Happy birthday to my favourite person in the entire world, GC!!! Well, technically his birthday was July 3rd and we did celebrate that day, I am just operating on a bit of a delay. On the suggestion of a coworker we decided to check out Barque Smokehouse for the birthday dinner.

We were seated on the patio – a cute little patio, off the side of the restaurant with twinkling lights. It was cozy and felt like someone’s backyard patio. When we were seated at the table we were greated by Barque’s signature popcorn – yums!

We ordered cocktails – GC ordered the Bourbon Smoked Sour (not pictured) and I ordered the Barque Caesar:

IMG_4068The Barque Caesar with vodka, Clamato, seasoned with pepper, Tabasco, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce, garnished with pickled asparagus and a slice of lime, and rimmed with smoked and candied bacon. This may be the best Caesar I have had. It was spicy, and thick, it tasted like a cocktail rather than tomato soup. It was garnished beautifully and it wasn’t ridiculous looking (unlike another Caesar I will be featuring on the blog shortly). The smoked and candied bacon was the perfect hint of savoury, fatty, sweetness to round out the flavour palate of this drink. I highly recommend it if you are a Caesar lover.

We started with an order of Smoked Chipotle Wings.

IMG_4062This wings were delicious. They were slightly small but when thinking about meat this should be viewed as reassuring rather than disappointing. It means that your meat is coming from chickens that are not on steriods and other growth horomones. The meat was juicy, tender and perfectly cooked. The sauce was SPICY. We made the rookie move of assuming that because we love chipotle mayo and the Mexican restuarant “Chipotle” we can therefore handle this heat. We cannot but they were still delicious.

Next we ordered the Barque Sampler for two. Barque Sampler for 2


The Barque Sampler for Two with Meat: Beef Brisket, 2 Beef Rib, and 2 Competition Chicken Thighs and Sides: Fries, Cuban Corn, and Fennel Slaw.

The meats were better than the sides and I am totally ok with that. The beef brisket was tender, and had a rich, deep smoky flavour. The ribs had this amazing rub on them, that combined a wide range of flavours from coffee to cinnamon. The table beside us also ordered the ribs and asked their server what the blend of spices in the rub was. The server was unable to give away all the spices but brought out a small container of rub for them! The chicken thighs were tender, smoky and had a delicious sweetness from the sauce. There is the disclaimer on the menu that because the meats are smoked they will not come to you piping hot but warm. Eating this meal in the summer is perfect: it is substantial and filling but you won’t get hot and uncomfortable while eating your dinner (or is this just a problem that I have?).

The fries had a spice on them that was similar to the popcorn spice which made the fries sweet rather than salty – neither GC or I appreciated this. Fries are best when they are enjoyed in all their salty glory. The Cuban corn was sweet, had a hint of spice but was too cold to really enjoy. The kernels had done that awful thing where they start to shrivel once cool and all the juiciness from the corn disappears. The fennel slaw was my favourite part – tart and acidic with a fresh and citrus quality from the fruit. This is the prefect salad for summer.

I would have loved to be able to eat dessert but alas, there was no room. We later went home and enjoyed homemade mini twix cheesecakes (previously featured here)!

Barque was my first really introduction to this neighbourhood and I love it. It feels like a less busy and more mature Annex. We will definitely be going back to sample the endless options combined in the sample platters.

Happy munching!

Restaurant Tacular

Last week the Mount Pleasant BIA hosted Restaurant Tacular – a tasting event that featured restaurants along Mount Pleasant Road between Davisville and Eglinton. Each restaurant was serving a selection appetizer sized tasting plates for $2, $4, or $6. I checked out Restaurant Tacular with Al.

1. We walked up Mount Pleasant to check out what restaurants were available to us. This event was very poorly advertised – most of the businesses along Mount Pleasant had signs for the event but not all were participating. This was the only information regarding the event. I think there should have been representatives from the BIA giving information/maps out so people could tell which restaurants were participating. There also should have been a list of the tasting plates that would be available at each of the restaurants. This would have required more organization and volunteers but it would have created a more successful event.

2. The first store we went to was Cheese Emporium. This is a cheese shop I have always wanted to visit but just have never gotten around to. They have a huge selection of cheeses and they were offering a chunk of stinky French cheese for $6. We didn’t get the cheese because it would have melted in our purses and that wouldn’t have been enjoyable. I can also go here any time and buy myself some cheese. Despite this, I think it’s great that the BIA got stores involved as well – see where your fresh product comes from before a restaurant turns it into tasty dinner.

3. Our second stop was Granite Brewery.

Granite Brewery has been in Toronto for 20 years. We both ordered 3 chicken wings with Granite BBQ sauce and a 3 oz taster of Ringwood Ale.

The BBQ sauce was spicy and sweet, with a hint of beer. The wings weren’t meaty and plump but these were wings that were actually more about the sauce than the wings themselves. The beer was light and sweet, it was similar to Alexander Keith’s. This little taste was enough to make me want to go back. This brewery has quality beer and tasty food – the perfect combination.

4. Our next stop was The Flaky Tart. I ordered the vanilla custard tart topped with strawberries and Al ordered two chocolate cupcakes with vanilla icing. The custard was creamy and light, with a strong vanilla flavour. The strawberries were fresh and bright. I plan to go back and try some more of their tasty desserts.

5. Next was Culinarium. Culinarium was one of the few restaurants that actually had someone outside serving the food and had balloons to draw foot traffic into the restaurant. They were serving a deconstructed salad comprised of peas, strawberries, and mint topped with a toasted crostini and a slice of Parmesan cheese.

I don’t know how I feel about this. It wasn’t really in a format that was convenient for eating by hand. The flavours were fresh and tasted like summer but it was slightly too sweet. The strawberries and the peas were nice compliments to one another but I hate peas. This was unique, fresh and different and it got me curious for what else Culinarium has to offer.

6. Next was Spanish style tapas from Pimenton. This restaurant was a cross between a grocery store, a caterer and a restaurant – one-stop shop for Spanish and Mediterranean food.

We each got three individual tasters – leek flatbread (this is how I am referring to it, there was a beautiful Spanish name associated with them that I have promptly forgotten), a chorizo flatbread and croquettes. The flat breads were crispy and a perfect combination between fresh, summer flavours, and fat, meaty goodness. The croquette was crispy and was potato based. As we were leaving the store there was a huge pot outside the store where they were making fresh paella.

Seeing this being made killed me – it was going to be ready in an hour but we didn’t wait. Everything in the skillet looked gorgeous and fresh and THOSE WHOLE LOBSTER BODIES. I should have waited the hour for this. I could have stood near the skillet and just absorbed all the smells and colours of the skillet. Great Spanish style food, the place had so much personality and the staff was friendly and excited about everything to do with food. I’m craving this food again, particularly the paella, which I didn’t even try. I didn’t realize you could crave food you’ve never eaten before.

7. Our last stop for Restaurant Tacular was some palete cleansing gelato from Il Gelatiere.

I got two flavours – peach and of course, lemon. The peach had all the real flavour of a perfect, August peach but did not have the feeling of licking a sweater. And lemon is always perfection. This is another one of the city’s great gelato places and is worth checking out.

8. On the way back to the subway we passed through the Apple Tree Market at June Rowlands Park. This farmers’ market had an assortment of fresh produce, honeys, jams, baked goods and meat. This is a fantastic farmers market. I bought fresh cherries and rhubarb – the rhubarb was literally picked 6 hours before I bought it. The great thing about Toronto is there are so many different farmers’ markets throughout the city on all days of the week so you can buy fresh, local, organic produce constantly.

This was a great opportunity to discover an area of Toronto that I wouldn’t be immediately drawn to. I got to try a few different restaurants and a farmers’ market that has beautiful produce and other goods. Do not be deterred by location – this area of Mount Pleasant is a five minute walk from Davisville Station. Another neighbourhood to discover, taste and love.

Happy munching!