The Pressed Cubano from La Cubana

When you are in school the easiest lunch is a sandwich. It is quick, and easy and portable. But sandwiches can become routine and boring, pill topped with the same meats, generic cheeses and condiments. There is typically one type of meat, one type of cheese and maybe mayo and mustard. In elementary school it was a turkey breast or ham sandwich with Havarti and mayo. No mustard. I hate mustard. In university, it was an everything bagel, topped with herb and garlic cream cheese, spinach, tomato and sometimes ham. Now lunches consist of soup or leftovers but rarely sandwiches unless they are bought out.

A few weeks ago I was walking down Ossington Avenue with Giancarlo looking for a spot to grab a coffee. We decided to pop into the La Cubana expecting to be greeted with the brunch menu familiar to us from the Ronscevalles location. This location is very different. It is a long, narrow restaurant with a counter for ordering. The menu consists of sandwiches with some plates but no brunch. The only thing resembling brunch is the breakfast sandwiches on weekends made on weekends.

Disappointed, but still hungry, we both opted to order the Pressed Cubano.

IMG_5603The Pressed Cubano with ham, pork, gruyere, red onion, cornichon, grainy mustard and mayo.

This killed my coffee craving. The sandwich was buttery and cheesy. The pickle and mustard added complimentary tang that worked with the sweet tartness of the onion. The gruyere added a nutty taste and the ham and pork were fatty and delicious. This sandwich is the perfect snack while wandering this neighbourhood. However, if I am craving a Cubano/cubana sandwich I will be visiting San Cosme in Kengsinton Market and I am craving La Cubana I will be visiting the Ronscevalles location for brunch.

Happy munching!

Canoe

On February 7th we celebrated our five year anniversary. It’s crazy to think that all of this started five years ago and no one would have ever predicted it would become something this amazing. GC is my best friend and I can’t imagine life without him. I love him and I know we have many, many years of love, friendship and adventures ahead of us.

Ok. Enough for the sentimental, on to the food and how we celebrated. Since it was a milestone anniversary, we decided to go big. We stayed downtown at the Royal York hotel, we went for dinner at Canoe and we had cocktails at Library Bar.

Canoe is a fantastic restaurant. We had gone there once before for Summerlicious and it was amazing, but you truly need to visit and taste of the regular menu because it is exponentially better, if that’s even possible. We were seated at a table for four, with both of us sitting together facing out onto the city and harbour on a cold and snowy day. It was the perfect, romantic atmosphere to celebrate an anniversary.

Our server asked us if we were here for a special occassion and we told him it was our anniversary. This prompted him to give us some free samples off the tasting menu! Happy anniversary indeed!

We started off with a cocktail – the Winter Wonderland. Jack Daniels honey liqueur, Benedictine, milk and nutmeg, topped with a Bobbette & Belle marshmallow. This is one of the best cocktails I have ever had. It was served in a tall, slender glass, packed with ice and the cocktail was a lush brown colour. It was a rich chocolate milk spiked with booze and spiced up with nutmeg. The marshmallow on top was a playful touch, that was sweet, whimsical and nostalgic. The straw in the drink was a paper straw that looked like a birch tree. This just added to the illusion that this drink was truly a winter wonderland. Yums.

We started with the night’s amuse bouche that was a cauliflower soup with Earl Grayed sultanas. This soup was thick, creamy and earthy. The sultanas were delicate, sweet, smokey and add a touch of British teatime sophistication to the soup.

Next, we had the Wellington County Beef Tartare.

beef-tartare-2-624x416beef-tartare-624x388Wellington County Beef Tartare with applewood smoked bacon, pretzel toast, and Forbes’ wild flavours.

Beef tartare is one of my favourite dishes. It is raw, fresh, cool and has a clean taste. This tartare was all of those things, seasoned with the right spices and and flavours of pickles. The bacon was crispy, salty and smoky but it took away from the dish rather than adding anything of value to it. It added a crunch that was too conflicting with the tartare rather than complimenting it. The pretzel toast added a sweetness through its dough but also a slight saltiness.The wild flavours were all pickled products: beets, pickles and mushrooms. They complimented the pickles that speckled the tartare but the presentation of this dish was too chaotic. The eye did not know where to focus and in turn, the stomach did not know where to focus or where to begin.

After our appetizer we were given an apple gelee.

mar12CanoeShackUp21How gorgeous is this presentation? I love the simplicity and organic quality it has. The bed of greens, below a perfectly shaped ice disk that cradles the deliciousness you get to eat. The apple gelee was sweet and dense, a thicker apple sauce. The perfect palate cleanser before our main course.

GC ordered the 45 Day Aged Ontario Rib Eye.

canoe145 Day Aged Ontario Rib Eye with roasted carrots, Portobello pickles, smoked mustard aioli and crispy layered potatoes. GC loved this steak. He ordered it to be done medium which is a bit too cooked for my liking but it was still juicy, tender and rich. It was such a hearty and intense meal.

I ordered the Green Alder Rubbed Venison.

8226934271_59ec4a15d8_zGreen Alder Rubbed Venison with steel cut oats, charred leek, mini tourtiere and mountain cranberries. This was an amazing dish. The venison was done medium-rare and it was perfect. Juicy, rich and such an indulgent over-the-top dish. The steel cut oats were an interesting and different choice for a grain but I didn’t love them.  It seemed like an awkward attempt at fusing together breakfast and dinner. The leeks were tender and fresh and the cranberries added a natural tart sweetness to the whole dish. The mini tourtiere was soft and tender but it was unnecessary. There was more than enough food in the dish that it wasn’t needed and it was executed well enough that it  could have stood on its own.

And lastly for dessert, we ordered the Butter Tart Wedge.

IMG_3281The Butter Tart wedge with spiced raisin and bourbon ice cream. This was one of the best desserts I have ever eaten. The crust was flaky and buttery, and the filling was completely divine. It was luscious and completely ridiculous. It was comfort food taken to the gourmet. I would recommend a visit to an O & B restaurant just for this.

We were also served with jellied passion fruit cubes which were perfect little bites of heaven. It reminded me of the fruit jellies you might eat around the holidays but with real fruit juices. Overall this was an amazing meal. The atmosphere, the service and the food  were delicious and memorable. It was such a perfect evening.

After dinner we strolled through the PATH over to the Royal York’s Library Bar where we enjoyed a few cocktails. Library Bar’s menu is interesting as it takes a look a the history and evolution of the cocktail. I ordered the Robert Burns’ Whiskey Cup – combination of Chivas Regal 12 year old Scotch Whisky & Drambuie sweetened
with their own rooftop honey and topped with a luscious lemon foam – and the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gin Rickey – Hendricks Gin with pressed lime, cucumber and crystallized rose petals topped with seltzer. I preferred the gin rickey, it was a gin and tonic taken to the next level. Easy to sip, cool and refreshing. The lemon foam on the Whisky Cup was good enough to eat on its own and I wish I could order a bowl full of it and just eat it like pudding. GC ordered the Margaret Atwoods Margarita – Berry Berry Tea infused Sauza Tequila, fresh lime and Cointreau, served on the rocks – and Michael Ondaatje’s Brandy – Remy Martin VSOP Cognac, pineapple and lemon juices, simple syrup and Grand Marnier.

Happy Anniversary baby! I love you and I can’t wait for more years to come!

Photo credits: Toronto Life and Oliver & Bonancini

 

Johnny Jackson

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?

Happy munching!

Montreal 2012

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.

Our Osheaga schedule was as follows:

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.

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Caplansky’s

For dinner on Wednesday night, I introduced Amelia to Caplansky’s.

Amelia lives in London and unfortunately, London is London. This is not to insult London or any of the restaurants, vendors or foodies in that city, but it does not compare to Toronto. I have a long list of restaurants I want to introduce Amelia to and we started with Caplansky’s because it has smoked meat. And who doesn’t love smoked meat?

We started off with an order of their Deep Fried pickles.

Deep fried pickles with cool dill sauce. How can these not be good? They are pickles, that are battered and deep fried and then you dip them in dill sauce to make them even more pickly good. There was 6 or 7 deep fried pickles and they were whole pickles, not just spears. The pickles were acidic, crispy and fresh – clearly pickled, in-house. The only problem with deep fried pickles, and this is a problem with all deep fried pickles, is the batter doesn’t stick to the pickles overly well and the pickles become scaldingly hot. Still eat them but proceed with caution!

Amelia ordered the Famous Fresser Hot Smoked Meat Sandwich. I didn’t photograph it because a) she was hungry and b) GC ordered this sandwich the first time we visited Caplansky’s. She did like it and it was big enough that she got to take half of it home.

I ordered the Mac and Cheese – bowtie noodles, sharp Cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan with smoked meat. Ok. I keep having this dilemma where every time I eat a mac & cheese I’m convinced I have a new favourite. But legitimately, I think this is my new favourite mac & cheese in Toronto. Despite having three types of cheese and smoked meat it was not remotely salty. It was smoky, creamy and cheesy. This was a bowl of home style comfort. This is my official selection of favourite mac & cheese in Toronto.

Caplansky’s is always a solid choice when on College Street and it’s always worth  the drive/subway/street car ride to get there.

Happy munching!

 

Friday Night at the ROM

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!