Friday, December 27, 2013

The Brunch on Boom Giveaway - CLOSED

To celebrate Boom Breakfast & Co's 10-year anniversary in January I'm giving away a $30 gift card to one lucky winner to enjoy at Boom!

Open 7 days a week till 4pm Boom Breakfast & Co (Twitter: @Boom_Breakfast, Facebook: Boom Breakfastis the place to be whenever you're craving something casual and comforting for breakfast, lunch or brunch. With four locations in Toronto and the GTA and a large and extensive menu, I'm confident that you'll find something you want at Boom [read my full post here].


1) You MUST follow me (@foodieyuon Twitter;


2) Tweet the following sentence, exactly as shown, nothing before or after it

Hey @foodieyu I want to win Brunch at @Boom_Breakfast! #boomfoodieyu

*For your entry to be valid, you need to tweet the above sentence exactly as shown*
*You may tweet once a day for the duration of the contest. Re-tweeting others do NOT count as a valid entry*
*Contest is tracked by the #boomfoodieyu hashtag stream. If you don't see your tweet in the hashtag stream, it means there is no entry from you. Sorry. Read this to find out the possible reasons why your tweets are not showing up *
 *The contest prize is for one gift card worth $30. Gift card is valid at any Boom location. Gift card has no expiry date*


Contest starts on Friday, December 27 and ends on Friday, January 3 at 12PM.

The lucky winner will be chosen randomly from I will announce the winner shortly after the contest closes on Friday, January 3.

GOOD LUCK!!! ^_^

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Boom Breakfast & Co.

Open 7 days a week till 4pm Boom Breakfast & Co is the place to be whenever you're craving something casual and comforting for breakfast, lunch or brunch. With four locations in Toronto and the GTA (808 College St., 1036 St. Clair W., 174 Eglinton Ave W. and 145 Hawkview Blvd in Vaughan) and a large and extensive menu, I'm confident that you'll find something you want at Boom. The restaurant offers a variety of traditional breakfast combos, omelettes, eggs benny, pancakes, French toasts, waffles, as well as sandwiches, breakwiches, breakfast burritos, wraps, and burgers. Craving something more healthy? Opt for a salad and soup...Boom's got that covered too. No breakfast / brunch is complete without a cup of steaming hot coffee, right? Boom has cappucinos, lattes, espressos, hot chocolates, alongside a variety of smoothies, fresh squeezed juice and even booze! (Note: booze is available only at the College and St. Clair location).

 Boom's plush booths, molded wood paneling and cool blue subway tiles give off a very pleasant and modern diner atmosphere. This is their College location.

A good ol' cup of coffee for me. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

La Joie de Vivre aux Chocolat - A Sweet and Savoury Chocolate Tasting Dinner

On November 18th I was invited to a very special sweet and savoury chocolate tasting. Hosted by Abbey Sharp of Abbey's Kitchen (Twitter: @AbbeysKitchen, Facebook: Abbey's Kitchen), this intimate six course chocolate dinner held at Playful Grounds showcased the talent of husband and wife team Chef Eyal Liebman and Sommelier Rebecca Meir. The duo successfully showed guests that chocolate - often viewed as one of the worlds most luxurious and desired foods - doesn't just belong in dessert.

Inspired by the founding fathers of French cuisine, Israeli-born Pâtissier Eyal Liebman is a culinary artisan whose creations are at once grounded in tradition and influenced by his middle-eastern roots. Having joined the Canadian culinary circle in 2008, Eyal studied under Maître Cuisinier de France Didier Leroy at Didier in Toronto. He has since further cultivated his craft at Pâtisserie Sebastien, Black Moon, Pain Perdu, 417 Restaurant+Lounge, Harbour Sixty Steakhouse, and is now the co founder of L is for... (Twitter: @EyalPastryChef, Facebook: L is Forwith his wife, Rebecca. With seven years of experience in the hospitality industry in Canada and abroad, Rebecca enjoys pairing Eyal's pastry oriented food with local and French wines that compliments Eyal's style of cooking. Rebecca is currently working as the assistant sommelier at Oliver & Bonacini's Luma.

We were treated to a sophisticated sweet and savoury tasting menu where Eyal utilized Valrhona chocolate in all his six courses. Each course was also paired with Stanners Vineyard (Twitter: @StannersWines, Facebook: Stanners Vineyard) wines which were hand-selected by Rebecca. 

Below is a recap of La Joie de Vivre aux Chocolat - A Sweet and Savoury Chocolate Tasting Dinner:

Cascumpec bay oyster & coca nibs infused tequila mignonette
Los Azulejos tequila

Black tiger shrimp, pure Madagascar chocolate mole sauce, frisee cucumber & mixed greens salad
Pinot Gris 2010

Rabbit terrine with pure Dominican Republic chocolate, Celtic Blue (Lancaster, ON), chocolate lavash
Pinot Noir 2011

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cafe Bar Pasta

Owner Tom Bielecki with wife and designer Christine opened Cafe Bar Pasta in July of this year. Located at 1588 Dundas St. W between Brock and Sheridan Ave, head chef Jay Scaife (@chefjayscaife) of Cafe Bar Pasta serves up a variety of tasty starters, a selection of fantastic house-made pastas as well as hearty mains such as a roasted lamb with pumpkin & amaretti gnocchi and a whole roasted Branzino. Cafe Bar Pasta (Twitter: @CAFEBARPASTA, Facebook: Cafe Bar Pastaalso sports a short bar menu consisting of charcuterie, cod fritters and empanadas.

The black, white and red themed dining room is creatively furnished with the most eye-catching piece being the long red mural. Wrapped around the room against the white brick wall, it is bold and strikingly modern. I particularly appreciate all the neat details in the space like their shiny chandelier made out of silver cutlery, the large cork wall beside the hostess stand, their beautifully hand-painted plates, and the gorgeous brightly lit chef's table.

The Italian eatery offers both wines by the bottle and wines on tap. Master Sommelier John Szabo (@johnszabo) has hand picked a selection of local, premium estate wines. Exclusive lots are tasted and approved then kegged without fining, filtration or unnecessary preservatives. The wines are delivered through a wine-on-tap system at optimum temperature, kept fresh by a blanket of nitrogen and argon gas. Patrons can enjoy in 3oz, 5oz, 8oz, ½ litre or full litre pours.

I was invited to Cafe Bar Pasta's media event where we sampled several appetizers, pastas and desserts. I can safely say that their impressive pasta machine stole the spotlight from the red mural that night.

Orata tartar, citrus, frisee, puffed caper ostrich tartar, grainy mustard, toasted walnut, wild boar crisp

With grapefruit chili marinade, lemon aioli

Monday, December 16, 2013

SPiN Toronto: Not Your Average Ping Pong Hall

SPiN Toronto (Twitter: @SPiN_Toronto, Facebook: SPiN Toronto) is a massive 12,000 sq ft ping pong social club located at 461 King Street West. SPiN Toronto is one of five outposts belonging to the SPiN Galatic group (you can currently find SPiN in New York, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Toronto and Dubai). SPiN Galatic's mission is to spread the love of ping pong across the "Galaxy" with entertainment venues where people can hang out with friends and play ping-pong while sipping on cocktails and munching on snacks. 

Fun Fact: Did you know that Susan Sarandon is one of four owners of SPiN Galatic? The Academy Award-winning actress is a self-described "ping pong propagandist" and has been giving ping pong tables to friends and to inner-city schools ever since she helped open SPiN New York in 2009.

SPiN Toronto boasts 2 fully licensed bars, 12 ping-pong tables, cocktail menu, full food menu, a lounge and a private party room. It is open 7 days a week from noon till 1 am from Sundays to Wednesdays, and till 2 am on Thursdays to Saturdays. 

Fun Fact: Did you know I went to SPiN Toronto for a blind date once? Lets just say playing ping pong was the best part of the date haha.

Please don't feel intimated when you're at SPiNyou don't have to be a pro to go (trust me I suck at ping pong but I love it there; then again maybe because I'm Asian it's in my blood to love ping pong). Anyway if you're a hard-core ping pong player then by all means get yourself a SPiN membership but otherwise, anybody can drop in for casual socializing and play or even take part in SPiN Toronto's nightly events. It's all in good fun.

If you absolutely refuse to give ping pong a chance *insert sad face* you can always pig out on food and drinks there. I was invited to taste chef Jon Lovett's (@iamjonlovett) new menu a few weeks ago at SPiN where we had a variety of shared plates and finger foods. 

We started off with a few cocktails. SPiN has a modest list of cocktails, beers and wines, as well as three different kinds of punch bowls (minimum 4 people, 9 ounces of booze in each).

BFF - Ciroc peach + elderberry + bubbles ($12.40)
Gin Blossom - Tanqueray + St Germain + Lemon ($12.40)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Chef's Menu at Actinolite

The Chef's Menu at Actinolite was one of the best, if not the best, tasting menu I've had this year in Toronto (there's exactly 19 days left in 2013 so I think I'm pretty safe with that statement). It has been almost a month since my dinner there and I still think about it from time to time (I kid you not I was stuck on the 401 last week and outta nowhere the image of Actinolite's roasted white chocolate sorbet dessert with cep mushroom puree flashed before my eyes). Actually when I think about it I shouldn't be that surprised because I was already quite smitten from the get-go that evening; it was the squid. The squid got me good. Cradled on a single Hemlock branch, the squid, which sat on top of a splash of juniper vinegar and juniper oil, was just ridiculous. It was probably the most tender, the most delicious piece of squid I've ever had. And it was all uphill from there...can you imagine?!

Aesthetically speaking, not much has changed with the small 30-seat neighbourhood restaurant on Ossington from when it first opened its doors in March 2012. However, unlike when I visited Actinolite a year and a half ago, chef/owner Justin Cournoyer has since then switched from a traditional, a-la-carte three course menu to strictly tasting menu. You can choose from either the Chef's Menu (seven courses, $75, optional wine pairings $55) or the Summary Menu (four course, $55, optional wine pairing $35). The reason for the change is explained on their website:

"The inspiration came from daily trips to farmers’ markets and from growing ingredients in our own garden. We became obsessed with the freshness and quality that came with picking produce and presenting it on the plate moments later. We became fixated on what the land around us had to offer—harvesting the restaurant’s urban garden out back and foraging the fields around the actual town of Actinolite (“Actinolite North” as chef Justin affectionately calls it). Our Chef’s Picks menu, which debuted discreetly at first in fine print at the bottom of the standard menu—is the product of this bounty: a seven-course meal built around hyper-fresh ingredients as selected by the kitchen. Word about Chef’s Picks spread and soon the majority of our guests were requesting this memorable meal. This was the crossroads. We decided: in order to give our guests the full experience of Actinolite, we would offer a Chef’s Menu (seven courses) and a Summary Menu (four courses)."

I opted for Actinolite's Chef's Menu with wine pairings (note that Actinolite's menu changes constantly depending on what’s in season, fresh and available):

Wild pear roasted in autumn leaves with fermented pear juice, fermented blueberries, thyme oil and in-house soured cream

SQUID | JUNIPER (complimentary)
Gently cooked squid with pickled juniper, juniper vinegar, juniper oil, served on a Hemlock branch (all juniper and hemlock branches were picked from Actinolite up north)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pukka: Modern Indian on St. Clair West

Located at 778 St. Clair W., I was invited to Pukka's (pronounced "puck-a") media tasting a couple of weeks ago. Pukka (Twitter: @pukkatoronto, Facebook: Pukka Toronto) which opened in mid-October is the newest modern Indian restaurant to hit the city. Rather than serving traditional Indian cuisine that can oftentimes pack a bit too much heat (for most anyway) owners Harsh Chawla and Derek Valleau of Pukka aim to provide their diners with a twist on the traditional by focusing more on flavour instead of the fiery hot. Seasonal and local ingredients are used in Pukka's family-style menu with offerings that are generally much lighter, fresher and less "cream-heavy" than your classic Indian. Although the food is contemporary - ranging from Indian subcontinental to modern fusion - chefs at Pukka still make their own naan in an authentic clay tandoor oven as well as their own curries and chutneys.

Business partners Harsh Chawla (pictured left - a restaurant-industry consultant) and Derek Valleau (pictured right - former operations manager at Crush Wine Bar).

And as for the restaurant name...why "Pukka"? Pukka is actually a Hindi word literally meaning "cooked, ripe" and figuratively "fully formed", "solid" or "permanent". Valleau explained Pukka, popularized by chef Jamie Oliver, can also mean "genuine" or simply "very good".

The modern and industrial decor at Pukka aligns perfectly with its contemporary take on Indian cuisine. After all, have you seen white exposed brick and reclaimed barn wood at any other Indian restaurant before? Certainly not me.

Pukka boasts an impressive selection of wine - its current wine list consists of 25 international wines...which is much more than what you would typically find at an Indian restaurant. Pukka aims to triple / quadruple the number of labels down the road.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Sunday Lunch at Chantecler

By the lack of brunch posts on my blog it should be obvious that I'm not a brunch girl. 

I mean brunch food is good and all but it's not that good so I'm just not that into it. I know for a fact that I'm the minority here because everybody in this city goes berserk over brunch. I admit that having to wake up early Sunday morning doesn't help the cause but then knowing that I may have to line up half an hour for food is a major turn-off. Thanks, but no thanks. I choose my comfy and cozy bed.

I think the main reason why brunch is not appealing to me is because being Chinese I'm used to family-style dining. Perfect example would be dim sum! So many options and the opportunity to try so many things. Even dinner - whether it be my Mom cooking at home or eating out at a Chinese restaurant - we would always order multiple dishes for the table. Nobody is ever stuck eating the same plate of food the entire time. And when I'm not having Chinese food I'm all about tasting menus; multi-course meals are right up my alley. So unless I'm going to a brunch buffet a typical brunch is incredibly monotonous to me. I've always wondered: Why can't brunch be family-style? And if so, why isn't anybody doing it?

Well, in comes Chantecler.

Chantecler's Sunday lunch, happening every Sunday from 11:30am to 3:30pm, breaks away from the norm. Consistent with their communal-style dinners, chef and co-owner Jonathan Poon serves lunch - not "brunch" - with a menu consisting of shareable small plates. Go with a few friends and go nuts ordering for the table. I bet you haven't done that before for Sunday brunch lunch!

Anyway, some of Chantecler's dishes here are unlike anything I've seen before, or probably will ever see, in Toronto. Let's just say you won't find eggs benny, French toast or pancakes here....even their Caesar is different than anybody else's:

Szechuan Pepper, Clamato, Cucumber & Coriander

Remember what I said about going nuts ordering? My friends and I did just that when we had Chantecler's entire Sunday lunch menu last week. "Go big or go home", right? Feast your eyes, friends!

Heinz Ketchup 
Why? How about why not? Everybody loves hash browns! Fried to a nice golden brown served with a packet of Heinz ketchup, this is just plain fun.

Condensed Milk
Exceptionally soft with a slightly crisp coating, these fried steamed buns are served with a generous amount of thick, sweet condensed milk for dipping. No twist. Pure traditional Chinese plate here.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Back For More Happy Hooker

After hearing through the social media grapevine that The Happy Hooker has added some new goodies to their menu, my friend Alex and I made our way to the Dundas West seafood / fish 'wich shop last week to do a little taste test ourselves (click here for my blog post on The Happy Hooker's full menu).

I've always been a big fan of The Happy Hooker (Twitter: @HappyHookerTDOT, Facebook: The Happy Hooker). Their range of casual seafood selection encompasses small snacks from fish tacos and baja fries, to more substantial "between the buns" list of fish 'wiches and shrimp po'boy. You won't find anything elaborate or fancy like seafood towers here but what you will find is a wide range of fresh, top-quality, grab-and-go seafood options. I must admit that even though I love meaty burgers and pork belly banh mi's, I can never say no to the lighter menu at The Happy Hooker

*By the way, is it true that Asians love fish sandwiches more than any other ethnicity? Coming from Hong Kong I know for a fact that Chinese people love McDonald's filet-o-fish...I admit I'm guilty of that myself*

Anyway without further ado, below are the four new additions to The Happy Hooker's menu:

Offered on weekends and sometimes Mondays, The Happy Hooker's lobster poutine is quite a looker. These hand-cut fries, mixed with a generous amount of cheese curds, are first lathered in gravy (made in-house with lobster and beef stock) then finished with hunks of fresh lobster meat. After tasting the poutine, I thought the gravy should be thicker and could use a bit more flavour. I told Attilio Pugliese, chef & owner of The Happy Hooker, my thoughts about the gravy; he agreed and will be tweaking it.

I inhaled this fish sandwich! Topped with thick, tangy house-made tartar sauce and shredded cheese, two large pieces perfectly fried Alaskan Pollock are nicely sandwiched between a soft Wonder Bread bun. So incredibly good. There's an option for bacon...if you must.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The P&L Burger

The P&L Burger (@thepnlburger), officially opening tomorrow on 507 Queen St. W., is Richard Lambert and Jesse Girard's latest venture. Lambert and Girard of The Social Group, also owners of Parkdale's Parts & Labour (@partsnlabour), West Queen West's The Dog and Bear, and The Hoxton, continues their collaboration with Executive Head Chef Matty Matheson (@mattydeathbro) in their new 1,000 square feet burger shop. I got a sneak peek (and taste!) of The P&L Burger's burgers yesterday before their big opening day tomorrow.

Designed by Castor DesignThe P&L Burger's black, red and white themed space is clean, sleek and modern. No frills, no fuss. 

Counter seats only at The P&L Burger.

The P&L Burger's hearty menu is inspired by chef Matheson's love for bold flavours and years of experience at restaurants such as Le Select Bistro, La Palette and Oddfellows. Listed first on the menu is chef Matheson's The P&L which won first place in the Toronto edition of Country Music Television's (CMT) Burger Wars, out-stacking The Burger's Priest and Dangerous Dan's Diner. The P&L boasts seven ounces of Ontario chuck (ground in-house daily), dill mayo, bacon-onion jam, iceberg lettuce and Monterey Jack cheese on a toasted Blackbird Baking Co. milk bun.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Winner of the Spinning Plates Premiere Tickets is...


Congratulations! You have just won a pair of tickets to the Canadian premiere of Spinning Plates taking place at TIFF Bell Lightbox this Wednesday, December 4th at 7pm! Please email me your name and your guest's name at to confirm your attendance.

Thanks to the 23 contestants who participated in my giveaway

Here's a snapshot of the Excel spreadsheet where I tracked the #spinplatesmovie hashtag from day one of the giveaway (if you don't see your tweet in the hashtag stream, it means there is no entry from you. Sorry. Read this to find out the possible reasons why your tweets are not showing up.) The tracking was done using chronological order, as in, #1 was the first person to enter the contest. To enter, the person had to tweet "Hey @foodieyu I want to win a pair of tickets to the Canadian premiere of Spinning Plates! #spinplatesmovie". Each person may tweet once a day for the duration of the giveaway. Once the giveaway was over and everybody's entries were accounted for I checked to see if they follow me (@foodieyuon Twitter. Below is a list of people who qualified for the contest:

I used "True Random Number Generator" from to pick the winner from the 44 entries.