Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Toronto: Sandwich Box

i eat in my playground

whole wheat panini + avocado-chipotle mayo + oven roasted turkey + mushrooms + gruyère
Beige.  That describes my day.  I thought I'd share my very beige lunch with you.  It wasn't bad, just so very beige.  You know, bleh, boring, drab, dull, plebian, ho hum...etc.  Yes, this is what happens when your dad makes you read the dictionary. 

I ate out a lot this past month, but I've already shared that which is worth sharing.  I didn't fancy the others, and if you recall (or don't but want to know), I don't post bad reviews. So forgive me for posting my superbeige lunch, but I like it.  Yes, I like the Sandwich Box and I'm not afraid to say it.
It actually comes in a box. I enjoy that detail much more than a normal person would.
I always assume most people know this place, but there aren't that many locations.  I first had it on Queen Street near MuchMusic.  It CLOSED and I moved out of the area anyway.  Then a few more opened in what I would call business hubs aka buildings full of hungry office drones, myself included. 

Over the years they've gotten stingy on their toppings, but ain't that the way it is.  I still almost always get meat, mushrooms, and some stinky cheese, all on some healthy sounding (but not really healthy) bread.  Gasp, maybe I'm beige?  On second thought, there's no way...I'm like Rainbow Brite  (remember her? You would if you're an 80s baby).  Only this doll is recovering from Montreal.  I ate A LOT of pootin, walked way too much, and slept little.

In light of how very beige my day has been, I decided to please my senses here.  I love this blog and there are only a few food blogs I visit regularly.  (His and Montreal Brunch and Breakfast are two of my faves.) 

I guess now would be a good time to introduce the idea of a re-location back west.  I think it's safe to say that if I do, I will print out Mr. Sherman's blog and go through it, bite by bite.  Let's hope I find a job first.  Actually, hope is not enough...pray.

Sandwich Box on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Montreal: Kazu

le premier

I love Montreal, but when it comes to Japanese food, it leaves one wanting.  So in a city where these restaurants fall short, one that doesn't is really something to cheer about. 

On my previous visits I've avoided Kazu because there's always a line, and I'm always too hungry to wait.  But this weekend I had a game plan.  My sister and I hit the St. Laurent street sale and snacked all the way up and all the way down so that by the time we hit the line at Kazu we were ready.  I love it when a plan comes together.

The wait was 24 minutes.  Perfect seeing as it takes 20 minutes for my stomach to digest empanadas.  Kazu is small and for lack of a better word chaotic. Even the walls are chaotic. 

A small cross-section of the walls.

I know, it's a mess, and you want to eat it all.  But my sister and I know our eyes are bigger than out stomachs so we exerted self-control and ordered, starting with cocktails.  Izakayas are known for having great ones, and Kazu was no different.  I had a couple Calpico ones and my sister the fresh fruit and soju.  We could have stayed all night drinking but for the glaring eyes of people waiting in the doorway.

Kazu is by no means a traditional izakaya in that the portions are compartively huge: 

Okinomiyaki with shrimp.

Chicken wings. 
The smallest dish and more in line with what I usually expect at izakayas.

Since my sister and I sat at the bar we got to see the chefs work.  I took a couple things away from that.  The first is that the guy is sorta cute (there's also a girl, but we're not talking about her).  The second is that the prep for this place must be insane.  They have so many different sauces which start in these plastic containers and then get poured into squeeze bottles.  Cute chef plus multiple squeeze bottles equates to messy magic.

Few restaurants are really worth waiting in line.  I usually just do it because it makes me feel like I'm part of something, and don't we all want to belong?!?  The true measure of a great meal is food memory.  I still think about the salmon tuna bowl at Kazu.  It was really good.  Nothing extraordinary about it, just fresh pieces of seasoned fish, rice, lettuce and other vegetables, those sorta tasteless but superfun fried noodle things, and sauce.  So simple.  So many flavours.  So fun.  So dramatic.  So delicious.

I will go back and eat it again.  But this time, I refuse to share with my sister.  I don't think she wants to share with me anyway.

Dear Salmon Tuna Bowl, I miss you.
Kazu is like an emerald in a gold mine.  If an emerald were Japanese food and the gold were poutine.  Both precious, just different.

Eat something different.

Kazu on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 29, 2011

Montreal: Resto la Banquise

all day poo-tin

This post is dedicated to my BFF, his lady love and their loved ones who will be touching down in Montreal come winter.  Oy, I hope someone told them about the hazards of winter in Montreal. 

Note cute patio in back?  Noted.

My BFF loves pootin.  Oh yes he does.  Fancy or dirty, he'll gobble it up.  So I thought it best I share this thing I heard.  See, there's this rumour, and like all great rumours it stuck.  Whether it be true or not is up to the individual.  Seeing as this is my blog, ergo I am the individual, I am here to call the rumour false.

They say La Banquise is one of the best, if not best places for poutine.  That statement is false. 

La Banquise serves poutine 24 hours a day.  That statement is true.

This diner is a favourite for many, likely because of that, and not because they serve the best.  Their poutine is okay.  There are many, many, many choices, and that in and of itself is great.  You can have poutine with merguez sausage, with smoked meat, with turkey and peas, etc.  Basically, you can get it with a whole lot of something or with nothing at all.  Your choice.

After a long day of shopping I wanted a snack so I got myself the Elvis: beef, mushrooms and green peppers.

Don't be cruel...
 I ate it all, but don't I always.  It was good but Frite Alors is still my favourite.  Nobody messes with me and my frites.

Resto la Banquise on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dry Shampoo?

Sure, why not.
simon says...

Good morning...before I head off to Montreal I thought I would give my two cents on a (semi) hot topic.  A few of my girls have recently asked me what I think about dry shampoo.  My thoughts:

It's no substitute for good old fashioned hair washing, but it's useful as a pick-me-up, especially in the summer when you're sweating more than usual.

Essentially all it is does is soak up grease, eliminate odour, and give a lil' boost.  You know what else does that and more?  Baby powder.  Women's best friend.

If the idea of sprinkling that into your hair doesn't appeal to you, go ahead and spend the money on dry shampoos.  I've tried Oscar Blandi Pronto.  It smells lemony fresh and is easy to use.  A cheaper option is Tresemme's line.  I'd avoid the spray because if you don't work it in properly, it may leave white streaks.  The mousse is better. 

Like it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Toronto: Chimichanga Mexican Grill + Bar

deep fry me
:Yonge + Eglinton:

I met up with Bana et familia yesterday for dinner and where did we go? Mexican. Remember, Bana loves Mexican. I enjoy it, although I don’t usually choose to eat it.  Mostly because I find Mexican in Toronto pretty meh. I hear that changed when Agave Y Aguacate opened in Kensington. Mental note: Must take Bana there.

That said, aside from Burritos there is another restaurant I often go to for my mole/guacamole/burrito fix, and that would be Chimichanga. It’s reasonably priced, authentic (enough) Mexican food. They evidently import all their ingredients, which likely accounts for the big bold flavours and the pricier mark up.

I’ve covered most of their menu over several years and haven’t yet been disappointed. It’s loud, tasty food. My personal favourites are the steak barbacoa and carnitas tacos. Last night I settled for a fish burrito. It was okay (because once you've had fish tacos down in Los Cabos, nothing compares.)

Bana enjoyed her newyorican chicken burrito and her man chimichangaed his. That’s right, for just $3 they use “100% canola vegetable oil” to deep fry that sh*t. Mmmm…

Dirrrttyyy deep fried goodness.
P.S. Beware the habaneros. I thought it was salsa verde. *#@#**!@*

Chimichanga on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lashes: Rapid Lash by Promaxyl

no longer obsessed
:Pricey at $70:

Just slightly curious.  After finding the mothers of all mascaras, I don't really care that much for growth serums anymore.  Maybe as I get older, and therefore wiser, it doesn't make as much sense to put chemicals near my eyeballs.  Maybe.

I am still a fan of MultiplEye by tarte.  And should I lose any lashes again, I'll pick up a tube.  Otherwise, my heart is quite content with what I've got. 

Then again, if it's "free", that's another story.  I was redeeming my Optimum points at Shopper's in June and decided to get Rapid Lash.  I won't go through the technical mumbojumbo since I'm neither equipped to, nor care to.  But you can find it here.

I will share my eyeballs with you:

Left - June 3 | Middle - June 24 | Right - July 8

Left - June 3 | Middle - June 24  | Right - July 8
Do you see a difference?  I don't see a difference.  One last time, just to be sure:

Top - June 3
Bottom - July 4
I'm not angry.  I'm over it.  But do you know what $70 could have got me?  It could have got me two tubes of Majolica and a tube of Benefit.  That would have been money well spent.  Rapid Lash?  That was money wasted.

Dislike it.

Toronto: Khao San Road II

3 in 6 months
:Entertainment District:

Is how many times I've been back to Khao San Road since my first visit in March.  Interesting, what is it I always say...if I write about it twice, it's CONSISTENTLY delicious.

That's special in a city that is overwrought with let-downs.  Toronto has many restaurants that start with so much promise, only to fall short because of inconsistencies.

My latest visit to Khao was as good as the first.  It's still just as busy, but they make the effort to fit you in as soon as they can.  We were told it would be a 15 minute wait so my friend and I went for a walk.  About 20 minutes later we returned to find a table waiting - 'reserved' - that's right, they didn't just give it up to the next group.  Service is a little slow but forgiveable.  And the food, still SO good, see:

Goong Taud Samoon Prai
Slow and steady wins the race, flashy and pricey fizzles.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Toronto: Walima Cafe

out of my comfort zone
:Danforth + Coxwell:
Lamb shank, or as I like to say, big bad drumstick.
Mr. Neutron himself and I met up on Friday for another cultural-relational-moral pow-wow.  It's Ramadan right now, so he can only come out and play at dark.  The only instruction he gave me was to go to Coxwell station by 8:30 pm.  Um, I don't like surprises, and I'm pretty sure I'd like one at Coxwell station less.  But I trust Jimmy.  He's what I would call intuitive.  In fact, he knows me well enough to think he knows my "ideal type".  One day we'll have to put his know-it-all to the test.  But on Friday, we focused on good eats and catching up.

As I walked along the Danforth to meet him, I kept thinking to myself, "please don't be Ethiopian...if he's taking me to eat Ethiopian, I'm gonna have to rethink our friendship...". 

I arrived and smiled.  Moroccan.  I like Moroccan, and better yet, I haven't eaten it in years.

Walima Cafe is a cozy space.  It's very Marrakesh (based on books, because I've never been), with some pillows, a few paintings, and a beautiful tile mosaic.  I really liked the tiles.  I would like them in the foyer of my imaginary mansion.  

Casablanca Couscous

Prior to Walima, the only Moroccan I've had in Toronto was Sultan's Tent.  To which, Jimmy scoffed, of course, because he knows better.
I had the Lamb Shank Berber Tagine, while Jimmy had Harira and Casablanca Couscous with chicken.  The soup was tasty, but I don't like lentils.  My lamb was tender and Jimmy's couscous was perfect.  He's never had couscous.  Ha, finally - something I've had that he hasn't.  Winning.  Hahaha.

You should note that Moroccon is often savoury and sweet.  Since I'm not a fan of sweet, I went for the most savoury option.  That said, I would like to go back to try the Bastilla.  I hear it's good, and if it's not, I can wash it down with a kebap.

I love that friends take you places you wouldn't normally go.  It was nice to leave my bubble, course I'm happy to be back.  My bubble's pretty awesome.

P.S.  Mental note:  Take a photo with Jimmy.  Otherwise it's like we're only friends on screen, lol.

Walima Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hair Products by Organix

limited selection
Last week I was doing what I love to do...reading magazines and I saw an ad for organix. Never heard of it, but it caught my interest for the following reasons:
  • It uses organic active ingredients
  • It's sulfate and paraben free
  • The bottle's cute.  Kinda chub.  I like chub. 

So many varieties in so many colours (see here):

brazilian keratin therapy
coconut milk
moroccan argan oil
cherry blossom ginseng
pomegranate green tea
vanilla silk
shea butter
acai berry avocado
teatree mint
cocoa butter
passionfruit guava
mandarin olive oil
grapefruit mango butter
cucumber yogurt
lavender soymilk
mocha espresso

Phew.  That's a lot.  I want to try them all, some more than others.  The ones that least interested me are the only ones that seem to be in Canada.  Why, why, why must we Canadians be punished?  Woe is me.

Until the rest of them migrate to Toronto soils, I settled on brazilian keratin therapy shampoo ($8.99) and coconut milk conditioner ($7.99), only because I'm not on the moroccan oil bandwagon. 

They smell like heaven in a bottle.  Sexy.  I kind of want to bathe in it.  Oh wait, you sorta do.

How well does it do what it says it will do?  The brazilian shampoo left my hair smooth and silky, the coconut didn't do anymore than any other conditioner. 

Based on the cuteness of the bottle and the superfabulous smells, I'd buy organix again.  And since you can buy it at Shoppers, you know it will go on sale.  As drugstore hair products goes, it's pretty fabulous; compared to my favourite salon brands?  Just okay.

Like it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Toronto: Golden Turtle Pho


People love this no nonsense meal, any day of the week, any time of the day, but especially in the wee hours of the dark. If that’s the case, then any restaurant on Spadina will do.

Then there are days when you want better. A little more flavour, a little less grime.

Enter Golden Turtle - long heralded as the home of Toronto’s most famous, and many argue the best, Vietnamese beef noodle soup. It’s the best no frills pho po me.

Golden Turtle on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Toronto: Nota Bene

worth the wait
:Queen + University:

It took me forever to get to Nota Bene, probably because I was never in the "right" company.  Then my BFF flew in.  He was just the extravagance I needed.  Note that he is also a food enigma who eats microwaved chicken fingers (ewww) with as much enjoyment as he does a $400 tasting menu. What a nut. 

I love Toronto when he and his fiancé are here. It puts me in a good mood!  Woot woot.  I decided to take them to a nice dinner on Friday, so I booked a table at Nota. I knew what I was going to order before I even walked in. The female counterpart of the fashionable duo I often dined with had recommended the crisp duck salad. She insisted I would love it. I did. Like hard.

I was impressed with everything about Nota from the dining room to the service. All the dishes were extravagantly plated and delicious, save and except the hangar steak. It was a bit of a miss for all three of us. It was far too chewy and very reminiscent of the chimichurri steak we had at Foxley (the latter’s was better).

Refreshing and crispy, with so many flavours and textures.

The special of the day was the swordfish. I’m not a fan of the fish itself so it’s hard to say whether I liked it or not, but if I were to be objective, I'd say it was good.

A beautiful plate with well-seasoned chanterelle mushrooms and rapini.

I loved the fries with pecorino and my BFF loved the salt cod fritters with iberico chorizo, quail eggs and fries. We also appreciated the additional sides we got courtesy of the kitchen.

As I am writing this blog, I just realized that the chef, David Lee, is the David Lee of Splendido pre-2009. Splendido pre-2009 was one of my absolute favourite restaurants. I will have to go back and see how it is now. I suppose it makes complete sense then that I loved Nota. I’m not sure I loved it as much as I did Splendido, but they are very different. Can’t compare apples and kumquats.

Salt cod fritters
 I am craving that duck salad again. It’s seriously perfect. Sumac-dusted green papaya slaw, cashews and some chilli flakes. It’s listed as an appetizer ($15), but I highly recommend you ask them to make it an entrée (add $7). You can thank me later.

Nota Bene on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Toronto: Foxley

bokchoy, chimichuri, umeboshi
"Winner of the Night"
Oven steamed cod with asian greens (um, what's wrong with saying bok choy...cuz that's what it was)
and white truffle oil

There are people who run to eat at "famous" places when there's a lot of buzz.  Those people would be...well...stupid. Like I always say...there is good food everywhere.  And sometimes good food becomes bad, and other times it's even better.  It's all relative. 

Foxley made a lot of noise when Tom Thai first opened it.  But since I didn't run to go wait in a line, I eventually forgot about it.  Then Cracker came home one day (when we were still roomies) and gushed about how delicious it was.  Then I moved and eventually forgot about it.

But yesterday, I walked right by it.  Couldn't miss it.  Glad I didn't.

Yesterday evening my BFF, his boys and I were looking for a place to grab dinner.  Monday is really not the best day for a night out, so many things are closed.  The Flash, aka one of my BFF's longstanding friends, suggested Campagnolo.  We walked there only to find it was closed (but I just added it to my list so that's always a good thing.).  We proceeded to Black Hoof, only to find it was a 45 minute wait.  So we kept going until we hit foodie-hipster central, better known as Ossington.  From BQM to Libretto to Golden Turtle, it's a fat girl's paradise.

As we walked south, nothing really piqued our tastebuds.  Then we saw the Foxley sign and I suddenly remembered.  It's on my list.  

We ate.  Perhaps one "small dish" too many:

One of two cheviches we ordered. 
This is Nunavut Artic Char *thumbs up*
The other was scallops *thumbs down*

Spicy Crispy Shrimps with Jalapenos and Garlic
Grilled Hanger Steak with Chimichuri
Good, but after the cod came out, it got demoted to okay.
If I had to describe Foxley I would say it's a fusion bistro.  The menu strikes me as being a mix of Asian and South American flavours.   

Not every dish was equal, but the really good ones balanced out mediocritiy. 

Balance is everything.

Slow-Braised Pork Belly with Muscatel Reduction
I love pork belly, sigh....

Foxley on Urbanspoon