Welcome to Poutineville!

Poutineville MTL 1 arrDie hard fans of french fries – the hearty type – mustn’t miss out on a hidden gem in Montréal. Sure, there are plenty of self-proclaimed “best-selling” venues of the beloved ‘poutine.’ But when you steer off the beaten path, and follow the locals to 1365 Ontario Est, you know you’re in the right place for all things cheese curds, gravy and piping hot fries. Without further ado, then, ‘Bienvenue’ to Poutineville!

Talk about first impressions: go big on the exterior sign, and feel right at home in this quaint yet cozy family friendly eatery. Clearly a promising indication of greater things to come, this restaurant exudes a pleasantly familiar aroma that leaves the senses anticipating one’s very own plate of comfort food – à la all things potato, of course! Promptly seated, and welcomed by a gracious and bilingual – French/English – host, getting my poutine fix is a mere order form away.

Poutineville MTL 2 arrKid you not, the variety of flavourful poutine options are extensive. As such, patrons can either verbalize a menu item or fill out a sheet to specify desired toppings for their very own customized take on this French-Canadian dish. Choices abound, I feel for the indecisive folks but there’s no need to panic. Instead, take a breath and remember: simplicity is key! Wasting no more time contemplating, get your order in for an iconic staple – before the kitchen closes – and await a generously stacked plate of simply delicious: crispy house cut fries topped with fresh cheese curds and a rich braised beef broth-based gravy. Time ‘properly’ managed and decision made, one thing’s certain: you can never go wrong in keeping with tradition – especially, when talking about food affairs.

Poutineville MTL 3 arrFried and fabulous, I couldn’t help but request a double-take of tubers and ask for the “2 Poutine Sampler.” Having lunch chez-Poutineville, afterall, why not try both hand-crushed and crispy sweet potatoes? Going for twice the poutine, this appetizing select also means one can taste two times the gravy – red wine and pepper sauces – in addition to a mound of oozing melted cheese curds. Combining winning pairings of mild and bold flavours, I’m an instant fan of the peppery sweet potato poutine. Equally exclusive to Poutineville, other inventive dishes include a mélange of vegetables, cheeses – Mozzarella, Swiss, and cheddar – as well as a range of sausage meats, minced beef, and pulled pork additions that contribute to the endless array of unforgettable hot potato dishes, including: “The Montrealer,” “The Hat Trick,” and the head honcho of all ‘Messieurs Patates’, “The Godfather.”Poutineville MTL 4 arr

Comparatively humble in proportion to the aforementioned starchy indulgences, I leave my plate unfinished albeit full-ly satisfied. Pleased with the service and food, every visit to Montréal should include a poutine outing. So if you’re seeking a hot meal ‘rooted’ in comfort, have no fear of carb overload and happen to be in Poutineville’s neck of the woods, now you know where to go – P.S., they’re open until 5 A.M.

© DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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Bombe au C’ChoColat

Weekend getaway to Paris North – pourquoi pas? Why not, indeed, to a fab Canadian stay-cation worthy of good eats in beautiful Montréal, Québec. Arriving ‘tout à l’heure,’ I waste no time and make my way downtown where ‘le centre-ville’ is home to several locally authentic French cuisine finds. Forgoing ‘foie gras’ – this time – I have reason for travelling through the hustle and bustle of the city’s artery, and it’s prime – believe me!

C'ChoColat 2 arrGood company and good times! And, as for the weather? Certainly, ‘je me souviens’ – a city to be remembered. But, don’t let the clear skies fool you! Brisk air to some, I would comparatively rate the weather as well below freezing temperature. Nonetheless, this trip was never about the windchill. Food shopping on the mind, this chocoholic-epicurean – that is ‘moi’ – landed in front of the doors of 1255 Rue Bishop for one precise item: C’ChoColat’s signature house dessert, the C’Wow.

Wowed – 100% – by this memorable chocolate bomb, this sweet plate is truly unlike anything I’ve yet had the pleasure to witness. Scanning the menu, the composition of listed ingredients for the C’Wow already sounds pleasantly familiar. Just imagine, a plated dish that includes: a scoop of artisan gelato surrounded by broken pieces of waffles, brownies, pecans, fresh berries, and crumble that is then encapsulated in a chocolate dome. But wait, this dessert gets better when served table side – ‘à table,’ chocolate lover!

Like a page stolen from history, suspenseful anticipation for this Trojan horse is no where near reached until post delivery of this gorgeous cocoa structure. Don’t worry, however, this sweet invasion equally makes for one delectably welcome fateful ending. In a nutshell: the C’Wow came, was seen and conquered – by caramel! Ultimately covered by heated caramel sauce, behold: a demolished collapse of layered confection toppling over a rocky bed of waffle and brownie bits. Jaw dropped, bearing witness to a fantastic chocolate demise, a moment of fascination is soon replaced with reality and the realization that it’s taste-testing time – finalement!

C'ChoColat 10 arrAs hoped, every bite of the C’Wow encompasses a mélange of delightful flavours. Inclusion of fresh berries justly brighten the flavours of the dense and rich cakey components. Generous in size and highly caloric, this select is a feat to finish. As such, here’s word to wise: the C’Wow can easily be shared by two or ordered for one large appetite. Either way, this chocolate themed venue offers more than meets the eye and is sure to appease many a sweet tooth.

C'ChoColat 6 arrSatisfying the chocophile-in-anyone, enjoying the finer things in life – if only via chocolate – is a dream come to fruition at C’ChoColat. Never ceasing to disappoint, there’s something for everyone from chocolate-infused beverages dubbed ‘choctails’ to Hong Kong style honeycomb waffles and savoury dishes. Too tempting not to try, the pistachio gelato is truly divine. Still in vacay mode, adding accompaniments like a latté and the Matcha Matcha Man frappé make for an accepted and extended guilt-free indulge-a-thon. Between green tea and herbal varieties, the assortment of milkshakes, ‘chocolat chaud’, hot/cold coffee beverages and Parisian crêpes run plenty. Heart happy in #MTL, C’ChoColat’s C’Wow is a clear winner to be experienced for yourself, ideally in person or just a click away.  It’s seriously, ‘the bomb’ of chocolate desserts!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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Pudding It Out There

Liquid sunshine, anyone? Once in a while, a baker will come across excess yolks – probably having whipped up a whites-based dessert like meringues, angel food cake and the sort. Finding myself in a similar predicament, a bowl of golden yolks and perfect timing leaves me with the ideal March-inspired treat. Celebrating with high spirits, Baileys Chocolate Pudding was made for St. Paddy’s Day festivities.Baileys Chocolate Pudding 3 arr

Combining my favourite ingredient – undoubtedly chocolate – with a very special Irish Cream, you really can’t go wrong with the complementary pairing of the aforementioned duo. Rich, chocolatey and infused with a hint of an old country export, homemade pudding is something else: it’s elevated nostalgia. Clearly, a must-indulge item in my books!

Baileys Chocolate Pudding 2 arrTo make your own holiday pudding, choose a scratch recipe of choice. Following the steps of the Barefoot Contessa – Ms. Ina Garten, of course – I really enjoyed following her simple instructions for a double chocolate pudding. Doing things my way, however, I take her very good recipe and tweak it to cater to my preferences. Specifically, I had nine yolks to start though the original recipe calls for six. Presented with three more than less of what’s required, I still count myself lucky. Glass bowl looking beyond half-full, circumstance is boding well and, so, I persist to do as any good baker would – I sharpen my math skills. In other words, I take note of the existing quantities and appropriately increase measured amounts for all remaining ingredients, including: sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, salt, milk, heavy cream, pure vanilla essence and fine quality chocolate. Though Ina’s original calls for butter and semisweet chocolate, I omit the butter altogether and use premium dark chocolate – minimum 70% cocoa.

Baileys Chocolate Pudding 4 arrFortunately, the outcome of this cocoa-rich indulgence is nothing short of pure decadence. And, although I-rish I could stop at the making of double chocolate pudding, a must-indulge St. Paddy’s dessert must-have a little touch of Shamrock. As for the final touches, then, I keep with precision and happily exchange the plain heavy cream with an addition of Baileys Original Irish Cream. From here, the well-mixed pudding mixture is poured into individual dessert dishes and refrigerated. Ultra delicious and made for chocophiles, serving chilled portions of Baileys Chocolate Pudding on its own – as-is – or topped with sweetened whipped cream will surely yield happy hours to come. Ultimately ‘pudding’ a spin on a classic, this crowd-pleasing custard is meant to be shared and savoured responsibly – please, use a spoon! Happy Saint Patrick’s, everyone!!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Red Velvet That Will Please

 

beet-red-velvet-cupcakes-8-arrWant a Valentine’s dessert that will make your special someone blush beet red? Saying “YES” to all things homemade, I have the perfect baked treat in mind. For your sweet – or sweet tooth – I’m thinking: Red Velvet Cupcakes. Satisfying for more than its V-Day symbolic hints of love – chocolate and heart-red hue – this cocoa-rich yet moist bite-size indulgence is made extra irresistible thanks to a generous smothering of cream cheese frosting. As scrumptious as it sounds, red velvet is not for everyone but, when made right, is sure to leave you with a smile.

beet-red-velvet-cupcakes-4-arrEnticed, yet? Love it or hate it, I’m in the mood to whip up a batch of red velvet cupcakes. Still tempting to some, red velvet persists to be a sought-after southern delight since its revival on the big screen – watch the retro hit, Steel Magnolias. Movie buff or not, however, others find nothing delectable about consuming a piece of red-dye cake that’s, too, criticized for being bland. Honestly, I can’t blame them! Also choosing to forgo the Texas band-waggon – sorry, Adams Extract – a little research is all it took to find the ‘one.’ Clearly convinced that ‘red’ can be made right, I’ve found a non-greasy red velvet cake instruction that’s highly flavourful all the while omitting oil and food colouring.

beet-red-velvet-cupcakes-6-arrGetting back to the basics, the start to producing a genuine ‘rouge’ cake batter is as simple as this: just ‘beet’ it! Truly, the inclusion of beetroot veg will evoke desired vibrancy without emptying an entire bottle of food colour – L-O-V-E this! Further match-made for more reasons than one, I use Pamela Moxley’s Red Velvet Cake recipe that calls on butter, equally appeasing to my desire for an oil-free batter. And as if things couldn’t get any better, directions ask that you purée the cooked and peeled beets so you’re solely left with smooth – ‘au naturel’ red – velvety liquid texture. As for the taste, this cake is not intended to be overly chocolatey nor are you left with a strong beet flavour.  In contrast, these cupcakes are mildly sweet and are all about a ‘chemical romance.’ Explanation provided: the appearance of reddish earth tones should result upon combining neutralized Dutch-process cocoa powder with buttermilk, and acids such as white vinegar and the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon, as Moxley’s steps indicate.

beet-red-velvet-cupcakes-11-arrAs for my experiment, I can attest to a fairly ‘reactive’ outcome in the test kitchen. From burgundy to crimson, the looks of lovely red are pleasantly evident and ever-changing between baking stages. A chameleon cake of sorts, that’s exactly what you want to see when attempting this vegetable-infused dessert recipe. Be bold, then, and prepare to welcome variations of red that doesn’t include lipstick or candy apple – any other shade, mind you, wouldn’t reflect an authentic beet cake.

Ultimately doing all things in love, I hope you try a scratch recipe of choice or cake mix – no judgement here – and, when the little cakes are cooled, begin to decorate with frosting: butter-cream, cream cheese or ‘roux’ icing. beet-red-velvet-cupcakes-13-arrCreating cream cheese frosting for my individual ‘reds,’ all I do is combine the following in a bowl: softened unsalted butter and cream cheese – both left out, at room temperature – icing sugar, plus a final dash of Madagascar vanilla essence. Once fluffy and ready to go, I divide the frosting into separate containers, get a piping bag and tip assembled, and do the unexpected: I use food colouring gel. It’s true but, only a few drops – promise! All in the name of happy baking, I couldn’t resist arranging a bed of edible roses. Seriously worth the addition of colour, who would deny wanting these thorn-free flowers for V-Day? Admittedly beautiful, lush, and fragrantly sweet, red velvet rosette frosted cupcakes are for the making, baking, and taking – by the dozens!

© DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Let’s Get Started!

prima-pavlova-2-arrNew year, new dessert? Right on – my sentiments exact! Paving 2017 with all that is light, sweet and timeless, I’m resolute in making a classic dessert that echoes effortless sophistication. And for this “must-indulge” endeavour, whipping up divine pavlova is nothing short of pav-u-lous.

Originally made to honour ballerina Anna Pavlova, this delicate meringue topped with heavy cream and fruit promises an impressionable display upon presentation. For my dessert stage, then, here’s two ovation-worthy variations to prepare: soft and chewy vanilla pavlova embellished with whipped cream and seasonal berries, in addition to a two-tier chocolate and raspberry layered pavlova cake.prima-pavlova-3-arr

Instructions abound, pursuing any pavlova recipe is a cinch. While I’m a Martha Stewart loyalist – surprise, surprise – be confident that ingredients and steps for the making of meringues are pleasingly similar. Tried, tested, and happily achieved – thanks to Ms. Stewart – here’s a sum of what you’ll need for the meringue base: egg whites, salt, sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla extract. For the chocolate alternative, omit vinegar and cornstarch but add premium quality unsweetened cocoa powder and brown sugar accordingly. Once the ingredients are mixed to a glossy stiff consistency, continue to bake and cool the meringue discs in the oven. Finally, proceed to add finishing touches to the domed base. prima-pavlova-4-arr

Generously topping my vanilla meringue with sweetened whipped cream, strawberries and blackberries, fear not if your baked structure slightly cracks or deflates, even post cooling. Instead, remember: this show-stopping beauty is not done until it’s fully dressed via flavourful cream, berries, other fruits – kiwi, banana, raspberry, blueberries, etc. – chocolate shavings, ganache, and even caramel sauce. Garnishes being optional, I brighten the already vibrant fruit pavlova with fresh sprigs of mint, and do so for extra colour and taste. prima-pavlova-1-arrEqually, and like the vanilla pav, the cocoa-rich-lo-va incorporates both fruit and sweetened whipped cream. To ensure even levels – between the first and second floors of cake – simply spoonful proportionate amounts of whipped cream onto the surface of each chocolate meringue. Getting the tiniest bit technical, carefully spread the filling from the center outward – an offset spatula works like a charm – and proceed by topping one cream-laden round with the other. Finding no swan song here, a bountiful shower of lush red raspberries and dusting of dark chocolate shavings is all you require for this adorned ‘prima’. So, there you have it! Dramatically ‘made-up’ and ready for a close reveal, wowing guests is as easy as gracing them with front-row standing to their very own slice of cloud cake – PAV-tastico!

© DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Three Times a ‘Bain-Marie’

chocolate-mint-pots-de-creme-1-arrChristmas is coming, and for pastry novices – like ‘moi’ – a dessert brainstorm session is a must. Contemplating recipes, I see delicious everywhere! Between cakes, cookies and candy confections – you name it – choices are plentiful and they’re all happily sweet!

Joyful indeed, “This ain’t my first rodeo!” Embracing the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, I’ve learned a thing or two during these festive times: prepare in advance, and don’t leave your baking until last minute. Options narrowed, I decide on a holiday treat that steadily wins over both crowds and one’s blood pressure. Seriously, baking over the busiest time of year need not be stressful. As such, my finalized select for a ‘sweet ending’ to a grand meal can be made up to two days prior to serving, gets a little spa treatment – in a ‘bain-marie’ a.k.a. hot water bath – and can be burnt. You read right! eggnog-creme-brulee-1arr

Explanation provided, if you haven’t guessed it by now, the French classic known as ‘crème brûlée’ is to be made and devoured. Containing a velvety rich and silken cream interior, this divine custard bears its burning trademark – ‘brûlée’ – thanks to a caramelized ‘burnt’ sugar crust topping. Simplicity promised, preparation of this custard only requires five primary ingredients: egg yolks, heavy cream, sugar, a pinch of salt and vanilla. Adhering to Martha Stewart’s instructions, I gladly follow the listed steps. At the same time, however, I’m thinking it’s the holidays and this classic needs to be revamped. Say it is so, eggnog ‘crème brûlée!’

eggnog-creme-brulee-2-arrStill very good, the basic custard recipe can be made ‘as-is’ – following tradition – or enhanced with orange zest or other additions for varying flavours. In the spirit of the season, I keep with putting an eggnog twist on my take. It’s quite simple, all I do is add a pinch of ground cinnamon and nutmeg, as well as the tiniest hint of ground cloves to the mix. Depending on taste, you can equally spike your custard with a splash – about a tablespoon – of your preferred rum or brandy.

Oh, what fun…” and the burner’s still on, so why not make more dessert? My thoughts exactly! Two more delectable recipes – white chocolate crème brûlée and peppermint dark chocolate ‘pots de crème’  are too tempting not to try. Welcoming more work, the aforementioned appetizing paired recipes require the main ‘five’ ingredients plus: premium quality white and dark chocolates – Lindt or Ghirardelli are ideal – and a quarter teaspoon of pure peppermint extract. Successfully breaking with a stress-free baking endeavour, setting my mind to prepare a dessert trio is now on the new menu. Feeling adventurous, this extended baking task is a sought-after challenge worth accepting. After all, all three desserts are made in similar fashion – just times three! And, in case you opt to pursue this route, you’ll equally need thrice of everything: bowls, ingredients, ramekins, and patience. On the bright side, the fruits of your labour will surely yield you three times the company – people or food. Clearly, the more the merrier! chocolate-mint-pots-de-creme-2-arr

Without further ado, here’s how to start: in a bowl, mix the egg yolks with sugar and a pinch of salt. In a saucepan, bring the combined dairy contents and the seeds from a split and scraped vanilla bean to a gentle simmer. No vanilla bean, no problem?! As a substitute, pure vanilla essence works fine though I would add the extract to the egg mixture versus the liquid. Either way, heat the cream but be cautious not to let it boil. Once a simmer is reached, pour the hot liquid into the egg mixture while whisking nonstop, and keep whisking or else – sweetened scrambled eggs, anyone? Whisking complete – or until your arm feels tired – pour the combined mixture over a sieve and into another clean bowl or very large heat-proof glass measuring cup. Oven already preheated and a hot kettle of water awaiting to be used, place ramekins onto a deep roasting pan and then pour equal amounts of custard into each dish. From here, place the pan into the oven and now pour boiled water into the pan, almost reaching half-way up to the ramekin dish. Bake at 300°F for about 30 minutes or until the custard wobbles, and cool at room temperature for another half an hour before refrigerating for at least two more hours.

lindt-white-chococlate-creme-brulee-arrIt’s all in the way it’s – supposed to be – made, and these very good custards are no exception. Missing no step, ‘crème brûlée’ is merely custard without its signature amber gold topping. Going for the ‘pièce de résistance,’ then, the burnt sugar crusted finale needs two things: a tablespoon or so of castor sugar for each baked and chilled custard and – most importantly – a torch. If you don’t have a torch, use your oven’s broiler setting but be sure to keep a watchful eye on your ‘beauties.’ Remember: ‘burnt’ cream is the aim, not scorched. As for the peppermint dark chocolate ‘pots de crème,’ food of the gods truly need no masking. Embellishment via more dark chocolate, on the other hand, sounds like my kind of fancy finish to a highly pure cocoa indulgence. So, there you have it! Once, twice, three times a Merry Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebration, and holiday eats! Blessings to all, and BON APPÉTIT!! :)

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Legends of a Fall Haul

cranberry-orange-walnut-tart-5-arrFall harvests are in, and I’m going for the season’s best – C-R-A-N-B-E-R-R-I-E-S! Between beverages, sauces or jarred condiments, this fruit – when available – is conveniently within reach at the local grocers. So, why all the excitement? Clearly, resisting not – to test a new recipe – a baker’s gonna bake! And this time, use of these fresh and vibrant ruby red crops call for the making of a zingy orange and cranberry walnut-crusted tart.

Like most pie and tart recipes, you can pair various fillings with your preferred crust recipe.  Choice is yours, and for this baking endeavour I – somewhat – follow Martha Stewart’s instructions. Similar to the original, my take on the filling uses fresh cranberries, sugar, water, and gelatin. Also calling for a cup of currant jelly and two tablespoons of cognac, I decide to do things differently and cater to my palette – I swap the currant jelly for cranberry jelly to maintain consistency, and incorporate the zest of one orange plus its juice in place of liqueur.

Yay or nay, to making changes? Well, I usually don’t like to mess with a “good thing.” cranberry-orange-walnut-tart-2-arrBut, as in this case, orange citrus is the right substitution to elevate the sharpness of cranberries and to yield an ultimate jamming filling. Being sure to use precise measurements of juice in combination with fruit peel, you can even try making a zesty lemon cranberry version like the orange variation for an ultra-tart take on this delicious recipe. Definitely worth re-making, I also recommend simmering another batch to preserve in a mason jar. Versatile in its uses, this alcohol-free orange cranberry filling is not just a filling anymore. Think of it this way: it’s a cross between fruit compote and jam that can be topped on your breakfast ‘favourite’ – toast, waffles, pancakes, yoghurt/yogurt – or as an appetizing accompaniment to Brie, Camembert or other soft cheeses. Needless to say, the enhanced cranberry filling recipe is a winning YAY!

As for the nutty crust counterpart, Martha Stewart’s listed ingredients include: finely chopped walnuts, unsalted butter, flour, salt, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla essence and ice water. cranberry-orange-walnut-tart-3-arrFrom here, and using Martha’s recipe or your own, evenly spread out the dough mixture onto the tart dish and freeze it for thirty minutes. Now ready for the oven, bake the crust at 375°F for about 40 minutes or until the shell is revealing of a golden brown colour. Wishing fellow bakers optimal results – and happy baking – here’s a helpful hint: keep a watchful eye on the cooking time for both the crust and filling or otherwise risk yielding a burnt crust, and watery – ocean spray – content of burst cranberries. Being careful – myself – this rewarding cranberry orange walnut-crusted tart wins crowds on texture and appeal. It look goods, tastes good, and remains a seasonal fruit dessert befitting of the fall season.

cranberry-orange-walnut-tart-7-arrPucker your lips sour, this cranberry-based recipe is obviously not as sweet as many other treats. With that in mind, you may choose to add more sugar to the filling mixture as you see fit. Equally packed with a load of acidity, I initially wasn’t sure if I would win-over family members with this slightly acidic ‘after,’ especially as an end to a hearty Thanksgiving meal. But, truth be told: they loved it! Serving a humble portioned square pleasantly complemented an otherwise bountiful plate. Word to the wise, then, the following might be worth remembering: heavy meals pair well with lighter desserts, and lighter meals allow room for more rich and dense cakes or pastries. With one notable day of thanks past, and another upcoming in November – American Thanksgiving – this delectable tart is not overbearing and one possible dessert route to pursue as a finale to an epic holiday meal. Above all else, those who love cranberries need not wait for a calendar event to enjoy a piece of cranberry tart – afternoon snack times are occasion enough!

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

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.

Instant Happiness

Counting one of the many ways I heart cacao, here’s a simplified response: single origin. That’s why, whilst visiting Jamaica, it was a welcome mission – for this chocoholic – to find the very best bountiful pod offerings that mother nature bears in this part of the West Indies. Needless to say, I wanted the chance to taste 100% real Jamaican – homegrown and manufactured – chocolate.Jamrock Food 6 arr

Now, I’m no expert when it comes to producing chocolate. And to this day, it’s my dream – hopefully realized, one day soon – to visit a cocoa farm, stand next to a cocoa tree, and even witness the full extent of this plant’s cultivation from harvesting of pod to extraction of cocoa beans. Still dreaming – for now – there is one thing I can do, which is to get my hands on ‘instant happy’ – a.k.a. fine quality Jamaican chocolate – or so I thought.

Jamrock Food 5 arrProving to be a more difficult task than first anticipated, locating original Jamaican chocolate – in Jamaica – is not that easy, at least for me. Yes, I did visit a local shop and but only found rows of ‘popular’ sugary milk chocolate bars. Setting my sights on 70% or plus cocoa confections, venturing into a Montego Bay supermarket – Progressive Foods – was worth the trip. First making my way to personal points of interest – coffee and baking aisles – I happily found Blue Mountain coffee and unique baking extracts and essences. Proceeding next to the candy aisle, I came out empty handed as I only saw more ‘familiar’ wrapped sweets from home. As the journey continued, waiting in queue to finalize ‘other’ purchases, I asked neighbouring patrons where to find Jamaican chocolates. Kindly informed of “Charles” chocolate treats, I was elated – if only for a few short-lived seconds – and later enlightened that they’re no longer available. Blessings, persistence always prevails! Remember, I was on a choco-inspired mission. Finally, the moment of discovery came to pass and, with it, an awaited introduction to tasting pure and wonderfully made Jamaican cho-co-la-te – courtesy of, CDJM.

Jamrock Food 7 arrSetting my chocolate standards high, I scanned the package to determine if this ‘treasure’ measured up. The label read: “Dark chocolate, 70% cocoa” and “Original Jamaican Recipe.” So far so good, I was delighted at the sight of this particular bar and – without hesitation – picked it up for closer examination. Upon second glance, I noticed the brand was ‘en français’ – Cacao de Jamaïque – that’s consistent with Cocoa of Jamaica or Jamaican Cocoa. With respect to satisfying a “must,” we have a WINNER! CDJM pleasingly uses – as the package clearly reveals – “Authentic Jamaican Cocoa.”

Equally fortunate nearing departure, I spotted and purchased Black River Single Origin Chocolates. Specifically using 100% Jamaican Trinitario cocoa beans, Black River is similar to CDJM in that both companies keep true to the promise of integrating native Jamaican cocoa beans and on delivery of premium grade edible luxury. Though I have yet to identify a completely Jamaican bean-to-bar item – cocoa entirely grown, processed and transformed into moulded chocolate – on the island, I’m still “feeling alright” with my decided expenditure of CDJM and Black River Jamaican cocoa-rich products. Simply divine, CDJM’s dark chocolate bar is offered in generously proportioned squares and, as such, a little goes a long way. Smooth to the palate, a single piece of CDJM evokes intensely aromatic and robust cocoa flavour – no guilt, it’s my kind of black velvet. Unequivocally keen to “food of the gods,” I’m falling for Black River’s chocolate as well. Catering to a purist’s soul, Black River’s chocolate is: no fuss, no frills, and requires no ‘extra’ spices or add-ins to mask its exquisitely tempered and refined outcome – it’s pure cocoa at its best. Originating from a single island, Jamaican cocoa bean products are a rarity in their own right. Well-deserving of respect, it is with gratitude I profess: “Big up, to CDJM and Black River for encouraging this cocoa-driven endeavour to being – tastefully – accomplished.”

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

So Nice, It’s IRIE

Jamrock Food 3 arr

Yeah, mon! I just came back from Jamrock – Jamaica – and I had the time of my life. Paradise island for more reasons than one – inviting people, lovely weather, sandy beaches, dancehall music, etc. – let’s not forget the desires of our foodie friends. Jamrock Food 2 arrSure to be left speechless by “real-deal” cuisine, be sure to savour authentic jerk hut specialities and accompaniments. Like no other open-air b.b.q., selection of succulent and smokey jerk seasoned chicken, shrimp or pork with a side of rice and beans is plentiful. And if you like things hotter, laden some scotch bonnet sauce to your plateful and be on your merry way – just don’t forget the Red Stripe.

Jamrock Drink arrSo far, there’s no question Jamaican food is pretty ‘irie.’ Also trying and delighting in other popular favourites, I equally attest to the goodness of ackee and salt fish. The embodiment of tradition, this national dish uses regional ingredients like ackee fruit and is a must-indulge item on my list.

Speaking of produce, being conveniently situated in the tropics has its perks. Wanting a taste of homegrown Caribbean citrus and fruits alike, sampling native ‘otaheite’ – a.k.a. Jamaican apple – is a definite treat. After all, why not enjoy exotic gems that would otherwise be difficult to find in colder climates? To me, eating local just makes sense! Jamrock Food 1 arrPassionate about fruit and passion fruit – both – other splendours include: star apple, ‘chiny guinep’ – think lychee – ‘kamranga’ or starfruit, and ugli fruit that is quite contrary to its name.  A beauty both inside and out, this tangelo’s exterior bears a lime green peel and a contrasting vibrant orange interior flesh. While there are more Jamaican fruits to name, I’d like to share my favourite: naseberry. Until recent, I’ve never spotted or tasted naseberry. Fortunately, befriending and talking to locals is always helpful and equally made it easy to locate this particular edible treasure.

Jamrock Food 4 arrTruth be told: it’s the nase to my knees. But, why do l love it so? Good question! The answer is quite simple: this fruit is s-w-e-e-t. Truly toothsome, one bite of naseberry shares the intensity level of a date – for sugar! Oh so sweet in flavour, I would liken it’s delicate texture to that of an extremely ripened pear. All in all, my mini fruit tasting escapade is revealing of many pleasant palatable surprises.

More important than great food finds, encountering the kindness of Jamaican people leaves me with a lasting impression that I’ll never forget. Beyond words, Jamaicans are incredibly fun-loving and embody a sincerely warm and friendly spirit that added to one lively experience worth repeating. Needless to say: I must go back! Until then friends, bless up!

© DISHFUL, 2016. All Rights Reserved.