Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Anything for a buck

The frustration of the garbage strike was too much to blog about as it was happening, now that its over and i no longer have a pile of maggot filled bags to deal with i feel i can write about the joyful time we had. It all began with the construction across the street. We had a large construction bin going for rubble, so when the strike began we didn't sweat it too much. We had our garbage disposal so things were looking up. but then it became a local garbage dump and quickly filled up. 500 dollars later and it was gone but we didn't replace it because it would only fill up not just with our garbage but with everyone's in the neighbourhood. 
So we began just putting the garbage in the same spot just minus the bin. I dont think anyone thought it was going to last as long as it did, i sure didn't. Everyday, the garbage piled up, recycling bins  filled up, and balancing acts began with the cardboard. 
Eventually, it became too much and we had to get rid of it. 
So straight to craigslist i went. Apparently a lot of people were taking advantage of having a truck and making money off it. 
So, i called the cheapest crew on criagslist, Labelled "Hard working students", i said to myself "Hey, id love to support some hard working students." So i called, hooked up a decent rate and then waited. 
I didn't really know what to expect, but i figured it would be somewhere along the lines of   a pickup truck or a U haul. 

These "students" , no older then 18, showed up with there pops lincoln towncar lined with a tarp, ready to take any garbage we had. I cant tell you how funny it was to see these two kids jamming 25 large husky bags into there poor fathers car dripping with maggots and pork and fish carcass juice, but they did, and in two trips, our garbage was gone.
All for a crisp $120!
Gotta love the entrepreneurial spirit. 
I hope it covered the car cleaning service. 

48 hour Trotter

So the idea of eating a trotter in its entirety seemed like a beautiful thing. What could bring you closer to an animal then simmering away its foot in a porky stock for 48 hours with the idea of eating bone and all. Well folks, let me save you some time and excitement and describe what its like. Picture taking a piece of drywall off the floor, dipping it in some water to dampen it a bit, then placing it in your mouth and chewing in to its gritty, powdery nature. This is exactly how the trotter tasted. I was very surprised to even see it hold its shape and integrity after all that cooking, thanks to it being wrapped in cheesecloth. We actually simmered it for 48 hours over a period of 5 days or so. Not ideal, but definitely not the reason for this failed attempt. If you remember, i got the idea from an old school book i have. It notes that if you cook a trotter for this length of time, it is completely edible. Perhaps this was a way for the poor to survive back in the day and this gives new meaning to eating the whole hog. But let me tell you how happy i am to be living in 2009 when times for the most part are good. 
I really wanted to like this, i really did. 
Unfortunately, it looked like crap and pretty lifeless. I dont think i noticed it at first because i was thrilled with the idea of eating it all. I sliced into it and it kind of crumbled but kind of stayed together, so we were off to an interesting start. The bones were pretty hollow as if whatever good stuff that originally was in there had now had the life sucked out of it. We breaded it up and fried it in a pan. Both Colin and myself tried to down it but didn't make it far. We then tried feeding it to one of our servers. We told her what it was, but didn't tell her how we felt about it. We rarely give them food, so she jumped at the chance to have a nibble. Perhaps she was being nice, but she didn't think it was that bad, not at first anyways. Then the sandy texture of the bone, which was hard to get out of your mouth lingered on and her face grew less happy. We broke out laughing and she went for a glass of water. That was that, another one for the bin. 

Its been a while

I wont bore any of you for my reason of absence, i told you already, when the vibe to write is there i take advantage of it, when its not, its not. 
Lifes been busy, running a restaurant is a full time job, but often feels like a few full time jobs. We've been busing stocking up our selection of preserves over the last month, this time for two restaurants and were busy playing around with new menu ideas. 
The new place although coming along, is coming along slower then we hoped. I have some updates and pictures to follow. 
Summer has flew by and i didn't get a chance to enjoy it i hope you all had fun!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

N'duja Update

So i tried the first bit of N'duja the other day. A little early, but its ready nonetheless. My worries of too much powdered hot chili pepper was correct. I've never tasted the real thing but theres some things i would tweak in the recipe. 
While mixing this batch, i found it incredibly hard to mix everything properly because i had to work in so much powdered hot pepper. In Italy they most likely use some sort of liquid hot pepper paste, but alas we are in Toronto, and authentic products like that are rare to come by, even in little Italy. Round two, i think i would make my own paste with sweet peppers with a little less hot pepper, because although i like the heat and can stand it, the first taste sends you running for water, but then you just cant stop eating it. Today i cooked out some cubed fat in duck fat with hopes that tomorrow i can fold in the n'duja in a kitchen aid mixer to make it a little more spreadable. I'm not sure it will work but i think its going in the right direction to improve its consistency. 
I plan to serve it this week on the menu with some smoked BC spot prawns, crushed cherry tomatoes in a pool of good olive oil with some crusty baguette. 

Smoked Jowl Rielette

I've made some rielette's before, but this one is by far my favorite. Generally i make them with pork or rabbit, sometimes pheasant but never jowl before. I used some nice tamworth jowls, a bit of pork belly and the meatier Kurobuta jowls that i am in love with. I lightly cured the jowls and smoked the Kurobuta's which were then all cooked gently in duck fat and shredded, then pressed. The thing about a good rielette is that the temp and cooking times are very crucial to a good consistency. Its very easy to end up with dry meat and one can do there best to emulsify enough fat to make up for the dryness, but a good palette can always distinguish the difference. 
Easy solution....Jowls. 
Even a newbie could pull this one off and have it taste good and you'd have to do something seriously wrong to have this come out dry. I love the way the marbling of the kurobuta jowls show up throughout this terrine, and i already have plans for a 2.0 version of this where i'd like to press whole jowls throughout to show the amazing marbling.  I tend not to really like aggressive smoke in most things, i find it covers up the flavor of the meat too much, so i only smoked a third of the jowls for an hour or so and folded them in. I tried to fork the rielette, but jowls just dont shred as well as cubed pork, so i just used a whisk and left some chunky goodness here and there. 

Monday, June 29, 2009

48-hour Trotter

So, apparently, if one simmers a trotter for 48 hours, everything within that trotter becomes edible. 
The boys at the hoof kitchen are on hour 14-ish.... 
We've wrapped it up in cheesecloth, tied it and have been simmering it away on and off when we have space on our stove. 
If all goes well, we will chill it, slice it, bread it lightly and sear round discs. 
There are three textures we've been told, crispy on the outside, molten on the inside, and somewhere inbetween while chewing on the bones. 
This may go somewhere....but also may go nowhere.....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pickled Ramp Jam

Sometimes, infact a lot of times, great things come from big mistakes (ie: foie gras gojiberry). While trying to use my new pressure canner to preserve my pickled ramps, i overcooked the shit out of them. I am far from an authority of the pressure cooker, i've barely used one in my cooking career. Perhaps i need to cook in kitchen stadium for practice. Anyways, i overcooked the crap out of the first batch. 10 minutes under full pressure, and the brine came out of the jars and it was still boiling nearly 1/2 an hour after being taken out of the canner. Frustrated by my lack of success my first time around, i was determined to not have these guys see the garbage can. No one wants to smell ramps on the sidewalk, especially during a garbage strike. The brownish colour they took on was similar to caramelized onions, and the only thing that stood between the ramps and the bin, was some sugar and the hopes that it would make a great, or atleast interesting jam. In went the sugar, in went the brine and there i was waiting for that perfect consistency. 
I was a tad bit reluctant because these ramps were pickled in a dill pickle style. I was a little unsure of how that flavour would react with a boat load of sugar.
When it was all said and done, i took my first taste. To be honest, i wasn't sure i liked it. It was too unfamiliar of a taste for my taste buds. It wasn't until Colin and Jen, who both loved it, did my taste buds come around and begin to enjoy the unique flavor we had achieved. 
Its tough to describe the flavour, the dill is there, but you'd really only pin point it if i told you it was in there. The consistency is similar to a date in syrup, sticky and toffee like, but with the help of the pressure cooker, the integrity of the ramp shape, despite being overcooked, still help its shape and the perfect consistency for a jam. Jen thinks it would make a perfect accompaniment with the monkfish liver.... we shall see.
The success of this jam gives me a whole new way of thinking towards pickles.... what else could i make in to a jam with that acidic aromatic flavour much different from your typical fruit jam. 

Foie Gras and Monkfish Liver Terrine

Two weeks and one post of our 'hours of operation'....lame... i know. 
Anyways, This week a fun week. We got a few fishy things in to play around with from True World fish, a supplier of special japanese products. The first was whole sacs of fresh pollock fish roe. None of us in the kitchen are too familiar with what to do with them other then deep fry the suckers but were working on it and perhaps it will make an appearence in some form on the menu in the future. The other fun thing we got in was Monkfish livers. We made a terrine of foie gras mi-cuit with steamed monkfish liver set in the middle. The liver is very fishy, but in a good way. Once steamed, the consistency of the liver is almost identical to foie gras, which makes for a perfect match for this terrine. We havn't decided on what will actually go with this dish, but were toying with the idea of pairing it with a pickled ramp jam and a reduction of black vinegar. 

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hours of Operation

Since we dont have a website and more people then i thought read this blog i figured this would be a good place to post our Hours of Operation. First off, we are closed Tuesday's and Wednesday's. Last call for food on Thurs, Fri, and Sat. is at 1am, but the bar stays open till 2am. Last call for food on sunday/monday is 11:30 pm. with the bar closing at 12am. 
This Monday June 15th we will be closed for a private event off site.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Brain Carpaccio

Nic from Niagara St. Cafe had been asking about the raw veal brains ever since i ate it the other week. His birthday was on friday and he celebrated it with 50 other people at the hoof. What better a time to try version 2.0 then 2 in the morning on a friday night. I rinsed the brain and froze it vac packed. Out of the freezer, i sliced it thinly on the slicer and layed it on a plate with a bit of preserved lemon juice, maldon salt and cracked black pepper. 7 lucky people, including myself all took a slice on our fork. As soon as the fork  touched it, the brain shriveled up and clung to the fork. Nic described the consistency best. It had the consistency of an oyster. It was perhaps one of the most interesting things i have ever eaten. Im not sure it will go on the menu ever, but definitely something i will keep in the back of my head for special occasions.


Its been a long time coming, but our patio is up and running and were really happy with the way it turned out. 
Although it looks like G-mo and Colin may be posing for the camera, this was actually a pre-meditation period for us before our first friday night with an extra twenty something seats. 
It felt like we did 200 covers that night out of our small little kitchen, it started at 6 and we didn't look up till 1 in the morning. Good times. Its going to be a long summer!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Kurobuta Jowls

Also known as Berkshire Pork, but this stuff is the real deal. No cross breeds or 90 % berk, and 10% something else, this is the kobe beef of pork meat. Pigs cheeks are generally all fat with a few nasty glands in them, but these have some serious marbling of meat throughout. They run about 15 dollars a lb, not cheap by any means. I have them brining and will confit them tomorrow. I'm thinking of pairing them with some kimchee'd spanish onion, fava's, and perhaps some morels if the price comes down next week. 

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Decided to try something a little different this time around. i like guanciale, but slicing the skinny pressed piece of fat can get annoying. This time i decided to roll it like pancetta and press it. Hopefully it stays nice and tight. 

Curing Room Update

Although i only get to spend a very minimal amount of time in this room, it is my favorite part of the week. The smell, the look, the constant squeezing of cured meats to access whats ready or soon to be cherry picked. 
Most animals in the animal kingdom are represented in these pictures... i'm sure you can guess which one is the N'duja. 
I harvested some really nice horse with clove and chili yesterday so look for it on your board this week. Our prosciutto's are still a ways away but hopefully they will be tasty. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Calf's Brain Tortelli

After a slow unproductive sunday we decided to use our minimal prep day to make some pasta. Colin made the dough, Guy made the brain filling, and i made the pork belly pastrami filling. Its been a while since i've touched some good home made pasta and it reminded me how much i miss it. Because of the beautiful weather, we decided to do it outside. Here's Colin rolling out the first piece on a mini pasta roller i dug out from the bottom drawer of my home kitchen. I bought it for 10 bucks years ago and its still gets the job done. 
Here's Guy and Colin making tortelli with the brain mixture which consists of ricotta and lemon zest. We served some up last night with a bit of brown butter, lemon and cracked black pepper and it was tasty. 
Fortunately, there's a ton of filling left, so me and colin will be finishing up the rest today. Look for it on the menu next week. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stupid things one does when its slow

On a slow night most cooks would catch up on prep or clean areas of the kitchen that dont get regular attention, but some days, for no apparent reason, we go straight to option 3....playing with the deep fryer. 
The deep fryer is the most entertaining piece of equipment in a kitchen. Not many tools can compete with a container of consistently hot oil with baskets ready to fry anything that comes its way. But the beauty of the deep fryer is in the differing outcomes depending on what you put in there. 
It started with an egg. None of us in the kitchen that night had deep fried a whole egg in its shell. We didn't know what to expect, but obviously, we figured it would blow up. We bounced around our theories and argued about the outcome. Some of us took cover, and others, meaning myself, stayed close by to keep watch on the fryer. All three of us stood there, trying not to look too suspicious in front of the surrounding customers. 
We waited....and waited... until clearly this egg was not going to blow up. 
So much for that one.
On to the next. 
I whipped up a quick tempura batter and we began frying every little tid bit in the kitchen. Chorizo, salami's, gherkins, and even sour keys (our go-to protein when were hungry). None of the outcomes warranted new menu changes, but its times like these where new ideas and new techniques are created. I bet you many things you might eat at El Bulli are created by days like these. 
Next stupid thing on the list was the veal brains. We were soaking the brains last night for the ravioli's we are making today. I decided to cut a small piece off and offer it to my dishwasher, labelled veal brain sashimi. It was meant as a joke, i wasn't sure i was going to let him eat it, but i definately wanted to see if he'd do it. He passed on the raw state, so i offered him ceviche. A little marinate of lemon juice and brunoise. I gave it to him and told him to give it about 5 minutes before eating. Tom's a special boy, he'll pretty much do anything you tell him. The ceviche looked appetizing to him, i knew he was going to eat it. 
I've never heard of eating raw or quickly marinated brains before, especially not calf's. I quickly thought of the possible outcomes and decided as a responsible restaurant owner, i wasn't being too responsible. When he wasn't looking, i grabbed the little bowl of marinating brains and walked back to the kitchen. 
Confronted with my two cooks who were hoping for a much more entertaining outcome, i only had one choice and that was to eat it myself. I split it in 1/2 and scooped the first bit in a spoon and i downed it without chewing with the assumption, that if i dont chew it i will have a better chance of not getting sick. Realizing my silly assumption and the fact that whatever would happen was going to happen, i was ready to really taste the raw brains. I took the second 1/2 and placed it on my tongue, i squished and chewed and swallowed. It had a very delicate texture, almost like a scallop but with less bite and chew. When i think about it now, it was a delicacy to my senses. 
Its the next morning and despite a little hang over, i feel fine. 
Not sure brain ceviche would sell nor that i would even put it on the menu, but it was nice to try and another stupid night in the books.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Put a little bit of tripe in something and you'll make most peruvians smile. In this case it's chef G-Mo. He is holding a bung cap filled with N'duja, a Calabrian salami that is the italian version of the french andouille only much hotter due to the 1.5 kg of hot chili pepper that went into this recipe. The thing that makes this salami unique from most others is that it is spreadable rather then your typical sliced cured meat. This would kick off the beginning to an italian meal with some toasted bread and cheese to wake up the senses. 
We used honey comb tripe for this recipe. We brought it up in hot water, then changed the water and brought it up to a simmer for another hour or so till it was par cooked.
We let it cool down before we diced it up  and froze it for grinding and the smell of poached tripe was making the whole kitchen wheezy, even the peruvian. 

This salami also contained about 5 jowls, 1/2 a pigs belly, and some nice berkshire shoulder meat. The presence of fatty goodness is a must if you want it to spread nicely. The mound of red stuff is the hot chili pepper. I was very weary about the amount that went into it. Just a bit on the tip of my finger sent me running for water. It was the toughest salami i've mixed by hand due to the amount of dry ingredients. 
After stuffing it, we dried it for a day to form a pellicle on the casing, which will help the salami take on smoke in the smoker. It's a first for the BH kitchen, were excited as much as we are scared to taste it. 

The 12 O'clock Crouch

If your ever at the Hoof and its 12 o'clock and you dont see anyone in the kitchen, chances are we're doin' the 12 o'clock crouch, which consists of suckin' back some 50's and eating cheap, cold chinese food.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Demo Across the Street

Demolition has begun. Put some guys together with some heavy duty smashing utensils and an empty room and we'll go nuts. The demolition started with 5 people, we were so excited we began bringing down the ceiling without eye goggles or face masks. This lasted about 3 minutes before we couldn't see and could feel the dry wall dust filling our lungs. Off Jen went to ML lumber to get us our gear.  I wont waste much time bitching about the design of the goggles, but they have so many holes in them (apparently so they dont fog up) but it didn't help much with the debris, it merely was much more selective about the size of particles that got in your eye. 
For about 20 minutes we were busting stuff up with blurry vision, eventually someone realized there was a layer of plastic to peel off. Sweet, we can see now!
Id love to say i did the a lot of the destruction, but i'm sure i would get called out by one of my staff. Colin, our "Tower of Power" at the hoof basically did about 3/4 of the whole ceiling while the other 4 of us handled the rest. He was taking down pieces of ceiling 4 feet long while i was more or less just chipping away.  Some tapped out along the way while the rest of us picked up the slack.
Despite my blurry vision and the dust that filled my nose, my ears were still working fine. I heard the chimes of the ice cream truck but couldn't see it. It took me a second to figure out where it was coming from, and then i began running before it was too late. I signaled to Tom our busboy to take orders and follow me. 
Here we are, patiently waiting for 6 large twists dipped in chocolate and peanuts. 
This man was well dressed for an ice cream guy so he obviously takes his job seriously. 

G-mo showed up very late and despite being dressed in a nice shirt and jeans, he helped break some stuff. Drinking brew and eating ice cream after a long days work. My arms felt like rubber. 
Cooks like anything in a squeeze bottle. If you watch us during service, you can often see us eating bread with something out of a squeeze bottle. It might be hot sauce, ramp pesto, pesto and hot sauce, mayo, purple mustard, or caramel. Anythings fair game when were hungry. So this ice cream was lacking something. I ran across the street and was soon giving everyone a dose of caramel. I have a very funny picture of Jen with ice cream covering her face but im sure she'd kill me if i posted it. All in all it was a great day and we are ready to start paying some professionals to do the rest. 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Veal Brains

After an inspiring dinner at Splendido last week where i was served brains, i decided to see if i could get some in from my suppliers. Talks of them being illegal from one supplier made me want them even more. My supplier was on a mission to find them though and one day 10 lbs of brains were at my door. I havn't quite figured out what to do with them, i was thinking a sandwich, because it is quite popular in the south, but im not sure toronto is ready for a brain sandwich. I'm not sure people will even order brains and its not something that can just sit around in the fridge for a few days. I'm thinking of pairing it with truffle, perhaps it will help it sell. 
But come to think about it, i didn't think the stuffed snout would sell, and it sold out every night. 
So perhaps i am underestimating Toronto and not giving the people of this city the props that they deserve. We shall see....

Kimchi Ramps

We've already had about 100 lbs of ramps come our way. This 168 liter container was full and we decided to kimchi them. I dont have the recipe infront of me but i will try and post it soon. Normally, the addition of water isn't part of the recipe, but id like to be able to can these ones up and thought using a brine would help with keeping the ramps nice and and tasty in there jars. Lots of garlic, ginger, salt,sugar and korean chili flakes. They are currently fermenting in the cave. These ramps are big and they should take a while for the brine to penetrate there core. Although i am dreading  the actual part of canning this season because of memories of 5 in the morning last year waiting for water to boil, doing small batches at a time, especially on an electric stove, it beats trying to store a million vac pac bags of pickles in our small walk in. 


Jen and I started this restaurant with all the money we had. We were forced to clean out our own kitchens of anything that could be useful to the restaurant, which is ok, because neither of us have had time to cook at home. Business has been good and we can now afford to spend money on certain luxuries for the restaurant. I've worked in some fancy kitchens and i think this last investment has put us in the same category as the big boys like Canoe, etc.
Its not a massive steam kettle nor is it a fancy sous vide machine. No folks, Its a "Safety Saran Wrap Station" , not just any safety wrap station, its the delux version, with all the fancy attachments. I was trying to figure out why it called itself a "station", then before service we tried to find a spot to store it, and alas i figured out why it was called a station. This thing, is so BIG and clunky, handles protruding out the side giving it an extra foot in length, it looks swollen as if its filled with too much water, almost as long as our 4 foot garde manger fridge...so surely.... one can not store it. It demands a station of its own, perhaps its own room. 4 empty walls, a stainless table, with its suction cups clinging to the surface, ready to wrap anything that comes its way. 

The Patio

This is a shot from last week and despite the odd day of our contractor not showing up or the odd day of him showing up and not doing much and then disappearing, it has come much further then what you see here. I have an updated picture, but Jen has big plans for pimping out our patio so you will have to come and sip strawberry/rhubarb mojitos to see it for yourself. We had no choice but to build a roof. Unexpected rain would surely put us in the shits if we had an extra twenty people to seat inside. Only thing left is to wait for our tables to get delivered. Exciting times at the hoof. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Wedding

Yesterday i catered a wedding. It wasn;t just any wedding...it was my girlfriends parents wedding. I was also informed (by my girlfriend) that i was catering the wedding only 7 days prior. Cooks like me always get signed up for these family events, so im not surprised i found myself catering to 130 people, outside in a backyard, in the dark. 

Any cook knows, hell, anyone who's thrown a dinner party knows that no matter how many lists you make, you are always going to forget something. I began the day with one large list, which quickly multiplied into 5 pages, front and back, scribbles everywhere, titles, headings, check marks, id put some in one pocket, some in others, lost a few down by the peddles of the car as i did my day-of errands like picking up coffee, getting flowers or should i say trees that filled the car like a scene in jumanji, balancing trays of duck confit puffs on the dash board with the air conditioning on high trying to offset the heat from the sun projecting through the cars window as i battle my way through traffic up to yonge and finch. 

I reached my destination. The rain had stopped (thank god) but the winds were still fierce. I was standing under a 130 foot tent that looked like it was ready to set sail. First things first, unload the cars and see whats missing. Garbage bins, bags, containers, soap, scrubbies, knifes, made more lists and back downtown i went. Eventually i got back. Looking at my prep list which was in good shape i had three hours, i felt good, things were looking up. 
I began drinking a beer i was offered by my girlfriends father who was trying to get my operation powered up with enough extention cords. We blew some fuses, had cords everywhere, power bars, lights, induction burners, slicers but eventually got it figured out. 
I was starving, so were the two cooks helping me. I decided to get food for everyone. i drove to the corner of finch and yonge to find myself surrounded by korean restaurants. I like korean but i wasn't sure if they can do hot pot and korean bbq to go. So i settle on the only sushi joint arount. I returned with 80 bucks of sushi only to be told i had 5 minutes before we had to go to the wedding ceremony. 
One thing i forgot to write on my list was that i had to go to the wedding. 
There i was, in the shits, although my girlfriend was in it worse. We delegated everything we didn't have done to my two cooks who when we left, were filling balloons with helium. 
Off we went. 
Sitting in the front row, i managed to sneak a few text messages to the cooks during prayers and hymns giving orders, reminding them of things to get done. The plan was to grab the trees from the church and rush back as soon as possible to finish setting up before the people arrived. We were in the front row. We wanted to wait till the people began following out the groom and bride before we yanked the trees. But everyone was waiting for us to follow first. i stepped back, hoping that people would catch my drift, they waited..... i stepped back again...this time yanking my girlfriend back.... they waited. 
Realizing this wasn't going anywhere, i grabbed my girlfriend and then the trees and ran out the side door. 
Racing back, i through on some chef whites and got down to business. The boys had eveything together, i began slicing. Induction burner was searing pork belly, oysters were being shucked. 
The people began arriving. My girlfriend was in a hectic state. 

Theres two types of Hors d'oeuvres parties. Those where people eat, and those where people dont. 
30 minutes into it and no one had touched a thing, they oouuud and ahhhd but no eating. 
All this work for nothing. 
Then i heard a gentleman say the word "plate"
There were no plates! IDIOT!
I ran inside, got a stack of paper plates and the line ups began. 
oysters were moving, lobster, bacon and brioche sandwiches were flying off the shelf, pork belly was searing, duck puffs were in the oven, people were filling there plates up with meat and antipasto, things were looking up. Two hours later, the crowd had subsided, the food was all gone, and it was time to clean up. 
First wedding catering behind me. Over before i knew it. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Pickling Season Begins

So, every year the ramps are pretty much the first sign of "get ur pickle on". 
I'm still waiting for one of my foragers to show up at my door with 400lbs worth. 
Its a task for anyone to get that amount, i think you would probably need 10 people to do it in one sitting. The other day i managed to pickle 10lbs. Ramps are delicate, especially early in the season. I prefer to ferment then pour a hot pickle over, only it takes time. 
For this one, i did a very simple pickle, water, a bit of salt, fresh dill, lots of mustard seed, and chili. No need to add garlic or onion when doing ramps for obvious reasons. 
A little trick when fermenting. Add some base brine to a bag, so that when you skin the skum that rises, you can refill out of the bag and it also acts as a weight to keep things submerged.
Dont forget to rinse the bag on the outside each time you skim.
A new pickle ive never tried. This is a indian spiced broccoli. Lots of white wine vinegar, fresh grated garlic, ginger, dill seed, purple mustard seed, cumin. I always like to try using the whole vegetable when trying something new, so i cut the stalks into baton's and through them in the pickle. 
Also new for me. Pickled grapes. Strictly white wine vinegar, lots of tarragon, celery leaves, and spices like cinnamon, all spice, and bay. They should be ready in a month or so. 

Friday, May 1, 2009


So a few things to update. 
Lets start with the loser. Remember the pork loins i stuffed with noisette salami? 
Well, great idea, bad execution. It didn't cure great and it only kinda stuck to one side. 
Im sure i'll try it again sometime, only this time around i will probably press it as it ages to see if that helps. I plan to do the reverse idea now that i have the saran wrap casing :)
Another salami i made was a spicy clove and horse one. It turned out great. only i didn't make alot. So i made a big batch this past week. 
There is something about the pairing of horse and clove that goes so well together. 
Also, The Baby Goat salami is finished and i must say its a winner. 
Its got a perfect level of salt, nice whole black peppercorns and a bottle of cava. 
Im not sure if i can taste the cava or not, perhaps its all in my head, but you can definitely taste the goat meat. 
Its not overly goaty. but definitely apparent.  
Now all i need to do is find some more baby goat trim. 
Ps. if you want some goat, please ask to have it on your board when you order. IF i have some on hand, you shall receive. 


The other day i made Sobresada. Its the spanish version of the italian sopressata, except for that its a ground salami, which then gets pulsed in the food processor and then cures. The end result is more like a pate one can spread, then a salami you can slice. The meat to fat ratio is 1:1 , so its very creamy. I decided not to pulse it for several reasons, the main one being i didn't have enough time to do such a large batch in my dinky food processor. While grinding it, it already looked pretty smooth and mushy so hopefully i get a good product. Like most spanish salami's there is a lot of smoked paprika involved. Infact this salami takes a shitload. 
I used beef middles as my casings but my last few casing purchases have really been a disappointment. They seem to break every few inches which is INCREDIBLY annoying. So i stopped 1/2 way through and began using the saran wrap casing above. I'm not sure what its actually called, so i call it saran wrap casing. It looks like a roll of seran wrap, only 20 times more expensive. I just recently got it but i have already planned out my next twelve things id like to experiment with. 
Basically, in a nut shell, you lay your meat down, wet the wrap, and roll like you would a roulade of sorts. Tie it up, poke your holes and hang. I'm in the beginning stages of experimenting with it, im sure i will come across some obstacles and i wont get it perfect for another few tries. But anything that doesn't take up valuable fridge space like natural casings is worth a try ...or even two...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ramps and Old Women

I've been getting ramps for a good price. A good price because they are not cleaned. Cleaning ramps can be fun if you make it fun. Today , i only had 8 lbs to clean. Not a ton, seeing that I plan to get 400 lbs for a ramp party im throwing soon, but it still took me 4 hours.  Tired of being locked in the kitchen on my days off not able to enjoy the sun, my dog, and my girlfriend. I decided to take the party outside. 4 hours for 8 lbs is pathetic, but when your sitting outside in the sun you get distracted. 
Today i had this women stop by. Her name was Maria. She pulled up with a walker, which also doubles as a chair. She started talking to me in another language which i soon realized was Italian. i didn't understand. I smiled and gave her a nice nod and continued cleaning ramps. She continued her conversation with me. I was on my bluetooth talking to my girlfriend, so on one end my girlfriend was wondering what other lady i was talking to and on the other end i had this old women who probably doesn't know what a Jaw Bone NOISE ASSASSIN is and probably thought i was talking to her. 
So i got off with my girlfriend to see what this women wanted because she clearly looked like she was going to stay awhile. 
I dont know how people communicate without talking eachothers languages but it happens. She was clearly wondering what the ramps were. I told her they were ramps. She didn't get it. Then i said wild leeks. nothing. I finally gave her one to smell. Feeling like Sigourney Weaver in "Gorillas in the Mist" i bagan motioning to eat the leaves as i ate mine. We chewed our ramp tops, smelled, and took in the mild garlic/onion flavor. She nodded, i nodded, she smiled, i smiled. She said something that sounded like garlic. i said yes. We were getting somewhere. 
We continued to talk, or should i say ...communicate. 
1/2 way through our hour long conversation, we realized that we could both speak a little bit of french. Neither of us could make full sentences, so we becan talking in a trio of languages. Actually 5. At one point i through in a few portuguese words at which time she reminded me swiftly that she was not Portuguese , but italian, and from the Abruzzo region. (typical italian). And the 5th language was just words i was making up with italian endings like "ini", hoping to get lucky. 
I learned she was 83 years old, from abruzzo, moved here 48 years ago, her mother died a long time ago in Italy, and used to make prosciutto. We talked about how canadians dont cook anymore and that all they do is do take out and eat out. She was on her way back from the hospital visiting a friend with heart problems. I told her i was dutch, she thought german, i said Holland, nederlands, she looked perplexed, i changed the subject. I told her my name was Grant, she said frank, i repeated Grant, she couldn't pronouce it, so we both settled with Frank. Luigi stopped by as i was trying to ask her about grape leaves from wine, and if she grew them, and what she did with them if she did because i could use some for pickling this summer.

Luigi wasn't really into being our interpreter. He gave us a few minutes of his time but then had a look on his face that said, you want my help, pay me. 
I managed to understand that maria doesn't grow grapes because of the raccoons, neither does Luigi. But his neighbour does. He said they throw out the leaves. I said i would buy them, he says not till september. i said i would buy them. Obviously knowing he was not going to make any money with his time or his neighbours grape leaves, he nodded ok, mumbled semtember, and continued on his way. So there maria and i were together, shooting the shit and soaking up the sun. She peered into the window of the hoof and saw Patrice, our server. Maria said "Chinese" looking for my reassurance. I said Phillipino. She didn't understand. So i nodded and said "chinese". 
The day was getting cooler. Maria decided to get on her way. We exchanged gifts. I gave her a handful of ramps and she gave me a banana. I wasn't sure if we were supposed to hug or shake hands after a long talk like the one we had, so i went the safe route with a wave goodbye and a warm smile. 
I'm not sure i will ever see maria again, perhaps ill catch her pushing her walker down the road on her way to visit her friend in hospital. Or perhaps ill find her peering into the hoof looking for me. 

The Hoof Cafe

So, its been a while. Infact its been 3 weeks from my last post. I'm not a writer, so if im not in the mood it doesn't happen. But with all the sun and new veg arriving in the markets expect lots of activity this summer. Now back to the posts title. Jen and myself are pleased to announce that we have acquired the place directly across the street (formerly the Chelsea Room) from the Black Hoof. We have big plans for The Hoof Cafe and although its a little earlier then we would have liked, the space came available and we had to swoop it up. We're not restauranteurs. We dont have dreams of owning 10 restaurants. People who own 10 restaurants rarely excel at any(unless were talking about Mario Batali. He kicks ass and all his restaurants are great). We're looking at this new venture as an extention to the Black Hoof and a place to do everything we would have liked to do with that space that we couldn't. If you've been to the hoof, you've seen the kitchen. Theres nothing downstairs, no prep kitchen, very little storage and ceilings that feel about 4 feet tall. The cooks and i come in a 10 am and leave at 2-3 in the morning, not because we do double the prep, but because everythings a hassle, and hassles=time. 

The Hoof Cafe will hopefully solve this problem. 

So ill keep this short as i have a lot of catching up to do but the Hoof Cafe plans to do Brunch. Cocktails. and Retail 

Brunch. Im not talking about your typical eggs beny. I'm talking hoof inspired brunch. Expect blood sausage crepes, suckling pig beny, rabbit pancakes, and a ton of other tasty things. One thing i should let u know is that i have never been more psyched to cook breakfast. (Brunch on mondays too!)

Cocktails. Jen makes amazing cocktails, without all the bullshit and pricy price tags. She makes everything she can in house, including bitters, alcohol infusions, and a bunch of other crazy stuff (i dont drink much, but it looks crazy). So expect this to be a venue at night to truly showcase what she loves to do. So if by chance you do have to wait for a table, you wont have to do it at a grungy bar. We will be serving a bit of small tapas plates as well to tide you over. 

Third Retail. I'm not talking T-shirts, cookbooks and cold pasta salads. I'm talking charcuterie. Selling charcuterie retail is a bitch, but im on it, and i wont stop till i make it happen. 

So thats the Hoof Cafe in a nutshell. Just as we are recovering from the Black hoof reno's and start up here we go throwing ourselves into another place that needs alot of work. Im exhausted, Jen's exhausted, but were excited, and our staff who are the most passionate people ive ever worked with are excited, and together, with some pizza and some cheap beer, will demolish this building and rebuild it from the basement up. 

Summer? What summer? :)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

1/2 head roast

So i've decided the 1/2 head roast is much better then the whole head roast. It cooks better, looks better, and serves better. The crosstown crew came in as predicted, late, hungry and thirsty. 
Thy are generally good at just letting me put up things for them. So, i thought it was a perfect time for the head. We began warming the head up around 10:30. After reheating it in foil, we took it off to crisp up the skin. another 45 minutes on a low broil and the skin was CRISPY!! 
Unfortunately, the heads were overly salty (as predicted) but were not so bad in the middle. We ended up doing a platter (read: get rid of your mise before the weekend) which included bone marrow and some greens and stuff. I was very impressed on how much they ate. Someone even ate the eyeballs. 
We never eat off customers plates at the hoof, but when this platter came back, myself and a few of the staff picked away at the skull like vultures. 
If i had to do it again (which i definately will) the only thing i would do differently is not forget about it for too long while its salting, other wise i think it would have been the perfect dish. 

Lamb heads

Were looking to do round two of lamb headcheese. Lucky for me a friend pointed me in the direction of a butcher who goes through a lot of ontario lamb. I was only able to get 14 heads in and that will barely give me a terrine when it finally gets picked down, but at 2 bucks a head (tongue in) thats a deal!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dry Cure Room

The boys in the kitchen have been really busy stocking up for the warm months ahead of us. With the opening of the patio soon, we know were going to be burning through a lot of charcuterie. We also have to give enough charcuterie for the Slow Food Movement dinner on may 2nd for 200 people. In this picture i see wild boar, beef and dill, lots of Lardo, Pancetta, duck, buffalo, sopprasata, pepperoni, horse, as well as some others. However, i've learned from the past that as soon as you think you have enough for a while, dont get lazy, keep on curing, otherwise one day i'll walk into service with nothing ready. Luckiliy for us, this stuff doesn't go bad.

1/2 head roast

We got these Iron age split heads in as a freebee from the Healthy butcher last week. We brined them then salted them. Yesterday, we roasted them off with some miripoix and braised them out. Everytime the Crosstown Kitchen crew does an event on a monday they usually bombard the hoof after there dinner. We generally keep the kitchen open later on these days to accomodate the hungry chefs. Tonight will be a perfect time to unveil the heads, with some bread and mustard so they can make there own sandwiches. 


Those of you who dine at the Hoof who didn't like going home smelling like foie gras will be happy to know that we finally got a real kitchen hood. This bad boy looks like it wants to eat our little electric stove and the guy cooking in front of it. We also did some tiling and a new sink in the mens washroom. Next up, new toilet paper roll holders... woo hoo! 

All hands on deck

Not only does she make great cocktails but she also makes Testina. The hoof's better 1/2, Jen, lending a hand in the kitchen on one of our off days. 

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Road Trip

Its been a crazy few weeks at the hoof and i just havn't had a lot of free time to post much. Thats not to say we havn't been doing some fun things in and out of the kitchen. This week on our day off Colin, Chris from Perigee restaurant and myself took a little road trip up to Blue Haven Farms that specializes in beautiful Tamworth heritage pigs. This is the farm where the hoofs first ham for prosciutto came from. Marcia, who takes care of most of the animals during the day when her husband is at work teaching, is as tough as farmers come. She has this straight up, no nonsense attitude and despite having knee problems and using a walker to get around her land, shes up every day tending to her animals and crops. All her animals live outdoors year round. We started out the tour realizing we needed some boots. This was Colins first attempt before Marcia gave us a couple extra pairs of boots. 
Off we went to the pig pen's. This is, i believe, Patsy, the mother of the little ones below. Extremely tame not to mention healthy. 
Here are her little guys peeking out from the hut. They're almost 6 months old. They were shy at first with all the new faces but quickly warmed up.

I dont know what they were nibbling at, but they all seemed interested in my boots and jeans.
Heres the adult male taking a nap. Looks like an old boy. 
She also does goats, chickens and wild turkeys. These guys were entertaining and make shrilling calls simultaneously that sent shivers up my spine.
Heres Marcia picking fresh eggs that we ended cooking up for breakfast. 

As she was picking the eggs,the chickens began jumping over my leg and escaping.
It took Chris a few tries but he managed to get it. 
And heres one of Marcia's small plots where, if i remember correctly, she planted garlic.