Quickies: Pizza Park

You know those long days that just won’t end? You know, when coffee just makes you twired (tired + wired). Well, I was having one of those. On my way back from York on the subway, in and out of sleep, I was thinking, okay pizza-and-tv kind of night. So, I get off the subway and there’s K sitting on a bench. She pops up to come hug me, and we’re all like “what are you up to?”, “what are you up to?”… She says she was about to text me, had time to kill, was going to ask if I wanted to go for a slice… “Do people still do that?”, she says. I say, “I’m hungry, and I just spent an hour fantasizing about pizza”. Lucky for us, there’s a spot to fulfill our wishes just across the street.

Pizza Park. I read that sign pretty much every day. I hadn’t tried it yet, but I was curious. I mean, doesn’t everyone want a good pizza joint in their neighbourhood? So, we walk in and start staring up at the menu. “You like wings?”, I say. (Why are fatigue and cravings all over each other?). She says, “I LOVE WINGS!”, in her usual nothing’s-too-little-for-enthuasiam way. Pizza Park’s got wings and pizza combos, like at most pizza places, so there you have it. Now, the toppings. We’re in the middle of picking them, and I realize that most people I know have a go-to pizza. For instance, S is all about the mushroom, hot peppers, pineapple (and will get it stuffed when possible), and this one girl from a couple of years back always ordered bacon (always strips, not bits) and onion pizza, and an old friend introduced me to the chicken, artichoke, olive, feta cheese slice. Picking toppings with K was possible the easiest thing ever: “You like mushrooms?”, “Love them!”. “How about onions?”, “Sure.”. “Green olives…”, “Done”.

We’re at the cash, and the sweetest man in pizza history is serving us. He says he can’t make small pizzas today but he’ll make us a medium for the same price. Who could argue with that? Then he goes to ask us what kind of wing sauce we want but stops mid-sentence, “I’ll bring them all, just have a seat.”

The food comes to the table fairly quickly. The pizza’s right on the baking pan, looking all delicious. The dough is dry and fluffy, and the toppings are generous, although it could definitely use more cheese. It doesn’t blow your mind but it hits the spot. And the wings follow shortly after. They’re not breaded, just straight up wings. Then he brings us the sauces… When he had said “I’ll bring them all” earlier on, I figured, you know, little boxes of sauce, like the ones they have in fast-food restaurants. But, no, we’re talking full-sized bottles of 6 different kinds of sauces, including hot, hotter, honey-garlic, BBQ, and…ah, I forget! There were too many! How sweet is this guy?

We finish eating, and our leftovers get swiftly packed up. K’s on a hunt for a book so we decided to walk along Bloor towards Bathurst for some night-time book shopping. Someone must have decided to simply purge a series of their amazing books because I found 4 books I’ve been looking for, for really cheap, all in the same section. Sometimes impromptu hang outs full of pizza, laughs, book finds, and good company is all an O needs after a long day. Oh, and K scored a HUGE FIND, but I won’t tell you what it is… you’ll have to ask her.

Location: Pizza Park, 733 Bloor West (at Christie)
Damage: About 18$ for a small (although we got a medium) pizza with 3 toppings, 8 wings with all the sauces in the world, and 2 cans of pop
Rating: 7.5/10


Kitchen Party: Spicy Coconut Milk Leek Soup

I hate the cold. Hate is a strong word, and I’m using it very purposefully here. I wish winter didn’t happen, and that fall (which I generally love) was sunny and a bit chillier, and then lead back to spring. I’ve noticed that people who have some attachment to winter tend to like it: people who enjoy hitting the slopes, or those who wait all year round for Christmas. They might not love winter, but it sure makes things easier. I personally stay away from winter sports; I can’t imagine intentionally spending time in the cold for fun. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m also not the most festive person, so although the holidays bring the family together and such, Christmas or New Year’s don’t compensate for months of shivers. Considering how long the winter season is, I need something though! I’ve decided it’s going to be warmth. Yes, I’m going to survive the winter by loving all that is warm and toasty in contrast, those things that just don’t have the same effect in the hot weathered months: comfy blankets, hot chocolate, steamy showers, long johns, and… soups!

In terms of soup, my favourites are creamy, hearty soups. I often buy cans of soup for convenience. One of my go-to soups is the Habitant vegetable soup that I heat up and serve in a bowl in which I’ve cut up little pieces of cheese and sprinkled a generous amount of cayenne pepper. Making soup though, is actually quite cheaper, and it fills the home with a yummy aroma, not to mention that it’s also much more delicious. I usually stay updated on the specials going on at the grocery stores close to me so that 1) I can eat more of what’s in season (it tastes better and can often be local); 2) I can diversify what I eat and try cooking with produce I don’t generally cook with. A couple of weeks ago, I got a nice bunch of leeks and decided on making a leek soup for the first time.

Leeks are quite easy to cook. They need to be washed thoroughly as dirt tends to accumulate on the inside of them. Once rinsed, you lay them on a big cutting board and cut off the long green part completely, and then slice the white part in half and chop it into thin slices. Once that’s done, you fry the slices in a big pot, and you can add onions, or green onions, or garlic in there too. When they started to brown slightly, I added in sliced cremini mushrooms because if mushrooms go with anything, I usually include them!

When the veggies are ready, it’s time to mix in the flour (a 1/4 cup should do) and the spices (I put in salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and dill). Immediately after, add in a can of coconut milk, and some water or soup stock (the stock makes it tastier but if you don’t have any, use water like I did). You can do this slowly, pouring in and stirring both, until you’ve got the consistency you prefer. You can also add in cream if you want the soup to be creamier.

The soup turned out to be delicious, although I found it to be even better the next couple of days as it gained more consistency. Also note that if you’re making it spicy, it gets MUCH spicier after being in the fridge for a while. Finally, it’s exponentially more delicious either shared, or eaten alone in comfy PJs or your favourite pair of long johns (warmth X 2)!

Location: Your kitchen, or mine
Damage: 5-10$ for 6-8 servings
Rating: 9/10
Soundtrack: TIMOKE PRESENTS The History House Party Mix Series – The 60’s

Halloween Kitchen Party: Walnut Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pancakes

While S is a big fan of the holidays, O tends to be less festive. But we both love food, so it’s a good place to meet to celebrate Halloween. Pumpkins are a staple in Halloween everything. All it takes is a short list of facebook friends with kids to know what we mean. Plus, they’re edible (the kids, metaphorically, and the pumpkins for real). Since S loves all things breakfast-related, and O graciously indulges her, we decided that pumpkin pancakes had to be on our Halloween menu. Actually, the only thing on the menu.

We had bought a little pumpkin with the plan of carving it on Halloween, and using the insides for cooking. We’ve grown quite fond of the fellow, and have named it Pumpkinsaurus Rex. Baking is tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing, so we based our initial pancake recipe on A Cozy Kitchen‘s. This means that we went chocolate chip shopping as soon as we woke up. How good of a start to a day is that?

As it turns out, using a real, flesh-and-seed pumpkin is a very labour-intensive process. We used this handy “How to Make the Most of your Jack-O-Lantern Leftovers” guide and turned the pumpkin guts in to puree for the pancakes. Well, at least we used what didn’t end up on the counter, or the floor, or in S’s dress. Which turned out to be exactly the right amount. A Halloween miracle!

While S was wrist-deep in pumpkin, O got to mixing the dry ingredients…and possibly ended up covered in flour. On the side, the wet ingredients were mixed and then blended in with the dry ones. Chocolate chips and walnuts were then added in to top it all off. We were missing a bunch of spices, so we just used cinnamon and the pancakes still tasted delicious. And, our batter turned out pretty thick, so we added a few extra splashes of buttermilk to thin it out a little. Also, we discovered in a happy accident a while back that using salted butter instead of the unsalted kind, is delicious and helps make sweet things less rich (well, as rich but without making you sick, you know?).

These were so delicious that we finished off the first pancake while the rest were cooking. Even the batter was good, and pancake batter is usually terrible – no cookie dough, that’s for sure. We bought some maple syrup because, you gotta, but we also felt like a thicker topping so we mixed ground cinnamon into a bowl of vanilla yogourt, et voilà!

Makes you wish every day was Halloween…(“nah-a, not Christmas,” says S… stay tuned for eggnog pancakes?)

Location: Our now very dirty (and orange) kitchen
Damage: About $12 for things you might not have already, or approx. $20 if you’re buying everything
Rating: 10 fingers in a pumpkin pie
Soundtrack: One of the 3 million (we counted) Halloween playlists on 8 tracks

Over-Easy: The Bristol Yard

The best brunch place to go to on a cold, rainy day is one that’s close by. As in, you can look out your front window to see how long the line-up is. We kept an eye out while getting dressed and once the coast was clear, we headed over.  Even though it wasn’t early, you could feel the post-halloween hangover in the air. People walking slowly by on a mission to get home and spend the day recovering, all carrying bags with their previous night’s costumes. O insisted on a morning smoke before eating, so we stayed in the entrance across the street, looking left and right incessantly to make sure no one was going to steal our spot. We think of this as competitive brunch.

We swooped in to the restaurant just in time, right before an eager and hungry-looking couple. (Meaning, we won). The restaurant is living-room-sized small, seating about 20 people if they’re all friendly and feeling cuddly. After a short wait, we lucked in to a booth! We settled in, waited for our coffee, and listened to the kind of music they play at Mod night at Babylon when you find yourself thinking it’s the perfect time to leave the dance floor and go get a drink.

O had been there before and began a dish-by-dish review. The menu includes about 10 options, going from veggie friendly to veggie no-no. Almost all of the dishes involve poached eggs: you got your eggs benedict topped with the in-house version of hollandaise called “Bristol sauce”; your Argentinian-spiced tribute to Diego Maradona; your meat-lover’s hangover cure; your classic english breakfast plates like beans on toast and a breakfast pie; and a delicious-looking french toast.

Because there was no hollandaise on the menu, S decided to branch out and get the Eggs Maradona, which consists of two poached eggs on tortas fritas, covered in a chimichurri sauce made with red wine vinegar, cilantro, garlic, oregano, and other yummy spices.  Topped with some hot sauce that bites back, this dish was super flavourful, even without the steak it usually comes with.

O woke up feeling like some morning meat, and opted for The Glasgow, a dish their brother ordered last time they were there, and that they had been craving ever since. The Glasgow is described as a breakfast cheeseburger, apparently the perfect cure for a Glasgow kind of rough night (which O didn’t have, unless you consider drinking tea in long johns rough…). The plate had a poached egg hiding in two thick sausage patties resting on two tattie scones. Apparently some shaved applewood smoked cheddar was somewhere in there but it must have been shaved real thin ’cause, well, we were trying to figure out if they forgot about it.

Both plates were served with good, strong coffee, disappointingly stiff home fries that could have used some tenderness, and a delicious slice of roasted tomato. The dishes were creative, all around tasty, and filling. We’d definitely play another round of competitive brunch to get in here again! Between the hearty food, the crossword puzzle we finished while waiting for it, and the wooden kitchen shelves we picked up on the side of the street before crossing back over to warmth, it’s been quite the successful morning.

Location: The Bristol Yard, 146 Christie St.
Damage: 33$ with tax & tip
Rating: Eight out of ten fingers in the pie