Food allergies and music festivals, getting healthy despite dietary restrictions, simple weeknight meals, and a delicious paleo recipeRead More
We reviewed The Baker In Me cookbook and adjusted the recipe to be allergy-friendlyRead More
The couple behind the Chef Sous Chef blog came over to cook a whole food, allergy-friendly meal. You can get their recipe for beet burgers with orange mayo here!Read More
Colette Grand Cafe in Toronto has a reputation for being a strikingly beautiful French restaurant and cafe, and it's easy to see how they hold that status. Pictured below is their outdoor pavilion, situated between a calm water feature on one side and a bustling park on the other.
Wednesday was a customer appreciation day of sorts, where Colette served up free food and sangria to local patrons. Upon entering the pavilion we were immediately offered freshly shucked oysters (good call guys!) and were greeted by the fragrant smell of a charcoal BBQ. Oysters are one of my favorite foods to eat in a restaurant because they are generally freshly shucked right before serving which reduces the possibility of cross-contamination. They are also a meal or snack on their own, and pair really well with either wine, bubbly, or beer, depending on the restaurant and location. There are enough varieties that the meal can be interesting without getting too adventurous into the front of unknown (and un-allergy-tested) foods. So oysters are unsurprisingly one of my go-to menu items to order when dining out.
I've been to Colette for coffee, lunch, and dinner many times and I'm always impressed with how they handle my food allergies. When dining with my family there are three of us with severe allergies and the staff is always able to accommodate our requests with diligence and grace. They tick off all the boxes I generally check for:
- The server is understanding, writes down the allergies, clarifies when needed, and doesn't make a patronizing remark
- They check with the chef before confirming that the item I've ordered is suitable
- The allergies are reiterated when the plate is brought to the table
- The staff is knowledgeable about the menu specifics and about allergens, cross contamination, etc.
Joella and Bran tasted some of their other offerings, including this delightful little salad skewer, a grilled octopus bite with raisins, and sangria. They gave rave reviews to everything especially the octopus. In Bran's words, "This is how octopus should be done!"
Another reason to visit Colette is the atmosphere. The place is full of thoughtful little touches and fresh flowers. It's a great place to sit and sip a coffee or linger after an abundant dinner.If you live in Toronto, head over there this weekend! And if you don't, add it to your list of places to try out on your next visit. You won't be disappointed.
Upon opening Sabrina Ghayour’s cookbook, I learned a few things. First, she cleared up what the title means (thank god, I hadn’t a clue). She defines a sirocco as a “hot, dry wind blowing from East to West, often carrying with it flavors of the Mediterranean.” Next I learned that although I couldn’t find some of the key flavors commonly found in the book, it would be okay because she designed the recipes to not be reliant on one main ingredient. Admittedly I was concerned when I did my initial flip-through because I knew I would have trouble finding sumac and other spices at my closest Loblaws. Knowing that we could carry on without them allowed me to keep my options open when selecting recipes.
I welcomed two of my close friends, Joella and Cailen, into my kitchen to prepare three recipes and share a meal together. Joella’s a pro now, this being her third book review on my site! And Cailen is pretty skilled in the kitchen as I came to learn.
We agreed that the aesthetic of the book is very “Instagram-y”, especially with the table of contents arranged like a grid and the photos altered with a hazy filter making them super grammable.
Lamb Lettuce Wraps
So we made a major substitution here and used beef tenderloin instead of lamb because Loblaws had a great sale and I couldn’t resist. The marinade tasted amazing and I know it would also have been fab on lamb. It consisted of soy sauce, honey, cumin, garlic, and a ton of cinnamon. We let the meat marinate while we put together the kale salad (below). Just before serving we made the peanut sauce, using sunflower seed butter instead of peanut butter. There was a lot of sauce left over so I think in future I would maybe make half the recommended amount. The beef was so rich and juicy, and the cinnamon added the most amazing depth of flavor. We grilled it using a Persian style of metal kebab stick, although you could fry the meat as per the recipe. The lettuce cups and “peanut” sauce helped to round out and freshen up the aromatic marinade. This was such a wonderful dish and I would definitely make it again. It’s perfect for entertaining.
Marinated Kale Salad
The kale salad also had to sit and marinate so we worked on that right after dressing the raw beef. Kale is such a thick, tough green that absorbs dressing really well. After a few hours in the fridge it had soaked up the apple-based pureed vinaigrette while still having great texture and color. We all agreed that it wasn’t the right salad to accompany the beef, so that was poor menu curation on my part. But I would definitely make it again and serve with a simpler protein like grilled chicken or shrimp.
Being Italian, I’m no stranger to cooking with fennel or snacking on it raw, though I’ve never had it prepared like this. Jo coated the chunks of fennel in powdered sugar and then Cailen gave them a light fry in olive oil. Something went a little wrong with the herb sauce; it smelled great but it was a lot thicker than we figured it was supposed to be. It was about 10pm by the time we got around to the end of the meal prep and we decided to sacrifice the sauce so we could sit down and eat. The fennel was a close contender for best dish, really yummy and caramelized. The sugar wasn’t overpoweringly sweet like I thought it would be and actually gave it a nice creamy texture.
The next recipes I can’t wait to make
Marinated Scallops (pg. 100) – HUGE cravings for this one
Eastern-Style Salmon Tartare (pg. 103)
Nectarine Pavlova (pg. 222)
How it rated for allergy-friendliness
I’ll be honest and say this book has a lotta nuts, legumes, and dairy (mainly yoghurt). Every recipe had to be altered but as I’ve mentioned in the past that’s totally cool with me. Recipes are for inspiration, not following the steps with precision. The goal is to make wonderful food that you’ll enjoy and by using Ghayour’s recipes as a base I was able to make substitutions to suit my needs and everything turned out well.
You can pick up a copy of Sirocco at Indigo online or in store for $39.95 CAD
What a beautiful table (if I do say so myself)
And it looks much better with friends sitting around it!