August 19, 2014

Waffles & Wine with Fresita

I don't know about you guys but lately I've been feeling like I've spent most of this sumer running in circles trying to get things crossed off my "To Do" list.  But I always find I'm adding to the list more than I'm crossing off!
With that in mind, every once in a while, when things get too hectic I like to take a few moments to breathe and "treat yo self" - I pretty much turn off my phone and only do things I want to do.  

This weekend was one of those weekends. I went to the market in the morning, I stopped into LCBO for a few bottles of Fresita sparking wine and called it a Wine & Waffles weekend. I'm trademarking that by the way! Those two go together better than No pants & Netflixs. Don't judge me. Who doesn't love staying home on a Sunday night with no pants on marathoning Mindy's Project? Who?! Who?! Show me. 
Anyways, back to my treat yo self weekend. First off, a trip to Burlington Farmers Market. They're not lying when they say good things grow in Ontario - I picked up these beauties  and the weekend before that we went raspberry picking too. When you're not being a total dink mother nature - you are the bees knees. I am going to purge on summer berries while I can. And so should you!
Ya'll know I'm not much for wine and probably couldn't even tell the difference between a Riesling and a Chardonnay - but I am all for girly drinks, que Fresita - a Chilean Sparkling wine that combines Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Moscatel and strawberries.  This stuff was made for drinking outdoors under a beach umbrella with a cabana boy by a saltwater pool... ok I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's reel it back in. This stuff won't exactly put hair on your chest - but it'll put pillows under your feet and sun in your eyes. Seriously! Get me to a beach already! 
Because I'm a bit of a Diva, I couldn't just have any old Waffle & Wine night - pshh nuh uh, not for this Hungry Gnome. I wanted to kick things up a notch and thought the strawberries from the market would make a pretty bang on coulis for the waffles.  I decided to incorporate the Fresita wine into it as well, cause I'm feeling fancy. You already know. I'm in the fast lane - ok, okay I'll stop. From LA, to Tokyo.  *feel free to yell at me if you have that song stuck in your head now 

Here's how to make my Lazy Girl Coulis:
  1. Combine a handful of chopped strawberries
  2. Tear up a few springs of fresh mint
  3. Add a table spoon of brown sugar (to taste)
  4. A cup of Fresita 
  5. Let it all come to a boil 

Once the strawberries are cooked, pour it all into a blender - and pulse till you get a liquid consistency. If you don't mind it a little chunky you can skip the next step but I prefer mine smooth and thick so I strained all the extra little seeds and flakes of mint I couldn't pulse. 
Next up - the waffles. Not going to lie, I totes used a boxed premix waffle batter.  You know I am all about Lazy Girl recipes. Sure I could have whipped this up from scratch but c'mon - I already worked so hard on that coulis, give a girl a break already!

Have I mentioned toasted coconut ice cream is one of my new favourite things?! I added some  cubed strawberries and drizzled the coulis all over that mountain of coconut ice-cream and then smashed the bejeezus out of it. 

I'm not sure if that's an official culinary term but you know what I mean right? Once all the ingredients got really friendly with each other I  threw it back in the freezer to set. 

Here comes the fun part - assembly!  Here we have the toasted coconut ice-cream which I garnished with some coulis and a few strawberries. As you can tell - I clearly helped myself to a glass or maybe two of the Fresita.  
In honour of my treat yo self weekend, I pimped out my waffle, just a wee bit. I used the smashed strawberries, coulis and coconut ice cream mix I threw together earlier, added a few slices of riped Ontario peaches and more fresh strawberries and BAM! -my ultimate waffle ice-cream sandwich.  The slight tartness of the peaches and the sweetness of the strawberries paired beautiful with my glass of Fresita. The perfect kick-your-feet-back-and-turn-on-Netflix kind of weekend. 
Be warned. These sandwiches get extremely messy, so take off that dolce & gabbana sweater and pull out something you can get messy in. In fact, it's a treat yo self weekend so don't even bother putting pants on! 

I hope you guys are enjoying your last few weekends before the summer ends. Hashtag #NomTheGnome and #FresitaCA if you're having a waffle & wine weekend.

Happy Eating! 

*this was a paid post sponsored by Branding & Buzzing. As always, opinions expressed are my own and words & pictures belong to The Hungry Gnome. 

August 18, 2014

Vito's Pizzeria

So after all of that boozing - you can imagine how famished I must have been! If it wasn't socially frowned upon, I would have eaten my own arm off. Thankfully, at the conclusion of our first night, Tish brought the whole gang out to Vito's Pizzeria. 

Italian really isn't my go to meal. In fact, I rarely ever crave a bowl of pasta - but after the morning we had - I welcomed a heavy hardy meal. And man, did Tish deliver! 
I had an ex boyfriend once from Windsor and he use to always rave about how "Windsor has some of the best pizza ever" After this meal - I might have to agree with him - might. 
For starters we ordered the Bruschetta - grilled homemade bread with vine ripened tomatoes , garlic and fresh basil ($7.99) - this usually wouldn't be my first choice - but I'm glad we ordered it. It was light, refreshing and proved to be a great example of some of the exceptional dishes to come. 
The meat & cheese platter,  Piatto Freddo - meats, cheese, olives, seasonal vegetables, and crackers ($15.99) that we ordered to share was incredibly underwhelming and over priced. It reminded me of the lunchables you use to get as a kid. But not in a warm, nostalgic, I could-eat-this-everyday kind of way, more of  is-this-it-i'm-still-hungry kind of vibe.
Now these puppies were phenomenal. I am not a huge fan of arancini at all, but these, Arancini di Riso - Sicilu's Golden Orb's - rice croguettes filled with ground meat, peas, parmigiano cheese served with a bolognese safe ($11.99) were on point! Flavourful, moist, cheesy and plenty of meat to go around.  I could have had one of theses on my own but to be polite I shared it. Still regretting that decision to this day. 

Did you think we forgot about why we were all there?! Whisky cocktails for everyone!
Gnocchi - fresh homemade potato dumplings served with homemade meat sauce and panna ($16.99) was what Christine ordered. I enjoyed it - although they weren't pillows of heaven as I expected, it was still pretty good. She thought it was aight.
Next up, Tish ordered the Pasta Carbonara - slow rendered bacon, white wine, and garlic blended with cream, egg and parmigiano ($15.99) which she swears by, and orders every time she's here.
This beauty was mine, fresh array of mussels, scallops, shrimp, calamari in white wine pomodoro sauce ($17.99) - the pasta was a smidgen over cooked, but I prefer it that way to be honest. I know that is comonly taboo and I'm sure all of my Italian readers are shaming me right now but I'm sorry! 

I can tell the pasta either came in fresh or was made in house because once fresh pasta is overcooked it becomes really sticky and almost gelatenious. I kinda like it that way. Please do not throw things at me when you see me on the streets. I'm not a pasta connaisseur.

Enough with the pasta, the dish itself was overflowing with seafood. Lots of plump chunks of squid, shrimp and mussels. This is my favourite combo - seafood, tomato sauce and a nice piece of crusty bread to sop up all the juices with! 
If that wasn't enough, Christine and I shared a Prosciutto Fungi - eggs, prosciutto and mushrooms pizza ($13.99) That's right, we had appetizers, our own mains and then we shared a pizza. #GetOnMyLevel. We might have shared a few slices of pizza with Margaret too.

Oh, c'mon ya'll know I can't say no to a pizza with egg on it! And of course it was fantastic.  Crispy and flakey crust, warm and gooey egg and salty shavings of prosciutto. Pshhh, you would not have turned this down either!
Now - on to what everybody else ate. I did not have any of the following - they were all too far away from me to pick off their plates. But I heard no complaints and judging from these pictures they looked divine. They were generous with the toppings and the crust was consistently nice and golden.

Above is the Norwegian smoked salmon, asparagus, pesto sauce and parmesan cheese ($15.99)
Caramelized onions, roasted red peppers. black olives, chicken feta cheese and basil ($14.99)
Shrimp, calamari, mussels with pesto sauce and parmesan cheese ($16.99)
Christine and I ready to chow down! Stella, Andrew and Ken all smiles for the camera. I may have sent my camera down the line and it may have come back to me with a few selfies or two!
And of course our gracious host, Margaret, Steph and Tish!  See you guys next Monday for the conclusion of my CanadianClubTour series!

#CanadianClubTour: Part 1: The Tour  | Part 2: The Tasting| Part 3: The Mixology Lesson 

Vito's Pizzeria

1731 Wyandotte St. East
Vito's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

1731 Wyandot

*this exclusive two day tour of the Canadian Club Brand Centre was sponsored by PraxisPr - opinions expressed are my own 

August 12, 2014

#CanadianClubTour: Mixology

Part of our tour included a brief mixology class with Tish on all the ways you can use CC Whisky. So now that we're all whisky experts - lets get to the nitty gritty stuff - how to get your whisky on.  Here are a few of my favourite cocktails we made.
The CC Berry
  • Fill a highball with ice
  • Add 1oz CC Whisky Premium
  • 1/2 oz of cranberry juice
  • top with soda water
  • garnish with berries

CC & Ginger Ale
  • Pour 1.5 oz of Canadian Club over ice in a lowball glass
  • Top with 4oz of Ginger Ale
  • Garnish with a slice of lemon
Had to capture the moment; Stella, Mark and Andrew channeling their inner paparazzi 
The CC Caesar
  • Rim your highball glass with a caesar spice blend
  • fill your highball with ice
  • add 1.5 oz of Canadian Club Reserve
  • 4 dashes of Tabasco
  • 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce 
  • pepper & salt to taste
  • top with clamato juice and garnish with your favourite pickled item or  celery
Naturally, after "class" was over - Tish let all the kiddies out to play. And man, oh man, did we play. That's Christine pictured above getting her groove on and reminiscing back to her old bartending days.  I took the lazy girl route and made myself a CC caesar - my all time favourite drink! I was not bout to start muddling stuff and squeezing fresh OJ, nuh uh
Of course, you get a few drinks in and all-of-a-sudden everyone is comparing pet pictures and gushing over who has the cutest fur baby. That's Margaret peeking in the background!

What, that doesn't happen at your social gatherings?
Well that wraps up Canadian Club Whisky month .. just kidding! See you suckahs next week for the grub that went down during this whisky tour - we're talking carbs, carbs, carbs, at a primo Italian joint and boas & feather caps at another. 

#CanadianClubTour: Part 1: The Tour  | Part 2: The Tasting| Part 3: The Mixology Lesson 

*this exclusive two day tour of the Canadian Club Brand Centre was sponsored by PraxisPr - opinions expressed are my own 

August 9, 2014

The Hungry Gnome Turns TWO!

Guess who turned two this week?! MEEEE! I know, I look pretty young for my age - what can I say, it's the Asian genes and all that bacon. 

So, how crazy is it that my first blog post went up this time, two years ago?!  Since I missed my first year anniversary, lets just combine the two and take a walk down memory lane to recap these last two magnificent years. 

First off - my first ever post was on Bombay Grill - ugh, I squirmed just rereading that post! My writing, those pictures. I've improved immensely since then - right? right?! 
In the beginning, my blog was actually called "Get Around to Living" and it looked like this. My baby cousin Daphany did the whole thing for me.  She did an amazing job!
 A lot of my earlier posts were recipes and articles about my travels, like How to Eat Balut, How to make Spam Musubi and My 25th Birthday in Vietnam
How to eat balut
25th birthday in Vietnam
How to make spam musubi
A few months later, I somehow ended up at Hamilton Magazine and becoming a full fledge contributor - How did that even happen? - Oh wait, I know how. I harassed them to death on twitter till Marc, the Editor,  finally just started letting me hangout at the office. I was so adamant about improving my writing I needed to latch myself onto something legit. He once told me to be stingy with my exclamation marks. I obviously didn't listen because I use them like a mad women all over this site. I can't help it. I am easily  excited and I want you to know it!

Sometimes  to get what you want, you gotta hustle hard kids. I am a firm believer in figuring out what you want - and then asking of it! 
Sitting on my throne reading my section of Hamilton Magazine
In the past two years, The Hungry Gnome has spoiled me with some amazing opportunities. Like working with the Food Network, Skinny Girl Cocktails, Samuel Adams, Sauza Tequila, daaaamn am I a boozer or what?  
Lazy girl cocktails with Sauza Tequila
Shooting pics of comfort dishes turned into soups with The Burnt Tongue for The Food Network
Oh, and you can't forget my monthly #BIEat partnership with the Hamilton Economic Development Office, and some amazing events like this Chef Crawl (of all the amazing eats in the city), my amazing trip to the Canadian Club Brand Centre and being awarded 2014 Badass Blog. I can officially say I am an award winning blogger. Which sounds awesome in my head but totally douchey out loud. But, it won't stop me from shouting it out to the world though! #shameless
Mexibodian Feast with Samuel Adams
Dirty South's Dirty Southern Love showcased during Chefs Crawl
The CHANanator from Delirious - our 1st #BIEat
Besides showering me with materialistic goods and free meals, I've managed to use The Hungry Gnome to hustle me some amazing life long friendships. For instance, The Belly Monsters - a group of sassy, witty, food loving individuals. I'm proud to say I roll with these guys and if you haven't heard - we kinda like to get around. Proof is in the pudding here and here and here
The Belly Monsters and our Minions - photo c/o Sid Friedman
The prettier side of The Belly Monsters - photo c/o Sid Friedman
We're currently looking for anyone willing to sponsor our next Belly Monster Crawl. We mean business. Amex? Visa? Mastercard? Have your people call our people. 
Skinny Girl Cocktail Party with Bethenny Frankel
Canadian Club Brand Centre
It still blows my mind when strangers admit to reading my blog. I really only think it's my sister and my girlfriends - and even then I bully them into reading it! So when I got back from vacation earlier this year to THIS - I was floored!
To see a full page spread in the Hamilton Spectator on little ol' me? Are you kidding?! I thought my little article with Amy would be a few lines or two - tops, hidden away in some corner behind the horoscopes and 1-900 numbers, but to my surprise - BAM!  Here's the online version of the article incase you're curious. 

My most recent hustle? Getting Susur Lee to follow me on twitter - and it only took a little bit of bullying!

What started off as a side project to keep me busy when I was unemployed and stuck at home has turned into a world wind of adventure, extravagant meals, belly aching laughs and a tonne of self discovery. 
Chef Street Fight with Adam Hynam-Smith from El GastrĂ³nomo Vagabundo
So even when I'm not quite sure what I'm doing, and what all this is for - thanks for sticking along for the ride. 

Thank you to everyone who has ever spent a minute or three reading The Hungry Gnome. To the brands, and the companies I've had the pleaser of working with  - thanks for having faith in me. 

Stay tuned for much more hilarity, food porn, and sass.  Love you guys!

Happy Eating!

* follow the hashtag #GnomeTurns2 to see how I'll be celebrating this weekend and use it to send some love my way too!