I feel so lucky! A second birthday dinner

First, I have to provide a bit of background.

I went to the University of Waterloo. For a while, I lived in Waterloo Co-operative Residence Inc (WCRI)… and was Division Manager (organizing people, setting job lists, making sure stuff got done) for two terms, starting in fall ’79. The first of those two terms, two young women moved in for their first term at university. They were almost directly across the hall from me. One of them became my close friend and room-mate in the apartment division,¬†Sandy Kemsley. We never lost touch. Her room-mate was Gail Cowling, with whom I did lose touch, then found again, briefly, when Ash and I were living in live/work warehouse space on St. Nicholas, and then I lost touch with again… until there was an article about my photo exhibit at Barrio in the Riverdale/Beach Mirror around six years ago. I got an email from Gail, who happened to be living less than a kilometer from me in Leslieville. Our connections were re-established. Now the three of us get together when we can to eat good food, enjoy each other’s company, and catch up on what’s going on in our lives.

Gail and Sandy took me out for dinner on Thursday to celebrate my birthday. We started at my place with some wine and organic salsa & corn chips, then took a walk along Queen to Table 17. Table 17 is owned by the same folks as Ascari Enoteca, the Italian restaurant with fresh pasta that they make at the corner of Queen & Caroline.

Sandy scored right off the bat with a glass of Cava, because it was her first time there and she checked in using FourSquare. OK, OK, there are benefits to FourSquare. I’m not there yet ūüôā

We ordered wine.

The restaurant

Really nice Niagara regional blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and other varietals, brought out delicious notes. They decanted it for us to help oxidize the tannins (a good thing), but I was able to reach around and grab the bottle for a photo.

The wine

We thought we had our decisions made until we heard what the specials were. Hmm, some awesome salads. We placed our orders, sipped our wine, and talked. Then the salads arrived. I had the kale, walnut and crab. It came with a light vinaigrette. The kale was raw, but was chiffonaded, so it was easy to eat. Very flavourful: the cabbagey kale worked well with the bitterness of the walnuts and the sweetness of the crabmeat.

Kale & walnut & crab salad

Gail ordered the Table 17 salad, a delight of pine nuts, baby greens, and piave cheese:

House salad

Sandy had the boccancini with frisée and pumpkin gnocci that were crunchy, like they had been deep fried:

Salad of the day

They were wonderful and could be habit-forming. Should come with a warning label.

We all went for meat for our mains.

Sandy had the short ribs, a rich delight on a purée of parsnips, served with confit cipollini onion and roasted vegetables:

Beef short ribs

Gail had a truly beautiful confit of duck, served on du Puy lentils and with some fresh greens (I recognize bloody dock in the foreground).

Duck Confit

I had the steak et frites. I couldn’t resist. A top sirloin steak, Belgian-style frites the way they should be, bearnaise sauce for the steak and a lemony mayonnaise for the fries. I am kicking myself that I didn’t eat the rosemary. I thought it was just a stalk of rosemary. A couple of the leaves fell onto the table, and I ate them after the plates were cleared. They deep fried it! Rosemary leaves are really pungent when fresh, but when deep fried, the flavour mellows, and it actually is something I regret not having eaten.

Steak et frites

 

Ah well. We were all too full to consider dessert, so we ended the night with a digestif. Sandy and Gail both had the Calvados; I had a grappa. We played with the arrangement for quite a while, and this is the last of about a dozen pictures I took of our efforts.

A pair of calvados & a grappa

Really enjoyable dinner with excellent company. Thanks, Table 17!

What a sweetheart

French modern at Ici Bistro

Well, another year has passed, and it was birthday night again! Betty & Sandy showed me a wonderful time on my birthday, and the weather was pleasant! I’ve had some birthday celebrations in the middle of fierce winter storms.

We started at Sandy’s, with some truffled hummous from Leslieville Cheese, which Sandy served up attractively with endive spears:

Nibblies

And because it was cocktail hour, Sandy made wonderful Negronis: gin, sweet vermouth, Campari, twist of lemon and a splash of soda. She’s so talented: mixing cocktails while on a conference call ūüôā Great way to start the evening.

Cocktails!

From there, we walked out to Queen Street, to grab a taxi. Where were we going? I didn’t know. It was only when we got out of the cab and crossed the street that I knew we were eating at Ici Bistro.

We arrive at the dinner destination

Coats removed to be hung up in the back, we were seated, had menus to review… and we started with another cocktail. I didn’t document them, but they were delicious. Sandy’s was bourbon based, Betty’s … I forget, Betty, please comment! And mine had green chartreuse.

We were presented with absolutely delicious little amuse gueles: caramelized onion and goat cheese tartlets. A few bites of wonderful contrasts with the sweet onion flavour, the rich creamy goat cheese, and a little sparkle of acid, all wrapped in a tender buttery pastry.

Amuse guele

While sipping and eating, we started looking at the menu. Everything is offered in two sizes. Because we love sharing foods, we went for the smaller sized plates, and shared everything.  Bread and butter were next at the table. All in-house breads.

Bread & butter

The wine came and was decanted (missed getting a picture of the label). That was followed by the steak tartare and croquettes. The tartare was traditionally prepared, with all of the ingredients chopped and mixed together, shaped into quenelles for us to eat. Croquettes were of mashed potato, fried crispy on the outside, deliciously soft and creamy on the inside.

Steak tartare

Next came the meant-for-sharing charcuterie plate, which had a couple of types of sausage, some pork belly, a paté de campagne, and (out of range of the camera) three slices of paté de foie gras that went down like the most amazing butter. Cornichons and twists of delicious bread sticks rounded out the plate.

Mmmmmeat

We followed that up with a fowl dish: magret of duck breast a l’orange, which had a delightful anise flavour (I think it was probably provided by the traditional ingredient for the dish, which is oil of anise, plus a hint of sweetness of orange. The other meat on the plate is thigh and leg of squab — young pigeon that hasn’t fledged, so it’s very tender, and rich. These were accompanied by melt-in-your-mouth scalloped potatoes and white asparagus.

Fowl is fair!

Next up (good thing we were sharing all of this) was foie gras au naturel. It came with a delicious batonne of black trumpet mushrooms that had been cooked, then shaped into this large french-fry shape, then fried. Excellent accompaniment to the liver. We fell on it so quickly that I missed getting its picture. I seem to do that once per dinner.

Final meat dish was lamb two ways: pulled leg of lamb inside a cannelloni, and a couple of rib chops from a rack of lamb. A mushroom truffle ragout, a cipollini onion. Amazing sauces. Wow. Wonderful, fragrant, rich, tender, delicious.

Lamb and mushrooms

Next came a little birthday surprise! A platter decorated with chocolate script and three white chocolate thimbles, each containing a cherry that had been soaking in kirsch for a long time. Total change of direction, and absolutely yummy. If those big Cherry Blossoms tasted anything like this, I’d be a candy addict. Just the right proportions of ingredients.

Instead of singing

Next, we got port and cheese.

Taylor Fladgate 20-year-old tawny. It’s got legs!

Taylor-Fladgate port

And the plateau of cheese gave us a wonderful end to the dinner: 5 types of cheeses, ranging from a very soft and runny brie type, through to harder cheeses, one of which had some of that nuttyness that Oka used to have before Agropur bought them out and blanded everything, and a soft cambazola-like blue — but with more blue! Add slices of Gala apple for acid, and some more of those delicious and crisp bread sticks.

Cheese plate

Good night, Ici! See you again.

Thanks, Ici Bistro!

Good thing we walked back to Sandy’s.

But the walk back to Sandy’s meant passing this place…

Caldense bakery

Cannoli

Almond and squash tarts
Coconut tarts

So we brought back a few pastries and shared them with Damir and a bottle of bubbly! What a great dinner. Thanks, Sandy & Betty!

Ten years smoke-free!

Every year, Betty, Lyne and I get together as close to Jan. 20th as we can to celebrate not smoking. Betty quit 25 years ago; Lyne, 9; I quit 10 years ago. We like to celebrate at Rodney’s Oyster House on King West near Spadina. ¬†We were a week late this year, but we celebrated last night. I was the slowpoke (I think I got there at 6:58 for our 7pm reservation).

First up,  some bread and butter (and a beer, of course).

Caraway rye bread & butter

I love caraway rye bread. Those little bundles of essential oil of caraway exploding in the mouth are heavenly. Goes really well with smoked meat sandwiches (and it’s not so easy in this city to find a smoked meat sandwich on caraway rye).

Oyster list at Rodney's

The bread was followed by a dozen oysters, four each of three different types (Mystics, Sandy Necks, and Cotuits, if I recall correctly). They were tasty, offered different taste profiles, and tasted like having more, so we got another dozen — this time, 3 each of 4 different types. I should have written the names down. I’m pretty sure we had more Cotuits and Mystics.

A dozen raw oysters

As we thought back on previous meals at Rodney’s, Cristo came by, we asked for something on the menu that they were out of, and then Betty asked for something that wasn’t on the menu ¬†— smelt. They had some! We got a plate of about 10 of them, and munched them down so quickly that there were only two left by the time I thought to get a photo. They’re small enough that you can crunch them, bones and all (hey, it’s a natural source of calcium). Delicious sweet little fish.

Last two smelt

Following that, we decided to try the two different cooked ways they prepare oysters: Rockefeller and pan fried. One of each for each of us.

Oysters Rockefeller & pan-fried oysters

I haven’t had oysters Rockefeller in a long time. How long? Well, since going to Bumpkins, which means +/- 2 years ~1991. I enjoyed it again, the licorice flavour of the Pernod, the spinach and cheese and warm, spreading oyster taste, and I enjoyed the pan fried oyster, which had the same rich creamy mouth feel and taste that I remember from an oyster po-boy I had in New Orleans at Siggraph ’96. Delicious. I really could live on seafood!

Following that, Cristos dropped by to help us figure out what to get next. He’s not had a cigarette in 4 days, and the three of us cheered him on, and told him he should make it permanent, offering all our suggestions and hints for how to quit.

Cristos

It was dessert time. Lyne ordered the cake — a type of spice cake with a layer of sliced flamb√©ed bananas, served with a smear of caramel and whipped mascarpone.

Lyne's cake & mascarpone

I had a taste, and it was delicious, nicely spiced. But, not being much of a sweets person, for dessert I ordered… two more oysters Rockefeller!

Oysters Rockefeller for dessert

End of the night, we all headed out and caught our streetcars home. Yet another great celebratory meal.

 

 

Campagnolo on Dundas West

Betty, Sandy and I take each other out for dinner for our birthdays. Saturday night was Betty’s turn. As usual with us, she had no idea where she was going — after the spa. Because we spaaaaaahed first and got our Bodies Blitzed. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. I took the waters (repeatedly). Sandy & Betty chose interesting body scrubs, and Betty got a facial as well. We floated like balloons back to Sandy’s, where we shared a bottle of Mumm’s Napa champagne. Nice! Not too dry, not too sweet. We approve. Then we bundled up against the wind, and headed out for a 20 minute walk.

Over near the corner of Palmerston and Dundas West stands a restaurant that En Route Magazine listed as one of the top ten new restaurants in Canada this past year: Campagnolo.

We arrived fairly early for a Saturday night dinner, and the restaurant was about 3/4 full. It’s an open space, with a small bar that people can sit at and eat, and an open kitchen.

Open kitchen

Our coats were taken, we were seated, and given three menus.

A trio of menus

Immediate triage reaction: what has to be decided first? We chose the cocktail menu, and each had a different cocktail. Very flavourful, all very different. There was a Hendrick’s gin-based cocktail. One that seemed margarita-like. One with a peaty smoky scotch as the base. And we then sat back to figure out what to have for appetizers.

Our first appetizer up was bread: gougeres and herbed butter.

Gougeres and buttah

It was quickly followed by warm spiced olives, which we immediately fell in love with and devoured. What a difference in taste from cold or room-temperature olives! Of course, we’ve had hot olives as an ingredient in other dishes (like pasta puttanesca) but this was the first time having them on their own, enjoying the heated flavours, the herbs (rosemary, thyme, chili peppers, preserved/salty orange peel)… yum.

Warm spicy olives

Then came (I think it was next) a gorgeous steak tartare. Sorry, no picture. We fell on it and devoured it. What can I say? We were hungry. Creamy, smooth, proper level of herbing and spicing. It came with a truffle aioli. That’s really sinful. It’s really awesome. It’s better than chocolate, and I can think of naughty ways to serve it. Yes, I’ll eat my red meat raw like this. I’ll even do it every week, if you’ll pay for it!

It was followed by a hot appetizer: sweetbreads and braised artichokes. Darling little artichoke hearts and stems on, and crispy fried pieces of sweetbreads. Sitting on little dollops of a regular aioli. Gorgeous. The flavours — warm creamy slightly liver-like flavour of sweetbreads, inside a crunchy fried casing, and then matched with the almost not quite bitter and mild artichokes. Wonderful pairing, beautiful presentation.

Sweetbreads & artichokes

Yah, that’s Sandy doing the peace sign.

Based on the order of my photos, I think this is when our bottle of wine arrived, a Primitivo Manduria from southern Italy. Sandy made a delicious selection.

Wine

Presentation for the next appetizer was superb, as well: a lengthwise slice of a marrow beef bone dressed with a plum and oxtail marmelade. Served with some crostinis for us to scoop the bubbling marrow onto. ¬†The marrow was perfect — still quivery, had that totally unctuous texture. The jam contributed sweet and meat to the dish, giving it a contrast that enabled us to fully appreciate the beautifully braised oxtail contrasting with the light-tasting and rich marrow, and the plum providing some acid and sweetness to cut through the other flavours. Can it get any better than this?

Bone marrow with pear & oxtail jam

Oh yes, for now we’re on to our mains.

I never order lasagne in a good restaurant. Just… I just don’t. But I decided I would. They called it “Nonna’s lasagne.” And I’ve eaten so much pasta with wonderful meats in the last two months… what would they do with lasagne?

 

Many thin layers of homemade pasta. I counted at least ten. It was light, it had a meat and tomato sauce, a little cheese — this wasn’t your standard North American overstuffed heavy lasagne. No bechamel sauce! It was wonderful. It tasted of real tomatoes and meat and pasta. I loved it.

Nonna's lasagne

Sandy chose the pappardelle with rabbit and chanterelle mushrooms (of course we all tasted each other’s dishes)! Perfectly braised (by this point, I’ve come to expect that they know how to slow cook meat, country style).

Sandy's pappardelle

Betty got the lamb shank, which came with perfectly caramelized cubes of potato and pork belly. Oh yes, this was a meat-eater’s dish. And it was perfect. The deep rich flavours of the lamb shank paired with the lighter pork belly (I never thought I’d refer to pork belly as a lighter flavour) and the potato cubes. Awesomeness incarnate.

Betty's main

In case you want to accuse us of not eating our greens, we did order a dish of brussels sprouts with peccorino cheese and pine nuts. Absolutely delicious — a bit of a cream sauce in the dish to give additional moisture. We totally emptied the dish.

Brussels Sprouts

Our absolutely delightful server asked us if we’d be staying for dessert. Alas, we were all fed up. He was adorable. I hope you get to sit at one of his tables. I should have written his name down. Sometimes I #fail. He sat beside Sandy so I could take this shot.

Awesome waiter

Serious line-up at the front when we exited: this place is somewhere people come back to. It’s been open a year and a couple of weeks, and is full.

We walked back toward Sandy’s, where we had left our wet bathing suits and such, and passed by a Portuguese bakery that we had seen going the other way. Aaaaaah! It’s still open!!! It’s reputed to have the best custard tarts in the city! We must stop at Caldense Bakery.

We do. We buy a selection of items, and return to Sandy’s — we can share dessert with Damir, who loves a nice sweet at the end of the night. We have coconut macaroons, pumpkin squash tarts, custard tarts, and some orange cupcake-like things.

Desserts from Caldense Bakery

Woh. Full-o-meter has pegged. Happy birthday, Betty: really enjoyed celebrating it with you!

 

First customer at Ascari Enoteca!

Yup, I was the first one in the door last evening when Ascari Enoteca opened, corner of Queen St. East and Caroline Ave.

They don’t have their liquor license yet — they will in time for Tuesday’s Grand Opening — but I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

They’ve done nice things with the space: it’s completely unrecognizable from two incarnations ago when it was Lou’s Variety, and the only thing I recognize from when Ben had his gallery here is the depth of the window ledges. Muted colours and grey tables made me think of menswear fabrics; open steel kitchen, so you can see what’s going on.

First, I had a Chinotto to drink. Sort of like a bitters without the alcohol.

IMG_3768

Very pleasant to sip while I read through the menu. Lots of choices. Lots of things I want to try. I have a hard time nailing it down to two dishes. Finally decide on the Crostini alla Toscana and the Cavatelli.

IMG_3769

The crostini arrive, and they are gorgeous to behold. They’re also really tasty. A very smooth chicken liver pat√© — not even a hint of bitterness — served on a crusty toast with some caramelized onions on top, and a fried sage leaf topping it all off, sprinkled with sea salt. ¬†It was really good, one of the better liver pat√©s I’ve had in a restaurant. The presentation was novel, and the flavours worked together perfectly.

IMG_3776

That is followed by the cavatelli. They make their pasta in-house, and it’s delicious. There’s a little bit of black truffle in the pasta, which is cooked to the point that it has some resistance against the teeth. The cavatelli comes with confit of duck, brussels sprouts, and chanterelle mushrooms. Freshly ground pepper on top, and that’s it. Simple, beautiful ingredients. It is quite a large serving of pasta. I didn’t have room for dessert.

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Crazy, I know, but I decided to have an espresso at the end of dinner (hmm, maybe that’s why I was up so late). Beautiful cup, perfect crema, smooth flavour.

IMG_3788

Total bill was about $42.00. I’ll be back.

IMG_3794

 

 

 

F’Amelia Restaurant: I’ll be back

F’Amelia opened almost two months ago on Amelia Street in Old Cabbagetown. Near the corner of Parliament Street, it’s a short trip by TTC from home (would be even shorter by bike, but it was chilly and windy today). I’ve been following the restaurant’s Twitter account since they opened, and they’ve been following mine, and we’ve chatted about food, ingredients, and local birds (they have a collection of bird feeders out back).

I was itching to get out today, and decided it was time for a trip over to Riverdale Zoo Farm, and a good opportunity to go to F’Amelia — their menu certainly appealed to me.

I was an early bird at the restaurant, which opens at 5pm (eek, it’s almost dark out at 5 now). Great people. I regret not writing down the name of the manager, because she is adorable and efficient and knowledgeable. I was greeted, seated, and ordered a Negroni while trying to decide what to eat from the menu. And then Todd Vestby, one of the owners, came out and gave me a warm greeting. It’s always nice to meet the face behind the tweets and find out the story of a restaurant. You can find more info on their¬†website. I was lucky — executive chef Maurizio Verga was working tonight, and I had the opportunity to meet him. Everyone was personable, and I felt they all really cared about the place.

I’m going to have to come back with friends to try the Antipasto Misto. I bet it’s a good plate.

F'Amelia's Antipasti

Mains are very hard to choose from. Plus they have a special today of a stuffed pasta that includes lemon and raisins and meat, and a few other ingredients that make it sound like a lemony mincemeat (if you’ve ever had a true mincemeat, not one of the ones made solely of fruit). One thing I love about their menu is that they offer all the mains in two sizes. I can choose the smaller one, and maybe have room for other dishes!

F'Amelia's mains

Desserts look good. Will I have room?

F'Amelia's desserts

While I’m sipping my drink, bread arrives. It’s all made in house, and is delicious. I failed miserably at making focaccia twice this year, and here it was, simple and perfect, with some salt and rosemary. Plus a chunk of a good sturdy bread that was tender and almost like a buttermilk biscuit. A drizzle of good olive oil on the plate to dip the bread.

Home-made bread

Because I’m a fan of cold water oily sustainable fish, I wanted to try their warm mackerel salad. I’m glad I did, because it was delicious. The fish was firm and fresh, fried from the skin side, so nice crispy skin on top, with some frizzled lettuce greens. Underneath lay ingredients that complemented the fish beautifully. Grilled radicchio was superb, providing charry bitterness against the fish’s richness, and then potatoes and sunchokes to provide sweetness. Highly recommended!

Warm mackerel salad

Next came the surprise course! One perfectly seared sweet scallop surmounting a seafood risotto that included shrimp, clams, and impossibly tender squid. Really. I was wondering if I was mistaken, or if it was something else, like some stem of a mushroom that I wasn’t familiar with. The executive chef, ‘Rizio, came out at that time, and I had the opportunity to ask him about it. He cooks his squid sous vide! It gets added to the risotto at the last moment. Very tasty risotto.

Seafood risotto

Next came my third polenta dish of the last three weeks. I thought the polenta I had at Rosa’s in San Francisco was tasty. This was better. Creamy perfect polenta, with osso buco and marrow butter. There’s rosemary in the polenta, giving it a rich herby perfume that can stand up to the richness of the veal shank. Sometimes polenta has so much cheese in it that the flavour of the corn is lost. Not the case here.

With the stew on top…the brunoise was perfectly cubed. The meat is so perfectly exquisitely rich, tender, braised long enough to be tender, not overcooked (which makes a meat taste dried-out). This dish deserves a revisit. I had the small one: I can see coming back and having the full size. It turns out that Chef Maurizio is from Bergamo, just north of Milan, in the heart of polenta region. He really cares about his polenta, and it shows.

Polenta with osso buco & marrow butter

Alas, no room for dessert. However, I’m honoured that Chef Maurizio brought me a glass of his dessert liqueur — similar to a limoncello, yet his own. It was a great way to finish the dinner.

Liqueur

¬†I sip my after-dinner liqueur, and watch around me as the restaurant starts to fill up. There are couples, families — opposite me, it looks like the grandparents have taken their two well-behaved little grandchildren out for pizza. Staff and customers recognize each other. It’s definitely full of neighbourhood people, and I think that a lot of them are regulars already.

Given the owners, staff, and the food, ¬†I’d be proud to have a restaurant like F’Amelia in my neighbourhood.

 

 

Another delicious Matt Kantor Little Kitchen feast!

As you might know,¬†Matt Kantor¬†is doing something a bit different this fall, and preparing a series of dinners for about a dozen people. Last night was the first of three for his¬†Meat and Beer¬†week — there will be two more events at Olliffe Butchers this week. And they’re all sold out!

I got there a bit early last evening. Well, a half-hour early, actually. Everyone was busy elsewhere, so I just looked in the window and shot off a few pictures. I like the front window of Olliffe, and the butcher-stamp look of their logo. Nice job, guys.

Store Front, Olliffe Butchers

Great idea to have a display case of charcuterie right by the front window. Everything looks so delicious. I’m going when I’m back up town next Tuesday. I want to see what their Soppresatta and locally-cured Lardo are like. Hmm, maybe some pancetta, too.

Peering in the front window

Good artwork for a butcher store. Font geek likes the typeface on the butchery diagram.

Looking along the countertop

Aaah! Here comes Matt!

Here comes Matt

Oops. Yah, we’re seriously early. Please walk around the block a few times and come back at 8, like it said on the email Sunday (Actually, Matt just said “come back at 8.” I’m the one pointing out that it said “Dinner at 8” on the email).

Not yet, folks

So I wandered around for a while, took pictures of store windows, and I’ll get them up online, maybe later today. Some shops have their Christmas decorations up already! And sad to say, I was looking at them. Maybe I’ll actually decorate this year. I should get my winter Icicle lights up today while it’s still above 10C and the plastic wiring is pliant.

The old Summerhill train station still looks lovely as an LCBO. The fountain outside almost made me jump out of my skin on the way home, however. It has one of those deer-scare type setups, where a container fills with water, tips, noise happens, water spills out. Caught me unaware.

Summerhill train station

Came back just before 8, just had enough time to snap a shot of people outside and cross the road, and Matt opened the door and invited us all in.

From across the street

Fundamentally rustic table centrepieces: beef rib bones in triads going the length of the table.

Table decor

Time to peruse the menu. As usual for Matt, lots of variety, interesting combinations, delicious pairings. I can hardly wait to start.

The menu

Matt’s introduction to the dinner — alas, he’s on the edge of losing his voice!

Matt explains the food

First dish up in the sausage ceviche — now, it’s not raw sausage cooked by the acid of a citrus fruit. It’s actually been cooked. It’s served with a lot of the ingredients you’d find in a ceviche. It makes for a tasty appetizer. Matt, feel free to tell me what type of sausage it was!

Sausage ceviche

It was accompanied by the first beer of the night (full flight of beers, different one for each course). This was a pleasant ale, good place to start, accompanied the food without competing with it.

The paired beer

They went well together! Our next beer had a flashy label, a good joke, and nice flavour.

Beer for the next course

It was mild, a bit of spice, and went really well with the sous-vide pork tenderloin, served with some crunchy chickpeas, dice of quince, schmear of rooibos lemon chiffon pudding, and some tarragon leaves. OK, that caught me by surprise a little. Wasn’t expecting pudding with pork, but it worked really nicely, the same way that a sweet applesauce or jelly goes with pork. The vanilla/lemony notes brought out the subtle flavours of a meat that serves to underpin other tastes. The licorice of the tarragon really came out with the beer. ¬†The pork tenderloin was, like all the meats, incredibly tender. Cooking it sous vide, it had lost none of its juicy nature.

Tamshire Pork Loin

Next up was an Amsterdam Bone Shaker IPA. Like all IPAs, hopsy bitterness remained after sipping.

Amsterdam Boneshaker IPA

That bitterness worked well to accompany the richness of the¬†Chantecler¬†Chicken Risotto with butternut squash and pine nuts. This was a really great dish. The chicken is a variety I’ve only had once before, at Brad Long’s¬†Veritas Local Fare¬†on King Street East. ¬†It’s got a wonderful rich chicken taste that you hardly ever find any more. The risotto was creamy, slightly sweet and rich from the squash, and each grain was still al dente at its core. The lightly toasted pine nuts completed the dish beautifully. One person commented “it’s like rice pudding.” Yup, But better. And for dinner.

Risotto of Chantecler chicken

The next two dishes on the menu were switched, so the chicken risotto was followed by Muscovy duck, then lamb biryani.

The Muscovy duck was accompanied by a strawberry beer, Amsterdam Framboise. A slightly medicinal nose, the flavour of the beer is great, and works really well with duck.

Amsterdam Framboise

The duck was served two ways: we had a slice of juicy, tender, rare breast, and a crepe (Matt, was there cocoa in that crepe?) with leg meat and mushrooms. Hazelnut streusel was strewn about to add a sweet note to the lamb, and there were a few eye-interesting ingredients, in terms of some Romanesco (fractal food!), some delicious mushrooms, and a dollop of Romanesco pur√©e. There was a round ball — just behind the breast meat — that looks like a truffle. Well, it wasn’t a mushroom truffle, and it wasn’t a chocolate, either. It was a tartuffo! Surprise! And the ice cream was carmelized onion. Absolutely delicious.

Muscovy duck with Forest Flavours

This was followed by a Great Lakes Winter Ale (I missed its picture!), which had a lovely light taste of cloves, and accompanied the deconstructed lamb biryani that came next. A couple of pieces of saffron cake, a white mousse, some plump sweet raisins, and some very tasty braised lamb, all done up with Indian spices and herbs. Another case where Matt surprised us by putting sweet and savory together in a delicious plate.

Deconstructed Lamb Biryani

On to the dark beers. To accompany the beef, we had Black Oak Nutcracker Porter. Chocolate, molasses, creamy, coffee notes, this could be dessert.

Black Oak Nutcracker Porter

It was a perfect counterpart to what came next. We’re in a butcher shop that prides itself on its dry aged beef. It’s on display in a cooler, directly behind the table. Big glorious slabs of meat, hanging, tenderizing, drying. We were fortunate to have some 60 day aged beef, prepared two ways: braised shortribs, glazed in honey, almost tasted like candy. Meaty candy. The shortribs were topped with some blue cheese, which I ate with both of the dishes, because blue cheese and well aged beef just belong together. The ribeye was succulent, and the cheese went with it the way it should, bringing out the stronger tastes in the beef, contributing umami. Sunchoke foam was a light palate cleanser, and worked with the potato to prepare the mouth for another round of beefy goodness.

Beautiful beef

That brought us to our final dish of the evening — and I forgot another beer picture! This one was really a dessert beer: Cannery Brewing Maple Stout. Oh yes, yes, yes. The maple note is strong — not as strong as it is in the maple liqueur one can buy in Quebec, but almost. And the maple works with the pecans, and the foie gras ice cream, caramel sauce, poached apple, and streusel topping.

Dessert

I’m very glad there were no more courses! It was delicious, each course was different, and I’m still quite full from last night.

Hope you make it out to Matt’s next set of dinners — whatever it happens to be, it will be a pleasure.

St. Phillips deli¬ēbakery¬ēcaf√©

I was walking past¬†St. Phillip‘s booth, and accosted by a young woman bearing a tray of creampuffs. I was forced to accept (really). (Well, not really. But I really liked it.)

St Phillips bakery #2

I took a look around the place and spoke with them briefly. They have two locations — ¬†one in Woodbridge, one in Maple, and plans are underfoot to open one in Toronto (alas, nowhere near where I live).

The creampuff was tasty.

The visuals of some of their cakemanship (I’m sure that’s not a word, but I don’t know how to express the one-up quality and detailing of what they do).

This is the side of their booth. That torso in the dress? A cake.

St Phillips bakery #1

 Clown? A cake. The chocolate brown thing to the right is the closest one comes to seeing a cake-cake.

But I have to call out the luggage.

Couture luggage cake

 Woh.

Awesome.

Get your freshly shucked oysters! At the Delicious Food show

Larger and smaller operations are both at the show.

In the larger category, think Rodney’s, truly the eminence gris of Toronto fresh seafood. Once in the basement on Richmond Street by Jarvis (old time, I know) they’re now on King West just west of Spadina.

Rodney's Oysters!

In the smaller category, think Oyster Boy, on Queen West near Trinity Bellwoods park.

Oysterboy shucks on!

Good prices for fresh seafood. Now that they’ve had the chance to scope each other out, they may have the same price. Yesterday, Oyster Boy was definitely the price winner!

Must get out to Brassaii again

I went to¬†Brassaii, shortly after it opened, with Sandy and a few other friends. They’ve been open quite a while now, and renovated last year, moving the long communal table and making it a chef’s table.

They are at the Delicious Food Show this weekend.

Brassaii restaurant

They made delicious meatballs of two meats yesterday (I knew I should have taken notes! lamb and beef?). They sat on a little tzaziki, and had a dab of mint sauce on top. Tender, juicy, flavourful.

Brassaii meatballs

One thing I should mention: I was really pleased by the amount of compostable and gentle-on-the-environment food service pieces I saw at the show yesterday.