Monthly Archives January 2014

Unearthed: Fortune Fuji Apples for Lunar New Year

Look at these beauties that I found at Longo’s Glen Erin: pretty, pink Fuji apples with Chinese lettering on them, packed in a festive red box.


The friendly voice at the other end of the @LongosMarkets twitter handle explained that these apples are grown with paper stencils attached to block the sunlight, leaving natural and elegant Chinese lettering when the apples have matured. According to Longo’s, the message on the box – 恭喜發財- loosely translates into English as “congratulations and be prosperous”. Wikipedia states that in Chinese culture, the colour red “symbolizes good fortune and joy” and yellow symbolizes “neutrality and good luck” and “is considered the most beautiful and prestigious color”¹.

These apples look lovely piled into a pretty bowl or adorning a place setting at a Lunar New Year celebration. Delightfully crisp and sweet, they would make a thoughtful gift for a lucky Chinese friend.


However you celebrate it and however you say it (How to Say “Happy Lunar New Year in Vietnamese, Cantonese, and Korean), Happy Lunar New Year to you!

¹Source: January 25, 2014

Please check my Grocery Store Directory for details on Longo’s supermarkets.

Accessories (mini takeout box, geisha place card holder, chopsticks, and napkins) courtesy of

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Streetsville’s Best Kept Secret: Andiamo Pasta Plus

“Should I broadcast our secret to everyone?” I asked my husband, fearing that an increase in popularity would change our favourite little pasta place. But after bumping into a man in Montreal who raved about his recent visit to Andiamo Pasta Plus, it’s obvious the secret is already out: Andiamo Pasta Plus serves generous portions of well-priced, freshly prepared food that is downright delicious.

Located in a small commercial strip just north of the old Streetsville post office, the building’s non-descript exterior obscures the pleasures that await inside. The interior is snug and casual yet the service is polished and attentive. While chef/owner Jim Sangarapillai is busy in the kitchen, his wife and co-owner Kathy is often overseeing the front-end, ensuring that each visit is enjoyable.

Andiamo’s menu is extensive. Antipasti options include shrimp, mussels, squid, grilled vegetables with goat cheese, sautéed rapini, and bruschetta.


Andiamo’s Bruschetta is loaded with chopped fresh tomatoes.

There are a variety of soups and salads. Our favourite is Andiamo’s version of Greek salad (fresh mixed greens with ripe tomatoes, cucumber, onion, colourful peppers, olives, and crumbled feta).


Andiamo’s version of Greek salad is full of fresh vegetables.

With thirty-three pasta dishes on the menu, there is something for everyone. I’ve enjoyed everything I have tried. My favourite so far is the Fusilli alla Curry (plenty of fresh vegetables and grilled chicken in a fragrant, creamy curry sauce). My husband and my son like the Spaghetti with Meat Balls; it is so good that I am often torn over whether to order it or try something new. Whole wheat, gluten-free rice pasta, or spelt pasta are also available upon request, for a small charge.


Spaghetti with Meat Balls in Tomato Sauce

My son’s favourite entrée, the Piccata di Pollo (chicken breast with garlic and parsley in a lemon white wine sauce), never fails to render him into silent bliss. My girlfriends gushed over the Involtini di Pollo (supreme chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese, spinach, and sundried tomato in a white wine mushroom sauce). There are six chicken dishes to choose from.

The veal offerings are as abundant. I may have just lost my husband to the Osso Buco alla Milanese – he has fallen in love with the meltingly tender veal shank braised in a rich, flavourful sauce and served with saffron rice.


Osso Buco Alla Milanese

Chef Sangarapillai prepares a tender Veal Parmigiana, smothered with melted cheese, and blanketed with a well-balanced, garlicky tomato sauce; I order it frequently. Veal or chicken entrées are served with nicely seasoned roasted potatoes and a delightful medley of grilled vegetables or pasta. Daily fish and meat specials are also offered.


Veal Parmigiana

Reservations are welcome and recommended because Streetsville’s once little-known gem is quickly gaining popularity, but chances are they can still fit you in even if you haven’t called ahead. Take-out and catering are available. LLBO licensed.

Andiamo Pasta Plus
135 Queen Street South
Streetsville, ON
Telephone: 905-826-4904
Tuesday to Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: 4:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Monday open for private parties only.

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New Year’s Resolution #2: Tiny Chocolate Indulgences

It’s hard to go cold turkey (pardon the pun) after a season of festive overindulging. I know I’ll still need a treat once in a while, and when I do I’ll indulge in chocolate; not mass-produced, sugar-ridden candy bars but really good, finely crafted dark chocolate that ranks high on the pleasure scale and is relatively healthy.

Of course, gourmet chocolate is expensive but it is meant to be savoured one square at a time. One little square of the very best dark chocolate popped in my mouth – crunched once or twice just to break open the flavour, then melted very slowly to bring out the character and lengthen the pleasure while I swoon over the creamy luxury – is a tiny, worthwhile indulgence that will satisfy me far more than a flavourless candy bar.

To find the best dark chocolate I can get my hands on in my area, I head to my gourmet gurus, John and Loretta Viola, owners of The Shop For All Reasons in Streetsville.

The Shop For All Reasons

Behind these doors lies an impressive collection of gourmet chocolate and other gourmet specialty pantry products that the Violas have knowledgeably selected from some of the best local and international artisans, including what Food & Wine magazine called “the world’s best chocolate”.

Here is a line-up of the dark chocolate bar collection at The Shop For All Reasons, including some facts I learned from the Violas:

There are three types of cacao beans used to make chocolate: 1) Criollo is the best bean but is rare and susceptible to disease. 2) Forestaro gives higher yields but lacks flavour. Up to 90% of chocolate is made from this bean. 3) Trinitario is a mix of Criollo and Forestaro. It has more flavour than Forestaro and is more robust than Criollo.

What does “bean-to-bar” mean? Unlike big companies who mass-produce chocolate, artisanal “bean-to-bar” chocolate entrepreneurs import the dried beans themselves – usually directly from the farmers, working closely with the farmers, paying them fair prices, and often investing in them, to produce the best beans possible – and then craft the beans into bars. Bean-to-bar chocolate entrepreneurs sometimes prefer to redirect the money they would have paid for Fair Trade certification and invest it in the farming process.

Please click here to sign up for The Shop For All Reasons newsletter, to be informed of upcoming chocolate tasting and other tasting events. It’s a great way to learn about what you are buying and find your favourite before investing your money.

Amedei (Tuscany, Italy):

Tcho (San Francisco, CA):

  • Single origin, bean-to-bar chocolate.
  • Travels to plantations and works directly with farmers, providing innovation and technology, to produce great cacao. Provides flavour labs to farmers so they can make chocolate from their own beans and taste the result of their growing efforts (many cacao farmers have never tasted chocolate made from their own beans).
  • PureNotes dark chocolate focuses on 4 flavour tones inherent in different cacao beans: 1) Fruity (Peru), 2) Bright (Madagascar), 3) Chocolatey (Ghana), and 4) Nutty (Ecuador).

Askinosie (Springfield, MO):

  • Single origin, bean-to-bar chocolate.
  • Travels to plantations in Ecuador, Honduras, Philippines, and Tanzania, working closely with farmers to produce great cacao. Pays higher than Fair Trade prices to farmers and shares 10% of net profit of chocolate made from beans grown on their farms.
  • Two types: 1) Origin: single origin dark chocolate 2) CollaBARation: combines single origin Trinitario dark chocolate with flavours such as malted milk, licorice, and coffee.

Olivia (Cantley, Quebec):

  • Single origin (Caribbean Islands), certified organic, milk-free, bean-to-bar chocolate – roasted or raw.
  • Raw chocolate is made from non-roasted Criollo/Trinitario beans. Because the beans are not roasted, this chocolate is smoother and less bitter, allowing 10% more beans without the need for more sugar.
  • HempMilk Chocolate is raw, bean-to-bar, soy-free, nut-free, vegan, and dairy-free; uses only hemp milk not cow’s milk.

Wild Ophelia (Chicago, IL):

  • All-natural, preservative-free, often organic ingredients from “esteemed farms and artisans throughout the USA”.
  • High-quality chocolate combined with wildly creative flavours such as: Smokehouse BBQ Potato Chips (dark), New Orleans Chili (dark), Southern Hibiscus Peach (milk), Peanut Butter & Banana (milk), and Sweet Cherry Pecan (milk).
  • Created by “chocolate revolutionary” Katrina Markoff, founder of Vosges Haut-Chocolat.

Gourmet Chocolate

Address and contact information for The Shop For All Reasons can be found on my Grocery Store Directory.

Some information obtained from product website.

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New Year’s Resolution #1 Make Veggies the Star of the Plate: Mashed Caramelized Cauliflower & Steamed Vegetables with Flavoured Butter

I’m making vegetables the star of my plate by preparing them with a little extra love instead of treating them as an afterthought. I’ll either give them a leading role across half of my dinner plate or serve them solo in individual courses – as the French do – and give them centre stage. It is so satisfying to be served one or two carefully prepared vegetable courses (salads, soups, or cooked vegetables), followed by a smaller main dish.


You don’t have to serve my Mashed Caramelized Cauliflower and Steamed Vegetables with Flavoured Butter together but I think they make a nicely composed plate. The cauliflower steps in for mashed potatoes and is mounded on the plate first; the steamed veggies are stacked artfully around the cauliflower and then adorned with fine sea salt and a tiny dollop of flavoured butter.

Make the flavoured butter first, ideally well ahead of time (you can even freeze it for longer storage). Prep the cauliflower and mixed vegetables earlier in the day. When you are ready to cook the vegetables, prepare the cauliflower first and keep it warm; then steam the vegetables. You can even make the cauliflower ahead and reheat it gently in the microwave just before serving; and you can make the steamed veggies ahead if you undercook them slightly, then later sauté them in the flavoured butter just until heated through – but they only take up to 8 minutes to steam, making them easy to do last minute.

Mashed Caramelized Cauliflower

Serves 4

The key to mashed cauliflower is to add as little liquid as possible. Roasting the cauliflower in the oven instead of boiling it prevents the cauliflower from becoming waterlogged and adds a delicious caramelized flavour. You can play with the flavours of this basic mash when you are puréeing the cauliflower, by adding curry powder, grated parmesan, or whatever you like to pair with cauliflower.


1 head of cauliflower
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon butter, softened
3 tablespoons or more of milk or cream, warmed
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove and discard the leaves and large centre stalk of the cauliflower; cut the remaining cauliflower into evenly-sized florets; wash and then thoroughly drain.
  2. Dump the cauliflower (including the crumbly bits) onto a large, parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Add oil and salt; toss with your hands to coat evenly; spread out evenly in a single layer. Roast for about 40 minutes, until the largest pieces are very tender and cauliflower is golden, turning once after 25 minutes.
  3. Transfer cauliflower to the large bowl of a food processor. Add butter. Purée until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula when necessary, and adding milk or cream slowly, only a bit at a time and just enough to get the consistency you want. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and additional salt, if necessary. Serve hot.
  4. If making ahead, transfer to an airtight container, cover, and store in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to serve, reheat gently in the microwave, stirring occasionally, until hot throughout.

Steamed Mixed Vegetables with Flavoured Butter

Serves 4

The butter is your palette and the vegetables are your canvas; choose whatever vegetables and butter flavouring combinations that please you most.

Curried Tomato Clementine Butter

Makes ¼ cup

This recipe is just a suggestion of how you can play around with different butter flavourings; the possibilities are endless – perhaps lemon and fresh thyme or lime and fresh basil (omit the curry powder, tomato paste, and clementine zest)?


¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
⅛ teaspoon Arvinda’s curry powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Finely grated zest of 1 clementine (avoid white pith)


  1. Place all ingredients in a small bowl; mash with a fork, stirring to mix thoroughly.
  2. Place on a small sheet of parchment paper; roll into log, twisting both ends tightly to seal. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. Slice or shave off the desired amount of butter onto freshly steamed vegetables, grilled fish, or roasted chicken. Any unused portions can be stored in parchment paper, enclosed in a resealable freezer bag, and placed in the freezer for longer storage.

Steamed Mixed Vegetables

Serves 4

Choose whatever combination of colourful, seasonal vegetables you like; again the possibilities are nearly endless. My local Longo’s carries baby Sunburst squash, baby zucchini, baby turnips, and real baby carrots (Harvest Fresh Sweet Nantes Carrots and not those bagged, pared down “baby” carrots). If you can’t find baby veggies, just cut whole veggies into smaller portions.

If you have a stacked steamer, place the veggies that take longest to cook on the bottom level and those that cook more quickly on the top level. I only have a single steamer, so I place them in groups all in one steamer. Either way, watch them carefully and remove each group of vegetables as soon as they are cooked to your liking.


Salt for water
3 baby turnips, cut into eighths
6 baby carrots (comments in intro above), longer ones cut half
200 g baby Sunburst squash
200 g baby green zucchini
Flavoured butter (see recipe above)
Fine sea salt


  1. In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil; reduce to a simmer. Arrange vegetables in groups in a steamer placed over the simmering water; cover and steam for 5 to 8 minutes, checking carefully and removing the vegetables as soon as they become tender (some will be ready before others).
  2. Serve hot, seasoned to taste with fine sea salt and adorned with flavoured butter.
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Fun, Festive Finish to the Holidays: Almond Pithivier from Patisserie D’Or

Here is a fun, festive way to finish the holidays: an Almond Pithivier from Oakville’s Patisserie D’Or. Also known as Galette des Rois (cake of kings), Almond Pithivier originates from Pithiviers, France and is traditionally served on January 6th to celebrate the Epiphany (when the three kings arrived to celebrate the birth of Christ).

Almond_Pithivier Patisserie D'Or

Patisserie D’Or handcrafts their all butter puff pastry which enrobes a delicious frangipane (almond cream) filling; hidden inside is a small porcelain figurine. According to tradition, the person whose slice holds the hidden trinket is honoured as King for the Day and gets to wear the paper crown. The figurine is small; tread carefully until you find it.


Found! My son is King for the Day; we are at his mercy. Good thing midnight soon approaches!

Available in plain almond, apple almond, or pear almond. Includes hidden porcelain figurine and paper crown. Purchase frozen, defrost for 30 minutes, and follow the easy baking instructions. It bakes up beautifully.

Please call ahead to ensure availability. Check my Grocery Store Directory for contact and location details for Patisserie d’Or.

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