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Drinks

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Kiwi Coolers: six bottles from New Zealand best sipped on summer nights

New Zealand’s moderate maritime climate produces refreshing wines made for summer sipping

kiwi-coolers

New Zealand has more than 700 wineries growing diverse grape varieties, and it’s delivering an impressive output: excellent rieslings, pinots grises, gewürztraminers, pinots noirs, merlots, cabs and syrahs. The renowned sauvignons blancs from the Marlborough region still dominate the LCBO shelves, but new producers and modern styles are making inroads. Here are the best of the Kiwi bottles available in Ontario, all of which showcase typical fruit purity, freshness and precision. They’re what I reach for on warm summer nights.

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Restaurants

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Patrick Kriss to bring refined dining to Queen and Spadina with Alo

(Image: Renée Suen)

Patrick Kriss at Alo’s pass (Image: Renée Suen)

Last November, ex-Acadia chef Patrick Kriss announced he was opening his own restaurant in Toronto. Alo is now slated to start serving guests at the end of July. For this project, Kriss has paired up with Amanda Bradley (George, and France’s Michelin-starred La Grenouillère) to bring refined but approachable dining to a city that’s seen its share of tacos and ramen. Housed two floors above Hero Burger at Queen and Spadina, Alo (which comes from the Latin for “nourish”) will bring a touch of class to the intersection but will still be “fun, not fussy and no tablecloths,” says Kriss.

The tasting menu–only spot will serve guests a selection of seasonal courses (with options available) prepared using French techniques, as well as a longer menu to the folks who manage to snag one of six kitchen-facing stools. Dessert will come courtesy of ex-Canoe pastry chef Cori Murphy, who most recently worked at Montreal’s Patrice Pâtissier. For those who don’t feel like committing to a tasting menu, Bar Alo, the restaurant’s 20-seat section manned by John Bunner (Byblos, Toronto Temperance Society), will serve shareable small plates inspired by the restaurant’s main dishes.

163 Spadina Ave., 3rd Fl., 416-260-2222, alorestaurant.com, @AloRestaurant

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Streeters

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“We’ve never even tried to go downtown”: food truck folk tell us what they think about the new bylaws

toronto-food-trucks-streeters

(Images: Kayla Rocca)

Toronto’s city council loosened its grip on food trucks last month, but truck owners are still locked in a turf war with traditional restaurateurs. Even though the recent bylaw changes increased the number of serving hours from three to five and decreased the mandatory buffer between a truck and a licensed eating establishment (which can include some gas stations, by the way) to 30 metres, some mobile restaurant owners believe that, while the change is good, there needs to be more. Here’s what 10 of them had to say.

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Closings

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Table 17 is set to close next month

(Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

(Image: Daniel Neuhaus)

After seven years of service, Table 17 is closing. The popular Riverside restaurant will serve its last meals on July 11. Owner Erik Joyal says his other spots, Ascari Enoteca and Hi-Lo Bar, will continue to operate, quenching Queen East’s thirst with Italian wine and craft beer, respectively. The closure fuels rumours that Joyal, along with business partner John Sinopoli, will be moving just a few doors down into the Broadview Hotel (once the home of Jilly’s). The revitalized strip club (which will look like this once Streetcar Developments is done with it) is expected to have a restaurant on the ground floor with a boutique hotel above, à la The Drake. Joyal says he’s unable to comment on what’s happening next, but he did say there’s a “very exciting new project for the future and we look forward to sharing our plans in the months to come.”

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Drinks

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Patio Guide 2015: this summer’s best new outdoor seats

(Image: Gabby Frank)

(Image: Gabby Frank)

After months of hibernating and sweater-wearing, Vitamin D–starved Torontonians can finally take to the streets (and backyards, and rooftops) to toast our seemingly shortest of seasons. And while it may still be illegal to crack a cold one in your neighbourhood park, there’s no shortage of spots in the city to sip something in the sun (or shade) this summer. In no particular order, here are 13 of this year’s best new patios:

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Restaurants

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Street Wise: how spots like Hanmoto and Lucky Red are bringing the pleasures of Asian street food indoors

Hanmoto restaurant interior

Stepping into tiny, industrial-chic Hanmoto (above) is like arriving at a Tokyo night market. Diners perch on stools and dig into deliciously messy dishes like pork belly sandwiched in a coco bun, spicy Dyno Wings and roasted salmon buried in miso-dressed slaw

LUCKY RED ★★
318 Spadina Ave., 416-792-8628

HANMOTO ★★★
2 Lakeview Ave., No phone
How our star system works »

There are two types of cities in the world: those with terrific street food and those without. For most of its life, Toronto, land of the boiled hot dog cart, has been without. No doner kebabs, huaraches, chicken ’n’ waffles, bhel puri, gruyère and ham crêpes, curry puffs, or octopus stews for us. City hall is downright hostile to food truck operators, who are required to pay $5,000 for a permit and park a minimum of 30 metres away from bricks-and-mortar restaurants, and then for only up to five hours a day. But matters are improving. We have summer street festivals like Night It Up (happening later next month), where 120 food and trinket vendors set up in a Markham parking lot, and you can try that peculiarly enrapturing Taiwanese oddity, stinky tofu. And a bunch of entrepreneurial Toronto chefs are opening restaurants that serve street food–style dishes indoors. Technically, anything you eat under a roof doesn’t count as street food, but I’d argue the term loosely applies when your meal doesn’t require utensils and you’re encouraged to use condiments—the spicier the better. Many of these street food restaurants only open for dinner and don’t really fill up until late—they’re adjuncts to the bar scene. You perch on a stool, which isn’t so terrible when you’re usually done and gone in under an hour. They serve the kind of stuff I crave in the moment, on a hot summer night.

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New Reviews

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Review: Kanpai, Cabbagetown’s new Taiwanese snack bar, is more of a rowdy pit stop than a dining destination

(Image: Gabby Frank)

(Image: Gabby Frank)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Kanpai 1 star
252 Carlton St., 416-968-6888
Kanpai 1 star
252 Carlton St., 416-968-6888

Cabbagetown’s new snack bar is more of a rowdy pit stop than a dining destination: pop in for $3 shots of Jameson, a healthy dose of Tupac and Biggie, and a few capable but forgettable Taiwanese bar snacks. From the long menu, zero in on pig’s ears, served in delicate cured strips and seasoned with chili oil; thick morsels of squid coated in a subtly sweet batter and fried to a perfect crisp; and chunks of chicken tossed with a fiery combination of scallions, green pepper, dried red chilies and Sichuan peppercorns. Vegetables are treated as an afterthought: the kung pao cauliflower is woefully under-seasoned, and the cumin-scented mushrooms are leathery. The OG bao is equally disappointing: the stale bun overwhelms the thin slices of overcooked five-spice pork. And on a recent visit, the much-hyped fried chicken was sold out by 7:30 p.m.

Have an opinion on Kanpai? Add your review here »

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New Reviews

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Review: Annette Food Market brings garlicky goodness and gluttonous wood-fired pies to the Junction

(Image: Gabby Frank)

(Image: Gabby Frank)

SEE ALL NEW REVIEWS
Annette Food Market 2 star
240 Annette St., 647-792-6963
Annette Food Market 2 star
240 Annette St., 647-792-6963

Two thousand Junction–High Park residents signed a petition to help the owners of this new red sauce restaurant obtain a liquor licence. The area’s freshly mortgaged couples, soccer parents and not-quite-retirees undoubtedly need an easy place to stop in for pizza and a glass of off-LCBO wine. In Annette Food Market, they have exactly that. The 24-seat room glows from the wood-burning oven, wafts garlic goodness and buzzes with neighbours bumping into each other. The sharing menu is highly affordable and if you stick to the house-made pastas, like the al dente porcini mushroom–pear ravioli in lickably rich sage brown butter, or the pizzas, which arrive on blackened crusts that slump under the weight of luxe toppings like sausage, sopressata, ’nduja and fior di latte (all on one gluttonous pie), you’ll likely leave happy and full. Venture off-carb, though, and you may end up with under-seasoned cauliflower accented by a few sad raisins and capers, burrata that chews like poutine curd, or berries macerated in white balsamic vinegar that give your panna cotta a briny twang. The tatted and suspendered staff is friendly enough, but long waits and wrong orders turn this night’s casual dinner into a three-hour test of Torontonian politeness.

Have an opinion on Annette Food Market? Add your review here »

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Food Events

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Taste of Toronto 2015: a sneak peek at some of the dishes being served at this year’s Fort York food fest

(Image: Renée Suen)

(Image: Renée Suen)

Taste of Toronto returns to Fort York this summer with another all-star line-up of culinary heavyweights. Besides the food (including three creations from Masaharu Morimoto, who’s opening his first Canadian restaurant in Toronto later this year), there’ll be master classes with some of the city’s top chefs, a tasting room hosted by Charlie’s Burger’s Franco Stalteri, an open-air market with over 60 vendors and the Chef’s Table—a Q&A session with chefs and other food folk. Guests can look forward to a selection of dishes from 20 of the city’s restaurants, all priced between six and 10 “crowns” (the official currency accepted at the festival, and just a fun way to say “dollars”). We visited half of the kitchens to see what some of the participants will be dishing up.

$19 and up. July 2-5, Fort York, 100 Garrison Rd., tasteoftoronto.com

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Restaurants

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Marben’s Rob Bragagnolo to open Carver, a full-service sandwich spot

toronto-restaurants-carver-rob-bragagnolo
The city has plenty of sandwich options, but can you ever have too much of a good thing? Marben’s executive chef, Rob Bragagnolo, is opening his own spot dedicated to the much-loved lunch staple. Carver is scheduled to open later this year in an (as yet) undisclosed downtown location. The full-service restaurant will specialize in sandwiches made with slow-roasted meat. “All of our menu items will feature the incredible ingredients being cultivated and raised on small, family run, local Ontario farms that put a ton of hard work and passion into traditional, natural and responsible farming,” says Bragagnolo. Some of those menu items: Haldimand County beef, Duroc pork and Porchetta 1924. The “1924” refers to the year Bragagnolo’s grandfather Angelo Zizzola opened his first trattoria in Veneto, Italy. “He became famous for his slow-roasted meats and a legendary dessert called “La Fregolotta.” Taste of Toronto attendees will have a chance to sample some of Carver’s sammies during the festival’s lunch session on July 5 at Fort York.

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Openings

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Introducing: A3 Napoli, the Pizzeria Libretto and Porchetta & Co. project in Little Italy

toronto-restaurants-a3-napoli-little-italy-lead

(Image: Renée Suen)

Name: A3 Napoli Pizzeria e Friggitoria
Neighbourhood: Little Italy
Contact: 589 College St., a3napoli.com, @A3Napoli
Owners: Libretto Restaurant Group and Nick auf der Mauer
Chefs: Rocco Agostino (Pizzeria Libretto) and Nick auf der Mauer (Porchetta & Co.)

The Food: Quick-service Neapolitan snacks split up into three categories: VPN-certified, wood-fired pies (à la Libretto); pizza fritta (stuffed and fried panzerotti-like pizzas); and seasonal fritti misti (fried bites including arancini, meatballs, zucchini sticks, and frittatina—fried cubes of pasta held together by provola cheese and ham). Just like at Libretto, there’s a Stefano Ferraro oven pumping out the pizza, but it’s kept company by a friggitrice (that’s a fryer, folks) for everything else. Eat in, or get your fried dough to go.

The Drinks: There’s Peroni beer on tap, as well as Capo, the restaurant’s signature brew, made by Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery. Wine-drinkers have the choice between Fielding Estate’s unoaked chardonnay and its fireside red.

The Place: Named after the unfinished Italian highway that leads into the centre of Naples, the 32-seat room has an Autostrada rest-stop feel, with its exposed bricks, black and white subway tiles and strings of incandescent lightbulbs. Additional seating is available on the small backyard and street-side patios.

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How-To

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How The Stop makes hundreds of restaurant-quality meals a day on the cheap

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

(Image: Giordano Ciampini)

Running a restaurant is no easy task. Now imagine trying to do it with a staff composed entirely of volunteers, a menu that changes based on produce donated the night before, a budget of $2 per plate and a mere three hours to churn out 200 meals. It might sound near-impossible, but for Scott MacNeil, the head chef at The Stop’s Davenport Road community kitchen, it’s all just part of a day’s work. “I love to cook and I love to feed people,” he says. A tremendous amount of thought and effort (not to mention donations) go into producing the 59,400 nutritious and delicious meals the drop-in serves each year, for free, to people who would otherwise go without. Here’s a glimpse into how they do it.

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Restaurants

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Reasons to Love Toronto Now: because Halal is coming to Yorkville

(Image: Gabby Frank)

(Image: Gabby Frank)

Between club king Charles Khabouth opening his swish steak house NAO, Rob Gentile launching his seafood-focused Buca, and The Chase group bringing their modern Japanese restaurant Kasa Moto to the former Remy’s location, Yorkville is in the midst of a culinary makeover. Now Paramount Fine Foods, the casual Lebanese eatery and bakery with 15 restaurants throughout southern Ontario (two of them at Pearson Airport), is set to open in the old Perry’s clothiers on Bay Street next door to Pusateri’s. Yorkville residents can nibble on thoroughly affordable manakeesh, halal chicken shawarma or freshly baked baklava—a welcome addition to pricy pastas and rib-eyes.

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Foodie Find

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Reasons to Love Toronto Now: because home cooking has never been easier

(Image: Michelle Iceruk)

(Image: Michelle Iceruk)

Torontonians love to call themselves foodies, but finding time to cook from scratch five days a week? Sure, we’ll get to that right after we darn these socks. Companies like Fresh Canteen and Chef’s Plate deliver super-convenient meal kits with pre-portioned ingredients and instructions, so even a kitchen klutz can have dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. Fresh City Farms, an organic grocery delivery service, is the latest (and best) entrant. It partners with local purveyors of seasonal produce and organic meat, and puts together simple recipes like lemon pork chops with kale fried rice, or tofu and broccoli pad Thai. The meals are thoroughly delicious, if a little pricy (about $10 per plate) and a godsend for time-strapped, condo-dwelling professionals who’d rather use their pantry to store winter sweaters.

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Random Stuff

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Reasons to Love Toronto Now: because we can rent chickens

(Image: Getty Images)

(Image: Getty Images)

The bucolic Stoddart Family Farm in Kawartha Lakes raises hens destined for city living. They’ve partnered with Rent the Chicken, a Pennsylvania-based company that connects boutique farms with urbanites enamored of the local food movement and dreaming of backyard-fresh eggs. The company provides a portable coop, food, supplies and two (or four) laying hens—fancy breeds like Columbian Wyandotte, Barred Rock and the quizzically named Black Sex Link—for the summer months, then returns the chickens to the farm in October. Rent the Chicken launched its Toronto service earlier this year, and although the city doesn’t officially allow people to keep backyard hens or roosters, inspectors turn a blind eye unless neighbours complain (usually about the smell—coops should be cleaned, and fresh straw laid, twice a week). A happy hen will lay up to six eggs per week, which will keep her foster parents flush in fluffy scrambles. It’s all the fun of gentleman farming without the long-term commitment.

From $375. 647-313-3997, rentthechicken.ca.