The holidays are just a license to eat and to buy treats for friends that we hope will share them with us. Sunday’s sunny weather brought many people out to Toronto’s Distillery District to eat and drink to keep warm. There are only about two weeks left for the annual Christmas market. If you’re going on the weekends, get there before 2:00 p.m. so that you can shop and then settle down in one of the many good restaurants for lunch and cocktails.
Colette Grand Cafe is in the exclusive Thompson Hotel at Bathurst and Wellington St. W. By day this area of Wellington St. is relaxed with limited traffic and only the voices of children playing in the parkette across the street. Colette’s sophisticated and elegant blue and white decor make it like a French holiday complete with over-smiley waiters hurrying about.
Arriving for a late lunch I am shown to my table at windows that border the dining area. The oversized wing chairs in the lounge are taken up with casual business types. It’s busy, but it doesn’t have the noisy din as some of the other French restos and bistros in the city but I’m a little puzzled by the folk /rock soundtrack that’s playing. Maybe expecting to hear Edith Piaf songs would’ve been cliché.
As expected there’s a solid collection of wines and a tempting list of drinks. While I don’t entirely recall what the contents of this beverage is, it’s called Pirate Radio and is one of those drinks that about halfway through you experience invading your senses.
My starters are delicate cheese straws, carrot salad fresh and simply dressed and accompanied by a delicate salmon pate. Shaved radish and celery complement the lightness of the salmon rillettes.
The main course of duck confit arrives and is just as perfect as described. Hearty and garnished with pistachios, the duck confit is one the finest I’ve had a French restaurant in some time.The traditional dessert tray is offered to diners with full bellies but gluttonous eyes. Colette’s is a glittering collection of French pastries.
Cake of any kind, especially complex fruity beauties are my kryptonite. But you can’t miss all the other awaiting sweet treasures.
Colette is a break you can enjoy in an afternoon. The kind where you treat yourself to a refreshing meal and talk. It’s a hotel restaurant, so expect to pay accordingly. The service and attention to detail is impeccable. Finding another time to dine here again, is high on my plan. Bon appetit!
This Sunday, July 17 is National Ice Cream Day. The day you can legitimately eat as much ice cream as you want. I think 2016 can best be described as year of the cone, as the lowly ice cream wafer waffle is making way to more substantial dough based cones from Mexico and Europe. Stuffed with sweet fillings, they’re oversized and over the top.
Pancho’s Bakery in Kensington Market features a churro cone. This sweet baby is freshly made, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and served slightly warm.
Sauce is poured into the cone, filled with ice cream and topped with fruity cereal, walnuts or coconut.
Dulce de Leche, chocolate ice cream and walnuts is a delicious combination. It’s served in a plastic cup and spoon so that you can scoop up all the deliciousness.
The next great cone is Eva’s Original Chimney’s which started as a food truck but you can find them at the Union Summer market until September 5. A very popular vendor at the market where you’ll find Bay St. suits lining up at lunch for one of these. Try to get there earlier in the week, Monday to Wednesday and later in the afternoon, there will be a much shorter queue and a lot less waiting.
These crispy and light chimneys are baked and rolled in sugar and cinnamon. Fillings include apple compote, Nutella and strawberry preserves and topped soft-serve ice cream, more chocolate, bits of brownies or fruit.
So far I’ve had Eva’s Apple Pie and Berrylicious. The soft-serve is great tasting and better than what you’ll get anywhere else. There are still a couple on the menu, so I guess I’ll have to go back!
Enjoy National Cone day on Sunday. Drop me a line and let me know how you indulged. Bon Appetit, friends!
Frozen treats have been trending over the past two summers. Artisanal and small batch ice cream and frozen pops on a stick stores are popping up with surprising and exciting flavours.
The hot and humid days last week had me working my list of ice cream shops and paleterias that needed to be sampled.
My first stop was Kekou Gelato House at 394 Queen St W. It’s late Wednesday afternoon with no lineup, so I take my time, review the menu and scan the display before deciding on the vegan Strawberry, Guava and Coconut pop.
The freshness of the strawberry and guava blend beautifully together. The coconut top layer brings this tropical treat together with a creamy finish. Kekou has many choices including traditional dairy gelato but the vegan options are delicious and are made in-house with real fruit.
Next stop, Wrestlers paleteria in Kensington Market. Opened just this May, this basement store below La Tortilleria is a long, sparsely decorated space with enough seats to stay awhile enjoy your dessert. But as you walk to the back where the cases of paletas are, suddenly the room lights up with happy colours and bright flavours.
The menu lists twenty different flavour combinations split between dairy and water/ fruit juice based.
I have the Pina Colada paleta, just plain this time. You can pimp your paleta by having it dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with a variety of optional topping for a few extra pesos.
Last but certainly not least on this frozen pop recognizance mission, I hit up Seven Lives Paleteria which also opened last month in Kensington Market.
A bright and cheery bubblegum pink store with all forms of traditional Mexican soft-serve, non-dairy delights and toppings to make any sugar rush better. What you will find here is cold, hot, sweet and spicy treats you won’t find anywhere else.
The daiquiri paleta has an unusual base of Tajin – a seasoning combination which includes chili peppers, sea salt and dehydrated lime. Traditionally used in Mexico as a seasoning on fresh fruit such as pears, apples, oranges, etc., it boosts the flavours and is mild enough for anyone to enjoy.
I found the Tajin a bit overwhelming at first, but it reminded me of a poolside drink from a beach holiday. It’s a taste that you have to acquire, and I’d try it again with a different flavour ice pop.
If you’re looking for something more than what Popsicle Pete offers, there are so many new combinations of creamy and fruity, sweet and savoury to amp up and cool your hot summer days. Toronto is bursting with frozen goodness vendors this year, so go and discover what’s new. Bon appétit, friends!
Well, it’s time to scream for ice cream and here’s my rundown on the best places in Toronto to get your summer fix.
Opened just before last Labor Day, Sweet Jesus has been superstylin’ soft serve with everything from cotton candy to brownies.
The Campfire S’mores, Lemon Coconut cream pie are true to their name. The Sweet Baby Jesus is chocolaty, nutty with peanut butter and warm fudge. Sweet Jesus is on John St. at the back of La Carnita. While the entrance is tucked away in the corner you can’t miss the long queue of customers. The service is fast so you won’t wait long for your ice cream salvation.
My next stop was Bang Bang Ice Cream on 93 Ossington St. just above King.
At the door you’ll find the chalkboard with instructions – pick your edible container, whether it be a waffle, chou paste shell or cookies (full or half) and order your ice creams.
A huge choice of homemade, handmade funky flavours are listed on buckets on the wall. From Banana Pudding to lychee to Ginger Milk, there’s a quirky flavour for everyone.
The enormous waffle cone will hold two gigantic scoops of ice cream, so my decision was made. The waffle is made fresh and takes a few minutes. I filled mine with a scoop of Burnt Toffee and Maltease Me.
To lighten my calorie intake, I visited Grk Yrkt – read Greek yogurt in Kensington Market. A tiny shop at 291 Augusta Ave. serves up sweet and savoury toppings on your choice of fresh or frozen yogurt. A simple menu include some savoury choices like the Market which is cucumber, sundried tomato and toasted super seeds.
I love peaches and the Beach Party seemed a good cool down to a very hot and humid day in Toronto. The combination of fresh, not too sweet peach preserves, toasted coconut and white chocolate is satisfying.
I’ve not been a great fan of fro’ yo’ in the past, but this real version has made me a devotee to this tiny shop on Augusta. These handcrafted frozen treat shops are offering unique choices for you to cool down this summer. I will continue to support their efforts by making as many trips back as I can! Do you have a favourite frozen treat shop you’d like to mention? Let me know. Bon appetit, friends!
Being in Montreal for the holidays is always an occasion to discover a fresh place to eat. This year I was introduced to Wienstein and Gavino’s. A delightfully authentic Italian restaurant on Crescent at St. Catherine Sts.
A cavernous three-story space with a wrap around main-floor bar is grandiose with vast seating.
Communal tables in the bar make for cozy group gatherings. There is a well-stocked wine bar next to the open kitchen and brick pizza oven is on the second floor. An intimate chef’s table is also available in front of the kitchen. The main seating area is on the third floor with great views of the entire restaurant.
You are welcomed with complimentary warm loaf and olive oil and fresh basil. The Italian menu features classic pizzas, pastas and mains that are honest and authentic.
Specials are featured each evening includes a salad, a main and coffee or tea. I also like to have a bit of green in my cocktails, in this case a pretty good mojito. A variety of traditional sauces such as Gigi (tomato sauce, cream, prosciutto, mushrooms, basil) Al Sole (Olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, butter, white wine, basil, cherry tomatoes) and Gamberi Macchiato (shrimp, garlic, chili peppers, butter, white wine, parsley, cherry tomatoes) are among list of fourteen that are on offer with your choice of pasta.
Smoked salmon with penne is my comfort food. The cream sauce is light and with a respectable portion of salmon.
One of the featured pizzas is spinach, feta and red peppers. The thin crust is carefully done, crispy and thin and perfect from the oven.
The desert menu, has classic Italian treats like Tiramisu, chocolate Nociola gelato or particularly rich chocolate cake with is accompanied by Nutella.
Wienstein and Gavino’s has a nice wine list, cocktails and drinks are reasonably priced. The wait staff are quick and attentive, water glasses filled regularly, meal arrived well time and still hot. While this restaurant has great seating capacity, it’s best to make reservations for the evenings as every table was filled by 8:30 p.m. W&G is as intimate for two as it is for a table of eight, there are enough options for everyone – all authentic and fresh. Make your way there on your next visit to Montreal. Bon appetit!
Winner of the Macro Roaster of the Year 2015 award by Roast Magazine, Reunion Island Coffee Roasters owner, Peter Pesce and son Adam, have opened their first retail store, the Reunion Island Coffee Bar at 385 Roncesvalles.
Peter and Adam have prided themselves on working closely with farmers and are very serious about maintaining relationships with their coffee producers from around the world to ensure the coffee is pure, authentic and sustainable. For 20 years Reunion Island Coffee Roasters have provided Canadians with a limitless variety of sustainably sourced and roasted coffees.
The bright white subway tiled store is minimalist, which is good if you want to plugin and get work done. It’s also equipped with the very latest in coffee brewing technology, the Modbar, where baristas aren’t hidden from customers as they craft their customer’s favourite coffees.
A coffee menu that focuses on fuss free coffee, no sprinkles, no whipping cream, no trendy seasonal spices, just coffee that’s pure and authentic. The coffee menu has all your favs, but try the unique Cold Brew and Tonic – it’s a smooth coffee cocktail with the kick of caffeine.
In addition to the traditional variety of muffins and morning pastries, they also carry Sullivan and Bleeker jar cake – a great mini sized dessert for those afternoon or after dinner cravings. Flavours include S’mores, Chocolate, Red Velvet to name a few.
To celebrate their 2o years anniversary they will be hosting a community event on October 17 featuring performances by local talent, Gavin Gardiner (Wooden Sky), and Brave Shores. There will be a variety of coffee and coffee beverage specials throughout the day, so make sure to come out and enjoy!
It’s time to catch up on my summer’s eating adventures. We now find ourselves in September, but no matter how many weeks we believe we may or may not have left of outdoor eating, keep enjoying until you can’t. Across the street from St. Lawrence market is Pastizzia with its great patios, yes, two patios and fresh modern Italian food.
Cool and modern, it’s a nice respite from a morning of shopping. The bar is spectacular in the evening for the 30 foot tall wine chandelier. A private upstairs room is available for functions.
I opted for two appetizers so that I could capitalize on dessert. I started with the fresh and clean Barbabietole salad is red and yellow beets, pistachio mascarpone, arugula and lemon olive oil dressing. Beets are sweet and soft. The pistachio mascarpone adds a texture to the overall salad.
The Calamari Fritti is crispy and is accompanied by a sweet pepper & chill lime dip. Two small dishes on a hot afternoon is satisfying, because, well, dessert is always on my mind.
The Caramella is a caramel and amaretto sticky toffee pudding topped with almond slivers and vanilla gelato. It’s everything you want on a plate for dessert. The toffee pudding is a sponge of caramel soaked sweetness. Nuts and gelato, well, you can never get enough. A not to be missed item and you certainly don’t want to share any. Just sayin’.
Lots of tables at both patios, but I would suggest reserving or getting there early.
Challenge yourself, get to as many patios as you can, but certainly get to this one first! Bon appetit, friends!
For details click on map:
If you’ve read this blog for some time, you’ll know that I love Mexican food for its flavours, texture and some of the heat. And well, there’s also nothing like a cold Tequila cocktail on a hot afternoon. On my travel’s this summer I was fortunate to come across a few new Mexican places in Montreal. Escondite Cerverceria de Barrio is one of the newest, having opened in the spring of this year. More than just a good Tequila bar, there’s some serious food being served here.
The interior as with many new tacos and Tequila bars has the cantina vibe with dark spaces and large murals. The atmosphere is lively and very busy on this early Friday evening, all tables are reserved.
The cocktail menu includes virgin drinks and of course, lots of Tequila based beverages to cool you off from the Montreal humidity. I have a Cartel de Santa, a mix of Mezcal, hibiscus syrup, lime juice, soda and hibiscus foam. Refreshing with good flavour and the depth of Mezcal.
Of all the Mexican restaurants I have been to, the appetizers are some of the best I’ve had. The guacamole is served with warm tortilla chips. The spicy butter melts gracious flavour into the warm, sweet and tender cornbread. These two are must haves.
The Baja tacos are seasoned and tasty. The avocado crema and slaw add extra flavour without overpowering the fish. The Al Pastor taco is filled with pulled pork, pineapple and coriander. I thoroughly enjoyed the Ensalada de Mango – a salad of mango, cucumber, corriander, chilies, peanuts, crispy shallots, Chamoy dressing. It’s sweet, savoury and the peanuts and crispy shallots add a unique texture to this salad.
The quesadillas took a bit of extra time as we were told there was a problem with their ordering system. The Quesadilla Sincronizada de Hongos Tortilla is sauted mushrooms, Oaxaca cheese, aged cheddar and Black truffle paste that just puts it over the top. The truffle paste harmonizes well with the cheese, it turns a simple quesadilla into something a little indulgent.
There was no way I wasn’t having the warm made to order churros with Nutella. Gently fried and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon, not to be missed folks. Despite the wait for the quesadillas the service was attentive, food arrived hot and well timed.
If you have the opportunity to be in Montreal, make sure to make some time and a reservation to go to Escondite Cerverceria de Barrio, 1206 Union, Montreal, it’s a good time!
La Maison Pierre Calvet was built in 1725. It is a heritage site and one of the oldest buildings in Old Montreal. It was the home of Pierre Calvet, a Montreal trader in the eighteenth century. The building is home to Les Filles du Roy restaurant.
The restaurant and the inn opened to the public in the sixties. The small nine room hotel has 18th Century decor complete with authentic period furnishings. It has been one of my favourite restaurants for over twenty years for its consistent quality of traditional, but updated French cuisine.
The house has great significance to establishment New France and Quebec. Official visitors to the home have included Louis XIV and Benjamin Franklin. Franklin visited the home during the American Revolution of 1775 to collaborate with Pierre du Calvet.
Calvet was declared a traitor by the British for this and sentenced to several years in prison. Learn more about the home by clicking here: Maison du Pierre Calvet.
The interior reflects the French architecture and furnishings in Montreal during the American Revolution.
Les Filles du Roy is classical French and French Canadian cuisine. Traditional dishes like the torchon de fois gras is updated with apples and ice cider. Locally grown Quebec ingredients have always been part of the menu. (Scroll over images for descriptions)
Mains are quite hearty. The Veal Osso Bucco is fork tender and vegetables are steamed and fresh and crisp.
The Walleye is a large flakey fillet accompanied with a mushroom purée.
The traditional Duck Confit is enhanced with a Maple sauce.
The service remains as it has always been, excellent. The outdoor terrace is walled and serene with only the sound of the fountain.
Les Filles du Roy has a long history in Old Montreal and for good reason. It’s an interesting restaurant to visit and explore a bit of French history through its food and decor.
If Old Montreal is part of your travel plans, Les Filles du Roy is a destination that you won’t want to miss. Bon Appetit, friends.