Tag Archives: food

Some cheese with that whine

You guys, this is the 2nd time I’ve managed to work goats into a post.  I think that’s pretty rad.  This time, it’s not about goat wine, but wine’s bff – cheese.  And more specifically?  Goat cheese.*

Lately I’ve been noticing goat cheese on stuff more and more.  And you might think ok, so what?  Well I’ma tell you what.  I’m tired of it.  Seriously. 

Let’s go on back, way back to the mid-to-late 90s when the UIG was just a freshly-married kinda girl, given to hosting fun fun fun parties, get-togethers and shindigs.  Always those events require food of some sort, and a lot of the time the good old cheese and cracker plate was a go-to for parties.  Cheese = fat and protein for sopping up the booze.  Crackers = starchy starches for sopping up the booze.  (sense a trend here?)  So way back in the day, I remember shopping for a party and zoning in on this little cylinder of cheese – why, it’s goat cheese!  And you could buy it (in my grocery store, anyway) with a coating of herbs or cranberries or black peppercorns for a spicy spice hit.  And you could serve it cut in rounds or as a whole log (which sounds funny) for spreading (a whole log for spreading, come on, that’s genius word play right there!)  And it was tasty!  Really tasty!  The kind of cheese that has a full-on wrestle with your taste buds, in a good way.

And so, UIG, party hoster extraordinaire hopped on that goat cheese bandwagon and started serving it straight up, crumbled in salads, added to dishes, etc.  And then?  Then it went the late-90s version of viral.  Motherfucking stuff was everywhere.

Now in no way am I claiming that I, the UIG, was the person responsible for introducing this cheesy comestible to the world.  No how.  Goat cheese has been around since the dawn of goats, no doubt.  Nor am I saying that because I introduced it in my parties, everyone started following my lead and my trend, I’m just saying that it did seem to have a heyday back about 10-12 years ago and that heyday?  Has just kept on heydaying, and shows no signs of slowing down.

And so this gets me thinking – does cheese have an expiry date?  Trend-wise, not going off wise (because obvi actual cheese can’t last forever).  Or does it keep on keeping on?  And if so, why?

What about all the other tasty, tasty cheeses out there?  Why aren’t they cheese of the month (or year, or decade for chrissakes)?  Why is it that every restaurant I step into has SOMETHING that includes goat cheese, be it a pizza or a salad?  And why do I care?  I actually don’t have the answer to those questions.  Or do I? 

For the “why should I care?” question I’ll give you this.  I don’t eat meat.  This limits what options I have at most restaurants, unless they are specifically vegetarian restaurants.  So.  Often when entrees are meat-based, pasta dishes are the only veg options.  Or pizzas.  Or meal-sized salads (which, when you consider the realms of possibilities there are for vegetarian dishes, is pretty fucking sad, but that’s a whole other blog post, kids)  And I can 99 times out of 100 guarantee that one of those veg options is going to have the cheese of the motherfucking goat. 

So again I say, why?  Can we not, by now, have a substitute favourite cheese for salads and pizzas?  And don’t even talk to me about its meltability properties – lots of cheeses melt and melt better.  Sure it’s flavourful, but godammit, so are a lot of cheeses. 

I guess I’m just saying that goat cheese, for me, has run its course.  It’s no longer trendy, new and exciting.  That tangy, exciting flavour that was once so fresh, with such a wow factor, has become – for me – like eating Velveeta.  Meh.  There’s got to be some movement on the cheese front, people.  Perhaps I’m the one to lead the charge.  Perhaps, just like years ago, I should head to my local cheese shop (yes, I actually do have a local cheese shop and it’s awesome!) and just pick something that looks interesting, try it, and start serving it to guests.  And maybe, just maybe, that will be the start of another cheesy revolution! 

Aaaand then in 12 years I will have to write this post again, about Pecorino or something.  You’ve been warned.

*I would just like to clarify that this rant about goat cheese is specifically aimed at those prepackaged logs of goat cheese available at the supermarket.  I know there are probably excellent artisanal type goat cheeses that come in lots of different forms, and I should probably seek those out so that I might change my tune.  But I’m feeling ranty.


CSB.  I know, I know UIG, yer using all these keerazy terms and what do they mean?  Well, let me school you, blogfriends…  (I know, I actually can’t stand myself right now, so let’s move on)

So CSB stands for Community Supported Baking, and it’s a pretty new term to me too.  I had been familiar with CSA – Community Supported Agriculture, where you can purchase a share or half-share and receive a weekly box of locally grown fruits and vegetables, which is awesome, right?  And yet, as awesome as it sounded, we never actually did it.  And part of the reason is that it usually requires shelling out a substantial amount of $$ all at once, for the season.  And not that it isn’t a fantastic investment, it’s more that we usually hit the wall financially every week, and so even though there would be fresh, local, tasty fruits and veggies every week for us, the initial outlay was a bt of a barrier.  The other reason was less fiscal and more practical as in I can hit the various Hamilton markets several times each week so I don’t necessarily need to have a weekly pick-up of produce.  But even with those two things, every once in awhile The Genealogist and I think “maybe we should do one of those CSAs but then again, maybe not?  I don’t know?  What?”  But we never did.


So a couple of months ago I was reading the paper and there was an article about two women who were opening a retail bakery in my ‘hood.  Which got me excited, because come on!  Bakery!  On my street!  And their philosophy was lovely, and not only that, they were offering CSB!  So, much like the fruit and veggie people, you pay a (in this case) monthly amount and every week you pick up baked goods.  Are you still with me?  Because I said every week you PICK UP BAKED GOODS.  Baked goods, people!

Now, I like to cook.  I do.  And I’m pretty good at it.  But what I don’t like about cooking is using a recipe.  So restrictive.  So normally the way I work is that I use cookbooks for ideas and guidelines, but I make stuff up as I go along. 

For example, a recipe might call for sage but I don’t have sage, so I use fennel.  Or, it might say use potatoes, but I only have yams, so I use those.  Whatevs, gramma.  And you know what?  I can usually make that shit work. 

But baking.  Man, baking is a whole other world.  You have to measure.  And be, you know, exact.  Baking just goes against all my instincts, but holy crap I love fresh bread and muffins and alla that.  So CSB?  Hell yes, sign me up!

So we signed up and put our money where our salivating mouths are, and yesterday we received our 3rd CSB order and can I just say?  It is a freaking miracle.  And I am not even kidding.  A loaf of fresh bread, a bag of cookies, muffins and danish.  All good, all wholesome and all using local (where possible) ingredients.  It is a beautiful thing.

The retail bakery will open later this winter, which will be amazing as well, but in the meantime, we are beyond hooked on this fantastic service.    So thank you,   Cake and Loaf Bakery.  Thanks to your excellent mad baking skillz, my boys have fresh, wholesome treats for their lunches.

But don’t worry, full credit goes to you.  I can’t even pretend to bake that well.


The Artist is an aspiring chef, so he’s a big fan of helping out in the kitchen and also of watching the Food Network.  And actually, one Sunday morning a couple of years ago I came downstairs to make coffee and he was in the playroom watching The Barefoot Contessa.  And in the living room, The Musician was watching The History Channel special on WWII.  It’s like my children are, respectively, a middle-aged woman and an old history buff dude.  Which is awesome.

Anyway, I have come down with a cold but I’d promised The Artist we’d cook together this evening.  So we did.  And here is what we made:  Two Cheese and Corn Baked Risotto.  Because when you’re feeling like shit, isn’t it better to create something insanely complex, rather than you know, open a box of Kraft Dinner?  Or order a pizza?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  But the boy enjoyed himself, and he is pretty much the most adorbale chef ever, so I sucked it up. 

I really hope it’s tasty.  And that I can taste it if it is.


God I love Saturdays.  Today was a particularly sweet and chill kind of Saturday, even though I seemed to be going non-stop from the time I got up until – well – now.  But whatever, it’s a day to hang and chill and – at least around here – make a kickass dinner.

 About a year ago I was in the library branch near where I work, browsing in the cookbook section (as you do) and I came across the Whole Foods Market Cookbook.  Now, I know about the goodness of Whole Foods, in spite of the fact that there is not one in my city.  No, we have to drive about 30 minutes to find a Whole Foods around here, sadly.  And we do.  Occasionally.  Not often, because hello an extra hour for grocery shopping?  No thanks.  But I do love me some Whole Foods.  It’s food porn, isn’t it?  Mmmmm…..food porn…..

Anyway, the cookbook.  I flipped through it, and the recipes looked tasty and not too ridiculously complicated, which was a bonus.  So I signed it out.  And renewed it.  And once I could no longer renew it, I returned it, then promptly signed it out again.  I kept this up for a couple of months, and finally decided – after making around 2 dozen recipes with great success – to purchase my own copy.

And it is by far the best cookbook I have ever owned.*  Today’s creation was roasted butternut squash with penne, and goddamn it was tasty.  Add some homemade garlic bread and a glass of red wine and I can guarantee you’d want to marry me.  Or at least have me cook for you on a regular basis.

Saturday dinner creations always have a soundtrack, too – again, it’s all about hanging and chilling and relaxing  – and getting down, naturally.  And this is the song that had me peeling, chopping and dancing in the kitchen today

Happy Saturday, blogfriends.  Dance and eat pasta.  There’s really nothing else you need to do.

*shout out to the rebar cookbook, though, cos it is about 50 kinds of awesome too.  Just a little more complicated.  But between these two?  I don’t think I ever need  another cookbook

Weekends = Cool. Yes.

Yesterday was the big Tiger-Cats game where The Genealogist and The Musician appeared at half-time in the martial arts demonstration team.  Mighty cool.  Both the performance and the temperature.  Brrr it’s getting chilly ’round these parts, that’s for sure.  Then today was a gardening kinda day, with some serious tidying up of the front gardens and the planting of some mums and asters – very, very pretty and also quite cool. 

Then I spent some time roasting tomatoes, onions and garlic à la Michael Smith from Chef at Home, which I then turned into tomato sauce.  Mmmmmm….tasty and oh, so cool.

Now, in honour of the coolness that was my weekend I offer this:

And tomorrow is Monday.  So not cool.

On bringing back a classic

Well, if that was Christmas, I guess we’ve had it.  Oh, people.  That was the fastest five days of my life, without a doubt.  Birthday, Christmas, Boxing Day and then The Genealogist’s family dinner at our house the next day, followed by yours truly spending an entire day in pyjamas and sitting on my ass.  It felt good, let me tell you.  As much as I love to host gatherings and as much as I love to cook and as much as I enjoy my friends and family, sometimes you just need a day to sit on your ass.  And that day, for me, was Monday. 

But I hope you all had a lovely holiday, whatever you celebrate.  We certainly did, and the boys were definitely excited by the Wii purchased for them, as well as the many, many other gifts they received over the course of several days.  But, as The Artist maintains: “it’s not just the presents, it’s about the family, and the food and….well, and the presents too, but it’s not just about that…”  He is wise. 

So as mentioned above, we did a metric tonne of entertaining this season, which required a metric tonne and a half of food, all of which was prepared by me, for the most part.  Which is cool, because I enjoy it, but holy sweet hell it’s a lot of work.  First we had The Musician’s birthday bash, which was really a snacky-type meal – shrimp ring, cheese plate, veggies, etc.  Then it was Christmas dinner, with turkey and all the rest – vegetables, stuffing, potatoes, the works.  Followed by Boxing Day (which, ok I didn’t actually host, but I did help out at my mum’s) followed by The Genealogist’s Family Kinfestation of Aught Nine which required the majority of the food, which I mostly prepared on the aforementioned Boxing Day, and which consisted of chili, turkey soup, turkey pot pie, and a wide variety of snacks and appetizers, requiring the use of every single dish, plate and piece of cutlery in our house.  We hosted 19 people on that day, can I get a witness? 

So everything on every occasion was enjoyed and well received, which is truly the benefit of hosting events like this.  If people are getting together over food that is tasty and nourishing and enjoyable, well then, I have done my job.  And I love to see family and friends coming together over food and drink, having a good time, catching up and reminiscing, and I often will take a good step back from the festivities to just watch and observe and notice how comfortable everyone feels.  It’s a happy thing for sure.  So while I was proud of the fact that we’d been able to create such an enjoyable time for so many people (particularly on the day of The Genealogist’s family visit, because we even had surprise guests from across the country and the US, so it was truly a reunion) I was most proud of my relish trays.

You heard me.  I, the Urban Info Girl, have hereby resolved to bring back one of the classics of the gastronomical experience – the relish tray.  Now, hear me out.  I have fond, fond memories of the relish trays of my youth.  My mother was a staunch supporter of the relish tray, and owned several of those excellent little divided crystal dishes.  And for dinner parties and special occasions, the relish tray was where it’s at.  Always.  Big fat black olives, radishes, pickled onions and sometimes beets, gherkins or sweet mixed pickles, sliced dills, celery sticks and sometimes roasted peppers or even chunks of cheese.  Not a salad to be seen, usually, just the elegance of the relish tray – often chilled for a couple of hours before being served – and gorgeously, deliciously colourful. 

I own several relish trays.  I have about 5 right now, and I used two on Sunday for our big get-together.  And you know what?  People noticed.  They made comments about how they hadn’t seen a relish tray done up for ages; my sister-in-law told me how envious she is of my dishes, how she tried to register for one when she got married but the registry didn’t know what she was talking about.  Sad, isn’t it?  That the ever-wonderful relish tray has been long neglected.  Crystal and Depression glass, Fiesta ware and bone china beauties all gathering dust in the backs of cabinets!  Or worse, being given away, treated as fossils, something you inherit from grandma, and can see no use for.

So, blogfriends.  Who’s with me?  Who will join me in the fight to re-establish the relish tray as the height of sophistication?  Who will dust off their crystal pickle dishes and create masterpieces of the pre-dining experience?  Who will shun the salad at the dinner party in favour of artfully arranged vegetables and pickled items?  Who among you is brave enough to throw caution to the wind and embrace the relish tray?

Well, okay.  Can you at least not laugh when I put one out at my next gathering?  Much appreciated. 

And, if anyone has any relish tray-related memories, I would love to hear them.  Happy New Year, blogfriends!

Listy McListerer

Right now I am living the dream, people.  That’s right, it’s end-of-the-year list time!  Every magazine you pick up, every website, every blog every everything has got some sort of list going on right now.  It’s “best of” time and “top ten” time, and everything gets rated!  Movies, books, technological innovations, medical breakthroughs, you name it, it’s all listed there for you.  Not to mention dead celebrities.  But, um, that one isn’t quite the yippee-hooray list, is it?  You know how the papers put in a list of who died this year?  That’s a bit creepy, in a way.  But anyway, it’s list time and this year is even more exciting because it’s also the end of the decade.  So we also get the “best of” the decade!  Lists upon lists, I tell you!  And look!  Here’s another one:

The UIG’s Top Whatever of 2009 or maybe the whole damned decade, depending


I read up a storm in 2009, I truly did.  Mostly due to my commute, and learning that I can, in fact, read on a moving bus.  Which up until recently I could not.  So that has helped me devour many, many books this year.  Here are my highlights, in no particular order:

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead – Melinda mentioned this book in a post earlier this year, and I am really glad I picked it up.  It’s a YA book and a super interesting one, with, you know, character development, and style and an excellent plot!  Secret notes, talk of time travel and Madeleine L’Engle.  What could be better?

Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy – This was one of the most anxiety-inducing books I have ever read.  A man stranded in a strange country, completely unable to make himself understood through any language, gesture or…anything.  A city teeming with people, all in a rush, always moving.  It makes my heart race a bit just typing that.  Brilliantly done, and, since it was translated from the original Hungarian, an incredibly vivid and masterful translation.

The Outlander by Gil Adamson – A young woman on the run from the law in 1903 after killing her husband?  An adventure that sees her trying to survive in the mountains in winter?  Some crazy characters and close calls?  Yes, please.  All the elements for a great adventure novel and then some, and a very beautiful style of writing to boot.

Whispering Pines: The Northern Roots of American Music from Hank Snow to The Band by Jason Schneider – I really enjoyed this book.  It is a fantastic reference book that manages to read like a friendly, yet at times disturbing novel, and kept me continually uttering phrases like “holy crap, I had no idea!” and “damn, now that makes sense now that I know [insert musician’s name]  was an influence on [insert musician’s name]!” and “whoa, no wonder that’s how that happened” and on, and on.  So great. 

Breathers: A Zombie’s Lament by S.G. Browne – Zombies were big this year, weren’t they?  What with the Jane Austen books and all.  This one is just about a bunch of the undead coming to terms with their situation, and trying to be understood.  Hilarity ensues.  Most enjoyable, some very funny parts, and a bit of a commentary (I thought) on the situation of any group of outsiders who just aren’t made to feel welcome.

So I’m not the London Review of Books.  Moving on…


So since I don’t eat out very often, and when I do, it’s usually places I’ve been before, I thought I would create a list of damn fine eats I made my ownself this year.  Complete with cookbook references and everything!  Salivate,  my friends, for the following:

Vegan sausages  from Vegan Brunch   Oh, blogfriends.  I can’t even explain how amazing these were, you really need to give this a try.  Beyond easy (measure ingredients and throw into a bowl and then shape into sausage shapes), and just so, so tasty.  Even my meat-eating family agreed that these were some mighty fine sausages in both texture and taste. 

Three Sisters Burritos from Rebar: Modern Food Cookbook  This cookbook, which I received from my sister-in-law a couple of year ago as a  Christmas gift, has been my go-to cookbook all year.  I have already used more recipes from this than any other book ever!  This recipe blends corn, squash and beans (the three sisters) with spices and a really tasty red sauce.  I served this to my friends at the cottage and everyone raved.  Raved, I tell you!

Paneer.  Whole milk + vinegar = delicious tasty Indian cheese!  The recipe I used was from an issue of Edible Toronto and it was SO easy.  I used the paneer in a spinach curry (sag paneer) and wow, was it good. 

Blackberry Jam.  Okay, this is actually from the previous year, but if we hadn’t had such a craptastic summer, I would have been doing it again, so it totally counts.  We have massive blackberry bushes in our little backyard, and for years, we would just pick and eat them.  When the boys were little we’d send them “out for dessert” and they’d hit the blackberry crop, which was pretty funny.  Two summers ago it was holy bumper crop, Batman!  And there was just no way we could eat them all – we ate them on cereal, in yogurt, with cream, etc.  Just so many.  So I decided to make jam for the first time in my life.  And it turned out well.  Freezer jam, naturally.  The “real jam” thing kind of scares me.  So much sterilizing and worrying that I am going to poison people.  The jam was tasty and was a hit with friends who tried it.  We gave some jars as gifts, which were well received.  Oh, the pride.


Going out to hear live music is one of my absolute favourite things to do in the world.  I love the energy in the venue, the onstage banter, the way the band feels.  Just so much love.  Here are some highlights from the past couple of years:

Blue Rodeo in Bala.  Vivian and I went twice to The Kee to see Blue Rodeo – once in the fall of 2008, and then again this spring.  The fall show marked the first time either of us had been to see the band at this venue, and we were not disappointed.  Talk about energy and love in the room.  It’s obvious the band enjoys this place as much as the crowd, and they put on an amazing show both times.  The first time we stayed outside of town, but the last time we were there, we stayed at a hotel right near The Kee, and that was much better.  The entire hotel was full of people there to see the show, and the vibe was just right. 

The Skydiggers at The Studio at Hamilton Place  This show launched me straight back to the early 90s and the amount of nostalgia mixed with sheer awesome musicianship made this show a true highlight of 2009.  Andy’s voice still gives me shivers, and the range of emotions he and the band can express is magical.

Lee Harvey Osmond at Casbah  You want to talk energy and fire?  Tom Wilson is both those things, and when he hits the stage (especially in Hamilton, I think) you are not going anywhere.  His current band is made up of a whole lot of great musicians and this particular show generated a lot of heat and a lot of buzz.  Great night, great band in my favourite Hamilton club.

The Musician, Live on Locke St.  My son made his debut this spring at a gig as part of Art Alley on Locke St. in Hamilton.  He attended March Break Rockband Camp at Picks and Sticks, the music store where he takes lessons, and the kids jammed and wrote songs to be performed at a later date.  The song they performed was based on a bass line that The Musician wrote, and the singer did some lyrics, they added a drum line and that was that.  He looked SO natural up there, tuning up, adjusting the amp, laying down a few warm-up riffs.  They did the same thing again at the Locke St. Festival in September (which I missed due to a prior commitment – boo!) but it was his first onstage performance as a bass player that stands out for me.  First of many, no doubt.

So there you have it, blogfriends.  Books, food and music, three of my favourite things – in list form.  I’ve shown you my lists.  Maybe you could show me yours?

ETA Dec. 21:  Ugh – typing/spelling  fail on the link to Anything Said above – link fixed.  My apologies.  I suck.