The ULTIMATE winter comfort food

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cropped short rib

Toronto got hit with the first snowfall last night, and the snow was around 15cm this morning!! I’m not ready for winter, and for some reason this is the time of the year when I slack off really hard on my 6am gym workouts and eat all the carbs instead. I just loooove putting on my PJs, turning on Netflix, and eating all the carbs. Just like this awesome braised short rib and mashed potato that I made!!

I’m actually salivating as I type this entry out, just thinking about the braised short rib that I cooked this past weekend, with fall off the bone, super tender meat, in a super delish sauce that has the perfect balance of tangy and umami flavours. The recipe, which I loosely adapted (eyeballed) from a Tastemade video that didn’t have measurements, featured Franklin BBQ owner, Aaron Franklin, sharing his grandmother’s legit looking pot roast recipe. Franklin BBQ is a reallllly big deal in Texas – it is THE place to get classic BBQ in Texas with a wait that could go up to 4-5 hours… and yep it’s on my list of places to eat before I die!!

I tested a bunch of recipes for pot roasts and braised short ribs in the past, ranging from really tomato based ones, to even some with red wine, and I can say this recipe in my top three for sure! It’s got simple flavours that truly complement each other and really lets the beef shine. Comfort food doesn’t need to be complicated!!! I once made Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon and was a bit disappointed at how the flavours overpowered the meat. My favourite ingredient here is the shiitake mushrooms, which I have never used in a stew before! I’ve only used cremini mushrooms, but I love the flavour this adds.

Make this dish ASAP. It’s the perfect comfort food this winter!! Super simple recipe, which you can set and forget aka leave in your oven for a few hours. I made this with buttery mashed potatoes and roasted garlic carrots and it was EXCELLENT!!!!!

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Christmas in a Cookie + Baking with Canola

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I’ve been bad. Sadly, I’ve been cooking with vegetable oil and shortening, which I recently discovered was not the best option for your heart!!

Last week, I attended a really awesome culinary workshop at the Loft on Geary, hosted by Canola Eat Well. They’re a joint partnership between Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba Canola Growers, that aims to inspire us to use canola oil in the kitchen by connecting us to the stories of Canadian farmers. I even got to speak first hand to one of them, a very lovely lady from Alberta, Jeannette (to my right in the picture below). Let me tell you I am CONVERTED! Who knew that Canola is Canadian and grown for us by over 43,000 family farmers on the Canadian Prairies?! I use vegetable oil really frequently to deep fry breaded pork chop, pork belly and chicken, but never again!!

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#CanolaConnect ladies! Photo credit: Josh Tenn-Yuk

Aaaaand here I am with my favourite thing about Christmas (it’s really the other way around…kidding)!! Also, I’m pretty sure I look 17 years old in this photo, WOW!

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Photo credit: Josh Tenn-Yuk

Sooooooo here’s the deal: Canola oil, which should be your local Canadian choice, is heart friendly because it’s a good source of Vitamin E and K, super low in saturated fats (half of olive oil) and is packed with Omega 3 fats (helps protect against heart attacks and strokes). It’s also has a pretty neutral taste, so it allows the flavours in baking and cooking to shine, AND also makes your baked goods moist. Trust me, we baked a bunch of goodies with canola oil at the workshop, and they were outstanding!!

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Kettle Corn, Coconut-Lime Blondies, and MORE!! Photo credit: Josh Tenn-Yuk

Here’s a handy canola oil baking conversion chart! I didn’t know this either but it’s awesome for deep frying (McDonald’s even uses it), because it can fry up until 468F.

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Are you a fan yet?!

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Well, you’re going to LOOOOVE these Chocolate Ginger Jewels I just baked. Chef Claire Tansey is the mastermind behind this perfect cookie, which you need to bake this holiday season. This is literally Christmas in a cookie, with the cinnamon and ginger spice giving me all the holiday feels. UGH! To-die-for!!

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At first bite it’s slightly crispy, but inside it’s super soft and chewy (thanks to the canola oil), bursting with ginger spice, warm cinnamon flavours, and extra sweetness from the chocolate (I used chopped up Valrhona chocolate feves). My eyes literally rolled to the back of my head when I first tried it because it so epic. Especially when you eat them freshly baked from the oven… it’s so dangerous! I’m going to have to work out extra hard today after the 10 cookies I just ate!!!

Don’t sleep on this recipe. It’s so easy and quick to whip up too!

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Fried Chicken Fave!

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There are two things that I look for in my fried chicken: crispy skin flavoured with salt and spices, and inside… really juicy meat. It doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for, but it’s really tricky and can be easy to mess up if you’re cooking it yourself (read: undercooked and bloody). You really need a ton of oil and patience, because it can take almost half an hour to cook!! Fried chicken falls under the category of something I can eat everyday (like my love of ice cream), AND paired with spaghetti. Yup, you read that right, spaghetti!! But I’m not talking about the Filipino sweet spaghetti you may heard about, which has little cut up pieces hotdog in it. I’m talking about classic Bolognese but with some slight sweetness to it. One of my favourites growing up! Such an interesting combo but it really works.

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Now back to fried chicken, I recently tried some outstanding, juicy fried chicken from Cluck Clucks, a spot in downtown Toronto known for their chicken and waffles. Let me tell you that you have to drop everything you’re doing right now and run over to their location at the Esplanade!!! Ooooooohhhhhhhhh boy. I got to sample a few dishes, and their fried chicken really stole the show! My mouth is watering just thinking about how much I loved their fried chicken: huge pieces, lightly battered, and super flavourful. Every bite was an explosion of spices, and they were perfectly cooked and juicy!

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You really can’t go wrong with anything that you choose (I’m loving their wedges), even the wings were on point!! Dare I say this is the best chicken and waffles place I’ve tried so far in Toronto!? I’ve had School and Dirty Bird but their fried chicken don’t even come anywhere close to Cluck Clucks, which is also Halal by the way. MMMmmm can’t wait until my next visit!!

Cluck Clucks
222 The Esplanade
Toronto, ON M5A 4M8

In love with the Cheesecake Factory Toronto

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Oh man. The Cheesecake Factory and I go waaaaaaay back! 2010 to be exact, when I visited their San Francisco location for the first time. Big portions, super legit comfort food (I am all about this), and an amazing strawberry cheesecake… I was HOOKED!!! My go to is for sure their Chicken Alfredo, with it’s really creamy, parmesan goodness. Ah, I love comfort food so much!

So when I got a chance to try the first Canadian location in advance of the opening, I started counting down the days!! No lie. Finally… the day arrived! My first impressions are that the Yorkdale location is huge and extremely busy. They’re expecting it to be busy for a few months though, so get ready for long wait times Toronto.

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Ok now on to the food. I should say though that they offered a limited menu for the media preview (with their full menu being around 200+ items). First up, apps. My boyfriend shared their Buffalo Blasts, which came as a HUGE portion of a lot chicken pieces. Man, I really forgot what their sizing was like. The only way I can describe it is cut up chicken pieces with buffalo sauce and cheese that had been coated in a spicy wrapper and deep fried. I’ve never tried anything like this app before and I really have to say that it was an awesome surprise. A super interesting take on chicken fingers. This is definitely best paired with a pint. By the time we finished this, I was feeling pretty stuffed (and we were only on the apps!!).

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For the entrees we tried the Chinese Chicken Salad, and the Bacon Bacon burger. Again these were huge (I LOVE this about Cheesecake Factory). Let’s start with the Chinese Chicken Salad, which is a staple for me whenever I visit a location. Presentation wise it was awesome, but taste wise it felt lacking and a bit bland, kind of like they went light on the dressing. The ingredients still tasted fresh though!

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The Bacon Bacon burger is not a typo!! This burger is pure American goodness with two different types of bacon: crispy bacon and thick cut slow roasted smoked bacon. Loved how juicy the patty was, and the slight sweetness of the smoked bacon. This also came with fries. At this point, I was struggling to breathe and mentally unbuttoning my pants… and I was in heaven!!!!

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And now we get to my favourite part, the cheesecake!! I typically get the original with whole strawberries and whipped cream, which is a classic and something I would recommend anybody. This time we shared the Oreo Dream Extreme cheesecake, and man the name reflects how decadent and delicious this was! Everybody, this is the best Oreo cheesecake that I have ever tried!!! They’ve baked whole Oreos into their original cheesecake, sandwiched between layers of fudge cake and an Oreo cookie mouse, topped with a milk chocolate icing and a huge piece of Oreo. I died and went to heaven!!!

To wrap up this super long post, I strongly urge you to give one of my favourite classic spots a try (hopefully when the lines die down). You will for sure love the food and not to mention the service is pretty great!

The Cheesecake Factory (opening November 21, 2017)
3401 Dufferin St,
Toronto, ON M6A 2T9

I can die happy now.

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Oh, Tokyo. I often think and daydream about what an amazing adventure the two weeks my boyfriend and I spent there in February. And when I say often, I really mean once every few weeks (not ashamed to admit it at all!!).

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The country. The culture. The food. The people. Everything is wonderful. And it’s unfortunately taken me ages to post about the best beef experience and all in all best restaurant that I’ve experienced / had the absolute pleasure of eating at in my entire life thus far – Sumibi Yakiniku Nakahara (炭火焼肉 なかはら). Mostly because I was unsatisfied by the photos I took (low lighting struggles), and because I really needed the photos to clearly capture the meal. It was SO epic, from the service to the food, which is so meticulously prepared and cooked.

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It took me two months of deep research to narrow down a solid Tokyo food itinerary (consulting Tabelog, and other food blogs), and this spot topped the list of must-eats. I’m a HUGE steak person, and needed to experience wagyu in Tokyo. This highly recommended spot needed a reservation made one month in advance, and it was a thousand times worth it.

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My cousin, boyfriend and I sampled different slices of cuts from the highest quality Tajima Black Wagyu beef, from wagyu sirloin, oyster blade, ribeye, and so many more.

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Look at this beauty – MY GOD, the marbling!

This was 100% on another level – my eyes literally rolled to the back of my head with every bite of meat, with my favourite being the ribeye. This is likely the best beef experience in the entire world.

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The charcoal grill was really important in melting off a bit of that fat, and it also gave the meat a slight char/torched flavour. This is mainly the reason why I chose to go with yakiniku style (grilled meat) of cooking for wagyu. To top it off, the service was outstanding, and it felt like we were welcomed in the restaurant like we were old friends.

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The tireless search for perfection of food and of the craft is evident in so many restaurants that I visited, in Tokyo. Sumibi Yakiniku Nakahara in particular stood out to me, when I read a what owner Kentaro Nakahara said about wagyu: a miniscule 0.2mm difference in thickness or a slight change in knife angle can cause a complete transformation in texture and taste. I was lucky enough to speak to him in person, and you really can see his passion and commitment to the serving highest quality beef and hosting an amazing yakiniku experience.

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These pictures don’t do the entire experience justice at all. If you’re visiting Tokyo soon, I would REALLY recommend booking through here!

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Sumibiyakiniku Nakahara (炭火焼肉なかはら)
GEMS Ichigaya 9F, 4-3 Rokubancho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (map)
+81 3 6261-2987