WE'VE MOVED

Hello!

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!

Sincerely,
Syl

Monday, January 28, 2013

Winterlicious: Parts & Labour

1566 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M6R 1A6
Tel: (416) 588-7750

It's 'licious time again in Toronto, a time when restaurants offer prix fixe menus at low prices to entice us to try their restaurant. We tried a few during the summer and we've lined up some more this winter. One of my favourite part is learning about which restaurants will be participating and what the menus will be. I spend a couple of happy hours going through the listing and then choosing my top picks. Next, I e-mail a bunch of friends to see if any are interested in joining us for a meal (or more). Then, I sit back and wait for the responses. It's quite easy because after that, Howard does the difficult part. Booking. It's the quick morning calls to the restaurants once reservations are open - fingers crossed that there are availabilities.

Our first Winterlicious restaurant was Parts and Labour. A really neat restaurant that we've been meaning to try and had heard great things about. We had two friends joining us for our 6:30 pm dinner. We walked in and hovered near the entrance. There was a hostess there, but she had her back to us and was on the phone. So we walked in to wait by the fireplace (which is a very neat idea - especially during a chilly night in Toronto). She later came in to greet us, asked for us to confirm our reservation, and took us to our table.

We walked by the long bar with the spring-looking seats, we walked by the rows and rows of large tables in the main dining room ... and that's when I saw them.

They have three tables beside the kitchen! I did a very discreet skip/hop as I didn't even know about this. What a treat! I love sitting by the kitchen and watching the chefs and staff go about their work.

We were given the menus and our glasses were topped with water. We also learned that they were only serving the Winterlicious menu at this time, but we asked to see the regular menu, too. We were already deciding on a return trip!

First up, Howard and our friend tried the seared mackerel with yuzu, cured cucumber, chili, and hoisin mayo. Thumbs up all around. The guys aren't ones to express many words, but I did hear, "wow," "delicious," "like the little bit of spice," and "love the citrus flavours."

I tried the pork belly with pickled shallot, tarragon cream, and oats. The pork belly was soft and tender. They give you a good portion and it worked well with the accompaniments. Might have been a little bit too sweet, but overall, very satisfying.

Most of us ordered the hanger steak and frites, served with a demi glace. The meat was cooked to the rarer side, but that was fine for us. The demi glace was quite good, I started mopping it up with the fries, but then it got a bit too salty. Stick to the ketchup my friends!

Howard, being the adventurous one, ordered the seared scallops with roasted squash, and corn polenta, served with salsa verde. I can't even remember if he gave me a bite, I think he did, but it wasn't a very big bite! From what I remembered, this was also very delicious.

Where we were seated, we got to see the deep-fryer in action and the dessert plating! See the shelf above? Those are beignet doughs in the plastic containers. All poofed and ready to be fried. And in the ramekins? Chocolate mousse!

Here we are, watching our desserts being prepared.

A swipe of caramel sauce. A dollop of fresh whipped cream. A spot of strawberry jam!

Hello! Here was my chocolate mousse with peanut butter and marshmallow "snow." The mousse was very smooth. Mixing in the peanuts and marshmallow gave it a nice crunch and texture. I would eat it again!

Our friend tried the panna cotta with roasted grapes and graham cracker. We didn't quite taste a difference in the grapes - roasted or not - but the panna cotta was a nice light way to end the meal.

The guys got the cinnamon-sugar beignet with strawberries, cream, and caramel. This was by far the best dessert of the night! We enjoyed it so much that we asked for another ... two more please. And then watched the beignets get fried and plated again. We ended up getting charged $8 for each additional doughnut if you're wondering how they add that on.

So far, this was our favourite 'licious meal to date! We had a great time, aside from the frosty hostess (she ignored us on the way out), the kitchen and wait staff were all friendly and attentive. And the food was well worth it!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Grand Electric

1330 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M6K 1L4
Tel: (416) 627-3459

Yes, folks, we're late. Most of you have already heard the wonderful things about Grand Electric and have eaten the delicious food there. It would have probably taken us until summer if circumstances didn't play out the way they did last Saturday.

Howard and I had hit the gym, had a very filling lunch of dumplings, and found ourselves wandering Sherway Gardens. We were about to head home to catch up on a week's worth of television shows, but thought, hey, we're in west end, maybe we should grab dinner here. Joyfully, we decided on Grand Electric at 5:30 pm and arrived at the restaurant at 5:50 pm. Keep in mind that it was a cold winter night. But as we walked toward the restaurant, we started to quicken our pace as there was already a line up! Counting the number of people in front of us, we knew we wouldn't be getting a table when they opened at 6. But, luckily for us, a few parties gave up and left before they started letting people in. Then, the ones who were just cut off when the restaurant hit capacity decided to leave too. The lovely, smiling, chirpy hostess told everyone the wait would be anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. So we were the first to put our name down and proceeded to wander around Parkdale.

Our phone rang thirty minutes later. What! We were not expecting it, but cheerfully ran back to the restaurant and got seated at the bar. Again, greeted by another friendly face, we told her this was our first visit and she explained the various menus on the walls. Apologies for the quality of the photos, they're all taken on our phones as we didn't make advance plans to eat here.

Look at the delicious choices. Right off the bat, we ordered every single taco and a bottle of beer.

They arrived!! Excitement ensued! Pork tinga, spicy arbol chicken, cactus queso, and beef cheek tacos. My only complaint from the night was that the limes were hard to squeeze (a bit dry?), I gave up on attempting to get the juices out.

Here's the scrapple and baja fish tacos. What is scrapple? I had to look it up and the definition doesn't sound all that pleasing. Basically a bunch of pork scraps and trimmings, think spam? And it turns out, the baja fish taco was Howard's favourite.

Okay, we were hooked. We looked around and saw many tables with the tuna ceviche and ordered one ourselves. Delicious. An excellent combination of spicy, crunchy, and sour to go with the tuna. Would definitely order this again!

Still wanting to try more, Howard ordered the special of the day, shrimp 'n' grits burrito. Not a personal favourite of mine, but Howard enjoyed it.

Then, I remembered an episode of Munchies that we watched on Vice. In this episode, they featured the chefs of Guu Izakaya and they mention how Grand Electric has a version of their spicy squid rings. And well, I had to try it. All Howard and I can say is, yum!

Finally, we were pretty much full for the night, but I still wanted dessert. So we tried their key lime pie, which was served in a cute little jar and generously topped with whipped cream with lime zest. This was the perfect way to end our meal. After all of the delicious food, the lime curd gave us a good sour cleanse. And to top it all off, this was complimentary because the beer we originally ordered hasn't been chilled yet, so to make up for the more expensive beer we ended up getting, they took the dessert fee off!

So! Great food. Great vibe. And great service. When can we go back?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fondant Dinosaur Tutorial

Hello friends!

I wanted to share this little thing I did over the holidays. It's nothing much, but I really enjoyed working on it. I wrote a more elaborate and detailed tutorial - complete with photos - on how to make fondant Stegosauruses for cupcakes and cakes. It's posted on SheKnows.com, a site that curates many lifestyle articles.

Please take time to check it out and I would love your feedback, either here or on the tutorial. I would love to work on more tutorials with the SheKnows team again, so if you enjoyed it or found it useful, please give it the old "like" and share it with your friends and family. I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you! That's all for now!

Sincerely,
Sylvia

PS: I have a byline and a bio and everything!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

WVRST

609 King Street West
Toronto, ON M5V 1M5
(416) 703-7775

WVRST is a modern sausage and beer hall. Howard and I had been meaning to try it, so we finally went last month for a quick meal. Located on the second floor, we arrived like a couple of shy students at a high school dance. Sticking to the sides, I noticed the display case and cashier at the back. We were friendly greeted and asked if this was our first visit. Yup! You can spot us from afar. After a quick explanation of the menu, Howard and I stepped aside to decide on our order.

Look at all the types of sausages they have displayed in the case! Yup, you read correctly, they serve kangaroo here....

After placing our order, we were given a stand to carry to our seats.

And what's a beer hall without the beer (above) and the hall (below)?
I'm sure the place get filled quickly during proper meal times. We can see this being a great space for large parties.

So our food arrives on a tray with some red-and-white gingham accents that allowed them to label out our order. Pretty straight forward and gave the meal a nice picnic feel to it.

As you can see, the duck fat fries in the middle dominate most of the tray. This was highly recommended to us by friends, but to be honest, we couldn't taste anything that different. Maybe we needed to order their regular fries to do a proper comparison.

I figured I should go for a traditional sausage like their Bratwvrst, a veal, pork, and wine combination served with bread and a tomato curry sauce. Using the little wooden pick, I smeared some of the excess sauce onto the bread and took a bite of the bratwurst. It was quite juicy and I could taste the wine flavour coming through the meal. I can see why this is quite addictive!

Howard picked the Wild Boar with mushroom and tea. Since the game meats were not recommended with the currywurst, we went with the buttered white roll with sweet sautéed onions and sautéed jalapenos. It was tasty with the right amount of heat. Went well with the beer the hostess recommended.

The whole experience was pleasant enough that we would return, I have my taste buds set on a few other meats to try!

Sorry if the photos don't do the place any justice, they were all taken with our phone cameras. Like I said, we popped in for a quick meal and did not plan ahead to bring our camera!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Peanut Macarons

Over the holidays, my dad got to thinking: Why stop at almond flour? Why doesn't Sylvia try making macarons with peanut flour?

Since I got a lovely food processor from my future sister-in-law for Christmas, I have been able to make my own flours at home. So I told my dad that I would give peanuts a try.

French Meringue Macarons
(Makes about 40-50 macarons)

250 grams of peanut flour
350 grams of powdered sugar
1 cup of egg whites (from 6-7 eggs)
A pinch of salt
150 grams of granulated sugar
  • Line your baking trays with parchment paper.
  • Separate your egg whites 2-3 days before baking. Cover and store them in the refrigerator. Two hours before you start making your macarons, take the egg whites out of the refrigerator, uncover them, and let them come to room temperature.
  • Weigh out 250 grams of peanuts and 350 grams of powdered sugar.
  • Using a food processor, pulse the peanuts and powdered sugar until they are combined. You'll notice a lovely peanut aroma when you're using the food processor to chop up the nuts. Make sure you do not leave! Keep an eye as you do not want the mixture to start getting clumps, you do not want the mixture to become oily.
  • Sift the peanut flour and powdered sugar if you'd like smoother shells.
  • Using the whisk attachment on your stand mixer, whisk the egg whites with the salt. Slowly pour in the granulated sugar. When the egg whites reach stiff peaks, turn the mixer off.
  • Fold the sifted peanut and sugar mixture with the egg whites. You want to end up with a smooth batter that creates a ribbon when you lift it up from your spatula.
  • When the batter is ready, fill your piping bag and pipe equal rounds on a silicone mat or parchment paper.
  • Carefully tap your tray against the table or counter to eliminate air bubbles.
  • Let the macarons rest in room temperature for about 15 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 300°F/150°C (325°F/160°C for a non-convection oven, although a convection oven is preferred for baking macarons).
  • Bake your first tray of macarons for 14-15 minutes.
  • When the macarons are done, let them cool, and then gently peel the macarons off the parchment paper.
There are lots of lovely macaron combinations that go with peanut flavoured shells. Think chocolate, jam, marshmallow, and apples to name a few. The first one that popped into my head was banana. And I didn't even make a cream, although you are most encouraged to do so! I simply sliced the bananas and sandwiched them between the macarons shells. Quick, easy, and delicious.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Afternoon Tea at Butter Avenue

So we returned. Didn't I say we would?

So more about the Afternoon Tea at Butter Avenue. We were greeted by the friendly staff, most of whom remembered us from our first visit. Our table was reserved and we were given the choice from two sets: Lumière and De Luxe. Since we grabbed lunch at The Burger's Priest nearby, we went with the Lumière set. We were a bit nervous that we would be too full, as you get a bit more desserts and drink choices if you go with the De Luxe one.

The fun part was being able to smell and read the description of all the available tea choices. I went with one of the more popular teas (as our hostess informed us). A tea with sweet, roasted, and caramelized almonds with sweet apple pieces. The red colour comes from adding beetroot.

From the samples of tea, Howard picked Darjeeling, one that he was comfortable and familiar with.

Our amuse-bouche arrived! A mini croissant with smoked salmon and dill, brioche, and two mini bacon and cheese quiches. Anything with smoked salmon wins over Howard's heart. The brioche was delicious. The quiches had the texture of a light and airy egg sponge, also very tasty.

Along with our tray of tarts and cakes, we also got to choose a macaron from the display cases.

Our hostess suggested we start from the left to the right. We had a taste of the pistachio cream puff with a white chocolate glaze. A nice and easy way to start off the tasting.

Then, the cassis (blackcurrant) mousse topped with a blueberry.

Their newest cake, cheesecake garnished with a sliver of strawberry. I'm not usually a fan of cheesecake because I find them too dense and heavy (but Howard loves them), this however, I enjoyed! It was very light and soft, just the right texture for a bite size.

Raspberry mousse, deliciously tart and light!

Their terre et neige cake, a matcha mousse, chocolate sponge cake, and vanilla mousse.

Finally, we finished with the nutty dark chocolate cake with dark chocolate mousse, chocolate sponge cake,  and a chocolate rice crispy base.

I have to say, everything was delicious and delightful, but I was a little bit disappointed with the macarons this time around. I had purchased some extra ones to take home and some of my macaron shells were too hard and hollow inside.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Café Boulud

Four Seasons Hotel
60 Yorkville Avenue
Toronto, ON M4W 0A4
Tel: (416) 963-6000

It really is a new year for me as I celebrated my birthday last weekend. Level completed and all, I'm moving on to another number (that's all age is ... right?)! To celebrate, my dearest Howard took me to Daniel Boulud's Café Boulud for dinner. At the Four Seasons Hotel, the main lobby also includes D|Bar if one desires to go in for drinks and food in a more casual atmosphere. But since we dressed up and had reservations, we went up to the second level and were greeted by the hostess.

It wasn't a busy night and I was quite pleased with our seats. It was the first seat after the large communal table at the front - look at that gorgeous table in the photo above! Our table was one of the few tables in between the columns - it offered a nice view of the entrance (for people-watching) and some privacy from the sides and back. Best of all, I had a small loveseat all to myself!

The artwork was ... interesting. We were sitting between two pieces, one depicting Michael Jackson, the other was a can of Campbell soup. It was noted on the menu that the art could be bought.

About those menus, our waiter was very hospitable and explained how the menu was laid out. Picture a 4-column, 3-row grid. The four columns are divided into la tradition, classic French cuisine, Daniel Boulud style; la saison, using seasonal ingredients; le potager, mainly vegetarian dishes; and le voyage, a section our waiter described as a place for the chefs to be creative and have a bit of fun. The first row lists the appetizers, the second row is meant for the entrées, and the third are some extra side dishes. We were highly encouraged to mix and match as you don't have to stay within a column of food.

My first pick from the menu was the Seared Albacore Tuna from the saison section. The tuna was paired with winter radish, edamame, a yuzu vinaigrette, and katsuo mirin spice. All great flavours that worked well together, this was a personal favourite of mine.

Howard and I were admiring the light green sauce that was painted onto the plate. At first glance, I thought it was part of the plate's design! But it wasn't, so we started mopping it up with our food.

Howard picked the Nova Scotia Lobster Salad from le voyage for a second appetizer to share. The lettuce was garnished with strips of coconut, crispy fried shallots, chili, a Jalapeño and Lime Gremolata, and underneath, we found a samosa!

I've never tasted lobster like this before. I'm not a huge fan of lobster or crab in general, probably because I've never ate a well-cooked one. This lobster didn't have an overly strong fishy smell or taste, it was - the best way I can describe it - clean. It tasted clean and fresh and it shone on it's own.

The way our waiter was describing this next dish, it was hard to pass up. It was the special of the night which I think they should just put on the menu! The juicy chicken was prepared two ways. You can see the black truffle in the photo where there's a dark patch under the skin of the chicken.

The second, foie gras stuffed in chicken, as seen above in the middle and the chicken on the right. Rich and creamy, this dish was quite the treat. It was a very nice surprise!

This Steak au Poivre is from la tradition and featured a dry-aged Cumbrae strip loin with bone marrow, confit shallot, and pommes Pont Neuf with parsley salad. The flavours of the steak were good, although it wasn't the most tender steak we've had. Personally, the highlight for me were the pommes Pont Neuf! The parsley salad was a little over powering.

And finally, to the best part of any meal - dessert! I tried the Grapefruit Givré, with sesame halva, rose loukoum, grapefruit sorbet, and cotton candy. A givré, I recently learned, is a dessert that consists of sorbet in a frozen fruit shell.

I was instructed to hold the sides of the grapefruit and use my spoon to push everything down in the center. This way I could thoroughly mix and incorporate all of the ingredients.

Howard ordered the Coconut-Roasted Pineapple served with a lime gelée, coconut foam, and banana-passion fruit sorbet.

I didn't even get to try the lime gelée there, it was so good that Howard ate it all! He also raved about the banana-passion fruit sorbet. Luckily, I got to try one of the cake stacks before he consumed them all!

The best treat of the night? These heavenly birthday madeleines, courtesy of the restaurant. They were so addictive to eat, wrapped in a napkin, they were warm, soft, chewy, and not too sweet. After all the food we ate, I thought we would have to pack these, but nope, I polished them off with finesse.
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