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Renka

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  1. Chiming in with JenC on this one: multiple time. I'll be bold and state that I enjoy the plates at the Hoof Café slightly more than those served at the Black Hoof. (Don't throw stones at me please!) Here's another point of view in case JenC's wonderful posts don't have you salivating enough. Hoof Café 1 Hoof Café 2 Hoof Café 3 Hoof Café 4 (coming up) I swear I do eat at other places. I will confess that all my experiences were only at Brunch. The fare served at midday is worth the effort of trekking out to Trinity Bellwoods on a weekend morning (some courses more than others). It makes me sad to note that they are no longer serving "Mike's pasta" which was the highlight of my meals, but that's easily comforted with a plate of pig tails & grits. One caveat, there is quite a juxtaposition of mild savouries (beautifully prepared) with tooth aching sweetness. I don't have that big of a sweet tooth so I find much of the syrup/reductions cloying. Thankfully there's not enough present to drown the rest of the dish (of the i.e. pancakes, french toast, crepes). On weekends they offer (limited supply) the bone marrow doughnuts. Often I've missed out, but finally encountered them 2 weeks ago. If you like cake doughnuts (and those the size of a thumb nail) you might enjoy them. They come fresh from the fryer, and as such, the bone marrow center melts creating a wet interior (crumb). It's not really my thing (wet doughnuts), although I know some people who like to dunk their doughnuts in their coffee.
  2. I'll join in with the crowd. Schwa was a tough reservation to land and it was well worth it (especially as an out of towner). I enjoyed the entire experience (more at the link), the laid back atmosphere, "service" and of course, the food. On that same trip, I also had a great brunch at Publican and lunch at Blackbird (more so than dinner at L2o). You might have returned from your trip before I would have these all posted. Hot Doug's has a few winners (cherry-apple pork!), but I'd advise you to head there early (even when it opens) as the lines were incredible (even before it opened! It was also a rainy day.). I didn't think the duck fat fries were worth a special trip (but we were there on a Friday anyway, so we ordered them) so if you can't make it on the Fri or Sat, it's not a huge loss. (On the other hand, if they served horse fat fries...) If you want to take a glance at what's at Graham Elliot, or what you're passing up at Moto (old), you are more than welcome to visit my collection of Chicago Dining (including past visits to Alinea, Avenues (when GEB was still heading the kitchen). If you could take a trip out of town, I'd encourage a visit to Vie.
  3. Renka

    Guu is open!

    Actaully Guu Izakaya Toronto is more like Vancouver's Guu with Garlic. Personal preference from all of the five "varieties" in Vancouver is the one original one on Thurlow, but as noted in the link above, I was told with time (and as patron palates are more receptive to the flavours and fare), we may be able to see other traditional courses. The spot has been packed since the opening. Notice the difference from the days before to the night of the soft opening (from the seat beside jenc), to two consecutive Sat since (photos to come). Thankfully Toronto seems to love Guu (hopefully translating to longevity). Perhaps those "traditional" dishes will come sooner than later. One more thing: while it's not in the pieces above, the manager had noted (in one of the interviews) that the fish is sourced from BC (as ironic as it is to get Atlantic salmon from the west coast; although Ogasawara did have a valid point - it's farmed anyway). Reason? Consistency and reliability in product. Makes sense as they can order the items in volumes out west. John, if you're ever in this part of the country, at least you know you have another spot to dine at.
  4. For Christmas this year, I decided to make cookie packages based on the theme of nostalgia. I baked all the items below and packaged them into gift boxes (cookies stacked in liners, separately packed) or food-safe flat bottom gift bags. Some of the recipes for the items below can be found at their respective links. Old-Fashioned Christmas Butter Cookies from Gourmet's website. Brown Sugar Ginger Crisps from Gourmet's website. Swedish Ginger Thins from Gourmet's website. Spritz Cookies. Martha Stewart's Chewy Molasses-Spice Cookies. Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies from Pichet Ong's The Sweet Spot. Brandy Balls based on Gourmet's Bourbon Balls. Palets de Dames based on the recipe from Gourmet's website. And the non-cookie: Maple Sugar Cashew Chocolate Cupcakes. Christmas packages from previous years can be found in the following links: 2007, 2006, 2005
  5. GC: I didn't know Pangaea served brunch. What's the menu like? Any special breakfast pastries? phoenikia: I'd love to try MoRoCo, but fear that it might be like kryptonite to me (re: my cocoa allergies). Years ago paid a visit to Death By Chocolate in Vancouver (a friend wanted cake, I just had a tea), and I learnt my lesson. Near death (well not quite, but quite sick) by chocolate, indeed! Walking into a cocoa filled shop and even having a glass of water (cross contamination) is probably not the smartest thing. Just sitting there and being "company" and not being able to sample any of the delicious looking fare would be torture. Oh, I was also going to suggest Mildred's Temple Kitchen but didn't know if they served brunch on Saturdays (I know for sure Sundays). I also know I'll be trying to head over to School Bakery and Café to try their wares. Again, I don't know if they have brunch on Saturdays (in regards to your thread's request).
  6. phoenikia, I agree that there are too many mediocre places around town serving brunch. And even though this link leads you to many Sunday brunches, a number of those restaurants might also serve it on Saturdays. In regards to some of the better places I've had non-Sunday brunches (which are, I'd admit, few): I'd happily return to Celestin for its brunch (which I enjoyed, foodwise, more than a recent dinner I had there). Mitzi's Sister has a small but pretty decent menu (I'd happily return even at that wobbly table), but if there's no room or if you wake up later, why not try Easy Restaurant (brunch everyday of the week!)? Of course there's always dim sum for brunch (if you'd like to include that).
  7. Another photo based addition to this thread (although from a meal in June). More can be found in this photoset. My impressions: The visit to The Square was what I would traditionally associate with a fine dining restaurant – it was both classic and European. From the modern and clean lines, neutral colour palette, open and bright space, courteous and bow-tied (!!so cute!!) waitstaff, every moment of my meal in this business (and male) centric lunch spot (I wonder how it is at night) was pleasant. The staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and professional, well versed with the menu (it's always refreshing to find restaurants where the servers know the menu inside and out – something that I noticed at most of the restaurants I've visited in Europe) and were very open and honest with menu suggestions. Let me rephrase, open, honest and diplomatic with suggestions. I will not forget this the next time the word "classic" is used to describe a dish, it might mean, as I discovered with the Brillat-Savarin cheesecake, good but pedestrian. Besides the accommodating and attentive nature of the staff (i.e. the direction of the cheese cart towards my camera's lens), I was even impressed with the bussers whom I observed taking meticulous care in performing their duties. Food wise, presentation was clean and refined. Ingredients used were top notch. Although I didn't stray from the conservative classics to try more adventurous fare, I don't think that it can be argued that the food, service, and ambiance of chef and co-owner Philip Howard could be labeled as safe, classic, modern and appealing. It was and is a lovely spot for business meetings, or more formal (i.e. meeting the in laws) types of gatherings, but I would consider it a little cold for visits of a personal nature. And now... the food. Warm Salad of Guinea Fowl with Violet Artichokes, Grilled Spring Onions, Girolles, Pea Shoots and Almonds Sauté of Scottish Langoustine Tails with Parmesan Gnocchi and an Emulsion of Potato and Truffles (£5.00 Supplement) Slow Cooked Icelandic Cod with Crushed New Potatoes, Langoustine Claws, Parsley and Lemon Herb Crusted Saddle of Lamb with Shallot Purée, Rosemary and Garlic One word: Gorgeous. Description: like butter. Brillat-Savarin Cheesecake with Strawberry, Elderflower and Champagne
  8. Both an update to this thread and a tardy addition to this forum from a meal had this past June. I took the advice/interest of a well traveled diner (unfortunately he hadn't tried Locanda Locatelli, but his interest got me hooked) and tried to get a reservation (the one month to the date policy worked against me as I called from a couple different lines, one being on hold for a while at 5am in the morning... only to find out it was a public holiday for those in London from the "reservation cancellation line." Hmphr!). My impressions: Sleek, darken, spacious but crowded dining room is filled with friendly, attentive and knowledgeable staff that give ample attention to each table and provide smooth service. The dining room is friendly to the after work crowd or friends gathering over a bottle of wine who wish to dig into some hearty food. Some may find it intimate enough of a setting to bring a date, although both parties would have to pardon the boisterous nature of the rest of the room (it is indeed dim, but I would find it difficult to call it romantic). Food wise, Locanda Locatelli transports me back to the glorious week I had spent in Italy (back in 2007), where I wined and mainly dined happily on simply prepared top notch ingredients. Portions were ample at Locanda Locatelli, a good thing to note as the meal itself was not inexpensive. Presentation was simple, nothing lavish nor grandiose, making it easy to dig into the dish without the guilty feeling that usually comes with defacing a kitchen artist's palette. Overall, the experience was decent, albeit above average, and would have probably ranked higher in my memories had I not had a notable number of outstanding meals (in food, service or a combination of both) that outshone this fine establishment. And of course there are pictures (more images and descriptions can be found in this photoset. Apologies for the grainy photographs - the low light wasn't too friendly to my point & shoot): A dream come true for *this* bread lover. Insalata di piedino di vitello, mostarda di Cremona Of course, we've got to have truffles (unfortunately the truffles were only present in name only): Gnocchi di patate, robiolina di capra e tartufo nero Of the three mains, the roasted Dover sole was enough to feed a family (Sogliola arrosto, Macedonia di vegetali): And even if the presentation was lacking in many of the courses, it was made up for in the desserts. Mousse di tè verge, pan di spagna al pistachio, mela verde e sorbetto di prosecco Degustazione di cioccolato “Amedei” Selezione di gelati e sorbetti
  9. Here's my tardy post from a long lunch I experienced at RGR back in early June. If interested, images and notes dedicated to the rest of the courses can be found in this photoset The highlight of the meal was the Assiette de l’Aubergine and the flood of desserts associated with it. Here are a few representatives from the meal. Ravioli of lobster, langoustine and salmon Pan fried sea scallops from the Isle of Skye Caramelised Tarte Tatin & Granny Smith parfait Click on the link to see more.
  10. Just an update for those who might not have seen the news on Bacchus' website. The restaurant will be moving (aka closing until next year) and the last service at the current location (177 Hoxton Street) is Sat, Aug 9th, 2008. More about that and the relaunched Bacchus Pub & Kitchen in the current space can be found on their website: http://www.bacchus-restaurant.co.uk/ In the meantime, I also had the pleasure of visiting the restaurant and Chef Mendez's cooking back in early June (it was a highlight during my gastronomic tour of London). I've been tardy with the post, but it's all found in this photoset - impressions and all. Here's a small teaser for those who haven't been and can still reach the dining room before they close (until 2009 of course). Bread Selection Chef Bonus: Sweet Prawns, Seared Watermelon, Pistachios, Rosewater Foam and Milk Yuba Umami: Del Mar la Montagna – Memories of San Sebastian ... and the amazing Red Mullet Toast and Liquorice (I spoke to Chef Mendez about this afterwards, and he noted that he was trying to achieve a thin crispy skin like that of fried fish, but with the moist delicate flavour of a steamed poached fillet. I think he actually got that combination by the time it hit my plate ) Now I'm wishing I could drop by again...
  11. Renka

    Truffle salt

    Try some on fries! Last year I topped a batch of horse fat fries (now those are good) with truffle salt (it made sense at the time) and they were over the top delicious. In fact, two of the diners ran out to purchase their own truffle salt shortly after that meal.
  12. Thanks for your comments everyone. I don't know when I'll (want to) bake another 4000 cookies again. In case anyone was interested, this is what the packaged products looked like in the end: To see images of each of the 9 cookies, follow this link or click on the name below (most of them should look very familiar ): Pierre Hermé's Sables Florentins (has candied orange rind) Pichet Ong's Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies (the only item that doesn't contain any orange element) Spiced Sesame Orange Florentines with Roasted Cashews &Fleur de Sel Drizzled with 72% Chocolate Spiced Sesame Orange Florentines with Cashews & Fleur de Sel Orange Marmalade Filled Cookies with Orange White Chocolate Drizzle Orange Sugar Cookies Orange Sesame Tuiles Orange Melt-in-your-mouth Shortbread Bite-sized Puff Pastry Sandwiches Just in case it isn't already apparent, the bride loves the colour orange, so the cookies followed that theme.
  13. I'm finally done my big project for this Saturday. These were the cookies baked in the last couple days. I think I'm crazy enough to admit that those late nights and many long hours were kind of fun. Orange Sugar Cookies Orange Sesame Tuiles Orange Melt-in-your-mouth Shortbread Bite-sized Puff Pastry Sandwiches with Seville orange marmalade 4000+ cookies later (mainly with an orange theme - 9 different cookies) the only thing left is gift package assembly. Each bag will have 1 dozen cookies (yes I made extras in case of accidents, etc. We all know where broken cookies go ) I really hope that the soon to be wed couple and their reception guests like them.
  14. Having just visited the restaurant shortly before gaf, my impressions of Vie were positive. Below are the courses I had the pleasure of being served, detailed descriptions of my impressions of each can be found in the Vie set on my Flickr site. Although not advertised, my dining companion and I were treated to a wonderful tasting menu sent out to us by Chef Virant (I also got the wine pairings) and his more than competent kitchen. Amuse: House smoked trout beignet, green garlic aioli First: Fried Lake Erie smelts, smoked paprika vinaigrette, pickled green tomatoes, picked herbs, local greens Wine: 04 Gramona, Cava, Gran Cuvée, Spain Second: Seared monkfish, meyer lemon, capers, Spanish white tuna, arugula and marinated Wisconsin carrots Wine: 06 Francis Blanchet, Cuvée Silice, Pouilly Fumé, Loire Valley, France Third: Seared au bon canard foie gras, pistachio macaroon, Sicilian pistachios, pickled Michigan peaches, Michigan berry preserves AND Third: Marinated au bon canard duck breast, rhubarb, candied walnuts, watercress, cracklings Wine: paired with a late harvest zinfandel (perhaps an 05 Seghesio, Old Vine Zinfandel, Sonoma County? - not sure) Fourth: Cable's rabbit two ways: braised leg and seared loin, spaetzle, peas, sorrel, whole grain mustard braising jus Wine: 04 Domaine de Montmeix, Meursault, Burgundy, France Fifth: Slagel farm pork combination, braised flageolets, City farm tatsoi, preserved tomato vinaigrette, house made artichoke caponata Wine: 06 Gypsy Dancer, Pinot Noir, Emily Ann, Chehalem Mt., Oregon Sixth: Yuzu sorbet Warm caramel gooey butter cake, almond chocolate chip ice cream, almond lace cookie, almond toffee square Molten chocolate cake, Tahitian vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, cocoa nib tuile Frangipane and dried door county cherry tart, Illinois chevre sabayon This was an off menu dessert that was paired with an aged sherry. Focusing on the season, artisanal foods, and local harvest, Chef Virant's Seasonal Contemporary American cuisine relies on a few, high-quality ingredients. Chef Virant’s use of house made preserved fruits and pickled vegetables reminds me of Toronto's Jamie Kennedy, but at a higher level – I was able to taste the bright and fresh flavours trapped in the produce, some of them still crisp and snappy, all of them delicious and pure. In the pickles, there was a wonderful balance of sweet and sour; the preserves, trapped summer sunshine. I was surprised to learn that this is attributed to using techniques from Christine Ferber, but in retrospect, I can see why my palate was wowed. The tasting menu my dining companion and I had that evening was delightful, each course a successful pairing of excellent ingredients with simple presentations. No fuss, just very good and well prepared food. The dining room was non-fussy; the ambiance relaxed, modern and friendly. Our head server Thierry provided both my dining companion and I with a great experience. Not only did he engage in conversation with us, help guide our meal with our requests to the chef and the delightful wine pairings (which resulted in my being a little tipsy by the last course), but he also ensured that we had an enjoyable evening. At a couple points during our meal, Chef Virant did pay our table a visit to both greet and introduce certain plates (i.e. my non-chocolate dessert). We found him very kind and amiable, and confess to developing a little chef crush (can I say that aloud?). Vie is an apt place for old friends with a taste for good food to gather, and a room I would return to on any special occasion to dine if it were not for its distance from Toronto.
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