Wednesday, December 26, 2012

North of Brooklyn Pizzeria, 650 1/2 Queen Street West

I knew North of Brooklyn had opened not that long ago but I forgot. While finishing our Christmas shopping on Queen West the other day, I remembered it.

There's not much to the space. It's small, there's vintage pizzeria photos on the wall and a few seats. They do whole pizzas ($18 - $22) as well as slices ($3.90 and up).

What you need to know is that this is real pizza. Thin, super crispy crust that stays crunchy as you eat and a really nice sauce are key.

They nail it.

We try three slices and I particularly like their white pizza: mozzarella, ricotta, olive oil, topped with fresh arugula.

I also like the authentic pepperoni and the addition of sesame seeds to this crust is a win.

Not licensed and no Brio but you can have a San Pellegrino lemon or orange soda.

In January, add $2 and they'll bike deliver your pie.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A-Ok Foods, 930 Queen Street West

The guys at Yours Truly recently decided to forego snacks and do prix fix only.

Enter A-Ok Foods; a ramen and snack bar where they can continue their Asian fusion ideals. This time, it's East meets Mexico.

It's a bit of a tumultuous relationship though when you try and slather hoisin minced pork with queso fresco and crema fresca as seen in their tostadas ($5). It's like eating teriyaki with feta cheese. Gross.

The same hoisin, scallion and minced pork combo doesn't do much better in the lettuce wraps. They are called san choi bao ($7.50) and are so salty, they're inedible. It's also a struggle to eat as iceberg lettuce doesn't "wrap" well.

The ramen, at $10.50 is a much better deal than Momofuko's version for $16. The noodles have a nice spring to them and the shoyu (soya sauce) broth has depth and comfortability. Grilling the pork belly is a nice touch.

The salt cod unari ($7) are a carry over from Yours Truly and the main reason for my dinner at A-Ok. They are the little darlings I remembered. Sweet, fried tofu pockets stuffed with rice and salted cod that you dip in a kewpie mayo that is studded with seaweed. I'm obsessed with them.

The friendly service is sweet and the glasses of wine ($7) are both affordable and generous. These are two qualities you are often hard pressed to find in Toronto restaurants these days.

A-Ok is just that; nothing great but just ok.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Momofuko Noodle Bar

There's only one reason you should go to The Noodle Bar and it's not what you think. The pork belly buns (2 for $10) with hoisin, scallion and pickled cucumber are insanely good. The circular bun is perfectly light and fluffy with a subtle sweetness. The belly is fatty yet tender. And really, who doesn't like pickled cucumber? I could eat five of these little darlings.

And If I have had, I would have left happier. Instead, I got sucked into the promise of David Chang's noodles. The namesake ramen soup ($15) has more pork belly, a poached oozy egg, shredded pork shoulder, nori, cabbage, fish cake and scallion. The broth is ok. It's dark, deep and once you puncture the egg, it's very cloudy. The ingredients are fine too. The noodles on the other hand are not. Unlike the light and fluffy buns, the ramen are chewy and too dense. They are like squiggly strings of lead.

Now, I know I'm no expert on ramen. I know that these wheat noodles are supposed to have some chew but there was nothing pleasing about this soup.

I can't finish it.

You're going to bash me for saying this but the instant ones for .99 cents are more high-spirited.

I'm shocked.

Ninety dollars (including tax and tip) for two beers, two buns, two noodle dishes and an order of chicken wings.

Guess bourgeois street food isn't my thing.

Friday, November 2, 2012


This small, unassuming resto at Bloor and Landsowne opened over a year ago and I've been meaning to check it out. Tonight, I finally made it.

The room is simple. There's no fuss. The menu is small and the drink menu even smaller. No house cocktails, no white liquor and a chalkboard menu that just states the main ingredient in the dish i.e beets, chicken, pickerel.

We look to the waiter for guidance but his lackadaisical approach is not only uninspiring but at times, I wish he'd just stop talking. If I had to guess, I'd say he smoked a fatty right before his shift. Listening to him serve us is like watching paint dry.

He does say the menu is ideal for sharing and I agree. We descend upon a self planned three course meal...

Rabbit rillette are smooth and creamy. I prefer my salted and chopped meat to be a bit more rustic but the taste is on point and the pickled green onion on the side is a wise addition.

A thin buckwheat pancake is smeared with a carrot purée and topped with a creamy French Brie, walnuts and dressed endive. It's unique.

Our mid is a gnocchi with radicchio and Gorgonzola; lots of Gorgonzola. The bitter radicchio, although a great flavor balancer, seems a bit defeated under the influence of the strong cheese. The gnocchi are soft. They are way too soft almost to the point of gluey mush but the pungent cheese goes so well with our wine, that I'm enjoying myself.

Lastly, a lamb shank braised in tomato sauce is heavy on the rosemary and soapy marjoram. It's too fatty but the flesh is very tender, very Fall.

Who doesn't love beets? This choice of side is purple and roasted. It's served with a medallion of goat cheese that's been combined with ground walnut. Unfortunately, the walnuts are more puréed than chopped and the result is a chalky disk of cheese. They should've gone for a competing crunch.

Too full for dessert, we opt for espresso and digestives instead.

Dinner for two with cocktails, a bottle of wine, espresso and cognacs: $165 (including tax and tip).

Friday, October 19, 2012

WesLodge Saloon, 480 King Street West

WesLodge is a Saloon. Why we needed a saloon, I'm not sure but it's blatantly obvious that no expense was spared in creating this "I'm cool like New York" type space. There's taxidermy, old painted portraits and servers in gun holsters. It feels rich yet unnecessary. Let's just focus on good food please.

There are two Bennies on WesLodge's brunch menu: smoked trout or lamb bacon. The former has nice, thick pieces of aggressively smoked flesh. I'm told it's done in house as is the baking of the petite English muffin it comes on. Perfected poached eggs is important to me and the kitchen nails it. Unfortunately, the Hollandaise suffers from a lack of citrus. It's a creamy beige and a little separated. Adding a few bits of tender mizuna doesn't impress me.

Fingerlings ($6) roasted in duck fat with pieces of the aforementioned lamb bacon is my side of choice. The bacon is amazing. The belly of a lamb is a surprise; it's slightly gamey and crispy.

I just wish that for $13 a pop, my tiny Benny came with something.

But then again, this is King West and style seems to always trump substance.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Sushi Couture, 456 Bloor Street West

The Annex is a sushi town in Toronto. Competition keeps prices low but doesn't do much for quality or presentation.

Sushi Couture is Kat and Jer's favourite. They live in the neighborhood and are avid diners. I trust their lead and so can you.

This restaurant stands out not only in its' decor; a sleek, modern room done up in black and red with low lighting but in the quality of their fish as well. They fly in fish from all over the world. Everything is fresh and generous. The maki is more fish than rice and everything that hits our table is beautifully presented. You'll pay a little more here but it's worth every penny.

My favourites were the spicy salmon rolls; smooth and buttery flesh that had real spice and without dousing them in that weird orangey mayo. The hamachi (yellow tail) rolls had a mellow sweetness. I could've eaten sixteen of them.

Dinner for three (6 types of rolls and one app) including two large cans of Sapporo, tax and tip was $99.00

Saturday, September 1, 2012


I came to Thailand for two reasons: the beaches and the food. The street food that is. Sure I had visions of dining by candlelit on the sea, my toes pushing through soft white sand and the breeze blowing through my beached hair. Now that I am here, I can honestly say that that is not what I'm in search of. We are actually doing our damnest to avoid it.

It's day nine and we are proud to say we haven't dined with a single white person. Our meals haven't cost more than $9 (beer included). The day we went to China Town in Bangkok, our lunch, a bowl of pork noodle soup, costs a mere .50 cents.

This is Thailand.

It's all rice and it's all good. Rice noodles, rice pancakes, fried rice, sticky rice, steamed rice, rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Curries, spices, indistinguishable meats on sticks. Sometimes we aren't sure what we are eating but we like it that way.

Yeah you can eat safe. There's pizza, spaghetti and club sandwiches. There's hamburgers and French fried ( always spelt wrong).

I didn't come here to be comfortable. I came here to take my palette on an adventure as well.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

La Carnita

The taco obsessed have a new place to get their fix and it's called La Carnita, 501 College Street.

After a year or so of pop ups, this taqueria finally has a permanent residence. The room is large (roughly twice the size of another hugely popular taco spot; you know who). It's a little bit street, a little bit posh, the space feels cool yet rich. Think graffiti, creative light fixtures, hip hop, dark hardwood, and a pretty ceiling. The only problem is someone forgot to dim the lights; it's way too cafeteria bright.

The OG Michelada ($8) is Tecate beer with clamato, lime juice and hot sauce. The rim is generously salted but it is too weak on both the clamato and the hot sauce. Nonetheless, it's an appropriate taco beverage.

There are three other house cocktails (try the Who Shot Ya? ($11) with Bulleit bourbon, hibiscus grenadine, ginger syrup, lemon juice) some micro brews, tequila and mezcal.

The Mexican street corn ($8 for two pieces) makes a dramatic entrance. Two perfectly charred ears are slathered with crema, queso anejo and chilli powders. It's a little over done; the kernels don't bite back.  The crema is silky, the cheese is sharp but oh my god this is a mess to eat; you get teeth full of kernels and a beard of crema. Proceed with caution and ask for extra napkins.

A swordfish ceviche can easily be made in anyone's kitchen but its' perfectly balanced acidity, the choice of a meaty fish like sword and the addition of coconut milk make it my favorite.  It's perfect and the chips rock too.

Ever since LC opened, my twitter feed has been inundated with praise for three offerings: the 'In Cod We Trust' taco, the tongue tostada and the churros for dessert.

Naturally I have to see what all the fuss is about.

'In Cod We Trust' ($5) is a soft corn tortilla that has the right texture. It doesn't break, split or get all mushed up under the large portion of beer battered cod. Kudos for this. The cod is thick and moist yet crispy. Pickled red cabbage, 'Voltron' sauce (a tamari based condiment), green apple and cilantro complete the pretty picture.

I don't like the tongue tostada ($5) as much. Braised tongue seems more boiled than braised. The best part of eating tongue is the texture and distinct "tonguey" flavour. It's a bit chewy and almost tangy. This meat tastes nothing like tongue and it's dark brown appearance looks unappetizing. No cute orange sauce or teeny beet sprouts can save it. I am however a sucker for the bits of grilled pineapple.

A chorizo taco ($5) is too minced, too greasy and I can't even finish it because it starts to make me feel gross. There's no smoke, no spice. The queso cotija is nice and tangy and I try to pick through the meat to save the cheese.

The churros ($5 for three pieces) are over fried?! Is this how they always are? I'm confused. Churros are always crispy on the outside yet light and fluffy on the inside. I ask the server but she has no real answer except that she offers to take them off our bill.

The look and feel of LC as well as the fact that they take numbers and call you when your table is ready (the other one stopped doing that) will have me going back I'm sure. I never stood in line for a club and I sure as hell won't do it for a taco.

*LC is now open seven days a week

Monday, July 16, 2012

Food Truck Mania: Buster's Sea Cove

Toronto finally got itself a few food trucks. It's too bad that you have to go down to Bay and Front to have lunch. Some trucks have been parked at Queen and Jarvis but after some "issues" with the landlord, they have either relocated or are laying low.

Front and Bay isn't the nicest of surroundings. There is nowhere to sit, limited shade and a ton of construction right now. What there is though is a ton of suits who need to eat lunch and when we arrive at 1 pm, the two trucks have long lines.

The most talked about street eat right now is Buster's Sea Cove's lobster roll ($13). An extension of their St. Lawrence Market location, this sea foam green truck also offers shrimp or fish tacos and a crab roll.

The lobster roll is served in a brown box with faux newspaper, a large dill pickle slice and a mini bag of Miss Vickie's regular potato chips.

The roll is perfectly toasted and buttered. The lobster (a little too picked apart in my opinion) is lightly dressed. Any creamier and it would be overwhelming.  Bits of celery and chives and a squirt of fresh lemon complete this salad on a bun.

It's a fun lunch.

The fried fish tacos (two for $8) are not as successful.  I like that the salsa has bite and stings my lips. The batter is light and really crispy but it quickly gets soggy under the salsa. Shredded purple cabbage adds some crunch but the corn tortilla gets destroyed by the weight of the toppings and falls apart as we try to eat it. Either double it up or get sturdier tortillas because this was a big hot mess.

It's exciting to finally have the kind of food trucks you hear about in other cities; let's just hope the rest of Toronto can get a few too because there's nothing fun about having to eat your lunch on a curb.

*follow Buster's Sea Cove at for their current location

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Black Hoof (Again)

Horse tartar ($16) with potato sticks, a ton of fresh dill and Hollandaise
My first visit to The Black Hoof, 928 Dundas Street West, was back in 2008 when they opened and it was published on at  I was impressed, to say the least, and have been back a couple of times since.  This is a restaurant to get your meat on; even your horse meat on.  Giddy up at The Hoof with their horse tartar.  It is elegant, rich, slightly sweet and apparently a little naughty.  OK a lot naughty.  Some of Toronto is pissed that restaurants like this one and La Palette are serving horse.  There are protests and letters and all kinds of upset. Here's my deal:  I will eat (try) anything that other cultures, other people are eating.  I do not discriminate against the consumption of certain animals.  Why is it ok to eat a cow or a pig but a horse is strictly taboo?  Is it because they are prettier?  Is it because the rich have them as pets? Or maybe because we bet money to see them race?

When you eat a cow and not a horse, you are saying to that cow, you are not worth living the way a horse is.  You're useless and I can eat you.

Think about it.

Horse meat is not only tasty but is low in fat, high in protein and over 4,000 horses are consumed worldwide each year.

It is not the horrific thing you may think it is.

Cured meat board ($19) with a side of warm olives ($4) and a large side of bread ($4)

The Black Hoof's claim to fame was and still very much is their house made charcuterie.  Sure, charcuterie is not the buzz word that it used to be but it still is a thing of beauty.  Some bread and a little mustard have us making our own mini sandwiches.

Our adventure continues with fried sweet breads, a tongue sandwich on brioche and roasted bone marrow.

All good and none of which are for the discriminating diner.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's Burger Week!

BQM BurgerShoppe's $5 Burger:  brisket with caramelized onions, goat cheese and jalapeno aioli (I added the onion ring)

I am addicted to hamburgers and was obviously totally jazzed when I heard that The Grid T.O is sponsoring an event that is entirely dedicated to burgers.  It's called Burger Week and it started yesterday (May 30) and runs until June 3.  The deal is a bunch of Toronto restaurants are featuring a $5 burger and a handful of places are doing it for charity with their "Black-tie Burgers".  Bestellen, 972 College Street. has only been open for a few short months but their burger has already been referred to as "the best in the city" more than a few times.  For Burger Week, Bestellen is serving up their usual mix of fresh ground, cooked to order, chuck, short rib and strip combo but this time it's topped with Stilton, house made HP, onions and rocket ($18).  For $5.50 you can add a cold Muskoka Spring Oddity.  $5 of the sale of every burger and $1 from the purchase of a beer will go to charity.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hoof Raw Bar

Hoof Raw Bar, 926 Dundas Street West, is the third baby in Jen Agg's family. I have loved everything I have ever eaten at The Black Hoof. I dislike elitist cocktails so The Cocktail Bar is not for me. I do, however, love seafood so here I am sipping a wonderfully tangy and peppery Bloody Maria getting really excited to try the already famous cured fish board ($22). It's like fish charcuterie; branzino, mackerel, black cod, tuna and scallop all cured using different flavours. The chorizo cured sea scallop impresses with its' creativity, sweetness and smooth texture. But the buttery nori cured black cod takes me somewhere, it wows me. I'd like five more pieces please.

The tiny loaf of sweet milk bread ($2) and butter is also a must.  For one, it is so damn cute in its' tiny brown paper bag and the butter is salty and soft.  For two, you need some substance if you are going to attempt dinner here.  The portions are small and I pretty much need to eat thirty seven oysters (6 for $18 or 12 for $34) before I feel full.  Sure there's others but nothing is as successful as the board. 

A chawanmushi ($11) is a Japanese custard with crispy, fried kale, button mushrooms and salmon roe.  The ramekin is straight from the fridge and the custard is ice cold.  It's off putting. The best element is the roe; big pearls of bright red roe that burst in your mouth like sea candy.

I won't even bore you with the details of the other two dishes we tried as I don't recommend them.

All you need to know is go to the Hoof Raw Bar, have one of the four Caesars and a fish board then move on. 

It's the best new appetizer in town.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

It opened but is it any good?

Toronto Life is always good for information on restaurants in the city.  Their 'Dish' column always does an "Introducing" feature where they focus on who just opened.  But am I the only one that wonders if these restaurants are any good? I know, that's the point; we are supposed to go and try it but if I ate out every week I'd be fat and broke and that ain't pretty.  Today's 'Dish' features Osteria 55, 55 Colborne Street.  I had dinner here about 2 weeks ago and was pleasantly surprised.  The pappardelle with creamy truffled mushrooms is a stand up pasta dish.  Perfectly el dente with a gentle richness that allows you to finish your plate without feeling sick afterwards which is how some cream sauces can make you feel.  Another successful execution is the 10 ounce striploin.  Simply grilled with a little pickled veg salad and salsa verde.  I skipped the sauce because I want to taste the beef and it's no Bestellen strip but it is good.  A side of grilled asparagus is little overcooked.  The space is awesome.  I love the soft lighting and exposed brick.  I hate the way they fold the paper napkins on the table; it looks banquetish.

Here's a link to Toronto Life if you'd like more details:

Monday, April 23, 2012


The Miller Tavern has recently opened at 31 Bay Street and although I haven't eaten there yet, we did pop in one night for some champagne.  If you're in the mood for some bubbly, this is where to go; they are popping bottles of Veuve Clicqout for $60.  No, that is not a typo.  Yes, it is even cheaper than the $67 you'll pay at the LCBO!

Another newbie in Toronto is The Midfield Wine Bar and Tavern, 1434 Dundas Street West.  This laid back, unpretentious bar is a real little gem that reminds me of sipping wine in bars in Portugal and Spain.  The other night we shared a $50 bottle of Tempranillo, a duck and foie gras rillette ($6) and a cheese board (3 choices for $16).  Besides charcuterie and cheese, you can indulge in oysters and they promise a bigger kitchen is coming soon.

A few months ago, we went to Yours Truly, 229 Ossington Avenue, for a few snacks and libations.  Both are reasonably priced with glasses and cocktails hovering at the $11 mark and snacks ranging from $5 to $13.  The salt cod unari ($6) nearly blew my mind with its' delicate pieces of fish and sushi rice tucked into sweet pockets of soft, juicy tofu. A smear of kewpie mayo finishes it off.  A brown paper bag of Thuet bread with a side of whipped duck fat and a pair of devilled eggs with sriracha, sesame and furikake doesn't hurt either.  We recently went back for dinner to give the $45 set menu a go.  Each of the four courses were the right combination of pretty presentation and wonderful flavours but sadly, the delicate presentations are way too teeny.  We started to panic after course two was a two, ok maybe three, ounce piece of trout and after course three's one slice of duck breast (this is the main?) we told our server to hold dessert so we could order another unari.  I had to make a sandwich when I got home.  Yours Truly is definitely where you want to go for dinner when you don't want to go for dinner.

Grand Electric, 1330 Queen Street West, is all about tacos and bourbon.  It's only thirtyish seats and I arrive when they open at 6:00 to put my name on the list.  An hour and half later, we are called to sit.  To start, chips and salsa with guacomole ($8) fail to excite me as much as my grand electric bourbon sour so we jump on the taco train.  Each is only $3.50 and they are not big but each soft shell is jammed packed with fillings such as tender beef cheek, tangy pineapple and pork belly and fried baja fish.  There are other characters as well and our favourite is the beef crudo tostada.  Skip the tuna ceviche tostada ($7.50) as is it just too wet and overcome with citrus.  This place is jumping with hip hop and quick turning tables.  Don't expect to linger.  Get your taco on then move on.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Nashville, Tennessee

No one understood why we were going to drive thirteen hours to Nashville and once we got there no one down there understood why we came.  We didn't even really know ourselves until Annette suggested it as a cheap place to road trip to and a recent article in Bon Apetit pegged it as the new "it" food city of the South.  The promise of fried chicken, BBQ and cheap eats pretty much sealed the deal. 
I've never been to the South but have always been curious. I've always wanted to sip sweet tea on a wrap around porch, drive a pick up down a dusty road and line dance with cowboys. Don't ask me why but I find the whole concept so incredibly romantic.
I wanted to experience what you see on TV; happy Southerners in hairnets slopping spoonfuls of macaroni and cheese, creamed corn and cold slaw onto a plate of really crispy fried chicken in a family run shack that might not be the cleanest place to eat but it's where the locals eat.

I never did make it to any old school cafeterias like Arnold's Country Kitchen or Monell's Dining and Catering but where I did go, was worth the treacherous drive through Ohio.

My mother asked what was the best thing I ate?  There's no answer.  The best part of the food scene in Nashville is how different it is from Toronto or New York.  The tacos were not the best I've ever had, the pulled pork wasn't the juiciest, the BBQ wasn't the most tender but it was the experience of eating those things that was the best I have ever had.  From tacos in some shack with bars on the windows that barely even resembles a restaurant to BBQ that's cut up to order by a large sweaty black man in a dirty apron and a cheerful Southern accent; every meal had character, it had a story.  There's a culture and a history down there that is just different from what we know up here.

The BBQ sauce is thicker, sweeter and darker in colour (they add molasses), the macaroni and cheese is creamier and the chicken is crispier than anything you can get in Toronto.  Pickles are everywhere and commonly fried as are the green tomatoes, green beans and okra.  Tea is preferred unsweetened and pies are a serious business with some establishments having a "pie lady" on site selling her treasured slices separate from the rest of the menu.  Corn bread is king and if you are lucky enough to find the kind that's flecked with jalapeno or pimento, you've hit the jackpot.
Nashville's food scene is colourful, vibrant and alive.  This city far exceeded my expectations.  I didn't come home with any cowboy boots but what I did come home with was a thirst for more.  More music, more whiskey and more importantly more of this incredibly humble yet impressive hospitality.

Merchants, downtown Nashville
Located in one of Nashville's historic buildings (est. 1892) this was our "fanciest" meal.  Cool cocktails, cute little devilled eggs on sliced pickles and a fried mahi mahi fish taco with creamy cole slaw, fresh lime and cilantro.  It was a great no brainer dinner after a long drive.

Prince's Hot Chicken, East Nashville

Hot chicken is a dish native to Nashville.  You will not find it in any other city in Tennessee and there are only a few places that make it.  The two most popular are Prince's and Bolton's.  Like the Terroni vs. Libretto thing in Toronto, many argue about which one is the best.  I followed Bon Apetit to Prince's and was happy as a clam.  Located in a run down strip mall in a part of town we were advised not to venture to at night, this chicken shack is so busy it is not uncommon to wait an hour for your chicken.  We waited fifteen.  Hot chicken is fried chicken with a ton of spices; mainly cayenne.  It comes mild to extra hot but we were warned to not be a hero and go mild.  Apparently some dumb white guy tried to be tough and ordered the extra hot and didn't show up to work for three days.  This place is a dump and anything except lemonade comes from a vending machine but they sure do know how to crisp a bird.  The chicken is fire red and so greasy they serve it on two pieces of white Wonder Bread to soak up the juices.  It's finished with two slices of pickle and a plastic fork.  The spice is a creeper but it's mellow.  It's hot don't get me wrong but you could get the flavour despite the heat.  The skin was the piece de resistance.  Picture the crispiest skin you have ever times that by one hundred.  This skin was like a potato chip.  I think at one point I had to remind myself to eat the meat not just the skin.  You know you're in the right place, when you are the only white people in the joint.

Urban Flats Flatbread Co., The Gulch
The Gulch in Nashville is a trendy, upscale new area under serious development.  It's akin to our Liberty Village and proof that Nashville is not all about grits and BBQ.  Urban Flats bakes their whole wheat flat bread pizza in a stone-hearth oven.  The toppings are high quality and more unusual than your common pizza players.  Think steak, lobster, Cajun shrimp, etc.  My Italian sausage, pesto and caramelized onion with fresh sage did wonders in curing my honky tonking hangover.  The jumbo Bloody Mary and the handsome waiter calling me darlin the whole time didn't hurt either.

Puckett's Grocery and Restaurant
This family run restaurant has been serving Southern cuisine since the 1950's and is a great spot for a quaint country style lunch in the uber picturesque town of Franklin (30 mins south of Nashville).  Meat and three (you choose one meat i.e pulled pork, ribs or brisket and three sides) is just $9.99 and I had to try the fried green tomatoes - just because.  Their corn bread comes in the form of a pancake and includes the "jackpot" of peppers.

Mas Tacos Por Favor, East Nashville
Food truck turned taco shack is home to Mas Tacos where for $3 you get a gourmet taco.  I was intrigued by the sweet potato and quinoa taco but couldn't resist the fish as they only serve fish tacos on Fridays and this was a Friday.  Fillets of tilapia were lightly battered, crispy and grease free.  Fresh, shaved red cabbage, onion, cilantro, lime and a mildly spicy dill yogurt sauce.  Their cast iron chicken and salsa verde taco was shreds of extremely moist white meat and a generous slathering of green sauce.  It's as cute as a button inside with its' Mexicana decor but with a long ride home we ate ours in the car.  A great departure snack.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lately in food...

Malena, 120 Avenue Road
This is a restaurant that never disappoints.  I have written a bit about them in the past (search the archives if you missed it) but Malena now has a new team executing their Ionion menu.  Head Chef Alex Bruveris and Sous Chef Rebecca Ross are putting their love of food into Malena as well as into each other; they are a couple and they make a great team.

A mushroom and arugula salad ($14) is not just that.  Grilled wild mushrooms are warm with fresh arugula that's dressed ever so lightly with pieces of focaccia that are torn and nicely charred.  These are quite frankly the best damn croutons I have ever had.  Parmigiano shavings finish off the salad.

The bf/gf combo make their own lamb sausage ($16) with the addition of oregano and lemon.  The sausage is juicy and tender and has the right amount of 'game'.  It sits amidst perfectly crisp square of fried potato and a generous amount of a peperonata puree.

A dark chocolate smores tart ($10) is super fun.  White chocolate crackers replace the graham and marshmallows get the addition of honey.  Let's just say, despite being a little anti-dessert, I finished it.

The room is uber romantic and apparently a little romance in the kitchen doesn't hurt either.

One of the must try cocktails is the Spiced Pear Cocktail ($13) - a delicious blend of Grey Goose La Poire vodka, Oakheart spiced rum, pear nectar and cardamom simple syrup.

Sitting on the pony haired bar stools for a late, light dinner is a great way to spend a Saturday night.

Pho Mi Asia, 1248 Dundas Street East, Unit #12
This is a restaurant that was so disappointing, I gave up eating to save myself some calories.  It is a Vietnamese/Chinese/Thai restaurant in a strip mall setting.  It's located in the Dundas and Dixie area so this is a heads up for all my Mississauga friends. 

We are celebrating my Nana's 95th birthday (shout outs to Nana!!!) and my grandparents do not know what Thai or Vietnamese food is.  They like Chinese, my aunt Linda likes Viet Bun, my mother likes Thai and the rest of us will eat it all so this place seemed to satisfy everyone's taste. 

Now, I realize I should know better; any kitchen that claims to cook more than one type of cuisine (and not in a fusion way) is bound to spell disaster.

There are two things you need to know:  this is a Vietnamese run restaurant and Linda's grilled pork bun is satisfactory but that's about it.

Everything else is bordering on disgusting.  So bad, it is almost comical.  Their version of chicken pad thai was nothing more than rice noodles in a fuchsia pink sauce with hunks of dark chicken meat.  No cilantro, no bean sprouts, no tofu, no lime, no nuts??!!

I'm pretty confident there are better options for Asian cuisine in the 905 so please, I've warned you, do not order from this one.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pizzeria Defina

Pizzeria Defina, 321 Roncesvalles Avenue, is one of the newer restaurants on the Roncey strip.  It is small(ish), casual and "family friendly".  Truth be told, the number of ankle biters kind of puts me off as I'm trying to have an adult dinner with a friend but I don't forget where I am; Roncesvalles is family ville.

The space is nice enough.  There's exposed brick, gleaming hardwood, bright colours and a massive wood burning oven in the center of the open concept 'pizza area' (all other dishes come from the back of the house kitchen).  I don't understand why the music is quiet and Top 40 as it does nothing to enhance the concept of an Italian pizzeria.  I'm also confused about the tapas menu and the addition of paella to the main course options.  I hate fragmented restaurant concepts.

A Caesar salad ($8) is not really a Caesar salad.  Sure there is romaine lettuce, shaved Parmigiano, croutons and bacon but the sweet and tangy vinaigrette dressing and the absence of anchovies, garlic and lemon make this anything but a Caesar.  Having said that, it is tasty.

You have a choice between a Napoletana or a Roma crust on your pizza.  We are told the former is more chewy while the Roma is thinner and crispier.  This is a half truth.  The two have the same thinness and are both somewhat soggy.  The Roma is not as soggy.  Both crusts are a little too charred with the perimeters tasting burnt.

The Margherita ($13) is traditional with a San Marzano tomato sauce, fiore di latte, Parmigiano and basil.  The sauce is on sweeter side and there's a little too much of it but it's a good sauce.  It passes.  There's the right amount of cheese but not enough basil. 

The Prosciutto ($16) is another traditional combo of tomato sauce, thinly sliced prosciutto, shaved Parmigiano and fresh arugula.  Again, it's good.

Pizzeria Defina fails to impress but it doesn't disappoint. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Lately in food...

Papa Giuseppe's Pizza and Pints, 26 Lakeshore Road E, Port Credit
Checkered table cloths, straw covered bottles of Chianti and an oven that cranks out pizza at a toasty 800 degrees all make for a truly Italiana experience.  The dough is good. It is blistered with a dark brown crust and slightly bubbled mozzarella. A little bit crispy and a little bit chewy.  Its' sauce is right too; a hint of basil and a touch of tang.  My Italian heart breaks when they take a decent crust and good sauce and add crappy cheese and grocery store fixings.  The Calabrese ($15) has way too much sauce for it's thin crust to handle.  It's mushy.  The green olives are the sliced ones from the can and I will bet all my Nonno's money that the sopressata, capicolla and pepperoni are all courtesy of Maestro, you know, the kind you get at No Frills.  In our current gastronomic climate of premium or house made salumi, to serve such pedestrian ingredients, is an insult. 

The Ace, 31A Roncesvalles, Toronto
The owner of The Dakota has dusted off the tables and put in some real reno time at this vintage diner, turned Chinese restaurant that has been vacant for years and years.  What a nice homage to its' past.  The old counter and diner stools remain as does the Oriental wall paper from its' Chinese days.  We slip into the last booth for some late night mussels and frites ($9) and a few glasses of a Cali Chard.  The mussels are steamed and spiked with fresh chili and plenty of
onion.  The broth is light and the mussels are plump and fresh.  The frites are more like fries as they are on the thick side but are crispy nonetheless.  The original bathrooms are one of my favourite details.  An endearing step back in time but with a fresh and ever changing menu.

Cafe Nervosa, 75 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto
There's nothing new at this Yorkville staple and I've been many times before.  Never having been disappointed but never being wowed either.  A caprese salad ($15.99) is the best part of our meal.  Oven roasted cocktail tomatoes are still on the vine which I love.  They are warm and squishy.  The fiore di latte mozzarella is thick and smooth and the whole basil leaves do much better than being chiffonade.  Grilled Tuscan bread and a drizzle of olive oil mean that you can build your own bruschetta.  Unfortunately, a gummy fresh spaghetti and a lack of promised chillis, fresh herbs and olive oil in their pasta con vongole ($16.99) have me adding my own salt and olive oil in attempt to create some flavour. The clams are fresh but it's not enough.

Jumbo Burgers, 673 Runneymede Road, Toronto
I am burger obsessed.  They are one of my favourite comfort foods and I have used them to remedy many a hangover.  A recent article on featured Jumbo Burgers as one of the best old school burgers in Toronto .  The comment section was enough to send me there.  Well, I don't mean to sound like a food snob (that might be a lie) but what the hell are these people talking about? This burger was easily one of the worst ones I have ever eaten.  Thank god it only set me back $3.70 because this is one disappointing burger.  First of all, it's not jumbo.  It's barely bigger than a McDonald's patty. Oh wait, maybe the jumbo refers to the huge bun that this sad little patty sits between?  It's only saving grace was the char-grilled flavour.  Your topping choices include tomato, pickles, ketchup, relish, mustard, onions and mayo that is sitting room temp on the counter.  No thanks on the mayo and how can you have a burger without lettuce?? The rings were freezer burnt and after struggling through three, I threw them out.  This place has been around for decades but I have no idea how they have lasted.  A total waste of calories.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

I spent my last days of 2011 up north with friends eating and drinking way too much and although I'm on a bit of a new year detox, there is alot of places that I look forward to dining at and things that I can't wait to eat.  I've said it many times but I will say it again, not only to I love to eat out but I love telling my "stories".  Good or bad, I always hope to be your dining compass.

Toronto is a great city for eating out and there has been a lot of excitement about some of the new places that have opened.  On my current 'to eat' list is The Westerly, Pizzeria Defina , The Ace , Enoteca Maialino and Grand Electric and shame on me for not having been to Porchetta & Co. or Agave y Aguacate yet .

Stay tuned friends...

Here's hoping for some new trends to take over some of the old ones that we have been subjected to over the last couple of years.  Although I love bacon, I can't wait to see that trend die.  Bacon gum?  Ridiculous.  The concept of a food truck selling something other than french fries is uber exciting but unfortunatley with all the red tape in Toronto, this might be something we have to just give up on?!  Sorry Suresh!/spotlightcity , every party has a pooper.  I also am over "local" and "organic" and "artisanal".  Why did we ever give bonus points for how we should be eating in the first place?  I do not buy tomatoes or berries in the winter and neither should you.  Let's make reducing our carbon footprint a common practice not a 'pat on the back' opportunity. 

I also don't pay $15 for a cocktail so can we maybe work on the elitist cocktail concoctions as well?

Criticisms aside (I prefer to view them as challenges) let's continue to celebrate what our wonderful city has to offer.

I look forward to continuing to fill you in on what's great and what's not so great and I hope that you continue to read my madness.  I am grateful for you support and I wish you all the very best for 2012!

Rita Ricchio