Sunday, 29 July 2012

Butter Avenue

A new Patisserie and Cafe that sells macarons opened up last year near the Yonge and York Mills area. 

Cute logo and cute box
Macarons are $2.25 each or $13.50 for a box of 6

L-R: White Chocolate Strawberry, Secret Garden, Caramel Macchiato, Sea Salt Caramel, Dark Chocolate, Lime and Honey
Lime and Honey
It was an interesting macaron flavour combining sweet honey and sour lime. I tasted more of the lime flavour than any sweetness from the honey. 
The macarons at Butter Avenue were great! Definitely fresh since they had the right amount of crunch outside and a nice soft chewiness inside and the texture was consistent across all the macarons which was fantastic.

Clockwise from top: Caramel Macchiato, White chocolate strawberry, Sea Salt Caramel and Secret Garden
1) The caramel macchiato was strongly flavoured and I thought it left a heavy coffee flavour in your mouth. It was really pretty and an interesting concept - just not my favourite flavour or anything.
2) White chocolate strawberry: The strawberry jelly in the middle paired with the white chocolate in the macaron was very sweet in comparison to the other macarons. 
3) Sea Salt Caramel was nice - sweet and salty at the same time
4) Secret Garden was a fragrant Rose macaron with a hint of a berry taste in the jelly in the middle. 
The Dark Chocolate macaron was nice too

Inside the macarons

Overall: Butter Avenue offers a good selection of macarons; the flavours may not be as exotic as La Bambouche, but I like the consistency of their macarons here.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Drake Hotel

July 28, 2012
The Drake Hotel is one of the most talked about hotspots in Toronto - even my mom knows about their amazing Blueberry scones!
Since it was a gorgeous day, we wanted to grab a seat on their rooftop patio. The patio was full, so we got a table at the side patio near the street (which is still okay).
After so many cheap eats and all my Summerlicious dinners, it was almost a shock to see just a main course cost $20 - $30. Ouch, I've been spoiled...

Perth Pork Chop with summer greens, Northern Woods mushrooms, soft grits + pickled peaches $22.95
This pork chop was one of the best I've ever eaten! The pork meat had a higher proportion of fat which made it melt-in-your-mouth heavenly when cooked. The grits were softer and more buttery than any grits I've had before and the mushrooms were good. I would definitely pay $22.95 to eat this again - YUM! 

Pan Roasted Branzino with giant beans, leek and scallion relish $26.95
Branzino is an European sea bass with a delicate flesh and sweet taste. I enjoyed the leek and scallion relish paired with the fish, but I wasn't too impressed by the side dish of giant beans and watercress. Overall though, I would still highly recommend the branzino here.

(Photo courtesy of M.C.)
Halibut + Chips with carrot + raisin slaw, lemon aioli + wedge cut french fries $25.95
The halibut was a crispy, golden brown delight and the tartar sauce was good. 

(Photo courtesy of M.C.)
Steak frites with Cumbrae's bavette, Montpelier butter + hand cut french fries $25.95
The steak was pre-cut, juicy and topped with this great herbed butter. I liked the butter and it added a rich, creamy "dipping sauce" to the steak dish which made it fun and different. The frites were nicely done too. 

Overall: Great meal at the Drake Hotel! It's a great place to hang out and grab dinner and drinks with friends. 
The Drake Hotel on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Il Fornaro

A cozy Italian restaurant. 
They have some beautiful pictures of Venice around the restaurant.

A lot of options for the $25 Summerlicious dinner! 
(*Items I would recommend and/or order again)

Flatbread and garlic dip/hummus
The garlic flavour was quite strong and it went very well with the flatbread.

*Baby Arugula
With almonds, goat cheese, crisp pear & balsamic vinaigrette
Fans of arugula will love this salad. The rich taste of the arugula paired with pungent goat cheese might seem to be an overwhelming combination, but it actually gets mellowed out by the tangy balsamic vinaigrette, sweet almonds and juicy crisp pear to create a delicious salad. One of the best appetizers I've had and it's a pretty big portion. All-round WIN.

Risotto Funghi
Wild mushrooms & caramelized onions, topped with shaved Podeano cheese & truffle oil
Very creamy and totally packed with mushroom flavour. The risotto was fragrant and melt in your mouth delicious. I'm not a huge fan of risotto, but if you are, you would really enjoy this dish.

*Osso buco
With garlic, mashed potato and vegetable in veal juice

Amazing! Probably the best Osso Buco I've had (and that includes Italy)
The meat of the veal shank was soaked in its own juice and just so incredibly tender that you could cut the meat with your fork and it melted in your mouth.
The bone marrow was also flavoured nicely with the sauce and it was so easy to scoop out of the bone. It was such a pleasure to eat when it dissolved on your tongue. 
I really like the way they make their vegetables al dente: they're were crisp, but still tender and cooked throughout. Delicious! This is a Meat Lover's paradise. 

Chocolate Cake
Probably not the best dessert option as it was quite heavy and very rich (especially after a full meal).

*Carrot Cake
I really liked this dessert: it was sweet and rich in flavour. The nutmeg and cinnamon really enhanced the cake and I thought the cream cheese icing was the perfect foil

Overall: One of my favourite Italian restaurants (especially for Summerlicious), the food is always consistently good and the prices are very reasonable. 

Il Fornaro on Urbanspoon

Olio: A Mediterranean Grille

At the Sheraton Toronto Airport Hotel & Conference Centre in the West end of Toronto near Pearson Airport, Olio presented their Summerlicious menu for the first time: 

They offer $15 three course lunches and $25 for dinner.
(*Items I would recommend and/or order again)

The bread is baked fresh daily and delivered to Olio in the morning.
 It's probably one of the best bread baskets I've had! The butter is melt-in-your-mouth smooth and creamy and they offer a variety of breads: multigrain, olive and rosemary bread and the large sesame crisps (all of them were delicious) and almost heavenly with the butter.

Olio caesar salad, parmesan and creamy garlic dressing
The salad was okay since you can never go wrong with Caesar Salad. The dressing had a sharp taste to it and there was a lot of cheese on top (almost like a cheesy dressing). 

*Tomato and mozzarella salad with grilled red onion and herb olive oil
This was almost too pretty to eat! The colours were vibrant and bright and it just looked so nice. I thought it would be a simple caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella on top of thinly sliced tomatoes, but they took the traditional insalata caprese and jazzed it up with some greens, a mint leaf on top of each mozzarella and tomato combination, grilled onions and a deliciously sweet balsamic and olive oil mix. It was a mouth-watering appetizer. You've got to try this!

*Pan seared fillet of rainbow trout asparagus, fingerling potato & sweet pea coulis
Amazing and such good value! The fish was a big cut of boneless meat, perfectly flaky and very nicely seasoned. The surprise of the dish was the sweet pea coulis! It was absolutely amazing (and that's high praise from a girl who doesn't like peas)! It didn't taste like pea at all and I found that it really tied the potatoes, asparagus and fish together nicely. I can't forget to sing the praises of the asparagus and fingerling potatoes: perfectly grilled and cooked. Everything was PERFECT! 

*Smoked chicken penne, sun dried tomatoes, roasted peppers and goat cheese cream sauce
What a huge plate of pasta! (and for $15??? Insane!) and it was enjoyable and very tasty. The goat cheese sauce was a little heavy and very creamy (but the waiter told us to expect that), the vegetables were fresh and the chicken was abundant. This dish just worked so well together with all the ingredients - this is what simple and delicious Italian food should be about! 
*Warm wild blueberry and white chocolate bread pudding, rum caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream
Toasted on the outside and warm and the pudding was drenched in blueberry sauce inside. With the frosty vanilla ice cream and rum caramel sauce, you just can't go wrong with this dessert. 

*Olio tiramisu, kahlua, mascarpone and chocolate shavings
One of the best I've eaten (even if it's not as great as Paese), but they taste very similar.
It had a strong coffee flavour (possibly from the kahlua), but it was a little mushy (maybe from being left out for too long). I'm a complete chocoholic so loved the chocolate shavings.

Overall: Hands down, the best value of all the Summerlicious restaurants I've tried this year. 1) Absolutely stunning food: simple, perfectly executed and delicious. 2) Quick and fantastic service (the waiter gave great advice and was very attentive). 3) $15 for a three course lunch? AMAZING! You've got to try it here!

Olio Mediterranean Grille on Urbanspoon

Taco Takedown @ Harbourfront

After reading about the Taco Takedown at Harbourfront Center's Hot and Spicy Food Festival on, I really wanted to check it out since it featured 6 different Toronto chefs/cooks all putting their own spin on the classic taco to compete for the title of best taco in Toronto and a $250 prize.
The Event Tent: The Line up was really long (and at around 8pm, they cut the line off because there wasn't enough food for everyone to get a portion).

The event guide
The deal was you get a sampler of 6 tacos for $8 and a ballot to vote for the winner. There were other categories like Most Original and Most Authentic, but the most important category was Best Overall.
Unfortunately, by the time we got to the front of the line, the pan-fried pork and kimchi taco ran out before we got to try it. So we got 5 tacos:
Clockwise from the top: 
1) North South taco by Matt Basile of Fidel Gastro's
2) Tacos Suritdos by Luis Valenzuela of Torito Tapas Bar
3) Thai pork tacos by Aaron Foster of LA's Italian + Bar
4) Coffee and Tamarind Lamb Taco by Vanessa Yeung of Aphrodite Cooks 
5) Piri piri chicken taco by Paula Costa and Peter Minaki

1) North South taco with chili basil aioli (spicy)
I found this taco very spicy: the heat gradually builds up and it eventually becomes overwhelming. I thought it was really cool that the chefs added an arancini (fried rice ball) in the middle of the taco underneath all the tender pork shoulder. It brought something different to the taco and added an element of crispy crunchiness. 

2) Tacos suritdos
This taco was delicious! The tortilla was nicely warmed and soft. It was a little bigger than the rest of the tacos, but I thought it didn't take away anything from the actual taco. The pork meat was moist and the ingredients seemed relatively simple, but it was definitely the most authentic. I loved the guacamole! It was fresh and yummy - although not quite as good as Dos Caminos. After eating Chef Valenzuela's tacos, I really want to try Torito Tapas bar now.

3) Thai pork tacos with grilled pig neck
One of the more interesting takes on tacos. It was different and stayed true to key elements in Thai cuisine. The lime juice, fish sauce and cilantro added a nice crisp and cool taste. The Chef let us sample the grilled pig neck by itself and it was tender, perfectly seasoned deliciousness. He really knows his pork! The only down side was the tortilla - it was hard and almost crunchy in random parts and I thought it detracted from the ingredients. In this case, it may have been better with just the pork. 

4) Coffee and Tamarind Lamb Taco with a carrot and daikon slaw and tomatillo avocado cream
This was the most original taco in my opinion. The name sounds really strange and it's not a combination you would think of for a taco contest, but all the ingredients worked really well together to make a refreshing and interesting taco. It was aesthetically pleasing and had a fresh and crisp taste. 

5) Piri piri chicken taco (spicy)
The taco meat was spicy! You felt the heat immediately when you bit into it. I thought the yogurt helped to offset some of the burn, but it was still really spicy. I couldn't really analyze the flavours since my mouth was on fire.

After finishing the tacos and casting my ballot, I headed over to the Fruit Stand nearby for some coconut water: 
Coconut $5
It was the perfect drink! Took away the spiciness of the last taco I ate (the piri piri) with one sip from the coconut!
Drinking out of a coconut was such an amazing experience that it was totally worth the $5 I spent on it.
And after you're done drinking, you can ask them to cut it open and eat the inside of the coconut (so economical!):

The flesh is almost like jello but with a thicker consistency and they shave you a piece of the outside skin to use as a spoon! (I'm so amazed by coconuts...)
I thought the coconut water and the coconut flesh would be sweeter, but it turns out it's actually kind of bland. I learned after that coconut water in stores have added sugar (makes sense now).

The Hot and Spicy Festival is great if you like spicy food. I was really only there for the tacos...
The final results of the taco contest were: 
Best Overall - Piri Piri Tacos
Most Original - Coffee and Tamarind Tacos
Most Authentic - Taco Suritdos

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Trevor Kitchen and Bar

A hop, skip and jump away from the Financial District is Trevor Kitchen and Bar on Wellington Avenue East. The doorway to Trevor Kitchen was a little confusing at first since there were two doors: the correct door leads to a basement restaurant:
The restaurant is dimly lit to set an intimate and romantic atmosphere.
The Summerlicious menu had a few options, the 3 course meal was $35.
(*Items I would recommend and/or order again)

Bacon & tomato salad with avocado ranch & crispy shallots
This was a light and refreshing appetizer - something to really whet the appetite. The tomatoes were bright and colourful and the avocado ranch sauce was tasty. The bacon was   thick-cut, succulent and tasty.

*Potato crusted crab cake with green mango & chili aioli
The crab cake was thick and meaty and it was presented on top of a bed of shredded mango and carrots which added a bit of sweetness to complement the zing of the spicy aioli sauce. 

*Northern ontario whitefish with malt vinegar fingerling potato salad & lobster tartare sauce
The whitefish was prepared to perfection! Light, delicate and super tasty - watch out for the bones. I loved the lobster tartar sauce, I thought it tied in the salad and the fish really well (and the sauce was tasty in itself). Delicious!

*Surf & turf, dry aged alberto sirloin steak & jumbo prawn with truffled goat cheese poutine
The filet mignon was a lot of meat and it was grilled to medium rare (making it juicy, but not bleeding or tough to chew). They did a good job with the beef, but filet mignon just isn't my favourite cut of beef so I found it hard to judge. 
For the surf part, the garlic shrimp were delicious and the truffled goat cheese poutine was finger-licking good. I would order this dish again just for the truffle goat cheese poutine - it's just that amazing. I'd totally recommend that poutine!

Crème brulée 
A simple take on a classic dessert. It wasn't too sweet, but the hard caramel top layer was very thin. Custard was good too, the only thing I didn't like was the cookies because I thought they were a little stale.

Strawberry tiramisu
Instead of a tiramisu, I thought it tasted like a strawberries and cream dessert. I didn't taste any hint of coffee. The chocolate design was really cool and I would describe the dessert as light, fluffy and whimsical. 

(I thought this looked cool on the sidewalk outside Trevor)

Overall: I left feeling satisfied and happy with my meal; the service was great, food was good and it came out very fast. Although the tables were quite close together, it just contributed to an relaxed and intimate feel which I liked. I enjoyed my experience at Trevor Kitchen and Bar. 
Trevor Kitchen and Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Lick's @ York Mills

At the corner of York Mills and Lesmill Road is a long standing fast food place: Lick's

Large Onion Rings $3.99 and Medium Soft Drink $2.49
Homeburger $4.45
I like that Lick's doesn't water down their soft drinks. 
The onion rings were golden brown and crispy (we watched the guy deep fry them), but they tasted kinda of bland - there definitely wasn't enough seasoning on them.

The Homeburger really packs a punch. It's quite a feat eating it all in one sitting. 
It's a thick meaty patty grilled to order and you can customize it with all their toppings. Toppings range from zucchini relish and mango chutney to their famous Guk (tangy mayonnaise) and cucumbers. I personally love their Guk mayonnaise: there's a whole combination of spices in the mix and it's super tasty.
It is common to get severe "itis" or enter into a "food coma" after one of these burgers.
It's a pretty good deal for $5 and if you get one of these:
It's even better! 
The best is when you have an SPC card, because then the burger is free with the purchase of a Large Fries and a regular drink.

Overall: One of my favourite burger chains: great value, tasty food (everything tastes better with Guk) and quick service.