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.
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!
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!
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.
The section of Bay St. between Bloor and Dundas St. W. has long been in need of a neighborhood hot spot. The area has acquired a few more restaurants in recent years but nothing as bright and bold as Via Vai.
Opened at the end of April, Via Vai is an immense art gallery like space that spans four stories high. The elaborate mural and glass paintings are the work of Italian artist, Sandro Martini and were completed in 2012. A mural by local Toronto artist, Hajar Moradi is featured at the back of the restaurant.
As I understand, the building was formally the sales center for the Burano Condo development. After admiring the towering views, I finally settle down to read the menu, a single page of Neopolitan pizza and pasta dishes.
I start with the Insallata del Palladio – kalettes sprouts, pancetta, green apples, DOP Piave with valdobiedene procecco vinaigrette. Crispy and refreshing, the pancetta adds just a little saltiness to bring out the sweetness of the apples and the tartness of the cheese.
I love leafy greens, especially on hot summer days, they add a certain lightness to foods, so with that in mind, I have the Marinara Pizza. My pizza arrives, its thin crust, risen and well-baked around the edges, dressed with prosciutto, tomato, Parmigiano and arugula. This simple pizza is satisfying and not complicated by too many toppings, just basic and well done, the way it should be.
It is the end of lunch hour and the sun is shining, there is time for me and room in my stomach to enjoy dessert. The Tortina Alla Pistochi is rich but light flourless chocolate cake. The Tortina is rich but light. The crunchy and intense chocolate flavour is highlighted by the raspberry coulis.
The service is friendly and efficient, water glasses are re-filled regularly and courses are well-timed. I order a cappuccino and sip it while I admire the spine of wine at the opposite end of the restaurant. I am told that each shelf is dedicated to the different Italian wine regions. I make a mental note to eventually explore all levels and each region on my next visits.
Manager, Jordan Lazaruk and Chef, Joe Friday are part of the great team at Via Vai, taking great care to make sure that your experience meets their standards for excellence and service. The restaurant has become a popular spot for private events, it’s not hard to see why. There’s an informal patio outside, if you want to bask in the sun. I however, prefer to sip my cappuccino slowly and soak in the art and light of this delicious afternoon.
A great place to meet friends, any time – also, a fabulous event space, Bay St. north of Dundas St. now has a beautiful dining destination. Bon Appetit, friends.
Liezel and Bren Anderson are hoping to create memories for a new generation of a malt shop customers. After over a year of planning, they’ve opened the Bean and Baker Malt Shop where you can get a proper milkshake or ice cream dessert, as well as other homemade sweet or savoury treats.
Tuesday’s hot humid weather was a good excuse, not that I needed one, to get a malted milkshake, so I headed out to find Toronto’s newest spot. The Bean and Baker Malt Shop is at corner of Grace and Harbord Streets by Bickford Park. The store in a earlier life, housed a drug store with a counter that served ice cream. Liezel and Bren have done a brilliant job creating a great old-fashioned soda shop, replete with a chromed red and white interior, checkerboard floor, swivel stools and uniformed soda jerks to serve you.
The blackboard menu lists the treats including sodas, shakes, malted milkshakes and coffee creations. A sweet assortment of pastries made daily by Liezel, who is a former pastry chef, includes flaky cherry hand-pies, lemon meringue tarts, éclairs filled with a creamed custard and the popular bacon and pecan butter tart. For those who are not big sweet tooths, there are savoury pies from Wisey’s, the New Zealand style bakery on Roncesvalles.
I order the espresso shake with coffee ice cream and malt. It comes garnished with whipped cream, a malt ball and some crunchy bits of chocolate. Served in a tall glass with the remaining shake left for you in the metal cup.
A good milkshake is about the ratio of milk to ice cream. Bren’s espresso malted shake floats at the midpoint between being solid enough to hold a straw upright but runny enough to easily be sucked up the straw.
The coffee meshes well with the nutty, buttery notes of malt, which heightens the richness of the ice cream.
Another dessert they make is the Old School lunch pie. It’s a combination peanut butter and chocolate pudding pie with raspberry jam on a graham cracker crust topped with whipped cream. I look forward to trying this later this summer.
Dietary restrictions? No problem. Bean and Baker offer gluten-free, non-dairy and even vegan ice creams so that everyone can enjoy cold treats.
If you’re in the mood for an old-fashioned soda or ice cream or sweet treat this summer, you know where you need to go!
Hey, Sunday, July 17 is National Ice Cream day, so you better get yourself to Bean and Baker Malt Shop, pronto!!
Maman, the Parisian inspired bakery from New York’s SoHo district opened its second location here in Toronto on July 6, in First Canadian Place. The bakery is in the space formerly occupied by Szechuan Szechuan on the second level food court. The fast-casual café bakery is owned by Michelin starred, Chef Arman Arnal of La Chassagnet in the South of France and designer/baker, Elise Marshall.
The bright farmhouse chic, in blue and whites is cosy with communal tables and a wall of windows that gives it a standalone feel.
Opening hours are bright and early at 7:00 a.m. when you can get a variety of freshly baked croissants, yogurt and coffees. Lunch time offerings include traditional French favourites like Croque- Madame, Quiche, salads and fresh baguette sandwiches. I selected the lunch box of ham and cheese Quiche and a salad of fresh greens, strawberries and goat cheese.
The Quiche Lorraine was warm, with a flakey crust and actual pieces of ham and a savoury filling where you could actually taste and see the cheese. A good change from the tasteless and rubbery Quiche available in food courts. Lemon-Thyme Madeleines are buttery treat with coffee for that mid-afternoon lull, keep one handy in your desk drawer.
A number of retail items are also available including teas, popcorn and South of France styled goods. The line up moves quickly, but always wise to get there starting about 11:30 a.m. Most customers are grab and go, so seating up to about 12:30 is pretty good.
Maman is worth the walk over from whatever food court you inhabit in the vast Toronto Path system. They are looking soon to add a cocktail hour. It’ll be a nice place to relax after work and I look forward trying to it. Bon appétit, fellow eaters!
After a bit of a blogging sabbatical, I launched back full throttle ready to attack my restaurant bucket list. Luckee, by Susur Lee was the restaurant I chose to get back into my food groove. Located at 328 Wellington St. E., Luckee opened about a year ago, and it is Lee’s latest dining project, where he works new flavors and dimensions to elevate the traditional style and taste of dim sum.
In traditional dim sum service, steamers contain many small pieces of dumplings. Luckee’s servings are larger with big shrimp and lobster pieces. The Chicken Cheung Fun was recommended by the waiter and was very popular at the table.
(Hover over images for descriptions)
You need to try a variety crispy, savoury and sweet dishes from the menu as each dish is a creative experience in texture and taste. The staff is helpful in explaining and providing menu suggestions to complement your order.
The second course included two tasty chicken dishes and my favourite, Luckee Duck with Chinese pancakes and foie gras, which is similar to the Peking and Char Sui duck on the menu at Lee Restaurant, one of Susur’s other restaurants on King St. W.
A list of simple desserts is available. Traditional mini egg tarts and a refreshing mango dessert were enough to complement stomachs that were full, but was a nice finish to good evening filled with many dishes.
It’s sophisticated Asian, in a quiet section of Wellington St. with parking right across the street which makes it a convenient and pleasant location. If you’re looking for a dim sum experience without the clatter, the noise and lots of small plates crowding your table, Luckee will be a very satisfying and far more elegant experience.
Bon appetit friends. It’s time I take off to explore more food at Summerlicious 2015. Back with more stories soon!