By: ROBERT MOSS
Originally Seen On: SeriousEats.com

The first time I really looked into the history of pimento cheese, I wrote a long article that opened, “Pimento cheese has a dirty little secret. The ‘pâté of the South’ isn’t really very Southern at all.”

What surprised me most at the time was discovering that this gooey concoction of shredded cheese, mayo, and diced red pimentos—a blend now considered one of the quintessential Southern foods—was actually invented somewhere else. After all, writers have called pimento cheese “a major southern institution,” something that is “held sacred by Southerners” and is “so ingrained in the lives of many Southerners that we don’t realize our passion for the stuff doesn’t exist outside the region.” How could pimento cheese, this most Southern of foods, possibly have been born outside the South?

Now, with a few years hindsight and a lot more research under my belt, I’m not so sure why I made such a big deal about where pimento cheese was invented. So many of the things considered to be iconic Southern foods today actually originated outside of the region. (We’ll look at several more in upcoming installments.) The entire history of food, after all, is the story of ingredients and recipes migrating from one spot on the globe to another and being transferred between cultures, often being transformed in the process. Why should pimento cheese be any different?

No, what’s more interesting about pimento cheese is not where it was born, but how it got where it is today. In its path through American food culture, it reversed the lapsarian pattern found in the tales of so many other dishes like cornbread and hoppin’ john, and it took quite a different route than the “elevation” narrative you see with something like shrimp and grits, which began as a humble breakfast food and was elevated by Southern chefs into a fine-dining entrée.

No, pimento cheese got its start up North—in New York, in fact—as a product of industrial food manufacturing and mass marketing.

No, pimento cheese got its start up North—in New York, in fact—as a product of industrial food manufacturing and mass marketing. Its story is one of redemption, of a wayward factory child adopted by a good Southern family, scrubbed up nice, and invited to Sunday dinner.

‘Scientific’ Home Cooking

Almost any pimento cheese recipe today calls for grated cheddar or a similarly firm cheese mixed with diced pimento peppers, mayonnaise, and any number of seasonings and special ingredients. Many cooks are quite adamant that you use homemade mayonnaise, while others start with fresh red peppers and roast them themselves. The original version started out as something quite different: the marriage of cream cheese and canned pimentos, two popular and newly-available products of the industrial food trade.

In the 1870s in New York State, farmers started making a soft, unripened cheese modeled after the French Neufchâtel. Within a few decades, at least five New York companies were marketing an American Neufchâtel, and they soon introduced cream cheese, a variant made by mixing cream with Neufchâtel curd and molding it into blocks in small rectangular wooden forms.

Though produced primarily in New York, cream cheese somehow became linked with the city of Philadelphia, and the New York-based Phenix Cheese became the market leader with its “Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese,” which was later acquired by the Kraft Cheese Company.

Around the same time, sweet red peppers imported from Spain first became available in the Americas. In the 1887 edition of Miss Parloa’s Kitchen Companion, Maria Parloa noted that these peppers, when green, are “much milder than the common bell-pepper, although they look so much alike it is often difficult to distinguish them.” She recommended stuffing and baking them.

Within a decade, imported Spanish peppers were being canned and sold by large food manufacturers, which not only boosted their popularity but also introduced the Spanish name pimiento. By the turn of the century most print source had dropped the “i” and were calling the peppers “pimentos.”

Cream cheese was the perfect food for the Domestic Science sensibility.

These two new, up-to-date products—cream cheese and red pimentos—were favorites of the practitioners of Domestic Science. Also known as “home economics,” it was a women-led social reform movement that sought to bring order and scientific precision to all aspects of the home, with a particular emphasis on scientific cooking and a neat dinner table. Cream cheese was the perfect food for the Domestic Science sensibility. It was soft and mildly flavored, and its clean white color connoted purity. That it was something new and sold by modern food manufacturers only added appeal, for the Domestic Scientists were champions of industrial canning and scientific food packaging. Before long, they were devising any number of inventive ways to incorporate cream cheese into salads and hors d’oeuvres: rolling it into balls to serve in lettuce cups or combining it with nuts or herbs, and stuffing it into celery sticks and hollowed radishes.

The Domestic Scientists loved canned pimentos, too, especially their mild, inoffensive flavor and their flashy red color. In 1899, the editors of the Boston Cooking-School Magazine included a cauliflower and pimento salad on their Monday dinner menu for August, noting that, “on account of their brilliant color, pimentos are a pleasing addition to many a salad, and when used sparingly their sweet, mild flavor is usually relished.”

The New Packaged Food

It wasn’t long before cheese manufacturers decided to save consumers some trouble and flavor their cheese in the factory. They ran pimentos through a mechanical chopper then mixed them into Neufchatel curd along with a pinch of red pepper just before the cheese was molded. Commercially-made pimento cheese burst on the market around 1910 and spread quickly across the country. In March 1910, grocers in Minnesota were advertising “Pimiento Cheese—Something New,” and by April papers in North Dakota were running ads offering “Pimento cheese, something new, per jar . . . 20¢.” Within a year, pimento cheese was available as far west as Portland, Oregon and Albuquerque, New Mexico and down South in Alabama and South Carolina, too. Most of the manufacturers appear to have been based in New York or Wisconsin.

Read the rest of the story here:
http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/09/history-southern-food-pimento-cheese.html

 

 

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Posted by: Food Lover | July 28, 2017

Want Juicier Tomatoes? Store Them Upside Down

By J. KENJI LÓPEZ-ALT
Originally Posted On: seriouseats.com

Long story short: Remove the stems from your tomatoes, and store them stem side down on a flat plate. If they are very ripe and you’re going to be eating them within a day or two, keep them at room temperature. If you’re planning to eat them later in the week, store them in the fridge, and let them come back to room temperature before serving.

Moisture can escape from the tops, where the tomatoes were attached to the vine. This moisture loss can cause a plump tomato to turn soft and wrinkly. But don’t worry—there’s an easy way to fix that problem. All you have to do is remove any excess vine from the tomato, then store the tomato on a flat surface, like a plate, with the vine side down. This effectively seals off that defect, helping the tomato retain all its juiciness.

WATCH THE VIDEO AND READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE HERE:
http://www.seriouseats.com/2017/06/best-position-to-store-tomatoes-upside-down.html

Posted by: Food Lover | July 7, 2017

16 Nonalcoholic Summer Drinks to Refresh and Rehydrate

By RABI ABONOUR
Original Article Posted:
Seriouseats.com : We love this site, please take some time to explore it, you won’t be disappointed.

I’ve been on a little bit of a fitness kick lately, so I’ve been trying to cut down on booze. That might be hard this summer—there are few things that I like more on a hot day then sitting out by the pool with a beer or cocktail. To stay honest, I’m going to try to keep enough delicious nonalcholic drinks on hand that booze won’t be tempting. Standards like lemonade and iced tea should get me through most days, and when I want something a little more exciting I’ll try a mocktail with cucumber and shiso or rhubarb and lime juice. If you’re looking to follow my example, keep reading for 16 of our favorite summery nonalcoholic drink recipes.

• Ultra-Flavorful Fresh Lemonade
• The Best Iced Tea
• The Best Arnold Palmer
• Ultra-Flavorful Fresh Limeade
• Frothy Iced Matcha Green Tea
• Shiso Fine
• Fig and Balsamic Soda
• Rhubarb Juice
• Booze-Free Rhubarb Lime Gimlet
• Rhubarb-Ginger Cooler
• Lemongrass-Ginger Horchata
• Tangy Kumquat-Pear Juice
• Sparkling Sumac Lemonade
• Spicy Honeydew and Coconut Water Agua Fresca
• Strawberry and Cantaloupe Agua Fresca With Thyme
• Orange, Rosewater, and Mint Sparkler

Get the recipes here:
http://www.seriouseats.com/2017/06/16-nonalcoholic-summer-drinks.html

Posted by: Food Lover | June 22, 2017

The Delicious Flavour With A Toxic Secret

By Zaria Gorvett
20 June 2017

Originally Posted On: 
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170620-the-delicious-flavour-with-a-toxic-secret
They have great articles about food, well worth reading! 

It’s led to raids by law enforcement agencies and mass deaths in animals; in the United States, chefs have ‘dealers’ who smuggle it into the country.

Given these facts, I’m unwrapping my online delivery with a level of suspicion usually reserved for bomb disposal. Inside is a jar of wrinkled black beans, each resembling an elongated raisin. These are ‘tonka beans’ – the aromatic seed of a giant tree from deep in the Amazon rainforest.

When grated into desserts or infused into syrups, they impart a flavour so transcendent, tonka has been dubbed the most delicious ingredient you’ve never heard of.

Notes of freshly cut grass mingle with vanilla, liquorice, caramel and clove, topped off with a suggestion of warmth and a hint of magnolia – that is, according to the internet. I unscrew the lid and take a whiff. They smell faintly like furniture polish.

As long as you don’t use a copious amount of it – obviously a copious amount could cause death – it really is delicious,” says Thomas Raquel, head pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Le Bernardin in New York, not particularly reassuringly.

Selling tonka beans to eat has been illegal in the US since 1954. Foods containing tonka are considered to be ‘adulterated’, though that hasn’t stopped them appearing on the menus of Michelin-starred restaurants, from New York to California. In fact, the United States is the biggest importer of tonka on the planet.

Tonka beans contain unusually high levels of the chemical coumarin, which gives them their flavour and is found naturally in hundreds of plants, including grass, lavender and cherries. Even if you’ve never seen a tonka bean in your life, there’s a good chance you know what they smell like without realising it.

Coumarin was first isolated from tonka beans in 1820 – the name comes from the Caribbean term for the tonka tree, ‘coumarou’ – shortly afterwards, an English chemist better known for inventing the first synthetic dye worked out how to make it in the lab.

By the 1940s, artificial coumarin was really taking off. As one of the first synthetic additives, it was dirt cheap. It was widely used in place of natural vanilla, added to chocolate, sweets and cocktail bitters, vanilla essence and even soft drinks. It swiftly became a staple ingredient in tobacco and lent its complex aroma to the perfume industry.

But there was a problem. Studies in dogs and rats had revealed it to be toxic, with relatively low levels causing considerable damage to the liver in just a few weeks. In sheep, just 5g (around two teaspoons) is fatal. Both tonka and coumarin were outlawed.

Fast-forward to 2017 and they’ve never quite disappeared. “Let’s just say I know where to get em’, it’s not a problem to get them,” says Paul Liebrandt, the former co-owner of the Corton in New York.

This is despite a government crackdown nearly a decade ago, including raids on several gourmet restaurants. Grant Achatz, who is head chef at Chicago restaurant Alinea, later told The Atlantic “They [the supplier] said, ‘Don’t be surprised if the FDA shows up soon’…. Two days later, they walked in: ‘Can we look at your spice cabinet?’”.

Tonka and coumarin both still regularly turn up in Mexican vanilla flavouring, where they’re used to mask a low quality product. “I was talking to a vanilla purveyor recently and he offered me tonka bean paste,” says Raquel. “I was like ‘If I want to use tonka bean, I’ll use tonka bean.’”

Even if fancy restaurants aren’t your scene, there’s a good chance you’re being exposed from other sources. It’s still perfectly legal to add coumarin to tobacco and cosmetics, though it’s easily absorbed through the skin and the fragile lining of the lungs. The chemical is used copiously in detergents, shower gels, hand soaps and deodorants and blockbuster scents such as Coco Mademoiselle (Chanel) and Joop! Homme. It’s even found its way into e-cigarettes.

In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve got some coumarin lurking in your kitchen cupboards. True cinnamon is made from the bark of the plant Cinnamomum Zeylanicum and is native to Sri Lanka. This type naturally has extremely low levels of coumarin and proven medicinal properties, but that’s probably not what you’ve got in your spice rack. That’s because what we think of as cinnamon isn’t really cinnamon at all, but a Southeast Asian imposter made from the bark of the cassia tree.

 

 

 

Read the rest of the story here:
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170620-the-delicious-flavour-with-a-toxic-secret

Posted by: Food Lover | January 23, 2017

Disfrutando: Cocina Amigable

sign

We recently spent some time in the legendary party town of Montañita, Ecuador. Every evening we wandered into town and roamed about to get a sense of the form Montañita would take that night; we learned it is an ever-changing town.

During each of these evening walks we inevitably passed by a small restaurant called Disfrutando: Cocina Amigable (Enjoying: Friendly Kitchen), run by three young men.  The chef has his cooking station set up outside at the very front of the “patio”,  where we had a clear line of sight on the sizzling meats being grilled, and fresh vegetables behind him. Each time we became more and more intrigued, memories surfaced of a once much-loved restaurant that is now gone.

The sights and smells of rustic grilled food took our minds back to another groovy coastal town in Mexico, called Sayulita. Delicious food was prepared by a young Mexican chef and served at a small, street side restaurant called Mexotica. We have reminisced about that meal occasionally (particularly the sinfully delicious chocolate avocado mousse!) and have often wondered if we would ever encounter a similar experience anywhere else.

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Disfrutando gave us this wonderful experience once more, but with the chef’s own personality injected into the cooking style.  Disfrutando is the child of a young Ecuadoran chef, using fresh ingredients and a remarkably small range of spices.  He has no formal training, learning everything he knows through observation.  What he does have is a love of food and good friends to help him run the place – his handsome smile and gentle demeanor certainly help as well. Dishes cooked on a single iron grill and two side gas burners presented what were easily the two best meals we had while in Ecuador. In fact, the first meal – consisting of a shared appetizer and two small plate dishes, served “on trend” using simple wooden platters – was so good that we returned two nights later determined to share all four small plates (at all of $5.00 US per plate!) to enjoy as much of Felipe’s cooking as we could. Bringing along our own bottle of inexpensive Chilean Sauvignon Blanc we settled in to enjoy a delicious meal.

bread-web

First up, house baked, country-style bread rubbed with freshly cut garlic and grilled with olive oil, then topped with barely frizzled spinach and caramelized shallots. This take on bruschetta was simple and delicious – a great start to the dinner.  It was interesting to experience how much firmness the spinach could retain while slightly charring on the edges, a trick we we’re going to work to replicate. The spinach provided a lovely texture as we bit into the bruschetta, with the garlic as a delicate accent. The sweet mild shallots gave a juicy freshness, they were nice and crunchy with a smokey caramelization.  As lovers of bread, we really appreciated the hot, soft slices of thick bread with a crunchy crust. We are very much looking forward to the nutritional community deciding that bread is not bad for us after all.

appetizer-web

The next dish: Cameron A La Cerveza con Calabaza Y Berenjena Asada (Shrimp in Beer with Grilled Pumpkin and Eggplant).  Ecuador’s small but plump, sweet shrimp had become something of an obsession with us during our trip.  Ecuadoran cuisine serves up shrimp many ways: breaded and deep fried (Apanado); served in a rich coconut sauce (Enconcado),  or served as a ceviche being the most popular.  Felipe’s preparation was a unique delight. He gently sautéed the shrimp in beer, with garlic and cilantro. This was also served with his signature spicy blackberry compote and that fascinating aioli that seemed something of a cross between mayo and creme fraiche.  A savoury slice of pumpkin, grilled and hot, was a lovely complement to the sweetness of the shrimp.   Generally not fond of eggplant, we were surprisingly pleased with the melt-in-you-mouth soft texture and delicious caramelized flavour.

shrimp-web

Pollo A La Plancha Con Papa Rellena y Ensalada Criolla, Grilled Chicken With Stuffed Potato and Creole Salad.  This is a chicken breast fillet lightly seasoned, then drizzled and rubbed with a fresh lime as the chicken was grilling. The chicken breast was tender and juicy, somewhat surprising in light of the boneless fillet being used. Accompanied by a unique, spicy blackberry compote and a fresh tasting twist on aioli this chicken really sparkled. The addition of a twice baked potato stuffed with bacon and cheese, and a small side salad of finely chopped tomatoes and red onion – called “creole salad” on the menu, but more reminiscent of pico de gallo –  rounded out this delicious first sharing plate.

chicken-web

Our last dish was the Credo Braceado A La Cerveza, Milhoja De Papa Y Ens Tomate Albaca – Pork Braised in Beer with Scalloped Potato,  Tomatoes and Basil.  This dish was so tasty we had it twice during our stay inMontañita.  Pork is very slowly braised in beer, with tomatoes, carrots, and onions.  This was melt-in-your-mouth delicious, the fat was beautifully braised out of the meat making each bite rich tasting, with a wonderful mouth-feel. Never did it feel particularly greasy or fatty.  The scalloped potatoes were able to hold up to the same quality as the pork,  some bites were as crispy as a potato chip, others soft and creamy, with actual cream to make it a touch more decidant.  The tomatoes with basil worked as a nice palate cleanser, refreshing our taste buds so we could fully appreciate the pork and potatoes as we kept eating.   

pork

In our travels, we are always thrilled to find eager, talented people striking out and trying to make a go of things.  This enterprising spirit is particularly what impresses us about Latin American culture.  Disfrutando has a special place in our hearts for this reason, and we hope more travelers will delight in the work of these three gentlemen.  Felipe’s food was a brilliant reminder of how spectacular simple cooking can be when the ingredients used are fresh and the execution is precise.

Posted by: Food Lover | May 31, 2016

Rosemary Tuna Loin Sandwich With Lemon Pepper Mayo

ROSEMARY TUNA LOIN BAGUETTE WITH LEMON PEPPER MAYO

We came up with this recipe after a long day at work. We wanted something simple and tasty. It so happened we had a beautiful tuna loin from Skipper Otto (skipperotto.com) and a baguette on hand.  The rest just came together.

TUNA SANDWICH

ROSEMARY TUNA LOIN BAGUETTE WITH LEMON PEPPER MAYO

 

INGREDIENTS:

• 1/2 cup butter or ghee
• 1 spring rosemary, stemmed
• 1 large garlic clove thinly sliced

• 3 tablespoons mayonaise
• 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
• 1/4 tsp lemon zest (optional)
• 1/4 pepper

• 1 tuna loin
• Salt
• Pepper
• Onion Powder

• 1 baguette

METHOD:

  1. Start by melting the butter or ghee over a very low gentle heat.  Add the rosemary and the garlic clove and let sit for about 10 minutes, until flavours are blended.  The butter should not be hot enough to sizzle, you just want to infuse the flavours into the oil.
  2. In a small bowl mix together mayo, lemon, pepper and if you wish lemon zest.
  3. Dry loin with paper towel. Sprinkle salt, pepper and onion powder all over the tuna loin. Brush tuna loin with the flavoured butter.
  4. Over a high heat, sear the tuna loin evenly on each side, either on a well oiled pan or grill.  Brush each side of the tuna loin with more butter as you cook it. About 2 minutes per side.
  5. Cut the baguette in half, turn the broiler on in your oven until the bread is golden brown.  Make sure you check on it frequently as it will burn quickly.  Remove baguette and brush with flavoured butter.  Scoop out the rosemary leaves and garlic and spread them over the baguette.
  6. Slice loin crosswise into ¼- to ½-inch thick pieces. Arrange tuna on the baguette and drizzle with any remaining butter.  Place a small dollop of mayo on each tuna piece.
Posted by: Food Lover | November 22, 2015

Omakase Throw Down

In our constant pursuit of insanely good food we often turn to word of mouth, asking fellow travelers, friendly strangers and comrades for suggestions. When the question posed is “Where’s the best Japanese cuisine in Canada?” Tojo would come up with surprising frequency. Indeed, over the many years we have heard about it, it has become the Camelot of sushi in our minds, a mythical wonderful place worthy of a quest. Their omakase has been a particular focus of attention, absolutely raved about by all who have experienced it. Omakase is a Japanese style tasting menu where the diner entrusts the chef to choose each dish. Often off-menu items are presented, using the finest ingredients available that day and allowing the chef to showcase his artistic skills.

As inveterate fans of Japanese cuisine, it was our duty to venture forth in search of this (perhaps) Holy Grail of Canadian omakase.  A birthday proved to be the inspiration to finally visit Vancouver, and helped to justify reserving a seat at the sushi bar.  Reserving at the sushi bar at Tojo’s comes at an additional cost, for this is as sacred a place as the round table, where the legend himself (Tojo) and his excellent staff of sushi samurai can be observed executing their finely honed craft.

We arrived at the beautiful and surprisingly spacious restaurant, a touch starving and most eager for the 6+ course feast that awaited us.  Upon entering through the front door we were greeted by a soft-spoken Japanese man who considerately took our jackets and as he carefully hung them promised to get a good price on E-Bay, an impish smile heightening the charm of his little jest.

We were led to our seats at the table by another employee who exuded charm and warmth. A Sri Lankan man who spoke fluent Japanese and interacted seamlessly with Tojo and his team, Chris was the epitome of chivalry in the care he took to ensure we were well cared for all evening. He placed us comfortably away from others nestled at the sushi bar, providing everyone with warm sense of privacy and intimacy.   Tojo greeted us and came over to have a quick chat.  He let us know that he works with local, seasonal ingredients using Japanese techniques to come up while wholly new dishes.  With a sheet of paper and pencil in hand he asked if we have food allergies (no), any particular likes (everything) and dislikes (of which we have none); a lovely touch. “You are open-minded then,” he concluded with a pleased nod.
We started with cocktails, and it’s safe to say that the Tojo-tini (sake and shochu vodka) was one of the best martinis we’ve ever tasted – and we are very particular about our martinis.

The first course of our omakase adventure was Tojo’s sashimi plate.  This generous plating consisted of east coast blue fin tuna, sockeye salmon, albacore tuna, red snapper, and geoduck (giant clam).  The most notable thing about this dish was the firmness of all the fish served. While we expect this of good sashimi this was at a level we have rarely encountered. The flavours were really brought to life by a unique and delicious spicy, citric sesame sauce lightly drizzled over the dish.

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At this point we ordered our first bottle of Tojo’s Choice sake. After all this was a special night so why not order sake specially distilled for this restaurant. Crisp and delicious sake was served in frozen glasses; we savoured every sip, though truth be told sips quickly became longer and deeper with each passing mouthful. Indeed, we nearly refilled our own glasses to the playful horror of Chris, who literally came running from the kitchen to intervene.

IMG_3439-EDITED.jpgNext up a delicious lightly coated, super crunchy tempura medley was set before us, with the gentle reminder that the tomato was very hot and caution was necessary.  Once cooled biting into that tomato created a gushing volcano of rich tomato juice. Absolutely delicious!  Next, the barely cooked wonderfully crunchy okra. Not only was this tasty, it was probably the most unique serving of okra we’ve ever had. Fresh, full of flavour, amazing crisp texture and not a hint of the gooeyness you can sometimes encounter with cooked okra. But as good as the tomato and okra were, the unchallenged star was the mini zucchini stuffed with creamy ling cod and scallop.  We love ling cod but have never encountered it cooked with this amazing creamy, yet firm texture.  Biting into this was one of those moments when you realize that the people creating this food had mastered their craft and don’t even get us started on the flavour pairing with the scallop – off the hook!

 


IMG_3441-INPROCESS-EDITED.jpgThe next dish took us back to a sashimi theme. While we were in the same theme, the storyline was different this time.  A variety of tastes from the sea filled our plate: extraordinarily tender octopus and squid, sweet crab and rich, house-made smoked salmon.  The accompaniments allowed for an exploration of flavour combinations with matchstick thin daikon, asian pear, vibrant shiso leaf,  edamame, and a citric wasabi sauce. This medley of flavours delighted the palate in any combination we tried.  The hardest thing about eating this dish knowing that it would come to an end and we couldn’t decide which delightful mouthful should be savoured last.


Our “Christmas Present” from the kitchen arrived in the form of a bowl wrapped beautifully in parchment paper, a bow tie of wicker, and a decoration of pine needles (the lime placed delicately on top of the parchment was more than just visual appeal).  When we unwrapped our gift, the delightful aroma of the broth wafted up and set our saliva glands into overdrive.   Sable fish (also known as black cod) is one of our favourite fish, and this was gently smoked to perfection.  The combination of the firm yet silky, delicately flavoured fish with the rich aromatic broth was magical.  Nestled inside the fish was an asparagus spear, and a bit of   burdock root – another favourite ingredient. It’s earthy flavours and crispy chewy texture gave this an autumn warmth that was most appropriate.  Best part of all, we were encouraged to pick up the bowl and slurp every last drop of broth, which we wanted to do and were willing to risk being seen as gauche.  In hindsight this was the best dish of the entire meal –  primus inter pares (first among equals).

sablefish.jpg


Next came a dish that looked so unique and inviting that before we realized what had happened we had eaten the whole thing without taking a photo. An impossibly thin egg crepe embraced a filling of dungeness crab, spot prawns, salmon, topped with a gorgeous deep burgundy, very small roe (we honestly don’t know of what, but it was delicious).  We have long heard the west coast raving of spot prawn, and this was our first encounter – and it lived up to its billing.  Sweet, firm, silky texture, with a natural sweetness. The texture was a great contrast to the somewhat firmer moist crab, while the sweetness of both combined melodiously with the earthy and oily salmon. This dish was magical, hence its disappearing act!


No omakase would be complete without a nigiri plate, and when this one arrived we knew we were in for a treat.  The beautiful layout of Japanese scallop, silvery sardine, blue fin tuna, ocean pike, and ocean unagi deserved a moment of admiration before we could dig in. Beneath each piece was a splendid lightly packed silky rice, and a freshly grated pat of wasabi (except under the ocean unagi).  All of the portions were tasty, but at least for one of us, the most surprising was how delicious the sardine was.  Not normally a favourite we could have eaten a plate of them. Similarly the blue fin was exquisite compared to all others we have had.  The fat was so finely marbled through, it didn’t give the sense of eating a very fatty piece of fish, rather it exploded with juicy, mouth-filling richness that invited us to eat slowly and savour.

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IMG_3445-EDITED.jpgWho hasn’t seen a rainbow roll dish at their neighbourhood sushi joint?  We were most excited to be presented with the haute cuisine version of this everyday favourite.  Thinly sliced and delicately placed salmon, snapper and tuna accented with another version of impossibly thin egg crepe, cast its rainbow colours over a warm filling of bbq eel.  The whole thing was enlivened with the addition of the complex tasting cinnamon-basil-spearmint flavour combination that is shiso leaf. No need for soy on this flavourful dish. To be honest we were feeling quite stuffed by the time this arrived, but we soldiered through and ate the whole thing!


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And in spite of being stuffed, we couldn’t resist saying “Yes!” when asked: “Would you like a sweet?”  After enjoying such delightful creations for almost two hours we were most curious to see what the kitchen would come up with for dessert. We weren’t disappointed when a small ramekin arrived bearing a light and exquisite flavour and texture combination.  Tojo’s take on creme brûlée involved the obligatory custard, but rather than topping that with a hard sugar glaze this was bathed in a light syrup and topped with a fresh strawberry and finely chopped mango. A delicious, crispy, toasted sesame cookie, broken up and sprinkled over the creamy custard, provided the crunchy texture normally associated with creme brûlée. It was a simple but delicious end to a decadent meal.

And now, for those who have stuck with us ’til the end, it’s time for the big reveal! One of the main reasons we’ve long wanted to go to Tojo’s was to see if it is as good as our long time favourite sushi resto – Sushi Kaji in Toronto. The verdict? A dead heat. Tojo and Kaji are two masters with different styles at the top of their game. We highly recommend both and dare anyone to declare an outright winner.

Next step: back to Sushi Kaji to refresh our memory and share our adventure with you!

Tojo’s Restaurant
tojos.com

Yelp

Trip Advisor

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Posted by: Food Lover | November 30, 2014

Unleashing the Primal Carnivore

Zakopane, a mountain town in southern Poland, is an easy place to work up a prodigious appetite. After a long day of hiking the ancient mountains one wanders into the quaint touristy mountain town absolutely ravenous.  Conveniently our walk into town took us by a traditional fire grill – Owczarnia – the smell of which wafted up the road leading us inevitably to an outside table. Of course before sitting down we had to ogle the vast array of grilled meats, all the while taking in the smell of fire smoke and the sounds of a busy kitchen.

cooking meats

We started the meal with an order of wild mushrooms in mushroom gravy and a “side” of bacon. The mushroom dish was the first to arrive, and on first glance it was not at all appetizing. However, once we dug in it was absolutely delicious. The umami of the dish punched right through flooding our senses with the wonderful earthiness of the freshly foraged mushrooms.

brown mushrooms

On the menu the description read as “a large chunk of bacon”.  Fire cooked bacon?? How could we say no??!! HOW??!! Two thick slabs of bacon arrived at the table, their fire licked scent dancing around everyone at the table. It was beautiful, smokey, lightly charred, juicy. Just look at it! God we miss this dish. It’s one of those rare moments when a food implants itself into your memory, flashbacks of its awesomeness becoming a source of foodie daydreams.

bacon slab

Little did we know, we had not yet met our match. Next to arrive were our mains. First – the golonka. Golonka is a traditional food in both Poland and Germany. It is made from either pig knuckle or pig hock, in this case it was a massive pig knuckle. We’d never even heard of it cooked over a fire, and the way it looked at the grill made our mouths explode in salivating desire. This thing was Jurassic, indeed it called out our inner neanderthal, we could only grunt with delight while eating what we could… which was much less than half! Everyone at the table ended up picking at this massive chunk of meat. The crackling was the most memorable of all, an intense crunch hit our bliss point with every bite. Simply put, this joint could have fed all four people at the table. Even shared there was still another meat feast left over – just ridiculous (in the best way possible).

golonka

Then the ribs arrived, to delighted laughs of disbelief.  WILLLLLLMMAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!! Yes, it was like living a real life Bedrock. Only Fred Flinstone could actually FINISH a rack of ribs this big! Just perfectly grilled, tender, juicy and accompanied by local potatoes roasted then finished in a deep fry. Yes, a deep fry. Glorious!

ribs

This was the most memorable feast of meat we’ve ever had in our lives.  The taste of meat lovingly grilled over fire brought back a distant pleasure – perhaps it resonated because of our childhood camping adventures, perhaps it reached into something even deeper, something primal.   If you find yourself hiking near Zakopane, don’t let yourself miss this treasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Food Lover | November 10, 2014

Aletier Amaro: The Art Of Food

We were in Warsaw in July for a few nights at the end of a 2 1/2 week vacation in Poland. Having experienced many incredible meals during the trip we wanted to end with a BANG with something truly gob-smacking. It just so happened a magazine in our hotel room mentioned that Warsaw had gotten its first Michelin star restaurant. We asked the concierge if it were possible to get in on short notice; she laughed and said, “They’re booking into November. I can call and ask, and they’ll laugh, and I’ll laugh with them.” This was of course said in good humour and we asked her to indulge us anyway. That evening we got the incredible news that a reservation had cancelled at Aletier Amaro and we had a reservation for the next night.

The restaurant is situated in a beautiful park in the heart of Warsaw near the historic royal family’s palace grounds. We were greeted by the maitre d’ and shown to our table. We knew we were in for a special evening when we asked our host if it was alright to take pictures for our food blog – we’re always careful never to take pictures at a finer establishment without permission. Not only was he happy to grant permission he invited us to tour the kitchen and meet the chef when we were finished our meal. More on that later!

The food had a consistent theme of fresh seasonal ingredients and edible flowers, which was quite special. In addition we chose the menu with spirit pairings for each dish. Thank goodness we cabbed it! The meal began with three amuse bouche each one bold and beautiful. Of particular note was a potato “chip” so thin it seemed to split the atom. Served with fermented garlic paste and potato vodka gel. An amazing act of food chemistry, this “chip” was like nothing we’ve ever had before. It was exquisite!

potato chip

The next two were just as fascinating:

 

slated cucumber

Salted cucumber with watercress and flowers. The fresh tastes of spring!

 

 

chocolate dirt
Nasturtium flowers with marinated cherry, in chocolate “dirt” – the best part about the chocolate is that it was just barely sweetened, letting the cacao really come through.

Before the first course arrived they brought a fascinating selection of breads: the black one is made using hay ash, which you could taste distinctly in a surprisingly pleasant way; caraway seed croissant; sour dough, and white bread. Pretty impressive was the hot pebbles at the bottom of the burlap bag, which kept our bread warm for quite some time!

bread

The first course gave us another insight into how amazing this dinner was going to be. It was a buttery piece of foie gras served with tomato, verbena flower all in an extraordinarily delicate flavourful apple and rosemary consomme. This came with liqueur made from miniature plum brought from Kazakhstan, unadulterated before fermentation.

rosemarry consume

Next came a beautiful plate of broad kidney bean and the leaf of a flower, with rabbit skin beneath that was hard to see because it is coated in a broad bean sauce. This was complimented by a lavender and chèvre powder. The spirit served with this dish was a sea buckthorn, which is a berry that favours post glacial sandy conditions. It comes from the Baltic region near the German border. The sea buckthorn is harvested during the first frost. First the sea buckthorn is macerated for 4 years, then fermented in glass containers so the flavour is untouched by other elements. In the summer it is placed in the sun to allow it to slowly and gently caramelize.

rabbit skin

Next came a dish that can only be described as sashimi/not-sashimi. It was trout marinated in salt and sugar and cooked at 36 degrees for 20min. The texture of the trout is hard to describe. While it looked raw – like sashimi – the texture leaned away from an uncooked fish. Add to that the penetration of the marinade flavours and you had a truly special dish. The trout was paired with a green pea flower, green pea leaves and puree as well as a sorbet of elderflower and beet root to complement. The dish was served with Golden Rose Liquor, made of macerated golden roses in alcohol.

trout

Next up a salted cucumber consomme with cucumber flower, and a bit of cucumber as well as a raw egg yolk. What made this dish particularly fascinating was what happened when you broke the yolk and mixed it into the consomme. The consistency changed completely and became more like a silky, soft, thin pudding. This was served with a late harvest wheat spirit.

cucumber consume

To break up the meal we were treated to a truly unique palate cleanser. It was a green tea sorbet served with “dirt” – the same bitter chocolate cocao powder that we had as part of an amuse bouche earlier. The presentation was like a little sculpture, making the food into two mushrooms. Really beautiful – was almost a shame to eat it, but we did anyway!

sorbet

The next dish was the highlight of the meal – up to this point. We were both surprised how delicious zucchini and zucchini flower could be! The tart frozen raspberry caviar was a splendid flavour and texture, smoothed out nicely by goat cheese with some rosemary to add a savoury flavour. Truly marvelous and eye-opening. This was served with our favourite liqueur of the evening, Staripolska. It has strong notes of plum, honey, hazelnut and spices. We loved it so much we hunted down a few bottles and took them back home with us.

zucchini flower salad

When the baked turbot arrived served with young sunflower seeds, we admit to being a bit skeptical. Then we tasted it and our jaws dropped! The match of sunflower seeds with the turbot, complimented by roasted pepper, edible flowers and dill was an exquisite harmony of flavour. Served with a new potato vodka, where each vintage comes from a single farmer’s field, harvested in June. Each batch provides a very unique flavour.

turbot

Here’s a revelation we’ll never forget: freeze dried strawberries (with intense flavour and crunchy) covered in mustard powder. That right there is what makes a great chef, and humbles us every time. Oh yeah, and there was also a delicious perfectly spiced piece of venison on the plate as well, laying on top of buckwheat in caramelized buttermilk. Did you know you can caramelize buttermilk? We didn’t! Finished with delicious freshly foraged chanterelle mushrooms and a sunflower seed purée (these guys love their sunflower seeds) this dish displaced the zucchini dish as the highlight of the meal. It was served with Krzeska herbal vodka, but to be truthful this was one course that was so good we hardly paid heed to the spirit.

venison

 

Celeriac chip
Celeriac chip with chanterelle purée and bone marrow was served as a last savoury flavour before moving on to dessert. We love all things celeriac, mostly because it’s amazing what real chefs can do with anything celery – which in the hands of us mortals is otherwise a pretty uninteresting food.

poppy seed sorbet
Our palate cleanser: Poppy Flower Sorbet with Apple and Pine Jelly

And now on to what was, and remains, the most daring and unusual dessert we’ve ever encountered. In fact, the chef described it as “controversial”, inspiring either love or hate upon first taste. It’s one of those dishes that you really have to taste – it’s almost impossible to describe the flavour experiment that’s going on. We did love this dish, but even as we ate it we really had to ponder and process what was happening on our taste buds. How can we like something that’s confusing us this much? It’s important to mention that one of us normally HATES eggplant and yet, here was an eggplant dessert that was pleasant. The eggplant was served in the bitter-sweet cacao powder, sitting amongst plain yoghurt, with freeze dried wild strawberries and marjoram. We had to applaud the chef – inventive? yes! bold? yes! ballsy? absolutely! This will be one dish we’ll likely remember for the rest of our lives.

eggplant dessert

It was a meal very much worthy of a Michelin Star restaurant, at the end of which the maitre d’ made good his promise and took us downstairs to meet the head chef and the sous chef. We chatted about the meal and they were genuinely interested in hearing our opinion, especially about dessert! LOL We weren’t surprised to hear it was controversial, and they were both very pleased that we enjoyed it so much.

An amazing evening, after which we were most grateful that Warsaw’s taxis are prompt and inexpensive!

 

ATELIER AMARO
ul. Agrykola 1
Warsaw, Poland
 
WEBSITE
http://atelieramaro.pl/
 
ON TRIP ADVISOR
http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Restaurant_Review-g274856-d2697599-Reviews-Atelier_Amaro_Restaurant-Warsaw_Mazovia_Province_Central_Poland.html
 
YELP:
http://www.yelp.ca/biz/atelier-amaro-warszawa
Posted by: Food Lover | November 3, 2014

Truth in False Advertising

sandwich board

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