Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Amalia Chocolate Puro

Similar to the Dark Almond from Spanish chocolatier Amalia that I tried previously, this is a dark chocolate, with 55% cacao content. The ingredient listing is good, short, sugar, cocoa (cocoa and cocoa butter), lecithin and vanillin.

How does it taste? The bar snaps well, smells fairly good, and is good tasting, if a little fruity. It leaves a pleasant aftertaste. I would like to see a 70% version from Amalia, I think that might be a good chocolate bar.

Gummi Frogs

These bright green gummi frogs come from Germany, and I don't know much more than that. I think they are interesting, in that they contain a liquid inside the gummi, which bursts when you bite on it. I guess that would be good, but for some reason, the taste that burst into my mouth was not very good. Made me gag. Made me think of the odd time that I accidentally got some shampoo in my mouth, and the bitter flavour that I got (though not as strong). Perhaps it's an acquired taste. I like how they look, though!

Carassauga 2009

We went again this year to the yearly multicultural festival in Mississauga, there are about 15 pavilions set up representing 20 or so countries. Again, some of the pavilions are great (the Ukraine one has traditional dancers that are quite flashy, and some of the dancing looks quite similar to break-dancing), while others are not. This festival is about culture, and finding out about the many cultures that make up Canadian diversity, and part of that culture is represented by its food.

Some of the highlights that we sampled this year included some food that we had not eaten, and finding restaurants that we did not know existed in Mississauga. in the International pavilion, we ate murtabak, a Indian Muslim wrap popular in Singapore and Malaysia, it's a roti filled with various fillings (curried vegetable with chickpeas, red kidney beans, carrots and potatoes; Halal beef with carrots, potatoes and cilantro; or Halal chicken with peas, potatoes and white beans) is then grilled for 5 minutes and served with homemade coconut chutney and chili-garlic sauce. There was also Lebanese baklava and sesame-topped barazik. In the Portuguese pavilion, we ate two dishes, one with baked salted cod, another tasty pork alentejana (with clams and wine, garlic, oregano, bay leaves and cumin). A restaurant called Tarboosh (located at Central Parkway and Dundas) had excellent middle-eastern food in one of the pavilions.

We enjoyed mostly Carassauga, one complaint we have, is that the sound system is too loud in most of the pavilions, we can't really enjoy the music and dancing with the sound blaring.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Arz Fine Foods

I first heard about Arz Fine Foods on the TV Show "Street Eats", which hilights a different cuisine each week; Arz Fine Foods was on their Lebanese episode. They focused mainly on their bakery, and their tasty baklava and mamoul. Doing a little googling, I realized that their store was quite close to my place of work, I could go a little out of my way to drop by after work. Located at 1909 Lawrence Street East (east of Pharmancy). My first attempt to find the store failed, I thought it was on Ellesmere, so I was happy to find it the second time. The store is standalone, with parking at the side and back.

This is a fairly large store, with a quite large section for fruits and vegetables just within. Next to this are sections for meats, cheeses and prepared goods, dairy products, frozen goods, dried and packaged goods, and a quite large bakery. I was struck as to how clean the store is.

Arz sells its own freshly baked pitas, both in whole wheat and white. Quite good.

The falafels they sell are quite tasty.

To go with the falafels, have some hummous. Quite tasty.

The tabbouleh I found to be very soggy, and not quite so tasty.

These grape leaves are stuffed with vegetables, you can also get ones with beef. Tasty, but quite lemony.

This is a stuffed zucchini, with vegetables, you can also get ones with beef.

The baklava are quite delicious, made with walnuts or cashews or pistachios. Yum!

Even better were the mamoul. These were also made with either walnut, pistachio or date. The pistachio and date (the most traditional) were my favourite.

S&P Khanom Mor Gang (Baked Taro Custard)

This is another offering from Thailand's S&P, and one which I enjoyed very much. It is an egg custard, with taro and brown sugar and coconut cream (which of these Thai desserts doesn't have coconut cream?), and very tasty.

Kariya Park

As it turns out, we didn't have to travel so far to see Japanese Cherry trees blossoming, there are some right here in Mississauga, though only about 27.

Since 1981, Mississauga has enjoyed a twin-sister relationship with Kariya, Japan, which lies between Kyoto and Tokyo. The park honouring Kariya was opened in 1992, and features many of the trees and flowers that grow in Kariya, including Kariya's official city flower, the rabbit-ear iris (Iris laevigata), and rhododendrons, pine, gingko and sweetgum trees, as well as several varieties of sakura.

In the main entrance of the park stands another Japanese feature, a gift from Kariya, a friendship bell, a very large bell cast using traditional methods, it has both Japanese and Canadian symbols.

The park has a number of winding trails, several ponds, and various wildlife, including geese and duck (and recently I saw several ducklings and goslings).

The park is located south of Burnamthorpe, west of Hurontario, on Kariya Way (southeast of Square One). There is very little parking available.

Terravita Cocoacara Dark

Remove the flavourings from their Coffee & Cardomom bar, and you get the Polish chocolatier Terravita's Pure Dark Chocolate bar. The cacao content, like their other one (and there is a third that I have seen in their Cocoacara line, with chili and orange), is at 77%. The ingredient listing is good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, fat-reduced cocoa powder, lecithin and flavouring.

How did it taste? Not as good as their coffee & cardomom bar, and a little chalky. I don't think I would try this bar again, and it certainly won't make me try their much lower cacao content range of flavoured chocolates.

Simply Natural Organic Mango Salsa

I've seen the various products from Simply Natural in many health food stores, we thought we'd try this particular salsa, liking mango and salsa in general. And it is quite mango-y, though fairly mildly spiced, the chunks of mango are fairly large. I've enjoyed it with chips, and on various sandwiches.

Honey Crisp Apples

I had heard of Honeycrisp apples before, they've been around since the '90s, though it's not very available in my usual supermarket haunts, but it was Michael Smith on the Food Network that made me intrigued to try them (he having raved about them on one of his Chef at Home episodes). Really, they are tasty, a good eating apple, but also good for baking. This is an American cultivar, from Minnesota, that is grown in Nova Scotia in Canada as well. These particular Honeycrisp apples came from France, where they are called Honeycrunch.

Breyers Double Churn Banana Cream Pie Ice Cream

I admit to one (well, one of several) indulgence, that is banana cream pie, which I usually find and consume in Chinese Buffet restaraunts (oddly enough); there usually is coconut cream pie, also good, and chocolate cream pie, but it's the banana one that I like the best. This is the one that you find in the freezer section in most supermarkets, made by McCain. The pie is often in that semi-frozen state when you eat it. So, when I saw the new flavour from Breyers, Banana Cream pie, with a swirl of graham cracker crumbs (like the McCain banana cream pie has for its pie shell) and a swirl of cream (like the whipped cream the McCain banana cream pie has), I knew I had to try it. And, it does taste like the pie that I indulge in, though it also has the ice cream taste. The graham cracker crumbs are an odd mouthfeel for an ice cream. Overall, this was interesting and good, but, like the pie it represents, I would eat this only very occasionally.

Nong Shim Shrimp Crackers

I've seen these before in various Chinese supermarkets, we thought we'd give them a try when they were on sale in this Vietnamese supermarket. Nong Shim shrimp crackers have been around since 1971, so they must be popular enough. This is the 400 g bag, they also come in smaller 75 g bags. The crackers are interesting, in that they look like twisted french fries.

They are quite crispy and go well with a sandwich. There is not much actual shrimp in these crackers, I've read that there are 5 shrimp in a 75 g bag, that would make more than 25 in this 400 g bag, but you can taste the shrimp at least. Overall, they're pretty good, but not great, and the ingredient listing doesn't look that healthy (wheat flour, palm oil, wheat starch, rice bran oil, shrimp, sugar, salt and nonfat soybean - this last one is monosodium glutamate in the American ingredient listing), so don't eat a lot at one sitting.

Heirloom Tomatoes

I got these from my sister; she got them from the Galt Farmer's Market. The vendor told her that this is a heirloom tomato, crossed with a green pepper. I can see the green-ness within the colouring, but it doesn't really taste like a green pepper. Nonetheless, it is a good tasting tomato (great tasting in the opinion of my sister) and an interesting and pleasant change from the normal tomatoes one finds in supermarkets.

S&P Sago Black Bean with Coconut Cream

This is another dessert from Thailand's S&P, meant to duplicate a popular Thai dessert recipe. This one would be good, for me, if it did not have the sago in it, the black beans and coconut cream on their own are a good and tasty dessert.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cape Cod Cranberry Candy - Dark Chocolate with Cranberries and Almonds

The US confectioner Cape Code Provisions makes many products with cranberries, also other fruit, this one is a dark chocolate bar, at 48% cacao content, with dried cranberries and almonds. The ingredient listing is fairly good, though a little long and the first ingredient is high; sugar, chocolate liquor (processed with alkali), cocoa butter, milk fat, soy lecithin (as an emulsifier), vanillin, natural flavours, dried cranberries (cranberries, sugar and sunflower oil) and roasted almonds.

How did it taste? Pretty good, though not as sour as I would expect with cranberries. The chocolate was fairly good tasting, the nuts were crunchy, and there was the only occasional sweetness "pocket" where you hit a large cranberry. I don't know that I like this enough to buy it again, and I don't have a reliable source for it.

Ambrosia Apple

Another new apple that I've recently discovered, is called Ambrosia. It comes from British Columbia, and is also a fortuitous find in an apple orchard, in the late 1980's. It is called Ambrosia, because it has the honeyed flavour of the "Food of the Gods". I find it sweet, not too acid, and pleasant tasting.

Pinata Apple

I came across this newish apple, trademarked the Pinata apple in the States, but originally it is called the Pinova, and it was developed in Germany over close to 20 years. It's a cross between a Golden Delicious, a Cox's Orange Pippin (from which it gets its taste) and a Duchess of Oldenburg (from which it gets its colouration). This is a sweet and also tart apple that's very juicy. I think that I could enjoy eating it.

They might look weird

And even weirder inside, the dark red flesh of these blood oranges. Quite the treasure, though, to discover.

Trapa Supremo Milk Chocolate

This is the fourth chocolate bar that I have tried made by the Spanish chocolatier Trapa, and two of the others are milk chocolate but with another ingredient, in those cases nuts. The ingredients of this milk chocolate bar are the same as the other, sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, whole milk powder, defatted cocoa powder, soy lecithin, flavours (vanilla) and salt (an unusual ingredient for chocolate bars). The cacao content is 30%.

How did it taste? I would say that this is a good tasting milk chocolate compared to similar ones, but it's still all about sweetness (and making me wonder lately why I even bother trying milk chocolate bars, after eating the good dark bars). It has nothing to do with the taste, but inside the wrapping, there was only 1/4 the foil wrapping present. I know that I won't buy this bar again.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Restaurant Review - Ghizale Restaurant

While on our way back from seeing the Sakuras in High Park, we made a detour (read, we drove farther away) to buy some food from this, as we found out later, award-winning Lebanese restaurant on Bloor Street. I've seen it lots of times before, and more recently when I was dating my not-as-of-yet Bride, but I've never had the opportunity to try what looked to me like wonderful Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean food. Located at 504 Bloor St. West, just down from Honest Ed's and east of Korean Town (which is where I had already eaten at on my date, thus I was not hungry enough to want to partake of any of this food). And, certainly eating the meal that we got, I can say that one needs to be hungry in order to finish this feast. And cheap, certainly a lot of food for $7. There is also now another location at Church and Wellesley.

My meal was a Chicken Schawarma, with lentil rice and tomato-eggplant and tabbouleh salad. All tasty. We also got two chickpea falafels, which were also tasty. There was enough for half a lunch the next day.

Save for the chicken livers, this one was all vegetarian, with curried cauliflower to replace the chicken.

The best part of the meal was saved for last. The very yummy desserts were honey-packed; my triangle with phyllo pastry and pistachios was delicious; my Bride ate her pistachio round and realized afterwards that she didn't offer me any. Ah well, I had mine to enjoy, all alone.

Sakura in High Park

This year, finally, we decided to make the effort to go see the Sakura blooming in High Park. And, despite the large number of people and the lack of available parking, we did achieve just that, enjoying the pink-white blossoms, and giving our daughter her first "taste" of Spring blooms (and taste it was, nearly).

In 1959, 2000 Japanese Sakura trees were given to Toronto by Tokyo, in appreciation for relocating Japanese-Canadians following the Second World War. Many of these trees were planted in High Park, specifically near Grenadier Cafe, around Grenadier Pond. More Sakura were planted over the years; in 1984, several trees were planted near the Children's Adventure Playground; 50 or so were planted more recently, again around Grenadier Pond. You can read more about the cherry trees in High Park here.

It was the grove of trees near the Children's Adventure Playground that we finally saw and took pictures of, after inching around Grenadier Cafe after entering the main entrance on Bloor Street, and unsuccessfully finding a parking place close by there, we did finally manage to snag a parking place near their small Zoo, which we got to by driving down Parkside Drive and going into the side park entrance. If you have small children, or, like us, babies in strollers/travel systems, the Adventure Playground area is a better option, as some of the hills around Grenadier Cafe/Pond are quite steep; conversely, the area around Adventure Playground is only a little hilly.

Getting to High Park is relatively easy. By TCC, the High Park or Keele station on the subway gets you close to the entrance, or take the 506 Streetcar via Howard Park or the 501 Streetcar via the Queensway. By car, go to the Bloor Street entrance (main entrance) just west of Keele, or take Parkside Drive south (on the east side of High Park) from Bloor, or north from Lakeshore Blvd., to go to the East entrance.

Going to see the Sakura blossoms are well worth it, an interesting and beautiful aspect of Toronto, though next time we will go during the week, so we can go to the other, larger, grove of trees, and easily find a parking place.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Endangered Species Intense Dark Chocolate with Cocoa Nibs

The theme of this chocolate bar from Endangered Species is the Bat, perhaps one of the most misunderstood animals in North America. They can eat up to 1200 mosquitoes every hour. One of my fondest memories is sitting and looking up to watch several circling bats around dusktime, catching insects. Again, this is an animal that is declining in numbers due to human encroachment, whether it is through habitat destruction, direct killing, vandalism and disturbance of their mating and hibernation colonies, and the direct effects of the pesticides that are sprayed on insects.

The cacao content of this bar is 75%. The ingredient listing is good, cocoa mass, unbleached water-filtered beet sugar, soy lecithin, natural vanilla and roasted cocoa bean pieces.

How did it taste? Pretty good, the dark chocolate is fairly good, the cacao nibs give it a good interesting crunch (though because of them, I didn't melt the pieces in my mouth, but rather chewed them). My beautiful Bride enjoyed it as well. I would buy this bar again.

Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Rasbperries

Like all of Endangered Species chocolate bars, each has a theme, and the theme for this bar is the Grizzly Bear. Grizzly bears are just one example of an animal that is declining in numbers due to human encroachment on their territories.

This is a dark chocolate bar, with 72% cacao content. Its ingredient listing is good, chocolate liquor, unbleached water-filtered beet sugar, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, vanilla and dried raspberries (raspberries and coconut oil).

How did it taste? The chocolate was smooth and good tasting, it snapped well and smelled good, but the raspberry flavour was hit and miss, some pieces seemed to have more of the raspberry fruit and flavour (and my beautiful Bride did not get that it was raspberry, I had to tell her). Because of the raspberry fruit, I did not melt this in my mouth, rather I chewed it, but I think that the dark chocolate would have melted well. I have bought this before, and enjoyed it, and will likely again.

Endangered Species Chocolate Dark Chocolate with Deep Forest Mint

The idea of contributing something when buying, and subsequently eating, good chocolate has always appealed to me, coupled with my concern for Nature and the animals, and plants, of this world, so this chocolatier is right up my alley. Endangered Species is an American company whose corporate philosophy is to give back to the very source of their profit. They do this in several ways. They buy cocoa that is grown in the natural shade of forests; shade-grown chocolate, and coffee, is better for the environment, as it promotes plant diversity and does not destroy the environment around which the cacao could grow, making the farmland sustainable. The cacao they buy is ethically traded, which means that the cacao workers have humane working conditions and get a fair price for their product. Thirdly, Endangered Species donates 10% of their net profits to help support species, habitat and humanity. They also have a Giveback program, where they partner with organizations that help the world.

Each of their bars has a theme of animals on the packaging, for this one it is a rainforest, with a macaw, a gorilla, a chimpanzee and a jaguar, each of these is endangered; the theme is the rainforest, an important source of many things, including food, pharmaceuticals and oxygen; all of these animals live in a rainforest, in different parts of the world. The rainforests of the world are being destroyed because of demands for timber and cropland use, and with it, the vast diversity of animals and plants are disappearing too.

This is a dark chocolate bar, with 70% cacao content, the ingredients are few, cocoa mass, unbleached water filtered beet sugar, soy lecithin (as an emulsifier), natural vanilla and natural mint flavour.

How did it taste? The chocolate was smooth and good tasting, it snapped well and smelled good, and melted well in the mouth, and the mint was not too strong a flavour and paired well with the dark chocolate. I have bought this before, and will likely again.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Terravita Cocoacara Coffee & Cardamom

This offering from the Polish chocolatier Terravita is one of two that I recently found at The Apple Market (they make a whole range of chocolate bars in numerous flavour combinations, but only three that are dark chocolate with high cacao content). The cacao content of this bar is 77%. The ingredient listing looks good, cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, fat-reduced cocoa powder, coffee (1.1%), cardamom (0.5%), soya lecithin and flavourings.

How did it taste? The cardamom was not too strong but I think overwhelming if you don't like the taste (which I do) and there was an underlying mustiness or earthiness to the flavour (perhaps it was the type of cardamom). The coffee flavour I did not get. Overall, I would say that cardamom pairs well with chocolate (and I have made cookies that worked well), but the combination of flavourings ultimately failed in this bar. I don't think I would buy this bar again.