Saturday, June 28, 2008

restaurant review: gal sushi

Restaurant: Gal's Sushi, Japanese & Korean Restaurant
Location: 3621 Hwy 7 East Unit 106, Markham, ON L3R 0G6
Telephone: 905-3005-7753
Meal type: Lunch

Average price per person: $11-$25

What I ordered: Rainbow Roll and Green Tea


Comments: I think it's safe to say that I have Sushi almost once a week nowadays. My friend recommended this place so it was pretty "safe". It's a pretty typical Sushi place by today's standards. - modern and clean decor, fast service, nice plating and good food. I found the waiter/manager a little high strung considering the restaurant was not even that busy, but all in all a good experience. The only crappy part is the parking is around back; thankfully the weather was nice today. Looks like I've found another "safe" Sushi place to frequent (too bad it's not in my neighborhood).

Friday, June 27, 2008

toronto ribfest 2008

What better way to celebrate Canada Day than to eat lots of ribs?

One of the reasons I love summer is because it means there's always something going on in Toronto and surronding areas. Lots of festivals and events always means lots of great food to eat.

This is the 9th annual ribfest put on by the Rotary Club of Etobicoke. Some highlights include: live music, beer tents, carnival rides, Canada Day fireworks and of course - the RIBS!

When: June 27 to July 1 (11am to 11pm everday)
Where: Centennial Park in Etobicoke

For more details about ribfest visit:

Thursday, June 26, 2008

beeeeee mine, tupelo....

I grew up in a very traditional Chinese household. My parents exposed me to many different foods and flavours growing up, but they were more in the Asian area of cuisine.

So, for me, when I think of honey, there was only one image that would pop into my head - the plastic little squeeze bottle (either a bear or a beehive shape) and the name Bille Bee Honey. Billy Bee is a mixture of "pure" mix of Canadian and Argentine honey.

It's a lovely, sweet, unoffensive, always uniform golden honey and it's amazing on toast, in tea, and any other way you want to get your honey fix.

But after reading Holley Bishop's Robbing the Bees, I was intrigued about the fact that there were many, many other honey tastes out there, depending on what plants the bees had harvested their nectar from.

So a week ago, as I was walking through a Williams-Sonoma, waiting for my friend to buy some cakemix, I noticed that they were carrying some non-Billy Bee honey. As I leaned in to take a closer look, I got super excited - they had jars of Tupelo Honey!

Before reading Robbing the Bees I had no idea what Tupelo Honey was, but now I know that it's a much-prized honey - super rare because the Tupelo only blooms in a very small area of the planet every year for only a few weeks, so there aren't that many harvests to be had. Tupelo is so pure that it's supposed to never crystallize.

It cost $15, but I had to grab a jar to try. I brought it home and eagerly opened up the jar with nothing more than a spoon. I wanted my first taste of Tupelo Honey to be pure.

How can I describe the taste of Tupelo? It's definitely stronger than what I was used to (but not sweeter). Darker and much more fragrant, the taste is strong and "meadowy", and there's a long-lasting affect.

I love Tupelo on toast and it adds a whole new dimension to tea, but it's not for everyone. The strength of the "plant" taste is quite shocking to taste buds used to the sweet, unoffensive mildness of the usual honey.

I won't be breaking up with Billy Bee anytime soon - I'm too accustomed to the sweet honey in a convenient, squeezable bottle (that's easier on my wallet as well), but it was nice to flirt with Tupelo for a little while.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

t&t supermarkets

As I was posting about the upcoming new gourmet grocery store McEwan I got to thinking about another one of my favorite grocery stores – T&T Supermarket. This is a Chinese grocery chain that started in British Columbia, Canada.

They have lots of prepared foods (including Sushi and various Dim Sum), a section to sit and eat your goodies, a bakery, fresh seafood, and aisles and aisles of Asian groceries. They also have amazing sales once in a while. And did I mention the oodles of free samples on weekends?

T&T has successfully integrated the Asian market with a grocery store we are more accustomed to in North America. The result is a clean and efficient supermarket with lots of variety and exotic foods. The Downtown Toronto location even has a shuttle service! This is one smart corporation.

My only complaint is that it can get a bit crazy there on the weekends.

To find a T&T near you:

Image from:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

yay! summerlicious is back!

Like many Toronto foodies, I look forward to Summerlicious and Winterlicious. It's a great way to dine out (at a more affordable rate) at some of Toronto's best restaurants.

For those that aren't familiar with the concept, basically, it's several weeks every summer and winter where a whole bunch of Toronto restaurants offer three-course meals at fixed prices. Generally, it costs $15-$20 for lunch and $25-$35 for dinner (drinks, taxes and tips not included).

This year, Summerlicious runs from July 4-20 and restaurants have already started taking reservations.

With over 130 of Toronto's finest dining establishments taking part, you're sure to find something to tickle your fancy. A full list of restaurants and their menus can be found at here.

I generally don't even try to get into the most popular restaurants (ie. Canoe, Sassafraz), but I have eaten at some great places (Acqua Ristorante, Oliver & Bonacini Cafe/Grill) and I've also discovered some restaurants that have become favourites (Da Gianni et Maria Trattoria).

I can't wait for this year! I've already made reservations for dinner at Cfood and lunch at Oliver & Bonacini Cafe/Grill!

an ode to mom's cooking

My mother has always cooked fairly traditional Chinese dishes at home. These are almost never like what you order at Chinese restaurants. And although I’ve grown to love and live on more Western foods in my daily life, there is still something comforting about home cooking that is the same today as it was when we were children. So I’ve decided to capture some of my at-home favorites. Look for upcoming “an ode to my mother's cooking” posts.

Here’s a teaser of things to come (a potluck/appetizer favorite):
hot dog wrapped in bacon, with a spring of chive for garnish.

Monday, June 23, 2008

i would cover everything in chocolate if i could

Anyone that knows me well knows I love chocolate and dislike fruits. So in an effort to eat more fruits, I've had to resort to covering them in chocolate. Fondue is nothing new, but I love making this treat because it's so easy and yummy.

I melt some chocolate (usually use semi-sweet baking chocolate or chocolate chips) in the microwave the way Cinnamon Kitten taught me to & dip my clean, dry strawberries in the melted chocolate. Then I place them on a plate or cookie sheet in the fridge to harden and voila! What better way to indulge a loved one or yourself!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

restaurant review: zaffron ristorante

Restaurant: Zaffron Ristorante
Location: 6200 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M2M 3X1
Telephone: 416-223-7070

Meal type: Dinner

Average price per person: $11-25

What I ordered: Kashkeh Bademjan (eggplant with creamy yogurt sauce flavored with garlic, onion & mint), Ghaimeh (a traditional stew with chunks of veal shank, saffron broth, dried lemon, yellow split peas and french friens on top served with basmati rice)


Comments: Italian and Persian cuisine under the same roof? Who would have thought? I was super excited because this was my first experience with Persian cuisine - thankfully my friend is an expert. The restaurant was very cozy and cute – great ambiance. The food was good, but I think I still have to have it a few more times before I can fully appreciate Persian cuisine (it was years before I could appreciate Sushi!). I must say though that my veal was very tender and tasty. Our waitress wasn’t that great, but she seemed to be trying.

And a final note: my friend recommended putting butter on my saffron rice. This seemed very odd to me (being Chinese and all), but I've seen some other friends do it, so I tried it. I don't need extra excuses ever to put butter on anything. It really did make the rice extra flavourful.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

scotland's bright orange drink

My husband and I recently stopped for Fish & Chips at our favourite place, Hamish's, and, feeling kind of adventurous, I also ordered 2 bottles of Irn-Bru. I didn't know what to expect but I definitely didn't expect how bright orange this drink is!

I don't know why I was so surprised, but I guess, any drink that doesn't have the word "orange" in the name or description surprises me with such a bright colour.

Irn-Bru has been around since 1901 (although it was originally called Iron Brew) and is immensely popular in Scotland, with sales at about the same level as Coca-Cola! It's the 3rd best selling soft drink in the UK, after Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

It's supposed to have a slight citrus flavour, but it's definitely not an "orange-flavoured" drink. To me, it's kind of like a light cream-soda, vanilla-citrus taste, but it's hard to describe as it doesn't really taste like any other soft drink that I've had.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

toronto celebrity chef to open gourmet grocery store

One of my favorite stores in Ottawa is La Bottega - a family owned gourmet Italian grocery store, located in the Byward Market. With its large European selection including yummy fresh breads and cute cafe in the back I absolutely adore going there.

Although grocery stores have come a LONG way in the past couple of years, I've still always wished that there was a similar store near my home in uptown Toronto.

That's why I was uber excited when I heard on the radio that Mark McEwan (one of my favorite celebrity chefs) is opening a gourmet grocery store, to be named McEwan, near Don Mills and Lawrence in January 2009.

Catch Mark McEwan's TV show "The Heat" on FoodTV Fridays at 11:30pm ET/8:30pm PT.
For more information about "The Heat":

Image from:

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

restaurant review: ni-ji japanese restaurant

Restaurant: Ni-Ji Japanese Restaurant
Location: 1095 Ellesmere Rd., Scarborough, ON M1P 2W9
Telephone: 416-755-3335

Meal type: Dinner

Average price per person: $11-$25

What I ordered: Spicy Salmon Hand Roll, Dynamite Maki, Green Tea


Comments: I'm not a Sushi expert, but I do love to eat the stuff. My friend recommended this restaurant, so I had high expectations. It's a cozy family-owned type restaurant with friendly staff and a great dining-in and take-out selection. Our dinner came with complimentary appetizers: Miso soup, Edamame, Wakame Salad, and Fried Fish. And our meal also came with complimentary Green Tea Ice Cream (my favorite). We definitely got our moneys worth and my meal was very yummy. It doesn't rank the best in terms of food, service, or atmosphere that I've ever experienced, but it is definitely a place I'd go back to when I am in the mood for some low-key sushi.

Friday, June 13, 2008

book review: robbing the bees by holley bishop

I'm scared to death of bees. I'm horrified by their little stingers. Ok, I'll admit - I've never been stung, but in my mind, just the thought of getting stung has been multiplied into a horrific nightmare of traumatic proportions.

So, I have no idea why I picked up Holley Bishop's Robbing the Bees (I think it was on sale), which is a book about bees and nothing else but bees. As I started reading though, I became fascinated, okay, more like mildly obsessed, with bees. And of course, their honey.

Growing up, I ate quite a big of honey, but it was almost always on toast. And it always came out of a squeeze bottle (usually shaped like a bear or a beehive) and almost always, it was the Billy Bee honey brand. I never gave it much thought. As I grew up and my choice of toast-spreads opened up, I kind of passed on the super-sticky honey to flashier options - peanut butter, Nutella, Raspberry Jam....but in the last 2-3 years, I've come full circle and returned to the sweet golden liquid once again.

So the more I read about the wonders of honey, the more I knew I should consume honey - lots and lots of honey!

Just a few of the amazing facts that I picked up while reading this book:

- honey has antibacterial properties and can keep germs from entering open wounds when applied
- beeswax is one of the most frequently used ingredients in cosmetics new and old
- bees have been kept by humans specifically for their honey for centuries

I could go on and on, but it's probably best if you picked up the book yourself before I get sued for plaigerism.

In fact, I was so intrigued by everything that Ms. Bishop wrote that I have, waiting for me in my pantry as I type, a jar of Tupelo Honey and a real, honest-to-goodness piece of honeycomb! Being a city girl, the idea of eating honeycomb is exotic and dreamy. And it's supposed to be good for my allergies (I'm just full of bee facts today!).

I love this book, mainly because it opened up my eyes to everything honey can do, but also because I now have a much greater appreciation of the little honey bee (still hate you wasp!). Of course, this doesn't mean I'm setting up my own beehives anytime soon (besides, they would probably have a hard time surviving the tough Canadian winters in my little urban backyard...and my neighbours might freak), but I am infinitely more grateful for the honey bee's hard work.

The book is so easy to read and is both informative and entertaining, not always the easiest thing to pull off when you're spouting off a lot of facts about one topic.

I still don't want to get stung though.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"warm winter lemon cake"

As soon as a I saw this recipe for Warm Winter Lemon Cake on the Kraft Canada site, I knew I had to try it. It was super simple too as it used a lot of instant mixes (hey, I'm still new to this cooking thing, okay? Give me a break!)

- 1 pkg yellow cake mix
- 2 cups cold milk
- 1-1/4 cups water
- 2 pkg lemon instant pudding mix
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp icing sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Prepare the cake batter as directed on the package (ok, that I can handle) and pour the batter into a greased 13"x9" bcaking dish and set aside.

Pour milk and water into a large bowl and add the pudding mixes and granulated sugar (confession: I almost forgot about the sugar). Beat with wire whisk until well blended (yummy lemon smell erupts) and pour over the cake batter.

Place baking dish onto a baking sheet to catch any sauce that bubbles over the sides of the baking dish as it bakes (they're not kidding! Don't skip this step - it actually does bubble over the sides!)

Bake 55 minutes to 1 hour or until wooden toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Well, the cake is super simple to make, but the final result isn't that pretty (or maybe that's just my baking skills). The pudding is nice and runny when the cake is warm, but if you eat it cold (the size of this cake leaves a lot of leftovers for 2 people!) the pudding is thicker, but still yummy.

I like it, but it's probably not something I'd make again. Also not a very impressive looking dessert for serving to guests (again, that could be my baking skills). :)

P.S. My parents love this cake. They've both commented on how good it is and my mom has already asked me to show her how to make it. So I guess I will be baking this cake again!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

the flu and lumpfish caviar

I've had a really bad cold for the past week and a bit, which means my food habits have been pretty much whatever I can get cheaply and quickly and doesn't hurt my sore throat (I'm soooo sick of chicken soup!)

But I did try one new food - lumpfish caviar. It's definitely not going to make my list of favourites anytime soon.

To be fair, I was spoiled by the super-tasty, buttery Canadian Sturgeon caviar that I received over Christmas, so I know that something I'm buying for less than $20 at a supermarket won't compare, but since I don't have the budget to eat caviar more than once a year (if I'm lucky) I dared to hope.

At first glance, it's not as bad as I had initially expected. Dark, glistening individual little balls of roe sat in the jar that I had bought. But, after tasting my first little batch, I knew that I would never mistake this for the real thing.

The lumpfish roe is much more "solid" than the Sturgeon roe I had, which melted on the tongue in a buttery finish. The lumpfish roe stayed globular until I forcibly squeezed it in my mouth, causing it to pop. Also, it was much more watery and salty than the Sturgeon that I had.

Price-wise, this is definitely something I'd trot out as a garnish on special occasions, but it's not something I would sit and savour on its own, which I had done with the real caviar.

Friday, June 6, 2008

book review: a cook's tour by anthony bourdain

As I mentioned before, I'm a huge book lover. And I love food books! One of my first food reads, the one that got me hooked in the first place, was Anthony Bourdain's A Cook's Tour.

By now, almost anyone who's interested in food is probably already familiar with the wise-cracks of this globe-trotting chef and you either love him or hate him.

I love him.

In this book, which every foodie should read, Bourdain travels the globe "in search of the perfect meal". He touches down in exotic locations such as Cambodia, the Sahara and Vietnam and also in more familiar destinations like Franch, Japan and Mexico.

No matter where he was, Bourdain seemed to try something adventurous and he definitely had me drooling. The amazing meals he experienced in Japan and Portugal had me looking to see if my passport was updated and his experience at The French Laundry restaurant made me want to put my name on their waiting list (and of course, padding my bank account appropriately!)

To me, Bourdain is a great food book writer because his writing is never dry. He reads like he talks - someone you'd want to eat and drink with. He makes you want to be more adventurous in your food choices (although NOTHING will make me eat a live cobra heart...I don't think). A Cook's Tour is so easy to read, it's a breeze to get through and at the end, you feel like you've travelled the world and experienced the meals with him.

Highly recommended.


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

my latest purchase

My copy of Nigella's latest, Nigella Express, finally arrived in the mail today!

I had ordered this book weeks ago through, but they were sold out and put my order on backorder. Then they emailed me and cancelled my order because they said that they weren't able to foresee getting any copies in the near future. Who are their suppliers???

So I had to re-order the book from and they were able to deliver the book within 3 days of my order. Weird. Guess they have better suppliers? Or are they less popular than Amazon?

Anyhow, my initial flip-through the book was pretty exciting - have already spotted at least 5 recipes that I want to try right away (yumm - Eton Mess and Quick Calamari with Garlic Mayonnaise).

Monday, June 2, 2008

my foray into sorbet making - "mango sorbet"

This is the first installment of my Kitten in the Kitchen series of blog posts. Join me as I learn about the culinary world by experimenting in the kitchen!

My sister gave me a Cuisinart ice cream maker for Christmas (well, I did ask for one and she was good enough to oblige) and my initial foray into the world of frozen dessert creation ended in disaster when attempted to make Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream. I think I used the wrong cream (Light Whipping Cream with a fat content ot 35%) or maybe it was the extra 10 minutes the frozen ice cream maker tub sat on the kitchen counter while I mixed the necessary ingredients. Anyhow, the result was a yummy tasting, but incredibly soft (and I mean soft) ice cream that never really set. A couple of days in the freezer only resulted in a bad case of freezer burn.

I never really figured out where I made the critical mistake, but, not one to be daunted, yesterday, I pulled out the machine to try again.

This time I took no chances. To avoid the cream I chose to make sorbet instead and everything was chilled.

The INGREDIENTS were simple enough:
- 2 lbs of cubed mangoes
- 2 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup sugar


I started with 2 pounds of frozen mango cubes. Yes, fresh mangoes would have been a better choice, but I bought this a couple of weeks ago at CostCo before this project even formulated as a thought in my head. Thawed the mangoes out and squeezed in some fresh lime juice, which results in this:

That was tossed in the fridge while I made a simple sugar syrup, also tossed into the fridge. I let everything sit overnight in the fridge (told you I wasn't taking any chances) and in the morning, dumped it all into my ice cream maker, flipped the power on and said a quick prayer to the ice gods.

Twenty minutes later, voila!

It was thick and smelled of fragrant mango. It was, if I do say so myself, delicious! I'm so excited that I've started daydreaming of all the other sorbets and sherbets I'm going to make. Hello Meyer Lemon! Welcome Raspberry! Hop on in, Oranges! Who needs cream?

Just call me the Sorbet Princess.

Sunday, June 1, 2008



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