Verjus – Paris 2016

When you visit Paris, patient the restaurant choices are overwhelming. There are literally thousands of restaurants and they are all good. Or at least as a traveller to the city you think they are all good. Everyone you know who has visited the city will have a different list of about ten restaurants “you HAVE to try” and of course, they are in neighbourhoods that are not remotely close to you or anything you want to see. Then you foolishly think, “Ok. Let me look up restaurants with Michelin stars.” Don’t do that. It is the most futile Google search you will ever perform and you will depress yourself as you don’t have hundreds of euros to spend on lunch to go to somewhere with 1-Michelin star let alone something with 3-stars which the official definition is “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” It is overwhelming, daunting and borderline annoying to plan meals in Paris.

However, one meal that was easy to plan was our dinner at Verjus. I learned about Verjus while watching The Getaway, a show by ESPN that features B-list actors and their favourite weekend getaways. Paris is the city of choice for Aisha Tyler. In the episode she eats at a few wine bars (Frenchie which was unfortunately missed on this trip) but Verjus really stood out for me. It is run by an American couple who are part of a change that is happening in Paris about how people view food and restaurants. It began as a wine bar with tasting plates or petits plats (which sounds so much daintier than tapas or sharing plates) and has expanded into a full-on restaurant with a tasting menu and a second restaurant called Ellsworth.

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To get to Verjus we entered through an alleyway called Passage de Beaujolais. We were early for our reservation so we wandered through the short alley and down the stairs that took us street level to a whole other world. From there we could see that Verjus is located in an old, 3-storey, very typically Parisian building that is across the street from the Théâtre du Palais-Royal. We felt like we were transported back in time to the 18th century. We meandered through the archways of the théâtre and discovered the beautiful gardens of the Palais-Royal with its wild rose bushes and fountains. As dusk began to fall we headed back to the restaurant to enjoy our dinner.

The tasting menu was 10 courses for 76€ with wine pairings for an addition 55€. We decided to go for it with the wine pairing because who knows when you will be back in Paris eating a tasting menu at an amazing restaurant because you won a free trip? And yes, for those of you doing the math, this meal was almost $400 Canadian, making it one of the most expensive meals I have ever had.

We were seated at a small table close to the entrance and the stairway leading upstairs. I was more than ok with this because it allowed us to be surrounded by windows offering views of the streets below and an opportunity to take a peek at upcoming courses as they whipped their way upstairs.

We started with a course featuring three different appetizers that were all served with a sparkling white wine, Catherine & Pierre Breton’s Vouvray Pétillant “La Dilettante”

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Violet asparagus, with sorrel mayo and wood sorrel.

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Fava bean fritter with herb tahini.

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Trout roe, with house yogurt, on a flatbread topped with arugula.

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Café Neon

My first brunch of 2016 was at Café Neon, health a restaurant listed by BlogTO as one of the best new brunch places of 2015.

Café Neon is a long, case narrow restaurant on West Queen West that is essentially a coffee shop taking it up a notch and serving food beyond scones and pastries. The interior features cozy tables and tiny booths. There is a large counter located near the front of the restaurant to order various coffees and espresso-based drinks from. The restaurant has a very coffee-house vibe to it: cozy, intimate, with eclectic art and design.

There is actual tableside service which is not always the case with restaurants serving more than coffee. Our server was energetic and excited about their menu which in turn, made us very excited. We hemmed and hawed over the menu and then with prodding from the server I ordered the Eggs Benny.

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IMG_5338The Eggs Benny with two poached eggs and smoked pulled pork on a scone with béarnaise sauce, salad greens and potatoes. Continue reading

Wallace & Co.

Oh, right! I’m supposed to write about the food I’ve been eating, not just continue to eat and cook and not tell you about it. Things have been a little hectic lately: work is all over the place, GC started a new position with new hours (yay!) and we have been crazy busy with hiking, camping and wedding planning. Because of all of these things, Taste Buddies has been ignored and you have no idea where I have been eating lately! Tragic, I know.

A few weeks ago we went to Wallace & Co. in the Junction. It wasn’t our first choice for brunch that morning (more on that failed attempt later) but we were able to grab a seat on the patio at a picnic table. The patio is open and airy with views of the street and the neighbouring houses. Be warned that some of the neighbours, while friendly, are not the most appetizing addition to your brunch. There was one house that had it’s occupants sitting outside, chain smoking and drinking at 10 o’clock in the morning. Given that these are the neighbours, it would be a smart idea to build a privacy fence along the back of the patio.

There were two servers that day: one with a lot of energy, a great attitude and who was actually interested in working and then there was our server. She was slow, inattentive, and bored with us and her job in general. We repeatedly had to ask for coffee refills. When our food was ready she didn’t bring us cutlery which we had to wait several minutes for as our food got cold.

I ordered the Breakfast Sandwich.

IMG_0820 IMG_0821The Breakfast Sandwich with a maple sausage patty, bacon, a fried egg, cheddar cheese and onion aioli.

This sandwich was tasty. It was rich, fatty and greasy, everything I like my breakfast to be. The sausage was sweet, with a rich maple taste. The bacon had beautiful, thick ribbons of fat, oozing flavour throughout the bacon and the sandwich. The cheese was thick and sharp. The egg was oozy, but not too runny, just slowly flowing over the other ingredients in the sandwich. The onion aioli added a slight spicy sweetness to the sandwich to round out the whole thing.

The homefries were too crispy and slightly burnt. This was the real low point of my dish. Overall I enjoyed my breakfast sandwich and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good sandwich to start their day.

GC order the All Day Breakfast.

IMG_0819The All Day Breakfast with two eggs, peameal bacon, potato, beans, tomato and toast.

GC was not into his breakfast. His peameal was rubbery, the potatoes were burnt, and the beans were watery. This meal left a bad taste in his mouth and he did not enjoy his experience there.

Between the alcoholic neighbours, bad service and GC’s breakfast we liked this place, didn’t love it and won’t be revisiting it. Sorry!

Happy munching!

Big Crow

You know those friends you haven’t seen in forever but when you finally meet up you pick up where you left off and it is the most natural thing? I had a dinner like that last week. Last week I met up with my friend Laura and we went from dinner at Big Crow.

Big Crow is by the same guys who do Rose & Sons, and for those of you who don’t remember, I did not enjoy my experience there. Despite this, I was eager to try Big Crow. I was intrigued by what they were doing there: a patio only restaurant, cooking up barbeque at the back of an existing restaurant.

When we arrived, we were quickly seated at a picnic table close to the smoker where we could watch all the action. The result of this was my hair smelling of bonfire by the end of the night which I did not mind. That is one of my favourite smells in the world. We started with a pitcher of Algonquin Iced Tea which is their spin on the classic Long Island Iced Tea. It has vodka, gin, tequila, rum, blackstrap bitters, and ginger beer. It was delicious.

Next, we had the All Beef Verscht.Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset All Beef Verscht with apricot glaze and mustard.

This was basically Montreal smoke meat style barbeque so it was obviously delicious. The meat was smoky, fatty and charred nicely. The apricot glaze was sweet and thick, smothered over the meat and complimenting the richness of the meat. The mustard was spicy and grainy, a nice balance to the sweetness of the glaze.

Then, we ordered the JW Bird.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThe JW Bird – Cornish hen with sour pickle brine and salsa verde.

DELICIOUS. This hen was so incredibly moist. It was juicy and tender. The skin was crispy and kept all the juicy goodness inside. There was a slight sourness from the brine but it did not overwhelm the bird and make you think of pickles. The salsa verde was fresh and light. It added a different type of crunch to the bird.

We ordered sides of Picnic Potato Salad and Mexican Broccoli Salad.IMG_0919The Picnic Potato Salad with buttermilk ranch dressing, eggs and asparagus.

This potato salad was good. The dressing was light and thin, but it was slathered on a bit too heavily. The potatoes and asparagus were tender and retained a slight bit of crunch. I don’t typically like egg in my potato salad but this egg was in small chunks throughout the salad, giving a bit of smoothness and thickness to the salad. And it would be easy enough to recreate at home! Yums.IMG_0922The Mexican Broccoli salad with pepitas, tomato and avocado.

Broccoli salad is so underrated! Barbeques are fraught with pasta, bean and potato salads but rarely does the broccoli salad make an appearance. This was delightful. It was fresh and with different flavours then what filled the rest of the menu. The pepitas, a Spanish word for pumpkin seeds, were nutty, crunchy and completely tasty. These should be sprinkled on everything. Again, this would be such an easy salad to recreate at home for your own barbeque.

And lastly, we finished off with the S’mores Ice Cream Sandwich.IMG_0923An ice cream sandwich on a brioche bun?! Heck, yes! The brioche was sweet, fluffy and airy. Due to the sheer size of the bun it overwhelmed the contents of the sandwich.The ice cream was slightly too cold to make biting into the sandwich enjoyable or easy. The graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallow were not incorporated enough into the sandwich to make this truly a s’mores ice cream sandwich. The graham crackers should have been mixed in with the ice cream or sprinkled on top. The chocolate should be a piece of chocolate rather than chocolate sauce.

After tasting this, I plan to get a quart of Greg’s Ice Cream’s Roasted Marshmallow  ice cream and make my own version of a s’mores ice cream sandwich. Or maybe that will be my next ice cream venture – s’mores ice cream. Who’s in?

I loved my meal here. It was fresh, juicy and tasted like summer. I am looking forward to more visits to this back patio, especially when the days of summer are long behind us and our only connection to hot summer nights is food that brings back those memories.

Happy munching!

Leek & Potato Soup with Blue Cheese

Another recipe from my favourite book, recipe Williams-Sonoma Soup of the Day. This time it is the Potato and Leek Soup with Blue Cheese from January 28.

This is a great recipe that takes your standard potato-leek soup to the next level. The soup is thick from the starchy potatoes and creamy from the little bit of blue cheese. The leeks give the soup that subtle onion flavour that adds a bit of heat and freshness to the soup. The soup will look absolutely revolting once it is done, discount resembling a Dickensian sludge. But unlike that sludge, treat it is absolutely delicious and worth making again.

Recipe is below the cut – happy munching!

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Friday Night Dinner

My dinner on Friday night.

1. Maple Orange Glazed Pork Chops – I love that this recipe is from a site called porkchoprecipes.net. Seemingly sketchy but this recipe is amazing. It is so easy because the glaze is only a few ingredients and just has to be brushed on each side of the pork. The glaze was sweet and complimented the rich, fattiness of the pork. I have officially gotten over my fear of under cooking pork. I have made pork a few times now and have not died! Pork is my favourite protein so I am glad I am not afraid to cook it and that I now have a go-to pork chop recipe in my back pocket.

2. Scalloped Hassselback Potatoes – I came across this recipe a couple of months ago on StumbleUpon and finally gave it a shot. It is cheesy, creamy and a heart attack. Although these are delicious I should not get into the habit of making them frequently. The Parmesan was salty and sharp and worked well with the creaminess from the sour cream and the heavy cream (yes, this is why it’s a heart attack). I would have never thought to pair Parmesan with baked potatoes but it is such a natural pairing.

3. Beet Salad with Goat Cheese – this is similar to, if not the same recipe, my cousin made a few months ago. I love beets and rarely get to use them. The dressing had orange juice in it so it worked nicely with the pork and the goat cheese was creamy and soft. I think I like goat cheese more than I like feta. I don’t think I needed to make a salad with cheese in it since I had made my heart attack potatoes but this is what I wanted to eat. This recipe calls for maple roasted walnuts which I omitted but I can only imagine the maple, nutty flavour that would have gone with the pork.

Some close ups of each part of my meal.

This dinner was a hit and was easy to make. The most time consuming thing was the baked potatoes which took a little over an hour. I can’t wait to get a barbecue so we can make the pork chops outside on the grill instead of inside on the reversible panini-grill.

Happy munching!