Category Archives: Restaurant Reviews

The Unfamiliar Territory

I was over on the East side of town yesterday, having made it there underground from the North end of town. I was totally and utterly discombobulated, and when I emerged into the bright, warm, sunshiny day, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit out of place. It is March, but the sun was so warm I de-parka-ed, and was walking in places I had never walked. I started to think about the things I wanted in that moment to make me feel at home in the unfamiliar territory. A latte. Anything can be cured with a latte. I racked my brain trying to conjure up a memory of an article or something that could inform me of which direction to take to find the precious beverage… alas, I was running out of time and just had to walk in the direction I was meant to go, no lallygagging. Five minutes later, there in the distance I saw the telling wooden benches, the picture windows, ecotainer take out cups, and the glow of not only an apple from someone’s laptop,  but also the unmistakable glow of the Elektra. The espresso machine that I depend on every morning to give me my fix, has a cousin on the other side of the Bloor Viaduct. Who knew? Broadview Espresso is a sweet little place, with hot, disengaged baristas, people with laptops, and exactly what I needed to take the edge off. It was comfy, I knew the script, and didn’t surprise me at all that by walking a few blocks into a residential neighbourhood in the Toronto core, I would find what I was looking for. I actually giggled when I saw it and about how I had almost conjured the place in my mind only moments earlier. Pretty decent latte too. Tight microfoam, fancy latte art leaf, and rich flavour.

Broadview Espresso

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Green Glass Saves Gigi

It always amazes me that restaurants and cafes stay in business when the proprietor is A. unfriendly, or B. unwelcoming. The few times that I have gone into Saving Gigi, I have been less than impressed by the attitude that seems to permeate every square inch of the place. There’s a trickle down effect on the customers too, who, different from other espresso refueling stations around Toronto, sneer when asked to share their coveted table. To be fair, I used to live in the apartment upstairs during a dark period of my life, and there is the potential that I could be projecting unhappy memories on the space. But really, is it necessary to make a customer alienating, outdoor voice announcement, with extreme avoidance of eye contact, that the cafe will be closing prefaced by: “For those of you who haven’t been here before and might not know what this song means, you’ve got half an hour”?

Saving Gigi has one saving grace… the little things. A collection of green glass bottles is charmingly chilled and at the ready to serve with your Americano. Above head – big, airy, white paper light fixtures sway gently in the breeze from the ceiling fan creating atmosphere and softening edges. The colourful cushion covers strewn across the window benches sparkle in the sunlight. It’ll do for a Saturday afternoon of career exploration and municipal government musings with friends.

Green Glass at Saves Gigi

Love Lingers in my Latte

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Latte Love @ Balluchon c/o Raymond Emes

Lattes. They rock. Even better when the subtle flick of a barista wrist creates images of hearts and fern leaves when the steamed milk and crema so delicately mingle. I rarely order a latte when I’m out at cafes. My drink of choice tends to be an americano. I prefer the colour of deep brown espresso with just the perfect amount of hot water. I drink them more slowly than a latte, which I find go down too smoothly. But yesterday, something was different… Perhaps it’s the need for comfort food to get me through Valentine’s tearless, or maybe my body is telling me I am calcium deficient. Whatever the reason, I had three lattes! No woman in her right mind would have three lattes in one day, that’s about 750ml of whole milk, and 6 shots of espresso before 2pm. I must not be in my right mind.

Latte Leaf @ The Common c/o Anna

I tend not to order a latte if the milk that’s used isn’t organic. The charming glass bottles from Harmony delight me in so many ways.

Latte Lovers @ Bull Dog c/o ?

Next latte will be at Jimmy’s Coffee, where I have yet to experience the expertise that Max Waters brings to this new café.

For now, I’ll revel in my dairy daze and soak up the care and love that was infused into my morning. God knows I need a bit of that from time to time. Long live baristas everywhere!

Union 72 Lunch

Suppliers for Union 72

It was my father’s birthday. He doesn’t really care about his birthday, but my mother and I decided to make a little fuss, or at least acknowledge that it was a special day for him… I suggested we lunch at Union 72 on Ossington. Having been there for dinner months ago and thrilled with the food the first time, I thought it would be a perfect spot to entertain the folks. My parents have very good taste. They are very good eaters. And they have very high standards. It’s never a good idea to just suggest any old place. I enticed them to move out of their comfort zone (L’Espresso by Bar Mercurio), and venture to the relatively grotty Queen West/Ossington hot spot.

Our meals were very good. Both my mom and dad went for the Croque Madame topped with bright yolked fried eggs, frites with mayo, and tender green salad slathered with mustard seeds. I went for the trout fillet and chili oil with creamy-crunchy radish mashed potatoes and bright green chard. Divine! Topped it off with lemon-verbena tea and spent the rest of my day cycling by the lake in the sun. Ah, the life of leisure.

Mommy and Daddy's Croque Madame

Trout Fillet with Chili Oil

Impromptu Dinner on Harbord with my BFF

So, I’ll set the context. Picture Banana Republic at Bloor and Bay full to the brim with enthusiastic Waterloo alum, anxious to score with the discount on all store merchandise, and looking for a little networking/style advice. A couple hundred young professionals clutching their winter coats (and bike helmet, oh, that was just me…) roaming around a store with Naked Grape (I hate to advertise for them here…) spritzers sipping through straws and wondering why they decided to spend a precious Thursday evening milling about with strangers. It was hot in there, busy, and poorly organized. Alex and I spent most of our time in one of two fitting rooms which we co-occupied trying on bleached denim shirts and canary yellow dresses that fit more like scalloped chiffon curtains.

We needed comfort food. A chilly, somewhat directionless, walk south-west found us on Harbord. So many choices. Harbord Room, Tati, The Boulevard Cafe, but we decided to sample the local fare at The Harbord House. Months earlier, I happened to be cycling behind a guy who wiped out on some loose gravel turning a corner. I sat with him for a while to make sure he was okay. We spoke for a while, I wanted to make sure he didn’t have a concussion, and he turned out to be the owner of The Harbord House, and since then I had meant to go in and check it out.

I am very fond of French Onion Soup. I love the often sweet-salty, aromatic, and slippery qualities that come with those short handled bowls of yummy. But, arguably, the best part of a French Onion Soup is the bubbly, melty, stringy, browned, chewy, oily CHEESE on top!!! Cheese became the theme of both of our dinners, as Alex opted for pub classic, Mac and Cheese boasting cheddar, jack, parmesan and ermite on penne.

Veg Friendly Apple-Thyme French Onion Soup at The Harbord House

This veggie-friendly version of the classic was the perfect companion to the debriefing of a ridiculous event, catching up on the gossip, and weighing the pros and cons of opportunities that lay ahead.

The menu certainly promotes it’s effort to work with local flavours. Berkshire Pulled Pork Sandwiches, the Hoser Burger with certified Angus beef and peameal bacon. It does a good job, could do more, but the price is right, the atmosphere casual, and a great spot to stop in and have a bite sans pretension.

Morsels of Heaven at Cava

After a brisk and lengthy bike ride, I stopped in to see Doug Penfold at Cava for a bite. Started with some bubbly in pink, snappy breadsticks, Pinchos with cold duck breast, green olive and anchovy, and the piece de resistance, chocolate! Never in my life have I put something so divine on my tongue as the White chocolate and lemon, and then the milk chocolate and fennel pollen – squares of pure pleasure.

Pinchos

Chocolates from Xoco Cava

The solid wood bar is a great place to sit and chat with Alessandro and Kyle while perusing all of the many wine bottles placed just so above the bar. A menu featuring huitlacoche crepas, alongside paella, and many other locally sourced Spanish tapas, this restaurant deserves multiple visits to try everything on the menu. And when you decide to go, invite me with you!

Lunch at Calico Cafe

Calico is a great new-ish restaurant at Bloor and Brock, using many locally sourced ingredients and offering a veggie/vegan friendly menu of freshly made, whole and hearty foods. Open for brunch, lunch and dinner.