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An Open Letter to Portugal

10 Mar

Hello Portugal,

When I heard about your seafood and your cobbled streets, I knew we were meant to be.

Lisbon greeted me with stunning architecture and the perfect blend of history and modernity. Porto gave me some of the best picture-postcard views. I stared in awe at your azulejos. I became enchanted by your palaces. I enjoyed your company. You introduced me to your dreamy pastels de nata, port wine, hearty meals of salted codfish, and provided me with charmingly hospitable locals. The more I got to know you, the more I fell in love with you.

Your winding streets, your colourful houses, your way of life. You even make any given alleyway beautiful. Yes, I admit your hills are steep and some streets are narrow but you always rewarded me for my efforts. From street art to river views, there was always something at the end.

I’m sorry I drank too much and ran down your streets chasing a dog I thought was strayed.  I’m sorry I didn’t like the cold of your Februarys.  But I am mostly sorry for only spending 10 nights with you. 

Thank you for becoming my favourite place. I’d say you could have my heart but it would probably be taken literally.

Até breve x

Colette Grand Café: Review

28 Aug

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My introduction to Colette happened in the casual bakery-cafe section of this new Thompson Hotel establishment. Though the restaurant serves a wonderful menu of modern French dishes, having first heard of Colette through an encounter with a delight sample of their double chocolate cookie, I was anticipating another exquisite experience of its French pastries and viennoiserie.

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Visiting Colette Grand Cafe is like suddenly finding yourself in Southern France—inspired by that idyllic region, the dining room also features hints of the countryside with a predominantly yellow, blue and white palette, reclaimed-wood furniture, and a large wooden bookcase in the middle that displays china dishes while also serving as a space partition.

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I enjoyed the fact that the property is loosely divided into a bakery-cafe, a lounge and a formal dining room. The transition between each functional space is seamless and mostly conveyed through the use of subtly shifting decor. While the library-style lounge features beautiful reclaimed-wood tables, inviting wingback armchairs, and kitschy knick-knacks, its formal dining room appears more polished, but also having the same natural wood and soft blue tones carried over.The bakery-cafe is airy, with plenty of seating, barrel vaulted ceilings, and hand-painted tiles. Customers are free to choose from an enticing array of pastries and confectionaries at the counter before choosing a comfy banquette to sink into.

The profiterole creation was a perfect combination of buttery, flaky, and creamy—the oddest balance of purity and decadence. I was impressed with the quality of ingredients used in the cookie sample I received before visiting Colette’s and that’s what primarily drew me to another visit. I was not disappointed with this particular choice and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a healthy sized dollop of mascarpone cream with his or her afternoon coffee. The chocolate stone, unfortunately, looked and sounded more impressive than it actually tasted. Filled with dark chocolate mousse, milk chocolate whipped cream, cocoa nibs and flourless chocolate cake; I would say this one lacked the complexity and decadence of the profiterole—an unexpectedly one-note dessert that didn’t quite hit the mark for this chocolate-enthusiast. As for Colette’s coffee, I imagined that most bakery visitors would wish to accompany their sweet selections with a coffee or espresso. Which is why I was surprised and disappointed to be served a rather average cup of cappuccino and a rather disagreeable double espresso served without an espresso cup. Continuing the same theme of average, the classic butter croissant was also underwhelming.

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Overall, I liked my experience at Colette’s just enough to believe another visit may be worth while, especially for a full lunch or dinner next time. However, it seems as if it’s decor and atmosphere definitely stole the spotlight from the food.

550 Wellington St. W., 647-348-7000
colettetoronto.com
@colettetoronto
Owner: The Chase Hospitality Group
Chefs: Executive Chef Michael Steh, chef de cuisine Matthew Swift and executive pastry chef Leslie Steh

Food and Social Identity

21 Apr

From celebrity chefs to specialty stores, the last decade has witnessed an explosion of food consciousness in modern culture. It’s a staple of popular media, resulting in the creation of omnimedia brands like Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay; while even inspiring entire networks devoted to around-the-clock programming. The hegemony of food in daily modern life means it’s been the recent subject of discussion and deconstruction from countless angles of serious academia to lighthearted social commentary. Of course food is more than sustenance, but I assert that it is even much more than a cultural, social or political phenomenon. It functions symbolically as a communicative and rhetorical practice by which we interact with others, forge relationships, and most importantly, it is a means through which we deliver rhetorical performances of selfhood in the creation of our social identities.

Clothing, hairstyles, and even zip codes are familiar to us as markers of social identity and self-expression. but food surpasses their non-edible counterparts in symbolic potential partly because it can be literally consumed and absorbed into the physical body. As an ingestible synecdoche of whatever social values and status we wish to embody, it’s distinguishable from an Audemars Piguet on his wrist or the vintage Lanvin on the crook of her arm. In the hyper-modern world of food, what we eat is personal—and in more ways than Savarin probably envisaged when he penned the words, “tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are”

In fact, if sex is the instrument of species-reproduction, then eating is probably the means of self-reproduction. To exist can be boiled down to an activity of daily self-reproduction, and the material resource by which one performs this act is through food, both literally and rhetorically. For example, Recall Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll’s fantastical setting is rife with food objects, from tea cakes and potions to the infamous mock turtle soup. It’s fitting that Alice’s most significant interactions with Wonderland seem to involve acts of eating and dining with its locals. Her journey of transformation is both literal and metaphorical—while the cakes and potions cause her to shrink and grow, the literal consumption of food objects that Wonderland is furnished with occurs simultaneously with Alice’s development as a person and her eventual appropriation of Wonderland’s values of curiosity and absurdity. It seems as if even as early as the Victorian age, those like Carroll have been able to appreciate the rhetorical power of food as a symbol of self-transformation. Fast forward to the present age of the Self, it is no wonder that we have consciously or subconsciously unleashed the latent potential of food as a powerful tool for identity creation and attainment of social status.

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Alice at the Mad Tea Party

So how does food operate as a means by which we create and manage meaning in our lives? Historically, food was a powerful symbol of Britain’s identity as a colonial empire. Imported food like tea and citrus is compelling as a status symbol of Britain’s imperial reach because the evidence could be widely displayed upon virtually every dinner table in the nation, and reproduced every time those items are consumed by Britons. Today in practical terms, all you’d need to do is imagine the deliberation that goes into each time you labour over the question of where to take your date for dinner. What food you choose to place between you and your date is ultimately a decision to communicate to them what you believe they represent and what you can offer as a partner. The food that you share together is an act of simultaneous self-reproduction. What you eat together therefore symbolizes how you desire to grow together as a duo. I personally have difficulty accepting coffee dates while dinner plans will tend to signal to me that a man sees me as serious potential for forging a meaningful relationship together. To me, a dinner table can be read like a text, and what someone chooses to communicate through the text is a reflection of what they expect you to accept into both your literal, physical body, but also your sense of self. To me, anything short of a complete and meaningful meal is an interesting rhetorical signal to me that they value me as something short of a complete and meaningful person.

Lost in the upper-middle class fantasy of health consciousness and clean-eating, we are perhaps unable or unwilling to recognize the subtler reasons why we stand behind things like organic food movements and restaurants that inexplicably demand the most ancient and un-hybridized grains for a simple dish. These are perhaps better viewed as performances that help us actualize modern, desirable values of individuality and counter-culture.

But I digress, my point isn’t really to assert what exactly food symbolizes for us as social individuals—that would require an enormous amount of spilt ink. There’s a lot to think and talk about when it comes to food; the possibilities for food to affect self-transformation is potentially limitless. And since food is so intimately tied to production of self-identity, it is perhaps a personal experience of introspection that is worth at least some consideration. Chew on that thought the next time you eat.

 

Chicken and Biscuits

8 Jan

Chicken and Biscuits

All good things must come to an end, and so it was that our whirlwind season of feasts and gluttonous repasts was over. Yet we resist and fought bravely to the end, carrying into January our still-vivid dreams of rich gravies and sauces—not to mention a newly cultivated appreciation for post-meal naps. But even so, ringing in the New Year always produces that mysterious effect of switching on a heart-achingly enthusiastic resolve to actualize long neglected goals or to just start afresh. For me, I revived the ever perennial resolve to adopt a lifestyle of well-being and fitness; yet good food and taste, those cannot be sacrificed. So this was going to take a bit of creativity. I knew the key was to begin by making small compromises that won’t make you fall off the bandwagon by mid February.

My newfound commitment would  be tested on a particularly cold Monday, the eve before the so-called polar vortex would assail London and when  a particularly daunting evening of legal research loomed. Sure, my first impulse was to order-in greasy Chinese—nothing better than mysteriously non-perishable, battered goodness.

But good choices were made that day. I steered myself towards my well-stocked fridge and tasked myself with putting together something that’s going to be satisfying for my conscience and my stomach.

It starts with a chicken broth—so purifying after the onslaught of flavours from last month which, by the fifth holiday dinner, seemed to run into each other. Fortunately, a typical post-holiday send-off from my family usually includes a jar of chicken or beef broth. So my broth of choice is familiar yet full of taste and goodness, so simple yet still complex. I have chicken thighs in the freezer, and lots of it. So I brown them a little and add them to the broth to make a hearty soup. I like  soups a little on the denser side, toeing into stew territory—so I added a little flour to my aromatics, browning in butter, to make a roux. Then in goes some white wine (the drier the better) and the best chicken stock you can find. Top it off with a few sprigs of thyme and bay leaves.

While all that was getting to know each other in my soup pot, I felt butter biscuits were in order, just to indulge a tiny bit. They turned out really flaky and buttery and complemented the chicken really well. Take a bite between spoonfuls of soup or dunk them in the broth. I’m almost reminded of a really good chicken pot pie.

INGREDIENTS

CHICKEN SOUP

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1½ lb lb. skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 medium carrots (about 1 lb.), peeled, cut into 2” pieces
  • 1 small celery root (about 12 oz.), peeled, cut into ½” pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups peas
  • 1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves

BISCUITS

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour plus more for work surface
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” cubes
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend

CHICKEN SOUP

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook skin side down until, 8–10 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Carefully drain all but 2 Tbsp. fat from pot. Add carrots, celery root, onion, peas, and leek; stir frequently until softened and beginning to brown, 8–10 minutes.

Add butter; stir until melted. Add flour and stir constantly until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add wine and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by half, 5–8 minutes.

Add chicken, broth, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer until chicken is fork-tender, 35–40 minutes.

Discard herb sprigs and bay leaves. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool slightly; shred meat, discarding skin and bones.

Return shredded chicken to soup. Season with salt and pepper

BISCUITS

Whisk flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Add butter. Using your fingertips, blend until pea-size lumps form. Add buttermilk, sour cream and chives.

Using a fork, mix until just combined. Gather mixture into a ball and knead in bowl just until a shaggy dough forms, 3 or 4 times.

Transfer dough to a floured work surface and pat into a ¾”- to 1”-thick round. Cut out rounds with a 2” biscuit cutter or small glass. Gather dough and repeat patting and cutting. Transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet; brush with egg.

Bake biscuits until golden brown, 25–30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Revised from recipe via Bon Appetit

WIld Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash

18 Dec

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Ingredients:

1 c. Wild rice 
2 acorn squash
shredded mozzarella
dried cranberries
butter
shallot
garlic
rosemary
cumin powder
salt
pepper

Directions: 

1. preheat oven to 450 degrees. Halve squash lengthwise and place cut side down on a aluminum lined cookie sheet.

2. place squash in oven and roast about 45 minutes or until the tip of the knife is able to easily pierce the skin

3. meanwhile, melt butter in a medium-large saucepan. Stir in shallot, garlic, and rosemary; season with cumin, salt and pepper. Cook until shallots become translucent.

4. Add rice and cook with 2 cups of water, about 20-25 minutes

5. remove from heat and stir in cranberries; fill the inside of each squash and serve topped with shredded mozzarella.

Megan and Calvin in New York December 2012 {Day 4/4}

15 Dec

We woke up on the last day in New York and headed out for Astoria, Queens to see the Museum of Moving Image.

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An exhibit for the new Disney DreamWorks movie, Rise of the Guardians, which  Calvin and I eventually saw when we got back to Toronto. Absolutely fell in love with it.

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Some concept art for the characters:

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Makeup used for Sex and the City 2. I spy some MAC blushes, Bobbi Brown concealer, tarte cheek stain, Lancome mascara. Cool! DSC_0743 DSC_0744 DSC_0745 DSC_0746 DSC_0749 DSC_0747 DSC_0748

A pair of Winona Ryder’s legs from Black Swan
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Muppets from the front

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Muppets from the back

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After the museum we took a train back to the city. Had myself a $1 for 2 churros purchased on the platform.

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Grabbing some dinner at Fatty Crab!

Green mango and chilli sugar salt

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Malay Fish Fry

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Signature Fatty Duck

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Time to kill some  time at the airport before flying home. Calvin made me play a game with him: we each take turns drawing a line across the screen until the first person can’t draw one without touching another line.

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I sure won.

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Megan and Calvin in New York December 2012 {Day 3/4}

12 Dec

Slept in a bit late on the third day and hopped on a train. We randomly got off at Union Square and found the famous market. Very kitschy!
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The days are getting so short! It was dusk by the time we moved on. Passing by a street lined with christmas trees waiting for homes 🙂

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 Grabbing some dinner. A happy camper at…

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Japadog !

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Terimayo: Japadog’s signature dog with mayo and teriyaki sauce and seaweed!

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Loved this tonkatsu dog: marinated pork cutlet and tonkatsu sauce

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Took a detour, literally a few door s down from Japadog

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Curry is so good on a chilly night

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His and hers ramen: Shio (salt base)

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Shoyu (soysauce base)

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Those giant ornaments outside Rockefeller Centre

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The famous Magnolia Bakery, always packed

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Inside the NBC Store looking for soem Community stuff and found Little Sebastian instead! I wanted to take you home….

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Got a set for Calvin and I’s morning tea/coffee. Can’t wait to use them for years to come.

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Annie’s Boobs

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You know what it is…

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Went back to UNIQLO yet another time to do more damage

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I’m not sure why Calvin bought this salty pretzel

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The Hershey Store! Wanted to find a giant Hershey’s Kiss that I had once when I was a kid but it looks like they downgraded the size and I was just not satisfied with the giant novelty one they have now. Too bad this one doesn’t have chocolate insides.

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