Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival 2015

It’s time to get out of winter hibernation and partake in a truly Canadian event at the 2nd annual Roundhouse Winter Craft Beer Festival.  This outdoor event is your chance to embrace the cold weather and warm up by sampling craft beer from some of the best Ontario breweries.

The event is on Saturday January 31st from 11 am to 5 pm at the Roundhouse Park.  Chances are the weather will be frosty, so be sure to bundle up in your favourite scarf, toque and special gloves that will grasp your beer sampling cup tightly.  Tickets to the event are only $20 and then each beer sample at the event will cost $1.  As always these beer festivals are a great way for Toronto folks to get familiar with the many Ontario craft breweries who are passionate about traditional brewing. So far the list of breweries in attendance are:
·         Steam Whistle Brewing
·         Amsterdam Brewing
·         Beau’s All Natural Brewing
·         Big Rig Brewery
·         Black Oak Brewing
·         Block Three Brewing
·         Cameron’s Brewing
·         Flying Monkeys Brewery
·         Great Lakes Brewery
·         Highlander Brew Co.
·         King Brewery
·         Lake of Bays Brewing
·         Left Field Brewery
·         Maclean’s Ale
·         Mill St. Brewery
·         Muskoka Brewery
·         Oast House Brewers
·         Publican House Brewery
·         Railway City Brewing
·         Side Launch Brewing
·         Thornbury Cider
·         Underdog’s Brewhouse
·         Wellington Brewery

A variety of food tucks will be in attendance such as: Bay of Quinte Cheddar Ale Trail, Mr. Corn, Ninutuk Maple Sugar, Pappas Greek, Smoke's Poutinerie, Sugar Mamma's and The Pizza Truck.

If the food and beer isn't enough to entice you to leave your couch and Netflix behind, there are also some perks and activities to get you into the wintry spirit.
  • The first 500 guests will receive a limited edition 2015 Roundhouse Beer Festival toque
  • Prizes will be awarded for the best retro ski and winter gear
  • Live brewing demonstrations
  • Giant jenga, tug-of-war and ice carving
  • Roasting marshmallows on outdoor fire pits

All photos by Jeff Rogers
Advance tickets are sold out but limited door tickets will be available. Arriving bright and early will be your best bet to ensure entry to this fun-filled event.

Hope to see you brave Canucks at the Roundhouse Beer Festival on the 31st, use the hashtag #rwcbf to showcase your flushed-cheek selfies!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Wahlburgers Toronto

For those of you who aren't familiar with Wahlburgers, it's a casual comfort food restaurant founded by the three Wahlberg brothers Mark, Donnie and Paul.  These talented brothers not only act, dance, sing, and have their own reality show (Wahlburgers) but they also know a thing or two about a damn good burger.  Ever since they were kids, they've always had a passion for burgers, comfort food and making girls scream (Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch YEAH!!) and so together the boys opened up their first Wahlburgers location in Hingham, MA in Oct 2011. 

The brothers were very excited to finally open their first franchise in Canada this past November 2014 inside the Soho Metropolitan Hotel making it the first North American expansion outside of the original restaurant in Hingham. The location seats 120 and offers a casual atmosphere with a sports bar, seated dining area and fast service counter. 

Photo by George Pimentel

Photo by George Pimentel

The menu includes a long list of burgers (custom-grind using 100 percent Canadian beef), sandwiches, salads, tater tots, fries, mom’s macaroni salad, and onion rings. Alcoholic beverages are available such as as adult frappes, wahl-coctions, wine, beer and mixed drinks.  A cool feature that is available only at Wahlburgers Toronto is a beer made by Mill Street Brewery exclusive to the Toronto location, it's called the ‘Wahlbrewski North’ and it's one helluva an IPA!

Here’s what I tried:

Thanksgiving Burger (Mark’s Choice)
Fresh ground season turkey, stuffing, Paul’s orange cranberry sauce, roasted butternut squash and mayo $9.95

This turkey burger isn't around just for Thanksgiving; this bad boy is always on the menu and happens to be my favourite item so far.  I usually don’t order turkey burgers because they tend to be dry but this one was quite juicy and full of flavour! All of the toppings really added different flavours and textures and the combination was just incredibly delicious! The taste of the squash especially added exceptional flavour to the burger.

O.F.D (Originally from Dorchester)
8 oz. beef patty, house made tomato jam, bacon, Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms $11.95

This big burger was pretty good but not as flavourful as I thought it would've been. The tomato jam was good but quite mild, I would've liked a dollop of BBQ sauce to give this burger a bit of a kick.  The patty itself was thick and juicy and cooked to perfection! 

Sweet Potato Tots $3.50

These are served with a nice chipotle sauce and are pretty addictive.  I've always been a tot fan so it was nice trying them out in sweet potato form. 

Alma’s Macaroni Salad
Elbow macaroni, red onion, sweet peppers, parsley & mom's creamy mayo dressing $4.50

This is a classic recipe by momma Wahlberg that the brothers loved while growing up. It was pretty basic tasting and I felt that there was not enough dressing on it.  Perhaps I just got a batch that was lacking dressing...

Truffle Cookie
Gluten-free chocolate truffle cookie $1.95

These warm little cookies look plain but TASTE amazing.  I need to figure out if I can buy these by the bag because they are ridiculously addictive.  They remind me of a flourless chocolate cake, but in a little cookie form.  Highly recommend for a sweet treat after your meal.

Overall I had a wonderful experience at Wahlburgers and everyone that worked there was a complete delight.  I would definitely return to Wahlburgers especially with friends from out of town who want a feel for the city. Starting this month Wahlburgers will incorporate Canadian-themed dishes as part of the ‘burger of the month’ program and hopefully when they’ve perfected the ‘greatest poutine ever’ we will see something like that on the menu.

Photo by George Pimentel

Wahlburgers on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lobster Monster

Who would've thought that the large marine crustacean once deemed as ‘a disgusting bottom feeder’ and only eaten by the poor would climb it’s way up the social ladder to become a true delicacy, a fancy meal, a ‘Just got paid’ kind of dish.  Lobster in this day and age is a luxury and while I’m reluctant to cook it myself, there is a number of worthy seafood restaurants in the city that serve up the real deal. One new place that takes lobster to the next level is the newly opened Lobster Monster in the Yonge and Lawrence area.

Owner’s Steve and Marianne Woo are passionate about lobster and aren't afraid to get down and dirty with the clawed creatures. They incorporate the succulent meat in a variety of comfort food items creating some classic dishes such as lobster mac and cheese and lobster grilled cheese . You can also order lobster in the old-fashioned way where it is steamed in boiling salt water.

I arrived at Lobster Monster with a moderate appetite and left in a serious food coma.  Marianne reminded me of my mother as she was very proud of her cooking and wanted to make sure that I was completely satisfied with my meal.  Every now and then she would come out from the kitchen and chat with the customers which really added to the dining experience, it felt like she had invited us to her home for dinner.

We started the night off with a pint of beer and a bowl of clam chowder and lobster bisque.  Both items were piping hot and served with biscuits and garlic bread. I really liked the clam chowder because of the rich flavour and heaps of baby clams and potatoes in the mix. The lobster bisque was just as good and was the perfect bowl of comfort for the chilly evening.  At this point I already felt the food coma kicking in…

Lobster Bisque & Clam Chowder - $7 for a cup

Next up was the bruschetta which was incredibly fresh.  The bread was very soft and the homemade tomato mix on top was delicious. 

Bruschetta - 4 for $6

Next item was the lobster spring rolls. These look like a traditional spring roll but were stuffed with chunks of lobster and veggies.  They were quite tasty but you really do need the homemade voodoo dipping sauce that they come with, its sweet, spicy and tangy!

Lobster Spring Rolls - $10

Then it was time for the lobster mac and cheese, one of my favourite items! Marianne brought out this huge bowl of it and I looked at it with fear and love.  I ate the entire bowl of this creamy pasta and loved the tender chunks of lobster meat with it.

Lobster White Mac & Cheese - $15

Next was the traditional lobster poutine and the poutine topped with clam chowder.  How I was still alive at this point is a miracle but then again poutine is my weakness.  Both poutines were pretty decent, I liked the traditional much better than the clam chowder poutine only because the chowder one was quite hearty.

Lobster Poutine and Clam Chowder Poutine - $16

Marianne tried to hint at some dessert from their list of homemade desserts but unfortunately I couldn't fit it in my already expanded stomach.  There were some tempting desserts though that I will have to try next time.

I loved the experience at Lobster Monster and will be making my way back soon for a proper lobster meal, bib and all.

For the full menu and location check out the Website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (lobstermon) pages.

Lobster Monster on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Boneyard Grill

When you stumble across a restaurant with the slogan ‘Really Wicked BBQ’ you know it’s going to be good! Boneyard Grill has graced Toronto with its second location of mouth-watering BBQ eats.

BoneyardGrill is known for their baby back ribs made with a signature secret sauce that includes over 20 ingredients passed down from an old South African family recipe.  The menu also includes burgers, wings, sandwiches, salads and  much more.

The new location at Yonge and Lawrence has a neighbourhood-friendly vibe to it which is welcoming to the BBQ restaurant scene.  I find a lot of the trendier BBQ joints tend to have a bit of a superior attitude and the service can be lacking.  Thankfully the service  at Boneyard was extremely efficient and everyone seemed genuinely interested to find out your thoughts about the food.

I ended up trying many items from the menu and was quite impressed with the flavour and quality of each dish.  The wings were cooked perfectly and the meat fell right off the bone. The sliders were juicy and full of flavour and I actually ate them with no condiments, they were THAT good.  The baby-back ribs were of course my favourite.  The meat was unbelievably tender and the ribs weren't doused in powerful BBQ sauce which was nice. The fries were not my favourite which I'm ok with since I would only come here for the BBQ items anyway.

Boneyard Grill is a casual spot for the meat-loving type and although salads and sandwiches are on the menu, you have to come here for the BBQ’d goods.  Their food is reasonably priced, portions are huge, and flavour is not an issue!

Boneyard Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Barsa Taberna

Barsa Taberna is a fairly new restaurant in the St. Lawrence Market area that offers traditional Spanish-style tapas with a modern influence of global flavours. Barsa aims to capture the essence of Barcelona by creating a social dining experience reflective of Spanish-inspired food, design and culture.

The space was designed by John Tong and his work adapts the culture of Barcelona while still paying homage to Toronto. In fact the building itself is a 170 year old restored heritage building that has kept most of it's identity of early Toronto. The original stonework and wooden beams are surrounded by Gaudi and Picasso inspired design, mosaic floors and a montage of hand-cut wine bottles that make up the main wall.

I attended a launch party at Barsa a few months ago and the space was bustling with people, Flamenco guitarist performances, Spanish-inspired design, endless sangria and delicious tapas all of which added to the aura of a Cantalonian vibe. After a few drinks you may even think you're in a different city...

Of course I started the night off with a lot of sangria! Barsa has three main types of sangria, a Blanco (chardonnay, calvados apple liquor, green apples, grapes, macerated cantaloupes), Rojo (rarnese montepulciano, brandy peach liquor, red wine orange macerated strawberries) and Rosada (rose vino, brandy, pama liquor, raspberry syrup, cucumbers, blackberries macerated watermelon).  The Rojo was my favourite of the three, but I can't complain about any of them.  All were flavourful, well-balanced and full of house-macerated fruits.  If you're not a huge sangria fan the long and impressive wine list will definitely entice you or perhaps a pint of the beer of Barcelona, Estrella Damm. 

Now on to the food.  The menu is divided into cold, hot and fried tapas. There are also larger plates for sharing and a pastry menu. There are many traditional Spanish tapas such as the pan con tomate ($7), or the patatas bravas ($7). There are also some tapas with a multicultural twist such as the grilled octopus with channa masala ($12) or the pok pok prawns with pineapple glaze ($11). 

Some of the dishes at Barsa:

 Chorizo Tasting - 4 types, house made, garnishes - $22

Idiazabal Cheese Bocadillo - sherry marmalade, green olive tapenade - $10

 Grilled Octopus - channa masala, tamarind water, papadum - $12

 Braised Beef Short Rib - piquillo, sugar snap peas, collards, orange - $13

Serrano Ham - fermin serrano, pickled green beans, pommery mustard - $9

Sangria Cake - coconut tres leche, compressed fruit mango sherbert - $9 
(these were just sample sizes)

Barsa Taberna is a great addition to the Market Street strip and is open for after work pinchos, dinner and weekend brunch!

Barsa Taberna on Urbanspoon