The First Married Brunch – La Cubana

After 2 beautiful weeks in Spain and Portugal for our honeymoon, eating delicious foods and drinking wine, you would think my appetite would be satiated for a long time. And for certain foods, it still is. I have not craved oysters since the ones I ate at Mercado de San Miguel and I won’t be eating foie gras any time soon. However, one thing was missing from this trip food-wise: brunch.

Europeans do not do brunch or breakfast. The only legitimate breakfast we ate while on our honeymoon was in Lagos, which is a haven for British tourists. There, we were able to enjoy a traditional English breakfast. So of course, when we arrived home, one of the first things we did was go for brunch. We decided for our first brunch as husband and wife we would go to one of our favourites, La Cubana.

IMG_2201Since we hadn’t had brunch in over two weeks (yes, I acknowledge that all my problems are #firstworldproblems) we decided to go big. We started with the corn frituras.

IMG_2198All meals, including brunch, should have appetizers. GC liked these more than me. I’m not super into corn flavours; for example, I don’t like corn bread. But how can you say no to anything deep fried? These were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. They were a combination of sweet and savoury with hints of fresh herbs dotting the fritura. The dipping sauce was great. It was creamy and the perfect amount of heat.

GC ordered the Steak and Eggs. IMG_2199

The Steak and Eggs with chimichurri steak and sunny side up eggs.

I am not in to chumichurri. This is the second occasion I have had it (the first being at Big Crow) and it does nothing for me. It tastes like slightly-off spinach. I wish it was more spicy, citrusy or fresh.

The steak was also way over done. GC likes his steak medium to medium-well but this was a little charred. You should never have to saw through a steak, especially one that is ordered out at a restaurant. Unless you’re into that.

I ordered the Cuban Breakfast. IMG_2200

The Cuban Breakfast with slow roast pork and poached eggs.

The first time we went, I ordered the pork belly and it was delicious. This is essentially the same dish without pineapple, with poached eggs instead of sunny side up and more expensive. This was tasty, but I would say go with the pork belly. The combination of pork and pineapple bumps this dish up to the next level and has a more dynamic combination of flavours. Although adding poached eggs to anything makes life better.

During our first visit to La Cubana, we made better choices but this visit does not disparage us against this restaurant. Any menu that so heavily features pork is delicious in my books. Happy munching!

Barque

Over the July long weekend, I went to Barque with GC and my sister Theresa. Theresa told us stories of her recent trip to Washington, D.C. and her role in the June provincial election and we ate and listened. I chose Barque because Theresa had never been and I knew it would more then make up for my recent experience at Wallace & Co.

My only complaint about this visit to Barque was that when we were seated, the hostess said that they needed the table in an hour. My response to her was that the success of that was predicated on their service and speed. An hour is more than enough time to enjoy brunch especially if the servers and kitchen are working well together. I have had a few issues with the hosts at Barque. They always give me attitude while seating me, as if I am an inconvenience because I want to eat there. I am willing to overlook these minor run-ins because the food is so delicious.

Theresa and I ordered the Smoked Duck Pancakes.

IMG_0846 IMG_0847 IMG_0848 IMG_0849The Smoked Duck Pancakes with blueberry compote and chèvre.

This is the dish on the cover of Toronto Life’s 2014 Eating and Drinking issue and therefore, there are huge expectations for the taste and presentation of this dish. When it was brought to the table, I was in awe: a huge stack of piping hot and fluffy pancakes topped with blueberry compote and a generous mess of duck dolloped with a thick, creamy scoop of chevre and then drizzled with syrup. Does it get much better than that? This is one of the more beautiful stacks of pancakes that I have been presented with and I’ll admit it is a daunting stack.

The pancakes were sweet, fluffy and held up to all the intense weight that was stacked on top of them. The blueberry compote was sugary, thick and dotted with fresh, real blueberries.

The duck. It was Theresa’s first taste of duck. I love being with people the first time they try a new food. To see that anticipation, excitement and look of satisfaction makes me so incredibly happy. I just want everyone to eat good food as much as possible and I love when I can facilitate that experience. The duck was tender, pull-apart and extremely juicy. It was smoky and added an intense, over-the-top (in a delicious way) richness to this stack. If you have never had duck, this is a great introduction to it. If you hate duck, this dish will change your mind about it. If you love duck, this dish will make you fall in love all over again.

I love, love, love chèvre. It is creamy, smooth, thick and salty. It is the perfect topping for blueberry pancakes. The chèvre was enough salty contrast to balance the entire dish and ensure that it was not cloyingly sweet. It also complimented the salty, fattiness of the duck. Yums.

GC ordered the McDowell’s Ribwich.

IMG_0845The McDowell’s Ribwich with roast garlic mayo, house relish, romaine, and green apple.

Does it get better than a Ribwich? I didn’t think so. Like our pancakes, this dish delivered in flavour, presentation and overall deliciousness. Another yums from Barque.

We already loved Barque and now Theresa does too! If you don’t have brunch plans this weekend, you should probably visit Barque. And if you are busy all weekend, rearrange your schedule, it’s worth the munch.

Happy munching!

La Cubana

On Sunday we found ourselves enjoying a beautiful day in Ronscevalles and a lovely brunch at La Cubana. When you enter the restaurant, they take your name and number and text when your table is ready. You are then able to leave the restaurant and explore the Roncey strip while you wait. This is perfect. It was a beautiful day and it was nice to not have to wait inside and within earshot of the restaurant. Once in the restaurant, it was nice to not have future brunch goers eying us down while they wait hungrily.

This restaurant has a cute, retro, 1950’s vibe to it which I imagine all of Cuba to have. The walls are tiled with a pale green tile, there is a long bar with stools and the floor tiles have a Spanish vibe to them. We were seated at the bar with a great view of the open kitchen.

IMG_0358We started off with some cocktails since we were having a late brunch at 12 o’clock. GC ordered a Cuba libre and I ordered a mojito.

IMG_0360A mojito is the perfect accompaniment to brunch. It is light, fresh with a hint of time.

GC ordered the Breakfast Sandwich.

IMG_0362 IMG_0363The Breakfast Sandwich with tomato, avocado, queso fresco, and a sunny side up egg with sides of rice, beans, tostones, and slaw.

This sandwich was recommended to us by our server. GC was debating between this sandwich and the Cubano and the server said that he had to go with the breakfast sandwich. This sandwich was ah-mazing. The highlight was the the huge, thick, slab-like piece of queso fresco in the middle of this sandwich. It was creamy, soft and milky. The egg was runny and oozed smoothly over the rest of the sandwich with every bite.

I ordered the Pork Belly.

IMG_0364 IMG_0365 IMG_0367Pork belly with pineapple glaze and sunny side up eggs with sides of rice, beans, tostones, and slaw.

This is one of the best breakfasts I have ever had. I would like every breakfast to come with pork belly rather than bacon. The pork belly was fatty, juicy, pull-apart deliciousness. The pineapple glaze had a sweetness to it, with big chunks of pineapple dotting the pork belly.

The eggs were a thing of beauty. I loved how rich in colour the yolks were: they were a marigold, yellow/orange colour and tasted sweet and creamy. They were done over-medium, the right balance of oozy goodness and thicker, creamy cooked yolk. The yolk oozed over the rice and beans.

The rice and beans were tasty. They had a nutty, slightly spicy flavour to them. The slaw was tangy and crunchy. The tostones were the only thing I wasn’t crazy about. The breading was crunchy and not greasy but I am not one for plantains. I topped my entire plate in a healthy amount of house made hot sauce. It was so tasty. Sweet, spicy, with a little bit of tang and bite. They should sell this so I can buy it.

We finished off our brunch with a dessert of two cafe con leches and donuts.

IMG_0368This was a great cup of coffee. It was light, creamy and sweet. The donuts were warm, and covered in a combination of cinnamon and sugar. How can that not be good? It was the perfect way to finish our meal.

This restaurant is everything I love about food in Toronto: different flavours and cuisines that you would never think of trying in neighbourhoods you don’t necessarily visit often but should. I would highly recommend a brunch here and I plan to return with various people and sample more of the menu. And the best part: they have a patio. I will be spending many summer days and nights at this spot.

Happy munching!

Food & Drink – Beer Glazed Pork Tenderloin

Every three months another Food & Drink magazine is released and I rush to the LCBO to covertly grab a copy for myself and one for my mom. I pour over the pages filled with beautiful photographs and recipes for cocktails and other yummy things. Although this magazine is basically my porn, cialis I had never actually cooked anything from its pages until the other day. GC started a new job (yay!) and for his first day, buy I made him a congratulatory dinner: Beer-glazed pork tenderloin with cranberry gruyere risotto.

201306046This recipe immediately jumped off the page at me. It combines so many of my favourite ingredients (cheese, check beer, pork and risotto) into a truly unique dish. The flavours are seasonal and this meal would make a great dish for a holiday party. The fruity tastes of the cranberry cut the rich, nutty flavours from the cheesy risotto.

The pork is perfectly cooked because it is cooked to a specific internal temperature using a meat thermometer. I had never used a meat thermometer before and it is now my favourite kitchen utensil. The glaze is fruity and delicate, and works in tandem with the fruity risotto.

We absolutely loved this dish and I would suggest making it again and again. The recipe from Food & Drink is below the cut – happy munching!

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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.

photo 3

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!

My Thanksgiving Feast

Ok, medicine so I am working on a slight delay but you have to give me a break. Or at least please, ask try and forgive my tardiness over the Christmas holidays. Just after American Thanksgiving (yes, a month ago) I cooked my own version of a Thanksgiving feast. A Thanksgiving feast does not need to have turkey, just a delicious, juicy meat, oozing with flavour, texture and aroma. I cooked pork tenderloin for our feast with sides of mashed potatoes, carrots and brussel sprouts.

Recipes linked below – happy munching!photo 1(1)1. Brown Sugar Balsamic Pork Tenderloin (recipe from Sweet Hersey Living)
2. Citrus-Glazed Carrots (recipe from Bon Appétit)
3. Brussel Sprouts with Shallots and Pancetta (recipe from Bon Appétit)

 

White Bean and Ham Soup

November 15th’s soup: White Bean and Ham soup.

IMG_4889This is another thick and hearty soup. I love a soup that can stand on it’s own alone as a meal. This soup was my lunch for an entire week of work.

The soup is salty and fatty from the ham and bacon and is overloaded with protein from the two types of pork and the beans. This soup was better after the first day. I didn’t add extra salt since there are so many salty ingredients in this soup. Because of this, the soup wasn’t well seasoned on the first day but afterwards, as the meat had time to infuse the broth, and it was the perfect amount of salt. We both loved this soup and it is being added to the “Make Again” list.

The recipe calls for corn bread croutons which I didn’t make since I am not the biggest fan of cornbread (sacriledge I know) but I have left the instructions for them in the recipe.

Recipe is below the cut! Happy munching!

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Canada Day – Baconation

Happy Birthday Canada! What better way to celebrate the birth of our great country then by eating bacon prepared in 6 different ways? NO WAY! On Canada Day we headed down to Harbourfront Centre for Baconation by Barque.

For $7 you got 6 samples (top middle, clockwise):

IMG_40241. Pig Licker – root beer float with chocolate covered candied bacon
This is the best chocolate covered bacon I’ve had. I’m not a fan of bacon and chocolate, I don’t think it is a necessary combination or a successful one. This bacon however, was the perfect amount of crispy and the chocolate was softly enrobbing the bacon. This wasn’t a necessary garnish or a successful one to add to a root beer float but it was still tasty.

2. Fake ‘n Bacon – smoked tofu with lemony greens
I do not typically like tofu. Why eat fake meat when you can eat real meat? But this was one of my prefered samples of the day. Crispy, seasoned nicely and freshness from the greens; a perfectly composed sample.

3. Smoked Pork Belly – with grilled pineapple and hoisin BBQ sauce
This was my favourite sample of the day. Pineapple and pork are best friends and the hoisin BBQ sauce took this up a notch. I could have eaten about 40 more of these. I think I should make my own skewers like this to satisfy this urge – who agrees?

4. Canadian Sausage – smoked bacon wrapped weenie with ketchup BBQ sauce
This was also delicious! The weenie was sweet and the bacon was wrapped tightly but not too tight. With the first bite, the wrapping stayed intact like a tightly wrapped Christmas present. I would love to go to a holiday party where these are the cocktail weenies.

5. Peameal Bacon Taco – with maple slaw and grainy mustard aioli
This taco is better in theory than it is in execution. There was not enough sauce and slaw to make the taco creamy and hold it together. There was no acidity from the slaw or the mustard, which was a huge miss for me. The peameal bacon was unfortunately dry. This was my least favourite sample of the three which I didn’t think would be the case when there is a tofu version of bacon on the menu…

6. Bacon Chips – crispy corn tortillas with smoked bacon salt, charred corn and bacon salsa.
I think all nachos should be made like this. Smoky, salty and crispy. I loved, loved, loved this. I want a huge platter of it next time I go for beers.

And of course, floating around the plate, the seasoned popcorn that greets you at your table at Barque. My palate is not defined enough that I can actually identify all the spices and seasonings but floating around in there is some cinammon and chili powder. I wish I could get this rub and put it on my own popcorn at home or sneak it into the movie theatre.

This event was a great introduction to the cabilities and creativity of Barque. It was a nice little taste for us to experience before we went to the restaurant, two days later for GC’s birthday – more on that later! Another great event put on by Harbourfront Centre and another great Canada Day.

Happy munching and happy Canada Day!

Porchetta & Co.

A few weeks ago GC and I were in search of lunch along Queen Street West. The problem was it was a Sunday afternoon and apparently hipsters cannot fathom eating anything that is not a breakfast food before 5 pm on a Sunday. I didn’t want breakfast, I specifically wanted something resembling a lunch so we made our way back up to Dundas Street West to finally try Porchetta & Co.

Porchetta & Co. is around the corner from GC’s work and still, somehow, after so long, we had not yet been. Now that we have gone, we are hooked. Here’s their whole deal, in a convenient pictograph:

Obviously that is going to be good – how could it not? Anything made with that much love and care is going to be delicious, especially when wrapped in prosciutto.

Despite not wanting breakfast, I ordered the Breakfast Sammy and GC ordered the regular sandwich.

PorchettaThe sandwiches are not as small as they look and they are incredibly filling. The breakfast sammy was porchetta, crackling, a fried egg and smoked Gouda. The porchetta was thickly cut, fatty, juicy and smoky. The crackling was in small enough cubes that each bite had a crunchy bite in it but large enough to provide a satisfying, salty, crunch. The egg was fried with a crunchy bottom and had a gooey yolk. The Gouda was silky and smooth and added a different type of smokey taste to the sandwich. My sandwich was topped with a little bit of house made hot sauce and Kozlik’s mustard. Kozlik’s mustard is amazing and you should all check them out at St. Lawrence Market.

This is a quick bite to eat that is cheap and filling. Porchetta and Co. is a sandwich place worth checking out!

Happy munching!

Cheesewerks…again

One of my favourite restaurants in the city is Cheesewerks. It’s simple, straightforward and delicious. There is a lot of contention regarding where in Toronto has the best grilled cheese and the general consensus is the The Grilled Cheese in Kensington Market is the best. I completely disagree with that. TGC is basic and unsatisfactory. They don’t consider the sandwich as a whole idea – the bread is always the same regardless of the filling and there is too much confusion and a lack of cohesion to their sandwiches. If you want to go for a full grilled cheese experience, you need to go to Cheesewerks.

We went to Cheesewerks two weeks ago and like any successful visit to Cheesewerks, we started with two homemade sodas, both Blackberry Melon.

IMG_3229The blackberries were a slight preview of the produce that we are eagerly waiting for with the arrival of summer but the melon was cool and refreshing, like sucking on an icicle. This drink was the right balance of the longing for summer but the enjoyment of winter.

GC ordered the Original, a safe and comforting choice on a cold, blustering day. I decided to be adventurous and try something new. I usually opt of the Los Angeles grilled cheese which, omgis so good and you need to try it as soon as possible, but that day, I tried the Beijing.

IMG_3231The Beijing grilled cheese: Asiago, BBQ pork, Hoisin, slivered green onions, grilled on green onion potato bread. This sandwich IS AMAZING. It gives the LA a run for it’s money. The Asiago is sharp and has amazing punch which dances with the sweetness of the pork. The pork is sweet, caramelized and fatty. The green onions add a touch of freshness and the bread is light, a great base for such a rich sandwich.

After such an amazing experience  with a new sandwich, I am definitely trying a new one next time I go, which hopefully will be soon! I’m torn between the Houston or the Charleston… They also serve fondue which I am very intrigued to try… So much cheese, so little time.

Happy munching!