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

Amazing food in Girona

Of course, after all that researching we needed to eat! I was determined to have a good eating experience and after a bit of research, I decided to have lunch at Mimolet, a new restaurant about a block away from the cathedral in a tiny side street. Call it gourmet Catalan at its best. It’s not cheap but for a restaurant of its class I didn’t find it terribly expensive either. A three-course lunch menu is 14.75 euros (at night an 8-course degustation menu runs at 40 euros, which is not bad at all). The meal was well worth it. We set right beside the cheese counter and all my efforts to live dairy-free went up in smoke and I had the five cheese taster for a first course. All I can tell you is wow, it was great.

How could I resist all those wonderfully smelly cheese??

Cheese at Mimolet

As a main course I had grilled dorade, a tasty white fish from the Mediterranean, served with some nice grilled vegetables. The fish was done to perfection – cooked only until it reached opacity. Alan had Arroz con sepia, which is a rice cooked with a kind of calamari. We both had coconut sorbet with ginger as dessert, served rolled in a nice bit of crepe. I liked the meal so much that I would love to go back one day to have the tasting menu…

At night we went to the Creperie Bretonne for some highly-recommened crepes. Although the crepes were all perfectly done and I discovered a new-found love for dessert crepes, which were never my thing, the neat thing about this place was the decor. They had a bus – that’s right, a bus – inside the restaurant! The bus was hollowed out and the waiters used it as the salad counter:

Bus Bus 2

All in all, a very successful eating holiday ;)

Mimolet is on C/Pou Rodó, 12 tel 972 20 21 24

Creperie Bretonne is C/ Cort Reial, 14 tel. 972 218 120

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Update: There’s a Creperie Bretonne in Barcelona as well! It’s located under the big golden fish at the Passeig Maritim. And this one also has a bus inside:

Creperie Barcelona

Photo from Creperie Bretonne’s website.

Wushu – New season

Yesterday we introduced our new friends Kim & Steve to our favourite restaurant in Barcelona. Wushu had been closed for about 2 weeks while Brad & Paula did some work on the place and took a much-needed vacation.

They started the new year with a new menu. Some of the basis remained – Brad’s amazing thai curries and attention to detail were still there – but dishes changed somewhat. The red curry – which I love! – now comes with duck & eggplant, the yakisoba comes with kanagaroo meat, and there’s a new green curry with prawns that looked really yummy. The prices of the mains went up a notch and the list of appetizer grew. According to Brad, they wanted to make the place more “restauranty” and less “noddle-housy”. Lunch menus continue – from tuesday to friday you can get a special dish of the day with dessert & drink for 9.90 euros. A really good deal considering the quality of the food and service.

Still highly recommended. I think I’ll have the green curry next time.

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Wushu Wok/Restaurant/Bar is on c/ Colomines, 2, right behind the Mercat de Santa Caterina (Born). 933 107 313 . They are open Tue-Sat from 13:00 to 23:00.

Update: Wushu has moved to larger premises:

Avda. Marqués d’Argentera 1
08003 Barcelona
Metro: Barceloneta
Tel: 933 107 313

Catalan food: Origens 99’9%

Origen

Today we went for a late lunch/early dinner with our friends Matt, Elena, and a couple friend of theirs from Toledo, with their two little kids (Luz and Olmo). The chosen restaurant was Origens 99’9%, a small chain here in Barcelona that specializes in rescuing traditional Catalan food. Some of the recipes go back to the Middle Ages! The restaurant is also partly a gourmet store and you can buy many of the wines they serve and artisan cheeses, mermelades, desserts, and chocolates at their store.

InsideThe menu is in form of a cooking magazine, with nice pictures of the dishes, a little history on the produce or the cooking technique involved, some recipes, which you can take with you as a souvenir or to try some of the recipes at home. All the courses are half-sized (and priced accordinly) so you can try more of them and eat as little or as much as you’d like.

ceba farcidaI started with a ceba farcida (stuffed onion). Accompanying the recipe in the menu was a little history: “Stuffing vegetables with meat is a common characteristic of the Mediterranean region. Onions already used to be cultivated in Sumeria in the year 6,000 BC, and then it reached Egypt, where it passed over throughout the majority of Mediterranean towns. This dish is prepared in the area of Anoia.” This onion was stuffed with a mix of pork, veal and pinenuts and covered in a pesto sauce. It was delicious!

cim-i-tombaFor my second course I chose cim-i-tomba, a fish casserole typical of the Costa Brava. According to the menu, “it receives its name due to the way of shaking and moving of the pot when cooking takes place, in order to move the ingredients from top to bottom.” I had head of cim-i-tomba before and couldn’t pass the opportunity of trying it. It was served with lots of broth, with potatoes and onions and was very tasty. The fish was very fresh and clean.

cremaFor dessert, I couldn’t pass on the crema catalana… It’s similar to the French crème brulée, but with a creamier custard. Very nice.

Others had salad with nuts and goat cheese (amanida de fruits secs amb formatge), coca with escalivada & romesco (a slice of bread with roasted vegetables), lentils with cuttlefish and sausage (llenties amb sipia i salsitxes), pupkin and chestnut soup (sopa de carbassa i castanyes), penne with sausage and carreretas (macarrons amb salsitxa i moixernons), pork chops with chestnuts (costella de porc amb castanyes), stuffed apple of l’Empordà (poma farcida de l’Empordà), meatballs with cuttlefish (mandonguilles amb sípia), small squid with chocolate (popets amb xocolata), beef with eggplant (vedella amb albergines)…

You can download their magazine-menu here . All in all, a very good meal! We’ll definitely go back soon…