I am not a huge fan of breakfast sandwiches. I find they are usually too big and unruly and eggs, I am still kind of meh on eggs overall (except in cakes). But the sandwiches at Egg Bae looked pretty good. I definitely approved of the cheese. I was a bit confused as to what “soft scrambled” meant. Did that mean there would be egg yolk running with every bite?? We ordered one Egg Bae (could be argued it’s the original?) and one Bae Sic. I was not a fan of the second one, the pork belly sausage just wasn’t to my liking. My sandwich was alright. It was a sloppy mess and hard to eat. The bun was good, the cheese was good, the sauce (what little I had of it) was good. As far as an egg breakfast sandwich goes, it was decent. BUT I was not a huge fan of breakfast egg sandwiches to begin with. And Egg Bae did not sway me (unlike Porchetta & Co., which is an epic egg sandwich and still the best in the city in my opinion). The hash brown was also good, given I don’t like hash browns, I almost liked this one. It reminded me of a potato pancake but breaded. Honestly, I would rather have had a potato pancake.
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It is kind of surprising that I had never eaten at Terroni. It is one of the few restaurants that I remember being part of the downtown Queen West walk and it has just always been there. It was on a list of top restaurants for Toronto tourists to eat at, and so ti was on my list of places to eat at. There was a 50-50 shot that Brent had eaten there for a business meeting. We opted for the Adelaide location as it was the most touristy and that was the one on my list. Before Brent got there I ordered a gin & tonic. I am really coming around on the drink when made right. It was nice because at Terroni you could choose the type of gin, type of tonic and the garnish. It is how I ended up with a rose gin and elderflower tonic garnished with a cherry. It was delicious. My only complaint is they gave me an entire small bottle of tonic, so the drink got watered down as I sipped and added tonic (who is going to drink tonic on its own?! Come on!).
So far so good. We ordered a charcuterie platter, the cheese and meat option. Brent ordered a salad. I was a little weary of the salad, this place seemed a little too not-fancy to do a tiny salad. Apparently this applied to the salumi as well. I have never in my life had this kind of experience: a giant, table-consuming, platter of meat and cheese and not one word of what was displayed. It was placed in silence. Be that as it may, the soft cheese was some of the best cheese I’ve ever had. No clue what it was though. It was way more food than we’d been expecting. This kind of worked out for the best.
Brent had ordered a pizza. It was delicious. So I ate some more. I was hungry. Why didn’t I eat my pasta dish you ask? It was terrrible. Godawful. Horrible. I was expecting tomato sauce and sliced sausage. Not dry-ish noodles and blobs of ground beef. A housemade spicy sausage sounds delicious. Ground beef not so much. The bites of pasta with mushroom were somewhat OK. But it was just so awful. What about the parmesan you ask? It was piled in a corner of the plate under everything. WHO DOES THAT?! Cheese goes on top! Given the quality I did not even want to touch what was probably just “parmesan” anyways.
This went down as one of our worst meals of all time. Which is too bad given the pizza was really good. What the f*ck?
Number 10 on Toronto Life’s Top 100 Restaurant was Quetzal. We had some idea of what to expect, as this was a new restaurant from the people behind Bar Isabel and and Bar Raval. I was a little bit hesitant, I was not impressed with Bar Isabel but I loved Bar Raval. As soon as I walked in I was wrapped in the smell of the giant woodfired oven in the open kitchen. This was going to be a good dinner. My outlook only improved after ordering a cactus-rose cider from 101 Cider House. I was torn between it and the rhubarb-infused gin feature cocktail. But that could be my second. Brent arrived soon after my drink and immediately pointed out the Revel cider I had missed at the bottom of the features menu. It looked like this was going to be a three-drink dinner. No complaints here (that is, until that night when I couldn’t sleep because my head was pounding).
Brent had his eye on three different starters: a chicken empanada, a citrus salad or something with a veggie in it. I had a very biased opinion on which he should get. I was worried though, the empanada sounded like it would be too much, but the waiter confirmed it was a fine starter. I couldn’t resist the wagyu beef skewers on the features menu. They were served together on one plate. It was the closest dish we had ever come to being a wow without being a wow. We did briefly debate if maybe it was a wow? But the fact that we had to debate it kind of answered our question. I was a fan of the beef skewers. So simple, just beef with a few large salt crystals- but so juicy and tender and just everything you want from a meat dish. The empanada with the smoked chicken, oh man it was so good. The cucumber in the salsa added a touch more but overall a great dish. The server had joked if we wanted any veggies, I just laughed. The sauces would count.
Brent ordered the steak, I had the red & green chorizos. We traded halfway. The chorizo was disappointing. The green one had a great seasoning but it kind of crumbled and fell apart as I was eating it and it was a bit dry. Both were. They greatly relied on the accompanying salsa. The steak was amazing, it came with the same salsa on the side but I preferred the chimichurri. I am a sucker for cilantro. The Revel cider was refreshing and borderline citrus-y but very light. It had something German in it starting with a G and going on for 12 letters. I had initially overlooked it because it just seemed like a beer item not a cider. Oops. The rhubarb cocktail won of all three, how could it not? Even though I now blame the gin for my headache (this morning I had mistakenly blamed the cider).
In the end though it was a lot of meat. I needed some non-meat. Thank god for dessert menus. How do you say no to a spiced mexican chocolate sorbet with passionfruit and pink peppercorns? It turns out that when they say sorbet they meant mousse/pudding. The passionfruit was weird, it was mushy and did not go with the dish at all. I scooped it off the side making the dish much better.
Half the walk home was spent debating where into the rankings it would fit. The next day I went to put on the same dress and I found it smelling woodfired stove- not in a bad way.
Sat. July 6, 2019:
Again, I woke up before 9am and deemed it too early. I continued on until safely after 9am. At breakfast I was finally able to get my fresh-squeezed mango juice fix. (There are three hearts drawn in my book next to that sentence). The bacon was a little too chewy for my taste. Yesterday I had seen a fruit on offer that had a green rind and pink flesh. In trying to explain it to Alexis I inadvertently made a food of myself. It sounded like I was talking about a watermelon. I sent Camilla a picture but they didn’t respond in time so I had to bite it to figure out what it was. It was just a grapefruit. Less bitter than usual but still a grapefruit. I had a bite of Brent’s waffle, it was like biting into a waffle that was left to defrost. We had to go exchange more money after breakfast. The money Brent had exchanged the previous night was gone. He had messed up the room bookings and not gotten us a room for Saturday night. This was realized immediately after booking, a while ago. He booked the second room but forgot to include me on it so they made him pay that day. Trouble was, they wouldn’t bill it to the credit card used initially, we had to pay in cash. We had overestimated our budgets so luckily, we were not headed for another Austria situation.
Back in the room, Brent changed into his bathing suit and we headed down to the pool. I lounged on a chair, half-asleep, quarter-regretting I had not brought my iPod, and quarter-regretting not having brought two books. Afterwards he went to the bar to order us some poolside drinks. Mojito and rum & coke in hand, we set the record for earlier drink: 10:30am. The mojito wasn’t as good as yesterdays.
Because it was still early in the day, we decided to head out first to Hemingway’s house and then cab from there to Old Havana. It would save us a walk and leave the rest of the day free for Old Havana and family. The hotel concierge asked us where we were going. He explained that because it was further away and not in the city centre it would be hard to get a cab back. He suggested that the driver wait there for us and we agreed on a price. He then translated all this to the cabbie. It was a great system and quite frankly the airport should adopt it. It was so much easier. We had a quiet drive, not sure if the radio was broken or just off. I regretted (again) not bringing my iPod with me. The irony is that I had carried it around all day yesterday. And only last night did I unpack it thinking it unnecessary. It was stressful to see jaywalkers just stepping into the street, there was a moped just zigzagging between cars and cutting off a bus.
It was a nice-looking house, surrounded by greenery. The house was atop a hill and from the back you could look out over the trees and see Havana in the distance. The dining room had giant doors that opened onto the view. We could only peek into the house from three sides but we saw it all. We saw his typewriter, his war correspondent outfit, his alcohol bottles. There was a massive boar head above his desk and I imagined how intimidating it must be to write under such conditions. He even built himself a small tower, complete with telescope. The sign said that down the walkway there was a pool, cock-fighting ring and tennis courts. What it should have said is there’s Hemingway’s pool, his boat is where his tennis court used to be and there is not a trace (save for the sign) of the cock-fighting ring. It took us about 40 minutes to see everything. We had been told one hour. We went back to the map- did we miss something? Was there another museum building? We had missed the cock-fighting ring, as we turned back the lady asked for our tickets, we said we had already given them and amid the confusion she let us in. We backtracked, saw the sign and then left. It cost 1CUC to use the bathroom, except when I saw that the attendant had to go and pour a bucket of water into the toilet to flush it, I suddenly felt like it should really cost more than that. Brent had written down the cabby’s license plate and as we searched for it he asked me if I would recognize him. Of course not! I am bad with faces. Thankfully he recognized us.
Another quiet cab ride to Old Havana. He dropped us off near another entrance into Old Havana that was much more easily accessible to and from the Malecon. Yesterday we had to backtrack a bit and go down winding side streets because of construction. It did not help that the map kept losing signal. We walked over to Plaza des Armas to meet Camilla. Surely, on a Saturday they would have the second-hand book sale. Nope. I messaged her to instead meet us at Cafe Escorial, where I planned to buy Lucy some coffee and myself a tiny cup of coffee. By Plaza des Armas we saw the tiniest little kitten, it definitely had not been properly weaned and was so small and young and it just broke my heart, it should still have been with its mother. The only other animals around were three stray dogs. On the way we passed by cat park again and once again it was full, there were water bottles and bowls for the cats so at least they were somewhat taken care of. We got to the convent and still no word from Camilla. I remembered that there was a train car near there that had been used to transport an important person around the country (alas we could not go inside of it). So, we went to look at it and she met us there, while we hid out in the shade desperately drinking water.
I finally had my tiny cup of coffee and it made me so happy. It was so tiny I had to take a picture of it beside my camera for scale. It was a darker roast than I am used to and it was sprinkled with cinnamon. Camilla joined us for our mini-trip to the Presidential Palace, Adrian was still napping. On the way, Camilla pointed out Cafe Santo Domingo, saying it was one of the places her and Alexis liked going to. We had to make a pitstop. I needed a soda as well. The orange flavour of Ciego Monterro was not as good as the cola, it tasted like vitamin c tabs. Brent had the TropiCola which tasted less root-beery than TuKola and was better. We split a brownie (dry and more cake-like), chocolate covered donut (so good, soft & fresh), and a senorita (flaky pastry with nutty filling and a chocolate top akin to a napolonka). We came up to the Presidential Palace from the back and had to circle it to get to the entrance. The interior was beautiful with vaulted painted ceilings. It was also kind of starting to deteriorate, with painted chipping, which actually added to the beauty of it, the presence of time. The windows looked down over a horse statue on the lawn and you could see the ocean and the Malecon. In the distance we could hear thunder, it was not cars passing by as Brent kept insisting. We wandered through the exhibit out of order, by the time we realized it was too late to backtrack. I was more interested in the building itself than the Museum of Revolution part. It was interesting to see a museum exhibit done from a specific and biased point of view. It was also made very clear to me just how little I know about Cuba and its history.
There was more thunder and gathering crowds as we walked back to the convent. On the way we stopped into the $10-deodorant store (as Alexis had dubbed it) to see if they had any soda/water/beer for sale. Instead i got some nestle Bono chocolate cookies. I thought they were Cuban, nope they were from Paraguay. They were not good. Afterwards I remarked how cheap the rum was and how anxious I was about duty-free being open. Camilla mentioned having room in her luggage and offered to take a bottle for me. I nearly ran back to the store. I got a bottle of Havana Club Anejo Reserva for 8CUC (when I later looked it up, I was shocked at the LCBO price).
We went back to La Bogedita and squeezed past the crowd down a little hallway to the back of the bar where the restaurant was. There was almost no one back there. No sooner had we sat down and been given menus, the guy came back asking if we wanted mojitos. Yes please! It was so much better than the hotel one. They even printed the recipe on the menu! (I would later try making it home without the tools to muddle- it was awful!). The whole restaurant was covered in graffiti. It was funny to see near the top where only the tallest people could sign. The walls also had pictures of all the famous people who had visited. Periodically other tourists would pop in, but no one stayed, they just wanted pictures. The restaurant was known for the fried pork chunks but honestly the roast pork leg was way better. The cristianos and moros was also better than at the hotel. This time it had meat chunks in it. The fried root vegetables were also amazing.
The trouble was that we had just about finished our drinks by the time the food had arrived. No one asked our drink orders until the plates had been cleared. Brent tried to order a Cristal beer for himself and a Ron Collins for me. He asked for the bill at the same time which caused some confusion. The guy may have been asking if it was two beers, of course we assumed he was asking if it was two separate bills. He then said there was no Cristal, so Brent asked for any Cuban beer. He got a Carlsberg and I got nothing.
Instead we went back to the drink vendor. We had already visited him on our way to dinner to get some hotel drinks (2 beers for Brent, a lemon-lime Ciego Monterro for me). I needed more. I was dehydrated. We got a bottle of water and a pineapple Ciego Monterro. I felt better after and it was the best of the sodas so far. It tasted like candy. We had finished the giant bottle before we even met up with Camilla.
The coffee was in a flimsy paper bag in my purse, so of course it got a tear and spilled in my bag. Everything smelled like coffee, even more than the previous day. Thankfully I had an extra plastic bag in my purse. Walking back along the Malecon, all the fishermen were out in full force. I almost stepped on a fish that was flopping about, slowly dying, having probably jumped out of a bucket. Another man had caught a fish that was at least 2 feet tall (it was leaning against a wall, tail down). I was craving fresh-squeezed mango juice again and i was hoping the hotel might have some available in the cafe. They served it at breakfast so logically they should still have some kicking around all the time? Right? Nope. we did stock up on some more water. I could not believe how dehydrated I was. It goes without saying but still, i was shocked. It was frustrating that we couldn’t drink the tap water.
I showered and changed into my jammies once we were back in our room even though it was just after 6pm. I was tired, sweaty and still dehydrated. Now I was also getting a bit hungry, we’d had an early dinner. I got dressed again and went down to exchange some more money. The rum was so cheap, I needed to stock up at the airport. While I was “out” i also got us some more Mr. Potato chips, sour cream & onion flavour this time. I found them a bit off, they were like 85% of the way there to real Pringles but Brent was loving them- he’d had them before in the Philippines. When I was buying water from the cafe, I chanced on one of my most brilliant ideas yet: the cafe provided room service, which includes cocktails. I casually asked if I could order a cocktail and take it to my room, leaving the glass there for the cleaning staff to return. The guy did not seem to care, I don’t know if this was just a common request or he had no idea what I was saying. Either way, I was finally getting my Ron Collins (like a Tom Collins but rum instead of gin) fix. I came back into the room juggling all three, with a victorious smile on my face. IT WORKED I thought to myself smugly. I was a genius. The Ron Collins was so good, just lemon, sugar, soda water and rum. Between that and the chips, it really hit the spot. There was nothing on TV so I played Mario while Brent read. We had a relatively early bedtime anyways, seeing as we would be getting up at 4am to head to the airport.
It being a wine bar, it only made sense to have a glass of wine to start. Brent had a beer that was a collaboration between the restaurant and Burdock. We ordered the cod remoulade, the same dish we had ordered at La Banane because ti was in the 1001 Foods book. Sweetmotherofgod this one was a world of difference. It did not taste like a generic fishcake, it was so creamy and smooth. It was just shy of a blowaway dish. A good recovery after some meh bread and butter.
We ordered the rabbit and the sweetbreads dishes to split. The rabbit was only good when covered in sauce, otehrwise it was rather bland. The sweetbreads were far and away the winner. Three different times in three different styles, sweetbreads have been so good. It might be one of my new go-to’s. Nothing on the dessert menu caught our eye and we were kind of too full anyways. Not too full for a second glass of wine, this time a rose and Brent had a white wine. So we covered the gamut. Overall it was good but not blowaway (a few weeks later and I can’t remember, did we have two appetizers? am I forgetting one?).
It’s really hard to screw up something as basic as a hotdog. I had zero reservations or doubts about going to WVRST for the city’s best hotdog. It made total sense that they held the crown. Ok, I lied. You can screw it up, with ridiculous toppings. Not a problem at WVRST where the default is two. The max is 4. It’s all they have available. The hotdog gets bonus points for being wrapped in bacon. Really, that should just be the standard. Hotdog=hotdog wrapped in bacon. Throw in a glass of cider on the side with some duck fat fries? Pure heaven.
Having been to Franklin’s in Austin and to Adamson’s in Toronto, Cherry St BBQ was up against some stiff competition to win our hearts. I had seen it either on Instagram or on Toronto Life or BlogTO or some combination of those. (I really do have to start taking better notes). The walk down was pretty nice, it was starting to feel like summer, so much so we both got sunburns.
We ordered a half pound of brisket, half pound of pulled pork, 1/4 chicken and a side of baked beans. I was all for the beans, they were laced with brisket crispy ends. Surprisingly, the chicken was the clear winner. I was not a fan of the brisket (I don’t really like brisket that much as it is) and the pulled pork was a flop. My second place was the beans, Brent put the brisket above it. The chicken, oh man, it was some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. Crispy skin, the smoky BBQ flavour was infused right through the meat, even the bits I was picking off the bone. And so juicy! My only complaint was: where’s my side of white bread?! I desperately needed it as a palate cleanser and break from all the grease. I would alternate bites of everything but I really needed that spongey basic white bread.