Monday, January 31, 2011

Tapas at Cava

This was one epic dinner at Cava for my friend's birthday back in November of last year. We had 7 people for this meal and we left it up to the chef to bring out whatever he wanted. That night was very memorable and unforgettable. It is getting harder and harder these days for my close friends to meet up and get together, and I really cherish these occasions. I think we spent more than 3 hours at Cava  just eating, chatting, and catching up.

Cava is tucked away in a small plaza. I had difficulty finding the restaurant even though I parked only down the street from it. There was no visible sign outside the plaza so Cava is pretty easy to miss (I had to phone my friend and ask her to come outside and wave haha). 

Cava is a small restaurant, you see it all once you walk in. However, it does not feel small or crammed at all. We got a big rectangular table by the front of the restaurant; this is a picture taken from where I was sitting.

They posed for me =)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cupcake Cuties Launch Party

My good friend Steff, a.k.a Chef Steff, is a cupcake connoisseur. I mean, she is already an awesome chef as it is, but her true passion lies in cupcakes. Unlike many people who are merely "all talk", Steff was determined to follow her dreams - she launched Cupcake Cuties, an online business serving a total of 14 delicious and original flavored cupcakes. So, to celebrate her hard work and dedication, Steff invited her friends to Cupcake Cuties' launch party last Tuesday, January 28th, at Stonefire Bar & Grill

Ahhhh I can't go on without posting a professional pic of Steff first =)

Cupcake Cuties bake with the best ingredients and every cupcake is made to order to ensure ultimate freshness. On top of the variety offered, Cupcake Cuties also offer a special line of cupcakes just for diabetics. Pretty neat, huh? And of course, customized cupcakes are also available upon request.

Here are just some of the flavours available at Cupcake Cuties: Beani-Vanilli, Cocomonkey, The Way the Cupcake Crumbles..., Coconutty, Milky Sweet, Chocaholic, Black&White, Marvin the Martian, Cookies and Cream, Not Your Mama's Pecan Pie..., S'berry Good!, Darko Haze, Chocmond, S'Mores, etc...the list goes on~

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beef Stroganoff

I haven't made pasta in a while and with my new America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, I was looking for a pasta to make during my Christmas holiday break. I didn't want the typical tomato / Alfredo pasta, but something different. I came across this Beef Stroganoff recipe and it was surely different than your typical pasta - strips of beef tenderloin with a red wine reduction, all on top of egg noodles.

This turned out alright. I can't say it was great mainly because of faults of my own:

1) I overcooked the beef so it was not as tender as I wanted it to be. 
2) I did not have enough sauce for the pasta I made due to the following reasons:
    - I used all the pasta in that bag (which is a little bit more than what the recipe asked for)
    - I used canned mushrooms (which was sitting in the kitchen cabinet and I so wanted to just         
      get rid of it) instead of fresh mushrooms, which probably contributed to...  
    - Not having enough sauce; my red wine reduction was not sufficient since I felt I didn't have   
      enough accumulated juices from the beef and mushrooms (because they were canned)                                                                                                                                                            

Beef Stroganoff - adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Serves 4

  • Salt & pepper
  • 8 ounces egg noodles (3 cups)
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 12 ounces white button mushrooms, trimmed and halved
  • 12 ounces beef tenderloin, cut into 1/8-inch strips
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 1/2 tsps brown sugar
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup sour cream

Monday, January 24, 2011

Grace Restaurant

My first experience at Grace Restaurant was about two years ago. At the time I didn't have a food blog but I still remember this particular restaurant when Cindy suggested going to Grace for her birthday dinner last month - I remember it because of its name (my Aunt's name is Grace) but not because of the food - well I thought the food at Grace was only average two years ago, and my view of it didn't change after going last month; it wasn't bad, but it wasn't that great either.

The four of us, including the birthday girl, went to Grace one Tuesday evening in December and it was freezing that night, which probably explains why the place was so empty (we were also early). I regret coat checking my jacket too because the restaurant was so cold the whole time we were eating there.

The people at the table there were exchanging Christmas gifts.

We sat towards the back of the restaurant by these French doors; there was a beautifully lit Christmas tree inside. There weren't any seating inside that room though so I'm guessing the room is probably just for looks. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

WOW! Restaurant

My parents and I usually stay home for dinner during weeknights. This is because there aren't many good Chinese restaurants in Mississauga;  it's just better to stay in for Chinese food since my Mom is such a good cook anyway (don't believe me? Check out some of my Mom's cooking here). But the reality is, even though my Mom is a good cook she still needs a break from cooking every once in awhile - she deserves and needs a break, simple as that.

Knowing that Chinese food sucks in 'sauga, we steer away from it and opt for other Asian food such as Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean. For Korean, we frequent WOW! Restaurant (not a very creative name). It is a small restaurant in a small plaza - the exact address is 55 Dundas Street East, major intersection is Dundas and Hurontario. I find the area pretty ghetto though; well maybe not ghetto, not like I think my life would be in danger or something, it is just not in the nicest looking plaza / neighbourhood, that's all. Nonetheless, we don't really care because we are not there to fine-dine, we just want a delicious and quick meal.

WOW! is a family owned, typical mom & pop restaurant - the husband is the chef, the wife and kid(s) serve the customers. You actually feel like you're eating at home when you're at WOW! because there's really no decor. It is always very quiet on weeknights.

I always order the same thing there, which is the Soon Tofu - I alternate between the Seafood and Vegetable Soon Tofu.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mildred's Temple Kitchen

I was planning to use my coupon for dinner at School Bakery & Cafe with Julia one night, but sadly when I got there it was closed for a private party. We had no idea what other restaurants were within walking distance (near Fraser and Liberty) and felt pretty discouraged as we walked for 5-10 minutes without seeing anything interesting besides fast food and bars. Thankfully, this very bright yellow/greenish sign caught my attention. I was surprised to see it since I always thought Mildred's Temple Kitchen was located at another part of town. But what do I know? I suck at directions. Anyway, we followed that small arrow on the top right corner, zig-zagged between buildings and finally arrived to the entrance of Mildred's Temple Kitchen.

Like a lot of my other posts, I tend to go for dinner on a weeknight right after work. So most of the time the restaurants are pretty empty. Same thing again here at Mildred's; pretty much empty besides us and two other table. This shot is of the entrance leading to the dining room.

The decor at Mildred's is very contemporary, probably the most contemporary restaurant I've been to recently. Everything seems to have a very smooth texture; the wood, the stainless steel, the white round chairs, the glossy floor. The whole restaurant is very spacious but also very air-y. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Yuzu Sushi & Sake Bar - My Second Visit

Back in October, I blogged about my first ever dinner at Yuzu and how much I was blown away by everything there. My second time at Yuzu was just as great - I enjoyed everything from the cocktails, oyster shooters, to the sashimi and hot dishes, and finally dessert. Everything was phenomenal, all except for ONE dish. But more about that later.

Like last time, this was also a birthday dinner; last time was for my birthday, this time was for May's birthday.  I actually told May to choose a place since she was the birthday girl but I guess she loved Yuzu so much that she wanted to again. Well no hesitation on my part either =)

If you want to see some pictures of the decor at Yuzu, check out my first post here. For this post I'm gonna dive right into the food.

We each ordered a cocktail. May had the Yo-Ki-Hi,  which was sweet, smooth, and had a refreshing taste of lichee with a kick of sake. I had the 
Yuzu Moni, a light, sparkling cocktail. We were both very happy with ours.

With no further adieu...

Soup & salad - came with the sashimi dinner we ordered. 

Oyster shooter fresh oyster, quail egg, tobiko, yuzu ponzu, uni, green onion

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip

I love this dip, the spinach and artichoke dip. Whenever I see it on the menu in a restaurant, I always have the urge to order it as an appetizer (and probably end up doing so if others are OK with it). More times than not, I am disappointed with the dip - either it is too watery, not thick enough, not enough cheese / spinach / artichoke, not hot enough, or all of the above. The chips can be a problem too - they are sometimes too greasy / oily, or just stale / hard. So far, I like the spinach & artichoke dip at Milestone's the best. It is pretty consistent; I had it watery just one time out of the many times I've ordered it, and the chips are the perfect size of dipping - slightly salted, crispy, and long in shape, which you can break up and dip again without having to double-dip. It also comes with sour cream and salsa.

Never did I think that one day, I would be making my own spinach & artichoke dip. It called out to me because of two reasons: 1) my friend was having a potluck party for new years and he told me I should bring some sort of appetizer because he got the mains taken care of, and 2) I got myself a food processor on boxing day (my one and only purchase on boxing day, online too). Isn't it beautiful? =D

Monday, January 10, 2011

Table 17

I got a Groupon for Table 17 long time ago ($25 for a $50 voucher) and have been meaning to go a few months back but when my boyfriend called to make a reservation for a Saturday night (I think he called on the Thursday) he was told that it was already fully booked except for a sitting at 10pm. Hearing that, I wasn't sure whether it was because Table 17 is small or whether it is really that popular. Well, after having dinner there, I can say that Table 17 turns out to be both - it is indeed a small and quaint restaurant with delicious food and lovely ambience - I genuinely loved everything about the place; it totally exceeded my expectations. I will go back to Table 17 in a heartbeat.

I went with my friend, Ray, a month ago on a Thursday night. I knew I was going to love this restaurant once I stepped in - it was small, cozy and stylish. I love the dark colours at the bar and the chalkboard at the back, and also the tiny window where you can see a bit of the kitchen inside.

On the right, by the entrance, is a table suitable for a big group.

Random chicken, yet a classy chicken. It totally works.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Windsor Arms - The Russian Room

This is my third time at Windsor Arms for afternoon tea. I LOVE afternoon tea - it is such a nice treat every once in awhile (and I emphasize "every once in awhile" because it is not cheap). You know how for most girls, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear the words "treat themselves" usually involves going to the spa, or shopping, or going for a manicure? Well, not me. I don't have much interest in any of those activities at all; if I ever feel the "need" to treat myself or "splurge" on something, it will most likely be food-related.

Anyway, since I love afternoon tea at Windsor Arms so much I figured it deserves a second post (check out my first post here). This time, being my third time at Windsor Arms, I had tea with my boss and colleagues (so even better no need to pay). It was part of our office's set of Christmas activities (we went to the ROM prior to afternoon tea and also had a separate Christmas dinner on the weekend).

I know the sandwiches, scones, and the cheese tarts are all the same every time, but this time, I had afternoon tea in The Russian Room which I've never been in before.

My first two times at Windsor Arms I was either in the Victorian-style room or the ultra-chic looking room with purple velvety wall (which I call the "Juicy Couture Room"). This time we were in The Russian Room; it is now officially my favorite room there. It is very small; the three tables by the window, which you see above, and the other side was where we sat, a long table that seats 6. And thats it, that's the room. The other two rooms, although big, can get a bit crammed when all the tables are filled. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fresh on Bloor > Fresh on Spadina

Fresh has been around for awhile (since 1999 as indicated on the menu). I have never stepped foot into Fresh before because I know it's a vegetarian restaurant (I need meat, I love meat, I can never be a vegetarian). Odd thing is, occasionally I would order salads at restaurants without any meat add-ons and I would be totally fine with it, life goes on. But psychologically, I feel a bit, intimidated (not sure if it's the right word here) going to a vegetarian restaurant because I know that the option of ordering meat is non-existent. Weird, huh? =D

So how did I end up at Fresh? Well, my friend Cindy and I were supposed to meet up for dinner at Marben after my visit to Menchie's Yogurt. But little did I know, all that yogurt filled me up (especially when I had to taste test so many flavours) and I could not imagine eating a burger anymore (I was going to try out Marben's burger after having a bite size of it at the Motto launch party). Since I was in Cindy's 'hood, I told her to suggest a restaurant that had a lighter menu and she suggested Fresh on Bloor. 

Fresh was packed when we arrived. I think a lot of people were waiting for take-out but nevertheless, all the tables in the dining room were filled. 

For all you meat-eaters, you can really breathe a sigh of relief because the menu is not all salads. They have a lot of different things like spring rolls, soups, dosas, burgers, wraps, and fries. They also have many sides and varieties in dressings, dips, and sauces. As for drinks, they have many protein shakes, smoothies, and juices to choose from. And if you're into adding supplements to your drinks, they have a whole list of that as well. 

Middle Eastern Plate - golden falafel balls, hummus, tahini & toasted organic whole wheat pita. This was our appetizer. I really enjoyed this plate because most of my vegetarian experience is really through salads and wraps as my main dish, but never a plate like this as an appetizer. I like the variation and also helps that I love olives, hummus and pita =) Never had the falafel balls before, kinda reminded me of meat balls. They were ok, a bit dry.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My "Nongshim" Oven-Roasted Spareribs

You're probably thinking, what the hell is "Nongshim" spareribs? Do I mean "Korean Spareribs"? Or some fancy "fusion" spareribs? Nope. None of the above. Let's just say these spareribs came to be due to pure laziness on my part. 

It was really gloomy a few Sundays ago; it was rainy, dark, and cold. It was basically a perfect day for staying-in and doing nothing at all. I had in mind to make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner that night and had planned to go grocery shopping for ground meat and other necessities. But when I woke up that Sunday afternoon (notice "afternoon", not "morning"), I've already decided that I did not want to go out, but rather, lounge in my pajamas all day. So what's in store for dinner then? I told my boyfriend to check what he has in the freezer, and he busted out some items that were of no interest to me. Suddenly, he pulled out a whole rack of pork spareribs which he said he got on sale last week but he only realized, after he bought it, that it takes super long to make and he said it's simply not worth it for one person (he cooks for himself during the weeknights). I immediately took on the challenge of tackling these ribs. 

I had to find a ribs recipe somewhere first. Contrary to what you may think, this is actually a very hard task considering that my boyfriend's place does not not have a lot of spices, sauces, or generally just cooking essentials or equipment. I looked online; a lot of recipes for ribs, yes, but I was always missing many essential ingredient. I finally found a recipe in this America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook  that my boyfriend gave to me as a gift a few days ago.

I had almost everything to make these spareribs happen with the recipe, all that was missing was two ingredients for the dry rub: 1) chili powder, and 2) cayenne powder. I had EVERYTHING else but those two ingredients, which I think were quite important for the ribs considering it asked for 1/2 cup of chili powder (I wouldn't think a dry rub with just brown sugar and black pepper be any good). My boyfriend had no spicy dry ingredient whatsoever - only spicy sauces, which will not do. It was frustrating to say the least, I needed spicy dry substitutions BAD. I was just about to give up on the ribs altogether when I saw my favorite instant noodle in the kitchen cabinet - a light bulb immediately went off in my head...