Saturday, August 30, 2008

Animal Style

I've heard so many stories about IN-N-OUT Burger that I was skeptical it could live up to the hype. After all, it's fast food... how good can it really be?

First, let me say I'm a person who appreciates simplicity. So, when I walked in the door, I was amazed to find a super clean white interior. Not exactly high-design, but not McD's either.

Second, the menu has three items. Seriously. You order a one, two or three. A cab driver from the night before gave us the low-down on the secret menu (not so secret) that allows variations on the three. His description of Animal Style really tweaked my interest, and so Fusilli, Cupcake and I decided we should all have the same... the number two – animal style.

This may be the best burger I've ever had. A soft bun, crispy lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions, "sauce", cheese and a mustard cooked patty. I'm not sure what "mustard cooked" means, but it was awesome. It was hot and cold, soft and crunchy, sweet and sour – all at the same time. As a bonus, it comes ready to eat, with the wrapper peeled back, smiling up at you. I don't recommend getting this as take-out. It deserves to be enjoyed immediately.


Peel & Eat Shrimp

Day 6 – Dinner: The show is over and now the vacation begins. Tonight we we're almost too tired to cook dinner after squeezing in another breakfast at The Maple Tree, floating in the pool, eating lunch, floating in the pool, and then shopping at the outlet mall.

However, the thought of going out for dinner was enough to motivate one last effort to visit the grocery store for supplies. The menu was simple, but I think this may have been my favorite meal so far.

First, a classic steak house salad – The Iceberg Wedge. This version has shredded lettuce with a blue cheese dressing. The shrimp were marinated in olive oil, garlic, and then grilled. On the side – fresh guacamole and chips. To drink – a pitcher of Margaritas.

Best of all... the shrimp were peel-and-eat. In order to maintain some degree of decorum, I started with the salad, using my knife and fork. Once that was done, it was a hands-on affair.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Salmon & Asparagus with Hollondaise

Day 4 – Dinner: Keeping it simple in Vegas isn't easy. It's almost impossible to find comfort food in this neon wonderland, and when you do, it's deep fried.

The shack feels like it's a world away from the strip, even if it's only a few minutes drive. It's living large without the flashing lights and cha-cha's. Where else could I find a perfectly grilled salmon, asparagus (self-props) and a light, lemony hollondaise (big-up Fusilli).

One thing you have to love – here, wine is half the price that it is at home. Viva Las Vegas!


Grilled Pizza

Day 3 – Dinner: In case you haven't tried it, grilled pizza is awesome. It's also perfect when you have great left-overs, like queso fresco, flank steak, grilled chicken and veggies.

Fusilli made some fresh dough, and I warmed up the bbq. I'm totally digging the charcoal routine. 1. Start the bbq. 2. Float in the pool 3. Spread the coals around. 4. Cook dinner.

Grilled pizza also has a few simple steps:
1. Grill one side of the rolled out dough
2. Place the ingredients on the cooked side
3. Place back on the grill to finish

Note: Ingredients should be cooked. You just want to grill the dough and heat the toppings.


Show Food

Day 3 – Lunch: Rule #1 of shows... don't eat the show food. It may not look like much, but an almond butter sandwich, a banana, some cashew munchies and coffee can get you through the day.

Rule #2 – when the cuties from American Apparel come around in their underwear, give them as many rings as they want.


Mache with Grilled Chicken

Day 2 – Dinner: After setting up for the show, we came back to the shack for more floating, margaritas and dinner.

After some challenges last night with the old-school bbq, I think I've got the hang of this charcoal thing. Tonight's dinner – grilled chicken, mache, queso fresco and toasted sesame seeds. 

For atmosphere, I fired up the crazy outdoor fireplace. The gas comes up through the gravel creating an amazing effect. Can you hear Frank singing My Way in the background?


Grilled Veggies & Flank Steak

Day 1 – Dinner: While the flank steak was marinating in lime juice and tequila, we set about floating in the pool. Later, we fired up the old-school bbq and grilled peppers, zucchini and asparagus. On the side – baked potato with crème fraîche.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Eco Vodka

We're suckers for packaging. It's nice to know that good looking products can be delicious and eco-friendly at the same time. This one comes with a self-addressed envelope to send back the swing-top cap.

P.S. Keep the vodka in the freezer. 



Fusilli had a brilliant idea – rent a house with a pool, invite the other ingredients, and avoid the strip. Welcome to the Caddy Shack!

After Maple Tree, we headed to Target for pool floaties, shades and sun screen. We also hit Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and the Liquor Barn.

P.S. The pool is 86˚


The Vegas Monte Christo

Before stocking up on supplies, you have to have a great breakfast. Thank-you City Search for pointing us to Maple Tree, a great spot that has my favorite – the Monte Christo sandwich. Their version has ham, turkey and swiss cheese. It's also deep fried, accompanied by a side of piping hot raspberry purée and fruit. I know what you're thinking... no bacon? Me too, so I ordered a side of the same. In summary, it was incredible. Crispy, not greasy, and nicely complimented by the raspberry purée.

Fusilli had incredible blue-crab cakes with hollandaise.  Cupcake had fluffy pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Greetings from Las Vegas!

Broccolli, Fusilli and Cupcake have landed in Vegas!

Day 1: Stock up on essentials
• Fresh Squeezed O.J.
• Vodka, Gin & Tequila
• Wine & Prosecco
• Tonic, water & ice
• Corona & limes
• Snacks
• Kanye's from Target!

P.S. It's 104˚


Friday, August 22, 2008

They're a hit.

Cookies for breakfast! Rob could only take one bite because he's lactose intolerant, but I think he still savoured that morsel. Nadia and Tracy were too busy licking off chocolate to say much.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

The chocolate chip cookie update

Broccoli and I have been anxiously waiting for Friday to show up because it's the day we're having these cookies for breakfast! I'm posting right now as I wait for the next batch to finish baking and I have to say. I'm in love. With these cookies. My roomie and I had a tasting from the first batch that cooled and we both agreed that the cookies are crispy but light, chewy but not heavy. There is a lovely carameliness, which I could smell even at the batter stage and the sea salt really brought out the flavour of the dark chocolate. Roommate advises chasing it with milk instead of coffee because she thinks the acidity of the coffee would over-power the subtleties of the cookie. She also just called out to me from the kitchen that she recommends cow milk of a lower fat percentage, such as skim or 1%. hah! If you happen to be around 37 Front Street east tomorrow morning around 10am, stop by with a toonie and maybe we'll spare you one of these gems! ;-)

As a final footnote, these cookies contain Callebaut dark chocolate wafers and are sprinkled with sea salt from Sicily.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And the countdown begins…

It seems like everyone in the blogosphere is talking about this chocolate chip cookie recipe from The New York Times. Well, we wanted to eat them so I got to work tonight. With a 36 hour refrigeration period, the earliest Broccoli and I will be able to sample these for breakfast at work will be *Friday*! So I heeded his words when he instructed me "not to get distracted" this evening. Let the chilling begin.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fava Beans with Ricotta Salata

These may not look very big, but imagine a bean the size of your thumb. When it comes to fava beans, the bigger the better. You have to shell them twice, first to get them out of bed, and then again once they've been blanched. Early in the season, when they're small, it's a lot of work to make a salad... but it's always worth it.

I used some of my emergency bacon, toasted walnuts and then tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt. It's sitting on shaved Ricotta Salata.


In Case of Emergency

Having emergency bacon in the house is just as important as bottled water and candles. Mark my words... one night you'll get home from work late, have a craving for a bowl of Carbonara, and then curse your poor emergency planning. Of course you'll have eggs and pasta, everyone has eggs and pasta. But what about the bacon?

This slab of heaven came from the North Market, and it's destined to be carefully cut into cubes and frozen in small batches for emergencies. I'll sleep better knowing that I'm prepared.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Apricot Jam

Apricots are in season for the next few minutes, so Fusilli did the smart thing, and made a batch of jam. One basket = nine jars of jam.

The after shot, shows how blueberries, apricots, and pancakes can make happy-happy together. I recommend apricot jam on everything but pickles.


The Four Food Groups

Nice presentation! Zucchini with parmesan, peas with mint, carrots with dill, and corn with fried sage leaves.

Veggies from Herrle's, herbs courtesy of the backyard planter.


Fusilli by Fusilli

Yes, walnuts on pasta. Try it sometime, I think you'll like it. Also shown, a sentimental favorite from a long-ago trip abroad, Chateau De Nages.


Chicken à la things

More goodies from Herrle's. Fresh beans, peas and potatoes. The chicken hitched it from Toronto's St. Lawrence Market, but it was well loved before it hit the plate. I'd say this meal was 100% local and organic. S'nice.


Butter Conduit

It's not that the butter is more important than the corn, but would you really enjoy it as much without the butter and salt?

This time of year Herrle's in Waterloo is serving up several varieties of corn straight from the field. It could only be fresher if you picked it yourself.


Hand to Mouth

Someday I'd like to have a big vegetable garden. I picture tomatoes, zucchinis, fava beans, lettuce, herbs, and a rabbit who wears a vest that keeps me company while I'm working.

In the meantime, cherry tomatoes grown in planters will do. Fresh basil, a touch of olive oil and sea salt make for an excellent garden to table salad.


Monday, August 11, 2008

BBQ Salad?

Short of throwing the spinach on the grill and figuring out how to melt the goat cheese on the same gril, we bbq'd everything else. Roasted peppers and onions turned out great and you can't really see the pancetta in there but trust me, it is... I think we just put a little balsamic and oil on this one but with all the sweet vegetables adding a little lemon into the dressing wouldn't hurt.


Saturday, August 9, 2008


Burrata's the kind of cheese that's hard to stop eating. It's not as heavy as creamcheese, has a moist, smooth, buttery texture (burra = butter) and subtle creamy flavour. We've heard of some burrata binging incidents that didn't end so nicely so it's best to stop while you still want more.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Granita in Gerace

Here's a more *deluxe* granita we had in Gerace, a gorgeous medieval town up the hill from Siderno. Fresh peach and fig flavours + cream.


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Does water count as food?

I was fascinated by the ancient public fountains/water taps we encountered in every big city and little village. A constant stream of cold water flowing out to wash your hands and face, as well as drink. When I asked C where this water came from, he looked at me like I was an alien, did his signature shoulder shrug, and gave me the "MEH! From an aqueduct!" or "MEH! From a mountain!" The laughing faces are in Rome and the snakes are in a town in Calabria called Stilo.


Signature Dish

Everyone has to have a signature dish so I stole this one...
Emeril missed a few essential ingredients however, namely bacon, or in this case pancetta and bbq'd lemon chicken. Considering the crap they use in most restaurant dressings I think I'm still ahead here.


Monday, August 4, 2008

Homemade, homegrown lunch

Nothing fancy, but still tasty and memorable. Tomatoes from the garden on frise, basil from the terrace, homemade sopressata, and remember that bufala caciocavallo? Oh so good. I miss homemade Italian lunch. And to think I used to hate tomatoes!


The other G

I know everyone talks about the amazing gelato in Italy, but before I got here, nobody had mentioned the fantastic *granita*! It's refreshing and light, and the best thing to eat to cool off after a day at the beach. You can get it with or without cream, and the fruit flavours are real and intense! We frequented a little place in Locri, a town just 5 mins away from Siderno, just about everyday to get our fill.


Fichi in an abandoned village

About an hour away from Siderno is an abandoned medieval village called Pentadatillo (translation: five fingers) because the little peaks of the mountain on which this village once existed look like fingers. During the 1950s, the side of the mountain started to erode and the homes began to crumble, so everyone left and eventually established a new village just a couple of kms away near the base of the mountain. We were curious to see the remains of the village, plus we'd heard a rumour that a hermit still lived there so we took a road trip. While walking among the ruins, C all of a sudden jumps a fence and comes back with… fresh fichi (figs)! You knew there had to be food mixed into this story somewhere, right? Conclusion: the village is now undergoing restoration and the prices for the current broken-down shacks are going up (50 000 euro!), the hermit made his living as a musician but passed away a couple of years ago, and the figs are sweet and abundant in Pentadatillo.