19 November 2014

Pre-Winter Picks

Montreal is always a magical place, but I especially love it during this time of year - cold enough for big knit sweaters, but not quite cold enough to bring out the double-layer faux-fur-lined parka. It's always an experience, walking through the city with the cold air on my face and twinkling fairy lights lining the streets. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favourite things at the moment!

Vance Joy came out came out with Dream Your Life Away back in September and I am absolutely loving it! Every song is just so heartfelt, honest, and comforting. The album is an emotional roller-coaster, from the excitement of new love, to quiet introspection, to nostalgic bliss. I have a serious emotional connection with the entire album.

Remember Paramore's former drummer, Zac Farro? He went solo a while ago under the new moniker, HalfNoise and released a self-titled EP. I really loved that he was experimenting with new beats and playing around with this very ambient but playful sound. The EP is short, but it's an explosion of sound and expression. He recently released his first full solo album, Volcano Crowe. Inspired by the wonder and beauty of New Zealand, he creates a breathtaking sonic landscape and takes the listener on a journey through his creative world.

Things to do
I visited the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal a while back and went to see the Van Gogh à Kadinsky exposition with a few friends, one of whom is an art history major. It was an enlightening experience, seeing art that helped shape modern Western culture. I also got a lesson on feminism in the world of art from previously mentioned art history major, which was quite interesting. A very thought-provoking topic of discussion was that of the female form in art: there's a lot of it. Some representations are inherently sexual while others are not, and that poses the question, where do we draw the line? How can we call a voyeuristic painting of bathing women art when it is blatant sexual harassment? How do we know if an innocent painting of a girl is just that and not an obsessive sexual fantasy of the painter? Why isn't the male form viewed with the same kind of objectification and reduction?

I'm currently on a quest to find the best Indian food in town in terms of price, freshness, and strength of spice. I have also been experimenting with group meals and party food. I recently hosted a burger night for some friends, so hopefully I'll have time to post some pictures and recipes in the next few days! For now, here's a sweet and simple treat:

Caramelized Pecans:

  • 1 cup of pecans
  • 1-2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch of course sea salt (optional)

  1. Lightly toast your pecans in a small dry frying pan over medium high heat, until you can just start smelling the nuttiness. The essential oils are being released, and you'll end up with rich tasting (and smelling) pecans. Set aside to cool.
  2. In the same pan, add just a bit of water to cover the bottom of the pan. Add maple syrup and pour sugar into a mound in the middle of the pan. Do not mix/stir. Heat on medium high until the water boils. Once the water starts boiling, make sure you keep watch of your sugar, as it will burn easily. The sugar will start dissolving and melting as the water boils. Once all the water evaporates, you'll be left with a thick bubbling mass of sugar.
  3. ***DO NOT leave your sugar unattended
  4. After a few minutes, you'll notice the bubbling mass browning. It's caramelizing! To test whether or not it's ready, get some syrup on the tip of a fork. Try to drizzle it over a cup of cold water. When it drips into the cold water, it should form a ball. If it forms strings, you're not quite there yet, and if you hear a crack as it enters the water, then definitely take it off the heat.
  5. When the syrup is ready, remove from heat and toss the pecans in it. Allow to cool a bit in the pan (but not too much or you'll never get them out!)
  6. Grease a baking sheet generously with some oil and pour the pecan mixture onto it in a thin layer. Don't worry if they all stick together. Once cool, you can break them apart by hand if you're strong enough, or smash them with a hammer.
This is a great garnish or decorative bit for desserts. They're also absolutely delicious! If you're feeling fancy, try pulling the sugar into interesting shapes as it's cooling - just don't burn yourself! 

- Nicky

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