Sour Cherry and Dark Chocolate ice cream

It’s hot, so hot I can see my spirit animal. Which tells me to drink wine regularly but also that I should eat ice cream for breakfast and such. All week Toronto has experienced record tempratures and my twitter feed has been filling up with ice cream tweets so I armed with a big bowl of delicious Niagara cherries and a glass of VQA merlot and set about making the ice cream to end all ice creams. Here is is fashionistas…The Sour Cherry and dark chocolate ice cream.

The Inspiration

Niagara Cherries

The Recipe
1 cup Sour Cherry compote chilled (see previous post)
3/4 Dark chocolate
2 cups 35% cream
1 cup whole milk
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar

In a non reactive medium bowl (preferably glass) whisk together egg yolks and sugar set aside
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, heat up the cream and milk until steaming but below the boiling point

Remove milk from heat and let sit for a minute or two

Whisking constantly add a little of the hot milk at a time to the egg and sugar mixture until fully incorporated

Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard (this will help ensure that it does not form a skin on the top while cooling

Refrigerate mixture for at least 4 hours

Pour chilled custard into your ice cream maker or freezer bowl attachment

Prepare ice cream according to machine or attachment directions. I used the Kitchen Aid freezer bowl attachment and it takes about 20-30 minutes churning on low

Add cherry compote and chocolate during the last few minutes so that they don’t sink to the bottom.

Dark chocolate love

Sour cherry compote

Transfer your ice cream which will be at a soft serve stage to shallow freezer containers. If the cherries and chocolate do sink to the bottom and you have used a shallow container you will easily be able to grab them when you scoop.

Transfer to the freezer and let the ice cream cure for 4 more hours or overnight.

Serve and enjoy!

Sour Cherry and Dark Chocolate Ice cream


Sour Cherry Compote

One of my favourite ways to celebrate local seasonal fruit, other than eating it straight up naked, is to make a compote. Compote is a french for mixture and the technique for this desert is slow cooking the fruit by simmering it in water and sugar until it is soft. Slowing cooking the fruit helps to retain its shape and the sugar and water act as a preservative. Compotes can be eaten warm or cold and you can also add liqueurs or spices to your compotes for extra depth. For cherries a Kirsch would be nice. Compotes are very versatile and can be used to top cheese cakes or ice creams, stirred into oatmeal, served along side your favourite cheese, paired with savoury items or meats like foie gras,duck, pork, game meats, or eaten just as they are.

For this recipe I used sour cherries Which uncooked have a tarter taste and a brighter red color. During the cooking process these cherries hold their shape quite well and the flavour mellows and becomes more sweet.

The inspiration

Sweet and Sour Niagara cherries

Niagara Sour Cherries at Liberty Village My Market

The Recipe
2 cups sour cherries pitted and halved
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a medium sized pot
Over medium heat bring to just below boiling point
Turn heat down to low and simmer until thickened and reduced approximately 30-40 minutes.

You will notice that when you halve the sour cherries they are a yellowish orange inside and look quite different from a sweet cherry.

Sour cherries at the beginning of the cooking process

When the cooking process is finished the cherries will have turned a deeper more vibrant red.

Finished Compote

An Amuse before dinner?

Crostini with foie gras, cherry compote, & pea shoots

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Cherry & Lavender Clafoutis

Inspired by my favourite Patisserie Clafouti, gorgeous Niagara cherries, and a gift of some beautiful lavender, this summer treat highlights the very best eating locally has to offer.

The inspiration

Niagara Cherries

Niagara lavender

The recipe

Cherry & Lavender clafoutis
(Adapted from Bon Appetit recipe for Cherry Clafouti)

1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup 35% cream
4 eggs (I used Rowe farms)
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp fresh lavender flowers
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of one whole lemon
Enough fresh cherries to cover 4 small ramekins (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 TBSP butter (for greasing rammekins)

Finishing glaze (if desired)
Juice of 1/2 lemon and 3 TBSP granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Butter the inside of 4 small shallow rammekins

Halve and pit cherries

Line the bottom of each rammekin evenly with the cherries and set aside

Line the bottom of the rammekins with cherries

In a small sauce pan combine milk, cream, and lavender flowers on medium until you get a simmer going approx 5-7 min. Remove from heat and remove lavender flowers by pouring mixture through a strainer into a bowl.

Lavender simmering in milk and cream

While you are simmering milk. in a medium bowl whisk eggs and sugar together.

Whisk in flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract until mixture is a smooth custard.

Gradually add hot milk to the mixture while continuing to whisk.

Carefully pour mixture to the fill line of the rammeking (about 1/2 inch from the top.

Pour custard over cherries

Set rammekins on a cookie sheet (clafoutis will rise above the top when cooking so this step is important in case you have any overflow)

Place cookie sheet and rammekin in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes. You can check to see if they are done by inserting a toohpick in the center. If it comes out clean then your custard is set.

Remove from oven and brush with glaze if desired while still warm. Another popular way to finish these is to dust them with powdered sugar.

Let Clafoutis cool completely before serving.

You can serve right in the rammekin.

Finished Clafouti served in rammekin

or slide a knife down and around the inside edges to loosen and place a piece of parchment on top, turn upside down into your hand and then turn right side up on your plate.

Finished Clafouti plated

Finished Clafouti plated

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Sweet pea and garlic scape crostini

Sweet Pea and garlic scape crostini

There are few things that bring me back to sunny summer memories of childhood more than shelling fresh peas. Inspired by my market finds of the first peas of the summer, garlic scapes, and a beautiful Clafouti batarde, I made a very simple crostini. This dish exemplifies the fresh clean eating which I enjoy most in the summertime. The ingredients shine just as they are. hope you enjoy!

Sweet pea and garlic scape crostini

1 small baguette or batarde
1 cup fresh peas (shelled)
4 garlic scapes
2-3 TBSP olive oil + extra for brushing bread
juice of half a lemon
Sea salt to taste if desired

Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheet with parchment paper

Cut bread in 1/4 inch slices on the diagonal and brush with olive oil

Place bread in oven until crisp…about 20 minutes

While bread is baking puree all the rest of the ingredients in a food processor.

Remove crisp crostini from oven and let cool

Spread puree on crostini and serve

I served mine with fresh pea shoots and edible flowers for color and a perfect compliment in flavor and texture

Sweet pea and garlic scape crostini

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Blissing on Spring- Rhubarb sorbet

Sunshine soaked days in the park after a long winter, you can’t help but be happy when Spring arrives. It elicits a feeling and a promise of what is to come. Farmer’s markets, and wine on patios admiring sunsets. One of the first items to arrive in farmer’s markets or in your backyard if you are lucky enough to have one, is rhubarb. Gorgeous hues of pinks and ruby red it is very versatile in sweet treats like tarts, pies, ice creams or sorbets. I also love using it in savory dishes paired with duck or pork. Below is my recipe for a delicious sorbet that is as pretty to look at as it is to enjoy.

Rhubarb Sorbet

Rhubarb Sorbet

5 Large stalks rhubarb
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups water

1) Wash rhubarb and trim off ends
2) Cut into 1/2 inch pieces on the diagonal
3) In a large saucepan combine rhubarb, sugar, and water
4) Bring to boiling point and then reduce to a simmer
5) Simmer for 10 minutes or until rhubarb is tender
6) Allow to cool to room temp
7) Transfer mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth
8) In a non reactive bowl let cool in the fridge for 2 hours
9) Transfer to ice cream maker or kitchen aid freezer bowl attachment and follow manufacturers directions
10) Transfer your sorbet which will be at a soft serve stage to freezer containers
11) Let cure in the freezer for 2-4 hours before serving

** I use the kitchen aid attachment and it takes about 20 minutes to set up churning on level 2-3

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Happy 8th Birthday Clafouti-I have a little crush on your croissants

Owned by the unbelievably talented Olivier Jansen-Reynaud, Clafouti on Queen, opened January 28,2003. It has been my happy place for years! Walking into the intimate and authentic space, you are transported to Paris literally, met with a gorgeous smell of fresh baked bread, buttery croissants, beautiful pastries and a perfect view of Trinity Bellwoods Park. Always greeted with a smile by the staff, and catching a glimpse of the bakers in the back, you feel right at home.

Sometimes less words are better than more so I will just say… Happy 8th Birthday to Clafouti! and share some pics of my Clafouti crush with you.

The store front

Clafouti store front

The sign- Spring, summer, or winter it always greets you with a message that lets you know you are entering somewhere special. This one is my favorite.

Clafouti sign my favorite message

You are greated by a beautiful wall of wooden boxes filled with authentic Parisian breads and croissants

Clafouti bread boxes

Beautiful bread boxes

Entrance way bread boxes

Croissants au beurre- I treasure these above all else

Croissant au beurre

Pain au chocolat

Pain au chocolat

One of my very favorite croissants- Almond

Almond croissant

Croissant de figue

Croissant de figue

Galettes des Rois- Seasonal treat baked in the style of Northern France complete with gold crowns from Paris.

Galettes des Rois

Galettes des Rois and Ondaatje- Two of my loves

The tradition is whoever finds the ceramic surprise inside the Galettes des Rois gets to be King or Queen for a day. The day I brought these treats to share at the Drake, I earned my crown as Princess!


Why brown bag it? When you could have a gorgeous mango chicken curry baguette?

Clafouti Sanwiches

Mango chicken curry with walnuts on baguette

I stop by as many of the days as I can to visit my happy place and indulge in my croissant crush.

Happy Desk Happy Jennifer

Located near Queen and Strachan this is both a neighbourhood favorite and a place that people travel to, to satify their cravings so get there early. There is often a line up and on the weekends you can expect croissant supplies to be running low by 11am.

Clafouti contact info

Enjoy! Baking the best croissants in Toronto, all of this Patisserie’s products are made with love, and are the closet to Paris that you will find in Canada. Ah Oui! Allons-y

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A Montreuil-sur-Mer dream-Michelin star dining at Stratford Chef School

When my good friend Mary Luz Mejia from Sizzling communications emailed me to alert me to the fact that acclaimed Chef Alexandre Gauthier of the Michelin star restaurant
La Grenouillére in Montreuil-sur-Mer, France was coming to town, I was literally trembling as I RSVP d “Oui”.

Chef Gauthier was coming to Canada for a second Celebrity Chef in residence at the Stratford Chef School and to reveal his blueprint of the new auberge to travel journalists. Friday January 21st Travel journalists and media were invited to The Fairmont Royal York to meet the brilliant young chef as he explained the vision for the blueprint of the new kitchen at La Grenouillére and rooms at the auberge.

Within minutes of meeting the approachable and charming Chef Gauthier you are connected with his passion for food and for the restaurant and inn which have been in his family since the 1930’s. Preparing for an interview, I had done my homework and had been reading various articles about him growing up in his father’s kitchen, discovering that all consuming passion for cooking which overshadowed studies, his culinary stardom abroad. I was captivated reading how his father devastated by the loss of the Michelin star which had accompanied the restaurant since the 1930’s, had reached out to Alexandre and asked him to come home to help earn it back. I was in love with the story before I met him. I carefully crafted my questions and waited for the work day to end, there were so many things I wanted to ask and to learn but I had 15 minutes or so I thought. When I got there I was enthralled listening to him describe the vision for the new addition to the auberge and was so transported that I felt like I was there.

I was walking down stairs to my room located just below grade and finding myself somewhere very special with wood burning fireplaces comfortable with unique amenities , without common place elements like mini bars and the high tech coldness that reminds you are away from home. Each room containing a unique surprise that when you discover it you think to yourself of course of course why didn’t I notice it before! The redesign of the auberge is sure to position it as a destination experience rather than traveling for the sheer bliss of Chef Gauthier’s food only to set forth on a two hour drive back to Paris. Everything that is left over either from renovating or from ongoing maintenance will be salvaged and take on new life. As they explained even when the gardener cuts the lawn if they will find a way of incorporating and giving the clippings a new purpose. There seems to be a real connection and a real appreciation of the land from the moment you enter through the arbre arch into the inn, through the dining experience, through the guest’s stay.

To me the architectural vision very much reflects Chef Gauthier’s food. The message to find beauty in the purity and beauty of the ingredient of itself, undressed, always innovative and inventive. Chef Gauthier describes his food as Cuisine Délurée which essentially is forward, using seasonal ingredients, and revealing new flavours in new combinations and preparations of pure ingredients. In the sauce laden, elaborate world of French cuisine, Chef Gauthier’s food is often said to have Japanese influence because of his concentration on the beauty and purity of the ingredients themselves. The Chef candidly told us how he hates symmetry on the plate, again challenging the ideals of traditional restaurant elegance and making us think about what is on our plate finding beauty in new form. It is unsurprising after meeting this young chef that he has been praised and recognized by culinary icons like Alain Ducasse.

Chef Alexandre Gauthier, his team and me

I dreamed of Montreuil-sur-Mer all weekend of the sights and sounds and the pleasure of the meal I would experience the following Monday at The Stratford Chef School.

I took the day off on Monday so I could truly enjoy all of it, untainted by every day pressures. I picked up some croissants au beurre at my favorite Patisserie Clafouti so I would have even the smallest thing to give back in exchange for how inspired I was. During the long and very icy drive to Stratford I reflected on what an opportunity the students at the Stratford Chef School were going to have, to learn from such a young chef with brilliant vision. Being passionate about food myself, and having just started a continuing education program in culinary arts, it really did seem like an unbelievable experience. I had no idea how special the schools program was until I sat down to dine with Kimberley Payne the Executive Director.

For the past 27 years The Stratford Chef’s school has offered its students an exclusive opportunity to be taught in actual restaurant facilities. The history of the school itself is unique and distinguishes it from traditional colleges. Recognizing a shortage in top talent locally, three of Stratford’s finest restaurants decided to form a training alliance and the Stratford Chef’s school was born. During their two year program students apprentice at restaurants in between sessions and the school has retained a remarkable 100% placement rate of its students. The school has grown from a graduating class of 12 in 1983 to 76 full time apprentice students in 2010 and with innovative hands on learning experiences such as their Celebrity Chef in residence program it is clear that they are attracting both the brightest Chefs in the culinary world to instruct and future talent.

Christine Cooper , Chef Rossy Earle, and Steve Stacey and I were all treated to an extraordinary culinary experience on the first night of a 5 night series of Celebrity Chef in Residence dinners with Chef Alexandre Gauthier.
Each of Chef Gauthier’s exquisite dishes were paired perfectly with a Huff Estates wine including a yet to be released 2007 Cuvée Peter Huff.

Christine Cooper, Rossy Earle, and I at The Old Prune

Below is the menu of what we were about to be treated to. The menu was designed to go from lightest to heartiest and was full of plays on textural and sensual elements of crispy with creamy and hot with cold.

Chef In residence menu Chef Alexandre Gauthier

Chef in residence menu- Chef Alexandre Gauthier

The first course was replaced with an exquisite Beef Carpaccio, a ribbon of apple, and egg foam.

Beef carpaccio with apple ribbon and egg foam

Next was a Purée de haricots blancs, foie gras, beurre d’ail- White Bean Puree with foie gras, croutons, and garlic butter.

Puree de haricots blancs, foie gras, beurre d'ail

Followed by one of my favorite dishes of the evening Gnocchi de petits pois- Gnocchi with peas

Gnocchi de petits pois

The main was a delicious Langue de veau crousillante, polenta crémeuse, beurre de câpres- Crispy veal tongue with creamy wheat polenta, pesto and caper butter.

Langue de veau crousillante, polenta cremeuse, beurre de capres

Heaven on a plate Tube de chocolat blanc, crème d’agrumes- White chocolate, citrus cream and Clementine

Tube de chocolat blanc, creme d'agrumes

Palate cleanser- Honey comb with lemon. Serving yourself directly off of the platter was very sensual and delicious

Palate cleanser honeycomb with lemon

Surprise ending- Hand cut petit fours with your choice of white chocolate and orange or caramel

Hand cut white chocolate and orange or caramel petit fours

I ended my evening with a special chat with Chef Gauthier him thanking me for the croissants, me thanking him for an unforgettable experience.

Me at The Old Prune- Stratford Chef School- dinner of a lifetime

A very special thank you to Kimberly Payne from The Stratford Chef’s school and Mary Luzon from Sizzling Communications for a rare and treasured opportunity.

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Peanut Brittle with bacon

Bacon seems to be everywhere these days. Sought after and savored, everyone is trying to work it into new creations and tasty treats. Chocolate bacon has been done and all the rage so I wanted to try something more innovative and work it into my peanut brittle.

You start with the microwave peanut brittle recipe and at the last step add 1 cup of crisp crumbled bacon just before you add the baking soda.


Peanut brittle hardening

The result, although denser than a regular peanut brittle was a little spectacular. I guess everything really is better with bacon!

Finished Bacon peanut brittle

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Tried and true microwave peanut brittle

As I was saying in my earlier post, this Christmas season has been extremely busy. Speaking with friends and family I know am not alone life is moving at a frenetic pace for most people these days.

One of my most treasured Christmas treats that my mom makes is peanut brittle. I have been making this for years and years for gifts and the results have always been accolades.

What’s different about this recipe? It is actually made in the microwave! So those of you who have been apprehensive to try your hand at it for fear of the candy thermometer here is your chance. It is very very easy to make the only caution I will give is all microwaves are a little different and every baker has at least one batch that doesn’t quite turn out as you are trying to get your times right. I have included both the times for my microwave and the average times in case you have a lower watt microwave.

Try this recipe you won’t be disapointed! Want to make it different feel free to experiment. One of my current favorite variations is to add 1/2 cup crisp bacon to the recipe acheiving that perfect salty/sweet balance ’cause everything is better with bacon!

I am not sure where my mom originally got the recipe from but it has been a family favorite since 1977

Microwave peanut brittle

Peanut Brittle

1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup white or golden corn syrup (golden will be a slightly darker result. I have used golden in the accompanying pictures)
1 cup roasted salted peanuts (tip if you are making the bacon variation use unsalted as the bacon will add a nice smoky saltiness on it’s own)
1 tsp butter (plus more for greasing cookie sheet)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda

Lightly grease a cookie sheet with butter.

In a large glass bowl (that will fit in your microwave) combine sugar and corn syrup.

Mix the sugar and corn syrup

Microwave 1 minute

Remove from microwave and stir in peanuts

Stir in peanuts

Return to microwave and cook for another 3-5 minutes (My microwave which is standard takes 4 minutes)

Remove from microwave and Stir in butter and vanilla

Stir in the butter and vanilla

Return to microwave and cook for 1-2 minutes more ( I cook mine for the full two)

Remove from microwave

Your peanuts will look lightly browned and the whole mixture will be extremely hot and bubbling.

Here is where the magic happens, add the baking soda and stir and the mixture will rise and get light and foamy.

Stir in the baking soda

Carefully pour the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and slightly tilt tray to spread out mixture.

Carefully pour onto greased cookie sheet

Let harden for 1/2 hour- 1 hour.

Crack and break into pieces and enjoy or give as gifts.

Finished Peanut Brittle

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Fashionable Fro-yo at Menchies

Menchie and Me

To be honest it was catching up with my friend Mary Luz Meija of Sizzling Communications that brought me out to the Grand Opening of the new Menchie’s location at 511 Bloor St W. in the annex.

Menchies 511 Bloor St W Store Front

When I arrived at the clean bright space I was very impressed by both the ambiance and the friendly owners and staff, and could see why my friend had been so excited about it. A fun and fashionable space to hang out with your girlfriends or bring your family.

The concept is self-serve, very smart from a marketing perspective as customers today are living in a world of companies bundling things up for them and almost assuming what they will like and not like. The clever slogan “What’s your mix” reinforces that their model is customer centric.

Menchie’s has a nice lay out where you choose your frozen yogurt from a number of rotating flavours. You can choose just one or try as many kinds as you like in your cup. With flavors like Tart Green Apple, Banana bread, Cake Batter, and Creamsicle there really is something for everyone. 90% of their yogurt selection is fat free and they also offer sugar free, low carb options for those of us who are seeking even more healthy choices. Best of all their yogurt is GMO-Free and is made from real Canadian milk with healthy active cultures.

Menchies 100 rotating flavors

Next you choose your toppings, it really feels like an endless selection and you can make healthy choices with nuts and fresh fruit or treat yourself with sweet candies, cheescake bits, and brownie bits. They do have some really unique toppings which set them apart two of my favorites were the Mochi balls which are made of Korean rice cakes and the spiced apples which were delicious red apples coated in cinnamon and nutmeg.

Menchies Toppings

More Menchies toppings

Finally you can choose to top your creation with a sauce. They have favorites like chocolate, strawberry, and caramel or you could choose a sugar free option like their sugar free chocolate sauce.

Prices are set by weight so you can choose as much or as little as you like.

The following weekend I was invited to a Blog-urt contest in which 15 food bloggers would compete for bragging rights and some nice prizes. Creations were judged on taste, creativity, attractive presentation, and marketing saavy of the creation’s name. The judges Adell Shneer senior food specialist at the Canadian Living test kitchen, Annabelle Waugh Food Director at Canadian Living Magazine, and Joanne Yolles the pastry chef who came up with Scaramouche’s coveted coconut cream pie. They had a tough job ahead of them with many very creative and tasty creations to taste.

I set out to make a caramel apple/apple tatin type creation using Tart Green Apple Fro-yo, skor bits, peanuts, spiced apple pieces, and caramel sauce. Struggling a little with the name I thought that I could change the tatin to tartin and add some fashionista flair by throwing the ista on the end. Tartin-ista was born.


I ended up placing third and winning a $50 Menchie’s card which I am looking forward to using by taking friends who were unable to attend the event to experience the joy of building your own frozen yogurt so they too can feel like a kid again.

Listed below are the winning entries. I have included links to the Menchie’s Facebook album so you can see their delicious creations, as well as to their blogs so you can follow their food musings and creativity.

First Place Tropical ThunderBeverly Ann D’Cruz
Second Place Banofee Pie by Irene Ngo
Third place Tartin-ista My creation

The best part of the day from my perspective was meeting such talented and nice people I encourage you to check out their blogs and hope you will be as inspired by them as I am.

Jennifer Hamilton-
Carrie Brunet-
Bonita Mok –
Joel Solish-
Christine Cooper-
Rebecca Tucker-
Stella Yu-
Diana Mancuso-
Neil Faba and Jenny Tryansky-
Julia Suppa-
Miranda Keyes-
Stacey Fowler and Mark Rodas-

Highly recommend visiting Menchie’s because an experience focused on the customer is always fashionable.

Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt
511 Bloor Street West

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