Monday, May 30, 2011

Toronto: Trattoria Nervosa

così delizioso…sì

I was long overdue for another meet-up with the fashionable twosome - last time I saw them was at The Drake for brunch, and then the following weekend at The Drake for drinks.  Wow, variety is the spice of life? 

This dynamic duo never disappoint.  I wish I could post  a photo of them but that could lead to my identity…so instead, I will just say that no one else pulls of effortless Sunday chic like these two.
This Sunday’s meet-up was in Yorkville and we settled on Trattoria Nervosa or as we simple folk say, Café Nervosa. It sits on the corner of Yorkville and Bellair and has long been a place I recommend to my bois when they ask where to take a girl on a date. It’s like a less obnoxious, but more expensive 7 West.

I love Nervosa’s upstairs patio, but it was full so we had to eat at ground level. Humf.

As soon as we sat down, I’m thinking I could use a cup of coffee, but my buds are pointing out the wines. Miss N pointed to the Pinot Grigio Nervosa & VI.  I had never heard of it, but she said it’s “sooo good”, and you know what, she was “sooo right” – it was light, fresh and delish. Every Sunday should involve a couple glasses of Pinot. Like, every Sunday.

I had the Tagliata di Manzo – a grilled beef tenderloin salad with arugala, red onions, avocado, roasted tomatoes, shaved pecorino (one of my favourite cheeses) and balsamic vinagrette. The awesome twosome shared Linguine alle Vongole (little neck clams, chilli flakes, garlic and herbs, white wine, tomatoes and olive oil) and the Contadina pizza with arugula ontop. (Psst, did you know that arugula is also called rocket or roquette. I know, I'm full of useless information.)

Nervosa’s food is great – well-made, well-seasoned, and quality ingredients. Personally, I don’t think you can really screw up Italian food - it's elementary science – you take quality ingredients and combine them in winning ways.

I say it’s delicious, Miss N and Mister B would simply say “delish”. They shorten EVERYTHING.

P.S. Nervosa is opening up a resto on King West – another of my favourite Toronto places (unless it’s after 1 am, then it becomes a cesspool for things I dislike). gusto…Spring 2011, hold the phone it’s spring 2011…is this place open…did I miss it?!? I’ll get back to you…if I don’t…you know that means I didn’t like it.

Nervosa Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Montreal: Lawrence

smiles all around

My sister and I love brunch. And she sometimes turns to Montreal Brunch and Breakfast to get the intel on newer places (P.S. I, too, enjoy this site). A month before my visit, she told me about Lawrence.

I wanted to try it for dinner but we were so slow to move this weekend and just couldn't get it together for a "night out". Or maybe it was just me. I was a bit of a mess this weekend. I think it started with the Pinot Grigio I pounded back on Friday night as soon as I got in. After that I was so sloppy - dropping things, lots of things, many times. *sheepish grin*

We woke up late Sunday morning and Bixi-ed over to find a crowd. Luckily I was still half-asleep and could use the time to fully wake up. The host took our name and number and said he'd call when a table opened. It was about a 20 minute wait so we decided to get some bagels and enjoy the sun and spring breeze.

Once inside, the place reminded me of Sunday lunch by the sea. Do you know what I mean? Picturesque and lively, kinda like a sweet song.  I don’t know how else to explain it. The staff seemed to love their jobs which means flawless service. In fact, in keeping with comparisons that make no sense, our server was like daisies in a milk jug. I know, these metaphors are so left field...anyway...

Something to take note of is the fact that Lawrence changes both its menus via twitter – so 21st century. I love it.

Okay seriously, aren't you dying to take a fork and pop that benny ball???
It's so plump.

I had the Eggs Benedict ($15) and my sister had the Fiddleheads, bacon, soda bread and fried eggs ($16); the only caveat being that they ran out of fiddleheads and substituted asparagus. Score! We don't like fiddleheads, but love asparagus.

My sister's dish was delicious. Everything was seasoned well and put together made for yummy breakfast bites. My Benny was equally yummy – decadent hollandaise over perfectly poached eggs and lean, smoky ham - not like deli ham or bacon, but like porky pork.

Lawrence's brunch was definitely Top 10 for me, but one particular menu item catapulted them to the top of the list.  The beigne au chocolat ou au citron aka homemade doughnuts. Yes, doughnuts. It's no secret I love doughnuts, but my sister who doesn't enjoy them as much as I do loved them. Something tells me I’ll find her there next weekend eating a plate on her own. Ha.

These little beignets are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside with a filling of either chocolate or lemon. The lemon curd-custard was tangy and sweet and oh so heavenly. At only three per order for $5, don’t share. Sharing sucks, here’s half of the third that I had to give my sister. You’d think she would have let me have it, considering I’m younger. It would have been the big sister thing to do, non? Vous vous engagez?

Lawrence on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 27, 2011

Montreal: Five Guys

how many guys does it take to make a burger?

:Old Montreal:

I'll make this quick because I’m not necessarily recommending this place. I'm not going against my "no bad reviews" motto, but I was so confused I had to say something.

This burger chain has been Zagat rated every year from 2001 to 2010. They have a wall of accolades and stores across the US and a few in Canada (including one at Vaughan in Toronto).

The fries were okay, nothing special. Brits were better. The burgers, while I confess I didn't try them, also looked unspecial. Yes, I'm making an assumption based on something I have never tried, but I just told you I was doing that.

I hear this place is a go-to for American families, what does that mean?  Like Monday to Thursday is McDonalds and then they go all out Friday night for this...I don't get it.

My working hypothesis is that the public likes the attention - the attention from the critcs via all the ratings and the acutal tactile attention their burger receives.  What do I mean you say?  Well, it seems to me that each burger is touched by at least 7 people? Ewww, I think that's yick, but that's how many people were working behind the counter, 9 if you count the two cashiers. I really don't get that. I have never seen so many people in the kitchen. My sister and I were AWED by the inefficiency. It took us 14 minutes to get our fries.  Course in those 14 minutes my sister told me all about Lainey Gossip (again...she's told me multiple times to go read it...I'm just slow to listen).  She was convinced I would love her because a lot of what she says and thinks is exactly how we see things.  Par example, Miss Lainey can't stand Jennifer Aniston - ohemgee, neither can I.  I also can't stand people who say ohemgee.  It's odd to have so much hatred for such trivial things, but I do, I really do.    

When I got back to Toronto this past Monday I logged onto this gossip site..and as embarrasing as it is to admit...I stayed up until 2 am reading this girl's smut...she is hilarity and sass rolled up into a ball of I-don't-give-a-f*ck.  I LOVE IT.  Thanks were right.  Now, back to Five Guys...

Would it be rude if I said it's like a how-many-blondes-does-it-take-to joke? 
It kinda, sorta is.
I don't get it, so I would not eat it.

Brit & Chips

:Old Montreal:
poisson et frites

Fine, that's not the most original tagline, but fish and chips are far from original. They’ve been a staple in London since the late 1800s, and have been a personal family favourite in my home since I was about 8.

Brit & Chips got off to a rough start but it was smooth sailing by the time we got our food.

The patio was full so we headed inside.  The server who greeted us seemed cranky. But we grabbed a seat anyway and ordered. By the end, our server had gone from zero to hero.

It seems we got there just in time (around 6:00 pm) because it filled up and before you know it, there was a long line. Our server's mood brightened and he started making jokes and smiling. He didn’t even charge my sister for fries. You see, she had ordered just a serving of the cod (burgundy batter), but then I reminded her that I don't like sharing fries. So she asked him for a side order just before our dishes were served.

I had the haddock (maple syrup batter) and we shared the tandoori popcorn shrimp.

It's a little more expensive at $9.50 (for two pieces, $11.00 if you add chips) than I'm used to paying, but well worth it. The batters were tasty and crispy. I liked the cod better, my sister the haddock – good thing we shared. Both fish were meaty and tender, and with so many choices (salmon, hake and the fish of the day) share with friends and try them all. Except the fries, they're so yummy you'll want your own serving.

I could dedicate an entire post to their tartar sauce - but I won't. It was delish – creamy, tangy, fresh with a hint of dill. Yum.

My sister and I would both go back, but we’d probably skip the popcorn shrimp and try the mashed peas instead. So Brit.

Brit & Chips on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Montreal: olive + gourmando

a fancy fancy huh?
:Old Montreal:

Love the chalkboards and the bakery counter...
Psst, there's even chalkboard in the toilettes.
This place reminds me of Paul Maison - a cafe I found in South Beach Miami. Both are little Parisian-esque cafeterias that showcase delightful bakeries and serve gourmet sandwiches made-to-order in a casual semi self-serve style. Coincidentally, Olive et Gourmando is on Rue Saint-Paul Ouest...huh, look at that.


Roll crevettes + crabe

Chevre Chaud with homemade ketchup

Olive et Gourmando is a smaller, less polite version - I found one server scary, and I'm pretty scary myself.  You are directed to a seat and then given a sheet of paper.  You take it and head to the back to order. My sister and I got there late, what with our stop at Jeans Jeans Jeans!  By the time we arrived, they were sold out of the sandwich I wanted – egg on your face – booyah!  I feel like it needs to be followed with a booyah and two-finger gun shot motion?!? 

I opted for the Chevre Chaud aka grilled goat cheese while my sister ordered the Cuban.  Then we decided to share the shrimp and crab roll. A little well-known fact for you: the average sister duo would share two sandwiches...but we above-average oinkers share three plus dessert.  All in all, the sandwiches-paninis-whatever you want to call them were very good, although the shrimp roll did not hold a candle to our mom's.  Our mother makes the BEST sandwiches in the world - her homemade chicken salad and shrimp sandwiches kick ass.

This little piece of sugar heaven was $3.75

For dessert I got the turtle bar which my sister could only nibble at because it had nuts.  Whoops, I'm still getting used to the fact she's avoiding nuts.  Poor sister recently discovered she may be allergic to them and it’s still under investigation. It’s really sad. Like, really sad. Our family is like animal kingdom, when you tell a pig she can’t eat something, the jungle cries.

All in all, I liked Olive et Gourmando; it may have been good-er if it wasn’t so pricey.

We finished off our plates and walked off the calories around Old Montreal. I want to go back to try the Apple turnover and egg on your face...but this time I will be sure not to be trop tard...

Olive et Gourmando is trendy and fashionable, but a little high maintenance, huh, sounds a little like me *wink*.

Olive Et Gourmando on Urbanspoon

Montreal: Pret-à-Manger

gong show

Did I ever tell you how I feel about Chinese food?  Let me be frank (I feel like we're there) it is not usually a first choice.  In fact, I almost never suggest it.  My budgie Cracker dislikes it too, and my dad?  Well he's almost never eats it.

Anyway, after a long day of biking and walking around, my sister and I headed over to Kazu for dinner.  We got there at 9:31pm.  It closed at 9:30pm. sad. (N.B. It may been 9:01 and 9:00...but you get it.)

I was hungry.  My sister was hungry.  We no longer cared what we ate.

My sister suggested P.M.  She said it's one of the few Chinese restaurants in downtown Montreal that she and her friends will eat at. 

When it comes to ambience and environment, a fastfood Chinese restaurant is like the average girl.  You do one, you've done them all.  Sorry, was that too brazen?  But really, they all feel the same.  Fast, efficient, quick, and easy.

P.M. is no different.  It had the usual white table cloth and that subtle clean but unclean feeling.  I've had a few bullies call me out on this, well to them I say - don't you wash those plastic chopstickswash with tea?  Survey says, 99 of 100 people do.  friends

P.M.'s service was quick-quick, but friendly.  I ordered up my favourite dish: "gong chow how woah wow" (This always gives my Chinese friends a laugh - it's not intentional, it's simply the only way I remember it.).  The waiter knew what I was saying - beef fried rice noodles.  We also ordered eggplant and tofu.

The food was good, a little better than the average dive.  I didn't take photos because when my sister asked if I was going to post about P.M. I said "likely not?".  But then...random friend of a friend asked me if there were good Chinese restaurants in Montreal.  Ding, ding, ding.  I always forget that there are people out there who love them some Chinese.

For me, the best thing about Chinese restaurants is that you can tip small, leave full, and your wallet's still heavy. 

P.M. (Pret-à-Manger) on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Montreal: Restaurant La Cucina

an oasis on st. laurent
:Mont Royal:

The cutest terrace appeared as if from nowhere.  Sadly I didn't eat here, but I did have a  cafe au lait while ma soeur had a cappucino.  It's nice to know that little things can make you happy.  Montrealers love their terraces - and this one is great.  A little alcove of lime green chairs and foliage.  C'est bon.

A green oasis of happy.

Restaurant la Cucina on Urbanspoon

Montreal: l'entoilage (and stuff)


I love random days...the kind you wake up and walk out with no plan. My sister and I did just that on the Saturday of the long weekend. Randomness can open you up to a world of things you never noticed. And if you're due for some positive karma, those good things come in threes.

First we found a cute boutique - Unicorn - with some fabulous jewellery. Fantastic, unique pieces at a great price point. It reminded me a little of Oak + Fort in Vancouver, less some edge.

Then, I needed a toilet and a snack. That didn't sound bad until I wrote it. But you know how it're wandering and then it hits you “the need to pee”. And being the princess I be, I don’t just pee anywhere.  Hotels are my go-to public washroom, but if there are no hotels in sight, I determine cleanliness by decor and storefront signage aka font and colour choice. I’s weird.

I saw l'entoilage and liked the sign (must be the star) so we went in. It's a bright little cafe that really plays up the fusion side of things with their green tea everything. They had something that really piqued my interest: black sesame shortbread. Huh. They also had okonomiyaki for lunch, but I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t get a chance to try it. But I’m sure I’ll be back in the Mile-End in a month or so, and I may just go back to see what’s for lunch.

While I was using their facilities, my sister had ordered me my cookies and a pink grapefruit green tea! J'aime pamplemousse!

L'Entoilage on Urbanspoon

And finally, the third good thing...and this is big. Consider it a little reward if you made it through this long-winded post. I am about to tell you where you can find a huge (think wall-to-wall) selection of jeans...supercheapo.

Jeans Jeans Jeans!

It used to be in a crowded basement, but they moved a block away to a new location at 5525 Casgrain. I came across this blog post and thoroughly enjoyed it: - so I'm sharing.

Brace yourself – trying on jeans is work.  It’s less crowded than their first location, but the change rooms are just as tiny and no frills, but really – who cares. The service is excellent and the staff know their sh*t – I can't put it any other way. The guy there simply looked at me, I told him what I wanted, then he started yelling to some other woman – I need this in a that in a this and a that. Two minutes later, someone threw down seven pairs of jean for me to try on.

They have great brands like 7 for Mankind, Joe, Fidelity, William Rast, Rock and Republic, etc. (no Citizens, boo). All super discounted. So many jeans at 25%, 50% and 75% off. Go go go!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Essie Trifecta

fun comes in threes
:Average at $9:

My toes have a short attention span.  Well, maybe my brain does too.  But I like to think it's contained to my toes.  After being cooped up all winter, I unleashed them on a poor unsuspecting esthetician to get them beach ready.  Poor girl.  Don't worry, I gave her a big tip.

Now that they've had a little TLC, my feet are ready for some action.  I'm hoping to get them busy with a pair of Sigerson Morrisons (a recent obsession)...but I don't know if or where you can buy them in Toronto. 

Back on point...I thought I'd celebrate my happy feet by getting out my three Essie happy colours.  Two coats of any make me grin...

Geranium - just saying it makes me happy
Lilacism - because pretty purple should be upgraded to be an -ism
Turqouise & Caicos - who doesn't like a pun

P.S. turquoise - seafoam - mermaid...big for the summer of 2011.  Trust.

Monday, May 16, 2011

You Don't Know Jacques! by OPI

let the b*tch out, summer's coming...
:Average at $9:

Something happens as the weather warms...a woman's inner diva goes into overdrive and our need for nail fashion doubles.  The average girl might be adding a pedi to her mani, but for yours truly, it means changing my nail colour every week, sometimes two times a week.  Crazy?  Aye, a wee bit, but nails grow faster in the summer so they can handle it.

This is my colour of the week.  Yum.  Mauvey-taupe goes well with my tan (oh yes, I went on vacation...).  It's sexy and sweet.

Something I hear a lot is "oh, you can't wear that colour in the summer..." - that colour?  Which colour? What, this one?  I disagree with those Little Miss Know-It-Alls.  Black, navy, grey, can wear it on Monday, switch it up to a vampy red for Friday and then colour yourself sunflower yellow on Sunday.

To those gals that disagree...

I think Cee-Lo said it best...

Sorry, I recently encountered a sa-e-ko-sista, that's my term for crazy chicks.  They don't know Jacques!  Jealousy will be their downfall, while my flag will always fly high.  You can take that to Vegas.

Jokes aside, think about it...there are some cities that never experience a Toronto winter and they never let that dictate their choice.  LA probably has the most colourful digits.

So, I say paint your fingers and toes, anything goes (except forest green or poo brown...unless you're a garden gnome, heehee).  Hands up, baby, hands up.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Toronto: Four Seasons High Tea

The Royal fuss may be over, but long live high tea

I’m on a mission to find the best high tea in Toronto. No wait, that’s wrong. I’m on a mission to prove that I’ve already found the best high tea in Toronto. I just like to prove a point.

I have had afternoon/high tea at the Windsor Arms more times than I’d care to share – it’s embarrassing to say I’ve spent that much money on something so simple. Then again, life’s simple pleasures ain’t cheap.

It doesn’t take a lot to make me happy, but it takes a certain elegance to make my heart sing. Fashionable outfits, big windows, sun rays, scones, Devonshire cream, honest conversation, and a warm pot of tea ignites a symphony.

The Four Seasons’ afternoon tea service started out great.  It's barely ($3) cheaper than Windsor at $35 for full tea. Their atrium-esque lobby bar is comfortable and leisurely. I enjoyed their sandwiches, especially the mushroom one, but in the end, all three tiers were lacking.

Smoked Salmon - Ham & Cheese - Mushroom - Chicken
Buttery - Okay - Good - Dry

Ella and I felt it was just okay. Nothing was terrible, but nothing stood out. I would like to give the Four Seasons a high five for the lemon curd – it was delicious and I haven’t seen anyone else offer it.

The fact that I have smuggled scones out of the Windsor Arms makes it the best (still, and so far).  If I resort to taking something home with me (their scones are also served at their weekend buffet brunch), well, that says A LOT.  Windsor Arms is still number one; Four Seasons is runner-up…for now. The King Edward is next.

All in all it was an elegant afternoon. Ella and I sipped our tea and caught up. It’s not the amount of time you spend with someone, it’s what you do with it when you do. Ain’t that right bella?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lashes: Full Action Extreme Effect Mascara by Sephora

you can't do it all
:Average at $18:

Sephora is marketing this as a seven-in-one. Okay now, seriously? Three-in-one is fine, even four, but seven?

I think the tone of this review is pretty obvious. I wasn't too impressed. I bought it because I thought it could replace Lash Plumper (which no longer has purple). 

The problem is, I needed about 3 coats to get any of the pigment to show up.  When it does, it sure is pretty:

But with that many coats, my lashes got too heavy and the curl and length were shortlived.  What’s the point of doing seven-in-one, if you can’t do any one right? Ha. I sounded like my dad right there. Life’s lessons applied to the beauty world.

Skip it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Toronto: Drake BBQ

meat on meat action
:Queen West:

Out with the store, and in with the BBQ. Ever since I started watching season 4 of Friday Night Lights (my newest, deepest obsession), I have been craving pulled pork and beef brisket like nobody’s business. I can’t imagine there’s anything close to Ray’s Barbecue here in big city Toronto, but it looks like the Drake is testing the waters with their southern-style shop.

While the joint screams hipster, the food is for anyone who loves slow-smoked meat. Essentially you have two choices – pig or cow aka pulled pork or beef brisket. There is a third option called the 60/60 – 3 ounces of beef plus 3 ounces of pork. Daaaammmn.

Last Saturday night, me and my favourite brother-sister superduo popped in for a quick bite. Granted that’s all you can do when there’s limited seating and a crowd. The guy behind the counter was nice enough to give us a sample. The pork is dipped in a vinegar sauce, and the brisket in a sweet, tangy barbecue sauce. I went with the pork with a small dollop of BBQ sauce on top. The sandwiches are served on soft little white buns with a little slaw. Eat it quick before your bun turns to mush.

There’s really not much else to the meal, except to add a bag of chips, some pickles, or a side of coleslaw. It’s not a culinary masterpiece by any means, nor is it even a complex combination of flavours – it’s just soft, tender, meat. Keep it simple, keep it coming. So good it makes me want to growl…


The Drake BBQ on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 2, 2011

Jade Rose by Chanel

an investment, or just plain frivolous?
:Pricey at $28:

As I stood at Holt’s hypnotized by their array of pretty Chanel nail colours I had the following conversation in my head:

Smart me: $30 nail polish…really? Is that necessary?
Stupid me: Of course it is…it’s Jade Rose. You’ve been wanting it for a while.
Smart me: But really, I’m sure OPI or Essie has a similar colour. Look at all the faux Paradoxals out there.
Stupid me: They might, but imitation is never as good as the original. And it’s perfect for spring…

Smart me: So true, so true…If I don’t get a manicure all month, I’ll break even…
Stupid me: Exactly.
Smart me: $30 nail polish…really?
Stupid me: Do it.


It seems even the best of us fall victim to our worst half. So I left Holt’s, with two bottles of Chanel polish.  And in case you couldn't guess the answer?  Chanel polish is no better than OPI or Essie - it doesn't last longer, it doesn't have special powers, it's just C-h-a-n-e-l.  It seems I have issues, but don’t we all?


The Girl with the Jade Rose nails

Collagen Moisture Filler by L'Oréal

collagen 101
:Average at $28:

The older you get, the more you notice that beauty experts will product drop every chance they get: glycolic acid, vitamin this, vitamin that, it never ends. Of course, the older you get, the more you take notice.

Collagen is one I hear a lot. Although no one really cares what it is, just what it can do. But the nerd in me is just dying to tell you. Put simply, collagen is a naturally occurring protein – one of skin’s basic building blocks. It makes sense then that putting it into your system would help your skin’s health. I’m not here to debate the power of collagen – I believe it works. My beef is with the price. Collagen products are, by their very nature, expensive. So imagine my delight when I found an day-night cream by L'Oréal:

It’s reasonably priced at about $28 (I got mine on sale for $22.99, good old Shoppers), granted it’s not a concentrated serum, but then again, I don’t need that. My anti-aging needs are basic, a little bit like simple multiplication. If my face reaches calculus levels, I'll revisit spending more moolah for a high-end serum.

This cream – which I use at night – give a little plump to my face and puts the bounce back in my cheeks. You may have noticed other beauty bloggers out there telling you that they saw dramatic instant results (just like the box says), but I think that’s just silly. I can tell you this much: One month in, and my skin has never felt better. Granted I have so many players in my regimen it’s hard to say who’s the MVP, but everyone matters.

Like it.