Front Street Food

Last summer Front Street Foods launched outside of Union Station. It was a giant food market with various vendors that served all the tastes of Toronto conveniently in the Financial District. But it was not so convenient for me who spent part of last summer in exile at Eglinton and Mount Pleasant *shudder* and the remainder of the summer at Yonge and Bloor. I was so excited to hear that the market was back this summer but in a new location: a courtyard at Adelaide and York. Last week Giancarlo and I had a lunch date and went over to the market to check it out.

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The market is not in the greatest spot and you won’t randomly stumble across. It is up a flight of stairs and tucked in between two office towers and a hotel. But once you arrive at the market, healing it is like stepping into a city oasis. You are greeted with a large sign encouraging you to eat in large marquee letters. There are dozens of picnic tables, high tables for standing and trees to provide ample shade. We did a quick circle around the market and decided on two options: Hot Bunzz Street Cuisine and Fish’d by Edo.

IMG_6678We ordered the Seoul City Beef Short Rib and the Texas BBQ Pulled Pork bun from Hot Bunzz Street Cuisine.

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Left: The Seoul City Beef Short Rib bun with slow braised beef short rib Kobi style with caramelized onion; topped with kimchi puree, sesame soy sauce and garlic aioli.

Right: The Texas BBQ Pulled Pork bun with pulled slow roasted pork with caramelized onion, herbs and spices; topped with chef’s Pork BBQ sauce and coleslaw aioli.

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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!

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.

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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.

Summer 2014

We are officially into summer 2014. The days are longer, hotter and spent outside. With the intense humidity, warm air and stickiness I try to keep it simple and basic. Here are my top three inspirations for summer 2014.

Summer Inspiration1. Picnics – Photo Credit: Your Intrinstic Beauty – when in doubt, eat outside. This is going to be my mantra this summer. I will be taking to parks, backyards and curbs munching on foods thoughtfully prepared at home. A picnic doesn’t require a basket or a gingham blanket, just some good food shared with even better company. Hiking, beaching, and parking (meaning to sit in a park not to sit in a stationary car) are just some of the places you will find me this summer with good food. What picnics am I most looking forward to? I still owe a friend a birthday picnic and I plan to indulge in some appetizers and cocktails at one of Toronto’s many outdoor films this summer.

2. Barbeques – Photo Credit: Abu Dhabi Confidential – Why turn on your stove, let alone your oven to cook in the summer? Whether it is propane, charcoal or gas, food just tastes better from the barbeque. Hot dogs, burgers and steaks are the favourites of my grill but this year, I have more ambitious plans. I want to use my barbeque as a smoker, an oven to bake something sweet, a grill for sweet pineapple and peaches and of course, the way to cook epic amounts of August sweet corn. Yummms.

3. Popsicles and Iced Treats – Photo Credit: Endless Simmer – There is no better way to cool down on a hot, sticky summer day than enjoying a cold, iced treat. Ok, maybe a beer is the best way to cool down but I don’t plan to get in brewing. Yet. I plan to keep my freezer stocked with homemade popsicles and to venture into the land of sinful booze pops. If that wasn’t enough to cool me off, I want to FINALLY (yes, I’ve said that before) use my ice cream maker and this might just be the recipe to try. And if I have homemade ice cream in the house why not making my own cookies and have ice cream sandwiches?

What are you inspirations for summer 2014? Happy munching!

Father’s Day

Here are my thoughts on Dad-worthy food and drink for this year’s Father’s Day.

1. Beer.

BeerWhat Dad doesn’t love beer? We all have a memory from early childhood of taking a sip of Dad’s beer and making a sour face, wondering how he could drink something so rank and bitter. As we grow up, sharing a beer with Dad is almost a right of passage. For Father’s Day why not treat Dad to some craft beer? Venture beyond the original craft beers of Steamwhistle, and Mill St. Organic and give him a taste of Junction Craft Brewing, Indie Ale House or Bellwoods Brewery. Better yet, why not take Dad out for an afternoon of tasting and do a brewery tour? In Toronto there are tons of tours available (Steamwhistle, Mill St. Organic, Amsterdam, Junction Brewery, The Granite Brewery, Great Lakes Brewery, to name a few) or if a roadtrip is in order, drive up to Creemore.

And every beer should be placed on a coaster. Learn about beer while drinking about beer with these coasters from Pop Chart Lab.

2.  Booze.

BoozeIf Dad likes a stiff drink, try a Canadian distilled liquor. If gin is his booze of choice, try a bottle of Dillon’s. Dillon’s is a relatively new distillery in Niagara, established in 2012, and is currently blowing up on the cocktail scene in Toronto. Pour Dad a G&T and impress him with the local flavours of the Niagara region.

If Dad enjoys flavours from south of the border (or south of two borders) try Tromba. Another liquor that is popular on the Toronto-cocktail scene. It is not like your typical tequila – it is smooth and sweet, with hints of earthy, nuttiness. It tastes great alone or mixed in a margarita.

And of course, there is always whisky. Instead of getting an expensive bottle of whisky you can’t afford, get Dad whisky rocks instead. They will keep his drink chilled without watering it down. They come in soapstone and steel. If your dad is more outdoorsy and in touch with nature, soapstone will emobdy this. Choose steel for the more modern, sleek father.

3. The Grill.

Barbecues and dads have been associated with each other since the 1950s. The outdoors, fire and the smell of charred meat conjur stereotypical images of masculinity and cave men. This year, get Dad something different to top his burgers and steaks.

American on White

Kozlik’s Mustards makes over 30 varieties of mustard which should be more than enough selection to satisfy all your burger, sausage, pretzel and peameal needs.

Davids-Ultimate-GrillDavid’s Condiments creates a ton of different spices, rubs and marinades that are all low sodium, no salt and no preservatives! You can give Dad great seasonings and help him be a little healthier. David’s Condiments are available online but are also available at your local Metro.

And of course, every grillmaster needs a ridiculous apron. My choice for this year’s Father’s Day is from Think Geek.

11cd_tactical_bbq_apron_callouts_flat Keep it simple for Father’s Day. Take an interest of your dad’s and put a new spin on it. Introduce him to a new beer (or booze or wine!), a new flavour or a new place. This year, my dad is getting an afternoon in my backyard with pulled pork sandwiches, beer and bocce.

Happy Father’s Day!

Barque

Happy birthday to my favourite person in the entire world, GC!!! Well, technically his birthday was July 3rd and we did celebrate that day, I am just operating on a bit of a delay. On the suggestion of a coworker we decided to check out Barque Smokehouse for the birthday dinner.

We were seated on the patio – a cute little patio, off the side of the restaurant with twinkling lights. It was cozy and felt like someone’s backyard patio. When we were seated at the table we were greated by Barque’s signature popcorn – yums!

We ordered cocktails – GC ordered the Bourbon Smoked Sour (not pictured) and I ordered the Barque Caesar:

IMG_4068The Barque Caesar with vodka, Clamato, seasoned with pepper, Tabasco, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce, garnished with pickled asparagus and a slice of lime, and rimmed with smoked and candied bacon. This may be the best Caesar I have had. It was spicy, and thick, it tasted like a cocktail rather than tomato soup. It was garnished beautifully and it wasn’t ridiculous looking (unlike another Caesar I will be featuring on the blog shortly). The smoked and candied bacon was the perfect hint of savoury, fatty, sweetness to round out the flavour palate of this drink. I highly recommend it if you are a Caesar lover.

We started with an order of Smoked Chipotle Wings.

IMG_4062This wings were delicious. They were slightly small but when thinking about meat this should be viewed as reassuring rather than disappointing. It means that your meat is coming from chickens that are not on steriods and other growth horomones. The meat was juicy, tender and perfectly cooked. The sauce was SPICY. We made the rookie move of assuming that because we love chipotle mayo and the Mexican restuarant “Chipotle” we can therefore handle this heat. We cannot but they were still delicious.

Next we ordered the Barque Sampler for two. Barque Sampler for 2

Barque

The Barque Sampler for Two with Meat: Beef Brisket, 2 Beef Rib, and 2 Competition Chicken Thighs and Sides: Fries, Cuban Corn, and Fennel Slaw.

The meats were better than the sides and I am totally ok with that. The beef brisket was tender, and had a rich, deep smoky flavour. The ribs had this amazing rub on them, that combined a wide range of flavours from coffee to cinnamon. The table beside us also ordered the ribs and asked their server what the blend of spices in the rub was. The server was unable to give away all the spices but brought out a small container of rub for them! The chicken thighs were tender, smoky and had a delicious sweetness from the sauce. There is the disclaimer on the menu that because the meats are smoked they will not come to you piping hot but warm. Eating this meal in the summer is perfect: it is substantial and filling but you won’t get hot and uncomfortable while eating your dinner (or is this just a problem that I have?).

The fries had a spice on them that was similar to the popcorn spice which made the fries sweet rather than salty – neither GC or I appreciated this. Fries are best when they are enjoyed in all their salty glory. The Cuban corn was sweet, had a hint of spice but was too cold to really enjoy. The kernels had done that awful thing where they start to shrivel once cool and all the juiciness from the corn disappears. The fennel slaw was my favourite part – tart and acidic with a fresh and citrus quality from the fruit. This is the prefect salad for summer.

I would have loved to be able to eat dessert but alas, there was no room. We later went home and enjoyed homemade mini twix cheesecakes (previously featured here)!

Barque was my first really introduction to this neighbourhood and I love it. It feels like a less busy and more mature Annex. We will definitely be going back to sample the endless options combined in the sample platters.

Happy munching!

Big Bone BBQ

After my day of appointments and The Goulash House, GC came to Newmarket and my dad took us out for dinner at Big Bone BBQ.

Whenever I watch shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives I think that there aren’t as many hole-in-the-wall places in Canada as there are in the US. The show, You’ve Gotta Eat Here, is slowly showing us that these places do exist here and even Triple D has been filming in Canada. Big Bone BBQ is one of these types of places and it’s conventiently located in my hometown! Located in a plaza on Eagle Street, if you didn’t know this restaurant existed, you would drive right past it. Dad discovered this place after seeing an ad in the local paper and had been the week before with Mom. A couple of former co-workers swore by this place but we had just never gotten around to trying it so when Dad suggested going here for dinner I jumped at the chance.

The restaurant was started by two guys from the US who wanted to bring real BBQ to Canada and now they have 4 or 5 locations in the GTA. It is a small restaurant, seating about 25-30 people with an option for take out. The walls are plastered with posters of BBQ competitions and accolades for this restaurant, including write-ups from Toronto Life. The decor is simple, allowing the classic BBQ to stand front and centre. There are several trophies all topped with pigs throughout the restaurant, assuring you that the food you are going to enjoy is prize worthy and legendary.

Dad started off with the Potato and Bacon Soup.

IMG_3108This soup was thick, creamy, salty and finished off perfectly with a piece of dense, sweet cornbread. I definitely want to try this soup at some point but I wanted to have my tastebuds ready for delicious barbeque.

For dinner, Dad and GC both ordered the Mini Combo and I ordered the Pulled Pork.

Big Bone BBQThe Mini Combo – Top row and bottom right – 3 bones of ribs, 1/2 lb of wings, fries, coleslaw and cornbread. Dad ordered the Honey Mustard Wings and GC ordered dry rub wings but we can’t remember… this is why you write about food shortly after you eat it rather than 3 weeks later…

The Pulled Pork Combo – Bottom left – 1 lb of pulled pork with all the fixings.

The ribs were juicy, fall-off-the-bone and smothered in delicious, sweet BBQ sauce. It says you get 3 bones of wing but both Dad and GC got 4 bones! The wings were not overly meaty but enough to not make you feel ripped off. The 1/2 lb of wings worked out to be 6 wings which is a good amount. These are not my favourite wings but they are definitely close to it!

As I have said previously, I don’t like cornbread. There is something about the texture of cornmeal that is gritty and bitter that I don’t find appealing. However, this cornbread was amazing – the best I’ve had. It was sweet, smooth and moist. I could eat a whole loaf on its own.

The coleslaw was creamy, but had a slight tang to it. It was crunchy and with a perfect balance of cabbage, lettuce and shredded carrots. It was very traditional coleslaw but it was perfectly done.

The pulled pork. I don`t know why I thought I could eat a pound of pulled pork… Well, I did so maybe that`s why I thought I could do it but it was slightly excessive. I would have liked more bread to eat with the pork but on its own was perfect too. It was juicy, moist, sweet and stringy, fall-apart.

It is clear as to why they have won so many awards, the food speaks for itself. It is comforting, juicy and delicious. I am already planning my next visit to this restaurant: next time I will be trying the Fantasy Burger – cheese, bacon and pulled pork. Yums! Mom and Dad, I`ll let you know when I`ll be in Newmarket!

Happy munching!

Canada Day

On Canada Day, GC and I hosted a BBQ for our friends to celebrate Canada and to watch the Euro Cup final between Italy and Spain.

My modest festive decorations. They were pretty much all from Dollarama or Michael’s and I am reusing them for the Summer Olympics in three weeks.

The BBQ spread included:

1. Mexican Bean Salad
2. Classic Macaroni Salad
3. Red Skinned Potato Salad
4. Burgers and Hot Dogs

For dessert I made classic Canadian desserts which, because everyone was so stuffed, we didn’t actually get to eat. I made Nanaimo Bars (not photographed as I have made them before) and a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie,my first ever.

Juicy, sweet, with a hint of citrus – a perfect pie of summer. The crust turned out really well – light, flaky and buttery. If I do say so myself, this pie is very pretty, minus the edges. I need to work on my pie edges. I get frustrated and just smush the top and bottom crust together until everything holds together.

It was a great day – good friends, good food and a good day. The only downside was that Italy lost to Spain 4-0.

Happy Canada Day and Happy Euro.

Grilled Salsa Chicken

I made Kraft’s Grilled Salsa Chicken for dinner a couple of weeks ago.

Excuse my shadow.

1. I would suggest marinating this overnight with the salad dressing to really bring out the zesty, slightly spicy flavour.

2. The salsa is so fresh and light – it really brings out the citrus flavours of the chicken and it doesn’t feel like a heavy, overbearing meal. This salsa would be good on it’s own with some tortilla chips… or even as a summer salad.

3. This recipe is perfect for summer – light, fresh and easy. I am looking forward to making this again on our new barbeque.

4. I served the chicken with some rice and poured some of the salsa on top of the rice as well. Super yummy.

Recipe below the cut.

Happy munching!

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