Tag Archives: eggs!

Return To Sudbury: How Gourmands Camp

1 Aug

Last year some friends and I were spoiled rotten with a bountiful harvest of wild blueberries foraged from the Sudbury area.  We planned the same camping trip for this summer and you can bet for weeks leading up to it, we talked a big game.  C even bought four new 4-L tupperware containers, and worried that they’d overflow. Let’s just say, this year, our trip was not fruitful (sorry, sorry…).  We each left with a sad sandwich bag worth of tiny blue berries.  We think we missed the first harvest by a week, and were too early for the second round.  Woe!

Falls

It was still a fun time camping near Onaping High Falls, a gorgeous natural wonder made famous by Group of Seven’s A.Y. Jackson’s painting, Spring on the Onaping River.  (There, your art fact of the day!  Cherry would be proud.)  And of course, we ate like gluttons.

The difference between camping when I was a teenager versus camping as an adult  who makes more than minimum wage: we used to pack the cooler with frozen hot dogs (and cheap beer) and lived off that.  Now, we take the time to make sure that the benefit of living outdoors doesn’t cost us our enjoyment of a really good meal.  Camping is really about spending quality time with some good friends in beautiful scenery while breathing fresh air and that is all made better with a bountiful feast on a picnic table.

One of my favourite camping meals?  Breakfast (well, it’s a three-way tie, really….)

Open Faced Fancy Breakfast Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • smoked bacon from a butcher on Roncesvalles
  • one of de la Terre’s amazing organic artisan breads
  • free-range organic eggs
  • pre-washed and pre-chopped red onion and cilantro (pre-washing and pre-chopping is KEY to camping gourmand)
  • Black River Cheese Company‘s 6 year old cheddar (strong flavour means you use less, pack less!)
  • homemade preserved cherry tomatoes (no Heinz for us!)
  • homemade sriracha (go ahead, close down that California plant…we’ll survive)

Bacon!

The first step: cook up that bacon!  And yes, it’s so that you can use the bacon grease to cook up the rest of your breakfast (nobody said we’re cardiologists). This way you don’t have to pack cooking oil and everything tastes like delicious bacon.

onions

Next, brown those pre-chopped onions in that bacon grease.  Yup, pre-washing and pre-chopping some of the vegetables will make things a whole lot easier while camping.

eggs

Once those onions caramelize, crack some eggs into the pan and soak up the remaining bacon grease.

Preserves

Bring out the jars of preserved cherry tomatoes and homemade sriracha from the cooler so that they can come up to room temperature (forest temperature…?).  Preserves are a great way to add flavour, and don’t even necessarily need to stay in the cooler if you plan to finish a smaller jar rather quickly.  It also reduces prep as you really just need to spoon out a cherry tomato instead of washing and chopping.

Sammy

Once everything is finished, take a piece of incredibly dense de la Terre’s artisan bread, put some of that 6 year old cheddar on it, then top with the warm eggs so that the cheese melts a bit.  Then a dollop of preserved cherry tomatoes, a smidge of homemade sriracha, and a sprinkle of pre-washed, pre-chopped cilantro. Eat this masterpiece while throwing the bacon-grease-soaked paper towels into the fire for a little show.

Advertisements

La Cubana: a quick holiday escape on Roncesvalles

17 Dec

A couple of Fridays back, Cherry, MC and I were invited to attend the opening weekend of Toronto’s newest country bar, the Rock ‘n Horse Saloon.  Good time?  Well, let’s just say 60% of YYZ Gourmand found themselves riding on a mechanical bull…and we have solemnly pledged that these videos will never go public.

So how did we end up on said unforgiving bull?  Our inhibition was mostly just us being us, but also partly caused by the JD shots on the house and this monstrosity:

'The Bulldog' from Rock 'n Horse Saloon

‘The Bulldog’ from Rock ‘n Horse Saloon

Fast forward to the next day. C’mon, you know how it is – don’t make me admit it.  Let’s just say that only a good brunch could fix what ailed me and thank goodness I found myself in Roncesvalles, a neighbourhood I’ve watched transform over the last 4 years. Some changes have been for the worse (the new Tim Horton’s that’s opening soon) but mostly for the better (BarqueGurtsPizzeria Delfina!).   I regrettably never got to try the restaurant Blue Plate but was curious about the Cuban diner (from the people of Delux Restaurant) that took over the space – La Cubana.

It was a grey, bitterly cold afternoon; the streets felt abandoned and it was quiet except for the howling wind.  In contrast, as soon as I opened the second of the double doors, I was instantly welcomed by cheerful music, laughter, and the warmth of the retro diner decor.  When people try to fake a 50s look, they need to take a page from La Cubana’s book. The gorgeous tiles, simple but thoughtful design, and pistachio colour scheme made me question whether it was actually humid Havana outside, and not chilly Toronto.

La Cubana menu

La Cubana menu

The words ‘pineappe-glazed pork belly’ on the menu caught my eye and wouldn’t let go so I came to my decision fairly easily (rare!).  Served with rice and beans, purple slaw and fried tostones, I wished I wore my sweat pants.

Pineapple glazed pork belly with sunny side up eggs

Pineapple glazed pork belly with sunny side up eggs

A closer look?  Your wish is my command.

Pineapple glazed pork belly with sunny side up eggs

Pineapple glazed pork belly with sunny side up eggs

And of course, I asked for house made hot sauce.  Surprisingly tame in heat, it still added a nice touch to my dish.  Not that it was needed, everything was great as is: perfect sunny-side eggs (yolks were warm but runny!), perfectly crisp tostones, wilted purple slaw that kept its peppery brightness, and sweetened caramelized pork belly with a hint of pineapple.  Swoon.

Now the waiter had suggested that we try their corn fritters but we were too full.  So when I returned last Friday for dinner with a couple of good pals, the first thing I did was order a plate.  Oh, dear friends AND enemies, get yourself there and buy some STAT.  Fresh fried-to-order, these pillowy soft blobs of dough are going to be my new carb loading favourite.  Imagine a savoury fresh doughnut.  Multiply that sense of satisfaction by 100 and serve it with an aioli.

This winter is shaping up to be a cold one and the only thing that’s keeping me from sobbing into my toque is knowing that La Cubana is here to give me that quick Cuban escape.

La Cubana on Urbanspoon

Our Spot: perfectly named breakfast joint in Kensington

16 Dec

There are a number of inventive brunch places in my neighbourhood – they are all a treat. And yet… sometimes I don’t want to make reservations, stand in line for 20 minutes before I eat or drop 30 dollars before noon on eggs on a Sunday – it can trigger almost as much regret as smelling booze when you are hungover. My first ever YYZ Gourmand post pondered if indulgent and expensive brunches were worth it.

Sometimes, all I want is a standard breakfast that will force me to get out of bed – and get my day started! – without eating up half of my week’s grocery money. When I lived in Ottawa, there was a perfect place that I would go to almost every weekend with my friend J – Atomic Rooster on Bank Street. It was perfect because the food was good, the staff was friendly and I would rarely spent more than 8 dollars or more than 5 minutes waiting for a table. It was the best hangover cure I’ve ever had, and I could be there in 10 minutes of my apartment. How’s that for motivation?

I saw Our Spot when I moved close to Kensington in September. Wondering how I had missed it before, I asked one of the owners, Demetra, how long they had been around. Turns out she and her husband took over the place in October. It so closely reminds me of Atomic Rooster in Ottawa, that I’m convinced I willed it into existence.

A view of Our Spot on a snowy Sunday

A view of Our Spot on a snowy Sunday

I went in again this Sunday – with the snow I knew that I would have to get out of my place if I didn’t want to hibernate all day. As I had the last time, I went alone and sat at the bar at the front that faces the street. As you can see in the photo, the window was steamed up, but it made going to brunch alone seem acceptable.

I knew what I wanted before I sat down: the “standard” breakfast (4.50$!!!!) with 3 eggs scrambled, brown bread and potatoes (instead of lentils), and iceberg lettuce salad with feta cheese. I added on bacon and tea (about 1.50$ each extra).

This is what motivated me to get out of bed on Sunday - and actually have a productive day!

What more do you really need? The service is fast and friendly – and the food hit the spot!

There are other things on their menu, but when I’m looking for a boost on a weekend morning, this is all I crave.

Looks like I’ve finally found the spirit of Atomic Rooster in YYZ: breakfast without a fuss that’s perfect to go with a closer friend or even alone.. and only a 10 min walk from my apartment!

I will be back to “Our Spot” soon. Who’s coming with?

I am being haunted by mediocre eggs! – Kalendar Brunch

14 May

So after having scrunched my nose at the egg-offerings of brunch in Steeltown, I now have to convey “ho-hum” to Kalandar’s breakfast.

The morning after a wedding in the city, my Hunk-of-Man (henceforth Mr. HoM) and I needed breakfast before we zoomed off to our respective Mother’s Day events. Our search proved somewhat challenging as I completely forgot that we’d be contending with the Brunch Crowd AND Mother’s Day revelers.

Our destination: College and Bathurst.

The clouds were grey and rain was imminent but we remain undeterred. We had a floppy/ half-broken umbrella to shield us from the elements. We had street parking and plenty of time. We made it to Kalendar just in time to beat the violent (freakish) hail storm!

The restaurant was jam packed with few families celebrating their mothers. Mostly, hipsters in dirty sweats looking like they had had a rough Saturday night. I remain aghast at what is considered kosher Sunday morning attire amongst twenty-somethings. Surely, one can run a comb through their hair?! I was already a little annoyed by how humid it was in the restaurant (probably all those hot unbathed bodies squashed into the tiny premises). And then, we were pushed out of the way by a couple who NEEDED a drink immediately and grabbed the recently vacated seats at the bar. (Of course, this couple was later seated right next to our table. They didn’t know what a mimosa was and the woman had deplorable table manners. She LITERALLY shovelled food into her mouth. It was gross!) So, Kalendar is cramped but it’s one of the things that makes it charming though not everyone knows how to be nice in such intimate settings.

Upon reflection, we ended up ordering variations of our Hamilton-dishes. Me: Eggs Napoleon (poached eggs with smoked salmon, spinach, onions and mushrooms with a honey dill cream sauce served on a croissant with a side of taters) and Mr. HoM: an omlette with italian fennel sausage, feta, onions, mushrooms & tomatoes. Mr. HoM is generally high maintenance and so upgraded his bread option to a croissant from toast. Both of us chose fresh-squeezed OJ as a bevy. Mr. HoM also ordered a coffee which was flavoured with nutmeg or something equally warm.

The dishes arrived beautifully assembled. A bounty of breakfast goodness.

My eggs (which I explicitly ordered medium) were only half prepared correctly. One egg was runny and the other veered towards hard. The dill sauce was a sweet complement to the salmon but made my croissant to0 soggy. Mr. HoM pointed out that it wasn’t really a croissant (which we decided needs to be flakier) but more of brioche shaped like a croissant. His omelette looked more appetizing and was indeed the more tasty option. The eggs were a vibrant yellow and the tomatoes brightened up the sausage et al in flavour and aesthetically.

Why am I being haunted by mediocre eggs?! Are they skipping this at chef school? Are kitchens not consulting their Joy of Cooking/ Julia Child/ Mark Bitmann before they approach their eggs? I don’t want to have to order simple breakfasts out – what’s the point of that?

Bad things come in threes SO who wants to prepare me mediocre eggs next so that I can change my breakfast luck!?

Steeltown Brunch

6 May

Hamilton is not know for the “finer things” in life. I know how impossibly condescending that sounds! When you tell people you live/ work/ play in Hamilton, they sneer or furrow their brow in bafflement. The city is widely misunderstood. In fact, having spent 5+ years living and enriching my mind there, I have seen that the city has a lot to offer and has so much potential: gripping landscapes, a thriving art community, as well as emerging food scene.

After working up an appetite touring sites (Dundurn Castle and CHCH studios) for Doors Open Hamilton, my Hunk-of-Man and I needed to refuel. The destination: Radius.* James Street South is a strange intersection of everything Hamilton has to offer: transportation hub, hospitals, path to the Mountain, independent restos, and affordable living. It used to be the case that food options in the area were scant: too expensive/ touristy brunches, GREASY spoons and pub food. Radius, a distinct addition, advertises itself as ” urban casual dining” in a comfortable and trendy setting.

According to the our lovely server, the resto opened in November and the cafe six months before. The decor features high ceilings with hammered tin tiles, glass tables (with tree trunk bases) and chandeliers. I remember the modest sandwich shop that stood there before so I was impressed with the change! From 10-3 on weekends, Radius offers a brunch menu: traditional fare (eggs benedict, french toast) as well as a choice of 3 different frittatas. One has the choice of potatoes, quinoia salad, or a fruit bowl as accompaniment with each brekkie option.

I wanted this place to be good. I needed this place to be good (I live for the Bread Bar but variety is the spice of life).

I ordered the Classic Eggs Benedict. Hunk-of-Man ordered the Frittata Italiano (Italian sausage, parmesan cheese, onions peppers and more!).

I always order EB because I love breaking the yellow yolk over the pink ham/ pea meal bacon and english muffin. I didn’t specify that I wanted my eggs medium. I usually note my preference but have found that most chefs prepare it that way so I decided to keep schtum this time. (Note: the menu also states that eggs are “soft boiled”) That decision proved costly as the eggs were over hard. *sad trombone* They weren’t hard boiled – the yolks were still orange in the center. I just didn’t get the satisfaction of sopping up the yolky mess with bread and potatoes. On Masterchef, one of the major challenges the home chefs must complete is to prepare 3 styles of eggs perfectly. That the resto is only serving brunch in the afternoons but failed to execute a simple poached egg properly is disappointing. *I* can make runny poached eggs at home!

The English Muffin had a tender and chewy texture. The Denninger’s bacon was mouthwateringly savoury! The potatoes were wonderfully crisp. In the end, I was only mildly annoyed.

My manfriend’s frittata was described as “okay”; a bit scant on salt and toppings. The smoked cheese was a pleasant surprise.

Hamilton has a special place in my heart and so I want to believe that this was a one-off bad plate. I would certainly return and try the cafe offerings. I am also certainly willing to give brunch another go before I write them off!!

* Radius tweets!

Radius Café + Urban Casual Dining on Urbanspoon