Browsing: Toronto and area

Jatujak, Thai Street Style Food, Kingston Rd, Toronto

October3

The part that I love most about being a food blogger are the friendships I have made over the years. They happen quite by accident like the morning a beautiful tall and shy redhead asked if she could sit in the seat next to me at my first blogging conference in Toronto. Little did I know that years latter we would still be kindred spirits. She calls me her angel, a title I don’t take lightly.

She lives in the same neighbourhood that I stayed in last weekend so it was easy for her to pick me up and find a spot not far away. Asking if I liked Thai food, I responded with a resounding yes!

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We started with a Mango salad appetizer. The ribbons of mango were perfectly sweet and the slivers of red onion and crushed cashews added appropriate crunch. Acidity came from freshly squeezed lime juice and the freshness popped out with the subtle use of cilantro. I would visit Jatujak a 1,000 times for the taste of that salad!

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My favourite Thai soup arrived next. I am not used to a red Tom yum but the carefully simmering of a variety of hearty ingredients was soothing and delicious.

I had read that Jatujak was one of the best Thai restaurants in Toronto, and the culinary measuring stick is often Pad Thai.

Jatujak brings street-style elements to its pad Thai dish. Made with stir-fried rice noodles, with egg and a house tamarind-based sauce. You can get the Pad Thai with just the noodles, or with the option of adding tofu and vegetables, chicken, beef or shrimp.

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I added chicken and tofu also made an appearance. It appears under the Lunch Special section of their menu and this enormous portion was only $8.95! It was so good, I am vividly remembering the tastes now that I am back home in Winnipeg.

Although the time was brief with my lovely friend, our hearts connected once more.

Kath’s quote: “Food makes travel so exceptional, because you get to taste what it’s actually supposed to taste like. To eat the real Pad Thai or finally have a proper curry is something pretty amazing”. -Meghan Markle

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Love never fails.

Mezes, The Danforth, Toronto

October2

I spent this past weekend in Toronto at Food Bloggers Canada (more on that later). On Saturday evening my Bestie M and I met her husband halfway between his work and their home where I was their guest for the weekend. We started at a place called Allen’s that maintains the tag line “Air Conditioned” not “where good friends meet”, not “why not tonight?” but “air conditioned”. I got such a hoot out of that! The beer was ice cold and I chose my favourite Canadian brand Moosehead, whereas R selected a cream ale. M stuck to her fav white wine. The place was hopping and the vibe very comfortable so we stayed and enjoyed another.

By the time we walked down and across the Danforth to Mezes, the place was lined up to the sidewalk. In a very small way, I felt in solidarity with the fellow pedestrians and diners. The memory of this summer’s violence was too acute to have faded, and yet here we all were strolling the Avenue and gathering on the side walks when hunger struct us.

Out of the many Greek restaurants to choose from, Mezes was the first choice.

The emphasis here is on sharing; a kind of collective dining that transforms a meal into an experience. Mezes promotes the most genuinely Greek method of dining: order multiple dishes, celebrate variety, and sample everything. There’s a remarkable unfussiness to the process that enthuses more vigorous conversation, and rippling laughter. While their list of entrées is considerable, it’s their Mezes they hope you’ll try.

Try, we did. With the guidance of our waiter, who encouraged us to take our time, start with a variety of dips and fried anchovies and go from there. If we were still hungry, we could keep ordering.

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First up were a small trio of Mediterranean dips: an amazing Tzatziki, a fish roe dip called Taramosalata, a chick pea Homous, and Melitzanosalata which I thought was very similar to my favourite baba ganoush. All were delicious with garlic pita and then when that was all gone, with the fresh baguette delivered to our table. We had watched in fascination when platters of flat cheeses were set on fire and then doused with lemon at neighbouring tables.

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Next I tasted fried anchovies for my first time. They were prepared like calamari with a more pronounced flavour. I had not had anchovies since I miss-ordered them in Positano Italy (see link here).

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I had been out for a big lunch and passed on the lamb chops although the nibble that I had was divine.

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I opted for sharing this fantastic salad as well as a very big surprise…

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these white beans recommended by our server had been slow cooked in a luscious tomato sauce.

Every thing was washed down with a couple of lovely house wines. It was a wonderful evening. We hailed an Uber home as the streets got increasingly crowded with folks from nearby neighbourhoods.

Kath’s quote:“The Greeks’ fierce pride in their heritage has kept the basic culture intact. Whether a slave under Roman rule, a captive under Turkish domination, or a newly arrived immigrant, the Greek is always aware that he is the direct descendant of men like Plato, Homer, Aristotle, Demosthenes, Aristophanes. The Greek who begins life in a new land on the bottom step of society as a dishwasher needs only to remember how Aesop left a legacy of poetry while cooking as a slave.”-Theresa Yianilos

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Love never fails.

 

Hamilton Stopover

September20

D and I recently took advantage of the reasonable airfares provided by the new Swoop airline. We had a stopover in Hamilton en route to Halifax and then Charlottetown. We don’t particularly like airport food but love to check out an unexplored city, so we used the stretch of time to jump in a cab and head to a Portuguese restaurant in the vicinity. Toma La-The Portuguese Pitstop was a 10 minute ride from the airport.

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While visiting Portugal this past January, we feel in love with their Super Bock beer. Since the pitstop doesn’t have a liquor license, we had to settle for a non-alcoholic version that was still delicious and satisfying. As was the passion fruit soda.

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We were so delighted to find our favourite Portuguese choices on the menu that we “over” ordered, selecting 2 enormous dishes that were quite obviously too much food. But we were delighted with the half chicken dinner. We learned that all meat was marinated the night before, therefore, it had absorbed all the natural seasonings. The famous Portuguese style BBQ Chicken was served with their very own “Toma La Piri Piri Sauce” and a choice of sides. The chicken was slow-cooked over an open fire charcoal pit for the authentic Portuguese tasting chicken! We chose a hearty salad simply tossed in oil and vinegar in addition to these fascinating potatoes. We had discerned that the potatoes has been roasted in a tomato sauce, but how did they get every potato to be exactly the same size?

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For the second platter of food, we were in a real pickle: we didn’t want to miss out on the Portuguese potatoes but we were also hoping for hand-cut fries like the ones we enjoyed while we were away. Alas the fries were frozen so we didn’t miss out on any delicious potatoness (not a word, I know). There were two pork chops on the platter, so we could have easily share a half pork chop dinner and a 1/4 chicken dinner. But the succulent chops had also been marinated over night and cooked over live charcoal, so we didn’t protest too much.

After our early dinner, we flew to Halifax, rented a car and drove 3 1/2 hours to Charlottetown. D really appreciated the left overs for a late evening snack so we wouldn’t be tempted to fill up on junk food.

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Our server mentioned that their pastries were made fresh daily and we knew that Portuguese confections were exceptional. We couldn’t purchase these Pastel de Nata in pairs so we settled for a half dozen. We groaned as our mouths remembered the flaky pastry and the luxurious filling. D enjoyed another one en route to PEI and then there were exactly three to share with our Charlottetown host.

That first stop commenced a long weekend of amazing eating.

Kath’s quote: “The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry.” -Antonin Carême

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Love never fails.

 

 

 

Ascari Enoteca (Toronto)

October26

I felt badly that I had missed their anniversary. When they married over thirty years ago, there was a very small gathering of parents and siblings but we were one of two couple of friends. I realized that the significance of my visiting on that weekend was not lost on them when R said sincerely “Thanks for being at our wedding” for I stood beside M as her maid of honour. The night of their anniversary, I was at another restaurant across town with my friends from FBC 2016. They were at a little spot in their neighbourhood. The next evening they cooked filet mignon’s with all the trimmings. So my opportunity to celebrate with them came on my last evening in town. They suggested Ascari Enoteca, not far from where they lived. They had visited there before. Ascari Enoteca is named for famous Italian race car driver Alberto Ascari. The Enoteca (wine depository) was celebrating half price wine night and the little spot was jammed with Monday night diners. In fact, I could hardly follow our conversation over the din. This did not embarrass me as friends R & M are half a year older than me and our conversations often centre on a part of our body which is no longer working. ascari1 M had told me about an item from the list “In Compagnia” (things to share) that they liked to order. Broccolini Fritti was lightly battered broccolini crowned with lemon zest and pecorino cheese. The batter was light and salty like a tempura batter and the citrus and cheese was so satisfying that I tipped the serving bowl onto my side plate and scooped it up with a spoon. R made me perfectly comfortable with my brazen table manners by saying that a friend of his had done exactly the same. ascari2 When we each ordered our pasta, R selected another sharable of Cavoletti di Bruxelles. The shaved Brussel sprouts were tossed with guanciale (an Italian style bacon made from pork jowls), garlic chips and toasted walnuts. They too were so satisfying that I plan on getting my mandolin out and shaving some Brussel sprouts sometime very soon. ascari3 M chose a salad of charred romaine hearts that she was happy to share with us. Dubbed Insalata Americana, the boats of blackened romaine were filled with oven-dried tomato, tiny slivers of radish and a creamy oregano dressing. Sunflower seeds and fried shallots added extra crunch. ascari5 I was eager to have a taste of M’s Linquine alla Puttanesca with the traditional ingredients of tomato, anchovy, caper and olives. She liked the unusual addition of smoked cod. My taste of the latter revealed an overwhelming salty and smoky taste. I was glad that I had not been tempted by her choice and tucked into the evening’s special of Tajarin Ai Fungi. ascari4 My favourite pastas are lightly tossed with a few simple ingredients reminiscent of our recent time in Tuscany. Fresh and delicate Tajarin noodles (like spaghettini but square not round) had been tossed with beurre fondue (melted butter), tarragon, chanterelles and “heavens be praised” truffle oil!  We have travelled through many regions of Italy but not yet Piedmont where Tajarin noodles are a specialty. Each spin of the pasta was concluded with a spearing of chanterelles. The fungi (mushrooms) complemented the musky dab of truffle oil. Simply divine. We washed everything down with a wine of R’s choosing-a light and slightly acidic Basadone from Casetto Di Verduno. The wine also hails from Piedmont, so it was a tremendous choice. Upon further research, this is what I discovered: “The Barbera d’Alba label has a drawing of poppies which are called Basadone in local dialect (papavero in Italian). Basadone in dialect also means a little kiss – local tradition has it that Pelaverga is an aphrodisiac!” ascari6 We concluded the evening with a lemon pudding and three spoons, remembering a time when they as a couple took me under their wings and provided companionship after a bumpy time in my life. Although my timing was a couple of days off for this dinner, it was a lovely celebration of their love, marriage and our long lasting friendship. Ascari Enoteca Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Kath’s quote: “You may have the universe if I may have Italy”.-Giuseppe Verdi img_0184 Love never fails.

More Niagara Wine Tours

November27

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While touring the area of St. David’s bench and dining at Ravine Vineyards, it was also recommended to check out this amazing new build that is being lovingly recreated as a Tuscan villa.  Since we were taking this little sojourn as consolation for not being able to swing some time in Tuscany, this was a very pleasant surprise indeed.  As much as I love tasting the wines at the vineyards, it is the stories of the wine families that most intrigue me and this story was one of love and family.

“Owned and operated exclusively by the Colaneri family, Colaneri Estate Winery opened its doors to the public in 2010.  It is a testament to the Colaneri family legacy, both in Niagara-on-the-Lake and in their homeland of Frosolone, Italy, where the rather enchanting story of how this winery came to be begins.  When Joseph Colaneri set eyes on Maria it was love.  They soon wed and had two sons, Mike and Nick.  The possibilities of the new world beckoned and in 1967 the family moved to Canada, eventually acquiring a 40-acre vineyard, which ‘Ma and Pa’ Colaneri lovingly tended to.  The boys married sisters, Angie and Betty, they had children and they all settled in the vineyard, the place that would eventually house the winery that would be dedicated to the Colaneri family and ancestors.”

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In a short drive, we felt like we had left the golden villas of Italy and had suddenly arrived in the French wine country.  I had met Michelle Bosc of Chateau des Charmes at the Canadian Food Bloggers conference last spring in Hockley Valley and just before we were departing for Toronto she sent me a note telling me about their wine store opening in the GTA.  Unfortunately, I was going to have to miss the urban store because we were on our way to Stratford and Niagara on Lake, when of course it dawned on me that we were traveling to the place where it all began for the Bosc family.

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Peter was our knowledgeable guide of the Chateau des Charmes estate and told us fascinating stories of weather and grapes and even roses, particularly how the growing of them is intricately entwined with the growing of grapes.

“Château des Charmes was founded in 1978 by Paul Bosc, a fifth generation French winegrower. Paul and his young family arrived in Niagara in the 1960’s with the idea that growing our own grapes was the best way to make fine wine.”

We were so intrigued by Paul’s story that we bought a book later that day entitled “Niagrara’s Wine Visionaries” by Linda Bramble to read more about his fascinating wine journey.   Above all, we were impressed with the Bosc’s family love of the land and their efforts to use technology for the good of the grapes, the soil and the wine-growing region.

“We believe we are custodians of the land. From the beginning we have been committed to using sustainable practices and are charter members of Sustainable Winegrowing Ontario. Paul and his team are meticulous. They use modern science and a lot of TLC to coax the best out of every vine. And with more than 30 vintages in our vineyards we think we now know which varieties grow best in which spot. But there is always more to learn.”

Kath’s quote: “Wine is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”-Benjamin Franklin

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Love-that is all.

 

 

 

 

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