What the X-Mas?

This time we’ve lost it. What did we do to get here? We’re foodies far gone. With 3 shopping days left before Christmas, we’re awash in gift guides for the food obsessed including barbecue masters, cocktail crazies, pizza pedlars, teetotallers, and would-be expert bakers. Beautiful cook’s tools, refurbished cracked enamel, rusted-over serving spoons that require a tetanus shot after a single use and 24 karat gold cocktail stirrers more likely to stir up a wave of sadness after I finish my second diamondback, alone, on some ignoble weeknight, after I catch my reflection in its glinting surface, stuck to my countertop with simple syrup.

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The greatest fruit in history, the pineapple, has made its mark on 2014. Overcoming its consumable status, this symbol of hospitality is the new jack-o-lantern, and the new bird silhouette on your throw pillow and stationary. Remarkably though, it’s still unable to overtake kale as the new and hot produce item. Cauliflower never happened the way it was forecasted to and with Beyonce wearing kale merchandise, it’s obvious cauliflower is never going to happen. Ignore all the hot new vegetable articles you’ll start seeing this January and know it’s going to be more kale and pineapples for 2015.

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Do I get somebody a Kale sweatshirt, then? Or maybe a gilded pineapple Christmas tree ornament? How about if it’s wrapped in spicy mortadella wrapping paper? This is perhaps the most confusing Christmas shopping season ever for the food-loving. Where we once only had Williams-Sonoma to turn to for extravagant food-related wares, we have everywhere—thanks in part to the great food revolution that was so valiantly fought by Jamie Oliver—now everyone eats food. Sure I can pick up heirloom pears on the way home or easier yet, just point and click over on Food52 but is this what we were fighting for? Apologies for sounding like Charlie Brown but isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas for foodies is all about?

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Luxury and extravagance have always been part of my game but this year I don’t feel right about a paycheque spent on a 15-pound sourdough statement piece. Try to think of the last time someone made a statement with an oversized loaf of bread and you start to realize you don’t want to go down the same path of Roman empires and French kings. Do you want to wear a donut necklace? I’m not sure I want to express my love of donuts so outwardly when the extra 20 pounds I’m already wearing clearly expresses how much I like fried dough. The same can be said for the flask bangle—what does it say about the wearer? All of these negative and complicated feelings arise when all I’m trying to do is share my love of good food with someone else!

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This person—this food-obsessed person we’re all shopping as or for can’t be led so far astray with the likes of these gift guides. The trick with any food gift is to remember that locavorism is still at the core of all our hearts. Food lovers adore shopping local, which makes sense—they’re already willing to go out of their way and delve deeper into their pockets to support the Saturday farmer’s market. The devoted food enthusiast will want you shopping at all their favourite hole in the walls and specialty shops, selfishly, so that business can continue to service them throughout the rest of the year. Maybe that means a new or vintage cookbook, a jar of imported mustard or bottle of Moscatel vinegar. Maybe a gift certificate to their favourite butcher will go over well, after all, everyone could always use a little extra meat money in their pocket and there’s a potential bonus that you could get invited to a prime rib dinner they host after they spend your gift.

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It’s a trying time of year for foodies, not to mention the whole feasting bit and specialty shopping required to impress a shortlist of fussy family members, so as long as you haven’t completely lost yourself after wading through the ridiculous and outrageous gifting options this year has on offer just remember that all the food enthusiast really wants to receive this year are compliments over how perfectly cooked everything is and if they’d be so kind to share the recipe.

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Merry Christmas from Crustcrumbs! And thank you to our bizarre Christmas family of amazing Toronto comedians, Dawn Whitwell, Dan Galea, and Sara Hennessey!

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

It’s been a year since we started Crustcrumbs with a series of Ghostbusters-inspired Lime Slime posts that have successfully managed to haunt our top posts tiles, so accordingly, this year we’re celebrating our Halloversary or Anniversoween (your choice) with another bizarre mashup of childhood nostalgia and food blogging.

For those that don’t remember, after the 1978 Attack of the Killer Tomatoes movie—a kind of less popular Sharknado of its day—in 1990 there was a cartoon of the same name, which acted as my introductory lesson into grotesque foods that I don’t think anyone would’ve ever guessed could have come in useful in my career.

Hot House

Hot House: Beefsteak tomato, bean sprouts, pig tongue, chicken toes, black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

To pay homage to this cheesy and not-so-classic cartoon, we thought we’d play around with some different varieties of tomatoes, some of which already look pretty strange on their own, seeping juices as they burst and split from their tender skins.


Legs-A-Tronic: Bali tomato, Silkie legs, glacé cherries, and black-eyed peas.

To add to the creepiness we butchered one of the food world’s hottest birds right now, the Silkie chicken, in addition to some run-of-the-mill chicken feet for teeth and horns, a pig tongue for well, a tongue and mini octopus tentacles to add a slimy alien touch to these fruity nightmarish numbers.

Touchy the Tooth

Touchy the Tooth: Green Zebra tomato, pumpkin seeds, baby octopus, black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

With no access to pig’s eyes and no stomach for extracting goat or fish eyes, we went with something a little more rated G: black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

The "Mother Clucker"

The “Mother Clucker”: Hugh’s tomato, Silkie wings, beak, and cockscomb, black-eyed peas and pink pistachios.

We took graphic inspiration from the original Attack of the Killer Tomatoes 1978 movie poster and 90s toy line, and mixed that up with the witty word play of Garbage Pail Kids trading cards of the 80s. Collect them all!

Ugg and the Gang

Ugg and the Gang: Tomatillos, chicken toe nails, octopus tentacles, black-eyed peas.

Happy Halloween and thanks for all the support over the last year! We hope to keep making weird and fun posts that, at the very least, entertain ourselves and continue to let us play with our food.

The Finale: Plumtopf Rumtopf

Well we took long enough before our last addition in our mini rumtopf series. It wasn’t our intention to make this the only thing on Crustcrumbs over the past four months but here we are. We’ve been keeping extraordinarily busy over the summer and fall with barely a chance to catch our breath but thankfully, when these blue plums showed up at the market, I was able to focus my bleary-eyed attention over to them so we could put this rumtopf to rest.

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These late-summer plums found under the label of blue plums, prune plums and Italian plums, not only make a satisfying deep purple preserve after their skins have bled into their flesh and preserving liquid but they also make for the ideal fruit for the lazy preserver—such as myself—because their pits practically fall out after slicing them open.

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Our rumtopf is now full or our favourite summer fruits, drowning in overproof rum, and suspended in enough sugar to keep it preserved for the next 50 years—not that we’ll be keeping it around that long. Come Christmastime, when we decide to crack it open (and rest assured there will be photographic evidence) the fruit and liquor will make it into our trifle bowls and cocktail coupes. The important thing to remember will be that the mix of alcohol and sugar is sky high making whatever we use it in a deceptively evil dish that’s able to knockout anyone who dares to overindulge.

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Rumtopf Raspberries

Just a very quick note to add some raspberries into the rumtopf! The season is…well…over but add them in anyway, like we did. Their bright red colour is going to lend a rich deep red to our already crimson jar. Even in this late summer, visions of Christmas cocktails are starting to pop into our heads—we may have to crack this rumtopf open when we start planning to gather around the holiday punch bowl.

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We couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of these glowing berries on display at the farmer’s market.

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Witness Jen’s first styled shot for Crustcrumbs, as I worked on weighing out the sugar for the rumtopf.

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We’ll be back soon (sooner than the last time we did this) with one final addition into the rumtopf before we dress up for Halloween!

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Sour Cherries in the Rumtopf

It’s rumtopf time again and we’re so happy we have the privilege to add sour cherries to the jar. Bing cherries are nice and all—totally worthy of giving yourself cherry-belly over—but these tiny sour cherries are tart and taste like the “real” cherry flavour that was surely the muse for the likes of Lik-M-Aid and Twizzlers.
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Sour cherries preserved in rum is the simplest way to have a taste of their elusive flavour in the winter months but you shouldn’t stop there. These little orbs would also make darling Maraschino cherries, something I may have to try out before their cruelly short season is up. They could make amazing candied cherries too, something David Lebovitz has a recipe for in his book, Ready for Dessert. The syrup from those candied cherries is also pretty wonderful when paired with some bourbon. And while I’m recipe dropping over here, Nigella’s “Cloudy Lemonade for a Sunny Day” found in Nigella Express, with it’s whole puréed lemons, adds bitter lemon oils essential in lifting a bourbon-based lemonade, and can be over-the-top beach-ready if sweetened with that aforementioned sour cherry syrup.

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Now add those sour cherries to your rumtopf and let’s have a party!

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