Tag Archives: food

You need a new coffee machine. Here’s some options: old and very very new

Sure, you can always go to places like the wirecutter to see their idea of what’s the best coffee maker machines for 2022. But let’s think outside the box by aiming for very old and very new.

Moka pots (like this one) are very old but still very good. If you agree, then head over to Bon Appetit for their idea of the the best moka pots. They have a really good range of options for you espresso lovers.

If you love espresso, but like something more futuristic, why not this?

You are looking at the xBloom coffee machine, now on Kickstarter! Pretty pretty fancy!

Lots of options for your new coffee maker. All you need now to do is a) decide on which one b) get some fresh beans.

P.S. If you want some really far out looking coffee devices to check out, click here.

What is good food? What is fine dining? These are things I considered while thinking about Michelin stars and eating pasta in Montreal

I’ve been thinking a lot about food since Michelin recently announced the awards given to restaurants in Toronto. When they announced the winners, I thought: how is it that I eat so much good food in Toronto and yet I have not gone to these places? Maybe I don’t know good food at all?

I thought about it more as I travelled to Montreal and ate on my trip. Two things I ate on my travels were pasta. This dish of pasta was part of a tasting menu at Cabaret L’Enfer on St. Denis.

And this was a dish of pasta I had while on the train from Toronto to Montreal:

The first pasta was good, as was the second. The first pasta was carefully handmade, precisely cooked, smartly accompanied with intensely flavoured sauces and extras and wine and finally presented artfully and with a detailed explanation. The second pasta was factory made, warmed up, accompanied with not bad wine and presented politely without much explanation. Given these differences, how can I say both were good? 

While the first pasta was excellent and superior to the second in many ways, the second pasta was still good. The second pasta’s temperature was neither too hot nor too cold, it had mild but pleasant flavours, and it fit in with a nice variety of other food. Eating it, I was reminded of all the meals I’ve enjoyed while travelling on planes and trains, and that made me think of all the joy I’ve had while travelling. I was hungry when it arrived, and afterwards I was pleasantly full. While it was not exquisite like the first pasta, it was far better than any of the other food I could have picked up at a train station. In this context, it was good — very good — and I was glad I had it.

While the first pasta was excellent, it was in no way filling. When combined with the overall meal I was no longer hungry, but it was not sufficient on its own to satisfy my hunger, nor was it meant to be. It did not remind me of other joys, though I enjoyed it. And while the overall meal was excellent, it was also very expensive. 

Perhaps food is very important to you, and any food that doesn’t approach Michelin level is not considered good by you. But to me, good food is dependent on context. A rich cheese is no good to someone who is lactose intolerant. A fine steak is undesirable to a vegan. Likewise, if you are famished, fast food you can have right now may be better than a rich stew that takes you hours to prepare. On a bitter cold day, a simple hot chocolate may taste better than the finest champagne. Or you may desire a chocolate chip cookie that reminds you of your mom’s cooking over a slice of gourmet cake. We eat with all of ourselves, and the more we bring of ourselves to the food we eat, the more good food becomes a matter of the individual who is eating it.

Good food is also dependent on qualities. The next time you are eating, think of all the textures and the tastes you are experiencing. Think of the temperature and the toughness, the sourness and the saltiness and the softness. How does it look in front of you? What are the colours? How hard is it to make? How easy is it to eat? What do you think when you are eating it? How do you feel right after you swallow it? Or an hour later? All those thoughts and feelings that you have will help you to better appreciate your food and its qualities. It will help you realize what is good food — to you — and what is not. It will make you appreciate fine dining, whether it is in a beautiful restaurant or eating at a cafe counter or on a picnic blanket. 

Michelin stars do not solely define good food or fine dining. Only you, the individual, can do that. Bon appetit. 

Friday (French) Food for You in September 2022

I love French food, both cooking it and eating it. If you feel the same and you want to get into doing more French cooking, why not start with these recipes from Chatelaine? I recommend them. Especially, I am a big fan of their coq au vin blanc, shown above. I’ve made it a few times and each time it comes out well.

If you find the idea of making French food daunting, fear not. Here are some easy French Bistro Recipes to start with. That said, the ones in Chatelaine are not hard. Either way, you have no excuse not to start due to difficulty.

If you are feeling more ambitious, here are the best classic French dishes according to chefs, via Food & Wine. Some of those will challenge you.

Mind you, even dishes that are considered laborious can be made without too much of a fuss. For example, here’s how to make Cassoulet at home the easy way in under an hour. Traditional? No. Delicious? For sure.

Maybe you just want to skip making it and go to France and have others make it. If so, see this:Restaurants, hotels and bars in Paris and across France.

Finally, here’s a man many associate with French cooking, Jacques Pepin. That link takes you to a good piece on him talking about French food, cars, and more.

On the great Billy Munnelly and what he can still teach us about buying wine at the LCBO in 2022


Since the 1980s I’ve been getting expert advice from Billy on how to buy wine at the LCBO. So I was shocked to see he had moved away and he won’t be offering LCBO wine buying tips anymore. It’s great for him, but not so great for folks looking to know what to buy and what to avoid at the LCBO.

But here’s a tip. Go to his blog Billy’s Best Bottles, and with a pen and paper take notes on what wines he likes and what he likes about them. Do you feel like a good summer wine? He has posts on them. Do you feel like a good bistro red to go with your steak frites? He has a wine for that! It doesn’t matter too much about the year (most of the time). Go and seek out those wines he recommends. The prices will have gone up, but most times the quality will be consistent year over year.

There are wines from the 80s he recommended that are still good and recommended today. (I know because I’ve been drinking them all this time.) There are many newer and better ones since then: the LCBO has improved considerably in the last few decades. There is still lots of not so great wine, though, and Billy can help you avoid those.

There are a great many people writing about wine at the LCBO these days. But back in the 1980s such info was rare. Billy had put out a small comic book back then on how to buy wine at the LCBO, and it was my mainstay for many years whenever I needed something for dinner or a special occasion. He eventually moved to the web like the rest of us, but the spirit of that little comic book lives on at Billy’s Best Bottles, Go check it out, then go get some wine.

 

Friday Night Cocktail: forget (Dirty) Shirley, go with Tom (Collins)

Sure sure, the Dirty Shirley is the cocktail du jour, and everyone seems to have dumped their espresso martinis and gone on to chug these instead. My attitude is the same as The Washington Post…so here’s their recipe for a Dirty Shirley cocktail — if you just have to try one.

That out of the way, let’s go with a classic. As the Manual says,

For a drink that has its own glass, you’d think the Tom Collins would be even more popular. It’s a classic, without a shadow of a doubt, but many imbibers don’t exactly know how to whip one up, let alone perfect it.

Sounds just right. If you agree, head on over to the Manual for their guide on How to Make the Finest Tom Collins Cocktail. You’ll be glad you did.

(Image via The Manual)

On restaurants loved and lost: Mike’s Lunch in Glace Bay

It doesn’t look like much. Only that Teem sign on the right tells you that this is the location of the famous Mike’s Lunch of Glace Bay. It had a good run of 109 years in various locations in my hometown before closing in 2019.  It was one of my favorite restaurants in the whole world, and it was the first place I went and dined by myself as a young man.

Back when I was young, it was located on Commercial Street in a little galley type restaurant. It had a counter in the middle where you ate, while pinball machines lined the walls behind you and the cooking was done in front of you. In the summer I would sit next to the open door and look out at the beautiful house across the street (the only house left on Commercial Street). I can remember the sunshine and the warmth and the joy of sitting there while I waited for my food. While many diners had the famous fish and chips, my meal of choice was the Club Sandwich. Toasty bread and toothpicks held together chunks of turkey, crispy bacon, lettuce and mayo. Mine was completed with hot french fries coated with gravy and ketchup and accompanied by an ice cold Coca-Cola. To this day it is still one of the best meals I ever had.

Years later Mike’s Lunch moved to a nicer space in the Sterling. The pinball machines never made the transition, but it still had a counter. It also had nice tables and booths and friendly waitresses. I never failed to go any time I visited Glace Bay, often more than once a visit. I don’t know how, but no matter how long I had been away, when I returned they always remembered me. And the club sandwiches were as good when I was 50 as they were when I was 15. No wonder we all loved it.

I miss Glace Bay for many reasons: the Chip Wagon, Venice Pizzeria, and Colette’s, to name a few great places. But of all the places I miss, I miss Mike’s Lunch the most. Thank you Mike’s Lunch for all the great meals and great times I’ve had there. I have been to many great restaurants over the years, but if I could walk through the doors of any one of them one last time, it would be yours.

Bonus: footage of Commercial St in 1988. The town changed over time, but this is how I remember it growing up. By this point Mike’s Lunch had already moved to the Sterling. Teddy’s (or as this video called it, The Greasy Spoon, and a similar restaurant to Mike’s) was still there.

Friday Night Cocktail: the Paloma

Why the paloma? Well, as Food52 explains, it’s a great drink to welcome the weekend with, especially their version, which is a

… fresh ‘n’ fruity riff on the classic Paloma: fragrant basil syrup, watermelon and lime juice, and Patrón Reposado (it’s sponsored  -b :)). Finish the cocktail with a pour of grapefruit soda, and don’t forget the fresh basil garnish (an optional, but delightful detail).

Sound good? If you want the traditional version, here’s Bon Appétit’s take on that: Paloma.

Last but never least, Liquor.com has lots of versions of the drink, as you can see by that link.

(Image: liquor.com)

The great Starbucks retreat

For most of the pandemic, food/bev businesses worked hard to hang on and last through this period. Not Starbucks. They did the opposite. As soon as they could, it seems they shut down their locations. Locations that had barely been open a few years were shuttered. Even this location above, on Eglinton Avenue just east of Yonge in Toronto closed up despite a steady flow of customers even during the pandemic. 

Apparently at the start of the pandemic their goal was to close 400 stores over 18 months.  I would not be surprised if more than that closed. 

I wonder what the fallout for all this will be? One thing for sure, the idea of getting Starbucks as a tenant will likely lose its lustre when they do come back and want to expand. Then again, given that people are reluctant to go back to the office, that expansion could take some time.

Beef and chicken and pork, oh my. (My cooking interests for December to May, 2022


Yikes! Another too many months have slipped by since I last did one of these. October, February and now May has passed! I have a ton of good recipes and food links to share, so let’s get at it!  🙂

Beef: grilling season will be upon us, and smash burgers are all the rage, so make some advice on how to make those. Perhaps you prefer a steak? Here’s how to Reverse Sear Steak to get THE best result. If you just want a bit of beef, try these Garlic-Butter Steak Bites or this, Easy Beef Cube Steak With Onions and Mushrooms. If you prefer something fancy, go for this, Beef Wellington Recipe or Ossobuco alla Milanese Recipe/. Love them!

Pork: prefer pork? Then how about this recipe for juicy pork chops or this one for spinach mushroom pork chops? Pork Chops with Sherry Pan Sauce with Ras Al Hanout sounds exceptional. Pork schnitzel is also great. Here’s two recipes: Pork Schnitzel with Warm Potato Salad Recipe and this one.

There are so many ways to enjoy pork, from Grilled Korean-Style Short Ribs  to 11 Best Pork Shoulder Recipes. Or just make bacon. Anyway you like it, pork is perfect.

Chicken: how about the other white meat? Here’s how to make exceptional grilled chicken from smitten kitchen. For something a bit spicy, try Chicken Thighs with Burst Tomatoes Harissa and Feta or Nigella’s Slow-Cooker Moroccan Chicken Stew. You can’t go wrong with Chicken Piccata or this pairing of  Chicken Cutlets & Roasted Asparagus. Chicken Quesadillas? Why yes. Or for something you likely haven’t made yet but should, do this, Poul Nan Sos (Haitian Chicken in Sauce, seen below).

Soup/Salad:  Let’s move on to something lighter still, but still tasty. Basque Garlic Soup and Healing Garlic Tonic Soup can both meet that criteria. As can Zuppa Toscana. Go here if you want to learn How to Make Better Soups in general.

Pair up those soups with Roasted Citrus Beet Salad with Goat Cheese or Arugula Salad with Pears and Goat Cheese or the famous Jennifer Aniston salad.

Here’s some more salad goodness from Food and Wine: Yogurt Salad Dressing Recipes and You’re Not Adding Enough Vinegar to Your Vinaigrette.

One pot/sheet pan/slow cook:  these are three ways I love to cook. For example, one pot Greek Turkey and Rice Skillet and One pot puttanesca are both good. As for sheet pan recipes, try Sheet Pan Breakfast, Easy Sheet Pan Beef Skirt Steak Fajitas Recipe, Sheet Pan Roasted Vegetables and Chickpeas Bowl Recipe, Sheet Pan Italian Sausage Bean And Tomato Tray Bake, or Sheet Pan Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Arugula.

Slow cookers are actually great when the weather gets warm. Try these out:  Slow-Cooker Coffee-Braised Brisket With Potatoes and Carrot, Slow-Cooker Tuscan Pot Roast Recipe, Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Shoulder, Slow-Cooker Asian Short Ribs, 4-Ingredient Slow Cooker Cola Chicken, or finally Lazy Crock Pot Chicken With Mushrooms.

Casseroles/dump dinners: I’ve been on a kick to make dinners easier, so I’ve been trying making more casseroles and other easy dishes. Here’s what I found: 6 Easy Steps to a Customizable Casserole  by Mark Bittman, Sauces vs. Soups for Casseroles, French onion macaroni and cheese recipe, Easy one-pan lasagna recipe,  and Modern Tuna Casserole. Related, here are the Easiest-Ever Dump Dinners and Chicken Tortilla Dump Dinner.

Cuisines (French, English, Eastern Europe, India): if you find yourself in the mood for something in particular, try these ideas from France: Pate en croute, How to Make Terrine Easy and Simply or La Buvette Terrine. Two sources of UK dining are roast dinners in the UK and UK food. From Eastern Europe, we have Pierogi Ruskie: Potato-Cheese Pierogi, Polish Potato Pancakes (Placki Ziemniaczane), Goulash and Eastern European Main Dish Recipes. Last but not least, Green-Lentil Curry Recipe from the great Madhur Jaffrey.

Sauces: here’s some sauces I like: Peruvian Green Sauce Recipe,  Simple and Delicious Homemade Brown Gravy,  Aioli, and Garlic Sage Brown Butter Sauce.

Pastry: If you want something sweet, try chocolate puddle cakes, Fast Easy Simple Everyday Basic Biscuits, Apple and walnut crumble, or Jumbleberry Crumble also look good.

In addition: none of these fell into a proper category but all are worthwhile, including this recipe for Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Frittata, Lamb Loin Chops with Red Wine Pan Sauce with Cumin and Chiles, and homemade merguez with herby yogurt.

Finally: Here’s some pantry ideas, plus these 31 Underrated Pantry Staples Every Home Cook Should Have.  Here’s how to Convert a 9×13 Recipe to 8×8. .  Here’s why ultra-processed foods have a calorie problem.  Here’s 31 Underrated Pantry Staples Every Home Cook Should Have.  Here’s The 20 Recipes BA Readers Love the Most.  Here’s a list 51 Valentine’s Dinner Ideas for Romantic Rendezvous and Date Nights at Home.  A good piece on Good cheap food. .  If you want to know the What’s the Difference Between Pastrami & Corned Beef? click there.  If you need to know how to light a Charcoal Grill click there.  This is a list of things to move out your fridgeThis is a fine piece on why Appalachia Doesn’t Need Saving It Needs Respect in terms of food.  For fans of Summerlicious 2022.   More pantry ideas . (I should have grouped these.)   On the indispensable rotisserie chickens.  On The Michelin controversy in Toronto.  How to Fry an Egg…Good advice.  Also good advice: Cook well spend less.  This was thought provoking: Who killed the great British curry house?   This was fascinating: Michelangelo’s shopping List.   If you want: Dry-Age Your Meats at Home.  Once the Bon Appetit test kitchen was flying high. Now we have people writing pieces on how their staff (Brad Leone) are causing people to get food poisoning.  Here’s a piece on the creator of fish and chips.  Here’s how to make a Toronto cocktail.

Allright: let’s go grocery shopping! (That’s Michelangelo’s list below.)

(Top image: theculinarycook.com. Bottom from Atlas Obscura)

Friday night cocktail: a formula to make your own

Tonight you can be your own mixologist by heading over to the Food & Wine web site and reading this article: How to Make Classic Cocktails Without Looking Up a Recipe. Think about what you want: bitter, boozy, bubbly, tart,  or fizzy. Then use their ratios to make something new! If it’s good, name it after yourself and make one for your friends.

Worse case, you toss it out and head over to Liquor.com and make something they recommend (they have everything).

Cheers!

P.S. Hat tip to Dana McCauley who tweeted this.

Friday night cocktail: the negroni. A classic

I’ve become enamored with negronis these days! The 5 pound negronis at Brutto sealed the deal. The crimson cocktail has pushed aside a martini as my go to cocktail (though I still love a good martini, and a sazerac, and a G&T on hot days, and French 75s let’s not forget them).

The recipe for a negroni couldn’t be simpler:

  • 1 ounce gin
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 1 ounce sweet vermouth
  • Garnish: orange peel

For me, the garnish really makes a difference. That hint of orange. As does having it ice cold on the rocks. Delicious.

Over at uncrate they have more to say on it, based on this book:

It’s an easy drink to start a love affair with. Thanks to Brutto and the Art Counsel for that!

(Top image is mine: I took it at Brutto. Second image from a link to uncreate. Recipe from liquor.com)

Coffee tourism: why coffee lovers should visit Toronto (and Torontonians should go to College St.)


For many years I’ve actually visited places partially because of my love of coffee. Really! I went to Vienna where the coffee was amazing and Costa Rica where it was less so*. I am sure there are many people like me who make good coffee a reason to visit a place.

If you are one of those coffee lovers, I recommend you visit Toronto. Just one street alone, College Street, has a wealth of diverse coffee shops to make you happy.

To see what I mean, read this: Toronto’s College Street is a destination for global coffee | The Star. Not only are there many great coffee shops, but they serve a wide range of coffees, from Italian to Vietnamese.

I live here, but I might act like a visitor and do a College Coffee Run soon. Meanwhile I will satisfy my need for great coffee at De Mello near me. (Coffee lovers, go there too.)

* Costa Rica fans, take note. Costa Rica exports amazingly good coffee in my opinion. I just couldn’t seem to find it there. Fortunately there was so much beauty everywhere, I didn’t mind too much.

Friday night cocktail: the white negroni (with thoughts on Brutto’s £5 negronis)

I’ve been enjoying negronis lately. If you have a chance to dine at Brutto’s in London like I did this month, you can even enjoy one of their £5 negronis at the start of your meal.

A classic negroni is a fine drink. If you want something unique, why not make this version? Like the classic, this one is also simple but delicious. See uncrate for the recipe.

P.S. New restaurants, if you want to get people into your place, be like Brutto and offer a small and low cost cocktail as a starter. You’ll get people talking about your place. “Did you hear X has a cheap Y cocktail?!” And you’ll get people who may never order a cocktail getting one because it is small. And small cocktails are good because people finish them fast and don’t feel rushed when the food comes out. Win win.

In praise of non-fancy French restaurants

When I used to think of French restaurants, I used to think “fancy”. Restaurants  with nice table cloths, great lighting, complex dishes, and high prices. Places like  Le Bernardin, Bouillon Bilk, Place Carmen, Maison (S.C.) and more. All fancy, all great and I love them.

While fancy French restaurants are good, I am here to praise non-fancy French restaurants. Restaurants  with basic settings, everyday lighting, simple dishes (often bistro style), and relatively low prices. Sure, the cooking might not be as fancy, but it is still good and it satisfies the need I have for steak frites, moules, pate, croque monsieur, duck confit and inexpensive French wines.

I’ve been fortunate to go to many such places and have loved them. In London last week, I had charcuterie (shown above) at Le Beaujolais. A few weeks earlier I devoured a fine lunch at Fast and French in Charleston. Whenever I am in  Montreal I try and dine at the justifiably famous L’Express. Closer to home, I’m a decade long diner of  Le Paradis and for good reason. Finally, one of my all time favorite places to dine in Toronto is Cote du Boeuf. I was delighted this weekend to savour their oysters, pate, steak frites and duck confit. Fantastic.

There are lots of inexpensive restaurants that serve great Italian and Indian and Chinese and Vietnamese cooking. I love them. I wish there were as many places as those serving everyday French cooking. That would be heaven for me.

Let me know your favorite non-fancy French restaurants. I will add them to my list.

P.S. If you go to Le Beaujolais, get that charcuterie. You will need at least 3 hungry diners. At Fast and French, get the soup and sandwich and wine combo: it’s incredible value. L’express has too many good dishes to mention, but I love the ravioli, though many are big fans of the bone marrow. Le Paradis has great shellfish. Also cheap cocktails: I love their sazerac. The meat at Cote du Boeuf is incredibly good. I try to order many things there, but the steak frites is irresistable.

 

 

I’m in a New York state of mind…

…So I decided to share these links I’ve been collecting that all relate to that great city:

  • The 212 is all about “revisiting New York institutions that have defined cool for decades, from time-honored restaurants to unsung dives.” New York is always NEW, but old New York is great and continues to be for good reason.
  • Finally a fashion legend passed away recently. RIP Andre Leon Talley. Here he is photographed through the years by another fashion legend, Bill Cunningham:  Andre by Bill

Soups! Salads! Oysters! And more. My cooking interests for February, 2022


Well, I have not done one of these since October! You’d think I have stopped cooking! Hardly. I have been cooking a lot. Thanks, Pandemic! 🙂

Some of things below have already been through my kitchen; others have still to make it. All are good. So dig in!

Soup, salad and veg: winter is a great time for soups, and here are some I’ve been making or wanting to make. This Turmeric-Ginger Chicken Soup from Claire Saffitz at Bon Appetit is amazing. Highly recommend it. (Shown above.) Also delicious is this Italian Sausage Tortellini Soup… super hardy that one. If you love sausage in your soup, then there’s Christmas Sausage and Kale Soup Recipe (not just for Christmas). If you want to riff a bit on your soup, then read this: If You’ve Got a Can of Coconut Milk and a Pound of Vegetables You’ve Got Soup. Coconut milk makes any soup rich and creamy. Still into soup? Check out this: 25 Easy Soup Recipes For When You Need a Hot Soup Facial Stat. Do you remember the story of Stone Soup? I do. It really struck me as a kid. What Stone Soup Means to a Seasoned Chef is a great piece on that story. No one writes better about food than Gabrielle Hamilton.

What goes great with soup? Salad! I love a good chopped salad like this: nancy’s chopped salad. Wedge salads are also great. The twist with this one is the use of cabbage. Try it: Napa Cabbage Wedge With Sesame Ranch. Got a bunch of greens? Here’s two great dressings you can put on them and so many different veg too: Greek Salad Dressing and Creamy Herb Dressing.

Speaking of veg, one of my favorites is the humble potato. Here’s two ways to make it less humble: Greek-Style Lemon Roasted Potatoes and Perfect Oven-Roasted Potatoes. The first one goes great with lamb and other Greek foods, while the second one is ideal with roast chicken.

Winter is stew time, so here’s two to cook up this month: Martha’s Hearty Vegetable Stew and Martha’s One-Pot Quick Vegetable and Navy-Bean Stew. Thanks, Martha! Wait, you want more stew?  Try Martha’s Cannellini-Bean and Greens Stew. Easy.

I love a good one pot meal. If you do too, then here’s  14 One-Pot Vegetarian Recipes That Keep Effort to a Minimum.

I am eating lots of gnocchi these days, and this has been one way I enjoyed it: Crispy Pan Fried Gnocchi w/ Brussels Sprouts. I’ve been eating more spinach too. Here’s 3 Reasons Why You Should Be Eating More of This Superfood. Maybe you want to grow your own veg to eat. If so, read this and get going: Plant fast-growing vegetables for a homegrown harvest in six weeks or less.

Fish: one of my favorite types of fish is squid. Here’s two ways to try them from Food and Wine that I thought looked good: Salt-and-Pepper Squid with Chinese Five-Spice Powder and Squid and Black-Eyed Pea Salad. I’ve loved squid for a long time. Recently I’ve developed a love for oysters. I loved this deep dive on them: What Are the Differences Between East and West Coast Oysters?. While you read that, make this pantry classic: Salmon cakes with green beans.

Noodles: if you love pantry dishes, here are two you may want to try, Singapore Noodles and Coconut Curry Ramen. Very slurpable.  And this dish has become a social media darling recently:  Easy Chili Garlic Oil Noodles.

Salt and Lavender: S&L is not a recipe, but a web site. I have been enjoying cooking many of the recipes there. One thing I love about their recipes is how much they embrace cream! Give the web site a visit. So many good rich dinners, perfect for winter. Here’s two recipes from it to give you a sense of what it’s like: Mushroom Stroganoff and Easy Smothered Pork Chops and Gravy. Break out the heavy cream and enjoy!

Chicken: I have been making a ton of chicken recently. More than what is represented here. These are some I wanted to try:

Beef: unlike chicken, I have been making less beef lately. Which is weird because I tend to make it more in the winter. I still love beef, and I’d love to try some of these. Some are fancy, some are basic:

And more: These oddballs don’t fit any easy classification, but you want to see them:

Stories about food: I loved this story, Newcomer from India teaches Cape Bretoners to cook with underused food bank items.  This is fascinating: The Humble Beginnings of Today’s Culinary Delicacies. Finally, two famous food people I follow but for very different reasons: Alison Roman (Alison Roman Just Can’t Help Herself) and Jacques Pepin (6 Best Jacques Pepin Recipes to Celebrate His 86th Birthday).

Thanks for reading all this. As my buddy Jacques says: Happy Cooking!

(Image is a link to Bon Appetit)

Friday night cocktail: the Penicillin

What could be a more appropriate cocktail for a pandemic than the penicillin? Medicinal it may not be, but it’s a perfect mix to get you through a wintry Friday. Uncrate has the prescription, here: Penicillin Cocktail Recipe | Uncrate

Some thoughts on wine in Ontario after shopping for it in the US

Recently I have spent some time in Charleston, S.C. and enjoying many things about that city, including their wine options. These options have given me some insight into wine options in Ontario and has reshaped my thinking of what I am getting.

Before the pandemic, the  way I bought wine was through the LCBO. If I wanted something special, I’d buy it from LCBO’s Vintages section vs the general section. When the pandemic hit, I could buy wine from nearby restaurants as well as other local distributors.  I was glad to have wines options that were varied and weren’t too expensive.

However, as restaurants have been allowed to open,  I’ve noticed their bottle prices outside the LCBO have increased. During the pandemic, I could find such wines for 20-40 dollars easily. Now the prices have all shot back up to what you pay in a restaurant. That may be good for the restaurants, but it’s disappointing for me.

That’s Ontario. Really, Toronto. In contrast, when in Charleston I could visit a number of wine shops that had lots of great wine around $20. Even with exchange rates, that was good. And these shops were as common as LCBOs in Toronto.

The other thing I noticed was that much of the US wine in the Vintages section of the LCBO is “supermarket” wine. I was under the impression that American wine in the LCBO was hard to find wine, but really it is stuff you can find in any store.

That got me thinking: is most of the wine in Vintages simply basic wine made everywhere in the world? Perhaps it is. That doesn’t make it bad: it just makes it everyday.

I think the LCBO still has a great selection in many ways. But I also wish there was another retail option like those in Charleston where I could get small scale wine that is good and affordable.

 

How to easily buy wine as a gift at the LCBO


You want to buy wine for a gift at the LCBO. Maybe you know nothing about wine. Maybe you only know a little bit. Unless you know a lot, here’s what I recommend. It’s simple.

Go into your local LCBO. Ask for where the Wines of the Month are. Buy as many of those as your budget allows. That’s it.

You can also go to the web site and look for Vintages New Releases. Once on that page, look for Explore our featured products and click on it. Then look for Wines of the Month. Easy peasy.

What’s great about this is you can be sure those wines are very good and carefully selected by staff at the LCBO. Not only that, but most of the time they are around twenty bucks. Want to spent $40? Buy two bottles.  If you want to spend over a $100, you can consider getting a half case or more. Or mix in a bottle of champagne: you can’t go wrong with that.

If you know what the person likes, then you can buy that. If you know wine, then you should pick what you think is best. Otherwise, follow this and you won’t go wrong.

 

Friday night (festive) cocktails: the negroni*


You might exclaim: Bernie, a negroni is not a festive cocktail! True, by itself it’s a classic cocktail, good year round. But if you riff on it, like Food52 has done here,
Winter Negroni Recipes for the Holidays, then it becomes a drink to have at this time of year. A perfect sip while wrapping presents or watching holiday specials.

For more on their apple negroni and mulled wine negroni, click on that link.

 

In praise of French Press coffee


For the last month I’ve been drinking coffee prepared in a French press and I’m enjoying it immensely. Based on this, I am not the only one: The Best Ways To Make Coffee, According To Our Editors in Chatelaine. While there are a few ways they like to make their coffee, the French press came up a number of times. I’m not surprised.  While I love drip coffee makers, the press makes a satisfyingly strong brew and may convince me to make it my main way to intake caffeine in the morning.

If you want to get one but not sure how to go about using it, Illy has good advice here.

(Photo by Ivan Calderon on Unsplash )

On pop-up restaurants

During the pandemic there was a number of great pop-up restaurants that appeared in my neighborhood. Perhaps yours too. It was one of the few good things during all the lockdowns. I was especially glad to wander down to the Dai-lo popup on Yonge near Davisville that served a small menu (4-6 items) of delicious Asian food in a coffee shop that was available for them in the evenings. Sadly, it’s gone now, but it was great while it lasted.

A good story on what it’s like to run such a place is here:  The Promise and Perils of Running a Pop Up Restaurant | Bon Appétit

Well worth reading, especially if you love pop-ups or thought of running your own. My naive self thinks: oh, it would be fun to have such a place. I have just enough sense to know it might be fun, but it would not be a lark and it would definitely be a lot of hard work to be successful.

(Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash who is available for hire)

With the pandemic still going on, is it time for dinner parties again? If it is, consider this

It must be time for dinner parties again, pandemic be damned, because Bon Appétit had a bunch of pieces on the topic recently:

Now if you thinking of throwing a dinner party soon, those are worth reading. That said, lord they do overthink a dinner party. Rules! Playlists! Cultural relevance! I mean….

For what it’s worth, if you haven’t had people over for dinner in some time, the KISS principle applies (Keep It Simple, Stupid). If you need rules, here are some low stress ones:

  • invite people you know well and who you are comfortable with. Not too many.
  • know what they can and can’t eat.
  • pick dishes that they can eat and you can make in your sleep.
  • have people help you.
  • have as much of it prepared ahead of time as you can.
  • have a variety of food so that if someone doesn’t care too much for something, they can still fill their eat enough.
  • have a dessert if you can. It leaves people with a nice impression. Plus it is great for people who are still hungry.
  • have some appetizers if you can. It lets you buy time with early guests and hungry guests.

Ugh. Too many rules. Remember: it’s just dinner! People need to eat! Give them food! That’s it!

Unlike Bon Appétit, the blog Cup of Jo has the right approach to low key dinner parties. Two pieces of theirs I liked were:

And if you are still stressed by things, then make yourself throw a “crappy dinner party”. It’s zero pressure and 100% enjoyment.

If you want to read more about dinner parties, I wrote a ton of things and you can get them here.

(Photo is of the Canadian Thanksgiving dinner party in 2021 in Charleston, S.C. I broke some of my own rules but hey, rules are made to be broken. 🙂 )

How to go vegan gradually (or at least become a reducetarian)

The irony is not lost upon me that yesterday I was blogging about Thanksgiving and now I am blogging about this topic.** But hear me out! This is a good piece on transitioning to being a vegan. I know two things: it’s not easy for some people (like me) to become vegan, but becoming more so is a good thing in many ways. At the very least you become a reducetarian and that’s not bad.

For more on reducetarianism, see this piece.

Good eating and good health to you.

(** In my defense, there was a vegetarian menu in that piece, and there was a wealth of meat and dairy free recipes in there. :))

(Photo by Dose Juice on Unsplash )

It’s Canadian thanksgiving. If you have no idea what to cook, Chatelaine has your back

First off, Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers celebrating. If you are wondering what to make, not only does Chatelaine have a ton of recipes for you, but they have some great menus for you too. All here ==> 8 Easy Thanksgiving Menus, Including An Under-4-Hour Feast | Chatelaine.

They have a menu for everyone:

  1. A Thanksgiving dinner in under 4 hours
  2. Their All-Time Favourite Thanksgiving Recipes
  3. a Vegetarian Thanksgiving
  4. a Rustic Thanksgiving
  5. a Modern Thanksgiving
  6. a 1-hour Thanksgiving for 4
  7. a Roast chicken Thanksgiving
  8. and a Classic Thanksgiving

So if you have always wanted to do a full on proper Thanksgiving meal, now you have lots of options to choose from.

This year I’m going to do their turkey recipe with gravy (with a dry brine), their brown butter green beans, their yukon gold mashed potatoes, the fig and radicchio salad, chestnut and sausage stuffing, and the chocolate-bourbon pecan pie. (I’m also sliding Alison Roman’s Harissa and maple roast carrots in there too because why not. And canned cranberries because I just love them! 🙂 Eat what you love.)

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

(Photo is not my meal but close! I took this from Chatelaine).

BBQ is over! :) It’s time for autumn cooking. (My cooking interests for early Fall, 2021 )


If you are thinking: Bernie, I could really use some good recipes to cook this fall, can you help me? Why yes, I think I can. (I even have some grilling recipes because hey, keep BBQing if it makes you happy.) Here’s my fall list of food links (mostly recipes) I’ve found interesting and that I think you will find interesting too!

Recipes

Fish: first up, here’s a feast of fish recipes. I love clams, and I want to make this: Clams with chili and limes. Speaking of fish with citrus, try this: Citrus Shrimp Rice Bowls. If you are still grilling: This Fish Is Sustainable Cheap and Delicious on the Grill. Or maybe you want to roast: Roast Fish with Cannellini Beans and Green Olives. Do you like cod? If so, here are two for you: Rice Bowls with Flaky Cod and Green Seasoning Baked Cod. Back to shellfish with Quick Calamari With Garlic Mayonnaise  and Spicy Garlic Lemon Butter Shrimp with Parmesan Corn Polenta. Finally, this sounds fun if you want something sushi-like: DIY Hand Rolls Are My Last-Minute Dinner Party Savior. And this is worth a look: The Best Fish Cakes.

Vegetables: when you want carbs and veg: Greens and Beans with Fried Bread. This sound delicious: Vietnamese Tomato Salad. How about some dishes with emulsions? Here’s Carrot and Beet Salad with Scallion Emulsion or Roasted Red Pepper Emulsion. Or how about soups? This sounds amazing: This Lentil Soup Is So Good One Nurse Has Eaten It for Lunch Every Workday for 17 Years  and this sounds classic: make Any Vegetable Soup. If you need dips: Make a Ton of Impressive Dips With This Simple Formula. Or chickpeas: Warm Chickpea Bowls with Lemony Yogurt. Feeling like beans? Here’s 12 Easy Ways to Cook a Can of Cannellini Beans. If you are still grilling: Grilled Mushrooms and Carrots with Sesame. Maybe you are using the oven again…then make Sheet-Pan Ratatouille.  Or bake a pie: Golden Root Vegetable Potpie close. Put your kimchi to work with Kimchi-Fried Grains. Or your last summer tomatoes: rice-stuffed tomatoes.

Chicken: sticking with the lighter items, let’s move to chicken. Here’s a fantastic and varied list of chicken dishes: Chicken Braised in Lime and Peanut Sauce,  Chicken Schnitzel with Crunchy Salad (read this too:  The BA Sandwich Primer: Saltie), Stir-Fried Noodles With Chicken, Coq au Riesling, Curry-Poached Chicken with Rice and Scallions and finally Peperoncini Chicken.

Pasta/Noodles/Grains: are an excellent trio. Let’s start with gnocchi…I highly recommend this: Five Delicious Reasons to Always Have Gnocchi in Your Pantry. I also keep wanting to make these noodles, so I want to try one of these: Dan Dan Noodles, or this (it’s different) Dan Dan Noodles. Pasta Aglio e Olio Gets a Plus One is good for fans of it. Here’s a simple pasta dish: Macaroni and Peas Is the Desperation Meal That Always Satisfies. As is this: Pasta with Sausage and Arugula. Maybe you want to make your own pasta: Make Pasta From Scratch with Two Ingredients. Kudos to you!

What else? If none of those catch your fancy, what about you try this: Make This Pork Roast on Sunday Eat Well All Week Long. Or make this and have them on standby: 4 Homemade Spice Blends That’ll Level-Up Your Meals. This sounds amazing: Burnt Orange and Coriander Roast Pork. Same with this:  Maple Chicken ‘N’ Ribs. Finally there’s Lamb Meatballs With Pecan Romesco and .the Absolute Best Way to Cook French Fries According to So Many Tests.

Lists: I always come across lists of food more and more each month. These are some good ones:

  1. 45 Healthy Dinner Recipes for Low-Stress Weeknights.
  2. 9 Martha Stewart Recipes We Can’t Stop Making from One-Pan Pasta to Slab Pie.
  3. 30 Refreshing Slaw Recipes for Summer.
  4. 29 Healthyish Chickpea Recipes Here for Your Weeknight Dinners.
  5. These 81 Easy Pasta Recipes Are Your Weeknight-Dinner Saviors.
  6. Our 11 Best Summer Sangrias Including One With Rose.
  7. 30 Juicy Pork Chop Recipes for Easy Weeknight Dinners.
  8. 18 Classic French Appetizers.
  9. 9 Ways To Use Up Overripe Fruit.
  10. Arugula Salad With Shaved Parmesan Three Ways

Not recipes, but interesting: 

For steak lovers, here’s:  Cuts Of Steak Ranked From Worst To Best. For fans of budget cooking like me:  The Healthyish Guide to Low-Waste Cooking. You might ask: Why Do American Grocery Stores Still Have an Ethnic Aisle? Why indeed. Is American BBQ ethnic. I dunno, but here are two good pieces on American barbeque:  The Evolution of American Barbecue and  The media has erased the long history of Black barbecue skewing our understanding. As you know, fermented food is hot:  How Fermented Foods May Alter Your Microbiome and Improve Your Health. Finally, this was excellent:  Chez Panisse reimagined the way we eat. After 50 years is that enough?.

Happy cooking!

On restaurants loved and lost: Cafe Cancan


I can’t remember how I came across Cafe Cancan on Harbord Street, Toronto, but once I did, I couldn’t wait to go back. I love French food, and their menu was full on French. They had classic dishes, but there were also innovative ways of cooking that felt both new and traditional at the same time. I wanted it all.

One of the things great about Cancan was their prix fixe. It was reasonably priced and extensive. You’d order and sit back while the servers brought out dish after dish of delicious food. Even better were all the extras. You might believe you would get five dishes with the prix fixe and you would end up with 7 or 8. Plus you would get an amuse bouche when you sat down and once while settled in at the bar they brought me a little additional sweet at the end of the meal. I felt pampered everytime.

The restaurant itself was a gem. The tables were fine, but it was equally fun to sit at the bar. What was especially great was sitting on the back patio during the warmer months. Whenever I was sitting there I wanted to stay all night.

The wine was always good, and they had Tawse rose on tap for cheap. Oysters were plentiful too, but even here they would come up with innovative mignonettes to make them extra special.

Sadly the pandemic hit it hard, as it hit other restaurants. In the first summer they opened but the menu was very different. Now they are gone.

It seems like a new place that is going to open that is related to Piano Piano. I am sure it is going to be good. But I am going to really miss that lovely pastel French restaurant on Harbord. I had so many lovely meals with lovely people on one of my favorite streets of this city of mine.

(Images from the articles in BlogTo linked to here).

Friday night cocktail: tonight’s is actually a mocktail.


While cocktails are great, it is good to see the rise of mocktails too. Once they were rarities at a bar; now more and more places are serving them up. If you feel like you want to make some yourself this Friday evening, here’s 25 Booze-Free Mocktail Recipes That Aren’t Just Juice from Bon Appetit. That list has a range of drinks, from lemonades and others that are perfect in the summer, to the PG-13 Singapore Sling shown above.

It’s Friday. Time to relax. Make yourself a drink. The booze is optional. Cheers!

The fascinating history of the word “lox”


I thought this piece was great: The English Word That Hasn’t Changed in Sound or Meaning in 8,000 Years. It turns out the world “lox” has not changed meaning in all that time. As the linguist in the piece explains:

One of my favorite words is lox,” says Gregory Guy, a professor of linguistics at New York University.  “The pronunciation in the Proto-Indo-European was probably ‘lox,’ and that’s exactly how it is pronounced in modern English,” he says. “Then, it meant salmon, and now it specifically means ‘smoked salmon.’ It’s really cool that that word hasn’t changed its pronunciation at all in 8,000 years and still refers to a particular fish.”

That’s a great piece. Not just for the story of the word “lox”, but on the study of language and its origin. Recommended. It makes me want to run out and get a plate!

(Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash)

How to Make Dinner When You Can’t Even

If I were to ask you “are you sick of cooking from home during the pandemic?”and you threw something in my general direction while screaming “YES!”, then I highly recommend this: Easy Dinner Recipes (Without Having to Cook Anything) – The New York Times. 

Ali Slagle does a great job of helping you put together a meal using a simple formula.  So if the thought of getting out a recipe is painful and the thought of ordering take out is equally so, check out that piece from her.

(Photo: Linda Xiao for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Monica Pierini.)

On restaurants loved and lost: Florent (and Odeon)

Here are a number of pieces on two great downtown Manhattan restaurants: Florent and Odeon. Florent has been closed for a number of years. But Odeon lives on, happily. What I love about both restaurants is how the embodied that era and how they both set a stage. You can see that in the pieces below about them. Florent in particular was a radical place that was like no other, right down to their menus and promotional material (like the one above).

When they both opened the lower part of Manhattan had nothing like them. There was no gentrification down there like there is now. They were an oasis of good food, good design, and good times.

To really get a sense of that, read Restaurant Florent Takes Its Final Bows – The New York Times.

For more on the design ideas around Florent, see: Restaurant Florent | Restaurant Design in New York, NY — Memo Productions

A short history of the space Florent occupied is written about here: What remains of a Gansevoort Street restaurant | Ephemeral New York

Lastly, here is it’s Wikipedia write-up: Florent (restaurant). It’s a good source of other links on the place.

Before I forget, this is a fun piece on The Odeon: A Retro Haven That Defined New York 1980s Nightlife | Vanity Fair.

Also worth reading. Now go and eat at The Odeon.

 

On the pleasures of darker tinted rosé (with a bonus recipe :))

I was surprised to read this and discover that many fans of rosé prefer the lighter coloured version: A Rosé by Any Other Color – The New York Times.

I like lighter coloured rosés, but I find the darker ones have more substance and are more interesting. If you need convincing, I recommend you read that. Heck, read it regardless: it’s a good piece.

After you do that, I recommend  you head out to your local wine shop and pick up a bottle or two. Maybe your favorite pale pink number combined with something darker. And if you do, why not pick up the ingredients to make a nice niçoise salad to go with it. I think they may be a perfect meal combo. If you want a minimal version of niçoise salad, I recommend this 5 ingredient version from Cup of Jo. Purists may disagree, but that is a fine dinner salad whatever you call it.

(Photo by Dennis Vinther on Unsplash )

 

My cooking interests for Summer, 2021


Whew, it’s been awhile since I wrote about my cooking interests, and in the meantime the list has been building up with all sorts of delicious recipes. As well, I’ve found interesting essays and articles on food generally. Here they are: dig in!

Recipes: I have found so many good recipes I am going to separate them out just to make some sense of them.

Group Recipes: First off, here are some links to recipe lists that are rather good. Ottolenghi has some quick 15 minute lunch recipes that look good. Table for One is full of great solo recipes. Bon Appetit has compiled a list of their readers’ 23 Favorite recipes… some good ones there. A friend pointed out this collection of lovely recipes from Nigel Slater. Well worth a look. I have been craving meatballs lately. If you have too, Chatelaine can help you out there. The site Cup of Jo has a great list of Quick dinners. I like the recipes there a lot. If you feel like a salad, Bon Appetit has some salad ideas for you. Maybe you want soup? Food52 has 16 soup recipes to enjoy. Maybe  you are too tired to cook at all. If so, check out 14 No-Cook recipes for hot Days or lazy nights. Finally here is an insane list from Bon Appetit: 76 of Our Best Steak Recipes from Rib Eye to Skirt Steak Fajitas to Skewers. Fire up the grill.

Italianish Recipes: I always love a good carbonara recipe. To go with that, from SaltFatAcidHeat, here is a good focaccia recipe. Remember how I said I liked meatballs? Here’s a  meatball recipe from Budget Bytes.  I highly recommend you make this right away: My favorite Tuscan fries from Nigella. Or maybe you want a nice antipesto plate of roasted veg.

Ok that was nice, now back to meatballs, with Martha’s Spaghetti and Meatballs and Melissa Clark’s pantry meatballs

Low cost/pantry/cucina povera: Speaking of Melissa Clark’s pantry meals — all of which I am a fan of — here are a few more. For instance this is a nice and easy meal of root vegetables paired with chickpeas and yogurt. Or this sausage and veg soup …sounds great. How about putting this savory loaf packed with cheese and olives to go with it? Sounds just right. Thanks, Melissa.

Meanwhile if you are in the mood to make loafs, I recommend these three meatloafs from Martha that are more French in style than American. There is Spicy Butternut Squash Meatloaf and also this Spanish-Style Meatloaf. Yum!

Still in the mood for more ways to eat cheap and healthy and lazy? Then read this.

Meat recipes:  Speaking of eating lazy, I love cutlets for that. Here is Smitten Kitchen with a good chicken cutlet recipe. If you fancy pork, read this:
The Pork Chop Recipe That Finally Got Me on the Pork Chop Train. If you prefer beef instead, here’s a  flank steak recipe with Bloody Mary Tomato salad (wow) and here’s a recipe for grilled rib eye with shishito pepper salsa.

Soups, sauces and salad recipes: no particular reason for this grouping, I just like it. Here’s a nice fennel and citrus salad.  Here’s something you can have for days: Just-Keeps-Getting-Better Lentil Salad .

Need some sauces? Here’s two: a nice green sauce and a good veloute sauce.

We have a range of soups as well: from cucumber to French Onion with Comte. Here’s a general recipe to make any purred soup in 5 Steps. Last but not least:  If You Have Kimchi You’re Steps Away From This Soup. So sez Melissa Clark’s pantry.

Other recipes: Here’s a nice noodle dish to try. Here’s some paleo recipes that looked promising: for fans of paleo. Did we forget drinks? Ok. Here’s a good recipe that is a base for all your summertime cocktails: homemade sour mix. Get to work on your braising. I haven’t tried this but if it works it will be fantastic: making caramelized onions in the oven.

Non-recipe related: Wow. That’s a lot of recipes! Here’s some other things that seemed interesting. For example, here’s three interesting stories on French chefs dealing with the challenge of Michelin ratings: Un! Deux!Trois! Here’s a good story on space food, while here is another one on the economics of casseroles.This guy missed airline meals so much he makes them at home. Ok…sure. For fans of this chef, here’s a good  write up on Eric Ripert’s latest cookbook on Vegetables. This was fascinating: Costco Builds Nebraska Supply Chain For Its $5 Rotisserie Chickens. I loved this piece on Caroline Fidanza, the chef who used to run the beloved Saltie’s in Brooklyn. Epic sandwiches! How about this great all purpose pan? Print this of if you bake: Converting cake recipes to different pans Finally, for fans of hot sauce, here is A hot sauce guide with tips for how to use 8 common styles. 

Wow. That’s a ton of food links! I hope you found some useful. Happy cooking!

(Image of Caroline Fidanza focaccia sandwich via TASTE.)

Friday night cocktail: a Lambrusco Spritz

Lambrusco Spritz

While we on this blog love a good glass of cremant anytime, in the summertime we want easy drinking cocktail and mixes like spritzes. Italian liquors are great for these. While you may be happy to chug back of sip Aperol spritzes all weekend, we’d like to recommend something different: the Lambrusco Spritz. There is much to recommend for the Lambrusco Spritz. For one, you can drink Lambrusco as a spritz or straight up. Two, it goes great with snacky food. As the Times shows:

 Lambrusco pairs seamlessly with the rich foods of Emilia-Romagna, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, cured meats and gnocco fritto, meaning that a daytime bottle can easily linger past sunset. “A lot of wines that you might apéro with, you might not want with food,” Ms. Davis said. “The great thing about Lambrusco is that you can drink it all day, and then you can drink it all night.”

Perfect, right? So grab yourself a few bottles and go Day Drinking, Italian Style.

(Image: link to NYTimes article)

On Jacques Pepin

I am a big fan of Jacques Pepin: I watch his Instagram videos from start to finish. If you want to see why they are great, you can go here and see YouTube version of them all.

I especially liked this one:

Pepin also has a “new” cookbook out. You can find out more about it at the Times:

One thing I love about Pepin is his approach to cooking is truly about making the most of it. Every Tuesday he prepares budget versions of some dishes. He uses the microwave…he even uses Spam. Hey, he’s Jacques Pepin, he can do what he wants. And I think his use of low cost foods and his practice of not throwing away food or wasting it is admirable

P.S. Not Pepin, but something similar: Old Italian cooking.  Love it.

Friday Night Cocktail: the shrub

What can be a more perfect drink in the hot days and nights of summer than a shrub? A gin and tonic? Yes, that is very good. And like a G&T, you can take that frosty cold glass and put it against your skin and cool yourself off. But a shrub also takes advantage of all that great fresh fruit showing up at your grocer. What can be better than that?

So grab any berry that catches your fancy and go here and make tonight’s cocktail and cool off: Any-Berry Shrub Recipe | Bon Appétit

Friday night cocktail: an Old Fashioned

I am a huge fan of the Sazerac cocktail, but I really find it best if you use absinthe (something that is not easy to find). So I was intrigued when Esquire said an Old Fashioned has the bones of a Sazerac. And I looked and it does. So I’ll be making some of these soon and hoping it is as satisfying as its New Orleans’ cousin.

Sure, it is never fashionable. But it never goes out of style, either.

Here’s Esquire with their Best Old Fashioned Recipe.

Friday night cocktails: the marg’

Ok, a marg(arita) may be more of a Saturday afternoon cocktail on a hot summer day, but here on my blog we only write about cocktails on Friday night. Regardless, as the days heat up, you need a cool drink to help you stay chill and relaxed and the margarita fits that description to a tee. If you’ve never made one before, or if you want to try new versions, Bon Appetit has the advice you need.

Piquette: your new summer quaffable drink


I remember when rose used to be a hard sell in Ontario. It took years before people started drinking it in the summer.

Now people adopt new approaches to wine as fast as they can. In the last few years I’ve seen cremants, orange wines and pet nats all become hugely successful. (Though you wouldn’t know it at the LCBO).  The latest thing to catch my fancy are piquettes. This write up of them in Toronto Life describes them better than I can. As they say, piquette is a …

…low-alcohol wine is made by fermenting the pomace—leftover skins and dregs of the winemaking process—and diluting it with water. What results is a wine lover’s answer to summer-y spiked seltzers. It’s zippy, sessionable, slightly bubbly and certainly affordable—you’ll be hard-pressed to find a bottle over $20. Traditionally, piquette was reserved for farmhands and winemakers to sip while working the fields, when wine may have been easier to come by than clean drinking water. And it’s low enough in alcohol (typically, 5-9 per cent ABV) to not impact productivity. “Vineyard work is very tough, physical work, and your body gets sore and full of aches and pains,” says Mike Traynor, of Prince Edward County’s Traynor Vineyard. “Piquette takes that edge off without putting you out.”  There’s also a huge sustainability appeal to piquette. Once nothing more than compost, discarded wine skins can be a thirst-quenching source of revenue. “This actually allows me to bring down the prices on a lot of my wines because I’m getting a better yield from the grapes,” Traynor says.

A few additional thoughts:

  • piquettes are fun, but the taste of them vary widely. If you get an apple cider or a glass of sauvignon blanc, you know what to expect. With piquettes, I have not found that to be the case. The taste of one brand of piquette can be very different from another. They are like pet nats in that way.
  • I can see why winemakers like them: they can squeeze another product out of their harvest. Good for them.
  • I can’t see piquettes reaching a large audience like pinot grigio or moscato did. They will have to compete with beer and cider, which already have a huge part of the summer beverage market. But I am a bad predictor, so who knows.
  • a bottle of piquette can also be good at the end of the evening if you have a big group over for a dinner party. Try it sometime.
  • I’ve had a few piquettes now and I really like the one from Leaning Post. Indeed I like much of the wine from them. Good people, great wine.
  • The wine pictured above is from Leaning Post. It has a great punk rock vibe to it, which perfectly describes a piquette.

What is going to take veganism to the next level of adoption

My belief is that there are a significant number of people who have already become vegan for various good reasons. But if you were to put them on a bell curve (normal distribution), they would fit on the front part of the curve, the small part. To get to the next level, I think, vegan food has to get to the stage where people don’t even think of it as vegan. It’s just good food that happens to have nothing animal related associated with it. I think Alison Roman is one cook who has done that: there are vegetarian and vegan recipes in her cookbooks and they are delicious, but they are not called out. They are just there and people cook them.

That’s why I was happy to read this: The Best Vegan Restaurants in America Are All in New Orleans | GQ.

It seems there is a new wave of vegan cooks and chefs who are upping the game in terms of making delicious vegan food. That’s great for a number of reasons. First, because it will inspire more cooks to jump on the bandwagon. Second, because all that will mean there are more people eating less animal food and more vegan food.

Here’s to everyone becoming more and more vegan over time.