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Taste of Toronto 2015

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You have to excuse my absence for the past few weeks, dragon boating temporarily took over my life during the month of June with 3 races in 5 weekends.  And although I had a race this past Saturday, I couldn’t pass up Taste of Toronto 2015.  A festival showcasing some of Toronto’s best restaurants hosted on the historic grounds of Fort York, right in the middle of downtown Toronto – its like a foodie’s paradise.  And what’s great is you can try 6-7 or more restaurants in a single night especially if you come with a group of friends.  When I originally purchased the tickets Morimoto Toronto wasn’t on the restaurant list but to my surprise, especially because it hasn’t opened yet (anticipated to be winter 2015), it was added.  So naturally, it was the first stand I hit.  I got the uni carbonara topped with a raw quail egg (meant to be broken and mixed with the pasta), nori and made with smoked bacon and parmesan….it was delicious!  And with what I’ve seen on TV, it was classic Morimoto using Japanese ingredients in unique ways.  Another restaurant that I’ve been meaning to try was Barque.  We ended up getting all three dishes that were being served – the BBQ pork taco, BBQ chicken thigh and the smoked chorizo ribs, and all they were all tasty so much so that I bought a bottle of their Texas BBQ sauce.  I can’t wait to use it.  We then finished the night with a couple of desserts, including some goat cheese ice cream from Woolwich Dairy.  I love goat cheese so I thought I would for sure like it in ice cream but I must admit, there’s something about the tang of goat cheese that didn’t combine well with what I expected from the texture of ice cream – it was definitely unique.  Check out some of the other dishes we had!

Taste of Toronto at the historic grounds of Fort York.

Taste of Toronto at the historic grounds of Fort York.

Restaurant tents at Taste of Toronto.

Restaurant tents at Taste of Toronto.

Weslodge's Fried Chicken with 5 day slaw and house jalapeno hot sauce.

Weslodge’s Fried Chicken with 5 day slaw and house jalapeno hot sauce.

Byblos' charcoal grilled lamb kofte with house pickles, toum and green schug.

Byblos’ charcoal grilled lamb kofte with house pickles, toum and green schug.

Morimoto Toronto's uni carbonara, quail egg, smoked bacon and parmesan.

Morimoto Toronto’s uni carbonara, quail egg, smoked bacon and parmesan.

Barque's chicken thigh with cuban corn.

Barque’s chicken thigh with cuban corn.

Barque's chorizo ribs.

Barque’s chorizo ribs.

Splendido's braised pork belly, peanuts, KFC and thai basil.

Splendido’s braised pork belly, peanuts, KFC and thai basil.

Barque's crispy BBQ pork taco, jicama slaw, tomatillo salsa, lime cream and cilantro leaves.

Barque’s crispy BBQ pork taco, jicama slaw, tomatillo salsa, lime cream and cilantro leaves.

Barque's smoker full of ribs.

Barque’s smoker full of ribs.

Los Colibris' ceviche tradicional cod, pico de gallo, serrano and lime.

Los Colibris’ ceviche tradicional cod, pico de gallo, serrano and lime.

Los Colibris' rajas poblanas chicken, corn, poblano and corn tortillas.

Los Colibris’ rajas poblanas chicken, corn, poblano and corn tortillas.

The Harbord Room's rhubarb, strawberry and pistachio upside-down cake, mint ice cream and preserved strawberries.

The Harbord Room’s rhubarb, strawberry and pistachio upside-down cake, mint ice cream and preserved strawberries.

Richmond Station's Carl Heinrich at work shucking oysters.

Richmond Station’s Carl Heinrich at work shucking oysters.

Richmond Station's funnel cake with vanilla ice cream and stewed fruit.

Richmond Station’s funnel cake with vanilla ice cream and stewed fruit.

Nespresso's coconut iced coffee.

Nespresso’s coconut iced coffee.

Woolwich Dairy's goat cheese ice cream.

Woolwich Dairy’s goat cheese ice cream.

Wine Club: Champagne

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The theme for our third wine club get together was Champagne (or aka sparkling wine)!  And what goes great with champagne? Brunch, of course!  We had three different champagnes to try and a lot of egg dishes to go with them.  This time, I was to bring a food dish and I thought a frittata would be perfect.  Basically, a frittata is very similar to an omelette except there’s no flipping involved which is great for me since I’m horrible at flipping omelettes.  For this brunch, I decided to use chorizo, red potatoes, asparagus, combination of fontina and manchego cheeses and parsley.  The flavours turned out really well and I think adding manchego made the difference, I normally just use fontina – but I love how manchego gave it a bit of sharpness this time around.  In terms of the champagne, all three were good but I have to say that the Cathedral Cellar from South Africa was a surprise.  I expect the Moet & Chandon and Mumm Napa to be good but with Cathedral Cellar at half the cost, it was delicious!  Definitely worth buying a bottle at your next celebration.

Champagne - food

Sunday brunch with members of the Wine Club.

Champagne - omelettes

Bacon and vegetarian omelettes.

Champagne - frittata

My frittata – chorizo, red potatoes, asparagus, fontina, manchego and parsley.

Champagne - Moet

Champagne #1 – Moet & Chandon.

Champagne - mumm

Champagne #2 – the Mumm Napa.

Champagne - cathedral

Champagne #3 – South Africa’s Cathedral Cellar and macarons from Laduree.

champagne - dessert

Along with the macarons, homemade chocolate covered strawberries and a fresh fruit salad.

Restaurant of the Month: R&D

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Toronto is becoming an amazing food city and its taken me a while to come around and my recent dinner at R&D, a newly opened restaurant in Toronto’s bustling Chinatown, has helped in a big way.  If you’re a fan of the reality cooking competition, Master Chef Canada, you will undoubtably know Eric Chong – the winner of Canada’s first season of Master Chef and well, this is his first restaurant.  Inside the beautiful space, you can see the open kitchen from every angle and Eric hard at work.  There wasn’t one dish that disappointed but a couple that surprised me in taste, in a good way.  General Sanders’ Chicken was one of them.  With a great crispy texture and unique flavour – I think its the five spice in the coating, the chicken was moist and delicious.  Served with Hong Kong style egg waffles was a great twist, a much lighter batter than a typical American waffle.  The other was the dessert.  You know me, I will immediately be attracted to any dish that sounds remotely different.  Well, when I saw crispy smoked milk on the menu, not knowing what that was, I just had to order it.  Looking like small donuts, the texture is something I’ve never had and so hard to describe, similar to fried tofu – you’re just going to have to go there and try it yourself!

The very discreet entrance to R&D.

The very discreet entrance to R&D.

Inside the dining room area of R&D.

Inside the dining room area of R&D.

Starting the night off right with a variety of cocktails.

Starting the night off right with a variety of cocktails – mine’s the one with the umbrella, pina colada bubble tea.

Roasted beet gado gado with pat chun vinaigrette, walnut, bean sprouts, green beans and crispy bean curd.

Roasted beet gado gado with pat chun vinaigrette, walnut, bean sprouts, green beans and crispy bean curd.

Egg rolls with chicken bamboo shoot and pesto.

Egg rolls with chicken bamboo shoot and pesto.

Shiitake polenta fries with mushroom ketchup.

Shiitake polenta fries with mushroom ketchup.

Little dragon buns filled with spicy sichuan lamb.

Little dragon buns filled with spicy sichuan lamb.

General Sanders' Chicken  with kung pao sauce, sichuan maply syrup and hong kong egg waffles.

General Sanders’ Chicken with kung pao sauce, sichuan maply syrup and hong kong egg waffles.

Lobster chow mein with wok fried lobster and chitarra noodles.

Lobster chow mein with wok fried lobster and chitarra noodles.

Eric's curry made with beef brisket, chinese mustard greens and coconut rice.

Eric’s curry made with beef brisket, chinese mustard greens and coconut rice.

Crispy smoked milk with malted milk ice cream.

Crispy smoked milk with malted milk ice cream.

Banana split - crispy banana fritter, sour cherry, condensed milk & peanut butter, bitter chocolate & tamarind ice creams, coconut cream and macerated strawberries.

Banana split – crispy banana fritter, sour cherry, condensed milk & peanut butter, bitter chocolate & tamarind ice creams, coconut cream and macerated strawberries.

Coconut sugar creme brulee with sour cherry ice cream.

Coconut sugar creme brulee with sour cherry ice cream.

The bar at R&D.

The bar at R&D.

Cluny Boulangerie

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I know that not too long ago, I dined at my February’s Restaurant of the Month, Cluny Bistro.  The decor, atmosphere and food were fabulous completely reminding me of my trips to Paris.  But with each visit I had every intention of stopping by the boulangerie located right when you walk into the restaurant and every time, it had closed by the time my meal was finished.  So when my good friend G came into town for a visit, we headed over to our friend H’s place for a reunion dinner and my job was to bring dessert so this was my chance to finally hit up Cluny Boulangerie – to be honest, I volunteered to bring dessert as an excuse for me to try the pastry shop :)  And I will definitely be going back to try some more.  The individual desserts were delicious and really unique.  The pistachio dessert especially, stood out.  The folks at Cluny recommended it and I’m glad I listened.  There were different textures and tastes, it was just yummy!  And a special nod has to go to their croissants.  With so many thin, crispy layers of pastry and classic flavours with a twist like chocolate and rum or rosewater and almond….they were both sweet and buttery.  Perfect for the morning or an afternoon pick me up!

Beautiful packaging of Cluny's pastries.

Beautiful packaging of Cluny’s pastries.

Fig with berry shot cake.

Fig with berry shot cake.

Cluny's decadent chocolate dessert.

Cluny’s decadent chocolate dessert.

Passionfruit tart.

Passionfruit tart.

Pistachio chocolate dessert.

Pistachio chocolate dessert.

Rum, chocolate almond croissant.

Rum, chocolate almond croissant.

The many layers inside Cluny's rum and chocolate almond croissant.

The many layers inside Cluny’s rum and chocolate almond croissant.

Rosewater, almond croissant.

Rosewater, almond croissant.

Inside the rosewater, almond croissant.

Inside the rosewater, almond croissant.

Casa Imperial Fine Chinese Cuisine

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On the outside, it looks like a large two storey home but when you walk in, the interior is grand.  The rooms have been kept intact with dark wood trim and chandeliers hanging from the ceilings – I almost felt like I should have been here having afternoon tea instead of dim sum.  We were seated in the downstairs dining room and to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from Casa Imperial but to my surprise the dim sum was pretty delicious.  Below are some of the dishes we ordered, most are common in dim sum but my favourites are the siu mai, sticky rice in lotus leaf and beef steamed rice roll.  You’ll notice that they do siu mai a bit differently here, made with the typical shrimp and pork except here they’ve topped it with conpoy – dried scallops.  Definitely worth the drive up!

Casa Imperial Fine Chinese Cuisine.

Casa Imperial Fine Chinese Cuisine.

The plaque hanging in the entrance to the restaurant claiming it a Scarborough Historic Site.

The plaque hanging in the entrance to the restaurant claiming it a Scarborough Historic Site.

Inside Casa Imperial.

Inside Casa Imperial.

Pan fried turnip patties.

Pan fried turnip patties.

Spare ribs.

Spare ribs.

Hong Kong style crispy noodles with seafood and vegetables.

Hong Kong style crispy noodles with seafood and vegetables.

Chicken feet with gluten in Chu-Hou sauce.

Chicken feet with gluten in Chu-Hou sauce.

Pan fried seafood pancake with green onion.

Pan fried seafood pancake with green onion.

Crispy taro dumpling.

Crispy taro dumpling.

Siu Mai - shrimp and pork dumpling with Conpoy.

Siu Mai – shrimp and pork dumpling with Conpoy.

Har gow jumbo shrimp dumplings.

Har gow jumbo shrimp dumplings.

Sticky rice with conpoy and chicken in lotus leaf parcel.

Sticky rice with conpoy and chicken in lotus leaf parcel.

Minced beef with coriander steamed rice noodle roll.

Minced beef with coriander steamed rice noodle roll.

Pizzeria Libretto

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If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you know that I’ve finally been tackling my restaurant list.  Pizzeria Libretto is another restaurant that I was able to cross off.  Now that they have opened an outpost in the financial district (literally 2 blocks away from my office), there was just no excuse to hold off any longer.  A few of my colleagues decided to go for dinner one night and it was busy, for the first and second seating.  I started the meal with a cocktail (can’t remember the name but I remember the sweet limoncello taste!) and burrata served atop lentils and pea shoots.  The it was time for the pizzas.  Classically made in the neopolitan way, my favourite was the white pizza of cremini mushroom, roasted garlic, buffalo mozzarella, gorgonzola, rosemary, thyme and pecorino.  It was delicious, with almost truffle-like flavour!  And if you eat your way through the entire pizza, they are sizeable pies, definitely order the panna cotta.  Now I know what you’re thinking, tiramisu right? But no, the panna cotta was surprisingly tasty – everyone knows tiramisu which is why I recommend the panna cotta.  I believe the accompaniment changes season to season and at this time, it was served with maple syrup and granola crumble.   Yum!

The most recent outpost of Pizzeria Libretto in the financial district.

The most recent outpost of Pizzeria Libretto in the financial district.

Inside Libretto.

Inside Libretto.

A burrata appetizer with lentils, pea shoots, croutons and vin cotto.

A burrata appetizer with lentils, pea shoots, croutons and vin cotto.

Starting the meal with cocktails.

Starting the meal with cocktails.

Cremini mushroom pizza with roasted garlic, buffalo mozzarella, gorgonzola, rosemary, thyme and pecorino.

Cremini mushroom pizza with roasted garlic, buffalo mozzarella, gorgonzola, rosemary, thyme and pecorino.

Grilled eggplant pizza with tomato, basil, chilli flakes and ricotta.

Grilled eggplant pizza with tomato, basil, chilli flakes and ricotta.

Special for the night, sausage pizza.

Special for the night, sausage pizza.

The Libretto tiramisu.

The Libretto tiramisu.

Maple panna cotta.

Maple panna cotta.

Chocolate amaretto budino.

Chocolate amaretto budino.

Pai

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Lately I’ve been craving Thai food like crazy, so much so that I’ve even gone as far as trying to make pad thai at home and frankly, it never does taste as good as it does when someone else makes it.  And Pai is my current spot to get awesome pad thai.  The interior is uniquely decorated, a cross between kitsch and tiki.  I’m going to be honest, I’ve gone to Pai three times in the past six weeks and each time I go, I start with the Thai iced tea.  If you love condensed milk, you’re gonna love the iced tea.  I have yet to try the thai bucket but its next.  Now that you know the pad thai is amazing, the squash fritters are delicious dipped in the tamarind sauce.  However, the surprise dish of the night was the pad gra prow which we were told is authentic thai street food.  Stir fried ground beef with basil and oyster sauce, served on jasmine rice, topped with a fried egg and nam plik nam pla sauce (fish sauce, garlic, chili and lime) – delicious!  If you love thai food, you need to come to Pai.

The entrance to Pai located on Duncan St. in Toronto.

The entrance to Pai located on Duncan St. in Toronto.

Inside Pai.

Inside Pai.

Famous thai iced tea.

Famous thai iced tea.

Grabong - deep fried battered squash fritters with garlic tamarind sauce.

Grabong – deep fried battered squash fritters with garlic tamarind sauce.

Thailand's specialty Pad Gra Prow.

Thailand’s specialty Pad Gra Prow.

Gaeng Masaman with braised beef and jasmine rice.

Gaeng Masaman with braised beef and jasmine rice.

Chef Nuit Pad Thai.

Chef Nuit Pad Thai.

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