Food

full circle, full waffle

I’ve lived near Yonge and Eglinton for the past two and a half years, but recently I found myself walking down St. Clair Avenue. This was the first neighbourhood I had lived in when I moved to Toronto almost five years ago.

Of course I had to check out the first restaurant I went to in this city. Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder. And of course, I had to order their specialty: the chicken and waffles.

Sitting at the window that looked out onto St. Clair and feasting on this meal made me think of my first days in Toronto. I was filled with wide-eyed enchantment at the time, and I’m happy to report that nothing has changed.

I’m still in love with the city and I’m still in love with these chicken and waffles.

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Food

the last Indian supper on St Clair West

savera_indian

My last Indian feast as a St Clair West resident: butter chicken, dhansak, basmatic rice, naan, and cold beers.

It’s a time of endings. The last rays of summer will soon fade into autumn — my favourite season. But what will never change nor fade is my love for curry and Indian food!

I’ll be moving out of the St. Clair West neighbourhood in a few weeks’ time after having lived here for almost two years. I remember my first night here. I walked along the streets with my face raised and my eyes darting back and forth, trying to take in everything. I still remember how it felt: the thrill of a new place, the anticipation of a new beginning.

I definitely took advantage of the great restaurants along St Clair West. I’ve been to Savera Indian Cuisine a handful of times and I’ve enjoyed the food and the service every time. I’ve sat and sipped red wine and sampled the delicious curries on cold winter nights. You know, I had to try the butter chicken! Obviously, it was delectable. I’ve also had my fair share of chicken korma, several helpings of saag aloo, chana masala, and lamb dhansak on warm summer afternoons while sipping ice-cold beers.

Soon enough, I’ll be moving on to a new neighbourhood and new food adventures! But until then, I’ll remember my last Indian supper on St Clair West and I’ll remember what it felt like to be young and free and full of food and laughter.

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Food

it’s my birthday and I’ll eat créme brûlée if I want to

créme brûlée topped with a scoop of sour cherry ice cream

créme brûlée topped with a scoop of sour cherry ice cream

Ah, June. It’s that time of year when I’m feeling particularly restless. The sun lures me outside to patios, open-air restaurants, and I’m always thirsty for a cold beer or a crisp glass of white wine. Or red-wine sangarias. Or ginger beers. Or ciders. I guess I get particularly thirsty in this heat and haze.

June also happens to be my birthday month. I celebrated it this year at R&D with a piña colada bubble tea! Hmmm, the infusion of summer and Chinese flare.

The restaurant was open and airy with high ceilings and contemporary and rustic touches throughout the space. We sat at the bar near the DJ booth and were immediately entertained by the witty bar staff.

We decided to share the lobster chow mein, the sweet and sour pork ribs, General Sanders’ chicken, and Eric’s curry.

sweet and sour ribs with pineapple ginger slaw

sweet and sour ribs with pineapple ginger slaw

I couldn’t convince anyone to order the seafood on the menu, which all sounded amazing. The next time I’m there, I’ll sample the ceviche, salmon belly, octopus, oysters, and scallops. I might even let someone else have a bite.

The dinner culminated with my favourite dessert: créme brûlée. This concoction was coconut flavoured and topped with a scoop of sour cherry ice cream. The balance of sweet and sour gave it that particularly ingenious flavour profile seen throughout the menu.

It’s exactly what I wanted for my birthday: time with people I love and good food and drink. As we ate the very last bites of dessert, we raised our glasses to another beautiful night in the city and for all the nights that are still to come.

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Food

I think the weekend calls for pizza

pizza_e_pazzi

Pizza this good is worth sharing.

It’s the weekend, or as I like to call it, pizza time.

As I’ve said before, I’m kind of a pizza monster. I love pizza in all its forms, but one of my favourites is Neapolitan pizza. Its thin crust, soft texture, and blistered goodness can only be trumped by its authentic Italian toppings.

I like my pizza simple: mozzarella and basil atop a tomato base. But I’m open to new flavours as well.

One of the latest pizza joints I checked out is literally a five-minute walk from my apartment. Pizza e Pazzi is a well-furnished establishment with beautiful ambience and an open kitchen. I went to the St. Clair and Dufferin location, but there’s also one on St. Clair and Christie.

The first time I was there, I shared three different pizzas: the marghertia verace, the funghi e salsiccia, and the vegetariana. I had just come from a book reading and pizza seemed to be the best way to finish a lovely day. I was totally right.

Until next weekend, pizza.

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Food

All about that ramen

pork ramen

A ramen feast: original pork belly ramen with bean sprouts, nori, scallions, seasoned egg in a regular pork broth with thick noodles

Ramen, ramen noodles, warm bowls, broth, rich pork, irresistible egg yolk. I think I have a thing for comforting bowls of broth and noodles.

When I think of Japanese food, I think of sushi, but I wanted to try another culinary favourite from Japan. Ramen.

I happened to see Kinton Ramen when I was in Baldwin Village; I’m there almost every weekend stuffing my face with all-you-can-eat sushi. I really enjoyed being able to customize my bowl. I was able to choose the flavour of broth, its richness or lightness, the type of noodle, and any additional toppings.

It was a comforting treat on a not-so-cold March day.

spicy ramen

Pork ramen and its spicy garlic counterpart with additional nori topping

 

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Food

Family day is a time for love, nourishment, rice

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For me, family day is about spending time with loved ones and eating simple, delicious food. The staple in my parent’s household is sticky rice. In fact, did you know the Lao word for ‘rice’ is the same word for ‘food’?

Sticky rice or ‘glutinous’ rice takes patience but it’s easy to make. Simply visit your local Asian supermarket and grab a bag of sticky rice. For the best results, soak the rice overnight in water (or for a minimum of three hours). The next day, steam the rice for 15-20 minutes on either side. I like to use a bamboo basket, a pot, and a lid (to keep the steam inside the basket). Once the rice is done, I spread the sticky goodness onto a non-stick mat and use a wooden paddle to gently remove the excess steam.

When I moved out of the house my mom made sure to equip me with all the necessary instruments for making sticky rice. She made me a non-stick mat from turning the rice bag inside out and cutting it into a square. She also cut the bag into a circle and placed it in the bottom of another bamboo basket to keep the rice from sticking. This second basket is for storage, but rice doesn’t last long in my house!

For me, rice isn’t a side dish. It’s the main course. The best way to eat sticky rice is also the simplest way. I roll a portion of the rice into a ball, sprinkle it with salt, and enjoy. It’s simple and delicious. And it reminds me of my family and the time we spend together at the dinner table.

rice

My bamboo basket of sticky rice was featured on the Gastropost section of The National Post.

(Note: Remember sticky rice is different from your everyday white rice because it’s stickier, denser, and more filling. It also doesn’t keep as long since you can’t refrigerate it like other rice. It’s best eaten fresh. )

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Food

New year’s resolution: eat all the doughnuts

glory_hole_doughnuts

I’m staring out into the middle distance and dreaming of doughnuts. If only I would turn around and see what’s right behind me.

So it’s the new year. A fresh start. 2015! Inevitably, the new year sparks new year’s resolutions — some feasible and others not so possible. I would guess that most gyms will see a spike in their membership and then a gradual decline as people come down from their new year’s high. I’d like to make a resolution that I know I’ll stick to — one that doesn’t involve reducing my body fat and increasing my time on the treadmill. A resolution that will probably see a spike in my glucose levels and an upward trend in my happiness quotient.

I’m committed to my 2015 resolution: I’ve decided to eat more doughnuts in 2015. Perhaps not just doughnuts (let’s try to be inclusive) but all foods sweet, decadent, and prone to inducing the sugar highs. Yes, it’s a giant task, but I think with perseverance I can make this happen.

I’ve already started my monumental goal last year when I stopped by Glory Hole Doughnuts (on Queen St W and Lansdowne Ave) and revelled in their scrumptious selection of gourmet doughnuts.

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All the ingredients for a wonderful fall day: chai brûlée doughnut, almond tea, shades, and a good book.

I met up with my friend Meghan for our donut date. It was the fall and the sun was blindingly bright and the air was chilled. And pesky wasps were still buzzing around. I think they were attracted to the smell of freshly baked doughnuts because before I could order anything — one of those buggers stung me! Ah well, I was immediately comforted with my chai brûlée doughnut and my almond tea. Honestly, I would go back for the almond tea alone. It’s so lux and I have a deep love for tea. Meghan decided to order the vanilla sprinkle doughnut and red velvet tea. She seemed to enjoy those delectable treats.

vanilla_sprinkle_chai_brulee

Tea and doughnuts, say ‘cheese’!

I would like to add that I’m not biased when it comes to doughnuts. I like them in all shapes and sizes, cream filled or not, cake based or yeast risen, gluten-free or vegan or organic, eaten indoors, outdoors, at restaurants or drive-ins whilst watching Alfred Hitchcock films on the big screen.

As I’ll submit into evidence: I had the pleasure of meeting up with a few friends at Through Being Cool Vegan Baking Co.

vegan_doughnuts

Dense and delicious: vegan boston cream doughnut and pumpkin cream doughnut.

The name is a mouthful but so are the doughnuts. They’re giant and dense. Perhaps because of their vegan nature, but I thoroughly enjoyed them even though I had to eat them in two to three sittings. I decided to go with a boston cream doughnut and a pumpkin cream doughnut, and I never looked back. But what I will do is this: I’ll look forward to 2015 and all the glorious doughnuts I’ve committed myself to consuming. It’s a major feat: eating all the doughnuts in Toronto. But I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

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Food

There’s no sincerer love than the love of ramen

ramen_Momofuku

There’s something about the first snowfall that makes me want to curl up with a bowl of comfort food, a warm cat, and a cup of gingerbread tea. I’ll even make the trek outdoors for a hearty meal with a friend. So when Kate asked me where we should go for our Thursday dinner date, my mind wandered for a bit before landing on ramen! Specifically, Momofuku Noodle Bar on University Ave and Queen St. W.

I made sure to bundle up. The only visible part of me were my eyes peeking out from under a toque and over three layers of a scarf. It was a cold cold night and I was glad we would be sitting down to warm bowls of ramen. I had never had real ramen — only the packaged kind my little brother used to make for me.

Of course, I went through the wrong entrance. I was in a gigantic room with people in suits, ties, and evening wear. I was going to text Kate and tell her I felt totally underdressed. Then I saw some people go through another entrance. I decided to follow them and was relieved to see younger folks in oversized sweaters and oversized glasses, which was the exact outfit I had on.

Momofuku_noodle_bar

Once we both arrived safe and sound, we decided to share the Momofuku Ramen and the Dan Dan Mian. Holy ramen, it was delicious! I also bought half a dozen cookies for the road, which were temptingly displayed in the Milk Bar on the second floor of the restaurant. I obviously had a corn cookie after the meal.

It was so nice to visit David Chang’s restaurant. I had watched him in the first season of The Mind of a Chef and then yesterday I was able to step into his world through his delicious dishes. The service was excellent. It was lovely to spend time with a friend over good food, a pint of cider, and beautiful furnishings.

I’d recommend putting on all your layers and braving the trek outdoors for a bowl of ramen.

There is no sincerer love than the love of food. – George Bernard Shaw

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Food

Enjoy a bowl of phở on a cool autumn day

One of the dishes that reminds me of home is the rice-noodle dish, phở. I remember my mom spending a whole day making the complex and flavourful broth from choice cuts of beef, marrow, and seasonings. The aroma of phở broth still takes me back to my childhood.

pho_Pho_Linh

I like to begin with tea and fresh rolls before a bowl of phở.

When I moved to Toronto, I was on a food mission: I wanted to find the best and most authentic bowl of phở in the city. When I sat down and ate my first bowl of phở at Phở Linh on College and Dufferin, I knew I had accomplished my phở mission.

I made sure to ask for their homemade noodles. It was well worth it. The noodles had substance but they were also melt in your mouth. The warm broth was magnificent especially on a cool autumn afternoon, and the beef was rare and tender. I topped the dish with bean sprouts, Thai basil, and a squeeze of lime; the dish already comes garnished with cilantro and green onions. I also added the smallest amount of Hoisin sauce because I like to maintain the purity of the broth; it’s already full of complex flavours so why mess up a good thing? The thing I love the most about phở is that it’s both comforting and refreshing.

If you happen to be in the College and Dufferin area, check out Phở Linh. It may just transport you back to your own childhood.

Note: Make sure you bring cash because they don’t take credit and they don’t have an ATM machine.

Phở Linh Restaurant
1156 College St
Toronto, ON M6H 1B5
(416) 516-3891

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Food

Ain’t no party like a pizza party

What's simple is best. Understated and delicious. The margherita D.O.P. pizza!

What’s simple is best. Understated and delicious. The margherita D.O.P. pizza!

Pizza, pizza, pizza. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I eat pizza at least once a week. My name is Nok and I’m addicted to pizza. It’s been one week since my last slice of ooey-gooey goodness. And I’m not picky: fast-food pizza, gourmet pizza, homemade pizza, I don’t discriminate.

So when a friend told me about a little pizza joint on Ossington that won third best pizza in the world, you know I had to get out my lactase pills and head over immediately.

The first pizza I ordered from Pizzeria Libretto was the duck confit pizza with bosc pear and mozzarella. I know, I like to get freaky with my toppings. But this non-traditional pizza was nothing short of traditionally-made culinary bliss. The pizza is baked for 90 seconds in a 900-degree wood-burning oven, which gives it their signature charred crust and blistered mozzarella.

I’ve tried half  of pizzas on the menu: duck confit, homemade sausage, grilled eggplant, Ontario prosciutto and arugula, cremini mushroom, and the margherita D.O.P. By far, the best pizza I’ve tried is the most traditional pizza on the menu. The margherita D.O.P. is beautifully topped with tomato, basil, and mozzarella. It’s understated and delicious. Sometimes the simplest meals are the best meals. But don’t let its simplicity fool you; it’s packed with flavour!

Behold! The cremini mushroom pizza. How did they know mushrooms are my favourite fungus?

Behold! The cremini mushroom pizza. How did they know mushrooms are my favourite fungus?

Note: If you’re heading to Pizzeria Libretto for an evening meal, you’ll probably have to wait a bit, anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour. But it’s worth it. In the past, I went across the street to a bar called The Painted Lady and had a pint as I waited for a text summons. I’ve also had a drink at the restaurant next to them called Fishbar. If you go for lunch, the wait will be substantially less. I went for their lunch prixe fixe, which is available from Monday to Friday, and you’ll only have to shell out $15. The last time I was there, I ordered the caprese salad, the margherita D.O.P. (my favourite one!), and both the biscotti and gelato (because I’m a dessert-monster).

Let me know if you’ve gone to Pizzeria Libretto (and died from bliss). What was your favourite pizza? Also, what’s your favourite pizza place? What are your must-have toppings?

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