Friday, July 27, 2012

Gone Fishin'

Hey all, thanks for stopping by the National Nosh. I'm taking a break from the blog for the rest of the summer, but will start her back up sometime in the fall.
So long for now, stay cool!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Only the best for Lily

My sister-in-law Deborah makes her eight-month old, the lovely Lily, all of her baby food. I’m super impressed and it looks delicious, but Deborah says she does it because it’s less waste, all-natural, and inexpensive. It also happens to be really nutritious, and since Deborah is a registered Dietitian, she knows what a baby needs for good health. Here are Deborah’s top 5 tips for making homemade baby food.

  1. FRESH IS BEST: Start by using the freshest food available. Use seasonable ingredients where possible, strive for organic but don’t sweat it if conventional produce is all that’s available. “Your kid is better off eating non-organic fruits and vegetables than not eating them at all.” Here’s the  “dirty dozen” that Deborah tries to buy organically since they have the most pesticides. She says frozen fruit and veg are also great if fresh are not available.
  2. BATCH COOKING: Set aside an hour or two to prepare your food in bulk batches and make a variety of items at one time. For instance, Deborah has made zucchini, green beans, sweet potatoes, tofu and pears all in one go. “It may sound like a lot but it means you’re only cooking once every week or so.” Then all you do is portion the various foods out into small containers or ice cube trays, freeze, and defrost and heat as needed.
  3. SALT-FREE: Deborah says now is not the time for added salt and sugar. “Babies should become accustomed to the natural flavours of the foods themselves rather than additives. There’s enough time for them to develop a sophisticated palate later.” That said, some parents do add mild seasonings and spices such as cinnamon, garlic, basil and curry, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
  4. THE RECIPE: Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables, then all you need to do is cook them until soft. On the stovetop this means boiling or steaming, and in the microwave, just add a touch of water. Cool, then puree with a blender, hand blender, Magic Bullet or Baby Bullet until very smooth for younger babies, and then build up to coarser textures for older babies. Note: hard fruits, like apples and pears have to be lightly cooked, but soft fruits, like mangos and berries need only be pureed.
  5. BON APPETIT, MON PETITE: Deborah says variety is key. She usually serves Lily three to four different items at one meal. In this photo Lily is eating tofu, butternut squash and zucchini, and for dessert she enjoyed mango and yoghurt. Lily must like her mama’s cooking since I have yet to see spit something out, and she’s the happiest – and healthiest -- baby on the block.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Eat here: Oru

I love, love, the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver: From the ethereal design to the waterfront setting, the luxe rooms and the impeccable service. And now, after eating at Oru, where new chef Darren Brown is kicking some serious Pacific Rim ass, my relationship with the hotel has crossed over into stalker territory. 
Installed a few months ago, Brown retrofitted the kitchen, broke down some walls to make it more transparent (literally and figuratively; for instance, they pickle their own everything and 
are now making their own charcuterie), so if you thought that hotel dining wasn’t for you, think again. The menu is created using almost exclusively local products, which these days, gladly, 
is no big whoop. But food like this? Huge whoopee! This is one of the best meals I’ve had in ages, and for my vegetarian pal, one of the best she's had, ever. 
The best bite of the night was the first one: "North Arm Farms Sunchoke Soup", a velvety veloute of pure roasted sunchokes topped with a truffle foamed milk and cocoa-morel powder. Sounds a bit old school, but tastes like a Ph.D in deliciousness. "Notch Hills Beet Salad", pickled and poached baby beets, beet chutney, chimichurri vinaigrette, and Cabrales blue cheese, was also a tasty local spin on an old favourite, while the Filet Mignon Oscar topped 
with fresh Dungeness crab, was 5-star decadence.

As a side note, when I visit B.C. it takes all the willpower I’ve got not to hole myself up in a dark room with a trove of the amazing local cheeses and wines we can’t get in Ontario. So, imagine the intense joy I felt with the all-local wine matches – from Blue Mountain to Joie, and the all-local artisanal cheeses in the fromage to chariot. (Best idea ever!)
In conclusion, ahem, if you’re lucky enough to visit Vancouver, not only should you stay at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel, but you should definitely eat at Oru.
I'm fairly certain you'll like it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Eating Vegas (and happy Canada Day!)

A few weeks ago many of the world’s celebrated chefs gathered in the 35 C alfresco heat at Bon Appetit’s Vegas Uncork’d Grand Tasting at Caesars Palace, part of the sold-out annual culinary weekend where more than 30 events are packed into four days, with some 60 restaurants, 50 chefs and 30 sommeliers snacking, chatting and swilling together. At the Grand Tasting, the biggest and splashiest of the weekend’s events, I positioned myself at the end of the red carpet, where I asked everyone from Nobu Matsuhisa to Gordon Ramsay what their favourite dish is at their own Vegas restaurant -- plus a dish they enjoy at a friend’s Sin City table. Then I feasted on their top picks during a chefs’ grand tour, which ran in the Globe & Mail this week.

This trip actually changed my mind about Vegas. I had been a couple of times before, and wasn’t a fan. Too much of too much – people with gallon-sized colourful frozen drinks strung around their necks, other people chained to the one-armed bandits for days -- the whole thing just rubbed me the wrong way.
But as I learned, it needn’t be so. Book a nice hotel – I highly recommend the new Cosmopolitan (it’s super cool, has great restaurants, clubs and swimming pools, and it's the only hotel on the Strip whose rooms have private terraces), go for a couple of nice meals, read by the pool, take a swim, do some light shopping, and you’ve got yourself a really enjoyable weekend. 
That said, you know where I think the restaurants are even better than in Vegas? Canada! And with the fireworks, swimming, hot weather and good grub, this long weekend has been almost Vegas-like, and mighty enjoyable too.
Happy 145th B-day, Canada.