these was three years ago during the period of my low-carb days. I would only have one wheat meal a week or a fortnight where with a dash of chili flakes, the mac & cheese would occasionally be an indulgent sider along with a protein and some veggies, I would eat each macaroni tube one by one until my plate was done.

The Meet: Italpasta Macaroni & Cheese

When I was sent a care package for Italpasta’s new Macaroni & Cheese range, I leaped for joy. Aside from being free of artificial flavours, colours and preservatives, it’s also supportive of our Canadian farmers! I feel better about this treat this time around as it’s made purely of Canadian wheat!

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Light Cafe, Baldwin Village

Light Cafe
23 Baldwin St.
Toronto, ON M5T 1L1
http://lightcafe.ca/

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Baldwin Village is one of the top locations I would recommend a visit to in Toronto. Wandering in from Dundas Square to Baldwin and  McCaul, it’s a whole new light (☺). The diversity along this strip is unreal. From Japanese, Mexican to the best Asian fused Gelato in the city, you could plan out worldwide meals in one visit.

Light Cafe is a recent addition to Baldwin Village, coming in a day after Artic Bite‘s landing. They have 3 location within Taiwan and have moved over to Toronto to spread their roots further.

I really do love seeing worldwide foreign franchises making its way in our city. You get a new visual of how the world sees food from different places. Explaining it the best way I can, I would feel like the meal set offerings are similiar to that of Panera Bread. You get a food item that’s the focus of your meal, then additions of salad with house dressing and bread / fruit salad in addition.

Bright, contemporary space which is a Instagrammer’s dream during the day – I was eclectic of the floor to ceiling living wall (putting my bag into the base which held very… very transparent looking water). Among our food selections, we delved into the Truffle Mushroom Croissant Sandwich ($10.95), Lobster Bisque ($9.25), Bacon & Onsen baked Potato (single, $5.25) and Lobster Roll ($14.75). I was astonished by all of the delicious bites. Three items felt like it was right to share between two.

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Let’s Taste: Barley Islay Whisky, Bruichladdich for #TasteofScotland

DSC08915DSC08928It was on West Queen West at The Tempered Room during #TasteofScotland that I first met a whiskey made of barley for the first time. It was a chilly and wet evening. Clustered in a room surrounded by bottles of Bruichladdich (BROOK-laddie) felt about right as the usual lasting whisky warmth had us comforted from the very start.

Bruichladdich produces Scottish single malt whisky, with it’s distillery located on the Hebridean Island of Islay. The distillery certainly takes a different approach to the journey of soil to bottle. This introduction gave me a similiar feeling to Bonterra Wines, truly focusing on it’s roots. A lot like wine varietals, Bruichladdich takes the route of environmental focus, looking into the terrior that contribute to it’s overall characteristics.

We believe that Islay Whisky should have an authenticity derived from where it is distilled and where it is matured… from the philosophies of those who distil it. A sense of place, of terroir that speaks of the land, the barley and water from which it was made, and of the human soul that gave it life.

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Cask Days 2016 – 400+ Casks and 200+ Brewers

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Read my previous post on Cask Days 2015

Cask Days is the ultimate weekend of the year, the event to mark in your calendar for mid-October. After saying goodbye to Bar Volo, it wasn’t long before Cask Days rolled around. We were momentarily relieved as we were welcomed by 400+ casks by 200+ brewer at Evergreen Brickworks. They’ve made the amount of casks even harder to browse, upping the total by 100 from last year! The folks behind Bar Volo has truly  gone a long way since their days of holding it at their quaint bar 12 years ago!

What’s most special about the beer and ciders served up here is that they’re created in casks which are a one-off. Which means… once it’s finished, it’s finished and you will (most likely) never taste it again. Since there’s only one cask to each beer and cider offered up, the first day of the three-day event is the most reasonable day to go.

Beers come across the border, from British Columbia, Quebec, Maritimes, Oregon, California and New York. Also exclusive tastes of IPA Challenge, Cider and Homebrew casks. I admittedly stick to Ontario and Quebec for beers as they’re mot along the lines of my kind of brews.

Of the evening, surrounded by 400+ casks, I fell in love with the name of 8. I strictly only go with half cup pours as I like to keep room for others. Of what I can remember, I tried:

  1. Maritimes – Unfiltered Flat Black Jesus, American Stout
  2. British Columbia – Howe Sound Pumpkineater, Rum & Chocolate Aged Pumpkin Ale
  3. Quebec – Dieu Du Ciel! Sul’ Pouce Vers La Galaxie, American IPA with Galaxy Hops
  4. Quebec – LTM Shitake Brown Ale. Brown Ale with Shitake Mushrooms
  5. Ontario – Barncat Durian Saison, Fruit Saison
  6. Ontario – Big Rock Dan’s First Dis Track, Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Amber
  7. Homebrews – Mark Verok @ Rainhard Brewing Co Vanilla Gorilla. Vanilla Coconut Porter
  8. And… one from the IPA Challenge, my last beer.

There’s a certain point where your tastebuds go numb and everything tastes delicious. But I’m certain that my favourite was the Shitake Brown Ale. Serious stuff. Smelled like mushrooms, tastes like faint mushrooms and it had a sweet mouth feel. Continue reading

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Let’s Eat: Lamb Lollipops

Lamb Chops

Fresh food produce, it’s here! Apart of this “let’s eat” series, I’m making a stop at my local grocer each month to pick up the next seasonal produce in line and discovering ways to experiment with it. Saute, bake, or in a salad? There are so many methods. Let’s see how they each go!

Anything lollipops is bound to be good. I love lamb. The extra step to turning regular ol’ lamb racks to the star of the show, lamb lollipops is with a method called ‘frenching’. This is to fully expose the bones to be the sticks of the pops, done by cutting through the fat. I, myself prefer the fat staying on but lamb lollipops are fun and cleaner to handle! If  you ask the butcher to french a lamb chop for you, you can keep the extra (best) piece for yourself – after all, you are paying for the whole thing.

Tonight, we went the same ol’ route to crust our lamb. Since it was frenched, we had less surface space to work with. With a combination of chopped garden herbs (rosemary and thyme) as well as mustard, garlic and salt & pepper, it was ready for a roast in the oven. After the oven, a sear, and it was put on the side to rest then sliced to serve.

For sides, we got experimental for the sake of colour. A bacon potato mash and carrot with jalapeno. I may have been stubborn this time around and took the seeds out of the jalapenos with my hands… Then rubbed my nose and took out my contacts shortly after. With no pain looking to be insight, I was burning, like little flames propped under my nose to suffer.

The technique we used was reverse-searing the lambracks first roasting it then searing it.
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30 Years of Craft Beer – Big Rock Celebrates with Ontario Brewery Opening

Big Rock Brewery

With over 30 years of brewing experience, Big Rock Brewery is known to step outside of the comfort zone when innovating with beer recipes. One of their first brews was crafted in Calgary in 1985, Traditional Ale, an English style Brown Ale. Today, it remains one of their most popular beers. It has a sweet caramel malt and slight nutty flavour. A true classic on its roster of beers. But Big Rock doesn’t only produce ales – they create sessionable beers in all styles as well.

My very first introduction to their brews was at Session Toronto 2015, when a beer named Mindbender came my way. And the mastermind behind it was brewmaster Connor K. Patrick. The bold flavour of slow-roasted white coffee beans hit my taste buds immediately. I was hooked after the first sip. Favoring a wide variety of tastes from English-style Ales to White Imperial Stouts, from Calgary, Alberta to Vancouver, BC and now Etobicoke, Ontario (at 1589 The Queensway), Big Rock is slowly but steadily gracing the country with its presence. The brewmasters are consistently thinking outside of the box and are always looking to break the mold so that beers lovers can enjoy the best of the best!

Big Rock Brewery

Big Rock Brewery

Big Rock loves to share its story and provide people with a behind-the-scenes look of their breweries. Just like picking up fresh loafs at your local bakery, each beer is freshly brewed in-house and ready to pick up to-go. Next time you’re looking for something to do, I would definitely recommend booking a tour. You can grab a pint from the growler bar and make a ‘taste bud’ information decision to purchase beers by the bottle or fill up a growler to go. LCBO and Beer Store favourites such as the Grasshopper, Citradelic and Cashmere Crooner are available on tap. Tap room and retail store hours are Mondays, Tuesday, Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Book your reservation ahead here for learn & taste sessions with a beerologist. Continue reading

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Toronto | Jinya Ramen Bar

Coming in from the states, Jinya has landed in Toronto as the newest Ramen bar addition. With juicy kaarage chicken and sake overpours, I’m welcoming Jinya with open arms! Everything is made in-house from scratch. You’ll be slurping quality from the broth to the toppings.

I made my visit on an evening hosted by DKLo Events and gotta thank Darren for this introduction. We had a wonderful night finding favorites within all of the appetizers and my first sip of a generously poured sake.

The broth was light, noodles chewy, but I had all my focus on the salivating appetizers.

Imagine a world where eating ramen is an everyday ritual, like ordering pizza or going out for a great burger. This is the daily reality that JINYA Ramen Bar founder Tomonori Takahashi came from when he arrived in the United States in 2010. But when he searched for his favorite Japanese food, he quickly realized that enjoying the traditional taste and flavor of ramen wasn’t possible unless he made it himself.

jinya-ramenbar.com / menu

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Ossington’s Bellwoods Brewery during Summer Nights

Bellwood’s Brewery holds the most wonderful patio with the best memories. My favourite place to sit as a pair is on one of the two-seater high-top seats by the front. Located on Ossington Strip, it has a rotating selection beers introduced seasonally, all brewed in-house in their very small space. Summers have the sours and ciders, and winter has the porter and stouts. I had my very first true tap craft beer in Toronto here, and the Witchshark was the blissful first. A double IPA holding a scent of mango and pine, with a light bitter taste that rounds with the sweetness. For those beers you tried there and they no longer have on tap, you can also get by the bottle at a very marked up price. Better go with what’s on tap.

The fries are always a must order. For $7, we sometimes order two. The garlic aioli is dangerously addictive and goes perfectly with every single beer they pour (especially Witchshark)! Do try their other menu items as well, I had them a handful of times and loved it all.

Another tip is to go within the first two hours of opening, and you get a $1 discount off their beers poured from the tap.

124 Ossington Ave, Toronto, ON M6J 2Z5

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Recipe: Turkey Stuffing Quiches

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When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of a time to gather your loved ones around for a dinner with a big roasted turkey taking the spotlight at the table. It wasn’t until 2013 when I got to experience that kind of thrill for myself. My uncle would be responsible for the turkey roast and it would take a solid couple of hours. It was a big piece! And you would have to fight the little ones for a slice of the dark meat. Although it was a fun tradition, to share a whole turkey, I think I’d prefer a quicker cooking time and much more foolproof tender cuts.

For this Thanksgiving, my immediate thought was that I NEED to make turkey stuffing tarts. I had no idea how the tarts would work or how the stuffing would form, but that was my agenda. The only stuffing I’ve ever had was chicken stuffing, and that was from Woolworths, boy was it delicious. Now that I compare it to what I had now, it was really mushy and overly salted.

We gathered up a haul from the stores, with a game-plan in mind: spinach & turkey stuffing muffins, mozzarella grated elicoidali sausage spinach pasta, stuffed cornish hens and garlic bread for side.

Quickly, this list ended up being myself adding sausage into the muffins as well, not putting together the garlic bread, too much pasta (one and a half bags) and two and a 1/3 stuffed cornish hens. The “muffins” then became quiches. And the muffin tin I was to put to use quickly cooked everything to harden, so I luckily had a majority of my mixture go into the mini cupcake tin.

Really, we gotta work as we go.

The outcome was delicious quiches, a tender cornish hen stuffed with rosemary, thyme and leftover turkey stuffing to split between two people and so much dang pasta to inhale. There’s something about any thick pasta that isn’t in strands that makes you feel like you’re eating a LOT. But really, the turkey stuffing was so generous in flavour, it acts as a whole other seasoning element of it’s own – the as soon as it defrosted from the small jam-packed bag, it became 6 cups of glory. Chopped bread pieces, well spiced with all sorts of herbs and love. A++++ for Butterball’s Turkey Stuffing – it was only $5.50!

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Lobster Burger Joy, The Carbon Bar

99 Queen St E, Toronto, ON M5C 1S1
thecarbonbar.ca | @thecarbonbar

Carbon Bar, Queen East - Lobster Burger

It’s been a month of lobster-fine things, and The Carbon Bar has topped it all with their Lobster Burger. This week, I had the chance to try out this new seafood introduction at The Carbon Bar, and was delighted to share that the indulgent burger is $20 with a purchase of Alexander Keiths pint. $25 on it’s own.

Truly mouth-watering just by it’s description alone, Chef Hidde serves up a lobster cake made of Nova Scotia Lobster, with a strip of gourmet pit-smoked bacon, generous pour of truffle hollandaise, beef steak tomato and all tied together with a smear of Old Bay mayo.

Carbon Bar, Queen East - Lobster Burger

There’s half a lobster in every burger. You can really taste the chunks, it was like biting into a fresh cracked lobster. The balance of truffle hollandaise sauce, soft bun and wonderfully sized lobster patty made every bite a wonder. Our recommendation would be to leave out the bacon strip to nibble on as a snack – just as delicious on its own! Very filling. Very satisfying. Continue reading