Grand Electric

I had first heard about Grand Electric from my sister’s friend, Catherine. Years ago, Catherine had travelled to California and fallen in love with fish tacos and had been searching for the Toronto equivalent for years. Her favourite fish tacos in the city are from Playa Cabana and she has yet to try Grand Electric. I feel slightly terrible for trying  this suggestion without her (and without a few other people I had promised after that) but now I can tell her (and them!) that it is delicious!

Grand Electric is one of the more exclusive and sought after restaurants in the city. It’s exclusivity is not attributed to price, but rather size. It is a tiny little restaurant that jams in about 25 people and slightly more during the summer on their patio. Crowds of people are drawn to this restaurant due to the legend of their tacos and will wait outside in the snow and rain in hopes of getting a taste of these legendary tacos. To avoid the crowds and ensure that we would be able to try all the deliciousness that Grand Electric promises, GC and I had lunch on a Sunday and the restaurant was tightly packed but with no lineup outside.

IMG_3263If you hate hipsters you should definitely not visit this place. There are records on vinyl, antlers, craft beer and thick, plastic frame glasses everywhere. It is your grandmother’s 1970s basement meets hunting lodge meets Mexican food. A too cool vibe which is the perfect setting to enjoy some delicious food.

I make it a point to try the guacamole at every Mexican restaurant I visit.

IMG_3265No, this guacamole was not radioactive and poisonous, it is just a camera flash being slightly too powerful. This guacamole was exactly how I like my guac – half creamy and smooth, half chunky and dressed with a little bit of cilantro, garlic and lime. There is no need to put tomatoes in guacamole. It causes the guac to become too running and adds to much sweetness which takes away from the sharp acidity from the lime and cilantro and the vampire kick of the garlic. You can get your fill of tomato from the salsa on the side which was slightly chunky and had a great amount of heat – the perfect following act to the headliner guacamole. The chips were WARM! I am not highlighting this as a point of anger but rather a point of deliciousness! It brought out the corn flavour even more and highlighted that Grand Electric means business – fresh, homemade ingredients coming together to make a delicious meal made to order.

Grand Electric, like La Carnita, allows you to order tacos individually, allowing us to try 5 different tacos that day.

IMG_3266Top left, clockwise: Spicy Arbol Chicken taco, Scrapple taco, Beef Check taco and Pork Tinga taco.

These are easily my favourite tacos in the city. Grand Electric is easily worth the trek out to Dufferin, worth the wait and worth the claustrophobic seating. Omigosh. Taco by taco, here is what I thought:

The chicken taco was spicy, warm and tender. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the pickled cabbage brought out the sweetness in the marinade.

Scrapple is something neither GC or I had heard of so obviously once it was described one of us had to get it. Grand Electric does their scrapple by boiling down the head of a pig until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. Then this meat is formed into a loaf along with other ingredients and then cut into slices and fried. The result is fatty, salty, juiciness wrapped in a light tortilla. Who knew the face of a pig could taste so good?

This beef cheek taco was unbelievable. The meat was tender, falling apart but maintaining all its flavour. It was rich, deep and decadent. It was smoky and crispy. The toppings of guacamole, cilantro and jalapenos were the perfect trio of flavours to match the boldness of flavour that was found in the meat. Apparently some of the best flavours in an animal are found in its face.

The pork tinga tacos had all the qualities of the beef cheek tacos but with pork instead of beef. The crema made this taco even more decadent and rich, with the pork and crema battling for the tastebuds in your mouth.

IMG_3267And of course, the reason for coming, the fish tacos. These have become an area of contention between me and GC. GC loved these, I thought they were just okay.  We agreed that the toppings were the perfect compliment to the fish and the sweet, crunchiness of the cabbage slaw paired well with the crema and the heat of the salsa. The issue for me came from the fish itself which is the reason GC loved them. The fish reminded me of the fish in fish & chips, not the fish you should find in a taco. The fish in fish & chips is about the breading – it is greasy, crunchy and consumes the flaky, delicate nature of the fish. In a taco, the fish should be lightly breaded, adding a slight crunch rather than an overpowering CRUNCH. If that’s how you like your fish then you will love these tacos. Unfortunately I did not.

We finished off with a little dessert, a keylime pie in a cup.

This is the perfect cup of dessert. The whipped cream was homemade, light and airy. The key lime itself was sweet, thick and completely luscious. It felt like such an indulgence and complete extravagance to eat something to velvety smooth and sweet. The crust on the bottom left little to be desired. It did not taste like a good graham cracker crust mixed with butter and sugar but just like crumbs that had been smushed into the bottom of the cup. But after several spoon fulls of the key lime I really could have cared less.

If I am in search of fish tacos (and more accurately, feeling lazy), I will be sticking with La Carnita. If I am craving Mexican food, whether it be guacamole, tacos or key lime pie, I will be going to Grand Electric!

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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Crock Pot Carnitas

In the past year I have become a huge fan of Mexican food. It started off with the arrival of Chipotle in Canada and then the Mexican restaurant that opened up on Main Street in Newmarket. Sicne then, I have tacos at least once a week and crave some form of Mexican food at least once week.

Last week I broke out my Crock Pot again and made homemade Mexican pulled pork or Carnitas.

1. Of course, being something that is made in a crock pot, this is extremely easy to make. It is worth getting a crock pot just to make this recipe. Before I went to work in the morning I through all the ingredients in, and set it on low for 8 hours. I called GC around 3:30 to put the crock pot on warming and when I got home it was ready to shred. The meat just fell apart with the touch of a fork.

2. After tearing the pork apart you put it on a baking sheet to get brown and crispy. It takes the pork up a notch. I would suggest spreading the pork in a thin layer to allow it to become incredibly crunchy. You will probably have a ton of leftovers if you aren’t serving about 6-8 people so don’t crisp all the pork. Crisp it when you are ready to serve it next.

3. The pork is moist, sweet, and spicy. This pulled pork is comparable to any that I have had at Mexican restaurants. Next time I would kick up the spice a notch. I didn’t add the beer because I didn’t have any in the house. I used a chunkier salsa to allow larger chunks of tomato to shine through. The citrus flavour was subtle, yet apparent and was highlighted once more lime was squeezed on top of the completed taco.

4. We topped our tacos with avocado, sour cream and cilantro. Simple but delicious.

Recipe below the cut. Happy munching!

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Gourmet Bitches

On Monday I went to the Monarch Tavern with my friend Caitlin to try Gourmet Bitches.

Gourmet Bitches teamed up with the Monarch Tavern and is doing a pop-kitchen from October 15-28. Tonight November 4 is the last night so if you haven’t been, I would suggest you run over there and try some delicious food! Do it now!

The Monarch Tavern is two storey building and the Bitches are set up on the second floor. The MT is similar to any other pub – a little seedy, lots of tables, some old regulars but a general good, comfortable vibe. It is the type of place you know you can enjoy some good conversation and a drink without being hovered over.  One of their draws is the fact that they serve a wide variety of craft beers so we enjoyed a few pints while munching on the fare from GB.

We each started off with an order of their fish tacos.

White Fish Taco in a coconut and banana chip crust with kale, avocado,  habanero, pickled pear and carrot slaw on a gluten free tortilla. This was a tasty taco. My only complaint was that the piece of fish was a bit small. The fish was flaky and tender, and the crust was sweet and crunchy. The kale was leafy and fresh. Kale is a new topping for a taco that I haven’t seen on any other menu and I wouldn’t think would work, but it definitely does. The avocado was smooth and creamy. The habanero added a subtle heat that grew with every bite. The pickled pear and carrot slaw added a sweetness which further complimented the sweetness of the crust on the fish. The other thing I wasn’t crazy about (so I lied, there is two things I wasn’t crazy about with this taco) was the gluten free tortilla. It tasted fairly similar to a normal tortilla but it didn’t seem to be able to hold the weight of the ingredients. If that is the only negative thing that can be said for a substitute tortilla, I think that is pretty good. Plus, people with gluten allergies should be able to enjoy this deliciousness too!

We were still hungry so I ordered the pulled pork taco and Caitlin ordered the chicken wings.

Cuban pulled pork taco with plum salsa and kale. Ok, this is the amount of filling I expect in a taco. This taco was packed with ingredients and flavour. The pork was tender and moist, with a hint of spice. The salsa added the sweet, fruitiness that works perfectly with pork. This taco confirmed that kale is a natural pairing for tacos. Kale is so crispy, and has such a bright, green flavour – there is no other way to describe it. And it is amazing for you! High in anti-oxidants, calcium, vitamins and so many other things! Good call, ladies.

Dry rubbed Asian Cuban chicken wings. A combination of Asian and Cuban heat smothered over chicken wings. That is fantastic. I don’t typically go for dry rub wings but I think the next time I happen upon GB I will have to try their wings because these looked so enticing.

A great night of food, drinks and conversation with the lovely Caitlin. If you can get to Monarch Tavern tonight by November 4, please do because you won’t regret it. If you can’t, because of my failure as a writer and I didn’t give you enough time (I’m no longer a failure because of their extension), then try and track down Gourmet Bitches because these lovely ladies certainly do know how to bring gourmet food to the street level.

Happy munching!

Canadiana and La Carnita

Tonight I found myself in Little Italy. First, I went to a screening of the two new Heritage Minutes at The Royal with my sister Liz. This was a great event – a free Isaac Brock shirt, a free DVD of all the old Heritage Minutes and two new minutes about the War of 1812. I love Canada and I love history.

And I also love food. After the event, Liz and I went to La Carnita and Liz’s friend Laura joined us. We each ordered three tacos:

1. Liz had 2 Crispy Avocado and Frijoles and 1 Special

2. Laura had 1 In Cod We Trust, 1 Crispy Avocado and Frijoles and 1 Special

3. I had 1 In Cod We Trust, 1 Special and 1 Beef Cheek Taco. The beef cheek taco was on special during one of my previous visits and it looks like it has permanently made it way onto the menu.

The Crispy Avocado & Frijoles taco: beans, crispy avocados, chipotle sauce, queso fresco, and cilantro.

The girls liked these tacos: to quote Liz they were “omg yums.” Crispy, spicy and the perfect size to balance and hold all the flavours. This is a taco I have yet to try and I contemplated ordering it tonight but I had to opt for meat. Next time, I promise. There is something about a deep fried avocado that I find incredibly intriguing.

The Special – a blend of mushrooms with cheese and hot sauce in a hard shell taco.

This taco was amazing! I think this might be my favourite taco I have had at La Carnita. Sorry In Cod We Trust, you have some competition. The hard shell was still tender and soft, but firm enough to support all that goodness. The blend of mushrooms were hearty and almost had the texture of meat. They were caramalized and juicy, but retained their earthiness. The cheese was melted to resemble a cream cheese, but still slightly stringy. The hot sauce was hot and zesty, it took the mellowness of the mushroom and cheese up a notch. The greens were a nice touch of freshness. I hope this taco has the same luck as the Beef Cheek and graces the menu permanently.

I didn’t post my pictures of the In Cod We Trust and the Beef Cheek because you have all seen them before. If you want to see them again, I would suggest you visit La Carnita, it’s obviously worth it.

We finished off our meal with churros. It was Laura’s first taste of churros and she loved them. The combination of cinnamon sugar and salted caramel was perfect for her – not too overwhelming or sweet. A delicate balance between sweet and savoury. Yums as always.

Happy munching!

Food Trucks – TIFF Edition

Delayed reaction – on September 11th GC and I went to see Camp 14: Total Control Zone, a documentary about a man born in a North Korean forced labour camp. After this delightful film (obviously sarcastic, it was incredibly depressing) we went out to Bloor Street in front of the Bloor Cinema to hit up food trucks! We tried all three trucks that were there that night: Stuft Gourmet Sausages, Gourmet Gringos and Hula Girl Espresso.

1. We started with Stuft Gourmet Sausages. GC has been eyeing a restaurant in New York City called Dogmatic for years and this is a similar idea: sausages in a hollowed out baguette.

I love the simplicity of this truck’s design. The name is cute and the website features sexual innuendos which naturally come with the name “Stuft.” It is neat how the bun are toasted – there is a griddle on the truck with about 12 or so spears which the hollowed out buns get speared onto. The crew on the truck is high energy and excited about people and food. When you give them a tip, one person yells, “A tip for the truck!” and the rest of the crew cheers! I gave them a tip just to hear them cheer.

You choose your sausage and then you choose your topping. I choose the Creole Turducken Sausage (Turkey, duck, chicken seasoned in authentic Creole spices) topped with the sweet Chiptole BBQ sauce. The sausage was a nice blend of meat, resulting in a very juicy and moist sausage. The sauce was sweet and tangy, and added a little more heat to the subtle heat found in the sausage. The bun was perfectly toasted and held the sausage tightly making it the perfect handheld yum and easy for transportation.

GC choose the Spinach & Feta Lamb/Beef (Grass fed beef, Ontario spring beef, crumbled feta and baby spinach ) Sausage with Smoked Gouda and Mozzarella cheese sauce. The cheese sauce was great – creamy, thick and smoky. The sausage was okay – I had a hard time differentiating between the lamb and beef and I couldn’t really pick out the spinach or feta. A yummy sausage but not as complex tasting as one would expect.

2. Next we visited Gourmet Gringos.

I have been wanting to try Gourmet Gringos since I wrote the Gastropost article on my Toronto taco, or rather, the taco in Toronto that I couldn’t wait to try. For whatever reason, I took me about two months to get around to trying this truck, but it was well worth the wait.

Of course everything looked amazing, but we had to go for the fish tacos.

Mahi Mahi Fish taco: fresh Mahi Mahi fillets marinated overnight, then battered in a seasoned beer batter and fried until crispy and golden brown. The fillets are served on a fresh corn tortilla topped with homemade coleslaw, guacamole and finished off with a chipotle aioli.

These were delicious. The taco shell is the best tortilla I have ever eaten. It was so fresh that you could taste the freshly ground grains and the light toasting brought out an almost nutty taste to the shell. The fish was crispy yet flaky and the slaw added a further crunch to the taco. I wish there had been more spice but they did provide various hot sauces so that oversight was on our part. I liked that they keep the taco mild and you can amp up as much spice as you want.

3. And last, but certainly not least, we tried Hula Girl Espresso.

Hula Girl Espresso is a coffee shop that has expanded into a truck. They had a large variety of iced teas, coffees, espressos and other snacks. I ordered the rosemary watermelon lemonade and it was fantastic. The rosemary offered a nice spice and had a subtle pine taste. It would have tasted even better spiked with gin. There were so many fresh fruit flavours – the watermelon and then all the garnishes (lemons, and various types of berries). GC ordered the espresso and he thought it was good. His only complaint was that there was too much sugar but that is something that can easily be fixed.

Another great night with GC, and another great meal provided by food trucks. Perfection.

 

La Carnita – Part III

On Friday night I went to La Carnita with my friend, Laura.

We both ordered two In Cod We Trust. Below is our tray once we each had had one of these delicious beauties.

In Cod We Trust – Voltron sauce, lime crema, pickled red cabbage, green apple & cilantro. These were just as good as the first time I tasted them. It seemed like they have made the taco shell slightly smaller but all the taco components are the same size and spilling out of the shell.

My third taco was the Special (pictured left) and Laura’s third taco was the Tostada de Lengua (pictured right).

The Special – braised beef cheeks, fresh avocado, jalapeño peppers, and sauteed shallots

The Tostada de Lengue – beef tongue, Westcoast verde, orange sauce, grilled pineapple radish & beet sprouts

The Special was amazing. The beef cheeks were moist and fell apart with each bite being perfectly braised. The avocado was fruity and bright, incredibly fresh and perfectly ripe. I like my avocado slightly firm but still sweet. The jalapeño peppers added the right amount of heat, a slow sizzle in your mouth. The sauteed shallots added a slight sweetness and crunch that tied the entire taco together. This is a taco I would like to see on the menu.

And for dessert I ordered the Blueberry Paleta (pictured below) and Laura ordered the Churros (not pictured – how many time can you post the same picture of churros?)

This tasted like it was made with wild blueberries from the Northern Ontario Canadian Shield. Sweet, but slightly tart with a few whole berries speckled throughout.

Happy munching!

Toronto’s Festival of Beer – 2012

The week of July 27-29 played host to Toronto’s Festival of Beer. This event is exactly what you might think it is – a lot of drunken fools having a good time on a gorgeous summer afternoon. And this year I was one of those fools. I went on the Sunday with my friend best friend from high school Julianna and her sister, Natalie.

Ok, let’s be fair. There is a lot of good beer here, but there is also a lot of good music and food. And we weren’t actually drunken fools; we just enjoyed a few beers, listened to some good music (Hollerado and Big Wreck) and had a good time.

Prior to the event you purchase a ticket for $25 and this gets you admission to the event, a tasting mug (glass and you get to keep it) and two tokens. Once inside the event, you can buy more tokens, $20 for 20 tokens and each sample is typically 1 token for a half, and 2 tokens for a full. There was only one exception to this rule that we found – McClelland Premium Imports, but as they import beer, this makes sense. We estimated that a full was about the equivalent to a half pint. Tokens can also be used to purchase food – but who would want to do that?

We tried beers from the following breweries:

Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co.
Big Rock Brewery
Creemore Springs
Great Lakes Brewery
Hogtown Brewers
Innis & Gunn
McClelland Premium Imports
Railway City Brewing Company
Samuel Adams
True North Beer

We had the most amazing corn on the cob from Ontario Corn Roasters – one of the last tastes of summer for me. It was nothing special but it was just grilled and then dipped in butter. You could then shake any topping on it that you wanted: salt, garlic powder, paprika, dill, or really anything that comes in a standard spice rack. So delicious.

Natalie eating some delicious corn while holding her tasting mug.

Julianna doing the same.

We had fish tacos from K-Song Tacos and these were not my favourite. There was no cohesion in the dish. The fish was very bland and fruit did not taste fresh. The kimchi was good but it didn’t work with any other flavour in the dish.

There was other food options that probably would have been more promising, including food trucks, pop ups like Rock Lobster Food Co. And Fidel Gastros and of course, Tiny Tom Donuts.

This is a great event and do not be deterred by the number of bros who will be there. Yes, the frat boy to regular person ratio is slightly high but when we went, everyone was well behaved and just having a good time. I will definitely be going next year and checking out more beer festivals in the future.

Happy… drinking? But be safe!

Gastropost – Taco Take Over

This week’s challenge for Gastropost was Toronto’s Taco Take Over. I decided to do a little research into a new food truck that is starting, Gourmet Gringos, and find out what kind of tacos they will be serving up. The people at Gourmet Gringos were great, they gave me a photo of their Mahi Mahi fish taco and a description of all the deliciousness that it contains. You can check out my Gastropost page here and the the contains of the original post below.

Photo Credit: Suresh Doss – Spotlight Toronto

Instead of featuring a taco that I have had and so has everyone else, I decided to feature “The Taco I Can’t Wait to Eat” – the tacos from Gourmet Gringos. Gourmet Gringos is a new food truck that will be launching in the next couple weeks and is Toronto’s first Latin American inspired truck. The truck will feature a variety of tacos: mole braised short ribs, carnitas, cochinitas, braised shredded chicken, Argentinian steak and what I can’t wait for, the Mahi Mahi Fish Taco.

The Mahi Mahi Fish Taco uses fresh Mahi Mahi fillets marinated overnight, then battered in a seasoned beer batter and fried until crispy and golden brown. The fillets are served on a fresh corn tortilla topped with homemade coleslaw, guacamole and finished off with a chipotle aioli (as described by the chef behind Gourmet Gringos).

Umm, yes, please! Only two more weeks until this becomes a reality!

This week`s Gastropost challenge is pack your food… Anyone up for a picnic?

La Carnita – July 27

On July 27th I went to La Carnitas with Cynthia for dinner. Yes, I realize I have been slacking…

We both started with the Ceviche.

Swordfish, lime, coconut milk, habanero sauce.

I think my initial introduction to ceviche (at the June edition of TUM) was not the best example of what it can truly be. This being said, I still loved it and now I am just wowed every time I have a new version of it.

The swordfish was tender and creamy with a bit of heat. The tortilla chips that were used added a lot of saltiness to the dish but this just added to the fresh, ocean taste.

I’m considering doing a ceviche round up for Toronto and rating them – who would like to participate in that? So far I’ve tried the Ceviche de Camaron from Milagro (they have 4 different types of ceviche on menu) and now, La Carnita’s ceviche. If you have any suggestions of amazing ceviche you have tried or a restaurant that has it and you’ve been dying to try it let me know.

Then we ordered three tacos each – The Chorizo, The Daily Special and The In Cod We Trust.

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