Saturday, August 30, 2008

Burlington Ribfest: Yes, it IS the best one

So, yes, 'Canada's Largest Ribfest' did turn out to be the best. It was located on a beautiful stretch of lakeshore that offered some much needed cool breezes. The alleyway between the rows of rib stands was enormous allowing for easy browsing, which I didn't do much of because I only had eyes for Carolina Rib King.

I got the pulled pork plate ($8), which included a generous amount of pulled pork, spicy baked beans, creamy coleslaw, and a piece of cornbread. Carolina Rib King doesn't put any sauce at all on their pulled pork so you can add and much or little as you like, mild or spicy, from huge pump containers. It was all so good. I wanted to buy a container of just pork to take home, but they don't sell by the pound. The sauce is available for sale in bottles though.

In addition to the ribbers there were vendors selling every kind of decadent summer food imaginable, including apple pie with ice cream, artisal soda, funnel cake, 'pizza ears', fries, bloomin' onions, butterfly chips, fried veggies, loaded baked potatoes, sausages, cotton candy, candy apples, popcorn, Tiny Tom's donuts, ice cream, and a million more things that I can't remember. Insane.

The problem with having a ribfest with 14 vendors is that you can't possibly taste them all. But you wouldn't regret it if you just went to Carolina Rib King.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Goodbye Tasty Thursday

The rain held off just long enough to have a lovely last Tasty Thursday. I went with my old faithful, the steamed chicken momos at Kathmandu Restaurant. Both the sauce and the dumpling filling is spicy, so um be careful if you're not used to spicy food. They are delicious and very much like Japanese gyoza, but spicier and with chicken instead of pork. The side salad is nice and fresh without any dressing and is a pleasant coolant. I'll miss Tasty Thursdays, but Kathmandu is just up the street so I know where to get my fix.

Kathmandu Restaurant
517 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON
M-W: 11:30AM-3PM, 5:30-10PM
Th-F: 11:30AM-3PM, 5:30-10:30PM
Sa: 12-3PM, 5:30-10:30PM
Sun: 12-10PM

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Linda Restaurant and Avenue Q

Last night before going to see Avenue Q (so so good, more on that later), we went to Linda restaurant, Salad King's upscale counterpart. I haven't been to Linda or Salad King in ages and they really are the best places to go for dinner in that neighbourhood. We would have done Salad King, but it's impossible to talk in there, so we decided to go for the slightly quieter Linda.

If you do go to Linda, make a reservation even if you're going early. It's a tiny room and it fills up quickly. When you call, make sure you're somewhere where you can yell into the phone because it's always chaos on their end. They will call you back on the day of to confirm you still want the reservation.

The menu is quite different from what I remember. The majority of the dishes are not on the Salad King menu, whereas before I think there was a lot of overlap. They do have the same spicing scale as Salad King, which starts with Mild, then Medium, then 1-20 Chillis. I've only ever had 3 Chillis (aka Thai Medium) and it's plenty spicy for me, but Marcelo tells me that he gets 10 Chillis usually. Hardcore.

Mieng Kum

I'm so glad we ordered this. I've never had it before and I loved it. They give you six little bowls filled with diced limes, crushed peanuts, chopped green chiles, red onion, tiny dried shrimp, and shredded coconut along with some 'aromatic leaves', which I think are betel leaves (the same ones used in paan), and some sweet chile sauce. You pile everything on top of the leaf, wrap it up, and eat it in one bite. It's so delicious and light.

Beef Satays

These were yummy and tender and came with some thick, creamy peanut sauce. So good.

Fish Curry Hotpot

I did my research beforehand and was curious to see the 'paper cone' that everyone says this dish is served in. They wheel out a cart that has what looks like a large aromatherapy stand with a coffee filter in it. They spoon the curry into the paper cone and then light a candle underneath it. I suppose the paper doesn't catch fire because the curry is so dense and liquidy. The curry was great. Smooth and coconutty with pieces of deep-fried whitefish, okra, and fresh grape tomatoes.

Hot Chicken with King Oyster Mushroom

This was a very clean, healthy tasting dish with chicken breast and lots of fresh vegetables. The king mushrooms were sliced nice and thin.

Pad Thai

No visit to Linda/Salad King would be complete without pad thai. It's great here. Although once you have it, you won't want it anywhere else.

Avenue Q was incredible. It's definitely far and away the best musical I've seen in Toronto. It's clever, funny, and we did laugh out loud. It closes on Friday, so definitely go if you can get a ticket. You won't be disappointed.

Linda Restaurant
335 Yonge Street (entrance on Gould Street)
Toronto, ON

Avenue Q
Elgin Theatre
189 Yonge Street
Toronto, ON

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Burlington Ribfest: Get yerselves to Carolina Rib King

The second last Ontario ribfest of 2008 is this Labour Day weekend in Burlington and I'm beside myself with joy to see that Carolina Rib King is on the bill. They have the most amazing ribs and my very favourite pulled pork sandwich. They don't put any sauce at all on the pulled pork, so you can dress it as heavily or lightly as you like. Their hot sauce is fantastic and has a latent, but fiery heat. I can hardly wait. See you there!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Brunch at The Kitchen: Mmmmmmm!

So, I messed up and planned a brunch date for 10AM at The Kitchen when they actually didn't open until 11. I'm an idiot. If this happens to you too, The Drake is open from 8 and you can kill time with some surprisingly cheap tea and coffee.

When we got to The Kitchen, the patio was lovely, peaceful, and sunny. I ordered the Chorizo Hash just like Olivia suggested and it was fantastic. It is sauteed chorizo and potato topped with 2 eggs made as you like, and accompanied by four half slices of white or whole wheat toast and either salad or fries. I was a pain and asked for a bit of each and they gave me a generous serving of both. The chorizo hash was nicely spicy and salty and the poached eggs were like something from a food magazine. It's so difficult to make a poached egg look attractive and these were beautiful and perfectly runny inside. The fries are those great tricoloured ones that are on the dinner menu and they make the plate even prettier. The greens were dressed just the right amount with their tasty house dressing.

The Kitchen is a really great bet for brunch in Parkdale, especially in these waning summer days. The patio faces Northcote instead of Queen and is comfortable and quiet. The brunch here is a well-enough kept secret that you can have a leisurely meal without having people in line glaring at you to wrap up, yet still have amazing food. I'll be back for sure.

The Kitchen
1186 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Dinner at The Kitchen: Goodbye and good luck, Olivia!

I finally went back for another dinner at The Kitchen this Wednesday and was both sad and excited to hear that my girl (and executive chef) Olivia Bolano got a great, new opportunity so she's moving on. I'm so happy for her, but I'll miss being able to eat her delicious food.

It was kismet that I happened to bring my mom, sister, and friend Marcelo to enjoy what would be my last Olivia-made dinner at The Kitchen. We sat outside on their lovely patio, drank nice, cold glasses of wine and indulged in many, many tapas:

Grilled Octopus, Caper & Tomato Salad

Just like the grilled squid dish I tried back in March, the octopus was expertly cooked and tender with some nice charred bits. The salty, vinegary capers went perfectly with it.

Garden Maki

Asparagus & red bell pepper dusted in a panko crust with wasabi yogurt. This is probably my favourite thing on the menu. It's a maki roll that is covered in egg wash, dusted sparsely with panko breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. It sounds strange, but it's incredible and my Japanese mom, who didn't think it would work, absolutely loved it.

Green Onion & Apple Slaw

This was a lovely, fresh, crisp salad made of green apples, onions (I'm not sure what kind, but they were sweet), and a creamy but light dressing. So refreshing.

Root Vegetable & Chevre Salad

This was a pretty mix of greens with multi-coloured pickled beets and a luscious wheel of slightly toasted goat cheese all drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

Tempura Black Cod

Olivia and her crew really know how to fry. These tender pieces of whitefish were light, crispy and delicious. I couldn't get enough.

Beef Sliders

Beef sliders are everywhere these days and my main complaint is that they're usually too big. These adorable little sandwiches were itty biity, but still thick and juicy. The little poppyseed buns had nice grill marks on them and the gruyere and mushrooms combination was fantastic.

Japanese Eggplant Parmesan

We ordered this dish at the last minute and we were so glad we did. The skinny Japanese eggplants were cooked just right and the mozzarella and tomato sauce were so tasty. I love fresh tomato sauce.

Mixed Frites

My best guess at the three potatoes in the mixed frites is russet, blue, and sweet. They made a yummy mix and were served with ancho bbq sauce, cajun sauce, and a garlic mayo.

Banana Spring Rolls, Jack Caramel Sauce

No visit to The Kitchen is complete without the banana spring rolls. This is honestly the best dessert in the city. Even if you go somewhere else for dinner, drop by for some of this. It's the best.

Tomorrow morning I'm off to The Kitchen again for brunch and it's Olivia's last day. I hope the rain holds off so I can enjoy the patio again and have some nicely lit pictures for you of Olivia's brunch offerings. She told me that the chorizo hash is her favourite. How will I be able to sleep tonight?

The Kitchen
1186 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON

Tasty Thursdays: one more to go!

As summer winds down, so does Tasty Thursdays. :( I'm going to miss them. I did really well this year and managed to go to 5 of 8 so far and nothing will keep me from this week's! The question is whether to try something new or go with my favourite. Without doubt, my number one place this year was Kathmandu Restaurant. I tried everything, including the samosas, momos (ground chicken dumplings), tandoori chicken, channa (chickpea curry), and rice. I loved everything. Nice, generous portions a of spicy goodness. If you haven't gone yet and are going this week, you can't go wrong with them.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Edo booth to try the Kobe hotdog and sunomono (seaweed and cucumber salad). I saw these hotdogs at the Gourmet Food and Wine show last year and I thought it's such a waste of Kobe beef. But then I realized that they probably weren't using the filet portion of the cow, if you know what I mean. The hotdog was definitely different in texture and taste from your average weiner. It was a bit pastier. They topped it with sauteed cabbage and I added some Japanese curry sauce and wasabi mayo from the condiment station. It wasn't anything special, but it was a hotdog and how bad can that be?

One two other occasions, I tried the Vaughan Korean BBQ place. They had two main offerings: a BBQ dish (choice of beef or pork) and a chicken stew. Alongside these mains, they gave you lots of free sides, including kimchi, sauteed glass noodles, and blocks of fried tofu. Very generous. The chicken stew was nice, but had what seemed like a slightly cheesy taste? I couldn't pin it down. The BBQ beef was sweet, savoury, and tasty, but beware that you need to eat the whole rib in one bite. The meat is kind of chewy and can't be broken off easily. Only eat this with close friends.

While waiting at Edo for my hotdog, I saw the crabcake and shrimp that were being served at Big Daddy's Crabshack. It looked pretty tiny and stingy to me. The crabcakes were slightly bigger than poker chips and if you order the shrimp you only get two. They're presented atop a scoop of jambalaya rice that doesn't look like it has much in it besides tomato. I shouldn't talk too much smack since I didn't try it, but it didn't look promising.

So everyone have a great last Tasty Thursday. I'll see you there!

Tasty Thursdays
Nathan Philips Square
11AM-2PM, Thursdays until August 28

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Lil' Baci: Happy Birthday to Me

Tonight my awesome friends took me out for a fantastic dinner at Lil' Baci in Leslieville. Queen East has so many yummy looking restaurants and food shops that are largely unknown to me, so I jump at any chance to go this neighbourhood. Lil' Baci is a casual Italian place much like Mangia e Bevi with antipasto, a large selection of pizzas, a few pastas and authentic Italian desserts.

We started with an antipasto platter for two shared among 5 of us so as not to spoil our appetites. The platter comes with 3 antipasto selections along with some sliced meats (prosciutto, salumi, etc.) and a bit of parmesan. Darryl chose our selections, which were Tuscan white beans with roasted garlic, mushrooms with roasted garlic, and Ontario roasted tomatoes. All were excellent and the portion was just right for two people to nibble without filling up too much. Between the 5 of us, it was quite a tease.

Not on the menu, but definitely worth raving over was the bread from Brick Street Bakery just half a block away on Logan. I'm not absolutely sure, but I think this is a second location (I believe the Distillery District shop is still open). The waitress told us that Lil' Baci gets their bread as well as spelt for their pizza crust from Brick Street. Tonight's offering was sundried tomato and it was amazing. On some nights, we were told they have olive. Swoon.

For dinner we all shared the house salad (very healthy mix of greens and herbs dusted with salt and pepper, garnished with a slice of lemon), the roasted beet salad (with goat cheese and greens), a Funghi pizza (smothered in mushrooms), a Napoli pizza (anchovies, capers, and olives), the veal cannelloni, and the gnocchi (with spinach and lemon). Everything was delicious. The pizza crust is a bit thicker than at Mangia et Bevi. It's like Terroni, but better I think. The veal inside the cannelloni was so soft and smooth that it's almost Chef Boyardee-like, which I happen to love. I know, classy. The gnocchi was outstanding.

Sharing four mains between us 5 left some room for dessert so we had the dark chocolate mousse and ricotta cheesecake. We learned that the mousse is made by Ambiance Chocolat at Queen and Broadview and is 66% cocoa. It was fabulous -- smooth, dark, and rich. The ricotta cheesecake was interesting. It had a dry, crumbly texture and felt light, if that is possible for cheesecake. The combination of the two together worked, but if you have to pick one, get the mousse.

Lil' Baci has a beautiful, quiet back patio that is ideal for a summer evening of catching up with friends. The temperature and weather were just right tonight so we lingered for a long time. How comforting it is to hang out with old friends. Best birthday dinner ever. Thanks guys!

Lil' Baci
892 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tasty Thursdays: One month left!

I promised myself that I would go to every single Tasty Thursday this year, but the world is conspiring against me. Still, I managed to go twice so far and had some great food.

Kathmandu Restaurant

Momos: I think these are my favourite. They remind me of gyoza, but are made with chicken instead of pork and come with a fiery sauce. So good.

Non-veg meal: I love this name. It reminds me of when I went to India and everything with meat was labelled 'non-veg'. The non-veg meals consists of a small piece of tandoori chicken, chickpea curry over rice, and a bit of salad. So delicious and the curry is nicely spicy.

La Fiesta

Roast pork: This meal came with shredded roast pork, rice, beans, salad, and a potato omelette (mashed potato seared on the griddle). This was a very generous, tasty, and healthy (I think).

La Cocina de Dona Luz

Empanadas: I have a weakness for anything in pastry. You can't lose with these.

This week, my eye is on the Korean BBQ.

Tasty Thursdays
Nathan Philips Square
11AM-2PM, Thursdays until August 28