On Sunday, we hit the Toronto Garlic Festival, THE place to go if you’re looking to stock up on garlic – fresh, powdered, pickled, and in ice cream or popsicle form.
There were fewer vendors and food options this year, but we made the best of things, sampling some Syrian eats and Trinidanian doubles…
I’m as big a fan of spicy as Akemi is not, so I asked for a 50/50 split on the doubles – half with ghost chili pepper sauce, the other half mild. Interestingly, Akemi found her mild side crazy spicy while I found the entire dish not all that spicy at all. I wonder if my general insensitivity has extended to chili peppers now.
The haul: assorted garlic, black garlic, hot sauces, jellies, jams, and spreads. Enough to tide us over to November!
Then, for dessert, we happened by a chocolate-themed pop-up by Cove Crafted, a collaboration between B.C.’s Cove Cannabis and Beta 5 Chocolates. The chocolates on display were non-infused, no cannabis was on sale on-site, but there was plenty of chocolate to be had…
You have your choice of three blunts: 66% dark chocolate with cocoa beans, milk chocolate and lavender, and, surprisingly my favorite, white chocolate with matcha and green mango.
Adam Chandler, the chocolatier behind Vancouver’s award-winning Beta 5 Chocolates. I miss this place.
A peek inside Akemi’s emergency chocolate drawer.
Alright. Off to work on an outline. But, before I do, some shout-outs to a few blog regulars. Sending best wishes to MaggieMayDay, positive thoughts to Hilda for a speedy recovery, and Happy Birthday tidings to gforce!
Today was the second day of the UF Writer’s Room and I’m pleased to report things are coming along nicely. So far as the show’s creative is concerned anyways. Lunches, on the other hand, are a work in progress. Read more
So, a couple of weeks ago, Roger Cross (Dark Matter‘s SIX/Griffin Jones/Kal Varrick, and every other show’s everyone else) sent out a Toronto-wide text to let everyone know he’d be in town shooting one of his innumerable productions. Last night, we finally got together for a feast of steak, sides, steak, wine, steak, Yorkshire pudding, steak, dessert, and more steak! In attendance, from left to right: Robbie, Stephanie, Akemi, Joe, Ivon, and Roger. Read more
Given the fact it’s impossible to get an Impossible Burger here in Toronto (ironic, no?), I thought we’d try the next best thing: the meatless burgers at Planta Burger. To be honest, they were…okay. Texturally uninspired (I was hoping the “crab cake” would, at the very least, be crispy) and underwhelming in flavor. The cauliflower was a disaster, almost half the deep-fried portions pure batter. But the fries were pretty damn great! Read more
Very saddened to hear of Anthony Bourdain’s passing. While I’ve never considered myself a “fan” of celebrities, he was one of the few Akemi and I genuinely loved for his honesty, cutting sense of humor, and the obvious empathy he had for others.
Anthony always had a way with words. These are my favorite Anthony Bourdain quotes:
“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don’t have.”
“And chicken is boring. Chefs see it as a menu item for people who don’t know what they want to eat.”
“I’ve long believed that good food, good eating, is all about risk. Whether we’re talking about unpasteurized Stilton, raw oysters or working for organized crime ‘associates,’ food, for me, has always been an adventure”
“I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.”
“To have a child is to give fate a hostage.”
“Assume the worst. About everybody. But don’t let this poisoned outlook affect your job performance. Let it all roll off your back. Ignore it. Be amused by what you see and suspect. Just because someone you work with is a miserable, treacherous, self-serving, capricious and corrupt asshole shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying their company, working with them or finding them entertaining.”
“A proper saute pan, for instance, should cause serious head injury if brought down hard against someone’s skull. If you have any doubts about which will dent — the victim’s head or your pan — then throw that pan right in the trash.”
“It’s very rarely a good career move to have a conscience.”
“These are the end products of the Masterminds of Safety and Ethics, bulked up on cheese that contains no cheese, chips fried in oil that isn’t really oil, overcooked gray disks of what might once upon a time have been meat, a steady diet of Ho-Hos and muffins, butterless popcorn, sugarless soda, flavorless light beer. A docile, uncomprehending herd, led slowly to a dumb, lingering, and joyless slaughter.”
“The food was what you might expect to find on Air Uganda tourist class:”
“I compared it to taking my first acid trip: Nothing was ever the same for me. I just wanted more of it. If I had to agree to live in one country, or even one city, for the rest of my life, never leaving it, I’d pick Tokyo in a second.”
Sure, I enjoy Iberico pork and shaved Alba truffles on risotto as much as the next guy, but sometimes you want to take a break from the wagyu and o-toro and just enjoy the simpler things in life. Like Nutella. Or cabeza tacos. Or, as was the case over recent days, some fried chicken.
I’ve had a hankering for fried chicken going on weeks and so I called on Toronto’s resident fried chicken expert, Elliot Sokolsky, to lead the way. Unfortunately, since the last time I saw Elliot, he’s adopted one of those crazy diets where he avoids sugars and starches and fried chicken, but he made an exception for the occasion. (And, I’m hearing, regretted it soon after, but that’s a story for another blog post. Maybe on his blog.)
Ivon Bartok (who no longer eats fried chicken and, instead, opted for one of those grass and shrub smoothies) and Akemi (who doesn’t like fried chicken) joined us for moral support…
Our first stop was Gdous Juicy Chicken House (223 Spadina Ave.), a Taiwanese fried chicken chain that opened up in Toronto’s Chinatown about a month ago.
Since we need to pace ourselves, we simply went with the double drumstick order. It was very crisp, with a surprisingly light coating, and the meat was tender. My only criticism – the flavors were restrained and I felt they could have used more seasoning.
The restaurant is in the midst of a soft opening, so a lot of its menu items are not yet available, but I look forward to coming back and checking out the spicy wings on my next visit.
Don’t we all?
Our second stop was one of food personality Anthony Bourdain’s favorites, the venerable Popeyes (400 Queen St. West), a ubiquitous establishment I – believe it or not – have never visited.
Akemi and Ivon = super excited!
I deferred to Elliot, the Popeyes veteran, who ordered up some tenders and Buffalo Wing sauce. Overall, not bad but there was a notable drop-off in the quality of the chicken from Jdous.
Our third stop was The County General (936 Queen St. West) where we ordered their signature County Fried Chicken (buttermilk fried chicken, Texas BBQ sauce, dill ranch, honey garlic herbs, pickles, corn bread). The chicken was delicious, although I could have done with a lot less of the accompanying sauce. Also, not a fan of cornmeal-crusting and its occasionally gritty texture. Akemi loved the cornbread!
And that was a wrap on the Elliot-assist. The next day, however, Akemi joined me for second lunch at Buldak: Home of Hot Taste (658 Blood St. West) for their Korean fried chicken. I was, honestly, overwhelmed by the enticing offerings and ultimately elected to go with a combo that included both their regular and spicy fried chicken. The waiter attempted to steer me clear of the spicy version, warning me “It’s very hot.” I told him I’d be fine.
The original recipe was very good and served with a side of salt so that customers can presumably adjust to their preferred level (I definitely thought it needed a pinch). As for the spicy fried chicken – wow! I rated it a 7.5 (on 10) on my heat scale: fiery yet flavorful, sweet and savory, with a great crunch. Akemi, on the other hand, rated it a 10 and then refused to hold my hand for the rest of the afternoon for fear I’d somehow transfer the spiciness despite the fact I used two wet towelettes and throughly washed my hands afterwards.
Home of Hot Taste’s spicy fried chicken was, hands down, the winner of this extended outing.
I fully intend to check out some of Toronto’s other contenders. But not before I pay a return visit to Home of Hot Taste so I can sample their green onion fried chicken and their Blazing Fire chicken with cheese. Who’s in?!
Look, as a foodie, I’m the last person who is going to criticize someone’s menu selections. If you want to shell out an extra $50 to top your scallops with Osetra caviar or spend $150 to finish that risotto with white truffle shavings, why not? Who am I to say anything? On my first trip to Tokyo, I dropped over $200 on a modest wagyu (a taste experience so revelatory that, upon my return to North America, I was unable to eat regular steak for three years). But I have to draw the line at this –
And this –
And this –
To answer the question posed in the last video (“Is a $90 24-karat gold burger worth it?”), I can say with utmost certainty: No, it’s not fucking worth it. Why not? Well, because unlike Osetra caviar ($300/2 ounces), white truffles ($300/ounce), or an A5 Black Tajima tenderloin from Gunma Prefecture ($300/10 ounces), that edible gold tastes like absolutely nothing. It is not only completely devoid of flavor, but chemically inert so that it will pass through your digestive system without effect. Truly the only justification for ordering any of the afore-mentioned is that they allow you to proclaim “I shit gold!” and be literally correct, in addition to sounding like a complete asshole (as opposed to maybe being figuratively correct and sounding like an asshole).
As this culinary trend started to gather steam online, I wondered: “Who the hell would order this?”. And, almost immediately, someone came to mind, an ostentatious grandstander who, as far back as I can remember, never hesitated to joyously remind everyone of his incredible affluence. The kid who decorated his Christmas tree with diamonds and precious pearls because regular ornaments just wouldn’t do. The kid who’d take a private gondola up to his tree house. The kid who named his dog Dollar, then fed him kibble in the shape of dollar signs!
This little bastard, with a consumption so extravagantly conspicuous he’d put a rapper to shame, wouldn’t think twice about chowing down on gold-dusted wings, gold leaf burgers, and gold-sprinkled sundaes. Why? Because he can and he wants you to know it. Also, he’s always been a jerk. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof! 10 Times Richie Rich Was A Dick!
Hey, poor kid, nice boat!
My Jai alai match was cancelled, so I’ll just catch a ballgame like the regular folk.
Lest anyone forget how wealthy I am, let me remind you. I bet half those kids hadn’t eaten a proper meal in days.
My work duties consisted of walking around with a retrofitted backpack so that my employer could watch t.v. while strolling. Also, care of fine china, silver, and crystal.
I don’t play golf but I have a feeling this would, at the very least, be considered a breach of etiquette. Fore, suckers!
That’s not a top. THIS is a top! Just kidding. It’s a 1200 carat diamond worth more than the lives of everyone you’ve ever loved.
What’s next? Hire a couple of goons to work over those pesky third graders?
Dance for me, monkeys!
Replacing the stuffing of his glove with cash because…his opponents can’t afford to buy a decent pair of shoes.
Yeah, these coins grow naturally in my backyard. Also, Santa is a close personal friend of mine – oh, and your grandma isn’t dead anymore.
Hey, if you’re thinking of making our dogs new outfits, Akemi offers up the following doggy measurements. I think she does a fairly good job of capturing Suji’s trademark wide-eyed wonder, and Lulu’s general furtiveness.
Who feels like kaka for dinner? Pardon me? Happened across this sign for a new Japanese restaurant a little while ago. Debatable name aside, not sure how a restaurant that has yet to open can claim to be the “No. 1 rated all-you-can-eat sushi in Toronto”. Who voted? Time-traveling nigiri-enthusiasts from the future?
I’m sure we can all agree that, next to politics and religion, there is no subject more controversial than marzipan. Its mere mention will incite a tirade so impassioned from my former writing partner you’d think almond paste had somehow played a role in the tragic passing of a loved one. I, on the other hand, love the stuff, so you can imagine my delight the other day when I happened upon a Danish Pastry House pop-up and discovered the above pictured delicacy – some unpronounceable North Germanic confection comprised of marzipan, chocolate, sliced almonds, and assorted umlauts. Delicious!
Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends. May you be as generous as the Mark Sanchez-led Jets offense, and as thankful as the New England Patriots defense five years ago today.
While I may not be as busy as I was while Dark Matter was in production, I find myself surprisingly busy for someone without a show to run. Most of my days are spent reading comic books and reviewing anime…for work! In addition, I’ve got a little over a half dozen “things” percolating, from being hired to co-develop and write the pilot for a new sci-fi project to angling on four different book-to-screen adaptations. Throw in a couple of very intriguing showrunning opportunities and let’s call it a year. Decisions, decisions. Cannot wait to share the details – and head back into production.
No, scratch that. I can wait a little longer. Enjoying the first real vacation I’ve had in…oh, about 20 years.
Being suddenly free for lunch and dinners has given me the opportunity to enjoy – well, what else? – more lunches and dinners. Recently, we hit up our favorite place for tapas, Bar Raval, with our friend Nicole Tsang (who took all of the following snaps).
The happy (albeit slightly suspicious) couple.
Order from the menu, but always check out the bar for the daily additions.
Akemi’s favorite – the torta (which is like an Italian frittata and all sorts of delicious).
From their conserva section: mackerel and scallops.
Crispy eggplant with honey.
And, for dessert, one of everything – as is the custom! Well, the custom when you’re dining with yours truly.
“He ordered the souvlaki with hot sauce,”my friend informed me. “His nose bled all night!”
“All night?” I was dubious.
“All night!”she insisted.
I suppose it was intended as a cautionary tale but the first thought that entered my mind was: “I’ve got to try that hot sauce.”
I’ve always been a fan of spicy. One of the first Japanese phrases I learned before going to Tokyo for the first time was “Karai no ryori wa dai suki desu” (“I love spicy food!”) lest they fear offending an overly sensitive gaikokujin palate. When I go out for pad gra prow, I dismiss foreigner (farang) spicy in favor of Thai (phet mak mak) spicy. Hell, I’ve even started making my own hot sauces.
But even though I like the heat, I am picky. I’m not a huge fan of the tamer cayenne-based hot sauces only because I tend to find them too vinegary. The beyond hot sauces are certainly hot, but their flavor is akin to liquid rubber. Give me an island hot sauce, something with a habanero or scotch bonnet base. Incorporate onions and garlic for flavor, the sweetness of fruit to compliment the heat, maybe even a touch of mustard to give it an extra little kick.
The other day, Akemi took all of my hot sauces out of the back cupboard and suggested I deal with them – which essentially means toss them or consume them in six weeks I have left in Vancouver. Well, I’m up to the challenge! But first, a little sample to find out if they’ve stood the test of time (aka – haven’t gone bad sitting in the pantry since 2010).
I remember the first time I sampled this one – just a touch on the end of a dipped toothpick. It was pretty intense. A friend of Akemi tested his luck and started hiccuping instantly. More of a novelty than a worthy addition to the rotation.
Hmmm. Just the basics here: cayenne, water, and salt. The years have not been kind to this hot sauce which went from its original vibrant orange to an ominous dark brown.
This one comes with a (presumably tongue in cheek) warning not to attempt to actually light the fuse. The wax seal, while amusing, is surprisingly thick and difficult to cut through. It’s a combination of some 20 peppers and not unbearable in its heat level.
Unlike this one that is aptly termed “Beyond Insanity” because you’d have to be crazy to eat it. It’s habanero-based sauce but also includes “habanero-infused flavor”, whatever that means. Another one that has aged terribly, at least in its coloring.
Also habanero-based and while this one seemed to have prevailed over Father Time, the flavor seemed a bit…off.
Vidalia onions and peach! I am IN! To be honest, I haven’t had the heart to open this one yet simply because I don’t want to be disappointed if it’s turned and I’m unable to use it. Jeff, I’m waiting for you to get into town before I try it.
My new favorite hot sauce (now that I can no longer track down my former fave, Chalido Chile Trader’s Besos de Fuegos) is this little gem made right here in B.C. with locally-sourced honey and apples.
I’m love the island sauces.
And, of course, who can resist the sweet and spicy combo of Korean gochujang. I pick up mine up at my local farmer’s market.
And speaking of local, Oddball Organics makes a terrific line of sauces that combine two of my favorite things: heat and garlic. From left to right, their progressively hotter offerings go from Nasty Nectar to Nuclear Nectar to Tongue Twister.
Oh, and that nose-bleedingly hot hot sauce? It wasn’t that hot. And my nose was just fine.
Now that I’m back home, it’s time to hit up all of my favorite places and check in on many of my old friends. Like Marginni at Jack who gave me a new summer do, Hodie at Xoxolat who helped me stock up on Ecuador dark chocolate bars, and Darlene and co. at The Book Warehouse and Jill and Walter (and dog Judd) at White Dwarf Books who recommended some great reads to add to my burgeoning to-read pile. Toronto has a lot going on for it, but not much in the way of great bookstores. Oh, don’t get me started.
I now do most of my reading via iBooks, but I will pick up physical copies of titles I’ve enjoyed. I loved the hell out of Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Thorns, so it and the ensuing two books of the trilogy are destined for my home library.
This morning, we hit one of our favorite places – Bella Gelateria – for pizza and ice cream. Well, pizza for Akemi and me, and ice cream for everyone, including the dogs thanks to owner James Coleridge’s special sugar free, dairy free, vegan doggy gelato. Peanut butter flavor!
Ladies, start your ice cream engines!
Lulu is the daintiest of eaters.
Suji’s crazy ice cream face!
Before we left, James gifted me a cache of his homemade birdseye chili seasoning. Holy! The burn is enough to give you a light buzz.
Tonight, it was dinner at Sushi Bar Maumi – next to Toronto’s Yasu, my favorite place for sushi outside of Japan.
Full day and full stomach. And the week aint even over yet!