Eating Up The Last Two Weeks of Tasty Thursdays! Cornbread, Pulled Pork, and Cornmeal Mashed Potatoes

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I can’t say this summer has been the most comfortable for me.  My favourite season growing up was always summer, but I have to say, I must be getting wussier in my “old” age when it comes to the heat because over the course of the last few months I have been constantly ducking under trees, storefront awnings, and every cool, shady spot imaginable.  I have only gone hatless one day this summer and I have come home in a gross, sticky mess almost every day. 

Even though my body is begging for the cooler fall temperatures, I have to admit that this has been one very fun foodie summer.  I’ve been able to tuck away over 10 farmers’ markets under my belt, I’ve been able to take some beautiful photos around the city sans the snow slush, and I’m really proud that I took advantage of my time post-graduation to make this summer mine.  I haven’t had a summer to myself in the last seven years and it has felt amazing doing so many of the things I set out to do before the summer started.

With the temperatures as sizzling as they are, summer is far from over but it’s worth taking note that Nathan Phillips Square’s Tasty Thursday outdoor food fests are coming to a close on September 1st.  This leaves us with two more weeks of hot-off-the-grill food for lunch in the heart of the downtown core.  We have two more weeks to savour the flavours of seafood ceviche, jerk chicken, Peruvian rice, vegetarian pad thai, Indian dishes bursting with chickpeas, and plenty of others. 

Last week Tasty Thursdays switched things up a little and we saw the introduction of Big Daddy’s Bourbon Street Bistro and Oyster Bar, Lone Star Texas Grill, and several others.  You know what that means – new photos!  My mum took advantage of the Southern cajun style catfish and creole rice with her fish and rice dish, and I ogled the cornbread for what seemed like eons before deciding that I would pass solely based on price.  The cornbread looked fantastic, but since I wanted more than just the cornbread without wanting to go over the $5 budget threshold, I sadly walked away last week.  Trust that if it comes back this week I just might cave and get me some!  What my brother and I ordered for lunch that day came from La Fiesta Catering: pulled pork with mashed potatoes, rice, and salad.

If you’ve read my Tequila Sunrise post, you know that pulled pork is a bit of a weakness of mine.  So as I soon as I saw the $5 meal posted on the menu board at Tasty Thursday last week, I was all over it.  The slow-cooked shredded tenderness of the pulled pork drove that weakness of mine crazy, and they had this great sauce to go along with the meal as well.  And you all know how I feel about sauce!  Cue Homer Simpson-like drooling here.  Even though I love the pulled pork at Tequila Sunrise best, the pulled pork I had last week was great too, and the salad that came with the meal had this nice sweet tang from some of the pickled vegetables. 

If you can believe it, the mashed potatoes were FABULOUS!  This is not your typical lump of mashed potatoes.  For one thing, they have this pretty light yellow colour.  And for another they have this ultra smooth, melt-in-your-mouth texture that can only be described as the love child between potatoes and corn meal.  These mashed potatoes were scooped into large round domes and placed on a super hot grill to get that warm golden brown colour on the underside, as well as that little bit of crispiness.  Looking at these photos now, I would seriously go back and grab a whole box full of scooped cornmeal-like potatoes and have myself a field day.

*****

Nathan Phillips Square is located at 100 Queen St. West at the intersection of Queen and Bay St.  Tasty Thursdays takes place every Thursday from 11am-2pm from July 14th-September 1st, 2011.  All food items are $7 or less.  For more information on which restaurants and vendors are participating this summer, click here.

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Weekly Feature: The Grad Lounge – Rosemary Chicken on Mashed Potatoes, Bring on the Gravy!

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Call me easily amused, but I get excited whenever I see mashed potatoes.  Like I wrote in my post a week and a half ago on my beloved spuds, they’re so versatile and I love them with gravy, sour cream, green onions, chives, cheese, mixed veggies, peas, etc. etc.  Not only do they taste delightful, but how many foods out there don’t require you to really chew?  For me it’s great because according to my mum, who has apparently watched and observed my eating habits at the dinner table, I chew my food an average of 22 times before I swallow.  It’s no wonder I eat so slow most of the time.  And it’s no wonder my jaws are kind of sore by the end of my meal.  Oh well.

I refer to this Grad Lounge dish as rosemary chicken stew on potato mash.  Shredded rosemary seasoned chicken served with mushrooms, cooking onions, shallots, and mushroom gravy on top of a big pillow of soft mashed potatoes and a side salad of mixed greens.  It’s like the ultimate meal for softies! 😀  You know, the kind of meal that’s good for when you need something soft and mushier.  The gravy is really flavourful from the mushrooms and chicken and another one of those nice winter comfort meals.  Not to mention the pairing of chicken with mushrooms is a classic (don’t pretend like you don’t snicker when you hear people non-Chinese people saying “moo-goo-guy-pan”!). 

The Grad Lounge does two variations on this dish and they’re both a part of the rotating daily specials menu.  This one is the shredded meat version and the other is 2-piece rosemary chicken thigh dish.  Given the weather we’ve been having as of late (read: wet sleet and wet snow and freezing rain, oh my!) a nice plate of steaming hot chicken and potatoes does the job.

*****

The Grad Lounge is located at 166 South Ross at the York University Keele campus.  They offer a number of daily specials in addition to their permanent menu, and provide numerous vegetarian and vegan options.

The Keys to My Heart: One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four…My Homemade Mashed Potatoes!

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Okay, so if you know me, you know what my favourite foods are: sweets (especially cake and cupcakes), sushi (bring on the salmon and avocado!), cream cheese (and any cheese for that matter), pasta, and a plethora of veggies including bell peppers, baby spinach, arugula, avocado, mushrooms, and broccoli among many others.  I am also a passionate potato lover!  Let it be known that I have never met a potato I didn’t like.  Baked, roasted, scalloped, mashed, I love them all and I go crazy with toppings and seasonings!  My mum and I sprinkle dry basil flakes on our roasted spuds, I love me some peas and gravy in and on my mashed, and hand me some sour cream with my baked potato and I am a happy girl 😀  My mum and I made a hot, steaming, fresh bowl of mashed potatoes last Friday and I am loving how they turned out! 

We used yummy Yukon gold ones for our homemade mashed potatoes.  For 6-8 potatoes, peeled and quartered, boiling them for about 20 minutes did the job.  After the potatoes came out of the hot tub, we added some margarine (about 3 tablespoons) and a very generous splash of milk.  And I mean generous.  We wanted our mashed potatoes nice and soft and whippy, so we added enough milk to the bowl so that we could see the milk around the edges of the potatoes.  Drowning them would make them soppy and gross, but we added just enough so that the milk peeked through. 

Then came the fun part: mashing!  I’m sure everyone has their favourite kitchen activity (and a not-so-favourite to go along with it.  Chopping onions, anyone?) and mine is using the potato masher, haha.  I had a very fun time mashing my black beans for my black bean burrito filling and I was quite happy to go at it with the masher again.  I guess I find it satisfying mushing things!  *laughs*  We added lots of black pepper, dried basil and parsley flakes, a sprinkling of bacon bits, and a heaping handful of chopped green onions/scallions which gave it some fresh colour and crunch.  The potatoes were delicious and at just the right consistency!

I can’t wait to make another batch sometime and try out some different seasonings and add-ons, maybe some red pepper chili flakes for a little heat, or maybe some corn and beans.  Making potatoes totally reminds me of the episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S in the first season where they’re celebrating Thanksgiving and everyone wants and likes their mashed potatoes in a different way and everyone is bickering because nobody can agree on anything, ha!  So, how does everyone like their potatoes? 😀