All stories by Caroline Aksich

The Dish

Food Shops

3 Comments

Wisey’s brings its pies to the west side

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

After a slew of winter shutterings—Timothy’s, Smock and Victoria’s Bakery are all papered up—Roncesvalles is starting to show some signs of life. Wisey’s, a Kiwi meat pie shop with a store in East York, opened its west end location on March 26. On the menu: personal-sized butter chicken pies, New Zealand lamb numbers and one topped with mashed potato (pictured above) just to name a few. If it’s something sweet you’re after, an Afghan cookie (chock-full of cornflakes and topped with chocolate ganache) paired with a flat white is just the ticket. New Zealand natives Gary Wise and Anthony Spinley opened their first Canadian outpost last summer in Leaside, where they still do all their baking. Even the shop’s coffee has a New Zealand connection: all beans are provided by Pilot Coffee Roasters, another Toronto-based company owned by a couple of Kiwis.

43 Roncesvalles Ave., 647-346-4455, wiseyspies.com, @WiseysPiesTO

The Dish

Openings

3 Comments

Introducing: Tich, a modern Indian restaurant in Mimico

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Tich
Neighbourhood: Mimico
Contact Info: 2314 Lake Shore Blvd., 647-349-8424, tich.ca, @tichcuisine
Owner: Karan Kalia
Chefs: Sujoy Saha, previously of the Indian Rice Factory, is in charge of the curry dishes. Tandoor master Mandy Jawle honed his skills at New York’s Michelin-starred restaurant Junoon before moving to Toronto.

The Food: The menu features dishes from many different regions of India, and even a few colonial-era plates: the dak bungalow chicken curry, for example, is a dish that was traditionally served to British officers when they stayed in rest houses of the same name. Curries at Tich—it’s a Hindi/Punjabi word that, loosely translated, means “cool”—range from rib-sticking (the Hyderabad-style braised lamb shank) to fabulously delicate (the Malabar lobster-and-prawn curry). The tandoor oven fires out lamb chops, whole sea bream and chicken tikka.

The Drinks: When patio season hits, Kalia plans to launch an Indian cocktail program. Expect spiced mojitos, among other refreshing, boozy libations. India-imported Amrut whisky and Kingfisher beer are on offer right now, along with a short wine list.

The Place: “We wanted to stay away from how people expect a typical Indian restaurant to look—that means no saris,” explains Kalia. The tranquil blue room is a Pinterester’s paradise: barn board, dangling Edison bulbs, marquée lights and fab baroque wallpaper.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

The Ridiculist

4 Comments

Fifteen blasphemous brunch dishes that put boring eggs Benny to shame

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Barque’s smoked-duck pancakes. (Image: Caroline Aksich)

In this city, brunching has become a competitive sport: groggy early birds who show up even before restaurants open snag prime tables, while those who refuse to rise with the sun suffer through 45-minute waits, sometimes in sub-zero temperatures. For the most part, boring beige flapjacks aren’t causing the frenzy; instead, it’s belt-busting brunch plates featuring the likes of frogs legs and foie gras that are driving Toronto’s mid-morning meal mania. Here are 15 of the most epic and unholy brunch creations from around town in order of just how over-the-top they are.

The Dish

The Ridiculist

5 Comments

Twelve cholesterol-filled creations at Junked Food Co.

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

The junk food mash-ups at this new Dundas West snack shop border on the perverse: doughnut grilled cheese sandwiches, waffle pizzas and Dorito pies are just a few of the stoner-approved dishes on the menu. The aptly named Junked Food Co. is angling to become the post-last-call nosh mecca of the neighbourhood, eliminating the need for Lakeview lineups and 7-Eleven taquitos. And, since everything’s made in-house (except for the Oreos, Doritos and Cheez Whiz), the guilt of wolfing down a two-pound deep-dish pizza at 3 a.m. is (slightly) lessened. Here are 12 of Junked Food Co.’s creations, ranked from relatively tame, to “How did I end up at the CNE?”

Junked Food Co., 1256 Dundas St. W., 647-343-5326, junkedfoodco.com

The Informer

Features

Comments

A Winter Hater’s Guide to Loving Winter: how to survive the season in style

The Winter Hater's Guide To Loving Winter

This is the era of the polar vortex. Winters are colder, storms are icier and the frost sticks around till May. You could hibernate for six months. Or move. Or stop whining and fall in love with winter in the city. There are dozens of ways to outfox, and even take pleasure in, the cold. Like getting drunk in a yurt, for instance. That, and 14 other secrets to having a ­deliriously happy winter, in the pages that follow.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Informer

Sports

Comments

Secrets to a Happy Toronto Winter: #6. Snowshoeing induces bliss

Secrets to a Happy Toronto Winter: #6. Snowshoeing induces bliss

(Image: iStock)

After the dot-com crash, Ted Cordina, a software consultant, turned his passion for kayak­ing and snowshoeing into an all-season touring outfit called Toronto Adventures. With his sons, Rosaire and Mathias, he now leads excursions as close as High Park and as far away as the Bruce. Our pick is bucolic Rouge Park, a 4,000-­hectare swath that straddles the ­Pickering-Scarborough border. The Cordinas accompany groups of 30 or so snowshoers for a three-hour tramp through deciduous forests and snow-covered fields. Deer and coyote tracks dot the snow, but you’re more likely to spy ­canopy-dwelling chickadees—the crunch and squeak of chitchatting snowshoers sends big game packing. Halfway through, the group gathers around two golden retrievers pulling a sled carrying hot chocolate. Weary trekkers can then head back with Ted, while the intrepid can opt to go the distance. ­Canadian-made Faber snowshoes are provided. $69. 416-536-2067, ­torontoadventures.ca.

The Informer

Sports

Comments

Secrets to a Happy Toronto Winter: #1. There’s a Game of Thrones–ish ice wall in Ancaster

The Winter Hater's Guide To Loving Winter: Secret No. 1

(Image: David Rees)

Stable rock formations and the sheer volume of frozen water make Ancaster’s 21-metre Tiffany Falls the only scaleable waterfall within an hour’s drive of the city. Last year the cascade froze in December, a month earlier than usual, and it remained secure well into March. Adventure Seeker Tours offers a six-hour introductory course for novices to learn how to tie into the rope, belay, and dig in their ­crampons while using an axe to hack up king-size ice stalactites. From the ground, the wall of ice looks daunting. But noobs are directed toward large flat sheets with fewer tricky spots, while adrenalin junkies can shimmy their way up narrow, steep stretches of obstacle-riddled ice. It takes about 30 minutes to reach the top, and the rewards are twofold: a stunning view of a cedar glen and the smug satisfaction of winning one over winter. Climbing gear provided. Beginner course $160. 416-898-3573, adventureseekertours.com.

The Dish

Food Shops

Comments

Bobbette and Belle’s new uptown shop is a dangerously pleasant place to hang out

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

The uptown outpost of Queen East bakery Bobbette and Belle looks like it was plucked straight from the pages of Architectural Digest. The decorative touches are charming: baskets filled with antique rolling pins, a wall bedecked with silver serving trays, and a teal Louis XIV sofa that begs to be reclined upon (regally, of course). Retirees and stroller-pushing parents sip Balzac’s coffee at a handful of marble bistro tables while others peruse the Victorian armoires lined with pretty packages of peanut brittle, chocolate-dipped marshmallows and English toffee. The counter is crammed with even more treats, including palm-sized fruit tarts, Instagram-ready cupcakes (pumpkin, lemon and red velvet, to name a few), and a rainbow-hued selection of delicate macarons. Your inner voice might urge you to stick with a sensible blueberry scone, but consider splurging on a slice of the intensely rich chocolate-hazelnut cake.

3347 Yonge St., 416-466-8800, bobbetteandbelle.com

The Dish

Openings

6 Comments

Introducing: Borealia, a new all-Canadian restaurant on the Ossington strip

Borealia

Borealia’s braised whelk. (Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Borealia (which was one of the alternative names proposed for Canada during confederation)
Contact Info: 59 Ossington Ave., 647-351-5100, borealiato.com
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Previously: Ardor Bistro
Owners: Evelyn Wu and Wayne Morris. The pair met while working at Waterfront Wines in British Columbia. They married last year.
Chefs: Morris, with sous chef Fabrizio DeCicco (previously of Bellwoods Brewery)

The Food: Borealia serves Canadian cuisine befitting its pre-confederation name. There’s no poutine, no tourtière, and no Nanaimo bars. “We were inspired by the immigrants that built Canada and how they tweaked their recipes to work with the indigenous plants,” says Wu. The restaurant’s whelk, a giant sea snail braised in a kombu beurre blanc and served on a soya-spiked bed of seaweed and burdock, blends French and Chinese cuisine. Other dishes on the menu draw from antique French, British and Chinese recipes, some of which date all the way back to Queen Elizabeth I’s reign. The oldest dish on the menu is the pemmican, once a high-calorie staple for First Nations people and, later, Arctic explorers. Instead of a fatty wad of powdered meat mixed with dried fruit, Morris reimagines the dish as a pretty plate of bison bresaola topped with shaved lardo and juniper-pickled blueberries.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Restaurants

Comments

Eat your way through Islamic history at the Aga Khan Museum’s restaurant, Diwan

An open-faced prawn kati roll, with paratha-and-egg omelette, tamarind prawns, tomato and chopped onion ($16). (Image: Caroline Aksich)

An open-faced prawn kati roll, with paratha-and-egg omelette, tamarind prawns, tomato and chopped onion ($16). (Image: Caroline Aksich)

The new Aga Khan Museum, housed in an unapologetically modern building designed by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, isn’t without a few historical nods. There are the traditional Islamic motifs on the museum’s patterned glass and, of course, its host of medieval Islamic artifacts—but the theme even extends to the in-house restaurant, Diwan (Persian for “meeting place”), which is decorated with centuries-old doors and panels from Damascus. Chef Patrick Riley (previously of Far Niente and Perigee) executes a pan-Islamic menu meant to complement the museum’s collection. Among the dishes are specialities from across the Islamic world, including items from Iran, Turkey, North Africa and India. “We’re currently working on version 2.0 of the menu,” says sous-chef Walid El-Tawel. “We want to showcase traditional flavours, while modernizing the dishes.” For one thing, the lamb tagine, usually cooked in clay, will be getting sous-vide treatment instead. Diwan will start serving dinners today, December 2.

77 Wynford Drive, agakhanmuseum.org/dine, 416-646-4670

The Informer

Real Estate

5 Comments

The Chase: a lawyer’s search for a fixer-upper she could grow into

The Chase: a lawyer’s search for a fixer-upper she could grow intoThe buyer: Heather Spence, a 31-year-old partner at Mass Tsang, a criminal defence firm.

The story: The story: In 2008, while Spence was attending Osgoode Hall Law School, she squeezed into a 400-square-foot Annex rental. Six years later, she’d paid off some loans, made partner at her firm and felt ready to take the ownership plunge. Condos held no ­attraction—she knew too many people who had bought units and then quickly outgrown them. If she decided to have kids someday, she didn’t need the hassle, or expense, of moving again. She got approved for a $510,000 mortgage and started the search for a fixer-upper somewhere between Queen and Dupont, from St. George to Dufferin. She was willing to consider any house, as long as it wasn’t about to be condemned, and she still had to up her ante to get into the game. Even $556,000, she discovered, wasn’t enough to make her a bidding-war contender.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Food Shops

1 Comment

Love popcorn? Try 100 flavours at Kensington’s new kernel shop

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Everyone’s favourite movie snack is the main attraction at Toronto Popcorn Company, a new shop that recently opened on the edge of Kensington Market. Husband-and-wife team Joseph and Caramhel Villegas produce an astounding 100 flavours of popcorn, 35 of which are available for sampling on any given day. Traditionalists will veer toward familiar options like salt-and-vinegar, cheddar, caramel and ketchup, while sweet tooths may appreciate the cornucopia of fruit flavours (banana, black cherry, strawberry and watermelon, to name a few). Some of the flavour profiles are surprisingly realistic—like the pizza popcorn, which is convincingly cheesy and has a great oregano bite. Mixing and matching is strongly encouraged. (We recommend blending Buffalo corn with caramel—it’s basically Chicago Mix on steroids.)

147 Baldwin St., torontopopcorncompany.com

The Dish

Restaurants

3 Comments

Snack on cones of crispy Belgian frites at Kensington’s new fry shop

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

At Moo Frites, Kensington’s new Belgian fry shop, snackers can dip perfectly crisp, thick-cut frites into a remarkable number of sauces—18, to be exact. The dipping options include traditional Dutch dressings, like the curry-based joppie, as well as some pretty out-there flavours, like pumpkin spice, peanut sauce and tandoori. Owner Ambrose Lee was on a solo trek across Europe when he fell in love with Belgian frites. When he returned to Toronto, he left his marketing job to open up this eight-seat eatery. “You wouldn’t believe the amount of research I read about frying potatoes,” says Lee, whose five-step frites are fried, frozen (to break down the water molecules) and then fried again before hitting the paper cone. For an extra dollar, you can opt to have your fries fried in beef tallow—hence the restaurant’s name. And Lee isn’t done experimenting. He’s currently developing a line of specialty dishes, like the “Japo Frites”: a cone of fries topped with wasabi mayo, seaweed and seasame seeds. $4–8

178 Baldwin St., facebook.com

The Dish

Openings

Comments

Introducing: NAO, a new Asian steakhouse on Avenue Road from Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: NAO (an acronym for “New and Old”)
Neighbourhood: Yorkville
Contact Info: 90 Avenue Rd., 416-367-4141, naosteakhouse.com
Owners: Charles Khabouth, Hanif Harji, Stuart Cameron and Tim Foley
Chefs: Stuart Cameron (also the exec chef at Patria, Weslodge and Byblos) and chef de cuisine Andrew Bradford.

The Food: The Asian-American fusion trend finds full expression in this plush new steakhouse from restaurant impresarios Charles Khabouth and Hanif Harji. NAO offers some caveman-sized cuts of beef—including a 64-ounce rib steak that’s carved tableside—but it’s not just a boys’ club. “We wanted NAO to be female-friendly,” says Kabbouth. Lighter options (salads, tartare) are punched up with predominantly Japanese flavourings, like miso, yuzu, ponzu and “Bull-Dog” sauce, a sweet and savoury Japanese condiment. (NAO makes its own version in-house.) Cameron spent months researching and sourcing the very best of everything, including fresh wasabi from B.C., Wagyu beef from Japan and bamboo barrel–aged finishing salt from South Korea.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Dish

Openings

Comments

Introducing: Buna’s Kitchen, a homey new lunch counter in the Entertainment District

(Image: Caroline Aksich)

Name: Buna’s Kitchen
Neighbourhood: Entertainment District
Contact Info: 388 Richmond St. W., Unit 5B, 647-342-5506, facebook.com
Previously: Sido Shwarma
Chefs/Owners: George Brown alums Grace An and Taylor Heon met in culinary school and opened a catering company together, Food Parade, before going the brick-and-mortar route with Buna’s.

The Food: Owners An and Heon are determined to bring old-fashioned home cooking to the downtown core. (Buna is Hungarian for “grandma”). The short menu includes sandwiches (pulled pork, duck confit), poutines and salads, plus a daily changing pasta special. On one visit, it’s bolognese; on the next, it’s fettuccine in a simple marinara sauce.

Read the rest of this entry »