Archive for July, 2008

I Went Out For A Picnic But Ended Up With Rilettes…

Yesterday was a mildly disappointing day…

You see, earlier in the week the Everyman and I decided that we were going to visit Pic Nic Wine Bar in Leslieville.  So like any properly prepared foodie, I googled Pic Nic first, and came upon a review by Toronto’s Martini Boys.  A review which quite prominently posted the restaurant’s hours, as well as  mentioning a weekend brunch menu.  The idea of a delicious mixed platter was enough for us, so off we went in search of vittles.

Flash forward to Leslieville and major annoyance.  We arrived at 1pm to find the restaurant closed, even though the hours posted in the review said it would be open at 10am.  I know, I know.  We should’ve called first.  But you kind of assume that when someone reviews a restaurant they have done at least a minimal amount of fact-checking first.  And so there was no Pic Nic to be had, much to our shared distress.  We were already in Leslieville, so we started looking around for other places we’d heard about that were supposed to be good.  Being both absolutely famished by this time, we knew we had to find someplace fast.  I already had something in mind, but wasn’t averse to seeing if there wasn’t something better first.  The Citizen?  Not after the lackluster meal we’d had at The RosebudBurger Shoppe?  Not for brunch.  Dangerous Dan’s?  Same.

So we walked along a bit to the place that was in the back of my mind; Gilead Cafe.  Jamie Kennedy’s latest foray into improving local food awareness.  The staff are quite friendly and the space is nice and bright with lots of natural light and floor length windows.  The walls are flanked by what now seems to be Jamie’s signature rows of preserved fruits and vegetables.  But how is the food, you say?

Well, the cafe is almost more like a cafeteria.  You place your order as you walk in and then go and find a table.  Once your order is ready someone calls you to the front counter to collect your food.  Which I suppose is okay if you’re trying to be casual, but if you want to charge me almost $10 for a poutine, I think you should at least serve it to me.  That being said, I’m sure you can surmise that I sampled a Jamie Kennedy poutine for lunch.  It had the requisite famous frites bathed in a jus-like gravy with shreds of braised beef and aged Quebec raw milk cheese.  It tasted fine; I don’t really think we’re reinventing the wheel here.  The Everyman chose a pulled pork sandwich with tatsoi and aged cheese which was nicely flavored but very messy.  But, from my limited experiences with pulled pork sandwiches I understand that is the way you want them to be.  For dessert we both inhaled our pain au chocolats.  Again, nothing groundbreaking about them, but definitely satisfying.

Before we left I stopped at the front counter to purchase a few odds and ends to take home with me for sampling.  In the deli case I noticed that Jamie Kennedy is now bottling his own mineral and sparkling water.  I vaguely remember reading something about this a few months ago (in Toronto Life perhaps?)  We took home some red fife sourdough (awesome, but anything made with red fife wheat is delicious), house-cured country ham (the Everyman loved this; smoky and amazing), two shards of Quebec aged cheese (can’t even pronounce the names but one is cheddar-like and the other more reminiscent of mozzarella), rilettes (too stringy), chicken liver pate (sumptuous!), a massive lemon tart (haven’t even gotten around to it yet), and a copy of his book (didn’t even know he’d published one ’til yesterday).  We assembled the various wares into a country plate for dinner last night, and were mostly satisfied with the outcome.  Let’s just say it was our attempt at the Pic Nic we so sorely missed.

It really pains me to say anything negative about Jamie Kennedy, because I have so often felt that we share the same principles around food, but I’m starting to feel like he’s become this local food corporation.  Don’t get me wrong, the man’s gotta eat and provide for himself and his family, but it’s almost becoming a bit too much.  I think seeing the bottled water with his name on it put me a bit over the edge.  That and the fact that the food overall wasn’t really anything fantastic; I mean the man’s been in the business for 20+ years at least and he’s most famous for his frites!  Which incidentally have a great deal to do with the reasoning behind me never visiting his Wine Bar.  I used to work in the area and would occasionally see things going on that made me uncomfortable with the prospect of dining there.  I guess I just don’t really care for this whole idea of chef-as-brand.  I mean, it’s fine to put out cookbooks where you can share your ideas and creativity with others (for a profit), but once you start getting into putting your name on actual things that’s where I tend to draw the line.  Take for example another famous Jamie, of the Oliver variety.  I loved him and his whole philosophy and energy up until the point he started hawking flavor shakers and T-Fal pans.  Why is it no longer enough to let the food do the talking for you?  Why must everyone now aspire to making over the world’s eaters in their image?  I don’t know… do you?

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Reviews On The Run – Summerlicious

I feel really fat right now.

But I don’t mean that in the girly-oh-woe-is-me kind of way.

I mean that in a literal, I feel like I’ve eaten pure fat kind of way.

You see, the Everyman and I have visited 3 restaurants for Summerlicious since Monday.  That’s a lot of eating out in a short period of time.  It’s a good thing I don’t do this for a day job yet, because I still have a long way to go before I can make it in the majors.  Don’t get me wrong, I usually eat one of my three daily meals outside of my own cooking, but it’s usually not a 3 course affair.

And simultaneously, the Everyman has been undergoing somewhat of a transformation right before my eyes.  When we first met I could tell that he liked good food, but he’s always had this underlying habit of “playing it safe”.  When we would go out to eat he’d be that guy who orders what I normally deem the unimaginative food; a steak, a burger, or club sandwich in more casual places.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with any of those foods (because I enjoy them too), but if you’re going to pay to go out, why not go as far away from something you could make yourself at home?

This week for Summerlicious, he started to do just that…

On Monday for lunch, we visited Arriba, which is a fusion restaurant that happens to be in the Renaissance Hotel (connected to the Skydome… I mean Rogers Center).  I didn’t realize that it was in the Rogers Center when I made the reservation, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have bothered.  I find that a lot of in-hotel restaurants usually tend to be lacking because they have to cater to the palettes of masses of travelers that come through their doors, i.e. dumbing it down culinarily.  But, the Summerlicious menu had intrigued me, so off we went.

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Neighbourhood Faves

There’s a lot of new food happening lately.

See, the Everyman and I moved about 8 months ago and we’ve been slowly but surely exploring our new digs, trying to find the best places to nosh and amazing hidden gems.  And for about as long as we’ve been together, we’ve been trying to find “our” place, the one that will be our neighborhood haunt for just hanging out.  I don’t know that we’ve found that special place just yet…

There are exactly 4 places that I was sad to move away from when we moved; Chico’s Pizza, Churrasco Villa, C-food (I can explain!) and The Cupcake Shoppe.

Chico’s Pizza made some of the best delivery pizza and wings in the city that don’t come from some form of chain, especially their Hawaiian.  The Everyman would salivate over their prosciutto pizza every single time we ordered it.

Churrasco Villa made amazing ribs and churrasco chicken with absolutely delicious roasted potatoes.  Oh how I miss those roasted potatoes…

C-Food was our go to staple for our weekend brunch, with their prix fixe menu and tapas-type portions.  The Everyman’s signature combo of banana bread, roasted tomato and frites was always entertaining on a Saturday morning.  I mostly miss the little specialty jams they would serve with the meal because jam is a food group to me.  Mmmm.  Jam!

And lastly, The Cupcake Shoppe because, well, it’s THE CUPCAKE SHOPPE – I don’t think this bears further explanation or analysis.

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