Provo Foodbar

Every time I go to the AGO I wonder, patient “Why are there not more restaurant options near this gallery?” My last visit to the AGO was proceeded by a visit to Mother’s Dumplings for lunch as I couldn’t think of a better option closer by – which if I am completely wrong about this, please let me know. But no longer will I have to trek from College and Spadina before or after the gallery in search of food. I can now go across the street to Provo Foodbar.

I went to Provo last Friday night with my friend Lynsey, to catch up about the drama of life over delicious food and drink. Provo opened earlier this year and has been popping up all over my Instagram feed ever since.

Our reservation was for 5:30 and we were seated at a small table near the front of the restaurant. There were a few people there as the after-work crowd shuffled in but it was relatively quiet for early on a Friday night. I would imagine (and hope) that is gets much busier as the night wears on.  The restaurant is deceptively large, with large windows that open at the front of the restaurant onto Dundas Street making the front half of the restaurant seem almost patio-like. There is a long bar anchoring the middle of the restaurant, and more seating at the back of the restaurant up a few steps. It is a huge space that could definitely host an intimate date-night dinner or a large group of friends for any occasion.

We started off with cocktails. Lynsey had the A.G.O.M.G (Smirnoff vodka, prosecco, maraschino, lavender and pomegranate) and I had the Middle Daughter (Bombay sapphire gin, elderflower, vanilla, grapefruit and lemon). The A.G.O.M.G is to be pronounced AGOhmygod and not as “agomg”. The prosecco and maraschino make this cocktail extremely sweet. When the prosecco falls flat the drink becomes almost unbearable to drink. But of course you do because there is alcohol in it. The Middle Daughter on the other hand is a beautifully balanced, strong cocktail. It tastes like spring in a glass – it is fresh, with floral notes and citrus zing to it. I could drink about 30 of these but then I would likely be on the floor. After my one cocktail I switched to beers by Collective Arts Brewing.

We ordered 6 different plates to share. We started with two different types of crostini: the Duck Confit Rillette and the White Anchovy and Oven Dried Tomato.

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Both of these were absolutely amazing and captured different seasonal flavours. The Duck Confit Rillette was hearty, smoky and had a richness to it which is perfect for warming up on a cool spring night. It was the right consistency to be spread thickly across the toasted and crispy crostini. It was priced just right – $6.00 for a small pot of rillette and four crostini. The rillettes was more than enough to be spread across four crostini, and we had extra rillette leftover which we obviously spread across other things because you can’t let good food go to waste.

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The white anchovy and oven dried tomato crostini tasted like Italian summer nights. The tomato was blistered and slight caramelized, allowing that sweetness to ooze out of the charred skin and onto the crostini. The tomato was dotted with garlic which was slightly peppery. The white anchovy added the saltiness to the crostini that brought out further sweetness of the tomatoes but were not overly fishy. This is definitely a crostini that easily can and will be recreated at home with fresh tomatoes from the garden.

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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!

Birthday Brunch – Café Polonez

To celebrate my birthday with my family, healing we went for brunch. We tried to go to Barque but of course, being Sunday brunch it was packed. The hostess was extremely rude – when we entered we were blatantly ignored for several minutes. When we asked if we could have a table for six, she looked around and said with attitude that they did not have a table for that many. I had to prompt her to tell us how long the wait time would be, which was 45 minutes to an hour. No thanks. GC and I will brave the Barque crowd for Sunday brunch when it is just the two of us.

Since we were in Ronscevalles, we headed down the street to enjoy some food at Café Polonez.

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Dad enjoying a bottle of Zywiec.IMG_4747Potato Pancake.

IMG_4748 Pierogies.IMG_4749Beet root soup with dumplings.

IMG_4750Sweet cheese crepes.

IMG_4751Chicken schnitzel.

IMG_4752Cabbage roll.IMG_4753The platter for one – 4 pierogi, bigos – Hunter’s Stew, Polonez Schnitzel and salad bouquet.

Happy munching!

Canada – Amsterdam BrewHouse

After indulding in some bacon at Harbourfront Centre’s Baconation we checked out some beers at the new Amsterdam Brewhouse.

Amsterdam BrewhouseWe started with two different Flight Tours – I ordered the King & Portland, GC ordered the Richmond & John. I love how there are so many different beers to try here and so many different ways to try them. The tasting flights features 4 5oz glasses and costs the same as a 20oz pint. The menu serves as coasters for your beers. My only criticism of this – the names of the beers are listed on the round emblems which end up under the glasses. You can’t get fussed about the name of a beer as long as it tastes good!

We shared Amsterdam Pretzel and the Crispy Fish Tacos.

IMG_4032This pretzel is yummmmmmy! Warm, doughy and perfectly salted. There were three flavours of mustard: Natural Blonde red currant mustard,  Big Wheel dijon and wort reduction. The mustards were very hot, a huge kick of horseradish right in the nose. I foresee many nights at the Brewhouse drinking flights of beer and eating these pretzels.

IMG_4033White corn tortillas, apple fennel slaw, cilantro, fresh lime, and house hot sauce. These were okay, not great. That is not surprising as this is a pub, not a Mexican restaurant. Stick with the pretzels, you won’t regret it!

We went back to the Brewhouse for a family dinner last week. I wasn’t thrilled with the service – I had made a reservation but we had to wait 10 minutes to be seated. When we were seated, it was at a table that was clearly meant for 4 people, not 6.Our server, however, was amazing – she knew everything about beers, what they paired well with and had lots of suggestions of what to order based on people’s tastes.

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Wvrst… again…

One of my major flaws as a food lover is I have a hard time admitting that some restaurants and types of cuisine aren’t for me, and some, to be a bit tougher, might just be plain bad. This idea of an off night, a poorly executed dish or new chef is something always nagging me in the back of my mind. It breaks my heart to admit that I don’t like a restaurant, a cuisine or a craze that everyone else can’t get enough of. This is my relationship with Wvrst.

We went to Wvrst months ago and I wasn’t blown away. The sausages were not made in house which was a major disappointment for me – anyone can buy a great product, it takes real skill and a deeper knowledge of food to make those flavour pairings yourself. The issue was that my sausage was incredibly dry and brittle which is terrible for something that is naturally fatty and juicy. It was also a sausage made out of game meat (pheasant to be exact), giving it more occasion to be fatty and delicious but failing terribly. Given this disappoint in the restaurant’s speciality I was very reluctant to go back but I did…

At this point you are probably questioning why I would venture back and it was for two reason: 1. I love GC and he wanted to go and 2. They have duck fat fries which were amazing and made up for my sausage fail. So we went back and I had a similar experience again that was more about the fries and the beer than the sausage which has made me firmly decide that I will just drink and eat fries rather than partake in any more disappointing sausage.

Here is what we drank that afternoon: a pint of Church Key for GC and a pint of Bellwoods Brewery for me.

IMG_3219The Church Key was caramelized, sweet and rich. It was the type of beer that fills you with a warmth that is similar to wearing a cozy sweater near a fire on a cold winter night. My beer was fruity, light, the beer that would be perfect for a warm May day while in a Muskoka chair. Oh how I can’t wait for patio weather…

GC ordered the Bratwurst and I ordered the Chorizo. Oh, and of course, duck fat fries.

Wvrst IIThe Chorizo sausage was juicy but was not nearly spicy enough. I could have topped it with jalapenos and perfectly happy. My mother always goes on about how Portuguese chorizo is spicier than Mexican and I thought this was just her being prideful, but it turns out it is accurate. I will stick with my Portuguese chorizo on holidays.

I don’t love the sausages at Wvrst. I’m sorry. But I do love their fries, which is a big thing for me because I have hated French fries for the majority of my life so I think I’m growing as a person. And I love their beer, because as JDL says, “Beer is beer. If it’s hot out and the beer is cold then it’s good.”

Happy munching!

Gastropost – Drink like a Movie Star

Last week’s Gastropost mission was Drink Like a Movie Star in honour of the Toronto International Film Festival. Specialty cocktails were featured in a two page spread which can be found here (page 1) and here (page 2).

I decided to make a beer cocktail, an idea given to me by my friend Cynthia. The post can be found here or below. I also submitted the two cocktails we had from Mildred’s Temple Pierce, but you’ve seen those before.

Raspberry Vodka Beer Cocktail – A beer that will turn any cocktail drinker into a beer drinker and a cocktail that will turn any beer drinker a cocktail drinker.

Recipe

1 cup of fresh raspberries
4 bottle of Corona, chilled
1 container frozen raspberry lemonade concentrate
1/2 cup good quality vodka
Garnish: lemon slices or raspberries

In a large container stir together together the first 4 ingredients. Serve over ice. Garnish with raspberries.

This is an easy recipe and it is delicious. I made this again this weekend up at the cottage. When we ran out, I made a version of this using Alexander Keith’s, orange juice, Sprite, vodka and raspberries. It was equally as delicious just slightly less sweet.

Give a beer cocktail a try – I have plans for a Strawberry Alexander Keith’s Cocktail in the near future.

Happy munching!

Roundhouse Craft Beer Fest

On August 12th, GC, my sister Amelia and I went to the Roundhouse Craft Beer Festival.

This event was similar to the Toronto Beer Fest – an admission price of $10 which gives you a sampling glass and two beer tokens. Tokens were $1/token and could be bought in multiples of 5, 10 or 20. Samples were 1 token for a half glass, and 2 tokens for a full glass. The pouring wasn’t amazing so it made more sense to get a half which would end up being almost  three-quarters full which was the same as the full. The breweries participating were:

Steam Whistle
Grand River Brewing
Wellingston Brewery
Mill St. Brewery
The Flying Monkey Craft Brewery
Great Lakes Brewery
King Brewery
Nickel Brook
Black Oak Brewing Co.

Craft beers are always great – the flavours are always more unique and reflect the seasonal changes of produce and trends. I think my favourite of the day were the beers from Wellington Brewery.

Although I do love beer, we wanted to attend this event due to the food trucks that would be there. The food trucks that were participating were:

Dobro Jesti
Hogtown Smoke
Tide & Vine
Buster’s Sea Cove
Rome ‘n Chariot

Unfortunately, these trucks were divided over the two days. I think the event could have supported all trucks on both days. On the Sunday Dobro Jesti, Tide & Vine and Gorilla Cheese (not on the original list!) were there. We tried treats from all trucks.

1. Tide & Vine

We all tried the Lobster Roll: Atlantic lobster meat with caper and tarragon mayo on a warm bun. I am torn to whether or not I liked this lobster roll more than Buster’s. I think Buster’s illustrates lobster at its best, with a simple dressing and a squeeze of lemon. This lobster roll uses the caper and tarragon mayo and lemon juice to illustrate the fruity, sweet quality of lobster. This was delicious and I would eat it again and recommend it to everyone.

The barbecued oysters on the other hand, were not my favourite. The enjoyable part of eating oysters is the slurping back of all the gooey goodness. But when you barbecue an oyster it becomes flamingly hot and you can’t eat it in true oyster fashion. Besides this, the oysters were good. The dressing had chilies and garlic and it was a perfect shot of seafood barbecue… once cooled.

2. Gorilla Cheese

Amelia and I ordered The El Jefe. I did take pictures of our grilled cheeses but they don’t look so great. I think this grilled cheese had too much going on with it: the shredded pork was the one element that I think could have been removed. It wasn’t dressed in BBQ sauce and was smothered in mustard. I think there wasn’t enough cheese on this GRILLED CHEESE which means it was unsuccessful as a grilled cheese.

GC ordered the Lumberjack, which is always a classic choice. Sweet and savoury in a classic grouping of ham, cheese, apple and maple syrup.

One thing that we liked was that Gorilla Cheese is changing the types of bread they are using. I think in order to step up your grilled cheese, you need to use types of bread other than sliced Wonder Bread.

3. Dobro Jesti

We ordered the Arancini balls. Creamy, warm and moist, as per usual. One thing we learned about Dobro Jesti was that unless they are doing a service in their hometown of Hamilton, they WILL NOT be serving their garlic donuts. This is probably one of the most disappointing pieces of food news I have heard in awhile. Apparently they are too cumbersome to make during a large event. I can respect this but I am not happy about it and I think this is something they need to work on.

Another great event involving food and alcohol. Through pure coincidence and accident, I have come across another event involving this perfect pairing, Toronto Beer Week, September 14-22.

Happy munching and drinking!

Toronto’s Festival of Beer – 2012

The week of July 27-29 played host to Toronto’s Festival of Beer. This event is exactly what you might think it is – a lot of drunken fools having a good time on a gorgeous summer afternoon. And this year I was one of those fools. I went on the Sunday with my friend best friend from high school Julianna and her sister, Natalie.

Ok, let’s be fair. There is a lot of good beer here, but there is also a lot of good music and food. And we weren’t actually drunken fools; we just enjoyed a few beers, listened to some good music (Hollerado and Big Wreck) and had a good time.

Prior to the event you purchase a ticket for $25 and this gets you admission to the event, a tasting mug (glass and you get to keep it) and two tokens. Once inside the event, you can buy more tokens, $20 for 20 tokens and each sample is typically 1 token for a half, and 2 tokens for a full. There was only one exception to this rule that we found – McClelland Premium Imports, but as they import beer, this makes sense. We estimated that a full was about the equivalent to a half pint. Tokens can also be used to purchase food – but who would want to do that?

We tried beers from the following breweries:

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
Big Rock Brewery
Creemore Springs
Great Lakes Brewery
Hogtown Brewers
Innis & Gunn
McClelland Premium Imports
Railway City Brewing Company
Samuel Adams
True North Beer

We had the most amazing corn on the cob from Ontario Corn Roasters – one of the last tastes of summer for me. It was nothing special but it was just grilled and then dipped in butter. You could then shake any topping on it that you wanted: salt, garlic powder, paprika, dill, or really anything that comes in a standard spice rack. So delicious.

Natalie eating some delicious corn while holding her tasting mug.

Julianna doing the same.

We had fish tacos from K-Song Tacos and these were not my favourite. There was no cohesion in the dish. The fish was very bland and fruit did not taste fresh. The kimchi was good but it didn’t work with any other flavour in the dish.

There was other food options that probably would have been more promising, including food trucks, pop ups like Rock Lobster Food Co. And Fidel Gastros and of course, Tiny Tom Donuts.

This is a great event and do not be deterred by the number of bros who will be there. Yes, the frat boy to regular person ratio is slightly high but when we went, everyone was well behaved and just having a good time. I will definitely be going next year and checking out more beer festivals in the future.

Happy… drinking? But be safe!