Chabichou

We discovered a new place today. Chabichou is mainly a cheese shop but also serves quiches, sandwiches (grilled cheese with a choice of brie, cheddar or swiss) and tasty tarts. I had noticed it last time we cycled by and today we decided to stop for a light lunch after our market rounds. Loved the atmosphere, the cheese display, the thought of homemade butter, and the smell of fresh-baked croissants in the air. Very nice indded.

Chabichou

Cheese

Tartes aux poires

Quiche

Homemade butter

Sylvester’s Cafe

GSULocated on the top of the GSU building in a little alley with the grand name of Bancroft Ave, Sylvester’s Cafe is one of U of T’s best kept secrets. When I first started my PhD, one of the first things I was told is that despite its size and central location, good food is hard to come by on campus. That certainly turned out to be true; most of the cafeterias on campus are served by Sodexo and serves fast food of the worse quality. So I ended up having to walk further away or bring my lunch from home. That was until I discovered Thérèse and her wonderful café. The menu is short, the influence is Mediterranean (Thérèse is Lebanese, raised in Egypt), and everything is made in house, with the freshest ingredients. Prices are unbeatable and portions are normal and not the over-sized amounts one encounters in most restaurants. Usually I feel guilty when I eat out for lunch since I always feel that I could have made something better-tasting and more nutritious at home but Sylvester’s is one of the few places where I can eat guilt-free.

Menu

Sylvester's

Yummy lunch
This is what I had last time I was there. Usually I have either the Mezza plate, Yum Yum 1 or 2. This one is a new dish and it’s Fava beans with lemon garlic tehina & tomato sauce, a very Lebanese dish. It was VERY good and exactly what I needed in a rainy, cold day.

Camros

I discovered Camros this week. It’s only a few blocks from where I live and I can’t believe I missed it before… It’s vegetarian cuisine with a bit of a Persian influence; everything is super fresh and tasty.I have to control myself though – I went three times in one week!

This is what I had on Friday:
Camros

Quinoa salad with Lentils, carrot & beet salad, kale salad, and red rice ball. The place inspired me so much that I bought some millet at Kensington the next day and made this for lunch:

Saturday lunch

Cabbagetown

It’s a beautiful day here in Toronto today and Alan didn’t really feel like spending it swimming laps at an indoor pool. I suggested we go out for a walk and being eager to be talked out of swimming, he promptly agreed. So off we walked along Carlton Street to Cabbagetown. The area is only a few blocks east of where we live and used to be one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Toronto, before significant gentrification in recent years. Characterized by nice Victorian homes, cafés and green spaces (even a farm!), it’s one of my favourite spots in Toronto.

As usual, Alan and I walked out of the house without a clear plan of what we would do. The basic idea was to walk over to Jet Fuel, the local Java joint which is a favourite among Toronto cyclists and which serves a mean coffee, and sit and read for a while. Both Alan and I had some homework – he had to do some music theory work and I had Hebrew to catch up on. The coffee was indeed good, the vibe in the place was just right but when it came time to leave, we weren’t quite ready to go home. So a quick browse through Urbanspoon on my iPod Touch (ah, the beauty of technology and free wireless internet) revealed two promising places nearby for brunch: Big Mama’s Boy and The Pear Tree. We walked over to the first one but unfortunately it was closed so Pear Tree it was and it was really good. Our brunch was nice, service was friendly, price was good. We definitely need to explore Cabbagetown’s restaurants a bit more often. Some quick pics of the morning/early afternoon walk (click on the small ones to see a larger version):

Cabbagetown

Jet Fuel Pear Tree Pear Tree Brunch Brunch

Finally, a good meal!

Don’t get me wrong. I love Toronto. But I have to say that it is harder to find really amazing food in this city than it is in Montreal. Of course the restaurants in Toronto are as diverse as its multicultural population but somehow, most of them lacks a… how should I put it … je ne sais quois, an extra touch that makes the meal special. Most restaurants in this city prize quantity over quality, and you need to pay top dollar to get quality.

Well, last night I finally had a meal that made it to my top 10 meals of all times. Trust me, that is a very select group. I don’t think I even have the 10 slots filled yet. To make it to that list, a meal has to make me physically moan as I eat. I had that experience last night at 93 Harbord Street, a Middle Eastern restaurant with North African influences. The menu was simple – a couple of tajines, some lamb dishes, a couple vegetarian options, many appetizers, and some fish dishes. We were there to celebrate two friends’ birthdays and I had decided beforehand I would try their tajine but at the last minute I was won over by the fish of the day – a pistachio-encrusted black cod served with rice, grilled vegetables on a tomato harissa coulis. I love fish. And that was simply the most perfectly prepared fish I’ve had in a long time. It simply melted in your mouth.

Another thing that melted in my mouth in an explosion of flavour was the warm chocolate pecan pie Alan and I shared for dessert. It reminded me of Wushu’s perfect brownie cake.

Of course none of that came without its price. It cost 90$ for Alan and I, tip & tax included, for two mains (the two most expensive dishes on the menu), dessert, a glass of wine, a 1/2 pint of beer, and a macchiato. I thought it was very reasonable for the quality of the food and the great service. Must go back.  A good place to go on a special occasion.

Food pictures

I love food. I wouldn’t pay $200 on a pair of shoes or some fancy perfume but I would happily pay that much for a gourmet meal. As Alan would say, good food is very important to me and because I like eating nice food, prepared with fresh ingredients, I also like to cook.

Tonight was our first real meal in our new place and I wanted to prepare something light but tasty. The two dishes I prepared were firsts for me but I was quite happy with how they turned out. Here’s what we had:

Fennel salad with tomatoes, red peppers & parsley

This one I created myself and it turned out very refreshing. A great summer salad!

Fennel salad

The main course was taken out from the book Eating for Better Health, by Jane Plant & Gill Tidey.

Spaghetti with Rocket* and Cherry Tomatoes

I was afraid the combination of arugula (rocket/rucula) and basil would be too strong but no, it was perfect! Very fragrant and light. A huge success. I think I’ll add some pine nuts next time for variation.

Rocket salad

*Rocket is called arugula in Canada. I used baby arugula leaves.

I’ll post the recipes in the comments, in case anyone is interested.

Since the title of the post is food pictures, I’ll add here a couple shots I took at a recent excursion to a local Tibetan restaurant, where I had Tibetan lamb curry (first picture) and was intrigued by the local steamed bread (picture two).

Curry

bread

Tokyo Sushi

Monday we had lunch at our favourite sushi spot in the city. Tokyo Sushi is a tiny little place – it only has about four tables and the bar – at a side street between Yonge St and Bay St. The sushi chef and all the staff are Japanese and the place only sells sushi – no bento boxes. Unlike other good sushi places in Toronto, this one is very affordable and everything is so fresh, it melts in your mouth. This is the place where Alan learned to enjoy sushi and where I learned to eat proper sashimi.

The chef recognized us and was happy to see us back. At the end of our meal he treated us to an extra set of special rolls on the house…

Tokyo Sushi Chef - click for larger image Our lunch - click for larger image Our treat