We may have gotten a little bit greedy. Three big, multi-course meals over a long weekend… a decade ago, when we ate out for a living, that might have been achievable with stretchy pants and strategic naps, but now, when our constitutions were less enthusiastic? Sure, we’ve put on the Covid 19 (pounds) like everybody else, from a year of eating as a form of self-care, but as we perused the menus, we were unsure… that was a whole lot of food. But heck, we’re troopers, let’s take one for the team and support our local dining establishments.
Of course, we failed. 5-course dinners got split into two or three meals, leftover duck got reworked with blueberry preserves and waffles for breakfast. Desserts got cut in half and shared rather than eating a full portion each. We did manage to eat it all, just not all at once. But when a great meal is the only high-light of an otherwise dull existence, then why not splurge occasionally, especially for a holiday that you don’t technically celebrate?
I am terrible these days for going out to try new restaurants and either just not taking photos or taking a pile and never uploading the things. So hurrah that it’s only taken me about a month to remember that we had a fantastic meal at Mamakas Tavern.
Mamakas is a fresh take on Greek cuisine, and it’s being touted as the best Greek restaurant in Toronto. It’s certainly a few steps up from the tired pile o’ dips and sad souvlaki typically found on the Danforth, and it’s scored fantastic reviews from both The Star and The Globe in the past few months. Which is why the place was packed on a Tuesday night.
Chef Chris Kalisperas and owner Thanos Tripi keep the menu innovative and fresh, based on what is good that week – many things we had (below) or that were on the menu during our visit have since been replaced with other dishes.
Enjoyed it very much, stoked to go back.
Above: A Mataxa Mule cocktail with Metaxa 7, ginger beer, lemon and lime, and cardamom bitters.
Recently my husband Greg and I got to spend a day in Hamilton. For a variety of reasons, we haven’t travelled a lot in the past few years, so a trip – even just as far as Hamilton, even if we had to take a stinky Greyhound, and even if the main purpose was for a beer festival – was still a trip. And if I could bargain a visit to the lovely Quatrefoil Restaurant in nearby Dundas out of the deal in exchange for sitting around at a beer festival for hours, all the better.
Incidentally, the Because Beer Festival at Pier 4 Park in Hamilton, overlooking the lovely Hamilton Harbour, was delightful. Okay, I mostly sat at a picnic table by the water watching boats and geese while Greg drank and schmoozed, but it was well organized and relaxing.
We arrived in Hamilton around lunchtime, rolled through the gorgeous original art deco bus station and headed to Brux House, a craft beer restaurant in the Locke Street shopping district, which is incidentally also owned by the folks who own Quatrefoil. Chef Fraser Macfarlane heads the kitchen in both locations, joined by chef Georgina Mitropoulos at Quatrefoil.
Both places share a similar aesthetic – set up in old houses, with a subdued glamour, and attentive servers; Brux House is slightly more relaxed and laid back, Quatrefoil is pretty and elegant and they fold your napkin while you’re in the loo.
Good luck, bad luck and multi-course dinners with lots of meat – all things that come in threes, apparently, as Greg and I discovered this past week as we tucked in to three very different mighty meaty meals, each amazing in its own way.
On Thursday, November 20th, we joined the brewers at Amsterdam Brewhouse for a fantastic meal that paired each course with both a beer from Amsterdam and a wine from Good Earth Winery. They’ve done a few of these events before and it’s always fun to see which works better with the food – beer or wine. Chef Avaughn Wells sent out some wonderful dishes so we were all happy campers indeed.
Amsterdam does these events with some regularity and at an average of $65 per person, they’re a great deal, especially when you consider the meal included a bottle of Amsterdam’s 2014 Barrel Aged Sour Cherry Imperial Stout to take home.
(Above: Hand-cut fettuccine with brown sage butter, roasted butternut squash, charred collard greens, roasted chestnut and charred lemon. Paired with Amsterdam’s 18 Hands – Rustic Pale Ale and Good Earth’s 2010 Chardonnay.)
While Toronto is generally tired of “small plates” (which were really just a way to charge big prices for not much food), real tapas bars are still a novelty. Ones that pull off an authentic style of service as well as serving great food are even more rare, which is why I’m kind of stoked to have Nuit Social within walking distance of home.
Chef John Rosal’s menu is designed for sharing, but is completely customizable. Separate sections for meat, olives and cheese have around eight options each (plus specials) and are all available as one, three or five choices, allowing diners to create bespoke platters, and more importantly, try new selections.
An additional menu of shareable plates include sizeable portions of things like fried artichokes, arancini balls and scallops. The dessert menu is short with just three options but they are at least interesting twists on classic dishes.
When Chef Matt Blondin announced via Twitter that Acadia (50C Clinton Street) would be offering a $39, 7-course tasting menu, I’m pretty sure everybody’s first thought was, “How the hell is he going to pull that off??” But it turns out that Blondin is a pretty ingenious guy. Not only did he put together 7 courses for $39, they were actually really good and some, like the catfish breaded with pumpernickel with goat’s curd, pickled egg white and yolk and onion tops (above) has recently been added to the restaurant’s regular menu. Follow along for the rest of what Blondin cooked up…
Look, more Smörgåsbord! A few weeks back, we headed up to Mount Pleasant to do some shopping. Our mission was Ontario buckwheat flour from Culinarium, but we stopped at Debu’sfor their awesome 3-course prix fixe lunch. This is a chickpea fritter with a mango salad that was offered as an appetizer.
I seem to have amassed a sizeable collection of photos of recently-eaten meals that I’ve never gotten around to posting. In part to share the food porn love and to clear out my files before year-end, I’ve got a couple of Smörgåsbords for y’all.
Above, the gloriously luxurious foie gras parfait at Splendido where Greg and I spent my birthday in September.
I was lucky enough to be able to attend the media preview event at Oliver & Bonacini’s Bannock at the Hudson’s Bay flagship store (401 By Street) at Yonge and Queen, but those events, while fun and full of free samples, are never really reflective of what the restaurant is like during regular service. Of course, it took a few weeks to get back; Greg and I arrived once without a reservation for dinner and the place was packed. So we popped in for lunch a week or so later and managed to score a table and check out what Chef Anthony Walsh had done with a menu that doubles as a love song to Canadian cuisine and Canadian history.
Teaming up with the Bay and creating a restaurant featuring Canadian comfort food was a no-brainer. As in, why didn’t someone think of this before? The space is both modern and sleek and drenched in history – step into the dining room portion of the space and look up – the ceiling is made from planks of The Queen’s Wharf, a 244 foot long wharf that once stood at the foot of Bathurst Street and was buried/underwater until 2006 when it was unearthed during excavations for a condo tower. The walls, which also look like wooden planks, are actually concrete. How’s that for modern history?
We talk a lot about seasonal, local food, but the ultimate in this type of cuisine has to be the food of the First Nations people, who predate the rest of us by thousands of years. European settlers relied on help from First Nations communities when they arrived in Canada, but a lot of what we look at as being “seasonal and local” really isn’t at all, it’s comprised of foodways that were imported.
Toronto has never had a restaurant featuring Aboriginal cuisine that I’m aware of, so Keriwa Cafe (1690 Queen Street West) has both a clean slate, and a lot to prove. There is little precedent for Aboriginal dishes in fine dining, but can Chef Aaron Joseph Bear Robe make it high-end enough to bring in an upscale clientele (who will “rough it” into the wilderness of Parkdale for the novelty and trendiness factor, but need to be turned into returning regulars to keep the business running), and rustic enough to keep the cuisine true to its roots?