Pumpkin French Toast with Caramelized Apples

At the risk of sounding completely basic, I will admit that I absolutely love pumpkin. Every year, when September rolls around, I’m like:

I even wrote a whole post devoted to all the different things you can do with leftover pumpkin.

This was not one of them but obviously should have been.

And since my other BAE is brunch

I thought why not marry the two?

What about….. PUMPKIN FRENCH TOAST!!

I decided to top it with some caramelized apples because I went apple picking in Caledon last weekend (and by “picking”, I mean stood around directing Colin to get all the high ones) and have about 30 left to use. Plus, isn’t the best way to enjoy fresh, seasonal fruit smothering it in butter and sugar?

For the caramelized apples I used a slightly modified version of this recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butt-aaaah
  • 4 apples cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used mostly MacIntosh. Some recipes say to peel them but I enjoy the skins)
  • 2 tablespoons golden brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger

Melt the butter in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat until it begins to brown. Next, add apples, brown sugar and spices, stir to blend and sauté until tender (about 10 minutes).

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aww yeah

Now set aside that delicious noise and move on to the toast.

For the French Toast (makes about 8-9 pieces): 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond because I am a weight-conscious yuppie but you could use any variety)
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix- use the real sh*t) 450
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp of Pumpkin pie Spice (recipe here)
  • 8 pieces of bread (I used day-old egg bread, similar to Challah)
  • Butter or margarine for the pan
  • Maple Syrup to top

First, pre-heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat (or griddle if ya nasty) and butter that sh*t. Combine the milk, pumpkin puree, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, and Pumpkin Pie Spice in a bowl until well combined. Pour into a shallow dish.

Next, dip the bread into the egg mixture one piece at a time, coating both sides (Tip: use your hand to dip the bread. I initially tried to do it with a spatula and it was a hot mess). Transfer to the skillet and cook until golden brown on one side, then flip to the opposite side and cook until golden brown as well.

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Guys, this smelled SO GOOD. I had to hold myself back while cooking.

Once done, transfer to plate and top with caramelized apples. I also had some leftover toasted hazlenuts because I am basically Martha Stewart so I threw on a few of those as well.

Serve warm with real maple syrup. No Aunt Jemima bid-nass up in here. (I also made some turkey bacon on the side. If you close your eyes really hard it ALMOST tastes like regular bacon.)

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Voila! Oh MAN. Let me tell you,

The only thing missing?

Question of the day: What is your favorite breakfast food? 

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How To Make The Perfect Grilled Cheese

The ironic thing about my last post (get it? IRON-ic??) was that the majority of you seemed to just breeze right past my laudable domestic accomplishment, and instead focus solely on the photo of the delicious grilled cheese sandwich.

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I can’t say I blame you.

In fact, I was actually pumped you guys asked, since this particular sandwich involved serious time, effort, and months (yes MONTHS) of planning.

Let me start by saying that those of you who found my last post “too domestic” might want to turn back now. Also, this is not your typical, Kraft Singles noise, so you grilled cheese purists also might want to sit this one out.

But if you’ve got an adventurous palate and like eating delicious things, then read on to see how it’s done.

And when it’s finished, I PROMISE you will say:

 

1. The Bread

We used a nice sourdough from BlackBird Baking Co. in Kensington Market here in Toronto:

but  you can really use any artisinal or store-bought variety you want, provided that:

  1.  it’s not too holey (you don’t want to lose any of that sweet, cheesy nectar); and
  2. you don’t slice it too thick (otherwise the cheese won’t melt. Duh)

2. The Cheese

There are times in life when one should exercise restraint. THIS IS NOT ONE OF THEM. Feel free to pile on as much cheese as humanly possible. We used a combination of old cheddar, and habanero havarti.

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I briefly considered adding a third cheese, but then I thought

Each cheese needs its moment in the sun. (And by that I mean, in my mouth)

3. The Bacon

Oh yah. I went there.

We fried up some applewood smoked bacon for a little extra flavour and it was DELICIOUS.

4. The Tomatoes

In a rather unconventional move, we added roasted tomatoes to the mix.

We made these guys a while back using a recipe similar to this one,  using beefeater tomatoes from the farmer’s market. After roasting them for 5(!!) hours, were planning to preserve them in olive oil, until we heard that can cause botulism

so we froze them instead.

If this roasting tomato business seems way more effort than it’s worth (trust me, I had that thought too)  then you could always use store-bought sun-dried tomatoes instead.

5. The Spread

We used fresh pesto from Saint Lawrence Market, but again, you could also use store-bought. I honestly never met a pesto I didn’t like.

6. The Assembly

Heat up a heavy pan (we used a cast iron skillet) with a bit of oil. When that’s ready, take the bottom slice of each sandwich, and spread generously with butter (if you’ve made it this far, you’ve given up on being heart-healthy long ago). Set the bread butter-side down on the pan until it is evenly browned.

Make sure you watch carefully. We had a few casualties on this step.

Next, load up the cheese tomatoes, and bacon. We took another unconventional step here and broiled cheesy bread in the toaster oven for a few minutes.

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One the cheese begins to melt, remove from toaster oven.

Then, take the top slices of bread, and spread generously with butter on one side, and pesto on the other. Place butter-side down on the pan.

Once browned, flip over and place pesto-side down on top the sandwich.

Press down gently, and behold the delicious ooey gooey goodness.

If you really wanted to, you could probably do another flip of the whole sandwich on the pan- but ours were melty and delicious enough already.

So There you have it- a deconstructed, pesto and roasted tomato grilled-cheese on artisinal sourdough.

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Can you tell I’ve been watching too much Food Network lately?

We paired ours with tomato basil soup (I can’t remember the brand but we bought it at Loblaws) and some pickles and olives on the side. Perfection.

Like this aerial shot? Ive got mad photog skillz
Like this blurry aerial shot? I should totally be a full-time food blogger

 

Now, for once on my blog I can finally say- you guys should ABSOLUTELY try this one at home. And make one for me too while you’re at it.

Question of the Day: What are your tips for the perfect grilled cheese?

Featured post

Iron Lady

Last week I achieved yet another domestic milestone: I finally learned how to iron.

Side note: I should really start a spinoff blog called “The Domestication of BreezyK”. At this rate, I will have completely morphed into the Pioneer Woman by 2016.

Other homemaking pursuits I have recently tackled (besides assembling shoe-racks and making everything that can ever be made out of pumpkin):

  • De-seeding pomegranates088
  • Making delicious grilled cheese sandwiches (Ok, so I really just ate this. )093

Pressing the extra water out of tofu

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Wearing Aprons (like a BOSS)

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But I digress.

When it comes to household tasks, ironing, has long been my Waterloo. I have never been able to master it- mostly because I haven’t tried. Just the look of the thing makes me want to run screaming in the other direction and curl up in the fetal position.

This is what you use it for, right?

I think I inherited my resistance to this menacing metal appliance from my mother, who loathed ironing as well. Presumably in an act of defiance, she never taught her 5 children how to use one. This wasn’t really a problem for me growing up, since all I wore were t-shirts and jeans anyway, but it really began rearing its ugly head once I finished school and got a job at a law firm.

Suddenly I was immersed in a world of suits, silk blouses, and relentless pleats.  So how did I get by without looking like this all the time, you might ask?

I dug deep into my arsenal of iron-avoidance techniques, which include:

1. Putting things in the dryer on low heat for a few minutes

I know this is bad behavior for a couple of reasons.

  • most of these clothes are “dry-clean only” (whatever that means)
  • it uses a crap-load of energy. Every time I do it I can literally feel David Suzuki’s disapproving glare.

2. Hanging stuff in the bathroom while I shower

Again, this is not without its issues:

  • it doesn’t really get all of the wrinkles out unless you take a 45 minute, scalding hot shower
  • results in damp clothing, which you have to wait at least 20 minutes to put on

3.  Blowing on the wrinkles with a hairdryer

  • surprisingly effective, yet time-consuming

4.  Just letting stuff hang there for a while

  • In my experience with extreme laziness, if you just leave things alone for long enough, they tend to take care of themselves

5. Using my hair straightener

  • a sad but true confession – I once used my hair straightener to iron out wrinkles on a shirt in a pinch.
  • FYI- since most straighteners are like, 300 times hotter than the typical iron- I wouldn’t recommend this at home.

6.  Putting stuff under my mattress

  • I did this with dress pants one, and it worked ok, but it sort of kept me up all night, because I was convinced I could feel them underneath me like the Princess and the Pea.

    The struggle is real.

As you can see, all of these methods work with varying degrees of accuracy and effectiveness. You would think with the great lengths I have gone to develop ironing substitutes, I could simply invest the time to learn how to iron. But you would be underestimating my pig-headedness.

So basically, instead of this:

I typically look more like this:

Don’t be distracted by the cute puppy, people. There are 300 more words to go

Anyway- after nearly 29 years of successfully avoiding the iron, last week I was  finally forced to confront my biggest domestic fear head on.

We were rushing to get ready for a wedding, when my boyfriend suddenly said, “Hey babe, would you mind ironing this shirt for me?”

I paused. “Um, why don’t I just write on the card instead?”

“I’ve already done that.” he replied, “It would be a big help if you could iron this”  handing me his dress shirt.

I nervously took the shirt from him with two fingers, like a hot potato when I knew the music was about to stop. I immediately began scanning the room for the nearest exit.

“Wait, do you not now how to iron?” he asked, correctly reading my evasiveness.

“But what do you do instead?”

I quickly ran through the list above. The expression on his face was a mix of pure horror and disbelief.

“Ok, well, if that’s working for you.” he said, turning to do the task himself.

“No wait,” I said, swallowing every ounce of my pride. “I want to learn. It’s time”

He led me through a quick ironing tutorial, explaining the different techniques and settings (did I mention I’m dating Danny Tanner?) . Then, he watched as I practiced on an old t-shirt for a few minutes. And guys, I gotta say- it wasn’t that hard. 

In fact, I’m kind of a ringer.

I’d like to say that since then, I’ve been an ironing machine; pressing my jeans and undershirts like a true square; but I must admit that I’ve largely reverted back to my multitude of avoidance tactics. I don’t know, maybe I enjoy the arbitrary sense of suspense it all adds to my life or something. In any event, I don’t run screaming when I see the iron anymore, and that’s gotta count for something.

Question of the Day: What household task do you avoid the most?

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/oh-the-irony/

 

A Million and One Things To Do With Leftover Pumpkin

I was deep in the middle of my Saturday morning routine (painting my nails and watching PRV’d weight loss shows), when my boyfriend announced he wanted to make pumpkin muffins.

“Great!”I said, “Love pumpkin muffins!”

“Want to help?” he asked

My immediate reaction was:

 

…but, in an effort to be more domestic, I decided to bite the bullet. Plus, he has  been watching a lot of Pioneer Woman lately, and I’m starting to develop a bit of a complex.

Damnit, Ree Drummond! Stop making the rest of us look bad!

“Sure” I responded, Tis the season right?

Since canned pumpkin just “wouldn’t do”, step 1 was  heading to the market to pick up an actual, real-life pumpkin. There, I entertained myself by taking autumnal instagrams

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while my boyfriend agonized over the perfect gourd. Since they were all $2, we ended up walking away with the biggest pumpkin we could find. Literally, it was like, country fair-winning, radioactive isotope variety.

It could happen.

With the help of a wheelbarrow, some patience, and a LOT of complaining on my part, we eventually got the beast home and set about de-gutting the thing.

“You want to do the honors?” he asked me

In my head, I was like:

But deep down I knew that the Pioneer Woman wouldn’t be afraid of a few pumpkin guts. She’d get her strong, ranch hands in there and tear those guts out with her award-winning southern smile. So, I got myself a rubber glove, and was like:

Suffice to say, it was not pretty- but in the end, we got the thing cleaned out, and used the pumpkin flesh to whip up these delicious muffins:

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Only problem was, even after making the muffins, we still had about 98% of the mutant pumpkin left.

“So, what are we going to do with the rest?” he asked “We can’t just throw it out”

Both my patience and will to live were severely compromised at this point, but instead of getting down, I thought to myself: WWRDD – What Would Ree Drummond Do?  B*tch would get in there and whip up some more delicious pumpkin specialties.

“Of course we won’t throw it out!” I choked, “let me Google some ideas!”

I found a website devoted to “50 things you can do with leftover pumpkin” and my mind was literally blown. Up until that point, my experience with pumpkin was  limited to pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, and the occasional Pumpkin Spice Latte, if I was feeling frisky. This website had everything from pumpkin risotto, to pumpkin flavored margaritas.

I found a recipe for lamb and pumpkin stew that sounded delicious, and decided to attempt it. Guess what? It turned out AMAZING.

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Next, I roasted the pumpkin seeds with some olive oil, smoked paprika and cumin:

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But despite these two further recipes, we had still barely made a dent in the pumpkin. I knew I had to take drastic measures, so I decided to roast the remaining pumpkin and make pumpkin puree.

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At this point, I was starting to get really into it.  I had become obsessed with using every last inch of the pumpkin – even the peel. My boyfriend looked at me with shock and awe as I peeled off the skin of the roasted pumpkin for later use.

“It’s for facials,”  I said, “Did you know pumpkin is amazing for your skin?”

“I think I’ve created a monster,” he replied.

With the pumpkin sufficiently disposed of, the only question remaining was: what to do with all of this damn pumpkin puree?

Um.. smoothies obviously!

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I started with this pumpkin pie smoothie recipe and it was damn delicious.

Ree Drummond better recognize!!
Ree Drummond better recognize!!

Things were going so well, I decided to try another smoothie- this time a “Green” variety. This one included pumpkin, spinach, frozen banana and almond milk.

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Uhhhh… guys- do not try this one at  home.

When I told my best friend about all of this, she couldn’t believe my domestic prowess, and challenged me to use the leftover pumpkin for her birthday cake.

Even though I had never baked a cake in my entire life , I’m not one to back down from a challenge- so I got my apron on and set to work.

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I won’t lie that the process was a little touch and go….

 

But with a LOT of help from my boyfriend, we did it:

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A three-tiered, pumpkin spice cake with cream cheese frosting:

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The cake was a big hit at the party (mostly because I forced everyone to eat it while repeatedly yelling “Can you believe it?? I MADE that sh*t!!” in their faces) – and thankfully I have used up most of the remaining pumpkin (I was seriously starting to worry I was going to turn orange there for a while).

Do I have a future in food blogging? Probably not- but I’d still like to think I could give the Pioneer Woman a run for her money.

Question of the Day: What is the most ambitious thing you’ve ever cooked?

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Throwback Thursday: 10 Childhood Comfort Foods

I had a revelation the other day.

I was sitting at my desk, eating an overpriced kale salad and freshly pressed cucumber pineapple juice, when it hit me: somewhere, along the way, I became a healthy eater.

kidvegetables

 

This wasn’t always the case.  In fact, for the majority my life, my eating habits were less “disgustingly yuppie” and more “downright disgusting”. I spent my first 23 years  eating any junk I could get my hands on, and consequently, suffering the consequences. While I was never exactly “fat”, I was definitely what you’d consider “big-boned” as a kid.  There were times  I even tipped the scales towards “chubster” or “pleasantly plump”. Let’s just say I related a lot to the book Blubber by Judy Blume, and leave it at that.

In my defence, I grew up in the 1990’s – the golden age of convenience food. Back before zealots like Michael Pollan came along with their “Eat Mostly Plants” ideologies, we all remained blissfully unaware (or at least willfully blind) to the dangers of  trans fats, aspartame and preservatives. Yes, we were free to sprinkle splenda into our coffee and to squeeze packets of sugary icing onto our toasters strudels with abandon!

strudel
M-hmmmm Poppin’ Fresh!

And boy, did I ever. While I’ve cleaned up my act a lot since then (save for Nutella and Pinot Grigio, the saucy temptresses), every so often I can’t help but crave the delicious, processed goodness of my youth. Here were just a few of my favourite childhood comfort foods:

Pop Tarts 

popt

For a blissful two years in junior high, I religiously ate two S’mores flavored pop tarts and a tall glass of 2% milk every morning. That’s what they call a “balanced breakfast”, right?

Pizza Pockets

pizzapock

Canadian readers will undoubtedly remember the epic pizza pocket rivalry: Pillsbury vs. McCain’s. While there has always been room in my heart for both, supporters of each were fervent in their camps. The battle culminated in a 1990’s ad campaign where each pocket was thrown against a wall and measured for maximum splatterability.

Gross? Yes. Effective? Also yes.

Lunchables 

When I was in grade 3, I  started  taking ukulele lessons at school. The best part about it (besides getting to play the ukulele… LIKE A BOSS) was staying at school for lunch. Usually this was just PB&J; but every so often, my mom would pack a Lunchable- the perfect trifecta of cheese, crackers, and some sort of mystery meat which I now know to be disgusting, but was like crack cocaine to me at the time.

lunchables

My love affair with Lunchables lasted right up until grade 11, when during a nutrition class, a guest speaker took out a Lunchable she had kept in the trunk of her car for over 3 years, and it was still in PRISTINE condition due to all the preservatives.

I wish I could say I swore off Lunchables forever after this, but alas- I will never fully resist the pull of their sodium-nitrate laden deliciousness.

Snack Cakes

The Canadian answer to Twinkies and Little Debbies, Vachon cakes were my jam as a kid. Passion flakies, Joe Louis. May Wests- so long as it was stuffed with delicious cream filling, I was on board.


Vachon cakes
Sugary Cereals

Ah cereal- my ultimate Achilles heel. I even wrote a whole post dedicated to my love for the sugary, carby goodness.

Homies

My go-to choices as a kid were Reese Peanut Butter Puffs and Lucky Charms. Sometimes, my mom would lay the smack down and force me to eat regular (non-frosted) corn flakes – to which I would respond by pouring sugar all over them to add sweetness.

Me at breakfast

I am crying into my bowl of organic quinoa muesli as we speak.

Dunkaroos

I mean, if there is a better mid-day snack for children than sugary, Kangaroo-shaped cookies dipped into pure sugar icing, then I certainly haven’t found it.

dunkar

Gushers

Unless it’s these guys.

gusher

These hexagonal delights detonated a wonderful blast of high fructose corn syrup “fruit juice” with each bite. My only complaint? There were never enough in the package.

Hot Dogs

My love affair with hot dogs ran deep. I can’t even tell you the number of days I spent at my window, longing for the Oscar Meyer truck to make its way down my street.

weinermobile

Alas- it never found its way to small town Nova Scotia, but that didn’t prevent me from eating hot dogs  nearly every day anyway. I would literally eat them any possible way- barbequed, boiled, MICROWAVED.

I know, I’m not proud of it either.

As an aside, does anyone else remember this unfortunate, coloured ketchup incident?

Ugh.

Kraft Dinner

Perhaps the most Canadian of comfort foods, I essentially survived my first two years of undergrad on this day-glo orange pasta alone (no ketchup, of course)

 

KD

uhhh. yeah.

Fun Dips

fundip

This childhood snack was literally 100% pure sugar. Eaten with a stick made of hardened sugar. Beautiful.

Question of the Day: What were your favourite childhood comfort foods?

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Back In The Old Country…

When it comes to comfort food, you really can’t go wrong with good old-fashioned, cheesy, delicious pierogies.

These pierogi mascots should be the mascots of my life.

Which is why I was pumped to attend the annual Polish Festival a few weekends ago here in Toronto. Pierogies + beer tents + POLKA = a guaranteed good time. 

The festival took place along Roncesvalles avenue, a mostly commercial strip between College and Queen streets, and it was bumping. Food trucks, cotton candy, bouncy castles- you name it. Only thing was, it wasn’t very Polish…. at all.

I mean, don’t get me wrong there was one (Grammy nominated) Polka band busting out tunes… right next to the Fillipino adobo cart.

And there was one pierogi stand, but the lines were so long that we eventually gave up and hit up a nearby Cuban place.

The real fun for me anyway was checking out all of the permanent retailers along the strip. Roncesvalles is an up-and-coming Toronto hot spot, and a number of cool new boutiques and restaurants have opened up there over the past few years. The neighborhood still retains a lot of its old-school charm though, and there are still a number of Eastern-European small businesses holding it down amongst the hipster-fication.

Like the Old Country Gift Shop:

When I first walked by, I was struck by the vintage-looking sign, and the eccentric display in the front window – a veritable hodge podge of stuff. There was a mannequin modelling a pearl necklace, an array of various deodorants, a selection of power tools, and a large display of Ritter Sport chocolate bars.

Needless to say, I was intrigued

I walked inside, and with the sound of the jingling bell was transported back in time nearly 50 years. I felt like Marty McFly, only without the cool DeLoreon.

Along the yellowed, gondola shelving sat everything from specialty jams, to vintage cutlery, to a comprehensive collection of mint condition Ty beanie babies.

At the 1960’s style cash register stood two spunky older ladies with white bouffants, extolling the virtues of a blown-glass ash tray to what I assumed was a regular customer.

These foxy ladies I later learned, were Karin and Helga, German (again, not Polish) sisters who grew up in the store and have worked there for nearly 50 years. Turns out the Old Country Gift Shop is family-owned, and has been serving the customers of Roncesvalles with their random treasures since 1962.

Obviously, things haven’t changed much since then.  the walls are lined with what looks like the original wallpaper, and the floor is covered in a well-worn, checkerboard-patterned linoleum.

Sort of like this. She knows.

The nostalgia in the air is palpable- each shelf dusted with memories of days- and times- gone by. As I made my way to the back of the store, I spotted a wide assortment of Octoberfest aprons, and an entire section of unopened, pristine VHS tapes. I wondered who the audience for this collection might be, but then I got distracted by the large, menacing chunk of the Berlin wall.

And did I mention the chocolate? So much chocolate. One entire wall filled with bars of the good stuff from Germany, France, and Switzerland. Brands I had never heard of, and thought only existed in my dreams.

Sorry for doing this to you.

Obviously I couldn’t leave without a taste, so I picked up the Mozart Kugeln chocolate ball- a pistachio, nougat and marzipan sphere of Viennese deliciousness.

As I left the store and re-entered the world of 2014, I couldn’t get the gift shop out of my mind. Not only did I want to go back every day to revel in its weirdness, I also wanted to be best friends with Karin and Helga; to find out what inspires them, and makes them tick. While I may never fully understand the Old Country Gift shop, it’s still nice to know that places like it exist.

Question of the Day: Been to Any Cool Stores lately?

The Most Interesting Man In New York

A few months ago, my boyfriend and I took a trip to New York City for his 30th birthday.

 At least that was the “official” reason. In reality, the sole purpose of the trip was to eat as much delicious food as humanly possible.

 We ventured deep into Brooklyn for the best pizza I’ve ever eaten:

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Seriously. DiFara. Go.

… schlepped all the way to Harlem for delicious, Obama-approved fried chicken at Red Rooster, and put away our fair share of bagels,

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New York Cheesecake, and delicious, sugary street nuts.

Mmmm. street nuts.

The pièce de résistance , however, was the special birthday dinner at Babbo, Mario Batali’s restaurant in Greenwich village. 

This was a big deal for us. Not only was it the first time either of us had set foot in a Michelin-starred restaurant, it was also owned by a famous TV chef.

I mean, when the dude gets away with wearing this outfit 24/7:  

 

you know he’s a boss.

The maître d led us to our table upstairs in a quiet corner of the restaurant, and introduced us to our server for the evening, Paul.

Paul was about 6’2, with sandy blond hair and electric blue eyes. He wasn’t what you’d call “fat”; more “pleasantly plump”, with a pot-belly suggesting more than a few indulgent staff meals. With laugh lines crinkling around his eyes and a broad smile that just wouldn’t quit, he looked sort of like Bradley Cooper’s less successful, lesser known older brother. I pegged him at about 35.   

“Welcome to Babbo!” he bellowed, barely containing his enthusiasm. “Will you be enjoying the tasting menu today?”

Startled, we looked at each other, then at our menus. “There are two choices,” he continued; “the Chef’s menu, or the 7-course pasta tasting menu”

A pasta tasting menu? 

“We’ll have that one” I said, instinctively “Great Choice!” he shouted “You can never have too much pasta. And will you be having the wine pairings?”

Even though I am no wine connoisseur and knew the value of such an expensive add-on would be wasted on me, something about his eager, hopeful eyes made it virtually impossible to say no. Plus, he already thought I was a good chooser- I didn’t want to let him down.  

“Sure,” I responded, trying to quiet the chinging dollar signs in my brain.

As the evening unfolded, it became clear that Paul was quite the entertainer. Every course was accompanied by a well-timed story or joke, and his award-winning smile never ceased. Plus, his knowledge of food and wine seemed infallible. He described our mushroom ravioli in exquisite detail, even citing the origins of decorative floral garnish. (Hilsbury Farms, West Haven, Connecticut. Organic, obviously.)  Our second course wine pairing, a Casina Ebreo, was “unctuous” with a “cacophony of aromas”, and our Italian Montefalco Rosso “confident” and “playful” with some “nice legs” on her.”  

If anything, Paul’s descriptions were a bit overzealous; as evidenced by his explanation of our fourth-course pairing.

“This is a 2008 Terredora di Paolo,” he explained, “the summer of record high temperatures in Italy, where hundreds died from the heat. The heat, however, was excellent for the grapes, and produced some extremely fine wines”.

“So it wasn’t all for naught,” said my boyfriend, jokingly

“It certainly wasn’t” replied Paul, deadpan.

The real kicker, however, was when he described our fifth course pairing, an Italian Tabborini, as having “hints of potting soil”.

Both of us looked down at our napkins, trying not to burst into hysterical laughter. “He must be an actor”, I said after he had left, “because he has got to be making this shizz up”. 

I was sort of joking, but once I had the idea in my head, I couldn’t let it go. As I’ve learned from my visits there, everyone in New York has an angle- and everyone has to pay the bills. Maybe he was a struggling stage actor, trying to crack the big-time with his heartfelt, groundbreaking one-man show. Maybe he had his sights set on Days of Our Lives, auditioning to be the next possessed, resurrected evil-genius heart-throb. Or maybe he was angling for his own reality show, having amassed legions of social media followers with his clever and relatable series of YouTube videos on what men are really thinking. 

 I had intended to ask him, but after my seventh pasta course and seventh glass of wine, formulating any kind of coherent thought became impossible. So I guess I’ll never know the true story behind Paul, the server-sommelier-Broadway/soap/reality star; but I do know I enjoyed his performance that night.

Question of the Day: Ever had an extremely colorful server?

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_assignment/writing-101-characters/

 

5 Hipster Food Terms Deconstructed

If there’s one thing we humans have in common, it’s that we all gotta eat.

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And since I have yet to master the art of cooking anything beyond a can of soup and the occasional Toaster Strudel, for me this means eating out. A lot.

Seriously. It's that bad.
Seriously. It’s that bad.

Lately, I’ve  been noticing some strange menu items on my pilgrimage across the many hipster bistros, brasseries and gastro-pubs of this fair city. Obscure ingredients, pretentious food-related adjectives, you name it.  So much so that I have often had to consult Google, and on more than one occasion have been reduced to simply pointing at dishes I dare not pronounce.

This, my friends, is embarrassing. And extremely damaging to my hipster cred. So to save the same fate from befalling you, I thought I’d share with you all a few hipster menu items I have successfully decoded.

1. “Heirloom” Tomatoes

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While I have since come to love these multi-coloured, misshapen delights, the first time I saw “heirloom tomatoes” on a menu, I had a number of questions. Like:

  1. Who keeps a vegetable (fruit?) as an heirloom?
  2. Won’t it go bad?
  3. Were these tomatoes bequeathed to the chef personally? Or were they purchased at auction? (and if the latter, why haven’t I seen a TLC show about this yet?)

…. And, most importantly:

4. How much is this sh*t gonna cost me?

My fears of mouldy $300 tomatoes, were, however, dissuaded by a quick Google search, which informed me that heirloom fruits or vegetables are actually old varieties of plants that were commonly grown during earlier periods in human history, but are not used in modern large-scale agriculture today. The seeds of heirloom tomatoes, in particular, have been passed down through generations due to their distinct color and sweeter taste.

Huh. Who knew?

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2. “Massaged Kale”

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When I’m too lazy to make my own lunch (aka: every day) there’s this yuppie salad place in my office building I sometimes like to go to. It’s one of those Organic/Wheatless/Meatless deals, where everything on the menu somehow involves Tempeh or Quinoa, and the motto is “Substitutions Welcome!”

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Anyway, recently, they introduced a new $14  “seasonal hot box” which featured “Marinated Sesame tofu, served over a bed of massaged kale”.

Uhh.. massaged what now?

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Apparently, however,  kneading kale in your hands for a few minutes prior to preparation helps the tough cellulose structure break down, which turns the coarse, hard leaves soft and silky (and easier to eat without breaking a tooth). The pronounced bitterness also mellows, and the kale reveals some sweeter flavours.

Man, no wonder this place is so expensive.  They have to pay some mustachioed hipster just to stand out back and rub kale leaves all day! (I picture him listening to Bon Iver while he does it. He might even close his eyes).  Oh well, that sh*t is delicious so I guess what I really mean is, massage on hipster gentleman – massage on.

3. “Artisan” Bread

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about/have eaten “Artisan Bread” recently.

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The image of a young minstrel in medieval attire springs to mind; whipping up loaves of designer ciabatta in one hand; strumming a lute with the other.

As it turns out,  “artisan” is really just a fancy word to describe bread that is crafted, rather than mass-produced. In theory, artisan bread differs from prepackaged supermarket loaves in its lack of preservatives, fresher ingredients, and a special attention to detail.

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Given the number and variety of places offering these loaves, however, I’m guessing this definition hasn’t been strictly adhered to.  ‘Cause while I’m sure your local Subway Sandwich artist likes to think of him/herself as an “artisan”, I have my doubts.

4. “Craft” Beer

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The first time I saw the word “Craft” on a beer menu, I didn’t think much besides:

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But as I started hearing it referenced more and more in popular culture, my interest was piqued.

Craft beer, or “microbrew” as it’s sometimes called, is any beer with a distinctive flavor, produced in small quantities and distributed in a particular region. (Generally by bearded,-plaid shirt wearing men who also specialize in witty Facebook statuses, amateur furniture making and liking everything “before it was cool”)

Ok so I can’t back that last part up. But it’s probably true.

 5. “Deconstructed” Anything

Recently, I attended a work dinner where the dessert course was a “Deconstructed S’More“. This consisted of an “organic graham cracker”, “house-made marshmallow” and a block of semi-melted Valrhona chocolate.

While it was delicious, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed. I mean, isn’t the whole point of a s’more, it’s entire essence, in its construction?  That ooey-gooey, sticky handed goodness?

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Alas- I’m going to have to deal, because deconstruction- the idea of breaking apart ingredients traditionally combined together to make a dish, and serving them separately in a unique way- is a trend I’ve been seeing a lot more of lately.

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Deconstructed cakes, deconstructed sandwiches, you name it.  Someday soon I fully expect to be buttering a plate of yeast and enriched flour and calling it “deconstructed breadrolls”.

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Mark my words.

Question of the Day: What Hipster and/or Pretentious Food Trends have you noticed lately?

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22 Hours To Live

What would you do if you only had one day to live?

In the words of the always profound Sean “P. Diddy” Combs: That’s some deep shit right there.

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Deep shit I’d never had to consider – until a few days ago.

I was sitting in my office food court, eating an overpriced salad and reading The Sun Also Rises (basically being unattainably cool), when suddenly, I felt something sharp pierce the back of my throat. I quickly dismissed it as an unusually rough-edged goji berry; or perhaps a physical reaction evoked by Hemingway’s flawless prose (I’ve heard he has that effect on the ladies). Washing away any residual doubt with a swig of coconut water, I returned to my lunch. It was then that I noticed a piece of my plastic knife missing. A solid two centimetres – amputated right at the tip. Collateral damage, presumably, from a struggle with a particularly tenacious leaf of organic kale.

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I searched frantically through my remaining salad for the rogue piece of plastic, but uncovered nothing but quinoa, chickpeas and despair. A slow trickle of panic began to seep over me as I realized what had gone down:

I had ingested a plastic utensil.

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I felt like Homer Simpson upon discovering he had eaten a poisonous Fugu fish and had only twenty-two hours to live.

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My short life flashed before my eyes. I can’t die, I thought, I don’t even have my own reality show yet.

It occurred to me that I had better tell someone; lest I fall into a deep coma, rendering me unable to communicate my transgression to the House: MD wannabe charged with my case. I shot off a few quick texts to friends and family, informing them of my certain and untimely demise.

In an attempt to quell my now-swelling waves of panic, I took to Google. Although several message boards assured me that it would inevitably “pass”, others provided harrowing tales of objects lodged in small intestines, internal bleeding, hemorrhaging and even death.

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Since I am a pessimist with moderate to severe anxiety, I automatically feared the worst. I could die at any moment, right there in the food court. No one would even notice in the lunch hour rush. The cleaning lady would find me, hours later, slumped over my chair, book dangling limply in hand. “We don’t know much about her,” she would say, “Except that she loved salad, and contemporary classics”.

I needed to snap out of it. When Homer was given his death sentence, he didn’t despair. He quietly accepted his fate, making a list of all the things he wanted to do before he died.

I flipped to the notes section of my iPhone and titled a fresh page “Death List”.

1. Sleep In.

2. Eat Cupcakes (Why count calories when you’re a goner?)

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3. Do Yoga. (If I’m gonna die, I might as well be Zen about it.)

4. Tell my friends and family I love them

And so on.

I quickly took stock of my list. “Quit job spectacularly” seemed a bit dramatic. And finding a life-size penguin suit might prove difficult on short notice. The rest, however, I felt fairly confident I could accomplish.

I spent the rest of my day carrying out the items on my list- eating copious baked goods, clearing out my PVR, not wearing pants. Before I went to bed, I called my mom and told her I loved her. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked “Is this about that knife you swallowed at lunch time?”

Since the Larry King version was unavailable on iTunes, I instead chose to lull myself to sleep with The Word of Promise, a star-studded (and extremely misguided) audio version of the bible featuring Jim Caviezel as Jesus, Gary Sinise as David and Jason Alexander as Joseph.

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Confident (and also, strangely comforted) that the last words I would ever hear would be The Loaves and the Fishes as told by George Costanza and Lieutenant Dan, I fell into a deep and final sleep.

I awoke the next morning, heart still beating; drool still warm. Despite all signs to the contrary, it seemed I would live to freak out another day. Like Homer, I promised myself that I would reform: cherish my loved ones, eat healthier, practice the golden rule. But only a few days later, here I sit, eating a cupcake, just as self-absorbed and bitchy as ever. Perhaps bitchier.

That’s not to say I’ve learned nothing from this experience. Although our motives may differ, I’ve joined David Suzuki’s tireless crusade against plastic cutlery. More importantly, I’ve ordered an eerily lifelike penguin suit from Amazon, so that the next time I unwittingly ingest a toxic substance (and sadly, there will be a next time) – I’ll be ready.

Question of the Day: What would you do if you only had 22 hours to live?

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