Saturday, July 30, 2022

Eating on the road: Smoque N’ Bones in Toronto

 Regular readers will know I enjoy some good Texas-style BBQ, spoiled as I was for other options after a few trips to Austin for the real deal during my tech journalism days. So when looking at dining options during my trip to Toronto, BBQ was on my list and I decided to try Smoque N’ Bones on Queen West with a friend.

Going with a friend is important. While the company is good, menu-wise it opens up many more options. On your own, you’re likely to be confined to a sandwich or maybe one meat and side, l’est you go home with a metric ton of leftovers. While I may have ordered the sampler for two if I was on my own and risked the judgement of the wait staff and onlookers, when there are two dinners such issues are avoided.

Priced at $89, the Sampler for Two is described on the menu as: Choice of 3 SmoQued Meats: 1/2 Rack, 1/2 lb Beef Brisket, 1/2 lb Pulled Pork, 1/2 lb SmoQued Turkey, 2 Links of SmoQued Sausage, or 1/2 Chicken and any 3 sides.

We opted for the brisket (wet), pulled pork, and sausage as our meats, with the macaroni and cheese, corn on the cob (after confirming it was served in two pieces) and corn bread.

It was all too much for our little table; thankfully, it wasn’t busy so we requisitioned a neighbouring table for overflow, and it arrived very interestingly-plated on a long board. (I nabbed one sausage link before I remembered to take the picture.

It was a heaping pile of meat. The sausage was just OK, though the fried onion accompaniment was a nice touch. The pulled pork was my friend’s choice, as I usually find it dry. But clearly I haven’t been having good pulled pork. This was juicy and moist, and the bark was truly delicious. The brisket was also amazing, juicy, close your eyes to savour.

On the sides, I passed on the corn bread. The Mac & cheese was cheesy, and was good but not quite excellent. We had the corn last so it was cold (our fault) but it was excellent – fresh and cheesy and smoky.

All in all, an excellent BBQ experience and well worth the visit if you’re in the area – just come hungry and bring a friend.

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Friday, July 22, 2022

Eating on the road: Fusraro's Italian Kitchen in Toronto

I'm down in Toronto for a week working in our community office and this trip I'm staying downtown, so I'm getting the opportunity to try some new restaurants. Last night, on the recommendation of friends, I dined at Fusaro's Italian Kitchen at Spadina and Richmond.

There was a patio on Spadina, but I felt it a little hot for outdoor dining so I opted to sit inside. Which may have been a mistake, as there were persistent pestering flies. Temperature was comfortable though.

The train down served lunch late, so I didn't order one of the interesting looking appies -- the arancini and a meatball dish both looked interesting, and of course there was bruschetta on offer. But I decided to just get a main, and while I was tempted by the chicken or veal parm, that felt like too pedestrian a choice. There were also paninis and pizza, but I decided a nice bowl of pasta would help ensure a good night's sleep.

I decided to go with the Salsiccia, which the menu describes as pappardelle, crumbled sausage, rapini, chili flakes, extra virgin olive oil, and light tomato sauce. Sounds good to me. And a glass of red, of course -- a San Tiziano Rosso cab merlot.

There was water at the table waiting for me which was nice on a hot day. I wouldn't have minded some bread and butter to nosh on. But I didn't have to wait too long for the entrée, and the wine came with the meal.

It was a generous portion of pasta, and hot, served with a spoon for twirling (which I can manage with spaghetti but was more challenging with pappardelle). The sauce was meaty and there was lots of it. The pasta tasted fresh and was cooked properly. Didn't get much heat from the chili flakes. I liked the rappini, but would have liked it integrated in the cook rather than tossed on top. It was a challenge to eat the noodles delicately so I didn't try. I would have liked some freshly grated parmesan reggiano on top as an option.

All in all, it tasted good and filled me up. Both the entrée and the wine represented good value -- hard to find a sub-$10 glass of wine in Ottawa lately.

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Thursday, June 16, 2022

Eating up the Hill: Garden Party food round-up

Tonight marked the return of the annual Garden Party for Liberal MPs and assistants on the grounds of 24 Sussex Drive after a two-year pandemic hiatus. Without the recently COVID-positive Prime Minister, sadly, disapointing a generation of post-pandemic young staffers who won't be able to update their Facebook profiles tomorrow with a picture of themselves with Justin Trudeau.

Also missing were the amazing tandori lambchops which in my view were the standout of the last pre-pandemic garden party -- sorry JT. Though I am told Coconut Lagoon will be reopening soon. There were a number of local vendors with tasty small plate nibbles though, and your humble blogger sampled most of them for you.

Crispy chicken taquito

It was crispy, it was chicken, there was queso and guac -- what's not to love? I could certainly have eaten more.

Summer salad with flank steak

A little radish-heavy, but I enjoyed the pea pods. Steak was medium-rare and tender. Maybe needed a little pepper. But very tasty.

Charred haloumi lettuce wrap

This was delish. They were grilling the haloumi on site, which was cool. I make haloumi a lot at home when BBQing and I love it, but it can be a little one note. I like the lettuce wrap idea and will do this at  home.

Not pictured: oysters, because I don't like them.

And ice cream bars from Moo-Shu, because it was really hot and I ate it really quickly. There were a menu of choices, but I went with the chocoloate-covered strawberry sprinkles and had no requests.

Next year, open up the pool.

Happy summer, y'all!

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Thursday, May 05, 2022

Dispatches from the front: A surrender in the chip war of 2022?


A few weeks ago, news broke that the standoff over pricing between Frito-Lay and Loblaw that had stripped chip shelves bare at Loblaws, Superstore, Independent Grocers and Shoppers had ended. I asked, tongue in cheek, who won?

After a recent visit to my local Shoppers, the winner was clear. And I don't think it was Canada's largest grocer -- who still owe me my gift card for fixing the bread market.

The heart of the dispute was that Frito-Lay wanted to raise prices and Loblaw thought their proposed increases were not justified by increased costs. So, for a rare occassion, I sided with Loblaw. Stick it to the man, other man.

Well, keeping in mind Loblaw already marks up groceries at shoppers a lot, a bag of Lays went from $4.20 before the war to $4.90 now. Looks like a win for big chip to me, unless they wanted an even bigger increase.

On the good news front, peace in our time has brought us Flaming Hot Cool Ranch Doritos. What a time to be alive.

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Thursday, December 23, 2021

Eating off the Hill: Seafood with a harbour view at Toscano's Mediterranean Grill

While I have let up somewhat on my don't eat seafood unless you can smell the salt air rule over the years, I do still like to maximize my seafood opportunities when on either of the coasts. And finding myself in the Comox Valley for Christmas, dinner at Toscano's Mediterranean Grill for some good West Coast seafood was on the menu. You can even see the Comox Harbour out the window -- when it's not pitch black so early in the evening...

There were some interesting pasta and other grill options on the menu, but as discussed, I was here for seafood. For my starter I went with the Lemon Chili Garlic Prawns, described on the menu as Wild-caught red prawns sautéed in chili, garlic, and lemon butter.

Topped with microgreens, they were served in a sizzling skillet, which kept them piping hot as I worked my way through. The lemon wedge was hidden by the greens so I didn't see (and use) it until I was half way through. While well-cooked and flavorful, I would have liked a bit more chili heat. Still, an excellent starter.

For my main, while I was tempted by some seafood pasta, I went for a more fish-forward main: Pan-Seared Steelhead, described on the menu as Fresh steelhead with polenta, grilled vegetables, carrot puree, orange caper beurre blanc, Eatmore Sprouts microgreens.

Very nicely plated, and a good serving of fish. My only down-note would be that the veg was a bit too charred (ie, burnt) in some places. Otherwise an excellent dish. The fish was cooked nicely, flaky with a nice sear. Tasty sauce. For me the surprise standout was the polenta, that was so creamy and delicious with an excellent toast on top. Every bite was delicious.

Will definitely be eating more fish before I leave.

Dairy Queen blizzard for dessert not pictured. 

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