Our 100th Post!

Wow. It’s our 100th post. We launched just over a year ago, on March 13, 2010, with a healthy backlog of road trips across the continent, recipes we loved and other food experiences we were looking forward to share.

Killer breakfast at the Kingfish Cafe in Seattle, WA

A hundred posts later, we’re still going strong, publishing an average of two posts every week across many thousands of kilometres of open road, through the US Southwest, Southeast, West coast, Ontario, Miami, Rome and numerous other locales. We’ve published dozens of recipes, turned you onto new products and described countless meals in countless cafes, restaurants, shacks and food stands.

Beef Carpaccio in Rome.

Through it all, two things have remained constant:

1) A tireless search for honest and authentic food experiences;

2) You, our readers, giving us the support and appreciation to keep us excited to share our thoughts, photos, and experiences, good and bad.

We love doing this blog. We hated that it took so long to bring new version to you, but we are back in the swing and have many new articles to write, new highways and byways to explore and new things to try.

Thank you so much for sharing it with us and letting us know you find it worthwhile.

Rob and Maureen

Shrimp fajita at Magarita’s in San Antonio
BBQ and Famous Dave’s in Austin, TX
Voodoo Donuts, Portland, OR
Impromptu Picnic, Sattui Winery, Napa
Smoked seafood, Chelsea Smokehouse, Chelsea QC
Mexican Mole Pork, HM Kitchen
Uncle Funky’s Grit Bowl, Tomato Jam, Ashville, NC
Pho, from Pholicious, Happy Mouth’s Pho Mile
Morrocan Chicken, HM Kitchen

Jam Buns: Mom’s Baking

Maureen:
Our house growing up was a hectic place during my teen years. Both my sister and I played competitive ringette for teams in different divisions, and both my parents were involved on the coaching staff and or served with regional and provincial boards for the sport. Weekends were often spent on a big diesel bus and in a hotel room. My dad always said “You haven’t lived until you’ve had french fries and coffee at 7 am in a cold arena.” Of course that was back in the good old days when arenas served chip-wagon-quality fries. It was rare that we all shared a sit-down dinner together during the winter months anyways. Dinner was often on the hoof and from our local take-out joint. I remember those days with great fondness.

Rob’s home was alien to me. His stay-at-home mom had baking and snacks ready after school. Dinner involved sitting down at a table set with napkins! The meal was served from pretty dishes on the table, not from the pot on the stove. And dessert! Dessert was an everyday event, not just a company thing as it was in my home.

I would not have traded the hectic life of a competitive ringette family for anything, but I did enjoy a dinner invite into the serenity of the Rose household. And did I mention they had dessert EVERY day? One of the first memorable desserts I enjoyed there was jam buns. These buns were a simple dough rolled out, cut into squares, placed in muffin tins and filled with strawberry jam. You can fancy the buns up by using an upscale preserve instead of strawberry jam and serve with some lightly sweetened whipping cream.

The original recipe from Rob’s mother’s recipe scrapbook.

Rob:
First, a couple of fact-checks for Maureen’s memories: we didn’t have after-school snacks. My Mom just thought Maureen was THAT special. And Mom baked more often than rarely and more rarely than often. But we DID have dessert at every meal and served from bowls on the table. Most times, dessert was very simple — ice cream, store-bought jelly roll, or pudding. But sometimes, usually in the summer, we had wonderful pies and maybe once or twice a year we’d have these jam buns.

…just out of the oven.
Pastry roll made with dough scraps

Jam buns. It’s what my mom called them, maybe due to a poor French-to-English translation. They were poorly named in any event, as they were tarts, made with a rich shortbread crust that weren’t “bun-like” at all. The jam part was accurate, though. She always used whatever cheap jam we had in the house, usually the store-brand strawberry or raspberry jam that was 70% pectin by volume. But it didn’t matter. Maureen might say that it would be an option to fancy these up with good preserves or fresh fruit, but THAT WOULD BE WRONG. It would be a terrible violation of childhood memories and a violation of the spirit of these depression-era treats. Mom would always take the leftover crust, roll it out, spread it with jam and roll it up, cut into pieces and bake them last as impromptu pastry rolls.

Okay. true confession time. I must have been 4 or 5 years old and Mom had made these jam buns for dessert. It was mid-afternoon, and Mom had made some of these earlier in the day and they were sitting out on the kitchen counter, already cooled with a dollop of whipped cream on each one. In a moment of weakness and INCREDIBLE lack of foresight, I decided to steal one. As I was stuffing the last of the tart into my face, I heard Mom’s voice behind me, saying, “What are you doing?”. I played it cool and tried my best to conceal my chipmunk cheeks full of tart and turned to face her hoping she wouldn’t notice that I probably had jam and whipped cream from chin to forehead. I didn’t have to say anything, and she grabbed me by the forearm, brought me over to the kitchen garbage can and forced me to spit it all out. And then, that night at dinner time, Mom announced that I wouldn’t be having any dessert because I had already had a tart during the day, which accomplished two things. First, she saved me some embarrassment by implying that permission was involved, so that was good. The second thing, which directly set off the alarms in my 5-year old sense of “fairness” – which in a multi-child household is the law of the land that keeps the peace, is that I didn’t get dessert AND I was made to spit out the one I stole. Somehow I was down a jam bun in the deal. And it’s stupid, but that sticks with me.

Maureen said I could have an extra one of these, so all is right with the world.

Jam Buns
2 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup lard
mix in as pie dough (not much direction here. I cut the lard in to chunks and then used my fingers to mix the dough.)

Add:
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Jam, pie filling, or preserves
Whipping cream (optional)

Roll out to 14 inch thick.

Cut into squares, put in muffin tin, drop in one tsp. jam or filling.

Bake at 450 degrees till light brown.

Note: I found the dough to be very sticky. I placed it on a floured surface, incorporated about 1/4 cup more flour, rolled it into a ball, placed in a saran covered bowl, and chilled it. The dough worked perfectly after this step.

Click HERE for a printable version of this recipe.

Breakfast LES: Clinton Street Bakery

Monday morning is our last chance to grab a bite in New York. We fly out in the afternoon and have to head to the airport just after noon. A  cloudy but warm day which holds some promise of a very nice spring day once the clouds disperse. We head on over to the Clinton Street Bakery a few blocks from our hotel. We attempted to eat here on the weekend but were faced with a 90-minute wait.

Clinton St. Bakery, very busy on a NYC morning.

9:30 on a Monday finds the bakery very busy but with an empty table or two. We are seated near the window. The place is clean and welcoming, bright and homey. We order the Southern breakfast with biscuits and tomato jam on the side, and I can’t resist a glass of fresh squeezed ruby red grapefruit juice.

Sign on wall: “Ice Cream is the New Health Food”.

The southern breakfast consists of two eggs however you like ’em, two slices of excellently fried green tomatoes, adequate cheesy grits (Rob makes them way better. His are cheesier) and four or five slices of thick-sliced sugar-cured bacon that is the BEST EVER bacon we’ve had. Juicy, flat, perfectly crisped, and almost candied, it would be a good enough reason alone to return to this breakfast spot. Their famous biscuits are in my opinion just good biscuits but I’ve had better cat-head biscuits (so named because they’re the size of a cat’s head — made with lard or bacon grease and whole buttermilk) in the south, in Nashville and North Carolina specifically. At Clinton Bakery they were served with good raspberry jam, not the tomato jam we ordered and were looking forward to, as good tomato jam was a treat, but we didn’t make a fuss. It was all good.

Eggs over medium, cheese grits, fried green tomatoes, sugar-cured bacon and those biscuits.
Up close…yum.

Eataly!

I love all things Batali. I love his approach and enthusiasm for simple, pure, high quality ingredients. I love his zest for life and all things Italian. I love his larger than life personality.  I love his cookbooks. I love his food. I love his restaurants.

Eataly is Mario Batali’s latest, greatest undertaking to bring the finest ingredients Italy has to offer to the above average New Yorker. Simple, pure, and high quality do not come cheap. Eataly will delight gourmands and cooks alike. Located at 23rd and 5th in a city which pretty much offers the world on a platter, Eataly takes its place among the finest markets in New York City.

Rob and I decide to shop at Eataly and have our main meal of the day in the marketplace this last day, a Sunday, that we are to spend in the city. The market is jam packed with New Yorkers shopping for their nightly meal and with curious tourists. Eataly features a cafe and several restaurants which are open to the shopping area. Enjoy your meal while gazing around at the seafood market or fresh mozzarella being made in front of you, or turn your back to the gaggle of shoppers and quietly watch the line cooks.

After touring the seafood beds, vegetable stands, shelves of chestnut and forest honeys, preserves, jellies and jams, bushels of fresh almonds, morels, chanterelles and countless other fresh mushroom selections, heirloom tomatoes, bakery and racks of fresh hot cross buns and loaves of soft olive oil bread, a deli counter of Parma hams, prosciutto, and pancetta, a restaurant quality butcher counter with items like pig cheeks and veal porterhouse steaks, a salumi counter, fresh mozzarella made that morning, prepared foods and salads to take away, wine and beer selection, kitchenware and cookbooks, a drool-worthy selection of dolce, including limoncello cakes, hazelnut tarts, truffles, elegant chocolate cupcakes and other Italian sweets, coffee, more varieties and styles of dried pasta than I even knew existed, fresh pastas, a large olive oil and vinegar selection, and local product and produce when available, we chose to have a seat, a meal and a well earned glass of wine at Manzo.

Manzo is the most formal of the eateries in the market. The restaurant features the meat of the United States and former Babbo chef Michael Toscano uses all parts of the animal. Manzo is a complete dining experience with antipasti, pasta, mains and dessert courses.

Settling into high-backed stools at the bar overseeing the mise-en-place, we peruse the menu and select the mozzarella di Bufala Campana with prosciutto and fettuna as our appetizer. Manzo uses products sold in the market and we had seen the mozzarella being made in our earlier tour. A lovely half bottle of Barbera Briccotondo Fontanafredda is poured into large balloon glasses and we settle back to enjoy each others’ conversation and the buzz of shoppers all around. Curiously, this is not noisy or crowded, and is quite a pleasant atmosphere to dine in.

I’m hungry for pasta and spot a dish on the menu that I hope is reminiscent of a dish I had at Batali’s restaurant, B and B, in Las Vegas on my last visit. Spaghetti alla Chitarra with lobster, tomato and basil. Rob orders Cacciucco, a fish stew, with lobster, scallop, ramps, red chillies, and fregula.

The bufala arrives with thin slices of prosciutto drizzled in good olive oil and Tuscan bread toasted and brushed with olive oil and garlic. The bread is chewy and softened with the oil. The salty ham and mild, fresh cheese is simple and amazing bite after bite. Service is nicely paced to the slow side, allowing us to savour the antipasti and our wine.

Our mains arrive. My pasta is perfectly al dente. The lobster meat is succulent and plentiful. The tomato sauce is orange, rich, and accented by onion, garlic and basil, the perfect marriage. Rob’s stew arrives as a pile of lobster meat on a bed of couscous-like pasta, ramps, chilies, and a perfectly seared sea scallop. Our server arrives and from a pitcher, dispenses a fragrant, deep red broth over the fish. The broth is decadent. It tastes of roasted lobster shells distilled of all of their lobstery essence, with rich, deep flavour. The dish has thin rings of fresno chillies added for eye candy but they add a sweet back heat. Unexpected and delicious.

The portions at Manzo are perfect, allowing us room to share a dessert and cappuccinos. We choose the limoncello torte, with lemon liquor, yogurt and cranberry. The dolce comes with a few pieces of a super-sweet, nougaty meringue.  This is perfect because the pudding-like cake and the cranberry relish have just enough sugar to make them palatable. Perfectly tart. Cappuccinos do not disappoint. We have had the most excellent coffee in Rome and have come to expect it in any Batali restaurant. Fabulous meal on all counts.

 

 

 

MOMA: Design & the Modern Kitchen

“The cost of bringing the Absolute into the kitchen is to soil it. The pretensions of Good Design require us to bring the noblest concepts of the humanistic tradition into direct confrontation with scrambled egg and soiled nappies… The big white abstractions must be devalued, ultimately, by these associations with dirt and muck and domestic grottitude.” – Reyner Banham, “Household Godjets,” 1970

This quote adorned the wall at Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It speaks to a universal truth about the most thoughtfully designed room in the modern household — that the most successful and pristine design fosters the making of messes. I just love this.

Maureen and I ventured to MoMA specifically to see this exhibit, which is a celebration of the influences and factors of kitchen design in the modern age – not just technology advances and new gadgets and labour-saving devices, but the changing purpose of the room, from work room, to spartanly functional “housewives'” haven, to modern social nerve centre.

 

I liked these for some reason…
…can’t put my finger on it.

Because it was MoMA, there were paintings, photography and sculpture that were kitchen-themed, in addition to the samples of kitchenware, gadgets and even fully functional kitchens from post world-war 1 Germany and early-60’s Italy.

The 1920’s German Kitchen of the future.
Utilitarian but highly functional and complete

 

Semi-automatic. Hah!
Italian-designed portable kitchen.

It was a little troubling, but also kind of fun to see relics from a different age and reminisce. “Hey, remember those, we had those when we were a kid!” Noticeably absent: Chip-and-dips, and avocado green fondue sets. It does remind of us of the incredible social, cultural and familial connection we make to our kitchen, our parent’s kitchen (maybe even our grandparents’ kitchen) and its power as a memory maker and daily tribute to form and function.

Kitchen clock with timer built in
Tupperware! We had all this as kids.

Most of these pictures are self explanatory. But when you look at them, experience the design elements and then look at your own kitchen and marvel.