mexitaco sunday

It was Sunday afternoon and I was in the mood for tacos. I decided to give Mexitaco a try. 
Two Jarritos to start...
...along with an order of guacamole. Unfortunately, there were too many overcooked tortillas.
Tacos al pastor for me (I love the combination of pork and pineapple)...
and chilaquiles (fried tortillas cooked in tomatillo sauce and topped with sour cream and salty feta-like cheese) for Joe. Mexitaco's version came with a huge flat steak and refried beans. The chilaquiles themselves were pretty good, but I'm definitely a bigger fan of Senor Chipotle's in Guelph.
Overall, an ok meal. Nothing really stood out to me and I probably won't rush back anytime soon, but at least I tried somewhere new. The next place I'll be heading to when it comes to tacos: Rebozos. I hear they do a crazy good tongue taco.

828 Bloor St. W


going nuts

I made a batch of salty-sweet candied mixed nuts recently for mid-day snacking and tossing into lunchtime salads. Sometimes I only use almonds (I always have them kicking around), but this time combined almonds, cashews and pecans.
1 1/2 C mixed nuts
1/3 C sugar
4 tbsp water
fleur de sel, maldon salt or coarse salt

1. Place nuts, water and sugar in a pan over medium-high heat, stirring often. After about 10 minutes, the water will evaporate and the sugar and nuts will begin to crystalize.

2. Lower the heat and continue to stir. The crystalized sugar will melt and turn golden brown. Continue cooking and coating the nuts with the sticky syrup.

3. When the nuts are coated and a deep amber colour, sprinkle them with salt and tip them onto a plate or parchment paper and let them cool completely. 


caramel cake

This caramel cake recipe comes from an old issue of the now defunct Gourmet magazine. It's easy to make and combines a deliciously moist buttermilk cake with a sticky caramel glaze. If you want to forgo the caramel, the cake itself is a perfect base cake for just about any type of frosting or filling—think sliced peaches and fresh whipped cream or a fluffy vanilla buttercream.
After letting the cake cool, you pour the glossy caramel glaze over the top.
I love this cake. It's so simple, but so good.


just wingin' it

A mad craving for buffalo wings made this dinner happen. For some reason I feel like as long as everything is homemade, an indulgent pub-style meal is ok every once in a while—at least that's what I tell myself so that I don't feel so guilty.
For the buffalo wing sauce (enough for about 3 lbs of wings):
4 tbsp butter
1/2 C Frank's Red Hot sauce
2 tbsp hot sauce (I use Cholula)
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cayenne

Melt butter in a pot then whisk in remaining ingredients. Keep warm while you fry your wings (I deep fry my wings until crispy before dumping them in the sauce. I'm sure you could also bake your wings, but they probably won't be as crispy.)
For the  blue cheese dip (makes about a cup):
1/2 C crumbled blue cheese
3 tbsp buttermilk
6 tbsp sour cream
4 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp red wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Mix blue cheese and buttermilk until it resembles cottage cheese. Add in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Let chill for half an hour.


say cheese

I haven't made a good cheese board in a while, so when a friend and fellow cheese-lover was visiting, I decided to whip up a little fromage selection to snack on.
Clockwise from top left: fig jam; Grey Owl, a tangy goat cheese with an ashy rind from Quebec; a triple cream brie-like cheese that I can't remember the name of, sorry; Bleu Bénédictin, a pungent blue from Quebec; Merlot BellaVitano, a sharp and rich cheese that's soaked in Merlot from Wisconsin.
The full spread included a variety of pickles and olives, some bacon-wrapped parmigiano-stuffed dates, crostinis, veggies, plus some of the amazing goods I picked up at Arz.


arz bakery & fine foods

Last weekend, I stopped into Arz Bakery & Fine Foods for the first time. Located in Scarborough, Arz is a grocery store/bakery/deli that specializes in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean ingredients. The produce section was brimming with exotic fruit, eggplants of all shapes and sizes, plus fresh dates and figs. Behind a glass shield was a beautiful display of bulk dried fruits and nuts. The bakery had a wide selection of flatbreads as well as an impressive variety of pastries. The deli was stocked with ready-to-eat salads, prepared vegetables, meats and cheeses. I really wanted to taste everything in sight.
The olive bar was mind-blowing! Now, I love olives hard, so I couldn't stop staring at all of the different varieties. Again, everything was behind a glass shield to avoid contamination.
I picked up some of the freshest pita bread (it was still warm!) and bought a quartet of their famous homemade dips—it included the creamiest hummus ever, a tangy pepper and walnut based dip called muhamarra, garlicky zucchini mutabel and a smokey-sweet babghanouj—plus a feta dip and some stuffed vine leaves. 
At the back of the store, there's a small counter that serves stuffed pastries and shawarma. I went for the beef shawarma and it came stuffed with shaved beef, pickled turnip, tomato, onion, herbs and a slathering of hummus.
Arz Bakery & Fine Foods
1909 Lawrence Ave. E.


banh mi boys

Banh Mi Boys has quickly become one of my favourite places for lunch, dinner or a mid-afternoon snack. Not gonna lie, I was a bit skeptical at first about the mixing of Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese and Mexican cuisine, but after my first bite I was hooked. 
Let's start with the kimchi fries. Kimchi and fries may not sound like a good combo, but somehow it works. The crispy fries topped with pulled pork, mayo, chopped green onions and a good helping of kimchi were amazing. Every bite had so many textures and complementing flavours—very addictive. 
The banh mi here are a higher end version of the classic mystery meat banh mi sold on Spadina (which are also tasty in their own way). The lemongrass pork banh mi comes stuffed with juicy grilled pork, pickled carrot and daikon, cucumber and cilantro. It's topped with their Asian bbq sauce and the bun is slightly toasted so it has a nice, crisp exterior.
The kalbi beef taco layers Korean grilled short ribs with Asian slaw, kimchi, pickled carrot and daikon, and cilantro all in an Indian paratha-like shell. This bad boy is pretty messy, but equally satisfying. I like the chewiness of the bread and the meat is perfectly sweet and savoury.
When I first pictured the steamed bao, I thought they would be small two-bite buns, but they're not. The braised beef cheek bao is filled with a good helping of tender beef cheek topped with a sweet and tangy onion chutney and more of the obligatory pickled carrot, daikon, cucumber and cilantro. The bao itself is pillowy soft and hefty enough to hold all that filling.
The restaurant space is pretty small and there's no table service here: you need to order and wait for your food. I suggest going with a friend who can snag a table while you grab the eats. Line-ups are common, but the service is fast and efficient. So glad that Banh Mi Boys is a short walk from my house.

Banh Mi Boys
392 Queen St. W.


back in the day

A few months back I impulsively (as always) picked up The Back in the Day Cookbook. It was during a time when I was dreaming about a vacation to the deep south. Visions of peach cobbler, fried chicken and sweet tea were floating through my mind on a daily basis. Well, that vacation hasn't happened (yet), but I'm still hopeful that one day it will. And when it does the Back in the Day Bakery in Savannah, Georgia will definitely be on my must stop list. 
Recently I tried out their chocolate chip cookie recipe. It's actually similar to the NYT cookies in that they are finished with a good sprinkle of fleur de sel, but these were more up my alley in terms of texture: crisp, chewy and buttery good!


strawberry hand pies

The thing about strawberries is that they usually only last a few days in the fridge before turning soft and bruised. After strawberry picking over the weekend, I ate more berries than I could count and froze a bunch for later use. The remaining strawberries were transformed into individual hand pies. I experimented with a couple different shapes just for fun.
I use this trusty dough recipe and for the filling I just sliced up some berries, added in sugar to taste and about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch. The tops were brushed with some egg yolk and sprinkled with sugar before baking at 400 degrees until golden. These pies do bleed while baking since the berries are super juicy and some may even burst open, but I don't mind. I like to serve them warm, served with a scoop of homemade vanilla bean ice cream (I use this recipe).


berry good

I started to panic when I realized that strawberry season was almost over and I had none in my freezer for emergency smoothies. So last Sunday, Joe and I braved the heat and drove to Lindley's Farm in Ancaster to pick some berries. We were lucky because they let us know that this was probably the last week for pick-your-own strawberries. 
The best thing about these sweet little jewels isn't only that their grown here in Ontario—but they're also pesticide free! Lindley's has started pick-you-own raspberries this week too. I couldn't bear to be in under the sun any longer, but grabbed a half pint of red raspberries and black raspberries (sometimes called "black caps") at their roadside market. 
Lindley's Farm
900 Fiddler's Green Road


la gaspésie

I've been back in the city for a while now, but you know how it is after coming home from vacation. Catching up at work, doing a billion loads of laundry (even though it felt like I only wore two outfits the entire trip) and getting my life back in order, always seems to take longer than expected. My trip in a nutshell was great. Relaxing, low-key and just what I needed. The scenery was amazing! Cliffs, coast and tiny villages.
And the seafood! It was fresh every day. We ate a lot of lobster and I was obsessed with the sweetest little shrimps from Matane
Along the way, we passed poissoneries, fumoirs and fromageries. I  couldn't resist the snack packs of still warm squeaky cheese curds and Joe went wild for the smoked fish.
But we didn't only eat. We saw whales! Even though I was sea sick for most of the boat ride, it was mind-blowing to see whales up close. During our expedition we saw about 10, but we even saw a few from shore.
In a few of the villages we hit the wharf to try our hand at mackerel fishing. At first we didn't seem to have the right lures, but after getting some tips from the locals, we were ready. 
Soon it was time for the long drive home. The best part was stopping at Fromagerie Lemaire near Drummondville. I've written about this place before and still swear by their delicious poutine. 
I'm starting to think that road trips are the way to go. Seeing a part of Canada that I've never experienced before was awesome. And being able to stop whenever we wanted was even better. Next summer I'm thinking, West Coast?



The hot weather these days has got me wanting to be anywhere but in front of a hot oven. A staple dinner (and lunch) over here has been Korean kimbap. It requires minimal cooking and is filling enough to be a complete meal. Kimbap is sorta like sushi, except the rice isn't seasoned (usually) and there's no raw fish involved. Fillings include everything from cooked bulgogi (marinated Korean beef), crab stick and even canned tuna, plus sauteed spinach and carrots, fried egg and yellow pickled radish called danmujiHere's my kimbap pre-roll:
Once rolled, it totally resembles a maki roll:
Some of my rolls had bulgogi and crab stick.
I find that kimbap is best served fresh, when the rice is still warm. Next day kimbap is ok, but the rice gets a bit hard and the seaweed goes soggy. I've heard a solution is a quick dip in some egg and a light fry in a pan, but that means more time in the kitchen.