Showing posts with label salmon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label salmon. Show all posts

Cucina Di Paisano (Toronto) for delivery


Note: Prices in post are based on regular menu prices and may be higher when using delivery services

Since restaurants have been gradually opening for stage two and three in Toronto, I’ve gotten into conversations with friends and loved ones about why even dine in a restaurant, they all offer take out and some deliver. Isn’t it just convenient, not to mention safer, to just continue eating their food at home?

At first, I gave the easy answers: the food tastes so much better fresh (boy does it) and I’m already wracked with guilt about all the takeout containers I’ve used, anything to go back to less plastic waste (although, I know, even dining in means more waste lately from the one-use menus and the number of wipes discarded). But then I realized, it’s also about the connection you feel with the food.

It really came out when I settled in to try to write this post about my delivery experience with Cucina Di Paisano… yes, I can talk about the food and how it tastes, but other than that I felt very little connection to the restaurant itself. There were no past dining experiences I could re-collect and no feeling of nostalgia towards the dishes themselves.

So, to me, all I can describe is how their Caesar salad ($12 for large size) used way too much dressing, so much so that if I actually had romaine lettuce on hand I could have augment the salad by another 50% without skimping on flavour. And that despite the relatively higher price point for the salad, it was a bare bones interpretation of the dish: lettuce, sauce, a few croutons, and powdered parmesan instead of shavings.

On other dishes, they don’t skimp on the cheese, such as the garlic bread ($8), a hefty portion with six thick baguettes covered with ample amount of the dairy. Although, I would have traded some of the mozzarella for garlic as it just tasted like bread with butter and cheese.

While I didn’t taste their eggplant parmigano ($18), it’s another dish encapsulated with mozzarella and is made to feed two given you’re provided with so many pieces of eggplant, a side of penne big enough to feed a child, and an equal amount of vegetables. Paisano knew that cheese is the way to my husband’s heart (emotionally and literally) as he loved the dish.

Since the meal was being delivered, I moderated my expectations for the grilled salmon ($23) and knew it wouldn’t be a lovely pink doneness in the centre. Indeed, it was cooked through-and-through but still fairly moist, especially on the thinner end where there’s more fat in the meat. The simple lemon, basil, and olive oil was just enough to flavour the fish and compared to everything else the dish was a more manageable serving with crunchy vegetables (broccoli, peppers, and carrots) and the roasted potatoes that arrived overdone but nonetheless flavourful and creamy.

I guess it would be remiss of me not to mention that if you’re doing takeout, they have four great 2-for-1 options that are an economical choice. If it’s anything like their eggplant parmiagno, you may have enough food for a family of four. I wish I could do Cucina Di Paisano greater justice with this post, but try as I might, it’s difficult when there’s no connection to draw upon.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 865 York Mills Road
 Website: https://paisano.ca/
 Delivery: Uber and Doordash
Referral Discount Codes
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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never order again
  • 6 - decent for delivery and takeout, but there's better
  • 7 - this is good, for delivery and takeout
  • 8 - great for delivery and takeout, it's almost like you're in a restaurant
  • 9 -  wow, it's like I'm eating at a restaurant
  • 10 - I'd happily order this for delivery or takeout instead of dining in any day!


Is That It? I Want More!

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29 Février's Don't Forget the Date Event


Thoughts of maple syrup, for me, always revolved around its taste (a rich complex sweetness), how it’s made (collecting the sap of maple trees during cold months and painstakingly boiling it until it reduces many times over), or its tie-in to Canadian cuisine.

Then, in February, 29 Février held an event to launch their Don’t Forget the Date campaign - the occasion now adds fighting Alzheimer’s to the mix. Although studies researching the prevention benefits of the sweetener is still beginning (in 2016 two studies found maple syrup extract prevented damages to certain proteins found in brain cells), purchasing maple syrup from 29 Février will benefit the cause: 5% of Maple-in-a-Tree product sales will be donated to the Canadian Alzheimer Societies.

François Décarie, 29 Février’s President, was inspired to support the cause after his mother was affected by the disease. He recognized the toll it has on their loved ones, leaving him wanting to do something to give back. My own grandmother has recently been touched by Alzheimer’s, although, thankfully, it’s still in its infancy and she’s still able to live an independent and fruitful life. Nonetheless, hearing the diagnosis was scary and my mother and her siblings have definitely re-arranged their lives to ensure their mother has additional support. I get it, I’ve experienced it, and I’m glad Décarie’s doing something to help.


Having the launch event at DISH Cooking Studio was the ideal venue to make us think outside the pail. Sure, maple syrup tastes so good with desserts, but just like any other sweetener, it can be incorporated into a plethora of recipes. Even before we began eating, the lightest golden maple syrup made its way into the cocktails: topped with Prosecco and squeeze of lemon or added to whiskey to temper down a Manhattan.       


For hors d'oeuvres, it was used to caramelize pineapples and brushed onto roasted golden beets to further enhance the ingredient’s natural sweetness. Adding savoury elements like gorgonzola and pistachio dust helped to keep the bites from getting overly sugary.


To end, Head Chef Gabriela Neda, whipped up a popular maple main: seared salmon glazed with the syrup (in this case combined with grainy mustard) and topped with a caper aioli to keep it savoury. The sweetness of the syrup just goes so well with the oily fish.


As luck would have it, the event was held on Pancake Tuesday so we also experienced the four varieties with its favourite companion. For desserts, François suggests using the amber variety that has a deeper taste, but is still light enough as to not overpower the dessert. Indeed, this is also my typical go-to syrup to have around the house.   


As you switch to the darker grades, the molasses taste starts to shine through followed with a lasting after taste. These are generally used to marinade meats or as a glaze on seafood but would also make a fantastic rich caramel sauce for some desserts. Having tasted the ‘very dark’ – the newest grade that was previously only sold to restaurants given the small quantities made – it has such an intense and almost earthy flavour that it’d be perfect for brisket and other heavy meats.

Before the event, I assumed that darker syrups were simply boiled longer causing the sugars to caramelize further. Although the dark ones are cooked a little longer, François explains that it’s really tied to when they harvest the sap: the earliest batches create the golden syrup while the last taps makes the very dark. Live and learn, who would have known that not only the terroir of the tree matters, but the timing as well?

I must admit, now that a can of the amber Maple-in-a-Tree sits on my counter, I’m more inclined to trigger the tap and use the maple syrup (rather than having in jumbled with the multitude of other condiments in the fridge). It’s a reminder of our Canadian staple and Février’s action against Alzheimer. Don’t forget the date. 


How To Find Them
 Price: $39.99 for one or $139.99 for all four
 Website: http://29fevrier.ca/dont-forget-the-date/?lang=en or through Costcos for members

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Azure (Toronto)


Torontonians sometimes forget about the restaurants that populates their hotels, with the exception of those manned by celebrity chef imports. Perhaps it’s the sentiment that the restaurants are for tourists and travelers, those where expense isn’t an issue, surely not for you and I that inhabit the city daily?

It’s nice to be reminded that there are benefits to visiting these establishments: there’s generally tables available for walk-ins (after all, it’d be in poor taste to have to turn down hotel guests), the menus tend to be varied (allowing groups to accommodate tastes and dietary restrictions), and their dining rooms are oh so comfortable.

At Azure, the flagship restaurant in the Intercontinental Toronto Centre, their window canopy opens up the space and offers a great people-watching vantage point. The dark wood and plush velvet furnishings helps keep the dining room cozy and comfortable – you can sit at the table for hours. Unlike the current trend of cramming small tables (sometimes communal *shudder*) together making for a horribly loud atmosphere, Azure gives you space to converse and a sense of privacy that I often crave. Ah… tranquility.

Their service is impeccably polished and efficient, common traits of the hotel industry, yet still down-to-earth and approachable. Even before asking what we wanted to drink, our server Coco chatted care freely with us, giving us time to settle down and build a rapport. In quick succession, a basket of warm rolls were presented and a generous glass of red wine to fully take the winter chills out of my bones.

In no time, the first Winterlicious ($48) course was served. Similar to a ceviche, the escabeche marinates the octopus and scallop in an acidic solution. However, in this case, the seafood is poached first before the marinade so the texture remains tender and the tartness is mellow and manageable. I did find it a tad under seasoned (a sprinkle of salt from the table helped rectify this), given the citrus vinaigrette is light.


Amongst the meaty octopus and delicate scallop were crunchy shaved fennel and endives, juicy orange and lime segments, and creamy avocado. A delicate and surprisingly bright start – a glimpse into the warmer spring months ahead of us.

Despite being cooked through (my first instinct is to look for the slightly translucent rose centre), the grainy mustard coated salmon was still moist. The sear from a high heat helped develop a lovely golden crunchy crust and locked in its fatty juices. It sat on top of a bed of crunchy shaved fennel and radicchio that just ever so slightly wilts from the salmon’s heat. All the juices and flavours meld into the fluffy savoury citrusy couscous on the bottom.

Azure certainly doesn’t skimp on portions. A huge port and black cherry osso bucco arrives with an equally sizeable marscarpone crispy risotto cake. The veal shank was braised just long enough to make the meat tender, but not overly done so that the bone marrow disintegrated (save a piece of bread to scoop the gelee marrow onto).

Although I found the centre of the risotto cake too mushy, it was my husband’s favourite part of the dish. Mine, aside from the osso bucco, was the wilted arugula that had a lemony gremolata mixed into it. After a heavy meal, it was exactly the last savoury bite I needed.


If only the tiramisu parfait had more espresso (or in this case the boozy Kahlúa liqueur) and less of the powdery cocoa on top the dessert would have been lovely. The mascarpone mousse was creamy and luxurious, the savoiardi cookies adding a bit of cake to the tiramisu.


A perfect sphere of ice cold honeycomb ice cream sat atop the slightly warm apple tart. The pastry was good – the shortbread crust not overly buttery, large chunks of apples and a sweet enough crumble. I felt bad leaving some unfinished, but what a huge portion after the substantial mains.


Even if the comfortable atmosphere doesn’t convince you that hotel dining isn’t just for tourists, the generously proportioned dishes could – mains are pricier but you won’t leave hungry. Of course, you can always visit them during special occasions when they have prix fixe deals: aside from Winter/Summerlicious there’s also drink and menu specials on key dates (this Valentine’s Azure is offering a $70 menu with $14 cocktails).

Torontonians, next time you’re looking for a comfortable dining experience, consider a hotel. After all, why would you only treat yourself while travelling?

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.
Is Winterlicious worth it (based on my meal selection)?
Winterlicious - $48
Regular menu - $63 - octopus ($18), salmon ($31) and dessert ($14)
Savings - $15 or 24%
How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 225 Front Street West (in the Intercontinental Hotel)

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!
Azure - InterContinental Toronto Centre Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

CLOSED: Calii Love (Toronto)


Special Guest Post by Parv

From the popularity of sushi burritos during the summer, to the proliferation of poké bars around the city in the fall, 2016 has been a fishy one for Toronto foodies (see what I did there?).

Enter Calii Love, the newest poké stop in the city’s King West district, promoting Californian style with a Hawaiian twist. Given that I’m convinced I was Californian in a previous life, the name alone had me reeled in (yes, I could do this all night, folks).

The bright, airy space, with its tropical motif and contemporary decor, emits a feel good, West Coast vibe. The emphasis is on organic, sustainable, vegan and gluten-free options. Grab-and-go, or take a seat and get to know your fellow diners at the communal table.

As I peruse the menu and approach the counter, I’m consumed by the burst of colourful and fresh ingredients and stealth-like preparation of smoothies and poké bowls. Pronounced “poh-keh”, this Hawaiian salad with seasoned raw fish has gained a cult-like status with health-conscious diners, popping up in chic neighbourhoods all over California…and now Toronto.

Each menu item is titled to reflect a feeling – Proud, Awakened, Confident, Grateful and so on – and today I’m feeling Happy and Adventurous – a notion that appeases both, my mental state of mind and my appetite.

The Happy superfood smoothie is a beautiful blend of banana, raw cocoa, coconut milk, strawberry, dark chocolate and raw cocoa nibs…and that’s plenty reason to be happy. It’s a little bit chunky for my taste, but delicious in every form.

I pair my drink with an Adventurous poké bowl stacked with salmon, furikake, kimchee, sriracha, wasabi aioli, jalapenos, cucumber and white rice. This one packs in a spicy punch and I’m immediately happy with the countering effects of my cool smoothie (last pun, I promise).


Calii Love received a lot of love during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) with several A-list celebrities making a pit stop, including Joseph Gordon Levitt, Dakota Fanning, Jason Sudeikis, Anne Hathaway, Jane Lynch, Natalie Portman, and Gerard Butler, to name a few. Chef Joe Friday has worked in some of Hawaii’s finest kitchens, including Nobu Waikiki, and was eager to bring that authentic poké experience to Toronto. Our city thanks you, sir.

The spot opens 7am daily, which is great news for those early downtown risers looking to grab a healthy acai bowl, smoothie or direct trade coffee before heading to work. Poké bowls are only available after 11am.



And if you’re lucky, the country’s top-rated latte artist, Barista Brian Leonard may even be around to truly personalise your coffee … with some latte art of your face. Like we needed any more reason to feel good




Disclaimer: The above meal was complimentary. 


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 367 King Street West

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Is That It? I Want More!

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Browne's Bistro (Toronto)


Tucked in a corner of a stone building off Avenue, you may miss the steps down to Brownes Bistro. Leading to a rather large restaurant, their décor is classic: the dining room consisting of dark wood and cream linens. If you’re a fan of old school restaurants like me, you’re in for a treat.    

Their Summerlicious menu ($28) was equally traditional, with the exception of the vegetable samosa, suitably safe for non-adventurous eaters. Of course, as a food lover, I love trying new things. But, sometimes I get tired of the shared fusion plates, doused in a variety of sauces and start yearning for timeless dishes.

If Browne’s grilled calamari weren’t so salty, the starter would have been good: the seafood was tender with a gentle smokiness. However, this was ruined by over seasoning the calamari when the aged balsamic and shallot sauce drizzled on top was also so flavourful.  


Despite being thinly sliced, the Atlantic salmon was surprisingly moist having been grilled quickly so it was just cooked through. Unlike the starter, the fish was simply topped with a citrus-herb-lime infused butter and seasoned suitably.


Although the presentation of the apple rhubarb crisp could be improved, the dessert was satisfying – plenty of apples and rhubarb baked until soft but still having bite. Not overly sweet, the dish relied on the buttery crumble topping and French vanilla ice cream to make it a dessert.


Summerlicious gets a bad reputation amongst those working in the industry – I understand, they’re often serving a lot more food to a lot more people than they’re normally used to. With the special pricing, bill totals will ring in less so their gratuities are otherwise lower. Encounter dinner guests that are especially demanding (please don’t ask for substitutions) and I can see why it’s a draining two weeks.

Yet, it’s also the perfect opportunity for restaurants to expand their clientele. If it weren’t for Summerlicious, I would have never tried Brownes Bistro, having found it by looking for dinner menus with a specific price point that’s close to home.

Luckily, Theo, our server for the evening, didn’t mind the event. He welcomed us warmly, offered to take pictures, and joked with us throughout the evening … even though we were rowdier than their normal clientele (residents of the areas).

Foodies, I challenge you to look past what’s flashy and new. Sometimes you need to step back and reconnect with the classics. After all, it’s not that often a business survives, let alone lasts over 30 years, there must be a reason.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10
Is Summerlicious worth it (based on my meal selection)?
Summerlicious - $28
Regular menu - $42 - calamari ($12), salmon ($22) and dessert* ($8)
Savings - $14 or 33%
* The dessert price is a wild guess from me

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1251 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!

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Browne's Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bier Markt (Toronto)

Location: Toronto, Canada
Address: 58 The Esplanade
Website: 
http://www.thebiermarkt.com/
Type of Meal: Lunch



With three locations across Toronto and off shoots in Montreal and Mississauga, Bier Markt is soon becoming a beer chain empire.  Personally, I still like the flagship Esplanade location best with its sizable venue, convenient location and live music offering (if you like that sort of thing).

In past visits, their mussels have been my go to dish and have always found them delicious – a generous size, full of flavour and great to dip the accompanying baguette ($21; dinner menu) or munch on the hot house made fries ($17; lunch menu). My personal favourite is the Spadina which is a fragrant Thai option made with lemongrass, coriander, ginger, shrimp broth and some chillies.

On this visit, I decided to branch out and try something different. To start, the table shared orders of smoked meat poutine ($15) and smoked chicken flatbread ($13). You really can't go wrong with poutine and Bier Markt doesn't disappoint with real potato fries, melted cheese curds and smothering of gravy. Freshly shaved slices of tender and juicy smoked beef brisket top the fries adding a delicious punch of salt and pepper flavour.  This is a dish made for sharing as just a few forkfuls was enough to satisfy me.

The smoked chicken flatbread had a thin crispy base topped with a liberal amount of smoked chicken, brie cheese, cremini mushrooms and roasted garlic. The brie was a smart addition as it added creaminess to the flatbread, yet stayed neutral against the chicken and garlic. I only wish it had arrived hotter as the ingredients were starting to congeal a bit on my first bite.

My main of grilled Atlantic salmon ($19) was pleasantly delicious. Cooked perfectly to a medium doneness the fish retained a translucent pinkness in the middle and was flakey and tender. Flavoured with a sprinkling of pungent garlic chips, this isn’t a meal you want to have on a first date. Below the salmon were two crispy quinoa cakes which was a nice alternative to latkes; they held up pretty well and had a nice smooth texture. It would be interesting to see if they could be made thinner so they’d begin to resemble a roisti, which would be more in line with the European theme of Bier Markt's menu.  
 With over 150 beers to choose from, the options seem endless. So, it’s a brilliant idea to provide pairing ideas for each dish (match the bin labels on the food menu to the drink menu for names and descriptions). It sure made choosing easier, unless your meal is paired with the $60 bottle of Chimay grand reserve magnum (bin 275) perhaps. 

Service has always been pleasant during my visits, although sometimes the person taking reservations can be a hit or miss. I find their knowledge of the beer menu astounding as they always seem to know how the beer is offered (draft, bottle or can) despite the abundance of options.

In the summer, all Toronto locations have a patio so if you can score a seat it’s a great place to enjoy a pint and people watch.  Just don’t expect to get reservations if you want after work drinks as it seems to be strictly for food eating patrons only.  Overall, Bier Markt is a good reasonably priced restaurant with much better food than the new Amsterdam Brewhouse.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10



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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • - 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!

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