Monthly Archives: August 2012

Celebrate Yonge

From the middle of August to mid-September, two car lanes out of four are closed on Yonge Street from Queen to Gerrard for the new Celebrate Yonge festival. Instead, there are a slew of spaces and activities oriented to pedestrians. I dropped by the festival last weekend.

There was outdoor seating and picnic tables. Restaurants along Yonge were able to use the extra car lane space as patios.

“The Oasis.”

Fancy a game of chess outside Zanzibar? Ha ha, I do love oversized chess pieces.

There was also a planter competition. The planters were partly used as barriers from the street.

Marvelous Parks Canada area.

I love the concept of public space in the downtown core. It was awesome just standing on the road, knowing that cars usually belonged there. I am not sure if this festival is intended to be a test for closing lanes on Yonge St. regularly or even on a permanent basis. If so, I have some notes or hopes for the future.

Firstly, it wasn’t entirely pleasant to sit so close to the cars. Yonge St. is a main road and full of concrete. Initially, I didn’t understand why they would close off Yonge St. in the first place. Then, I realized that for such a major thoroughfare in Toronto, it was good to have wider spaces for pedestrians as well. I think the key in the future will be vegetation to buffer the cars. Already, the planters helped. A change in paving would be helpful as well to demarcate the pedestrian and car areas.

Second, I wasn’t too comfortable sitting in those Muskoka chairs. I might have been sitting them incorrectly (not exactly a cottage girl) or maybe I am too short for them. I felt like I was falling out of the chair especially since the car lanes curve downwards into the gutter.

My other problem with the event was determining public spaces versus private space in terms of restaurant patios. I though it was great that restaurants could have patios with people who added to the street scene. But part of me was not so keen on the fact that people would have to pay to have access to the patios by eating at the restaurant.  On the other hand, there were some stretches of the closed car lanes where there really wasn’t much to see, whereas you could really see life on the patios. I think overall there was a balance between “private” and “public” space during the festival, but it was frustrating walking down a whole block of more private areas.

Finally, I am interested in traffic studies that should be coming out to see how the festival impacted car travel times.

On the topic of festivals, I revisited Buskerfest after walking down Yonge. Mad hops from the Chicago Ultimate Tumblers!

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Chez Bea

While I have contributed sides to family dinners before, on Saturday night I made a full dinner for my family for the first time. I’m not going to lie: I’m kinda proud of myself! I am still learning how to cook, but I do have some interest. As a student, I’m always looking out for the fastest, but still tasty, meals to make. That’s why it was nice just to block out an afternoon to cook, while my parents visited my sister and me in Toronto. I even did my best to “mise en place” everything  before starting to cook and thought about the timing in advance. Then again, the print out of the recipes were covered in sauce by the end. I am not a neat cook!

I had some help with the menu, in that I made the August Food Network Cooking Club Challenge for the main course of tangy short ribs with coleslaw as a side; and for dessert, I made peach berry cobbler for the Food Network Anna Olson’s Bake Off. They both just seemed to go together for a summer meal.

This month’s CCC was more special as it was a tribute to Anthony Sedlak, who passed away in July. I was quite saddened to hear about this, especially since he was so young, not even 30. I didn’t watch his show, The Main, regularly, but I thought he was a warm-hearted and genuine Food Network chef. August’s CCC was one of his recipes. I find it meaningful that his legacy lives on in people cooking his recipes and making new memories.

After studying the recipes, I had my game plan down. I first prepared the coleslaw, so that it could chill and so that the cabbage could get to know the vinaigrette – OK, when did I start talking like a FNC host? I think one of the reasons I’ve never made coleslaw before is because it just seemed so time-consuming to chop up the cabbage. I had some help from my sister, but it wasn’t that bad 😉 It was a refreshing salad especially without any cream in the dressing. I hope to make this again in the future.

While the coleslaw hung around in the fridge, I prepped for the ribs. Here are the short ribs I had seared earlier with all the liquid before going into the oven for some braising.

All glazed up after reducing the liquid!

The final spread along with roasted potatoes – mix of red skinned and fingerlings. My mom also brought some bak choy over, yum.

While the ribs were braising, I started making the peach cobbler with peaches and blueberries from the St. Lawrence Market bought earlier in the morning. So much fruit! Tossed in cinnamon and sugar.

Fat dollops of batter.

All golden and crispy on top.

The cobbler turned out great. It was finished by the time I was finished with the glaze for the ribs, so I just kept it warm in a turned off oven while we ate dinner.

Usually I eat fruit crisps, so I particularly liked the soft, moist, and buttery biscuit on top instead. The fruit flavours came out even more since the biscuit itself was more plain.

It was a great family meal. Everyone helped set the table and clear up. I was also lucky to have a great sous chef mom who helped peel some peaches and reminded me to put the rice in the rice cooker! I enjoyed cooking for my family, even though I was a bit anxious during some key points. It was a pleasant way to spend the last weekend in August.

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Say Yeah, Say Oh Yeah (Toronto Buskerfest)

This weekend is Buskerfest in Toronto. Front Street is closed off from Yonge Street to Jarvis. Performers from all around the world come to Toronto to display their talents on stages along Front. There is a fair selection of food and great musical performers as well. Donations go towards supporting Epilepsy Toronto.

Buskerfest is one of my favourite festivals in Toronto. Firstly, all the acts feature amazing and sometimes dangerous stunts or some good old-fashioned entertainment. I love just slowly walking along Front Street and seeing all the different performers and the spontaneity of the performances. It is not an odd sight to see someone on stilts sauntering on the street. And yet, there is a very down-to-earth environment. You can tell the performers just love what they do.

Next, it’s awesome that the festival closes off Front Street from cars for a good stretch of road. Front Street is wide enough so you don’t feel claustrophobic even though there are a lot of people. Last year 1M people came during the four days!

While I will always be fond of the Silver Elvis, the Copper Cowgirl, new this year, was very endearing.

 Dream State Circus from Australia. Fire!

I also enjoyed seeing Scott Jackson, a Canadian beatboxer.

My friend and I split this funnel cake. Mmm, deep-fried batter, strawberries and ice cream.

The crowd around St. Lawrence Market during the day.

Buskerfest finishes up tomorrow for another year. There is a Grand Finale is at 6:30 pm.

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Hong Kong Revisited: Cambo Thai Restaurant

Earlier this summer during the months of May and June, I was working and living in Hong Kong. I still have remaining a few entries I’d like to blog about, so please excuse the lateness!

Some of the inspirations for the restaurants I visited and foods I ate in Hong Kong came from  CNNGo’s Top 40 list of foods we can’t live without in Hong Kong. Number 18 on this list was authentic Thai food in Kowloon City. Kowloon City has a cluster of restaurants and, as I read, a small Thai community.

Within the Kowloon City district is the historical Kowloon Walled City. Interestingly, when China leased additional parts of Hong Kong, including the New Territories, to Great Britain for 99 years, the agreement excluded the Walled City, which used to be a fort. Eventually due to lack of governance resulting in crime and poor sanitary conditions, the British government tore down the Walled City in the early ’90s. In its place is now the Kowloon Walled City Park.  I only learned more about the Walled City after I visited — a bit counterintuitive, I know — and since I went there at night I didn’t see the park.

I invited my local friend to  go to Kowloon City for company, and also because I didn’t know how to get there! Just kidding. Kowloon City is not accessible by subway so she found us a bus there. In fact, she told me she maybe had come here once or twice before, since she and her friends usually go to other places to eat. As such, it was a new food adventure for both of us.

We arrived and my friend checked OpenRice to see what was the top rated restaurant, which turned out to be Cambo Thai. When we arrived, the host told us that they were full, but then she said to go next door. Actually, there were a few Cambo restaurants all on the same street! That’s an interesting strategy of doing business.

We ordered green curry with beef as well as baked seafood in young coconut to share. Our order must have gotten mixed up, because we got green curry with chicken, but we didn’t bother switching. The green curry was flavourful and creamy from the coconut milk. To be honest, though, I was not too impressed with this dish. Although I am definitely not an expert in Thai cuisine, I thought the curry was too mild and should have been spicier.

The baked seafood rice in young coconut was creamy, delicious and fun to eat. The dish was a generous portion and came with a good ratio of seafood to rice. The rice was served in the coconut, which I had never tried before. It was similar to pineapple rice with the rice served in a pineapple. We were able to scrape up the young coconut flesh and eat it with the rice. This was my favourite part of the meal.

For dessert we shared black rice with mango and coconut milk. This was tasty and pleasant, but fairly standard.

On the whole, while I enjoyed the meal and chatting with my friend, I must admit I was a bit disappointed due to my high expectations from the CNNGo article and OpenRice. I thought the green curry was nothing to rave about. The coconut rice was a highlight, especially since young coconuts are rarer in Toronto. Well, at some point, I hope to try another Thai restaurant in Kowloon City and see the neighbourhood during the day.

On our walk around Kowloon City after dinner, I saw some cube and pyramid-shaped watermelon. This was neat to see in real life.

Cambo Thai is located at or around G/F, 15 Nga Tsin Long Road, Kowloon City, Hong Kong.

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Let’s go

I had a peaceful Friday evening at the Evening Hymns album Spectral Dusk release concert, which was also a SummerWorks Festival event. SummerWorks is mainly a performance arts festival, but there are also musical acts.

I liked the opener Fiver, Simone Schmidt, a female singer/guitarist with a great smoky voice and another guitarist. I couldn’t really understand her when she was speaking to the audience though, but I might have to get my ears checked. She was very earnest and confident.

Evening Hymns were just stunning. This will be perfect music for fall. During the concert, there were projections behind the band which fit in perfectly with the music. I was most impressed with how talented and cohesive the seven-piece band was. The dynamics were nuanced. It was an intimate concert.

On Saturday, I went a little crazy at the library.

I often go through periods of “revelations” at the public library. When I was younger I found out that the library stocked a lot of recent DVDs and CDs. Recently, I discovered that the library had recipe books. I’m always the one browsing pretty cookbooks in book stores. It’s so easy for recipe books to stay on the shelves never to be used. That’s why I enjoy borrowing cookbooks just to get a preview of the recipes inside. I don’t know if I’ll get through all these books this time though…

I also went to my first soccer/Toronto FC game! My friend had a spare ticket so I joined her for the afternoon. The TFC played against Kansas City. Unfortunately, we lost, but it was still fun to see so much red.

Since the BMO field where the TFC plays is actually in the Exhibition Place, the tickets come with admission to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). After the soccer game I stayed for a few more hours just walking around the grounds. The CNE, to many, symbolizes the end of summer. The CNE is a large fair with a whole hodgepodge of attractions including rides, food, a garden competition, performances and shows. Last year was the first time I had been in years.

It was really such a pleasant way to finish summer. I had some necessary carnival food: a corn dog (+ artistic ketchup and mustard additions).

The waffle ice cream was amazing: warm waffle and a slice of Chapman’s vanilla ice cream.

There are more restaurants/stalls inside one of the buildings on site which serve a variety of foods other than your typical fair food. The CNE is also famous for introducing calorie-bomb foods, like last year’s Krispy Kreme donut burger. This year, one of the buzz foods is bacon such as bacon wrapped hot dogs or bacon Nutella sandwiches.

So I’d say I got some very anti-CNE food at Vie, a raw food stall. I got their raw taco which was delicious! I loved the texture of the wrap which was a dehydrated corn tortilla. It had some bite to it and was slightly thicker than your regular tortilla. For the “refried” beans, Vie used a walnut paste. The taco also had guacamole and vegan sour cream. For vegan/raw food, this did not taste “healthy” at all.

Other food things:

Always a nice weekend breakfast of French toast + peaches heated on the pan.

Latte art from Bulldog Coffee.

Peanut tofu noodles based on Candice Kumai’s recipe from Pretty Delicious. I shredded the carrots and zucchini using a mandolin-esque instrument my great-aunt gave me. It’s great, especially since I don’t have a food processor.

One parting shot.

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Pape to Old Town

On my commutes to work, I noticed that the Pape subway station name is currently painted on the concrete walls while the station is being renovated. Does this mean there are “TTC font” stencils? Mm, the possibilities.

Fallen tree in St. James Park after a storm.

Music in St. James Park, Thursday nights during the summer. Such a pleasant free public event. On this night I listened to The Prominent String Quartet, who played music from the Romantic period.

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On mange

Phew, yesterday I finished some job applications, and now I can enjoy the rest of summer before school starts up again. I started this blog right after my exams finished back in April, and I do hope to continue blogging in the school year. However, that might also depend on how interesting my life is, so let’s take advantage of summer while I can!

When I wasn’t chilling outside listening to music at Osheaga, I was pretty much eating. I guess that’s what a tourist/my family does. As I mentioned before, we started off the road trip with some snickerdoodles I baked. This was also my submission for Anna Olson’s Bake Off at Food Network Canada. You can see everyone’s submissions here. I love snickerdoodles because they require few ingredients and they get a quirky tang from the cream of tartar, which is used as the leavener instead of baking soda.

For the rest of the trip, we enjoyed a touristy, but delicious Montreal gastronomic experience.

On Saturday we went to La Banquise, a 24-hour restaurant that is famous for their poutine. This must be great food for post-late night revelry, but it is also fantastic for lunch. La Banquise offers other food as well, such as burgers and sandwiches, but of course we all ordered poutine. Poutine is a Quebecois dish of fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. La Banquise also offers non-traditional poutines which range from bacon and smoked meat on poutine to guacamole on poutine.

I’m a little embarrassed to post this photo, but this is what the four of us ordered: four “small” poutines to share. We did take some back to the hotel! But I must admit that we demolished a lot too. The poutine was amazing and well-deserving of its reputation. I am sure this is our poutine quota for the year.

La Classique (b-l): A traditional poutine with fries, cheese curds and gravy. This was the best way to test the quality of La Banquise’s poutine. The cheese curds were squeaky, and the gravy was not too salty and had a thinner consistency, so there was probably not too much flour or corn starch. This allowed the potatoes shine through: slender-cut, slightly sweet and still crispy.

La Petite Vie (t-l): ground beef, corn, and onions. Lovely home-y flavours, which reminded me of shepherd’s pie.

La Rachel (t-r): green peppers, mushrooms, and onions. We had to get our veggies in somehow!

La Taquise (b-r): guacamole, tomatoes and sour cream. This was my favourite of the non-traditional poutines. It was very fresh from the guac and the tomatoes. The guacamole + gravy was actually a good combination. Pure bliss.

Since the gravy was subtly flavoured, all these combinations were delicious.

I had my next dining experience the following morning when we had brunch at Le Cartet in Old Montreal. There was a line, but the time passed relatively quickly because I browsed the chocolate they sold just outside the dining area.

Le Cartet serves different brunch sets as well as some individual dishes. I ordered le brunch sucré which came with French toast with apple butter, nuts and blueberries, crepe with fruit coulis and candied orange peel, and cashew ginger granola with blueberries on natural yogurt, as well as fresh fruit. Whew! The meal also came with coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. What a delightful brunch. The apple butter was sublime and not too sweet, which was perfect with the French toast. The candied orange peel was a good contrast with the fruit coulis on the crepe, but a bit overpowering for me. I was hoping more of the ginger would come through in the granola. Otherwise, highly recommended.

Finally, on Sunday night, after a rainy and muddy day at the music festival, I met back up with my parents and sister for dessert at Juliette et Chocolat. As the name suggests, the restaurant specializes in desserts mostly with chocolate and drinking chocolate. They also serve savoury foods. However, tonight we just went for the chocolate ;).

I was very curious about the drinking chocolate. The menu described each drinking chocolate much like wine descriptions. I chose the Sao Tome 70%, a dark drinking chocolate, with “hints of fruits and vanilla, bitter cocoa taste.” It came in a brandy glass, perhaps to better smell the aroma.

It was served warm. As you might imagine, it was very rich. There were little flecks of chocolate in the drink. I did taste the bitterness, but to be honest, without the description I would not have picked up on the “hint of fruits and vanilla,” particularly without having tried another drinking chocolate before to compare. Still, it was an interesting experience.

My family also ordered a couple of desserts to try:

Crêpe with three kinds of chocolate (dark, milk and white)

 Chocolate fondue and fruit.

Monday morning before we departed the city, we finished our Montreal experience with Montreal bagels from Fairmount. We bought four dozen! They were for us and for friends though, ha. Montreal bagels are slightly sweeter. According to Wikipedia, they are boiled in honey-sweetened water before being baked in a wood-fired oven.

 A little nibble of a still warm sesame bagel in the car.

Over the last couple weeks I have been eating my quota of bagels, and I must say these are the best whole wheat bagels I ever had. Still soft and slightly sweet.

Our Montreal trip resulted in this lunch for work: whole grain bagel with Montreal smoked meat from Schwartz’s that my parents and sister bought on their own exploration on Montreal.

You can’t get more touristy than this! However, it was an absolutely perfect lunch.

After this weekend of food, I think we were all prepared to have a lighter week. My family discussed how poutine is sometimes referred to lumberjack food. That might not be the origin of the dish, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone, such as a lumberjack who exerted a lot of energy, would eat poutine for sustenance. It’s similar to how traditional foods during Chinese New Year are often deep-fried or fried in a lot of oil, fatty, or very sweet. Historically, people ate such rich foods once a year. Now, modern lifestyle has changed. While we can still enjoy this food, we probably should only eat these foods in moderation.

La Banquise is located at 994, rue Rachel Est, Montreal, Quebec.

Le Cartet is located at 106, Rue McGill, Montreal.

Juliette et Chocolat has several locations. We went to the one on 1615, rue St-Denis, Montreal.

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