May 2015 Archives

Charlie's Burgers Presents James Henry of Bones Restaurant in Paris

Charlie's Burgers is a series of private dinners in Toronto hosted by different high-profile chefs in different locations. In 2010 it was ranked by Food and Wine Magazine as the number three "word of mouth" supper club on its list of "100 Best New Food and Drink Experiences in the World". How does it work? Selected guests are sent a date, told how much cash to bring and then given directions to a secret spot such as a street corner, where you receive other instructions that lead you to the actual venue. Once you arrive, you are treated to an insane multi-course dinner prepared by an internationally renowned chef. The chef hosting our evening was James Henry of Bones, one of the most sought after restaurants in Paris. We had to arrive at Queen and Peter at 8:45pm, look for a man on a barrel, and ask him if he had any old Michelin guides. You are then given the address of the dinner... and then the games begin.

Aperitif: Falanghina, Camporeale, Lunarossa from Campania, Italy.

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Amuse bouche were paired with blanc de blancs, Schramsberg 2012, Calistoga California. A classic French Terrine:

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Radishes with nettle butter.

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Raw fish and turnips.

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Steamed oysters with burnt lemon, lime and orange oil (these were INCREDIBLE)

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After the amuse bouche came asparagus with ramps and bottarga (dried mullet roe, a Mediterranean delicacy) paired with Fernao Pires, Porta de Teira, Ninfa Branco, 2012 Tejo Portugal.

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This was a "TBD" course... it turned out to be clams with potato. Amazing.

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Blood cake with peas and broad beans. Paired with Granata, Barranco Oscuro, 2010, Granada, Spain.

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The final dish was spectacular- aged beef with romaine and anchovy. Paired with Barbara d'Alba, La Cresta, D.O.C, Roche Dei Manzoni, 2010 Piedmont Italy.

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James Henry used an impressive array of Ontario ingredients from nettles to local cheeses. The dessert was outstanding- an almond tart that was not too sweet, with a goat milk sorbet. A refreshing ending to a very rich meal. This was paired with sherry, a 30 year-old Oloroso, Bodegas Tradicion from Jerez Spain.

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The sommelier was knowledgeable and delightful... all the servers were just as excited to be there as the guests.

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There were about 70 people at this secret pop-up dinner, and the wonderful thing about Charlie's Burgers events is that you all sit together and you meet such lovely people. We dined with Mac and Norma who were wonderful. What a fun night... incredible food and wine, and it was spectacular to get to experience one of the hottest restaurants in France right in downtown Toronto. Rosie :)

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Ding Tai Fung | Markham

We wrapped up Chopstick Walk 2015 with Shanghai-style dim sum at Ding Tai Fung on Highway 7. Located in the busy and huge First Markham Place strip mall, this restaurant is popular for its xiaolongbao (steamed buns prepared in bamboo steaming baskets.) The chefs make everything fresh to order. It's very cool to watch them do their dim sum thing behind a glass wall.

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The Shanghai wontons in spicy sauce was our fave dish. The spicy beef tenderloin was also a stand-out selection.

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The Shanghai-style minced pork buns are pan-fried with sesame seeds, giving what can be a blank doughy dish a lovely little punch of flavour. The pork and shrimp dumplings were also filling and tasty. Shanghai dumplings differ from Cantonese ones in that they are bigger and soupier.

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Ding Tai Fung is a very popular spot in a very busy mall so leave lots of time for parking. Rosie :)

Akasaka Japanese Restaurant | Richmond Hill

If you love watching highly skilled chefs creatively prepare delicious food as much as you love eating it, then you have to try the teppanyaki experience. Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an hot iron griddle to prepare meat, fish and vegetables. The meal is cooked in the center of a table with diners surrounding the chef. Akasaka Steak House is located at 280 West Beaver Creek, minutes from the 404. Its humble exterior does not hint at the comfortable and traditional interior, the excellent service and the truly scrumptious food.

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Menu items include traditional Japanese fare such as sushi and teppanyaki. The range of choice in proteins for Teppanyaki is quite extensive and they offer many combinations for the economically inclined. For example on the Teppanyaki menu you build your own by selecting from a very large list of seafood or meats. For a mere $9 you can make it a combo adding Miso Soup, salad and ice cream for dessert. Or, you can choose from a combo menu where proteins such as scallops, chicken and steak are combined in smaller amounts for those who like to sample. The sushi list is two full pages long and covers all the favourites plus some new to us.

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We all ordered teppanyaki combos - selecting filet mignon, crab legs, chicken, scallops and sirloin. The food was expertly and entertainingly prepared by Jason who demonstrated a masterful control of spatulas. He was able to balance a spinning egg on either side alternating sides without dropping it. He then prepared an egg and challenged us to stay still with our mouths open while from across the cook top he expertly lobbed it in our mouths. While we were squirming he just coolly took aim and hit the mark. It had us giggling. His teasing, confident manner was such a delight and the service from other wait staff was unobtrusive allowing us to enjoy the cooking show and yet still carry on our conversation. Plates were quietly removed, tea refilled and service items appeared as needed.

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The portions were so large that we could barely finish it. The chicken was moist and coated (not drowned) in teriyaki sauce. The crab was steamed to melt in your mouth status and served in a butter sauce in an open shell resolving the hardest challenge of crab - getting it out of the shell.The scallops were perfectly browned but still moist and both steaks were to order. The miso soup was rich and satisfying. The salad pleasantly crispy and the vegetables perfectly cooked to an el dente state. The rice was exceptional and the ginger ice cream was a delightful finish. Three very large meals and gallons of tea later...$114.

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This restaurant is a gem and although located facing Highway 7 at the corner of West Beaver Creek it may not stand out in the mall where it is located. But it is truly worth seeking out. Rosie :)

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Paramount Fine Foods | Yorkville

A favourite eatery of Toronto Maple Leaf Nazem Kadri, Paramount Fine Foods serves a selection of Middle Eastern favourites made in-house daily, with Ontario-raised hormone-free halal meat. The newly opened location in Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood boasts a contemporary and very comfortable decor ideal for sit-down dinners or quick and casual lunches. The fresh baked pita is a must, arriving at your table directly from the wood-burning ovens piping hot and puffy:

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Our knowledgeable server recommended the moutabbal to start, which is grilled eggplant mixed with tahini sauce, then drizzled with olive oil and topped with pomegranate seeds. You could really taste that the eggplant was freshly grilled just before it was blended and brought to the table.

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The chicken and beef shawarma entree was huge and so flavourful, piled high on fresh pita and served with tahini and a whipped garlic sauce that was light and very tasty.

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The perfectly cooked lamb skewers are served with rice and salad.

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Paramount Fine Foods is also a bakery, with an amazing selection of sweets baked in-house daily. The baklawa (which is one of my very favourite desserts) is outstanding. Layers of phyllo are filled with pistachios and pine nuts, separated by melted butter and held together with drizzles of sweet rose syrup. It's heavenly and the baklawa at Paramount is some of the best I've ever tasted.

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Etched on the window at Paramount: "Love for other people what you love for yourself." A lovely sentiment that invokes the warmth and love that goes into the food at this restaurant. 1250 Bay Street. Rosie :)

Glory Hole Doughnuts | Parkdale

This awesomely named Parkdale bakery makes gorgeous artisan doughnuts. They are made by hand using natural ingredients every morning. The flavours are so much fun, from S'Mores to Lemon Bomb to Toast & Butter, which is my fave.

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S'Mores.

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Cinnamon Sugar and Lemon Bomb.

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I am also a huge fan of the simple Vanilla Glaze. So good.

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Banana Cream Pie.

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$18 for a half dozen. Flavours vary on a daily basis; I had heard the ricotta doughnut was fantastic but wasn't a choice the day I visited. The name of the bakery is a real conversation starter and then everyone shuts up when you start eating these treats which really are as glorious as doughnuts can hope to be. Rosie :)

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