Archives: snacks

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.

 

the weekend of the bbq

The weather was devine this past weekend.  We enjoyed three consecutive lovely outdoor backyard barbecues!  The third BBQ was at our place with some old friends from Toronto.

I planned the food around the theme of a summery Caribbean meal.  For the starter, I made my first attempt at coconut shrimp.  It was pretty easy, just shell and clean the shrimp, pat dry, salt and pepper liberally, coat in flour, dip into egg and then cover with unsweetened shredded coconut and deep fry.  I used a hot pepper jelly as a dipping sauce.  Overall I was pretty pleased with the turn out -crispy, quick and savoury sweet.

deep-fried coconut shrimp

I had to do a bit of research on how to make jerk-chicken (another culinary first for me).  I combined two recipes (recipe one & two) and did a trial run once with a few tweaks and improvements.  As a base I marinated the chicken in a homemade jerk-chicken paste of green onions tops, red onion, garlic, all spice, cinnamon, nutmeg, scotch-bonnet peppers, molasses, brown sugar, a splash of dark rum, and fresh ground black pepper, and thyme leaves.  I ground up the ingredients into a paste and let chicken marinade for 24+ hours.

jerk chicken marinade ingredients

We cooked the chicken on low heat on the barbecue but with all the marinade and chicken juices dripping into the flames, there was some serious blackening of the chicken.   In the end this worked perfect for the look and taste of a proper jerk chicken.

The scotch bonnet peppers in the marinade were pretty hot!  So for a nice complement I made a cool mango, papaya, avocado, cucumber, coriander, mint and lime salsa.  I had a bean salad left over from the day before’s BBQ, and just added some potatoes to make another cooling side dish.

mango salsa homemade

mango salsa & bean potato salad

For this meal I had to plan in advance to make sure I had ripe mangos, avocados, and plantains.  Plantains take some time to ripen nicely and I wanted them to be in their optimal pan-frying condition.  I discovered that the riper they are the faster they brown and the easier they are squish (with a fork or rolling pin) for a tasty pan-fried delight.  All this was served along side a pot of hot coconut rice.

pan fried plantains

The first dessert, made by our friend Andrea, was a gorgeous flan with raspberries, and blackberries on top of a layer of custard.  Note the letter “S” on the cake (for the S’s of Steve and Seema). So cute!  The dessert was perfect -fresh, light and summery!

Our friend Vern brought some homemade butter-tart squares which were gooey, and amazing.  You need to take a peak at Vern’s blog!  She has some mouth watering recipes and great posts about her dining discoveries plus her all time restaurant favourites.

butter tart squares

A gorgeous weekend enjoyed with friends and family!  I’m looking forward to many more culinary delights this summer in our backyard!

spring meal

I enjoyed my first spring meal outside in our backyard the other day with a friend.

I made a carrot, sweet potato, ginger, and coriander soup -perfect for keeping warm from the slight chill still in the air.

I grilled up some yellow zucchini with honey for our mixed green and spinach salad, and pan-fried some homemade potato chips until perfect crispy golden brown.

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

 

grandad’s donuts

When I moved to Hamilton a few years back, I started my first job in the city tucked into a north Hamilton neighbourhood in between John and James Streets north.   Contrary to what some people may think, Hamilton’s North End is a wonderful little pocket with a strong and proud community.  You can even see some North Enders sporting T-shirts that say “The North End.  Hamilton’s best kept secret.”

And it’s true!   The neighbourhoods have that characteristic lower city Hamilton charm.  They’ve got old Victorian homes that hug the bay and waterfront.  There’s easy access to some great hidden Hamilton treasures, like the Bayfront Trail, the outdoor ice-rink at Pier 4, Hutch’s Harbour Front, Hamilton Harbour Queen Boat Tour, The Harbour Diner and Grandad’s Donuts, a fine donut establishment I was fortunate enough to have stumbled across.

The particular Grandad’s I refer to is the one located on the corner of Burlington Street east and James Street north kitty corner from the Port Authority.  It is a true North Hamilton staple -just ask anyone who lives in the neighbourhood.  On any given day you’ll likely see a crew of construction workers lined up getting their early morning or late afternoon Grandad’s fix.  Or you might see the usual crowd of friendly north end regulars teasing and joking around with one another at the donut counter over their coffees and delicious donut treats.

Their donuts, unlike most donut chains these days, are made fresh daily from scratch right in the Grandad’s kitchen.  Specialty donuts like the Ghostbuster -think éclaire meets Boston cream, never cease to blow my mind.  With its light and slightly crisp donuty exterior and its soft and smooth melty-whipped fresh cream interior, dipped into a bath of chocolate goodness -it’s no wonder that I can never resist getting just one whenever I’m in the neighbourhood.

With its 70’s rusty orange decor, yellow booths, and a counter top you can cozy up to the with old-school bolted-to-the-ground stools, its retro familiarity reminds me of donut shops from when I was growing up as a kid.

Grandad’s even has those classic fountain juices; peach and lemonade that flow from an eternal waterfall of fruit juiciness within their glossy clear plastic viewing containers.

To be honest I have a soft spot for this place not just because their donuts are the best donuts in the city, but also because I’m somewhat sentimental for nostalgic places like this one, and these days I find places like this are becoming harder to come by. When you can sit at a counter, whether a stranger of not, order your coffee and chat with the people sitting next to you and the friendly staff, you know you’ve got something special.

Although I no longer work in the North End, I do on occasion feel the need to satisfy a craving for a Grandad’s donut and coffee.  I’ll find myself willing to make the trek by bike or on foot and without skipping a beat it’s like I never left the neighbourhood.

Grandad’s Donuts could very well be Hamilton’s best-kept secret.  Hamiltonians be proud of another original homegrown Hamilton donut fixture. If you have yet to check out this gem it is most certainly worth a trip to the North End.  Buy a dozen and grab a coffee.  You won’t regret it, and you will surely be greeted with a warm hello and welcome from staff and customers alike.

You find the extended and beautifully edited article here in the Hamilton Spectator!

* Grandad’s Donuts, 574 James Street north

valentine’s bake off

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I’m not usually much of a celebrator of Valentine’s Day.  Although, the first Valentine’s Day that Steve and I lived together, I sidewalk chalked the Queen Street sidewalk in front of our Toronto apartment with a big I LOVE STEVE.  It was pretty cute.  This year I baked some Valentine’s Day cookies, mostly because I have been craving something sweet and I’ve had some time on my hands.

I got this recipe from a friend, and it is like a dream!  The cookies melt in your mouth, and they are ridiculously easy to make.

1 cup room temperature butter
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
Beat butter and icing sugar and vanilla.  Add flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Continue beating until creamy (5-10 minutes).  The longer you beat it the fluffier the cookies will turn out.  Roll them out delicately.  Bake at 325 for 10 minutes you don’t want them to be golden brown.
easy to make, valentine's day, short bread cookies

vintage cookie tin

I picked up this gorgeous vintage cookie tin on King St. near Walnut, where there are a spattering of antique stores.  This particular antique store (next to Sparkle Chinese restaurant) was closing down, so as a result I got the tin for a steal.  It might’ve been $2?

valentine's day, easy to bake, shortbread cookies

cannon coffee co.

I love, love, love Cannon Coffee Co!  It is just the type of coffee house that the east end needs.  Cannon Coffee is on the corner of Ottawa and Cannon, and has a gorgeous wide angled street view from their corner window.

Opening its doors just in time for the Christmas rush, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout are serving up some of the best coffees in the city using locally roasted beans from Detour, Red Hill, and (soon to be added to the roster) Speakeasy, AND they are also baking muffin tops (yeah I know how is that even possible!?) cookies, scones and other delicious sweet treats too.

When we stopped in for a mid Friday afternoon coffee the shop was successfully abuzz with nothing but people who were just really excited to drop in and check out the fresh new space and have a coffee.

Cindy and Anne are so sweet and charming, and happily chatted with Steve and I about how they put their whole space together.  No doubt the ladies have been working hard to get everything set up and ready to go.  It really is a true work of inspiration and dedication and they have definitely been successful in creating a unique space where you just want to sit and look out those big wide windows for hours.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout
cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, light installation Enoch Kuu

The light installation is the work of Toronto designer Enoch Khuu.  The table art book is a published work of photographs and artwork by the super talented Brooks Reynolds, whom I believe is a Hamilton local.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout

Original tiles and ghostly blue-grey hand finished pine plank floors.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, Cindy Stout

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, lattes, coffee

This was honestly the best latte I’ve ever had (thanks Cindy!).  Mine is on the right. I take it with a little swirl of honey.  I swear with each sip I would sigh and say something really cliché in all seriousness like “mmmm this is so delicious I could die”, or “this is the best latte ever”.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north, owners Anne Cumby and Cindy Stout

Owners Cindy Stout and Anne Cumby.

cannon coffee co. Hamilton, ontario, 179 Ottawa St. north

 

*179 Ottawa St. north, kitty corner from Steel Town Pickers, open M-F 7-6. S 9-8. S+S 9-5. 905.912.1980

morning feast

Merry Christmas!  I know I’m a little late but I still wanted to post some photos of Christmas.

When I picked up my parent’s old box of Christmas decorations, I was really looking to score the beautiful and delicate glass balls that I remember from when I was little.  One day we’ll get a Christmas tree but being a treeless house this Christmas I thought displaying them in some vases would do too.  I especially love the pink one below.

Christmas decoration, Christmas balls, Christmas bulbs, vintage Christmas decorations

The latest tradition to develop in my family around Christmas time is to have a delicious Christmas morning breakfast of savoury treats, meats, and cheeses -my favourite!

This year we hosted Christmas breakfast at our place and was it ever a feast.

meats, cheeses, spread for Christmas, Christmas breakfast feast

My father had made a special request to have tator tots as part of the spread -you can never go wrong with some tots! SO we had tots, a cheese fondue, meats, other various cheeses, crostini, spicy pickles, pâté, caviar, jams, jellies, coffees and teas.  I would love to start any day with a feast like this.

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

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