Emma’s Country Kitchen

Last weekend we went for brunch to a small spot on St. Clair West called Emma’s Country Kitchen. This spot was suggested to us by our friend, Rachel.

This is probably one of the cutest and most comforting restaurants I have ever been in. It is warm, sunny, and country cute. There are vintage housewares all through the restaurant, making the restaurant slightly kitschy but not to a nauseating level. In the washroom the mirror was decorated with a border of antique mini tart tins, alternating between diamond and square shaped = cute.

IMG_3780Just an example of the country cuteness at ECK – fresh daisies in a mason jar, tied with a gingham ribbon. Simple but cute. Daisies are just one of those flowers that are simple and slightly ordinary but whenever you see them, you can’t help but smile.

IMG_3782 GC ordered the I Know What You Did Last Night Burger AKA The Hangover Helper. 5 oz sage and onion sausage burger, topped with house cured bacon, and cheddar. served on a house made bun with all the fixings. Served with frites tossed with sea salt and herbs.

This burger was juicy and had so much intense flavour. The sage and onion brought a garden freshness that is typically not found in burgers. And now I know what you are thinking, and no, this won’t make you think you are eating a veggie burger. It’s just a burger that is a little different, and a little fresh. The sausage meat allowed the burger to be moist, juicy and adds a little spicy.

I love the fact that they cure their own bacon in house. It is something that most restaurants wouldn’t take the time to do but it makes a different. It was smoky, salt and perfectly crispy.

These fries were amazing! They were reminiscent of hobo chips which were my love affair last summer. Salty, crispy and with hints of rosemary – these are the perfect fries. If you are a lover of french fries you should probably give these a try. And if you are not the biggest fan of french fries, much like myself, you need to try these.IMG_3783I ordered the Banoffee Pie Pancakes. Light and fluffy pancakes, studded with chocolate chips and toffee pieces. Topped with whipped chantilly cream and dulce de leche. Served with orange scented maple syrup. And an order of sage and onion sausage.

THESE ARE THE BEST PANCAKES I HAVE EVER EATEN. They are the perfect size which ensures that they are fluffy, but crispy along the outside. They were dotted with the best quality chocolate chips. I can’t even believe how good these chocolate chips were. They were creamy, milky and rich. The toffee added hints of caramel. Despite all chocolate and toffee they were not overly sweet, just the perfect hints of sugar for a morning pick-me-up.

The chantilly cream was light and creamy and the dulce de leche with the perfect bit of sweetness to top it all off. The orange flavour of the maple syrup did not stand out but it wasn’t necessary: these pancakes were perfection.

And of course, the side of sausage was the same as the burger – moist, fresh and a perfect dash of spice.

I would highly recommend this place for brunch or just a quick coffee and donut. The day we went in they were serving pina colada, root beer float, maple bacon and cinnamon sugar donuts that all looked so tantalising. We are planning on going again (and again and again) for coffee and donuts.

If you are looking for a brunch date and place, me and this place will work!

Happy munching!

The Burgernator

A new burger joint called Burgernator opened up in Kensington Market, replacing the old Big Chubby Burger. We haven’t yet been burgers but we went for a little preview by trying their sweet potato fries and onion rings.

IMG_3367I wasn’t crazy about the onion rings but the sweet potato fries were delicious. They were crispy, sweet and tender in the middle. If the sides are any indication of how good the burgers are going to be, omigosh I can’t wait!

Happy munching!

Chicago 2012

Oh, hey! Remember when I had a blog? Things have been incredibly busy over the past month with work, travelling, baking, appointments and Christmas. There is a list on my phone of about 10 posts that I have to write and I’m hoping over my Christmas break (5 days off of work, then back for 2 days and then off for 4 more!) I can catch up on life and food.

On American Thanksgiving weekend we went to Chicago for a wedding and a little getaway. The wedding was of a friend I had met in university, Nicole and her now husband, Andrew. They are a beautiful young couple and they are so in love it just makes you smile. I’m glad we were there for the wedding, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!

We were there from Friday, November 23rd to Tuesday, November 27th with the wedding taking place on the Saturday. As like any other trip I take, the majority of my pictures and highlights revolve around food. Here is a day-by-day breakdown of where and what we ate and some details about what we did in Chicago.

Friday, November 23  On Black Friday we were walking up the Magnificent Mile which is probably one of the worst ideas we have ever had. It was packed, crowded and terrible – a very bad first impression of Chicago. As we would learn the rest of our stay, Chicago is nothing like this. It is relaxed, friendly and comfortable.  GC and I met up with Cynthia and we tried to go to The Purple Pig but it was packed so we opted to try some legendary deep dish pizza at the chain Giordano’s.

Me and GC with a deep dish Chicago-style pizza. Photo credit: Cynthia

Continue reading

Turkey Burgers

I always choose meat over vegetables and real meat, like beef and pork over meat like chicken. However, when I came across this recipe for turkey burgers I was intrigued. They promised to be meaty and juicy, something you don’t always find in turkey, and luckily, these statements were true.

1. The recipe is from Chatelaine’s Dinner in 30 Minutes magazine. This magazine is where I have been getting most of my recipes for the last few months and I love it. Everything is simple, fresh and most importantly, quick.

2. These burgers are moist. Almost more moist than any fatty, juicy beef burger I have had. That is because you mix the ground turkey with Balkan style yogurt. I even used lean turkey meat and these were still incredibly juicy. These burgers are lean and healthy but still give you that satisfying juiciness you crave in a burger.

3. The topping is a cherry onion relish of sorts and it is delicious. The taste is similar to cranberry sauce making this a Christmas burger. If you don’t have time to make the relish, you could easily substitute cranberry sauce but the onions give this relish a caramelized sweet taste. I used a can of cherries I had leftover from making a Black Forest cake and that did the trick. It worked out to be much cheaper than using fresh cherries in November and had the same result. If you make this relish, make sure to start making it before the burgers, it will take longer to make.

Recipe is below the cut. Happy munching!

Continue reading

Pour House

Last week’s mission for the National Post’s Gastropost was patios. I love patios. They are my summer escape and I can be found on a patio from anywhere from April to October. Check out the article because my face is on a map and I thin kthat’s pretty great.

My favourite patio in Toronto is Pour House and here is what I had to say for the Post:

“My favourite patio in the city is the patio at the Pour House at Dupont and Davenport. It is the perfect blend of everything the Annex has to offer: a converted old Victorian style home, a crowd consisting of students, young professionals and hipsters and tree coverage to make you feel like you are in a forest.

The patio has two levels and it is the second level that is the most sought-after. A flight of stairs leads you to a rooftop patio that is the perfect escape from the city in the city, completely engulfing you in trees and sun. My preferred time to enjoy this patio is brunch on a Sunday morning – quiet, peaceful and equipped with a Caesar bar.”

What I didn’t include in the article is what we ate that day. GC had the Irish Fry.

And I ordered the Double Dare Donut Burger.

No, I did not need a double dare to order this burger. Yes, I ordered a side of breakfast sausage as if this meal wasn’t ridiculous enough. And no, this isn’t my first donut burger.

Best patio in the city.

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!

Hemingway’s

Two weeks ago I went to Hemingway’s with Liz.

My first visit to Hemingway’s was 3 years ago for a residence staff team building lunch. I had this amazing brie, apple and chicken sandwich and I was looking forward to trying it again. Unfortunately, it is only on the lunch menu which I don’t agree with because sandwiches are just as much a dinner item as they are a lunch item, especially at this kind of pub/patio style restaurant. We decided to give it another try and it is unfortunate to say but this was one of the more disappointing dining experiences I have had recently and for several reasons:

1. There are several different levels of patio and each has it’s own hostess. Ok, that makes sense but they are all fairly unhelpful with directing you and getting you to a table.

2. Our server was atrocious. She ignored us and walked by our table constantly without asking us if we were ready to order. She also committed the cardinal server sin (in my opinion, I assume people actually have higher standards they hold their servers to): trying to pass Pepsi off as Coke. Whenever a server says, “We only have Pepsi, is that ok?” I ALWAYS say no, in the hopes that they will learn to tell people and not just assume this is ok. Not only did our server almost not tell us it was Pepsi, she did it to the next table too. I know this isn’t a big deal but come on, there is a difference between Pepsi and Coke, don’t lie.

3. Liz ordered the Butter Chicken: Chunks of chicken in a smooth Indian curry sauce, served with steamed vegetables, rice and mango chutney. She really liked it which I think slightly made up for the service and the Pepsi-Coke misunderstanding.

I ordered the Turkey Burger: Seasoned ground turkey, grilled and garnished with a tasty cranberry mayo, served on a lightly toasted 12 grain bun and garnished with a slice of tomato, onion, pickle and lettuce. The turkey burger was dry which I know is something that is very hard to achieve as turkey is a dry meat because it is so lean. I wanted my mayo to actually be more like a chutney to make it feel like Thanksgiving on a bun. They did not mislead me about what I was getting, I just misinterpreted what cranberry mayo would be. I would have preferred if the onions were red instead of white. The sweet potato fries on the other hand were great and the chipotle mayo was creamy with a little kick to it.

If I had gone to enjoy the patio to have a few pitchers of beer and just enjoy the evening, I would have had a great time. But because I was starving and looking for a good meal and good service, it was a lack luster experience.

Save Hemingway’s for your patio experience, not dining experiences.

 

The Smokey Cow

The Smokey Cow Burger from Holy Chuck.

Double burger layered with smoked mozzarella cheese and smoked sea salt with sweet potato crisps.

This is a good burger: greasy, pill smokey, cheesy and salty. I actually preferred it to the Holy Chuck which I tried the first time. And of course the sweet potato crisps with salt, rosemary and other herbs.

Mega yums.

Stockyards… Again

I went to Stockyards for dinner again but this time I introduced my mom and sister Theresa to the deliciousness.

Mom had The Butter Burger – bone marrow, blue cheese red wine butter, onion frites,and butter lettuce. She said there wasn’t enough blue cheese on the burger, which seems to be hard to do because blue cheese has such an intense and strong flavour that even a minimal amount goes a long way.

Theresa had The Classic Burger – butter lettuce, house mayo, ketchup, pickles,
tomato and onion. Theresa couldn’t get over how much she liked this burger. She liked it so much that she insisted we go to Stockyards again the next day. Now this is a big deal; Theresa does not like food and rarely makes a big deal about it. I love when I can introduce people to food that makes them have as strong a reaction and connection to it as I do.

This photo caused quite the controversy. When Theresa tweeted this picture, my MPP Mike Colle (don’t ask why she has a relationship with MPPs on Twitter) responded that this wasn’t the best burger in Toronto but rather, that can be found at Burger Shack. Probably a little biased as Burger Shack as in his riding but needless to say, another burger joint for me to try.

And I had the Stockyards Fried Chicken Dinner – 4 pieces of Buttermilk marinated chicken served with fries, coleslaw, and hot sauce.

Now to go back when Stockyards is serving up their ribs…