Latest Posts

Pasta sauce made with crickets and mealworms? It’s a thing!

Last night I went to a cool event hosted by the Food Bloggers of Canada at Food Starter, a business accelerator program for people who are passionate about food. They help people commercialize their products by providing a production facility, commercial kitchen and baker equipment, seminars and programs, as well as lots of moral support. Us food bloggers were lucky enough to meet a bunch of companies in different stages of growth who were more than willing to share their culinary delights.

14453959_10153777352456759_1900917822_o

A couple companies really blew my freaking mind, both for their sustainability and for their surprising deliciousness: pasta sauce made with bugs!

Yea, that’s right. There was not one, but two companies promoting pasta sauces made with insects. Apparently this is the latest in sustainable health food! Who knew? I’m late to this trend, but Popular Science wrote about it last year, and The Washington Post did a story on this months ago (so did Fortune and Forbes). There are actually more than 30 startups across North America focusing on cricket-based foods, and many trend forecasters predict that insect-based protein powder is the next big thing.

Gryllies makes a tomato-based pasta sauce as well as a savoury pulse mix made with ground crickets, while One Hop Kitchen makes two of the world’s only insect-based bolognese sauces, one with mealworms and the other with crickets.

Fun fact I learned from Esther at Gryllies: If you are allergic to shellfish then you also may be allergic to crickets!

Esther got the idea for the product when she decided to go vegetarian for environmental reasons. Crickets are high in protein and use so much less water in their processing compared to beef it’s crazy!

14424115_10153777352846759_1459199076_o

Gryllies had three sauces to try with pasta. Their tomato pasta sauce which you can buy bottled, as well a pesto and an Alfredo sauce made with their pulse product. The Alfredo sauce was tasty and I was surprised at how much I liked it; the crickets gave the sauce a mushroomy and earthy flavour that was really appealing. The pulse product is ground crickets, so it’s easy to incorporate into food, and you barely know what it is.

14455819_10153777352876759_1968697744_o

One Hop Kitchen also had a cool demonstration, first asking us to taste test three sauces and see if we could distinguish between typical grocery store meat sauce, mealworm sauce and grasshopper sauce. And guess what? Yours truly apparently has quite the palette for insect sauces because I guessed right! (They were totally surprised.)

14455727_10153777352496759_1364294269_o

These guys invented a mealworm product that looks and feels a lot like tofu, and that’s what they grind up in their sauce. It gave the mealworm bolognese a great texture and made it seem really meaty. Both sauces will run you $9.99 a jar.

14453871_10153777352506759_2043358003_o

At first I was a little alarmed by this idea, but upon talking to these industrious folks and tasting their products I am really impressed with their ingenuity. I love the idea of creating solutions for sustainable food and helping out the environment, and while I don’t think I will be eliminating beef or pork from my diet any time soon, I have no problem incorporating more insects into my diet, especially when I can have pasta on the regular.

Would you ever incorporate insects into your diet?

barcelonabld-6

Barcelona for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Okay, I know eating out three meals a day is extravagant, but I swear, I’m not a crazed foodie who only eats out while travelling. But, when you’re in place for just one day, you gotta. If you get to spend a month somewhere, I urge you to hit the markets and cook like a local, but that just wasn’t the case for us this summer.

Adam and I had 48 hours to eat up Barcelona after spending 10 days with my family in the beach town of Algorfa.

There was no way to eat everything I wanted to eat. Heck, if I had been there a month I probably would have felt the same way. So we settled on Barcelona for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This is what we ate.

Breakfast at Hüle in Barrio Gràcia

We stayed at Casa Gràcia, a hostel in what I think is the coolest neighbourhood in Barcelona. Gràcia is just far enough away from the crazy crowds of La Rambla, but only a 20-minute walk to Sagrada Familia. Honestly, I barely felt like a tourist hanging out there: think cool Modernist architecture and quiet streets with tons of local shops, hip gin bars and tiny tapas joints.

Hüle Bar is a great spot on a quiet street off the Passeig de Gràcia, just around the corner from our hostel. We popped in for breakfast around 10am and found the place teeming with locals: hipsters working on laptops, seniors chatting with the baristas, and even groups of business people having morning meetings. Great neighbourhood energy.

It’s intentionally sparsely decorated, with brick walls roughly painted white, graphic light fixtures and an eclectic array of vintage chairs. We munched on fresh pastries, espresso and fresh squeezed juice. A simple and typically Spanish (if not a little hipster) start to the day.

barcelonabld-1

*This place turns into a cocktail bar with a completely different (and younger) vibe at night.

Lunch at Chiringuito Las Sardinitas

For lunch, we headed to the beach. After a morning of sightseeing at Sagrada Familia and strolling (weaving and bobbing miserably) along La Rambla, we were ready for beer and cool breezes.

We wandered through Barceloneta’s quaint streets before hitting the main drag of overpriced restaurants and nightclubs along the beach. We finally came upon a more quiet stretch along la Platja de la Nova Icària where we found Chiringuito Las Sardinitas

barcelonabld-3

This seafood joint is part of a bigger group of restaurants, but it has cheap beer, greasy-in-a-good-way calamari and of course, the always necessary patatas bravas. Done like lunch.

barcelonabld-6

My sentiment the whole afternoon: carefree joy about eating all the tapas I wanted. Between the beers, the bright beachy decor and the salty breezes I could have sat forever.

barcelonabld-4

barcelonabld-5

Dinner at Bobby Gin

Post-day-drunk siesta came after a long trek back to Gràcia, but we were hungry by the time we got to Bobby Gin at 9:30pm, which we thought was late.

Ahem, no.

We were the first people there. After two weeks of 10pm dinners, we still found ourselves unfashionably early for dinner. This time I didn’t care because the waiter treated us like royalty and the chef himself brought out tapas.

Gin bars are super popular in Spain these days (along with Vermouth bars). Bobby Gin is no exception. Oozing coolness, the tiny spot has big personality and serves more than 100 types of gin. We drank many a cocktail, including some fan-fucking-tastic G&Ts, which I don’t usually like, but when in Spain…

barcelonabld-12

Bobby Gin was recommended by my co-worker at Travelzoo, and it delivered.  The tapas were phenomenal, which was great because the reason I chose this place was solely based on the fact that it was close to the hostel.

So. Many. Tapas.

A blend of traditional and modern tapas, with a kick of Asian flare, we ate Ibérico ham done “roast beef” style with parmesan and almonds:

barcelonabld-7

Foie gras on crackers with apples:

barcelonabld-10

Croquettes filled with sharp cheese and topped with fruity compote:

barcelonabld-9

Then patata bravas and battered calamari with miso, soy and chili. Just to name a few.

And then we went home to bed, because we had eaten all day long and that’s freaking exhausting.

barcelonabld-11

blogiversary4-2

The Year Four Tour

What a year the fourth has been! Another 365 days of events, flights and so much ham. This was a pork-filled year, from The Publican in Chicago to jamón ibérico in Spain. Countries visited? Spain, Mexico and the United States on several occasions. Michelin Stars? One. Weird animal parts eaten? Four (heart, tongue, feet, ears). Litres of hollandaise consumed? Immeasurable.

I haven’t written about many of the places I ate in the past year, yet. Between travelling a bunch and living in Toronto, it’s impossible (and expensive) to visit all the cool new places opening, and over the past year I’ve become less concerned about taking a great photo and posting a review the very next day, but focusing on capturing a moment.

My memories of eating a giant plate of bistecca fiorentina in Florence don’t become any less special (or delicious) because I post about it two years later — it’s about telling the story, encapsulating what makes eating around the world so great. Smells, sounds, people and place all make travelling to eat my favourite thing to do, and no trendy list will ever change that.

That being said, this year I totally ate at some Anthony Bourdain recommended spots, and broke my Michelin restaurant cherry, so there’s that too.

Here is to year four, and many many more plates of food.

Popping my Michelin restaurant cherry

This year the Family Day holiday landed on the same weekend as Valentine’s Day, so Adam and I hightailed it to Chicago for a frigid, food filled mini-break, and popping my cherry at a Michelin-star restaurant was top priority.

Boka was amazing. We had a lovely and knowledgeable server, but there was also someone who brought bread, who refilled our water glasses and someone to clear the plates. While this might sound like overkill, the stealthy moves of the staff, working swiftly to the beat of Motown made the experience fancy, relaxed and freaking cool at the same time.  We ate chestnut ravioli, duck, and calamari (pictured) just to name a few things. My desert of malted crème fraîche ice cream with pistachios looked as impressive as it tasted.

Changing my mind (a little) about all-inclusive vacation

In March, we went to my best friend’s wedding in Mexico. This Mayan Rivera resort was swanky, we had so much fun, and I have to say I was impressed by some of the food. Sadly the steakhouse didn’t live up to standards, but holy crap did I ever eat a lot of late night hot dogs from the sports bar. This soup with huitlacoche (corn fungus) was served at the Mexican themed restaurant, and it was one of the best thing I ate, imagine that.

blogiversary4-12

The best Ramen

One of my dearest camp friends took me to Ivan Ramen in New York City while I was there on a work trip last March. This Tokyo Shoyu Ramen had the most tender pork belly waiting for me at the bottom of the brothy bowl, simply perfect.

You can also read about my fancy French reunion dinner at Lafayette Grand Café & Bakery the very next evening.

blogiversary4-9

Spain and the best thing I ate all year:

There’s too much food to talk about on our trip to Spain. In June, we spent two weeks in Spain with my parents, my sister and her boyfriend. We ate fancy food, we devoured jamón ibérico sitting on a sidewalk, we ate Indian on a hillside in Madrid and so. many. tapas. (There will be many Spain blog posts to come, including one on our paella cooking class.)

But, you ask, what was my favourite thing I ate on the trip, and probably the whole year? One simple pot of food. Before meeting up with my parents in Alicante, Adam, Sean, Maggie and I had dinner at La Gabinoteca, upon the recommendation of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Madrid episode. Modern tapas crowded our table, flambéed tableside and served in old sardine cans to the beat of Euro-electric music at this wackily-decorated restaurant.

Named ‘El Potito,’ the perfect little cup of savoury smooth yumminess with truffle — oh god the truffle — and mixing it all up with the egg yolk and the creamy potatoes was the best grown up baby food one could ever eat. The rest of the table weren’t fans (they are crazy), but I could eat from that little jar every day.

The best BBQ

Last fall, Adam’s parents, uncle, brother and his girlfriend were all in town and I knew I had to impress, so obviously I went with BBQ. We all shared the Pit Master Platter at Carbon Bar, and it was carnivorously divine. From the Korean fried cauliflower, to the ultra cool atmosphere (Electric Circus used to be filmed here, if anyone remembers that show), I don’t know how I haven’t been back to this place!

blogiversary4-1

The fanciest desert

To celebrate our engagement in February we went to the newly revamped Cafe Boulud at the Four Seasons Toronto. We were spoiled rotten by the staff with free champagne and this classic desert. I’ve never seen Baked Alaska be performed before; it’s really a show when the flaming Kirsh covers the dish, toasting the meringue, all the while keeping a trifecta of ice creams cold on the inside.

French culinary magic.

blogiversary4-13

The best dumpling

Fantastic fusion dream at Dailo, these Pumpkin Dumplings with creamy pumpkin filling were protected by light wrappers and coated in beurre blanc. SO. FREAKING. GOOD: The perfect balance of Asian and French technique.

Read about the whole experience at Dailo here

DailoDumplings

Best Brunch

I ate a lot of brunch this year, like every year, but The Publican in Chicago takes the cake for the most different and flavourful brunch. I devoured the fanciest steak and eggs ever featuring sirloin, grits and mojo de ajo, while Adam’s boudin noir was super tasty.

blogiversary4-14

Oh, and just to make you drool, here’s a collage of the many many brunch places I enjoyed this year.

The biggest disappointment

For Winterlicous, my friend Kara and her boyfriend Jeremy joined us for dinner at Auberge du Pommier, and we were all kinda sad about the meal. I know, I know, Winterlicious menus are different than the regular menu, they are cheaper etc. But I’ve eaten enough Licious menus to know when it’s bad. Dinner at Bent was phenomenal and so was Winterlicious at The Saint Tavern, this spot just didn’t bring their A-game.

That being said, the desert was the best part of the meal. Only the Vacherin aux Grenade with giant chunks of sweet meringue lived up to my Auberge expectations.

blogiversary4-6

Best Wurst

We have visited Wurst on King West more than any other restaurant in the past year. We bring everyone there because it’s the freaking best. A casual beer hall that’s always fun and their duck fat french fries are something I dream about on the regular. This also happens to be one of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken, featuring my husband, my mom and my dad.

The blog post for Wurst is here

overhead shot cover photo

30th birthday celebrations

Prince Edward County is my idea of heaven, and we spent the weekend there for my 30th birthday. From the sparking wines at Hinterland, dinner at the Drake Devonshire and Dan the Man’s brunch poutine at the Agrarian, I can’t pick what I loved more, but I gained about 10lbs that weekend.

Read about our weekend adventure here

Surprise!

I got married last week! An unabashedly romantic City Hall elopement and fancy dinner at Edulis for the win! Bottles of Champagne consumed? I lost count.

Cheers to another year of food, happiness and blogging.

 

 

Bent1

Summerlicious at Bent: Toronto

It’s that time of year again, again!! Summerlicious is one of the best parts about living in Toronto, aside from Winterlicious (you can see my rave about that here). I have a tough time not going broke eating at all the restaurants constantly opening in the city  — those who are close to me know I have an ever-expanding checklist of restaurants on my iPhone. #LiciousTO is an economical way to hit up all my palate’s desires.

This summer, Susur Lee’s Bent was first on the list. Adam and I headed to the Dundas West Asian-fusion eatery Friday evening for our 8:30pm reservation, and I was happy when the woman who called to confirm the reservation asked us if we wanted to sit outside. Uh yea!

Even though the menu is presented like all $48 prix-fixe dinners at Summerlicious restaurants, our server informed us Bent’s menu is meant to be shared, which was good, because Adam and I were fighting over appetizers immediately after sitting down.

We promptly ignored the vegetarian options and went with salmon and beef to start, and then the beef and salmon as entrees. We’re carnivores through and through, what can I say?

The French & Japanese salmon tartare showed up almost immediately, before our drinks did! It sat at atop a circular of diced avocado in a little puddle of Miso emulsion. Normally, I would consider this to be way too much mushy, but the freshness of the salmon went well with the creamy avocado, though their could have been about 10 more of the crispy Lotus chips perched precariously beside the tartare.

Rounding out the pair of first courses was the pulled beef and braised onion peking crepe. The beef inside the savoury crepe tasted almost just like duck, pulled and delicate meat, and the two little spheres of herbed goat cheese were the perfect pop of sour atop this sweetish dish.

Bent1

Next came the baked Tandoori salmon. Expertly assembled atop pooda (an Indian savoury pancake), the salmon tasted sharply of curry and was cooked to a perfect medium rare. The succotash added freshness along with the raita to round out the abundance of flavour on the dish.

Bent2

Mid-salmon, the spiced braised beef papillote came to the table. Before I knew it, the server had described the dish, whipped out a pair of scissors and methodically opened the cellophane looking papilllote. I still don’t understand how that doesn’t melt in the oven!

Once our mains were cleared away, we started looking around for our somewhat erratic server to order our deserts. Surprise! We totally read the menu incorrectly thinking that we had to choose between the rhubarb tiramisu, churros with chocolate and caramel sauce, and the lemon curd with marshmallow and delicate lady finger, but nope.

We got all three.

Bent Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Lafayettecover

Lafayette Grand Café & Bakery: New York City

“Who picked this place? It’s so good!” my friend exclaimed as we dug into the table full of French food.

How good does it feel when you pick a restaurant in a city where you don’t live that your New Yorker friends haven’t been to yet and it’s good?

Triumphant.

I knew I wanted French food, I wanted to impress my camp friends (Taylor, Brendt and Anna all live in NYC), and I had a not-so-secret weapon: eater.com. My greatest resource for restaurants these days is the Eater’s’38 essential’ guides. Since January, I have eaten in Chicago, New York, Madrid and Barcelona using these restaurant maps as a way to eat at the hotspots, and I have yet to be steered in the wrong direction. Dinner at Lafayette Grand Café & Bakery, also known as #10 on The 38 Essential New York Restaurants, Spring 2016,  was no exception.

Lafayette’s dining room, accompanied by a bar and a bakery, occupy an impressive corner in NoHo, an inviting glow emanating through the rows of windows with gold decals. Bistro-style lighting and hints of that perfect French country blue are everywhere from the intricate tile floor to the menu font; almost cheesy, but authentic enough to be impressive.

Lafayette1

Cocktails first. I went with the Aviation ‘Royale,’ a spin on the classic bistro staple with lemon and Creme Yvette, and Brendt opted for the Lafayette Old Fashioned, made unique by a whisp of honey.

Lafayette6

I started with the escargots bourgignons with parsley and garlic. Sheltered by a layer of buttery breadcrumbs, the snails were perfectly cooked, and I used the charred-to-perfection toasted baguette to sponge every last drop of the parsley butter.

Lafayette3better

Anna’s beef tartare came perfectly formed with a raw quail egg sitting atop giving it the extra flavour it needed. The sad salad that accompanied it was another story.

Lafayette12

 

Starting off strong, the boys shared the entree-sized rigatoni duck bolognese with crispy rosemary. This is one of those dishes that everyone at the table was jealous of, and of course we all had more than a spoonful or two of the earthy sauce, lightened by the aromatic rosemary.

Lafayette8

The wine list at Lafayette is exclusively and proudly French. The sommelier suggested a Pinot Noir from Bourgogne that miraculously paired with our mishmash of main selections.

Lafayette2

Brendt and Anna both chose the rotisserie chicken, an act I would normally shun at a restaurant, but it was piled high classic French bistro fare. Rustic, roasted and served with country potatoes.

Lafayette9

I couldn’t not get the duck breast. It was giant, as thick as a steak and served with the most savoury daikon I’ve ever had. Cooked to medium rare, it was the perfect texture, with little bits of bacon and sweet Pomegranate seeds popping in my mouth all along the way.

Lafayette5

Taylor’s tagine was a production from the moment the server lifted the lid. Steam floated above tender lamb, fragrant with exotic spices and served with almonds and couscous.

Lafayette10

Lafayette is great for lunch, brunch or dinner. Service left something to be desired, but the sommelier knew what she was doing, and I tend to prefer bistro-style service to uptight-white-tablecloth service. Lafayette is loud and casual with a hint of elegance, good for a celebration: If you search them on social media you’ll see pictures of excited birthday girls with giant sparklers leaping out of cakes. It’s a spectacle worth asking for.

Lafayette11

It’s been a long time since we’ve all been together. After spending years working together in a summer camp in upstate New York, it was hard to believe a decade after we first met, we were all grownups with real jobs sitting in a cool New York restaurant. But there we were, and the food was damn good.

Lafayette Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sidorme Madrid 8

the inn thing: hotel sidorme madrid fuencarral 52

Walking up the busy pedestrian street, I barely noticed all the cool shops and restaurants on Fuencarral. After a gruelling overnight flight from Toronto to Madrid Adam and I were exhausted, and dirty. We had met up with my sister and her boyfriend Sean right after we landed for some early morning exploring before checking in. All was great until Adam fell asleep at a bar and a bird pooped on him: it was time to head to the hotel.

Then the words that no one who has travelled all night ever wants to hear.

“Your room isn’t ready yet.”

Dread. Sweaty tired dread.

“Oh wait,” she exclaimed in broken but friendly English, “my mistake, your room is ready.”

Heavenly.

Hotel Sidorme Madrid Fuencarral 52 is smack right in the middle of Fuencarral Street, which is teeming with people all the time, and right off Gran Via making it the ideal homebase for sightseeing. It also straddles the trendy neighbourhoods of Chueca and Malasaña, where all Madrileños hipsters shop and drink.

The entrance is completely unassuming, with a keycard-only entrance right off the street. What I love about this hotel is that they didn’t waste space or money on a grand lobby (the check in area is tiny), but they provide much appreciated extras instead. For example, every morning a little breakfast fairy puts a bag full of fruit, pastries and juice on your door to enjoy in your room or on the terrace. Think boutique hotel chic meets hostel vibe; there were just as many young American backpackers as there were wealthy British retirees in the commons areas.

Sidorme Madrid 6

The design of the hotel is sleek, modern and clean, with an impressive staircase that makes up for the teeny tiny elevator (that has a cool view of the interior terrace’s living wall). The common area is on the penthouse floor with a large outdoor seating area, and there is a kitchen to prepare meals. Two giant espresso machines pump out caffeinated beverages 24/7 next to a never-empty bowl of fruit.

Sidorme Madrid 7

Our room was on the sixth floor, so we were lazy and rarely used the stairs. While our room is on the small side when compared to major chain hotel standards, it suited the needs of two people perfectly. The decor is clean, airy and modern, with really good air-conditioning, a necessity for travelling in Spain in the peak summer months.

Sidorme Madrid 1Sidorme Madrid 2

The windows are really well soundproofed, a big bonus if your room overlooks the street as it is loud all night long with revellers strolling Fuencarral. The best part of this hotel room was the terrace which, granted, was an upgrade. But the Superior room that comes with either a balcony or a terrace was only about $10 more a night, and you get this:

Sidorme Madrid 9

With this view:

Sidorme Madrid 8

Rooms have a small fridge with just enough room to store some cold Cava and water. One strange thing was the location of the sink; it wasn’t in the bathroom. While this was super convenient for getting ready to go out in the evenings, it wasn’t conducive to washing one’s hands after using the toilet. (Pardon my wrinkly plane clothes in the photo below; how do professionals take pictures of mirrors without themselves in it?)

Sidorme Madrid 3

We spent two nights at this hotel and it was perfect. Because it was peak season, we spent around $140 per night which was a splurge for us, but Adam and I wanted to be in a central location (the rooms range from $70-$165 per night depending on the time of year and the room type). Hotel rooms along the Gran Via and its arteries can run anywhere from $100-$450 per night, especially in the summer months when tourists flock to the area. We saved money by staying a little off the main drag, but this also saved us from the throngs of foot traffic.

If we were staying in Madrid for longer I would have opted for an Airbnb to avail myself of a kitchen, but for the length of our stay it was perfect. I would recommend this to travelling couples, as a double room at any nearby hostel will run you at least $110 per night with fewer amenities and no fancy breakfast fairy. I think this was a bargain for the quiet rooms in an awesomely loud central location.

Where is your favourite spot to stay in Madrid?