Archive for Cafe

Te Aro

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You know how there’s a little tension between Canadians and Americans? Well, maybe not tension, but there’s…something there.

There’s not really the equivalent of that in Australia. Some might think it’s Aussies VS. New Zealanders, but in reality all we do is claim any famous New Zealander is Australian (see: Sam Neil, Anna Paquin).

Te Aro outside

I can now add one other thing that we share with our NZ neighbours: making a fully sick coffee, bro.

We went to Te Aro solely because D had heard they do flat whites. As this is only the second place is the whole of Toronto (that we know of) that makes this coffee drink (similar to a latte, but not as milky), we had to go.

I was pleasantly surprised at Te Aro’s space – first of all, it’s huge! There’s plenty of seating inside, and the street-facing patio is massive.
We grabbed a flat white (D) and a cappucino (me), as well as a salted choc chip cookie (we).

Te Aro cookie and flat white

The cookie was chewy and soft, with massive chunks of chocolate in it – excellent.

The coffees were even better. D’s flat white topped most of the ones he’s had in Australia, and my cappucino is now firmly on my ‘Best Coffee in Toronto’ list.

Forget Sam Neil. New Zealand should be bragging about Te Aro instead.

 

Te Aro

Coffee Roasters/Cafe

983 Queen St East (between Carlaw & Pape)

Toronto
P: 416-465-2006

http://www.te-aro.ca/

Te Aro Roasted on Urbanspoon

Banh Mi Boys Review

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A strange thing happened to me recently. I got a craving for Banh Mi.

What’s funny about this? Well, prior to this craving, I’d never had Banh Mi before. Weird, huh? I knew what they were – Vietnamese sandwiches, typically filled with pork and pickled veggies on a French roll – but I’d never had even a nibble.

This shows you the power of Banh Mi. Before I had even eaten one, the idea of it had manifested in my mind and I knew I had to have one. Inception.

I finally fulfilled my craving recently at Banh Mi Boys.

Banh Mi Boys outside
This Queen & Spadina cafe is wildly popular. We were lucky to grab a seat when we were there, but be prepared to either hover around like a schmuck, waiting for a seat, or wolf your food down on the street – it’s a very small space.Banh Mi sandwiches

We ordered a grilled pork Banh Mi ($4.99), and a pork belly Banh Mi ($5.99). Food at Banh Mi Boys is cooked fresh to order, and along with sandwiches they offer Asian-inspired tacos, steamed bao, and sides like kimchi fries.

After a short wait, we ripped into our sandwiches. I was initially surprised at the size of them – they were quite substaintial, maybe eight inches long or so?

D and I took a bite of our respective sandwiches and that was it. We started at eachother, eyes widening, mouths busy chewing. This was one of those times when we used that special skill that all couples and BFFs have – eye talking.

Through a series of eye bulges, blinking, and squints, we conveyed to eachother how freaking AMAZING these sandwiches were. We couldn’t talk. We were busy eating.

The sandwiches were both packed with tender pork, tangy and slightly crunchy veggies, and a very light mayo. A sprinkle of corinader pushed them over the edge, and it was like my mouth was experiencing the best of every Asian dish and every sandwich I’d ever had.

The pork belly was tasty, but we both prefered the grilled pork. I was seriously impressed with the value of these sandwiches – if you compare it to, say, Subway (even though that’s insulting), Banh Mi Boys is way better value.

They also had awesome staying power – I didn’t get hungry again for hours – yet I didn’t feel all bogged down with bread.

Banh Mi Boys, you’ve made your way into my head successfully. I will be back!
Banh Mi Boys
Sandwich shop/cafe

392 Queen St West (Queen & Spadina)
Toronto

Ph: 416-363-0588

www.banhmiboys.com

Banh Mi Boys on Urbanspoon

Sam James Coffee Bar

Sam James coffee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I gotta say – Sam James makes me feel a little depressed. He’s a wunderkid of the Toronto coffee scene. He already has two (soon to be three) coffee bars. He’s won a slew of barista awards. Did I mention he’s only in his late twenties? Sort of makes me feel like an unemployed, nearly-homeless loser with a penchant for Betty Crocker icing. Oh WAIT. I am all those things.

Anyway, I digress – after hearing about how terrific his coffee bars are, finally we headed down to the Harbord St location to try it ourselves.

Sam James coffee bar

It’s a very tiny little cafe, with just a handful of seats. I guess it’s hipster? Me and my collared shirts don’t know nothing about that.

The friendly barista whipped us up a cappuccino ($2.62 plus tax) and a latte ($3.33 plus tax). We also grabbed a large chocolate chip cookie ($1.90 plus tax).

The coffees were just straight-up excellent. I’m terrible at describing good coffee, so really all you need to know is that these coffees are creamy, tasty, and very smooth.

Sam James coffee and cookie

The cookie was also trying to steal the spotlight from the coffees. It was large, crammed with chocolate chips, and was soft and chewy. It also had a generous sprinkle of sea salt on top, which is such an awesome match with chocolate.

Don’t count on getting a seat at Sam James’ Harbord location, but please go anyway, and prepare to weep into your delicious coffee about how un-accomplished your life is.

 

Sam James Coffee Bar

297 Harbord St, Toronto (Harbord & Bathurst)

Also at 688 Bloor St. W, and soon to be opening in the Sun Life Financial building at 150 King St. W

www.samjamescoffeebar.com

 

Feelin’ for more hipster coffee? Check out these other EatDrinkToronto reviews:   Darkhorse Espresso Bar           Bulldog Coffee

 

Sam James Coffee Bar on Urbanspoon

Dark Horse Espresso Bar

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For someone who struggled to find a decent cappucino when she first moved here a year ago, I am now absolutely spoiled for choice.

Why did I not know of places like Bulldog, Sam James, and Dark Horse last year? Thankfully, these guys are now on the map for coffee fanatics.

One such cafe I was delighted to finally visit recently was Dark Horse. We checked out the Queen East location, which is quite large and has a ton of seating. It’s also decorated in a cool, eclectic way, making it a comfortable and welcoming spot to enjoy a brew.

Dark Horse outside

Dark Horse inside

We ordered a 1% cappucino, a latte, and a chocolate chip cookie. Our coffees were excellent; mine was so creamy I could have sworn it was full fat milk in there.

Dark Horse coffees and cookie

I also noticed a very distinct taste in Dark Horse’s coffee. It has an almost fruity, tangy aftertaste. It was quite unusual, and was unlike any coffee I’ve had before.

The cookie was packed with chunks of chocolate and was also pretty good, although be warned: it’s one of those crunchy cookies. I prefer my cookies super-soft and chewy, but to each their own. All you crunchy cookie weirdos lovers out there would like it.

Service at Dark Horse is super-friendly, and is pretty fast given their high turnover of customers. They also have free wi-fi (I think. Either that, or I was leeching off someone else’s. Sorry).

It’s awesome to keep discovering so many brilliant coffee places in Toronto. The only problem is deciding where to go.

 

Dark Horse Espresso Bar

Cafe

 

682 Queen Street East, Toronto

(also in Chinatown and Queen West)

647-436-3460

 

http://darkhorseespresso.com/

Dark Horse Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

The 2011 EatDrink Awards!

Eat Drink Toronto Awards

The year has almost come to a close, so it seems only fitting that we look back on all of the glorious food and drink we’ve ingested. Here’s the inaugural EatDrinkToronto awards, based on my reviews of 2011. Think I’m cray cray? Agree with me? Want to add something else? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

 

Best bar

Beer Bistro

I cannot put into words how much I love this place. Best beer list in Toronto, great staff, comfy seating, delicious frites. I think they pump crack in through the air vents, because I’m addicted.

Honourable mentions:

The Town Crier 

The patio may be crammed but the beer list is awesome, there’s heaps of seating inside, and the servers are very knowledgeable about their beer.

Bar Volo

Another wonderful beer list in a cosy setting. The service can be hit and miss, but their ever-rotating list on craft and rare beers makes up for it.

 

Best Patio

Origin

It faces a really ugly carpark but it  makes up for it with its comfy lounges, attentive service, and extreme sunlight exposure.

Honourable mention:

Stout

Stout’s patio is small but makes you feel like you’re in a friend’s backyard. I love the picnic table seating, the astro turf on the ground, and the fairy lights above.

 

Best brunch

Saving Grace

The most inventive brunch/breakfast menu I’ve ever seen!

La Societe

Best french toast in Toronto. Do I really need to say more?

Saving Grace pancakes

Saving Grace pancakes

La Societe french toast

La Societe french toast

 

Best cake

Caffe Doria

Their red velvet cake is large and in-charge. And absolutely delicious.

Honourable mention:

Dufflet’s

For such a huge range of quality, well-priced treats, you can’t go past Ms Rosenberg.

 

Best coffee

Bulldog

Some have come close, but nothing beats Bulldog.

Honourable mentions:

Red Rocket Two locations in the city serve up super-creamy coffee and tasty little whoopie pies and treats.
And, it’s cheating a bit since I haven’t reviewed them yet, but I gotta mention Sam James and Dark Horse. Terrific coffee – watch for reviews in 2012!
 

Best restaurant (meal)

I feel hesitant to name a best restaurant since I haven’t eaten at many places more than once or twice. But, I will say the two best meals of the year go to:

Terroni – Ct’mang pizza.

House on Parliament – pulled pork sandwich.

 

Best sandwich

This one’s a tie, between Caplansky’s smoked meat sandwich, and the porchetta sandwiches from Porchetta & Co. Both are simply done and focus on excellent, high quality meat that’s been cooked with love.

Porchetta & Co sandwich

Porchetta & Co sandwich

 

Best hangover meal

Smoke’s Poutinerie

It wouldn’t be a Toronto food blog without mentioning Poutine.

Honourable mention:

Fran’s Diner

Best pancakes in the city! Cheap too, and open 247 – in case your hangover strikes at 3am.
 

Zaza Espresso Bar

Zaza latte

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped in at Zaza recently for a quick pick-me-up before we proceeded to massacre the nearby Wholefoods hot bar. Pulled pork was about to be involved, so sustenance was a necessity.

D and I both got skim lattes, which were made quickly and were fantastic – creamy, a nice level of strength, and just the perfect amount of foam. This was excellent Italian-style coffee. My only grip is that $3.95 plus tax, they’re a little on the expensive side.

Zaza gelato

Zaza also sell biscotti and other little treats, and they have a year-round gelato cabinet. There’s limited seating inside, but in the summer the tiny sidewalk-cum-patio outside contains a few more stools and tables.

Zaza Espresso Bar

Zaza’s latte is definitely going into my top 5 coffees in Toronto list. If you’re in Yorkville – heck, even if you’re not – give the chains a break and pop in.

 

Zaza

Espresso Bar

 

75 Yorkville Ave (Bloor & Bay)
Toronto

416-823-4719

 

http://www.zazaespressobar.com/

ZAZA Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

Porchetta And Co

Porchetta & Co sandwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

A couple of months ago, on a weekend, I asked one of my friends what she did that day. “We went and got sandwiches,” she said. She said it the same way you’d say, “We went to Niagara Falls” or “We went to an engagement party” or “We stalked Ryan Gosling around Yorkville”. I was a little bewildered at first, not knowing what the big deal was, until she told me about where she got them from.

So, on a recent Saturday, D and I realised we were due to center our entire day around getting a sandwich from Porchetta & Co.

Porchetta & Co

This Dundas West shop has a huge cult following, and we were expecting a line up when we arrived. Luckily, we were the only customers when we got there (just after 12), and we managed to snag two of the five seats inside. Seating is obviously very limited – just a handful inside, and a bench outside.

The menu is also a bit limited – although don’t let this put you off. Basically, you can choose from a porchetta sandwich, a porchetta plate, or a breakfast sandwich. The porchetta sandwich ($5.95) has a variety of toppings that can be added for an extra charge, while the plate ($8.95) is porchetta with your choice of side.

Porchetta & Co sandwiches
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D ordered the breakfast sandwich, which was porchetta, egg, smoked gouda, and crackling on a bun ($5.95). I had the sandwich with tomato sauce (+25 cents), although I’m kicking myself that I didn’t try the truffle sauce (+75 cents).

Everyone who works there seems to enjoy their job and have fun, while still promptly and professionally serving up dishes. Shortly after we got our food, the place was starting to fill up and got busy very quickly.

We tackled out sangas. I loved the bread rolls (from Caldense down the street). They were the kind that are really soft and dusted in flour, so the flour gets all over your lips and pants. The buns held a generous little pile of fresh, hot porchetta and a smear of chunky Italian-style tomato sauce. I admit this was my first time trying porchetta – basically, pork shoulder wrapped in prosciutto wrapped in cured pork belly* – and brother, it will not be the last. This is not just meat, this is an experience. Porchetta has a bunch of different characters all bringing something to the table: there are the tender, chunky pieces of pork shoulder, the soft parts of fat, and the crunchy pieces of crackling and prosciutto. All of the different components make for a very flavorful bite. My hot tip: pile that seeded mustard on there. It’s wonderfully tangy!

Porchetta & Co mustards

D was loving hard on his breakfast sandwich. I personally felt that the egg overpowered the porchetta a bit, but he disagreed and liked how the gooey yolk seeped into everything. He actually proclaimed it the best sandwich he’s ever had.

We rolled outta there with the promise to be back. Better schedule it into the calendar.

 

Porchetta & Co Sandwiches

Sandwich Shop

 

825 Dundas St W (just past Bathurst)

Toronto

647-352-6611

 

Closed Sunday & Monday

http://porchettaco.com

 

*For a full explanation on what porchetta is, visit this link

Porchetta & Co on Urbanspoon

La Boheme

La Boheme chocolate cake

I’m very easily influenced by stimulus around me. The other day D and I were watching The Best Thing I Ever Ate. It was the cake episode.

At the end of the episode, D and I both looked at eachother. “I need cake,” I said. D agreed, and we christened that day Cake Fest 2011.

I thought it was a perfect opportunity to finally check out the Yonge Eglinton area. I’d heard the neighbourhood had lots of good cake shops, one of them being La Boheme.

La Boheme is a bustling cafe that was quite busy when we popped in during Saturday lunchtime. Despite the business, the lady who served us was very nice and patiently explained what each cake in the cabinet was to me.

There were quite a few little individual cakes and tarts, and we selected a flourless and milk/dark mousse cake (the ‘Manon’). These little cakes are almost too pretty to attack with your fork. But of course, we came to our senses later that night and dug in.

La Boheme chocolate cake

I liked that there was a mix of dense sponge cake and fluffy mousse. It was nice to get both and have the contrasting flavours and textures. The mousse was very fluffy and more of a milky chocolate, which I liked. The flourless cake layers were very thin, providing just enough of a change in texture.

The little cake was pretty expensive – around $5.50 – but this is good-quality stuff.

When you’ve got a cake craving, you better satisfy it – step away from the Betty Crocker box and get to La Boheme.

 

La Boheme

Bakery/cafe

 

2481 Yonge St (Yonge & Eglinton)

Toronto

416-489-2233

 

http://www.labohemecafe.ca/

La Bohème on Urbanspoon

Caffe Doria Review

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Why is it so hard to find a piece of cake in Toronto? I’m not talking about wandering into Metro and buying a slab of sponge cake, resplendent in mock cream; nor am I talking about visiting a bakery or Dufflet’s and buying a little tart or slice to nibble on.

I’m talking about being able to easily sit down in a cafe and order a coffee and a big slab of cake. I applaud downtown cafes for their current selection of treats, I really do – but guys, you gotta start offering more cake.

Caffe Doria could teach other cafes a thing or two. I visited this popular Rosedale lunch spot a couple of months ago and spied the biggest red velvet cake in the treat cabinet. This thing was HUGE. However, I must have been suffering mild concusion that day, as I didn’t order it. The cake stuck in my mind though, so I dragged D back there on a recent Sunday to try it.

We also got drinks – a latte bowl ($4.25) for him, and a hot ginger pear cider ($3.25) for me. This was actually my first hot cider, and it won’t be the last – it was sweet, hot, peppery, and comforting. D was happily slurping up his massive latte, which was creamy and smooth.

Caffe Doria latte bowl

Caffe Doria ginger pear cider

Then the cake arrived. This sucker was big. The layers of fluffy red sponge cake and creamy white icing were stacked high, and we basically attacked it.
Caffe Doria red velvet cake
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The verdict? Probably one of the best cakes I’ve had in Toronto. The sponge was moist, dense, and had a slight hint of chocolate, while the cream cheese icing had a lovely smooth texture and a tangy flavour.

Awesome cake aside, Caffe Doria is a lovely little spot for a snack or a meal. There’s a large patio, which was still open when I walked past last week, and indoors is a little crowded but feels welcoming and cosy. They offer breakfast as well as as lunch items like salads, pizzas, and paninis.

But don’t worry – cake is an acceptable meal choice too.

 

Caffe Doria

Cafe

 

1094 Yonge St (near Rosedale subway station)

Toronto

 

416-920-5315

http://caffedoria.com

Caffe Doria on Urbanspoon

La Societe

La Societe french toast

You know how people always say, “oh, chocolate chip cookies, they’re my cryptonite”? You know, it’s a funny joke, because they love chocolate chip cookies so much? Well, I love french toast. But it is not my cryptonite. I actually believe that french toast makes me stronger. Indeed, it has been proved that I perform significantly better throughout my day if I stuff my face with french toast that morning. The better the french toast is, the more productive I am.

Yes. Science.

So – you can imagine how productive I was after ingesting this:

La Societe french toast
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That is french toast from La Societe – to be more specific, french toast filled with caramelized bananas, served with chocolate nougat, maple syrup, and whipped cream ($10). I guess La Societe is a fancy, high-society place – and the Parisian cafe-style surroundings are certainly gorgeous – but $10 for a plate of such beauty? That, my friends, is a bargain. I cleaned my plate: this was flawless french toast. The bananas were so sweet and gooey that I couldn’t tell where they started and the chocolate nougat began. The bread, which I’m pretty sure was challah, was fresh and fluffy, and has just been fried lightly. This dish was also the perfect size: I didn’t feel like I needed to be rolled out of there, but I didn’t feel like pouting that I hadn’t gotten enough either.

D was chowing down on eggs benedict florentine ($15 + $3 for salmon). This delicate-looking dish didn’t last too long before it fell victim to an ambush by D’s utensils.

La Societe eggs florentine

D’s dish was a little pricier than mine, but I think that was reasonable given the abundance of smokey, salty salmon that was hiding under the creamy hollandaise sauce.

La Societe definitely feels like a little French bistro, although the waiters are very warm and welcoming. While it was a great place in downtown Toronto for brunch, I’d love to come back at night for a drink in the chic art deco-style bar.

This insanely awesome french toast had me buzzing around for the rest of the day like you wouldn’t believe. Dare I say this is the best french toast in Canada? Well, you should see how many loads of laundry I did that day. I rest my case.

 

La Societe

 

Restaurant/Cafe/Bar

 

131 Bloor St West (Bloor & Bay)
Toronto

416-551-9929

 

http://www.lasociete.ca/
La Société Bistro on Urbanspoon