Wednesday, January 18, 2012

redefining breakfast

OK, I know what you are thinking. Does this girl eat anything other than breakfast?! I admit I have quite the soft spot for that first meal of the day but, to be honest, my daily breaky consists of oatmeal with raisins, hemp, chia, flax, and cinnamon, a smoothie with Greens+, and a cappuccino a la Brent. Pretty boring. But once a week we forgo the healthy standard and trial some inventive breakfast we hope to serve at the cafe. Our most recent creation was a sammie of Brothers back bacon, egg, tomato jam, brie, and arugula. Hells yeah.

And sometimes we fork up the cash to have someone else cook for us and that someone is usually Chef Mark Giffin at Coastal Cafe. Living mere minutes from Coastal is rather torturous for me so when Brent suggested we try the new Winter menu as a sort of celebration for being accepted into the Self Employment Benefits Program (more to come on that soon!), I was thrilled. Even though I have some favorites I hope to see again (like the Durty South), I can't help but want to try everything on Coastal's seasonal menus.With loads to choose from (there's even a dish called the Hot Mess!), I settled on the Los Huevos Vaqueros, poached eggs, chimichurri steak, refritos, and quesco fresco chorizo arepas. Funny enough, I actually knew what all these were. For the most part the dish was wonderful; garlicky, spicy, and tender beef (of which there was plenty), creamy refried black beans, a touch of sour cream, perfectly poached eggs. However, I found the arepas, a cake made of cornmeal, a little bland despite the chorizo and quesco fresco, a Mexican cheese akin to feta which I unfortunately couldn't taste. Had the cheese been more pronounced perhaps I would have enjoyed the arepas more or perhaps I am just not that into cornmeal. Regardless, I ate every last bite!

Los Huevos Vaqueros
This visit Brent decided on Les Oeufs Hiver consisting of poached eggs, braised winter veg, duck confit, and brie croquettes but with the inclusion of duck did he really have a choice? Once again, he picked a winner. (How many damn times can I write that?) The sweetness of the braised veg, particularly the turnip, worked so well against the savory duck and earthy brie croquettes. One bite of this dish and I instantly wished I had ordered it. This may very well be on my radar for our next visit.

Les Oeufs Hiver
I know we are soon to open our own breakfast joint, offering up some unique dishes, but I honestly don't know how Giffin does it. So creative and so very delicious. If you haven't been, get your ass over to the Coastal. And if you're like me, addicted, all I can say is good luck.

Check the new Winter menu here.

The Coastal Cafe

Sunday, January 1, 2012

dark chocolate salty balls

Making and gifting homemade chocolate truffles has long been a tradition for me. So much so that my friends now expect them. My usual suspects are Bailey's truffles but this year I went a lil' crazy and made dark chocolate truffles with sea salt, or as we affectionately called them, dark chocolate salty balls! (And I haven't even seen that South Park episode!) While they may seem decadent, truffles are easy to make and include only a few basic ingredients: chocolate, butter, whipping cream, vanilla.

300 g dark chocolate bar - I use the extra dark chocolate bar by President's Choice. While not the highest quality chocolate, it's rich, dark and, at $3.99, it's a steal.
1 2/3 c. whipping cream, best at room temperature
10 T. butter
3 T. vanilla - I strongly recommend real vanilla as it is clearly superior in flavor. Feel free to substitute with other flavors such as almond extract, Baileys, Kahlua, or Grand Marnier. The possibilities are endless.
optional: 2 x 300 g dark chocolate bars for dipping, sea salt

Chop the chocolate into chunks and combine with the butter in a double boiler or a steel bowl set atop a pot of water. With the pot on medium, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring occasionally. It is extremely important not to get any water in the bowl so there is no need for a rapid boil. When thoroughly melted and shiny, remove from the heat. Allow to cool for several minutes. Combine with the whipped cream, whisking til smooth. Whisk in vanilla. Cover and refrigerate several hours or until you are ready to roll. Some folks use a melon baller but I use a plain ol' teaspoon and my hands. Put on a Christmas movie and roll away! Freeze the balls until hard or refrigerate overnight. Now comes the hardest part, dipping the truffles in chocolate. If you prefer, you can easily roll the balls in chopped nuts, cocoa, or powered sugar but because I figure go big or go home, I chose to dip them in the same extra dark chocolate. Using the same double boiler procedure, melt two more dark chocolate bars. Now, with a fork in one hand and a tooth pick in another, dip those balls! To clarify, use the fork to hold the truffle while dipping, tapping the side of the bowl to shake off excess chocolate. The toothpick with help push the truffle off the fork and clean up any large drops at the base of the truffle. Dust with sea salt if desired. Don't be scared. It compliments the dark chocolate extremely well. Just be sure to tell others, say your nephew, it's salt and not sugar!

This makes several dozen so feel free to resize the recipe for your own purposes.

gettin' cheeky at fid

We were recently invited to share in a celebration with some friends at fid resto. Being a big supporter of local cuisine, I am rather embarrassed to admit it was my first visit. I simply hadn't had the chance to cross it off my list. Needless to say, I was more than excited.

To start, Brent and I chose the surf and turf, an interesting pairing of pickled mackerel and local lamb rillette. While I was not a fan of the rillette, it certainly had nothing to do with the quality or flavour of the rillette itself but more a reflection of my distaste for lamb. Apparently I only like lamb when it is braised in heavily spiced curries. Brent loved it. I did, however, enjoy the salty pickled mackerel, complimented nicely by a wasabi cream. While I cannot recall every dish ordered at the table, a few others had tried the scallops but were a little put off by the inclusion of the chewier foot. The quail appetizer, on the other hand, another hit.

For our next course, a few guests including Brent ordered one of the daily specials, local veal with truffled polenta and brussel sprout almond chiffonade. I really wish I could report rave reviews but sadly I cannot. While I won't speak for everyone, Brent's veal was overcooked. He actually has horrible luck with meat, forever getting served over cooked steaks despite asking for blue rare most of the time. This unfortunately was one of those times.  His medium rare veal was far less flavorful than expected. At least he enjoyed the rest of his dish. The truffled polenta was the best polenta he had ever tasted but, then again, we don't generally eat polenta. The unexpected star of his plate was the chiffonade, an incredible example of how tasty a brussel sprout can be.

If you have read some of my other reviews, you're well aware that Brent is generally a whiz at ordering some of the best dishes on a menu but this time the tables had turned. I had easily ordered the best dish on the table, espresso braised beef cheeks with dauphinoise potatoes and shitakes. Lets start with the star, the beef cheeks. I had learned not so long ago during a wonderful supper at Brooklyn Warehouse that beef cheeks, while they sound strange, can be some of the most tender meat when cooked properly. So when I read the menu before going (like I try do every time since it takes me forever to order), I had already made up my mind. And I had picked the winner. These beef cheeks were so incredibly tender, like fall off the non existent bone tender. And pretty sure I'd order anything braised in espresso from now on. The serving was also plentiful with more meat than I would normally eat. Brent was thrilled when I couldn't finish it. In addition, the sides were expertly cooked and equally as delicious. My plate even included some surprise kale, sauteed and salted perfectly. This meal was nothing short of amazing. If you see this on their menu, do yourself a favor and order it. It may even be life changing.

Having shared a small appy, Brent and I ordered some cappuccinos and decided on a dessert to share, the deep roasted coffee creme brulee. Can you say coffee addicts! While the cappuccinos were not our fav (we are, after all, coffee snobs), the creme brulee did not disappoint. Executed perfectly. The moelleux au chocolat and the churros were also hits.

The atmosphere at fid is warm and inviting with a space small enough to feel intimate but large enough not to feel crowded. Somehow it wasn't busy for a Friday night but good thing because we were rather loud! We were even lucky enough to score the long family style table, the perfect setting for our celebration. To top it all off, the service was stellar. Our server, a lovely French Canadian from NB, was attentive and knowledgeable yet fun and relaxed. I think she read us right away. So, despite some less than exceptional meals, we all walked away full and happy (and, at least, for me eager to return). It probably didn't hurt that the wine never stopped flowing.

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