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Return To Sudbury: How Gourmands Camp

1 Aug

Last year some friends and I were spoiled rotten with a bountiful harvest of wild blueberries foraged from the Sudbury area.  We planned the same camping trip for this summer and you can bet for weeks leading up to it, we talked a big game.  C even bought four new 4-L tupperware containers, and worried that they’d overflow. Let’s just say, this year, our trip was not fruitful (sorry, sorry…).  We each left with a sad sandwich bag worth of tiny blue berries.  We think we missed the first harvest by a week, and were too early for the second round.  Woe!

Falls

It was still a fun time camping near Onaping High Falls, a gorgeous natural wonder made famous by Group of Seven’s A.Y. Jackson’s painting, Spring on the Onaping River.  (There, your art fact of the day!  Cherry would be proud.)  And of course, we ate like gluttons.

The difference between camping when I was a teenager versus camping as an adult  who makes more than minimum wage: we used to pack the cooler with frozen hot dogs (and cheap beer) and lived off that.  Now, we take the time to make sure that the benefit of living outdoors doesn’t cost us our enjoyment of a really good meal.  Camping is really about spending quality time with some good friends in beautiful scenery while breathing fresh air and that is all made better with a bountiful feast on a picnic table.

One of my favourite camping meals?  Breakfast (well, it’s a three-way tie, really….)

Open Faced Fancy Breakfast Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • smoked bacon from a butcher on Roncesvalles
  • one of de la Terre’s amazing organic artisan breads
  • free-range organic eggs
  • pre-washed and pre-chopped red onion and cilantro (pre-washing and pre-chopping is KEY to camping gourmand)
  • Black River Cheese Company‘s 6 year old cheddar (strong flavour means you use less, pack less!)
  • homemade preserved cherry tomatoes (no Heinz for us!)
  • homemade sriracha (go ahead, close down that California plant…we’ll survive)

Bacon!

The first step: cook up that bacon!  And yes, it’s so that you can use the bacon grease to cook up the rest of your breakfast (nobody said we’re cardiologists). This way you don’t have to pack cooking oil and everything tastes like delicious bacon.

onions

Next, brown those pre-chopped onions in that bacon grease.  Yup, pre-washing and pre-chopping some of the vegetables will make things a whole lot easier while camping.

eggs

Once those onions caramelize, crack some eggs into the pan and soak up the remaining bacon grease.

Preserves

Bring out the jars of preserved cherry tomatoes and homemade sriracha from the cooler so that they can come up to room temperature (forest temperature…?).  Preserves are a great way to add flavour, and don’t even necessarily need to stay in the cooler if you plan to finish a smaller jar rather quickly.  It also reduces prep as you really just need to spoon out a cherry tomato instead of washing and chopping.

Sammy

Once everything is finished, take a piece of incredibly dense de la Terre’s artisan bread, put some of that 6 year old cheddar on it, then top with the warm eggs so that the cheese melts a bit.  Then a dollop of preserved cherry tomatoes, a smidge of homemade sriracha, and a sprinkle of pre-washed, pre-chopped cilantro. Eat this masterpiece while throwing the bacon-grease-soaked paper towels into the fire for a little show.

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La Cubana: a quick holiday escape on Roncesvalles

17 Dec

A couple of Fridays back, Cherry, MC and I were invited to attend the opening weekend of Toronto’s newest country bar, the Rock ‘n Horse Saloon.  Good time?  Well, let’s just say 60% of YYZ Gourmand found themselves riding on a mechanical bull…and we have solemnly pledged that these videos will never go public.

So how did we end up on said unforgiving bull?  Our inhibition was mostly just us being us, but also partly caused by the JD shots on the house and this monstrosity:

'The Bulldog' from Rock 'n Horse Saloon

‘The Bulldog’ from Rock ‘n Horse Saloon

Fast forward to the next day. C’mon, you know how it is – don’t make me admit it.  Let’s just say that only a good brunch could fix what ailed me and thank goodness I found myself in Roncesvalles, a neighbourhood I’ve watched transform over the last 4 years. Some changes have been for the worse (the new Tim Horton’s that’s opening soon) but mostly for the better (BarqueGurtsPizzeria Delfina!).   I regrettably never got to try the restaurant Blue Plate but was curious about the Cuban diner (from the people of Delux Restaurant) that took over the space – La Cubana.

It was a grey, bitterly cold afternoon; the streets felt abandoned and it was quiet except for the howling wind.  In contrast, as soon as I opened the second of the double doors, I was instantly welcomed by cheerful music, laughter, and the warmth of the retro diner decor.  When people try to fake a 50s look, they need to take a page from La Cubana’s book. The gorgeous tiles, simple but thoughtful design, and pistachio colour scheme made me question whether it was actually humid Havana outside, and not chilly Toronto.

La Cubana menu

La Cubana menu

The words ‘pineappe-glazed pork belly’ on the menu caught my eye and wouldn’t let go so I came to my decision fairly easily (rare!).  Served with rice and beans, purple slaw and fried tostones, I wished I wore my sweat pants.

Pineapple glazed pork belly with sunny side up eggs

Pineapple glazed pork belly with sunny side up eggs

A closer look?  Your wish is my command.

Pineapple glazed pork belly with sunny side up eggs

Pineapple glazed pork belly with sunny side up eggs

And of course, I asked for house made hot sauce.  Surprisingly tame in heat, it still added a nice touch to my dish.  Not that it was needed, everything was great as is: perfect sunny-side eggs (yolks were warm but runny!), perfectly crisp tostones, wilted purple slaw that kept its peppery brightness, and sweetened caramelized pork belly with a hint of pineapple.  Swoon.

Now the waiter had suggested that we try their corn fritters but we were too full.  So when I returned last Friday for dinner with a couple of good pals, the first thing I did was order a plate.  Oh, dear friends AND enemies, get yourself there and buy some STAT.  Fresh fried-to-order, these pillowy soft blobs of dough are going to be my new carb loading favourite.  Imagine a savoury fresh doughnut.  Multiply that sense of satisfaction by 100 and serve it with an aioli.

This winter is shaping up to be a cold one and the only thing that’s keeping me from sobbing into my toque is knowing that La Cubana is here to give me that quick Cuban escape.

La Cubana on Urbanspoon

Our Spot: perfectly named breakfast joint in Kensington

16 Dec

There are a number of inventive brunch places in my neighbourhood – they are all a treat. And yet… sometimes I don’t want to make reservations, stand in line for 20 minutes before I eat or drop 30 dollars before noon on eggs on a Sunday – it can trigger almost as much regret as smelling booze when you are hungover. My first ever YYZ Gourmand post pondered if indulgent and expensive brunches were worth it.

Sometimes, all I want is a standard breakfast that will force me to get out of bed – and get my day started! – without eating up half of my week’s grocery money. When I lived in Ottawa, there was a perfect place that I would go to almost every weekend with my friend J – Atomic Rooster on Bank Street. It was perfect because the food was good, the staff was friendly and I would rarely spent more than 8 dollars or more than 5 minutes waiting for a table. It was the best hangover cure I’ve ever had, and I could be there in 10 minutes of my apartment. How’s that for motivation?

I saw Our Spot when I moved close to Kensington in September. Wondering how I had missed it before, I asked one of the owners, Demetra, how long they had been around. Turns out she and her husband took over the place in October. It so closely reminds me of Atomic Rooster in Ottawa, that I’m convinced I willed it into existence.

A view of Our Spot on a snowy Sunday

A view of Our Spot on a snowy Sunday

I went in again this Sunday – with the snow I knew that I would have to get out of my place if I didn’t want to hibernate all day. As I had the last time, I went alone and sat at the bar at the front that faces the street. As you can see in the photo, the window was steamed up, but it made going to brunch alone seem acceptable.

I knew what I wanted before I sat down: the “standard” breakfast (4.50$!!!!) with 3 eggs scrambled, brown bread and potatoes (instead of lentils), and iceberg lettuce salad with feta cheese. I added on bacon and tea (about 1.50$ each extra).

This is what motivated me to get out of bed on Sunday - and actually have a productive day!

What more do you really need? The service is fast and friendly – and the food hit the spot!

There are other things on their menu, but when I’m looking for a boost on a weekend morning, this is all I crave.

Looks like I’ve finally found the spirit of Atomic Rooster in YYZ: breakfast without a fuss that’s perfect to go with a closer friend or even alone.. and only a 10 min walk from my apartment!

I will be back to “Our Spot” soon. Who’s coming with?

Puerto Viejo: eating in #NYC

23 Aug
I recently went on a weekend trip to New York that became, for all intents and purposes, one giant meal. I thought one particular restaurant stood out enough to deserve its own review.
Puerto Viejo is a Dominican restaurant located in a part of Brooklyn that is just now “welcoming” its first wave of hipsters. Surrounded by auto repair shops and, alarmingly, a live chicken vendor, Puerto Viejo stands out for its abundance of exposed wood trimming and “hipster light bulbs” (ie. clear filaments a la Thomas Edison).
Normally a review happens after a dinner and, occasionally, a lunch. I ate at Puerto Viejo shortly after 9am. Surprisingly, this did not affect my overall impression despite the fact that there were only a tiny handful of other dedicated diners in the room. This is true for 2 reasons : the music, decor and service provided my friends and me with ample food for though, and the food was so well executed that we emerged with the same sense of carnal satisfaction that one would experience after having a great steak or spirited sex on a hastily cleared off kitchen table.
The overall ambience was surprisingly conducive to having fun, even at the ungodly hour of 9am on a Saturday morning. The Dominican music was lively but not overpowering, which was a great way to start a big day of discovering one of the world’s great cities. The decor also gave us a lot to talk about. For example, the washroom had some intriguing old pipes and gauges reclaimed from some disused industrial site. The chairs and tables were all mismatched in classic hipster tradition. In the same vein, there were vintage suitcases and dusty mirrors strewn around the dining room. It became a little game to compare all these little design elements to similar restaurants in Toronto.
Our game was delightfully interrupted by the arrival of food and drink.  The Dominican Longaniza was too tempting to forego, especially since I’d never tried it before. The style varies from the original Spanish version in that it uses more locally-sourced ingredients, such as lime or bitter orange juice.  Puerto Viejo’s Longaniza was beautifully executed. The sausages were traditionally cooked, that is, in a way that allows them to burst out of their casings slightly in order to develop a deliciously coarse pan-fried crust. The texture inside was equally coarse and meaty, and you could tell that some care had gone into making the filling. The flavour was such that each bite burst with freshness. I suspect that the use of citrus in the filling helped create this flavour and cut the fattiness commonly associated with all forms of sausage. The little pan fried wonders were served with pickled onions and boiled plantain.  Perhaps the most astonishing part is that all this cost a pittance: $5.50.
Sausages, pickled onions and boiled plantain (the source of MC's "carnal satisfaction"!)

Sausages, pickled onions and boiled plantain (the source of MC’s “carnal satisfaction”!)

I don’t normally comment on drinks, and especially not fruit juices. However, I tasted something magical and likely unobtainable  in Toronto: fresh tamarind juice.  I’ve had tropical fruit juices in tropical places, and this was an excellent representation of what the juice should taste like, despite the fruit having been carted several thousand kilometers to the Eastern seabord. I highly recommend that, if you do order the tamarind juice, you add just the slightest drop of their homemade hot sauce and a squeeze of lime. The result could very well form the basis of an excellent Caesar-inspired tropical drink.
Tamarind juice: magical and likely unobtainable  in Toronto?

Tamarind juice: magical and likely unobtainable in Toronto?

Overall, Puerto Viejo deserves praise for what it is bringing to a neighborhood that is not yet considered a foodie hotspot in New York City. I’ve been told that it gets quite busy later on, and I can see why. The place succeeds in blending a great vibe with excellent food, even at 9am on a Saturday. Just think what they can do in the evening when they get busy! I’ll definitely be going back when I next head to Brooklyn.

Is brunch food therapy? Last weekend at Uncle Betty’s

20 Jun

I went out for a meal with my good friend Alexis last weekend. We hadn’t seen each other in a little while, and she’d noted that life had been kicking me in the shins repeatedly the past little while. She suggested we meet for brunch.

When a good friend invites you to go for brunch, they really mean “hey, let’s sleep in, bitch about life and have someone cook us food that we could ourselves but really rather not.” Having someone else do something for you that you could otherwise do yourself is a wonderful luxury. Brunch is a mostly affordable luxury for us working folks. Cheaper than therapy, but more expensive that homemade scrambled eggs : the perfect weekend break from life.

Since we both life uptown, Alexis and I headed over too Uncle Betty’s.

Uncle Betty's on a sunny day!

Uncle Betty’s on a sunny day!

They were closing early that day for a special function – but we were lucky enough to snag the last table. It was a really nice day and we were seated on the small patio on Yonge street, which oddly both private and intimate at the same time. It allowed me to air my woes to the sympathetic Alexis without fear of everybody there knowing alllll about it.

When you’re complaining about how things seem not to be going your way, you need not only the comfort of a friend who has mastered the art of listening, but might also want to be stuffing your face with some serious comfort food.

Brunch at Betty's! Breakfast in a Bowl and the Ultimate Grilled cheese.

Brunch at Betty’s! Breakfast in a Bowl and the Ultimate Grilled cheese.

Comfort food is what Uncle Betty’s specialty. What I got was the Breakfast in a Bowl (only 9$!) and that is exactly what it was: home fries, scrambled eggs, bacon and a sauce to bring it all together! Almost a poutine, but not exactly. And it allowed me to be lazy with my table manners, which I feel is a wonderful touch for brunch.

Alexis got the Ultimate Grilled Cheese. That name isn’t an oversell. It’s actually the most “ultimate” of all grilled cheeses of all… because it has both mac&cheese AND meatloaf. Show up super hungry to eat this one. Ultimate comes in a generous portion.

Stuffing your face with eggs, carbs and bacon is therapy enough. Couple that with sitting outside in a nice atmosphere with one of your best friends who knows how to listen… annnnd you’ve just saved yourself paying for an actualy therapist!

But even if your life is all sprinkles and cupcakes, you should head over to Uncle Betty’s. It was warm and friendly and the food and the service matches – or maybe even exceeds? – that of any downtown spot. What helps it exceed the cold of other downtown spots, is the feeling that it’s only something people from your neighbourhood know about. But judging by the line at the entrance, that might not be true…

Note: I don’t want to forget our server, Claire. She was helpful, kind and had excellent timing (didn’t encroach on our brunch unless to ask us if we needed something that we hadn’t yet noticed was missing).

Uncle Betty's on Urbanspoon

I am being haunted by mediocre eggs! – Kalendar Brunch

14 May

So after having scrunched my nose at the egg-offerings of brunch in Steeltown, I now have to convey “ho-hum” to Kalandar’s breakfast.

The morning after a wedding in the city, my Hunk-of-Man (henceforth Mr. HoM) and I needed breakfast before we zoomed off to our respective Mother’s Day events. Our search proved somewhat challenging as I completely forgot that we’d be contending with the Brunch Crowd AND Mother’s Day revelers.

Our destination: College and Bathurst.

The clouds were grey and rain was imminent but we remain undeterred. We had a floppy/ half-broken umbrella to shield us from the elements. We had street parking and plenty of time. We made it to Kalendar just in time to beat the violent (freakish) hail storm!

The restaurant was jam packed with few families celebrating their mothers. Mostly, hipsters in dirty sweats looking like they had had a rough Saturday night. I remain aghast at what is considered kosher Sunday morning attire amongst twenty-somethings. Surely, one can run a comb through their hair?! I was already a little annoyed by how humid it was in the restaurant (probably all those hot unbathed bodies squashed into the tiny premises). And then, we were pushed out of the way by a couple who NEEDED a drink immediately and grabbed the recently vacated seats at the bar. (Of course, this couple was later seated right next to our table. They didn’t know what a mimosa was and the woman had deplorable table manners. She LITERALLY shovelled food into her mouth. It was gross!) So, Kalendar is cramped but it’s one of the things that makes it charming though not everyone knows how to be nice in such intimate settings.

Upon reflection, we ended up ordering variations of our Hamilton-dishes. Me: Eggs Napoleon (poached eggs with smoked salmon, spinach, onions and mushrooms with a honey dill cream sauce served on a croissant with a side of taters) and Mr. HoM: an omlette with italian fennel sausage, feta, onions, mushrooms & tomatoes. Mr. HoM is generally high maintenance and so upgraded his bread option to a croissant from toast. Both of us chose fresh-squeezed OJ as a bevy. Mr. HoM also ordered a coffee which was flavoured with nutmeg or something equally warm.

The dishes arrived beautifully assembled. A bounty of breakfast goodness.

My eggs (which I explicitly ordered medium) were only half prepared correctly. One egg was runny and the other veered towards hard. The dill sauce was a sweet complement to the salmon but made my croissant to0 soggy. Mr. HoM pointed out that it wasn’t really a croissant (which we decided needs to be flakier) but more of brioche shaped like a croissant. His omelette looked more appetizing and was indeed the more tasty option. The eggs were a vibrant yellow and the tomatoes brightened up the sausage et al in flavour and aesthetically.

Why am I being haunted by mediocre eggs?! Are they skipping this at chef school? Are kitchens not consulting their Joy of Cooking/ Julia Child/ Mark Bitmann before they approach their eggs? I don’t want to have to order simple breakfasts out – what’s the point of that?

Bad things come in threes SO who wants to prepare me mediocre eggs next so that I can change my breakfast luck!?

Steeltown Brunch

6 May

Hamilton is not know for the “finer things” in life. I know how impossibly condescending that sounds! When you tell people you live/ work/ play in Hamilton, they sneer or furrow their brow in bafflement. The city is widely misunderstood. In fact, having spent 5+ years living and enriching my mind there, I have seen that the city has a lot to offer and has so much potential: gripping landscapes, a thriving art community, as well as emerging food scene.

After working up an appetite touring sites (Dundurn Castle and CHCH studios) for Doors Open Hamilton, my Hunk-of-Man and I needed to refuel. The destination: Radius.* James Street South is a strange intersection of everything Hamilton has to offer: transportation hub, hospitals, path to the Mountain, independent restos, and affordable living. It used to be the case that food options in the area were scant: too expensive/ touristy brunches, GREASY spoons and pub food. Radius, a distinct addition, advertises itself as ” urban casual dining” in a comfortable and trendy setting.

According to the our lovely server, the resto opened in November and the cafe six months before. The decor features high ceilings with hammered tin tiles, glass tables (with tree trunk bases) and chandeliers. I remember the modest sandwich shop that stood there before so I was impressed with the change! From 10-3 on weekends, Radius offers a brunch menu: traditional fare (eggs benedict, french toast) as well as a choice of 3 different frittatas. One has the choice of potatoes, quinoia salad, or a fruit bowl as accompaniment with each brekkie option.

I wanted this place to be good. I needed this place to be good (I live for the Bread Bar but variety is the spice of life).

I ordered the Classic Eggs Benedict. Hunk-of-Man ordered the Frittata Italiano (Italian sausage, parmesan cheese, onions peppers and more!).

I always order EB because I love breaking the yellow yolk over the pink ham/ pea meal bacon and english muffin. I didn’t specify that I wanted my eggs medium. I usually note my preference but have found that most chefs prepare it that way so I decided to keep schtum this time. (Note: the menu also states that eggs are “soft boiled”) That decision proved costly as the eggs were over hard. *sad trombone* They weren’t hard boiled – the yolks were still orange in the center. I just didn’t get the satisfaction of sopping up the yolky mess with bread and potatoes. On Masterchef, one of the major challenges the home chefs must complete is to prepare 3 styles of eggs perfectly. That the resto is only serving brunch in the afternoons but failed to execute a simple poached egg properly is disappointing. *I* can make runny poached eggs at home!

The English Muffin had a tender and chewy texture. The Denninger’s bacon was mouthwateringly savoury! The potatoes were wonderfully crisp. In the end, I was only mildly annoyed.

My manfriend’s frittata was described as “okay”; a bit scant on salt and toppings. The smoked cheese was a pleasant surprise.

Hamilton has a special place in my heart and so I want to believe that this was a one-off bad plate. I would certainly return and try the cafe offerings. I am also certainly willing to give brunch another go before I write them off!!

* Radius tweets!

Radius Café + Urban Casual Dining on Urbanspoon

Dim Hopes for Dim Sum

18 Apr

One of the best things about living in Toronto is the accessibility to crepes, goat roti, dolmades and freshly shucked oysters. Whatever you crave, we’ve got it.

Except good dim sum.

You can’t walk around Markham or Scarborough without tripping over a dim sum cart of delicious bite-sized treasures but in downtown Toronto proper? The void is a tragedy of epic proportions. And don’t tell me I should check out Chinatown (or Chinatown II) because I although I will admit the dim sum served there is undeniably tasty and gives great bang for your buck, it’s not the fine cuisine I’m looking for. A woman can’t live off burgers alone; she must occasionally get her prime rib and at a reasonable price.

My parents and grandmother live out in the western ‘burbs and because I don’t own a car, meeting in Markham or Scarborough for dim sum is always a challenge. But, our saviour was Lai Wah Heen at the Metropolitan Hotel, right smack in the city core. The parents could drive in and in the same amount of time, I could walk over. It’s a lot pricier than the $1.50 dishes along Spadina but for a fine dining meal, we found it to be very reasonably priced. It frequently appeared on top 10 dim sum restaurant lists for Toronto and area and in my humble opinion, its position was rightfully earned.

And then, we heard the news – Metropolitan Hotel Toronto was sold to Bayview Hospitality Group. We waited with bated breath – will the chefs stay? Will management change? What will happen to our oasis in the city?

Two months after this change, we went back.  The restaurant looked the same; it has a clean modern Chinese restaurant look with neutral colours.  However, on this day, it was quite crowded and the majority of the clientele seemed to be college students and young couples with babies – very different from past visits where it was quieter and the customers were older. This screams to me that a Groupon deal was issued. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but just throwing my speculation out into the winds.

And then it was downhill fast.

At Lai Wah Heen (and most dim sum places where there are no carts), you check off your order on a sheet and then the server picks it up for the kitchen. The sheet printout was different. It wasn’t necessarily a revamped menu, but some key favourites were missing (the sea bass congee!). This, my mother indicated, meant at least one chef who specialized in those dishes, has left.

Dear readers, it was such a letdown. The presentation was sloppy. Serving sizes were smaller. No fireworks, no oomph, no religious experience. The fried oysters were fresh but the batter wasn’t a pillowy crunch. The pork belly had a great crispy skin but it was a smaller portion than before.  The seafood fried noodles went from a contender for a National Geographic photoshoot to something that I probably made in Grade 8 Home Economics.

Quite simply, the food was palatable but unremarkable and therefore not worth the price tag. Also, all I could hear the entire time were crying babies and kids jaw-wagging into cell phones. Now, I respect this is not atypical to a dim sum environment, but I could get the same experience with Spadina prices, not by shelling out hotel restaurant prices.

I sobbed internally as I put a mediocre bon-bon sized pastry into my mouth.

“Well. This is it. You just need to buy a car,” shrugged my mother.

Lai Wah Heen, I hope this is just an awkward phase you’re going through.

breakfast poutine & dutch pancakes (oh my!)

15 Apr

Went stomping around YYZ with my beau. A stop in the past (Toronto’s First Post Office) to send one another love letters worked up an appetite and we ventured to my local favourite: Hank’s! Hank’s decor (grey walls, fireplaces on flat screen TVs, art by local painters and homemade chandeliers) is inconsistent with the menu but the food has always been delicious. I discovered the place when a friend brought me to the re-done Wine Bar (no longer a Jamie Kennedy establishment) and explained that the owners also owned this place. It’s the perfect place for a quick bite before jetting off elsewhere like proper city folk!

One of the most indulgent things in the world: all day breakfast. I especially love having breakfast foods at 2pm in the afternoon … outside of the confines of a greasy spoon/ diner. We shared the Breakfast Poutine which featured: cheese curds, breakfast sausage and tomatoes, topped with a poached egg &  hollandaise sauce. All of the components of a conventional breakfast but served in a way that is conducive to sharing (note: not just sharing of a romantic nature).We didn’t see any of the advertised sausage but there seemed to be some sort of bacon strewn throughout. The hollandaise sauce was perfectly creamy and a cheerful pale yellow.The second dish we shared: Dutch Oven Pancake. I love pancakes (can’t make them for the life of me!!) and I was intrigued by the pineapple/ passionfruit compote that accompanied it along with whipped cream. Cooking the pancake in, what I imagined was a cast iron skillet, made for a golden crunchy exterior and eggy and gooey interior. Mmmmm.

Every visit to Hank’s is satisfying in an understated way. I love that I can always get a booth and that there’s just the right amount of people in the restaurant to create a lively atmosphere (no one wants to eat brunch to only the sounds of cutlery clanging and your own voice!). It’s tucked away on Front & Church St. – away from the clamour of the market and the chaos of Yonge & Dundas (two areas which I abhor on the weekend!). I urge you to have brunch here immediately and tell me all about it!

Clementine Dipple

RE: Whippoorwill – It’s SOOOO far but the burgers are to-die-for. Get on a bike/ grab a car/ STOMP out there and try one as soon as you can. Your tummy demands it!

Hank's on Urbanspoon

Café Boulud : more than satisfactory, but not surprising

4 Mar

I like my meals out to meet some basic criteria: worth the trouble, worth the money, and worth the calories.

Not everywhere is «trouble», but some places are out of the way and can make you wait even if you have a reservation. The money aspect isn’t because I’m horribly cheap, but instead because I know that I could be eating a satisfactory meal in the quiet calm of home I want my dining to be worth the markup. And the calories! I come from a very healthy family. It took until I was 12 for me to realise that you could put salt on corn on the cob. My parents have been married for almost 30 years and are still their wedding weight. Being somewhat trim in a requirement for me to keep my last name.

Getting to Café Boulud wasn’t much trouble. Except for my complete brain fart that the Four Seasons in Toronto has moved! So although I was initially early, I had to walk almost 10 more minutes than planned. As I’d never been I wasn’t quite sure where the entrance was – even if their address is listed as Yorkville, the main entrance is on Bay Street.

The design of the Four Seasons Toronto is different from most Four Seasons that I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing (on my parent’s dime!). This one is more sleek and modern, with a seemingly Asian style influence. While it’s not cold like modern interiors can be, it isn’t as warm or as welcoming as I’ve come to expect a Four Seasons to be. The lack of signage was also confusing – or maybe I was so cold I didn’t see the sign for the restaurant?

There was no wait, as the restaurant wasn’t full and my friends had smartly made a reservation. But while we stayed for almost 2 hours, the place never really filled up.

Worth the money?
I want to preface my opinion on the cost with saying that the service was excellent. The staff was very attentive and were quiet in the way they moved about, almost like graceful gazelles. The tables were spaced out enough that we didn’t have to hear anyone else’s conversation. If that is important to your brunching experience, then the 38$ two course meal will be well worth it to you. But I am still at an age where I don’t mind a bit of commotion and enjoy overhearing people’s Sunday hangover stories, and I don’t care if they hear mine. About this: I think we were the only people there under 35.

As for the food, their brunch menu was interesting but not so different that I felt it was unique. I went for the Crispy Duck Egg and the French Toast. If you go once, get the crispy duck egg! Oozing with flavour and texture it kicked my taste buds awake. The french toast was above average and I really enjoyed it but it wasn’t something that I will dream about.

The most disappointing part of the meal was that there was no tea selection. After seeing the price, I was happy it was included but when I asked for a black tea all they could offer me was English Breakfast. It’s the Four Seasons!!!!! Have they not heard of Tea Mariage Frères? Or even Harney & Sons? Most brunch places, I would not care, but I do at the Four Seasons.

Worth the calories?

It was brunch with friends that I don’t get to see as much as I would like too, followed by a quick but rigorous workout. So this wasn’t an issue.

Overall?
Go once. If just to enjoy the space and the crispy duck egg!

Cafe Boulud on Urbanspoon