Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Grand Opening of Poutineville in Toronto!

Poutineville's First Toronto Location!
There was nobody more excited yet apprehensive at yesterday's grand opening of Poutineville (@PoutineVille) in Toronto's Annex than the Urban Foodie.  As a lover of poutine, I was delighted to hear back in April from Michael Fresco that there would be another entrant into the Toronto poutine scene.  But, would Poutineville live up to the hype?  

Poutineville was promising an upscale sit down establishment where you could have a drink and choose from a variety of specialty poutines such as the Filet Mignon (fresh crispy home fries topped with cubed, tender AAA filet mignon, sauteed mushrooms, caramalized onions, fresh cheese curds with a hint of blue cheese and home made pepper sauce).  But what if you were feeling creative and adventurous?  You could customize your own poutine from the type of potatoes and cheeses right down to the meats, vegetables and sauces!  Throw in the infamous Heart Attack poutine (a $100 poutine weighing over 15lbs) and you have elements of a poutine joint that Toronto has never seen.  A winning formula in my mind... 

But that's why I was feeling so apprehensive leading up to my first bite at Poutineville.  I really wanted this place to fulfill my expectations... my poutine dreams if you will.  

So how was it?

In the evening, Poutineville was dimly lit with Edison bulb lights throughout... how romantic I thought :).  The interiors had exposed wood and brick giving the ambiance a cool industrial look.  It seemed like the white counter top bar with under-lighting was well stocked.  Speakers were scattered throughout the place pumping out top 40s music while TV screens played the accompanying music videos.  I'm sure this place is going to be a favourite amongst the after clubbing crowd... it is open until 4am from Thursday to Saturday after all.

So how is the poutine?

Below is an image of the create your own poutine menu.  You can check off whatever you wish and any box with a number beside it represents an add-on dollar value to the base price.

Create your own Poutine!

While tempting, I opted to order the Shepherd's Pie poutine and the namesake poutine, the Poutineville.

Shepherd's Pie ($12)
 Hand crushed potatoes* with fresh cheese curds, minced beef, corn, peas topped with their home made poutine sauce and melted mozzarella cheese

The Shepherd's Pie poutine was delicious!  I liked how there were 2 types of cheese.  You have your traditional squeaky cheese curds scattered throughout the mess of poutine and on top you have a baked mozzarella cheese canopy.  The cheese canopy had crispy broil marked parts as well as areas of melted, gooey goodness!  Because it was baked, the temperature of the dish was warm throughout.  Also, the poutine actually tasted like a Shepherd's pie with familiar ingredients such as minced beef, corn, and peas.  The peas made the poutine extra fragrant and is an ingredient that really distinguishes the dish. *What I didn't realize until after I left was that the Shepherd's pie poutine was served with regular cut fries instead of the hand crushed potato variety as per the description.  Perhaps they ran out of hand crushed potatoes?  Opening day kinks?  I thought the hand cut fries worked well in the dish but a little notice would have been appreciated.  

Poutineville ($12)
 A house specialty of hand crushed potatoes* with fresh cheese curds and mozzarella topped with their slow 8 hour home cooked braised beef and wine sauce
I usually resist the temptation to get braised beef in restaurants because it often isn't done well and this frequently results in dry, tough meat.  Poutine with braised beef typically would not be the exception had it not been the namesake dish of the restaurant.  I mean, I had to order it, it's their specialty!  To my surprise, the braised beef was moist, tender and flavourful, perhaps they really did slow cook it for 8 hours...  It was tasty but it was a bit on the cold side.  It's probably because the beef is cooked separately from everything else and sits at room temperature while waiting to be part of a greater whole.  It wouldn't be a problem if the wine sauce was piping hot and covered the entire poutine but that was a miss on both parts... I'm just going to give them the benefit of the doubt and attribute this to opening night jitters.  The wine sauce wasn't too acidic like I feared and instead it made for a full-bodied sauce.  The cheese curds were squeaky which is a must for a great poutine.  Unfortunately, the hand crushed potatoes were substituted for regular fries without my knowledge as well.

Overall, I still had a great time at Poutineville.  I'm sure they will will work out their kinks and become one of the elite poutine places in Toronto - I have faith!  I'll give them another chance to serve me the hand crushed potatoes I've heard so much about.  I'll also definitely go back to eat a Montrealer... smoked meat poutine topped with a fried pickle!  Ironically, the Montrealer comes with the regular cut variety...

Poutineville on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Urban Foodie is in Chicago!

You can call it whatever you want, The Windy City, Second City, Chi-Town or even The Big Onion but I like to think of it as The Foodie City.  Chicago is known for deep dish pizza, dogs, and a unique mix of popcorn, but it is also known for its culinary achievements. Many of the city's chefs have received prestigious accolades from the James Beard Foundation as well as Michelin.

Over the next week , The Urban Foodie will be posting his food adventures in Chicagoland from the past week. Stay tuned for food posts detailing the experiences of various spots around the city including Portillo's, The Girl & the Goat, Grace, Blackbird, Spiaggia, David Burke's Primehouse, Giordano's, Lou Malnati's and more!  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Model Milk

What can I say about Model Milk? It is hands down my favourite restaurant in Calgary. Since opening in 2011 I have been there a number of times and the menu is different every single time. Sometimes I see an item that I want to try the next time I go there but it's already disappeared from the menu. I swear that's how they keep you coming back!!

Tonight's date night features:

WEATHERVANE SCALLOPS  XO Broth, Brassica Cracker, Prawn Salt

WILD PACIFIC SABLEFISH  Potato Crust, Clam and Pea Broth, Tokyo Turnips
WILD PACIFIC HALIBUT  Poached, Sesame and Soy Broth, Sidestripe Prawns

Just like before my taste buds were blown away!!!! I guess the trend for this evening was seafood in soup broths. First we started with Scallops in a XO broth and it was DELICIOUS, possibly the only way I ever want to eat scallops again. Then the mister had Sablefish while I dined on the Halibut. I'm a bit picky with fish cause I never know if it will be too fishy but halibut is usually a safe bet. Both fishes were perfectly cooked and moist. The pea broth that came with the sablefish was light and fresh tasting while the soy broth that accompanied my halibut was a bit heavier because of the butter base. The first couple bites were great but near the end the butter flavour was overpowering, not to fret the shitake mushrooms and raddish were a great change of flavour.

The only thing I don't like about this place is how dang popular it is. It is nearly impossible to get a decent reservation time at this place unless you are calling a week in advance and that's IF they even take your reservation. They usually don't take them at peak dinner hours (6pm-9pm) so you might have to try your luck with a walk in. If you are lucky you'll walk in just when another table is clearing up. And don't decline a seat at the kitchen bar. It's quite entertaining watching the hustle and bustle of a busy kitchen. Plus you get to see all the food as it comes out allowing you to make mental notes of the items to try next time. :)

Model Milk on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Grand Opening Date of Poutineville Set!

Get ready for the whirlwind of #Poutineville, #PVToronto, #PVAnnex and #TeamPV hashtags in anticipation of Poutineville's grand opening on August 13 in Toronto's Annex!  

We'll see you there!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

La Viena

The first time I tried La Viena was probably almost 10 years ago before I lived in Calgary. It completely blows my mind that not only has this restaurant lasted that long (there's a lot of turn around in Calgary) but also the food has been consistently the same after all these years.

I know I say it a lot but Italian "is one of my favourite cuisines" and the reason I love La Viena is because their dishes are a bit different from your average spaghetti and meatballs.  The owner and head chef at La Viena is Vietnamese and she brings a certain unico taste to her Italian dishes. La Vienna offers 35 different pastas, 35!!!! At least that's how many I counted  - there could be more. In addition to these 35 pasta dishes, there is pizza, seafood, specialty dishes, appetizers and so much more!! I've yet to try all the dishes but I'm determined!

The most well known dish at La Viena is actually not a pasta but the Lobster Bisque, a perfect blend of cream lobster goodness -- definitely the best I've tried in the city. Other notable appys are the Snails in Garlic Butter, Congac and Wine Sauce -- I drool just thinking of them. Unfortunately there is no picture as I hoovered them down as soon as they were set on the table. So take it from me you must order them, they are so tasty you don't even remember you are eating snails!! And don't forget to save some of your bread so you can dip it into the yummy wine sauce.

Onto the mains!! After our bellies were warmed with snails and lobster bisque, we moved on to our pasta dishes. I ordered the Penne Hawaii -- spicy Italian sausage, pineapples and chicken in a tomato sauce, while my other half ordered the Shrimp Gnocchi -- baby shrimp, baby scallops and peas in a cream sauce.

The servings are huge! We always forget how big they are and end up ordering our own dishes. My man is a trooper and finishes his plate every time but I always end up packing a large portion away for next day's lunch -- where it is equally as delicious.

Penne Hawaii
Seafood Gnocchi
Needless to say, we are always too full to try any desserts but we can't help but hop over to Amato Gelato. I know, I know. How?! How can I even think to eat gelato when I am stuff to the brim with all that carby goodness? Honestly, I don't know. But I'm sure glad I can :)

Today we had Black Forest and Pistachio / Hazelnut -- that's right, he got two scoups. O.O

La Viena on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 21, 2014

Out of this World Drinks at Museum Tavern

Museum Tavern (@MuseumTavern) is an ode to the great American bar with its 25 foot copper bar, penny-tiled floors, and antique gaslight chandeliers.  It serves a wide assortment of spirits, craft beers, wines and single malt scotches.  Without a doubt, it's the perfect destination for a night of drinking with friends, family or co-workers.

On my last visit, I ordered The Walking Dead, one of their signature cocktails, based solely on its name.  It came in a pretty cool looking Tiki-inspired vessel with a pineapple speared by a cocktail umbrella on top.  Immediately, I thought this was their take on a Mai Tai.  Looking at the ingredients, it had all the beginnings of one - rum and orgeat syrup.  But it didn't have some of the classic Mai Tai ingredients such as lime and orange curacao.  Instead, it had citrus notes from the grapefruit and other tropical notes in the mix such as coconut and passionfruit.  It also has the the infamous, once banned, high proof absinthe to give it an added kick.  In my opinion, it's tasty but a bit on the sweet side... but to each their own.

The Walking Dead

Bacardi Superior rum, Appleton Estate V/X rum, Lucid absinthe, coconut-orgeat cordial, passionfruit syrup, grapefruit, Angostura bitters.
Museum Tavern on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Poutine Greatness at The Blue Truck on Campus

Hi fellow foodies!  Today I'd like to share a guest post by TL about the Blue Truck on Campus.  Provide us your comments and perhaps you will see more from TL!  Enjoy!

Welcome to this guest post on Urban Foodie. I've seen Urban Foodie expand with new bloggers, highlighting some of the great food that’s out there for us to experience. While we'd all love to sit down and have a proper meal, sometimes just ain’t nobody got time for dat. Today, I bring you a place near and dear to my heart that I run to when all I need is a quick bite: D&M Catering, otherwise, known as The Blue Truck on Campus.

I won’t go into very short history of Toronto’s food truck scene but D&M was one of the first. Located at 50 St George Street in front of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Building, it’s one of the many food trucks that can be found on the University of Toronto Campus.

It’s certainly no specialty food truck, selling your usual menu of burgers, hot dogs, and fries. But their poutine is what I compare all my other poutines to. What makes it so great? They use the proper fries: not the dinky slender McCain frozen fries but fresh cut slices of potato. Their fries aren't soaking with oil, but are fried fresh right in front of you. Despite being smothered in gravy afterwards, they somehow maintain a slight crisp to them. They use the proper cheese: not packaged shredded marbled cheddar but proper curds that squeak against your teeth as you chew. And the gravy. Yes, it comes out of a can but it has the right flavours to blend the cheese and potato together as opposed to overpowering it like some establishments. It has the right consistency, not too watered down or nor too chunky. I can’t stress how important it is to have the right consistency, something only years of practice can perfect. The gravy’s hot enough to slightly melt the curds but not burning hot as to turn your curds into complete goo or prevent you from wolfing down this mountain of deliciousness. Starting at $4 for a small, you certainly won't find a better deal in town.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Update: Poutineville Toronto Slated to Open in the Annex Late July

UPDATE:  Click here to see the official grand opening date!

The Current Storefront of the Much Anticipated Poutineville (2014/07/09)
Urban Foodie originally broke the news here first that a Poutineville (@PoutineVille) would be opening in Toronto's Annex on Brunswick Avenue.  The original time frame for Poutineville to open its doors was as early as June.  Now in July, this poutine shrine is still tight lipped on a firm date for their grand opening.  However, they revealed on July 4th that they will be opening "in the next couple of weeks" in the comments section of a timeline photo on their Facebook page.  This should place the opening sometime in late July.  Urban Foodie will be following this story closely and will post any updates as soon as possible!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Maisonette's Delicious Ice Pops at the Distillery District

  • True to its name, Maisonette (12 Tank House Lane, Toronto, ON;; @maisonettegiftsis literally a small space within one of the historic buildings at the Distillery District.  

What got my attention was a sign hanging from their only window shouting out an alluring message - handmade ice pops!  They have a wide assortment of flavours such as grapefruit, watermelon, cucumber, white nectarine, and mojito.  They also have cream based frozen bars.

The white nectarine ice pop contained yogurt and it tasted like something you would get at Yogen Fruz.  The minty mojito ice pop had a nice tartness to it and had a great lime flavour.

Looking around, Maisonette also sells locally owned and locally made products such as jams, honeys, maple syrups and short breads.  In addition, they have a whole display dedicated to luxurious loose leaf teas and items from Laura Slack, a Toronto based artisan chocolatier.  Maisonette has the chocolate artists's signature Dulce de Leche skull too!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Koreana BBQ Restaurant

One of my favourite Korean BBQ places is Koreana located in the South of Calgary.  Why do I like this place so much? The layout of the restaurant!! It's wide open with lots of ventilation and has private dinning areas seperated by screen doors. The first time I ate here was for my niece's bday and they were able to accomodate our family of 50 but also keep the party private with these versitle screen doors. So this place is great for large parties.

So now the the ambiant is taken care of, how is the food??? Superb! Tonight was a day of celebration since mama Pineapple has decided to move to Calgary. We decided to take her out for one of her favourite cuisines. We ordered the following.....

Budae Jiigae (Army Soup)

Yummy Side Dishes
Stone Rice Bowl (Bibimbap)

Seafood Pancake (Haemul Pajeon)
Beef Bulgogi
Stir Fried Potatoe Noodles (Japchae)

The food was excellent!!! The only thing I did not like was the cheese in the Budae Jiigae, but that was my own fault. If you are like me and are not a fan then remember to ask your server for no cheese. I mean I like cheese just as much as the next person but not in my soup.

The only down side is I would say Koreana is one of the pricer Korean BBQs since they do not offer all you can eat. We have tried a number of dishes on their menu and have been satisfied everytime. The only questionable items would be the Chinese and Japanese sections on their menu. Yes, this Korean restaurant serves Chinese and Japanese food, I would not call it authentic so I would not suggest ordering those items. If Chinese and Japanese is what you crave then stay tuned.... The Pineapple Princess is on it!!!!

Koreana BBQ Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Beat the Heat with the Refreshingly Icy Mool Naengmyun at Cho Sun Ok

Cho Sun Ok Korean Restaurant
7353 Yonge Street
Thornhill, ON L3T 2B3

Date visited:  July 5, 2014

Side Dishes that accompany your Meal

I can't imagine a more perfect place to eat than Cho Sun Ok on a sweltering day in Toronto. Why?  Because their signature dish Mool Naengmyun literally transports you to the heart of Alaska!

Cold, chewy and thin arrowroot noodles are served in a wondrously icy broth.  The broth itself is so complex and delicious.  It's sweet yet tangy and it has a deep beef flavour.  The homemade red pepper sauce gives it a subtle kick and the sesame seeds and oil give it an astounding aroma!  Still, the coolest thing about this slushy broth - if your not careful - is that it can give you brain freeze!  It's such a strangely unique concept (at least to me) that is fully thought out... I mean, the Mool Naengmyun is served in a stainless steel bowl so that the broth stays chilled while you consume it.

Along with a boiled egg, the Mool Naengmyun is also served with notoriously refreshing and crunchy ingredients such as slivers of cucumber, pickled daikon, and a slice of pear.  What an awesome combination of ingredients to give a contrast to those chewy noodles!  It's a true winner to help you stay as cool as a cucumber (I know, I couldn't resist).

I didn't want to end this post without saying that Cho Sun Ok is not afraid of heating things up either.  Cho Sun Ok is home to one of my favourite incarnations of Gemja Tang, commonly known as pork bone soup.  The pork neck meat is just so tender that it is easily coaxed off their bones - fall off the bone if you will.  You roughly get four hunks of meat in a well developed broth with potatoes and onions.  But it's the generous garnishing of perilla seeds and green onions that really take the cake for me.  It makes for such an aromatic soup!  I highly recommended!

Cho Sun Ok on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 22, 2014

#FNLROM Strictly Forbidden

Royal Ontario Museum
100 Queen's Park
Toronto, ON M5S 2C6

Date Visited:  May 30, 2013

Dancing with Dinosaurs!

How can you go wrong with a night at the museum exploring exhibits, dancing to live music and enjoying food & drink?  That is precisely the successful formula the Royal Ontario Museum embraces every Friday night from May to June, 7-11pm.  Aptly named Friday Night Live (#FNLROM), the event is more popular than ever with long lines of well-dressed party-goers down Bloor Street waiting to get in.

The Non-ticket Holder Line
The Ticket Holder Line

Now in its second year, the ROM is boasting a bigger and bolder experience.  New this year is the ability to wander through more of the museum and until close when previously patrons were restricted to the main floor after a certain time.  Beefing up security to offer this luxury is not cheap and this is no doubt related to the cash infusion that Ford has given the ROM as their new sponsor for FNL.  But of course, you now see a brand new Ford vehicle parked out front at the ROM when you line up to get in.  You can even visit the wing dedicated to Ford, where you have a chance to win a new car, sit in one while watching a video about The Forbidden City, and take a photo in front of a Ford and a fossilized dinosaur with an Indiana Jones inspired actor.  The props at your disposal such as fedoras, snakes, whips and swords make for an excellent shot!

The Main Dance Floor
Live Music on the Second Floor!

There were some returning food vendors such as Gourmet Gringos, Hot Bunzz, Tita Flips and Curbside Bliss but there were also many new entrants this year such as Liko's Hawaiian BBQ, M.e.n.u., and Randy's Roti.  Each food item costs 1 ROM Buck ($6) which can be purchased at stations scattered throughout the museum (think Itchy and Scratchy money but actually redeemable).  You can purchase a drink with 1 ROM Buck and you can choose from beer, wine, mixed drinks, and a bottomless soft drink (new this year).

So thoughts on some of the food vendors?

M.e.n.u. was serving up Asian fried rice balls - a pretty innovative idea.  The exterior is akin to an Italian risotto ball while the inside is stuffed with traditionally Asian flavours.  A ROM Buck gets you your choice of two balls.  The Porkzilla was a disappointment because the ball was considerably burnt on the outside and it ruined the ability to even taste the Chinese sausage or pork butt on the inside .  The pineapples and mayo on top couldn't save it.  The Gangnam Style ball played on the tried-and-true flavour combination of bulgogi and kimchi.  It had delicious Korean bulgogi beef on the inside and it was topped with kimchi and mayo.  Thankfully, the exterior of this one wasn't burnt.  Instead, this appetizing batter had a non-oily, crispy texture to it.

The Porkzilla (left) and Gangnam Style (right) Fried Rice Balls

Randy's Roti
Avoid the chicken roti at Randy's.  While there was nothing wrong with the roti bread itself, the chicken filling was bland and dry.  There was also this gritty ingredient inside the roti that added to an already unpleasant taste experience.

Chicken Roti
Randy's Chicken Roti - Unpleasant Grittiness with Dry and Flavourless Chicken

City Gourmet
City Gourmet was serving up roasted chicken sausages, grilled cheeses, and waffles.  Surprisingly, the chicken sausage was one of the better food options of the night.  The peppery chicken was loosely packed in its sausage casing and so each bite delivered delicious crumbling morsels into the mouth.  The sausage had a robust flavour to it and it was served on a bun with your typical condiments.

A Peppery Chicken Sausage on a Bun

Little Tomato
The Slow-Roasted Porchetta Sandwich:  The porchetta was juicier than expected!  It had an awesome fall-off-the-bone consistency.  The rapini relish cut some of the fattiness of the porchetta and the chilies gave each bite a nice kick.  In addition, the fried onions and crispy skin really made this sandwich pop!  The thick yet soft artisan bread absorbed all the great flavours and was drenched in a delicious pesto mayo.  It's a winner!

The Slow-Roasted Porchetta Sandwich

The Spicy Pierogi
An order of their traditional pierogies comes with typical baked potato ingredients such as bacon bits, green onions, cheese and sour cream.  That's definitely one way to elevate a traditional pierogi!  The potato filling in the pierogies was smooth and warm inside despite being mass produced.  The outer shell had some nice fry marks on it to give it some texture.  Good food vendor!

Deluxe Traditional Pierogies

The Peroni Bar
Peroni being a supporting sponsor, a dedicated bar was set up on the second floor for fans of the Italian beer!

The Dedicated Peroni Bar

Each Friday Night Live has a theme to it.  The theme of the night on May 30th was Strictly Forbidden.  That night patrons were allowed access to the ROM's current featured exhibit:  China's Forbidden City.

A fun time!

The next and last Friday Night Live of this year will be happening on June 27.  The theme that night will be ROM Proud, which will be an evening of celebration in honour of WorldPride 2014.

It will definitely be a fun night out - a great way to end of this season's #FNL!  Check it out!