SalivAte – June 2010

People always assume because we write about food that we’ve been to every restaurant in the city (all 5000 or so of them), and they’re always disappointed that we haven’t been. Meanwhile, readers tell us that they’d like more photo-essays.

So to satisfy your food porn cravings and what might be an inappropriate desire to live vicariously through us, we’ve started eating out more just for the sake of eating out; to expand our palates, to learn more about our city’s great restaurants, and to give you all something to drool over. Note that these are not reviews – just photos of pretty and tasty food, and that while all the restaurants and chefs knew who we were, all have been paid for out of our own pockets.

Above, from L.A.B. (651 College Street), are chicken pogos; breaded chicken legs that have been Frenched to reveal the bone which doubles as the stick. The creamy puddles are the blue cheese dressing and the red discs are a jelled hot sauce. A shredded celery salad takes the place of the traditional celery sticks that accompany chicken wings.

We visited LAB with a vegetarian friend who was quite delighted to have another slightly upscale place to go for dinner. We tried a number of things on the menu which is about 50/50 vegetarian to carnivore. We all dug the fun tongue-in-cheek sense of humour that chefs Dubrovsky and Scott demonstrate in their menu.

The “calamari” at LAB  – looks and feels like the real thing, but it’s actually celeriac. One of the fun, surreal touches that meld molecular gastronomy and comfort food.

Steak and cake. The 8-hour steak (cooked sous vide and then seared), paired with salad and veggie croquettes from LAB.

Attentive readers will recognize this asparagus salad from Local Kitchen and Wine Bar (1710 Queen Street West) as one that I copied for the Market Mondays column. It’s straight up simple, but so fresh and seasonal.

Chef Fabio Bondi at Local has won hearts and fans with these pillow-soft smoked potato gnocchi. The place is still packed every night – even though we’re technically locals, we try to get there when they open to ensure we get a table.

A deconstructed maple walnut cannoli from Local. Tuile-like wafers frame creamy sweetened ricotta, drizzled with maple syrup.

We were lucky enough to score spots for the monthly Italian dinner series on May 28th at George (111 Queen Street East) . Chefs Lorenzo Loseto and Fiona Lim created a menu featuring British Columbia spot prawns, asparagus and loquats. The dish above is olive-oil poached spot prawns, spicy loquats and basil farro.

Also from George: Grilled asparagus topped with wild leek frittata, almond burrata (sooo good!) and mushrooms. They do this 5-course dinner on the last Friday of every month and feature different seasonal ingredients. At $75 per person, it’s a great deal.

This plate of little tastes from George’s Italian dinner event features grilled spot prawns, grilled asparagus, asparagus ravioli and blue rare beef tenderloin. With, you know, just a little kiss of foie gras on top. Just because.

Over at School Bakery and Cafe in Liberty Village, they’ve started serving dinner. Latin dinner. I’m always up for trying new moles, and this peanut version over grilled chicken with rice and baby greens was really nice – sweet, savoury and spicy all at the same time.

There’s a whole menu of tacos at School as well. These are the Baja Fish tacos  – Cervesa battered Mahi-mahi with citrus cucumber relish, avocado and chipotle mayo.

There were no churros available the night we were there, but Chef Brad Moore insisted we try the raspado. It’s like a kiwi and tequila slushie, atop fruit ceviche – basically a tropical fruit salad with kiwi, mango and papaya. The best is when the raspado melts and melds with the other fruit juices in the bottom. Not too sweet, but cold and refreshing on a hot summer night.