Wilbur Mexicana Restaurant

It is no secret that I love Mexican food, especially tacos so it was shocking that I hadn’t yet tried Wilbur Mexicana Restaurant given that it opened over a year ago. A few weeks ago I was finally able to check this restaurant outwith my friends Lynsey and Sarah.

The restaurant is named after the chemist Wilbur Scoville, who created the Scoville scale which is used to measure the heat of peppers. No, this isn’t something that I just randomly know because I am a huge history nerd (which is true); the restaurant provides fun facts on the menu and the table numbers.

The restaurant’s interior is industrial and resembles a 19th century laboratory. There is a combination of sleek countertops, high-top tables and lower tables clustered around tufted-leather booths. The back wall of the restaurant is a feature wall: there is a large, apothecary-cabinet like wall piece that houses dried chilies and other supplies, ready for scientific experiments. The light fixtures are appropriated scientific beakers, giving the restaurant that hipster-industrial cool edge that King West craves.

The restaurant features casual ordering: you order from the front counter, they give you a number which features a stylized drawing of a pepper on the front and the back provides various factoids regarding the pepper. How could I not love Wilbur: good food and knowledge! We each ordered 3 tacos, and starters to share: chips with guacamole, chips with queso fundido and Mexican street corn.

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Smith

On a quiet Sunday in September, we headed down to Church Street to check out Smith. The restaurant is in an old Victorian-row house on Church Street, slightly hidden from view. The only hint of the restaurant is a red marquee sign in the window spelling out the name. There is bar seating just outside the restaurant on the sidewalk. The restaurant is narrow, with twists and turns leading to the back patio which is one of the most romantic, cozy spaces in the city.

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The gate opens to overlook a park off Church Street. The benches are decorated with mismatched pillows of varying sizes and fabrics. The exposed brick wall is painted in sections and natural in others, giving a very industrial feel to the space. The tables are rough and rustic, reminiscent of barn doors. On our table there was an antique porcelain cabinet knob that was turn upside down holding a single sprig of lavender. It is simple and cute.

GC ordered the Benedict.

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The Benedict with poached eggs, parmesan leek fondue and home fries.

Yes. Fondue should always be a topping not a dipping sauce. The parmesan leek fondue is nutty with the garlicky freshness from the leeks. It is thick and rich but does not overwhelm the eggs. This is an adult version of an already adult breakfast item. It is fancy without being stuffy and pretentious. It is fresh and tastes of spring. This would be the perfect addition to an Easter brunch.

I ordered the Huevos Rancheros.IMG_1446 IMG_1447The Huevos Rancheros with tortillas, poached eggs, black beans, guacamole, sour cream and salsa.

Another perfect dish. This huevos rancheros is fresh and light but is packed with protein and flavour. The guacamole is creamy, as if it is blended with sour cream but maintains the lightness of a sauce. The salsa is chunky and fresh, allowing the fruitiness of the tomato shine through, with hints of spice. The tortilla is toasted and a strong support for the pile of food mounded on top but is still tender enough to slice through perfect bites of Mexican yumminess.

The brunch was a bit pricey, but it is definitely worth it as a treat. I returned a few weeks ago for a Winterlicious dinner with a friend and it delivered just as much as the brunch did. I can’t wait for the return of warm weather so that I can return to this patio and enjoy a delicious brunch once again.

Happy munching!

Easy Restaurant

The only appropriate way to kick off a cottage weekend is to go for brunch. Back in the summer, ampoule we headed up to Muskoka for some much needed rest and relaxation. Before we hit the road we went for brunch at Easy Restaurant. Nothing makes me feel more relaxed than enjoying some delicious food with my best friend and not in the midst of the usual weekend-brunch craziness.

We went to the College Street location. The restaurant is filled with movie memorabilia, advice retro toys, ailment and heavily features images and posters from Easy Rider. It has a very chilled out, hanging out in your grandparents’ basement vibe to it – I was into it. It was cool without being pretentious and fussy and was accompanied by a great soundtrack.

The menu was a mixture of Mexican flavours with brunch classics. I ordered the Huevos Divorciados.

IMG_1325 IMG_13262 sunny eggs on a corn tortilla with spicy green & red salsa, re-fried black beans with side guacamole, ancho jam, toasted baguette with home fries.

I’ll be honest: when I ordered this I really thought it was going to be your regular huevos rancheros with a different name and maybe more salsa. Don’t be fooled, I actually know nothing about food. So you don’t make the same naïve mistake that I did, here is a description of the dish: Huevos divorciados, or “divorced eggs,” is a Mexican breakfast featuring two fried eggs separated by chilaquiles or tortillas. Refried beans with tortilla chips can also be substituted. One egg is covered in salsa roja and the other is covered in salsa verde.

There you go! My dish delivered in all the way it was supposed to. The red salsa was fresh and summery, and the green salsa stood in sharp contrast with its spiciness and heat. I liked that the beans on the eggs were refried but in their original form, rather than a mash but you still had the option of a more dip-style bean on the side of the plate. The eggs were perfectly cooked sunny-side up: the yolk had just started to solidify on the bottom into a creamy thickness but the rest of the yolk was still runny on top. The guacamole was delicious. It did not have tomato, which I prefer because I find tomatoes make the guac watery. It had the right amount of garlic, and zesty citrus flavour.

My favourite touch: that it was served with baguette instead of tortillas or regular bread. Delicious.

GC ordered the Guacamole BLT.

IMG_1323 IMG_1324The Guacamole BLT with crispy bacon, guacamole, tomato, and greens on a whole wheat panini with home fries.

This was a delicious and cozy brunch. The flavours were fresh and summery. This is the perfect brunch for feeling summery and starting a cottage weekend. It would also be the perfect brunch to enjoy on a cold winter day similar to what we are experiencing now. This is not my favourite brunch in the city but it is a solid choice and the price is right. It may not be in my Top 10 but it would grace the Top 20. If you are looking for a relatively greasy, Mexican-ish brunch, Easy Restaurant is the perfect choice.

After we brunched, we drove north and enjoyed a relaxing weekend on Georgian Bay. The weekend was perfect: good food and drinks, a steam, a black bear and even better company. I would recommend that you have a weekend like this too! Happy munching!!

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Brunch – El Catrin

Brunch in Toronto can be a gruesome undertaking. Most restaurants do not: open until late morning, clinic take reservations or offer other options until mid-afternoon. The last point really irks me because if I go out for food after 1 o’clock, seek I want lunch not breakfast.

That being said, pharmacy despite the above and my less than enthusiastic feelings towards breakfast, we have officially become people who brunch. We are trying to cut back on going out for food (which greatly pains me) and in tandem with that, we are trying new places. As most of our free time together is weekend mornings and afternoons, we are people who brunch.

A few weeks ago we had brunch on the patio at El Catrin.

IMG_4571IMG_4560 IMG_4562 IMG_4563 IMG_4564El Catrin has an amazing patio. It is unfortunate that we are slowly edging out of patio weather and many of you may have missed this patio because it is worth a visit. But put it on your list for next spring! I love the combination of bench, chair and stool seating, the large fire pit in the center of the space and the mixture of textiles, materials and colours that give this patio a very bohemian, Mexican/Spanish vibe.

We started with a round of margaritas because all brunches should include booze of some sort.

IMG_4565I think my affair with tequila may be over. The past few times I have had tequila shots, margaritas, or other cocktails with tequila, my stomach cannot deal. I think it is the amount of citrus that throws me off and leaves me feeling incredibly nauseous. Regardless of my dainty stomach, these margaritas are delicious: salty, tangy and with the perfect woody kick of tequila.

We then had guacamole and chips.

IMG_4566I found their guac a little more about the theatrics rather than actual taste and quality. They bring over the fresh ingredients in a mortar and pestle and mix the guac tableside. This is a fun, interactive component of the meal but do you really need to prove to me that you are using authentic, good-quality ingredients? Shouldn’t your food speak for itself? Because of its presentation, I had higher expectations for this guac and it feel slightly short.  I did like that the guac wasn’t perfectly smooth, I like a little chunk and texture to my guac.

GC ordered the Omelet Machado Con Pollo.

IMG_4567 IMG_4570Chipotle braised chicken, green onion, tomato, green bell pepper, and salsa verde.

This was an insane amount of food. I understand that brunch is supposed to set you up for the rest of the day and ensure you aren’t hungry until dinner but omigosh did this omelet do that and more. The chicken could have been a bit spicier and better shredded but the vegetables and salsa were the perfect bit of freshness to pull the omelet together.

I order the Huevos Rancheros.

IMG_4568 IMG_4569Three fried eggs over a corn tortilla with salsa roja, garnished with black bean puree, guacamole.

I love, love, love this dish. The tortillas were warm, salty and slightly crunchy, being substantial enough to hold up to all the mounds of Mexican goodness on top, but soft enough to be cut into perfect bites. The eggs were fried nice and crispy but ensured that the yolks ran beautifully and golden all over the plate. The black beans were slightly sweet and nutty and had a nice gritty texture to them. They were pureed but not pulverized, and served warm. I could have eaten just these beans. The salsa had a nice bit of spice to it which kicked up this dish and made it taste truly Mexican.

Overall, this is good Mexican food with great cocktails and ambiance. A little bit on the pricey side but, given that you are in the Distillery District, you can’t be surprised. I am waiting for the opportunity to arise when I can go back for dinner and enjoy the interior of the restaurant.

Happy munching!

Fish Tacos

Fish tacos are something that when I first heard of them, I was repulsed and confused. To me, tacos were always something with salsa and cheese and those condiments simply do not mix well with fish. Now that I have tried fish tacos and learned of the range of flavours and combinations that they can support, I can’t get enough of them.

Here is my first attempt at homemade fish tacos:

Fish Tacos1. I prefer my fish to be breaded and crispy in my fish tacos. This fish was marinated and then grilled. It was perfectly grilled, flaky and fruity. I didn’t marinate the meat long enough as I didn’t read the recipe before I started cooking and I got impatient. This would be a perfect taco to eat on a summer’s day in the backyard.

2. The mango slaw was fruity, light and citrusy. I didn’t add the chilies to avoid sinus issues but next time I definitely will. That kick of heat will take these tacos up a notch.

3. There was something missing from these tacos – a crunch of some sort. The recipe also suggested that instead or in addition to the mango slaw you could use a traditional cabbage slaw. With the fish not being breaded you need a crunch for some other source.

These were tasty but not my favourite. They are a lighter fish taco that reminds one of summer and citrus flavours and I will make them in the warmer months on the barbecue. Recipe is below the cut and happy munching!

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Milagro

A few nights ago, GC and I had a “Treat Yo’ Self” (inspired by Parks and Recreation) night where we went for pedicures and then out for dinner.

We go to Pedimani Nail Spa on Yonge St (if you care, which I doubt you do), just north of Lawrence. Close to home but more importantly and, why I mentioned what neighbourhood we were in, close to tons of great food options. The options are seemingly endless: burgers, BBQ, sushi, Mexican, Italian and frozen yogurt. We are slowly going to munch ourselves up this stretch of Yonge on our “Treat Yo’ Self” nights and we started with Milagro.

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Grilled Salsa Chicken

I made Kraft’s Grilled Salsa Chicken for dinner a couple of weeks ago.

Excuse my shadow.

1. I would suggest marinating this overnight with the salad dressing to really bring out the zesty, slightly spicy flavour.

2. The salsa is so fresh and light – it really brings out the citrus flavours of the chicken and it doesn’t feel like a heavy, overbearing meal. This salsa would be good on it’s own with some tortilla chips… or even as a summer salad.

3. This recipe is perfect for summer – light, fresh and easy. I am looking forward to making this again on our new barbeque.

4. I served the chicken with some rice and poured some of the salsa on top of the rice as well. Super yummy.

Recipe below the cut.

Happy munching!

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