Tag Archives: food

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

Words by Robin and Richard. Photos by Robin

Leslieville Pumps on Urbanspoon


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.


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.


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.


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

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

Grand Electric on Urbanspoon

Blog and photos by Richard.