Blog Bites, September 4

So much to write about, but not enough space to give each its own post. I initially began with a mini-review of Frida Restaurant but as I typed it moved from appetizer size to entree size and then I gave myself permission to see where I could take it.  Now I can tell you to watch for it tomorrow because that’s when I’ve scheduled it for. Six courses to chew on:

First Bite – what’s cooking?

I recently received the current issue of  What’s Cooking, a magazine created by Kraft Foods Canada that showcases their products and is filled with recipes, and tips for eating, cooking and food preparation. Basically it’s an advertorial crossed with a cookbook. The magazine often angers me. I’m not a fan of processed food, especially when it’s being marketed as “healthy”.  For months I’ve had a draft blog entry that rants about a two-page “healthy eating”/”summer weight loss” article that advocates for processed foods containing ingredients not found in nature. I refer to the article as “paying lip service” to weight loss and then segue into another rant about “Kraft Dinner Smart” macaroni and cheese that contains “1/2 a serving of vegetables in every helping”. And the ingredients they use in their jello!  Read about tartrazine if you’re so inclined.

That mini-tirade of an intro is just to tell you that the current issue does not anger me. I’m almost disappointed about that. I even found a couple of pieces useful: “Easy how to: slicing and coring a pear” and a recipe for “mix-in-the pan chocolate chip cake”. No doubt that Kraft will keep pissing me off for as long as they make “food” and beverage that contains such ingredients as trisodium phosphate, which Wikipedia says can act as a cleaning agent, food additive, stain remover and degreaser. How about we eat whole foods, cook quick foods such as quinoa that don’t come partly cooked and in a package, and drink water flavoured with herbal tea and/or lemon and/or essential oils?

Second Bite – holy guacamole, score another one for the Italian team

Last Monday I attended Ivy Knight’s Guacamole Smackdown at the Drake Hotel. Winner: Enotecha Sociale. Runner’s up: Frida Restaurant and C5.  I overheard Enoteca chef Rocco Agostino say something like, “I’m Italian, what do I know about guacamole?” I wonder if, when asked to participate, Chef Rocco feared that he was stuck between a guac and a hard place.

What else can I say? There were lots of guacamoles and chips, an Italian won, and the patio was packed with restaurant workers and food bloggers. I do enjoy when the two groups (with some overlap) come together and am content hanging out with chefs and other restaurant industry types.

Guac and roll, people.

(I’ll stop now.)

Third Bite – when life gives you overactive air conditioning, buy donuts

Usually Blog Bites are a collection of musing that are too long to tweet but to short for their own posts The following I did tweet:

“Swapped the Arctic chill of the office for the tropical heat outdoors & walked to Little Nicky’s Coffee for iced Americano & 1/2 doz donuts.”

“Donuts are made to order. I didn’t eat all 6. I offered them around the office before I was down to 2. Hoping caffeine doesn’t ruin me.”

“Addendum to my previous two tweets:”

Then a couple hours later,

“Occurs to me that earlier I didn’t mention that the 1/2 dozen donuts I bought & ate 3 of were MINI. (Makes more sense & less horrifying.)”

Also, I also drank a smoothie for breakfast and had a salad for lunch before going to Little Nicky’s. Sometimes I seem to crave junk food because of eating salad.

I’m going back there, next time for a dozen so that my other colleagues can share in the hot, fluffy cinnamon sugar goodness.

Fourth Bite – free doesn’t make it taste better

Occasionally companies send bloggers product hoping for free publicity and/or a review. I think they’re aware that bloggers are likely to accept free sh*t and then, being bloggers (I’m talking personal blogs, not group blogs or ones that are essentially online magazines), have no obligation to actually post. Many of us take the “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say it at all” approach. Sheryl Kirby briefly addressed this recently in a blog post about using social media to sell products, inspired by a Globe and Mail article about using Twitter contests as marketing tools.

When Mardi of Live.Eat.Travel.Write blogged about receiving samples of Hall’s Kitchen products I recalled the last time I received samples for review. I didn’t blog about it because it was negative, seemed redundant and I didn’t feel that it would make a good post. As my response to Mardi was essentially a mini blog post in someone else’s blog, I share it here:

I like Hall’s Kitchen. They use good ingredients and no preservatives. I was recently sent samples of dip and a noodle salad from another company to blog about. I already knew that I wasn’t crazy about their dips. I was prepared to do a full on taste test at work, which I did, but I haven’t blogged about my experience because it comes down to “Dip #1: Dominant flavour is potassium sorbate. Dip #2: See dip #1.” and so forth. Potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate taste like acid to me. Sodium benzoate is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and can be produced by reacting sodium hydroxide with benzoic acid. In my opinion, it should be banned from food.

Hall’s doesn’t do that….The only positive thing I got from the aforementioned samples was a bunch of ice packs and a Styrofoam cooler. The cooler probably would have tasted better than the dips.

I should mention that I have a dislike of both the taste and the idea of most preservatives. My favourite company for dips, soups and pestos, Sunflower Kitchen, doesn’t use processed mineral preservatives. Citric acid is their preservative of choice. Relatively new locally, Hall’s Kitchen is a close second for the reasons stated above although I’ve only tasted a couple of their products. Sunflower Kitchen has been around longer and hence earned my affection first.

The company from which I got free ice packs and a nice Styrofoam cooler: Summer Fresh. The fact that their website lacks ingredient lists was a red flag for me before the product even shipped (I do my research when contacted) and one of the samples was missing an ingredient label. Thanks for the service, though. The company rep was pleasant and the samples were delivered by messenger on schedule and with the aforementioned packaging in case I wasn’t around to receive it. I appreciate that.

Fifth Bite – pump up the jam a little more

Friend and food writer Sarah Hood is writing a book about home canning that’s scheduled to be published in the fall of 2011. About once a month I get together with a group of friends that includes Sarah to try a restaurant that’s new to us.  Our most recent dinner – a visit to Stockyards when our original destination had closed early in a rain storm – was after the photo shoot for the book. Many jars of jams, jelly, marmalade and preserves were opened for that photo shoot and so Jen, Evelyn and I were the recipients of some of Sarah’s delicious research and development. I chose strawberry lemon marmalade and VQA Chardonnay jelly. There was another one that I really liked but Jen wrestled it from my hands in the name of being fair (isn’t all fair in love and jam?). What Jen, Evelyn and I didn’t take went to Joel of Community Foodist and others who, coincidentally, arrived as we were about to leave. Right place, right time. Here’s a sneak peak of her book.

Final Bite – get ’em before they’re gone

My first taste of Chinese moon cakes, procured by a Chinese colleague from his favourite Chinese bakery. Just saying. Look for a blog post on that one too. I’ll draft it today or tomorrow and post it on Monday.

I set out to blog this afternoon and I did: 2 blog posts, 3 hours, and I didn’t even talk about this morning’s trip to the Evergreen Brick Works farmer’s market. That’s two more blog posts to work on in my head. I think I need a nap.

Eat well, be well.

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