Archive for the ‘happenings’ Category

US Thanksgiving 2010

November 28, 2010

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2010 marked the 6th year that Adam and I have hosted a US Thanksgiving dinner for our friends. It’s become a tradition we both really look forward to every year, and are so glad to have such great friends to share it with and really, be thankful for.

We kept things a bit smaller this year due to me being 8 months pregnant, but somehow even only having 10 in attendance we still managed to make way, way too much food. It is what Thanksgiving is all about, right?

We got to make the most of our brand new double oven, and kept both ovens full most of the evening. It was great to not have to limit the menu based on what needed baking times. This also marked the first year I enjoyed some of the turkey as well, and it was great! Big thanks to The Healthy Butcher’s roasting instructions and brine, our turkey was moist and delicious.

We’ll be posting a bit about a few of the dishes individually over the next week or so,  but first, our whole menu: (more…)

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We Made Life at No. 71

July 19, 2010

Sorry – no recipes to post today, though we are a big backlogged… we have a post on raspberry jam pending, as well as the raspberry cream cupcakes we made with said jam, and a few others I can’t think of right now. And there will be lots and lots in the weeks to come after we return from our much anticipated trip to Italy.

But for now, some news about other things happening at No. 71:

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Life at No.71: A Year In Review

February 11, 2010

It may be a good 6 weeks into 2010, but we we’re marking a year in review of our blog. We started blogging at Life at No. 71 back on Feb 12, 2009, and we thought it might be a good time to take a look back at our year of postings. What were some highlights?

In the last year, we’ve been to California twice, witnessed my brother getting married and gained a great sister-in-law, mourned the loss of Adam’s grandmother, watched our friend’s little one go from very wee to not so wee, honed our gardening skills (though we still have a lot of learning to do!), gotten the hang of canning and preserved some of our garden goodness, and enjoyed a countless number of great meals both at home and away.

A year in, here are some of our favourite posts:

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Twisting our Tastebuds

February 7, 2010

Photo courtesy of Emily Wat

Last night, we gathered to try miracle fruit. We first heard about miracle fruit a few years ago through our friend Matt, who explained it’s “miracle” qualities: essentially it alters your tastebuds so that things taste different. From what we’d read, lemons would taste sweet and tabasco sauce like doughnut glaze. We knew we wanted to try it out right away, but only got around to it recently – and thanks to Emily’s nudging and co-planning, we got it planned and turned the event into a fundraiser for Haiti relief.

We found a great source in Toronto to get the berries from and ordered 2 berries per person and came up with a pretty massive list of things to buy. Our haul:

Photo courtesy of Emily Wat

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US Thanksgiving Dinner 2009, Part 2: Roasting and Eating the Monster Turkey

November 24, 2009

(…or how Adam and I cooked a meal for 16 people -including a 21lb turkey- and survived)

Following up on yesterday’s post, the turkey has now been brining for about 16 hours, and it’s time to do the final preparations and get that thing in the oven. So after a morning of getting other things prepped, we got the turkey out of the fridge. This part was pretty easy, really. We rinsed it off, and stuck the aromatics from Alton Brown’s recipe inside. Then I just tied up the legs with some kitchen twine and tucked the wings under to prevent burning.

Just about ready to go in the oven.

Now, I was a bit wary of one part of that recipe – the only thing it coated the skin with was canola oil with no other flavourings. I was worried it wouldn’t make for a flavourful enough skin – and so I poked around a bit more. I ended up sort of combining two recipes – I skipped the canola oil and did a butter rub as per Food Wishes blog post. He just made it seem so easy!

I made the herbed butter (a bit of my own combo of spices) and rubbed it up inside the turkey skin. His video gives a great tutorial on how to do that – it really wasn’t too bad. I tried rubbing it on the outside as well, but it didn’t really spread out so evenly – so I rubbed it as best I could and then melted the rest and kind of poured it over the top. I got it as coated as I could, an stuck it in the oven. The only other thing I did was chop up some carrot, celery, and onion and stick it in the bottom of the roasting pan along with about an inch of water as per Food Wishes’ blog. This is probably the one part I wish I’d just skipped.

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US Thanksgiving Dinner 2009, Part I: Prepping the Monster Turkey

November 23, 2009

(…or how Adam and I cooked a meal for 16 people -including a 21lb turkey- and survived)

As an American living in Canada, I have taken it upon myself to bring Thanksgiving to November for my Canadian friends. Even after being here for 6 Canadian Thanksgivings, I’ve never really gotten used to the idea of Thanksgiving being in October… and on a Monday. It just doesn’t seem right.

So 5 years ago, when Adam and I first had our apartment together, I decided to invite a few friends over for a US Thanksgiving dinner. That year was quite small – 6 people total. As big of a gathering as our 700 sq ft apartment could handle. We also kept it a bit non-traditional and skipped the turkey. It instead became a Vegetarian US Thanksgiving – with the main course being my now famous mac & cheese along with some roasted veggies in a puff pastry cornucopia (I was so proud of those!), a recipe found in an issue of Vegetarian Times (they keep their recipes locked or I’d include the link).

 

Table set: Dinner for 16 (plus 2 babies)

It has since become an annual tradition among our friends, and now the group has ballooned up to a whopping 16 people. I really love this tradition – it means that we get to spend Canadian Thanksgiving with Adam’s family, and then US Thanksgiving with our friends.  Bit of a best of both worlds sort of situation (except for how I wish we could spend it with *my* family sometime, but I guess that’s what happens when I move to another country). Anyway, I’ve started offering the traditional turkey, and this year I finally stopped wimping out… no more cook-from-frozen-pre-stuffed turkey! I’ve always kind of gone with a fingers-in-ears approach when preparing meat: I’m not eating it, so I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT IS NAH-NAH-NAH-NAH. Clearly, not the most sensible thing. If my money is going to be used to buy it, and my kitchen used to prepare it, I want to know that the meat I am buying is coming from a responsible source and that I’m not supporting factory farming. I ended up going with Fresh From The Farm – a sort of co-op of local Amish and Mennonite farmers – not organic like the widely-known The Healthy Butcher in Toronto, but also nearly 40% less cost. And as much as I want to support local/organic/humane, I also don’t want to go totally broke. And when purchasing a turkey for dinner for 16, you need a big turkey!

 

So… 21.4lb turkey. It’s big! Really really big! And I had to cook it! Eeeeek! Herein lies the rest of my comedy of errors in preparing our Thanksgiving meal (beware vegetarians… lots of details of turkey preparing below): (more…)

Thursday Night Barbecue Club

May 9, 2009
Note: this is not our backyard. But it is some of the people we would like to have in attendance!

Note: This is not our backyard. But it is some of the people we would like to have in attendance.

Cari and I have a somewhat ambitious plan for this summer.

Every Thursday (unless otherwise specified), we will be spending our evenings in the backyard; eating barbecue, drinking wine or beer, and relaxing.  Anyone who is able to join us is encouraged to, whether it’s every week, or just once in a while.  If it rains, we’ll just move ourselves inside.  But on virtually every Thursday night between June 4 and September 3, we will be doing this.  Some come and join us!

All we expect from our guests is *some* contribution, whether it be meats (or veggie alternatives) to be grilled, salads to be shared, or drinks to be consumed.  The idea is to keep things super casual and just give everyone a chance to drop in and enjoy the company and the atmosphere.

We’re not going to ask for much advanced notice, and each week we’ll send out a reminder (which may just be in the form of a Facebook status) indicating that the particular week is on.  Just drop in and enjoy!

The first of our weekly barbecues will happen on Thursday June 4.  We’ll start grilling around 7, but show up whenever.  We hope to see you then.

Authentic Mexican in Toronto, Part I: El Palenque Casa Del Mariachi

May 6, 2009

If there’s one thing I realized after I started spending more time in the U.S. with Cari and her family, it’s that authentic Mexican food was lacking in Toronto.   This kind of came as a bit of a shock, considering the number of quality Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Ethiopian, Korean, Italian, Thai, etc, etc, etc. restaurants in this city I call home.

Shortly after moving to the Dufferin & St. Clair area, we realized that there are actually quite a few Mexican restaurants in our area.  Before tonight, we had only tried El Rincon.  The food there was very good, but didn’t leave much of a lasting impression.  We were also curious as to how some of the other restaurants compared.

With its large bright orange sign, El Palenque caught our attention right away.  In fact, the first summer that we lived in our house, Cari picked up a menu from inside and commented on how good the place smelled.  Somehow, it took us more than a year and a half to return.  But we finally did, and our meal there was probably the best Mexican meal we’ve had in Toronto.

First impressions:  It’s an adorable little place with a stage set up for mariachi performances (our waitress told her that her mother sings with the band on weekends).  The menu was equally adorable, constructed out of wood to depict window shutters:

El Palenque's Menu

El Palenque's Menu

We started with the obligatory guacamole, which got us off to a good start.  It was served in a neat stone bowl with freshly baked chips and three types of salsa, each with its own unique flavour.  Very tasty guacamole… a good sign.

Tasty Guacamole

Tasty guacamole

Then came our margaritas.  Although El Palenque offers up strawberry, melon, banana, and even guava flavoured margaritas, we had to go with the original lime, on the rocks.  When we asked our waitress the difference between medium and large sized margaritas, she commented that the difference had to do with the amount of alcohol; not the physical size.   So large it was!  Not only that, but she was gracious enough to bring us the extra amount she had mixed by mistake.  So we actually each ended up with about a margarita and a half each.

Our entrees was extremely satsifying, and ultimately what convinced us that we were experiencing something special.  Cari ordered vegetarian fajitas, which were served with small, fresh tortillas and a whole load of vegetables and other fixings.   I ordered a burrito with delicious chunks of beef, cheese, rice and sauces.  Mmm…

Adam's burrito 
Adam’s burrito

 

 

Cari's fajitas
Cari’s fajitas

We were hoping to try El Palenque’s fried ice cream for dessert, but just before we had ordered our food we overheard someone behind us unsuccessfully trying to do the same (apparently it’s a more common dish in the summer and they were all out).  Oh well, after the copious amounts of food we had already eaten, there’s no way we could have eaten any more.

As of right now, El Palenque is easily the best Mexican we’ve had in Toronto.  The search continues, as always, but for now we are very happy and will definitely return.

Events at 71: Wine Tasting

May 3, 2009
All of the wines        

All of the wines

Last night we hosted our 2nd annual wine tasting. We kept it very casual – we just asked everyone to bring a bottle to share, picked up a few snacks, and passed around glasses for everyone to sample and encouraged people to discuss what they liked and what they didn’t. I think it went well – and I discovered a few new wines, which to me means it was a success! I hope others had fun as well.

As far as food, we warned everyone ahead of time not to expect our usual over-the-top food planning. Apparently to us that means just not making everything from scratch and just going overboard with store bought stuff. In the end we had:

  • Lots of cheese: A log of goat cheese, a chunk of 5 year old cheddar, and a wheel of brie which we baked… YUM. Ashley also brought a nice wedge of asiago.
  • Three dips: spinach, asiago artichoke, and hummus with pine nuts. 
  • Lots of bread-ish things: Pita, a baguette, two types of flatbread, and a box of assorted crackers.
  • Olives: plain pitted black, and almond stuffed green
  • Berries: Strawberries and blackberries

And of course, the main event – the wines. With a few of my tasting notes. Of course, I didn’t write anything down – so this is all from memory… if anyone has anything more to say let me know!

  1. La Vieille Ferme, Cotes Du Luberon – 2008
    This was our first contribution – a wine we were introduced to by our friend Kristin and we’ve had many times before. As Kristin introduced it this way – we lovingly refer to it as the “Chicken Wine” because of the label. It’s a nice crisp white. And when it’s crisp, that to me means it’s got a bit of an apple-y taste to it. Quite a nice summer wine.
  2. Gabbiano, Pinot Grigio – 2008
    After the Chicken Wine, we had the Red Knight wine. This was a very light Pinot Grigio. Tasty, but nothing really that special.
  3. Angel’s Gate, Gewurztraminer – 2007
    I like Gewurztraminer, but often find it way too sweet. This one was quite nice – not too sweet. Nice and drinkable. 
  4. Henry of Pelham, Chardonnay – 2007
    I love a nice full and oaky chardonnay – and this one was no exception. It had a really nice bite to it. Very lovely.    

    A farmer riding a bee!

    A farmer riding a bee!

  5. 20 Bees, Baco Noir – 2007
    This one won for the best label of the night. Very silly label – and the 4 tastings already in us made us all find it far too funny. It was a nice Baco Noir as well.
  6. Peller Estates, Baco Noir – 2008
    This one didn’t have the hilarious label, but it was very good. Definitely one to remember. It may well have been my favourite of the night.
  7. Santa Alicia, Carmenere – 2007
    This one was Adam’s favourite of the night – and my second favourite. It was quite pepper and smoky – and just… yummy. A lovely heavy red wine that would work perfectly with a nice juicy steak (that is, if I ate steak).
  8. Santa Alicia, Merlot – 2007
    I remember very little about this one – good or bad.  
  9. Wolf Blass Yellow Label, Merlot – 2006
    Definitely the best Merlot I’ve had. A nice full red.  

Overall a great evening. Thanks everyone for their contributions – and hopefully everyone left with at least one new bottle of wine in their list of favourites!

A Birthday Dinner at Sidecar Bar & Grill

March 5, 2009

 

Sidecar

Sidecar

Birthdays may not be as exciting as they once were, but one thing Cari and I always look forward to is treating each other to a fancy birthday dinner at a nice restaurant. Last year, I took Cari to Fressen on Queen Street West, and a few months later, she treated me to a delicious Greek dinner at Omonia on Danforth Avenue.

 

This year, Cari had one simple request: seared ahi tuna. I thought it was going to be easy. Boba has ahi tuna, right? Unfortunately, Boba recently shut its doors, which made my mission a lot more challenging. I turned immediately to google, and wound up at the website for Sidecar Bar and Grill.

Located on College Street near Bathurst, Sidecar seemed like the perfect place to celebrate Cari’s 28th. I booked a table for two, and I’m glad I did because I have never seen a restaurant so busy on a Wednesday night! In fact, when we walked in at 7:30 our table was still occupied. To keep us happy, the restaurant owner/manager gave us both complementary glasses of sparkling wine, which we sipped as we waited the five minutes for our table to open up.

Sidecar offers an extensive selection of cocktails, many of them combining conventional ingredients like brandy, gin, citrus and cream with more unusual items. Cari ordered a vanilla margarita (vanilla tequila, cointreau, lime and orange bitters), while I tried the Rooibos #1 (gin, pimms #1, rooibos tea, lemon and egg white). At roughly $10 a pop these drinks were not cheap, but definitely a part of the complete SIdecar experience.

Moving on to our starters, Cari enjoyed her seared ahi tuna, which was served atop a nicoise salad. I went the more traditional route with the Sidecar Salad, which featured chopped vegetables, feta cheese and a creamy oregano dressing. Simple, but delicious.

Cari went with another one of her perennial favourites, mushroom risotto, as an entree. I kept it basic with steak frites. Simple yet again, but as I hadn’t eaten a steak in at least a year it really hit the spot. The fries, too, were fantastic.

I should note that Sidecar offers a prix fixe menu from Sundays to Wednesdays for $22. Both of my items were featured on that menu. Cari’s were not, but I wasn’t about to be fussy on her birthday!

Speaking of the prix fixe menu, it also came with Sidecar’s dessert of the day, which Cari and I shared alongside our favourite post-dinner beverage of cappuccino.

Ultimately, Sidecar was a moderately priced dinner, perfectly suited for the occasion. I’m not sure it’s a place we’d go to on a whim, but it’s definitely one we’d gladly visit again.