The Tarnished Spoon Travels – Victoria

Best view to admire the Juan de Fuca Strait along Dallas road.

Best view to admire the Juan de Fuca Strait along Dallas road.

After two days of r & r, we bid goodbye to Sooke and headed all the way to Tofino, one of Canada’s most western points. We genuinely enjoyed combing the coast for rocks and shells, staring at the waves, we truly did, but we were more than happy to hit the road again, and drive ourselves to Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city.

With a population of about 344 000 people, depending on how you look at it, Victoria is a small big city or big small town. One thing is certain we gladly left our rental car at the hotel in order to discover most of the city by foot.

One can truly discover the city while rambling through the city in search of the perfect vintage find. During our stay, we planned out our itinerary by mapping out antique and vintage shops and where to eat. continue reading

That time we went to Momofuku…

 

chicken served with carrot and an egg yolk on the side capped off the savoury dishes.

chicken served with carrot and an egg yolk on the side capped off the savoury dishes.

Ever since I’ve first seen photos on Instagram, various tweets or reading through the issues of Lucky Peach, I’ve been extremely curious about the Momofuku franchise. Earlier this year, I was quite excited to learn that David Chang’s franchise was to set foot in Toronto. Ever since they had opened earlier this fall, I was looking forward to check the place out and sample the menu. Timing had been off until a couple of weeks ago.

 

I recently found out that my friend Manon had gone to high school in Sudbury with with Momofuku Daisho executive sous chef Matt Blondin. The two Collège Notre-Dame (CND, as they called it) alumni recently reconnected. This impromptu reunion prompted Manon and myself to finally set foot at Daishő.

Daisho's dining room.

Daisho’s dining room.

 

The restaurant is adjacent to the brand-new Shangri-La Hotel. The entire Momofuku building has large windows. The Noodle Bar is located on the ground floor. The Nikai bar is on the second, while Daishő and Shőtő, two; more intimate restaurants are located on the third floor. We caught up over cocktails at Nikai while waiting for our table.

Daisho’s dining room is surrounded by large windows, big round lights shine over many of the tables. There are also several seats along the bar. We were greeted with a smile and a cucumber, chilli and soy sauce salad. Just as Manon and I were about to choose our appetizers, the menus were taken away from us.  Our server informed us that we would sample a series of chef Matt’s picks. We were obviously excited.

Halibut cheeks, served with hen of the woods mushrooms, spruce and persimmon.

Halibut cheeks, served with hen of the woods mushrooms, spruce and persimmon.

Our first course rolled out. We started off with the Hot Wing Bun. A chicken wing served with celery, dill and Tabasco in a soft bun. Delish. We then tasted some oysters topped with a slight dollop of kimchi. For our third course, we tasted some halibut cheeks, served with hen of the woods mushrooms, spruce and persimmon that was quite tasty. We then sampled some charred cabbage topped with pork and pine nuts and Pok Pok Som sauce. This course was flavourful, but the portion was perhaps a little too big, considering the amount of dishes we were savouring that evening.

 

 

speckled trout – spot prawn, camelina, smoked milk

speckled trout – spot prawn, camelina, smoked milk

The next dish consisted of Speckled trout topped with a prawn and served in a sauce of smoked milk. The delicate fish blended perfectly with the sauce.  We then tasted a sunchoke dish served with salt cod, preserved walnut and clay pepper. It was a delicious way to enjoy sun chokes. I never knew this root vegetable could taste so good. A beautiful slice of chicken served with carrot and an egg yolk on the side capped off the savoury dishes.

Just when we thought that we were this wonderful meal had come to and end, chef Matt served up a most impressive dessert! One of half of the dish was chocolate, served up in five different textures. The other half consisted of caramelized apples, which were punctuated with hints of cedar and cashews. Both desserts were equally a feast for the eyes and the taste buds.

We were both extremely grateful for this experience. It was great to sample a menu hand picked by the chef and, in a way, plunge into Matt Blond in’s culinary universe. I am looking forward to return and get to see how the Momofuku franchise will evolve over the next few months.

Momofuku – Daishő
Third Floor
190 University Avenue (University and Adelaide)
Toronto, M5H 0A3
http://momofuku.com/toronto/daisho/

* Unfortunaely, the sometimes blurry lens of the iPhone don’t always do justice to the look of the dishes. 

Tarnished Spoon Travels: a Montreal Food Crawl

Visitors are greeted by colourful chairs at Brooklyn.

The tradition continues. Over the past seven years, I’ve made a habit of  taking advantage of Thanksgiving weekend to head down to Montreal for a quick visit home. Since moving to Ontario back in 2005, I’ve returned home every three months or so to spend time with my folks and friends.

It’s easy to get caught up in a certain routine from trip to trip, visiting the same reliable places. For the sake of keeping up with the times so to speak, I try, as much as possible, to at least venture out to one new place per visit. With that in mind, friend and freelance reporter Vincent, suggested we explore boulevard Saint-Laurent and its surroundings through Rosemont, the Mile Ex and Mile End.

Here are some the place that we visited.

Brooklyn
Café – Atelier – Showroom
71, rue Saint-Viateur est

Smoked trout served with labneh and caper berries at Brooklyn.

Hungry and looking for mid century furnishings? If you answered yes to one of the two, the Brooklyn is sure to tickle your fancy. When entering the Brooklyn, you’re welcomed by a series of colourful retro folding chairs. Inside, smiling staff serve up delicious coffee, pastries and a Mediterranean inspired menu.

We took advantage of the tasting platter in order to savour all what the café had to offer. This included: a Spanish tortilla served with avjar (a red pepper and eggplant relish) and mixed greens salad, smoked trout served with labneh, caper berries and mint. We also enjoyed some barbecue-smoked veal served with tomato salad. The meal was capped off with a platter of baba ganoush, muhammara, walnut tzaziki and picked olives and mushrooms. The best way to describe the meal: fresh.

The space in the back of the café is dedicated the owner’s passion for vintage home furnishings. Her collection includes, among others, Scandinavian designed kitchen accessories, an Expo 67 mosaic or even teak furniture, just to name a few.

The Brooklyn proves to be a pleasant midday stop.

Delightful doughnuts

Café Sardine
9, rue Fairmount Est 

Sardine doughnuts are baked fresh daily and served in a Mastercraft tool box.

A short stroll south on Saint-Laurent from where we were, took us to Café Sardine, a restaurant with what seemed like a delightful savoury menu… But we were there to indulge our sweet tooth. Just like Toronto, Montreal is also experiencing a doughnut renaissance. According to Vincent, Café Sardine makes quite the good doughnut. It was only natural taht we give them a try. Displayed in a bright red Mastercraft toolbox, they are baked fresh daily.

On that day, Café Sardine was serving up smoke and sugar, chocolate orange and mint and bourbon. We opted for the latter two. The chocolate and orange was OK. The doughnut itself was tastier than the icing. The mint and bourbon doughnut was delicious. The glaze and the minty taste made for a great afternoon snack.

Big in Japan Bar
4175, Saint-Laurent

The interior impresses with the large angular counter that extends throughout the bar

Located at the corner of Saint-Laurent and Rachel, on can easily walk right past the Big in Japan Bar. The red door, with the tiny inscription of the word “Bar”, Japanese characters and hours of operation are the lone signs of this elegant Montreal hangout.

The interior impresses with the large angular counter that extends throughout the bar. Tea lights lit by fuel stored under the counter punctuate seating. Dark velvet curtains surround the space creating a wonderful setting for meeting up with friends post work or to kick off the weekend.

Whiskey bottles in suspension at the Big in Japan Bar.

Owned by the same person of the behind the Big in Japan, a restaurant located south on Saint-Laurent, the Big in Japan Bar offers an extensive cocktail menu. Whiskey bottles are suspended on the ceiling adding to the décor. The bar also offers a snack menu.

5295
5295, avenue du Parc

Attentive staff prepare delicious cocktails at 5295.

 A recent addition to the Mile End, this new bar has yet to bear an official name. It simply goes by its address: 5295. This laid-back bar takes the visitor on a trip to a 1950s, Hemingwayesque Havana complete with tropical plants and wood and wicker furniture. At the other end of the room, the visitor goes on another journey, this time in a makeshift Moroccan souk with lanterns and bright colors.

5295 offers a great cocktail selection prepared by perfectionist bar staff that take great pride in mixing up the concoction of your choice.

Notre Dame des Quilles
32, Beaubien Est

Strike! A good time was had by all at Notre Dame des Quilles.

I started off my Saturday evening with my friends Jennifer, Vincent-Gabriel and Vincent at Notre Dame des Quilles. This is a perfect neighbourhood hangout where one can sip on suds on the cheap (pints were 4 $ before 7 P.M. and 5 $ after). If hungry, there is a short snack menu focused on comfort food. Items such as small bowl of mac and cheese, fishcakes or a trusty plate of chips served with house made pickled veggies and dip hit the spot just right.

The fun thing is you can also get a bit of bowling in; after all, this place is called Notre Dame des Quilles (quilles being the French word for bowling). The bar has two small bowling alleys where we all tried our best to hit a strike or two. Some of us obviously more luck than others, but regardless, it was all about having a good time. If I lived in the neighbourhood, this place would most likely be my home alley

Hotel Herman
5171, Saint-Laurent

The welcoming center bar at Hotel Herman.

From the casual and laid-back atmosphere of Notre Dame des Quilles we headed south on Saint-Laurent to the elegant Hotel Herman. The first thing one notices when setting foot in the restaurant is the welcoming U shaped bar in the middle of the space. In the back, Hotel Herman staff members are cooking up a storm in open kitchen.

Gaspésie Rock Crab salad with radish and watercress was a success.

The menu is composed of some 16 appetizer sized platters that vary in price from 8 to 23$. The best way to to sample some of chef Marc-Alexandre Mercier’s culinary creations is by sharing a couple of dishes. Over the course of the evening, Jennifer, Vincent-Gabriel, Vincent and myself sampled the venison tartar served with mushrooms, Gaspésie Rock Crab with radish and watercress. We also shared some seared duck breast, seared halibut with celeriac and seared foe gras served on a bed creamy corn and brioche. Everything we tasted was quite good. All four of us were pleasantly surprised by the crab and particularly enjoyed the foie gras and halibut. The flavours and the refined presentation of all the dishes made every bite the most enjoyable.

We capped up our evening of laughs and catching up with some dessert. We all sampled the spiced pound cake topped with squash purée and root beer cream. We also got our chocolate fix with a Manjra chocolate terrine with marrow caramel and hazelnuts. Delish.

It was great to rediscover some interesting addresses in my hometown. What are your favourite spots to grab a bite or a drink in Montreal? Feel free to share them!

 

 

Veg Out: a walk on London Ontario’s vegan side

Veg Out

646 Richmond St.
London, ON

Veg Out’s menu

I’m a self-confessed carnivore. I’ll thoroughly enjoy a steak on the barbeque or an oven-roasted chicken. I’ll also devour pretty much any charcuterie plate placed in front of me. Despite
my appreciation of all things meat, I enjoy stepping away from my carnivore habits and tasting some vegetarian or vegan fare.

During a recent trip to London (Ontario, not GB), my partner and I were looking for a place to grab a bite. Wanting to step away from the chains of this world, we put our fate in the hands of the Urbanspoon app. As our luck would have it, the app pointed us to Veg Out, a vegan restaurant located in the heart of downtown London. Without any hesitation we headed in the direction of the restaurant to “veg out” Here’s what we sampled.

Beet Red

Veg Out has a good choice of fresh smoothies and juices. The Beet Red consists in an apple, orange, beet (surprise!) agave and lemon juices. It proved to be a refreshing choice.

Soup’s on!

Then came the soup. I enjoyed a bowl of sweet potato and coconut soup. It’s creamy texture made for a great first course. My partner tasted the raw melon and cucumber soup. It was quite nice, but it essentially tasted like puréed melon, nothing else. The sweetness of the melon was somewhat overpowering. It would have perhaps been better to serve in a shot glass simply as a palate cleanser.

Raw Zucchini Spring Rolls

We then tried some raw zucchini spring rolls, which consisted of thinly sliced zucchini filled with cashew ricotta cheese and topped with avocado and a basil oil drizzle. The rolls were visually appealing. Their taste: a little bland for our liking, but enjoyed them nonetheless because of the overall flavour and texture.

Smokey Seitan Sandwich

Quite possibly one the best seitan dishes that I’ve eaten. Homemade seitan marinated in a smokey barbeque sauce. Seared and topped with tomatoes, caramelized onions, spinach, and dijon horseradish aioli served in a ciabatta bun. I Thoroughly enjoyed the smokiness of the sauce. I would definitely recommend this to anyone headed there.

Final thought

Owner Florine Morrison and her team strive “to create a comfortable atmosphere and “veganize” familiar foods that would appeal to everyone – vegetarian or not.” Needless to say, Veg Out achieves just that. The dishes were both tasty and pretty and the service was the most attentive. Will definitely stop there again next time I’m in London to taste other items on the menu.

Tarnished Spoon Travels : New York City – Day 3

Journey to Brooklyn

Brooklyn beckoned, and we responded! Time for us to cross the East River and take in the sights East of Manhattan.

First, a quick stop at Spoonbill and Sugartown Books to pick up an elusive copy of Lucky Peach magazine. For a reason or another, the Summer 2012 edition of this journal dedicated to food and writing isn’t available back in Toronto nor was it possible to stumble upon it in Manhattan. Without hesitation, we brought it home!

Lunch
Juliette Williamsburg
135 North 5th St Brooklyn

Juliette’s decor is straight out of a parisian bistro.

Juliette Williamsburg proved to be an ideal urban oasis. It was like having a little bit of Paris, in Brooklyn. Everything, from the signage, the tables, chair and floors were the same you’d find in a French bistro. The courtyard dining room with numerous hanging plants was another great element about the place the large roof top potion with bar and numerous yellow and red tables and chairs is where we decided to enjoy our lunch.

Onto the food and drink. My partner ordered the vegetarian sandwich on a warm ciabatta, which was filled with Japanese eggplant, avocado, cucumber, daikon sprouts and tapenade. I ordered a comforting croque-monsieur served with a homemade brioche.

We then both enjoyed wonderful lemonades that were mixed with strawberry and pear purée; a refreshing touch to our meal as we were pondering our next move.

Shop
Mast Brothers Chocolate
105 A North Third Street 

All Mast Brothers Chocolates are elegantly wrapped. Photo: Eric Rados.

Per the description in Rather New York City, Mast brothers promised to be a delicious stop. It sure didn’t disappoint! When entering the North Third Street shop, between the bags of cocoa grains, you first see chocolatiers at work, crafting chocolates with great pride.

Along the wall with a large black board, you then get a glimpse at several varieties of chocolate. Every single Mast Brothers chocolate bar is packaged in elegant colored wrapping paper, making these chocolates also a feast for the eyes!

Brothers Rick and Michael Mast partnered with farms and organizations such as Anderson Almonds, Stumptown Coffee and Maine Sea Salt to offer chocolate enthusiasts some delicious choices. My personal faves were the Stumptown Coffee and Main Sea Salt chocolates.

While at the shop, make sure you bring back a couple of truffles. The salted caramel, coffee, sea salt and almond truffles were great. Unfortunately, they were all eaten too fast by yours truly to take a photo…

Dinner
The Fat Radish
17, Orchard Street

We were welcomed with a plate of radishes topped with tappenade.

For our last night in the Big Apple, we turned yet again to the Rather New York City guide to channel our inspiration. Co-author Julia Oh states, “My bet is a smile will appear on your face also when you step inside.” She was right. While walking into the restaurant you couldn’t help but be charmed the warm décor, friendly staff and let’s not forget the food on the menu.

The Fat Radish serves up a British inspired menu. We were welcomed with plate of radishes, topped with tapenade. The day’s specials were all marked on large mirror.

My partner started his meal with baby beet salad that included thinly sliced beets and pickled ones as well. I ordered the endive, prosciutto, grilled peach, ricotta and lemon oil salad. Both appetizers were flavourful.

We were both inspired by the seafood on the menu. We ordered the olive oil poached cod served with warm German potato salad and the Montauk diver scallops fresh corn “polenta” (it was like a cream corn which was incredibly delicious), bacon jam and. Both dishes were a hit! I was intrigued by the bacon jam, but was quickly a convert. The saltiness of the jam blended particularly well with the scallops and corn polenta.

Dessert was an easy decision. Caroline, our server, discretely returned to our table simply stating that the Banofee pie was excellent. We took her word for it and never looked back.  We were blown away! This English inspired dessert made from bananas, cream, and toffee all served on top of butter biscuit crust and topped with Mast Brothers cocoa nibs (full circle moment. Ha!) was a delight, and a perfect way to end our meal. Caroline later came back to explain how much she missed Banofee pie upon her return from the UK. She was overjoyed when she found out her employer added this dessert to the menu.

Dinner at the Fat Radish proved to be the most pleasant way to end our three-day escapade in New York. And per our Rather Guide’s description, we did indeed leave with a smile on our faces.

Where to next for our next trip

?

Tarnished Spoon Travels: New York City – Day 2

(Mis) adventures in street food

After struggling to find the coveted food truck, we grabbed a hot dog from a place like this.

 A leisurely stroll through Central Park and a visit to the American Museum of Natural were our menu for the day. This itinerary would have been the perfect way to take a peek New York’s food trucks… Unfortunately for us, it was otherwise.

The whole food truck lunch was a spur of the moment idea on my part. Let’s just say that I could have planned our move a little bit better, finding where to go before venturing out and about. Wanting to avoid crazy roaming fees, I was desperately attempting to find free Wi-Fi to connect to the internes to search for food trucks around Central Park.

Luckily, Central Park offers free wireless Internet hubs in certain areas. Alas, it was in vain. I was struggling with the map of vendors on the New York Street food website, constantly zooming out of the Central Park area on the map. I eventually stumbled upon the Pear Turkish Taco food truck and was intrigued. And so our quest began. The food truck was supposed to be at the Tavern on the Green, at Central Park and West 67th Street.

We looked for it but was nowhere to be found. After another attempt at a connecting to the web, an article published in May stated that some vendors were being pushed out Central Park because of renovations. Unable to verify updated information (the article dated from May), we ventured back and forth in the vicinity where the Pera truck should have been. Doubt and hunger were quick to settle in.

Frustrated, we both reluctantly gave up, and ended up engulfing a traditional hot dog and a salty pretzel.

Mildly disappointing. However lesson learned: track food trucks prior to leaving.

Dinner
Five Points
31, Great Jones Street 

The exterior of Five Points.

After our minor lunch setback, a visit through the American Museum of Natural History and a lengthy walk, we were ready for dinner. The day before, I reached out to my Instagram friend Diala Canelo for some restaurant advice. The Mexico City-based pastry chef enthusiastically recommended Five Points.

Located three streets north of Houston, at the corner of    Lafayette, Five Points has become a Greenwich Village fixture since opening in 1999. Co-owners Chef Marc Meyer and Victoria Freeman offer an accessible, locally produced, seasonal menu at Five Points as well as at Cookshop and Hundred Acres.

With its quaint patio and French doors, Five Acres was welcoming from the get-go. The dining room was just as visually pleasing. As you enter the restaurant, the bar counter is to your left. The large dining room is divided in two by a large piece of wood that plays the role of a long flowerpot that leads almost all the way to the kitchen.

After enjoying a couple of sips of some white wine sangria, we enjoyed the black kale served with a lemon-anchovy dressing topped with pecorino cheese and croutons.

For the mains, we opted for something simple yet satisfying: pizza. We split the Potato and Summer squash. The first consisted in sliced Yukon gold potatoes with fontina and truffle oil. The second served up some squash, fresh ricotta, and olive oil and served up with a fried egg on top. Both pizzas proved to be quite good. The crust was just the right texture and the toppings were delicious. The flavors of the Yukon gold potatoes and fontina cheese blended particularly well.

For dessert, we opted for the something seasonal: blueberry shortcake. It was delicious. Juicy blueberries were served between pieces of almond and coriander scented shortcake that look slightly like a scone. A mascarpone whipped cream topped this refreshing dessert.

Our wonderful meal quickly made us forget our midday misadventures.

Have a quick peek at the dishes sampled at Five Points!

Tarnished Spoon Travels: New York City – Day 1

Upon our arrival in Newark Liberty Airport, we headed straight to Grace, a boutique hotel located steps from Times Square, at West 45th and 6th Avenue. This boutique hotel part of the Spanish owned Room Mate Hotels would be our home base for this three-day trip.

After setting in our chambers, we consulted our Rather New York City guide more attentively, jotting down a couple of potential places where we could set foot during our stay.

Lunchtime was soon approaching, our stomachs, growling. We set foot our quest for food.

2nd Avenue Deli

162 East 33rd St/1442 First Avenues

Pastrami sandwich from 2nd Avenue Deli. – Photo: Eric Rados

In 1954, Abe Lebewohl, opened a small restaurant at East 10th Street at 2nd Avenue that would eventually grow as a neighborhood staple in the East Village. Tragedy struck in 1996 when Lebewohl was murdered during a bank robbery. Despite the tragic loss, the founder’s family kept the restaurant running. The deli closed its doors in 2006 after a landlord dispute. Luckily, Jeremy and Josh, Lebewohl’s nephews stepped in and reopened the deli in 2007 at is current location and opened another one on First Avenue.

Nothing says New York City better than grabbing a bite in a Kosher Deli. Fresh, delicious comfort food in the form of pastrami sandwiches, matzo ball soup, pickles and many more items typically found on a deli menu. The first thing one sees entering the 2nd Avenue Deli is a large counter filled with various salads and vegetables, enough to open your appetite if you weren’t hungry.

We ordered a pastrami sandwich on rye and a smoked salmon sandwich complete with cream cheese, red onions, cucumber and capers. Both were delicious! Various pickles savory and spicy were also served with our dishes. Our lunch ended on a sweet and bubbly note with a shot of Bosco chocolate soda, something you’ll likely won’t find outside of New York. (If you know otherwise, let me know!)

The Redhead
349 East 13th Street

Dinner at The Redhead.

The Redhead intrigued me. In Rather New York City, Jan Faust Dane states: “ You’d think the promise of bacon and peanut brittle would be what lured me to The Redhead. Good guess, but wrong.”

Indeed, there is much more to this place than their sweet and savory brittle. Their southern influenced menu and cozy décor make this place a winner. Interesting fact: The Redhead was originally a bar, which eventually converted to a restaurant. The crowd and staff were laid-back. The place felt very much like a local spot with its share of regulars.

Onto the menu… Several items were tempting. My partner enjoyed the Summer squash salad. I opted for the One-eyed Caesar salad. The fried egg on toast proved to be a visually pleasant take on a classic.

For the mains, my partner ordered the lean and tasty Newport steak served with fried green tomatoes, which proved to be excellent. I went for the buttermilk-fried chicken that was served most elegantly with a spinach and strawberry salad topped with candied almonds. The chicken was delicious: perfectly crisp on the outside, moist and flavorful on the inside. Yum.

We both shared a slice of the Brooklyn Blackout cake with espresso ice cream for dessert. The dish was okay, but nothing to write home about. The ice cream was very much the better part of the dessert. Although, I must say that my sweet tooth left The Redhead fully indulged thanks to chewy s’more cookie, a chocolate based cookie topped with graham cracker and a roasted marshmallow  that was graciously served with the check. A perfect way to cap off a wonderful dinner.

Here’s a quick peek of some of the dishes tasted on the first day. I apologize in advance or the poor quality of the images.

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