Eating my way through the Distillery District Christmas Market

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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.

Celebrate Ice Cream day with these Toronto cones

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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.

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Sauce is poured into the cone, filled with ice cream and topped with fruity cereal, walnuts or coconut.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to Scream for Ice Cream

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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.

Bang Bang Containers

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.

Bang Bang flavours

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.

Bang Bang cone

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.

Beach Party

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!

 

 

Montreal’s Wienstein and Gavino’s

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Smoked salmon with penne is my comfort food.  The cream sauce is light and with a respectable portion of salmon.

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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.

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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!

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Roasting on Roncy at the Reunion Island Coffee Bar

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Coffee is the elixir that keeps Toronto buzzing, and with more skilled roasters, expert baristas and coffee aficionados all over the city, the Big Smoke’s coffee scene is better than ever. Roaster of the Year 2015

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.

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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.

Front of the House

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.

Coffee and Tonic

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.

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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!

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Fresh Italian on the Patios at Pastizzia

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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Lots of tables at both patios, but I would suggest reserving or getting there early.

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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:

Pastizzia

 

 

 

 

 

Montreal’s Escondite Cerverceria de Barrio – a must visit

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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!

© Wpd911 - Dreamstime.com - Colorful Day

 

 

 

Les Filles du Roy

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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.

Front Entrance 3The 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.

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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.

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The Walleye is a large flakey fillet accompanied with a mushroom purée.

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The traditional Duck Confit is enhanced with a Maple sauce.

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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.

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http://www.pierreducalvet.ca/english/restaurants.html

Via Vai lighting up Bay Street

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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.

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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.

Interior west sideAs 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.

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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.

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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.

IMG_4632It 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.

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Via Vai – www.viavai.ca

 

 

Get yourself to the Bean and Baker Malt Shop!

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Bean and Baker Sign

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.

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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.

MaltedA 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.

I try to take my time drinking it, but it’s going down pretty fast. I am tempted to have a second one, it’s that good!Empty Glass2

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!!