Keep Calm & Panda On

Pandaron 1 arrIt’s panda bear pandemonium! Rightfully so, everyone loves these adorably playful creatures. But if you don’t get why, here are two cute and cuddly reasons to explain: Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue. Literally translating to Canadian Hope and Canadian Joy, the aforementioned Canadian born male and female pandas cubs are recent additions to the Toronto Zoo. Beyond endearing – not to mention G.T.A.-close – I, like many other animal lovers, couldn’t miss the chance to gain a glimpse of these cuties while they’re still small-ish and in these part of the woods.

Ooh’s” and “awes” in full effect, lucky visitors get to see not one or two pandas but, the whole family. Sighting mama bear, papa bear and the twins, it’s no wonder why this rare viewing is worth the lineup. Bearing witness to panda-style habits – eating, sleeping, and repeating – I learn the charms of living the simple life. Clearly, as in this case, less is more – more pampering of the senses, that is. Pandaron 6 arr

Similarly catering to one’s desire to see and explore further, other ‘mini’ sights to admire include: the polar bear cub, white lion cubs, a couple of Canadian Lynx kittens, and Nandu the Indian Rhino calf. Observing as much as time allows, I leave this excursion with both appreciation for nature’s four-legged beauties and inspiration to re-create baked replicas of my own.

Pandaron 8 arrDusting off a reliable French Macaron recipe, anyone can make their very own ‘pandaron’ – panda macaron. Irresistibly sweet and soft – to the palette and eyes – these round delights are sure to please any panda or cookie lover. Doubling down, those who like both – fans of pandas and cookies – are definitely in for a twin-of-a-treat.

Getting my hands on the necessary ingredients coupled with elbow grease, there’s no pampering or ‘spaw’ treatment involved for this tedious task. Pandaron 7 arrMeasuring, sieving, whisking, folding, piping, and the list goes on, I feel taking a panda nap – almost, only after the cookies are done. Like the cubs’ namesake, I’m both hoping for a blotch-free outcome and joyful upon glance of completed baking sheets of bashful faces – no hot messes here, thankfully.

Pandaron 10 arrGrateful that my interpretation of the Canadian born panda cubs turned out right, I’m left as elated as the showing of the real cubs. Truly mirroring the characteristics of genuine macarons – round with a smooth domed top, and standing tall on ‘feet’ – these sugary ‘pandaron’ babies don’t fall short nor flat. Ideal in taste, size and texture, it goes to show that a trusted recipe and precision is all you need to render quality macarons. To finish my display, I couldn’t resist but to keep my ‘pandarons’ company with matcha green tea biscuit sticks – the perfect snack to complement this cookie round table.

Pandaron 9 arrFor those who are adventurous, try making other animal-inspired macarons. For the creation of lions, tigers, bears or other, simply use your imagination and follow your preferred recipe. From here, add a few drops of food colouring gels and design your cookies accordingly. Ideally, detailing is best using a contrasting colour to reveal and highlight signature lines, spots or markings of your favourite zoo animal. Though the making of macarons measure higher in difficultly than the average chocolate chip cookie, they are undeniably fun to make- for this baker, at least. All the same, the choice to buy or make is yours. Staying zen about the issue, there’s no debating what everyone will do ‘chez-moi’  all can keep calm and eat ‘pandarons.’

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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“Food of the gods”

SOMA chocolate 1 arr

Toronto is home to many foodie hotspots, and rightfully so. But, where do chocoholics go?  Having heard many great things of one particular chocolaterie, I thought I’d pay a little visit to a quaint gem in the heart of the Distillery District.  Say it is so ─ SOMA Chocolatemaker.  Catering to fans of all things cacao, enter this one-stop chocolate shop and you will not be disappointed.  A local paradise of sorts, SOMA looks, smells, and embodies the multifaceted tastes of chocolate.

SOMA chocolate 2 arrPleasantly surrounded by one of my favourite things ─ chocolate, of course ─ I take some time to admire the shop’s ambiance and machinery such as the cocoa grinder. Also capturing my attention, I locate an encased chocolate and nut salami that is uniquely made and available by SOMA.  Clarification provided, this show stopping treat contains no meat and can be sliced and served in rounds, making it ideal for individual delighting at any holiday party. SOMA chocolate 3 arr

SOMA chocolate 4 arrNeglecting not the other senses, it’s time to taste test. Patiently waiting in queue, I studiously scan the endless array of handcrafted chocolates, and begin to decide.  Certainly wanting chocolate, which one?  With no shortage of options, I decisively place an order of hot and cold, in addition to both liquid and solid cacao treats:  six truffles and a mug of Spicy Mayan Hot Chocolate.

Saving the confections for later, I first sample the ginger and cayenne infused hot chocolate. Clearly combining sweet with heat, this invigorating hot chocolate will leave your taste buds ─ on fire ─ with a chocolaty picante bite.  Needless to say, this spicy hot chocolate lives true to its name.

Another day, another chocolate? Yes, please!  SOMA chocolate 5 arrOpening my wrapped box of handpicked bonbons, I behold these heavenly beauties:  Brown Butter Truffle, 8 year aged Balsamic Vinegar, Roasted Cacao Bean, Magnolia Peach, Australian Ginger and Meyer Lemon, and a “unique origins” truffle.  Though a select few, the aforementioned truffles are all synonymous with pure quality chocolate that is aromatic, refined, and smooth while equally indicative of a myriad of flavours and textures.  Favouring the Peach Magnolia, I recommend it for its delicately perfumed taste and silky ganache interior.  The clean and bright citrus profile of the Australian Ginger and Lemon is pretty good in its own right, as are all the rest.  In all fairness, I haven’t had a bad ─ “Food of the gods” ─ experience at SOMA, and thank goodness.  Happily, my overall first impression is this:  SOMA truffles are more than chocolate ─ they’re chocolate made right!

© DISHFUL, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

Chiado Is What Chiado Does

Chiado 1 arr Summertime is sizzling and for one reason ─ Summerlicious! If you haven’t heard, no worries, there’s still time. Every year, this Toronto food event caters to hungry, enthusiastic and curious patrons. Foodie or not, now is the time to literally sample a three course menu from that establishment you’ve been eyeing for some time. Among friends, here’s a little piece of FYI: please do, R.S.V.P. Chiado 2 arr“I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.” This expression clearly resonates, given we’re ready to eat but uncertain in which locale to invest. Choices galore, the range of participating venues leave many to contemplate between fair to fine dining hosts. This year, however, I just had to taste my way through a ‘prix-fixe’ that was inclusive to an item never tried. And so, I must ─ “must-indulge,” at Chiado. Chiado 3 arrDid someone say ‘sizzle’? ─ Sim, sim, sim!!! ‘Chiado’ ─ as in the Portuguese term ─ indicates ‘sizzle,’ and for a reason. Happy to greet, seat and serve guests, the start of my experience is sizzling with great service. Waiting not, prompt seating and tableside attention is not an issue ─ mind you, former reservation had been made. Evidently still, staff are welcomingly present, professional and do their very best to accommodate patrons. First thing’s first, treat your senses with a taste of complimentary: black cured olives, an overfilled bread basket, and dipping olive oil. Already noted ─ here ─ it’s all about quality.Chiado 4 arr Eager for more appetizing delights, the menu selection is consistent with palatable options. For starters, opt for a seaside inspiration via saffron and cognac-infused shrimp bisque, grilled lemon garlic sardines or salmon tartar à la avocado mousse. Agreeably tempting, I forgo the aforementioned for a vegan appetizer that satisfies while taking account of needed room for the ‘main’ choice to come. In the meantime, my first course leaves a pleasantly earthy and enriching taste that is: portabella mushroom and eggplant that is topped with delicately broiled goat cheese, and justly flavoured with champagne vinaigrette.  Chiado 6 arr A true reflection of the Mediterranean, Chiado succeeds in a menu that well-encompasses regional cuisine as seen with: ‘dourada’ or fileted sea bream, grilled squid and a salted cod terrine, in addition to other piscatorial dishes such as pan-seared skate fish and Atlantic salmon. Seafood cooked right is an incomparable experience in its own right. Chiado 5 arrNonetheless, I set my ‘mainly’ mind on Chiado’s apparent “rule of the roost.” Tried for the first time, the garlic and herb-crusted “Roasted breast of Capon” is overbearingly succulent, adequately heated with ‘piri piri’ sauce, and persists to be undeniably preferred over the usual ‘white meat’ chicken alternative.  Absolutely hearty, the generous serving of ‘capon’ is enough to satisfy one’s eyes and appetite, though the root vegetable and ‘haricots verts’ accompaniments are worth savouring. Chiado 7 arrAnd now, time for dessert! Beyond comfortably-full ─ several bites ago, into the second course ─ how can I ignore Portuguese tradition? Treated to a pillow slice of light ‘molotof’ ─ egg white meringue ─ enrobed in caramel, this cotton candy-like cloud denotes both a sweet finale to this delicious meal, and a prelude to a necessary siesta. Happy eats and sweet dreams in, this Summerlicious experience is ─ most definitely ─ ‘Chiado.’

© DISHFUL, 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Uncle Tetsu’s Special Delivery

Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake 1 arrIt’s finally here!  Branded, boxed, and hand-delivered ─ over the counter ─ the iconic Japanese cheesecake has made its way to Toronto.  Already a franchise favourite abroad, the latest addition of Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecake shop is conveniently situated along Bay and Dundas.

Is it worth the hype?  To be expected:  long line-ups, retrieving and holding onto a ticketed number, and practising patience ─ or self-entertainment ─ while amidst a swarm of patrons.  Fortunately, the foodie gene runs in the family.  Needless to say, I evaded two hours of the aforementioned ‘expectations’ in exchange for a special home delivery of now trending dessert.  Best of all, the experience ─ for me ─ was a piece of cake!Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake 2 arr

Speaking of cheesecake, Uncle Tetsu’s take on the American style classic is similar in appearance but, quite distinct in its own right.  Light as air, this particular Japanese cheesecake reminds me of a delicately sweetened ricotta cheese minus the excess moisture.  What’s more, it’s springy to the touch and doesn’t leave you feeling guilty post consumption.  If anything, this feather-weight sponge is clearly the alter-ego to all that we have known the ‘original’ to be:  a heavily dense and richly saturated mixture that’s encased by a graham cracker crust.

Uncle Tetsu's Cheesecake 3 arrClearly composed of part cheese and cake-like ingredients, don’t let Tetsu’s mildly sweet round fool you.  However ‘light’ in mass, it is still a dessert item ─ a.k.a., a caloric pleasure.  Clarification noted, pinpointing a stoppage time in face of devouring subdued lusciousness persists to be challenging, and somewhat borderline dangerous.  “Rebel, rebel” ─ if you must ─ and omit moderation.  But, you’ve been warned!  I repeat, given the delicate taste and texture of Tetsu’s cake, one’s likely to take plentiful bites ─ and more pieces ─ than just one.

In my case, I tried, tasted, and delighted in a ‘reasonable’ share of this traditional eastern dessert recipe.  And, here’s my verdict:  while diverging in consistency from the western variety, Uncle Tetsu’s cheesecake is notably palatable though it does not yield a velvety cream-based body as one would typically anticipate from a Philly-inspired treat.  Luckily, you can be your own judge and find contentment in knowing this:  Uncle Tetsu’s Cheesecake welcomes everyone to take a stand ─ waiting in queue ─ to order their very own ‘nouveau gateau au fromage.’

© DISHFUL, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

A Little Shuck & Awe

Pure Spirits Oyster House 1 arrIt’s late in the night, you’re in the heart of the city, and crave a taste of the sea.  Where does one go?  Thinking not of Toronto’s Harbourfront, my anchor is set on D-squared.  Better known as the Distillery District, just take a stroll along the copper-red brick road and find none other than Pure Spirits Oyster House & Grill.

Pure Spirits Oyster House 3 arrServing last-minute patrons ─ myself included ─ ‘raw-bar’ enthusiasts are promptly seated and informatively served with a bi-coastal listing of ocean fresh selects.  Scanning the best of east and west coast shucked clusters, I tread close to common waters ─ the Atlantic ─ and decide on three regional offerings:  Bluepoint, Caraquette, and Oddball.  Among all that’s fine and brine-y, I’d rate the meaty New York Bluepoint as a dominant standout in comparison to the Maritime alternative ─ this time, at least!

Feeling squeamish at the thought or taste of oysters?  Don’t be shell-shocked!  Fortunately, the captain of this seafood house prepares a tasty trio of savoury sauces for smooth sailing of slurping good eats.  Minding table-side manners ─ always ─ loosen your oyster of choice with a spoon or other provided utensil, and top off with these condiments:  classic cocktail, jalapeño mango or refreshing cucumber-infused vinegar.  Pure Spirits Oyster House 4 arrDynamic and all good in their own right, my ‘addition’ of choice is the pleasantly unexpected mélange of sweet heat courtesy of the spicy mango dip ─ a flavourful pairing that simply works.

The night, however, is still lively.  And so, this candlelit supper is not over until it’s over ─ fully satisfied!  Seafood and pasta options abound, order’s up for my table:  a “fancy salad,” and “branzino and beer.”  A bore ─ for some ─ I can never get tired of a healthy mix of veg.  Pure Spirits Oyster House 5 arrSpecifically, in my bowl of “chopped salad” one would not be disappointed to find a well-intended toss up of all that goes together:  pieces of grilled chicken breast combined with creamy avocado, sweet corn, chunks of feta cheese, chick peas, crunchy asparagus and capsicums, cucumber, a touch of sunflower seeds, and a gentle dousing of cilantro dressing.  Given my liking for the aforementioned greens, I approve though it’s understandable if this is not the case for some.  On that note, why not savour a pan-seared serving of branzino ─ p.s. it comes with a glass of beer.  Uncomplicated for a fish dish, the branzino’s exterior is cooked to a crisp while maintaining a fork-tender flaky flesh, and is then bedded on top of a medley of sautéed dandelion and mushrooms.  Generous in portion and flavour, either hot or cold plates won’t leave you flagging any white napkins.  If anything, catches of the day are so fresh you’ll be happy to slap them ─ on a fork!

© DISHFUL, 2015.  All Rights Reserved.

The Toronto Chocolate Show

ChocShow1 arr“Do you know the muffin man?” Whether you do or don’t, I have met someone better – the chocolate man!  Clearly at the Toronto Chocolate Show, the Mayan Gods have spoken as a day is molded for chocophiles.   To be seen and tasted, a bountiful discovery of cocoa-inspired creations awaits everyone in the mood for all things chocolate.  Finding no place like a homely invite, a visual feast awaits at Dolcini’s.  Here, master chocolatier Joseph proudly presents rows upon rows of magically transformed pods into bite-size spectacular:  handcrafted chocolate sculptures, rich truffles and individual specialty confections. ChocShow2 arr

Options abound, the age-old question hits, “Which is one to sample first?” When it comes to an endless array of chocolate, there’s only one route to take:  some of everything!  Sampling lychee and hibiscus-infused bonbons first, I easily return in queue for more.  Second round, encapsulated coffee flavoured chocolate and dark chocolate dried fruit and nut encrusted mendiant fit the bill. ChocShow3 arr

Four very delicious chocolaty gems already devoured, blood sugar hasn’t peaked – yet! Seeking for more unseen and must-indulge specimens, I venture to Earl’s next.  Men hard at work – melting, stirring, shaping and decorating portions of paradise – it’s no wonder fine quality product carries a handsome cost.  Fortunately, a little patience goes a long way.  Exchanging wait-time for bites of heaven, patrons are generously rewarded with delectably smooth hazelnut ganache squares that are studded with crushed feuilletine cookie, and a hint of refreshing mint garnish.  Caring to share, I take two – one for me, and the other for my ‘friend.’  All in all, both were highly enjoyable.  ChocShow6 arrChocShow5 arr

But, that’s not all. With a name like “Hotti Biscotti,” I had to see what the buzz was about.  Doing just that, I realize this Hamilton sweet’s shop specializes in more than ‘softer’ biscotti cookies.  In addition, cake pops and chocolate coated pretzel sticks offer admirers a selection of both sweet and salty crave-curbing treats.  Living up to pure ‘nutty’ flavour, the peanut butter pop is a moist chocolaty morsel that’s definitely worth a try.

Almost done, a ‘final’ stop turns out to be a pleasantly enduring trail of velvety cocoa perfection. ‘Last’ but certainly not falling short on variety, the following vendors show case their finest in edible art:  Indulgence Truffles, The Golden Apple, Two Friends Chocolates, and Brix Chocolate.  From chocolate topiaries and sushi rolls to 24 karat gold leaf topped truffles, there’s no doubt that serotonin compounded cocoa ‘bundles’ are plenty and abound for everyone. ChocShow7 arr Equally enjoying a vast selection of treats, I leave contently full on a happy-meal-of-chocolate.  Without a doubt, mission to delight in chocolate has been successfully accomplished!

© DISHFUL, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Too ‘Gut’ To Be True

World cup soccer drawn to a close, why not keep the winning momentum going?  Full of heart and national pride, celebrating all-things Deutschland is welcome and year-round at one particular destination – SCHNITZELand.

Conveniently located in Thornhill, Toronto, this corner eatery satisfies both dine-in/take-out patrons eager to champion a sought-after taste of Bavaria.  Specializing in Eastern European food, ‘overtime’ is graciously offered to leisurely review the abundant list of hearty selects.  Between traditional appetizers, dinners, desserts and – ‘ja’ – even lager, be prepared to keep your eyes on more than one prized option.  Offering plenty – in variety – the ongoing dilemma of indecision persists.  Which one to choose, schnitzel or spaetzle?Schnitzeland2 arr

Hungry for a taste of victory, questions are finally settled with the only feasible request – order’s up, for both!  Typically bread-coated, I forgo any crumbed masking and pleasantly sample Holstein Schnitzel – made, my way – in its purest form.  Appeasing to my palate, I am presented with a plate of simplicity – chicken schnitzel that is clean, lean, lightly seasoned, and sufficiently grilled to succulent perfection.  Reminiscent of Persian ‘shirazi’, this meal is also paired with a refreshing side of Israeli salad – cubed cucumber and tomatoes – and, served with a generous helping of crispy bacon-embedded saurkraut.  Already bright in taste, things look far more attractive – to a protein-lover – with a complement topping of one sunny-side egg and cured anchovies.  Notably, in this case, it doesn’t take a genius to concur that ‘e’ equates to – more than – ‘enough’ fare, fulfilling one’s hunger.

Über peckish, still?  Larger than life – spirited – friends, fear not!  If you can stomach more – delicious – but, have yet to reach your ‘wall’ and are left wanting more, this place doesn’t refer itself as “SCHNITZEL-and” for no reason.   Upon demand – and extra cost – you can easily “double-up” portions of ‘tenderized popularity’ or opt for additional plates of flavourful classics:  bratwust sausages, goulash, sweet or savoury perogies, and dumpling-like spaetzle laden with gravy.  Clearly dynamic, the heroic lineup of appetizing dishes are befitting of one Germanic ‘happy meal.’  Needless to say, anytime man engineers edible triumph – winning over appetites – well, ‘das gut!’

© DISHFUL, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

A Nutty Obsession

Tav7 arrNuts for nuts?  Absolutely!  Almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts – especially with chocolate – and even macadamia nuts, I love tree nuts – all varieties.  When impatient to chomp on some of nature’s best shelled treasures, one place comes to mind – Tavazo.Tav4 arr

Serving the best in dried fruits, nuts, preserves and other Persian delights, Tavazo is my preferred gateway to glorious snacks and confections.  Richmond Hill or Thornhill, make your way to either location and behold:  countless rows of self-serve decorative stands abundantly filled with candy-coated, salt-crusted as well as ‘au natural’ snack options for our health-conscious peckish friends. Tav3 arr

Uptown or midtown, select the closest destination and you’ll not be disappointed.  In addition to mixed nuts, familiar appearances are spotted as seen with dehydrated blueberries, cranberries, currants, strawberries, plums, pineapples, and apricots.  All delicious – agreeably so!  Unbeknownst to some, however, remain staples to Persian cuisine – meet the mulberry and barberry.  Eaten alone or in combination with other fine specimens, mulberries are golden – literally.  Reminiscent of raisins, in texture, they carry an appearance close to an oval-shaped version of a yellow raspberry; distinctly sweet, chewy and with an overall multifaceted surface.  Providers of goji berries, too, Tavazo is no stranger to the Persian cook – in you – if you looking to make ‘zereshk polo’ (a barberry and saffron-infused rice dish).Tav2 arr

Mulberries, barberries, almond-pistachio-walnut-cashew-hazelnut-peanut-goji-strawberry-blueberry-and raisin blended, mixed and bagged – by yours truly – my checklist is just about complete.  Hands on a little bit of everything, I am not quite ready to make a great escape – to a happy trail-mix of eating – until I revisit the confectionary aisle.  Individually wrapped, I am intrigued by the rose petal-laced and pistachio embedded jelly treats similar to Turkish delight, but only it’s Persian; so, it goes without saying, handfuls must be added to my basket. Tav1 arr

‘Healing waters’ situated on the end-cap, I find tamarind paste on the opposite side that leads to other equally palatable treats.  To be seen and explored, a trip down to memory lane – few steps, really – is easily spotted around the corner.  Reliving youth – if only for a moment – I find traces of past memories, shelved via assorted piles of neatly arranged Persian fruit leathers.

Tav9 arrBefore I even heard of Fruit Roll-ups, fruit leather – as far as I knew – came in one colour and taste:  a deep plum purple sheet of concentrated sour flavour.  Intensely irresistible, this lip-numbing treat is too good to pass on.  If Gushers and the like are not for you, fruit leather is made available – here – in all shapes and ‘sweetened’ varieties:  cherry, pomegranate, grape and the notorious plum.   For nostalgia’s sake, I take a few of those too.  “That’s so dry!?”  Indicatively so!  Laughing on the way to finalize a total sum – of more than I can carry – I wouldn’t want my purchased loot any other way but dehydrated, of course.

© DISHFUL, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

The Real Momofuku

Mr. Noodles. Back in the day, a steaming hot bowl of dehydrated noodles came to life with a packet of flavouring. Effortless and budget-friendly, minimal wait time added to the appeal in turning this little ‘square’ – that would and could – into a stringy carb-induced sensation.Momofuku Exterior arr

Modern taste buds, however, call for something e-special-ly different. Where supplemental quick-fixes and balanced flavours meet, countless options are to be found at must-visit-try-and-taste noodle bars. Dishful’s select? – Momofuku. You read right! In the heart of downtown Toronto, this trending hot spot delights one’s appetite for Asian-inspired cuisine with a myriad of – new-to-me – ingredients.Momofuku Tsukemen arrMomofuku Shrimp Bun arr

Feat one: get through the heavy entrance doors. Task once complete, making it to the ‘other side’ is worth the effort. Promptly acknowledged – with R.S.V.P., mind you – the open ambiance fittingly mirrors the inviting menu. Simple and concise, don’t let the short list fool you.   Eyes at work, repetitious scanning of the daily-selects is necessary. Already familiar with ‘delicious’ – kimchi, shrimp, shiitake and the like – my mood beckons adventure. Seeking something untried and worth exploring, “Smoked Chicken Ramen” and a side of “Okonomiyaki” appeases my curiosity.

Wall art admired and conversation in full swing, it isn’t too long before my party of three is served – one-by-one – bowlfuls of harmony. Correctly pairing a mélange of sweet, sour, savoury and salty tastes, let’s not forget the ‘meaty’ quint-essential fifth counterpart – ‘umami.’ Contrasting in texture as in flavour, balance is reached across the bowls. Combining the old with the new, mixtures of fresh and raw ingredients complement fermented saucy reductions.Momofuku Smoked Chicken Ramen arr

Not your ordinary meal, the crispy exterior of the chicken confit is revealing of multifaceted cooking techniques. Getting more than bites of noodles, my hearty bowl also manages to encompass a delicately cooked whole egg, floating above hot seasoned broth, alongside ‘menma’ (dried bamboo shoots) and tender fungi. Momofuku Okonomiyaki arrHalf-way into the start of lunch and already full, it would be unfortunate to miss the Japanase hotcake.

After all, the showing of a good attempt must go on – with one more bite, of course! Comfortingly familiar, this Japanese yam pancake has a fluffy interior while decorated with an unexpected item. For the element of surprise – ‘katsuobushi’ – dried skipjack tuna flakes are generously topped onto this savoury snack; a contrasting twist to an otherwise humble breakfast staple. Momofuku Fat Noodles arrBut, that’s not all! Korean beef with swiss cheese “Fat noodles” or cured salmon “Tsukemen,” indulging in distinct samplings of sophisticated complex-simplicity – palatable noodle dishes – is sure to satisfy any patron of Japanese-fusion eats. Similarly content, I leave enlightened – in-the-know – of the real Momofuku: everyone! When you eat, here, you’re status is undeniably elevated – one “lucky peach!”

© DISHFUL, 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Land of Milk & Honey

PNY haftseen arr“3-2-1, Happy New Year!”  Yes, it’s that time of year again – countdown to a third-time charm.  While January champagne toasts and proceeding lunar festivities have long passed, did you know of another official start?  Let’s discuss March!  Giving birds something to ‘tweet’ about, the first day of spring denotes more than a pleasant defrosted re-awakening.  Reviving age-old customs, this seasonal arrival equally marks the launch of another highly anticipated event – Happy Persian New Year!

RedRoseP2 arrSpring is in the air, and so are many “must-haves.”  Cooking and cleaning complete, every Persian household moves on to set a visual attraction – ‘haft-seen.’  For your eyes only, this symbolic table spread translates to the collection of seven meaningful items, each beginning with the letter ‘s.’  Bringing the outdoors in, representation of the elements – earth, fire, water, sky, flora and fauna – is apparent with the placement of the following:  apples, candles, ‘golab’ (rose water), mirror, wheat-grass, goldfish; and coloured eggs to signify both humanity and fertility.  Anything but recent, this ancient celebration follows Zoroastrian customs – food included!  Resolutions out, a breaking of a new dawn equates to a ‘Nowruz’ (new day), and an opportune reason to celebrate life with a two-week Persian banquet.

RedRoseP4 arrFortunately for Persians, an authentic meal is steps away – kitchen-close.   Hungry or not, know this:  “mi casa – persa – es su casa.”  Even better, ‘finger-food’ – here – is completely lost in translation.  Serving mountainous portions of hospitality, steaming-hot dishes are ‘party-size’ in addition to being individualized, with your name on it.  So please eat, without hesitation, and to the last grain – ‘tarof’ optional.  In case you’re unaware, ‘tarof’ is a form of Persian etiquette that involves a guest’s polite repetitious refusal of their host’s offerings.  Food or refreshments, the guest humbly refuses by saying, “no, thank you,” until they finally succumb to receiving ‘star’ treatment.  Seemingly never-ending, this mannerly display always ends the same; the host offers plenty of all-things-comfort – undivided attention, conversation, edible treats, and napping pillow if desired – until the guest graciously accepts.  Familiar to most if not every Persian, ‘tarof’ is a natural and expected occurrence at social gatherings – really, I insist!RedRoseP3 arr

“What’s for dinner?” – thought you’d never ask.  Steadfast to ancestral roots, the dynamic menu is consistent with traditional cuisine allotted for the sum of 14 days.  While systemic, sticking to the plan is a must – no jinxing of fate!  Daring not to disrupt positive omens, the first meal is a plateful of ‘prosperity’ – ‘sabzi polo’ (herbed rice) and ‘mahi’ (fish).  Superiorly fragrant and fresh, aren’t we the lucky ones?  Other ‘specials’ include noodle-embedded rice to promote longevity, followed by a list of other aromatic recipes.  Superstitious or not, you can’t go wrong eating bites of ‘delicious’ – it’s destiny!

Leaving savoury ‘mains’ to my expert mother, a continuum of glorious food extends to my assumed duties – sweets.  GPS set to “Tehranto,” I take care of business the best way I know how – shopping spree of gorgeous hand-crafted delicacies.  Stepping into my preferred Persian pastry shop – Red Rose Pâtisserie – ‘beauties’ are to be found, and worth a second look:  fist-size cream-filled profiteroles; chewy walnut meringue and buttery jam-sandwiched cookies; chickpea-flour sable confections; and a trailblazer of sweet-fried dough, ‘bamieh’ and ‘zoolbia.’  RedRoseP5 arrBetween bite-size pillows or ribbon-patterned swirls, relish selecting either or both of these rosewater-infused simple syrup soaked mouthfuls – rejuvenated deep-fried cakey-batter bliss.

Superseding in rich taste, texture and technique, traces of ancient influence is rampant.  Generously sprinkled, coated or enrobed, Red Rose adds signature touches to an assortment of crisp, flaky, dense and sponge pastries using the finest imports:  pistachios, almonds, and walnuts; fragrant orange blossom and rose waters; canary yellow saffron; and flavourful enrichments via cardamom and cinnamon spices.  Visibly in the “land of milk and honey,” I patiently wait in queue to fulfill a vital request – some of everything – boxed and ready-to-go!   Time-elapsed and prized possessions in hand, I walk away satisfied – like most – with many happily ever-‘afters.’  Three times a ‘new’ year – perfected – this festivity is clearly tailored for good times, entertaining company, and appetizing eats.  Marking your Persian calendar, then, forget about eastern/western standard times, and get ready to party – like it’s 1393!

© DISHFUL, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.