Front Street Food

Last summer Front Street Foods launched outside of Union Station. It was a giant food market with various vendors that served all the tastes of Toronto conveniently in the Financial District. But it was not so convenient for me who spent part of last summer in exile at Eglinton and Mount Pleasant *shudder* and the remainder of the summer at Yonge and Bloor. I was so excited to hear that the market was back this summer but in a new location: a courtyard at Adelaide and York. Last week Giancarlo and I had a lunch date and went over to the market to check it out.

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The market is not in the greatest spot and you won’t randomly stumble across. It is up a flight of stairs and tucked in between two office towers and a hotel. But once you arrive at the market, healing it is like stepping into a city oasis. You are greeted with a large sign encouraging you to eat in large marquee letters. There are dozens of picnic tables, high tables for standing and trees to provide ample shade. We did a quick circle around the market and decided on two options: Hot Bunzz Street Cuisine and Fish’d by Edo.

IMG_6678We ordered the Seoul City Beef Short Rib and the Texas BBQ Pulled Pork bun from Hot Bunzz Street Cuisine.

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Left: The Seoul City Beef Short Rib bun with slow braised beef short rib Kobi style with caramelized onion; topped with kimchi puree, sesame soy sauce and garlic aioli.

Right: The Texas BBQ Pulled Pork bun with pulled slow roasted pork with caramelized onion, herbs and spices; topped with chef’s Pork BBQ sauce and coleslaw aioli.

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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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Luna Cafe

On a rainy day at the end summer we went to Luna Cafe. Luna Cafe is a tiny restaurant on the main floor of an old Victorian house on a side street just off on Ossington. The cold rain fogged up the beautiful antique stain glass windows giving the restaurant a very romantic atmosphere. The tables are a mismatch of farmhouse style tables; rustic, worn and comforting. I was very taken in by the decor and atmosphere of this restaurant. It was homey, warm, and inviting. It was absolute perfection.

We ordered coffees and then food. I ordered Egg’s Benedict.

IMG_1538 IMG_1539Poached free run eggs on English muffin with peameal bacon, wine-ripe tomato and chipotle hollandaise with greens and homefries.

Because it was a rainy day, we were one of two tables in the restaurant. The service was SO. OBSCENELY. SLOW. On a cold and moody day, we didn’t mind this. We were allowed to sit and chat with hot coffees in hand and watch the rain drizzle down the windows. We should have known that if service was slow when no one was in the restaurant that on a subsequent visit, with more guests, that it would be even more terrible.

This was delicious. The muffin was soft and airy. The peameal was crispy without being dried out. The chipotle hollandaise was buttery, thick and spicy. I can overlook bad service for good food. Or so I thought. But more on that later.

GC ordered the Smoked Salmon Egg’s Benedict.

IMG_1537Poached free run eggs on English muffin with naturally smoked salmon and fresh dill, hollandaise with greens and homefries.

Fresh, light and delicious. The salmon was velvety soft. The eggs had that hint of vinegar I crave and the dill was fresh. GC loved this take on the traditional Benny.

We loved our experience so much that we returned for a second visit. NEVER AGAIN. No one acknowledged our presence for 15 minutes. We were then seated at a large country table for four. Which we were then asked to move from after about 30 minutes WITHOUT FOOD to accommodate a group of 4. WHICH WAS NOT A GROUP OF 4. It was two couples that did not know each other! This move made no sense and was fueled by the lack of food. It took forever for the server to take our order and then even more forever for us to get our food. When we eventually got our food my order was wrong NOT ONCE. NOT TWICE. BUT THREE FUCKING TIMES. Sort your business out! Gah! Reliving this infuriates me to no end. No food is good enough to live through this. I completely acknowledge that this is the epitome of a first world problem, but do I not attend brunch to be the epitome of a first world problem?

Obviously I would not return to Luna Cafe and I think you should rethink your visit. Happy munching!

Windup Bird Cafe

Months and months ago when we ate brunch every weekend and it was warm and sunny, we went to Windup Bird Cafe. This restaurant is super cute. It is brightly painted, has a wooden bar, exposed brick and sleek metal accents. There is a cute patio facing Borden Street with potted plants and brightly coloured plastic chairs. Although the patio was inviting, we opted for a spacious booth at the back of the restaurants. We were the only ones in the restaurant. We viewed this as intimate but it is always concerning when a restaurant is deserted at brunch.

The menu is very unique, focusing largely on fusion and fresh, seasonal ingredients. The restaurant is very active with its programming – offering cooking classes, talks and seminars.These programs cover a range of topics from making sushi to food literacy. It’s great to see that kind of active fostering of a food community in Toronto.

GC ordered the Fried Chicken and Waffles.

IMG_1398The Chicken and Waffles with deep-fried chicken karage, roast potatoes and seasonal veg.

I’m not going to lie – it’s rather disappointing that the waffles are not perfectly round. The piece of chicken was a little small but it was tasty. Karage is a Japanese cooking technique where meat is marinated soy sauce, garlic and ginger and then coated and fried. There is subtle, underlying umami flavours.

I ordered the Smoked Salmon Benny.IMG_1399The Smoked Salmon Benny with avocado, spinach, and house hollandaise.

I am seldom of the opinion that eggs Benny should be healthy, but this was yummy. It was light and fresh, tasting of spring. The hollandaise was buttery and spicy, with tastes of dijon. This is a very adult take on the Benny and would be perfect for an Easter brunch.

I’m not into kale salad as a side for my brunch. Brunch should be served with potatoes, toast and any other type of carbohydrate. There is no room for salad at brunch.

After a delicious brunch, we headed north to check out the Cheltenham Badlands. The Badlands are easily one of the coolest place in Ontario I’ve had the opportunity to check out and I would highly recommend it if you live in the area. Indie88 (do we view them as an authority on travel?) recently named it one of Canada’s 10 Underrated Landmarks.

IMG_1403 IMG_1405 IMG_1414 IMG_1422IMG_1409IMG_1410IMG_1416 IMG_1423Happy munching and hiking!

Afternoon Tea – The Windsor Arms

My mom is one of my favourite people of all time. She is the most inspiring woman I know. She is smart, charming, witty, beautiful and just completely amazing. She is my real life Meryl Streep.

10332_674748901846_121506112_40082178_2410099_nMom & Girls OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot only do I gush about her, I eat with her. This year to celebrate her birthday and Mother’s Day, we went for afternoon tea at The Windsor Arms. The Windsor Arms is everything you want a hotel to be. It is sleek, polished and has a very posh London hotel atmosphere about it.

This posh atmosphere continues into the tea room. The table settings are white linens and all the china is matching. There is a hat stand with a variety of hats with ridiculous plumage fit for a royal wedding. There was a group of girlfriends in floral dresses and fascinator enjoying afternoon tea. It was all very dainty and proper.

The tea rooms are seated according to your reservation time and seatings are fully booked. I understand  the need to make money and run a successful business but it takes away from the ambiance when you are too closely seated to the next table and the low hum of other patrons turns into a loud drone.

We shared a pot of the Private Windsor Arms blend. This tea was a blend of Ceylon, Nilgiris and Assam teas. It was delicious. Our tower of deliciousness was presented to us and stacked in the traditional manner from the bottom up: scones, sandwiches and desserts.

IMG_0607The Goat cheese and caramelized shallot tart.

I promise you, this tart did not look so sad and lonely in person. The tart was served first as it was warm. It was delicate, soft and sweet. I wish it had been slightly bigger or maybe served as two. On it’s own, it was the perfect warm, little bite of rich, cheesy goodness.

IMG_0608Fresh scones with preserves and Devonshire cream.

The scone serving was very generous. We given two each and they were huge. They were impossible to grab using the tongs and this resulted in me dropping one of my scones. It was my classiest use of the “5 Second Rule” to date. There was two different flavours of scones: raisin and orange currant. These scones were firm on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. They were only made more perfect smothered with Devonshire cream and various jams. I could eat scones all day.

The fresh sandwiches consisted of: 1. Smoked Salmon and Wasabi Sour Cream with Salmon Caviar 2. Cucumber with Sundried Tomato Paste and Dill Cream Cheese and 3. Grilled Chicken, Granny Smith Apples Citrus Mayonnaise, Greek Yogurt and Chives.

The sandwiches were tiny. The bread had been flatten out and rolled into pinwheels rather than being served as quarters or miniature sandwiches. Due to the form the sandwiches take, the sandwiches are not packed with filling. The flavours were not bold and intense. The flavour that stood out the most was the salmon. It was smooth, creamy and salty. The cucumer was delicate and light, tasting faintly of a fresh garden. The chicken sandwich was filled with chicken but the other flavours did not stand out.

And last but not least, the dessert level.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset The Petits Fours: Chocolate Mousse Truffle, a Coconut Marshmallow, a Mango and Passionfruit cake and a Lemon Custard Tart topped with Raspberries.

Please explain to me why for two people we are given four different desserts? And desserts that cannot easily be shared? This was my major complaint with the tea service. The final touch of the tea service is dessert and to be underwhelmed is disappointing.

That being said, we shared our desserts and by the end were full. My favourite was the lemon tart. Lemon and raspberry is my favourite combination of flavours in desserts. The zesty, tartness of the lemon combined with the subtle tart but still sweet flavour of the raspberry is pure perfection. This tart had a crumbly shell filled with velvety smooth lemon filling and topped with three, perfectly formed raspberries. Yums. The low point: the coconut marshmallow. It was underwhelming. Marshmallows should be in hot chocolate, not on a dessert tower at afternoon tea.

Overall the tea experience was lovely but the company was even better. This was the perfect afternoon to celebrate the awesomeness that is my Mom. I love you, Mom!

Happy munching!

Summerlicious Part I: Sassafraz

Today GC and I went to our first Summerlicious location, Sassafraz, in Yorkville.

The yellow house on the corner. Sassafraz is so welcoming from the street with its yellow walls and striped awnings. I sit outside Sassafraz every afternoon at work and I’m always jealous of all the people sitting on the patio and going into the restaurant. Today I was one of those people.

The inside is light and airy with a water feature and a living plant wall on the back wall. It feels very French with its muted colours, plush arm chairs and simplistic decor.

We started off with the Vichyssoise with lobster and truffle essence.

A vichyssoise is a chilled potato and leek soup. It can be served warm but traditionally, and properly it is served chilled. This was both of our first tastes of vichyssoise and it was delicious. It was thick and creamy, with the perfect hint of onion. The lobster was delicate, buttery and absorbed the flavours of the soup but still maintained its lobster flavour. The truffle essence was subtle, nutty and woody without overpowering the entire dish. My only complaint with this dish was the fact that I only had one piece of lobster.

GC had the Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Garlic Sweet Potato Mash, Asparagus and Sweet Apple Cider Glaze.

The pork was tender and juicy. The asparagus was crunchy, yet thoroughly cooked. The sweet potato mash – unreal. It tasted like Thanksgiving on a plate and I don’t ever want to eat regular mashed potatoes again. They were sweet, salty, with a touch of garlic and a hint of maple. I could have eaten an entire plate of these potatoes. This was the response from only two bites of these potatoes.

I had the Grilled Atlantic Salmon with Lemon Caper Orzo, Green Beans and Blood Orange Emulsion.

The salmon fell apart at the touch of a fork. It was perfectly grilled and a gorgeous pink, fleshy colour. The green beans had a hint of citrus to them and were both crunchy and tender. The orzo. Oh dear. The orzo was my favourite part. Orzo is one of my favourite pastas and I really should buy it more often. I love that you can eat it hot, warm or cold. This orzo was al dente with the strongest touch of citrus. It tasted like biting into a lemon without the sour face. The capers were overpowered by the citrus quality of the pasta but that’s ok – they may have added too much saltiness to a well balanced and seasoned meal.

To finish off his meal, GC had the Banana Cream Tart, Toasted Coconut Mousse and Mango Sherbet.

As a person who makes desserts often, I forget the many uses of bananas. Whenever there are rotting bananas on my counter they go into my freezer for banana bread BUT NOW there is the possibility of making banana tarts. This was creamy, sweet and a beautiful blend of tropical flavours. It tasted like a pina colada in a dessert. The mango sherbet was an odd choice but it was to round out the tropical palate of flavours.

I finished my meal with the Gotham City Cheese, exclusive to Sassafraz, served with flatbread and assorted dried fruit. The cheese is made by Afrim Pristine of Cheese Boutique.

I love cheese plate as dessert. It is one of my favourite things. This cheese was creamy and smoky like a gouda but had a strong flavour akin to a bleu cheese. This is a very good cheese. I would like it on crackers, on bread, in salad and on most things. I don’t like dried apricots , they are too fleshy and brittle. The dried prunes on the other hand were great. They were like sweeter, larger raisins. The flatbread was salty and earthy, the right compliment for such a creamy, strong cheese.

Sassafraz is a Toronto institution. It is a favourite of celebrities during TIFF and a go-to for Toronto’s business elite. The menu is nothing new or revolutionary but it is classic, French cuisine done perfectly. Everything we ate was perfectly cooked, seasoned and plated.

Summerlicious continues until July 22nd and I would highly recommend visiting this restaurant.

Happy classy munching.