right in the middle.

last monday i headed into the heart of Kensington (one of my favourite inner city neighbourhoods) to the one year anniversary party for Midtown Kitchen & Bar.

my lovely date for the night was my social media darling Kelsey, better known as @lubeyisms for those on twitter.

midtown anniversay

we had a pretty romantic night, which included catching up over a glass of champagne, delicious appetizers, and our posed engagement portrait.midtown kitchen

when i first moved to the city, the space was a Greek restaurant that i never thought was open; it was always empty. what a shame for such prime real estate in the eclectic little neighbourhood.

when it was recreated as Midtown Kitchen & Bar, my craft beer-loving coworkers turned me on to it and their pountine burger (it’s exactly what you think. poutine on a burger. talk about decadent, and no i haven’t tried it).

Kelsey_Laura

Midtown’s mission? eat local.

the food is created in house with ingredients by local producers – Alberta/BC – and seafood from the Canadian shores. to top it off they offer small batch craft produced wines, beers (like their featured Village cask that evening, infused with bacon vodka) and spirits.

Midtown Kitchen

i was pleasantly surprised by the space, the menu and the atmosphere. it would make a great date spot, since there is a nice mixture of elegant with their casual…plus, oysters.

Midtown Bar and Oysters

happy one-year anniversary, Midtown! here’s to many more.

-
what’s your favourite hidden gem restaurant in your town?

photos courtesy of Mike Bailey.

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a date-night worthy sandwich.

i have so much fun creating date nights, especially for people who appreciate them aka my friends, not boys.

i mentioned i took some time developing the menu for our Shakespeare turned Pretty Woman picnic girlie date. here’s the full thing:

girl’s night picnic menu:

  • cucumber mint infused water
  • barley kale tabbouleh
  • mini caprese sandwiches
  • chicken and shrimp salad rolls
  • watermelon
  • mint chocolates

sandwich_picnic_3

the first item on my list was the mini caprese sandwiches. the flavours in the salad are some of my favourite. the brightness of fresh tomato with earthy basil and creamy bocconcini, married with rich olive oil and the tang of great balsamic.

add bread and meat and it’s even better. make that meat prosciutto and it’s damn near perfect. that’s exactly what i did for these sandwiches.

sandwich_picnic

mini caprese sandwiches
makes eight

ingredients
8 slider buns
1 roma tomato
8 mini bocconcini
8 thin slices of prosciutto
fresh basil

cut buns in half, arranging all the bottoms together.
slice tomato into eight thin slices, and cut bocconcini in half.
layer basil, tomato, two halves of bocconcini, and prosciutto on the bottom, and top with other half of bun.

sandwich_picnic_2

want to class it up a bit? drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the bocconcini before topping with prosciutto. the dry ingredients on the base and top protect the bun from getting soggy.

sandwich_picnic_4

possibly the easiest picnic sandwich to create, and no crusts to cut off.


what’s your favourite picnic food?

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a picnic with Michael Smith.

the August long weekend saw the arrival of one of my best friends, Rebecca, back to Calgary. it has been a year since she moved back to Toronto, and i couldn’t have been more excited to have her back.

we spent last summer planning and going on perfect friend dates. you know the kind you wish a guy could think up and take you on? those! i had big shoes to fill for her summer visit, and with the help of Katey thought up a great date night for the three of us: Shakespeare by the Bow, with a homemade picnic.

the entertainment was taken care of, a Sunday evening performance of Comedy of Errors in beautiful Prince’s Island Park – my favourite green space in the city.

the menu was next to conquer.

michael smith family meals

enter Michael Smith’s new cookbook Family Meals.

so i know what you’re thinking, “but laura, you’re a single, childless, lonely lonely women - you have no family to prepare meals for.”

isn’t there some saying about friends are the family you choose?…also, you really cut deep, internet friends.

i’ve been a big fan of Michael Smith since his The Inn Chef days. i followed him abroad and back to his own kitchen. i enjoy his method of combining ingredients that go well together in a simple way to produce delicious meals. plus, i want to stand beside him, because i’m short and i think it’d be funny.

Family Meals is based around his family – that he still cooks for every day – and simple, delicious recipes for all meals, all days of the week, to make when you’re short on time. While Michael involves his family in the kitchen, this solo kitchen adventurer found the great-tasting recipes perfect even for just one….or a group of picnicking ladies. 

Tabouli_Salad

Katey took charge of the wine and dessert, and i went into planning mode with the rest of the picnic menu. the sandwiches were first to go on the list, and watermelon was next, followed by a concoction for refreshing infused water, and the hope Rebecca could make salad rolls.

what was missing? i needed a salad. something light, but still filling. as i flipped through Micheal Smith’s Family Meals, i found the perfect recipe. barely kale tabbouleh – a salad that i didn’t have to worry about getting soggy with dressing, in fact it was best served cold after the flavours had time to mix in the refrigerator.

kale_barley_tabouli_saladbarely kale tabbouleh
serves four to six

ingredients

for the salad

  • 4 large kale leaves, tough centre stems trimmed away
  • 1 cup of any barley
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • handful of finely chopped parsley
  • leaves from 1 bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 4 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large dill pickle*, minced

for the dressing

  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of your favourite mustard
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon of your favourite hot sauce

stack the kale leaves, then roll them up tightly. slice them as thinly as possible, forming fine threads. cram into a small saucepan and add 1⁄4 cup of water. cover and cook over high heat until the kale softens, just 2 or 3 minutes. drain and spread out on a plate to cool.

measure the barley into the same saucepan and add 3 cups of water and the salt. bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat to a bare simmer. cover tightly and continue cooking until the grains swell, absorbing the water and tenderizing, about 30 minutes.

meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until emulsified. throw in the tender barley, the kale, parsley, mint, green onions, tomatoes and pickle. toss the works together, evenly mixing the flavours, textures and colours.

serve and share!

* pickles are totally optional for you, and not even a consideration in this kitchen – eww.

tabouli_barley_salad-2

food prepared and packed up in my picnic basket, we headed to Prince’s Island only to be met with the first bad rain and thunder storm we had in about a month. while we needed the rain, i was sad to think my picnic date night plans were ruined.

smart thinking from three lovely ladies found us spreading the picnic blanket out on the living room floor on the condo, with Pretty Woman on netflix. sure, it wasn’t the park and Shakespeare, but it was still pretty perfect.

Rebecca_Katey

and what did my family think of the barely kale tabbouleh? we all loved the summer flavours of the lemon and herbs, and the mason jars were a great way to store picnic servings and leftovers.

Laura_Tabouli

i can’t wait to try more recipes from Family Meals. does anyone have a child they can lend me to cook with?


what’s your favourite dish to prepare for a family picnic? 

thanks to Penguin Canada for making this picnic possible.

Posted in book club, recipe | 4 Comments