Around one of the other corners from the hotel we stay at for ACN, there's a comfy little pub called The Artful Dodger. I like this place because they've got Strongbow Cider on tap. When we first found it, it was something of a treat as I hadn't had the stuff in nearly ten years -- not since my term abroad in England. They also have tasty Smithwick's. Their pub fare is decent -- good for a fish 'n' chips fix, and I appreciate the fact that one of their dining rooms is non-smoking. We usually stop in at least once during the trip and relax and enjoy.
Last night I got to reassure my kitchen once again that I had not in fact deserted it to run off to the lovely culinary experiences available in Toronto (more on those anon).
Poached Chicken with Curried Yogurt Sauce
from Bon Appetit (August 1996)
1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp curry powder
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
2 cups (or more) canned low-salt chicken broth
Combine first 4 ingredients in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.)
Arrange chicken in a single layer in heavy medium skillet. Add enough broth to cover chicken and bring to boil. Cover skillet and turn off heat. Let stand until chicken is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate, cut crosswise and spoon sauce over chicken.
Makes 4 servings.
Notes: Since we like things spicier, I bumped the curry powder up to 3 tsp, but after tasting probably would've prefered 2 1/2 tsp. Also, I did not use low-fat yogurt, as I'd rather deal with the extra calories and have the creamier sauce. Plus, I used homemade chicken stock out of my very own freezer (starting to run low already -- must soon make another batch).
From one of my favorite cookbooks so far this year: The Herbfarm Cookbook, adjusted for 2 servings
2 bone-in loin pork chops
salt, fresh ground black pepper
1 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh sage leaves
2 oz. thinkly sliced prosciutto, cut into 1/4 inch strips
3/4 cup homemade chicken stock
1 tsp dijon mustard
Generously season both sides of pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in skillet over medium high heat until it begins to smoke. Sear pork chops, approximately 3 minutes per side. Remove to plate.
Reduce heat to medium low and add onion and sage. Cook uncovered, stirring often, until onion is softened and light brown -- about 4 minutes. Stir in prosciutto and cook until it loses its rosy color, about 1 minute. Add stock and mustard.
Return pork chops to pan, reduce heat to low, cover. Very gently simmer about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer chops to serving plate. Increase heat to high and reduce sauce until slightly thickened. Spoon over pork and serve.
At 634 Church Street, not even an entire block from the hotel, is a small Italian restaurant. The patio outside looks just like half a dozen other patios nearby, and gives away none of the interior atmosphere, which has quite an individual flavor. As does the food. Unable to decide, we started off with two appetizers: a bruschetta with goat cheese (note: Jenn has a secret weakness for goat cheese apparently -- oops, not so secret) and a plate of tender escargot. Marvelous. Risotto with wild mushrooms for me, and gnocchi for Michael went nicely with a half litre of the house red wine. We rounded out the meal with a slice of excruciatingly good chocolate mousse cake (taunted into it by the snappy waiter). This is our second time visiting this restaurant and it looks like it's becoming tradition.
As evidenced by the fact that we ate there three times in one week, this Vietnamese restaurant in the trendy Yonge/Bloor area is one of my favorites. The cafeteria style somehow gives the meals a more home-cooked feel, and the menu is varied and interesting. I've yet to try a dish there that I didn't like. This time I had three different versions of pad thai: (1) hot and sour chicken, (2) coconut grilled shrimp, and (3) chicken with ginger and mushrooms. Michael also had the hot and sour chicken pad thai, and tried a spicy chicken with lime leaf over rice. On top of all the great food, the price can't be beat. It's no wonder we go there year after year.
Having spent a few years in New York State's North Country for college, I became quite fond of an entree that, to date, I have discovered is only available at Sergi's Italian restaurant in Canton (or at the nearby St. Lawrence Northstar Pub): pizza rolls. Pizza dough wrapped around a filling of sauce and cheese, sometimes with pepperoni, and then deep fried. The restaurant itself may be unprepossessing, but the pizza rolls are still a treat that wakens my tastebuds in a unique and very tasty way. No calzone or "flat" pizza compares, and I'm glad to get the chance to stop there while en route to Ambercon North.
eGCI's class yesterday was for Cream Sauces. Choron Sauce is a derivation of Bearnaise Sauce, which is itself an alternate on Hollandaise Sauce. According to Larousse Gastronomique, Choron was a French cook from Caen who invented a hot emulsified sauce. By crossing a couple cookbooks with the instructions online, I came up with the following. I'm not sure what Choron Sauce is supposed to taste like, but I liked this, and the consistency (despite my great fear of scrambling the egg) was creamy and smooth.
1 TBSP white wine vinegar
1 tsp chopped shallot
2 oz stalks of tarragon
salt, pepper to taste
2 tsp cold water
1 egg yolk
4 oz unsalted butter
2 TBSP tomato paste
Boil vinegar, shallot, tarragon, salt and pepper. Remove from heat and whisk in the water. On low heat setting (just enough to melt the upcoming butter), whisk in the egg yolk until thickened (be careful not to scramble the egg!). Whisk in the butter 1/2 oz. at a time. Sauce should reach a "shiny" appearance between each bit of butter. Strain through a fine mesh (this will also catch any bits of overcooked egg plus the shallots and the tarragon bits). Whisk in tomato paste.
Though this seemed incredibly daunting when I was first reading about it, it went quite well and I was very pleased with the results, which I served with lightly salted/peppered baked chicken. Steamed snow pea pods on the side.
Grilled Beef Blade Steaks with Spicy Orange Marinade
adapted from Gourmet (August 1992)
three 1-inch-thick boneless beef blade steaks, pierced or scored
1 tsp orange zest
1 cup orange juice
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP soy sauce
1 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
1 TBSP cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
Arrange steaks in shallow baking dish in one layer. In blender, combine marinade ingredients until smooth. Pour over steaks, coating them thoroughly, and let mixture marinate, covered and chilled, overnight.
Grill the steaks. In my grill pan, five minutes per side, and four minutes of resting on a side plate was sufficient for a lovely medium rare.
Assessment: The consensus at the table seemed to be that it was too mild. Certainly not spicy enough, and the barest hint of tang from the citrus. While the dish was fine, I doubt it will make a repeat appearance on the menu.
I ordered Bul-Go-Gi, which was described in the menu as thin sliced barbecued beef with special house sauce. I rather thought it would be a safe place to start, and expected it to be somehow similar to other Asian barbecued dishes. However, I had to admit that its taste was entirely unique. I quite enjoyed it. Not to be entirely safe, I also decided to try an appetizer, which I believe was on the specials list: the basic description amounted to cold squid noodles. It was, um...interesting, and I felt adventurous for having tried it.
Michael had Stone-Bowl Bi-Bim-Bob, a mix of rice, vegetables, and (I think) beef in a spicy sauce that's served in a flaming hot stone bowl. When the dish is received (with a raw egg on top), the customer stirs it to combine the ingredients. The food is bound together as the egg cooks - yep, that's how hot the stone is. The excitement is listening to the rice crackle as it roasts when hitting the side of the bowl. I got a taste, and I again, despite having eaten many other varieties of Asian food, had a singular, and yummy, experience.
As for ambiance....well, the restaurant is in a strip mall, and from the outside, it doesn't look like much. The interior, though, is very cosy and neatly decorated. I'd definitely go there again.
The baking bug bit me nigh on three weeks ago, but the weather was just so uncomfortable heat and humidity-wise that contemplating hours in the kitchen with the stove running was clearly insane. Not that it always stops me. Yesterday, though - with it officially now September and so psychologically, if not actually, the end of summer - I finally got to appease the cookie god with a double batch of peanut butter cookies and a double batch of apple spice cookies. The weather cooperated nicely - it was cool and rainy, and very autumnal-seeming - as the smell of fresh baked goodness filled the house.
Spiced Applesauce Drop Cookies
(from a much-xeroxed 4-H handout)
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream shortening. Beat in sugar gradually. Add egg, beat until light and fluffy. Sift dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients alternately with applesauce to egg mixture. (If you like, add 1 cup chopped nuts at this point. Or, as we sometimes do, put in cinnamon chips.) Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes or until top springs back when pressed lightly with finger.
Joe Badali's: An Italian restaurant and bar, which likely got a lot of traffic during the weekend as it was close to the convention center and the prices were reasonable. My choice for dinner? Vitello Marsala. Reasonably tasty but not particularly exceptional food. I think the menu overall reflects the theme of appealing but not perhaps as imaginative as one might hope. Though I hear the tiramisu was quite delicious. Perhaps I would've tried the buffet if it was available so as to sample more of their dishes.
Dhaba: An Indian restaurant rated as one of the top ten restaurants in the city in 2001. I took David and several friends (Deb, Kev, Mike, Al, eBear, Big Steve) there for lunch and as celebration for David's birthday. We all had the buffet, which featured several delicious dishes. It seemed to me that we all had a lovely time, and the rendition of the SCA version of "Happy Birthday" was just not to be missed.
Benihana: A branch of this dependable chain was located in the main convention hotel. A convenient place to stop for a quick lunch of sushi. And I got to have my favorite: unagi.
I also spent a fair amount of time at the EPIC in the Fairmont Royal York. In the mornings, I treated clients to their wonderful brunch (but not on Sunday, when the $19 version was replaced with the $50 version!). My favorite treat (and thanks to Deb for turning me on to it), a pastry with a sweet glaze and nuts that was somewhat reminscent of baklava in flavor.