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Milestones Toronto

October19

I kept my friend waiting at the airport as my flight was delayed and the luggage took forever to arrive.  By the time I saw her familiar, smiling face she had been urged to take a lap by the loading zone attendant.  We were hungry and anxious to get caught up and so veered into Milestone’s on Dixon Road.

Milestone’s apparently skipped the province of Manitoba when it expanded from west to east and I have never had an occasion to dine with them.  By reputation though, I knew that they were famous for an international influence and bold flavours.  Sure enough, while my friend was able to choose an Asian Citrus Steak Salad, I was talked out of the Goat Cheese and Roasted Beet Salad that I had my eye on and into the Harissa Chicken by the persuasive server.  Don’t get me wrong, she had enjoyed the dish herself and was just trying to be helpful.  I appreciate when serving staff are willing to take a gamble like this.

I refer to this as a risky suggestion because the tastes were bold indeed.  The advice was perfectly suited to my palate but may not have been for everyone.  Thinking that I may never travel to the Tunisia in North Africa, I decided that at least my taste buds could make the journey.  The brown rice, sweet potato and parsnip pilaf was chock full of flavour with tastes of lime and cilantro (if I am not mistaken).  I ate it all before I even started into the chicken which packed a nice punch in its own arena.  The chili rub was beautifully offset by a creamy Fontina cheese and an acidity was added with a lemon mint yoghurt.  My first bites of TO accompanied by sips of a lovely Malbec held promises of delicious dining ahead.

My friend and I had years to get caught up on and therefore even though I did pause long enough to get a photo of her lunch, I completely forgot to ask for a taste or inquire as to how she was liking it.  I did spy cucumbers, red peppers & onions, avocado and two kinds of Asian noodles.

Time was precious as we still had a trek downtown to get me checked into my hotel before her journey back home before rush hour. There never seems to be enough time when you are catching up with a good, good friend.

Milestone's Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”-Groucho Marx

Love-that is all.

Bonfire Revisited

October18

Although I get a kick out of the Mom and Pop atmosphere of many neighbourhood restaurants, there are occasions when a more sophisticated ambience is appropriate.  The Bonfire Bistro on Corydon offers a slightly upscale décor, reasonable prices, excellent fare and that neighbourhood feel, all in one neat package. Recently,  I met a good friend, who is also a business acquaintance and we got caught up on family, accomplished all of our business decisions and enjoyed a delicious lunch-not necessarily in that order.

My friend chose the pasta/salad lunch combination.  On this day it was fettuccine topped with a hearty mushroom sauce, garnished with crispy bacon.  The salad greens included sweet currants, so that the sweetness of the dried fruit offset the saltiness of the bacon.  She let me plunge my fork into her plate for a sample.  Now that is a good friend.

I was tempted to have the same because I really wanted a last summer taste of the bistro’s gazpacho which was the featured soup.  Instead, our accommodating waitress provided me with just a spoonful of the chilled soup.  So I was free to order the clams, spicy sausage and artichokes from the anti-pasta section of their lunch menu.

I was trying to restrain myself, because I knew that I was going out for dinner that evening (oh, the life of a foodie) so I tore pieces of the grilled Portuguese waterbread and dipped them into the saffron marinara sauce and just had a couple of pieces of the sausage and artichoke.  The rustic recipe is a perfect lunch to take us into Winnipeg’s chilly winter.  The leftovers were packaged up for a future meal.

I can also highly recommend Bonfire’s wood-fired pizzas with a delicious sauce and decadent toppings.  Or the vermicelli with spicy marinated eggplant, wilted field greens, roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes, kalamata olives, tomatoes, green onions and feta cheese in an Aglio E Olio sauce that I have enjoyed on other occasions.  The pizzas, pastas and salads are always fresh, seasonal, hearty and perfectly prepared.  Service is more than cordial and you would have no issues getting back to the office on time if you were on your lunch hour.

Bonfire Bistro on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote: “The whole Mediterranean … the wine, the ideas … seems to ride in the sour pungent taste of those black olives … A taste older than meat, older than wine. A taste as old as cold water.”-Lawrence Durrell

Love-that is all.

Dinner at Rudy’s Eat and Drink

October10

This post will be a real test for me because my beloved camera passed away in the middle of our meal and unfortunately I have been unable to revive the poor thing.  I know that a good food writer should be able to make your mouth water without photos so let’s see how I do in the last half of this post.

The occasion was a special one as  J1 had requested that the four of us dine together at Rudy’s Eat and Drink AS his birthday gift.  I was surprized as we took our seats, that the restaurant was not busier.  Perhaps the fall-out from this “Jetless” time is more significant than I predicted.  This allowed us to choose a cozy booth where we settled in for pre-dinner cocktails.  J2 chose a “Dark and Stormy” which I thought was in keeping with the old school atmosphere of the place.  J1, who is currently studying to become a brew-master, went to the bar to survey the beer taps and fridges directly before making his selection.

First course were some munchies to stimulate the appetite.  The handsome server was smart enough to place the hand cut potato chips down in front of J2 and I.  We both consider ourselves kettle chip aficionados.  The plate was heaped with perfectly cooked centre cut chips and when I say “perfectly”, I mean quite well cooked by most standards.  The extra cooking time means that the gorgeous brown colour of the sugars  were revealed and the chips were especially sweet and nutty. The glistening salt that had been dusted over them meant that the expertly balanced sweet and salty taste that I crave, was achieved.

The only dish that I had tasted on a previous visit was the tuna tar-tare and this order was consistent in its presentation.  The tuna itself was fresh, cold and silky and was enhanced by the crunchy cucumber discs that it was presented upon.  Garden-fresh tomato bruschetta rounded out the choices.

At about this time, the parade of entrees bean to arrive.  First up was my gnocchi which I  have to say I was under impressed with.  I put this down to my own ignorance.  Why would I order a regional Italian dish in a retro chop bistro like this?

The rest of the entrees were exceptional though (and here’s where my creativity will have to commence).  D chose a centre cut pork chop that he provided tastes of.  The cut was beautifully trimmed and arrived just pink which is how our family enjoys our chops.  The loin (and the steaks that J1 and J2 ordered) were presented a top of a generous potato croquette which received as many accolades as the entrees themselves.  Crowning the chop was a crunchy apple crumble which I cannot wait to duplicate at home.  Just a simple adornment made an already delicious treat, that much better.

J2 had selected a beef filet that came wrapped in bacon for extra moistness and flavour.  Perhaps this had done the trick, but I suspect that the filet could have stood on its own as it was “butter-knife” tender and provided a succulence which J2 “oohed” and “ahed” over (literally).  J1 demonstrated how typical he was of our family-the special that evening seemed too good to be true and so he had to test the offering.  For $20 a sirloin was topped with sweet chili shrimp and was paired with a glass of Sapporo beer.  I could tell that J1 was enjoying every bite as he took small cuts of the steak to make the taste last.

We were all too full to consider dessert but decided to go for a night cap at the Garry St. Keg where J1 has recently worked and D and I first met.  What a gift it is to have adult children who want to spend time with you.  D and I know that we are blessed.

Rudy's Eat and Drink on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:  “Then there is the beefsteak. They have it in Europe, but they don’t know how to cook it. Neither will they cut it right. It comes on the table in a small, round, pewter platter. It lies in the center of this platter, in a bordering bed of grease-soaked potatoes; it is the size, shape, and thickness of a man’s hand with the thumb and fingers cut off. It is a little overdone, is rather dry, it tastes pretty insipidly, it rouses no enthusiasm. Imagine a poor exile contemplating that inert thing, and imagine an angel suddenly sweeping down out of a better land and setting before him a mighty porter-house steak an inch and a half thick, hot and sputtering from the griddle; dusted with fragrant pepper; enriched with little melting bits of butter of the most unimpeachable freshness and genuineness; the precious juices of the meat trickling out and joining the gravy, archipelagoed with mushrooms; a township or two of tender, yellowish fat gracing an outlying district of this ample county of beefsteak; the long white bone which divides the sirloin from the tenderloin still in its place; and imagine that the angel also adds a great cup of American home-made coffee, with the cream a-froth on top, some real butter, firm and yellow and fresh, some smoking hot biscuits, a plate of hot buckwheat cakes, with transparent syrup, could words describe the gratitude of this exile?” –Mark Twain

Love-that is all.

Chez Sophie Revisited

October9

Sister #3 has visited Montreal and New York City in the last couple of months.  This is wonderful for her but poses a problem when you are trying to decide where to take her out for a birthday supper that is special, unique and will delight her. I was thinking that the warm and cozy ambiance of Chez Sophie at 248 avenue de la Cathédrale would do the trick.

The extensive menu is full of surprizes. She had decided upon quiche when she discovered that there were also crepes and opted for the latter. The crepes themselves were perfect in their thinness and lightness and were bulging with smoky, rich salmon and then topped with drooly slices of Camembert.

Sister#2 ordered the Alsatian pizza, at my prompting. The Alsatian region of Europe brings together France, Germany and Italy.  Alsatian wines have long been our favourite because they taste to us like a perfect blend of French and German white wine.  So too, the pizza has a regional French twist with the inclusion of a creamy bechamel sauce instead of a traditional Italian tomato based sauce.

Our Mom had her eyes on the accompaniments more than the entree itself.  The three sisters love the fine taste of bread and this trait could certainly come from Mom, as the little pan buns fresh out of  the oven were a big attraction.  The big mixed salad was also tempting and so we helped her chose a quiche which would deliver it all. She took most of her quiche Lorraine home for her next day lunch.

I too had eyes bigger than my tummy.  Having savoured the bun, the salad and the beautiful little casserole of potatoes in cream and topped with cheese, I could only manage a single bite of my fried Camembert.  That taste was delicious but was even better when I took it home and had intermittent nuggets of it all through the next day, for the dish was so very rich.

Service was perfect as usual.  I almost always have the same beautiful, bilingual server take care of me.  She is proud of the food served at Chez Sophie’s and is willing to be translator between we Anglaise and French Chef/Owner Stephane in the kitchen. The restaurant was absolutely jammed early on a weekday night so pick your times carefully. But do not miss out on one of St. Boniface Winnipeg/s little gems.

It turned out that Sister #3 had a heavy cold and just wanted to get home to bed. But did she enjoy her birthday treat?  I am sure of it because  one of her beautiful and unique character traits is that she is so easy to pamper and delight.

Chez Sophie Bistro & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quotes: “The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…”-M. F. K. Fisher

Love-that is all.

Arkadash Bistro and Lounge

October4

Before D and I were married, I lived in four different downtown apartments all within about 4 blocks of each other  and I came to know the area south of Portage Ave. as my neighbourhood.  I went to school, worked, grocery-shopped, dined and attended a myriad of artistic events all within walking distance.  For much of this time, I didn’t own a car but I could perfectly manage to obtain everything  I needed and wanted, without one. Every once in a while D and I are tempted to choose this lifestyle again and now a days there are even more reasons to draw us back to downtown living.  I have had an opportunity to tour The Avenue apartment building recently including their splendid roof top space and could easily see myself nestled in, right on Portage Ave.

This fantasy might mean that Arkadash Bistro and Lounge could become our neighbourhood hang out.

As soon as I walked into the sleek space, I was reminded of the long  and narrow bistros of the East Village of New York city.  The decor of Arkadash is so sophisticated that it could easily hold its own in the Big Apple.  I understand that the husband of the chef was the designer/architect for the make over and my high praise goes to him and his space.

But to the food!

Lunch began with a little basket of focaccia bread with olive oil for dipping and this delicious soup of the day.  Too much time has past since this visit to remember what it was, but I do recall a spicy chili taste.

One friend chose the pulled pork.  Even though this photo doesn’t do the dish justice, I am happy to see that Chef Karen doesn’t disguise the savoury taste of slow cooked Berkshire pork with an unnecessary barbeque sauce.  The moist taste of good pork is velvety and distinctive when prepared properly and this was.  The meat was served with corn tortillas to wrap it up.

Another friend selected the Turkish grilled chicken which she enjoyed with the couscous.  Both these dishes were accompanied by baked vanilla pumpkin which received kudos.

I tucked into this lunch feature of grilled scallops with a simple pasta.  It was just my cuppa tea as the sweet meat of the scallop was all I needed with a spear of butter- tossed pasta (no sauce required).  Everyone agreed that the local ingredients and preparation was exceptional but we all wondered why the food was not piping hot.  In all honesty it was luke warm.  This is in the small points department, but hot food is a  basic dining expectation.  I look forward to visiting again when I am sure this will be different.

I will return as I am eggplant obsessed and intrigued by the starter of “Toenail of a Dog”, and the entree of “Imam Baldi”.  I had the pleasure of meeting cousins and restaurant partners Karen and Kelvin and we spoke at length about their commitment to local ingredients and serving the neighbourhood.  They have exciting plans ahead for the service of High Tea along with their continued offerings of jazz on Friday evenings in the lounge.

Arkadash Bistro and Lounge on Urbanspoon

Kath’s quote:
“Manhattan is a narrow island off the coast of New Jersey devoted to the pursuit of lunch.”-
Raymond Sokolov

Love-that is all.

 

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