Sunday, June 29, 2014
June's tart of the month is strawberry, of course. Just like the Queen of Hearts would serve on a summer's day. Strawberry season here in Ontario is generally mid-June to mid-July. These beautiful, local strawberries are so different from the imported strawberries we get at other times of the year. They smell so sweet and taste amazing.
Once again I'm using store-bought pastry because I happened to have one last pie crust in the freezer. But I did make pastry cream for the first time for these tarts. Pastry cream is a thick cooked custard that can also be used to fill éclairs. If you make your own pastry, the pastry cream recipe will fill at least 4 tarts. My store-bought pie crust only made three tart shells, so I had pastry cream left over, which I used to make a quick berry trifle later in the week.
Here's what you need for these delicious seasonal tarts:
Sunday, June 22, 2014
For the first time ever, we have signed up for a weekly CSA box. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. Local farmers supplement their costs by selling shares in their produce in advance, so you pay upfront for weekly vegetables throughout the season. What you get each week is a surprise, which may be intimidating for some people, but for us it's a fun adventure! It's actually exciting to open the box of veggies each week and see what we get.
Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Post by Matt, the Beer Baron, introducing you to fantastic craft beer from Canada and around the world.
While every week is craft beer week in our house, this week (June 13-21) makes it official thanks to Ontario Craft Beer Week. Leading up to this week, I’d been
patiently waiting obsessively checking the LCBO app
to see if Wellington Brewery’s Chocolate Milk Stout had made it to my local
store – but to no avail.
As it turned out, the perfect storm of Ontario Craft Beer Week, stunning weekend weather, my longing for Chocolate Milk Stout and Wellington’s announcement that they would also have two special IPAs available at their brewery store meant one thing:
Friday, June 13, 2014
Ground turkey doesn't really work the same as beef. Since it is so lean, it can turn out dry. But this recipe uses veggies to keep the meat moist, juicy and flavourful. These burgers are delicious and very healthy too!
Here's what you need for these burgers.
Monday, June 9, 2014
We travelled 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) on our southern USA road trip, and we ate a lot of fantastic things.
But, here it is, the most amazing, delicious food we tried in the South: Nashville Hot Chicken.
Hot Chicken is spicy fried chicken and it's a Nashville local specialty. It's said that it was invented when the original owner of Prince's Hot Chicken was out carousing and his wife decided to punish him by serving him chicken so spicy he'd regret his sins. But he liked the chicken so much he decided to sell it.
We didn't make it to Prince's but we tried Hot Chicken anywhere we could get it in Nashville and it was fantastic!
The chicken pieces are marinated in buttermilk and spices, then coated in a spicy coating, shallow-fried and then smothered in more spice paste. It's then served on top of a piece of white bread with pickles on top. It comes in mild, medium and hot plus extra hot versions (and extra mild too sometimes) and it is very, very spicy but also amazingly tender and juicy.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
For once I’m not going to talk about the food. We planned this road trip to Nashville even though we’re not really country music fans. We’re big fans of music in general though. The impetus behind this trip was an Arcade Fire concert. We wanted to see the band and they were playing in Toronto and Detroit, each about two hours away from home, but since the concerts were on weeknights we’d have to take a couple of days off work to drive to the concert in time and then stay overnight and get home. So we figured if we’re going to take time off work, let’s go somewhere fun! We’d wanted to check out Nashville for a while because we’d heard it was a great city to visit. So it seemed like the perfect place to check out a band we like, and see a bunch of other music too.
Nashville has fantastic food, great shopping and attractions but the best, most unique thing about Nashville is the honky-tonks. In Nashville, a honky-tonk is a bar that has live music all the time. There is no cover charge and the musicians don’t get paid so they pass around a tip jar. I’d read all about the honky-tonks in planning our trip but I wasn’t prepared for the amazing quality of the music and the fact that it cost practically nothing.
On our first night in town we visited Robert’s Western World. I’d read this place was popular with locals and not too touristy so that’s why I picked it. Well, it was full of tourists – the people at the next table lived an hour away from us – but it was still our best experience of the trip. When we walked in at around 7pm the place was packed but we were able to sit at a table right up front. A female singer was singing an old country ballad and an old couple was dancing the two-step. Between the amazing music and the couple who had obviously spent many years dancing together, we both had a tear in our eye. It was wonderful.
The band, we found out later, was Rachael Hester and the Tennessee Walkers. Rachael sings and plays guitar and her dad’s on the fiddle. They also had an incredible guitarist whose name we didn’t catch, a stand-up bassist and a drummer. These were some of the best professional musicians we’d ever heard and they were playing for free! Of course, when the tip jar was passed around, we showed our appreciation. The band played mainly traditional country music, which we loved, and a few originals too. They played for four hours straight, with only occasional breaks where a couple of musicians would grab a smoke or a drink and the rest would keep playing. Once their time was up, another band took the stage right away. This time it was a rockabilly band who were talented and energetic, but a little more showy than Rachael’s band. We stayed a while longer. We had many, many drinks and some cheeseburgers and our bill was laughably cheap. We headed back to our hotel after a perfect first night in Nashville.
The next day we went to Third Man Records, Jack White’s record store in The Gulch area of Nashville. The shop is really neat. Lots of vinyl records and trinkets, plus a recording booth where some young musicians were recording a song! It is a neat place to visit.
Tonight we went to Layla’s Bluegrass Inn on Broadway for some more great bands. After a while we walked out onto the street and just popped in and out of bars when the music tempted us. We heard some girls singing TLC’s Waterfalls and ran in but unfortunately they were just finishing their set of current hits sung in a country style.
We really enjoyed popping in to the honky-tonks and hearing so many different bands. Several of them used the pedal steel, an instrument we'd never seen before, a kind of slide guitar. The talent on display was so impressive everywhere.
The next day we visited the Johnny Cash museum, a newer attraction in Nashville. It is small but very well set up with tons of pictures, costumes and videos from his long career. One of the first exhibits was stations with headphones to listen to music from each decade of his career.
We spent about an hour in the museum, then popped back over to Broadway to see it in the daytime. We were shocked to find out the honky-tonks are open in the daytime too! This is the time when kids and families are welcome. It wasn’t as busy as the night before, but the musicians were just as talented. So, there's free live music from 11am until 2am every day. You can’t beat that!
That night was the Arcade Fire concert and our last night in Nashville. There are tons of fantastic restaurants in Nashville but we decided to forgo fine dining in favour of another session at Robert’s Western World. We had $5 cheeseburgers again and some drinks before our concert at the arena across the street. I’m so glad we returned here because we saw the most amazing guitarist we’ve ever heard and he was only 19 years old! His name is Daniel Donato. I think he’ll have big success in the future.
Our concert at the Bridgestone arena was great. The staff there was so friendly and it was a great venue. People couldn’t believe we’d come all the way from Canada to see Arcade Fire, but it was well worth it to see all the great musicians in Nashville.
Sunday, June 1, 2014
When planning our road trip to Nashville, we discovered that Asheville, North Carolina was not too far from our route, so we decided to make a little detour to check it out for one night.
Asheville is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and has been named the best beer city in the USA many times. There are over a dozen craft breweries and great restaurants in the town so it seemed like the kind of place we'd enjoy.
We stayed at the Aloft Asheville hotel located right downtown. We loved this hotel - from the decor to the service to the location. The rooftop pool even has a nice view of the mountains.
Our first stop was a quick lunch at White Duck Taco's new location downtown, right across from our hotel. We tried the Banh Mi Tofu, Bangkok Shrimp, Korean Beef Bulgogi and Fish tacos. They were all great but the shrimp and fish were our faves. Every place in town sells local craft beer so we had some here too.
Then we headed down the street to Wicked Weed Brewing. They have a great brewery and restaurant right downtown. Matt tried the Black Angel black sour cherry ale and it was his favourite beer of the whole trip. He tried a few other kinds of beer in their downstairs tasting room and bought some bottles to bring home.
We headed back towards our hotel and stopped for a coffee at this coffee bus. Matt had a "shot in the dark" which is a brewed coffee with an espresso shot in it! I had a dirty iced chai. It was just what we needed to keep us going through the evening.
We visited several other pubs and got some pizza for dinner. It was a great night and a very fun town.
When I do research for our trips one place I always look for information is the travel section of the New York Times. The next morning we headed for breakfast in West Asheville to one of their recommended places, Biscuit Head.
This meal was insane. I had fried chicken on a biscuit with sweet potato butter, sriracha slaw and a fried egg on top! Matt had a country ham biscuit with scrambled eggs, cheese, fried green tomatoes, and red eye gravy which is made with coffee! We also ordered an extra plain biscuit so we could try the butter & jam bar. We tried jalapeno butter, orange chocolate butter and banana butter with chunks of banana in it. We also had cherry Dr. Pepper jam and green chili jam. Outstanding!
We were sad to leave Asheville and wished we had more time to spend there. But even the drive out of town and back to Tennessee was gorgeous on the Blue Ridge Parkway through twisting mountain roads. A fantastic detour. We will be back!