Corks and Platters

Corks&Platter Photo 1

There are not many places around the city where you can pop in for a glass of wine or beer and a quick nibble without having to put your name on a list at the door or fight masses of hungry diners.  You can certainly upgrade your movie ticket to VIP status or press yourself uncomfortably into a sliver of a spot at the bar.  Or better yet just prepare it yourself at home. None of that helps if you just want to go out and be marginally sociable before or after a main event.


Corks & Platters Wine Bar in The Beach is just what every neighbourhood needs.  Owned and curated by wine expert Krista Pollett guests can perch on a log stool or relax at one of three tables for two and sip on a local Niagara vintage and snack on any of the available custom meat, cheese or vegetable platters. It’s not a place where you linger over long drawn out courses or plan out a detailed bathroom renovation. Instead you have an inviting, comfortable space where you can try great wines, chat with Krista or meet a regular or two before heading out to your next stop.

Corks and Platters (7 of 11)

Pollett is the consummate hostess.  Ask for wine and food pairing recommendations and she will take you on a wondrous tasting journey with her knowledge and passion.  Firmly believing in and openly practising living local she always has a moment to introduce you to something new, talk about a great new cheese find or to discuss the importance of supporting local Ontario growers and farmers.


Her well thought out wine list is solely small brand Niagara Wines not generally found in the LCBO and her platters comprise of edibles all produced in Ontario by small family owned farms. Even the beer selection, currently at 2 different brands available, are from small bottle-on-demand brewers or companies focusing on the same eating and drinking locally mentality.  While International wines may appear on special evenings in the future, guests can still trust in finding a superb sip from her collection.

Corks and Platters (8 of 11)

Nothing goes to waste in this small, cozy place.  From making her own beef jerky to using reclaimed wood and crafting the furniture by hand to repurposing her children’s artwork into the decor you get an immediate sense of home while enjoying a night out.  Whether you are on a date and heading to a show or want to unwind after a long day Cork & Platters is the perfect place to have a good time though not a long time.


Cork’s & Platters

2220 Queen Street East


Wind Up Bird Cafe

Wind Up Bird Cafe
As you walk past the little unassuming corner restaurant on College St east of Bathurst you can’t begin to imagine the giant things happening inside.  If you knew before hand it was co-owned by renowned restaurantuer Sang Kim and Claudio Gaudio, you would undoubtedly presume  the menu was going to be rich with  innovative twists on classic Korean dishes.  Yet the moment you walk in and take a second to absorb what you are seeing and what you are hearing you will quickly discover it is beyond anything you can imagine.

Wind Up Bird Cafe

It’s hard to narrow down one particular theme in this pretty little space with its’  bright mustard walls, deep rich wood tones and colorful art pieces.  With over 18 different programs lined up to occupy this room at any given time you are easily immersed into Kim’s world of culinary arts, literature and conscious need for social empowerment.

Wind Up Bird Cafe

When you enter the restaurant the first thing you see is the bar which is standard of a lot of downtown restaurants.  Yet it is  the first thing you will hear, anything from flutes, to cellos and clarinets that leaves a bigger impact. These melodic notes are courtesy of one of the Cafe’s first cultural initiatives called Shuffle.  Here students of the University of Toronto’s music program are welcome to come play, practice, improvise and entertain with the group dynamics changing every two weeks.

Wind Up Bird Cafe

Pro-teen Queen, Leah Honiball and Kiki, Yumiko’s daughter demonstrating Kid-chen Confidential

It’s at the back of the room where two more innovative programs come about.  First is the Kid-Chen Confidential program where older kids teach younger kids how to prepare, cook and enjoy new and wonderful dishes. This is one of Sang’s favorite initiatives bringing children into the kitchen, learning the importance of food and the enjoyment of preparing it.  With the space outside slated to become a community garden and patio, kids will become the center of a vast majority of special events.

Literary events such as Cook/Book nights bring in local authors, their works and their personal love of food and allows Sang as host to bring together his passion of food and conversation.  Poetry nights and reading are also planned.

It’s easy for great restaurants with a lot going on in the peripheral to forget about the back of the house.  But no detail is left unchecked at Wind Up Bird with much of that having to do with a kitchen run by Chef Yumiko Kobayashi and a front of the house of friendly and gracious female staff.  This is an ode to Sang’s revere and respect to the beauty and intelligence of woman.  The menu is based on creative, wholesome and comforting dishes that allows all diners from vegetarians to omnivores to ravenous carnivores the chance to eat together as a community.

Wind Up Bird Cafe

Seafood Ceviche

Wind Up Bird Cafe

Grilled Lamb Chop


Wind Up Bird Cafe

Ganmodoki Fried Tofu Burger


Wind Up Bird Cafe

Avocado and Tofu Gratin

Wind Up Bird Cafe

Mango Cheesecake

Nothing is off the mark as each dish is delicious and creative.  Wind Up Bird Cafe proves that a great meal isn’t always just about the food but more about the experience while discovering it. Seeing his pure enjoyment of the beauty of women, the love food and abundant curiosity of children you know that the number of innovative programs that accompany each dining experience will continue to grow, educate and astound.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013

Every time my fiancee and I go visit his family in Hamilton, Ontario we drive past the city of Burlington. Every time I go the Royal Botanical Gardens or a trip cross border shopping I pass it by. For the first time this week I found myself given an opportunity to visit and I am still wondering why it’s taken me this long to discover such a gem of a city. Situated between Toronto and Niagara Falls and nestled along the southwestern tip of Lake Ontario, Burlington has the big city culture and small town charm people of all generations and backgrounds are looking for. And as I quickly discovered, it’s a culinary treasure.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener

I was fortunate enough to find myself in Burlington that day thanks to an opportunity I was given to attend the launch of “A Taste of Burlington” a two week long event showcasing the talents of 23 of the city’ s local restaurants. Similar to Toronto’s Summerlicious program but without the waiting lists and need for an AMEX card, prix fixe menus have been designed to encourage locals residents and new visitors to try out stunning creations at old favorites or to experience a completely new restaurant, from casual fine dining to eclectic gastropub-ing, without breaking the bank. The chefs this year has also been challenged to use local sourced ingredients as much and as often as possible.  With three course meal ranging from $15 or $20 for a lunch or $30, $35 or $40 for dinner, diners have the opportunity to expand their palates while supporting local restaurateurs and our local growers and suppliers of all things edible.

The lead up to this culinary event which takes place July 21 -August 5th all culminated with the launch party where I unabashedly stuffed my self silly with delicious samples from 18 of the participating restaurants. I must say that the chefs did not hold back.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener

Most of the food was outstanding. Some wasn’t as outstanding only because I felt they didn’t hold up well in transport however the flavor combinations created all blew me away and left me incredibly excited to see how their special prix fixe menus will taste. Two weeks is not a lot of time but as I left the event filled to the brim and my phone overheating with text message responses for future “Taste of Burlington” dinner dates I promised myself I’d make one heck of a dent.

And now this is the part where I get to show you gorgeous pictures of the scrumptious food I enjoyed and links to participating restaurants. It will make you insanely jealous. And hungry. And it will make you click to the website and make a date to try one or more of the Burlington’s amazing restaurants. You might just see me there 😉

For more information on dates, menus and participating restaurants make sure to visit the Taste of Burlington website.

Here we go! Enjoy!

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener

Walkers Fish Market

Bronzed Fish Tacos with bronzed white fish, guacamole, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, fresh coriander, chipotle aioli on a grilled soft flour tortilla.

I don’t eat a lot of fish in general but have been found myself trying fish tacos more and more. There is a lot of things happening in this one but it all works wonderfully together. I could see myself eating many of these. I can also see myself checking out this restaurant to help expand my fish palate. They are offering a$20 lunch and a $40 dinner prix fixe menu.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener

Celli’s Osteria

Porchetta Sliders with iceberg lettuce, spiced pepperonatta and tomme cheese.

A running theme during the whole launch seemed to be pork.  Which is fantastic because I don’t eat a lot of it at home. A little bit too much bun for me but striped away the flavors were subtle but perfect.  I had a wonderful conversation with the restaurants incredible Sommelier Sharon Correia and look forward to getting the full wining and dining experience Celli’s has to offer. They are offering $20 lunch and $35 dinner prix fixe menu.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener

Purple Heather

Asparagus Vichyssoise and Tuna, Cucumber and Shiitake Bites 

I would have quite enjoyed sitting in a quiet corner enjoying a big bowl of this asparagus vichyssoise. It was fantastic! And as I mentioned above I don’t eat much fish and I definitely don’t eat partially raw fish.  However I dove into this sample and loved every bite.  My problem with fish is that I don’t like the fishy flavour.  This tasted so unfishy and meaty and with the cool refreshing bite from the cucumber (which I’m training my taste buds to enjoy more-whole other story there) I beginning to find an appreciation for our underwater options. They are offering a $20 lunch and $35 dinner prix fixe menu.
Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener

West Plains Bistro

Coffee and Ancho Beef Short Ribs with a pepper salad with pumpkin and sunflower seeds and a cilantro honey oil.

This dish was voted as The People’s Choice at the launch and with good reason.  Cooked for over three and half hours these ribs fell apart the minute your fork touched them and were unbelievably flavorful and tender. They are offering a $20 lunch and $40 dinner prix fixe menu.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener

Pepperwood Bistro

Four Mushroom Crostini: cremini, shiitake, porcini and Portobello mushrooms and Ontario cambozola on a roasted garlic crostini.

I love mushrooms.  I’m even growing my own oyster mushrooms.  So I am biased to this sampling.  Pepperwood is offering a $20 lunch and $40 dinner prix fixe menu.  Also good to know is that on Fridays and Saturdays they have live music.  Perfect to make a whole evening out of your visit.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener


Grilled Tomato and Asiago Stuffed Jumbo Ravioli with sun dried tomato pesto and toasted sunflower seeds.

This is the restaurant I will be taking my Italian food loving fiancee.  Another restaurant to creatively add sunflower seeds to the dish I loved all that is happening here.  And I was extremely pleased to see it on their $35 dinner prix fixe menu.  They are offering only a dinner menu available Friday and Saturday and reservations are required.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty GardenerStone House Restaurant

Hoisin Glazed Pulled Pork Tacos with carrot and bean sprout slaw and fresh coriander.

Pulled pork is still gaining huge popularity everywhere you look and trust me I’ve probably tried it all.  I picked Stone House as my personal People’s Choice mainly because it wasn’t as overly smoky or sweet that I’ve found other tacos can be.  The carrot and bean sprout slaw was a fresh counter to the mild sweetness of the hoisin.  And I didn’t get any grisly, stringy bits either.  Very well cooked. They are offering a $40 dinner prix fixe menu.

SB Prime

Dry Ribs and Roasted corn salad with tomato avocado cotija cheese and lime aioli.

I seemed to have eaten this before I even had a chance at taking a picture.  It was very pretty with it’s colorful salad and the dry ribs were tasty. They are offering a $20 lunch and $40 dinner prix fixe menu.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty GardenerParadiso

Pepper Chicken Liver and Andouille Sausage Pate with mushroom ketchup on an olive oil crostini.

Immediately after trying this my twitter page went like this.

Taste of BurlintonOne of favorites of the evening.  And Chef Adam was so friendly as I picked his brain about the difference between Toronto and Burlington when it came to accepting food bloggers at their restaurants.  And mushroom ketchup? Get out! They are offering a $20 lunch and $35 dinner prix fixe menu. I would also like to point they are offering summer kids cooking classes and an extensive gluten free menu. Kudos to this restaurant!

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty GardenerRose Garden Restaurant

Sweet and Spicy Shrimp; a lightly batter golden fried shrimp on a bed of julienne Asian vegetables in a sweet and spicy glaze.

Too sweet for me but I know of a fiancee who would devour these.  Despite the sauce the shrimp stayed nice and crispy and was perfectly cooked. They are offering an incredibly affordable $15 lunch and $30 dinner prix fixe menu.  They are also just minutes away from The Royal Botanical Gardens so make a day of it.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener

Red Canoe Bistro

Spiced Summer Vegetable Gazpacho with Marinated Scallops.

I love the presentation of this.  The scallop was so tender and the gazpacho had big flavors. They are offering a $20 lunch and $40 dinner prix fixe menu.

Rayhoon Persian Eatery

Tachin-crisp saffron rice layered with chicken.

Another forgotten picturing taking moment.  Would have enjoyed a bit more spice but still tasty. They are offering a $20 lunch and $35 dinner prix fixe menu.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty GardenerIvy Bar and Kitchen

Braised Pork Belly and Roasted Peaches on in-house pork rind.

The pork belly got lost here in the sweetness of the grilled peach which was fine by me since that flavor exploded my taste buds. Great presentation as well.  I was surprised to see the Ivy participating since my impression of them was that they were more of a night club establishment but after seeing their online menu I could see myself celebrating a birthday or special event with dinner and dancing. They are offering a $20 lunch and $40 dinner prix fixe menu.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty GardenerYe Olde Squire

Butter Shrimp with hints of cardamon and Tandoori served with house made naan bread.

I love pub food.  And I love when pubs do Indian food.  As the program described this was flavor intensive yet not too spicy.  The warm naan bread was a great touch.  They are offering a 2 for $40 prix fixe dinner.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty GardenerHoney West

Pulled Pork Wontons with Apple and Bacon Relish.

The texture of the wonton was a bit soggy but the apple and bacon relish really made these dish.  While sometimes the presentation doesn’t work out I look at the flavors a chef uses and the boldness here was outstanding. They are offering a $20 lunch and $40 dinner prix fixe menu. And the dinner is four courses. This casual fine dining establishment also offers a raw bar of oysters, jumbo shrimp, tuna tartare and more every Friday 4-pm.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty GardenerQueens Head Pub

Sweet Potato and Pork Belly Phyllo Dumplings drizzle with ginger and thyme honey.

At this point of the evening I had almost sampled from every restaurant and I was getting full.  I groaned out loud when I discovered the Queens Head gentlemen were offering up two different dumplings.  Of course I still tried them both.  My favorite was the sweet potato though the crispy phyllo on both was so buttery and delicious. They are offering a $20 lunch and $30 dinner prix fixe menu.

Water St. Cooker

Summer Salad with fresh local ingredients.

Somehow among all the tables I seemed to have missed this restaurant.  Which is a shame since after all that pork and bread I really could have used some vegetables. Water St. is offering a $40 prix fixe dinner menu.  They also have a Sunday brunch 10-3pm and an extensive variety of mussel dishes.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener


Plucker’s Wings and Crab Shack

Pluckers own crab cakes with caper aioli.

They always say the longest lines means the best it at the end.  In this case it was also the biggest. Chef Todd of Pluckers was serving up humble apologizes for the long lines and amazing full size crab cakes. With tender crab meat, slightly crisped and tasting mildly of dill these were the best I’ve had in a long time. Plucker’s is offering a $30 prix fixe dinner menu.

Also in attendance was Tampa Coffee Co. offering hand poured coffees and these amazing soft and chocolate dipped biscotti from Mrs. B’s Gifthouse.

Taste of Burlington Summer 2013 from The Tasty Gardener

There was also a few restaurants that were not in attendance at the launch party that will participating in A Taste of Burlington.

Canyon Creek Burlington, $15 lunch, $30 dinner prix fixe menu

Downtown Bistro and Grill, $20 lunch and $35 dinner prix fixe menu

Jake’s Grill and Oyster House, $20 lunch and $35 dinner prix fixe menu

Martini House, $15 lunch and $40 dinner prix fixe menu

The Rude Native, $30 dinner prix fixe menu

The Alex Restaurant, $20 lunch and $40 dinner prix fixe menu

Amaya Express, $15 lunch and $30 dinner prix fixe menu

I will be updating my links as more information becomes available.  Please feel free to leave comments below on restaurants you are going to try, want to try or have already tried.  As I mentioned earlier I’m going to make a decent effort to try at least 4 or 5 of the restaurants (budget dependant) and review them here on my website.  If you think there is one that I must, must, must try let me know.

Enjoy your Taste of Burlington.

Disclaimer: Tourism Burlington supplied me with free entry into this event in exchange for a blog post and social media presence.  All opinion in this post are solely my own.