Monday, January 26, 2015

It's true, drive-through grocery shopping is coming!


Could the concept of a drive-through grocery store actually be realized? Is it a crazy idea or something that could really happen? Well, the answers to all those questions is yes, it is crazy and it is really happening thanks to Canadian grocery giant Loblaws. Read it here.

Now that I'm aware this is no longer a figment of someones imagination, but actually becoming a real thing, I'm very curious to see how this will work out. I can definitely understand if my fellow Canadians, not to mention investors and other grocery chains are watching with very keen interest to see what happens.

I would not be shocked if we also see commentaries ranging from "Wow, what a great idea", to "Good God, what is happening to our society? We can't even get out of the car to do a simple walk-around a grocery store?" A polarizing issue no doubt.

Environmentalists, health specialists and others who watch the growth and girth of our society are no doubt having a case of the vapours as I write this post in reaction to a drive-through grocery. Their reactions may even look something like this:



image courtesy of www.broadsheet.ie

Usually I'd be inclined to agree with m'lady's response in the image above to yet another innovation designed to make us do less, until today happened. Today is not a good day weather-wise. It is absolutely frigid outside in Toronto, and I know a huge snowstorm is about to hit the fan out on the East coast. But, in the city, right now it is disgustingly cold.

I can imagine people silently or loudly cursing and asking themselves, nee begging, why they're outside in the first place. And the answer eventually comes. You need food to live. In order to afford food, you have to work to pay it. To get paid requires you to go to work. Hence, the reason you're outside battling snow, sleet, hail, frigid winds or whatever the weather Gods decide to throw at you.

Suddenly, when you're caught in this type of weather, a drive-through grocery store doesn't sound so scary.

For those times when you're seriously rushed off your feet. Work has held you back, you know you have some items that are in serious need of replenishing at home. The thought of walking across that frigid, wind swept parking lot, bundled up tightly so you can't even see through the slits of your toque and scarf is repellent, even though you need to eat.

Then you realize you can go online, order your things and pick it up after work. All of a sudden, the idea of just pulling up and out is very exciting. Yes, I know - phrasing.

So I say good luck Loblaws, with your continued efforts to make the consumer so much lazier than we already are. Grab that extra income if you can, because I know profit margins for grocery stores are so razor-thin right now.

Admittedly, the logistics of this would be fascinating to watch. Would it be designed like a McDonalds drive-through? Would the customer have a chance to check the bags to make sure everything ordered is there without creating a back up of cars? Will the drive-through be prepared when the weather is like today, making people cold, hungry and crazy and the result is a huge backlog of orders?

I'll be watching. In the meantime, I'm hoping for that next consumer time-saving invention that allows you to just think of what you need and boom, there it is. Could you imagine the possibilities with something like that?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vegan is the new black




image courtesy of veganchowhound.com

Calling out to all vegan foodies, I have some news to share. Apparently, your cuisine is now officially out of the closet and has gone mainstream! Congratulations. Hopefully, you'll stick around for a while and won't join other fifteen minutes of fame food trends like Atkins, Food Trucks and eating dirt. Yes, that was actually a trend.

So how have I come across this vegan cuisine alert? A recent article in Canada's national newspaper just gave a huge thumbs up regarding said mainstream acceptance of vegan cuisine. I couldn't help but smile when I read the article, and now you can too. Check it out here.

The writer of the article has serious cojones to make a claim like that. I mean lets be honest about the words 'vegan cuisine'. Is anyone, other than those within the culinary world, or a few in-the-know, interested people and of course its specific target group even aware of vegan cuisine? Highly doubtful. So then it begs the question, is it really mainstream?

The article mentions restaurants that aren't specifically vegan or vegetarian, have people asking about food containing Vitamin B12 instead of protein. Or, basically wanting to know if that plant in the window is healthier than the chicken special. This means three out of a possible 20 restaurant patrons, were precious enough to even ask that question, and even better, receive an answer! I believe it. It also mentions that since peoples perspective about what it means to be vegetarian or vegan has changed, restaurant chefs are becoming quite happy to accommodate these changes. I believe that too.

In fact, the few restaurants she does mention are already, or in the process of changing menus to accommodate vegetarian and vegan tastes. You'll note how I'm making a very conscious effort to separate the two words 'vegetarian' and 'vegan'. There are differences between the two, and trust me, you do not want to get into an argument or suffer confusion with either groups as they will eat you alive. And, if that happens, you know that means either group will actually be eating meat.

It's not so much the restaurants or anything related to vegan or vegetarian food that bothers me about the article. This information should be shared as there are some incredible vegetarian and vegan dishes being created right now. No, what annoys me about the article is what the writer considers to be 'mainstream'. The writer only focuses on cities like Toronto, Montreal and LA. Why, it even states that vegan cuisine is so mainstream even Beyonce(!) and Jay-Z(!) - two people famously known for their impeccable taste in cuisine, are into it.

Ok, snark aside, I will happily say that it's great to hear about tasty options becoming available in restaurants for vegetarians, vegans and the people who love them. It's nice to know that people who really, really love vegetables can go out and not have to think "Am I going to have suffer through another plate of tasteless pasta, topped with gross, half cooked vegetables while my friends eat steak?"

I just don't subscribe to the believe that Toronto, Montreal, LA and other similar cities and their citizens count as mainstream. These cities are usually responsible for the start of things becoming mainstream. These places aren't an accurate barometer of the word 'mainstream'. In fact, I suggest that any writer who decides to call something mainstream, take a trip out into the great wide yonder, far, far away from major city centres.

Venture out to the smaller cities, towns and villages. Find out whether vegan cuisine or even anything food-related that is totally hyped-up in a place like Toronto or LA, has made it's way out of the downtown food scene. Check to see if vegan has even becomes part of the culinary vocabulary or is already a part of someones daily meal (why, hello there Indian cuisine). Hell, even check to see if it's being used as a punchline.

If your research proves that these small town restaurants, or just your every day consumer can say or even understand what the hell you're talking about without staring, gagging or wondering if they need to call the cops on your weirdo ass, than congrats, you really are officially mainstream.

Don't worry vegan cuisine, your Big Bang Theory day may come yet.

Monday, January 12, 2015

How to start the New Year right? Eat fried chicken


We all know we should start off a brand new year with a healthy mind, spirit and body. I couldn't agree more. There are literally thousands of suggestions and hints out there for people who want to 'cleanse' or 'barf', or whatever is needed to start the New Year on a healthy note.

No junk food, no alcohol for the next day, week, month, hour. Basically, it's punishment disguised as happy dietary advice for daring to enjoy food and drink over the holidays. Well, I broke with convention and started the New Year with this:



Tasty n'est-ce pas? Now here is where the irony begins. My friend, Cheryl Malik of http://40aprons.com, gave me a great recipe for fried chicken when I was in Memphis last year. You'll note that if you check out her site, you'll see lots of cleansing recipes, yet, she gave me a fabulous, tasty and yes, deep fried chicken recipe. Ah, my dear Cheryl, this is why I love thee.

Her recipe is classic, southern chicken, and if you'd like a copy, please send an email to me at ahungrymantravels@gmail.com, and I'll be happy to share it, with Cheryl's permission of course!

It was every bit as tasty as it looked. And to add a,'ahem', healthy element to the fried goodness, I made a greek salad with plenty of olives and high fat, goat milk feta cheese. Alright, alright, it wasn't entirely a healthy side dish, but it was just the right compliment to the chicken. Hey, I'm lucky I didn't go full healthy and make a Caesar salad!

In all seriousness, although I love eating this kind of food and enjoy blogging about it, this post is not designed to say "screw you health conscious world." I'm on your side, I really am. I'm not shunning all the health advice, I promise. It's just that I think you can eat what you want, when you want, as long as you are mindful of portions and balance.

I know that's hard to do - it took me years to figure that out! For me, it came down to this: do I want to continue to fit into my slim suits now that I'm in my 40s, or just give up, eat that third doughnut and slip into those pleated chinos that are so bafflingly popular with men of my age group.

Oh, and guys (and very few women), before you start writing to me that there is nothing wrong with pleated chinos, let me stop you there - there is plenty wrong with them. Period. So there you have it, portion control wins. But, on occasion, I'll choose that extra piece of fried chicken over kale any day.

And by the way, if you ever see me in those pre-mentioned chinos, you have permission to kill me because that meant that The Walking Dead zombies are real, I have been bitten and clearly lost my mind.

Happy New Year and welcome back readers to A hungry man blogging, 2015!!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Countdown to 2015 -The final post of the year!




pics courtesy of Stephen Wilson

The picture above was taken in London UK, 1999. I always smile when I see it because it was taken before my friends and I were on our way to hit the London pubs and clubs. Look at us, so fresh, so happy,ready to have fun. We all know what happens as a night progresses. It gets messy, dirty, there maybe some tears. Yup, I found the perfect picture to begin my final post for 2014 and to ring in the New Year.

So here we are, the last post of a A Hungry Man Travels for 2014. Where does the time go, he asks no one in particular? Who knows, but I'll just say that for me, 2014 was just an amazingly, bizarre year. It started off a bit rough, got better, hit a weird flatline stage, then started to pick up the pace again.

And now that it's the end of December and 2015 is around the corner, all I can say is that despite the ups and downs, it was anything but a boring year.

One lesson that stuck with me this year, was in regards to the present and future content on this blog. The lesson came from the amazing writer and columnist Kim Severson from The New York Times. She recommended I try to be a little less safe when it comes to my writing. Simple, but effective advice. Basically, if I'm going to write, write dammit! So here goes.

The year 2014 saw me continue to figure out what to do with my professional life. I've just reached a point now where I've stopped making myself crazy with worry about it. It took a recent slap to the face (administered by me!) to realize I'll know exactly what to do when I see it. In the meantime, the learning continues.

One thing I never worry or stopped thinking about, is food. Oh food, where would I be without you this past year? Yes, I know I'd be dead, but I'm being poetic here. I ate very, very well this year, which is or should be of no surprise to anyone who reads this blog.

I threw and attended some pretty fantastic dinner parties (mmmm lamb shanks - see pics of the leftovers here!). And, I found out that I really, really have to work on my baking skills. Check out my last post on my attempt at Christmas cookies here, and you'll see why!

I loved how Toronto was just blowing my mind with it's incredible food scene this year. Charcuterie night at Cafe Boulud in the Four Seasons, Toronto was a tasty surprise for a Monday night - love those kinds of surprises. I highly recommend drinks on the patio at The Chase on a warm summer evening. And my love for the Black Hoof has not abated since I wrote this review about the place two years ago!

I joined the Association of Food Journalists, and after meeting the members at the annual conference in Memphis, it was like coming home. What a trip - I could not stop writing about it. If you check out the archives, you'll see post after post about the trip! Staying at The Peabody hotel with their crazy ducks.

Visiting the Civil Rights Museum was an experience I'm still trying to process. Graceland made me smile, it was exactly what I expected it to be. I had to buy blue suede shoes salt and pepper shakers! Eating, drinking and talking about food with people who love to eat, drink and talk about food. Seeing Isaac Hayes tricked out car here at the Stax Museum.Awesome. I made some very good friends there, and it was without a doubt the best conference I ever attended.



I found out that my posts about my modelling past, particularly this one, were very popular. All it took was one blog post about having your pictures taken for money and the stories behind the industry itself, and kaboom, there's this sudden interest in your life. Fascinating, and totally understandable. It was fun reminiscing about that part of my life.

Another highlight of 2014, was attending a good friends birthday party. I know, who knew that a simple birthday party would turn out to be one of the best moments of the year. It was a private bash for a friend who turned 40. Besides enjoying a cake in the shape of a Louis Vuitton suitcase, and vintage champagne, we listened to some of the most incredible speeches and stories about his life from various friends and family.

It was so overwhelming, so positive and personal, you couldn't help but be moved by the words. God, I'm making it sound like a eulogy! It just reminded me that you really don't know anyone, until you do - if that makes sense.

I was also very drunk at that party, totally over-ate, flirted outrageously with a guy half my age, and at the end of the night the cute bartender was very direct in thanking me for the tip I gave him after the party. Ah well. You know, I think in this case it's best to be vague.

On a much more personal note, 2014 was also the time that my Father and I - after 20 years of not seeing each other, finally let go of the past, became friends and more importantly became father and son. I am understating the importance of this, but suffice to say you can imagine just how important that is for estranged people who want to be together. To finally recognize that life is too short to be personal strangers.

I've said in my previous post, and in 2013- after looking at last years New Years post, that I won't make any predictions for myself for the New Year. I stand by that decision.

What I'd really like to express, is a huge thank you to the readers who take the time to read my babbles on A Hungry Man Travels. You have no idea how incredibly humbling it is to know that even one person is taking the time out their day to check out this blog.

And with that, I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. I'm ready for you 2015!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ruining Christmas one cookie at a time: Countdown to 2015 Part 1


I promised I'd make cookies in my last post, and I have! There is, however, a confession that I'm finally going to reveal after a few years of quiet denial. I have come to realize over my long culinary life, that although I can cook quite well, I cannot bake worth shit.

I have tried and tried, and it almost never comes out the way I hope. Oh sure, there'll be winning moments, far and few between mind, and those moments are sometimes followed with: "Ya know Steve, this (insert baked item here) tastes pretty good" or if I really hit the jackpot, " Wow Steve, that must have been a lot of work, can I have the recipe?" Yes, that actually happened.

But then I go and get confident about my baking skills, and this happens:



From left to right - Mocha sugar cookies dipped in dark chocolate; Ina Garten's jam thumbprints - I'm so sorry Ina if you see this picture, this is NOT how your tasty recipe is supposed to turn out, and finally; the last row is Lemon Thyme cookies with an icing sugar lemon glaze. Sound delicious doesn't it.

But look at those things, would you eat that? Don't answer that yet. In its (and my) defence, although it may not be aesthetically pleasing, it really does taste pretty good. Oh well, I'll crush whatever is not eaten and use it as the base for a cheesecake or whipped dessert. Waste not, want not.

Maybe the cookies turned out that way because my mind was elsewhere while I was baking. Christmas is just about here, but for most people including myself, thoughts turn from Christmas cookies, to New Year vows and resolutions. Promises to make, commitments to write down, all that jazz.

This year, after ruining the second batch of cookies, I decided that I'm not doing any of that vow or resolution crap because frankly, I pretty much veer completely away from whatever I promised myself I'd do for the New Year. My attitude for 2015 is whatever will be, will be.

One thing I will have to keep in my head though, particularly when things get rough, is to remember to calm the hell down and relax for God's sake. My intensity, whenever I work on projects or cooking or whatever, can be, well, intense.

So again, a friendly reminder for 2015? Steve, keep cool. And you all have permission to tell me to keep cool if I seem to be heading into intensity lane. Now, the question is, will I listen?

Oh wait, did I not just write that I wasn't planning on making any promises for the New Year? I won't think about that now, I've got cookies to crush.

Next post: Part 2!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas cookies and counting blessings




image courtesy of peanuts.wikia.com

Oh my God do I ever love A Charlie Brown Christmas. Ah, good memories. The soundtrack alone is timeless.

The picture above highlights the overall theme of this post. We all know it's coming, and personally, I no longer dread it. That's right, I'm talking about Christmas.

I've come to the point where I love seeing Christmas trees and wreaths on doors again. All the lights, and yes, even the songs and terrible holiday movies that show up (thankfully) once a year make me smile. It's nice to fall in love again.

Now that I've written that, please don't think I've been nipping into the nog too much. That would just be an excuse to try to be funny. The truth is I really feel like it's the beginning of a love affair again. Put the barf bag away and hear me out.

It was my birthday a few weeks ago. Clearly I'm getting older, but time has also reeducated me on the importance of having family and friends around, especially at this time of year.

I've read some pretty disheartening statistics about what can happen with some families and individuals over the Christmas season. It's not all ho, ho, ho and Rudolph's red nose. There is immense pressure on everyone to be of good cheer and be generous.

I can understand that. My feelings used to be pretty anti-Christmas after Rob's death. Definitely not cheery nor generous, and I'd be spoiling for a fight if anyone said ho, ho, ho to me ..'ahem'.

But the thought of spending another Christmas with the past hovering over me like Scrooge was not something to look forward to. I reached a point where I had to just let go of Christmas' past with Rob, and remember what it used to be like for me: fun, lots of food and good times. I wanted it back, so here we are.

This year it just finally feels right to be happy about the holidays, and it was worth the journey to get here. So what is the personal reward for this change of heart? I'm going to make cookies.

I already have the kinds of cookies I plan on baking picked out (Linzer, traditional shortbread, lemon sable dipped in chocolate, and Ina Garten's Jam Thumbprints - the recipe is so damn good, check it out here) and work begins next week. Pictures will be posted.

So please everyone, raise a glass of Ch√Ęteau de Bligny Blanc de Blancs Champagne - or a glass of ginger ale if we're not drinking, and express those Christmas salutations and blessings to your family and friends.

Now please note that this is not the last post for 2013. There will be a 2013 year in review post, and I meant it when I mentioned that I'll be posting Christmas cookies pic - unless of course it turns out like crap and in that case, imagination may have to suffice.

Happy Holidays, and to really get in the spirit of Christmas, because you all know I can't resist a musical tie-in, please check out Nat King Cole's classic The Christmas Song!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The recipe is just not that into you



"What the hell was I thinking making you?"
image courtesy of foodidentitytheft.com


Raise your hand if you've made a mistake with a certain recipe. Yup, I see you, and I feel your pain. I know it hurts when a recipe just doesn't want to be committed to all the time and effort you put into creating it.

The toughest part is how to deal with the rejection. As a matter of fact, I've even written about how to handle that very situation right here. At the time of that particular posting, I sincerely believed the advice provided was pretty helpful, maybe even verging on practical. But opinions have changed since then.

There was one thing that I failed to mention in that post, and it's this: maybe, just maybe that recipe rejection may not have entirely been your fault!

That's right my friends. That recipe you tried to add to your culinary life may not have been entirely honest with you, thus making it much more likely for you to fail when you try it. I know right? If you are shocked, disappointed or even angry by this news, you have every right to be. It's not a wonderful feeling to know you may have been duped by a pretty picture in a cookbook or an online cookery site.

Recipes are fascinating creations. Without it, you couldn't make anything, unless of course you're that natural cook who can magically put anything together simply by looking and tasting - and there are people out there who can do this. I call those people ghosts, because you know they exist, yet you can never really find them. And if you do, you are utterly blown away, your life is changed forever.

Ghosts aside, you've heard the following stated over and over again: simple and easy recipes, simple and easy results. The problem is that a great deal of the 'simple' recipes your reading, have either been edited, chopped, changed or just plain wrong. So again it may not be your fault if the dish you made tastes like shit.

So how do you get over a recipe rejection? This is probably where that list I created here to get over cooking disasters may come in handy. Or you can admit that the recipe was just not that into you, pick up the pieces of that broken casserole dish or and look out for the next recipe that's waiting for a special cook like you.