Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Gabardine

Service announcement: I'm going to be visiting family for the next week, and wont be able to paint! Drawn and Devoured will return in the new celebrate its first anniversary! Yay! Happy New Year everyone!

I like that I work downtown now. Everything is so much closer when you're right on the subway and tram lines. Just walking anywhere is so easy. Compared to my commute of a month ago, walking anywhere is FAST, too! In a way I feel like I've rejoined civilization, with all the luxuries that that entails- like having a restaurant as lovely as The Gabardine (372 Bay St) in spitting distance. I could go there for every lunch if only I wasn't the kind of workaholic who doesn't break for lunch! Over their polished glass window is a glowing emblem of a pigeon who has stared at me with a playful mockery for the last few weeks, as I've adjusted to the new pace of this new life, knowing that a good dinner must be right around the corner.
Could I get used to the Bay Street life of cocktails at 5, after a hard days work? Could I become used to pickles and devilled eggs and hot olives as a matter of course? Dangerously, yes. My friends, a new chapter may be starting here.
But I digress.
On a  Friday a reservation is a must- while I know that, I usually neglect to take care of the basic practice. So we sat at the bar, which is deep and white and marble. Raw tungsten zigzags under odd shapes bulbs illuminated the white walled room dimly. I thought maybe I would run into Nucky Thompson or one of his cronies. Was it the wide bar or the beach white that made me feel like a sneak on a 20's set? I like it here. They have good cocktails (though I opted for beer), and the servers are friendly, jovial. I don't know if the dress code is plaid, but all but two of the staff wore it. Molly, Pietro (also wearing plaid) and I shared the bar with a few ladies who were clearly friends of staff, ladies who were slyly served dishes not offered on the menu. I would have ordered a tamale if it had been an option! The menu items we are given to choose from are super enticing, fortunately.

I twisted Molly's arm into sharing some devilled eggs with me, and she twisted back so that we also got warm olives (you can imagine just how hard we had to wring, ie: not at all). I love bar snacks. They're the perfect size, and excellent for sharing. Devilled eggs are by far turning into a small obsession, a late-night craving which is now easily met at a couple places in Toronto. These devilled eggs ($4) are briny soft, very creamy without tasting heavily of mayo, a touch of dry mustard, four halves to a serving. They're classic, nothing ventured, and they please even if they don't astound. The warm olives ($5) are in the same boat. Warm, succulent, perfectly salted. No fancy tricks, just enjoyable fruit...for the most part. There were two stand out olives in the bowl of assorted sizes and colours. Two green buttons stuffed with lemon rind. An amazing kick in the teeth! It's so good it makes me wish I had a martini in my hand, even now.

In tandem with beginning a new job, with the upcoming new year, I am attempting to turn over some sort of new leaf. It's tough when you love food like I do, but I'm trying to be...well...healthier. Knowing that I would have a salad as an entree, I revisited my cruel arm-twisting-technique I connived to share some rabbit rillettes ($9) with M&P. I'm not sure which blogger I'm reading who keeps raving about rillettes, but someone is out there tainting my mind with desires. These were a first for me, so for those of you for whom it will also be a first, let me explain: rillette is a pate made without liver, to put it crudely. It's a fat-cooked tenderized meat paste, and it is delicious. The rabbit keeps a bit of game to it, but is mostly tamed by smooth fat. The paste is served with fresh, flaky crostini, which are salted with clear and sharp flakes of sea salt, or rock salt. There is something noticeably potent about the salting in all the dishes. It isn't heavy, I mean - it's just that the salt has a palpably high quality. The crostini are airy, and the rabbit rillette happily stuffs the pockets of air. Add puckering sweet-sour cherry preserve, and we have a winning dish.
So, a salad. The Gabardine has a pleasingly imaginative approach to their herbivorous selections, which is great to see. Garden, Greek and Ceasar salads just don't turn me on. I love sweet peas like a kid loves cake, so I let out an internal cheer for the salad of crushed sweet peas on bread with bufala mozzarella ($12), which combines some of my favourite things- bufala mozzarella is a big love of mine. They're all different though, aren't they? This mozzarella had a way stronger personality than what I'm used to. Even with a strong minty lemon garnish, with fresh baby pea shoots, this mozzarella was running wild. I think it mated with a blue cheese somewhere down the line. Oh, on the outside it looked like a cloud of sweetness, like a proper mozzarella, but that FLAVOUR! Yes, a little musky. A little unexpected. The rest of the salad was also surprising. The bread was not very big, and I think this should be moved into the appetizer section of the menu. The crushed peas were piled high, and were freshly cooked, not from can, freezer or dehydrator. Delicious- but light. Lightly oiled, sparked with the same perfect salt. There was not much greens under the bread display, so it was less of a salad than an open face sandwich on a baguette spear, which itself was artfully charred, char which penetrated each mouthful.

I did not try the club house sandwich ($12) which Molly had, but it looked inviting. Two slabs of pancake-fluffy Texas toasts were lightly golden, kissed by a frying pan, holding everything together. The chicken was generous, the bacon visible in fine strips. I'm told it was rather lemony. With fingerling potatoes and a heap of juicy greens, it made a lovely sight, and all was eaten but the crusts.

Pietro was also going to have the club, but these two are wonderful and obliging friends who have come on enough blog dates to know I thrive on variety. He opted instead for a big ol' skirt steak ($23), grilled medium. There's a twist on this steak which is something I appreciate seeing, especially since I spent a good deal of time at backyard barbecue's eating grilled peppers with chimichurri sauce this past summer. A chimichurri thick as chutney was lumpen atop the fat and proud steak. It was grainy and grassy, full of herbs. I love chimichurri and think it goes great with fresh red meat. The steak was robust, with loose marbling. I don't know if it was parsley of cilantro in this home variation of chimichurri, but Pietro doesn't like cilantro (one of those soap tasters) and pushed the sauce aside. A tragic waste! I like the zing and lime of it seeping into the meat. Their fries are good, too! Shoestring with the skin on (need I again mention that yummy salt? Well, once more won't hurt).

We'll see if the Gabardine keeps me coming back for dinner or lunch. I think they're likely catch me for breakfast (seriously they open at 8am, right before I start!) and after work drinks. The area holds many unexplored gems, and city, I'm ready.

Email Katherine

The Gabardine on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Grand Electric

Like a bolt of hot pink lightning from the sky, everyone is jittering with the words GRAND and ELECTRIC (or so it seems to me). When did this happen? Even before they opened their doors at 1330 Queen West, the new hot house of heavenly food was bursting with good reputation. I will spare you the repeat of Grand Electric's history, which can be summed up better by mind with more knowledge of what happens behind kitchen doors. I'm here to talk about food.
I'm also here, briefly, to talk about type. I never thought much of illegible lettering until Michael DeForge (a talent who exploded into recognition the last couple years in the comics realm) wrote a bit about it, and his own experiments with the tough lettering. It gave me a new appreciation for words you have to work to enjoy, but I never felt I have a good chance to try it out. Drawn and Devoured is about food, and drawing, and it is also intended to give me room to practice my lettering. I enjoy it but have a long way to go to achieve any great skill. With their punk music and their in your face attitude, Grand Electric presented me with a muse for aggressive letters!
You should call and listen to the voicemail. Sassy.
By now menus in the form of photographs and word of mouth have filtered out into the universe of people with their ears and eyes open to what's up with Toronto food. I went to Grand Electric not really knowing what to expect other than a very, very long list of bourbon. The menu, modest in size and promising in turn of phrase, is Mexican inspired, with some Canadian ingredients thrown into the mix to add a little local love. This Guac + Chips was good and simple, very unassuming. The chips were floury and hard, oil and crisp. These are good things, but different. I could really taste the corn. Both the pico and guac themselves were very traditional, just a hint of cilantro added to make them more than just tomato, or more than just avocado. The pork rind was sweet, salty, puffy and delightfully smoky.

This picture is a bit of a misrepresentation! You can get one Taco or three in a go at Grand Electric, and they're small softies, their shells gently cradling a variety of fillings. you can choose beef cheek, baja fish, arbol chicken or pork belly al pastor. We ordered one of each, but wound up with two beef and no fish, so that was kind of too bad. The dimly lit restaurant IS still in it's first month, and is inundated with people vying for attention and food. We could also have asked for a correction I suppose, but instead went ahead and ate what we were given!

The tortilla has the most pronounced flavour out of all the ingredients of each taco. It's yellow and corny, and goes great with the house salsas on the table. They're surprisingly flaky and elastic at the same time. When eating these tacos, the flavours do melt together very easily. The pork belly has a spicy aftertaste, and mostly taste of cilantro and sweet ingrained bbq sauce. The beef cheek is FATTY and tender, but could use a little more kick. It taste very simply of beef, and gets overpowered by the waxy wedges of avocado it comes with. The arbol chicken is the winner for me. It's extra hot, the heat hitting like a clear sunny day, it tastes bright. There's something musky like a stinky cheese or natto which really surprises me, because it works. I don't really think there was natto on this taco, but it's what I tasted.

The salad itself is nothing to get excited about. It's very plain, the buttermilk dressing like a less adventurous, tame ranch dressing, the salad itself little more than succulent and meaty Boston lettuce leaves with spears of radish. It's refreshing, but by itself would be disappointing. It comes with this LOVELY croquette of pulled pork, fried to crunchy perfection. It's great broken up on top of the leaves. The pork flakes away in chunks. It tastes like it's been tenderized by sitting in some evil, dark dieu du ciel beer. La fin fu monde! Pas de tout, c'est si delicieux. Pardon my French. The coke reduction is very strong, and the toasted pepita's offer a fun crunch, better than croutons.
I'm a lover of ceviche. It's the fish that science invented! And it usually tastes fresh and tender and mind blowing. It CERTAINLY did here, and for me this was the best dish of the night. The tostada that the fish and sundry vegetables nested atop was flaky and fried, very corny and homey tasting. It's salty body soaked up the ample amount of SUPER garlicky aioli (so good). There were pickled beans, crisped onions and slivers of jalapeno and deadly Chinese peppers (there is an official name for them that less conveys their evil heat, and it avoids my memory in this moment). The fish is light, translucent, and mellow. It's perfect.

Here's is a little peek at the menu. It's missing some items, like the soup that is apparently the ONE thing you HAVE to get at Grand Electric, and is naturally the one thing we did not get. This key lime pie in a glass jar will take away my sorrow! Dense whipped cream with bright little stars of candied lime rind shaved over it is a good start, and then you get to the filling, which is more custardy than limey. It's refreshing but also very rich, and doesn't taste fake or over the top. The graham crust at the bottom adds just the right amount of sweet comfort, and a touch of vanilla.
Email Katherine Grand Electric on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pizzeria Libretto

It maybe a surprise, but I've never been to Pizzeria Libretto. It may yet be one of my sweet city's most lauded hot spots, standing the test of time. I should add that last tentatively, since they've been open just a short 2 years now? And the throng stays strong! In fact, the popularity of the contemporary neapolitan pizza place is such that they recently opened a second location at 550 Danforth Avenue...just a hop, skip and a jump away from me, wouldn't you know! The two menu's have different items available, so what you're used to eating at Ossington may not be what you get at Danforth! I would really like to try the rapini pie in the future, but I think Danforth might have the sexier dessert menu (we were too full to try).
To taste the Danforth pies, I teamed up with one of my blogging inspirations, and collaborator on the "One Cup Sketch" series (to return in the new year), Yasmin Seneviratne- she runs Le Sauce. Very worthy of a visit!

Salads to start, as we planned on having a slow and enjoyable meal. With a pizza each, the greens were a light way to begin. This one, the Endive and Grapefruit ($11) was small, served in the center of a big white dish, creamy vinaigrette hardly denting the flavour. When you have rosy, meaty grapefruit, sauce isn't that important. Even though the endive is a headliner, I found the traces of golden beet to really take over, with their sweetness and memory of fresh dug earth. I like this salad because it is watery and refreshing, and the walnuts are candied, toasted to make a nice sweet crunch.
It's probably the signature dish at Libretto, that big-name baller that every meat eater has to try on a kind of gut level. It has confit duck? I am getting THAT! we cry out upon perusal of the menu in its fancy italics, eyes hanging on the promise of fat fowl and tart seasonal fruit. The Duck Confit ($17) pizza really delivered, though it wasn't quite what I expected. It was not so fatty, the duck meat reduced to a tender ragu. It took me some time to place it, but the flavour if like Christmas on a crust. Stuck without family this holiday? come to Libretto, it tastes like turkey, but sweeter and more tender. These pizza's are seared in a whopping 900 degrees. The dough cools fast because it's thin, but remains elastic, full of personality. It's delicate flavour is an unassuming vessel for shards of equally humble pear. The duck is a salty attention hog- as it should be. The salt tastes bright, brought to this clarity by the perfect amount of fresh olive oil. The mozza cools and solidifies pretty quickly.
It makes delicious leftovers, as in the end it was more than I could eat.

I was not alone desire to start with something fresh! Yasmin also got a salad. I'll take a moment here to talk about the service. It's a very hipster joint, I was really surprised. The staff look like they all come from OCAD (I would know!), all laid back and cool, and surprisingly attentive. I mean. For hipster staff. What does that even mean anymore? Hipster? Isn't that pretty much the majority now? I'm probably a confused pup. They keep a good eye on their tables, though! No sooner than the last crumb of blue cheese left the plate, and our pies were in the over, and 90 seconds later, at our table. Kudos! Our glasses were always full.
So, this salad! I tried a little, and it was what you would expect of a carefully handled fruit and greens salad. Refreshing, crisp, the pears adding a little acidity, but mostly crispness. Yasmin and I both fawned over the figs (so many tastes in a common!). They were fat little guys. The blue cheese was very musky, with evil blue veins. the dressing was a lightly salted oil, which quietly let the fruits do the talking.

And finally, the last pizza! Even though this one is named the Quattro formaggi ($18) for it's buffala mozzarella, montasio, moliterno and parmigiano reggiano, Yasmin summed it up more aptly: "the truffle pizza". The almost liquid black fungi pools look ominous, and taste amazing. I don't think I've honed my taste buds to truffle though, and I felt overwhelmed by the amazing and complex mix of cheeses. It was strong, with pleasantly stinky mozarella, dry and wakening parmessan, and a creamy blend of moliterno and montasio. I think I have a lot to learn about cheese, actually, and may wander of to Cheese Magic to experiment with flavours. In the end, I think what I loved the most here was the clear fresh tomato sauce, as simple and as enjoyable as the day.

Email Katherine
Pizzeria Libretto on Urbanspoon

Pizzeria Libretto on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The County General

One of my favourite things to do in Toronto pre-blog was go to Oddfellows taco night. I was sad to hear that they closed. I was and am very happy with who's moved in to replace them (though I will miss that tangy black bean paste!).
The County General is right at the corner of Shaw and Queen, where the street is quiet enough that you aren't being pushed along, but still pulses with the anticipatory feeling Queen West embodies. It's lively. It's a long ass wait to get in. That's what you get late on a Friday at a place that doesn't take reservations- they know they don't need to.

It's a fun shape for a restaurant, long and narrow. There uses to be a skinny, all-encompassing communal table in the spots previous incarnation, but the General has move things in a more traditional direction, somehow squeezing many small square tables into the dining hall. There isn't much wiggle room. Ever yet en vogue wood is on everything, wood lining the ceiling, a wall of wood ends jutting out in a way that is both artistic and disconcerting. We sit at the bar, which somehow stretches nearly the full length while leaving room for tables. It's spacious enough to eat at, and it's nice to get to watch Steven make drinks (he's a familiar face from my days working at the Drake, but I did feel like we should have been ordering with a server and not him! He had his hands full making some really ballin' cocktails. They have house pickled cherries for the Manhattan's yes).
More and more often lately I've been feeling less meaty, and the menu, despite it's barbecue bent, is very accommodating. The deviled eggs ($1.50) were fiery little devils, served in a bowl so deep I wondered if they needed to be kept from escaping. There was some hot mustard in the yolk, and thank goodness they went easy on the mayo. It's too easy to get heavy handed with devilled eggs. The mustard tasted like Kozlicks to me, and I approve. There were shards of red onion and chive to add crunch and juice, and just a dash of paprika for effect. Nicely done!
There was a bit of a wait before all our party got together, so I also got some kimchi ($3.00) to nibble on. It was a plentiful bowl! The cabbage was strong, crisp just at the thickest part of the leaf. The rest was lightly cooked, spicy and tangy, but very salty. It was overpowering in that respect, and needed to be eaten slowly, in between bite of other things. There was too much salt, which is a shame. I usually adore kimchi.

Over salty kimchi is the only thing that didn't stand out in a meal of well-crafted and enjoyable country sandwiches. The menu was made up of southern inspired nosh, with distinctly Toronto twists. Take our strong vegetarian and vegan eaters, here represented with a very well put together 'meatball'. The white bean meatball sandwich ($10) was more decadent and authentic than I really expected. It resides somewhere between the taste profiles of an Italian fried sandwich, luscious and virgin tomato sauce adding the strongest flavour, with a hint of the old South, with a crisp and oil deep fried shell, and a thick slab of soft bread. Also, there were FOUR sizable nonmeatballs, the beans just firm enough in the centers to hold this bad boy together, and make for a hefty little meal. Served with a leafy salad of Boston lettuce.

Trevor has become a lover of the steamed bun, it would seem. When last we dined, he tried his first banh-mi, and I think it has made him a kind of convert. Again, here the General takes a southern dish - smoked pork belly ($10), and gives it a Toronto twist, incorporating our love of Asian food, maybe in homage to our big and bustling Chinatown. The barbecue rich pulled pork, dry smoked and grainy, is sandwiched in steamed bun sliders, chewy and floury, with the gummy skin steamed bread gets. Three kinds to enjoy, avocado, apply slaw, or spicy Korean kimchi.

Such height and grandeur! Are you catching my horrible puns today? Has anyone else here seen King of the Hill? Once upon a time, my sister was obsessed (many years ago, please friends, do not judge!). Here is a fried chicken thigh sandwich ($12). This little guy made up for his diameter in height, even taller than the tumbler of greasy, crunchy fries he came with. I like a fluffy and absorbent bun with greasy chicken! Made all the prettier with black and white sesame sparkles. I can't describe it more, because Jenn devoured it quickly, in a hard work induced famine.

This is a way I've never seen an apple pie ($5 + $3 a la mode), served wide and thin, the apples sliced thickly, stuck into the pastry with glutinous love. It seemed on the surface like a stuffed dessert pita bread, but seemed more robust in consumption. I was assured that is was incredibly delicious!
My darling, let's get married. I was gone with the wind when this sticky dark lover arrived on my plate, oozing salted caramel. What forbidden indulgences! What buttery topping! Oh love! I am very glad the cupcake ($3) was slightly larger than a thimble, because such richness and decadence can only be enjoyed in about two bites. Butter cream added height and was spiced in a way I am hard pressed to describe.

And addendum to this incredible meal: if you find a small yellow notebook detailing in ecstasies the delights of the county general, please call me. It's brand new, and I've lost it, alas.

The County General on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Foodwares Market

Recent events have had me lurking underneath The Bay at Queen Street a few times last week, like some high end alligator, maw open wide. Since I was there and found myself suddenly dinner dateless, I thought it would be a nice chance to check out the very Canadian Bannock, a restaurant by Oliver and Bonacini. Navigating the PATH can be a little confusing. In this case, Bannocks grab and go section is located somewhere over the subterranean exit of the of them, anyhow. Turned around by the lack of daylight and the ensuing destruction of my sense of direction, I found myself stocking up on items at a place called Foodwares Market, though their lack of signage on half the cafe had me believing I was, actually, at Bannock. It was only after getting the receipt for a haul that would provide a days worth of meals that I saw the title of the cafe I had just raided. Well! No need to turn back. Though Food Wares doesn't share Bannocks notoriety or appealing name, it turned out to be a happy mistake. It's a cafeteria worth visiting for Toronto's Bay Street workers.
My plan was to have lunch there, and also get some take out items to keep me going through the day. I got to try many things! Ah, the joys of eating by oneself. Breakfast started with a not-super healthy Banana Chip Muffin ($2.23). Once upon a time, the muffin was a modestly sized healthy alternative to breakfast danish and doughnut. Things evolve wickedly, don't they? These muffins are pretty sinful. They aren't the largest I've seen, and the muffin tops aren't towering, but there's more than a couple cubic inches of sweet dough that makes them. Most delicious about them it that their fluffy little hearts are gooey with butter. Have you ever had a cookie from Le Gourmand? Imaging that cookie as a muffin. Decadent, warm, creamy, and just enough bitter dark chocolate to make the sweet dough sing. It went damn well with their Illy coffee (not my favourite brand, but nothing to turn ones nose up at).
I was back for lunch before hopping onto the subway with some bagged items in tow. Since I had a little time to sit and eat, I got soup and a wrap. The soups come in three sizes, so you can choose if you just want a taste, a hearty bowl, or a meal-sized portion. I went for the middle size, and there were four hot soups in cauldrons to choose from, each piping and appealing. Since I adore my seafood, and rich dishes, the Shrimp and Lobster Bisque ($3.79) piqued my interest. It's not a bad price for such a dish either, though it only comes with a little pack of saltines. A hunk of rustic bread costs another dollar. The soup itself was a bit dull. I am tempted to say that that is the error of my taste buds, who were dampened with a hint of the flu on this day. The tomato and cream were smooth and not overwhelming, though the thickness of the soup was palpable. The shellfish had mostly been blended into a pulp, with only a few solid kibbles of shrimp floating throughout. Though savoury and pleasantly hot, I would try something else next time.
After the hot soup I had a vegetarian wrap. There are a few nice veggie options at Foodwares Market, which is great! I sometimes wind up getting a quick lunch at grocery stores or markets, and the only veg option is usually a mayo-laden egg salad sandwich. Yucko. This Wild Mushroom, Brie and Boursin Wrap ($6.99), comes pre-packaged and ready to go. I think they're made fresh in the morning, eliminating the problem of how quickly wraps get soggy.  Thanks to the less-moist ingredients, the wrap was the right mix between juicy and dry, the lettuce coiling within the pita bread to add a crisp layer around the filling. It mostly tastes like fresh dark green lettuce, crunchy cukes and basil leaf, balanced with the luscious cheeses. Between the mushroom and lettuce, and earthy rind from the brie, I was strangely reminded of damp pines after rain, a foresty freshness. With two creamy cheeses though, all that was hard to notice. It would have been nice to know what kind of mushrooms they are, or to know if they're a blend. Perhaps I shouldn't say it was balanced. It's overwhelming with cheese!
Later on in the day, dinner was a thick piece of Vegetable Foccacia ($) that I brought with me. It didn't fare the journey too well, it's juicy garden top having smashed against the roof of the paper bag, a debris of zucchini and onions everywhere. Still, there were loads of veggies still clinging to their spots in the tomato paste, entrenched into a bread that was as airy as it was rustic. Such a contrast between dry spongy crust, dense and a little charred, and the angelic interior, so light. It was pleasant, and the blackened bread made the herbed sauce all the ore refreshing. Pungent onion, mushroom, tomato slices, zucchini and red pepper made for a juicy meal. I'm sure this is even better without suffering the strains of travel, and next time I will have to try it right from the market.
To end on as sweet a note as I started I kept a delightful Gateau de Basque with me until late in the night. It preserved quite well from the morning baking, and wasn't stale by the time I got to it. The cake is a sponge, like angel food with heavier grains, the edges and bottom dry and crumby. It's kept moist in the interior by this amazing layer of custard tucked away in the centre, which came as a surprise to me. I think this must be a French kind of doughnut, better than a beignet, more refined and decadent, without a heavy handed coating of glaze. No, here was a darling dusting of powder sugar, as nice to look at as to taste. With a cake not so sweet, it added just enough extra tongue-pleasing sugar. The custard in the cake was the real winner for me, exhibiting all the richness and glue of a Portuguese custard tart. Despite the size of the cake, it didn't sit like a heavy dessert, leaving me satisfied but not bloated.

Email Katherine

Monday, November 14, 2011


Coffee starts with breakfast. No. Stop me, it's backwards. Breakfast starts with coffee, and without it I sometimes don't know my way around. Never mind that I'm writing this at 9 in the evening.
I wanted to wrack up a big appetite when I went to meet Willie at Sadies Diner (whose website exists in the Dark Ages of myspace) for brunch. It's a fair 6km from my house to the oldtimey vegan diner at Portland and Adelaide, and though I wasn't walking fast it did the trick to make my stomach growl, and for the last half of my trip I flat out craved that hot coffee!
And when it hit my tongue I was left with a strong and memorable impression of meh.
Sadly, it went for the whole meal. 

The brunch wound up with a funny vegan Tex Mex angle. Understand, Sadie's is in no way a Tex Mex place. It just so happened that on this occasion our appetites had migrated, as the geese do, to the south. Can't blame them. I had the vegan Huevos Rancheros (10$), one of my favourite brunch dishes usually. Willie got to tell me a bit about different soy based cheeses, since I am a blank slate. I know nothing. Do they pair well with wine? I am told, no, they don't. They don't melt, either...except for Daiya cheese, which is why it is a BIG DEAL for vegans. Sadie's uses Daiya. I did like it, too, though it is stiffer than milkcheese. It has a similar taste, but floury. That interesting newness aside, I don't think the tortillas were good. The tofu 'egg' was cold, and hadn't really been made 'eggy' in any way. It just tasted like tofu. Cold tofu, in big dry clumps. No turmeric to turn it yellow, even! I know that a lot can be done for vegan scrambled eggs, and this was a bottom line effort. You can't go too wrong with brown beans and a crunchy tortilla at least.
In instances like this, I praise my love of hot sauce, and soak that dish.

Keeping with a deep south theme, Willie went for a more lunch like nosh, and got the Quesadillas (9$). A mix of predictable veggies tasted good, but didn't open our eyes to anything new and delightful, and weren't handled in a way that made the stuffed tortillas seem rethought. It wasn't delicious, just plain. I complain a lot about the lack of inventiveness in the zucchini-eggplant-peppers trinity vegetarian dishes tend to favour, though it's most often a symptom of the token vegetarian menu item on an otherwise meat loving menu. Sadie's is mainly vegetarian and vegan! They should be doing something exciting- it's what I expect. So even though I like the Daiya cheese, and there was a fair amount, I think this dish could have been more inventively veganized. One could not even taste the sambal alleged to be in their vegan mayo! One thing I did like was that corny, soft tortilla- I wonder if it's actually made in house?

(You can read Willie's review here).
Email Katherine
Sadie's Diner on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


The restaurant Acadia (50 C Clinton St.) takes its name from the coastal region of North America, from the Canadian maritime down past Maine. Before we had these countries and all! The food of the region is traditional with French roots, and laden with seafood, corn, and flavour- that is about as much of a sub par history lesson as you'll get from me. 

Even though Acadia talks about doing southern inspired food, there's a feel of uncomplicated maritime fare on their menu, and a downplayed sense of spice (read: heat) in what we order. You won't find big meaty wedges of fried chicken, either- at least not on this weeks menu. Buttermilk, corn and sea creatures are what bring it home.

The space is modern and very minimal. Off white walls, soothing sea grey accents, and deep mood lighting save it from the hyper-modernism of the all white, an uncomfortable look I cannot enjoy. It's intimate here even with the wide open eating area, no dividers keeping tables secluded from one another. It's loud, almost entirely from conversation bouncing along the painted paneled walls, little coming from the open kitchen. The usual clatter and clank of utensils and grill don't reach us, and the spot Jason and I have by the door is surprisingly comfortable.
I have been fantasizing about this menu for a while. It changes regularly, with the seasons or the whim of the chef, but the menu I've been perusing the last couple days and preparing for sounds terribly enticing. Sometimes I'll come to a new place with a strong preconception of what I want, and what will be best- and I hope that my dinner guest will cater to my wants! By some stroke of serendipity all the same things struck us. I've never had grits, Jason suggested them. He wanted to try the chow chow and mirliton, I thought halibut cheeks sound amazing (I am all for a greater use of the under appreciated bits of a beast). Ordering was simple, our overattentive waiter often at our elbow to take orders for food or drink, and easily convincing us to start with some hot house cornbread.

While waiting for the mains, a pickled selection of vegetables was delivered to us to snack on, and whet appetites that were already roaring from waiting for our 9pm reservation. I've said in the past that a simple litmus test of the quality of a restaurant is if they provide complimentary bread as an amuse bouche. This is like that, but so much more inventive! I'm becoming very fond of pickles in forms sweet, sour or salty. This was a selection of crunchy vegetables brined in an acidic soup, with yellow carrot, okra, scapes, celery, fennel, green beans and I think sea asparagus. A wonderful bouquet of texture and taste! They all maintained a strong sense of the flavour of fresh veg, which was remarkable, while having been infused with a new tang.
Dreamy, the Acadia Cornbread (7$) arrived steamy and succulent to our table, shallow loaves incredibly moist and airy. Every table has their bread baked to order, and it still arrived quickly. Incredibly hot! My father used to make johnny cake from scratch that had this Aunt Jemima quality, but better. The texture was just like that, without the over sweetness of johnny cake, which to my palate was perfection. The whip-cream textured pumpkin butter it came with tasted more simple than was implied, the gourd far from overpowering. Jason suggested pumpkin is too often used as a gimmick (think Starbucks revolting pumpkin spice latte). I think that pumpkin should be celebrated for its uses outside of pie! However in this the butter was butter, but better. There were flakes of sea salt that added pops to the whole delicious platter.
Cheeks are round, or so I thought. Looking at a fish head in the market, I would have thought that they would be shallow dollars of feathery flesh, tender but firm altogether. The chunks were actually big! The Halibut Cheeks (12$) came with blue cornmeal crust, pickled prawn, sugarcane chow chow (I had to look this up, it's a relish from the maritimes with cabbage as a main ingredient), mirlitons and buttermilk. I thought the buttermilk sauce tasted lightly cheesy, and hardly noticed the chow chow. It hid under the mantle of the fish and pickled prawn, as a solid and not-saucy base. The fish meat itself was delightful, and I don't understand why cheeks aren't served more regularly. The cornmeal was very salty, maybe over salty. What really caught my attention was the pickled prawn, which was served like a cake of crustacean, pressed into a mold and cut into triangular shapes. It was spongy, light in flavor, a bit like a jelly. The mirlitons were like a sweeter radish, circular flakes.
It wasn't an express intention to choose a meal made mainly of appetizers, but seafood calls and can't be denied. Here arrived the Shrimp Grits (13$), an experimental dish for me. I have heard grits described as horrendous, and as salty oatmeal. I expected a texture of mushy polenta. Not so! The oatmeal association is probably the closest to it's mark. They are smooth, and like everything we've had, piping hot. There is so much texture here I could not have been prepared for. They are creamy and hearty and not at all gritty. Who named this dish? What a misleading nomenclature! These grits are flown in from the Carolinas, and are the best of the best. They are skulking under a thick and heady lagoon of ham hock consomme, and the flavor nearly floors me. We're agreed: these grits are a taste of heaven. Everyone should experience a beautiful flavour like this! A sweet corn taste teases the meaty shrimps from their hiding places in the grits. It all goes together well, the mushroom and cheese taking back seats to the bolder fleshy flavours.
For a hungry start we slow down quick. The dishes aren't large, but they aren't light- I am very impressed and happy with these apps. One last thing hearkens from the menu before we fold our napkins and call it a night, foregoing dessert: the Vidalia Onion Tart (16$). I am always happy to see the token vegetarian item on a menu attempting to do something new. I get so bored of seeing the snore inducing trinity of eggplant-zucchini-red pepper most menus supply. You wouldn't find that on an Acadian menu, anyhow. Instead, you can have this tart, the crust rolled thinner than any I've had in Toronto, floury and delicate as lattice. I'm amazed it holds the onion in. The onions are cooked to a noodly consistency, mild, pungent, moist. One of the appeals that had us order the tart are the caramelized hops and julienne green apple. While the apply mixes in with the greens and Gruyere to top the tart, adding a needed awakening between mouthfuls, the hops are hard to notice. It's a nice little tart, but between light crust, soft onion, and feathery greens, is not very substantial. My one wish is that it had something to weigh it down and suggest more body. Please understand: this criticism is no more than me picking nits, and this meal was wholly divine.

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