Easter 2016

It is Easter Monday and seemingly everyone else is off from work except me. The subway was empty this morning; I didn’t have to do my typical wait on the train for 10 minutes in the tunnel north of St. Clair West while empty trains are sent through for more important people. The offices at work are empty and it is a slow, rainy day.

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Easter weekend was relaxing, spent outside with beautiful weather and with amazing people. On Friday we made our traditional Italian pasta appetizers, calascioni. This is something that Ninni remembers making as a young girl in Italy, when these types of expensive meats and cheese could only be bought at Easter. This tradition has been passed on to me and Giancarlo and we now share this tradition with his best friend Nick and his wife, Rachel. The day is spent rolling out homemade pasta dough, cutting out perfect circles, filling each ravioli-like pocket with the meat and cheese mixture and baking in the oven until they are golden and oozing cheese. After a few hours of hard work, we enjoyed dinner, wine and Yahtzee.

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Coffee

For a long time there was a common misconception that I didn’t like coffee: I don’t drink coffee every morning, I don’t own a coffee maker and my hot beverage of choice is tea.

IMG_3395Latte from Buds Coffee Bar in The Beaches.

IMG_5154Latte from Sorry Coffee Co. in Yorkville.

When I was in high school and everyone was starting to drink coffee, I made a conscious decision to not become a coffee drinker. I didn’t want to become reliant on coffee. I didn’t want to wake up and be a zombie until I had a cup of coffee. I would enjoy the sugar-packed, whipped cream covered coffees from Starbucks on late night coffee dates with the girls but no other coffee.

IMG_3422Flat White from Early Bird Espresso & Brew Bar on Queen West.

IMG_5219Americano from Portland Variety on King West.

In university I spent hours in Second Cup but again, not drinking coffee. Al worked at Second Cup and would fill espresso cups with whipped cream, caramel sauce and chocolate shavings – if and when I get diabetes, I will clearly point to events like this. Coffee was still a vehicle for ridiculous, sugary toppings and not about the coffee itself.

IMG_3435Latte and cranberry scone from I Deal Coffee, uptown.

My love for coffee began with my love of brunch. I switched from orange juice to coffee in order to take advantage of free refills and longer brunches. One cup of coffee slowly turned into two or three and sometimes even coffee before brunches.

IMG_3590Latte and biscotti from Fabricca at Shops at Don Mills.

In 2015 my brunch habits changed. It wasn’t financially viable or healthy to continue with my excessive brunching ways. While I still brunch more than most people, I have taken to going for coffee on weekend mornings with Giancarlo. We are discovering the city, grabbing coffee and visiting different neighbourhoods.

IMG_3920Chai latte from Boxcar Social in Summerhill.

IMG_5388Latte and empanadas from Odin Hus on King East.

Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t go east of Yonge. But lately, you can find me there on weekends. The East side of Toronto has so many more coffee shops and the coffee shops are not all clean, simple and modern. They future coffees brewed with local blends and treats that go beyond your typical scones and croissants. They are big, lofty spaces, conducive to long sits alone or with someone.

IMG_5486Flat white for him and chai latte for me from Boxcar Social in Riverside.

IMG_5430Flat White from Crafted Coffee on Ossington Avenue.

We are working on our coffee game at home. We have the traditional Italian Moka machine and a larger espresso maker. We are making espressos and lattes. I want to take a latte art course and buy a coffee bean grinder to make the freshest coffees. I want to perfect my biscotti recipe (actually, find a biscotti recipe and make it my own) and constantly have some sort of treat to accompany a good cup of coffee. I want our house to be the type of house where people can randomly drop by and there will be coffee and pastries/desserts to be enjoyed.

IMG_5492My relationship with coffee has revealed how great coffee can be. Coffee can be sipped from a huge mug while snuggled on the couch with a good book. An espresso can be enjoyed in the backyard in the summer while looking on to a homegrown tomato garden. A latte can be clutched while strolling in and out of vintage shops on Queen West or Queen East.

The city can be discovered through good cups of coffee.

Bar Buca

When you’ve eaten your way through most brunch restaurants in Toronto you get tired of seeing the same thing on every menu. I can make your standard bacon and eggs big breakfast that appears at every restaurant and to be frank with you, I like my eggs better. Now when I go for brunch I am looking for something more; I am looking for something different. This fits the description of Bar Buca.

I first went to Bar Buca back in February for brunch with Cynthia. Bar Buca is sleek and modern, using slick materials like marble, steel and concrete. It very much captures the look of contemporary and upscale Italy. You could easily picture this restaurant juxtaposed against the historic streets in Rome. There is an espresso bar at the front of the restaurant that brews coffee for dine-in and take-out. There is a long, wooden chair rail that wraps around the front of the restaurant. The tables are high bar tables with smooth wooden tops and stool seating. There is a long marble bar with leather stools and overlooks the tiny, open-concept kitchen. Seating is limited and communal, a concept I support. I will gladly take sitting with strangers if it means I can enjoy good food instead of waiting in line.

We were seated at the marble bar, drooling over the fresh foccaccia that was coming out of the oven in a steady stream.

I ordered the Ammazza Fegato.

IMG_3303The Ammazza Fegato with Tuscan offal sausage, farro, cavolo nero, king oyster and a poached farm egg.

This is rich and decadent. The farro is meaty, with a slightly crunchy grit to it. It is swimming in a pool of butter. The king oyster mushrooms are woodsy and fleshy. They add a silky meatiness to the base of this dish. The egg is nested and protected in one of the best sausages I have ever eaten. Offal refers to a combination of organ meats and this combination creates a juicy and evenly flavoured sausage. When I slice into the egg, it oozes all over the sausage and mixes with the butter and farro and creates this thick and creamy sauce.

This is one of the best breakfast I have eaten.

Cynthia ordered the Uova Rossa.

IMG_3301The Uova Rossa with duck egg yolk, bay scallop, crisp potato and scallions.

The duck yolk is thick and creamy. The scallops add a sweet ocean flavour to the dish. They are salty and fresh. The potatoes add a crunchiness and the scallions are freshness.

The highlight of the brunch: we were seating at the bar with a single seat on either side of us. The manager came over and asked us how we enjoyed our breakfast. I assumed that because we are adorable (obviously Cynthia, not me) he was just being polite. He proceeded to ask us if we could move seats and it would be worth our will. He brought over a beautiful, perfectly round bombolone filled with vanilla cream and rolled in cinnamon sugar.

IMG_3692All I have to do to get a free donut is move over one stool? OBVIOUSLY. This is the best donut I have ever eaten. It was still warm from being fried. It is filled with a thick and luscious cream, with the most aromatic vanilla flavour I have had in any dessert. The cinnamon sugar is lightly covering the entire surface of the donut. The donut itself is airy and light.

I only* (coffee is slowly becoming a necessity in my life despite having always made a conscious effort to not be a coffee drinker) drink coffee when I go for brunch. And Italians know coffee. Bar Buca is an amazing place to get your coffee fix. They serve their coffee with a sugar that is a mix of espresso crema and sugar. This is basically crack. It is thick, creamy and the right balance between coffee bite and sugary sweetness.

This donut and that coffee was the reason I wanted to return to Bar Buca with my favourite Italian, GC.

GC ordered the Carbonara Schiacciata or stuffed foccaccia.

IMG_3689The Carbonara Schiacciata with guanciale, farm eggs, crotonese and black pepper.

This sandwich. The foccaccia is light but at the same time dense. It is salty and is subtly piney from the rosemary. The egg is partially broken and spread thinly across the bread. Guanciale is a cured Italian meat made from pork jowl and the use of this meat adds a salty briny flavour to the sandwich, rather than a smoky taste which would be derived from using a meat like prosciutto. The crotonese cheese is salty and nutty, but more subtle and sweet than most Italian sheep cheeses.

I ordered the Coniglio Alla Milanese.

IMG_3690The Coniglio Alla Milanese with rabbit loin, prosciutto, smoked mozzarella and fresh gremolata.

Rabbit is not my favourite meat. I find it too much work for what you get. But this. This is how I can eat rabbit. This is essentially an Italian cordon bleu. The rabbit is thinly sliced and is extremely delicate. The prosciutto is even more thinly sliced, draped over the rabbit like tissue paper. The mozzarella is smoky and creamy, it oozes out over the rabbit with each slice and bite. The gremolata adds a fresh, spring citrus element to the rabbit, lightening the dish. The egg floating on top of the rabbit makes this meal breakfast and not dinner.

I am obviously in love with this restaurant. It is an upscale brunch that is not for the faint of heart. I acknowledge that to many, this is not what brunch is about but this is what I am looking for when I go for brunch. Brunch should not be restricted to just eggs and toast. Brunch is just as much of an opportunity to experiment and push boundaries as any other meal. And Bar Buca does that.

Happy munching!