Sunday, December 23, 2007

More Than You'd Expect

Milwaukee is more than you'd expect for a Midwestern U.S. city not commonly considered a tourist destination. With a few hours to spare while visiting on a business trip last week, I made some pleasant discoveries:

I stayed downtown at the boutique Hotel Metro, with its art deco-inspired design and all-suite rooms with two flat-screen TVs, huge sunken tub and Aveda amenities. Be forewarned, though: a number of the rooms face a parking lot that has annoying bright lights shining and a series of loud noises (cars honking, trash pick-up) all night long...

The city's revitalized historic turn-of-the-century warehouse and manufacturing district known as the Third Ward is buzzing with coffee shops, galleries and restaurants. http://www.historicthirdward.org/
Thankfully, the coffee craze has hit Milwaukee and it's more than Starbucks! Alterra Coffee Company is a specialty coffee roaster known for its commitment to social and environmental responsibility and its practice of sourcing specialty coffees via direct relationships with growers. Their Third Ward location at 1st and Pittsburgh is a cozy spot to hang out. My machiatto lived up to their espresso roast's description as "thick, lasting, reddish-brown crema; full, caramel-toned, mouth-coating body; soft, berry-sweet acidity; and flavors like chocolate, roasted nuts..."

Barclay Gallery, around the corner from Alterra, is a combination fine craft gallery and restaurant. The cafe's airy, light-filled room was packed when I stopped by at 1 pm. Although I resisted the tempation to grab a bite, I found myself drawn to the handmade watches by Uruguayan artist Milieris. Unable to pick between two options, what would you have done?

The Milwaukee Art Museum is a must-see for its architecture alone. The first Santiago Calatrava-designed building in the United States, the museum features a 90-foot high glass-walled reception hall enclosed by the Burke Brise Soleil, a sunscreen that can be raised or lowered creating a unique moving sculpture. I have to admit, I didn't actually check out the collection... http://www.mam.org/

I had a delicious meal at Bacchus, located in an historic apartment building about a 15 minute walk from the hotel: a creamy lobster bisque skillfully poured over lobster chunks centered at the bottom of the bowl, followed by red wine braised beef shortibs with sweet potato puree and wilted brussel sprout leaves. But it's the wine list that impressed me most - the first I've seen with a table of contents! http://www.bacchusmke.com/

The Vintage Wine Shop at 632 E. Ogden Ave happily fulfilled my search for a couple of bottles of interesting Oregon pinot noirs and German rieslings not readily available in Toronto. (414) 220-4217.

Last but not least, our pleasant cab driver Omar was at the ready whenever we needed a ride from place to place. His cellphone number is 502-533-6700.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pub Grub That Comforts Stomach & Soul

We ventured out in the snow last night to a surprise birthday party on Queen West. Waiting in the cold for the streetcar, it was an evening made for cuddling under blankets at home in front of a fire. Dinner at Mitzi's Sister turned out to be a satisfying substitute - comfort food, high-end pub grub, cozy bar and neighborhood hang-out all rolled into one.

We started out with a bowl of the soup of the day, cauliflower with asiago ($4.95). Creamy and cheesy with bits of bacon strewn about, our host summed it up best with "by the time you reached the bottom of the bowl, the bacon had infused the soup with a delightful smoky flavour." Oven roasted chicken wings were substantial and meaty, a welcome change from the typical anemic version drowned in batter and fried (1 pound for $9.95). My mouth was on fire from the hot sauce on the side, but nothing a cold hard cider on tap couldn't cure ($3). Sweet potatoes made a surprise appearance in the basket of twisted sister fries served with zesty jalapeno mayo ($5.25). Onion rings were positively addictive! The requisite blowing out of candles took place atop luscious chocolate and vanilla cakes from the Sweet Tooth Pastry Shop on the Danforth.
(http://www.torontolife.com/guide/food/bakers/sweet-tooth-pastry-shop/)

The friendly atmosphere turned a gathering for a friend's birthday into a real party. Two tables set off from the rest of the crowd let us freely mingle, toot horns and break out in song, seemingly without bothering anyone! We barely noticed the gust of wind and snow on our way out onto the street, our needs for nourishment from good food and friendship completely met.

1554 Queen Street West (between Landsowne and Sorauren)
http://www.mitzissister.com/

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Height of High-End Comfort Food

Thanks to Honey, the consummate host and tour guide, our visits to LA are always a foodie whirlwind! The stand-out meal on this trip was dinner at Craft, an outpost of Tom Colicchio's New York City-based "vision of food heaven." (According to the NY Times review when it opened in 2001 - and an apt description of our experience as well!). http://www.craftrestaurant.com/craft_losangeles_style.html

As we obsessed over every dish on the menu, we quickly agreed that sharing was the only way to go and ordered these:

Pork Belly & Madras Curry
Duck Egg, Duck Ham & Spiced Waffle
Braised Beef Cheeks
Wild Striped Bass, Cardoon & Olive
Brussels Sprouts & Smoked Bacon
Assorted mushrooms (Hen of the Woods, Chanterelles, Baby Shiitakes and Trompette Royales)
Chard gratin

Nodrog picked the perfect California wine: A 2005 Kunin Pape Star blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah. "Cherries and cassis on the nose, with some smoke/spice notes. High-toned red fruits and spices on palate, with an underlying earthy note. Bright acidity and light tannins. Finishes cleanly and with finesse." http://www.kuninwines.com/

The verdict: the height of high-end comfort food, beautifully prepared and presented.

Monday, November 19, 2007

This Brunch Spot is A-OK

We entered Okay Okay Diner in search of the consummate brunch spot in Leslieville. At first glance, it certainly seemed to have a number of the requisite ingredients: red leather booths, counter and stools, slightly greasy, slightly smoky smell emanating from the kitchen. We plunked ourselves down at a booth, ordered double lattes and scanned the menu. What to choose: granola and yogurt? buttermilk pancakes? thick slice french toast? the "scramble of the day" with smoked salmon and creme fraiche? We both honed in on the egg burrito, a tortilla filled with fluffy scrambled eggs, grilled peppers, onions and avocado, topped with salsa and sour cream. De-lish! I think our search is over.

Okay Okay
1128 Queen St. East
416-461-2988

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Paradisappointment

The evening started out with such great promise, as we entered Le Paradis expecting an authentic French bistro experience. The main room had the look down, with its long wood bar, butcher-paper tablecloths and brightly colored posters. With Pastis as the gold standard for the genre in Toronto (not to even mention Au Pied du Cochon in Montréal and Le Crémant in Seattle), I thought to myself: the competition is going to be stiff.

As we were whisked into an adjoining space that had the ambiance of an institutional dining room, my hopes began to fade. The prices were unexpectedly reasonable, the waitstaff competent and the service efficient. The problem was the food. The meal started on an upbeat note with the paté but quickly devolved into clichés that lacked any evidence of passion or inventiveness - most notably, the braised lamb shank, which arrived lukewarm and bland, and the frites which bordered on fast-food taste and quality.

Next time I'll bypass Le Paradis.

166 Bedford Road
http://www.leparadis.com/

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Silver Spoon Turns to Gold

We had heard a bit of a build-up about the Silver Spoon (fresh ingredients, a foodie's delight, good value), but nothing prepared us for the actual experience. And was it an experience!

From the moment you walk into the intimate dining room, there's a calm that overtakes you and you sit down ready to be cared for. The server welcomes you and after you have a chance to settle in, an amuse-bouche served on chinese soup spoons - two swirls, one red (red pepper), one white (chick pea) - tempts your palate as it should. A simple paper menu is set in front of you and the adventure begins.

Normally I have control issues over menus - everything we order must be determined by mutual consent. But tonight, overtaken by the atmosphere and overwhelmed by the choices, I sit back and sigh, "Order for both of us, would you dear?"

As we sip our gewurztraminer, our firsts arrive, starting with an appetizer of rye and maple cured salmon with vanilla mayonnaise and grapefruit pieces. From my first bite, I know the watch words for the evening are texture, flavor, and inspired combinations. The maple and vanilla are a match made in heaven. The next dish, ordered from the "other lovely things" category on the menu, was heaven on a plate. Foie-gras semi-freddo rolled in a walnut praline, with cured duck breast proscuitto, fig jam, truffle puree and toast. The foie-gras was whipped into a frenzy; smeared onto the other ingredients, the sweetness of the dish came close to qualifying as a dessert! I nearly overlooked the truffle puree sitting off to the side on its own little plate - but it paid off as I savored a bolus of intense flavor atop my last dollop of foie-gras.

Our entrees were no less spectacular. Seared scallops atop braised fennel and leek with a coconut milk, lemongrass infused tomato puree and jicama salad, came laid out on a long skinny plate; I would start on the left with a scallop, use my fork to glide it across the coconut milk to the jicama and have all of the flavors released in one bite. The juniper berry infused crispy duck confit was a mascot for the slow food movement and a perfect foil for the whimsical lychee and blueberry jus served with crusted yams. And yes, we are told after we wonder aloud, the demi-glace is house-made from scratch.

When it came to dessert, I could tell nodrog was not himself tonight either. Dessert is defined by having chocolate as the star ingredient. What, we weren't ordering the chocolate 4 ways? No, we simply had to have the citrus-vanilla goat's cheese-stuffed french toast. Equally at home on a brunch menu, this dish was a perfect pairing of tart and sweet, with what I'm guessing was homebaked brioche.
Even as I write this several days after the fact, I can taste each dish all over again. I should also mention our server, who was quite charming, attentive and interesting and not intrusive in any way.

Advice for next time: Bring friends and sample even more delights!

PS - for you chocoholics out there who simply had to know the 4 ways:
*Chocolate sorbet with chocolate brownie
*Chocolate cheescake with white chocolate and pistachio sauce
*Warm flourless chocolate cake with creme anglaise and chocolate sauce
*Chocolate creme brulee

Dinner for two with wine: $185
Silver Spoon
390 Roncesvalles
416-516-8112
http://www.silverspoon.ca/

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Mad About Montréal

And now for the top ten list (in chronological order) from our first weekend jaunt to Montréal. Drum roll please.

1 - Save the March 2006 issue of Gourmet magazine on "North America's Most European City", read it over and over again obsessively, and bring it with you in lieu of a guide book

2 - Fly Porter Airlines from the downtown airport and avoid the insanity of Pearson. http://www.flyporter.com/

3 - Rent bikes in Old Montréal and ride along the Lachine Canal to the Marché Atwater. http://www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/qc/canallachine/index_e.asp


4 - Buy fresh-baked sesame seed bagels at St.-Viateur Bagel Shop and enjoy them over a double espresso at Café Olimpico down the street. http://www.stviateurbagel.com/



5 - Sample the sights, tastes and smells of two of the city's amazing markets on your bike ride through town: Marché Atwater and Marché Jean-Talon. http://www.marchespublics-mtl.com/

6 - Spend a few hours admiring the collection at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal. http://www.macm.org/

7 - Start an amazing meal at at Au Pied du Cochon with the Apple Foie Gras (one of 10 foie gras appetizer choices; a sinful slice atop a tarte tatin). http://www.restaurantaupieddecochon.ca/

8 - Repeat #4, but with a Chocolate Babka chaser from Cheskie Heimishe Bakery
9 - Pretend you're back in college as you wander aimlessly around the campus of McGill. http://www.mcgill.ca/

10 - Exhausted from a whirlwind weekend, ride the subway back to your hotel in the Old Town before cabbing it to the airport for your flight home. http://www.stm.info/English/metro/a-mapmet.htm,
http://www.hotelxixsiecle.com/

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Caffeine on Queen, Part II

In my continuing quest for the best coffee in Toronto, or maybe I should say the most Seattle-like coffee experience in Toronto, the current title-holder is Dark Horse. They have all the right ingredients:

*Cute, slightly geeky baristas who perk up at the opportunity to muse aloud about the best beans (Dark City, Intelligentsia, 49th Parallel?), are more than happy to gossip about the latest addition to the local independent coffee scene (Manic Coffee) and only have good things to say about the owner (Mike Lee);

*A slightly hip, slightly irreverent atmosphere, clean but not immaculate, with newspapers strewn about;

*A chrome, high-end espresso machine (ok, I can't remember which brand, not being a true geek myself);

*Simple white cups and saucers; and

*A perfectly pulled espresso, with a thick crema and a slightly chocolately, slightly sweet flavor

Yeah, I'd say they have it down.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pomegranate

The sweet crunchy pomegranate makes a lovely theme for a crisp fall evening out. We started out with pom kirs at our place (champagne with Pama pomegranate liqueur), followed by an impromptu espresso at Manic Cafe (see: http://yyzine.blogspot.com/2007/09/manic-mania.html) and dinner next door at Pomegranate, a restaurant accurately described on their website as a cozy, unpretentious spot for reasonably priced Persian specialties. What their description fails to convey, however, is how innovative and delicious the food is!


What impressed me most was the richness of the textures and flavors, aided by braising and the judicious use of herbs, dried fruits, nuts and pom syrup. For appetizers, we had the spinach borani ($3.75), a dip of sautéed spinach, garlic and creamy yogurt and zeitoon parvardeh ($2.95), a tapenade of green olives marinated in a pomegranate walnut sauce with a generous amount of fresh garlic, both served with toasted pita bread. We probably could have done fine with three entrees for four people, but when we couldn't narrow down our top 4 choices, we just ordered them all!

*Qeymeh ($10.95) a tomato-based tangy stew of yellow split peas, lamb chunks and dried lime topped with cinnamon
*Adas Polo ($8.50) lentils, dates and raisins blended into a saffron basmati rice topped with crispy onion, lamb shank and barberries (an important ingredient in Persian cooking - see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/weekend/story/0,3605,1512761,00.html)
*Morasa Polo ($14.95), slivers of seville orange peel, almond and pistachio with diced carrots and barberries blended in saffron basmati rice served with a braised lamb shank, creamy yogurt and salad.
*Fesenjaan ($13.95), a classic Persian stew of boneless chicken breast, ground walnut and pomegranate syrup.

An Australian Shiraz, picked from the reasonably priced wine list ($17-$40), was a perfect match.

Pomegranate
420 College Street
416-921-7557
http://pomegranaterestaurant.ca/

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Manic Mania

There we were, innocently walking along College Street near Bathurst, when out of the corner of my eye I saw "Intelligentsia" peering from a storefront window. A Pavlovian reaction ensued: heart racing, mouth watering, I looked up to see a sign for Manic Coffee. Outfitted with a high-end Synesso espresso machine and a six foot shelf lined with bags of beans from Chicago-based Intelligentsia Coffee, I knew I had entered nirvana. What could make the experience even grander? It was opening night and drinks were on the house!

My machiatto was good, but only alluded to the chocolately sweet and nutty taste I remember. It was technically prepared well, including a perfectly formed flower in the foam, but something was missing... I'm chalking it up to opening night obsession with form over substance and look forward to returning in a few weeks.

426 College Street, (416) 966-3888
http://www.maniccoffee.com/

http://www.intelligentsiacoffee.com/

http://www.synesso.com/

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My Search is Over

I've been searching for "Katmandu rich sauce" since we left Washington DC in 1991. Katmandu, a Nepalese and Indian restaurant near Dupont Circle was a favorite, with its tender chicken simmered and served in a rich, creamy tomato curry the color of burnt orange. I always wondered what secret ingredient led to its addictive quality.


My search is finally over. Katmandu rich sauce has reappeared as Rangoli's butter chicken and the secret ingredient turns out to be fenugreek. I couldn't help myself - two trips to the "all you can eat" buffet for lunch, and a take-out order later in the week for dinner. But that's not all. The menu at Rangoli goes beyond the usual suspects of masalas, vindaloos and biryanis. We tried mushroom kaju mutter, for example, a surprising combination of mushrooms, fresh green peas and cashew nuts in a fragrant sauce of tomatoes, garlic and toasted coriander seeds. Lamb simmered in Kashmiri-spiced almond and yogurt sauce made for a delicious roganjosh.

Our piping hot take-out order for two, complete with pappadum and little containers of chutney and raita, came to about $45 - with enough left over for my lunch the next day!

Rangoli, 1392 Yonge Street, south of St. Clair, 416-967-4111

www.rangolirestaurant.ca

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Hummus on Harbord

Don't let a nearly empty dining room at 93 Harbord tempt you to reconsider your choice for the evening and pick from one of the many nearby Italian joints instead. Although it may not be "hot" at the moment, chef/owner Isam Kaisi's reasonably priced and interesting North African and Middle Eastern dishes and friendly service make it a worthwhile stop.

Our appetizers were delicious: The grilled octopus was stuffed with a tasty mixture of peppers and feta. The hummus was a creamy version drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice that added a welcome tang. The accompanying pita bread was fresh and served warm. Our main courses were even better: braised lamb shank served with a dollop of minted yogurt and couscous-crusted red snapper topped with matchstick slices of mango and chili-lime butter. We ordered a bottle of red wine at first and then ran back to the waiter to switch to a bottle of cava which turned out to be a wise choice. The baklava was tempting but pistachio gelato on College Street beckoned. Unfortunately, the hunt for the real stuff (at least the creamy, intensely flavored version I remember from my trips to Italy) will go on after two failed attempts (including the much-touted Sicilian Sidewalk Cafe, which I'm embarrassed to say we tossed in the trash after waiting in line for 15 minutes...).

93 Harbord St. (at Spadina Ave, 4 blocks south of the TTC stop)
416-922-5914

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Detour to Seattle

Having had many terrific meals over the 14 years we lived in Seattle, it says a lot that I would take up space here to report on one we had on our first trip back. I remembered eating at Monsoon once before and enjoying it, but our dinner there on Saturday night was nothing short of extraordinary. The James Beard Foundation got it right when it observed that Chef Eric Bahn "artfully merges the traditional flavorings from his native Vietnam with the bounty of the Pacific Northwest, and neither component is overshadowed by the other."

I can't get the carmelized idaho catfish claypot with coconut juice, green onions and thai chilies out of my mind - sweet, salty, spicy and sour all at once. Another stellar dish was the grilled monterey squid stuffed with duck meat, basil and jicama, with each flavor taking center stage as you ate. The Washington white corn and berkshire pork belly were a delicious combination - but perhaps even more inspired was nodrog's instinct to dunk a spoonful of both in the claypot to soak up the broth! The wine list was no less impressive - with many reasonably priced and interesting choices. Our recent fascination with German white wines was easily satisfied with a Hexamer riesling spatlese. Who says screw-tops can't compete with cork?

Now, how to convince them to open a branch in Toronto?

http://www.monsoonseattle.com/

Saturday, August 18, 2007

March On Over

Wanted: Good value take-out sushi on the way to the Docks Drive-In

Found: Good value take-out sushi worth driving across the city for!

Sushi Marché is a take-out find! Fresh fish, perfectly sticky rice and low overhead (take-out only) were the key ingredients of our $65 dinner. After "oohing" and "aahing" over the beautifully arranged platter, it didn't take long to down 2 California rolls, 1 hamachi roll, 1 shrimp tempura and avocado roll, 3 orders of hamachi sashimi (6 pieces), 2 orders of tuna sashimi (6 pieces) and 2 orders of unagi sushi (4 pieces), with the help of chilled sake from the LCBO!

1105 Queen Street E
416-463-0114

Caffeine on Queen

We'll eventually take our planned whirlwind tour of espresso bars along Queen Street East, but this afternoon we got as far as Red Rocket Coffee at 1402B (just east of Greenwood Avenue). The staff "hellos" from the moment we walked in and the friendly chit-chat while we ordered immediately gave the place a welcoming atmosphere, but we were blown away when the manager delivered a just-baked pastry "on the house" when he heard we were new to Toronto! So much for low-carb livin... And the espresso? Our single macchiatos - with their dark chocolate finish - were the perfect pick-me-up!



http://www.redrocketcoffee.com/

Friday, August 17, 2007

BBQ in YYZ

I do not purport to be a barbecue aficianado - indeed, I wouldn't even begin to enter the raging debate that I've personally witnessed among natives of Texas, North Carolina and Kansas City as they each defend the honour of their regional recipe. But what I can say is that the Black Camel serves delicious pulled pork with spicy barbecue sauce. Primarily a take-out joint with a few outside tables, Black Camel offers sandwiches of slow roasted beef brisket, pulled pork, pulled chicken or veggies, and on the day I visited, pulled lobster (prompting foodie nodrog to remark: "pulled must be the new confit").

4 Crescent Road at Yonge near the Rosedale TTC
http://www.blackcamel.ca/

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What Were They Thinking?


OK, let me see if I've got this right:

Money donated by Michael Lee-Chin to the Royal Ontario Museum: $30 million

Money spent to renovate the Royal Ontario Museum, including construction of the Daniel Libeskind-designed Michael Lee-Chin Crystal: $270 million

Money spent by the federal Canada-Ontario Infastructure Program to build the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal: $30 million

Money spent on tacky "push" and "pull" stickers on the doors to the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal: $2

This is architecture abuse!

Photo courtesy of nodrog

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Dumplings Galore


Strolling Spadina in the middle of Kensington Market, it's hard not to notice the Chinese woman in the storefront window shaping wonton-wrapper dumplings by hand. In a matter of minutes, the counter is piled high with dumplings, ready to be steamed or pan-fried. We took a seat at the Dumpling House Restaurant and ordered the $6 steamed medley - four each of 3 flavors from a list of about 10 options. We tried the pork and cabbage, shrimp and pork, and seafood. Oh, and the leftover beef dumplings the guy next to us urged us to finish as he got up to leave (no, we don't usually forage other tables for food, but since he offered...). They were all delicious, with just the right balance of chewy but not too thick outside and flavourful inside. We also shared the egg drop soup ($4), which had a rich broth filled with swirls of egg whites and floating paper-thin mushroom slices. This counts as the "cheap eats" I've been looking forward to since we decided to move to Toronto!

328 Spadina Ave, 416-596-8898, Open 11 am - 11 pm

PS: They only take cash, but there are two ATMs within two blocks.
Photo courtesy of nodrog

Thursday, August 9, 2007

An Island Oasis


The ferry to Centre Island was packed with people from stem-to-stern on Sunday afternoon, mainly families with kids in strollers and coolers filled with food for a feast. As the crowd spilled out onto the island, we began to wonder if we had made the right choice of excursion on this civic holiday weekend. But after a few minutes' walk, we left the hoards behind and began to find peace, quiet and a refreshing breeze along a path leading to a hidden gem: The Rectory Cafe. A pleasant smell beckoned us closer and we suddenly realized we had no choice but to enjoy a late lunch on the lakeside patio. Grilled salmon caesar salad and iced tea for two, please!

http://rectorycafe.com/

Lovin' Livia

Tucked within Lileo, a clothing store in the Distillery District, Livia serves up healthy and delicious juices, salads and sandwiches. We ordered a $7 salad with a tasty combination of greens, pumpkin seeds, avocado and papaya, with a can of tuna mixed in for an extra $4 - easily enough for two hungry eaters to share. That plus a double espresso macchiato from Balzac's Coffee and you're good to go!

http://www.lileo.ca/about.html
http://www.balzacscoffee.com/

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Cava Delights


Rated by Toronto Life Magazine as one of the best new restaurants in 2007, Cava is a tapas bar located in a mall on Yonge just north of St. Clair. The service was excellent. When our cava mojitos were taking a bit longer than one might expect, our waiter brought us complimentary half-glasses of cava to toast with and take the edge off a long week. The dishes were served in a logical order at appropriate intervals:

*Watercress and roasted beet salad with marcona almonds - the crunch of the salty, oily nuts hidden under the watercress elevated this dish from ordinary to special
*Pinchos of sockeye salmon machaca and avocado - I had high hopes for this dish, but it was disappointingly bland and boring
*Croquetas of cauliflower and manchego with roasted tomato sauce - same comment as above
*Roast boneless quail filled with spiced chicken and served with Moorish style spinach - now you're talkin' - a great combination of flavors - close your eyes and you're in Morocco
*Swiss chard with pine nuts and currants - a tapa bar staple, good but not great
*Crispy braised pork belly with buckwheat noodle, new potato and savoy cabbage gratin - this may have been the best dish - lovingly prepared, it had that "slow food" quality, with a surprising combination of ingredients and flavors that "worked"
*Broiled, cider-glazed sablefish with black rice and escarole - a close tie for best dish - the fish had a crispy glaze on the outside, tender and melt-in-your mouth on the inside. The black rice cooked al dente had a pleasant nutty flavor.

The bill for two with wine came to about $105. PS - don't make the mistake of asking for the menu. Look down - it's the napkin holder!

http://www.cavarestaurant.ca/

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Worth the Wait

If you enter Pastis without reservations on a busy night, and the friendly owner Georges Gurnon says "it will be a few minutes, why don't you have a drink at the bar" and when twenty minutes go by while you sip champagne, he again says "it will be just five more minutes, they are paying their bill" and he tempts you with a slice of house-made pate on toasted french bread, and you suddenly realize it's been 20 more minutes and you're thinking of finding another place nearby to eat, do not be tempted because dinner here is worth the wait! I only need to describe the dishes and I think you'll be convinced:

*Herbed goat cheese on a bed of arugula with sweet pepper oil
*Creamy fish soup with a subtle note of pernod and freshly grated parmesan to sprinkle on top
*Pan-seared liver, prepared medium rare, in a delightful sauce with cloves of garlic and cubes of bacon, accompanied by a mound of crisp frites
*Veal scallopini with just the right touch of lemon, atop handmade tagliatelli
*A reasonably priced bottle of Alsatian pinot gris

Needless to say, we had no room for dessert...

At about $200 for 2, it's not cheap eats by any means, but I'd say it's a good value for the price - the food is delicious, the service is gracious, and the bustling French bistro atmosphere is a treat!

Pastis
1158 Yonge St. (at Marlborough Ave)
416-928-2212

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Meal to Remember

I can't say enough good things about George on Queen, where we had dinner on Friday night - it's an amazing restaurant in every way:

When you dine there in the summer, you have your choice of a table in the spacious dining room or on the delightful outdoor patio. We sat indoors in a booth that felt private and intimate, yet afforded a view of the whole dining area (including the patio, if we lifted the curtains to take a peek outside). The house-made sangria was served with fresh fruit juice (was it pomegranate and blueberry?) on top and white wine on the bottom - stirred together, it made for a refreshing way to start the meal - not too sweet, not too tart.

The menu is divided into categories: 1, 2 and 3. It's not entirely clear what the distinctions are, but our server suggested that each of us order one dish from each category. We did our own thing and ordered two from 2 and two from 3.

The food was interesting and delicious. The amuse bouche was a beautifully presented almond-shaped mound of tuna tartare with a rice-paper rol;. We samples a tender five-spiced squab, a delightful pairing of scallops and sweetbreads, seared lamb tenderloin and a pecan crusted halibut. The sauces and sides accompanying each dish elevated them to the memorable meal category (I admit, I didn't have my notepad with me or else I would have provided more details...I'll never forget it again!). A crisp riesling kabinet tied everything together. We savored every bite and left feeling pleasantly full (we had room for dessert but with no chocolate choice on the menu - white chocolate doesn't count - we decided to forgo).

We'll be back...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Cottage Country

We just got back from our first visit to cottage country - a beautiful, peaceful spot near Gravenhurst on Little Lake.
http://www.gravenhurstchamber.com/Tourism/index.html

There were a number of tempting hand-crafted wood bowls, baskets and jewellery at the summer Muskoka Art and Craft show:
http://www.muskokaartsandcrafts.com/Art_&_Craft_Shows/Summer_Show/summer_show.htm

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Haute Caffeine

Arriving from Seattle, we were very concerned about finding good coffee. We didn't invest in a high-end espresso machine for over-roasted Starbucks beans. Never fear - Dark City Coffee Company is here - and the best news of all is that they deliver fresh-roasted beans within 24 hours after placing an order by phone! What a way to start the day.
http://www.darkcitycoffee.com/

Monday, July 16, 2007

Good Eats in Summerhill

Having just moved into the neighborhood, with all of our belongings strewn about the house, the last thing we wanted to do was cook! Summerhill offers a dizzying array of take-out and dining-out options within walking distance, two of which are highlighted below. I can definitely get used to living in this city!

Fabulous take-out curried cauliflower and grilled chicken at All the Best Fine Foods
http://www.allthebestfinefoods.com/

Romantic dinner on the patio at the Rosedale Diner - chunky gazpacho, grouper with salsa verde
http://www.rosedalediner.com/

Luscious raspberries from Harvest Wagon - delicious on their own, or gently stirred into vanilla yogurt for breakfast or dessert
http://www.harvestwagon.com/home.htm