Thursday, November 24, 2011

Epic Friday: Morning

My excitement has been building up to that day when it would be about nothing but food for the morning, noon, and evening.  This day I would imagine that I am the host of my own tv show and that I am hopping from one event to another with my crew in tow. It really tested me on how far I was willing to go to for my passion for food.

Thanks again to Suresh Doss a.k.a @Spotlightcity, he was able to negotiate a mini food truck event at the heart of downtown on the corner of Yonge and Gould.  The vacant lot was a good starting place to gauge the general public's receptiveness to the Food Truck concept.  Previous events in town was held at the 'Distllery District' with great success.  However I still believe that this is still very much a niche event to those in the know and spread through social media.  In the downtown core would be the best way to gauge the viability to the masses.  The time frame of the event was between 11am to 2pm to capitalize the lunch crowd one would assume.  This might be a hard sell for many since it was a blustery day outside compounded with the recently opened 'Urban Eatery' at the Eaton Centre.

When I got there I didn't think about all that serious business.  No! I was thinking to myself I might finally score some plates from Gorilla Cheese and El Gastronomo Vagabundo! Every food truck they have been to there would be 1 hour (yes, you read that correctly) line ups.  This is not a roller coaster at Wonderland in mid-summer! It's cold and windy november day and I'm here just a bit after they opened so my chances have to be pretty good. There was already a large crowd of people amassing to the side of the Gorilla Cheese truck.  Not wanting to tempt fate to be denied yet again I immediately lined up to capture the one that has always eluded me - The LumberJack.

Many people dismiss Gorilla Cheese as something they can just go home and make.  How many people really go home and actually do it? They have some really creative items on the menu and I finally got one in my hand.  This one is comprised of bacon, aged Canadian cheddar, granny smith apples, and maple syrup on white bread. From experience this item is always the first to be crossed off the menu. Aromas of melted butter, gooey cheese and smokey bacon settled my stomach and warmed more than just my hands. Grilled cheese sandwiches has magical properties like all comfort food no matter where you are.  I don't think I would love this as much in the scorching summer heat. It's not a grilled cheese unless it has been properly flattened under a sandwich press.  Don't let the apples and the maple syrup confuse you as it is still a savory dish that managed to not be overly salty from the cheese and butter. This was so great and I finished it while the cheese was runny.  That crowd that I mention are the ones that had already had their and probably contemplating if they want a second or a third. Ordering Cheeky Monkey would be too soon to have a dessert from them so I go on to my next dish and hopefully still have room to come back.

Fish tacos was something I always see on TV that I craved but was always out of reach.  Upon hearing that some enterprising folks had brought it across the border to here made me ecstatic!  Enthusiasm soon turned to despair as hordes of people show up to events where La Carnita and El Gastronimo were selling out. Now I can have my time with El Gasto's tempura cod tacos. I'll just start off by saying that it was the best thing I had that day! La Carnita's Voltron fish tacos , some say, are even better so I can't wait to try those as well.

Looking at these again I can't think of many things that I can eat all day! The tempura was so crisp, light and airy and the cod was wonderfully moist. In my mouth it hits all the right flavor notes when the trifecta of sweet spicyness of the Bajan mango hot sauce, tangy red cabbage / green apple slaw and sour cream is elevated by the splash of lime juice. Nothing else needs to be said but Mmmmm... OM NOM NOM!!!

Many of these had caught my while I was lining up for my food but these bad boys had to take a back seat since I still have the rest of the day ahead of me. These toasted raviolis came from the 'Toasted Tangerine' truck.  Inside the ravioli were stuffed with spinach and ricotta cheese with a herb marinara sauce.

Only an hour had passed when I lasted checked and the Cupcake Diner had already sold out of their red velvet cupcakes.  I wanted a dessert to save for later so I opted to get a cookie and head out.  At first glance I thought it was mistaken in getting an oatmeal raisin one.  Upon closer inspection the cookie was dense and stuffed with ingredients. There were large chunks of chocolate and nuts strewn about it midst with a sprinkles of salt crystals. Yes! This is perfect for the afternoon snack!

It was about noon when I was leaving and sure enough large lines have started to form at both Gorilla and El Gastro.  Stomach is happy and the world is good.  Next stop and next post is the 'Gourmet Food and Wine Expo'.  Here are some other shots from the gathering.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

No Regrets, No Remorse

First off, bonus points if you know where this phrase comes from but that's not the subject here.

The seeds of this journey was planted when I saw the article by @karonliu on "Here's the beef". Next it was all the tweets about the burger wars and cattle battles (Twitter is a blessing and a curse since for foodies).  Finally I had to work Saturday morning so I had to detour to another gym to catch my favorite instructor.  All that sweating was worth it in the end though.

In the front of the store is the cute yet dark humored picture of a cow's head with a halo on a platter and a double cheeseburger head on a cow's body.  Great sense of humor!  It was nice to see that the owners did put effort into the decor as long as the food didn't suffer.  Chinese restaurants and decor... Jussayin.

This first piece of furniture caught my eye and brought back fond memories.  A fitting homage to a bygone era.  How is this in such pristine condition and where has it been hiding? I wonder if the owner always wanted one as a kid and now he's making one of his dreams come true?

To my right I see familiar looks just like the ones I see on television.  Downtrodden faces of despair and hopelessness yielding to the meaty menace before them with time quickly running out.  Two brave souls dared to take on the 'Go Chuck Yourself' challenge and hunched over in defeat.  Let me back up and explain what this challenge entails. Better yet let me show you!

If we could have a few more of these in town then I might be able to persuade one of my favourite tv personalities to come to Canada.  How does someone finish both in under six minutes is unfathomable to me.  My order is going to be something more realistic.  I don't even want to know how many calories or how many days at the gym will it take to clear my conscience.  On the menu itself again reflected their sense of humor for all things bovine and farm.  Many of their listings sounded great but I couldn't decide.  The server stepped out seeing the quizzical look on my face and suggested I try their signature feature first.  Now I was tempted but those milkshakes looks too damn and rich for my tastebuds today. Learning from experience I had asked to have the burger cut in half to get a cleaner and nicer photos of the burger.  What came was a bit of a shocker. I didn't see that one coming.

It is always a juggling act to get as many pictures as you can while the food is still hot.  After taking a few shots I decided to reassemble both pieces together for a few more shots.

Not wanting to waste anymore time I start to take a large bite out of it.  I haven't tasted a burger this good since Burger's Priest (which I still have neglected to blog about).  The burger was cooked medium and full of meaty moistness as opposed to well done and dry.  This was where the burger meat was the focus and the main attraction.  So many places , especially one that comes to mind, have excellent toppings but it covers up or loses the burger taste in the process. It tastes like a pure burger essence on a simple burger bun.  Here is a great blog about comparisons between the two burger titans at Food with Leg's Blog.

At the end of my meal I felt that this was a beautiful burger with no pretensions and nothing to hide.  The best part was that it didn't have the weight of a lead brick on my belly doing the walk of shame home from over indulgence. Can't ask for anything more than that can I? :)

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Breakaway from the Danforth

The Danforth has many great places for wining and dining. It is ironic that my favorite place for gyros falls just outside its borders. Thanks to @SpiceCityTO's blog about this place, I found another reason to explore the fringes even more.

Makkah restaurant was going to be a quick detour on my way to the gym.  The server was quite social when I entered the premise noticing that I was a new comer.  On the menu was quite a selection of offerings as well specials which had whet my appetite.  I couldn't eat too much or I'll regret it at the gym so I opted for something simple, handheld and portable.  The name also caught my eye so I ordered the foot long kebab sandwich.

After I placed the order, I was told to have a seat and the food will be delivered to the table.  Honestly I really didn't want to wait since I was really short on time before the group exercises begins.  It was a slow day because of the weather but I did see an old couple there with a tall stack of naan bread with their meal.  How would fresh naan bread with butter and spicy maple syrup taste like... my mind came back to reality as my food arrived.  Aromas of fresh baked goodness and grilled meats had me chained to the spot.  My curiosity and hunger was getting the better of me and I had to sample this while it is still hot!

At first glance it looked rather spartan and it wasn't quite a foot long sandwich.  All that was forgiven when I peeled back its silvery sheath.

The first thought in my mind was why haven't I seen this at other places!  It is deliciousness!  This is now one of my favorite handheld foods from just the aromas alone.  Toasted buttery naan combined with the charred meaty kebab and the spicy tandoori flavor with whole cardamon seeds just floored my taste buds.  Delving into it I found the longest kebab that stretched along the entire length of the pita.  Garnishes for this was slim but sufficient to give it a nice crunch.  Something that is new and different is always appreciated from the plethora of burgers, souvlakis, and gyros that have almost become mundane.

Half-way into it the stomach sends a signal back to my brain to come back to earth.  Luckily this was just enough time to catch my bus and arrive on narrowly on time.  Now I'm definitely coming back for that chicken biryani tuesday special for $3.49.