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July, 2011:

Review: Wvrst

In a world of acai berry shakes and “steamed veg on the side” it takes stones to open a beer and sausage hall like Wvrst on King West. Equally, in the world of Google, intentionally misspelling your restaurant’s name–that second letter is a v and the restaurant’s web site demands the name be pronounced “verst”–is about as useful as subbing numbers for letters. But with high praise from my brother who lives in the neighbourhood I traveled down there (and went back) to give it a shot.

The Wvrst menu of sausages and fries. Click on the image for a version that can be zoomed.

The Wvrst menu of sausages and fries. Click on the image for a version that can be zoomed.

Distilled to its important components the menu is excellently simple. Just sausages, fries, a few wines, and a lot of beer. No salad, no grilled chicken wraps, and not even onion rings.

That being said there is still a vast opportunity for a sort of masculine tuning of every order. The sausages either come on a bun (white or whole wheat) or served currywurst style in a suprisingly fragrant tomato-based sauce. With the first option they get a choice of two of the four toppings (caramelised onions are good, sauerkraut isn’t pungent enough). (more…)

Bordeaux After Work

Bordeaux After Work Party at Marben

This week the Bordeaux Wine Council and iYellow Wine Club hosted their second Bordeaux After Work event at Marben Restaurant. The first seventy-five guests received a drink ticket for a sample glass and after that glasses were $9 each.

Welcome to Marben, indeed.

Welcome to Marben, indeed.

With its kitchen team led by chefs Carl Heinrich and Ryan Donovan and its location on trendy Wellington it goes without saying that Marben is a restaurant where people-watching and serious eating coincide. (more…)

Gran Mugnaio Flour

Pizza in the oven. (Photo: Cheryl Bulpitt)

I can’t remember the last time I made a pizza with a pre-baked shell (because they taste like pizza delivery boxes) and I’m starting to make my own dough instead of buying it these days. But it does two frustrating things that keep me from making it more often. It is either not strong enough and tears; or is too strong and resists stretching by springing back partway to its original size. I have a solution but I’m afraid its from the “but a specialised product” category and not the “all you need is duct tape, a few bits of string, and some elbow grease” category.

Rob from Bigabaldi’s sent me to the Faema dealership at Christie and Dupont when I mentioned that I was looking for a particular style of pizza peel (more about this in another post) and the helpful salesperson at Faema was kind enough to give me a bag of Gran Mugnaio pizza flour to try out. In true food-from-an-Axis country style the front of the bag features a wacky character–some sort of pizza bandit chef–and the back has poorly-translated recipe directions in six different languages.

The recipe calls for 1000 g flour, 2 g yeast, 450 to 550 water, 40 g olive oil, 20 g salt. My first impressions are that that is a properly small amount of yeast (to taste the wheat rather than yeast burps) and a fairly large amount of olive oil and salt. That makes though since we’re making pizza in the Neopolitan tradition where the flavour of the crust matters as much (or more than) as the flavour of the toppings. (more…)

Cherry Pan Dowdy

The cherry pan dowdy

For whatever reason–time of day and topic are two guesses near the top of my list–some requests on Twitter get way more responses than others. When I asked for non-pie ideas of what to do with the Ontario cherries that are now in season I received a deluge of good answers.

Between the suggestions of Steve Wilson, Allison Slute, Eric Vellend, Ivy Knight, Sherry Stone, Tonya Facey, Gav Martell, Jennifer Bylok, Sarah Hood, Sheryl Kirby, and Kat Tagart my list of ideas were: Clafoutis, Cherries Jubilee, crepes, pavlova, panna cotta, black forest cake, cherry-chocolate ice cream, coffee cake, cobbler, cherry soup with slivered almonds, and cherry popsicles. It seems appropriate to save the cherries jubilee for next year and while clafoutis did receive an impressive level of support (I made a winter version here) I decided to overrule the voters and stick with one of my initial inclinations: pan dowdy.

Pan dowdy (it is just as acceptable to spell it “pandowdy” but that causes the annoying red, squiggly line to appear in my editor so I’m sticking to the two-word spelling) is a rustic dessert that is baked in a cast iron pan (versus a pie plate) and only has a top crust that is broken partway through cooking so that some of the cherry juices soak through. It’s a lot like the skillet pie that I posted about here almost two years ago. As will become obvious from reading the recipe’s steps thsi is an exceedingly rustic preparation. (more…)

Strawberry Comparison

Reading about most of the email conversations I have with PR reps would make your eyes bleed from boredom. They have a product they want bloggers to write about and because most of them are well outside the purview of this blog I politely decline. Sometimes I elaborate a bit more about why I won’t be covering the product they represent and this usually leads to a brief back-and-forth.

I had one of these more in-depth conversations with someone at Harbinger Communications who represents California Strawberries. From this I promised to compare Ontario strawberries to the ones from the golden state as soon as our came in season.

Ontario farmers have planted long-bearing strains of strawberries so that the season now extends through August and into the start of September. With more time to work with this can just be considered a first test, to be repeated more formally in the near future. I’m still working out the kinks in the methodology so don’t take any of these results as final or necessarily objective. (more…)