My city favs

Where to go: Toronto {Introducing Furlough}

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Tin ceilings, marble bars, vintage paintings, fresh oysters… mixed with my favourite place to drink {Bar Chef}

Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce to you… Furlough

I know I’ve raved before about BarChef and my long complicated relationship with the Hickory smoked Manhattan.  Once the word travelled around the city about this hip little bar with a speakeasy vibe, it became more and more difficult to obtain a seat.  It was the place to be, from the molecular cocktails to the hand chipped ice block… it was all about the details.

Furlough is the place to be, any night of the week.  Serving a mixture of small and large plates, including a platter of East Coast oysters, a pillowy pain au lait roll stuffed with foie gras and caramelized apples; and a creamy squid ink risotto with seared scallops.  It doesn’t end there… Furlough’s cocktail list is divided into 16 spirit-forward classics and 16 original recipes that make use of house made syrups, bitters and booze-soaked fruit.  They also have a short wine list, eclectic microbrews and absinthe.  With weekend brunch service scheduled to start this spring.  This is the spot to watch for 2015 in Toronto. Get there.

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Winterlicious- My top 3 menus

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January 30 to February 12, 2015
Toronto’s winter culinary celebration is the perfect opportunity to discover diverse cuisine in a variety of local restaurants and take part in unique culinary events.

ARCHEO

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$18 Lunch

Plus taxes and gratuity

Choice of Appetizer

Caesar Salad
smoky bacon, creamy dressing
or
Homemade Minestrone Milanese (vegetarian)
vegetable soup with orzo, kidney beans, freshly grated parmigianino reggiano and a pine nut pesto
or
Bruschetta
blistered heirloom cherry tomatoes, fresh ricotta, crusty baguette

Choice of Main Course

Chicken Parmigiana Sandwich
breaded chicken breast, mozzarella, tomato sauce
or
Margherita Flatbread
tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil
or
Angus Beef Cheeseburger
grilled portobello mushroom and cheddar, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions and aioli

Choice of Dessert

Tiramisu Crème Brulee
chocolate drizzle lady finger
or
Warm Maple Apple Crisp
oatmeal walnut streusel and chantilly cream
or
Chocolate Gianduja Budino
frangelico crema and crisp candied rice

Dinner $25

Choice of Appetizer

Homemade Minestrone Milanese (vegetarian)
vegetable soup with orzo, kidney beans, freshly grated parmigianino reggiano and a pine nut pesto
or
Grilled Octopus
aromatic orzo pilaf baked with raisins, oregano and spicy tomato
or
Caesar Salad
smoky bacon, creamy dressing

Choice of Main Course

Grilled Salmon
with tuscan kale, capers and lemon rosemary butter
or
Forest Mushroom Flatbread
a seasonal mix of forest mushrooms, pesto, ricotta and mozzarella
or
Lamb Ragout Lumachini
braised lamb shank, tomato sauce, pesto, ricotta and fresh oregano

Choice of Dessert

Tiramisu Crème Brulee
chocolate drizzle lady finger
or
Warm Maple Apple Crisp
oatmeal walnut streusel and chantilly cream
or
Chocolate Gianduja Budino
frangelico crema and crisp candied rice

CLUNY

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$23 Lunch

Plus taxes and gratuity

Choice of Appetizer

Spice Roasted Pumpkin Bisque (vegetarian)
puffed wheat berries, almond milk chantilly
or
Cluny Black Kale “Caesar”
balsamic dressing, smoked cheddar and chick peas
or
Pressed Chicken Terrine “Nicoise Style”
pickled beans, tomato jam and black olives

Choice of Main Course

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Tagine (vegetarian)
couscous, harissa and apricot
or
Tomato and Saffron Braised Calamari
basque style stewed peppers and fennel
or
Alsatian Choucroute Sandwich
braised pork shank, sauerkraut, mustard, frites

Choice of Dessert

Roasted Hazelnut Profiterole
chocolate chantilly
or
Lavender Blackcurrant Macaroon
wild strawberry coulis
or
Pomegranate Granita

$35 Dinner

Plus taxes and gratuity

Choice of Appetizer

Spice Roasted Pumpkin Bisque (vegetarian)
puffed wheat berries, crab and almond milk chantilly
or
Cluny Black Kale “Caesar”
balsamic dressing, smoked cheddar and chick peas
or
Pressed Chicken Terrine “Nicoise Style”
pickled beans, tomato jam and black olives
or
Tomato and Saffron Braised Calamari
basque style stewed peppers and fennel

Choice of Main Course

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Tagine (vegetarian)
couscous, harissa and apricot
or
Alsatian Choucroute Sandwich
braised pork shank, sauerkraut, mustard, frites
or
Beer Braised Beef Cheeks
celeriac and barley stew, roasted sprouts, fresh horseradish
or
BBQ Steelhead Trout
flageolet beans, roasted heirloom carrots, almond sauce

Choice of Dessert

Roasted Hazelnut Profiterole
chocolat chaud and chantilly
or
Lavender Blackcurrant Macaroon
wild strawberry coulis and torched vanilla meringue
or
Granny Smith Sorbet

HARLEM EAST

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$18 Lunch

Plus taxes and gratuity

Choice of Appetizer

Cornbread (vegetarian)
Fresh in house made cornbread mini loaf
or
Deep Fried Pickles (vegetarian)
Crispy crunchy deep fried goodness
or
Deep Fried Okra (vegetarian)
Fresh okra coated in seasoned batter

Choice of Main Course

Southern Fried Chicken & Waffles
Paired with scotch-bonnet-coriander lime syrup & homemade gravy
or
Jerk Beef Meatloaf
Harlem’s famous jerk beef meatloaf with basmati rice & apple chutney
or
Fish n Chips
Two pieces of seasoned catfish in a Red Stripe batter swimming alongside sweet potato fries & spicy tartar sauce
or
Caribbean Curried Vegetable Stew (vegetarian)
Root vegetables & chickpeas, stewed in Caribbean yellow curry, on coconut rice-n-peas
or
The Roasted Jerk
Roasted jerk chicken with sweet fried plantain, Monterrey Jack, scotch-bonnet mayo served toasted coco bread

Choice of Dessert

Candied Plantain (vegetarian)
Sautéed in a brown sugar caramel sauce
or
Coconut Cream Tart (vegetarian)
With chocolate drizzle & toasted coconut in a shortbread butter tart
or
Chocolate Ganache Tart (vegetarian)
With caramel drizzle & pecans in a shortbread butter tart

$25 Dinner

Plus taxes and gratuity

Choice of Appetizer

Cornbread (vegetarian)
Fresh in house made cornbread mini loaf
or
Deep Fried Pickles (vegetarian)
Crispy crunchy deep fried goodness
or
Kale, Pear & Walnut Salad (vegetarian)
Massaged kale tossed in a balsamic dressing garnished with crunchy fresh pear & chopped walnuts
or
Catfish Lafayette
Seasoned & breaded deep fried morsels served with a sweet chili sauce creamy chipotle mayo

Choice of Main Course

Southern Fried Chicken & Waffles
Paired with scotch-bonnet-coriander lime syrup & homemade gravy
or
Jerk Beef Meatloaf
Harlem’s famous jerk beef meatloaf with basmati rice & apple chutney
or
Blackened Catfish
Topped with a shrimp étoufée sauce with a side of collard greens & basmati rice
or
Caribbean Curried Vegetable Stew (vegetarian)
Root vegetables & Chickpeas, stewed in Caribbean yellow curry, on coconut rice-n-peas
or
Harlem Jambalaya (can be made vegetarian)
A medley of shrimp, chicken & hot Italian sausage topped with pan-seared catfish, harmoniously singing together in this traditional rice dish

Choice of Dessert

Candied Plantain (vegetarian)
Sautéed in a brown sugar caramel sauce
or
Coconut Cream Tart (vegetarian)
With chocolate drizzle & toasted coconut in a shortbread butter tart
or
Chocolate Ganache Tart (vegetarian)
With caramel drizzle & pecans in a shortbread butter tart

The best Farmers Markets in Toronto

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Brick Works Farmers’ Market
The farmers’ market at Evergreen Brick Works offers so much more than produce shopping. Saturday morning visitors are treated to music, kids’ activities, and special tastings and information sessions, all while they feast on an organic hot dog or sugar-free lemonade. The vendors offer everything from knife sharpening to naturally raised meats, with a focus on heath for body and environment. A foodie paradise from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Dufferin Grove
Dufferin Grove’s farmers’ market wins big points for accessibility. It’s easily accessed by various forms of transit, open all year long (moved inside the rink house during the winter), and perfect for weekday nine-to-fivers. The market is held each Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., offering shoppers the opportunity to pick up some Georgian Bay fish or local organic beef on the way home from work, and sheep’s milk ice cream cones to enjoy while they shop.

St. Lawrence Market North
The farmers’ market at St. Lawrence Market North is known for great samples, great variety, and great conversations with knowledgeable local vendors. Seemingly always up for a chat, you’ll certainly get to know just what went into your Mouton Rouge cheese or gluten-free bread is you go ahead and ask. Open every Saturday from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Wychwood Park/Wychwood Barns
Technically called “The Stop’s Farmers’ Market,” but known colloquially as “that awesome market at Wychwood Barns.” This is another market that is open all year round, and usually packed with 30 or 40 vendors and operating each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Market favourites include Kurtis CoffeeSugar Mammas Mini Donuts, and Bizjak Farms.

Sorauren Farmers’ Market
Operated by the West-End Food Coop, the Sorauren Farmers’ Market is somewhat no-frills, but definitely offers all of those farmers’ market staples. You’ll find a mix of vendors here including those known to make the farmers’ market rounds (ChocoSolYing Ying Soy Food), as well as smaller operations (Baba Link FarmdeFloured). The market is hosted in Sorauren Park every Monday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Leslieville Farmers’ Market
A newbie to Toronto’s farmers’ market scene but already drawing huge crowds to Jonathan Ashbridge Park. The Leslieville Farmers’ Market has dozens of vendors offering everything from produce to meats to prepared foods, with a couple of familiar Leslieville faces (HookedLPK’s Culinary GrooveCanadian Pie Company) setting up stalls for the Sunday event. Activities for kids, and the odd cookbook swap, too. From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Junction Farmers’ Market
From newbie to newest. The Junction Farmers’ Market may still be in its inaugural year, but it has already garnered the attention of some 20ish vendors and plenty of west-end residents keen on local foods. Operating out of a Green P parking lot at Dundas and Pacific, the market is stocked with farm-fresh foods, specialty honeys, sustainable seafood, and handmade charcuterie. This one’s a popular one, so come early. Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Trinity Bellwoods Farmers’ Market
At the northwest corner of Trinity Bellwoods Park, this market is somewhat small compared to others on this list but still manages to keep all the food basics covered. Ali’s Fish Shack and Monforte Dairy Co. and definite stars here at the market, but so too is St. John’s Bakery (a treat for Queen West) andBona Fide Bean Coffee. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies as well. Hosted each Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

East Lynn Farmers’ Market
Five years and counting, the East Lynn Farmers’ Market is a favourite summer attraction for the Danforth and Woodbine community. While the kids seem to flock straight to the face-painting tent (and can you blame them?) the food-minded focus in on the farm-fresh fruits, organic veggies, and freshly cut flowers. And meats, of course. The market has also started to feature prepared foods by area business owners. Each Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Etobicoke Civic Centre Farmers’ Market
Etobicoke, too, has its own lineup of farmers’ markets, and the Saturday event hosted at the Civic Centre is perhaps best of them all. The space is swarmed from market onset in June to its close in November, packed with people looking for farm-fresh eggs, meats, and produce. Fruits and veggies make up the bulk of the spread, but natural honey and maple syrups don’t go unappreciated. Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Appletree Markets
Recently relocating to June Rowlands Park at Davisville and Mount Pleasant, AppleTree Market has been offering the farmers’ market experience to midtown Toronto for the last several years. Hosted spring through fall Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., the market is packed with more than 30 vendors offering organic, naturally raised, and sustainable foods, as well as also plans to feature a new food truck each week. That’s right; Ontario grown strawberries, and deli meats from a truck.

Riverdale Farm Farmers’ Market
This market gives new meaning to the words “farm fresh” (though, of course, the spread comes from elsewhere…nevermind). Riverdale Farm hosts its own farmers’ market just outside its main gates on Tuesday afternoons. There you’ll find plenty of preserves, a good assortment of plants and flowers, and lots of organic Ontario-grown produce. Held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays during the season, extending farm operating hours.

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Introducing… The Leslieville Flea

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The Leslieville Flea takes place one Sunday a month from 10am to 4pm!

It is made up of a variety of vendors selling one of a kind items, furniture, hand crafted designs, antiques, vintage clothing, designer pieces and more.

The Leslieville Flea (@leslievilleflea) will be at the#distillerydistrict Fermenting Cellar, 28 Distillery Lane, this coming Sunday February 23rd  10am-5pm.
For a list of all 50 fabulous vendors go towww.leslievilleflea.com.

The best butter chicken in Toronto

00e3fafe81f17ac2deb6932d562990e2Banjara Indian Cuisine

Right next to Christie Pits Park in what looks like it could’ve been a 7/11 many moons ago, Banjara keeps the local populace happy by churning out incredible food. The butter chicken is soft, delicate, and just plain yummy and goes incredibly well with Chef Raj Veerella’s all organic naan. The portions are large and get even larger when you do takeout. No wonder it’s numero uno.

Amaya

An empire in the making with its 7 locations from food courts to elegant restaurants and a line of sauces and naan available at Pusateri’s, McKewans, Longos and Metro alike, one would expect quality to suffer, but boy does it not. The colour of sunset, the aromatic cinnamon hits you first, but the taste is wonderfully layered, delicate and complex. Magical.

Babur

On Queen West for the last 8 years, this family business is a mainstay that got a wicked redesign in 2008 by Commute Home. Chef Parveen Singh’s butter chicken is beautifully presented and has a rich creamy burnt orange colour and knock-out deep flavour that perfectly complements the long grain basmati rice you won’t find anywhere else.

 

Curry Twist

Currently tearing it up in the Junction (although it’s been here 9 and half years), the colourful decor and spice dictionary that greet you are immediately supplanted by the incredible smells emanating from the open kitchen. The butter chicken recipe is a secret Chef Anant Singh won’t share but is straight from the neighbourhood in New Delhi where his family grew up. So if you want authentic, here’s a good bet.

Gandhi Roti

Chef and owner Avtar Singh has been serving up his incredibly loyal clientele some of the best and biggest butter chicken around for the last 15 years. Using 35% cream, no butter and adding potato to the mix the only improvement one might make (and it’s his suggestion) is to mix a little of his mint chutney in with the butter chicken adding another layer of flavour and the tiniest touch of heat. Namaste.

The Host

With the ambiance of an English Colonial library this Annex resto has a decidedly upscale feel, a wonderful solarium and lots of vegetation that really sets the mood for a sub-continental meal. The butter chicken has a fabulous consistency that’s creamy but retains the taste and texture of the tomato base. Combine the sauce with juicy chunks of all white chicken and a hint of ginger and you have a winner.

 

Kamasutra

One of 2 Bayview reps on the list, Kamasutra is a large open space with a huge bar and patio. It’s grain fed chicken is not tandooried, but baked and finished North Indian style with fenugreek, house masala, butter, light cream, and all local Ontario tomatoes. With 90% of all customers ordering it, something smells good!

309 Dhaba

Chef PK is a man who loves his food and it shows. Using organic chicken that’s been marinated for 24 hours in garlic, sundried fenugreek, and 5 spice mix, it’s then sealed in the tandoor and finished 3 different ways using blanched and ground tomatoes, cream and love. Topped with garlic chives and strawberries that add a wonderful splash of acidity, it’s an elegant dish that’s complex and ridiculously tasty.

Waterfalls Indian Tapas

Open for two years, this cavernous space on Augusta is one of the few that uses butter when finishing the dish. Chef Kishore uses nice big chunks of all white meat along with bay leaves, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, cinnamon, cardamom, chilli powder, salt and sugar for his red sauce that’s a little less creamy than some, but no less tasty. Best in Kensington, hands down.

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The best mac & cheese in Toronto

f4bc866a9e33109bb0b05328f1a92b1eVictory Cafe

This Mirvish Village stalwart makes one of the best versions of mac and cheese ever. Creamy, delicious and not at all greasy. It’s homemade and served on a giant plate (paired with a huge side salad and garlic toast) and smothered in an oven melted 3 cheese blend. It’s no wonder people all across Toronto rave about the Vic’s mac and cheese. Come for the great beer selection, stay for the mac and cheese! Moderately priced, but well worth it.

Czehoski

It could be argued that Czehoski started Toronto’s mac and cheese fever when it opened 6 years ago. Chef Andy Wilson’s version uses perfectly cooked elbow pasta, medium aged white cheddar, Guinness, and a little salt and vinegar that’s finished in the pan with Quebec curds and topped with pecorino. It ain’t what your mom and dad used to make, but that’s fine. Sorry KD.

Harlem

Available as a side option at both the Original Harlem on Richmond East and sibling Harlem Underground this soulful mac and cheese is infused with bacon and as creamy and satisfying as it looks.

The Dakota Tavern

The Dakota Tavern isn’t known for its food, but dammit, it should be! Owners Maggie and Shawn have enlisted a first rate kitchen and their mac and cheese using cheddar, mozzarella, and jalapeno havarti is comfort food at its finest. Not content with that, however, their newest version with braised veal cheek, crushed house-made pork rinds and chimichurri takes it to a whole…nother…level.

The Beaconsfield

Served in a large bowl, this mac and cheese variety is smooth, spicy, and sure to please. This West Queen West favourite is able to keep the traditional recipe fresh by adding crushed corn flakes to the dish. It might seem a little strange at first, and the flakes get somewhat soggy, but it grows on your after every mouthful. Served on its own, it’s reasonably priced at around 8 bucks.

The Auld Spot Pub

As feel good and neighbourhoody as they come, owners Darryl and Nathan’s Red Seal chefs ensure the food is top notch and the mac and cheese is no exception. With gruyere, parmesan, white cheddar, swiss, and double smoked bacon (as an option), it’s a staple regulars insist never change. Not near Greektown? You’re in luck! A second one recently opened in Little Italy. Bravo!

Rebel House

 Served with house-made grilled corn bread and salad, it’s simple, cozy, and very popular with the Rebel House going through more than a hundred a week. Since you can’t argue with cold hard numbers, it’s gotta be good.

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The best caesar salad in Toronto

4f836bc54e338d6fe0c989c93c776306Jacob’s & Co.

Jacobs & Co. does a particularly orchestrated tableside preparation of their Caesar, complete with a running narrative of the process. Far from annoying, you’ll want to take notes, as this is one of those salads that’s both light and filling, creamy but not soggy and basically just pitch perfect.

Barberian’s

Another tableside offering, Barberian’s Caesar is about as classic as it gets. The plating isn’t fussy and there’s no extras like bacon, but the croutons are a garlic and butter lover’s dream. Some might prefer a bit more lemony tang from the dressing, but it’s an old style steakhouse – so it’s not really supposed to be light and refreshing.

Caplansky’s

I don’t often think of salad as junk food, but I’ll make an exception here. Caplansky’s Caesar salad is a creamy mess of calories, and that’s a very good thing. Served virtually ice cold, it’s best to eat it fast so that the lettuce retains its crunch as there’s more dressing on there than you’d ever do at home. The crumbled bits of “beef bacon” are unique and delicious.

While the dressing is on the light side, this Caesar salad gets its richness (and considerable flavour) via the addition of a soft boiled egg with a runny yoke and and two strips of hyper-crispy bacon. The presentation is lovely, but I recommend getting in there and crumbling the bacon so that you can enjoy the its salt and smoke with every bite.

Farmhouse Tavern

This ain’t your grandmother’s Caesar salad – hell, it’s not even really a salad at all. The Farmhouse Tavern does this classic as a soup, with a comforting and garlicky broth and just a few romaine hearts to tie the dish back to its origins. In place of bacon, you get pig ears. It’s a bit of culinary cleverness, but also very good.

Luma

Although the Caesar salad at Canoe tends to get most of the attention as far as Oliver and Bonacini-owned restaurants go, the version on offer at Luma is “secretly” better. Truer to classic ingredients and yet completely upscale and refined, everything about this salad is just right, from the double smoked bacon, to the soft-boiled quail’s egg to the buttery crisp croutons.

You have two options for a “Caesar salad” at Aunties & Uncles – the Hearts of Romaine or the version with chicken. The dressing is the same (at least to my taste buds), and that’s the key here. The garlic-kick will make you a shitty person to make out with later that day, but it tastes fantastic. Oh, and there’s bacon. And that just makes everything better.

The Octagon

Bust out the ramekins, this is going to be an elaborate production. Prepared tableside, the Octagon’s Caesar involves a delicate balance of classic ingredients like raw egg, anchovies, garlic, parmesan, red wine vinegar, lemons, croutons, etc. You’ll get hungry as you watch your server making it beside you, but the pay off is well worth the wait.

Come and Get It

This creative take on the Caesar differentiates itself from the pack with the addition of a granny smith slaw, chicken thighs, and chickpeas. It doesn’t look much like a Caesar but when the garlicky dressing hits your tongue, the roots of the dish are apparent right away.

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