Monday, February 28, 2011


I blogged about Ding Tai Fung previously as it is one of my go-to place for Shanghainese food. When Mack (@M3foods) suggested doing a Tweetup there (#DumplingMe) I was all for it . It is rare that Tweetups are in uptown (like Markham or Richmond Hill) so initially I wasn't counting on a big turnout....but whoa! This Tweetup was full in record time - I think after 15 minutes or so it was already full. I guess a lot of people like dumplings, either that or a lot of people like Mack =P

My first post about Ding Tai Fung can be found here, in case you want to read about what I had there that particular time. I have also included some background information about the restaurant on that post, and how it is actually different from the restaurant chain in Asia (even though they have the same name).

Having said that, I'm going to go right into the food. Mack and I were pretty much in charge of ordering food, with a few suggestions from Evie (@eviechiu) and Ben (@LauBenedict). We wanted mostly dim sum with a few noodle dishes on the side. 

Have you tried ordering dim sum for 13 people? It is not an easy task as it is hard to gauge whether or not we are ordering enough or ordering too much. It was quite a daunting task as I have never had to write down "5" besides "pork dumplings" on the order sheet before (each order has 6 dumplings)! Well I don't know, maybe it was just me who felt it was daunting since Mack was just like "yeah order whatever and as much as you want" =P Anyway, we had 3 to 5 orders of each dim sum dish to ensure that everyone got to try everything.

So here goes! 

Jellyfish and Shredded Turnip 

Savoury Soy Milk with Fried Dough Sticks

Fried "Man Tau" with Condensed Milk 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Café du lac (Winterlicious)

I took my parents to Café du lac for dinner on the last day of Winterlicious. I've heard great things about the food at Café du lac and have always been meaning to go. Café du lac serves contemporary, Quebec style food. Whenever possible, Kathryn Ashby, owner and manager of Café du lac, sources food products directly from Quebec-based suppliers, such as their maple syrup, cheeses and wild boar.

I remember when I first checked out Café du lac's regular dinner menu, I was taken back at how their food is right up my alley! Check these out:
  • Fresh meat pate
  • Salmon tartare
  • Foie gras parfait 
  • House-made charcuterie 
  • Poutine (with cream sauce, curds, pulled beef short-ribs)
  • Bacon-wrapped venison meatloaf
  • Roasted wild boar tenderloin
  • Pan-seared duck breast 
Oh and it gets better, you can add foie gras to anything! *faints* I ♥♥♥ foie gras!

And to top that off, get this, Café du lac has this thing called "Duck in a Jar" which they only offer on weekends (or by ordering one day in advance), description as follows:

"Foie gras stuffed duck magret immersed in venison balsamic reduction with savoy cabbage, leeks and Berkshire porkdouble smoked bacon served on a bed of rustic mashed potatoes ($36)"

I will let that sink in =D

Meanwhile, check out View the Vibe's video on Café du lac

I've been tweeting with Café du lac's owner, Kathryn (@cafedulac) for a few months now. Kathryn is super friendly, outgoing, and I love how she connects with everyone on Twitter; she really embraces social media and knows how much value it brings. How do I know? I made my Winterlicious reservation with Kathryn on Twitter when I was in Utah on a business trip ^_^

Café du lac is a small bistro located on Lake Shore. My parents and I both thought it felt like we were dining at a small café in Quebec somewhere; the wooden floors, tables, chairs, and the simple decor all gave a very relaxed atmosphere. Being the last night of Winterlicious, Café du lac was packed so the restaurant was a bit louder than we would've liked; my parents and I had to raise our voices just to talk to each other. Thankfully, as it got later in the evening, people left and we were able to talk normally again.

Knowing that my parents and I would be there, Kathryn reserved us a good table (by the wall with cushioned seats). We sat at the bar while the table was being set up. There is Chef Hudson Bernard.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Jason!

It was my brother's birthday yesterday and to celebrate, we all went out for dinner at Apricot Tree Café. I've blogged about the restaurant before (see post here). I absolutely adore this place, it is my favorite restaurant in Mississauga. It is a quaint little café with good food, good service, and very reasonable prices (I included the prices on this post to emphasize my point). Better yet, I was able to use two of my dealfind vouchers at the same time last night as there was 5 of us (the deal was a $60 voucher for $25, can use two coupons for a table of 4 or more). I swear to God if Apricot Tree Café has any deals like that again, I'm going go buy like...10 vouchers.

If you want to see pictures of Apricot Tree Café (i.e. their European café decor, open kitchen, dessert display, etc.) go see my first post about it because I'm just going to dive right to the food this time.

Besides their regular menu, Apricot Tree Café has different specials everyday. They always have a special for each of the following: soup, salad, pasta, crepe, entrée.


Smoked Salmon - Smoked salmon served with pita bread, bermuda onions, capers and dill sour cream ($7.95). 

Bright, orange smoked salmon with soft pita bread. Yum. The onions were too big though; they could have done a better job on those for sure.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Joe Maggiano's (Winterlicious)

My least favorite Winterlicious meal this year, hands down, was Joe Maggiano's.  I was looking for a Winterlicious restaurant to go to in north Toronto since my boyfriend lives and works up in Markham, and we usually meet up on Wednesdays (our date night ^_^). After some research, the only restaurant that came up was Joe Maggiano's. It was actually a perfect location as it is only minutes away from the Fairview Mall subway station. 

I initially thought that I haven't been to Joe Maggiano's before so when my boyfriend and my friend both assured me that their food is decent, I was feeling good about my choice of restaurant. Both of them have been to Joe Maggiano's before during non-Licious and they said the food is pretty good with generous portions too.

Once I arrived to the plaza where Joe Maggiano's is located, it dawned on me that I've been to this restaurant ages ago, just that I didn't remember the name of it. However, I still had no recollection about whether their food was good or bad.

After sitting down, my boyfriend told me the decor has changed from the last time he was at Joe Maggiano's (I was already a bit nervous hearing that). He said it was more of a  family style restaurant before, unlike the decor now which is obviously more contemporary, with the wooden floors and the sleek black chairs. I'm pretty sure they didn't have the wine glasses back then either.

We sat at a tight booth on the side, and I emphasize "tight", even for my frame. You can sorta tell the width of the booth from the picture above.

The entrance to the kitchen was to my right.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Arcadian Court (Winterlicious)

My second work lunch for Winterlicious was at Arcadian Court. Similar to the my work lunch earlier in the week at La Maquette, it wasn't my choice of restaurant. When I looked at Arcadian Court's Winterlicious menu online, I was not that excited about the items offered. However, knowing that it was only a $15 lunch, I know I shouldn't have any high expectations anyway. Plus, I don't even have to pay, so I really should just keep my mouth shut.

I've never been to Arcadian Court before, so unlike La Maquette, I didn't have any views against it or for it before going. But similar to the lunch at La Maquette, I ended up really enjoying the food. For $15, I was beyond full - the portions were really generous. Not only were the portions good, every course in my 3-course lunch was also very delicious. Can I emphasize again that this lunch was only $15? Continue reading and I'm sure you will be amazed too. 

Arcadian Court is on the 8th floor of The Bay at Yonge & Queen. I didn't know a restaurant existed at The Bay before this, but a friend of mine told me that he has been to Arcadian Court for a wedding reception. When I got out of elevator, what I saw was this enormous grand hall with booths on the sides and tables in the middle.

Arcadian Court offers a full buffet at lunch as well as a la carte.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Far Niente (Winterlicious)

I had dinner with three lovely ladies from Ketchum (@KetchumCanadaPR) last week at Far Niente. Charmaine (@charmainealia), who I've met at HugTO's Cookies & Champaign Party, invited me out for dinner along with her two colleagues, Jennifer (@JeniAnne22) and Katie (@ziervog). We all had a great time chatting about food at first (we are all foodies) but then slowly we branched off to random topics like relationships (or men, to be more specific haha), work, TV shows, movies, celebrity gossip, etc. I had a really good time that night; it was great meeting Jennifer and Katie and reconnecting with Charmaine again. And in all honesty, what is there to complain about? Dinner on a Thursday night with a few girl friends, good conversation, along with a 3-course meal at a nice restaurant and a bottle of wine? Hmmmm....nothing! 

I've been to Far Niente twice for lunch, but never dinner; once for Licious long time ago and once for regular lunch. Far Niente is located in the heart of the financial district (King & Bay). I remember the two times I went for lunch it was really crowded. Evidently, not as crowded that night when we there. One thing to note though - it was super cold that day, like -25C cold, so I'm sure a lot of people went home after work to hibernate!

We were sitting at one of the booths on the side.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

La Maquette (Winterlicious)

Believe me when I tell you that I was not thrilled at all about going to La Maquette for lunch. It was a work lunch so it wasn't up to me in choosing where to go (my colleagues haven't been before so they wanted to go). I've been to La Maquette several years ago for a Licious dinner and I remember the quality being really, really bad - I said that I will never go back again. I rate La Maquette as being the second worse restaurant only to Toula in terms of my bad Licious experiences (as a side note, Toula is the absolute worse restaurant of all time for me, the view there does not compensate at all for it's below average food. If you google "Toula Toronto review" and take a look at the reviews from restaurantica, urbanspoon, and yelp, you will see what I mean). I know judging a restaurant during Licious is not the best thing to do, but I can't help it if I don't want to go back. Bad memories linger!

It also doesn't help that my foodie friend, Vickie, blogged about her Winterlicious dinner at La Maquette just a few days before my lunch (read her post here). Vickie and I have pretty much the same taste in terms of what we like and not like, so reading and seeing her pics from La Maquette further dampens my enthusiasm about the restaurant (not like there was any to begin with). 

But hmmmm... let me just say that I was pleasantly surprised by my lunch at La Maquette this time around; it totally exceeded my expectations. The food was actually really good! And for $20, it was a steal. After looking at their Winterlicious menu, I noticed that their lunch and dinner menus are completely different. Maybe this explains why Vickie and I had such drastic experiences. And these days, I feel that a lot of restaurants in Toronto lack's really a hit and miss.

Anyway, here are some pics. This is the dining room on the first floor. I sat here for my Licious dinner a few years back. I do admit that La Maquette has very classy decor (I guess having a baby grand will automatically have that effect anywhere).

Staircase connecting the dining room downstairs and the atrium upstairs. Same baby grand on the left.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Another one of my coupon purchases brought me to Insomnia Restaurant & Lounge for dinner. It was a dealfind voucher this time, $60 worth of food and drinks for $25 at Insomnia.  

I've been to Insomnia a couple of years ago for brunch. I don't exactly remember what I had but I do recall that it was very good (I was obviously not as much as a foodie back then). I haven't been back since then because I do not frequent the Bloor and Bathurst area too often. 

While waiting for my friend to arrive, I took the picture below. Insomnia is actually a lot darker than this (I had my ISO cranked up for all these pictures because I hate using flash). Insomnia is a café during the day and a restaurant at night, and turns into a lounge even later at night. I personally really love the atmosphere at Insomnia - there is noticeable chatter in the background but it's not too loud, the dim lighting and music is very relaxing, and just seeing people around you having drinks and gives a very chill, yet inviting ambiance.

By the way, you see the waitress serving the table there? With the white flower in her hair? She also served us, and she is, hands down, THE BEST SERVER I'VE EVER HAD. She is so friendly, so cheerful, so helpful, and most importantly, you can tell she genuinely loves her job. It was really busy that night but she always had a smile on her face. Her name is Roberta by the way, look for her if you're there =)

The cute candle and flower on the table. The candle was an important source of lighting for my pictures hehe

Friday, February 11, 2011

Calphalon: Couples Cooking Italian

One of my Christmas presents from my boyfriend last year was a couples cooking class at Calphalon. I thought it was so thoughtful! With my love for food and cooking, and being able to cook with my boyfriend and learning new recipes together, it was the perfect present. I've heard good things about the classes at Calphalon even before getting this present so I knew the class would be so much fun. Thanks again babe for such a wonderful present =) 

(note: I suggested to my boyfriend recently that we should do one of these cooking classes at least once every year from now on ^_^).

The classroom. We were the first couple to arrive. The guy there is probably bbm'ing his wife.

We chose a station in the front row (there were rows in total).

The classroom assistant, Sasha, gave us two bowls of pasta while we wait for the class to start. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Smothered Pork Chops

Pork chops. They are pretty much a staple in my boyfriend's freezer. I'm personally not a big fan of it but I don't mind it every once in awhile.

Anyway, after the surprisingly fun time I had with the Nong-Shim Oven Roasted Spareribs, where I basically threw together stuff found at my boyfriend's place, I decided to do the same thing a few Sundays ago, but with pork chops. Pork chops is definitely easier to handle.  There are also more recipes out there for them as well.  This time though, I didn't have to cook with random ingredients as I found a recipe in my America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook with ingredients that I had at home.

These pork chops turned out great. I mean, come on, sauce on pork chops with bacon bits on top? You can't go wrong with that. The only alteration I did was I doubled the sauce. After my experience with the Beef Straganoff where I didn't have enough sauce, I'm now paranoid about things being too dry. So I doubled the sauce here just in case - and doubling sauce never hurts IMO; just use as much sauce as you need and you can always save the rest (sauce also goes well with rice).

Smothered Pork Chops - Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Serves 4

Using a nonstick pan is crucial here in order to prevent any browned bits from sticking and burning. Serve the pork chops with mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles to soak up the rich gravy.


  • 4 bone-in rib pork chops (6 ounces each), 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra s needed
  • 2 onions, halved and sliced thin
  • 2 garlic clothes, minced
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
  • 2 tbsps water
  • 3 ounces bacon (3 slices), chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp minced fresh parsley

Monday, February 7, 2011

Brix Napa Valley Grille & Wine Bar

Brix was horrible. There, I said it. I don't even feel like slowly getting into that one point that I will try to make at the end. I mean, the atmosphere is OK (however, it is known as a "cougar" hangout at night haha. I cannot vouch for that though since I haven't been there past dinner time; although I do notice that there were no kids nor teens around me when I went for dinner), the appetizers were mediocre, the service was not bad, but honestly, it was the main dishes that really REALLY killed it. I mean when I average everything out, Brix shouldn't be "horrible" right? But trust me, the mains were so bad that it didn't matter if the appetizers were awesome (which they weren't anyway) I would still stay away from Brix if possible in the future. I was glad I had a voucher for $70 from Groupclick (paid $30 for it) or else I would have wanted to kill someone if I actually had to pay full price for this meal.

Here's the "crowd" that night. I also know that Brix does a lot of corporate parties. Not sure if I'm crazy about that big screen TV on the left there. We were seated in the dining room, NOT the bar, leave the big flatscreens at the bar please.

Drinks were fine, although I would have preferred fruits such as strawberries or raspberries as well in my sangria - mine had just a piece of lemon, lime, and orange. All acidic / tangy fruits.

Brix Truffle Fries - Dusted with Grano Padano, truffle mayo. The mayo was good, but anything with truffle is bound to be good. So besides the mayo, it was basically just fries with cheese sprinkled on top, which is a bit weird because the powdered cheese were dry (unlike a poutine with melted cheese / cheese curds) and I've never had dry powdered cheese on fries before.

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Chinese New Year's Eve Feast

Happy Chinese New Year! Wishing everyone a healthy and prosperous Year of the Rabbit =) 恭祝各位, 新年快樂! 心想事成!身體健康!That's not a direct translation at all, but much like going into a Chinese restaurant and seeing the specials written only in Chinese, only the people that can read Chinese will have the luxury of understanding what I wrote haha~

Wednesday night was Chinese New Year's Eve. Every year, my Mom would cook a very extravagant meal, a menu full of delectable Chinese dishes. We never go out to a restaurant for Chinese New Year because we enjoy wining and dining in the comfort of our own home. But of course this is only possible because my Mom is such a brilliant cook (see my post here dedicated to my Mom's crazy cooking skills). 

My family is not traditional nor superstitious. As in, we do not decorate our house with Chinese New Year decorations or do any rituals, ever. We actually do not do much at all during Chinese New Year besides getting together and eating. We haven't bought Chinese New Year candy in ages so I was pretty surprised when I saw this in the kitchen the other day:

Mom bought it at T&T, probably to make it feel more like Chinese New Year in the house. I must say that is one sad looking candy box though; the sesame chips in there has absolutely nothing to do with Chinese New Year (they are sold as snacks at T&T all year around). The picture below is an example of how a traditional Chinese New Year candy box should look like:

But whatever. When we were living in Hong Kong I remember we can never finish the stuff in the box anyway, even weeks after the New Year; a lot of the stuff in there is way too sweet for our taste. It also doesn't help that my family don't snack much in general.

What we do eat every year is pudding. My mom sometimes makes them and sometimes buy them. This year, she made the Water Chestnut Pudding (馬蹄糕) and bought the New Year pudding (年糕) and Turnip Pudding (蘿蔔糕). Mom pan-fried these for us after we came back from shoveling snow =)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Organized my first ever Tweetup last Thursday at Beast Restaurant (BEAST ME was the name of the Tweetup, #BeastTO was the hashtag). It was a success as everyone had a good time (or I hope everybody did because I certainly did haha). I finally got to meet several foodies who I've interacted with on twitter for awhile now, so that was great =) and of course, it's always nice to see my usual group of foodies~ It was a night of great food, great company, and great conversation. Actually, to be honest, conversation could've been better; I didn't get to chat with a few tweeps as much as I wanted to. Our group of 13 was split into two tables - although the tables were side by side, it was hard for me to engage in conversation with people sitting at the other table. This is precisely when I miss those big round tables at Chinese restaurants.

#BeastTO wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for Chef Scott and Rachelle Vivian, owners of Beast (@BeastRestaurant on Twitter). Thanks for for taking the time to organize this Tweetup with me (believe me, there were plenty of emails going back and forth between us LOL). So thank you again =) And I also wanna say thanks to all the foodies that showed up at #BeastTO ^_^

You can probably tell from that picture below that Beast is a small place; our group alone took up almost half of the restaurant. From the left: Mack (@M3foods), Chris (@chrisim), and Sandon (@sandviper). Sorry about the blurry head >_<

From the far left, starting from below the window: Matt (@mattmark), Gizelle (@TorontoEats), John (@jchant), Alexa (@alexaclark), Jennifer (@jylui) and Sandon (better shot this time).

Happy Hour Menu - This ends at 7pm. My half of the table ordered one of everything to share (everything above the Beast Burger).