A3 Napoli

If you are contemplating getting a new job and you are unsure whether or not you should take the plunge, hospital you only need one reason: food and drink. The number of dinners and drinks people have wanted to share with me since the announcement of my new job is ridiculously amazing. There are drinks to celebrating getting the job, order then drinks to celebrate leaving the job, drinks to celebrate the new job and then drinks to celebrate how the new job is going.

Last night Cynthia and I caught up about my new job over beers and food at A3 Napoli. A3 Napoli is a joint venture between the people behind Pizzeria Libretto and Porchetta & Co., two of my favourite Italian spots in the city. It is a little restaurant located in Little Italy, a neighbourhood I seldom venture to; when you live with an 85-year old Italian woman why would you bother?

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Rose and Sons

I am very much against things that are popular and trendy. This isn’t an attempt to be too cool or to discover and set the next trend, health it has more to do with my distrust of other people’s taste and my general dislike for busyness and crowds. I refuse to line up for hours to eat at the latest restaurant, ampoule and I will not pay huge sums of money because something is in and cool right now. Our meal at Rose and Sons confirmed this for me.

I know I was biased from the start. Rose and Sons is where one of my favorite diners, sale People’s Foods used to be. People’s Food was a huge part of my early relationship with GC. It carried a lot of sentimental value for me, and I am a person who holds very little sentiment in places and things. But I knew I had to look past that and give it a try. I loved that they kept the old signage of the storefront and that it still had the classic retro diner feel to it.

We went for dinner instead of brunch because we figured we could try some brunch menus off the all-day menu and then we could avoid huge, ridiculous lineups. The restaurant is small and they have redone the seating to accommodate larger groups. What this means for a table of two, is that if you are seated at one of the larger tables, you will get squished to accommodate larger groups. Unfortunately, this happened to us. About halfway through our meal, a group of four was added to the other half of our table which was fine but they were probably the most obnoxious people of all time and insisted on taking up far more room than was necessary. We should have been seated at one of the many available booths for two but we were not for reasons unknown to us.

I didn’t love the menu. There wasn’t too much that stood out to me and this was because everything was overburdened with too many different, conflicting flavours. I like simple dishes that allow the tastes and depths of each ingredient to shine through. This comes from doing too much – you can’t combine greasy, diner food with too many ingredients with strong, traditional Jewish flavours. It just ends up too salty.

GC ordered the Patty Melt.

Patty MeltPatty Melt Burger-Grilled Cheese with fried onions, French fries, and chili mayo.
Photo Credit: Rose and Sons

If you can tell me why this sandwich is $16, it would be greatly appreciated.  The burger pictured above is not how GC’s burger came to the table. The burger was almost a florescent pink it was so undercooked. Obviously this is what they are going for but when you are serving something this rare you need to A) tell your customers this burger comes mooing to the table and B) use the highest quality beef. This obviously did not happen as GC felt destroyed after eating this.

I ordered the Mac ‘N Cheese.

Rose and SonsMacaroni and cheese with 4 cheeses, griddled chili Brussels sprouts and breadcrumbs.
Photo Credit: Rose and Sons

And again: if you can tell me why this macaroni and cheese is $15, it would be greatly appreciated. I understand cheese is expensive, it is an unfortunate truth I live with every day of my life with cheese being my favourite food. But don’t charge me $15 for mac and cheese and not even tell me what kind of cheeses I am getting. The cheese sauce wasn’t thick and creamy, it was watery and a thin; not very cheesy at all.

I actually really enjoy Brussels sprouts normally, and I think they were cooked nicely but stood in too much contrast to the rest of this dish. The breadcrumbs added a nice bit of crunch to the dish, which made up for the soupiness of the pasta.

Overall, we were not impressed. We were squished, ignored and given less than great food for a bill close to $50.00. I think Rose and Sons has fallen victim to its own hype: The food was ok, not fantastic; the ambiance and décor were cozy but not warm and inviting; the service was bored and disinterested at best. If you need to scratch this hipster locale off your list, go ahead but you’ve been warned. Luckily, since we ordered foods that can be ordered all day, I can honestly scratch this off the BlogTO Top 50 Brunch restaurants.

Happy munching!

 

 

Rock Lobster Food Co.

After a meeting with a wedding photographer on Tuesday, we decided to celebrate with dinner out at Rock Lobster Food Co.

Rock Lobster has a very Canadiana ice fishing hut feel to it: natural wood, candle light and antique prints and maps. We sat at a high top table that was very cosy and intimate. The one thing I disliked about the ambiance of the restaurant was the fact that the bar had a television. It seems like it is impossible to go to a restaurant that doesn’t have a television. The television really took away from the vibe and atmosphere that the restaurant was going for: Canadiana hipster chic.

I started out with the Rock Lobster Caesar.

Caesar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rock Lobster Caesar with Ketel One vodka, steak spice, Clamato, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and a Nova Scotia lobster tail.
Photo credit: Toronto Life

This was a good Caesar but its focus was more on the decorations and presentation rather than the actual spice and flavour. I found the cocktail lacked the thickness and heat that I love. The lobster tail was a visually awesome touch but it was frozen to keep the cocktail cold. This meant you couldn’t really enjoy the lobster tail making it purely a garnish, and lobster should never be reduced to a garnish.

GC ordered the Rock Lobster Roll.Lobster RollThe Rock Lobster Roll with Yukon chips and McClure’s dill pickle.
Photo credit: Toronto Life

The lobster roll was creamy and slightly lemony. I think there could have been a touch more mayonnaise to the lobster salad and fresh herbs like dill, chives or even celery, to add a bit of fresh crunch to the salad. The bun was toasted and buttery, and gave the perfect bread to lobster salad ratio. This is not the best lobster roll in the city (that still belongs to the Buster’s Sea Cove food truck) but it’s pretty tasty. The pickle was not great and that was a huge disappointment since they made a point of specifying on the menu what brand of pickle it was. The pickle did not have enough crunch or vinegar to it.

I ordered the Lobster Mac ‘N Cheese.

Lobster Mac ‘N Cheese with fresh lobster, aged Canadian Cheddar and panko crust.
Photo Credit: Where Jesse Ate

I don’t know why I ordered the macaroni and cheese. I am a firm believer that lobster is wasted in macaroni and cheese. It’s buttery, flakiness is lost in the thick, creaminess of the pasta. The chunks of lobster were too small, and insignificantly dotted the pasta. The actual macaroni and cheese was good: thick, creamy and I loved the panko crust. The macaroni and cheese did not have the nice tang I like from a touch of mustard but that’s standard in restaurant macaroni and cheeses.

The food was good, but not to the quality you want your seafood to be. Seafood is something of an indulgence and you want the best quality. Unfortunately, Rock Lobster has left me wanting a better seafood experience. I will have to get myself some buck-a-shuck oysters soon and save up for a seafood tower at La Societé!

Happy munching!

Meals in Minutes – Cauliflower Macaroni

Meals in Minutes - Cauliflower Mac & Cheese1. I LOVE THIS. I think this is a great alternative to your traditional mac and cheese. The cauliflower adds a wonderful vegetable component which makes you feel okay about eating something so rich, creamy and fattening. Cauliflower is such a hearty vegetable, and can withstand all the cream and cheese without being lost in the pasta I didn’t macerate my cauliflower too much, so there were gorgeous florets dotting the pasta. The pancetta rosemary crumble on top is salt, earthy, and sweet – the perfect topping for mac and cheese. It is another fun alternative to breadcrumbs that adds crispiness but with actual flavour.

2. This recipe is also extremely easy to make. I love that the cauliflower and the pasta cook silmultaneously in one pot and that the pancetta is crisped up in the oven in the dish that you will later use to cook the pasta. Simple and very little clean up which makes it my kind of meal.

3. This casserole reheats beautifully. Because of all cream and cheese it becomes a gooey mess all over again, as if it was just pulled from the oven. Perfect for leftovers and for making your coworkers jealous. It’s aroma will fill the entire office and have people drooling over your desk.

4. This recipe doesn’t use my key ingredient of mustard but that’s okay. The sharpness of the cheddar, and the pine-tree taste from the rosemary do more than enough to flavour this pasta.

I know you are probably all thinking, “No. I love my traditional mac and cheese and I don’t want to change the recipe I use.” But I insist you try this recipe, even just once.

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Rebel House

Today was not one of my better days – the weather was dreary, I heard a man bastardize “Hey Jude” on the bagpipes, I got yelled at on the phone by more than one person and I was going home to an empty house. Because of all this I thought to myself, “Why go home, open an empty fridge and face more defeat?” Instead, I went to The Rebel House for their Ole Mackie’s Back – or their take on Macaroni and Cheese.

This is a great pub. It has three levels but is tight and cozy like a British pub. There is a patio in the back which resembles someone’s deck – homey and comfy. They are all about the micro-brews here – they have about 20 different beers on tap and they are all from microbreweries except one – Guinness. My server suggested the perfect beer for me – Black Oak Pale Ale. He started by asking if I wanted an ale or a lager, heavy or light, light or dark. It was a great beer and he knew his beer. Trust beer suggestions from guys who are in their 30s, with tattoos rather than girls who look 16. Just from my beer experience I know I want to come here again and the best part about it – it is about a 15 minute walk north of my work along Yonge Street.

Ole Mackie’s Back – Macaroni and cheese casserole with plum tomatoes, green onion and Cheddar cream sauce, served with home baked cornbread and house salad and/or kettle fries. I love that this is what this Macaroni and Cheese is called. Anything that conjures up ideas of Frank Sinatra is a great way to start off a dish. This did not use elbow pasta but tubes more similar to, but not actually, penne. Some of the pasta was oven baked crunchy which made me think this serving comes from a larger casserole that is baked earlier in the day and then reheated when ordered. This tomatoes were fresh and sweet and retained their crunch. This had a cheddar cream sauce which makes me liken this more to a casserole rather than a true Mac and Cheese – which is ok but be aware of what you are getting into. I did like this but since I am looking for an equivalent of my mother’s Mac and Cheese, I am not yet satisfied.

Corn bread is not my thing and I had established this when we went for Dishcrawl and we had the cornmeal empanada. I thought, “Hey this is actual corn bread and it has green onion in it and has been toasted on the grill.” Nope – this did not help. Corn bread is not me. Thank God I wasn’t a pioneer…

The kettle chips however, were great. Crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside and the perfect amount of friedness that doesn’t make you forget that you are eating real potatoes.

This place is low key, homey, serves great food and lots of beer. Doesn’t get much better than that. I think next time I go I want to try the baked beans (Slow-cooked the traditional way with molasses, maple syrup, apples and beer) or the pickled beets. I am really looking forward to discovering the Rosedale/Summerhill area since it’s about halfway between home and work (ok, a little closer to work) and has a huge array of restaurants, cafes, bars and bakeries. And this was a great first introduction to the neighbourhood that will definitely bring me back.