Last year, our Valentine’s Day special featured chocolate as the main ingredient. You can still visit Chocolate Be Mine for the full newsletter. This year we are talking about the sweet, fragrant essence of flowers. Like us on Facebook and Twitter to get last minute updates on tastings, parties & events.
Love potion 1 oz proof rum • ½ oz St-Germain Elderflower liqueur • ½ oz fresh lime juice • 10 fresh mint leaves • sparkling water
Lightly muddle mint in a collins glass. Half fill glass with crushed ice and stir. Add 1 oz proof rum, ½ oz St-Germain Elderflower liqueur, ½ oz freshly squeezed lime juice. Stir and top with sparkling water. Garnish with edible flower. (www.stgermain.fr)
TIP: If you do not want to invest $49.95 for a bottle of St. Germain (even though it’s worth it just for the bottle alone), you can achieve a similar flavour with other Elderflower sparkling drinks. Bottle Green Sparkling Pressé Elderflower drink is a good choice. (www.bottlegreendrinks.com) Use this in place of the sparkling water. We also found this Belvoir brand at Pusateri's. (http://www.belvoirfruitfarms.co.uk)
Experiment with Rosewater and Orange Blossom water as well. These are now readily available at most of the big chain grocery stores. Fee Brothers has its own version of both.
Edible flowers 101 Before rushing out to the florist, do a little research on edible flowers. Most florists will be very knowledgeable and helpful, but it helps to know what you are looking for.
Bachelor's Buttons Their flavor is very mild - almost like a non-crunchy cucumber. Look for Bachelor's Buttons in blue, pink, purple, or white. • Basil Flowers The flowers from basil plants make lovely additions to salads, great garnishes for dishes that have basil in them, and delightful additions to decorate a platter of grilled meats or vegetables. They are usually a soft green, but can have white or purple tones. Basil flowers taste like Basil. Taste basil flowers before using them, since they can be bitter. • Borage has brilliant blue flowers that look fabulous in salads or as a garnish. Like Bachelor's Buttons, they have a vaguely cucumber-like taste.
• Calendulas have a bit of tang (although they are not at all peppery like nasturtiums). Their petals look like daisies and come in orange or yellow.
Carnations Be extra sure to buy carnations that have been raised to be eaten and not sprayed with pesticides. Carnation petals are a bit sweet, a bit spicy and come in a range of soft colors - white and pink look particularly pretty in salads. Taste each flower before using carnations, since they can turn bitter. • Chive flowers are spiky little purple balls that add a decidedly onion-like flavor to dishes. • Daylilies are edible. They are used like squash blossoms - stuffed and fried or chopped and added to dishes - rather than added to salads or as a garnish, though. • Nasturtiums are probably the best known and most widely available edible flower. Nasturtiums have a real peppery kick (as do the leaves from the plant, which make lovely salads all on their own). Most are yellow or orange, although red nasturtiums are often available as well. • Violas (Pansies and Johnny-Jump-Ups) The whole family of Violas can be eaten - from large Pansies to tiny Johnny-Jump-Ups. They have a velvety feel and extremely mild taste that can best be described as a bit like Iceberg lettuce without the crunch. Sometimes pansies have a slightly minty taste, so, as with all flowers, taste them before you use them.
For our edible flowers, we decided to go straight to the source so we visited Boncheff Greenhouses in Etobicoke. (382 Olivewood Road www.boncheffgreenhouses.com)
Boncheff sells herbs, specialty produce and edible flowers to locations such as Pusateri’s, Bruno’s, Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens and to many high-end restaurants in the Toronto area. They import orchids from Thailand, pansies, marigolds carnations from Israel and roses from California.
Sweets for your sweetie Nothing says ‘je t’aime’ like a little French confectionery. If you cannot make it to Ladurée en Paris (or to NYC for that matter), sample one of Toronto’s best macarons. (they’re pretty darn tasty as well)
We visited Nadège in Rosedale to see if these macarons lived up to their reputation and we were not disappointed. The shop itself is an objet d’art. All of the påtisseries are made at the Queen West location (780 Queen West, across from Trinity Park). Here you can sit for lunch and view the masters at work in the kitchen. Although the Rosedale location sells sandwiches and a good selection of pastries, it serves as a take-out shop only. (1099 Yonge Street, 416-968-2011 www.nadege-patisserie.com)
You can purchase the macarons by the dozen or individually. For Valentine’s Day, Nadège offers a beautiful selection of soft multi-flavoured marshmallows, chocolates, desserts and gift boxes. One of our favourite of their desserts is the Marie Antoinette macaron creation (above).
A delicate crust exterior that encases a soft, chewy interior – just the way you want them. Our favourites were the salted-caramel, mojito and the rose-scented flavours.
Here are a few other macarons shops worth noting: www.petitethuet.com , http://bobbetteandbelle.com/, http://thesweetescapedistillery.com/http://brickstreetbakery.ca, www.cakeoperaco.com, www.rahierpatisserie.com, www.morocochocolat.com
If you want to carry the flower-theme throughout dinner, try this delicious arugula salad. It even looks romantic.
Arugula and Roasted Red Pear 4 firm, almost-ripe pears (Bartlett or Bosc), peeled, cored, and cut lengthwise • 2 tablespoons sugar • 1 tablespoon butter, melted • 2 tablespoons pine nuts • 3 tablespoons olive oil • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar • 1 clove garlic, minced • Salt and pepper, to taste • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup • 6 cups arugula or mixed salad greens • 2 tablespoons dried cranberries • 1/4 cup fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese • 12 calendula blossoms
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a medium bowl, toss the pears, sugar, and butter. Arrange the pears in a single layer in a baking sheet. Bake, turning once, until the pears are barely tender, 10—15 minutes. Dry roast the pine nuts in a skillet for 5 minutes, until toasty brown. Remove from the heat and set aside. In a large salad bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking together the oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper, mustard, and maple syrup. Add the arugula or salad greens and toss to coat. Divide the salad onto four chilled plates. Arrange the roasted pears in a fan around the center, and sprinkle with the cranberries, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts. Scatter with petals from the calendula blossoms. (we used a mixture of edible flowers from Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens)
Saturday: Sunny with cloudy periods and a high of -7 degrees.
Sunday: Scattered flurries and a high of -4 degrees.