January 2013 archive

Barque

I don’t know what took my hungry little butt so long to get to Barque Smokehouse, but oooohhh man am I happy that I finally did! Ever since this goldmine on Roncenvalles opened its doors, I have been jonesing to try it. This past weekend Jonty and I along with a couple friends finally hit it up. Oh and might I mention I had to make this reservations 3 weeks in advance!! I think that says enough..this place is seriously amazing.

On this cold winter night we walked into a cozy, wooden mixed with concrete and brick walls, buzzing atmosphere that instantly warmed me up. As we were seated, a spiced bucket of popcorn was brought to our table, along with two barbecue sauces,a Kansas City (tomato based) and a Carolina (mustard and vinegar based). I immediately noticed the brush sitting next to my cutlery and loved that extra touch of being able to slather your own sauces onto everything.

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Because of all the hype about this place and my excitement to finally try it, I had to calm myself down while looking at the menu! For appetizers, we ordered Smoked Miami Beef ribs which had a “savoury rub with a sweet glaze”. They were incredible, not too fatty, and perfectly cooked. We also got what I would award as my favourite dish of the night, the Smoked Dry Rub Wings. Moist chicken was covered in a crisp, but not too crisp skin rubbed with the most amazing combination of savoury and sweet spices.

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Us, as well as the other couple we were with ordered the sampler for two, which includes three meats and three sides. Our picks were brisket, beef ribs, and chicken thighs. Our friends wanted Baby Back Ribs but they had just run out, so they opted for pulled pork, Merguez Sausages (Moroccan lamb sausage), and brisket. I found the brisket to be tasty, but a little bit on the fatty and dry side. The ribs were also a little bit fatty with not so much meat, but still flavourful. The chicken was excellent, with a nice mix of spices and juicy meat. Our friends loved everything they ordered, and I enjoyed the bite of sausage that I tasted.

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We each chose 3 sides, so in total there was a Caesar salad, fries, sauteed garlic kale, crushed potatoes, and 2 orders of the Sage & Smoked Provolone Pasta. MMMMMMM everything was divine!! The pasta was cheesy and creamy with a hint of smokiness which I thoroughly enjoyed. The kale we didn’t get to try because it was sitting under the pulled pork, but I probably wasn’t missing out on much. The Caesar and potatoes were nice and creamy, and the fries were thin and crispy.

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As full as we were, the pecan pie with cinnamon gelato and apple crumble tart with vanilla gelato were calling our name. They were both soooooo yummy, but my only complaint was the crust was very difficult to break! However, this meal truly makes my mouth water at the thought and I need to go back ASAP!!

This was a true sweets & meats experience!!

Birthday Surprise!

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A couple weeks ago was my 22 birthday and boy did I get spoiled!! Besides the gifts, and a wonderfully relaxing day, the food was the real treat. On my actual birthday, I went to Morton’s Steakhouse with my family, Jonty, and my brother’s girlfriend, and the next night Jonty surprised me and took me to Harbour Sixty! Check it all out below…

For starters at Morton’s I ordered a simple, yet satisfying Caesar salad, topped with buttery crouton-like garlic bread. Next was time for the steaks, with a side of crab cake. It’s title on the menu of “Jumbo Lump Crab Cake” really does it justice, since it is just that, large lumps of crab combined together into a rather large crab cake. Jonty ordered a side of shrimp which had a light crisp coating, and were incredibly flavourful. We shared both the shrimp and the crab cake.

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As for sides, we ordered a bunch for the table to share since they are quite large. Our picks were Lyonnaise Potatoes, creamed spinach, Parmesan Truffle fries, and onion rings. They were all to die for!! The fries were incredible and the parmesan truffle really added a nice touch. The onion rings had a thick and crispy coating which is just how I like it.

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As full as we all were, I couldn’t help but have room for dessert. I ordered Key Lime pie, which came with a candle for my birthday. I have tried many of the desserts at Morton’s and they are literally all incredible!

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I also had some wonderful treats after dinner with some friends of mine. Jonty’s sister-in-law baked me a delicious cookie cake with an “S” on it, Jonty ordered custom made caramel cupcakes that said “Happy Birthday Shelby”, and my parents got me my favourite white Loblaws birthday cake! I was sooooooo full I could have exploded by the end of the night.

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I think I ate enough on my birthday to last me quite a few days, but then again, calories don’t count on your birthday, right?!

Jonty told me he had a special dinner planned for me for the night after my birthday since we were with my family on my actually birthday. He knows I have always wanted to go to Harbour Sixty but never expected him to take me there because it is quite pricey. He told me that he made a reservation at some new restaurant I probably haven’t heard of. Next thing I know, we are pulling into Harbour Sixty!!! I could not have been happier, but still worried about the prices in the back of my head!

I absolutely loved the elegant and classy, yet warm and inviting ambiance of the restaurant. We were seated in a lush, comfy booth and immediately greeted by the most friendly, knowledgeable and efficient waiter. I started off with some fruity vodka cocktail that he created for me, while Jonty opted for whiskey. As for appetizers, we chose a warm mushroom salad on a bed of arugula which was a nice, light start to the meal. We also ordered the shrimp cocktail. Large, succulent shrimp arrived at our table with a side of house made tomato chili sauce.

For the main course, we ordered the Filet Mignon, along with several sides such as a jumbo Lobster tail (and I mean JUMBO), truffle mac and cheese, sugar snap peas, lobster mashed potatoes, and parmesan truffle fries. The mac and cheese and lobster mashed were my favourite of the bunch, although I thoroughly enjoyed every single bite of everything I ate.

Last but certainly not least was the homemade  Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding with caramel sauce and Dulce de leche ice cream. Literally every word of that excites me and makes my mouth water. It was warm, creamy, buttery, and everything else that it’s supposed to be. What a sweet ending to a sweet birthday! I am incredibly lucky to have such amazing family, friends and of course boyfriend who treated me like a princess on my birthday!

Southern Accent

This past weekend, Jonty and I gathered up some friends in search of some Southern, New Orleans style food. We decided to hit up Southern Accent on Markham Street, just South of Bloor.

As we walked in, it felt like we had just entered the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras. The dark, yet inviting atmosphere was flooded with beads and Mardi Gras decorations which added a little fun to the evening.

As soon as we sat down, we couldn’t wait to open the menu and pick out some traditional Southern dishes. For appetizers, we ordered corn bread, hush puppies (fried corn fritters), Piquant Shrimp, Cajun calamari, and alligator…yes, alligator! Our friends are a bit more daring than us so they chose the alligator, which Jonty and I agreed to try. The whole idea of eating this scary creature really creeped me out, but I went for it anyways. It had the texture of chicken mixed with beef, but was a little too tough for me. I think I was just too freaked out to actually enjoy it. The alligator, as well as the shrimp were tossed in a spicy garlic lime sauce, which added a nice Cajun kick.

The calamari had a nice, crispy coating and was paired with a ginger remoulade and blackened tomato coulis. I’m pretty sure I ate the majority of this dish!

As usual, I loved the corn bread, especially with the warm butter slowly melting into each crevice. The hush puppies were nothing special, a little dry and lacking some flavour, but they did have a crisp coating on the outside.

I did get quite full from the appetizers, so Jonty and I decided to share brisket and sweet potato fries with chipotle mayo. The brisket was so juicy, yet tender and was slow cooked with Maple Bourbon Chipotle BBQ sauce and dark lager. It was served with a side of creamy baked cheese grits and seared collard greens. By the end of this dish, I was stuffed! The brisket, grits and greens was a fantastic end to the meal.

African Adventures Part 2

*So sorry this is being posted so late! I’ve been so busy and eager to share with you new restaurants that I have neglected this! Anyways, here we go.

To refrain from a never-ending post, I decided to break it up into two. The yummy finds from Cape Town will be focused on here.

I literally think Jonty and I ate our own body weight in calamari on this trip. Not only is it one of our favourite appetizers, but it is incredibly fresh in South Africa. In Cape Town, we were told that we must visit the restaurant in The Chapman’s Peak hotel for its famous calamari, so we did just that. To accompany the calamari, we decided to go healthy and opt for a Greek salad. The vegetables and feta cheese were so crisp and fresh, which was a perfect balance with the fried calamari.

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Another spot I was encouraged to try was Steers, a fast food hamburger joint. The burger was pretty good for fast food, and the fries (known as ’chips’ in SA) had this unique seasoning salt with all sorts of spices and flavours which added that extra zing to ordinary fries.

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I sound like a broken record, but Jonty also hasn’t stopped talking about this little fish restaurant in Hout Bay called Fish on the Rocks. He recalls it being his favourite meal in South Africa. Coincidentally, we were staying at a flat basically around the corner, so we obviously stopped by for a bite. We chose a calamari roll (go figure) which was fried calamari topped with fries surrounded by a hamburger like type bun. Jonty was onto something, insisting we try this little spot on the water, and I’m glad we did.

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Since I was in South Africa, a traditional South African treat is something called koeksisters. Imagine twisted, deep fried dough which has been dunked in syrup. I do enjoy them, but only in very, very small doses because they are extremely sweet and rich. Since I was in South Africa, it only made sense to try a number of their traditional treats. First was a koeksister. Next I tried milk tart which is a pie crust filled with a milky custard, and topped with cinnamon. I am not a custard lover, but I definitely stole a few bites here and there from Jonty.

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A little breakfast by the beach never hurt anyone. A little french toast for breakfast also never hurt anyone. I guess you could say I enjoyed my french toast on an outdoor patio near the beach, which was accompanied by assorted fruits, including the ever popular South African fruit, a grenadilla (passion fruit). The portion was a little on the small side for my liking, but I was able to savor each bite and still feel satisfied when I finished.

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Piri Piri sauce is basically everywhere in this country. It is made from the spicy piri piri pepper and poured onto pretty much anything. At a Portuguese restaurant that we visited, we ordered piri piri chicken which was delicious, but a little too spicy for me. We also ordered a prego roll with an egg on it which is a piece of steak on a bun. This meal was quite heavy, yet totally enjoyable.

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I guess you could say most of our restaurant choices were based on recommendations, and there is no exception for Willoughbys. It is mainly a sushi restaurant, but they do serve non Japanese dishes as well, which you will see in a minute.  On any given night you can find this place, also known as the best sushi in South Africa, lined up, as they do not take reservations. As for sushi, we ordered prawn fashion sandwiches which just look like mini sandwiches but made out of rice, seaweed and seafood. As well as the 4×4 which is four spicy rock shrimp tempura rolls and four rainbow reloaded rolls which were both to die for. Seriously, I’d give up a lot for these rolls. A little strange for a sushi restaurant, but the butternut squash gnocchi in a basil pesto sauce caught our eye on the menu. I was a little hesitant about having gnocchi at a sushi restaurant, but the waiter informed us that there are a few different kitchens and that it is truly incredible. I took his advice, and am super glad that I did! It wouldn’t be a meal in South Africa without some fried calamari, so we ordered a small portion as well.

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While in Cape Town it would almost be a crime not to visit the wine country. We drove through beautiful Stalleanboch, passing winery after winery, each more stunning than the next. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Cafe Bon Bon at La Petite Dauphine hotel in Franschhoek. The outdoor patio surrounded by mountains and beautiful wineries was breathtaking. The sun was shining, the wine was being poured, and it was time to enjoy. The bread that the waitress brought out first was incredible. Some sort of whole grain bread with nuts and dried cranberries was so tasty that I could have eaten just that!

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For the main course, Jonty and I shared a vegetarian risotto with dried cranberries and a salad with chicken. Although both of these dishes are simple, it was a nice, light meal which was perfectly paired with a refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. I will also mention that it was extremely peaceful and quiet at this restaurant, with just the sounds of nature in the background. I never wanted to leave!

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I know this is getting quite lengthy so I will try and wrap is up soon. The winery we visited was called La Motte. I expected nothing less than for it to be beautiful. Vines of grapes, surrounded by a little river was the perfect location for some wine tasting.

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Next we were off to Kruger National Park to see some wildlife. This is one of the best national parks in the world, and I feel extremely privileged that I got to visit there. We saw tons of wild animals such as elephants, lions, giraffe, monkeys, hippos, rhinoceros, crocodiles, to name a few. We stayed over for a couple nights and made our own dinner each night. Below is a picture of the prawns that we put on the brie (BBQ to South Africans).

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Our last and final place we visited back in Johannesburg before heading to the airport is called The Dollhouse. It has been around for years and years, and used to be the “it” place for teens late at night. Jonty’s parents recall basically growing up there. You stay in your car and someone comes to take your order and delivers your food right to the car. Jonty has been there before and knew that I would love the milkshakes that they are known for. He got a chicken mayonnaise sandwich and I opted for the extra thick chocolate banana milkshake. I now see why they are famous for these thick, indulgent drinks! It was soooo thick and creamy that I had to eat it with a spoon, but I loved every minute of it.

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You have now seen our food adventures during our trip to South Africa. I literally felt full the entire time. I was definitely ready for a detox slash healthy eating plan when I got home!

 

Momofuku Takes Toronto

New York, Sidney, and now Toronto have been graced with the Momofuku goodness. This Asian style restaurant recently opened a noodle bar in the Shangri La Hotel in downtown Toronto. I have been eager to try Momofuku in New York, and was super excited for the opening in my hometown. The open concept, floor to ceiling windows, and communal seating really add to the simple yet sleek atmosphere of this unique restaurant. My friend Cassi and I decided to go on a Momofuku lunch date.

Upon arrival, the manager was extremely friendly and outgoing and recognized my friend from a previous visit. As soon as we were seated, he brought over a mini size of the Seven Spice Sour Slushie which was a blended mixture of yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit), togarashi (chili pepper), lime and sake. The spiciness from the togarashi and zing from the other ingredients took my taste buds on an interesting journey with a kick.

As for the main course, we shared a bunch of dishes to ensure we would try a little bit of everything. The ginger scallion noodles were our first choice, complete with shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, and cabbage. The noodles had a slight stickiness and al dente texture to them, which made for a mouthwatering experience.

Next were the shiitake buns, stuffed with hoisin sauce, scallions and cucumber. The buns were heavenly. They were as soft as a cloud and paired perfectly with the sweet, tangy shiitake filling.

Lastly, we tried the chicken and egg rice which was smoked chicken combined with scallions and topped with an egg.  The rice was cooked to perfection, the chicken had a crisp, smoky flavour, and the gooey yolk brought the whole dish together. I have to say this was my favourite dish of the day and can’t wait until the next time I taste this!

Make a Wish

I think I found a piece of heaven at Wish nestled on Charles Street just East of Yonge. By the looks of it, one could easily have mistaken it for a house. Once I opened the doors to the heated patio, I instantly fell in love. White, wooden panelled walls surrounded comfy white couches, pillows, country chairs, fur blankets and candles. It was an extremely chic, yet cottagey atmosphere, where I could just plop myself down with a few cocktails and never get up! Jonty and I then entered the actual restaurant, where again I was blown away, as it was equally comfy, with a little more glam. The all white, country-like interior was the perfect setting for a romantic dinner. It was extremely warm and inviting. We were seated at a corner booth on a couch, adorned with comfy pillows.

Our waitress approached us with a friendly and welcoming attitude. She then brought us a variety of wines to sample. Eventually I was set on the Pinot Grigio, while Jonty chose the Reisling. We also had difficulty choosing our food because everything on the menu sounded insanely delicious! Our helpful, efficient and pleasant waitress gave us some recommendations and adivce, which allowed for us to choose some dishes.

Soft, warm bread was brought to the table with a side of hummus with a hint of garlic. It was an impeccable start to our meal.

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(Sorry, not the greatest picture!)

For an appetizer, we went with the Fried Calamari with a chili honey drizzle. The crispy batter perfectly coated the calamari, while the chili honey drizzle added a wonderful sweetness with a kick. I fell in LOVE with this dish and have been dreaming about it ever since.

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As for the main course, we first ordered the gnoochi with basil pesto, butternut squash puree, cherry tomatoes, and toasted squash seeds. Unfortunately our waitress came back and informed us that because they are made in house, they had run out. We then chose the Lobster Ravioli with asparagus and snow peas in a citrus tarragon butter. The pasta was cooked to an al dente perfection, with a generous amount of lobster in each bite. The lobster tail on top was a nice touch. I was quite a fan of the citrus tarragon butter which paired well with the lobster.

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We also ordered the Black Angus Beef Burger with aged cheddar, caramelized onions, and grainy dijon mustard, which was so juicy and flavourful. The fries were just how I like them, thin and crispy.

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Wish also serves lunch and brunch, which I am DYING to try. It will be the perfect place for a cozy weekend brunch, and I cannot wait until that moment!