Pumpkin in the City

Fall is here with some obvious signs. The chill of the morning air. The changing of the leaves from greens to burnt oranges and vibrant reds. The Christmas decorations are in stores. And,  pumpkins start replacing watermelons in the huge bins in front of grocery stores.

It’s not just pumpkins that take over the grocery stores. You can’t avoid the pumpkin pies (see BlogTo for the best bakeries to buy pumpkin pie)! I wanted to find more pumpkin treats, and my search took me from uptown to downtown Toronto. This is what I found:

Mashed Potato and Pumpkin Spring Roll

Heavenly hash is what this is. These spring rolls contain buttery mashed pumpkin and buttery mashed potato. Talk about a fantastic fusion treat.
From Crown Princess | $4.30 for 4 pieces | Rating: 8/10

Pumpkin congee with Lily and Corn

Congee is a rice porridge, and it’s definitely a Chinese comfort food. In this version, it had some pumpkin, lily and kernels of corn. It was good, but tasted a lot like cream of corn.
From Crown Princess | $5.30 | Rating: 6/10

Deep Fried Pumpkin with Salted Spice

This might not make the CNE’s list of fried foods. The slices of pumpkin are huge (not a bad thing)! The batter was a bit too heavy (not a good thing), but I really liked the  hint of spiced salt.
From Crown Princess | $5.30 | Rating: 5.5/10

Pumpkin Macaroon

It looks like a mini cheeseburger, but it’s better. The creamy pumpkin filling tasted almost like dulce de leche with pumpkin spice – perfection!
From Nadège Patisserie (Summerhill) | $2.15 | Rating: 8.5/10

Petite Pumpkin Cake

It looks like a little pumpkin! It tastes so light and leaves you wanting more. Look at the layers of cake, cream and pumpkin filling. At first, Cy wanted just one bite…
From Nadège Patisserie (Summerhill) | $8.00 | Rating: 9/10

Pumpkin Pie Gelato

Two scoops of delicious, creamy pumpkin pie! Just the right amount of spices. I appreciated the subtle and natural colour of the gelato. No bright orange food colouring in this! The only thing that was missing was pieces of pumpkin pie crust.
From Hollywood Gelato | $3.95 for small | Rating: 8.5/10

Pumpkin Pie Rooibus

The moment that I took a whiff, I knew that the tea was going to be one of those you savour to the last drop. The lady at the store explained that the tea was best served on it’s own – no milk or sugar needed! The purist approach helps bring out the flavours, and the pumpkin taste is subtle.
From House of Tea | $6.50 (50 grams) | Rating: 7.5/10

Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin Ale

This craft beer is great for sharing. It’s on the heavier side and you can definitely taste the pumpkin with a little sweetness and a little spiceness to it. Did I mention that it was 9% alcohol?
From LCBO | $7.95 | Rating: 7/10

After an entire day of sampling pumpkin treats, I’m done for the year! But, you could probably tempt me with pumpkin cheesecake.

Merry Christmas

Judy and Cyrus Christmas 2011

The Concise Winter Tire Buyers Guide in Toronto

The Consice Winter Tire Buying Guide

The office clock hits 5pm and as you look up expecting to be soothed by a skyline wrapped in warm sunshine, you experience… darkness.  As you emerge from the gates, a wall of cold air slaps you in the face, your mouth goes dry at your first breath, and you feel the fallen leaves crumble beneath your feet.  Grab your battle gear, old man winter is nearly here.

One of your keys tools in surviving winter’s worst will be a good set of winter tires.  After a week of research, here’s my summary:

1. Not all winter tires are made equal, and it’s not always related to price.
2. Buy tires on a second set of rims and change them yourself (it’s like changing a spare!)
3. “Performance winter tires” handle great and last longer in dry weather, but don’t work well in winter… trust me, I know.
4. Your final cost is likely $1200 at a major chain, $800 at a discount warehouse, and $400-600 for a used set on Craigslist/Kijiji.
5. If buying used, don’t get anything older than 1 season (winter tires 5 yrs old or with less than 50% tread should be recycled).
6. Winter tires will give you more road holding ability, but they’re no added benefit without careful driving.  Being able to stop faster is no good if the guy behind you doesn’t invest in tires as well =)

My picks, in no particular order:

Michelin X-Ice2 — Consumer Reports’ best pick, best compromise for snow, ice, wet
Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 — best user reviews/ratings from tirerack.com, I got 1 year old WS60’s
Continental Extreme Winter Contact — comparable to the two above, improved road noise
Gislaved Nord Frost 5 — Company owned by Continental, spectacular tire, but a bit noisy
General Tire Altimax Arctic — Company owned by Continental, on par with all the above, cheaper, rebranded Gislaved Nord Frost 3

Happy Driving!