Month: July 2011

Some Toronto Food Highlights: Part 1

Toronto had a lot of great food to offer. Burrata frequented more menus than I have seen anywhere else, and there is doubtless many strong multicultural influences (Greek, Japanese, Korean to name but a few). I had several very good meals while I was there and tried as much local food and local Niagaran and Ontarian wine as I could. It was a wonderful few days. Here’s a few highlights before I board my flight back.

Another Postcard from Toronto: a Snapshot of Toronto Food Culture (the Field part)

So, Toronto Part 2! And another CN tower shot. I couldn’t resist. Back from Niagara, I visited some local farmers and get a feel for the Toronto food culture from the roots up. Field to Fork and Nose to Tail. I met Hannah from matchbox, a relative newcomer to the farming scene. An ex chef with a passion for good ingredients, Hannah set up Matchbox with her husband and grows approx 100 different crops from chillies to cabbage. Mainly heirloom products, selected for flavour, with some sourced at the last Slow Food Terra Madre in Italy. Hard work, no doubt, but she does it with aplomb. Brilliant produce comes out of there. I now need to get me some blue cabbage seeds. Dingo farms was next. A small family run farm just outside Toronto run by Denis & Denise with their 5 children pitching in. Cows and pigs are the focus of their operation with some rabbits too, a pet project of their son. Denis & Denise do everything on site, even growing and drying …

A Postcard from Toronto

Greetings from Toronto folks! It’s hot-hot-hot here, if you are looking for summer, we definitely have it. I’ve been having a brilliant week, firstly visiting the Niagara Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration – a huge tasting and celebration of chardonnays made at 45 latitude. Really interesting, lovely wines and lots of winemakers who are only delighted to introduce you to their wines. There was lots of great food – smoked barbecued pork chops with local peaches, ribs, pulled pork in buttermilk and corn bread, peach tarts (they’re in season!), blueberry french toast and so much more. And, those falls. Wow. Then to food in Toronto which I have been very impressed with so far. Brilliant ingredients and a simplicity and elegance in cooking and presentation has really stood out. Lots of attention is paid to seasonality and local produce. It’s all about flavour here, and they have it in spades. I have one more day here to cram lots in. So many places will have to wait until my next visit. Some photo highlights for you …

GET YO’ GRITS ON! Recipe: Fluffy & Crispy Chorizo & Ricotta Grits

My friend Kat from Florida always spoke of grits. I had never had any, and it seemed like the mystical Caesar from Canada (a bloody Mary made with clam juice – sounds wrong but oh my, is it wonderful). I wanted some. But, where to start with grits? Tough to find in the UK (although Spuntino has recently put some on their menu). I did my research and some compared it to polenta. I could see that that wasn’t quite right as when I occasionally mentioned this to someone from the deep South, they reacted like I was insulting their mother. I could see that there was quick cook and then old school. I wanted old school so when I went to Florida in February, I sourced proper Carolina plantation grits that came in their own little sack, and thus started a grits adventure. I played around a bit and discovered that yes, they were gritty, and nutty too. Slightly grey in colour, they need long cooking – an hour to get the right texture …

Travel: Bodega Salentein in Mendoza, Argentina

Bodega Salentein is really special and should be on everyone’s hit list when they visit Mendoza. Not only is there lots of interesting wine on offer, there is also an impressive large art gallery, outdoor sculptures,  two restaurants and the most amazingly designed winery.  You can stay at the posada too, which if staying in Mendoza is worth your while as it’s 1.5 hours from Mendoza City. Bodega Salentein is stunning – breathtaking really –  set at 1200m in the Valle de Uco in the Andes – only a few miles from where I had my gaucho day as it happens (you can plan to visit both better than I did – visiting days apart and staying in Mendoza in between is not the best way to do it). Bodega Salentein is designed in the shape of a Jesuit cross, this is in homage to the origins of the wine industry in Argentina as the original vines were planted by Jesuit priests who needed the wine to celebrate mass.Things have progressed since and Argentine wines …

London Review: Shacklewell Nights at Restaurants in Residence

Shacklewell Nights at Restaurants in Residence My expectations are always high for Shacklewell Nights. I’ve been several times and it is always excellent. A collaboration between supper club veteran Claire Roberson and St John chef Jonathan Woolway, great British food served family style is what you can expect here, wherever they decide to cook it (they are always on the move). Restaurants in Residence is in an old office block in Canary Wharf looking with fantastic views of the fiscal skyline. We started with some great cocktails (£8 each) on the outdoor patio near the bar, taking it all in. Tables are for 8, and are shared. Given the location the tables were labelled sales, typing pool etc. We hilariously were in sales, I couldn’t think of a job I would be worse at! It was all good fun though. We opted for the wine matching chosen by the sommelier at St John (4 glasses for £32) but you can also choose by the bottle. A really vibrant summery dish started the night, Roast Tomato, Bobby Bean & Berkswell Cheese. …

Bodega Septima: Tasting Menu & Wines

It’s very common in Mendoza, to find wineries with good restaurants. I deliberately looked for the best of these as I wanted the full food & wine experience. Bodega Septima, even in Winter was a stunner, with a large light filled terrace overlooking the Andes. The air is clear and crisp and the sunlight warm. I started my meal with a glass of their Maria sparkling wine on the terrace. Made using cava techniques it was quite rich and full bodied (no major surprise as Bodega Septima is owned by Spanish winery and cava producer, Codorniu). Opting for the tasting menu, I had to start with some empanadas, a delicious caprese one (basil, tomato & mozarella), and of course a mendocino beef one. This was followed by a beautifully fresh and tender beef carpaccio, served with Septima Malbec. More beef? I know, wasn’t I getting sick of it by now? Not yet, and I knew these guys would do such a good job I had to try it for main course too. A huge hunk …

Travel: Estancia Los Potreros in the Wild Pampas of Argentina

A trip to Argentina has a few essentials. Steak (check), empanadas (check), malbec and torrontes (check), visits to wineries in Mendoza (check) and a visit to an Estancia to live a gaucho lifestyle for a few days (check). Argentina has many estancias, the one I visited came highly recommended, indeed I was supposed to visit there with a friend last November but personal circumstances intervened. She insisted that I couldn’t miss it, and when the estancia extended an invitation, I jumped on it. Los Potreros is an hour or so outside of Cordoba, utterly excised from the urban civilisation where I most often bang my drum, in the wild pampas of Argentina. When I visited in winter (June) it looked like a summer scene to me with a wild brown green expanse bathing in a bright blue sun lit sky. I was going to a place where I had no choice but to relax, eat good food, drink good wine and enjoy it. A perfect break. The only way to get there is by car, …

Recipe: Spiced Chickpea & Squash Vegetarian Burgers

Call it an overdose of meat in Argentina, or an acknowledgement that none of my clothes fit and it’s time to get a little healthier. I want to feel good, and I want to feel lighter. I want to feel like I did 2 years ago before I started to over indulge in this crazy little blog world of mine, and gain weight. So expect some healthier recipes from me here, and the occasional over indulgence. I can’t diet, I love food too much. I can make lighter, nutritious food that still tastes great and sates my appetite. Ceviche is a perfect example of delicious food that is gorgeous and that won’t pork your waistline. I plan to dedicate my summer to cooking food like this, eating it and blogging it. Hopefully, at the end of it my clothes will fit too. There will be some exercise also – I cycled 15 miles yesterday. And the essential, occasional blowout. Yeehaw! Recently, a veggie friend came for lunch so I made some lovely veggie burgers. I …

Where to Eat in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is a terrific city to eat and drink in. There is all that great steak, those sweetbreads, empanadas, Peruvian food including my favourite ceviche, and lots of fine dining too. There is lots of Italian food as a result of a large immigration from the Piedmont primarily from the late 19th century, but I chose not to explore that as we can get a lot of that here. One of the great things about eating out in BA is that when you compare prices to London, it can be a bit of a bargain, although prices are really climbing. To drink there are pisco sours (a gorgeous Peruvian cocktail), and all the Malbec you can drink. Don’t just focus on the malbec though – Argentina has great Cabernet Suavignons and the Torrontés is delicious (especially from Salta – thank you Fiona Beckett for that tip!). Notes on eating in Buenos Aires: the portions are large, the Argentines don’t like spice (even pepper) and they love beef as much as you’ve heard and they …

Recipe: Passion Fruit & Lime Salmon Ceviche

I went to Argentina, and I fell in love with Peruvian food. I loved the Argentinian food too, the sweetbreads particularly and the empanadas, especially those gorgeous beef ones from Mendoza. I have long been a fan of chimmichurri with steak, although, controversially, I like to make mine with fresh herbs.I prefer the fresher flavour and softer texture. The Peruvian food though, that was a revelation. I have been interested in Peruvian food for a while, and bought a number of Peruvian food ingredients when I visited Florida in February. Then my interest was piqued further when Astrid Y Gaston in Lima was selected for the Worlds 50 Best list (I tried the tasting menu at their Buenos Aires branch recently – more on that later). Then I met Martin, a Peruvian entrepreneur in London opening a Ceviche and Pisco bar in London later this year. It seems Peruvian food is in, and I can absolutely understand why. I just wonder why it took so long?! I arrived back in London last week obsessed and …

Bitesize! Londons Hottest Meal Tickets: Restaurants in Residence & The Big Feastival

So, I am back from Argentina and trying to ram my calendar as I tend to do. I have been a little out of touch in the wild pampas, to put it mildly! There is some great stuff coming up in London, and some on already, but here’s what’s on my radar for the coming weeks. Restaurants in Residence I am a bit late to you with this one, but there’s still lots of time to catch it, and there’s still tickets for at least 3 of the sessions. Restaurants in Residence is bringing together four of Londons best pop-ups (although strictly speaking A Little of What You Fancy is now a proper restaurant and a very good one too – I had excellent steak there last night). Shacklewell Nights will be in residence from 12 – 16 July. I have been twice now at two different locations, and it has been great each time (post of the most recent one here), so I am not going to miss them! Expect great food from St …