Easter 2016

It is Easter Monday and seemingly everyone else is off from work except me. The subway was empty this morning; I didn’t have to do my typical wait on the train for 10 minutes in the tunnel north of St. Clair West while empty trains are sent through for more important people. The offices at work are empty and it is a slow, rainy day.

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Easter weekend was relaxing, spent outside with beautiful weather and with amazing people. On Friday we made our traditional Italian pasta appetizers, calascioni. This is something that Ninni remembers making as a young girl in Italy, when these types of expensive meats and cheese could only be bought at Easter. This tradition has been passed on to me and Giancarlo and we now share this tradition with his best friend Nick and his wife, Rachel. The day is spent rolling out homemade pasta dough, cutting out perfect circles, filling each ravioli-like pocket with the meat and cheese mixture and baking in the oven until they are golden and oozing cheese. After a few hours of hard work, we enjoyed dinner, wine and Yahtzee.

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Canoe

On February 7th we celebrated our five year anniversary. It’s crazy to think that all of this started five years ago and no one would have ever predicted it would become something this amazing. GC is my best friend and I can’t imagine life without him. I love him and I know we have many, many years of love, friendship and adventures ahead of us.

Ok. Enough for the sentimental, on to the food and how we celebrated. Since it was a milestone anniversary, we decided to go big. We stayed downtown at the Royal York hotel, we went for dinner at Canoe and we had cocktails at Library Bar.

Canoe is a fantastic restaurant. We had gone there once before for Summerlicious and it was amazing, but you truly need to visit and taste of the regular menu because it is exponentially better, if that’s even possible. We were seated at a table for four, with both of us sitting together facing out onto the city and harbour on a cold and snowy day. It was the perfect, romantic atmosphere to celebrate an anniversary.

Our server asked us if we were here for a special occassion and we told him it was our anniversary. This prompted him to give us some free samples off the tasting menu! Happy anniversary indeed!

We started off with a cocktail – the Winter Wonderland. Jack Daniels honey liqueur, Benedictine, milk and nutmeg, topped with a Bobbette & Belle marshmallow. This is one of the best cocktails I have ever had. It was served in a tall, slender glass, packed with ice and the cocktail was a lush brown colour. It was a rich chocolate milk spiked with booze and spiced up with nutmeg. The marshmallow on top was a playful touch, that was sweet, whimsical and nostalgic. The straw in the drink was a paper straw that looked like a birch tree. This just added to the illusion that this drink was truly a winter wonderland. Yums.

We started with the night’s amuse bouche that was a cauliflower soup with Earl Grayed sultanas. This soup was thick, creamy and earthy. The sultanas were delicate, sweet, smokey and add a touch of British teatime sophistication to the soup.

Next, we had the Wellington County Beef Tartare.

beef-tartare-2-624x416beef-tartare-624x388Wellington County Beef Tartare with applewood smoked bacon, pretzel toast, and Forbes’ wild flavours.

Beef tartare is one of my favourite dishes. It is raw, fresh, cool and has a clean taste. This tartare was all of those things, seasoned with the right spices and and flavours of pickles. The bacon was crispy, salty and smoky but it took away from the dish rather than adding anything of value to it. It added a crunch that was too conflicting with the tartare rather than complimenting it. The pretzel toast added a sweetness through its dough but also a slight saltiness.The wild flavours were all pickled products: beets, pickles and mushrooms. They complimented the pickles that speckled the tartare but the presentation of this dish was too chaotic. The eye did not know where to focus and in turn, the stomach did not know where to focus or where to begin.

After our appetizer we were given an apple gelee.

mar12CanoeShackUp21How gorgeous is this presentation? I love the simplicity and organic quality it has. The bed of greens, below a perfectly shaped ice disk that cradles the deliciousness you get to eat. The apple gelee was sweet and dense, a thicker apple sauce. The perfect palate cleanser before our main course.

GC ordered the 45 Day Aged Ontario Rib Eye.

canoe145 Day Aged Ontario Rib Eye with roasted carrots, Portobello pickles, smoked mustard aioli and crispy layered potatoes. GC loved this steak. He ordered it to be done medium which is a bit too cooked for my liking but it was still juicy, tender and rich. It was such a hearty and intense meal.

I ordered the Green Alder Rubbed Venison.

8226934271_59ec4a15d8_zGreen Alder Rubbed Venison with steel cut oats, charred leek, mini tourtiere and mountain cranberries. This was an amazing dish. The venison was done medium-rare and it was perfect. Juicy, rich and such an indulgent over-the-top dish. The steel cut oats were an interesting and different choice for a grain but I didn’t love them.  It seemed like an awkward attempt at fusing together breakfast and dinner. The leeks were tender and fresh and the cranberries added a natural tart sweetness to the whole dish. The mini tourtiere was soft and tender but it was unnecessary. There was more than enough food in the dish that it wasn’t needed and it was executed well enough that it  could have stood on its own.

And lastly for dessert, we ordered the Butter Tart Wedge.

IMG_3281The Butter Tart wedge with spiced raisin and bourbon ice cream. This was one of the best desserts I have ever eaten. The crust was flaky and buttery, and the filling was completely divine. It was luscious and completely ridiculous. It was comfort food taken to the gourmet. I would recommend a visit to an O & B restaurant just for this.

We were also served with jellied passion fruit cubes which were perfect little bites of heaven. It reminded me of the fruit jellies you might eat around the holidays but with real fruit juices. Overall this was an amazing meal. The atmosphere, the service and the food  were delicious and memorable. It was such a perfect evening.

After dinner we strolled through the PATH over to the Royal York’s Library Bar where we enjoyed a few cocktails. Library Bar’s menu is interesting as it takes a look a the history and evolution of the cocktail. I ordered the Robert Burns’ Whiskey Cup – combination of Chivas Regal 12 year old Scotch Whisky & Drambuie sweetened
with their own rooftop honey and topped with a luscious lemon foam – and the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Gin Rickey – Hendricks Gin with pressed lime, cucumber and crystallized rose petals topped with seltzer. I preferred the gin rickey, it was a gin and tonic taken to the next level. Easy to sip, cool and refreshing. The lemon foam on the Whisky Cup was good enough to eat on its own and I wish I could order a bowl full of it and just eat it like pudding. GC ordered the Margaret Atwoods Margarita – Berry Berry Tea infused Sauza Tequila, fresh lime and Cointreau, served on the rocks – and Michael Ondaatje’s Brandy – Remy Martin VSOP Cognac, pineapple and lemon juices, simple syrup and Grand Marnier.

Happy Anniversary baby! I love you and I can’t wait for more years to come!

Photo credits: Toronto Life and Oliver & Bonancini

 

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.