Tuesday, July 21, 2009
1170 Bay St
It was a long walk from work up to Yorkville, but quite scenic if I do say so myself. I'm not talking about the Cuthies though, I'm talking about the discovery of the new Cold Stone Creamery. Of course, we had to go in, just for a sneak peak. It was wierd because there was a Tim Horton's attached together, so we didn't know if we were walking into the right place or not. Well we walked into the Timmies and were greeted by a normal looking Tims' employee. But indtead of hustling in the back she was just 'greeting'. She asked us if we knew what CSC was and we said not really, but we had heard about it. She then asked "did you hear about it from Oprah?". After giving this sont the People's Eyebrow, we said 'sorry no' and then we all enjoyed a gay chuckle. She briefly described this concept of concocting your own ice cream flavour by which we were amazed by. The concept is quite simple: Choose your ice cream flavour(s), choose your toppings, and then watch the magic happen on a large, chilled or frozen slab of granite. They use flat scoops or spatulas to cut, fold and mash your toppings into the ice cream, and then it gets deposited into your choice of cup, conen, or waffle bowl. We then had a go at some samples. Cookie dough and cheesecake flavours was what was sampled, enough for us to say 'sold!". Then we said we'll come back after dinner and left.
After devouring Craft Burger (see previous post) we had serious itis and were not walking back for Creamery. We vowed we'd be back. The next day. So after a nice late dinner the following day at Terroni (post to follow), we shared our experience with our friends about how we stumbled upon this great ice cream place. We thought to ourselves "how sweet it would be if they were open now (1130pm)". It was not even in the question. Although my gut feeling told me that their relationship with Tim Hortons may give us a chance. After a handy Google of CSC via an iphone, we got their number and rang them up. 24 hours they said! All of our faces lit up. So we made the trek up and after parking unaccessibley, and made the walk over to our meeting place. It was totally not ice cream weather, even though it was frigging mid July.
CSC was ramrod, naturally. It was prime time, saturday night, the hub of downtown, and this place was only 2 weeks old. So we embarked on sampling mass amounts of flavours before even creating possible creations with nuts, chocolate bar pieces, and of course sprinkles in our heads. We watched as the workers made other customers' requests and their combos made our decisions even more difficult. It's a bit hard to actually watch them make our creations, as the viewing area is blocked by the jars of endless toppings. Suggestion- move that stuff out of the way! The whole fun is watching the art of your creation being constructed on a canvas that is a cold stone.
We wound up getting a combo of cotton candy ice cream with brownie pieces, which the server suggested. It was pretty good. The brownie was fresh and soft, and froze slightly on contact with the ice cream. It was a nice union of cake and dairy. Our friends ordered- Skor bar mixed with vanilla, strawberry shortcake which had pieces of strawberry mixed into cheesecake ice cream, in a waffle bowl.
Prices vary, but you're looking at about $5+ for your own combination. It's a bit steep if you ask me for ice cream and chocolate or nuts, especially if you're looking at around $3 a scoop for Baskin Robbins or Laura Secord. But on the otherhand you're paying for the experience of someone mixing your ice cream infront of you, and their flavours are ones you may not find elsewhere. But still, this is definitely only a once in a while thing, not a nightly dessert affair.
So all in all, rare flavours, fair prices, great experience. Expect a bigger head-rush though from the inflated prices. I'll give Cold Stone Creamery a 3.5/5, based mostly on high prices. I will reevaluate my rating once I have visited CSC's competition- Marble Slab up in Richmond Hill. Stay tuned.
FYI- Cold Stone Creamery also sells ice cream cakes and even ice cream cupcakes, which you can customize yourself with 24 hours notice. This is a great idea, as ice cream cakes are all the rage these days. Keep in mind though the price tag is pretty steep- $30 for a small cake and $56 for a large- so make sure the birthday boy/girl is really worth it before you splurge.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Okay this will be short and sweet. Actually not really sweet at all, but maybe sour?
On a recent trip with a fellow foodie, let's call him Squince, just to keep him anonymous- we ventured across the border to our favourite shopping spot, Buffalo. Determined to find as many deals as possible, namely to buy iPhones at the time, we found ourselves hungry after a 2.5 hour drive which we spent conversing about food, and more particularly, our similar dreams of opening a burger joint. This hopefully will be a reality someday, but I'll save that for another post.
So why is this post about Mighty Taco, you ask? Well when two foodies who obviously share a passion for food- and love to hunt for great food at any length- end up in the armpit of America, they tend to really get a 'feel for what the people eat' in the place they're at. Personally, I wanted to go to The Cheesecake Factory, however time was an issue and we didn't want to waste any time dining when we could have been shopping. So companion Squince blurts out as he is known to do on occasion "I Want Mighty Taco!". And that's how we ended up there.
Mighty Taco is just as ghetto as it sounds. Easily compared to Taco Bell of the North, it stands alone in a small square building, and is as straight forward as it can get inside. You walk in, there's an order/pickup counter, and tables and booths to each side. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. The decor exudes fast-food 'joint', and that isn't saying much.
With 3 Berthas working behind the counter, I've never been so hesitant in my life to place an order. Not sure if it was the girth of the person, or her scratching in between punching in the order, but something just sent a shiver up my spine.
There were some interesting things on the menu, but I wasn't in the mood for a heart attack. Peep some of these heart-stoppers that ever Jimbo, Billy-Bob and Betty were scarfing down:
- El Nino Burrito:1/2 Pound Taco Beef, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes in an extra large flour
- Roastito- Chicken Breast or Steak in a large or small tortilla with roasted peppers & onions and sharp cheddar cheese
- Three Cheese Nacho Burrito:Swiss/American, cheddar and nacho cheeses, layered with our Mighty Taco beef, salsa, sour cream and crumbled corn chips, rolled in a large flour tortilla
I went with the hard and soft taco combo, trying to play it as safe as possible. I had to add $0.50 for sour cream- which is pretty lame. And it didn't make the tacos any better.
I did like, however, getting the nachos on the side with the combo. Salsa and Cheese dip were extra, but still was a nice touch to pretty heavy combo.
Tacos were standard, nothing really to write home about. Everything I had expected- soggy, meaty (not sure what kind of meat it was), and cheesy. It still satisfied my craving, so I can't really complain. However I prefer my Taco Bell. At least I know their meat is Graded C- F, as opposed to Mighty's, which I have no idea what their grading is, if any at all.
Anyways, all in all, Mighty Taco led to a Mighty Tut merely minutes after we left. Not good when home base is 3 hours north.
So next time you're in New York State, and have the hankering for a heart attack, visit good ol' Mighty Taco, and I guarantee you'll be satisfied.
All my faith has been lost for my friend Squince...Redemption is necessary.
Friday, October 17, 2008
It's been a while since I've blogged here on 5thStar, mainly because - 1) I'm broke, and 2) some things are just not worth writing home about...As my pops always says.
Well that's not completely true as I try to write about all places I visit and make sure you get the truth, and nothing but the truth, be it good, bad and/or ugly.
So let's shift to my second home (one day)- Miami, FL. I frequent MIA once or twice a year if I'm lucky, and I never want to come back. Even during hurricane season, we never hesitate to book a cheap flight and take advantage of the weather, that's guaranteed to be better than it is here.
So the best thing about having family living in a place you're visiting is finding out the local spots to get the best cheap eats.
One of the few spots we make it a point to visit when at the South Beach is La Sandwicherie. This is a French deli that pretty much hits all the spots. As you can see in the picture above, it's an outdoor bar, located on a small street almost in an alley way. However shady it may sound, this is actually a great concept as it's simplicity exudes elegance. You cannot usually find a seat as LS is always packed, and there's only really 6-7 seats as is. But that's no problem, as we always opt to have our sandwiches right on the beach, as it's only a short walk to be waterside.
(Note- don't sit between the Rainbow flags, unless you want to get Cuthied by the you-know-whos- not pleasant).
LS' concept is real simple: fresh bread, fresh ingredients, and always open. Open from 10am-5am, there's only a small window of time that you can't get a sandwich. And let's face it, not many are awake during those hours that they are closed, unless you're just leaving the club after 5am. So why not just go to Subway (Ughh) you ask? Well for one, LS' French bread is to die for. Everything you want in a French baguette- crispy on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside. It's harmony in every bite! You have the option for a croissant also, however I've never tried it, as the regular baguette is what I always crave especially in a sandwich. Toppings include the usual veggies, and of course standard deli meats and an array of cheeses. Honourable mention goes to the Smoked Salmon, and my personal fav the Chicken Salad.
Don't forget to top your sandwich off with the 'kicker'- the French Dressing. I always make sure I get a couple more to go as I find I'm always topping it up half way thru the sandwich...It's just that good. And of course can't forget the cornichons- or pickles to those who don't know. Cornichons are another French delicacy (?), which are mini pickles that are infused in garlic brine and just Divine. Make sure you get some of those to go to because they'll be gone before you know it.
LS also offers BIG salads, which I have yet to try but have heard are huge (Elaine would be proud). Wash down your sandwich or salad with something from LS' Juice Bar, which boasts fresh, seasonal fruit or veggies for under $5. You can even add some health-conscious extras such as Echinacea, Ginseng or Bee Pollen (?), if you're feeling for that extra kick.
All in all, a trip to South Beach is never complete without visiting either La Sandwicherie or Pizza Rustica (blog to follow).
I'm not sure what exactly it is about LS that keeps us coming back, but I'm positive it's a combination of the scent of fresh bread, the outdoor atmosphere, and the little nuggets (dressing, cornichons) that just top off the whole experience in more ways than one.
The service is decent, as the French always do- keep their words to a minimum and let their product sell itself. Can't really complain about that. Although it may be a bit difficult to get someones attention as the bar can be crowded at times, service is quick and always willing to meet any requests we had.
And for pricing, under $7 gets you a full deli sub of your choice, combo sub (2 meats or cheese) under $9, salads ranging from $7-9, and fresh mixed drinks for under $5. By Miami standards, this is by no means expensive.
In a culinary-saturated market like Miami, let alone South Beach itself, there are many places from 1st Ave to 19th Ave, along Collins Ave, Ocean Dr and Washington Ave. Most of these places are all name and no substance, and come and go before you've even had a chance to go in. Rent must be uber-high in this area, as it is one of the biggest tourist destinations in the US, so it's understandable if a place charges high prices. I don't mind paying more for something if it's worth it, but for the most part these places are not worth it.
La Sandwicherie, on the other hand, is in a prime spot, gives great value and superb quality, at a reasonable price.
In the end, I rate La Sandwicherie at 4.5 stars out of 5, and recommend them to any and everyone who is in the South Beach area.
Sorry La Sandwicherie if I steal your idea up here in Canada...
Monday, August 4, 2008
Marry me Ruth.
That's how I felt after our meal. Sorry to my wife to be, but if Ruth was there, I would have gone home with her that night.
I've only heard great things about Ruth's Chris Steak House, but in all honesty I never have a good read on places until I've actually eaten there. And let me tell you, everyone who told me this place was good, really underrated it. I wish we would have come here sooner, as my brain, taste buds and stomach have all been harassing me since.
Ruth is located inside the Hilton Hotel in downtown Toronto, and since I booked our table through Open Table, I of course reserved it for the next day. For once, I was early for something. Regardless, they had room for us since it was 930 on a Friday night.
Their dining room resembles a large, dim lit banquet hall, with high back chairs, large tables and linens without a crease in them. We definitely felt special as we walked to out table. Ruth gives that ambiance of a very upscale establishment, with many rooms, and a nicely decored bar with a huge flat screen playing the Jays' game. Nice touch. Fine leather creaked as we sat down, and the backdrops were set to mimic a simple, yet elegant dining experience.
Our server was on point. I've never had service like this before. He knew everything on the menu, offered to split salads for us that we shared, and recommended the best selections for us. He was always there to fill our wine and water, and made sure everything was perfect. Any special requests were handled without any doubt at all.
On to the food.
We decided to order some apps to start, each couple sharing a salad. We ordered the House Caesar, Caprese, and Ruth's Chop Salad. The first two were standard, fresh ingredients, nothing too fancy, just the way it should be. The Chop Salad was very nice, an interesting combo of onion, radicchio, cherry tomatoes, boiled egg, and some other good stuff mixed together with a creamy dressing.
As for the steaks, all I can say is- wow. Broiled at 1800 degrees, these bad boys came out on sizzling plates, that kept the steak warm throughout the meal. As most of us went for the New Yorker at $49.95, I opted for the Cowboy Ribeye, which is basically the ribeye with the bone-in. As the title of this blog described it best, as in best, steak, ever. No sauce, no sides, just meat. And butter. I've never really had a steak like this before, I mean, at Barbarians, our steaks were also served naked, but literally naked. Just meat on the plate. Although Barbarians' cut of meat was great, I still felt "This is Boring" when I was served. However, they did offer a $5 Peppercorn Sauce which may have helped the boringness... Ruth did not even offer any sauces, much to the dismay to one of our diners, but honestly, no sauce was needed. (Editor's note- as per their website, Ruth does offer a sauce: Au Poivre Sauce- which is a Brandy Pepper Sauce, for a mere $2.95) The butter topped on my steak created a rich, crispy coating to a perfectly cooked steak. The doneness of the Ribeye was perfection to a T, crispy on the outside and slightly pink on the inside... I was in heaven.
What more can I say? Even the Chap who didn't eat beef ordered the chicken meal, and he got almost a whole bird! Double breast, on the bone, perfectly roasted, putting Swiss Chalet to shame.
We decided to order a bunch of sides to share, and we got the sauteed mushrooms, creamed spinach, potatoes Au gratin, and baby asparagus. All were devoured between bites and provided a simple break between mouthfuls of meat. Personal fave was the Potatoes Au Gratin, which was rich, creamy and heavenly...we should have ordered two.
On to dessert. Again, the share-age had to be done. This time we went for each realm of the sweet spectrum, including:
Chocolate Sin Cake- Espresso and Chocolate, not really 'cakey'...This I didn't enjoy too much, not really my cup of tea...
Caramelized Banana Cream Pie- White chocolate Banana custard on a flaky crust- the crust was not so flaky but the banana custy was divine...
Homemade Cheesecake...absolutely divine...How a cheesecake should be...
And my personal Piece de Resistance- Creme Brulee...I have never had a creme brulee like this before, and usually I'm not too big a fan of brulee's, but this one was heavenly. Sorry guys but I dealt with this before anyone else could have a taste...
Okay so all in all our experience at Ruth's Chris Steak House was phenomenal. Hands down, one of the best meals I've ever had. And I'm hard to please, to say the least.
The decor at Ruth's was elegant yet welcoming, not too cliche and just enough subtle touches to make it fancy and down-to-earth at the same time.
Service was second to none, overly accommodating server, generous and helpful, not to mention friendly and approachable.
Steaks- as I said before, best I've had. One of our diners felt his sizzling plate overcooked his steak, but I beg to differ. Another diner preferred a sauce to accompany their steak. I don't know what they were smoking.
Price was definitely affordable for what we ate- our bill came to $950 for 9 diners, including 2 bottles of wine, appetizers, main and dessert. So basically at $105 a pop for a great steak and a complete meal...Amazing.
Okay, I know you're thinking- $100? So for a couple its easily $200...That's kinda steep. But the way I see it is skip on the Kelsey's or Boston Pizza that week, and don't go out next weekend, save your money and enjoy a proper meal. Ruth's Chris' is where it's at, and then some. You're worth it, and your belly deserves to be spoiled once in a while, too.
FYI- Check out their website for some great tips on steaks, recipes and general knowledge every diner should know about...
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
5th Elementt- 1033 Bay St. http://www.5thelementt.com/
Judging by the words from their homepage, the owners of 5th Elementt really do bring all elements to the table. Literally.
I've been wanting to dine at 5th Elementt for quite a while now, and never got around to it. Queue my girlfriends' and my birthdays, which we always celebrate together in the summer, and usually host a huge BBQ for all our friends. This year we thought we'd switch it up a bit and do it up, in a more fashionable manner. Being Summerlicious and all (sponsored by AMEX), this fit perfectly as 5th Elementt was a participant, and helped in our search for an affordable, upscale restaurant.
After scouring through their very nice website, their menu stood out to me. Being an Indian- fusion restaurant, I thought their menu pairings seemed fitting to our group of friends. Usually, we shy away from Indian restaurants since most of our group of friends have some sort of Indian background. But hey, deep down we always want spicy, flavourful dishes in front of us.
Our reservation was for 15 people, and was at 930 on the patio. The weather wasn't the greatest this Friday, but the rain held out for the most part of the day, until of course we headed downtown at night. As the drops fell, I thought, great, we're screwed. At 935 I received a call on my cell from the host, wondering if we were still coming. I informed him that we were running a bit late and he mentioned that their kitchen closed at 10. No problem, we would be there shortly. After we got lost we finally found it, and it was close to 10. I received another phone call from the host, letting me know that they had moved us inside since the weather was bushy. I thought this was nice.
Upon arrival, I really liked what I saw. 5th Elementt has a huge patio in front, with a nice waterfall display that is welcoming and helpful for those who were lost. Inside, there is high ceilings, and large rooms separated by coloured drapes that offer some privacy.
When we got there only half of our party had arrived. Knowing that they were to close their kitchen at 10, and me being a chef, I knew their chefs wanted to get home after a long day. We told our server that we would kindly order for the rest of our party so that the kitchen could get their meals started and get out of there as soon as possible. Our server brought us a piece of paper and pen to assist in the ordering madness.
For a summerlicious menu, they had some great options. The last time we went to Winterlicious, see Waitress Makeover, we only had 3 options per course. 5th Element on the other hand, gave us a choice of 5 apps, 5 mains, and 2 desserts. Nice.
To start we all received an amuse- or a sampling, of a vegetable bisque with a goat cheese crouton. This was divine. I have never had a bisque that was not made from meat or seafood. The flavours were powerful and the soup left a great taste in our mouths, wanting more.
Some things we ordered:
Tandoori Shrimp w/ South African Pepper Salsa
Salmon Wrapped Sea Scallops w/ Onion Relish
Grilled Fuji Apple and Mango Salad w/Masala Dressing and Crumbled Feta
All of these were great. The tandoori shrimp were literally red in colour like they had been marinating for days. And we all know shrimp rarely takes on any marination flavours. But these were nicely spiced and bursting with flavours. The Fuji Apple and Mango Salad was an interesting combination, and the Masala dressing was light and not overpowering at all.
It was interesting to taste these bold flavours that seem overwhelming but actually were quite subtle.
On to the mains:
Grilled Atlantic Salmon w/ mustard sauce with Pilaf Rice (pictured above)
Blackened NY Strip w/ mashed potato and Shallot Demi-glace
Cilantro Rubbed Chicken w/ Butter Chicken Sauce
Lamb Shank Roganjosh
I had the Chicken, which was divine. The butter chicken sauce was thick, pungent and boasting India all over it. The chicken was moist and succulent.
The salmon was very nice, the Mustard sauce was a Bengali influence, and had curry hints with a hint of spice.
The lamb Roganjosh was tart, with a nice tomato based sauce. The Lamb literally fell off the bone, or shank, for that matter.
The steak was okay, didn't have too much Indian to it, but was still cooked well.
The portion sizes were great, filling, and there was no chincing going on, as you would expect for a Summerlicious menu.
Not to mention the great presentation. Being the last diners in the place that night, one would only expect the chefs to just slap on whatever was left to get us on our way. But they spared no effort to give us properly executed meals, simple garnishes and appealing-to-the-eye plates. I was happy. I also really liked their plates. Very modern and classy.
Dessert came in two options, Tiramisu with Raspberry drizzle, and Peach and Lychee Mousse with Kiwi-lime sauce. Both desserts were amazing. Mouth watering, light, and fulfilling. A perfect way to end a perfect meal.
For $25 a head, this was a feast. Including a glass of wine each and tip, our bill came to about $37 per person. This is a steal if you ask me. I had no complaints.
The service was impeccable, very accommodating and very welcoming. I had a chance to talk to the owner afterwards and he was interested in our experience. I'm always happy to see an owner come and talk to the diners. It shows they care. Good establishments always have someone in charge available at all times. It turns out he was the one calling me earlier. He cares. Aww. Touching.
All in all 5th Elementt deserves 5 stars for exceeding our outcomes in Price, Food, Service, and Decor.
I definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone in the mood for some Indian fusion with a modern twist. And I definitely will be back there myself.
So far if you're keeping score, we're 1-1 in restaurants that have numbers in them.
Six Steps can learn a thing or two from 5th Elementt.