Yum, yum: Fortuna Mezcal

“Champagne is for the rich. Fortuna is for the wise.” 


These words greet you on the Fortuna Mezcal website, and we quite agree. We had the chance to try Fortuna Mezcal during Fortuna Week a few weeks ago, at a tasting held by the creator of the brand, Don Ignacio. We sat rapt as he walked us through the making, distilling and tasting process of this alcohol and explained the differences between tequila and his sustainable, artisanal mezcal, and also the taste differences between the various types (white, dorado, reposado and añejo) and proofs of mezcal. 



Basically, most mezcal comes from the Oaxaca region of Mexico, and is created using a specific type of agave plant – the maguey, vs. the blue agave that tequila is made with. It has a strong, smooth, smokey flavour and is typically taken just straight up. We were a bit concerned about this form of tasting at first (bad university memories of cheap Jose Cuervo flooding back) but were surprised by just how smoothly and easily it went down. 

What we especially liked about Fortuna is their commitment to sustainability, responsible growing and harvesting practices, and giving back to the Oaxaca region of Mexico, in order to preserve the longstanding tradition of mezcal making in the community. More details here.



We also discovered that you can use this spirit to make delicious cocktails and in honour of it being Friday, thought we’d share one of our favourite mezcal recipes with you. As they say, “para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también” – “for everything bad, mezcal, and for everything good, as well.” So whether you’re celebrating the end of a great week or drowning your sorrows, kick off your weekend with a Fresco de Fortuna


¡Salud!

All images courtesy of Fortuna Mezcal.


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Yum, yum: Churros

We’re nearly a month into 2013 and all of our healthy eating resolutions are beginning to feel a bit… boring. After weeks of sugary treats and cheese platters galore, the focus on veggies and whole grains was a welcome (and oh so necessary) change of pace. Now that our jeans no longer feel like they’re cutting off the circulation in our thighs, we’re ready to return to a more balanced lifestyle. Basically, this means we’re craving butter and sugar, and will punch someone if we’re offered another piece of kale. 




With the cold weather officially here, we’re a lot more likely to want to spend some time around a hot stove and a pot of bubbling oil. Don’t worry, the end result is a lot less Game of Thrones’ battle of Blackwater and a whole lot of delicious. Yes, we are talking about churros! The crispy, deep-fried dough is a favourite in Spain and Mexico. We highly recommend serving them with a rich hot cocoa. If you’re feeling especially loco, why not dip your churro in the cocoa?

Churros (recipe via Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
vegetable oil (for frying)
confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon or a cinnamon-sugar combo (for dusting)

Tools of the trade. 

Directions:

1. In a medium saucepan, combine one cup water, butter, sugar, and salt; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and sift in flour, stirring for one minute.

Sift that flour, baby. Sift it good.
2. Transfer flour mixture to bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. On low speed, add eggs one at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition; spoon mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a large open-star tip.

All ready to be fried!
3. Heat 4 to 5 inches oil in a large Dutch-oven until it registers 325 degrees on a deep-fry thermometer (note: we used a candy thermometer, which worked out excellently!). Holding pastry bag a few inches above the oil, squeeze out batter, snipping off 4-inch lengths with a knife or kitchen shears. Fry, flipping once, until deep golden brown all over, about four minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer churros to a paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.

Squeeze that dough. 
Fry that dough. 
4. Roll churros in topping of your choice. Serve immediately!

Ta da! Try not to eat them all at once. 

*Special thanks goes out to Trish Petozzi for teaching us how to fry churros like a pro. Trish works at Cake & Loaf Bakery and has the best sister in the world. 

Yum, yum: Paleo Diet: What’s the Deal?

The paleolithic diet. You’ve heard of it? Great. It’s a way of eating, a lifestyle, that’s said to help us lose weight, prevent disease and generally make you feel clean and full of energy. The basic principle is to eat as the cavemen(women) did. Survive off of hunting and gathering, eating only lean protein, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. We’ve tried it, and if done right, you will feel full and satisfied, lose weight and kick that bloated feeling.


Dude, we should totally go paleo. I know.

Planning
Being a successful caveperson these days is all about planning and preperation. Cook in large batches and freeze portions. It’s best to dedicate a few hours during the weekend to cut up all of your fruits and veggies for easy snack/stir fry/smoothie access. The hardest part of being a paleo is the inability to grab something on the go. However, if you’re in a major jam, you can always buy a banana from your local Starbucks.


Moderation
Let’s be real, most of us are busy juggling work, family and a social life. The paleo books we’ve read touch on this. It’s ok to have a glass of wine, a beer, in moderation. You have the power to choose how paleo you want to go. Greek yogurt, oatmeal, and whole wheat carbs like Ryvita crackers are some examples of paleo no-no’s we think are worth bending the rules for. Incorporating just some of the paleo principles into your life can be easy, and you will still reap many benefits.


Here is a basic recipe for paleo pancakes that will give you a glimpse into paleo living.


Paleo Pancakes
(1 serving, multiply the ingredients as needed)


Looks yummy, right?

This is one of our favourite breakfasts. It tastes delicious, is almost too easy to make and will keep you satisfied. You can add whatever paleo-approved items you like to these pancakes, just like the real thing.

  • 1 banana
  • 1 egg (no egg whites on this diet, need those yolks)
  • 1 tablespoon of nut butter of your choice (almond, hazelnut – the only nut on the pale-no list is peanut)
  • 1 tsp of coconut oil (this is a staple in the paleo pantry)
  • dash of cinnamon

Optional

  • dash of vanilla
  • squeeze of natural honey
  • splash of soy/almond milk (fluffyness)
  • cacao chips (natural alternative to chocholate chips, enjoyable, we promise)

Directions

  1. Mash banana in a bowl
  2. Mix in egg and nut butter
  3. Grease frying pan with coconut oil and pour mixture into pancakes

Smoothies


A meal that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch or dinner. This will be a go-to because it’s easy. Again, you can use the basic recipe below, add protein powder or a variety of other spices, flavours.


1 banana
A handful of strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 scoop/ tbsp of flax seed
1/2 cup of soy/almond/coconut milk


Directions

  1. Blend. 🙂

Sweet potato fries or chips


Diet food? We think not. You can also make a paleo approved dipping sauce.



No recipe needed here. Since there is no wheat allowed, natural carbs such as sweet potatoes are beloved.


Spice them up however you want (rosemary, paprika, why not try some curry powder?). There is no added salt in the paleo diet, so other spices are super important. Cut or slice however you desire, toss with olive oil and bake in the oven at 375 degrees Celsius.


You can get as creative as you want with the paleo diet. If you have a favourite recipe or dish, chances are someone has created the paleo version . There are a number of comfort food inspired cookbooks and recipes out there worth checking out.


We recommend the below cookbooks for beginners – tried, tested and rock-it approved.


The Paleo Diet Cookbook: More than 150 recipes for Paleo Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners, Snacks, and Beverages


The Everything Paleolithic Diet Book: An All-Natural, Easy-to-Follow Plan to Improve Health, Lose Weight, Increase Endurance, and Prevent Disease


You can also refer to the internet, for lists of paleo approved foods, meal plan ideas, recipes, shopping guides and more.


If you were thinking about going paleo, there is no better time to clean out your pantry and your tummy. New year, new plan – why not? The whole point of this diet is feeling good, being healthy and the satisfaction of treating your body like a temple.


You will go from this… (I’m not bloated, I’m just fluffy)…. 

…to this! 

Yum Yum: Guide to Eating Gluten-Free

Okay, we get it, you’re gluten-challenged. Who isn’t these days? Now,
just ’cause
 your bod can’t tolerate one little protein doesn’t mean you have to
sit at home eating seeds by yourself
while your friends are out consuming white flour like it’s going out of style
(it is, btw
). We equal-opportunity eaters here on the fourth floor have put
together this helpful little Toronto gluten-free guide for you Celiacs
 and
sympathizers, so get out there. Live your life.

Kensington
Cornerstone



Betcha didn’t know this place was ENTIRELY gluten-free,
did ya? This Kensington Market neighbourhood eatery boasts an extensive menu
that doesn’t compromise taste or selection. 
Sourcing all their breads from
Molly B’s Gourmet Organic Gluten-Free Kitchen,
you can indulge in one of their massive pulled pork sandwiches without a worry
in the world. We can’t wait for the sunny weather to be back so we can stake
out a place on their prime people-watching patio with a pitcher of their Spiked
Peach Ice Tea (try saying that 10 times fast).

Queen Mother Cafe
As if you needed another reason to love this Queen Street
staple, the Queen Mum has tailored a menu that can easily accommodate gluten-free requests. Their famous Pad Thai can
be cooked with a gluten-free soy sauce, making it a delicious dish that doesn’t
discriminate. The Khao Soy Gai is an
awesome, spicy, broth-based dish that can be made Celiac-friendly by substituting
the egg noodles for rice. Don’t want to be one of those high-maintenance customers making substitutions? Try the
quinoa salad, as is. The high protein grain is a must-have in a diet sans wheat, and the Queen Mother has perfected its execution in a simple, 
but filling, salad.

Karine’s Vegan,
Vegetarian & All Day Breakfast

OCAD’s best kept secret is Karine’s breakfast. Contrary to what their name might suggest,
they aren’t exclusively vegan (you can get sausage, peameal or regular bacon.)
Don’t be fooled by their modest presence in the Village on the Grange food
court, Karine’s serves up some serious breakfast on some sassy Fiestaware. If you’ve ever eaten at their matriarch
location, Maggie’s on College Street, you’re familiar with the heaping portions of
garlic fries and fresh fruit. The best
part of Karine’s (besides being called “gorgeous baby” by the ladies
behind the counter) is that this all day gluten-free breakfast will only set
you back $5.

Heady Brew Company

Alright kids, you can put down the cider. Thanks to founder Robert Cundari, gluten-free beer is creeping up on the craft beer scene in the GTA. Five years in the making, Heady Brew Company’s
Honey Citrus gluten-free beer is readily available throughout the city.  Check their Facebook page and Twitter for
updated locations!
The Burger’s Priest
Oh  yeah, that’s
right. Toronto’s best burger has a
gluten-free bun upon request. We’re
gonna let these babies speak for themselves. 
(Vegans beware: The Option contains cheese.)


So there you have it, little gluten-freegans. Don’t say we can’t take you anywhere. 



Yum Yum: Toronto’s Best Coffee

On the fourth floor we pride ourselves
on being bright eyed (and never bushy tailed!) for every occasion –
whether that be an early morning segment or a late night with a client event. It goes without saying that we’ve drunk our fair share
of coffee along the way and determined our favourite shops to stop in
for craft espresso long ago.

We’re not chronic over-caffeinators; we’re coffee aficionados. We were surprised when Fahrenheit, a place we hadn’t visited, won the title of
Best Specialty Coffee Shop in NOW’s Best of City 2012. We realized
we might be missing something by sticking to favourites, like NOW’s runner-up Sam James, and decided to head out on the town. Here are the places we’re really digging:

Sam James



Still our favourite spot to stop in for an espresso or cappuccino, Sam James never compromises quality for speed. He has been known to dump espressos multiple times if necessary to get a perfect pull. The espresso here is the richest and creamiest in the city with a crema unparalleled by competitors and complex flavour profiles. The rest of the shop’s offerings stand out as well: remarkably sweet cappuccinos, exciting alternatives like siphon coffee and pastries from Yonge Street’s Delica Kitchen.

Sam James Coffee Bar: 297 Harbord Street,  688a Bloor Street West and 150 King Street West (PATH).



Our runner-up is located in the heart of Kensington Market with a big personality and a community vibe. Owner Pouria Lotfi pulls rich creamy espressos and often has two varieties available. A large back patio and free Wi-Fi make the café a great hang out spot. 
Café  Pamenar: 307 Augusta Ave.



Popping in at Lit is always a treat. The staff is friendly and the beverages are always crafted with care. Also, the snacks are delicious! We particularly love the sea salt brownie, from Circles and Squares.

Lit Espresso Bar: 810 College St. and 221 Roncesvalles Ave.



We took a trip across town to check out NOW’s 2012 fave Fahrenheit. We had tried owner Sameer Mohamad’s coffee previously when he was involved with Sense Appeal and appreciated his dedication to the craft then so were excited for another taste. The service was great, the barista easily explained the flavour profiles of the two beans available, and the espresso was good, but a bit watery and acidic for our tastes.

Fahrenheit Coffee: 120 Lombard St.



Dark Horse is a staple. It may not offer the most craft coffee, but it is reliable and responsibly sourced. With a growing number of locations we’ve come to count on it as a convenient place to pop in for a quality beverage and a panini. Ample seating also makes it a great place to catch up with friends.

Dark Horse: 125 John St., 684 Queen St. West, 682 Queen St. East and 215 Spadina Ave.



Yum, yum: Smitten Kitchen

It’s no secret that we love food, cooking and all things delicious. So when we heard that one of our favourite food bloggers, Smitten Kitchen, was writing a cookbook, we were pretty jazzed. An inspirational blogger, her recipes never fail to wow whether at a dinner party or cozy meal for two. 


For those of you who are not familiar, Smitten Kitchen is a food blog written and photographed (beautifully) by Deb Perelman. 




She creates all sorts of simple, delicious wonders in a tiny kitchen in NYC. She focuses on tweaking already existing recipes until they’re easy to re-create at home, as well as combining a bunch of techniques from other kitchen wizards (Martha Stewart and Ina Garten make frequent appearances). Deb usually sticks with familiar comfort foods, with a bit of a twist. Everything we’ve ever made from this site turns out. Impressive.


Some of our favourite recipes: 


Avocado Salad with Carrot Ginger Dressing: A hearty, healthy salad with a dressing recipe from our other favourite food blogger, GOOPy. Substantial enough for a lunch or light dinner. Yum.




Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto: Made this simple pasta dish after a long day at work recently and whoa! Making pesto from broccoli is an amazing revelation, plus, this dinner is super easy. Leftovers in the office the next day elicited serious looks of envy. 





Mixed Citrus Salad with Feta and Mint: Fresh, delicious, unusual and pretty. Awesome dish to bring to a potluck or BBQ – looks like it took a ton of time when really, it doesn’t.



Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup: Sounds odd, tastes like a dream. For some reason, sausage in soup seems pretty strange. But whip this up and you’ll never question it again. So. Much. Flavour. 



Potato Chip Cookies: The name says it all. Salty & sweet.



There are so, so many more recipes we could post, but we recommend browsing the site and trying whatever strikes your fancy. 

Deb is coming to Toronto on Friday, November 16 at the George Brown Chef School, to chat about her book and do some signings. Tickets are almost sold out, we hear – so grab ’em while they’re hot. See you there! 



All images courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.

Yum Yum: Kitchen Essentials

Do you wish you cooked more, but every time you’re inspired by a recipe, the grocery list seems overwhelming? This is the number one complaint we hear from new-to-cooking friends: that recipes require too much stuff, and they give up. Well, fear not, hopeful chefs! We’re breaking down the essentials for you. Stock up on these items, and you’ll be ready to tackle any recipe challenge that comes your way. 


Extra-virgin olive oil
Olive oil is the most versatile oil in your kitchen arsenal. If you’re only going to have one on hand, make it olive oil. You can use it for cooking, marinading and salad dressings. Basically, everything. Now olive oil isn’t called liquid gold for nothing — the stuff is pricey. If you’re looking for some decent bang for your buck, Primo Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a good choice. 
Maldon sea salt


Okay, so you’re all thinking “Salt, duh. Good one, fourth floor.” But hear us out! Once you get over the sticker shock and start using Maldon sea salt, you’ll never go back. It’s made by a family-owned company in Essex (south-east corner of England) who use the traditional method of extracting salt from seawater with long-handled rakes. Cool, right? It is soft and flaky, and has a stronger flavour, so be mindful that you use less than you would table salt.

Chicken stock


Soups, stews, risotto. You need chicken stock for it all. Now, the best stock is always, always homemade. Here’s a good recipe for making your own. If that intimidates you or you don’t have some spare chicken bones on hand or you’re in a rush, then Swanson Organic Chicken Broth is your jam. 

Maple syrup

Canada’s bounty. 

The recent $30 million maple syrup theft has brought international attention to our nation’s most delicious export, but it’s always had a leading place in our hearts. It’s a great sugar substitute, and has fewer calories per serving than honey or corn syrup. Plus, it is the secret ingredient in our favourite salad dressing and it tastes delicious on pancakes. 

Dried spices


You’ve got the salt covered, but what other spices do you need? While specific spice requirements vary according to the national cuisine (cooking Indian? Pick up some curry powder. Italian? You’ll definitely need oregano), a few stand out as general must-haves: cinnamon, cumin, chilli powder, sweet paprika, nutmeg and, the classic, black pepper.   

Now you’ve got the basics, so time to get cooking! 

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