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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Sabai Sabai

Two weeks ago I went to Sabai Sabai Kitchen and Bar with my friend Lynsey. Sabai Sabai (it would be awkward to shorten this to SS, cheap right?) is a Thai restaurant that offers small sharing plates, to mimic a tapas-style restaurant rather than your stereotypical giant bowls of noodles. The restaurant is by the same chef, Nuit Regular, who owns Khao San Road and her parents help run Sukhothai.

The restaurant is at the corner of Church and Dundas which is a sketchy area but don’t let that deter you from trying it. While I walked there I was accompanied by a lovely group of crackheads who were J-walking across Dundas despite one of them wearing a walking casting. They were also yelling profanities at the streetcar that had obviously done something to offend them. It added to the whole experience.

The restaurant looks small from the street but once inside, the space is quite expansive. To the left of the entrance there is a long, high-top table with seating for 8. A bar runs half the length of the restaurant and the rest of the restaurant is occupied by a combination of tables and booths.

We were seated at a small table halfway to the back of the restaurant. When we were seated the host said that they needed the table back for an 8 o’clock reservation. It was 5:30 when we were seated. This is one of my biggest pet peeves in a restaurant because a huge part of me vacating a table by the time you need it back is based on your service. Yes, I agree to not dawdle over the menu but you must also agree to bring me menus, drinks, food and bill in a prompt and timely manner. It also makes me feel rushed and anxious, like I have no right to enjoy my meal because someone far more important is coming soon.

We started off with a pitcher of Thai Long Island Iced Tea. Similar to your traditional Long Island Iced Tea (with gin, vodka, rum, tequila and triple sec) the Sabai Sabai version features homemade Thai tea sour rather than Coke. There is sweetness and a subtle herby taste to the cocktail and it drinks very easily. A pitcher split between two people will leave you a bit wobbly.

Once we were feeling the affects of our drinks we order three plates to share. First we enjoyed the freshly grated squash fritters with tamarin dip.

IMG_5669This is an item that features peanuts but can easily be removed as they are sprinkled in the tamarin dip. If you are worried about enjoying Thai food with a peanut allergy, I would recommend a visit to Sabai Sabai. Upon making reservations, the restaurant asked if there were any allergies, made note and advised that we tell our server upon arrival. When we told our server that there was an allergy at the table she assured us that it would not be a problem and that this was something they were very familiar in dealing with. The only moment of concern was when someone other than our server brought out the fritters and said “which table has the peanut allergy? Uhhh… yea, this is the one without peanuts.” Despite his lack of confidence he was correct and I have lived to tell the tale. The menu also features very few items that actually contain peanuts.

The squash fritters were crispy but not greasy or heavy. They retained the juiciness of squash and highlighted the floral undertones in squash usually only tasted in the flowers of the plant. I loved the simple, slightly chaotic presentation of this dish. The fritters are tangled up in each other, falling apart with ever pull of a delicious next taste. The tamarind dip adds a slight nutty spice to the fritters but doesn’t overwhelm the delicate flavor or texture.

Next we enjoyed the housemade spicy lao sausage.

IMG_5670The spicy lao sausage with pork belly and seasoned with fresh lemongrass, galangal, lime leaf, shallots, and spices.

This is an amazing sausage. Sausages are typical heavy and greasy but this is light and fresh. The use of lemongrass and other spices/herbs add a light, citrus taste to the sausage. The sausage is served sliced and seared, giving nice crispy edges to every bite. The sausage is served with a dipping sauce which further highlights the citrus tones of the dish.

The Khao soi.

IMG_5672The Khao soi with coconut milk, egg noodles and chicken.

The Khao soi can be ordered with beef, shrimp or chicken but I feel like the curry sweetness works best with chicken. The bowl is loaded with broth that is sweet and creamy from the coconut milk and spicy from the curry. The noodles tangle at the bottom of the bowl and wrap soaked pieces of chicken in their netting. The crispy noodles add a needed crunch to the dish which breaks up the simple soft texture of the noodles and chicken and adds a depth of texture to the dish.

This is a hard dish to share as scooping tangle noodles and broth proves difficult but it is worth it – or you could have an order to yourself and no one would judge because it is so delicious.

Because we are greedy and glutinous we decided to order another dish after devouring our three. It was a debate between the vegetable spring rolls and the deep fried garlic shrimp. Our server suggested the shrimp, not just because there were no more springs rolls but because it was also one of her favourite dishes. The shrimp is incredibly crispy which is delicious but it doesn’t retain much of the flavor and texture of shrimp. As advertised, garlic is the only prevalent flavor in the dish which made it my least favourite (but still delicious) dish tried that night due to its simplicity in flavor and concept.

This restaurant is another hit by Nuit Regular. I definitely will be visiting again and hopefully this time with no run-ins from crackheads.

Happy munching!

Autumn 2015

Autumn is my favourite season. There is so much to love about this season. The changing colour of the leaves and how the trees look when it rains and the bark turns a deep brown against the fiery leaves. The damp, thumb fresh and cold smell that comes with leaves. The soft, pills crunch with each step while walking through a park littered with fallen leaves. Taking hikes in cool weather with knitted scarves and toques. Walking through orchards, medicine wandering through rows and rows of trees, picking apples and other fresh fruits. Long crispy days spent outside followed by long evenings warming up by crackling fires.

7c5d86128f6cf83a60c562d86e18f32cPhoto Credit: From Up North

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With cooler weather comes hearty meals indoors. Meals indoors around harvest tables and surrounded by friends. Meals that start with beautiful charcuterie boards laden with cheese, olives and figs. Your belly warms up with fall soups full of roasted vegetables and then puréed into silky goodness. The prominent flavours of the season are pumpkin, roasted vegetables, flaky pie crusts, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and star anise. Heavy, rich meals that are followed by hot drinks and cocktails. It is the perfect season to enjoy the outdoors and to enjoy all the bounty of the harvest.

fall-dinner-partyPhoto Credit: Camille Styles140829_Halloween_Lars_845Photo Credit: The House That Lars Built

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Ital Board

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetThe above is a snack I mae for a date-night with GC. It is an antipasto snack platter inspired by the Ital board at 416 Snack Bar: arancini, recipe antipasto skewers, prosciutto, two types of Italian cheese, olives, crostini and Italian greyhounds with rosemary sugar.

The recipe for the Italian greyhound is below the cut. Happy munching!

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Voodoo Child

Voodoo Child is a coffee and cocktail bar, the perfect combination of beverages. And they serve brunch – could this place be any more well suited to my personality? I know what you are thinking, “Coffee? And cocktails? Pick one. There is no way anything can be good.” But it is.

We headed out to brunch on a sunny summer morning. We sat at the bar where we could watch the baristas brew all sorts of magic. We both ordered coffees and then breakfast. Breakfast is cooked based on seasonal ingredients and is listed daily on chalkboards. The kitchen at Voodoo Child is literally just your average kitchen stove. Seeing a kitchen like that inspired and challenged me. If someone can churn out breakfasts to a small restaurant of people using a residential kitchen stove, the possibilities are endless in my own home.

I ordered the Voodoo Breakfast Muffin.

IMG_1381The Voodoo Breakfast Muffin on a toasted English muffin with peameal bacon, fried egg, cheddar and sriracha aioli. Served with Dijon potato salad and greens.

How cute is this plate and bar? It feels like a farmhouse. The sandwich was delicious. It was perfectly balanced between saltiness and sweetness. The bacon was cooked throughout and was not rubbery or tough. The egg was fried over-medium, the perfect way to cook an egg for a sandwich. It maintains ooziness but without creating a mess that spurts out all over your face and table. The sriarcha aioli added a hint of spice and sweetness. It was the final touch that the sandwich needed to bring it beyond comparable to a McDonald’s sandwich.

Potato salad should always accompanying breakfast. This is a revolution. I love the idea of brunch literally having a breakfast component and a lunch component. The perfect balance to ease you into the day.

GC ordered the Butternut Squash Omelet.

IMG_1380The Butternut Squash Omelet with roasted garlic and goat cheese. Served with toast and apple/walnut and arugala salad.

This is the ultimate in brunch food. A breakfast item so standard and typically plain, but taken to a whole new level with squash, roasted garlic and goat cheese. It was so rich and savory. The squash and garlic created a creamy rich base with the goat cheese. Yums.

Our brunch was delicious and has made us big fans of this spot. GC has made Voodoo Child his go-to for coffee before work and we have also tried cocktails here. The cocktail menu is bourbon based and has a very classic feel to it with egg whites, bitters and hard alcohol. When we went, I sipped on the V Beckham with Jim Beam, brown sugar simple syrup, lime, bitters, and sparkling wine. It was classy, elegant and different, much like it’s namesake.

I would definitely recommend dropping by at any point in the day to enjoy either a coffee or a cocktail – both are perfection. 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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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!

Delux

At the start of June, I get the opportunity to celebrate the birthday of one of the greatest people of all time, Cynthia. As you know, Cynthia is great and is one of my favourite people to share food with. To celebrate this year’s birthday we went to Ossington to have dinner at Delux.

It seems unfair for me to taunt you with this deliciousness as Delux recently just closed but it really was delicious and you need to know about it. There are also talks that they are working on something new so you can look forward to that.

We started off with mojitos and decided to order two appetizers and split an entree. Our first starter was the Grilled Tiger Shrimp.

IMG_0650 IMG_0651The grilled tiger shrimp and tostones.

This was delicious. The avocado was smooth, buttery and fresh with hints of lime. The shrimp was slightly charred and smoky. It was tender and sweet. The tostones were the perfect platforms to serve all this deliciousness on. I preferred these tostones to the ones at La Cubana. They were more tender but still crispy with hints of salty, nuttiness.

Next, we had the Duck Confit Empanada.

IMG_0652The crust was flaky, buttery and tender. It carefully enveloped the soft, delicate duck. The duck was perfect – fatty, salty and tender. Raisins were dotted throughout the empanada. They were soaked, juicy and tender. They were little tidbits of sweetness sprinkled throughout the richness of the duck.

Then we had the Grilled Flat-Iron Steak.

IMG_0655 IMG_0656The grilled flat-iron steak with chimichurri and and shallots.

This was not great and the low point of the meal. We asked for the steak to be cooked medium and it came out rare. It was lightly seared on all sides and very pink, almost purple, on the inside. If the steak had been a high-quality cut of meat this wouldn’t have been a problem but it was not a good cut of meat. The meat was tough and chewy, sinews threaded throughout. Ick. The crispy shallots were the high point of the dish but the condiment should never be the high point.

And lastly, but never least, we ordered dessert. We split an order of Buttermilk Donuts.

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These donuts were the perfect cap to a delicious dinner. They were still warm from being fried, thickly dusted in cinnamon sugar. They were dipped in a thick cream topped with caramel.  The presentation was simple but sweet. It brought back memories of summers at The Ex eating fresh Tiny Tom Donuts. These are the best donuts I have ever eaten (sorry Tiny Tom!). I have found something I love more than churros, which I didn’t think was possible. Yummmmmms.

After dinner we headed up the street to Bellwoods Brewery to enjoy some beers and people watching – the perfect night on Ossington Avenue. Happy birthday Cynthia – it’s going to be a great year!

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!

Spring at La Carnita

We went to La Carnita a few weeks ago for a much needed date night and sampled new menu items.

We tried two new cocktails: I ordered the Jungle Bird (bottom) and GC ordered the Astroturf (top).

IMG_0172The Jungle Bird with Appletons VX, Campari, pineapple juice, lime juice and simple syrup. I need to acknowledge that I don’t love Campari and therefore cocktails with Campari are not my favourite. I liked this, but I didn’t love it. This was sweet, tart and fruity. It screams of the fruity flavours and bite that summer cocktails are known for. It tastes like a summer Negroni.

The Astroturf with Dillon’s gin, Cointreau, lime juice, Bittermen’s celery shrub, agave and soda. This was delicious. GC definitely made the better choice that evening. His drink was light, cool and refreshing. It also highlighted Dillon’s, my new favourite Canadian gin. I love the combination of gin and cucumber. The two ingredients highlight the refreshing qualities both have. Yums.

We ordered our usual selection of tacos and tried to the Tuesday special: The Squid the Kid.

IMG_0176Squid the Kid with crispy calamari, pickled green cabbage, fresh chilies and mango hot sauce.

Obviously this is amazing. The squid wa light, crispy and tender. The cabbage was tangy and crunchy. The chillies and mango hot sauce gave the taco a hot kick that makes this more than your average seafood taco. This taco is a great way to spend a Tuesday evening.

I love La Carnita – you all know that. If you haven’t been, you should go. You have no excuse – they are opening a new location in the Beaches soon! So you should go. And bring me. Happy munching!