Sunday, June 26, 2011

Deli Duel 2

This is going to be a crazy day since I have to cram this and Luminato's 1000 Tastes of Toronto in an afternoon and it is already 1pm before leaving home.

I missed it last year while I causally chatted it Tom Davis when they were still serving smoked meat regularly.  This year I also got a reminder after just failing to meet the merry men of 'Epic Meal Time'.  Timing was everything since it looked like supplies were starting to run low from the vendors. 

One vendor had to pull out so it became a 3 pony race between The Stockyard, Caplansky's, and Goldins. 

The first place I stopped to sample their trade was at The Stockyard.  At their both was an almost spartan in appearance of the tabletop.  Only a few sandwiches were left so I had to act fast to make it a fair vote for myself.

Hefting the sandwich up I immediately enjoyed the light smoky and peppery aroma already teasing my palate. Piercing the skin of the bread I reached the moist meatiness at its core.  The fatty skirt added more richness and contrasted with the firmness of the muscle.  Mustard played a small role to lighten up the flavor.  It was all that it advertised to be to my tastebuds and I didn't feel like I needed a drink after. They ran out early but I liked their bravado even when I asked them if they were worried about losing votes.  Distance was not an issue since their location was closest to the event.  In all fairness though they shouldn't be able to restock due to poor planning.

Let me just say for the record that I do not believe this pickle does not belong there for the purpose of competition.  Having said my peace, this was not the rapture that I experienced from the last sandwich.  Appearances of being neat and proper would hide the mess inside. The sandwich didn't have the same bite to it in texture.  Given my late arrival time I give some allowances since I may not get the best cut of meat.  Dry loose meat crumbles doesn't satiate the carnivore inside of me and the bright yellow stuff was a bit overpowering that time.

Caplansky's line up never stopped from the time I first arrived to finally sampling my last contender.  Surprisingly what looked to be excess mustard worked well.  At the heart of this one, the meatiness was not as pronounced as the others but it was seasoned much better.  Primarily I attribute the seasoning to the good usage of celery seeds to the mix. 

In the end this was where my vote went to but you can click on this link to find the winner.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Taste of Little Italy Take Two?

Last week must have been one of the busiest weekends for the city. This was just a short list from Toronto Life of what's happening. This weekend my goal was to try to hit Little Italy, 1000 Tastes of Toronto, and Deli Duel 2. It makes someone like me really happy! Toronto still has a ways to go compared to NY or LA but we're getting there. :)

This event is still in its infancy compared to something like 'Taste of the Danforth'. Last year I wasn't very happy so I figured I would give it one more chance. Looking at the participant list I didn't expect too much but still hoping there might be some surprises. L.A.B stood out and really piqued my curiosity. Even though Woodlot is right inside the area; they were participating at 1000 Tastes. I will have another post about that event after this one. Foodpr0n has her opinion about it if you want to read it as well.

Leaving the steetcar on college and bathurst I can see a crowd developing around the corner. At the corner however was a different story seeing that the event was a few blocks down at Euclid Ave. Passing by children's area was a group of adults lining up. Free stuff is always good, right? My patience was well rewarded!

If nothing else of today then I got free beer at least! Down the next street they were also giving out Vitaminwater.  The line up was almost as long and my stomach didn't have any more patience so I kept walking on.  As the day went by I got some good pictures but very few things really caught my eye or my appetite and reeled me in to the vendors.

Sidecar has some nice smokers on display cooking some delicious roasted pig.  Last year I had this it was pretty good.   Now that I'm spoiled by Porchetta and Co I could only stand by and take some of these shots.

There was no shortage of protein in this streetfest and nothing says summer like meat and fire!

These people do get a nod for presenation for their risotto!

On a hot day like saturday there was no shortage to find something to cool down. Along college now there are a string of gelato places from the Mad Italian, Creme, and Dolce Gelato.  Good to know where to go for gelato in the downtown area.  The Big Chill also has small cute baby cones for a dollar (sorry no pictures)!

The Auld Spot had some nice fresh oysters that I couldn't resist!


Getting back to L.A.B, I was disappointed by their menu and at the same time I couldn't expect them to work their magic on the curbside.  I admit that I did not try the food based solely on what was on their sign which I now regret not giving them a fair chance on the food.

Little has changed this year for me but if you haven't been here then you should come down next year.  It is a more casual atmosphere and you don't have to fight huge crowds like the Danforth. 

At the end of the day, I give thanks to the free beer, good food and this other great picture I got to take with permission, of course! :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Que Ling Restaurant

After leaving the gym, I was reminded that I had to go buy groceries for dinner tomorrow night. I didn't have much of a breakfast so food was the first priority.  I walking by my usual Xe Lua (Train) Pho Restaurant on Gerrard Street and went to another place that I always wanted to go because it was such an obscure spot.  This spot on 248 Boulton Ave has always been a good spot for short stops for parking. Everytime the car is parked I see that place but I never go it.  This time it will be different.

This is really small family restaurant that may seat twenty at most but it had a steady stream of customers.  Even for a time for one I had to wait for a bit. It was pretty busy that it was decided it would become a communal table with another person.  I didn't mind at all since it just felt like any other eating counter in a diner. That person even tried to converse with me in Vietnamese.  We're all friends at the dinner table, right?

While waiting for food I figure I might as well take some pictures to take my mind off of things and to kill some time.

Finally the food (I can't believe I was about to type phood) arrives and I can't wait to dive into this on this cool day.  This was standard fare of house specialty pho noodles and spring rolls.  Somewhere on the internet I heard it was referred to it as Asian Chicken Noodle soup. It feels just as comforting having a nice big steaming bowl of food in front of oneself.


The first thing I always do is tasting the soup before adding anything else to it. My preference would be if they had the entire carcass for stock stewing all day in the pot. That soup stock is the foundation for the dish.  Spooning it up into my mouth I can taste the body of the stock.  If you are an avid wine drinker then can appreciate it.  The meat in the dish was whole and hearty.  I hate places where they treat the protein like it was prosciutto parma and shave it until it is almost see-through thin and falling apart. 

Spring rolls had finally arrived and were a bit cooler when it came to my table. Not only that but something else missing in the picture.  Hey! Where's my peanuts and pickled veg? Where is the crunch? It did have a lighter and sweeter taste since it had more vegetables than meat.  Those that are not meatatarian should enjoy it more.

At least now I can safely say that this place still has not dethroned Xe Lua.  Other challengers like Golden Elephant are all over the city waiting for me give them a chance to prove that they have what it takes to the best.

Que Ling Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Pretty Busy this past weekend

Just putting up a quick update.  This weekend had at least 3 events that I know of that was happening in TO.  Saturday I was at the 'Taste of Little Italy' and Sunday I tried to squeeze both the 'Deli Duel 2' and Luminato / President's Choice 1000 Tastes and to try to cook dinner for the family.  This last one only just came to my attention by some friends on twitter.  Luckily my sister wanted to grab takeout instead so that frees me to crash both events before dinner.  Thanks, Sis!

Since there was alot of people that like the shot of these Vietnamese spring rolls I'll just do a quickie write up until I can organize my stuff and do a big post for the weekend that just passed.

I'm still a bit confused about Foodspotting if someone can help explain something for me.  That shot has 6 'great shots' but no noms and want its.  Meanwhile I have another picture that has no 'great shots' and 9 nom it and 13 want it.  What does that mean? Anyone?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Still a bit angry and disappointed

I figured I should give it some time before I started posting an angry rant that I'll regret later.  It's been 24hrs since the crew at Epic Meal Time (EMT) was in Toronto at The Stockyards.  It was announced on the twitterverse that they were in town and was going to share their location for a fan meet and greet.  The moment it was announced, I was out the door to my destination.  I must have waited twenty minutes for the St.Clair West streetcar in rushhour.  Now I regret not taking a picture because the lineup stretched from one end of the platform to another.  When I finally arrived the women behind the counter said they just left! Add to that, Stockyards now only makes their smoked meats for special occasions! Not a good day for me.

NOOOoooooo!!! Curse you TTC! 

It feels SO much better blaming them even though it may not be completely their fault. It didn't take me an hour and they were already gone. :(

The only consolation was the flyer in my hand for Deli Duel 2

This just gives me more motivation to work out my frustration at the gym and another reason to head to Menchie's. <3

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Japanese Food - Real and Otherwise

Now that the pressure is off after that first blog I can relax a bit and not be so serious.  It was fun impersonating Chairman Kaga and Anthony Bourdain!

There was two things that I learned about the consumer market in Japan.  They have finely honed their customer service skills to a razor's edge and the packaging & presentation is always eye-catching.  The food courts inside the airport for the most part looks normal barring the language barrier.   Entering the city the first things that I had noticed at restaurants were all the plastic food in the displays.  The Japanese truly eat with their eyes!  On the displays would be some of the most detailed and vibrant props one would see in a movie studio.  Some displays would be from floor to ceiling containing nothing but delicious menu items tempting potential patrons.  This would certainly get my attention much more than any boring electronic or paper menu.

This last picture is a great lead-in for a special request for "Eat Here Next" to see something worthy of a Man Vs Food tale.  Here is 70 centimeter (cm) tall sundae in the display that we found in Shibuya.  While this is not quite as daunting as the Kitchen Sink Challenge that Adam Richman faced in Walnut Creek, California; it is definitely not for the timid.  If a person could completely finish the sundae within an hour then they get their picture posted with the finishing time on the wall of fame just like an episode of the show.

Again this is not the real thing but even up close it is difficult to tell!

We figured we can at least at there and order coffee while we decide what to have for lunch.  Since it was near lunchtime they decided to take the challenge head on and forgo the food.  I wasn't feeling well so I wanted to eat lunch and not lose it.  It took about five minutes for us to convince the waitress that we wanted to make our order. This should give you some sense of height seeing the waitress bringing it in. 

Next, the waitress slowly came back with a second one!

This was quite the attraction as alot of pedestrians from the mall stopped gawked and murmured in hush tones about this attraction.  People started to trickle into the place as we noticed a trend that other tables also started to order this melting tower of dairy.  Those employees must have regretted getting out of bed that day and I feel really bad for them.  During the dissection we found out that everything was supported by 2 thick baboo skewers.  One friend succeeded while the other was not so fortunate and hit the proverbial "wall" that any MvF fan will understand the meaning.  What was the most difficult part for the friend that finished it was all that melted sledge of ice cream mixed with all those toppings.  This time man has conquered food once again!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Starting off with a bang!

To borrow a phrase from a famous chairman; if my memories serves me correctly, I couldn't wait until that day when we would take off for Japan.  The plans were set in motion and the tickets purchased.  It would be a wonderland of sights and sounds beyond our imagination.  This was to be a trip like no other as we all agreed to eat across Japan in the time that we had.  First and foremost was to set a budget on the trip.  Sadly, when one thinks with the stomach then all common sense goes out the window.  Hearing about other friends and their exploits only planted more seeds to the imagination of what marvels awaits our eyes and palates.  Our epicurean journey would begin once we set foot into cramped quarter of our plane.  As the engines roared to life I can only imagine that was my belly eagerly anticipating the apex of culinary delights across the ocean.  My dreams of sushi of unimaginable freshness evaporated when confronted with that daunting question.  "Would you like Beef, Chicken or Vegetarian?" The bane of many traveler's existence; The gruel that served in our avian prison; airplane food.  At least the cabin attendant didn't offer fish!  After surviving those ordeals and landing my mood lightens up.  Even on that cold and rainy day I can still smell those aromas of the sumptuous fare even if it was only in my mind.  Meals come and go like the sun and moon from city to city.  In Shibuya I knew I was on the threshold of checking off one item on my bucket list.  We worked up an appetite after a morning of sight seeing to arrive at a nondescript building.  The building directory was not at all helpful even in English.  Finding another directory I was much relieved to find what I was seeking on this whole foray. La Rochelle.

Reaching the 32nd floor we were greeted two hostesses as they took our coats.  They directed us to a  grand foyer while inquiring about our visit to the establishment.  Explaining to the hostess that we came from Canada to see Chef Sakai, one of the hostesses searched for the manager.  An affable gentleman approached us and apologetically clarified  that Chef Sakai would not be present today.  He continued to expressed his humility and appreciation for traveling very far to see him and apologized yet again.  If there is one thing I've learned on this trip is that the Japanese has made customer service into an art form. Passing through these doors would be gourmet nirvana.

The dining area had one of the best views of the cityscape.   Inside it was spacious enough but it still felt a bit cozy like an upscale dim sum restaurant.  Greeting us at the table was an immaculate placement before us. 

This peach nectar was the most amazing drink ever.  It was freshly squeezed and came from a special region in Japan of which I can't recall.

Some of us were hungrier than other so half of us ordered the Degustation and the others ordered the Maestro on the menu.  I am sure the menu has changed over the years so I won't even try to describe what they.  However, these pictures will serve as a reminder of the skill and artistry that is synonymous with Chef Sakai's work.

This stayed in my mind since it was so unique.  It was a special cheese made with cherry (sakura) blossom since it was cherry blossom season.  The taste was very mild and gentle and there was a definite note of the cherry blossoms.

According to the menu, this is avant dessert.

In myth and legend I have heard of such a thing as this.  Now I have seen one with my own eyes; a genuine dessert wagon.  We wanted all of it from what I can see in everyone's eyes but no one wanted to speak up.  I decided to be brave and ordered everything and the server happily plated everything beautifully I might add.

Finally, there was the after dinner coffee or tea and what I now know as macarons.

At the end of the meal we realized the Maestro was a full tasting menu that took up the majority of the afternoon.

It has been just over 2 years since I have been in Japan.  My foodie adolescence could not even begin to comprehend the magnitude, majesty, and magic of what I had partaken back then.  What I do retain from that moment is a sense of wonderment, surprise, and immense pleasure.  Isn't that what happy memories are all about?

Update (12/20/2011): The Shibuya location has been closed as of September 30, 2011. She may be gone but not forgotten.  Here are some pictures of the lounge, the dining room, and beautiful skyline for posterity.