50C Clinton Street
Dinner for two with wine, tax and tip: $275
Accessibility: one step at door, washrooms in basement, outdoor seating in summer
In this first real year of “back to normal” after the pandemic, it’s interesting to see how we’ve all adjusted. Time, having both stretched and compressed concurrently, has given us all the opportunity to reassess how we want to be in the world. For the team at Casa Paco, the answer to that is smaller, homier, and more familiar.
The space on Clinton just north of College has been many restaurants over the past decade, from Acadia and Red Sauce to a few others in the time since. As Casa Paco, the small room is covered in wood paneling, potted plants, and a collection of old photos, brass plates and knickknacks that give it a 70s vibe like you might have found in a neighbour’s or family member’s rec room or enclosed back porch, minus the musty smell and the poorly hidden box of old girly magazines. It doesn’t hurt that the Sunday afternoon we’re there the big front windows are wide open and the soundtrack is a collection of laid back 70s yacht rock songs; stuff I hated in my youth but which I now appreciate more given they sound so much better on a proper, modern sound system as opposed to a tinny AM transistor or car radio.
55 Adelaide Street East
Dinner for two (includes beverages, tax and tip): $250 – $300
Accessibility: steps at street entrance, washrooms on main floor
Growing up in Halifax in the 1980s, a close proximity to the ocean meant that my family ate lots of fresh fish, but we certainly would never have considered eating it raw. I knew about sushi, but my experience of it did not extend past the scene in The Breakfast Club where Molly Ringwald’s character brings a selection for lunch. Which, in retrospect, is a little dubious, right? Did she have an ice pack in her bag?
When I moved to Toronto in 1987, my roommate Sharon and I would often go out clubbing and walk home. We walked a lot, and often far. Our weekly walk home from Psychedelic Sundays at RPM to our flat in Kensington Market (a walk of around 45 minutes and close to 4 km) often took us through the downtown core in the wee hours. We walked past Nami, and the blue neon wave above the front entrance, dozens of times, regularly wondering what Japanese food was really like. “I bet it’s really ‘fancy,’” one of us would inevitably say. “And expensive,” the other would reply.
While the ensuing decades has made sushi and Japanese cuisine not just accessible but downright normal or basic, I’d never gotten around to visiting Nami. During my time as a food writer, it flew under the radar, never needing to do any overt promotion. So when the name showed up on this year’s list for Summerlicious, I waved off my usual suspicion of the annual promotion, and we headed to Nami for an early dinner before a concert in St. James Park.
Alder Ace Hotel
51 Camden Street
Tuesday to Saturday, 5pm – 10pm
fully accessible via ramp/elevator in hotel lobby
“Just book it now, or we’ll never get a table!”
The hungry husband and I are looking at the Tock reservation system for Alder, the new restaurant in the newly-opened Ace Hotel Toronto, helmed by Chef Patrick Kriss of Alo. Knowing how hard it is to get a table at Kriss’ other restaurants, we figure we have to move fast. Alder launched a few days prior and still has plenty of tables for its first weekend open to the public, but we don’t expect it to stay that way. As it is, we take a 5:15pm reservation and are pleased as punch. We don’t normally eat on “Vegas time”, but we also don’t normally go to King West willingly on a Saturday night, so needs must. Continue reading “Restaurant Review – Alder”
There she is in all her glory, the winning Jubilee pudding, offered up in a single serving portion as part of the Jubilee-themed afternoon tea service at The Omni King Edward Hotel in Toronto to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
We’re not royalists, but we do like a good afternoon tea, and as food history nerds, we were itching to get a taste of the winning dessert, without having to make it ourselves, because, well… trifle. Ultimately, it’s soggy cake, right? But also, as Canada barely offered a nod to this milestone, who the heck else could we convince to eat soggy cake with us? So we certainly weren’t making a whole massive trifle for the two of us.
First we would smoke a big joint, purchased from the dealer who hung out at the Quoc Thé, the basement Vietnamese karaoke bar up the street with the dirty glassware and the overwhelming incense. Then, in search of munchies, we would head north to the 7-11, the only place in Kensington Market open after dark, other than the Portuguese billiards hall where I, a young woman of the Goth persuasion, was most definitely not welcome.
On nights when we didn’t load up with every form of chocolate then return to the flat to eat and pass out, we would walk around the city for hours. We walked because we were skint most of the time, or would rather save our money to buy drugs than pay for transit, but also because everything was within walking distance. Sort of. We thought nothing of leaving a club at 2am and walking three or four miles home, even in the freezing cold. Most stuff was closer. But on those nights when we intentionally went for a walk, we would just wander for hours. Sometimes it was down into the empty financial district, other times up to the posh enclaves of old mansions in the Annex or Yorkville where we peered curiously into windows to see people’s fancy decor.
We would come home after these walks, or any night we were out clubbing, staggering into the Market past the nausea-inducing stink of trucks full of live chickens parked and awaiting slaughter in the morning, to be greeted by a small black cat that sat at the end of the alleyway we traversed to get to our door. It would always run away before we got close to it, and over the months it never seemed to get any larger. But it was there every night, regardless of the weather, seemingly waiting for us.
Shannon walked out of Nuts and Bolts just before last call expecting the air outside to be cool, or at least cooler than the soup of humidity that hung over the dance floor. But the early-August night offered no respite; no breeze with the heady scent of summer blooms, no drop in temperature from the sweltering heat of the daytime. It was hard to breathe, but she shrugged her leather jacket back on, the collection of buttons and badges of her favourite punk and industrial bands carefully arranged on the lapels clinking together as the heavy garment settled on her shoulders.
Her white t-shirt was soaked with sweat, and she hadn’t worn a bra. Usually it didn’t matter but this old shirt with The Smiths on the front had been worn so often it was getting faded and thin and while it hadn’t bothered her in the darkness of the club, on the street she felt self-conscious about the sheerness of the fabric.
Between the exertion of dancing and the temperature inside the club, what little make-up she had bothered to wear had mostly melted off her face, leaving her with only a messy smudge of black eyeliner under each eye.
As Canadian Thanksgiving approaches, we ponder the annual question associated with this holiday with trepidation. Not what to be thankful for, but rather… will it be too hot in Toronto to actually cook a roast bird and five side dishes on Thanksgiving Day? It’s about a 50/50 draw; some years early October is cool and rainy, other years temperatures can hit the high 20s.
Since it’s just Greg and I, we usually just cook a chicken, but I don’t relish standing in a hot kitchen with the oven and all the burners going if it’s going to be a warm day with a humidex. Besides, I can roast a chicken any time, I don’t need a holiday to do it, so while we want to do something to celebrate the day, I’m never inclined to actually break a sweat.
For the past couple of years in pandemic times, upscale local restaurants have filled the void with gorgeous multi-course menus delivered to our door. One of the options we considered this year included seared foie gras, so there’s lots to be thankful for.
In the past, though, the delivery options got no more fancy than Swiss Chalet.
I just bought a dress online. I had decided in Before Times that in 2020 I would not buy any new clothes unless I was replacing something that was no longer wearable. For instance, I bought new socks when all of my regular ones seemed to lose their elastic at the same time and kept scrunching down into my sneakers and bunching up under the arches of my feet. So the dress was totally unnecessary and a broken promise to myself, but it was super cute, very me, and something that I’d wear a lot.
If I actually had a place to go to that required wearing a cute dress.
Miku Toronto, part of Isolish
10 Bay Street, unit 105 (647) 347-7347
dinner for two: $130 plus tax
While restaurants are not able to open their seating areas, none of us in Toronto are hard up for take-out or delivery dining options, and that includes high-end offerings from almost all cuisines. There will always be pizza and wings, but a new service called Isolish is teaming up with fine dining restaurants to offer 4-course meals for delivery. So you can still eat posh during lockdown, but in your own dining room.
Working with a variety of restaurants around the city, Isolish offers a unique one-off meal for delivery, with each restaurant offering their 4-course menu on a specific date. A portion of the proceeds goes to Daily Bread Food Bank, making the prospect of a fancy feast even more alluring.
On April 30th, the participating restaurant was Miku, and for $65 per person we got a marvelous 4-course meal comprised of beautifully-detailed dishes. Some of these are currently on Miku’s To-Go menu for anyone interested in trying them outside of the Isolish promotion.