Monday, October 22, 2012

Nguyen Huong - Banh Mi

I discovered the Banh Mi a few years back, it's simply a Vietnamese sandwich made on a crusty French style baguette. There are many variations, the common theme is they contain a meat (or tofu), cucumber, pickled daikon, carrot and cilantro. The cold cut version usually has pate and mayonaise, others may have a soy sauce on them. The great thing about banh mi (over more traditional sub shops) is that sandwiches range from $2-$3, that's it. I have no idea how these places stay in business.

A banh mi is an awesome sandwich, it's remarkably light and fresh tasting even though the cold cuts, pate and mayo are heavy/fatty. The buns are also light, crispy outside and airy inside. We can thank the French colonization of Vietnam for that.

Not far from my house is Nguyen Huong, I have been going here for a few years. I am a fan of two of their sandwiches, the assorted cold cut (with pate and mayo) and their grilled chicken. You can ask for them to be made 'spicy' but I believe they use Thai chilis and they are very spicy. I think they overwhelm the sandwich so I always ask for 'not spicy'.

The subs aren't loaded with meat (which I assume helps keep costs down) but still have a lot of flavour, both from the meat and the veggies and cilantro.

Below we have a grilled chicken on the left and an assorted cold cut on the right, total cost? Five dollars, a bargain.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mancini's Cafe and Eatery - Veal on a Bun

A recent opening in Whitby is Mancini's Cafe and Eatery (223 Brock St N). It occupies and old donut shop which has been tastefully redecorated.

Honestly, at first I was a little confused, they advertize sandwiches and paninis but as you walk in it looks a little more like a bakery. The display cases were a little sad, featuring cakes by the slice and some assorted pastries and muffins. The thing is, most looked like they were leftovers from earlier on, none of the display plates were full, some a mishmash of assorted slices.

Confusion aside, their menu placards feature their sandwich offerings, veal, chicken or eggplant on a bun and various panini sandwiches.

Once again, I have no idea how Italian sandwich places get away with charging for extra toppings. Mancini's isn't alone, Mustachio's, Sinatra's, California sandwiches all do it. Here, a slice of provolone sets you back $1, sauteed mushrooms or peppers $0.90, and sauteed onions $0.50. When your sandwich already costs $7.30, I find this a cash grab. A fully dressed sandwich all of a sudden costs $10.60 plus tax. Woah! Burger places take note, you're getting the shaft! You're giving away lettuce, tomato, onion, relish, ketchup, mustard for free??????

Venting aside, I ordered my veal with added onions and sauce, the young woman serving us said we could go light on the sauce or add extra sauce if we wanted. We waited about 5 minutes while the sandwiches were prepared and made the trek home.

The sandwich itself was very large, the bun was crisp outside and soft inside and held up extremely well on the trip home. The veal was sliced extremely thin, and was dwarfed by the breading. This seems to be the standard however, sandwiches from other veal places I've tried have been very similar. I'm assuming this in done in the interest of both tenderness and stretching the product. The breading was salted well but didn't seem to have many other spices in it (probably a seasoned bread crumb mixture). I couldn't pick out much other than the flavour of the bread crumbs.

The sandwich comes with parmesan, I could not taste it. I saw the cook in the back shaking something onto the sandwich, I could not tell if it was from a green can or not.... I'm hazarding a guess it's not freshly grated, a small sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan would be pretty obvious. I grate my own at home, and I can easily pick it out of lasagnas, pizzas, sandwiches and salads I prepare.....

 The sauce was very nice, it was simple yet well balanced, it wasn't overwhelmed by herbs and spices and wasn't acidic like the one I found at Sinatra's. It wasn't overly sweet, it was smooth and velvety, tasting simply of reduced tomato. I really enjoyed it.

I am glad to have a spot like this in the area, I think it's better than it's only real competitor, Sinatras. They are similarly priced, and similar in size. I liked the sauce here much better. It was one of the better veal sandwiches I've had.

Edit December 4th, 2012: I stopped by yesterday for a veal sandwich and I am pleased to say that Mancini's has added hot peppers and sauteed onions to their free toppings list. Also, their display of sweets by the slice (although still slightly spartan) looked well organized and quite appealing. Looks like Mancini's is getting their act together.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Butter Tarts

Ah the butter tart..... Wha? Butter tart? Those to the south of us here in Canada may be a little mystified. Don't fret!

It's not a tart made of butter (although that does sound good). It is a main ingredient, it's sort of like a mini pecan pie, minus the pecans. I use raisins in mine, although there are many variations that include: chocolate chips, walnuts, maple syrup, you name it!

I remember my mom making this recipe as a young boy, I'd watch her roll the dough, press it into muffin tins and then fill. I'd devour as many as I could as soon as they were cool enough to eat. After mom passed there were a few recipes I needed to find. This was one of them. I will give it to you as written, but I have made things a little easier on myself and will add my notes after the recipe.


1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup of raisins
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
2 eggs slightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Prepare sufficient pastry and roll out on a floured surface. Cut with a floured cookie cutter and line 12 medium sized muffin cups. Do not prick.
  2. In a bowl, pour boiling water over the raisins and let them plump, then drain.
  3. Arrange raisins equally in the tart shells.
  4. Mix together the butter and brown sugar, then add corn syrup, beaten eggs, salt and vanilla. Mix just until blended.
  5. Spoon into unbaked tart shells over the raisins, filling each to about 2/3 full.
  6. Bake on the middle rack of a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes. Do not allow filling to bubble over.


I occasionally use 3 inch pre-made shells and there is too much filling to make 12 tarts. I'd suggest plumping 3/4 to 1 cup of raisins and trying for 24 tarts (if using the store bought tart shells). Try not to let the filling sit for too long once it's prepared, it begins to separate. If it does, whisk it back together. The filling will puff up when they are close to being done, keep an eye on them. Once they cool, the filling will shrink back into the shells.