Spanish food has never been more popular or more influential, from the city of San Sebastian in northern Spain which counts a massive 16 Michelin stars to the markets of Madrid and ubiquitous tapas bars. It’s also incredibly easy to make at home.
In Spanish Made Simple, Omar Allibhoy, the man behind the Tapas Revolution chain of restaurants in the UK, guides you through the basics of 100 key Spanish dishes. All of the ingredients are available from grocery stores and you don’t need to be an expert cook.
I’m seldom this grumpy. Really, I’m not. I worship restaurateurs and chefs who push limits and thrill us with their passion and unique take on food. But then there are those who shamelessly copy, imitate and take something that was once highly original, misuse it and render it impotent and outdated. Here are eight tired restaurant trends that were once great, but must now be shown the door.
Small plates What’s going on here? It’s not OK to charge $16 for three minuscule meatballs even if they are made of sustainably raised elk and locally foraged fungi. Tapas and Dim Sum? You get a pass. You’re a well-oiled machine honed over centuries. But it seems that the all-appetizer phenomenon’s raison d’être is to charge an ungodly amount for mere morsels. And sometimes (most times), I’m hungry and I don’t want to share. There are many eateries that elevate small plates to an art form—bravo to them! But to everyone else, please hop on another (and preferably larger) bandwagon.
Mason jar cups I get the whole reduce-reuse-recycle business but having to sip my over-priced cocktail in a vessel meant for grandma’s apricot jelly is all kinds of wrong. I doubt this is what Scottish farmer John Landis Mason had in mind when he patented his food preservation container in 1858. Here’s wishing that this trend ends now so that I never have to drink from a pickle jar when a regular glass will suffice.
Bistro-chic decor Reclaimed wood, exposed light bulbs, chalkboards and plastic moulded Eames chairs. It’s hip, cool, edgy and groovy and it’s been copycatted to nauseating extremes. Labouring to read dodgy calligraphy off of a smeared chalkboard menu is not hip. Having to rest my tuckus on a backbreaking alibi for a chair is not cool. Being bathed in the blinding glow of an uncovered light fixture is not edgy. Eating off a barn door to feign a mod rustic ambiance is not groovy. As for the next trend in restaurant design, I’m hoping for daring AND functional. This bistro-chic decor just makes me weary.
Parting is such sweet sorrow. I turned to you to feed countless dinner guests and you never failed to come through for me. You baked at a uneven temperatures but I learned to adjust. Your coils were crooked but I didn’t care. You were never the prettiest but I loved you anyway. You roasted countless turkeys and cooked foie gras, lobsters in beurre monté, cookies, cakes and pies. You made me happy and better yet, you made the people in my world happy. And for that I thank you. I have loved you for so long but it is now time to say goodbye. Thank you for the years of service. Go and be amongst the kitchen angels. May you rest in peace and know that you will never be forgotten.
I’ve noticed that chefs and foodie types tend to be a little on the obsessive side. Nothing wrong with that. The food arts often demand a military-like precision and an unparalleled focus on detail. But I (normal guy) have been able to make it through life rather unscathed without exhibiting psychoneurotic behaviour. I’m not a slob by any means and I can focus on detail when needed. But growing up in a family that emphasized constant order and exactitude made me lean the other way.
This post was inspired by my (OCD) sister and brother-in-law’s “everything has its place” cupboard. In a random poll of my entourage, most cited my sister’s cupboard as the standard that they admired. Hmm. While I often made fun of my sister’s clear need for psychiatric help, my informal survey led me to think that perhaps I’m the one who needs assistance. Maybe an insanely ordered cupboard is what I should be trying to attain? Help me out here. What do you think? While the cupboard on the left is clearly desirable, is it in fact…normal? Vote below.
Should we try to attain the standards of the cupboard on the left or is the cupboard on the right perfectly “normal?”
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.
Do you have a friend that has a stellar signature dish? I do. Latkes and ribs. Now the latkes part makes sense. My friend is jewish. The ribs part, not so much. But who am I to judge? He’s never shared the recipe. Doesn’t tell us how it’s done. But man, am I glad that on a semi-regular basis I’m invited take in his generous offerings. Check out the rib fest I recently partook in. Delicious!
I’m often sullen on Father’s Day. My dad passed away a few years ago now and even though I miss him every single day, this day in particular is more difficult. When my niece invited me over to her house for a BBQ to spend some time with the family, I was happy to oblige. Family time is always nice. Family time plus a BBQ meal is a no brainer. Grilled vegetables, a big ole steak, some time with the kinfolk and sharing memories about my dad made for a very good day.
I think this was the staff’s favourite day. “Make your own soft taco day” is not something that usually goes on at work. The June 2012 issue of Bon Appetit just happened to cover Taco recipes. Score! I marinated some flank steak in olive oil and cilantro, a little salt and paper, and grilled the steak on an indoor grill. Made a bunch of condiments (cheese, guac, tomatoes, salsa, limes, jalapeños and guajillo chili salsa) and bought some tortillas. Now, can someone help me out with the tortillas? Short of making them yourself, where do you find good tortillas in Ottawa? The ones I got at Metro were passable but not the quality I was looking for. By the way, everyone quite liked the guajillo salsa. It had a nice smokey flavour with a bit of a bite. Wikipedia says that the guajillo chili’s thin, deep-red flesh has a green tea flavor with berry overtones. Its fruits are large and mild in flavor, with only a small amount of heat (rating 2,500 to 5,000 on the Scoville Scale.) I think “taco day” will be remembered for a while.
A bar mitzvah, that’s what! Seriously. It was his birthday and my friend had never been bar mitzvahed. How could this have happened? I made it my mission to make sure my friend, once and for all, became a man. I consulted a Jewish colleague and she was overjoyed to help me through this process. She told me what to do, what to buy and where to buy it. She thought I was hilarious. I combed Ottawa for appropriate decorations. Turns out Ottawa doesn’t have much in the way of bar mitzvah decorations. I scored at the Loblaws College Square on Baseline. That’s where I got most of my goods.
We didn’t read from the Tora, there was no Rabbi but there was definitely a celebratory meal. My friend Kath brought Gefilte Fish dip. Hmmm. Not my favourite flavour. I made brisket with roasted potatoes, coleslaw and threw a kosher dill on the side. Not the best meal I’ve made, I have to say. I messed up the brisket. I purchased pickled brisket and then cooked it like a regular brisket. Pretty dumb. The best brisket I’ve had was at the 2nd Ave Deli in NYC and mine doesn’t even deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence. Now I know better and I’ll try it again some other time. My friends were ever so polite. But I know the difference between “this is good” and “mmmm this is soooooooo good.” The important part is that my friend finally came of age. Not bad for a guy in his 50’s!