Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gallumphing To A New Location

Well, it's official. In a couple of weeks, I will be abandoning my underground lair for more spacious digs. I've been inhabiting the lair for about six years now, which has been great, but I'm ready for a change. The prospect of having some natural light in the place is nice, not to mention that Dar will be there, too. Co-habiting after so long on my own (and for that matter, on her own) presents its own set of challenges, but I'm looking forward to it.

For about a month now, after finally finding a place, I've been as busy as a one-legged man at a butt kicking contest. She has too, but she has a lot less stuff than I do. The last time I moved, my collection of stuff had been pared down to a fairly manageable size, but after living in one place for six years, I was astounded at the sheer volume of crap (um, I mean 'valuable collectibles') that I've amassed. Every morning for the last two weeks, I've been loading the car with at least a couple of boxes of stuff to be dropped off at Goodwill on my way home. The thing is, my place is still looking as cluttered as ever. Sheesh. I've packed six file boxes full of books that I'm keeping, and got rid of two more boxes, and I still have almost two full bookcases.

One good thing I did was to buy a large CD wallet which holds 224 CDs and booklets, then dumped all of the jewel cases into the recycling bin. It's amazing how much space those things take up.

Side note: Thank you to whoever carted away the CD towers (with a note reading, "FREE - Please Take Them") that I left on the street in front of the house. They were gone in less than two hours.

For a move, of course, one needs boxes and lots of them. Both Dar and I have been harassing our respective offices' Mailrooms for empty file boxes and printer paper boxes. I have also been staking out my local LCBO (that's the liquor store for those outside of Ontario) for boxes, and have made out like a bandit there, too. A mistake I made on one past move was to pack all of my stuff into a few large boxes, which then needed two people each to lift them. I almost threw my back out trying to heave a television-sized box full of books onto the truck. Ah well, live and learn.

The major challenge in this move is going to be the actual moving date. We take possession on September 15, but the place might be ready before then. You see, the current tenants move out on the first of the month, and then the place will be completely renovated before we move in. This means a completely new bathroom, new floors, new fridge and stove, and new kitchen cabinets. Nice. If the place is ready before the 15th, we can move in early which is what we're aiming for. Y'see, this year September 15 falls on a Monday, which means that we wouldn't be able to move until the Wednesday or Thursday, which I had already booked off work anyway as it is my birthday (yay!). We can't do it the following weekend, because I'll be out of town with the boys for our annual Golf Weekend, which we'd arranged months ago. Ideally, we'd like to move the previous Saturday or Sunday (the 13th or 14th), because then we could hit up our friends to help out. We could probably handle it ourselves if need be, but the thing is - we'd rather not. And, it's more fun with more people. We have to wait until a week before the 15th to hear for sure when we can move in.

Does anyone need some spiffy IKEA bookcases? Seriously. You can have them if you come and take them away.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Great Googly Moogly, Look At That Burger

On the spur of the moment, Dar and I went out for dinner at a place called The Yellow Griffin in Bloor West Village. This place boasts "at least 35 burgers" on the menu, and they're not lying.

I had been there once before with some friends about three or four years ago, and had been meaning to go back, so I'd been talking up the place to Darlene. She said "well, why not right now?" She's so smart. Why not indeed?

You can get almost anything you want on your 8 oz (!) burger in any combination, and if that isn't enough, you have a choice of 8 kinds of patty, including salmon and bison. There is also a vegetarian patty for those so inclined.

Of course, what would a burger be without a side order of something tasty? The choices are many and varied (check out the menu here for more details): "Grif-fries, sweet potato fries, fresh greens, traditional coleslaw, red baron kraut-slaw, the Village potato salad, Zucchini Sticks, Breaded Pickles or our awesome breaded onion rings!" Also, you can upgrade to poutine for an extra $2.75. Ah, poutine, that evil evil delicacy. They have three varieties to choose from, but I went right for the Hogtown Poutine which is fries, cheese curds, brown gravy and bacon.

Despite the allure of the "English Breakfast Burger", which comes topped with (to quote the menu) "Buckingham baked beans, HP Sauce and crowned with a royal fried egg. Jolly good!", I went for the New Mexican burger, which comes topped with salsa, guacamole, peanut butter, shredded sweet potato and chopped coriander. Oh. My. God. Sounds weird, tastes fantastic. Dar wasn't sold on the idea of peanut butter on a burger, but I let her try some, and the look on her face was priceless. "Oooooh," she said, "that's GOOD."

Darlene got the Cheezzzy Triple Cheese burger, which comes with "Lots’a feta crumbled under mounds of melted mozzarella and cheddar …it aint easy bein’ a cheesy triple cheese", and the onion rings. There were only 5 onion rings on the plate when it arrived, but they were HUGE.

Here are some examples of the more unusual offerings:

Big Apple Deli
Empire sliced cinnamon apple, caramel black treacle, Swiss cheese and Mannyhanny coleslaw

Reuben Burger
Slices of Pedro’s Pastrami - who’s Pedro? ole’Kraut-sauerkraut, topped with smoked Gouda cheese

Kung Fu Burger
Hay-ya scallions, Fu-man-chu peanuts, Kung Pao nut sauce and kick in some mozzarella

The tag-line on the menu reads: "Our burgers take 20 minutes to cook, but it's definitely worth the wait for the very 'un-fast-food' taste!" Very true. The burgers were phenominal, and the portions are huge. Between the 8oz burgers, the poutine and Dar's onion rings, we were most definitely full when we left.

'Course, we have to go back. Goes without saying, really. I want to try their "Burning School House" burger with chili peppers, red peppers, onions and smoky cheese. Maybe even on a bison burger.

The Yellow Griffin Pub is located at 2202 Bloor St. West in Toronto. You should check it out.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Little Something I Whipped Up

Last weekend I was sitting at home and thinking about what I should make myself for lunch. Of course, this decision is always largely based on what food I have on hand. As I walked into the kitchen I spied the small bag of new potatoes that I had acquired recently, and which I figured should probably be used up before too long. But what to do with them?

Since I had a bunch of other veggies in the fridge, I decided to make potato vegetable soup. Frighteningly logical, eh? I cut each potato in half, and chopped up a pile of carrot, celery, green onion and garlic cloves and dumped everything into a pot. I added a spoon of bacon fat (a little goes a long way), some salt and pepper, some chili flakes (gotta have the heat), some basil and oregano and just enough water to cover everything.

After that, I brought the liquid to the boil, then turned down the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Tasted it, added some more pepper and chili flakes (ooh yeah), and let it simmer another 15 minutes. Since I didn't want the potatoes to turn to mush, that's as long as I cooked it.

It turned out really well, and was nice and spicy. The only thought going through my head as I ate (besides "Mmmmmmm...."), was "I should have made more".

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Getting Silly At Czehoski

You, I'm sure, have been waiting with baited breath to hear about my outing to Czehoski last month. And, I'm also sure, you are anxiously awaiting the promised photographs of said meal. Well, here it is and here they are.

Neither Darlene nor I had been to Czehoski before, so despite seeing the pictures on the website were unsure as to what to expect. When we arrived, we were seated at a booth just beside the kitchen. This is not as bad as it sounds, as Czehoski has an open kitchen setup, and we got to watch the four kitchen staff going full-tilt boogie for the hour or so we were there. It was really kind of neat.

We both started off with a beer. For me this goes without saying, but Dar doesn't drink much beer so it was something a little different for her. I would like to tell you what kind of beer I drank, I really would. However, I can't remember except for the fact that it was Austrian, it was tasty, and I'd never tried it before. Darlene had a strawberry-flavoured number that wasn't bad at all.

The first challenge of the evening came when we realized that the menu they placed in front of us bore very little resemblance to the menu we had scouted on the Summerlicious website, or in fact, the menu posted on the Czehoski website.

This meant of course, no Satan On Horseback (salted pork belly wrapped in double smoked bacon) for me. Instead for an appetizer, I went for the Poutine with Bacon Gravy.

For those of you not familiar with this gem of French-Canadian cuisine, it is french fries with cheese curds and brown gravy. Normally it would be chicken gravy, but they had to be evil and serve it with bacon gravy. Oh my god was it good. It was a large partion, too.

Darlene ordered the Mission Figs stuffed with chutney and wrapped in double smoked bacon. Do you sense a theme here? We were a little put out when it arrived, because they really should have said Mission FIG with chutney, etc etc. There was only one of them, but it was one of the largest figs I've ever seen. I don't have a picture of it, because I'm a far better cook than photographer, and the picture I did take was out of focus. Oh well. The fig was delicious. I was allowed a small taste, and the bacon really complemented the fig (you are SO good looking).

For the main course I had a rough time. When going to these events, I like to stretch myself and try new things, but the two menu items that kept jumping into my face were the char-grilled burger and the flatiron steak cooked sous vide. When we asked the waitress her opinion on the matter, she said,

"Oh, try the steak for sure. It comes with a gorgonzola cream sauce that's just silly!"

Silly, eh? I'd never heard a sauce described quite that way before so, intrigued, I ordered the Flatiron Steak with gorgonzola cream sauce and mixed greens. You'll notice that in the picture at the top of the post, the steak came with frites (pronounced 'freets'). Apparently, the steak is normally served with frites, and they had changed it to mixed greens for the Summerlicious menu. However, she said that the kitchen staff was prone to serving it with frites anyway, so she would put a note on the order. Well, when the order was up, sure enough, there were frites with it, so she gave me the mixed greens as well. Not that I object to frites you understand, it's that I'd just polished off a large plate of poutine.

Darlene really had no problems with her selection, and ordered the Truffled Brie hand-made Pierogies with crème fraiche and riesling braised sauerkraut. Yeah, I thought it sounded pretty good, too.

I don't know if any of you have ever had pierogies made with brie before, but damn. They were really tasty.

OK, I have to tell you about the steak and the silly sauce.

First of all, I tried the steak by itself. I ordered it medium-rare, and it was the most tender steak I have ever eaten in my life. It practically melted in my mouth. I find myself saying this a lot lately, but it was a superly cooked steak. Now, normally the gorgonzola sauce would be something I would cross the street to avoid, not being a fan of stinky cheese, but since I was supposed to be stretching myself, I tried it. It wasn't bad. It was creamy and tangy and set off the steak nicely. I don't know if it was silly or not, but it was yummy.

By this point, we were both getting rather full, due to the deceptively large portions, but still had dessert to go, as it was part of the prix fixe menu. I ordered the Chocolate Terrine, and Dar ordered the Lemon Polenta Cake.

Not much to say about the terrine, except that it was very very creamy, and very very tasty. The lemon polenta cake, now that was interesting. It's exactly like it sounds - a cake made from polenta, and flavoured with lemon. Not something I've ever seen on a menu before, but I liked it. Not quite cornbread, not quite lemon loaf.

The sevice was fast and friendly, the food was excellent, and the bill came to about $100, including taxes and tip. Not bad at all.

Czehoski is located at 678 Queen St. West in Toronto. You should check it out.