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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

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My Fantasy Football team, The Snow Monkeys, are on life support following a career worst performance by Green Bay Quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  And subpar performances by Tre Mason, Steve Smith, and Adam Vinatieri didn’t help.  We’re down 96.82 to 71.2o heading into tomorrow’s Monday Night game.  Do you think my final player, running back Matt Forte, has 27 fantasy points in him?  He did it once before this season, in Atlanta.  Can he do it at home against the New Orleans Saints?  I’m staying positive!

Drunken Uncles!

Drunken Uncles!

In addition to bemoaning my Snow Monkeys inevitable defeat, I spent much of the weekend refining my recipe for Monday’s Dark Matter cookie exchange.

"A watched cookie never bakes" - old proverb

“A watched cookie never bakes” – old proverb

All told, I will make approximately 80 of my Bourbon Brown Butter Cookies with Roasted White Chocolate Chunks (a.k.a. “Drunken Uncles” – thanks to Lawren Bancroft-Wilson, a fellow Fantasy Football weekend loser, who came up with the name), six for each cookie exchange participant plus leftovers for the innocent bystanders.

A dejected Lawren heads home, depressed by his team's elimination from fantasy football playoff contention - and the fact that there's already a drink called a Drunken Uncle.

A dejected Lawren heads home, depressed by his team’s elimination from fantasy football playoff contention – and the fact that there’s already a drink called a Drunken Uncle.

And when she wasn’t helping me bake cookies, Akemi was making the dogs breakfast…

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This morning, for instance, it was banana pancakes.  Yes.  The dogs had a banana pancake breakfast.  They can file that one away in the “pro” column.

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And this one under “con”.

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Back before Stargate, before my years on teen sitcom Student Bodies, before my time story-editing for the CBS Saturday morning lineup, I was the Manager of Animation Development at an animation studio in Montreal.  It’s been a long while, but I still keep in touch with a few of my former co-workers and even get together with them on occasion.

Like yesterday, for instance, when Anne-Marie Perrotta flew in for super-secret business.  And dinner with us.  At Patria, a Spanish tapas restaurant on King Street that came highly recommended from Prodigy Picture’s resident foodie, Natalie Cooper.

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Also joining us on this night was another former face from my animation days, Natalie Dumoulin, now Vice President Creative Affairs at 9story Media Group.

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What we had -

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Piquillo peppers with oxtail and manchego.

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Octopus and potatoes

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And, of course, the paella.  With cornish hen and serrano ham.

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The dulce de leche churros

In addition to about a dozen other dishes including blistered pardon peppers, chorizo bombas, goat cheese with orange blossom honey and fig, patatas bravas, empanadas, roasted cauliflower, and chocolate pudding with olive oil and sea salt.

Patria: 478 King St. West

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Akemi gets acquainted with Natalie’s dog.  

After dinner, we headed over to Natalie’s place for drinks – although, to be fair, she’s the only one who did any actual drinking, opening up a bottle of red to celebrate our re-connecting after all these years.

Just like old times!

But with more tapas.

And less voice actors.

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File photo of Executive Producer Carl Binder eating something that turned out to be totally different from what he was expecting/I told him he was eating.

File photo of Executive Producer Carl Binder eating something that turned out to be totally different from what he was expecting/I told him he was eating.

Every morning, I  make myself a breakfast shake comprised of ten varied ingredients, usually: almond milk, keffir/yogurt, green tea, cinnamon, flaxseed oil, one banana, another piece of fruit, oatmeal/bran, a piece of manuka honey, and a tablespoon of peanut butter.  This day’s prep seemed no different than any other and, after blending together all the components and pouring them into an empty bottle for later, I licked the spoon clean as I usually do – only to discover that what I thought was the homemade peanut butter I picked up at last weekend’s farmer’s market was, in fact, Akemi’s white miso paste which, incidentally, tastes NOTHING like peanut butter.

As I tossed out the shake and got to work on a new one, I was reminded of my very first food miscue.  Way back, when I was in kindergarten, my class was once presented with a tableful of common pantry items, everything from butter to jams. Our teacher asked us to identify what we recognized from our our kitchens. “That’s sugar!”shouted one kid, pointing to a bowl and, before the teacher could respond, perhaps emboldened by my fellow classmate’s ebullience, I scooped it up and poured its contents into my mouth.  As it turned out, he was wrong.  It wasn’t sugar.  And, to this day, I rarely ever add salt to anything.

Two of my father’s most infamous childhood anecdotes involved his own eating blunders.  In both incidents, he snuck into the kitchen, after being sent to bed without supper, for a spoonful of what he assumed to be pudding.  The first time, it was chicken fat; the second, a hot mustard plaster his mother had prepared for his dad’s ailing back.

Akemi offered her own childhood story about her brother who, rushing home after a baseball game and on his way to piano practice, asked his mother for a glass of water.  He was apparently so thirsty that it was only once he’d polished off the glass that he realized his mother had mistakenly poured him an eight ounce shot of sake.

Akemi found the retelling of this story all sorts of hilarious – until I reminded her about the time she brushed her teeth with hand cream.

I’m sure everyone has their own equally horrific story to tell.

And I want to hear it!

Come on.  Fess up.  What was your most memorable food miscue?

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Welcome to cheese town!

Welcome to cheese town!

“This five dollar bill has blood on it,”said Caitlin from the back seat, examining the keepsake from a recent road trip to Buffalo.

“Maybe it’s Buffalo wing sauce,”suggested Alison seated beside her.

“Except we didn’t have any wings while we were there.”

An awkward silence finally broken by Natalie, our navigator, who advised me to hang a left.

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The four of us were on a mission, on our to The Cheese Boutique to pick up a few items for this afternoon’s Friday Wine & Cheese.  Before leaving, I’d given everyone their assignments – Natalie was the knives expert; Caitlin the explosive expert; Alison the muscle; and I was the driver.

“I need to be navigator,”Natalie pointed out, taking a not-too-subtle swipe at my poor sense of direction.

“Okay,”I said.  “You’re the navigator – AND the knife expert.”

“Can I be something less violent?”

“No.”  I mean, seriously.  Who goes on a mission without a knives expert?

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A fifteen minute drive later, and we’d arrived at cheese heaven.  In addition to the wide assortment of cheese, the enormous shop offered charcuterie, jams, jellies, olive oils, balsamics -

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And, oh yeah, chocolate!

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After purchasing an insane variety of cheese, crackers, jellies, and breads – we were ready to go!

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Meanwhile, Trevor, under the assumption I have met with a terrible mishap, has moved into my office.

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Back at the office, we decided to lay the cheese spread out on Trevor’s desk since he doesn’t make much of use of it anyway.

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Let the games begin!  While we were picking up cheeses, Elliot was getting the wine.

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Everyone had a terrific time – except for the AD’s whose offices we loitered around, laughing, drinking and snacking while they tried to work.  Or, rather, pretended to be working while re-watching the new Star Wars trailer for the hundredth time.

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A big thanks to Caitlin, Natalie, Elliot and Alison for making Operation Wine & Cheese a resounding success.  And special thanks to Trevor for handing out the baguette slices and allowing us the use of his napping station.

Next week: Operation Beer & Oysters!

Cheese Boutique (45 Ripley Avenue 416 762-6292)

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I’ll be in a casting session for most of the day so, today, I hand things over to Akemi and her very first popcorn-making experience…

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Slowly but surely, I’m reconnecting with my former Toronto friends and/or acquaintances.  The other night, for instance, I got together with my long-distance nemesis and occasional script collaborator Tara Yelland for dinner at one of my very favorite restaurants: Buca!

Since Tara was working on a production, we ended up sitting down to dinner at a little after 9:00 p.m. – so late that I’m surprised they weren’t offering breakfast specials.  Okay, granted, many people eat at 9:00 p.m. EST…but they’re usually in a different time zone.  For her part, Tara (who clearly keeps all sorts of crazy hours) promised that, next time, we would eat earlier so that I could take advantage of the early bird specials.

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We perused the menu and Tara informed me that pig’s ears and brains were out. Also pancetta and any of the offal dishes.  And all the meat dishes.

I completely forgot she was a vegetarian.  No wonder we’ve never gone to dinner before!

In the end, all of the plates we ordered were meatless – and excellent – among them…

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This terrific mushroom pizza that Tara liked…except for the mushrooms which she picked off and left on her plate (Come on!!!).

The dinner conversation was our first extended communication that didn’t involve email.   Over the course of our two hour discussion, I found her endlessly entertaining – but, in the end, surprisingly enigmatic, like the first 50 minutes of an old episode of Murder She Wrote.

She decided to pass on dessert but I convinced her to have a taste of my tiramisu. Apparently, convinced her too well because she almost polished it off all on her own.

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The tiramisu proves as hard to crack as my mysterious dining companion.

Despite the absence of meat, a very tasty meal.  And terrific night overall – until, I think, I partially separated my shoulder on the walk back to my place.  I’m not sure how she did it, but I do hold Tara responsible.

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A couple of days before my departure for Toronto, I received an email from Chef Rob Belcham (formerly of Fuel and Refuel and Fat Dragon, presently of Campagnolo and Campagnolo Roma – all in Vancouver) informing me that he would be in town for a special one-night only dinner at Porzia Restaurant ( 1314 Queen St W.).  I immediately booked a table for two and last night was the night.

Chef Belcham (right) joined forces with three other chefs to create the evening's special menu.

Chef Belcham (right) joined forces with three other chefs to create the evening’s special menu.

Chef Belcham was joined by three other chefs (his former cooks) to create the special six course menu…

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Snacks: live scallop caviar & cream, soft egg and white soy, horse mortadella, and herring on toast.  The clear winner here was the scallop – and fresh and flavorful bite.  I’m not a fan of herring but Akemi is, and that particular entry was right up her alley.

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Schmaltz Candle: Schmaltz (chicken fat) shaped into a candle and allowed to melt down and mix with what I believe was crisp, seasoned chicken skin (I’m guessing here because our waitress plunked the plates down in front of us without offering an explanation), served with dipping bread.  Damn tasty.  Akemi and I waited patiently for the candle to render down completely before really digging in – only to have our waitress whisk the plate away, leaving me clutching my unanointed bread.

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Squash carpaccio with from age fraiche and smoked chestnut.  When I saw this on the menu, I was instantly dubious – but I was pleasantly surprised.  Very pleasantly surprised.  Believe it or not, this sweet and savory, multi-textured vegetarian entry was my favorite dish of the night.

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Chef Rob’s albacore tuna with veal bone marrow, capers & parsley.  The tuna melted in our mouths.  Akemi’s sole quibble was the lack of rice which, she felt, would have made the dish perfect!

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Dandelion agnolotti with ricotta & parmesan brodo.  Delicious, but quite over seasoned.

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Veal sweetbreads with shaved shank, walnut tarator, spiced jus.  Akemi wasn’t a fan of the walnut mousse and I wasn’t sold on the shank, but the sweetbreads were perfectly prepared.

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Brown butter crepe with pumping maple & mascarpone.  To be honest, this one felt like two different desserts – the crepe and the interior cream-stuffed tuile.  Both very tasty but a texturally bizarre combo.

 A fun outing – and it was great to see Rob.  Now, if we can only convince him to open a Campagnolo outpost here in Toronto…

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