Its a good thing I have friends who look out for me otherwise I would completely miss awesome events like Cheese Boutique’s 10th Annual Festival of Chefs! What a unique series of events – every weekend in May, the Cheese Boutique hosts a local chef from some of Toronto’s top restaurants who makes a dish inspired by the theme of the day. In addition, a local vineyard is also invited to pair the dish with one of its wines – and this past Saturday it was Hidden Bench from Beamsville and the Chef was Chef Sam Gelman from the infamous Momofuku! And all for $5 that goes towards the Famous PEOPLE Players. Ever since I heard rumours of Momofuku coming to Toronto, I knew I had to add it to my restaurant bucket list – although I did go to Momofuku Milk Bar when I visited New York City last December I haven’t had a chance to dine at Momofuku TO yet so this was my first taste of what I can expect. The steamed bun stuffed with pulled pork shoulder, griller guernsey girl cheese and topped with slices of cucumber – it was absolutely delicious! Steaming the bun gave it a soft and delicate texture and the grilled guernsey girl cheese completely reminded me of the texture and saltiness of saganaki. I did walk around the store afterwards and well, $40 later, I came out with three different cheeses, some pastries and an iced coffee to sip on my way home!
It was Mother’s Day yesterday and although we celebrated with a sushi dinner – my sister in law hasn’t eaten sushi for almost 10 months during her pregnancy and now that the baby is born, she’s craving for raw fish – traditionally its a day celebrated over brunch! And one of my favourite brunch places (there are many!) is Mildred’s Temple Kitchen. Its a spin-off restaurant from a previous place that was known as “Mildred Pierce”, which is no longer there. The space is light and airy with large windows for the sun to shine through, perfect atmosphere for brunch! You know how much I love afternoon tea so you know my friends and I had to have the platter of currant scones and buttermilk biscuits! To die for! Then the dishes started to come: breakfast sandwich on a croissant, savoury tart and fried eggs and bacon. What I like about these is that they aren’t your typical brunch items with lots of home fries, sausage, toast etc. All served with light salads, it was a great brunch meal!
One of my favourite TV shows right now is “Top Chef” and “Top Chef Canada”. Frankly, I’ve got a bit of a crush on both Tom Colicchio (head chef judge on Top Chef) and Mark McEwan – head chef judge on Top Chef Canada. So I recently had the chance to have dinner with a friend at his latest restaurant, Fabbrica. Fabbrica, is an italian restaurant where its cuisine is made from the highest of quality italian ingredients. It was a cold night and I felt like eating something comforting and the fettucini carbonara was just calling me. Made with crab, guanciale (italian unsmoked bacon), cream and topped with a poached egg – something I haven’t seen yet done on a pasta dish. The yolk, still soft and liquid, when you break it oozes out and tastes great when you swirl the pasta in it. It did exactly what it was supposed to do, comfort me and keep me warm. The best part of the dinner however was the desserts. The budino was sticky, warm and sweet but the bombolone donuts were delicious! Really light and airy and stuffed with a custard cream – fabulous! YUM!
Now I know what you’re thinking, of all places why am I in Minneapolis? My colleagues and I had to travel to Minneapolis for work for a couple of days and since we had to eat, we thought we would ask some of our local colleagues their suggestions for some good grub. A fellow foodie as well, my Minneapolis colleague R suggested a fairly new restaurant called the Butcher and the Boar. He mentioned the chef was recently named a James Beard award nominee and that he had a great dining experience when he recently went. The only reservation we could get was for 8:45pm and this was a Monday night, so we took it. It was only 7 or so blocks away from our hotel so we walked and its a good thing we did since the portions served at this place were huge! Just like the name suggests, this place is known for its meat and chacuterie (I love homemade meats)! Their beer selection was also astounding with so many beers available on tap – its the most I’ve seen anywhere (and most of them were micro-breweries). Only one comment about the beer – they need a better Canadian beer to represent Canada, they had Molson Canadian on tap! Other than that, the food just blew my mind away! We ordered two sampling platters; a chacuterie board with five different meats or terrines, and a sausage platter with different beef/pork sausages with one being a pork and shrimp sausage! We then ordered a beef rib that looked like it came right from an episode of Fred Flintstone’s – that’s how big it was, falling right off the bone and covered in sticky dark molasses barbeque sauce. To top it all off, the most unique item on the menu has to be their sides. The twice fried sweet potato fries, baked in a skillet corn bread and best of all – the stuffed jalapenos! These just weren’t any stuffed jalapenos – they were stuffed with a combination of peanut butter and cream cheese. Gross, we thought so too but once you take a bite, they are to die for – think thai peanut sauce! It was delicious! If you’re ever in the area, this place is a must try!
Not flashy and a bit tucked away amongst the massive office towers on Bay Street is Gabardine. I first heard about this place from my colleague J who had a great dinner experience here so I decided to check it out with a couple of friends. It was a packed house the atmosphere was casual but full of young hip bay streeters. We started with some fancy cocktails (or libations as the trend setters call it). Next came an appetizer, beer cheese croquettes which were crunchy and gooey on the inside! But the best dish was the special of the night that I ordered, double fried chicken wings! I have never had chicken wings as crispy as these. The taste….definitely asian inspired with some heat and hoisin flavour sprinkled with black and white sesame seeds and julienned nori! I wish this dish was permanently on the menu because I would be going back. I will warn you that the portions are pretty large and saving room for dessert is worth it – especially if its for the chocolate terrine! A restaurant I would definitely recommend!
Brunch is my favourite meal on the weekend! So when we had a free Sunday morning from our usual dragonboat practice, my friend “I” suggested brunch. The tough thing about brunch is that most places don’t take reservations, which is a shame because most of us tend to go for brunch in groups larger than 2. We arrived at Caplansky’s and had to wait for about 30 minutes but well worth it. We were seated in the centre area of the deli. The menu, of course, is very Jewish influenced so you won’t find pork served in this place! But there is definitely no shortage of meat here. This was my first time here even though I did eat from his food truck, Thunderin’ Thelma, at the Niagara Food Truck Festival last summer. Asking the server what she would recommend as my first dish at Caplansky’s, I chose the classic Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich! The meat is cut pretty thick and served on Silverstein’s rye bread. I squirted a bit of plain old yellow mustard (I’m not a big fan of dijon, unless its in a dressing) and took a big bite. I’m no expert when it comes to Montreal smoked meat but this tasted pretty good! It was moist and full of spice, exactly what you would expect from a Montreal smoked meat sandwich. The best part of the meal was the dessert – yes, dessert at brunch! We ordered the maple bacon (not from pork) donuts……devine! Just like how I remembered them since last summer……crispy exterior, dense with cubes of bacon and drizzled with maple syrup! A perfect ending to brunch!
I have a friend, H, who I have baking sessions with every couple of months. She scours Pinterest for recipes that she wants to try and we get together and try them out. So a couple of Sundays ago she came over with a recipe that had five simple ingredients: saltines, butter, brown sugar, chocolate chips and almonds (optional). It was called Saltine Toffee Brittle (or crackle). It was so simple to make. The most time consuming was the caramel which is just melting butter and brown sugar in a saucepan and boiling it until it thickened. You then pour it over the sheet of saltines, pop it in the oven for five minutes. Once you take it out, while its still hot you sprinkle the top with the chocolate chips and wait a few minutes for them to melt and then take a spatula and spread it over the caramel and saltines. As an option, you can add nuts for added flavour and texture – I chose sliced almonds since I had them in my pantry! I wasn’t sure how these were going to turn out since I couldn’t picture using saltines in a sweet recipe but when I took a bite into the brittle it completely reminded of biting into a Skor bar! It was that good! Try it out!