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The Slaw

Is this not the most beautiful dish you’ve ever laid eyes on?

Reinstating slight obsession for Susur’s singaporean slaw. 19 elusive ingredients… from daikon sprouts, fennel, julienned jicama, cucumber, carrots to taro root, edible flower petals, toasted sesame seeds… it’s visually spectacular & indescribable. Yes, even carrots become exotic. If you’ve had it, please chime in with wildly descriptive love notes. If you haven’t, will incoherently rave for a few min & then force you to be next dinner date.

One ambitious day, L & I will attempt. For fun. Can you imagine?! Will need hours, a mandolin (or two) and lots of good humour.

Until that day, if I suggest Lee or Lee Lounge for dinner… say yes to the slaw.

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Enoteca Sociale

A certain someone will laugh if they see this post…  far too long, it’s (almost) inexcusable.

Let’s not state the obvious, hmm? Let us focus on what matters. Re-familiarized myself with the menu. Delectable dishes are still present. Which means, still relevant. And still delicious.

First impression of Enoteca was one of utter delight. An intimately warm, yet vibrant space. A space perfect for a catch up with dear friends, a first date, a special anniversary, a birthday celebration, a Sunday family dinner… lit by candlelight, it lures you in and invites you (and your guests) to order a glass of vino and peruse a menu inspired by local seasonal ingredients. A menu filled with mouth-watering antipasti, secondi, house made pastas… and of course, the cheese cave. 

The cheese cave alone demands you peek in the cellar, to ask for recommendations – sample a little moliterno from Sicily, pasteurized sheep’s milk from Calabria, chèvre noir from Quebec – and then plan for next visit. We missed the vento d’estate our first time… “pasteurized cow’s milk, veneto, aged in grass from the farm it is produced, buttery with a hint of lavender”  Sounds positively lovely, doesn’t it?

What I can attest to: Enoteca = best grilled octopus in the city. Absolutely rave-worthy. And those who have tried will resolutely back me up. Fresh pappardelle with hearty rabbit ragu was satisfying, but out-of-this-world-pasta continues to lie with Tutti Matti. Regardless, keen to re-experience and by finally posting, brings this lovely Italian restaurant to mind again. Who wants to join?

ontario buffalo mozzarella in carrozza, anchovies, pickled shallots, parsley

grilled octopus, fava beans, new potato & chili pepper (seriously phenomenal)

house made pappardelle w. ontario rabbit ragu

cheese cave! parmigiano reggiano dop, brillo pecorino divino etc. (aka i cannot remember).

 http://www.sociale.ca/
1288 Dundas St. West
416.534.1200

Sunday Pleasures

What better way to spend your Sunday? Enjoyed a few weeks ago with girlfriends; it was an afternoon filled with the loveliest company,  life musings, piano playing, and far too much gossip.

A simple spread: parmigiano reggiano, cantenaar, grapes, fig jam, grainy mustard, cornichons, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, olives, cherries, peppers, garlic hummus, roasted tomatoes w. buffala mozza & basil on a fresh baguette.

Hello from Hà Nội!

Sitting at the Anise hotel bar in Hà Nội, enjoying a Vietnamese coffee (hold that thought…exciting update!). It’s our 4th day in Hà Nội, and we’ve just attempted to re-explore the Old Quarter with the intent of perusing a few select art galleries, but sadly had to call it quits. Pourquoi? Torrential downpours.

Ok, slight exaggeration. Bless those rain gods, we missed the downpour while having our chả cá (a specialty dish of Hà Nội) lunch in a beautifully restored old Vietnamese house on Ma May street. Lucky for us, the high winds continued and threatened to turn our umbrellas out every few blocks. And this unseasonably miserable weather is expected to continue for the remainder of the week… until Friday…when we leave. Our good fortune, right? That blissful half-a-day on the hot sandy beach in Hội An a week and a half ago is but a distant memory. Sigh.

All lamenting aside, we’ve been having the most incredible time. It’s been a special trip of rekindled memories, combined with new breathtaking experiences, and every little adventure captured (yes, have been diligent about putting pen to paper & snapping like a photo-crazed tourist). Planning to take memories & experiences and translate into snapshots of each city, town, island, market, pagoda, temple… once we get home. This is just a quick hello.

re: update

Must preface by saying that since I’ve started this post – having finished my first late aft cuppa – need to revise exciting revelation.

I’ve been testing my pathetic limits with caffeine. And those who know me well, are aware of spastic, off-the-wall tendencies when I drink coffee. Disastrous. Yet, have enjoyed a cup every day, for the past 15 days, like a normal human being. How you may wonder… or not wonder…

Breakfast = 3 course extrava-food-ganza. Every day. True story! Belly, filled with deliciousness, soaks up all that caffeine. And oui, have been slurping up steaming bowls of ph at 8am! Sadly, having eaten lunch hours ago, big bad caffeine high has hit and currently sitting across from L, buzzing with nervous energy, distracted by every movement, forcing self to focus in order to finish this post. Conclusion: not the strong Vietnamese coffee that has cured my affliction. It is, without a doubt, the impressive – or shocking, depending on who’s sitting across from me *ahem* L that morning – amount of food consumed. Reserving a post (or ten) dedicated to the foods, fruits and justifiably famous dishes of Việt Nam. Very excited to share.

Anyway, signing off to devour another deep-fried sesame-crusted mung bean ball of amazingness and investigate whether or not Hội An needs an English teacher, piano teacher, boat rower, pineapple carver…whatever it is, I’ll do it.

No, not a spastic caffeine-inspired thought. I WILL move there. One day.

Hope all’s well back home. k.x

Trip to the Motherland

We’ve waited a long time. A very long time. YEARS. And pinch me hard, it’s finally here.

A trip to the MOTHERLAND.

30+ years for our parents. And never for me & the bro. Yes. Finally.

A little exhausted from the insanity of trying to go on vacation; it’s with sleep-deprived excitement that I write this post. I haven’t finished packing and mind has been compiling endless TO DO lists for the past few days. But, will any of that matter in 24hrs? No. It’ll be glorious.

3 weeks in VIETNAM.

Itinerary: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), My Tho, Can Tho, MeKong, Mui Ne, Hue, Hoi An, Tam Coc, Ha Long Bay, Hanoi.

You recognize some, yes? Of course you do. And I kinda love that you’ll likely not recognize others. I certainly didn’t. And that was important for us; we couldn’t simply play tourists. I don’t need to explain why, you get it.

Bro and I will be experiencing a culture that I hope will feel familiar, whilst at the same time, appreciating the fact that we’ll be surrounded by history, traditions, nuances etc. completely new to us. What struck me this eve: in anticipation of this trip, I could vividly imagine what it’d be like to eat a steaming bowl of pho on the streets…but truly couldn’t fathom what it’d be like to explore the neighbourhoods where our parents grew up.

Very, very special.

I’ll be taking my beautiful leather-bound journal, my camera, and Ooo yes, those tastebuds. M has asked that I do a photo journal. Fab idea. With that, S cheekily requested I include some nice scenic shots, to balance the plethora of food shots. Oui, certainly. Up for that challenge.

Btw, do you like my new masthead? Thought it’d be fitting…thx A.

Ok, last note before bed.

Mission: Eat 1 bowl of pho every day for the next 21 days.

SO. EXCITED.

A Love for Tapas

January = a month of tiny gluttony. I know, two words that should never sit side by side.

And 23 days too late.

In my pathetically weak defense, I DID start this post 23 days ago. And if I don’t complete, N will shoot me her “work/life balance” look. So let’s give a try (speaks the girl who’s going on vacation for 3 weeks in 3 days).

Hello tapas. Hello Wine Bar, Malena and Salt Wine Bar. Sans photography, written snapshots.
Hope you enjoy :)

 

{WINE BAR}

Sorely disappointed. Wasn’t overly enthused about the menu (which changes on a daily basis), but still optimistic a few dishes would stand out. Sadly, no. Qualicum bay scallops were overcooked, tomato ratatouille too sweet for the braised beef cheek, and the B.C fluke, pulled pork poutine and risotto simply didn’t live up to their expectations. Enough moaning, you get it. Highlights: Beautiful use of the space. Ambiance. Open kitchen. And we all admired the pickled jars lining the back wall & the recipe wallpaper in the ‘loo. Would I recommend to others? Negative.

http://www.9church.com/
9 Church Street
416.504.9463

 

{MALENA}

Beautifully serene, with meticulous attention to detail – from decor to the menu designs, it’s quite lovely. You do feel as if you’re a guest in someone’s house, even if it’s accompanied by the feeling that one must be on their best behaviour. Fitting for its Yorkville locale. Dishes are influenced by some Greek love, some Italian love, and all quite memorable. Worthy of the prices? Debatably no. Would I recommend to others? Debatably no. Unless, it’s a special treat. Then, by all means yes.

Outstanding

Rodney’s oysters on the half shell – agro dolce & ‘bomba’
Seared maine scallops with winter squash & raddichio risotto

Honourable Mentions

Grilled octopus with pancetta & root vegetable fregola, greek yogurt & orange agro dolce
Sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi with braised rabbit, spinach & crisp parsnip

Sadly, forgettable

Squid ink chitarra & lobster with tomato, fresh herbs & calabrian chillies
Warm chocolate budino with local preserved strawberries, honeycomb & fresh whipped cream 9.
Greek honey ‘loukoumades’ crispy fried doughnuts with attiki honey, pistachios & cinnamon crema

http://www.malena120.ca/
120 Avenue Road
416.964.0606

 

{SALT WINE BAR}

Darkly inviting and intimately familiar, imagine the inside of a wine & pickled goods cellar. You’d really like to stay a while, wouldn’t you? We certainly did. The newest kid on the Ossington block, she’s a sexy mix of Spanish and Portuguese. Really, quite lovely. Interior aside, the menu has the potential to be stellar. But, when only a handful of dishes hold our attention and dessert takes the limelight; it’s not there yet. Would I recommend to others? Yes. I do feel compelled to come back. To try other dishes. Introduce others to it. Discuss over a bottle of vino or two.

Outstanding

Braised oxtail consumme with garlic mashed, tthyme
Wagu beef crudo with truffled quail egg, parmesan croutons, watercress
Brown butter creme brulee
Cinnamon churros with dark pot of chocolat

Honourable Mentions

Striped beets on bed of arugula, goat cheese, marcona almond, tarragon & citrus vinaigrette
Pulled pork sandwich with guacamole
Oyster mushrooms on toasted baguettes with parsley & garlic
Lobster bisque ‘basque’ style

Sadly, forgettable

Grilled calamari (this one didn’t really stand a chance after disappointment over no octopus)
Rapini with garlic, chili, olive oil

http://saltrestaurant.ca/
225 Ossington Ave.
416.533.7258

 

Next on the list: LEE LOUNGE

Expectations are through the roof. Can’t help it. Susur commands it…for me anyway. And I peeked at Toronto Life’s review last night. O my. 1. Peking duck rolls 2. Asian-style salmon ceviche. Y’all know my long-standing mission. Find the best ceviche in the city.

You may rave about a restaurant. And why do you rave? The Food. Cocktails. Ambiance. Service. Super cute waiter. That ONE dish on the menu.

Alas, 2010 is wrapping up & I have a penchant for making lists (bright yellow sticky notes are a girl’s best friend)… this one had to be done!

[Sidebar] One must always be prepared. To fill awkward silences. Make witty small talk. Entertain hrs of conversation. You know, if ever stuck in an elevator… on a double blind date… job interview…  you see? Countless needs. So yes, I have my list ready.

And I’ll have you know that I tried (albeit half-heartedly) to narrow down to top 10. Silly conventions. Let’s make it a top 18 with a bonus list.

Below, you’ll find my most blathered about dishes in 2010. Any day, any time, anywhere.

Made up of the city’s finest*:

18. Enoteca Sociale: Grilled octopus
17. Le Select Bistro: Steak tartare
16. Guu: Salmon natto yukke
15. Burger’s Priest: Cheeseburger
14. WoodLot: Potato puree & bone marrow
13. Mildred’s Temple Kitchen: Profiteroles
12. Biff’s Bistro: Chicken liver parfait
11. O&B: Grilled calamari
10. Grace Upstairs (BBQ): Grilled lobster
9. Marben: Roasted beef
8. Black Hoof: Charcuterie
7. Tutti Matti: Beef carpaccio
6. C5: Corn salad
5. Cava: Foie gras
4. Scarpetta: Polenta with truffled mushrooms
3. Foxley: Black cod with truffle oil & asian greens
2. Luma: Burrata
1. Foxley: Arctic char ceviche (surprise!)

luma: burrata

C5: corn salad

Guu: salmon natto yukke

 

And these six are special. It’s like being asked to pick your favourite child. Impossible.

  • WoodLot: Handcut pappardelle w. wild boar ragu
  • Tutti Matti: Handcut pappardelle w. pulled beef brisket
  • Mengrai Thai: Red curry w. lychee & pineapple
  • SukhoThai: Red curry (gaeng phed)
  • Nadege Patisserie: Salted caramel macaron
  • Moroco Chocolat: Salted caramel macaron

nadege: salted caramel & pistachio macaron (photo cred: Tina H)

 

For the past 12 months, have eaten my way through the city… with many friends, many bottles of vino, and many O MY! moments. Glorious fun. Pure unadulterated fun. So much fun, planning to do it again next year. Who’s joining? ;)

 

*Excluded – mama’s cooking. Y’all know why…homecooking is simply incomparable x

Lobster & love

Sometimes, my hard little heart bursts with so much love for my mother.

Birthday was last last week. Half-expected we’d go out for dinner. More than half-hoped it was home-cooking. Train’d it back into the ‘ville, walked through the front door, stopped… and smiled.

Mama was cooking.

And cooking up a storm! Slaving over the stove from the minute she had gotten home…deliciousness wafting through the house…table set as if we were entertaining, bottle of wine breathing… her little 5″1 (if that) frame practically jumping with excitement. And my father beaming b/c he had actually kept the secret. I know, right? The sweetest.

Menu for the eve:

  • tofu & egg drop soup
  • lobster w. fresh ginger
  • king oyster mushrooms & scallions
  • basa fillets, vietnamese-styles
  • asian greens with garlic & mushrooms

Seriously delicious & made with love. The BEST combination. Don’t worry bro, I’m sure you’ll get the same treatment next week.

Sadly, didn’t have my camera. Snapped w. iPhone – Hipstamatic.

Burger’s Priest

Today was a good day. And today, also consisted of two slices of pizza, two cheeseburgers & fries.

Wow. Slightly embarrassed.

Balancing act flew out the window, didn’t it? Daily scoffs at M & K may need to cease for a while. In hindsight, not so brilliant. At the time, quite… like this one:

After a fantastically good client preso, J & I were riding a high and decided to celebrate with burgers. And not just any burgers.

Burger’s Priest burgers.

So, there’s been great hoopla & debate over the best burger joint in the city. Will neither confirm or deny, but when a convoy of cars from Church & Bloor make the trek (and I mean, trek) over to the eastest end of Queen & Coxwell for lunch… you know it’s something serious. Crazy agency folks.

Would defend, compare and throw opinions around, but 6hrs later, still in a slight food coma and can only focus on one thing at a time. So, singularly-focused this post will be.

P.s – will never forgive you guys for not telling me that day. So, this convoy comes back and they rave. Rave about the patties. Rave about the ground beef. Rave about the patty to bun ratio. Rave about how good it is. Rave about how they can’t describe why it’s so good. Rave about possible best burger in the city.

Colour me green.

So, I make them promise to take me the following week.

When that day came, so much anticipation from so much internal hype. And let me tell you… hype FULLY justified. Not disappointed. In the least. Raved to friends, strangers, anyone who would listen. And 6 weeks later, 2nd trek was made.

The patties! So fresh. Grounded daily, never frozen. You see ’em grilling, and your tastebuds start to salivate. Buns are buns are buns, but something happens when they meet freshly grilled ground beef. Chemistry! The combination of incredibly soft patties, slightly charred, flanked by two unassuming buns and fixings, if you so desire… kinda fantastic.

This eve, honed in on the Combo (cheeseburger, fries & drink) and threw in an extra cheeseburger for the road.

Listen, I’m a fat kid at heart. But, not that fat.

These burgers are not large. In fact, quite small. However, may have to retract claim after tonight. Deceivingly small. Having eaten two cheeseburgers and 1/4 of the fries (ok fine, 1/2)… not so brilliant on my part. Regrets? Never. You eat, enjoy & digest… yep. Sorry Ma, most unladylike post.

As for the pizza, no good story. It was there for taking. So, I ate it.