The Burger’s Priest

On Friday GC and I went to The Burger’s Priest for lunch.

We went to the second location, which is at Yonge and Lawrence. We had tried to go the the original location on Queen St East months ago, but as it was Sunday, it was closed. We tried to go again, early this past week, and it was crazy busy and we didn’t have any cash on us (they do have an ATM in the restaurant but we didn’t realize that). I knew I was going to have an issue with The Burger’s Priest. I had a feeling it was going to be like The Grilled Cheese – we had tried to go so many times and when we finally did go we were underwhelmed. Unfortunately, this happened again.

If you love The Burger’s Priest and hate me right now, you should stop reading. Or continue so you can refute every point I make. It’s your choice. Please just don’t rage at me.

Let’s start with some of the things I actually liked about The Burger’s Priest.

1. I liked the aesthetics of the place.

I liked the painted brick wall, the Bible quote with a reference to Nebuchadnezzer, and that the menu boards were clearly formerly from a church to display hymns numbers. Sleek, modern, with a hint of old world religion. This was well done.

The vibe was also great. The clientele was a mix of young and old, families, couples and work friends. The staff clearly liked each other and was busting out renditions of “We Are the Champions” and Motown hits. I wanted to work here and I never want to work in food service.

2. I liked the French fries. This pretty much never happens as I don’t like French fries really. They were lightly salted and crispy. Some of them were slightly soggy but I got over that.

And that’s it. I’m sorry. And you will see I only had two major beefs with this place (and yes, that pun was intended) but since my major beef was with the burger I think that out weighs the good.

And here’s what I didn’t like:

1. I didn’t like the menu didn’t contain any descriptions of the actual burgers. I’m sure the staff is knowledgeable and would have perfectly explained each burger but I should be able to have the choice of reading a proper menu in order to not waste someone’s time.

2. GC and I both The Cheeseburger with all the toppings.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a tasty burger. It is not my favourite burger in Toronto and it is not a burger I would say, “You have to go out of your way to try this.” If I was in the neighbourhood and craving a burger, yes, I would eat it again. That being said, I think this burger is going for the pure, beef simplicity often associated with Mom and Pop diners but it is falling short. The meat is not good enough quality to stand alone without much flavouring. The crispy outside is too crispy for the lack of juiciness that it should be protecting. The patty isn’t thick enough to stand up to the bun and this many toppings.

If you are looking for a burger with this kind of feel, or if you love The Burger’s Priest and want to try other burgers like this, then definitely check out Holy Chuck. I think it is more successful attempt at creating an old school diner burger.

I think The Burger’s Priest was too built up for me to completely enjoy it. I’m sorry but happy munching!

Homemade Popsicles

My latest summer treat is homemade popsicles. They are sweet, simple to make and don’t require me turning on my oven – perfect for summer. I’ve been using one book for my popsicle recipes, People’s Pops: 55 Recipes for Ice Pops, Shave Ice, and Boozy Pops from Brooklyn’s Coolest Pop Shop. People’s Pops started as a pop-up food vendor in Brooklyn and eventually expended into a store, supplier and even an author of a cookbook. Their recipes are simple, playful, and pair unique ingredients to create brilliant flavour combinations. It also features boozy pops. The cookbook is divided by seasons, and then further into early, mid and late of each of those seasons allowing for the freshest, most in season fruits and vegetables to be used. If you are thinking making popsicles and you are looking for ideas and flavours, definitely pick up this book. I also have Perfect Pops but I don’t find the recipes as unique.

I have made two recipes so far, Cucumber Watermelon Pops and Raspberry Basil Pops

1. The CW pops were cool and refreshing, with the perfect contrast between sweet and a slight tartness. This recipe is also a great way to use up watermelon. As a couple or as a single person, it is hard to eat an entire watermelon over the course of only a few days but this recipe is a solution to that problem.

2. The Raspberry Basil pops were unreal. I have been feeling this combination of berries and savoury this summer and GC’s grandmother’s garden was just calling me to me. The aroma from the basil as it was freshly picked was completely consuming. The basil infuses the simple syrup and adds a warm and peppery note to the pops. I think for aesthetic purposes it would look nice to add roughly chopped basil to the pops, for a splash of contrasting but complimentary colour.

Check out the recipes below and happy munching! Or licking, however you prefer to eat your popsicles!

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Summer Memory – National Post

The National Post is doing a series this summer called Gastropost. Each week, they create a mission and foodies can participate by completing the mission and doing a write up about their food adventure. I was told about this when the program first started but I didn’t really get into it until this week. I submitted my first write up to the National Post and I’m in today’s paper! They only use a line or two from each person’s submission but the full post can be found online and, more importantly, I now have a National Post cartoon.

Next week’s assignment is all around the patio. If you have a patio suggestion or you want to come over for a BBQ, let me know and you can be the inspiration for my writing!

In case you are feeling lazy, I have included my post below.

When I was about 4 or 5 and we would go up to my grandparents’ cottage. The drive seemed to take hours and hours and it was forbidden to ask for food or drink along the way. In reality the drive took less than 2 hours and the family minivan was loaded with enough treats and snacks to quiet 4 children. After endless “Are we there yet’s,” we would wind down the long driveway, entering further and further into the wilderness. Surrounding the driveway were dozens of raspberry bushes, growing wild and crowding the edges of the driveway. These raspberries replaced meals, being tiny morsels of refreshing sweetness. At the cottage, raspberries were enjoyed in their purest form, picked fresh off the bush and popped instantly into your mouth.

There is nothing comparable to raspberries picked off the bush while being eaten alive by black flies. This is an experience I long for all winter and results in me purchasing at least 4 bushels of raspberries every time I visit the grocery store. This begins to be a problem and I find myself forcing raspberries into every dish. My latest tribute to my favourite fruit of summer is Raspberry Basil Popsicles. The popsicles have three ingredients: raspberry, basil and simple syrup. Fresh, grown up pairings with a hint of nostalgia – the perfect summer treat.

Christopher Boffoli

Christopher Boffoli is a photographer who has a new series called “Big Appetites” which is currently showing in London.

You should check out his website. His photographs are whimsical and charming and his comments add witticism to his collection.

Boffoli’s work will be making an appearance in Toronto in October at the Marcia Rafelman Fine Arts Gallery and The Toronto International Art Fair. Mark it in your calendar!

Taco Takedown

On Friday night, GC and I headed down to the waterfront for a stroll and Harbourfront Centre’s Hot & Spicy festival.

Toronto’s waterfront is beautiful but I feel like people underutilized and appreciate it. I often forget that you can go and stroll by the harbour, have a bite to eat, go on a boat cruise and sit in the sun on the beach. This is pretty bad for someone who worked down by the water for a summer. I am going to try and make a more concerted effort to go by the water – a little late in the summer but better late than never.

After walking along the boardwalk we stopped in Bar Milano for a drink. Bar Milano has a large patio, half of which is covered and half of which is left open for smoking and sunning. The patio looks out onto the harbour and has a great view of the boardwalk and the ships that are docked there – perfect for people watching. I ordered a pint of Keith’s and GC ordered a fancy cocktail, with a fancy Italian name. Unfortunately, Bar Milano does not have a website/menu available online so the picture will have to suffice as enticement.

It was a gin based cocktail with a kick of citrus and garnished with a playful, orange peel curlicue.

After our drinks we headed over to the Hot ‘N Spicy festival and quickly got in line because it was already 100 people deep. We waited in line for an hour and when we were about 10 people away from paying, we were told one of the six vendors had sold out of tacos. When we were about 5 people away from paying, we were told that they only had food for 80 people. They sold out of tacos in an hour and a half and apparently there were over 600 people in attendance. That is a lot of taco lovers!

The way the event worked was you pay $8 for 6 tacos – one from each vendor. You are given a score card in which you will judge Best Overall Taco, Most Original Taco and Most Authentic Taco.The tacos are colour-coded by toothpicks which corespond with the score card. My ridiculous self would have liked the vendors tobe in the order they were on the score card but I think that would have been a ridiculous level of organization that cannot be expect of anyone/any organization.

By the time we got our tacos Sang Kim had sold out of the Pan Fried Pork and Kimichi Taco. We couldn’t try Aaron Foster’s Thai Pork Taco because it was covered in peanuts. 4 tacos for 8 bucks is still not a bad deal.

I had the willpower to wait until I had all my tacos unlike someone…

Red toothpick – Luiz Valenzuela’s Taco Surtido. The sauce was creamy and slathered all over the taco. The toothpick was key in making sure the insides did not end up all over you. The onions added a nice, subtle heat and crunch to the taco. There flavours were welll-balanced and this was the biggest taco of the night.

Yellow toothpick -Matt Basile’s North South Taco. The arancini ball was slightly lost in this taco and the pulled pork was too saucy. The pork was tender but overpowered the entire taco.

Purple toothpick – Peter Minaki & Paula Costa’s Piri Piri Chicken Gyro Taco. This was my favourite taco of the evening. The chicken was crunchy and the slaw was fresh, light and crispy. There was some major heat with this taco – it was the spiciest taco there.

Green tootpick – Vanessa Yeung’s Coffee & Tamarind Lamb Taco. This taco had the most depth of flavour. There was the nuttiness of the sesame seeds, the crunch of the slaw, and the tender-fall apart lamb which had a deep, roasted flavour. This taco pulled together the flavours of Mexico, India and Japan. A perfect, unique tribute to the complex flavours of Toronto.

And the crowds voted the following:

Best Overall: Purple toothpick – Paula Costa & Peter Minaki
Most Original: Green toothpick – Vanessa Yeung
Most Authentic: Red toothpick – Luis Valenzuela

I completely agree with these votes and it seems like I didn’t miss much by not trying the blue and orange toothpicked tacos.

This festival had something for everyone – live music, free food tastings, cooking demos, and all with a beautiful view of the Toronto skyline and the inner harbour. It is clear why this festival has been happening for 15 years and if you missed it this year, you should make a point of attending it next year. But why wait until next year! There are tons of festival opportunities every weekend until October!

Happy munching and happy festivaling!

Caplansky’s

For dinner on Wednesday night, I introduced Amelia to Caplansky’s.

Amelia lives in London and unfortunately, London is London. This is not to insult London or any of the restaurants, vendors or foodies in that city, but it does not compare to Toronto. I have a long list of restaurants I want to introduce Amelia to and we started with Caplansky’s because it has smoked meat. And who doesn’t love smoked meat?

We started off with an order of their Deep Fried pickles.

Deep fried pickles with cool dill sauce. How can these not be good? They are pickles, that are battered and deep fried and then you dip them in dill sauce to make them even more pickly good. There was 6 or 7 deep fried pickles and they were whole pickles, not just spears. The pickles were acidic, crispy and fresh – clearly pickled, in-house. The only problem with deep fried pickles, and this is a problem with all deep fried pickles, is the batter doesn’t stick to the pickles overly well and the pickles become scaldingly hot. Still eat them but proceed with caution!

Amelia ordered the Famous Fresser Hot Smoked Meat Sandwich. I didn’t photograph it because a) she was hungry and b) GC ordered this sandwich the first time we visited Caplansky’s. She did like it and it was big enough that she got to take half of it home.

I ordered the Mac and Cheese – bowtie noodles, sharp Cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan with smoked meat. Ok. I keep having this dilemma where every time I eat a mac & cheese I’m convinced I have a new favourite. But legitimately, I think this is my new favourite mac & cheese in Toronto. Despite having three types of cheese and smoked meat it was not remotely salty. It was smoky, creamy and cheesy. This was a bowl of home style comfort. This is my official selection of favourite mac & cheese in Toronto.

Caplansky’s is always a solid choice when on College Street and it’s always worth  the drive/subway/street car ride to get there.

Happy munching!

 

Stockyards Brunch

Today for brunch GC and I went to Stockyards.

Deciding where to go for breakfast/lunch/brunch was a challenge today. I had to be downtown by 12:30 to meet up with some friends for a Blue Jays game and we didn’t want to go to the old standard places. We looked to Toronto Life and BlogTO for brunch suggestions but the problem with that was it seems like a large number of the suggestions are in Roncesvalles or Leslieville. This is a problem for us because we don’t live anywhere near all these delicious places in these emerging neighbourhoods. Eventually we decided on an old standard which is en route to downtown – Stockyards.

GC ordered the Biscuits with Sausage Gravy.

House baked buttermilk biscuits, smothered with house sage sausage black pepper pan gravy and soft scrambled eggs. I didn’t get a picture of the sausage gravy – it came in a separate container and to be honest, looked slightly disgusting. The scrambled eggs were like how I make my scrambled eggs – creamy and not overdone, with a touch of herbs. The biscuit was light, airy and full of pockets of butter. I would like to eat about 6 of these biscuits in a row. The sausage gravy. Why is this a thing? And by why is this thing I mean I am glad that this is a thing. Huge pieces of sausage and the gravy was thick, so thick that it was almost not even a gravy.

I ordered the Fried Chicken and Waffles.

Fried chicken over Belgian waffles with chili maple molasses citrus glaze. O. My. God. Stockyards found a way to make their amazing fried chicken even better. I don’t know how I didn’t know about fried chicken and waffles. My first introduction to the concept of chicken and waffle was when I watched Kate Winslet’s Mildred Pierce. I thought the idea was so strange and I couldn’t understand how this was even a thing. But strangely enough, today when I was looking at the menu I just had to order it. And thank god I did. This is one of the best things I have ever eaten. The chicken was sweet, salty and crispy. The waffles had herbs in them which made them more savoury than sweet. I think these waffles would be great with sour cream. The molasses tied the entire meal together. It was sweet but not overpowering, the chili added a subtle spice to the dish and everything was fresh and citrus. There was rosemary sprinkled on top of everything.

We got our food as take out and we ate at the picnic tables at Wychwood Barns. A perfect Sunday brunch.

Summerlicious Part I: Sassafraz

Today GC and I went to our first Summerlicious location, Sassafraz, in Yorkville.

The yellow house on the corner. Sassafraz is so welcoming from the street with its yellow walls and striped awnings. I sit outside Sassafraz every afternoon at work and I’m always jealous of all the people sitting on the patio and going into the restaurant. Today I was one of those people.

The inside is light and airy with a water feature and a living plant wall on the back wall. It feels very French with its muted colours, plush arm chairs and simplistic decor.

We started off with the Vichyssoise with lobster and truffle essence.

A vichyssoise is a chilled potato and leek soup. It can be served warm but traditionally, and properly it is served chilled. This was both of our first tastes of vichyssoise and it was delicious. It was thick and creamy, with the perfect hint of onion. The lobster was delicate, buttery and absorbed the flavours of the soup but still maintained its lobster flavour. The truffle essence was subtle, nutty and woody without overpowering the entire dish. My only complaint with this dish was the fact that I only had one piece of lobster.

GC had the Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Garlic Sweet Potato Mash, Asparagus and Sweet Apple Cider Glaze.

The pork was tender and juicy. The asparagus was crunchy, yet thoroughly cooked. The sweet potato mash – unreal. It tasted like Thanksgiving on a plate and I don’t ever want to eat regular mashed potatoes again. They were sweet, salty, with a touch of garlic and a hint of maple. I could have eaten an entire plate of these potatoes. This was the response from only two bites of these potatoes.

I had the Grilled Atlantic Salmon with Lemon Caper Orzo, Green Beans and Blood Orange Emulsion.

The salmon fell apart at the touch of a fork. It was perfectly grilled and a gorgeous pink, fleshy colour. The green beans had a hint of citrus to them and were both crunchy and tender. The orzo. Oh dear. The orzo was my favourite part. Orzo is one of my favourite pastas and I really should buy it more often. I love that you can eat it hot, warm or cold. This orzo was al dente with the strongest touch of citrus. It tasted like biting into a lemon without the sour face. The capers were overpowered by the citrus quality of the pasta but that’s ok – they may have added too much saltiness to a well balanced and seasoned meal.

To finish off his meal, GC had the Banana Cream Tart, Toasted Coconut Mousse and Mango Sherbet.

As a person who makes desserts often, I forget the many uses of bananas. Whenever there are rotting bananas on my counter they go into my freezer for banana bread BUT NOW there is the possibility of making banana tarts. This was creamy, sweet and a beautiful blend of tropical flavours. It tasted like a pina colada in a dessert. The mango sherbet was an odd choice but it was to round out the tropical palate of flavours.

I finished my meal with the Gotham City Cheese, exclusive to Sassafraz, served with flatbread and assorted dried fruit. The cheese is made by Afrim Pristine of Cheese Boutique.

I love cheese plate as dessert. It is one of my favourite things. This cheese was creamy and smoky like a gouda but had a strong flavour akin to a bleu cheese. This is a very good cheese. I would like it on crackers, on bread, in salad and on most things. I don’t like dried apricots , they are too fleshy and brittle. The dried prunes on the other hand were great. They were like sweeter, larger raisins. The flatbread was salty and earthy, the right compliment for such a creamy, strong cheese.

Sassafraz is a Toronto institution. It is a favourite of celebrities during TIFF and a go-to for Toronto’s business elite. The menu is nothing new or revolutionary but it is classic, French cuisine done perfectly. Everything we ate was perfectly cooked, seasoned and plated.

Summerlicious continues until July 22nd and I would highly recommend visiting this restaurant.

Happy classy munching.