Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Paramount Fine Foods

Two years ago, Paramount Fine Foods opened up a new location bringing their popular Middle Eastern cuisine to the heart of downtown Toronto. 


We were served these huge steaming hot puffy pita pockets right after we ordered (talk about efficient!)

Paramount Special
My friend ordered this drink with mixed fruits: strawberry, kiwi, pineapple, almonds, crushed pistachio, ashta cream and honey in strawberry and mango juice. Really delicious! It was like a drinkable dessert with a full serving of fruits. 

Chicken Shawarma Plate $10.99
Grilled chicken shawarma, garnished with mixed pickles, tomato and lettuce.
A humongous portion! The chicken was yummy - not too dry and crispy on the outside. The sweet and tangy sauce worked well with the chicken and vegetables. I also really liked the fluffy and lightly scented long grained Basmati rice (a nice change from Jasmine rice for me). 

Beef Shawarma Plate $10.99
Grilled beef shawarma with mixed pickles, tomato and lettuce. 
It was interesting that the beef shawarma had a slightly more bitter and more watery sauce, but I thought it was a good complement to the drier beef and the sauce was a good complement to the beef taste-wise. 

Overall: Paramount Fine Foods is definitely doing something right! The food is great, portions are huge and appropriately priced (so you get great value for money). It does get boiling hot in the inside of the restaurant (especially in the summer), so it's a good thing that the service is fast (eat and go!).

Paramount Fine Foods on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Cupcake Lounge - Ottawa

We checked out the Cupcake Lounge yesterday when we were exploring Byward Market and when I saw that they had Key Lime cupcakes on Sundays, I knew I had to come back to pick up a cupcake before we hit the road back to Toronto. 

Display case (their cupcakes aren't all pink! that's just bad lighting on my part)

Key Lime cupcake
I was really disappointed. The vanilla cake was crumbly and hard; the icing was thick with nice tart lime flavour, but it was quite heavy. The fondant flower was cute, but it wasn't very appetizing. 
I was also a little disappointed that I got charge $1 for the box - the cupcake itself was $3.25 (excl. tax). 

Overall: The cupcakes are pricey and I didn't like the cupcake I got because the cake was crumbly and hard, the icing was way too heavy. However, it wasn't as bad as my experience at Crumbs; at least the cupcakes here are fresh (not much consolation I'm afraid). 

Website: http://www.thecupcakelounge.com/
Cupcake Lounge on Urbanspoon

Benny's Bistro - Ottawa

At the back of The French Baker/Le Boulanger Français is a cute little restaurant called Benny's Bistro. 

No reservations are taken here

The Menu

Baked multi-grain bread to start 
Really yummy - soft and chewy inside with a hard crust outside.

Croissant from the French Baker
Perfectly flaky and crunchy outside with a soft, light and buttery center. Magnifique!

Benny's salmon gravlax, warm lemon, caper & fingerling potato salad, informata olive tapenade, sunnyside egg
Amazing! After trying it, it's no wonder that the salmon gravlax is one of the most popular items on the menu. The salmon was perfection in this brunch dish: slightly warmed, tender and delicious! Beautifully presented and delightful to eat.

Confit Albacore tuna loin, fennel and radish salad, smoked tomato water, panko crusted chorizo balls, poached egg, saffron aioli
The tuna loin was fantastic! My friend and I weren't wow-ed by the broth of tomato water and I thought it might have detracted from main dish of the tuna, poached egg and salad.

Yukon Gold potato gratin, maple cured pork loin, soft poached eggs with hollandaise sauce
This was my main dish...I was half finished before I realized that I didn't take a picture. (Food Blog fail)
It was just SO GOOD! I loved the potato gratin with the poached eggs and pork loin - it all worked very well together with taste and texture. And when you order this dish, you must upgrade the dish with the hollandaise sauce (extra $2 - but so worth it) because it's delicious and it ties everything together. 

Overall: Amazing brunch! Benny's has some interesting takes on the normal brunch items (eggs, potato and salad) and does them to a whole new level of yumminess! I would totally recommend brunch here!

Benny's Bistro on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Le Moulin de Provence - Ottawa

My friend gave us a local tour of Ottawa and pointed out some local attractions, but the highlight was definitely the charming Byward Market:
We stopped by a popular tourist site: Le Moulin de Provence made famous as the "Obama Bakery". 
It's overwhelming how many pictures of Obama are in the bakery. 
The Obama Cookies
(There's even a collectible tin with Obama's picture in the Bakery)
Knowing me, I was more interested in their cakes and boy do they have a lot of cake!
I decided not to gorge myself sick with dessert before dinner so I opted for two desserts. 

Mousse Pistache-chocolat 
I loved the pistachio mousse and it made me even happier that there was so much of it! It had a strong pistachio flavour and there was enough of it to overcome the heavier and richer chocolate mousse. 

Tarte poire amande avec chocolat 
In comparison to the Clafouti tarts, I found that the shell was too soft and super crumbly. The chocolate was a welcome surprise inside:
However, I found that it overpowered the pear flavour and almond paste. 

Overall: I was pretty happy with the cakes and tarts at Le Moulin de Provence, even if I was overwhelmed by all the Obama memorabilia. Everything is so reasonably priced (compared to Toronto) - the cakes and tarts were all under $4 (vs. the $5-$6 in Toronto). 

Le Moulin De Provence on Urbanspoon

Woodenheads - Kingston

On our way to Ottawa, we planned a stop for lunch in Kingston. Of course, one of the most talked about restaurants in Kingston (and one that comes highly recommended from my friends) is Woodenheads Gourmet Pizza:

The Wood Fire Oven

The Bar

The "Simple" two paged menu. 
The second page is all gourmet pizzas (and the make-your-own option at the bottom).
We had some difficulty choosing since all the options looked good. Therefore, we asked the helpful waitress for her recommendations and she helped narrow down our choices:

Curried lobster veloute, portabello mushroom, balsamic grilled red onion, smoked salmon
 Instead of a traditional tomato sauce, the sauce is a home-made curried lobster sauce (apparently veloute is a one of the 5 "mother" sauces of French cuisine made with tomato, hollandaise, béchamel and espagnole). It was really lovely (although I kept hoping for chunks of lobster) with the portobello mushrooms and sweet grilled onion together - it worked well. I loved the finishing touch of the hearty smoked salmon pieces delicately layered on top, but the best part has got to be the combination of all the ingredients together baked on a crispy smoky thin crust. Yum!

Nonna Mela
Apple butter, roast garlic, cheddar, sweet onions, blackened chicken
When we first saw this pizza on the menu, we thought it was such a unique and almost bizarre combination, but it worked incredibly well! I wasn't too sure about going from a sweet base of apple butter, roast garlic and sweet onions to the saltier items of cheddar and blackened chicken, but after eating this pizza, I was convinced that it was a totally genius combination. I'm a HUGE fan of apple butter! It's sweet, creamy and delicious and it has a way of making everything taste 100x better. 

Overall: WOW! The pizzas here are original and delicious! I totally understand why this is the first place that everyone from Kingston recommends: the food is amazing, service is great and prices are reasonable. You've got to eat here!
Wooden Heads Gourmet Pizza on Urbanspoon

Friday, 21 September 2012

The Wedding Cake Shoppe

The Wedding Cake Shoppe is located in the west end of the city at College and Ossington. 
Lately, I've been on a bit of a cupcake craze (especially after my New York trip), and according to BlogTo, The Wedding Cake Shoppe has the best cupcakes - so of course I had to try it out!

After exploring the menu online, my coworkers and I were really intrigued by the Ferrero Rocher cupcakes which are available on Saturdays or by special order. Therefore, I called in advance to order 4 Ferrero Rocher cupcakes, a Raspberry cupcake and an Almond cupcake to be picked up the next day. 
Here they are!

Wow! The cake was super moist, spongy and surprisingly light and fluffy. The icing has an airy consistency and leaves a delicate after-taste as it melts in your mouth. The Ferrero Rocher had less of the Ferrero taste than I would have liked; the Almond cupcake stayed true to the original flavour (even if it was missing the almond on top) and the Raspberry was delicious (even if the icing was a little heavier than the other cupcakes). 

Overall: I really liked their cupcakes. My impression of the cupcakes was that they were super fluffy and delectable. The cake was delicious and the icing had the perfect balance of lightness and it wasn't too sweet.

The Wedding Cake Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Truck'N Tailgate for Prostate Cancer

I found out about the Truck'N Tailgate for Prostate Cancer event on the Toronto Food Trucks website: On Sept. 20, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., five trucks including Gourmet Gringos, Stuft Gourmet Sausages, Curbside Bliss Cupcakes, Hogtown Smoke and Caplansky’s Deli Truck will be serving up eats on Lombard St. between Victoria St and Church St.

I arranged to meet up with some friends for lunch and we took a divide and conquer approach. 
My friend went to Gourmet Gringos (GG):
(Photo courtesy of S.M.)
(Photo courtesy of S.M.)

I went to Stuft Gourmet Sausages (SGS):
 and my other friend went to Caplansky's Deli Truck. 

Our Haul...
From top to bottom: Baja Fish Tacos (GG), Creole Turducken with chimmichurri sauce (SGS) and Barbacoa quesadillas (GG)
1) Baja Fish tacos = grilled mahi-mahi + chipotle aioli + coleslaw + guacamole. We found that there wasn't enough sauce on the tacos even after the coleslaw and aioli, we felt that the tacos were really dry. I would probably give them a 6/10. 
2) Creole Turducken sausage (turkey, duck, chicken seasoned in Creole spices) with chimichurri sauce (the green stuff). I wasn't really impressed by this either - the sausage had a lot going on with so many herbs and spices in the mixture. It was a relatively huge portion too, but probably not worth the $9 price tag. I'd rate it 7/10 because it was more filling than the fish tacos.
3) Barbacoa (mole braised short ribs + cilantro + onions) quesadillas were AMAZING! The melty cheese, fresh tomatoes & peppers, succulent tender beef and nicely fried tortilla made this finger-licking good! and combined with the dipping sauce on the side made it even better. I'd definitely order this one at Gourmet Gringos again!

Pulled Pork Slider $5 and sweet potato fries (Caplansky's Deli Truck)