Showing posts with label charcuterie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label charcuterie. Show all posts

Nuit Social (Toronto)



Sharing is caring, oh so the saying goes. Sharing is what Nuit Social wants. In fact, create your own charcuterie “social boards” dominates half their menu where diners choose one, three, or five items from meat, cheese, and olives selections to create a sharing platter. Opting for five meats ($17) and three cheeses ($13), our board was enough for our table of five to have a taste each, the meats more so than the small bits of cheese.

Of all the items, the ones that stood out were the Tyrol schinkenspeck, the salty pork letting off that faint smokiness that’s synonymous with speck, and the bresaola (extra $1), which is best eaten plain as it’s fairly neutral and the leaner cut allows you to taste the beef. Really everything we chose – Rosette de Lyon French salami, Prosciutto, and the spicy sopressata - were all solid charcuterie.


Meanwhile, the cheeses were good but when paired with the strong meats felt a little lost. Whether it was the Vermeer gouda, Rondin du Poitou goat cheese, or the Charlevoix, the mild cheeses were flavours I enjoyed but couldn’t hold up against the bolder meats.

The last third of the menu is dedicated to “social plates”, which could be renamed to “social bags” given many arrive in a rolled down brown paper sack. Some items like the crispy frog legs ($12) and arancini ($14) are understandable, since the paper helps weep away the extra oil. But, for the Buffalo Brussels sprouts ($11) it’s a little strange as you can’t really get to the pool of hot sauce settling on the bottom.

If you can get past the image of a frog looking at you as you bite into the frog legs, it really does taste like  tender chicken or, with its small size, sort of like a less gamey quail leg. They were lightly dusted and mildly salted, but I would have liked them fried a bit longer.


Both the arancini and Brussel sprouts are dishes I’d avoid – the risotto balls so crumbly and dry that it tasted like fried dirty rice rather than a creamy porcini base. That bit of melted fontina cheese in the centre helped a bit, but could hardly save the dish. As for the Brussel sprouts, it’s a personal choice as the tangy harsh Buffalo sauce drenching the vegetable is something I normally don’t like anyways.


Items that were actually served on plates (or some case bowls) were the highlight of the meal and should be featured prominently rather than being relegated as the last things on the menu. I can still taste the sweet maple soy glaze on the pork ribs ($17) giving it a bit of stickiness but thin enough that it didn’t feel like you’re biting through a heavy sauce to get to the tender ribs. And the bed of smoked macaroni & cheese it sat on was equally delicious.


Normally, I find ricotta gnocchi ($16) a little too soft, but Nuit Social’s consistency was perfectly balanced with a light fluffiness and a bit of chewiness. The cheese and cream sauce could have been really really rich, but a bit of citrus, sweet peas, and smoky bits of chicken (oddly tasted like bacon) helped to temper the decadent dish just a little. Aside from the ribs, this was my favourite of the night.


The seared sushi steak ($17) is really a flat ironed steak done rare so that the meat has a thin ring around it like Albacore tuna. For being so underdone, the beef was surprisingly tender and the liberal amounts of chimmichurri gave the Japanese sounding dish an Argentinian flavour instead. Well roasted Brussels sprouts (thankfully, without Buffalo sauce) and fingerling potatoes finished off the plate making this one of the better-rounded dish for those who don’t want to share.  


But then sharing is Nuit Social’s mantra, they “are all about social gatherings, sharing great food and conversing over delicious drinks with old friends and new friends.” Their ambiance is set up for the mission as the music’s volume is kept at a low enough so you can actually converse with your friends (new or old). This is quite different for being a west Queen West restaurant where places like Drake Hotel is a neighbour.

Since it’s opened until midnight on weekdays and 2am on weekends, it’s also a great place to gather after a night of drinking. Nuit Social definitely doesn’t serve the typical post bar eats. It’s not every day that after a night of drinking you can tuck into amazing ribs with a side of ricotta gnocchi.  

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1168 Queen 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:


Nuit Social Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Craft beer lovers, Northern Maverick Brewing Co. is Now Opened!


In Ontario’s carefully controlled liquor industry, it’s hard to imagine how one can actually be a maverick and fully become a free-spirited company. One way to inch free of the chains is to open a brewery, where there are still rules and taxes, but creations can be freely shared without the threat of being hidden in the back or requiring expensive listing fees, since the Beer Store is actually owned by three large global beer manufacturers (and not our government).

Hence, it’s no surprise that with the rise in popularity of craft beer, there has also been an increase in craft breweries. The newest entrant is Northern Maverick Brewing Co. a sprawling 11,000 sq. ft. establishment that includes a restaurant (complete with huge patio), beer store, beer school, and of course brewery.


Their menu focuses on Canadian sourced casual eats. With the gleaming red slicer, their house made charcuterie arrives paper thin, making you want just one more slice. Everything is cured perfectly so it’s not too dry nor overly salty. Although truth be told, the savoury spices didn’t go well with the Vienna lager as it brought out so much of the beer’s bitterness. Sticking with one of their wines may be a better choice.


You could really create a nibbling feast for your party by adding a cheeseboard as well. With seven different cheeses available (sourced across Quebec and Ontario), there everything from a gooey brie to a harder cheddar, these go much better with the bubbly beers.


In a heartbeat I’d return for another Jamaican oxtail patty ($6), the flaky pastry is filled with tender braised oxtail incorporating habanero heat to have you reaching for a cold drink after finishing it.


Five seasonal beers are offered on tap; during the opening there was a dry hopped sour, Vienna lager, American pale ale, Indian pale ale, and a hefeweizen. What Northern Maverick strives for is to create aromatic brews that focus on flavour and smell, but is still balanced and delicious.

Having sampled a few of the craft beers, my favourite was the Heart of Tartness ($8.50) that contains strong refreshing notes of citrus and fruit – after something heavy, it’s a great way to cleanse the palette. The Gosezilla ($8.50) is also interesting having a lighter tartness but ending with a savoury element thanks to the hint of coriander.


Northern Maverick makes a mean cocktail as well – taking a traditional concoction and giving it a twist. The Travellers Mojito starts with the typical rum, mint, and lime juice, but then adds rose water, cardamom, and honeydew to give it an exotic tropical spin. Meanwhile, the Dry Hopped Daiquiri contains plenty of Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, but is mellowed with orange blossom water and a slightly bitter hops syrup.


Reading the blog write-up posted by Northern Maverick’s founder Jason Kaptyn, you can feel the passion and the blood, sweat, and tears it took to get them to the opening. I can’t wait until their beer school opens and I can learn more about beer and food pairings – for those who are especially gung ho they’ll even teach you how to create something at home. In the end, Jason just wants to share his love of craft beers with everyone else. As he sums up, “In short, we will do our best to provide the learning experience that, once upon a time, captured our hearts and led to our brewery in the first place.”

Disclaimer: The above drinks and food were sampled on a complimentary basis at their grand opening event. Rest assured, as noted in my mission statement, I will always provide an honest opinion.


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 115 Bathurst Street

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CLOSED: The Berlin (Kitchener)


Brunching at the Berlin ensures you’re satisfied right away. You’ve experienced it - the hunger pangs from a delayed breakfast; for a person who eats by 7:00 am during weekdays, waiting until even 11:00 am seems like an eternity. The Berlin gets you – they’ve set-up a harvest table with cold dishes so you can get into the meal quickly after being seated.



Soon after our drink orders were taken (a mimosa for me that’s already included in the meal price), I descended upon the table with a promise to bring back only one plate. After all, I couldn’t fill up and not eat any of the hot dishes.

With a changing menu, depending on what the local producers have in season, there was a nice combination to choose from. Half of the table was dedicated to sweets (black berry muffins, coconut chocolate scones, and an iced citrus loaf, to name a few), in the middle a make-your-own granola section, and on the other end, my kind of end … the savoury affair.



Gorgeous slices of smoked pork neck and lachsschinken (a brined cured pork loin) charcuterie and a pile of Beemster cheese. Placed onto their yeasty crusty bread, it transformed everything into an ultimate ham and cheese sandwich.



Aside from an extremely over salted shaved cabbage and green apple salad, the other options were delicious:

  • Citrusy cubes of the lightly cured rainbow trout with creamy avocado and a hit of mystery spice that gave the dish extra pep (could it be a ginger salt similar to the ginger sugar used on the grapefruit)?   
  • Despite having my fill of beets this season, the liberal sprinkling of green onions mixed into the traditional goat cheese mixture was fantastic and gave the salad a fresh spring-like quality.

Be warned, the harvest table is a test to your self-control - despite knowing I had already ordered a poached egg, I couldn’t stop myself from grabbing a slice of the leek and goat cheese frittata as it came warm from the oven. Just step away from the table and strap yourself into your seat.



Berlin’s brunch ($24 for adults and $10 for children including a beverage) is my kind of buffet. To ensure the hot items are at their peak, these are made-to-order. Order one or many and they will arrive individually plated, perfect for passing around the table so everyone gets a taste.



The medium poached egg already arrives with spiced lentils and a creamy yoghurt. But, you could easily combine it with a slice of jowl bacon and bread or English muffin to make a DIY eggs benedict. As for the bacon, meat lovers have to try it. Don’t let the thick layer of fat scare you; it tastes light in the mouth and simply melts away into deliciousness.



Put together their hot juicy garlic sausage (accompanied by a lovely grainy beer mustard) with a crispy dense potato latke and you’re in for a hearty meal.



Yet, it’s the French toast with the maple syrup that got our table in a tizzy. The thick piece of pumpkin spiced bread with pumpkin seeds (?) must have been soaking for a long time in the egg and milk mixture. Once you cut through the caramelized exterior, the middle in piping hot and has a soft custard consistency. Just take a moment to savour the French toast … it’s … just … so … good.



So delicious that once I went back to the harvest table for “dessert”, the freshly made cinnamon sticky buns and crispy sesame-poppy seed palmier seemed so normal. Forget the sticky bun, I could have had another slice of the French toast any day.



It’s a shame that the Berlin isn’t located closer to home, or perhaps it’s just a saving grace for my waistline. The meal was friendly and fantastic. Oh Chef Jonathan Gushue, how do you make the first meal of the day so satisfying? And now, for a nap.

Overall mark - 9 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: Kitchener, Canada
 Address: 45 King 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:




Mistura (Toronto)


After operating for twenty years, Mistura is successful. Yet, Paolo Paolini knows the importance of continuously evolving the restaurant to appeal to generations to come. Born in Italy and immigrating to Canada when he was seven, his passion for food began at 15 when he first started working in the food industry. Years later, he opened his first restaurant, Splendido, a place that I still consider the best brunching experience in the city.

He’s careful to create an elegant environment at Mistura without becoming pretentious; it’s important for customers to feel comfortable. Walking into their spacious dining room, you get that feeling. Everything looks opulent but it’s not stuffy – classic white linens are replaced with lux cream leather and candles joined by airy lighting fixtures.  


With a new Executive Chef commanding the kitchen, Klaus Rohrich is putting a modern flare on the traditional Italian favourites without giving up the practice of using seasonal Canadian ingredients. To showcase their fall menu, a group of food lovers were invited into the restaurant to try a selection of items. Accordingly, most dishes pictured in the post are smaller than actual portion sizes.

Rohrich has previously served as Mistura’s Sous Chef for six years, so he’s no stranger to the establishment’s beloved dishes, like the balsamic glazed lamb ribs ($34), which will always have a home on the menu.


After marinating the lamb for three days and slow cooking for a few hours, you can imagine how tender the meat becomes. Yet, the preparation doesn’t render the meat tasteless; you’re not going to mistake these for pork ribs. The light gaminess of the lamb is still prevalent but balanced by the sweet and tangy glaze thickly slathered on top.

Donning a Blue Jays cap, Rohrich is laid back and casual – he jokes, he’s straight forward, and he doesn’t mind revealing how dishes are created. What truly shines through is his love for cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. Paolini believes in giving Chefs the freedom to create – when Klaus wanted to make charcuterie (difficult and time consuming items) he obliged and will soon even convert a wine display to showcase these meaty creations.

Available in two ounce servings, diners can combine the charcuterie from the six options to create their own platter (ranging from $8 for the mortadella to $50 for the bellota pata negra also known as ibérico ham). Rohrich shows restraint with the spices, the prosciutto di parma ($18) wasn’t overly salty. In his hands, the mortadella creamy and light. Even the house preserved pickled vegetables are deliciously tangy and crunchy.

Through trial and error he discovers new ways to heighten existing dishes. While trying to keep pasta fresh for the evening, he vacuum packed the dough and found that in the process the air pockets were removed and helped keep the dough al dante.

The wild boar angolotti ($21) has an ultra-thin crust encasing a decent portion of braised meat. The thick glossy roasting jus on top is rich without relying on salt. The port stewed dried cherries are not for me, but for those who find the angolotti heavy on its own, does help lighten the dish.


In the end, Paolini explains it best: people should visit Mistura to enjoy dishes that can’t be easily replicated at home. The meals take time to prepare – it’s not just a piece of meat seared on high heat and finished in the oven or something deep fried until golden.

Take their boneless free range chicken ($29), the name sounds boring even though it’s anything but. The de-boned chicken is prepared ballotine style with the white meat encasing dark. After being slowly cooked sous vide the meat’s moist and flavourful with a crispy piece of skin included for crunch.


If you’re not in the mood for a traditional main, one can easily be filled with a selection of their appetizers. Arriving two pieces in an order, the crostini are satisfying delicious. The marinated eggplant with fresh herbs ($6) is the lightest of the bunch while the duck liver pâté ($10) luscious and rich with a bit of sweetness from the mostarda on top.


My favourite crostini was the warm mushroom and gorgonzola ($8), so comforting and the mild blue cheese not overly strong rather adding a creamy touch.


Much too easy to munch on, the crispy shrimp ($18) are tempura battered skewers with compressed melon. Perfect for nibbling on while enjoying a glass of Prosecco, you normally wouldn’t picture shrimp and cantaloupe together but the touch of acidity in the citrus dip helps balance out the melon’s sweetness.


Oh how I love artichokes and to have it deep fried ($16) at Mistura is a rare treat. The outer edges are feathery and crispy while the heart remains juicy and soft. The creamy herb sauce has a big punch of lemon in it to lighten the dish, while the gherkins and capers gives the condiment a tartar sauce flair.


The artichokes pair well with the sweet corn soup ($12), thick and creamy, relying little on cream and instead puréed corn. The crunchy croutons could be smaller so you don’t feel like you’re getting a huge mouthful of it, but the crab and roasted onion salsa is fantastic, adding a hint of heat and keeps the soup savoury.


Chef Rohrich imparts some words of wisdom: you cook with your ears and all the senses. Being a chef is knowing how to adapt to changes so that you can’t rely on a recipe. I can see this craft in the pan seared branzino filet ($32), you’ll need to know how long to keep the fish in the pan so that the skin is golden and crispy but still have the meat flakey.

There’s so much going on with the sides for the branzino - steamed Manila clams and vibrant olive oil poached cherry tomatoes. Although, it’s the lemon scented bean salad that’s the highlight: instead of a soggy stew, each ingredient is distinctly represented and the green string beans still have bite.

All too often panna cotta, a famous Italian dessert, arrives tasting like milk jello. At Mistura, their vanilla panna cotta ($12) is one of the better ones I’ve tasted – there’s an airiness that makes the creamy dessert feel smooth and luscious.  The plump blueberries on top were a good choice, but the lemon used in the meringue could be toned down as it renders it bitter.


If you ever see Paolo wandering around the dining room, you’d be lucky to have him sit down at the table. He’s a no BS type of a guy and could regale you for hours with stories from working in the industry … I don’t want to spoil his own Kitchen Confidential that needs to be written, but there was an incident with a gun and telephone.

Mistura isn’t flashy and doesn’t try too hard to fit into what’s “trendy”. Paolo simply states that the restaurant isn’t about fluff, you’re not going to get “tweezer” food here.

Being a millennial, albeit on the cusp of the Gen X designation, I’m tired of going to restaurants that want to target this broad generation. I hate sitting on backless wooden stools and don’t even get me started on the dreaded communal tables. Sometimes I’m in the mood for sharing plates, but what’s wrong with getting your own main that includes all the sides once in a while?


Yet the one thing that drives me insane? The loud music. Why does anyone think I want to visit a restaurant so that I need to desperately scream over the music (and everyone else screaming) to speak to my dinner guests? At Mistura, thankfully, it’s blissfully tranquil.

Overall mark - 8 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: 265 Davenport 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:


Mistura 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

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