Thursday, June 27, 2013

Taste of Toronto Part 1

Sorry for not posting any recipes last week, but I headed out of town again to Toronto.  I hadn't been to this part of Canada before, so it was fun to see it.  Toronto is an interesting city.  But the food was the highlight of the trip.  I actually am pretty impressed with myself, as most of the time I did eat paleo...until I found a cupcake shop.  Ah well, nobody's perfect.

The Shore Club was my first stop.  This swank restaurant was located right next to the Ritz Carlton in the Entertainment District of downtown Toronto.

First up was the Amuse Bouche.  The chef sent out a ceviche of shrimp and scallops with citrus and cilantro.  The mixture of the citrus and cilantro was delicious.  You can never go wrong when you put citrus and cilantro together, as long as you are light handed with the cilantro.  The little sprig was perfect for this bite size gift from the chef that promised good things to come.  And did they ever. 

I opted for the Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio as my starter.  Perfectly rare, thin slices of beef were topped with arugula, Parmesan and a tangy Dijon peppercorn glaze.  The peppercorn was mild enough in the sauce to allow the peppery taste of the arugula shine in combination with the Parmesan.  Quite possible that this was my favorite dish of the whole trip.

The Grilled Marinated Mushrooms were another appetizer that I tried.  A perfect combination of wild mushrooms was ensconced in a lovely lemon and fresh herb sauce.  The mushrooms were cooked perfectly, seared with a caramelized exterior and a soft bite.

And finally, the Lobster Bisque was quite good.  Not the typical thick, creamy consistency that one may expect from a bisque, but the flavor was delicious, and the splash of sherry when served helped bring the flavors of the fish stock and spices together.  There were only a few little bites of lobster, so that impacted what might have been.

My main course was a Herb dusted Sea Bass with with Mixed Beans and an Ancho Chili Aoili.  The sea bass, my favorite fish hands downs, was baked perfectly.  Moist, but firm, this fish was perfectly season with salt and pepper.  The herb crust was interesting.  It didn't quite taste like herb, in fact, I could have sworn it was ground pistachio.  It didn't work well with the other flavor combinations in this dish.  Had it been a chive or tarragon crust, the dish would have been lovely.  The aioli was spiced with the right amount of ancho chili and went well with the bean salsa.

Dessert!  The Terrine of Sorbet was a wonderful way to finish this meal.  Raspberry, Lime and Mango sorbet were on top of a raspberry puree.  The flavors worked quite well together.  The sorbet was smooth, tart and sweet.  

I also had a bite of a different take on Coconut Cream Pie.  If you are expecting the overly sweet, fake coconut pudding filled pie, this is not for you.  However, if you enjoy real coconut cream and freshly toasted coconut, then this one might be perfect.  The filling was dense and surrounded by a layer of cake and topped with whip cream.  I really can't expand on this was simple and effective at imparting a delicate coconut flavor.  My only thought is that it could have been a bit sweeter, but I did appreciate the difference in this pie compared to others.

Cafe Crepe, near Chinatown, was my stop for breakfast the next morning.  I think when it comes to crepe restaurants you really need to look for one offering a variety of fillings.  Cafe Crepe specializes in Parisian style crepes, offering both sweet and savory.  Of course I had to go with both!  My savory crepe was a traditional Florentine (spinach, egg, Swiss cheese and tomato) with added Prosciutto.  The fresh spinach and tomato made this wonderful.  The crepe was thin and slightly crisp, allowing the ingredients to stay in the crepe without falling apart.  The Prosciutto was a more like a ham than the traditional dry cured Italian variety that I am used to, but it was still good.

My sweet crepe was a Dark Chocolate and Coconut, which would have worked quite well together had the coconut filling been a creme instead of shredded.  The pieces of coconut didn't go well with the soft crepe and smooth chocolate.

Lunch was at the Canyon Creek Restaurant.  This little cozy downstairs restaurant was lovely.  Dark woods and stone with local black and white photography adorning the walls made it simple but elegant.  In downtown, this restaurantt is the perfect locale for a quick business lunch.

My choice?  Grilled Salmon Salad.  Let me first start by saying that anytime a waiter starts by saying that the Chef prefers the salmon to be medium knows what they are doing.

One may think a salmon salad is simple and boring, but this variation is definitely neither.  The salmon was cooked perfectly.  The char on the exterior was lightly done, thus not overtaking the flavor of the sweet and delicate salmon.  The romaine was crisp and perfectly dressed with Miso Caesar.  But what made this salad even more unique was the addition of pickled ginger, edamame, and wasabi guacamole.  The bites of ginger combined with the dressing and guacamole made for the perfection combination of sweet and savory.

Turf Lounge.  This was a nice little restaurant/bar that draws the lucky crowd.  Or, better said, those who prefer little games of chance.  This seems to be an after work stop for those who want a drink, watch a game, and bet on a horse race of two.  I didn't bet, but I told everyone to go with the pink, who  happened to have the words odds.  No one listened, and guess who one?  Pink!  I go by color.  I do that for March Madness too and it serves me well.

Anyway, the food was very good.

I started with a Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Lemon Cream.  This was not a traditional Roasted Red Pepper.  It was a roasted dry red pepper mixed with a broth base.  This made the soup pretty spicy, but the lemon cream helped, albeit lightly, take away the strong cayenne flavor.

The main dish was a Roasted Chicken Breast with Porcini dusted Quinoa, Grilled Shitakes and a Citrus Jus.  The bone in chicken had a seared, crisp and well seasoned skin and the meat was moist. The grilled shitakes really accented this dish quite well, and the quinoa was nicely cooked, without being too moist, and had a light mushroom flavor from being cooked in porcini broth.  I really enjoyed the addition of the citrus jus in this dish.  It lighted the earthly flavor of the mushrooms and accented the simple roasted root vegetables perfectly.

My dessert choice was a Lemon Tart.  I love, love, love lemon and am always on the hunt for the perfect lemon dish.  This was high on my list.  The tart lemon curd was smooth and creamy.  It held well in the shortbread base.  Very rarely do I find a lemon curd that is done well, but they nailed it.

Taste of Salt Lake

Be prepared...this isn't going to be Paleo.  But since this is a food blog, and as a paleo follower I do allow cheat days, this is a perfect place to highlight food from my travels.  So, here are the reviews of the places I visited in SLC.  And if you happen to have a heck of alot more will power than I do and you follow a strict paleo diet, all of the places I chose did have strictly paleo items that you could have eaten.  I just didn't.  No willpower when I travel, remember?

First up, The SweetTooth Fairy. (Multiple locations)  BEST CUPCAKES EVER.  I have been to Magnolia and Sprinkles and they don't even compare.  The VaNIElla is by far my favorite.  Moist but not overly dense cake with the perfect amount of almond butter cream frosting.  Second best is Toasted Coconut.  Almost as good as Barefoot Contessa's was, and that is saying something.  

Red Iguana. (Downtown SLC)  Fodor's calls this one of the best Mexican restaurants in the US and I can see why.  I met my friend Jami there for lunch and I am glad we went early.  If you arrive anytime after 12:00 be prepared to wait.  
I started with Hongas Al Ajillo, which were mushrooms marinated in garlic, butter, wine and crushed red pepper.  Out of this world delicious.  The whole button mushrooms were perfectly cooked with the right amount of garlic and chile.  The flavors enhanced what is usually a bland tasting mushroom.
My main dish was Puntas de Filete a la Nortena.  OH MY WORD.  Steak, bacon, jalapeño, onion and tomatoes with an almond mole.  Perfectly cooked steak cubes and bacon were complimented by spicy jalapeno and cooling tomatoes enveloped with a creamy almond mole, which wasn't too spicy and was smooth.  Foodgasmic.  At least this meal was Paleo!

Communal.  (Provo)  The last time I went to lunch with my dear friend Laurie we went to Pizzeria 712, one of their other restaurants, so I was excited to try this farm to table , local and sustainable place.  I wasn't disappointed in anything except that I didn't get to have dinner there too.  We met after she got done running a half marathon (next time I'll run with you Laurie!) and they were serving brunch.  So of course we had to order a few items to try.  
First we had lemon-grapefruit crepes with a granola/blueberry topping.  The ricotta filling was done right. Smooth with a perfect blend of the lemon-grapefruit seasoning.  The crepes were thin and the ricotta was consistent enough to stay in the crepe without being overly runny or heavy.  The house made granola wasn't overly sweet and the accenting blueberries were plump and juicy.
Next up the Summer Vegetable Hash with Smoked Salmon and Eggs.  They smoke their salmon in house and it was sublime.  Melt in your mouth salmon with a very light, but distinct smoke and salt.  I would go back just for a slab of this smoked salmon.  Really.
The Cuban Panini with House Fries and a Bleu Cheese dipping sauce was our last dish.  How can you go wrong with a Cuban?  Turkey, cheese, pickle, and mustard on bread and pressed.  Definitely one of the better ones I have had.  And the bleu cheese sauce that accompanied the fries was just the right amount of bleu cheese, although a tad too runny.

Sakana Sushi Bar.  (West Jordan)  I love that I can take credit for turning my nieces and nephews onto sushi as this is the place I took them to eat the last time I was here.  Emily opted to dine here for bachelorette party and I was more than happy to break my Paleo diet (as if I hadn't already at this point) to enjoy some sushi.  
They start by bringing freshly steamed and salted edamame to the table.  We started with some Vegetable Tempura.  They know how to do it,  flour with soda water.  Perfect combination for a crispy exterior and soft interior.  
I choose the G2 and Hotty Rolls based on the waitresses recommendation.  The G2 was yellowtail and cucumber topped with white tuna, avocado, garlic, ponzu sauce (citrus based) and green onion.  Very mild and light flavors of the fish shined with the ponzu sauce accent, which fortunately wasn't too overwhelming.  The Hotty Roll is something I have never seen on a sushi menu and incorporated a hint of flavors from Mexico. Salmon, avocado and asparagus were topped with tuna, jalapeño, lime, eel sauce, hot sauce, and sesame seeds.  The sauces were a great mix of sweet and spicy that served to temper the spicy bite of the jalapeño and enhance the mild tuna.  Once you enjoyed that layer, your taste buds were played in a different direction with the sweeter salmon, creamy avocado and crisp asparagus.  You really couldn't go wrong with this roll.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries.  (Multiple Locations)  I was a little worried about trying this place because the last time I was here people kept telling me I had to go try In and Out because it was SO good.  Well, I was severely disappointed.  But it was late after the reception and I had already consumed way too much sugar so I decided salt should offset it, right?

I'm glad I did.  As far as fast food burgers go, Five Guys is legit.  My bacon cheeseburger (might as well go for the gusto, right?) was cooked perfectly medium rare (they way beef SHOULD be).  I loved the many options to top on the burger and they they were all, with the exception of the mushroom, fresh.  (Come on Guys, saute those babies!)  There website of course says they cook their burgers well done (just puked in my mouth) but I was pleasantly surprised to see this when I cut mine!  My BIL tells me I missed the whole experience because I didn't get Cajun fries.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Grilled Chicken/Radish Salad

Lately (with the exception of vacation of course) I have been trying to eat a lighter meal in the evening. I find I sleep better and that if I balance what I am eating correctly, that the next morning when I WOD I have more energy and feel better.

Since my garden is abundant is radishes, salad greens, strawberries and herbs right now I wanted to come up with something to go with simple grilled chicken breasts.  

The hint of orange sweetened the peppery radish just right without being overbearing.  Sometimes simple really is perfection.

1 lb. chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to even thickness
olive oil
salt and pepper

1/2 c. thinly sliced radishes
1/4 c. minced Italian parsley
zest of one orange
1/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat and prepare grill.  Coat chicken breasts lightly with oil and generously salt and pepper.  Place on grill and cook 12-18 minutes depending on thickness, turning one or twice.

Meanwhile, mix radishes, parsley and zest in bowl.  In a different small bowl, mix orange juice and oil oil, then salt and pepper to taste.  Fold with radish mixture.

When chicken is done, set aside for a few minutes (allowing juice in chicken to set) and then top with radish salad.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Pork Meatballs/Sweet and Spicy Mango Sauce

I know I haven't posted in a week, but I went out of town to attend my nieces wedding.  I also made her wedding cake...definitely not paleo but it was pretty!  I will say it wasn't my best work due to a few unexpected fondant issues (dry climate, ugh!) and changes, but it tasted damn good.  

And I totally regretted all the crap I ate the past five days when I WOD'ed this morning.  Ah well...that's way vacation is for, right?

Before I left I made this delicious, quick dinner.  The sweet and spicy sauce went perfectly with ground pork.  It would probably be really good with ground chicken too.  Heck, I think this sauce would work with about anything but beef.

1 lb. ground pork
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp. ground coriander, cardamom and cinnamon
2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  

Using hands, mix pork, garlic, spices and salt together until well blended.  Form into meatballs and place on sheet pan.  Cook 10-15 minutes until done

2 mangoes, cut into dice
1 tsp. red chili flake, or more depending on desired spice level
1/2 c. vegetable stock
1/2 c. raw honey
1 tsp. salt, or to taste

While pork is cooking, place all ingredients but the salt in small saucepan.  Heat over medium high, stirring often, until reduced by half.  Use immersion blender to blend sauce smooth.  Salt to taste.  Serve over meatballs.