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Has Boulevard Cafe gone downhill?

I went with my parents and husband to the Boulevard Cafe a few nights ago, and was greatly disappointed. This has long been an old and classic standby on Harbord St., and while I recognize that the food isn't exactly authentic Peruvian, it used to at least serve delicious fish in a nice ambience.

Ambience-wise all was well, and we sat on the patio which was as pleasant as ever on a warm summer's eve. Our server was also great. But the food was a real disappointment, and it came at a hefty price. We ordered ceviche for appetizer, and then three of us ordered the red snapper special, and one of us ordered the lamb special.

Our white wine arrived practically at room temperature. After complaining about this, the server claimed that it came straight from the freezer then the refrigerator. However, they did promptly replace our bottle with a properly chilled bottle.

The ceviche tasted dry and lacked the pleasure of really fresh tasting seafood. The grilled whole red snapper was even worse. It was soft on the outside and mushy on the inside. The taste was dreggy. A freshly grilled whole red snapper should be crispy on the outside and flaky on the inside. Frankly, I suspect the fish was several days old. It's a mystery to me how it wasn't even crispy on the outside. I told the server I wasn't happy with it, and she promptly offered to replace it with something else. I ordered another special, this time the grilled rainbow trout. This was somewhat better, but again, it just did not taste fresh. My husband's order of lamb was also better than the red snapper, however the sauce was unbelievably salty. The dessert, their cake-like Alfajor, was the best dish of the night. The slice of Alfajor with dolce de leche was gooey and crumbly all at once.

All told, this was not a meal worth $250 (for four people, with tax and tip). Next time I'd rather buy some fresh fish and throw it on the BBQ, plus make sure I chill my white wine in advance. They were professional in their service and tried to do us right, but I'm sorry that one of my family's standby restaurants for special occasions appears to have lost its magic in the kitchen.

Bar for Canadians to watch Olympic hockey game?

Sadly a sore throat kept me at home - but I hope you all celebrated in style.

Feb 28, 2010
greengirl in Chicago Area

Bar for Canadians to watch Olympic hockey game?

We're looking for a bar where we might find other Canadians watching the Olympic hockey game this afternoon, preferably on the north side of Chicago. Any suggestions?

Feb 28, 2010
greengirl in Chicago Area

Caterer for parents' anniversary party in east Toronto; Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, or Balkan-type cuisines

Now that the party is behind us (took place yesterday), here’s my report on Alborz.

The cost estimate I calculated above was quite close to the actual costs, which amounted to $785 including tax and delivery. We ordered food for 40 guests, but the food delivered could have fed 45. Farid (the owner of Alborz, perhaps he has a partner but I’m not sure about that) was punctual and a pleasure to work with. He recommended I make some changes to my initial order, such as foregoing the dolmah which he thought added a lot to the overall costs. We had a mix of grilled meats, a pomegranate and chicken stew, several appetizers with eggplant, spinach and yoghurt, rice and bread. He threw in some additional orders of meat, appetizers, and rice for good measure. It was almost exactly the order predicted above. I asked that he arrive at 12:15, and this was key since it was a surprise party and everything needed to be in order in time. Farid arrived at 12:13.

The delivery point was a bit far from Drewry and Yonge - all the way to the little India area around Coxwell and Gerrard E., so while the food was hot upon arrival, it was lukewarm by the time of its consumption. We could have had the food heated with delivery for an added charge, but had decided not to pay for this. Still, the guests were very pleased, and many took a business card for future reference. I was so pleased with the food and the conscientious service Alborz provided that I called the day after the party to thank the restaurant.

Other costs were: Cake (toasted almond meringue cake from Dufflet at $130 – a big hit, though very messy to serve), wine ($134 at the LCBO - which apropos of nothing to do with this posting, is an institution which really has got to go...), and some additional items purchased at Costco for a green salad, fruit, soft drinks, and napkins amounting to about $65. In all, a total cost of $1114 for 40 guests, hence $28/guest.

How's the catering at Hart House?

Igk knows more in terms of the actual costs, but I'm happy to share the estimated costs they've provided me.

We asked for two price estimates; plated dinner and buffet. The estimate per person includes: hors d'oeuvres, dinner, desert table, drinks, GST, PST and 15% service tax, and space rental (which is variable depending on which rooms you rent). With plated dinner, it's estimated at about $160/person, and with buffet it's estimated to be between $113/person to 1$38/person, depending on the buffet menu you choose. Their beverage cost estimate assumes 5 drinks per person, at $6.25/drink. You could also ask that the bar only stock beverages that max at a certain amount, which could help control costs.

And igk- thanks for your advice! I'll post an update soon as to how things proceed.

How's the catering at Hart House?

Thanks for the reply!

Someone we know had an event at Hart House 12 years ago, and were very unhappy with the catering. We understand that it's been totally revamped. Would you mind describing a bit more the meal? Was it buffet? Plated? What was on the menu? And in all, did you find the staff helpful and professional throughout the whole process. Oh, and another question: did you use their bar service?

We're looking at the smaller rooms. Probably the Debates Room and the Music Room. Did you use the main hall for dining and for dancing?

We're super grateful for your advice and info.

How's the catering at Hart House?

Thanks for your thoughts, and your warnings regarding the AC. We're considering March, so that should be no problem. We were also looking into the Gladstone and the Academy of Spherical Arts. For those two locations you can at least check out their restaurants. We were advised to eat at the Gladstone's Harvest Wednesdays which approximates more their event catering, and very much enjoyed the meal. Problem is it might be too small for our needs. Can't say the same for Spherical Arts; nice space, but judging from the restaurant, the food leaves much to be desired. Some examples were dry bread that had been toasted and then buttered (maybe margarined), probably in a weak attempt to cover its staleness. This was part of the 'special' bread basket we had to pay for. We also ate an artichoke heart appetizer which was nothing more than canned artichokes, chili flakes, and goat cheese that was on the verge of spoiling.

It's frustrating that the norm in Toronto is to book places for special events without being able to taste their catering. I don't like guestimating how good the food will be, given the financial commitment on our part, and given that we don't want to be ashamed by the food at our own special event.

How's the catering at Hart House?

My fiancé and I are considering Hart House as a venue for our wedding, specifically for the Music Room and the Debates Room. We’d have to use their in-house catering for a buffet dinner (around 85 guests), and were wondering if anyone has experienced a catered event there. Please note this is not part of the Gallery Grill, which I believe is a separate kitchen.

Any opinions to share?

Caterer for parents' anniversary party in east Toronto; Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, or Balkan-type cuisines

Actual estimate:

15 vaziri $16/serving $240
10 veggie skewers $11/serving $110
10 fasenjan $13/serving $130
10 Borani spinach $4/serving $40
10 Kashke Bodemjan $6/serving $60
7 orders of Dolma estimated at $9/serving $63
10 orders of Baclava estimated $3.5/serving $35
estimated total before tax $678
With tax $780
Plus estimated delivery cost @ $50 $830

We'll purchase seperately:
- wine (light drinkers, =$150 for wine)
- disposable plates, cutlery, cups
- make own green salad ($15)
- cake (around$100)

Total will be around $1100, amounting to about $32/person

Caterer for parents' anniversary party in east Toronto; Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, or Balkan-type cuisines

I wanted to report back to you on my progress. I did indeed contact the Afghan Womens Organization catering service, but I was only in Toronto for a few days, and unfortunately they got back to me rather slowly and I didn't have a chance to discuss further with them or even sample their food. If more develops on that front, I'll report on that.

In the interim, I decided to check out two Persian restaurants: The Pomegranate, and Alborz Restaurant up at Yonge and Drewry. The bottom line is that we will probably be going with Alborz for catering our event.

My partner and I decided to have a meal at each place, and we called ahead to both establishments to let them know we’re interested in catering an event. The owner of the Pomegranate was very courteous with us (unfortunately I don’t remember her name, but I believe she’s the co-owner with her Iranian husband), and was helpful in offering information. But the catering prices are the same as the restaurant dining prices, and I think that is odd given that catering menus are usually somewhat lower than restaurant dining prices. Also, they won’t deliver the food. While they were “correct” with us, and while we enjoyed the food, there was a rigidity in their approach which left us with feeling that we wanted to look elsewhere.

Alborz was a different story. Unfortunately the owner, Farid, wasn’t in, but the server was very gracious and patient with us, plus he knew to expect us. Ultimately we got to taste lots of food, much of which we weren’t charged for. We tried three skewers of grilled meat (chicken, delicious veal, and ground beef and veal patties) served with rice and grilled tomatoes, a melt-in-your-mouth warm eggplant appetizer called ‘Kashke Bodemjan,’ home-made meat dolma, all of which are served with pita bread and a plate of fresh onions, parsley and radishes. We were stuffed to the brim, and took half of it home. He also gave us a taste of their deserts, including Zoolbia & Bamieh which I think are fried semolina flour pastries soaked in honey, and some of the tastiest baklava I’ve ever had. The baklava is full of cardamom, and is more ground nuts than pastry.

Then we discussed prices and menu. They do deliver, though due to the distance from their restaurant it will be an added charge (to be determined how much), and the catering prices, like their take-out menu prices, are about 10% lower than restaurant prices. They’re also willing to adjust some recipes for us, such as making the dolma vegetarian. Generally there was a willingness to satisfy their customers and work with them which we didn’t sense with the Pomegranate.

We left happy and satiated, and I think we’ll probably go with them. One caveat is that while we didn’t try the lettuce salads, we saw on the menu that they’re made with iceberg and romaine lettuces, which don’t much excite us. I’m guessing that lettuce salads aren’t part of Persian cuisine? So we’ll just make our own, rather than order from them. I should also add that we were the only people in the restaurant who didn’t speak Persian, and they were doing pretty good business for a Wednesday lunch. Here’s the website:
http://www.alborzrestaurant.ca/

The event is a long time away, so I’ll report back in a few months how it all unfolded.

Thanks for all of your advice!

Caterer for parents' anniversary party in east Toronto; Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, or Balkan-type cuisines

I appreciate the reality check regarding the price estimate. We can certainly go higher, but first wanted to scope out a reasonable price that isn't over the top. Interesting regarding bringing our own alcohol, so also an excellent tip

Visiting Israel - August

Try to go for lunch inside the food market, "machaneh yehuda" just off Agrippas street- numerous incredibly good lunch-counter type restaurants, especially North African and sepharadic cuisines. And it's fun to pick up fresh chalva to bring as a gift for friends back home.

Caterer for parents' anniversary party in east Toronto; Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, or Balkan-type cuisines

My sister and I are throwing a surprise anniversary party for our parents (40 years!), and could use help in finding good catering. Here are the details for what we’re planning and looking for:

- Cuisine types: Mediterranean, Middle Eastern or Balkan, such as Tunisian, Turkish, Afghani, Persian, Greek, etc.
- Location will be at their friends’ house in east Toronto, near Gerard St. and Woodbine Ave. (close to “little India”)
- Catering for about 35 people
- It will be a Saturday afternoon luncheon
- Price range: Around $800. If this is unrealistic, we'd also appreciate info on that.
- A caterer who could also provide plates, cutlery, glassware, etc. for guests
- We would provide our own alcohol

Thanks Chowhounders! I look forward to hearing and heeding your advice.