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A little comfort after some extreme discomfort

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/6/2012 (1888 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I wouldn't wish it on anybody, not even those who call me nasty names -- a virus so awful it destroyed my appetite (and it takes a rare virus to do that) and, once it was restored, left me too tired to go out to eat. Not too tired to eat though, which was when foods for home consumption came to mind. There are many options other than Chinese, or fried chicken, or pizza. Among them are the following which are enjoyable, even if you're not recuperating.

Everything at Frozen Comfort is flash frozen, and most of what I tried was good, some of it well above average, with homey, old-fashioned flavours that -- unlike most commercial products -- were particularly notable for the restrained use of salt and sugar and the absence of preservatives. There is a $10 delivery charge, but orders of $100 or over are delivered free. For those who can make it there, a cheerful little corner cafe serves some of the products on site.

Soups, of course, are the ultimate in recuperative foods. Seven are listed, but the star turn is the cream of perogy, not, possibly, a dish for the still faint-of-appetite, but for ravenous ones -- a puréed potato base, floating a few tender potato and cheddar perogies with added bits of bacon and flecks of onion. What's not to love!

The borscht is excellent, too. Although the peppered steak and mushroom is called a stew it is actually a soup, mostly veggies and mushroom with a few pieces of beef -- OK, not very peppery, and not as flavourful as the above two. All soups come in double bowl-shaped packages, and could easily serve four for $5.95 to $6.95.

Other dishes range from $6.95 for two individual pot pies to $11.95 for a kilo of shepherd's pie. The meatballs were particularly good -- just the right size and nicely seasoned with a subtle blend of spices. They can be heated either on their own, or in gravy, which they don't really need since the mushroom beef gravy, while not bad, wasn't as good as the meatballs. Also good were the big, fat and very meaty cabbage rolls, stuffed with beef and bacon and minimal amounts of rice in a light tomato sauce.

The turkey pot pie was delicious, with a thin, crisp crust, filled with chunks of turkey that tasted fresh (without that usual reheated flavour), and veggies that miraculously retained a degree of crunch. A tourtiére was less satisfying, with a filling so dry it fell apart, and needed an infusion of flavour as well. Like the tourtiére, the shepherds pie also needed some gravy to hold it together, but the sautéed beef liver was more than satisfactory, and the fresh-flavoured large dice of oven-roasted potatoes were an excellent side.


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Charisse  Hackman and Alain Manaigre with some of the flash-frozen fare available  at Frozen Comfort.


Charisse Hackman and Alain Manaigre with some of the flash-frozen fare available at Frozen Comfort.

Bernstein's has been around for more than 30 years -- half deli-cum-grocery store, the other half a cafe where you can have almost anything that is sold in the take-out department, some of it in sandwiches, some as part of platters. Many of my past visits have been for the deli specialties, but what I wanted this time was homier foods.

Marla Bernstein has been known to make personal deliveries on occasion (if it's in the neighbourhood, if it's on her way home, if the customer is too sick to come in) but there is no actual delivery service. However I felt it was worth the effort to drag myself there to stock up on the Jewish comfort foods I was longing for, not least among them, her legendary chicken soup, a.k.a. Jewish penicillin -- full bodied, floating fluffy matzo balls and bits of carrot. Kreplach -- little meat- or chicken-filled dumplings are sold separately (12 for $9.99), but add a few of them when heating the soup, and you've got pure gold. Other life-restoring soups include a tangy-sweet beet borscht with bits of beef, and a heftier mushroom-barley -- sold frozen in approximately 900 ml cartons from $6.95 to $7.95.

They'd run out of gefilte fish balls that day, but not the delicate salmon salad, which is made with fresh, not canned salmon, and even those who think they don't like herring go mad for the bat mitzvah herring in its sweet and sour marinade. The smooth, oniony chopped liver is top notch, and although it is chock full of Vitamin C and potassium, I don't need health reasons to pig out on the killer cole slaw in a slightly sweet, slightly tangy oil and vinegar dressing (all from $1.15 to $2.89 per 100 grams)

For a more substantial meal there are slices of braised brisket ($6.55 for a 100-gram package). And to go with them, of course, kasha varnishkes -- i.e. buckwheat groats with seashell pasta ($1.19 per 100 grams). Also ideal are the crisp potato latkas which, when briefly reheated in a hot oven, manage to keep their outer crispness and inner softness ($1.39 per 100 grams). And although it is deli food, I can never leave Bernstein's without some pickled tongue -- the only place I know to find it ($2.79 per 100 grams).


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