Pray Tell

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Walking in the door of Pray Tell at College and Ossington I think I’m in a wine bar.  Dimmed lighting, 80’s modern decor and an abundance of greenery defy the snack bar concept I’m about to explore.

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The idea of a restaurant where you can have a few drinks and some nibbles instead of a full-fledged meal is not embraced nearly enough in the city. After the success of sister restaurant Track and Field owners Nickie Minshall and Dustin Keating decided they wanted something more food related and brought in Chef Sonia Mondino (Note Bene, Patois, Home of the Brave, Porchetta and Co.)

Travelling across Asia at the time Mondino had yet to star in a kitchen as head chef and knew this was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.  Passionate not only about the food, Mondino cares just as much about her staff who she considers family. Her travels play a huge role in her seasonally changing menu.

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Crispy Dumplings are served with an au jus (from the braised short ribs) and they are exactly how you want your dumplings to taste. The crispy addition of the potato starch is both addictive and mind-blowing.

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Roasted Garlic in a Clementine oil, with honey and olives requires multiple requests for more sourdough bread as you want to devour every last drop.

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Mondino’s signature dish is by far the perfection that is her pizza pockets.  This college student staple has been updated using lemon herb oil alongside meat Bolognese and lot’s of melty cheese. A vegetarian option is also available.

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While at first glance it appeared wine bar-esque, Pray Tell is actually a brilliant spot to get a killer cocktail or pint of beer. Bar manager Max Brunke has created a perfect accompaniment to Mondino’s ever changing, outstanding menu. Soups, heartier mains and more are slowly finding their place.

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Pray Tell is one of those places that draws you in time and again.  A spot for a first date, late night snack, after work tipple or even a moment of peace on your own the warmth Mondino exudes to everyone through her hospitality and food makes everyone feel at home.

Pray Tell

838 College Street

Angelo’s Coal Fired Pizza

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With its first franchise settled comfortably in Boston, Massachusetts,  s brings to Toronto the provinces first coal fired style pizza, nestles in a small but well located plaza a stone throw from tourist heavy St. Lawrence Market.

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While the visitors to the city will enjoy a brief respite over steadfast Italian American cuisine, it’s the locals that will surely benefit from this thin crusted, crispy pie.

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Coal fired pizzas means a cracker like dough with little rise and charcoaled bottom all cooked in a super hot oven reaching temperatures over 900 degrees. Versions include a classic margherita of gooey cheese, pungent basil and drippy sauce and then toppings escalate into adventurous picks like crispy duck and shaved truffles.

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Don’t get hung up on just the pizzas. Starters include a substantial caprese salad, additive polentas fries and gluttonous cheese dripping arancini.

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Pasta choices are also abundant and perfect for sharing. Again classics like spaghetti and meatballs are peppered through a list that includes orecchiette with sausage and chick peas or strozzapreti with veal ragu.

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If you have room for more don’t skip out on dessert. Caramel pear gelato is a refreshing apertif and is just one delectable sweet ending among bombolones and cake.

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Toronto is not short on new and unique pizza styles and creative toppings. Anyone who loves a good quality slice will find exactly that at Angelo’s. Enjoy the full menu experience and you’ll have found so much more.

Angelo’s Coal Fired Pizza

106 Front St. E

647-347-2625

Easter Brunch in Toronto

Title: Easter Brunch in the City

 

Easter can be an wonderful time to get together with love ones and celebrates the holiday. Maybe it’s a time for traditions like a crazy fun Easter egg hunt for the kiddies and massive dinners for the grownups. Let me help you out by taking a load off your plate this weekend and maybe introduce you to a new tradition Easter Brunch in the city.

*Image from Facebook

*Image from Facebook

 

Casa Loma

It’s no wonder this event books up fast on Sunday March 27th.  Feast on meats, cheeses, seafood, pastries and much more in the grand library of the castle.  Afterwards wander the grounds imaging you are the lord or lady of the estate. Adults-$60 and includes Prosecco and mimosa, Children (4-13) $45.

*Image from Facebook

*Image from Facebook

Cafe Boulud

Offering a 3 course meal for $75 this isn’t your standard prix fixe of pick between option A or Option B.  Choose from 11 different starters like fruit parfait, oysters, charcuterie or even steak tartare, 13 Entrees ranging from pancakes to chicken and waffles to leg of lamb and a gorgeous selection of desserts. Reservations are recommended.

*Image from Facebook

*Image from Facebook

Miku

Ever thought about having Sushi for Easter Brunch?  Miku Toronto offers an unique experience with their Japanese influenced menu that includes Chicken Nanban Eggs Benedict and bistro steak and soy marinated eggs.  A meal for the adventurous. Adults $45, Children (10 and under) $15.

*Image from Facebook

*Image from Facebook

Colette Grand Cafe

Celebrate Easter Brunch the Parisian way.  Packed with French delicacies and decadent entrees be sure to watch out for a mini egg macaron. Adults $75.

*Image from Facebook

*Image from Facebook

The Drake Hotel

For those who can’t make it on Sunday but also have the  Monday off can still get their brunch on by heading to the Drake Hotel for their annual holiday brunch on the 18th.  Call for reservations.

*Image from Facebook

*Image from Facebook

The Old Mill

A massive buffet of roast beef and ham, salads, cheeses, seafood, pasta and even kid friendly options like chicken fingers and French fries The Old Mill is the perfect solution for the whole family. Word on the street is a certain floppy eared and fluffy tailed guest will be attendance. Various day and evening seating times are available. Adults $47.95/$49.95, Children $24.95.

*Image from Facebook

*Image from Facebook

America Restaurant

If you can avoid talking politics, this O&B restaurant in the Trump hotel may be a good option. Offering up  shared plates and small bites style dining of Easter classics and brunch specialities, it’s an all you can eat affair. Adults $55, Children (4-12) $22, Under 4 eat for free.

*Image from Facebook

*Image from Facebook

The King Edward Hotel

Smoothie bars, cold stations full of meats and cheeses and three different roast meats abound in the Vanity Fair Ballroom at the King Eddie. A short window of seating for this high end gourmet brunch is between 10:30am to 2:00pm and will book up fast. Adults $85, Children $43

*Image from Facebook

*Image from Facebook

Globe Bistro

The most affordable of the bunch, Globe Bistro is offering a prix fixe menu ($29 for adults, $10 for children 12 and under) with items like Smoked Trout, potato leek soup, Wellington rib eye and strawberry rhubarb crumble for dessert.  Kids will also receive treats from the Easter bunny.

Bar Hop Brew Co.

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Just around the corner from its flagship location on King Street, owners Robert Pingitore and James Macdonald have opened Barhop Brew Co; it’s massive, creative big sister.  Occupying three stories on Peter Street fringing of the club district, the same extensive list of craft beers remains the backbone of this successful franchise however the kitchen has evolved and the sheer size of the space has redefined the idea of pub dining.

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The first floor has seating for up to 72 people while providing USB ports and wall sockets for those needing both a literal and libational recharge. The centerpiece, as it should be, is the main bar offering a regularly rotation of 36 plus craft beers pulled from a stunning cast iron draft tower.  An ambitious selection of fine bourbons, whiskeys and scotch allows for a creative cocktail list while directly behind the bar a metal caged area is primed for onsite brewing and proofing.

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Opening a restaurant with so much real estate requires a lot of patience and foresight. Pingitore and MacDonald have kept things in check by finishing the remaining floors in steps; the 90 seat TV-free dining room is slated for late Winter/early Spring and a summer reveal of their 100 plus person rooftop patio.

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Further setting itself apart from the original the owners have brought in head chef Mark Cutara formally from Cowbell to elevate the food beyond typical gastropub fare. Offering snacks, salads, sandwiches, mains and shared mains Cutara shows why his knowledge of the whole animal, nose to tail movement is so valuable. Almost everything is made in house from his own pickles and beef pepperettes to the Pig’s Head nachoes, a customer favorite.

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Potato churros with Nori salt and lemon aioli and scotch olives, green olives encased in Italian sausage, pimento cheese and breaded are outstanding shareables and make sure you ask you server for a perfect pint to accompany them.  The menu is heavily curated to pair well with what’s on tap and their knowledgeable staff will set you up for a great experience.

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 With the burgeoning Craft beer scene expanding Torontonians taste buds Barhop Brew Co. is a perfect spot to supply adventurous brews and intoxicating eats.

 

Bar Hop Brew Co.

137 Peter St.

647-348-1137

 

Burdock

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With Toronto rapidly increasing its craft beer clout, you would think Burdock is just another brewery/gastro pub.  With newly opened Mascot Brewery, a April 2016 opening for Henderson Brewery and brewers like Lost Cause taking over taps across the city you may worry about an over saturation hops and barley. Fortunately for Burdock they have an ace up their sleeve.

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Let’s start with the basics. Burdock is first and foremost a brewery.  Relying on the experts of Brewery Operations Manager and Co-Owner Matt Park, this small space of gleaming silver tanks is putting out 9 to 10 creative, high quality beers.  Available at a few restaurants and by bottle in their small shop it is worth the trip to Bloordale just to try the creativeness of their beers. Sours, wheats, pale ales, you name it and they are doing something adventurous with the style.

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With the beer in expert hands it’s no surprise the restaurant is too.  A narrow space  that can seat up to 70, with a 8-10 person communal table,  the dim lighting is brightened with drop fixtures and mason jar centerpieces. Simple decor, fresh plants and refurbished mosaic tiles from the previous occupants allows guests to focus undistracted on the dishes coming from the kitchen.

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Helmed by Chef Jeremy Dennis (Woodlot, Chantecler), the menu is small but changes on an almost daily basis.  Example in point, the food I tried while visiting is probably not on the menu anymore. As a former Woodlot baker, Dennis has brought to Burdock the gorgeous fresh bread that makes his former work place famous as well as a creative edge that his new residency encourages wholly. His focuses on local, fresh ingredients caters to all food preferences.

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Despite the stellar beer and outstanding food Burdock could get lost in the Brewpub wilderness if not for their final piece of the puzzle. When Burdock took over the space from a former Portuguese chicken joint they split the space in half.  And through a door to the left of the dining room is a brand new, expertly custom built music hall. Booker’s Charlotte Cornfield and Adrian Underhill are also musicians who understand exactly what works in live venues and this acoustically isolated space is a performers dream. Currently booking around 5 shows a week up to 90 people can rock out while diners next door don’t hear a thing.

I will never be one to say there are too many craft brewpubs in city especially when creative menus and spaces continue to be the standard. And whether you go for the music, food or beer you should definitely check out Burdock

Burdock

1184 Bloor St West

416-546-4033

Bobbie Sue’s Mac & Cheese

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Occupying an unassuming corner on a stretch of Ossington Avenue that boasts the likes of The Foxley, Union, Rock Lobster and The Saint is a tiny wooden walk-up with shack-like proportions called Bobbie Sue’s. There are no tables or chairs here. Instead this wood covered window opens up and under the watchful (painted) eye of buildings’ bovine namesake everyone’s comfort food dreams are answered.

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Brother’s Frederic and Nicholas Laliberté,  and Fred’s wife Katie have an experienced history with all things carbohydrates, sauce and cheese as owners of another popular single subject restaurant Poutini’s . Getting to the heart of peoples stomachs is what they know best.  By using the tiny space attached to their sister restaurant Hawker Bar they not only have the convenience of location and storage overflow but a mutual love of all things gooey.

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Using Fred’s perfected béchamel base, this diminutive space boasts big flavours with a perfect variety of meat, veggie and cheese combinations as exuberant as the creators themselves. Nostalgic Camp Mac offers up out the much loved cut up hot dogs our mother’s used to make while the Carbonara fancies up your palate with high styling pancetta and egg yolk.

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Curry in a Hurry and the Blue Buffalo Chicken are easy choices for those wanting to spice up their lives while vegan’s can equally enjoy some cheesy goodness along with their carnivore friends.

This unique eclectic space works simply because it they keep their menu compact yet diverse.  For anyone having a craving for belly soothing comfort food Bobbie Sue’s is only a walk up away.

Bobbie Sue’s Mac & Cheese

162 Ossinton Avenue #3

Toronto Ontario

(647) 352-2762

Bean And Baker Malt Shop

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Nestled on the corner of a busy intersection of Christie Pits bustling with bike lanes and city streets is a retro soda fountain malt shop straight out the 1950’s.  Imagined and realized by the husband and wife team of Liezel and Brennan Anderson once you take a step through the front door your senses are rewarded with old school decor, hip hopping fifties era rock ‘n’ roll and retro desserts and beverages to beguile your senses.

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For those who revere nostalgia the narrow diners’ cherry red counters and checkerboard tiled floor are a perfect backdrop for the charming soda jerk uniforms, complete with bow ties and hats. Even The Toronto Vintage Society have offer assistance to the Anderson’s at finding the most authentic items for their shop.

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Liezel, an accomplished pastry chef, delights in the creation of many of the restaurants decadent desserts, laboring long and hard to create the perfect butter tart or slice of cake or delectable hand pie. Each day only a certain number of hand pies are available, making them perfect to grab for the commute home or weekend bike ride.

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Maple Bacon Butter Tart

The Old School Lunch Pie is a sugary, teeth shattering example of self indulgence with graham cracker crust, strawberry jam, chocolate ganache and peanut butter, perfect for anyone who loves their desserts.

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Old School Lunch Pie

With limited seating and tranquil Bickford park right across the street the menu caters to quick drop ins and the to-go crowd.  It’s an ideal location for a first date where two straws are a popular as the shakes they go in but a quick exit can be accomplished if things get awkward.

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Quality is incredibly important to these first time shop owners.  Using the highest quality equipment they produce incredible sodas and shakes.  Brennan, a former barista and coffee expert has a keen sense of flavors and uses it to create outstanding homemade syrups for their soda (lemon Rickey, hibiscus, gramp’s ginger, root n’ cola, real orange, vanilla cream and cherry cola). Skillfully using spiral bar spoons the syrup is poured into a glass of the purest soda water they can create, preventing agitation of the ice. The result is a concentrated, refreshingly flavorful drink .

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And if you want to go a little crazy that same soda can be garnished with a scoop of ice cream, whipped cream and proverbial cherry to be presented as the prettiest soda float around. And once the ice cream is slid carefully into the beverage, the need for the bottom plate becomes essential.

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Milkshakes or Malt shakes are by the far a popular choice at Bean and Baker.  After trying various ways to create the perfect malt flavor the final product is a thick, creamy froth of ice cream and milk.  Being considerate of their neighborhood and customers, a vegan and lactose free option is available allowing for whole families to enjoy these treats together. The stainless steel shake cup accompanies your glass so it can be topped up with every last drop of milk or malt shake made.

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If sweets are not your thing savory pies and sausage rolls are also available while Brennan, with his keen coffee sense has created a house blend of beans that produces a superb tasty coffee or latte.

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Nowhere else in Toronto can you get an experience of stepping back in time, to an easier life of soda fountains and milk shakes, Chuck Berry and shiny linoleum like that at Bean and Baker Malt Shop. With attentive staff and owners wanting to bring you the most authentic experience you will be begging for a shop like this in your neighborhood.  Until then Liezel and Brennan look forward to seeing you.

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Bean and Baker Malt Shop

326 Harbord Street, Toronto

416-536-SODA (7632)

 

 

Duggan’s Brewery

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If you are going to take a slow and steady approach to opening a new brew pub/restaurant you want Mike Duggan at the helm.  With a long history in brewing exceptional beers (Duggan was a founder of the Mill Street brand) and personal phone directory of just the perfect friends to have (Consulting Chef Rene Chauvin) this bare bones designed restaurant, shop and brewery has all the ingredients of success.

With a 155 seat capacity the space heavily relies on industrial chic touches of wood topped tables and lots of metal fixtures. An onsite store allows you to buy most of the beers available on tap including several like my favorite the Parkdale Bomber bottled in the highly popular growler.  Unisex bathrooms and a big screen television attract a diverse crowd of Parkdale regulars and out of town visitors.

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This simplistic approach is also evident in the kitchen.  Sous Chef Eric Snidal gave into the early requirement of the prerequisite tacos by offering a daily special when the restaurant first started out as merely a pop up and has since morphed the menu into an eclectic mix of bar favorites wings and ribs, and by listening to the largely vegan nieghborhood and creating stellar vegetarian dishes even carnivores would enjoy like this mixed grain salad with raspberries, pomegranate, and cucumber.

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Beer drinkers extraordinaire can enjoy standard snacks like candied bacon, chicken crackle and spicy crisp wings available as jerk, lemon pepper, cajun and hot ‘n’ honey.

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While the tacos are long gone from the original menu their replacement the chicken enchiladas are easily a favorite including all the flavors from the missed tacos and rolling them into a small, compact delicious bite of flavor.  With 40 day cured beef which Duggan’s believes is the best around beginning to take off on the menu, diners can snack away or stay for a meal all while enjoying some pints.  Regular additions and subtractions as the seasons change keeps the menu new and fresh.  And if someone at your table isn’t a beer fan, wine and spirits are readily available.

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With future plans including more interior decorating touches, a cool basement space and a rare Parkdale patio Duggan’s is slowly gaining traction as a must visit Brewery and Restaurant. And with smart leadership, a wealth of beer knowledge and a kitchen staff excited to experiment it will quickly become “regular’s” place to be.

Duggan’s Brewery

1346 Queen Street West

(416)588-1086

Mata Petisco Bar

For the last several weeks I have been watching Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as the group behind Mata Petisco Bar worked diligently at getting their restaurant open in time for the World Cup of Soccer in Brazil.  I continued to follow along as they ironed out the kinks with soft openings for fans looking for a new and hip place to watch their favored teams battle it out on the field.  I drooled over their menu and photos and counted down the days to the official media launch but not for the same reason above.  I’ve been waiting patiently because back in June I got to taste this at Luminato’s Taste of the Beach.

Luminato's Taste of the Beach

Silky, rich coconut gelato with cinnamon sugar grilled pineapple.  An absolute to die for, can’t get it off the brain decadent dessert.  And knowing that they created this I knew I would be in for a tasting experience unlike anything I’ve had before.

Bordering on the edge of the up and coming food scene on Roncesvalles and the all things new and cool of Parkdale West, Mata Petisco Bar continues with the popular Toronto trend of small plate sharing. With a limited wine list ( three reds and three whites), locally favored beers and a small compact menu, the brain childs behind this space are left with plenty of room to explore and experiment. A mixture of old and new blend together in an interior best described as a pop culturesque cantina with beaten wood finishes, bright neon lights, mosiac tiles and antique signage-turned wall coverings.

Mata Petisco Bar

Coming together after previous appointments at Salt Wine Bar, back of the house maestros Felipe Faccioli, Patrick Fraser, and Tulio Lessa create dishes that touch on Canadian classics with heavy roots in South American cuisine while upfront Steve Fernandes and Sharath Dwarkanathan keep all the fine details running smoothly and diners well soused with cocktails like the classic Caipirinha and the fresh and citrusy Pisco Sour.

Lime Caipirinha and Pisco Sour

Lime Caipirinha and Pisco Sour

Coming out of the kitchen, I was treated to a seemingly never ending sampling of dishes many with never before tried ingredients starting with these crispy Cheese Breads and fried lobster pastels.  It was served with a Requeijão Cheese Sauce that I wanted to take home and spread on my morning bagel.

Mata Petisco Bar

Cheese Bread and Lobster Pastel

As a recent discoverer of the delights of Ceviche I love to see one on a menu. Marinated in lime and celery with lots of cilantro and cucumber the seafood was tender and the bonus bites of maple candied sweet potato was a wonderful contrast to the citrus.

Mata Petisco Bar

Corvina Ceviche

New to my palate were these smoked crispy chicken hearts that while texturally were a bit to get use to, they were combined with an amazing cauliflower puree and ancho chili aioli. The breading on the little hearts was so tasty, perfectly seasoned with a wonderful crunch. As someone whose taste buds lean heavily to hot and spicy I quickly took advantage of amazing trio of hot pepper oils that came to the table.  Each with a bigger kick they completely elevated my flavor experience with the chicken hearts.  My only wish was I had them when I was trying the ceviche.

Mata Petisco Bar

Smoked Crispy Chicken Hearts

Mata Petisco Bar

Hot Pepper Oil Trio

Seeing sliders on the menu was no surprise with thinking about a shared plate experience and these picanha ones were outstanding.  Medium rare and topped with carmalized onions, house made catupiry cheese and a malagueta pepper aioli this was one of my favorites of the evening.  Picanha, a rump based cut of beef produces very moist and flavourful ground meat that when paired with the creamy brie like cheese and heat of the chili pepper results in a fantastic burger.

Mata Petisco Bar

Picanha Slider

Another fairly new flavour to my repertoire is octopus.   Great food needs to have all the senses involved and mouth feel is a big part in deciding whether a dish is loved or hated. This is one of the problems I have had with past experiences with this cephalopod. Chewy and uncompromising.  This plate of grilled octopus was a whole other story.  Soft, tender slivers of smoky meat paired with another standout puree, this time Hearts of Palm and a sweet raspberry balsamic reduction.  I really, really wanted to like this dish.  I ended up loving it.  And those Taro chips! They need to be sold in bulk.

Mata Petisco Bar

Grilled Octopus

As a tip of the hat to Canadian culture poutine can be found on the menu.  But this is not your mother’s poutine.  Cassava, a tuberous root vegetable native to Brazil, is turned into fries and topped with shredded smoked beef cheek, red wine demi glace, cheese curds and fresh herbs.  Strong cheese, a hearty beef gravy and crunchy fries, everything needed to make a stellar poutine.

Mata Petisco Bar

Beef Cheek Poutine

While I slightly hoped that some of that coconut gelato may be lurking back in the kitchen I was just as pleased to try the dessert choice of the evening, an avocado creme brulee. Velvety smooth with a vibrant, tart, lime flavour it was a refreshing end to an incredible meal.  And as with all creme’s placed in front of me I ate around the brulee only to savour it’s burnt caramel sweetness at the end.

Mata Petisco Bar

Avocado Creme Brulee

With plans of opening for brunch on the weekends, expansion of the wine list, and regular seasonal menu changes Mata Petisco Bar has placed it’s roots firmly in the neighbourhood.  By building their introduction into Toronto’s culinary scene slowly and revolving it around the world’s biggest sporting event of the year it is easy to gauge that the combined experience and knowledge between these 5 friends will be the backbone of their success.

Mata Petisco Bar
1690 Queen St. West.
416-627-6460
 
Tue, Wed, Thu: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Fri, Sat: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Sun: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Monday: Closed
 
*Disclaimer- While I was invited to try out this restaurant free of charge all opinions (and you know I have lot’s of them) are solely my own.www.matabar.ca

Honey West Restaurant & Bar

Bourbon Pecan Pie

There is a debate is the food writing industry on whether or not you tell the restaurant you are visiting or the server working your table that you are there to write about their dishes. One side of the argument believe that it will influence your service and the food the kitchen puts out. I’m on the other side. I’m not at a restaurant for the service, I’m there for the food and telling them why I’m there won’t suddenly make them an amazing chef in the next 30 minutes. They either were or were not when they got hired. It may give them cause to pay closer attention to the finer details but how the ingredients were used and how the flavors work together was develop long before I showed up. And that’s what I am there to taste.

The service, whether good or bad is entirely dependent on how that staff member came in that day. My DH and I have regular establishments we frequent where we have had both outstanding and atrocious service.  You will learn really quick if a restaurants bad service is a routine occurrence.   I want to enjoy great food and if telling them why I’m there provides me with better service that allow me to completely immerse myself in that food experience I don’t see any problem in full disclosure.  I also want them to understand why I may be asking so many questions about the dishes or if the restaurant allows, taking multiple photos and moving my place settings around without disrupting the people around me.  My intentions is to help bring more exposure, ideally positive, to the restaurant. Not to have them wake up the next day to a scathing review about a waitress who may have spilled my water, only because she couldn’t stop thinking about her sick kid at home.

When I met up with three of my girlfriends to try the Taste of Burlington menu at Honey West Restaurant & Bar I let them know as soon as I sat down that I was a food blogger, I had been at the launch event and if they didn’t mind I would be taking pictures of the food I ordered for a post I would be writing.  The waitress was incredibly accomadating and even even thanked me for giving her the heads up.

Honey West bills themselves as being a stylish yet down to earth and casual restaurant offering dishes such as Parmesan Crusted Wings to Filet Mignon to Butter Chicken. During the Taste of Burlington their prix fixe menu was the only 4 course meal offered out of all the other restaurants.

Lobster Bisque

The first course offered up a delicate lobster bisque or a mini Pho soup.  I had not planned on going with the bisque feeling it would be a little to heavy for a warm summer day but the previous afternoon I had gone out for Pho with some colleagues at a Vietnamese restaurant around the corner from work.  As you can tell by the picture I had already dug in before I even remembered my camera.  Just enough chunks of tender lobster and a light creamy tomato base that had me instantly declaring I needed to make this at home.  While the beef Pho looked fresh and light I am so glad I went with the bisque.

Lobster Bisque

Beef PhoHoney West Salad

Earlier in the week I had been to another Taste of Burlington restaurant and had passed over a salad with crispy prosciutto.  When I saw it offered in this salad with aged cheddar and a Dijon vinaigrette I could not make the same mistake twice.  The prosciutto was indeed crispy, which made it awkward to eat but I’m not too shy to just pick it up and crunch down.  The biggest surprise to this salad was it’s dressing.  Incredibly thick but not heavily applied it had the perfect ratio of tangy mustard and what I’m assuming a slight sweet honey.  I will be ordering this salad again.

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The second salad choice was a classic caprese.  Beautifully plated with olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic and an interesting sauce of green apple bright neon color I loved but I couldn’t get my head around its flavor.

Caprese SaladPork Tenderloin

There was a minor glitch when it came time for the entrees that both the kitchen and manager quickly and graciously rectified and while I didn’t quite get to enjoy my dish at the same time as the rest of my guests this was a minor inconvenience.  Maybe it’s the polite Canadian in me but things like this never really bother me.  Things happen, it was fixed, case closed.  When I did get to enjoy was dish I was so pleased with my choice.Roasted mini potatoes and perfectly cooked asparagus cradled tender medallions of pork.  Accompanying the pork was such an amazing orange rum sauce that had I been in the privacy of my own home I would have licked the plate.  And the potatoes had so much flavor, probably the best I’ve tasted in a long time.  I insisted that everyone at my table try a bite. Outstanding dish!

Pork tenderloinOther options that my co diners tried was a goat cheese stuffed chicken breast with garlic mashed potatoes, buttered green beans and  porcini mushroom cream sauce.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken

And a huge dish of pineapple butter chicken.

Pineapple Butter Chicken

Bourbon Pecan Pie

At this point in the meal we are all quite stuffed.  I even went so far as to say that I prayed the slice of pie would be a tiny little sliver since it’s one of my favorite and I would have to eat it all.  The slice was not small and I kept my word and ate every last piece.  The crust was a bit too thick for my liking but the filling was perfect! perfect!perfect! not overly sweet and the bourbon pecan topping had just enough bite of booze that you wouldn’t want to share with your kids leaving more pie for yourself.

Bourbon Pecan Pie

Throughout the evening the service was fantastic, the atmosphere relaxing and the meal beautifully orchestrated.  My three guests are all locals to the Burlington area but had never visited Honey West before.  After this wonderful meal that will surely change for us all.This is one restaurant that I will consider again and quite possibly add it to our list of frequent establishments to visit.

Celli’s Osteria

Celli's Osteria

Great food is served best with great company. I had the pleasure of enjoying both during my recent visit to Celli’s Osteria in Burlington.

There is something to be said when you put 6 food bloggers together at a dinner table.Food is talked about, food is eaten, the next time to get together and eat and talk about food is decided and planned.  Oh and food is photographed. Your plate, the plate across the table, the plate beside you. Nothing is left uncaptured.

What brought us all together?  Well a combination of things.  Four of us initially met up at the Taste of Burlington launch, a  event showcasing the restaurants participating in its upcoming culinary season. A discussion about which restaurants we may try followed and from it sprang a potential Food Bloggers of Canada mini reunion.  A restaurant was picked, a date was decided and a call to other Toronto area food bloggers went out.

Celli’s Osteria was my first choice when deciding where we should all gather.  During the launch party I had a great conversation with  their staff  how they felt about food bloggers coming to their restaurant, taking photos, talking to the chef and reviewing their food.  I asked that question to most of the restaurants there that night and much like Celli’s they made it clear that we were entirely welcomed and in fact encouraged us to pay them a visit.  It was heartening to see a group of food industry veterans appreciating and validating what we do as food writers.

Finding a date and time that would work for all four of us was surprisingly simple.  Who knew we were so accomandating and flexible? So on a clear, warm Monday evening we all came together to enjoy some great Italian food and outstanding company.

Celli’s Osteria prides itself on serving rustic Italian food with a modern twist while keeping true to using locally sourced ingredients.  Their main menu offers up classics dishes from calamari and mushroom risotto to more adventurous plates of braised rabbit and roasted sea bass.  But given the context that brought us all out I stuck to the Prix Fixe Taste of Burlington Menu.

Fried Fiore di Latte Cheese

Translated crudely into milk’s flower, this appetizer was a simple breaded cow’s milk cheese, deep fried and served with marinara, basil and giant parmesan shavings.  While the marinara was not as  chunky as advertised it was probably one of my favorite aspects to this dish. I lean towards more cream or rose sauces since tomato based sauces have a very hard time pleasing my taste buds.  The majority I try are usually sweet and overly seasoned while I prefer a more robust and deep flavour.  This sauce was just where my palate wanted it.  Not too powerful, just enough to bring out the basil but sutble enough that the creamy flavour of the cow’s milk is still in evidence.  And may I add that each petal of cheese was perfectly crisp.

Fried Fiore de Latte Cheese from The Tasty Gardener

Other appetizer options included a shaved fennel and citrus salad with sunflower seeds and crispy prosciutto or this classic, incredibly fresh looking red and yellow tomato bruschetta.
Bruschetta

Veal Scallopini al limone

On most occasions when I dine out at a new restaurant I like to pick main dishes with ingredients that I don’t eat or cook regularily.  Veal is one thing I rarely consume yet each time I always wonder why I don’t since it’s  so enjoyable.  The veal in this dish was fork tender, melt in your mouth delicious.  The “al limone” had me to believe it would be done in a lemon sauce however all I could taste was the carmalized onion reduction.  It was very delicious and worked well with the veal but a slight disappointment when you are expecting more tartness.  It was served with fingerling potatoes and exquisitely cooked asparagus.  While it seems minor how a chef cooks out of season vegetables really showcases their knowledge of  ingredients.

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Since there were six of us that evening and five were ordering from the fixed menu it was almost a sure bet that each entree would be ordered.  The other options included this simple pasta dish tossed with summer vegetables, parmasan, basil, garlic and oil. I love the generous shavings of cheese.

Spaghetti aglio olio

And a roasted rainbow trout with almonds, capers, asparagus and fingerling potatoes.

Roasted Rainbow Trout Flourless Walnut and Chocolate Cake

Served with a tangy whipped ricotta and sweet chunks of walnut praline, this dessert ruled with the majority.  Similar to a moist, light brownie this cake didn’t knock you down on the chocolate factor and was a perfect end to a delish meal.  I almost wanted to order just the walnut praline they were so amazing.

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Those who decided to go with the second option were treated to Celli’s signature tiramisu with blueberry compote.

Tiramisu with blueberry compote

Let me also mention that like all good Italian restaurants bread and olive oil for dipping were offered the minute everyone had sat down and was replenished without any hestitation from the staff when asked.  To set themselves apart from other restaurants the olive oil had big chunks of roasted garlic and sprigs of rosemary in the bowl that we were all fighting over to get a taste.

With each course being moderately sized and the time between courses reasonable I finished my meal neither famished or stuffed, just perfectly sated. Being a Monday night the restaurant was fairly empty and we pretty much had the staff  to ourselves (which meant my water glass was always full, a bonus). Though serving 6 slightly critical and incredibly boisterous food bloggers can never be an easy task.   As I said in the beginning the food was as great as the company and since we are all in agreement that we want to spend more evenings dining together like that it’s also fair to say we would all come back to Celli’s Osteria again in the future.

The Red Tomato Restaurant

There is a great strip of restaurants along King Street in the theatre districts where you can get anything from Indian to Italian to Asian cuisine while soaking up the atmosphere is this hip and happening part of the city.  Recently my boyfriend and I decided that we would try a different one each time we were in the area until they have all been tasted.  Sounded like a great plan to me.  So when my birthday came along I was happily instructed to meet him at one of these great places.

At The Red Tomato I started my meal off with a Jolly Rancher Martini which was not as sweet as I expected given the number of shots of fruit flavoured liqueurs used to make this concoction.  The bar has a lounge feel to it while the open kitchen concept allows you to enjoy the pungent smells from the meals being created.

For my main course I choose the Roasted Chicken Supreme seasoned with garlic, rosemary and thyme that accompanied a squash agnolotti in a grana padano Gorgonzola sauce.  The chicken was extremely flavourful though I would have preferred it boneless while the pasta was perfectly al dente and lightly sauced.

I finished my meal with a light, mixed berry shortcake that was a refreshing end to a really tasty meal.

The Red Tomato offers dinner and drinks special as well as different theatre packages.  Check out their website to get directions and take a look at their menu.