Boiling Harbour (Vaughan)


Wow how things have changed in Vaughan! Normally I only visit the city, a short drive from Toronto, when going to Wonderland so it’s shocking to see how developed and thriving the area’s become. Even the culinary scene is growing – aside from the chain restaurants and authentic Italian joints, a wealth of diversity is springing up. This summer, a new entrant joins them: Boiling Harbour brings the Louisiana boil to Vaughan!

In the Southern states, a seafood boil is not merely a dish, but rather a social event bringing together communities, friends and families. You should definitely keep with the tradition and arrive in a group so you can try numerous items.

During the opening event, we sampled skillfully prepared snow crab legs ($18.95/lb), large meaty mussels ($10.95/lb) and head-on shrimp ($12.95/lb) so you can really enjoy the seafood essence. The Harbour sauce (a mix of garlic butter, lime, pepper and Cajun spices) was just spicy enough at the medium level and thankfully not overly salty or oily to detract from the seafood.


Some of the add-ins are a tad pricy (corn for $1 or sausages for $6.50 apiece), but the sweetness of the corn goes so nicely with the hot spicy broth and I like that Boiling Harbour used fresh ears (at least during our summer visit) compared to the chewy frozen variety.  

Having had gumbo ($9) in New Orleans, the hearty flavourful stew at the restaurant is impressive. In particular, it was a smart idea to cook the shrimp separately so they didn’t turn rubbery and there was enough okra to thicken the broth but not turn it slimy. The gumbo is fantastic and is better than the ones I sampled in Louisiana.


The lobster mac & cheese balls ($15.95 for three) are huge and great for sharing. Although the mixture doesn’t contains tons of lobster, the pasta was cooked well and there’s enough sauce so that the insides are gooey when the crispy crust is broken.


Once you see an order of the loaded lobster fries ($28.95) go by, you’ll want it. It’s a serious dish with an entire boiled lobster that’s flash fried and drizzled with garlic butter and aioli. There’s definitely enough lobster to share, but it’s so good that it’ll be hard not to devour the other half. As if it weren’t enough, the crustacean sits on a bed of hot Cajun fries – perfect for dipping into the boil sauce.


Dinner at the Boiling Harbour was delicious and I truly love the experience. It’s a shame, as the one thing that keeps me from frequenting these restaurants is the amount of waste generated – the boil is served in food safe poly bags, other items in Styrofoam or paper plates, and all the utensils are plastic. Every person even received a small plastic container of salt and pepper … the barrel of them on display really doesn’t go with the seafood friendly theme.

I understand, disposables are easy: there’s nothing to wash and little up-front investment. To be fair, Boiling Harbour isn’t the only restaurant that relies the ease; competitors do this as well. Although I’m not an environmentalist, I still care about what we do to the Earth – after having a delicious meal, the worst feeling is the guilt felt while staring at all the waste you’ve created.

So, I’d encourage restaurants to gradually improve their impact: like those individual salt and pepper containers? That can easily be replaced with shakers that’s given when requested – seriously, the food is already well-seasoned, I don’t see why it would be needed anyways. Then as cash flows allow, start purchasing utensils, re-usable plastic serving platters, cups, and transparent pails to serve the boil in (the photographs would turn out much better than bags).

If only the entire experience wasn’t so wasteful, I’d certainly go back more frequently. I already have a hankering for another helping of boiled crab legs, loaded lobster fries and gumbo. Maybe next time I visit there will be real utensils, then I can leave feeling full and guilt free.

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3175 Rutherford Road

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 Boiling Harbour Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Simply Snacking: Espuña Tapas Essentials


The culture of sharing little bites is everywhere in the world: the French pass around hors d’oeuvres, Italians have antipasto, and Chinese families love dim sum. In Spain, they’re known as tapas, a selection of cold or hot dishes often eaten as a snack but could be combined into a meal. While travelling in Barcelona, they were a wonderful pick-me-up after hours of sightseeing to refill on nutrients and cool down with beer or sangria.

Sometimes tapas are purchased, but the simpler versions are offered on a complimentary basis with drinks. In fact, the practice began when bread or meat slices were given out to patrons at taverns to cover their glasses and keep out the blowing sand from dirt roads. The meats also tend to be saltier to encourage drinking and higher alcohol sales.  


This year, Espuña Tapas Essentials is crossing the ocean and entering the Canadian market. Currently found in Longo’s Market stores, they offer a variety of 18 sliced meats and heat-and-serve products. As an introduction I received a selection of products to try and invited friends over to sample them over wine – luckily my home wasn’t overly dusty as there’s no way these meats would cover the large wine glasses we use nowadays.

Directly translated as “mountain” ham, the Serrano ham used to be cured in sheds in high altitudes. Delicious on its own, I also enjoyed the ham on toasted bread brushed with olive oil with lightly aged white cheddar. The heat of the bread starts to warm through the cheese and softens the thin layers of fat on the Serrano ham to give the tapa a creamy feel.

If you like your charcuterie fattier (especially when pairing with beer), Espuña has a whole line of salamis. The Barcelona style (on the left in the picture below) is less blubbery and seasoned longer to really allow the salt and pepper to permeate the meat. The longer curing period also makes the pork dryer and a tad gamier than your typical salami.


Meanwhile, the original Olat salami (in the middle in the picture above) originates from the founder’s region, in the North Eastern part of Spain. Larger chunks of fatty pork is stuffed into a thin casing and seasoned again. A little greasy for my tastes, but was the salami my husband happily inhaled.

If you’re in the mood for a real salty snack, the chorizo cañitas takes pepperettes to the next level. Like its name, the cañita is thin and long like a “drinking straw”; Espuña even suggests you serve them standing up in a glass with breadsticks.

For me, since the soft pork was so well-seasoned with salt and paprika, I found the cañitas were best consumed in small pieces tucked into a soft piece of bread. Use them for a quick omelette: dice one cañita into small pieces, mix into two beaten eggs, and cook! You don’t even need to add any salt and pepper, making it one of the quickest breakfasts I’ve ever made.

The heat and serve line is ingenious for making tapas that could transform into a hearty meal. After removing from the packaging and a quick minute in the microwave, I was presented with juicy aromatic meat skewers with chopped fine herbs and a sweet and salty bacon wrapped dates. These are great for dinner parties, especially since they can be prepared in small batches to provide guests with a hot treat. 


When Esteve Espuña first started making sausages in a farmhouse near Olot, little did he know that his creations would eventually be eaten worldwide. Thanks to his family member’s working to expand the brand, I’ve received a taste of Spain in Canada. Mix with fresh bread, a selection of cheeses and grilled vegetables, their creations really allowed for a satisfying spread with friends. 

Disclaimer: The above snacks were provided on a complimentary basis. Rest assured, as noted in the mission statement, I would never promote something I didn't actually enjoy.


MORE: Back to Simply Snacking

How To Find Them 
 Website: http://www.espunatapasessentials.ca/ or Longo's
 Approx. Price:  $2.99 - $6.99

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Visit Destination Thailand at Yonge Dundas Square


Destination Thailand’s third anniversary means another huge festival at Yonge Dundas Square. One of the largest in Canada, the Royal Thai Embassy transforms downtown Toronto into the friendly warm country with traditional dances, exotic fruits, crafts, massages, Muay Thai, entertainment, and of course authentic cuisine!

The Royal Thai Embassy also operates a worldwide certification program, Thai Select, which grades restaurants on their authenticity. Aside from using traditional ingredients, chefs are also judged by their cooking method and how closely that matches actual approaches used in Thailand. In Canada, the 88 restaurants that meet their requirements are given a premium or red status. At the festival, eight local establishments will be featured:

  • Bangkok Garden
  • Golden Thai
  • Linda Modern Thai
  • Pai Toronto
  • Patchmon’s Thai Dessert
  • Soi Thai
  • Stratford Thai Cuisine
  • Thai Noodle
Having sampled eats from six of the eight vendors at a media event, I can say attendees are in for a treat. Although these will likely be the dishes served at the festival (ranging from $5-$10), the selection may change depending on ingredient availability.

Pai’s gai ping is the most flavourful and tender grilled chicken skewers I’ve ever had. Chef Nuit Regular freely shared that the meat is so succulent due to being marinated in coconut milk. Meanwhile, the rich flavours are derived from a paste of tamarind, fish sauce, lime juice and chilies.


For something different try their moo nam tok, slices of grilled pork jowl mixed with a spicy sweet and sour tamarind sauce that goes perfectly with steamed sticky rice. The dish smells a good as it looks, just be sure you can handle the heat as the chili and herb sauce on top is surprisingly spicy.


With the success of the Regulars’ restaurants (Khao SanRoad, Pai, Sabai Sabai), it’s not surprising that Chef Nuit is Thai Select’s ambassador of Canada where she’ll promote the program and encourage fellow restaurateurs to uphold authentic standards. Having dined at their restaurants, there’s no doubt that they serve the best Thai food I’ve ever had – as I write this I’m wistful for another skewer of gai ping.

If you enjoy sauce drenched rice like myself, try the massaman lamb curry from Golden Thai. The lamb is melt-in-your-mouth tender without any gaminess and the flavourful curry goes so well with rice. Vegetarians, Golden Thai will also be serving tempeh or grilled tofu and vegetable satay skewers (served with peanut, sweet Thai, or hot sauces).


The second non-meat offering at Destination Thailand comes from Bangkok Garden who will be featuring a golden vegetable curry. If you’re a carnivore, try their spicy cashew chicken, which although looks innocent has a flavourful punch.


Linda Modern Thai has been experimenting with their menu to ensure it can be reproduced with their high standards. At the media event, they were showcasing the likely contenders:

  • An interesting Thai beef salad consisting of flank steak marinated with Thai basil coconut syrup, which has a sweet tartness to it not unlike balsamic vinegar.
  • Traditional grilled lemongrass chicken is elevated with a seafood sangwa sauce that the chef explains is like a salsa verde with fish sauce and lemongrass. It’s salty and sour against the smoky grilled chicken and the dots of homemade sriracha are spicy without being overpowering.  

Soi Thai, based on College Street, generally sells dishes reminiscent of the street foods in Thailand. At the festival, they will be offering a hearty complete meal: khao kha moo or succulent braised pork hocks stewed in a flavourful soy sauce broth studded with star anise, cinnamon, cilantro root, garlic and white peppercorns to give it an earthy and slightly sweet seasoning.

If you find it overly rich, dip it into the spicy chili-vinegar on the side that helps cut the grease. The pork hock arrives shredded over steamed jasmine rice and is served with blanched gai lan (Chinese broccoli), pickled mustard greens, and half a hard-boiled egg … you’ll leave full after this dish, so share it!

My first taste of Thai desserts was an introduction with Patchmon’s, a family run eatery that concocts a wide variety of sweets. I love the kha-nhom chun, a chewy glutinous coconut layer cake – you can actually peel each layer apart. Put together with coconut cream, pandan juice and tapioca flour the dessert is light and delicious. It’s normally served at special occasions and wishes a person good luck as they travel up the layers.


For those who like savoury and sweet combinations, the kha-nhom sai-sai is a dumpling stuffed with a savoury shredded coconut filling, lightly sweetened with palm sugar and coconut cream, and then steamed in lotus leaf. Their ta-goe is another surprising dessert, starting off as a luscious coconut cream on top but below a slightly salty tapioca layer with young coconut and corn studded throughout.  


With tons of desserts, Patchmon will be offering a mix-and-match plate. Arrive early and try their gleeb lum duan cookies shaped like a flower. The shortbread like cookies are finished with a food safe candle that adds a light charcoal taste and fragrance, but it can dissipate as the day advances so won’t be as pronounced for later customers.   


Judging by the hot sunny weather Toronto has been graced with this year, it’ll likely be a beautiful warm day. So, you’ll likely want a cold drink to wash down all the spicy eats. Luckily, Singha beers will be on hand selling their brews for $6; head to their special seating area for a refreshing cold drink.


Don’t forget to pick up a free passport and have it stamped at each vendor. Visit at least five of the restaurants and you’ll receive a free t-shirt and be entered into a contest to win meals for two for one year (limited to two visits per month)!


Visitors can even get a relaxing massage at two places: Shivaga Thai Massage and Traditional Thai Massage Association of Ontario. They’ll offer services with varying timing, but a massage is about $65. After an afternoon of eating and drinking how relaxing would a massage be? Just try not to fall asleep. 

How To Find Them
 Date and Time: Sep 10, 2016 from 11am - 8pm
 Address: Yonge and Dundas Square
 Pricing: Free entrance; extra for food, crafts and services

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Scaddabush Scarborough (Toronto)


Scaddabush brings together fresh cooking with the benefits of being a chain: their ample dining rooms makes securing a reservation easy and with their huge Nonna’s table can accommodate large groups. Yet, the restaurant relies on their chefs to make most ingredients in-house and employees are considered artisans, encouraged to add their personal mark (as shown by the symbol on the platter above). 

Indeed, nothing will be fresher than the house-made mozzarella. Only served between 5pm – 11pm, each dish is hand-stretched to order using cheese secured from a local Mississauga dairy. If you’re interested in watching your dish being made, you can ask to be brought over to the mozzarella bar where the chef submerges the cheese in extremely hot water so that it’s pliable, stretches it just enough for elasticity, and forms it into a delicious sphere. 


The naked ($12.98) is for the purist, simply adorned with a splash of olive oil and San Marzano tomato jam and sea salt on the side. Unlike burrata it’s not overly soft; instead, the cheese has a springy bite. With a sprinkle of salt, it worked well to enhance the rich creamy flavour of the mozzarella.


If you prefer the cheese melted, the bomba burrata ($15.93) takes the mozzarella and adds cream to make it softer. Served in a hot cast iron pan, the cheese remains gooey in the spicy roasted tomato ragu that’s studded with plenty of double-smoked bacon, basil and chili flakes.


I found the bacon’s strong flavour took away from the milder cheese. But, the sauce is fantastic and you’ll definitely want to sop it up with the focaccia crostini. I love the spiciness of the ragu and even added it to some of the other dishes that evening.

Italians make amazing polenta – especially when it’s deep fried. Even though the sauce was delicious, it should be served on the side as it renders half of the crispy tots ($8.97) soggy. However, if you eat them quickly, the polenta with dollops of mascarpone, drizzles of parmesan aioli and shaved Grana Padano is delicious. Try some of the sauce on the naked mozzarella, they go well.


Scaddabush may be serving the ultimate hangover pizza: the smoked bacon and egg ($15.96), a thin well toasted crust smothered with toppings including mushrooms, caramelized onions, mozzarella and huge chunks of not overly salty double smoked bacon. It arrives with a fried egg that you’re encouraged to smear onto the pizza while still hot. Just be mindful of the spice - this is a spicy pizza with the chili oil and ample chopped bird’s eye chilies.


A dish that Chef Steve Silvestro perfected is the Sunday sauce (a marinara amped with pancetta and spices) and the braised meatballs – dishes he would cook with his Nonna. All that practice is now showcased in the restaurant’s ½ lb meatballs made with ground angus chuck, ricotta, parsley, garlic, black pepper and porcini.

They’re available by itself as an appetizer ($12.98 in classic style of $13.58 stuffed with cheese) or as a family-style sharing plate with spaghetti ($17.97 for the classic of $32.35 stuffed). Despite being such a huge hunk of beef, the meatballs are surprisingly light and moist thanks to the ricotta. The house-made spaghetti is thick and chewy, almost like a thinner bigoli, and goes well with the Sunday sauce. I’d only make one change: the dish could have had less garlic chips given they’re so strong.

Trust me, their desserts should be shared. Half a dozen sweet airy zeppole ($6.50) arrive in the order, piping hot and dusted with citrus sugar. The warmed chocolate hazelnut sauce is great for pouring into the spongy fried dough after the first bite. If you’re a fan of beignets you’ll love these!


The tiramisu ($8.25) is rich with the mascarpone cream. Just swivel the jar around as you share to ensure everyone gets a taste of the espresso and marsala soaked lady fingers. I would have liked more of the cookies to help balance the sweet thick cream.


Scaddabush is inspired by Italian passion and generosity. So, they believe in giving back and patrons help by purchasing their charity bread (ranging from $4.25 - $5.25 depending of flavour). Each restaurant selects a local charity to donate the proceeds of the bread to - for the Scarborough location it’s the Bluffs Food Bank, an organization that helps provide 350 families with groceries weekly.

I like the fact that each restaurant’s anniversary is celebrated by giving donating the charity bread proceeds. Since the first restaurant launched in 2013, Scaddabush has donated $60,000 to Sick Kids and Mississauga Food Bank collectively. This fall, Starlight Children’s Foundation will receive their cheque when the Richmond Hill location turns one. What a great initiative and the perfect way for me to consume more carbs, guilt free. 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10
Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 572 Progress Avenue

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:


Scaddabush Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


The Oar & Paddle (Gravenhurst)


Aside from an endless supply of baked goods, a cottage vacation usually means taking a break from buying food and preparing it ourselves. After being in the sun and relaxing, it’s nice to take time to cook and not abide by schedules. Nonetheless, one evening we gave the barbeque a rest and made our way into the quaint main street in Gravenhurst for dinner.  

When a menu proclaims something as the restaurant’s “famous” dish, I’m intrigued and will give it a try - an order of the deep fried chicken wings ($12.99 for 10 pieces) started us off while waiting for the mains. With thirteen sauces and seasonings to choose from, the Oar & Paddle has a decent selection. The sweet and spicy Thai lived up to its name in terms of flavour and the wings were good – juicy, crispy, freshly out of the fryer, and covered with an ample amount of sauce. Certainly not the best wings I’ve ever eaten, but would likely be a top 20 contender.


For a city by the water, I thought their bouillabaisse ($19.99) would be equally satisfying. To be fair, it had the beginnings of being a promising dish with a nice selection of seafood: perch, shrimp and mussels. Except for the shrimp, which were slightly overcooked, the others arrived flaky and plump.

However, what makes a bouillabaisse nourishing is a hot hearty broth – something aromatic that hits the nose as soon as the dish arrives and a depth that makes you want to drink every last drop. Somehow, the lukewarm lackluster tomato and clam broth just didn’t cut it. At first excited to see the bouillabaisse would be served with both rice and grilled baguette (more vessels to soak up the broth), the rice was probably a poor choice as the hunk of cooled made-hours-ago starch ultimately left the soup tepid.

My husband was smart and stuck with the steadfast fish and chips ($16.99), a popular choice amongst the diners. The haddock was encapsulated in a crispy beer batter - although it could stand to be harder in the centre, the crunchy edges I tried were wonderful. The fries were also hot, plentiful and satisfying. And thankfully, the restaurant made their own tartar sauce so had plenty of gherkins and flavour – I’m amazed at the number of places that ruin fish and chips by giving the packaged Heinz variety.


The Oar & Paddle is a Muskoka favourite and the place was full (both in the dining room and patio) during our Thursday evening visit… you’ll want to make a reservation. Laid back and homey, you don’t feel judged arriving in whatever you’ve been wearing at the cottage that afternoon (covered up of course). Just heed my advice and stick with the pub favourites, anything not grilled or deep fried may result in disappointment.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10



How To Find Them
 Location: Gravenhurst, Canada
 Address: 530 Muskoka Road North

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:


Oar and Paddle Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Badali Bar & Cucina (Toronto)


I don’t know when it happened, but the previous Joe Badali’s has been re-branded as The Badali Bar and Cucina and with it the dining room modernized. The numerous banquettes and four top tables have been replaced with sleeker models and if you’re looking to host a large group, there’s a huge table along the wall that could easily hold twenty.

Although Badali’s prices are generally reasonable, during Summerlicious, their lunch menu is a steal at $18. Moreover, it’s one of the few that offers two vegetarian options (something I look for when planning work lunches).  The meat-free arancini is a lovely golden brown and crispy, but could benefit from being hotter inside. Pretty flavourful to begin with, I did enjoy the flecks of sun dried tomatoes mixed into the rice, but the consistency could be creamier.


The gemelli spiral pasta was cooked perfectly covered in a tasty white wine tomato sauce. The Calabrese salami was served as three small thin slices thrown into the middle - if you’re not paying attention you end up with a mouthful of salty spicy meat. Personally, I would have preferred it cut into slivers or cubes so the salami could be evenly dispersed. Overall, the pasta was good but with the musky mussels, the dish would have been better with chicken or grilled vegetables instead.


It’s a shame that the earl grey steeped panna cotta was covered in a berry compote, as the panna cotta itself was delicious. However, the mild tea flavour wiped out by the strong fruit topping; Chantilly cream topped with shortbread crumbles would surely be a better fit.


Although my last visit was over five years ago, this experience was still the same: great location and warm friendly service, but the food wouldn’t make your nonna proud.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10
Is Summerlicious worth it (based on my meal selection)?
Summerlicious - $18
Regular menu - $28 - arancini* ($8), pasta* ($18) and dessert* ($8)
Savings - $16 or 47%

*None of the items are part of their regular menu, so prices based on the soup, lunch pasta and dessert is a wild guess by me

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 156 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:


Joe Badalis Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato