Can’t Say No To That

Best Japanese restaurant had recently been updated. It was the same restaurant, Guu, but now under a new name: Kinka Izakaya. We had no idea if the menu was still the same or if that had also been changed. If it meant putting off having to walk all the way out to Victoria Park I was all for it. Plus the food at Guu had been amazing.

There was a couple in front of us who had the longest debate about whether to sit at the bar or on the patio. Once they decided on the bar, the server told us we had the same choice. Luckily for her, we did not debate. Patio! Turns out only the name had changed, the menu was the same. No complaints here, I love their jellyfish dish. Love. Even if it is the toughest thing ever to eat with chopsticks. My other choice was the beef carpaccio which later on I realized we had ordered before. Again, no complaints here, it was awesome. Brent had chosen the kimchi udon, the fried chicken and the deep-fried squid. The squid was delicious, the udon noodles were ok and the fried chicken was subpar. I was actually quite surprised as most of the dishes we have had over the years had been amazing. At least we had eaten the chicken last, that way it did not sully our overall experience. We were also too full to order any more food.


Now We’re Talking: Cheese

I had recently been bemoaning the paltry grilled cheese experience I had at what was supposed to be the best grilled cheese place in the city. I went back to the list and noticed that Maha’s Egyptian restaurant was listed as number three, offering an interesting take on the grilled cheese. It just so happened that Maha’s had recently been voted best shakshuka, thus we were heading there anyways. Brent would be having the shakshuka, I wanted no part in it. Eggs? Meh. Tomato? Gross. Combine the two? Pass.

We made the same rookie mistake as last time, showing up around 12:30 on a Saturday at a popular brunch place. We put our name on the list and were told it would be 30-60 minutes. We set off to nearby Left Field Brewery, alas it was closed, they were away at Oktoberfest. We walked back to the restaurant via the side streets in an attempt to make some progress in Pokemon Go with the little bit of battery I had left on my phone. The wait wasn’t too bad and in no time we were seated, but on the patio, with no outlet in sight. I was cursing myself for not having bought the portable battery pack for my phone earlier in the week.

I was so psyched for the grilled cheese that nothing could bother me, not the slow service, not the loud annoying child, nothing. My cheese cravings had reached a peak earlier in the week when I had been on a roll making cheese puns. Thankfully our app arrived relatively quickly. I was getting hangry, a new normal for me now as Invisalign has ruined all-day snacking for me. The dokka dish, which was pita bread, sesame seeds and spices and olive oil, was a knock-out. It totally hit the spot. The pita bread was warmed up which made it that much better. I had the honey cardamom latte last time, so this time I went with the black mint tea. It was served in a small teapot with the tiniest little teacup.

This is only a selection

This is only a selection

The sandwich had: gouda, havarti and swiss cheese, butter-fried dates, the bread was drizzled with honey before being grilled. One bite and I was in heaven- as a long string of cheese formed between me and the sandwich as I placed it down. With every cheesey bite I was happier. The cumin home fries were OK, but I waited to eat those until I had finished the sandwich. I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish everything and I would rather have more grilled cheese than more cumin home fries.

Even just thinking about that grilled cheese now has made me crave cheese all over again.

Oh right, the shakshuka. I was not expecting it to be eggs and tomato finely minced, eaten with a pita bread. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was.

And as is tradition, we stopped at Von Doughnut’s on the way home. They only had three donuts left and the choice was obvious: butter tart. The donut was cut in half and filled with butter tart filling and it had a candied nut  and a buttery caramely icing on top. It was easily one of the best donuts I have ever had.


I’m Surprised That Didn’t Make Me Sick…

Well I guess the title gives it away: our most recent fooding adventure was less than successful. Best Philly cheesesteak had recently been posted, I was 50-50 on it to begin with. The first time I had a Philly cheesesteak I was somewhere in North Carolina or Tennessee with Molly. We had stopped in at a restaurant and I had a fancy sandwich. I’m talking french baguette, actual sliced steak, provolone cheese and mushrooms- it was amazing. Little did I know at the time that it was a fraud. I learned this when we visited Philadelphia and went to the source. Cheez Whiz was involved, but even still it was not that bad. Not as good as the gourmet, but still edible.

I knew what I was in for. Even still I did not expect a sandwich THIS terrible. Honest to food-god, it was not steak. It tasted (and sort of looked like) ground beef. And I cannot believe I am saying this: there was not enough “cheese.” The Cheez Whiz had been poured on after the meat, but that meant that every other bite was just bun and meat, as the Cheez Whiz had not fully sunk throughout the sandwich. Why didn’t they pour it, add meat, pour more? Thankfully it was not that large, even still towards the end I was very grateful that Brent had noticed that they sell beer and had abandoned his soda and given it to me.

Would the second half of our evening prove as unsatisfactory? Northwood had been voted best cocktail. Those were some big shoes to fill after Bar Chef wowed us and Cocktail Bar inadvertently got us drunk as we kept having to try “just one more” because they were amazing. My phone had died playing Pokemon Go, I was desperate for juice. We sat inside, despite how hot it was- worth it! The service was very slow. This may have been because of a dopey heart-broken guy who would not shut up and kept talking to the bar tenders. Even when he grabbed his bag, ready to leave, he stayed for another 15 minutes still talking.

The first cocktail I had was good, but nowhere near what I had been expecting. I downed it pretty fast in the hopes of ordering another one as the server brought Brent’s beer (which he had ordered when his Manhattan arrived, like i said the service was slow). The second cocktail (La Commune) was amazing, way better. I was trying to order one of each: a muddle, a sour and an original. I finally got to try Chinese 6-spice. The third drink (Black Walnut), made with their own in-house tea-infused vodka was far and away the best cocktail of the night.

In the end I would still rather go to Cocktail Bar, even though it is more expensive. Or Bar Raval, or Cold Tea.


More Like Best Name

I was thrilled to see that best grilled cheese had been revoted. Partly I was amused by the name, Cut The Cheese. Any place with a good name already goes up a notch in my books. Plus the opportunity to go out for grilled cheese?! I love grilled cheese. So simple, yet so delicious. My weekend was made. It was a hell of a walk, but we made a lot of progress in Pokemon Go, so the time flew by.

I had high hopes for this place, they had both wacky grilled cheese and regular standard. I decided to get the regular standard but with some bacon thrown in. The best way to judge a grilled cheese place is to have the regular and the wacky. Brent had the one with pork belly, coleslaw and hickory sticks- and he won by far. I was shocked that mine was so subpar. What can go wrong with double-smoked bacon (did not taste smokey), old aged cheddar (not enough of it) and sour dough bread? Easy. The bread to cheese ratio was waaaaaay off. Thicker slices of bread, especially well-buttered sour dough are ok. But then you have to add more cheese! Also some cheese variety would have been nice.

So far the best grilled cheese was still at George St. Diner.

Given we were in the Junction, we headed across the street to Indie Ale House for a pint and to check out the bottle shop. The raspberry sour was delicious and the perfect afternoon drink.


More Like Blech-st Of

I am not a fan of Caesar’s. Tomato juice, gross. Clamato, even grosser. Celery stick, super gross. Last time we went out for best Caesar to Rock Lobster I could not even bring myself to have a sip of Brent’s drink. I just stared at it in reviled terror. I watched his face as he drank it and I felt empathy for him. Sadly the list got re-voted and rather than relegate best Caesar to the other best’s in the city that we ignore (namely non-food stuff, which I think a Caesar qualifies as) Brent was staring down a monster of a Caesar at Dundas  And Carlaw cafe. It really was a monster, it was garnished with a huge skewer: two olives, a pickled green bean, a full size pickle and a pepperette, and a lime on the rim. I silently sipped my Brickworks cider, achieving peak hipsterdom as it was in a glass mason jar and I was thinking about my cross-stitch project which I had abandoned to go out. I could not do it, I could not make myself take a sip of it. I ate half a pickle and had a bite of the pepperette which was also not that good.

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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in Adventures of Pinka!, Fooding


Below EXpectations

Once again, that time of year snuck up on me. The CNE was in town and for the first time in years I was not there for opening day. Maybe that is what cursed this year’s two visits? The press releases of sneak previews of fair food failed to impress this year. Of the 20+ items I read about only one caught my attention/was something I had never had before: the deep-fried butter tart. Yes I was excited about the deep-fried cookie dough (who wouldn’t be?) but I had tried it a long time ago while in the States, so it was not new. I was intrigued by the crispy mustard-fried crickets on a hot-dog but I could not get past the fact that they still retained their cricket shape. All I could imagine was their legs getting stuck between my teeth like the straw from corn. *shudders*

I resolved to at least walk by the bug stand and look. I assumed the line would be out the door, thus giving me an excuse to find something else to eat. Not so, there was only one customer. They had a display hot-dog and I couldn’t do it, I chickened out. My sister had wanted a sushi burrito from SU&BU and one of the items on the list had been their take on the fish & chips done sushi style. But somehow it just did not seem all that appetizing, crispy wonton chips with salmon and roe- on a hot afternoon at the CNE? Plus I would be stealing a bite of the sushi burrito (call it a delivery service fee) so why get two things from one vendor? I was down to item three on my list of maybe-trys: The lobster and steak bao sandwich. It was ok when you got a mouthful of both, but at times it was just bun. And the lobster was served cold, while the meat was hot, therefore both ended up lukewarm. It was not a bad sandwich, but it was not amazing nor was it that wacky. We did not have time to grab dessert as it was time to go to the aerial acrobatics and figure skating show. As usual it was incredible and they amped it up again.

I vowed to do a better job for dinner. The plan was to get a poutine corn dog (sliced up hotdog, cubes of cheese and hash browns, all skewered battered and deep-fried) for dinner, followed by a double dessert: deep-fried cookie dough AND a deep-fried butter tart. Alas, it was not happening. I left my other sister in line waiting for the cookie dough (there were at least 10 people in front of her) and went off in search of the poutine dog. I could not find ti listed on the map in the Food Building for the life of me. I resorted to going to the information booth and sheepishly asking about where to find the poutine dog and the deep-fried butter tart. As it turned out the butter tart was all the way back at the midway. It got relegated to next time. The poutine dog was sold out, it too would have to be next time. I walked by Bug Bistro one more time, but still could not muster the courage (?) to order it. Tired, I gave up and just got a corn dog from the midway. The food building was crammed and I was getting hangry. I shouldn’t have been ignoring my phone, it turns out there were three different flavours of cookie dough. I don’t know why no one had mentioned this in the articles? Thankfully my genius sister got one of each. Oddly enough the best one was the red velvet, followed by chocolate chip with brownie coming in a dead last as it was far too rich.

Even though I had walked the 8km to the CNE from my house the previous day, the following day I set back out again. This time we were going to the CNE with our dad. During the planning of our CNE outings it had not occurred to us that going to the CNE two days in a row might be overkill. I had a spending hangover and a combination fomo/disappointment regarding the previous day’s food fails. I was desperately hoping to make it up on round two. This time I would have the poutine dog for lunch and then something wacky for dinner, grabbing the deep-fried butter tart in the afternoon when we pass by the stand.

The poutine dog was a salty, disgusting, nauseating fail. It was epic, but migawd it nearly killed me. And yet I kept eating it. I would take a bite, make a face, pause, sigh… and pick up the stick and start the process over again. Much to the amusement of my sister. It came with a side of gravy that I could not enjoy but that got me thinking: why don’t corn dogs normally come with the side of gravy? And my poutine dog was not exactly complete: it lacked the hash browns! They had been forgotten!! And the cheese was flavourless and all it did was sink into ever crook and cranny of my mouth and stick there. It was unpleasant. We never did find the deep-fried butter tart stand. By the evening I was so tired and my legs ached. I could not stand the thought of waiting in a long line, even though the Japanese-style fried chicken looked amazing. I instead got a hot dog, there was no line.

The actual highlight, despite all the food fails and misses was buying a venus fly trap plant which I am now trying to keep alive.

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Posted by on September 8, 2016 in Uncategorized


Minneapolis and Northern Wisconsin- Day 6

Wed. Aug. 24, 2016:
Minneapolis, MN to Toronto, ON

I woke up around 8am because I was voraciously hungry. Again we had some time before we had to head out, the Mall of America did not open until 10am. Rather than settle for the horrible coffee again, I Googled some nearby places. We walked up the street and into an office building, I was in search of Caribou Coffee. The Turtles latte was way too sweet and rich, I could not finish it. The lemon poppy seed loaf was just enough to hold me over until we got to the mall. In trying to find something to watch I kept flipping channels. I eventually settled on Real Housewives of New York and 16 And Pregnant during commercials. Real Housewives was great, it was just a bunch of women yelling. 16 was just awkward and I could barely watch it.

We got to the Mall of America soon after it opened. As it turned out we had parked by the entrance that was near the Minnesota Sealife Aquarium so we started there. It was surprising how many people were already there and in line. The aquarium was awesome, even though we could not pet the stingrays because some were pregnant. Walking through the shark tunnel was mildly unnerving, you could see the rows of teeth in the shark’s mouth, but their dopey-looking faces are just so endearing and cute. As usual, with every aquarium visit, there were tortoises and they were going at it. It was awkward though because the third tortoise was getting in the way and being a nuisance. In another tank we were looking for the sea turtle and suddenly we saw the loggerhead turtle and he was just enormous, it was incredible how huge and slow he was. He looked exactly like the old one in Finding Nemo. I laughed at the seahorses as they move so inefficiently.

We walked through the Nickelodeon Experience in the middle of the mall. I had been expecting one or two crappy kiddie rides not a full-blown mini theme park. There were rides that made my stomach churn just watching them. I noticed a marshmallow Peeps store that had a Hot Tamale box in the window. We had to go investigate. They had a deal that you could get three boxes of Hot Tamales and/or Mike & Ikes for $8 therefore we had to. We had to try the new wacky flavours we don’t normally see. We also got to try a sample of chocolate covered marshmallow Peep. It was surprisingly good but I got distracted by the Mike & Ikes flavours and forgot to buy those as well.

On the way to the mirror maze we passed by Shake Shack. I had completely forgotten that it had recently opened and we had planned it for lunch. We stopped in because it was not too busy yet and we were already kind of hungry. The SmokeStack with bacon and mayonnaise was delicious and it hit the spot. The mall had Wi-Fi so while we ate I hunted Pokémon. For dessert we had candy. The 10 flavours mix of Mike & Ikes was delicious. I did not try the hot, hotter, hottest box of Hot Tamales as they are gross. We saved the sour Mike & Ikes for our flight home later that day.

The mirror maze was fun but very disorienting. We had to wear plastic gloves so as not to get smudges all over the mirrors. We went through it again, trying to beat our time and assuming we would be faster the second time. We were not, and it was just as disorienting, if not more, the second time around. I had a few near misses where I almost walked into the mirror. At one point Brent had gotten ahead of me and was waiting for me to catch up, only I didn’t know which one was him and which was his reflection, producing a split second feeling of fear. We also heard a kid walk into a mirror with a loud *thwomp*, I guess he did not have his hands out in front of him as I did. To finish off our tour of the Mall of America we went to the LEGO store. It was so satisfying to see bins of bricks all sorted by colour, as long I ignored the one miscellaneous bin that was just a mix of everything. I wish I had planned it better and designed something so I could buy bricks for a project.

After this we split off, I had three hours to myself to go shopping. At first this seemed like not enough time, the mall had so many floors! But I soon realized that the stores repeated. I stopped in at Starbucks for a green tea lemonade to start off. I found my black flower maxi skirt at H&M but it was not in my size. I ended up buying it in dark blue bandana pattern though. I had a pleasant surprise at the register, there is no sales tax on clothing! I was inspired and branched out, going into stores I had never heard of but they were so far off the mark and not my style at all. I was surprised to see so many cops and their police dogs in the mall. I searched through a bunch of stores and their duplicates for some cute patterned Keds but I came up empty handed. I was tempted by a pair of Vans shoes that had flamingos on them but it just wasn’t the same as what I was looking for. I couldn’t resist the temptation and ended up stopping for a snack at the Nestle Tollhouse café. The toffee cookie was just what I needed.

I met up with Brent and we still had some time before we had to head to the airport, which was all of 5 minutes away. We went back to the aquarium one last time. The two tortoises were going at it again, while the other one was napping. The male tortoise kept trying to bite the female’s head. It was amusing to watch people’s reactions to it. the caimans were still fidgety and restless.

We ended up circling the mall trying to find a gas station to fill up the rental before returning it. Thankfully we had Josh and Chuck talking to us about jellyfish to keep us from getting stressed. We returned the car a few minutes late but without any problems. We had literally just missed the shuttle tram by a split second even though we ran. The guy at the information desk laughed and told us there would be another one in less than 60 seconds.

There were no automated kiosks and we had to wait in line to check-in. I was antsy and the 15 minute wait seemed like it took forever. There was barely anyone in line at the security checkpoint, even the guard remarked on how few people there were. The drug sniffing dogs were so cute, I just wanted to smoosh their little faces. Once we were past we had a goal: find the McDonald’s, yet again, I was very hungry bordering on hangry. We tried to use a touch screen map, but the glass was so thick it was slightly distorting and we could not get it to search, it was infuriatingly useless. We gave up and started walking in a direction until we saw a food court with a Burgher King. We turned and went back, knowing McDonald’s would not be there. It was driving me nuts, I had seen it when we arrived, I knew it was somewhere nearby. I briefly considered trying the touch screen map again when I saw printed maps just below it. There was no line at McDonald’s and before long I was sinking my teeth into the buttermilk chicken sandwich. It was ok, I did manage to improve it by cramming some fries into it. Earlier on the kiosk map I had seen that there was a Ben & Jerry’s, so we split a large fries to save room for dessert. As we were eating Brent noticed a sign for an observation deck. We went up there and found a McDonald’s employee enjoying a quiet break. On the floor there were large cushions assembled into a pseudo-bed. Alas, we had bad timing as there were no flights taking off or landing. We were just looking at the gates and the military base across the way. From there were could see that our plane had not even arrived yet.

On the way to our gate we stopped at Ben & Jerry’s. In a small size you can have two different flavours. I had one scoop of Phish Food and one scoop of the lemon sorbet. Never in my life have I ever had something so satisfying and delicious, it hit so many cravings all at once. It was incredible and it is now my new go-to combo whenever I go to a Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop. We settled in at our gate and soon we boarded. It would be good to get back to my book, as I had abandoned it 3 days ago in favour of bad TV. I had plenty of time to catch up on my reading, as we were stuck in tarmac traffic for a good 30 minutes before we even took off.

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