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

Sunday, February 17, 2013

JaBistro

222 Richmond Street West
Toronto, ON M5V 1W4
Tel: (647) 748-0222

How were your Valentine's Day celebrations? Not to brag, but mine was pretty good. While we still had to go to work, Howard surprised me in the morning by making my TTC commute shorter. At work, our social committee left heart-shaped Tim Hortons doughnuts on each of our desks. A yummy jelly-filled addition to my breakfast! That day, I also participated in a flash mob for One Billion Rising, had a delicious prosciutto panini from Mercatto for lunch, and was whisked to JaBistro after work.

JaBistro has been on our restaurant wishlist for awhile, we had heard that the guys at Guu were behind this venture and wanted to try it out. In addition, they had been receiving great review after great review after great review.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the friendly hostess who checked our reservation. She led us to our seat at the bar (they had asked if we had a sesating preference when they called to confirm a couple of days before), took our jackets, and placed the menus in front of us.

To my surprise, the place wasn't packed for Valentine's Day - maybe the rain kept people at home or plans were being made on the weekend. It did fill up a bit by the time we left, but I was still surprised to see empty spots at the bar!

On their drink menu, they had three virgin cocktails where I spotted the green tea mojito. It's hard for me to turn down a mojito flavour I hadn't tried before! This one was made with matcha syrup, simple syrup, lime, mint, and soda.

Do you see the amazing sushi platter he's preparing? We want to come back for that!

You can also make reservations for their Prix Fixe menu or the Fisherman's Platter (looking for four more to join us, any takers?) online.

If it's available, ask to sit at the bar, you'll get to witness some blowtorch action and some playful sound effects too.

The aburi, seven delicious blowtorched pieces.

You'll notice that they'll always place the platter in the order of consumption, you start from the left and always end with the tamago on the right.

Top: The aburicious, a sampler consisting of two atlantic salmons, two cured mackerels, two tiger shrimps, and two JaBistroll.
Bottom: The nama, seven classic pieces.

Right: Oh JaBistroll - salmon, snow crab, uni, and tobiko - you are so delicious!

Aside from the Japanese menu items, you can also order dishes under their Bistro section. The kamo (above) consists of smoked duck breast, burdock, and onsen tamago. You mix up together and eat it as a salad.

The gindara is black cod and bacon with a shrimp toast.

I was pretty full by then, but I did come here to try their matcha puff too! The puff was filled with a black sesame custard cream with matcha whipped cream and drizzled with black honey. Some garnish and a deliciously rich green tea ice cream.

Don't skip on dessert here.

To our surprise, they also had a special of the day for dessert! So Howard ordered the banana pastry - also decorated with hearts as our waitress pointed out. Too cute!

Two heart-shaped housemade calvados (soft nama chocolate) to end the amazing meal.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Classic Crème Brûlée

I did not plan to make crème brûlée last week. I don't even have a funny story as to why I ended up making it. It is pretty straight forward, I bought a carton of heavy cream when it was on sale. I noticed that the best before date was coming up. I took Baked Elements off the shelf and happened upon their classic crème brûlée recipe. Reading through the ingredient lists, I noticed that it allowed me to use up all of the heavy cream. Score!

Classic Crème Brûlée
Recipe adapted from Baked Elements

2 cups of heavy cream
1 vanilla bean
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of granulated sugar
  1. Preheat your oven to 325°F (163°C). Place four 6-ounce ramekins in a small roasting pan or a baking dish with sides higher than your ramekins.
  2. Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds with a knife. Pour the heavy cream into a medium saucepan and add in the vanilla seeds and the bean pod. Heat the cream and occasionally stir to prevent a skin from forming on the top. When the cream starts to bubble and boil, remove it from the heat and turn off your stove. Let it cool and steep for 10 minutes.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, and salt together. The mixture should turn a shade lighter in colour and be well combined.
  4. Pour a third of the heavy cream into the egg yolk mixture while whisking (the cookbook says not to, and to stir instead, I'll leave this up to you). Continue to add the heavy cream until it is all combined.
  5. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a ramekin and carefully pour in the mixture, reaching just below the top. Repeat with the other three ramekins.
  6. Take the small roasting pan with the filled ramekins to your oven and set it on the oven rack. Gently pour hot water into the roasting pan - be careful not to get any into the ramekins! The water should reach about halfway up the sides of the ramekins.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the custard is set, it'll still be wobbly in the middle. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan filled with water. Set it aside to cool in room temperature. Then cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours). When your oven has cooled, carefully take out the roasting pan and pour the water out.
  8. Remove the ramekins 15 minutes before serving. Divide the 3 tablespoons of sugar (you can also try it with dark brown sugar as the cookbook recommends) evenly between the four ramekins and sprinkle it on top. Use a kitchen torch to caramelize the sugar to create a smooth top.
For some reason, my kitchen torch refused to work for me that day. Despite many attempts in refueling it, I don't think any of the butane fuel made it in (yikes). I ended up using a lighter. I do not recommend this. I should have waited for Howard to do it, but I was impatient.

Boy was this crème brûlée smooth! Even smoother than the recipe I tried here. Let's stick to this one from now on!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Winterlicious: North 44 )º

2537 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON M4P 2H7
Tel: (416) 487-4897

Last Winterlicious dinner for the year! We're just slowly making our way through Mark McEwan's restaurants in Toronto. Having tried Fabbrica and Bymark, North 44 was the next logical step. We went after work and surprised ourselves by arriving early - rush hour traffic wasn't too bad!

Our hostess led us to what we thought was a cozy corner of the restaurant. But, because it was near the entrance, the area was really chilly every time customers came or left. The nice thing was that it was roomy and we didn't have to coat check (because my coat may have helped keep me from catching a cold that night).

We had a very nice waiter who gave us some great drink recommendations for the night. I personally loved that they had a mocktail menu, yum!

Most of us ordered the seared ahi tuna served with Japanese pear, cucumber, yuzu, and chili. Can't go wrong with that combination, it had great flavours and textures with each bite.

The crisp skinned chicken supreme with potato croquette, leeks, honey mushrooms, and pan jus. Wow, was not expecting a large portion of chicken! I found mine to be juicy, but Howard found his a bit dry. We all liked the potato croquette, would have loved more!

Our dinner companion tried the ice cream sandwich with vanilla ice cream between two winter spice cookies, served with a warm caramel sauce. It was also sitting on top of some shaved coconuts, quite a playful dish.

Pavlova with passion fruit and berries were not the guy's favourites. I guess they need something more substantial when it comes to dessert. I thought it tasted fine and that the presentation was quite nice compared to the other two.

I seem to always be gravitating towards chocolate. Their chocolate pot de crème was served with some cherry cookies, toffee crunch, and pop rocks. The spoonfuls of chocolate with the pop rocks were really fun!

The overall meal was okay. For some reason, I had thought that North 44 was on the same level as Bymark or higher, but after experiencing both, Bymark's service was more in line with "fine dining." The food runners at North 44 were a bit rough and would plop the dishes on the table and leave. At Bymark, dishes were neatly presented and explained. The atmosphere at North 44 was also more on the casual side and each waiter appeared to serve a greater number of tables.

Just One left for us to try! We can't wait to see what will be offered during Summerlicious, heck, we can't wait for summer!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Winterlicious: Scarpetta

550 Wellington Street West
Toronto, ON M5V 2V8
Tel: (416) 601-3590

For our second Winterlicious dinner, we tried Scarpetta, a trendy restaurant in the Thompson Hotel (which we had the pleasure of visiting for a previous event). This was the Toronto location of the acclaimed Italian restaurant know for their signature spaghetti and polenta.

Scarpetta has their own entrance at the Hotel and we were greeted by friendly hostesses. Coats checked, they took our party of four to our table by the tall shelves of wine (which caused the customers beside us to shuffle out of their seats when the sommelier wanted to reach a certain wine behind them - ekks, not a great way to layout the restaurant).

Our waitress came by and asked if we wanted any drinks, we politely declined as we had just sat down and were debating what to order. I don't know about you, but we always look at food first, drinks (if we're in the mood) second. Here's the strange part, after she took our order and asked if we wanted a drink again, we said we would now take a look at the drink menu. But she took it away!

Regardless, our bread basket came out shortly and we found ourselves enjoying a delicious roll of pizza bread. At the moment, we also asked someone if we could see the drink menu. Seeing us looking through the menu, our waitress returned to take our order. We had a few in mind, but also asked for drink recommendations and she explained to us that she hadn't tried any so that she wouldn't be able to let us know which ones were good! We did end up trying a couple of drinks but felt that she could have done a better job explaining the items.

Let's move to the food, which was why we were there in the first place!

The guys at the table ordered the braised short ribs of beef with vegetables and farro risotto. No complaints here, they both agreed that it was very tasty.

The rest of us tried the spiced winter squash soup with goat cheese dumplings and farro. When it was set down on our place mats, this soup smelled amazing! It reminded us of a really good pho broth - which was very surprising, how does squash end up smelling like pho? If you're wondering, they soup did not taste like pho, but a very nicely composed squash soup. My only complaint would that I would have liked it to be hotter in temperature. But those goat cheese dumplings? So delicious and fun to eat!

While I was mocked and laughed at by Howard for ordering spaghetti, I was going to try their signature dish! It may look like a small pile of spaghetti, but even portioning off most of it to the rest of our group to try, it was really filling. Some parmesan cheese would have been a nice touch!

Howard went with the roasted chicken with cauliflower, cippolini (onions), and finger noodles served with a fegato sauce.

Our friend tried the striped bass with a parsnip purée, hedgehog mushrooms, and a brown butter froth.

This is probably a first that every main was ordered by our dinner party! The last one was the pancetta wrapped pork tenderloin with mustard seed braised lentils, butternut squash, and fresh guanciale (a pig's cheek bacon).

The same went for desserts, we tried all the items on the menu.

The Amedei chocolate cake with Baileys ice cream and an espresso sauce. The cake was incredibly rich and had a little bit of molten happening.

The cheesecake with carmelized port marinated berries. The cheesecake was nice and soft, didn't have an overpowering cheese flavour - a nice balance that I enjoy.

We had two of these at the table. A selection of ice cream and sorbet. That night's trio was an apple sorbet, cinnamon ice cream, and Baileys ice cream. From the shrieks of delight, the apple sorbet was the night's winner.

The verdict? While the food was good and service was acceptable, the four of us don't see a ourselves returning in the future. But it was great to have the opportunity to try it!
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