Tag Archives: toronto

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

Ritz Restaurant

23 Oct

Ritz restaurant, Toronto

I normally resent when someone tells me, “you should eat at so-and-so! You’ll love it!” But, for some reason, a sign that declares  “You love our t-bone steak”!, yet there isn’t a t-bone anywhere to be found on their menu, makes me squee. Welcome to the Ritz, East York’s hidden gem. It’s a time warp of sorts; Ritz is a legitimate 1960s diner, with wood panelled walls, vinyl multi-coloured bar stools and table-side juke boxes.  Just like the sign promoting the t-bone, the jukeboxes are relics from an era long gone.

Ritz restaurant, Toronto

You can’t not love the Ritz. There’s one person who runs the front of the house, and when I say “run”, I mean that she’s literally at a near-run pace, flitting from the bar to the cash to the kitchen and back serving tables.  She does it all with kindness and a huge smile on her face.

Filipino breakfast/lunch menu, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

The menu has two parts to it. You have your typical North American diner food, including BLTs, club house and steak sandwiches. We saw the club house, which seems to be a long-forgotten sandwich in these parts, and I think I’ll be introducing one to my belly in a future visit.  You can also get a Canadian breakfast, which includes three eggs, home fries and bacon (“regular or crispy?”, you’ll be asked).  But what we came for were their Filipino breakfast and lunch offerings. You don’t expect a restaurant called the Ritz, located just a stone’s throw from Greektown, to be dishing out Filipino morning fare.

Adobo chicken and pork ribs, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

We decided to get the Adobo pork ribs and chicken and to get the Filipino breakfast.  The chicken and ribs came smothered in adobo sauce and with a side of rice and a cafeteria-like corner of steamed vegetables. I dug into the hot, breaded cutlet of chicken and enjoyed the savoury gravy and slight spice it had. The ribs were cooked tenderly and were still bone in. It was a delicious hot mess and the ultimate Sunday morning hangover food.

Filipino breakfast special with Filipino sausage, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

Robin ordered Filipino sausage as her breakfast meat, which is a sweet, bright pink sausage of lord-who-knows-what-meat-it-is. But it doesn’t matter. It was tasty as sausage sin, and was sitting on a mound of over-easy eggs and rice.

Leche flan, Ritz restaurant, Toronto

Robin was still hungry after her $4.95 breakfast (you read that correctly), so she ordered a Filipino dessert. We were brought a leche flan, which was a yummy condensed milk custard cake that we polished off in minutes.

This quirky little throw-back restaurant feels more like it belongs on an American backroad than in Toronto…except for it serving Filipino food.  Whether its for their decor or their food, there’s no way you can’t find some love for the Ritz. Unless, of course, you showed up for the t-bone steak.

Ritz Restaurant
310 Donlands Ave
Toronto
416-421-4696

AwesTRUCK 2012

16 Sep

Food truck at AwesTRUCK 2012

AwesTRUCK was the Double Down of food truck events.  You have a food truck event that showcased Toronto’s fledging food truck scene, which was wrapped with people’s choice awards for food trucks. Around that, you had more pop-up food vendors serving their innovative eats and Ontario beer, wine and spirit vendors serving their unique offerings. The only thing that would have made AwesTRUCK that much more awesome? A LASER SHOW.

The day started with a 2 hour “VIP” event, which allowed all ticket purchasers to, essentially, eat all they could eat for their price of admission. The tickets sold were limited and this left few line-ups and lots of room to enjoy the surroundings, view the artwork hung for the occasion and gawk at the amount other patrons were eating.  This also featured an awards ceremony which highlighted some of Ontario’s cutting edge and new food trucks, as voted by food truck patrons.

El Gastronomo Vagabundo winning an award at AwesTRUCK 2012Dobro Jesti winning an award at AwesTRUCK 2012

Ole! Fidel Gastro wins an award at AwesTRUCK 2012

After the award ceremony ended, the rest of the ticket holders were allowed in. More eating (and drinking) ensued. Belts were loosened.  More food trucks opened up to serve the masses. Here are some pictures of the yumminess served up to over 1500 patrons:

Tacocat menu at AwesTRUCK 2012

Tacocat menu

Babi & Co serving up Indonesian street food at AwesTRUCK 2012

Babi & Co serving up Indonesian street food

Fidel Gastro at AwesTRUCK 2012

Fidel Gastro

Meatball sliders from Rome'n Chariot, AwesTRUCK 2012

Meatball sliders from Rome’n Chariot

Grilled cheese from Gorilla Cheese, AwesTRUCK 2012

Grilled cheese from Gorilla Cheese

Tequila Tromba mixologying it up at AwesTRUCK 2012

Tequila Tromba mixologying it up

Thanks to Suresh Doss, Frank Kocis and the rest of the volunteers who organized the event and made it run smoothly. A big thanks to all the vendors involved:

Food trucks:

Blue Donkey
Cupcake Diner
Dobro Jesti
El Gastronomo Vagabundo
Gorilla Cheese
Rome’n Chariot
Southern Smoke Barbecue
Fidel Gastro
Stuft
Gourmet Gringos

Pop-up vendors:

Babi & co.
Big E’s Grinds
Dat Chick Craze
Grindhouse Coffee
Mr. Spinners with Waffle Bar
Taco Cat
Tide & Vine Oyster Company

La Carnita

2 Jul

La Carnita

When word got around that La Carnita, the darlings of Toronto’s new pop-up restaurant trend, were setting up a brick-and-mortar restaurant, many foodies held their collective breaths. Would an every-day restaurant lose some of the excitement and exclusiveness that its “Tweet today, gone tomorrow” incarnation had?  Could they keep quality and innovation going over time when they’re serving food on a daily basis?

The answer is very simple.  La Carnita’s restaurant breathes the culture and vibe that grew with the various pop-ups and food events.  It’s a logical progression of an idea that matured over the past year, and we diners get to reap and eat its delicious rewards.

It’s inevitable that people will compare La Carnita to Grand Electric, so let’s get that out of the way. La Carnita is like Grand Electric’s gainfully employed older brother. It doesn’t have the fun “f-you!” punk attitude that Grand Electric has. It’s more grown up and has a sophisticated hip-hop feel.  Think of East LA meets Ossington meets New York with hip hop playing – but not blasting – but with less hip irony that other west-end joints are thought to have.  There are also three visible differences: La Carnita does not have a patio, La Carnita focuses on tequila (versus bourbon) and La Carnita has more inside seating than Grand Electric. La Carnita will also take your phone number and call you when your table is ready, where Grand Electric doesn’t offer that courtesy anymore.

Interior, La Carnita

From the bat-signaleque Meathead sign in the front, to the gold-toothed “GRINGO” threshold welcoming you into the restaurant or the graffiti-tagged walls and chicken-coop light fixtures inside the restaurant, you’re hit with a chiq yet cool-trash vibe that greets you at every turn. It’s clear that Andrew Richmond, the guy behind La Carnita, has a background in design. Every element of this place has been carefully selected to reflect La Carnita’s “steez”.

Menu at La Carnita

The menu is focused and to the point. We came for the tacos but wanted to also eat our way through the delicious starters.

Mezcal chipotle pate & tortilla chips, La Carnita

We ordered the tortilla chips with mezcal chipotle pate. The crispy, house-made tortillas and the pate were lightly sprinkled with a zesty chilli powder, combining the creamy liver goodness with a nice kick of heat.

Mexican street corn, La Carnita

The Mexican street corn tastes as delicious as it looks. The gentle dribble of  Mexican crema and queso  played well off the grilled corn flavours, with the nice chilli kick to chase the flavours down.  Normally I wouldn’t be squeeing over corn, but this corn is squee-worthy.

Avocado mango salad, La Carnita

The avocado mango salad is a nice take on the Thai style of mango salad. The presentation was nice; you have a few springs of cilantro and shredded mango sitting on top of a perfectly-ripened half avocado.  The flavours were excellent, with the creaminess of the avocado playing off the citrus tones of the mango quite well.

And now: taco porn.

Tacos at La Carnita

Tacos at La Carnita

Tacos at La Carnita

With six tacos on their menu, its easy for a couple to order one of each. So we did, and ate our way through: cod, beef tongue, skirt steak, chorizo, chicken and a vegetarian taco. The toppings are also more intricate than what you find at other taquerias. Each taco was delicious with the beef tongue being my favourite and the ever-faithful fish taco (named “In Cod We Trust”) being Robin’s list topper.  None of them disappointed.

More taco porn:

Tacos at La Carnita

Tacos at La Carnita

For dessert, we decided that we needed a palate cleanser. We shared the key lime paleta. Its now what you expect when you’re ordering a key lime dessert.

Key lime paleta at La Carnita

This fruity key lime pie-flavoured ice pop is a delicious combination of tart and sweet, with a graham cracker-like crust that has a pinch of salt to it. I’m not sure how quickly the paleta melts, since ours disappeared in 2 minutes.

La Carnita’s Underground Market and pop-up days may be on hiatus, but that’s not a bad thing.  Toronto now has another great option to get our Latin American soul food fix, and it’s a pretty perfect way to get that fix.  Come for the tacos, stay for the ambiance, tequila and the rest of the delicious menu.

La Carnita
501 College St
Toronto.
416.964.1555
lacarnita.com
@la_carnita

Photos by Robin. Text by Richard.

La Carnita on Urbanspoon

Agave Y Aguacate and Rock Lobster

19 Jun

Menu for Agave Y Aguacate, Kensington Market

When I was a kid, I knew two types of Mexican food.  I had Taco Time, which was my food court staple, and I had Chi Chi’s, which was known for its sour cream-ladden chimmichangas and deep-fried ice cream.  As you can tell, Winnipeg wasn’t much of a Latin American food hot spot and, truth be told, neither was Toronto until a decade ago.

Agave Y Aguacate is hidden in the back of a non-descript food co-op in Kensington Market.  The chefs prepare your meal for you on top of hot plates, which allows you to smell the heavenly aromas that fill the air while they cook up your lunch.

Lunch at Agave Y Aguacate, Kensington Market

We ordered the anita tostada and beef tongue. I’ve had the anita tostada before and declared to Robin that it was one of the best dishes in Toronto.

Anita tostada at Agave Y Aguacate, Kensington Market

A toastada is covered with pinto beans,tomatoes, onion, garlic, mint, habanero and Luis Suarez`s chorizo. Honestly, do I need to go beyond that description to tell you how amazing this dish is? The mixture covered sits on big slices of fresh avocado and is covered with pecorino fresco, puya sauce and home made crema fresca.  The smoky, savoury chorizo “stew” combined with the fatty, creamy goodness of avocado, pecorino fresco and creme freche makes this a comforting yet incredibly detailed dish.

Beef tongue at Agave Y Aguacate, Kensington Market

Beef tongue is served as a mole, which is a spicy cocoa Mexican sauce. This mole is pumpkin seed based and is flavored with ancho, pasilla and guajillo chiles, cloves and black pepper. On top were crispy pieces of dried cassava. The mole itself was delicious, but if you’re not comfortable eating tongue you may find the meat ‘s texture to be off-putting. Its served in cubes instead of shaved, which was perfect for me.  The meat is incredibly soft and tender with a tender give to it that steak or stewing beef doesn’t have.

Lobster taco at Rock Lobster, Kensington Market

We noticed that, set up across from Agave Y Aguacate, Rock Lobster’s new kiosk was newly open.  Rock Lobster’s more known for its popular food truck, but as of last week, they set up a retail space in Kensington Market. Since it was literally a 3 step shuffle to walk over and order from Rock Lobster, we thought we would give it a try. They had their famous lobster roll on the menu, but we had ordered too much from Agave Y Aguacate already, so we stuck with the lobster taco.

While the store front is non-descript, the chefs cooking inside definitely aren’t. Kengington market has won us over with the amazing lunch options at Agave Y Aguacate. Chi Chi’s, I’ll never forget thee (unfortunately)!

Agave Y Aguacate and Rock Lobster

214 Augusta Ave
Toronto, ON

Words by Richard, Photos by Robin

Leslieville Pumps

14 Jun

What do you get when you combine southern barbeque, a gas station/convenience store and vintage kitsch and plop it down in the heart of Leslieville?

We present to you:  Leslieville Pumps

Leslieville Pumps General Store and Kitchen

Here, what once was a Leslieville  eyesore  old gas station has been spiffed up to look like a Wild West storefront. Reclaimed wood is used to give it that chic tack that will either make you squee or rub your eyes in disbelief. Inside the decor continues with the southern theme, but also includes bits of Canadiana, like a Hudson’s Bay tin and a flock of mallards dangling above the grab & go fridge.

Inside Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen

Inside Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen

It was hard to choose just two sandwiches to eat because all four looked irresistible. We ended up getting the beef brisket and the chicken thighs.

Chicken thighs sandwich at Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen

First we tried the smoked chicken thighs. The thighs themselves were moist and had hints of cinnamon. I liked the idea of the garnishes, especially when I learned that Judd, the owner, grows as much of his own produce as he can and incorporates it into his food when it’s available.  Chicken, in my opinion, doesn’t smoke as tastily as beef or pork, and while we liked the sandwich, it wouldn’t be our first option. It was more taste neutral, but don’t take that as a bad thing.  If I’m eating chicken, I like big and bold versus subtle and kind. I wouldn’t kick that sandwich out of bed, that’s for certain.

Beef brisket sandwich at Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen

The beef brisket was really amazing. It had a distinct smokey taste without tasting too much like a campfire. Judd told us that he smokes his meat with a mix of mesquite and hickory. The beef was tender and served in chunks and the homemade barbecue sauce was sweet and smokey. The grainy mustard and crispy onions were perfect complements. If the pulled pork is half as good as the brisket (and I’m sure it is), then I know when I’m getting next time I visit.

Poutine at Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitche

We were both pretty full, but when the owner, Judd, told us that he used goat cheese curds and gravy mixed with his homemade barbecue sauce in his poutine, we decided that we might have room for that, too. It was still steaming when it came to the table and the garnish of oregano leaves was a nice touch. There was a generous amount of both cheese and gravy on the fries, and the goat cheese curds were perfect. I tend to enjoy a thicker, fattier chicken gravy rather than beef gravy on my poutine, but this was still very satisfying.

Poutine at Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen

We ended our meal by grabbing a string of Fizz candy (remember them? How the colour on the pouch never matched the flavour inside?) to eat on our drive home.  Its a dangerously short drive to the Pumps, and the temptation to try their pulled pork and fried pickles means that we’ll be back very soon.

Leslieville Pumps General Store & Kitchen
929 Queen Street East
Toronto.
416.465.1313
leslievillepumps.com
@LPumps

Words by Robin and Richard. Photos by Robin

Leslieville Pumps on Urbanspoon

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

The Fuzz Box

4 May

My donair experience is can be describes as being hazy, at best – once as a post-bar drunken snack in Halifax and once as a post-bar drunken snack in Antwerp. When The Fuzz Box opened up a few weeks ago, I finally had my opportunity to taste a donair while sober! Strike that off my bucket list!

Either there are a lot of ex-pats from the east coast or Toronto’s been lacking good donairs, because The Fuzz Box is selling out of its donairs nightly.  The best way to avoid disappointment? Head there for lunch, like I did. There were tables available and the wait was short. The owner, Neil Dominey, greeted me when I entered and his politeness confirmed that, yes, this is a real east coast restaurant. I ordered the Nova Scotian donair (small $4.99/regular $5.99/super 1/4 lb donair $8.99) and seriously contemplated ordering the fried pepperoni ($4.99).

Fried pepperoni at The Fuzz Box in Toronto

Neil brought me the pepperoni to sample while I waited for my donair.  I was too hungry to grab my camera, so I took a picture of the fried pepperoni with my phone. Sorry. :(

Fried pepperoni is a Lipitor-sponsored hot crack for the soul. As its name implies, you are eating bites of pepperoni that are fried to a medium crisp that you can then dunk into home-made honey mustard sauce. Need I say more? For the record: they disappeared within a minute.

When the donair arrived, I graciously thanked the chef and sped back home (I was starving and the fried pepperoni only made me hungrier).  To keep my donair experiences consistent, I poured myself a beer.

Nova Scotian Donair from The Fuzz Box in Toronto

The soft pita was filled with ample slices of seasoned beef and some sliced onions and tomatoes.  Drizzled on top of the meat is the famous east coast donair sauce, which is made from garlic and condensed milk.  Its a great balance to the zesty, spicy meat, Think of this as being shawarma’s spicy, beefy cousin.  Sweet and sticky and spicy and lovely, the donair wasn’t long for this world. My only regret? Not ordering the super sized donair.

Photos and text by Richard

The Fuzz Box
1246 Danforth Ave (near Greenwood subway station)
Toronto, Ontario
416.769.1432
thefuzzbox.ca

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.

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Photos by Robin

Text by Richard

Grand Electric

26 Nov

Colin Tooke's Grand Electric restaurant in Parkdale in Toronto Ontario

A perfect summary of the Toronto restaurant scene came via a Tweet that said, more or less, that if one wants to start a successful Toronto restaurant, one should get a job as a dishwasher at the Black Hoof, then quit and open a place of their own.  Its funny because, well, its true; just note the success of the (dearly departed) Hoof Cafe and the buzz behind Grant van Gameren taking over at Enoteca Sociale.  So the Twittersphere lit up with excitement after it was reported that former Hoof chef de cuisine Colin Tooke opened a new restaurant.  We were given a name (Grand Electric), we found a non-descriptive website and a Twitter account that gained almost 500 followers in 3 days without tweeting anything of substance. No soft opening, no real promotion, no real signeage on the restaurant: nothing but word of mouth (or in this case, finger) to lure people in.

I couldn’t help but buy into the buzz. Their website said that Grand Electric is about “Mexican food, craft beer, brown liquor and loud music.” Seriously, say no more. So with Robin otherwise engaged for the evening, I made plans to meet up for an early bird dinner (Europeans would scoff at our 6 PM meet-up time) with Stella (Food Junkie Chronicles) and Gizelle.  The decor is relatively bare bones, with a beautiful wooden bar to display the lovely libations-to-be to thirsty patrons. Being a lover of good beer, my eyes immediately scanned over the drink list.

The bar at Colin Tooke's new restaurant, Grand Electric

Drink List

Any Toronto restaurant or bar that has not one but two Dieu du Ciel offerings on taps is immediately in my good books. Bottle-wise, I was happy to see Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale and BC’s excellent Red Racer available alongside hipster-friendly Labatt 50.  Since I was dedicated to drinking beer with dinner, I didn’t read over the hard alcohol list, which apparently is chock full of delicious bourbons and other liver-blowing spirits. They also make two signature cocktails: The Michelada is a mix between a shandy and a Caesar featuring Tecate (a Mexican beer), and the Grand Electric Sour is similar to a traditional unblended margarita. Both are very refreshing and reminiscent of summer.

Stella and Giselle decided that we’d order the entire menu. Keep in mind that the combined weight of these two women equals one me.  We started off with the Guacamole and Chips.

Guacamole and chips.

The corn chips were made in house and were quite nice, with a fresh crispness to them.  In the middle of the guacamole was a light chicharron which had the consistency of a firm shrimp chip. The guacamole was very simple with a healthy amount of fresh cilantro; a nice way to start our meal.

Beef and Chicken Tacos

Pork and Chicken Tacos

Tacos at Colin Tooke's new restaurant Grand Electric

Next came our tacos. We started with the beef cheek tacos, which were well executed. The beef cheek was delicate and perfectly fatty and had great flavour.  Fresh cilantro and green onion were carefully sprinkled on top of the tacos. I put a few dabs of the moderately-spicy salsa verde in it to kick it up a few notches.  We then moved onto the spicy arbol chicken taco.  I think that they should have changed its name to “DAMN spicy arbol chicken taco.”  It was delicious, but there was some serious heat coming from those tacos. The spice took away from the savoury flavour of the chicken and I personally think that a little less heat would have allowed us to taste the flavour of the meat and not just spice.  The third taco was pork belly al pastor and this was the taco show stopper.  There was a nice citrus kick to it and its pairing with the peach salsa  made me want more.  The next time I return, I’d gladly order 3 pork belly tacos.

Ensalata Electrico

The ensalata electrico arrived next. The salad part was quite simple – it tasted like Ranch dressing with a bit of a kick to it.  The salad’s simplicity is what I’ve come to expect when I eat Mexican, so I can’t say I was overly disappointed.  The treat, though, was the meat croquette that was served with the salad. A crunchy exterior yielded a delicious meaty interior that coated a cheese core.  Crunch plus meat plus cheesy goo equals a happy me.

Pollo Frito

Keeping up with tradition, I passed on all things fishy (the fish tacos and the ceviche, which was served on a crispy taco). Our next arrival was the pollo frito, or fried chicken. It tasted like a hybrid between honey garlic chicken wings and Chinese-style crispy chicken. For $14, it was a nice dish to share. Flavour-wise, it was probably the least impressive of the dishes. It was good but it was missing something to make it memorable.

Pozole Rojo

Finally, we received our pozole rojo, which is a hearty soup traditionally make from pork shoulder. This was my show stopper.  It had tender bits of pork, slivers of fresh avocado and an accompanying bottle of hot sauce clearly stolen from Hades himself. I put a dab in my soup and it was more than enough to give it a tasty thermal heat. A squirt from one of the fresh lime wedges completed me and my deepest desires for a flavourful soup.  West-enders now have a legitimate alternative to Golden Turtle to beat the winter blahs.

Key Lime Pie

We somehow found room for dessert and, since churros weren’t available, we ordered key lime vasa to share.  Whipped cream, lime, lime zest and a graham cracker-esque crust.  Need I say more? A nice cool down to a spiced up evening.

We all thought it was a great place to come to for great drinks and great food.  Grand Electric isn’t a fine dining or hot date restaurant, but it’s exactly as advertised: good Mexican food, good booze and loud music.  Black Hoof, you should be proud of your offspring; Not only was the food great, but Grand Electric had Hoof-like waits (2 hours, we heard) on its first weekend of service!

Grand Electric
1330 Queen St. W
Toronto, Ontario
416.627.3459
grandelectricbar.com
@grandelectricTO

Grand Electric on Urbanspoon

Blog and photos by Richard.

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