Big Crow

You know those friends you haven’t seen in forever but when you finally meet up you pick up where you left off and it is the most natural thing? I had a dinner like that last week. Last week I met up with my friend Laura and we went from dinner at Big Crow.

Big Crow is by the same guys who do Rose & Sons, and for those of you who don’t remember, I did not enjoy my experience there. Despite this, I was eager to try Big Crow. I was intrigued by what they were doing there: a patio only restaurant, cooking up barbeque at the back of an existing restaurant.

When we arrived, we were quickly seated at a picnic table close to the smoker where we could watch all the action. The result of this was my hair smelling of bonfire by the end of the night which I did not mind. That is one of my favourite smells in the world. We started with a pitcher of Algonquin Iced Tea which is their spin on the classic Long Island Iced Tea. It has vodka, gin, tequila, rum, blackstrap bitters, and ginger beer. It was delicious.

Next, we had the All Beef Verscht.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset All Beef Verscht with apricot glaze and mustard.

This was basically Montreal smoke meat style barbeque so it was obviously delicious. The meat was smoky, fatty and charred nicely. The apricot glaze was sweet and thick, smothered over the meat and complimenting the richness of the meat. The mustard was spicy and grainy, a nice balance to the sweetness of the glaze.

Then, we ordered the JW Bird.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe JW Bird – Cornish hen with sour pickle brine and salsa verde.

DELICIOUS. This hen was so incredibly moist. It was juicy and tender. The skin was crispy and kept all the juicy goodness inside. There was a slight sourness from the brine but it did not overwhelm the bird and make you think of pickles. The salsa verde was fresh and light. It added a different type of crunch to the bird.

We ordered sides of Picnic Potato Salad and Mexican Broccoli Salad.IMG_0919The Picnic Potato Salad with buttermilk ranch dressing, eggs and asparagus.

This potato salad was good. The dressing was light and thin, but it was slathered on a bit too heavily. The potatoes and asparagus were tender and retained a slight bit of crunch. I don’t typically like egg in my potato salad but this egg was in small chunks throughout the salad, giving a bit of smoothness and thickness to the salad. And it would be easy enough to recreate at home! Yums.IMG_0922The Mexican Broccoli salad with pepitas, tomato and avocado.

Broccoli salad is so underrated! Barbeques are fraught with pasta, bean and potato salads but rarely does the broccoli salad make an appearance. This was delightful. It was fresh and with different flavours then what filled the rest of the menu. The pepitas, a Spanish word for pumpkin seeds, were nutty, crunchy and completely tasty. These should be sprinkled on everything. Again, this would be such an easy salad to recreate at home for your own barbeque.

And lastly, we finished off with the S’mores Ice Cream Sandwich.IMG_0923An ice cream sandwich on a brioche bun?! Heck, yes! The brioche was sweet, fluffy and airy. Due to the sheer size of the bun it overwhelmed the contents of the sandwich.The ice cream was slightly too cold to make biting into the sandwich enjoyable or easy. The graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow were not incorporated enough into the sandwich to make this truly a s’mores ice cream sandwich. The graham crackers should have been mixed in with the ice cream or sprinkled on top. The chocolate should be a piece of chocolate rather than chocolate sauce.

After tasting this, I plan to get a quart of Greg’s Ice Cream’s Roasted Marshmallow  ice cream and make my own version of a s’mores ice cream sandwich. Or maybe that will be my next ice cream venture – s’mores ice cream. Who’s in?

I loved my meal here. It was fresh, juicy and tasted like summer. I am looking forward to more visits to this back patio, especially when the days of summer are long behind us and our only connection to hot summer nights is food that brings back those memories.

Happy munching!

Bang Bang Ice Cream

There is a new addition to the Ossington Strip – Bang Bang Ice Cream. Bang Bang Ice Cream is brought to you by the people who are behind Bakerbots. It opened earlier this summer in May. Since it has opened, it has been busy and people can’t stop talking about it so we decided we needed to check it out.

We both ordered a half cookie each, at the price tag of $4.50 each. I got the RoCocoa Dark Sable cookie with Strawberry Ice Cream and GC ordered the Gingerrrrrr Spicy Chewy cookie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

IMG_0810Top: The Gingerrrrrr Spicy Chewy cookie with Barbados molasses and peppered tops.
Bottom: The RoCocoa Dark Sable cookie with cocoa brut, 70% callebaut chocolate, and maldon salt.

These were both delicious! As you can see, the ice cream to cookie ratio is generous and well worth the price. I don’t think I could eat a whole cookie by myself but I am definitely not ruling that out as these are so good! My cookie was rich and decadent. I loved how the chocolatey richness was offset by little salty granules. It was soft, moist and chewy, making it the perfect cookie for an ice cream sandwich. The strawberry ice cream is easily the best strawberry ice cream I have ever had. It tasted like fresh Ontario strawberries: sweet with hints of tartness throughout the luscious ice cream.

GC’s cookie was the best ginger cookie ever. It was soft, moist and perfectly spiced with ginger. There was no cloying sweetness from excessive molasses, just the perfect hints of sugar to balance the blend of spices. The vanilla ice cream was pure and simple, dotted with dainty dark vanilla beans. Yums.

We will definitely be going back. I am mad to try the birthday cake cookie, the avocado ice cream and the ice cream puffs! Happy munching!

 

Beast

A few weeks ago I went to Beast for brunch with Cynthia. We sat on the patio and drank premium roast coffee from Kenya. Beast’s menu features a rotating assortment of coffees chosen by the chef who is a coffee connoisseur. If you are a coffee drinker, come to Beast. Your coffee won’t be an overlooked part of your brunch menu. As someone who isn’t much of a coffee drinker it was nice to be given a specific type of coffee based on what type of coffee I can handle – light, medium or dark. Although I prefer a lighter roast coffee, I opted for the medium roasted coffee of the day since the other two choices featured pecans and peanuts.

Cynthia ordered the Beastwich. IMG_0768The Beastwich with a buttermilk biscuit, fried chicken thigh, pimento cheese, a fried egg, pork sausage gravy and house potatoes.

The chicken was crispy and juicy. The meal as a whole was very thick and heavy. This is standard for this type of breakfast, they typically sink like a brick in your stomach and you don’t need to eat until late afternoon. We both thought that something zesty or some greens on the side would have been nice for presentation and would have lighten the plate slightly. This dish is not for the faint of heart.

I ordered the Huevos Rancheros.

IMG_0766 IMG_0767The Huevos Rancheros with 2 crispy corn tortillas, Mexican-style chorizo, bean salad, avocado purée, tomato-red chile sauce, sheep’s milk feta and 2 sunny side up eggs served with house potatoes.

I will always be tempted by huevos rancheros when it is on a menu. Although this was good, it is not my favourite huevos rancheros – that I am crediting to the bite I had of Cynthia’s from SCHOOL. It wasn’t the best thing to order off the menu (despite the server’s suggestions) as it did not feature enough of Beast’s specialty: its meat.

The tortillas were very crunchy with an earthy corn taste. The avocado was smooth and silky, topped with an assortment of beans that were nutty and grainy, a lovely contrast in textures. I did not love the taste or texture of the chorizo. I prefer my chorizo to resemble the actual sausage, rather than it having a granular texture. It was mixed with too many vegetables to be appreciated. It did not have the amount of spice and heat that is necessary in a delicious chorizo sausage. If the chorizo sausage had been different, I would have enjoyed this dish as a whole even more. It was the low point for me. However, there was ample heat from the tomato-red chile sauce and I gave my dish a healthy sprinkling of the various hot sauces that were brought to the table. The eggs were runny and creamy, especially when they oozed into the fresh goat’s cheese. Yums.

This was tasty, but not my favourite “meat heavy” restaurant in Toronto. It was worth the visit and was made better by the company but it will not become a regular brunch spot for me.

Happy munching!

2014 – Halfway Through…

IMG_0745IMG_0552 IMG_0554 IMG_0565It’s July and we are halfway through the year. I don’t know where the year has gone and it feels like I haven’t accomplished as much as I would have liked. Here are the resolutions I set out for myself back in January:

Life resolutions.

  1. Knit more. I haven’t knit anything. The only time this year I have touched yarn is to make a wreath. When it is already winter it seems silly to start any projects and now that it is hot outside it seems ridiculous to knit. As we get into September, October I will start knitting. I swear. GC’s neck warmer still sits unraveled in a basket somewhere.
  2. Exercise more. Surprisingly enough, this is the one resolution I have been very successful with. I started Couch to 5K and I am currently on week 5 of the program. I have signed up for a run in September at the Toronto Zoo with GC and my friend Claire and I am very excited about it. This is the most active I’ve been in almost 10 years. Grade 9 gym is really the last time I was remotely physical and I use that term very loosely as my high mark in that class is attributed to the health portion of the class. I have been doing a series of ab work outs too: sit-ups, crunches, planks and leg lifts. All of these exercises have made our newest hobby, hiking, easier and much more enjoyable. We are slowly discovering all the trails and waterfalls in the area. In a few weeks, we will be going camping in Bon Echo Park. I am very physically different then I was at the start of the year and I love it.
  3. Read more. I suffered through Sense & Sensibility, trekked through Orenda and now I’m reading something a little lighter, The Phantom Tollbooth. My reading this year hasn’t been great but with the warm weather comes more reading outside on my lunch hour. If you have some book suggestions, please let me know!
  4. Write more. Looking through my old posts it would appear that I have been writing more. I have been including the fun parts of my life (i.e. wedding plan, hiking and city adventures) and writing more generally about food rather then just what I eat. In the immediate future, I have a few posts inspired by summer and I’m already looking forward to the numerous posts related the wedding and our honeymoon. Hopefully you are too!

Food resolutions.

  1. Bake more. I have been baking slightly more. Now that is summer I plan to make tarts and pies on a regular basis and the people who are closest to me will benefit from this.
  2. Use cookbooks more. Most of my cookbooks are still collecting dust on my shelf and have new neighbours… I am going to have to go on a cookbook cooking spree in the second half of the year.
  3. Host more. I have mostly been hosting family but as summer goes on, I hope to have people over more regularly for barbeques, sangria and pops. We are currently debating the idea of hosting our rehearsal dinner in the backyard but keep flipping back and forth due to the fact that October doesn’t always have the nicest weather. And with the wedding comes wedding china and I will be looking for excuses to use that as we approach the holidays at the end of the year.
  4. Try more. So far this year I have tried Cuban food, modern cocktails, proper afternoon tea, blood pudding, kale chips and a Scotch egg. I hope to try some interesting meats (summer is the perfect time to try emu and kangeroo in the form of burgers), infusing my own alcohols and all the delicious foods of Spain and Portugal when we are on our honeymoon.
  5. Read more. Again, I haven’t been reading. I have started reading Food & Drink for the articles and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.
  6. Master more. I have my burger recipe down. I learned how to make Ninni’s pasta sauce this past week. I can make a mean big batch cocktail. I can whip you up a feast for beakfast in bed. And I can make a pie crust comparable to my mom’s. As the summer goes on I want to master the following things: ice cream, jam (even if it is just freezer jam) and the mint julep.

Reviewing your goals and resolutions halfway through the year is a great way to refocus and reflect on how much you really have achieved. My cooking, baking and exercising are on track to where I want them to be and I just have to shift some of my efforts on reading and knitting. I think I can do that. Take time to remember what you set out to achieve this year and remember, you are only halfway through.

Happy munching!

Father’s Day

This year we celebrated Father’s Day with two barbeques: Saturday was spent with GC’s parents and Ninni in our backyard  and Sunday was spent with my family.

Saturday’s menu featured my classic burgers, potato salad and of course, a strawberry rhubarb pie. My burger recipe is simple but delicious. I use ground beef (lean), breadcrumbs, garlic powder, dried onion, oregano, and parsley. My latest change to my recipe is barbeque sauce. The barbeque sauce keeps the burgers moist without making them puff up like an egg will do but still binds the meat together so that they do not fall apart on the grill.

Prior to Father’s Day weekend, I didn’t have a go to potato salad recipe, but now I do. I tried this Yogurt and Dill Potato Salad from The Yummy Life and it is ah-mazing. The combination of mayo and yogurt is light and sweet, making you feel slightly less terrible for eating potato salad. The combination of dill, parsley (fresh from our back garden!), green onion and celery is fresh, summery and light. Make it the night before a big barbeque and enjoy!

GC’s dad’s favourite pie is rhubarb. I am lucky enough that his birthday falls in May and Father’s Day falls in June, prime rhubarb season. Every year I try a new rhubarb recipe and every year his dad loves it. This year, I tried Martha Stewart’s Rhubarb Crumble Pie. IMG_0706 IMG_0716

My crust turned out wonderfully! It was light, flaky and super buttery. The rhubarb was sweet and tart, tender and oozy. The crumble topping was delicious and could have been eaten on its own. Does it get much better then brown sugar, butter and flour? Obviously not. There was a piece left for my mom the next day and it passed her pie taste test so I think my skills as a pie maker are improving!

Sunday we had my sisters and my parents over for Barbeque Part II in the backyard to celebrate JDL. There was bocce, croquet and of course, food. I made Carolina Pulled Pork sandwiches, Yogurt and Dill Potato Salad, Southwestern Black Bean Salad, Pineapple Pink Lemonade Punch and Chocolate Cream Pie.

The Carolina Pulled Pork is one of the easiest things you will ever make! You quickly sear the pork roast on the stove and then pop it in the slow cooker for hours and then impress everyone with your Southern barbeque abilities. It is topped with a creamy, tart coleslaw that is also easy to make. You could be insane and shred all your cabbage yourself or you could just buy your bag of coleslaw mix. The cabbage is topped with a simple dressing. It is not too drenched in mayo, just the right amount. Theresa liked this sandwich so much that she said this sandwich has ruined restaurant pulled pork for her. Sorry!

The Southwestern Black Bean salad is great! It is easy because it is essentially chopping, can opening and stirring. There are so many great textures, colours and flavours to this salad. The avocado is the best part and because of the citrus dressing it doesn’t turn brown and rotten looking. This bean salad was a hit at my barbeque.

Having a large group of people over is a great opportunity to try out a new cocktail or punch. For Father’s Day I made Pineapple Pink Lemonade Party Punch. Literally pour all the ingredients into the pitcher, stir and serve over ice. Oh, and maybe add some rum. I will be keeping my fridge stocked off all these ingredients all summer long.

For dessert we had my favourite s’mores cookie bars and Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Cream Pie. I wasn’t thrilled with how the pie turned out. I omitted the gelatin because it should have firmed up on its own but it didn’t. The slices didn’t come out of the pie dish nicely and it was very messy. It was delicious because it was chocolate custard topped with whipped cream but the presentation wasn’t the greatest. I would not make this recipe again.

Overall, our Father’s Days were a hit! All the above recipes are perfect for any barbeque so you have all summer to try them out! Happy munching!

 

Canada Day 2014

Oh, Canada! Here is a round up of delicious Canadian-inspired cookies and other treats!

DSC_0220-300x300 Sugar cookies byBrant Cookies.Kodomo Cookies I Kodomo Cookies IIKodomo Cookies IIISugar cookies by by Kodomo Cookies.

Beaver CupcakesBeaver cupcakes from Canadian Living.

Sweet Treats N Healthy EatsSugar cookies by Sweet Treats ‘n Healthy Eats.

maple-bacon-cupcakes-plainMaple bacon cupcakes by Make Fabulous Cakes.

Buffet-decor-image

Red and white tablescape from Savvy Mom.decorations3-canadaParty buffet table from Luxury Homes.party-idea-of-the-month-stylish-canada-day-party-0Canada Day outdoor barbeque from HGTV.

Summer 2014

We are officially into summer 2014. The days are longer, hotter and spent outside. With the intense humidity, warm air and stickiness I try to keep it simple and basic. Here are my top three inspirations for summer 2014.

Summer Inspiration1. Picnics – Photo Credit: Your Intrinstic Beauty – when in doubt, eat outside. This is going to be my mantra this summer. I will be taking to parks, backyards and curbs munching on foods thoughtfully prepared at home. A picnic doesn’t require a basket or a gingham blanket, just some good food shared with even better company. Hiking, beaching, and parking (meaning to sit in a park not to sit in a stationary car) are just some of the places you will find me this summer with good food. What picnics am I most looking forward to? I still owe a friend a birthday picnic and I plan to indulge in some appetizers and cocktails at one of Toronto’s many outdoor films this summer.

2. Barbeques – Photo Credit: Abu Dhabi Confidential – Why turn on your stove, let alone your oven to cook in the summer? Whether it is propane, charcoal or gas, food just tastes better from the barbeque. Hot dogs, burgers and steaks are the favourites of my grill but this year, I have more ambitious plans. I want to use my barbeque as a smoker, an oven to bake something sweet, a grill for sweet pineapple and peaches and of course, the way to cook epic amounts of August sweet corn. Yummms.

3. Popsicles and Iced Treats – Photo Credit: Endless Simmer – There is no better way to cool down on a hot, sticky summer day than enjoying a cold, iced treat. Ok, maybe a beer is the best way to cool down but I don’t plan to get in brewing. Yet. I plan to keep my freezer stocked with homemade popsicles and to venture into the land of sinful booze pops. If that wasn’t enough to cool me off, I want to FINALLY (yes, I’ve said that before) use my ice cream maker and this might just be the recipe to try. And if I have homemade ice cream in the house why not making my own cookies and have ice cream sandwiches?

What are you inspirations for summer 2014? Happy munching!

Soup Round Up IV

I haven’t been cooking much lately. It’s been too beautiful outside to not use the BBQ and my go to meals have been burgers and steak. These are my summer staples but unfortunately, they are not too exciting for blogging purposes. I have however, returned to making soups for lunch. I had an epiphany the other day where I thought “I eat other warm foods throughout the summer – why not continue eating soup?” Duh. Below are 6 soup recipes I have tried in the past few weeks and what I thought of them.

1. Chilled Potato Leek

I am still trying to figure out my thoughts about chilled soup. This was the first one I made and it was a good introduction to chilled soups. It is silky and smooth and has a subtle flavour, not jarring enough to confuse your palate with contrasting flavours and temperatures.

4 leeks, white parts only, chopped
4 large green onions, white part only, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ Tbsp unsalted butter
Salt and ground white pepper
2 Tbsp minced chives

In a large, heavy bottom pot over medium-high heat, combine the leeks, the green onion, and 1/2 cup of the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the vegetables have wilted and begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Add the ptoatoes and remaining 2 ½ cups broth, cover, and cook until the vegetables are very soft, 25-30 minutes. Let for for 15 minutes. Stir in the butter.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender. Return to the pot. Stir in 1/4 tsp salt and season with pepper. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, 3-4 hours or up to overnight. The soup wil thicken and become very creamy., Serve, garnished with the chives.

2. Curried Carrot Purée

I loved, loved, loved this soup! It is one of my favourites from my trusty Williams-Sononma cookbook. It can be served chilled or warm, making it the perfect soup for the early summer when randomly cool days surprise us. The flavours are reminiscent of autumn in a way that makes you savour and appreciate our seemingly fleeting summers. I plan to make this soup all through the summer into the long hot days of September and October and you should too!

1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large shallot
½ lbs carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tsp curry powder
6 cups of chicken broth
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, warm the 1 Tbsp oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, curry powder, and broth. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the orange juice. Let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender or food processor. Season with salt and pepper. This soup can be served warm or chilled. To serve warm, return to the pot and gently warm over medium heat. To serve chilled, let cool, transfer to a covered container, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight. Serve, drizzled with oil.

3. Spinach and Leek Soup

This is one of the most intensely green things I have ever eaten. If you want to feel like Popeye, eat this soup. It is rich with garden freshness and sweet onion flavours. It doesn’t make a huge batch of soup so this is the perfect soup to make when you need lunches for only a day or two.

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, white and pale green parts, chopped
½ tsp grated nutmeg
½ cups vegetable broth
2 large brunches spinach, tough stems removed
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter with the oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and the nutmeg and sauté until the leeks are softened, 5-7 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and cook, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender. Return to the pot, add the cream, and bring just to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

4. Simple Asparagus Soup

I did not like this soup at all. Asaparagus is one of my favourite vegetables and unfortunately, I live with someone who does not like it which means I rarely get to eat it. I thought a soup that masked the taste and texture of asparagus would be the perfect thing to eat. Maybe it was a little too perfect because GC loved this soup and I hated it. The problem lay in how much zest and lemon juice I used. I followed the recipe but that is too much lemon flavour. It results in a bitter tart soup that only tastes of lemon and not much else.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves glaric, minced
3 cups chicken broth
2 lbs asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1é2-inch pieces
2 Tbsp heavy cream
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until tender, 8-10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender. Return to the pot, add the cream, and bring just to a boil. Turn the heat off and stir in the lemon zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

5. Cucumer-Dill Soup

Another chilled soup to ease my mouth into this way of eating soup. The texture of cucumber is slightly mealy and when blended, this is the texture that shines through. It was completely impossible to get this soup silky smooth and it was lumpy. I didn’t leave the chunks of cucumber in the soup because this was not a texture I was looking for. Texture and consistency aside, this soup had great flavour. It was cool and refreshing, with a hint of bite like a perfectly mixed gin and tonic. This mixture would make a good chilled salad and cucumber added to a gin and tonic is just delicious.

3 English cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, and seeded
1 cup Greek-style or thick, whole-milk plain yogurt
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 green onions, white and tender green parts, chopped
3 Tbsp chopped dill
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tsp caraway seeds, crushed
Salt and ground white pepper
1 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Coarsely chop 5 of the cucumber halves and transfer to a large bowl. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, green onions, dill, garlic, caraway seed, 1 tsp salt, and 1é4 tsp white pepper. Stir to combine, cover, and set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to blend the flavours. Dice the remaining cucumer half and set aside.

Working in batches, purée the cucumber-yogurt mixture in a blender. With the machine running, slowly add the broth and purée until fully incorporated. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until well chilled, about 2 hours.

Just before serving, stir in the diced cucumer and oil. Pour the soup into wide-mouthed glasses and serve.

6. Roasted Red Pepper Purée with Spicy Corn Salsa

I made this soup on Thursday night and haven’t yet tasted it! GC took some to work and said it was yummy but that the salsa was too hot for his tastes. This soup is incredibly easy to make because the main source of flavour is already done for you: it uses jarred roasted red peppers. You can obviously make your own but who wants to turn on the oven in the summer? Turning on the stove is bad enough.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jar (24 oz/750 g) roased red bell peppers
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
4 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp sour cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp mined jalapeño chile
1 Tbsp thinly sliced green onion, white and tender green parts
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, heavy pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted peppers and ptoato, stir to coat, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender or food processor. Return to the pot, stir in the sour cream, and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, to make the salsa, melt the butter in a small frying pan over high heat. Add the jalapeño and green onion and cook, stirring constantly, until the butter begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add the corn kernels, stir to combine, and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup, topped with the corn salsa.

Afternoon Tea – The Windsor Arms

My mom is one of my favourite people of all time. She is the most inspiring woman I know. She is smart, charming, witty, beautiful and just completely amazing. She is my real life Meryl Streep.

10332_674748901846_121506112_40082178_2410099_nMom & Girls OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot only do I gush about her, I eat with her. This year to celebrate her birthday and Mother’s Day, we went for afternoon tea at The Windsor Arms. The Windsor Arms is everything you want a hotel to be. It is sleek, polished and has a very posh London hotel atmosphere about it.

This posh atmosphere continues into the tea room. The table settings are white linens and all the china is matching. There is a hat stand with a variety of hats with ridiculous plumage fit for a royal wedding. There was a group of girlfriends in floral dresses and fascinator enjoying afternoon tea. It was all very dainty and proper.

The tea rooms are seated according to your reservation time and seatings are fully booked. I understand  the need to make money and run a successful business but it takes away from the ambiance when you are too closely seated to the next table and the low hum of other patrons turns into a loud drone.

We shared a pot of the Private Windsor Arms blend. This tea was a blend of Ceylon, Nilgiris and Assam teas. It was delicious. Our tower of deliciousness was presented to us and stacked in the traditional manner from the bottom up: scones, sandwiches and desserts.

IMG_0607The Goat cheese and caramelized shallot tart.

I promise you, this tart did not look so sad and lonely in person. The tart was served first as it was warm. It was delicate, soft and sweet. I wish it had been slightly bigger or maybe served as two. On it’s own, it was the perfect warm, little bite of rich, cheesy goodness.

IMG_0608Fresh scones with preserves and Devonshire cream.

The scone serving was very generous. We given two each and they were huge. They were impossible to grab using the tongs and this resulted in me dropping one of my scones. It was my classiest use of the “5 Second Rule” to date. There was two different flavours of scones: raisin and orange currant. These scones were firm on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. They were only made more perfect smothered with Devonshire cream and various jams. I could eat scones all day.

The fresh sandwiches consisted of: 1. Smoked Salmon and Wasabi Sour Cream with Salmon Caviar 2. Cucumber with Sundried Tomato Paste and Dill Cream Cheese and 3. Grilled Chicken, Granny Smith Apples Citrus Mayonnaise, Greek Yogurt and Chives.

The sandwiches were tiny. The bread had been flatten out and rolled into pinwheels rather than being served as quarters or miniature sandwiches. Due to the form the sandwiches take, the sandwiches are not packed with filling. The flavours were not bold and intense. The flavour that stood out the most was the salmon. It was smooth, creamy and salty. The cucumer was delicate and light, tasting faintly of a fresh garden. The chicken sandwich was filled with chicken but the other flavours did not stand out.

And last but not least, the dessert level.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset The Petits Fours: Chocolate Mousse Truffle, a Coconut Marshmallow, a Mango and Passionfruit cake and a Lemon Custard Tart topped with Raspberries.

Please explain to me why for two people we are given four different desserts? And desserts that cannot easily be shared? This was my major complaint with the tea service. The final touch of the tea service is dessert and to be underwhelmed is disappointing.

That being said, we shared our desserts and by the end were full. My favourite was the lemon tart. Lemon and raspberry is my favourite combination of flavours in desserts. The zesty, tartness of the lemon combined with the subtle tart but still sweet flavour of the raspberry is pure perfection. This tart had a crumbly shell filled with velvety smooth lemon filling and topped with three, perfectly formed raspberries. Yums. The low point: the coconut marshmallow. It was underwhelming. Marshmallows should be in hot chocolate, not on a dessert tower at afternoon tea.

Overall the tea experience was lovely but the company was even better. This was the perfect afternoon to celebrate the awesomeness that is my Mom. I love you, Mom!

Happy munching!