Saturday, October 5, 2013

Weekly Roundup - Birthday Eats & Other Treats

Momofuku - Birthdays are always a challenge for me to plan for myself. Each and every year I hope that someone will magically decide to do all the prep and planning work for me, so I can legitimately de-stress on my special day, which really, just may be the greatest birthday gift. No such luck this year. Thankfully this year I resolved early on that I was going to have to step up my game in the birthday planning department and planned myself a weekend full of fun evenings that would allow me to spend time with all of the special people in my life. For my actual birthday (September 30th!) I decided to spend my birthday dinner with the people closest to me in my life, my parents, sister, and my boyfriend...oh and my sisters boyfriend who is practically my brother. This arises yet another challenge: Where to go on a Monday (when many restaurants are closed) that takes reservations, will be something special, and will not cost a fortune for my parents who were treating us all to dinner. After much head scratching and research, I decided on a perfect option! 

I have been hearing about the now infamous Momofuku for months now, with many people debating what their favourite restaurant and dish are in the 4-story, 4-restaurant (plus Milk Bar) Toronto location next to the Shangri-La Hotel. The one dish that everyone seemed to agree on, and the dish I had been reading about long before Momofuku opened in up shop in Toronto, was their large format fried chicken dinner. Momofuku has a number of large format meals, which are designed to be shared "family-style" amongst a suggested group of people. The fried chicken large format dinner (found at Noodle Bar) is the most reasonable of the large formats offered ($125 for 4-6 people) and consists of two whole chickens, fried two different ways, one the classic Southern style, the other Korean style. The meal encourages experimentation as the chickens are served alongside ginger scallion pancakes and lettuce leaves to use as wraps, as well as a number of different sauces, a savory powder, and a bowl full of herbs and greens. I was initially concerned that, being six hungry and food-loving people, we would not have enough food for all of us, so as a preventative measure we began our meal with two orders of another Momofuku favourite, their Steamed Pork Buns. The buns were such a delicious way to start our indulgent meal with the flavourful and tender pork joined by hoisin, scallion, and cucumber and wrapped in the traditional steamed bao. Throw some of Momofuku's hot sauce on that baby and we're in business! I'm pretty sure I could eat one of those buns every day! 
Momofuku - After devouring our oh-so-delicious steamed pork buns we realize that we have been seated at the only table covered in brown craft paper...There's no question, it's about to get very messy! In next to no time our chickens have arrived. As the massive plate of piping hot fried chicken was brought to our table, we immediately knew there was no way we were leaving hungry. It was enough chicken for even more than our hungry six! Without delay, I tucked right into the most unique of the two fried chickens their Korean style chicken. The triple fried chicken is ridiculously good, with the sticky and spicy glaze adding a world of flavour to the dish. Beneath the crispy skin lies the most tender and juicy chicken I could imagine! Next I had to dig into the Southern style chicken, who's crunchy batter was calling my name. Before even biting into the traditional fried chicken, you can just see how thick and crisp the skin is, and that first bite and crunch into it says it all, it's perfect. I didn't know fried chicken like this existed! That crunch, that tenderness and juiciness inside, and the buttermilk and old bay batter make this chicken outrageously good! On it's own, wrapped in a pancake or lettuce wrap, and drizzled with the many different toppings, the chicken takes on a whole new flavour as you play around with what is provided.

Momofuku Milk Bar - It's impossible to go to Momofuku on your birthday and not pay a visit to their newly-opened Milk Bar, filled with inventive treats that will satisfy any sweet-tooth. Feeling just so incredibly indulgent and bad, my boyfriend, my sister, her boyfriend, and I pretty much raided the little self-serve shop, picking close to one of every item on the market! I had tried almost all of their cookies in the past and was totally and completely wowed by them, so of course we had to pick up more of those, but we also had to include their famous Crack Pie and B'day Truffles. You would think after a giant meal of fried chicken and pork buns that I would save my Milk Bar treats for another day...not so! Not more than a half hour after arriving back to my boyfriend Chris' condo, we were digging into our sinful bag of treats! After having a taste of them all, I can confidently say that my favourite Milk Bar treat is actually a new edition to the shop. Added only a couple of weeks ago as an exclusive addition to the Toronto shop (as a thank you for our support!) Momofuku's Maple-Coconut-Pecan Cookie is out of this world incredible! The super soft cookie hits all the right notes with its sweet and nutty flavours and...wait for it, because this is really the vegan and wheat free! The truth is that every item sold at Milk Bar is a favourite to someone, with the Crack Pie becoming a cult classic, my boyfriend losing his mind over the incredibly sweet B'day Truffles, and their Compost Cookie drawing a very close second as my favourite. Lookout Milk Bar, I will be coming for you again soon!

Hudson Kitchen & Campagnolo - This post would not be complete without taking a moment to say thank you to Campagnolo for consistently delivering a fantastic dining experience each and every time I visit you! My boyfriend Chris took me to Campagnolo for a romantic birthday dinner on Saturday night that left as both smiling ear to ear. The food, service, and atmosphere was all exceptional! I will be having sweet dreams of your pillowy burrata cheese dish for weeks!

Before our Campagnolo reservation, Chris and I had some time to kill and came across the very newly opened (it was only their fourth night open to the public!) Hudson Kitchen for a couple of cocktails. The cute, bright, and cozy space was surprisingly very welcoming for a newly opened, buzzed about (did you hear Brad and Jen ate here, at separate occasions, during TIFF?), and seemingly hipster restaurant, with their super friendly staff giving us their full attention as soon as we entered. We grabbed a seat at their bar and immediately began chatting up the charming bartender. There's no doubt about it, Hudson Kitchen knows what they're doing when it comes to cocktails. After asking me what flavours I like and what kind of mood I was in, the bartender/mixologist expertly whipped up the Corpse Reviver #2 to help kill the previous nights hangover and get me right back in that tipsy headspace I was in the previous night. Although we had only a few minutes before our reservation across the street, we couldn't resist trying Hudson Kitchens simplistic take on a margarita. Without the distraction of a salt rim or even ice in the glass, this margarita was simple, boozy, very well balanced, and likely one of the best margaritas I have had and may ever have! I definitely have to go back soon to try more of their delightful cocktails and sample their confidently small menu! 

This Week At Chef School - I'm so bummed that I absentmindedly forgot to take a photo of my final presentation in class this week, especially considering that it was the first week that we were actually displaying our final dishes on nice china as opposed to the steel trays we were given for previous weeks. This week our menu to prepare was the following: 
  • Par-Boiled Green Beans
  • Par-Boiled Green Asparagus
  • Sautéed Spinach
  • Glazed Carrots
  • Roasted Root Vegetables
  • Vegetable Stew Ratatouille Style
After looking over our recipes for the week as well as my extensive notes, I felt well prepared to step into the kitchen and take on our many tasks of the day. I walked in calm, cool, and collected, took a deep breath and began my work. I started off feeling so great, knowing exactly what I had to do and attacking it with a laid back confidence that I wish I always possessed. It wasn't until I started working on my roasted vegetables that everything seemed to go wrong. Before our vegetables went into the oven to roast, we were to quickly cook them over the stove to begin the light caramelization and take the chill out of the vegetables. My teacher and my notes had said that we should cook our vegetables at this stage at high heat, something that went against all my instincts. Despite what my gut was telling me, I cranked the heat and watched as I quickly scorched my root vegetables, going way past the slight caramelization and straight to 'burnt around the edges'. As soon as I felt that my vegetables were no good, I lost that calm, cool, and collected attitude that I was so pleased to have coveted. That anxious feeling that I had felt in previous weeks began to creep back into me, and I continued to make little mistakes at almost every step (or at least that's what it felt like to me). By the end of the class, once I had handed in my work, I felt I had let myself down for not handing in a product that I felt confident in.  Despite an OK mark, I wished that I could have a do-over and have another opportunity to wow my teacher. This brings me to what I learned in class this week: I learned that I know a lot more than I think I do, and before all else, I need to remember to trust my instincts, because you know what? They ain't half bad!

On My Mind:
As one of my birthday gifts I received the Jamie Oliver cookbook "Cook With Jamie". This cookbook, which is filled with lots of basic recipes, tips, tricks, and advice, is the best cookbook I have ever read! Definitely pick this one up and prepare to be wowed! 

Loving the new Tokyo-inspired October lookbook from Free People.

Check out this incredibly curious does this happen to a carrot?

I giggled my face off to this: Terrible Real Estate Agent Photos.

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Listening To:
The National - Don't Swallow The Cap

1 comment:

Lee-Anne Fava said...

Happy belated soul sister. I can't wait to dive into foodie heaven next time I see you and we can celebrate in style together:) mmmm,mmm xxx!