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The week in yum June 13-20 in Pictures

the highlight of my week was not food but chaperoning these four tiny wonders at the zoo and the four of them were far more delicious than anything I could have put in my belly. I have spent over a decade chaperoning groups of boys because you always get your own kid plus their posse on field trips. This means that the majority of my time was spent keeping boys alive, out of the lion pit, down from trees and depriving the komodo dragon from his lunch of fresh Montessori meat.

Not only was it a rare treat, just look at their outfits!! I could not have art directed them any better so well done girls and the moms who dressed them, well done.

Citrusy Fennel Salad And Why Does It Seem Like I Never Cook Anymore?

I honestly feel like all I have done lately is go out to eat. I am either at a media preview for someone's new summer menu or a cocktail party to promote Savour Stratford, which is great so don't get me wrong. I just feel like I haven't cooked anything beyond dippy eggs and toast for weeks.

Father's Day was the perfect excuse to grill up a couple of beautiful striploins, bake some potatoes and make a giant salad. Simple, delicious, and most importantly, made by my own hot little hands.

I taught my first cooking class at Loblaws a couple of weeks ago and it went very well, I think. Nobody threw things at me or booed and, most importantly, everyone seemed to actually listen to me. I was given a recipe for a seafood chowder with fennel and then I was to supply a second of my own choosing. Since the chowder would use up half a bulb of fennel, it seemed like a good idea to use the other half in a salad and showcase a way to eat it raw. The ladies in the class were full of questions and they gobbled up both the chowder and the salad with remarkable enthusiasm and it was a nice feeling to overhear all of them chattering about going downstairs to buy some fennel to make the salad that very night.

I find that fennel seems to really confound too many people and they just look at it, shake their head, decide it's too much work to try to figure out what to do with it and they walk on and buy some celery. Growing up, I certainly had no clue that this wonderful, crisp vegetable even existed so I do get it but it is something that we eat all the time now. I love it braised, roasted, in soups and stews and sliced paper thin to eat raw in salads.

This is the salad we eat most nights from spring to fall. The cheese might change a bit, I use blood oranges when they are in season and then switch to a mixture of orange and pink grapefruit when they are gone. Sometimes I use mandarins or clementines, some almonds instead of pepitas and I might use a mix of walnut oil and canola in place of the olive oil but the basic recipe is as follows.

Citrusy Fennel Salad (serves 3)

1/3 fennel bulb, sliced as thinly as possible
2 blood oranges or 1 orange and 1 pink grapefruit
juice from 1/2 blood orange (or from whatever citrus you are using)
pinch kosher salt
3 handfuls of baby arugula
about 1/4 cup pickled beets, sliced or chopped into bite sized pieces
3 tbls toasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup feta
3 tbls olive oil
1 tbls white balsamic
1 tsp honey dijon

slice the fennel as thinly as possible, using a mandolin if you have one.Put in a bowl, squeeze the juice from 1/2 of a blood orange over them, add a pinch of salt and toss lightly to coat.Trim and peel the oranges to remove all of the rind and pith. To do this, cut a slice off of  the top and the bottom and then go around the orange, carefully slicing off the rind in sections, following the curve of the orange until you are left with what looks like a naked orange.Now, working over the bowl of fennel, use a paring knife to cut out the orange sections, letting the juice drip back into the bowl, letting the orange segments drop in. When you have cut out all of the sections, squeeze the membrane that is leftover to get the last of the juice out and then discard another bowl, whisk the olive oil, white balsamic and honey dijon. If you have a small jar, just throw the vinaigrette ingredients in the jar, cover tightly and shake the hell out of it. Instant emulsion.In a big bowl, toss the arugula with the vinaigrette and arrange either on a plate or on individual plates.
Now, place the fennel/orange mixture over the top of that, arrange a few slices of pickled beets on top and finish with a scattering of pumpkin seeds and feta.

The Week In Yum June 7-13 The Long Table Dinner, Some Quality Street Eats and a Fionn MacCool's Giveaway

The Stratford Chef School Long Table Dinner 

I feel like I have not been cooking at all lately because we have been so busy eating out, which is what always happens to us in the summer. When other people start to stay home to bbq and enjoy their backyards, we hop in the car, put the top down and just drive. This is how we ended up at Market 707 at the end of the day on Friday after half of the stalls had already packed it in for the day.

Luckily for me, a new Indian food vendor at the Market,  Ambeth's Kitchen,  was still open for business. Shack got some K Food bulgogi for himself, we ordered some takeout from Gushi to being home for the kid and I decided on butter chicken with biryani. The guy in the stall was very friendly and we chatted a bit while he made my meal and was very attentive. When he noticed that I had oohed and ahhhed over the coriander chutney, he kept spooning more over my rice until I finished. The butter chicken was rich and flavourful, not too sweet  and had a nice bite to it while the rice was studded with cardamom and raisins. Pretty good bang for my buck and I know I will have to return sooner, rather than later, to have it again.

great new addition to Market 707
Scadding Court
707 Dundas St West

On Saturday, I wanted to pop by the Eats and Beats Festival in Riverside so that I could sign up for Car2Go because a little birdie told me they were going to be there, signing people up and waiving the usual one time $35 sign up charge.

 If you haven't heard about this car share service, you have to check it out. It's basically like a Bixie Bike but with a car. If you have a clean driving record, you sign up, they send you a card that looks like an ATM card and when you want to drive somewhere, you just check the app or online to see if there are any cars nearby (they are parked at tons of green ps and select Target parking lots), reserve it (it will hold the car for 30 minutes so you can walk to the car) , swipe your card which unlocks the door and starts the clock and then you are off. It's about 40 cents a minute, $15 and hour, $85 for 24 hours which means that the 15 minute drive downtown will cost me about 1/3 the price of a taxi. I just go where I am going, park it in the nearest designated parking lot (the app tells you all that), swipe my card again to lock the car and stop the clock, and go.

We often take a cab when we go out to dinner so that we can both have a couple of drinks and not worry about driving but now we can grab a nice little Mini (all the cars are minis), drive downtown for a fraction of the cost of a cab and just slightly more than transit for two and just take a cab one way to get home at the end of the evening.

I will never need my own car again.

of course we grabbed some food, like this perfect little falafel from Tabule

and this old school banana bread flavoured ice

the boys shared a meatball sandwich from Hey Meatball

The Long Table Dinner

Sunday was the day of the Stratford Chef's School annual fundraiser, The Long Table Dinner. This is when all of the who's who of the Stratford culinary scene dress in head to toe white and dine at a long table, also covered in white linens, with white china and flowers and share a meal prepared by various Chef School Alumni. This world renowned, non profit chef school was also celebrating it's 30th anniversary so it was a particularly festive atmosphere and even the rain couldn't dampen the mood. We got to the hotel about an hour and a half early and because it was still dark, dreary and raining quite steadily, the venue was moved indoors to the Paul D Fleck Marquee inside the Stratford Festival Theatre. I hopped in the shower, dried my hair, dressed, did all the primping I needed to do and threw the curtains open and was nearly knocked over by the bright sunlight that hit me squarely in the face. Somehow, in the hour it took me to transform myself to a vision of some sort, the rain stopped, the sun came out and the temperature rose by ten degrees.

Now, you may be asking yourself why we would drive all the way to Stratford to attend what is primarily a local fundraiser for a school that neither of us attend?  Well, there is the fact that I have recently fallen in love with Stratford after my three day tour in advance of Savour Stratford, their annual two day celebration of all things delicious that will take place on the weekend of July 19-20. The other thing that seemed kind of serendipitous was the fact that we would know people there. The owners of Bradshaws, a wonderful emporium full of all the things you didn't even know you wanted until you see them with a huge kitchen section, happen to also be old friends of ours from the days when we worked in tv commercial production. When I was brought to the store to meet the owner of Bradshaws and a neighbouring funky shop called Small Mart, imagine my surprise and delight to find that the owner was Carrie Wreford, someone I had not seen in at least 15 years (and who has not aged a day either and for that I despise her). She and her husband, Jeremy (also an old coworker) are the third generation of Wrefords to own the store since that family took it over from the Bradshaws in 1975 and as huge supporters of Savour Stratford and all things Stratford, for that matter, they would be in attendance. 

Honestly, an hour and half lovely drive and you are in the heart of the town - I have spent that much time stuck on transit just to get to a restaurant way in the west end of Toronto.

Anyhooooo, here is the menu, prepared by either alumni or instructors of the school:

Although everything we ate and drank was wonderful, the bone marrow and bread crumb sauce with northern woods  mushrooms was the thing that was making us act like lunatics. When we ran out of it (because we were bathing in it), one of our table mates disappeared and came back with a giant bowl full of this ambrosia that he stole from the kitchen and we all continued to roll around in it for another ten minutes. Shack wants to buy it in bulk and start spreading it on everything he puts in his mouth for the rest of his life. It is the first time I have witnessed Shack seeking out the kitchen and the chef, Jordan Lassaline, in order to thank him for making his life a happier existence. More about Jordan Lassaline, the young knight of Stratford at a later date.

After dinner we wandered downtown and ended up at Mercer Hall with what seemed like the entire staff of every restaurant in town for industry night. They were slinging $5 cocktails, $2 carnitas and a rolicking round of karaoke. Only in Stratford does a lovely, young waitress get up, grab the mike and belt out a show tune! See that cheese plate down there? That was brought back from The Long Table Dinner and put out on the counter as the "bar snack". Usually, I am thrilled if someone throws a little bowl of peanuts at me.

My newest love, DIllon's Gin, made in Beamsville and rhubarb and pear bitters from Bradshaws....WHAT???
I was a little leary of the expensive, imported Fever Tree tonic but I am now looking for a hookup to buy by the case

of course I dragged my left breast through mustard during the charcuterie course but we still look nice and white at this point

I worked at Avalon Montessori, the magical unicorn school, as their lovable lunch lady for most of the week, which is always a treat for me but my god, these kids eat non stop. Snack in the morning, hot lunch, more snacking, drinking and carrying on. It's a wonder they manage to get any work done but somehow, the magic happens and they also nourish their little brains at the same time.
snack time at Avalon

Now, we get to the Giveaway. If you made it this far, you deserve a reward, right?
I was invited to go down to Fionn MacCool's on the Esplanade to try out their new summer patio menu and so I grabbed Shack and off we went. I have fond memories of eating there with my sister a time or two when she used to come into the city for business and since it's pub food and Shack loves good pub grub, he is my taste tester at these places.

We were a bit late due to life happening so we missed the first two courses but were served a cocktail and a lamb pie within minutes of sitting down. The weather was terrible so we couldn't actually dine out on the patio, which was sad but we will go back on a nicer evening to do just that.

I thought he was going to hate the lamb pie because it was quite lamby, which is great for me but not for him. Instead, he took a bite and the rich, buttery pastry sort of mellows the lamb taste so he actually loved it. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the pastry to be honest and we both found it to be much less heavy than it looked. We shared one pie between us and it was really a perfect amount. He could totally eat the whole thing by himself but half a pie was right for me.

The absolute standout, for both of us, was the fish and chips though. One bite and we just looked at each other and I said "this tastes like Scotland". The head chef, Brit expat, Bryan Jurek, assures me that it tastes like Scotland because he uses cod that he has imported from the old country. The thin, crispy beer batter was exactly the way we both love it and the cod was buttery and really did taste the like fish and chips we ate in Scotland. The fact that the slaw was like icing on the fish since I usually just tolerate the slaw in most places. My new favourite fish and chips in the city.

Mixologist, Nathan Cameron, chatted with us for a quite a while about the new cocktails they are doing. Right now, they are pretty much right on point with their tea infusions and their use of beers in the cocktails.  The kitchen makes all of the infusions and syrups to provide the bar staff at their various outlets with what they need to make them. We did not agree on which cocktail was the best because I was all about the Bikework Orange and Shack preferred the Somersby Mojito. The Bikework orange is made with orange pekoe infused Bombay gin, Stiegl Grapefruit Radler and some fresh orange juice and it's everything I like in a cocktail. It's a bit bitter, it's gin and it's citrus. Sold.

I found the Mojito, made with Somersby Cider,  a bit sweet for my liking  but I do love that they make the candied lime syrup and candied limes in house. Shack loves the lady drinks so I wasn't surprised that it was the sweeter mojito that won him over frankly.

All in all, I enjoyed what we saw and look forward to another visit when I can sit out on the patio, enjoy lovely weather with a plate of those fish and chips and a Bikework Orange.

The fine folks at Fionn MacCool's gave me a $50 gift card which I am going to raffle off to one of you lucky buggers.

Thanks to Katherine at Cowan and Company and Fionn MacCool's for having us. Yes, yes I was there as a guest but the opinions, as always, are very much my own. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pinterest of the week: Because I will be eating dinner here in 12 days!

Facebook share of the week:  See above ^

Instagram of the week: when I grow up I wanna be her

Tweet of the week: because a girl can't be all about just food

The Week In Yum June 1-6 Leslieville Market is Back and They Have Wine!

Get on over here and enter my giveaway for a gift basket full of Italian goodies courtesy of S Pellegrino

I was sitting here thinking I hadn't done much this week until I started loading the photos and I realized that I had, in fact, eaten a ton of good stuff. It's so easy to forget by the end of the week when most of the food excitement was stacked up at the start of the week.

Foraging For My Supper with Peter Blush in Stratford and What To DoWIth Fiddleheads and Ramps

Peter Blush of Pucks Plenty

When I anticipated my trip to check out Savour Stratford, the city's annual culinary festival that celebrates all things food and drink in Perth County, I was only expecting to eat. Being home to the Stratford Festival, one would expect that they would have to have a couple of fine dining restaurants, like Rundles, to service the theatre crowd. I assumed we would have some nice meals out, maybe visit a  couple of shops selling some local cheese or something.... how much could a small town like Stratford actually offer a big city girl like me, right?

Danny Smiles, The S Pellegrino Cooking Cup, Cornbread with Shrimp and a Giveaway

Want to hear something crazy?

There is an annual cooking contest held in Venice for the last 14 years called The S Pellegrino Cooking Cup. This year it is happening June 13 and 14 and for the very first time, Canada is entering a chef and that chef is Danny Smiles. You might remember Danny Smiles from Season Three of Top Chef Canada where he made it all the way to the finale, ultimating coming in second place on the show but first place in the hearts of the fans. He isn't called Danny Smiles for nothing.

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