Chef Susur Lee’s ‘Asian Caesar’ recipe

I am a HUGE fan of the Canadian famed Caesar drink; a drink I order on the regular…double shot extra spicy please…and I love putting my own twist at home. I was at a special cooking workshop with celebrity Chef Susur Lee last week called #Veggielicious101 at Bent where bartender Manuel made us a wicked caesar with an Asian twist. I loved it and want to share the recipe with you!

IMG_2989

Chef Lee’s recipe incorporated condiments typically seen in Chinese households including the popular sriracha hot sauce and hoisin sauce. What made the caesar stand out was the in depth flavours from the cilantro seeped into the juice.

Here is Chef Susur Lee’s “Asian caesar” recipe, courtesy of Chef Lee and Bent Restaurant.

Asian Caesar

My attempt at Bent’s Asian Caesar:

I am an eager learner and had to make this. Please note that I have made some variations to Chef Lee’s recipe based on what I had at home.  Here are my steps:

1. I washed and dried a handful of coriander including the stems and added it the bottle.

2. In a small bowl, I mixed all the ingredients minus the ginger. As I had a small clamato juice bottle (945 ml), I cut the recipe by more than a half. I tasted the mixture and adjusted to my taste. For the chili/sesame seed oil mix, I used chili oil and about 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil.

My ingredients

My ingredients

3. In a separate bowl, I extracted the ginger juice, which was the toughest part of the preparation work. To get about 4 teaspoons (20 ml) of ginger juice, I peeled and grated almost half a ginger and then squeezed the grated ginger through a fine mesh sieve.

ginger juice

Some of the ginger juice

4. I poured the ginger juice into the main mixture, mixed well and then added it to the bottle. I poured access juice out of the bottle to ensure all the ingredients fit in the bottle with the cap on. I shook the bottle a few times and left the ingredients to seep overnight in the fridge.

2014-08-30 14.21.46

5. On the day of serving, I prepared the rim which is my own spin to the recipe. Using a mortar and pestle, I mixed together various peppercorns including black, red and green peppercorns and tongue numbing Szechuan peppercorns. Make sure to take out the outer shells of the Szechuan peppercorns. Once grounded, I added Cyprus sea salt. Feel free to add regular sea salt or kosher salt. I tasted the mixture to make sure it had the right balance. The rim was really good, I should have made more!

6. I did not have pickled radish as per Chef Lee’s recipe. Instead, I added a skewer of an Extreme bean B’nolivehousemade pickled plums and a slice of lime. The pickling liquid for the plums was made of equal parts of red wine vinegar and sugar, water and black mustard seeds. The mixture was boiled, cooled and poured over the plum pieces and left to pickle for 2 hours.

7. Right before serving, I added a tablespoon of extra spicy horseradish, a squeeze of lime juice and an extra squirt of sriracha. I added 1.5 oz of vodka…or more…and mixed the drink with a chopstick. I forgot to add ice.

The Asian Caesar turned out amazing and I am happy to say I have learned a new recipe that I will make over and over again. The key is to make the mixture in advanced for the flavours to come through. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Thank you Chef Lee!

IMG_20140901_142705

{Review} Thai Basil (Richmond Hill location)

Website: http://thaibasil.ca/
Address:  1070 Major Mackenzie Dr. E Unit F103, Richmond Hill ON
When I visited: June 2014, dinner, 8 adults
Rating: $$, 3.5

I was recommended by my Laotian friend to try out Thai Basil as he mentioned the dishes were authentic and that some of the dishes were comparable to what he ate in Thailand. I cannot comment on the authenticity of the dishes but know what I like. To my surprise, although the hostess and servers were Thai, the owners were Chinese.

20140629_185718

With their original location in downtown Toronto, we were happy that we were able to try the second location without making the trek downtown. The décor was nice, clean and had a zen-like feel with a waterfall Buddha statue at the front of the restaurant.

IMG_1933

We ordered a variety of dishes and drinks to get a feel for their menu during the family celebration and would recommend the following (starting from top left in the picture):

  • Pomelo salad-This was the first time I have seen it at a Thai restaurant. It was simple and a great start to the meal.
  • Lettuce wrap salad- Great seasoning on the beef.
  • Thai BBQ pork
  • Thai roasted chicken-It was moist.
  • Thai red curry beef- Rich flavours and was perfect with rice.
  • Panang curry pork- Generous portions with a thick curry sauce.
  • Thai basil chili noodle
  • Baked fried rice in young coconut chicken- I loved the presentation!
  • Thai basil clams- Amazing dish with the right amount of spice and plump clams. A must!

 

Thai Basil

What I did not enjoy was the pad thai with chicken. It had to be the worst pad Thai I have ever eaten as the noodles were ultra soggy and the sauce tasted like there was too much ketchup. This dish makes Spring Roll’s pad thai shine. My sister and I also complained about our alcoholic drinks as well as it tasted totally virgin and it was overly sweet.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

 

Overall:

The restaurant is worth checking out with starters and curries as the stand out items. Although the pad thai portion was generous, I did not enjoy the texture or the sweet sauce. The restaurant does a great job with presentation and providing attentive service. I’d like to try the downtown location at Bloor and Spadina to see how the 2 restaurants compare. Happy eating!

Thai Basil on Urbanspoon

{Event} Tons of food vendors at Toronto Food Festival 2014

Website: http://tofoodfest.com/
Address: Chinese Cultural Centre, 5183 Sheppard Ave. E, Toronto ON
When I attended: August 10, 2014

It has been an annual tradition for me to attend the Toronto Food Festival at the Chinese Cultural Centre in Scarborough which is in it’s 3rd year.

What attracted me to attend initially was seeing the mouth watering pictures of featured items on their website and knowing that the event will showcase delicious eats from local businesses in Scarborough/Markham, like award winning H.K style milk tea from Marathon Cafe, along side hip vendors like Busker Sea Cove and Hot Bunzz. Another attraction is that the festival has free parking and is relatively close to home.

Last year, the festival was the busiest of the three years. I specifically attended to support the launch of ME.N.U Food Truck, which is owned by my awesome friends Bryan and Allen. Their debut was a success with the longest line-up at the festival.

This year, I thankfully received media passes for my husband and I, which meant that I got a head start chatting with the vendors and got to try delicious eats before it was opened to the public. As we went with the baby, it was important that we were able to beat the crowds. Luckily for us, this year was not as busy which meant the line ups were short. I think there were way too many food festivals in the city this year including Jerk Festival, Pan Am games food festival and Taste of the Danforth which may accounted for the smaller attendance.

TO Food Fest 2014

TO Food Fest 2014

To Food Fest 2014

To Food Fest 2014

 

The Toronto Foodfest is an awesome event with tons of vendors in one small space with a variety of vendors and the price point is reasonable with most things at $5. There were 40 vendors serving everything from oysters, hot sauce, vegan food, snacks, sandwiches, fries, desserts and drinks (see a full list of vendors here). Starting this year, for admission attendees paid $2 or brought a non-perishable food item for Second Harvest charity. The organizers improved couple of items this year including having more spaces to eat indoors and placed more garbage bins around.

I ran into tons of my food blogger friends and we had a chance to discuss our recommendations. On the most part, I decided to try out places I have not eaten at before at any food festival. Here is what my husband and I ate and drank at the festival…I didn’t realize how much we ate until until I wrote this post.

ME.N.U Food Truck Rice Balls (2 for $6  Including the Porkzilla with Pork Belly, Gangnum Style with bulgogi beef and 1-Up with 4 types of mushrooms). These balls had an amazing crunch and were poppin’ with flavour and were filled with oozin; cheese. If you haven’t tried these yet, get on it!

ME.N.U Food Truck team

ME.N.U Food Truck team

 

 

20140810_131841

Oysters from Island oysters @IslandOysters ($5 for the plate). I  love oysters! I normally buy and shuck my own oysters at home but was craving it.

Island Oysters

Island Oysters

 

Hakka Bao Sandwich Bar’s, Chili Beef Sandwich for $5. Big portions and good flavour. Unfortunately, I let the sandwich sit out for too long so the bun got soggy from the sauce.

To food festival Aug 10 20145

Kanto by Tita Flips‘ halo halo for $5.  It was my first halo halo dessert! This took the vendor 10 minutes to prepare and it was worth the wait.  I was hoping for more coconut flavour but it wasn’t as sweet as I thought it would be and a perfect dessert for the beautiful weather.

To food festival Aug 10 20142

Deep fried quail eggs with shredded pork ($3 per skewer). These were cute and flavourful.

To food festival Aug 10 20144

Pork belly burger from Bricks and Mortar for $5. Great recommendation from my blogger friend Linda (@integrityfilms). It was a juicy burger!

To food festival Aug 10 20149

Squid from Utopia  Bubble Tea and Café ($8). I think watching the gentlemen make the squid made it even more enjoyable. It could have done with more salt but still tasty.The squid was brushed with a grainy spicy sauce and cooked to perfection.

To food festival Aug 10 201410

Bacon crème Brulee from Meat Ventures ($5). This was a great recommendation from my blogger friend Davindra (@1goatroti). I don’t like my desserts overly sweet so this hit the spot. It was creamy and satisfying and came with candied bacon.

To food festival Aug 10 20148

Liko’s Hawaiian skewers ($5 for 2 skewers). I have heard great things about the skewers and the have seen long line-ups in previous years. Unfortuntely, our meat was super dry. This was our least favourite at the event.

To food festival Aug 10 20147

Chicken skewer from Gushi Japanese Street Food. Wow, this was amazing!! The chicken was ultra moist with a sweet chili sauce on top.

To food festival Aug 10 20146

Vietnamese ice coffee from Wonderpho for $2. I love aromatic Vietnamese coffee and at $2, the price is a steal. I finally got to meet my Twitter/Instagram friends Alex (@tsangzillavs) and Hubert (@goodfoodtoronto). 

Check out some of the events coming up from pop up markets (popup market website here).

To food festival Aug 10 20141

Coconut calamansi drink from Lamesa Filipino Kitchen for $3. The drink was sweet, sour and tarte! My daughter loved this and didn’t want to share. I don’t have a picture of the drink but have a picture of the cute calamansi fruit (Filipino lime).

20140810_140809

Overall:

By far, this was my favourite year at the food festival. The weather happen to be pleasant and the line ups were manageable. Also I got to sample more items over previous years. I miss Casa Manila who was here last year and served amazing Filiplino BBQ skewers and squid at a great price point…I think their whole squid was $5, but it was nice to see many new vendors.

For those who have not been before, it is interesting to know that majority of the attendees are East Asian and I am guessing predominately Chinese, including the volunteers.  Perhaps it is the location in the Chinese Cultural Centre or that it is located in Scarborough. Not that it should matter but I thought it may interest some of you.

It was another successful year and I look forward to coming back in the future! Thank you TO Food Festival for the media passes. Check out their website at http://tofoodfest.com/ for updates.

More pics for you….

To food festival Aug 10 2014

 

 

{Review} Long line ups at ‘The Black Camel’ sandwich shop

Website: http://www.blackcamel.ca/
 Address:  5 Crescent Rd, Toronto ON
When I visited: August 2014, lunch brunch, 6 people
Rating: $, 3

The Black Camel (@black_camel) is located outside of Rosedale station and a popular spot at lunch. The restaurant specializes in sandwiches with slow roasted meats and home-made sauces (menu here).

If you can’t find the restaurant walking up Yonge St., look for the small restaurant with a camel picture (which  is in lieu of a restaurant sign) and a long line up. The restaurant is small and narrow with a row of tables outside so it is best to ask for take-out. With the restaurant adjacent to Ramsden Park, customers can find plenty of seating there.

Black Camel

Black Camel

I’ve heard so much about The Black Camel as my colleagues go frequently and the Yelp reviews were screaming perfection. I went with my colleagues with much anticipation but unfortunately was not blown away with my first visit.  I ordered the beef brisket sandwich because I have heard that the meat takes a full week to prepare from the rub, marinating to cooking it.

The sandwiches range from $7.00 to $9.50 and it comes with 2 sauces. Additional sauces are $0.50 cents each and toppings are $0.90 cents each. With my beef brisket sandwich ($7.50), I chose the in-house made “Black Camel BBQ sauce”, creamy horseradish and added caramelized onions and roasted sweet red peppers ($0.90 cents each). I also ordered a side of coleslaw for $2.50 for a small cup. After ordering, we were given a small key tag with a number. When our order was ready, a gentleman called our number and gave us the order.

What I enjoyed about the sandwich and the restaurant:

  • The meat was delicious and tender and the BBQ sauce had a dark sweet and savoury flavour. It was evident that the meat was slow roasted for many hours.
  • We waited for 15 minutes in line but only waited about 5 minutes after I ordered. They had an efficient system to get customers in and out of the restaurant.

What I did not like about my experience and sandwich:

  • Bread to meat ratio/too much bread.
  • Stingy toppings. Paying 90 cents for each topping seems a bit steep, especially when they only gave me 2 pieces of roasted red peppers. I went back to let them know they forgot my caramelized onions but forgot to mention that they also forgot my creamy horseradish sauce. 2 forgotten items in one order is so not cool.
Beef brisket sandwich

Beef brisket sandwich

With caramelized onions

With caramelized onions

  • I asked for a dab (not a container) of hot sauce and they said they had to charge me $0.90 cents cents because I have already gotten 2 sauces. Hot sauces, especially sauces not made in-house should be left on the counter like most fast food restaurants and not charged to the customer.
  • Perhaps the restaurant should change up the pricing scheme. It would be nice to see free toppings such as onions and arugula and charge $0.50 cents for more specialized toppings.

Overall:

The sandwich was really good but due to the pricing and my first experience, I am not in a rush to return. I know that the line ups will be there and people will continue to flock to the restaurant. The restaurant has even run out of sandwiches during a lunch service due to the demand.  Follow them on Twitter @black_camel to get updates. I was borderline giving them a 2 star rating due to my experience of forgotten items but I enjoyed the sandwich.  My meat was done really well whereas my friend’s pulled chicken sandwich could have done with more seasoning. I will return again to try more items but will enjoy the other great restaurants in the area first.

Black Camel on Urbanspoon

{Review} ‘Ding Tai Fung’ is the dumpling king of Markham

Website: n/a, Yelp reviews
Address:  3235 Highway 7 East, Suite 18 B, Markham ON
When I visited: June 2014, brunch, 2 adults and 2 babies
Rating: $$, 4
Baby info: Has high chairs

Ding Tai Fung should be known to all food lovers in Toronto loving Shanghai or northern style Chinese food because this place rocks.

The restaurant is in the First Markham Place plaza, where parking is a nightmare. The restaurant can also be hard to find if you are not familiar with the plaza. I’ve been to Ding Tai Fung on many occasions and the restaurant is always rammed, even on a weekday. My friend and I went without reservations on a Friday and waited about 30 minutes to be seated.

Once we were seated, I was pleasantly surprised that the restaurant provided plastic bowls and spoons for our babies. That was extremely thoughtful and a first I’ve seen at a Chinese restaurant.

20140627_131204

The décor is light and there is plenty of space between tables. There is a large window at the back restaurant overseeing the kitchen where the cooks make the fresh dumplings.

Window overseeing the kitchen

Window overseeing the kitchen

I don’t recall the exact names of the dishes, but essentially we ordered soup dumplings with pork, steam dumplings with pork, crispy chicken on rice and a beef pancake wrap.

Soup dumplings with pork

Soup dumplings with pork

Pork baos

Pork baos

Crispy chicken with rice

Crispy chicken with rice

Pancake wrap

Pancake wrap

I’ve eaten soup dumplings where the bottoms broke upon picking them up and the base was soggy. Instead, the ones at Ding Tai Fung were still intact and after biting into them, the juicy broth remains hot (this is based on me devouring them as soon as they arrive to the table!). The fillings for each dumpling or bun were proportionate to the bun and flavourful.

Overall:

I have been visiting the restaurant for many years now and Ding Tai Fung has consistently delivered delicious baos and dumplings at every visit. Their other northern Chinese food is pretty standard to other restaurants but their dumplings are a stand out. The prices are a bit more than the small dumpling houses but it is worth it. I highly recommend the restaurant for brunch but do expect to wait in line alongside other eager customers.

Ding Tai Fung Shanghai Dim Sum on Urbanspoon

{Review} Brunch at The Bier Markt (Don Mills location)

Website: http://www.thebiermarkt.com/
Address:  7 O’Neill Rd, Toronto, ON
When I visited: August 2014, brunch, 4 adults and 2 babies
Rating: $, 4
Baby info: Has high chairs

I’ve been to the King Street location several times and I am normally on the patio enjoying a beer from their huge selection.  This time around, I was enjoying a lazy weekend catching up with friends over brunch. The Shops on Don Mills location is very spacious and great for large groups.

Spacious interior

Spacious interior

20140802_122433

Although the lunch menu was also available, we all opted for brunch (brunch menu here). There were recommended beer pairings on the menu.  I wasn’t feeling the beer this time and went for a coffee instead.

I ordered the Bavarian benedict which came with 2 poached eggs, roasted porchetta, cast-iron Yukon potatoes rosti and a tomato and Weissbier hollandaise. My husband ordered the Belgium breakfast which came with 2 sunny side up eggs, maple walnut sausage, smoked bacon, Stout baked beans cassoulet, English Ale muffin, Markt frites and preserved fruit compote. Both dishes were $13 which was a great deal.

Bavarian benedict

Bavarian benedict

Belgium breakfast

Belgium breakfast

I thoroughly enjoyed my dish; the poached egg was done well and the roasted porchetta was tender. My husband’s dish was tasty except the sausages could have done with more seasoning. If I could make one improvement with many of their brunch dishes, it would be to add more fruit. We had a friendly server who was attentive, as our coffees were refilled often and she checked in frequently.

Overall:

I would recommend the Bier Markt for brunch. The portions may not look massive, but the dishes are filling, satisying and a great value.

Bier Markt Don Mills on Urbanspoon