The ever elusive macaron

So I saved my first real recipe post for the macaron. The first time I made these, my friend coached me through the process, and when they came out perfectly, I felt like it was serious stroke of luck. I'm pretty sure I held my breath the whole time while making them... I'd heard nothing but horror stories about how difficult they are to do successfully. So much so, when I was going to make them the other day for work, I felt like throwing in the towel and ordering them instead from a local baker. Then I read this post on the BraveTart blog (whom I now absolutely love by the way) about the ten macaron myths, and regained the confidence to try to make them myself.

Macaron Recipe: Taken and messed with from the I <3 Macarons book

1 cup Almond Flour
3/4 cup Icing Sugar
3 Egg Whites
1/4 cup Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
(Food colouring and flavours - such as raspberry, are extras and totally not necessary. You can fill these suckers with anything you like)

As noted in the Macaron Myth post, this book, and most recipes, tell you to age your egg whites by leaving them out overnight, which I did in this case - but I'm thinking you don't have to, I can't see why it would matter in the long run.

Turn on your oven to 375F. Put the almond flour and icing sugar into a food processor and pulse until it becomes evenly combined. Put the egg whites and the normal sugar into a stand mixer (or into a bowl and use a hand mixer, doesn't matter). Whip both ingredients at a fairly fast speed until the white are glossy and make a stiff peak - which is when you remove the whisking device, the eggs whites stick to whisk in a soft peak that only gently folds over when you turn it right-side up.

If you want to use food colouring for the macarons, gently stir it into the egg whites now. Use more food colouring than you think you need, since they will turn darker in the oven (mine turned from blue to brown, embarrassing). Dump the almond flour mixture into the bowl with the egg whites, and stir together gently with a spatula, just to combine.

Now you have to do the macaronage, which is basically scooping up as much of the macaron batter with a spatula as you can, and mushing it against the side of the bowl in a sweeping motion, repeating this about fifteen times. If you don't know what I mean, google it. I'm sure there's a video that explains it a bit more clearly. Once you're done, the batter should gently fall off your spatula in clumps, which is the way you know you're done.

Put the batter into a piping bag, and pipe 2.5cm round circles on a baking sheet covered in a silpat or wax paper. Tap the baking sheet gently on the counter to remove the bubbles. As soon as the oven is ready, put the macarons in, sit down in front of your oven and hope like heck they rise properly. Repeat until all the batter is used up.

And to be honest, these puppies weren't perfect - a little too crunchy, possibly caused by a too hot oven. However, this was easy enough to do that I will try it again, and I hope you do too!

*** I apologize for not having pictures in this post, and for not posting for awhile. Our laptop is completed infected by a virus, and we're looking into replacing it or something... we will be back in full form soon, I hope! ***


Treats review by J!

*Disclaimer* K won a $25 dollar gift card for Auntie Loo's through a draw on Victoire's blog (love your stores!)* 

Today, we asked our friend J to review for us, since we brought over all the goods to a dinner she ever so graciously invited us to. Without further adieu, here's J!


If you ever thought that in order to have deliciously satisfying and comforting desserts requires butter, eggs and other animal products, think again. A trip to Auntie Loo’s bakery on Bronson St. in Ottawa will surely change your mind. A recent Friday afternoon visit by K meant a redemption of a $25 gift certificate and yielded a box full of vegan baked goodness. 

Among the scrumptious treats were Lavender cupcakes, Earl Grey cupcake, Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcake, Nanaimo bar, gluten-free brownie and banana cake… and they were all vegan!!! I can say that I, a long-time vegetarian with some vegan tendencies, was extremely impressed. Not only could I not tell the difference between what I was eating and non-vegan versions of the treats, I was so impressed by the flavors and textures of the Lavender cupcake and Nanaimo bar that I ate. 

The cupcake was moist with subtle hints of Lavender and the icing was similar to a buttercream but without the heaviness that normally comes with using all the butter that goes into making the icing. The Nanaimo bar was rich and full of nutty/coconutty goodness with a smooth custard centre and covered delicious chocolate. There is no doubt that I will be visiting Auntie Loo’s again! 


Many thanks to J for her post - you're the coolest vegetarian I know - and that's saying something!


Madonna Boobs

I know, I KNOW. You're sitting there going - wtf is she talking about? What place does Madonna's chest have on a site like this? Well, I'm not actually talking about Madonna's boobs, I'm talking about what our family affectionately refers to as Madonna Boobs, since I haven't yet asked my sister, who speaks some Japanese, to translate for me.

Most candy that I eat (even though now I'm not eating as much) has some kind of back story to it. These are no different. As I haven't traveled too much, I've always tended to like foods that I can't easily get. One of my earliest candy-related memories (yes, I have many) is walking from my uncle's home in Mississauga to the little Japanese corner store with my sister. We would stock up on all the Japanese candy we could (there wasn't much demand for it in Sault Ste. Marie, still isn't) and brought it home with us.

The best part was when the owners started recognizing us, even though we only visited every six to ten months. So, my cravings for Japanese candy have long been a part of my life. When I moved to Ottawa I started frequenting the Japanese store on Slater, which sadly no longer exists, and I can't recall it's name (anyone?). I'm not sure if any other Japanese stores exist in Ottawa, but for now, I have been satisfying my hankering at T&T on Hunt Club Rd. Much to my surprise, I saw a whole sleeve of Madonna Boobs!

They aren't cheap, at a little less than $5 for the whole thing - but hey, they're imported, and I never see them, so I forgave myself for buying this expensive treat. Madonna Boobs, in particular, are made with the popular (I'm assuming here) combination of strawberry chocolate and dark chocolate. If you've never had Japanese chocolate, be prepared, it's very unique. It's very smooth and the flavours are very obvious in the chocolate.

Can you see why we call them Madonna Boobs now? Their flavour is a bit difficult to explain, but if you get a chance to try Japanese candy or chocolate, do it. I also realize the timing of this post can be construed as a bit off, since I bought these before the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I guess you can take this as my call to support Japanese businesses like Meiji, and don't be scared to try Japanese chocolate!


Food court dinner

Sometimes, when you're shopping in a mall, you gotta eat. Often, there are many questionable choices in a food court. Actually, one of my most memorable meals was in a food court. It was a savoury crepe in the West Edmonton Mall, and it was chicken thai. It was fantastic, and the vendor was really sweet.

Back to my original reason for this post, needing food in the Rideau Centre. Aaron had his usual, Manchu Wok. I, however, wanted to try the newest fast food stop in the food court.

The Chippy
Rideau Centre Mall, Ottawa

The Chippy is the fast food version of Elephant and Castle, which used to be upstairs at Rideau, but has been re-branded as The EX. The Chippy's focus is deep fried seafood and fries. From memory, I think they had shrimp, scallops, and different types of fish. The special of the day was two pieces of haddock, fries, coleslaw and a drink.

The whole special came to a little more than $7. It was actually pretty decent. The fish was hot, crispy, and the batter was close to perfect... not too thick, not too thin. The fish itself was good, firm, and didn't taste fishy. The fries weren't as good, a little too soft for my liking, which was possibly caused by the oil temperature being a bit low? The coleslaw was fresh enough, but watery. All in all, a decent FISH meal in a food court. I'll be back!

- K

3.14159265s are round

Happy PI Day everybody! It's apparently also another day, ahem, which I learned about via Twitter, but I'm not going to discuss that here! To celebrate this incredibly nerdy day, A and I decided to go grab a pie for dessert. We ended up at:

Life of Pie
1095 Bank Street, Ottawa

There was only one type of pie left when we got there at 3:30, so we decided to pick a Cranberry/ Blueberry pie to take home. There were a lot of other munchies there tempting me, like cupcakes, scones, and Pascale's Ice Creams... but today is all about pie.

The pie looked like it had promise. Nicely baked and golden brown, with a thick crust - which is a must-have with me.

Unfortunately, we were disappointed by this pie. The filling was good, with tart cranberries and sweet blueberries. The crusts, however, were an issue. On both the top and bottom, the crusts were paper thin. I'm actually a little impressed they held together when I took out our slices. You could barely taste the crust through the cranberries and blueberries, and when you got to the end, a huge piece of thick crust awaited. Although normally I would find that awesome, but when I finally got a chance to actually taste the crust, I felt like it could have been a bit flakier.

I feel like today might have been an off day, since I've ordered a berry crisp and a pumpkin pie from them for Thanksgiving, and both pies were fantastic then. Or maybe the trick is to only order the single crust pies, and avoid the doubles. In any case, we will try them out again, maybe next time for lunch (and what sounds like a tempting handpie!)...



I love breakfast. I love croissants, waffles, pancakes, french toast, sugary cereal, basically anything with carbs. I seriously love pastry, and sugar.

So it has been pretty difficult for me over the past few days to generally abandon my cravings for a healthier breakfast. However, this transition was made substantially easier with Siren Granola. After seeing many positive reviews, I figured if I was going to eat food I thought would be gross, I might as well support a local business. I ended up purchasing Siren Bakery's Blueberry and Pecan Granola from Herb and Spice on Wellington.

(Insert picture of Siren Bakery Granola here)

The reason there's no actual picture up there is because I. ATE. IT. ALL. Well, by me, I mean A and I. I suppose I should put my opinion of granola in context. In the past, all granola I've eaten has basically tasted like sawdust, so to be honest, I wasn't expecting this granola to be any better. I tossed some on vanilla yogurt, and proceeded to eat breakfast.

I was incredibly surprised by not only the taste, but the texture as well! This granola is not sawdust (thank goodness!), it is chewy, sweet and hands down the most delicious healthy thing I've ever eaten. I now consider myself a total addict, and I can't wait to try some other flavours! If you, like me, have a tough time eating healthy breakfasts (or healthy food in general), I dare you to try Siren Bakery's Granola and not fall totally in love.


Au Pied de Cochon Cabane à Sucre

This post won't be heavy on the review side. Just go. If you get the chance to go, just do it. You will eat like a complete pig, and everything will be totally delicious - totally worth the money. Martin Picard was in the house, manning the smoker and talking to guests, but when we were done he was nowhere to be seen, so no picture with him sadly.

... and here we go.

My sister-in-law and her boyfriend. The cabane was a classic set up, and we sat at a table for ten.

Creeper shot of guy shucking oysters with an amazing fox hat.

Maple syrup. 'Nuff said.

Boozy coffee with maple liqueur, maple whipped cream, and burnt maple sugar around the rim. Tasty as all hell. Would have been nice to know they were $10 a pop before ordering three, but oh well.

Oyster starter served on a slab of wood. St. Simone oysters with a maple gelee. This was my frist time eating oysters. A little slimy, but edible.

Caesar-esque salad with pork crackling, ham, and cheddar. Pretty much the only green thing for the whole meal.

Maple cured fish (didn't catch what kind) blini's. Totally messed up eating this properly, but the fish was tasty.

One of the group's favourite course - pea soup with foie gras and pork. Totally divine. Would eat this for days. Also my first time eating foie gras, it was amazing!

Half a tortiere. Wish I had bought one to take home, the crust on this thing was the BEST crust I'd ever had. Served with homemade ketchup.

Deep-fried smoked salmon maki with pate (I think) and a maple soy dipping sauce.

Maple syrup soaked potatoe and lobster fritata. Amazing presentation.

What you look (and feel) like when all this food has been served to you within an hour. Delicious, delicious pain.

Maple pulled pork with maple roasted potatoes and parsnips... Apologies for the pork being out of focus, I snapped this picture quickly so I could dive in. The other group sharing our table didn't eat their HUGE piece of crackling, and I was right pissed at them for wasting something so tasty.

Chicken in dark beer and maple sauce with gnocchi. Best gnocchi I've had, ever. That's really saying something coming from me, I have high standards when it comes to gnocchi. I think the beer sauce kicked it over the top.

Apple tarte tatin. The crust was again, amazing. It was beautifully caramelized, and was as sweet as candy.

We didn't catch what this was, this occurred occasionally due to the language barrier on our part, but was soaked in maple syrup.

Maple galette with maple sugar cotton candy. This was so creamy and crunchy, it was great. It was sad we were so full by this point and couldn't finish it all.

Last but not least, maple syrup in snow. Classic and fun to eat indoors.

And that's it. So again, go. Go, go, go. The drive was terrible (the weather), the food and service was superb, and if we get a chance to go again, we will. It also only cements our desire to visit Au Pied de Cochon on our next visit to Montreal.


Old people and diners

My threshold for deciding whether a restaurant is worth frequenting, especially if it's a diner? If it has a large elderly clientele.

Louis' Restaurant and Pizza
181 MacArthur Avenue, Ottawa

A and I were sans my sister last week, since she was in Yellowknife for work. My will to make healthy, homemade food quickly went right the heck out the window. We were starving, and didn't want to go very far from our place to get something to eat. I had been told by a colleague that Louis' made the best pizza, so on that recommendation, we decided to order from there.

I had already decided on pizza, and ordered the small pepperoni with banana peppers. A was going to order pizza as well, until he saw his weakness on the menu, chicken parmesan. It came with spaghetti as well, so he was sold.

I went to go pick it up myself, and was surprised to walk into a completely packed restaurant. As noted above, you know a restaurant serves good solid food and has good prices when it has a large elderly clientele, and this place fit the bill. It was nice though, with the old people and the neighbourhood folk, it felt downright homey. It also helped that my server referred to me as "Hun" and "Sweetie" no less than five times in the two minutes I was there.

I opened the pizza box... and thought to myself - YES. I loved that they were not cheap with the banana peppers, as most of you may know, I love me some spicy food. The pizza itself was great, the cheese was warm and gooey, and the crust was pretty good, maybe a little thin in the centre, but they made up for it at the edges.

I will let A talk about his chicken parm.

Howdy! So as some of you know, K and I are from the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie FYI, sometimes A forgets not everyone knows what we're talking about -K). The problem with being from the Soo, is that Italian food anywhere else just isn't the same. I am incredibly picky about my chicken parm. It is my second favourite Italian dish, after a nice, big, deep fried Panzerotti! I do however have to hand it to the folks at Louis'. This is the best chicken parm I have had outside of the Soo. The portion size was HUGE. The chicken itself was incredibly crunchy, while still being moist and tender, even though we got takeout. The pasta was perfectly cooked and there was a lot of cheese on the chicken. My only complaint is that the sauce was much different then I am used too. The sauce back home is, well, sweet. I have never found another sauce like it, no matter where I order Italian from. All this considered, I will surely order from Louis' again, and more than likely, I will have chicken parm.

So all in all, good takeout with decent prices. We will definitely order from there again.

Play and a haircut!

So last Wednesday I decided it was time for a haircut, it had been about 2 months, which is 2-3 weeks past my usual schedule. K and I get our hair cut at Fernando Cellini on Sussex, which lucky for me, is 3 doors down from Play Food and Wine (@playfoodandwine) one of our favourite restaurants.

For the first year and a half, K and I made the trip for dinner at Play at least once a month. We were there so often that Grayson (their Wine Director) got us in contact with some of the winemakers he knows in Niagara to visit for our honeymoon! We have since slowed down on frequency in which we visit Play, so we can afford a vacation eventually! It had been since the Stratus Dinner in December (December! Like that was such a long wait, jeeze. -K) that we had been, and I was getting impatient to go again, as K can attest too.

I decided to take advantage of the fact that I would be in the area and went for lunch for the first time last Wednesday. It was weird being there during the day, as I didn't recognize the servers or the bartender. I decided to sit at the bar, and had a good chat with the bartender. He asked me how often I had been at the restaurant, to which I responded quite frequently, and I am positive he thought I was lying to him. However, my truth-i-ness was proved, however, when Stephen Beckta, the owner of Play, came out from the back and sat next to me and chatted for a few minutes. I love that the owner, as well as the staff, are so friendly with their customers, as I think that is important to a restaurant's long-term success.

I had a hard time deciding what to eat, as everything is always great, but I ultimately chose the Pork Belly and Steak Frites, the latter of which I have had on every single trip to Play. I was also lucky enough to go on the day that Michael Moffat (Executive Chef) and Katie Brown (Chef de Cuisine) were working the line. This was the first time Michael was in the kitchen while I was eating at Play. The plating was amazing and everything was cooked to perfection.

The Pork Belly dish was totally different from the last time I had it. This time it was a very big piece of Pork Belly, perfectly grilled, with Parsnip Puree, Cranberries, Grilled Apples, and Sage. The tart cranberries were balanced perfectly by the apples, and the puree helped to cut the richness of the Pork Belly.

The Steak Frites are always necessary. For some reason, I just have to order this dish when I go. When K and I go for dinner, we always get laughed at because our "dessert" ticket always has an actual dessert for K, and a Steak Frites for me. Since opening, the Steak Frites has been changed, however (I think) it is the only item that has been on the menu since the beginning. I love the miso marinade on the hangar steak, and the Frites are always perfectly cooked and have just the right amount of sea salt on them. The garlic aioli is a great dip for the Frites and sometimes the Steak.

As much as I love going for dinner at Play, lunch is a fantastic alternative. They have a lunch special of 2 plates for $20! That is an amazing deal for lunch in the Market and I will for sure be back for another lunch visit soon! Maybe K can join me next time?!

- A