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December, 2010:

Holiday Eating Schedule

Guilty Men Sauvignon Blanc from Malivoire

Whether your menu is a mainstream one and you roast a turkey or something more esoteric and you choose goose what you make for Christmas dinner is done with consideration to what you ate last Christmas and for forty or so before it.  None of us think about we ate that day a year before when we decide what to have for dinner on September 23rd, for instance.  There was a time two or three centuries ago when, for those who were rich enough to choose what they ate or particularly religious, the calendar was packed with saints’ days and festivals with predetermined menus but now Christmas Day is one of few exceptions.

I wasn’t raised Catholic but we have adopted the tradition of eating seafood on Christmas Eve.  Whether it comes in the form of risotto, a fish stew like cioppino, or this year’s delicious paella we get a welcome counterpoint to the heavier meals that follow.    Traditions are less rigid for the 24th but there are still expectations for fairly Western flavours so anything further from the beaten path has to be served another day. (more…)

Points of Comparison

It’s pretty easy to identify the top and bottom restaurant in a particular group of ten but how do we distinguish between the rest?  What are the controls and the markers?  An easy, though not very accurate measure, is to only consider one dish that they all have in common.  In my younger, innocent days that was my dedicated modus operandi.

At first it was Caesar salad.  I ate every combination of romaine lettuce, bacon, croutons, and dressing I could get my hands on.  It being the late nineties –also therein lies my defense, I was seventeen or so–that was an easy task to accomplish.  Also in my defense there are few salads as savoury as Caesar’s combination of  parmesan cheese, bacon, and worcestershire sauce and let’s not forget that when properly prepared this salad has the stones to include raw egg.  I was also really into the adult control that could be had in directing exactly how much black pepper I wanted dispensed from those giant grinders. (more…)

Book Review: French Food My Way

The crowded world of cookbooks has seen a wave of celebrity chefs added to the list of cookbook authors and Toronto’s members of the firmament are busily releasing their contributions.  I was happy to get the opportunity to cook from a review copy of Chef Marc Thuet’s French Food My Way(Penguin). Chef Thuet is well-known for his King West restaurant, chain of Petite Thuets, and his television show Conviction Kitchen.

Because there are so many options I definitely think if we’re going to make good use of our cookbooks we need to be selective.  Consider whether a particular book does a very good job of filling one of two roles: either as a very broad (usually large) collection of recipes that offer well-researched and tested techniques for fairly common recipes; or a guide for a specific, often luxury (or at least special occasion) form of cooking.  Most cookbooks that fail do so because they aim between these two targets.  With the seasonal organisation, specific menus for holiday meals and direct references to the well-regarded restaurants he has cooked in Marc Thuet does a good job of placing French Food My Way into the category of specialised cookbooks. (more…)