Boralia

It only seems fitting that with my 27th birthday occurring next week to write about another birthday dinner I had earlier this year. In June I went for dinner at Boralia to celebrate one of my favourite people in the world’s birthday: Cynthia.

Boralia is a restaurant that is serving historically inspired dishes representing the cuisines of Canada’s aboriginal population and early settlers. You won’t see any stereotypical representations of Canadiana in this restaurant. There are no Hudson’s Bay blankets, or stripes of colouring drawing on this imagery. There is no overuse of antlers and pelts adorning the walls. There is a large mural illustrating a lush green forest, and natural materials are used throughout the restaurant. The simplicity and use of other iconography to conjure images of Canada is welcomed and prepares you for the redefining of Canadian cuisine and culture.

We started with the L’éclade and Red Fife Levain Bread & Cultured Butter.

borealia_ss_8Photo Credit: BoraliaLeclade-credit-Nick-Merzetti-e1419037958616Photo Credit: Eat, Drink, Travel

Mussels smoked in pine needles and pine ash butter  c.1605

The interesting thing about the menu at Boralia is that each item is given a date at the end of the description, informing the diner of the historical period that this dish is from. The L’éclade is a dish that was brought to Canada by Samuel de Champlain and was a favourite among his crew. The history nerd in me loved this attention to detail and historical accuracy.

The presentation of this dish is beautiful. The bowl of mussels is brought to your table covered in a bell jar. The server slowly lifts the cloche to release fragrant smoke that has been infused with pine needles. The smoke slowly dissipates in the air but the smell and flavourings of pine are maintained in the butter. The mussels are tender and salty, infused with smoky and floral tones from the pine. Ordering the side of bread is a must but not for the bread itself; rather to soak up all the delicious butter pooling at the bottom of the bowl.

Next we ordered the Pigeon Pie.

9.Borealia-Nick-Merzetti-featured-image-644x415Photo Credit: Source Unknown

Pigeon Pie with roast squab breast and asparagus c.1611.

If you have ever walked in Toronto with me, you would know of my hatred of pigeons. They are dirty and messy and I cannot tolerate people who feed them. The fact that I could eat my animal enemy was enticing.

The pie crust was buttery, flaky and crunchy: it melted over your tongue as if it was purely made of butter. It was a perfect pie crust. The filling however, was not worthy of being encased by a crust this good. The filling was not bad but it was nothing impressive. It was a typical meat pie filling: carrots, pies and a thick gravy. The taste and texture of squab was not apparent in this pie.

The squab breast on the side was the representation of the meat that I was looking for. The breast was seared on the outside, creating a crunchy shell around the whole piece that locked in the juiciness of the meat. The meat was tender but a bit gamy; squab tastes and feels like a mixture of duck and chicken. It has the richness and flavour of duck but the softness and almost creaminess of chicken. I would be perfectly happy with an order of the duck breast without the pie.

Next we had the Pan-Roasted Elk.

imagePhoto Credit: The Globe and Mail

Pan-roasted Elk with wild rice-crusted egg, cranberry gastrique, burnt onion, and radish.

I wasn’t blown away by this dish. The cranberry gastrique was my favourite component of the plate. The tartness was a nice accompaniment to the rich, gaminess of the elk. The elk was slightly tough and did not have much flavour beside the gaminess that is typical of elk. The wild rice-crusted egg was good. The rice added nutiness to the dish that gave it a woodsy, more rustic taste. The egg oozed over the elk and help distract from the toughness of the meat.

To finish we ordered the Louisbourg Hot Chocolate Beignets.

b6Photo Credit:  Dine Magazine

Louisbourg hot chocolate beignets with spiced chocolate ganache, beer batter, and lemon sugar c.1795.

These were delicious. This is one of the simplest but best desserts I have had at a restaurant. The beignets were hot from being recently fried. They were the right balance of fatty, savoury and sweet. The chocolate ganache was warm, rich, silky and viscous: it slowly oozed out of each beignet with every bite. It was the best chocolate I have ever eaten. The lemon sugar added a light, citrus flavour to the decadent beignets and made them not taste quite so heavy.

I would recommend a visit to Boralia. It is a nice, upscale taste of home. We are often criticized for not having a national cuisine but I think Boralia is the start of that movement.

Happy munching!

Happy Birthday GC!!!!

Happy, happy birthday to my best friend in the world, GC! Ok, so his birthday was July 3rd and that is when we did celebrate, I am just slightly delayed on the internet celebrations.

My struggle with birthday dinners as someone who loves food is picking a place out of the ordinary, but still with the food and style that I like and with a price tag that shows whoever I am taking out that I love them. Yes, money buys love especially when it is buying fancy food. This year’s restaurant that satisfied all of these requirements: Farmer’s Daughter.

Farmer’s Daughter is latest addition to the Farmhouse Tavern family. As the name suggests, it is more modern, focusing on seafood and is less Ontario-centric. The menus are still seasonal and fresh, but not geographically limited. I absolutely love Farmhouse Tavern (I credit it to having my favourite brunch in the city) so I was eager to try it and so was GC!

We were first seated on the patio but as this summer has been unseasonably cold we moved inside to stay nice and toasty as we enjoyed our meal. The inside is sleek, modern and very simple. My favourite touches: the neon “Fried Shrimp & Friendship” sign, the various food related books on each table and the white board-style bar menu.

Throughout the course of our meal, we each tried two cocktails. I ordered the Tell Tale Heart and the Bruce Banner. GC ordered the Old Cuban and the Summer Sangria.

CocktailsTop left, clockwise: the Tell Tale Heart, the Old Cuban, the Summer Sangria and the Bruce Banner.

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S’mores Cookie Bars

Happy birthday Le Faz!!! Today is officially her birthday and for her birthday I baked her s’mores cookie bars.

photo 5The only problem with s’mores is that they are impossible to make when you are not near a bonfire which is a constant problem of mine. However, these solve that problem. AND they are much tidier and easier to eat. You will not have to worry about melty marshmallow strings all over your face.

photo 3(1)They are the perfect combination of cookie and square. The graham cracker crust bottom is buttery and crumbly, creating a light, delicate base for the heaviness of the cookie to rest on. The cookie is buttery and rich, dotted with marshmallows and chocolate chips. The top has less melted marshmallows and whole chunks of chocolate bar. The chocolate bar is broken up into chunks and then frozen, ensuring that they don’t completely melt into the square; genius.

I love these and will definitely make them again and again. Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Happy Birthday to Me!

For my birthday we decided to go hiking in Ball’s Falls. If you get a chance to check out this park,you really should. It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and looks absolutely gorgeous in the fall. IMG_4690 IMG_4700 IMG_4714 IMG_4716IMG_4725After a day of muddy and sweaty hiking, we cleaned up and went for dinner at Union. Union has a great ambiance to it. It is what I imagine cute little restaurants in New York City to be: long and narrow, with exposed brick walls, vintage prints and warmth from the conversations and kitchen. There was music lightly playing in the background, but not too loud as to overpower the conversations. The crowd was a mix of old and young, families and couples and even Patrick J. Adams.

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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!

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

Happy birthday to my friend, Rachel!

On October 21st, Rachel celebrated her birthday. I wasn’t able to go out for the delicious dinner that was planned for that evening so we met up with our boyfriends (who are best friends and this is how we met) on the following Tuesday for mini pizzas and cupcakes.

1. I will always make cupcakes for your birthday if a) I love you and/or b) if you ask. Keep that in mind, friends! You can always get baked goods from me. Also, if you don’t want cupcakes but I love you, you will also still get them. This seems like a win-win situation for everyone.

2. I decided to make these cupcakes because I had debated making them for my own birthday. I know that seems slightly selfish but when it was my birthday, I had run the possible cupcake flavours past Rachel and she was intrigued by both the pumpkin and the apple, so I am a good friend, I promise!

3. These cupcakes were sweet, moist and had a warm blend of spices. I would have liked a stronger apple flavour. The recipe used applesauce rather than real apples but still used butter. This is interesting because typically recipes use applesauce so they can be vegan, but this recipe just used it for the flavour. This is valid but I am always on the lookout for a good vegan recipe because I have yet to find one for cupcakes and it is just good to have in your baking arsenal.

4. My favourite part was the icing. It was cream cheese icing but it was made even better by the addition of brown sugar, rather than icing or white sugar. This icing was unbelievable, you don’t even know. With my new mixer I can whip cream cheese and butter into submission and make velvety smooth and light icing. The brown sugar added a spicy, sweetness and it worked perfectly with the cake base. I would never think of adding a sugar that wasn’t icing sugar to an icing but this worked amazing. It piped out perfectly and held its form nicely.

These were a hit and made the birthday girl happy, which in the end, is all the matters on someone’s birthday. Happy birthday, Rachel! Hope it was a great one and that the upcoming year is great!

Recipe is below the cut. Happy munching!

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Fishbar

In case you couldn’t tell, I love my birthday. And I celebrate it a lot, hence the excessive amount of posts related to my birthday and food. My birthday celebrations started on October 11th, with my actual birthday being on October 16th, and the last celebration will be on October 23rd. Ridiculous I know, but it is once a year so why not make a fuss about it!

For dinner on my birthday GC and I went to Fishbar, a seafood tapas restaurant located at Dundas and Ossington. I first came across Fishbar on our first visit to this area for burgers at BQM and have been craving it ever since. My birthday seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

Fishbar has a fantastic look, starting with its logo: a simple fish skeleton. It is slightly creepy but simple, and with the promise of you getting every drop of sweet, flaky fish.

The restaurant features a long wall of exposed brick, which adds warmth and a touch of rusticness. The flooring is tile that has been weathered and treated to look like it has been there for years and has been tread on by thousands of people. Our favourite feature was a series of mirrors that were actually convex parking garage mirrors that reflected the scene of the restaurant. The back wall featured an extensive wine collection and served as art itself with its simplicity and sparkle. Behind the bar there were framed anatomical photos of seafood which illustrated the science behind the deliciousness you were enjoying. The design of this restaurant was cozy, but sophisticated and upscale. I felt so comfortable and at home, which is a great feeling to have before enjoying an amazing meal.

We started off with drinks. GC ordered a Quebec beer and I ordered what was their take on a classic Caesar.

So I can now officially get behind Caesar’s. This is the third one I have had and I loved #’s 2 and 3. Spicy, thick and a fresh taste like a summer garden, I loved it. The shrimp garnish of this Caesar was a thing of beauty all on its own. It was meaty, thick and fresh and the spiciness of the horseradish contrasted the fruity notes of the shrimp. The horseradish was freshly grated, spicy but tasty. A cocktail is a must at this restaurant.

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Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

My 24th birthday was on Tuesday and I made myself some pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. No, it’s not sad that I made myself cupcakes for my own birthday because I did have offers from my wonderful friends. I love baking so I wanted to make something for myself!

I was inspired by the pumpkins that I walk by every morning on my way to the subway. No, I do not live next to a magical pumpkin patch, just a grocery store.

Although these gorgeous little pumpkins were my inspiration, I did not buy a pumpkin pie pumpkin to make my cupcakes, i just used canned pumpkin. I find the idea of using a real pumpkin incredibly daunting and a lot of work. But maybe I shouldn’t let my laziness prevent me from using a real pumpkin in my baking and cooking.

My canned pumpkin resulted in these cupcakes:

1. These cupcakes had a well balanced medley of spices (ginger, cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg). It wasn’t overpowering but added the right amount of warmth to make you feel like you were cozy in a pair of sweatpants.

2. They were slightly dry which was surprising due to the amount of pumpkin. This was a complaint that no one shared with me though so maybe I would just being nit picky.

3. This cream cheese icing is amazing. It is incredibly smooth and creamy. It is not chalky or overly sugary. This icing would make everything better.

4. I used various Halloween sprinkles (orange and black, and shapes of ghosts, pumpkins and bats) and wrappers even though I don’t like combining my birthday with Halloween. That is one of the problems with an autumn birthday, it just naturally becomes associated with Halloween and the flavours and colours of Halloween.

Recipe (from Martha Stewart) below the cut. Happy munching and happy birthday to me!

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Birthday Cake

On Tuesday, GC celebrated his birthday. He asked for a classic New York Style Cheesecake and I took that idea and give it a bit of a spin.

I made him Individual Chocolate Swirl Cheesecakes.

1. I used Anna Olson’s recipe. The only thing I would change about this recipe is the crust. Instead of the whole wheat cocoa crust she used, next time I would use oreo crumbs. The whole wheat and cocoa didn’t come together well enough and was slightly dry.

2. This cheesecake actually isn’t baked. You whip the eggs in a double boil and they cook that way, before you mix them with the other ingredients. You avoid having to cook the cheesecake altogether which means you don’t have to turn on your oven in the middle of summer. Perfect.

3. This cheesecake used mascarpone cheese instead of regular cream cheese. Some would suggest this makes it taste better, and makes the cake more upscale but I prefer my fatty, low class cheese. The mascarpone is too light and isn’t substantial enough to be called a cheesecake.

4. This recipe claimed that it made 8 individual cheesecakes but it only made 5. This was annoying because I chose this recipe to make and share with a group of people but it worked out because most people don’t like how alcohol and desserts mix.

5. It was easy to fill these cheesecake half-and-half and then do the swirl. It looked much more impressive and difficult than it actually was, which is always something to look for in a dessert.

This is a nice, light cheesecake which is perfect for summer and it was perfect for GC. GC loved it and had a great birthday.

Happy birthday, GC! I love you!

S’mores Cupcakes

My dear friend Cynthia celebrated her birthday at the start of June (I am not specifying when her birthday is as she does not publicly post this information and nor should I) and I made her S’mores Cupcakes.

1. This is not the recipe in Martha Stewart’s cupcake cookbook. This is from a New York City baker that Martha features and it is slightly less complicated.

1. Crunchy graham cracker bottom, melted chocolate chips, cake batter, graham chocolate crumble and then fluffy toasted marshmallow. Holy smokes it is quite literally a s’more in cupcake form.

2. The cake was so dense, moist and super chocolatey.

3. Homemade marshmallow is fairly easy to make. I used egg white replacement instead of wasting 8 egg yolks. I had to use the whisk attachment since I do not have a metal whisk and I quickly realized that I should start doing bicep curls in order to whisk things well. The marshmallow turned out airy, fluffy and sweet.

4. I got to use my blow torch for a second time and then my house smelt like a bonfire. It was kind of amazing.

5. These did not transport on the subway overly well.  The marshmallow shifted slightly but this did not stop a man who was driving to stop in the middle of the street and ask for one.

Happy birthday, Cynthia! You can always count on me for a drink and a cupcake to celebrate your birthday. Much love and happy munching!