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Category Archives: Adventures around T.O.

Afternoon Tea: Langdon Hall

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As you can tell by the bare trees, this post has been a long time coming.  This past Easter, my friends (I, S and W) and I did a little road trip out to Cambridge, Ontario for afternoon tea at the historic Langdon Hall –  about an hour or so west of Toronto.  It was my first visit out to the the hotel and spa and what a beautiful property!  Afternoon tea was served is a small all-white room overlooking the back property.  There was at most 10 tables.  The selection of teas were limited (I order the Imperial Earl Grey) however, the savoury and sweet selections were delicious!  My favourite will always be the scones and devon cream but the strawberry macaroon and the charred asparagus and sweet tomato tart were both so tasty!  I also loved the fact that we each got our own three tier stand, no sharing involved – bonus!

Beautiful Langdon Hall.

Beautiful Langdon Hall.

Inside the tea room at Langdon Hall.

Inside the tea room at Langdon Hall.

White tea set at Langdon.

White tea set at Langdon.

Devon cream, honey butter and housemade preserves.

Devon cream, honey butter and housemade preserves.

Three-tiered stand full of yummy savoury and sweet things.

Three-tiered stand full of yummy savoury and sweet things.

Charred asparagus and sweet tomato tart on the left and quail egg, mustard aioli on smoked paprika crouton.

Charred asparagus and sweet tomato tart on the left and quail egg, mustard aioli on smoked paprika crouton.

Beautiful strawberry macaroon, butter tart, rhubarb opera cake and lavender sugar cookie.

Beautiful strawberry macaroon, butter tart, rhubarb opera cake and lavender sugar cookie.

Deliciou savoury plate: asparagus and tomato tart, quail egg on a crouton, chicken and apple gougier, and cucumber on pumpernickel.

Deliciou savoury plate: asparagus and tomato tart, quail egg on a crouton, chicken and apple gougier, and cucumber on pumpernickel.

 

Restaurant of the Month: El Catrin

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It has been quite some time since I’ve posted a restaurant worthy of the “Resto of the Month” title.    But El Catrin absolutely deserves this honour.  The usual “Finer Things in Life” Supper club members (me included) hit the relatively new restaurant for dinner one night – located in the hip and historical distillery district of Toronto.  Specializing in Mexican cuisine, it was a menu of small dishes that can be shares – with a variety of botanos (mini burritos), ceviches and tacos.  The guacamole was fantastic with lots of avocado chunks.  I usually rate a mexican restaurant by how good the guacamole is however, what made this meal was the restaurant’s signature dish “Gobernador”.  A delicious taco made with a flour tortilla filled with sauteed shrimp and lobster in chipotle mayo and black bean puree.  I can confidently say that it was probably the best taco I have eaten to date!!!  This is a must order!  (Don’t forget the margaritas!) In addition, the dessert was unique in that they offered, as part of their regular menu is an option to select 3 desserts on a single place served with salted caramel popcorn.  The churros and the hazelnut chocolate bar were to die for!  So decadent!  I will be back!

Freshly made guacamole.

Freshly made guacamole.

Pitcher of mango margarita - absolutely refreshing and delicious!

Pitcher of mango margarita – absolutely refreshing and delicious!

Gobernador - signature tacos with sauteed shrimp and lobster.

Gobernador – signature tacos with sauteed shrimp and lobster.

El matamoros - mahi mahi ceviche.

El matamoros – mahi mahi ceviche.

Fish tacos made with crispy fried haddock.

Fish tacos made with crispy fried haddock.

Gringa - flour quesadilla with grilled pork.

Gringa – flour quesadilla with grilled pork.

Carnitas - pulled pork and black bean.

Carnitas – pulled pork and black bean.

A close up of the Gringa.

A close up of the Gringa.

El Catrin - dessert

Barra de Chocolate Ahumado – double smoked spiced hazelnut chocolate bar.

ElCatrin - dessert 2

Churros and Tres Leches cake – delicious!

Inside El Catrin.

Inside El Catrin.

Patio and pathway leading up to El Catrin.

Patio and pathway leading up to El Catrin.

 

Field Trip: Strawberry Picking

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For the past 18 days now I’ve been on a “no dairy, no sugar (natural or artificial), no grain” challenge with my dragon boat team. So I thought to take advantage of the summer season, I wanted to go strawberry picking. I remember fondly, strawberry picking as a child with my mom – bringing home baskets of fresh berries for her homemade jams! Last weekend, along with my colleague S and her family we went to Forsythe Family Farms located north-east of Toronto. It was my first time at this farm and the strawberry field looked small but boy, was it full of ripe, juicy strawberries right for the picking. We then stopped by a local farmer’s market shop, Hy-Hope Farms, on the way back home that specialized in homemade pickles, salsas, jellies and preserves. I picked up a jar of Green Tomato Chow (like a relish) and a jar of Red Pepper Jelly (perfect on top of cheese and crackers)! With my fresh produce in hand (including fresh cut rhubarb from S’s garden), I decided to bake from scratch, a strawberry rhubarb crumble pie to take to a Canada Day BBQ! Everything just tastes so much better straight from the farm!

Forsythe Family Farms

Forsythe Family Farms

My pickings for the morning - 2 whole buckets of ripe strawberries.

My pickings for the morning – 2 whole buckets of ripe strawberries.

Hy-Hope Farms.

Hy-Hope Farms.

Pick your own lettuce and kale at Hy-Hope Farms!  Fill a bag as much as you can for only $3!

Pick your own lettuce and kale at Hy-Hope Farms! Fill a bag as much as you can for only $3!

Homemade jars of relishes and jellies by Hy-Hope Farms!

Homemade jars of relishes and jellies by Hy-Hope Farms!

My crimped homemade pie shell ready to be filled.

My crimped homemade pie shell ready to be filled.

Fresh cut rhubarb from my colleague S's backyard garden.

Fresh cut rhubarb from my colleague S’s backyard garden.

Strawberry rhubarb pie filled and then topped with a sweet crumble topping before going into the oven.

Strawberry rhubarb pie filled and then topped with a sweet crumble topping before going into the oven.

Fresh out of the oven, my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

Fresh out of the oven, my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

A close up look at my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

A close up look at my strawberry rhubarb crumble pie!

 

I’ve got a NEW FAVOURITE afternoon tea in Toronto!!!  And you can find it at Shangri-La!  Finally, an afternoon tea service that checks off everything that a good service should be……its a hotel – check! Great atmosphere, they have a pianist playing while you enjoy the afternoon – check! A full selection of teas – check! Good scones – check! Clotted cream – check!  The number item I look forward to with an afternoon tea service is the scones and clotted cream.  I’ve tasted better scones but these were good and made even better with the cream!  However, my favourite item of the afternoon, the lobster salad in a mini brioche bun.  So delicious!  But what really makes it great, the company!  Thanks B, J, M and P for a great afternoon of catching up and making sure we “ALL” had enough to eat :)

Shangri-la - tiered stand

Three tiered tea stand full of sandwiches, scones and pastries!

Shangri-la - close up of sandwiches

Close up look of the sandwiches – the lobster salad sandwiches at the front were delightful!

Shangri-la - scones

Berry compote and clotted cream.

Shangri-la - passionfruit custard

Passionfruit custard with some fresh cubed fruit.

Shangri-la - coconut cake

Coconut bombe with a cake bottom and mousse dome covered in white chocolate shavings.

Shangri-la - single scone

Yummy scone with clotted cream topped with a dollop of fruit preserves.

Shangri-la - teapot

A tray full of teapots.

Shangri-la - tea

A cup of beautiful earl grey tea.

Shangri-la - lobby

Beautiful and grand lobby.

High Tea at Casa Loma

So I know I spoke too soon when I said that I won’t be attending any Winterlicious events but when my colleague S came to me with an invitation to High Tea at Casa Loma, I couldn’t resist.  Casa Loma is a castle located slightly north of downtown Toronto and to my knowledge, the first time high tea was made available to the public.  For $37, you received entry to the castle, free audio guide, afternoon tea and a small gift bag.  The tea was provided by David’s Tea and the entire event was hosted by Liberty Entertainment Group – known in the city for great event planning.  I must admit, just the atmosphere made it a great afternoon.

Casa loma - tallest tea cake stand

The tallest tea cake stand!

Casa loma - grand hallway

The grand hallway where we sat down and had our tea.

Casa loma - conservatory

The Conservatory – how fabulous!

Casa loma -ballroom

The ballroom was also set up to host tea.

Casa loma - savoury pastries

Savoury plate with some sandwiches, quiches and a croissant.

Casa loma - egg sandwich

Egg croissant sandwich.

Casa loma - sweet pastries

Sweet pastries – green tea macaron and canoli.

Casa loma - east front

North east front view of Casa Loma.

Casa loma - west

West view of Casa Loma.

Casa Loma - south view

Southern view of Toronto from second floor of Casa Loma.

 

Sanremo Bakery

A friend of mine mentioned a delicious breakfast pizza they got delivered to their office one morning, so of course, I had to find out where this pizza came from and try it.  Well, I found the place but I have yet to try the famed breakfast pizza as it has been sold out every time I’ve gone.  The bakery is Sanremo and is located west of downtown Toronto in a small residential neighborhood.  As soon as you walk in, you’re hit with shelves of Italian goods and the hustle and bustle of a really busy bakery.  The bakery not only offers typical baked goods like breads, pastries, cakes, donuts and cookies but also ready-made dishes like lasagna, calzones, etc. but also an espresso bar!  Although I haven’t tried any of the the hot/cold dishes, their apple fritters are the best donuts I have tasted in a very long time!  I equate them to my experience in New York City with Doughnut Plant’s doughnuts.  The fritters are moist with a crisp outside and coated with just enough glaze!  Well worth making the trip!

My favourite item - some of the freshest apple fritters I've had!

My favourite item – some of the freshest apple fritters I’ve had!

Lots of cakes!

Lots of cakes!

Shelves of pies and cheesecakes.

Shelves of pies and cheesecakes.

So many different types of baguettes.

So many different types of baguettes.

A variety of Italian cookies.

A variety of Italian cookies.

Scones and cookies.

Scones and cookies.

Jelly and custard filled donuts.

Jelly and custard filled donuts.

Sanremo.

Sanremo.

Restaurant of the Month: Bar Isabel

Here we are in week 3 of 2014 and a month since my last post.  Its long overdue so I’d first like to say, Happy New Year! And I wish I had a glamourous reason for my absence like winning the lottery and being whisked away to a warm island over the holidays but I awake from my dreams with the reality that I was down and out with the flu :(  Its a terrible one this season and hopefully none of you have to experience it!  That aside, my first post for the new year is my restaurant of the month, Bar Isabel.  With Winterlicious 2014 coming up in Toronto in the next week or so, I felt like this was perfect timing to write about my dinner at Bar Isabel.  I first heard about Bar Isabel in enRoute Magazine which rated it the top restaurant in Canada for 2013.  If you know the Black Hoof, Bar Isabel will be very familiar to you since Black Hoof was the chef/owner’s first resto.  With three of my girlfriends, we’ve created somewhat of a casual supper club and Bar Isabel was our third resto and it lived up to the hype!  The fried chicken was tasty and moist, probably one of the best I’ve had in Toronto.  But to be honest, the best items on the menu were the vegetable dishes – both the charred leeks with wild mushrooms and the marinated swiss chard with raisins and anchovies.  The leeks had a great smokiness and the swiss chard had a salty/sweet thing going on….both worth ordering!  So, even though Bar Isabel isn’t on the Winterlicious list, its a resto worth checking out regardless!

The Last Word - made with gin!

The Last Word – made with gin!

Marinated swiss chard with raisins and anchovies.

Marinated swiss chard with raisins and anchovies.

Charred leeks with wild mushrooms.

Charred leeks with wild mushrooms.

Flat bread with caramelized onions.

Flat bread with caramelized onions.

Roasted bone marrow with artisan bread.

Roasted bone marrow with artisan bread.

Chorizo and octopus skewers.

Chorizo and octopus skewers.

Fried chicken with buttermilk sauce.

Fried chicken with buttermilk sauce.

Salted dark chocolate with extra virgin olive oil ensaimada.

Salted dark chocolate with extra virgin olive oil ensaimada.

Cinnamon bun with blood sausage pastry cream and prune glaze - to die for!

Cinnamon bun with blood sausage pastry cream and prune glaze – to die for!

Inside Bar Isabel.

Inside Bar Isabel.

Bar Isabel.

Bar Isabel.

Basque cake and sherry cream.

Basque cake and sherry cream.

Gourmet Food & Wine Expo 2013

I’m taking a one post break from my travels to write about my evening at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo this past weekend.  If you’re a lover of wine and live in the Toronto, this is a fantastic way to discover lesser known wines and try some without having to buy an entire bottle!  The concept is great, you purchase a general admission ticket and then purchase ticket stubs that represent a dollar per stub and basically represent your currency to purchase samples. Most wines/spirits cost 1-3 tickets, beers are usually 1-2 tickets and food was around 4-5 tickets.  This year, the expo seemed to focus more on food choices with some of the best food vendors I’ve remembered in recent past.  There were many local restaurants with booths like Brassaii, Ki, Guu, Big Daddy’s and Franks to name a few.  My favourite, the Frankie Goes To Buffalo hot dog from Franks.  Panko crusted and deep fried with buffalo wing sauce – it was delish (although the dogs from Iceland still top my list!).  Best drink of the night, the Tag Royale….perfectly balanced between sweet and tart, a really easy cocktail to drink!  Already looking forward to next year’s expo!

From the "Big Daddy's" booth - Catfish tacos!

From the “Big Daddy’s” booth – Catfish tacos!

Trying some Argentinian wine - Fuzion's Pinot Grigio.

Trying some Argentinian wine – Fuzion’s Pinot Grigio.

Vegetable samosas.

Vegetable samosas.

From the "San Danielle" booth - prosciutto paninis.

From the “San Danielle” booth – prosciutto paninis.

Trying some "port" wine from Ontario's Union Winery.

Trying some “port” wine from Ontario’s Union Winery.

A sampling from the Guu Izakaya booth - marinated tuna.
A sampling from the Guu Izakaya booth – marinated tuna.

Spanish wine - Besode Vino.

Spanish wine – Besode Vino.

Ontario winery - Viewpointe's Cabernet Franc.

Ontario winery – Viewpointe’s Cabernet Franc.

At the Franks Gourmet Hot Dogs booth!

At the Franks Gourmet Hot Dogs booth!

Franks' Frankie Goes To Buffalo hot dog - delicious!

Franks’ Frankie Goes To Buffalo hot dog – delicious!

Tag Vodka's Tag Royale - red berries with a splash of vodka, soda and cranberry juice!

Tag Vodka’s Tag Royale – red berries with a splash of vodka, soda and cranberry juice!

Inside the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre.
Inside the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo at the Toronto Metro Convention Centre.

Gusto 101

So by now I know you all know how long my restaurant list is and frankly, more restaurants get added to list than crossed off – not enough time and money, lol.  Well, I can now cross one off the list!  I discovered Gusto 101 passing by on one of my walks – it was boarded up with an opening soon sign.  Located smack dab in the middle of the King West “club scene”, it has a fantastic rooftop patio and a very industrial interior with a casual hip vibe.  The food is just as good!  You can guess by the name, the cuisine is Italian.  Our server, which by the way looked just like Bob Harper (yes, the good looking trainer from the Biggest Loser!), suggested the Fettuccine ai Funghi and it did not disappoint!  By far, the best dish of the night, must be the truffle paste in the dish.  I ordered the Polpette pizza – I’m such a sucker for pizza!  It hit the spot but I must admit, the pasta was much better.  All in all, I would definitely come back – the atmosphere was great, it was lively with groups of diners catching up,  chatting away and enjoying the night……just like I was, it can’t get better than that!

Inside Gusto 101.

Inside Gusto 101.

Open kitchen of Gusto 101 - watching plates being expedited.

Open kitchen of Gusto 101 – watching plates being expedited.

Our starting drinks for the night.

Our starting drinks for the night.

Appetizer - Mozzarella di Bufala.

Appetizer – Mozzarella di Bufala.

Appetizer - Arancini.

Appetizer – Arancini.

Fettuccine ai Funghi - hands down, the best dish of the night.

Fettuccine ai Funghi – hands down, the best dish of the night. Made of porcini, portobello, oyster mushrooms, truffle paste and cream.

My main dish - Polpette Pizza.

My main dish – Polpette Pizza with mozzarella, meatballs and smoked provolone (main reason for ordering, love smoked cheese).

Da Dee pizza - with sweet potato, kale, caramelized onions, pecorino and fior di latte.

Da Dee pizza – with sweet potato, kale, caramelized onions, pecorino and fior di latte.

Rigatoni Lucani - shredded braised lamb shank, tomato, olives and shaved pecorino.

Rigatoni Lucani – shredded braised lamb shank, tomato, olives and shaved pecorino.

Appetizer - Carpaccio.

Appetizer – Carpaccio.

Ricotta e Spinaci Ravioli - ricotta, spinach, parmigiano and tomato sauce.

Ricotta e Spinaci Ravioli – ricotta, spinach, parmigiano and tomato sauce.

Budino al Cioccolato - caramel whisky, whipped cream.

Budino al Cioccolato – caramel whisky, whipped cream.

Gusto 101

Gusto 101

Indian Wedding

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I love Indian Weddings!  The dancing, the music, the joyous celebration and best of all – the food!  To be honest, I’m not a big fan of buffets but when it comes to Las Vegas or Indian weddings, I’m all about buffets!  When you first arrive at reception, you’re greeted right away with an appetizer buffet.  The one staple at all Indian appetizer buffets – pakoras!!!  My favourite!  Its like an indian fritter made of fish or vegetables.  On this night for R & S’s reception, it happened to be fish.  Then later in the night (around 10pm), dinner is served!  My second favourite dish – butter chicken…..but there was no butter chicken tonight, instead there was chili chicken.  It was “hakka” style.  Pretty delish :)  And it could not be dinner without some sort of paneer dish – cheese used in indian cuisine.  Yum – indian weddings rarely disappoint!  Waiting for my next invitation :)

My appetizer buffet plate - fish pakoras, chicken, potato patties.

My appetizer buffet plate – fish pakoras, chicken, potato patties.

An aperitif - mango lassi.

An aperitif – mango lassi.

The start of the buffet - salad, pickled vegetables and yogurt.

The start of the buffet – salad, pickled vegetables and yogurt.

The main buffet line.

The main buffet line.

Paneer

Paneer

Roasted vegetables - cauliflower.

Roasted vegetables – cauliflower.

Chili chicken.

Chili chicken.

Lamb curry.

Lamb curry.

My buffet plate!

My buffet plate!

The dessert buffet!

The dessert buffet!

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