Swan Restaurant

After our failed attempt of yoga at Canoe Landing Park, we opted to try a new class. This time we tried yoga at Trinity-Bellwoods Park. This was much better. The class was under a beautifully shaded area of grass, with soft music and was at a much slower, relaxing, stretching pace. And even better: Trinity-Bellwoods is in a prime brunch location. After a full hour of yoga we went for brunch at Swan Restaurant.

Swan Restaurant is your typical retro diner: bar stools, booths and vintage music but with a fancier, slight more upscale menu. The menu was impressive which was intriguing. It went beyond your regular brunch items and even had seafood! I would have never thought I could get freshly shucked oysters at a diner.

I ordered the Hangtown Fry.

IMG_1278The Hangtown Fry with smoked oysters and pancetta egg scramble.

Tip: when ordering a menu item with seafood you should probably look at the price and consider if you will actually receive a substantial amount of seafood. When something is $9.00 and has oysters, you are not going to have a substantial amount of seafood.

This was a disappointment. Obviously there were not a lot of oysters in this scramble. Can we even call this a scramble? It’s more of a sad not fluffy omelet. The pancetta was crispy, salty and the high point of the scramble.

After doing an hour of yoga I think I deserved something a little greaser, a little fattier and a lot yummier.

GC ordered the Monte Cristo.

IMG_1275This was the special of the day and that’s all I have to say about that. It was similar to my scramble in that it was boring, not very flavourful and did not use fresh ingredients in large quantities.

As you can tell we weren’t overly impressed with our experience at Swan Restaurant. It was diner food trying to be a bit too upscale and not succeeding at it. The highlight of that morning was the yoga which for me was truly baffling. The day that I prefer fitness to brunch is a day that should be noted and remembered. I may not have found a new favourite restaurant but I found a new exercise.

Happy munching!

Small Town Food Co.

Last week we enjoyed a date night with Al and Jamie at Small Town Food Co., a new snack bar in Parkdale. The restaurant is small and narrow, with a very modern, minimal vibe to it. We were seated at a table near the back close to the bar – a great spot to watch the bartenders create their cocktails.

We each enjoyed a few cocktails. I ordered the Basil Smash and the Vintage ’84. The Basil Smash had Dillon’s Rose Gin, basil, and lemon. This drink was fresh, light and a taste of summer. The basil was pounded to a pulp, releasing all it’s juices and aroma. I am planning on growing basil this summer and will be looking for cocktails featuring it all summer long. It featured Dillon’s gin which is distilled in the Niagara area, a new find which I have tried in two cocktails this spring and can’t wait to try more of. I plan to visit the distillery soon – who’s in?

The Vintage ’84 had Tanqueray gin, cucumber, mint, sugar, and fresh lime. This was very similar to a cocktail I made the other day however, I prefered mine. As the only liquid in the cocktail is the gin, the cocktail was very creamy and thick, instead of fresh and light like I had hoped.

We ordered snacks to share. The server advised that you should order 2-3 plates per person and share, tapas style. The plates are too small to share between a group of four and feel full and satisfied and the bill will quickly add up.

We ordered four items off the meat section of the menu: the Duck Pogo, the Scotch Egg, Tartare of Deer and the Honey BBQ Pork Ribs. The Duck Pogo had minced duck, and honey dijon. The breading was crispy, and light. The duck was nothing special, it didn’t have the distinct, heavy duck taste to it. The honey dijon sauce was delicious but how could it not be – it was sweet, and spicy and the perfect compliment to deep fried duck.

The Scotch Egg with pork rillettes, a soft egg, and hot sauce.

Scotch EggPhoto credit: Toronto Life

If you have never had a Scotch egg I suggest you try one. Traditionally it is a hard boiled egg that is deep fried. The Scotch egg at Small Town Food Co. is a soft boiled egg encrusted with a salty, fatty casing and then dipped in a slightly sweet, but spicy hot sauce. I would like to enjoy one of these each morning with a cup of tea. This was the perfect first introduction to the Scotch egg and I will definitely be enjoying more in the future.

The Tartare of Deer had hand-cut tenderloin, a quail yolk, and was served with crustini. I love tartare and will almost always order it if I am in a legit restaurant, with a talented kitchen where I know I won’t die from poor quality meat. The fact that I have never had deer was an added bonus. This tartare was good but missed the zing from the capers and had none of the gamey-quality associated with deer. It was ok, but not a hit.

The Honey BBQ Pork Ribs came with potato salad, and double smoked bacon. In retrospect, it was foolish to order ribs with the intention of sharing them. It was a half rack of ribs that we attempted to share between 4 people. We were not given a proper knife to cut the ribs but luckily they were fall off the bone. They were sweet with a bit of tang and were juicy. The potato salad was good and the double smoked bacon was a welcomed addition to your traditional mayo-based salad. I would recommend these ribs but not for sharing and definitely not for the price: $21 for a half rack of ribs? No, thank you.

We ordered three items from the seafood section of the menu: the Oysters Rockefeller, the Scallop Ceviche and the Fish and Chips. The Oysters Rockefeller had grano padano, and spinach. If you love seafood but hate how slimey it can be, then oysters Rockefeller should become your new best friend. As an oyster lover myself, I was excited to try these as I’ve only enjoyed oysters raw. These are everything you want your seafood to be. The oysters are fishy but fresh, with a saltiness that reminds you of the ocean. The cheese and spinach work together to create a cheesy, wilted, salty topping that slides down perfectly with the oyster. You are transported back in time when eating these. You feel like you are in the 1960’s, enjoying martinis at lunch with Don Draper. This is a feeling I love and would want to feel again and again.

The Scallop Ceviche had charred lime and crispy shallots. Scallops are easily and with out a doubt my favourite seafood. Ceviche is the seafood form of tartare (loosely obviously) so of course I was down to try something that combined two of my favourite foods. The scallops were thinly sliced but you could still feel that fleshy texture with each bite. The scallops stood in contrast to the scallops, being a crispy and salty texture that was necessary to round out the dish. The lime gave the entire dish the necessary element to make it a ceviche and offered a citrus, refreshing flavour. Yum.

The Fish and Chips was panko crusted rare albacore tuna, edamame pureƩ, and tartar sauce. Fish and ChipsThis is obviously the most creative and interesting form of fish and chips any of us had ever had. The tuna was crusted and lightly seared, leaving the center fleshy and pink. The edamame pureƩ and tartar sauce were a combination of sweet and salty and were a great compliment to the tuna.

We finished off the evening with an order of Bread Pudding topped with bananas. This was not the best bread pudding I have ever had. The chunks of bread were a little tough instead of being moist and soft. The bananas however, were amazing. They were caramelized and sweet and should top everything.

We liked this place, but we didn’t love it. It is overpriced and unsubstantial. I understand the entire basis of this restaurant is bringing farm-fresh local ingredients to the city but at what price tag? Nothing we ordered was seasonal or from a specific local farm, a trend that has become a standard in Toronto restaurants. The prospect of an interesting, successful restaurant is there but under the wrong guise. This is more of an overpriced snack bar rather than a tapas-style sharing restaurant. I would suggest going for one drink and one plate. Out of everything we tried I would suggest the fish and chips and the ceviche.

Happy munching!

 

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.

La Societe Bistro

Last Thursday Cynthia and I went to La Societe Bistro on Bloor Street to take part in their Thursday night oyster special.

La Societe Bistro is a merging of the cosmopolitan nature of Toronto with traditional French bistro atmosphere and cuisine. This restaurant has two patios – one street level and one going up the steps of the building. The interior of the main dining room has this gorgeous, extravagant stained glass ceiling that just makes you feel like you are having tea in a French manor. The bar is swank – dark mahogany, French post cards and pictures crowd the walls and little bistro sets are clustered throughout the bar.

If you are looking to have the oyster special, you will be sitting in the bar. And you will feel very Mad Men – but hopefully not in the way Roger Sterling eats oysters… If you love oysters or have never tried them, La Societe on a Thursday is the place to be. Typically, their oysters are $19/half dozen which is slightly pricey but this is a nice place on Bloor St so you are paying for the experience. However, on Thursdays, their oysters are $1/oyster which is as cheap as you can get in the city.

The oysters are not the largest I have ever had but at $1/oyster, I’ll take what I can get. Smaller oysters are also easier to slurp back. The toppings are hot sauce, onion, lemon and horseradish. The best part about oysters is the topping so I do wish there was slightly more options but again, at $1/oyster, I’m not going to make too big a deal. I don’t know how common place it is to have several choice for toppings as it seems to be only vendors/trucks that had more than the traditional options. My topping of choice was the onion but I did put the horseradish on a few and holy heck, there was kick to it. It definitely cleared my sinuses.

We each had a dozen oysters which I think it the perfect amount, not too much to the point of fish belly (nausea induced by raw fish) but enough to satisfy an oyster craving, at least until next Thursday.

I will be going back for more oysters and I am considering making it a weekly thing. But what I am really excited about at La Societe is The Grand Tower – or what I have renamed it, The Tower of Power: 14 Oysters, 10 Prawns, Marinated Octopus, Spicy Tuna Tartare, Lobster Salad, and 1 lb King crab Legs. The Grand Tower has a steep price tag of $149 so it will have to be saved for something special or we will have to not eat out for a couple of weeks but I am so excited to eat this!