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One local's guide to Niagara-on-the-Lake and surrounding area (long!)

Sorry, I didn't note whether they have gluten free pastas or pizzas. I'll make a point of asking next time I'm there.

As for SRG, that's second paragraph above! :) It will be called Backhouse. Last I spoke to them, their goal was April. I know they want to take some time off for themselves after the reno and before opening, so depending on the construction schedule, I'm sure the opening could shift. I'll provide an update as soon as I have one.

One local's guide to Niagara-on-the-Lake and surrounding area (long!)

A couple of updates:

Kitchen 76 at the new Two Sisters Winery is a nice addition to the dining scene in NOTL. The menu is what I'd call Italian bistro. Good pizzas (not Neopolitan) and homemade pastas. Some nice apps, good soups, and a few larger mains. My biggest gripe about the pizza is that the sauce is too sweet. I'm hoping that will get addressed. The space is huge, which can make it feel a bit impersonal during the day, but is much better at night with the lights dimmed and candles lit.

Backhouse will be opening in April in the old Stone Road Grille space. Ryan Crawford and Bev Hotchkiss have returned to the space and are making it their own. I really can't express how happy this makes me.

One local's guide to Niagara-on-the-Lake and surrounding area (long!)

You should try either of their charcuterie platters (land or sea). Everything is made in house. Really nice stuff.

What to serve with hot wings?

Pizza and wings are a classic bar combination. You could do a riff on that by making these amazing pepperoni garlic knots:

I've made these several times and they are delicious.

Feb 20, 2015
TorontoJo in Home Cooking

What's your favorite cake?

This looks delicious. Have you tried making it with all butter, by any chance?

Feb 16, 2015
TorontoJo in General Topics

Why aren't my waffles crispy? Help!

Dude, what's your problem?

Feb 15, 2015
TorontoJo in Home Cooking

Why aren't my waffles crispy? Help!

First, the original poster solved his/her problem years ago and is getting crispy waffles.

Second, you are wrong. I get crispy waffles every time I make them, as do all the other people who posted in this thread.

Feb 15, 2015
TorontoJo in Home Cooking

What's your favorite cake?

A 4-layer white velvet cake, filled with pastry cream and fresh strawberries, frosted with ermine (aka cooked flour) frosting.

My favorite, super-moist, just chocolatey enough, chocolate cake. Frosted with a whipped chocolate ganache. I don't care for the crazy intense chocolate cakes, where one bite is enough.

Valentine's Day Dinner Party

That looks like a great menu, I'm sure everyone will be very happy!

One small addition you might consider is a couple of heads of roasted garlic to smear on the bread. Your vegan friend can combine the garlic and membrillo, which will make for a delicious combo.

And I would go with the gambas al ajillo over peel and eat, simply because peel and eat is such a mess (especially when you're not sitting at a table!).

Feb 12, 2015
TorontoJo in Home Cooking

Valentine's Day Dinner Party

For your vegan/gluten-free friend:

- stuffed baked mini potatoes with any sort of roasted eggplant dip
- roasted veggie platter or skewers, drizzled with a good olive oil and aged balsamic
- cucumber cups filled with a quinoa (or other gluten-free grain) salad

I recently did an all apps party. Pictures and details here, if you want some other ideas:

Feb 12, 2015
TorontoJo in Home Cooking

Recent kitchen remodel? What's the best and worse of the new "technologies" you included?

As others have said: drawers and pull out shelves EVERYWHERE. They make accessing stuff so much easier. My favorite drawers/pull outs, in addition to the pot drawers under the range top that others have mentioned:

1. The drawers under my sink with cutouts for the plumbing. They turn the scary depths of "under the sink" into totally accessible, useful space.

2. The utensil drawer right next to the utensil tray of my dishwasher. Along the same lines -- the dish drawer right next to the dishwasher. Makes for easy, efficient unloading of the dishwasher.

3. The pullout shelves in our upper cabinets that essentially form our pantry (we didn't have the right layout for a walk-in pantry. Make sure they can be height adjusted to fit tall pantry items, either containers, or in the case of the photo below, booze bottles.

Other recommendations:

4. A small appliance zone. I hate having microwaves and such on the counter, so we designed a corner to house all our commonly used small appliances. The only ones we leave out are the toaster oven and the coffee maker. The microwave, Vitamix, rice cooker, stand mixer, and waffle maker all get tucked away into easily accessibly cabinets. The microwave itself is plugged in and the cabinet has a kill switch that shuts off the electricity when the cabinet is closed. Other small appliances like the food processor, slow cooker, and stick blender are in drawers underneath this area.

5. 30" deep counters. That extra 6" gives you so much more room to prep and put all your mise en place against the back of the counter and still have a full open counter to work with.

6. Soft close drawers and pull out shelves. This allows you to store wine glasses and free-standing stacks of dishes without worrying about them clanging together when you close the drawer.

7. As many vertically divided cabinets as you can fit (the kind that are usually above the fridge and oven). I have 3 and I use them for everything from baking sheets to serving platters to over-sized cutting boards. Super handy.

Feb 11, 2015
TorontoJo in Not About Food

What was the last spicy meal you cooked?

Fuschia Dunlop's kung bao chicken. So easy (once you gather all the ingredients) and so delicious.

Feb 10, 2015
TorontoJo in Home Cooking

Ideas for a Molecular Gastronomy Store Name {prize}

For everyone that's asking, I'm guessing that this is the OP's site:

Feb 09, 2015
TorontoJo in Not About Food

Porzia - a report

That's why I recommended the Monday night 3 for $30 special. :0)

Stock for soup

As everyone else is saying: salt. But only after your stock is done.

Also important: what is your water to bone ratio? When your stock is chilled, is it gelatinous? If not, chances are you are using way too much water.

And what else are you including in your stock pot? My stock usually includes garlic, onions, carrots, celery, and peppercorns.

Feb 03, 2015
TorontoJo in Home Cooking

What are you baking these days? Happy New Year January 2015 edition! [OLD]

Oh, I think I need to make these. Lots of good childhood memories associated with Chinese almond cookies. Thanks, buttertart!

ASIAN DUMPLINGS! Home Cooking Dish of the Month (February 2015)

For an easy, baked Asian dumpling option, I love jia li jiao (curry dumplings/curry turnovers/curry puffs -- depending on who you're talking to). The filling is a simple beef, potato, and curry powder mixture.

The wrap can take many forms. The most complex is a spiral dough (a twist of an oil-based dough and a water-based dough). I personally can't be bothered and have had great success with a pie pastry dough, rolled out and cut into circles. Picture #1 is of that method. If you are feeling particularly lazy, frozen puff pastry works just fine. Picture #2 is of puff pastry formed into pouches. The nice thing about this method is that you can stuff a LOT of filling into these. :)

The filling:

1 medium to large onion, diced fine
1 lb lean ground beef (not extra lean, you want the fat)
1 medium potato, diced and cooked (1 cup of instant mashed potato flakes is ok, too)
~1/4 c. curry powder (you don't want anything fancy here, McCormick or even a no name blend is just fine)
~1/4 c. soy sauce

Saute the onions with a tablespoon of the curry powder until almost soft, add the ground beef and brown. Add curry and soy sauce to taste. Add in the potatoes -- note that the potatoes are really acting as a binder for the meat. I've often made the dumplings without potatoes -- the filling will just be looser. Let the filling cool before making the dumplings. If desired, brush the dumplings with an egg wash.

If you use the pie dough, bake at 425 for 15 mins. If you use the puff pastry, bake at 425 for 20-25 mins.

Menu for baby shower brunch

Or stuff the chicken salad into choux pastry shells. Curried chicken salad in choux is particularly lovely.

Feb 01, 2015
TorontoJo in Home Cooking

How to shred brussel sprouts?

I use my FP slicing disk. I don't like the "solid" slices I get from the middle (picture a perfect cross section right from the middle of the sprout), so I usually cut the sprouts in half before using the FP.

I once julienned 2 lbs of brussels sprouts by hand. It's been the FP ever since. :)

Feb 01, 2015
TorontoJo in Home Cooking

What are you baking these days? Happy New Year January 2015 edition! [OLD]

Baking flops are made for crumbling on a bowl of ice cream. :0)

What are some of your favorite kitchen tricks that you'd be hesitant to admit to foodies?

I use our concrete patio rather a terra cotta floor, but whacking bags of frozen things to break them up is very therapeutic. :)

tater tots baked like a loaded potato

Oh, totchos are a major weakness of mine. I just made a batch this week. I recommend over-baking the tater tots a bit to make them extra crunchy. I then sprinkle some shredded cheese, do a quick broil to melt the cheese, then add the hot (temperature hot) toppings with a bit more cheese and give it another quick broil to melt the second round of cheese. Top with some diced tomatoes and green onions. Total guilty pleasure.

Jan 30, 2015
TorontoJo in Home Cooking

Yum Cha 2015 (Feb. 21) vendors announced

Ah, I was at the morning session so didn't run into that issue. This year it's at Daniels Spectrum, which I assume has a proper HVAC system.

2015 Restaurant OPENINGS in Toronto, to June 30...

I've been jumping up and down for joy since December! Their goal is to open in April.

Porzia - a report

I forgot that they have a weekly Wednesday special of $10 plates. Nice.

Yum Cha 2015 (Feb. 21) vendors announced

They just posted the vendors for the festival -- an excellent line up, I'm really looking forward to feeding my face!

Momofuku Noodle Bar
County Cocktail
East Thirty Six
416 Snack Bar
Loka Snacks
Rolling Pin TO
Babi & Co.
Buster Rhino’s BBQ Toronto (their first event ahead of the grand opening)
Big E’s Grinds
Come and Get It

Details here:

Tickets here:

Buster Rhino's Toronto Location

I'm sure that both will be available. :)

Buster Rhino's Toronto Location

The super nice couple that runs Sweet Escapes in the Distillery will be running the new spot. It's going to be in the old Phil's BBQ location.

What are some of your favorite kitchen tricks that you'd be hesitant to admit to foodies?

Back in high school, I remember making a fruit dip that was marshmallow fluff and sour cream. My friends and I thought it was the height of culinary achievement. :0)

It was really quite good, though!

Jan 28, 2015
TorontoJo in Home Cooking

What are some of your favorite kitchen tricks that you'd be hesitant to admit to foodies?

I grew up on that stuff and loved it. Chips of choice were plain Ruffles or regular Doritos. Now I want to go buy some onion soup mix and make some!