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Category Archives: Adventures around T.O.

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!

Birthday Celebrations!

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This past week I turned another year older and although I don’t like to draw attention to my birthday, my family and friends made sure it was remembered :)  Here’s a snippet of my celebratory week!

Birthday brownies courtesy of my colleagues - from Nestle Toll House Bakery.

Birthday brownies courtesy of my colleagues – from Nestle Toll House Bakery.

Birthday Lunch at Canteen - Cobb Salad.

Birthday Lunch with S at Canteen – Cobb Salad.

Birthday Cake from McEwan's - Raspberry Lemon Cake!

An afternoon with my girlfriends! Birthday Cake from McEwan’s – Raspberry Lemon Cake!  

Birthday Goodies - Momofuku Milk Bar Cookie Mix!

Birthday Goody – Momofuku Milk Bar Cookie Mix!  Thanks S, can’t wait to bake these up!

 

My birthday budino dessert at Gusto 101.

My birthday budino dessert at Gusto 101 with the ol’gang.

Restaurant of the Month: Richmond Station

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I may have mentioned it a few times already but I love Top Chef!  Yes, the television show – Top Chef, Top Chef Masters and Top Chef Canada!  So you can imagine how excited I was to have finally dined at Richmond Station, Carl Heinrich’s restaurant (winner of Top Chef Canada Season 2)!  We were seated on the upper level by the open kitchen window with sightlines right into the kitchen and the Chef!  We started the meal with a cocktail and a couple of appetizers.  The corn and scallop pakoras were delish!  But the killer dish of the night was the Richmond Burger!  This burger was one of the best ones I’ve had – stuffed with braised short-rib, grilled to a medium rare (nice and pink!) served with the usual veggies and topped with a milk bun, like a brioche.  It was so moist and satisfying, my mouth is drooling right now!  The desserts were great as well….we all ordered a different dessert and because the server made an error on one of our desserts, we got another one on the house, so we were able to try all of them!  The desserts were light but still just as sweet – they all had common components: ice cream, crumble, some sort of sponge and mousse/foam.  Just yummy!  I’ll definitely be going back for round 2!

A yummy cocktail before dinner.

A yummy cocktail before dinner.

Appetizers: left - corn and scallop pakoras, right - spinach and black bean empanadas.

Appetizers: left – corn and scallop pakoras, right – spinach and black bean empanadas.

Jerk chicken - chicken confit, blackened chicken breast and sweet potato.

Jerk chicken – chicken confit, blackened chicken breast and sweet potato.

Halibut - slow-cooked halibut with ramps.

Halibut – slow-cooked halibut with ramps.

Rainbow trout with onion soubise, potatoes and peas.

Rainbow trout with onion soubise, potatoes and peas.

The Richmond Burger - filled with braised short-rib, chutney on a milk bun and fries!

The Richmond Burger – filled with braised short-rib, chutney on a milk bun and fries!

Close up of the burger.

Close up of the burger.

My dessert - fromage blanc with rhubarb sorbet, honey and crumble.

My dessert – fromage blanc with rhubarb sorbet, honey and crumble.

Dessert #2.

Dessert #2.

Dessert #3.

Dessert #3.

Dessert #4.

Dessert #4.

Dessert #5 - red wine ice cream and walnut sponge.

Dessert #5 – red wine ice cream and walnut sponge.

Our polished plates!

Our polished plates!

Carl Heinrich at work.

Carl Heinrich at work.

Richmond Station

Richmond Station

Inside Richmond Station - a view of the kitchen.

Inside Richmond Station – a view of the kitchen.

The bill and a little piece of truffle fudge to go!

The bill and a little piece of truffle fudge to go!

Andrew’s Scenic Acres

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Ok, I know I’ve been a delinquent lately with my posts so I need to catch up.  Last weekend’s weather was perfect for fruit picking and my friend I was really itching to get out there to the farms and taste the freshness of Ontario grown fruit.  We headed to Andrew’s Scenic Acres, about a 40 minute drive (without traffic) west of Toronto.  Since it was the end of July and way past strawberry season, we went blueberry and raspberry picking!  This was my first experience picking blueberries and raspberries and I’m going to say, I much rather pick blueberries!  The fruit grows in clusters and is much better on the back :) Although raspberries grow on larger bushes, they grow underneath large leaves and grow much more sparse so you’re having to bend and search underneath for the delicate red treasures.  At the end of the day, it was all worth it!  Nothing tastes better than fresh produce from local farms!  Can’t wait for apple season!!!

Andrew's Scenic Acres

Andrew’s Scenic Acres

Barn and entrance to the field.

Barn and entrance to the field.

Sunflower patch - a bit of "Big Brother" is watching me vibe!

Sunflower patch – a bit of “Big Brother” is watching me vibe!

Hay ride to the blueberry and raspberry bushes!

Hay ride to the blueberry and raspberry bushes!

Looks like the pears are growing in nicely!

Looks like the pears are growing in nicely!

In the orchard.

In the orchard.

My pickings - blueberries and raspberries....sweet and delicious!

My pickings – blueberries and raspberries….sweet and delicious!

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