Shopping Spree at Rube’s Rice

If you ever go to Toronto the main Farmer’s Market in the city is held Thu, Fri and Sat at the St Lawrence Market. Plan to give yourself a lot of time to explore the market if you are a foodie, it is huge. I first visited this market about 7 years ago and I fell in love with one particular shop specialized in rice.

correction: South Market open Tue to Sat (food shops) and the Farmer’s Market is on Sat only

© City of Toronto

Lost on an island stand in the middle of a corridor of the basement floor is Rube’s Rice. Rube is the owner and one of the first tenants of the present day market. He specializes in rice, beans, lentils, couscous and anything dried. I was so amazed back then by the exotic selection of rice I bought about 5 different kinds. I always dreamed of coming back one day to this shop.

Alas it took 7 years until I made it back. Not because I has not returned to Toronto since then, I have many times, but because we always ran out of time on the agenda. A couple of weeks back I was again in the Ontario capital city visiting a dear friend. We finally made it back to the market and to Rube’s Rice shop….10 minutes before the closing of the market! It was a mad dash. Kind of funny when you think about it: I am not a huge fan of rice…not the plain white kind.

Well I may have been short on exploration time but I did not waste a minute in grabbing another selection of rices to take home. Next trip -which may very well be in a month or two – I demanded that a real trip to the market with plenty of leisurely time be on top of the outings list. But in the mean time I will share with you my rice finds!

Wehani rice

2 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 45 min

Wehani is an aromatic red whole-grain rice from northern California. It was developed from basmati rice seeds from India. Its grains are reddish-brown in color and slightly resemble wild rice. When cooked, the rice produces an aroma similar to that of hot buttered peanuts, and is slightly chewy.

Jade Rice

1 1/2 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 20 min

Now this one I was already familiar with and just adore this unique rice. Bamboo rice is short grain white rice infused with pure fresh bamboo juice. When cooked, it is pale green and tends to be quite moist and viscous, causing the grains to stick together. This rice is high in vitamin B, and gives it a flavor and aroma much like that of a green tea.

Madagascar rice

1 3/4 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 20 min

The Madagascar Pink Rice, a unique Malagasy rice variety grown from a single seed, has an elusively aromatic taste of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and is also nutritionally dense.

Volcanic rice

1 3/4 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 30 min

Volcano Rice is a mineral and an antioxidant packed blend of traditional aromatic West Java rices grown on volcanic soils rich in magnesium, manganese and zinc. It is grown by family farmers in the Tasikmalaya region of Indonesia.

Israeli Couscous

1 1/4 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 9 min

Not a rice but it seems like this couscous is everywhere all of a sudden, especially in the foodie blogosphere. Ptitim is an Israeli toasted pasta shaped like rice or little balls. Outside of Israel it is known as Israeli couscous or Jerusalem couscous. Ptitim were invented during the rationing period in Israel, from 1949 to 1959, when rice was scarce.

Wordless Wednesday Jean Talon Market Finds

Duck, Goose & Turkey Eggs

IIP Cracking for Nostalgia: Cracker Jack Popcorn

Nostalgia! Talk about a theme that made me panic at first for this month International Incident party brought to us by the FAB  Jeroxie. This is what I love about this challenge, you have to rack your brains before hitting the kitchen.

I remember reading it, panicking and purposefully forgetting about it for a while. Food that makes me nostalgic! You would think it could be easy but I got a blank page in my memory file.  The day came where I had to face my demons and pick a dish. So I thought what marked me food wise. I figured I would go with the very first thing that came to mind. And then it hit me like a bolt of lightning. I knew what I had to make. Cracker Jack Caramel Popcorn!

No it is not a recipe from my mother that came to me or a first special exotic meal, it was Cracker Jack. Why? It reminds me of a person I wish I had gotten to know much better in my life: my maternal grandfather. His name was Charlie and I did get to know him a bit but he passed away when I was about 7 or 8 years old. I remember him as a good nature happy but pretty quiet person. I can’t remember what he had but by the time I was born he was somewhat sick, and then he had a stroke. He spent if my memory is correct about 18months in the hospital paralized on the right side and unable to speak before passing away. So my memories of him are limited.

But once he did pass and I was older I always reveled in the stories my mother and grandmother would tell me about him. He was, before being sick the first time, a real ‘bon vivant’ as we say in French, someone who really enjoyed life, laughed, smiled…and he was a MAJOR trickster. You would not believe some of the stories I heard. Still in the brief time I had him in my life I have developed 2 very precise memories of him and both are from what is now my parent’s cottage.

Cracker Jacks Popcorn glass

My first memory is swimming. I love water and I cannot get enough of swimming. He had a habit of taking a quick dip in the lake every morning upon waking up before doing anything else in the summer. Of course I usually went swimming with him. The second memory is the food related one. Back then we had a small convenience store maybe 5-10 min by foot and when ever he had to go buy something, usually his newspaper, he would take me and he always bought me a candy. I almost always picked a box of Cracker Jack. Every time I see Cracker Jack I think of my grandfather. So this is my little piece of nostalgia I wanted to share with you. And here is  my version of this nostalgic treat…..a prize included as well!

Cracker Jack Popcorn

Ingredients:
1 bag microwave popcorn
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup peanuts

Directions:

1. Prepare popcorn as per package instructions in microwave. You should get about 4 cups of popcorn. Put popcorn on a baking sheet and add peanuts on top.

2. In heavy saucepan mix sugar, butter and corn syrup. Stir over medium heat until boiling and continue boiling for 5 minutes at medium heat without stirring. Remove from heat and add vanilla and baking soda.

3. Pour over popcorn and peanuts and stir to coat quickly.

4. Bake in preheated 250F oven for 1 hour stirring several times. Cool, break apart and store in tightly covered container. Makes 5 cups

Cracker Jacks Popcorn

A truly dangerous recipe to have lying around the house. I would only make it again for like a part where I know there would be no left overs because now I have to snack on some everytime I pass near the kitchen…not good for the waist line!

International Incident Nostalgia Party

 

Camp of Cupcake Madness

Today was the day of a long awaited Montreal event: Cupcake Camp Montreal 2010. This event took place at the Fairmount Queen Elizabeth. This was the second year this event takes place in Montreal. Cupcake camp is a 100% volunteer organization that sells cupcakes and has a cupcake competition for the soul purpose of raising funds for charities. This year the recipient charities are Kids Help Phone and Tablée des Chefs.

Last year it was a small event. This year the word got out and it was total madness. Last year it was held at a restaurant, 700 people showed up, 3,500 cupcakes were up for sale and $8,000 was raised. This year the event was help at a huge location, almost 20,000 cupcakes were up for sale, people came in the thousands (2,500 made it in, 2,000 could not get in) and over $34,500 was raised.

The 8 cupcake treasures I took home, see list at bottom

The doors opened at 1pm and we arrived around 1h30pm. We lined up for over 45 min (outdoors and indoors) to get in. There were so many people is was crazy. When we were inside the hosts would politely ask over the speakers for people to leave if they were done as there were 2,000 people waiting outside to get in and the room had reached maximum capacity. It was a madhouse and you had to fight with a smile to get to a cupcake table. It was not only a sugar rush but a cupcake adrenaline rush too! I know of 2 groups of people who gave up and did not wait to get in.

Double line outdoors, and it was COLD

Our gang

The 1,000s of people inside the room

This year’s event was a major success, bigger then possibly imagined. And there were cupcakes everywhere. We were a small gang and separated..the core foodie group sticking together. And we came up with a system: each take a bit out of our cupcakes. I tried a chocolate cinnamon chipolte cupcake; a blue yam and pistachio icing  cupcake; a curry coconut icing cupcake; a fig with blue cheese and violet cupcake; a double chocolate cupcake…those are the ones I remember. Lots of cupcake pics coming up!

Blue yam and pistachio icing

Sorry, but WTF????

A sweet Sheppard's Pie rendition topped with a sweet potato chip

So many cupcakes, I am seeing fuzzy

And here are a few competition entries. Clebretity judges included Chuck Hughes, Nadia G of the Bitchin Kitchen, food critique Leslie Chesterman, Bob le Chef,Ricardo and more.

Montreal themed cupcakes

It was such a madhouse I don’t know if I would have the courage to go again but I do think everyone should experience Cupcake Camp Montreal once in a lifetime. So next year go and get there early armed with patience. It does bring out the kid in all of us.

The 8 cupcakes that made it home:

  1. Chocolate and butter cream icing
  2. Apple something, can’t remember
  3. Vanilla and chocolate chips
  4. Matcha with a mochi on top
  5. Feta, zucchini and rosemary, only savory one I saw
  6. Vanilla with roasted marshmallow topping
  7. Chocolate and tofu
  8. Raspberry, pomegranate and blood orange jelly, white velvet cake and cream cheese icing!

High Tea Afternoon + Contest 75$ gift certificate

EXTRA, EXTRA…we have a fabulous give away with CSN Stores: a $75.00 one-time use gift code to any of their sites. You can redecorate your entire house with their 200+ stores, from a dog bed, to a new dish set, an ottoman coffee table, or even a fountain for the garden . See bottom of post for details!

Please cast you vote for me to be the next food blog star! Just click to vote for my 3rd entry here. Thank you! Voting ends October 7th 6pm PST, hurry!

On the last dinner with the CEE dinner group I met a new member and we really hit it off on a possible friendship level. She also seemed to be quite the foodie and said she worked as a concierge in a hotel downtown. As a concierge she often gets free invites to restaurants or other cultural outings so she can then reference hotel guests if she likes the place. So when she sent me an email asking if I would like to accompany her at such an event I jumped at the chance.

We went for a complimentary High Tea service at Le Maitre Chocolatier at 3 o’clock. This place is centrally located on the elegant part of Sherbrooke Street close to the museums and shopping areas.

The small first floor is the shop. Here you can buy fine classic style chocolates and wonderful teas. All the chocolates are made in house by the owner, Nada, a young Moroccan lady. The staff was perfectly polite, perfect attentive service and very friendly without overstepping the personal boundaries. Shaun (I think) was the tea connoisseur and wonderful to chat with.

If you go up the stairs you will find the lovely English style tea room. There will be a new addition very shortly to the menu but there are several available services such as the breakfast tea, a scones and tea service, a full tea service as we had, and soon added a Moroccan version with that country’s specialties. I WILL have to go back for that one. Also there are sometimes small classical music concerts held here.

After being seated the waiter presented us with a box of all the teas being offered. All teas were in round canisters, labeled, that we could open them up to smell the tea. I really loved this concept. We had a good idea of what we wanted but if you are not familiar the staff will assist you in choosing the right teas for you. We chose 3 over the course of our afternoon: Anis Black Tea, Green tea with Orange Blossom and Roobos (a red tea). All were excellent.

Here is a our full service as a cup of tea is being poured for us. Never do we pour our own tea.

We started off with the bottom row of sandwiches. I have a sweet tooth and tea sandwiches are relatively simple so it was my least favorite yet all was excellent. The selection included a salmon rillettes toast, a tomato and pepper sandwich, my favorite one the Asian pear and blue cheese sandwich, and the quintessential cucumber sandwich. The bread used was lovely and dense, not flimsy white bread.

Next level was the scones. There were 4 in total: 2 plain, 1 blueberry and 1 raspberry. These were served with a beautiful selection of jams and a homemade crême fraiche which was divine. The scones were delicious and not too heavy but definitely filling. Thank god I did not have lunch and was starving. My tea companion and I split the fruit ones in two so we got to taste everything. I wish I could take home a bucket of that crême fraiche.

And finally, the pièce de résistence, the sweet top level. We each had 5 different sweets to try. Not sure what one cake was but had apricot in it I think, one was a chocolate marzipan combo, then 2 macarons each and a house chocolate truffle. What a great way to end this experience.

I am not sure how much this service goes for, I believe around 20 or 30$. If you have never had a tea service I highly recommend the experience, it is a great outing with the girls. I know of some expensive hotels that offer such a service but I really liked it here as it was small and quaint. Surprisingly there was a quiet but constant flow of customers. Oh and great for a different kind of date with your beau. Let me know if you go!

Le Maitre Chocolatier

1612, Sherbrooke Ouest
Montréal (Québec) H3H 1C9
(514) 544-9475

___________________________________________

CSN Stores $75.00 gift code Contest, to enter

  1. Leave a comment in this post telling me what is your favorite afternoon snack.
  2. Tweet about the giveaway, copy paste…1 entry per day
    @cheapethniceatz CONTEST Win a $75 Gift certificate http://cultureatz.com/high-tea-afternoon/
  3. Posting on Facebook does NOT count, sorry.
  4. This contest is only open to the US and Canada.

Good luck! Giveaway ends Oct 12th 2010 at midnight EST!


Homemade Speculoos Spread

Last  Day to Vote 6pm PST! Please cast you vote for me to be the next food blog star! Just click here for my official entry Thank you!

A while back I mentioned how I fell in love with a particular product I received from a Foodie Exchange with Mathilde who resides in Bordeaux, France. This product was a sweet spread to be used on toast and it is made of a very popular cookie called Speculoos.

Speculaas is a type of shortcrust biscuit, traditionally baked for St Nicholas’ Eve in the Netherlands (December 5) and Belgium (December 6). Belgian varieties use no or less of the spices and are sold as Speculoos. I wrote a post about these cookies so click here to read more about them.

I went gaga over this spread….like finished it with a spoon in the jar! I did find some here but at 6.99 a jar it is a luxury treat. But what if I could make my own? Well I found a recipe here on the Seitan is my Motor blog. I can buy the cookies for about $3-$4 and most of the other ingredients I already have at home. Let’s see how it compares to the store bought version…

Homemade Speculoos Spread

150 g speculoos cookies
1 tbsp vanilla sugar (or regular sugar + 1/2 t vanilla extract)
50 g (a bit less the 1/4 cup) coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp canola oil or more if needed (I needed WAY more)

Directions

Grind the cookies into a fine meal using a food processor.

Melt the coconut fat and let cool down until luke warm. Mix speculoos meal with the sugar and cinnamon  in a bowl. Stir in fat and oil. Mix until well combined.

This spread will harden in the fridge and it is best to let it stand 30 min at room temperature when serving.

Notes:

– Experiment with the oils: play with the quantities or types of oils. if you cannot find coconut oil try using butter, shortening, vegetable oil, etc.
– If the spread gets too oily/runny and one or two additional processed cookies.

OK so it is not quite like the original thing as there is no way a home kitchen appliance can grind the cookies down enough but still it is quite delicious. Warning: this is very addictive stuff!

UPDATE: After retesting the recipe just now following Indigonat’s comment, my version is the crumbly spread version here. Still good but crumbly. For a creamy version check this post at cuisine de Gaelle in French. See the dirrefence in the resulty below when I tried hers.

Vacation Eatz: Sanitary Beach

No, Raleigh is not by the beach as most people seem to think. Depending on which beach you decide to go it can be anywhere from a 2h30min drive to 5h. Going to the beach for me was a priority so my host was accommodating. We went the first and last day. I may not enjoy spending the whole day on the beach but for me a holiday without sand in my toes and a swim in the ocean is just not complete. First day we went to Wilmington beach and the last day we went to the Fort Macon State Park near Morehead City.

On that last day we decided ultimately to have dinner in the area before heading back home to Raleigh. Being by the sea I had a hankering for some seafood. We went to Morehead City where we checked out about 3 restaurants. We settled on Sanitary Fish Market (a fave of my friend’s dad apparently). Sexy and appetizing name, I know! But there is a story behind it…

On February 10, 1938, two partners, Tony Seamon and Ted Garner, opened a fresh seafood market on the Morehead City waterfront. A small building had been rented from Charles S. Wallace for $5.50 per week with the understanding that no beer or wine would be sold and that the premises be kept clean and neat. The name “Sanitary Fish Market” was chosen by the partners to project their compliance.

By the spring of 1938 it had 10 stools in the market to serve seafood. Sanitary Restaurant opened in 1942. Since 1969 they can sit over 600 people! You don,t actually sit in a room with 600 people though. it is split up into 3-4 rooms. You can tell each room was a built addition. Of course it is located on the waterfront. The atmosphere is very reminiscent of a coast seafood shack…just a big one.

When you sit down you get a basket of hush puppies. Apparently hush puppies are a normal thing here because in 6 days this was my 3 or 4th free basket of hush puppies. These were the best! I am not going to tell you more about them…this will be a future post! One thing I will say: they may taste good but the shape (which is the common shape) is way too similar to a small turd!

We shared a starter of Peel-& Eat shrimps. The concept is fun – you have to shell them – but they were rather tasteless. Rich had a fried combo plate of shrimp, scallops and clam strips. The scallops were amazing. I opted for a daily special of a full Flounder stuffed with crab. The fish was very good but it really needed more seasoning in my opinion. I ate like half it was a huge portion. One of my sides was a stuffed baked potato which was awesome but I was so full my friend had most of it. He can be a bottomless pit lol.

I have traveled extensively over the US and restaurant, service, customs can vary greatly. There are a few things I noticed here in the South that stood out for me…coming from Montreal, Canada:

1) Waiters are always in a good mood, always give their first name and will usually bend over backwards to get you what you want.

2) Restaurant food in North Carolina is dirt cheap! Most of the bills for us two were not far off what in Montreal would be per person.

3) Service is wayyyyy to quick. Like you order and 5 to 10 min later you have your main meal. For me a nice Montreal dinner outing is a good 2-3 hours spaced over time. In no way did the staff ever make me feel rushed to leave the table but you can tell the general mentality is get in, eat fast, get out. Eating out should be an event, and experience…not a chore to get over asap. But I digress, that is the European side in me talking perhaps.

And so you have it. I hope you enjoyed this little Vacation Eatz series of my summer holiday. We will soon be returning to our normal program. Actually first thing up will be a restaurant review: Bofinger. This Montreal restaurant (a chain now with 4 addresses) specializes exactly in the Southern food I ate for 6 days while in NC. Did I think they measured up to the real deal? Tune in to find out!