Monday, January 30, 2012

1800 Degrees [VLOG]

Back in December before I left for my Hong Kong trip, I had a lovely steak dinner with the View The Vibe (@ViewtheVibe) ladies, Nicki and Michelle (@MichelleVTV) at 1800 Degrees (Twitter: @1800DegreesTO, Facebook: 1800Degrees).  Located on Bloor West in Etobicoke1800 Degrees gets its name from their signature broiler that literally cooks steak at a temperature of 1800 degrees Fahrenheit (or 982 degrees Celcius). Impressive :)


Family owned and operated, 1800 Degrees have won the title of "Best Steak in Toronto" for 2010/2011 by Dine.TO as well as the "Platinum Award Steak, Gold Award Seafood" award for 2010/2011 by Bloor West Villager News. 


I was the first to arrive that night and took the opportunity to take some pictures. 


With seating on both sides, 1800 Degrees is a very spacious restaurant. It also has a modern yet warm decor; all the cushioned seating gives an inviting and cozy atmosphere. 


Chef Hugo Ferreira and his team at 1800 Degrees prepares all dishes in-house which includes their USDA Prime Steaks (aged 35-40 days) and fresh seafood.





Friday, January 27, 2012

More Than Just Ice Cream at Cool Hand Luc

Cool Hand Luc (Twitter: @CoolHandLucTO, Facebook: Cool Hand Luc) located on 545 King St. W. is a cute and colourful ice cream shop that opened back in June of last year. While many ice cream shops in Toronto cut down hours or shut down completely during the winter, Cool Hand Luc steered away from the norm and launched a "Winter Menu" that  offers fresh soups and custom grilled cheese (with weekly features and specials). I was invited by Cool Hand Luc to try out their Winter Menu last week.


Before I go on, I need to point out Cool Hand Luc's back-wall! For those of you that have been there you will know exactly what I'm talking about. This mural... I just can't get enough of it! I literally stood in front of it for five minutes just admiring it...it's so adorable! I especially love the blob of purple ice cream vomiting Mike and Ikes. And the face on that peanut butter cup? Hilarious! =D


Currently, all of Cool Hand Luc's ice cream are sourced from Bobcaygeon-based Kawartha Dairy and their vegan friendly,100% natural, fat-free fruit sorbets come from Solo Fruit in Montreal. However, this will all change this summer as owner Luc Essiambre hopes to produce at least 50% of their ice cream, and by 2013, Cool Hand Luc will be serving exclusively their own homemade ice cream.


Ah this is what I'm here for, Cool Hand Luc's soups and grilled cheese~




Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 Chinese New Year's Eve Feast

Let me start off this post by wishing everyone a Happy Chinese New Year! I wish you all a healthy and prosperous Year of the Dragon! And it doesn't matter if you're not Chinese, you will still get this blessing from me ^_^


Before I jump into what I had for my Chinese New Year Eve's dinner, I want to share with all of you my Chinese horoscope for 2012 - it is actually really really shitty and goes something like this [with my thoughts inserted in pink]: 


"You are prone to losing money, so avoid any gambles or guesses [I don't gamble...whew]. Since you are also prone to accidents and legal troubles, take it easy at work and do drive carefully [it seems like I am prone to many bad things]. Your regular income should remain stable ["should"?]. If you are a surgeon, butcher, soldier or police officer, you will do well [I'm neither of those so guess I won't be doing too well]. Work that involves finance or gambling are not good paths for you [again, I don't gamble]. Only hard work will bring you money. If you want to succeed, put in more effort [I promise I will not be a slacker]. Choose saving over gambling [alright enough with the gambling!]. Quarrels and arguments can be expected, so be patient and keep an open mind [this one may be tough lol]. If you are single, forget marriage this year [Haha CHECK!]. Beware of surgeries [WTF?!]. Your digestive system could bother you [NOOOOOOOOO!]."


Holy crap! Is there anything good for me this year? Should I just write-off 2012 right now? O_o Thank goodness I'm not superstitious or else I would be losing sleep every night over this. So yeah, I will ignore that...completely =P


Sorry I digress...back to food. It is pretty much standard that my Mom will cook a very elaborate meal for the family every Chinese New Year Eve (I blogged about last year's CNY dinner too). She usually starts prepping several days before to make sure everything goes smoothly the night of the dinner. 


I got a couple of kitchen shots. Here we have oysters in the deep fryer. Cute fryer, huh? ;) 



Roasted pork belly right out of the oven. Crispiest skin EVER! So much crispier than the ones in Chinese restaurants, I guarantee it! Honestly, the best roasted pork belly comes from my Mom's kitchen. Period!


With the five of us - my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law and I - there was plenty of food to go around. It was complete indulgence! ^_^ We had the following dishes:

Lemon Chicken with Shallots and Ginger - This dish is very tangy and appetizing, I especially enjoyed the shallots which soaked up all the sauce. Just so you know, eating a whole chicken during Chinese New Year symbolizes a proper beginning and end to the year (here are a list of dishes that are staple to a Chinese New Year's dinner)


Vegetable Plate - Like I mentioned in my post last year, I really like this veggie dish because it has so many textures and flavours; there are bamboo fungus and shoots, bean curd sticks, tofu, mushrooms, "fat choy" and dried lily flowers. Although it may not look it, I assure you that it is very appetizing =P


Deep Fried Oysters - Thinly battered, hot, crispy and the juicy oysters inside *drools*! Every time my Mom makes these I go crazy....cholesterol level through the roof!


Stewed Chinese Black Mushrooms with Fish Belly and Sea Cucumber - My Mom always uses the biggest and thickest Japanese mushrooms for this dish :) I love fish belly and sea cucumber as they are both very soft and tasty. 




Monday, January 23, 2012

Food on Film @ TIFF

I'm going to take a wild guess that if you are reading this right now, you food...

I'm also going to assume that most people like movies too (really, who doesn't?!). 

Well then, I present to you, the best of both worlds: FOOD ON FILM @ TIFF


TIFF has partnered with Oliver and Bonacini and Food Network Canada on an exciting new subscription series at the beginning of February which brings chefs, food experts and film lovers together to enjoy the best of culinary cinema and conversation. Food on Film features six screenings with guests from across North America who use the films as a launch pad for engaging discussions and take questions from the audience. For each instalment, host Jason Bangerter (@chefbangerter), Executive Chef of Luma and O&B Canteen restaurants, welcomes guest chefs from Food Network and other experts from the culinary world to examine the intersections of great food and great films. A unique dish will be created and served at Luma before and after each event (additional charge applies) and all Food on Film subscribers will receive a recipe card for each of the dishes.

  Food on Film begins Tuesday, February 7th. Click here to purchase tickets.



Subscriptions to the complete Food on Film series (6 screenings) are available for $180 for non-members or $140 for TIFF members (prices include tax). The last guest in June is still TBD. Dinners are extra.

TIFF — Toronto International Film Festival, Reitman Square, 350 King St. W., Toronto.
Call 416 599-TIFF or Tiff.net for additional details and tickets.









Friday, January 20, 2012

Snake Soup at Snake King (Hong Kong)

Pleasantly full from our epic seafood dinner in Tuen Mun, Hong Kong, my friends suggested we go get some snake soup. I was a bit hesitant because 1) I was already very full from all the seafood, 2) It was getting late and I have a plane to catch the next day, and 3) snake soup is not dessert (something that I will always have room for...but snake soup? More savoury stuff?! I dunno :S). But my friends insisted that we go (well for my sake anyway) as I haven't had snake soup since I was little (more than 20+ years ago) and most importantly, they know I won't be coming back to Hong Kong anytime soon. Anyway, I'm so thankful that my persistent friends were able to drag my lazy ass up because the snake soup was so incredibly delicious...making it the second most memorable meal (?) I had in Hong Kong.


The most popular snake soup establishment in Hong Kong is Snake King. This one we went to is called Snake King Fai (they are always called Snake King ___) . If I remember correctly, we went around 10:30-11pm and it was still packed (they only have like 8 stools in there though).



Simple menu: Large and small sizes of thick snake soup, regular snake soup (less ingredients than the thick snake soup) and sticky rice (a larger, eat-in only size, and a smaller size that you can take-out).


Newspaper clippings about Snake King.


It is very common to order sticky rice with snake soup because they go together really well. I must admit, although I was full after my  epic seafood dinner, I couldn't resist digging into this bowl of sticky rice. Each individual grain of rice had so much flavour and cooked just right, not mushy. The liver sausages had a crispy skin and juicy filling, and the peanuts gave a nice crunch, complementing the softness of the whole dish.


We all ordered the thick snake soup. The soup itself is a rich mixture and has a slightly spicy broth with lots of ingredients filled with chicken, snake, abalone, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, pork and ginger.


There are different condiments that you can add to your snake soup. The soup is often sprinkled with chrysanthemum leaves (which are believed to aid the vision and adds sweetness to the dish).


Deep fried crispy crackers for crunch.


My snake soup with all the fixin's! 


A piece of snake meat for you to see. To most people snake tastes like chicken, and I agree.


What a fabulous night! I had incredible company (dining with a chef, his cooks and other foodies) and enjoyed some of the freshest seafood I've ever had in my whole life and finally topped it all off with a bowl of hearty sticky rice and hot snake soup. Really, it was a perfect ending to my Hong Kong trip... I really couldn't ask for more! I wish I can re-live that night over and over again lol.

Well my dear followers, this post concludes my Hong Kong eating adventure! Hope you guys enjoyed reading my posts as much as I enjoyed writing about it~ Back to the Toronto scene I go ^_^









Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Epic Seafood Dinner in Hong Kong

It was on my very last night in Hong Kong that I had the most memorable, most epic meal of my entire two-week stay. It was the most epic meal during my vacation in Hong Kong and also the most epic seafood meal I've ever had in my life so far. Yeah...you read right.


I mean, think about it. How many times will I ever get a chance to walk along an outdoor seafood market? Not in Toronto that's for sure. Plus, how many times will I ever get to pick out live fishes and other seafood catches of the day for the night's dinner? Not many. To top that off, how many times will I ever get to have that fresh seafood that I just picked and have it cooked to my liking at a nearby restaurant? Hm almost none?! Case closed.


All kidding aside, this awesome experience wouldn't have been possible if not for Chef Vicky Cheng from Liberty Private Works (see post here), who, along with a few of his cooks, took me to Tuen Mun on their day off. Thanks soooo much you guys! :) Oh and I should add that this whole experience was as great as it was because one of the cook's parents actually own a seafood store there! AND his Mom (which I will refer to "Auntie" from now on lol) also works at a nearby restaurant...BONUS!!! =D



Live seafood in tanks everywhere! It was such an incredible experience just looking at all the different varieties of live seafood. Below are Mantis Shrimps or "Lai Liu Ha" in Cantonese ("攋尿蝦"). .


The direct translation of "Lai Liu Ha" means "pissing shrimp" due to the fact that they spray water when taken out of the tanks live. Fascinating! By the way you can't find these mantis shrimps in Toronto.


Giant scallops.


Not sure what type of lobster this was but I thought it had a really cool colour. 


You NEED to take a look at this short clip. This ginormous fish is not for sale but is now a resident pet fish at the store. Its sheer size is amazing! It may look old and slow but check out how quick it is when it comes to feeding time *CHOMP*


I was really overwhelmed with all the seafood around me. Vicky kept on insisting that I could pick whatever I want to eat. I just couldn't! It felt like a very daunting task to choose seafood for me and six other people for dinner that night. Thank goodness Auntie helped me out :) The gentleman below followed Auntie's orders and picked out the seafood which were then weighed.



Monday, January 16, 2012

Death Row Meals - Taco Edition

The launch of the 2012 season of the Death Row Meals Supper Club was all about tacos, tacos, TACOS! Brought to you by Joel (@foodie411) from Living.Loving.Local, 6 tacos were presented blind, in no particular order with alcohol pairings, and guests were to rate each taco with increments of 0.25 for Flavour (2 pts), Appearance (1 pt), Originality (1 pt) and Bonus (1 pt), for a possible perfect score of 5 points. Honestly, 6 tacos, 6 chefs, 6 booze pairings, whats not to love? =D


The Death Row Meals taco event yesterday took place at Milagros Cantina (@Milagro_Cantina)


Chefs hard at work in the kitchen.


Prepping the first set of tacos *drools*


Without further adieu, below are the six delicious tacos~ Keep in mind that the tacos were presented blind at the time of tasting.

Taco #1: Rossy Earle (SupiCucu) (@PanCanCooks) - Green plantain tortilla, avocado cream, braised & pulled chipotle smoked duck, chayote & tomato pickled slaw, culantro lime cream, duck skin chicharron. Paired with Spearhead Hawaiian Style Pale Ale.


Taco #2: Steve Gonzalez (@latino5spice)- Grilled adobo pork tender + tomatillo and corn relish + roasted garlic and lime crema + refried bean tortilla. Paired with Corona.


Taco #3: Tom Davis (The Stockyards) (@thestockyards) - Braised beef cheek and smoked beef tongue taco with avocado crema, pickled red onion, cilantro, and duo of house smoked hot sauces. Paired with Trapiche Malbec.


Taco #4: Andres Marquez (representing Charlies Burgers) (@charliesburgers) - Carne asada taco using smoked and grilled marinated kobe knuckle, fresh flour tortillas, salsa taquera garnished with grilled scallions. Paired with Tequila Tromba Blanco.


Taco #5: Nick Liu (Niagara Street Cafe) (@ninjachefnick) - Crispy octopus and jicama taco with smoked paprika caponata, chorizo bacon, spicy tomato aioli. Paired with Steam Whistle.


Taco # 6: Arturo Anhalt (Milagro Cantina) (@ElChefdeMilagro) - Taco de longaniza (spicy stret style chorizo) en salsa verder, with onion and nopales (cactus). Paired with Don Julio Blanco.


My favourites were Taco #5 (I loved the chorizo and the jicama taco was very unique), #1 (I liked the light ingredients and the smoked duck) and #3 (can't go wrong with house smoked hot sauces!).


The winner was Nick Liu (Taco #5) with his "Crispy Octopus and Jicama Taco with Smoked Paprika Caponata, Chorizo Bacon, and Spicy Tomato Aioli". Congratulations Chef Nick! (Note: Nick will be at Niagara Street Café until the end of the month...make sure to visit!)

Thanks to all the chefs, Milagros Cantina, the alcohol sponsors, and of course Joel for organizing such an amazing event. Death Row Meals Supper Club will be making donations to charity in all of the chefs names as thanks for their participation. 


Keep you eyes peeled for February's instalment of Death Row Meals featuring "Rising Stars" of Toronto's culinary community. Better yet, join their mailing list at deathrowmeals@gmail.com and LIKE them on Facebook so you won't miss out! 




Sunday, January 8, 2012

Random Eats in Hong Kong

Before I finish posting about my Hong Kong eating extravaganza and end with my two most memorable dining experiences there (posts still to come), I thought I would write up this "random eats" post first. The food here is not necessary "random" per se, but more like lunches and dinners that didn't quite make it as a "full post" on my blog; whether it be I forgot to bring out my "good camera", or just meals where there weren't enough food/courses hence not enough pictures/material for a full post, I have placed them here. So no, not random I guess but just bits and pieces? Like the picture on the left where I'm trying whiskey (Knob Creek Bourbon Whiskeyfor the first time at Angel's Share, a classy and beautiful whiskey bar in SoHo. This was a very memorable experience that I want to share with you but again, not something I can write a full post about. By the way, I only took a sip of the whiskey. I can't seem to fully appreciate whiskey yet but I hope I will someday~


Anyway, I'm going to start off this post talking about a new friend I met in Hong Kong...


When Chef Jason Bangerter (@chefbangerter), Executive Chef for O&B Restaurants at TIFF, Bell Lightbox, found out on Twitter that I was in Hong Kong, he immediately called up Chef Vicky Cheng  in Hong Kong. Turns out Chef Cheng, from Liberty Private Works and Liberty Exchange, was Chef Bangerter's first-ever apprentice! Thanks to Chef Bangerter, Chef Cheng was already expecting my call when I called him the next day ^_^ 


Chef Cheng has a pretty impressive resume. At age 28, Chef Cheng is already the Executive Chef at both Liberty Private Works and Liberty Exchange in Hong Kong. Before Liberty, Chef Cheng has spent time in Momofuko, Alinea & L20.  He has also held positions in top kitchens across the US and Canada including Daniel (NYC), Canoe and Auberge du Pommier.


It was really too bad that I didn't get to try Chef Cheng's 10-course menu at Liberty Private Works  as reservations were booked more than several months in advance (didn't help that I called Chef Cheng the day before Christmas Eve wanting a table for Christmas Eve with my aunt :S). However, Chef Cheng suggested I drop by after service on Christmas Eve and that's exactly what I did =)  Chef Cheng was so kind to cook a few signature dishes for me, like this raw tuna, caviar and sea urchin with Japanese rice puffs dish on the right. Scrumptious! Too bad I was already full from dinner as Chef Cheng was ready to cook me even more dishes :S Anyway, we chatted over drinks afterwards at the restaurant for a couple of hours, talking about food (of course) and life in Toronto and Hong Kong...what a great time! It was also Chef Cheng who took me out the next day where I experienced my two most memorable meals in Hong Kong =D So awesome~

Ok time to move to my various lunches and dinners in Hong Kong.

I had dinner with my Aunt Grace at a Shanghai restaurant called "Shanghai Por Por". Everything we ordered were pretty good. I especially enjoyed the massive green onion cakes (with lots of green onions and not too doughy) and the stir-fried rice cakes. The dam dam noodles were tasty too but it wasn't spicy enough.



Dinner with my Aunt Grace at a Chiu Chow restaurant she recommended. Loved everything here, especially the beef patty with preserved salted fish and the Chiu Chow style congee. The fried tofu was a delight as well...I've never seen fried tofu presented so elegantly =) I requested lighter dishes and this dinner was perfect. The tea was very strong yet so soothing.


Totally random, the left are Chinese Birthday Buns ("Sao Bao") that my relatives ordered at a Chinese restaurant one night for dessert. They were very delicious; the best steamed Sao Bao I've ever had. They were served extremely hot right out of the steamer; the lotus paste inside was soft, creamy and smooth. On the right is a chicken wing stuffed with glutinous rice from another dinner. First time I've ever had this. I thought it was just okay. 


Went to Zuma for a late dinner one night. I went in with high expectations but came out of the restaurant underwhelmed. It was still good but definitely not mind-blowing. The two most memorable dishes at Zuma for me were the "Spicy Beef Tenderloin with Sesame and Sweet Soy" and "Tuna Tartare with Miso, Myoga and Lotus Root Crisps". The sushi and sashimi were very average.