DC Cupcakes

I was going through some of my old posts pre-blogging and found this food entry of the time I met Katherine Kallinis and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne.

Who: DC Cupcakes – Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne (Airs on TLC)
Book: The Cupcake Diaries: Recipes and Memories from the Sisters of Georgetown Cupcake

As I am a fan of DC cupcake, the moment I saw there was a book signing coming up I was in. I arrived early and realized this was a much more subdued book signing as there were more adults, fewer children and a smaller line. In the eyes of the public, they are new to the baking scene so only true fans would be going. I arrived at 5pm and was 3rd in line for a 7pm book signing. During their question and answer period I learned that they are from Hamilton, Ontario and would love to open a cupcake shop in Toronto someday! If they ever open a shop in the Greater Toronto Area I will make it a point to visit and even see if I could get a part-time job and learn all I can about running a business and baking for the public. These ladies have been through so much to get where they are today, and their knowledge; tips would be priceless to me.

Katherine and Sophie talked about their favourite recipes, how they come up with flavours and how they fell into making a show. (They were selling cupcakes like every average day, and one of the customers worked for TLC, and the rest is history). They told us about all the hard work, what it takes to get a business started and the very long hours that goes into this business, but that it’s much more rewarding then there previous 9 to 5 jobs.

When all was said and done we were treated to some cupcakes, yummy! As I have an idea of which cupcakes are what flavour from the show, I picked the red velvet with the cream cheese icing and it tasted great! They were very moist considering that they made them back at their Flagship store in Georgetown Washington D.C., and sent them here a little ahead of their arrival. This was a very thoughtful and sweet gesture to show some appreciation to the fans. The frosting wasn’t too cream cheesy; which is the way I prefer my red velvet cupcakes, and this was the first time I had seen the cloud piping on a cupcake. The whole atmosphere was more relaxed and we were allowed more personal candid shots, and in my eyes this was an afternoon and evening very well spent.

If I’m ever in the U.S.A. and near one of their shops I will line up and indulged in a beautiful delicious cupcakes, wait who am I kidding probably a few.

Smitten Kitchen

Before I even thought of creating a blog I was already amassing a collection of posts and thoughts. When one of my favorite bloggers was coming to Canada to talk about her new cookbook I made sure I was going and guess who was second in line for the event.

Who: Friday November 16th @ 7pm
Where: George Brown Chef’s School Campus

“Fearless cooking from a tiny kitchen in New York City” that’s Deb’s tagline. We will see a lot of comfort foods stepped up a bit; and she is wary of excessively fussy foods or pretentious ingredients. She thinks food should be accessible and is certain that you don’t need any of those fancy ingredients to cook fantastically.

This event initially was meant to be held at the cookbook store (the hosts of the event) but the small store front could only hold 40 people and the owner thought it would be a wine and cheese event. She underestimated the power of smitten kitchen. The venue was changed to a accommodate 300 plus people and when I saw that tickets were available I called immediately. I got the 7th last ticket for the smaller event. I just made it in before the venue change I heard when I meet a girl who works at my gym in line. She was on a waiting list as this event sold out fast.

I first learned about Deb and her blog when I “Stumpled upon” her on my iPad and I have never looked back. I hope one day my pictures and her way with words rubs off on me. Her knack for great food styling and plating is admirable and this book has been on my wish list for a long time as I awaited its release.

I stayed late at work and decide to arrive @ 5:30 for the 7:00 show. I wanted to be near the front. I was second, me and another fan (and I must say a bigger fan than me where the only two for a while. She had mention she wanted a second copy so she could keep one pristine and the other for actual cooking; now that’s a real fan in my eyes. We had arrived a little too early and nothing was set up yet so we were escorted to the area where the signing and interview would be held, and we chatted about Deb and our favorite recipes

Tara O’Brady of Seven Spoons Blog interviewed Deb, as she has been a fan of hers for a very long time. Smitten Kitchen gets 5 million views per month, 150,000 comments from the blogs inception till today. Deb noted doing the book was really hard and took 3 years to get her recipes into a book. She quipped to us that blog to a book doesn’t translate like you think; ideally it should but it doesn’t. Her format of the blog has been recipe, photo and story. Deb is a genuine person who seemed a little surprised that all these people would come out to see her and even a tad nervous but she was humorous.

While getting the book started recipes were tested over and over; Dutch baby became Jakob’s favourite dish as he had it for 2 weeks for lunch while mommy was testing it out. He also loves blintzes, noodles, potatoes and meatballs. Jakob is a picky eater like his mom and she doesn’t like fish, but the one fish recipe in the book she’d eat once and awhile. When asked a question she said “I’m the best Jew ever” I like pork and mussels and clams. The audience laughed.

Deb finds chef recipes the hardest as they don’t always translate to the home chefs kitchen, which is why they team up with others for help. Her favourite styles of cooking are American Seasonal, Eastern European, French and Italian. One of the books she always re-visits is the Joy of Cooking.

The holidays were coming up and she was looking forward to American Thanksgiving. She isn’t allowed to make any of the dinners as her cousins or in-laws and her family always have big dinners for 20 plus people each year. She is in charge of the desserts and always brings the deep dish apple pie (she created this dish so she only had to make one pie as everyone in her family wants pie). For the in-laws they all want her ginger snap cheesecake tart. Deb thinks the wild rice gratin is the tastiest dish in her book and its vegetarian; but she finds it hard to photograph recipes that are green and brown. She told us to stay creative as she is always jotting down recipe ideas even when she is not baking or cooking; some may never come to fruition but they are written down.

This was a very fun and intimate show. I learned a lot more about her than a blog can reveal and I left with a personalized autograph and a photo. A great night was had by all.

***The Cookbook Store closed down this summer due to a new Condo going up where they were leasing store space. This cooks haven in now gone, but there are still events from time to time being held around Toronto.***

Chuck Hughes

Who: Chuck Hughes -Chucks Day Off (Airs on Food Network Canada)

Alright so I am about to gush about Chuck Hughes, he is absolutely my most favourite Canadian Chef. Don’t get me wrong I have a bunch of Canadian chefs that I call my favorites, but there’s something about this man. Yes he is handsome and has an accent, but that’s not it. Yes he is tattooed which I find really cool; but it’s this man’s passion for food. Even the simplest of dishes he makes on his show “Chucks Day Off” exudes love and passion for his customers, employees, distributors, electricians, cleaners, the neighbours on his restaurants street and I could go on. He just loves making food for the people in his life in those minor and major roles. He’s a down to earth guy that loves what he does and nothing is better than that.

When he won Iron Chef America (a show I love to watch) I was glued hoping he’d win. The secret ingredient was Lobster and Chuck loves lobster, he has one tattooed on his arm. He made a lobster roll with a bloody Caesar cocktail, lobster poutine, lobster and onion ring salad with carrot butter and avocado and lobster-mushroom risotto and jerked-spiced lobster. (Some of these recipes are in his books.) Let me tell you it didn’t look good. I thought he was going to lose for sure, the critiques from the judges didn’t seem so nice and his face looked a little beaten down, but he won! He beat Bobby Flay who has a pretty good record on Iron Chef. So Chuck became the first Canadian to win and did what Roger Mooking and Lynn Crawford couldn’t do. I was so happy and even my dad watched it too and when we were talking the next day he said, “Did you see Iron chef, that guy you’re always watching won” to which I replied “Yes dad, yes I did and it was great.”

I have been watching his show for years but sadly the only book he had out was in French so my limited ability to read French would have ruined any recipe I tried. When he released Garde Manger in English I picked it up right away! This was my chance to finally try some of his cookbook recipes without the need of a translator!

Mr. C. and I were supposed to visit Garde Manger on our trip to Montreal, but those plans fell through and I was left wondering if I will ever get to visit his restaurant or have a chance to meet him, but my chance was on the way. His signing was at 12:00pm and I arrived minutes to 10:00am on a Mother’s Day. This was going to be my first mother’s day after my mom’s passing , so instead of staying at home and being down and depressed, Mr. C and I decided it would be a good way for me to get through the day and with it being Chuck and all, it felt designed just for me. I was first in line and was very thrilled about that thinking the whole time “This never happens to me!” Normally the biggest fans are there earlier, but then I realized I am the biggest fan.

He didn’t talk much prior to the actual autograph signing, but he made up for that when I got my book signed. Being the first in line has its perks, I got a few precious extra minutes with him. He shook my hand (I hadn’t had that yet at any of the book signings I have been to) and I told him that I loved his White Chocolate Meringue recipe; which was a hit with my husband who is not a fan of Meringue and an Irish co-worker who absolutely loved it. He told me that he is not a fan of Meringue himself either, but he makes it because people love it. The same can be said for Fennel and a lot of his recipes have Fennel in it. He then told me that you can’t be a chef and cook just what you like, which is very true, it would be hard to make any money. So I got my signature and thanked him for coming to see us in Toronto, and walked away one happy girl. We were treated to finger sandwiches, coffee and a lovely three tiered cake from Pusateri’s Fine Foods, a gourmet grocer in the same mall as the bookstore. All in all it was a great day, and my best book signing yet! It made a very hard day that much better.

Thanks Chuck.

Nadia G. – Bitchin’ Kitchen

Nadia G. Bitchin' Kitchen - Candy Coated Culinista

Nadia G. Bitchin’ Kitchen – Candy Coated Culinista

Who: Nadia G – Bitchin’ Kitchen (Airs on Food Network Canada)
Where: CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) Food Network Food Stage
Date: Sunday August 25th 2013 2-3pm & 5-6pm

“Let’s go to the Ex”… and not ride the rides but enjoy the Food Truck Frenzy, Pavillion, Butter Sculptures, Farm and everything else but. For 3 years now I go and do everything except the rides. Now I’m not a big fan of rides so I’m more than happy to just wander around and check out the sand sculptures and the physics defying rock stacker. This year I did all that again and made a second trip back to see Nadia G. on the Food Network Sound Stage yesterday. I was so happy when I saw she was going to be there. Bitchin’ Kitchen is a combination of comedy and cooking show rolled up into one. I even own a few items from her online store. A cupcake pillow and a pizza pillow I gave to an Italian friend because she loves pizza that much. I have so much fun watching the show that I have to remember to take note of the recipes, as I am trying to learn something.

I came an hour early and I was glad I did. The seats filled up fast and by the time her demonstration started there was standing room only along the sides. Today Nadia was rocking a Mrs. Cleaver 50’s look: a striped baby blue and white button up dress with nude high heels. I was hoping to see some of those amazing killer heels and form fitting mini dresses she wears; but I have seen her dressed like this on occasion and with her tattoos and bling peaking through she made this and edgy molly housemaid look, and still very Nadia G. As she cooked she told anecdotes about a friend and how she has Foot and Mouth disease – meaning she always manages to put her foot in her mouth all the time. She made fun of a Canadian Rock Band that has been the butt of jokes many a time. The funniest quip was during the Q & A period, a student off to College asked what staples a student should have on hand. Nadia said pasta and beans like lentils, as they are cheap and last for a long time. She then said “Cooking is a life skill. It’s like wiping your butt. You have no excuse to say I don’t know how to do it.” The audience laughed and it is so true. No one says you need to be a gourmet chef.

For the demonstration Nadia prepared a Back of the Kitchen Penne, Balsamic Strawberries and a Grapefruit Mojito.

Back of the Kitchen Penne
The leftovers in your fridge made into a meal. Ingredients included: penne, olive oil, parsley, basil, cilantro, Genoa salami, red or white onion, garlic and tomatoes, (crushed by hand into a sauce with chunks).

Balsamic Strawberries
This is a simple and easy dessert which is one of her fav’s. She advised us to make sure we get good balsamic which will cost 10-15$ for a meager portion. If you are getting a lot for that price its garbage, and remember a little goes a long way. This recipe consisted of: strawberries, balsamic and maple syrup. It can be served with ice cream or on a puff pastry.

Grapefruit Mojito
4 main things go into Mojito’s – citrus, liquor, herbs & sugar. So why not mess around a little with those components. This is a mojito with a twist comprised of: grapefruit juice, cilanto, vodka, sugar and chili’s. You can rim the glass in chili’s if so desired.

There was a quick Q & A period and then to my surprise a meet & greet. I bolted to the line and wished I had brought my cookbook with me; however there was a photo, tee-shirts and both cookbooks on sale. I bought the first cookbook as I don’t own it and got it signed. I mentioned to her my favorite recipes and that her Meatloaf with Awesome Sauce has made Mr. C. a meatloaf lover, and that the Greek chicken salad sandwich is great for lunches. She said my name was very pretty as she signed the book and then we took a quick candid shot, I shook her hand and was on my way.

All in all a great day. I got to see one of my fav Canadian Chefs in person and I have a few more recipes to add to my repertoire, not to mention all the laughs I had. I left with a big smile on my face. Thanks Nadia.

Nadia filmed a new one-off series where she and the Bitchin’ Kitchen Crew travelled around the U.S. called “Bite Me”. For now it will be only air in the U.S., but hopefully we will be able to see it here in Canada in the future.

James Cunningham

Who: James Cunningham
Book: Eat St.

Eat St. is one of my favorite Food Network shows, so naturally when the book came out on March 19, I scooped it up. I was ordering some books online from chapters and I saw that James Cunningham was making an appearance at the Chapters/Indigo in the building across from my work, and I knew what I had to do. On my lunch break I walked over to First Canadian Place and saw James out front signing at the table.

When I came up James was talking to another fan getting the signature for someone else (this was a father’s day promotion). I enjoyed plenty of laughs in line whether food related or not, as James is a comedian and knows how to entertain. When it was my turn we talked about his favorite recipes and the foods that were unforgettable, and gave me some suggestions on what I must try. Now He’s not a great cook, but he loves to eat. While we were talking another lady had come by asking what was the book about, and I had mentioned you got to buy this and try the chocolate Diablo cookies recipe. It is one of my fav’s and every time the episode comes on I’m watching it. When I mentioned I’m on my lunch and this is a great way to spend it he’d inquired to what I do. He actually has done shows 2 years in a row for the governing association of my company; he made a few quips about how my company name sounds very spicy and Latin and fast. He even noticed that I was wearing my company colours in my outfit. I didn’t even realize it until he said it, to which we laughed.

When recommending some recipes he said “do you eat meat?” I said of course I do and then he said I need to try the below first:
S’mores Waffles – The Waffle Bus – Houston, Texas pg 273.
Maple bacon Cupcakes – Sugar Rush by Sweetness Bakeshop – Miami Florida pg, 252. Easy and really great.
Coconut Halibut Cheeks – Vij’s Railway Express – Vancouver, British Columbia pg 196. He mentioned Vij’s one of the most rebound Indian chef’s in the country. Vij’s is approachable a great person and very knowledgeable and was one of his favourite visits.
Mac and cheese Cones with bacon “Bling” – Gypsy Queen Café – Baltimore, Maryland. Tip- Spray Pam around the inside of the cones to ensure they stay crunchy, and also keep the bacon fat and stir that back into the mac & cheese. We both laughed as this is perfect BBQ food. You can eat your plate and have a beer in one hand and your mac & cheese cone in the other.
Jhal Muri – Everybody Love Love Jhal Muri Express – London England said he was such a character and fun.

It was a great experience meeting him. Even though I hadn’t held onto my receipt from March, he still signed my book just the same, which I was very grateful for. I had many many laughs high fives and a couple of photos too.

Cake Boss

Who: Cake Boss – Buddy Valastro (Airs on TLC)
Book: Baking with the Cake Boss: Buddy’s Recipes & Secrets That Make You the Boss of Your Home Kitchen

Cake Boss was recommended to me by one of my lifelong friends (my matron of honour, second mom, older sister, hairdresser, seamstress, baker, cake decorator). I could go on and on, she’s a very talented woman and means the world to me. She absolutely loves the show and got me into watching it in its early days. I decided I would surprise her with a signed copy of Buddy Valastro’s latest book for her birthday.

My plan was to get tickets to his show at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, but they sold out too fast and I missed my chance. The book signing was for 1pm, and knowing the location chosen for the signing (A predominantly Italian part of the city) I decided to go very early and I’m glad I did! I arrived at 9:45am for a 1:00pm signing and was somewhere around 60th-70th in line. I sat in line and read for over 4 hours for a quick 20 second meet and greet, and got a few candid shots with him. Side note: – I have to say, he looks much more handsome in person, his eyes are very blue and he is much tanner than he appears on the show. The theme song, Sugar Sugar by the Archie’s was sung by the original artist, which I thought was neat. Also a fan in front of me went to Carlos Bakery in Hoboken and had a Carols Bakery tee shirt to tell his tale! When all was said and done over 1000 people showed up and the line went out the building and spilled outside. Buddy was supposed to only to stay until 3pm but he stayed until everyone got their book signed, what a guy!

For 4 ½ months I held onto my surprise and when April rolled around I gave my friend her present and she loved it! She finally has her own autographed cookbook by Cake Boss. The look on her face made me so happy.

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