The Week in Yum June 7-19 Biff's Bistro and Bar Raval, Yonanas and Cooking Up A Storm at Loblaws


tapas lining the bar at Bar Raval

Loblaws at 5am is not a sight I'd like to see again soon

The week started off with three days in the Loblaw's kitchen. Last Thursday I taught a What's For Dinner class in the afternoon and started prepping for Friday morning's breakfast for 20 of the overnight staff and then came in at 5am to make that happen with the kitchen director, Kira. She stayed all day and night getting everything ready for our Saturday lunch for the 80 daytime employees and I returned on Saturday morning to help get the lunch together and feed almost 100 hungry people.


Yonanas 

Oh yeah! I had received a Yonanas machine last week when I was on death's door and so it sat, unopened for a week until I felt up to taking it for a test drive. If you live under a rock and haven't heard of this machine, it's a really easy to use machine that turns frozen fruit into, basically, ice cream but without the cream. You shove a couple of frozen bananas down the shute and it comes out the other side all creamy and so much like ice cream, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference. That is just the beginning because you can add any sort of frozen fruit that you like, you can freeze chocolate chips, bananas soaked in booze and/or spices, different flavouring liquids etc and add those as well. There are recipes for frozen dessert pies, bananaless sorbets, terrines and all kinds of tasty treats in the booklet and on the website.

I have only had time to try it once and I made strawberry/mango banana, gave it to both boys and asked what they thought of it. Both of them ate their bowls of what they thought was ice cream and deemed it delicious. I got three or four big bowls out of two frozen bananas and about 3/4 cup of frozen mixed fruit and it really was delicious and, best of all, there was NO sugar or cream added. Just fruit. Mind blown. Stay tuned for some crazy, new recipes using this bad boy.

I used to try to make this sort of dessert with a blender or a food processor but it gets over whipped and gummy with those machines.


I finally perfected the recipe for the bifana, our favourite eating memory from our trip to Portugual
Recipe for my bifana

I had a great day at work this week, grooming Judd Apatow and doing some makeup for Vanessa Bayer while they did a press day for the upcoming Amy Shumer movie, Trainwreck. It's always a fun thing to meet people you admire (Vanessa Bayer's "We're not porn stars anymore" infomercials with Cecily Strong on SNL is reason enough, alone, to love her) my fellow makeup artists and I were treated to dinner at Biff's Bistro before hightailing it over to Massey Hall to get them ready for their comedy show, which we watched before leaving for home.



I have never been to Biff's and I am not sure what I was expecting but what we got was delicious bistro inspired food and great service. Also, who knew there was such a great patio to enjoy a glass of rose and a charcuterie board (full of meaty delicacies made in house) right across from The Hummingbird Centre/Sony Centre or if you are old as dirt, like me, The O'Keefe Centre.

barely seared albacore tuna
pan roasted lincod
It was not at all stuffy, as I had assumed and all three of us loved our entrees. Even though my girl, Alice, requested that the kitchen murder her steak frites by cooking the beautiful piece of beef to medium, it managed to remain full of flavour and texture. My perfectly cooked cod came with a barigoule (a fancy pants term for some artichokes, onions and carrot braised in a white wine sauce) and crunchy lardons and although the tuna could have been a touch warmer, it was also very good. I am adding the patio at Biff's to my list of places to drag Shack this summer.
Big thanks to the people at Universal Toronto for a great day and a great dinner.

Lots of work led to Friday and my day was bookended with fabulousness.
It started with a lunch at Bar Raval, at last, and ended with watching my little boy, all grown up, testing and receiving his brown belt. Proud mom with a belly full of tapas is the best way to end any week.

Bar Raval


I have been trying to get to Bar Raval, the sister restaurant of popular Bar Isabel, since it opened but life is always getting in the way so when fellow blogger, chef, cooking instructor and caterer Paula Costa, wanted to book a lunch date I was thrilled to say yes. Sadly, our third lunch mate could not make it so it was up to the two of us to eat for three, which we managed with flying colours.
my creamy cortado, Paula and the view of our table at the height of lunch
I got there a bit early and snagged a prime table for two on the front patio, ordered a cortado and a wee cube of tortilla espagnole ($2.90) to nibble on while I waited. When I lived in Madrid, I ate nothing but tortilla for the first month because it was delicious and comforting and was cheap and even free when I was ordering a drink - it tasted like my mom's scalloped potatoes so what harm could it do? Well, I would say about 10 lbs of harm, actually. Little did I know that tortilla is made by poaching potato slices and egg in about a gallon of olive oil until the potatoes soak up all the oil and turns into a solid cake that can be cubed like that cube down there. Oops. I am happy to report that the tortilla at Bar Raval did not let me down. It was rich, creamy yet firm at the same time and it made me very, very happy to be there.


 After that, the two of us got down to business. The tuna conserva and charred romaine ($11) was a revelation. I would never had thought that mint would work but now that I have tasted it, I am going to add mint to everything. A fine dice of rare tuna served on a bed of charred romaine, red peppers, crispy kale and just enough mint - might have been both of our favourite dishes.

We had Galacian Octopus ($8) as well as the Octopus in Raval Sauce and I don't think I could choose between them. The galacian octopus is sliced thinly, marinated in olive oil and served on a chunk of bread while the octopus in revel sauce consists of chunks of the fish preserved in house in a smoky red pepper sauce. Get them both.
octopus in raval sauce, Morcilla with quail eggs and the tuna conserva

 I did not get a photo of the croquetas ($4.25) because we inhaled them but they were also a must have. Crispy, deep fried crust encasing an impossibly creamy interior, studded with ham...oh my. On my next visit I am getting the tomato bread, leek with romanesco and cobia fish crudo because, frankly, on this visit I just ran out of stomach.

The prices are reasonable, the service was great, everything was fresh and delicious and nobody gave me a hard time when I had to sit alone in a premium spot, at lunch, for 45 minutes while I waited for Paula, who was held up in traffic. Be careful while ordering though because the bill can add up quickly if you are ordering the premium tapas, but with most thing hovering in the $5-$10 range, you will be able to eat well without breaking the bank. Throw in a glass of sparkling rose (Codorniu Seleccion Raventos Rose at $7 a glass) and you will think you are sitting outside, passing the afternoon away in Granada.


This is going to become a regular daytime stop for me. I would love to go in the evening but, at this point, I am told that by nightfall it is overrun with hipsters who pack into the tiny bar to stand around and nosh and sip and look fabulous while doing so.

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