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Coming up for air

3 Dec

Sorry for the long, awkward radio silence on our end. Just a quick summary of our story as of late:

  • Robin’s been busy with two years (no summer break!) of school and, in her not-so-spare time, growing her event and wedding photography business.
  • I was busy with a long and difficult sale of my pharmacy. It’s an understatement if I say that the process took a lot of time and energy from me.
  • one of our cats had what was, thankfully, an acute case of renal failure.
  • I spent 2 weeks in Belgium and the Netherlands and Robin and I spent 2 weeks in the Andes and jungle of Peru.

So, with everything going, you can imagine that, when dining out, our first priority would be to enjoy our meals, downtime and each other’s company and not to be taking photos or blogging about what we’re eating.

We’ll see how things proceed from here, but expect the bloggin’ to pick up in the next while. Hope our photos will whet your appetite…

Richard

La Carnita – brunch menu

5 Feb

Brunch menu at La Carnita, Toronto

Brunch. One of the 5 most important meals that we have. Yet, on the weekend, brunch becomes the focal point for many people.  People are probably tired from working all week or from the late night they had the night before, and we strive to find the ultimate restaurant where we can stuff our faces with the perfect mix of flavours, meat and grease.

When we were invited to the preview of La Carnita’s brunch menu, we swooned.  When we were in Costa Rica, my 6 AM breakfast usually consisted of a hearty Latino beef stew. It cured the aches and pains from the previous day’s hikes and gave you the will and strength to continue with your day. The prospect of a delicious Mexican brunch option that would shake the aches and pains that come with the winter doldrums and that was crafted under the watchful eye of La Carnita’s Andrew Richmond gave me enough strength to leave the house before noon (!!!) on a cold Sunday morning. God bless you, Andrew.

The Proud Mary and Let It Burn, La Carnita brunch

You can’t have a brunch unless you have an eye opener. Two of La Carnita’s new drinks will open your eyes and then some.  The Proud Mary is their take on a Bloody Mary and it is bloody incredible. La Carnita uses tomatillo juice instead of tomato juice and you get a refreshing and citrusy Tromba tequila-based drink that will disappear down your hatch at an alarmingly fast rate.  Let It Burn plays on your three senses – you have the visual impact of the sprig of fresh romsemary, the incredible smoky smell of the “smoked” Mezcal rinse and the delicious flavour of the tequila, juices and rosemary.

Guillijo granola and yogurt, La Carnita brunch

We started off on the lighter side of brunch, trying the guillijo granola and yogurt. The yogurt is topped with guava, pineapple and hibiscus and is laced with a coulis made from an mild Mexican chilli. The berry-flavoured chilli paired very nicely with the fruit and the mild sweetness of the yogurt.

Potato and yucca homes topped with a poached egg at La Carnita brunch

I’ll admit that I was partially hung over before starting brunch and I needed something hot and comforting in me, stat.  The potato and yucca homies topped with a poached egg would be the perfect start to curing my head hammers. A savoury beef cheek ragout interlaced with thinly sliced jalapenos topped a tasty hash menage. Perhaps this will be Mexico’s ode to poutine?  A bottle of La Carnita’s hot sauce is a mandatory accompaniment to this dish; the extra sweet heat of the hot sauce takes this dish up to another level.

Crispy chicken torta at La Carnita's brunch

The crispy chicken torta is a hand-held sandwich of perfectly-fried chicken resting on a bed of guacamole and salsa fresca and tickled with a habanero honey glaze and crema. This was sweet, crunchy and creamy and didn’t last more than three minutes. My hangover didn’t stand a chance.

Chorizo sausage taco at La Carnita's brunch launch

La Carnita takes their chorizo taco and brunchified it.  Imagine salty and spicy sausage topped with spicy maple syrup. It is Mexican mouth candy with a gentle afterburn.

Cochinita pibil tostada at La Carnita, brunch launch

We ordered the cochinita pibil tostada mainly because we love anything topped with a fried quail egg. The braised pork rests on guacamole and, instead of your standard tortilla, you get a crispy-yet-stable tostada, which allows the quail egg to be enjoyed in all of its rich glory. While brunch was stellar to this point, the tostada was one of my favourite dishes. Rich but not heavy, flavourful yet subtle and, surprisingly, not messy to eat.

Lamb bacon and eggs taco, La Carnita brunch

This is probably as close as La Carnita will get to huevos rancheros, and that’s fine by me.  The lamb bacon and eggs taco will give brunchers their morning bacon and eggs fix, but, of course, with a tastier twist.

Roasted pork belly sope, La Carnita brunch menu

I really want to post the Youtube clip of Vince Carter in the slam dunk competition, crossing his arms and mouthing “it’s over!” The roasted pork belly sope, ladies and gentlemen, will go down as one of the best brunch dishes in this great brunch city.  You have a Mexican version of Eggs Benedict, served on a sope and a delicious mound of roasted pork belly. This is gringo brunch porn at its finest. The buttery and citrusy hollandaise sauce that covers the perfectly roasted pork…adjectives do not do it justice.

Mexican hot chocolate, La Carnita brunch

I was curious as to why hot chocolate would be a dessert item and not a beverage item.  One taste and I found out why.  Think of someone taking a molten chocolate cake and melting it down, and then covering it with a homemade marshmellow that is lightly toasted and served hot.  This was an indulgent yet justified finish to an amazing brunch.

La Carnita’s brunch will be the first Mexican brunch to be offered in Toronto.  Call it Mexican-Canadian fusion, call it gringoeats or call it whatever you like – it doesn’t matter because it is a great way to chase your hungries (or hangover) away.  Go there before word gets around because it is all but guaranteed to be a top Toronto brunch destination.

La Carnita
501 College St
p: 416-964-1555
www.larcarnita.com
@la_carnita

 

Photos by Robin

Words by Richard

The Feasting Room

28 Jul

The Feasting Room, Toronto

The tip-to-tail food movement’s still going strong, and Toronto’s newest pop-up restaurant, The Feasting Room, is the latest restaurant to join the charge.  The concept is simple: every week, the restaurant chooses a new protein and then serves you a multi-course tasting menu using different cuts from that animal.  I decided to make a reservation during “lamb week” because lamb is so darn fun.

Menu, The Feasting Room, Toronto

Tip-to-tail Menu, The Feasting Room, Toronto

The Feasting Room makes use of Little Italy’s Orbit Room during its pre-bar hours and they do a pretty decent job disguising the bar as a restaurant. At our table, we were presented with a a twine-bound wine-list and a post card that hinted at what cuts would be served to us. We passed on the wine pairing (an additional $35 per person; we wanted to restrict our consumption since it was a Sunday night) and stuck to the regular tasting menu.

Lamb pastrami amuse bouche, The Feasting Room in Toronto

Our server happily informed us that, in addition to our six-course meal, two amuse-bouches would be on their way.
The first snack was house-made lamb neck pastrami served with pickled green beans and Kolzik mustard.  It had a subtle smokiness to it and a modest pepper kick to it.  It made for a very tender and tasty starter.

Fried sheep's testicles with mint aoli, The Feasting Room in Toronto

The second amuse was ballsy. Literally.  Lamb testicle croquettes with a smoked mint aoli.  While we’d seen our share of lamb balls while in Basque country, we were never adventurous enough to try them.  When they’re breaded, deep fried and placed under your nose, you’re going to give it a go – and I’m happy we did.  Think of chicken nuggets, but more tender. They were soft, fried bits of goodness and paired well with the mint aoli.

Grilled lamb heart, rocket, shallots, garden beans with a pickled walnut dress, The Feasting Room

We officially started our meal off with a grilled lamb heart salad.  This take on grilled heart was really interesting; heart wasn’t the salad’s centrepiece, but instead was an accompaniment to the rest of the parts, which included rocket, green beans and shallots, and it let the pickled walnut dressing be the focal point. The meat was surprisingly tender, sliced thinly and dispersed throughout the salad. The salad was a great start to our dinner.

Lamb liver parfait with a fois gras "crust", pickled peaches and blueberries, The Feasting Room

Our next course was lamb liver parfait, “sealed” with a layer of fois gras and sided with pickled blueberries and peaches.  Here’s where lamb gets tricky.  Offal such as liver will normally have a stronger taste than your standard cuts of meat, but gamey lamb offal has the chance of overwhelming the palate.  I admit that the first bite of pate did leave a stronger-than-accustomed aftertaste, but that was quickly chased away with the subsequent chomps. The fois fat helped to take some of the gamey edge off and, very quickly, we were in pate love. I was making little capped snowmen with the pickled blueberries.

Lamb liver parfait and shameless blueberry snowmen, The Feasting Room

“O hello, Frosty da Parfait Snowman!”

We shamelessly scraped the jar down to the glass. Yum.

Lamb brains with cauliflower 3 ways, tahini, sumac and zatar, The Feasting Room

We them moved northward and had a zombilicious serving of lamb brains mixes with cauliflower three ways (puree, florets and dried chips) and tahini.  If you’ve never had brains before, fear not.  It had a rich and creamy feel with a relatively mild taste.  Pairing brains with cauliflower was a playful palate take on cauliflower gratin, and the finishing spices of sumac and zatar that were mixed with the deep-fried florets were an intelligent interpretation of comfort food. And no, I can’t avoid the brain-related pun. Sorry.

Semi-pulled lamb shank, sheep's milk cheese curds and French-style potato "poutine", The Tasting Room

It feels like we’re still riding the poutine wave, with every restaurant offering their take on the Quebecois dish. The Feasting Room offered a neat angle, making a semi-pulled shank poutine that was served with sheep’s milk cheese curd and French-style potato.  This dish worked very well when a bite of cheese made it to my fork and mixed with the potatos and lamb. The cheese offered a kick and a saltiness that worked really well with the rest of the dish. Without the cheese, the dish was good but not spectacular. So like to kids in those horrible 1980′s commercials: “(more) Cheese please!”

Pan-seared kidneys, roasted lamb leg and spatzele "steak and kidney pie", The Feasting Room

Our server brought us two mini casserole dishes and proclaimed that we were about to eat the chef’s take on steak and kidney pie.  The kidneys were pan seared then deglazed with Worcestershire sauce and chicken stock. They were then placed in a casserole with lamb leg, veggies, a Guinness sauce and house-make spatzele.  The kidney was by far the strongest and gamiest of cuts we tried, having a strong sharp taste to it.  The small casserole made it difficult to cut up the kidney and mix it with the spazele and other large, awkward cut of meat.  The cute casserole dish could have worked if the meat was in smaller pieces or there was less kidney. Otherwise, a different vessel might have elevated our enjoyment of this dish.

Sheep's milk ricotta cheesecake, raspberry coulis & compote with vanilla-spiked whey, The Feasting Room

The menu was completed with a sheep’s ricotta cheesecake, topped with raspberry coulis and compete and accompanied by a espresso cup’s of vanilla-dusted whey. It was a neat yin-yang dessert that played on the “nothing is wasted” theme of the restaurant.  The ricotta gave the cheesecake a  refreshing flavour to it instead of a typical sweet-and-creamy cream cheese cheesecake.  Pouring spoonfuls of whey as cheesecake chasers was definitely the tasty way to go.

We were stuffed and really enjoyed our meal, but made sure we didn’t linger too long.  At 9:30, the restaurant morphs back into a bar, so unless you enjoy audibly hearing about the bartender’s recent escapades, book a reservation to eat before 7:30.

thefeastingroom.com
@thefeastingroom

Words by Richard, photography by Robin

Colorado Beer Tour Giveaway

28 May

As you know, we love beer. Some of the best beer beer in the world is made by our neighbours to the south.  Long gone are the days where we Canadians made fun of American watered-down, low-alcohol beer. It started around 15 years ago, with the west coast states leading the charge with a new wave of IPAs that were more aromatic and bitter than anything beer drinkers were used to. The latest trend, which, sadly, has yet to hit most of Canada, is mouth-puckering sours and funky-tasting brettanomyces-fermented beer. Breweries like Russian River, New Belgium and Jolly Pumpkin are brands that you may see during your trips to California, Colorado or Michigan, but have yet to arrive in Toronto.

Thanks to the people at Zephyr Adventure, Draft Magazine, New Belgium Brewing, Untappd and World Class Beer, you have a chance to visit Colorado – one of the US beer hot spots! – to see the countryside and see the barleyside.

This contest was open only to US residents, but I’ve been told that Torontonians will be allowed to enter. Fear not, brethren! A beer adventure is only a click away.

The contest closes on June 1 2012, so enter today. Enter here and if you win, think of us! Good luck!

Holy Chuck – “Go Chuck Yourself”

12 May

Oh, the power of Twitter. You jokingly put an idea out there and, the next thing you know, the joke becomes a reality.  In my case, I suggested to Stella (@foodieyu and writer of Food Junkie Chronicles) that we go to Holy Chuck and try their epic “Go Chuck Yourself” burger.  Two weeks later, we had dinner plans booked and there was no backing out.

We reviewed Holy Chuck a while back and opined that they are one of the best burger restaurants in the city. Today, we were going to tackle two of the crazier burgers they make.

The Holy Duck fois gras burger at Holy Chuck

The Holy Duck burger is a single beef patty covered with double smoked bacon and a slab of fois gras, then drizzles with truffle oil and maple syrup. This is one serious umami blast! Robin will eat fois gras if given the opportunity, so this burger was hers. Combine the nice meaty flavour of Holy Chuck’s patties with the buttery goodness of fois gras, the smoky bacon flavour and the flavour kick from the truffle oil and maple syrup and you get one hell of a special burger.  I rubbed some of the fries in the truffle oil that dripped from the burger. Wow.

 Go Chuck Yourself burger at Holy Chuck

I present to you the show stopper: the Go Chuck Yourself burger.  They pile up 6 burgers with 6 slices of cheese, toss on a bunch of bacon and caramelized onions and sandwich it with three grilled cheese sandwiches. Yeah, not for the faint or weak of heart.

 Two Go Chuck Yourself burgers at Holy Chuck

As I brought the burgers to the table, I thought “how will Stella be able to eat one of these?” Stella’s roughly half the size of me and the burger is approximately the size of her head. I wondered: what would Darwin say about what we were about to eat?

Go Chuck Yourself burger at Holy Chuck (Toronto's largest burger)

I could barely hold it in my hands.

Go Chuck Yourself burger at Holy Chuck (Toronto's largest burger)

If my parents ever read this blog, they’d probably disown me.  With Robin’s help, I managed to handily eat the burger. Flavour-wise, the burger is excellent. The patties are juicy and full of flavour.  I really didn’t have a problem eating such a ridiculous quantity of food. It was incredibly tasty from start to finish. I find that most burgers are over-salted or overcooked – not at Holy Chuck. Even through this tangled mess of bacon and bun, I could still taste the ground steak that’s used to make the patties.  I was drinking a Nutella and salted caramel milkshake (probably the best shake in Toronto) to help wash the food down.  It goes without saying that, the following morning, I had to skip breakfast.

 

Holy Chuck Burgers
1450 Yonge St
Toronto, ON M4T 1Y7
holychuckburgers.com
@holychuckburger

 

Photos by Robin, text by Richard

Death Row Meals: Hunters Feast II

3 Apr

Death Row Meals: Hunters Feast II

Our communal table was decorated with figurines of a moose, bear, zebra and tiger. If I was betting that at least one of those animals will be appearing on my dinner plate, I would have made some solid money.  Welcome to Death Row Meals: Hunters Feast II.

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Much like Secret Pickle and Charlies Burger, Death Row Meals is behind some of Toronto’s more innovative dining experiences.  Hunters Feast was a carryover of sorts from last year’s event, taking the leg from last year’s wild boar, curing it for a year and incorporating the wild boar prosciutto into the various courses. Each course was paired with some of Ontario’s tastier wine offerings.

Duck egg, fois granola, wild boar prosciutto from Death Row Meals

Duck egg, fois granola, wild boar prosciutto from Death Row Meals

 Course 1: “Hunting Trip Gone Wrong” – chef Nick Benninger. Slow poached duck egg, trail mix, boarscuitto, fois granola, crab apple verjus, forest edibles.

There’s a certain child-like giddiness I get when I cut my knife through a perfectly poached egg and see its golden yolky goodness ebb and flow across my plate.  The richness of the duck egg combined with the pickled ramps, granola and prosciutto made a great start to our four hours of feasting and drinking. Rich and savoury with a nice, sweet tartness from the ramps and verjus, this would make a perfect late-start Sunday breakfast.

Confit of Acadian sturgeon belly, boar prosciutto brodo, wild leeks, dumpling - chef Scott Vivian.

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Course 2: Confit of Acadian sturgeon belly, boar prosciutto brodo, wild leeks, dumpling – chef Scott Vivian.

For some of us who are trying to overcome our piscophobia, sturgeon is a difficult choice for a gateway fish. Seeing that we had many courses to go, I politely passed on this dish so I could focus on (mostly) land mammals. I sat, envious of other diners as they ate away at their sturgeon and finished off by picking up their bowls to drink the proscuitto-flavoured broth.

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Course 3: prosciutto Spamstrammi with smoked bean puree, Canadian Club infused kimmel crumbs & sage oil – chef Tom Davis.

I admit that I raised a Spockian eyebrow at Chef Davis when he described how he made his own Spam pastrami from the boar proscuitto. With one bite, the eyebrow was lowered and I was a believer.  Slightly smoky and perfectly spiced, my little loaf of luncheonmeat disappeared within 2 minutes.

Duo of green and yellow French Canadian split pea soups with boar proscuitto, pheasant sausage & duck spledini - chef Steve Wilson

Course 4: Duo of green and yellow French Canadian split pea soups with boar proscuitto, pheasant sausage & duck spledini – chef Steve Wilson

Chef Wilson told us that this dish was a tribute to his French Canadian and First Nations background.  Our bowls were beautifully divided in half, with the green split pea soup side having tender pieces of sausage.  I made sure to alternate between the soup and the duck kebab, grilled in a savoury Italian style.

Gator, duck liver and boar prosciutto boudin balls with sweet corn pudding, cracklin', sofritto criollo, ramp coulis - chef Rossy Earle

Course 5: Gator, duck liver and boar prosciutto boudin balls with sweet corn pudding, cracklin’, sofritto criollo, ramp coulis – chef Rossy Earle

When this course arrived, I had mixed feelings.  Part of me wanted to stare at the beautiful presentation, while the carnivore in me wanted to tear that boudin ball apart and have my first crack at gator. The carnivore always wins and it wasn’t disappointed.  Rich and moist and full of flavour, Chef Earle’s take on boudin was deliciously executed.  The creamed corn and the tiny moat of Earle’s Diablo Fuego hot sauce were excellent accompaniments. This dish was intense in all the right ways.

wild game ragout, seminola, sour cream & crispy tasty bits - chef Jason Bangerter

wild game ragout, seminola, sour cream & crispy tasty bits - chef Jason Bangerter

Course 6: wild game ragout, seminola, sour cream & crispy tasty bits – chef Jason Bangerter

When Chef Bangeter said that it was wild game, he meant it. The ragout was a mix of venison, moose and beaver (!!) sitting on top of a pillowy ring of seminola. The ragout had the warm and hearty flavour that I’d expect from game meat, with a rich and slow-cooked goodness that screams both “comfort food” and “sophistication”.

Midnight campfire with marshmallow, coffee&booze - chef Jason Bangerter

Midnight campfire with marshmallow, coffee&booze - chef Jason Bangerter

Midnight campfire with marshmallow, coffee&booze - chef Jason Bangerter

Midnight campfire with marshmallow, coffee&booze - chef Jason Bangerter

Course 7: Midnight campfire with marshmallow, coffee & booze – chef Jason Bangerter

Let’s be honest: can you really go wrong when you combine home-made marshmallow, mini beaver tails and Kaluha in a large mason jar?  It was a booze, coffee jar of goodness. I desperately struggled to eat every last bite of the dessert, fighting off the pain of overindulging.  This was a killer ending or an amazing night.

Find out about future Death Row Meals events by following them on Facebook.


Photos by Robin

Text by Richard

CHARCUT Roast House, Calgary.

11 Mar

CHARCUT Roast House

Last week we visited Richard’s sister and her family in Calgary. Most of our trip was dedicated to spending time with the family, but we still managed to make some foodie excursions. One of those excursions was a lunch at CHARCUT Roast House.

Inside CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary

We arrived just as the office lunch crowd was leaving carrying little brown bags filled with warm cookies, a favourite dessert. We settled in and marveled at the beer fridge. They had a fantastic selection of international and local brews in bottle, and they had some great local microbrew options on draft as well.

Duck Poutine with Truffle Oil at CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary

Duck Poutine with Truffle Oil at CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary

My sister-in-law had been to CHARCUT before and was disappointed to discover that the lunch menu didn’t feature the duck poutine, which she said was a must. We asked our server and he returned shortly after with a dish that I could smell before I saw it. It definitely had truffle oil in it. Not just a stingy amount, either. There was a potent smell and flavour of it in the gravy. As always I would have liked to have a bit more gravy and cheese curds (can you ever really have too much?) but there was a fairly generous amount of both, and the crispiness of the fries held up to the gravy well. This is probably one of the best poutines I’ve ever had. Definitely ask for this even if it’s not on the menu. You won’t regret it.

Prime Rib Sandwich at CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary

My lunch was the Spit-Roasted Spring Creek Prime Rib sandwich. It had Quebec cheese and grainy mustard on it, and it came with a bowl of jus for dipping. I absolutely loved this sandwich. I normally wouldn’t order a beef sandwich because I tend to find them dry and boring, but we were in Calgary and in Calgary you eat beef.  I was very pleasantly surprised. The beef was flavourful and moist, with just the right amount of smokiness and saltiness. I also love that they grate cheese over their fries.

Country sausage at CHARCUT Roast House in Calgary

Richard ordered the Country Sausage, which had slow-roasted caramelized onions and peppers on a comically tiny bun. Before we ordered, our server explained that this was CHARCUT’s take on a German sausage, where the sausage sticks out from both ends and the bun is really just so that you don’t have to hold the sausage in your bare  hands. We were both imagining something like a hot dog bun with a few inches of sausage sticking out from either end, but this is what we got. The sausage was expertly crafted and I kind of liked the cheeky presentation. Richard admitted after lunch that he wished that he’d ordered my dish, since he liked it more.

I can’t talk about CHARCUT without mentioning that the co-owner and co-executive chef is Connie DeSousa from the first season of Top Chef Canada. She was my favourite and I rooted for her the whole way through. I loved that she was a strong, creative woman who could hold her own in the boy’s club of the service industry. We didn’t go to CHARCUT exclusively because of Connie, but it was definitely an added draw.

In addition to their restaurant, CHARCUT also has a food truck: Alley Burger. We didn’t get a chance to try it while we were in Calgary this time around, but I’ve heard rave reviews. You can catch Alley Burger on Twitter @AlleyBurger.

CHARCUT Roast House
101, 899 Centre Street SW
Calgary, Alberta
403.984.2180
charcut.com
@CHARCUT

Alley Burger Food Truck on Urbanspoon

 

Photos and Words by Robin

The Best of 2011 on If Looks Could Fill

1 Jan

I’ve had this blog for less than a year. My first post was in April 2011, but I still thought that it would be fun to do a New Year’s wrap-up post of my favourite eats and events of the year. Click on the photo to get to the corresponding post.

Restaurants:

Guu Sakabar. My very first post! I still love this place. They’ve changed their menu since I made this post, but the new menu is just as good if not better. Definitely try the black cod next time you go. It’s amazing.

Marben is a place that I’ll always suggest to anyone when they’re looking for a good restaurant. Their menu is unique while still being approachable (something that can’t be said about some of my other favourites like Black Hoof and Dukem). They change their menu every season, so none of the beautiful dishes (like the rabbit mac&cheese shown above) featured in this post are still being offered, but there’s always something on their menu to surprise and delight.

Foxley has been one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto for a long time, and it didn’t disappoint me in 2011. Their food is always so flavourful and the atmosphere is always warm and inviting. And their ribs are to die for.

Dukem is another old favourite that kept its place in my heart this year. We tried some other Ethiopian restaurants this year but in the end we always seem to come back to Dukem. Try the awaze tibs and the kitfo when you go.

Burgers were a big deal in 2011 and our favourite burger joint is Goody’s in Scarborough. A tiny family-run diner, they have the most creative burgers in the city and their portions are pretty generous, as shown above. The burgers are nearly the size of your head! My favourite burger from Goody’s so far would have to be the Macho Nacho – a burger that more or less tastes exactly like a plate of nachos between 2 buns, but better!

Richard’s post about ex-Hoofer Colin Tooke’s new restaurant Grand Electric made me wish that I had been with him that night. I did get to go back a week later and try the soup and the fish taco, both of which were excellent. I’m sure that we’ll be making many return visits to Grand Electric in 2012.

Recipes:

I don’t post a lot of recipes, but this one was good enough to make it into my favourites of the year: Orange Cornmeal Cake. It’s a light cake that’s perfect for summer and can be eaten at just about any time of day.

Beer:

In July we visited Belgium and got to try some of the best beer in the world. Our trip to Cantillon’s brasserie was especially exciting. They’re the last traditional lambic brewery in Belgium and the lambic brewing process is fascinating.

One of the highlights of our trip to Belgium was the day that we rented bikes and rode up to Abbey Saint Sixtus in West Flanders to a little town called Westvleteren. This is where the best beer in the world is made. Year after year Westvleteren 12 is rated the best beer in the world by many publications, but the monks don’t do wholesale orders so it’s nearly impossible to find. One way to get some is to go to Westvleteren and drink some in the cafe across the street from the abbey.

Events:

2011 was the year of the food truck. Suresh Doss organized 3 Food Truck Eats events and has been a leader in bringing the food truck culture to Toronto. We attended Food Truck Eats 2 in August and it was fun and delicious. My favourites were the maple bacon donuts from Beast and the tacos from La Carnita.

One of my favourite posts of the year was La Carnita’s pop-up with Steve Gonzales. They allowed me to spend the day with them as they prepared and I was able to get a behind-the-scenes look at how things come together during one of their famous pop-up taco shops. La Carnita’s success proves that Toronto is hungry for something a little different.

Some of the best event of 2011 were the Toronto Underground Market’s several appearances. This event is so important to Toronto’s food culture. Run by Hassel Aviles in the Evergreen Brickworks, TUM is really something special. Home cooks have a chance to share their food with the city by using Evergreen’s community kitchen. There were 3 Underground Markets in 2011 and more are planned for 2012.

If 2011 was any indication of the direction that food is going in Toronto, I’m excited to see what 2012 has in store for us! More food trucks, tacos and craft beer, I hope.

Coco Rogue Chocolate Lounge

4 Dec

On Friday night we were invited to the launch of Coco Rogue Chocolate Lounge’s new dinner menu. Before the launch of the new menu, Coco Rogue’s focus was on artisan chocolates made by master chocolatier Bruce Tanton. In their new endeavor, Coco Rogue is making Belgian food with an elegant twist and serving it with some very special Belgian beer and delicious cocktails.

Classic Chocolate Martini at Coco Rogue Chocolate Lounge

I didn’t have my DSLR with me that night, so I’m posting a few cell phone photos.

The new beer menu at Coco Rogue sounds very exciting. They’ve teamed up with Ryan from The Monk’s Table with his expert knowledge of Belgian beer. They are going to be featuring at least one very hard-to-find Belgian brew: De Struisse’s Pannepot. If you don’t know about Pannepot, you can read my short love note about it here. It’s next to impossible to find in bars in Toronto, and the fact that Coco Rogue will soon be carrying it is reason enough for me to return for another dinner!

On the night of the menu launch the new beer menu wasn’t quite ready to roll out, so I ordered a classic chocolate martini. It was perfectly sweet and dangerously drinkable. The garnish on the top was a single origin chocolate exclusive to Coco Rogue. The also had an extensive list of other martinis including a few other chocolate ones, and a very nice list of scotches.

We tried just about everything on their menu. My favourite dishes of the night were the mussels in marinara sauce, the carbonnades flamandes (traditional Belgian beef stew brewed in Trappist ale) and the pensen sausage (venison sausage with sweet potato mash).

Sweet Potato Frites to Coco Rogue

Their sweet potato frites were so amazing that they deserve their own paragraph. They were battered, crispy, salty and just an absolutely perfect snack. When I come back for my bottle of Pannepot, I am definitely going to order a bowl of these frites to go with it.

Richard and I spent some time in Belgium last summer and we quickly discovered that Belgian cuisine, when done properly, can be comforting and delicious. But it can also easily be bland and unexciting. Coco Rogue did an excellent job of capturing the best elements of Belgian cuisine and elevating them to a new level. Yonge & Eglinton is a bit of a wasteland when it comes to good restaurants and I think that the young singles in the area will be very glad to have such a perfect date spot in the neighbourhood. On the weekends there’s live piano music after 10pm and when we were there, Casablanca was being projected on a wall upstairs. Very romantic!

Coco Rogue Chocolate Lounge
2097 Yonge St.
Toronto, ON
416.901.2626
coco-rogue.com

 

Coco Rogue Chocolate Lounge on Urbanspoon

Half Pints Brewing Company (and our beer collection).

6 Nov

We were in Winnipeg last week visiting some family, and we took the opportunity to make a visit to Half Pints Brewing Company. We’ve been fans of Half Pints since 2009 when we first tried their Little Scrapper IPA and their Burleywine, a seasonal brew that they are sadly not making this year.

We got a little tour of their brewery and picked up a few bottles of their ultra hoppy double IPA, Humulus Ludicrous.

The brewery is a modest size, and they’re constantly finding new ways to keep up with the growing demand for their products.

Skids of Little Scrapper IPA, ready to be distributed at Half Pints Brewery in Winnipeg MB

Brewmaster Dave checking out a batch of Stirstick Stout

Transistor 66 gig posters

Half Pints sponsors Transistor 66, a Winnipeg record label. I loved these gig posters hanging in the hall.

We tried one of the bottles of Humulus Ludicrous and even though I’m still acquiring a taste for hoppy beer, I really liked it. The other bottles are waiting patiently in our wine/beer fridge for consumption.

Speaking of our wine/beer fridge… We made some modifications to it (with some help from my Dad who actually knows how to do this kind of stuff) and we finally put it back together today and put all of our beer and wine in it. It’s quite a beautiful sight if I do say so myself:

Beer Fridge

Beer Fridge

Beer Fridge

It currently has beer brought back with us in our luggage from several countries (including some Westvelteren and Cantillion from Belgium) as well as a good stash of De Dolle and Rochefort purchased through a wonderful new relationship with a private importer. I will admit that we’re lacking in the local craft beer area, but we drink enough of that when we’re out at bars in Toronto. When we’re at home we like to pretend that we’re at a well-stocked bar in Belgium. :)

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