Monday, March 21, 2011

Food Trends: "Pasta Water with Parmesan Foam"

In the past week, there has been three mentions of pasta water; TheKitchn, the first episode of Foodies, and a review of Modernist Cuisine in the New York Times. 

The Kitchn posting was about what to do with leftover pasta water.  There were some admirable answers including cook more pasta, use for thickening and so on.  One person reference Foodies, a new web serial about a bunch of Foodies in California who host a dinner club every week.  There is a love story, ex-boyfriend, goofy overwrought foodies and in the first episode a special hazing dish -- Pasta Water with Parmesan Foam.  It has a hint of nutmeg in it.  Watch the episode, a little draggy in parts but this is the setup episode for the rest of the series.

Finally, I wondered if the Foodies bit was inspired by Nathan Myhrvold's behemoth of a cookbook, Modernist Cuisine.  In the picture linked above, there is an inside out soup with noodles.  Okay, this link may be a stretch but it seemed like a fit in that the outside broth in placed inside a bubble and served with noodles like a pasta.  The broth becomes the object and not the noodles--pasta water as far as I am concerned.

But where is the trend... 

These three point to a root to leaf type of cooking that seems to becoming more clear to me.  Taking throwaways and making them delicious.  Might be a stretch but my prediction is that we will see more of these interesting concoctions showing up in restaurants near you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shop Review: Knead Bakery

Knead Bakery has been operating in the Kingston Road/Beaches area for about a year now.  The bread was available in the nearby meat shop while desserts were often found at the video shop around the corner.  Walking along Kingston Road last summer, it wasn't uncommon to smell the fresh baking bread but not being able to spot exactly where it was all happening above the butcher.

Now, they are much easier to locate on Scarborough Road around the corner.  The baker has finally set up shop with a select number of breads including a Fife Sourdough loaf.  The bread is the star of this shop in a good price range.  ($4-5 at the time of this blog).  It rivals Thuet and Brick Street for its flavour.  While it isn't made from a century plus mother, the sourdough starter is pleasantly tart with a good crumb. 

There are other goods such as muffins and a really decent butter tart if you go for harder top with crystallized sugar and gooey center but really the Sourdough is where it is at.  Is it a destination bakery?  Not yet but I am keeping my eye and hopes with this bakery, there is love in those loaves.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: The Fruit Hunters

The Fruit Hunters, written by Montrealer Adam Leith Gollner, had a lot to offer me as a reader and a person of food loving habits.  This book is separated into four sections: nature, adventure, commerce and obsession; it says so right on the cover.  Each of the sections has four chapters loosely following a narrative that follows the writer through the various phases of his becoming a fruit obsessive.

I was a little worried that this book would be some catalogue of unknown fruits or some travelogue raving foodie getting their trips paid for writing purple prose but I was wrong.  Of course, some of these elements are there but I was really surprised by the compactness of this book's information.  It was like reading Marshall McLuhan where you could unpack some of thoughts for a long time.  Throw away comments about United Fruit Company or the cashew nut and why we never find it really raw sent me to check the google.  So aside from the short reading time of two hours, it has caused me to lose serious hours looking for things like a picture of the coco-de-mer and many other oddities.

By the last quarter of the book, I was feeling in a sorrowful state around the corruption of the fruit business, the fate of most of the wild fruits and just what this all meant.  I have read enough about our food sources to know that fruit wasn't alone in the commodification and creation of a monoculture based on shipping food inefficiently all over the world for little gain but Gollner suggests a few bright spots.

1.  Food scientists and fruit growers are working on food that will not only last long, look lovely but taste great.  The pluot is used as this example.
2.  Seed arks may allow us to find older more robust species that will be able to be brought back with great results or help with crossbreeding new variants.  The banana crisis is used to illustrate this.
3.  There are many species in the backyards of everyone including North Americans, forgotten fruit that may show promise away from these mass market creations.  Local and sustainable may be available for fruit if we just know where to look.  Think about pawpaws...That is what I am going to look out for this year as a project.

Anyways, all said, this was a great read and has kept me up at night.  I say to go ahead and find it.  I got my copy at Book City in hardback on one of the remainders shelf.  I will be putting it in our street's annual street sale but I will remember it for a long time.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Coffee Lime Controversy

BlogTO had an interesting post in February about the Coffee Time clones in Toronto. (  It was an entertaining post that commented on a great set of photos of Coffee Time restaurants that had changed their names or copied the franchise.  Before blogs, friends and I dawntreading often commented on these great repurposing of these ``restaurants``.  Many of these establishments added ethnic goods according to the owner-- samosas, latkes and the like.  These offerings were often homemade and the closest thing to urban street food that Toronto has.

Even though the franchise rights for Coffee time are comparatively inexpensivewere, we surmised that the benefits were too low while the requirements of the franchise caused the owner/operators too much trouble.  It was great to see creativity and interesting food in this type of subversive environment.  This is the feeling that I got from this post along with the original post at

But then I read the comments... 

I am a coffee snob.  Stumptown, Intelligentsia, 49th Parallel... and so on.  The comments read like a litany of Starbuckers complaining in their lattes about the existence of something other than what they perceive as good coffee and good patrons.  Now, some of my best friends are those that drink coffee flavoured milk beverages but they would not remain my friends if they insisted that they were morally superior for being able to afford and affirm their good fortune while demanding that these lesser beings and shops do not need to exist.

I go to Coffee Time/Lime/Coffee Coffee/ etc. on occasion for a variety of reasons.  Firstly, it is open 24hrs, and it is relaxed.  A student can nurse a coffee and finish an assignment sitting next to a young mother and a local retiree.  Sure, there are the oddities and messiness of all humanity here. Yes the coffee is horrible but it is cheap and caffeinated.  Even now that I can afford  good coffee, I would rather people watch at Coffee Time than almost any other chain coffee store.

The Coffee clones are located in the best places in this city and they are a nexus of low and high culture where there is neither homogeniety in food served nor in clientele being served.  I am not sure how this is a bad thing.

Besides, let`s get away from our pretentions for a second, most people cannot taste the difference in coffees.  Most people who like dark city roasts wouldn't be able to taste the difference.  Put Starbucks in a Coffee Time cup and I believe that many would believe that this was bad coffee.  In Starbucks, you are buying the roast and not tasting any bean.   That is fine but don`t look down on people who do not have the money to buy a four dollar cuppa milk.

The whole point of the original article was the ripoff and not the supposed inferiority of Coffee Time.  I don`t suppose that Starbucks will ever suffer the same fate.  Especially if they can keep their lawyers war chest full with booty from brats with laptops.  It is telling that there are more Coffee Time ripoffs than Starbucks ripoffs... and that should tell you something.