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Friday, July 22, 2016

The Week In Yum Nandos on Queen West, Cherry Beach Bar-B-Que and POKEMON GO HAS TAKEN OVER MY LIFE


Look it, I love rotisserie chicken. I buy bubble chickens from the grocery store or I will line up for 30 minutes at the best churrasqueira in the city. I like it in a boat, I like it with a goat, you know what I'm saying? I was first in line when I was invited to come to their sneak peak of their newest restaurant in Toronto. 

Nandos originated in South Africa in 1987 but didn't come to Canada until 1994 so some of you may be still living under a rock and have remained unaware of the wonder of this spicy, Portuguese chicken that is the love child of Portuguese explorers and the African Bird's Eye Chili. This addictive hot sauce is full of citrus flavours and garlic and I pour this shit on everything. I keep a bottle of Nandos Piri Piri in my fridge at all times but I have to say, I rarely visit the restaurant, only doing take out, because it seems like the only ones I ever see are in the suburbs and feel too fast foody for me, but their new spot on Queen St West is really nice. With prime patio real estate, I can now go and get my Piri Piri fix al fresco with a cold beer and enjoy some prime people watching.

The menu is pretty extensive for a flame grilled chicken restaurant but I will stick to the straight up 1/4 chicken (breast and wing) with extra hot sauce on the side but there are wraps, sliders, sandwiches and whack of sides for those of you who want to shake it up a bit. One thing that made me laugh were the soft fries because, while in Portugal, I started out hating the lack of crispy fries but, by the end of my trip, I had actually grown quite fond of then and the fries here are definitely of the soft, bendy Portuguese variety.

**I was invited to a preview of the restaurant so my meal was free of charge but my opinions are my own

Nandos Queen West Store

741 Queen St. W, toronto
Opening hours:
Mon: 11:00am - 11:00pm
Tue: 11:00am - 11:00pm
Wed: 11:00am - 11:00pm
Thu: 11:00am - 11:00pm
Fri: 11:00am - 12:00am
Sat: 11:00am - 12:00am
Sun: 11:00am - 11:00pm

Cherry Street Bar-B-Que

Shack has been keeping this place under his hat but now that I know it's there, I am going to be demanding that he pick up dinner after work all the time. Situated on Cherry Street, right across the road from T&T. It seems that Lawrence, a location guy from the movie world, has finally realized his dream of opening up a restaurant and judging by the number of familiar crew member faces I saw there, I am clearly the last to know.

Because I wanted to try a few things, Shack and I shared side ribs, pulled pork, mac and cheese, potato salad, slaw and beans. The ribs were tender and flavourful, as was the pork and not drowning in sauce. I like to taste my meat and let the spicing complement the flavours and too many places are all about the sauce instead. The Kid deemed his pulled pork sandwich to be delicious and judging by the speed at which he consumed it before starting to pick at MY food, I would say that this was an accurate assessment. Although the potato salad was my least favourite said, The Kid (who dislikes mayo based salads) loved its vinegary tang.   

So many pluses - great patio, great food - it was so jam packed on a Wednesday night that we couldn't even get a seat out there. The only downside, for me, is that you have to line up to order your food, pay for it and then mosey over to the bar and order your drinks, pay for them and carry them back to your table. I would love to see some table service but the food is so tasty that this isn't enough to dissuade me from returning asap.

Cherry Street Bar-B-Que
275 Cherry Street

Mon-Thurs 5pm-midnight
Fri 5pm-2am
Sat 11am-2pm
Sun 11am-10pm

The July SupperClub at the Kingston Social is in the can and it was a fun night full of tasty food, yummy drinks and great people. Our guests enjoyed a meal that was mainly Middle Eastern with a few Jamaican kisses from my beef patties, spicy gazpacho with pickled jerk shrimp to jerk lamb kofta and then a trifle made with Moroccan orange cake soaked in cardamom orange syrup, homemade yogurt and berries.

If you are in Toronto, keep your eye out for the August date and menu announcement coming soon.

Look, you cynical fun suckers can poo poo all you want but any game that gets my 17 year old to want to run around the hood in the dark, hunting pokemom with his mom is a good thing in my books. He and his homebound posse of nerds are suddenly prowling the city together, actually venturing OUTDOORS, taking the subway to the CN Tower and then dashing off to Kensington Market together and I , for one, am thrilled.

I hate to break it to some of you but the 1970's are never coming back, computers and smart phones are here to say, our kids are growing up with technology and if I had to choose between my teenager using his phone to catch some pokemon while walking 10km to hatch his eggs OR smoking pot in the ravine with a warm bottle of Mateus in my purse like I was as a bored 17 year old, I will take Pokemon Go.

This was the only thing that made watching this shit show bearable. Luckily, I live right across the street from a Poke Stop so I can stay on the couch, watch tv in horror while I take advantage of the non stop lures thrown down by the neighbourhood kids.


Monday, July 11, 2016

The Week In Yum - Taste of Toronto and Collingwood's The Smoke

Taste of Toronto

So, the weekend of June 23-26 was the annual Taste of Toronto at Fort York here in Toronto and it was bigger and badder than ever, with a giant roster of guest chefs doing cooking demos, presentations, wine tastings and food to try from a veritable who's who of Toronto restaurants. This year, due to construction inside the Fort, it was held on the grounds surrounding the actual interior area of Fort York and everyone I spoke to preferred it. There was a ton of shade and it felt more spread out and less crowded than in previous year.

Tickets to the three day event were $29 online and you purchased your food and drink using a "crown" system. You loaded up a card with "crowns" with the word crown really meaning $1, probably in an attempt to take the sting off paying $10 for a small plate of food. This is not a cheap event and it's best to go in a small group that so you can not only divide and conquer to avoid lots of line ups but so that you can also try a few bites of more items. If you are on your own, it will get very expensive very quickly and you will fill up before you can taste all of the treats that you have your eye on. There are so many delicious things to try and you will want to try them all, trust me so bring friends and come hungry. Both last year and this year, my favourite dishes (and best bang for your buck) came from Los Colibris and El Cabillito - a friend and I shared the tosdada de cochinita pibil and the empanada de tinga we both agreed that these made us very, very happy. Honestly, I have never had anything here that I didn't think was very good and as soon as I commit to one favourite, three more things pop up in my brain.

The seating/shade situation has been a problem with Taste but this year, it was perfect

This year, there were more tables and seating, lots of shade to relax with a beer and ponder your map and decide which food vendor you are going to hit up next. Despite the steep price tag, this is really one of my favourite Toronto food events as it's so well curated, it runs smoothly, it's outdoors and it really is worth the splurge to get the chance to try food from restaurants that are often difficult to get into to and watch your favourite chefs in action in a beautiful, outdoor spot. If you missed this year's event, make sure to keep your eye open this time next year so that you won't miss out on the fun again.

SnapChat, I can't quit you (follow me at theyumyumfactor)

We spent Canada Day weekend with friends near Creemore and it was a weekend full of fun and sun with a Saturday afternoon visit to Collingwood. Despite the fact that Collingwood is a hugely popular ski town (Blue Mountain which I really think should be renamed Blue Pretty Big Hill, but I digress) in this neck of the woods, I have never been there, probably because I don't really "do" winter. Okay, I apres ski really well but I skip that whole spending the day out in the cold, zooming down the hill with the even colder wind in my face, barely avoiding a snapped tibia and go straight to the hot toddies.

The town is adorable, lots of great shops, cafes and places to eat and much more interesting, to me, in the summer. On the recommendation of a number of friends, we decided to lunch at The Smoke. As soon as we got out of the car in the parking lot, my nose told me that we had come to the right place.

We all had the straight up pulled pork sandwich (Shack and I shared one) with coleslaw and poutine on the side.

Usually disappointed by pulled pork at most restaurants, I was pleasantly surprised by the pork - tender, moist, not overwhelmed with sweet sauce, one of my largest complaints. There was an array of sauces at each table and after some experimenting, Shack and I settled on a squirt of South Carolina honey mustard  and a squirt of a tangy spiced vinegar sauce that had some bite to it. The coleslaw was really delicious and absolutely made the way I like it. Creamy, a bit sweet with a slight tang to it and really fresh and crunchy.

Although they have a nice looking patio, it was hot and we were feeling a bit frageelay (code for hung over) so we sat indoors. The place is spotless and kind of looks a bit like a really high end auto shop but it smells like the place I want to go to die.

TheSmoke Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The following week was uneventful as I was sick for most of the week following Canada Day but I am up and at 'em with three food events to attend this week alone so my next Week In Yum will be full of stuff to share.

If you live in Toronto and want to join me for my next Supper Club, it's taking place on Thursday July 21 at The Kingston Social in the east of the city. Tickets are $65 and that includes a specialty cocktail and more food than any human can possibly eat.
You can grab tickets online here

Strawberry Rhubarb Trifle For When It's Too Damned Hot

It's summer. It's a bazillion degrees out there, you are invited to a BBQ and BAM!
You are asked if you could bring dessert. If it were just your own family, you would throw a fiver at them and tell them to run to the store and bring back a bag of Mr Freezies but that isn't going to cut it.

There is no way you are turning on the oven, so baking anything is immediately out. You could do an ice cream thing but you would have had to start planning that yesterday and you have to transport it without it melting all over the place. You could stop at the store and pick something up on the way to the party, which is actually a perfectly acceptable option but I have a job to do here, so, for today, that is out too.

That leaves a trifle. Sure, you can make all of the elements yourself if you want, but why would you want to do that in this heat? Trifle requires no special skills, no craftiness and it is almost impossible to mess up but it looks like you took tons of time and effort and is a real show stopper right up until the point where you have to serve it because it really is just a delicious bowl full of sweet slop but, by then, everyone is so excited about tasting it that they don't care about the way it looks.

Think of this more as a blue print, than a recipe.

You can leave out the rhubarb, although I think that tartness provided needed balance in what can often be an overwhelmingly sweet dessert. You can substitute lime curd or grapefruit curd for the lemon, you can switch the angel food cake for pound cake, sponge cake or even leftover birthday cake that is starting to go stale. If you can't find devon cream (or creme anglaise) you can substitute some vanilla pudding that you beat a bit of milk into to make it a bit runnier. Fee free to use oreo crumbs and instead of shaved dark chocolate, feel free to crush up a skor bar or something.

The bottom line is that when you are throwing cake, whipped cream and fruit together to have a party in a bowl, the world is your oyster. Trust me, this dish is like desserts for dummies 101 with the lowest bar being just slopping it all in a bowl so that it takes great but doesn't look all that hot to something like this from the over achievers who have nothing better to do with their time :

So, relax, work with the ingredients you have on hand and throw one of these together the next time you are on dessert duty and then sit back and soak in the love.

** I used lots of President's Choice products but if you are in the States, Trader Joe has a great lemon curd, you can get Devon Cream at stores like Wegmans, Whole Foods or even on amazon. When you find some, buy a few jars or cans and keep it in your pantry.

Strawberry Rhubarb Trifle

you can prep all of the ingredients well in advance and just assemble the whole thing a few hours in advance. If you want to be able to assemble it and leave it for longer than about 5 hours, sub the angel food cake for a heartier pound cake. You can certainly use more of any of the ingredients so feel free to use even more whipped cream or berries or cookie crumbs, just don't use any less.

    serves 8-10

Stewed Rhubarb:
580 grams (1.5 lbs) rhubarb
1/4 cup sugar
juice from 1 orange
zest from 1 orange
1 tsp vanilla

900 grams (2 lbs lbs) strawberries (reserve about 226 g - 1/2 lb for the top)
1 tbls chambord or other flavoured liqueur
1/4 cup sugar

Lemon Cream:
50ml (2 cups) whipping cream
2 tbls sugar
250 ml (1 cup) lemon curd (I used PC Black Label Lemon Curd )

1 400g (14oz) can Devonshire Custard (I used PC )

1 large angel food cake (I used Farmer's Market from Loblaws)

1 cup of cookie crumbs (I used Mary MacLeod's Butterscotch Shortbread Crumbs)

a chunk of  dark chocolate

Make rhubarb:
Combine the rhubarb, sugar, orange juice and zest with vanilla in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer, let cook for about 10 minutes and then let cool to room temp before putting it in the fridge to chill.

Cut up 1.5 lbs of strawberries and toss with the sugar and chambord and set aside to macerate for at least half an  hour.

Whip the whipping cream (I do it in my stand mixer) with 2 tbls sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold in the lemon curd and set aside.

To assemble:

Cut the angel food cake up into rough cubes and get a big, glass bowl. You want to be able to see the layers so you should always use a clear bowl. How many layers you make also depends on you but want at least two, preferably three layers so divide up the ingredients accordingly. It will all depend on the dimensions of your bowl.

Put a handful of cubed cake on the bottom. Spread a layer of whipped lemon cream and then spoon on some of the berries and spread around. Top that with a layer of chilled rhubarb, spread that around evenly and then drizzle the devon cream on top of that, finishing the layer with about 1/3 of the cookie crumbs.

Repeat for another layer or two and then top the whole thing with the rest of the cake chunks and a final layer of whipped lemon cream. Sprinkle the last of the cookie crumbs on the top of that and then arrange the remaining 1/2 lb of berries around the top. You can slice them, you can half them - just make it pretty and you are good to go. Keep it in the fridge until serving time. With angel food cake, I don't like to let the trifle sit all day when I use angel food cake as it get soggy so I would do it no more than 5 or 6 hours ahead of time.

Right before serving, top the whole shebang with some shaved dark chocolate using a vegetable peeper because you can.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Week in Yum - Rashers on Ossington, Pearl Diver and Taste of Toronto

I am still getting back in the saddle, as far as attending media dinners and events so this is really more of a "a few weeks in yum" than a true week of it. 

As part of my personal code of conduct, I tend to only accept invites to places that I either already know that I like or that I have been dying to try, because I like to keep it real but I also like to keep it positive. Think of my posts about places i have been and stuff I have tried more as enthusiastic recommendations than reviews. As much as I love and appreciate a chance to enjoy some free food, I also visit the restaurants I write about on my own time, spending my own scratch (or, if it's new to me, I will visit in the future) and if I don't like a place or a product, I don't write about it. There have been one or two instances where something was so disappointing that I do share that information but, for the most part, I like to share things with you the way I share things with my friends and family.

Just want to make this clear as mud.

So, here is what I liked recently:


I happily accepted an offer to attend a media dinner at the newest Rashers on Ossington because I am already a big fan of their original, little shop in Leslieville. Their new spot is bigger with more tables and the food is just as delicious so there is nothing bad to report.

You can get smoked strip bacon, peameal bacon, British style bacon or maple glazed smoked strip bacon and they encourage substitutions so the possibilities are kind of endless.

I almost always order the Full Monty, a giant sandwich that celebrates British style bacon (provided by Perth Pork Products of Stratford), fried egg, tomato and mushrooms with lots of homemade brown sauce. At this media dinner I finally got to sample most of the other offerings and now my life has been made more difficult because I can no longer just automatically go for the same sandwich. The Brie and Bacon was an ooey, gooey bun full of porky goodness, the Bacon Caesar was rich and decadent and full of caesar tang while the Apple and Maple Grilled Cheese had that blend of sweet and salt that I live for. The only thing that I wouldn't order, myself, was the bacon burger but I took one to feed to Shack afterwards and even cold, he said it was amazing. I am just not much of a big, thick burger gal but I AM a fan of all forms of bacon and that means I am a fan of both Rashers shops.

The prices range from $8 to $11 and besides curly fries or handcut wedges, it's all about the sandwiches. You can take out or eat in with an ice cold pop - the Stewart's cream soda is my beverage of choice. They are open from 10am until after dinner every day but Monday so don't think a bacon sammy is only for breakfast either - I will take a bacon sandwich for supper any day.

This was a media dinner so all food was provided free of charge but my opinions are absolutely only my own.

182 Ossington
closed Monday
Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 9pm
Sunday 10am to 7pm

Pearl Diver Cooper Dinners 

Chef Michael Blackie with Rudy Guo, delicious treats and a Pearl Diver Shucking God

I LOVE Pearl Diver, so let's get that out of the way. I have written about my first visit for a media dinner where they were promoting their WeChat thing here and I have been back a ton since then. Their nightly specials cannot be beat - Tuesday $30 Seafood Tower and 100 oysters for $100 on Thursdays are my favourites but it's not just about the seafood. The rest of the menu is wonderful, including the desserts. I wish I lived a bit closer because then I would shuffle over in my PJs for their late night special of a dozen oysters for $18 on a bi weekly basis. On second thought, mabye it's good for everyone that I live too far away for that.

Anyway, the owners of Pearl Diver have decided to pay homage to the late Brian Cooper, the former dean of hospitality and tourism at George Brown College. They hosted a dinner to announce the scholarship program started in his honour as well as to officially inaugurate the Cooper Room. Co Owner and George Brown Chef School grad, Rudy Guo credits Brian Cooper (and his wife, Midge) with teaching him the true meaning of hospitality and says that without their direction, he wouldn't be where he is today. Even after Cooper's death, his wife Midge continued to host culinary students in her home and both Rudy and his partner  and chef, Tom Milosz Malycha both lived in the Cooper home while they were at George Brown.

Ottawa's Chef Michael Blackie, on loan from his restaurant NeXt, was the first guest chef to come to the restaurant to prepare a feature menu with 50% of the proceeds of these specials going towards the Spirit of Hospitality scholarship. Going forward, there will now be a regular series of Cooper dinners where they will pair young chefs with an experienced chef like Blackie, with proceeds going towards the scholarship, so keep an eye out for the next one.

For this dinner, Blackie's specials were offered to our group to try as well as a few items off of the regular menu and, for regular customers, it's nice to be able to try a few new things alongside your normal favourites. It's equally nice to know that some of the money spent is also going to a good cause, helping out some lucky culinary students in their efforts to become chefs at a Toronto landmark, George Brown College.

The dinner was on a Wednesday and I returned the next night with Shack and The Kid to destroy 100 oysters for $100. I ate about 12 oysters. There were no oysters left behind. Someone ate about 45 oysters each. Just saying.

Blackie's Pork Belly with Digby Scallops was a personal favourite and by personal fave I mean I threatened people with death by fork if they touched it before I was finished with it. YUM

This was a media dinner so all food was provided free of charge but my opinions are absolutely only my own.

Pearl Diver
100 Adelaide St East
click the above link to check out the hours of operation

I still can't believe how much I love gardening. Full on old lady gardener.

The Belgian Moon Night Market

Big thanks to my pal, Libby Roach, for dragging me along as her +1 to the Belgian Moon Night Market, a free, outdoor gathering curated by Vice in collaboration with the beer company. There was a small but mighty selection of food vendors - no need to bring every man and his dog out when you have Patois, Dailo, Pai, Momofuko, Hopgood Foodliner, Grand Electric and Bar Fancy, right?

We got there an hour before it opened to the public at 7pm and by the time we left and around 8pm, there was a line up that stretched more than a block, waiting to get in for some free beer, tasty food and great music. The next time this one goes down, make sure you are there early and first in line to get in.

Finally, this weekend is Taste of Toronto at Fort York so if you haven't got your tickets yet, click that link and correct that, pronto. Keep an eye on my social media because I will be taking tons of photos and sharing all the best stuff

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Spicy Gazpacho with Jerk Pickled Shrimp Will Become Your Favourite Summer Dish

So, it's the end of June and it's finally getting really hot and that means I don't want to eat hot food anymore. I start craving ceviche, salads and watermelon by the kilo and something I always think I want to make, but never do, is gazpacho. I really like all kinds of gazpacho so look for some other versions throughout the summer.