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Summer BBQ

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I’ve been to a many a summer BBQs in my life, including many hosted by my parents when growing up, but nothing like the one my friends S & I hosted this past weekend.  It was a food gourmand’s paradise.  This BBQ had a bit of everything – from smoked meat to marinated pork belly to meatballs.  I literally starved myself all day in anticipation and boy, am I glad I did.  My favourite dish of night, the homemade bao!  I’ve tasted good bao at restaurants but nothing like this.  The pork belly was soaked in a homemade marinade, sliced and then seared on the BBQ.  Also inside, sliced boiled eggs marinated in a housemade soy dressing and pickled daikon, carrots and cucumbers.  Topped with cilantro and all sandwiched within the bun, made with a homemade dough and steamed fresh.  It was absolutely refreshing, hitting all the sweet, salty and sour notes.  Bao wasn’t the only dish served, there was a smorgasbord of meats: smoked chicken, smoked BBQ ribs, BBQ chicken wings with a homemade rub (with jerk spice notes) and asian style  meatballs.  To top it off, grilled pineapple – golden pineapple tossed in brown sugar and cinnamon then grilled on the BBQ, a great ending to a fantastic night of food and friends.  Thanks S & I!

Homemade bao stuffed with marinated pork belly - delicious!

Homemade bao stuffed with marinated pork belly – delicious!

Inside the bao.

Inside the bao.

Asian meatballs and BBQ wings.

Asian meatballs and BBQ wings.

Spicy chicken wings with homemade spice rub.

Spicy chicken wings with homemade spice rub.

Homemade pork and chicken satay.

Homemade pork and chicken satay.

Smoked BBQ ribs.

Smoked BBQ ribs.

Smoked chicken and ribs.

Smoked chicken and ribs.

A closer look at the smoked chicken and its bark.

A closer look at the smoked chicken and its bark.

Homemade potato and macaroni salad.

Homemade potato and macaroni salad.

Inside the smoker.

Inside the smoker.

Wahlburgers

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One of the great things about people knowing that I write a food blog is that I get recommendations.  And this one came from my colleague S who asked if I had ever heard of Wahlburgers.  I mean, who knew that one of the Wahlbergs – yes, the same Wahlberg family that has to two famous brothers, you know, the one from NKOTB and the other from the Funky Bunch (I know, I just aged myself…..lol), opened a chain of burger joints serving up their version of the classic american burger.  The interior has a very sleek sports bar vibe with a mix of high table tops, booths and TVs.  The bar cocktails, called Wahlcoctions, are great.  I had the Cherry Coke, one of my favourite soft drinks, except here its made with alcohol – cherry vodka, grenadine and diet coke.  And although I was at a burger joint, I decided to try something different and ordered the Thanksgiving Burger – made with ground seasoned turkey topped with stuffing, housemade orange cranberry sauce, roasted butternut squash and Wahl sauce.  Because there was so much in this burger it was hard to eat but I managed, and it was tasty!  Definitely a great place for a quick bite.

Wahlburgers in Toronto.

Wahlburgers in Toronto.

The sports bar look of Wahlburgers.

The sports bar look of Wahlburgers.

Cocktails - Cherry Coke and Blueberry Pie adult shake.

Cocktails – Cherry Coke and Blueberry Pie adult shake.

The Our Burger served with crispy fried and thinly sliced onion rings.

The Our Burger served with crispy fried and thinly sliced onion rings.

Jenn's chicken sandwich is a seared chicken breast, caramelized onions, lettuce and honey garlic mayo - served here with sweet potato tots.

Jenn’s chicken sandwich is a seared chicken breast, caramelized onions, lettuce and honey garlic mayo – served here with sweet potato tots.

The Thanksgiving burger served with yukon gold fries.

The Thanksgiving burger served with yukon gold fries.

Deconstruction of my Thanksgiving burger.

Deconstruction of my Thanksgiving burger – turkey, stuffing, cranberry orange sauce butternut squash and Wahl sauce.

Mud Pie adult shake made with kahlua, creme de cacao, vanilla vodka, chocolate and vanilla ice cream; and a classic chocolate shake.

Mud Pie adult shake made with kahlua, creme de cacao, vanilla vodka, chocolate and vanilla ice cream; and a classic chocolate shake.

Baka Gallery Cafe

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I haven’t seen my friend M in a few months and its been just as long since I’ve ventured into her neighborhood of Bloor West Village.  Upon her recommendation, we decided to hit a up Baka Gallery Cafe, a local cafe serving not only the typical coffee and pastries but also breakfast, lunch and dinner.  A modern, white space inside with a good sized patio and a second floor dining room with a bar, it was a busy afternoon with the cafe full of customers.  When I first walked in I noticed the cafe was open to mobile phone store attached to the front of the cafe – apparently its owned by the Baka Mobile store.  I ordered an iced latte and the sausage bagel, one of their three breakfast entrees.  You can’t see the sausage patty in the photo, dwarfed by the fried egg resting on top, but its there.  Made with pork and fennel, fried and then topped with the fried egg, a slice of havarti, roasted tomato and served on a toasted poppy seed bagel.  M’s arugula salad looked really fresh, with tons of strawberries, walnuts, cashews and feta.  The food is definitely decent but what makes this place great is the local vibe it exudes.

The entrance and patio of Baka Gallery Cafe.

The entrance and patio of Baka Gallery Cafe.

The counter inside Baka.

The counter inside Baka.

Window seating at Baka.

Window seating at Baka.

The 2nd floor seating space of the cafe.

The 2nd floor seating space of the cafe.

A large iced latte to stay.

A large iced latte to stay.

A beautiful summer salad.

A beautiful summer salad.

Sausage bagel.

Sausage bagel.

Copacabana

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This post is really for all the carnivores out there.  Brazilian steakhouses have been in Toronto for a while now but it was only recently that I finally made my way to one.  Copacabana opened another location recently, its first, in the heart of downtown.  So naturally, I couldn’t resist.  Knowing nothing about Brazilian BBQ I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious this form of BBQ was.  Various cuts of beef, chicken, lamb and pork are grilled on large skewers and then walked through the dining room to be cut table side for diners.  My absolute favourites of the night was Picanha Brazil, Copacabana’s signature cut and the parmesan filet mignon – these two cuts were mouthwatering delicious with so much flavour and meat so tender!  They were perfectly grilled to a medium rare.  In addition, when you do go, you MUST try the cheddar, cranberry bread baked with a coconut topping.  I know bread can be filling but trust me, its worth at least a slice.  And the best way to finish the meal, with grilled pineapple.  So beautifully caramelized on the outside, I had 5 servings of the pineapple – it was that good!  I will definitely be back.

Inside the downtown locale of Copacabana.

Inside the downtown locale of Copacabana.

The bread station.

The bread station.

The cold station full with a variety of cold cuts, cheeses and salsa.

The cold station full with a variety of cold cuts, cheeses and salsa.

The large salad station with so many different and unique salads.

The large salad station with so many different and unique salads.

Picanha Brazil - Copacabana's signature meat.

Picanha Brazil – Copacabana’s signature meat.

The parmesan filet.

The parmesan filet.

Delicious prime rib.

Delicious prime rib.

Leg of lamb off the spit.

Leg of lamb off the spit.

Grilled chimichurri steak.

Grilled chimichurri steak.

Yummy cheddar and cranberry bread topped with coconut.

Yummy cheddar and cranberry bread topped with coconut.

Grilled pineapple.

Grilled pineapple.

Additional breads.

Additional breads.

Fried bananas for dessert.

Fried bananas for dessert.

Toronto International Dragon Boat Festival 2015

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A few weeks ago, I participated in the Toronto International Dragon Boat Festival hosted on Toronto’s Centre Island.  When I paddle in races I don’t typically allow myself to eat during the day, with the exception of some fruit as I like to feel light on race day.  However, its not everyday that I get to race at one of Canada’s largest dragon boat festivals on a team put together as part of a cultural exchange between the City of Markham and the City of Nanhai in China.  A number of members on the team discovered a booth selling delicious lobster rolls using lobster from the Maritimes.  So naturally, I had to go and try it.  Driving all the way from Halifax with the lobsters, the Maritime Pasty Co.’s lobster roll was really tasty.  Large chunks of fresh tender lobster simply served on butter toasted hot dog buns, so simple yet so good!  And of course, I had to wash it down with dessert – some snow ice from Cha Me Cha.  Growing up one of my favourite Japanese desserts was shaved ice and yes, I even owned a Snoopy hand-cranked shaved ice machine – did I just admit that?  Come to think of it, where did I store that machine!  The ones served up by Cha Me Cha are Taiwanese where the ice itself is flavoured (Strawberry, Melon or Taro) and topped with flavoured cubes of soft mochi (sticky sweet rice) and juice filled tapioca.  Refreshing and perfect to have on a hot day!

On the ferry heading to Toronto Centre Island.

On the ferry heading to Toronto Centre Island.

The Maritime Pasty Co. - travelled from Halifax.

The Maritime Pasty Co. – travelled from Halifax.

Maritime Pasty Co's menu.

Maritime Pasty Co’s menu.

One of the best lobster rolls I've had recently.

One of the best lobster rolls I’ve had recently.

Shaved ice machines - love the panda machine.

Shaved ice machines – love the panda machine.

Melon flavoured snow ice with all the fixings.

Melon flavoured snow ice with all the fixings.

Strawberry snow ice with mochi cubes and tapioca.

Strawberry snow ice with mochi cubes and tapioca.

Cha me cha booth.

Cha me cha booth.

Zakkushi Sushiya

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So a teammate on my dragon boat team, coincidentally a foodie also, recommended Zakkushi to me, claiming it to be one of the best sushi places in Toronto.  Of course, being Japanese and the fact that there are not that many Japanese owned restaurants in town (although we’ve had an influx of them lately), I had to try it out.  Well, if you want authenticity, Zakkushi definitely delivers.  You won’t find California rolls or dragon rolls here.  It is strictly traditional dishes and traditional fish available as sashimi or nigiri sushi and in Japanese portion sizes.  So if its quantity you’re looking for, I would stick with the all-you-can-eat places but if its quality, Zakkushi comes close.  One of my favourite dishes that night was the special marinated beef nigiri topped with grated ginger, green onion and accompanied with a soy dipping sauce – so tender, served a bit warm and a touch of soy, delicious.  Above the sushi bar is the yakitori izakaya – I haven’t had a chance to go yet but it is on my hit list.

Zakkushi

Zakkushi

Zakkushi - sushi

The Zakkushi sushi bar located on the lower level.

Zakkushi - kaiso

Kaiso – marinated seaweed and sesame seeds.

Zakkushi - sushi

Regular sushi platter.

Zakkushi - sashimi

Omakase 5 types of sashimi platter.

Zakkushi - tuna and salmon

Blue Fin belly and salmon nigiri.

Zakkushi - dessert

Dessert – green tea panna cotta.

Zakkushi - roll

Tuna belly and green onion sushi roll.

Zakkushi - beef sushi

The special for the night – marinated beef nigiri with green onion and ginger.

 

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.

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