New Thing+ #4: Brooklyn Alley Pizza

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Being a bit of a foodie, I’ve always wanted to get into the underground food scene. Maybe score some unpasteurized cheese or an invite to a one night only pop-up restaurant. So it’s pretty cool that a friend of mine decided to start selling pizzas out of his backyard, wood-fire pizza oven.

Every Friday, Craig (unemployed Account Director and gourmand), fashions a different set of ingredients into a gourmet pizza experience for a mere $15. Using his Account Director skills or good, rather than evil, Brooklyn Alley Pizza was formed.

I am not exaggerating to say that our sausage, caramelized onion, mushroom and mozzarella creation was one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten. Even my kid loved her pepperoni version; especially the giant dough bubble that had formed at the edge of hers.

Watching Craig deftly position the food, heat check with his infrared thermometer, and reposition the dough makes you think he’s been doing this for years rather than weeks.

If you live in the east end you owe it to yourself to start try Brooklyn Alley Pizza. Follow them on Facebook and become one of the lucky 20 people each week that get take home one of these splendid pies.

And, in just about the whitest way possible, stick it to the man in the process.

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New Thing+ #1: The Bandit Coffee Group Inc.

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It’s been 68 days since my last post.

That’s not to say that I haven’t done anything new since then, far from it.

I’ve met Olympians, held their medals, flown in a very small aircraft, met some folks from Giantbomb.com, become allergic to Aspirin, been promoted to Associate Creative Director, and eaten frogs legs for the first time.

So yeah, I’ve just been busy.

But what better way to get back into the swing of things than to try out a new espresso bar.

The Bandit Coffee Group Inc. is a beautiful little spot just down the street from my place. Why I haven’t been there before is beyond me.

The decor is clean, yet rustic and the afternoon light brings a real natural feel to the place. The long wooden table that takes up the majority of the space is perfectly suited for a nice hour of iPad surfing.

The barista, or possibly the owner, was very friendly and really seemed to know what he was doing. My cappuccino was delicious, smooth and creamy and made me wish I’d tried out a macchiato instead because I bet it would have been even better.

This resurgence of independent coffee shops in this end of town is really heartening. Especially since this particular one is within walking distance.

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New Thing #361: Eat A Cricket

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Crunchy.

That’s the overwhelming thought I had while eating this dehydrated, sour-cream and onion sprinkled cricket. As far as insects go, it wasn’t bad at all. Much better than durian, tha’ts for sure.

Maybe one day I’ll brave a live one.

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New Thing #358: Eat Durian

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The last time I tried to procure a durian I couldn’t find a single one on the streets of Toronto. The notoriously stinky South Asian fruit, is pretty much confined to the stalls of Chinatown, or the T&T Supermarket. Unlike the summer, I had not trouble finding scores of them downtown today.

And I had no idea that they were so damned expensive. After having a few bites, I don’t understand why anyone would pay $3.00 for one, let alone ten times that. And I even haggled my way down to thirty dollars!

What was most surprising about eating durian, apart from it not being as odorous as I thought, is that I still can’t pin down what it tastes like. It’s certainly not akin to any fruit I’ve had before and it reminded me more of something meaty than anything else; I just can’t put my finger on it. 

That being said, it’s pretty damn gross, and I don’t think I’ll be trying it again. The man who first managed to open up one of these monstrosities must have been pretty damned desperate to do so.

I’m also pretty sure that old Chinese man who emphatically sold me on its sweetness is laughing his ass off right now.

 

New Thing #353: Salad King

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It seems almost blasphemous to have lived in this city as long as I have and never ventured through the doors of Salad King. Even though I didn’t make it to the original location before the building literally collapsed, I’m told that the hallowed food is still the same. And that’s a good thing because it lived up to, if not exceeded, all expectations. 

The golden shrimp curry was delicious, bursting with flavour, hearty (and best of all), affordable. I couldn’t brace myself for the 20 chili option on the heat scale, but I think I did ok with a respectable 7. 

The communal tables were a nice touch and the baskets built into the stools are a great option for storing your bags. The service was quick, the staff polite and the water plentiful. The latter is a very good thing when the chilies come into play.

Since it’s a mere jaunt from work on the TTC, this could easily become a new lunch date venue in the near future. 

All hail the Salad King!

 

New Thing #350: Canary Melon

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I’d never even heard of a canary melon before I saw one at the grocery store the other day.

I mostly stick to canteloupes and honeydews when it comes to my melon needs, but I think I’ll add this one to the list. It’s pretty much right in between them in taste.

And for once I tried a new fruit that was perfectly ripe when I cut into it. Take that internet commenters!

New Thing #348: McCaf?? Cappuccino

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This rash of fast food espresso based drink offerings has to stop. It’s not good people. 

It’s bad enought that Tim Hortons serves lattes and cappuccinos, but this McCafe business takes it to a whole other level.

It’s not like I was expecting much, especially after the completely non-discript Tim Horton’s latte I had a while back, but this thing was just terrible. It wasn’t hot enough, the milk tasted burnt, the beans tasted burnt, and I’m pretty sure it insulted my mother when I wasn’t looking.

I forced myself to take at least four sips of it before completely declaring it crap and that was hard enough.

I’m sure that with the proliferation of coffeeshops these days that your options will never be limited to McDonalds. Please avoid at all costs.

New Thing #346: Cook an Egg in an Avocado

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Baking an egg in an avocado for a delicious breakfast treat sounds fantastic. And I’m sure it would have been had I used the proper cooking method that mysteriously replaced the one that I had clipped a week ago on Lifehacker.

I just don’t think that 350ºF cuts it for cooking an egg in time without spoiling the avocado. So I used another method I found after my first failed attempt. I instead cooked it in a covered pan over medium heat. In the end it took about ten minutes and I had one smelly, smokey kitchen by the end of it all.

I suppose it would have helped if I had a much larger avocado or smaller egg to make for a better living situation for both the parties, but I just used what I had lying around.

In any case it still tasted ok, although the burnt avocado smoke definitely made its way into the flesh, so that was a little disheartening.

This is a classic case of why internet recipes usually take a few tries before they turn out right.

New Thing #334: Make Potato Chips In A Microwave

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If you’d have told me that I’d be eating potato chips cooked in a microwave oven today, I’d have called you a big, fat, stinking liar. Then I would have apologized profusely, because that’s just rude.

As it turns out though, that’s exactly what I made today. After being left with an abundance of russet potatoes a couple of weeks back I’ve been looking for just about anything I can do with these things. And it turns out that if you slice potatoes super thin, line them up on a piece of parchment paper and use a bit of cooking spray you get some pretty nice homemade substitutes. 

Sure, there’re not as good as the ones that my Grandpa would fry up himself when I was a kid, but they’re actually not that far off the mark. 

I think I finally have an excuse to bite the bullet and get a Mandolin now. You can only shave so many potatoes with a vegetable peeler after all.

Here’s a link to the original recipe I used, although mileage will vary depending on your own microwave oven.

 

New Thing #332: Make Shrimp Tacos

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After coming home sick from work today, and still working from home all afternoon I didn’t think I’d actually be able to make these shrimp tacos for dinner. But I’d gotten the frozen shrimp out of the freezer and really didn’t want to see them go to waste.

I’m glad I did, because these things are dead simple to make and down right delectable.

Not since my trip to Mexico have I had something that tasted this authentic. The flavours melded perfectly together and still turned out light and refreshing. The fresh lime juice squeezed over top just brings it up that perfect notch. It was like I was on the beach all over again.

Protip: Wearing latex gloves when you slice Jalapeños. Because when you have an itch, no matter where, you’ll forget where your hand’s just been.

(Yes, what you’re thinking really did happen to me once, and is therefore intelligible for this blog.)

If you’re interested in trying them out for yourself, here’s the recipe I based things off of.