Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Starving for some Waffles!

Starving Artist
1078 St. Clair Avenue West
Toronto ON M6E 1A5

There is plenty of waffle worship at this second Starving Artist location that recently opened up in Corso Italia a few weeks ago.  This is a waffle shrine... waffle art grazes each and every wall and everything on the menu is served with waffles!

The server was warm, friendly, bubbly, and enthusiastic. She took our drink orders even before we sat down.  We ordered an Americano and a PB Chocolate Banana Smoothie to start.  It was nice of our server to give us two straws so that we could share and have an "Archie" moment!

The Sammy Benny - Instead of traditional English muffins, the capers, poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce, and Atlantic smoked salmon sat atop waffles.  The dish also came with a side salad of mixed greens lightly dressed with balsamic and baked beans (which can be substituted for fruit).

As you may know, it is incredibly difficult to cook the perfect poached egg.  Poaching an egg is the technique of cooking an egg by submerging in simmering water.  However, the difficulty is ensuring the egg white adheres and surrounds the yolk.  Often the egg white separates and becomes wispy ruining an afternoon brunch.  Techniques such as creating a vortex or whirlwind to the water before dropping in the egg, using a strainer or plastic wrap to cook the egg, or even adding vinegar to the water  have all been used to prevent this from happening.  You also want to have a nice runny yolk and so often the egg is cooled in cold water before serving to prevent overcooking.

Having said all that, the poached eggs served here had an excellent presentation. The egg yolks were encased in perfectly domed egg white.  The Hollandaise sauce coated the eggs and had a nice sheen to it.  Together, the appearance of the poached eggs reminded me of scoops of ice cream.  They looked very appetizing!

The eggs were poached well.  The egg white of each egg was firm but deliciously tender.  The yolk was warm and runny - liquid gold!  The Hollandaise sauce was creamy and had the the right consistency. The capers were pickled well and had a tangy flavour.  The salmon was a tad fishy though. While the waffles were warm and fluffy,  I was not convinced that the sweetness of the waffles worked with the savoury components.  The combination was a bit strange.  If you ask me, I would still swap a traditional English muffin for a waffle.

Each fully loaded potato waffle came with cheese, a dollop of sour cream and chives on top. There wasn't a trace of bacon as promised on the menu though.  Disappointing.

The actual "waffle" was browned nicely and had a nice crispiness. However, they may have cut corners with the potato - the texture and taste was consistent with instant variety.

As a side note, the syrup on the table wasn't maple syrup. The syrup was most likely high fructose corn syrup since it seemed too sweet and too watery.  Although I don't expect most establishments to have real maple syrup, I didn't think it was appropriate to put this imposter in such a fancy bottle. 

Although there were some disappointments, there are enough reasons for a return visit.  Outstanding service and wonderfully poached eggs.  I would get poached eggs next visit but sans salmon... perhaps bacon instead since I missed today's appearance.

Starving Artist on Urbanspoon

Thai Noodle Night

Thai Noodle Guay Tiew Thai
62 Vaughan Road
Toronto, ON 

Date Visited:  February 21, 2014

Once called Taste of Thai House, the space at 62 Vaughan Road at the intersection of Vaughan Road and St. Clair Avenue West, is now Thai Noodle.  From the Yelp reviews, the renovations occurred early in November of 2013 when it was still Taste of Thai House.  So some questions arise... Is the new Thai Noodle owned by the same owners of Thai House?  Is this Thai Noodle Guay Tiew Thai related to the one of the same name that closed recently on Baldwin in Kensington Market?

Whatever the case may be, the Urban Foodie decided to check out the new Thai Noodle.

One of the dishes that were ordered was the Home Style Pad Thai ($11.99).  It is on the sweet side but not as sweet as the Pad Thai offered at the often lauded Sukho Thai.  It comes with the standard Pad Thai ingredients such as chicken, peanuts, been sprouts, tofu and green onions.  On top were two jumbo shrimp.  Tiny dried shrimp, not a usual ingredient, were a welcome addition scattered throughout.  The salty dried shrimp cut through the sweetness.

The Pad Thai was small in quantity
Beef Khao Soi ($11.99) was also ordered.  Northern Thai Khao Soi is a dish that contains fried and boiled egg noodles in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk.  This particular preparation also had red onions and pickled mustard greens.  Artistically speaking, the fried noodles could have been stacked higher.  The friend noodles were also way too salty.  The curry was rich however and infused the tender beef pieces with flavour.  Some of the beef pieces had a gelatinous, cartilage layer which just made the beef even better (if you like that kind of thing).

It was surprising that the Chicken Panaeng Curry ($10.99) did not come with any rice.  But it was definitely the best dish of the night.  The curry was rich and thick.  It was aromatic with excellent flavour.     

The Jasmine rice ($1.99) that was ordered was creatively served in a star shaped format.  

While there were hits and misses, a trip to Thai Noodle can be warranted for a casual night out.

Taste of Thai House on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 24, 2014

Coffee Wars - McDonald's brings back a week-long promotion of free coffees all day from Feb. 24 - Mar. 2

Few things in life are truly free with no strings attached.  McDonald's coffee is the exception, at least, during their insane week-long promotion currently running from February 24 to March 2 all across Canada. This is not the first time McDonald's has served up free small coffees all day in the city with upgrades to medium and large for 30 and 50 cents respectively.  No doubt a ploy to steal away market share in the coffee business from the likes of Tim Horton's. In fact, McDonald's Canadian share of the roughly $3.3-billion out-of-home coffee market has more than doubled to 10.3% in just four years (1).  The coffee war is alive and well in Canada with the consumer benefiting from all of the fallout. 

Every free coffee comes in a standard McDonald's cup with a coffee sticker and a detachable card (to apply said stickers).   So theoretically, 7 free coffees results in a free medium hot drink that can be used after the week-long promotion ends.  Insane isn't it?  So drink up Canada!  Just don't forget to stay hydrated after consuming all those coffees!

(1) Strauss, M. (2013, February 23).  Can Tim Hortons fight off McDonald's attack?  Retrieved February 25, 2014, from

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Bite Me Bakery

Bite Me Bakery
1034 St. Clair West
Toronto, ON M6E 1A4

Checked out Bite Me Bakery the day after Valentine's.  V-Day inspired flavours such as red velvet and strawberry were still on the menu though.  Some cupcakes even had Sweethearts (y'know those candied  hearts with cheesy messages such as "Be Mine" or "XOXO"?) placed on top of them and I thought this was a nice touch.  Although the thought that these were day old cupcakes crossed my mind. 

Although bite sized, the bakery claims that these cupcakes are exploding with flavour.   

But they are nothing more than a variation of common supermarket cupcakes - sloppily piped and super sugary icing as well as dry cake. They taste like they were made with cheap ingredients and perhaps not enough butter. I would not return despite the friendly service (and the complimentary Hershey's kisses). 

Bite Me Bakery on Urbanspoon