Montreal 2013

For the third year in a row the August long weekend found us in Montreal for Osheaga. The weekend was all about good music, good times and of course,  good food. The highlight of the weekend was Macklemore and Ryan Lewis singing “Same Love” with Tegan and Sara.

1. We discovered a cute little pizzeria up the street from our hotel.

IMG_42612. Our hotel provided us with fresh croissants at our door every morning.

IMG_42673. We visited the Jean-Talon Market. Jean TalonWe bought our first Ontario peaches of the season while at the market in Quebec.

4. We munched on Montreal-style bagels from St-Viateur Bagel.

IMG_4292Easily the best bagel I have ever eaten. Warm, soft and perfectly toasted. The sesame seeds had a nuttiness to them and the lox and toppings were perfect and fresh.

5. We enjoyed Croque Madame in Old Montreal.

IMG_4302 I had this exact meal last year and I will probably have this exact meal next year. So yums and so Montreal.

6. We tried our first Montreal food truck at Osheaga,  Montreal Dim Sum.

Montreal Dim SumThe pork balls and shrimp dumpling were unreal! This has caused me to crave dim sum for the past month and a half. If I lived in Montreal I would track this truck down on a daily basis.

7. And last but never least, we finished our visit with some Montreal smoked meat from the iconic Schwartz’s.

Schwartz'sWe have made it a tradition that we grab some sandwiches from Schwartz’s before we leave the city and we eat them from the Mont Royale lookout.

Another great visit to Montreal and definitely not the last time we visit this city or Osheaga.

Gourmet Bitches

On Monday I went to the Monarch Tavern with my friend Caitlin to try Gourmet Bitches.

Gourmet Bitches teamed up with the Monarch Tavern and is doing a pop-kitchen from October 15-28. Tonight November 4 is the last night so if you haven’t been, I would suggest you run over there and try some delicious food! Do it now!

The Monarch Tavern is two storey building and the Bitches are set up on the second floor. The MT is similar to any other pub – a little seedy, lots of tables, some old regulars but a general good, comfortable vibe. It is the type of place you know you can enjoy some good conversation and a drink without being hovered over.  One of their draws is the fact that they serve a wide variety of craft beers so we enjoyed a few pints while munching on the fare from GB.

We each started off with an order of their fish tacos.

White Fish Taco in a coconut and banana chip crust with kale, avocado,  habanero, pickled pear and carrot slaw on a gluten free tortilla. This was a tasty taco. My only complaint was that the piece of fish was a bit small. The fish was flaky and tender, and the crust was sweet and crunchy. The kale was leafy and fresh. Kale is a new topping for a taco that I haven’t seen on any other menu and I wouldn’t think would work, but it definitely does. The avocado was smooth and creamy. The habanero added a subtle heat that grew with every bite. The pickled pear and carrot slaw added a sweetness which further complimented the sweetness of the crust on the fish. The other thing I wasn’t crazy about (so I lied, there is two things I wasn’t crazy about with this taco) was the gluten free tortilla. It tasted fairly similar to a normal tortilla but it didn’t seem to be able to hold the weight of the ingredients. If that is the only negative thing that can be said for a substitute tortilla, I think that is pretty good. Plus, people with gluten allergies should be able to enjoy this deliciousness too!

We were still hungry so I ordered the pulled pork taco and Caitlin ordered the chicken wings.

Cuban pulled pork taco with plum salsa and kale. Ok, this is the amount of filling I expect in a taco. This taco was packed with ingredients and flavour. The pork was tender and moist, with a hint of spice. The salsa added the sweet, fruitiness that works perfectly with pork. This taco confirmed that kale is a natural pairing for tacos. Kale is so crispy, and has such a bright, green flavour – there is no other way to describe it. And it is amazing for you! High in anti-oxidants, calcium, vitamins and so many other things! Good call, ladies.

Dry rubbed Asian Cuban chicken wings. A combination of Asian and Cuban heat smothered over chicken wings. That is fantastic. I don’t typically go for dry rub wings but I think the next time I happen upon GB I will have to try their wings because these looked so enticing.

A great night of food, drinks and conversation with the lovely Caitlin. If you can get to Monarch Tavern tonight by November 4, please do because you won’t regret it. If you can’t, because of my failure as a writer and I didn’t give you enough time (I’m no longer a failure because of their extension), then try and track down Gourmet Bitches because these lovely ladies certainly do know how to bring gourmet food to the street level.

Happy munching!

Toronto Food Truck Lot – October 16

For lunch on my birthday I went to Toronto’s Food Truck Lot with my sister, Theresa.

The Toronto Food Truck lot is located at Yonge and Goulde, near Ryerson University. This is a convenient walk or subway ride away from my work and therefore could be trouble. The lot has room for 5 or 6 trucks that rotate on a daily basis and when we went on Tuesday the following trucks were there: Pretty Sweet Cupcakes, Food Cabbie, Per Se, Caplansky’s, Buster’s Sea Cove and Hula Girl Espresso.

Theresa and I probably should have been adventurous and tried something new but we couldn’t resist the lobster rolls from Buster’s Sea Cove. They were delicious as always and perfect with every bite. Next time, I promise, I will order the tacos…

I did, however, try Pretty Sweet Cupcakes.

I love the design on this truck. It is whimsical and playful. I love the combination of teal and pink, it is retro without being dated. I ordered the Pumpkin Spice cupcake – I wanted to compare it to my own recipe.

1. In a Toronto Life article I read, they claimed that each cupcake had its icing freshly piped on top of the cake and this did not happen. When I read that I thought it was an incredibly ambitious idea because piping bags can be finicky and if icing get slightly warm it can become unmanageable. I do not fault them for not piping to order. If I had a truck, I wouldn’t do it either.

2. Is it just me or does it look like there was something ripped off the top of my cupcake? Or that it was smushed into something? Either way I’m not happy about it. The icing was far too sweet. You didn’t get that rich cream cheese flavour but rather a faint, chalky taste. It was incredibly disappointing. Part of the reason one eats pumpkin, carrot or red velvet cake is for the cream cheese icing.

3. The cake was incredibly moist but it didn’t have a strong enough pumpkin or spice flavour. Part of the problem with seasonal flavours is that is is hard to perfect a recipe when you only get a few months a year and you might only get to make the recipe once. This was a decent cupcake and I would try other flavours from this truck and I would suggest you do too!

The food truck lot is amazing and I would suggest you visit. There wasn’t a ton of people there and we only had to wait a few minutes for our food. Our only complaint was that there was no seating options but this is a consistent complaint with food events.

Get out while the weather is still nice and support local food trucks! Happy munching!

Food Trucks for Sinai

Mount Sinai’s latest fundraising campaign is The Chef’s Challenge: The Ultimate Battle for the Cure. Over the next three weeks (the first event was this past Friday – October 12) food trucks will be parked in the Mount Sinai parking lot selling their goodies and giving a portion of their sales to the hospital in search for a cure for cancer. The final event will be a chefs challenge at the Royal York featuring Food Network chefs like Chuck Hughes and David Rocco. An amazing cause with amazing food, how can you not get behind this charity?

Friday at lunch found me at Mount Sinai in the parking lot. The signage for this event could be slightly better – it is in the parking lot on Murray Street but it is around an awkward corner. The best way to track down these trucks is to enter from Orde Street rather than from around Mount Sinai.

There are tents set up selling tickets at the entrance of the event. Each ticket is $10 and each truck has 2 or 3 ticketed items. Using one ticket, you get one menu item as well as making a donation to the hospital. I don’t know the percentage breakdown but I assume it is profitable for both the hospital and the trucks. Each truck also has items that don’t require a ticket and are therefore less expensive.

There were three trucks participating on Friday – Dobro Jesti, Blue Donkey and The Food Dudes. I decided to try Blue Donkey since they have been around forever and somehow I have never tried them. This was poor planning on my part because Blue Donkey will be back at this event again, but The Food Dudes (another truck I have yet to try) will not.

I ordered the Chicago-Style Chicken Gyro from Blue Donkey. Oh, and of course, it’s not a day at a food truck event without a risotto ball from Dobro Jesti.

The Chicago Style Chicken Gyro with tomato, tzatziki, french fries and cheese, served either mild or spicy. I ordered it spicy because A) I was assured it wouldn’t burn my face off and B) I wanted to ensure I got the most flavour I could. And yes, I ate this on the subway on my way back to work.

As blasphemous as it may be, I am not a huge fan of Greek food. If you have a Greek restaurant or recipe that will completely blow and change my mind, please let me know. I love tzatziki, cucumber, olives and tomatoes, so I have the foundation for loving Greek food, I just don’t think I have found my restaurant or recipe yet.

That all being said, I enjoyed this gyro. And here is why:

1. The pita was fluffy and airy, yet substantial and strong enough to be the foundation for this stuffed wrap.

2. The chicken was so perfectly seasoned and spiced. At first, I was thinking to myself this isn’t spicy but by the end of the gyro I was delightfully numb. The spices used on the chicken tasted exactly like a Portuguese chorizo sausage. As soon as a pinpointed the flavour I was ecstatic. The gyro is worth it for this flavour alone.

3. The tzatziki could have had a stronger, cucumber flavour. It was more sour cream then anything else.

4. I can’t get behind the french fries in the gyro. I don’t know what that is about. I think they are going for a balance of textures and trying to accomplish something crispy and crunchy but it did not work for me. I am not a huge french fry fan so maybe that was part of it but I think it was more the fact that it was incredibly random and unnecessary. I applaud them for trying something new and fresh but I would have much preferred that crunch to come from cucumber.

5. I think the gyro could have used more garlic, red onion, cucumber and tomato. Because of the strong (yet amazing!) flavours from the chicken i think the rest of the ingredients found in the gyro was slightly overpowered and washed out.

I know from the above comments it sounds like I didn’t enjoy this gyro but I really did. It was a delightful surprise for a Friday afternoon and it put me in a strong food drunk that sustained me through the rest of the work day. I would try this truck again (maybe the Greek poutine next time!) and I would suggest it to other people.

Next week Mount Sinai will be featuring the gastronomic stylings of  Rome ‘N Chariot and Stuft, two trucks you won’t want to miss. So get out there and support local business and the hospital!

Happy munching!

Food Trucks – TIFF Edition

Delayed reaction – on September 11th GC and I went to see Camp 14: Total Control Zone, a documentary about a man born in a North Korean forced labour camp. After this delightful film (obviously sarcastic, it was incredibly depressing) we went out to Bloor Street in front of the Bloor Cinema to hit up food trucks! We tried all three trucks that were there that night: Stuft Gourmet Sausages, Gourmet Gringos and Hula Girl Espresso.

1. We started with Stuft Gourmet Sausages. GC has been eyeing a restaurant in New York City called Dogmatic for years and this is a similar idea: sausages in a hollowed out baguette.

I love the simplicity of this truck’s design. The name is cute and the website features sexual innuendos which naturally come with the name “Stuft.” It is neat how the bun are toasted – there is a griddle on the truck with about 12 or so spears which the hollowed out buns get speared onto. The crew on the truck is high energy and excited about people and food. When you give them a tip, one person yells, “A tip for the truck!” and the rest of the crew cheers! I gave them a tip just to hear them cheer.

You choose your sausage and then you choose your topping. I choose the Creole Turducken Sausage (Turkey, duck, chicken seasoned in authentic Creole spices) topped with the sweet Chiptole BBQ sauce. The sausage was a nice blend of meat, resulting in a very juicy and moist sausage. The sauce was sweet and tangy, and added a little more heat to the subtle heat found in the sausage. The bun was perfectly toasted and held the sausage tightly making it the perfect handheld yum and easy for transportation.

GC choose the Spinach & Feta Lamb/Beef (Grass fed beef, Ontario spring beef, crumbled feta and baby spinach ) Sausage with Smoked Gouda and Mozzarella cheese sauce. The cheese sauce was great – creamy, thick and smoky. The sausage was okay – I had a hard time differentiating between the lamb and beef and I couldn’t really pick out the spinach or feta. A yummy sausage but not as complex tasting as one would expect.

2. Next we visited Gourmet Gringos.

I have been wanting to try Gourmet Gringos since I wrote the Gastropost article on my Toronto taco, or rather, the taco in Toronto that I couldn’t wait to try. For whatever reason, I took me about two months to get around to trying this truck, but it was well worth the wait.

Of course everything looked amazing, but we had to go for the fish tacos.

Mahi Mahi Fish taco: fresh Mahi Mahi fillets marinated overnight, then battered in a seasoned beer batter and fried until crispy and golden brown. The fillets are served on a fresh corn tortilla topped with homemade coleslaw, guacamole and finished off with a chipotle aioli.

These were delicious. The taco shell is the best tortilla I have ever eaten. It was so fresh that you could taste the freshly ground grains and the light toasting brought out an almost nutty taste to the shell. The fish was crispy yet flaky and the slaw added a further crunch to the taco. I wish there had been more spice but they did provide various hot sauces so that oversight was on our part. I liked that they keep the taco mild and you can amp up as much spice as you want.

3. And last, but certainly not least, we tried Hula Girl Espresso.

Hula Girl Espresso is a coffee shop that has expanded into a truck. They had a large variety of iced teas, coffees, espressos and other snacks. I ordered the rosemary watermelon lemonade and it was fantastic. The rosemary offered a nice spice and had a subtle pine taste. It would have tasted even better spiked with gin. There were so many fresh fruit flavours – the watermelon and then all the garnishes (lemons, and various types of berries). GC ordered the espresso and he thought it was good. His only complaint was that there was too much sugar but that is something that can easily be fixed.

Another great night with GC, and another great meal provided by food trucks. Perfection.

 

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!

Gastropost – Taco Take Over

This week’s challenge for Gastropost was Toronto’s Taco Take Over. I decided to do a little research into a new food truck that is starting, Gourmet Gringos, and find out what kind of tacos they will be serving up. The people at Gourmet Gringos were great, they gave me a photo of their Mahi Mahi fish taco and a description of all the deliciousness that it contains. You can check out my Gastropost page here and the the contains of the original post below.

Photo Credit: Suresh Doss – Spotlight Toronto

Instead of featuring a taco that I have had and so has everyone else, I decided to feature “The Taco I Can’t Wait to Eat” – the tacos from Gourmet Gringos. Gourmet Gringos is a new food truck that will be launching in the next couple weeks and is Toronto’s first Latin American inspired truck. The truck will feature a variety of tacos: mole braised short ribs, carnitas, cochinitas, braised shredded chicken, Argentinian steak and what I can’t wait for, the Mahi Mahi Fish Taco.

The Mahi Mahi Fish Taco uses fresh Mahi Mahi fillets marinated overnight, then battered in a seasoned beer batter and fried until crispy and golden brown. The fillets are served on a fresh corn tortilla topped with homemade coleslaw, guacamole and finished off with a chipotle aioli (as described by the chef behind Gourmet Gringos).

Umm, yes, please! Only two more weeks until this becomes a reality!

This week`s Gastropost challenge is pack your food… Anyone up for a picnic?

Butler’s Barracks – Tragically Hip

On June 30th, GC and I went to a Tragically Hip concert at Fort George’s Butler’s Barracks in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

This concert did something new and different – instead of having traditional, overpriced, sub-par concert food, it had food trucks and vendors. I didn’t know this at the time of purchasing tickets and it was just a happy coincidence but it made the concert experience far more enjoyable.

1. There was a VIP area of the concert. I am completely ok with that. What I am not ok with is the fact that two trucks were locked away from my hungry tummy – El Gastro and Roaming Buffalo. I understand VIPs need special priviledges and perks in order to make them VIPs but come on, don’t deny me food!

2. There was over 20 trucks and vendors. When the gates opened, there were no line ups but between 5 pm and the end of the concert the lines were typical of any food event. This was not the crowd that was used to this type of waiting but I think they learned it was worthwhile.

3. Our first stop was Tide & Vine. It was only appropriate to visit the truck that got me onto oysters. They were serving up oysters with three sauces: white vinegar and Bombay gin, red wine vinegar and red onion and traditional cocktail sauce. The best sauce was the traditional cocktail sauce – it was spicy and fruity. The white vinegar and Bombay gin was a big disappointment; it just tasted watery. The red wine vinegar and red onion was not concentrated enough and because the hole in the nozzle was so narrower, there was no delicious chunks of red onion on my oysters. It was good for me to go back to Tide & Vine and get a little perspective on oysters – yes they are good, but all of the oysters themselves I have eaten have been the same quality. It is just the sauces that have varied in quality and flavour. I will always have oysters when they are available to me but I will stick with the traditional toppings of cocktail sauce and horseradish.

4. We went to Dobro Jesti where we got two rice balls and an order of garlic donuts. I love these garlic donuts and we made them even better by dipping them in the marinara sauce that comes with the rice balls. Next time I order these garlic donuts, I’m going to ask for a side of marinara.

5. We had a few more items to snack on before ordering dinner. First, a chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing from The Cupcake Diner.

And then some gourmet popsicles from Augie’s Gourmet Ice Pops.

I ordered the Strawberry Basil Lemon ice pop and GC ordered the Watermelon Lemon Mint ice pop. Both were refreshing, light but tasted primarily of their base, fruit flavours.

6. We sat back and enjoyed some music. After The New Pornographers we decided to have some dinner. GC wanted to try Rome n’ Chariot so we ordered two orders of the Holy Trinity: one order with Eggplant Parm, Veal Parm and Meatball and one order with one Veal Parm and two Meatball sliders. GC said it was very good and that he liked the meatballs better than Hey Meatball which he likes more than his Italian grandmother’s meatballs. With that logic, he should like Rome n’ Chariot more than his grandmother’s but he doesn’t. Regardless, this was another successful visit to Rome n’ Chariot and I’m glad my Italian approved.

7. On our way back to our seats we grabbed some drinks from The Grind House.

I ordered the Homemade Mint Lemonade and GC ordered an Iced Coffee. Delicious and refreshing. The lemonade made me want to make my own lemonade with fresh mint… Apparently they have a location in Kensington Market so this is something I will have to check out.

8. Our last bit of food was from Shriner’s Creek Kettle Popcorn where we got three bags of popcorn to take home – two Cheddar and one Cinammon Apple Pie.. Whenever I encounter them I feel like such a fiend because I get at least three bags.

This was a great event. It would appear that this is an annual Canada Day weekend concert that the Hip puts on and it is a show that is definitely worth checking out. The food trucks and vendors being there was just a happy surprise but it made the day all the better. I hope this is a trend – food trucks/vendors and concerts – that is going to stay. When we went to see The Beach Boys in June, Blue Donkey and Gorilla Cheese were both there and from following the various trucks on Facebook and Twitter, many other trucks have been at other concerts. Food and music are just a logical pairing and it’s great when it’s good music and good food that are rocking together.

Another beautiful day with food, music and of course, GC.