Tuesday, 5 May 2015
Twice de Spice Takeover!
My good MasterChef Canada friends, Marida & Narida hosted their first pop up restaurant event last night. For those who may not be familiar, a pop up restaurant is a temporary dining event held at a particular venue. It can be for just one or a few nights, but doesn't permanently conduct business in that venue. The pop up was held at Toronto's Cabal on King Street West. The twins created a four course tasting menu, specializing in elevated Trinidadian comfort dishes.
Among the thirty or so who attended there were other members of MasterChef Canada's first season: Pino, Rob, and Carmela as well as my food blogger friend, Fouad. It was great to see everybody again. It was a very enjoyable evening. Even the weather, which was expected to be rainy and miserable, turned out to be quite mild and forgiving.
Allow me to preface this by stating the obvious, I consider Marida and Narida good friends of mine. So this is going to be a biased article. I mean it when I say the food was fantastic. You'll see how beautifully plated everything was. The fare was delicious, warm and well balanced. There is a very special place in my heart for island food so this was a real treat for me.
Let's go over the courses one by one. For the first course, we were served a creamy callaloo soup with salted pig tail. At the bottom of the bowl was a dollop of lime crème fraîche. So when you first stir the soup with your spoon you see a ripple of cream which was otherwise hidden. Very clever. Salted pig tail is a classic Trinidadian flavouring in soups and stews. I love callaloo (and all greens really) so this was a very tasty soup to me. When Marida faced off with Eric in the season finale of MasterChef Canada she made a version of this soup for her first course. Only on the show her soup incorporated a bit of pumpkin and a breadfruit chip.
Our second course may have been my favourite, but to be honest, it is hard to choose. Trini-style stew chicken, buttery cassava (a tuber also known as yucca) and a cucumber chutney. All savoury Trinidadian food generally has a bit of heat to it and this was the spiciest course of the four. It was just delicious. The chicken was full of flavour and was fall-apart tender. Cassava is quite dense yet creamy when cooked well. It's an interesting texture if you've never tried it. I used a cassava purée in my audition dish for the second season of MatserChef Canada. The cucumber chutney was flavourful and refreshing as well as a little fresh cucumber which accompanied the dish. I loved this one!
I have my own recipe for West Indian stew chicken if you'd like to learn more about it.
For our third course we were served curried shrimp with a pumpkin purée. The shrimp was cooked to perfection. The natural sweetness of the shrimp was not compromised by the robust curry flavours. The pumpkin purée was creamy and luscious. The perfect accompaniment to the shrimp.
We were served warm, paratha roti to eat the shrimp and pumpkin with. Roti is an Indian flatbread that is commonly used to wrap up curries and eaten as a sandwich. Paratha roti, (also known to Trinidadians as buss up shut or shot) is a particular kind of roti that's kind of mashed up in a way that leaves it tattered and left looking like a busted up shirt (hence the nickname, I'm not making this up). Paratha is ideal for pulling apart and sharing so it was perfect here. I'm not sure which of the two was in charge of the bread, or if it was a joint effort, but I have had Narida's roti more than once and it is amazing. Any kind of fresh, handmade bread trumps anything else you can find. Believe me.
For the fourth and final course the twins made the most decadent dessert. Banana-carrot cake with brûléed banana, warm caramel sauce, coconut cream and a dark chocolate tuile. I mean, come on! It hit every facet of what a great and memorable dessert should be. I'm not even much of a dessert person and I inhaled this. The cake was warm, moist and flavourful. The caramelized banana was divine and the coconut cream added another tropical element all strung together by the classic combo of chocolate and caramel (I happen to love banana and chocolate together too). I don't use the word "fabulous" a lot but that's exactly what it was. The desserts were garnished with cape gooseberries and edible flowers.
Clearly these ladies are very talented. I'm a lucky guy. Every guest left happy and satisfied. It was so much fun to see everybody again. What a great group of people. Life is good, lol.
Be sure to visit www.twicedespice.com to keep up with the twins and more of the events they'll be putting together.
If you'd like to learn more about Trinidadian food, please check out my post about my own visit to Trinidad and Tobago in 2013. That was just a few months before embarking on our MasterChef Canada journey and meeting each other for the first time. If you love spice and comfort food, then West Indian cuisine has got a lot to offer you.
I have an exciting announcement! I have been so busy lately but I have some time off next week which will give me an opportunity to decompress and free up some availability for the blog. I know that the flow of recipes hasn't been quite up to standard lately.
I have to be honest, I made a promise to myself that I would eat healthier and get back in shape this year. I'm very proud of myself because I've stuck with it, I feel great and I'm already in the best shape of my life, but my meals mostly consist of things I've already done on the blog like massaged kale salads, steamed fish and baked chicken. If you're on Instagram you should follow me to see more of my cooking and some of the healthy meals I've been eating, @foodbybram. Not to worry though, I'm still very passionate about this blog and inspiring people to cook and try new things.
A big thank you to Mar & Nar for putting together the event and for working so hard to make it pleasant and unforgettable.
That does it for now. Until next time, everyone! Thanks for visiting.