Belly Up to the Globe Earth Bar, Boys & Girls

The food: brunch at Globe Earth

The story:

On a dreary Sunday, when E and I wanted brunch on our way to see a dreary movie, but didn’t feel like lining up, we strolled into Globe Earth, at 1055 Yonge Street, a newish restaurant that was lauded in Toronto Life’s recent best restaurant roundup, lies adjacent to the western end of South Rosedale, and outfits its wait staff in Tshirts printed with the oddly punctuated lowercase slogan, “think global. eat local.”

There was no line and the house seemed about two-thirds full when we arrived at noon, but a pleasant waiter regretted to inform us that without reservations, we would have to sit at the bar. We bellied up to it, sat, and ordered “eggs benny however you want it” ($13) which for me was with Cumbrae peameal bacon, and for E, with smoked trout. I liked the sound of the orange braised beans ($6) listed on the menu as “extras,” so I ordered them too.

Though there was some confusion about who should serve the bar customers, all 5 of the wait staff who offered us drinks and to take our order were gracious and apologetic, and our eggs, generously dappled with a smooth, rich, lemony “100 mile organic egg” Hollandaise sauce, came quickly and were cooked perfectly. The menu promised and delivered herbed buttermilk biscuits under the eggs, and we were served golden fried slices of fingerling potatoes that in no way resembled the advertised hash, but we liked them, so that was all good.

The orange-scented braised beans – which were more al dente and less goopy than the maple syrup beans I make at home, and which contained chunks of no doubt locally raised bacon – helped cut the richness of the eggs benny and potatoes, though I wished that a handful of green salad had garnished the egg plate as well, to serve that same function.

Half an hour after we’d come in, the largish space was full of customers young, middle-aged and older, and we were finished eating and ready to belly down from the bar and head out, feeling semi-virtuous about having eaten locally, semi-guilty about consuming all that animal fat, and unsure about the whole “think global” thing, but happy nonetheless.

P.S. I looked for a Youtube clip of Tammy Grimes or Debbie Reynolds singing the song “Belly Up to the Bar Boys” from The Unsinkable Molly Brown but couldn’t find one, alas. So if you know it please sing it, loudly, now.

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My Grandmother’s Galettes

The food: small iced cakes

The story:

My French-Canadian grandmother Alice lived with – and baked for – my family in Toronto during my tween and teen years, when my favourite after-school treat were the small, iced, cookie-shaped cakes she called galettes.

Oddly – or perhaps not, considering the complicated relationships, ties and connections between the English and French, especially when it comes to baking – the only place I ever found a cake similar to Alice’s galettes was in a small post office/shop in the English village of North Cave, in Yorkshire. During the summer of 1975, I spent a week or two there, working on a rescue excavation of a small archeological site – a sojourn I fictionalized and gave as back story to the main character in my novel The Restoration of Emily. A real-life detail I didn’t include in the novel was that the postmistress/shop proprietor baked a few galette-like cakes every morning, so every morning my two dig mates and I stopped in to buy (and eat) some, which meant enduring her questions about how the three of us were related to each other, exactly, and what our sleeping arrangements were in the tent we shared.

Years later, long after my grandmother had died, I tried and failed to find a recipe in books and online for her galettes, until I thought to check for French-Canadian recipes, written in French, and came across a site called Recettes de Quebec.

A search of the word ‘galettes’ at Recettes de Quebec yielded 109 results, mainly for cookies, including oatmeal, chocolate chip and pumpkin (pumpkin?). Nothing in the photos accompanying the recipes looked similar to my grandmother’s galettes except for the one that came with a recipe called Galettes à la crème sure submitted by one Claude Guertin.

I didn’t remember my grandmother using sour cream but the galettes in M. Guertin’s photo looked right (though they were not iced) so I translated the recipe, baked up a batch, iced them with a simple lemon vanilla glaze, and as Alice used to say, Voyons! – I had me some delicious, light, white, and moist galettes that might taste even better than the ones I once loved.

Lemon Iced Galettes, adapted from a recipe by Claude Guertin

2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 c. sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. baking powder

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. In large bowl, cream butter. Add sugar, egg, vanilla and sour cream. Mix.
3. In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder and baking soda.
4. Mix dry mixture with wet mixture. (Mixture will be sticky.)
5. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, leaving room between each for the galettes to spread.
6. Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until a fork inserted in cakes comes up with no crumbs attached.
7. Let cool.
8. Ice with an icing made by mixing together 2 c. icing sugar, 4 – 5 T. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla and the zest of one lemon (or orange).
9. Serve with berries or cut-up orange sections.

Makes 16.

Cream Cheese Orange Pecan Cookies

The food: tiny delicious soft cookies

The story:

My husband E has been waxing nostalgic lately about foods I haven’t made in a while. That’s what led me to make two batches of Buttery Cheese Straws in as many weeks, and to dust off an old recipe for cream cheese (and butter) cookies enlivened with grated orange zest and pecans, and make some of those too. Good thing cultured sweet butter has been on sale recently at the supermarket, and the weather has been fine enough for us to take long, pseudo-calorie-burning walks.

Like my favorite recipe for chocolate cake, the recipe used to make these soft, orange-scented melt-in-your-mouth miniature cookies is about 20 years old and comes from a magazine – I know not which, unfortunately – where its title was the rather plain-sounding Cream Cheese Cookies.

I’ve copied down the recipe here as it appears in the faded clipping that’s glued into my old recipe album, but I usually cut the quantities in half – that’s the dough for half the recipe shown below, prior to chilling – because once they’re made, it’s far too easy to eat these little bites by the handful, and how many long walks can I take in a day when I should be writing?

Cream Cheese Cookies
Makes about 5 dozen

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
2 T. finely grated orange peel
1 t. vanilla

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 c. chopped pecans
powdered sugar

1. Combine cheese and butter in large bowl of electric mixer and cream at high speed until light and fluffy.
2. Gradually beat in sugar. Blend in orange peel and vanilla.
3. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Gradually add to cheese mixture at low speed.
4. Stir in pecans. Form dough into ball. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic and chill 30 minutes.
5. Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Grease 2 large baking sheets. Pinch off small walnut-size pieces of dough and roll into balls. Arrange on prepared baking sheets.
6. Dip fork into powdered sugar and press into each cookie to form line design and flatten to a 1/4 inch thickness.
7. Bake until cookies are just slightly browned and starting to set around edges, about 7 to 8 minutes (centers will be soft). Transfer to racks and cool completely before serving.

Insider Eating

The food: little-known (and inexpensive) food delights in midtown Toronto

The story:

A good thing about settling down in one place is that given some time and exploration, you will discover nifty little secrets about your neighbourhood that are known only to habitués – like the location of the unmarked footbridge that leads to serene, little-travelled ravine paths, or which hidden laneway can be used for a mid-block shortcut, or what garden blooms most prettily in spring.

Do enough searching, strolling and tasting, and you can also find, in my environs anyway, inexpensive but delicious food to take out, bring home and eat, fresh from the bag.

I’m talking about the crisp, lavishly lettuce-stuffed vegetarian salad roll with peanut sauce shown above – it’s available daily for only $3.99 at Dinah’s Soup Kitchen at 1057 Mount Pleasant Road near Sherwood. And the cute and succulent grilled baby artichoke hearts stuffed with grape tomatoes and tossed in olive oil and parsley, which cost only about $2 for the amount pictured below, and can be picked up at the new gourmet antipasto bar at the Bayview & Moore Loblaws:

Put the salad roll and the artichoke hearts together with a slice of the rustic baguette from Epi Breads on Bayview or Thobor Boulangerie on Mount Pleasant, finish with a little $2.50 lemon cake from Delica Kitchen:

and you have the makings of a lovely, light, low-priced, and very in-the-know midtown lunch for two.