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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

While visiting New York last fall, my relatives gave me a little gift to take back with me. Every year in October, hoards of people eagerly await the arrival of a certain product, sold in familiar yellow packaging, that only appears as the leaves start to fall and disappears as soon as spring rolls around. I’m talking about Mallomars.

box of mallomars

Mallomars are cookies, consisting of a graham cracker with a marshmallow on top covered in dark chocolate. While I like them, I’ve never felt the obsession other people have with these treats. People have been known to stock up on them to secure themselves a supply long after they have disappeared off of store shelves. People from other parts of the country become upset they can’t find them in local stores as they are usually only found in the New York and North East region. In fact, 70% of buyers are from the New York area according to the Mallomars box. The reason for this exclusiveness? The makers of Mallomars claim that the chocolate quality will not stand up in the warmth of summer or in warm climates. I guess they’ve never heard of refrigeration. It’s no coincidence Mallomars are known as the cookie that plays hard to get.

And where does this cookie quality control originate? Where are these seasonal and regional cookies manufactured? Right here in Toronto, Canada. That’s right, these fall and winter wonders are made right where I live. Does that mean I can buy them here in Toronto? Of course not, although there are similar cookies sold here such as Dream Puffs and Whippets, which come from Montreal. Both by the way available year round. Don’t they know the havoc chocolate covered cookies can cause once the temperatures rise above freezing?

box showing Mallomars are Made in Canada

This box of Mallomars cleary shows they are Made in Canada

I don’t know if I can really embrace a cookie that wields such control, dictating when and where it is sold. I’m not into snack food manipulation. But if someone gives me a box as a gift I will gladly accept it.

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I’ve always tried to keep this space unbiased and non-partisan. I intended it to be a fun spot free from controversy. However, I am about to enter murky waters. I am about to discuss something that could be considered so provocative it could enrage the entire nation of Canada. More controversial than discussing socialized medicine. More controversial than cheering on Team USA over Team Canada in world hockey tournaments. I have to just come out and say it. I do not like Tim Hortons coffee.

For the uninitiated Tim Hortons is the major coffee and donut establishment in Canada, founded by the Canadian hockey legend. Much larger a presence than Dunkin Donuts stateside, it may even rival McDonald’s in popularity in this part of the world. It is said you know you’re in Canada when you see that familiar sign. Many Canadians say they feel homesick when away from their “timmies”, a common nickname.

Tim Hortons sign

I’m not trying to start a riot or make some political stand. I just get a stomach ache every time I drink the stuff. I don’t enjoy drinking something that makes me feel ill. I have no problem with their baked goods. I have had their donuts and ‘timbits’ (their version of donut holes) many times. While not superior to any other chains, they are pretty good. Tim Hortons is also a very charitable company whose annual Camp Day promotion sends thousands of children to summer camp.

How Tim Hortons coffee became the unofficial national drink of Canada, I have no idea. Just what is it about that coffee that made it develop such a following? Is it the taste or is it more the reputation?

I’d like to know why this coffee is so popular. Surely, there are others out there who share my dislike for it. Are you a Tim Hortons lover or hater? Leave me a comment and let me know.

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HotdogThere were fireworks, picnics and people getting away for the long weekend. This past weekend was Victoria Day here in Canada, a public holiday observed on the last Monday before May 25, honoring the birth of Queen Victoria. It is also known as 2-4 day honoring a case of beer. Victoria Day marks the unofficial kickoff of summer. I normally wait to have my first BBQ of the year the following weekend, on Memorial Day, with my fellow Americans. But beautiful summer-like weather prompted me to start my outdoor cooking season, which also coincides with my annual ‘whining because I can’t find a decent hotdog here in Canada’ season.

Many of you know I like to complain about the troubles I have obtaining certain foods here in Toronto. You can add good tasting all-beef hotdogs to that list. This was not always a problem. I used to be able to easily purchase Hebrew National® All Beef Franks (www.hebrewnational.com) in select stores here. This is a delicious piece of meat, plump, juicy with no added fillers-and they’re kosher too. As their slogan used to say they answer to a higher authority. But sadly the stores here have stopped carrying them and I just haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement. The hotdogs found here just don’t have the right spices or flavoring. I’ve tried other all-beef hotdogs. I’ve tried kosher hotdogs from Montreal, and ball park style frankfurters. Some of them taste fairly good but still nothing that really hits a home run with me. I’ve turned to turkey franks. They’re not bad and probably a little healthier too. While I enjoy them, they still can’t replace the taste of an all-beef hotdog straight off the grill.

hotdogs on a grill

I continue to buy hotdogs and turkey franks here in Canada because I enjoy barbecuing. We get so little summer time here; you really do need to experience all you can. Nothing beats the smell of cooking meat outdoors on a charcoal grill, so I make do with what I can get.

Now about the mustard they sell here…

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When I go back home to visit, I always make sure to load up on plenty of my favorite foods as regular readers of this page know, especially, pizza and bagels. When people visit me in Toronto they often ask what special food they should try? Does Canada have a food it is known for? I’m always puzzled for an answer.

Some people say the beer in Canada is pretty good, but I don’t drink so I can’t recommend that. I’ve heard that Canadian bacon is a delicacy but I try to keep kosher and even if I didn’t it wouldn’t look right promoting pork products to my Jewish friends and family. The poutine? That’s really more of a French Canadian tradition and as I mentioned in an earlier post,(see my posting on French Fries) the less said about that the better.

Then I thought about the butter tart. A butter tart is a well-known Canadian treat. I have never tasted a butter tart. Maybe I should try one. Maybe it can become the representative food I can suggest to my American brethren.

What is a butter tart?

A butter tart is a small pastry consisting of butter, sugar, and eggs in a small pastry shell. It is said to be similar to a pecan pie, minus the pecans, which I have also never tasted.

The Canadian Butter Tart

A Canadian Butter Tart

My experience with the butter tart

Like I said, I have no personal experience with the butter tart. By coincidence, my local supermarket had them on special this week – a box of ten of them. It was fate. This was the week I would try my first butter tart.

In these health conscious times, the butter tart does not sound too appealing – a tart of saturated fat- but I was determined to see what this piece of Canadiana tasted like. I took one out of the box and studied it for a while. The sweet smelling pastry felt heavy as I placed it in front of me. I slowly dug in. The first bite was only the crust, but that tasted good. I stared inside at the filling. It was a creamy jelly like substance with a crusty top, quite different. I took another bite and tasted sweetness, almost like an apple pie filling without the apples. I took another bite. Was that a raisin I tasted? I had read that some butter tarts had raisins. Before long, I had finished the entire tart.

The verdict  

So, what did I think of my first butter tart? It was a bit sweet, but it was tasty. I think it would be more of a once in a while treat, but I would recommend it. It’s no Drake’s Coffee Cake or Yankee Doodle (read my previous post on Drake’s Cakes), but if someone wanted to try a unique Canadian snack, I think I might suggest the butter tart. In fact, I may have another one myself. After all, I still have another nine in that box.

What Canadian food do you recommend to out-of-towners?  Leave me a comment and let me know.

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Brown Sugar Pop Tarts

Most of you who have read these pages before know I have some beefs with the lack of availability of some foods here in Canada, decent pizza, bagels, etc. But there is another area that needs to be discussed. I’m talking about foods that can be purchased here but only in limited selections. I may live in a country that offers freedom and opportunity but I don’t have access to a wide choice of Pop-Tarts®.

Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts® have got to be one of the greatest foods ever invented. Enjoyed both warm out of toaster or straight out of the package they are the perfect example of food that is both tasty and convenient. Great at home or on the go. Don’t get me wrong I am very happy that they are available for sale here in Toronto, but why the limitations on flavors? At last count, there were 29 flavors available for sale in the USA.  In Canada: seven flavors. Not to mention the shortage of special collections like the Ice Cream Shoppe line or even packages of minis, which opens up a whole new world of Pop-Tart® enjoyment. US varieties also offer unfrosted and special seasonal editions like Pumpkin Pie and Sugar Cookie. There are even lower fat versions and one’s with added fiber, which speaking from personal experience have proven quite effective when need arises.  But here in Canada with the exception of S’mores and Chocolate Chip you are basically left with just your traditional chocolate fudge, a childhood favorite, and your fruit flavored fillings, never a big hit with me.

Canada is a multi-cultural country with people from all corners of the world. Yet, we can’t even feature a double-digit amount of flavors of Pop Tarts®. Why not some special Canadian only Pop-Tart® introductions? Then again these are people who thought Ketchup and Dill pickle made for good Potato Chip selections so maybe its best to keep them out of the toaster pastry business.

Do you have a favourite Pop Tart flavor? Maybe a traditional favourite or a now retired variety? How do you like to eat them hot or cold? I have even heard of people eating them frozen. That daring I’m not. I’d love to hear what you have to say so leave me a comment.

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The other day I was in the supermarket with my mother, my Brooklyn Mama, and she wanted to get some milk. She kept insisting they didn’t have any left. She said she went through bag after bag of milk and all she could find were ‘lattes’. I went over to help only to find what she was reading was “lait”, the French translation for milk. Even after so many years of living in a bilingual country, my mother still seems to get confused by foreign words on the packaging.

You may have noticed I said bags of milk in the above paragraph. This was not a misprint. You see here in Ontario the majority of milk is sold in plastic bags. This is something that has gotten me strange stares when trying to explain it to my American friends and family. While 1L and 2L of milk are sold in cartons, 4L milk is sold in large bags containing three separate clear bags of milk.

Bags of Milk

Bags of milk as sold in Ontario

Single Bag of Milk

A single bag of milk

You simply place one of the bags of milk in a special pitcher, snip the corner and away you go. Just don’t cut too big a hole or you will risk spilling milk, especially with a full bag. Also, once snipped, the bag remains open. Many people will fold it over or use a clip to keep the bag closed and the milk fresher. I remember growing up we had a special milk container with a lid that kept the bag covered. I guess we were the lucky ones.

Milk Pitcher

Pitcher to hold a bag of milk

Milk Pitcher with Lid

Milk pitcher with a lid

Here is a popular YouTube video which demonstrates the milk bag in action:

The milk in the bag concept was introduced in 1967. Slow to catch on at first, milk was commonly sold in reusable plastic jugs. Some years later, when the blessed metric system came along, it was easier to resize plastic bags than jugs. Plastic bags of milk are also less expensive to produce and purchase and have therefore become the milk package of choice for families.

Although not sold this way in all parts of Canada, I found out milk is sold in plastic bags in many other countries including Estonia, Argentina, Brazil, Israel and many others. I believe Great Britain has recently transitioned to the milk bag. I am curious to know if there is anywhere else out there where milk is sold in a non traditional way. Let me know by leaving me a comment. Maybe you live in Ontario but you drink a certain type of milk that is not packaged in bags or maybe you splurge because you just prefer the taste of milk from a jug or carton. How do you like your milk from a bag, carton, or straight out of the cow? Let me know. I’m interested in hearing from you.

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Drakes logo

I’m almost ready for my yearly visit back home to visit all my friends and family. Besides my memories, I also like to bring some items home with me. Among those things are Drake’s Cakes®.

Drake’s cakes are snack cakes sold in New York and other North Eastern States. After brief expansion, they failed to catch on in other areas of the country. They remain a nostalgic treat for people who have moved away from areas where they are regularly sold. There are many companies that ship them worldwide. Florida and service people overseas are popular destinations. They have had some recognition in recent years thanks to celebrities such as Jerry Seinfeld and Rosie O’Donnell.

Founded by Newman E. Drake in Brooklyn in 1888 with a single pound cake he sold by the slice, Drakes’s cakes now come in many different types. I would like to offer an introduction to those of you who are unfamiliar with these products. I have listed them according to their popularity with me.

Devil Dogs®

Devil Dogs

 Somewhat my favourite by default as it comes in a reduced fat variety. A Devil Dog is a sandwich consisting of two unfrosted Devils Food cakes with a white creamy filling. They are shaped like hotdogs, hence the name.

Coffee Cakes®

Drakes Coffee Cakes

Also available in a lower fat choice, these are pound cakes with a streusel crumb topping. With two in each package the lower fat version allows you to eat both at one time or share with a friend if you’re feeling generous.

Yankee Doodles®

Yankee Doodles

Formerly my favorite, before learning of the dangers of fat and cholesterol, Yankee Doodles are unfrosted Devils’ Food cupcakes with a creamy center. There is a distinct hole on the top of the cake where the filling went in. These are also packaged in twos. They are similar in taste to the Devil Dogs.

Sunny Doodles®

Sunny Doodles

A Yellow cake version of the Yankee Doodle. They are nice change from the Chocolate when you want something a little different.

Ring Dings®

Ring Dings

These are the favorites of many people I know. I like them too, but they are very rich so I only enjoy them occasionally. A Ring Ding is a frosted chocolate cake with a cream filling. It is similar to the Hostess Ding Dong, or as it is known in Canada the King Don. After doing some research I learned that Ding Dongs were branded as King Dons in some areas as to avoid confusion with the Ring Ding. If its one thing I hate its confusion over snack cakes. Although most places have gone back to the Ding Dong moniker, in Canada they remain King Dons. At least I am no longer wondering who Don is and what exactly he is the king of.

Funny Bones®

Funny Bones

A frosted chocolate cake with a unique Peanut Butter filling. I’m not that into Peanut Butter so I don’t really look for these when I’m out.

Yodels®

Yodels

 Basically a chocolate Swiss Roll. I like them, but don’t really see much difference from products offered by Hostess and Little Debbie which are available here in Toronto.

Fruit Pies®

Drakes Fruit Pies

I must admit, I am not a big fan of mixing fruits and snack items. For those who like this kind of thing they come in Apple and Cherry.

Canadian Vachon® Snack Cakes

Vachon® is a company based in Montreal that makes snack cakes here in Canada. They have some very interesting choices, such as the Joe Louis®, the May West® and the Ah Caramel®. For full product descriptions and pictures visit http://www.vachon.com/. Some of these are tasty, but nothing I have become attached to. Maybe because here I watch my diet and don’t normally purchase snack items. It might also be because these are readily available. They say the harder something is to obtain, the more you desire it. The heart wants what the heart can’t have. So does the stomach.

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