Thank you for the amazing 8 years here at A Baked Creation, we can't thank you enough for the memories! But we've decided to move over to a new site - Sincerely, Syl. Please join us there for future posts on all the things you loved here!


Monday, May 28, 2012

Dreams of Sushi

For some time now, I had been waiting for a special food day. It's one of those days where you get really excited and anticipate its arrival. For me, it was a sushi day last month.

The plan was, watch a documentary on one man's art of sushi and then have a sushi dinner to discuss the film. The problem was that the showtime was later in the evening. So the potentially good idea had to be reversed. It might have worked out better because there was probably nothing that could compare to what we would have just watched. We invited friends to join us (you may remember Kurt and Diana from earlier posts) and headed towards the entertainment district in Toronto.
236 Adelaide Street West
Toronto, ON M5H 1W7
(416) 205-9808

The dinner, we decided, would be at Yuzu. A new restaurant to us, but a place where many food bloggers have raved about their omakase. Being a bit tight on time, we couldn't try the omakase this time, but I think it is something I'd like to return for.

That being said, the sushi was very good! The plate was beautifully presented with great flavour pairings for each fish (pictured above). The crispy lotus roots are a lovely touch and a personal favourite of mine. The fish were at room temperature and were not in the usual state of chilliness that comes from other Japanese restaurants. I have never had sushi with tasting accompaniments before, so that was another delight.
We also ordered the Yuzu maki which included shrimp tempura, spicy scallop, avocado, and tobiko. This was a theatrical dish, coming out with miniature flames on both sides of the plate. Kurt and Diana also ordered this famous roll to go with their Yuzu bento. I've been told there are usually gold flakes on this roll, but ours didn't come with it.

Sadly, we departed without trying the desserts since our documentary started in fifteen minutes. I had been waiting to watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi (directed by David Gelb) since it was first announced, we were not going to miss it now!

If you're unfamiliar or haven't heard about this film, the documentary is about Jiro Ono's Sukiyabashi Jiro, a three-star Michelin sushi restaurant in Ginza, Japan. The draw here is that Jiro is nearing ninety years old and still loves his job. His ten-seat restaurant is located in a basement where guests must make reservations at least a month ahead. We see in the film that some people even book a year ahead! The meal starts at ¥30,000 and there is no menu - the chef decides on which sushi will be served. Noted by a food writing in the documentary, if you are a quick eater, the whole experience could last about thirty minutes. But rarely does anyone do that. You would savour each preparation, each presentation, and each perfect bite. Tokyo food critic Masuhiro Yamamoto even declares that "no one ever has a bad experience there."

There are a number of apprentices that hope to learn the operation, skills, and methods of Jiro. What impresses us the most is their dedication. It is said that one would need a minimum of ten years to be able to do their job at Subikyabaski Jiro competently. It took one apprentice almost sixty attempts before his egg sushi was acceptable. Other apprentices are taught to massage octopus for over forty minutes. They chuckle at the fact that there was an apprentice that only lasted a day there - he never showed up for work again.

Jiro's younger son, Takashi owns a second location in Roppongi Hills, which has earned him two Michelin stars. The eldest son, as per tradition, will wait to inherit his father's original location. Both have mastered their father's techniques and we watched in awe as a couple of quick hand movements shape the rice and fish slices are brushed with soy sauce.

Hearing from all aspects of their restaurant business, we see the vendors who take great pride in being the ones supplying Jiro's. It becomes a marketing tool for them, to be able to say that Jiro buys their products, therefore, you really can't get anything better than this. The rice dealer doesn't even sell his rice to top hotels because he claims that they wouldn't even know how to prepare it.

I liked that the film also touched upon the sustainability of food. Even with something as simple as sushi - rice and fish - Jiro's has noticed a drastic change from their seafood providers. Certain fish are no longer available. They mention that it's society's need for quick access - even convenience stores sell (mediocre) sushi. A waste, as the abundance of fish decreases and are not being used properly.

Of course, the premise is based on the wonder of how seasoned rice and fish could taste so good. And the fact that Jiro is so passionate about his job. You see the heart and dedication he puts into the restaurant for all his guests. Managing reservations, seating charts, knowing each customer's preference, and serving the meal - it makes me ache with hope that everyone can be so lucky in finding their perfect fit in the world.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

My Pizza

My Pizza: The Easy No-Knead Way to Make Spectacular Pizza at Home
Written by Jim Lahey
With Rick Flaste
Photographs by Squire Fox

ISBN 13: 9780307886156
ISBN 10: 0307886158
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Hardcover: 192 Pages

This cookbook has been getting so much buzz, I knew I had to get myself a copy. Especially when Bon App├ętit featured Jim Lahey's pizza on the cover of their March 2012 issue. Since then, I've been thinking about making pizza at home.

The recipe for his famous no-knead dough is available online, so you must wonder, what else does the cookbook provide? There is only one dough recipe and the rest of the book is dedicated to red sauce pizzas, white sauce pizzas, no sauce pizzas, toppings, toasts, soups, salads, and a small section of desserts. So really, once you have the basic dough down, you can do whatever you like. That's the beauty of pizza right? You can customize with any toppings you wish.

However, inspiration and ideas are sometimes hard to come by, so the cookbook offers great topping combinations. Like his bird's nest pie. I would have never thought of it! Or the honshimeji and guanciale pie. It looks so tasty! The spicy eggplant pie makes my mouth water too!

When I saw Lottie + Doof's post on Friday, I knew I would be making pizza the next day. I'm so glad I read his experience first. Because the dough did get crusty and felt a little dry to me. I made the dough on Friday night for it to be ready for Saturday's lunch. In the morning, I was ecstatic to see that the dough did rise (why I was doubting it?)!

I divided the dough into four balls and did my best to stretch each one out into a pie shape. They are personal sized, which is nice for a group of 3-4. Taking Lottie + Doof's advice, I went with the simpler pizza for the first one. I didn't have a pizza stone (we used to ... but gave it away), but a baking sheet works just as well (according to Jim). The oven was cranked to the highest we've ever set it to. This is how it turned out:
Not bad right?? The first pizza we made is an all time favourite pizza of mine. When I have a pizza craving, the simple margherita is so satisfying. Tomato, mozzarella, and basil.
If you prefer, add the basil after, but I like the basil nice and crisp. Yum, I'm craving pizza again while writing this post.
Howard's pizza is just loaded with goodness. Tomato, mozzarella, three kinds of mushroom, proscuitto, and more mozzarella.
Howard made another one, you didn't expect him to be full after one, did you?! This one has tomato, mozzarella, and three kinds of mushroom. After the oven time, we placed thinly sliced proscuitto on top with arugula. Absolutely delicious.
The last one we made for my parents. I asked my mom what she wanted and she took out a Vietnamese sausage and started slicing it. We also topped it with three kinds of mushroom. Then we added basil after it came out of the oven. My dad loved it.
Make yourself an appetizer to go with the pizzas. This one's not from the book, but inspired from one of our favourite pizza places in Toronto. Here, we kept it simple by assembling some arugula on a plate. Covered a thin slice of toast with goat brie and sprinkled diced green apple all over the plate. Lastly, drizzled on some honey.
If you have time, make your own crostini, if not, use Grissol Melba toast like us.
I'd say if you're a pizza beginner like us, My Pizza is a great introduction. It covers equipment, ingredients, adjusting to oven types, and even serving strategies. Overall a simple and thorough foundation for delicious pizza. Try it and you'll never want to go back to frozen pizza again!