February 27, 2013

With a French Twist

French food, it seems, is complex and is often placed on a pedestal. There is something about those who cook French food – they have a gift —and us regular people wouldn’t dare try. And then there’s Laura Calder. Here’s a woman who seems so down to earth that she could be your neighbour and she makes French dishes seem possible. I want Laura to be my neighbour (if only my neighbours would go on a permanent DFAIT holiday – I never see them anyway).

I made my first quiche many many years ago, back in my government days. My colleagues thought my lunch was so posh not realizing how simple it was to make, especially if one used a prepared frozen crust. After going wheat-free my quiches were naked – crustless. They were healthy and tasted so good. Quiches are versatile since one can put in whatever one wants. I digress.

It’s been some time now since I first saw Laura Calder’s show on the Food Network. French Food at Home was on around dinnertime and if The Honey was late getting home, I’d switch it on. Like I said, Calder seems like she could be your neighbour – she’s friendly, genuine, explains everything, and takes some of the mystery out of French cooking. Even the simple things seem complex until Calder does it. At a store one day I found French Taste, Calder’s second cookbook (after French Food at Home) and I became even more intrigued by French cooking.

I’ve been surprised by the ease of some of these recipes and they taste just as I expected – delicious. French Taste contains many recipes from her show so sometimes I remember it when I’m flipping through the cookbook or I’ll pull it out after Calder has made it, enticing my taste buds.

Chicken & Pepper – so full of flavour

Parmesan Flan – a great light dinner with a salad

Parmesan Salad – perfect to take advantage of my abundant parsley pots
Tilapia with Olives – strong flavour, but so out of the ordinary

There aren’t many photographs, which would take this cookbook from wonderful to perfect. But I still enjoy flipping through it. And the photographs that are there are beautiful. Somehow, I can envision what the recipe will look like, and that doesn’t happen too often.

With Laura Calder around to help me with French cooking I don’t feel the need to master it with Julia Child

P.S. If anyone knows where Laura got her kitchen sink (on her show), let me know. I’m in love with it (corny; yes, I know)

February 24, 2013

Organic Works

When I see a deal at one of the stores I always stroll over to see what’s there. It could be something I don’t need or something I’d never even look when it’s on a regular shelf, but once that ‘clearance tag’ comes up or those red or pink stickers are slapped on, over I go. I don’t necessarily buy the product, but I do take a peak. If there’s something I’ve been thinking about trying, then I’ll pick it up. I’ll usually pick up some produce off the clearance shelf, especially in winter when I can get a bag of peppers for $1 instead of the usual $3-4/lb. Bananas are tossed into the freezer if they’re overripe for banana bread. With gluten-free goodies, I’ll usually pick them up – just to try.

This is what I did on one trip to Rainbow Foods.

I’ve seen the Organic Works line at some of the Farm Boy stores and at Rainbow Foods, where they have a nice range. I was disappointed with the brownies (jammed- packed with bananas!?!) that I had picked up a few months ago. On this trip they had a shelf of the organic cinnamon buns and they were on sale. For $1 I could get a pack of two gluten-free cinnamon buns. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse – so I got 3 packs!

These aren’t your usual fat-laden, greasy, and icing-coated cinnamon buns. These little guys are not only organic, but also vegan, soy-free, lactose-free, and nut-free. No need to worry, they are flavourful too. These became my breakfast treat (and The Honey enjoyed them too!). It has been many years since I’ve had a cinnamon bun and I’m happy to see that there is a gluten-free version on the market. It’s also nice to support a small Canadian company (from London, ON!).

These are tasty buns and they are a nice treat. Warmed up with a cup of coffee is a great way to start the day. If you are a cinnamon bun lover, I think you’d be happy. They are normally priced just shy of $7, which seems a little steep considering you only get two. But on sale, I’d be happy to pick them up.

February 22, 2013

Are You A Stone Face Dolly?

We probably go out for breakfast more than we go out for dinner, especially on a weekend. It isn’t to help cure a hangover though. It’s because I can’t fry an egg. Yes, laugh all you want. I usually burn my toast too, so there you go; laugh some more. I can make a mean omelet, frittata and quiche, but the overeasy egg. Forget it. As a result, we have a small list of breakie places we frequent and rotate through. We recently gave up one (it used to be fabulous, but with new staff again and again, the service has become less than lack lustre) and have an opening for another.

Stone Face Dolly’s isn’t part of our regular rotation, but we do like going there. There, breakfast is heavenly and getting some greens next to my omelet makes me feel a little bit more refined. On our last visit The Honey saw ‘Gluten-Free Toast’ on the chalkboard and I grew excited. I could get a Benny!!! Oh, how I missed Eggs Florentine. Our waiter confirmed that there wasn’t any flour in their hollandaise sauce (Why do restaurants put it there?!?) and I waited in anticipation. It was as good as I imagined.

After breakfast I’ve never had room for dessert and I’ve heard their flourless chocolate Kahlua cake is divine. While Stone Face Dolly’s is one of our breakfast places, we’ve never tried their lunch or dinner menu. It looks like it would be do-able for a celiac so one day I’ll give it a try. It has to be good if John Catucci says ‘You gotta eat here!’.

February 18, 2013

The Brew Table

Back in December we got hit with our first snowfall and like many, we didn’t have our snow tires on yet. With November and December being so mild we had put it off. Then, of course, we got hit with a bunch of snow. It definitely didn’t seem cold enough for winter tires, but the snow told us it was time. Our dealer is in Bells Corners so we decided to battle west-end rush hour traffic and have dinner while we waited.

The Brew Table is a busy spot with no resemblance to the Irish pub that was previously there (the bar’s in the same spot, but that’s it). The big windows let in lots of light and the booth and chairs are comfy. Although they have cider (Foundry on tap and Strongbow in a can/bottle), the snow made me want a nice red wine. The menu has a variety and everything looked good. The waitress was more than happy to venture to the kitchen to double check some of the items for me. We split one of their salads just to get some food in us then we were more than happy to linger while we waited for our dinner. Of course The Honey was happy to get a pizza and I savoured my maple glazed salmon. There were a few items I was disappointed in not being able to try, like their appetizer meatballs (have breadcrumbs), but that’s life.

We enjoyed ourselves and liked that we were able to linger without feeling like we were being rushed out. The service was great and our waitress was very helpful. Even though we don’t venture to the burbs that often, this is one place we’ll return to when we do.