Tuesday, March 25, 2014

East Thirty-Six: New Restaurant and Bar on Wellington St. E.

East Thirty-Six (Twitter: @EastThirtySix, Facebook: East Thirty-Six) on 36 Wellington Street East is the newest restaurant and bar to open in the St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood. The restaurant, which occupies the former Olde Towne Bistro and Oyster Bar space and before that, Lucien, is the newest venture from husband and wife team Julien and Devon Salomone of Church Street's Boutique Bar. With a strong focus on house made ingredients for cocktails and a menu of share-able dishes, East Thirty-Six's restaurant and bar concept is ideal for patrons who enjoy expertly crafted cocktails and eccentric plates

Although considerably "brighter" than Lucien, East Thirty-Six's interior is still on the dark side (I've never been to Olde Towne Bistro and Oyster Bar so I cannot comment about its decor). However many details have been updated with more modern touches resulting in a much more approachable space. Gone are the dated crystal chandeliers (thank goodness!) which have now been replaced with contemporary steel light fixtures. The ceiling in the main dining room also has this cool purple'ish-blue back light.

Banquette seating at the back of the restaurant is perfect for large groups (East Thirty-Six comfortably seats 70).

A semi-private, raised "purple room" occupies the northeast corner of the restaurant. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lamesa Filipino Kitchen's New Menu

I still have very fond memories of the tasting menu I had at Lamesa Filipino Kitchen a year and a half ago. I remember describing it as a "rock-solid meal" which is why, to this very day, I still recommend this Queen West restaurant to my friends whenever they are looking for something different. Something unique.

Responsible for putting modern Filipino cuisine on the culinary map here in Toronto are second generation Filipinos Rudy Boquila and Les Sabilano. With Lamesa, the duo has successfully combined traditional tastes of the Philippines with modern takes and local ingredients. As Sabilano puts it Filipino food, the Lamesa way, is “all about taking a regional approach to Filipino food. Each of the 7000+ islands in the Philippines has developed their own style based on their customs, surroundings and what is locally available. For us, Toronto is just another island. Our style is shaped by our environment and where and how we grew up.

Last week, I was invited to Lamesa's (Twitter: @LamesaTO, Facebook: Lamesa) new menu launch where I sampled numerous dishes spanning their brunch, dinner and late night menus. Aside from the updated menu, Lamesa's bar also received a dramatic makeover (check out how the bar was before). I personally love the new bar especially the psychedelic glow in the background. Pretty trippy :) 

Speaking of bar, I enjoyed several cocktails that evening. My favourite would be this classic hip hop inspired Lolo Cool J cocktail which consisted of ginger, bourbon, pineapple and cinnamon syrup, lemon juice, and ginger ale.

Live music throughout the night courtesy of DATU. These guys are fantastic.

Here's a look at what I had at the media tasting (note that these are all sample sizes specially made for the evening):

CRISPY PATA (brunch / dinner)
Deep fried pork trotter with pickles and housemade dipping sauces

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lot St: Locally Driven, Ontario Proud, Toronto Inspired

Did you know that in the early 1900's, Queen St. was called Lot St.? Paying homage to the neighbourhood's history, Lot St.which opened in August of last year, has also used "LOT" as an acronym for what diners can expect at their Queen West restaurant:

Locally Driven
Ontario Proud
Toronto Inspired

I was not at all surprised by the clever wordplay. Head chef Peter Pietruniak (@ChefPeteTO), who took over the Lot St. (Twitter: @LotStreet Facebook: LOT Stkitchen in September, has always been an advocate of local food. Petruniak once told me...

"Even before getting into this profession, I always try to eat local and make the effort to look for grown-in-Canada products. I also try to avoid eating at major chain restaurants. Supporting local has many benefits; it helps local farmers and small businesses, as well as reducing carbon footprint.  I will take a fresh Ontario peach over ANY tropical fruit; it is fresh and not ripening on a truck as it crosses the border.  I have read about many chefs who try to really show what their country has to offer. The best chefs Adria, Keller, and even Edward Tuson at Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island want to know where their ingredients come from.  Every chef should want that and every chef should know that food doesn't just come from the back of a truck."

There are both warm and cool tones at the restaurant. Reclaimed wood and exposed-brick keeps the room warm while the stainless steel and copper pipes elements give an industrial feel to the space.

We sat at the bar last Friday night. Chef Pietruniak was working away just 5 ft from us the entire evening.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Recipe For Change 2014

FoodShare (Twitter: @FoodShareTO, Facebook: FoodShare Toronto) is a Toronto non-profit community organization whose vision is Good Healthy Food for All, founded in 1985 to address hunger in our communities. Working "from field to table", FoodShare focuses on the entire system that puts food on our tables; from the growing, processing and distribution of food to its purchasing, cooking and consumption. FoodShare programs, which reach over 155,000 children and adults per month in Toronto, include: 

Student Nutrition, Field to Table Schools, The Good Food Café, Focus on Food youth internships, the Good Food Box, Mobile and Good Food Markets, Fresh Produce for Schools and Community Groups, Baby and Toddler Nutrition, Community Kitchens, Field to Table Catering, the Food Link Hotline, Power Soups, Community Gardening, Composting, Beekeeping and Urban Agriculture.

FoodShare's Recipe for Change fundraiser is a celebration of food with a purpose that supports FoodShare’s innovative and groundbreaking work in schools, getting students to grow, cook and eat more good healthy food. Thanks to Mary Luz Mejia of Sizzling Communications, I was invited to this year's 5th annual Recipe for Change. Held at the St. Lawrence Market North on Thursday, February 27th, the event included tasting plates from 30 chefs, 20 VQA wines, and 6 local beers.

This year's fundraiser also featured a dazzling silent auction which included a dual-fuel convection range, weekend getaways, food experiences and more.

It was impossible to try everything at every single booth but I did the best I could :) Here is my recap of the delicious evening: