Get ready, Craft Beer Market opens on December 6! #GrandOpening


It’s not often the most photographed item from a craft beer restaurant are the pipes. Yet, one look on Instagram’s geotagging of Craft Beer Market and you’ll see more than your fair share of these gleaming silver contraptions. There’s a Willy Wonka factory feel to the place, except instead of transporting melted chocolate these metal pipes move cold brew from the keg room to bars on both levels.


I can understand the need for the high tech setting: with over 150 beers on tap, who would want to be responsible for lugging the heavy brew to the bars? There wouldn’t even be enough real estate at the bars to hold all the kegs. This is what it takes to offer the largest selection of craft beers in Ontario.

Making my way through a few brews, Old Tomorrow’s Light’er Up lager ($6.75) helped quench my thirst and prepare my taste buds for more beer.


There was plenty of drinks to be had at Craft Beer Market’s opening event. Collective Arts Brewing brought in ten beautifully designed cans, perfect for those who want something beautiful to behold other than a frothy cap. Their Lunch Money brew also reminded me of the lovely summer months. Meanwhile, Barrie’s Flying Monkeys served up a delicious crisp Antigravity concoction that really helped cut the saucy food.


If you’re into something different, choose from their “anomalies” section, the tangy Bandit Wizard of Gose ($6.75) had a lovely sour taste that finishes savoury that paired oh so well with the freshly shucked oysters. While these mollusks aren’t served on their normal menu, they can be ordered for larger functions - make sure to ask for the tasty jalapeño mignonette.


In fact, it’s all these crisp light beers that pairs well with the Ocean Wise seafood dishes on their menu: the Baja fish tacos ($14.50 for three) are grilled to alleviate any fried-food guilt (to allow for another beer, of course) and packed with tons of cabbage slaw. Meanwhile, the Hawaiian Ahi poke ($16) incorporated tons of tuna, but could use more garlic and sesame soya vinaigrette.


I can tell already the BBQ beer can chicken sliders ($14.50) will be a popular pick for a small bite amongst the after work drinks crowd. While it’s a typical slider, the house made BBQ sauce isn’t too sweet and the meat isn’t too oversaturated so you can actually eat the sandwich cleanly. 


The gaucho chicken flatbread ($17) has a light heat from the jalapeños and chipotle aioli. Unlike some of the other beer market type restaurants that tend to over season their foods (possibly to encourage more drinking), Craft Beer Market’s dishes are less salty with flavours stemming from the spices and ingredients incorporated into the food.


Thankfully, there seemed to be an endless supply of the Maui ribs ($14); I had more than my fair share. Glazed in a black garlic miso BBQ sauce, it’s an interesting savoury flavour, the coating in between a sticky glaze and dry rub. Paired with a stout beer, the ribs would make for a great hearty meal.


Craft Beer Market will be opened soon – December 6, right in time for all the holiday parties. For beer lovers, this restaurant is one you don’t want to miss. You can also join their CRAFT Club, where aside from getting exclusive access to special events you can also rate and share beers with their likeminded community. After downing 100 different ones, they’ll emblazon your name on a keg on their Alumni Wall. As if you need another reason to drink.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1 Adelaide Street East

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog

The Burger Cellar (Toronto)


Tucking into a burger is much easier during the summer – there’s always the option to make them myself on the barbeque. With the mercury dropping, the smell of charred meat brings me back to the warmer months. So, when I need a burger pick-me-up, I head to Burger Cellar, a purveyor of high quality customizable burgers with a variety of toppings to choose from. Aside from the fixings, the restaurant also allows diners to select the:
  • Protein: Black Angus (prices below), turkey (additional $2), prime grade beef (additional $4), or organic bison (additional $6); and
  • Bun: the classic soft brioche, whole wheat, pretzel bun, or gluten free.
Their ultimate burger ($11.95) is a bit messy to eat, but the fresh garlicky kick from the bruschetta really makes the sandwich. Along with generous dollops of creamy goat cheese, a sweet and tangy balsamic reduction, roasted garlic aioli, plenty of salty crispy onions, and the traditional fixings (tomato, lettuce, pickle, and onion), it makes for a great burger. Even when the beef patty is cooked through, it still tastes juicy thanks, in part, to everything else.


Surprisingly, the duck dynasty ($11.95) isn’t as heavy as it sounds. While there’s a decent helping of barbeque duck confit on the beef patty, the coleslaw, crispy onions, and traditional garnishes helps keep it light. Don’t get me wrong, with melted cheddar, chipotle mayo, and duck confit, it is a richer burger but won’t leave you feeling sick.


While the toppings on the angry burger ($12.95) sound very spicy: jalapeño havarti, sherry peppercorn bacon, crispy jalapeños, and buffalo sauce laced mayonnaise, the heat isn’t overwhelming. If anything, the peppercorn crusted bacon is the most sting inducing. I love how the flavours work together and makes for a flavourful sandwich.


Sides are purchased separately and there are plenty of options. The tried and true fries ($4.95) appeared as long slices of skin-on skinny potatoes, but on both visits were lukewarm and bordering stale. Their sweet potato fries ($7.45) were much fresher, arriving crispy and hot with a side of chipotle mayo.


The Burger Cellar does make excellent beer-battered onion rings ($4.95), each a manageable size with enough coating for crunch but not overly heavy. Cut into thicker slices, it gave the onion rings a nice sweet flavour so the vegetable doesn’t get lost in the batter. 


During the winter, I like their French onion soup ($6.95). While it could be a touch hotter, the beef stock is flavourful thanks to the red wine and herbs and incorporates huge chunks of caramelized balsamic onions. Moreover, with the hefty portion of melted cheese on top, the soup hits the spot.  


For something lighter, their Caesar salad ($5.95) is always a good option. The dressing is a bit light on the garlic, but with some fresh cracked pepper it’s nonetheless a decent salad.


While the menu promotes the house-made flaky buttery crust used in the chocolate pecan pie ($6.95), what arrives has very little crust and is so flat that it can hardly be classified as flaky. Burger Cellar doesn’t skimp on the pecans; the nuts dominate the dessert so it’s more like eating sticky pecans doused in a caramel chocolate sauce than really a pie. I would have liked a better balance of pastry, but if you love nuts, this is the one for you.


Winter doesn’t need to be a barbeque-free season. Thanks to Burger Cellar, I can still get my juicy burger fix.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3391 Yonge Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

The Burger Cellar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kelly’s Landing (Toronto)


Kelly Landing’s prime location in downtown Toronto has made it a popular place for me; typically for after work drinks but there’s been a lunch and dinner as well. Indeed, it’s a go-to place for many people – by 5pm there’s already a small line-up at the door. Yet, they’ve always seated reservations quickly and with their large space the only time I've been turned away without one is when there's a sporting event.

Having tasted the Moroccan curried chicken ($20) at their grand opening event, I wanted more. This was the first dish ordered during a return visit and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. Just as flavourful as I remembered, it combines North African spices creating a curry that has a good amount of heat, you’ll want a bit of the crema to help cool the tongue. The bits of almonds and apricots help add texture and there’s plenty of basmati rice and flatbread that you won’t leave hungry.


For a smaller meal, the pan seared scallops ($21) paired with salad is a good alternative. Being sizeable, the scallop arrives slightly raw on the inside with a great caramelized crust. There’s also a sweet and salty aspect to the starter thanks to the thinly sliced crispy pork belly and maple sherry glaze.


Despite not looking very appetizing, the nachos ($22) were really satisfying. It could be due to the ample cheese melted onto the chips and the jalapeño crema that adds a tangy kick to everything. With the crunchy peppers, onions, and olives there were sufficient ingredients on the nacho.


However, two ingredients were lacking: the Cajun chicken pieces were a little dry (perhaps a pulled chicken would be better) and the guacamole resembles a premade mixture from a tub, it’s a terrible puke green colour and lacks taste (the extra $3 to add it on was a waste).

Having seen other tables order the steak frites ($23), I had high hopes for the dish. When it arrived, it certainly looked impressive with beautiful grill marks and a glistening coating of sauce. Once I cut into it, the cooked through meat (when it should have been medium rare) was a huge disappointment. 


Moreover, it wasn’t a one-off incident as my friend’s was overcooked as well. Nevertheless, I begrudgingly ate the steak (our waitress did offer to re-fire both dishes but we didn’t want our other guest to wait around) and it was passable; at least well-seasoned and the hot demi-glace (likely partially responsible for the steak being overcooked) helped add moisture.

Overall, with some highs and lows, sadly the food isn’t as consistent as their staff’s friendly service. Yet, with their great location I’m sure I’ll be returning, I’ll just stick to the tastier items sampled at their opening event. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 123 Front Street West

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

Kelly's Landing Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


Chic Xi (Toronto)


Upon entering Chic Xi, the scent of steamed soup brings back memories of Chinese New Year at my grandmother’s or a special Sunday meal prepared by my father. For my family, a hot bowl of soup can start or end a meal. It’s the hours upon hours of cooking, as an ingredient’s flavours are slowly coaxed out and co-mingles, this is what makes it special.

So with the intoxicating rich aroma permeating the air, I already knew Chic Xi wasn’t going to be the typical chop suey “Chinese” restaurant. Indeed, their menu includes over half a dozen soups and boasts they’re prepared in individual vessels and steamed for three hours. This is the proper preparation that should result in a flavourful broth.

However, timing is everything and not serving the soup in the proper order can detract from the experience. The first thing to arrive was their ramen ($12). Akin to a beef noodle soup, their broth is unlike any other – rich in flavours (there must be a piece of jinhua ham somewhere) with a silky mouth feel. The beef pieces are slowly stewed so the spiced soy sauce marinade permeates the meat rendering it tender, even the soft bones could be eaten. Meanwhile, the noodles are the hand-pulled variety so it’s chewier and doughier than a Japanese ramen, but stands up to the flavourful broth. Whenever I’m craving a bowl of hot noodles, I’ll be going to Chic Xi.

Since the ramen’s beef broth was so rich, when the free range chicken soup with sea coconut, conch and bamboo fungus ($18) came afterwards, it was like drinking diluted consommé. If you really concentrate there’s the faint umami taste of the chicken bones and the bamboo soaks up the soup’s flavours. But being under seasoned, especially following the salty ramen broth, the steamed soup feels underwhelming.


I understand that steamed soup is generally less salty as it’s the broth’s natural sweet essence people value. But then it’s important to serve it first and at least provide soy sauce or salt for people to dip the pieces of chicken into.

At almost every table you’ll find a white porcelain container holding a candle underneath. These are Chic Xi’s luxurious rice pots topped with abalone or shark fin. Having stopped eating shark fin for animal welfare concerns, we tried the braised whole abalone lo fun ($32) where two glistening plump ping pong ball-sized abalone sit on a mound of steamed rice in a pool of oyster sauce. The abalone is well braised so it’s fragrant and soft, while the rich sauce makes the rice delicious by itself.


Despite looking plain, the stir fried vermicelli ($18) is still tasty thanks to a generous spoonful of XO sauce. The noodles incorporate plenty of plump mushrooms and sufficient crab meat dotted throughout (some in large chunks while most in smaller pieces). While the vermicelli is more neutral compared to other dishes, it goes nicely with some of the other flavourful offerings.


In fact, it pairs nicely with the spiced squid roll ($12), also known and spicy salt squid in other restaurants. Here the pieces are smaller so it develops a lot of the crispy edges and takes on more of the spices.


The special marinated pork cha siu ($16) is worth trying. Warmed before serving, allowing the fats and juices to combine, the meat is laid out on a plank; being well glazed, it’s sticky, salty, and sweet with slightly crispy edges.


With only three vegetable dishes to choose from, the simple stir fried Chinese broccoli with mashed garlic ($14) had to suffice. The chef uses the baby Chinese broccoli and takes the time to shave off the outer skin of the stems so the vegetables are delicate and crispy. While snow pea shoots weren’t found on the menu, they were served at a neighbouring table so there may be off menu seasonal vegetable dishes as well.


Chic Xi also offers a condensed selection of seven dim sum dishes. The siu mai ($9.50) arrives hot as it’s made to order; each dumpling topped with a whole spot prawn, scallop, and a dollop of truffle paste. While double or triple the price of the other dim sum restaurants, if you’re craving them in the evening, these are satisfying.


From the limited dessert selection, the osmanthus jelly with coconut juice ($5) sounded interesting. While pretty to look at, since the top jelly layer holds small delicate flowers, the dessert is rather tasteless with only a mild rock sugar flavour. The jelly would be better if the coconut juice bottom was made with a richer coconut milk instead and incorporating a touch more sugar.


Chic Xi’s service has improved since an initial summer visit. At the beginning, the servers seemed lost and didn’t think to serve the proper cutlery with each dish – we had to ask them for spoons for the ramen. While returning in November they seem more comfortable, but still have difficulties with describing a dish.

The menu has also been shortened (sorry the salt and pepper squid has disappeared), but at least most items are actually available. During the soft launch, out of four dishes we wanted to order, two weren’t available. In November only one dessert item, which we didn’t even want, couldn’t be filled.

While there are better Chinese restaurants located in Toronto, within the Yonge and Lawrence to York Mills area Chic Xi is by far the best. It’s my go-to place for a bowl of ramen where it’s comforting warm broth envelopes me from the cold winter chill.   

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3471 Yonge Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

Chic Xi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cafe Cancan (Toronto)


¯Can you, can you do the cancan?¯ That’s the song running through my mind after hearing Café Cancan replaces the former Harbord Room. I’m half expecting to see a raised bar looking like a stage flanked with velvet curtains and the staff wearing hot pants with fishnets. The reality couldn’t be further - clean cut white furniture and a pastel motif that feels familiar, similar to a host of Italian restaurants opening over the last two years.  

Their menu is fittingly French and filled with the classics including a small foie gras selection and baked escargot. With the cold weather, I start with a hearty French onion soup ($16). Café Cancan’s version tastes surprisingly light even though it incorporates pieces of pulled beef shank and plenty of gruyere, thanks to healthy dose of sherry and vinegar. While it was satisfying, I would have liked the broth to incorporate more onion as I found it predominantly tasted like slightly sour beef soup.


The duck confit ($24) was great, the skin crispy and glistening while the meat fork tender and flavourful. It was smart of the chef to keep the accompanying farro porridge less salty (since confit always has quite a bit of seasoning); the risotto-like side was flavoured with duck jus with a hint of creaminess from the gruyere.


While the size of the tenderloin used in the steak au poivre ($34) is pretty small, the thicker cut allows the beef to stay medium rare. The velvety peppercorn sauce was what you’d expect with the dish and the hot frites nice and crispy.


Café Cancan’s beef cheek bourguigon ($26) is delicious and hearty thanks to thick cuts of pork belly included in the dish. With two fair-sized chunks of beef cheek, you’ll be full afterwards. The sauce did seem a little light on the red wine, but could be due to all the other rich ingredients overpowering it, including the buttery pommes puree.


Only the skate wing a la meuniére ($25) remained unfinished at the end of the meal. Perhaps there was too much going on with the sauce: a tremendous amount of lemon, but then also grapes, apples, and hazelnuts. Moreover, being a thinner fish with distinctive gelatinous muscle layers, the texture can be weird - decreasing the sauce would help with the consistency, allowing the fish to remain crispy. 


Unlike restaurants that are trimming down dessert menus to less than a handful, Café Cancan has plenty of choose from.  If you’re in a rush, put in an order for the Northern spy apple tart for two ($18) earlier as it takes fifteen minutes to prepare. The extra time is well worth it as you’ll be treated to a hot cinnamon apple dessert with relatively crispy pastry. While it’s not nearly as good as Chabrol’s version (there's not enough pastry and the crème anglais is a bit thick), it’s nonetheless satisfying.


The opera cake ($12) also arrives doused in a silky coffee sauce, which I wish was more bitter to help balance out the sweetness of the chocolate and cream layered cake. Regardless, it was still a good dessert, just not a great option for those who don’t like rich sweet items.  


It’s great to see Toronto’s French bistro scene continue to expand. While Café Cancan’s aesthetically looks modern, their menu is refreshingly traditional and for the most part, well executed. It’s not the greatest option for vegetarians or those who want a healthy meal, but is that really what French cuisine is known for? Give me the molten cheese topped soup! I'm eating for winter.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 89 Harbord Street

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:

Cafe Cancan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Recap of the Taste Canada Awards Gala


Celebrating its 20th year, the Taste Canada Awards gather food lovers and professionals to present silver and gold awards to Canadian culinary writers (both French and English), primarily in the cook book and recipe realm. Held at the Ritz Carlton Toronto, it was a gorgeous venue with twinkling lights hanging from windows and a rare opportunity to see food celebrities and notable Ontario chefs all in one place.


The evening began with a wine and cheese reception where guests could peruse the nominated books and taste lovely savoury cheeses donated by Monforte Dairy and the Forno Cultura Bakery. Niagara College Teaching Winery also provided enough wine to get everyone in the mood for celebrating (and likely calm the nerves of any nominees).


Before the awards gala, nominees made their way down the red carpet holding their book (in the case of printed writers). While some exhibited the nervous “take a quick picture and get out of here” attitude, many took the opportunity to let loose or showcase their gorgeous outfits.


It couldn’t have been an easy decision choosing the victors: there were 33 judges going through 147 submissions to finally narrow it down to 24 gold and silver winners. I was happy to see food bloggers represented as well; especially Chu On This, a blog by Annie Chu that I personally read. For a full list of winners head to their site.


Hosts Noah Cappe (stars in Carnival Eats) and Claire Tansey (who seems to have dabbled in all things food over 20 years) kept the awards distribution going at good pace, while keeping the audience laughing and engaged. A memorable moment happened after Samuel Joubert, whose cookbook Le Coup de Grace won silver in the general cuisine French category. Perhaps Quebecois slang became little lost in translation, but Noah had to point it out … keep it tight!


Luckily, after hearing so much about food, by 8pm we could actually eat! There were plenty of food stations to choose from, most presenting a generously-sized dish.

The chocolate station by Cacao Barry and Chef Jason Bangerter was the most stunning, using chocolates and other confectionaries to replicate a forest floor as a nod to the “terriors” noir and au lait. Like the chocolates I’ve sampled at Langdon Hall, where Bangerter normally presides, they have this rich depth that makes them special - it’s about the ingredient’s natural tastes, not something merely creamy and sweet.


My favourite dishes include:

1) Chef Dan Craig’s foraged mushroom consommé, the beaker apparatus concentrating the broth’s flavour with other ingredients and emitting such a cozy aroma around the station. Simply adorned with an agnolotti stuffed with ricotta and chanterelle mushroom and a surprising garnish of pickled apple, I could have easily devoured a full bowl of the soup.


2) A lovely elk terrine made by Chef Jaret Flannigan of The Wooly Pub. It was meaty and had just the perfect balance of spice without completely covering the elk’s flavours. Topped with bits of crunchy brown butter crumb, sweet roasted tomato jam, pickled onions, and a donair sauce it would have even worked as a burger. I wish saved Chef Jonathan Gushue’s foraged mushrooms with red kuri squash and sweet corn puree to pair it with. The dishes would have complemented each other well and their booths were situated in the same area.


3) While the beef in Chef Trevor Lui’s tataki was a bit chewy, the sesame chimichurri sauce and crispy root chips were spot on. I love the vibrant flavours; similar to the offerings found at Lui’s from Kanpai Snack Bar.


Chef Robert Mills’s smoked salmon macaron with salmon roe jelly was inventive and my first foray into savoury macarons – really something people should dabble into more. The squid ink macaron was lightly sweetened and contrasted against the salty salmon roe and smoked salmon.


While the Singaporean crab and corn fritters presented by Chef Matt Basile could have used more time in the oil, the line forming in front of the table certainly caused pressure to mount. In fact, this was also a problem that plagued Chef Vanessa Yeung whose steamed pork and shrimp dumplings with Asian chili jam was undercooked so had an odd mushy texture. Note to future chefs: if you need to cook food at the gala, choose something that has a very quick cooking time – something sous vide would work well.


There was also Chef Tawfik Shehata’s shrimp ceviche that incorporated full-sized prawns instead of chopped pieces. The ceviche’s tart coolness was a great balance against the other dishes, just not the easiest to eat standing trying to get the ceviche onto the cassava chips with a fork.


Most guests were excited to sample Chef Trevor Ritchie’s Rougie foie gras piped onto a wild rice brioche. There was a Thanksgiving taste to the bite thanks to the cranberry compote added.


Aside from the chocolate forest display, there was also a decadent macadamia, honey, and citrus chocolate bar from Chef Amede Lamerche and culinary students from Contestoga College … what a large piece of smooth chocolate studded with dried fruits and nuts.

 

Chef Dufflet Rosenberg also brought full-sized pumpkin, carrot, and chocolate Sammy cookies. Imagine soft pillowy cookies sandwiching that rich buttercream Dufflet pastries habitually use. If only I weren’t so full I would have wanted one of each flavour – the pumpkin was delicious.


All the while, we continue to sip on more wines from the Niagara College Teaching Winery. A group of food lovers, writers, and professionals – gathering to break bread (topped with foie gras of course).

Disclaimer: I attended the event on a complimentary basis. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 181 Wellington Street West

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog