Thursday, August 30, 2012

let's go to the ex...well, actually, i'll meet you in the food building

I've been going to the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) for as long as I can remember. I may have missed a few years here and there, but generally, it's a summertime tradition (albeit a bittersweet one).

For my friends outside Toronto, the CNE (aka The Ex) is an annual event that takes place the last two and a half weeks in August - hence the "bittersweet" part since the start of The Ex signals the end of summer for many Torontonians. There's a midway with carnival games and rides and buildings full of exhibitions and product booths.

And then there's the Food building. In the past, the Food building was a mish-mash of cultural foods, chain staples and a place to find fast eats and snacks - a little repetitive (especially when the same place had four booths in the one building), but it never failed to provide some good eats (typical Toronto tradition - 99 cent spaghetti followed by a dozen Tiny Tom donuts). However, the past couple of years has seen a real focus on re-inventing the Food building, with the introduction of new vendors, lots of new and innovative (if sometimes artery-clogging) food items (like the infamous deep-fried butter that was introduced in 2010) and more involvement from local businesses (there was even a weekend-long Food Truck Frenzy this year!)

For the past two years, Paul and I have been heading to The Ex with his family. The bonus to this is that Paul's brother Mike and his fiancee Alex (the same two that have been helping me try all those Kawartha Dairy ice cream flavours) are generally as excited to try the new foods as we are, which ensures that everyone has a lot of new tastes.

Here are just a couple of the new vendors that we didn't get to try this year:

While Paul, Mike and Alex stood in line at Bacon Nation, I headed over to Dutch Frites (their booth was decorated like a mini food truck - too cute!).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

the top 8 things i ate in rome

Ok, so you've seen the Top 10 (non-food) things I saw in Rome, but I know some of you are thinking, "But what about the food???"

Even though I blog about food and I think about food A LOT, I was so excited to be heading to Rome that I didn't really plan what I would actually be eating in Rome. Keep in mind, this was a last minute trip and we had not anticipated heading to Italy for at least another few years. But, I figured, it's ROME. I'm sure there will be good things to eat everywhere I look! I definitely wasn't wrong about that.

The only things that dampened my eating spirits (which are generally pretty high) were:
1. because of the August holiday season, some of the places we wanted to eat at were closed
2. it was so HOT that I didn't really have much of an appetite except for constantly craving water and gelato

Anyhow, I took a real "fly by the seat of my pants" attitude towards eating in Rome. Paul was the one who was busy online and in guidebooks, jotting down places that he wanted to check out (over which half were closed, unfortunately), so my plan of attack was to let Paul pick the location and then I would find something new and delicious on the menu once I got there.

Good plan, right? Except that neither of us speak Italian and some of the better places that we got to didn't speak any English or have English translations, so there was some guesswork and crossed-fingers as well.

In the end, I definitely tried some new things that I've fallen in love with (I'm looking at you suppli and granita caffe) and also twists on old favourites (a nutella cannolo - yes please!).

Here are the Top 8 things I ate in Rome (in no particular order):

Granita Caffe con Panna from La Casa del Caffe Tazza d'Oro

Oh. My. God. When you read about this, you're going to want to make some for yourself. Like right now.

This place was on Paul's "Must Visit" list (I love this guy!) - the Tazza d'Oro sits by the Pantheon and is famous for its coffee (in a country that's famous for its coffee). There were some really amazing things on the drink menu, but the Granita Caffe con Panna is the one that it's famous for.

The drink consists of three layers - a thick whipped cream is placed on the bottom, then a scoop of rich, deep espresso granita (imagine a shaved ice) and then topped with more thick cream. This is definitely a coffee you eat with a spoon.

We loved this so much we went three times while we were in Rome (we actually went four times, but they were closed on one of the days we went).

Even better - Paul managed to make an extremely close copy of the drink after we got home (don't worry, I'll be sharing the recipe soon!) so now we can have it anytime we want! Hooray!

Ananas gelato from Gelateria I Caruso

Another one of Paul's "Must Visit" locations, this little gelato shop is not really near any tourist location, so it was relatively quieter, and the menu is smaller (and only in Italian) - I can't remember, but I think there were less than 25 flavours (compared to a place like Della Palma, with 150 flavours!) . Plus, the gelato containers are covered up so you can't even see the colour of the gelato and make an educated guess as to what the flavour might be.

Luckily for me, the word "pineapple" is the same in French and Italian. We had four different gelatos from this place and the Ananas is definitely our favourite (it ended up being our favourite flavour from the whole trip). It was like you were eating crushed, creamy pineapple in a cup.

This was the one gelato shop where you could actually see them making their products - if you peek in the main window of the shop, you can see someone making gelato! Amazing!

p.s. Besides being known as one of the best gelato places in Rome, Paul had another motivation for choosing this place to visit. If you know me well enough in real life, then you'll know right away why we're partial to this place!  ;)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

the top 10 (non-food) things i saw in rome

Paul and I are back from our one-week vacation in Rome and if you've been following me on Twitter and/or Instagram, then you'll know we packed A LOT of sight-seeing into seven days!

We chose to go to Rome at the very last minute - within the span of 10 days, we decided to go, booked our flight/hotel and hopped on a plane. If we had actually taken the time to do a little research, we would have learned that Rome in August is:
1. insanely hot (it was roughly 35 degrees Celcius everyday, with another 8-10 degrees extra in humidity); and
2. mainly closed down as many Romans take their holidays during this month.
But, we made the most of the situation, had backup plans in case any restaurant/attraction was closed, drank gallons of water and ended up having a wonderful trip.

Simply put, Rome is stunning! Everywhere you look, there's something old, historical and beautiful. And I'm not even going to start on the food right now - that's for future posts! We saw so many memorable things that it's hard to narrow it down, but because this is a blog post, not a book, I tried my best to pick some of my favourites to show you. (Thank goodness for our brand new Nikon D3200, which we bought two days before the trip - it actually makes our photos soooo much better!)

Here are the Top 10 (non-food) things I saw in Rome (in no particular order):

Inside the dome of St. Peter's Basilica

Located within Vatican City, Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world and is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites. For me, this basilica is memorable in a few ways - it was the shortest line-up we had (it took less than five minutes to get in both times we went!), it was the one place that enforced the "cover your shoulders" rule, and it was the place where I almost passed out from heat stroke (but that's a story for another day!)

We took a lift up to the dome level and got to walk along inside to see the ceiling up close. I think the photo speaks for itself.

The Vatican Museum exit staircase

The Vatican Museums display works from the huge collection built up by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries, including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and important masterpieces of Renaissance art.

Yes, the works of art are impressive, and the Sistine Chapel is included in the entry fee to the Museums, but one of the sites that will stay with me forever? The stairs to the exit! Designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932, the broad steps are somewhere between a ramp and a staircase and actually consist of two separate helixes, one leading up and the other leading down, that twist together in a double helix formation.

This has become my favourite staircase in the whole world. Yes, it's very wide and quite steep...and perfectly designed. Just take a look at this photo - isn't this a beautiful site?

Monday, August 20, 2012

my week in food photos, august 11 - 18, 2012 - rome edition

I'm still a little jet-lagged from our trip to Rome, but wanted to share some of the amazing things we ate while we were there. Because of the heat, I didn't have that much of an appetite, but we did manage to work in lots of pizza and gelato!

In the coming weeks, there will be LOTS of posts about our trip, but in the meantime, hope these photos give you a hint of what's to come!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

buongiorno roma!

Paul and I are off to Rome!

This is our first trip to Italy and we're super excited to see all the amazing sites and eat some real Italian food! We don't get to travel as often as we'd like (why is travelling so EXPENSIVE?!) so we try to make every minute away count. Since we decided at the last minute to go to Rome, we don't really have a set itinerary so are kind of going with the flow and trying to plan things "on the fly".

I'd love it if you joined me (sort of) on our trip! Follow me on Twitter and Instagram (ID: kitchenfrolic) to see what we're up to and what we're eating. If you've been to Rome before, we'd love to get your tips and recommendations!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


If there's one meal that Paul and I love, it's hamburgers. Especially Paul - he really loves his burgers!

During the summer, we tend to have burgers a lot since the BBQ is in use at least two times a week. Plus, this year Paul has been whipping up his own homemade burgers instead of the frozen ones we used to buy. I LOVE the way Paul's burgers come out - they're always meaty and juicy - just the way I want a burger to be. Mmm, I'm getting hungry just writing this blog post!

As a Canadian Beef Brand Ambassador, we've been having even more hamburgers than usual and in the past two weeks, we've made burgers three times! Our favourite toppings are the basics: thick slices of cheese (we tend to throw a variety on there), ketchup and mustard (one of the many from Paul's growing collection).

Paul is still "perfecting" his burger recipe and I'll be sure to share it on this blog once he gives it his seal of approval. In the meantime, I'm having fun taste-testing the trial burgers!

What about you burger fans out there? What's your secret ingredient to the perfect burger?

And speaking of burgers, what's your burger personality? Yes, I said "burger personality"! Turns out I'm a split personality - I'm definitely mostly Old School ("You believe that the classic burgers is sacred. You keep your toppings pristine: ketchup, mustard, a fluffy white bun. Why mess with a good thing?"), but once in a while, I tend to be a little Gourmet ("You can’t eat your burger unless it’s been elevated to the level of Emperor. At your house, Truffle oil, sautéed chanterelle mushrooms, and sundried tomato pesto have taken the place of yellow mustard and good old ketchup. Why use iceberg when you can have Arugula is your motto.")

The Old SchoolThe Gourmet

You can find out your own Burger Personality here (and please come share it with me!)

Disclosure: I am a Canadian Beef Ambassador and have been compensated for this post. However, all opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way by my association with the program.

Friday, August 3, 2012

let's all go to the Ex!

Congratulations to the winners of my CNE Admission Pass giveaway! From all your comments and tweets, it looks like there's lots of interest in Bacon Nation and the other new offerings, but tradition seems to still hold sway (that, and tiny donuts).

Here are the winners and what they're looking forward to eating at the Ex this year (plus my own comments in italics):

Henry - "Would like to give Bacon Nation a try."  ~ Yes, I'm looking forward to Bacon Nation a lot too, Henry!

Tim - "It is a tradition to hit the food building first, and get a jumbo hot dog and a 99 cent spaghetti. I know that doesn't sound adventurous, but it is tradition. There are so many awesome things to check out, and I am really looking forward to the Food Truck Frenzy." ~ Ah, I've been having the annual 99 cent spaghetti at the CNE since I was a kid. With each year that passes the 99 cent price seems more and more of a deal

Ian - "Once I hit the Food Building at this year's Ex I will, as I always am, be overwhelmed with all the great gastronomic temptations! But I have a strong feeling that one of the first stops will just have to be the Tiny Tom mini donuts. Love 'em. Then it will be onto the next treat . . . I've gotta get me a great Montreal smoked meat sandwich (they have great ones there, by-the-way)."

Ann Marie - "Tiny Tims - the only time that I would pay big money for little donuts." ~ Ann Marie's comment made me laugh out loud because it's so true!

Bev - "I gotta say, when I first heard about Pull'd, I was sold!"

Thanks to everyone for entering my giveaway! It was the first time I've done anything like this on my blog so the response was really encouraging and I'll be sure to start thinking up my next contest!

See you at the Ex!