Author Archives: Tracey Eckersley

North is the New South: BBQ Restaurants North of the Mason-Dixon Line

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

One of things I love most about living in Kentucky is the food. Since moving here, I have fallen in love with Southern staples like shrimp n’ grits, fried green tomatoes, and barbeque. Folks north of the Mason-Dixon Line have discovered what they are missing out on and Southern-style restaurants are popping up all over the place. Toronto is never too far behind the trends, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that over half a dozen barbeque joints have opened up there in the last few months.

Electric Mud BBQ

As much as I like to eat global specialties that are not available in Louisville when I come home, it was impossible to resist trying the Canadian version of my beloved Southern cuisine on a recent visit. So I headed to Electric Mud BBQ, which has captured the aesthetic of a proper hole-in-the wall.

Menu at Parkdale's Electric MudMenu

Patrons crowd around a few small picnic tables or belly up to the bar to enjoy the small menu of smoked and fried delights. The small menu over the open kitchen displays both the expected (ribs, collard greens, coleslaw) and the exotic (duck ham!); a small, handwritten card offers even more Southern delights.

Hushpuppies

On this visit I stuck to the basics, starting out with an order of hushpuppies. Growing up, spring breaks were spent in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where I developed an addiction to these little cornbread fritters. Electric Mud’s are even better than I those I remember, light and fluffy on the inside and delightfully crunchy on the outside. And the spicy horseraddish remoulade that they come with adds a whole new dimension to these little bites.

Crack Rolls at new BBQ joint Electric Mud in ParkdaleCrack Rolls

Who can resist something called Crack Rolls? Remeniscent of Parker rolls, these buns have a slightly more toothsome crust and a sprinkle of sesame seeds but what really makes them addictive is the compound butter made with spring onions and meat drippings. I would buy this spread by the bucket-full if I could.

Parkdale's new BBQ restaurant Electric Mud's RibsRibs

Electric Mud provides more twists on the classics- perfectly cooked ribs (tender meat that is not so overdone as to fall off the bone) are coated with a spicy-sweet sauce but then covered in a healthy dose of crushed peanuts and spring onions. I honestly don’t know why no one in the South has thought to do this before- the contrast of textures is out of this world!

BBQ Pork Belly at Electric MudPork Belly

While many variations of pork are standard barbeque fare, belly is a recent addition to Southern menus and Electric Mud’s take easily outshines those that I have tried back home. Presented as a variation of the pulled pork sandwich, slabs of the tender, slightly fatty flesh are served on toasted white bread with a pickle on the side. The accompanying sauce is somewhere between a Carolina mustard-based bbq sauce and the traditional brown sugar and mustard glaze used to top an Easter ham. Whatever the inspiration, it’s delicious.

Porch Crawler Drink at the Electric Mud in Parkdale TorontoPorch Crawler Cocktail

All this meat can make a girl thirsty. Here Miller Lite longnecks and cans of PBR are replaced with a selection from local brew pubs as well as a few cocktails. The Porch Crawler, which combines Thai basil, gin, and watermelon lemonade might just become my new summer tipple.

Bourbon Selection at Electric Mud in Toronto's ParkdaleBourbon Selection

I’m always aghast at the paltry selection of bourbons available at Ontario liquor stores but Electric Mud has three shelves of the stuff! And their Clydesdale cocktail, a bourbon-based margarita of sorts, is lip-smackingly good.

The Clydesdale at Toronto's Electric Mud in ParkdaleClydesdale

I was almost too full to try dessert but who can pass up banana cream pie?

Deconstructed Banana Cream Pie for dessert at the Electric Mud in TorontoDeconstructed Banana Cream Pie

Served in a mini Mason jar, this version layers graham cracker crumbs, custard, bruléed bananas, and a dollop of whipped cream. It’s light enough to justify a few bites after a big meal.

Toothpicks To Go at Electric Mud in Toronto's ParkdaleToothpicks To Go

I am thrilled to see that my hometown has not only embraced the barbeque tradition but made it its own. I hope y’all get out to try it!


Posted in Culture, Food

Chowing Down in Chi-Town: A Visit to Slurping Turtle

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Chicago is known for many things: incredible architecture, world-class museums, endless shopping. And food, don’t forget the food! Years ago I would have been referring to deep-dish pizza or massive steaks but lately big name chefs have been filling the city with hot spots that feature cuisine from around the globe.

Image: Slurping Turtle

I’m a huge fan of Top Chef and dream about visiting all the contestants’ restaurants in this town, including season four winner Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat and Little Goat Diner) and fan-favourite  Fabio Vivani (Siena Tavern).  Top Chef Masters are also well represented: Tony Mantuan owns Spiaggia, while Rick Bayless has a plethora of Mexican restaurants in town. But the Master who really wins my heart is Takashi Yagihashi.

Image: Tracey Eckersley

This past weekend I finally got to eat at his place, Slurping Turtle. The Japanese-born, Chicago-based chef is best known for the French-Asian fusion cuisine of his other restaurant, Takashi but since it is a little pricey for my graduate student-budget I am happy that there is a more affordable option.

Image: Random Acts of Kelliness

Given the name, it is not surprising that this place is known for its udon and ramen bowls, full of meat and veggies waiting to be slurped up noisily with the flavourful broths they come in. But the real star of the menu is the izakaya, small plates meant to paired with drinks (and there is a wonderful selection of Japanese beers, sakes, and creative cocktails to do just that).

Image: Tracy Eckersley

Much of these little bites have an Asian-American flair to them. The Duck Fat Fried Chicken is more succulent and juicy than anything the Colonel offers, in small pieces that seem to come from some exotic miniature species. What really puts this dish over the top is the accompanying dipping sauce, a wonderfully creamy, slightly spicy siracha mayo.

Image: Tracy Eckersley

Pork Belly Snack features tender meat enrobed in a rich, sweet soy caramel ginger glaze atop pieces of flattened bao dough. The pickled cucumber and onions are reminiscent of traditional southern bbq sandwiches; a small arugula salad with sweet onion vinaigrette, Asian pear, and black sesame seeds replaces American slaw.  I would take this over a pulled pork sammy any day- and that’s saying a lot!

Image: Slurping Turtle

The Bincho menu also offers an impressive variety of meats, veggies, and seafood cooked over white charcoal (known as bincho-tan in Japanese). I wish I had been with a group so that I could order a bigger selection (enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon, shishito peppers with benito flakes, Washugyu beef, fried tofu- it all sounds awesome).

Image: Tracy Eckersley

Unfortunately by this time I was pretty stuffed but the bartender suggested I get the octopus and it was the perfect ending to my meal. The flesh was a little toothsome but with a clean, slightly briny flavour enhanced by the smoky charcoal.

Image: Foodspotting

I only wish that I had thought to grab a raspberry-wasabi or yuzu macaroon to go.

If you are in Chicago and looking for a satisfying meal, you should definitely check out the simple, fun food on offer at Slurping Turtle!


Posted in Culture, Food, Travel

Picking Up the Pieces: LEGO Design Projects

If you have had any exposure to children over the last few years then surely you have noticed the explosive renaissance that LEGO is enjoying amongst the smaller set. Packs have evolved from the simple combinations of bricks that I played with as a kid to complex set-ups like the Star Wars Death Star, which includes more than 3000 pieces (and a hefty price tag)!

Image: NBC News

There are stores dedicated to the stuff, catalogues to pore over and (as of last week) a hotel at the LEGOLAND Resort. I’m sure that many parents are sick of having all the bits and pieces underfoot but I must admit that seeing the bright little cubes brings out the kid in me. I just want to dive in and create.

Image: Nathan Sawaya: The Art of the Brick

I’m not alone. Artists and designers around the world are turning to LEGO as a medium of choice. New York-based artist Nathan Sawaya uses it to create dynamic sculptures.

Image: Dwell

French designers Simon Pillard and Philippe Rosetti, who work collectively as Munchausen Design, pulled off a colourful IKEA hack when they covered one of the company’s kitchen islands with over 20,000 LEGO bricks. Now there is a home improvement project that would keep the kids occupied over the school holidays!

Image: abgc

When Boys and Girls, an advertising agency in Dublin, approached the design and architecture gurus at abgc to redo their new digs, they had only one request: make the space playful but not juvenile. To inspire the team, Boys and Girls provided a Charles Mingus quote: “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” In the boardroom, the result was a stunning but sophisticated table crafted from over 20,000 brightly coloured blocks. How could one not be inspired sitting around this fantastic piece of furniture?

Image: My Modern Met

The folks at the graphic design company NPIRE in Hamburg did their own remodeling using sets from their childhood collections (as well as 80 new ones) to construct a dividing wall in their office space. And talk about dedication- it took over a year to complete! Check out the photos at My Modern Met for an overview of the slow, painstaking project.

Image: house of anaïs

Additionally, numerous designers and artists have been inspired to replicate the product in their own work. Lunatic Construction creates a variety of custom furniture pieces, from desks to coffee tables, using brick-like blocks in a rainbow of colours.

Image: If It’s Hip It’s Here

Swedish designer Staffan Holm taps into his childhood sense of fun, inspired by LEGO, to temper the gravitas of his CEO desk. He crafts the piece in solid beech and MDF coated in enamel paint to evoke the toy’s iconic shape; the result is a masterful combination of modern and baroque styles.

Image: Megx

Let’s face it- we all need a little more whimsy in our lives. I used LEGO to construct the architectural fantasies of my childhood and seeing it now makes me smile as I remember the hours of imaginative play that it inspired. Seeing these creations makes me want to dive back in and build something just as fun but on an adult-scale.

If you had the time (and the blocks), what would you like to make out of LEGO?


Posted in Design | Tagged , ,

Recipes for an Egg-cellent Easter

Spring has arrived but it seems that someone forgot to tell Mother Nature! It is so cold and grey here in Louisville that I find it hard to believe that Easter is this weekend. The weather has made me downright anti-social, so I’m tempted to follow See Jane Blog’s lead and host an Easter egg-decorating party to help me and my friends shake off the winter blues. I love her party favours and printable invitations!

Image: See Jane Blog

I haven’t dyed eggs since I was a kid, so I was really impressed to find that so many bloggers have moved beyond the basic dunk n’ dye method to create several stunning options. And because I hate to see good food go to waste, I have included some awesome recipes to use up those eggs!

Brights

Bright colours are just what I need right now to shake me out of my funk but traditional eggs can be a little gaudy. However, not these ones:

Image: Spoon Fork Bacon

This one is so simple that even the kids can do it but the results are remarkably refined.

Image: How About Orange

For those who are as obsessed by Pantone as I am, these are the Easter eggs for you!

Image: Studio DIY

I love the idea of using candy to give eggs a little pizzazz. And it matches one of this year’s biggest fashion trends, the caviar manicure.

Image: Brown Paper Packages

Just about anything can be used to decorate eggs; these cheery ones were made by with flower-patterned paper napkins and Mod Podge.

Image: Taste.com.au

To match the vibrant hues of these eggs, I suggest Chakchouka, eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. To do this with Easter eggs, you will need to blow out the insides. To learn how, check out this tutorial. The yolks will be a little scrambled, but will still work in this recipe.

Subtle

If you prefer a more subdued colour scheme for your holiday decoration, there are lots of pastel and neutral options out there:

Image: Rosalind Creasy

For those who are concerned with chemical dyes, Rosalind Creasy shows how to achieve a rainbow of subtle shades using fruits and vegetables.

Image: Joy Ever After

And regular brown eggs look anything but plain when patterns are added with a white-out pen.

Image: Better Homes and Gardens

A mix of plain and coloured eggs makes for a thoroughly modern and understated centerpiece.

Image: Martha Stewart

Another way to add texture to your eggs is to wrap them in lace (also a big fashion trend this year) before dropping them in the dye bath; the result is extremely elegant.

Image: Pickled Plum

The easiest way to make Easter eggs is to hard-boil them but, seriously, how many egg salad sandwiches can one eat? Instead, why not make Japanese Flavoured Tea Eggs, which are as sophisticated as the subdued colours shown above.

Graphic

Black and white is not a traditional Easter colour scheme but for those who want to match a more modern décor, here are some suggestions:

Image: Fraeulein Klein

The key to these are simple, bold graphics and awesome fonts.

Image: Alisa Burke

This style matches well with a visually simple dish, like tamago nigiri, Japanese omelet sushi. While it looks easy, it can be quite a challenge to get the technique just right. Smoky Wok offers a wonderful recipe and photo tutorial and you will have lots of eggs to practice with!

Image: PIRQ Blog

No matter what style or recipe you chose, I hope that you have a wonderful holiday weekend full of egg-cellent fun!


Posted in Culture, Design, Food | Tagged , , ,

Thank Goodness for Guinness! Recipes for St. Patrick’s Day

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

It has been so grey and gloomy lately that I’m ready for a little fun. Fortunately, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day on Sunday which, for me, means some loud Irish music, lively dancing, and a good hearty meal washed down with a Guinness or two.

Image: The Roanoke Times

If you haven’t tried this dry Irish stout, don’t be afraid of its dark, opaque colour. It is actually a relatively low-alcohol beer with a smooth, slightly sweet malt flavour. It pairs well with both savory and sweet dishes, which also makes it a great beer for cooking.

Image: A Communal Table

One of my favourite Irish foods is brown bread. It is served with almost every meal in Ireland and it is always delicious. It’s nothing like the dry, often tasteless wheat bread we get here. A Communal Table’s version adds Guinness for extra flavour and is a quick-bread, which is perfect for a timid baker like me.

Image: Postcards from Somewhere Here

It’s a little warmer in Louisville this week but if it turns cold again, I’ll be looking for some comfort food like Guinness and Onion Soup with Cheddar Croutons.

Image: Steamy Kitchen

Beer and cheese are a wonderful pairing but for those who like a little more cheese in the equation, Aged Cheddar and Guinness Fondue provides a modern take on this retro classic. Just don’t get too tipsy around that molten cheddar!

Image: BBC Good Food

When people think about cooking with Guinness, everyday meals like beef stew come to mind. But it can also be incorporated in more upscale dishes, like a Guinness and Honey Glazed Pork Loin, which would be a showstopper carved tableside.

Image: Browned Eyed Baker

As much as I love the richness that Guinness brings to savory foods, I think it works best in desserts, especially chocolate ones. Stout helps to bring out its flavour in the same way that a bit of vanilla does. Browned Eyed Baker’s Guinness-Milk Chocolate Ice Cream has both and yields a cool, silky treat.

Image: Jules Food

The only thing that could make it better is a healthy drizzle of Guinness Extra Stout Caramel Sauce on top-yum!

Image: Sprinkle Bakes

To go really over the top for the holiday, I’m tempted to make a Sweet and Salty Guinness Chocolate Pie with Beer Marshmallow Meringue. Sprinkle Bakes didn’t hold back with this one, which layers a Guinness-infused chocolate pudding on top of a sweet and salty pretzel crust. If that wasn’t enough, it is finished with a toasted marshmallow meringue that has even more Guinness! Now that is decadence worthy of St. Paddy’s Day!

Image: Smithsonian.com

If you are heading out to pick up some alcohol for the holiday, grab a few extra cans of the beer that drinks like a meal and treat yourself to a meal that tastes like a drink!


Posted in Culture, Food | Tagged , ,