This summer, Avocados from Mexico is going on tour to offer Canadians a free sampling of healthy and delicious avocado-based snacks! The Avocatour will offer nutritious street food and a variety of recipes as surprising as they are tasty. Whether you’re out with friends or family and whether your taste runs to sweet or savoury, come visit the Avocart and discover the avocado in all its splendour!
The latest buzz on restaurants, chefs, bars, food shops and food events. Sign up for the Dish newsletter for weekly updates. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org
For the second year in a row, Drake One Fifty and Momofuku (with help from Pizzeria Libretto, Richmond Station and Thoroughbred) will transform some not-so-green space downtown into a night market every Tuesday evening for the month of August. Starting August 4, the financial district restaurants will take over the York Street parkette between Richmond and Adelaide, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., for Twilight Tuesdays. Attendees can expect street food snacks (bo ssäm plates, sandwiches filled with sliced-to-order slow-roasted pork shoulder), frozen treats (slushies, soft serve ice cream) and entertainment by local artists. The Drake General Store will also have a booth set up, because what would a night market be without an oddball impulse purchase or two? While there’s no admission fee, tickets ($5 each) can be purchased at the event and each is redeemable for one food or drink item. Twenty per cent of all ticket sales will be donated to the Out of the Cold program at St. Andrew’s Church. Last year, Twilight Tuesdays raised $9,000 which helped to purchase more than 1,600 meals for those in need.
“Hallo,” reads the neon sign that greets patrons at Otto’s Berlin Döner in Kensington Market. The new 33-seat spot serves up the kind of late-night snacks that fuel German techno-heads, namely döners (not totally unlike our own donair) and currywurst, a poutine-like dish (with its own museum) where fries are topped with sausage and spiced ketchup. Collectively, co-owners Nancy Chen, Konrad Droeske, Matt Eckensweiler and Thomas Masmejean have zero restaurant experience—the quartet is the force behind underground dance parties Mansion and Foundry. Luckily, ex-Auberge du Pommier chef Steven Nguyen is in charge of the food. The team originally wanted to open a Berlin-style club in Toronto, but when red tape got in the way, they settled for opening a restaurant. The party goes well past when other kitchens have closed—the place is open until 3:30 a.m. on weekends—and there are nine German brews on offer, including a black ale called Köstritzer Schwarzbier from a 472-year-old brewery. Head down to the washrooms for a taste of Kreuzberg’s party scene: inside each stall is a glowing, novelty-sized button that, when pressed, transforms der waschraum into das club, complete with flashing lights and throbbing music.
Block Party: Corktown has sprouted street life, and a bona fide dining scene, thanks to the Pan Am Games
You can tell a lot about a neighbourhood from its pastry. My obsession of the moment is the mille crêpe cake at Roselle Desserts, on King just east of Parliament. Stephanie Duong, Roselle’s pastry chef, achieves near perfection in her rendition of the French classic. She layers 20 crêpes with vanilla custard, then brûlées sugar over top. It’s not too sweet and surprisingly light, a harmonious state somewhere between pastry and cake. It’s so labour-intensive and fragile that Duong currently only sells it on weekends, and then only in limited quantities.
Read the rest of this entry »
Read the rest of this entry »
Introducing: Rose and Sons Swan, the Queen West diner with a new lease on life courtesy of Anthony Rose
Name: Rose and Sons Swan
Neighbourhood: Trinity Bellwoods
Contact: 892 Queen St. W., 647-348-7926, roseandsonswan.com, @roseandsonsswan
Owner: Anthony Rose (Rose and Sons, Big Crow, Fat Pasha, Schmaltz Appetizing)
Chef: Sonia Marwick (Fat Pasha)
The Food: A menu inspired by Rose’s chef-school years in San Francisco and the five years he spent cooking in Cali. “California cuisine is a very loose title,” says Rose. “What it really means is that it’s just good simple food—not doing a lot to it and using a lot of interesting, good, local purveyors.” So while you might find Frito Pie at Big Crow, the dishes at Swan are on the lighter, fresher side and veggies play a bigger role. (To chef Sonia’s chagrin, Rose has given her a new nickname: Swan-ia.)
The Drinks: Four signature cocktails, a selection of bottled and canned beer and a fairly long wine list featuring more than just California grapes.
The Space: “It looks like it did before, but different,” says Rose, who was in Mexico on a yoga retreat when the Queen West diner went out of business. “I wasn’t supposed to be checking my email, but I did and saw that Swan had closed. By the time I got here I was like 30th in line—everyone in the city had looked at this place.” Refurbished booths, a record player, some flash art by local graffiti artists and a lone surfboard distinguish this version of Swan from the previous one. And there’s a park-facing patio in the back now, which Rose says is perfect for white squirrel sightings.
Gord Hannah’s Art of the Shot
Bartender Gord Hannah has been leading the Drake Hotel’s hospitality team for more than a decade. He sat down to talk about Toronto’s cocktail revolution, the Drake’s endless reinvention, and that time he got snowed in at a ski lodge with a beautiful bartender and some Jäger.
Name: WindUp Restaurant
Contact: 382 College St., 647-349-6373, winduprestaurant.ca, @eatdrinkwindup
Previously: Wind Up Bird
Owner: Whitney Knowles and Bryan Birch (both Barque alumni)
Chefs: Bryan Birch (Barque, North 44) and Ryan Graham (Tutti Matti)
The Food: “This is a Toronto version of a Caribbean restaurant,” explains Birch, who has taken Jamaican and Trinidadian favourites and infused them with global flavours. Salt cod fritters, for example, are married with Canadian (bacon foam) and Moroccan (preserved lemon) elements. In an homage to the city’s never-ending taco obsession, the curried goat roti is served open-faced and topped with cilantro and pickled mango. The rest of the menu is rounded out with more traditional Caribbean eats (jerk chicken, ackee and saltfish) plus a smattering of international plates (falafel lettuce wrap, sesame-crusted salmon with lotus root, pulled pork tostadas). The brunch menu includes an oxtail benny served on a coconut bake, which might make for a good post-parade hangover cure come Caribana.
The Drinks: A short wine list made up of new world bottles, but all available by the glass; classic cocktails (dark ‘n’ stormy, rum punch, negroni) and daily specials (like a grilled pineapple mojito); and a selection of craft beer, the majority of which are local brews—with the exception of Red Stripe, of course.
The Place: Birch and Knowles kept the previous restaurant’s name so they wouldn’t need to apply for any new licenses. The 30-seat room is minimalist in design, but warmed up with wood features like a cedar wall, saloon doors and a black walnut bar (with stools designed by Marco Pecota of the Junction’s Pekota). A patio accommodates up to 40 street-side diners and drinkers.
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Contact: 163 Spadina Ave., 3rd floor., 416-260-2222, alorestaurant.com, @AloRestaurant
Owner: Patrick Kriss (Acadia, Splendido) and Amanda Bradley (George, La Grenouillere)
Chefs: Patrick Kriss, Matthew Betsch (Eleven Madison Park, Splendido) and Nick Bentley (Acadia, Splendido, Canoe)
Pastry chef: Cori Murphy (Patrice Pâtissiere, Canoe)
The Food: The tasting menu–only restaurant offers an evolving five-course menu (with options) composed of seasonal dishes made with Canadian ingredients, but prepared using French techniques. The bar offers casual snacks including homemade soft pretzels, crudités (fancy raw veggies) on ice and bite-sized pâte à choux pastries piped full of caramel and vanilla Chantilly. Later this summer, a long-format tasting menu will be available for those who snag seats at the kitchen counter.
The Drinks: Sommelier Anjana Viswanatha (Canoe, Luma) has designed a menu featuring wines from small producers, with special attention paid to biodynamic and natural selections (including many by-the-glass options). Bartender John Bunner (Byblos, Yours Truly) serves his takes on traditional cocktails and even has a couple bottled concoctions for sharing.
The Place: Commute Design (Byblos, Little Sister, Patria and The Ritz) was responsible for transforming the 2,800-square-foot space that takes up the top floor of the Victorian building, previously home to a modelling agency. Windows of the polished (but tablecloth-free) restaurant look out to Spadina and Queen West. The building itself is looking much better than it did in the ’80s.
The allure of street food is authenticity and adventure on a plate, with heaping portions, for the price of TTC fare back home. At Little Italy’s Soi Thai, servers recommend two dishes per diner, and that’s conservative, as are the portions. But one could roam the streets of Bangkok for days without finding flavours as rewarding as those racing through the phak bung fai dang, a standout stir-fry of morning glory, garlic and Thai chilies in an umami-rich soy and oyster sauce broth, made in-house by Nopphawan Papa. There’s no pad Thai or curry here: heartier fare includes a tin dish of earthy ground pork threaded with basil and thickened with two runny eggs, best paired with sticky rice from a wicker steam basket. A mound of salmon ceviche dusted with chili flakes and whole mint leaves cools some of the burn from a fiery papaya salad, which is all heat but little of the sweetness that typically balances the Thai staple. The playful decor matches Soi Thai’s ambition to resemble a refuge one discovers unexpectedly, with an assortment of Thai sundries lining the front of the bar and colourful plastic stools beneath tables that are at their most welcoming when topped with frosted mugs of Singha for a backpacker-friendly $5.50. World traveller or not, this soi (Thai for small alley) is a happy one to stumble upon.
Name: Miss Thing’s
Contact: 1279 Queen St. W., 416-516-8677, missthings.com, @missthingsbar
Owner: Nav Sangha
Chefs: Jasper Wu (Bent) and Paul Hadian (Momofuku)
The Food: Polynesian and Hawaiian cuisine, but with tweaks: the Loco Moco, for instance, takes the traditional Hawaiian plate lunch and switches out the beef patty and brown gravy for flank steak and house-made A1 sauce. Spam comes in the form of pintxos, and fried rice is hit with pineapple and pork belly. “We haven’t even touched on Bora Bora or French Polynesia,” says Sangha. “That’ll be in the fall when things get a little more rich and creamy.”
The Drinks: Wine and beer are available, but it’s the cocktail program that steals the show. Bar manager Reed Pettit (Miller Tavern) mixes up drinks with tropical twists, influenced, says Sangha, by the cocktails borne from pan-Asian tourist culture—but not as syrupy sweet or electric blue. And while one drink is served in a hollowed-out coconut (the bar’s take on a piña colada, of course), none are meant to be sipped from novelty tiki mugs.
The Space: It’s unsurprisingly brighter, airier and more grown up than its former Wrongbar self. Pink and gold floral murals are painted on turquoise walls, and hanging from the ceiling, unique gramophone horn light fixtures designed by Toronto-based Milke Bau look like brassy flowers in bloom. Miss Thing’s Coconut Room, which is available for events and private parties (disco ball included) and will also host the occasional live show, is in a separate area behind the restaurant.
Toronto’s love affair with Asian-American fusion isn’t fading: joining the ranks of DaiLo, Patois and R&D is Dac Biet, a pan-Asian burger joint with a Vietnamese name. Dac Biet means “special,” or in this case, “combo with everything.” The burgers at the small spot (previously home to Sam’s Philly Cheesesteak) are loaded with Asian toppings like kimchi, char siu (barbecue pork), house-pickled daikon and more. All of the six stacks on offer start with the same base—a griddled five-ounce patty of freshly ground sirloin, brisket and chuck on a chewy Ace bun—before getting a Vietnamese, Chinese or Korean makeover. The Banh Mi Burger, for example, tops a beef patty with lemongrass pork, pickled daikon and carrot, cilantro, cucumber and mayo. The Korean contender, called the Kalbi Burger (pictured above), comes crowned with kimchi and slathered in a Korean barbecue–flavoured sauce. Fries come topped with kimchi, pulled pork and wasabi mayo, and even the joint’s poutine gets a twist: the Quebecois staple might look familiar, but the gravy’s spiked with pho jus.
Bay Street office-dwellers have a new 6,500-square-foot supermarket to forage in: gourmet grocer McEwan, owned by you-know-who, has opened an outpost in the PATH, beneath the TD Centre. As at McEwan’s Shops at Don Mills flagship, shoppers can pick up fresh produce and premium pantry items, and there’s also a coffee bar with pastries and doughnuts, a soup and panini station, a salad bar and a 32-foot-long hot table that includes an extensive selection of curries, many of them meatless. A food truck–inspired menu features twists on popular treats like poutine, tacos and banh mi. Short-on-time commuters might appreciate the selection of oven-ready meals (like Thai shrimp curry and lobster ravioli) and there’s also a takeaway cake counter, display cases filled with Laura Slack chocolates and even an on-site florist for any last-minute hostess gifts (or heartfelt apologies).
66 Wellington St., Toronto Dominion Centre.
The bucolic Prince Edward County hotel and restaurant imports cool touches from Queen West, and chef Matt DeMille’s menu makes the most of the local larder. To start, succulent confit duck wings have a craggy caramelized shell, and shrimp crudo is bright with Quebec canola oil and the briny pop of elderberry capers. Seared local pickerel is buttery and juicy, lifted by a minty salsa verde and fresh fava beans. It pairs brilliantly with an unoaked chardonnay from area producer Rosehill Run (it’s one of many county wines on offer). A sweet cream ice cream, stewed rhubarb and crisp streusel sundae makes for a gorgeous, summery finish—but so do s’mores by the firepit on the deck that stretches nearly to the shoreline of the gently lapping lake.
Little Portugal’s popular sandwich and cocktail spot didn’t stay closed for long: This End Up will reopen on July 17…sort of. Shortly after the Dundas West favourite left the scene last March, it was announced that chef Deron Engbers and the Monarch Tavern’s Michael Dorbyk would take over the space to open something called This and That. According to This End Up’s co-owner Karen Young, that deal “did not end up seeing the light of day.” The restaurant’s new incarnation will no longer offer the much-loved Big Mac pretender, the Better Mac, but will host a rotating cast of chefs (some established and some up and coming) to showcase their culinary creations. On nights when pop-ups aren’t planned, bar snacks from Charlotte Langley’s Scout Canning and local fermenting folks Mighty Fine Brine will be served. Options on the current menu range from light snacking fare (chips with a medley of dips) to more substantial nosh (a beef bulgogi ssam spiked with strawberry-chili paste). For now, This End Up 2.0 is open from Friday to Tuesday and will be a strictly nocturnal affair (sorry, brunch fans).