Archive for 2014

Ellie Goulding & HAIM @ Massey Hall (Rdio & TIFF)

"Why don't you be the artist and make me out of clay? Why don't you be the writer and decide the words I say?"
- Ellie Goulding, The Writer
On September 6th, Rdio and TIFF presented a live concert featuring Ellie Goulding and HAIM. Checked it out with C - was overall a pretty awesome evening!

It always comes to this:

There's just never enough time.

Bannock: Summerlicious 2014

For the last day of Summerlicious 2014, D and I decided to have lunch at Bannock (401 Bay St.), the Oliver & Bonacini restaurant branded as "Canadian comfort food." Although it was D's first time there, I'd previously been (and blogged about it) for Winterlicious 2014 and brunch. Bannock tends to be consistently good, so it's usually a pretty safe bet. 
To start, we both opted for the Iced Bloody Caesar Soup (Montreal steak spice, clams, celery), which turned out spicier than expected, but was still really good. As far as soups go, it was quite interesting in that: a) it was a cold soup, and b) it's a Caesar. (No vodka though!)
For the main, I went with the Roast Peameal Bacon Melt (Bannock sauerkraut, cheddar, smoked tomato marmalade), which was also excellent. Bannock uses thick slices of (Canadian?) bacon, it's great. The chips are always fantastic to have on the side as well. This was slightly spicy, but a good level of spicy.

D went for the Spelt Fusilli (mushroom fauxlognese, spinach greens, thunder oak Gouda) - he said it was fantastic as well.  
To finish it all off, we both had the O&B Artisan Croissant Bread Pudding (spiced chocolate, peanut butter, kaffir lime). The chocolate sauce was very fluffy, and complemented the texture of the bread pudding really well (although we were both confused about the croissant part). Neither of us detected the peanut butter either. The garnishing fruits were really fresh, and overall it was pretty yummy.

We also both really liked the decor; it has a very rustic/homey Canadian vibe. I thought the vacation moose with parasol figurines were hilarious. Another successful Summerlicious meal!

Bangkok Garden: Summerlicious 2014

Since today was the second last day of Summerlicious, S and I decided to go for lunch. Initially we were planning on going to T|Bar, but it turned out that they don't do Summerlicious lunch on weekends (same with Cafe La Gaffe, which C and I had originally tried for before ending up at Midi Bistro last weekend), so we walked over to Matagali, which was closed altogether. Ultimately we ended up at Bangkok Garden (18 Elm St.) - which, ironically, my roommate at the time and I had tried to check out last year for Summerlicious on a Sunday, and they'd been closed. 
We both started with the Mango Salad to start with (mango, shallots, coriander, red pepper, mint, fish sauce and peanuts). I was a little surprised upon tasting peanuts in the salad, and S made fun of me for ordering by only looking at the titles, and not actually reading the menu. In my defence, I was hungry, okay. Luckily all the courses arrived in a very timely fashion.
Then we both had the Basil Beef Stir-Fry as the main (flat-iron beef, vegetables, chili garlic & oyster sauce, served with jasmine rice). Before ordering, we'd been joking around about how tears may or may not be involved, depending on how spicy the food was; it didn't end up being spicy at all (I'd asked for mine to be mild, not sure if both had been made such though).
On dessert we finally diverged - he went for the Coconut Tapioca and I went for the Banana Fritters. Both were pretty good. Overall, the food was decent; it wasn't spectacular or anything, but good enough to fill you up.

The decor was probably the coolest part though. The restaurant doesn't look that big from the outside, but once you get in, it's actually quite large. There are two primary dining areas: the front half is airy and bright, very appropriate for brunch. The back half is actually separated into two floors, a ground level and an upstairs balcony area, which is a bit more Thai regal in terms of decor and has ambient lighting. (Which is also why the photos above weren't captured in the greatest light.) Interesting atmosphere for sure, and with all the plants in front of the ceiling-level windows and the rain outside as a backdrop today, there was definitely a bit of a Thai jungle vibe going on.

Midi Bistro: Summerlicious 2014

This year Summerlicious is taking place from July 4th to 20th. With major food events in Toronto like Summerlicious and Winterlicious, it's always hit-or-miss. Sometimes you'll find a fantastic restaurant with great food (and for a great price!) that you may not have thought of trying otherwise; other times, you'll walk into a place expecting something delicious, only to be disappointed by a sub-par meal. Luckily, Midi Bistro (168 McCaul St.) definitely fell into the former category of being fantastic for us this time around.
C and I decided to grab some lunch before heading to an Irish pub for the FIFA World Cup Final match between Germany and Argentina, and ended up at Midi. To start, she got the Tomato Salad (mixed greens, tomato, bocconcini, olive oil & balsamic reduction) and I got the Beef Carpaccio (with caspers, Asiago, lemon & olive oil).

We were both really impressed by how well-prepared both appetizers were. The beef carpaccio was especially great; it was just the right level of thin (pounded?), not drippy with rawness, and the flavours blended together wonderfully.
On the server's recommendation, we both ordered the Seafood Pasta as the main - fettuccine with bay scallops, black tiger shrimp, roasted red peppers, spinach and white wine rosé sauce. It was good, for sure, but the appetizer and desert were spectacular, so...
We decided to order different deserts so that we could share and each try both. I went for the vanilla & cardamom crème brûlée, while she decided to tackle the poached* pears (served with vanilla ice cream & chocolate sauce).
Both were extremely worthy choices. The crème brûlée was perfectly crisped on top, and luxuriously smooth beneath. Probably one of the best crème brûlées either of us have ever had - absolutely divine. The pears were pretty close to perfect too - just the right degree of substance, enough texture to be interesting, and not overly sweet. The ice cream and chocolate were the perfect complement.

In addition to the scrumptious food, our server was very nice, and the atmosphere was decidedly cute in a quaint way. All in all, an awesome meal. Would definitely recommend trying Midi.  
*The menu actually lists this desert item as "parched pears" but presumably that's a typo...

First Night in Paris

Because I'm feeling nostalgic about Europe, because I didn't finish re-capping my summer adventures from 2012, because I finally found stracciatella gelato in Toronto, and because it's been exactly two years to the day, I figured I'd do a bit of reminiscing.
July 12th fell on a Thursday back in 2012. L dropped me off at the train station after work (timing was tight - she had to run back to the office right as we were about to leave to grab some documents proving that she was single in preparation for her upcoming marriage to her German beau. #internationalmarriageproblems? - but luckily we made it with a bit of time to spare). As we zipped down the Autobahn, she told me about how nervous a bunch of the other people in the office were about her driving. Yeah...
The Thalys train takes just over three hours to reach Paris from Cologne. The bright red and pink seats were a little jarring. And because Thalys services France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, all the announcements were made four times: in English, French, German and Dutch.
It was already dark by the time we reached Paris Nord station, since it was past 10pm by this point. A few months prior to this, a few of us had been joking late one night about how it'd be pretty cool to spend Bastille Day in Paris. That toss-up plan was about to materialize - S and L were set to arrive in Paris the following day.
Since I was spending the first night in Paris solo, I ended up CouchSurfing. By the looks of Google Maps' directions, the host's place wasn't that far from the station, so I figured I'd just walk. Upon exiting the station though, there was an unfortunate discovery that it was pouring rain. It was still really nice to see Paris by night though, and my CS host and I had some fantastic conversations that night. All in all, an excellent introduction to Paris.
*Street art photo previously featured as part of this post.

Burger Week 2014

Burger Week is an annual event in Toronto wherein various restaurants offer up $5 burgers. This year it took place from May 28th to 31st, and was a pretty fantastic run.
Big Smoke Burger (Eaton Centre) - Blazing Pineapple and onion rings. To be honest, the burger wasn't anything to write home about (the glazed pineapple came this-close to being sickeningly sweet), but the onion rings were fantastic. Perfectly crunchy on the outside, but somehow still crisp and super-fresh on the inside, these were among the best onion rings I've had. Went with C.

The Rude Boy (397 Roncesvalles Ave.) - Just looked up what the Burger Week special was, and apparently it consisted of "Brisket/chuck patty with house-cured tongue pastrami, bacon, Thousand Island dressing, Gruyere, and Rude Boy sauerkraut." This was pretty good, and the house chips and pickle strip were wonderful additions. The Parm Fries on the left (which are "triple cooked thick hand cut fries, herbs, shaved parm, jalapeno ketchup") were a wonderful complement too. Went with two of the guys from work, T & Z.

Burger Brats (254 Adelaide St. W) - Can't actually remember which of their burgers this was, but it was delicious. From the photo, it doesn't seem like much to look at, but the flavour was just spot-on. Went with L & S - we cut it dangerously close to closing time (we got there at like 9:50pm), but it was so worth it.

Food in Toronto: 2

Not ready to write about all the major changes and events that have happened over the last couple of weeks/months yet, so here's another barrage of backlogged food photos (yay!) from various student-budget-friendly places around Toronto. (Part 1 can be found here.)

 Valens (19 Baldwin St.), Summerlicious 2013.
Went with the then-roommates M & J.
Top to bottom: tuna bruschetta on French baguette, pan roasted chicken breast stuffed with butternut squash and topped with strawberry cream sauce, strawberry panna cotta.

 Say Cheese (337 Bloor St. W.)
They have a fantastic selection of "gourmet" grilled cheese sandwiches. 
Photo from my first time there, with L.

 Somewhere on Queen St. W. for M's birthday last year - Oyster Boy, maybe?

 The Firkin on King (461 King St. W.). 
Butter Chicken Pie. Sounds like a strange combination, but was surprisingly good.

 Some sushi place in Baldwin Village.
Impromptu, went with M & S after helping S film stuff for her student group.

 Some seafood place in Baldwin Village (either Hua Sang or Wah Sing).
With M, M & S.

 The Bedford Academy (36 Prince Arthur Avenue)
Yay for patio food. This was delicious. Went after the frosh week concert (2013) with M. M, S, & A.

 Eki-Bento on Yonge - looks like they've since closed.

Sambuca Grill (21 Baldwin St.)
Went for S's 21st birthday, along with M & M.
From top to bottom (from prix-fixe menu): mussels, jambalaya, tiramisu.

Food in Toronto: 1

Confession time: I'm one of those people who takes photos of their food (sometimes). But I don't have Instagram, so people have asked me a number of times what I end up doing with these food photos. (A lot of the time, nothing - they just sit there on my phone or laptop.) Since I'm stranded/procrastinating right now anyway, I ended up going through some old photo archives in search of food pictures, and figured I'd put in a shout-out for some Toronto restaurants that are student-budget-friendly, so here we go:
Salad King. Classic. This particular photo was from when I went with L, a family friend whom I've known since I was like five years old. She was in town on co-op, and it was really nice to catch up, especially since it had been a couple years since we'd last met up.
Harbord House (150 Harbord St.) - Chicken Pot Pie. Delicious. A had his sister come visit, so a bunch of us joined them for a late dinner.
Jimmy the Greek at the Eaton Centre.
Ramen Raijin (3 Gerrard St. East) - pretty sure this is the first time I tried ramen. S's birthday, also with M and A.
Just Desserts (578 Yonge St.) - they have an excellent selection of desserts.
Don Don Izakaya (130 Dundas St. West) - mackerel, maybe? There was a ton of food ordered, but I took a photo of this because they literally came out with a blow torch and smoked it right in front of us, which was pretty cool.
Dessert Trends Bistro (154 Harbord St.) - chicken pie: scrumptious. We went for brunch for J's birthday, and they had an excellent selection of both food and desserts. The atmosphere is super cute as well. Additional desert photo can be found on this old post.
Pickle Barrel.
Sushi Shop.
BnB Toronto - Bistro and Bar (123 Queen St. West, inside the Sheraton Centre) - Bison Burger and some sort of brussel sprouts side. This was part of Burger Week.
Black Skirt (974 College St.) - can't recall exactly what this is, but it may have been the veal panini. Went with J, M, S and S on J's suggestion; the place has a very unique atmosphere (very homey/rustic), and pretty good food too. The cannoli I got for desert was yummy as well.
Fairly sure that this is Santouka Ramen (91 Dundas St. East), although I'm not entirely certain.
Yakitori Bar (1 Baldwin St.) - Baldwin Village has a bunch of really cute places to eat. Went with J and M on a weeknight during the summer. Portions tend to be on the "healthier" side, in that they fill you up just the right amount at the time when you finish eating, but you'll probably get hungry again later during the night. Food is good though.
Ryoji [Ramen & Izakay] (690 College St.) - Taco Rice. Located in Little Italy, they specialize in food from Okinawa. Went during the summer with M, A and S. (Was literally looking at the menu just now and noticed that they have fried cream cheese wontons. Wow, will have to get some next time.)
To-ne Sushi (414 Queen St. West). Usually a pretty safe bet for sushi. Some interesting music choices. The staff are quite nice as well.
And as a bonus, a photo from the first time I went to Dark Horse (with J and M). The quest to find the best hot chocolate in the city is still ongoing. 
So... are you hungry now? ;)

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