Month: July 2012

JC100 Tribute: All-hail braised celery

This post is part of a weekly series celebrating the extraordinary legacy of Julia Child leading up to what would have been her 100th birthday on August 15, 2012.

I get a little unhinged when I’m at Costco. Like I’m under some kind of trance. I know you know what I mean. On my last trip to the “Big C,” I somehow ended up with 2.5 lbs of celery and buyers remorse. That’s about six stalks of celery or 36 cups. What was I thinking? What’s wrong with me? What was I going to do with all that celery? Then it came to me. “What would Julia do?” And there, in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, was my answer: Braised celery.

While I don’t have permission to reprint this recipe, I can tell you that it involved some chopping, some boiling, some sautéing, an hour and a half of braising in the oven and of course, it was all topped off with a butter sauce. The end result was quite delicious. And although Julia did save me from a celery debacle, I promise never again to buy gargantuan amounts of Costco produce. I’ve learned my lesson!

Sunday, Monday, Happy Days

Have you ever time travelled? Apparently I have ’cause I somehow ended up in the 1950s hanging out at Dick’s Drive-In & Dairy-Dip. Now the ’50s certainly wouldn’t be my preferred “Quantum Leap” destination, but I made the best of it while I was there. Dick’s motto is “Welcome back to the good old days.” And he ain’t kidding. I wasn’t around in the “Happy Days” era, but I’m thinking this is what things were like for the Fonz: A neighbourhood malt shop served juicy burgers grilled over charcoal with hand cut french fries on the side while a scary hulking sculpture of a milkshake hovered above the tables.

The burgers were quite scrumptious and tasted decidedly retro. They’re real meat topped with fresh ingredients and cooked to perfection. Nice concept. All beef burgers are Angus Pride beef and come with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, aioli, sautéed onions, Dijon or regular mustard, unless you say otherwise.

Blurry pics of food are my specialty. Sorry about that 😦
But here’s what’s “coolamundo” about Dick’s. While it’s unquestionably a 1950s joint with food that harkens back to pre-Kennedy times, its menu items are flat-out present-day diverse. Ostrich burgers, veal burgers, bison burgers and yes kangaroo burgers have a starring role along with the usual diner fare. While I wasn’t in the mood for a gamey culinary adventure, I now know where to go when I have a hankering for something a little more exotic.

While it was “neat-o” to visit the bygone days when they “rocked around the clock,” I was happy to time-travel back to 2012 when Dick’s ranked #4 in the Ottawa Citizen poll for Ottawa’s Best Burger 2012. But hear me out. I’ve been to the supposed top three haunts, and I can tell you from the bottom of my heart and the top of my palate, Dick’s is #1. But don’t just take my word for it, try it out for yourself. “Be there or be square!”

Dick’s Drive-In & Dairy-Dip is located at 1485 Merivale Road, near Clyde Ave.

Dick's Drive-in & Dairy Dip on Urbanspoon

JC100 Tribute: Visiting Julia’s House

This post is part of a weekly series celebrating the extraordinary legacy of Julia Child leading up to what would have been her 100th birthday on August 15, 2012.

When I visit Boston I stay in Cambridge, about a ten-minute walk from where Julia Child used to live. I’ve visited her house a few times. That is, I’ve seen where she used to live. Since Julia’s house is a private residence, I didn’t dare knock on the door and ask for a tour. Though I was tempted.

 

Julia and her husband Paul moved into 103 Irving Street in 1961. The 6,000 square foot home had 5 bedrooms and 4-1/2 baths. The neighbourhood is lined with turn-of-the-century houses and is just blocks from Harvard Square. According to Elizabeth Bolton of Centers & Squares, this neck of the woods is long popular; with Harvard professorsamong them, economist John Kenneth Galbraith, who lived one block over on Francis Avenue, Cambridge’s “Professor’s Row.” The house is directly across the street from the birthplace of poet e.e. cummings and is two houses down from the home of 19th-century philosopher and psychologist William James.

103 Irving Street in 2010

Julia described the kitchen as “the most loved and most used room in the house.” That kitchen was the set for her cooking shows for several years, until she retired to California for the last few years of her life and the house was sold.

Julia Child, photographed in her Cambridge, Massachusetts, kitchen, June 29, 1970.
By Arnold Newman/Getty Images.

Architectural Digest published photos of Julia’s home in 1979. Here’s what it looked liked then:

The house was sold in 2001 to a developer and redesigned with six newly installed, central air conditioning, central vac and a new kitchen. The new kitchen, IMHO, is sterile and devoid of any charm or personality. I have this fantasy that I will one day buy the house and restore the kitchen to its former glory. The newly renovated house was sold in 2004 for $3,755,000. In 2008, Boston.com ran an article about the house being up for sale for $4.35 million. I guess I need to start playing the lottery to make my fantasy come true.

Thankfully the kitchen was not demolished. It was donated to the Smithsonian and the kitchen in its entirety was removed from the house and sent to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in 2001, where it resides today.

Suzy Q I Love U

Once in a while you come across something so intoxicating, so glorious that you feel the need to tell the world what you’ve found. Well run and tell the universe about Suzy Q Doughnuts. Please!

You don’t understand. These doughnuts are utterly sublime and delectable. Suffice it to say that they are the best doughnuts I have ever had the pleasure of savouring. Light and delicate, fluffy, not greasy and never too sweet. Perfection, really. These are the type of doughnuts that inspire cravings, addictions and obsessions.

New gournet creations are popping up all the time. Pomegranate White Chocolate. S’mores. Blue Van Fruit Loop. Maple Bacon. Run of the mill factory made doughnuts, these are not.

Perhaps it’s obvious from my superlative heavy, overt rantings that I’ve gotten worked up over some doughnuts. But when somebody is this great at what they do, I get excited. And I want to tell other people about their greatness. So hats off to Ms. Sue Hamer (a.k.a. Suzy Q). The world is a better place because of you and your doughnuts.

Suzy Q Doughnuts, 991 Wellington Street West
A box of 6 is $10. Well worth the price!
Clockwise from top left, Salty Caramel, Lemon Thyme, Blueberry,
Maple Bacon, Toasted Coconut with Kaffir Lime and Dirty Chocolate.

SuzyQ on Urbanspoon

Not gonna talk a lot ’bout TacoLot

Listen, I don’t like to say not-so-nice things about food establishments that are clearly putting forth an effort. But TacoLot is not so fantastic. I agreed with my friend’s statement, “I really wanted to like this place.” I really did. But I ended up disappointed. TacoLot’s got much going for it. It’s in the getting trendier by the minute Hintonburgh area. It’s a hut on a lot. It’s an easy to walk to neighbourhood joint. And it serves the ever popular tacos. But the aforementioned tacos are pretty unspectacular. So bland that even a hot sauce couldn’t spice up. The tortillas were dry and almost crusty. The rice was unexpectedly sticky. Even the pico de gallo was flavourless. I’m willing to chalk this up to a bad night and give it another try maybe later on this summer. But for now at least, I’m left dreaming of a better taco. Any suggestions?

TacoLot – 995 Wellington Street West
Pork tacos platter
TacoLot on Urbanspoon

Celebratory Mousse

My employees get to keep their jobs. Thank you Baby Jesus! They made it through the months-long job cutting process and were ultimately retained. Our long national nightmare is over. I made chocolate mousse to celebrate. I whipped it up the night before the big reveal so this could just as well have been angry-dejected-soak-up-their-tears-throw-it-in-my-face mousse. Thankfully it was stoked-they-get-to-keep-their-job-so-they-can-continue-paying-their-bills-I’m-pumped-they’ll-be-sticking-around-cause-I-love-these-people mousse. Or as Cook’s Illustrated likes to call it, Dark Chocolate Mousse.

 

JC100 Tribute: Thomas Keller

This post is part of a weekly series celebrating the extraordinary legacy of Julia Child leading up to what would have been her 100th birthday on August 15, 2012.

Thomas Keller is one of the premier chefs in the world. He is the only American chef to have been awarded simultaneous three star Michelin ratings for two different restaurants, French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per Se in New York City. What with Thomas Keller having achieved the industry’s top honour, one wouldn’t think that anything could intimidate the fabled chef. But he readily admits to Wine Spectator magazine that he and his staff were “nervous wrecks” when it came to cooking for Julia Child, who would often chill out in the kitchen of the French Laundry before eating her meal.
In the three videos below, Thomas Keller talks about the incredible culinary legacy left behind by Julia Child and the most important lesson he was able to learn from her. Hope you enjoy!

 

Celebrating Julia Child’s 100th birthday

In honour of what would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday on August 15th, Alfred A. Knopf, Julia’s longtime book publisher, is celebrating Julia and her extraordinary legacy of culinary teachings. The publisher is urging people to share Julia Child’s recipes, photos, memories and stories on various social media sites under the JC100 umbrella.

The publisher released a list of Julia’s 100 most treasured recipes handpicked by a jury of food experts, including Judith Jones, Child’s editor at Knopf; star chefs Thomas Keller, Danny Meyer and Jacques Pepin; and Food 52’s Amanda Hesser.

Look for the JC100 celebration on Facebook at facebook.com/JuliaChild; on Twitter at @JC100; on Pinterest at pinterest.com/knopfbooks/jc100; and on Tumblr at jc100.tumblr.com.

In the coming weeks, I will be posting my own
Julia Child observations, memories and recipes.
Stay locked-in to Cool Food Dude for more on JC100!

Breakfast at Wimbledon

I am a pretty big tennis fan. And this weekend just happens to be the final weekend of Wimbledon. Nothing is more iconic of Wimbledon than strawberries and cream, a tradition at the Big W since the tournament’s origins in the late 1800s.

Photo courtesy of Reuters

According to the New York Times, legend has it that King George V introduced strawberries and cream to courtside crowds. But the tradition actually dates from around the time of the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877, according to Audrey Snell, a librarian at the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. The strawberry season just happened to coincided with the arrival of the tournament.

Check out a few other facts about the strawberries and cream served at the All England Club. Enjoy the tennis!

  • Served in a cup containing not less than 10 strawberries.
  • 8,615 cups of strawberries are consumed per day.
  • 28,000 kg of strawberries are consumed over the two-week tournament, served with over 7,000 litres of fresh cream.
  • To ensure the utmost freshness, strawberries are picked the day before being served. They arrive at Wimbledon at around 5:30 a.m. where they are inspected.
  • The price for a cup of strawberries and cream at Wimbledon 2012 is £2.5 or CAN$4.90.
Photo courtesy of vw.co.uk