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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Cupcakes…

So it turns out that BlogTO’s definition of the Dundas West neighbourhood spreads much farther east than I had thought. You see, I am heading to said neighbourhood, more specifically The Junction next week and I thought to myself, finally a chance to eat some of the other best of cupcake contenders (the cupcakes, not the shop owners, I am not a cannibal). So I surfed (does anyone even say “surf the net” anymore?) over to the list to see whereabouts I could get my cupcake fix. I clicked on the link for OMG Baked Goodness… only to find out that they are but a stones throw from Brent’s house!! All those times I have craved baked goodies after having fought the urge to stop in at Yummy Stuff on my way to his house (only when I walk). I could’ve had my cupcake fix a thousand times over! But, now that I know, oh dear. I am heading out there on Saturday to see if vegan chocolate cupcakes truly do taste the same as regular cupcakes. Whether they do or not, it is win-win for me. If they are atrocious, yay, I save my money and my waistline. If they are delicious, then yay, a nearby cupcake source and my waistline might get saved yet, they sell mini cupcakes (best idea ever). So while in The Junction I will be heading to Bunners Bakeshop, where I will also be eating vegan & gluten-free cupcakes.

It would seem I have run out of regular cupcake joints and am now resorting to vegan & gluten-free, we shall see. This might go horribly wrong, or be pleasantly surprising. Who knows.

In retrospect it was a bad idea to start planning my cupcake outings this early. It is only Tuesday… er, I mean Wednesday… still not that close to Saturday though.

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Better Than The Best?!

Yep, you read that right. I have found something better than the best. In this case, it’s the Portuguese custard tart. BlogTO had it as Nova Era bakery, and so we went there. As I had said, the tart was good, I like custard. But, it was my first ever custard tart. Venezia’s custard tart contained much creamier and smoother custard, a thousand times better than Nova Era’s which at first I thought was just plain tart through and through, it was hard to distinguish from the tart shell casing. So in my books, Venezia has the best custard tarts in the city, they should not be 3rd (!!) on the list. What an atrocity.

Why were we at Venezia in the first place you may be asking? Because Venezia topped another best of list, the best Portuguese bakery in Toronto. Ooh man did they live up to that title (while also stealing best custard tart title). Brent ordered a veal sandwich and it was good, I kept stealing bites. Nothing beats a sandwich made on a freshly baked bun featuring just meat! No veggies or any other filler. Just meat, and a few peppers. The bun alone was delicious. For dessert we split three tarts (we had each ordered one and then I spotted custard tarts hiding out at the bottom of the display case, so we had to indulge).  Brent turned to me and asked which tart I wanted, I said beer tart and he looked at me like “hey, me too!” so I changed my order to the tempting almond tart. I was undecided between the two. The almond tart was of course delicious, what did you expect. It did however almost verge on too sweet, but given that it is almond, that is pretty much expected (just think of marzipan). The beer tart was a surprising hit, the tart shell was made of flaky pastry puff and the inside was a thick half-cake half-custard type filling (like Nova Era’s custard tarts) but with a slight hint of beer flavour to it and also a bit of nutty-maple flavour to it. In any case, this bakery is awesome.

Clockwise from top: veal sandwich, beer tart, almond tart, custard tart, all tasty.

The plan was to then go to the Drake rooftop patio for drinks, it being the best rooftop patio in the city. Best patio indeed, we went up, looked around and left. Why? Because the place was packed. On a Tuesday evening, there was nowhere to sit. The patio is really nice, but it is also small. We had to walk back down and past the security guard who looked at us like we were fools. He could have warned us, but no, he wanted to see us get embarrassed.

Plan B consisted of going to Cafe Diplomatico for the best sangria in the city, I mean it was afterall a Tuesday evening, how could we not imbibe in some alcohol. So with bellies full of tarts we slowly made our way up to College. Of course we had to stop every once in a while, for I had a sharp stabbing pain radiating through my gut. After walking a few blocks too far and having to back track, we finally got there. Only to see that the patio was also full. I let out a mild yelp of pain and we left with our proverbial tails between our legs.

We had failed to procure alcoholic drinks on a patio in the last few dog days of summer. On a Tuesday. I think a lot more people know about these “best of” places than we had anticipated. The new plan is this: Saturday at noon, right when the Drake rooftop patio opens.

 

Stomachache….On A Stick

The CNE has a deal wherein if you go after 5pm on Mon-Thurs you get in at a discounted rate, $5. So we took advantage of it. Camilla and Lucy had wanted to go to a ghost lecture and tour. Alex wanted to meet the UFC fighters. And I wanted to stuff my face with food. How could we lose?! We decided to bike there, which in retrospect was a dumb idea, but more on that later. So we got there a little bit after 5pm and split up. Me and Camilla headed to the lecture, Lucy and Alex to stand in line for the meet & greet. We were to reconvene at the lecture. That did not happen. It was full. Apparently a lot of people want to hear about paranormal “research” so we instead went to look at the exhibit associated with it. As a photographer I had quite the point of contention with their “spirit” photographs. For one thing, the researcher discounted a visitor’s photo (taken on the previous years ghost tour) as a double exposure. Yet the researcher’s photo of a “mysterious mist” that arose was a ghost, not a “camera malfunction”. And the photo of “energy exiting the medium” as she did a seance, was just that, nope, it was not light refracting in the lens. No, it was a ghost. My favourite ghost story had to be the ringing telephone. A phone in the old stadium kept ringing, so the security guards went to investigate, only to find it was unplugged! Oh no! What were they to do? Well of course, stick it in a closet. I almost choked on my coffee laughing.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, we finally got to go on the tour (Alex and Lucy met us along the way). It was about an hour long and we had not packed snacks. But hey, that was fine, it only made us hungrier for our late dinner plans: pizza on a stick. An already convenient, easy to eat, hand-held food made all the more so by cramming a stick into it. Initially I was the only one who had wanted it, but after talking everyone’s ears off about it, I had managed to convert both Camilla and Lucy to it. After the tour we walked back to the midway in search of the pizza and dessert as well, deep-fried nanaimo bars. We went through the whole midway and came up empty handed. We found an information booth and asked of the whereabouts of our sought after food. The woman pulled out a binder that had a detailed and chart filled guide to where everything was. I admit, I really felt like stealing it. After some searching we were told that the pizza was in the food building and that the nanaimo bars were outside the Direct Energy Centre in that part of the midway (which is where some soldiers died during the Battle of York in the War of 1812 as I found out on the tour).

(Doesn’t it just look glorious?)

The pizza on a stick was from Mamma’s Pizza… it was colossal. And this is no word-play understatement. It was literally bigger than my head. The pizza was on a paint stirring stick. Not a popsicle stick as I had thought. We each, in a moment of lost judgement, ordered one. As we walked and attempted to eat it (the large size kind of defeats the portability and ease of eating) we got more than a few sideways glances and some people even asked us where we got it and promptly went and stood in line. Not soon after had we started, Lucy’s pizza broke under it’s own weight and started coming off the stick. It was hilarious. None of us managed to get more than halfway through before the moaning began. Portion control was thrown right out the window with this meal. We wrapped up the rest and are now munching on it throughout the day, it is just as good cold. The pizza itself was just a regular pepperoni slice. Nothing outstanding. Albeit it was a rather thick crust (sturdy, so it would stay on the stick). For the novelty factor it was definitely worth it. Hands-down most fun pizza I have ever eaten. Would I ever do it again? Yes. Except I would split it with at least one other person.

   (Colossal, and not from the Pizza Nova behind me)

Full of pizza, we slowly made our way back to the midway outside DEC to find the nanaimo’s and to also get some free slushies (thank to Lucy’s friend who works there, free coupons). Here we split up again. Lucy took Alex to the International Pavilion to the Columbian coffee stand (the coffee I almost spit-took with earlier during the ghost phone story was from there) for what she claims to be the best hot chocolate ever (they actually steam milk for it, instead of just adding hot water to it like most other places). Camilla stood in line for deep-fried brownies because we had gone up and down the midway and not seen any signs with nanaimo bars on them. The brownies were our back up alternate, but I was not ready to admit defeat. The line was long (it was to Sweet Treats, aka the deep-fried butter people) so I ventured off in (desperate) search of the nanaimos. I chanced upon another information booth and asked. She told me it was at Sweet Treats, in the middle of the midway. It is not in the middle of the midway, I almost lost our place in line by telling Camilla it was at another booth (thankfully I got hold of her before she left the line). We got to the front of the line and I ordered and the woman was like “What? You mean deep-fried chocolate bar?” and I was like “What? No! Nanaimo bar” and she said they did not sell that there. I sighed and settled for the brownie.

Settled is the right word. It was not nearly as good as the other deep-fried stuff I have had. For one it was brownie batter in corn dog batter and on a stick, making it hard for 3 people to share. The brownie part itself was really good, owing to the fact that it was melty and like eating batter. But I could have done without the corndog batter, it was too thick. The Oreos only had a thin coating of it, making for a semi-crunchy outer layer. The deep-fried brownie was also much messier to eat, partly because it was on a stick and partly because of the consistency. Or, it could have been the squirt of chocolate sauce and sprinkling of powdered sugar on top. It is not that I had my heart set on nanaimo, for if you remember that is what I wanted the first time, Oreos were also a backup.

The free slushie was no better. Nothing compares to the quality of a Slurpee. It got icy and hard to drink really fast. I pretty much sucked out the syrup. I threw most of it out for lack of being able to even ingest it. And after ingesting all of that, ooh man my stomach. A market niche that has not been taken advantage of at the CNE thus far would be selling antacids and Pepto-Bismol and peppermint tea. If you set up such a stall in the food building, or just outside, or anywhere on the grounds really, you would be rich so fast. Feeling sick I still had to bike home, in the dark, on my crappy bike, along the poorly lit bike path. I barely made it home.

For the next trip, yep I am going once more to the CNE I have some very specific foods in mind that I would like to eat. Given that this will be my last trip there, until next year when I inevitably go back. I am going to find those damn nanaimo bars, in the event that I do not I will go for the smores (which had been my back up last time, and also were nowhere to be found). Why am I going after something I could not find in the course of two trips? Because I did some internet searching (thanks Google!) and found out where they are hiding. The smores are in the food building at the stall that sells deep-fried Cola and Pop-tarts, even though by my recollection I saw no such thing on the menu. But it was in an interview with the stall owner, so how could it possibly be wrong?! Obviously I cannot subsist simply on deep-fried dessert and still feeling sick, I doubt I will go for the Krispy Kreme burger. So what is left? Haggis pies from the British food stall. Because we all know how delicious (!!) British cuisine is. I figure it is going to be a long, long time before I manage to make my way across the ocean to try some real proper haggis (and for that matter, a deep-fried Mars bar, but on that I can hold out) I may as well try it. That, or a foot long hot dog. But the foot long I would like to eat at Coney Island and a New York trip is more likely to happen sooner than the UK one.

Having now made myself really hungry, I am going to go eat more cold pizza while moaning about the fact that Thank God the CNE only comes once a year. Maybe I will call them and ask about the nanaimos? This isn’t over.

 

More Diabetic Coma?

This here is a third of a 1lb Reese Cup. That behind it? An oversized mug. Just look at the plate for proportions. I got a fifth of the way through it before throwing in the towel. Attempted to eat another sliver of it today and succeeded, but I have to leave room for deep-fried goodness to be had at the CNE tonight, as well as pizza-on-a-stick. This is my Everest. My delicious, delicious, Everest.

 
 

Mother Knows Best

Saturday seems to slowly be turning into a regular fooding affair. I walk the almost 2hrs to Brent’s house and arrive famished, and we head out for food. Last Saturday it was decided that we would go for the best Chinese food and follow it up with best macaron for dessert. So off we went, in the last of the summer heat, to Mother’s Dumplings for lunch. Mother’s Dumplings is located in the heart of Chinatown on Spadina Ave., so it was not a very long walk. The restaurant was much larger than I had been told, and luckily we were promptly seated. We had anticipated the place being packed and having to get our food to go. Which would’ve been a hilarious sight to see, the both of us trying to eat noodles and dumplings while maneuvering crowded city streets.

We decided to split an order of 10 steamed pork & chive dumplings as well as an order of da-lu noodles (going on Brent’s co-workers recommendation). Even still, it was a lot of food. The noodles actually came in a soup (I had thought we were just getting a plate of noodles, which is fine by me, I love noodles, they are wildly underrated)… in a giant bowl! We were each given a smaller bowl to eat out of, and eat I did. I ate 3 bowls of noodles. It was that good. Then on the 3rd bowl I followed Brent and added some rooster hot sauce (I say rooster, because there is a rooster on the bottle) which made it all the better, as if that was even possible. Alas, I still needed room for the dumplings whihc had arrived by my 2nd bowl, just enough time for them to cool to non-burning-my-mouth temperature. Aw man, those dumplings! I have never really liked dumplings, and I absolutely HATE chives so things were not looking too good, but I promised I would try. Best dumplings I have ever had. I actually LIKE dumplings now! It was a lot of fun trying to pick them up with chopsticks, which I eventually succeeded in doing. Nevermind the fact that the first time I just stabbed the dumpling with one chopstick and only made it look like I had in fact managed to pick it up.

What is great about Mother’s Dumplings is that you can actually watch them making the dumplings. They make them right there in front of you, rather than somewhere in the back where you can never be sure if it is just frozen prepackaged mass-manufactured ones. You can definetly taste the difference. The first I tried dumplings they were frozen ones from the grocery store. Needless to say, they gave me a stomachache and soured my views on dumplings. Thankfully that has all come undone now. I have now made myself crave them. Dammit. I am nowhere near downtown as of this writing.

  

Anywhos…

Satiated and full of delicious food, we slowly made our way down to Queen Street in search of dessert. Dessert was not just going to be any old run-of-the-mill sweets, oh no. I had my sights set on something delicious and lavishly fancy from Nadege Patisserie. A french macaron. Not a macaroon. There is no coconut in these delicate french desserts. Macarons are meringues with cream sandwiched in the middle, a sort of super fancy cookie that is delicate and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The flavours we had: chocolate, cappuccino, cassis, and chocolate-orange.

We started with the cassis (kind of like black currant flavour), passing it back and forth taking little nibbles. Brent made a face, he did not care for the tart flavour. I did like it. When I bit in, I was expecting it to be tooth-achingly sweet, just like the meringues of my childhood, just one and you were halfway to a diabetic coma (it was awesome) but the tartness was a nice surprise. Next was the chocolate, Brent’s favourite. It was one of the best, all the flavour of chocolate without the rich heaviness (and eventual stomachache, a common theme in my life it seems). The cappuccino was my favourite. It was like eating a cup of coffee, and Brent’s lack of coffee love of course showed, he made yet another face. I did not have high hopes with regard to the chocolate-orange. I usually hate orange flavoured stuff (except for IKEA ginger-orange cookies) and even moreso when it is chocolate-orange. Thankfully the orange was subtle and not overpowering, it was just a hint, just enough to give it a zing, no more. The chocolate in Nadege’s macarons is rich and dark, it has a very strong cocoa flavour so it is not ungodly sweet.

Admittedly, this was the first time I had ever tried macarons, so of course they were the best. But this isn’t over. I am going to go out and find some more. I also am returning to Nadege to try their marshmallows, voted also best in the city (except this time by Toronto Life).

NOTE: I cannot believe the word “fooding” has an entry on Wikipedia.

 

Anything With Butter Has To Be Good…

If you know me, you will know I claim to love Indian food. If you know me really well, you will also know that what that really means is that I love butter chicken first and foremost. It’s not entirely my fault, Fabio introduced me to Indian food by making me try butter chicken and now that is my go-to dish. Actually it is most everyone’s go-to Indian dish according to BlogTO. In my defense, I have tried the other dishes on offer whenever I go to my favourite Indian buffet (India Palace on Queen Street), yet I always go back to the butter chicken.

After karaoke we were hungry, singing loudly and dancing poorly will do that to a person. We went to Banjara for the a late dinner. Given it was voted best butter chicken in the city, me and Brent split an order of it and some naan bread on the side. It was nice to have the option of choosing between spicy and not spicy. Feeling adventurous, I agreed to spicy. And it was awesome. Until it made my raw sore throat burn. I teared up and could not physically speak, I could only let out hoarse weak noises. I had to down a lot of water, but then I was fine. I could resume binging. The butter chicken sauce was creamy and very flavourful. The spiciness really enhanced the flavour as well, the flavour being curry. There could’ve been some more chicken pieces in it, but who am I to complain? I got to take the sauce home and got to eat it with crackers for a late morning snack and with bits of pita for lunch. It is just as good cold the next day.

They serve it to you in a bowl with a spoon and you are given an empty plate to put your naan on and then scoop the butter chicken on to it. Eating it with a fork and knife proved to be a futile attempt and we all ended up eating with our hands. Ripping off pieces of naan and using them to scoop up sauce and hold pieces of chicken proved to be the best way to go about eating the meal. The service was great, really fast and friendly. The restaurant was closing as we finished and they did not even try to hurry us out or stand around impatiently waiting for us. It took us a good 10 minutes at least to even realize that they were closing, and it was only because  we noticed that we were the only ones left.

The portions served were also pretty large making for a well-priced meal.

 

2nd Best Featuring… The 2nd Worst?!

Doozy of a title, and what it refers to: we went out to the 2nd best karaoke place, XO Karaoke (Bloor & Clinton, near Christie Pits Park & subway) in Toronto and I just happen to be the 2nd worst singer of all time (I do rank myself above the noise of a trash compactor). The reason we did not go to the best is because we wanted to have a private room where we could sing our hearts out. The first best is at the Gladstone, in front of a crowd. I might sound better than a trash compactor, but not by much.

Me, Brent and Camilla were waiting around for Lucy and Alex, so we went to Honest Ed’s for some soda. They got there before we got back, so we had them book a room and start singing while we made our way back. As we went down the hallway we could hear them singing. These rooms were not soundproof! That did not hold us back though (as is evidenced by the fact that I am hoarse and sound like an old man today, constantly clearing my throat is also not helping much). Once we got the hang of how to work the machine, and we stopped ending up in submenus of songs we could not read the titles of, things really got going. We cranked out an amazing rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Five people, two guys, three girls, singing their hearts out, trying to get all the high notes. Not to mention some amazing air guitar action during the musical interludes. Needless to say, some people walked by on their way to their room and could not help but laugh at us (there is a small door in the window, so they not only got an earful, but some visuals to go with it). When we figured out how to queue up songs by entering codes from the binder, things really got underway… or came undone. Madness ensued with a high-pitched squeaky (some would say helium inspired) rendition of Aqua’s Barbie Girl. And karaoke is not karaoke if Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing is not sung. Or yelled at some points. I may have lost sight of singing towards the end, yelling in a deep voice the words to Bon Jovi’s It’s My Life. It was worth it. We even attempted a Spanish song, it was hilarious. The only part we got right was the chorus, oi oi oi.

Luckily we did not get kicked out. And it was so cheap! A small room (max 5 people) goes for $20/hr but from the website you can also print off a coupon from 10-20% off (depending on the day of the week). So we basically each paid $8, money well spent for that much entertainment. Needless to say, we will be back. Speaking of, some of the songs do not come in karaoke version (with the words) one of which was Backstreet’s Back and embarrassingly (or not, depends how you look at it) we managed to sing the entire thing from memory. Now that we know how to queue up songs, this might just be a regular thing.

Did I mention that you sing in the dark under black lights? Also, they sell beer there. We found out too late though.

NOTE: I am dying here laughing. What would’ve happened had we stayed for a third hour?! MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This was another one we had wanted to sing but ran out of time. Lady Gaga’s Poker Face was hilarious because when it said stuff in brackets such as (dance) we would just scream DANCE. Also some of the songs don’t have the original video, for The Clash’s Should I Stay Or Should I Go it was just random footage of non-descript buildings and some cars driving by.

This has been the most musical post I have yet to write.

 
 
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