Friday, December 2, 2011

Pizzeria Libretto (Toronto,ON)

221 Ossington
Toronto, Ontario

After our day in Toronto, including brunching at Drake Hotel and munching on mini-donuts, we met our friend V for dinner. At a colleague's recommendation, we decided to try real Neapolitan pizza at Pizzeria Libretto. The restaurant does not take reservations, so after being told that there was a 2 hour wait for a table, we decided to head back to Drake Hotel for a drink. Unfortunately, minutes after we ordered our drinks, our friend V's cell phone rang, informing her that our table was ready! It had not even been an hour! So if you do decide to try this restaurant out, take the timing with a grain of salt, and have drinks closer by!

Pizzeria Libretto

Our friend V and her boyfriend F ordered the salumi tasting ($24) as a starter. There seemed to be a variety of cold cuts, including Ontario prosciutto. They seemed to really enjoy their sampler.

Salumi Tasting
Salumi Tasting.

My sister, brother-in-law and I shared an order of butternut squash arancini ($9), served on cauliflower purée and topped with a crispy sage leaf. The deep-fried ball contained rice mixed with butternut squash that provided a creamy texture. We really liked the cauliflower purée.

Butternut Squash Arancini Butternut Squash Arancini

Pizzeria Libretto boasts that it makes VPN (Vera Pizza Napoletana) certified pizza and bakes their pizzas for only 90 seconds at a very high heat. This gives the crust a satisfying char. I think there are clearly two camps when it comes to pizza: thin crust and thick crust. I am a thin crust girl through and through, and so Pizzeria Libretto pizza's are right down my alley.

The first Neapolitan pizza we shared was the cremini mushroom ($17). I love mushrooms, so when there is a mushroom pizza available, it is highly likely that I will order it. I loved the earthiness of the cremini mushrooms against the mozzarella, the salty gorgonzola and the sweet roasted garlic cloves.

Cremini Mushroom Real Neapolitan Pizza

The second pizza we shared was the house-made sausage ($16). The sausage atop our second pizza was well-seasoned and I could really taste the fennel seeds. I loved the addition of chili oil and the very crispy basil leaves. This pizza had a lot more pizzaz compared to the milder cremini mushroom pizza.

House-Made Sausage Real Neapolitan Pizza

For dessert, my sister L and I debated between the tiramisu and the chocolate-amaretto budino ($7). While I do love tiramisu, it is widely available, so we ordered the budino, which ended up being an excellent choice. The budino was chocolatey and creamy, topped with chopped hazelnuts. It seemed like such an indulgence to be eating the budino with a spoon out of a jar.

Chocolate-Amaretto Budino

Even with the timing drama before our meal, we thought Pizzeria Libretto was worth the wait. Two thumbs up from everyone!

Pizzeria Libretto on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Mini-Donuts @Little Nicky's Coffee (Toronto,ON)

375 Queen Street West
Toronto, Ontario

After brunch at Drake Hotel, we shopped our legs out at the Eaton Centre and on Queen Street West. The plan is that when we'd start to feel peckish, we would go have fresh donuts! After dealing with the crowds at The Gap, we turned down the street off Queen and headed to Little Nicky's.

Little Nicky's Coffee

Little Nicky's
is a small coffee shop with a handful of tables and stools at the counter. It has a French bistro like vibe and offers good quality coffee. My sister splurged and ordered the Nutella hot chocolate! My brother-in-law and I each ordered an Americano, which was freshly made by the barista who asked how much hot water to add to the 1 or 2 shot of coffee. I liked that they offered spoons instead of stir sticks; I always admire efforts to minimize waste!

Little Nicky's Coffee

I was beyond excited to order a dozen of mini-donuts ($4) that were made to order. There's a small little machine where the mini-donuts are deep fried and come off of a mini-conveyor. The donuts are then tossed in powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Making donuts Making donuts
Mini Donuts
Preparing mini-donuts.

We were excited to dig into the paper bag of hot donuts. They were soft on the inside, crispy on the outside, with a satisfying coating of sugar and cinnamon. There are really no sufficient adjectives to describe this, are there?


For $4, you really can't beat freshly fried mini-donuts! It makes me never want to have a donut at Tim Horton's ever again! Fresh donuts should be easily available everywhere!

Little Nicky's Coffee on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Brunch at Drake Hotel (Toronto,ON)

1150 Queen St West
Toronto, Ontario

My sister and brother-in-law came for a quick visit. We spent the day in Toronto and started it off by having brunch at Drake Hotel. Drake Hotel seems to be the ultimate hipster spot for brunch (I don't really use the term hipster often, but it really seemed befitting in this case - although really, what do I know about being hip?!).

Drake Hotel

We had brunch on the café side, where we sat under a colourful bicycle frame lighting structure. We were very impressed!

Drake Hotel Cafe

My brother-in-law D started out with a pretty cappucino.

Cappucino at Drake

We decided to share the warm scone share plate ($8) deemed Toronto's best blueberry scones by The Toronto Star. We wholeheartedly agreed and enjoyed each bite of our buttery scones, served with a choice of clotted cream dotted with vanilla specks, whipped butter and jam. Very worthwhile ordering!

Blueberry Scones
Blueberry Scones.

My sister ordered the Eggs Benedict ($13), which consisted of 2 poached eggs, smoked pork loin on toasted English muffin with hollandaise, and replaced the hand cut fries with home fries. The home fries were nicely crisp with slices of sweet onion. She really enjoyed the thick cut smoked pork loin and hollandaise sauce (on the side).

Egg Benedict
Eggs Benedict.

My brother-in-law and I decided to share the Southern fried chicken + waffles ($14.75), which seemed like a novel menu item. It was made up of a large herb waffle, fried chicken, maple syrup, crème fraîche and Niagara cherry jam. I loved the savoury fried chicken and herb waffle combined with sweet syrup and cherry jam. The fried chicken was well-seasoned with a bit of a kick from cumin (?). I really liked the big pieces of cherries; my sister scooped the leftover ones over her scone. My only issue is that I don't like things overly sweet and thought there was too much syrup. Were I to order this again, I would definitely ask for the syrup on the side.

Southern Fried Chicken + Waffles Southern Fried Chicken + Waffles
Southern Fried Chicken + Waffles.

We really enjoyed our brunch and even came back later in the evening for drinks. It's a great spot to hit in Toronto for a meal or drinks, if you're not staying at the boutique hotel. We also checked out a combination of cool and vintage items at the General Store next door.

The Drake Hotel on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Parmesan

My latest obsession, meaning I've had this new dish every week for the past 3 weeks, is roasted broccoli. I already love broccoli, but this recipe has helped me re-discover this vegetable. It has also replaced my go to broccoli recipe, broccoli with garlic (another Ina Garten recipe). Roasting gives the broccoli a different texture; there's more of a chewiness (instead of the hard crunch when sauteed) and the caramelized edges provide a new dimension. Adding Parmesan and salt makes it a nice savoury side dish.

Roasted Broccoli

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Parmesan
This recipe is from The Barefoot Contessa. I skip the lemon juice and it's still good. I did have pine nuts when I served this dish to guests (and it is a great addition!), but on an every day basis, I skip that also.
From Ina Garten.

* 1 brunch broccoli
* olive oil
* salt and pepper, to taste
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 2-3 Tbsp grated Parmesan

Slice off the florets and cut up into smaller sections.
Wash under water and dry well - by laying the florets on a dish towel.
Spread the florets on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Drizzle olive oil over the florets.
Season with salt and pepper.
Roast the florets in the oven for 15 minutes at 350F.
Add the garlic and sprinkle with Parmesan; roast for another 5-10 minutes.
Serve as a yummy and healthy side dish.

Prepping the broccoli
Well-dried florets to be roasted.

This recipe is so easy. The trick to getting the best texture is making sure the florets are dry. Either dry the florets after washing, or even prep the broccoli on the previous night to allow it to dry out. Be ready to become obsessed!

Roasted Broccoli
Roasted broccoli.

More broccoli recipes:
* Broccoli with Garlic
* Stir Fried Broccoli on Pan Fried Cantonese Noodles

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kindfood (Burlington, ON)

399 John St.
Burlington, Ontario

My colleague K and I went to check out Kindfood, a vegan restaurant in Burlington. Kindfood serves strictly vegan and organic food. Their motto is "Good food ain't cheap and cheap food ain't good."

Kindfood Kindfood

After seating ourselves, we went to order by checking out the chalkboard. I was disappointed to hear that they had run out of the Morrocan Quinoa Salad. Instead, I decided to try out the OMG Grilled Cheeze ($8.95), while K ordered a bowl of tomato and garbanzo soup (I think).

OMG Grilled Cheeze
OMG Grilled Cheeze ($8.95).Link
The Grilled Cheeze, served with a salad, is made up of Daiya cheese, which is mainly made of cassava. I had heard that the Grilled Cheeze was very good but I'm not sure I believed it. I have to admit that I thought it was very satisfying and it would definitely hit the spot if I had a grilled cheese craving. The Daiya cheese even oozed and stretched like real cheese!

I had a taste of K's soup and it was very good too. I really enjoyed the spicing that ensured the soup was not bland.

OMG Grilled Cheeze IMG_0591 (1024x767)
Grilled cheeze and soup.

K and I decided to bring cupcakes ($3.50 each I think) back to the office. After K got a dulce de leche, I spotted half-price day old cupcakes and got the red velvet and grasshopper mint ones. We weren't sure if it was the specific flavours but the day old cupcakes seemed on the drier side. I think I would stick to the freshly made ones next time. The icing was really good.

Vegan cupcakes.

Clearly based on this blog, I am not a vegan or a vegetarian. However, I do think that most people eat too much meat. I am definitely not averse to eating less meat, or dairy, sometimes. Kindfood is a great way to introduce vegan foods to those who are not familiar with it.

Kindfood on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Miến Xào Cua (Bean Thread Noodles with Crab)

My mom always likes to cook for me when I visit and this time she made miến xào cua (bean thread noodles with crab). I loved this dish when I tried it in Vietnam at the Crab Shack. I have to admit the crab meat wasn't as fresh as the crab in Vietnam but this dish was still a treat. How can you go wrong with noodles and crab?

Bean Thread Noodles with Crab

Miến Xào Cua (Bean Thread Noodles with Crab)

* 250 g bean thread noodles (or mung bean noodles)
* oil
* half an onion, sliced thinly
* 1 cup crab meat (or more!), picked through for leftover shell
* 1/2 tsp salt
* pepper, to taste
* 3 or 4 ladles of water, or broth
* 1 green onion, sliced into 1/2" sections
* coriander (optional)

Run dry noodles through water.
Cut noodles in smaller sections with scissors if they are very long.
Heat oil in a large pan or wok.
Add onion slices and white sections of onion, and sauté until softened.
Add the crab meat and mix in.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the noodles, mixing it in until the noodles soften.
If the noodles seem to dry out, add a ladle of water or broth.
Once noodles are nearly cooked, add green onions.
Taste the noodles, and adjust seasoning to taste.
Lower the heat and cover the noodles with a lid, cooking a further 5 minutes, until the noodles are cooked.
Garnish with coriander.

Bean Thread Noodles Sautéing crab
Adding the noodles Adding green onions
Miến Xào Cua (Bean Thread Noodles with Crab).

This dish is easy to make and a good alternative when you want a big bowl of carbs with a yummy accompaniment! It will have to do until I can get back to Vietnam and get my hands on fresh crab dishes!

Bean Thread Noodles with Crab

P.S. My mom served this with wonton soup as a starter and mango salad as a side (ooh, I thought I had a recipe for mango salad - will have to add it!).

Other bean thread noodles:
* Vietnamese Chicken Bean Thread Noodle Soup
* Vegetarian Bean Thread Noodles

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brit & Chips (Montréal, QC)

433 McGill
Montréal, Québec

Still hanging out in Montréal, my sister, her hubby and myself headed for Brit & Chips on a Friday after a hard class of boot camp at Parc LaFontaine. It was a beautiful night. Unfortunately, all the seats outside were taken so we had to find a table inside.

Brit and Chips

You can order for take-out at the cash or they will take your order at your table if you eat in. The restaurant had an old school, fish 'n chips place, with different sea adornments, like a life float. The fried food is also on newspaper, as it should!

Brit and Chips Brit and Chips

My sister L and I decided to quench our thirst with imported drinks. L got the bitter shandy ($1.50), described by our waitress as a mix of beer and tea. I ordered the Irn Bru ($1.50), which was a sweet drink reminiscent of cream soda. Yum! A perfect accompaniment to the fried food that was coming!

Imported Drinks
Imported drinks: Bitter Shandy and Irn Bru.

D ordered fish and chips ($11.50), choosing the haddock as his fish of choice. The haddock was covered in a maple syrup batter. Each fish has its own batter; for example, the salmon uses a Guinness batter and the hake an Orange Crush batter (gulp! L and I weren't sure if we'd like that). Both fries and fish were freshly fried and crispy.

Haddock and Chips

L gave me the reigns when it came to ordering for us so I decided to order various nibbles and share. After much deliberation and consultation with the waitress, we decided to go for various small bites from the "Nibbles" section of the menu and ordered the Tandoori Popcorn Shrimp ($6), the spicy whitebait ($4), the salted cod fish cakes - or accras de morue ($6) and a side of mushy peas ($1.50). Oh, and we also had to have our own serving of chips ($3), of course!

Various nibbles & Mushy peas Tandoori Popcorn Shrimp
Spicy whitebait Accras de morue
Various nibbles from the sea, top left - clockwise: (1) chips, cod fish cakes and mushy peas, (2) popcorn shrimps, (3) fried whitebait and (4) flaky accras de morue.

My favourite of the nibbles was the flaky accras de morue. I just can't resist the combination of salty fish and potatoes, deep fried into fish cake goodness! The popcorn shrimp was good but the Tandoori flavour wasn't apparent on the shrimps. Rather the flavours came from the curried mayo. Lastly, ordering the fried whole whitebait was a risky move; they were a bit fishy for our tastes but good nonetheless. And no complaints in the chips department! L was happy to have malt vinegar available to soak hers in!

Brit & Chips offers a really good selection for fish and chips. A vegetarian option is even offered, with fried haloumi stepping in for the fish (L and I were tempted - maybe next time!). It also offers British fare that could be interesting to try out, such as Scotch egg, pasties and deep-fried "Whatever" in the soda section. It reminds me of when I was in London, England. I thought having fish 'n chips was a must experience and wasn't sure if it was part of the experience that the pub reeked of urine...

Brit & Chips on Urbanspoon