Monday, December 26, 2011

The year in review

This year I travelled, I cooked, but mostly I ate. Herewith I present my top 10 memorable food trips of 2011.

1. There are no two ways about it. Copenhagen is awesome.

2. But you know what’s even better? Baiersbronn!

3. And Tofino? Forget about it!

4. Meanwhile, Cleveland was a revelation.

5. I drank so many cocktails and so much tea in Victoria that I almost floated away.

6. I finally made it to Calgary during Stampede, and when I wasn’t eating my weight in funnel cake, I was eating dozens of doughnuts.

7. Freshest seafood ever? Try the east coast.

8. It was my first time in San Antonio, but it won’t be my last.

9. Boston’s food scene is on the upswing. Watch for it.

10. Finally, who says you have to travel far to experience the best? Niagara never fails to impress.

Let us all raise our forks and glasses to a great 2012. Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Donna to the rescue!

Chef Donna Dooher is the owner of the fabulous Mildred's Temple Kitchen, an airy cream and green apple room in Toronto's Liberty Village, where they dish out dependable blueberry buttermilk pancake brunches, chicken avocado club lunches, and gnocchi poutine with oxtail gravy dinners. And now they're getting into the holiday spirit by dishing out advice to those in need. Mainly, skittish home cooks.
Since chef Dooher has planned her fair share of holiday parties over the years, she's decided to lend her expertise to timid hosts, and has opened up her email line for those stumped for ideas or looking for the answer to culinary questions.
Simply email her at with the subject heading "Ask Donna" and she'll get back to you within a day. She launched the "helpline" December 14th and will close it December 21st, so best to start that menu planning now, lest yea be out of luck later.
P.S. This photo is of the butterrific traditional shortbread available at Mary Macleod's. (See? I'm helping too.)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas in Cleveland

As we near the end of 2011 and look back on the year that was before I head to Laywines to buy the 2012 insert for my Filofax (some habits die hard), I’m reminded of all the great spots I visited; most of the trips all too brief. But one in particular that stood out as a place that would be perfect to head back to around the holidays, is Cleveland.

Not only was this city a terrific culinary surprise, but they’re also coo-coo for Christmas. Part of it has to do with the fact that the perennial favourite, “A Christmas Story” was filmed there. (I even met someone who was one of the kids in line when Ralphie was pushed down the slide. He recalled getting 10 days off of school and making $60; a fond memory.) The house/museum ode to the movie is also quite popular.

Then there are Snow Days at the Cleveland Indians’ Progressive Field, which includes a regulation sized frozen diamond, a skating rink, snow tubing slides, and all sorts of fun wintry games.

There’s also the annual “How the Kishka Saves Christmas”, which includes wieners, polkas and the traditional stringing of the sauerkraut on the Christmas tree at Happy Dog.

Even so, while I was in Cleveland the Christmas-themed thing I heard about most was the short-lived, beloved seasonal Christmas Ale brewed up at the local Great Lakes Brewing Company. This stuff is made with gallons of honey, spiced with fresh ginger and cinnamon, is 7.5% alcohol, and is known to make people behave very, very badly.

The brewery has several pub rooms, from the Taproom, with its 1890s-era Mahogany bar, to the Beer Cellar, which would be my regular haunt if I lived in Cleveland: It’s a low, intimate turn-of-the-century “rathskeller” with stone walls, brick floors and a wooden bar strung with twinkly lights. (Historically, it was the building’s basement for seed and feed.) The beer is fresh from the tap and the warm, salty pretzels are to die for. Certainly something to give thanks for in Cleveland this Christmas.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Snack of the Day: Homemade microwaved popcorn

I love popcorn. In fact, I didn’t realize how much I loved popcorn until I was searching for a past blog post and found that I’ve talked about popcorn here and here and here and here and probably a bunch of other places too, but I think I’ve made my point.

Yet even though I eat more microwaved popcorn than I care to admit, do you know what I don’t love about it? That greasy, yellow, chemically stuff that lines the bags.

The solution? PaperChef parchment cooking bags. Using these bags makes popcorn as light as air-popped but without the klunky popper.

All you do is pour ½ cup of popcorn kernels into a parchment bag, fold the top over at least three times (you don’t want the steam – or popcorn – to escape), and pop it in the microwave on high for about 2 ½ minutes. Then pour popcorn into a bowl and top with melted butter and salt or whatever else you choose.

This, my friends, is what you call a snacking game-changer.