It seems as though these days I have a penchant for hitting the ground running. And so it was that I found myself sitting on the streetcar, nodding off to sleep while jolting across River Street bound for Leslieville. I had just arrived back in Toronto after a 15 hour flight from Hong Kong the previous night and with only three hours of sleep under my belt I found myself barely conscious as I skipped into Ruby Watchco.
I have been meaning to visit Chef Lynn Crawford and Lora Kirk’s celebrated East End eatery ever since they opened doors their doors in 2010. When I was invited by the folks at Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate for a special tasting I eagerly accepted, even though I knew I’d likely be feeling the zombie jet lag. Shortly after noon the room filled with some of my favourite Toronto food personalities. It wasn’t until I plopped myself down at a table that I realized and appreciated how much I missed home along with my favourite friendly faces.
First things first, I sipped on an aptly titled Pitchin In cocktail, a nice nod to Chef Lynn’s much loved show on the Food Network. Ice cubes clinked in my glass as I swirled an autumn inspired fusion of carrot, ginger and sailor jerry spiced rum. The glass was embellished with a Green & Black’s Organic Dark 70% rim, an indication of how Chef Lora Kirk would use G&B’s premium chocolate bars that afternoon to create her very own cocoa love menu.
Over the course of the next two hours Chef Lora whisked herself in and out of the kitchen to march us through her menu. I was impressed by the savoury dishes she had created as each offered up a touch of chocolate to dishes which rarely celebrate cocoa. Roasted chestnut soup with the subtle sweet of milk chocolate was a perfect pairing for those looking to be warmed up on a blustery Fall day. Decadent lobster was served wrapped in thick cream, roasted hazelnuts and G&B white chocolate.
Of course we were all most curious about how Chef Lora would explore chocolate in its most traditional form, the sweet finish. Dessert that afternoon thankfully forced me into the food coma I needed to rest the afternoon away. G&B’s burnt toffee folded together with peanut butter in a tart which forced a jaw drop, silent stare and sigh.
Special thanks to the team at Green & Black’s for hosting me as their guest.
Pitchin’ In Cocktail
carrot puree, ginger syrup, sailor jerry spiced rum, green & black’s organic dark 70% rim
Roasted Chestnut and G&B’s Organic Milk Chocolate Soup
Lobster with G&B’s Organic White Chocolate Hazelnut Brulee
Cocoa Nib Crusted Pork Tenderloin with G&B’s Organic Dark 70% Chocolate and Red Wine Jus
G&B’s Organic Sea Salt with Chevre Noir and Goat Yogurt
G&B’s Organic Burnt Toffee Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart
#520 restaurant reviewed in Ontario since moving to Toronto in 2010.
It was a cool afternoon in Toronto, the first days of December had descended upon us when Amanda Blakely pranced into my petite palace. A gust of wind flying through her hair, pegged down to her brow with a warm winters beenie. We exchanged a kiss kiss and spent the next few moments on a 50 cent tour of Casa Dobbernation from Archie comic collections to Indigenous mask inspirations. It had been some time since she and I first met on a wild and wonderful tour of the Czech Republic as guests of the nations most celebrated brewery Pilsner Urquell.
I poured her a frothy pint of the good stuff while we exchanged stories. Chit chats focussed on holiday news, Toronto to do’s and our 2014 travel agenda. Amanda regularly contributes travel stories to the National Post and also shares adorable stories as a new mother on her blog The Adventures of Atticus. On our recent trip to Pilsen and Prague I had intended on counting the number of pints I glugged in hopes of announcing an epic tally for this story. Needless to say after I reached 25 my vision blurred and lost count.
Pilsner Urquell literally means “Pilsner from the original source.” The recipe hasn’t changed since 1842 when citizen brewers in the town of Pilsen, Czech Republic, frustrated at the quality of beer served in local inns, combined their knowledge and skills to brew a better tasting beer. At 4.4% ABV, it is made using Moravian barley, malted on site, pure Pilsen water, Saaz hops and Pilsner H yeast. The beer has a distinctive, intense taste with a harmonious balance of subtle sweetness and pleasing bitterness.
It was an early Thursday eve and while I was still just getting over my Maui induced jet lag I enjoyed an energized skip in my step. I only had a few days in Toronto to write and ready myself for my next adventure which would have me jetting off to Vancouver and Hong Kong. Dreams of Kitsilano Beach strolls and HK’s famous BBQ pork and duck had me swooning on the solo.
With limited time to spare between trips I try my best to organize dinner dates to connect and catch up. And so it was that Dale and I whisked our way down Yonge Street in search of a sip and nibble. Off the beaten path of tourist town, hidden away from the calamity of Dundas Square we found refuge at the Eaton Chelsea Hotel. Plopping ourselves down on a comfy booth at T Bar we immediately slipped our fingers through a simple and sweet pre-dinner cocktail and bar bites menu.
Dale spent the evening conquering the mighty Canadian Caesar served in dainty mason chalice. T Bar playfully showcases several of these classic Canadian cocktails which are prepared with house made clamato. Dale’s duo included a classic tip of the hat to the original recipe and The Checkout prepared with bacon infused vodka and adorned with hard boiled egg, crispy bacon and pickle spear.
From the kitchen we worked our way through plump potstickers, smoky pulled pork sliders, new york steak with crispy frites and chicken + waffles covered in onion gravy. Our sweet finish included apple walnut cheesecake and thick slice of raspberry chocolate cake. We parted ways once returning to the hustle and bustle of Yonge, with cold hands shoved into my pockets I marched back home as a cool Autumnal breeze slipped through my hair forcing a whisper, “until next time.”
Special thanks to the team at Eaton Chelsea for hosting me as their guest.
The Classic Caesar
polar ice vodka, house made clamato, freshly grated horseradish, tabasco, worcestershire, celery salt rim, celery and lime
The Checkout Caesar
bacon infused alberta purk vodka, house made clamato, freshly grated horseradish, frank’s red hot sauce, worcestershire, barberian’s steak spice rim, cherry tomato, hard boiled egg, crispy bacon, pickle spear
asian slaw, pristine farms soy sauce
Pulled Pork Slider Trio
onion strings, corn relish
New York Steak
garlic herb butter, frites
Chicken and Waffles
Apple Walnut Cheesecake
Raspberry Chocolate Cake
#519 restaurant reviewed in Ontario since moving to Toronto in 2010.
A dobbernationLOVES sponsored post.
I was giddy with excitement to spend my final evening in Hong Kong on a date with Vancouver’s favourite food blogger Mijune Pak from Follow Me Foodie. We had the opportunity to get to know each other the past few days while on a press trip with Hong Kong Tourism which had us sipping and nibbling our way through the cities annual Wine and Dine Festival. It was refreshing to encounter such a passionate food writer with a penchant for eating endlessly. Who knew I’d finally find my doppelgänger: a pretty and playful Asian femme fatale?
After a quick hug in our hotel lobby we raced through Wanchai and spilled into the closest Metro Station, moments later jolting a few hundred feet under the cities harbour bound for the hustle and bustle of Kowloon. We exited at Tsim Sha Tsui and soon found ourselves climbing one of the many escalators that zig zag to the heavens through iSquare. Our elevator popped open with a friendly chime, we had arrived at Sorriso Italian.
I was on a mission as an Ambassador for Canadian Beef, looking to learn more about how quality Canadian Beef is showcased in the foreign marketplace. This would be my second beefy dinner outside of Canada, a follow-up to my feast with the Canadian Trade Commissioner in Dubai at Seafire Steakhouse at the Atlantis Resort.
Before arriving in Hong Kong I had an opportunity to connect with Stephanie Dai, Director of China at Canadian Beef who was able to shed light on the cities unique market conditions. She explained, “Diners in Hong Kong see Canadian Beef as a premium product. The grain fed advantage contributes to good marbling and offers a unique beefy flavour. Chefs are eager to use Canadian beef as we offer a consistent quality which is ensured by Canada’s strict grading system.”
After chatting with Stephanie I also discovered Hong Kong’s most popular beef cuts: Westernized restaurants serve up tenderloin, sirloin, rib eye and prime rib while local Cantonese establishments have a penchant for short rib, brisket and shank. The greatest potential for growth in the Chinese market is interestingly enough at Hot Pot restaurants such as Budaoweng where local families feast around large tables of boiling and bubbling broth, quickly cooking thinly shaved slices of beef to perfection.
I was also fortunate enough to connect with Kitty Ko the Canadian Trade Commissioner in Hong Kong who noted, “Hong Kong is an important agricultural market for Canada, with Canadian exports to Hong Kong valued at more than C$753 million in 2012, representing a 26% increase from 2011. The top five agricultural food products imported to Hong Kong in the first eight months of 2013 included raw fur-skins, beef, ginseng roots, lobster and geoduck clams.” She adds, “Hong Kong consumers demand high quality, safe and innovative products. Well-known Canadian products such as Icewine and beef are viewed by locals as luxury menu items.” She concluded with comments on the future, “In the first eight months of 2013 Hong Kong represented the second largest export destination for Canadian beef after the United States. The general acceptance of Canadian beef in Hong Kong is high, the challenge is how do we maintain a steady supply to fulfil the increasing demand.”
With these beefy facts jostling about in my head Mijune and I skipped through the Sorriso Italian dining room and plopped into our seats. The restaurant is best known for its jaw dropping views, ceiling to floor windows which allow guests to sit back and relax with a glass of Chianti while watching the cities daily razzle dazzle light show, The Symphony of Lights. The restaurants always smiling Chef Ken Kwok popped out of the kitchen to say hello shortly after we had arrived. I enjoyed a quick tour of his kitchen where I snapped a few photos of the Grilled Canadian Angus Export Rib which he would be grilling up for us that evening.
Mijune and I spent our final evening in Hong Kong sipping Italian vino and taking in a spectacular view of Hong Kong’s glowing skyscrapers. Our feast began with an antipasto trio featuring creamy burrata, sweet figs with jamon and crab spring rolls dipped in a spicy kimchi puree. Fresh tuna belly was paired with jalapeno salsa and yuzu dressing while fresh pappardelle twirled on the fork adorned with mushroom ragout, parmesan and shaved black truffle. Our well marbled Grilled Canadian Angus Export Rib was served with pommes frites and truffle jus, a juicy medium rare. While Sorriso markets itself for its Italian eats, one glance at the menu indicates that Chef Ken has a penchant for getting creative in the kitchen. He appreciates the Italian tradition but modernizes each dish with a flare for the local Hong Kong palate.
It was just as we were finishing the last of our savoury dishes when two men strapped to their guitars walked over to a neighbouring table to croon a sweet song. And so it was that we finished the evening with our own sweet duo: crispy profiteroles covered in chili chocolate sauce and a piping hot souffle made with valrhona chocolate. With one last sip of Pinot Grigio I stood smiling over the city, quickly turning to the door I softly whispered, “Hong Kong this is goodbye, but I hope to see you soon.”
Sorriso Seafood Soup
Pan Fried Barramundi
clam and champagne foam
Grilled Canadian Angus Export Rib
porcini, rocket, truffle jus
Fresh Tuna Belly
jalapeno salsa, yuzu dressing
italian mushroom ragout, parmesan, shaved black truffle
Valrhona P125 Coeur De Guanaja Chocolate Souffle
tangerine rambatan sorbet
vanilla ice cream, chili chocolate sauce
It was my final day in Hong Kong and with a skip in my step and an umbrella perched over my shoulder I swerved through drizzle which misted itself across Wanchai. The district is connected by a pedestrian walkway which winds through many of the cities largest office towers and hovers over chaotic highways. It was rather exhilarating to skip over HK’s early morning rush hour traffic and zoom myself through the cathedral like spaces of the HK Convention and Exhibition Centre.
I had planned a rather decadent last day in Hong Kong at the Grand Hyatt, a luxurious five star property which sits perched over Victoria Harbour. I started the morning with a coma inducing massage treatment at the hotels Plateau Spa and then slithered down to One Harbour Road for my final Cantonese feast.
I was excited to catch up with an old friend from my university days. I gave Winnie a big hug when she arrived at the table and spent the next two hours catching up on five years of lost time. Winnie acted as my HK spirit guide in 2008 when I first visited the city. She was the perfect local tour guide, twirling me through the cities most colourful markets, feasting on dim sum and late night beer sips at the calamitous bars in Kowloon.
One Harbour Road is one of Hong Kong’s most celebrated Cantonese fine dining concepts where the cities politicians and celebrities come to wine and dine. The restaurants two-story design features wrap around ceiling to floor glass windows which offer one of the most spectacular views in the city. I imagine thousands of men have fallen on one knee during dinner, hopelessly romantic.
I whisked my fingers through Chef Li Shu Tim’s lengthy menu while formulating a game plan for this final feast. The previous afternoon I had enjoyed a culinary walking tour of the city and learned that out of the many BBQ items available in HK the three most popular with locals were crispy suckling pig, roast goose and honey roasted bbq pork. I decided to centre the meal around this trilogy, a final bow of respect to the genius that is Cantonese BBQ.
We started off the meal with a glass of champagne, a wink for my “salut and so long.” Throughout lunch our server who wore a white dress jacket and black bow tie moved around the table like a silent wind, placing piping hot plates under our noses. Our BBQ trilogy forced a few vocal “omg’s,” heaven where crispy meets juicy meets fatty. Deep fried prawns tossed in sweet mayonnaise and sesame perched in a fried egg nest were followed by wok fried shredded beef so tender you really didn’t even have to bother with the labours of chewing.
It was here that I encountered my first tea smoked crispy chicken, its skin glistened from the centre of the table, a mirrors reflection. I’m a huge fan of poultry skin (hold me back from the turkey on Thanksgiving) so was delighted to encounter a smokey tea aroma before crunching into the skins cracker like consistency. Our journey at One Harbour Road would wind to a close with a carb loading duo of fried rice prepared in the yeung chow style alongside a steaming plate of spicy singapore noodles. A final chilled mango pudding provided the perfect cleanse to our palates before hobbling home in a gluttonous daze.
Special thanks to the Grand Hyatt for hosting me as their guest.
Cuvee des Chevaliers Blanc de Blancs Lancelot Royer
crispy suckling pig, roast goose, honey roasted bbq pork
Deep Fried Prawns
sesame seeds, fried egg, mayonnaise sauce
Wok Fried Shredded Beef with Chili
Tea Smoked Crispy Chicken
Fried Rice Yeung Chow Style
Chilled Mango Pudding