Saturday, December 1, 2012

Weekly Roundup - Holiday Gifts & Pasta Making Tips

Holiday CHEERS with Steam Whistle - With the Holidays fast approaching, I can't help but worry over not having purchased any gifts for my friends and family, nor have I given any gift ideas for myself to the many friends and family members who have been asking. Now that my bedroom and closet are a mere fraction of the size they were only a few weeks ago in my old home, I can't imagine asking for more "stuff" to crowd this already cluttered space. My Holiday gift idea dilemma was solved thanks to Steam Whistle and their new Holiday 12-pack. Spread some Holiday CHEERS by giving the gift of craft beer this season! Wrapped up in a festive, easy-to-carry-and-store Holiday box, Steam Whistle's Holiday 12-pack is the perfect gift for any beer lover! 

The County General - Being so busy preparing for our big move over the past few months has not only meant me neglecting my blog, but also some of my closest friends. My best friend Alex , who may have the busiest and craziest schedule out of anyone I know, was one of those people. With so much happening in both of our lives lately, we couldn't believe that it had been so many months since we had caught up. With so many stories to recount, we wanted to find the perfect place to unwind, unload our gossip, and indulge in delicious food and drinks. Walking against the freezing cold wind along Queen Street West, I was desperate to just pick a place and be done with it, but Alex insisted that there was a great cozy spot coming up that would be perfect for our reunion. I was happy to learn that this little spot that Alex was referring to was The County General, a restaurant I have been dying to go to for months now. My excitement at finally getting to try their infamous Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich knocked the cold right out of me! After hearing so much hype about the sandwich, it would have been easy to be left disappointed, but The County General's Fried Chicken Thigh Sandwich knocked my socks off with its perfectly crispy and juicy buttermilk fried chicken thigh pieces, soft fresh milk bun,  avocado chutney, and an abundance of cilantro leaves and stems. Served alongside their hand-cut fries and killer hot sauce, this sandwich was absolute perfection, and easily takes the top spot as my favourite sandwich in Toronto!

After savoring every bite of that perfect sandwich, you would think I wouldn't be able to even look at any another bite of food...well, you would think. Our conversation came to a halt when the table next to us caught our attention with the arrival of their Fried Chicken for two. The smell of the "KFC" n' Soy Garlic Chicken alone had me swooning, but what really caught my attention was the dramatic way in which the chicken was served. With a long sheet of paper running along the table, The County General sees no need for plates. The sticky, glazed chicken is poured right onto the paper on the table, followed by a generous topping of garnishes, which included sesame seeds, mint, thai basil, cilantro, green onions, and avocado sauce, all of which is served alongside a half-dozen mini steamed buns. Can you say foodgasm? That beautiful and delicious looking presentation had me thinking of nothing but fried chicken for days! I had to get my hands on that chicken as soon as possible. Only four days later, I came back to the Country General for their dreamy fried chicken and I have to say, it was just as incredible as it looked! I only wish I had more of an appetite to finish it all! 

The County General - No meal is complete without a killer cocktail! After just learning that week about how to make a perfect mint julep, there was no other cocktail I could imagine ordering than The County General's Spicy Serrano Mint Julep with Jim Beam Bourbon, fresh mint, and house-made serrano syrup. It was really interesting and I enjoyed the first few sips, but it was a little strong for my taste. At my next visit I tried The County Drive In, with Makers Mark, Aperol, fresh lime, and Jones Cream Soda. The perfect balance of both sweet and bitter, this cocktail was right up my alley!

Winter Drinks - Normally after a big meal and so many drinks all I can think about is cuddling up for a nap, but the County General put me in such a great mood I just kept going! Here is my friend Rommi and I drinking our winter chills away at the Banknote at King and Bathurst. 
First Family Dinner - With each passing day, our new apartment is starting to feel more and more like our home, but nothing made this foreign space feel more "homey" than hosting a family dinner in our new dining room. With my sister Justine and her boyfriend in attendance, we popped bottles of bubbly and indulged in my moms comforting pulled pork, mashed potatoes, and roasted carrots and toasted to new beginnings! I guess home really is where the heart is. 

Fresh Pasta - After seeing my mom back in action in the kitchen on Sunday, slow roasting pulled pork, I knew the time had come for me to reacquaint myself with the kitchen and make something special. For months now I have been aching to try the beautiful, red lacquered pasta maker that my friend Alex had bought me for my birthday, so with the afternoon off and my cousin Kim on her way to help as sous chef, I could think of no better dish to make than fresh pasta! Armed with a notebook full of pasta making tips and tricks, and Kim at my side to help, making fresh pasta has never felt easier!

One of the most useful tips that I used that day was a trick on how to dry fresh pasta. In my previous attempts at making fresh pasta, I was always left pulling my hair out, so completely frustrated over the pasta noodles sticking together and ruining all of my hard work. Without a pasta dryer, I would always lay my noodles out on flour-dusted cookie sheets, which not only took up a ton of room, covering every surface in my kitchen and dining room, but also didn't allow for the pasta to dry, resulting in goopy, stuck together noodles, disappointing in both taste and appearance. I had to figure out a way to hang the pasta strands to keep them separated and allow them to completely dry. It took Kim by surprise to arrive at our apartment to see clothes hangers dangling from all of the kitchen cupboards, my solution to not having a pasta dryer. Although it appeared strange, drying my pasta noodles on clothes hangers was the perfect way dry and separate the fresh noodles! This was my best attempt at fresh pasta yet! Stay tuned for an entry coming up soon on more pasta-making tips!  

Campbell's Stock First Cream Stock - Thanks to a recent delivery  at my doorstep from Campbell's I was inspired to make their recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo using their Campbell's Stock First Cream Stock. The incredibly simple and quick to prepare sauce was the perfect accompaniment to my not-so-simple fresh pasta. Keep your eyes peeled for an entry coming up soon on my review of Campbell's Cream Stock as well as their tasty recipe for Alfredo Sauce! 

Wine Bottle Pen Markers - Still in reunion-mode with so many good friends to catch up with, I spent my friday night by the fireplace, stuffing my face with sushi, and sipping on vino, with my friend Danielle. I loved the personalized glasses that Danielle served our wine in, with "Ginger" and "Cinnamon" scrawled on each one. As a housewarming gift, Danielle and her boyfriend received a bottle of wine from a friend along with two wine bottle pen markers. These cute silver and gold pens are a great way to personalize friends wine glasses at dinner parties. Writing guests names on the glasses is a good way of recognizing who's is who's, but why not deck your glasses out with clever phrases, interesting quotes, or even cute drawings to act as a conversation starter. These wine bottle pen markers are also a great stocking stuffer idea for the guy or gal who has everything! Hint hint...I want these! 

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Listening To:
Badly Drawn Boy - Once Around The Block

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