Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toronto: Love is Best Served Fried

bye bye summer...body

I was reading Toronto Life - one of my favourite magazines, although not one I read cover-to-cover.  My favourite section is the Urban Decoder - I would very much like to meet Mr. Urban Decoder (for some reason I feel like he is a he and not a she). 

But I digress, back to why we're gathered here today:  THE DOUGHNUT.  I love these fantastical fried treats.

I love those artificial chalky tasting ones from the supermarket that come in those really "loud" plastic containers that you can never get open.

I love Tim Hortons' evil little fatty timbits, the sourcream doughnut and the canadian maple (not necessarily in that order).

I love Krispy Kreme's plain glazed doughnut that I secretly get from the Petro Canada gas station down the street.  Wow, that's gross, but in a good way, non?
What I love THE MOST is the pretentious doughnut.  The doughnut that is presented so artfully.  Made from premium ingredients and plated so politely that it's no longer a doughnut - it's a beignet, a fritter, a churro...Whatever you want to call it...they taste so delicious your head may explode. here.

I've only tried 3 of the baker's dozen TL wrote about...and those 3 were MIND-BLOWING...I'm going to go eat the other 10 now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Men: Scent dependent emotionality

the scent of a man
Warning: This posting includes generalizations that could be offensive to some readers.

They say every man looks good in a suit. True. But the better man knows that cufflinks set him apart.

Cologne is the everyday accessory for the better modern man. It doesn’t have to be worn every day, nor does it have to be the same one. While I believe everyone should find their unique signature scent, a collection of colognes doesn’t hurt.
There’s nothing better than the lingering smell of a man. The feeling you get when you hug your man and breathe in. Natural, raw, clean, masculine…almost makes you want to lick him all over.
Applying cologne involves so many do nots, and only one do: shower and spray – once – however you want it (in the air and walk through, on the wrists, on the chest). But just ONCE. 

Don’t douse yourself. I don’t care how popular Jersey Shore is, it’s never okay to smell like a fistpumping douchebag. If I can smell you coming, I will run the other way.
Don’t be cheap. Simple logic: buy cheap cologne, attract cheap bait.

For me, smell is tied to memory and thus emotions. Sometimes a sniff is all I need to spot a winner from a loser. 
  • Dolce & Gabbana Collection for Men – Sophisticated. The signature scent of an old friend. He landed his life partner with this one.
  • John Varvatos Artisan – Reserved and woody. Think lumberjack in a Paul Smith suit.
  • JPG aka Jean Paul Gaultier – Sexy. This stuff is dangerous, but in a good way. I was sad when the smell left an “old” blanket.
  • Chrome by Azzaro – Playful. I find the most sensitive manly men wear this. It makes me smile every time. I still haven’t met anyone else who wears this, but if I did, magic.
  • The Armani Collection – Classic and timeless. Coincidentally, like my best friend. This has been his signature scent for more than a decade.
  • Acqua Di Gio - Has a cult-like following and a personal favourite.
  • Canali – My favourite. Created for better men everywhere.  

  • Burberry – Once upon a time an inviting scent. Now, I avoid it like the plague. Every CBC and FOB I know wears thanks.
  • Issey Miyake – Feminine, not quite how I’d want my man to smell.  I smell sweet and feminine enough for the both of us.
  • Lacoste – Weak, just like the boys who wear it, ya that's right, BOY.
  • Tommy Hilfiger – Sure, if you’re a post-pubescent adolescent male...
  • Colognes by Guess, Diesel, Calvin Klein – The go-to scents of Ed Hardy loving, fedora sporting, tight t-shirt wearing men everywhere. ‘Nuff said.
In case you’re wondering, I don’t buy cologne for my boyfriends or my guy friends. Funny thing is, my filtering system must work, all of them were winners long before I met them.

Hybrid Nails

thank goodness the green is dead
Finally a hot new trend for nails (may green never come back): purple/violent blends.  Chanel's line-up starts with this diva divine colour:

Chanel le Vernis Nail: Paradoxal
Ooh la la.

This is the colour chameleon of fall/winter 2010...different lights bring out different hues.  Fabulous!

P.S. Cheaper comparable alternative: OPI by Sephora in Call Your Mother. 

Tis the season, fall that is...almost.

Lashes: Peter Thomas Roth

delayed gratification sucks
:Pricey at US$125:

Peter Thomas Roth is launching Lashes to Die For Platinum, a lash-growth serum, in September (in the US, which means I either have to go to NYC or wait...).  His new formula claims to double the fullness of your lashes in four to eight weeks?!?

Is it September yet?

How about now?

I STAND CORRECTED.  You can actually buy it online RIGHT NOW.  Oh, Sephora, how I heart thee. 

Toronto: Sushi D

geographically confused
:Little Italy:

Let me preface this with the obvious: Sushi in Toronto is not on the same playing field as Vancouver. Just like the people: Toronto's sushi restaurants are cheap, easy, and mindless while Vancouver's are fresh, classy, and creative. I kid, I kid!  I’m just sad I'm stuck here with stinky fish.  

But we must all adapt, so I have by lowering my expectations and allowing my love of fish to take a back seat to other dishes. The place I go to fill the need is all-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi D. A bunch of friends found this place and shared it with me. Now we all go and run into each other. Take Monday, for example, I went for dinner with a friend and we ran into twenty more. Happy faces.

Sushi D is my preferred buffet - it’s economical and consistently good. It doesn’t have the mass-produced, careless feel of the sushi joints on Queen or Bloor. It’s tastefully decorated and overall appealing.
My favourites:

Treasure Island – diced pieces of salmon sashimi over shredded daikon and avocado with a creamy sauce (which is likely 1000 Island dressing, hence its name?)
Rock Shrimp – lightly fried shrimp with a tangy glaze – not exactly sure what this is, but slap me, it's like crack.

Volcano Roll – spicy salmon, avocado, spicy sauce and a jalapeno (top)
Scorpion Roll – unagi and shrimp tempura (bottom)

Beef Negimaki Roll – enoki mushrooms (usually too stringy) wrapped in thinly sliced (cheap) beef with a soya/teriyaki sauce (still a tasty break from makis)

Sashimi – usually just salmon (although they have tuna, white tuna, etc.)

Finish with dessert, or skip it and walk a few steps to get some gelato from Dolce.  A belly of Japanese food welcomes a bowl of Italian gelato, and maybe a cannoli too.

Burp. Excuse me.

Sushi D on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 23, 2010

Toronto: House of Chan

give it to me

:Eglinton West:

Dark, musty, sexy and surreal. Okay, yes, they do serve Chinese food, but forgettaboutit, go for the steak. This steak house may not look the part from the exterior, but make no mistake, it is. Steak rule 3: if it smells like a steak house, it is a steak house. 

For the past five decades, House of Chan has been a coveted Toronto keepsake to famous folk and ordinary steak connoisseurs like me.

Expect to drop an arm (and perhaps half a leg), but it’s worth it. The à la carte menu may be daunting so allow me to break it down.  Two people, one steak, one lobster, two sides.  Perfection.

The owner is a charming and engaging man who loves to name-drop, but I suppose he can, since he’s dropping some big names. I’m sure that their Chinese offerings (like the egg foo yong, a childhood favourite) are equally delicious, but when I think Chinese food, I like to go for “fye dollar fly rice”.

I love steak. Give it to me.

House of Chan Steak 'n Lobster Dining Lounge on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Toronto: Prohibition Gastrohouse

where the health conscious are banned

What’s a gastropub? The intelligent answer would be a food concept born in England where typical pub fare is elevated for a refined palate and enhanced dining experience. My usual answer is really dirrrttyyyy food. 

I didn’t know of any in Toronto until my friend stumbled across Prohibition. It’s not the nicest gastrobpub I’ve been to, but it's definitely inviting and casual. 
The fact that anything on their menu can have foie gras added to it should give you a sense of what this place is all about. Hearty, not wholesome; fatty and flavourful, not lean and green.

Here’s what three normally health conscious girls had to eat:

Some Buckingham Wrap (a crepe stuffed with rare beef which I disliked) with sweet potato mash (which I liked). Excuse the vagueness, I didn’t enjoy this and ergo it is forgettable. (top)

Grilled Cheese with pulled pork…seriously, how could that NOT be delicious?!? (bottom)

Mac & Cheese with bacon…very creamy but not enough cheese, which isn’t to say I wouldn’t eat it again. I would, by the bowl.

I think my photo is upside down.  You still want a bite don't you?

I love dips. Dipping is fun. Dipping is tasty. They have two for their fries: Garlic-Goop (bottom) + Wasabi Mayo (top).

At a dollar each, just get both, why compromise?

Poutine with Duck Confit.

Help me.

I should be banned – bikini season isn’t over yet…

PROHIBITION gastrohouse on Urbanspoon

Summerlicious: Success or Fail

the annual prix fixed menus
:Everywhere in Toronto:

Clang, clang…that’s the sound of the bar dropping at some of Toronto’s hottest restaurants. The idea is genius – allow your patrons to sample some of the best dishes from some of Toronto’s best chefs at a set price – accessible food. It’s a shame there are still elitists who don’t feel the same way. What could have become a wonderful culinary movement, has been tainted by poor service and substandard food.

There are a few that stand out – there may be more but there is no way for me to eat at every participating restaurant, not to mention I don’t want to. Every year my Summerlicious buddy and I pick-and-choose.

Here are five that consistently please:

Bymark can be hit or miss, but I adore Mark McEwan (the food, not the man...his head needs to meet my hair guy).  Summer 2010's tuna sashimi appetizer was terrible; the lamb on the other hand was heavenly, as was my banana cake.

Crush Wine Bar will quash you hunger.

Jump is joyful.

Fred’s Not Here but good food sure is.

Trevor Kitchen and Bar always rules, summerlicious or not. I will write about it later but should mention they have BYOW + FREE CORKAGE all summer long (except during Summerlicious).

If Summerlicious is Ying, would Winterlicious be Yang?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Eyes: Eye Basics by Laura Mercier in Wheat

sounds good for you, non?
:Pricey at $27:

A few days ago I told you about my secret weapon - it's better than coffee in making you LOOK more awake than you may be.  There are mornings when I'm so tired I could pass out mid-conversation...

On my recent trip to Sephora I picked up a new colour - Wheat. It's darker than Flax since I needed something to adapt to my tan.  Welcome to my three step morning: Brush teeth, prime eyes, apply mascara.

Love it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Lashes: Givenchy Phenomen’Eyes Waterproof

something like a phenomenon
:Pricey at $32 but a steal at $16:

Let me start by saying I dislike waterproof mascara.  But my dislike for it is overshadowed by my love for a good sale.  Budgie, a pretty little birdie, told me that Givenchy’s entire 2010 summer line is 50% off at Sephora. How do you say no to 50% off? You don’t. So I picked up the Water Turquoise mascara. I was dying to try the weird wand anyway. Wacky, right? This patented sphere was designed to reach every lash and adapt to all eye shapes.  While this may be so, I didn't find anything innovative about it. 

It was successful in creating a panoramic effect although my lashes didn't fan evenly, nor was the mascara as smooth as I’d like it to be.

Overall I like this mascara – perhaps a little more than I should because it’s turquoise. Colour me happy.

Skip it for $32
Like it for $16

Eyes: Benefit Stay Don’t Stray

magic eraser
:Standard at $25:

I was at Sephora yesterday to pick up another tube of my Laura Mercier primer and decided I would try Benefit’s. I don’t wear eye shadow but I love primers because they can stand alone. Eyes look more refreshed as fine lines are minimized and the eye area is brightened.  Primers can mask minor imperfections, redness and/or dark circles...

Barenaked lashes
Left: Before | Right: After

I think I prefer my Laura Mercier one only because it comes in a range of colours. Although Stay Don’t Stray is neutral and would likely flatter everyone. The lightweight formula was easy to apply and blended easily. I think I look more awake, although I may not feel it. Nothing a cup of coffee won’t fix, but at least I look the part.

Like it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lashes: Atomic Volume by Sephora

blow it up
:Standard at $20:

I love Atomic Volume because it gives me length, fullness, volume, separation, and of course, longevity.


That is all.

Love it.

Lashes: Primers & Two-Steps

saving you time...and money
I am about to save you 2 minutes a day for a total of 12 hours a year by simply instructing you to walk past all primers and double-ended mascaras...keep going.

These systems are inefficient. The benefits are negligible. We all know that applying mascara is already a multistep process, but now someone, somewhere, thought applying a layer of fibrous white stuff would be a great idea. I’ve tried the primers. You don’t need them; two-step wands work on the same principle and again, you don’t need them. It’s counterintuitive if you ask me.

Eyes: Eye Basics by Laura Mercier

up all night? who me? never.
:Pricey at $27: 

Not to be confused with lash primers (see above). An eye primer is essential. My secret weapon is this crème shadow. It finishes dry and leaves a matte colour that lasts all day. There are eight colours, but I’ve only tried Flax, although in about 5 minutes I’m going to go to Sephora and pick up Wheat (here it is). Wow, it all sounds so healthy. 

Apply this all around the eye and instantly minor imperfections and discolouration vanish – like an eraser. This morning I had a five o’clock shadow under my eye. It’s hard to see from the photos (because I was THAT tired) so I put them side-by-side to draw out the difference. The photo on the right is much smoother and brighter. It's most noticeable under the eye. 

Now, no one will ever know I was up all night catching up on Entourage episodes...I have no self-control.

Love it.

Montreal: Les Heritiers

french cuisine period 
:de Lanaudière:

It's always difficult to decide what to eat for dinner when you're in a city that's not your home.  You have favourites and want to stick to them because you only have a few opportunities to eat them.  Once in a blue moon I will try something new.  My sister heard about this place so we threw caution to the wind and went.  New is good.

Les Heritiers is a small and simple restaurant that serves beautiful dishes.  The plates were so colorful and the food was delicious.  We started with a lovely warm goat cheese salad.  It was so good it won over my sister - needless to say, she's not goat cheese's number one fan.  The fish of the day was a melt-in-your-mouth sea bass served on a bed of quinoa.  The bass was pan-seared in a sweet miso-soya glaze.  The rack of lamb was perfectly cooked and served with two slices of scalloped potatoes. 
Take someone you love and treat them to some really good food.  Enjoy the intimate setting now; come October they're moving to bigger and better? 

Restaurant Les Héritiers on Urbanspoon

Montreal: Les Folies

oui, s’il vous plait


My sister loves this place. I love this place. And we never agree. We hold this place close to our heart. Last time we were there we went to town on their sangria, and I think we shared something to eat in between, I don’t remember. Sangria, ole!

They have a charming little patio. I say charming because it’s pretty small and can get cramped but is a great terrace to eat or drink in the summer. The interior is your quaint diner – booths, tables, and sit up bar.

The food isn’t elaborate, just good flavours and well-prepared dishes. Here are three perfect plates.  I'm partial to the last one, because I love croque monsieur.

Les Folies? Yes, please.

Montreal: Coco Rico

pollo loco
:St. Laurent:

I refused to eat this for years, but my sister insisted and two summers ago, I tried it. This past weekend I had it again.’s so dirty. The best of Portuguese roasted chicken (and pork). 

It’s a divey joint with limited seating which equates to bang for your buck.  A quick (assuming there is no line) delicious feast between shopping. My favourite part is the potatoes – they fill the bottom of their rotisseries with these carby nuggets and let the juice and fat from the meat drip all over them. Oh soooo dirty. I had the pork ribs with a side of macaroni salad and coleslaw. My friend had the chicken.

You can’t eat this a lot. But when I do, the added poundage on my butt is nothing compared to a happy tummy.

P.S. I heart their egg tarts:

Coco Rico on Urbanspoon

Montreal: Schwartz's

that's whatsup
:St. Laurent:

I have no other words. I could come up with something clever and intelligent, but this place is simply the sh*t. I refuse to listen to the people who say all Montreal smoked meat is the same, or that Rubens is better. I’m open to change, if it’s for the better. In this case, once you go Schwartz, you never go back.

I crave this place.

When I fill this craving it satisfies the depths of my soul, not just my stomach. The perfect meal here is a medium sandwich, a side of fries, coleslaw, a pickle and a cherry coke. I hope you wrote that down.

They opened a take-out store next door to help manage some of the traffic. The waiters at the dine-in restaurant are hilarious – they love to flirt, and provide a few laughs.

I brought some back with me. It’s what’s for lunch...scratch that, I'm going to eat it now.

Schwartz's Montreal Hebrew Delicatessen on Urbanspoon

Montreal: L’Avenue

good to horrible in 60 minutes, fine, more like a couple months
Up until February 2010 I loved this place. It was one of my favourite places to eat brunch or lunch.
The only reason I’m posting this is so my friends know I have officially removed it from my Montreal Places to Eat. I had lunch with my sister and some friends and it failed for the following reasons:
  •  Horrible service: More than one hour passed between ordering and food arriving
  • The clubhouse sandwich I ordered was on soggy bread
  • Our fries were swimming in grease
  • The salad was drowning in dressing – I’m not even sure what the dressing was but it tasted like oil
I’m so disappointed.

Coco Rico on Urbanspoon

Montreal: L’Academie

:St. Laurent:

I’ve eaten here only a handful of times, but it’s a winner. Every person I have recommended it to, LOVES it. Like they really love it. They call me and go on and on about how much they loved it. Here’s why: it’s a fantastic multi-storey restaurant at St. Denis and Duluth, right next to a SAQ. This would be a good time to mention Montreal is huge on BYOW – bring your own wine. Just look for “approtez votre vin”. And unlike the rest of Canada, they don’t charge a corking fee, nor do they stare at you with their judgy little eyes. The Quebecois simply uncork and pour. It’s genius – why can’t every restaurant do it.

Now that you have your bottle (or bottles), slip next door and get a table. L’Academie is best described as boisterous. Everyone needs a fail-safe restaurant. This would be it.

L' Academie on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 8, 2010

bene tint & posie tint by Benefit

the san francisco treat

 :pricey at $36:

When I first entered the world of Benefit I was enthralled by all the fun stuff they have. This San Francisco company offers the most whimsical and wonderful things.  The first thing that caught my eye was this, course now I’m over it. It's ingenious still – blush in a bottle. Super cute! 

I hadn’t used it in a year or two, but recently picked a bottle up because it's perfect for the summer.

The liquid absorbs into your skin and will stand up to the blazing sun, heat, humidity and sweat. Our first heat wave of the summer demands you change your game. Why so many women don’t is a wonder to me. They walk around with matte-cakey faces and apply and re-apply their powders and foundations. I wish they would stop. A beautiful face can be a bit dewy, it’s okay. And makeup should always be invisible. Heighten your features, don’t cover it.

Back to the cuteness. If you’ve had problems with creams and gels, but want to try something other than the run-of-the mill powders, try this blush. It’s foolproof. A drop here-and-there and rub-a-dub-dub. Just remember, once the summer is over (and in Toronto that should be in about a month), skip it but for now I...

Like it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Lip Balm by La Mer

kiss me
:Pricey at $60:

Okay, okay, $60 for lip balm might be bordering insanity.  In my defense, my brain doesn't always abide by common sense.  It's probably even worse that you still need to apply an SPF - no sun protection included with the $60.  

Nevertheless, I have concluded that this will be my favourite winter balm.  It's got a ridiculously alluring scent and tastes delightful.  My lips are soft and supple all day and all night.  That's something to pucker up about.

Love it.

But let's get real, $60 on lip balm is ridiculous, so my practical alternative is Blistex Silk & Shine.  Same velvety texture.  Shopping within your budget means saying...

Skip it.

Toronto: Patisserie Café

dude...this is good
:Yonge + Eglinton:

I was midtown relaxing with a favourite buddy this past weekend.  On a random walk, I spotted a new cafe and of course, made him go in.  It's actually just north of Eglinton at Erskine Avenue on the west side of Yonge.  I'm being specific because I really want you to go.  Not only is it one of the quaintest and most comfortable cafes to open in a long time, it has the cutest selection of pastries and sweets.  Although the people working there don't really know what they're talking about, they're really sweet.  After being told their take on the chocolate croissant was comparable to the French chocolatine, I was disappointed.  It was still good, flaky and satisfying, but nowhere close to the ones in Montreal.  

Their cakes and pies also looked amazing so I had a slice of the latter.  It had a heavy crust - which I love - and the filling was a traditional apple pie - tart, slightly sour and just sweet enough.

But you can skip all this and head to the back for custard - Jedd's Frozen Custard to be exact.  While I'm not familiar with this particular brand, I am a huge fan of frozen custard.  I would liken it to what would happen if gelato and ice cream made sweet sweet love.  Go check it'll see what I'm saying.  And for a limited time - they have an online coupon for free custard here.


Jedd's Frozen Custard on Urbanspoon

New York: Shake Shack

so good it’ll give you shivers

:Madison Square Park:

This is considered a "short" line...
Dirrrtyyy good.  Amazing burgers and milkshakes (and I don’t like milkshakes, just ask my family...). These shakes are special because they’re made with custard. Mmmm, custard. If you can’t head to our southern neighbours, you'll be happy to know that something new just reared it’s delicious head in Toronto’s midtown. Read about it here: Toronto: Patisserie Cafe.

You know you’ve stumbled upon Shake Shack when you spot a line of hungry, patiently waiting people. Join them.

Shake Shack on Urbanspoon

New York: Momofuku

stick a fork in me
:East Village:

The first few times I met Momofuku, it was late. I was so engrossed in my noodles, I didn’t bother to notice that everyone was eating something else. Pork buns. These bite size creations were, according to Momfuku’s Chef David Chang, an afterthought. One will always wonder what would have happened if they never made it on the menu. Luckily we don’t have to and yes, the world is a better place because of these pork buns. You can get them at the Noodle bar, Ssäm bar and the East Village Milk bar – my preferred location.

People are always re-creating it. I even know people who try to pass it off as their own innovative idea, tsk, tsk. Regardless of how many imitations there are, nothing compares to the much-lauded Momofuku original. It’s what genius tastes like.

Update: Toronto got its very own lil' lucky peach.

Momofuku Bakery & Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

New York: Mercadito Cantina

taco takedown
:East Village:

There are several Mercaditos. This is the only one I’ve eaten at.  But if the rest taste even half as good as this one...I vouch for them all.  The Cantina has all-you-can-eat tacos for US$23. Eleven choices. It’s dangerous, not like Taco Bell dangerous, but like epicurean dangerous with stuffings like tilapia, steak, shrimp, etc.  Tread carefully and wear loose comfortable clothing.

Mercadito Cantina on Urbanspoon