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!

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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!!

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!

 

 

St. Lawrence Market, Saturday in Pictures

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I spent Saturday afternoon at the market, navigating the shoppers to capture the stores that I like to go to.  These photos are from the walk around.

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.

 

 

 

New York City Summer Street Food

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It’s a sunny Sunday morning and there’s a lot of bustle outside the hotel room window, nothing unusual I think, it’s Manhattan and there’s always something going on.  I head out and make way to 46th Street where vendors of all kinds are setting up,  jewelry, scarves, suitcases, T-Shirts, pretty much anything you want is there.  It’s like a big bazaar is coming alive in the street.

As I get closer to Lexington Avenue the smell of grilling food is getting stronger and it is with much excitement that I see the food vendors prepping and setting up for the day. It’s early morning still and it’s all just getting started, but already I’ve gotten a new suitcase from one of the vendors to bring home all the new pairs of shoes I’ve bought on this trip.

There is an endless variety of summer items like sunglasses and towels but there are lots of foodstuffs as well, like teas, herbs and varieties of curries.

The crowds grow as we get closer to 59th Street and 5th Avenue it’s lunch time by now, and on this day there’s nothing I was looking forward to more than eating again – which is pretty much how I spent the first forty-eight hours of this trip.  Of course, that was the original purpose, to do food recognizance for my next articles.

The bottom of 59th street is looking a bit more like a carnival with everything from the usual hot dog and sausage vendors, a lemonade stand and everybody’s favourite, the Wafels & Dinges cart.  I am, however, craving authentic foods, dishes that are full of flavour and spice.  As I get a little deeper into the crowd, I smell something that will satisfy me at the “Authentic Mexican Grill”.  If you read this blog regularly, you know Mexican food is a big favourite of mine.

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We have Mexican food in Toronto, but there’s something about street food like this that somehow makes it more interesting and certainly tastier.

IMG_6691I order the Nacho Platter with chicken, it’s a ton of food for $8.00.  There’s some confusion with the order because they thought I’d ordered beef and not chicken.  Some words are exchanged in Spanish with the man on the grill, then there is some laughter as they apologize to me in Spanish.  They ask if it would be okay to put some chicken on top of the beef.   You can’t beat that, and I couldn’t have been happier.

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It’s a great heaping mess of deliciousness, beef, chicken, salsa verde, sour cream and cheese.  My daughter and I could barely finish it, but we did our best.  Our next stop was something sweet to top the nachos, because we really did need more carbs and desert was not too difficult to find here.

I have a tremendous weakness for all things Italian, men, wine, food and oh yes, sweets.  So when I spotted cannolis that were brought in all the way from Brooklyn at the Fortunato Brothers stand, we immediately bought two.  The cannolis were sweet and creamy inside the fresh crispy shell.  I really could’ve used a latte to finish, but it was very hot and I think I would’ve exploded!

When I am away from home and exploring new foods and places to eat, I always consume way more than I usually do.  The energy that I had used to walk my way all the way through this street fest was now replenished.  It was time to walk back to my hotel for a nap and to plan for the evening’s eating destination.  I always have food on my mind.

So if you’re in New York on a summer weekend, make sure that you find your way to Central Park by 5th Avenue and 59th and eat something for me.  Happy eating my friends!