Hello world, I’m back! As I’m sure you noticed, I took a bit of a break from blogging these past couple of years. However, I haven’t stopped thinking about This Hungry Kitten, definitely have not stopped collecting recipes or cooking, … Continue reading
Nothing cures a case of the Thursdays like relaxing music, good people and a glass (or two or three) of vino. It’s Thursday once again, and I am caught reminiscing of last week when I hurried down to Queen Street after work for a wine tasting at the iYellow Wine Cave.
Don’t know where that is? Neither did I. The space belongs to the iYellow Wine Club and its’ doors are on an alley just south of Queen Street; it’s a hidden gem…or basement. Upon entry, you immediately take a staircase down into “the cave”. We entered from the bright, sunny outdoors into a cool, dimly lit cellar. I felt a little like I had entered into another world. The room had a cozy, relaxed feel to it and was decorated with hanging lamps, candles, bookshelves, mirrors, tables, comfy couches and WINE (of course).
I won’t lie, I’m no wine connoisseur. To be honest, I was a bit nervous at first about going to a wine event and not knowing enough about wine. Don’t sweat it. I found out within minutes that iYellow wasn’t about wine snobbery, but wine education…and fun! The iYellow Wine Club is a free-membership community of wine lovers founded by Angela Aiello with over 10,000 members. It’s a place where you can taste, learn and build wine confidence. I got a chance to chat with Angela, who explained the whole idea behind the club and told me about some of the events and tours they hold. They hold wine tastings, tours, classes, vacations and other events. Check their website for more details.
I was handed a wine glass and the evening began. This was a tasting event for a South African Chardonnay by Fleur Du Cap Wines. The wine was full-bodied and delish. (With my unrefined palette) I would say there was a nice fruitiness to it and I did go back for more…and more…and more. I found out this wine sells for about thirteen bucks a bottle at the LCBO. Bargain!
I jumped a little with excitement when I started to smell scallops sizzling on a pan nearby. The event was also catered by Sliced Gourmet. Scallops and quail were on the menu and both were cooked using the featured wine. Genius…and YUM. The roasted quail was served with preserved lemon over a bed of mielie pap (a South African staple very similar to polenta) with a balsamic drizzling over top. Scallops were seared and served over puréed peas with asparagus on the side. Some may have found the quail a little awkward/difficult to eat at an event as such, but we all know I have no problem going all cave woman in public when it comes to eating food. The wine paired wonderfully with both dishes.
All in all, it was a lovely time! I brought a friend and we mingled, nibbled and sipped to our hearts content. It did get a little crowded at one point, but I didn’t mind. It was short and sweet, lasting only a couple hours; perfect for a weeknight. Leaving the wine cave, I opened its’ door only to find that the sun was still out! Those two hours seemed so much longer, thanks to the enchanting effects of no windows. It was refreshing to know the night was still young (or younger than we thought) as we headed off to dinner.
Life, as we know it, is becoming increasingly busy. As a young professional myself, I know that time is something, it seems, we have less and less of. To make time for work, friends, family, studies and all the other little things, it seems the trend is to make sacrifices where it matters most! In what we eat! As fast food and “take-out” meals are becomingly more and more readily available to us, cooking wholesome meals at home is becoming a thing of the past. In a world of reality TV and “top chefs”, we’ve been fooled into thinking that cooking a delicious meal is something best left to the experts.
If you’re a Torontonian, as busy as a bee and guilty of slacking in the kitchen, I’ve found you a solution for making delicious, healthy meals at home without costing you your valuable time. Continue reading
I don’t think it needs to be said again, but I’ll say it anyway. I love oysters. Besides the facts that make them so insanely neat, I love them, most of all, for their ability to bring friends closer together, put smiles on faces and fill (some of) us with mixed feelings of dread, wonder and respect. From childhood, oysters have been a favourite of mine and will remain on my love-list forever. They never cease to amaze me!
Last month I turned twenty-eight. Twenty-eight on the twenty-eighth. To be more specific: my ‘champagne birthday’. I decided to plan something fun for this once-in-a-lifetime happening and, almost in the same instant, I decided that oysters had to be involved. If you know me well enough (or have thoroughly explored this blog), you know that it makes perfect sense that I would gather my friends on my birthday for a group Oyster 101 and shuckfest. All my favourite people AND oysters (AND spicy caesars) in the same place? That just can’t be beat. Nothing could make me happier than to share a bit of oyster-love with the ones I love! Also: can I really be friends with you if you don’t know a thing or two about oysters? (Kidding…sort of not, though.)
I want to take a quick moment to express my sincere thanks to all of my friends and followers for taking the time to read my posts, try my recipes and share ideas. I have made some amazing friends through this blog! It is so wonderful how our love for food, flavours and life itself have brought us together!
This Hungry Kitten wouldn’t be the blog it is today if it weren’t for all the support and love I get from all of you! 🙂
Here’s a little love back, from a heart-shaped Black Pearl oyster. Had to pinken it up a bit with red wine mignonette. 🙂
We took a little drive down to Niagara on Sunday for Oyster Fest Niagara! The event started at two, but we couldn’t make it until later on. I would have liked to have seen the shucking competition. 😦 After a bit less than an hour of driving in the GORGEOUS weather, we finally arrived at Dillon’s Small Batch Distillery in Beamsville, Ontario. Stepping out of the car onto a gravel road and taking a big breath of way-fresher-than-Toronto air instantly put a smile on my face. The sun was shining and, even though my hair was all tangled from the drive (windows down, sunroof open), I was happy.
But of course I got even happier after taking a few steps closer. With a plate of freshly shucked oysters in one hand, and a spicy caesar in the other, I stood taking in the sights and sounds around me. Talking, laughing, slurping, munching, drinking and dancing to the sound of the funkiest funk.
When I found out about the oyster festival, I got a little (a lot) excited. Continue reading
I think I’ve fallen in love again…with Ceili Cottage. It’s my favourite pub in the city, located in Leslieville on Queen Street. Actually, it’s the only pub I’ve ever loved. This Irish local, owned by world champion oyster shucker Patrick McMurray (also the owner of Starfish Oyster Bed & Grill), exudes Irish authenticity, from the food, to the drinks, to the decor, to the live music. I love restaurants with personality. If you take the time to look around inside, you’ll start to notice all the little details. Almost everything in this place has something to do with oysters or Celtic culture, including photos, awards, shucking tools, books, and boardgames. The building, once an old garage , consists of two rooms: the cottage room and the bar room. The patio out front is also REALLY GREAT (with oyster shells embedded into the concrete floor). Definitely a good summertime spot to visit if you’re looking to enjoy good food, drinks, and the gorgeous Toronto weather. They’ve got a great selection of beers to choose from…it wouldn’t be a good pub without good beer, right? They have twelve taps offering a mixed selection of beers from Ireland, Ontario, and Quebec.
“Ceili (pronounced Kay-lee) is an Irish word for a social get-together of music and dance. With that come the food and drink. Our “Irish Local” is a place for friends and families in the neighbourhood to convene for conversation and good “craic” (Irish for good fun).”
I took that bit from the Ceili Cottage website, because I thought it was pretty wonderful. You can find a full menu and more info by clicking on the link.
They serve amazing oysters, which is another reason I absolutely love this place (you must know by now that I’m an oyster lover). Their selection usually includes an oyster from the east coast and Clarenbridge Bay oysters from Ireland. I don’t get the chance to eat Irish oysters very often so this excites me. If you’re an oyster lover, this is your kind of pub.
If you’re lucky you’ll walk in on a flute and fiddle session, which adds some wonderfully lively Irish folk-sound to the experience. Continue reading
I have finally found the best pizza in the city! Falasca SPQR serves some of the most authentic pizza I’ve ever had. This pizzeria specializes in their award-winning (world and Italian competitions) traditional Roman-style pizza. The crust is perfection. Chef Falasca clearly knows the secret to making delicious pizza dough. The golden pizza crusts are thin, but not too thin (about a centimetre thick) and crispy, but not too crispy. (Perfection). You hear the crunch when you bite into your slice, and then you smile as you swallow it.
SPQR stands for Specialita Pizza Quadrata Rotonda, which in Italian means specialty pizza square and round. (Don’t worry, I was a bit stumped too when I first tried to figure out what the four letters stood for.) The square pizzas are served at lunch al taglio (meaning that it is sold by weight). I walked in for the first time on a Thursday afternoon right after the lunch rush, I’ve heard the place gets pretty busy. They have different rectangular pizzas to choose from. Continue reading
You may think it’s a waste of time and money to take an oyster shucking class, and that your pry-it-open-with-a-screwdriver, smash-it-with-a-hammer, or stab-yourself-in-the-hand methods are working just fine, but I’d say learning the proper way is totally worth it.
Last weekend I took an oyster shucking class at Oyster Boy. It was so much fun. Eating oysters can be quite an expensive hobby. If you’re an oyster lover like me, I’m sure you already know this. Shucking your own oysters is a great skill to have. You can save money by buying your oysters at the market or from a wholesaler and shucking them yourself. But, I’m a believer in doing things the right way, which is why I wanted to learn to shuck from the experts. Impress your friends with gorgeously shucked oysters, that aren’t full of grit/sand.
The classes at Oyster Boy happen every weekend (Saturday and Sunday from 11:00-1:00). Each class holds 8-12 people and each shucker receives Continue reading
This is a really quick, really simple, really tasty, really spicy, recipe. I LOVE spicy food, but I know that not everyone does, so I’m giving you the warning now: spice alert! That being said, you can adjust the recipe however you like to make it work for you. A simple solution: use less cayenne pepper and don’t add the deathly pepper from hell!
While I’ve sadly never been to New Orleans myself, although we’re planning a possible trip in JUNE! (Excitement!), I can certainly appreciate the wonderful flavours that it has to offer the food world. Creole cooking involves a beautiful mix of everything I love. If you’ve never tried this southern deliciousness, it’s hard for me to put into words. Creole cuisine is a combination of Caribbean, African, French, and Spanish flavour influences. Hot pepper, seafood, butter, citrus, tomato, onion, celery, rice, bean explosion of taste! It’s real comfort food.
Anyway, this is a quick recipe I found from a blog called Tummy Travels. I tried it with my tiger shrimp last weekend as part of a huge seafood feast I unintentionally put together. I wouldn’t say it’s a classic Shrimp Creole. I think that involves more veggies, a tomato base, a nice saucy gravy-ness and it’s traditionally served over rice. This shrimp could be a main served with French bread or a good addition to any meal. It’s got nice Southern flavour and a good kick to it!
Cooking shrimp makes me think of Bubba from the movie Forrest Gump (hope you’ve seen it). Bubba knows a million ways shrimp, “the fruit of the sea”, can be cooked. I love this clip! 🙂
The tiger shrimp I used were headless, but I cooked them with the shells on. Heads on, ever better! You can find whole shrimps at most Asian grocery stores if you don’t see any at your usual store or market. Cooking shrimp with the heads and shell intact add so much more flavour! All the juices are kept inside. In New Orleans, crawfish and shrimp are always cooked whole. The best part is pulling off the heads and sucking all the delicious juices and seasonings out of there before eating the rest of it. I know the heads freak some people out, but they’re delicious, I promise. In my half-Asian household, I grew up eating shrimps with heads. My sister and I discovered the next best thing to press-on nails…wearing the pointy/spiky shrimp head shells on our finger tips. It kept us entertained, and super stylish, at family dinners. (Cute…minus the shrimpy fingers afterwards.)
Spicy Creole Shrimp
The spicy stuff is optional…switch it up to keep things at the spice level you want.
This recipe called for 8 tablespoons of butter (a whole stick). I cut the butter amount in half. I didn’t want to go too butter crazy, but by all means, use more butter. More butter = more sauce, and a richer sauce.
- 1- 1 1/2 pounds shrimp (I recommend doing them with shells and heads, but you can do headless, or peeled if you like)
- ~1/2 – 1 tablespoon olive oil, to saute garlic
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
- Juice of 1 lemon (my large lemon gave about 1/4 cup)
- 2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 habanero or scotch bonnet pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
- 4-5 tablespoons butter (just cut butter into cubes and keep cold)
- Sea salt, to taste
1. Heat olive oil in a pan, add garlic, and saute until garlic has softened.
2. Add all other ingredients except butter and shrimp. Allow this mixture to reduce for a couple minutes on medium heat. There wasn’t too much liquid and it reduced quite quickly. Don’t let it burn!
3. Add your shrimp into the pan, cooking one side and then flipping to cook the other. Two minutes on each side should be sufficient. The shrimps are cooked when they turn pink.
4. Turn to low heat and begin slowly incorporating cubes of butter.
5. When well mixed you should have a gorgeously rich, amber, shrimp creation.
6. Plate and serve!