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 …