Saturday, April 21, 2012

Almond Board of California shows us almonds are more flexible than you might think!

Saturday, April 21, 2012
I'm already a big fan of almonds. No one had to convince me they are delicious and nutritious! But I did learn they are more flexible than one might think when the Almond Board of California came to town to share unique recipe ideas and showcase sweet/savoury almonds.


 A few fun facts:
  •  California is responsible for 80% of the world's almond production. 
  •  Oddly enough I was watching a documentary a couple weeks ago about bee colonies collapsing - it remains to be seen how this will affect almond tree pollination since they rely so heavily on bees to spread almond-y goodness! The bees actually are brought in, on a truck by a special company, to pollinate the trees.
  •  Of all tree nuts, almonds have the most protein and dietary fibre - check out this nutrient comparison chart to see nutrition information for various types of tree nuts.
  • In 100 AD, the Romans were said to have showered newlyweds with almonds as a fertility charm.
  • In Sweden, citizens have a tradition of hiding an almond in rice pudding as a symbol of good fortune, and the person who finds the almond is said to get married in the coming year.
  • The almond tree made its way to the United States in the mid-1700s when Franciscan Padres traveled to California from Spain.
  • Almond oil is a great substitute for virgin olive oil, and can provide dishes with its signature light and nutty flavour.
We had some great savoury almonds at the almond bar pictured above, like asiago cheese almonds (yum), as well as sweet ones like toffee- and chocolate-coated almonds and yogurt-coated almonds.

My favourite foods of the night were Chef Anthony Rose's lemon-y halibut dish accompanied with quinoa, almonds and spring veggies (click here for recipe) and Pastry Chef Jenny McCoy's Almond Milk Panna Cotta with Almond Praline and preserves (click here for recipe). I'm not generally an enormous panna cotta fan but THIS ONE ROCKED! Best I've tasted for sure.

Almonds are so versatile - you could encrust meat with them, you could add them into your veggie side dish (and I'm not just talking about green beans almondine) and you can even make alcoholic drinks with products like almond milk, as mixologist Michael Biancaniello of the Roosevelt Hotel in Los Angeles did with his Lost in Laos drink (click here for recipe). He also experimented with a digestif using almond oil.

Make sure you guys are getting your handful of almonds per day!

Yours in food,

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Jacobs and Co. Steakhouse

Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Jacobs & Co. Steakhouse is regarded as one of the best places to get a steak in Toronto. Steak still sits atop the food pyramid of most people as a decadent treat, which is ironic given that conceptually, all it is a grilled piece of meat. However, it is in that simplicity that elegance emanates. For not only does a great steak have to be cooked perfectly with that red juicy centre, ringed by a thin layer of pinkish gray, and mildly crusted with crispy, flavour-enhancing char, it must also be sufficiently marbled with the right distribution of succulent fat, and aged to perfection.

Going out for steak is as much about the steak as going out for coffee is about coffee. Of course the meat is key, but it's also about the whole experience of professional service by knowledgable staff, appetizers that presage the main attraction to come, and thoughtful desserts to cap off the meal. Exquisite wine is of course a fait accompli.

The staff at Jacobs is indeed knowledgable. Our server went through the various kinds of meat on the menu and explained to us the nuances of each. We learned that Canadian Prime is grass-fed whereas the American USDA offerings from Nebraska are corn-fed. Grass imparts more complex and subtle flavours, but corn tends to exude that creamier mouth feel that one expects from your archetypal slab of beef.

Canadian cows tend to be the Hereford variety while the American cows are Black Angus, and the Wagyu meat comes from Australia. Canadian Prime from Alberta tends to be found only in better steakhouses, at least here in Ontario, due to the lower volume, unlike their more prevalent American counterparts. Ontario Prime is even rarer.

The steaks are aged from 38-46 days on premises in a glass room at the back of the dining room. We were told that the we were looking at probably $100,000 worth of meat as we peered through the glass. The process of aging was also explained to us where an enzyme called protease which naturally occurs in the meat, breaks down the long-chain proteins giving that distinctive tenderness and texture associated with high-end steaks.


One of the main reasons we chose to go to Jacobs was oddly enough their famous tableside Caesar Salad. In an entertaining and educational display reminiscent of Mad Men, we got to watch as a Caesar Salad was made from scratch starting with anchovies, Worcestershire, and Tabasco. The longest and most important part of the process was emulsifying the extra virgin olive oil with an egg yolk and red wine vinegar. We found it interesting how important the order of when in the process the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the croutons, or the lemon juice was added. The salad was topped with large chunks of delicious smoked bacon. That was probably the best salad I've ever had.

Video: How they make a Caesar Salad tableside at Jacobs

For our main course we had the 16-ounce bone-in Wagyu Striploin. Our server mentioned that the size of the steak made it ideal for sharing, and that a bone-in cut had more flavour than a cut without the bone. Our 38 day aged Wagyu came to the table medium-rare, fabulously marbled, and pre-sliced à la Peter Luger. It was accompanied by 3 different sauces (blue cheese, chimichurri, and ponzu), and 3 different finishing salts (fleur de sel, smoked, and black volcanic).

That was easily one of the best tasting steaks in town. The Wagyu's marbling combined with the dry aging made in exquisitely tender and tasty. We liked it with the chimichurri sauce best, and the smoked salt was our favourite among the the finishing salts.


We had sautéed mixed mushrooms on the side, as well as the best spud I've had in a steakhouse, a baked potato stuffed with Wagyu brisket and Quebec cheese.


For dessert we had flourless chocolate cake with espresso ice cream and candied hazelnuts. I usually find flourless cakes a little on the bland side, but this cake was exceptional. The cool creaminess of the ice cream and sweet crunch of the awesome nuts balanced the textures quite nicely. We also had the house churned ice cream and sorbet. You can choose 3 flavours, and we picked pistachio, chocolate, and blueberry sorbet. The blueberry was fresh, sweet, and very concentrated. It lit up our mouthes like a Christmas tree. We even had to ask the waiter where it was from just incase it was available off premises. Sadly it was indeed made in-house and wasn't available retail.





That was a great dinner and definitely a must-visit for steak lovers. Although we could see ourselves coming back for the tableside Caesar salad and the delicious desserts, perhaps with a less decadent cut of meat. Now how many steak places can you say that about?

Jacob's Steakhouse
12 Brant Street Toronto, ON M5V 2M1
(416) 366-0200

Posted by: Mark Rodas

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gluten-free Gourmet B1tches

Sunday, April 8, 2012
Gourmet B1tches is the latest food truck to (possibly) roll out onto the streets of Toronto. Right now I hear it's mostly focused on private parties/events/catering, but is working to get a licence to hit the streets, at which time you'll see the sleek black and purple truck in your 'hood selling gluten-free bites on the go.


We went to the launch party recently, so we'll give you the run-down: both Mark and I agreed the best item was the Balinese chicken on a corn tostada. We have to admit that we found the other items in need of a little bit of work - just a detail here or there to fix - but feedback cards were provided, which we made use of, and continuous improvement is a good thing. I was impressed with their desire to find out what we thought about each dish.

With feedback from the folks who were at the event, I think they'll sharpen up the details. And, on a more general note, I say the more options out there, the better, so that everyone can enjoy the food truck craze (including those who can't have gluten). They also have salads and ceviche, which are not always easy to find at food trucks, so if healthier options are what you're looking for then you've just found your best bet on four wheels.

Yours in food,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Parts and Labour Catering

Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Parts & Labour officially launched its catering business at The Hoxton, on April 4.


Parts & Labour - Teaser from Brought To You By ... on Vimeo.