Barque

Over the July long weekend, I went to Barque with GC and my sister Theresa. Theresa told us stories of her recent trip to Washington, D.C. and her role in the June provincial election and we ate and listened. I chose Barque because Theresa had never been and I knew it would more then make up for my recent experience at Wallace & Co.

My only complaint about this visit to Barque was that when we were seated, the hostess said that they needed the table in an hour. My response to her was that the success of that was predicated on their service and speed. An hour is more than enough time to enjoy brunch especially if the servers and kitchen are working well together. I have had a few issues with the hosts at Barque. They always give me attitude while seating me, as if I am an inconvenience because I want to eat there. I am willing to overlook these minor run-ins because the food is so delicious.

Theresa and I ordered the Smoked Duck Pancakes.

IMG_0846 IMG_0847 IMG_0848 IMG_0849The Smoked Duck Pancakes with blueberry compote and chèvre.

This is the dish on the cover of Toronto Life’s 2014 Eating and Drinking issue and therefore, there are huge expectations for the taste and presentation of this dish. When it was brought to the table, I was in awe: a huge stack of piping hot and fluffy pancakes topped with blueberry compote and a generous mess of duck dolloped with a thick, creamy scoop of chevre and then drizzled with syrup. Does it get much better than that? This is one of the more beautiful stacks of pancakes that I have been presented with and I’ll admit it is a daunting stack.

The pancakes were sweet, fluffy and held up to all the intense weight that was stacked on top of them. The blueberry compote was sugary, thick and dotted with fresh, real blueberries.

The duck. It was Theresa’s first taste of duck. I love being with people the first time they try a new food. To see that anticipation, excitement and look of satisfaction makes me so incredibly happy. I just want everyone to eat good food as much as possible and I love when I can facilitate that experience. The duck was tender, pull-apart and extremely juicy. It was smoky and added an intense, over-the-top (in a delicious way) richness to this stack. If you have never had duck, this is a great introduction to it. If you hate duck, this dish will change your mind about it. If you love duck, this dish will make you fall in love all over again.

I love, love, love chèvre. It is creamy, smooth, thick and salty. It is the perfect topping for blueberry pancakes. The chèvre was enough salty contrast to balance the entire dish and ensure that it was not cloyingly sweet. It also complimented the salty, fattiness of the duck. Yums.

GC ordered the McDowell’s Ribwich.

IMG_0845The McDowell’s Ribwich with roast garlic mayo, house relish, romaine, and green apple.

Does it get better than a Ribwich? I didn’t think so. Like our pancakes, this dish delivered in flavour, presentation and overall deliciousness. Another yums from Barque.

We already loved Barque and now Theresa does too! If you don’t have brunch plans this weekend, you should probably visit Barque. And if you are busy all weekend, rearrange your schedule, it’s worth the munch.

Happy munching!

Wallace & Co.

Oh, right! I’m supposed to write about the food I’ve been eating, not just continue to eat and cook and not tell you about it. Things have been a little hectic lately: work is all over the place, GC started a new position with new hours (yay!) and we have been crazy busy with hiking, camping and wedding planning. Because of all of these things, Taste Buddies has been ignored and you have no idea where I have been eating lately! Tragic, I know.

A few weeks ago we went to Wallace & Co. in the Junction. It wasn’t our first choice for brunch that morning (more on that failed attempt later) but we were able to grab a seat on the patio at a picnic table. The patio is open and airy with views of the street and the neighbouring houses. Be warned that some of the neighbours, while friendly, are not the most appetizing addition to your brunch. There was one house that had it’s occupants sitting outside, chain smoking and drinking at 10 o’clock in the morning. Given that these are the neighbours, it would be a smart idea to build a privacy fence along the back of the patio.

There were two servers that day: one with a lot of energy, a great attitude and who was actually interested in working and then there was our server. She was slow, inattentive, and bored with us and her job in general. We repeatedly had to ask for coffee refills. When our food was ready she didn’t bring us cutlery which we had to wait several minutes for as our food got cold.

I ordered the Breakfast Sandwich.

IMG_0820 IMG_0821The Breakfast Sandwich with a maple sausage patty, bacon, a fried egg, cheddar cheese and onion aioli.

This sandwich was tasty. It was rich, fatty and greasy, everything I like my breakfast to be. The sausage was sweet, with a rich maple taste. The bacon had beautiful, thick ribbons of fat, oozing flavour throughout the bacon and the sandwich. The cheese was thick and sharp. The egg was oozy, but not too runny, just slowly flowing over the other ingredients in the sandwich. The onion aioli added a slight spicy sweetness to the sandwich to round out the whole thing.

The homefries were too crispy and slightly burnt. This was the real low point of my dish. Overall I enjoyed my breakfast sandwich and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good sandwich to start their day.

GC order the All Day Breakfast.

IMG_0819The All Day Breakfast with two eggs, peameal bacon, potato, beans, tomato and toast.

GC was not into his breakfast. His peameal was rubbery, the potatoes were burnt, and the beans were watery. This meal left a bad taste in his mouth and he did not enjoy his experience there.

Between the alcoholic neighbours, bad service and GC’s breakfast we liked this place, didn’t love it and won’t be revisiting it. Sorry!

Happy munching!

Big Crow

You know those friends you haven’t seen in forever but when you finally meet up you pick up where you left off and it is the most natural thing? I had a dinner like that last week. Last week I met up with my friend Laura and we went from dinner at Big Crow.

Big Crow is by the same guys who do Rose & Sons, and for those of you who don’t remember, I did not enjoy my experience there. Despite this, I was eager to try Big Crow. I was intrigued by what they were doing there: a patio only restaurant, cooking up barbeque at the back of an existing restaurant.

When we arrived, we were quickly seated at a picnic table close to the smoker where we could watch all the action. The result of this was my hair smelling of bonfire by the end of the night which I did not mind. That is one of my favourite smells in the world. We started with a pitcher of Algonquin Iced Tea which is their spin on the classic Long Island Iced Tea. It has vodka, gin, tequila, rum, blackstrap bitters, and ginger beer. It was delicious.

Next, we had the All Beef Verscht.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset All Beef Verscht with apricot glaze and mustard.

This was basically Montreal smoke meat style barbeque so it was obviously delicious. The meat was smoky, fatty and charred nicely. The apricot glaze was sweet and thick, smothered over the meat and complimenting the richness of the meat. The mustard was spicy and grainy, a nice balance to the sweetness of the glaze.

Then, we ordered the JW Bird.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe JW Bird – Cornish hen with sour pickle brine and salsa verde.

DELICIOUS. This hen was so incredibly moist. It was juicy and tender. The skin was crispy and kept all the juicy goodness inside. There was a slight sourness from the brine but it did not overwhelm the bird and make you think of pickles. The salsa verde was fresh and light. It added a different type of crunch to the bird.

We ordered sides of Picnic Potato Salad and Mexican Broccoli Salad.IMG_0919The Picnic Potato Salad with buttermilk ranch dressing, eggs and asparagus.

This potato salad was good. The dressing was light and thin, but it was slathered on a bit too heavily. The potatoes and asparagus were tender and retained a slight bit of crunch. I don’t typically like egg in my potato salad but this egg was in small chunks throughout the salad, giving a bit of smoothness and thickness to the salad. And it would be easy enough to recreate at home! Yums.IMG_0922The Mexican Broccoli salad with pepitas, tomato and avocado.

Broccoli salad is so underrated! Barbeques are fraught with pasta, bean and potato salads but rarely does the broccoli salad make an appearance. This was delightful. It was fresh and with different flavours then what filled the rest of the menu. The pepitas, a Spanish word for pumpkin seeds, were nutty, crunchy and completely tasty. These should be sprinkled on everything. Again, this would be such an easy salad to recreate at home for your own barbeque.

And lastly, we finished off with the S’mores Ice Cream Sandwich.IMG_0923An ice cream sandwich on a brioche bun?! Heck, yes! The brioche was sweet, fluffy and airy. Due to the sheer size of the bun it overwhelmed the contents of the sandwich.The ice cream was slightly too cold to make biting into the sandwich enjoyable or easy. The graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow were not incorporated enough into the sandwich to make this truly a s’mores ice cream sandwich. The graham crackers should have been mixed in with the ice cream or sprinkled on top. The chocolate should be a piece of chocolate rather than chocolate sauce.

After tasting this, I plan to get a quart of Greg’s Ice Cream’s Roasted Marshmallow  ice cream and make my own version of a s’mores ice cream sandwich. Or maybe that will be my next ice cream venture – s’mores ice cream. Who’s in?

I loved my meal here. It was fresh, juicy and tasted like summer. I am looking forward to more visits to this back patio, especially when the days of summer are long behind us and our only connection to hot summer nights is food that brings back those memories.

Happy munching!

Bang Bang Ice Cream

There is a new addition to the Ossington Strip – Bang Bang Ice Cream. Bang Bang Ice Cream is brought to you by the people who are behind Bakerbots. It opened earlier this summer in May. Since it has opened, it has been busy and people can’t stop talking about it so we decided we needed to check it out.

We both ordered a half cookie each, at the price tag of $4.50 each. I got the RoCocoa Dark Sable cookie with Strawberry Ice Cream and GC ordered the Gingerrrrrr Spicy Chewy cookie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

IMG_0810Top: The Gingerrrrrr Spicy Chewy cookie with Barbados molasses and peppered tops.
Bottom: The RoCocoa Dark Sable cookie with cocoa brut, 70% callebaut chocolate, and maldon salt.

These were both delicious! As you can see, the ice cream to cookie ratio is generous and well worth the price. I don’t think I could eat a whole cookie by myself but I am definitely not ruling that out as these are so good! My cookie was rich and decadent. I loved how the chocolatey richness was offset by little salty granules. It was soft, moist and chewy, making it the perfect cookie for an ice cream sandwich. The strawberry ice cream is easily the best strawberry ice cream I have ever had. It tasted like fresh Ontario strawberries: sweet with hints of tartness throughout the luscious ice cream.

GC’s cookie was the best ginger cookie ever. It was soft, moist and perfectly spiced with ginger. There was no cloying sweetness from excessive molasses, just the perfect hints of sugar to balance the blend of spices. The vanilla ice cream was pure and simple, dotted with dainty dark vanilla beans. Yums.

We will definitely be going back. I am mad to try the birthday cake cookie, the avocado ice cream and the ice cream puffs! Happy munching!

 

Beast

A few weeks ago I went to Beast for brunch with Cynthia. We sat on the patio and drank premium roast coffee from Kenya. Beast’s menu features a rotating assortment of coffees chosen by the chef who is a coffee connoisseur. If you are a coffee drinker, come to Beast. Your coffee won’t be an overlooked part of your brunch menu. As someone who isn’t much of a coffee drinker it was nice to be given a specific type of coffee based on what type of coffee I can handle – light, medium or dark. Although I prefer a lighter roast coffee, I opted for the medium roasted coffee of the day since the other two choices featured pecans and peanuts.

Cynthia ordered the Beastwich. IMG_0768The Beastwich with a buttermilk biscuit, fried chicken thigh, pimento cheese, a fried egg, pork sausage gravy and house potatoes.

The chicken was crispy and juicy. The meal as a whole was very thick and heavy. This is standard for this type of breakfast, they typically sink like a brick in your stomach and you don’t need to eat until late afternoon. We both thought that something zesty or some greens on the side would have been nice for presentation and would have lighten the plate slightly. This dish is not for the faint of heart.

I ordered the Huevos Rancheros.

IMG_0766 IMG_0767The Huevos Rancheros with 2 crispy corn tortillas, Mexican-style chorizo, bean salad, avocado purée, tomato-red chile sauce, sheep’s milk feta and 2 sunny side up eggs served with house potatoes.

I will always be tempted by huevos rancheros when it is on a menu. Although this was good, it is not my favourite huevos rancheros – that I am crediting to the bite I had of Cynthia’s from SCHOOL. It wasn’t the best thing to order off the menu (despite the server’s suggestions) as it did not feature enough of Beast’s specialty: its meat.

The tortillas were very crunchy with an earthy corn taste. The avocado was smooth and silky, topped with an assortment of beans that were nutty and grainy, a lovely contrast in textures. I did not love the taste or texture of the chorizo. I prefer my chorizo to resemble the actual sausage, rather than it having a granular texture. It was mixed with too many vegetables to be appreciated. It did not have the amount of spice and heat that is necessary in a delicious chorizo sausage. If the chorizo sausage had been different, I would have enjoyed this dish as a whole even more. It was the low point for me. However, there was ample heat from the tomato-red chile sauce and I gave my dish a healthy sprinkling of the various hot sauces that were brought to the table. The eggs were runny and creamy, especially when they oozed into the fresh goat’s cheese. Yums.

This was tasty, but not my favourite “meat heavy” restaurant in Toronto. It was worth the visit and was made better by the company but it will not become a regular brunch spot for me.

Happy munching!

2014 – Halfway Through…

IMG_0745IMG_0552 IMG_0554 IMG_0565It’s July and we are halfway through the year. I don’t know where the year has gone and it feels like I haven’t accomplished as much as I would have liked. Here are the resolutions I set out for myself back in January:

Life resolutions.

  1. Knit more. I haven’t knit anything. The only time this year I have touched yarn is to make a wreath. When it is already winter it seems silly to start any projects and now that it is hot outside it seems ridiculous to knit. As we get into September, October I will start knitting. I swear. GC’s neck warmer still sits unraveled in a basket somewhere.
  2. Exercise more. Surprisingly enough, this is the one resolution I have been very successful with. I started Couch to 5K and I am currently on week 5 of the program. I have signed up for a run in September at the Toronto Zoo with GC and my friend Claire and I am very excited about it. This is the most active I’ve been in almost 10 years. Grade 9 gym is really the last time I was remotely physical and I use that term very loosely as my high mark in that class is attributed to the health portion of the class. I have been doing a series of ab work outs too: sit-ups, crunches, planks and leg lifts. All of these exercises have made our newest hobby, hiking, easier and much more enjoyable. We are slowly discovering all the trails and waterfalls in the area. In a few weeks, we will be going camping in Bon Echo Park. I am very physically different then I was at the start of the year and I love it.
  3. Read more. I suffered through Sense & Sensibility, trekked through Orenda and now I’m reading something a little lighter, The Phantom Tollbooth. My reading this year hasn’t been great but with the warm weather comes more reading outside on my lunch hour. If you have some book suggestions, please let me know!
  4. Write more. Looking through my old posts it would appear that I have been writing more. I have been including the fun parts of my life (i.e. wedding plan, hiking and city adventures) and writing more generally about food rather then just what I eat. In the immediate future, I have a few posts inspired by summer and I’m already looking forward to the numerous posts related the wedding and our honeymoon. Hopefully you are too!

Food resolutions.

  1. Bake more. I have been baking slightly more. Now that is summer I plan to make tarts and pies on a regular basis and the people who are closest to me will benefit from this.
  2. Use cookbooks more. Most of my cookbooks are still collecting dust on my shelf and have new neighbours… I am going to have to go on a cookbook cooking spree in the second half of the year.
  3. Host more. I have mostly been hosting family but as summer goes on, I hope to have people over more regularly for barbeques, sangria and pops. We are currently debating the idea of hosting our rehearsal dinner in the backyard but keep flipping back and forth due to the fact that October doesn’t always have the nicest weather. And with the wedding comes wedding china and I will be looking for excuses to use that as we approach the holidays at the end of the year.
  4. Try more. So far this year I have tried Cuban food, modern cocktails, proper afternoon tea, blood pudding, kale chips and a Scotch egg. I hope to try some interesting meats (summer is the perfect time to try emu and kangeroo in the form of burgers), infusing my own alcohols and all the delicious foods of Spain and Portugal when we are on our honeymoon.
  5. Read more. Again, I haven’t been reading. I have started reading Food & Drink for the articles and that’s as far as I’ve gotten.
  6. Master more. I have my burger recipe down. I learned how to make Ninni’s pasta sauce this past week. I can make a mean big batch cocktail. I can whip you up a feast for beakfast in bed. And I can make a pie crust comparable to my mom’s. As the summer goes on I want to master the following things: ice cream, jam (even if it is just freezer jam) and the mint julep.

Reviewing your goals and resolutions halfway through the year is a great way to refocus and reflect on how much you really have achieved. My cooking, baking and exercising are on track to where I want them to be and I just have to shift some of my efforts on reading and knitting. I think I can do that. Take time to remember what you set out to achieve this year and remember, you are only halfway through.

Happy munching!

Father’s Day

This year we celebrated Father’s Day with two barbeques: Saturday was spent with GC’s parents and Ninni in our backyard  and Sunday was spent with my family.

Saturday’s menu featured my classic burgers, potato salad and of course, a strawberry rhubarb pie. My burger recipe is simple but delicious. I use ground beef (lean), breadcrumbs, garlic powder, dried onion, oregano, and parsley. My latest change to my recipe is barbeque sauce. The barbeque sauce keeps the burgers moist without making them puff up like an egg will do but still binds the meat together so that they do not fall apart on the grill.

Prior to Father’s Day weekend, I didn’t have a go to potato salad recipe, but now I do. I tried this Yogurt and Dill Potato Salad from The Yummy Life and it is ah-mazing. The combination of mayo and yogurt is light and sweet, making you feel slightly less terrible for eating potato salad. The combination of dill, parsley (fresh from our back garden!), green onion and celery is fresh, summery and light. Make it the night before a big barbeque and enjoy!

GC’s dad’s favourite pie is rhubarb. I am lucky enough that his birthday falls in May and Father’s Day falls in June, prime rhubarb season. Every year I try a new rhubarb recipe and every year his dad loves it. This year, I tried Martha Stewart’s Rhubarb Crumble Pie. IMG_0706 IMG_0716

My crust turned out wonderfully! It was light, flaky and super buttery. The rhubarb was sweet and tart, tender and oozy. The crumble topping was delicious and could have been eaten on its own. Does it get much better then brown sugar, butter and flour? Obviously not. There was a piece left for my mom the next day and it passed her pie taste test so I think my skills as a pie maker are improving!

Sunday we had my sisters and my parents over for Barbeque Part II in the backyard to celebrate JDL. There was bocce, croquet and of course, food. I made Carolina Pulled Pork sandwiches, Yogurt and Dill Potato Salad, Southwestern Black Bean Salad, Pineapple Pink Lemonade Punch and Chocolate Cream Pie.

The Carolina Pulled Pork is one of the easiest things you will ever make! You quickly sear the pork roast on the stove and then pop it in the slow cooker for hours and then impress everyone with your Southern barbeque abilities. It is topped with a creamy, tart coleslaw that is also easy to make. You could be insane and shred all your cabbage yourself or you could just buy your bag of coleslaw mix. The cabbage is topped with a simple dressing. It is not too drenched in mayo, just the right amount. Theresa liked this sandwich so much that she said this sandwich has ruined restaurant pulled pork for her. Sorry!

The Southwestern Black Bean salad is great! It is easy because it is essentially chopping, can opening and stirring. There are so many great textures, colours and flavours to this salad. The avocado is the best part and because of the citrus dressing it doesn’t turn brown and rotten looking. This bean salad was a hit at my barbeque.

Having a large group of people over is a great opportunity to try out a new cocktail or punch. For Father’s Day I made Pineapple Pink Lemonade Party Punch. Literally pour all the ingredients into the pitcher, stir and serve over ice. Oh, and maybe add some rum. I will be keeping my fridge stocked off all these ingredients all summer long.

For dessert we had my favourite s’mores cookie bars and Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Cream Pie. I wasn’t thrilled with how the pie turned out. I omitted the gelatin because it should have firmed up on its own but it didn’t. The slices didn’t come out of the pie dish nicely and it was very messy. It was delicious because it was chocolate custard topped with whipped cream but the presentation wasn’t the greatest. I would not make this recipe again.

Overall, our Father’s Days were a hit! All the above recipes are perfect for any barbeque so you have all summer to try them out! Happy munching!

 

Canada Day 2014

Oh, Canada! Here is a round up of delicious Canadian-inspired cookies and other treats!

DSC_0220-300x300 Sugar cookies byBrant Cookies.Kodomo Cookies I Kodomo Cookies IIKodomo Cookies IIISugar cookies by by Kodomo Cookies.

Beaver CupcakesBeaver cupcakes from Canadian Living.

Sweet Treats N Healthy EatsSugar cookies by Sweet Treats ‘n Healthy Eats.

maple-bacon-cupcakes-plainMaple bacon cupcakes by Make Fabulous Cakes.

Buffet-decor-image

Red and white tablescape from Savvy Mom.decorations3-canadaParty buffet table from Luxury Homes.party-idea-of-the-month-stylish-canada-day-party-0Canada Day outdoor barbeque from HGTV.