Toronto - DINING & NIGHTLIFE
August 31st, 2012
Old Mother Hubbard
Went to her cupboard
To get her family a treat,
When she got there
The cupboard was bare
Of savoury crumbs and sugary sweets.
So Old Mother Hubbard
Did with her mouse hover
Over a new website called Foodie Pages.
Now the whole family Hubbard
Finds their toast smothered
In gourmet Canadian-made spreads for all ages.
August 30th, 2012
Torontonians, line your stomachs.
Brand new on the Queen East strip, Rakia Bar is the city’s first watering-hole devoted to Eastern European brandy. Distilled from pure fermented fruit like plum, quince and apricot, this potent eau-de-vie is traditionally sipped before (during, after) a leisurely meal. Rakia offers 36 kinds and glass-vial flights are served on wooden boards with bells for quick refills. Warning: Sit in the plush, pillow-lined banquette and you’ll be tempted to try them all.
With an alcohol content tipping 40 per cent, this juice isn’t for the faint of heart but it pairs perfectly with chef Brook Kavanagh’s sharing platters of gamey cevapi sausages, duck leg paprikash and suckling pig.
We feel a warm glow coming over us. Živeli! —Marianne Wisenthal
1402 Queen Street E, Unit B, Toronto, 416-778-8800, www.rakiabar.com
August 24th, 2012
Let's face it – a lot of the time, you can't satisfy a sugar craving with a banana. But that doesn't mean we have to stuff ourselves with butter, cream and refined flour every time our sweet tooth asserts itself.
So we were thrilled to discover a local raw vegan – and gluten-free to boot – Treat of the Month club that lets us sample delicious whole-food goodies guilt free. Each month, for just $10, participants receive six different bite-size desserts in a reusable container, the product of some very tasty recipe testing. Thank goodness chocolate's a plant food.—Kat Tancock
August 3rd, 2012
Margherita Missoni’s gypsy-style picnic wedding reception inspired us to stuff a basket full of pan bagnats and fresh mint lemonade and spend a day noshing, drinking and lazing in the sunshine.
Sadly, no Missoni plates in sight, but we did bring this set of lapis blue ones, ($6.28), a large linen throw ($85), Mason jars for our lemonade ($14 for a pack of 12) plus these charming antique French linen napkins ($180 for 6).
For dessert, we brought old-fashioned brownies topped with berries and rich double cream.
And yes, we did wear daisy chains in our hair. —Athena Tsavliris
July 18th, 2012
Don’t judge me Jamie, but I feed my children cake from a packet.
Now before you get all preachy, let me stress that it’s not just any old mix I use. The folks at Grainstorm want us to ‘Bake Like It’s 1849’ and to that end are producing wonderful mixes bursting with 100 per cent organic goodness. Everything from the wheat to the sugar to the baking soda is pre-industrial.
I use the Golden Kamut loaf mix (just add eggs, butter, olive oil and yoghurt) but there are plenty to choose from, like oatmeal, red fife and ancient grains. You’ll find plenty of easy-as-pie recipes on the back of the package.
It’s the best thing since sliced bread. —Athena Tsavliris
From $7.95, Grainstorm, www.grainstorm.com
July 13th, 2012
I know I'm not the only one to crave lighter fare in the hottest months – and perish the thought of actually turning on my oven.
So when even juicing becomes a chore (or I'm out post-yoga and in need of some nourishment), I'm heading to just-opened Feel Good Guru to fuel up. Offerings include mix-and-match salads, cold noodles and pizza – all vegan, much raw – and fresh, nutrient-rich juices. And there's enough to satisfy any sweet tooth, too; on my visit, I skipped the pretty key lime energy bites in favour of surprisingly decadent creamy kale pie. You have to taste it to believe it. —Kat Tancock
Feel Good Guru, 917 Queen St. W., Toronto, 647-748-5800, www.feelgoodguru.com
July 11th, 2012
Doughnuts have officially gone gourmet.
It’s all class at the newly opened Paulette’s where bow tied staff serve artisanal doughnuts like Root Beer Float, Blueberry Balsamic and Mango Yuzu. We love the whole '50s-vibe: back-to-basics ingredients, sea foam walls, shiny stools and a glass case featuring the daily options.
And just when you thought things couldn’t get better, they also make the best darn chicken (from $8) this side of the Don. Decadently battered and double deep-fried, it comes with your pick of dipping salts and sauces from Garam Masala to Maple Chili.
Now break out your best muumuu and mourn the demise of the cupcake.—Marianne Wisenthal
$2.75/each, Paulette’s Original Doughnuts and Chicken, 913 Queen St. E., Toronto, 647-748-1177 www.paulettesoriginal.com
June 21st, 2012
Any restaurant that reserves tables with a copy of The Gospel of Food has our attention.
Indeed the Farmhouse Tavern’s Chef de Cuisine takes an almost spiritual approach to his farm-driven menu. Daniel Janetos adapts meals weekly choosing seasonal, ethically sourced ingredients from local suppliers (it doesn’t get any closer than a Junction dairy, does it?). Our visit included divine Lake Huron fish (straight from the boat) in bouillabaisse with buttered baby fennel and new Ontario potatoes. Do not miss the hearty Ploughman’s Platter ($22) with Harlequin duck eggs, double smoked in-house bacon, PEI oysters, Glengarry cheese and homemade ice-wine jelly.
Décor is cozy and nostalgic: old family photographs, barnyard doors and mason jars retrieved from grandparents’ rural basements. To top it off, many of the staff came from La Société so service is stellar.
To all this, and the cold craft beers, we declare a hearty Hallelujah. —Marianne Wisenthal
Farmhouse Tavern, 1627 Dupont St., Toronto, text 416-561-9114 for reservations, www.farmhousetavern.tumblr.com
June 8th, 2012
Until now, we had made it a rule to stay as far away from strip malls as possible.
Set in a plaza at the tired corner of Gerrard and Carlaw, The Playpen is an unexpected treat of fine food and finer libations. The Mondrian color scheme and ’70s light fixtures set the mood (even our waiter looked like he’d stepped out from central casting) but the food is far from kitsch. Chef Laura Prentice’s lobster maki balls, tender rack of Ontario lamb and chocolate ganache with cardamom sent us on a stairway to heaven and back.
Finish up with a couple of beet martinis in the plush lounge bar and you’ll feel very playful indeed. —Marianne Wisenthal
The Playpen, 842 Gerrard St. E., Toronto, 416-907-9761, www.theplaypen.ca
June 4th, 2012
'Tis the season when thoughts turn to patios and beer.
Lucky for us, Ossington newcomer Bellwoods Brewery delivers on both with a sidewalk-side outdoor space and multiple tasty brews made on-site. On a recent post-yoga beer date my friends and I spent a lovely summer-like evening enjoying a refreshing light beer mixed with rhubarb syrup and a selection of cheeses, spiced peanuts and pickled vegetables. Expect lineups come summer, but with a retail store opening soon, you can always get a growler to go. —Kat Tancock
Bellwoods Brewery, 124 Ossington Ave., Toronto, www.bellwoodsbrewery.com