Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Store Review: Bonne Journee

This new store is another addition that is starting to fill in the row between Coxwell and Greenwood along Queen Street East. It joins Sausage Partners, Queen Margherita, Rakia, The Film Buff serving ice cream and the Sunday farmer's market as a growing local food destination. That may be stretching it but for the longest time there was not much in the area.

So, a boulangerie opens. Boulangerie is basically a baker that does not specialize in fine pastry. It is often contrasted with patisserie which is a fine pastry shop. There are no claims from this shop that it is a fine Parisian pastry shop. It does feel French because it is. However, it does have some of the goodies that you would expect including mille-feuille and Paris brest. I happened to show up on opening day by accident. The accident involved going for chicken at Sausage Partners but that is a digression. Sticking to the point, I entered the shop and was a little surprised to see that it was barely noon and only two types of bread remained. (Here comes a major digression).

<DIGRESS>As an aside, a friend of mine went to Glory Hole about a week ago, shortly before noon where he was greeted by a rack of four doughnuts. There was one person in front of him and a few people lined up after him. The person in front takes the last of the doughnuts and the counter person told him there were no more doughnuts. A similar thing happened to me at Paulette's where a number of different types were finished.

The problem that we have with this is that both of these places have been in business for a little while and so they should have an idea of what their daily sales will be. The second is the response is a little shrug and sorry. The third is that they seem to trade on this shortage - when they are gone, they are gone and aren't they precious? There is a slight weirdness in TO food culture where shortages are managed to create buzz. Maybe this is because these places are worried that their products would not live up to the hype? I know, a little catty but...</DIGRESS>

The server was so apologetic and stated to everyone she served that they had made a mistake on their first day and should have made more bread. She assured every one that this would NOT happen again. It may have helped that she said this with a slight french accent belying the rudeness of the French. I got a bunch of stuff and headed back home to test the tastes on the hoard.

The demi-baguette tasted fine but the crumb lacked the large bubbles that I expect. There was a pain au lait sprinkled with sugar but I felt the sugar chosen was a little too coarse. It made the bread taste more like a sweet rather than a sweetened bread. A finer sugar sprinkled less liberally would make all the difference. Fundamentally, it tasted fine.

The pastries were another thing. The flavour for all of them was quite good. It tasted as if an experienced baker had made them. A complaint could be made in the lack of refinement; some of the crusts were unevenly browned, the cut of the brest allowed the cream to fall out.  Once again, the filling and the crusts tasted like they should. It was the texture and the crunch that was oh so slightly off.

You can always tell something about the make of a place during its first few days and I can tell that the pastries will become more regular and refined with more days to come. The bread situation will result in availability. This place will survive and make good on its promises because you can see it in the servers and taste it in the food. They aren't only here to make a living, they want to please their customers. I do have the choice of going to the patisserie down the way but I think that sometimes the raw, young desire to please will win me out sometimes, especially if I am only looking for a few loaves of bread.
Bonne Journee on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 15, 2012

Book Review: Everlasting Syllabub and the Art of Carving

I have over 100 cookbooks. My wife often asks why do I need another cookbook? Don't I have enough recipes? There are few cookbooks that I need at this time for the recipes. Most recipes can be found on the internet and if you know the technique that you want to use then you can find that as well. What is not often found easily are the little serendipitous moments when looking at an array of recipes or at the particular words of an author and get that AHA! moment.

This small cookbook from the Great Food collection at Penguin written by Hannah Glasse provided a few of this interesting moments for me. It was excerpted from a book that was to teach servants to cook. Glasse goes on about how food should be simple and local. Now, with our eyes this seems like a very modern take on food but as we continue to read her introduction, we realize what her intent was. It also begins to show some of the problems that I wrestle with around locavorism.

It seems that our Hannah, being a good Brit, has a problem with the French. The French style required more; more ingredients, more flavours, and more sauces. Her views may be more anti-French than they were a celebration of local cuisine. It was slightly xenophobic and maybe even a bit protectionist. I know that this isn't quite what happens in cities and areas such as Toronto. We have a litany of interesting ingredients from different cultures being grown locally such as Mexican chilies, Chinese and other Asian greens, and island ingredients like callaloo. Still, is the growth of locavorism pushed by a slight conservative bent?

Despite the reason behind the sentiment, I tend to agree that things that are grown closer taste better. This is not because they are inherently better tasting but rather that the ingredients don't spend a long time on trucks, boats, planes or trains. They require less gilding but I am not sure that I agree with the intimation that simple food is better or that all complex preparations should be shunned.

Another interesting note is the sheer amount of different meats available. In today's modern grocery store there is only a few options whereas in her day, there was an amazing array. I have seen the stores starting to carry more options but it still is not anywhere near the many that an ordinary householder in London would get at the turn of two centuries ago. Mass production has lead us to cheaper meat through picking the meats that are the fastest growing that can be tamed. It has lead to a truism of meat all tasting like chicken. Maybe that statement should say truthyism...

Two small moments stopped me dead in my tracks to note the pages and think about the recipe. The first was a common biscuit recipe (p.62:)
Beat up six eggs, with a spoonful of rose-water and a spoonful of sack, then add a pound of fine powdered sugar, and a pound of flour; mix them into the eggs by degrees, add an ounce of coriander-seeds; mix all well together, shape them on white thin paper, or tin moulds, in any form you please. Beat the white of an egg, with a feather rub them over, and dust fine sugar over them. Set them in an oven moderately heated, till they rise and come to a good colour, take them out; and when you have done with the oven, if you have no stove to dry them in, put them in the oven again, and let them stand all night to dry.
I'm thinking that rose-water and coriander seed might make a really good cookie. I am definitely going to get my wife to do this one or maybe even attempt it myself.

The second moment is seeing a recipe for quince wine. I love quince, a relative of the rose, when it turns the lovely pink-red after being boiled in sugar and water. It has a delicate flavour that does remind me of roses and apples. I think that flavour would make an interesting ale. You would have to cook then dry the quince before adding it to the beer. Alternately, maybe there is something in a rosewater beer but I think it would require cumin or something to offset the perfume taste.

Dieu du ciel does a beer based on Hibiscus.... and that is why I have over 100 cookbooks. The good ones send you off into the great blue making all sorts of connections where there were none. I will not be buying this book. The full transcript is available on the internet. I may revisit the link from time to time when I feel as if I am getting bored with my simple cookery.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cottage Food

It may seem like a weird time to be reflecting on the summer and cottages but early fall is the perfect time. The kids have settled into school and the weekends have calmed down a little. Some days are rainy and the notion of colder days is becoming real. These are the days when I schlep around the house and almost have the chance to be bored. Naturally, boredom leads to thinking about food.

We went on two different cottage trips this year. The first was with my extended family which consists of three other families for a total of seven adults, two teens and two young ones. The second trip was just us.

It takes a lot of planning to get the large bunch of us to agree on food. Two of the families are avid foodies with two strong cooks. We have tried a variety of ways of doing these meal planning activities and they more or less work. The most telling part of the process is that each family tends to bring everything that they want to eat from the city where they are coming from. This leads to cramped fridge space and many leftovers.

Most of my extended family tend towards barbeque, potato salad and buns. Beans and smoked stuff always make an appearance. In the summer I like quick simple meals of a few salads or vegetables and just a touch of something protein like. Sometimes this is not meat and sometimes it is.

Each of our families eat slightly differently when we are at home. It is sometimes hard to get these styles to match. It is a week of compromises where meals are traded off and you sometimes eat something that you have never tried or don't like. It offers a sense of adventure that is not directed by yourself.

On the cottage trip that we took by ourselves, the meals were a little different. I looked to see what local food specialties existed and made note to try them, if we got a chance. The week was rainy so we decided to go out to the nearest town for a few meals to prevent cabin fever and to delay another inevitable and interminable UNO game. We discovered a local meat market that had buffalo tortiere, elk pepperettes and some gamey sausages. Also, we ended up finding a decent 1000 day old gouda from the area. Yes, this meant that the holiday was not all at the cottage but that was fine given the weather. If the weather was good, this type of food tourism would not have been as welcomed by the whole brood.

There is something to be said for both approaches; eating what is cooked or cooking what is found. Both offer a sense of adventure. It is nice break from the normal way that we cook and eat at home. However, I always end up feeling a little relieved to get back to my kitchen and my pantry.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Menu: 5 Beer 5 Bites @ the Only : Pumpkin Edition

I am going to have to change dessert from kumquats to clementines. The kumquats that were around four weeks ago are no longer available but clementines are just getting here. Update: Found out that the Saison isn't ready but we'll figure something out. The cost is $20 for 5 tasters of beer and the following bites. 

I am putting on a joint tasting event at the Only Cafe on Wednesday, October 24th. Here is the working menu.

Shrimp & 'Grits' with Amarillo Mole

Chicken Satay with Saus Kacung

Roasted Squash and Buckwheat Salad

Garlic and Sage Panna Cotta

Coconut and Kumquat Clementine Cheesecake

There are a going to be a total of seven pumpkin beers on tap - the other will be Nickel brook's Pie-Eyed Pumpkin Ale.