Archives: sandwiches

not a pancake

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again my favourite meal of the day is…. brunch!

I know it’s Pancake Tuesday and everything, however, this post isn’t about pancakes but about my latest brunch discovery the croque madame.

To make this decadent brunch treat you need a fresh loaf of French bread. Slice it up and get it ready for some classic pan-fried French toast.

For every 5 slices of bread I use 2 eggs and about 1 cup of milk. I usually mix into the eggs a pinch of cinnamon and an even tinier pinch of clove powder. Slide a small pad of butter onto the pan and start French toasting away. If you want your French toast to be a little sweet sprinkle a bit of sugar on the side that’s up and hasn’t been flipped yet. Voila! Fluffy golden brown French toast.

Once you have your French toasts toasted you’re going to sandwich it up. First, spread a thin layer of dijon mustard  (I used a lovely maple dijon mustard & that little bit of sweetness was just right), then a slice or two of black forest ham and a generous amount of grated Swiss, gruyere or Emmantal cheese. Close up your sandwich with another piece of French toast. Heat up your oven to 400.

Next prepare your béchamel sauce. Which consists of butter, flour, milk and cheese with a pinch of salt, pepper, and nutmeg. I used a béchamel sauce recipe from here.

Top your sandwich with the béchamel sauce and add a generous sprinkle of cheese on top. Then bake in the oven until the top is golden brown (about 10 minutes).

What’s in the oven is a complete croque monsieur. You can leave it at just that OR you can take it one notch up and add a poached or fried egg atop of the sandwich to make it a croque madame, which is what I did.

croque monsieur -a baked french toast sandwich with ham, swiss cheese and béchamel cream sauce.

 

So, while these beauties are browning and melting in the oven, get your eggs poaching or frying. I did my eggs fried sunny-side up, and garnished with some market fresh thick bacon.

Served this madame up with a nice light salad, oven roasted tomatoes and pan-fried crisp potato medallions.

sew hungry

On September 21st I headed to my very first Sew Hungry.

Up until recently I’d never had a lunch hour long enough to check out the previous Sew Hungrys.  But being on mat leave, pregnant, super hungry and no longer having to worry about lunch hours it was pretty much mandatory that I headed down to check out the new and returning food trucks on Ottawa Street.

I loved the synergy of the food trucks, local shops, farmer’s market and restaurants all collaborating together and benefiting from the crowds of people that headed down to Ottawa Street.  Seemed like an all round success for ALL those involved in the event.  I’d hear that this particular Sew Hungry drew record number crowds in the thousands! Well done Hamilton!

My main mission for this particular truck rally was to go to The Dirty South food truck, which I had recently heard makes tater tot poutine -yeah I know -unreal!!

To be honest I was a little disappointed.  I was kinda expecting some hearty gravy and big fat squeaky cheese curds instead of plain shredded cheddar cheese. Despite the short fall the tots were served in large portion and they did taste really good (in that bad kind of way).  I had some regrets that I didn’t get their fried chicken and waffles, which looked super duper delicious.  I figured since the truck is local to Hamilton I’d have plenty of opportunity to sample their menu some other time.

I’d also previously heard about Poco Loco‘s taco chili salad in a mini corn chip Frito bag.  So as the lunch hour drew near and the line ups at the food trucks started to get too long, I opted to support this local Ottawa Street restaurant and got my first taco salad in a bag.  By no means was it gourmet.  In fact it was more of a novelty item that I can now I can say I’ve tried.  There is something a little strange about eating chili, beans, sour cream, hot sauce, and onions mashed into a brown hot mess from a chip bag.

What I really should’ve tried was the lobster roll sandwich from Buster’s Sea Cove (Toronto’s only seafood truck haling from St. Lawrence Market).  I’d later heard that this was the favourite of the day for many.

This next truck -Frittersons interested me.  I was gunning it over to the truck expecting sweet donut-like deep fried fritters topped with snow speckled icing sugar, ice-cream and berry sauce but alas the truck was a savory fritter truck not a dessert truck! I was intrigued by their “Thanksgiving in a bowl” -turkey with all the fixings plus potato cheese fritters. I love stuffing and I can’t resist anything deep fried in fritter form. My sweet fritter cravings will have to be serviced elsewhere, however I’d be willing to give these savory fritters a try for the next Sew Hungry.

One of my favourite trucks at Sew Hungry was the super adorable Manual Labour mobile trailer (aka “Frankie” -the 1969 Bailey Travel Trailer) coffee shop. I’d seen and heard of the mobile café serving up their Aussie inspired coffee specialities at events like the Junction Flea Market and The Greenbelt Harvest Picnic.

Co-owner Matthew Taylor and his partner in business and life are part of a growing community of people that have shifted from Toronto to the Hamilton area to set up shop.  Matthew -formerly a barista in Toronto’s burgeoning café and coffee scene saw the possibility and opportunity to venture for a quieter life outside of Toronto and to create a business that supports other local and surrounding businesses like Detour coffee (for their roasted beans), Hewitt’s Dairy (for their milk) and locally grown herbs for their teas from Country Herbs.

It was a pleasure to run into Shannon Stone of Best of Hamilton, who was a guest barista for the day helping fellow Aussie and co-owner of Manual Labour -Katie Browne.

Manual Labour does have merch for sale.  T-shirts for $20!

Thanks Shannon for making my delicious and beautiful first time ever “flat white“!

If you want to book Manual Labour for an event you can find their contact here, or follow them on twitter @MLcoffee.

 

muffuletta picnic

No summer picnic would be complete without the muffuletta sandwich.  I learnt about this sandwich on a cottage trip last summer when my sister put one together.  We were all in awe of the muffuletta and all its deliciousness.

To make your own muffuletta sandwich one needs a crusty round bread that you carve out like a pumpkin. Save a bread lid, and scoop out most of the bread from the inside.  Drizzle the bottom of your new bread bowl with pesto.  For my pesto I ground up fresh basil with some olive oil and roasted garlic.  Then add layers of salami, and roasted veggies (I used grilled eggplant, yellow and green zucchini, and carrots).  As for cheese, provolone or havarti will do. Make your layers of cheese nice and thick.  In between layers add capers, and chopped olives or an olive spread, and arugula.  We got our arugula spicy and fresh from our garden.  I also grated a fresh beet and added it to the layers -it gives a beautiful colour.  I put in a layer of some pickled artichoke hearts too.  You could add other items like sundried tomatoes, roasted red pepper, grainy mustards and a layer of thick smoked bacon (save that layer for the top).  My sister’s tip was to separate the layers of meat and cheese so it doesn’t get too greasy and ensure that a little remaining pesto gets drizzled on top.  Last you put the bread top back on and tie the bread back up nice and tight with some parcel string.  Return the whole bread to fridge and let it sit refrigerated for a few hours before cutting into “pie-slices” and serving.

We brought two muffuletta sandwiches out for our July 1st picnic -one with meat and one veggie.

Along with the sandwich was also an assortment of other beautiful fresh summer foods and beverages.  We had some refreshing rice wraps with lettuce, cucumber, mango, mint and basil, as well as, a quinoa and chickpea salad.

Sigh…. I love hot summer days and picnics in the park.

 

the rise of coffee culture in hamilton

Since moving to Hamilton three years ago, I have seen the growth of some serious coffee culture in this city.

Moving from Toronto, where hip independent cafés and coffee shops abounded, I have to admit I was a little skeptical about how I was going to be able to get my coffee fix in the Hammer. And after I moved, I was, indeed, taken aback that a city the size of Hamilton had a serious lack of “good” coffee shops.

I found myself trekking my way down to Locke Street to indulge in the fail-safe but generic Starbuck’s latte. I on occasion schlepped it all the way to Westdale for a cup at My Dog Joe. My only downtown saving grace was Julia Serna’s delicious fair trade Colombian coffee at what was then the temporary mall location of Hamilton Farmers’ Market. She’s still serving up a fine brew at the renovated Market, along with the amazing Red Hill Coffee stand, which I’m a big fan of, too.

But I digress. What it truly came down to was that I was at a loss for a local café. I wanted a place to sit, sip on a good cup of coffee, chat with a friend and enjoy the atmosphere of a true independent coffee shop downtown.

It didn’t take long after moving to Hamilton that I could tell something was brewing (ahem). I saw the opening of Detour café in Dundas. They expanded from an on-site coffee bean roaster, serving small-scale barista espressos, lattes and the like from their tiny shop in the back of a parking lot, to a full blown beautiful and always packed downtown Dundas café.

I heard stories of the Domestique café in Dundas, which opened in 2010. It caters to coffee enthusiasts and the local cycling community. Their infamous Early Surly coffee blend that could wire a deadbeat is likely what propels those avid road cyclists up that mountain of a climb on Sydenham Road.

Not long after the café culture started in Dundas, I noted gutting and renovating had started at Hotel Hamilton — a former laundromat among other past incarnations on the corner of Mulberry and James Street North. With the main floor’s gorgeous moulded ceilings and mosaic tiled floors being revealed and refurbished, I dreamt the space would one day be home to a downtown independent coffee shop. I remember chatting with one of the developers of the building and he mentioned they were looking to lease the space to a café with the feel of something you might find on Queen West in Toronto. I couldn’t wait!

Pretty soon Mulberry Coffee Shop opened its doors. It was just what the neighbourhood needed. In the short time I’d lived in Hamilton, I saw all this inspiring change happen.

mulberry coffee shop, james st. north, hamilton

exterior of Mulberry St. Coffee House, Hotel Hamilton

mulberry coffee shop, hamilton, ontario, james st. north

Mulberry Coffee House -gorgeous molded ceilings

Mulberry latte

There have been several new coffee shops and cafés that have opened up since then. There’s Cannon Coffee Co. — better known as “The Cannon” — on the corner of Cannon and Ottawa streets. They serve my favourite latte in the city using beans from all of the local Hamilton coffee roasters that I love: Detour, Red Hill, & Speakeasy. There are Red Crow and Radius, both of which opened up recently on James Street South. On King William, there’s the recently opened Baltimore House’s gothic/Victorian themed café and wine bar and also Homegrown Hamilton (formerly Sky Dragon) with their in-house roasted-fresh coffee beans.

red crow coffee, cafe, james st. south, hamilton, ontario

Red Crow Coffee & Espresso Bar, 211 James St. South

homegrown hamilton, coffee, cafe,

Homegrown Hamilton, 27 King William St.

 

What I love is that many if not all of the new coffee shops that have opened are also serving up some phenomenal brunches, snacks and baked goods, giving us Hamiltonians a multitude of options for coffee and treats. Each place is unique, and local, adding their own flavour to the ever-developing coffee culture in Hamilton.

What I’ve discovered since my move is that anything Hamilton may be missing — like, say, a microbrewery or a vegan restaurant or a juice bar — will likely be on its way soon. If it isn’t, get on it: It’s true you can do anything in Hamilton.

My top three coffee shops

1. Detour Coffee: airy, bright atmosphere, great sweet treats, baked goods, soups, salads and the like, fabulous Detour roasted beans; 41 King St. West, Dundas.

2. The Cannon: contemporary style and design with a great people-watching window, best latte in the city, delicious daily lunches and brunches; 179 Ottawa St. North.

3. Mulberry Street Coffee House: love the casual atmosphere, my downtown go-to place for meet-ups, a cup of coffee to go, ginger molasses cookie or a savoury muffin to tide me over; 193 James St. North.

 

You can also find this post printed in The Hamilton Spectator June 9th 2012 here.

 

in the streets of philadephia

Since Philly is so close to NYC it was worth a little jaunt over to visit some friends and check out the city.

When we got off the bus at around lunch time our number one priority was to get a Philly cheesesteak sandwich stat.  We were strictly advised not to get one from any of the touristy locations, as we’d be surely disappointed AND we wanted nothing but the real deal.  Directions were given to go directly to Paesano’s in the Italian market. So that’s what we did, and this is what was ordered; The Paesano -beef brisket, roasted tomato, sharp provolone, horseradish mayo, the signature fried egg all stuffed into a hot and fresh hoagie bun.  A delivery of hot buns arrived as our order was being taken, so you knew everything was going to be fresh and melty good.  Steve took one bite of his sandwich and nearly died right then and there -it was so damn good!

Besides the awesome sandwich, and fantastic Italian market, Philly is rampant with about a million murals that spread throughout the city.  It’s actually really gorgeous, and a lot of them depict specific historical figures and events that occurred in that particular area.  One of my favourites was this pixelated mural of trees in blossom coinciding perfectly with Philly’s early spring tree blossoms.  You can see some of the fabulous murals of Philadelphia here -you gotta love cities that invest in community and art projects like this one: The Mural Arts Program.

We ended our afternoon in the city of brotherly love in a gorgeous 1800 Victorian themed brew house called the Farmer’s Cabinet, where deliciously unique and exquisite beers were sampled.

I definitely want to come back again to Philadelphia to spend a little more time checking out all of its history and secret dug-out spaces.

 

bánh mì

I have an addiction.  I am addicted to Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches.

My favourite place for a classic bánh mì in Hamilton is from none other than Tung Hing bakery.

The bread is made in house and sometimes it’s so fresh that they won’t seal the clear cellophane sandwich bag so that the steam from the hot mini-baguette doesn’t make the sandwich soggy -mmm those days are my favourite!

I’m a fan of the $3.25 grilled chicken bánh mì made spicy with a sprinkling of fresh green chilies, cucumber, coriander, pickled daikon, carrots, and a special sauce.

The thing I like about this particular bakery is that A. it is attached to B&T Foods, which is my one stop shop for all my Asian necessities in grocery shopping and B. it has some of the most delicious pastries, savoury treats and steamed buns.

My mom loves it when I swing by for an afternoon tea after having picked up a whole box of puffed meat pastry, pâté chaud, and deep fried sesame balls with lotus paste filling.

I do somtimes venture out for a Vietnamese sandwich from Bánh Mì Excellence next to August 8 at the corner of James St. north and Wilson (shh -don’t tell the folks at Tung Hing) which is good too, but I always find myself coming back to Tung Hing proclaiming my love for more of their bánh mì.

*Tung Hing Café & Sweets, 103 Queen St. north (at Queen and York Blvd. next to B&T Foods), 905.527.8333

 

bmore

Baltimore House opened its doors last week on King William!  It’s a great spot and charmingly decorated in all its gothic goodness.  I had about 30 minutes before work one morning to stop by and grab a coffee.  I got an americano and besides being amazing, it was rich, full-bodied, creamy, not too bitter, AND it kept me going for the rest of the morning.

I’d like to stop by again to check out their Victorian parlour (when it opens in the new year), where I’d like to spend a snowy afternoon reading and relaxing in a comfy and cozy chair.  Especially now that the course I’ve been working on is wrapped up and done I will finally have the time to enjoy a place like this.

I’ve heard great things about their sandwiches too, so I will definitely be back to do some more food drink sampling.

Bmore  I think you’re my Hamilton dream come true. Did I hear talk of film nights, and a theatrical production of the Importance of Being Ernest, or am I just making this up?  AND a regular night for album spotlights (open mic for vinyl every Tuesday)!  Amazing.

For more reading on Baltimore House check out the Spec’s feature article here.

*Baltimore House, 43 King William St., Hamilton, 289.396.4830

gorilla cheese

I experienced my first Gorilla Cheese grilled cheese the other day and it was delicious!

I heard that the Gorilla Cheese truck was going to be parked across the street from our house so I made extra sure that I would be coming home for lunch that day.  All morning long I was anticipating the cheesy tendrils of this treat, and fantasizing about the gooey melty cheesiness of a real good grilled cheese.

I didn’t think there would be much of a crowd ordering from the truck since our house is located in a weird in between corktown/downtown mixed commercial residential area.  Clearly I was out of touch with just how much daytime commercial population is in the neighbourhood because there was a good solid crowd of 15-20 people waiting for their grilled cheeses!

gorilla cheese, grilled cheese, food truck, hamilton ontario, gourmet, sandwich

Once we got to the truck there was some debate as to which sandwich to get. I hmm’d and haa’d about my selection and was stuck between the OG (Original Gorilla) -better than your momma’s grilled cheese, aged Canadian cheddar on white or multi or the Sarducci -mozzarella, red onion, fresh basil, tomato, balsamic glaze on multi. I eventually settled on the Sarducci for $7.50.

Gorilla Cheese, grilled cheese, food truck, Hamilton, Ontario, gourmet, sandwich

I have to admit that I thought $7.50 was a little steep for just a grilled cheese, however, I was not disappointed. First off the grilled cheese is not just any grilled cheese it’s a Gorilla Cheese and it is huge! I could’ve probably had a meal of just a 1/2 portion. The bread was delicious (crispy and buttery), plus you get a tasty pickle as a side. I swear carrying two grilled cheeses back to our house to eat from fresh off the truck it felt like I had 5 pounds of grilled cheese in my one hot little hungry hand. So in conclusion for $7.50 I don’t think you could have a tastier grilled cheese sandwich. Definitely a special treat that I would pick up again.

Way to go Hamilton for starting a food truck revolution! I missed the food truck rally back at the end of September, but have heard there’s a mini one coming up on Ottawa Street for 3 Fridays starting on December 9th 11:30am-2:30pm with Gorilla Cheese, Cupcake Diner, El Gastronomo, and Bonfire Catering.  My hope is to sample some wood fired pizzas from Bonfire Catering.

summer sandwich

When some wonderful and lovely friends came over for lunch on the weekend, I thought a feast of grilled veggie sandwiches, with meats and cheeses on ciabatta bread would be a nice, refreshing, summery treat that would suit everyone’s lunch time pallet.

grilled zucchini, roasted peppers, spinach, raspberry cheddar cheese

spicy salami, grilled zucchini, roasted peppers, raspberry cheddar, & baby spinach

For some garden fresh sides I threw together some lightly steamed green beans tossed with fresh chopped mint from the garden, reduced balsamic, olive oil and crumbled feta cheese.

grilled veggies & smoked gruyere

homegrown tomaotes, mini bocconcini, basil, balsamic & olive oil

The other side dish consisted of  tomatoes from the garden with basil, and mini bocconcini cheese, olive oil and balsamic.  Simple food but super delicious!

 grilled veggie & meat sandwich on ciabatta bread

mid summer cottaging

Going to cottages on non-weekend days is the best.  Since everyone else is still working it feels like a real holiday and you get to avoid the regular summer cottage traffic.

The muffalletta sandwich is a super delicious, easy to make and take cottage or picnic food.  This one is stuffed with an assortment of roasted veggies, grated fresh beets, a variety of olives, capers, salami, cheese, arugula, bacon and artichoke hearts.

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