Tuesday, May 31, 2011



What really disappointment me with Fabarnak was how badly I wanted to love it. The pitch was great. The design and branding is colourful and crisp, and the menu reads like something out of my warmest gourmand fantasies. The price was also shockingly low on things with quality, often local-organic-gluten-free ingredients! Most alluringly, their heart is so in the right place.
Fabarnak is located in the Church Street Community Centre, 519 Church Street. One of the reasons I wanted to go there was because I wanted to contribute some traffic, some awareness, especially since I suspect people would hesitate to go out of their way to dine in a community centre (though after going inside, this place is BEAUTIFUL! They nailed the interior decorating, so cute). The tips get donated to the centre, as do the profits. The staff are people who may otherwise have difficulty finding work (I thought the service was quite fine). It's a beautiful idea.

If only the chefs were as skilled as the menu writer, if only their cuisine reflected that vision!

As with any breakfast brunch thing, my friend Abe and I started with coffee. We were getting a pretty late start, our date happening at 2. What I hadn't realized until the day before was that Fabarnak has shorter hours on the weekend, and would be closing at 3. There was fewer pastries than I had hoped for, as I looked across the counter while waiting. photo's show that the cupcakes here could be delicious, but there was none to try. The coffee was bitter and not very strong. I think the espresso based drinks are better, made with illy.

I was very excited after my initial research of their online menu. Finally, after all the horror and the majesty I'd heard about grits, I could try them! It's another of those love-hate foods I've been hoping to try...the menu touts the dish as this glorious thing garnished with shrimp and sausage, eggs, greens, molasses and shaved toscana cheese.
So, naturally, it had run out.
Now, I will concede the point that we had arrived close to the finish here, and the dish was unashamedly the most interesting and therefore tempting thing on the menu. Alas, my disappointment didn't take me to the grave, there were consolation pancakes to eat.

The idea of yeast leavened pancakes was a draw. Would they be fluffier? Would they have a beerishness to them? Toss in some rosemary whipped cream, and I'm sold on what I was hoping would be a savoury-sweet stroke of genius. What arrived? Two soggy pancakes more akin to bread pudding in texture than the boastfully fluffy griddlecakes I love. Everything was pooled together in the middle of the plate, the whipped cream all over the (dull, grey) peameal bacon and cakes. I was giving this a lot of thought after the fact, and I think one of the biggest shortcomings of this adorable, underwhelming cafe is presentation. The people working the kitchen need to learn to plate. It's not unlike making beautiful hand-lettering. You have to give the letters room to breathe! Let things sit with space between then on the plate.
Dear chefs: go to the Art Gallery of Ontario. Looks at the abstract paintings. Now, plate something beautiful. 
The portion was reasonable, and I DO think the food was good for what we paid (under 15$ each after tip), but my expectations were so high. Their menu reads so well. The pear that came with my pancakes was nice, but I couldn't taste a lick of maple in the whole dish.

I'd like to say that Abe fared better. He certainly seemed satisfied! With big eyes and a big stomach, the full monty sounded like a meal and a half. Picture a triple decker, but instead of toast you have savoury french toast, and in the layers are smoked fontina and peameal bacon. The spread described as garnish for the sandwich made me think of it would totally unique: plum and beet jam with dijon! Though I didn't only try one bite, so this may be a fair assessment, I couldn't taste it. The bacon was not as plentiful on this sandwich as I personally would have hoped, and it really needed something tart or sweet to make it unique. I was underwhelmed, and again, everything had just been stacked in the middle of a giant, white, rectangular plate.

After all this, I want to come back. I want to go to Fabarnak for breakfast, or lunch, or dinner, and have them wow me. I still want this menu to taste as good as it sounds, to be more than just 'Okay'. I want to be able to say something great about a place that is trying to do something great.

Fabarnak Restaurant and Catering on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 16, 2011

Scheduled Delay

Not unlike the TTC this weekend, Drawn and Devoured is going to be derailed for a little while! And it has nothing to do with my awful puns. There won't be a post this week, as I have a LOT of exciting projects I need to finish or get underway, and a new job to adjust to. There may be a post next week, though it might not be what you're expecting...I think you'll all like it.
Thanks for bearing with me, guys, see you very soon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Such Guu'd food! 
I've been thinking of this post as my 'In honour of TCAF' post. If you didn't know, TCAF is the Toronto Comic Arts Fair, and happens to be where I spent my whole weekend volunteering, and also happens to be really awesome. Everyone I worked with was a peach. One of the co-founders is the lovely Chris Butcher, who I've followed on twitter for ages...and the man LOVES the izakaya joint GUU which recently landed two locations in Toronto (we went to the 559 Bloor St. W location)! Naturally I had to go there, especially given my interest in trying Japanese food that isn't cookie-cutter dull sushi.
So here's to Chris, the other organizers, the staff of the Beguiling, my co-volunteers, and of course the amazing comic artists who brought so many people together this past weekend. Itadakimasu!

This place has so much character. It's like walking into a crowd scene from a Miyazaki film, with colourful characters yelling back and forth and literally cheering each arrival, and thanking every departure at full voice. I don't know how the staff can act so cheerful and animated, it's hilarious, it's fun, and it's catching. At one point they swarm a table to sing 'Happy Birthday' and for some reason they have maracas. No wonder the vibe inside is of boozy joy, the patrons all getting drunk on the novelty. The staff are very accommodating, giving us hot damp towels to clean our hands on, though they're very slow to serve. There's plenty of staff, but there are WAY more customers; the narrow and dark eatery is jammed. With three seating areas, we go for the speediest and eat at the bar, which is quite wide. There's also an area with large communal tables, and another area where guests must remove their shoes and sit on floor cushions. I'd like to try that next time, when it's not a 40 minute wait. I think the other location on Church street has a summer patio (just don't quote me on that).
We started with the Oshinko (house pickles) off the special menu, with a side dish of confusion. We were told the kitchen ran out of pickles, and a little bit later, were told they were making us pickles! Which doesn't quite make sense since pickles need to marinade and, well... pickle, for a while. Or else they're just vegetables. What we wound up with was a gorgeous plate of raw vegetables, mostly cucumber, daikon, carrot, radish and some crazy sushi-esque deal that I have no name for, just appreciation. The vegetables had had SOMETHING done to them, and even if it wasn't pickled, it was tasty. They were soft and salty, with a dash of sushi vinegar and ginger. A very pleasant, refreshing start to the meal, along with a few huge steins of Sapporo, and a Ramune for me (it's a Japanese soda that taste like a light cream soda... and fifty cents from each purchase goes to help Japan when you buy it at GUU).
Looks a lot like brains
A while ago I tried jellyfish. I don't shy away from strange foods, rather I seek to embrace them. It was a weird, mushy disappointment served on watery iceberg lettuce. Gross. I guess I should have expected as much from ordering anything other than the eponymous dumplings from Dumpling House. It was finally time for a second chance from a proper restaurant, and my friends joined me in this deep-dish salad. It was an even blend of lettuce, heaps of noodly jellyfish, chapchae (seasoned cold glass noodles), and crunchy wonton. The jellyfish was SO good! Enjoying the not-too-meaty chewiness, I was happy to be able to reverse my original opinion. The salad really was a chameleon, with the two main toppings, jellyfish and chapchae, taking on the sweet and salty flavour of Japanese dressing. The dressing was the same as at any other Japanese restaurant. There was also jicama which is a variety of turnip, that added plenty of crunch to the salad. Not too special overall.
Chefs Salty Balls
This was a major hit with us! I would like to call it 'chicken balls for adults", where the chicken is replaced with lumps of squid tentacle, and instead of being dipped in fake, electric red sweet 'n' sour sauce, the balls are instead drowned in a creamy cheese gratin, with stringy crusty cheese melted on top and a savoury sauce throughout. It had a surprising and delightful flavour of hot mustard, which may have come from wasabi, and a sweetness from ponzu. The dough was very soft, like fresh baked bread, and just sopped up all the juice and cheese. A very rich dish for those in harmony with their arteries.

Fetal Nugs
There was little to get excited about with these chicken nuggets in tempura batter. They did all seem to have a frightening appearance like small birds, which I'm sure was completely unintentional, and a great source of amusement for someone with as bizarre a mind as mine. The flavour wasn't much to write home about, since they are just boneless chicken wings in essence and flavour, and taste how you would expect. The mayo on the side had a nice zing, and the portion was generous for 5.20$

mystery fish stix 
Again we ordered something delectable and deep fried in tempura batter, this time the fish cake called isobeage. If you can imagine a deep fried sponge that tastes like everything good to eat in the sea, you're starting to imagine the isobeage. It's really unusual, and is shamelessly bar food. I found it really interesting that it came with a heap of matcha powder on the side as seasoning. The matcha tasted bitter and strong, and was soaked up by the oil of the crust of our fish cake cones. I don't think it added much other than a wow for presentation.
With this arrived another dish of shapeless fried indulgence. This one is ika-nan, deep fried squid cartilage. I'm glad someone has found a use for that part of the cephalopod, because I always eat around it when I cook at home. Yet again the meat is battered in flaky tempura crust, this time also tossed in a spicy sauce. The cartilage has crunch and chewiness, but isn't an unpalatable texture. It tastes like squid, but also like a pork rind. It's all fat, all crust, all sauce. This also came with a side of the hot, tangy mayo.

A dish for the brave
One of the bigger experiments of the night was ordering a mixed bowl- a yukke. We got the salmon natto yukke, mainly because of my insistence on trying natto- Japanese fermented beans. Natto dish is HUMONGOUS in Japan, it's a national staple (from my understanding, anyhow). It's also notorious outside it's country of origin for being one of the more horrible foods you can order, and opinions on it differ widely. Not all fermentation tastes bad after all, or we wouldn't enjoy wine and beer. The dish was so pretty and colourful, with a raw quail egg adding a yolky dash of yellow to the heart of the bowl, which also had salmon sashimi, wonton chips, green onion, shibazuke (a mixture of cucumber and eggplant pickles), takuon (daikon pickle) and of course, natto. The dish is served with all the ingredients separate in the same bowl, meant to be mixed together and served in dollops on squares of crisp nori. I'm a huge nori advocate, but first I wanted to try the natto by itself. I just tried a couple of the little beans. Oh no! Call me uncultured, I'll accept it, but I cannot eat natto by itself. It tastes sour, and the gooey, stringy texture of fermented gloop that coats it is a turn-off. We followed through and mixed the dish all together. The natto helped it stick. In the end, the different flavours harmonized, and even though some of that fermentation came through, the nori and tender salmon saved the dish. I ended up enjoying it as a whole, though I can't say I would order a natto yukke again.

I'm going to buy some pickled eggs and try this at home
My favourite dish perhaps was the assorted kushi age (Japanese kabob made with unexpected items). This is very similar to tempura, but served on a skewer, and with a more robust batter. We ordered a skewer of quail egg (soft, fluffy yolks and the most tasty snack I never imagined), one of potato (predictable but delicious comfort food), one of ham (served as a slab, just a big chunk of meat that tasted a bit like a hot dog), mushroom (sadly it was only crimini or button- I had hoped we would have shiitake, or some less run of the mill deep fried fungus), and lotus root (this wasn't actually a skewer, and the dense slices of root were pleasantly refreshing and watery while maintaining their body. A bit sweet). All served with an out of this world ponzu sauce, and that ever-present wasabi mayo.

'Open Sesame' are the words to my heart!
I insisted on desert even though we were all full after sharing all the greasy dishes. I had seen a picture of this sesame troika of a dessert called 'goma senkushi' that I needed to try- not because I'm nuts for sesame, but because I knew I could draw it beautifully. Sometimes that's what motivates me to order a dish. It arrived, and was as lovely as I had hoped. It was tasty, too. The rice cracker wafers were flaky and not overpowering. The two rice balls were warm and glutinous, one had been deep fried with a sesame seed crust. The ice cream was black, and tasted more of cream than seeds, but for the visual alone I would have loved it. Less of an overwhelming aroma than I expected, but a filling dessert that suits the menu going at GUU.

Thanks to my guests Anthony (of the band The Ethers) and Nate (design editor at large) for experimenting with me!
Guu Sakabar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thank you, ladies!

Things have been going really well here at Drawn and Devoured, and I want to send a special THANK YOU to everyone who's been featuring the blog and spreading the word about it.

Big thanks to Renee of Eat.Live.Shop., who ran a feature on D&D as one of her crushes. It was an honour to be featured as Renee's blog is one of the reasons I got into blogging to begin with.

I'm also really exited to share this interview with me by Sarah of the webzine Not French Cooking. She asked a lot of interesting questions, so if you're curious about the person behind Drawn and Devoured, it's worth a read!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Bunners Bakery

Bunners Gluten free and Vegan delight

This wasn't my first encounter with the increasingly popular Dundas West bakery. Getting to Bunners, located at 3054 Dundas West, takes a little dedication, but fortunately there are a few places closer to the core that stock some of their delights (my first encounter was at my old workplace, Atelier cafe, who started stocking Bunners right before I got a new job!) including Te Aro in Leslieville and Crema in the Junction. I'm sure there'll be plenty more soon, as Bunners fever spreads- after all, it is Toronto's only exclusively gluten-free bakery. Did I forget to mention that? I know a lot of wheateaters will read that word and abandon ship, but please, I encourage you to read on. Gluten free baking has come a LONG way. Judge it by its taste, not its reputation! Which is the only thing anyone without an allergy/ethical food avoidance should judge their food by, anyhow.
It was hearing about their other offerings, including a rumored sandwich pocket that made me decide to hop on my bike and visit the mother ship.
I'd just like to quickly put into perspective my dedication to Drawn and Devoured. I live in Cabbagetown. On my way to Bunners I got lost, making for a nearly 20km ride. I'm still feeling sore!

This also means you can't judge me for eating every. Last. Dessert.

It was a fun ride, and the furthest northwest I've ventured yet. I didn't realize how neat the Junction is, with gorgeous salvage stores, and lots of vegetarian and organic option eateries with enticing menus. I spotted a couple places that just made my 'to blog about' list. Since the photo's on Bunners facebook don't show much of the interior of the store, I really wasn't sure that to expect, but I had thought there would be some table space. It's actually very tiny, and the only thing to sit on is a small platform at the front of the store. They sell brewed coffee, but it's not a place to stay and relax! They also didn't seem to have the savoury pocket I'd heard about, either.
In a rare turn for me, I had a lot of questions to ask the owners, and wound up talking to Ashley Wittig who was very patient with my impromptu interview. So much for my usual habit of making notes incognito and scurrying out to draw. When I entered and saw how small the place is, I wanted to ask about what plans she and co-owner Kevin MacAllister have for the bakery. Licensing means this location probably won't be getting any tables, but they are thinking of expanding. When and where? That's a story for another day. One of the questions we got the most at Atelier that I wanted to repeat was 'what sort of flour is in this?', so I decided to ask. To make things easy, here's a wiki-glossary of their most common ingredients:

Now, onto the fun stuff. Food!
I am a Lady

One of my top favourite flavours is coconut. Fresh or dry, it's creamy and heady with natural flavour. I had really hoped that the coconut cake Bunners lists on its website would be available, and it was! Most of what I ordered I took home with me, but the cake I couldn't wait to get my hands on. Because Bunners doesn't have any tables, it was a bit hard to eat, especially since they don't have any cutlery either. Maybe some biodegradable forks would be a good thing to add? The cake is made with brown rice and chickpea flours, and both potato and arrowroot starch. It was so moist! From everything I tried I will tell you that Bunners is the right place for anyone who likes rich, moist cakes and desserts, but if you want something like a dry fluffy Italian cake, or even a from-the-box texture, you might find it too dense and moist. I love it, and I would almost say the cake here stops just barely shy of being as moist and rich as a bread pudding, while still pulling of 'fluffy'. What did disappoint me about the cake was the delicacy of the flavours. I don't need to be hit over the head with lemon and coconut, but I would like to taste them, and I barely could. Even though the slice was coated in coconut shavings, I had a hard time picking it up from the taste of what was essentially a very good vanilla cake. The lemon I couldn't taste at all.
You can but the cakes whole: 30$ for a 6" cake, 45$ for a 9" cake.

Trifecta of Terror
Following in the footsteps of the cupcake wave that hit Toronto in the last couple years, comes the whoopie pie- or creamie in Bunners vernacular. I tried these at my old workplace and HAVE to write about them. 4.35 isn't a bad price to pay for the big cookie sandwiches. A creamie is made from two spongy layers of cookie (either chocolate chip or DOUBLE chocolate) with a thick layer of icing inside. I'm really happy with the texture and taste of Bunners vegan icing, it tastes almost identical to dairy icing, but with the comfort of knowing it's all-natural too. The icing is less like butter cream icing, having stronger sugar and air. The cookies that keep it all together are great, with just a hint of that 'natural food store' flavour at the back of the palate. The flavour of the cookies themselves reminds me a lot of cookie dough, and taste sinfully good.
If you want to try and stay a little bit healthy, try the gypsy cookie! It's pretty much a 2$ power bar, loaded with gluten-free oats, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, dried cranberry and chocolate chips. I love the crunch. The layers of all those crisp and chewy ingredients make for a very satisfying snack, breaking up with all sorts of flavours in my mouth, from sour to sweet. It's small but surprisingly filling. It's the only item at Bunners I would describe as tasting like a health food, and it's still yummy.

Small but deadly
For the guilty gluten-free sweets lover, there are choices! At long last, you can join everyone else in the debate over vanilla, or chocolate, or red velvet? Bunners has options (at 3.25$ each, I drew the wrong price above. Sorry!). I tried two cupcakes (made with chick pea flour, and both starches), the chocolate with vanilla icing, and the raspberry lemon. Having mini chocolate chips on the icing was an adorable touch, and again, the icing is great! Same kind as in the creamies. The cake texture is drier than the large cake, more airy. The cocoa has a mild dry flavour, with a noticeable kick of salt to boost the taste. Surprisingly rich (by the end of the day I had a toothache. Do not tell yourself these foods are 'healthy', it is a lie! A delicious lie). Again there was a hard to describe aftertaste, though not at all unpleasant.
Though it was fairly smooshed by the time I made my way to it in the afternoon, the lemon raspberry cupcake I was recommended to try was unfortunately as mild in flavour as the coconut cake. The body had a lightly ricey flavour, but did not taste like lemon unless I closed my eyes and really searched for the taste. The icing was a small improvement, flavourful but again without much kick of raspberry. The flavour was there at the back of the palate, and again I had to search for it.

Heavy as bricks! But much tastier.
For dessert (ha!) I got two donuts. Or doughnuts, if you want to gripe about the American spelling. They are small, compact little monsters of goodness. Baked, not fried, the exterior texture comes surprisingly close to what you would expect from any other doughnut. I tried one plain and one coconut (made with chickpea and tapioca flour, sorghum, and the coconut dyed with beet juice). These donuts are thick and sticky, without that crisp shell that deep-frying provides. The glaze has enough granulation left to leave the impression of a crust, and I think it's cleverly handled. Making a baked gluten-free doughnut must be HARD. I taste a little bit of lemon in the gummy dough. Again, the coconut was very light.

All in all, I really liked Bunners. I'm glad they're still experimenting and expanding their menu, and I'm sure they're going to come up with even greater desserts in the future. I hope they do eventually open more central locations with more savoury items (they DO sell bread loaves and muffins now, though!).
 Bunner’s Bake Shop  on Urbanspoon