I had been meaning to have Michelle Jobin over for a sip filled chat for some time. She popped over one afternoon in the middle of January to chat PR, television, food, drink and our fine city of Toronto. I met Michelle via twitter a few years ago as we both share a passion for Toronto’s dining scene. You may recognize her as Global Toronto’s Weather Girl so be sure to follow her on twitter for up to the minute announcements on approaching blizzards and the best new sushi spot in the city. An interesting dichotomy!
You won’t believe it but I actually bought this bottle of Weingut Stadt Krems when I first moved to Toronto three years ago. It has been sitting on my shelf for some time waiting for a perfect opportunity to pop. I chilled the bottle on the balcony all morning, Canadians and their ingenious winter freezing techniques!
Our bottle of Veltliner Lossterrassen is produced in Kremstal Austria. With a whiff we notice an impactful nose featuring apple, passion fruit, cinnamon, ginger and white flowers. Dry, round and mouth filling texture upfront with a focused acidity.
My obsession with cheese is well documented on the internet, in my everyday speech and late night snacking tendencies. Over the last three years I have nibbled my way through much fromage and have profiled almost 100 cheeses to date which can be found under Cheese Love.
I was recently thrilled to have the opportunity to join some of Toronto’s top Food Media at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for a special event showcasing the 2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winners. Sponsored and hosted every two years by Dairy Farmers of Canada, the Canadian Cheese Grand Prix celebrates the high quality, versatility and great taste of Canadian cheese made from 100% Canadian milk. In 2011 while I didn’t have a chance to attend the event as I had to work (that horrible 9-5 thing) I was sent a few samples and showcased my favourites in a Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Beer Tasting.
Shortly after 11am we gathered in the Bell Blue Room where we would spend two hours sampling through the years tops Canadian cheeses. Pursuing the menu I was happy to see some “familiar faces” as well as a few new cheeses I was obviously eager to sample and add to my repertoire.
Cheeses were offered up in three courses staring with soft and fresh, moving on to medium and slightly aged and finishing with robust blues and ancient cheddars. I sipped my way through several glasses of white wine (a perfect pallet cleanser) while nibbling on baguette and crisp grapes. My stand out favourites were the Ricotta from Ontario, Bleu d’Élizabeth from Quebec and Grizzly Gouda from Alberta. I would like to point out that before the humble ricotta was announced as best cheese in Canada (to some shock and awe from the crowd) I had returned to the table three times to scoop up the good stuff. I joked that I hoped the Ricotta won because it was so insanely addictive and delicious. Reminds me of the tale of David and Goliath, a lowly ricotta beating out the giants that have been carefully crafted and aged for years. The judges must have agreed with me as I let out a yelp when the Ricotta was announced Grand Champion. Goes to show that the finest cheese in our nation doesn’t have to be complicated or complex but truly showcase the terroir and fresh cream of our cattle.
This Years Winners:
GRAND CHAMPION and Fresh Cheese
Quality Cheese Inc.’s Ricotta, ON
Fresh Cheese with Grilling Properties
Queso Fresco Cheese, Latin Foods Inc., AB
Soft Cheese with Bloomy Rind
Le Noble, Fromagerie Domaine Féodal inc., QC
Tre Stelle Feta Cheese, Arla Foods Inc., ON
Washed or Mixed Rind Cheese
Le Mamirolle, Fromagerie Éco-Délices, QC
Gunn’s Hill Five Brothers, Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese, ON
Grizzly Gouda, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., AB
Swiss Type Cheese
Louis D’or 18 months, Fromagerie du Presbytère, QC
Tre Stelle Mozzarella Cheese, Arla Foods Inc., ON
Bleu d’Élizabeth, Fromagerie du Presbytère, QC￼￼
Flavoured Cheese with Added Non-Particulate Flavourings
Applewood Smoked Cheddar, Cows Creamery, PEI
Flavoured Cheese with Added Particulate Solids and Flavourings
Raclette de Compton au poivre, Fromagerie La Station, QC
Mild Cheddar (Aged 3 Months)
L’Ancêtre Organic Mild Cheddar, Fromagerie L’Ancêtre, QC
Medium Cheddar (Aged 4 to 9 Months)
Medium Cheddar, Maple Dale Cheese, ON
Old Cheddar (Aged from 9 months to a Year)
Cheddar 1 year, Fromagerie Perron, QC
Aged Cheddar (More than 1 year up to 3 years)
Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar, Cows Creamery, PEI
Aged Cheddar (More than 3 Years)
5 Year Aged Cheddar, The Black River Cheese Company Ltd., ON
Grizzly Gouda, Sylvan Star Cheese Ltd., AB
Bleu d’Élizabeth, Fromagerie du Presbytère, QC
After flipping through Toronto Life’s recent “Top Ten Best New Restaurants 2013″ list I had my heart set on visiting Kingyo Izakaya sooner than later. So when my good friend Cody Alain offered to treat me to a birthday dinner I immediately thought to suggest the spot as it’s a stones throw from his apartment in Cabbagetown.
We arrived shortly after 6pm and were greeted by the classic always smiling vocal choir, an izakaya rowdy welcome. On the way to our table I offered a courteous bow and smiled at the bar which played Japanese manga cartoons. We ordered two pints: an Asahi and Sapporo to start. Neon strobe lights shot out from Japanese pin ball machines which decorate the dinning room. Further exploration of the space showcases the good humour of the restaurants owner. The mens bathroom door features an encased Transformer and interior offers framed Japanese porno as ornamental appreciation.
Highlights of our meal included a perfectly pickled platter of tsukemono, garlic tuna tataki with ponzu jelly, and a rich pork tantan ramen. I’ll have to come back to focus my energies on their sushi, grilled meat and hot bowl offerings. Kingyo is a perfect place to spend a few hours losing yourself in Tokyo daydreams.
Tsukemono Pickles Assortment
kimuchi tomato, osaka style kimuchi cucumber, onion
Spicy Soft Shell Crab Sui Choy Salad
snap peas, dried okra, salty kelp
Garlic Tuna Tataki and Ponzu Jelly
seared albacore tuna, ponzu jelly
Famous “O-Sho Restaurant” Karaage with Magic Powder
The Legendary Chicken Wings by “Kinchan”
Pork Tantan Ramen
#452 restaurant reviewed in Ontario since moving to Toronto in 2010.
Fidel Gastro’s is entering a new chapter and it seems to me as though their book is being written rather quickly. Just a year ago I met the FG team for the first time at the launch of the Culinary Adventure Company’s new 2012 programming at The Drake Hotel. I gorged on their famous sandwiches which I knew I wouldn’t soon forget. They have created quite a following, which was hard not to spot during my first visit to the Toronto Underground Market as huge lines featuring lip smacked hungry diners snaked through The Brickworks.
So, first came Elvis, the pop-up. Then Priscilla, the food truck. And now, FG open their first brick and mortar restaurant. Seems they are ready to rock and roll! I was invited to the soft opening of Lisa Marie to sample a few cocktails and their chicchetti street food centric menu. I arrived with my good friend Jonathan Nathaniel and couldn’t help but realize my old favourite The Prague had now been transformed into an ode to Elvis.
The dinning room is spacious featuring a garage door overlooking the street, they practically have a patio! In the centre of the space a long bar stretches toward the market out back where they sell mason jars filled with homemade preserves, soups and take home treats.
Over the course of the next two hours I sampled through practically the entire menu while sipping on three of their signature cocktails. Die hard fans of Fidel Gastros will be delighted to see the brands classic east meets west fusion inspirations with a focus on deep fried Italian street grub. Highlights included deep fried pizza (meatball and duck were both lip smackingly good) and a duo of turkey (leg and wing) featuring hoisen and classic BBQ.
aperol, prosecco, sparkling water, orange wedge, olive
sailor jerry, egg white, limonata
tromba tequila, aperol, agave water, lime juice
Deep Fried Pizza Duo
smoked duck, duck skin chicharron, hoisin sauce, enoki asparagus slaw
saucy meatball, lemon arugula, tomato braised white beans
Mozzarella and Marrow Sangweech
buffalo mozzarella, roasted bone marrow, focaccia bread, lemon
Short Rib Polenta Patty
beer braised short rib, smoked tomato and parmesan charred polenta cake, fried basil leaf
Pork Belly Cheese Thang
smoked pork belly, cilantro cherry tomato salsa, havarti cheese crisp, chili basil aioli
Deep Fried Cheese Burger
ground beef stuffed with aged cheddar, house made pickle, quail egg
Tuna Puttanesca Roll
ahi tuna, bean sprouts, red pepper, cabbage, carrot, basil, cilantro, sweet and sour mango sauce
smoked bacon wrapped beef carpaccio, cilantro, aged cheddar, kimchi
Turkey Wing Duo
hoisin chili sauce, sesame seeds, green onion
buffalo style with blue cheese aioli, shaved pickled carrots and celery
Deli Style Surf n’ Turf
house smoked pastrami, cured sardine, latke, pickled veg, sour cream
beef tongue, lamb neck, salmon, chicken breast, cornish hen, pickled veg
#451 restaurant reviewed in Ontario since moving to Toronto in 2010.
My brain space was experiencing a spurt of reflective energy as I walked to the Four Seasons Centre to meet my Aunt for the final show of the Canadian Opera season. I couldn’t help but fall back in time, running through the top performances which I had experienced with my good friends and family this past year.
After taking a few pictures around the space we found our seats at Orchestra level and prepared to be wowed by Dialogues des Carmélites. Entering the theatre the curtain was drawn so the audience could peak onto the stage which featured several resting nun’s habits. A curious introduction.
Francis Poulenc’s 1957 opera is based on the true story of how 16 nuns from a Carmelite convent in France were guillotined in 1794 at the height of the Revolution, when organized religion fell under suspicion. The production is an unusual one, void of the romance and melodrama so many of us associate with the artform. The story here focuses on exploring one’s relationship with God and death.
The story revolves around Blanche, a nervous nelly of a woman who flees secular life for the convent, thinking she will find peace from violence and chaos, only to be informed that the sisters inside have to live with more inner strength than the men in the world.
Director Robert Carsen focuses on the psychological states of the characters, using a minimalist approach. No fancy sets, or opulent outfits here. The mob of revolutionaries, consisting of over 100 create fantastic transitions as a choir that represent the political unrest in France. The staging of these bodies throughout the show was thought provoking and impactful. The first scene for example includes our main characters who appear to be talking in an intimate room within their home. These hundred or so members of the choir surround the conversation creating believable walls with hearts beating and chests heaving.
The show deals with humanities struggle with religion, God and our fear and acceptance of death. The final scene is an iconic one which will forever be implanted into our minds. As the Carmelites head toward their fate with Madame La Guillotine the audience holds its breath. Our nuns are dressed in long white nighties, crawling away from the stage and towards the audience as a thunderous drum from below makes us jump from our seats. Slowly each of these heroic women twist onto the floor, one by one, signifying a noble martyrdom.