It’s always sunny at Colette Grand Cafe

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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.

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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.

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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.DuckThe traditional dessert tray is offered to diners with full bellies but gluttonous eyes. Colette’s is a glittering collection of French pastries.

Desserts

Cake of any kind, especially complex fruity beauties are my kryptonite. But you can’t miss all the other awaiting sweet treasures.

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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!

 

 

 

 

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.

Pastizzia

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

Luckee – Indeed, Great Chinese Food!

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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.

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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.

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Bon appetit friends.  It’s time I take off to explore more food at Summerlicious 2015.  Back with more stories soon!

 

 

On the Danforth? Try the Louis Cifer Brew Works

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A few weeks ago, I found myself on The Danforth on the cold Thursday night after the previous day’s impromptu snow storm. Cold and looking for a new restaurant to try, of course, I fumbled on the recently opened Louis Cifer Brew Works. An enormous two level space that was former home to a few restaurants over more than twenty years.

A brew house that has a big list of beverages and gastro-pub fare – a little something for everyone.   Their craft beer includes IPA (Indian Pale Ale), lager, blondes and hoptails.  The bar menu includes Bourbons, whiskies and tequila.

From top floor

Two levels make for lots of space to host events. With Steel Dan and Doobie Brothers playing, it wasn’t overly noisy that night, even though there was a party of about twenty people on the second level.  Enough quiet tables for couples and family friendly.

The jumbo wings from the Shareables menu were crispy but a little dry.  It probably would have been a good ideaa to ask for more blue cheese sauce, which is quite good, but not enough.  The Rosemary Fries are crispy and aromatic with the accompanyin roasted garlic aioli.

I always gravitate towards fish dishes, no matter where I am.  The Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon did not disappoint.  It is served with green beans and roasted potatoes over a sweet corn chowder. The chowder is rich and smooth complementing the fish.  It will be hard for me to visit Louis Cifer again and not order this dish.

Creme Brule, yes, another one of my go to desert on a wintry night! Sweet and creamy, I happily devoured ever spoonful

For a cold night, it was busy – lots of good-looking burgers, sandwiches and fish and chips have flown by me as I enjoyed my salmon.

Warm atmosphere, comforting food and enough craft brews to take you through the winter, are good reasons to go to get yourself to The Danforth.  Happy Eating!

Louis Cifer

 http://www.louisciferbrewworks.com/contact/

 

My Fish Taco Fixation

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Occasionally I get obsessed with one food. I’ll go for months craving a certain dish, ordering it consistently at restaurants. Some of my  fixations have included, udon soup, zeppole (Italian pastries made for the feast of St. Joseph on March 19) and chicken Shawarma sandwiches.   My latest little craze has been fish tacos, a bit of a miracle since my first experience eating one was terrible. After many years of hearing about their rise in popularity on the west coast where they originated, it was something I had to try. So, on my first trip to California, eating some fish tacos was a priority. Coast of California

I found a Mexican restaurant in Monterrey and straight away ordered the Baja Fish tacos.  They arrived lukewarm, overcooked and had clearly been re-heated from the day before.  I wasn’t as sophisticated in those days and was too timid to complain or sent them back.  Instead, I choked them down and vowed never to eat one again.

That bad experience didn’t deter me and I continued to give them a try in the hopes of getting a good one and understanding what all the fuss was about.   Since then I have discovered many good fish tacos and have become picky about what makes a good one.

El Catrin’s Baja taco is crispy fried cod dressed with a tasty chipotle lime coleslaw. Cod is a great fish for this dish given its mildness and coarse flake.  The tangy chipotle and lime dressing give the taco a zing but doesn’t overwhelm the fish.  They are three for $15.00, a good sharing plate or a filling meal for one.

El Catrin Fish Tacos

Milagro Cantina’s, La Perla is battered red snapper, tropical slaw and chile crema.  The red snapper is a finely texture fish and light tasting as well.  The tropical slaw lacked a little in flavour but the chile crema and a squeeze of lime make them pretty tasty nevertheless.  On the lunch menu you get two for $12.50 .

Milagro fish tacos

La Mexicana on Yonge at Bloor, has served up authentic Mexican food since 1988 in Toronto.  On a rainy night in October,  I made my way in from the cold to the warm and cosy atmosphere of their place at 838 Yonge St.  The menu doesn’t specify what kind of fish is used, I suppose it’s based on availability.

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The fish taco dish is delicious and a great value as a main at $16.00 for dinner.  The tacos are dressed with cabbage and chipotle mayo.  While the cabbage on top doesn’t add much, the mayo was flavorful. The crispy lightness of the battered fish was an sign of the use of fresh oil in their deep-fryer, always a big plus  – because you can taste the difference.

This only the tip of the Toronto fish taco iceberg, with more “authentic” Mexican restaurants opening every month here, my quest for tasting has no limit and I’ll be on the look out for more.  In the meantime, bon appétit my eating friends.

 

 

 

I love beer and I love a patio and this week, I fell in love…

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It’s been a very hot week here in Toronto.  One of those weeks when it’s just too hot to cook, well that was my excuse anyways, so I spent two evenings eating and drinking on the patio at Allen’s on the Danforth.  My first visit was on Wednesday when I spent the evening catching up with a friend.  It was my first visit in many years and my first on the patio.

Shaded by two great willow trees, Allen’s back patio is like hanging out at a friend great backyard.  Laid back, cool and shady, the five blackboards list a great assortment of beers on tap, micro brewed beers from across Canada and, my favourite ales from Unibroue in Quebec.

Plenty of Guinness on tap as you would expect but so many other choices. I ordered La Maudite, a micro brewed beer which is often difficult to find at the LCBO or in bars.

I had the goat cheese starter on Wednesday and opted for the polenta chips with curry mayonnaise.  The tasty fried polenta is wonderful, something you could try at home and it  goes down well with  beer.  My only problem with this dish is that it’s a very small portion of only four pieces, not the best for sharing and I found a little expensive for what you got.

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Wonderful mains at from about $28.00 to $34.00 for great cuts of steak and lamb.  There is no shortage of other menu options including Cumbrae centre lamb loin chops, Dublin lamb shank braised in Guinness and some great curries. As it was hot, the lighter fare was more appealing to me this visit.  My friend had the smoked salmon on soda bread.

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I had the salad Nicoise which includes smoked salmon, roasted potato pieces, French green beans, olives over shredded lettuce. It’s kind of like a spa version of a classic salad. Eating light enables me to drink more beer (as I did) and have dessert, as you all know, desert is my favourite.

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On Wednesday I had the salted chocolate mousse but this time we split a Guiness chocolate cake with sour cream icing. Rich, moist, chilled and chocolatey, we were filled after finishing our respective halves of this cake, but it was wonderful.

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Allen’s is known for their burgers which was a very popular order on Saturday night.  The burgers looked good, but there’s just so many more items on the menu which are far more interesting.  You can reserve seats on the patio, there’s also a few tables at the front.  The inside was very cool, dark and cosy the way a pub should feel, lots of regulars, couples and big parties so make sure that you reserve if you’re going in a group.   I think I may become a regular too.  Happy eating, until next time.

Settling down at Daniel Boulud’s Dbar in Toronto

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Photo from Toronto Life

Photo from Toronto Life

I called a friend who I knew would be up to going to Daniel Boulud‘s Dbar in the Four Seasons Hotel, Toronto on Thursday night.  It has been on my list of places to try since it opened last year.  We got there about five-thirty and felt lucky that tables were available. My friend who’d been there before says it can be really crowded even at three o’clock in the afternoon.

Dbar occupies a grand space at street level of the Four Seasons Hotel at 60 Yorkville Avenue.  The decor is minimalist and the colours muted, a bustling team of wait staff make sure that all details are taken care of, like helping you with your cocktail or menu choice, utensils replaced after every course,  water glasses never being less than half filled, the service is what you expect for the Four Seasons.

Photo from Toronto Life

Photo from Toronto Life

Thursday night and time for a girly drink – the Strawberry Basil Mojito, please!  Some good choices of bottled beers and of course an extensive wine, creative cocktails and the best quality spirits.  The crowd is a mix between businessmen in small groups, creative types with funky framed glasses discussing the media scene; professional women to women whose best friends must be plastic surgeons.

Menu offerings of bar fare is interesting as expected.  I order the small Nova Scotia Lobster salad and my friend orders the Yankee Burger. The smiling attentive team of wait staff come by to make sure our drinks are to our liking and take care of any details. The Strawberry Basil Mojito is cool but don’t be fooled, it packs it packs a punch as I noticed with my second glass.

Our meals arrive.  My dining companion is thrilled with the burger, cooked to medium, the colour inside the burger is perfect.  The lobster salad has some fair size pieces of lobster enhanced by the lime gremolata and the fresh coconut strips.  Between the mojito and the flavours of the lobster salad, it almost feels like I am on vacation somewhere by a beach, just chill in’.  That’s what I feel food at a good restaurant should do, transport you to somewhere else or to a new food experience level.

The house if filling up, women dressed in sparkly dresses having a drink before dinner and the business men have all but left.  Young couples start to come in.  Guys not accustomed to wearing jackets and girls in stilettos so high, that you forget they’re trying to be sexy and worry about them falling off the shoes.  My friend and I are having great conversation and let our eyes wander around the room checking out the new arrivals.

I’ve finished my salad, but I’m still feeling peckish.  I skipped lunch that day in anticipation of trying a couple of things on the menu.  I ask for the menu again and order the Pate de Campagne.  It arrives accompanied by a grainy Kozlik’s mustard, some great toasted bread and gherkins.  This small plate goes down well.

We finish up with coffee and some warm miniature Madeleines dusted with icing sugar.  The coffee is good and our cups are continuously topped up.

We laugh, we eat, we talk, we drink and we spend a nice evening at Dbar.  At the end of the night, I feel relaxed, the meal was good and we were never once rushed to order, to finish or to pay.  Is it exciting, no, but it’s the kind of place that you can quietly people watch, be with friends or  enjoy some of the best bar fare in the city.

It was a night of happy eating.  Same to you my friends!!