I Coat Checked A Tiramisu

Two decades ago, I stumbled upon Marche restaurant, located at 181 Bay Street, Toronto, inside Brookfield Place. It opened my eyes to a fresh way of exploring food. It impacted my taste for variety and with it, endowed me with a zest of adventure in eating.

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Since opening in 1992, the contemporary Swiss market continues to be my oasis. Not always for the food (although often it’s very tasty) but for the memories it holds.

Fresh, healthy and fast is their guarantee. To me, it’s the holy grail of food frenzy-dom. The lively market atmosphere seats up to 600 guests. They do not accept reservations, unless you are a large booking. Sometimes, I’ve waited in line on a busy Saturday night. It was always worth it and never felt overcrowded.

The Marche Movenpick website claims it’s the largest Marche restaurant in the world. A landmark Toronto establishment, partly due to its size and location next to the Hockey Hall of Fame, it’s a haunt for both locals and tourists. It has changed ownership throughout the years and sometimes closed its doors for renovations, but typically it’s open Monday – Thursday 7:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. and Friday through Sunday 7:30 a.m. – 1 a.m. every day, all year round.

Getting there is easy as the subway station is nearby. If you are driving, park at Brookfield garage, located right next door to Marche between Yonge and Bay Streets on Wellington. Marche will validate your parking if your bill is $30 dollars or more. It’s then free and you can leave your vehicle for the rest of the day while shopping around downtown.

Upon arrival, you are greeted and provided with a plastic card (somewhat like a credit card) to shop for your meal. The quirky, open concept restaurant is set up in tiny market cooking areas for you to choose from. Select a table in one of the many themed rooms. Each table has a sign for you to flip over to reserve your place and you are then free to discover. At the end of the night, present your little card and the person at the register will total up the cost of your meal and add a 12 per cent gratuity.

The food is cooked fresh in front of you, and a wide range of menu options are available including woodfire pizzas, pasta, seafood, steak, chicken, stuffed sandwiches, Thai soups, sushi, green salad and a host of other selections. Enjoy a wine or beer from the bar, which offers ample choices by the glass or bottle. Soft jazz or flamenco guitars can be heard in the background, softening the tone of the buzzing atmosphere of guests meandering about.

Save room for dessert. You will not be able to walk by the dessert bar, with its huge range of fresh baked goods and tasty choices from the ice cream market. The sweet smell of vanilla and sugar mixed with chocolate is a delight. My first taste of Tiramisu was here, and so began my long love affair with the dessert. Not to mention the coffee bar featuring espresso, filtered coffee, tea and hot chocolate with truffles to finish off the evening.

I have spent loads of time strolling the Marche markets. It’s my “go to” place. In fact, I recall a scramble one evening when my girlfriend and I double booked for two dates and the second was a late night wine and dessert at Marche. (Still makes me giggle.) I even brought my parents here to meet my future in-laws for the first time. Since then, I’ve brought my husband, my daughter and countless others to enjoy its offerings. Although, one night will go down in history as the best ever at Marche.

It was the early ’90s. I was living in Toronto and had a friend visiting. Marche had long become one of mine and my roommate’s favourite destinations. My visiting friend and I were long overdue to catch up and planned for a late night of talking, eating and dancing. On the way out, my roommate demanded that we bring her back a tiramisu dessert. Of course, I promised with a smile.

My friend had never been to Marche and, despite how often I frequented the restaurant, there still were many things I had not yet tried. We decided that night we would sample (almost) every type of food on offer. Dipping sushi into the green wasabi and noshing on pasta, salads, and meat, the courses seemed endless. We also drank with each selection, tasting wines and learning about their grape varieties. The explosion of flavors in my mouth was matched by laughter, and made for a good night. It’s probably the first time I truly appreciated the experience of eating. Instead of the old staples we permitted ourselves to explore and understand the importance of a discerning palate. Feeling tipsy and incredibly full, we could not depart without paying a rather large cheque and purchasing a takeaway Tiramisu.

Tiramisu
Tiramisu is a tantalizing dessert of cake infused with a liquid such as coffee or rum, layered with a rich cheese filling and topped with grated chocolate. No two are alike. It has been a favorite since my first bite.

The night was not over. We still needed to stop for dancing. Late dinner followed by dancing was always warranted. However, what to do with the tiramisu? Interestingly enough, Tiramisu is an Italian dessert and in English means “pick me up”. It may have proven helpful for us single gals to cart the Tiramisu onto the dance floor and wave it about, but this was not practical, so I did what seemed logical (after many glasses of wine). I coat checked the Tiramisu! We had a number provided to us to recover it at the end of the night. But, can you really trust a coat jockey with chocolate rum filled dessert? We didn’t think so, so we took a photo to be sure we knew where to find him should the tiramisu go missing.

Marche holds many delicious memories. My palate has grown over the years, but I still frequent with family and friends. One thing is for certain, I never ever leave without the Tiramisu! If you have a foodie biz or restaurant location I should try email me at ladydinesalot@gmail.com or follow my blog LadyDinesalot.com

Guilty Pleasures: Eat Your Heart Out

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We ate our hearts out at the second annual Guilty Pleasures fundraiser in support of Loving Spoonful.

On the evening of Feb. 3, eight local chefs came together in the Chez Piggy kitchen to raise awareness of this worthy cause. Dubbed the “heartbreaker event of the year”, guests joined local chefs from Chez Piggy, Le Chien Noir, Olivea, Bella Bistro and new this year Pan Chancho bakery, Atomica and Days on Front. Each chef prepared a course of torn, ripped or shredded tasting features for our dining pleasure.

Loving Spoonful is a non-profit organization based in Kingston. Their goals are to enhance access to healthy food in an empowering, inclusive and environmentally sustainable manner. Over 30 per cent of Canada’s food is wasted, which translates to almost $27 billion every year.

“Last year’s Guilty Pleasures event was a huge success and so much fun for all those involved,” said the 2013 host, Stev George, owner and chef at Olivea Restaurant.

“It created a sense of community among the chefs.”

“I believe that the work being done by Loving Spoonful is bold and important,” said Zoe Yanovsky, owner of Chez Piggy restaurant. “Their efforts to enhance access to healthy food for all deserves our attention and support and I am thrilled to have Chez Piggy and Pan Chancho participate in the Guilty Pleasures dinner. To be able to work together with our talented culinary neighbors and put what we do best on the table seems the most fitting way in which we can contribute. As a frequenter and a fan of all of the participating restaurants, we are in for one hell of a great meal -and I thank them all.”

“Loving Spoonful collects surplus fresh food from restaurants, caters and farmers and delivers it to approximately 20 shelters, including hot meal programs and other social service agencies that serve the community of Kingston” said Mara Shaw, Executive Director of Loving Spoonful. “We are incredibly thankful for the support of these local chefs and business and members of the community who came out to support us.”

The crisp, cold evening was quickly forgotten upon entering the Chez Piggy dining room. At 6 p.m. the first course by chef Jay Legere of Days on Front was served, featuring a tuna tartate with a citrus vinaigrette, avocado puree on a crostini paired with a ‘Blood and Sand’ cocktail. The sweet, zippy drink was a perfect match to the fish. From that point on you just knew the evening was going to be superb.

I sat at a table with a jovial bunch of individuals who were just as excited as I was to try the many courses made by Kingston’s talented chefs.

The Master of Ceremonies was local businessman, Adam Koven, who also volunteered his time. He didn’t miss a beat as each chef sprung from the kitchen, showcasing his or her delicious culinary creation for us to enjoy.

Typically the chef is behind the scenes creating, Wizard of Oz “man behind the curtain” style. This evening allowed us the opportunity to get to know the chefs about town and for them to work alongside each other. We are truly blessed in Kingston to have such amazing talent. Home base, chef Ian Arthur from Chez Piggy prepared ‘Broken and Bitter’ skewered veal hearts on a bed of bitter greens. Each tasting had a heartbreaker theme. The Atomica chef’s was called “Opposites Attract”, Bella Bistro’s “Black Seoul”, Olivea’s “Torn Apart” and Le Chein Noir’s “Highland Fling”. We finished with “Cold Hearted” sour cherry praline ice cream and an “I’ll Break Your Heart’ chocolate spoon cookie by Pan Chancho bakery.

The veal hearts were a first taste of heart for many. Served rare, each morsel melted in your mouth. (In fact, I am still dreaming of them) “I thought I would try heart, especially for the heartbreaker theme,” said chef Ian Arthur. “And, because the original owner of Chez Piggy, Zal, used to try and serve hearts on the menu each year but never really had many takers,” he laughed.

It was a fitting tribute given that this month marks the 35th anniversary

of the opening of Chez Piggy restaurant. Owners Rose Richardson and Zal Yanovsky were long supporters of the community. They renovated the once abandoned limestone stable and launched a dining experience that blended grace and gusto, taste and imagination. Since then, ‘The Pig’, as regulars refer to it, has been a favorite destination for food lovers for five star dining, takeout, casual drinks or long lunches on the patio.

Today their daughter, Zoe Yanovsky, owns and operates Chez Piggy (68R Princess Street) and Pan Chancho bakery (44 Princess Street).

“Guilty Pleasures was a smash success!” said Zoe following the evening. “And it was a pleasure and an honor to be involved.

 “Being active in the community is an inherent part of our business – it began with my parents early on. Our major areas of support are The Food Sharing Project, The Rose and Zal Annual Breakfast, The United Way, The Limestone Learning Foundation’s Crystal Ball, The Food Bank, Kingston Literacy & Skills and now Loving Spoonful, among many others.

“I believe that a healthy and prosperous community goes hand in hand with the health and well being of our small local businesses.”

While there may be no hearts on the menu this Valentine’s Day, treat yourself and your partner to a night out at Chez Piggy, pre-order dinner from Pan Chancho or any of these other local chefs’ restaurants. Guaranteed

each one will break your heart! If you have a restaurant or foodie biz suggestion for me email ladydinesalot@gmail.com or follow my blog at Ladydinesalot.com.

My Funny Valentine

“Valentines Day is for girls,” said my daughter. When asked why she would suggest that, she claimed, “The boy doesn’t really care. It’s just another day.”

I was aghast; however, who could blame her? She has two parents who are rarely in the same city, let alone the same country, on Valentine’s Day. The day passes with heartfelt phone calls, a card and occasionally flowers. I am big on cards. Maybe it’s the writer in me, but to me what’s written inside is bigger than any old gift.

I told her that both people in a relationship both deserve to feel loved, not just on Valentine’s Day, but all year long. Her father and I are good to each other every day.

All of this talk of love reminded me of an encounter I had while on a recent visit to a café in Picton.

I stumbled upon the Regent Café a few years back and I try and stop whenever I’m in the area. Hubby and I have taken the dog in the summer to sit on the patio and watch passersby. Located at 222 Main Street West, the café sits next to the historic Regent Theatre. IMG_0780

This sweet little stop opened in 2001, adding to the fabric of the downtown main street. It’s open for breakfast and lunch, and offers up good food made with local ingredients such as breakfast burritos, eggs benedict, fruit and yogurt, fresh baked muffins, warm bowls of soup, salads, sandwiches and pizza. The atmosphere is charming with its local artwork, white walls and quaint little tables offering guests a chance to relax and chat.

On this particular day, I ventured in on my own for a steaming latte and chocolate croissant. Warmly greeted by owners David Wheately and Megan Van Horne, I found a spot where I could fire up the laptop and settle in to do some work.

Shortly after my arrival, a nicely dressed, distinguished gentleman strolled in. With a broad smile, a newspaper and book tucked neatly under his arm, he asked to use the café phone. Perhaps he was a regular, as owner David Wheatley did not hesitate to hand it over. I was intrigued by the man’s question, given that pretty much all of us carry cell phones these days, so I leaned in to learn more.

He explained his wish was to call his sweetheart and invite her for lunch. He had just been to the shops, and wanted to have her meet him there, at a cozy table for two. I sat appearing as if I was not prying in on their conversation, but a smile escaped as I secretly was in awe of the gesture. While my husband texts me daily with cute messages, I couldn’t recall him calling and asking me to meet him for lunch in some time.

The owner was friendly as the gentleman told the story of how the two had met. He spoke of meeting her through his friend, who was her brother, and how she looked that first day. His grin was wide and his eyes danced as he spoke of her initial refusals and inevitable acceptance. I still recall the feeling of wonder and pleasure this man’s love for his (wife, I assumed) gave me. We all have “our story” of how we met our significant other.

I often tell the story to my daughter of how her father “had me at hello,” as much for his Kiwi accent as his boyish good looks. He has been my Valentine every day since then. (just not in person on the actual day)

This man in the café sat adjacent to me, his legs crossed as he read his book, waiting for his beloved. He was a handsome man. The pessimist in me worried that she may not show up. How could they still be in love after such a long time? I worried for them without even knowing who they were.

In particular, I worried because I hoped and wished that this would one day happen to me. That after all the busy days were behind us, my husband would call and still want it to be me he invited to lunch.

The Regent Café is whimsical and rich with history -a perfect destination for lovers. I’ll bet if its walls could talk, they would tell of many couples, young and old, quietly sipping coffee and eating something sweet.

First dates offer up promises for the future – the smallest gesture is exciting and new. The real test comes when after all the firsts and seconds pass us by, when the good times and troubling times wash over us in waves. For love to last, each of us must remember the other.

I tell my daughter that love should be present all year round. That on any given day you should expect the unexpected from the person you’ve picked to have lunch with for the rest of your life.

If you have a foodie biz or restaurant for me to visit email ladydinesalot@gmail.com or follow my blog LadyDinesalot.com or on Facebook.

The Regent Café 222 Main Street West Picton, Ontario Open 5 days a week – Wed – Fri (9-5pm), Saturday (8-5 pm), Sunday (8-4pm) * Later if there is a live event on at the Theatre next door.

Food That Warms the Heart and Soul

Braised Pork
Baby its cold outside! Confession; I wear socks to bed in this weather. I hate being cold. I’ve been known to sit for long periods of time in my car before getting out to duck into a store. The mere thought sends chills up my spine.

I stepped out the other day and froze my nose and a few other important body parts that were exposed. I like snow -just not the kind that includes ice and deep dives in temperature. I feel like I’ve been waddling around like a penguin for months. The only escape (other than a trip south) is cooking, and preparing cold weather food so delicious it warms the cockles of your heart.

I can’t be the only one who loves this time of the year (despite the cold); it means eating hearty, rich soups; deepdish casseroles; home baked cookies oozing with chocolate and roast Sunday dinners. In fact, in weather like this, a roast is a welcome treat any day of the week.

Busy weeknights? You can prepare a roast dinner well in advance and leave it simmering for the day. Nothing beats the aroma wafting through the house when you return. It’s unquestionably the most heart-warming sensation. It has the ability to lure not only the neighbor’s cats and dogs but their family too.

Don’t forget your winter vegetables. A balanced meal helps fight off colds and speeds up recovery. After a summer of beans, tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant, winter squash seems a little boring. But, this amazing vegetable is considered a superstore of vitamins and it’s even low in calories. After a chilly dash from the car to your warm house, a bowl of acorn squash soup is a yummy way to regenerate.

Try your hand at this savory pork recipe. Squash and a medley of roasted vegetables are wonderful accompaniments to this wintery meal. The roast is first browned to sear in all of the juices. Prepare in a crock-pot for the day on low and let time do all the work.

Braised Pork with Roasted Vegetables

Serves 6

Ingredients:

One 3 ½ to 4 pound boneless pork loin

Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons of grape seed, olive or safflower oil (whichever you prefer to cook with)

2 onions, coarsely chopped

2 whole carrots, peeled and chopped

4 potatoes, washed, peeled and cubed

6 large garlic cloves, peeled and halved

2 sprigs of fresh savory

1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

½ cup of dry white wine

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pat the meat dry and season generously on all sides with salt and pepper.

In a large soup pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the meat and brown, turning on all sides, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside.

Put the onions and garlic in the pot and cook until softened, scarping up any browned bits, about 7 minutes. Add the rosemary and thyme and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and bring to a simmer.

Add the meat to the crock-pot and vegetables, cover, and put in the oven. Cook all day the in the slow cooker or in the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes, basting the roast every 20 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted in the center registers 160 degrees F. Remove the meat to a cutting board and let sit for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the liquid in the pot to a low boil. Add the mustard and whisk until thickened. Add the parsley and whisk again.

Slice the roast into ½ inch slices and arrange on a platter with the roasted vegetables. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve at once.

If you have a restaurant or foodie biz that you’d like me to check out please email me at Ladydinesalot@gmail.com or follow my blog LadyDinesAlot.com or on Facebook.