Tuesday, April 26, 2011



I think I will want to visit Negroni (492 College St. west) again in the summertime. We were seated at the back of the quiet, spacious resto, and from that vantage point it was clear they have a beautiful patio. It's not a massive, cram everyone you can fit patio, nor is it a two table sardine can, but is just right. Inside and out, Negroni is decked in smooth, natural looking wood, which glows in the warmth of yellow walls and candlelight. I feel that they have a classic and unhurried vibe, which made for a relaxing dinner with Pietro, my roommate Molly, and her mother Meredith who was in town for a conference with a colleague.
We started with a round of drinks, and while everyone pretty much stuck to tried and trusted beers, I went into dangerous territory and ordered the signature drink. Maybe it's because I've been following the cocktail challenge over at BlogTO, but it seems a bit tragic that people of my generation aren't well versed in good mixed drinks (beyond the bar rail!). Maybe it's just our budgets, though, since the drink was under two shots and over ten dollars. I enjoyed the negroni, which is a shaken mix of campari, gin, and Italian vermouth. It is sweet and dry, and easy to nurse- not like a gross sugar martini.
Now, how's their food?


A classic I've always eyed but never tried! I think my run in with raw beef at Origin boldened me up to try another raw red meat dish (though in actuality it takes little boldening for me to try anything, and beef is my favourite meat cooked or not). Under sharp shavings of parmesan and a heap of arugula were our rounds of paper thin, cool beef drizzled gloriously in truffle oil, which I will liken to butter without the flavour of dairy- creamy, fatty, rich as anything, with a clean aftertaste. The meat itself fell apart as we tried to divide it onto five plates, it was so delicate. Raw, the flavours that reigned were iron and salt, and it was mild. I feel like I tasted a hint of anise. I am very happy to have tried the carpaccio, but I don't think it's bold enough for my palate.
I'll take a bottle of truffle oil, though!


Meredith and I each opted in for a different risotto. I think what I've had for risotto in the past came from a box and can hardly wear the name proudly. These were real, freshly cooked risottos of round arborio rice! They were served in large bowls, though the portion itself was not overwhelming. I am sad there wasn't a light salad or some lightly steamed veg on the side to nibble on and refresh the palate in between creamy mouthfuls- not that the dishes weren't filling, because they certainly were! It would have added more interest, however.
The mushroom risotto was comparable to a ragout for flavour. It has all the earthiness and light pepper, even had the flavour of gravy while being vegetarian. I enjoyed the buttons of mushroom which poked out here and there, adding some texture and something to chew on.
Less stunning in flavour was the butternut, which I ordered. It had a beautiful colour, but tasted so mild in comparison to the mushroom, which was overflowing with subtlety. I like that the butternut was both sweet and savoury at the same time, letting me mull the taste over slowly. There were no chunks in it to add interest, just the glutinous, swollen grains of arborio. Both risotto's were thick with sauce and clung to the stomach.

The rest of the table opted to try Negroni's apparently famous grilled sandwiches. Molly had this unlikely assortment of unusual stuffing. Without the capers and artichoke, this would be a lot like a nicoise sandwich, but with them it's something new and all it's own. I didn't get to try the sandwiches this time (so wrapped up in risotto and conversation was I), but she relayed to me her pleasure with the sandwich, it's surprising ability to stuff (I thought the sandwiches looked too flat to be filling, but was proved wrong!), and it's interesting lemony taste.
All three sandwiches came with salads of arugula and greens in a balsamic dressing.

Grilled Sirloin, black garlic mayo and cheddar cheese make this Negroni's take on a Philly steak melt. From enthusiastic mm's I think this sandwich was VERY tasty and flavourful. I hadn't heard of black garlic before, either, and I love adding new culinary weapons to my armoury. Apparently it's everything white garlic is, but better.

What could Negroni possibly do to make the untouchable B.L.T. even better? Add some heat! Make it leaner! Not everyone has to agree with me on that last point.
By substituting spicy and chewy panchetta for bacon, roasted cherry tomato for raw hothouse slices, and arugula for romaine (or iceberg if you're a travesty), this sandwich effectively takes it up a notch for spiciness and texture. It's also grilled. Take that, tradition!

I would love to come back once these interminable rains end, so that I can lounge out back with a lovely cocktail and maybe test out the dessert menu. I found the service here friendly and helpful by the way, which was a real treat in Toronto-with-the-chip-on-its-shoulder. 
For me Negroni's menu constitutes summery food, since most of it was so delicately handled.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Lazy Sunday

Hello everyone! Hope you're all having as lazy and relaxing an Easter Sunday as I am. Sleeping in and having brunch is pretty much the best!

I have a couple things to announce.
First, I'd like to thank TasteTO for their recent write up on Drawn and Devoured...I think they describe the blog fabulously! It's nice to hear that people like my writing as much as my drawing, since it's not as much my specialty. You can read that HERE.

Also, I just launched a facebook fan page for Drawn and Devoured! You should follow over there as well, since I'll be mirroring the updates. I'm also curious to know just how many people are following D&D!

Last, I recently posted the process that goes into making an illustration for The One that Got Away over at my illustration blog. If you're curious about how I make my art, head over and check it out.

I'll see you all Tuesday for the next scrumptious update!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

416 Snack Bar

It only opened at the end of January, and the 416 Snack Bar will not be ignored. I've been hearing buzz about this place since before it opened, actually. They're not spin doctors, but with a playful Toronto inspired theme and an active (ancient) blog which leaked sneak peeks building up to the opening, 416 hit the ground running. With food inspired by Chinatown, the new meat revolution happening in Toronto, and even our street meat, I finally have gotten to try their offerings, with my friends Trevor and Jenn in tow. At a classy little spot just off Queen at 181 Bathurst, the food is served tapas-style in portions that only make for a few bites. It's a great way to encourage the clientele to try everything. We nearly did, only skipping out on two dinner items, and a dessert! Inside it's dark and intimate, lots of wood and an industrial barn vibe. I did find the staff a little difficult to begin with, when trying to figure out a table. There aren't a lot of seats, and they don't do reservations. If you get there at dinner peak, expect to sit at the bar or share a table with strangers. Make some friends! Throughout our stay they were attentive and friendly, but it's also just hard to forget people at the bar.
All food prices are tax included.

Just once before have I had oysters, and I was very lucky to get to eat them in P.E.I., caught fresh that morning. It's not much of a compass, especially since that was two years ago. I was excited to try these, just to jog my memory about what the big deal is. The plating was beautiful and playful, each oyster perched on a mound of sea salt. There was fresh dry horseradish, a lemon wedge, and a dish or Worchestire sauce. For this I think the sides were crucial, since they were as fresh and flavourful as possible, especially the horseradish. I do feel that the oysters were not perfectly fresh. Keep in mind I'm no expert. I still enjoyed them for the taste of wild water they carried. I think it would be easier to appreciate them during the heat of summer.

Microscopically thin slices of apple were served with a small stick of very, very tasty B.C. unpasteurised cow's milk cheese (I had taken the name down as Alpidon, from Coutigny, but I must have spelled everything wrong since I can't find that cheese online). The crackers cracker me up because they were a very simple variety. I like that, for all the pomp of the cheese board, the crackers were unassuming. The cheese was a firm, mild flavoured cheese with a salty bite, and strong flavour of rind. All this was served with a bright orange jelly that had a strong flavour of honey. It was a very satisfying combination.

The second time in as many weeks that I got to nibble on some gravlax! This time I was prepared with answers when my friendly woefully began to wonder about what such a thing could be- cured pacific salmon, in the case of 416. There isn't a lot I can say about this, since I didn't try it. Jenn had it, and was very impressed, debating for a while about ordering a second serving- remember, these servings are tiny! The latkes were crackling hot when they arrived and smelled very oniony.

Jenn and I both wound up trying the spanakopita. While I wouldn't think of it as Toronto0iconic, I do love a good spanakopita- or Greek spinach pie, by another common term for it. 416 serves it up with a few layers of filo and a small bit of filling for the heart. It was buttery and flaky, but lacked substance. Airy, really. I was impressed with the tzatziki sauce which had a lemony zest and heaps of garlic.

Do I ever love a hand rolls. There was so much going on in this guy. There was julienne carrot, what tasted like bamboo shoots, and a crispy tofu so flavourful that I thought it was meat. The rice was hot, sticky and brown- good, I like to pretend things are healthy! I suspect there was mushroom in the pile of filling, because there was a very shiitake flavour. I couldn't examine. With hand rolls, once you start you really can't stop!

Banh-mi is a sandwich which is a creation from French occupied Vietnam, when the Vietnamese got to experience baguette. Using stuffing from their own country, this incredible foodstuff was invented, and has travelled to Toronto (and the world!). This version had julienned carrot, daikon, possibly cilantro, red onion and cucumbers. What I found so interesting about it was that the pork had a noticeable cinnamon flavour. It was fatty (almost creamy) and succulent, and wasn't overpowered by the many vegetables heaped into this palm-sized nibble. the fattiness, probably from a pate inside, was not a turn off since the manageable portion made it guilt-free. This was also much, much fresher than what I've had from Chinatown (obviously). The heat and sizzle made this one of my favourites.

Pretty much what it sounds like. Depending on what the chefs feel like making 'fried thing' changes per visit. Today it was olives stuffed with pate, then battered and fried. We burned out tongues on the juices! There was five or six of them, piping hot with brine and hot fat from the pate. I really liked them as something to pop while we ordered other food. They were salty and the batter was crunchy. I couldn't help feeling that hot pate winds up tasting a little bit like hot dog - well, I'm a classy lady. 3$

NAPOLITANO pizza pocket, not a Neapolitan pizza pocket. was I secretly craving ice cream? Am I still? These are questions for our age. It was incredibly dense and cheesy, probably the most filling thing on the menu. The marinara sauce on the side was great for dipping, and the pocket had a flavour of onion in the cheese. 4$

My final favourite! While there are a lot of similarities to the banh-mi (many of the same stuffing, which makes it easy for them to assemble at the small bar-side grill station), this was just different enough to make it jump out at me. The bun was like a thick, steamed taco, with everything folded into it. It was chewy and denser than the fluffy baguette of the banh-mi. This meat may have been different as well. It was a sweet pork, very fatty again/

Another thing I didn't get to try! By the time Trevor ordered this I was not feeling the sweets, so wrapped up in savoury heaven had I become. The uptown cinnamon bun seemed to be a run of the mill cinnamon bun, though fresh. It looked a little self-conscious on its plate, but I'm sure it tasted good. The dough was heavy and packed with spices.

This comic might make me seem a bit cruel, but I really do think oysters and mussels taste completely different. I guess both are a bit gross if they're not perfectly fresh.
416 Snack Bar on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Universal Grill

On the corner of Dupont and Shaw is a little teal building that I've been eyeballing for months. It's just something about that shade of blue green that I can't pull my eyes away from. Or maybe it's that the menu has been taunting me from the window every since I glanced it over. Yes, Universal Grill had sunk its hook into me. Time for a review! By some stroke of fortune, my buddy JJ lives right around the corner. A few of us rolled over there Sunday morning to see what they had to offer.
Universal Grill attracts the expected crowd of baby brunchers, and it's not very large on the inside - about eight tables and the bar. We wound up waiting nearly 40 minutes, and for some unexplained reason people who arrived after us were seated first.
Inside, it's a colour-coded classic diner, with mica flecked counter tops in black and silver, and sea green tile to match the exterior. With a proliferation of plants and vintage decoration, it really is lovely to sit in, with a cozy mothers kitchen feel. If you crane your neck, you can see into the kitchen.

Since it was a lazy Sunday, we started with some drinks- a Ceasar for me, a mimosa for JJ, and coffee all 'round the table! The Ceasar was spicy, sweet and heavy on the Worcester. There was some very pretty cucumber and lemon wedge to garnish it up. My sister had ordered a cappuccino, and it was traditional with a single shot and a full head of foam- the flavour was too watery for my preference, and the espresso and milk weren't married to a good consistency. The drip was spot on, though.

11$ - 'Huevos' is Spanish for eggs, and these ranchers eggs are a fun blend of Mexican bean chili and tortilla, and gringo fries and fried egg, all served like a tostada in layers (requisite sour cream and guacamole on the side, thanks). I barely had a second to grab a forkful and jot down some notes before JJ wolfed everything down! Even without our grumbling stomachs it was mouth watering. I tasted a lot of paprika in the chili, which made it complement the greasy flat egg. Major hangover absorption qualities sensed here. Fries and tortilla added crunch and texture. 

12.50$ - One of the daily specials was this horrifying tall mound of peameal, challah and egg called the P.L.T. Oh, the name cannot do it justice. The dry and fluffy challah was cut into generous hunks like ham fists to hold together the stacks of tender bacon, the thick frittata of egg, layers of lettuce, wedges of tomato, and a dripping lava of cheddar. There was a completely unnecessary side of spuds, crispy polyhedra with dense butter laden hearts weighing down an already intimidating meal. Mary was in trouble, that was plain, so we all helped out by grabbing bites of her meal. It was a juicy and bold creation, not shy on the meat, with lots of natural salt. The home fries were lightly seasoned if at all, and were pleasant in their simplicity.

11$ - The omelette of the day was a classic concoction of creamy and rich goat cheese mixed into very generous, salty heaps of sharp spinach, and halved crimini mushrooms. The omelette was very big, not just for it's diameter but for the depth of its stuffing. It was a round hill of filling, oozing fresh spinach juice onto the plate, and glistening with butter. There were four slices of crunchy toast to pile the garden grown creation onto, and a return of those simple spuds. When I tried this, I could swear I tasted a hint of lemon curiously hidden in with all the other flavours, and with something as creamy and rich as a goat cheese omelette, it seemed like a natural and clever decision.

7$ + 3.5$ - By itself this oatmeal is very filling. The bowl seems neverending, just like in the Grimms story 'Sweet Porridge'. It's thick and glutinous, not too dry or wet. Maybe I should be referring to Goldilocks instead, since this is just right? Very much like my go-to breakfast at home, which is porridge and banana, I felt comforted to slowly dig to the bottom of the gooey grey grain. The difference here is that this is not instant, which is why the texture is so much more satisfying than my 1-minute meals. Also, this porridge comes with a thick and zesty homemade compote of raspberry, which cuts through the weight of the banana and porridge and adds an amazing interest that maple syrup couldn't hope to compete with. There were also orange slices and melon, to add to the cornucopia of colours. I'm a big lover of chorizo, so I ordered a sausage on the side as a complement to what I didn't realize would be an obscene amount of oatmeal. This chorizo was dry and had a very noticeable flavour of onion. It was mild for spice, with a crispy, chewy skin.

12$ - One of the least traditional items on the menu is this fritter of potato and onion, a potato pancake of great ambition in size. I think the Universal Grill has a good thing going for fulfilling appetites. Nobody left the restaurant hungry. We may have left much rounder, though. Using gravlax instead of smoked salmon seems like a natural progression for a breakfast item. Unlike smoked salmon, the cured salmon of the gravlax is more tender, easily sucked apart. I find smoked salmon is stringier. There was a very long list of ingredients for the curing process, but Jack Daniels struck me. Hair of the Dog in a most concealed form? The gravlax also wound up with a beautiful raspberry colour, and altogether the dish was visually appealing as well as flavourful. The latke was filled with onion, carrot julienne and potato, fried until the outside became delightfully crisp. with a heap of fresh and crunchy greens, cucumber, carrot, lemon and tomato topped salad, it was a refreshing breakfast on a big plate.
Universal Grill on Urbanspoon


Hey guys! I just spent all day working on todays post, and I'm just not happy with it yet. Instead of posting some less than perfect work, I'm going to take an extra day, and post tomorrow evening. Sorry about that! I really didn't want it to happen.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The One That Got Away

Heather is a Saucy, Saucy Trout

Nestled at the foot of Palmerston at King is the sexily vinyled fish and chips place, The One that Got Away. You'll recognize it from the busty mermaid silhouette on the glass. Unlike a lot of cool King West joints, TOTGA keeps it casual with an exposed brick and wood interior, a few vintage nick knacks and counter service. It's good for a pop in, but seating is extremely limited, so maybe pass it by for long lingering dates. 
I've been hearing around that this place only serves sustainable seafood, though I somehow didn't see the note that is apparently on the blackboard (slightly exhausted and silly that night, there was a lot I didn't notice which I should have!). Because I'm a bit of a geek for environmentalism and sustainability, I double checked their menu against Greenpeace's Red List, and through Seachoice. It's A-OK! This alone is enough to keep me coming back, it's so encouraging to see a local business put in a commitment to sustainability.
BUT you guys aren't hear to read about my ideals! Let's get to some food.

How I love a shower of finger food!
To start off, my friend Heather and I got the fish basket to split. It's a medley of deep-fried treats, with chips, scallops, shrimp, calamari and a wedge of haddock. It was a good size, the bulk made up of buttery french fries (whoops! There goes my British..) and calamari. I was sort of disappointed that there were only two shrimps and two small scallops, but I understand that those are the more expensive items. I do love a big fat scallop, though. I feel like the larger ones have a sweeter and more noticeable taste. Everything was beautifully crisp, and had a lighter touch to it. I think TOTGA had a batter that's very light compared to other Toronto fish and chips stalwarts like Chippy's. It's easier to taste the fish through it, which was fresh and light, and doesn't sit so heavily down in the gut. For the most part this was good but not a huge stand out, with everything being played safe and satisfying. The calamari was more daringly prepared, its crust peppered with flakes of herbs. With this all came a side of tartar sauce that was fantastically full of dill, and a little dish of coleslaw. The slaw wasn't the best, too much oil and not enough vinegar. On the bright side, condiments abound, and it was no hassle to add some white vinegar, salt and pepper (though one shouldn't have to). Bonus points for having readily available sriracha!

fishy fishy fishy, oh

The next best thing about TOTGA after it's sustainable focus are the options it lets the customer explore with it's selection of fish (haddock, arctic char, barramundi, halibut and pickerel), which can be had fried OR grilled, and can be served in the classic manner, or as a wrap, a sandwich, or even as a salad (the last is also possible with the fried fish cakes, calamari, shrimps and scallops). We opted for a salad to pretend we were eating healthy after that massive platter of fried food we started with, and got the barramundi. I'm familiar with this white and fatty medium bodied fish from having lived in Australia where it's a staple, and where its name comes from. I also think living in that country gave me pretty high standards for fish and chips, since everything is ever so fresh. There was a while when I absolutely wouldn't eat Canadian inland fish and chips, since it couldn't compare. This barramundi probably comes from US farms, though. It did have a distinct fishy taste, unlike the light butteriness I had hoped for. The flavour was still enjoyable, and the skin was salty and oily in a way that worked with the citrus in the salad. the romaine and greens came with diced mango salsa, cucumber and grated carrot, and all that sweetness was a good match to the fish.
It isn't actually served in a treasure chest by the way, as awesome and corny as that would be.

A Succulent Salmon 

For dessert, I tried out an old fashioned soda. I think I'm a convert! Bye-bye Coke! Hellooooo black cherry soda. You can find these in specialty shops and at various little places around Toronto, but it was a pleasant first sampling for me.

Special thanks today goes to my friend Heather who let me draw her in a shell bra and with fins!
The One That Got Away on Urbanspoon