Archive for Tipple

The Pilot

pilot1

It was brutal out there on the streets last Friday night. There were crowds. Angry patrons. Overheated bodies. Dehydration. Begging was rampant; bribes weren’t far off. The smug few who won the battle cooled their heels in comfort, ignoring the defeated stares of passers by.

I’m talking of course, about the quest to get a seat on a patio in this city. My recent experience in the entertainment district was enough to swear me off trying ever again.

Then I heard about The Pilot. A rooftop patio, you say? Well, surely I can make an exception…

Luckily, at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon, The Pilot’s ‘Flight Deck’ had plenty of seats. We relaxed on the large deck, complete with an outdoor bar, and lapped up the sun.








The Pilot patio

The Pilot has a decent beer list, although it’s a little slim on craft or rare brews. Still, there’s a good handful (Weihenstephaner, Red Stripe, St Ambroise, Cracked Canoe), as well as a reasonably priced wine list.

D got a St Ambroise Pale Ale (around $7) and I had a glass of the Pinot Grigio (around $9). We also munched on an order of sweet potato fries ($7.95), which were super crispy and addicting. They came with a tasty chipotle mayo which gave just a little bit of spice.

Service was very friendly while we were on the Flight Deck, although a little off at times (we were charged for two serves of fries; we had to ask for water a couple of times before actually getting it). To be fair, as soon as we sat down a massive function arrived, and the waitstaff were run off their feet.

While the view on The Flight Deck isn’t the best – it’s only a few flights up after all – it’s such a lovely, relaxing space. The open air bar makes me feel like I’m on holiday in Mexico, which is greatly helped with the absence of eye-level street traffic. There’s a tonne of seating and a fair bit of shade available too (thanks to some umbrellas).

So, forget the crowds down on Queen West and try something a little different the next time you’re seeking a patio. Save your sanity; check out The Pilot.

The Pilot
Bar/Restaurant

22 Cumberland St (Bloor and Yonge)
Toronto

P: 416-923-5716

http://www.thepilot.ca

The Pilot Tavern on Urbanspoon

Quick Bites – April 18

This week’s Quick Bites is all about grog, my friends. Spicy IPAs, smooth wheats, sweet reds…I hope you’ve had that salad for lunch, because things are about to get boozy up in here.

 

Cask Days IPA Challenge – April 20 – 23

I’m so excited for this! Bar Volo is hosting the fourth annual IPA Challenge this weekend, featuring Ontario IPAs. The $10 entry fee includes a glass and challenge score card. There are four rounds over Saturday and Sunday, then whatever beer is left over will be sold as $5 pints on Monday night. Check out the website for more details.

 

The Only Cafe Spring Beer Fest – April 27-28

Spring is here! Don’t you just want to prance through a field of flowers, throwing glasses of stout up in the air in joy? No, you don’t. That’s a waste of beer. Especially if it’s one of the drops featured at The Only Cafe’s mini beer fest. Admission is free; you can buy sample tickets for $1 to enjoy tastes of a variety of brews. Participating breweries include Unibroue, Railway City, Double Trouble, and Great Lakes. For more info, visit the website.

 

Wine Picks & Pairings App – Out Now

I have no idea what goes with shiraz, or whether I should drink merlot or pinot grigio with my fish. Luck there’s an app for that…Natalie MacLean recently released a free mobile app that helps users find the perfect wine matches. There’s also a special section related to drops for those upcoming Mother’s Day brunches and Father’s Day BBQs. Check out Natalie’s website for more info on how to download.

The Rebel House Review

Rebel House burger

When it comes to going out at night, I’m really not a West-Queen-West kind of girl. Plonk me on a patio in a cosy neighbourhood pub, and I’m a happy kid.

That’s why I love The Rebel House in Rosedale. It’s a super-comfortable, casual pub with heaps of seating, a large patio, and friendly staff. And they have excellent beer! And Spearhead on tap! And they’re close to a subway station! Queen may be trendy, but let’s face it: your only transportation option being the streetcar or crawling through traffic in a cab is not appealing.

We went to Rebel House for dinner for the first time recently. D and I were on a mission: we wanted cornbread and wings. So, we ordered the mac and cheese (which came with cornbread – $11.95), as well as a pound of wings ($9.95).

Our pal F was visiting from Australia, and his mission was to try poutine. He ordered it ($8.50), plus a half pound of wings ($5.95).

And what was DD’s mission? The girl wanted some beef. She ordered the Buffalo Burger ($11.95). Easy.

D’s boss had been telling him of the virtues of The Rebel House’s oven-baked wings that afternoon, so we had high hopes. They didn’t disapoint. These wings were absolutely awesome! We dove into the suckers and had the sweet, slightly spicy sauce smeared all over our chins and hands.

Rebel House wings

I like these wings because they’re baked, then grilled. Call me crazy, but in Australia we don’t fry the crap out of our chicken – we cook it really well until it’s falling-off-the-bone tender, then we smother it in a delicious, rich sauce -just how Rebel House have done.

The mac and cheese was ok – I prefer a more old school, yellow-cheese sort of mac, and this version was a bit more grown up with more of a bechamel sauce. The cornbread was fantastic though. Across the table, the poutine and burger disapeared pretty quickly.Rebel House mac and cheese

The four of us kept exclaiming throughout the whole meal how damn good it was. There’s something so satisfying about a sunny patio, a good beer, and a delicious spread of pub grub.

Being able to just waddle up the road, wearing flip flops and dressed casually, isn’t so bad either.

 

The Rebel House

Pub

1068 Yonge St (Yonge & Roxborough, just north of Rosedale station)

Toronto

http://www.rebelhouse.ca/

 

Rebel House on Urbanspoon

Kultura

Kultura prosecco

Last week I was invited to Kultura, along with some other Toronto food bloggers, to sample their Asian-style tapas.

I’d never been to Kultura before, although I’d always been curious about it: I usually peep in when I walk past and have thought it looks rather sexy. Finally walking inside, I could see my quick glances were not wrong. Kultura is very chic and decorated in a way I’ll venture to describe as ‘Modern Asian Fusion’. The sexiness is spread out over three levels, too, with rooms for private parties as well as large bar/dining areas.

Kultura interior

Kultura dining

We sampled a variety of their tapas dishes over the course of the evening. Here are the ones that I remembered:

Chilean Sea Bass (parsnip puree, foie gras foam, beet reduction, brussels sprouts). The first bite of the night, and hands down the best. Chilean sea bass is not something I’d normally be drawn to order, but Kultura has changed that from now on. A crispy, plump piece of sea bass was nestled on a bed of the most RIDICULOUS beet sauce. The beet reduction sounds boring and healthy, but it was super rich and sweet. I licked my spoon clean.

Pork Belly Tacos (taro root, pineapple cilantro slaw, pickled red onion). Very tasty and one of the more filling tapas. I loved the fresh slaw contrasting with the fatty pork. This was a very drippy, messy dish though!
Pork belly tacos from Kultura

Tempura Sushi (salmon, wasabi aioli, tobiko, escaviche, avocado, spicy mayo). Not my favourite, although i appreciated the different textures. I guess I just don’t like warm sushi – it seemed to appeal to everyone else though.

Hamachi Tataki (sesame ginger crust, white soy sauce, spicy wakame salad). I really enjoyed this one – the combination of soy+ginger+seaweed salad might sound predictable, but who cares when it tastes this good?

Kultura tempura sushi and scallops

Seared Scallop (Thai asparagus, baby shitake, bean sprouts, tagarashi). A simple, fresh little bite. The scallop was very plump and tender.

Palak Paneer Naan (truffle oil, jalapeno, peppered honey). Gahh. So good – probably my second favourite of the night. It was really doughy with a crispy, sweet top, and the paneer cheese inside was rich and creamy. And come on – who doesn’t like naan?

Spiced Lamb Rack (sesame dust, smoked dashi, tempura jalapeno). Another of  the more filling dishes.This was really tasty, and had a satisfyingly thick and sweet marinade. The lamb was very tender, and I’m so pleased to actually see lamb on a menu (is it just me, or is lamb something of a rareity in Toronto?) It was another messy dish, though – I only hope it’s served with a knife and fork, as waving a giant piece of sheep around is not really attractive (or is it?). Not a first date dish.

 

I was honestly pleasantly surprised – I wouldn’t say I’m a picky eater, but it’s rare that I’m blown away by so many dishes at the one place. I’m glad I finally went in to Kultura – now let’s hope some of that sexiness will rub off onto me.

Kultura front

Kultura

Bar & Restaurant

169 King Street East (King & Jarvis)

Toronto

Ph: 416-363-9000

http://kulturatoronto.com/

 

I was a guest of Kultura. Thanks Kultura! This was an unpaid review.
Kultura on Urbanspoon

Quick Bites: March 5

Macarons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I’ve got this new diet idea. It consists of beer, macarons, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Do you lose weight on it? Well, no. But it sure is a lot of fun, just like this week’s Quick Bites.

 

Beer for Boobs – March 25

Bar Volo is holding Canada’s first annual Beer for Boobs Fundraiser. On Sunday March 25, from 2pm – 8pm, an all-female brewed line up of one-off beer will be available at Bar Volo. Proceeds from the $20 cover charge, the raffle, and the beer sales will go towards the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Participating ladies include Erica from Steam Whistle; Tracy from Black Oak; Mary Beth from Ganite; and Jenn from Magnotta. Visit Bar Volo’s blog for more information.

 

Macaron Day – March 20

It seems there’s a ‘day’ for everything now, so why not macarons? The little crunchy treats will be honoured on March 20, when several patisseries across Toronto will offer up complimentary macarons. Twenty five percent of all additional macarons purchased on Macaron Day will also be donated to the Red Door Family Shelter. Participating patisseries include La Bamboche, Petite Thuet, Patisserie La Cigogne, Moroco Chocolat, and Frangipane Patisserie. For more information, check out the Macaron Day website.

 

Parmigiano-Reggiano Crackin’ – March 10

I’ll be brief with this simple, yet epic, event: basically, massive wheels of aged parmigiano-reggiano will be cracked open at Wholefoods stores across North America, with free samples of freshly-cracked cheese given to the public. 3pm EST. Website for more info. See you there.

 

 

Photo credit

The Cobourg Review

cobourg-drink

Remember the first time you dipped a spoon of peanut butter into the bag of M&Ms? It was mind-blowing, wasn’t it: of course partly the taste, but more so the fact that it had been under your nose the entire time, and you had no idea.

That’s me and The Cobourg. This little bar has been quietly sitting on Parliament St, minding its own business, for quite a while now. I’ve passed by so many times, always making a mental note to visit.

I finally went in the other weekend for a drink and was thoroughly annoyed with myself that I hadn’t discovered it sooner. It’s such a lovely space – it’s like being in the living room of that cool friend who has good taste in chandeliers. There’s surprisingly more seating inside than I thought, although it still remains a cosy, intimate spot.

The Cobourg inside

We ordered a wine and a Woodford Reserve on the rocks. Before tip, our bill came out to $15.75, which I thought was pretty good value. I’ve heard they have an excellent whiskey selection, although the beer choice is pretty grim.

I spied a few plates of cheese and nibbles too, although I think that’s the extent of the food that they have. Service while we were there was friendly and fast, although there was only one bartender working – I hoped they had put on more staff as the night went on and the place filled up.

Keep your eye out for this gem. It’s the perfect spot for some cozy drinks, or a quick nightcap.

And if you have any other creative ways for eating peanut butter, let me know.

 

The Cobourg

Bar

 

533 Parliament St

Toronto (Parliament & Wellesley)

Ph: 416-913-7538

 

BLD Restaurant

BLD egg in hole closeup

A lot of things are very unassuming in life, only to later surprise you. Take Channing Tatum. The man was in Step Up, for Pete’s sake. Did we really expect that years later he’d become a massive actor and would drive throes of women to the cinema, just so they could see him shirtless cuddling a kitten in The Vow?

Ahem.

Ladies and gents, I think I’ve found the Channing Tatum of brunch. BLD sits there on a quiet corner in the financial district. Quietly. Looking all smug and chic with its cushy dark booths, its funky light fixtures, its sleek bar. It sits there, offering up cheap lunches to the workers who dwell in the office building above. Little do they know of the wonders that are inside.

D and I went to BLD on a recent Sunday. We honestly weren’t expecting too much – I mean, we thought the meal would be good, but we had a Groupon and didn’t really put much thought into it after that.

We ordered the banana bread french toast ($15) and the egg in a hole ($14). I have had banana bread french toast before at another restaurant and I was disappointed at the time that it wasn’t how I envisioned: namely, slabs of banana bread dipped in egg (what I had in the past was rather a mini loaf that had been dipped and fried; not sliced french toast).

BLD french toast
Pin It

BLD delivered this mythical french toast. Two thick slices of fluffy, cakey banana bread rested in a pool of rich berry sauce. Fresh berries and gooey banana spilled over the top. It was perfect. Oh sure, it was crazy sweet and was like eating cake for breakfast. But whatever.

BLD egg in a hole D was also very happy with his egg in a hole. Again, it was not what we were expecting – traditionally, this dish is where you make a hole in a piece of bread, throw it in the pan, then crack an egg into the hole. This dish however, was something else: a mini loaf of bread arrived with a poached egg on top. The bread was stuffed with a ground turkey and vegetable mixture, lightly fried on all sides, and covered with a sprinkling of cheese. I’m sure it wasn’t egg in a hole in the traditional sense, but we didnt care: this dish was awesome. We especially loved attacking the bread walls with our forks. Savages.

We grabbed coffees too (around $2.50 for unlimited), which were fine. Our waitress was lovely, too – friendly, sweet, and knowledgable about the menu.

BLD outside

BLD is probably one of those places that you walk by a million times a day on your way to work, never knowing of the joys that are inside.

Get to it before Jenna DeWan does.

 

BLD

Restaurant & Bar

 

36 Toronto St

Toronto (off Adelaide, between Yonge & Church)

 

416-777-0253

 

www.bldrestaurant.ca

BLD Restaurant Toronto on Urbanspoon

Winchester Kitchen and Bar

Winchester-bar

I wouldn’t say I believe in polygamy, but I do understand the appeal of wanting to have little tastes of a variety of things.

Hmm. Too much?

If bites of this and that are up your alley, you’ll want to visit the Winchester Kitchen and Bar in Cabbagetown. This little restaurant-bar is actually steeped in history: it’s said that Al Capone used to stay in the building when it used to be the Winchester Hotel).

Winchester dining area

But anyway – on to the food. As mentioned earlier, the Winchester offers a variety of small and big plates, as well as a five course prix fixe. I love the idea of tapas and small plates, and they certainly offer quite a variety.

We ordered a couple of dishes from the ‘small’ section of the menu – the Cast Iron Calamari ($12) and BLT Poutine ($14) – as well as a side of Brussels Sprouts ($5). Bigger dishes include Steak Frites, Beef Tenderloin, and Risotto.

Winchester BLT poutine

(apologies for the poor photos!)

The BLT poutine was bigger than we expected, and contained numerous chunks of tender, sweet pork belly. I felt it could have done with a few more cheese curds, but the pancetta and pork belly scattered throughout made up for it. I found the arugula that was piled on top a little odd – it didn’t ruin the dish or anything, but it wasn’t adding anything to it either.

Winchester calamari

My calamari looked simple enough – just what looked to be boiled calamari in a tomato-based broth – but more of those delicious piggy chunks were in this dish too, in the form of chorizo. The chorizo was really tasty, and the broth was delicious when scooped up with some bread, but the calamari was just a tiny bit over-cooked.

Winchester brussels sprouts

The pig theme carried over to our side of sprouts – double smoked bacon was in the dish, and the sprouts themselves contained a similar wonderfully smokey flavour. Little kids would have no trouble eating these greens!

We also grabbed a new-to-us beer (the Flying Monkeys Dark Ale) which was fantastic. It was good to see a local craft brewery being represented, although I would have liked to see a full beer list included on the menu.

Service was friendly throughout the night, and we both felt the menu was well-priced. The ambiance, however, was a little off. I feel like the space could be brightened up a little bit, and the interior is laid out a bit strangely (there’s a really big space between the bar area and the tables, but it’s not quite a dance floor, it’s not quite standing room for the bar…it’s just ‘there’).

You may be a one-woman kinda guy, but I guarantee the Winchester’s small plates will get you thinking…

 

Winchester Kitchen & Bar

51 Winchester St

Toronto (Parliament & Wellesley)

 

(416) 323-0051

 

http://www.winchesterkitchen.com

 

Winchester Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

 

We were a guest of the Winchester Kitchen & Bar. Thanks for having us, guys! This was an unpaid review.

Beer Notes: V3

Dogfish Head Theobroma

Here are a few new (to me) beers I’ve tried in the past month or so.

Dogfish Head Theobroma
(pictured above)

I normally love any kind of Dogfish I can get my lips around, but this beer was…weird. It’s brewed with chilies, cocoa, honey, and annatto, and is loosely based on an ancient drink from Honduras. It actually reminded me a lot of Midas Touch, another Dogfish brew. I’m not sure whether I got the chili notes, but I got hits of the chocolate and honey, as well as…other stuff. There’s lot happening in this beer, and while I did enjoy it, I felt it was the kind of thing I could only have a small amount of.

Great Lakes Winter Ale

Great Lakes Winter Ale

Pin It

Run to the liquor store and buy this now! One of my favourite beers I’ve tried in recent memory. It’s not a typical heavy winter beer; instead, it’s slightly sweet, slightly spicy, and a little bit hoppy. It reminds me of a pumpkin ale, although with more of a cinnamon spice edge.

 

Struise Tsjeeses (below left)

Keep this Beligan strong pale ale in mind for next Christmas. This brew was sweety and syrupy, and reminded us of a malty fruit cake. It was also hella strong (10%), and despite its kick, it was dangerously easy to drink. Watch it.

Struise Tsjeeses, Chimay White

Chimay Tripel White (right)

It’s embarrassing that it has taken me this long to try Chimay, which is readily available in most LCBOs. Even more embarrassing is my graspe of the French language: friends, it is not pronounced ‘chim-ay’, as I thought. It’s ‘ish-may’. I hid my blush in the lemon-tasting beer. I normally love all white beers, but this one was a little bit bland.

 

Tree Hophead IPA

This IPA from our west-side neighbours in B.C. was easy drinking and pleasant enough, although it had a slightly bitter edge I wasn’t a fan of. Not bad, but I’ve had better IPAs.

 


Dogfish Head Theobromoa is available in the U.S.A
Great Lakes Winter Ale is available widely in the LCBO (seasonal)
Struise Tsjeeses is available at Beer Bistro (seasonal)
Chimay is available at LCBO and many bars
Tree Hophead IPA is available at LCBO and many bars

 

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.