Monday, December 19, 2011

THE CEILI COTTAGE...The Irish Pub that feels like - well, the cottage!

I do love my Ceili Cottage. True, it is located right in my new adopted neighbourhood of Leslieville, but regardless, it is as unpretientious and comforting as it gets - same goes with the ambiance and food.

Let me get right to the food here (really what my focus is on ha) and allow me to be a slightly biased here... and promote my favorite dish on the menu which is a  must try (and there are several other yummy choices). What I am talking about is the mixed mushroom and blue cheese on toast platter. In front of you lies a beautiful and generous assortment of mushrooms (shitake, oyster etc) which fully covers 2 fresh slices of house toasted bread.  The whole arrangement is topped with a generous portion of blue cheese. Needless the say the combination is magic. There are wicked oyster plates of course - one of their specialties. They shuck each oyster right there in front of you, grate some fresh horseradish, and provide you with 3 very different but all very tasty homemade sauces (see pic below)

Numerous and unique beers are also available on tap. And, best of all, the atmosphere is like nowhere else in the city. You literally feel like you've just entered a friend's small cottage. Cider, local beer, as well as various private imports are on tap. In terms of wine (yes some of us are just not beer drinkers) these guys have a a good selection for a pub, at different price points, including affordable wines by the glass, for example a tasty pinot grigio & reisling for only $6.50!

Each day serves up new food specials on their blackboard - around 10 bucks for the main...very affordable! These include curries, and burgers, depending on the day of the week (check website for daily specials). They also serve a wicked bowl of mussles and homecooked mac and cheese (see picture or me below endulging lol)
The service is also stellar - enough personality here to keep you entertained all night! For example, just start a convo with Kyle - you'll know whaat I mean. (He always makes fun of me for being

So forget the Fox, Firkin, Fiddle or any other of those Toronto conventional and indistinguishable bar chains we find at every second corner in this city. This place brings you back in time to what a pub was traditionally all about - good drink, fare, and company in an unprentious setting. Besides, what other bar in this city holds a skating rink in the winter and patio in the summer in the same space! So make your way out to the east and visit this gem...

Fully enjoying the mussles and homemade mac and cheese!

Bartender Kyle oyster shucking away some Maritime oysters

Half dozen maritime oyster plate..with all the fixins: fresh horseradish and 3 homemade sauces

The Ceili Cottage
1301 Queen Street East, (just east of Leslie Street)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mom visits me in Toronto. a 4 day culinary adventure alright! Stay tuned for reviews/pics of it all!

In celebration of my mom (the equally as excited.. and pick foodie as I) coming to visit me from Montreal, I've got all sorts of cool dining experiences planned for us. I will be blogging some short reviews of each one. Lots of surprises along the way. Let's see if I, and my little blackberry camera can keep up with the hustle and bustle of the days to come! Included will be some thoughts from both mother and daughter, as we both don't always agree on the same things, yet both are very vocal on our opinions! Should be exciting! Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ruby word...AMAZING!

Last weekend I had the delightful fortune of being invited out by a couple of dear friends to one of Toronto’s most well known restaurants – and boasting one of Canada’s top chefs - Lyne Crawford, who I was lucky enough to meet. She incidentaly also happens to be just as cool and friendly on a full house packed night as she appears to be on her food network tv show. She was always out there, even clearing tables and making sure all the clients had everything they needed. This to me is the true sign of a passionate and dedicated chef.

Our “reservations” were for 9pm, and although we didn’t get seated until 10:30 pm, I must note there had been a miscommunication between the reserver (Murray - yes that's you) and the restaurant. Regardless, all was good. We were well taken care of while we waited. We decided to take this time to chat over one of their cocktails, which made me discover their very impressive drink menu. The 3 of us opted for the safe but always wise choice – the oh so classic cosmos!  Those who know me know I love my cosmos when they’re well done (no lime cordial nono...) And these were definitely top notch – only fresh ingredients in this one!

Chillin' waiting for our table over a round of cosmos

As we were seated at a corner section of the very cute rustic looking bar, we were greeted by our waiter with the most delicious basket of homemade biscuits. We were all so famished at this point that we asked for a double portion..and were granted that wish. Those definitely hit the spot before the feast to come.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the very unique menu formula at Ruby Watchco, well there is no real menu per-se. It is a prix-fix menu meaning we are all eating the same thing -  4 courses to be exact, which change every day but the format remains the same – 1 appetizer  (usually a type of salad), 1 main dish with it’s sides, a cheese plate, and a homemade desert. The idea Chef Crawford was going for was as if we were being invited into her home where she would serve us a homecooked meal. Even the courses are brought to your table family style, in a communal cast iron dish where we pick serve our portions our. And, since each day boasts only 1 menu, you are assured that the items were very carefully picked, all the attention is being focused onto the choice at hand, and in turn we are treated to the best of the best. Not to mention this takes away from the hastle (at least for me) of debating with what may be the best choice on the menu.  Now I know that choice is made for me it! I just know I’m coming in and will be served a top notch homecooked meals by those who are passionate about food and want to share their night’s creation with us. to my glass of red wine of course ;)

The menu started off with one of the tastiest and freshest salads I have had in a long time -  Marinated eggplant and couscous salad. This salad was loaded with all sorts of fresh greens, herbs and lightly (key for success) tossed in a simple dill dressing. The flavours were very straightforward and complementary and nothing overpowered anything else – which to me, is a sign of successful salad.

Salad and homemade buscuits

Then came the main attraction – the slow roasted beef sirloin with red wine jus with sides of mixed grilled vegetables as well as potatos and brisket. The meat was perfectly pink and tender. The portions brought to us were extremely generous.
Beef and it's sides..sorry couldn't wait to dig in before taking a pic

On to the 3rd cours - the cheese plate - simply put: It was great. I love to mix of a sharp cheese with something sweet and this dish offered just that. We each got a slice of eweda cru cheese with a yummy orange marmalade. But even more interesting, was the sweet crispy cracker it came on, almost boardering on a cookie. The perfect marriage of sweet & salty and soft and crunchy. I loved the contrasts in each bite.

At that point I was more than full...but I definitely wasn’t going to pass on the desert - the item on the menu which I had been eyeing from the moment we came it. It read crispin apple crumble with stracciatella ice cream. As soon as you mention apple crumble with ice cream I am sold! I am not a big desert person there is something about the combination of a slightly tart warm apple crisp with a cool sweet scoop of ice cream which just fancies my pallet.  Their version was perfectly executed. I also appreciated how the portion wasn’t enormous. It  was just right after our satisfying meal so we wouldn't feel like rolling out of the restaurant at the end of the night – granted  I have to admit I was still pretty full by the end....But it was allll worth it!

Perfect Finish to the perfect meal

In a nutshell, Rubywatchco delivered above and beyond my expectations. I knew chef Lyne Crawford was an elite in her field but this dinner blew her out of the field! Now if only I can get my parents to come into town so I can share with them one of this city's finest dining experiences.

730 Queen Street East
(416) 465-0100

Sunday, March 20, 2011

LE ROSSIGNOL BISTRO...A new Leslieville gem?

OK so nobody loves supporting their local neighbourhood restaurants more than me. I live in Leslieville and believe we have some some of the best restaurants in the city here. Call me biased but I truly believe it's only going to get better. So of course I want to try all these places out and spread the word to all of you in order to get you guys over in this beautiful (and I think the best) neighbourhood of Toronto..So I thought I would try the relatively new Rossignol bistro on Queen east near Broadview. I work right near there so I have passed by this place many times. It took over the space of Pop bistro just a few months ago. When Pop was around, I was never too interested in trying it out as I felt it looked a little, how can i say, blaaaah. There just didn't seem to be any ambiance and the space was extremely small. But most of all, the menu didn't speak to me much. I also thought it seemed a little expensive for the type of restaurant and pretty basic choices. Albeit the new Rossignol hasn't changed much of the interior (still just plain white walls in a long and narrow space), the feel of it seemed more inviting, not to mention the menu looked a lot more interesting and moderately priced..

I don't usually go for pasta dishes at french restaurants but everytime I had walked by the place and stopped to glance at the menu I was super intrigued and by their housemade pasta dish. Described as escargot, mixed mushrooms and truffle tomato sauce, the combination of these ingredients which I love individually but have never had together, made me super intrigued at the possibilities of this marriage of flavours.  I'm still not  sure if the actual noodles are housemade or if they are just referring to the dish as a whole but either way, as undecisive as I am usually in restaurants there was no doubt as to what I was getting when I went there for supper with a friend last week.

 Neither of us were very hungry so we both just got a main, although gotta admit it was a tough decision since they had a frisee salad on the menu as an apetizer (poached egg in mixed greens with bacon and dijon dressing), one of my all-time favorite french salads. But I figured this particular pasta dish seemed like something I wouldn't be able to get anywhere else so I was ok with my 1 course meal for the night. My friend opted for the steak-frites. This was a nice thick piece of filet mignon made with  porcini jus and lemon aioli. Cooked perfectly to her liking, she thought it was one of the tastiest steaks she had had in a while. Her matchstick skinny fries were signature french and served in abundance.

filet mignon et frites....mmmm frites..

As for my pasta,  I think I may have built up my expectations a little too high, imagining all the great flavours that I know and love from escargots, mushrooms, and especially truffle would jump out in this perfect explosion of flavour. In the end what I got was a nicely presented bowl of perfectly al-dente linguini in marinara sauce (no sign of truffle flavour). The small pieces of snails an mushrooms mixed in were plentiful but I honestly had trouble distinguishing one from the other as they were the same size and colour. Perhaps this may say something about the lack of flavour..hmmm. It was perfectly fine, but can't say i ever distinctly tasted any of the ingredients, which for me, make up a superior dish. The portion was also a little small to my liking, especially for the price. From the picture below you can see the fresh parmesan on top actually covers most of the pasta itself. If i'd known, I totally wouldv'e gotten the frisee salad to start. Needless to say I ended up stealing quite a few of my friend's fries when I was done and she was still working on her steak...which I can't complain about cuz their were super tasty!

housemade de frites s'il vous plait 

I had a nice glass of Jamelles sauvignon blanc, which I was I was very happily surprised to find on the menu. This particular wine has always been one of my favorite innexpensive go-to wines in Montreal and I was actually disapointed to find out they don't carry it here at the LCBO. The wine list itself is pretty limited and mostly french, to be expected. But there are quite a few choices by the glass.  And best of all their bottles are priced for all budgets - one thing I have found is often not the case in Toronto, where restaurants frequently boast overpriced wine lists in comparison to the pricepoint of their food.

The service was very friendly, however quite slow, especially considering the place was practically empty and we each only ordered a single course. Perhaps they were spending all their time back there hand making each of my noodles..

As for the ambiance, it is indeed a little too quiet and bland to my liking. Saying that, I am someone who likes going to a restaurant that is going to take me away from the everyday, or the feel i could get sitting at home making my own meal. I like action, good lighting and originality. This place is very unassuming, the lighting is way too dim, and the long  narrow layout makes it feel a little confined;  perhaps more suited to a quiet evening for a couple who wants an affordable and straight forward french meal.

686 Queen Street East, Toronto | 416.461.9663

Monday, January 3, 2011

SPUNTINI - Italian Restaurant review

Hey everyone...
I know it's been a while since I've reviewed. I have been away for Christmas vacation with my family; more specifically on a glutinous, decadent cruise in  the Carribean. Yes I use those terms because I ate waaaay too many lobster tails, shimp, steaks, fresh well as my fair share of good wines and champagne had.. I know it sounds like I had quite  the spoiled experience but have to admit I am glad to be back to reality where I can enjoy delicious food but at a more moderate pace and amount. I realize, after this all you can eat type of service I had on the cruise, that sometimes smaller but more attentive portions make the plate more enjoyable and memorable. Not that I didn't love the food I was lucky enough to endulge in, but there is something about going to a great restaurant and being able to savour every scrumptious bite of a perfectly executed dish without getting full to excess.

So this is where I get to my next review. Spuntini's, an italian restaurant I frequented in Toronto a few weeks back. I had the honor of going with my parents as well as 2 of my best friends. And there is nothling like sharing a great meal with loved ones! So word to the wise, save your best outings for those who matter most!

I have to speak about the delicious octupus dish I got as an antipasto - ok I get that not everyone is a fan of octopus (probably because of its very distinct shape and texture) but it was grilled to perfection - a la Moroccan. Very simple but fresh, and the portion was just right to not fill me up for the following courses.

Polpo alla Griglia (octopus)

And yes I say courses because we got one of their famous mozza-mozza- mozzarella plates to share for the table. We opted for the Burrata which consisted of one on my faves - speck - a smoked prusciutto - along with buffalo mozarella and lightly dressed arugula. All so fresh and delicious.


As for mains, my mom and I both got one of my favorites (if not MY favorite) in Italian restaurants - seafood pasta. There is something about morsels of seafood in a light sauce (either white wine or marinara) and linguini together that makes the perfect match (also see my previous review of Biff's Bistro's memorable bouillabaise). I don't usually get pasta at restaurants but when go to a nice Italian restaurant that serves this dish I will endulge!

Now don't get me wrong, it was good, however not the best I have had - I have to admit I have had this dish at over a dozen different places so I am pretty picky. However remember at this point I have already had my octopus, smoked prosciutto, plenty of cheese, and my share of bread, so stomach may have already been giving me the signal that it was time to call it a night on the food lol! But it was still a nice plate with large pieces of calamari, scallops and shrimp. The main criticism I would give was the ratio or pasta to seafood was too large - as usually I prefer more of the meaty stuff and not too much pasta. As well the tomato sauce could have had a little more flavour. Regardless, I came out of my meal a very happy, and satisfied girl.

So to finish off, I love getting more smaller plates. My 2 first courses of the night were unfortgettable. The atmosphere was vibrant. Again, I can't stress this enough, I love when restaurants line the walls with wine bottles. It gives it such a warm feel. Another winning aspect was our waiter. We were treated like queens and king (my father being the brave lone male at a table of hungry women). Our family tends to be quite inquisitive and picky so kudos to our waiter for knowing everything on his menu inside and out. There is nothing worse that asking a waiter questions about items on the menu and them not knowing anything about them..

Spuntini's is a great date night spot, as well as makes for a nice family get-together. (again - open on sundays! - always a plus) Definitely make a reservation as it tends to fill up, especially on weekends.

Eat well! and savour each and every bite :)

116 Avenue Road
Toronto, ON M5R 2H4
(416) 962-1110

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review of Mengrei Thai with my gals

So this weekend it was my school girls' last weekend before they all went off to their respective parts of the planet to continue their lives after we all completed Nutrition school together. Yes it was a sad weekend of farewells but it all cullminated with a delicious comfort meal of Thai food at a very quaint but busy restaurant tucked on an Ontario street corner. The restaurant doubles as a cooking school so the chef and assistants certainly know what they are doing as they educate on the art of cooking all day.

The decor is very cute as the walls are made up of exposed brick and paintings line the walls. Very clean, simple but cute. The only awkward part is that the place is divided into 3 separate rooms. 1 small room in the middle as you walk in from outside then the 2 main dining rooms at either side. I always like the more open concept type space but all in all it is a pleasant atmosphere.
As for the food, my friend and I shared the fresh cold vegetarian spring rolls to start. Filled with tofu, mango, carrots and hoisin sauce, it was light and refreshing - perfect to start the meal off.

Next the 3 of us had 3 of their top dishes. I had the green curry with shrimp. My friends had the red curry with tofu and the pad thai respectively. These were 3 of the most highly recommended dishes from both my friend who had been there before and the waiter. Both curries were delicious with the green version being slightly more spicey than the red. My stomach doesn't do too well with spicey but the steamed rice I added to the mix tamed the heat down considerably making it much more enjoyable and worry free! Large morsels of shrimp swam in the flavourful broth, finished with all sorts of veges.

                                                                Red curry

All in all the food was delish. One thing I would recommend to all my foodies wanting to dine there is to speficy in you reservation (and yes you should reserve as it gets packed) that you would like to sit  in one of the 2 main dining rooms and not the lonely bar area which we were designated to since we hadn't specified..

Also, the service was a little on the slow side, although we realized we had been assigned to the 2 new employees who had apparently only been there for 2 days so who knows if they had made a mistake in the ordering....and maybe another reason why they assigned them to the small empty room were were sitting in. However, all the waiters and manager alike were very welcoming, sweet and attentive, which made up for the long wait...Buuuut of course I couldn't help but do my usual get up and ask the waiting staff if our food had been forgotten (as if they had literally lost our orders..what happens when you're desperately hungry haha)

Mengrei Thai
82 Ontario Street