Category Archives: Food

O-O-O Challenge: Opalla’s Overindulgence in Ottawa

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First of all, my gratitude to Frizztext for the inspiration to write this post about Opalla in Ottawa in his comment to my recent post, and I take it as an invitation to submit to his O-O-O Challenge. Nonetheless, I take credit for the “overindulgence”.

It was a working holiday. There was no time for haute cuisine, even though there was plenty in the Canadian capital. Whether it was the meetings and workshops that drained calories or the cooler Fall air outside, I craved for comfortable food. Interestingly my companions felt the same.

One night we ate The Manx near downtown (Elgin and Gladstone).  We were at the pub around 5:30 p.m. and was lucky to find the last table. It certainly was a busy pub the entire time we were there. My attention was captured by the picture frames on the wall.

There were others that read “I bought this because my friend was the artist”, “Ikea print”, and so on. Fun!

The food came in generous helping and was delicious. My pork chop had been brined in ale and was presented with a beautiful baby arugula salad and maple parsnip mash. It went very well with the pale ale I ordered. I finished all my food.

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My companions each ordered from the daily special menu and had pork chop and penne respectively. They were very happy too with their food.

The Manx, 370 Elgin Street, Ottawa.

The Manx on Urbanspoon

Another pub we went on this trip was Mill Street Brew Pub. near Parliament Hill. I had been there before and liked its location near the river. The building was converted from an old mill.

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On this occasion, the quality of the food also lived up to my expectation. I had a tourtiere made with pork, elk and veal prepared with veal stock and Mill Street stock ale. It was very flavourful. I ate up the last pea on my plate.

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My friend who ordered the steak was also very pleased with the helping and the taste. The fish and chips for my other friend was disappointing though, because both the fish and the chips were dry. (To be honest, when it comes to fish and chips, I would put my vote on the British fish and chips any time.)

The beer was nice, and Mill Street Brewery produced many house brands. I chose one infused with green tea and I liked it.

Mill Street Brew Pub, 555 Wellington Street, Ottawa.

The pub food on both nights was hearty and satisfying. My food cravings were curbed, but I had overindulged.  My workout could come later, I told myself.

Mill Street Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

Thursday Special: Serendipity (A New Tea House in Burlington)

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The quotation of Henry James on a chalk board greets me and my friend when we enter Serendipity Tea House in Burlington, Ontario. It helps to dispel our frustration after driving around the block twice before we can locate this place.

My friend and I make the impromptu decision to have afternoon tea. We have heard about a new tea house and decide to look for it. Just as it is named, Serendipity Tea House is our serendipitous find. I want to make this post my Thursday Special (hosted by Paula) for this week.

We feel quite comfortable in this small café with clean white table cloth and fine table settings.

The lunch crowd has left and we have a quiet time before other customers for afternoon tea arrive. The menu offers many choices for tea, and a lot in the fashionable category like green tea, white tea, herbal and caffeine free. I am a traditionalist, and so I only have English Breakfast Tea, Darjeeling and Earl Grey to choose from. My friend and I both settle for Darjeeling.

We also order the Classic Tea. It was a gorgeous presentation of sandwiches, scones, cakes and pastries.  The cucumber sandwich is a real delight. The scones are warm and served with clotted cream.

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My friend and I chat over our tea for almost two hours. There is classical music in the background, the genre I like.  We feel we have our privacy even with other customers around in this quaint tea house. I had afternoon tea which was very enjoyable in a bigger hotel earlier this year; yet if I had to make a choice, I would come back to Serendipity.

POSTSCRIPT:  Serendipity Tea House has an entrance address: 477 John Street, Burlington, Ontario which is different from their postal address.

Serendipity Tea House on Urbanspoon

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Weekly Photo Challenge: SATURATED

I was at the Hamilton Farmer’s Market. As it was fairly early, I found the stores saturated with stocks; just right for this week’s Photo Challenge: “Saturated“. The cheese store displayed a sea of yellow in different tones, the meat was pink and fresh, and the florist was saturated with colours too.

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The Hamilton Farmers Market shares a long history with the City of Hamilton since its inception in 1837. It is open four days a week. Since it is situated in the downtown area of the City, it is a convenient location for office workers to shop for fresh produce, coffee and spices, baked goods as well as household items during lunch hour, and before or after work.

Hamilton Farmers Market, 35 York Blvd., Hamilton, Ontario. (Jackson Square).

Travel Theme: MULTI-COLOURED

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This week’s Travel Theme in Ailsa’s Where is My Backpack asks for Multi-coloured. My association goes to the multi-coloured display of food items on the buffet table on one of my cruise trips. Colours make the food more enticing, and even when I feel that I have been eating a lot on the cruise, I cannot resist the temptation but to dig in.

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Chicken Four Ways (Part 1)

I have been following many adult bloggers who talk about sending their kids back to school at the end of the summer. This is one of the few blogs by a young person I’ve been following to reassure us parents that some students do pay attention to what they eat. Enjoy!

Bea's Bites

One of the great things about summer as a student is having the time to experiment with new recipes. I am not a self-professed meat lover, and let’s face it, cooking grains or legumes is so much less pressure. That said I am happy to add these simple chicken recipes to my repertoire.

First I started with drumsticks. I made Shutterbean’s Honey Lime Drumsticks.  I marinated the chicken in a honey, lime and minced garlic for a couple hours. Next time I will marinate it for longer, at least overnight. I didn’t have a grill, so I roasted these in the oven at 400 F for about 45 minutes, until the chicken reached an internal temperature of 165F. Then I broiled them for a few minutes to get a grilled-look. These were quite tasty and the marinade was so easy to mix together. My goal for next summer is…

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House of Gourmet: A Chinatown Staple

Have you had the experience of walking aimlessly in town looking for a place to eat? This was what happened to me and my family in Chinatown on Spadina Street in Toronto recently. There were so many Chinese restaurants and we did not come here often enough to have a restaurant to always go to. What saved us was the rule of thumb that never failed: only go to a place to eat if there are a lot of people there. We peeped inside the House of Gourmet and this was what we saw:

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“This is safe to go in,” said my husband. Unlike some busy restaurants where we had to wait indefinitely for someone to show us where to sit, we were ushered to our table promptly, and the waiter came with the tea and the menu.

Another rule of thumb I use when I go for a Chinese meal is to pick what I do not normally make at home. For the four of us we ordered steamed eel with garlic and black bean sauce, stir fry neck of pig, roast duck and stir fried vegetables (tong choi) with bean curd.

The complimentary soup of the day, melon soup, was tasty, and so were the dishes we ordered. The eels were served steaming hot and the neck of pig was stir fried to perfection, bringing out the texture of the meat that it was known for. The skin of the roast duck was crispy and the meat tender. The vegetables were freshly in season. We enjoyed the food with plain rice and were utterly content.

When we left the restaurant, we were aware of its traditional setup with the take-out counter, where one could buy barbecue pork, roast pork and roast duck on one side and the open kitchen preparing noodles and dumplings on the other.

I shall feel comfortable to return to the House of Gourmet next time I look for a restaurant in Chinatown or to buy take-out. I may even consider it to be my Chinatown staple.

The House of Gourmet, 484 Dundas Street West, Toronto, Ontario.

House of Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Sonel’s Black and White Photo Challenge: TEXTURE

Sonel has given us a theme that catches the imagination this week : Texture I find it interesting because ‘texture’ is not normally experienced by sight alone, as often it is perceived by our tactile sense–you have to feel it too. My first interpretation takes on the rock surface of a cliff.

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Then, a close-up of a rocky surface. Even when looking at a picture, one has to evoke the tactile memory to appreciate the texture.

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My second interpretation is the texture of food in my mouth. This is a carrot cake–imagine you are tasting the smooth drop icing…

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then you taste the cake. Feel the texture in your mouth, moist and soft.

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Next comes the peach crumble. The texture is different here. The crumble part is slightly “grainy” with the oatmeal, which blends well with the soft peaches which melt in your mouth.

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The ultimate experience is tasting the dried fruit cake at Christmas. Imagine feeling the a piece in your mouth and discover the texture of the cake and the morsels of fruits. Hmm….

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Visit Sonel’s site for more:

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Konga Cafe: A Taste of the Caribbean in Saskatoon

I am in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for  few days. There is a small restaurant that my friend and I like to go to every time I visit for Caribbean food. Konga Café is situated in a non-descriptive plaza in the fringe area of town, but the moment you enter, you know you are in a friendly family-run eatery that only the enlightened locals and visitors would come.

You cannot miss the open kitchen near the entrance. This is to allow you to say “hello” to chef owner Eddie or for him to spot you and greet you. The décor is vibrant and and relaxed. Colourful paintings by children are pinned up as part of the decoration. The restaurant does not have a big menu, but their signature dishes are well-known.

This evening I ordered mahi mahi with Caribbean rice, and my friend ordered the spicy ribs, because it was all right to get messy with familiar company. The food was hearty and delicious. We could not resist the key lime pie as dessert, and it is freshly made every day.

Chef Eddie had a moment to spare and came to the table to greet us. He also handed us his own concoction of a shooter-drink for a toast. No wonder all of us kept coming back. If you happen to be in Saskatoon, look out for Konga Café. Their curry goat is another must try.

Konga Café, 204 Avenue H.N., Saskatoon, SK

Konga Cafe on Urbanspoon

The Perfect Kichen: Perfect Cantonese Dining

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I live in the suburb and this means that every time my husband and I want to dine out in a Chinese restaurant, we have to drive about half an hour to get to somewhere we can find authentic Chinese food. I do not mean to belittle the local restaurants serving Chinese food in the ever-so-popular buffet style with primarily Chinese dishes and Japanese sushi. In fact, I go to them occasionally for an indulgence to sample many dishes in one seating.

I have been to the Perfect Kitchen in Mississauga, Ontario more than once. They serve a Cantonese menu and also have dim sum at lunchtime. Their food fits my definition of authentic Cantonese cuisine, and the price is reasonable. For three people that evening, we ordered two meats and a vegetarian hot pot. The stir fry beef was sizzling hot when it was served, and the sweet and sour spare ribs lived up to the standard of being one of my favourites on the menu. The mixed vegetables dish was the best.  There were baby bok choy, broccoli, spinach, carrots and  Chinese mushroom braised with vermicelli. All went well with a bowl of fluffy rice.

The Perfect Kitchen, Unit 1, 2075 Ridgeway Drive, Mississauga, Ontario.

Exotic Indian Cuisine: Home-style Indian Cooking in Toronto

Exotic Logo My Indian friend and my walking buddies were discussing the difference between home-cooked food and restaurant-cooked food on one of our regular walks and she said that her favourite restaurant in Toronto could do exactly what she did in traditional home cooking. I like Indian food a lot, and it was only logical that she offered to take some of us for a try. Exotic Indian Cuisine is located in a quiet plaza in north Toronto. My friend knows the chef-owner Kishor well, and one of the treats for us is a visit to the kitchen to see how naan bread is made. The dough is tossed to the side of an open charcoal oven. The bread is removed when it is ready with a metal hook. 1-DSC02278 For appetizers, we have chosen chicken pekora, which is meaty and moist, and the vegetarian pekora, which is tasty, although I do not like the doughy texture. They are served sizzling on a hot plate. We also have a kachori (pigeon peas in whole wheat pastry), which is an interesting change from samosa. We have papadom dipped in various sauces.

We have so many dishes for main courses that I cannot remember all of them 1-DSC02280 The Dhaba chicken is described as “just like the taste of street stalls” in the menu and it is delicious. I also like the deep-fried okra, and cashew nut curry and the butter chicken. There is rice and naan to soak up the tasty sauces. We all agree that some of the dishes are not found in the menu of other Indian restaurants, and the style and taste too, attested by our Indian friend, is home-style. I always give extra points to Indian restaurant which serve kulfi , and Exotic Indian Cuisine does. I indulge in my pistachio kulfi. There is also the rose flavour ice cream to sample. I stick by my pistachio kulfi. There is something about spicy food in that I would crave for it after a while. Exotic Indian Cuisine will be high on my list when I have my next craving.

Exotic Indian Cuisine is situated at: 1850 Albion Road, Toronto, ON.  

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English Afternoon Tea at the King Edward Hotel

English afternoon tea often leads one to imagine an elegant surrounding, fine china and expensive cutlery. One sips the tea, served with delicate pastries, sandwiches, and scones with clotted cream and jam. This is exactly what the Victoria’s at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto offers to its patrons.

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We were seated in a spacious room with large paintings on the wall. Service was attentive  and never intrusive. While we studied the menu, the waiter left us with a box of tea to sample our choices. I selected my favourite, Lapsang Souchong, while my companions chose Darjeeling and Assam, respectively. We also settled for the King’s Tea, deciding that we did not need the other option with champagne included.

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Our tea was served in Wedgewood china. The sandwiches arrived next and the selection included beef, salmon, egg and chicken. I was slightly disappointed that cucumber sandwich was not included. A three-tier tray arrived with the scones, lemon macaroon, maple tart, cheesecake  and strawberry mousse. They were delicious. My companions and I relaxed and chatted. Quite naturally our discussion also touched on what is the proper way to hold a teacup, and whether to put milk into the tea first. My blog friend Janet has written an interesting post about that recently too. The Victoria’s  had given us a leisurely break from the busy world outside.

Real Thailand Restaurant Re-visited

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I have not eaten out in the area near Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue in downtown Toronto as much as I used to in recent years. The other night, although we were in a hurry, my husband and I felt we should dine at the Real Thailand Restaurant, one of our favourites,  to relive some flavours we missed. I did not notice any difference in the decor when I walked inside. There was an open dining area, and ethnic Thai decorations.

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We ordered Green Curry Chicken (Kang Kheaw Wan Kai) and Stir Fry Asparagus with Shitake Mushrooms in a chili garlic sauce (Pan Nomai Sod) to go with white rice. We told the waitress that we had to leave by a certain time, and service was prompt.  The meal was delicious. I liked the green curry because even with coconut milk as an ingredient, it did not taste too sweet. The taste of the asparagus and mushrooms was an interesting combination.

I really wanted to stay longer and order my favourite Thai dessert, the sticky rice. However, we had to go and I had to promise myself that I should return before too long. Their Pad Thai used to be my staple at lunch time. Their shrimps and duck dishes were also top on my dinner selections.

The Real Thailand Restaurant is known to all the locals, from students and staff of the University of Toronto, workers downtown near the Bloor and Spadina area and residents in the neighbourhood. Prices are affordable and services friendly. If you have never been there, it is definitely worth a try, and you will probably keep returning to it.

Real Thailand Restaurant, 350 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario.

Real Thailand on Urbanspoon

A Blast with Burgers at The Works

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The Works Gourmet Burger Bistro opened in Burlington, Ontario last November. It has been quite the buzz of town since then. My husband and I arrived there at 6 p.m. and there were already a line-up there with about 20 people inside and outside combined.

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Fortunately, it was only a twenty-minute wait and on the positive side, we were more hungry and ready to enjoy our meal.

This was no ordinary burger place. When we finally sat down, we were given a menu which instructed us how to order our burgers in five steps. Step 1 was easy; we had to decided on the pattie. My husband chose beef and since I was in an adventurous mood, I picked elk. The second step appeared overwhelming. There were about 80 toppings grouped under six categories with names such as Born To Be Wild, World Tour, Veg Out, Carnivore’s Corner, etc.  I picked Dead Ringer from Top 10 Burgerhead Faves. The description of the ingredients said brisket, jack cheese, smokey BBQ sauce and onion rings, but I still could not understand the name. My husband chose Jamaica Jerk, which contained fiery Jamican jerk spices, sweet green chilies, Montery jack and ripe tomatoes. I was already tired after reading through the list. My thought: It’s too much brain work to order a burger.

Fortunately, the next step was easy, I chose my whole wheat bun out of three choices. For sides (Step 4), I ordered a salad and my husband ordered fried sweet potatoes to split and share between us. There was Step 5, called Add On, but since we had already decided to have an onion ring tower for starter, we did not bother with more menu reading.

We had time to look around the decor while waiting for our food.  There was an industrial feel to the place, The main wall had an artist impression of the Burlington Lift Bridge, It fit in with my conceptualization and I like this choice to represent the City of Burlington. There  were metal works for decor and pipes for partition. Waiters wore t-shirt with the restaurants logo in front and their motto at the back.

Our water was served in a 16-oz measuring cup. The friend onion tower ushered our burgers served on tin trays.

The fried onion rings came with a spicy mayo dip and a beach house dip. The onion rings were the best I had tasted for a long time. The burgers were tasty although the patties were on the thin side. It was a filling and satisfying burger meal.

The Works Burger Bistro, 443 Brant Street, Burlington, Ontario.

The WORKS - Gourmet Burger Bistro on Urbanspoon

Weekly Photo Challenge: CULTURE

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Tucked away in the town of Yuan Long in the New Territories in Hong Kong is this eatery famous for its Chiu Chow fish balls and vermicelli. It is constantly full, and the people sitting together may not even know one another, because it is the common practice to share a table. You sit down as directed, order and eat. Then you pay at the front and leave, but you’ll be content. It was the diametric contrast to a high end Chiu Chow restaurant I have tried, but just as satisfying.

I was there in winter and I had the most delicious bowl of piping hot mixed fish balls and beef balls vermicelli on that trip.

When I REALLY Do Not Want To Cook…Or When My Frontal Lobe Goes On Strike

When I REALLY do not want to cook, and it happens once in a while after a long day at work or running around doing errands, I do not even want to decide what to get for take-out or find what frozen food I have in my freezer. My husband will understand when I tell him that my front lobe has gone on strike. To my less neurologically inclined readers, it is my suggestion to my husband that I do not want to do any planning, organization and execution, and the less decision-making I do, the better. This means that unless he is happy to cook and wash up, we’d better eat out.

We both had been following the Boston bombing the entire afternoon yesterday. We were sad, though relieved that a couple of friends we knew were out there had passed the finish line and cleared of the area, including their families who went out to watch.  I really did not want to cook. My husband was quick to come up with a place to eat when I told him my frontal lobe had stopped functioning. He remembered driving past an Indian buffet restaurant the previous week, and since both of us liked curry, it required no thinking at all on my part. So off we went to  Flavours of India, a small restaurant offering buffet meals at a great deal.

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The moment we entered, we saw a couple of friends. It turned out that they came to the restaurant often on the recommendation of a mutual friend of ours. We were greeted by a friendly waiter who showed us where to sit. Looking around, I found interesting artifacts from India on display.

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The good thing about buffet was that I did not have to read the menu and ponder among choices. There was enough food on display that decision making was reduced to ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There was a wide selection of food: soup and starters, salad, rice and bread, vegetable dishes and meat dishes. There was also a wide range of curry flavours, from mild to hot and the food display was clearly labelled.

I had some soup, and sampled the samosa, pakora and tikki.

Many Indian buffet restaurants fall into two problems . The first is to have trays filled with sauces and not enough meat for obvious budgetary reasons. Secondly, the taste of the curry is too uniform.  Flavours of India did not have these problems and I did not have to stir my ladle around to hunt for a small piece of meat. The sauces were colourful and each curry had a distinctive taste. Besides, inasmuch as we knew that there is butter and coconut milk in some curries, the items served in this restaurant actually tasted quite healthy.

There were enough choices for me to have two helpings of different meat and vegetables, accompanied by rice and naan bread, which were very good to soak up the sauces.

Indian desserts tend to be very sweet. I did not try the Kulab Jamun, because it was too sweet for me, regardless of the restaurants. However, I enjoyed the rice pudding which was creamy and refreshing. My husband and I ate and shared our thoughts about Boston. We had some peaceful time thinking about the unfortunate ones and their families.

Although Flavours of India is not a gourmet restaurant, it is a friendly, neighbourhood restaurant which offers good food for great value. I am happy to go back, whether or not my frontal lobe decides to go on strike or not.

Flavours of India, 1400 Plains Road East, Burlington, Ontario.