November 30, 2011

November TUM @ Evergreen Brickworks

After a wonderful experience at the October TUM, I jumped at the chance to attend the November installment with my friends Alexa and Mel. We bundled up and braved the cold for some great food and great fun! This time, I actually won two free tickets from Toronto Food Trucks, which was great because admission price went up from $5 to $10! Thanks a bunch!
Upon arrival, I made a beeline for Fidel Gastro, who was serving these amazing cuban sandwiches. The first kind was la senorita: 5-alarm turkey chilli with mozzarella stuffed deep-fried jalepeños and radicchio slaw.
And the second kind was called the Havana Club, featuring cayenne and beer pulled-pork with Virginia ham, caramelized onions, havarti and chilli aioli. Both sandwiches looked delicious even when sitting there cold on the wooden board.
The sandwiches were iron grilled to order, which slowed the line considerably. But I didn't mind, because the aroma from the grill was just tantalizing!
The sandwich was somewhat squished after being grilled, and it was unfortunately still a little cold in the centre. However, I understand that grilling each sandwich thoroughly would've slowed the line tenfold, so I can overlook that flaw. The jalapeños in la senorita certainly had a great kick and definitely lived up to the promised heat! I thought that the turkey chili and the radicchio slaw were overshadowed by the jalapeños, but I didn't really mind. Mel found the sandwich too spicy for her, but I thought the heat was just perfect for me.  
The Havana Club was my favourite of the two. The pulled pork was tender and the combination of the caramelized onion, cheese, and aioli packed a punch of flavours. Again, I wished that the sandwich was heated through, but it was nevertheless delicious!
After I got my sandwiches from Fidel Gastro, I met up with Mel, who was nearing the front of the line at La Carnita. This time around, I tried a new taco- Mexican chorizo with chicharrónes and topped with a mango salsa. I loved the brightness of that sweet mango salsa, which paired surprisingly well with the meat.  
La Carnita served the popular Voltron fish taco again, and this time I grabbed two!
In my excitement to get my tacos, I almost forgot my graphic art print! I liked this one even more than the October print, because it was so vibrant and whimsical.
After the tacos, we met with up Alexa at the long line for la Comida del Pueblo. I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into that delectable cornbread grilled cheese again! We got one of everything to try.
I've never sampled a tamle before, and I wasn't the greatest fan of the Asian-inspired green curry shrimp thai-male. I found the tamale to be mealy and unpleasant. Luckily, Mel really liked it, so I gave my portion to her.
Predictably, Mel and Alexa fell in love with the cornbread grilled cheese too. We actually lined up again for seconds, but unfortunately it was sold out just as we were about to reach the front of the line.
On the sweeter end, we shared a Panqueque de Manzana with green apple atole and chorizo toffee. This "pancake" dessert was also excellent, and that smokey chorizo toffee added an interesting dimension (I initially thought it was bacon). All in all, I really enjoyed the sweet and savoury combination.
Last time, I missed out on the arancini from Thistletown High School Chefs, so I was excited to see it offered again this time. The three wild mushroom risotto balls were stuffed with Mozzarella cheese, panko coated, drizzled with white truffle oil and Parmesan, and accompanied by an heirloom tomato and wine cream sauce. I thought it was pretty good and I can see why it was a crowd-pleaser. However, I'm not personally not a great fan of arancini, so I didn't find it amazing.
Elle cuisine was another returning vendor.
It was nice to see that they completely changed their menu from October. I saw people walking around with roast tomato soup, and it looked absolutely amazing. Sadly, my aversion to goat cheese prevented me from sampling this. 
Instead, we split a plate of duck confit hash with soft poached egg and smoked tomato ketchup. It was a hearty dish that you would expect from your local greasy spoon. The egg was nicely poached, though I would've preferred it to be just a tad runnier. The best part was undoubtedly the crispy bits of duck skin, which was a great surprise in your mouth.
Elle Cuisine also gave out these dark chocolate brownies with sea salt caramel drizzle for free. They were delicious and I happily munched on them while waiting for my food.
For a taste of Portugal, I wandered over to Oxalá, which offered three items: Caldo Verde, Bifana, and the Natercia.
I opted for the Bifana because it reminded me of my favourite Macanese pork chop bun- marinated Cumbrae's pork sirloin cutlet, sweet potato fries, caramelized onions, Piri Piri aioli and a runny egg on a freshly baked Portuguese bun. The sweet potato fires were delightful and provided a great textural contrast to the meat. Unfortunately, the pork cutlet was a little too tough. I still prefer my traditional pork chop bun.
The custard tarts also looked interesting, but I didn't try one.
Moving on to Tita Flips! Last time, I tried the fried shrimp fritter. This time, I was eyeing the desserts.  First up, the cassava cake, which initially reminded me of the Cantonese white sugar sponge cake (白糖糕). But this cake had a much creamier consistency. The coconut flavour really came through, and I loved how the cake also had actual pieces of coconut in it.
I also couldn't resist getting a order of turon, aka banana spring rolls! These were so addictive! I wanted a whole basketful of them!
Desserts always put a smile on people's faces.
Next up, Tuxedos and T-Shirts! We ended up trying both menu items.

For such a cold night, it was really comforting to have a hot bowl of soup. Unfortunately,  I didn't love the smoked haddock chowder because it was too fishy for me. I also expected the chowder to be creamier.
Luckily, their sticky toffee pudding was a definite winner. It was yummy, comforting, and made me really happy! I absolutely loved the toffee sauce, and the sponge cake was extremely moist. The portion was also very reasonable for $3 and I really regretted not buying an extra piece and bringing it home. In fact, I was still thinking about it on the drive home.
I tried an almond briwat from Merguez food. It reminded me of a type of Chinese pastry, and I wasn't entirely impressed.
Finally, I sampled a pumpkin cheesecake square from Wheelie sweet. It was good, but by this time, I was really too stuffed to fully appreciate it.
I was pretty sad that I didn't get to try any desserts from The Lunch Room. Some of the selection looked really enticing!
Before heading home, we checked out the chimney court outside where there was a large campfire. Unfortunately, it was raining at this time, so we didn't stay long. Looking back, I was appalled at the amount that I ate that night. Even though most of it was shared between the three of us, it was still a lot of food! I'm kind of glad that the next one won't happen for awhile, as I really need to take a break from all this crazy eating! A big, big thank you to my wonderful friends for sharing this experience with me and for enduring all those long lines! I look forward to our next foodie adventure!

November 23, 2011

Dinner @ Mildred Temple's Kitchen

My foodie friend Mel and I wanted to go somewhere nice without breaking our wallets on a Friday night. So after browsing through the restaurant selection on Dining Date Night, I made a reservation to Mildred's Temple Kitchen. For $10, you can get 30% taken off your entire bill! I had eaten at Mildred's Temple Kitchen once before and I remember my dining experience to be quite pleasant.
We sat at one of these tables, and Mel fought me for the couch seating along the window. However, these white seats were actually very comfortable and offered great back support!
Mel and I really like the clean, industrial décor (see my first visit for a picture of the beautiful interior). Similar to my first experience, the restaurant never got too busy throughout the duration of our meal, which was nice, but also a little odd for a Friday night.
As per usual, Mel and I shared everything to optimize our experience. We started off with shrimp & crab cakes (supposedly a Mildred Pierce fave)- crunchy cakes with jicama, kafir and fresh cilantro, served atop a chili-lime emulsion. For $15, I was shocked at the size of this appetizer. Each cake was the size of a large scallop. In spite of the small size, the shrimp and crab cakes were quite tasty with that tangy chili-lime emulsion. However, I found it odd that the cakes had a springy bite to it, similar to Chinese fish balls. Perhaps that springiness came from the shrimps?
When our next appetizer came, I became a little worried that we weren't going to be full. We opted for handmade gnudi, made with ricotta cheese, egg, a little flour and a hint of nutmeg, served with creamy ermite sauce and crispy fried sage. I loved the aggressive cheesiness of this entire dish- from the pasta to the buttery sauce. Cheese-lovers will definitely enjoy this dish, but others might find it overwhelming. The gnudi were quite dense, unlike the light and fluffy ones that I had at Luma, but I actually enjoyed that texture. In the end, the small portion size was appropriate because it was a pretty heavy dish.
But my favourite dish of the day was hands down the risotto with caramelized squash, finished with chervil, sage, ginger and a spark of cinnamon. Mel and I, being great fans of squash, absolutely loved the dish down to the very grain of rice. It was delightfully creamy and the flavour combination of all the spices was incredibly tasty. I'm not an expert in risotto, so I'm not sure how the rice should be cooked. The rice in this risotto had a nice bite to it and wasn't overly mushy. Above all, I really loved the caramelized squash and would've gladly gulped down a plateful of it. That tiny hint of cinnamon was lovely and complemented the sweetness of the squash without pushing it over to dessert territory. I had to consciously remind myself to eat slowly, so I could savour every bite. As this was an actual entrée, the portion was a lot more sizable, and I was definitely full after devouring my half of the risotto.
We actually intended to have dessert elsewhere, but we couldn't resist trying their pumpkin bourbon cheesecake baked in a ginger snap crust, topped with sour cream and a little more bourbon. The addition of the bourbon was a nice twist to the cheesecake and made it unique. We also enjoyed the toasted pumpkin seeds, which provided a crunchy textural contrast to the cake. While Mel proclaimed this to be her favourite pumpkin cheesecake thus far, I had more reservations. I wished for more of the pumpkin filling and less sour cream and crust. Personally, I prefer the pumpkin cheesecake from Beast more.
Of course we wiped the plate clean!
We didn't order a terrible amount, but we still enjoyed some savings from the 30% Dining Date Night discount that more than offset the $10 reservation fee. But more importantly, the meal was wonderful and we had a great time!
Mildred's Temple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

November 22, 2011

Dinner @ Asian Legend

My family came to Asian Legend to celebrate my mom's birthday. I generally love their dim sum here, but this time, we opted for more "dinner-like" dish. We started with Shanghai specialty casserole stew, which we all enjoyed. The broth was super flavourful and I had tons of veggies with it. The stew definitely made me feel as if my meal was going to be healthy!
The next dish - house special crispy chicken - was tasty, albeit a little generic. I deliberately did not order my favourite General Tao chicken because I know I wouldn't be able to stop eating that. After all, roasted chicken with crispy skin almost always taste good. This version was executed well, but it didn't have any wow factor. It was, nevertheless, a whole lot more enjoyable than the following dish...
Wuxi style spare ribs was awful! I won't lie, I ordered this because I was eyeing that bed of veggies. The veggies were great, but the spare ribs were terrible!  I expected a rich sauce to complement the meat, but this was anything but. The sauce was so bland and artificial-looking. It tasted like bad Chinese food that you get at food court stall catered to people who aren't familiar with Asian flavours. I actually really regretted finishing the one piece that I tried. We left more than half of it uneaten. I was shocked that Asian Legend could serve something so appallingly bad because I've never had anything here that was this terrible before.
Luckily, the final dish redeemed my dining experience- fish fillet in hot chili sauce. The fish was tender, and the chili sauce was yummy and comforting. My stomach tingled pleasantly from the heat, and which was wonderful for the cold weather. The spices and the flavours were incredible, and the heat was perfect for those with a spicy tongue (but it's not intolerably spicy by any means).
We ended the meal with complimentary red bean soup, which was a little watered down. All in all, I thought that the meal was slightly disappointing. Even though the casserole stew and fish fillet in chili sauce were delicious, the Wuxi-style spare ribs was a major let-down. I think that I enjoy their dim sum here more than anything else, and a meal here just feels incomplete without ordering some.
Asian Legend 味香村 on Urbanspoon

November 19, 2011

Burger Extravaganza @ Goody's Diner

As a food blogger and lover of all things delicious, my greatest enemy is my less than desirable metabolism. So to balance out my eating sprees every weekend, I try to eat religiously healthy during the week. But when a place like Goody's Diner pop up in Scarborough, I couldn't resist cheating my weekday rabbit diet!
The hours here are a real pain- closed on weekends and open only till 7pm on weekdays. I would've definitely preferred coming here for lunch, which is not possible at the moment given its location.
My mom and I came here for one thing only: burgers! There was an amazing array of burgers to choose from! In addition to the burger menu on the wall and weekly special, several burgers from prior weekly specials were also available, including the Ultimate Surf n' Turf, the Dagwood, and the Breakfast Burger. After a long inquiry with our patient server, my mom finally settled on the "Bacon Explosion" with a side of sweet potato fries, which comes with a chipotle mayo dip.
I wish I could describe the components of the burger, but I phased out from the server's description after hearing the name "bacon explosion". From my faint recollection, on top of the 8oz beef patty is a bacon strip-woven basket, encasing Italian sausage and more ground beef, and the entire thing is draped with lots of cheese.
The side of sweet potato fries was wonderful! I had no intention of eating much of this to save room for the burger, but ended up having a lot. It was so good by itself that the dip was entirely unnecessary.
The bacon explosion cut open- it was absolutely gorgeous! The sheer monstrosity of all that meat was stunning and there was no way we could fit the entire burger in our mouths. This was certainly a great burger for meat and bacon lovers, but I personally find the combination of meat on meat to be a little one-dimensional. However, the beef patty was juicy, well-seasoned, and had a great meaty flavour. 
I ordered the figgy-piggy because I absolutely fell in love with the name (but also because I love pulled pork and figs). I went with a Caesar salad as my side, though I ended up not touching it at all and packed it home for my boyfriend.
This equally monstrous burger featured pulled pork, lettuce, tomato, onions, grilled apple slices, peameal bacon and a fig and apple BBQ sauce.
This burger was marvelous, and I liked it even more than the bacon explosion! The sweetness of the fig sauce complemented the richness of all that meat. The grilled apple also added a crunchiness that counterbalanced the mushy texture of the meat and bun. Perhaps the pulled pork could have been more tender, but other than that, the ingredients worked incredibly well together and I loved every bite! 
Because my mom and I devoured most of that delicious sweet potato fries, we had more than half of each burger to pack home. If I was judging based on taste alone, these two burgers wouldn't be the best I've ever had. However, what I admire the most is the creativity and the concept behind these whimsical and extravagant burgers. It adds a great sense of fun to the whole dining experience, and that is what makes it truly extraordinary. There is no doubt that I will be returning multiple times to try other burgers.
Goody's Diner on Urbanspoon

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