Friday, January 23, 2009

Terra Burger

On 532 Eglinton Ave. West, just due east of Spadina Road, is a fantastic, new organic burger joint called Terra Burger.  Being "organic" and a new restaurant, I was a little skeptical today, as I went in with my 2 for 1 coupon I received in the mail a couple of weeks ago.  The menu is a bit dissected in that you choose your meat first, next is a white or wheat bun, then the condiments you want on it, and any additional extras like smoked bacon, cheese, etc.  With my coupon in hand, I ordered a hamburger on wheat with dijon mustard and the fixings of lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, and added smoked bacon for my husband.  For myself, I ordered also a hamburger on wheat, but with mayo and ketchup as well as the dijon mustard sans bacon, and asked for the "terra sauce" on the side.  Terra sauce is sauteed onions that have been pureed into mayonnaise - it is deliciously earthy tasting.  I also ordered a large french fry to share and it was plenty for the both of us and some for our toddler, Giulia, as well.  In approximately 10 minutes, my order was complete and we took it home.  It was delicious.  I literally scarfed my burger down in a few minutes.  I couldn't even bare to savor it because it was so good, I just gobbled it up.  Thank God we love meat, because I'm definitely going back there whenever I have a burger craving.  It was a good sign when I walked in, that it was crowded with happy customers.  May this place become a local institution for hard core burger lovers like myself.  

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Kultura Restaurant

On King East, just off of Jarvis by 1 block is a restaurant called Kultura.
They have a sister restaurant called Colborne Lane, located on Colborne Lane, a few blocks away.  For my girl Miah's birthday, a group of 8 of us went there for dinner and drinks.
None of us had ever been there before and it was Miah, myself and 6 burly men.  
Kultura considers themselves to be Asian-Fusion with a tapas style menu at very expen$ive price$.  It is a beautiful space, and I'm sure that's where most of our money is going towards.  The rent.  Lots of brick and lit pillared candles gave it a really romantic and cozy atmosphere.  Once we were seated, the waiter proceeded to tell us that for a group of 8, we should narrow down the menu to 5 different dishes and order 5 of each of them.  Glancing quickly at the cost of each entree, I nearly had a heart attack after doing the multiplication of 5.  Since I'm usually asked to take the reigns at a dinner party, I went down the list, picked the tastiest (keeping the price in mind) entrees and multiplied them by 3, not 5, to feed our stomachs, with the notion that if we were still hungry, we could always order more.  Makes sense, right?  Right...  So, what did we order and was it memorable?  We had chicken samosas, beef tartare that was wrapped in something crispy, spicy tuna roll (that had no rice or resemblance of sushi except for the fact that it was "rolled" up), mushroom orecchiette,  butternut risotto, and I feel like we had one more thing, but it escapes me right now...we also had dessert - a few orders of doughnut holes covered in vanilla sugar with caramel sauce and hot fudge to dip it in, a claufouti (that had eggplant tasting like apples) and some decadent chocolate dessert that had salted caramel in the center.  (On a totally random side note, I think salted caramel is super trendy right now and I'm really enjoying it!)  Out of the entrees, I enjoyed my pinot grigio by the glass that cost $12 whoppers.  Oh, woops, sorry, that's not food.  Ok, seriously, I really enjoyed the chicken samosas and the mushroom orecchiette.  The dessert disappointed me because as someone at the table put it - the doughnut holes just reminded them of Timmy's (aka: Tim Hortons).  The caramel sauce was not thick and dense.  It was as fluid as water and had no taste.  The fudge was good, but nothing special.  The chocolate cake with licorice ice cream was yummy.  And the claufouti was interesting, but again, to make eggplant taste like apple bits is no easy task, but it was still nothing to write home about.  For a party of 8 of us, for just the food, we spent $50 to $55 each.  Drinks were calculated individually.  I have to say, I loved the space, the atmosphere, but mainly the company I was with.  If you're wondering if I'd ever go back there for food again, I would, but only if I was on a diet and expected to not each much for a lot of money.  Fortunately, I don't diet.  

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday Brunch at The King Edward aka: King Eddy

One of my favorite past times, besides eating, is eating Sunday brunch.  And not just any brunch.  A buffet style brunch.  But do you know how hard it is to find a quality one?  It's not the quantity that matters - I'm always one for options, but for a buffet brunch, I'm all for quality over quantity any day.  The King Edward Sunday buffet brunch in their Victoria Restaurant is the best buffet brunch I've ever had.  The minute you get seated, you're offered a freshly squeezed juice of orange or grapefruit and it is outstanding.  There are white table cloths, high vaulted ceilings, big windows and a harpist gently playing during the meal.  For food, there a ton of items to choose from, and they are tasty and cooked to perfection.  There were tables on one side of the room with fruits, breads, pastries, cheeses, meats, grilled veggies, etc.  There were other tables with lots of seafood - cooked, steamed, raw oysters, crab claws filled with succulent meat, shrimp cocktail (one of my personal favorites at buffet brunch), smoked fishes, salmon, squid, etc.  There were even more tables for entrees like chicken, pasta, sides of potatoes and veggies, and another personal favorite, the carving station!  The King Eddy always has Beef Wellington, which is a lovely tenderloin of beef surrounded by puff pastry with the option of red wine jous on the side.  It is spectacular.  They also had a big lamb roast that was perfectly cooked.  And how can we forget the breakfast type foods like waffles, blintzes, sausages, bacon, eggs benny and the such.  And last but not least - dessert!  The best out of all the options for all of us today was the butter tart.  Amongst the desserts there were also tiramisu, chocolate cake with green tea icing, carrot cake, mousses (vanilla and chocolate), creme caramel aka: flan, apple galette with cinnamon whipped cream, chocolate cake, and the list goes on and on.  The King Edward Hotel is located on King Street, just east of Yonge Street.  For roughly $50/per person and that doesn't include tax or tip, it is a special treat but a tasty one at that.  

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lemon Yogurt Cake a la Barefoot Contessa, my Idol

This is a knock out.
I made it this afternoon after coming home from the ass-chapping cold outdoors, and it turned out beautifully!  Love that Ina Garten!  Here's the recipe from the Barefoot Contessa "At Home" cookbook with directions and my own modifications below:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (1 small container of organic yogurt does not make 1 full cup so buy a bigger tub, or 2 cups of plain yogurt and I don't think my yogurt was whole-milk)
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 extra large eggs (I used 3 regular large omega-3 white eggs -- Ina uses extra large eggs b/c she thinks she gets better value for bigger eggs, but you don't really seem to need extra large eggs for this recipe)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (off of 2 lemons - it looks like a lot after you zest them right into the bowl, so I extracted some, but now regret it, so use it all up)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil (didn't have veggie oil, so used canola instead)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (after you zest the 2 lemons, squeeze them to make all the juice you need for this entire recipe including the glaze)

For the glaze:
1 cup of confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a standard sized loaf pan.
Butter the pan.
Line the bottom with parchment paper.
Butter the parchment paper.
Flour the entire pan.

Sift together ONLY flour, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl.
In a larger bowl, whisk the yogurt, ONLY 1 cup of the sugar, all 3 eggs, lemon zest and vanilla extract.  (DON'T MIX THE OIL IN YET!  Although I screwed up and mixed the oil in, too, and it still came out fine).
After you mix that up, slowly whisk in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  With a rubber spatula, fold in the veggie oil into the batter, making sure it's all incorporated.  Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a tooth pick place in the center comes out clean.  (My loaf took the 50 minutes in my oven).

Meanwhile...cook the 1/3 cup of remaining sugar plus the 1/3 cup of lemon juice (the juice from the 2 zested lemons), in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear.  Set aside.  (You could also make the glaze now and have it ready for the end now, as well).

When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
Carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan (I used my toaster oven's rack and mini-sheet pan).  While the cake is still warm, pour the lemony-sugar mixture over the cake and allow it to soak in.  Cool.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice and pour over the cake.  

This was so easy to make, it's unbelievable.  And it tastes SOOOO good.  You won't regret it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Apple Cake

I've been drooling over this apple cake on the Smitten Kitchen's blog.  So, finally, I bit the bullet and made it the other day and it's just awesome.  It is so good.  So tasty.  So moist!  And as much as I love kitchen gadgets, I do not own a tube pan, so I used my trusty Pyrex 9 x 13 glass casserole dish and it worked out just fine.  I will post the ingredients and directions here now:

6 apples, McIntosh
1 tablespoon of cinnamon (I think I'd use a touch less, personally, for next time).
5 tablespoons sugar

2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil (I used canola b/c the store did not have veggie oil).
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional - I did not use walnuts).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a tube pan (or 9 x 13).  Peel, core and chop apples into chunks.  (This part nearly killed my right hand).  Toss with the cinnamon and sugar and set aside. 

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.  
In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla extract.
Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time.
Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan.  Spread half of the apple mixture over it.  Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top.  Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean.  Buon Appetito!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Indoor Tennis in Toronto

So my latest obsession, (other than making pizza over and over again) has to do with finding some hobby that makes me active.  I'm not talking walking to the corner grocery store to buy food as active, but something that makes me sweat from running, chasing balls or people.  I have a passion for tennis and golf.  However, I live in the land of winter for 9 months, and construction for 3.  So, I have been looking for an indoor tennis club for this winter and have found a bunch but need to call.  That's the part I dread.  "Sorry ma'am, registration is closed."  "Sorry ma'am, club is not open for winter."  Or how about "Ma'am, to join our club, you have to sell the soul of your first born child and buy a fur coat from Holt's to prove you're worthy."  I'll let you know if I find something...and that's one big IF.  

Home Made Pizza

Another night, another try at making pizza using store bought dough.  Today's pizza didn't turn out the way I had hoped.  The dough I bought was frozen, and the owner of the little Italian deli nearby told me to keep the dough in a warm place to thaw it out in time to make it for dinner.  So, I stuck the dough on top of the fridge, where it gets awfully hot back there.  The dough...well...that's what makes pizza, pizza, right?  The dough.  The crunchy crust.  The toppings are more like an after thought.  In any case, it didn't turn out well at all.  I can't even begin to describe it...however, I will post a photo of my last pizza I made and it was not a huge success by any means, but now, pizza is becoming an obsession, and I will try it again soon.  I promise. 

Repeat Performance of Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake

I did it again.  Made that cranberry vanilla coffee cake, and it turned out so much better than the first one.  Thank God.  I thought either I was really grouchy when I made it the first time, or I was just jealous that this Deb person of Smitten Kitchen glory had found the recipe first.  It was a success and I here is proof of my mission completed.  

Toronto Day Cares

You know, I talk mainly about food because that is my #1 hobby, but I also like to talk about things that interest me, concern me, or whatever I want to vent or bitch about in life.  Since I have a 13 month old who is the center of my universe, her well-being is of my utmost importance.  Hence, I have started to look for a day care in the area and I had no idea how hard it was to find one.  However, that being said, the nearby recreation center has an office for P.O.I.N.T.  It stands for People and Organizations In Northern Toronto.  Or, at least, I think that's what those letters all mean.  And for a mere $3.00, you can buy a pamphlet that outlines all the nearby day cares and schools in this vicinity.  I can't tell you how much time that saves a person like me.  For 3 bucks, someone else has already done all the research for me!  YAY!  We like organizations like P.O.I.N.T.!  

Winterlicious 2009

Ok, everyone, get your AmX out and your phone ready to dial, because tomorrow, Jan. 13, if you're an AmX card holder, you get to put yourself ahead of the game and book reservations for restaurants in town participating in Winterlicious this year, and it is totally worth it.  I've already narrowed down the list to a short list, which I then made even shorter and have come up with 4 restaurants worthy of my time this year, provided my calls go thru tomorrow morning.  The lucky 4 restos I hope to visit are:  Amaya, Auberge du Pommier, Corner House and Quince (as a repeat performance not to mention the price is just right at $25 for a 3-course meal).  From January 30 to February 12, foodies like myself can enjoy prix fixed meals of 3 courses for a range of $15 to $30 for lunches and $25 up to $45 for dinner to places like North 44, Canoe, etc.  You're lucky if you can get an entree for $25 let alone a whole 3 course meal!  What I do every year is check out the list of restaurants online by googling Winterlicious, and then when I see a restaurant on the list that has intrigued me for awhile, I will check the menu to see if that gets my attention.  If it does, then that makes it onto my short list.  My original short list also contained North 44, Boiler House, Oliver Bonacini and Grill, and Canoe.  I think my shorter short list is far more fascinating and I can't wait to wake up tomorrow!

Saturday, January 10, 2009


On 92 Ossington Avenue, a block and a half north of Queen Street, (right before you get to the T -intersection where there's the infamous psycho ward of Toronto), is a sign-less restaurant called Delux.  Well, almost nearly sign-less.  If you consider an outdoor lighted sign with an arrow pointing to the door with the number 92 a sign, well, then I guess there is some sort of signage.  :)   Props goes out to my friend, Janice -- her advice and food critique is always bang on.  She knows her stuff, and when she told me this place has cookies and warm milk on their menu for dessert, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I had to go check it out.  Fortunately for me and my husband, it was date night, and I chose to go check this place out.  We were both so pleasantly surprised.  We had a dinner seating for 6 PM, and we arrived a couple minutes early and found the front door locked.  Delux opens at 6 PM.  Someone promptly came to unlock the door and we were seated in a cozy little corner booth where I was facing a brightly lit alphabet display hung on the wall.  Coats were checked.  Water was promptly poured.  Menus were given and the menu was surprisingly short and sweet.  It makes choosing an appetizer and entree much more efficient for someone who already has Type A personality.  I'm not talking about myself here.  At my first glance, I saw there was a rib meat bourguignon, which omg...I love a beef bourguignon.  Who doesn't like melt in your mouth braised beef?  But, then I saw the steak frites and thought, omg...steak frites.  Who doesn't love steak and french fries?  But then I saw and made up my mind when there it was:  bouillabaisse.  I'm not a big seafood cooker at home, so to see that on a menu just made me get shivers down my spine.  I love a good bouillabaisse (saffron broth with clams, mussels, fish and shrimp) and I haven't had it in I don't know how long.  It has been a long time.  As an appetizer, today's special was this terrine made of pork on one end of the plate and on the other end was a pate made of rabbit/pork/foie gras.  There were toasted points, grainy mustard, candied plums or something and cornichons aka: gherkin.  It was unbelievably yummy.  What complimented the meal was the wine my husband chose.  A rose, in honor of our dear friend, Peter Greene, who introduced us to rose wine in Santa Fe at Casa Sena Restaurant.  It really brought out all the textures and flavors in the pate and terrine.  It also was a perfect compliment to our bouillabaisse main course.  The wine disappeared by the time we finished our meal.  So, what else was there to order?  Dessert!  Tonight, there was a special of a tasting of all 4 desserts listed on the menu.  Duh.  Total no brainer.  The four desserts were chocolate cake (had a molten chocolate center, whipped cream and creme anglaise), 2 chocolate chip cookies (the reason why I came here in the first place), apple galette, and a Cuban coffee infused creme brulee.  I'm not a creme brulee girl, my husband loves the stuff, but I could honestly say it made me weak to my knees to tastes something so smooth like that.  Even the drip coffee they served was delicious.  What a rare gem, pleasant surprise of a find we had tonight.  Service was excellent, totally unpretentious, food was outstanding, the decor is understated so you don't feel under or over dressed, and of course, my company was out of this world.  Delux is our new favorite restaurant in town and for the price point, (dinner for 2 including a generous tip was approximately $145.00), you can't go wrong.  

Friday, January 9, 2009

Rice Pudding

I just made this rice pudding tonight that was pretty good...still not my idea of perfection, but since I was so uninspired to make anything tonight, after a glance at The Smitten Kitchen's blog, I decided to do just that: make rice pudding using arborio rice.  The interesting ingredient was the bay leaf.  It's such an easy recipe, I actually have it somewhat memorized, which for me, is amazing these days.  1/2 cup of arborio rice, 4 cups of milk (I used 1% milk), 1/4 cup of white sugar, a spoonful of vanilla extract, 1 bay leaf -- bring all these to a low boil and then turn it down for a simmer.  I also added a dash of cinnamon and a shake of nutmeg and used a whisk to get it all incorporated.  I guess arborio rice was to get the rice pudding all starchy gooey, and the Smitten Kitchen said it'd take 30 to 40 minutes, but mine took more like an hour.  Also, what cracked me up was that her recipe said it'd feed 4 people, HA!  More like 2, and maybe 3, but that'd be pushing it.  I don't know why I didn't double the recipe.  I probably thought I'd run out of milk for my coffee tomorrow morning at that ratio.  :)

Friday, January 2, 2009

Joy Nails

On Eglinton Ave., east of Avenue Road, there is a joyful little nail salon called Joy Nails on the north side of the street, across from the Petro Canada gas station.  At Joy Nails, they do your nails in style.  Once there you get directed to the batch of various nail polish to choose a color.  Then you are led to these wonderful massaging chairs.  Next, is the menu---ahhh...the moment I always look forward to.  Which smoothie shall it be for me today?  Hmmm...strawberry mango?  Or do I need a pick-me-up like a cappuccino or espresso or tea?  As my nails get expertly trimmed and painted and my feet smoothed and softened, my eyes wander to the flat screen t.v.'s located on the wall facing you in the massage chairs.  This is where I get my fix of chick flicks playing right before my eyes.  At the end of the whole process is where you get directed to the little island of air where your nails get even more time to dry off in an expedited fashion.  It is here where I get tantalized by some sweetness whether it be a caramel, a Swiss chocolate or some other creative candy concoction.  For a mere $25 a pedicure, it's totally worth it and I have the credit card statements to prove it.

Body Blitz Spa is already 2009 and I went to Body Blitz Spa in 2008 and forgot to write about it!  EEK!  Body Blitz is only the most amazing spa in all of Toronto.  I can not write about it enough and rant and rave about it's wonderfulness.  The all-female spa has three pools---a hot green tea, a large sea salt pool and a very icy cold plunge type pool.  In the middle of a bustling city like downtown Toronto, this is a bit of paradise for us city folk who can't get away to Hawaii at a drop of a pin.  For $45 for a water therapy visit, it just verges on the tip of too expensive, but it is SOOOOO worth it once you're there.  This place has a small menu of services ranging from mud wraps, scrubs and massages.  I've had the salt scrub and the massage in my previous visit, and they were good, but it's really for these amazing hot tubs that you go to Body Blitz.  You completely feel so rejuvenated and refreshed after a couple hours here.  This ain't your place if you're looking for waxing, facials and mani-pedi's.  For a great mani-pedi, one goes to Joy Nails on Eglinton Ave., east of Avenue Road, where you sip smoothies, or a cappuccino while getting your nails done by swift professionals.  But that's for another post.  :)