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