Category Archives: Food

Foodnited States of America: Perfect Punny Instagram of States Made of Food

Follow Foodiggity on Instagram to keep up with the Foodnighted States of America series, a collection of pics snapped by Foodiggity owner and creator Chris Durso and his eight-year-old son.

There’s something so delightful about the perfect shape of the food items that mirror state lines coupled with the food of choice.

North Duckota… Part of The Foodnited States.

A photo posted by Foodiggity (@foodiggity) on Feb 17, 2015 at 6:40am PST

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Thus far Chris has photographed 25 of the 50 states. Follow Foodiggity on Instagram for more and be sure to visit the website. It’s self-described as “the greatest food culture site ever” with an asterisk: *may or may not be the greatest food culture site ever.

Via Fine Dining Lovers and Distractify

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Weird Poutines of Toronto

There’s poutine and then there’s poutine. We’ve all caved to the glory of cheese curds, gravy and piping hot french fries at some point, whether it’s a two o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon or on the wrong side of 4 a.m. I’m so Canadian I have fond memories of some of my favourite times eating poutine — not because I’m eating poutine. Okay, partly because I’m eating poutine, but also because of the occasion. Most of those memories are on the wrong side of 4 a.m. But some aren’t. Technically not poutine, but the first time I ever had fries, dressing and gravy? Heaven. Walking home with a fresh, perfectly assembled poutine, while the world sleeps and the last of the Annex’s rabble-rousers find taxis to take them back to their own corners of the city. Pure bliss. Heck, even the first time I elbowed my way into a Smoke’s Poutinerie, arm in arm with the bride-to-be and the rest of the wedding party after her bachelorette party. We devoured those suckers like we meant it.

So I’m a lover of poutine. I’m craving one right now and I just had supper. Damn you, poutine.

That said, I have to admit there are some poutines that are just out there. After Canada decided yes, that we love poutine enough to make it a national dish, it seems the country’s chefs and cooks took it upon themselves to out-do one another in crazy toppings. I regularly walk by my neighborhood Smoke’s and cringe because they’ve got something outlandish on special. Most recently? Buffalo wings. Why do you want Buffalo wings on your poutine? That’s too much gluttony!

And today BlogTO posted another one that made me cringe. Italiano poutine. Yep, take the inside of a lasagna and stick it on top of your curds and fries and you’ve got yourself this:

Photo courtesy BlogTO

Photo courtesy BlogTO

It got me to think about some of the more outrageous types of ‘tine I’ve seen and so, in the interest of sharing, I present you a short, annotated list of weird poutines in Toronto.

1. Poutine Pizza (Mike’s Pizza and Bannock)

Again, the decadence and child-like combination of two already fatty and salty comfort foods boggles my mind. The fact that you can get it both in a fine-dining establishment and a strip mall in Scarborough is testament to this poutine’s nobrow culture.

2. Marrow bone poutine (Holy Chuck Burger)

I’ll be honest here — I had this poutine. It was way too much. It was delicious. And decadent. It had a marrow bone on top of it. It also cost me an arm and a leg. Only available during last year’s La Poutine week for a good reason. Check out the review of it on Nothing Found for pics. I inhaled mine before I ever thought to capture the memory of it outside my mind’s eye.

3. Italiano poutine (San Francesco Foods)

I’m not surprised that the kings of veal sandwiches decided they need to enter the poutine game with a pound of meat and tomato sauce. It’s not very inventive in my opinion but I’m sure it’ll be a crowd pleaser. They’ve definitely branched out since they were bought out (?) and franchised a few years ago. The tiny walk-in on Clinton St., across from my favourite panzerotti joint Bitondo’s, has been renovated and rebranded. Luckily they continue to make their cacciatorre, which Phill loves. He calls it meat candy.

4. Foie gras poutine (Holy Chuck Burger)

Maybe I should take out the marrow bone poutine and substitute it for this one because this is constantly on the menu at Holly Chuck? You know what, no. I’m not gonna cause I think everyone should know about that behemoth. This too is also something that I need to highlight because it’s foie gras on french fries. This is another example of the highbrow meeting the lowbrow to create nobrow, a cultural mish-mash of weirdness that creates what? Indigestion in this particular case.

Not to be outdone by poutine, La Societie, the black-is-the-new-black drinks and nosh spot a stone’s throw away from Holts on Bloor came out with the foie gras pain au lait hot dog. That’s right folks, foie gras on a hot dog.

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Good lord.

5. Anything from the Lakeview

Let’s face it. The Lakeview diner has had the poutine beat down pat for years and years already. Whatever you get off their menu is going to be over-the-top and exactly what you need in the moment to kill the hangover.

This is my list. Have you seen anything that can top these poutines? There one more I’d like to make an honourable mention of for sheer creativity — and because it was featured during Montreal’s La Poutine week. That would be the Poutine au Phoque from Au Cinquième Péché — poutine with seal meat. The review from Vice.com piqued my interest. Having tried seal meat for the first time last year and knowing the political “viewpoints” I know it’s a controversial dish, but damn it, it looks so good — and it probably tasted good too.

10 lessons learned from a registered dietician

I spent 12 weeks participating in a nutritional study this year. It was a great opportunity to speak directly to a registered dietician and ask her questions about superfoods, fad diets, eating habits, physical activity and healthy living.

There is so much (mis)information available online for the average person to try to make sense out of. How do we lead a healthful life when there is no clear consensus? Where do we go for good standards? I like the Dieticians of Canada and Eat Right Ontario as a good source of information. The Canada Food Guide is also a great place to look for ways to improve your eating habits, as well as the Canadian Diabetes Association.

Here are a few things that I learned through the study that I’ll particularly take with me.

  • There is no recommended daily value of sugar but that doesn’t mean that sugar is a bad thing. My knee jerk reaction earlier this year to finding out how much sugar I consume was to stop eating it all together, but I knew that wasn’t a sustainable practice. Through this study I learned that sugar doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but we need to be conscious about how much added sugar is in our foods, especially the processed stuff.
  • Nutrition facts on the side of the boxes/containers of foods are really important! But it’s also important to remember the context in which you’re going to be consuming food. So if you’re looking at a starch for example a good one should have a higher Daily Value percentage of fibre, for instance, cause fibre is good for your body. The higher processed the food the less fibre it has. But, we learned some surprising facts, like the fact that brown rice only has about 1g more of fibre than regular rice. Talk about marketing, right? Makes me feel better about eating just plain rice instead of going for the brown stuff.
  • Also, a good rule for your daily value percentage: 15% and above can be good or bad, depending on what it’s a value of (fibre vs fat, for instance.)
  • Saturated and trans fats are the ones to avoid. Generally speaking we should stick to plant-based fats. Coconut oil, however, is a saturated fat. When I look at oil now I think of it as little Lego blocks of hydrogen that stick to my insides.
  • When creating a meal, you stick to one-third protein, one-third starch and half a plate full of greens/veggies. This was the first thing we learned in the study and it’s stuck with me the whole way through. Eating this way makes me full! It doesn’t matter what those three components are, as long as you stick to them you just end up feeling full at the end of the meal and I don’t get weird cravings afterwards. (Usually for sugar.)
  • Your body doesn’t recognize liquid calories you consume so you may ingest lots through a protein shake or something but you’ll still feel hungry soon after because it’s not a solid. I don’t drink protein shakes at all so I can’t really confirm this. I can confirm it with something simpler like OJ or a can of pop cause I know it happens with that. Can anyone tell me what it’s like drinking a protein shake and why they do it? I’m curious to know!
  • Your body is a detox machine. You don’t need to go on a detox diet to cleanse your system. This is why we have a liver and two kidneys.
  • Understanding and being mindful of nutrition is one of the best components of keeping a healthy mind. When you don’t eat properly your body begins to react to stress and anxiety in a different way than it would if you had eaten properly. You know, like that Mars bar commercial where your friend turns into Joe Pesci because he’s hangry? Yeah, that’s it exactly. Except don’t reach for a Mars bar, for heaven’s sake. Fruit is awesome and more filling and good for you than processed sugar bars. It also has more fibre. (Fibre’s good. Real good.)
    Hangry
  • Our brains love carbohydrates! Food for thought, huh? So if you remove all carbs from your diet and you find yourself feeling sluggish, guess what? It’s because your brain is not getting enough food. Feed it! Alternatively, too many carbs or simple sugars can crash your brain too cause your brain can’t handle too much at once. So be careful about doing that as well. I’m eating a red velvet muffin from Tim Hortons as I write this and I can already feel my brain starting to slow down cause there’s too much sugar going up in there. Maybe I’ll save the rest of that muffin for later…
  • Cholesterol. There is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. Bad cholesterol (HDL) creates plaque in your blood stream that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Good cholesterol (LDL) finds the bad cholesterol and removes it from your blood stream, sends it back to the liver to get cleaned out. Smoking causes a build up of both HDL and triglyceride cholesterol, another bad form of it, that can lead to bad heart health.

I know healthy eating is a constant work-in-progress. (I’m looking at your red velvet muffin.) There’s always ways to improve on what’s been done before and different people have different requirements. The most important thing to note is to listen to your body because you’re the only one who can tell what it’s saying.

Hidden Sugar

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

Over the last month I’ve been tracking food with an app in an effort to identify key areas I need to improve on my nutrition. My first observation – I’m eating too much sugar and fat.

This is by no means a surprise for me. I have a typical North American diet – meat, carbs and some veg. But I’m putting effort into eating “clean”, non-processed foods. So when I think I’m eating better and I still see the sugar warning pop up I have to wonder why. Now I’m reading nutrition labels and I’m startled to find that nutritious food can also contain sugar.

For instance, the yogurt I eat in the morning with my granola is artificially sweetened. Given that I already add fresh fruit to it, I’ve now switched to plain yogurt. The granola itself is also full of sugar, so my next step is to make my own granola, which is very easy to make according to Pinterest.

Not surprisingly the Internet has a lot of other suggestions on how to avoid or reduce your sugar intake. Several claim that you should quit cold turkey, while others say that you should reduce your sugar intake gradually.

Sounds like kicking an addiction, doesn’t it? There’s debate over whether it is an addictive substance, but from the anecdotal evidence and my own experience in my diet, I lean towards the notion that it is addictive.

While I like the idea of quitting cold turkey, I don’t think it’s a sustainable practice. I know my body is not going to enjoy the first few days of being sugar free and I’m concerned that I won’t be able to make it over that initial hump. Plus, my track record of making a drastic change to my habits is poor. (RIP Spring Streak.) But I know that I am capable of making small incremental steps towards a goal, so I think my best option would be to go that route.

Maybe this is a conversation I should have with my doctor. At least one (only one?) blog post suggests speaking to a professional.

E is for …

Everything Tastes Better with Bacon by Sara Perry.

I do not own this cookbook, but when I was looking for things that start with E to write about, I came across it and immediately wanted a copy of it because it’s true, everything does taste better with bacon.

Bacon is delicious. It’s salty, it goes well with nearly everything, it’s readily available and it’s kind of a funny food item.

Found on Pinterest

Found on Pinterest. Way to meme it up, Oscar Meyer!

One of my favourite ways to use bacon is to incorporate it into desserts. I’m more of a baker than a cook, although I love to cook too, so when I came across a recipe that incorporated bacon into a cupcake, I was excited to try it. I made it for my boyfriend’s 27th birthday, and it was well-received.

Here is the recipe I used. Instead of a cake, I made cupcakes for maximum portability. You might be wondering what it tasted like? Think breakfast in a cake batter. Sweet, salty, delicious. Try it!

Maple Bacon Layer Cake

Photo courtesy of Johnsons.ca

Photo courtesy of Johnsons.ca

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bacon
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups pure maple syrup (at least grade B)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Cooking Directions

  1. In a large skillet cook bacon until crisp. Drain well on paper towels, crumble and set aside.
  2. Spray two 9 inch cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Set the pans aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat the butter until it is creamy. Using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment makes this so much easier, but I have done it by hand.
  4. Beat the eggs into the mixture until well combined. Then add the maple syrup and beat until well combined.
  5. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour into butter mixture. Add milk and vanilla extract. Mix well until all ingredients are completely integrated. You should have a smooth batter. Stir in half of the crumbled bacon.
  6. Divide the batter between the two 9 inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick in the center and it comes out clean.
  7. Remove cakes from cake pan and place on a cooling rack.
  8. Spread some of the maple buttercream frosting (recipe below), over the top of one of the layers. The cover with half of the remaining crumbled bacon. Place the second layer cake on top of the first and spread remaining frosting over the top and sides. Sprinkle the remaining bacon over the top.

Maple Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

  1. 2 sticks of butter softened (1 cup)
  2. 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  3. 2 tbsp brown sugar
  4. 2 tbsp maple syrup
  5. Directions:
  6. In a large bowl, beat butter until smooth and creamy using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment (recommended) or by hand.
  7. Mix in powdered sugar and beat for about a minute.
  8. Add brown sugar and maple syrup scraping sides as needed. Continue to beat for a couple more minutes until mixture is fluffy.

Recipe courtesy of Johnsons.ca.

Alone in the Kitchen with a Striped Bass

Years ago I read a book called Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant. It was a collection of essays upon one subject: cooking for oneself. A lot of people claim they can’t really cook for themselves; they  don’t gain any pleasure from it, and so they don’t really do it. When I read this book (and I’m sad to say I never actually finished it, as I was in the midst of a ravenous book slut phase), I found people who were a little more like me; people who took pleasure in cooking dishes for themselves.

I learned how to cook after I left my familial homestead. My mother, a caterer for ten years, had instilled a little bit of knowledge into my pea brain, but the majority of my skill came after leaving her apron strings. Thankfully, the family bloodline seems to carry a bit of talent in this department, as I’ve never really had much trouble picking up a knife. I recall fond days of learning how to dice an onion properly in my first bachelor apartment in the Beaches or making my first curry with red lentils. I knew I was getting better in the kitchen when Ms Alex, a good friend from high school who had grown up cooking alongside her mother, one day commented on how well I minced my garlic.

Direct instruction has never been my favourite way to learn how to cook. Solitary experimentation has always been the preferred method, usually with a good album playing in the background and a glass of wine in hand. It took me years after Alex showed me how to add cream to a sauce that I was able to do it successfully. My brother-in-law, a George Brown culinary school graduate, often loves to teach as he’s cooking since I tend to hover in the kitchen anyway, but I still manage to make my gravies differently than he does.

I’m also blessed to have a boyfriend who’s an amazing cook as well. He does the majority of the cooking in our relationship, and that suits me just fine, because his concoctions—which rarely come from recipes—are to die for. But he’s gone for the weekend and so I find myself in a rare moment where I get to make whatever I’d like to make.

That’s how I came to purchase an entire Striped Bass for myself this afternoon while in Chinatown. I set out to get a nice fillet of something to have for dinner, but when I saw the beauty of the little guy—and the price—I knew I had to have him for myself. Plus, I’d been eyeing the stuffed striped bass recipe from Charles Virion’s French Country Cookbook for well over a year, so why not?

Source: web.stagram.com via Olga on Pinterest

To that I plan on pairing a simple spinach salad—from the very same cookbook—and a cool, fresh white wine. It may not be the leanest cuisine in the world, but if you can’t treat yourself, how on earth are you going to be able to treat others? I am a bit wistful that I can’t share my superb meal with Phill, but he’s off being a rock star in Ann Arbor, so I can’t say that he’s missing too much. And there’s enough stuffing leftover for three more fish anyway, so maybe I’ll repeat the dinner a little later this week!

The Trouble with Gourmet Food Trucks in Toronto

Photo Source: Toronto Food Trucks

There’s a wonderful thing happening to the food culture in Toronto—it’s evolving rapidly. Over the past year or so, there has been a steady increase in the number of food trucks in the city, and not just your average chip wagon, either. These are gourmet food trucks and there’s an enthusiasm in the city that’s demanding more of them.

Now instead of a Polish sausage or a cardboard box of poutine swimming in gravy and shame, you can purchase a portion of Maine-style lobster rolls, smoked meat on rye, or even decadent cupcakes.

That’s awesome. I love trying new food. I’d even go so far as to say that I’m a foodie—I love to explore and discuss the taste and texture of food. In fact, I’ll stay up half the night debating the merits of a good pizza slice with Phill if the topic comes up (and it has, much to the chagrin of my sleep-deprived body).

However, there’s one thing that I think should be stated about food trucks and it’s this: why the fuck are you charging so goddamn much for so little?

Case in point, several months ago, I was perusing the latest news on BlogTO on a regular weekday morning. The writers and editors of that fine blog are enthusiastic foodies and are quick to share the news of new and exciting food events in the city. So I was pleased to find out that a new food truck was going to make a “pop-up” impromptu appearance within walking distance of my office.

Sidenote: the term “pop-up” is redundant in reference to a food truck; it’s a truck—of course they pop up unexpectedly. Unless they have that old familiar ice cream truck jingle preceding them…

I coerced a friend from the office to hunt down the truck with me at lunch. We arrived halfway through the hour and waited a not-so-short amount of time to experience the offerings of guest chef Francisco Alejandri and El Gastrónomo Vagabundo. I love Latin American food, and I love to seek it out and make it. One of my favourite Latin American dishes is ceviche. It’s the combination of fresh seafood and lime juice, cilantro and salty tortilla chips that makes my mouth water every time I think of it. And lo and behold, the Vagabundo truck offered it that day.

Photo Source: Toronto Food Trucks

I paid $16.50 for a small cup of ceviche equivalent to the Styrofoam coffee cups you’d use at an AA meeting, an ice tea that could have used more sweetness and a pair of fried chicken balls (that’s not a euphemism, there were really only two in the portion). You can read the full menu of that day here.

The food was delicious—fresh and well thought-out. But the portions we received were such that I was finished and still hungry. And I’d already spent nearly $20! If I had to tip the truck, I would have certainly put the whole deuce down. Thank goodness it was only a food truck then.

I love the fact that there are new and exciting food trucks out there competing for our stomachs and money. I love it. However, a successful food truck in my humble bloggy opinion (which is to say, not very humble at all) needs to have one other added factor to it: quantity. By all means, go gourmet. But if you want to succeed in this business, don’t leave your customers feeling hungry after you take their money. They’ll just go grab a poutine the next time.

Mr. Tasty Fries

Photo source: Benson Kua

Remember, your competition at Nathan Phillips Square is not hard to beat. They might not even be aware that there’s a food truck revolution happening underneath their noses. Maybe you’re trying just a little too hard to out-do them when all you really need to do is change your fry oil more frequently.