December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Only a few more hours until 2009 is done and we're preparing for an easy New Years Eve at home.

So with some easy small bite ideas and a couple of New York City photos, we're all ready to ring in the New Year!

In addition to baked brie (wrap brie cheese in Pillsbury crescent roll dough and bake in the oven), our other go-to easy but tasty appetizer are blueberries with sweetened cream cheese on crackers.  To make the sweetened cream cheese, we take a bar of cream cheese, coat it in brown sugar, wrap it up in foil, and refrigerate overnight (Make sure you put the package in a Tupperware container as the sugar will melt and run).  The next day, the brown sugar will have melted into the cheese, leaving you with a sweetened spread to make this simple small bite.

Mini cheesecakes make dessert a snap.  Using Oreo cookies as the base, take any cheesecake recipe you have and pour the batter into lined muffin tins.  We added a dollop of nutella and melted chocolate on top (as decoration, and to conceal any cracks!)

Almost anything goes with cocktails - here we used guava juice (because of its pretty pink color) and mixed it with vanilla vodka and agave syrup.  Blueberries were added as garnish.

For larger parties, we also like to keep things simple by having bottles of sparkling wine available with pitchers of different fruit purees/juices.  This way the guests are easily able to serve themselves and enjoy different Bellini cocktails throughout the night.

No matter what your plans are tonight, we hope you have a wonderful time with good food, drink, and most of all, good company with family and friends.

Happy New Year!

December 30, 2009

Tourtiere: A Wonderful French Canadian Meat Pie for a Cold Winter's Night

After flying back from Toronto, we came home to a nearly empty fridge.  What to do?  What to eat?  Luckily, we had a homemade Tourtière in our freezer, given to us by the now very newly-wed (they married last week!), Sarah and Hugue.

Sarah and Hugue are a true foodie match made in heaven.  Sarah Obraitis works for Heritage USA and Hugue Dufour (Canadian readers will know him as one of The Wild Chefs on Food Network Canada) rose through the ranks of famed Montreal restaurant Au Pied de Cochon (i.e. a mecca for pork lovers).  Together they started making and selling Tourtières, a French Canadian meat pie traditionally served during the holidays but are so warm and comforting they can be eaten year-round.

Sarah and Hugue's Tourtière comes frozen (for easy storing) and in a generous size.

They suggested we brush the pie with an egg yolk  Then we popped the pie in the oven for an hour at 350F.

The finished product looks mouthwatering!

The filling is hearty and rich with chunks of brisket, pork, turkey, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, wine, garlic, and spices.  The Tourtière also came with a mason jar of homemade cranberry ketchup sauce (as seen in the first picture).  The meat was moist and the crust was light and flaky.  We enjoyed our tourtiere for a couple of nights and it paired well with both a Cotes du Rhone wine and winter beers (opened the last of our Anchor Christmas '08)

To purchase your own homemade pie in the New York City area, contact Sarah and Hugue at

December 29, 2009

Earth - Enjoying a Locavore Meal in Toronto

Amongst all the hustle and bustle, we managed to sneak away while we were in Toronto and have a nice dinner for two.  We decided to check out Earth, the newest restaurant from Ed Ho (who nicely stopped by our table prior to our meal).  He is the same guy who opened Globe Bistro, the restaurant we enjoyed the last time we were in Toronto.  

Walking into the restaurant, we immediately notice Earth's sleek and modern interior - blacks and greys offset by funky light fixtures.  It's a cool space, but our favourite parts were the two rose inlays (the flower in the photo above) that were saved from the original flooring and integrated into current flooring. 

December 28, 2009

Fantaxia - Fixed price, Family-style dinner - Toronto

As we mentioned while preparing for our Creole Christmas in Canada, we appreciate getting together with family and friends in lieu of gifts.  We love catching up over a good meal and happily, when we were in Toronto, my brother and his girlfriend treated my parents and us to a very filling 7 course meal at Fantaxia.  With no one cooking or doing the dishes, it was a wonderful way to relax and chat with our family.

We started off with a soup filled with beef, scallops, mushrooms, and more.  Like clowns exiting a small car, it was fun watching how much food and soup came out of the seemingly small container.  The broth itself was savory and very comforting. 

Taro yam was shredded and fried to make this beautiful and crispy nest.  It was filled with crunchy snow peas, onions, and shrimp.  The best part?  The nest was surrounded by bacon-wrapped shrimp. 

We had to hurry to get this shot of the papaya boat filled with scallops before our server quickly chopped it up into little pieces.  The scallops on top were soft and meaty.

Not only was the chicken de-boned for easy eating, it was stuffed with sticky rice. 

And, just to make ourselves feel healthier, a large bowl of steamed bok choy.

Fried plump oysters were lightly seasoned with lemongrass.  They came with subtly sweet pieces of bread and laid out on a bed of thin, flaky, crispy spinach. 

Finally, to end our meal, we enjoyed this deceptively plain-looking dessert soup.  It was warm and very flavorful with a surprisingly sharp ginger taste.

Special thanks to my brother and especially to his girlfriend who called ahead of time and organized the meal for us.  

Fantaxia is located 3555 Don Mills Road, Unit 5 in Toronto, ON, Canada. 

Fantaxia Cafe on Urbanspoon

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We wanted to wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.

Please enjoy these holiday scenes from Toronto.

Downtown Toronto

Holiday window display from the Hudson's Bay Company department store.

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas Eve with Winter (and Christmas) Beers

It's cold outside and all we want to do is sit by the fireplace with our family and enjoy the holidays with a few good seasonal beers.

So, for the past few weeks, we have been trying a lot of Winter Warmers and Christmas beers from various breweries (for research purposes, of course!) to determine which brews we would like to share with our loved ones.

Here are some of our favorites...

Anchor Christmas Ale 2009:  We picked up a growler fill of this Winter Warmer beer made by Anchor Brewing in San Fransisco.  It has a nice spice (cinnamon and eggnog) and pairs well with both dinner and dessert.  It's a 'quaffable' Winter-style beer because of the low ABV (5%), compared to most winter beers, and the carbonation.  We have some bottles of the 2008 left at home to compare with the 2009 down the road to see how this ages.

Corsendonk Christmas Ale:  One of the best Belgian Christmas beers we've been able to find is this one from Corsendonk.  We had this on tap (which is rare) at Resto, in the Murray Hill area of Manhattan.  It seemed a little boozy at first, but as you keep drinking, the rich, deep fruit gets better and better with quite a long finish for a beer.  The bottles are widely available, so definitely treat yourself to a bottle of Coresendonk Christmas Ale at home.

The Bruery's 2 Turtle Doves: We found this special Belgian Dark-style holiday treat from California's The Bruery on pin cask at Mug's Ale House in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) at Mug's annual Belgian-style beer event.  It's definitely doesn't hold back at 12% as the alcohol is apparent on the nose.  It was a little sweet but we enjoyed it as it opened up in the snifter glass.  This high octane beer is brewed with cocoa nibs and pecans to give it a chocolate and nutty profile.  We know we'll enjoy our bottles at home as well (about $13 to $15 for a 750mL bottle).

Trader Joe's 2009 Vintage Ale:  Each year Trader Joe's puts out a vintage beer made by one of the best breweries in North America, Unibroue (Quebec).  This dark, malty and a touch sweet vintage beer is fermented on it's lees and is slightly carbonated (as evidenced by the cork enclosure).  But it is an easy ale to enjoy much like the Anchor holiday brew.  And the best part is its price - it's only about $5 for a 750mL bottle.  Cheers to that!

 If you are looking for a more readily available (and more affordable) alternative to the above, check out the 6-packs of the malty Winter Ale from Brooklyn Brewery and the Winter Lager from Samuel Adams.  They are stronger than their respective brewery's regular offerings and should be under $10 a 6-pack.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!

December 23, 2009

2 more days 'til Christmas - St. Lawrence Market food run in Toronto

We love a good food market, and in Toronto, there's no better place than St. Lawrence Market.  We last visited the market over the summer, and so we knew this was the place to be for the best local holiday foods.  In fact, it was the first place we visited once we hopped off our plane (in preparation for our Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 meal)   

It was a quick trip from New York to Toronto aboard Porter Airlines - with comfortable seats and free meals and drinks (including beer and wine!), we felt like we were on a private plane (for the price of a commercial flight) 

We passed over Niagara Falls, landed in downtown Toronto, dropped off our bags, and headed off to St. Lawrence Market (in about the same time it takes us on the subway to Brooklyn!)

Our friends took us to Selsi Sea Rocks on the lower level.  Andrea, the owner, walked us through the many variations of salts and peppers. 

 She mentioned that she is working on a Canadian salt line (probably ready by early next year) that will showcase each region's distinctive flavours. We cannot wait to revisit the store to check out her new salt line.

World Famous Peameal Bacon on a soft country bun from Carousel Bakery.

Peameal Bacon is an unsmoked back bacon brined and rolled in yellow cornmeal. 

It was thick, meaty, and warmed our belly! 

A large selection of condiments, including Kozlik's mustards and very spicy horseradish, ensured our sandwich was nicely dressed.

Kozlik's mustards are another must-try when in St. Lawrence Market.  When we were here last summer, we got their new meat rub that was perfect for the grill.  Being back in the winter, we decided to get some Horseradish Mustard (very spicy, just the way we like it!) and Bordeaux Mustard (a nice subtle wine taste) for our New York family.

HUGE drumsticks!

Our vegetarian friend commented, "I don't eat meat, but even that looks good to me!" 

We could have spent hours here perusing the baked goods, produce, local wines, and more but we had to get ready for our Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 meal.  If you are ever in Toronto, be sure to check out this market.  It's been named one of Food and Wine's 2004 25 Best  Food Markets in the World (which also included another favorite, Ferry Plaza Marketplace in San Francisco). 

St. Lawrence Market is located at 92 Front Street East in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

December 22, 2009

3 more days 'til Christmas with Giveaways and Our 3 Ways to Score Free Cookbooks

In addition to the lovely Christmas cards in our mailbox,  our mailman has been very good to us by delivering three free cookbooks to our door. 

How did this happen?  In the spirit of sharing and giving, we would love to share with you how we got these books  and give you a chance to win one of them for yourself!

Our first book, Forking Fantastic, came courtesy of The Wayward Chef.  Cristina, a freelance writer and personal chef, hosts this wonderful food blog.  The book itself is a great entertaining book - especially for people like us who enjoy low-key get-togethers that do not require matching china!  Want your own free copy?  Our blogger friend Cristina has been kind enough to bring back the contest and has 2 more copies available.  Email her ( with your own story of how food brought your love and, if selected, she'll send you your own copy!

We love Jacques Pepin (as evidenced by our Pepin-inspired Ratatouille and Easy baked Salmon).  So, when we joined, we quickly added his cookbooks to our wish list.  PaperBackSwap is a great online site where members (joining is free!) list books they no longer want for other members to order.  The only charge you pay is when a member requests a book from you and you pay the nominal cost (media mail postage has been less than $3 for the books we have sent).  Anytime you request a book from someone else, you don't have to pay a cent!  We've given up many beach reads and gotten in return food books like this Jacques Pepin's Simply and Healthy Cooking and Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential.

Finally, our last find and GIVEAWAY.  We got this wonderful "cookbook without recipes" when we attended the Foodbuzz Festival in San Francisco last month.  It is filled with useful cooking anecdotes as well as helpful hints on food writing (for us, we tend to use the word "delicious" a lot in our posts, so we love the few pages with food description suggestions).  It's a great gift for food lovers and so the kind publishers of this book have provided us with a copy that we would like to giveaway to one of you.

For your chance to win a copy, please: submit a comment below, follow our blog, follow us on twitter, or tweet this post (each action entitles you to one entry for a max of 4 entries a person - just let me know in the comments section) from now until January 3rd, 11:59 pm EST.  We will announce the winner on our Jan 4th post.  Good Luck!

December 20, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Creole Christmas in Canada

Every year, my girlfriends and I try to get together to catch up over the holidays.  A few years ago we decided to stop buying Christmas gifts for each other and instead spend a nice meal together.  After all, what's better than the gift of time, friendship, and food?

December 19, 2009

Only 6 days to go: Here are our Holiday Wine Picks for the Season

In addition to getting together with friends and family, we love the holiday season as a chance to try and share our favorite wines.

Good wine also does not need to be expensive.  Not only have we chosen wines that are readily available, but we also chose bottles that are less than $20 (some as low as $6.99) that we think your guests would enjoy.

We hope you enjoy our picks!  Cheers!

First up, sparkling wine. You could always spring for the higher priced Champagne from France or you can get the easy to find and respectable Gruet Brut from New Mexico (yes, New Mexico produces wine!) and Cristalino (Brut or Rose) from Spain.

We've been drinking both of these for years, and they're always consistent.  To get the best price, we buy cases of these bottles that oftentimes come with free or reduced shipping.  Though they're not Cristal,  we can get a couple of cases of these two wines for the price of one bottle of Cristal.  We recently paid $9.99 for the Gruet and $6.99 for the Cristalino.

Other good choices for the holidays (and even everyday) are the Segura Viudas Brut ReservaMionetto Prosecco, and the easy to find Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut NV.

Next is our choice for red wine:  Cotes du Rhone and the Borsao wines from Spain.

We really like the '07 Rhone wines, both reds and whites, and most of the Perrin family wines are easy to find at good prices.  The Reserve is usually about $8, and the Villages at left, roughly $13-$15.  These are definitely bang for the buck wines, medium to full body with ripe, rich fruit.

Another highly rated and cheap Cotes du Rhone is the Delas 2007 St. Esprit Cotes du Rhone Red (around $9).  For a good white wine, look for the Guigal Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2007.  It is a serious and affordable alternative to Chardonnay that pairs well with rich, holiday fare.

The Tres Picos ($13-$18) from Borsao and the Borsao Red (often called the Baby Tres Picos, $7-$9) are great introductions to the magnificent value wines from Spain.  They are both juicy, Garnacha (Grenache) based wines with loads of fruit without being over the top.

Other great value wines for the holidays are the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from Columbia Crest's Grand Estates line (their Merlot will make you a fan again, give it a shot) and of course Malbecs from Argentina -- we often buy Alamos Seleccion, Terrezas de los Andes Reserva and the Clos de los Siete blend.

What are your inexpensive wine suggestions?