Mark versus Fidel

On Saturday we went to Shops at Don Mills for a showdown between Mark McEwan and Fidel Gastros.

This event was called the Ultimate Sandwich Smackdown and featured two sandwiches (one pork and one beef) from each chef. Each sandwich was $5 so you were able to sample all 4 for $20. We weren’t thinking clearly when we first approached Fidel’s and ordered two of the same sandwich, so we only tried 3 of 4.

The atmosphere was amazing – it wasn’t like your typical food event which can tend to seem slightly chaotic with a touch of militarism on the part of some foodies with strict agendas. There was a candid banter between the two chefs but always with respect and the title, “Chef” being used. This got the crowd and everyone working the event excited for the food and competition. There was none of the crowds and aggressiveness that typically accompanies foodies – the crowd was more families and young couples.

Our first sandwich was from FG – the Sargent Slather with Pulled Pork, creamy guacamole and tortilla chips. The tortilla chips are a new addition to the Sargent Slather sandwich and it is a welcomed addition. It adds another texture which adds to the existing crunch from the smashed, toasted sandwich. The guac was creamy and had a hint of citrus which worked nicely with the sweetness of the pulled pork.

We then ordered the two McEwan sandwiches: Beef Brisket with Caramalized Onions and Horseradish Aioli:

and Asian Style Pulled Pork Should with Yuzu Mayo, Cucumber-Sesame Seed Slaw and Coriander:

Omigod. This is all I can say. The fact that we got two Mark McEwan sandwiches for $10 is worth saying omigod in one breath but the fact that they were this amazing is another feat altogether. I liked the tenderness and overall flavour of the beef brisket meat better but I preferred the pulled pork sandwich as a whole. The buns were soft and fresh, they were baked that morning. The beef brisket fell apart in our mouths and was tender, and juicy. The caramelized onions were sweet and soft. The horseradish aioli had a slight heat to it but the creaminess of the sauce balanced out this heat and pulled the whole sandwich together. The pulled pork was sweet but the prominet component of this sandwich was the slaw. It was sweet, slightly nutty from the sesame seeds and acidic. It was a great topping for the richness of the pulled pork and the whole sandwich tasted like a summer BBQ.

Although I love everything about Fidel Gastro’s – their spirit, their food and their decor, but I think Mark McEwan and his team took this one. The sandwiches were meatier, juicier and more cohesive. However, Fidel Gastro’s sandwiches are perfect for walking and munching – compact and portable.

Regardless of the outcome of this showdown, all sandwiches involved are welcome in my belly at anytime.

 

La Societe Bistro

Last Thursday Cynthia and I went to La Societe Bistro on Bloor Street to take part in their Thursday night oyster special.

La Societe Bistro is a merging of the cosmopolitan nature of Toronto with traditional French bistro atmosphere and cuisine. This restaurant has two patios – one street level and one going up the steps of the building. The interior of the main dining room has this gorgeous, extravagant stained glass ceiling that just makes you feel like you are having tea in a French manor. The bar is swank – dark mahogany, French post cards and pictures crowd the walls and little bistro sets are clustered throughout the bar.

If you are looking to have the oyster special, you will be sitting in the bar. And you will feel very Mad Men – but hopefully not in the way Roger Sterling eats oysters… If you love oysters or have never tried them, La Societe on a Thursday is the place to be. Typically, their oysters are $19/half dozen which is slightly pricey but this is a nice place on Bloor St so you are paying for the experience. However, on Thursdays, their oysters are $1/oyster which is as cheap as you can get in the city.

The oysters are not the largest I have ever had but at $1/oyster, I’ll take what I can get. Smaller oysters are also easier to slurp back. The toppings are hot sauce, onion, lemon and horseradish. The best part about oysters is the topping so I do wish there was slightly more options but again, at $1/oyster, I’m not going to make too big a deal. I don’t know how common place it is to have several choice for toppings as it seems to be only vendors/trucks that had more than the traditional options. My topping of choice was the onion but I did put the horseradish on a few and holy heck, there was kick to it. It definitely cleared my sinuses.

We each had a dozen oysters which I think it the perfect amount, not too much to the point of fish belly (nausea induced by raw fish) but enough to satisfy an oyster craving, at least until next Thursday.

I will be going back for more oysters and I am considering making it a weekly thing. But what I am really excited about at La Societe is The Grand Tower – or what I have renamed it, The Tower of Power: 14 Oysters, 10 Prawns, Marinated Octopus, Spicy Tuna Tartare, Lobster Salad, and 1 lb King crab Legs. The Grand Tower has a steep price tag of $149 so it will have to be saved for something special or we will have to not eat out for a couple of weeks but I am so excited to eat this!

Rome N’ Chariot

Last week I went down the Union Station for some Italian food by Rome N’ Chariot.

The trucks were located on Front St, just slightly west of Bay St, near the Royal York. This is a new location for the food trucks as they are trying to raise awareness and their presence in Toronto. If this means there will be a multitude of food trucks rotating through this location at lunch time, I 100% support this.

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La Carnita

Last week, we kicked off the weekend by going to a new taco restaurant on College, La Carnita.

La Carnita started as a pop-up food vendor that combined tacos and art in order to get around Toronto’s archaic food laws. They were so successful that they were able to open a location in Little Italy – high pedestrian and food lover traffic. I had never managed to track them down at an event so the fact that they now have a stationary location makes me extremely happy.

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Sarpa Restaurant

Last week we went for a big family dinner to celebrate the retiree, my dad – JDL.

His button says, “I’m smiling because I’m retiring.” My dad has been teaching for over 30 years and he has definitely earned his retirement. He is one of the best people of all time and future kids will not even realize what they are missing.

We went to Sarpa Restaurant in Richmond Hill to celebrate the occasion.

Sarpa is an Italian restaurant with a modern interior. We were in the party room which could be closed off from the rest of the restaurant using shuttered doors. It also featured its own private patio which we did not take advantage of but we enjoyed the view and the breeze nonetheless. The environment was upscale without being stuffy and pretentious. It was the perfect atmosphere to enjoy a great meal and celebrate a great career.

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1,000 Tastes of Toronto

On June 9 GC and I headed down to the Distillery District for the President’s Choice 1,000 Taste of Toronto.

This event was part of the Luminato festival and this year’s theme was to have all chefs feature at least one Canadian ingredient. You buy your food tickets before hand, one ticket costing $5 and each ticket is redeemable for one food item. They had tables set up throughout the streets for family style dining.

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Hemingway’s

Two weeks ago I went to Hemingway’s with Liz.

My first visit to Hemingway’s was 3 years ago for a residence staff team building lunch. I had this amazing brie, apple and chicken sandwich and I was looking forward to trying it again. Unfortunately, it is only on the lunch menu which I don’t agree with because sandwiches are just as much a dinner item as they are a lunch item, especially at this kind of pub/patio style restaurant. We decided to give it another try and it is unfortunate to say but this was one of the more disappointing dining experiences I have had recently and for several reasons:

1. There are several different levels of patio and each has it’s own hostess. Ok, that makes sense but they are all fairly unhelpful with directing you and getting you to a table.

2. Our server was atrocious. She ignored us and walked by our table constantly without asking us if we were ready to order. She also committed the cardinal server sin (in my opinion, I assume people actually have higher standards they hold their servers to): trying to pass Pepsi off as Coke. Whenever a server says, “We only have Pepsi, is that ok?” I ALWAYS say no, in the hopes that they will learn to tell people and not just assume this is ok. Not only did our server almost not tell us it was Pepsi, she did it to the next table too. I know this isn’t a big deal but come on, there is a difference between Pepsi and Coke, don’t lie.

3. Liz ordered the Butter Chicken: Chunks of chicken in a smooth Indian curry sauce, served with steamed vegetables, rice and mango chutney. She really liked it which I think slightly made up for the service and the Pepsi-Coke misunderstanding.

I ordered the Turkey Burger: Seasoned ground turkey, grilled and garnished with a tasty cranberry mayo, served on a lightly toasted 12 grain bun and garnished with a slice of tomato, onion, pickle and lettuce. The turkey burger was dry which I know is something that is very hard to achieve as turkey is a dry meat because it is so lean. I wanted my mayo to actually be more like a chutney to make it feel like Thanksgiving on a bun. They did not mislead me about what I was getting, I just misinterpreted what cranberry mayo would be. I would have preferred if the onions were red instead of white. The sweet potato fries on the other hand were great and the chipotle mayo was creamy with a little kick to it.

If I had gone to enjoy the patio to have a few pitchers of beer and just enjoy the evening, I would have had a great time. But because I was starving and looking for a good meal and good service, it was a lack luster experience.

Save Hemingway’s for your patio experience, not dining experiences.

 

Doors Open

Every year on the last weekend in May, Toronto participates in Doors Open. Every year I don’t plan well enough and just wander aimlessly through the streets of Toronto but it is still good. This year I went with Theresa and although we didn’t plan anything, we saw some great Toronto sights and tasted some good food.

Our first stop was Casa Loma, followed by Spadina House.

Then we headed down to the water to Steam Whistle Brewery for beer, trains and lobster rolls by Rock Lobster Food Co.

Lobster rolls will always be good because they consist of lobster and mayo. However, as you can see, this roll has a slight excess of mayo which takes away from the rich, delicate nature of the lobster. They are less pricey than other lobster rolls though because the goal of this vendor is to bring lobster to the masses. For two lobster rolls it was around/a little more than $5 – not bad for lobster. They also serve fish tacos which is something I would want to hit up next time. These are good lobster rolls but not worth the line that often accompanies them at TUM.

After lobster rolls it was time for an aquatic adventure.

Another great weekend for Doors Open filled with history, food and of course, a sunburn.