Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Weekend From Hell, or The Worst. Move. Ever.

Well, the move happened. Eventually. Turns out we hired the worst moving company in the city. Who knew.

Buckle up, it's going to be quite a ride.

First of all, because of a family emergency out of town, the move had to be pushed back from September 13/14 to September 27/28. No problem, as we both still had our old places until the end of the month. Dar called the moving company and made all the arrangements, and was told that two guys in a big truck would arrive at her place on Saturday morning at 8:00am. Sounded good to me.

The plan was for them to pack the remainder of her kitchen stuff, load the truck with her stuff and then come to my place. They would then load my stuff, proceed to the new apartment and unload everything into the new place. Done and done. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

That's not exactly how it happened.

Naturally, when moving out of a high-rise apartment building (as Dar was doing), arrangements have to be made to reserve an elevator so that your stuff can be loaded out as quickly as possible. Of course, being the end of the month, there were others moving out on the same day who had also reserved an elevator and consequently, the elevator was booked solid.

They didn't show up at 8.

At about 8:45am, I was still at my place frantically throwing the last of my stuff into garbage bags and anticipating the arrival of the truck for about 10am. I got a call from Dar to tell me that they hadn't arrived yet, and that she had called the moving company to investigate. Apparently, the boss had no idea where they were, but assured her that they would be there soon. Uh huh.

Dar had reserved the elevators for 8:00am - 10:00am, and the window was rapidly closing. Another phone call at about 9:30 reveals that the boss still doesn't know where the guys are, but assures us they'll be there soon. Are you sensing a theme here?

They didn't show up at 10.

The elevator reservation time has now passed, and Dar is on the phone to the super, trying to make alternate arragements about the elevator. Turns out, the people who have reserved the elevator from 10:00am - noon had their truck arrive early, so they were done already. As long as our guys arrived fairly soon, it would still be OK.

They didn't show up at 11, and this is the point where the day started seriously to go downhill.

In addition to getting stuff ready for the moving truck, I had been loading my car with things that I didn't trust them to move. Things like my bass and my electric piano, the remainder of my hockey card collection that hadn't already gone to my brother's place for safekeeping. Y'know, stuff like that. To do this, I had to pull the car up in front of the house and park it with the four-way flashers on while I loaded it. Somewhere around 11:30am, I come outside with an armload of stuff to find the neighbours across the street standing beside their car and staring at mine.

I was greeted with, "Is that your car? I've just run into it, and we need to exchange information."


I walked around to the other side of the car, and sure enough, she'd backed the SUV out of her driveway, failed to see my car, dented the hell out of the front passenger-side door and broken the side mirror. The only damage to the SUV was a broken tail-light.

If this is starting to sound like a rant, I apologize, but there's still more. Oh yes. Please bear with me.

So, fine, we exchanged information, I used some packing tape to re-affix the side mirror, finished packing the car and drove to Dar's to see what the hell was going on there.

I arrived at her building at about 12:30, and on my way in I meet her with the movers (let's call them Lenny and Squiggy) in tow, who had only just arrived themselves. Their excuse for showing up four and a half hours late? "We couldn't find the place."

Right. In this day and age is this still a viable excuse? I don't think so.

Anyway, the entire day's schedule was now completely out the window. The move that we thought was going to be over and done with by 4pm, is just getting started at 1pm.

But wait, there's more.

As the guys were finishing loading Dar's stuff into the truck, we're told that there's not enough room for all of my stuff, and that we're going to have to stop at the new place and offload some of it BEFORE going to my place. When asked why, they responded, "We didn't expect so much stuff, and we packed the truck wrong." Lenny and Squiggy had now become Lloyd and Harry.

What could we do? We went to the new place and dropped some stuff off. We had to sweet-talk the super at the new place, because we'd now missed our window there as well. AND, we had to tell him that we'd be making another trip in a few hours. He wasn't pleased, but said no problem.

So, instead of unloading everything from the truck like a normal person, they unloaded what they figured was just enough stuff to make room for my stuff. Turns out, they along with us were watching the day slide slowly south, and didn't want to lose the little leverage they had against us finally losing it and refusing to pay. This wasn't going to happen, but they didn't know that.

So it's now getting on for 6pm, and we're at my place loading my stuff. We'd already missed the technician who was supposed to set up our phone/cable/internet at the new place, and we're really starting to get pissed now. About halfway through the load-out, we're told that again, there's not enough room in the truck for all of my stuff and we're going to have to come back for the rest of it.


Now Dar's on the phone to the company demanding a refund or discount or something, because of course we're paying these guys by the hour, and this will mean three extra trips that we shouldn't have had to make. The boss is now seriously cheesed with Lloyd and Harry and tells us that he's willing to work something out.

The night dragged on, and included such highlights as a yelling match between our guys and some other people who were also moving in to our building, and who we apologized to afterwards. On top of that, as 10pm rolled around, Lloyd actually had the balls to start whining about how late it was getting, and that they had a one-hour drive ahead of them after they were done.

By 11:30pm, we just wanted them out of our place. They finished shortly afterwards, and the deal we worked out with their boss had us paying for 7.5 hours on a twelve hour move. It was the only bright spot in the day.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gallumphing To A New Location

Well, it's official. In a couple of weeks, I will be abandoning my underground lair for more spacious digs. I've been inhabiting the lair for about six years now, which has been great, but I'm ready for a change. The prospect of having some natural light in the place is nice, not to mention that Dar will be there, too. Co-habiting after so long on my own (and for that matter, on her own) presents its own set of challenges, but I'm looking forward to it.

For about a month now, after finally finding a place, I've been as busy as a one-legged man at a butt kicking contest. She has too, but she has a lot less stuff than I do. The last time I moved, my collection of stuff had been pared down to a fairly manageable size, but after living in one place for six years, I was astounded at the sheer volume of crap (um, I mean 'valuable collectibles') that I've amassed. Every morning for the last two weeks, I've been loading the car with at least a couple of boxes of stuff to be dropped off at Goodwill on my way home. The thing is, my place is still looking as cluttered as ever. Sheesh. I've packed six file boxes full of books that I'm keeping, and got rid of two more boxes, and I still have almost two full bookcases.

One good thing I did was to buy a large CD wallet which holds 224 CDs and booklets, then dumped all of the jewel cases into the recycling bin. It's amazing how much space those things take up.

Side note: Thank you to whoever carted away the CD towers (with a note reading, "FREE - Please Take Them") that I left on the street in front of the house. They were gone in less than two hours.

For a move, of course, one needs boxes and lots of them. Both Dar and I have been harassing our respective offices' Mailrooms for empty file boxes and printer paper boxes. I have also been staking out my local LCBO (that's the liquor store for those outside of Ontario) for boxes, and have made out like a bandit there, too. A mistake I made on one past move was to pack all of my stuff into a few large boxes, which then needed two people each to lift them. I almost threw my back out trying to heave a television-sized box full of books onto the truck. Ah well, live and learn.

The major challenge in this move is going to be the actual moving date. We take possession on September 15, but the place might be ready before then. You see, the current tenants move out on the first of the month, and then the place will be completely renovated before we move in. This means a completely new bathroom, new floors, new fridge and stove, and new kitchen cabinets. Nice. If the place is ready before the 15th, we can move in early which is what we're aiming for. Y'see, this year September 15 falls on a Monday, which means that we wouldn't be able to move until the Wednesday or Thursday, which I had already booked off work anyway as it is my birthday (yay!). We can't do it the following weekend, because I'll be out of town with the boys for our annual Golf Weekend, which we'd arranged months ago. Ideally, we'd like to move the previous Saturday or Sunday (the 13th or 14th), because then we could hit up our friends to help out. We could probably handle it ourselves if need be, but the thing is - we'd rather not. And, it's more fun with more people. We have to wait until a week before the 15th to hear for sure when we can move in.

Does anyone need some spiffy IKEA bookcases? Seriously. You can have them if you come and take them away.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Great Googly Moogly, Look At That Burger

On the spur of the moment, Dar and I went out for dinner at a place called The Yellow Griffin in Bloor West Village. This place boasts "at least 35 burgers" on the menu, and they're not lying.

I had been there once before with some friends about three or four years ago, and had been meaning to go back, so I'd been talking up the place to Darlene. She said "well, why not right now?" She's so smart. Why not indeed?

You can get almost anything you want on your 8 oz (!) burger in any combination, and if that isn't enough, you have a choice of 8 kinds of patty, including salmon and bison. There is also a vegetarian patty for those so inclined.

Of course, what would a burger be without a side order of something tasty? The choices are many and varied (check out the menu here for more details): "Grif-fries, sweet potato fries, fresh greens, traditional coleslaw, red baron kraut-slaw, the Village potato salad, Zucchini Sticks, Breaded Pickles or our awesome breaded onion rings!" Also, you can upgrade to poutine for an extra $2.75. Ah, poutine, that evil evil delicacy. They have three varieties to choose from, but I went right for the Hogtown Poutine which is fries, cheese curds, brown gravy and bacon.

Despite the allure of the "English Breakfast Burger", which comes topped with (to quote the menu) "Buckingham baked beans, HP Sauce and crowned with a royal fried egg. Jolly good!", I went for the New Mexican burger, which comes topped with salsa, guacamole, peanut butter, shredded sweet potato and chopped coriander. Oh. My. God. Sounds weird, tastes fantastic. Dar wasn't sold on the idea of peanut butter on a burger, but I let her try some, and the look on her face was priceless. "Oooooh," she said, "that's GOOD."

Darlene got the Cheezzzy Triple Cheese burger, which comes with "Lots’a feta crumbled under mounds of melted mozzarella and cheddar …it aint easy bein’ a cheesy triple cheese", and the onion rings. There were only 5 onion rings on the plate when it arrived, but they were HUGE.

Here are some examples of the more unusual offerings:

Big Apple Deli
Empire sliced cinnamon apple, caramel black treacle, Swiss cheese and Mannyhanny coleslaw

Reuben Burger
Slices of Pedro’s Pastrami - who’s Pedro? ole’Kraut-sauerkraut, topped with smoked Gouda cheese

Kung Fu Burger
Hay-ya scallions, Fu-man-chu peanuts, Kung Pao nut sauce and kick in some mozzarella

The tag-line on the menu reads: "Our burgers take 20 minutes to cook, but it's definitely worth the wait for the very 'un-fast-food' taste!" Very true. The burgers were phenominal, and the portions are huge. Between the 8oz burgers, the poutine and Dar's onion rings, we were most definitely full when we left.

'Course, we have to go back. Goes without saying, really. I want to try their "Burning School House" burger with chili peppers, red peppers, onions and smoky cheese. Maybe even on a bison burger.

The Yellow Griffin Pub is located at 2202 Bloor St. West in Toronto. You should check it out.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Little Something I Whipped Up

Last weekend I was sitting at home and thinking about what I should make myself for lunch. Of course, this decision is always largely based on what food I have on hand. As I walked into the kitchen I spied the small bag of new potatoes that I had acquired recently, and which I figured should probably be used up before too long. But what to do with them?

Since I had a bunch of other veggies in the fridge, I decided to make potato vegetable soup. Frighteningly logical, eh? I cut each potato in half, and chopped up a pile of carrot, celery, green onion and garlic cloves and dumped everything into a pot. I added a spoon of bacon fat (a little goes a long way), some salt and pepper, some chili flakes (gotta have the heat), some basil and oregano and just enough water to cover everything.

After that, I brought the liquid to the boil, then turned down the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Tasted it, added some more pepper and chili flakes (ooh yeah), and let it simmer another 15 minutes. Since I didn't want the potatoes to turn to mush, that's as long as I cooked it.

It turned out really well, and was nice and spicy. The only thought going through my head as I ate (besides "Mmmmmmm...."), was "I should have made more".

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Getting Silly At Czehoski

You, I'm sure, have been waiting with baited breath to hear about my outing to Czehoski last month. And, I'm also sure, you are anxiously awaiting the promised photographs of said meal. Well, here it is and here they are.

Neither Darlene nor I had been to Czehoski before, so despite seeing the pictures on the website were unsure as to what to expect. When we arrived, we were seated at a booth just beside the kitchen. This is not as bad as it sounds, as Czehoski has an open kitchen setup, and we got to watch the four kitchen staff going full-tilt boogie for the hour or so we were there. It was really kind of neat.

We both started off with a beer. For me this goes without saying, but Dar doesn't drink much beer so it was something a little different for her. I would like to tell you what kind of beer I drank, I really would. However, I can't remember except for the fact that it was Austrian, it was tasty, and I'd never tried it before. Darlene had a strawberry-flavoured number that wasn't bad at all.

The first challenge of the evening came when we realized that the menu they placed in front of us bore very little resemblance to the menu we had scouted on the Summerlicious website, or in fact, the menu posted on the Czehoski website.

This meant of course, no Satan On Horseback (salted pork belly wrapped in double smoked bacon) for me. Instead for an appetizer, I went for the Poutine with Bacon Gravy.

For those of you not familiar with this gem of French-Canadian cuisine, it is french fries with cheese curds and brown gravy. Normally it would be chicken gravy, but they had to be evil and serve it with bacon gravy. Oh my god was it good. It was a large partion, too.

Darlene ordered the Mission Figs stuffed with chutney and wrapped in double smoked bacon. Do you sense a theme here? We were a little put out when it arrived, because they really should have said Mission FIG with chutney, etc etc. There was only one of them, but it was one of the largest figs I've ever seen. I don't have a picture of it, because I'm a far better cook than photographer, and the picture I did take was out of focus. Oh well. The fig was delicious. I was allowed a small taste, and the bacon really complemented the fig (you are SO good looking).

For the main course I had a rough time. When going to these events, I like to stretch myself and try new things, but the two menu items that kept jumping into my face were the char-grilled burger and the flatiron steak cooked sous vide. When we asked the waitress her opinion on the matter, she said,

"Oh, try the steak for sure. It comes with a gorgonzola cream sauce that's just silly!"

Silly, eh? I'd never heard a sauce described quite that way before so, intrigued, I ordered the Flatiron Steak with gorgonzola cream sauce and mixed greens. You'll notice that in the picture at the top of the post, the steak came with frites (pronounced 'freets'). Apparently, the steak is normally served with frites, and they had changed it to mixed greens for the Summerlicious menu. However, she said that the kitchen staff was prone to serving it with frites anyway, so she would put a note on the order. Well, when the order was up, sure enough, there were frites with it, so she gave me the mixed greens as well. Not that I object to frites you understand, it's that I'd just polished off a large plate of poutine.

Darlene really had no problems with her selection, and ordered the Truffled Brie hand-made Pierogies with crème fraiche and riesling braised sauerkraut. Yeah, I thought it sounded pretty good, too.

I don't know if any of you have ever had pierogies made with brie before, but damn. They were really tasty.

OK, I have to tell you about the steak and the silly sauce.

First of all, I tried the steak by itself. I ordered it medium-rare, and it was the most tender steak I have ever eaten in my life. It practically melted in my mouth. I find myself saying this a lot lately, but it was a superly cooked steak. Now, normally the gorgonzola sauce would be something I would cross the street to avoid, not being a fan of stinky cheese, but since I was supposed to be stretching myself, I tried it. It wasn't bad. It was creamy and tangy and set off the steak nicely. I don't know if it was silly or not, but it was yummy.

By this point, we were both getting rather full, due to the deceptively large portions, but still had dessert to go, as it was part of the prix fixe menu. I ordered the Chocolate Terrine, and Dar ordered the Lemon Polenta Cake.

Not much to say about the terrine, except that it was very very creamy, and very very tasty. The lemon polenta cake, now that was interesting. It's exactly like it sounds - a cake made from polenta, and flavoured with lemon. Not something I've ever seen on a menu before, but I liked it. Not quite cornbread, not quite lemon loaf.

The sevice was fast and friendly, the food was excellent, and the bill came to about $100, including taxes and tip. Not bad at all.

Czehoski is located at 678 Queen St. West in Toronto. You should check it out.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


Summerlicious has come to Toronto once again, and once again the girlfriend and I will be tasting some prix fixe menus at some VERY nice restaurants around the city. Tonight we're going to Czehoski on Queen St. West.

This is a new restaurant that has opened in an old building, and they've kept the original hand-painted sign. The original Czehoski was a neighbourhood butcher shop and deli that apparently was also the site of some of the city's most notorious card and craps games.

It had been sitting empty for quite a few years, and I remember riding past it on the streetcar on my way to work and noticing the wooden sign with the large block letters - CZEHOSKI, and wondering what the place was. The new restaurant, after about two years worth of renovations and restorations, is a very hip-looking place with lots of hardwood and original brick.

The dinner menu being offered for this event is set at $35. It's really interesting, and I'm going to have a tough time making choices. Here it is:

$35 Dinner (plus taxes and gratuity)

mixed mushroom soup with truffled whipped cream
baby arugula and walnut vinaigrette salad
a cheesy tart: organic quark cheese and semi-dried tomato tart
smoked miso poutine
mission figs stuffed with chutney and wrapped in double smoked bacon
satan on horseback: salted pork belly wrapped in double smoked bacon

chargrilled burger of naturally raised beef, cheddar and our own milk-bread buns
quinoa, white bean and chickpea veggie cheese burger
smoked ricotta gnuddi and squash gnocchi with marjoram
banger and mash
truffled brie hand-made pierogies with crème fraiche and riesling braised sauerkraut
roasted black cod with bouillabaise, chickpea frites and shredded fennel
black rice risotto with artichokes raw and cooked, and an onsen egg
cumbrae farms flatiron cooked sous vide with lemon-dressed roquet
roasted little chicken with lemon-thyme spaetzle and vervaine and pepper jus

praline crème caramel
michel cluizel chocolate semifreddo
lemon white chocolate parfait

It's a hell of a selection, and possibly the largest variety I've seen for any of the over 130 restaurants participating this summer. I particularly like the look of the 'Satan on Horseback' appetizer selection. A restaurant after my own heart.

I'll post a recap tomorrow, and I might just take some pictures this time.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Yet Another Use For Bacon

Here's a quick snack idea using simple ingredients.

I never get tired of finding new ways to incorporate bacon into the food I cook. I think I may have mentioned this fact before once or twice, but I've always been told to write about what I know and I KNOW that I love bacon.

My new favourite "toy", as it were, in the kitchen is Pillsbury Crescent rolls. I've found that pretty much anything tastes better wrapped in flaky pastry.

I cooked up and crumbled a bunch of bacon, shredded some imitation crab legs and some havarti cheese, along with some salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then, I just mixed it all together and spooned some of the mixture into each piece of pastry and folded them into little packages. If you can't find the imitation crab meat (or the real stuff, if that's the way you roll), then cocktail shrimp would work just as well. In fact, it doesn't really matter what goes in them as long as the mixture isn't too wet, and the edges are sealed with maybe a little air-hole so your yummy snacks don't turn into little grenades in the oven. Trust me on this one.

Baked them according to the package instructions (or until they looked golden brown on top), et voilà! - snacks. I used some nice grainy mustard as a dip, and had them with a bottle of beer.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pesto Is The Best-O

For the last few years, one of the birthday presents I've received from my parents has been cooking classes at the Culinary Arts School of Ontario. Though these classes are exactly that, one day (well, three hour) classes, the amount that I've learned has been very helpful in my day-to-day cooking exploits. Knowing something as simple as the proper way to chop vegetables has both sped up my food prep time, and reduced (but not completely eliminated - that's another story) the number of nicks and cuts I inflict on myself with my brand-new, very sharp 7" Santoku knife I got for Christmas from my girlfriend. It's very nice. But I digress.

The last class I took was entitled 'Classic and Contemporary Sauces', and oh my god, did I ever end up with some good food at the end of that class. The chef gave us a choice at the beginning of the class; he said,

"You will get to take home a little bit of everything we make today, so we can do this two ways: either you guys can make the sauces yourselves, in which case we'll get about six done, OR you can watch me make sauces and help out, and we'll get about twelve done."

We took Option B.

Yes, I know, it's supposed to be a cooking class where we're the ones doing the cooking, but we all (10 of us) acted as sous-chefs and were more involved than we thought we were going to be. The sauces we ended up with included (but were not limited to) Hollandaise, Alfredo, Chocolate Ganache (oh yes), Three-Pepper Veal Reduction, and Pesto.

Ah, pesto. It's simple, really. All you need is fresh basil, salt, good olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Then blend everything until smooth. How can you go wrong with a list of ingredients like that?

We got right into it, and ended up making a vat of pesto. Seriously, it was a vat. Everyone in the class went home with a huge plastic tub of pesto under their arm, including myself. As far as I'm concerned, pesto goes with everything. At least, I used it with everything. Mmmmmm... pesto...

A few days after the class, I stopped in at the Grocery Palace on my way home from work, and they had some really nice-looking artisanal pizza bread for sale in the bakery section. I immediately thought "Pesto Pizza!", and went about finding the rest of the ingredients that I thought would go well with the pesto sauce.

I settled on the following:

thick layer of Pesto Sauce
Chicken legs, baked and shredded
red onion, roughly chopped
green olives with pimento, sliced
more garlic cloves
mozzerella cheese, shredded
mediterranean cheddar with olives and sundried tomatoes, roughly torn
fresh black pepper

I baked it at 400F for about ten minutes, until the cheese was bubbly and slightly browned. Served with a nice bottle of white wine, that was a great meal.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

There's Nothing Like A Free Lunch

I was treated to lunch today. The department I work in hosts a team lunch every month or so, and this time around we went to Akasaka restaurant for some Teppanyaki.

Although I quite enjoy Japanese cuisine in general, and sushi in particular, I had never before experienced a Teppanyaki meal. The concept is simple: as Wikipedia will tell you, the word "teppanyaki" is derived from teppan, which means "iron plate", and yaki, which means "grilled". That's exactly what happened. Everyone sat at a counter around two large metal griddles, and they cooked the food in front of us. Very cool to watch.

The lunch menu was pretty reasonably priced (although that wasn't a concern today, huzzah huzzah). The dinner menu, however, gets a little pricey when you start including items such as Angus beef, Filet Mignon, or King Crab legs. Mmmmmm.... King Crab legs....

There was a choice of ten set lunch specials (check 'em out here), or you could be brave and order à la carte. Each special starts off with miso soup, a green salad, and the daily maki, which they happily upgraded to California Rolls upon request, and rice and grilled vegetables are included with the meal.

I went for Special H, which is Beef Sirloin Steak, Shrimp and Salmon. Yummy. The salmon took no time at all on the smoking-hot cooking surface, and was a little crispy on the outside while still being perfectly cooked in the middle. The addition of salt and pepper, and some oil (which the chef ignited producing a ball of flame and a suitably impressed 'ooooohhhh' from the crowd) produced a nice flavor and texture.

The shrimp were really good. Again, they took a very short time to cook, and within minutes were on my plate. They disappeared rather quickly.

The sirloin was fantastic. The chef put the steaks on after asking everyone how they wanted them cooked (mine was medium-rare), and then proceeded to remove most of the fat and gristle before cooking it further. I have to admit, my first thought was "Dude! You're cutting off the best parts!", though I didn't say that as, well, he had a really big knife in his hand. I needn't have worried, as the result was a small pile of sirloin nuggets that were some of the tastiest pieces of meat I have ever eaten. Along with some soy sauce and a little wasabi (loooove the wasabi), I was a happy camper.

The meal finished off with a nice pile of julienned vegetables (bean sprouts, carrot, zucchini, red bell pepper) that had been cooked with some garlic and oil, and for dessert there was ice cream.

The choices for the ice cream were: ginger, chocolate, vanilla or green tea. Feeling as if I'd been adventurous enough for one day, I went with the chocolate. It's always a solid choice in my opinion.

Now, a word about the picture at the top of the post. This is taken from the Akasaka website, and is a picture of their Beef Roll. This was a very cool thing to watch being assembled, as it took less time than the shrimp to cook. The chef took a thin slice of the beef, placed it on the grill, immediately flipped it over, placed a small pile of roasted garlic, green onions and some other stuff on top, rolled it up, sliced it with the spatula, and placed it on a plate. Seriously, it was that quick. My co-worker who was sitting beside me ordered it, and I heard him say "oh, here comes the beef roll". I looked up to see the chef place the meat on the grill, looked down to take a bite of salmon, then looked up again, and it was on his plate and he was eating it. Neat.

This place is definitely worth a second look, as the lunch specials run from $8-$16, which includes everything. I walked out of there feeling full, but not overly so, as has happened in the past when the gang goes out for Dim Sum. So tasty, yet so easy to eat waaaay too much.

Now it's time for a nap. Unfortunately, they frown on that at my office (who knew?), so here I am bravely soldiering through the rest of the day with a double espresso sitting beside me.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Winterlicious 2008 - Truffles Restaurant

Every winter the city of Toronto holds an event called Winterlicious, which presents the average person the opportunity to dine at some very fine establishments on the cheap. Over a hundred restaurants in the Toronto area present prix fixe menus, so someone like myself can actually afford to dine at a high-class joint (heh) such as Truffles Restaurant at the Four Seasons Hotel. This place has earned the CAA/AAA Five Diamond award for the fourteenth consecutive year. Nice.

Oh, yes. For the princely sum of $35 apiece plus wine (plus taxes and gratuity), my girlfriend and I sampled some VERY fine food.

The set menu is as follows:

Butternut Squash Veloute
w/ Spiced Apple Relish, Bacon Chantilly
Warm Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese
w/ Bitter Greens, Pistachios, Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Organic Carrot & Chestnut Cannelloni
w/ Parmesan Snow, Watercress Emulsion
Pan Seared Atlantic Salmon
w/ Green Lentils, Golden Beets, Mustard Vinaigrette
Beef Bourguignon
w/ Truffle Pomme Puree, Red Wine Jus

Baileys Crème Caramel
w/ Bruleed Bananas, Vanilla Espresso Caramel
Warm Molten Chocolate and Raspberry Cake
w/ Cashew Nut Ice Cream

I had the Veloute, the Salmon, and the Crème Caramel. My lovely companion had the Dates, the Cannelloni, and the Crème Caramel as well. The waiter commented that not many of the Winterlicious guests had not chosen the chocolate. Hey, what can I say, we know what we like.

Quite simply put, the Butternut Squash Veloute is the best soup I have ever eaten. Full stop. It was smooth and creamy with small chunks of apple, hints of cinnamon, and topped with a dollop of cream and a perfectly cooked slice of bacon. And you know how much I like my bacon.

I took a chance with the entree, as I don't normally go in for either salmon or beets, but I thought "What the hell, you only live once". I'm glad I did, because it was absolutely delicious. There was a thick slice of golden beet with a mound of lentils, and the pan-seared piece of salmon on top. My god it was good. I'm even re-thinking my previous stance on beets, and how I don't really like them that much. I guess it's all in the preparation.

I'd been looking forward to the Crème Caramel ever since I first saw it on the menu on the website. Crème Caramel is (along with Crème Brûlée) my favourite dessert, and I was hoping for something magical. It was OK. It was perfectly prepared, with the brûléed bananas and the caramel sauce, and was very tasty, but I guess I'd been building it up in my head to be something mind-blowing, and it was only great. It seems weird to say "only" great, but that's how it felt.

Unaccustomed as I am to fine dining, the service was pleasantly impeccable. I guess the staff was motivated to get us in and out, but our reservation was for 9:00pm, and we were in the car by 10:05. It was nice, actually. As soon as we were finished one course, the server was there to clear the dishes, and to present us with the next one.

You may notice that there are no pictures with this post. I couldn't quite summon the nerve to take a camera with me to the restauarant. There were others taking pictures while we were there, and it didn't seem to be an issue, but I was just as happy to simply enjoy the meal without worrying about that, too.

Including the very nice glasses of Chardonnay (me) and Merlot (her), and my four-dollar cup of coffee (!), dinner was $120 with taxes and tip. Not bad at all.

Winterlicious 2008 runs from January 25 - February 7.