December 20, 2012

proof whisky, A Canadian Christmas, Vol. 114

Maple is our special Canadian ingredient in today’s recipes. We are also listing a couple of homegrown gift suggestions, if you have not yet finished your Christmas shopping. Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

maplenog 4 cups milk • 3 extra-large eggs • pinch salt • 2/3 cup dark maple syrup • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract • freshly grated nutmeg • 6 oz proof whisky

Whisk together the milk, eggs, salt and maple syrup, in a bowl that can go into the microwave, or else in a bowl that can be used as the top of a double boiler. Cook the eggnog for 2 minutes on high in the microwave, then stir well. Repeat until the eggnog is slightly thickened - 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. OR cook the eggnog over a pot of gently boiling water, whisking constantly, until thickened. Let cool. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. To serve, shake or stir the eggnog well. Mix in the vanilla. Add proof whisky to taste, stir well, and top with a good dusting of freshly grated nutmeg. (makes 8 - 10 servings)


Traditions can be adjusted for variety. This year, try something different with your eggnog. Set up a flavour counter, much like the one at your favourite coffee shop. Place an assortment of simple syrups and spice shakers at a station near your pre-spiked nog-bowl and let your guests mix their own flavourings. Here is a basic eggnog recipe and a couple of syrup recipes to use at your counter.
TIPS For responsible hosting purposes, we do not recommend that your guests add their own alcohol. Also, you can purchase eggnog if you are limited for time.


traditional eggnog 6 large eggs, separated • 2/3 cup sugar • 1 vanilla pod • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
• 2 cups 2% milk • 3 cups 35% cream • 4 oz proof whisky 

Whisk egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow ribbon forms. Heat cream, milk and vanilla pod over medium heat. Remove vanilla pod. Pour 8 ounces of warm liquid into egg yolk mixture and whisk (this is called tempering the eggs and it prevents eggs from curdling). Add egg mixture into pot with the remaining warm milk and cream. Whisk over medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Cool mixture to room temperature and refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours. Beat egg whites into stiff peaks. Whisk egg whites into chilled egg mixture.
Add proof whisky and mix. (makes 12 servings)


gingerbread syrup 2 cups water • ½ tsp ground nutmeg • 1 tbsp molasses • 1 ½ tablespoon of fresh ginger, peeled and scored • 2 tsp vanilla extract • 6 cloves • 1 cinnamon stick • half a teaspoon vanilla extract • 1 cup white sugar • 1/2 cup of light brown sugar
Place the water, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain the mixture. There should be about 1 ½ cups of liquid. Add more water to make up the 1 ½ cups. Stir the sugars into the flavour infused water and stir until dissolved. Return to the heat and reduce to a runny syrupy consistency, stirring occasionally (about 5 minutes). Pour into clean bottle or jar.

salted caramel syrup 2 cups sugar • 1 cup boiling water • fleur de sel
Pour sugar in a heavy skillet that heats uniformly. Melt over low heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. When the sugar becomes a clear brown syrup, remove from heat. Stir in boiling water. Return to low heat and stir until syrup is smooth again. Cool, sprinkle with a good pinch of fleur de sel and pour in to a clean jar, cover tightly. Keeps at room temperature for 6 to 8 weeks. You can also leave out the salt, and sprinkle it on the individual cups when serving.

other options Try dark chocolate syrup, vanilla syrup, blood orange, what about maple eggnog and bacon whisky – yum!

We’ve talked about the great Toronto skating rinks in the past, but we're doing it again – because they are so awesome. Slap on your skates and hit the ice at any one of these rinks. Skating makes a great activity on Christmas or New Years Eve (especially if there is no snow). Some of the rinks even play music. The best thing about Toronto, is that you can find a little rink in every corner (ie. Ryerson rink) (Toronto Parks Rinks Schedule,,,, (Ryerson-indoor)

Although we still love the Brickworks rink, one of our favourite newer discoveries is the Samuel Smith Park Rink in Etobicoke. Music is played at a large outdoor figure eight rink, surrounded with rocks and trees – definitely worth a trip. Another brand-new rink is located at Sherbourne Common – part of the waterfront Toronto project (


Here are a couple of maple appies to serve at your festive party.

baked camembert with maple & thyme • 1 - 9 oz camembert round  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped • 1 tablespoon maple syrup • 1 small baguette, cut into 1/2 in slices • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing • crushed sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Remove the camembert from the box and discard any wax paper packaging. Take a 10-inch square of foil and place in the box. Place the camembert inside. Pierce the top of the camembert with the tip of a knife and push in the slices of garlic. Sprinkle the thyme leaves over the top and drizzle with the maple syrup. Loosely scrunch the foil up over the cheese. Set aside. (can also top with chopped pecans) Brush two 12-inch square sheets (the size of your baking sheet) of parchment paper with oil. Line a baking sheet with one of the oiled parchment sheets, oil-side up. Spread the slices of baguette over the sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with crushed sea salt. Place the remaining sheet of parchment, oil-side down, over the bread. Place in the oven with the camembert and cook both for 10 to 12 minutes until the cheese has risen and the bread is crisp. Open up the foil and dip in the hot baguette for a simple snack.

maple piggies 1 package little smokies • 1 lb bacon slices • ½ cup maple syrup • 1/3 cup brown sugar • I tbsp Dijon mustard
Cut bacon slices into 1/3 lengths, just long enough so they will wrap around a smokie with a little overlap. Wrap pieces of bacon around each smokie and secure ends with a toothpick - place wrapped smokies on a baking sheet. Whisk together maple syrup, brown sugar and mustard; heat about 1 minute in the microwave to start sugar dissolving. Drizzle syrup mixture over bacon wrapped smokies. Bake at 425 degrees until bacon is browned (but not too crisp) and syrup is caramelizing, stirring the smokies with a large spatula a couple times. Baking usually takes up to 35-40 minutes, but watch closely (the syrup will eventually burn).

This shopping year, we were really impressed with two of our favourite Canadian stores – the bay & roots. Not only did both shops offer a selection of smart designs, they both sent us on our way with nice bags, gift boxes and good service. (Roots is handing out fabric bags) Unfortunately certain stores have used the BYOB (bring your own bag) as an excuse for throwing a wrinkly mess into your eco-bag – not pleasant when it is for a gift. The Bay has gone back to its roots, with its original Hudson Bay Company branding and historical imagery. And what a great decision that was!

And if you have not visited the Yonge Street store in some time, check out the basement. Here, O&B has set up an artisanal chocolate shop and next door, you can find the full collection of HB stripes. Top Shop & Top Man have taken up significant real-estate on the the 2nd and 3rd floors, with attractive boutiques.

Weekend Forecast:
Saturday: Scattered flurries and a high of 0 degrees.
Sunday: Partly cloudy and a high of -1 degree

And may all your Christmases be white...

December 13, 2012

proof whisky, Mele Kalikimaka, Vol. 113

Today, we are featuring a very beautiful and unique product – perfect for the holidays. These flowers would make any Christmas cocktail all the more special. Here’s a great one to start you off.

the mele kalikimaka 1 ½ oz proof whisky • 4 oz Ocean Spray White Cranberry juice • 1 wild hibiscus edible flower • 1 tbsp wild hibiscus syrup from the jar
Place proof whisky, Ocean Spray White Cranberry juice and wild hibiscus syrup in a shaker filled with ice. Shake. Place wild hibiscus flower in the bottom of a glass and strain cocktail into the glass. (note – these flowers are Australian, not Hawaiian)

HINT: Hibiscus flowers stand up better to the bubbles in carbonation, so if the flower does not stand up on its own, you can insert a maraschino cherry in the centre. They are also great to float in a Christmas punch bowl.

The Wild Hibiscus Flower Company is a small family owned & operated firm run by a passionate team in Sydney, Australia (not Hawaii). Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup are the original creation of Lee Etherington who invented the product 11 years ago in 1997. Wild Hibiscus Flowers are unique in all the world and are now sold in 30 countries across the globe through retailers as prestigious as Harvey Nichols in London, Citarella in New York & Galerie Lafayette in Paris.

Some of their other products include Hibiscus tea, and Hibiscus flowers in rose syrup. ( For more cocktail and food recipes.

The hibiscus flower’s raspberry & rhubard flavours lend themselves to many delicious sweet and savoury festive recipes. Here are a few, taken from the Wild Hibiscus Website:

1 Hibiscus Flower with Chèvre, Chive and Black Pepper makes 11 servings 1 jar (8.8oz) Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup • 1 small (8-oz) roll of Chèvre (goat’s cheese) • Chives cut into two inch pieces • Fresh black pepper
Drain hibiscus flowers and set aside (reserve syrup for other applications like vinaigrettes or drizzling across pancakes) Pinch off small amounts of cheese to roll into 11 equal sized, neat round balls then gently push a ball of Chèvre into each reserved Wild Hibiscus Flower. Lay a cut chive piece across the top and then grind a sprinkle of fresh black pepper on top.

2 Hibiscus, Warm Brie & Almond Crostini makes 20 to 24 pieces 1 jar (250g) Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup • 1 small (8-oz) wheel brie cheese • 20 to 24 1/4-inch-thick diagonal slices baguette (about 1 baguette) • 3/4 cup sliced almonds, Garnish: fresh thyme or snipped chives
Preheat oven to 450° F. Drain hibiscus flowers and reserve syrup. Cut each flower in
half. Cut the brie into 1/4-inch-thick slices sized to cover about three quarters of a baguette slice. Spread the almonds in a flat dish. Press the brie firmly onto the bread slices then, facedown, into the almonds. Place on a baking sheet. Bake until the brie is soft, bread is crispy, and nuts are lightly toasted, about 4 to 6 minutes. Top each one with a piece of hibiscus and drizzle lightly with the reserved syrup* as desired. Garnish with herbs. Serve immediately. *To thicken the syrup, put it in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Then reduce the heat to medium  and cook until syrup is reduced by 1/3 or coats the back of a spoon. Syrup will thicken more as it cools.

3 Hibiscus Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing Makes 4 to 6 starter servings 1 jar (250g) Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup • 1 tsp. poppy seeds • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar • 3 Tbsp. olive oil • Salt and pepper • 6 cups mixed salad greens (about one 5-oz bag) • 1 large orange, peeled and diced
Drain hibiscus flowers and reserve syrup. Cut each flower in quarters, set aside. Combine the poppy seeds, mustard and cider vinegar in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup of the reserved syrup.* Whisk in the olive oil and season to taste.  Add the greens to the dressing and gently toss. Divide among plates and scatter with orange pieces and hibiscus flowers. Serve immediately. *Save remaining syrup to add to cocktails or lemonade.

4 Wild Hibiscus Cheesecake Makes 1 9-inch cheesecake • 1 jar (250g) Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup Crust 1 cup graham cracker meal • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted • 2 Tbsp. superfine or baker's sugar Cake Layer • 1 cup sugar • 3 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese, softened • 3/4 cup reserved hibiscus syrup • 4 eggs • 1 cup sour cream • 3 Tbsp. flour
Preheat oven to 350°F. Drain hibiscus flowers and reserve syrup. Cut each flower in quarters. For crust: Mix together graham crackers, butter and sugar, and pat into bottom of 9″ spring-form pan. For cake layer: Beat together sugar and cream cheese until fluffy, then mix in the reserved syrup. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream and flour until smooth. Pour into crust and bake in lower part of oven about 35 – 45 minutes or until the center is set but still slightly jiggly. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Loosen cheesecake from rim of pan; remove rim. To serve: Cut with a knife dipped in hot water. Scatter slices of cheesecake with hibiscus flowers. Store leftover cheesecake refrigerated. *If you don't have time to make cheesecake from scratch, then purchase a high-quality cheesecake and serve scattered with quartered hibiscus flowers and drizzled with the hibiscus syrup.


Visit us next week for our Canadiana Christmas Edition!

Weekend Forecast:
Saturday: 3 degrees with rain
Sunday: 4 degrees with rain

December 6, 2012

proof whisky, my true love sent to me, Vol. 112

Happy Hanukkah! Our first drink of December can be switched-up to make two different drinks, depending on your tastes.
They’re both delicious.

the pear tree (switch-up) 1 ½ oz proof whisky • 5 oz pear juice • ½ oz spiced simple syrup OR ½ oz rosemary simple syrup • ¼ oz fresh lemon juice • fresh rosemary & cinnamon stick for garnish

Place all ingredients in shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into glass. Garnish with fresh rosemary for rosemary version or cinnamon stick for spiced version.

Both of these syrups are good to have on hand during the festive season. You can add them to many different fruit juices, wines, teas and creamy drinks.

spiced simple syrup Combine equal parts sugar and boiling water. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into a jar or bottle with a lid and drop in a cinnamon stick, ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg and ¼ tsp all spice. Let cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
rosemary simple syrup Combine equal parts sugar and boiling water. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into a jar or bottle with a lid and drop in a few sprigs of fresh rosemary. Let cool and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

With cocktail party season already in full motion, we thought a couple of pear recipes would be a good addition to your appetizer repertoire.

Pear, Onion, and Dry Jack Cheese Strudels by Christine Piccin 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter • 1 onion, chopped • 1 Bosc pear, peeled, halved, cored, sliced • 3/4 cup (packed) • grated dry Jack cheese or 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup grated sharp white cheddar cheese • 3 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard • 1/2 teaspoon salt • 4 sheets frozen phyllo pastry, thawed

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in heavy medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until brown, about 7 minutes. Add pear and sauté 3 minutes. Transfer pear mixture to medium bowl. Cool slightly. Stir in cheese, mustard and salt. Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Place 1 phyllo sheet on work surface. (Cover remaining phyllo with plastic wrap and damp kitchen towel.) Brush with melted butter. Top with second phyllo sheet. Brush with melted butter. Arrange half of pear mixture in log along 1 short end of phyllo, leaving 1-inch border at each end of pear mixture. Fold in sides and roll up tightly into log. Brush all over with butter. Transfer to large baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo, butter, and pear mixture. (Strudels can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake strudels until golden brown, about 18 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Transfer 1 strudel to cutting board. Cut on diagonal into 12 pieces. Repeat with remaining strudel. Transfer to platter and serve.


parsnip and pear latkes 1 underripe Bosc pear, quartered, cored • 1 parsnip, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces • 1 large egg, beaten to blend • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped celery leaves • 1 1/2 teaspoons drained white horseradish • 3/4 teaspoon salt • 1/2 cup panko • vegetable oil (for frying)

Using coarse grating blade, shred pear in processor. Transfer to paper towels; squeeze very dry. Transfer to large bowl. Shred parsnip in processor; add to pear. Mix in next 4 ingredients, then panko and a sprinkle of black pepper. Coat bottom of large skillet with oil; heat over medium heat. Drop batter by packed 1/4 cupfuls into skillet; flatten to 1/2-inch thickness. Sauté until brown and cooked, about 4 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.


Fab Five We were able to find something for pretty much everyone in these five shops: 3, 10, 11 Teatro Verde (, 1, 2, 7, 8 Chapters (, 4, 5, 12 Restoration Hardware (, 9 Anthropologie (, 6 Urban Outfitters (

Weekend Forecast:
Saturday: Isolated showers and a high of 4 degrees
Sunday: Cloudy with showers and a high of 3 degrees