This is Scandinavian cooking entry number two, again featuring another beautiful piece of fish bought from “Hooked” in Leslieville in Toronto, and again inspired by “New Scandinavian Cooking” chef Andreas Viestad. The dish is actually meant for Herring, but good luck finding it in the GTA — even just the frozen kind. Mackerel was the perfect substitute… we also had to substitute rutabaga in for turnips. Basically we fried up bacon, added in celeriac and rutabaga and fried it up, then took it out of the pan and combined it with diced carrot, apple and parsley. The fish was salted and peppered, as well as given a coating of mustard, then fried in the bacon grease (is your mouth drooling yet?) and once it was seared on both sides, plated and piled with the roots. Check out NewScanCook for the details. I’m looking forward to making this again.
Here’s the result of a recent Scandinavian cooking experiment, creating Cold smoked Trout Mille Feuille, according to Andreas Viestad from “New Scandinavian Cooking.” It’s made with Smoked Trout from Leslieville’s new fish market, “Hooked,” pear, cucumber, celeriac, horse radish and a tortilla shell (next time we’ll have to track down some Lefse in Toronto). It also gave me some more practice with the Thor Bjørklund cheese planer my partner picked up for me from our friends at Mjolk. (Seriously, that planer takes practice, but it’s the greatest vegetable/fruit skinner and slicer ever)
I think I piled everything too thick on there, so I didn’t get a nice, neat little roll out of it, and one tortilla’s worth of rolls was perfect as a dinner entre, even though these are meant to be appetizers. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the Celeriac (celery root), and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it again.
Well, that’s at least my own opinion anyways. I’m sure there’s people out there who love the blend, but after tracking down an authentic (and expensive) bag of Jablum beans, I was a little disappointed.
In my opinion, I would describe Jamaican Blue as a very “light,” “floral” coffee, with a rather weak finish. Likely the roast didn’t stand up to my brewing method of choice (chemex), and didn’t have the excess of body needed to survive the heavy paper filters.
I’ve heard people rave about these kinds of beans in the past, but I just don’t get it. There’s a really interesting story to them, how they are harvested from a mountain in Jamaica, but beyond that, they aren’t too inspiring. The packaging it comes in looks kind of cool, but it’s a pain in the butt ripping the netting off, and there wasn’t a “roasted date” anywhere on the bag.
Overall, I’ll likely never buy these beans again, and I’ll stick with my regular purchase these days: the Sidama beans from Detour Coffee Roasters. They supply Dark Horse with their own blend, and are just amazingly roasted.
Picked up these from the bakery down the street… even though they are cheering for England (boo!) they still make some amazing treats. Stop by Celena’s Bakery if you want to get your hands on some, they promise to make them in a variety of flags!
Technically our first meal in Reykjavik was at our Hotel, Thingholt, which was usual breakfast fare (eggs, bacon, potatoes, croissants, bread, cereal, etc) and nothing worth noting down. We were barely awake when we got up in time for breakfast, and I don’t remember much about it. So on our first day, we sauntered down Laugavegur and to our surprise, that Thursday was a holiday, and everything was closed… except for this little lunch spot, “Mmmmm…” which was a nice homey style place with a stark white decor. I had fried chicken, which was tasty.
Our first night, we didn’t go fancy, but we did go to one of the best restaurants in Reykjavik, “Icelandic Fish and Chips.” The name says it all… they have an extensive selection of fresh fish, and are located right beside the harbour.
I’m not one for Crepes, but I went for the plunge at Kofi Tomasar Frænda, which was another cafe near our hotel. It was also amazing.
According to our cab driver from the airport, the best lamb stew in all of Iceland is available at the Gullfoss rest stop near the waterfall, and he was completely right. They didn’t have “take away” containers, so we got our stew in coffee cups… it was totally worth holding up the tour bus.
Over the course of our stay in Reykjavik, I had many, many lattes and americanos at Mokka Kaffi, the first place in Iceland to install an espresso machine decades ago.
Besides fish, the best thing you can get in Iceland is a hotdog (called a Pylsur). These babies are “healthy,” made from ground lamb and pork, and pretty cheap (which is great, because you’ll want more than one at a time). When you get it with everything on it, the mustard/gravy combo is perfect, with a crunchy layer of onions underneath the dog. There’s one very popular place in Reykjavik, Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur, which we visited several times.
The best meal we had in Reykjavik, was the much hyped “Dill” restaurant, located in the Nordic House, just outside the city centre, near the university. As you can see, they serve a contemporary cuisine with many courses, and each one was surprising and complicated. This is the “can’t miss” restaurant of Reykjavik, and for the style and quality served, it’s an amazing deal cost-wise, especially considering the price would be over double in NYC or Toronto.
Back to reality, I adopted local haunt Prikid as my Scandinavian Java House spot, and enjoyed their easy going take on “regular” food (basically, as a not lover of fish, I was ready for a burger… any kind of burger). I followed this lunch up with their specialty desert, the “Bruce Willis” milkshake, which has caramel, two shots of espresso and two shots of Jack Daniels.
Second last lunch was at “Scandinavian” restaurant in downtown Reykjavik, and I had this nice little Danish style roast beef sandwich.
Finally, the last “great” dinner of our trip was with our new British friends Jim and Zoe at Fish Market in downtown Reykjavik. Someone had heard that the lobster dishes were to die for, and whoever said that were right. However, I went for the mountain lamb, which was also quite satisfying.
And then finally, the last meal in Reykjavik was back at Prikid, where I had this “California Love” chicken sandwich, while watching the traffic pass by under our window.
In my quest to reduce the toll stress is taking on my body, I’ve given up a few indulgences, such as drinking alcohol, recreational smoking (cigars, cloves and sheesha), and started eating a healthy South Beach type of diet. But in my research of anxiety and relieving its symptoms, the next step became obvious: I was going to have to give up caffeine, at least for the foreseeable future. (Check out this article on the dangers of caffeine for anxiety sufferers)
And you regular readers will know that I love my coffee. I love the smell, the taste, and of course, the ritual.
So after successfully giving up the caffeinated brew altogether (I still have the occasional decaf latte), I set my sights on getting a proper tea setup going.
It so happened my significant other was regularly making herself lemon balm tea before bed, using loose leaf tea and paper bags, when I decided that we should upgrade our tea situation. After using steel ball steeping chambers, I knew our first step would be to get a serious steeping pot.
After a search of many, many teapots, I settled into getting a Bodum Shin Cha four cup tea press with a stainless steel filter. At first I was hoping to find something a little more unusual than a typical Bodum teapot, but after looking for so long, there was something special about his pot that appealed to me. I love the glass, and the press has proven to be great at perfectly extracting the tea. As for cups, I’ve found our previous set of Laurentian mugs have been functioning beautifully, and are just to right size.
When it comes to loose-leaf teas, I find I’m drawn more towards the herbal and bitter end of the spectrum, partially to avoid the caffeinated teas, but also I find the sweeter teas a little too strong and unnatural. Lemon balm was been wonderful as a pre-bedtime relaxing tea, only surpassed by Chamomile. I’ve also tried Skullcap and Kava Kava, but due to my concern about their interactions with SSRIs, I’ve been holding onto those teas for a later time, when I’m no longer taking those kinds of prescriptions. As for where to get these teas, I’ve found the best place to find fresh loose leaf tea is at Tutti Frutti in Kensington Market, which has a very extensive selection of bulk loose leaf and individually bagged teas.
If anyone has any suggestions of where they like to find excellent loose leaf tea in Toronto, please drop me a line!
Finally, I knew that our tea set was complete when I finally found the perfect tea cozy at the Good Egg, also in Kensington Market. It’s made by Toronto design company Bookhou, and it perfectly fits over my rather large pot. It’s very dense and thick, and keeps the tea nice and hot for a very long time. And because it looks so great, leaving the cozy on the pot makes a nice little stylish detail to the apartment.
Ever since the “True Brew Cafe” came into my east Danforth life a few years ago I’ve been pretty satisfied. Sure, it closes too early for my liking, but it’s cozy and Sue makes amazing muffins, soups and salad.
But now Sue has a little competition down the block with the newly opened “Celena’s Bakery,” where they too make all their own delicious goods in-house. I’m not necessarily going to compare the two places, because they both have similar vibes, and they will continue to be well served during the day by the local moms and whoever else waltzes in during the day. Of course, Celena’s strength is that they bake their own bread, croissants and other pastries, whereas True Brew is more cozy and homey.
I’ll continue going to True Brew, and that’s not a knock against Celena’s in any way.
Because Celena’s makes what is probably the best croissant in the entire city of Toronto. Yeah, I’ll go there.
I was skeptical at first when I heard about these croissants from a co-worker, who said they were small, like the size of your hand, heavy like a baseball, and when you bite into it, it’s like biting into butter. You also have to get one first thing in the morning, because they usually sell out of them by 9 am. Apparently the chocolate versions they make on Saturdays and Sundays sell out in 40 minutes, on average.
So as I finally got a hold of one, I have to say that everything I’ve heard about them is true. They look like they are just about as wide as they are long, and they are nice and crispy on the outside, while being tender and moist on the inside. Amazing. If you live in the neighborhood, be sure to try them right away, before they start changing whatever they’re doing to accommodate for volume.
After months (years?) of anticipation, I’ve finally made my way up to St. Clair and Bathurst to try out the BBQ place that the west side has been raving about: The Stockyards. A smoke house & larder joint that specializes in pulled pork, brisket, and buttermilk marinated fried chicken. (My mouth is watering again already). Apparently the best dish on the menu is their ribs, which they only serve on specific days, so check their website and twitter for exact details.
Because pulled pork is my comfort food of choice (give it to me in a burrito, sandwich, what have you), I had to go with the classic, and I was not disappointed. Unlike cheaper pulled pork, which sometimes can appear to be shredded mush, this pork actually looked like meat that came out of an animal, that was actually prepared earlier in the day. As for taste, it was perfectly sweet and spicy, and nicely complimented by the toasted “Store-bought bun.”
My biggest revelation though? Their own ice tea brew, made with a healthy dose of ginger. I ordered a 2 liter jug, and even though I ended up bringing part of it home with me, I wish I had brought another with me all the way to Danforth East.
So to put it simply, if you like BBQ, and you were a fan of Phil’s, you’re going to love Stockyards. Be warned though: the place is tiny, with basically no seats, to be prepared to do takeout if you are claustrophobic. Also, if you are planning on getting the fried chicken, call ahead, because it takes 20 minutes to prepare.
The place is “Sky Blue Sky,” a Wilco-themed sandwich joint on Bloor, just west of Bathurst. It’s named after one of the band’s albums, and each tasty sandwich is named after a Wilco song. There’s Wilco posters on the walls, and while I didn’t hear any Wilco while I was in there, I did hear a complimentary playlist of the National and Cat Power. The space is very cozy and informal, and judging by the hours, is a great place to grab lunch or an early dinner if you’re in the neighborhood. In addition to tables, there’s a handful of private booths and even a couple leather chairs with a view out on to bustling Bloor street.
So here’s the question: is it any good? It is. And while the Wilco thing might be a strange gimmick, it works, and I believe the food is just good enough to hook the curious (like myself) and bring them back over and over again. Even the plates “feel” Wilco, much like the rest of the restaurant’s vibe. I’m not the biggest Wilco fan out there, but I’m going to say that if you love the band, you owe to yourself to at least make at least one or two visits.
Here’s the restaurant’s website, where you can even pre-order online!