iEat at Diana’s Oyster Bar and Grill.

I’ve really been trying to eat sensibly since Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.  Unfortunately for that plan, my mom suggested going out for seafood, and I clearly have no will power.  Diana’s Oyster Bar and Grill has a good reputation and we’d had their oysters at a charity event before.  When we went this past Tuesday, the dining room was full (mind you it is a small dining room – around 10 tables) and there were people on the patio.  There were also a few larger groups of diners, so I had high hopes.

I ordered the tomato bisque with crab to start, crab cake and the grilled and butterflied branzino.  My party finished shared the red and white poached pear with blue cheese, candied walnuts and balsamic reduction.

Tomato Bisque with Crab

Crab Cake… unfortunately it wasn’t “Cakes”

The meal started off well.  The tomato bisque had a great consistency and colour,  the seasoning was bold, and the crab gave it the added saltiness that the soup needed.  However, I thought that as you continued to eat it, the seasoning overpowered the crab and it got lost in the dish.  The crab cake was a winner – it was moist  and perfectly dense with a nice golden crust.  I only wish that there was a second one.  I was slightly disappointed that there was only one on the plate at a $10 price point.

Grilled Branzino with Fresh Vegetables

Potato Crusted Halibut

I really enjoyed the vegetables on my entree.  It was a standard mix, but the addition of beets was a nice and pleasant touch.  The fish was ok.  I wish it was more buttery, but it had a great sear and texture.  I do have to mention that my mom ordered the potato crusted halibut and it was the driest piece of fish I’d eaten in a long time.  It looked so plump when it came out, but it just fell apart.  I felt duped by its appearance… DUPED!

Poached Pear Dessert with blue cheese, balsamic reduction, maple & honey roasted pecans

The poached pear wasn’t a highlight at all.  I felt like it wasn’t cooked enough, as both pears had a lingering vinegar flavour.  That’s about it.

The meal started on a high, but gradually fell as the night went on.  For the price point, and the reputation, I was definitely expecting better.  Their oysters are extremely delicious, but I’d much rather go to Rodney’s Oyster House instead.

Address:
2105 Lawrence Ave E
Scarborough, ON M1R 2Z4

Telephone:
416.288.1588

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iEat at AwesTRUCK 2012.

Believe it or not, with all the random food I eat, I’ve never really frequented food trucks.  Up until recently, I swore my favourite truck was the blue one at Nathan Philips Square that sells burgers, hotdogs and fries.  You know the one – dry, thin burgers that you’d find at a little league tournament or fundraiser.  But in my defense, the gravy is ALWAYS free!  I used to swear “it was so bad, it’s good”.  I now feel like I need to hide my face in embarrassment because I realize my grave error in judgement.

AwesTRUCK 2012 @ Evergreen Brick Works

This Sunday, Food Truck Eats put on AwesTRUCK 2012 – a food truck event featuring the latest trucks, pop ups and some local artists at Evergreen Brick Works.  There were around 10 trucks plus a few more pop up vendors showcasing a sample of their menus for around $5 a serving.  Here’s my breakdown of the day.

Options @ TacoCat

The first stop of the day was TacoCat.  I tried the cuttlefish and chicken satay tacos.  The cuttlefish lost a little of its flavour when it was deep fried, but in turn, the chicken was wonderfully seasoned with a great peanutty flavour.  A great start to the day.

Oyster Lobstafeller @ Tide & Vine

Lobster Roll @ Tide & Vine

Next up was The Tide & Vine Oyster Company pop up.  Here, I sampled their lobster roll and oyster “lobstafeller”.  The lobster roll was a little watery, but the fresh, lobster flavour really came out after a couple of bites.  The lobster was nice and chunky and had a good meat to bun ratio.  The “lobsterfeller” on the other hand was all extras with no oyster flavour.  You couldn’t really taste any individual ingredient, and it was overwhelmingly salty.  On to the next truck

Risotto Balls & Schnitzel Roll @ Dobro Jesti

I arrived at Dobro Jesti just in time, because shortly after I ordered the risotto balls, they were sold out.  I love getting the last one – it’s such a personal win.  I think I would have shed a little tear in my stomach if I couldn’t try these.  They were delicious!  A perfect, great, golden, panko crust with a creamy, goat cheese centre.  I only wish I had the foresight to order two servings!  The schnitzel roll was okay.  The pork was nice and juicy, but it was on the sweet side.  It was stuffed with apple, brie and cranberry, but you could only pick out the cran flavour which seemed to also surround the roll itself.  I wish it had the same golden finish like the risotto.  However, no time for ‘if only”- there was more food to be eaten!

The El Jefe Ham @ Gorilla Cheese

Gorilla Cheese has become a staple at most food truck events, in fact they won the People’s Choice award at AwesTRUCK.  I’ve heard so many great things, so I was definitely wanted to try it.  I sampled the El Jefe Ham which also had pickles, pulled pork, dijon mustard and mozz and swiss cheese.  It was good, but it wasn’t my favourite of the day.  The pulled pork wasn’t that flavourful and actually took away from the sandwich.  Everything else blended really nicely together and the swiss cheese really came through.  Some of their items sold out quickly, including my first choice, “The Marmaluke”, so I will undoubtedly order from this truck again.  I definitely see why people get excited whenever it rolls down the street.

Mini Gladia-Trix & Porchetta Sliders @ Rome’n Chariot

Rome’n Chariot was by far my favourite truck of the day, and I also think the most underappreciated.  I tried the Gladia-Trix Slider, which had a veal cutlet and breaded eggplant.  I also ate the Porchetta Slider.  The porchetta was tasty and fatty, and the bun had a nice, delicate crispness on the outside and was soft on the inside.  However, the shining star for me was 100%, hands down the Gladia-Trix.  The veal was nicely breaded and golden fried and came out both crispy and moist.  They didn’t skimp on the meat, which was a treat, and it was perfectly seasoned and delicious.  This echoed for the eggplant.  It came out with a nice crunch and wasn’t too soggy.  Everyone I was with resoundingly agreed that this was a top item of the event.

Spring Onion Pancake with Smoked Chicken @ El Gastronomo Vagabundo

I had mixed feelings with El Gastronomo Vagabundo.  They tout being globally inspired and locally driven.  I was expecting fresh flavours, which I got, but I think they missed the mark on the “global” aspect.  I regrettably missed out on the cod tacos, so I tried the onion pancake with chicken and pickled radish and cucumber.  The pickling was fresh with a great tang, but it was on the watery side.  With the Asian sounding ingredients, I pictured a deep fried onion pancake similar to the ones I eat at home.  Insead, it was just a regular pancake, and you couldn’t taste the onion.  However, the entire bite worked well together, but I guess my disappointment came moreso from my own pre-conceived expectations.  It’s worth a second shot.

Lemon Raspberry Cheesecake & Banana Peanut Butter Cup @ Cupcake Diner

Cupcake Diner was a nice surprise.  I’ve started writing off cupcake places because it’s overdone and I don’t have that huge a sweet tooth.  I had their banana cake with peanut butter buttercream.  The cake was very similar to banana bread, so it wasn’t that sweet.  It was nicely balanced with a velvety, nutty icing.  The great part was that it wasn’t sugar overload.  Every cupcake out there seems to have 3x the necessary amount of frosting, and I end up scraping most of it off.  Cupcake Diner had great flavours and I thoroughly appreciate their retraint.

Diablo Pad Thai Fries @ Fidel Gastro

Sgt. Slather @ Fidel Gastro

When Fidel Gastro opened mid event, everyone flocked to their truck, so I was so intrigued.  I tried the Sgt. Slather Sandwich and Diablo Pad Thai Fries.  The sandwich had barbeque pulled pork, guacamole and tortilla chips.  The pork flavour masked the guac, but overall it was a tasty sandwich and the chips added a great textural element.  The fries were a disappointment.  It had no pad thai flavour at all, it fact, it more resembled buffalo wings.  Had it been called “Diablo Buffalo Wing Fries” we wouldn’t have a problem, but there was no tang of tamarind or any asian flair to it at all.  I wouldn’t order that again.

Mahi Mahi Taco @ Gourmet Gringos

As a final stop, we got  Gourmet Gringos to go.  They opened mid event as well.  To be honest, I only had a small nibble as I was so full by the end of it.  From what I tasted the fish was moist and had more flavour than the typical fish taco.  If only they were open at the beginning of the event!

Now that the night is done, and I’m re-reading this entry, I’ve reached the same level of full that I was when I left Brick Works.  My view of food trucks have been opened and expanded and I will never look at that blue truck at NPS the same ever again.

TL; DR:
AwesTRUCK high –  Mini Gladia-Trix @ Rome’n Chariot
AwesTRUCK low – Diablo Pad Thai Fries @ Fidel Gastro
AwesTRUCK surprise – Banana Peanut Butter Cupcake @ Cupcake Diner
Overall a delicious day!

iEat at Biff’s Bistro – Summerlicious Edition.

This weekend I had the absolute pleasure of going to Biff’s Bistro with some very good friends for some great food and great stories.  This was my last Summerlicious meal for the season, and I was determined to end it with a bang!

House-cured atlantic salmon with mimosa, sauce verte & crème fraîche

Biff’s is another Oliver and Bonacini restaurant so once again, my expectations were high.  I started my meal with their house-cured atlantic salmon with mimosa, sauce verte and crème fraîche.  Okay, I’ll admit it.  I’m absolutely a sucker for cured meats, especially fish!  Whenever I see it on the menu, I’m immediately drawn to it, and Saturday was no exception.  The salmon had such a great colour and a wonderful salty texture.  It was plump and delicious.  Part of me wished there was more crème fraîche to balance out some of the saltiness, but the dish overall was a treat.

$1 a Shuck

The best part of my meal was that I was with some of my other foodie friends.  It was no question as to whether or not we would also order a serving of freshly shucked oyesters – and at $1 a shuck it was a total win.  It was a nice little treat to accompany our meal.  I know this might be completely inappropriate, but the only thing that I wished was that I had a couple drops of Frank’s Red Hot to top it off with.  Sometimes that $#!& goes on everything.

Roasted pork tenderloin with Alsatian spätzle, boudin sausage, caramelized apples & calvados

Given the option, I usually order the fish when I go out, but I was drawn to the pork entree simply because I’d never had spätzle before and I really wanted to try it.  The entree consisted of roasted pork tenderloin with Alsatian spätzle, boudin sausage, caramelized apples & calvados.  The pork was wonderfully cooked and flavourful.  A great, hearty piece of meat.  The accompanying mustard was also delicious, and I believe it is also made in-house.  I was a little disappointed with the spätzle.  I obviously don’t have a basis for comparison, but I did find it a bit doughy and underseasoned.

For dessert, I ordered the cheese platter.  I don’t have an overly sweet tooth, so the cheese was a great alternative with slight sweet contrast in the artisan honey and fruit and nut loaf.  The cheese was nicely aged with a bite at the end.  The combination of the loaf, honey and cheese was just heaven.  The only thing that soured it slighly was that we had to wait a long time inbetween finishing our entree and receiving our dessert.  It wasn’t until we were obviously annoyed by the wait did our server come and check on us.  I completely understand that with Summerlicious, restaurants get a rush of people at a time, it would have been nice if our meal could have been wrapped up a little quicker.

I think the best way to determine if a Summerlicious restaurant is good or not is whether you would go back on a regular service night.  I would definitely like to return, because I can tell that Biff’s has more up their sleeves in addition to what we ate.  The atmosphere is classy but relaxed, and you’re sure to have a great time no matter how big your group is.

Address:
4 Front Street East
Toronto, Ontario Canada M5E 1G4

Telephone:
416.860.0086

iEat at Luma – Summerlicious Edition.

One of the benefits to working where I do in Toronto is the number of restaurants close by.  There’s something at every price point to soothe your cravings.  This week and next also happen to be Summerlicious, where a number of eateries create prix fixe lunch and dinner menus for the public to try.  It’s an extremely popular event with a winter session as well.

Today, a few coworkers and I went to Luma for lunch – $20 for an appetizer, entree and dessert.  Luma is one of Oliver and Bonacini’s restaurants, and it is located on the 2nd floor of the TIFF Lightbox building.  O&B has a reputation for great restaurants and food, so I was excited to try it.  I was not disappointed.  My entire party was extremely happy with our meals.

Cured albacore tuna, radish salad, pea gremolata, ramp pickle

I started with the cured albacore tuna.  For some reason, I thought it was going to be a tuna salad (chalk that up to a long week!), and I was happily surprised to see a pile of plump, cured tuna morsels arrive on my plate.  The tuna was succulent and melted in my mouth and had the perfect amount of salt and acidity.  The pea gremolata tasted fresh and clean – a perfect balance with the fish.  This meal was starting out well!

Chilled poached wild salmon, salad of egg, tomato, green beans, anchovy, potato

For my entree, I ordered the poached wild salmon.  I don’t usually order salmon as it’s not one of my favourite fish, but I figured the other two options (pork loin or truffle lasagna) would be too heavy for lunch.  The salmon was delicious and perfectly cooked.  It flaked just as expected and had great flavour.  The accompanying salad had egg, tomato , green beans, anchovy and potato and was a wonderful combination of texture and flavour.  Everything tasted extremely fresh and summery – a great dish for a hot and humid day.

Citrus custard, candied zest, pine nut biscotti

To end everything, I had a citrus custard and pine nut biscotti.  The custard was a tad heavier than I anticipated, but the flavour was spot on.  The candied zest was a great textural balance and provided some sweetness to the dish.  The biscotti was also the perfect match with it’s muted sweet flavour and crunch.

Overall a great meal, and a great chance to hang out with my fellow foodie friends.  I have a couple more Summerlicious reservations booked next week. I might gain a pound or two, but  if they’re all like today’s lunch, I’ll regret nothing!

Address:
TIFF Bell Lightbox, 2nd Floor
350 King St. West, Reitman Square
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5V 3X5

Telephone:
647.288.4715