Sunday, August 10, 2014

LOCAVORE


Traveling northbound from the beaches of Jimbaran, for our second week in Bali we settled into a villa sandwiched between the dense jungle and the tranquil rice fields of Ubud. Exploring our surroundings, we found plentiful places to eat profoundly satisfying home cooking and simple fare at astonishingly reasonable prices. Punishingly spicy beef rendang and chili prawns at Puteri Menang, crisp Balinese duck at Tepi Sawah, world famous roast pig at Ibu Oka and roadside chicken satay amidst the buzzing scooters in the stifling streets - we ran the gamut.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

BARBACOA


Pristine beaches, oceans clear enough to see your toes, sprawling pools and care free living; for every positive aspect, tropical resort destinations (all-inclusive or not) are almost all fraught with the same disappointing negative - the food. Occasionally abysmal, frequently reasonable, and often good you'd never venture to call it great. While most of our travel plans begin with restaurant reservations, followed by flights, hotel accommodations and finally a mad scramble culminating in a premium fee for an urgent request to replace an expired passport, when you're destination is a beachfront resort, you're no longer playing by the same rules where celebrated restaurants oftentimes outnumber the days in your itinerary. On the resort, dish descriptions rarely translate the way you anticipate on the plate and in our experience, expat European chefs are frequently caught in some dejected time warp where terms like "deconstructed" have yet to be stricken from their vocabulary and reduced squiggles of cloyingly sweet,  cheap balsamic vinegar remain the go-to garnish. So you trust the resort employees to level with you and suggest a few good spots where they like to eat. It's a hit and miss strategy but with luck you might discover a spot that serves a refreshing conch salad, a fiery goat curry, seductively fatty, stewed ox tails or some terrific street tacos. For everyone else back at the resort, dinner is likely the promise of Caribbean spiny lobster... cooked to the consistency of a flip-flop.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

IMPASTO X CHEF NATE APPLEMAN



One of the most anticipated culinary events that took place in Montreal this February came not by way of the annual Highlights Festival as you might have expected, but rather courtesy of a private initiative on behalf of the crew at Impasto where chefs Michele Forgione and Stefano Faita hosted acclaimed chef Nate Appleman for two nights of clever cookery in Little Italy. Distinguished amongst his peers, chef Appleman's accolades include Food & Wine Magazine's "Best New Chefs" list, and the James Beard Foundation "Rising Star" award in 2009. Most recently, his celebrity status was sealed on the other side of the pass when he became a household name, competing on the Food Network's Chopped All Stars and The Next Iron Chef.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

BAR ISABEL


Following our whirlwind trip around Spain, we returned home with a reinvigorated outlook on food, on cooking, on eating and with a reinforced perception regarding the North American pollution of the term "tapas". When local restaurateurs manipulated and marginalized the meaning of tapas to little more than small plates of food they could swing a better profit margin on, they let the congeniality slip through their fingers. The reasonably priced cava and cold beers, immaculately canned seafood and swoon-worthy pork were all gone. What remained was the shell of an idea that was force-fed to the rank-and-file in portions barely large enough to share with the person next to you, let alone divide amongst a table. It was a mockery, a low-rent cover band, an impersonation of much more than a restaurant format, but a culture. It all made the register ring, but lacked heart.

Monday, February 17, 2014

BUCA



In a cavernous, underground location down a clandestine alley off of King Street West, chef Rob Gentile has taken Buca from an ambitious Italian restaurant that opened behind schedule to mixed reviews in 2009, into a premier player on Toronto's restaurant circuit. A veteran of the McEwan restaurant group, chef Gentile's meticulous attention to detail has served him well in creating innovative odes to old country classics, breathing a rejuvenating and youthful aura into his discerning brand of Italian cookery. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

LE VIN PAPILLON


Wine lovers rejoiced in July when the Joe Beef / Liverpool House team scooped up another address on their charming Little Burgundy block to open Le Vin Papillon. At long last, David McMillan and Fred Morin had seized the dream of a wine bar. A place where all their favorite side dishes and snackable elements of the brawny food they're celebrated for would be committed to stand unescorted in the spotlight. A place where customers would be free to wander in off the street sans-reservation to discover a glass of a conceivably unfamiliar variety of wine accompanied by a light meal.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

BEST OF 2013



While a handful of sophomore players kept the fires burning this year, the freshman class of 2013 notwithstanding a few exceptional debuts, was relatively bleak compared with years past. Suburban big-box chain restaurants and superficial openings heavy on investment but light on expertise flooded social media. We stood on the sidelines as agents provocateurs lauded a haphazard resurgence of the main between Sherbrooke and Prince Arthur where Pogos and macaroni & cheese tacos appear to have replaced the albeit trendy stomping ground that set in motion many of our city's most recognizable culinary ambassadors. Meanwhile, savants relied on faithful tables and mourned the losses we've all endured as some of Quebec's best restaurants like MAS Cuisine and L'Eau A La Bouche quietly shut their doors forever.