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To The Dead Sea and Back - Goodbye Jordan

Normally, Shack's "weekend" here in Jordan falls on Friday and Saturday but, as luck would have it, this week he had Thursday and Friday off but had to work on Saturday, the day before The Kid and I hightail it out of here to return home to the cold and snow.

A Boat Ride To Egypt - Pharaoh Island

I arranged for a trip to visit Pharaoh Island, located a couple hundred meters from the coast of Egypt, in the Red Sea. For this trip, you have to book at least 24 hrs ahead because the tour company takes your passport to  the Egyptian Consulate to get you cleared to visit, so keep that in mind. I don't think anyone is totally comfortable with the idea of handing over their passport for a day or so, but it was fine and we got it back about a day and a half later. I am glad that I didn't have much time to mull it over because I am not sure I would have actually just handed them over to the cute Jordanian desk clerk at the Hilton if I hadn't been kind of caught off guard. 

The Wadi Rum

You  can't come all this way to Jordan and not go into the Wadi Rum. Wadi means valley in Arabic so It's the Rum Valley but it is nothing like any valley I have ever experienced before. We all watched Lawrence if Arabia before Shack left to come to Jordan to get everyone excited about this trip and now, as our two week visit draws to a close, we finally spent an afternoon in the desert. 

Petra, day 2 - The Donkey Swindle


We are in Aqaba, the South Beach of Jordan. Aqaba shares the northern tip of the Red Sea with Eilat, Israel both enjoying the hot, arid climate, beautiful beaches, hummus and sea breezes.

Petra, day 1

Shack's photo of the final reveal of The Treasury

Last night we ripped it up a little so we were a bit slow going today but we finally got ourselves together and started off to Petra. 

Jerash and The Citadel

Today we set the alarm for 8 am so we could get an early start. I was really excited about seeing our driver from yesterday again so he could squire us around but, unfortunately, there was a different guy waiting for us this morning. Mohammed was a very nice, young man but he didn't speak a word of English so I have no clue what we were seeing on the drive to Jerash, about 45 minutes north of Amman. I am not sure if it because we are Canadian, but he was also cranking the Celine Dion and I was really not ready for my heart to go on.  I am never ready for that.

The Week In Yum Nov 8-14 Paula Costa DInner at The Depanneur, Zomato Meetup at Pai and Getting Ready To Go To Jordan

the lovely and talented Paula Costa

I was a lucky lady this weekend because I scored two spots at Paula Costa's Ottelenghi Inspired Dinner at The Depanneur on Sunday! Because Shack is in the middle east eating actual Ottelenghi style food at the moment, I took my friend, the female half of the MVPs. Because I am a total idiot who has nothing on her mind but her impending trip, I made my friend pick me up to get me there for 6:30 only to find out the doors opened at 7:30 and dinner was not until 8! 

We had some tea at Starbucks and killed an hour so by the time we were in there and seated, we were starving. From the hummus to the olive oil and apple cake dessert, everything we put in our gaping mouths was delicious. We both lost our minds over the fennel salad and the chicken was perfect. My friend doesn't really drink so we were the only people who didn't bring wine but you are welcome to bring a bottle or two for yourself. 
roast chicken with sumac, za'atar and lemon
A few times a month, a different person takes over the helm and cooks up a feast for the members of the "supper club". It cost's $40 pp to join the club and your membership expires at the end of the evening so you are basically attending a private meeting, being fed food at your meeting and if you choose to bring a beverage, so be it. Anyone who would like to prepare a meal here can sign on so you never know who will be cooking at any given time. It might be an established chef wanting to try out some new recipes, a blogger or a food truck operator.

Click to check out a couple of upcoming dinners here
green beans with walnuts and orange and couscous with apricot and squash
 Paula writes The Dragon's Kitchen and is a blogger that I have gotten to know a bit over the last little while and I jumped at the chance to taste her food. The photos of the sweet potato galette alone are pretty much responsible for my decision to attend and I was not disappointed. Tender, flaky and butter with soft slices of cooked yam, a smattering of pumpkin seeds....oh my.

fennel and feta salad with pomegranate

Sweet Potato Gallette

Nathan's Famous New York Style Pickles

I attended a pickle tasting party last week and the stars of the show were the Nathan's Famous sours and half sours. Nobody was more shocked than I was that both Shack and I chose the half sours over the Strubs because we have always been a hardcore Strubs family. Nathan's got wind of our pickle devotion and offered to send me some pickles to try out at home and they came right this week! I was pretty excited over the arrival of the sweet horseradish pickles because I love sweet pickles. Neither of my dumb menfolk like sweet pickles so these are going to be all mine. 

The horseradish is really strong in these puppies, which I love but be forewarned that if you are not a fan of the radish of the horse, you are going to hate them. I ate a few slices straight out of the jar and that was enough for one sitting - I can't gorge on them the way I can the regular pickles but that is not a bad thing. I have a plan for what to do with them but it will have to wait until next month when I am home again.

Nathan's pickles come from the same company that has been serving up delicious Kosher hot dogs since the company began in 1916 on Coney Island. The pickles arrived in Canada this past September and appear to be taking the place by storm and for good reason. These are damned fine pickles. For now, you can buy your own pickles at Loblaws, No Frills, Fortino's and Value Mart. Just keep your dirty paws off of mine.

Pai Northern Thai Kitchen

I looooooooooove Thai food so when I got the invite from Zomato to join them for a little meetup at Pai, I was pretty damned excited that A. it was at Pai and B. that I would be able to attend because we don't leave til Saturday. Did I mention that WE ARE GOING TO SPEND TWO WEEKS IN JORDON AND ARE LEAVING SATURDAY???
Yeah, I didn't think so.

So, we have the private dining room behind the bar and there are at least 20 bloggers and general active online reviewers there to meet and enjoy an evening out eating and talking about food. If you haven't heard of Zomato yet, you will. They are a restaurant review/social media platform that originated in India and have finally arrived in Canada, starting with Toronto. I discovered them when I was looking for information on some of the smaller Portuguese restaurants that we ate in on our trip to Lisbon and the only place that I could find anything at all was on a site called Zomato. It looked like a European Urban Spoon or Yelp so instead of just getting the info I was looking for, I left reviews in english as well in case other adventurous travellers were looking to eat somewhere off the beaten path.

As soon as I found out they were here in Toronto, I hooked up with Jimena, a lovely Spanish Zomatite who has relocated to our fine city to get things underway here and I have been adding reviews like a madwoman ever since. I really like that someone from Zomato actually goes to EVERY restaurant listed and they check up again on them periodically to ensure that the information is still current. I am loving it.

Okay, back to dinner. We were served a set menu but since I eat everything, that was okay with me but I can't wait to go back and order other stuff to try.  We started with a tray of crispy shrimp chips, chicharron, rice noodle nests and a big pile of Som Tum Tad ($12), a green papaya salad with salty little dried shrimp. I didn't not like it but I wouldn't order it again but that was the only thing I can say that about from the entire dinner, so it's all good. The shrimp chips and the chicharron were not oily and nice and crispy - checking out a couple of deep fried items is always an indicator of skill in the kitchen and these were great.

For mains we had a green curry chicken ($16) served in a gutted coconut that was brimming with freshness. I could taste lime leaf and lemongrass and it was clear that the paste is made in house.  
I was surprised by the level of heat and happy to say that although too spicy for a couple of people, most of us were going back for more until the coconuts were empty. Pad thai ($14) with chicken was also delicious, fresh and full of tamarind and heat, the noodles soft and springy and not stuck together but not overly oily either. Wonderful stuff. There was a little container of homemade chili oil that only a few of us braved but none of us who did had any complaints.

The third dish we had was a pork larb that was a special and not on the menu. Larb is a very traditional Laos dish and it's basically a meat salad, which might not be your thing but I love it. this Northern Thai version was made with minced pork meat with some liver and kidney goodness, fried up with lots of spices - it was the first time I have seen white cardamom- and most importantly, pigs blood. It's crispy and spicy and chewy and, perhaps not for everyone, but I would absolutely get it again.
The meal ended with a beautifully presented platter of sticky rice on shiny leaves and a slab of ripe mango.

an example of small worlditis - Chef Nuit Regular's son and my son go to school together and are friends in geekdom

Pai Northern Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Apart from the dinner out on Sunday and my dinner at Pai, it was a whirlwind week of getting ready to take The Kid to see his father in Jordan. We had to get out summer clothes, pack, launder, buy last minute supplies, get all of his school work in order because even smarty pants have to do homework when they take a 2 week trip mid semester. Pretty much the only thing I actually cooked all week was Spaghetti With Panko,

We will get there Sunday night so you might want to sign up to follow me via email up there on the right as I am going to try to post updates daily. Expect hummus, hummus and more hummus.
If you want to follow along you can subscribe The Yum Yum Factor by email or:

The next time I post, it might be on our layover in Vienna while eating little cakes or in Jordan, impersonating two zombies, pie eyed and drooling with exhaustion, wandering the street with hummus in our hair after about 18 hours of travel.

Have a great week!

Pin of the week: Because I am going there, of course lol

Instagram of the week: VIsit Jordan has managed to make me stay awake till the wee hours lately

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Spaghetti with Bacon, Panko and Arugula for Throwback Thursday

It's throw back thursday and so I am sharing this recipe that I made back in March of 2011 for NoReEats and decided to make again tonight. I have made a few changes since I started making this dish in an effort to lighten it up without sacrificing any flavour because if that can't happen, I will always go with the original, full fatty creamy dish but, in this case, I am happy to report that it's every bit as delicious as the original version that sported a full cup of 35% cream. It's bad enough that we are putting bread crumbs on our pasta - we might as well just throw in a bowl of rice and some mashed potatoes, really. Think of it as an ode to carbs and just don't eat it every day. In the end, this pasta is everything I think pasta should be: quick, easy, flavourful and filling.

Since we are leaving for our two week Jordanian adventure in a day and half-ACK- I am just trying to use up the food in the fridge and my fridge almost always contains arugula and bacon and my pantry is always stocked with panko, evaporated milk, stock, sun dried tomatoes and chili flake so this was a no brainer. We all love the way the sun dried tomatoes get kind of crispy and chewy when you fry them with the breadcrumbs as opposed to soft and squishy when you cook them in with the stock.

* I did not take new photos because daylight savings time now means that it's pitch dark by supper time, we were starving and we ate the whole damned thing.

The Week in Yum November 1-7 The Good, The Bad and The Ugly in The Beaches - Stone Lion and an update on another spot in the 'Hood

Delicious cortado at Soma on King, just west of Spadian

I don't usually have to do this but I have to update my opinion on a restaurant. A couple of weeks ago, we had brunch at Wood Fire Pit and I wrote about it here. We were really happy with our brunch and so we went back this past Sunday with the VIP's because The Wren was packed and we couldn't get a table. 
This time it was a different experience. First of all, there was no coffee and the waitress, god bless her, told us not to order since she was just making instant. A restaurant that is out of coffee during brunch service is a restaurant that should run over to Starbucks, a block away, and buy a couple bags of coffee beans, am I right?

After that it was just kind of one little thing after another. Our very nice waitress left and a guy took over. After ordering tea instead, we were not given anything to put our teabags on and were kind of forced to lay the wet tea bags on the table until we could get him to bring a little bowl for them. There was a little something wrong with half of the orders - beef brisket was cold, one out of two eggs were soft poached as ordered, the other was well done and, as you can see up there, one egg had cheese and the other didn't. We got our meals but had to get the waiter back so he could bring cutlery- I know that's a small thing but it was small thing #5 or 6 by that time and I HATE having to wait to start in my eggs because I must have my eggs while they are hot. My food was fine, The Kid's was fine, Shack's pulled pork was dry and hard like they were scraping the bottom of the pulled pork barrel and two out three of our guest's meals had something wrong with them.

I just have to be honest here. The first time we ate there, it was fabulous so there are clearly some issues with consistency and I want them to be better because I want them to do well but, because I gave them the two thumbs up so I have to also give the yellow light warning flag and hope that this was not a regular occurrence. I will absolutely try it again and hope that it is a repeat of our first visit.

The Stone Lion

Fish and chips- three big pieces of fish, crispy, not greasy and on a stick - LOVE food on a stick

We made our second visit to another new spot in the Beach, The Stone Lion (the owners of the Stone Cottage in Scarborough have taken over the Lion on the Beach) and I am happy to report they are batting 2 for 2, or however that baseball analogy works.
We went last Thursday for their $6 tapas menu and we were thrilled with everything we ate. That charcuterie plate is a steal at $6 and the other items we tried were all freshly made with care, tasty and the portions were perfect - certainly better than most any other pub food you are going to get in the neighbourhood. 

Shack wanted to just taste the bolognese sauce to see if he would like it (he is so picky) and the chef sent out a nice little bowl of sauce with shavings of fresh parmesan and some basil garnish - we thought he might get a tbls of sauce slopped into a tiny bowl. It was delicious and tasted like a true bolognese, made with milk in it, and with that little overture, they guaranteed that Shack will be back to eat the pasta with bolognese and a stuffed meatball.

This week we took The Neighbours and it was $6 burger night so they all ordered that and I had fish and chips. Shack said the burger was very good (homemade patties made in house), the fries were crispy and nicely done and my fish and sweet potato fries were great. I had to give Shack the third skewer of fish because it was almost too much for me.

Great servers both times, good food that tastes fresh, nothing pre fabbed, good prices, decent wine and beer list and we can walk there. What more can a girl ask for?

The only negative I can think of is the fact that it's really open and airy but that also means its very loud and I think taking a few measures to do whatever needs to be done to absorb sound a bit and make it less overwhelming would go far - it's the only complaint I have heard from neighbours - great food but just really, really boomy and loud.

On Tuesday, I went to my first Dinner and A Book thing at the Musgrave Loblaws (the store I also teach at). For $35 we had dinner, a glass of wine and then discussed Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Chef Andrea Buckett cooked our meal (she had all of us come up and assemble our trout, mushrooms and asparagus with a maple glaze in parchment so it was interactive as well). If you get a chance to do one of these at your local Loblaws, do it.

 For the rest of the week, we didn't really go out or eat anything out of the ordinary because we were running around getting Shack ready for his impending trip to Jordan. He left on Thursday morning and he will spend the next month or so working on a movie in Aqaba - we all watched Lawrence of Arabia to get in the mood- and there was way too much to do to worry about food.

Speaking of Jordan, The Kid and I will be joining Shack in Jordan for a couple of weeks and I will be trying to do daily blog updates this time so, if you want to keep up with us on our adventures, make sure to follow the blog by email (up there in the top right hand corner of the page).

Happening this week:

A Fried Chicken Smackdown at the Drake this Monday!

A Taste of Iceland runs from Nov 13 to the 16th

Pin of the week: It's all Jordon all the time right now

Instagram of the week: Four Magazine's feed is stunning

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Kamayan at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen

I love Lamesa. I wrote about it after my first media dinner there, here, and have been back a few times since. I attend lots of media dinners and there are only a handful of places that I return to on my own, and this is one of them so when the call came to try out their Kamayan dinner, I was all over it.

Kama, being the Filipino word for "hand" means that Kamayan roughly translates into "eat with your hands" and this is a traditional type of dinner that every Filipino will be familiar with. Served family style, the meal is placed on banana leaves at your table without cutlery or dishes. Keep in mind that it is a communal meal, so you want to make sure you are dining with people you like. If are you really squeamish about sharing food, I guess you could ask for utensils but that takes all of the fun out of it and you are probably better off skipping it.

This meal is tailor made for people like me, who want to taste at least a bite of everything on the table and, in fact, I am thinking of implementing a Kamayan policy at home this winter except that I am not sure how well a piping hot lamb stew would work without the benefit of a bowl and a spoon. Anyway, something to think about.

Even though it appears to be a haphazard mish mash of food just splayed out all over the place, it's not. When you watch them laying the meal out, you realize that there is a method to the madness and every person ends up with his/her dinner laid out nicely at his/her spot. There is crossover when it comes to scooping up extra rice and shellfish, but, for the most part, my entire dinner was there, in it's entirety - it just wasn't set out on plates and in bowls.

Using your hands, you scoop, dip and shovel all of this delicious stuff into your mouth and each bite is a bit different, depending on which sauces got caught up in each scoop. Every once in a while you get a big hit of hot sauce as a lovely surprise, or your third scoop of rice is suddenly tinged with a hint of salty bagoong. I loved the whole thing.

This would be so much fun with kids, for a celebration with family or a night out with close friends and a few cocktails and for $40/pp, you are certainly getting a lot of bang for your buck.
I had my handy new tripod all set up to capture the goings on

So, the low down:

You are seated at a table that is completely covered with fragrant banana leaves and after you order your drink, the chefs arrive with their supplies - brushes, tongs, squeeze bottles, bowls and spoons and get to work.

a fruit juice concoction that was as refreshing as it was lovely to start things off

Chef Rudy Boquila and his sous chef, Joash Dy, came out themselves and constructed our meal on our table, weaving everything in and around our drinks, while we watched. It is as much about the theatre of the event as the food you are about to eat.

patience, grasshopper. Soon it will all come together

First they paint on a thick smear of bagoong caramel that will sit under the green mango salad that will be plopped on top a little later on in the process. It's sweet, it's sticky with a base of fermented shrimp paste and it's delicious.

Next come dabs of garlic puree, followed by their own deep red hot sauce that they make in house and then the food starts to come. The green mango salad comes with some mango chutney, and a lettuce cup filled with chopped, crispy bits of meat, some pico de gallo and crispy fried noodles. This was one of my favourite items, by the way.

Joash dished out generous heaps of garlic fried rice in a wavy pattern the sort of snaked down the centre of the table and then they plopped down half of a pickled adobo egg in front of each diner - deceptively delicious.

tiny clams in a coconut sauce were highly prized finds nestled along the rice train

Mussels and clams cooked in coconut milk, grilled corn, baby bok choi and some cornbread are in there as well as Oxtail Kare-Kare (a traditional Filipino peanut sauce), adobo chicken wings and each person is also presented with one bangus fish that has been deboned and smoked.

A tiny shot glass of a gingery chicken broth is supposed to used as a palate cleanser throughout the meal and after I had tasted everything, I realized that there was dark green, salted, crispy fried kale. I almost passed it by (much like the pickled egg) but it ended up being another favourite thing.

You must run, not walk, to Lamesa to experience this amazing dinner and luckily for all of us, it is now a regular Sunday night offering. You really must make a reservation for the Kamayan dinner and if you want to watch a video , click here

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen on Urbanspoon

A Tomato Pesto Burrata Tart for a Pickle Tasting Party

It's not every day that you are invited to a pickle tasting party, is it? I have been to wine tastings, beer tastings, scotch tastings and even chocolate tastings but this past weekend, my blogging buddy, Mom Who Runs invited Shack and I to her home to taste pickles. She and I had talked pickles quite a bit and she knew that we are all mad for them and knew we would not say no.

She asked me to bring something that would pair nicely with pickles and I drew a blank. I was thinking I could bring a bag of hamburgers or something or perhaps a pound of smoked meat, a loaf of rye bread and a case of Cott's Black Cherry Coke? 

I think a mild cheese goes with pickles and I had a ball of Trader Joe's burrata burning a hole through my fridge door. I also had a bag of Le Grand Garden Pesto that I was dying to try and, as luck would have it, a box of baby kale in the fridge, a few yellow and red small tomatoes and a chunk of red onion.  Most of my best inventions come from a peruse of what needs to used up asap in my fridge and this tart was no exception. It might have been born out of happenstance but it was delicious and I wouldn't change a thing.

If you want to be able to make stuff like this on the fly, you must also make sure you always have at least one roll of puff pastry in the freezer at all times. Frozen puff pastry turns almost anything into a fancy pants, show stopper of a treat and it has saved my life more than once.

Oh, and if you are interested, the Nathan's Full Sour Pickles were the clear winner of the tasting, with the half sours coming in second.

Tomato, Pesto Burrata Tart

this recipe is not about exact measurements and, in fact, the beautify of it is that you can throw it together with bits of this and that you find in your fridge

makes approx 6 3" square portions

1 sheet of puff pastry thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten
freshly grated parmesan
approx 130 g baby kale
a glug of olive oil
1 clove garlic
kosher salt
4 or 5 small tomatoes
1/4 red onion, sliced very thin
a ball of burrata
pesto (I used Le Grand Garden Pesto)

Heat a frying pan over med heat and add a glug of olive oil. Saute the garlic for a minute and then throw in the baby kale, a pinch of salt and cook til wilted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Slice the tomatoes into thin slices and put aside.

Heat the oven to 425F

I used PC puff pastry because it comes already rolled into a perfect, thin square, wrapped in parchment. All I have to do is thaw it, unroll it and place it, on it's own parchment, on a baking sheet.

Use a fork to prick the puff pastry, leaving a small edge all the way around, unpricked. Brush the whole thing with some of the beaten egg. Pop it in the oven and cook for ten minutes.

Take the pastry out of the oven and grate a thin layer of parmesan all over the whole thing. Now, lay your kale out and spread it out evenly over the puff pastry. Now, lay the tomatoes out and scatter the red onions over the top. Bake for another ten minutes. Now, turn the broiler on and broil just for a couple of minutes until you see the edges of the onion start to brown up a bit.

Remove from the oven, sprinkle another pinch of kosher salt over it and immediately grate another thin layer of parmesan over the whole thing. Let it cool for 5 minutes.

Now, rip apart the ball of burrata and place those hunks over the tart and finish the whole thing with a drizzle of pesto.

It's great warm or at room temperature.

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