Sunday, February 28, 2010

Outdoor Adventuring and The Roy

So this weekend the Outdoor Adventure Show was in Toronto, Missassauga to be technical. So I ventured out to check it out. After a god awful TTC journey, we ended up a 2.8km hike from the International Centre where the show was being held. We entered, and it was fairly crowded, and loaded with displays. I still am unsure as to what 40% of them had to do with outdoor adventuring as a lot of them were healthy supplements for home use, not to mention the hot sauce stand. It was refreshing to at least find 1 table boasting a selection of smoked and dried meats amidst tables hawking nature bars. I was glad to get an idea of the discounted wares sold at the show, such as canoes and kayaks, as well as cross off a couple of small items from my list of needed supplies. Me and my friend left with a venerable shit ton of flyer's, brochures, booklets, handouts, and advertisements from as near as the Bruce trail to as far as Mt Kilimanjaro or the Arctic Circle.

After lugging 20 pounds worth of brochures and booklets back to the downtown core from Missassauga, me and my party of 3 were left all but too hungry, so we made trek over to The Roy Public House at Queen and Logan. Ever since my first visit I've been looking forward to a return visit. The joint serves up a menu of traditional pub food items, nothing you cant find nearly anywhere else (the Scotch Eggs perhaps being the exception). However where they stand out is the excellent standard of quality put into the food. You always know when your in for a treat when as soon as you enter the front door and are delighted by the welcoming scent. I dare say, whilst not the best pub food I've had globally, they certainly top the best in the city, and perhaps even the continent. At the price they serve the food at too boot, this place is my top recommendation for traditional pub food. As with the first time, I was stumped at what too order, as with the last time I couldn't decide between the half pound beef dip sandwich (Roast Beef Sandwich served with Jus, and chips) or the Guinness, Steak, and Mushroom pie (served with seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes). And with staying true to my prior visit, I got neither. For appetizers we ordered the Artisan Sausages (3 different sausages served with 2 kinds of mustard, a hot keens, and a grainy honey mustard) to share amongst the table. One of my dining compatriots ordered himself a Scotch Egg (hard boiled egg, wrapped in pork, breaded, deep fried, and served cold). The sausages were quite tasty, my friend unfortunately not realizing what he ordered till it hit the table, inevitably was not satisfied with his choice. We moved on to the mains, I ordered the Fish & Chips (a tough decision made after seeing a few orders of them reach the adjacent table)

Christina ordered the Spicy Beef Quesadilas,

and Renars ordered The Ultimate Roy (Burger, with lettuce, tomato, onion, grilled onion, saute mushrooms, cheese, bacon and BBQ sauce).

All in all, a delightful meal, parred with a few frothy pints. The fish potentially taking the number 2 spot in best fish and chips I've eaten. The Quesadila was well put together, and quite tasty (although I would have gotten the chicken myself). And the view of the burger, it certainly looked quite delicious.

Indian Nights, Part 1

Indian food is something I've gained a taste for only in the last couple years, and with any cuisine I enjoy, I enjoy replicating it in my spare time at home. There have been a few dishes I have been wanting to make for sometime now, and have decided in the weeks to come to try and cook the majority of them. In the passed week I did Tandoori Chicken, with Malaysian Noodles on the side (granted its a dish that obviously isn't Indian, however it does bare its similarities, that and I lacked the sufficient ingredients for an Indian side dish). For the Tandoori Chicken I used a pre-mixed Tandoori Masala spice blend, 1 cup yogurt, 1 lemon juiced, 5 cloves garlic, 1/4 onion, and roughly 1/2 inch of ginger.

I Marinated the chicken for roughly 1 hour and then put into the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour, flipping every 15 minutes.

I then put on the broiler for another 5 minutes to finish them off.

Meanwhile I started on the noodles. I started by soaking some broad rice noodles in luke warm water. I then cut 1/4 onion, 2 heads broccoli, 2 dried and soaked chilies, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tomato, several green beans, and some cabbage.

When my noodles became ply-able I drained the water and mixed in some vegetable oil.

I then made my curry spice blend, by adding roughly 2 tbs hot curry powder, 1/2 tsp tandoori masala, 1/2 tsp lemon grass.

As soon as everything was ready I added 2 tbs butter and 1 tsp vegetable oil to a wok on medium heat. As soon as the butter melted I added the curry spice blend, followed by the onion, garlic and chili. I then added the rest of the vegetables, and when nearly cooked the noodles. As soon as the noodles finished I added a large mugs worth of shrimp.

Everything turned out quite well. I can't wait till the weather clears up and I can get my BBQ back up and running so I can toss those Tandoori suckers over and open flame.

Coming soon, Vegetable Pakoras, Vegetable Samosas, Lamb Vindaloo, Butter Chicken, Raita, and Garlic Naan Bread.

Home Made Nacho Chips: Take 1

After a delicious plate of Nachos(using fresh homemade tortilla chips) at The Roy (Queen E & Logan) sometime ago, its been on my agenda to make up some Nacho Chips of my own. One major problem had been stopping me however; not even the faintest of clues how. So finally last week I decided to just take a stab at it. Figuring most store bought Tortillas are made with regular white flour, I would just substitute with corn flour to make corn chips. Having picked up some corn flour at a recent visit to John Vinces (large bulk & spice store) I went to it, about 2 cups corn flour 1/2 tbs salt and a dash of vegetable oil and the slow addition of water until I had a dough. I took out two heavy cast iron pans, some wax paper, and formed the dough into 2 inch balls. I then place the dough in between the pans and flattened. Immediately after flattening I tossed into a pan a cooked on both sides, then removed and left to cool. After all were flattened, cooked and cooled off I cut them into wedges. The first problem made its self quite evident, My Tortillas were too thick. I took out the sharped knife I had and begin to double my Tortillas. After cutting them all in half I began to fry them in small batches.

Mean while I defrosted some previous homemade chili I had in the freezer.

After the chili was cooked I plated it topped with cheese, sour cream, green onion and tomato. Served with the Nacho Chips on the side.

Whilst a good first attempt, the chips were still too thick, and the extra cooking time made the chips overly hard. I look forward to doing this again, perhaps with some corn meal in the dough.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Little More Pao, and a Little Less Stock

I don't know what it is, whether the peanuts, the tender chicken, the spicy Chile's, or the sour sauce, (likely the combination of the lot) but I have always had an affinity for Kung Pao chicken. Another standard for me at a Chinese restaurant has been Beef with Oyster Sauce. Now I've been cooking Kung Pao for a while now so I'm already well familiar with what goes into it. However I have never really found a working Oyster Beef recipe to tinker with. I recently came across an interesting sounding recipe however involving beef stock. Now I almost always have a few chicken, and a few beef stock cartons lying around for when I don't have time to make my own. Which was to come in handy as I didn't have a ton of time to make everything from scratch. So I made my Marinades, got my meats soaking only to go into the pantry to get the stocks and find none. Disappointed by my realization I just had to substitute the less flavourful option of water.

Kung Pao Chicken

Beef with Oyster Sauce

The dishes came out fairly well, the Kung Pao being superior as the stock requirement was much lower (1 tbs compared to a 1/2 cup). The Oyster Beef whilst lacking in full flavor, was definitely an improvement over the last time I tried my hand at it. I look forward to givin' it another go with the proper ingredients at hand.

Duff's Famous Indigestion

So I was sitting about reading over spicy food restaurants in the city, I came across a chicken wing joint selling wings that boast a Scoville rating of 850,000. For reference a jalapeno is between 2,500 and 8,000 Scoville units. So naturally being a hot food connoisseur I had to go and try these. The joint in question serving up the heat is Duff's Famous Wings, with 2 locations 1 near Bayview and Eglington, and the other near College and Bathurst. The wing sauce, Armageddon. Now I suppose it must make me a bit of a masochist to go in expecting to shed tears of blood, sweat, fear, and agony, only to repeat later at home from another region while ridding myself of the vile neon orange sauce.

Upon arrival to the Bayview location, we were seated near the middle of the crowded restaurant. The waitress came by and to her apparent dismay I ordered up a batch of Armageddon. To which I was promptly ID'd for my choice of wing sauce. After carefull inspection of my ID and contemplation if I was old enough to make a conscious decision over what I ingest she moved on to attempt to talk me out of my choice. After realizing I was clearly determined to torture myself, and my further refusal to get the sauce on the side, she placed my order. Some time later after some confusion on my dining mates part of the difference between blue cheese and dill sauce our main course of beer and intestinal destruction arrived.

While not appearing to be anything out of the ordinary in terms of hot wings I began to indulge. After my first wing my mouth was warm but nothing unbearable. As it was to appear throughout my journey of wings I was to notice an inconsistency in the house, which is to say some wings had lots of pepper seeds and skin, whilst others just lathered in sauce thus making some considerably hotter then others. Finish my meal mearly out of pride and potential self loathing my mouth was burnt out, my once empty stomach clearly unhappy with me, and I was left a little dizzy.

After a nights sleep I awoke to visit to the toilet, and ladies and gents of the Internet community, let me tell you, I could swear I heard a mariachi band covering Johnny Cash's 'Ring of Fire' in the next room. So here I sit 2 days later final recovered and looking forward to my next spicy outing.

-Your self destructive narrator bidding you farewell for now.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Feeling Uninspired

So I've been feeling a little low on energy today so I decided to keep it relativly simple for dinner. That being said im making medium-rare steak fajita's. Most of the works done as Ill be using pre-made salsa, and a pre-made spice mix, and a simple homemade guacamole. The trick is defying what the packaging of the spice mix says.

Start with the guacamole

Add onions and tomato

Add cumin, salt, and pepper

Juice 1 lime

Add avacado (2)

Puree (I usually add Cilantro too, but had none at hand)

Keep your steak whole, and rub in some of the spice mix, then fry your steak to medium-rare.

After the steak is cooked transfer to a cutting board

Add more oil and your veg to the pan.

Add water and the rest of the spice mix to the pan when they are soft. After sauce has thickend remove from heat.

Now slice the steak and add to the veg, mixing into the sauce.

Now just chop some toppings,

heat your tortilla's,

Assemble and serve.

All in all not a bad meal for the work involved.

Normally I would make the salsa and spice mix myself (sometimes the tortillas too), maybe even a salsa verde yet today I lacked the energy and ingredients. I also usually add cilantro to my guac but had none. Hopefully when BBQ weather comes back around I can get a proper from scratch grilled Fajita.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Once upon a time there was a museum...

Well I have some good news for you travellers, specifically you time travellers. A story of a fantastic museum, right here in Toronto. Our Royal Ontario Museum. A childhood favorite of mine. I welcome you all to come and see it! All you have to do is hop in your local time machine and go back 5 years before they remodeled it into the fucking mess it is today. Unappealing modern design has ruined a once grand museum. Now whilst I eventually got over the eye-sore they turned the outside into;

I was extremely disheartened to see how they trashed the inside. The interior all white walls, and abstract design make it hard to focus on anything, and even hard to maintain balance in places. Now at this point I should remind you, this is a museum, not an amusement park exhibit -- not that you would know the difference anymore.

Shortly after getting inside we made a pit stop to the food area. It used to be a Druxy's with a juice area, and is now an upscale looking cafeteria. The menu loaded with your typical items like fish and chips and chicken fingers, a pizza area, a soup area, and a burrito area that appeared closed. Not wanting to spend an arm and a leg at a museum food stand I had the daily pizza slice(3.50$), which was braised eggplant and basil. The pizza was okay, all be it, old and lacking in eggplant. The fresh (or once fresh) basil added a nice flavour. Christina went for the soup, which was African Peanut featured from there 'black history month' menu.

One of my favorite parts was the dinosaur exhibit when I was young, which has completely changed. The exhibit is smaller and more condensed. I was happy to see the animal displays were mostly unchanged, and had anticipated going through the bat cave which had been advertised as 'new, bigger, and better' all over the museum. To my further dismay it was not yet open, and to which end had closed off my favorite section of the animal exhibit as well.

Now I concede, theres certain areas in this world of ours where out with the old and in with the new is for the best. This however was not a welcome change. There used to be a grand feeling to the ROM, now it just feels like walking through the halls of a space ship from a low budget science fiction film.

The final verdict being, it may be worth suffering through if you have no prior connection with the ROM. However please avoid at all costs on a hangover. Passing by the outside is nausea inducing, and the inside might just be enough to empty your stomach and leave you grasping for ibuprofen

Afterwords we went out to grab some food. After some discussion (more of protest on the end of my comrades) we ended up at Sichuan House for a thoroughly disappointing lesson in what not to order at a Sichuan restaurant. We had the Shanghai Noodles, the Seafood Noodles, and the Diced Chicken with Dried Chilies. The noodles tasted uninspired and undercooked, and the seafood was not the freshest in taste. The chicken however was up to my standards quite spicy and loaded with chilies.

Diced Chili Chicken (Not from Sichuan House)

We followed our meal by going to the all but too noisy Red Room, just up the street. Filled the the clatter of chattery young girls (picture a room full of prepubescent high school girls all trying to compete to be the loudest) and the aroma of what smelled a hell of a lot better then what we just ate. Yet another disappointment this day had to offer. I do admit after 4 or 5 pitchers and some whiskey, I did start to feel better.

To salvage the evening we went across the street to Kom Jug Yeun for a standard of GOOD Shanghai Noodles, and their house specialty BBQ Pork (Char Siu) which is guaranteed never to disappoint!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Is it me? Or do I have Elk Stuck in my Teeth?

So, here in the fine city of Toronto, twice a year is held a 'licious' event, either Winterlicious, or Summerlicious. The purpose of this event is that certain upscale restaurants around the city offer a prix-fixe menu, comprised of 3 dishes - a starter, a main, and a dessert. And as every summer and winter season come, I usually seem to miss them. This winter being the exception.

Last week, after a delirious search (including a wrong set of directions, and incompetent directory assistance) , my dining companion, Christina, and I found our way to Trios Bistro for lunch. All and all a pretty good lunch, with tentative service.

Tonight Christina and I made it over to JAMcafe, at Ontario and Carlton for the last day of Winterlicious. After arriving and realizing neither of us had made a reservation, we were told it was an hour and a half wait to get a table. Grudgingly we accepted the hour and a half and went to a neighbourhood dive bar where I tried to read the Chinese subtitles on the TV - to not much success - whilst waiting for our pitcher of beer. After our drinks we made our way back to the restaurant. We were seated at the back of the restaurant, next to the washroom. Normally a seat as such would be less then preferable, however the washroom was down a flight of stairs, and after the pre-dinner beers, there is nowhere I'd have rather sat then next to the nearest available piss receptacle. The following dishes were consumed at our table;


Caesar Cardini, Croutons, Oaxaca Cheese

I started with the Caesar, very basic, lettuce croutons, cheese, dressing. The dressing tasted home made, however the anchovies were over powering resulting in a fish sauce -esq smell to it. The Oaxaca cheese was nice, although the croutons were a little too crunchy making them impenetrable by fork, and nearly teeth to boot.

House Cheery Wood Smoked Muscovy Duck Breast Salad

Christina opened with the smoked duck salad. Having a small taste I thought it was far superior choice, the duck was quite tasty, but not over powering, the maple syrup vinaigrette was a nice addition. Christina was not overly impressed with the texture of the duck.


Confit of Duck, Home Smoked Emmenthal Poutine, Preserved Cheery and Rosemary Demi Glace

For my main I moved onto a emmenthal poutine topped with duck confit. Ecstatic for this dish to arrive and slate my thirst for delicious poutine, enevitably I felt dissapointed. I felt the home smoked emmenthal was overly subtle, and the duck tasted more like chicken then duck. The demi glace was a nice touch and added an interesting dimension, and the duck pulled off the bone and mixed into the poutine helped to complete the picture. All in all, this dish tasted like the fries and "duck leg" may as well have come from Swiss Chalet. Tasty, but disappointing.

Braised Orr Lake Acres Elk Osso Bucco

Feeling adventurous, Christina ordered the Elk Osso Bucco. Whilst not overly thrilled with her choice, I thought it was on par with my main, which is to say tasty, but did not live up to its potential.


Brioche Bread Pudding, Brandy Caramel Sauce

To conclude my dining experience I went away from my instinct, which was the apple Cinnamon crumble, and had the bread pudding with brandy caramel sauce. Finally, at long last in this up and down dining experience, we have a clear winner. A truly tasty dish, which is a feet for someone who typically is not big on dessert.

Flourless Valrhona Chocolate Torte, Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Christina was not overly vocal about this dish, perhaps her love of all things chocolate took over and she was just to focused on finding the room to cram the chocolate into. In my brief taste I thought it was so-so, a little on the dull side for my tastes, not being a huge chocolatier didn't help I'm sure. I felt it was a little bland, although I did enjoy the cinnamon whipped cream.

All things considered, two 3 course meals, two glasses of wine, a chic atmosphere, and Tom Waits in the background, may just be worth the 40$ a person.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dumpling Night!

Ah my first up to date post! Tonight I cooked 3 kinds of dumplings, pork w/ Thai chilies, pork w/ shrimp, and pork w/ 2 kinds of mushrooms. To companion my dumplings I made char siu (Chinese BBQ Pork), some steamed rice, and garlic stir fried broccoli!

To start I got out my Bamboo Steamer

The dumplings as they finished cooking

The cooked, plated and ready to be eaten dumplings

And my char siu accompaniment!