Uno Mustachio

One of my favourite parts of my new job is the proximity to St. Lawrence Market. Before I worked at Yonge and King, discount I was forced to visit the market on Saturdays due to the less than convenient hours. The market on Saturdays is an unbearable event. It is crowded, ambulance people are violently shoving you out of their way as they try and sample their 18th pretzel with Kozlik’s mustard and you can’t spend time looking at the bounty in front of you. Because I was visiting on the busiest days of the week, I would try and make my visits to the market as short as possible: a quick dart, in and out, to pick up a fancy cookie cutter, a bagel with lox and cream cheese or a tube of cured meat. I had no idea about the amazingness of the prepared foods in the basement of the market.

Until now. The basement of St. Lawrence is truly what makes the market amazing and contributes to its title from National Geographic as the world’s best food market. The basement houses all sorts of food stalls where you can buy prepared menu items to enjoy in the food court downstairs or one of the many picnic tables surrounding the building outside. My first visit to the basement of the market left me with an order of pierogis from European Delight ($4.25/dozen) and I was hooked. I knew I slowly had to discover the halls of the basement and see what other deliciousness it had in store for me.

Last week I visited Uno Mustachio in search of a sandwich.

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It should be noted that I am fairly loyal to California Sandwiches and have eaten dozens, if not hundreds of sandwiches from them. I even had to delete the Uber Eats app from my phone at one time because I was ordering too many chicken parm sandwiches. Yes, I have re-downloaded the app and have since ordered more sandwiches.

But when I saw something called the Godfather on Uno Mastachio’s menu I knew it had to be good. Uno Mustachio doesn’t limit you to just a chicken/veal parmigiana or an eggplant parmigiana sandwich. They allow you to get BOTH and have a name for it so you don’t feel like a ridiculous, glutinous human being! I ordered my Godfather sandwich with veal and all the fixings (roasted red peppers, sautéed onions, sautéed mushrooms, and roasted jalapeno peppers) and this garnered me much respect from the older Italian gentleman who rang through my order.

This sandwich is unreal. The pieces of veal are generously massive, spilling g over the sides of the Kaiser bun. The veal is crispy but the breading is a light coating, it is not overly greasy or too heavy to stick to the meat. The veal itself is thin and moist. The meat is tender and easily bites off intact with its coating. The eggplant is thinly sliced, avoiding any of the fibrous starchiness that is common with eggplant parmigiana.
The toppings are the right mix of flavours and textures. The combination of both sweet and hot peppers adds a kick and sweetness with each bite, playing on the same flavours found in the sauce. There is a generous smear of sauce on the bun but not in excess that will result in sauce flying everywhere. You could wear a white shirt while eating this sandwich.

This sandwich blew me away and was incredibly filling. I obviously finished the whole thing even though it was the size of my head and then I felt like a whale immediately after. I will definitely be having another one of these sandwiches (not with much frequency as I am trying not to have a heart attack before 30) and I think my California Sandwiches days are over.

Happy munching!

Maker Pizza… again.

Yes, I went to Maker Pizza two weekends in a row and yes, I had the Bodega sandwich both times. But this time, we split the Bodega and ordered a small pizza to share. I don’t think that is an argument in my favour for health and fitness but it is definitely an argument in my favour for good life choices in delicious food.

We ordered the Porkys but this is what came out to us.IMG_5869No, that is not pork, it is mushrooms and lots of them. Although I love mushrooms and mushroom pizzas, not everyone in attendance that afternoon loves them. When I returned to the counter to clarify my order, the woman behind the counter said, “Oh, ok. Sorry about that. Just keep it. I’ll bring out your order shortly.” HELLS YES. I already was in love with Maker Pizza but now I am completely sold on them.

The pizza that was brought to us was the So Mushroom: honey mushrooms, mascarpone, chopped garlic, grana padano, sea salt and pepper.

Oh. My. God. This is the best mushroom pizza I have ever had and one of the best pizzas I have ever had. Unlike other Neapolitan pizzas, this crust is slightly thicker and completely cooked through to the middle of the pizza. There is none of that your toppings will slide off the centre and burn your face nonsense that can often happen with this style of pizza. The crust itself is salty, doughy and has subtle yeasty flavour to it. It is the best pizza dough I have tasted. The dough is all made by a guy named Kevin who’s name adorns every box of pizza. At first I thought this was a play on Home Alone and Kevin McCallister’s love of cheese pizza but quickly learned that Kevin is Maker Pizza’s pizza maker and he knows what he is doing.

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I loved the mushrooms on this pizza. The honey mushrooms are thin and papery, melting as soon as they touch your tongue. I love any mushroom that looks like a toadstool; they have a whimsical quality about them which almost makes them taste more woody and earthy. The cheese was creamy, milky and thick and was wrapped up in flavours of pepper and garlic.

I want to eat this pizza again and again and again.

Once I was almost too full on pizza, the Porkys came out and I obviously had to have a slice of that too.

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The Porkys with pork shoulder sugo, stracciatella, basil, garlic, chili peppers, grand Padano, sea salt and pepper.

Again, another delicious pizza. The pork shoulder had a pulled-pork consistency, wrapped up in delicious tomato sauce rather than barbecue. It added a slightly fruity acidity to the richness of the white pizza, which you don’t often find; most white pizzas feature more veggies than meat.

Yes, for those of you keeping track, as this point I had enjoyed half a Bodega sandwich, a slice of So Mushroom pizza and a slice of Porkys pizza. I was obviously stuffed but took my leftovers home and waited anxiously to eat the next bites of this pizza. Even now, I am thinking about my next bite. Maybe this weekend, make it three in a row?

Happy munching!

Niagara-on-the-Lake 2016

A few weeks ago we had a belated one-year anniversary brunch with my parents in Niagara. The reason we were about 6 months behind was because in the fall JDL had his knee replaced and then who wants to go to Niagara in the winter?

The day started with a visit to Southbrook Vineyards, Canada’s first bio-dynamic winery. We tasted a flight of four different wines, two whites and two reds, each highlighting the unique growing conditions and techniques at Southbrook. Our server was incredibly knowledgeable, having studied cuisine and wine at Niagara College. He was well spoken on the interplay between wine and food, something I completely lack and admire in other people.

After a few tastes of wine, we headed over to Trius Winery for our celebratory brunch. The brunch at Trius is a three-course tasting menu with the option to pair each course with wine as selected by the restaurant. Mom, being the classy and knowledgeable person she is, made her choices based on the wine; everyone else made their choices based on the food.

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The dining room at Trius has been recently redone, featuring bold furniture in yellows and reds. The main dining room features huge spherical light fixtures that resemble fireworks exploding in a night sky. The dining rooms open out onto a patio which overlooks the vineyards. In early April this is not quiet the focal point that it is in the summer. We were seated in the back of the restaurant, which was a little more private and with a view of the courtyard and vineyards.

After we were seated, we were immediately greeted with glasses of Trius Brut Rosé – all brunches should start with pink bubbly. It should be noted that this is apparently supposed to serve as a palate cleanser between courses and should last the length of your meal, not gulped down shortly after the first course like mine was. Oops. It was just too tasty to not enjoy that quickly.

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The Queen and Beaver

#47 on BlogTO’s Brunch list – The Queen and Beaver. We checked out this pub after a Treat Yo’ Self style day – we went for massages at the Elmwood Spa, followed by brunch at The Queen and Beaver and then we went to the movies and checked out American Hustle.

The Queen and Beaver is a British pub in every sense of the word: it is cozy, has bookshelves, walls lined with paintings of fox hunts and decorative plates depicting royals, mismatched china and fireplaces. It is the perfect place to enjoy a pint or traditional British food. Don’t be scared of by British food, it is delicious. Since Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver British food has been revolutionized and is absolutely delish.

I ordered the Traditional Full English.

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photo 5The Traditional Full English with 2 eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomato, black pudding (not available the day I ordered it), baked beans and toast.

This is one of the most straightforward, simple breakfast I have ever eaten at a restaurant but it was perfection. I got my eggs poached which is the first time I have ever ordered poached eggs and they were wonderful. Runny, but still creamy and soft with a little kick of vinegar which you all know I love. The bacon was the best bacon I have ever had. It was salty and sweet, with hints of maple. The sausages were juicy but well seasoned with sage. The mushrooms were sautéed and slightly caramelized, maintaining their fleshiness and meatiness. The tomato was grilled and slightly charred, but tender and juicy.

The black pudding was not available on the day I ordered this dish and I don’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. If it had been on my plate, I would have tried it but since it wasn’t, we don’t have to worry about that. Maybe one day I will try black pudding… maybe this is something I should save for England?

GC ordered the Scotch Woodcock.

photo 1photo 2GC and I had never heard of Scotch woodcock so obviously one of us had to order it. Scotch woodcock consists of creamy, softly scrambled eggs served over toast that has been spread with anchovy paste. An interesting combination that can be a little daunting and off putting but it is salty, creamy and fluffy. GC said the eggs were almost as good as my scrambled eggs but I think he is biased.

We followed up our breakfast with an order of homemade ice cream each. I ordered the Stilton and Wild Cherry, GC ordered the Whiskey Gingerbread. The Stilton and cherry worked in contrast with one another but it was too much contrast. The flavours did not work in tandem together but instead against. The whiskey gingerbread ice cream was unreal. The whiskey picked up the natural spicy, earthy flavours of gingerbread. The texture of the gingerbread versus the ice cream was key to the success of the ice cream: there were completely pulverized pieces of gingerbread that gently infused the ice cream and bigger chunks of gingerbread dotted the ice cream to ensure real gingerbread flavour.

This is easily one of my favourite brunches so far off the list and I suggest you all try it. If you love breakfast, pubs and/or Britain you should check out this pub for a pint or a meal. And invite me!

Happy munching!

Gusto 101

To celebrate my birthday, the lovely Cynthia took me out to Gusto 101 for dinner. The atmosphere in Gusto is great – it is a converted auto garage with exposed beams and ventilation but warmth from the banquette seating, the natural wood tables and the dim lighting. There is an entire wall of fresh Italian loaves that taunt you as you wait to be served. It has a very industrial Italian feel to it; a converted space that has been completely redefined as a space of good food and good company. It reminds me of traditional Italian cantinas or cold cellars: spaces that seem cold and uninviting but when filled with people make pasta and drinking good wine, are the best spaces in the house.

We started with some glasses of house red (served at $1/ounce!) and beef tartare.

Photo Credit: Gusto 101 website
Beef tartare with fresh fig compote, ricotta cream, and truffle oil.

This is not what ours looked like (we only had one but it was still good). It restored my faith in beef tartare after what happened at Union. The fig compote and ricotta cream added a lightness to the dish which you don’t usually find with tartares. The meat was chunky and loosely packed, allowing it to spread across the crostini and your tongue with every mouthful. The red wine complimented this perfectly.

Cynthia ordered the Fettuccine ai Funghi

Photo Credit: Peggy’s Toronto Food Adventure
Fettuccine ai Funghi  with portobello, porcini, oyster mushrooms, truffle paste, in a light cream sauce.

This is the most substantial and filling vegetarian pasta you will ever eat. The sauce was creamy and light, and as it cooled, it became richer and thicker. The flavours were comforting and bold – woody and nutty, with that soft, fleshiness of mushrooms. If you are a mushroom lover, this is a must-try dish.

I ordered the Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia.

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Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia with manila clams, shrimps, mussels, baby scallops, peperoncino white wine, and grape tomatoes.

The only difference between my meal and what is pictured is that my pasta was black from squid ink. This was actually the first pasta I have ever eaten that has been infused with flavour and colour. If you are not into seafood, do not order this plate of pasta. It is overloaded with fresh seafood and is definitely worth your money. My only complaint – the scallops could have been slightly bigger, but I will always ask for bigger scallops. The tomato sauce brought out the fruitiness of the seafood which was tender and fresh. The pasta was al dente and retained a good amount of firmness to it. I also liked how they kept with Italian tradition and did not serve it with parmesan as it was a seafood dish.

A great dinner, with even better company – happy munching!

Meals in Minutes – Oozy Mushroom Risotto

IMG_3416Meals in Minutes – Oozy Mushroom Risotto

1. Risotto is one of those things I had resigned myself to only eating in restaurants. I was under the impression it was too complicated and time consuming for the average cook to make at home. When I saw it in this cookbook, I was overwhelmed and nervous but I thought to myself, “This is a new challenge and I should give it a shot. If It tastes terribly then I will never make it again.” Not even remotely the case.

2. Risotto, as it turns out, isn’t hard to make, it just takes patience and a lot of stirring. It is a fairly easy recipe to follow that will lead people to believe that you are more talented then you actually are! Sounds like the perfect recipe to me.

3. I love the rich, earthiness of this dish. From the various mushrooms, the broth and the thyme and rosemary it is extremely aromatic. The flavour is so deep and consuming, it just fills you with a warmth that spreads throughout your body. The mushrooms add a fleshy and meaty quality to the dish that replaces the need for actual meat.

4. This is the dish that caused GC’s grandmother, an 83 year old Italian woman to exclaim, “Fuck, where did you learn to cook like this?” If that’s not a good enough reason for you to try it, I won’t be able to find a reason for you.

Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Canadiana and La Carnita

Tonight I found myself in Little Italy. First, I went to a screening of the two new Heritage Minutes at The Royal with my sister Liz. This was a great event – a free Isaac Brock shirt, a free DVD of all the old Heritage Minutes and two new minutes about the War of 1812. I love Canada and I love history.

And I also love food. After the event, Liz and I went to La Carnita and Liz’s friend Laura joined us. We each ordered three tacos:

1. Liz had 2 Crispy Avocado and Frijoles and 1 Special

2. Laura had 1 In Cod We Trust, 1 Crispy Avocado and Frijoles and 1 Special

3. I had 1 In Cod We Trust, 1 Special and 1 Beef Cheek Taco. The beef cheek taco was on special during one of my previous visits and it looks like it has permanently made it way onto the menu.

The Crispy Avocado & Frijoles taco: beans, crispy avocados, chipotle sauce, queso fresco, and cilantro.

The girls liked these tacos: to quote Liz they were “omg yums.” Crispy, spicy and the perfect size to balance and hold all the flavours. This is a taco I have yet to try and I contemplated ordering it tonight but I had to opt for meat. Next time, I promise. There is something about a deep fried avocado that I find incredibly intriguing.

The Special – a blend of mushrooms with cheese and hot sauce in a hard shell taco.

This taco was amazing! I think this might be my favourite taco I have had at La Carnita. Sorry In Cod We Trust, you have some competition. The hard shell was still tender and soft, but firm enough to support all that goodness. The blend of mushrooms were hearty and almost had the texture of meat. They were caramalized and juicy, but retained their earthiness. The cheese was melted to resemble a cream cheese, but still slightly stringy. The hot sauce was hot and zesty, it took the mellowness of the mushroom and cheese up a notch. The greens were a nice touch of freshness. I hope this taco has the same luck as the Beef Cheek and graces the menu permanently.

I didn’t post my pictures of the In Cod We Trust and the Beef Cheek because you have all seen them before. If you want to see them again, I would suggest you visit La Carnita, it’s obviously worth it.

We finished off our meal with churros. It was Laura’s first taste of churros and she loved them. The combination of cinnamon sugar and salted caramel was perfect for her – not too overwhelming or sweet. A delicate balance between sweet and savoury. Yums as always.

Happy munching!