Loaded Pierogi Restaurant – Toronto

My friend and business partner Peter and I decided on a Christmas lunch this year instead of gifts and a big dinner (watching our pennies). We decided to try a new restaurant called Loaded Pierogis on Church street south of Front street.  It was right by the St. Lawrence Market so we popped in there first for some fresh food shopping.

Loaded Pierogis concept is you get a plate of 8 pierogis either steamed or fried with all kinds of toppings. The price is right and they were delicious.  I was so stuffed though from lunch that I didn’t eat dinner that night.  Okay so it is not the healthiest of meals but once in a while it is a real treat!.

Here is a link to BlogTO where I first heard of this restaurant. Check it out for even more information.

FYI – I had the pierogis with bacon, cheese and caramelized onions.  Comes with a dollop of sour cream. (remember – not the healthiest of all meals but a real treat on occasion).

http://www.blogto.com/restaurants/loaded-pierogi-toronto

 

 

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Dinner at Edward Levesque’s (Toronto)

So my associate Peter and I had been working on a job for 7 days an average of 18-20 per day and were completely burned out.  The good news is everything turned out great and the client was very happy and so were we with the final results.  To celebrate I took Peter to dinner at a restaurant in the east end called Edward Levesque’s.  I have been there several times including a great brunch!

Getting there was tough as I found out enroute that the highway I was closed further along the way.  Needless to say it took an hour and a half to get to him so when we arrived at the restaurant, having a drink was the first order of business.

We had the “Tuesday Special” which is a great deal – a glass of wine and hanger steak served over spaghetti squash for $22.  Each week they are offering a new Tuesday special.  I recommend you try it if you are in Toronto.  The service was wonderful. the food delicious and it was the perfect way to unwind after such a crazy week. (Next weeks post will show you the other way I finished part of the week – in Boston for the day!)

We opted to add salad which came with crumbled stilton, toasted cashews, golden beets, apple with a basil honey vinaigrette (delicious!). We also added frites to the meal as I had a hankering for steak/frites.  They were hand cut and served hot and delicious!

Then there was desert (shared of course)….

A lovely brownie – not too sweet (perfect for sharing) topped with a salted caramel ice cream (also not too sweet).  Outstanding!

(Forgive me but the restaurant was dimly lit so the only images that turned out semi readable were the salad and the dessert)

Needless to say we left the restaurant feeling much more relaxed and happy the crazy work week was over.

 

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Sparrow Restaurant (Bloor Street West Toronto)

A couple of nights ago we took our friend Kim for dinner for her belated birthday. Jane and Kim were coming back to my place for a glass of wine and some nibbles after we all finished a panel at our part time gig as sensory panelists for a major grocery chain. We thought we would  just converge at my place before going out and then just walk up to Bloor Street for dinner.

We decided on a new restaurant on Bloor called Sparrow.  I had heard good reviews and none of us had been there before. I am always excited to try a new place in the “hood” as for the longest time we didn’t have any good restaurants – now we have several to choose from.

The inside renovations look great – it used to be a family style restaurant (Dr. Generosity’s) for years and before that it was the Rebel Chop House and before that, some of you may remember it as Mad Apples. They have done a complete overhaul and I thought it looked really nice.

Many of the staff are from the previous generation of restaurant and know the biz well and were fabulous.  The service was excellent as were the suggestions. The room however was quite dim and the menu had teenie tiny type all in caps so very hard to read without glasses.  Once we figured out what we were having, we ordered our meals along with a nice white Bertiolo Italian Pinot Grigio wine (we were all having a seafood dish). The wine was delicious!

Here is what we ordered:

Atlantic Salmon Riletters (Cucumber/Dill/Preserved Lemon/Red Onion/Chives/Crostini) – This was really tasty. We shared this as a starter along with warm marinated olives that were just wonderful!

salmon

 

olives

 

I ordered the PEI Mussels and both Kim and Jane ordered the Lobster Salad.

The mussels were listed as being prepared in a Junction Beer Broth with Bacon Butter, Garlic/Summer Herbs and served with Grilled Bread. While I really liked the broth I have to say I found the mussels just okay (a few of the shells were empty) and more than half of them were gritty. I don’t think I would order them again.

mussels

The Lobster Salad was made up of the following: Poached East Coast Lobster with Quinoa, Radish, Snap Peas, Horseradish and Mint. Sounds great and it tasted great, it was just the plating that had us mystified. See the picture below and you may be able to tell why….When the plate arrive all three of us wondered where the missing food was as the salad was served along one side of a large dish (I am sure working with the unique design of the plate) with a huge bare section. While the plate had a lovely design to it – it looked empty! A small green salad would have just made the plate but alas it was bare. We all thought it could have used the greenery on the plate to fill it out. Unfortunately the emptiness of the plate overshadowed the artistic arrangement of the food.

lobster salad

All in all, the wine list was great, the service wonderful, the appetizers yummy but perhaps we really didn’t order well.  A plate of lamb chops went by that looks delicious for $18. Perhaps we should have stuck to meat dishes as opposed to the seafood…..

PS – I am apologizing for the quality of the images as the lighting was quite dim and even with a flash the images were rather dark.

 

Lunch at Bloom Restaurant

Had lunch the other day with my friend Shelley at a neighbourhood restaurant called Bloom located on Bloor Street West in Toronto. We had a good catch up over a fabulous lunch.  The restaurant has a new theme of Spanish inspired food and on weekends gets some great jazz players. I believe it is under new management and I have been wanting to try it out for a few months now as their menu looked wonderful and the prices were very reasonable.

This day Shelley and I had the same thing – a chicken sandwich made up of roasted chicken, bacon (which was not listed on the menu but was in the sandwich), swiss cheese, chipotle aioli and was served with a mixed green salad that had roasted beets, pumpkin seeds and goat cheese. The lunch was absolutely delicious. The selections offered were great, from sandwiches to mussels with frites to salads and soups. They have a prix fixe menu as well that is a great bargain (we just didn’t think we could eat all that food – even though the course size was smaller). I highly recommend this restaurant and will be back again for both lunch and dinner in the near future!

lunch at Bloom

Dinner at Playa Cabana Cantina (Toronto)

Had dinner with my friend Anne at a new hot spot in the Junction area of Toronto.  Mexican style seems to be the new “in” food this year as Mexican restaurants are popping up everywhere. This restaurant is part of a chain called Playa Cabana and this particular restaurant was called “Cantina”.

I had read all kinds of reviews mostly saying the food is great but the service not so much. What I do know is that we could not get a reservation after 5:30 on Saturday evening even a week in advance!  They didn’t think we could get a seat even at the bar if we just showed up as Friday, Saturday and Sunday are their big nights.

So we took the 5:30 reservation. We walked around the area for an hour or so before going to the restaurant and found several great furniture and accessory stores all with unusual items at reasonable prices. When we had enough looking and wondering around (it was cold out) we went into the restaurant and had our dinner.

Anne ordered the chicken burrito “Cantina”  and I had two tacos – haddock and ancho braised short rib.  We decided to have a traditional drink and both ordered a “Paloma” made up of 1 ½ oz grapefruit infused Tromba Blanco (Tequila), citrus syrup and lime.  Yum!!!!!

The food tasted great and two tacos was certainly enough given we had guacamole and tortillas (made on site and delicious I might add). Anne barely made it through her burrito and we both left stuffed to the gills.

After everything I had read I expected the service to be mediocre but it was just fine and the meal was terrific!

I would however mention that it is quite loud with the music and the loud talking but it added to the ambience of the evening. Those of you who know me know I hate having to yell across the table but this was not anywhere near that bad. I would give this a definite thumbs up. The whole meal including drinks, tax and tip was $31 each.  Not bad.  Below are some pics of the meal.

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Birthday Dinner and Dim Sum Lunch

A few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday and had a couple of outstanding meals which I thought I would share with you. The first was on my birthday at dinner with my friends Ted and Judy (you remember them, the fabulous chefs….)

Ted bought 4 live lobsters and between them made the most fabulous lobster pasta I have ever had. I promise I am not just saying that because they will read this blog. It truly was a meal fit for  a queen (that would be me that night I think as that’s what I was made to feel like).

Here are some pix of the meal and the process involved.  Keep reading though as the second birthday meal was equally wonderful and quite a surprise!

Lobster Pasta

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lobster pasta 1

Here is a list of ingredients and a basic idea of how it was made:

Spelt pasta

4 lobster boiled then sautéed in a bit of butter and garlic – I know I know butter…but it was my birthday 😉

Snap peas, blanched baby spinach and roasted grape tomatoes with garlic and olive oil

Put all together and finish with a bit of chopped parsley and fresh ground pepper

AWESOME!!!!

Next on the list of birthday celebrations…

I had planned a lunch with my oldest friend Fern (friends since we were 8 years old). We were going to try a new Dim Sum place around the neighbourhood where we grew up. We arrived and I thought I heard her say table for 6 but didn’t think anything of it until I saw Deena who was also one of my BFF’s growing up (again since we were 8 years old). I look around and realize there are other settings at the table and lo and behold in comes Marla, Nadine and Penny – 3 more of my childhood BFF girlfriends!

Well that was a lunch to remember – we recounted our childhoods in detail reminding each other of how bad we all were and the fun we had.  We sat and stuffed ourselves with amazing Dim Sum for over 3 hours!!!! Kudos to Fern for organizing and I have to say it was so much fun seeing everyone and finding out what each one is doing.  What a wonderful afternoon. Now, while the excuse was to surprise me for my birthday – we all pretty much had birthdays within 6 months of the event so it was decided it was an all around birthday celebration! Fern even supplied the “minutes of the meeting”  Too funny!!!!  See below:

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Now that’s a Birthday Celebration!!!  Thank you everyone!

Dinner at Pizza Libretto (Toronto – Danforth Ave.)

Last night I had dinner with my friend Peter before we went to see the movie “Philomena”.  We decided on Pizza Libretto as it was in the neighbourhood and was fast service. Pizza Libretto serves traditional style Neapolitan Pizza. What does that mean you ask? Well it means it is cooked using all natural ingredients such as Marzano tomatoes in ovens imported from Italy and built by 3rd generation pizza oven makers in Naples. It also means the dough is naturally leavened with Italian Caputo dopio zero flour. Further, these specialty ovens cook the pizza at 900 degrees for only 90 seconds (hence the fast service).  All that being said you are probably wondereing “How good was the pizza?”

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Well Peter had the fresh arugula with Ontario prosciutto, garlic, tomato, oregano, basil and shaved grana padano cheese. His pizza was quite delicious and very fresh tasting.

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I chose the cremini mushroom with bufala mozzarella, goronzola, roasted garlic, rosemary, thyme and pecorino (I did ask them to leave out the thyme as it is not my favourite herb).

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While mine tasted fine – Peters was definitely better in my books – more flavour. I love mushrooms but I guess when they are only baked for 90 seconds albeit at 900 degrees – they don’t release much of their flavour so I found mine a bit bland.  Also the center of the pizza is very very thin and quite moist so you cannot pick a piece up with your fingers and eat it – you need to use a knife and fork. I am not saying this is a bad thing it is just different from that usual.

I will say that adding the hot chilli oil helped add flavour to my pizza.  Peters was certainly more flavourful though but same issues with the centre.

Portion size is big – I couldn’t finish mine. The cost for mine was $17 and for Peters – $16.  Not crazy high prices and it certainly was large enough to share along with a salad I think.

All in all – Yes I would go back but no, I would not order the mushroom pizza again.  I would try something different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurant Review – Hopgood’s Foodliner (Toronto)

Had a wonderful day one Saturday with my friend Anne.  We decided to stroll around a section of Toronto’s west end called Roncesvalles. Little did we know that the day we went was their music and arts street festival.  Great music, interesting booths and stores all along the street.  We had a great walk around and then settled on having dinner.  Several places where completely booked (understandable given it was a festival and a beautiful day…).  We managed to snag 2 seats at the bar of a restaurant called Hopgood’s Foodliner. I know it is an odd name but it is inspired by the Maritimes and serves great food that is East Coast Canada inspired.  Here is what we had :

• Bacon wrapped giant scallops

• Steak with sweet onion and arugula

• A serving of “pickles” which was pickled beets and turnip

• Anne had a glass of white wine and I a “Howe Sound Lager” – never heard of this before but it was one of the best beers I have ever tasted!

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Steak dinner

HoweSound Beer

We shared everything and including tax and tip the bill was $38 each.  Not bad.  We had nice service (love sitting at the bar and smoozing with the staff behind the bar.  I would say this was a really good restaurant – one that I would certainly go back to.

Went for another walk after dinner and all in all had a great day!

Globe Bistro – Toronto

I had our year end lunch with my good friend Peter (who is also my business associate) the other day and as some of you remember from my post on “the Works Burger Bistro” I talked about the best burger I ever had was at Globe Bistro on the Danforth (near Broadview) in Toronto. Well, we went back there and I was not disappointed….

Globe bistro image

Now that is a burger!!!  Made with Rib Eye Steak (which I have to say you really can taste the difference!). topped with a touch of cheese and sweet onions, this is a burger that can be proud to be called “the best”. It is huge and comes with hand cut yukon potato fries.

It’s funny – I so rarely have a burger (and I take the bun off when I do) but here I was having 2 in the span of a month.  No comparison though.  Again I was so full I didn’t eat dinner that night.

Our service was excellent, the atmosphere was nice and again – that is a burger worth waiting for.  Even the ketchup had a smokiness to it that you knew was homemade (or at least definitely not Heinz).

I highly recommend this restaurant for anyone looking for good food in a great spot.  I do have to say however that it is not cheap.  The price has gone up since last year and is now $18 but I consider it like ordering a steak in a restaurant and it is a once a year splurge. Well worth every penny.

The Works Burger Bistro – Toronto ON Canada

Had dinner the other night at the new Burger place that opened nearby.  There are several of them around the city.  It’s called The Works Burger Bistro.  I have to say – I was not impressed.  While they are doing a booming business with families, I found it very mediocre and in some cases just not great. My utter disappointment since I rarely go out for a hamburger and fries.

I ordered the “Jack Layton” Burger which was a burger with wild mushrooms and brie cheese.  Now I would have made this with the cheese on the top of the burger and then the mushrooms on top of the cheese so they stuck to the burger – Nope – served with the mushrooms first then a little piece of brie in the middle. Mushrooms fell all over the tray instead of staying on the burger. Now to be fair I did order the burger without a bun as I was having the side of sweet potato fries with it, so perhaps the mushrooms may have held on a little longer with a bun holding them down.

The person I was with had the Elk Burger – interesting… she said it tasted fine but her side order of poutine was covered in a bit of lumpy cheese and a watery gravy. Some of the fries were also undercooked.  We asked what kind of gravy it was as usually poutine has a rich thick gravy on it and were told “Isn’t it great? It’s mushroom gravy! That way vegetarians can eat it too!”  Now my guest would have liked a choice since the mushroom gravy was a bit like beige lukewarm water.  Personally I would have wanted a thick rich tasting gravy.

When ordering, I was told my burger would be pink inside unless I ordered it well done.  I ordered it well done.  Low and behold – it was pink inside!  My fries were not hot and in the middle of our meal a waitress came by and took the mustard off our table without asking if we were done with it!  I was not, so I had to find a waitress and ask for the mustard back.

Now imagine my surprise when the bill came and it cost about $40!!!! The only addition to the order was $3 more for the poutine and a diet coke.  I think that is a lot to pay for a thin undercooked burger with lukewarm fries and very mediocre poutine with another burger.  When did hamburgers start costing $15?  I can see it in a higher end restaurant – I have actually paid $15 for a burger at Globe Restaurant on the Danforth and it was by far the best burger I have ever had and so big I took half home for supper that night.

It seems I am not the only person to think that “the Works” is very middle of the road.  Several people I talked to said “been there, done that” and would not go back.  Add me to the list of not headed back.