One of my major flaws as a food lover is I have a hard time admitting that some restaurants and types of cuisine aren’t for me, and some, to be a bit tougher, might just be plain bad. This idea of an off night, a poorly executed dish or new chef is something always nagging me in the back of my mind. It breaks my heart to admit that I don’t like a restaurant, a cuisine or a craze that everyone else can’t get enough of. This is my relationship with Wvrst.
We went to Wvrst months ago and I wasn’t blown away. The sausages were not made in house which was a major disappointment for me – anyone can buy a great product, it takes real skill and a deeper knowledge of food to make those flavour pairings yourself. The issue was that my sausage was incredibly dry and brittle which is terrible for something that is naturally fatty and juicy. It was also a sausage made out of game meat (pheasant to be exact), giving it more occasion to be fatty and delicious but failing terribly. Given this disappoint in the restaurant’s speciality I was very reluctant to go back but I did…
At this point you are probably questioning why I would venture back and it was for two reason: 1. I love GC and he wanted to go and 2. They have duck fat fries which were amazing and made up for my sausage fail. So we went back and I had a similar experience again that was more about the fries and the beer than the sausage which has made me firmly decide that I will just drink and eat fries rather than partake in any more disappointing sausage.
Here is what we drank that afternoon: a pint of Church Key for GC and a pint of Bellwoods Brewery for me.
The Church Key was caramelized, sweet and rich. It was the type of beer that fills you with a warmth that is similar to wearing a cozy sweater near a fire on a cold winter night. My beer was fruity, light, the beer that would be perfect for a warm May day while in a Muskoka chair. Oh how I can’t wait for patio weather…
GC ordered the Bratwurst and I ordered the Chorizo. Oh, and of course, duck fat fries.
The Chorizo sausage was juicy but was not nearly spicy enough. I could have topped it with jalapenos and perfectly happy. My mother always goes on about how Portuguese chorizo is spicier than Mexican and I thought this was just her being prideful, but it turns out it is accurate. I will stick with my Portuguese chorizo on holidays.
I don’t love the sausages at Wvrst. I’m sorry. But I do love their fries, which is a big thing for me because I have hated French fries for the majority of my life so I think I’m growing as a person. And I love their beer, because as JDL says, “Beer is beer. If it’s hot out and the beer is cold then it’s good.”
Dating someone who grew up in the city has many benefits, one of them being knowing alleyways that allow you to slink and sneak throughout the city in significantly less time. Through a series of alleyways we travel through the Annex in about 5 minutes. There is beautiful graffiti, Juliette balconies and modern architecture. In the spring I want to walk through these alleys and photograph their simplicity.
Every time we are snaking through these alleys we pass Harbord Fish and Chips, a little hole in the wall place that looks like nothing special but its looks are deceiving. GC had been there years ago and every time we pass it, he suggests we give it a try but we had never gone until a few weeks ago. It was a gorgeous winter day – ridiculously warm and I wanted to enjoy some patio time. Unfortunately most restaurants don’t expect patio weather in January so the picnic tables outside Harbord Fish and Chips seemed like the perfect spot to enjoy some food.
This beautiful, crispy flaky deliciousness was created by the most adorable older couple in a room that was no bigger than a small closet. The fish was fruity, flaky and fresh. The batter was salty, crispy and was perfectly greasy. The fries were some of the best fries I have had in the city. They tasted like potatoes, earthy and rich, with the perfect crisp and salt dusted on them.
This was a lot of food for me to handle and I definitely regret ordering this much. I later felt ill but I think that was my own gluttony rather than the food itself because GC was fine. If you are looking for perfect fish and chips, do not be put off by the simplicity and worn out sign, it has delicious and authentic fish and chips.
On Thursday night, Gastropost hosted a foodie event at Johnny Jackson and GC and I were fortunate enough to go. Free drinks and free food, how could we pass that up? Despite the fact this this was a foodie event, I have no pictures from the evening. The restaurant was too dark to get any good shots. You will just have to enjoy my descriptions and take my word for it,.
Johnny Jackson is a relatively new restaurant located on College Street in Little Italy. It’s draw is that it has cheap late night eats, being open until 4 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Food is sold by the boxful and is just $10/box. The interior is a combination of bar and restaurant, with booth and table seating. The restaurant is dark but with a cozy vibe rather than a sketchy vibe. The music is a mixture of Motown and classic rock. The atmosphere and music immediately drew me in, so it was just a matter of trying the food.
This was a free event so it was just a sampling of the menu but there was more than enough food for everyone to try everything. They were serving samples of their deep fried pickles, poutine, pulled pork sundaes and mac and cheese.
1. Deep fried pickles are one of those things that a good in theory but are not always good in practice. The problem is when you deep fry the pickle, the juiciness becomes flamingly hot and will burn your face off. JJ has found a way around this – instead of serving up whole pickles, the pickles are quartered. The result is juicy, but not hot and steamy. The coating was bread crumbs mixed with seasonings, including dill and the dipping sauce was also dill. The overall taste was extremely dilly in a good way. The serving was 6 quartered spears which was the right amount for a tasting.
2. We unfortunately did not get to try the poutine which is served with bacon but we were able to satisfy this craving by going to Poutini’s after the event. I do want to go back and try their take on poutine because when anything has bacon on it by default, I’m there.
3. Pulled Pork Sundaes are nothing new but they are something I had not tried until that evening. These were assembled in a sundae glass, layered with pulled pork and mashed potatoes and topped with cheese; this is definitely a dinner type of sundae. The pulled pork was moist, sauced and a little spicy. The mashed potatoes, on the other hand, were not great. They were too pureed and had a more liquidy texture than a mashed texture. If I were to make a pulled pork sundae the mashed potatoes would be creamy but thick, and perfectly scooped using an ice cream scoop. The pulled pork would be smothered on top, spilling down the sides of the mashed potatoes like chocolate sauce.
4, Mac & Cheese is one of my favourite foods and my go-to comfort food. Lately, whenever I see mac & cheese on a menu I order it in my attempt to find my favourite one in the city. This mac and cheese had serious tang and zing to it. I was trying to determine what spice was used in the sauce but I wasn’t able to = foodie fail. This was creamy and cheesy but I found the seasoning took away from the cheesiness of it. A good mac and cheese but not my favourite.
This was a great event that Gastropost set up for all the writers and I hope there are more in the future! It’s always fun to try a new restaurant with people who love food as much as you. Johnny Jackson is worth checking out, especially since how many restaurants serve food that late at night, especially good food?
On Sunday, we went to Fancy Frank’s Gourmet Hotdogs, a new hot dog restaurant on College Street.
The mural on the side of the wall is incredibly enticing, fun and a little silly. The inside of the restaurant features a wall filled with a mural comprised of retro photographs of people enjoying hot dogs. There is a decent amount of seating at high tables and the kitchen is completely visible to the customers. The menu is immense and daunting but it seems more understandable when you look at the individual menu cards rather than the menu wall. You can also just order a plain hot dog and top it with your preferred toppings. My preferred hot dog topping combination: ketchup, mustard, relish and diced onion.
Franko fancy-Aano – wrapped in prosciutto, reggiano cheese, arugula, and balsamic Dijon mustard. Holy yums was this hot dog good. It was obviously like nothing I’ve ever tasted before and these were obviously not toppings I ever thought to put on a hot dog. The prosciutto was crispy, the cheese was nutty and salty, the arugula was fresh and crisp and the mustard added a slight spiciness to the hot dog. The balance of flavours and textures was perfect, nothing overpowered anything else and it was a perfect sample of Italian flavours on a hot dog.
The hotdog itself was really good too. There was none of the preserved, salty, fattiness you typically associate with hot dogs. It tasted pure, fresh and meaty. I would go back just to get one of these hot dogs with just a little bit of ketchup on it, they are that good.
GC ordered the Fancy Francine – the breakfast hotdog.
The Fancy Francine – 2 fried eggs, bacon and hollandaise sauce. I think we can safely call this hot dog a breakfast heart attack. GC liked this hot dog but he said it was too messy to eat (they didn’t have knives, only forks) so he wouldn’t order it again,
We also ordered a side of fries. The fries were crispy on the outside but warm and chewy on the inside.
This place is cute, hip and retro. It highlights the comforting, All-American quality of hot dogs but also illustrates that they can be reinvented and dressed up. We already have plans to go back because I want to try their mini donuts, and more hot dogs. Some of the hot dogs I’m looking forward to trying are: the Southern Fancy, Frankie Goes to Buffalo, Fancy 90210, the Frankaphone and of course, the corn dog.
Again this year we went to Montreal to check out Osheaga. This year was a much more relaxed trip – no car accidents, no running around, just listening to music and having a few key bites of Quebec food.
Friday – Fun., Down With Webster, Of Monsters and Men, Atlas Sound, Wintersleep, Florence and the Machine, and MGMT.
Saturday – Young the Giant, Dumas, Brand New, Garbage, Feist and Snoop Dogg (Lion?)
Sunday – Zeus, Dan Mangan, Airbourne Toxic Event, Common, Santigold, and The Shins.
More importantly, on to the food. We only had four major food stops this trip, Jean Talon Market, Restaurant A L’Aventure, Montreal Poutine and Schwartz’s Smoked Meat.
I went to Friday Night at the ROM on May 25 with GC.
We had gone for drinks and a light dinner after work so we thought it was acceptable to start with some dessert.We had some waffles from Waffle Bar. They had the option to have a traditional Belgian waffle topped with ice cream and fresh fruit OR you could have a waffle sandwich! The choice was obvious…
This was my first taste of Greg’s Ice Cream. It was nothing special but it was just vanilla ice cream that was serving as a vehicle for the delicious syrups – salted caramel with rosemary and mint chocolate. The syrups were sweet and a great topping for this sandwich. The mint slightly overwhelmed everything which was an oversight when creating flavour combinations – the rosemary salted caramel profile would have been unique and tasty on its own. This wasn’t the easiest thing to eat – it would have been better if the ice cream was in puck form. The waffle had a subtle vanilla flavour and was fluffy and airy. It truly was the perfect waffle. And now I want my own waffle maker. I would enjoy this more on and been able to eat it with more ease if it had been on an actual plate with a real fork and knife.
Next we tried Fidel Gastro’s.
Can we all reflect on the fantasticness of this pop-ups name? They are bringing Cuban-inspired sandwiches to people and at every event they bring their Honest Ed’s Elvis bust – clearly they are all about good foods and good times.
And of course, we had JK Frites. This was GC’s first taste of the infamous hobo chips and he instantly fell in love like Lesley and I did. With the chips. He fell in love with the chips. This time we tried some of their unique sauces on the chips. Unfortunately, the sauce names weren’t written down and since this was two weeks ago, I don’t remember. Foodie fail. But I am pretty sure they were the sauces that they served up at the Luminato event we attended this past weekend. More on that later!
Another fun night at the ROM with good food, good music, great company and DINOS. There are only two more Friday nights left before this event is over and then it’s gone forever. Well… possibly not because they are thinking of continuing this program again in the fall but it would be unfortunate to miss out on this event. If it does happen again in the fall I am seriously contemplating doing part of my birthday celebrations here because clearly dinos would make my birthday even better.
On Friday night, Cynthia had the idea that we should go to the ROM for Friday Night Live @ROM.
It’s an interesting idea – Fridays from April 10 to June 22 you can go for drinks and music and hang out with dinosaurs. Obviously this is an amazing idea because alcohol and dinosaurs make everything better. The drinking, dancing and eating is restricted to the main floor but you can go and explore all the other exhibits. If you are thinking of hosting an event at the ROM this is a cheap preview.
There were a few different food vendors there and this is the point of me writing about this. There was 4 different food vendors: c5, Loic Gourmet to Go, JK Frites and Waffle Bar and here is what they were serving up:
c5: elegant noodle take out, a signature dish by celebrity chef Corbin Tomaszeski. We didn’t try the noodles because we felt that we could have that/something similar to that anytime – no offense Corbin. I do want to try c5 at some point in the future.
Loic Gourmet to Go: local & artisan made pulled chicken sandwich. LOIC’s own BBQ sauce and gherkins. Veggie option too. Cynthia and I got both, had them cut in half and shared them. I preferred the pulled chicken, Cynthia preferred the ratatouille veggie option. The BBQ sauce was good but the gherkins were random… I don’t think their salty, crunch worked with the rich BBQ sauce.
JK Frites: snack on stellar fries with a twist of herbs and sauces. So this is incredibly random and hilarious. This is the sketchy random chippy from the Toronto Underground Market. Of course, I was dying of laughter and told Lesley immediately. Because we were in the sophisticated setting of the ROM I thought it was safe to try these chips and they were great. They were salty, crispy and had tons of rosemary. Delicious. But it gets even better! From doing some research apparently the guys behind JK Frites are Micha and Jackson Kennedy, whose father is Jamie Kennedy – the chef. Holy heck! How did this all happen? I can’t even get over this. These fries are definitely worth checking out and now I understand why he thought he could just show up and make fries at TUM – he does have skills and they are amazing fries.
Waffle Bar: Belgian waffles on the go with delicious fruit and dairy toppings harvested with a 100 mile radius. We didn’t try these waffles but they had a divine aroma. Vanilla and perfectly toasted. You can get them at the Leslieville Farmer’s Market so I think I am going to have to check that out soon.
This is an event worth checking out. There are 5 more Fridays and all the details can be seen here. I really want to go to another event but honestly, more for the food, drink and music rather than the dinosaurs.
Thanks for a great idea and a great night, Cynthia!
On January 8, GC and I went to The Ballroom Bowl – a bowling alley located in downtown Toronto at the corner Richmond and John St.
Now if you are wondering why we go to places that would clearly be more entertaining and lively in the evening it’s because GC works in the evenings on the weekends. The only time we have is weekend mornings/early afternoons. It’s hard but I think it encourages us to get out there and do things, rather then being complacent and boring at home.
Be warned – this place is hip and therefore, expensive. The cheapest you can get a half hour of bowling for is $17.50 and it only gets more expensive. Since you are paying for the lane and you go with a group of people (up to six per lane) at the peak hours it would be a little more than $10/person/hour which isn’t bad.
When you walk into The Ballroom it has a very dark feel, more like a lounge rather than a bowling alley. Dark hardwood floors, deep leather couches, long bars and big screens with all types of sports games projected on them. At each alley they have every size ball in the return which is great because I, like most people I am assuming, have no idea how to correctly pick out a bowling ball. I used a beautiful blue ball that was marked a six – is that the weight? Finger hole size? And my bowling shoes were brown and blue. I would legitimately wear them outside the bowling alley if I could. In the hour of time we bought, we played 3.5 games. There was two mechanical hiccups but they quickly moved us to an alternative lane.
Food. We ordered the Popcorn Chicken Poutine – crispy chicken bits, gravy and cheese curds. Delicious.We found out from the manager that everything is fried in canola oil and all the meat is butchered on site. This means they can guarantee the quality and freshness of the food but also, for those of us afflicted with allergies, that there is no cross contamination. Safe eating for the win! Back to the poutine. The chicken was nicely seasoned and crispy, the gravy wasn’t too fatty or greasy, just the perfect compliment to the crispy chicken and fries. And the cheese. Not squeaky cheese curds like you will find on true Quebecois poutine but stringy and cheesy so almost as good! The fries were really crispy which was great because they didn’t fall victim to the gravy. They have five different types of poutine, all around $10 and I would like to try them all. Now. Please.
The food is what would bring me back here. Although I enjoyed the hipster meets wall street feel of this place, I think I almost prefer the dirt of typical bowling alleys. It keeps the focus on the bowling rather than the drinking and eating which distracts from the bowling. When the bowling is by the hour it kind of makes me feel anxious and as if I am racing the clock to get a strike. The good thing is, there is a lounge on the second floor where you can order food, beer and watch the game. Next time I would like to try the signature Ballroom poutine or maybe the Nathan’s Famous mini corndogs.
On New Year’s Eve day we decided to check out Wvrst – a sausage hall located on King Street in Toronto.
1. Part of my background is Polish and German so obviously a place that specializes in sausages is the type of place I need to go. The restaurant has a post-Soviet Russia feel to it with its dark wood bar, mismatched stools and red subway tile wall spelling out “Wvrst.” Wvrst is very King Street West – modern, edgy and eclectic. However, it does not have the ridiculously high prices that are typically associated with King Street West – for two sausages, fries and two beers our bill was around $45. Not cheap, but not unreasonable given the quality and uniqueness of the items.
2. Similar ordering style as Cheesewerks – you order at the counter, they give you a number to place on your table and they bring you your order. I actually prefer this to traditional serving conventions because I hate waiting for my bill. This usually ruins a dining experience for me.
Part of the counter is a deli-style counter which allows the customer to see all the types of sausages that are available to you. What they are lacking (and maybe I just missed it), is a large menu board which gives you a list of all the sausages and sides you can order. It might be interesting if they also listed which toppings paired best with which sausages. Having never had a gourmet/artisanal sausage before, we just asked our server what toppings worked best with the sausages we ordered. They were adding a new menu board that suggests beer pairing for the various sausages – which is amazing since one thing I do want to try to do this year is have a beer tasting night (either at home or at a bar like Bier Markt or barVolo).
3. The sausages. We found out from our server that the sausages are a collaborative effort between the owner/executive chef of Wvrst and a butcher in Quebec. The sausage ideas are thought about in Toronto and then made by the butcher (I like to think of it more as the Oka monks – it adds a bit of magic to the process) with fresh ingredients and free of preservatives and most options are gluten free.
GC ordered the Wild Boar sausage made with mushroom and tea topped with caramelized onion. The sausage was juicy and the onions complimented the rich flavours perfectly. You could taste the earthiness of the mushrooms and the tea enhanced that flavour even more.
I ordered the Pheasant sausage made with apples and topped with sauerkraut and peppers – now, I had misheard GC and I thought he ordered the Bison sausage, which I had been salivating over. Since I thought he ordered the Bison, I decided to order the Pheasant. Next time, I will pay attention while ordering and make sure to get the Bison. Back to my sausage. I wasn’t thrilled about this sausage – it was dry which can be attributed to the fact that pheasant is a lean, white meat bird rather than a fatty, dark meat bird like duck. The apple taste did not come across and the peppers overwhelmed the sausage with sweetness rather than complimenting anything. I would not order this sausage again or suggest it to anyone. I did, however, love the bun the sausages came in. Crunchy on the outside from being grilled, but fluffy on the inside and it was slightly sour/sweet. Yum.
4. The beers. We choose our beers right from the pairing menu – the Pheasant sausage was paired with Charlevoix Dominus Blanche. This beer reminded me of La Fin du La Monde – a Quebec beer which is light, slightly fruity and has a crisp taste. This pairing worked beautiful and removed any negative feelings I had had towards my sausage. GC’s Wild Boar sausage was paired with Stiegl, which is a classic German pilsner from Austria (odd). The richness of this beer stood perfectly alongside the strong flavours of the sausage. Both beers didn’t leave us feeling too full which allowed us to enjoy our sausages and duck fat fries.
5. The fries. Now, anyone who knows me at all, or has gone for a meal with me knows I don’t really care for potatoes or french fries. I only liked mashed potatoes, or scalloped (which I think is more so because of the cheese and cream) and occasionally roasted. French fries are usually just a vehicle for vinegar since really, what else can you put vinegar on? I know many find this sacrilegious and I will admit that I am starting to enjoy potatoes in their various forms a bit more. GC wanted to try the duck fat fries. Omigod so good. And of course they are going to be. Anything fried in animal fat is delicious. Biting into the fries you could taste how full and flavourful they were – not like normal fries which can be light and pointless at times. You can order various dipping sauces with your fries – we opted for the chive and garlic sauce which was sweet, creamy and light, the perfect compliment for the dense, fatty fries. We even tries some of the dipping sauce on our sausages – another moment of brilliance on our part.
You know a restaurant is good when as soon as you leave you are thinking about what to order next time. For me, I think it will be the Bison sausage or maybe a traditional German sausage.