Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Bellevue

It was a lovely view!

I feel that this is the in-the-know haunt of beardo's and beardo-fanciers alike. Somehow between location and menu, the clientele at the Bellevue (located at 61A Bellevue at the corner of Nassau) have a certain style in common, a style reflected in the low-ceremony resto. I've been here for coffee previously, which is when I first lit on the homogeny of the indie joint. It's a kind of crowd that I feel comfortable with: those looking for cheap booze, coffee and good food, a casual setting and a lovable location. It feels like my uncles house back when I was a kid. Maybe that's just all the moustache's doing the cooking and serving...or the brown and speckled pottery?

The building used to be an eco-friendly clothes store, and the transformation is surprising to me. The new decor looks like it's been around forever or at least since the seventies. I know that this was a complete renovation, but the Bellevue has arrived with a quiet calm to announce that, actually, it's always been here, thank you. At least in spirit.
No Parlo
Their patio is a scattering of wood slotted tables and chairs, a bit wobbly. There's no fence, and the windows are big, open wide so that the interior restaurant seems to flow into the front yard, where we sit. Mary and I both order americano's to wake up (2.38$), and as I browse the menu I'm happy to note that they opt for sustainable options as much as possible. In todays geography that may no longer be unusual, but it certainly tickles me. I also read that many (or all?) their breads come from Woodlot, a bakery/restaurant that has been hanging out on my to-review list for a while. This gets me excited indeed!

The coffees are served in beautiful retro cups by our friendly lady server. I found the staff here very good. They seemed to be having fun, didn't mind answering a few questions, and didn't leave us wanting for anything. I can recommend the americano. It's got a thick froth of crema, and is pretty strong, though having more citrus than is my preference.

 A colourful plate with a 'meh' palate.
A fan of all things Latin American, Mary gets El Special (12$), which is a brekky plate of bacon or ham or sausage, cheesy scrambled eggs, tomatillo sauce, tortillas and black beans. Unfortunately this dishware is not very special! Plain white, oh well. The food is bright and the side bowl of black beans has punchy green avocado cubes on top. The tortillas remind me of cannoli's because of their shape, rolled into small tubes. Maybe a bit too small. There are only two, and they look more crisp and chewy than spongy. They prove a good dipper for the zesty tomatillo sauce, laced with lemon and cilantro but mostly full of itself. They don't help with the beans which are sitting in a soup of juice. We both find the beans sadly bland, even with the chili powder noticeable in them, onions, tomato cubes and avocado. They needed more salt, and less juice. I would also suggest baking them with a dash of sesame oil, but that's just me. The cheesy scrambled eggs please Mary who never met a wet egg she could eat. They are robust and well cooked with onions and herbs. The cheese was hard to notice. I think The Bellevue is using a soft and mild cheese, like babybel (I had something similar on my plate). Mary had asked for bacon with hers, but the kind of bacon used by the Bellevue is a thicker cut that when cooked crispy (as requested) has too strong a flavour of pork rind, and neither of us liked it much.
A corkscrewky sausage!
Interested as always in exploration, but craving eggs, I went for a plate with a unlikely assembly of nibbles, The Unusual (12$). Sunnyside eggs, sausage (chipolata, I think), sliced oven roasted beets, cheddar (though I again swear this was Babybel), kimchi (not house-made, but procured elsewhere in Kensington), with Woodlot's toast and fresh fruit. Yummy! It was a bit of a multicultural smorgasbord, and all things I enjoy separately. The Woodlot bread was GREAT. It was sliced thin and toasted to the texture of crostini, but still chewy and absorbant. Like all my favourite breads it was really grainy. The butter had melted and seeped in. Some flavours matched better than others. I tried kimchi with runny egg on the toast. Good combo. GREAT combo, with the vinegar, chili, tomato sauce and egg! The beets with green onions were sweet, cool and refreshing after the spicy kimchi, and tasted nice with the strawberries and blueberries. We both loved the sausage. It was meaty without being fatty. It tasted like a traditional English banger, but not nearly so fatty, with a crisper skin.

I think for what you get the price is right, moreso knowing the sourcing of ingredients is considerate to the environment. There are other things on this menu I would be interested in trying, namely gluten-free ricotta pancakes.

Note: Their online menu does not match the menu you will be served. Prices are slightly different, some descriptions have been changed. But it gives an idea!
The Bellevue on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Dutch Dreams


It's summer! Look at that sun! Forget those thunderstorms (it's all in your head)!
I am very happy to shepherd in this season with a very indulgent ice cream feature. Yes, I know it's mid June and I'm a bit late to the party. By now ice cream is probably old news. We've moved on to the hiding in our apartments with the AC cranked on high while bemoaning the heat and haze part of summer, eh?

There is many an ice cream parlour to choose from in Toronto. Not only do we have our imports and chains, but there are fresh local brands to choose from who make delicious hand crafted ices, sorbets and gelato. With so much to choose from, how to narrow it down and pick only one for this feature? In the end my selection process was determined by a belated sense of patrimony. Well, I'm third generation and hardly in touch with my roots, but that touch is the Dutch touch, and it lead me to Dutch Dreams (78 Vaughan Rd, off of St. Clair), that kitsch, that shining beacon of tack. You haven't seen it? Look for the terrifying and saccharine clown figureheading the store, which is bedecked in all manner of mannequin, pennant, light, and of course, Netherlandish paraphernalia.

The other factor bringing me far from my comfort zone, other than the proximity of my friend Pietro's home, was the eternal lineup to get IN the parlour. Something good must be afoot, yes?
If only you could see my notes for this excursion. Never has my shorthand been so messy or staccato. Between balancing a dripping and weighty cone and the constant sensory overload, they're nigh illegible. Inside we crammed our not-sizable ass's into a little corner table. The walls are crammed with ornate frames and prints of the Dutch masters, the ceilings draped with colourful dolls. Delft, tiles, general Dutchery. I might have gotten overexcited. Was it the sugar, or was it the fact that so mush of this weird STUFF is familiar to me from my Oma's house? You'd be surprised, perhaps, by how correct the decorating was, right down to the clogs.


At Dutch Dreams the cones and cups start at 4$, and all of them are topped with whipped cream and fruit (strawberry, kiwiw and tinned pineapple). Harking back to what I said about my lack of attention and my crappy shorthand, the journalism behind this venture is distinctly lacking. I apologize for this shoddy accounting of prices, and lack of research in the sourcing of their ice cream! Where does it some from? I doubt it was home made. Dutch Dreams also offers sundaes, splits, shakes and familiar Dutch concessions, from stroopwaffles to rusks to instant indonesian spice packages (there is a history of colonialism there, let's not explore it). I buy some stroopwaffles, an favourite.


Molly starts us off with a single scoop cup of frozen yoghurt. At first this sounds like a dollop of healthy eating, but she DID get M&M's blended into it. The cup was on the house since their froyo machine wasn't performing to spec that night, and the end product didn't have the body one expects of frozen dessert. Machine's fail, and it was the right decision to give it on the house (there was also an offer of replacing it with something else). The flavour was very interesting. Yoghurt has a slight sour flavour that makes it taste fresh, but the sickly sweetness of candy made my taste buds flop around with entertainment. Served with a wedge of wafflecone.

Pietro needed to be persuaded to have ice cream. He wasn't quite in the mood...I must thank him for taking one for the blog. He ordered a single scoop banana ice cream on a plain cone. The cones are big, but not freshly rolled. This MIGHT be a good thing, given the crazy line up just to get in. They are made in-house, earlier in the day perhaps. The staff could barely keep their heads above water just scooping. It's very cramped inside, with no room to shuffle. The ice cream is predictable, and pleasant.

My adventurous self was seeking greater stimulation. Without the appetite for a sundae, I ordered a single scoop of mocha almond on a special cone. The plexi separating customer from cream hosts the banks of encrusted cones (the colourful varieties include 'karfunkle co', 'coconut macaroon', 'belgian chocolate truffle', and 'wowie brownie') with their labels. I asked for a 'Nuts about Chocolate' cone, but I guess the staff don't know their own cones by name, and after a look of confusion I pointed to the pecan-studded object of my desire. I did like the ice cream, it had a strong flavour of espresso and cocoa. Very sweet. The cone was thick and I broke pieces off  like small shovels to scoop ice cream onto. Tenacity was needed to keep things from falling apart in my lap.

Though we were all happy with our selections, I would not call Dutch Dreams the best ice cream parlour in Toronto (and I would know a thing as an ex-scooper, myself). That title probably falls on Gregs, who make their own, and make it very well. Dutch Dreams does not have the same intensity of flavour, or boldness in ingredient combination. Dutch Dreams has sugary ice cream with toppings and flare. It has kitsch, and let's never underestimate presence. Go here for the experience, their generosity, for the ridiculous cone choices, the sugar, the fun.
Dutch Dreams on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Weekly Features Roundup

It has been an extremely busy and rewarding week at Drawn and Devoured!
I'd like to say a little thank you to people linking back here in the last couple weeks. 

Hand Guide to Nothing Our server from Caplansky's finds Drawn and Devoured, and shares it on his tumblr
Until We Eat Again Mentions the blog at the end of their Toronto cafe tour article, happy to find a blog that's both food and comics
Sheryl Kirby is one of the voices behind TasteToronto, and has moved her daily features to her personal site- TasteTO has been linking to me regularly and it's been very helpful!

I've also had the experience of getting interviewed by a two very amazing websites.
OTMzine is an online publication in magazine format. Doing the interview for them was a LOT of fun, since I got to play at pretty princess and have my makeup done and do a photo shoot. I think the most fun part was getting to draw a mini-comic for them, though. See bellow! 

Drawn and Devoured is now also on Bloglovin' and Foodbuzz.

Thanks again everyone for your support. You make working on this blog a pure pleasure!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


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Perhaps you've noticed that Drawn and Devoured tends to focus on very new restaurants. Well, I'm not a selfless creature. New things garner interest, tend to have fun twitter accounts, facebook, which is all good for me- the more people who find me and spread the word the better!

I think some amazing classics fall to the wayside due to my selection habits. Some restaurants, like Hibiscus, have been in Toronto much longer than I have (what is it, about six years now?). Though I've literally wanted to try Hibiscus for years, the stars and planets have never aligned just so to allow it. There was one time my friends and I were right at its door on Augusta Avenue, but a sad sign informed us that a family emergency would keep the vegan eatery closed for the day. Bummer! I hope everything on their end in that situation turned out for the best.
If you've been reading the blog for a while, you should remember Adelle, my favourite person to go explore the seedy underbelly of T.O.'s resto scene- and when I say seedy, I mean pumpkin, sunflower, sprouted and cracked. That's right, we're talking the HEALTHY stuff now! Adelle just came back from an adventure to Hawaii and Eugene (at a sustainability conference! Amazing!), so it was extra excellent to see her, catch up, and gush with all the projects we're both constantly wrapped up in.

You're reading this for the food, though, aren't you? Ok!

Hibiscus is, as I mentioned, a classic. It's been a long standing haunt for the healthy, vegetarian, and vegan. They are known for their buckwheat crepes and wholesome salads. We went on an ideal day as it was balmy and hot summer dress weather. The tables are polished, old wood, sun kissed. With all the natural wood details and age, the place feels homey. The large windows keep it bright and open. There's also a sunlit patio to sit at. So interred is Hibiscus in its digs that the planks under our feet waft wholesomeness, the smell of dry grains and earth. I like it, in my mind it is the ultimate 'health food store' smell- maybe not appealing to everyone, but it is to me.

There are fresh drinks to be had on this intense day. Not one for super sweet drinks and often disappointed with lemonade, I order theirs to see how it compares to others. 3$ buys a tall glassful, and to my pleasure the drink is tart, just mellowed out enough to keep me from sucking my cheeks in against the sourness.

Adelle orders iced Kombucha tea. I was worried I would only taste mushrooms and staleness. This kombucha is not comparable to others! It must be very fresh, and has a booziness to it. She explains to me that the tea is fermented at some point in its processing. Not unlike my lemonade it has a good tartness that helps deal with the heat- I wish I'd ordered it instead.

Even coming from a Dutch family where we would eat apple pannenkoek (like a crepe) regularly, I've never been a huge fan of stuffed crepes. I have a limit, yes I, to sweetness! These aren't your Queen West crepes, though; my understanding of buckwheat is that it's very grainy and robust, very unlike a white flour crepe. Then I read the description of a crepe with chutney, pecans, pears and spinach leaves (9$). I had also been recommended the crepes... I ordered it. The crepe was folded around one end, the other open to display a lovely fan of sliced and delicately cooked pears, layers of spinach and mock-chedar. I couldn't see the chutney until I cut in and forked a chunk. Then, lo, a bright orange splash of colour and flavour! What I tasted was a drizzle of honey over the still-crisp pear slices, and the thick diced mango chutney dashed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and other heady spices. To my surprise the mock cheese was pleasantly savoury, even stringy, though its texture gave it away otherwise. I had had my reservations. I do prefer the hearty buckwheat crepe with its crisp dry edges and extra chewy texture. To perfect the dish, the pecans gave a crunchy kick. No wonder Hibiscus is a classic.

For long before her vacation and explorations, Adelle had talked about the salads at Hibiscus, building them up with praise for their diversity. There's a rotating selection, changing with the chefs whims, favourites reoccurring regularly. I got a look at the big bowls on display. It's a lovely sight, beautiful crockery brimming with orange yam salad, maroon beans, punchy green broccoli heads. You can order an assorted salad bowl, which is exactly what she did. It comes in two sizes (6.70$ or 7.85$), but I think the small isn't enough for anyone with a real appetite. There was a dozen different salads and toppings as well, all served with a raw cracker stuck in the side. Raw crackers fascinate me. Created with a blend of grains and nut pulp (usually, but not always), they're dehydrated for hours until the texture becomes not crisp, but chewy and dry. This one is thin and delicate, its flavour of a mix of whole grains offset by what I thought was black strap molasses.
In the bowl were sweet potato cubes (solid, plain), cold quinoa (fluffy and light, slightly oiled with dried cranberries adding sweetness to offset the natural nuttiness, which was complemented by pine nuts), bean salad (a traditional vegetarian nom, this one made of black beans, chick peas, garbanzo, and flavoured with sweet onion and generous cumin, again that hint of molasses), finely cubed tofu (sweet with a non-smokey barbecue sauce, and lightly dressed), kimchi, and a couple steamed veggie dishes lightly seasoned with lemon: broccoli, green beans, grated carrot, slivered beets. Most perplexing was this dollop of white stuff on top, which we were guessing was mashed potato, but didn't QUITE taste like it. Finally we asked. It is some kind of super-protein mash made of soymilk paste and mushroom. It tasted a lot like ricotta, with a similar texture.

To indulge a shared tooth for well-crafted sweets, we debated over the many cookies and squares displayed along the back counter. I try not to be too pushy when sharing, but coconut does something orgasmic to me. We were both eyeing the selection of squares, and there was little debate over selecting a cashew coconut square (2.75$). Shockingly creamy thanks to the natural butteriness of cashew. It was also very chewy in a more pleasant way than stick-to-your-teeth toffee. Dried cranberries helped hold it together. I wish the coconut had been more pronounced, but this was still an immensely enjoyable treat. Just watch out, they melt in the heat!

Yes, I used the word nom. Is it in the dictionary yet? Quick, where's my Websters!
Hibiscus on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


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Ah, Caplansky's. The meat-lovers haven of kosher deliciousness, one of Toronto's few authentic deli's. Once upon a time I ventured in to try their smoked offerings at 356 College Street. The turkey was dry, but that was two years ago. Since then, Caplansky's fame has continued a steady climb, and Zane has started some exciting ventures. For those who aren't up for travelling the gruelling distance to middle-of-everything College street, Caplansky now delivers...by bike! Within reasonable  distance. There's also the intriguing deli truck, which takes Caplanky foods out on wheels, like an ice cream cart for adults. Will it play the Lambada?

Let's eat some meat!
This might be the thing that brings me back. how to describe the knish? It's no beauty. A wedge of pastry stuffed with meat, spices, and riced potato sits in a puddle of rather hideous, lumpy gravy. It tastes like savoury heaven.  The gravy reminds me of the ragu my not-Quebecois mother would make. It's got a rich briny taste, with the chunks of macerated beef adding a lumpiness that could almost classify it as chili. Though it doesn't have liver in, I can almost taste a rich, heady iron. I thoroughly enjoy the puff pastry, which was bready. The crust was chewy with egg-wash, the tender underside sucking up more and more gravy. I could eat this every day.

For me, this was a challenge. It's not that I'm afraid of the taste of tongue (and you can keep your lewd jokes to yourself!). I've heard unappealing accounts of the texture, though. In my commitment to eating and experiencing everything, I couldn't let that hold me back without advice. Lexie was my consultant for all things on this Jewish menu that I wanted advice for, and told me that tongue is one of her favourite things ever. With trust, I chose if over the sweet gefilte fish. 
The texture is NOT a turn off! 
Perhaps it would have been if the dense and spongy meat hasn't been sliced thin like Montreal smoked meat. The texture is thicker and less stringy than most deli meats, but the flavour is incredible. It's incredibly fatty and overflowing with richness. No risk of being dry here! Since the tongue is pickled, it's packed with tenderness, and the flavours are accentuated from the brine. Call me a convert. What was funny about the sandwich was actually the size of the bread. These poor little wedges of rye! They're under so much pressure to perform. It's a huge task for two little guys, falling apart under the weight of the butter they're drenched in (though that didn't keep me from saturating them further in hot mustard).
What I want to know, Zane, is can I take your tongue home with me? ...do you sell jars, maybe?
The sandwich combo I ordered comes with fries, salad or soup. I need to find a place with more interesting side dished to draw! I opted in for the soup du jour, since it's served cold. Nothing to say 'hello, Summer!' like cold soup to start a hot meal. In retrospect, I should have tried the borscht, something I've yet to try. This soup was very good, though! It was quite filling thanks to the rich and complex squash. With apple puree in it, it was sweeter than I had expected, and reminded me of pumpkin pie. There was a hint of herbs and ginger. It was a lovely appetizer.


Lexie went for an entree from the less deli-centric side of the menu, a vegetarian ratatouille. This was pure comfort food. The rich was fluffy, sticky and plain, the kind that sticks to your ribs. On top was a simple heap of soft grilled vegetables, a medley of citrusy zuchini, earthy eggplant, onions and a colourful array of yellow, red and green pepper. I think the pepper and citrus of the gourds stood out, giving the stew a refreshing quality that balanced with the heartiness of plain rice, and went well with the balmy evening air.


Now, I don't usually do this, but the staff was INCREDIBLE. So, here's a quick shout-out as a thank you for wonderful service, humor, and a smile that was massive and almost unnaturally genuine. Seriously man, how do you do it! We came in near to closing time, the hour that servers tend to turn sour, and this guy was just amazing and nice. I probably drew his hair wrong.


Rugelach isn't news to me. Having dated a Jewish boy, I've was lucky enough to get to snack on these tiny pastries semi-regularly. They're like one inch long croissants, but denser. The pastry fall somewhere between puff pastry, and flakier viennoiserie. It's sweet, with just the barest hint of the vinegar used to make puff pastry crisp. That just makes the sugars stand out more. The rugelach at Caplansky's had a chocolate twist which was great (I'm a chocoholic). I really enjoy them for their size, their simplicity. It was a nice and light dessert after a KILLER filling dinner!


I know I said not to make any tongue jokes, and now I am making tongue jokes, and have made tongue jokes...well.
 Zane says it himself, he's got the best tongue in town.
Caplansky's Delicatessen on Urbanspoon