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Category — EAT – where

Hopgood Burgers Priest

Two hotspot restaurants. Both offering up comfort food. Both hailing from the East. One from the far-off coast of Nova Scotia. The other from the wilds of Leslieville. Yep, we’ve been eating well….At Hopgoods Foodliner and Burgers Priest. Terrible non sequitur. Terrific eats.

BURGERS PRIEST

First off, we head east to Burgers Priest. But not all the way east. The iconic burger joint, recently ranked third best resto in TO by Zagat’s, has opened a spot on Yonge between Lawrence and Wilson. There’s a bit of a backlash of course, with claims that the new location isn’t as tasty or friendly as the first but whatev. I’m a bit late to the meat patty party and I just wanted to see what the dealio was. In the battle of the burger, this is the King. The spot with the secret alterna-menu. The one that has burger lovers lined up out the door, down the street and around the block. The real question is: is it worth the hype?

HELL YEAH! Especially if someone else does the picking up. I was blessed with a meat-lovin’ man whose absolute pleasure it was to head over to Burgers Priest and bring home the bacon (-double cheeseburger). With a couple of extra burgers on the side, no less. We mowed our way through the aforementioned classic with all the fixin’s. Yes, it was that good. Bacon was perfectly crisp, tomato slice tasted like a tomato. And were those Vidalia onions? Because they were sweet and crisp and delicious. Next up, “The Priest”. Picture two portobello mushroom caps with a whack of cheese. Now drop it into the deep fryer. YUM! This is the Official Vegetarian Option. They call it…The Option. We took that Option and raised it – atop a real beef patty. Oh yes we did. Veggie/real deal combo. Slide some panko-crusted deep-fried jalapeno peppers underneath and we found our winner! As an added extra, we also sampled “Jarge Style” per their suggestions. This was a burger fried in yellow mustard and topped with fried onions. That sucker put us over the edge. A bit of a lingerer, that final burger was not needed for so many reasons (and calories and fat grams). But now we know for next time. And despite the major meat hangover, there will absolutely be a next time. We failed to taste the piece de resistance of the secret menu: “Vatican Style”. Or perhaps “Tower of Babel”. Every website has a different name. Either way, they’ve replaced the bun with….grilled cheese buns!! Top and bottom. Disgusting? Delicious!

Pictures don’t do these meat parties…I mean patties…justice. Nor does this:

Out. Of. Control.

These are the homemade candy bar desserts at Hopgood’s. One is a maple square. The other, some kind of ridiculous fudge/rice crispie combo slice of heaven. Beautifully wrapped up. Could’ve had several. Then again, my compadres and I had tried almost everything. Marinated lemony halibut. Oysters. Smoked mackerel on homemade oatcakes. And even – gasp – lamb heart tartar. Full confession: loved the surf. Not the turf. I’m not a huge tartar fan at the best of times. But lamb? heart? Too lamby. Too organ-y. I tried to be adventurous. And failed. Tho’ the dehydrated cream bits – which sounds vile – were delicious. Like little morsels of dried ice cream or something. The others liked it.

Heart of Lamb. The toasties were tasty....

All this was followed by a seared tuna in/on seaweed broth – divine. Scallops were ordered because the mashed potato balls on the side sounded too good to resist. The creamy kale was fantastic. Best of all, however, was the steak ‘n shrimp. We were warned that it wasn’t a steak per se, but more like brisket. Call it what you will – it was sublime. Definitely the winner of the night.

Room was plain -and packed. Great vibe. Great food. Great staff. They’ve clearly drunk the Hopgood KoolAid. They were as excited about each plate as we were. In some cases, more so! They didn’t serve coffee, as they were trying to keep the party going. They did, however, bring us some kind of milk liquor which was a creamy, dreamy dessert of a drink.

The big debate was whether or not Hopgood’s was a 10. Perhaps not, but it was pretty damn close. The place was packed with happy diners, tho’ no line out the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-door. Not yet….

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April 10, 2012   1 Comment

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Mmmmmm….MIAMI!

Aaaahhhh, Miami…. America’s Riviera. Playground for the rich & famous. Southern home for Canadian Snowbirds. And some damn fine food. Everybody’s got their go-to’s in Miami. For every name dropper at Joe’s Stone Crab, there’s someone waiting at Prime Italian. While Micheal’s and Michy’s battle out over in the design district, fressers cruise the inland strip mall “Bagels” looking for jumbo bakery baskets and salad scoops in sloppy second reincarnations of Wolfie’s and Rascal House. Locals claim there are no Asian restaurants in the 305! They oughtta head on over to Hakkasan or Zuma. Or stop into any number of sumo/samba/samurai spots for fabulous maki and bizarre sushi combos.

Yup, everybody’s got their fave Florida finds. Herewith, some of mine!

PRIME

Be warned: at this hip American steakhouse they make you wait. And wait. And wait. Luckily, their cocktail list is sublime and, better still, the complimentary bar snacks:

Yep - that's one tall glass o' bacon!

The menu is outstanding – carnivore or not. In fact, for us the steaks were the least interesting part of the menu. It was all about the starters and “accessories”. We went for tuna sliders, house chopped salad, rapini and truffle fries. And of course a lovely whack of tenderloin. Tater tots and beets ‘n blue? I’m coming for you next time!!

Tuna sliders on Brioche. Just as tasty the next day!

Hardly healthy. But oh so tasty. Enough for 6.

Deep fried oreos. That's right. Deep. Fried. Oreos.

My pal and I split everything. And we shared the entire meal again the following day. Yup, we doggie bagged half of it – and there were leftovers from the leftovers. All in all over the top, in the best possible way.

OLA and THE DINING ROOM are sister restaurants. Actually brothers. I was torn between the two Latin lovers so, in the end, had both!

OLA – or, Of Latin America – has Chef Douglas Rodriguez at its helm. My pal loved loved loved her meal at his eponymous, now closed, resto at The Astor so this was a must-dine for her. Slick and sophisticated in The Sanctuary Hotel with over ten ceviches to choose from, it was crudo paradiso. We ordered a few but the lobster ceviche was the standout. Homemade corn bread nearly put us over the edge, but we pushed our way through shortrib empanada, braised pork, and sugar cane tuna…..YUM!

Gedempt pork.

Seared tuna pops!

Little brother’s The Dining Room was just as good. A tiny space south of 5th on Lincoln with only a handful of tables, we sat street-side, protected from the rif raf (ok, hungry starers) by a sweet white picket fence. We were warned that they didn’t serve OLA’s crazy bread (thanks goodness, a girl’s gotta bikini to fit into!) but that their butter was better! Garlicky – and true! Ceviches lobster and cobia were fresh and tasty, while the duck salad was a hit. We taunted our friend M for ordering the vanilla squash soup….Until we tried it. Divine! Next up came a delicate halibut, fantastic filet churrasco flanked by tomato, blue cheese and chili salad, and a crazy crispy brazed pork.

I still don’t know which sib I preferred! Do both!

One of the prettiest places in town has got to be Cecconis.

Beautiful. And boasts a retractable roof!!

Located in the old school glamour of the chic and understated Soho Beach House hotel, it boasts an extensive Italian menu and incredible staff. Sure they meander off the menu a little – shrimp became lobster tail, accompaniments were swapped – but they do it with such aplomb that it works, even when it shouldn’t! Chopped tuna salad is made table-side with bespoke spicing. The pizza is paper thin and perfect for sharing, the risotto with sausage was surprisingly light and delicious, and the snapper carpaccio was practically inhaled. In fact, at our dinner we were so busy chitchatting with the enchanting waiter we forgot to take pictures!! Except for the dessert.

Disappointing Dolci

The list of “must-eat” Florida resto’s goes on….Sra Rodriguez, Carpaccio, Barton G, Wish, Nobu, The Miami food trucks. No wonder there’s an obesity problem in the States. Miami alone is a 5-pounder weekend. But worth every ounce.

February 26, 2012   2 Comments

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What Happens in Vegas? Manny Pacquiao.

Manny Pacquiao, Pride of the Philippines.....

Sin City. Lost Wages. The Entertainment Capital of the Worrrrld.

I’ve just returned from my maiden Vegas voyage and am already plotting ways to get back to that desert oasis. Yep, it could be an addiction. Garish, smoky, crowded and cheesey, I absolutely adored it. And I’m not even a gambler! I tried to be. I really did. Roulette, craps, blackjack and slots – gave each one a shot and lost, lost, lost and lost. I got on a bit of a…. ahem …roll at “Casino War” but my luck soon turned.

Did I care? No! Because Vegas is fantastic. Shopping, eating, checking out the human freakshows, both on stage (“O”) and in the streets (never seen so many surgesized racks). What’s not to love? And we went on a quiet weekend! Sure, I would’ve liked to have lounged poolside, but this was a special occasion getaway. Not only was it my man’s birthday, but we were there as VIP guests of renown photographer David Drebin as his incredible Manny Pacquiao book hit the stands (and the web!).

From the shops....

To the screen via Miss July...

To the toilets...The Book is everywhere!

Our all-access pass took us from the pre-party (Giovanni Ribisi! Jason Lee! Jeremy Piven!) to the floor (Mike Tyson! Magic Johnson! Too many basketball players to name! Or recognize!). Playboy playmates and Idol castoffs, Mexican Grammy winners and “Eye of the Tiger” Survivor singer, this show had it all. Plus Bill Compton.

Team Bill ('til Eric shows up)

The fight itself was somewhat lukewarm, but being there was hot!!!

Modern day Coliseum

I’d always liked Rocky (and, um Sugar Ray Leonard) but now I can honestly say I’m a fan of the bloodsport. Bring on the Boxing!!! Or at least, another trip to Vegas!!

Ringside!

EAT: We hit Milos for fine Greek (via Montreal) dining. Their octopus and stone crabs were divine, but their “Milos Special” (razor thin fried slivers of zuchinni and eggplant on a bed of tzaziki) were sublime. Their whole fish was, I thought, overrated, its consistency not unlike chewed gum. Eeeewwwww.

Breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi at (The?) Paris was hilarious. French signs, servers greeting us with “bonjour” and baguette served in paper bags. All we needed were some cyclists avec paniers to make the experience complete. Funny thing is, apparently they have ’em, but we didn’t spot any in Le Casino.

Wolfgang Puck – he’s not just for airports! The guy’s got spots all over the town. We headed over to MGM’s version post-fight for pizza and salads. Tasty.

Beso, Eva Longoria’s Latin Steakhouse, was recommended to us. We were hesitant. But it also happened to be attached to our hotel. So we went. And, despite the stacking of chairs and closing up rituals of the servers (while we were still eating!!) la comida está buena. As were the drinks – in particular their Skinny Colada (coconut vodka, pineapple juice, lime. Zoinks!)

The Buffet. You can’t go to Vegas and not sample their legendary hotel buffets. Or can you? We went once and loaded up on shrimp and bacon. The rest was, well, too buffet-ish. Still, had we known the all-you-can eat extravaganza was included with our daily rate we may have gone back to sample the breakfast pizza (for real) or the award-winning dessert.

I lied. We did sample the award-winning desserts at Jean-Phillippe Patisserie. Their cinnamon danish? Not. Normal. Mind you, the brown sugar coffee cake at the hotel beanery wasn’t too bad either!

Despite eating like piggies, we managed to squeeze ourselves into some new duds. For as much as Vegas is a gamblin’ town it really is all about the shopping.

My fave find was DNA 2050, located in the slick ‘n stylish Cosmopolitan Hotel. His ‘n hers, jeans ‘n tops with a side of footwear. Loved it. Shopped it. Bookmarked it. Also fell for Dutch cosmetic emporium Skins. See ya Sephora, this all-white, upscale product shop has stuff we’ve never seen – nor heard of!

But they was just the beginning. Forum Shops at Ceasar’s (where they really do have folks in Ancient Roman get ups announcing the arrival of the emperor! And Scoop NY!), Crystals for the hoitiest of toity (even the…um…adult shop, Kiki De Montparnasse was couture-ish), the Fashion Show Mall for weekend Runway shows and a myriad of department stores, Miracle Mile for more common finds, and of course the Outlets. It’s impossible to get to them all. But it can’t hurt to try!

VIVA LAS VEGAS!!!

View from (almost) the top of The Aria

November 16, 2011   1 Comment

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XOXO KOKO

I’m a big Open Table user. I’m like a glutton for punishment with this site. For out-of-town bookings – I’m in anytime, anyplace. Locally? SOL. And yet they’ve got me coming back for more. Definition of insanity? Perhaps. I’ll look up the same spots over and over and they’ll be booked, regardless of how early I try to snag ’em. And then there are The Others. Those places that always have space. ALWAYS. I could search for a table for 10 for the next night, et voila! – I’m in. Except I’m not. Because of course I’d never book somewhere that was so readily available. Y’know, the whole not wanting to belong to any club that would have me as a member thing….

Such was the case with Koko Share Bar. Any time I visited Open Table, there it was. Table for 2 on a Saturday night during Winterlicious? No problem. Last minute table for 10? Sure, come on in. Rent out the whole place for a private function? The more the merrier. The reviews were uniformly good. The menu sounded kinda perfect for me – modern Korean/Japanese Tapas. And yet they were always willing to have me.

What was wrong with this place?

Curiosity finally got the better of me when I had to find a table for 6. Six who didn’t want the twilight dinner special or the 9:30 seating. Since my top five (ok, ten) weren’t having us, I was left with no choice but to finally bite the bullet, book ‘er down, and head on over to the subterranean spot on Yorkville. Our first impression was that it was yet another cheap ‘n cheerful sushi bar. The kind you’d walk past without registering (which, um, my Man has. Daily.) But a cheery “how ya goin'” from our Aussie server won us over. And once the food started coming, we were hooked.

We decided to go family-style – it was called “share bar” right? After ordering a slew of Soju-based cocktails we were primed. (Soju, for those not in the know, is like the Korean version of Vodka). And then the food started coming. And coming. And coming. First up were veggie gyoza – nice ‘n light ‘n crispy. Next came their “signature modern” sushi and sashimi. YOWSA!!! Tuna marinated in a maple-balsamic reduction was ridiulously tasty. And the torched butterfish with daikon and ponzu was melt-in-your-mouth mmmmm goodness. Maki rolls were unlike anything I’d seen before. The Scallop with armelized shallots were just “ish” for me – I prefer raw to seared. But the Maguro Tuna with the spicy kimchee mayo and okra??? Spec. Tac. U. Lar. Equally unforgettable were the Oysters KOKO – battered and flash fried they gave the traditional raw bad boys a run for their money.

Next came a “Bossam” platter: Spicy chicken, slow roasted crispy pork belly and Korean BBQ beef served with rice, lotsa fun sauces and lettuce leaves to wrap it all up. It was enormous, but we took it down. And fast. A plate of miso black cod was practically inhaled. It was all a little different. And a lot of delicious. Unusual. And incredible.

To share. Or not.

We were tempted to ride this food train until it’s final stop: Grilled Short Ribs… Spicy Boullaibaisse Hot Pot… Wok-tossed mussels…And so much more sushi, so little time… Unlike some of us who gnawed on garnishes and practically licked the table (you know who you are, L), this place was all class. They handled an allergy issue with aplomb and service was impeccable. Each dish was brought to us already divided into 6, ensuring no one was left out. Maybe they always serve in sixes – I’ll find out when I return. Oh yes, I’ll be back. All of us will. So don’t be surprised if you try to book on Open Table and it’s no longer available. KOKO Share Bar is a secret just waiting to be spilled.

March 13, 2011   2 Comments

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RESTAURANT ROW/ROW

Where should we eat?

It’s the war-cry heard around the world for restaurant going foodies. And ever since Ossington Avenue took over as Toronto’s reigning restaurant row (sorry, Harbord) the question’s become “where should we eat…on Ossington”.

Everyone’s got an answer. An Ossington guide. A must-have, must-eat hot spot. But this is a tale/toast/roast of two restos: Boehmer vs Paramour. Slick vs cool.

But where should we eat?

Boehmer is gorgeous. With it’s huge windows and beautiful lighting, it’s the street’s showstopper. But don’t let the dazzling facade fool you. We booked a table, arrived on time for our 8:30 rezzie and were shown to “the lounge” for a drink. I hate when restaurants do that. I understand it, but not when they are a handful of four-tops sitting empty. All, apparently, reserved by others. How do they decide who gets to sit and who must wait? It seemed everyone is herded to The Lounge first. In protest, we skipped the drink – tho with one cocktail called “Steve” we were tempted. But we waited until we could nest at our table. And, funnily enough, we were shown right to it as soon as we said nyet. Conspiracy?

But on to the food. In keeping with the spirit of beauty, everything on the menu sounded fantastic. Except the bread, which they charge for. Apparently it’s worth it, but it looked like plain ol’ baguette to us. We passed, opting for the cauliflower soup (maple glazed bacon!), fois gras (maple glazed apples!) and beet ‘n goat’s cheese salad. Fois gras aside, the other apps were pretty ordinary. Mains arrived and the disappointment continued. Scallops on special were anything but. The fish was ish. And the beef bordered on airline – steerage, not business class. The best part of the meal was the side of roasted Jerusalem artichokes. Divine.

Talk about false advertising!!! Nothing special here except the lighting and there motorcycle on display. Quite stunning if you like that kind of thang. But overall this felt like a big penis-extension of a restaurant. Super-duper styley but when you get down to it, fails to rise to the occasion.

And then there’s Paramour. It’s the cozy, down-to-earth opposite of Boehmer. The alternative arty chick to Boehmer’s popular all-talk, prom queen. It was all-chick over at Paramour. For real – vaginas on everyone except the dishwasher. The menu had us spoilt for choice. You know when everyone gets a starter plus one “for the table” that you’re on to a good thing – or things, like the Roasted Corn and Jalapeno hush puppies. And that mayo…. The bread, free of course, would’ve been worth paying for: homemade foccaccia with carmelized onions to dip it in. BLT salad – with proper lardons – was huge. And delicious.

Three halibuts were devoured. The accompanying cauliflower puree was a little disappointing – but only because we could’ve had a trough-full! And the chicken -yes, someone ordered the chicken – was polished off enthusiastically. The side of rapini was unnecessary, but tasty. Of course there was no dessert to be had here. Too much bread and hush puppies. Also – poached pears? Erm….Pass.

Obviously there’s a clear winner in this dining destination smackdown. Paramour‘s substance over Boehmer‘s style any day….Book ‘er down….You’ll be glad you did…

November 9, 2010   No Comments

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State of the Union

Word of mouth is huge in the restaurant world. Well in all worlds, but especially for foodies. Buzz+hype+critical mass = big business for chowhounds.

We’ve all heard about places that are spectacular. We stalk the site, try to book, and somehow make our way. Some live up to the hype, and some do not. What I’ve noticed recently, however, is that there’s much ado about a whole lot o’ nuthin’. Nuthin’ appealing, that is.

I blame the Locavore revolution. If I lived in California or in the Mediterranean I could get excited. Even some far-off tropical island would work for me. In these places I’d probably be so used to eating locally grown food that I wouldn’t have to label it. But I live in Canada. Practically-but-not-quite Midwestern Canada. Even tho’ we lean to the East, we’re smack dab in the middle. The only coast is Lake. And it’s a long cold winter. Eating locally grown food at the beginning of April is a challenge. Big time. Especially when said locally grown food seems to be too meat-y (only root veggies here!), adventurous (tongue, brains, innards) and silly (granola foam?!)…

Challenging.

Another challenge is trying to get a table on a busy Saturday night. On Ossington, Toronto’s latest It street. We were four hungry souls, out of the prowl, looking for dinner. We were wingin’ it old sckool….No bookings, no rezzies, no clue…

We split off and tried the olde walk-in approach. Without much luck….

Until we hit Union. Like it’s neighbours, it too was filled to the gills but they agreed to let us loiter at the bar until the small window table/bench/bar was free. I’d read about it the place. I’d studied the very small menu. Union prides itself on having sowed, hoed, and growed their food. It says so on their website. It wasn’t for me. And yet…here we were. Blood sugar lowered, getting desperate, and cranky, it was Go Union or Go Home.

So we Unionized.

And it was, in a word, awesome.

Being forced to order something you wouldn’t normally go for was a locavoric eye opener! Nervously, we perused the menu. Pasta special was ravioli with cheese, beurre blanc and….rabbit. Next, the fish special: grilled Spotted Lake Trout, or Splake. Geddit? Splake = SPotted LAKE trout. May as well have called it Splat. Pass. Luckily, there were no face parts on this menu (one of our group got suckered into veal cheeks the week before. We were over facial food before we sat down).

We looked for stuff we could share while standing. Started with a plate of Elk Sliders. Insanely good. Tempted-to-order-another-round (not to share) kind of good. Then we tucked into a tiny cheese plate. Laughably small. And yet….packed quite a punch. We could’ve used more than a sliver of bread each but we got past it.

And then we sat down at the bar. Somewhat uncomfortable with a persnickity waitress/bartender, the odds continued to be stacked again this place. But the Union salad, with it’s fat slabs of bacon, creamy goat’s cheese and mini rosti was a winner, ditto the sticky ribs. Polenta – yeah, two of us actually ordered polenta! I know – crazy!!) was crispy and cheesy with a side of braised greens that went down a treat. Didn’t leave a drop! Apparently the real winner was the Plat du Jour: the Union Steak Frites that our pal swore was the best he’d had. Ev-ah. The piece de resistance? The massive side of smashed potatoes that came with the mains. A total surprise, they were laced with some kind of sour cream ‘n chive-ish concoction and set alongside a slew of fries. With mayo. Yep, the steak frites came with frites AND a side of fries! Who knew? It definitely made up for the puny cheese platter.

We finished off with a communal molten chocolate cake. There was some debate over dessert. My man wanted the apple parfait but claimed he was full, and I secretly hoped the bread pudding would be ordered by someone…ok me…but the chocolate cake won out. Like the rest of the meal, it was damn fine.

And it wasn’t even that pricey! Which just goes to show you…erm…. you can’t judge a restaurant by its menu. Sheesh….who knew? Proud Canadian hockey fan, and now, food patriot? Viva la Revolucion!

3 comments:

Anonymous said…

your true calling!

9:19 AM

Anonymous said…

American Idol, please!

5:20 PM

Anonymous said…

I’ve passed by the Union, but now I won’t be passing it up. Thanks for slumming it in my ‘hood! Though I recently got a non-wait, non-rezzie table at Foxley– when Libretto was gonna be too long. An off night for the renowned F? You should have hit the noodle shop on the other side of the street. Don’t judge that book by its cover. Delicieux!

April 13, 2010   No Comments

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Glutton for San Fran

My man turned 40 last week. Trying to figure out where to go and what to do for this particular fellow was a bit of a nightmare. He’s one of the most social cats I know, so a party could be deadly – in every way. And trying to pick a handful of pals for an intimate soiree would result in no end of ribbing, jabs and possibly even stabs, so that was out. A weekend away with the family was out of the question. Aside from the fact that we’d be going South in December, hanging with the under-6 crowd wasn’t really the ideal way to ring in a 40th. Plus we do that every day, so no chance Lance. The whole thing was giving me enough anxiety to give me a mid-life crisis.

So away we went. Gone. Outta here. Sa-yo-na-ra. Adios suckers.

Aaaaahh….if only it were that simple. Planning an escape in mid-November is less than ideal. The hot spots aren’t hot, the exotic spots are too far for 3 days, and the close ones had the same weather sitch as being home. Hit or miss. My man claims he’d be happy in a neighbouring basement with a couple of bottles of wine. But we all know that would suck. Everybody says that – they don’t care, they could go anywhere, etc. CRAP! Having spent one birthday in Niagara Falls, and another in Los Angeles, can you guess which was infinitely more enjoyable?!? Uh-huh, go west young man.

And so we did. Our surprise destination was San Francisco. My man always talked of it adoringly and I’d never been so it really was a no-brainer (once I got the idea into my head, that is).

The big reveal came the day of his birthday. In verse. I contemplated the at-the-airport suprise but post 911 airports aren’t so festive. Plus half the fun of going out of town is bragging….I mean, getting excited about it. Plus, let’s face it – it’s hard enough to pack for myself, let alone choosing his outfits.

He read my dare-I-say awesome poem (which I wanted to post but he wouldn’t let me and it is/was his birthday) and, as I suspected, he hadn’t a clue. Genius surprise! California wasn’t even on his radar for this birthday, which could be why it was all the sweeter…

That, or the food.

Who knew the City by the Bay was such a gourmet paradise? “Fog City”??? Totally inappropriate. Every day was sunny and glorious. It should be renamed “Food City” because, aside from walking off all the meals on those crazy hilly streets, all we did was eat. And some other stuff which I shall leave to your dirty little imaginations. This is a family site for f&cksake!

Frisco. NorCal. SF. San Fran. In three days we couldn’t possibly sample all the city had to offer….Nor did we have a chance to venture away from the city limits, let alone the rest of the Bay Area or 49-Mile Drive. But we did see – and eat – blew our mind.

First off, the Hotel.

Campton Place
in Union Square. We thought of a couple others but this was the winner for us terms of location – and price. It’s part of the Taj group of hotels. Swanky swanky. Tho this once was kinda Taj-lite, it was still AOK. Especially because of the INCREDIBLE concierge, Kyle. He figured us out in about 7 minutes. Maybe he’s somewhat telepathic, or maybe we’re easy reads, but either way, he had us down and pointed us in the right direction.

Taj Campton Place

But back to the food….

First stop, Yank Sing. Best Damn Dim Sum. Ever. Apparently there are two locations. We hit the one in the Rincon Center. As we walked through a deserted (and very clean) financial district we hit this odd – and empty – mall. And then we followed the waft of garlic and found ourselves in dumpling heaven. Traditional dim sum like Har Gow and Sui Mai? Stupendous! Szechuan chicken? Crazy. And the chili fried green beans? We wanted to take the sauce home….Oh, wait, we did! Yes, you can even get their “delightfully spiced” (their words) chili sauce to go. the only regret? That we didn’t buy some more when we had the chance. And they don’t do mail order (I’ve already checked).

From there it was a short walk to the Ferry Building. On Saturdays there’s a farmer’s market there. We were too stuffed from our dim-sum-a-thon to go too wild, but there’s an old saying that you feast with your eyes. So we did.

After sleeping off the jet lag (and dim sum hangover) we hit Spruce in Pacific Heights. The bar and main dining room were pretty amazing sights to behold. Which is why we were somewhat amused to find ourselves sandwiched between the pensioners’ table in the back room. Kinda felt like losers, to be sure, but, as would be proven time and time again in this town, the food made up for it. Fine food, fine wine, and the nicest waitstaff in the west.

Sunday found us skipping breakfast and hitting the hotel’s open air gym. Nothing like a sweat to get you ready for brunch! Especially at Absinthe in Hayes Valley. Kyle pointed us in its direction, but we ordered two massive breakfasts and some (literally) bad-ass pork product sides all on our own. Duck Confit Hash? Corn Cakes with wilted chard and poached eggs? Homemade sausage and bacon? Accompanied with beers and cocktails? We were outta control. And so was the food. Again. Best Bacon we’d ever had. And, like so many of Our People, we know bacon. A little too well…This one was smokey and maple-y and ridiculous. And stayed with us for hours, so we could enjoy it throughout the day.

Next stop was Foreign Cinema. No, not a movie, another bloody restaurant! This one was in the Mission. With an enormous outdoor patio and screening of flicks on their outdoor screen, we’d heard this place was not to be missed. But to be honest, we could’ve. Missed it that is. The setting far-surpassed the meal. It was tasty enough, and the wines were nice, but we probably should’ve blown it off for a Sunday night movie instead.

Monday took us to Nettie’s Crab Shack on Union Street. We stumbled across it by mistake and it was a damn fine find. Especially the Cobb Louis. And the Bloody Mary. Oddly enough, the woman who ran the place had worked at all the restaurants we had been to. In fact, she overheard us arguing about the gluttonous theme of the weekend and insisted we keep the reservation we had for dinner that night.

Yes, we argued. Once. All over Gary Danko. The restaurant, not the man. I managed to snag us a reservation – apparently quite a challenge. And I’d heard that if there was one place you HAD to go to, it was there. And my man felt full. He was finished with eating. He couldn’t stomach another restaurant meal. It was our last night in Frisco and he was done with dinners.

Except, in the end, we went to Gary Danko. And, in the end, he didn’t like it. He LOVED it. Riding the cable car over there helped, but the meal was over the top. The service was impeccable, the food divine AND they brought us a birthday dessert. They remembered why we were there in the first place – even tho’ I seemed to have forgotten! They have a roving cheese plate that they cut ‘n serve table side. They have petit-fours that come with the coffees. And they send you home with a prettily-wrapped breakfast cake for the next day. Yum yum and yum.

We did other stuff too! I swear. Union Square was shopper’s paradise. A little overwhelming but we managed. Hayes Valley is a great afternoon out. Restaurants and cake shops aside, they have some awesome independent boutiques. Sean, Gimme Shoes, Flight 101 to name a few. Chinatown, North Beach, Russian Hill, Cow’s Hollow… All walks, all the time. And yes, we walked UP Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world.

We also hit Alcatraz. The cruise, the walk, the audio tour. Aside from being iconic, cool and a great morning out, it saved us hundreds – in shopping and calories. We needed the break between meals. And we needed to NOT spend it shopping. Being shipped off to The Rock was just what we needed to round of our 4-pounder weekend.

If you’re heading to San Francisco, enjoy….And bon appetite!

November 22, 2009   No Comments

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LA Woman

I’ve wanted to go to Hollywood since, well, forever. As a little kid I’d sing songs from Annie, hoping to be discovered… in the privacy of my bedroom. If anyone came even close to my door I’d immediately clam up. Broadway, Hollywood – it was all the same in my 9-year old mind. When I finally got to Hollywood it was the Florida version. And even a 9-year old knew it was pas la meme chose.

And then, I wet my feet in Show Biz, where all roads lead to Hollywood. Except the one I was taking. It went directly to Toronto instead. Yeah, yeah, Hollywood North (or is that Vancouver?). Whatever. I wanted the real deal. And finally, this past weekend, I got just that. My Man took me away from all this and we headed West. To Los Angeles. Hollywood, California. Sun, Sand, Sea…

Stars!!!

Yes, kids, I went on my very own private Celebrity Safari!!!

Everyone who’s anyone knows that when you’re on safari it’s all about the accommodations, the food and of course, the animals. Wildebeest and giraffes are cool as hell, but it’s the Big Five that count. Lion. Leopard. Rhino. Elephant. Buffalo. And when you go to LA it’s no different. It’s about where you stayed, where you ate, and who you saw. With a side of where you shopped.

Off we went, eyes peeled, looking for stars and pretending not to. Which is, of course, the Canadian way. Except in the end we may have been a little too nonchalant. We came, we ate, we shopped. But the celeb sightings? Few and far between.

Our safari began almost immediately, with a sighting of Tanya Kim. I know, I know…. Who? OK, she’s not technically a star, but she is one of the hosts of an entertainment show and, as such, counts as a celeb. A local one, sure, but she was in business class. In full makeup. At 11AM. On the safari equivalency test, we’ll say vulture.

We landed at LAX, rented our love machine, and hit the road. First stop, Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. A vision of loveliness by the Pacific, it would’ve been even more idyllic had we not arrived at the same time as June Gloom. Never heard of it? Neither had we when we booked our trip. And, apparently, neither had The Weather Network. But it’s the annual cold front that reaches LA at the beginning of June. Accompanied by grey clouds. Lots of ’em. And blustery winds. Especially by the beach. Still, it was perfect walking around weather. Except we were in LA, where everyone drives everywhere, and we’d rented a car. A convertible.

Shutters on the Beach

Shutters on the Beach

But we wrapped ourselves up in our new scarves and jackets – that’s right – and hit the town. We were on a mission: to relax, eat well, see friends and shop (in no particular order). And of course we presumed we’d see stars on every corner. Because that’s what people do in LA right? Right?!

My Man decided it’d be fun to play a little game where he tells me about the various actors he’s spotted while my head was turned. Kind of like those annoying Euros on African Safaris who claim to have been chased down by rhinos, faced off with leopards etc. Only the Hollywood stars were far more elusive than the Big Five. And my husband was way funnier. Except he actually did see Silver (real name unknown, and unimportant) from 90210 while I tried on outfits. And he did work out with Dennis Leary in the hotel gym while I was sampling free chocolates at See’s Candies. Harumph. I saw Atom Agoyan at LAX. From behind. But my guy didn’t think that counted. And it probably didn’t. Too locally accessible. Raccoon.

Strange thing is, all the locals know that all the visitors are looking for the stars. They know where they hang out, what they do, and no one’s shy about telling you where to go to find them. The watering holes they like, the best season to find them. They’re starf&cking and we’re star-hunting. And everybody knows it. It’s weird.

So it became all about where we ate and who we saw. Ivy by the Shore – pas de. Apparently all about the one on Robertson. We shopped and idled a bit but no sightings. But food at the Shore was awesome. And massive. Seriously. Too big even for us. And for those in the know, that’s saying something!

Next day was a local spot to start- Cora’s. Perfect for breakfast. Not so much for movie stars. Followed by Robertson shopping a cruise down Sunset and lunch at Mel’s Diner. Because it’s funny. And it was en route. Mel’s Diner! Hilarious (tho’ the real one is in San Fran….But you make do with what you’ve got, right?) Out with friends for the food and the vibe at STK. Both very good.

But where were all the movie stars?

We headed to Joan’s on 3rd. A guaranteed celeb hangout. Just not while we were there. But incredible food, and hung out with an old friend who happens to be married to an actor who we actually recognize – by face. We imdb’d him on the spot and shared an “I love that guy” moment. So that was kinda neat! Especially since our pal invited us over to meet him in person if our celeb safari turned out to be less than fruitful. We never had to take her up on it – tho we would’ve loved to, had there been more time….Stopped in at that great Los Angeles equalizer, In ‘n Out Burger and went animal style. Bun for him, lettuce for me. Incredible. All they say it is – and less. No frills, no fuss, lots of muss (mess) and deeeeeelish.

It was Saturday night. That’s the equivalent of mid-day on safari. You see nothing. Still, Katsuya held some promise for us. Food was incredible, and the place was crawling with paparazzi – and loads of loser civilians with cam-corders at the ready. According to the bartender, some Lakers were coming. Whatever. Sports stars don’t count. For me. My Man was on the edge of his seat. But no luck. No shows. We were then befriended by a wacky makeup artist who, I was convinced, was looking to grift us in some way. Told us she was working the red carpet the MTV Movie awards the next night and could get us in to all the parties. Even offered to do my makeup. Thought she was just some freak (until we got home, checked out her website and learned she was totally legit. Ooops. Too late.) As we waited for our car, the gawkers whipped themselves into a frenzy….Over Zach Braff (not that any of them knew who they were looking at. The just knew he was “Someone”) . And yeah, he was. He is. But I don’t watch Scrubs. On the safari scale? Impala.

Where were the Lions? The Elephants?

There’s nothing remotely elephantine in LA, despite it being the land of good food. And also, presumably, the land of pukers, druggies, exercise fanatics. Or probably some sort of combo platter. Chateau Marmont showed us the most magnificent creatures we’d ever seen. Ever. One stunner after the next. Had no idea who they were, but it didn’t matter. They just were. Magnificent to behold, fun to watch in their natural habitat, and interesting to witness life behind The Bubble first hand. Breathtaking. Migration of the Wildebeest.

Sunday was the day of rest for us. No safari. Biking in Venice instead. Carney boardwalk. Drum circle that managed to walk that fine line between between cheesy and cool. Freakshows left, right and center. And the laid back hipster vibe of Abbott Kinney. Which I LOVED. Ate quite well at 3 Square Cafe and spotted what looked like Hank’s wife, Karen, from Californication. Which is kinda funny ‘cuz we were in Venice, it’s set in Venice…And it ended up being her! Natascha McElhone. At last! Someone we knew (not personally) from something we’d seen (and pvr’d!). How exciting! How thrilling! We even ooh-ed and aah-ed over a puppy together, cooe’d over her baby together, and acted like we were really cool and didn’t know she was a star of stage and screen (even tho we did) together. We had a moment. A brush with stardom. More a giraffe than a leopard, but still…

Ended our Celeb Safari in Malibu. At the impossibly romantic (yet borderline geriatric) Geoffrey’s. Which they pronounce “Joffrey’s”. Strange. But tasty. And host to two wedding receptions and many dates. Fun fun fun!

On the very last day I drove. By myself. In our car. It was a bit warmer, the sun poked its head out and I realized I’d fallen in like-a-lot. Despite the dearth of sun and stars, my Man and I had the best time. Amazing what 4 nights in a hotel sans kids can do. And who knew LA was such a perfect destination for a long weekend getaway? Definitely beats Buffalo.

As the good guv says, we’ll be back.

1 comments:

Anonymous said…

sounded great.. the best part.. YOU AND YOUR MAN

June 2, 2009   No Comments

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Food: 10. Service:3.

I thought I discovered a new restaurant the other night. Surfing the web, looking for an answer to that all-important Saturday night question, “where should we go”, I thought I was stymied. Everywhere seemed to be booked. Post-snow-day-in-Feb-not-yet-winterlicious. And booked. Was everybody going out for dinner? More importantly, where were they going?

Anyhoo, found this spot, read a couple of announcement blurbs – as opposed to reviews. And booked ‘er down. And it was delicious. Flawed, but delicious. And as I sat down to share my so-called discovery, I received an email from the local daily listings thingy… Guess what they were writing about? MY discovery.

Granted, I didn’t open it, I don’t know the owners, and I have nothing to do with it in any way. But I didn’t know anybody else who’d been there and, aside from a couple of head scratches and that-sound-familiar’s it was mine to share. At least it would’ve been if it wasn’t for those damn kids.

So I read through their review, kept my opinion mostly to myself and then thought, f&ck it. I’ve seen the pictures of those staffers and they certainly didn’t look like foodies to me. Exercisers? Yep. Makeup experts? Maybe. But most of ’em looked like they could use a good meal.

So, if anyone out there is looking for a good meal – and you’re in Toronto (sorry internationales) (and locals too, have you seen it outside?) head on down to Eleven. Guy from Xacutti closed up shop on College (I didn’t know either. It’s winter. Who knows anything.) and he moved south. No, not south south, just Jarvis and Front. I don’t know why either, but he did. And, though there are some, ahem, service issues, the food is DIVINE. Most of it.

They call it Global Comfort Food, but really it’s just tasty plates. To share. Or not – go ahead and be piggish. Especially if you have the honey glazed chicken on sesame rice. I doubt I’d share that next time. Share the goat’s cheese and mango salad – or give it a miss entirely. Yam fries are good. A little thick and need to be double-dipped, but good. Mushroom rolls are good too. But it’s all about the chicken starter. And that sauce! You can dip the other apps in there too. Not that I did. Much.

We had the famous cinnamon-guava ribs – a little gristly. And they don’t hold a candle to the BBQ’d beef or the cod on coconut lentils. Spectacular. Also recommended were the duck and halibut, but on of our gang don’t do duck, and the table next to us ordered halibut and it smelled a little…high… for my liking.

HAVE DESSERT. You’ll want to anyway since you’ll be sharing so you never won’t really be that full. Ginger donuts are like fancy Tiny Tims. In a good way. We had some kind of chocolate cake – can’t remember if it was flourless of what -but it was ish. And then there was the carrot and toffee pudding?! I know, you’re thinking “carrot?!” but just think toffee. And get one. Or two. Lick-the-bowl tasty.

Unfortunately, the service was a little challenging. Cocktails arrived with McD-like speed. Wine was so slow you’d think they were stompin on the grapes in the back. Which would also explain why the food took so bloody long. At times. Things arrived in drips and drabs. One thing. Long pause. 3 things. Long pause. One thing. Longer pause. Well, you get the picture.

So go for the food, stay despite the service, and only share with those you love. Especially the bill. STEEP.

Better still – get someone else to pay, accidentally sneeze on the honey chicken, and grab that carrot-toffee-goodness before anyone else notices.

Or do take-out. They do that too.

Bon appetite.

February 26, 2008   No Comments

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A Word From Your Sponsor

When I first started blogging, I never dreamed it would bring me fame and fortune…

Which is a good thing because it hasn’t.

A bit of fame, sure – in and amongst my people and their people and even some of their people. But fortune? Erm, not so much.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the blogosphere…..people started sending me stuff. Free stuff. Despite not making a dime on these musings of mine, I have somehow become one of those bloggers that people think people wanna know about. I love that!!! And now the marketing genies, keen to cash in on all things bloggy – ie. trusted word of mouth – have sent me freebies. Samples. Swag. Call it what you want, it’s free free free!!!

HOW COOL IS THAT?!?!

Well, it was cool. Except now that they’ve paid the bill, I’m expected to, ahem, put out. And I can’t. I’m just not that kind of girl. (Anymore.) Look, I know nothing’s really free. And that when something seems too good to be true it’s cuz it is. Or isn’t (is too good? isn’t true? Y’know what I mean). Anyhoo, I’ve been tracked down. The stuff’s been sent. And now it’s payback time.

Faced with mounting pressure to lie back and spread ’em – the word on these products, that is – I find I’m more inclined to blow is all off and hide. Except now I feel like a real tease. They took their time to treat me to their product, and yeah, I encouraged them to, so the least I could do is tell you about it, right?

Wrong. You see, trusted readers, at the end of the day, I’ll only tell you about things I love. Or loathe. Anything in between, well, what’s the point, right?

Remember Pom Tea? I adored it. At the time I couldn’t sing its praises loud enough… Now I can’t stomach the stuff.
Joe Fresh? Cheap and cheerful. And cheap – the zippers are constantly undoing and they wash like crap.
Tassimo? Retired my machine the other day – too pricey and I felt like an environmental terrorist in my own home.

No one paid for this press – good or bad.

Banu? Paid full price for every meal. Every hookah. And I’ll keep going back for more.
Paige Denim? A bloody fortune, but I love love love ’em. And I’ll keep going back for more.
Jude Law? Didn’t give me the time of day, despite bringing a hot leggy blond as my winger. And, yeah, I’ll keep going back for more. (Sheesh, not even a passing glance….)

Again, think any of that was free? I WISH.

Granted, once in a while something works for me – I got these awesome Crayola crafty paints and markers and crayons that rocked down my house. Especially the crayons – triangular, easy to hold (what? my kid has fine motor issues) and even easier to clean.

And see? I told you about them. Because I wanted to. On my own terms. I don’t think I need to write about something simply because someone went to town and couriered it to my house.

Am I protesting too much? Probably. I’d kill to turn a profit here in the blogosphere. Maybe I should whore myself out a little more. Maybe I should write about any – and every – sample that someone sends me. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m not being sent the right kinda things. Hear that PR people? Marketers, start your engines….and start sending me stuff I can get excited about!!

Jude Law’s agent – you getting all this?

Please and thanks….

5 comments:

Anonymous said…

They don’t realize that they need to send you facial products. Celex C, vitamin B and E, retinal take your pick – what almost 40 (sorry mother – gave it away) babe doesn’t want that sent to them. And while your’re at it – get 2 sent!

5:29 PM

Anonymous said…

what a mind.. LADY. I WISH I HAD A PRODUCT YOU COULD TOUT… OR NOT

7:08 PM

Anonymous said…

Way to not sell out MOAM. Maybe Dancap will send you a season subscription so you can once again SING the praises of the musical. Didya see Drowsy Chaperone? There is hope!

10:41 PM

Mother of all Mavens said…

I hear you people….And i’ll take it, any of it. Particularly face creams and musicals. As for Drowsy – duh! Been there, done that. twice. Not really worth a double take but guess what? The tickets were free! Send in the swag….

October 16, 2007   No Comments

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