Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ravine Vineyard Bistro [Niagara-on-the-Lake]

We went to Niagara-on-the-Lake this past weekend for Taste the Season once again (see our last epic experience here and here), so we decided to start with lunch at one of the participating winery. We have previously been to Ravine Vineyard Bistro (@RiverviewWinery) for dinner and loved it, so we decided to start our journey here.

Love the barn feel here and the floor length window facing the vineyard, can't get a better view than that plus the food are just as delicious.

We decided not to order wine although we are at a winery since we knew that we are going to be tasting a lot throughout the day.
Fresh bread w/ whipped butter, can't start our weekend any better.

 Soup of the Day $9
Nothing beats a heart warming creamy bowl of soup and this butternut squash soup can't be more perfect with the perfect consistency.

 Chicken Parfait $14
~ shaved fennel and shallot salad, toast
This was perfect and I have to mention the perfect toasts with the charred grille mark but not dry (hate crumbly dry toast). Although I love mustard, I don't feel the need of it since the parfait was so perfect and the salad just gave it just enough pop of both texture and tartness.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Abbey`s Kitchen Stadium - #AKS Finale [EVENT]

The Finale of Abbey`s Kitchen Stadium #AKS took place at The Delicious Food Show October 27th and of course I can't miss it after attending the three previous epic battles here, here & here. It's for to same great cause which is to raise money for My food My Way (MFMW)(@MyFoodMyWay) and what a successful series of event, all thanks to the gorgeous Abbey (@AbbeysKitchen)

Secret Ingredient : 
Samuel Adam Beer (@SamuelAdamsBeer) Boston Lager & Latitude 48 IPA

The 6 Judges :
Leslie Roberts (@lrobertsglobal) ~ Global TV
Christine Cushing (@ccfearless) ~ Opera Network
Susur Lee (@susurlee) ~ Celebrity Chef & MFMW ambassador
John Chiles (@JayChiles) ~ Toronto Argonauts
Deanna Kaminskyj ~ Sam Adam Marketing Executive

~ Chef Bruce Wood

15 Hour Latitude 48 Braised Boar Shoulder, Boston Lager Chowder, Hand Dug Clams
This was probably the worst looking dish but I guarantee it taste a lot better. It was super moist and flavorful.

Boston Brown Bread, Boston Lager Ice Cream, Latitude 48 Soaked Raisin
This was probably my fave dish of the day where you can fully taste the beer flavor, love the ice cream which had such a strong beer flavor and together with the beer soaked raisin... yummmm, heavenly. Definitely my kind of dessert (^_^)

~ Chef Matt Basile

Beer-Talla Bacon Jam French Toast Sandwiches
My fave bacon jam in Toronto, this was perfectly indulgent and just the way I like it.

Polenta Grilled Cheese with Braised Short Rib & Lager Smoked Ketchup

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pukka [Media Event / Indian]

Owed by Derek Valleau (Crush Wine Bar) and Harsh Chawla (restaurant industry consultant), Pukka (@pukkatoronto) definitely introduce a playful, chic, contemporary take of Indian cuisine to St Claire West. I was lucky enough to be invited by Vicky (@momwhoruns) to their media event, not only was the food amazing but also a very fun and intimate with only around a dozen of bloggers around a big communal table.

Pukka means solid, genuine, authentic and the owner thought it's a fun word to use as the name of the restaurant. In British slang, it also means first class or absolute genuine.

With Chefs who previously worked at Scaramouche and Amaya, they have developed a solid sized menu of Indian classics as well as more Western inspired flavors and ingredients such as the Goat Cheese Stuffed Lamb Kebabs and Eton Mess dessert we have.

For a Tuesday night, there wasn't an empty seat by 7:00pm

I was half an hour late so missed the cocktails and hors d'oeuvres :
Pomegranate Royale & Indian Caesar Cocktails
Cold Tandoori Smoked Eggplant Tartare & Mixed Vegetables Pakoras

Peter Boyd (Scaramouche Sommelier) came up with some great wine pairing which wouldn't be easy task given the bold flavors of Indian dishes.

Our dinner was paired with a white and a red wine :
2012 Pinot Bianco, Nals Margreid Italy $46
2012 Cotes du Rhone, Saint-Michel France $9.30/glass $45/bottle

Baby Kale Salad
~ dates, lotus chips, special cashew dressing
This was so good, fresh crispy with the nutty dressing, the sweet dates and the perfectly crispy lotus chips. Perfect combination of flavors and textures.

 Chicken 65
~ South Indian Fried Chicken , chilli-tamarind sauce
Why 65? Some people says it's made from 65 types of spices, some said it's made 65 times before it's successful and some says it's invented in 1965, a dish originated from Chennai, India and is normally served as a bar snack. This was perfect with our white wine, can't help but wanting more.

iYellow Wine School ~ Wines of Argentina

Not sure about you but when I think of wine class, I always imagine a boring class full of technical terms with old professional "wine taster". But I have heard so many positive things about iYellow Wine Club (@iyellowwineclub).

You can join iYellow Wine Club for free, they are a Toronto base social wine club where they organize various events, tours and classes.
They offer wine school classes every week with a different theme and the class we attended was "Wines of Argentina". For $45 per person, you get an hour long class which include tutored tasting of 6 different wines plus selected cheese pairings.

 I was lucky to be one of the first to attend classes at their newly open Wine Cave, located at the back alley of 243 Queen Street W. which felt very mysterious and intimate.

 Angelo (@angelaaiello), the iYellow founder herself school us that night and love how the class was very interactive and fun, nothing pretentious here!

Although wine goes so well with food, at a wine tasting where we want to clinically study wine (the essence), we were told that it's best to have it on it's own.

 5 Easy Steps to Tasting Wine :
1) Sight ~ Look at the wine, focusing on its color. Is it dark or light? Transparent or opaque? Color can help determine age and varietal.
2) Swirl ~ Swirl the glass to open up the wine and release its aromas. Look at the legs forming on the side of the glass - how quickly do they run down the glass?
3) Smell ~ Place your nose in the glass and take short, small sniffs. What is the wine's bouquet? Fruit, a countryside, a memory?  
4) Sip ~ First, swirl a small sip in your mouth. Then take another sip, and try to inhale some air to aerate the wine in your mouth. Leave the wine in your mouth for a bit before swallowing.
5) Savour ~ Enjoy the wine's flavour and take note of its finish. Was it long, dry, short or sweet? Also consider: did you enjoy this wine, and would you buy it? Is it worth the cost?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Miss Korea [Korean]

Me, Justine (@foodigatorJ) and Mary (@citrusblack) tried to come out for dinner and drinks from time to time to catch up and we tend to go to Korean restaurant. It's just great, no fuss and catch up kind of meal.

We decided to try out the newly open Miss Korea (@MISSKOREA_BAR) on Yonge & Bloor, nothing better than a bit of shopping before a meal. The space is definitely different from the Korean Restaurant that we are used to in Toronto. It's "hipper" looking with the round stainless steel tables and stools where you can open up to store your bag/coat inside.

Just like most Korean restaurant, they have a few Combo to choose for where they include some alcohol drinks ~ choose from Soju / 4 Beer / Makgurli / 2 Cocktails

We end up ordering 3 combo with 2 Makgurli and 4 Beers (#KoreanDrinking)

Deep Fried Chicken Ddong-Jip (Gizzard) 
~ $23.98 Combo or $10.00 Regular
We usually order the sweet and spicy DF chicken but since all of us love gizzards, this was an obvious choice. Love the crunchy texture of the batter with the gizzards and love how the sauce is served on the side which left the gizzards crispy for longer.

 Kimchi Jjim (Kimchi & Pork)
~ $27.95 Combo or $15.00 Regular
 This was definitely different from what I am use to with the steam pork belly and kimchi. The kimchi here somehow lost it's spicy and sour flavor. But love how it's served with slices of fried tofu which gave the whole dish some texture. Just have some of everything in each bite and it'll be perfect.

Kalbi Jjim (Braised Short Ribs) $18
~ Braised Short Ribs, Squash, Chestnut, Date, Pine Nuts
A very traditional dish, it was my favorite dish of the night and with a bowl of rice each, this can easily feed 2 people. The short ribs were cook to perfection, melt-in-your-mouth goodness that's packed with flavors. I was basically drinking the sauce, so good!!!

Bistro le Contemporain ~ #TasteMTL [Montreal]

Once again accompanied by Janice (@KtchnHealsSoul), 2nd night of TasteMTL bought us to Le Musée d'art Contemporain (@macmtl). HElm by Chef Antonin Mousseau-Rivard. Bistro le Contemporain's menu are often inspired by the exhibition happening at the time which results in inventive and beautiful dishes that's not only a treat to our taste buds but also to our eyes.
TasteMTL three course dinner at $29pp
~ The TasteMTL event was to promote Montreal food scene to both locals and visitors alike, I was extremely surprise that the menu here was only in French. So bear with me while I do my best in translating the menu

~ amuse bouche

Langue de veau façon jambon cuit, sauce gribiche, onion frits, macedoine de legumes, herbes fraîches
 ~ Veal tongue cook in way of ham, sauce gribiche, fried onions, diced veggies salad, fresh herbs
We both ordered this as our appetizer and we were both pleasantly surprise at the portion of this considering it's a prix fixe menu, it could easily be a main course portion. Everything here was just perfect, from the perfectly cook melt-in-your-mouth tongue to the tangy gribiche sauce and the crispy fried onions.

Boudin Noir en Croustade Salée au Ras El Hanout, Chou Rouge, Beurre de Pommes, Petit Juus Corsé +$6 for this option
~ Blood Sausage crusted with Ras El Hanout which is a North African spice mix, red cabbage, apple butter & juices
Thought the appetizer would be my favorite dish but after the first bite here, I change my mind. Once again everything on this plate was amazing from the crusted blood sausage which had the perfect texture and flavors plus love the added crunch from the spice crust. Tied together with the pop of tartness from the red cabbage and sweetness from the apple butter.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Magic Noodle 大槐树 [Chinese]

We have been ignoring uptown new offering recently and have been sticking with some old favorites. So sticking with our ramen addiction, we went for some traditional Chinese hand-pulled noodle 拉麵 instead (Chinese Ramen).

We arrive at Magic Noodle 大槐树 for lunch on a Sunday and it was packed with quite a wait but the service and turn over time was pretty quick. We got our table within 15 minutes which was very acceptable in my opinion.

Cold Flavored Assorted Vegetables $3.25
We saw most table ordering this and decided to give it a try. It was just slightly pickled veggies which was sweet and slightly tangy which was a perfect side to the noodles.

Sliced Pork Foot in Soy Sauce $4.99
Another cold dish but I have to say that I'm a bit bias on this since I like mine hot and melt in your mouth version but cold ones are more "al-dente"/springy in texture. But this was very flavorful and Ben did love it.

Sizzling Tofu $1.50
Not sure why it's called sizzling but it was just your typical Chinese BBQ skewers (they have a few meat options). Love the sweet sauce here together with the typical Chinese skewer dry rub mix.

 All the noodles are made fresh constantly where you could see the process through their open kitchen which they didn't allow me to video or take picture thou :(
They have 2 types of noodle here, the regular hand-pulled ones (Lamian 拉麵) and the hand cut noodle which is where they hold a large piece of dough and slice it with a special cutter over boiling water/broth.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Touhenboku Ramen [Media Preview]

I was thrilled when I saw on twitter that another ramen shop is opening up soon and even more thrilled when I got to attend the Media Preview of Touhenboku Ramen (@touhenbokuRamen) last night. They are officially open today!

Located at 261 Queen W, in my opinion this is probably one of the best location you can choose for a ramen shop. Who wouldn't want to have a comforting hot bowl of ramen after shopping in the area and with only 36 seating, I won't be surprise to see lineups all the time.

Can you believe that they have 450 Arita porcelain bowls custom made in Japan which cost a whopping $50 a piece and as per the owner it is to keep the ramen hot longer. So it is not surprising that they even imported their chopstick from Japan as well.

Love the all girl ramen crew here

Unlike most other ramen shops, Touhenboku used chicken broth instead of the traditional pork and their noodles will be freshly made in house daily. Chef Machida also mixed his own flour blend including a special high protein flour for optimal elasticity noodles.

There's 4 types of ramen on their menu : White (original/creamy), Black (garlic), Red (chili) and Light (clear) with the choice of Shio (sea salt) and Sho-yu (soya). Each topped with wood ear mushrooms, half a boiled egg, green onions & nori. Then there's the choice of thin and thick noodles and choice of lean pork, rich pork & chicken chashu.

As per their website: 
"Ramen is more than noodles and soup; it is Japanese soul food. The rich creamy broth is made entirely of chicken and this long, slow process draws out the collagen to create a mizutaki broth that is considerably lighter than the regular tonkotsu (pork bone) with much less fat."

I totally agree with the first half but i find their chicken broth heavier and fattier then the pork broth that I am use to, not that it wasn't tasty.

Here they have the white type of ramen which is softer and not as chewy al-dente as the yellow one. And after trying both the thin and thick noodle, we both agrees that the thin one is better. I somehow thought the thick one would be slightly harder/chewier but it was actually doughier. Their recipe is somehow perfect for the thin version.

White $10.50
~ Original Touhenboku Ramen
Ben choose rich pork & sho-yu (soya) for this but I am not sure what the difference between the shio and shoyu since the broth flavor was so intense. The soup/broth is really thick and on the oily side but extremely flavorful.

Hudson Kitchen

After all the buzz during TIFF with all the A-list customers at this yet to be open restaurant name Hudson Kitchen (@hudsonkitchen), I felt like I should try it as soon as possible. I tried to made reservation that fit my schedule several time but end up making a Friday reservation 3 weeks in advance. Helm by Chef Robbie Hojilla former sous-chef of Woodlot and chef-de-cuisine at Ursa, I am confident that this would be a great meal.

Love the space as soon as I walk in the place with the semi circular bar, the overly packed bar shelves, the exposed brick wall and all the different size frames w/food reference taking up the entire focal wall.

The Miller $18.50
~ Mezcl, Tromba Blanco Tequila, Green Charteuse, Creme de Cacao, Sherry, House Made Dram
This was very strong and that basically explain the price tag. Love it but this is a cocktail that's better enjoy on it's own cause the flavors here are so strong that it compete with most food.

The New Black $13
~ Sailor Jerry's Spice Rum, Seabuckthorn Liqueur, Dead Elephant IPA, Aperol, Spiced Syrup, Lemon Juice
This is probably the best beer cocktail I ever had, I never really like the ones I had before. This was very light and refreshing, perfect to go with our meal if you ever decided to just have one cocktail for the night, that should be it. Ben wants to try to duplicate this at home in the near future.

House made Bread w/ Carrot Butter & Charred Eggplant Spread $4
This is one of the place that you feel paying for bread (brioche in this case) is all worth it, love the contrast of sweet carrot butter and the slightly bitter charred eggplant spread.

Monday, November 11, 2013

U.S.A. Rice Recipe Challenge [Recipe]

I am so glad that U.S.A. Rice contacted me with a recipe challenge where I was to try one of the recipes they provided. This is a great opportunity for me since as you may know, although I do love cooking from time to time I never follow a recipe and tend to just throw a dish together.

 Interesting Facts & Figures :
~ Nearly 65% of rice consumed in Canada is grown in the U.S
 ~ Canada produces no rice of its own. Canadian wild rice is not true rice, but the seed of an aquatic grass.
~ The U.S. is one of the largest exporters of rice, supplying 12% of the rice that enters world trade. Approximately 50% of the U.S. rice crop is exported to more than 100 countries.
~ Rice has been produced in the U.S. for more than 300 years.
~ The U.S. produces over 40 commercial varieties of rice each year in paddy, brown, white, parboiled and precooked forms.
~ One seed of rice yields more than 3,000 grains. It is highest yielding cereal grain and can grow in many kinds of environment and soils.

 I am a total Chinese who eat jasmine rice most of the time while at home, so I decided to get brown rice for the challenge. I usually use a rice cooker but this time I decided to try making it on the stove, although more complicated/time consuming where you need to keep an eye on compare to the rice cooker but I like to put it on a little higher heat than recommended so I can get some slightly burn crispy rice at the bottom to munch on.

 What's the difference between white and brown rice?
Brown rice is rice from which only the hull has been removed while the rice has been completely milled, removing the bran layers for white.

I end up deciding to make the Leftover Turkey and Rice Tortilla Soup (recipe here).  


Outfit Details:
Sweater & Cape - H&M; Faux Leather Skirt - F21; Bag - Kate Spade (Toronto Premium Outlet);
Boots - Old (online)

Can't part with my cape since I bought it this Fall, this is just the perfect to get the don't-put-on-your-coat-and-drape-on-shoulder-look that everyone is going for this days

Got a bunch of product from BeautynetKorea the other day and among them, these limited edition of Etude House Minnie collection and I was wearing the #1 mini red lipstick which was a moisturizing sheer color. I put on quite a few layer to get it to the color I want.