WVRST Sausage Hall

WVRST Sausage Hall

Before the Fall Out Boy show on Wednesday, Ro and I took a long walk down King Street in our quest to find WVRST – a sausage (and beer!) hall.

Let me just say it was worth the trek.

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For one, it’s really nice instead. It has long tables and benches with a sign saying seating is “communal” i.e. you may end up sitting beside a stranger. But it was really authentic because there are actually beer halls in Germany (and maybe other places) where you have to sit on benches instead of getting a secluded corner.

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They have a lot of beers on tap, but we decided to try two of their ciders (also on tap): Twin Pines and West Avenue. They were quite apple-y and rather dry, but in a good way!

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The sausages are also varied. You can get traditional ones like Oktoberfest or chorizo, but they also have an impressive selection of “game”. For example, I had the wild boar sausage. You can also choose to either have it on a toasted bun with your choice of two toppings or as currywurst. I had it on a bun with sauerkraut and sweet peppers and it was delicious. We also had fries which were cooked in duck fat – you can sort of see an illustration of a duck on the red-and-white paper cone. They were delicious, and now I just want to make everything in duck fat (even though it’s probably not good for you).

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Ro had the venison sausage (topped with sauerkraut and onions), which she said was also delicious.

Final verdict: Very satisfied! It was filling but we didn’t feel disgusting afterwards; the atmosphere was fun; and if we hadn’t been on our way to a show, we could have stayed there for hours, trying all the different sausages and beer. We’re planning on taking our brother (and parents) there for our brother’s birthday in September, so you could say we’re looking forward to it!

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Amsterdam BrewHouse

Amsterdam BrewHouse

On Wednesday, Ro and I went to the Manchester City vs Toronto FC game (because sometimes we like to watch sports. It’s rare, but it happens). Before the game, we went to the Amsterdam Brewery. We’ve been there before, a couple of years ago, but apparently much of the menu has changed since last time.

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I had basically decided on pizza as soon as we walked past the kitchen and saw someone else’s order. This one had white sauce, mozzarella, brie, smoked bacon, chicken, baby spinach, and roasted garlic. The roasted garlic made it taste like garlic bread, which wasn’t a bad thing.

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Ro had the pan seared tuna sandwich. It was a very large chunk of fish which, on the one hand, was worth the price. On the other, it looked a bit cumbersome to eat, and the inside was still very pink. I guess that’s the way one is supposed to eat tuna, but since we’re the type of people who fry the heck out of a steak, it was a little unexpected. Consequently, t had a bit of sushi/sashimi taste.

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For dessert, I had the flourless chocolate torte. The thing I’ve noticed about flourless desserts is that they always tend to be denser: this one was basically a soft chocolate block. Since I have a chocolate problem, I had no trouble finishing it, even though I ended up feeling very full.

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Ro had the strawberry shortcake. The “cake” was more like a biscuit or a scone, and it was surprisingly yummy! It was also just a pretty plate, and, as everyone knows, presentation is very important.

I didn’t take a picture of them, but we followed our meals with, of course, drinks: I had the Sweetwater Squeeze Radler (which was orange, even though we were expecting it to be red because it was made with blood orange juice), and Ro had the Downtown Brown Ale.

Final verdict: Satisfied! I remember feeling unsatisfied with our meal the last time we were there, but this time made up for it. I haven’t decided if this pizza was better than the one at Factory Girl, but it was definitely tasty.

Whelan’s Gate

Whelan’s Gate

On Tuesday, whilst on our way to the Mad Miss Mimic launch, Ro and I had dinner at Whelan’s Gate. The main floor is tiny (though the upstairs is much bigger), but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in taste.

Don’t let the short menu fool you: the food was, in a word, delicious.

We had two different types of chicken wings:

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This one, which I ordered, is the South Carolina BBQ Wings, featuring mustard scotch bonnet sauce. It was lightly breaded and had a kick to it (courtesy of the scotch bonnet peppers). It was crispy and the batter wasn’t overwhelming. I also liked that it was full wings – with the weird pointy tip – and not just half a wing (or small drumstick), like you would normally get.

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Ro got the Hunters Whole Wings which were coated in herbed barbecue sauce, spicy ranch, and parmesan. Again, the coating was light yet flavourful, and the addition of the parmesan kicked it up a notch.

We got the crispy fried cauliflower on the side; the bottom of the dish is full of blue cheese mayo and it was a tangy delight.

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We tried Brickworks Cider, which was the only cider they had on tap. It’s a (relatively) local dry cider and, while it has the colour of straight apple juice, it was surprisingly good. The Brickworks website describes it as a “UK style cider”, and, as someone who drinks her fair share of UK-based ciders, I definitely agree.

We were the only ones in the pub at that time (it was before 6pm on a Tuesday, so we weren’t shocked by the lack of people), and the waitress was super nice and very accommodating. Plus they had a solid playlist, which added to the casual atmosphere.

Final verdict:  Very satisfied! Those were some of the best chicken wings I’ve ever had (both types!) and the cauliflower was an excellent side. The portions were also bigger than expected and everything was very fresh (and possibly local? I can’t remember). If we weren’t on our way to an actual event, we probably would have stayed longer (and had a few more drinks – their cocktails sound fascinating). It’s a bit out of the way – it’s just off the subway line, but pretty much in the middle of nowhere – and it’d probably be worth the trek once in a while.

Queen Mother Cafe

Queen Mother Cafe

On Friday, we went to see the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ballet, and, since we obviously had to eat first, we wandered down the street to the Queen Mother Cafe. It’s housed in a historic building (apparently more than 150 years old!) and has been around since the 70’s.

Their menu consists of mostly fusion/pan-global cuisine, as you’ll see from what Ro and I ate.

I like what I affectionately refer to as “brown food”: you know, traditional foods from Sri Lanka/India, etc. So I often end up ordering a curry or some sort of roti dish when I’m at a place like this.

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This was a traditional Sri Lanka roti, and I can confirm that it tasted exactly like what my mom (well, actually my aunt) makes. It was also essentially a “brown” version of a burrito, and since I love burritos, this was amazing! It was stuffed with sweet potatoes, eggplants, chickpeas, and a few other vegetables, plus a spicy* curry sauce.
*I have a high spice tolerance, so it was a bit of a kick, but not nearly as sweat-inducing as the stuff my dad makes.

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Ro, meanwhile, had a spinach and ricotta cannelloni because she has always favoured Italian food over “brown” food. I stole a piece of her garlic toast and it was crunchy but tasty.

The cafe has a window full of dessert options; unfortunately, I gave up chocolate for Lent, so I couldn’t try any of their decadent-looking chocolate cakes. I did, however, have a piece of key lime pie: it wasn’t too sour, the cream was smooth and refreshing, and the granola (oatmeal?) crust was a nice balance between crunchy and chewy.
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Ro had a lemon dacquoise, which is a type of cake made from layers of hazelnut meringue and lemon buttercream. It was airy and delicious (like all meringues)!
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Final verdict: Satisfied! I enjoy fusion cuisine, and, even though the menu was surprisingly similar to The Rivoli (which is only about a block away), the food was still done well. We didn’t try any drinks, though, so maybe next time we’ll have to have a cocktail to see which restaurant wins (sidenote: the Long Island Iced Teas at The Rivoli are some of the greatest things I’ve ever tried).

Factory Girl

Factory Girl

Normally when I’m on/around the Danforth area, I eat Greek food (since that’s what it’s famous for). But since we were going to the Taking Back Sunday show, we didn’t want to eat too much and end up feeling sick while jumping around. So we settled on Factory Girl, which is literally a 30 second walk away from the venue.

Ro ordered cocktails for us. She wouldn’t even let me see the menu before she (correctly) picked the best drink for me. Rum, orange juice, pineapple juice, lemonade, grenadine, and bitters – yep, that sounds like something I’d like (I loved it).

We also decided to split the main course, and, since I’m addicted to pizza, we obviously had to order something from the menu that claims to be one of the “best pizza restaurants in Toronto”. Spoiler alert: it was one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten (in Toronto or otherwise).

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The Francesca: olive oil, mozzarella, mascarpone, prosciutto, pear, and spinach, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. It was delicious.
Because I eat pizza backwards, the first thing I tasted was the crust – and it was amazing. It wasn’t tough or heavy; it was as light as thin-crust frozen pizza, but tasted about a million times better. The pear and balsamic vinegar gave it a sweetness that wasn’t overpowering and perfectly complimented the normally-salty prosciutto.

Then we had dessert, because after a pizza like that, how could we not want to try dessert.

I had Jerry’s Famous Bread Pudding; I don’t know who Jerry is, but I applaud him. It tasted like a cinnamon bun, but there were different spice flavours running through it that gave it an extra kick. The top of each piece was a little crunchy, but in a good way – a solidified sugar way.

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Ro had the Banana Caramel Cheesecake in phyllo pastry. It was exactly what it sounds like, but that didn’t stop it from being delicious. The phyllo pastry was soft and the cheesecake squished out of it (or, at least, it did when I tried it), but that was part of the fun. I wouldn’t have thought throwing phyllo pastry anywhere near cheesecake would be a good idea, but they proved me wrong.

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Final verdict: Very satisfied. I was full even after splitting the meal (though, to be honest, I probably could have eaten the whole pizza. I’m not saying I should, I’m just saying it’s possible), and it was an overall delightful experience. Plus our waitress was very nice and on the ball, which is always a bonus.

Jelly Modern Doughnuts

Jelly Modern Doughnuts

I meant to post this yesterday…

Ro and I had been stoked to find out that there was going to be a new jelly doughnut place opening up in the underground (the pathway we take to our respective office buildings). Last week, they opened a little pop-up shop around the corner from where the actual store will be as of January. Naturally, we decided to try it out.

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She had the coconut, I had the peanut butter.

For one thing, we both assumed that there would be jelly – like, gloopy, drippy, red jelly that you normally only see on TV – oozing out of them. This was not the case (it was really more wishful thinking, though). I guess the “jelly” part of each doughnut is whatever the topping is: that is, my “jelly” filling was the swirl of peanut butter at the top, and hers was the coconut cream.

The peanut butter topping was delicious: it literally tasted like peanut and butter, i.e. it tasted real (sidenote: there’s nothing wrong with Kraft peanut butter. I eat that stuff all the time. But when you’re paying $2+ for a doughnut, you kind of expect the filling to be handmade, you know?).

The cake part of the doughnut was standard: it tasted the way Tim Hortons used to taste. It had a nice consistency, not too doughy or dry, but it wasn’t anything special.

I had sampled the coconut the day before (I saw a guy in a pink apron giving out free samples, which is how I knew the pop-up shop existed), and, while it was good, it wasn’t the most amazing thing I’ve ever tried.

We also sampled the mini red velvet doughnuts before making our purchase: they were adorable, but they didn’t taste like red velvet. They weren’t even that chocolatey.

Final verdict: They were good, but not great. I suppose they satisfied my need for jelly doughnuts, but at $2.50 each, they’re not something I’ll be rushing out to try again soon.

Cora’s

Cora’s

I don’t think I’ve ever been to Cora’s. It’s been a staple of the Canadian brunch scene for 25 years, but I don’t remember ever going. Last Saturday, before going to the Inspire Book Fair at the convention centre, we decided to have brunch.

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My choice was the “1990’s Harvest”: two slices of cinnamon-raisin brioche (French toast style), with bacon, an egg, and a “mountain of fruit”.

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Ro had the breakfast poutine: potatoes, cheese, bacon bits, sausage (which was actually hot dogs), red peppers, and an egg.

You wouldn’t think that cinnamon-raisin flavours would go well with eggs, but it was surprisingly good. The bacon was crispier than I usually eat it, but still had an overall bacon-y taste. I love grapes, so I was pleased by the amount of grapes on my plate, and, while I don’t usually love melons (cantaloupe and honeydew), they weren’t too overripe and ended up being refreshing after chomping my way through two slices of brioche (one of which I drenched in syrup).

Ro seemed to enjoy hers too; I stole several pieces of potato (and bacon) from her plate, and they were nicely seasoned.

Final verdict: It was good and satisfied my craving for brunch, but it was nothing to write home about.

 

Burrito Boyz

I love burritos. Like Jake the dog, when I order a burrito, I get everything on it.

My preferred place is Burrito Boyz and this past week, I decided to try something different. I had a quesadilla.

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I guess this post isn’t a review so much as a love letter to what was, hands down, the best quesadilla I’ve ever eaten (and quesadillas – along with chicken fingers – are my go-to order when at a bar, so I kinda have experience, even if it hasn’t always been “authentic”).

I asked for everything on it because I like to live dangerously. And even though I don’t actually like cilantro, I eat it when it’s included in Mexican food of any sort (but only Mexican food. I will not eat it otherwise). Instead of just cheese, I went with a steak quesadilla.

The toppings:

cheese (obviously)

tomatoes

green onions

red onions

black beans

jalapeños

cilantro

corn

hot sauce

It also came with those cute little containers of burrito sauce and mild salsa.

The cheese was gooey and delicious. The one line of hot sauce was quite, in fact, hot – on the one hand, I almost wished for a second line to kick it up a notch…but on the other hand, I was going to a concert, and didn’t want to die before I got there. The steak was well done, as always, and the toppings were generous without being overwhelming. It didn’t stop me from making a mess, of course, but it was completely worth it.

The quesadilla, in my opinion, was slightly less filling than a burrito – which makes sense, considering there are less ingredients – but it was exactly what I was looking for at the time.

Final verdict: satisfied so much, just looking at that picture makes me want to find the nearest Burrito Boyz location.

Boots and Bourbon Saloon // The Grilled Cheese // Castle Board Game Cafe

I kinda forgot that I was doing food reviews on my blog, so here’s a quick run-down of the three new places I tried in October.

Boots & Bourbon

We went here because it’s conveniently close to the Opera House. Normally, if we’re going to a show in that area, we go to An Sibin Pub (also very good), but we thought we’d mix things up a little.

Now, because I forgot that I wanted to do a review, I didn’t take any pictures (sorry), but I can tell you what we had:

The Screaming Crab

Canadian Atlantic snow crab + tiger prawns + butter + jerk seasoning + cilantro + lime

Boots ‘n’ Bourbon Poutine

Canadian Atlantic snow crab + tiger prawns + butter + jerk seasoning + cilantro + lime

Drinks:

Hillbilly Champagne (me)

Jim Beam White Label + Elderflower + Lemon + Prosecco + Cherry

Grandma’s Texas Lemonade (Ro)

Tito’s Vodka + Blue Curacao + Salty Vanilla + Lemon + Peach

Dessert:

Carnival Funnel Cake

Bourbon soaked strawberries + vanilla whipped cream

I really liked the atmosphere: they call themselves a saloon, and you can almost imagine the place being filled with a bunch of gun-slingin’ cowboys. The food itself was tasty: the screaming crab actually had a bit of a kick to it which was nice – too often I order something “spicy” and find that it barely has any seasoning (granted, I have a very high tolerance for spice). The drinks were also surprising in that you could actually taste the alcohol and it was an interesting combination of flavours. And the dessert, of course, was delightful – it tasted exactly like a funnel cake you’d get at a carnival (or from a booth at Riot Fest), but the bourbon soaked strawberries added another level to it.

Final verdict: I reckon I’m satisfied *tips cowboy hat*.

The Grilled Cheese

Again, I forgot to take pictures, though in this case, it was because I was super stoked and couldn’t wait to take a bite.

Ro saw The Grilled Cheese on an episode of You Gotta Eat Here!, then showed me the clip, and I drooled all over the computer before saying “We HAVE to go!!” Luckily, it’s only a few blocks away from El Mocambo (aka one of the sketchiest venues in the city), so we swung by on our way to see The Ready Set.

I had the apple crisp and Ro had the pizza grill. The cheese was gooey and stretchy and the bread perfect grilled. Combining avocado with the apple and onion pieces was inspired, and the handful of potato chips (plus pickle slice!) was an excellent side dish. I stole mushrooms off of Ro’s sandwich, and they were delicious. Heck, just thinking about these sandwiches are making me hungry (it is almost lunchtime, though). The store was small and cozy and reminded me of the incredible meatball place across from the Mod Club.

Final verdict: so satisfied, I wanna live there.

Castle Board Game Cafe

We ate here about fifteen minutes after we left The Grilled Cheese because we were looking for dessert, and Castle Board Game Cafe was practically next door to El Mocambo.

I had the cookies and cream cheesecake, while Ro had a slice of red velvet cake (which you kinda see in the background of this photo). Both were extremely well done and whatever chocolatey crust was used as the base of the cheesecake tasted like heaven.

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I don’t often drink coffee, but they had a Nutella latte that I absolutely had to try. I probably should have stirred it a little more since there was a layer of Nutella stuck to the bottom of the mug, but it was still good. I didn’t add sugar, but it didn’t really need it. Ro, by the way, had a mochacino which she seemed to enjoy.

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I’m not a hardcore board-gamer; in fact, I rarely play board games (unless you count Harry Potter Scene It? in which I kick butt). But the cafe boasts a wide variety of games and, being surprisingly spacious (we didn’t get a chance to explore the large back room), provides ample seating if you wanted to spend an afternoon there.

Final verdict: satisfied to the max.

Quesada

Welcome to the inaugural (Un?)Satisfied Saturday! I love food (mm, food), and earlier today, Ro suggested that I start blogging about my food experiences. This is by no means a regular category, but I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be a food critic, so now’s my chance! The title – (Un?)Satisfied Saturday – should be pretty self-explanatory; obviously, I’d prefer if it was always Satisfied Saturday, but sometimes you eat somewhere and it just doesn’t live up to your expectations.

Quesada

A new Mexican place opened nearby a few weeks ago and, since we were already out, we decided to try it. For the record, my burrito place of choice is Burrito Boyz, but I’m always game to try somewhere else.

I ordered the spicy chicken, and Ro got the ancho pork. The toppings were standard: cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, green chilis, onions, corn, cilantro. I don’t actually like cilantro but I always get it on my burritos anyway. A selection of sauces, plus rice (white or brown), and beans (black or brown). Much to my chagrin, guacamole was an extra $0.75. I realize that’s not a lot of money, but it’s automatically included at Burrito Boyz and I dislike having to pay extra for something that’s such an integral part of the taste (it’s one of the reasons I don’t love Chipotle either).

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Ro didn’t suggest blogging until I was halfway through my burrito, but at least now you can see the inside!

The tortilla seemed thinner than usual, but because of the way it was rolled, I occasionally ended up with a mouthful of tortilla and no filling. There was a lot of lettuce, but not a heaping amount of the other toppings. The brown rice was plain – not the usual tomato-y goodness that you expect at a Mexican restaurant; I don’t think the white rice would have been any different.

The chicken was pre-made and served straight into the tortilla without additional warming. It was “spicy” flavoured, but it wasn’t anything mouth-burning (granted, I have a very high tolerance for spicy food, so maybe other people would have felt it?). The chipotle sauce I chose wasn’t anything special, neither was the “hot” sauce. I sniffed a couple of times, but there was no desperate chugging of water.

The burrito – we got larges – was filling, but not in a happy way: I didn’t finish it, lean back and groan “that was so worth it”. It was more of “well, at least it’s done” sort of way.

One thing that really bothered me was the fact that the burrito was warmed after it was wrapped in foil. I feel like that’s not actually safe, though do we even know how foil is made?

It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever eaten, though maybe the worst burrito (and I’ve bought over-priced burritos from a food truck outside the Amphitheatre).

Quesada is probably healthier than Burrito Boyz, but in terms of quantity/quality (and similar prices), I’ll always pick BB.

Final verdict: unsatisfied.