|look at how green that falafel is ..... beautiful|
Last week I was all about La Cubana, visiting twice in a ten day period which is a pretty big deal for me. I don't venture out the far reaches of the west end just to eat all that often, especially considering that my second visit was on an especially frigid day by transit.
So, how did this past week start? With a THIRD visit to La Cubana with friends on Sunday night for dinner. My previous two visits were both for lunch for this was my first dinner visit. Although it was great to have some nice wine with my meal, my only complaint is that it is really, really bright and retains that diner feeling which is not always what I want in the evening. During the day, it is bright and cheery and full of sunlight if you sit at the front but there is a bit of a cafeteria feel to it after dark. Now, all that said, the food is so great that I will give it a pass (although I would be more apt to go for dinner if they dimmed the overheads a bit and added a bit of mood lighting).
We shared pretty much all of the small plates on the menu and loved everything. The cod fritters were crispy on the outside, tender and full of creamy potato on the inside. I didn't taste much conch in the conch fritters but they were delicious nonetheless and we ordered more of the Habanero Squid and the Guava BBQ Shortribs. Our server was lovely (she didn't make me feel like a toddler for knocking my glass of red wine over whilst trying to take a photo of those fritters down there) , the food was wonderful, everything is priced so well that you can feel good about ordering one of everything if you go with a bunch of friends. This is not a romantic date night spot unless you like to take the person you are wooing to eat in the caf before calculus. It is one of my favourite, new lunch spots in the city and I have yet to taste anything that did not amuse and delight.
I spent most of the week cooking. The previous week saw me concocting a Lentil Praline for this ice cream as my dessert entry for the Lentil Revolutions Recipe Contest and it is really good. This past week, I finally perfected my recipe for Caramel K Corn and entered in the Freestyle category. The "K" is a nod to the addition of a good amount of gochujang, the wonderful, spicy, Korean fermented bean paste that I like to add to all kinds of things.
I think that this caramel corn might be the tastiest thing I have made in a very long time. After the entire batch was almost finished, my favourite part were the dregs at the bottom of the bowl - that is where all of the tiny, crunchy, caramel coated lentils were loitering, with just a few bits of popcorn. I almost want to make another batch with less popcorn and more lentils to see what if I can replicate the magic at the bottom of the empty bag.
|Oh Em Gee|
More cooking, more recipe tinkering using some cheese I scored courtesy of Tre Stelle resulted in this, a crispy pork sandwiched napped in a nippy cheesy fondue sauce with salsa verde
I have a friend who really likes to try out new foods and when I found out that she had never had much Middle Eastern food, apart from falafels, I knew where I was taking her for our mid week lunch date - Maha's Fine Egyptian Cuisine on Greenwood , just north of Gerrard. I have tried to go a couple of times but it's always so packed that I can't get a table. This week we went a little later, at 1pm and snagged one of the few empty tables in the tiny restaurant. After some amount of agonizing, we settled on the Cairo Platter for me and The Max for my friend. The Max ($8) is like a falafel sandwich on steroids - charred balady bread stuffed with foole, falafel, slices of boiled egg, sweet onion and tehina sauce and it's as messy to eat as it is beautiful to behold.
In the end, I went for the Cairo Classic ($12) because it sounded like the breakfast I ate every morning in Jordan and I have been jonsing lately. A giant portion of foole, topped with a sliced boiled egg and their homemade feta, a very large, crispy, delicious falafel plopped down in the centre and and tons of butter, charred balady bread.
It was very similar to what I ate in Jordan but different at the same time. When we were in Aqaba, the food was very influenced by the cuisine of nearby Egypt and I was told that much of the kitchen staff in the restaurants there were, in fact, Egyptian. Instead of za'aatar, Maha's has the equally addictive dokka, a mixture of toasted sesame seeds, nuts and spices and an amazing preserved lemony hot sauce that I not only covered my eggs in but took home with me, where I have proceeded to enjoy on everything. In Jordan, the foole comes with all sorts of little bowls and bottles of things you can add to your foole but the foole, itself, is the same.
|We started off the festivities with a Honey Cardamom Latte|
Okay, the very next day, I had to work with two of my favourite women from 7am until 10:30 am so what else do you do when your work day ends before lunch? You take them to Maha's for brunch!
This meant that I visited the same restaurant TWICE in under 24 hours. I am not sure if that makes me fabulous or pathetic but I don't care.
Because I returned with back up, it meant we could order tons of food. As it turns out, one of my companions, Ivy Lam, is the wife of Craig Wong from Patois. Craig's former sous chef is the best friend of Maha's daughter's boyfriend and now works at Maha's. Patois and Maha's are both featured on almost every "best brunch in TO" list going AND, if that wasn't coincidental enough, both women share a vet! The world is a very small place.
So, because there was three of us and we were very, very hungry, we ordered the chef's appetizer platter ($17) and a second, off menu platter that contained more falafel (you can never have too many falafels) , Maha's version of Shashuka and Batsurma scramble.
The app platter hit all of the top favourites:
hummus, babaganoush, olives, stewed eggplant, roasted beets, more dukka with olive oil, feta and lots of bread to whet our appetites and then the second platter provided the eggy filler that left me stuffed but not uncomfortably so. In fact, I didn't eat anything for the rest of the day and when The Kid came into my room at 11pm to ask me if there was anything for dinner as I was just about to nod off, I still didn't feel hungry and told him to go and make some peanut butter toast and I would take care of him in the morning.
It's not that I don't enjoy fine dining but my true loves are the restaurants like this where the food is cooked with love and served by people who are truly invested in my experience. Sometimes, those two things happen at the same time in a restaurant but most of the time, it's the small, family run places like Maha's where you see mom, daughter and son working side by side, wanting to share their passion with you. Thankfully, this place is 7 minute streetcar ride and a nice walk once the weather is nicer (which also means I can eat more).
Pin of the week: Shameless pin whoring of my lentil caramel corn lol
Instagram of the week: There are two more days left for The Wren's Burger Week!
Facebook share of the week:
Raspberry Cheesecake with Oreo Cookie Crust and Chocolate Ganache!! http://t.co/a1Ls49ojPW #ValentinesDay pic.twitter.com/y1QLCa7tb8
— Alice Choi (@HipFoodieMom1) February 8, 2015