what's really been cooking

Blogging has taken a bit of backseat here these last few weeks. But it's with good reason: in a matter of weeks (eek!) Joe and I will be welcoming our first baby into our little family. It's an exciting time, but also a stressful time. Luckily we are blessed with great friends and family which definitely makes things easier. I'm going to try my best to keep up with posting and I semi-promise that this won't become a baby blog (I may not be able to resist showing you some of the awesome prezzies I've been receiving for our baby dude), but if it goes quiet over here, at least now you know what's up. In the meantime, here are some shots from the baby shower that Adam and Davis threw me. They know that cured meats and cheese are the way to my heart. 


five guys

I think that Five Guys may be my new favourite burger spot. But only for their burgers. Not that their fries are bad (they're not, they're just not my fave), but their burgers are awesome. I'd classify these burgers as a step up from fast food, but not the same as the "gourmet burgers" that come with all kinds of crazy toppings. When you walk in there are bags of roasted peanuts for munching on (free!) But if you're allergic, be warned that they also cook their fries in peanut oil.
I went for the cheeseburger (not to self: a regular cheeseburger here is actually a double). And got it topped with ketchup, mayo, extra pickles and grilled onions. I loved the fact that none of their toppings cost extra (even the grilled onions or mushrooms). And they use my beloved processed cheese! Cheeseburgers are so much better with processed cheese.
The juicy hand-formed burgers are grilled on a flat top to order and are really messy to eat. Next time, I'll go for the "little cheeseburger" (one patty), which I think would be the perfect sized burger.

Five Guys
Locations throughout Ontario


roll house

Korean-Chinese food is one of those things that I crave on a regular basis. Especially tang su yuk and ja jang myun. It's the perfect combination. The problem is finding Korean-Chinese food. I stumbled upon Roll House in Koreatown a few weeks ago. I originally thought it was a sushi place, but noticed that the menu had all of the usual Korean-Chinese dishes. And the Korean name of the restaurant is actually House of Ja Jang Myun.  
You can get individual combos of one dish plus ja jang myun. I chose the tang su yuk and Joe got the fried mandoo (Korean dumplings). We had no complaints about the mandoo and tang su yuk. 
The ja jang myun, however, was mediocre. The noodles weren't chewy enough and the sauce was a little bland. Oh well, at least I crossed another Koreatown restaurant off the list.

Roll House (House of Ja Jang Myun)
648 Bloor St. W


dim sum at pearl harbourfront

I'm such a sucker for dim sum. To me, it's the perfect mid-Saturday morning meal. And while I mostly frequent the Chinatown dim sum joints for convenience, I recently checked out Pearl Harbourfront for a change of scenery. With views overlooking Toronto's harbour, the Pearl has a more upscale feel than the dim sum places I'm used to. They do offer cart service, but if the dining room isn't very full (like when I was there) they ask you to order off a menu. The food quality is definitely a step up from Chinatown. Everything tasted fresh and homemade. The price ended up being a few dollars more, but totally worth it. 
From top to bottom: haam siu gok (glutinous rice dumpling stuffed with pork); har gow (steamed shrimp dumplings); crispy deep-fried squid tentacles; bbq pork cheung fun (rice noodle roll); siu mai (steamed pork and shrimp dumplings); steamed black bean spareribs.

Pearl Harbourfront
207 Queens Quay W.


penrose fish & chips

Penrose Fish & Chips is my kind of place. A family-run, old school, hole-in-the-wall fish and chips shop with small booths, a couple of tables and the smell of deep-fry permeating the space. It's not fancy by any means, but they serve some of the best fish and chips in the city. The fish is fresh, hot and crispy. The fries are thick-cut and oh-so tasty. The secret? I'm not sure, but I think it has something to do with the fact that they fry everything in beef drippings. Yup, beef drippings. And surprisingly, the resulting fish and chips are not greasy at all. 
This is as simple as it gets. Just a perfect portion of haddock and chips and a bowl of tangy coleslaw. And don't expect homemade tartar sauce, they serve the packaged kind, and that's fine by me.

Penrose Fish & Chips
600 Mt. Pleasant Rd.


solo sweet

Sorry for the impromptu hiatus. I'll be back next week, but for now here's a special indulgent treat from Nadègethe C3: a dome of caramel mousse filled with coconut mousse, chocolate cremeaux and a chocolate fleur de sel biscuit. Perfectly light and airy. No need to share.
Nadège Patisserie
780 Queen St. W



As someone who loves tacos and good Mexican food, I've had Rebozos on my radar for a long time. Last week I was finally able to cross it off my list.  
I mostly came for the lengua (beef tongue) tacos. Beef tongue may sound scary, but, if cooked properly, can be the most tender piece of meat. It's the perfect cut for tacos. 
I also tried one of the specials of the day: chicharron in salsa verde tacos, basically pork skin simmered in a tomatillo salsa. The chicharron was mega-porky and gelatinous in texture—definitely not for everyone, but I thought it was pretty tasty.
And finally a chorizo tostada. Crumbled Mexican sausage, refried beans, shredded lettuce and sour cream on a crunchy tortilla. A little hard to handle and messy, but a nice mix of crunchy, spicy, cool and creamy.
With so many good taco spots opening up shop downtown (La Carnita, Grand Electric, Seven Lives), I probably wouldn't make the trip all the way up to Rebozos, but those tongue tacos did inspire me to try to make my own. I'll be posting about that experience soon.

126 Rogers Rd.


montreal-style bagels

I've been making these homemade bagels about once a month and absolutely love them, but I decided to try a recipe for Montreal-style bagels and compare the two. I actually prefer Montreal bagels with their crisp exterior and dense, sweet interior.
I used this recipe by Marcy Goldman and, while they tasted (and looked) ok, they just weren't great. Definitely not as flavourful as the Montreal bagels I'm used to and the texture wasn't the same as the ones made in wood-burning ovens. Back to my old reliable recipe I guess.


ding tai fung

Ding Tai Fung specializes in Shanghai-style dim sum and whenever I find myself in Markham, I always stop in for a quick meal. I'm not a dim sum expert, but I think that Shanghai style consists of mostly steamed dumplings along with some pan-fried versions (not a lot of deep-fried items like at regular dim sum places). And there is no cart service since everything is steamed/fried to order.
Always go for the xiao long bao or soup dumplings. These are the most popular and for good reason: they are really, really delicious. Be warned though, they are scalding hot inside. Use your chopsticks to gently pick one up and place it in your soup spoon. Nibble a little hole into the skin, slurp out the soup, then chow down on the rest of the dumpling. I like to dip mine in a mixture of vinegar, soy, chili oil and fresh ginger.
The sticky rice shu mai are ok, but seriously heavy. The sticky rice is mixed with a small amount of pork and mushrooms then wrapped in dumpling skin and steamed. One or two is usually my max.
The fried chicken soup is another one of my faves though not on the dim sum side of the menu. The dish is composed of two parts: the soup (pictured above) which has noodles (I think they are handmade), greens and pork, plus...
...A plate of toppings: soy sauce boiled egg, seasoned soybean sprouts, fermented chopped vegetables and a very crispy boneless fried chicken thigh. I throw everything on top of the soup and season it with a bit more chili oil, vinegar and soy. So utterly comforting on a cold day.
Ding Tai Fung Shanghai Dim Sum
3235 Hwy 7 E. 
Markham, ON.


the works

This past weekend, Joe and I stuffed our faces at the new-ish (to Toronto) burger chain, The Works
Instead of regular glasses, the sodas come in measuring cups. 
Our waitress pointed out that all of the burgers are made to order, so they take about twenty minutes to cook. We decided to get started with their Tower-O-Rings, a big, crispy stack of onion rings that come with your choice of two dipping sauces. We went with the Beechhouse (a creamy veggie and garlic mayo) and the Hotter Than Hell (not really that hot, but still delicious). I was real happy with these crunchy, non-greasy rings.
For burgers, Joe chose the BT Breakfast Burger topped with mayo, a fried egg, tomato, cheddar and bacon.  
I got the Beach Boardwalk Burger topped with an onion ring, Beechhouse sauce, brie, havarti and gouda. It was huge. I ate about half before calling it quits. I also got the spicy die-cut chips (not spicy at all) as my side—they were awesome dipped in even more of that Beechhouse sauce. 
Was this a good burger? I would say yes. It was juicy and hearty. Considering I could barely move after this meal, next time I'd probably split a burger rather than attempt to eat a whole one on my own. Plus, then maybe I'd have room for their deep-fried dill pickles. This city needs more deep-fried pickles.

The Works
888 Danforth Ave.


mi mi vietnamese restaurant

Back in the day when I was an east-side dweller, Joe and I used to head to Mi Mi Vietnamese Restaurant whenever we needed our pho fix. I recently found myself back on the east side, so I stopped by for a quick lunch. 
The cha Gio (Vietnamese springrolls) weren't as good as I remembered them to be. These tasted pretty generic.
Instead of my usual pho, I decided to change it up and get a bowl of bun (rice noodles with shrimp on sugarcane, pork sausages and grilled beef). Can't go wrong with a huge bowl of meat and noodles—especially for under ten bucks! 

Mi Mi Vietnamese
688 Gerrard St. E.


triple chocolate chunk cookies

These are triple chocolate chunk cookies. And they were just what I needed this past weekend.
1 C flour
1/2 C Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 C butter, room temp
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
3 oz. white chocolate, chopped

1. Combine all of the dry ingredients. Set aside.

2. Cream butter and sugars in a stand mixer until fluffy. Add vanilla and egg. Mix until combined.

3. Slowly add in dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks by hand.

4. Drop heaping tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Slightly flatten the tops of each dough mound. Bake at 350 for 12-13 minutes.


roasted tomato soup

When Ontario tomatoes were in season, I made this roasted tomato soup on the regular. It's really easy to throw together, tastes even better on the second day, and is the best when paired with a gooey grilled cheese. 
5 large plum tomatoes or vine tomatoes, halved
1 package of grape tomatoes
5 cloves of garlic
2 medium sized onions, halved
4 C chicken stock
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
salt & pepper
4-5 fresh basil leaves (optional)

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place all the tomatoes, garlic and onions on a baking tray and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, or until everything starts to blister and caramelize.

2. Place all of the roasted vegetables into a pot and add chicken stock, bay leaves and fennel seeds. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium and cook until liquid reduces by a third. Remove bay leaves.

3. Add basil if using, then puree everything in a blender or by using an immersion blender, until smooth. Return soup to low heat and season to taste. If you find your soup to be too acidic, a tablespoon of honey will balance things out. If your soup is too thick, just add more chicken stock. If you want to get fancy and get rid of any seeds or skin, you can strain the soup through a sieve before serving.


seven lives tacos

I came across Seven Lives tacos while strolling through Kensington market in search of bread and cheese. More akin to a takeout counter than restaurant, it's hidden within the shared El Gordo space on August Avenue. Seven Lives specializes in fish and seafood tacos, but have options for non-fish lovers too. I really wanted to try the ceviche, but it was sold out. Since I have a hard time passing up on tacos, I settled on two for the road (though there is a back patio so you can sit down and eat)
The condiments: lime wedges, pickled red onions, salsa verde and red salsa. The salsas were really flavourful and I topped my tacos with both.
The baja fish taco came with a freshly battered, deep-fried piece of fish tucked in doubled blue corn tortillas, then topped with cabbage, fresh salsa and sour cream.
The camarones a la diabla came with plump shrimp and peppers on corn tortillas topped with melted cheese, fresh salsa, shredded cabbage and sour cream.
Messy (in the best way) and made with fresh fish and seafood, these tacos were mighty satisfying. Now I have another reason to hit up the market more often. You can follow Seven Lives on Twitter to find their daily menu.

Seven Lives
214 Augusta Avenue


baked brownies

The infamous Baked brownie has made its round all over the interweb these past few years and with the overwhelming success of their peanut butter cookies last week, I decided to give this popular recipe a try.
These rich brownies were definitely decadent. More fudgy than cakey, I recommend cutting them small and having a tall ice-cold glass of milk handy or you may go into chocolate overload. I'm partial to the crackly corner piece, slightly chilled, eaten in silence. 
You can find the recipe here or buy the cookbook, here