Monday, March 25, 2013

Weekly Roundup - Experimenting with Comfort Foods

Pistachio Macarons - Two weeks ago was my boyfriend Chris' 26th birthday. With this being our first birthday celebrated together, the pressure was on to make sure Chris felt extra special on his day. As I've mentioned before in my post on how to make French macarons, Chris was the number-one supporter of my macaron making, signing me up for a Parisian macaron making class at Le Dolci for Christmas, and sending so much positive feedback my way after trying my hand at making macarons all on my own. Chris and I share so many things in common, and yet another one of our many similarities is that both of our favourite flavours of macarons is pistachio. That was it. I knew that in order to get the biggest smile on that bearded face of his on his birthday, was to present him with a box of homemade pistachio macarons. Despite how difficult it is to track down pistachio paste in the city, my mom was able to find the delicious, silky-smooth paste at the specialty food store Ararat International Fine Foods. With a heck of a lot more confidence than my last batch of macarons, I was able to successfully make fifty-five beautiful, store-bought-looking pistachio macarons, with 26 of them wrapped up in a special birthday box just for Chris! The hunt for the paste and the labour to make those tricky French cookies was all worth it as soon as I saw Chris' face light up at the sight of them! Recipe coming soon!

Terroni - Miserable with the cold, windy, and snowy weather taking over Toronto the day before the official first day of Spring, one of my co-workers Kate and I headed out to Terroni on Yonge to treat ourselves to a delicious Italian meal and cocktails! I started my meal with a tasty and refreshing ginger and lemonade cocktail (that definitely hit the spot after a trek on the TTC) and their Ferinata con le Barbabietole salad, with chickpea pancake, roasted beets, heirloom carrots, ricotta salata, arugula, watercress, sunflower sprouts, pistachios, and mint. I loved my cocktail, but I have to say I was disappointed with my salad choice. The chickpea pancake was tasty, but I found the beet salad lacking in flavour. Despite my disappointment with the salad, it was actually a good thing that I ordered that, as it was part of my inspiration to create my own Roasted Beet Salad the next day! For my entree, I chose Tagliatelle alla Bolognese. Simple, fresh, comforting, and delicious, the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese, with its fresh house-made noodles and rich sauce, was perfect and exactly what I was craving.

Beet & Sweet Potato Pancakes - With two leftover roasted beets in the fridge crying out to be used after making my Roasted Beet Salad, I wanted to create something interesting that I had never experimented with before. After much thought and research, I decided to try making beet and sweet potato pancakes with a horseradish cream. Although the flavour was spot on with the sweet beets and potatoes, contrasted by the zesty horseradish sour cream, I had a lot of difficulty trying to get the pancakes to hold together. Yes I added flour, yes I added egg, no, I have no idea how to fix this problem. Perhaps more egg? More flour? Only one way to find out! I will definitely be trying my hand at these delicious little fried cakes again.

Healthy Teamwork Dinner - One of my favourite things to do on a beautiful sunny day is visit one of my favourite parts of Toronto, Kensington Market. On Saturday Chris and I did just that. With our Ray Bans on, we happily strolled from store to store, checking out bikes and produce, getting us excited about biking and creating meals together in the future. After learning so much about Hooked Inc. thanks to my relationship with the Ocean Wise organization, I was interested in checking out the store and picking up some fresh, sustainable, Canadian fish for dinner. Although I realized the day after that it's halibut season, and we probably should have picked up a couple filets of the beautiful fish thriving in Canada right now, we decided on East Coast oysters and arctic char, a fish that neither of us had prepared before. I have never had a bad experience eating arctic char, so I was pretty confident that we would be pleased with our results no matter what. After slurping back a few oysters, Chris and I began creating our healthy fish dinner. We quickly found a simple recipe to make a broiled chipotle lime arctic char, and began working on our marinade. While Chris minced the garlic and chipotle for the marinade, I began washing and massaging the kale that we had also picked up from the market, to be used as a side salad. In what seemed like no time at all, we had whipped up chipotle lime arctic char, a pan-roasted cherry tomato and caramelized onion kale salad with a grainy dijon dressing, resting on medley of beans. Everything turned out fantastic! We were so pleased with our delicious results thanks to our teamwork in the kitchen, and also felt great about eating such a healthy and satisfying meal. Get the recipe for the chipotle lime arctic char here!

Honorable Mention:
Acadia - For Chris' 26th birthday dinner, I wanted to take him somewhere really special. After having such a wonderful meal at Yours Truly, Toronto Life's number-one choice for the best new restaurants in 2012, it was a no-brainer to turn to Toronto Life's number-two spot (as well as Joanne Kate's number-two spot) Acadia. Thanks to all of their positive press throughout the past year, we walked into the tiny and cozy restaurant with high expectations. With such high hopes, it would have been easy to have left disappointed, but with their quality, attention to detail, and unique take on plating and combining ingredients, techniques, and various cuisines, Acadia succeeded in giving us a fantastic dining experience. The highlight of our meal that we can't seem to stop talking about? Acadia's take on Southern grits. The creamy, pimento cheese-flavoured grits sit in a light bath of smoky ham hock broth, with a generous amount of Gulf shrimp nestled within the South Carolina-ordered grits (that's the best place in the world to get grits!). Sigh...pure heaven. Not only was our meal spectacular, we were also blown away by the unparalleled service. I was taken by surprise when each time Chris would excuse himself to go to the bathroom, the host would swiftly arrive at his vacated seat to tuck in his chair, just-so, and place his napkin and cutlery in the exact spot they were when we had first sat down. 

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Listening To:
Grimes - Skin

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