Cool Yule, volume 2

December 2, 2009

Struggling with gift ideas for the cooks on your list? Here are two great ideas — one a bit extravagant and one less expensive -– that are sure to make the grade and not likely to be in their cupboards already:

‘I like you!” gift idea: Cupcake pens can be used to decorate all kinds of baked goods whether you’ve got artistic flair or two hands worth of thumbs.

“I love you!” gift idea: Yogurt makers aren’t just for people who wear sandals and socks (They used to be but things have changed now – I checked.) and this one is the Mac daddy of them all offering flexible timing options and the ability to make up to 8 flavours at a time! Seriously, 8 flavours.

If you’re an avid cook, what’s on your wish list this holiday season?

Cool Yule

November 25, 2009

Christmas is one month away as of today. I’m stunned, to be honest. I really can’t believe that the year is almost over (life is moving so fast that I almost feel like it’s flashing before my eyes!)

Given the symmetry of the date, I’ve chosen today to launch my holiday gift guide series that I’m calling Cool Yule. Anyone can toss a bottle of wine in gift bag and make a gracious offering; however, giving gifts that are on trend and show off your good taste is so much better, don’t you think?

At about $300 I’ve chosen a high ticket item to kick off Cool Yule 2009; however, it’s just so perfect for the oenephile (that’s a wine lover, btw) on your list. This wine essence set features 40 aroma flasks that can be used to help train your nose and isolate the aromas in wine.

Besides being a great gift for a wine lover, it’s also fun to pull out at a wine tasting, so if you’re planning one during the holidays, it might make a good gift for yourself, too.

Smaller kits featuring 12 aromas commonly noted in white or red wine are also available at a considerably lower price.

Contact Browne & Co. in Canada for information on availability in your area.

Happy Halloween – have you ever worn a food-related costume?

October 30, 2009

coolest-california-roll-sushi-boy-costume-37615Photo credit:

I’ve just today realized that I’ve never had a food-related Halloween costume. I once dressed my infant son as a pumpkin but I’ve always had scary costumes myself.

One year my brother was a marshmallow but it was a costume of convenience: he was five and just out of the hospital from having pneumonia so my mom dressed him in a fuzzy white ‘fun’ fur coat of hers and threw a white hat on him so that he could go out trick or treating without catching a chill. Most people thought he was a Russian czar but he didn’t mind; he was just glad to be allowed out of bed!

Some of the best food inspired costumes I’ve ever seen are here on thee Serious Eats blog.

How about you? Any good food inspired Halloween costumes in your past or present?

Where Dana shops

October 28, 2009

Jane R - Cake Slicing 2

When the new book All the Best Recipes by Jane Rodmell came out earlier this fall, I was thrilled! Long before I met Jane Rodmell or Sue Bowman (the dynamic perfectionistas who run All the Best Fine Foods) and became their friends, I was a devoted customer.

In fact, this shop was (and remains) my ‘go to it’ destination for prepared foods that are as good as I’d make myself. From the roasted vegetable lasagna that I’ve had them make in casserole dishes so that I could serve it up like it was homemade, to the buttery, super crisp gingerbread cookies (recipe below) I buy in the store as a special treat for my son, this is a book filled with fantastic recipes.

What I’m really trying to say is: if you buy one cookbook this fall, make it this one! Happy Anniversary All the Best!

The Best Gingerbread


•Cookie cutters (gingerbread boys and girls),
about 21⁄2 inches (6 cm)
•Baking sheets

61⁄2 cups all-purpose flour 1.625 L
4 tsp ground cinnamon 20 mL
4 tsp ground ginger 20 mL
1 tsp ground cloves 5 mL
1 tsp baking soda 5 mL
1⁄4 tsp salt 1 mL
2 cups butter, softened 500 mL
2 cups packed dark brown sugar500 mL
1 cup light (fancy) molasses 250 mL
Decorative (Royal) Icing

1. In a bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed or a wooden spoon, cream butter and brown sugar until blended. Add molasses and beat until smooth. On low speed or with a wooden spoon, gradually add flour mixture, mixing until blended. Divide gingerbread dough into 2 disks. Wrap securely in parchment or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or for up to 8 hours.

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1⁄8- to 1⁄4-inch (3 mm to 0.5 cm) thickness. Stamp out shapes with floured cookie cutters as desired. Place on baking sheets, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Bake in preheated oven until firm and lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on size of cutouts. Be vigilant, as cookies brown quickly in the last few minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely. Gingerbread becomes crisp when cool. Decorate with icing when completely cooled.

Do you have a store that you can depend on for top quality food that actually tastes as good as it looks? If so, give them a plug in the comments section. In my experience, these places deserve all the support we can give them.

Double-duty packaging

October 23, 2009

bird house wine boxReduce, I support. Recycle, I support. But, reuse, I love!

Check out this great ‘green’ package. It’s a wine gift box that is also a hummingbird house! So clever.

As we proceed into the holiday dinner and cocktail party season, many people will pick up gifts, flowers or bottles of cheer to take to their hosts. What other smart double-duty packages can be used to carry a gift and then be used for something else? Gift bags don’t count – I want you to dig deeper today, dear readers.

PS: Here are instructions on how to make a wine bottle birdhouse.

Topline Trends Tuesday: Bridging a gap between farms and tables

September 15, 2009


Local foods are enjoying renewed popularity as people all over North America and Europe realize that nurturing a dependable, nearby food source leads not only to delicious eating experiences but enriched communities, too.

This new trend has spawned interesting new jobs. Take Paul Sawtell and Grace Mandarano who started 100km Foods in 2007. They noticed a lack of infrastructure for local food producers. Before 100km Foods, chefs who wanted local products had to find individual farmers, coordinate deliveries, and source new farms and products themselves. Plus, the farmers had to deal with deliveries, invoicing and receiving orders on top of their regular workload.

Enter Paul and Grace with an ambitious idea to help both sides do their jobs more easily:

“It was literally a case of cold calling farmers, driving up to their farms, sitting at their kitchen tables to tell them what we were trying to do and seeing what kind of products they could offer,” says Paul when asked to explain how 100km Foods started.

He and Grace initially drew largely on the member lists of organizations such as Durham Farm Fresh as well as York Region Farm Fresh to make contacts with the growers. Since then, their roster has grown mostly by taking product requests from chefs and subsequently finding farms that can offer supply.

What’s next? “In the future, 100km Foods will be a resource to GTA chefs offering a vast array of local foods including protein and dairy sourced from north, east, west and south of Toronto, all harvested to order with multiple deliveries per week. We also hope to expand our direct-to-consumer Ontario Artisan Share Program, providing all local, artisan-produced food products direct from producer to consumer.”

What’s happening in your area? Are you involved in CSA’s or aware of restaurants who work with companies like 100km Foods in your area? If so, give them a plug in the comments section.

Also, visit Christie’s Corner today to read Paul Sawtell’s perspective on fresh food prices. His comments about what we pay for food may surprise you.

Topline Trends Tuesday: Black garlic

August 4, 2009

Aged Black Garlic

What? Aged or fermented black garlic was developed as an Asian diet supplement; it’s made using a patented, month-long heat curing process that creates not just a change in flavour but also a high level of antioxidants that are associated with cancer prevention.

Why? Besides its health benefits, black garlic tastes really, really good. I first tried it in Denver when I dipped into my friend Robin Asbell’s vegetarian plate at Rioja. The mellow, savoury yet sweet, deep, satisfying flavour smote me hard (why are you looking at me that way? Smote is a word, okay?).

When? This trend started late last year when chefs began to experiment with this supplement as an ingredient.

Where? I bought the aged black garlic pictured above at McEwan but I haven’t seen it anywhere else in Toronto.

Who? Have you tried this yummy new ingredient at a restaurant or seen it at one of your local stores? If so, tell me what you thought or where you found it.

Post edited to add this link to an article about San Francisco restaurants that are using black garlic.