Beer, Bacon & Butter

Beer, bacon and butter – these are three things that I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving. Keep reading below for a full debrief on how Thanksgiving went down in my house, including the salacious details of how the vegetables got drunk (but not wasted).

I’m also thankful for the extraordinary autumn weather we’ve had in Toronto this weekend. Each day has been crisp, sunny and nostalgia-inducing, a long weekend tailor made for Thanksgiving. I’ve been traipsing around in leggings, a plaid shawl pinned like a cape and chelsea boots, and will continue to do so until the weather puts a stop to it.

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The above picture is a bit out of focus, let’s get a close up on those boots…

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Canadian Thanksgiving

I’m also grateful for family – this was my first year cooking Thanksgiving dinner for my parents who are visiting from out of town. Without my mother, I would not have been able to pull off cooking a turkey, sides, homemade gravy and pumpkin pie in my teeny galley kitchen. Without my father and boyfriend, we wouldn’t have been able to eat it all.

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This was my second year cooking a turkey – last year we did Friendsgiving and I cooked one from frozen. With memories of last year’s thaw-a-thon still haunting me, I decided to order a fresh turkey from The Healthy Butcher. We also picked up a container of their homemade dressing and cranberry sauce.

We warmed the dressing separately in the oven, and stuffed the turkey with fresh thyme and sage, a full lemon, a macintosh apple and half an onion so he’d steam up with flavour from the inside-out.

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Under his skin we rubbed a mixture of butter, more fresh sage & thyme, lemon zest, salt, pepper, poultry spice and mustard powder.

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For our main roasted side, we cubed carrots, butternut squash and sweet potatoes. We coated them in olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme, then drenched them in about a cup and a half of Collective Arts Saint of Circumstance Citrus-Infused Blonde Ale so they’d tell all their secrets over dinner. To help them caramelize towards the end we added about half a cup of pure maple syrup.

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While the root vegetables were roasting, we slow braised brussel sprouts on the stovetop with the same beer, turkey drippings and smoked bacon from The Healthy Butcher.

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Finger foods were not forgotten – the pickles and olives nested nicely in bowls I got on sale at West Elm this weekend.

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We whipped up some creamy potatoes in my KitchenAid electric mixer, Betty. Normally I’d add in some sour cream (makes them taste like perogies) but my mom isn’t a fan so we just added a bit of regular cream, butter and chicken stock. We made gravy from the turkey giblets and drippings and dinner was served.

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We cracked a bottle of Clairette de Die, a sweet natural sparkling wine from the Drôme region of southeastern France near where I used to live. According to local lore, a Gallic sherpard left a bottle of wine in La Drôme river to chill and forgot it over winter. When it was retrieved in the spring after sitting out all winter, he noticed it had become carbonated. This started a new tradition among Gallic tribes of making sparkling wine.

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For dessert, I just made a simple pumpkin pie, but used my rectangular tart pan instead of a round pie plate.

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My mom bought me an amazing pastry cloth and rolling pin cover from Lee Valley that has made all of the difference in the world. It was much more easy to roll out the dough and clean up was a breeze.

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You rub flour into the cloth and it keeps the dough from sticking. It also imparts a nice cloth texture to the dough which gives it a uniform look. I used my Williams-Sonoma pastry cutters to do a few leaf cutouts as well.

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With a rectangular pie, you can slice it into tidy little tranches with a pretty pastry cutout on each one. Fresh homemade whipped cream with cinnamon and vanilla is the finishing touch.

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And with that picture, I’m off to have some leftover pie for breakfast. Hope everyone has a lovely Thanksgiving!

x Dana

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Autumn Statement

My condo building made the switch from air conditioning to heat this week. For downtown Torontonians, this is our groundhog – the signal that tells us there will be no more weeks of summer.

Rather than burrowing under my duvet and mourning summer like I wanted to, I threw myself into autumn baking and undertook a major seasonal wardrobe overhaul. I culled or tucked away everything short and bright and rediscovered all things cozy and layered. One of those things was a windowpane print wool kilt I’d bought in London last year and had all but forgotten about. Here I’ve paired it with a prim and proper cardigan and bow belt à la Kate Spade:

Plaid Collage

Trench – Zara

Cardigan – Banana Republic

Kilt – J by Jasper Conran

Belt – Forever 21

Boots – Steve Madden

Bag – Aldo

Mini Pecan Pumpkin Pie Tarts & Chestnut Tarts

One of my co-workers is getting married in a few weeks and we threw a little party for her at work yesterday. Her wedding has an  autumnal theme, so keeping in that trend I made pecan pumpkin pie and chestnut tarts for the celebration.

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These tarts were inspired by/adapted from Sunny Anderson’s Food Network recipe. I made the ones in the image above using her crust, which is very tasty and quite sweet. In my version of the recipe below however, I’ve opted for a simpler, more savory crust. I also upped the spice game and made a chestnut version. Variations discussed below and recipe at the bottom!

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I made a shortening crust using some extra fine Italian flour my boss gave me (she’s a baking nut too). It’s brighter and finer than normal flour but if you don’t have any, normal pastry flour will do just fine.

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Sunny divides her crust dough into 24 individual balls and presses each of them into the tart cups. I’m not great at eyeballing dough measurements consistently, and my dough’s not meant to be over-handled, so I used a wine glass to cut out little circles.

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Sunny’s recipe called for pumpkin filling (the canned kind that comes pre-sweetened and spiced). The recipe seemed sweet as it was, and I only had regular old canned pumpkin, so I used that and added in the classic pumpkin pie spices myself (plus cardamom!),

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Crème de Marrons, or chestnut spread, is pretty common in France and is used as icing on yule log cakes around the holidays. It’s harder to find here in Canada, but some Whole Foods and a few specialty stores carry it. I knew that with my double batch of shortening crust I wouldn’t have enough pumpkin filling so I thought rather than making extra, I’d try chestnut. The spread’s main ingredient, pureed chestnut, has a texture that’s not too far off from pumpkin. Also, the other ingredients are pretty similar to those in the pie filling above – vanilla, corn syrup and sugar – so I thought it would work nicely. The chestnut spread has a pretty strong flavor on its own (very nutty and spicy), so I just added a few complementary spices and and an egg to make it set. Once baked, the chestnut filling is like a thicker, more flavourful version of butter tart filling.

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One other variation – I sprinkled the chopped pecans on top of the tarts instead of mixing them in to the filling, so they wouldn’t just sink to the bottom.

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For 48 mini tarts – approx 36 pumpkin and 12 chestnut

I made this recipe 3:1 pumpkin to chestnut in case you aren’t sure about the chestnut. I promise you though, it’s even better than the pumpkin!

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Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose pastry flour
  • 1 cup Tipo “00” Italian all-purpose extra fine flour (or regular pastry flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup chilled shortening (I put mine in the freezer for a couple hours)
  • 4 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

Pumpkin filling

  • 1 egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Chestnut filling

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canned chestnut spread
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Topping

  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  1. Sift the flour into a chilled mixing bowl and combine with the salt.
  2. Cut the shortening into small 1/2 inch cubes and combine into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and coarse.
  3. Start adding ice cold water, one tablespoon at a time combining until dough holds together.
  4. Handling as little as possible, form into two balls, flatten them into disks, wrap them in plastic and chill them in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. While the crust dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare the fillings.
  6. Prepare pumpkin filling – In a small bowl, whisk the egg and yolk until frothy and then blend in all of the other pumpkin filling ingredients. Set aside.
  7. Prepare the chestnut filling – In a separate bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then blend in all of the other chestnut filling ingredients. Set aside.
  8. Chop the pecans and set them aside.
  9. Remove dough from fridge and roll out on a piece of parchment paper. Use a wine glass to cut out circles and press them into the cups of a 24 cup mini muffin pan.
  10. Spoon filling into the pastry cups and sprinkle pecans on top. You should have enough crust and filling to make about 36 pumpkin tarts and 12 chestnut tarts.
  11. Bake for about 15 minutes or until filling sets. Remove tarts from pan once cool enough to handle and cool on racks.
  12. Repeat steps 9 – 11 with second disk of dough and the rest of the filling!

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Next weekend is Thanksgiving and I’ve ordered a fresh turkey from The Healthy Butcher. This will be my second year cooking a turkey and I’ll have my mom around to help, so stay tuned for pictures!

Enjoy!

x Dana

Heavens to Etsy!

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’ve been really looking forward to Etsy’s Made in Canada Day. Across the country this morning, Etsy vendors left the comfort of their computer chairs to showcase their wares in person at pop up markets. The Toronto stalls were housed in the bricks and mortar of the MaRS Discovery District and did not disappoint. Amid a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘awws’, hundreds of Torontonians swooned over felted fauna, boyfriend brooches, cross-stitched cuss words and parasaurolophus planters.

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The first 50 people to show up got Etsy swag bags filled with items from the vendors. My friend Nikki and I got in line 40 minutes before doors opened, and were probably initially within the first 50 people. Unfortunately, line jumpers pushed us back so we were about five people away from the last swag bag handed out. We still got goodies though, including vintage kimono silk samples & buttons, and other sewing odds & ends.

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Venerable Vendors

The iBakery

Custom cookies have stolen that place in Torontonians’ hearts once reserved for macarons and cupcakes. This was confirmed when they got their own BlogTO top ten list. iBakery is on the list and on Etsy, so owner Jacqueline Long was at the market today to show off her perfectly precise piping skills. She told us that the actual decorating goes pretty quickly (she obviously has a deft hand), but it’s the drying that is most time-intensive as each layer needs to set before the next can be added. I’ll be ordering bespoke baking for my office holiday party, so watch this space!

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Brooch Boyfriends

After hearing a lot of tinder horror stories lately, I can’t help but feel like Hannah Brown is offering the single ladies of Toronto a better option with her Brooch Boyfriends. You can request your own customized companion or go the celebrity route – she does felted versions of everyone from Conan O’Brien to the Fresh Prince. I wanted to get one but figured Kevin might get a bit jealous. Also, I’m holding out for her to do one of Benedict Cumberbatch or George Stroumboulopoulos.

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Crown Flora

I have a reputation at the office for having somewhat of a black thumb, which is really quite unfortunate as my mother is the most amazing gardener. She always tells me that succulents are very forgiving, so I was tempted by Crown Flora’s charming terrariums and planters. What better than a green brontosaurus with a crassulaceae spine to show my colleagues that my desk is capable of supporting plant life? Earrings across the hall seduced me away though, and since Crown Flora has a shop on Queen West I figured I could pick up a dino at a later date.

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Artsy Acquisitions

I came with a limited amount of cash because I know how addictive Etsy is online, and I figured it would be even enticing in person (spoiler – I was right). Many of the sellers actually took credit cards on their smartphones, but I was able to control myself. I did buy a pair of leather gold dipped earrings from Love at First Blush and a few ink and water colour greeting cards from Gotamago.

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After a busy morning of shopping we needed to refuel, so we nipped over to the nearby Reds Midtown Tavern for some brunch. This place is busy during the week with the work crowds, but quiet on weekends as it’s outside of the normal brunch neighborhoods. The patio was way too hot (it was 25 today!) but we sat right by the open windows with the fresh air coming in. I had the Hunter’s French Toast with applewood smoked bacon which was delicious. They’ve also jumped on the brunch tapas bandwagon, and you can order a bunch of sharing plates with things like apple fritters, donut holes, mini sausage roles, etc. Perfect for those who can’t commit to savory or sweet for breakfast!

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P.s.: I’ve been working on some autumn recipes and outfits, so tune in next week for the regular Frock & Fig programming!

x Dana

Breakfast at TIFF

I was going to put a little monologue here about yellow shoes after labour day. But then I realized, I don’t care, these little lemon slice slingbacks are gorgeous. Also, it was TIFF.

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So let’s just move on, shall we?

The Toronto International Film Festival takes over the city once a year and everyone goes a bit mad. People spend their days trying to spot celebrities and their nights watching poignant films that put it all into perspective. Restaurant chalkboards go from “FREE wifi, cold BEER” to “Bill Murray Day Tacos, $3.50” (because of the obvious correlation between Bill Murray and cheap tacos).

You see a lot of orange dresses. This year, for a TIFF reception my work was sponsoring, I went to the complementary end of the spectrum and wore blue.

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I attend receptions for work regularly and this sort of look is my standard uniform. I have a lot of frocks that follow this formula – very tailored, conservative length, modern neckline, flattering colour. My cocktail hour mantra is WWCUW – What Would Claire Underwood Wear? (Or Rachel Zane. Or Kate Middl- OK, I’ll stop).

Both my dress and shoes are Zara. Other places I love to shop for work-appropriate frocks are:

Femme de Carriere

L.K. Bennett

Mango

Club Monaco

Lemon Poppyseed Blueberry-Raspberry Scones

I’m a sucker for scones and love to make them on Saturday mornings. Usually I like to bake fussy, dainty pasties but when it comes to scones I think the best ones are knobbly, crumbly and rustic with poppyseed pockmarks and raspberry veins.

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For about ten large scones:

  • 3 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream or buttermilk plus more for brushing
  • 3 cups pastry flour
  • 1 cup sugar plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/4 sticks cold unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375°F. Soak the poppyseeds in the cream or buttermilk in a small bowl while you’re preparing the other ingredients. Using an electric mixer, combine  the pastry flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt. Cut butter into small pieces and blend into flour mixture until mixture is coarse. Add lemon juice and egg, mixing until just combined. Mix in cream/poppyseed mixture until the dough clumps together – don’t overmix! Press dough into something vaguely resembling a rectangle per the image below. Add frozen raspberries to one half and fold over.

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Roll out again as best you can and do the same thing with the frozen blueberries. This time when you fold over, try to shape it into a more respectable rectangle, but don’t worry about it looking pretty. I mean, seriously, look at mine below – the picture isn’t even in focus.

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Using diagonal slices, cut into triangles. Position them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brush with cream and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until scones turn golden and a knife inserted comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.

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Serve warm with butter and jam, or clotted cream if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere it’s available.

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If you have a lovely vintage scone set you inherited from your grandmother, use that. Or you know, whatever you have handy.

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Enjoy!

x Dana

Pique-nique Mexique

What came first, the frock or the fig? Today the outfit definitely inspired the plate, as you’ll see in the recipe further down…

I got this blouse shift on sale at Anthropologie for a trip to Mexico this past spring. I think it was on sale because of the confusing juxtaposition of the structured, quilted shoulders and the loose free-form skirt, which feels a bit too breezy outside of Cancun. It really works though, if you’re brave enough to belt it in sheer defiance of the unusually low drop waist (let the Man Repeller be your spirit guide). Maybe throw on a pair of black tights under it on a windy day. Add a messy fishtail braid, a beaded necklace and some neutral peep toes and you can call Blair Waldorf your best friend.

Are my pop culture references getting stale?

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Frock – Maeve at Anthropologie

Necklace – Loft

Heels – Aldo

Loaded Cilantro Lime Chicken and Bean Nachos with Homemade Guacamole

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When I was in university I worked at a fruit stand that was conveniently located right next to a liquor store. And conveniently located next to our cash register was a giant bucket of limes.

You’ll need some limes to go with your Coronas, we would say to  the liquor store customers. And while you’re here, why don’t you try a cherry. And a pluot. And a nectarine…

When I came across these ‘Cerveza’ limes at Sobey’s I reminisced about my fruit-hawking days and realized that the limes don’t need me anymore. They’ve taken the power of co-branding and upselling into their own hands.

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The components of today’s recipe can be used in all kinds of dishes – I often will wrap them up with rice in a burrito or toss them in a quinoa bowl. I have to admit, I’ve made them so many times that I usually just eyeball everything, but I’ve done my best to specify quantities here. Feel free to adjust the marinade to taste before adding it to the chicken.

For the Chicken

2 chicken breasts, cut into strips (I like Blue Goose chicken – it’s antibiotic free, they have stricter humane standards and it has a meatier taste/texture)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp of black pepper

zest and juice of one or two large limes (depends how juicy they are)

For the Beans

1 – 540ml can of beans, rinsed (I used kidney, but black or pinto would be even better)

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp black pepper

For the ‘Chos (Not you, Kim Cho)

1 – 280 gram block of medium cheddar cheese, grated (I used Balderson’s)

Blue corn chips

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the chicken marinade ingredients and use to coat the chicken. Cover and put in the fridge for a few moments while you prep the beans. Rinse the beans and coat them in the salt, spices and cilantro, then put them aside.

Warm a large frying pan on medium heat. Add the chicken and all of the marinade juices. Fry until chicken is completely cooked throughout. The sugar in the marinade will start to caramelize a bit and the chicken will begin to brown.

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Remove chicken from pan and set aside, leaving any leftover juices in the pan. Add a few splashes of olive oil and the beans to the pan. Fry on medium for a few minutes, stirring until the salt and spices have dissolved somewhat into the oil and the beans start to break up a little. Remove from heat and set aside.

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On a baking sheet lines with parchment paper, spread out corn chips and top with 2/3 of the grated cheese. Place under the broiler in your oven until the cheese starts to bubble.

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Top with beans, chicken and a few more handfuls of grated cheese. Throw it back under the broiler until it’s all melted to your liking. Layer and repeat if desired.  Do you see what I mean about the outfit inspiring the food now?

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This is a great dish for a party – you can cook the chicken and beans ahead of time, keep them in the fridge and then warm them up in a frying pan or the microwave before constructing your nachos.

Bonus – Guacamole!

2 avocados

Juice & zest of 1 lime

1/4 red onion, chopped

8 cherry tomatoes, diced

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cumin

black pepper to taste

Mash avocados and stir with other ingredients. Don’t over-blend, respect the chunkiness of the avocado!

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Enjoy!

x Dana

Suomalainen Summer

Hyvää päivää! Today we’re wearing and eating Finland.

Finland bowl

Ok not literally. But isn’t this bowl great? It’s by Sagaform and I got mine at Finnport.

I have Finnish ancestry on my mother’s side and my boyfriend is straight up half Finn. Where we’re from, there’s a lot of Finnish influence, but in Toronto you have to really look for little pockets here and there. We joined the Finnish Cafe last fall and spent a few hours every second week learning the language and eating Finnish specialties like pulla (coffee bread), suola kala (gravlax), and korvapuusti (cinnamon buns) which I made today.

Before we get into the food and clothes though, do you want to know a bit about Finland? I have these decorative plates in my kitchen depicting the exploits of Väinämöinen, the central hero in Finland’s national epic, the Kalevala.

From what I gather, Väinämöinen and the early Finns were proud equestrians and skilled archers.

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There was a lot of wooing back then. And proposals. But mainly wooing.

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Also, you know, watching people drown. That old chestnut.

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Maybe I’d better just get to the food and clothes.

Banana Republic x Marimekko

Earlier this summer, Banana Republic and Marimekko (an iconic Finnish textile design company) partnered for a capsule collection. It was a massive success, evidenced by the fact that by the time I made it up to the Bloor street BR store – only one day after release – they’d sold out of the skirt I wanted. It was a voluminous tea length skirt in Marimekko’s Pienet Kivet print and I’m still pining over it. I called every BR store in Toronto but there were no stock replenishments so I had to settle with trousers in the same print. In the end, I adore the trousers.

This is a bold pant which demands a good heel that can stand up to the print and the cropped length. I’ve kept the look monochromatic here, pairing the trousers with a black pointed-toe heel and a simple boat neck tee. Sharp little details – leather sleeves on the tee, the snakeskin print and gold hardware on the bag – ensure the polka dots feel sophisticated.

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Trousers – Banana Republic x Marimekko

T-shirt – Banana Republic

Bag – Aldo

Heels – Aldo

Korvapuusti (Finnish Cardamon Cinnamon Buns)

Today I busted out Betty (what, your KitchenAid mixer doesn’t have a name?) and put her to work on a classic Finnish recipe of Korvapuusti, which is Finnish for ‘Slapped Ears’.

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Just as I was prepping the yeast for the dough, my boyfriend Kevin and his friends returned from their guys brunch (yes, that’s a thing) and tried to take over my kitchen. To ensure the only ears getting slapped were of the pastry variety, I hustled them out to the balcony with their own yeast, although theirs was a good deal more fermented.

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Two things make Korvapuusti stand out from your run-of-the-mill cinnamon bun. Firstly, a hefty amount of ground cardamom is incorporated right into the dough. If it seems an odd spice choice to you, do not be dissuaded – it’s really delicious and adds a level of complexity to the sweetness of the bun, something that people will like but won’t be able to put their finger on.

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The recipe didn’t call for it, but I added some extra cardamom into the filling for good measure. It also has a good dose of cinnamon.

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The other thing is the shape – instead of boring old perfectly cylindrical rolls, you cut these at 45 degree angles so that you can see the swirl on both sides. This is why they’re called slapped ears!

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This dough is leavened with yeast, so it takes some time prep as it has to rise twice over a few hours.

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You make the time up in the oven however, as they only take 15 minutes to bake. Watch them though – they cook in a hot oven and they can go from golden to burnt in a matter of minutes!

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Drooling yet?

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Now I’m just showing off.

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I won’t pretend that I came up with the recipe for these  – I used a great one from another Finlander and you can find it here. My only advice is to not be shy with the cardamom. Also, they don’t keep for too long and will start to dry out – if that’s an issue, try slicing and toasting them, re-heating them in the oven or even dipping them in french toast batter and frying them. Delicious!

Next week I’ll aim to do some savory dishes and show you guys that I’m not just a one-trick pony! If you like this blog post be sure to follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/FrockAndFig for more updates throughout the week!

x Dana

Escape to Niagara-on-the-Lake

Last weekend I escaped the city on a long-awaited, much-anticipated and desperately needed girls weekend in wine country. Two of my best girlfriends from my hometown flew down to Toronto and we set off for two nights in Niagara-on-the-Lake while our guys had bachelor weekends (read: stayed home and played video games).

We stayed at the Burke House Inn, a sunny yellow bed & breakfast built in 1826. I would absolutely recommend it for a girls getaway – most B&B’s are set up for couples and we initially had a hard time finding a good deal for three people. We stayed in the ‘Mr. Hughes’ suite which had two rooms with one queen and two twin beds. We were just off of the main street and had our own private entrance and patio – so the midnight stroll back from the Irish pub was short and didn’t disturb our fellow guests.

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We rented bicycles from Zoom Leisure on the Saturday and headed out into the countryside for some wine tasting. A few of our faves:

Pondview Estate’s  Harmony White – An easy-drinking blend of Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. There’s a bottle in my fridge right now but not for long!

Frogpond Farm’s Organic Grape Juice – Made with organic Vidal grapes, a very grown-up grape juice that hits the tongue like honey but doesn’t have a lingering sweetness.

Lailey Vinyard’s 2012 Vidal Select Late Harvest – Picked after the 15 of November but not while frozen, so it’s sweet but not as cloying as an ice wine.

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Apart from the wine tours, we enjoyed juicy roadside Niagara peaches, a beautiful bike ride up the Niagara parkway, a creepy ghost tour and way more ice cream than we needed.

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We had a few great meals (and one not-so-great meal), but by far the most delicious was the custom cheese plate we had made at Cheese Secrets. On the recommendation of our innkeeper, and after a long morning of bicycling and wine tasting (so arduous!), we visited these extraordinary cheesemongers. We told them what we liked and how much we wanted to spend, and they set to work creating a custom plate with generous slices of Niagara Gold, Sauvagine and Bleu Ermite cheeses along with charcuterie, dried fruit and nuts. To complete the meal we grabbed a freshly baked baguette (still hot!), a box of crackers and a bottle of Inniskillin’s Niagara Estate Series Late Harvest Riesling. The only downside was that we had to be extra careful walking back to the inn – strangers on the street kept trying to steal the tray and inviting themselves back to our place!

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Cheeseplate

For such a small town, Niagara-on-the-Lake punches above it’s weight in a lot of areas – wine, fruit, houses, history, and not least of all, frozen desserts. You could get a cone at every second door on the main street, including an outpost of PEI’s Cow’s Creamery, but the best was Il Gelato Di Carlotta – Lateria. I’m still dreaming about their pistachio gelato, which is from Milan and made with nuts from Sicily. We didn’t try any of their gorgeous handcrafted biscotti ice cream sandwiches but they’re on my list for my next visit.

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Gelatotreats

We left in the Sunday morning sunshine with slight headaches from doing ‘Sociables’ (raising glasses of Glenmorangie and Guiness to Irish music) the night prior. Luckily we were equipped with caffeine from Balzac’s for the ride home. I tried their Parisian Mist, a blend of French Breakfast tea with steamed milk and vanilla – sort of an elevated London Fog.

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That’s it! Next week’s post will have more frocks, promise.

x Dana