Thursday, December 29, 2011

Neighbourhood Gem

Even with all the holiday madness we all need to take a break and grab a bite to eat.  A bit here and a nibble there help makes the day better.  I just got to remember to not let go too much or there will be much regrets come January.

This was a good time to reward myself for finishing my Christmas shopping early.  On Christmas eve I couldn't help but to cozy up in front of the radiant heat and aroma of the shawarma broiler at Folia Grill.  Really, it is akin to being seated at the chef's table as I was sitting that close.  It is an added bonus when I am just steps away from my home.  These small local places really deserve our support when they have such a great product. 

This isn't the first time I've been here and they have been hitting the mark each time I come to feed my cravings.  They have a simple menu and from the two items I have tried I think they nailed everyone of them.  The item I always get is the pork belly souvlaki sandwich.  Another patron that came right after me ordered just the sticks.  He was dumbfounded when he was told that it would take 15 minutes for it to cook.  Those sticks weren't going to be worth the price of a parking ticket so he ask it to be wrapped and took them home...raw.  That was definitely food for thought when I heard that.  Was he also in a rush for the holidays?

Everything was made by hand as I watched the cook happily humming to Christmas carols while dipping and cooking my zucchini fries.  If there was such a thing as guilt free fries then these are it!  Lightly battered, crunchy, starch free, and guilt free batons that filled the plate which was accompanied by a spicy herb aioli.  Easily the plate can be shared with two or three people and they were delicious!

Here is the star of the show! Pork belly is something I don't think I will ever get tired from eating. It's the wonderful properties that the fat imparts to the meat to make it taste so much better.  The comparison is like having a t-bone steak and any other cut of meat.  It was the tastiest and juciest souvlaki sandwich I've had.  Personally I didn't care for the french fries inside since it feels like a filler that detracts from the taste.  I like my hand held food messy and the fries are acting like a sponge by cleaning up the mess.  Some people may appreciate this since they don't want their hands or themselves smelling like food.  All I can say is to each their own.

Folia Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Epic Friday: Evening (at WVRST)

As another fellow foodie said, "Life is all about balance.". So with that in mind I set off by foot to my final destination at WVRST sausage hall hoping to burn off some calories.  It isn't that simple when walking along King street west and passing by all those other nosh pits.  This gave me some time to try to recall one of Stella (@Foodieyu) Vlog gems and Kiki's blog about WVRST.   Let me also warn you that when I used google maps street view they still show the photos of ex "Conviction Kitchen" from Chef Marc Thuet.  To be honest, I was a bit hesitant coming to this meetup.  I found out that I'm not a big drinker from being with some friends.  Only recently did I start to drink more than socially and the shear concept of drinking all night was unheard of.  Mind you, when I drink with those friends we have a beer or two and go straight to the hard stuff.  Is it a case off too much, too soon?  Another night of blurry insobriety was not how I wanted to end the evening.  The night might have come to an abrupt end with a burly bouncer guarding the entrance.  He stopped allowing people in since the place was packed and it was only 7:30pm! My group , luckily, was already seated so the bouncer squeezed me inside.  Other late comers weren't so lucky as those were made to wait even though the rest of us were inside. To the left of the entrance is a great mural(?) paying homage to the city and the TTC.  Pretty cool stuff!

The place is pretty spacious and has nice ambient lighting where as our corner spot was quite dark. As this was my first meeting with the group, the introductions were quick and pleasant.   Not wanting to offend any of the members or the organizer I got the ok to take some shots with the flash.  I tried a few pictures without flash and those just didn't turn out well. Thank goodness some already ordered something because I wanted something to warm me up.  A hot and fresh order of 'Dirty Fries' just landed on the table.  These fries look hand cut and was smothered in pepper, sauteed onions and jalapenos. At first I didn't think it was just ketchup on those chips.  Looking at the menu I find out that it was a house special sauce that was a bit like a mix of a smokey barbeque sauce and a spicy curry which works really well together!

This place was really kind to actually make a pairing menu for our group!  That really impressed me with the thought and effort of how they treat their customers!

Once I got some food in me I started to take the dive into the world of microbrews and exotic beers. Staring at their menu and lengthy beer selection left me completely dumbfounded as the only thing I recognize wasn't even a beer at all. Needless to say the lineups for food were long, however, the waitstaff was very considerate in reminding people that drinks can also be ordered at the bar and not just at the service counter.  Starting off I got pint of the Hacker EdelHell from the bar and returned to our table.  Right away a few people sitting beside me knew what I had ordered and gave me some background info. These people really know their stuff! Lagers, Ales, Stout, Pilsner, IPA were all so new to me as I sampled and savored.  After some more chit chat a live dj started kicking out some tunes.  Things started to get pretty loud and the place had a good lively vibe.  One of the members commented that it had an authentic beer hall feel.  Apparently they also have 2 large drop down screens for leafs games. Sorry I couldn't get a better picture of there beer taps on the wall since they were so busy.  This shot below was when things started to slow down later in the evening.

 When the lineups have died down a bit I head over to make my order.  Why can't more butcher displays be like this? :)

I was deciding what I wanted until I was completely flustered by a celebrity look alike behind the counter.  She looks so much like Pippa Middleton that I thought I was on the show "I Get That a Lot".  The question was begging to be asked.  Of course her answer was "I get that a lot". :)  My order was one of the suggested pairings of Kranjska sausage with a pint of Black Oak Pale Ale and those Duck Fat fries with the Maple Rosemary Dip for sharing.  The other option when ordering a sausage is to have it on a fresh toasted roll with two toppings.  I'm starting to see this order system in more and more places ever since I went to Big Smoke Burgers.  With so many glassware on the table the opportunity presented itself with a line up photo op of the usual suspects. Don't let the second one from the left fool you in the picture below.  That beer mug holds one litre of brewski! All they are missing are beer boots!

Fries just kept on coming our way from sharing with the group or individual entrees that I started to get full even before my food has arrived. 

The entree arrived piping hot and the even though the sausage was sliced the pieces were still nice and juicy.  Those who fear garlic don't have to worry since it was mild while enhancing the pork. The portions was a bit smaller than I hoped but these are premium products so I am not too disappointed.  Heavenly wouldn't begin to describe the those wonderful duck fat fries! The duck fat gave it a rich buttery taste and not at all oily.  Each time I munch on the fries I can't help imaging having duck confit as well on the plate! I am still in awe of those fries and the sweet salty pairing that I can't get enough of.  The Black Oak Pale Ale is worth mentioning as well since that was when I think I found one that I liked.  It is a bit more body while not feeling heavy like a Guinness and a good hoppy taste. Things started to get a bit fuzzy after a few more drinks because I would almost swear that the large fries was served on the large serving tray that came with the sausage and fries! Must be those beer googles!

This is another great place that belongs on King Street west like it fellow compatriots. The communal seats are great for large parties and the food and drinks are excellent! If you're lucky enough then you might also catch a glimpse of a celebrity. ;)

Wvrst on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 9, 2011

Epic Friday: Afternoon

The short subway ride wasn't going to give me much time to digest as I head off to volunteer with Second Harvest at The Gourmet Food and Wine Expo.  Often I am helping out at the offices of Second Harvest but it is the events that are especially fun and offers opportunities to meet new people.  It's also a nice bonus to get to wander and take in the show after the volunteering is done.  Once again I want to thank them for allowing me to participate on this outing. Walking through the show floor I get to see the last minute preparations before the lights go down.

Last time I had a horrible time lining up for the tickets so this time I'm prepared!

As I weaved through the aisles collecting the empty wine glasses I mentally draft a list of the places I want to sip and sample. It's hard to exercise self control when you are in a convention center full of indulgences. Down the road though your budget and waistline will pay for the excesses so I had to stay strong.  My volunteer partner also wanted to explore what was out there as well but she forgot to get her tickets so we shared mine.  Her diet is a bit more restrictive since she doesn't eat pork or seafood. The other skill one needs to learn is to find value in one's purchases.  There are many items I see that I question why they are so expensive. Each ticket is essentially worth $1 so when I see a chorizo sausage and bun for 7 tickets it makes me think that better be the best chorizo in the city! Costs range from 1-2 tickets for 2 ounces of wines to 7 tickets to the finest spirits and a disappointing paella. Starting off the hunger trek I opted for something simple and basic like a bbq brisket slider from Highway 61. As a starter it was good since I didn't want to get too messy to beginning. The brisket was a bit dry but the sauce saved it from mediocrity. It a good feeling to have something in my stomach before the libations flow.

Nearby was "Magical" Indian cuisine with butter chicken and naan bread. For five tickets this was quite the value.  The deep container had quite a decent portion of chicken and it came with a slice on plain naan to accompany it.  It was surprisingly spicier than I had expect it to be but not so much that my friend couldn't handle it.  Bravo for them on finding a good balance to please everyone.

After the chicken we decided to split up and find other things we liked.  Passing by Fin Izakaya I struck up a conversation and the staffer convinced me to get the Tuna Ceviche. Since I never had ceviche I really can't comment on it except that the acids definitely did it's job and changed its texture. If I was blindfolded and asked what I was eating then I couldn't tell you.  There was more seasoning in the salad than in the fish.

This was arguably the most expensive and biggest let down of the night.  For seven tickets I got a small dish of yellow rice and tough frozen seafood and one small mussel of which they all tasted like chicken stock.

Clutching onto my last tickets I had to really carefully weigh my options and try to salvage my enjoyment for the night.  Libations will be a plenty at my next location so I opted for dessert; Sorry Honey Jack Daniels, maybe next time .  Those truffles and chocolates at Rouchef Chocolatier was tempting.  Scores of people with their rainbow colored confections from Ruelo Patisserie just can't be wrong.  Oh that choice definitely paid off! It was a problem just calculating between the costs and the flavors that I liked.  There are the regular flavors and premium flavors. As a bonus for ordering a half dozen they carefully pack them into this clear  and sturdy display case! Of the few places I have tried these from Ruelo I thinks bests them all hands down. In the order from top left to bottom right are Green Tea / Black sesame, Raspberry Chocolate, Passion Fruit, Rose Lychee Raspberry, Fleur de Sel Caramel, and Earl Grey.  Each of the flavors were very intense but not cloying or artificial.  All the fruit flavors tasted as if they used the puree and not just an extract.  The green tea and seasame had a  solid taste in my mouth.  What surprised me the most was the Rose Lychee Raspberry!  My favorite one had an amazing balance of the sweet lychee with the tart raspberry without overpowering the light yet fragrant & gentle rose.  Last stop of the night was to get tanked up at WVRST to end off an epic Friday evening!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Foodspotting Meetup

This time I'm going to challenge myself to keep the word count low and try to keep everything else the same. Go!

These meetups in person can be sometimes intimidating.  This is especially true when you come alone and feel that you are an outsider joining trying to mingle with a close knit group.  It doesn't get any easier even though I'm a part of another foodie group as well. By no means am I a social butterfly, in fact, I'm quite the opposite. My personality is rather reserved and a follower of my blog aptly summed up myself in two words: quiet passion. Doesn't it sound like an oxymoron when you think about it? When you are passionate about something don't you want to scream aloud and want the whole world to know about it? It is how to express this passion not just about food but in life that I try to find the balance by coming to these groups.  Food Existentialism... this is going to my million dollar idea or land me in the looney bin!

The Fuel House is the type of place I can see myself coming to every night.  It is very cozy and friendly place where I can see myself come after work and pulling up to the bar and talk to @MackChiu about anything.  Coming in, I see a woman diligently trying to finish up some work on her laptop.  Resting on the bar stool I see that it is Stella aka @foodieyu.  We exchange greetings as I hold back my excitement since she is celeb by all account.  Casually we talk about things such as blogging, daily events and of course what to eat... and then a bowl of fries shows up at the bar! I couldn't help but hold in a laugh as Stella said that her self imposed restriction on fries have been lifted. It was then that I felt that my problems were a world's away. There are very few places that I can feel so comfortable that it was almost profound! I didn't want to interrupt her work any further so I started to look a the menu and I chat with Mack about sports, UFC and the cool Sapporo tap handle.

The specials of the day was $8 for a sandwich and pop or $12 for beer instead.  Everything on the menu looks great and so much has been said about the bahn mi that it was a no brainer until I heard they were running low on turkey.  I regret not taking a picture of the fabulous menu items.  To start things off I ordered the deep fried pickles.

 Not wanting to waste any more time I used my hands and picked one up to sample.  As someone that hates dill pickle chips, these were great.  I don't know if they make their own pickles or not but they do not have the heavy vinegary taste that I normally associate with it.  The batter has a nice crispiness to it and the pickle was still quite firm as there was a nice snap from my bite.  As other guests dropped by I wanted to share some with them. Pressing down on the pickle with my fork the piece split cleanly down the middle and the batter held intact.  That is some nice battering on the pickle!

Fearing the kitchen getting slammed later I take Mack's suggestion and order the Pulled Turkey Sandwich with Beau's Ale.  I'm really interested in microbrews after sampling Black Oak from WVRST sausage hall (which I really should be working on Epic Friday Evening that's all about WVRST!).  Beau's has a nice hoppy taste and no bitterness.  Those apps had held over my appetite until it finally arrived.

Just wanted to say that the plating on the last picture was just me trying to clear some table space by putting both dishes together.  The burger doesn't come with the fried pickle on the side although it does look good doesn't it?  Mack also mentioned the buns are freshly made from OMG Baked Goodness. They are synonymous with cupcakes so that I really shouldn't be surprised they bake bread as well.  The moist mound of turkey was not overwhelmed by the smooth flavorful coffee bbq sauce.  Inside the sandwich also contained was a refreshing coleslaw that entertained the palette from all the soft textures of the meat and bread.  Accompanying the sandwich was a side coleslaw but slightly different with what tasted like chili peppers to give it a spicy kick differentiating from its sandwich kin.There were other great dishes there such as the thick house burger with the slab bacon and the ever popular bahn mi.  A few people ordered the ice cream cookie dessert. I didn't want to be rude to leave a conversation to take a few photos.

When the place filled up nicely where it had a nice buzz without being too loud to have a conversation. Aside from the side corner of the bar it never felt too cramped and it was easy to swing by from table to table getting to know fellow foodies.  As the night ended late for a wednesday night I can't help but wanting to come back with a friend to watch a UFC fight and hook up that pork belly poutine that I had my eye on all night.

Here is something to think about... If you are in a room full of foodies, do you think they will notice a flash going off?

December 11,2011
Followup: Forget what I said about keeping the word count low... :)

Fuel House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Food's Greatest Stage

This time I am taking some advice from fellw foodies that I've met from @Chopstickhero's #FSEatup.  I'm going to try to post just pictures and leave the talking to BlogTO's review.  These pictures are the ones I've managed to take before my fingers froze and to be on time for @chopstickhero's #FSeatup. :)

To paraphrase another foodie:  This is just a supermarket people!