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Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Week In Yum Feb 22-28 Recipe For Change, Fresh Canteen and Hockey Gold


sweet potato gnocchi with wild boar ragu from Le Select Bistro

Oh my, what a busy week in YUM. The whole thing started with dinner at Splendido on Saturday night. We were attending an awards celebration later in the evening so a big group of us started it all off with a dinner in the private dining room downstairs. I have actually never been to Splendido and was ridiculously excited about the prospect of taking a meal there and starved all day so I could eat my fill.
There were at least 30 of us so they had laid out two long tables and had the bar set up in the corner with at least five or six servers to cater to our every whim. I have to say, service at this place is impeccable and the party room or "the cellar" as it's called is very warm and cosy. We were served a couple of lovely little apps while we milled about, chatting and drinking wine and, in retrospect, they were among the best things we ate so I wished that I had paid more attention. This little creamy onion soup shooter was delicious as were the little beef tartare canapes. I may, or may not have eaten about 100 of those little babies but they were sooooo tiny and adorable that I lost all self control and I fear I was not acting like a fine lady.


who doesn't love a soup shooter?

                                                                                                                                                                    
We ordered off of a prix fixe menu and I went with the salmon sashimi appetizer, the sea bass and the tamarind cake with spiced mousse for dessert. Let me say that I would have been content to just have three plates of the salmon sashimi and called it a day. The crispy little rice cakes lent just enough crunch to balance out the silkiness of the salmon and the sauce was absolutely perfect in both taste and proportion to fish. I honestly cannot recall the last time I ate anything this fresh, this delicious and appealing and absolutely everyone who ordered it agreed and everyone who didn't order it wished that they had. Shack's wild mushroom salad with jerusalem artichoke was kind of weighed down by truffle in comparison so that even he was pining for my salmon and because I am a kind woman, I let him have one little bite. Like the mushroom salad, the risotto that I tasted was also overpowered by truffle and I am very glad that I chose the fish at the last minute instead. There is no way that I could have eaten an entire bowl of it and it could just be me, but I tend to think of truffle as something that should just be a whisper and not a caterwaul through a megaphone placed an inch from my ear, if you know what I'm saying. If you love a lot of truffle in your food then you will be happy but it's just not for me. I am disappointed to admit that I could not even eat my dessert because the ginger was so strong that it actually kind of hurt my mouth. I don't think anyone finished that particular dessert, to be honest.


When I am eating an expensive meal, I know that something is lacking when my mind keeps going to how much I am paying and my mind kept going to how much I was paying and that was a bit disappointing because I had been so looking forward to this meal. Oh, and I was very happy that I stuck with the very delicious red wine that they had opened for us at a very reasonable $10 a glass when the ladies at my table opened their bill to find that two glasses of champagne had set them all back about $56 before tax. Bullet dodged. There was a total circus of confusion over the bill and we had to actually fight for the right to pay more than we were billed because we were afraid that someone else was going to be stuck with the three glasses of wine that should have been on ours but was not. I am sure it is confusing to deal with a very large party on separate bills but it was really just the same price for dinner for everyone and then your drinks on top of that that and it is kind of what they do for a living. Thankfully, the company was fabulous, our servers were attentive and lovely, my salmon was mind blowing, my sea bass was delicious and it was a wonderful night as a whole and perhaps if we return and eat in the dining room we will have a much different experience. I am, in no way, saying that Splendido is not a great restaurant and I would certainly eat here again, safe in the knowledge that I am to steer clear of the truffle dishes, the champagne and probably skip dessert because, as I said, the place is beautiful and our servers were wonderful and all that jazz.  Okay, that's Saturday down.


I am sorry dessert, I just couldn't do it





Like the crazy people that we are, we set our alarm for 6am despite getting home from our award
ceremony celebration at 1am. We had every intention to get up and go find a pub where we could watch the Canadians play hockey for the gold medal. Instead, we ignored the alarm and slept in until 7. Upon entering the hallway to get our shoes on, we smelled the enticing aroma of bacon emanating from The Neighbour's place and noticed that their door was ajar. I poked my head in the door to say good morning and saw that they had friends over to watch the game and the next thing I knew, a champagne and OJ was thrust into my hand and we were whisked inside to find a good spot on the couch where we stayed to enjoy breakfast and the game with them. Life doesn't get better. Good friends, champagne for breakfast, bacon and GOOOOOOOLD. Oh my god, gold in men's and women's hockey AND curling????Shut the front door.

Monday I continued in my experiments with beef and coffee. The boys were pleased but it's not there yet


On Tuesday, my two meal order from Fresh Canteen arrived so we had the sticky wings with green mango salad the first night. I love this company so much. The ingredients continue to be fresh and of great quality, the recipes are easy to follow and still include the cooking for dummies instructions complete with photos but now on a heavier stock paper. The order for two fed the three of us easily with some leftovers for The Kid's lunch the next day to boot. The only change I made was to remove the wings from the baking pan when the cooking time was up and put them on a rack over a baking sheet so I could broil them to crisp up the skin. When cooked exactly as instructed, they still had wobbly skin and I can't abide wobbly skin. If you are okay with that, just follow the instructions but we are well done wing folk.

after a whirl under the broiler they were perfect
On Wednesday I made the frenched pork chop and it was equally delicious but this is the first time that there was truly only enough food for two. I ended up splitting the chop between the boys and I just gnawed on the bone and ate the side dishes but so far, the other four or five recipes I have made have fed the three of us and really,  it is advertised as a meal for two so you'll hear no complaints from me. I continue to be impressed by these guys and feel absolutely confident recommending them to anyone I know. My only quibble is that the website is not always the easiest to navigate. I was using a WagJag voucher and their system just assumed that everyone using it would be a new user so there was no way to enter the coupon without signing up for a brand new account. I had to email the company to hook me up and they responded immediately and took care of the problem right away but this is the second time that I had some issues that required contacting the company because there was no way to do it myself online. It's a new company and it is inevitable that there will be the odd bump along the way, but the customer service is prompt and excellent so I am sure they will work it all out in time. 
Bravo Fresh Canteen.




FoodShare is a wonderful local organization that works in the community to bring fresh, nutritious food to those who need it in every capacity from the growing, harvesting, cooking and sharing of it. They have so many great outreach programs in the school system and the community at large that they are now providing the models for other cities to start up similar programs of their own. It was an honour to be invited to attend their annual fundraiser, Recipe for Change and I spent another day starving myself in order to facilitate maximum eating ability (you many notice a pattern here). I  met up with my new buddy and fellow blogger, Heather of The Tasty Gardener, so that we could share the burden of eating endless delicious treats and we were off. We each grabbed a wine glass, a fork and a napkin and began the evening with a glass of mead from Rosewood Estates who not only produce lovely wines but natural honey and they are Niagara's first winery-meadery with over 75 years of beekeeping experience. We both agreed that the mead was unlike anything either of us had ever tasted and there was almost a medicinal quality to it that was not at all unpleasant. 


Thus began almost two hours of wandering, grazing, foraging, hunting and gathering until we both had difficulty taking a deep breath. Highlights, for me, were the arroz caldo (kind of like a Filipino congee) from Lamesa. I loved the chicken and Heather preferred the vegetarian but I am powerless in the presence off crispy little morsels of fried chicken skin. I expected there to be no real difference between the two options apart from the presence of some meat but both were completely different flavours, which impressed me because cooking for that many people would earn you the right to take the easy way and this restaurant did not. Heather and I are both going to attend Lamesa's unveiling of their new dinner menu and if this rice dish is any indication of things to come, I am about to be their biggest fan.

I would have happily enjoyed five more bowls of this stuff 

One of my other favourites was the chicken chilaquiles from Paola Solorzano of Santo Pecado Catering. I have very fond memories of chilaquiles from my various adventures in Mexico and this was the first time that I was not let down eating them outside of that country.  Imagine my delight when I discovered that this same woman would be teaching me to make tamales on March 17 at the Depanneur ! This will be my first cooking class there and I am pretty sure it will not be last. I am trying to make more of an effort to experience all of the wonderful classes and workshops available to me in this great city this year and the tamale will be my first.  I am sorry that I don't have a picture but I was too busy inhaling it to photograph it. Sometimes even I just have to live in the moment.

mushroom bao oh boy

We continued to eat duck tamales from Valdez, sweet potato gnocchi with wild boar ragu from Le Select and a tender and surprisingly delicate mushroom bao from My Little Dumplings. I refused to share my Argentinean Lamb Meatball from Fidel Gastro or my Ham Hock Terrine with Branston Pickle and Quail Egg. We scarfed the Ricotta Gnudi with Mushroom Broth from Pizzeria Libretto and lots of other things in between. The ceviche from To Ceviche Bar was so good that it made me sad that I didn't find them until I was too full to eat the five bowls of it I would have liked to eat. I met an impassioned chef named Steffan Howard who made Crispy frogs legs in an effort to shine some light on the potential nightmare of the impending asian carp infestation and what that will mean for all of the animals that thrive in our Great Lakes.  I am going to meet up with him and chat some more about this and will write something more in depth about it after that because he scared the bejesus out of me. I fell asleep that night reading all about these giant lake destroying fish that will threaten not just the frogs, but the pike, the pickerel and all of the creatures that currently inhabit our Great Lake system. Oh, the frog legs were tasty too.
crispy frog leg with paw paw crema - Don't you touch my frogs you asian carp thugs

Neither of us have a big sweet tooth so we waited until the very end and shared a Citrus Financier with Chestnut Mousse and Coffee Nougat that tasted almost like an orangey, spongy little corn muffin - delicious. We finished off with a plate of chocolates from Soma, one of my very favourite chocolate makers in the city. 


All in all, it really was a fantastic event, raising money for a fantastic cause and if I were you, I would keep my eye out this time next year and grab myself a ticket to the Sixth Annual Recipe For Change 2015. Thank you Mary Luz Mejia for inviting me to this fab shindig and the bill for altering my pants to accommodate all that I ate and drank will be in the mail.



Oh, don't think I didn't beeline for the Walter's booth for a caesar









pin of the week: to NOT make this for Shack would make me cruel and unusual

facebook share: incredible paintings that explore a woman, her relationship with food, body image and addiction

instagram: do i really have to justify this one?

Food Find of the Week:  This place has the best cooking workshops so why have I never been there?

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