Friday, July 30, 2010

The Hoof Cafe: Tongue for Lunch

Some of my male readers have asked me to write more posts about meat and beer. So I thought I'd share a tale of tongue with the carnivorous males out there! While I was in Toronto recently I got a recommendation to have lunch at The Hoof Cafe. Since I was already in the neighbourhood, I thought why not? There has been so much buzz about The Black Hoof, so naturally, its sister cafe had to be good.

As you may know from reading After the Harvest, I'm not a huge meat eater, but from time to time I enjoy a salty meat snack (stop snickering), preferably grass-fed or naturally raised of course. (I'm not sure where the owners source their meat from, but that would be good to know.)

Definitely part of the offal movement, The Hoof Cafe has many items on the menu that come from every inch of the animal. I decided on the tongue grilled cheese. I was so hungry I forgot to ask if it was beef or pork, but after biting into the cheesy, salty and tasty goodness, I didn't really care. Served with a few cornichons and a cuter than cute Hoof Cafe pickle skewer, this sandwich was delicious, even if it was a bit filling and messy to eat. Even worse I was chowing down in front of the attractive waitstaff.

Speaking of great service, that's what it was. Perhaps because one of the lovely servers was a former colleague from my JK days, but both servers seemed to be quite friendly and helpful to everyone who was lunching that day.

I washed down my decadent sandwich with a nice glass of Ravine Meritage, and enjoyed the rustic, relaxing atmosphere while sitting at the bar. I don't normally do reviews, but this lunch was just what I needed on my busy day of flitting around my former home city. In the end if I wasn't so full, I would have tried the lovely dessert I was eyeing on the counter.

And had I not been in the mood for a glass of red, I probably would have tried the Hoof Caesar; the server made about 5 of them while I was there so they must be popular!

The verdict? I would go back, but perhaps for a leisurely brunch complete with a Hoof Caesar. I've heard great things about Jen Agg's cocktails so I'm tempted to head across the street to The Black Hoof next time I'm in town.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Provenance Regional Cuisine

It was so great to be back in Toronto if only for a few days. While I was there I picked up a few things from my favourite grocer, Chef Alex Johnston at Provenance Regional Cuisine. If you haven't discovered Provenance yet, you need to go! It's located at Dundas and Palmerston, which is really not that far from Bloor and Bathurst.

Provenance is connected to The Palmerston if you feel like grabbing a bite, a coffee or a drink after shopping!

A quaint little neighbourhood store with artisanal flair, Provenance Regional Cuisine is not just a store, but also a subscription and catering service. In other words, you can subscribe to weekly boxes of fresh, local, sustainable foods; and also recruit the talented Chef Alex and his team to cater your event!

They even stock Forbes' products! For more on Forbes Wild Foods, click here.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a few familiar faces when I stopped in (that means you, Annette and Krista!), and I picked up a gift certificate for a friend's wedding along with some goodies for my house hosts for the weekend.

Mmm Kozlik's Ottawa you can get them at The Bagel Shop.

So, next time you're in the area, why not stop by for some fresh fish, local cheese, professionally butchered and seasoned meats, and other artisanal treats. They even sell Sam James coffee from the hottest new coffee bar in T.O. (I plan to visit next time I'm in town!)

For more on Provenance Regional Cuisine, you can check out their website or read my profile on Alex. Bon Appetit!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Vegetarian Bachelorette Party

Hello everyone! I'm here in muggy Toronto; visiting with friends, experiencing new cafes and restaurants and celebrating a close friend's wedding. It's great to be back in my former home city! The other night we had the obigatory bachelorette shindig, complete with kitschy games and girl talk, and of course, great food and drink!

I created a signature cocktail for the occasion, and to my delight, everyone really enjoyed it! Perhaps it was the refreshing citrus on a hot, hazy night that did the trick, but it was well-received all around.


  • 1 oz. Vodka
  • 1/2 oz Limoncello
  • Orangina
  • fresh basil
  • lemon slice

A few ladies in the crowd (including the bride) are vegetarian so all of the tasty treats were meat-free. There was a veggie tray, yummy cheeses, vegetarian lasagna, sauteed green beans and tasty appetizers, like these light, refreshing cold rolls.

This crusty bread was all ready to be made into bruschetta, which I failed to take a photo of because I was too busy hungrily devouring its tomato-garlic goodness.

Also very tasty were the deep fried risotto balls! (Anything deep fried...)

We finished off the evening with some decadent cakes and fresh strawberries. A great time was had by all and the food was delicious! Now on to the nuptuals later tonight...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kale Chips!

I'm a salty tooth. Therefore, any chip-like food item usually calls my name on a regular basis. Lately there's been tonnes of talk about kale chips (read: chips made from kale), and I thought I'd take a stab at them myself. Hey -- anything to keep my jeans fitting and my tooth salty is fine by me! Thus my kale chip experience begins...

First, get a nice bunch of kale from your local farmers' market (Parkdale for me)...

Wash the kale, dry it thoroughly and break off chip-sized pieces.

Dress with olive oil (2-3 tbsp) and sea salt. I suppose you could also season the chips any way you like, but I prefer a pure and simple taste.

Spread out on a lightly greased cookie sheet and roast in the oven at 350 degrees for around 12 minutes, turning the chips over halfway through.

Remove any excess oil from the chips. This amount of kale created 3 cookie sheets of chips.

In the end you get tasty, crunchy, salty kale chips! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! Trust me, they taste better than they look :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dining at DiVino: A Puglian Experience

The other night I was fortunate enough to be invited to an event at DiVino Wine Studio and Enoteca. (You may remember DiVino from my previous post about its owner, Antonio). The evening was all about promoting wines from the Puglia region of Italy and connecting fellow foodies. Warmly hosted by Larissa Beznaczuk-Smyrnew, Eric Diotte and Shannon Harvey, this intimate dinner party provided a chance to get to know the wines of Puglia.

The "heel of the boot", Puglia produces more wine than any other region. Originally known mostly for bulk wine, this southern region is now making more new and interesting wines. Regional food specialties include olives, olive oil, seafood and many types of vegetables.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with a refreshing cocktail made from Triple Sec, Brandy, Verdeca and Malvasia bianca wine (Puglian white grapes) and frozen peaches.

Sommelier Eric Diotte

After mingling with our fellow dinner party guests, we were then seated for a lovely dinner created to highlight three specific Puglian wines.

Orchiette pasta in a tomato olive basil sauce, topped with Pecorino cheese

Family style spinach salad with peaches, fennel and red cabbage

Chicken involtini with roasted red pepper, caramelized onions, ricotta cheese, fresh basil and asparagus with an eggplant and zucchini ragu

To complete the meal we were treated to a dessert of balsamic butter roasted pears with honeyed goat cheese and cinnamon almond biscotti with a cherry on top. Unfortunately I don't have a photo of this dish as I was too busy chatting about wine to remember my photographic responsibilities.

When tasting the wines, we were encouraged to make notes on our tasting sheets and discuss our impressions with other dinner guests. My favourite of the evening was the Tatu Primitivo. Although wine tasting notes are quite subjective at times, I thought I'd share mine with you anyway, using the headings provided on the tasting sheet.

Wine #1:
Mezzomondo/2008 Negroamaro/Product of Puglia/$7.95
Flavour: not too fruity, a bit dry
Acidity: high acidity
Texture: light-bodied
Body: high alcohol
Nose: raspberry, vanilla

Wine #2:
Ogio/2008 Primitivo/Product of Puglia/$8.48
Flavour: fruit comes over well
Acidity: not very acidic
Texture: light bodied
Body: medium alcohol
Nose: raspberry, bubblegum, vanilla

Wine #3:
Vigne e Vini/2006 Tatu Primitivo del Tarantino/Product of Puglia/$14.95
Flavour: fruit comes over well
Acidity: medium acidity
Texture: light bodied, medium tannins
Body: high alcohol
Nose: cherry, cedar

Many thanks to Larissa and her team for an enjoyable evening! It was so great to connect with some new food and wine-lovers and I definitely recommend bringing a Puglian wine to your next dinner party!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Less Talk, More Action!

If you know me personally you would be very aware that the phrase "less talk" doesn't really apply. However, I've decided to put the phrase "more action" into place and not just blog about food issues, but work towards changing them!

Last night marked my first meeting as a volunteer food policy writer for a project called Food for All, which is being organized by Just Food and The University of Ottawa. The lovely Erin of Just Food led our team in a description of what lies ahead as we band together to help change food systems in the city of Ottawa.

In total, there are around 10 different policy-writing teams, all comprised of concerned Ottawa citizens who wish to work towards a different, more sustainable, more equitable food system in our city.

The teams are working on:

  • Community Gardens, Land and Soil
  • Edible Landscape, Working with Private Institutions, City and NCC
  • Urban Livestock
  • Access to Food: Businesses, Getting People to Food and Food to People, Public Institutions
  • Income and the Cost of Eating (Research Group)
  • Food Education and Awareness
  • Emergency Food
  • Community Food Programs
  • Community Food Programs in Our Schools
  • School Boards and Food Issues in Schools
  • Food in Schools and the Ontario Ministry of Education
  • Market Food Production.

My team is working on Access to Food. This involves: "policies targeted towards facilitating access to healthy food in all of Ottawa’s neighbourhoods. This will include zoning regulations around concentration and type of food businesses in hospitals and school zones; incentives to encourage food stores to stock healthy and where possible, locally sourced foods; encouraging healthy foods in mobile food markets and food carts; supporting the development of farm-gate sales in the City and farmers’ markets, particularly in underserved areas."

I am so energized to be actually doing something to help change the food systems in my city! What are you doing in your city?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Grow, Lettuce, Grow!

I thought I'd just share a few shots of my lettuce -- it's growing! It is amazing the feeling that you get inside from seeing the seeds you planted materialize. The red leaf lettuce seems to be my top performer; I cannot remember which lettuce variety I planted on the right hand side of the window box in front, but perhaps it just takes a bit longer to sprout.

I'm already dreaming of the wonderful salads I'll make with my lettuce. In actuality they will probably be very similar to the salads I'm already making, but they'll be with my own lettuce which makes all the difference to me.

I hope everyone is having a great day and surviving this humidity.

Happy gardening!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Flourishing Herbs

All this rain has affected some of my herbs that like full sun, but there have been two resilient little guys who have prospered against the odds! As you may know, mint grows like crazy, and my Chocolate Mint plant has been reaching toward the skies more and more each day.

I've been using it in infused waters and fruit salads, and making sure I get a good whiff of its minty goodness every day! I plan to cook up some more mint-friendly dishes this summer, and perhaps make a few mojitos...

The other trusty soldier has been the hearty Oregano plant. I've been using it in pasta dishes, but I'd like to explore this herb more and I'm on the hunt for recipes!

My lettuce still has a long way to go, but I look forward to that day when I can harvest it for some tasty salads.

How are your herbs and veggies doing?