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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!

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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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Montreal Mon Amour

There comes a time in every parent’s life when they look at their wonderful children, thank god (or whoever) for blessing them with such wonderful treasures, and wonder how to get the hell outta Dodge.

At least that’s what happens in our house. Regularly. Sure, my man and I love our babes to bits. But we also love each other, which is why we skipped town, hit the 401 and headed to Montreal.

Montreal, je t’aime. Stunning, accessible, and a helluva lot cheaper than Toronto, what’s not to love? Everyone’s got their fave places and spaces. And here are mine:

HOTEL: Montreal is home to Canada’s largest selection of boutique hotels. Or so it seems. We stayed at Hotel Gault, an award-winning, newish hotel in the self-described “Old Montreal’s bustling west end” neck of the woods. First off, it wasn’t bustling. But that’s OK. Because it was only on the cusp of Vieux Montreal, you felt closer to the city itself And we liked that. Then again, the whole town feels a lot more compact than Toronto. And we liked that too. Anyhoo, Hotel Gault is gorgeous. Loft-like. Exposed stone walls. Concrete floors (heated in the bathroom). Tres moderne. Tres cool. And with a special $99-for-the-second-night deal, tres resonable. Especially when you consider they also include breakfast. Not a loser continental one either. Full menu, full buffet, or full combo. Full being the operative word. Dee-lish. They threw in a dinner too, but who wants to hang in their hotel the whole time?

Actually, don’t answer that.

FOOD: Sit back, ‘cuz this could take a while….The weekend may have been a 5 pounder. But I’ll never tell. What I will tell you, tho’, is that we ate like piggies. Or kings. Whatever.

Our friend insisted we try his home-away-from-home bistro, Lemeac. We did. Superb. And it has a cheapy menu for the hotshots who come in after 10PM. Like my Man and me. Check us out: we get to Montreal and, suddenly, we’re all French and chic and late-night diners. But back to the food. We went prix fixe. There were a couple of translation issues, but it didn’t matter because the waitress was lovely and it was just good grub. Especially the enormouus pain perdu dessert. Basically a massive hunk of carmelized french toast. Was better than it sounds. Much much better. Lemeac also had an extensive, if somewhat intimidating, wine list. Or so it seemed to non-vintner types.

There’s a hot vegetarian resto on St Denis that also does a brusque take-out and casual lunch business. The mini version is called Chuch. Can’t remember the name of the papa place. Anyhoo, it’s cute to look at and has damn fine Thai foood – so good in fact, you wouldn’t even know it was veggie! (No offense.) Actually, you might know. But if you get the deep fried seaweed and spinach you won’t care.

Marathon Mike Schwartz. OK, that’s not really a restaurant. But all good all the same. We went to Marathon Souvlaki to relive a childhood dream. Not mine. And was it worth the drive to Laval? Absolutely. Or so my Man says. I’m not a major souvlaki person, but I know a good tzaziki when I find one. And this was good. Very very good. (maybe not as good as Arahova‘s, but this was somebody else’s memory lane, OK?) Mike’s Submarines – ditto. Not my thing, but apparently tasty enough to make someone very very happy.

Schwartz’s. Oooooh Schwartz’s. Does deli get any better than this? I don’t think so. Spectacular. Even cold and in the car. I’m telling you now, Montreal friends, I’ll be putting in take out orders when next you go home.

But people, I’ve saved the best, le meilleur, for last. Le Club Chasse et Peche. Apparently the hottest spot in town. According to our concierge, it’s worth moving to Montreal for. Well, we aren’t moving (yet) but if we did…. Unreal. Spectacular food, simple yet terrific menu, and sexy as hell. It’s the kind of place when someone says you have to go, you have to listen. So if you are planning a trip to Montreal, remember, You Have To Go. We had fois gras and beet salad and Tasmanian Char and Sweetbreads. No, not all together, morons. All fab. Even the veggies on the side were incredible. For dessert they had some kind of postmodern rice crispy square but, sadly, we never got to try it. We went for something else – some apple, caramel, pastry concoction. Who knows, it might’ve been awesome – but I was too full at this point to judge.

SHOPS: Aaaah shops… For many folks, Montreal equals shopping. For us, these are the handful that stood out:

Zone – pour la maison. Awesome homewares and gifty stuff. They have a few of these scattered round town (plus one in Ottawa). In fact, you could spit and hit a great home furnishing place. We’ve decided when (if) we move house, we’ll be taking a truck to Montreal and loading it up. They’ve got a great thing going on in the design department and, best of all, it’s kind of on the cheap side!

Factorie – for ladies and gents. Divide and conquer. And if you can get the oh-so-chic and helpful owner to help you, do. He knows gorgeous.

Lola et Emily – great ladies wear. Like a combo of my two beloved NYC stores, Anthropologie and Olive & Bette’s. If I need to say more, then just skip it. It’s pas pour vous.

Mortimer Snodgrass – kitschy and fun. Gifts for suckers of all ages.

And, and, and….The list could go on and on and on. But we only had two days and we were driving, so this is it. For now.

Sure, the days of long haul, far flung, exotic vacays may be on hold, but we’ll always have Montreal…

1 comments:

mortimer snodgrass said…

as the owner of Mortimer Snodgrass, I thank you! I was just playing Google the Store and found your post. Thanks again!

December 18, 2006   No Comments

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Gone Fishing

Saturday night. Every new restaurant you wanna try is booked. Every old fave is, well, old. So you (I) let down your (my) guard and let the friends take care of the venue. Some place they went to a while back and liked. A place we never heard of, and had no on-line reviews (that counted). A place at the wrong end of the right street. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

WRONG! Tho’ it did start out a bit iffy…

Ferillo. We’d booked a table, but there really was no need. ‘Cuz it was Saturday night and the joint was anything but jumping. In fact, it was Deadsville. I guess no one else had heard of Ferillo either. But what the hell! We’d bring our own atmo. We braved the subtle bleachy/worn mop smell and took our seats in the window.

And were we glad we did!

We started off with champagne. OK, it wasn’t really champagne. It was the Portuguese version. But at $130 for a bottle of Veuve vs. $32 for the cheap swill, do you blame us? Guess what? It was delicious!

Maybe it was the bubbly, but what followed was a feast that met – and surpassed – even the snootiest of gastrosnobs: a massive appetizer platter filled with grilled octopus and squid, fried calamari and shrimp, and their tasty (but somewhat mismatched) salsa. House salad for four was served family style, complete with feta cheese and chickpeas.

And then came the mains: the fish.

This was the kind of place that brought out various fishies and mollusks so we could pick ourselves a winner. We ordered, they told us they’d run out of some things, we thought was strange (considering no one, but no one, was there), and we re-ordered. The fish arrived, heads or tails in tact for those that wanted it; deboned and perfect for those who didn’t. The chef put together a platter of sides too – mushrooms, potatoes and a smattering of veg. But I didn’t pay attention because I was too busy ooh-ing and aah-ing over my porgy and sampling my man’s dorado.

In a word? Deeee-lish.

Homemade sugar crepes and frothy caps finished us off. We marvelled how such a yummy spot could be so, well, not hot. Why why why? They had a massive saltwater fishtank in the entrance, and even that was nearly empty!

You know how desperadoes are extra super nice? And how those who, erm, lack in physical perfection can compensate with sparkling personalities? That’s Ferillo. It’s a Meditteranean fish joint that, while having much in common menu-wise to that swanky hot spot at Ave and Dav, couldn’t be more different.

In other words, Ferillo may be the poor cousin, but so what? It’s tasty, the folks there are lovely, and food is great. All it needs – aside from some (any) customers, is a chance. The menu was nearly identical to That Other Fish ‘n Tits joint – but with lower prices. The food was on par – if not superior.

And the only tits in the place were ours.

Ferillo
924 College W.
Doubt you’ll need to book, but here’s the #: 416 840 1144

1 comments:

Anonymous said…

Could told you all that– it’s in me ‘hood. Thanks for stopping by to say ‘hi’! (ummm… not)

November 27, 2006   No Comments

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The Happy Hookah

Doing dinner.

Sounds great, right? Except for the dreaded question: where to go. French? I don’t get the fuss – the fussy food or the big deal. Southeast Asian? Done done done. Tapas? Some slabs of piggy and olives? Can be tasty, but naah. Chinois? Soooo not Saturday night fare.

And the list goes on. And on. And on. The hipster spots are too busy. The neighbourhood spots too, well, neighbourhoody. You go through the city, street by street, trying to think of somewhere new and different and then it hits.

Banu.

Ba-who?

There’s a new kid in town. Our town. Sorry foreign readers, you may want to stop now. But locals, keep readng. It’s down on Queen Street. Past the throngs of Queen West, but not too far deep into the newly-minted trendoids of Queen West West West. Look closely and you’ll find it, Banu: an unpretentious, delicious and totally unique vodka-and-kebab experience.

That’s right, experience.

If you find it. Banu has no sign, only Farsi writing overtop a blue-tinged sepia photo on the glass door. Once inside, you may be a bit confused – the place feels more spa than supper. Actually, it feels like a Hammam. I know I’m mixing my cultures here, but it feels like whatever the Iranian equivalent of a Turkish bath is. But go with it.

Pick your vodka – you’ve got about 14 to choose from. Pretend you’re an afficianado and try try try. Or just go for one of their delicious martinis: sour cherry, pomegranate or (yawn) plain. Then open your menu. You’ll find 3 starters, 3 salads, 3 yoghurts. That’s right, yoghurts. And a whole slew of kebabs.

Aaaaah, the humble kebab. It’s not just a late-night drink absorber anymore. Banu takes these humble meat sticks and turns them into an art form. We skipped the lamb balls and heart (I swear!), opting for more traditional fare of ground beef, marinated beef tenderloin, lamb chops and saffron chicken. Yum, yum, and yum. (Note only 3 out of four ‘yums’. Skip the chicken.)

Food arrived family-style, on a plate lined with traditional bread – I haven’t a clue what it’s called. It’s thinner than pita but it could be just that. Also on the platter were green onions, radishes, and a handful of greens. Herbs, that is: mint, basil and tarragon leaves.

And that’s it. A lovely restaurant. Looked pretty. Tasty food. The end.

Or so we thought. Boy we were wrong. ‘Cuz with the dessert menu came something else. A little thing some people like to call a Hookah.

HOOKAH HOOKAH HOOKAH

Water pipe, bong, call it what you want. We had a choice of around 10 flavours and went for the blackberry. And for those of you who are thinking we sat around getting high – maybe we did. But it was on blackberry molasses.

Huh?

I know, I know. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now. I’ma hookah virgin. All’s I know is we sat around the table, inside the restaurant, smoking! Yes, smoking. But nary an evil eye in sight. ‘Cuz with no nicotine, tar, or nasty bi-products, this was a totally natural, delicious way to lounge. And for those of you with an aversion to other people’s, erm, spit, fret not – every one is treated to their own hermetically sealed, totally non-gross plastic pipe.

The hookah went for an hour (insert porny jokes here). We smoked. We watched it bubble and burn. We marvelled. We smoked some more. Look at us! We’re so rad! Check us out! Tourists in our own town!

HOOKAH!

We topped it all off with Iranian desserts and tea and marvelled at how, well, different it was from your average night out for dinner. It was, as they say, an experience.

HOOKAH!

Are you experienced?

4 comments:

jojo said…

Now this I relate to!!!!!! Martini’s, tasty food and hangin’ out smokin’ !
I must admit it reminds me of us 40 years ago! You know who and you know who…… our Sat. nights[with gin martini’s though!]
We must try this place. Thank you for the review!
I wonder what Joann Kates would say? I’ll bet she has been keeping Banu a secret for a while!
Take Nanu to Banu; it will cheer her up!
Silly arn’t I?

6:50 PM

scribbit said…

That is some experience. Never knew you could get “virgin” hookahs. Too bad I’m 2000 miles away.

6:01 PM

Anonymous said…

So happy to hear that there is a Hookah cafe in Toronto. Went to one in Washington DC last summer and thought it was great. Chose the apple flavour. Yummy!

All I kept thinking was how great it would be to have a similar place in Toronto, but how tight-assed the city was and it would never be allowed.

Let’s keep Banu our little secret.

Oh yeah. Would love to join the 2 of you there one night when we have a baby sitter.

-Vooolfie and Vern.

October 2, 2006   No Comments

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