#McEwanAllAccess

Even though I was fighting jet lag, I had high expectations for #McEwanAllAccess and knew better than to skip it.  I arrived at McEwan promptly at 7:01 and almost everyone was already there. I was surprised the store was open, but thrilled about the spread that was in front of me.  There were different stations set out in the amazing prepared foods section plus passed appetizers. I made my rounds (and more rounds)…

Some highlights:
PEI beef: served extremely rare. It was super tender, flavourful and delicious.  So much that I even bought a steak to take home. It’s the kind of steak that you only need to eat a few ounces to be completely satisfied.
beef. amazing.
McEwan’s passed appetizers and prepared foods: the lobster tacos on a beet chip were perfect.  Fresh lobster and super crisp chip.  I could have eaten 100.  Fabbrica gnocchi with homemade ricotta.  They sell it regularly and I have been wanting to buy it, but with the $16 price tag I have been hesitant.  Not anymore.  It was light, fluffy and had a beautiful, fresh tomato sauce.   Oysters.  Usually, I’m not even a fan of oysters, but I’ll have one or two.  I went for seconds (possibly thirds).  So fresh with two vibrant mignonettes they sell in the store.  I would come here for after work drinks every night if I could get a spread like this.

lobster and beets. who knew that was a good combo?

Von Doughnuts: It’s hard to believe that my true love in a doughnut is called one night stand, but it is.  Tequila, lime and sale are the best combination in the world.  Yes, I also tried crème brulee, maple bacon, and lemon curd, but the absolute stand out for me was the one night stand.  I need more.  I’m thrilled doughnuts are the new cupcake.
Shout outs also to Makaron a delightful macaron maker with magical flavours like passion fruit chocolate.  I had justOD’ed onmacarons, but yours made me feel like I hadn’t left Paris.

this is what dreams are made of.

Also to Hot Bunz.  Love the taste and concept.  I wish I could have had more than one, but sadly, my stomach seems to no longer be a bottomless pit.

After all this amazing food, we got to shop our way through the store. McEwan is an amazing grocery store with unparelled prepared foods, an abundance of speciality products and the highest quality fresh produce, meats, fish, cheeses and more.  Shopping there is an experience.  Toronto we should consider ourselves lucky because they are opening a second location downtown!
Special thanks to Abbey Sharp from Abbey’s Kitchen for hosting the event and selecting me for a ticket. It was great to meet and eat with you!  Also thank you to Chef Mark for being fabulous as always.  I was pleasantly surprised that you remembered me!  I look forward to seeing you again (because I’m sure it will involve great eating)!

Dim Sum Sunday at Luckee

One of the many things I love about embarking on this blogging journey with my notfoodies partner is that we often want to eat the same food at the same time, it’s like a notfoodies sixth sense! So you can see how excited I was when she suggested going to Susur Lee’s newest endeavour Luckee for Dim Sum.

We arrived at 11am and as one of the first people in the restaurant, we were able to get a look at the entire space without any patrons dining (by the time we left almost every table was filled). The decor is a great mix of funky and classic with some cute touches like the glass window and bar area that allows you to see into the kitchen as they prep the dumplings.

But we were really only there for one thing, the food! We ordered a lot of amazing dishes and some great dessert so I will try to keep my descriptions short.

Har Gow (shrimp dumplings)

These dumplings were cooked to perfection and the filling was just as amazing. It was delicate but also melted in your mouth. I later found out that Chef Lee flew in his close friend master dim sum maker Raymond Fung! This would explain why they are so good!

Chicken Bao (with ginger and green onions)

The Chicken Bao

The Chicken Bao

I will be honest with you and tell you that I was a little disappointed when we were told that the Xiao Long Bao (pork soup dumplings) and the Braised Black Pepper Beef Bao were not available BUT when the Chicken Bao arrived my disappointment vanished. The Bao was fluffy and the chicken filling had great flavour. The ratio of filling to pastry was perfect.

Sui Mai (chicken dumplings with shrimp)

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At first glance these looked like the standard sui mai you would get at any Dim Sum restaurant, but they put some kind of an orange liquor or oil in the mix and it takes this to a whole new level!

Luckee Duck

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This was the over all winner for today’s meal! Our awesome waiter told us this was the best item on the menu and he was right. I don’t think any of the people we were dining with had a bad thing to say about it! The duck was cooked to perfection and the skin was so crispy I swear I wanted to ask for a plate of just the skin. Usually, I’m not even a duck lover.  This was a make your own dish with thin pancakes, perfect julienned batons of cucumber, leeks and apple! The hoisin sauce and chutney added a great texture and flavouring to it. My mouth is watering as I type this description.

Brisket with soy beans

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Another amazing dish that was my personal favourite of the day! The brisket is cooked sous vide for 72 HOURS! I don’t think I can ever go back to eating brisket any other way after trying this. It was juicy and tender and complemented the sauce and soy beans perfectly. The slices are small so you don’t feel like you are eating a huge hunk of meat.

Wok fried green beans

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Ashley was quite excited for the wok fried green beans and they were a great addition to out meal. They had an olive paste on top with a delicious sauce. Beans seem like a simple dish to cook but I often find that restaurants just don’t seem to cook them right, they are either rubbery or not cooked enough. The beans were warm and perfectly seasoned, with a great crunch to them.

Crispy tempura-fried roll filled with minced chicken and tofu, delicately double-wrapped in a rice roll

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A great mix of crunchy and soft, the fried roll was wrapped and presented beautifully. I was half expecting the traditional greasy egg rolls. The filling I found was similar in flavour to the chicken bao but it was complemented by with the tofu and crunch from the fried shell.

Dessert

Chocolate Custard Steamed Sponge Roll

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I don’t even know how to begin to describe this amazing “bite of fun” as the waiter called it. The hot chocolate sauce took this dish to another level!

Black Sesame Tong Yuen Tart

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This was the overall winner of the dessert section. Served warm and not to sweet if you don’t want to push yourself over the edge after eating your main, this is the perfect desert.

Blood Orange & Lemon Curd Tart

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This dish was almost to pretty too eat (almost). The blood orange gave this tart a beautiful color and the lemon gave it a little hint of tartness.

With everything we ate, the bill ended up costing us $35.00/person including tip. This is on the high side of Dim Sum but worth the splurge every once in a while.

We also discovered a great private dining room that looks like it would be great for a large group

The stunning private dining room!

The stunning private dining room!

Best: The Luckee Duck, the flavours of everything on its own was great but putting it all together in a personal thin pancake really made this dish out of this world amazing !

Not the best: Compared to other dim sum restaurants I found their selection to be smaller than most. I assume this will change over time though and I hope to go back when they have soup dumplings!

328 Welington Street West

www.luckeerestaurant.com/
Luckee on Urbanspoon

Good Food and Drink Festival

Today we checked out the Good Food and Drink Festival.  I was feeling slightly under the weather, but tried to sample as much as I could (unfortunately I had to skip some of the hot sauces I would normally try).  Below are a few of my favourite vendors from the day.

#1.  No. 7 Hot Sauce – It’s always nice to see Carlos and Sandra.  Plus their sauces are amazing.  The whole line is really great and the way they explain each one makes trying them even better.  I’m REALLY into the Pasilla BBQ sauce right now.  They also have this chili oil that’s pretty insane too.

#2. Omega Crunch – I feel better about myself after eating these flax seeds.  They make it really easy to eat flax too.  No need to roast, grind, store in the fridge.  They come in a convenient shaker in flavours like maple (my personal fav), garlic and cinnamon.  At the show they were sampling it with my favourite yogurt, Olympic Krema.  It’s 10% milk fat and oh-so-creamy and delicious.

#3. Good Drink Iced Teas – Growing up, I used to be an iced tea junkie (I don’t drink pop because the carbonation hurts my nose).  These teas have much more grown up flavours and a lovely sweetness from cane sugar.  I love love love the mango tea with hints of hibiscus.  I really enjoyed the white tea with blueberry and the black tea with lemon.  The green tea grew on me after I gave it a second try.

Last but not least, a shout out to Kawartha Dairy for the delicious ice cream.  Ice cream is always great.  The scooping into the sample cups was pretty perfect.

Thanks to our good friends @No7HotSauceTO for the tickets to the show!   A good trade since we bought almost $40 in hot sauce.

Playa Cabana

It felt so good to be back.  I’ve had take-out a few times recently, but hadn’t been back to the restaurant in a long while.  There’s something about scoring a last-minute reservation and then finding a friend to eat with that is so satisfying.

In terms of drinks, I love the playa paloma.  It’s my go-to and favourite cocktail (aside from some of the delicious concoctions I’ve had at Toronto Temperance Society – but that’s for another day).  Grapefruit and tequila.  The best margarita.  So smooth.  Not too boozy tasting, but very boozy.  I just wish they made it in a pitcher…

I love Mexican food, but I’ll confess, I hate guacamole.  I’m not the best sharer for some of my friends.  I started with the nachos a la plancha.  They aren’t conventional nachos.  Fried tortillas topped with beans and crema and some Mexican sort of bbq sauce (no clue at all what it is).  They come with a little pile of pickled hot peppers that might be one of my favourite condiments ever.  I also really like their chicken quesadillas – not your typical quesadilla, more like a pulled chicken pizza pocket covered in corn and crema.  Some other great apps I’ve had are the super spicy chicken wings, or the crazy addictive shrimp in a bucket.  My friend had the ceviche which she loved.  It comes with their fresh, housemade tortilla chips.  These are the real deal.  Straight out of the fryer, covered in salt.  Perfect for eating plain or with any combination of guac, salsa, ceviche…

For mains, I had my #1 favourite restaurant item right now.  I can’t get enough of the braised short rib-brisket tacos!  They come in a crispy tortilla shell with crema, a little salsa and a wedge of lime.  It’s perfection.  The meat is so juicy, tender and falling apart, the perfect contrast to the crispy shell.  Mmmm.  Mouth foaming.  Thinking about when I can go again.  If I’m hungry, I’ll go for a side of rice and refried beans.  I don’t always need it (I didn’t this time because I had the “nachos”).  My husband always offers to pick these up for me if I’m having a bad day (it helps that we live 2 minutes away).

My friend had the fish tacos, they were halibut on the day we went.  She gets them grilled – sinful.  I thought about ordering them myself that day, fried of course, but am happy I stuck with my favourite menu item.  One day I’ll try them, but I never even want to give up one of my three tacos for a trade.

Best: Short rib-brisket tacos.  Have all three yourself or order them to share.

Not the best: Trying to get a reservation!  It’s getting easier now that they have 3 locations, but still… I don’t like to plan 2 weeks in advance.

Check out Playa Cabana.  It’s on The List.

http://www.playacabana.ca/

111 Dupont St (near Dupont and Davenport)

Playa Cabana on Urbanspoon

Canteen (O&B)

I’m a huge Oliver & Bonacini fan.  I had my wedding at an O&B venue (shout out to Arcadian Court) and have eaten my way through their restaurants.  I know some people aren’t a fan of chains, but I hardly consider these (mostly upscale restaurants) to be a chain.  Still, I have restaurants that I prefer and would love to go back and others that I’m not as much of a fan of.  This visit to Canteen wasn’t a knock out.

We went to try out a new special they are having #eatwhatcookseat.  On Sunday night, for $16 they serve a “staff meal” with a main and a dessert.  For the price, it seems like you can’t go wrong.  After eating it, I think this is an amazing concept, but needs a little extra focus on execution (maybe we were just there on an off night?).  On the night we went it was fried chicken with corn bread and a blondie.  My friend and I were both going to order it, but luckily we didn’t.  She had the fried chicken, I went with shrimp and grits.  The shrimp and grits were well done.  There were 5 large shrimp cooked very well, wonderfully pink, not over cooked.  It came with grits covered in hot sauce and bacon.  Now I have a question… what are grits?  I tried to ask on twitter, but didn’t get a response :(  These were big pieces of hominy.  My understanding of grits was that it was like polenta.  Someone please take me out of my misery – what is it supposed to be (see poll below)?  Either way, my meal was the favourite of the two.

Shrimp and grits(?)

Shrimp and grits(?)

The fried chicken was somewhat of a miss.  The crust was very crispy, but fell off when we were eating it.  It seemed like it was fried when the oil was too hot and we weren’t sure if the chicken was cooked through (never a good sign).  The cornbread was almost too moist (who ever says something is too moist) and didn’t have the crumbly texture I look for in cornbread, but it did have a nice crust.  We asked for BBQ sauce and hot sauce and both were excellent with the chicken.  We also got a side of BBQ fries.  They were sold to us as fries covered in the same kind of powder as BBQ chips and that’s exactly what they were.  They had quite a lot of sugar, but were great with the sauces we had with the chicken and the house-made ranch they came with.

Over (and under) fried chicken

Over (and under) fried chicken

We ended the meal with the second half of the staff meal – a delicious blondie with caramel sauce. It was moist, rich and would have been worth it if we just came for that!  I hope it gets added to the regular menu.

Blondie with caramel

Blondie with caramel

Even though this wasn’t my best meal at Canteen, I will definitely be back.  The staff are friendly and have been trained with the perfect O&B manners.  They are courteous and problem solvers and will make any situation right.

Best: the blondie – a great little square

Not the best: the over/under fried chicken.  I don’t even want to think about it anymore…

http://www.oliverbonacini.com/Canteen.aspx

330 King St West (inside the Bell Tiff Lightbox, between Spadina and University)

O&B Canteen on Urbanspoon

Sunday Brunch- Emma’s Country Kitchen

Ashley and I decided to go for an impromptu brunch and shockingly both of us were stumped on where to go. I am not ashamed to say that I use Google every so often to find places to eat at and even less ashamed to say that they are usually good suggestions. On this day, Google pointed us towards Emma’s Country Kitchen. I had heard good things about it from friends so we decided to give it a shot.

The space has a large takeout counter where you can purchase some of their delicious bakery items. If you go on a Saturday or Sunday they have fresh doughnuts which looked yummy, but sadly I was too full to try!

The dining area isn’t that large, but it can fit a good amount of people. It seems like it is a popular spot to take children as we were seated beside two families with small kids. If you want to avoid this, I would suggest going a little later in the morning.

The Food:

I ordered the Emma’s Benny (obviously). A warm and fluffy buttermilk biscuit topped with house cured peameal bacon, poached eggs and smothered in mousselline sauce. Served with a side of griddled red skin potatoes. What intrigued me most about this dish was that it did not have the traditional hollandaise sauce. I had never heard of mousselline but after doing a little research I have learnt that it is very similar to hollandaise and has many of the same elements, but has whipped cream added to it. Needless to say, it was delicious!

The mousselline sauce! Looks just like hollandaise

The mousselline sauce! Looks just like hollandaise

Ashley had the B.L.T. which comes with house cured bacon, heirloom tomato, baby arugula and lemon basil aioli. She held off on the aioli, but enjoyed the dish and loved the bacon! She also ordered a hot chocolate with whipped cream on top. It was good, but not as good as Bobbette and Belles. She also had a tiny glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. It was the perfect amount when you are just feeling like a little juice to go with your breakfast.

Beautiful tomatoes in the BLT!

Beautiful tomatoes in the BLT!

I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the brunch was delicious. I will definitely be going back and hopefully I can save room for the fresh doughnuts.

The best: Emma’s Benny

Not the best:  The griddled red skin potatoes. I don’t love home fries unless they are deep fried so these just didn’t do it for me, but it’s a personal preference

www.emmascountrykitchen.com

1108 St Clair Ave W

Emma's Country Kitchen on Urbanspoon