Cooking with Alison

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Best Cheap Eats in Maui, Hawaii

In Reviews on May 22, 2016 at am

John and I spent Christmas, 2015 in Maui, Hawaii. Given the island’s high prices, the Christmas high season, and our low Canadian dollar, we were very budget conscious and had to choose our meals carefully. Since food is very expensive in Maui, renting a place that has a kitchenette is key to saving money on food. I’ve compiled some food lists to help you plan your trip to Maui. Below is a list of the best cheap eats that we found on the island. See here for the list of our favourite eats in Maui. Mahalo!

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Best Eats and Must Trys in Maui, Hawaii

In Mind Your Cents, Reviews on May 9, 2016 at am

John and I went to Maui, Hawaii for our honeymoon in December, 2015. We loved Maui and we can’t wait to see the other Hawaiian islands, but I was a bit disappointed by the food overall. First off, it was very expensive, we saw a lot of Spam and most of the flavours were unbalanced (either too salty or too sweet). So I’ve compiled two food lists to help you plan your trip to Maui. The first is a list of our favourite eats (below) and the second is a list of the best food deals on the island (see here). I’d love to hear what your favourites are! Mahalo!

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Favourite Toronto Wedding and Event Vendors

In Random, Reviews on April 20, 2016 at am

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John and I got married in September, 2015. The wedding planning process was much more difficult than we anticipated, so in hopes of helping other people with their event planning, I wanted to share a short list of our favourite wedding vendors in Toronto, ON. We were very lucky that all of our vendors worked out, but the ones listed below were truly outstanding or unique. Let me know if you have any questions! (For more wedding photos, check out my instagram account @cookingwithalison)

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Introduction to Chocolate Tasting

In How-To, Random, Reviews on March 13, 2016 at am
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Chocolate tasting samples at Lake Champlain Chocolates, Burlington, Vermont.

I went to Burlington, Vermont in the fall of 2014 for a family road trip. We ate and drank our way through the city and Lake Champlain Chocolates was one of my favourite discoveries. I really like their dark chocolate, because it doesn’t contain milk products (I don’t like chocolate that has a lactic sour taste). Also, their white chocolate is the best I’ve ever had. The best part about Lake Champlain Chocolates is that they offer complimentary seminars on chocolate tasting. Their chocolate is available for sale at many Whole Foods locations. We really enjoyed their introduction to chocolate tasting and, although I’m a bit late in sharing this information, I hope it helps you enjoy, appreciate, and choose wisely from the abundance of chocolate that this coming Easter is sure to bring.

(On a side note, check out my Introduction to Coffee Tasting here.)

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Cocoa pod, cocoa beans, cocoa nibs.

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The Absolute Best Brand of Pickles, Gherkins, Cornichons

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Reviews, Sides and Sauces on February 25, 2016 at am

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Please believe me when I say that these are the absolute best store-bought pickles on the market. Burgenland’s Gurken Prinz pickles/gherkins/cornichons have the perfect balance of sweetness and acidity. Note that these are smaller than dill pickles and larger than most gherkins/cornichons. Years ago, I tried one for the first time at a friend of a friend’s house party. After taking one bite, I looked at him with wide eyes and said, with urgency, “Who made these pickles and where can I buy them???”. I never forgot them and recognized the brand immediately, even years after that party. I couldn’t believe my luck when I spotted them at Costco. I looked for these pickles in countless independent and specialty grocery stores… of course Costco had them. All good things come from Costco. 😉 I really hope you get the chance to try them, and if you know a better brand, be sure to let me know!

 

 

Recommended Toronto Restaurants (Updated Periodically)

In Reviews on December 7, 2015 at pm

Most recent updates were made on March 28, 2016. (Original version date: December 7, 2015)

Here is a list of our favourite places to eat in Toronto and the surrounding area (GTA – Greater Toronto Area). John and I shared this list with our out-of-town wedding guests. Since restaurants tend to lose their consistency or change ownership frequently, I plan to update this list periodically, so be sure to check back every now and then. I’d love to hear your recommendations!

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Review of Toronto’s Top Steak Houses (UPDATED)

In Red Meat and Eggs, Reviews on November 11, 2014 at am

I used to avoid steakhouses altogether, because I had only ever received disappointing, over-cooked, and over-priced meals (often with a side of snobby customer service) from the steak houses that I had been to.  Luckily, John, who loves steak houses, introduced me to some very good ones in the city.  Now we both love going out for steak.  It is a rare treat for us, so it took over a year to eat my way through some of the best rated steakhouses in Toronto.  Here are my reviews.  Please note that I always order the rib eye steak and I order it rare.  Also, I do not like eating at chain restaurants, so you won’t see Ruth’s Chris, The Keg, or Outback Steakhouse on this list.

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Introduction to Coffee Tasting

In How-To, Random, Reviews on October 3, 2014 at am

Although we have different tastes, my dad and I share a love for good coffee.  Last summer, I took John and my dad to an informal coffee tasting session at Starbucks in Unionville, ON.  It was very interesting, as I had no idea that drinking coffee could be so complex and sophisticated.  Here is what we learned from that coffee tasting session.

 

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Must Try in Belize: The Beer

In Drinks, Reviews on August 6, 2014 at am

My favourite beer in the whole world, Belikin Beer, is made in Belize.  In my opinion, it has the perfect balance of lightness with body, and sweetness with bitters.  It has a non-offensive carbonation and a clean finish.  But what makes Belikin so special isn’t the taste, it’s the type of buzz that you get from drinking it.  Maybe it’s the water they use, but whatever it is, I got the best, most gentle, smooth, relaxing buzz that I’ve ever had from drinking anything alcoholic.  It was truly blissful.  Unfortunately, they don’t currently export their beer to Canada, so be sure to grab a few cold ones if you’re ever traveling to Belize.

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Gourmet Donut Tour of Toronto (Including the Original Croissant-Donut and Toronto’s Cronut)

In Reviews on February 17, 2014 at am

John is obsessed with donuts.  I don’t use the word “obsessed” lightly.  It’s not just that he dreams of donuts (sprinkled donuts, FYI), it’s that whenever he walks into a donut store, he wants to, and I quote, “make love to all of them”.  🙂  Which is why we served glazed donut shots at his housewarming party (see recipes here) and why I made him a giant donut pillow/costume for Halloween.  So, it came as no surprise when he told me that he wanted to celebrate his 30th birthday by having a donut day.  On donut day alone, we ate donuts from 6 different places across downtown Toronto, including an imitation cronut (the latest NYC croissant and donut hybrid craze).  I have since reminded John that he’s not in his 20’s anymore, and so is not allowed to eat so many donuts in one day ever again.  😉

I’ve now tried the most popular gourmet donuts in Toronto, including the city’s first croissant-donut hybrid, and I’ve been to all but one of the local places that have won Food Network’s Donut Showdown to date.  Hopefully these reviews will help you find your favourite gourmet donut in Toronto, Ontario.

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Ramen Tour of Toronto and New York City (Restaurant Reviews)

In Reviews on September 10, 2013 at am

Three years ago, I became obsessed with tonkotsu ramen, a Japanese dish of noodles in a pork bone based broth.  Tonkotsu broth is made by boiling pork bones (sometimes in combination with chicken) until the soup has rich and hearty pork flavour (see my recipe here).  The broth should be milky and practically opaque in colour.  Some people find tonkotsu broth too heavy, but that’s what I love about it.  Ramen noodles come in various thicknesses and some restaurants will let you specify your desired texture (i.e. al dente or soft).  Ramen toppings differ depending on where you go.  My favorite toppings are soft boiled marinated eggs and thinly sliced pork jowl.

At the time that I first discovered ramen, the only ramen you could find in Toronto, ON was MSG laden and closer in resemblance to instant noodles than the real thing.  So when I had the opportunity to travel to New York City and San Francisco, USA, I went in search of the best ramen they had to offer.  I’ve only shared my review of my favourite ramen place in NYC, because I didn’t like any of the ramen places that I tried in San Francisco.  San Francisco supposedly has some of the best and most authentic ramen in North America, so it’s possible that I simply failed to choose the right places.

Luckily, over the past year, we’ve seen an explosion of new ramen places in downtown Toronto.  So, naturally, I ate my way through all of the promising ones.  I ate so much ramen in such a short period of time, that I haven’t eaten it since I completed my ramen tour.  But that just means that the next food obsession may begin.  😉  Keep your eyes open for my Donut Tour of Toronto.  Why couldn’t I be obsessed with something healthy???

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Review of Norwegian Cruise Line in Comparison to Royal Caribbean and Princess

In Reviews on August 20, 2013 at am

In December, 2012, my family celebrated my dad’s retirement and my parents’ wedding anniversary by cruising to the Eastern Caribbean with the Norwegian cruise line aboard the Epic ship.  This is a review of the Norwegian cruise line in comparison to the Royal Caribbean cruise line (Liberty of the Seas ship) and the Princess cruise line (Caribbean Princess ship).  See here for my original and detailed review of the Princess cruise line food.  Also, see here for my review of Royal Caribbean in comparison to Princess.

I love traveling by cruise and I can’t wait for the opportunity to sail with the other major competitors, Celebrity and Holland America.  Hopefully, my reviews will help you choose the company best suited to your interests and priorities.

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