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A bag of basics for the traveling chef

it's summer and up here in Canada that means one thing: cottage season. For those of us who don't own our own cabin or cottage, this also means renting and frequently putting up with less than perfect kitchens.

I am thinking about putting together a box or bag with some essentials, anchovies, olive oil, some tomato puree, spices, a decent knife and a steel. Perhaps a cast iron pan. Would a Dutch oven be overdoing it?

Has anybody else put together a kit like this, perhaps for camping? And if so, what are you packing and how did you go about this? Did you built a box, use a bag? I'm eager to learn.

Jun 16, 2011
andreas in Cookware

burrito and taco places in Toronto

Salsas on Augusta is my personal favorite. I work in the market and we go there for lunch at least once a week, we're never disappointed.

Oct 24, 2010
andreas in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Cowbell - Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

Inconsistent, that's the word that describes Cowbell for me. Food was either excellent or almost inedible.

On my first visit my wife's venison burger was out of this world - my own beef stew so under-seasoned to be devoid of any taste. I rarely send food back to the kitchen, this was one of those occasions.

The next time I went with a business associate, everything was great. Home cured sauerkraut, beautiful ham hocks. Awesomeness all round.

Today we went for brunch, and again my wife's choice - eggs, merguez sausage and home fries - were well executed, the sausage excellent, the duck eggs perfectly poached. My own order, a hash with smoked brisket, was a mixture of blad gristly bits and oil, nothing short of awful. We were in a hurry, and I was hungry, otherwise I would have asked to change my order.

The Cowbell is a beautiful restaurant, service has always been just the right mixture of relaxed and friendly, but something weird is going on in the kitchen.

Oct 18, 2010
andreas in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Bluestar's recent quality / CS complaints?

Update: Somebody at Bluestar did answer the phone finally. Even though the stove was out of warrantee they acknowledged the problem as a design and quality issue and shipped a new oven door via FedEx at no cost to me. Changing the door was ultra simple, two clips and it slid right out and back in.

So now I am happy again.

Oct 02, 2010
andreas in Cookware

Bluestar's recent quality / CS complaints?

I am having an absolutely horrible time getting service from Bluestar. One ignitor has been working on and off from day one, now the oven hinges are in need of fixing - this on a $5000 stove after two years of domestic service.

I am getting passed from pillar to post between my appliance store and the local distributor. Bluestar Headquarters doesn't seem to answer the phone at any time. An absolute joke.

I wish I would have bought a Viking instead.

Sep 09, 2010
andreas in Cookware

Where in toronto can i buy carbonated water machine?

Not sure I am afraid. I just saw the display. Had a quick chat with the sales person who said that they were constantly selling out. I am sure they would tell you if you call them.

Jul 11, 2010
andreas in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Where in toronto can i buy carbonated water machine?

Sears in the Eaton Center sells both the machines and replacement cartridges.

Jul 11, 2010
andreas in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Looking for food shops in Kensington Market

I know I'll probably find myself in the minority here, but as far as I am concerned the coffee at Louie's is awful. Over-roasted and bitter, nothing to write home about. You'll get a far superior cup at Wanda's Pie in the Sky.

I work in the market, and there really are no secrets left.

Mar 01, 2010
andreas in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Midtown for Mommy

We had dinner at Mogette with friends and thought it was mediocre at best.

Jan 16, 2010
andreas in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

PEI: Best Dining?

We booked dinner at the Landmark Cafe in Victoria. The setting is idyllic and the service friendly and efficient.

Sadly, much of the food doesn't live up to the surroundings and the cafe is almost comically overpriced.

We started with pickled herring, which was very good, although the accompanying olives were a strange touch

I had a seafood chowder, which was deeply mediocre. Vegetables were in huge chunks and left almost raw and what flavour there was was completely overpowered by the use of too many dried herbs - this in the middle of summer where fresh herbs would be easily available. A chowder should be creamy, fishy goodness. What I got was a thin broth that tasted of that dreaded "Herbs de Province" mix so popular in the 1980's.

For our main course we both had lobster rolls. The lobster was fresh, local and tasty, although there wasn't much of it, but the rolls were dry. We upgraded to the Moroccan beet salad as a side dish.

Tastes of Northern Africa are cumin, mint and lemon. What we got were green salad leaves, slices of cooked beets dressed with raspberry vinegar and some goats cheese.

The bill, including tip, came to over $80.00. The Landmark Cafe charges restaurant prices for food that just isn't worth it. Walking back to our hotel we overhear other guests complaining about the food, and the prices, as well. They singled out the pasta for particular criticism, badly executed and again overpowered by the taste of dried herbs.

A disappointing, and expensive meal, in a beautiful setting.

Jul 08, 2009
andreas in Atlantic Canada

Cowbell - Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

My wife and I dropped in this evening and we too were disappointed.

Things started out well with a good dark ale and a comfortable atmosphere. Just what the doctor ordered on a cold winter night.

I ordered the lentil and smoked pork soup, followed by the Angus beef pie; my wife ordered the venison burger. Staff was friendly and knowledgeable.

The soup when it arrives was less than hot and underseasoned to the point of being bland. I rarely ask for salt in restaurants, this time was the exception. The texture of the soup was excellent, the pork very good but the soup itself was just plain boring. A shame.

My wife's burger was good. It's not easy to keep venison juicy, in this the kitchen succeeded. But again, the home made mayonnaise was underseasoned to the point of being bland.

My pot pie looked fantastic, a nice flaky crust topped with a few winter green leaves. Unfortunately the pie itself was boring again, no flavour, no depth, just blandness. I had been expecting some sweetness from root vegetables, maybe a beer braise, maybe the sweetness of a dish slow cooked in beef stock. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

When the waiter asked how everything was I told the truth and he graciously offered to replace the dish with something else. I ordered a burger, but by the time it arrived my wife had finished eating and the evening had been more or less ruined.

Cowbell has a lot of growing up to do.

Feb 28, 2008
andreas in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Spice Room - Review

We visited last night for a client dinner and were severely underwhelmed. Sticky ribs were tasting of nothing more than ginger, the lamb chops were overcooked at low heat and the roasted sweet potatoes were black. The rice was dry and warmed up.

Portions were too large and prices way too high. Never again.

Feb 22, 2008
andreas in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

buddha dog--toronto version

I could not agree more with you. We went yesterday and had exactly the same impression.

Jan 20, 2008
andreas in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Where can I find cast aluminum calderos in Toronto?

Try the Ukrainian kitchen supply store at the south end of Kensigton market, on Wales Avenue. Also, the Tap Phong Trading Company on Spadina (west side, north of Dundas) might have them. Check their pro department, you need to walk through the main store, then through the door into a narrow room where they keep all the restaurant supplies.

Jan 18, 2008
andreas in Cookware

Over the Range Microvave vs. recirculating hood.

The more air you move, the better. I've got a vented Vent-A-Hood that can suck up small animals and the kitchen still gets smoky on occasion.

Jan 11, 2008
andreas in Cookware

Touch-up paint for enameled cast iron cookware?

Just leave them be and look at it as the price of many good meals. There's just cast iron underneath and with the occasional wipe of oil to keep the pots from rusting all will be well.

Jan 03, 2008
andreas in Cookware

Cheap knives

I don't unfortunately. I live in Toronto and here you can get them in most Chinese kitchen supply stores.

Jan 03, 2008
andreas in Cookware

enamel repair for cast-iron cookware?

Just how badly is the enamel damaged? Remember, underneath there is just cast iron, so nothing inherently bad. I own a number of ancient enamel pots, all with chips in them, and they perform just fine.

Dec 29, 2007
andreas in Cookware

Cheap knives

My current favourites are a $40 CCK carbon steel vegetable cleaver - wicked sharp, with a thin, thin blade - and a $26 carbon steel no name French chef's knife. They outperform pretty much everything else I own and have become my go-to knives.

Dec 27, 2007
andreas in Cookware

Sabatier Pro Steel knives?

Don't feel bad about exchanging or returning bad knives. I've just got myself a CCK cleaver for about the same money the Sabatier set costs and it rocks my world.

Dec 27, 2007
andreas in Cookware

Foodsaver - bags or roll?

Most Foodsaver plastic bags and film are not biodegradable and not reusable. It will finally degrade, but it takes several thousands of years. I don't mean to preach, but I would like to suggest that we all look into food storage solutions that don't end up in landfill.

Dec 18, 2007
andreas in Cookware

Non-stick but not teflon?

Yes, but an enamelled iron pan also doesn't have any non-stick properties. Don't get me wrong, in my kitchen there's no non stick to be found except for the natural seasoning on my cast iron pans, but the original poster was looking for something for a person who's not a cook and has no aspirations to become one.

I use a cast iron egg pan for nothing but eggs. Nine out of ten times I just wipe it out after work and that's that. I've got copper lined with stainless (I know, I know) for sears and heavy cast iron for braises.

If you know what you're doing, and are willing to learn about cookware care, then non stick becomes superfluous.

Dec 18, 2007
andreas in Cookware

Non-stick but not teflon?

I have an iron omelette pan. It's a slippery as a very slippery thing, without teflon. A decent pat of butter is all the non stick it needs.

Dec 18, 2007
andreas in Cookware

Knife Block recs please?

I would not give knives as a present. They are a really personal choice and a knife that feels good in your hand might be too light, heave, small, large for your dad. Maybe a gift coupon would be the better option here.

As far as knife blocks go, I'd always go with a magnetic strip. No counter space needed and they won't ruin your blades.

Dec 17, 2007
andreas in Cookware

How functional is your kitchen?

We can attach photos now? Let me try this out:

Dec 13, 2007
andreas in Cookware

How functional is your kitchen?

We had very little money left after completely gutting the ex rental Victorian we bought, knocking out all of the apartments and putting the house back together again. We bought free-standing stainless steel IKEA units that work but could be a little heavier for my liking. We use an old 1930's icebox as a pantry and an antique, very heavy, chest of drawers as a kitchen island. It works really well and we'll be finishing it off with a marble top - to create a pastry station - if we ever have money again. We bought a second hand commercial stove and exhaust from a food photographer who was upgrading his equipment to a six burner. Both I am very happy with. Plates and glasses are kept on open shelves, we cook enough to keep them in constant rotation so dust isn't an issue. We spent money on a decent Bosch dishwasher and a Fisher and Paykel fridge. I wanted to create a kitchen that has all of the functionality of a restaurant kitchen and I think we succeeded.

Dec 13, 2007
andreas in Cookware

Toronto: Cheap copper cookware at Homesense

I normally hate Malls but recently my wife insisted that I had to come and take a look at something she's seen on one of her shopping expeditions. Homesense is selling seconds of Marco Pierre White branded copper cookware at extremely low prices.

A 24 cm chef's pan is $49.00, a 24 cm frying pan $39.00. Yes, the copper is only 1.5mm thick and the lining is stainless steel rather than tin but the pans are well made by BEKA (a German company I believe) and solid. Handles are black cast iron with a non slip texture and riveted on.

I picked up a chef's pan, a frying pan and a saucier for just over $100.00 and they're all working just fine. I made a mushroom risotto in the chef's pan last night which worked out extremely well. Heat reaction is almost instant and the pans are heavy and solid on the stove.

No idea of how many they have left but if you're in the neighbourhood this might be worth taking a look at.

I still covet a 2.5 mm sauté pan hand riveted by a geriatric Frenchman but until the time comes that I can afford one these are decent substitutes.

Dec 13, 2007
andreas in Cookware

Dishwasher madness

I question that. My parent's Miele has performed without any repairs for over 20 years now. Indeed, Miele is legendary for the reliability of their products. Our Bosch dishwasher is working flawlessly, so is our Fisher and Paykel fridge.

In addition it might be worth remembering that this board is not just frequented by US citizens - we're a pretty international bunch.

Aug 17, 2007
andreas in Cookware

Refrigerators designed for garages - worth it?

It's worth keeping in mind that running a fridge in the garage, especially if it's an older model, will set you back anything up to $250 a year. A new fridge will save you cash and be, in the long run, kinder to the environment.

Aug 09, 2007
andreas in Cookware

Gazillion yellow pear tomatoes

Cook them down in olive oil with a dash of salt, a little sugar and balsamic vinegar. Add some smoked paprika if you like. Puree, can and have the taste of summer in winter.

Jul 31, 2007
andreas in Home Cooking