Friday, December 31, 2010

O&B Canteen

My boyfriend got us Second City sketch comedy tickets during the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival about a month ago.  I've never been to Second City so I was really excited that night and was looking forward to some good laughs. Well not only did I have good laughs, it totally exceeded my expectations;  my jaw was so tired after the show from all the laughing. Even now as I'm typing, I'm thinking back on some of the skits and its making me smile ^_^ 

Anyway, before heading down for the show, we were planning to just wing it and randomly choose a place to eat along King street. This almost never happens with me because I'm all about looking up restaurants and their menus online beforehand. But for some reason, that night, something came over me and I was feeling lazy / spontaneous / adventurous...?

I haven't been to the King & University / Spadina area for a long time; as in, even though I have heard of O&B Canteen and knew I was going to try it sooner or later, I didn't know that the TIFF Bell Lightbox was at King & John (I obviously did not go to see any TIFF movies LOL). So when my boyfriend was driving on King, the brightly lit O&B Canteen caught my eye immediately and right away I said "Lets go there!" I have heard tons about O&B Canteen and was happy that I finally get to try it, unexpectedly too =)

O&B Canteen is like...a canteen! A fancy version of it while still maintaining the elements of a typical canteen: food items listed on the walls, the simple lines of the chairs and tables all located on one side with the open kitchen stretching out the whole way on the other side, the brightness of the restaurant (no dim romantic lighting here!), the ability to see the whole room even when you're sitting down - all elements of a canteen/cafeteria. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bluestone Bistro

If you've been following my blog you would probably know that I'm always looking for good eats in uptown. In particular, non-Asian, non-chain restaurants (so something like Moxie's, but non-chain, so similar to Joey's?). 

I discovered Bluestone Bistro from my 2010 entertainment coupon book. It had two coupons for dinner at Bluestone Bistro, both were along the lines of "buy one entree get the second one free, up to a value of $16" (may not be those exact numbers). The first time I went for dinner, I had their Gorgonzola and Portobello Mushroom Pizza (which had baby spinach, roma tomatoes, fresh herbs, portobello mushrooms, mozzarella and fontina cheese on a basil pesto base, topped with a gorgonzola-parmesan crumble) - it was really good. The second time I went I ordered a pizza again, that time I had their Thai Pizza (chicken sweet soy glazed chicken, shiitake mushrooms, scallions, cilantro, mozzarella cheese on a chili oil base, finished with a peanut swirl) - this was also very tasty. In general, I can say that the pizzas Bluestone Bistro did not disappoint. However, at the time, I can't vouch for anything other than their pizzas.

For this post, a group of us (6 to be exact) wanted to do brunch uptown. I didn't know Bluestone Bistro had brunch until my friend Kat, suggested it; she got the 2011 entertainment book and had coupons for Bluestone Bistro (coupons expire at the end of October for each year). I was excited to see whether the brunch at Bluestone Bistro is just as good as their pizzas.

When you walk into Bluestone Bistro, this is what you will see - a long bar to your right with beer glasses lined up, tons of hanging lights, and a glass table in the middle with a huge vase filled with flowers. It feels a bit clustered in my opinion but really not a big deal at all - the dining area is not like this. 

See? No cluster. Very comfortable actually. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Pan-Fried Chicken Wings with Black Pepper and Honey

Chicken wings are my favorite part of the chicken. It's not dry, it has skin, and the joy of nibbling for that piece of meat in the middle of the two bones is fun! With so many restaurants offering wings now as appetizers with more and more different flavors, I am guessing many ppl feel the same way. I also like cooking chicken wings becuase it is kinda difficult to screw them up (well at least I never did).

But yes, I do know also that chicken wings is the most unhealthy part of the chicken compared to chicken breast (yuck) and chicken thighs (not too bad). But is okay, indulgence in moderation can't hurt.

Coming back from a cooking hiatus a few months ago, I was itching to make some wings for dinner one night. I was looking for a simple recipe that didn't require too many ingredients for the marinade. So once again, I turned to my beloved Christine and found this Pan-Fried Chicken Wings with Black Pepper and Honey recipe. It was actually the word "honey" that caught my eye; I find I gravitate towards "honey"  especially when it is paired with chicken wings (most likely because of "honey-garlic" - yummmm) so I knew this was it. The ingredients were simple too; you will most likely find them in your kitchen.

Pan-Fried Chicken Wings with Black Pepper and Honey - from Christine's Recipes

  • 1 kg chicken wings
  • 1 onion, shredded
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp honey (optional, to taste)
  • A dash of freshly crushed black peppercorns
    • 1 tsp light soy sauce
    • 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
    • 1 tsp cooking wine
    • 1 Tbsp cornflour
    • 1 Tbsp oyster sauce
    • A dash of ground black pepper

    1. Rinse chicken wings and cut into pieces. Mix with marinade for at least 30 minutes.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    Beard Papa's Cream Puffs

    I don't remember when, or where, or from whom, that I first heard about Beard Papa's cream puffs. Oh how odd, just when I was typing that sentence I remember it was from my friend Evelyn (@eviechiu), who I met on Twitter. I was tweeting once that I was at Pacific Mall and she replied, saying that I should get some Beard Papa's cream puffs upstairs. I have never heard of them before that tweet.

    According to their website, Beard Papa's is a "global sensation":

    "Beard Papa's is a global sensation. This worldwide proprietor of what many have called the World's Best Cream Puffs has over 230 outlets in Japan and over 100 in the US, the UK, Australia, and throughout Asia including world-class cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Honolulu, Sydney, London, Singapore, and Tokyo, just to name a few.

    Very impressive, right? So when Redflagdeals had a coupon for Beard Papa's ($26.45 worth of cream puffs for $10) I jumped at it and bought two coupons. Hmmm let's say I wish I've only bought one.

    When I went to Beard Papa's at Pacific Mall several Saturdays ago around 5:30, there was a massive line-up.  I wasn't surprised since this location is still the only one in Toronto to date and the store is TINY. There were like 6 people working in that little square corner space, and like I always say, Chinese people love deals. Not only that, Chinese people are fascinated with Japan things. So when you put two and two together, one should not be surprised about line-ups.

    As I was lining up, I looked at the prices of these puffs and man, are they pricey - almost $2.50 for one puff - glad I had my coupon!

    Monday, December 20, 2010

    South of Temperance

    My office is literally a 15-second walk from South of Temperance. It opened in the summer after many delays and push backs.  I remember browsing their menu online when it opened and noticing that nothing caught my eye, so I didn't plan on going at all even though it is so close. But last month, my colleagues and boss suggested going to South of Temperance for lunch, so this is the only reason why this post exists. If it were not for them, I would've never step foot in the restaurant.

    In the summer, the patio at the South of Temperance is always packed.  Doesn't matter if it's at 11 am on a Monday morning or 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon, it's still crazy busy. Apparently a lot of people in work attire in downtown does not actually have to work (not that I just realized this, but just wanted to put it out there). And before you ask me how I know it is packed and that it must be because I'm there too, well you are all wrong, I walk by South of Temperance in order to go to Winners LOL =D

    Our table that day was where the open patio would be in the summer (or part of it) and during winter time, it is enclosed by some glass enclosure. I was sitting right by and man, was it cold; I was freezing the whole time, even with my jacket on. 

    I would say South of Temperance is catered to the corporate crowd; you won't just wander into South of Temperance without meaning to go there in the first place for business-related mingling. It tries to give off a casual atmosphere with the high bar tables and LCD TVs, but to me, it's still a pretty "pretentious" place. You can only go so far with that when the crowd they cater to are all in business attire. South of Temperance is a typical downtown hangout for business people and you will definitely never catch me there with my friends besides for work purposes. Blah, I can't even imagine having a work dinner there; in my opinion, South of Temperance is definitely just a business lunch or happy hour place with colleagues.

    South of Temperance has the same menu for lunch and dinner: Appetizer, Soup& Salad, Main Course Salads, Naan Breads, Burgers and Sandwiches...

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Mickey's Pizza - Feed Your Dragon!

    The Stuffed Spinach and Cheese pizza at Mickey's Pizza is SO.FRIGGIN.AWESOME. Sorry but I just can't describe it any other way. I mean, just look at it, can you honestly tell me that you wouldn't want a bite out of that, like, right now? At this very moment? Hot and fresh out of the oven, this stuffed pizza at Mickey's Pizza is now my newest obsession. It is not your typical "stuffed crust" pizza but rather, this is a "stuffed PIZZA", as in, spinach and cheese is stuffed at the bottom of the pizza with a layer of toppings on top. Actually, there's a  *gasp* Stuffed Steak and Cheese pizza too which I didn't even get to try yet. Yeah, you read that right, STEAK AND CHEESE, in a pizza, stuffed high with ooegy-gooey's like a dream come true for me. It really is. People who know me should know the extent of how I love pizza right, and steak, and cheese. ♥+♥+♥

    And no, it's not just me who loves Mickey's Pizza! According to their website, Mickey's has been voted to the top 10 pizzas in the GTA from Citybites / The Globe and Mail =)

    I attended Mickey's Christmas Party on Monday where they offered free samples of their pizza from 6-8pm. They encouraged all customers to bring non perishable food for the food bank.

    Mickey's Pizza is located in Mississauga (sorry all you east-enders, but finally something good is in my hood, and my hood only *muhahaha*). So you're probably wondering why Mickey's Pizza is so good, right? Here's a quick run down:

    1. The pizza dough is made fresh (with secret recipe that's 20 years in the making);
    2. The sauce is also a secret recipe;
    3. They grate and blend their own cheese everyday; 
    4. The meatballs are homemade and barbecued in house (they also tried 9 different pepperonis and finally decided on one that has no preservatives or MSG); 

    5. Last, but not least, is Mickey's Pizza one-of-a-kind oven, the ONLY ONE IN CANADA at that.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Swish by Han

    My friend from Ottawa, Tiana, was visiting Toronto a month or so ago and we had lunch at Swish by Han on Wellington. I remember how we were trying to figure out where to go for lunch near my work. When she suggested Swish by Han I immediately said "yes" since it would be a nice change to have some Korean food, which is a rarity around where I work (Yonge & Adelaide). 

    Without fail, every time I walk by Swish I will look through those large windows to see what people were eating inside. Well, no more of that! I was finally on the other side of those windows that day =D

    I guess you can tell from these pictures that Swish is not a big place. It basically has three sections for seating; a section against each wall, and a section in the middle with three 2-person tables (I was sitting in the middle table in the middle section). 

    I turned around to take the shot below. The kitchen is straight to the back. A big chandelier hangs right above the bar. I love the brick wall. 

    This is to my left. Not sure if there is seating inside that "enclosure".

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    The Globe and Mail's Camera Club

    Last week, The Globe and Mail's Camera Club had a call-out for food photos: "With winter comes comfort food. Hearty stews and warm bread or maybe something a little more exotic". So for fun, I submitted two photos from the Lobster Feast at OMEI post (below), and to my surprise, they are now on The Globe and Mail's website

    Here are the screen shots:

    You can also check them out here =)

    Lobster Feast at OMEI

    Last Tuesday, I went to a lobster tweetup which was organized by Mackenzie (@M3foods). It finally came into fruition as it was originally planned for early November but was pushed back due to scheduling conflict. 

    Why a lobster Tweetup you ask? Well simply because I was talking about my experience at The Lobster Trap a month or so ago on Twitter, how great it was and all, and it just so happens that at the same time, Mackenzie also posted up a picture on Twitter of two ginormous lobsters from OMEI Restaurant (totally stealing my lobster thunder by the way). And then from that, Chris (@thechrisim) suggested doing a lobster tweetup, and of course within minutes we all chimed in about how awesome that idea was. So Mac, with his connections, was able to hook us up with a 5-course lobster dinner at OMEI Restaurant, with the criteria that we get enough people for it. Let's just say it wasn't too hard finding 10 people for this lobster feast =)

    I haven't been to OMEI for probably more than 10 years. I remember going as a kid with my family when we first immigrated here from Hong Kong.  Since I wasn't a foodie back then I have no recollection if the food there was good or not. But OMEI is considered to be a household name in terms of Cantonese cuisine in Toronto, and I'm sure most Chinese people in the area knows about it; it has a good reputation for its consistency and quality.

    Tuesday night at Omeiwe were the only table there at the time (around 7pm). Here we are waiting for the rest of the gang.

    Lobsters in the tank.

    Notice that these are not your typical size lobsters.

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Donut Muffins

    The word "donut" added to "muffin" automatically categorizes these muffins as "unhealthy", and you do know that most of the time, "unhealthy" foods are more delicious than "healthy" ones right (well to me anyway).

    These donut muffins are coated with a mixture of sugar and cinnamon and I was surprised at how much these muffins resemble the taste of donuts even though they are not fried.

    Unfortunately, I overmixed these donut muffins so they  turned out a bit chewy (putting them in the good ol' microwave for a few seconds fixes that), but I imagine if the timing was corrected they would've been perfect. 

    BEWARE, there is a LOT of sugar involved here, so make these only if you are:

    1. Sick of your healthy diet and need a break from it;
    2. Looking for a sugar rush; or
    3. You're tired of making typical muffins.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    The Stella Artois 9-Step Pouring Ritual at The Labatt Beer Institute

    Thanks to Calvin (@cdot_in_tdot) from Boston Pizza Yonge & Sheppard and The Labatt Beer Institute, I had a great night at #9StepTO last week. I got a chance to attend a brief seminar about beer (while drinking Stella Artois and munching on nachos), sample various domestic and international beers, learned and tried out The 9-Step Stella Artois Pouring Ritual, and also met a several new tweeps =)

    All this took place at The Labatt Beer Institute which is located at 207 Queens Quay W. It is a private facility that also doubles as the corporate headquarters for ABInBev (which consists of several merged companies including Anheuser-Busch(AB), Interbrew (In), AmBev (Bev)).  ABInBev is the brewers of brands such as Stella Artois, Beck’s, Budweiser, Leffe, Brahma, Hoegaarden, Labatt, Alexander Keith’s, Bass, Busch, Kokanee, O’Doul’s.

    I personally do not know much about beer nor do I drink much of it, but given that my name is Stella, I do tend to choose Stella Artois over other brands when I go out =D However, at restaurants that offer Fruli, there is no question, whatsoever, that I will order the strawberry beer over anything else (yes, I like my fruity drinks).

    The events that night took place in this beautiful room. The first thing you notice once you walk in is the huge bright bar.

    Everything looked so clean and polished. There was a lot of shiny chrome.

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    The Queen & Beaver Public House

    My friend Julia and I were literally wandering around the streets of downtown Toronto one evening after work. I remember precisely that our original plan was to go to beer bistro for dinner, but without a reservation, we could not get a table. We thought going to beer bistro at 5:15pm was safe, but given that it was during TIFF, it was already really crowded by the time we got there. We sadly left and was feeling pretty clueless about where to go until we wandered to Elm street. Julia suggested we go to Queen & Beaver Public House. She has been before and said the food is quite good; not your typical pub food, but pub food with an English flare. Sure I'm down with that.

    We were lucky to get the last table available; like beer bistro, Queen & Beaver was bustling with people. I didn't realize the huge impact that TIFF had on downtown restaurants until that very day.

    Queen & Beaver is essentially located in a somewhat charming historic house; you walk in to a foyer with high ceiling and straight ahead is a grand stairway leading upstairs, and to the right is a big dinning room. It is also equipped with a fireplace, vintage plates and old paintings on the walls along with dark polished wooden furniture - all this really gives off that classic English pub vibe.

    Behind our table we saw loaves of fresh bread being made. YUM

    Hmmmmm what to get? Besides the bar menu (pictured below) Queen & Beaver also has a regular menu. However, from the bar menu, you can see that Queen & Beaver does not serve your typical bar food - Scotch Egg & H.P Sauce? Welsh Rabbit? It basically has many unique Brit dishes that you may not have heard of before.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    HugTO's Cookies & Champagne Party

    I had a blast seeing old friends and meeting new ones at HugTO's Cookies & Champagne Party on Tuesday. It was held at Arta Gallery at The Distillery District; I thought it was the perfect venue for a fun yet classy party where us girls got to mingle, sip on chilled champagne and munch on delicious homemade cookies. I want to take the opportunity here to say a quick thanks to Lisa (@HipUrbanGirl) and Wendy (@BossLadyWendy) from HipUrbanGirl for throwing such awesome #HugTO parties, each and every time, without fail! 

    HUGs attending the party have two options: 1)  attend for networking only, or 2) network and bake cookies as (4 dozen) which would allow them to participate in the cookie exchange. Me, being a foodie that I am, felt like it was my duty to bake, and so I baked 48 of my favorite chocolate chip cookies. Although they are my favorite, they looked sooooo plain compared to some of the fancy cookies that night O_o 

    Oh well...that realization came a bit too late LOL

    Back to the party :) Here, HUGs were setting up their cookies.

    During the party, guests had the opportunity to try the delicious crepes from Crepes de Licious. I had one myself - Nutella & strawberries. Very yummy.

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Amore Trattoria - Worst Brunch Ever

    My two friends and I went to Amore Trattoria for brunch one Sunday a couple of months ago. It was a last minute get together and we were looking for something around the Yonge & Eglinton area. There are a lot of restaurants on that Yonge strip (I find that most are Italian restaurants) and because I don't frequent that part of town often, I didn't have a preference on where to go and so we stumbled into Amore Trattoria.

    After I set foot into Amore TrattoriaI was pretty sure I have been there for brunch before a few years ago but I can't be 100% sure. Can't say if that's a good sign or a bad sign.

    Pretty empty for Sunday brunch. It was around 11 at the time so it's not like we were super early. Please excuse the quality of the pictures by the way; these were not taken with my SLR or my Samsung point and shoot but rather with my iPhone4. Not too shabby still, no?

    Pizzzaaaaaa! Nobody is even manning the oven so obviously no pizza brunch for me.