Thursday, June 06, 2013

Go: Eat Out In Canada

Hello there!

I am sorry that my posting has been incredibly inconsistent the last couple of months. While I love gathering and executing recipes and crafts, I have found myself lately lacking the energy and/or motivation to write about them. I've also been assessing my overall vision for Making a Living. This mixed with a busy season full of major home projects and travel has resulted in very few blog posts. If you are a regular reader of mine, I apologize. I promise to make it up to you with a bunch of great posts I have coming along!

As I said, we've done a bit of traveling over the past few months including a very recent trip to Montreal and Toronto. It was us versus the rain most days, but overall it was a great vacation! A friend of mine asked what my favorite part of our trip was. I thought about it for a few seconds and confidently replied: The Food. Oh man! Montreal and Toronto both offered such a wide variety of restaurants, bakeries, and cafés! We always strive to eat well on vacation, but neither Matt nor I remember enjoying our meals nearly as much on previous trips.

Since food is one of the cornerstones of Making a Living, I think it would be appropriate to share some of our culinary exploits while across the border. I've included links below and highly recommend all of these restaurants. I may also try my hand at recreating some of these dishes. Enjoy!


Le Givres
This was our very first night in Montreal and decided to start the vacation with a bang! By "bang", I mean a giant dessert for dinner. We ordered the "Dégustation pour Deux" which translates into Tasting for Two. Not only was this delicious, it felt positively decadent; I only wish would could have savored it more slowly--but ice cream does melt rather quickly.

It featured a mini "campfire" of pastry sticks, brownie bites topped with caramelized brown sugar, ice cream, and whipped cream; A big roasted homemade marshmallow; Organic bananas with chocolate ice cream & a brownie; Coffee ice cream with whipped cream and waffle cone; Poached pears with vanilla ice cream, spice cake, and caramelized ginger; Mini eclairs with pistachio ice cream and praline ice cream. I suggested we eat this for dinner every night in Montreal!


La Crêperie du Marché
We ended our second day by roaming the Jean Talon Market, a large covered market selling everything you can think of, from meat and fish to honey and lavender. It was tough to decide from which booth we would get dinner, but La Crêperie du Marché won. I was surprised by how different the crepes looked from what we would usually find back home, their dark brown crispy exterior and square shape. Matthew went the semi-sweet route with melted apples, torchon ham, swiss cheese, and maple syrup. I opted for straight-up savory with asparagus, béchamel sauce, swiss cheese, torchon ham. A choir happened to set up shop next to our table, so we enjoyed some lovely choral music while eating!


This Venezuelan restaurant is a top contender for our favorite. It is a small space with brightly colored walls, warm atmosphere, and low lighting--hence the dark photo above. Arepas are flatbread sandwiches with a texture similar to english muffins. I decided to be extra adventurous and tried the smoked shark with plantains. I would compare the flavor to lobster (lightly sweet but still fishy). Matthew went with the spicy pulled pork and a sauce hot enough to make his eyes water. We also shared cassavas chips with a delicious avocado sauce. Cassava is a starchy tuberous root of a tropical tree--and tasty when fried!


After a long day of walking and burning calories, we treated ourselves to some fancy french pastries. It took a long time to actually find this bakery, but it was well worth the search! Matthew ordered crème brûlée and I got the pain au chocolat aux amandes (or chocolate pastry with almonds).This is one dish I will definitely try to make. Somehow I doubt it would be as good!


The prologue to our dining experience at Thai to Go was less than pleasant. Lots of rain. Lots of walking in the rain. Lots of shoes filled with rain. Once we stepped into the restaurant, though, we were given some of the best service we've ever seen and delicious thai cuisine! I had the Mango Tofu Stirfry while Matt enjoyed the Pineapple Shrimp Curry. The restaurant offered us free drinks (we opted for cranberry juice) and a free dessert of green tea and pastries that flaked apart beautifully when bitten. I honestly think they would have kept serving us free pastries indefinitely had we stuck around long enough!


Among the many places to explore in Toronto is the historic Distillery District. What began as the Gooderham and Worts Distillery has become a large center of independent shops and restaurants, mantaining its old-time charm. It was great to see the city utilize what would otherwise be an abandoned part of town. One particular shop that kept our interest (we visited it three times!) was SOMA Chocolate where we tried the Spicy Mayan Chocolate. It tastes like it sounds: hot and spicy with a rich, deep chocolate flavor. Yum! I liked it enough to buy a packet for my parents to try.


Bibim Q
Boy, oh boy! The amount of food that came with these meals was overwhelming. I can tell you what we ordered (the Bulgogi and the Bibimbap Soya) but I'm not sure will mean very much to you. Instead, I list everything we got between the two of us: fried egg, tofu, rib eye steak, rice, coleslaw, clear noodles, salad, tons of vegetables, and something reminiscent of cold mashed potatoes. I wasn't sold on the cold mashed potatoes but everything else was fantastic! We enjoyed this meal en plein air at Queen's Park. We even used chopsticks.


This market was very similar to Jean Talon of Montreal, so I loved it! A few people told us that we should try the "butter tarts" which are generally regarded as a speciality of Toronto. So while searching for souvenirs and strawberries, we bought a few tarts. They reminded me of the mini pecan tarts I've made in the past, except much larger and much sweeter. I felt like I was drinking maple syrup from a pastry cup! My sweet tooth was thoroughly satiated for a long while!


Capitano Burgers
Toronto must have a major thing for burgers. Everywhere I looked, I saw a different restaurant for "gourmet burgers". So near the end of our trip we gave in and gave them a try. I must say, we were not disappointed! Matt and I each declared that they were the best burgers we'd ever had. Seriously. My burger featured the restaurant's namesake "Capitano Sauce" which I can best describe as a creamy sweet mustard. Matt (as usual!) went for the spicy option--I guess I must really be depriving him of hot spices at home.


Behold, the last meal of our vacation! We tried to eat at Merryberry for our first night in Toronto, only to discover (after a rainy walk) that they close early on Tuesdays! I was bitter for a few days but Matt convinced me we should give it another chance. I am so glad that we did! The space could not have been cuter and everything on the menu was unique and appetizing. Matt wasn't particularly hungry, so he ordered a bowl of Mango Gazpacho. I'm telling you, this was the trip of the mango! We ordered it whenever we could! My sandwich also featured the fruit, along with smoked salmon, pesto, goat cheese, roasted peppers, and sprouts. Such a strange combination of ingredients but they came together beautifully! This one is also my list of meals to copycat at home.


So there you have it! Of course, there are more meals and stories worth sharing but this post is already quite lengthy. All of these meals reinforced how important it is to step outside of your comfort zone with food and try new things--even if they have strange ingredients like shark! I'm going to incorporate some of these experiences into my own cooking regime. Stayed tuned for those attempts!

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