Friday, October 18, 2013

Weekly Roundup - Feeling Thankful for Beautiful Ontario & Nostalgia-Inducing Food

Andrews' Scenic Acres - When I was little one of my favourite activities to do in the Fall was visit Andrews' Scenic Acres with my family. The festive farm and market was always my favourite thanks to the endless amount of pumpkins that scattered their fields, their petting zoo, their little market with fresh pies, tarts, apple cider, and more, their haunted forest (even though it left me shrieking into my mothers arms at that young age), and, more than anything, I loved their fresh corn on the cob. There's nothing like fresh sweet Ontario corn, but what made me fall in love with Andrews' Acres corn, was the butter. Andrews' Acres knows how to do corn right by serving up their fresh, farm-picked corn on the cob next to a big stockpot full of melted butter, so you can dip your corn on the cob right into that baby, add some salt and pepper and you have the tastiest corn imaginable!

Nostalgic for those Fall memories as a child, my mom and I decided to spend our saturday up North at our ol' stompin' ground Andrews Scenic Acres. Although the farm and market looked the same, they were now filled with a loud crowd of families and lots of very misbehaved children (screaming children...lots and lots of screaming and crying children not appreciating the beauty of an Ontario farm in the Fall). Back when I was a kid, the farm used to be so peaceful and calm, but now it seems to be turning into Chudleigh's Farms younger and almost just as popular sister (by the way, the line for cars to just get into Chudleigh's was absolutely insane!). Despite the large mass of people taking over the once peaceful farm, I was ecstatic to see that that same old corn on the cob stand was still there, and still featured my beloved stockpot of melted butter! My mom and I couldn't wait another moment, we hit up that stand as soon as we got in, and dug into my favourite Fall treat as a child. I have to say, that corn was just as fantastic as I remember it to be. Even though it may be loud and filled with people, I think I have to make that butter-soaked corn at Andrews' Acres a Fall tradition! 

Thanksgiving - Thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite holidays, which may have something to do with the immense amount of delicious food. For years my family had hosted Thanksgiving at our family home, with our gorgeous backyard full of changing colour trees setting the perfect backdrop for the occasion. Having sold our beautiful home last year, and now living in a tiny apartment, we were unable to play host to our families Thanksgiving meal, and handed the reins over to my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Ron to host. It felt weird driving up to Brampton to meet up with the rest of the family for our meal, like it wasn't really Thanksgiving. It wasn't until the meal was served that those Thanksgiving feelings kicked in. That same meal, with dishes contributed by almost every family member (I had to work earlier and sadly couldn't make anything), brought back so many wonderful Thanksgiving memories and made me realize that all those familiar Thanksgiving dishes can evoke feelings of family, comfort, and tradition, better than any setting could. I felt very thankful this year to be surrounded by such a loving family, who also happen to be awesome cooks, and indulge in a delicious comforting meal with them to reflect on the things we have to be thankful for this year. 

Rose & Son's Brunch - After falling in love with Rose & Son's backyard smokehouse Big Crow last week, taking advantage of their newly launched brunch menu, I have been raving about it to just about everyone I know all week long. It had to be absolute torture living with me all week as the words "Big Crow" kept coming out of my mouth at every turn. It came as no surprise that on Monday when my mom and I wanted to head out for a Thanksgiving brunch, she wanted to go nowhere else by Big Crow. Without delay, we headed over to Dupont to let her experience their sinfully delicious brunch. Unfortunately upon arrival we found out that Big Crow was closed for the holiday, but to our delight Rose & Son's was open, with a short ten minute wait for a table for two. After a lovely stroll around the Annex while we waited for our table, we were seated in the small space, with our stomachs growling, and our eyes darting around to all neighboring tables for ordering inspiration (you could hear rumblings all over with diners proclaiming "these are the best eggs I've ever eaten").

With both my mom and I setting our sights on their Griddled Brie Cornbread with Brisket, Fried Egg, Maple Syrup, & Chili Sauce, we decided to share the outrageous sounding dish, as well as their Smoked Lox & Eggs with Toast, Horseradish, Capers, & Schmlatz so that we could taste more of the menu in one go. As much as I loved my Pork & Beans at Big Crow last week, they didn't hold a candle to that brisket and cornbread dish. Dear lord, was that ever incredible. It was the perfect brunch dish. Yes, I said perfect. Perfection. I wouldn't change a thing. In fact, I'm still dreaming about that dish today...and drooling. Never in my life have I eaten such an incredible brunch dish. Don't get me wrong, the lox and eggs were also off the charts, but nothing compares to that brisket and cornbread. It's the perfect slightly sweet, soft, crumbly, and crunchy outside cornbread that makes the dish so special. The sweet cornbread, doused in maple syrup is complimented by the savory, smokey brisket, with the brie adding a great creamy texture, and the chili sauce brightening the whole dish up. You must try this dish. I repeat, you MUST try this dish! 

Rose & Son's Brunch - Not quite as glamourous as the brisket and cornbread captured on camera, Rose & Son's Lox & Eggs with Toast, Horseradish, Capers, & Schmaltz was also a wonderful way to start Thanksgiving day. Salty smoked salmon pieces are found in every bite of the buttery scrambled eggs, dotted with briny capers and zesty thinly sliced red onions, with the schmaltz adding a hit of underlying savory flavour, and the toast acting as a base for every bite. What is schmaltz, you ask? Schmaltz is chicken or goose fat that has been rendered down to create the most delicious addition to heck, just about anything! Schmaltz is often found in Yiddish cooking, for example, one of my favourites, matzo balls. You don't see many dishes like this on very many brunch menus in the city, especially done this successfully. This was the perfect lighter accompaniment to the extraordinarily rich brisket and cornbread.
Evergreen Brickworks - After enjoying the best brunch ever at Rose & Son's with my mom, we headed over to the Evergreen Brickworks to enjoy the stunning weather. Even thought the Brickworks was filled with just as many families with young children as Andrew's Acres was, these kids were far more well behaved and quiet, enjoying all of the fun outdoor activities the centre has to offer. With the warn Fall sun beating down on us, we strolled through the paths, taking in the exquisite scenery, and snapping photos of the unbelievable Fall colours at every turn. It was so beautiful. What a lovely way to spend Thanksgiving day!

Evergreen Brickworks - This little lady here is my mom, totally in her element, enjoying the beautiful outdoors on our walk at the Evergreen Brickworks. She makes a great walking partner!

Kale & Apple Salad - You can't go up North this time of year in Ontario without taking advantage of the wonderful apples we are so lucky to have in season. With a big bowl full of personally picked apples from our little excursion up North a few days prior, I felt inspired to create a kale salad featuring crisp and slightly tart Ontario apples. Just when I was starting to feel sick of kale, this incredibly tasty salad renewed my love for the healthy green, featuring Ontario apples, toasted slivered almonds, trail mix, chia seeds, and goat cheese. I loved this salad so much, I will definitely be posting the recipe for you soon! This salad was also a great opportunity for me to practice my batonnet cut on the apples, which I will be tested on this week at my practical exam at George Brown chef school.

This Week At Chef School - This week at George Brown Chef School our focus was on rice and legumes with our menu covering:
Braised Navy Beans
Lentils & Celery Root
Saffron Tea
Saffron Pilaf
I was pretty nervous about this weeks class, with seemingly so much to get done, including the infamously tricky risotto on the menu. Risotto is so tricky because, for one thing, it requires constant attention, you must be at your stove throughout the entire cooking process, stirring your Arborio rice so that the starches don't stick to the bottom of your pan, adding ladles of hot chicken stock to allow the short and starchy short grain rice to slowly cook and soak up the liquid and flavour from the stock. More than just giving risotto constant attention, the Italian dish is also tricky because you must ensure to serve it at just the right moment. You want the rice to be tender, but still have a bit of a bite to it (think of al dente pasta), with the consistency wet so that when shaken it pools out around the dish, but not so wet that you get any puddling. Not only do you have to know when to stop cooking your risotto, you also have to know when to serve it, which is immediately! Risotto is meant to be served as soon as it comes off the stove, if not, the starches kick in and you get a gluey, sticky rice. 

Despite being super nervous about trying my hand at making risotto from scratch for the first time, I am so proud to say that my final dish came out near perfect! My only criticism from our chef was that I could have added a touch more pepper, and I could have cooked it about 30 seconds longer to get rid of a bit more of the liquid, but otherwise my texture was spot on! Yay! With a few small criticisms here and there from my other dishes (with my lentils and celery root declared "perfect" by our chef!), I'd say I did pretty darn good this week! Each week I find myself becoming more calm and confident in the kitchen, and more importantly, I have more and more fun in the kitchen with each new lesson! I can't say it enough how happy I am that I finally signed up for culinary school! This just feels so right!

What else did I learn this week?
On My Mind:
Banksy is playing with the idea of high vs. low art once again in this video of a pop up stand in New York selling his authentic prints. 

Why I try to drink warm lemon water throughout the day. 

Could it be? Was the final episode of Breaking Bad just a fantasy in Walter Whites mind? 

Dream come true!! 30,000 tonnes of European cheese could be coming to Canada!

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