25 June 2007

Il Fornello.

Not too terribly long ago, G and I had dinner at the Il Fornello in our neighborhood. I have to say, it's not the greatest, really, but when it's on, it's very on.

I ordered the lasagna. It was a huge portion, perfectly cooked with meat and cheese and a little bit of pesto oil on top. It was really good...

The tomato sauce tasted so fresh, and the pesto oil was really nice and it added such a nice touch to everything.

G had a calzone that also had the little bit of pesto/basil oil on top...

The thing about Il Fornello is that it's a nice restaurant, and the fact that it's in our neighborhood makes it an attractive option. BUT, it's always kind of empty and weird, and expensive. But it's a nice place to have dinner and such. Can you tell I have mixed feelings about it?

Our neighborhood has such an odd assortment of restaurants. There is a nicer pasta place a few doors south called Sambuca's, that's really nice but never has any people in it. So if you are in the 'hood, go there.

18 June 2007

Day three and room service called my name.

One of the things that I find difficult when I travel is deciding what to eat. The one part of me wants to order pizza and french fries and read magazines and drink coke. The other part of me wants to order the nice things on the menu and give those a try. There was a battle over the pork tenderloin wrapped in apple smoked bacon with garlic mashed potatoes, veg and bread, and.... pizza hut pepperoni lovers pizza. (At least I was stuck in the same food group... pork!)

There's something really decadent about staying in a hotel alone that brings out my inner child (who lives so near the surface, I am convinced I actually have an inner adult). I only remember staying in one hotel as a child, and I think that's only because we have a picture of it. When I was a little bit older, maybe 7th grade, I traveled with a friend and her parents down to Corpus Christie, Texas, and we stayed at hotel's. My only memory of that? I had just had my hair permed when we went, and it was when the Oscars were still on Monday nights. I remember lying in bed falling asleep to the Oscars, and waking up in the morning thinking that my hair had straightened because it didn't "feel" curly when I touched it. Again, not really the hotel memories dreams are made of.

Then there were the traveling moments with my college sweetie. We traveled a fair bit, and always stayed at the Motel 6, because, let's face it, they leave the light on for ya. So it wasn't until I was working and I started traveling that I began to stay in nicer hotels. And even still, we aren't talking super fancy. But, my love affair with hotels has never swayed. (And when you use hotwire.com, you can good rates to great hotels. We got an amazing rate last year for a beautiful $200 a night hotel in Pittsburgh. I think we paid $80!)

So the adult in my won out (and not just because I am on Weight Watchers and the pizza would have pushed me even further over the edge than the Marriott Burger!), but because in the end, it just sounded better.

I ordered the pork, and it was nothing like I expected. The medallions were smokey, as was the bacon, and the sauce was sweet and savory at the same time. The pork was a little dry, but it was actually quite tasty. It also came with a cute little bucket of bread and butter. The greenbeans were divine, but the carrots (which are under the beans) were really not good at all.

The sauce was really rich and deep, with a smokey pork flavour. Bacon really adds so much flavor. When in France last year, you could taste the difference the lardons made in each meal. It just gives meats and sauces a really intense and interesting flavour. It was just great. I highly recommend it if you are staying at the Marriott in Orlando!

Conference = Room Service

What happens when you go to a conference with 1000 people you don't know? Order room service!

I went to the US for a legal conference on Thursday of last week until yesterday. It was in Orlando, Florida, and the conference hotel was the World Centre Marriott. The hotel was beautiful. The flight to Orlando was terrible. It was really bumpy and I got a little motion sick, so by the time I was late getting to the conference and stressed out about it, I needed food.

Now one of the things I have mentioned before is that Canada is great and all, and I love it here, but there are no hamburgers like US hamburgers. So with great excitement, I had plans to order a Marriott burger, a favourite from my travelling days. And I ordered some french onion soup because it just sounded good. Excessive, oh yeah. But good.

The french onion soup was really lovely. The soup was really cheesy with the perfect amount of meltiness. The soup wasn't overly salty and the onion was really soft and tasty.

And then the main event. The Marriott burger. It's really good. Really good. The Fries were not so tasty despite their good looks. The Marriott burger comes with cheese, bacon and a whole lotta love. I ordered it room service style, as I wanted to be able to sit on my balcony and look out on the beautiful Florida evening!

Sadly, this picture is all fries. But look at those cute but excessively wasteful little bottles of ketchup, mayo and mustard. And oh yes, there are few things that I love more than crispy fries with mayo and ketchup. So it is sufficient to say that although this is all I ate on Thursday, it was a lot.

I finished the day off by walking around the hotel and going to the opening night reception. There were people EVERYWHERE. It was totally crazy. There was lots of fried food and alcohol, and while I was full of Marriott Burger, it was difficult to not give in. But I resisted.

The view from my hotel room?

Ahhhhh. Peaceful. Actually, on the other side of the building where I stayed, there was a quiet pool by the Spa. And it was by far the best pool. You could take your lunch and sit quietly, going over conference notes and materials, and plan the next day. It was really beautiful, and the water was very warm. (Not that there's time for recreation when you are at a conference!)

11 June 2007

Mildred Pierce -- at last, for the last

Yesterday marked the first (and possibly last) time that I have had the pleasure of brunch at Mildred Pierce. I have wanted to go there for ages, but for some reason have just failed to get it together to get it together there. So with friends visiting, it seemed like the perfect time. I don't think they were too keen to go, but they put on their game faces and away we went!

The brunch was amazing. Honestly, the restaurant was packed, but the wait wasn't horrendous, and the wait staff was really friendly and helpful. We managed to get a table inside (there wasn't a request for inside or patio, but inside is what we got!) and we have a great table with a little hidey hole looking into the kitchen! It was so cool...

My little view into the world of Mildred Pierce.

So anyway, back to brunch. Because this was likely the only time I will have the honour of eating there, and because I am just that way, we decided to order a brunch appetizer. We opted to get an order of scones, and they were wonderful! They came with a side of strawberry butter and ginger apple jam. See for yourself...

I didn't eat the butter, but the jam was really savoury and sweet.

We ordered some lovely mimosas and ate our delicious scones while waiting for our main brunch dishes. G and I ordered the same dish, the Huevos Monty. Oh my heavens. It was so lovely. Basically, the dish went like this ... two tortillas filled with black beans and cheese and onions, with two perfectly fried eggs on top with fresh salsa, sour cream and avocado creme fraiche. I had read raves of the home fries, so I had to get those, too. The eggs were the most perfect eggs ever, and the tortilla was lightly grilled, warm and the beans were just fantastic. The avocado creme fraiche was just terrific, such a nice cold accompaniment to the warm eggs.

Oh yeah, look at that! YUM!

M had his standard order of French Toast, which looked really really good.

M said it was very good, and the perfect size. It looks good, but not being a big fan of french toast, I will have to take his word for it. M reminisced about his childhood of having french toast made with Wonder bread. I didn't add this, but to me, the smell of french toast cooking smells like wet dog. It's a smell I've never been able to get past.

P had the Arctic Char Nicoise. P recalled her first experience with arctic char, which was at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, when she was at 'an event'. G had arctic char when she was in Nunavut. I have had arctic char never. But I have now sat at a table with it.

It looked really pretty.

The restaurant is closing down after many years of operations. The owner is moving on to other things, and closing her cookery school as well. I think they may be moving, and if so, it's a brunch destination I will definitely take my mother to when she comes to visit in the fall. It was so great. 6 more brunches (and Summerlicious) so give it a go. Before it's too late...

10 June 2007

We do have two cats, Bello's just the nice one.

Sasha gets a bad rap. Granted, we've lived together (Sasha and I) for almost 4 years and I have pet her once. She growls and swats at me every time I pass by, and she stares at me with loathing.

But that's okay, I love her anyway.

Look at that belly. Look at that crazy stare.

Urban Beach.

This post is not food related (though it was the calm between the shopping for ingredients for dinner, and the making of the dinner)...

Yesterday, we decided to take in all the city of TO has to offer and go to Queen's Quay to check out the new $10 million dollar urban beach. It's really fantastic. It's right along Lake Ontario, set back directly from the water by a little boardwalk. There's a stretch of sandy beach that has installation yellow umbrellas for lounging under... Really really nice. And yesterday was such a glorious day, there was no better way to relax away part of the afternoon...

This is the view south, towards the island. It's a beautiful view, with the umbrella's offering shade, but letting enough light through to be able to read or still feel like you're outside... it was really spectacular, though not overwhelmingly large...

You could snag chairs, but we just parked it on the sand and went with it. I love sitting outside, and it wasn't hot, but the perfect temperature.

Dinner for 6.

As mentioned earlier, G and I had our friends, P & M over for a visit this weekend.

On Friday night, we had dinner at the Armenian Kitchen, which I did not take photos of because there have been photos of them here previously. So there's that. Not exciting, but quite tasty. We had shawarma and all the fixings. Really such a nice dinner.... We brought baklava home for dinner, but I didn't have any more room.

Anyway, so last night, we decided to make something for our friends from out of town, and to invite our friends from upstairs for dinner. We love to cook for people and do it so rarely that we were really keen to settle on a nice dinner plan. And when looking for a nice dinner, at the moment, I am looking no further than Jamie's Italy, by Jamie Oliver.

I knew we were going to the St. Lawrence Market, so I decided to make the Chicken Cacciatore. G felt like keeping the J. Oliver theme alive, and made a starter of her infamous (and his delish) potato and scarmoza ravioli with marjoram butter. This recipe is G's take on the meal that we had Fifteen last year. It works, it's so delicious. I will ask her to put it to paper so I can share it... Then our guest, P, decided to get in on the action, and offered to make a pear and walnut salad with rocket and watercress. We have a crazily small kitchen, but somehow, we made it work!

The salad was amazing... I am not a huge fan of fruit in food, but the pear and watercress was so refreshing, especially with the shaved parm and toasted walnuts.

It was so terrific, and P made each plate look absolutely lovely!

From there, we moved into G's ravioli. It's really terrific. We had some great fresh potatoes from our CSA box and we bought a little bob of scarmoza at the market, the flavours are dead simple, and since G uses wonton wrappers, it's even more of a snap. But it looks impressive, and tastes divine.

From there, we moved onto my Pollo ala Cacciatore, or whatever it's called. I made it with Donna Hay's recipe for polenta (from New Food Fast), and we used the last of our CSA asparagus. I took a picture of one of the plates...

Whoa. It was so lovely. the chicken had olives, anchovies, tomatoes and chianti in it, and cooked slowly at 350 for about an hour and a half. The sauce was so rich and lovely. The chicken fell off the bone, which is the only way I can stand to eat meat on the bone! It really had all the best parts of a good dinner. We had lots of wine and good conversation (oddly, a conversation about food miles v. organic v. processed food) and it was a really nice night.

We finished with a pistachio bundt cake (that I failed to take a picture of, I am sorry M!!!), that M purchased at the St. Lawrence Market. He also bought two big containers of strawberries, and we had a lovely light dessert after the very rich chicken dinner.

We cracked open a wine that G and I bought in the Loire Valley in France last year, from the Paul Buisse winery in Montrichard. It was really lovely, and took us back to the day that we travelled there, went to the winery for a visit, and met Mr. Paul Buisse and toured the caves and drank his favourite wines. It was really a brilliant outing, and getting the tour of the caves and listening to Paul Buisse talk about his family's history of wine making made it such a special experience. The Loire Valley is full of wineries, and really, this was one of the highlights of our trip. Sharing it with friends, as precious as this sounds, was really such a great way to enjoy it.

08 June 2007

Bello's Not Amused.

He looks at us with such disdain. Sigh.


G and I went out to dinner at Byzantium the other night, a celebratory "you didn't win any awards" dinner. (Long story. Short story: she didn't win any awards, so we had dinner.) Anyway, we decided to go to Byzantium because it's about as fancy at it gets in our neighborhood, and it was all good.

I had amazing beef tenderloin pasta. The sauce was creamy and a little spicy, but nothing too crazy. Good veg, and the pieces of meat were really tender and soft. Lovely!

G ordered lamb with minty couscous. The lamb was really nice, from the local butcher, and the veg were cooked perfectly. Here's the art shot...

It was really a nice dinner

G had a Rolotini, which is just delightful. And I had an amazing red wine, which I don't recall the name of, but trust me, it was lovely.

05 June 2007

Good times a-coming!

Just a quick post to say that our good friends P and M are coming into town this weekend, so hopefully I can get some good pics to put up! Or at least some interesting food to talk about! If anyone has a fave restaurant that they think we should go to in the big T.O., let me know by email or comment!

Thanks for the comments and emails recently. I really enjoy hearing from you!

I have some pics to upload, wll do so later. Another late night tonight, and I am just crossed eyed with tiredness tonight, and a very upset stomach. Good times. No, not really.

Anyway, more to come.


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