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June, 2010:

Pickled Sardines

One thing that separates those truly passionate about food from the mere eaters is that when we are planning what to make I think we’re more likely to ask “what have I wanted to try (eating or making) but not gotten around to yet?” rather than just “what do I feel like eating?”  I have made a low-level resolution to try and make more of the recipes from Fergus Henderson’s The Whole Beast.  A good place to pickup seemed like his recipe for pickled herring–a dish that some members of my family swear is a delicacy but which has always made me a little queasy.

The world’s great cities for seafood like Tokyo, New York, Sydney, and San Francisco are all are obviously on or near the ocean and have huge (and sometimes tourist-worthy) fish markets.  Granted Toronto is something like fourteen hundred kilometers from Saint John–the nearest coastal city of note if we don’t count Quebec City and their port but small fishery–but must we really drive to mid-Scarborough to find decent seafood?  I have had decent but overpriced experiences at the St. Lawrence Market (specifically the last purveyor on the right when walking south down the main aisle) and Corey Mintz recommends New Seaway in Kensington but Diana’s on Lawrence east of Warden (google map) has often been highly recommended. (more…)

Porky Pop

During our tour of Stratford a few weekends ago we spent some time at Chocolate Barr’s learning to make caramel corn with nuts, or nutty pop.  As well as cajoling us into stirring his cauldron while wearing embarrassing hairnets Derek Barr, one of the shop’s proprietors, demonstrated his recipe for this confection that he describes as caramel corn with a college education.

Derek notes–somewhat accurately–that everyone and his brother is throwing bacon into their recipes.  Well, I submit that food can be delicious without being original.  Unsurprisingly, I have adapted his recipe (that he was kind enough to send each of us home with) to include nuggets of bacon.

There’s a distressing trend that calls for bacon to be crispy (usually meaning over-cooked) and in very small pieces when it is added to baked goods and candy.  I want the opposite.  I want chunks that are still a little chewy with some un-rendered fat. This way when the crunch of the nuts and popcorn and the sweetness of the caramel have faded we’re left to contemplate bacon’s salty, smokey savour. (more…)

June Garden Update

May was probably drier than is strictly optimal for my vegetable garden but June has brought even hotter temperatures (particularly warm nighttime temperatures) and a more optimal amount of rain.

In my vegetable garden at the cottage I have even been lucky with weeds.  I learned to identify the edible lambs’ quarters and the runner up for most prevalent “weed” is an unruly (though fragrant) crop of dill.  My selection of vegetables has also been fortuitous because I have temporarily abandoned spinach and radishes–both lovers of cool weather–for more beans, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Witkiem beans with their black spotted, white flowers

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Parts & Labour Media Launch

In an interesting twist on the gentrification theme the Home Hardware at 1566 Queen St. West has been sold and the space converted into a bar, restaurant, event space combination called Parts & Labour.  It’s interesting (to me) because a hallmark of a neighbourhood I would like to live in is a centrally-located hardware store.  Also, it follows logically that when industrial spaces are made over into condos the new residents need a place to outfit their homes with lights and such but that is beside the point.

Thanks to an invitation from Tat Read of Knot PR I had the opportunity to attend the media launch party at Queen Street’s newest hopeful hot spot.  The packed event was fueled by a supply of cocktails that featured vodka, lime, sugar, and more vodka.

The miniature pulled pork sandwiches

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Boar Cheeks Confit

In Paris champagne is cheaper than Coke; mozzarella di buffala is, in Italy, only slightly more expensive than what we pay for its pale imitator; and closer to home lobster can be bought from a Nova Scotia fisherman for pocket change.  (Or so travel agents would like us to believe.) The rational half of my brain knows that these delicacies are relatively expensive here for reasons like the costs of transporting perishable food, trade barriers, and even drier concepts like the forces of supply and demand. The gluttonous (and greedy) half of my brain is still forced to wonder what local, dirt-cheap specialties are available to those of us in southern Ontario.

I think I may have found the answer but first, a bit of context.  Two Saturdays ago I was in Stratford on a sort of whirlwind culinary tour and had the pleasure of sitting across from Fred de Martines of Perth Pork Products during an amazing lunch cooked by chef Neil Baxter of Rundles.  We’d stopped at Fred’s pig farm before lunch and were bragging to each other about what we had managed to snag from Fred’s freezer.  Joel (of communityfoodist.com and @foodie411 on Twitter) had spotted a package of wild boar cheeks and generously offered to split it with me.  On hearing that we had bought these, Fred grumbled that he usually saves the cheeks for himself and that one of his daughters must have put them in the freezer case by mistake. (more…)