November 13, 2010

Harvest Menu @ Canyon Creek

I love the impeccable service that I get at Canyon Creek. We always order one entree to split but the servers are so gracious about it. They also have one of my favourite breads from chain restaurants- multigrain served with honey butter. I love honey butter and I always can't resist eating a lot of bread whenever I'm here.
Harvest Garden Side Salad: A toss of crisp romaine, iceberg, baby lettuce, ripe tomato and homemade croutons with honey mustard dressing. This was our side and the kitchen kindly gave us double servings of it because my mom and I were splitting an entree. It's a nice way to get some vegetables into the meal and the honey mustard dressing was delicious. I also really enjoyed the garlic croutons!
Next to the Keg, Canyon Creek is my go-to chain restaurant for steak and they almost always make it really well. Because I'm not that familiar with steak cuts, I always want to experiment with new ones and try to decipher the differences. This time, I opted for the Chicago-cut Striploin: 10 oz, 2-inch thick steak, brushed with butter and served with Cabernet roasted garlic jus and crisp onion straws. The crispy onion straws were predictably awesome, but I think I believe the more tender filet mignon or prime rib to this cut. We also packed the entire baked potato home untouched, hahaha!
From their limited time harvest menu, I decided to try the Harvest Pumpkin Cheesecake: Topped with cranberry compote, candied walnuts, and finished with Muskoka Iroquois kiln dried cranberries. I asked the server how strong was the pumpkin flavour, because my mom is not a fan of pumpkins. He replied "very very light". It was "very very light" indeed, so light that I can't even taste any pumpkin. It might be more correct to name it a cinnamon cheesecake, because that's what I tasted. Nevertheless, it was absolutely delicious, particularly when paired with the cranberry compote. The sourness of the cranberries countered the sweetness of the cake, and the texture was perfectly creamy without being too thick. This was not the kind of extremely cheesy cheesecakes that my mom adores, but I really loved this cake. I was very sad that this was a seasonal item, and I hope Canyon Creek will offer this again in the future.
Canyon Creek Chophouse on Urbanspoon

November 10, 2010

Cora's in Scarborough

Finally, my favourite brunch spot has opened a location in Scarborough! And since it was near Halloween, there was a festive fruit figurine beside the open kitchen. Kinda cute, but scary at the same time!
I really really really love the Eggs Ben et Dictine with Ham: Two poached eggs on ham and an English muffin covered with Hollandaise sauce, served with roasted potatoes and fresh fruit. I really should explore other items on the menu, but I'm just so in love with this. I love how Cora's always give you a plateful of fruits to accompany the dish! But since I eat so much fruits at home, I always just eat the sweet ones. On this occasion, the banana, strawberry, orange and melon all made the cut.
The Nutella and Banana crepe was huge! and very filling. The combination of nutella and banana is a sure winner, but of course, this tasted more like dessert than brunch. I definitely would not order this on my own. A quarter of this was enough to satisfy me.

November 7, 2010

South of Temperance

South of Temperance is located, well, quite literally, south of Temperance street. This place opened not long ago and because my other dinner option was closed on a Saturday night, I figured I'd give this place a try. I wished I had the chance to come here at lunch, because half of the restaurant had a sky roof, and it would have been really nice and bright during the day. With concrete floors and exposed ceilings, the place had an upscale, industrial decor. The wooden-paneled wall added a splash of warmth to the overall ambiance.
Lobster Mac n' Cheese: Lobster, shrimp, aged cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan. At $26, I felt that this was completely overpriced! I had expected the lobster flavour to be infused with the cheesy sauce. Instead, they slabbed on generous chunks of lobster meat on top of a rather ordinary Mac n' Cheese. It was somewhat underwhelming, and the lobster didn't blow me away. I was pretty disappointed with how this dish turned out.
The Slow Braised Short Rib Panini was much more satisying. With caramelized onions, aged cheddar and horseradish aioli, my sandwich also comes with my favourite sweet potato fries at no extra charge! The horseradish aioli gave a nice punch of flavour to the succulent, melt-in-your-mouth tender short rib. The addition of caramelized onions was much welcomed. Although I loved the perfectly salted sweet potato fries, I ate too much and got sick from it later in the night.
I couldn't resist ordering my favourite Cheesecake with Mixed Berries, Cassis (French for blackcurrant). Creamy and delectable, the cake was light enough that I could finish most of this by myself. I really enjoyed the accompanying blackcurrant sauce as well. It was the perfect dessert to end the meal.
South of Temperence on Urbanspoon

November 4, 2010

Cheesecake Factory @ Buffalo

Any trip to buffalo is incomplete without a meal at Cheesecake Factory. Possibly one of my favourite American chain restaurant, this place offers a diverse menu at reasonable prices. I've also been quite impressed with the quality of the food. And of course, the biggest draw for me is the cheesecake, which I really cannot get enough of.
The other thing that I can't get enough of from Cheesecake Factory: pumpernickel bread. My first experience sampling this bread was at this restaurant, and ever since then, I always look forward to it every time I come. Nothing satisfies me more than warm and delicious bread served with butter. The pumpkin seed garnish added a great crunch to this wonderful start of my meal.
The description of The Navajo really enticed me: Warm Fry-Bread Stuffed with Grilled Chicken, Avocado, Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion and Mayonnaise. My undying obsession with sandwiches compelled me to order this sandwich. After all, I've never had one with fried bread (yes I know it's unhealthy)! To balance it out a little, we got it with a side green salad, drizzled with a simple balsamic vinaigrette.
I really enjoyed the combination of the stuffing, particularly the avocado and onions. However, I found the grilled chicken to be a little bland in flavour, although it had an incredible smoky aroma. Overall, the sandwich was still good, and I liked the textural contrast of the various components. The fry-bread was very tasty and also quite filling. As always whenever I'm dining with my mom, we have to pack half of this home. 
Why is there another picture of the bread? Because I ordered more! The wonderful server was kind enough to bring me double the amount when I asked for more bread. And yes, I also packed most of it home (too much bread in one day!).
Now, it's time for dessert! Look at the selection of all the yummy cheesecakes! I wish I could sample it all!
In the end, we chose the White Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut Cheesecake: White Chocolate Chunk Cheesecake Swirled with Macadamia Nuts and Caramel on a Blond Brownie Crust. This is not surprising, of course, as I love everything that's in it! The cheesecake was absolutely to die for, as always! One small complaint is that there were too many macadamia nuts! We didn't pack half of this home (haha), but we did order another one to go to enjoy the next day (we got our favourite- the wild blueberry white chocolate cheesecake)! I must, once again, commend our server for the amazing service. He noticed that I picked out most of the whipped cream, and took note to omit for the take-home cheesecake. How thoughtful.
Cheesecake Factory on Urbanspoon

November 3, 2010

The Left Bank @ Buffalo

I confess: I am obsessed. Ever since my first experience at the Left Bank last Christmas, I've been dreaming about this place. A lot. Maybe a bit too much, but I can't help it. So on my way back from Chicago, I was crazy enough to take a two hour detour to Buffalo in order to eat here. Of course, the opportunity to shop a bit doesn't hurt either.
The place has a wonderfully charming ambiance. The exposed brick walls and candlelit tables evoke a great sense of rustic elegance. I also recall that they also had a glamorous Christmas tree for the holidays, but sadly, I idiotically left my camera at home that time. The restaurant itself is actually quite small, and can only accommodate a limited number of customers, so reservations are a must.
The first time I was here, we got seated at a table for two, so it was really tiny and barely had enough room for all our food, utensils and cutlery. This time, we lucked out and got a bigger table! Little things like that just make my dining experience even better!
First up, we have, as usual, some bread to start. It wasn't anything remarkable, perhaps even a little too cold for my liking, but the roasted red pepper oil for dipping was absolutely amazing! Flavourful and aromatic, the oil was a perfect complement to the plain bread. I had a lot of trouble stopping myself from eating all the bread because of it.
 Moving on the appetizer- fried oysters with tomato-corn and jalapeno salsa and creole remoulade. This was delectable! I love deep fried oyster, but this is definitely one of the best ones that I've had. I loved how that wasn't an overwhelming amount of batter, which made the oyster felt a lot lighter. The accompanying salsa was light and refreshing, and I loved the addition of the sweet corn, which nicely balanced out the heaviness of the fried oyster. And lastly, the creole remoulade was just to die for! Creamy and rich, it was so unbelievably scrumptious with the oyster that I had a strong urge to lick the plate clean...
...not that there was anything left to lick!
The Left Bank has a daily ravioli feature. Today's was filled with roasted pork tenderloin, banana peppers, and mixed cheeses, topped with a tomato cream sauce. What arrived was the biggest single piece of ravioli that I've ever seen in my life! The flavour of this was reminiscent of lasagna (which I love). I'm not a big fan of pork tenderloin in pasta, but there is something so comforting about a delicious, cheesy pasta that just warms my heart. It was so big that we only managed to eat one-third of it, and packed the rest home!
Similarly, the bruschetta also changes daily. I ordered it the first time I was here (featuring smoked salmon) and was so blown away that there was no question that I had to get it again. Today, ours was topped with a creole red pepper cheese spread, shrimp, chorizo, spinach, tomatoes, cheddar and montery jack cheese. More red pepper and cheese!? I'm already sold! The bread was perfectly toasted and the toppings were like a rich symphony of indescribably delicious flavours! I really want to find out what kind of cheese blend the Left Bank uses, because it's so sinfully tasty! I swear it's the best I've ever had! The bruschetta was also supposed to be an appetizer, but the portion was huge! We ate half of it and packed the rest home.
I think I just died and went to heaven.
Left Bank on Urbanspoon

November 1, 2010

Tapas Barcelona @ Evanston

Nestled in Evanston, Tapas Barcelona is a charming little gem that serves authentic Spanish food. I was very excited as this was my first time having tapas, something that I've been meaning to try for a long time. On my last day in Chicago after some outlet mall shopping, we wind up here for a late night dinner.

Through the patio, we walked into the dimly lit interior. The decor is very whimsical and cute, although I have no clue whether this is what the typical Spanish restaurant looks like. I very much enjoyed the lively and laid back ambiance.

To accompany our meal, we ordered a jug of the classic red wine sangria. The last time I had sangria in Macau (in a Portuguese restaurant), I drank too much of it too soon and felt dizzy and drunk for course of my dinner. So this time, I was careful not to consume too much of it on an empty stomach. I'm no wine connoisseur, but it tasted pretty good to me.
What I love about tapas is that you can try so many different dishes. My pick of the night was the Croquetas De Cangrejos: Crab croquettes with sherry mayonnaise. I love crab cakes, and anything deep fried with mayonnaise tastes good to me. So with that winning formula, I figured this can't go wrong, and I was right. The lemon juice gave a nice splash of citrus flavour to the croquette.
Tortilla: Spanish style omelette with potatoes and onions. To my surprise, the tortilla was served cold. To me, this resembled a potato quiche more than an omelette. The texture was denser than I would have preferred it to be, but the flavour was delicious and enjoyable. We all loved the side salad that was drizzled with a light balsamic vinaigrette. It was very refreshing and contrasted well with the heavy tortilla.
Charcuteria: assorted imported Spanish meats. Cured meat is usually not my cup of tea, so I have very little to comment on this. I tried a piece of everything and I really cannot recall the exact difference between the various meats.
Vieiras Con Salsa De Azafran: Sea scallops grilled, spinach, saffron sauce. This was one of my personal favourites of the night. The scallop was delightfully tender and bursting with rich flavours. I particularly loved the buttery saffron sauce (saffron is supposedly the most expensive spice in the world!) and the pine nuts that provided a great crunch for the dish.
From the daily special menu, we sampled the mushroom stuffed with pork tenderloin. I wasn't a huge fan of the combination of mushroom and pork, but I think by this time, I was a little too drunk to remember the specific details of this dish. It was by no means bad, but it wasn't particularly memorable.
Of course, I always find it hard to resist ordering dessert. This is the Pan Perdido: Bread Pudding Layered with Sauteed Apples, served with Raspberry sauce and Creme Anglaise. Sadly, I found it rather underwhelming. The bread pudding was served cold (I prefer them hot) and I didn't like how the dense bread was completely drenched in the thick and overly sweet creme Anglaise. I wish I had gotten something else.
By the end of the meal, I was pretty much drunk once again. ( I have a ridiculously low tolerance for alcohol). Nevertheless, I really thought the meal, as a whole, was quite spectacular, but perhaps the alcohol had affected my judgment. I will definitely be looking forward to my next tapas experience!
Tapas Barcelona on Urbanspoon


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