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Post-holiday group dinner: Buca or tasting menu @ Campagnolo?

Hi everyone. I've been charged with booking a dinner for a group of 10 a couple of days after Christmas. Buca came up and I was ready to book, but have been finding it difficult to figure out whether to go for it.

We're all on different financial footings, so while it's a special occasion and everyone's fairly amenable to spending, I'd like to be able to tell people confidently how much things will cost and that they won't be hungry (at least!).

Several paper reviews indicate it's about $70 a person including wine, tax, and tip in 2009, although I've also seen more recent customer reviews saying it's higher (as much as $100?), and that portion size is problematic. I imagine most of us would each want a main, a dessert, share appetizers, and have a drink each, but would we need to order more beyond that? Of course we'd love just to be able to try a restaurant touted to be among the best Italian in Toronto, but I think many of us in the group also just want to have a satisfying meal among friends.

I'm also looking at Campagnolo, who told me they would serve their tasting menu for $50 a person (subtotal), and that for a party of our size, they'd be serving everything on their menu for us. Although the final price would not be far from $70 all in, it may be more interesting to have access to the whole menu, and the atmosphere is also more casual, which I think works a little better for our group.

Could anybody offer their experience and recommendations with Buca or the tasting menu at Campagnolo? If you went to Buca recently (past year), how much did you order, did it fill you, and how much was it a person?

Thank you!

Birthday dinner for tourists

Thank you, Elyssa! And thank you for the elaborating on the other recommendations as well.

Fried Nutella is definitely top-notch intel.

And thank you, all! Still welcoming suggestions, but the ones so far look really promising. I appreciate all the insider observations that are hard to look up. Thanks :)

Birthday dinner for tourists

Hi there. My boyfriend and I are visiting Washington next week, coming from Toronto, as part of my birthday celebrations. Fun!

I'd really love some local recommendations on where we can go for a nice birthday dinner.

Here are my criteria:

- We'll be staying on Embassy Row, but both of us love exploring via transit, so a short metro ride or walk somewhere is more than OK
- Looking at Italian, contemporary European/French
- He loves pasta, I love poultry (I once had quail, foie, and pate all in one meal)
- Budget: $100-150 tops (we usually have one alcoholic drink each)
- Relatively low-key (though I know dress codes tend to relax in hot summers) ... he'll be wearing sneaks

- Good service, attention to details ... I find in the past both attributes have really made a meal for us

Thank you in advance!

Ferrero Duplo in Toronto?

Just came back from Italy, obsessed with Ferraro Duplo (nocciolato). I'm wondering if anyone knows where I can find it in Toronto, or where I might be able to ship it in from. Thanks! nom nom nom

Did anyone go to summerlicious 2009?

I took my boyfriend to North 44 for his birthday this year. I usually take advantage of Summerlicious to give him a fancy dinner without breaking the bank, and we've never had a really bad experience; I find it's not more uneven than my normal "let's try a new place" experience the rest of the year.

North 44 was quite nice; we both had the steak main, which was incredibly tasty. The appetizers of soup and salad were nicely executed, although nothing extraordinary. Dessert was fantastic -- I had a cheesecake and he had this amazing pudding tart. The service was attentive, although we found the restaurant overall a bit noisy, even when seated in the upstairs dining area. All in all, it was a pleasant experience at $45. I think for the winter we'd return to our old favourite Mildred though; they offer a comparable experience at $10 cheaper.

Where to find sweet butter/fine chocolate

*deleted sweet butter question as I am a complete dunce!**

I'm also looking for chocolate chips -- maybe a finer brand like Ghirardelli (or others!). I did a search and found the Lindt warehouse in Scarborough for bulk purchases, but for a bag or two, are there other places?


Honey / best of College-Ossington

Wow, thanks to everyone for all the replies so far! Everything sounds really tasty; I'm excited to go try things out. Please keep coming if you've got something.

And extra thanks for the honey suggestions :)

Breakfast in Yorkville area Dec 27?

I'll second Flo's. Your neighbourhood diner, pretty straightforward. Fantastic shakes!

Honey / best of College-Ossington

Hi all. I've got two questions I'm hoping Chowhounds can kindly answer.

For Christmas, I'm thinking of a simple but nice gift to give to my hostess. My idea so far is a jar of fancy artisanal honey, and perhaps something to go with it. Where should I go in Toronto to find that? (If your suggestion is St Lawrence or Kensington Market, which specific place should I go to?)

I'm moving to a place near College and Ossington in a week and I'm hoping Chowhounds can help me assemble a list of local favourite places to hit (beyond Little Italy). I'm looking forward to exploring further west too.

I've got down Caplansky's as a local smoked meat deli, and that's it. We've got some things we like:

Best all-day breakfast
Best brunch
Best (cheap) Japanese
Best Chinese/Thai/noodles craving
Best sandwiches
Best gyros
Best dessert (cake, ice cream, pie, the works!)

And if you have a favourite place you just love going back to, feel free to throw it in!

Thank you!

Where to eat? (University, between Dundas and Queen)

Manpuku in the Village on the Grange serves a very nice udon noodle in soup.

Summerlicious: To avoid or not to avoid

I believe the problem here is the fact people are comparing the restaurants' Summerlicious offerings to their regular ones. There is absolutely no way you are getting the exact same level of quality and quantity for such a reduced cost (extreme in cases like Bymark and Canoe).

The fact is that it remains very good food in many instances for the price you pay, for wherever you go, whenever you go. And you get to dine in the same pricey environment. A diminished $200 meal for $35 is still a good deal. How often do you get three courses -- of any decent quality -- for that price, in a pleasant and rarefied atmosphere?

Chocolate pecan pie in Toronto

Thank you for the recommendations, everyone! I'll try to remember to report back once I scope them out. If anyone comes up with more names, I'd be happy to hear them.

Chocolate pecan pie in Toronto

Hi there ... I'm looking for bakeries or supermarkets that sell chocolate pecan pie (with a chocolate crust). I had some in Montreal, and had a delicious rendition at Kalendar on College Street, but was wondering where I can buy one to have at home. Thanks!

Where do you go for Chinese food (delivery or eat in) that won't leave you feeling guilty/sick over all the sugar, grease, and who knows what it contained?

I'll second Gary's thoughts. The only Chinese food that's ever made me feel ill is the junk I find at food courts, or obvious third-rate restaurants that cater to less knowledgeable crowds.

Lots of dishes are steamed, boiled, or sauteed without relying on heavy additions of grease or sugar. Some people find congee plain, but it's really nutritious and filling, and my favourite's shredded pork and preserved egg (salty, but you don't eat a lot of it). Nothing beats a great bowl of hot noodles on a cold day -- especially the noodles that come in wonderful clear broths.

I find a lot of people of non-Chinese descent don't quite understand the art of plain white rice; it helps distribute strong flavours, and tempers the different foods you're eating. Fried rice is supposed to be a meal unto itself, not a side dish.

Dim-sum is definitely a weekly treat.

East End Eats Out

Thanks! Very handy.

East End Eats Out

Last year's Leslielicious has expanded and become East End Eats Out (a bit more of a mouthful.) It's running from October 12-28, 2007 and their website is here:

Looking at the list, the only slamdunk I see at the moment is Batifole ... I'm hoping to go to at least one more restaurant, as I've been meaning to eat in the neighbourhood (especially Leslieville) for a long while. Any good experiences at the places listed?

Educate me about the foods/snacks in Chinatown

For Spadina/Dundas Chinatown, Pho Hung is always a solid pick for pho. People slag Pho 88, but I like them.

Banh mi are so cheap, you can't go wrong trying one; they usually go for under two dollars. Get assorted (meats!) if you're not vegetarian.

Really, Asian food is so cheap ... you can try meals here and there and it won't burn a hole in your pocket. If something looks good, it probably is. I like eating quick lunches (noodles, rice) at House of Gourmet and King's Noodle. These places are cheap, quite clean, and often filled with people.

I don't eat many Chinese snacks, but Pocky are a mainstay of many.

I haven't offered much, not being an expert, but hopefully this will get the ball rolling for you and for other commentators to contribute.


Dinner in Buffalo?

Thanks a lot, everyone! All your suggestions are super helpful. We look forward to trying them out.

Rol San vs. Bright Pearl

I recommend Forestview too! It's the place my family goes to for downtown dim sum ... the room is not too big, so carts circulate more frequently. It's got a great dim sum atmosphere -- loud and busy, but conversation is still easy.

I've found the food usually fresh. My dad loves getting the paper just before we go up the stairs (warning, yes, it's not very accessible).

Dinner in Buffalo?

Hi, I'm in Toronto and my boyfriend and I are thinking of taking a day trip to Buffalo. We aren't familiar with the city; the last time either of us had been there was when we were kids, and all we remember is burgers and fries.

We're wondering what places locals recommend for lunch or dinner. We both enjoy Italian and Asian the most, but if there are some outstanding places that serve something different, we'd love to hear about them as well -- even great burger and fries places. If you could give us a rough idea of cost, that'd be super.


Summerlicious 2007

I treated my boyfriend at Mildred Pierce for his birthday ... we were both stunned. We're only students, and not practised gourmands, but we found the food incredibly tasty. We ordered the salmon tartare, which was wonderfully tart and the perfect portion to set up our appetites for the rest of the meal (which sounds a bit obvious, but I personally find many appetizers too filling). The main was pork tenderloin, moist and swimming in delicious juice; the accompanying roast vegetables were just the right combination of crisp and soft. The profiteroles, puff pastries served with chocolate ice cream, chocolate sauce, and I think a drizzle of caramel sauce, we gobbled up. We were delighted to find each dish was even better than the last. Even though we had a bit of an early reservation (6:30 PM, the only one I could get for that Saturday), we left perfectly satiated, neither hungry nor overly stuffed, having fully enjoyed each course but still wanting to go back one day for more. I was very happy that a restaurant could walk the fine line of satisfying and teasing their customers, without overwhelming them with sheer volume (which happens at so many of the places I normally eat at for that price).

The servers were very thorough, warm, friendly, and attentive; being young and attending for a prix fixe menu, we were worried we might receive sub-par service, but the fears dissipated quite soon into the meal. We appreciated the little touches that a fine restaurant remembers; warm bread served with warm butter, water glasses that were always full, empty dishes and cutlery that were quickly whisked away. We were never rushed or left waiting.

The good news is Mildred Pierce apparently will be reopening some time in the near future under a new name. I'll definitely be in line when they do.

"Food Studio: Not Just Crystal, the ROM Has New Food Too"

Yep, there's a separate entrance for non-museum visitors. You get a pin, I think, marking you as such.

Canoe - summerlicious

Called at 10:30 on the 21st ... got to a person finally at 11, and they told me they were already all booked up. Oh well.

Romantic dinner for teen couple?

Like Pinstripeprincess said, it's easy to get to King West from the Beaches, if not fast. Maybe public transportation isn't the most luxurious way to get there, but it does let you see the city in a great way. Lots of girls wouldn't mind, including me.