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Trip to Buffalo N.Y. what grocery items would you bring back? (moved from Ontario board)

I have places I use too but perhaps we should team up and split the trips. How do I get in touch with you?

Lai Wah Heen for dim sum -- what to order?

Sounds like they really hit a bad period in October; I agree that a change in the kitchen shouldn't lead to such problems in the dining room, especially at those prices. Thanks for the detailed breakdown; hopefully things have improved as skyline says.

Lai Wah Heen for dim sum -- what to order?

Thanks! I love Peking Duck but it's only going to be two of us and that wouldn't leave much appetite left for dim sum so the duck may have to wait for another time.

TIP -- Bring back food across the border without paying taxes [moved from Ontario board]

I must admit I haven't been to Trader Joe's in a long, long time. I was spoiled on Trader Joe's more than two decades ago because I lived for two years in South Pasadena near the original store when the stores were more limited -- the quality was amazing and the prices were great as I was on a student budget. Years later, the chain expanded east (beyond Arizona) and opened up places in NY, where I was living at the time, and it was good but somehow not quite the same.

That said, I'm long overdue -- last time in a TJ was five years ago in NY,

Thanks for the tips about plants and root vegetables. Good to know our border agents are protecting us from rogue carrots.

Do you have Sam's Club membership? I have Costco but its a 40 minute drive from the border.

Lai Wah Heen for dim sum -- what to order?

A la carte makes sense, especially our case, since we don't get to Toronto as often as we would like.

Lai Wah Heen for dim sum -- what to order?

Thanks -- I'm getting increasingly excited abut the trip and the meal. The kids will have to join us another time my wife and I wanted a weekend away, the first in a long, long time, but it's nice to know we can take the kids on a return visit.

Some have recommended the tasting menu of innovative dim sum but you prefer ordering a la carte?

Lai Wah Heen for dim sum -- what to order?

Thanks for the specific suggestions. I especially love eel and haven't had it some time. How recently were you there?

Lai Wah Heen for dim sum -- what to order?

Thanks. I would like to try things that go beyond typical dim sum. Do you recall some of the highlights?

Lai Wah Heen for dim sum -- what to order?

In a few weeks I'm taking my wife to Toronto for the weekend to see our favourite jazz pianist on a Saturday night. I've already asked fellow chowhounds to suggest places for an early dinner Saturday -- thanks for all the help!

Now I'm planning where to eat Sunday and am leaning towards dim sum, which I prefer to Western-style brunches. We're staying downtown at the Sheraton, so while I really want to try some of the dim sum places out in the burbs, that will be for another trip, because we will be without car -- we're traveling by train.

I've eaten at several Chinatown dim sum places, my favourite being Rol San, but this time I'm leaning towards Lai Wah Heen, in part because I've never been, and in part because I'm looking for more of a "special occasion" feel since it's not often my wife and I eat out without the kids.

Which dishes would be on your:
(a) Must-have list
(b) Over-rated and to be avoided list.

Thanks for any and all suggestions!

Lai Wah Heen
108 Chestnut St, Toronto, ON M5G 1R3, CA

Rol San
323 Spadina Ave, Toronto, ON M5T2E9, CA

Any T.O. burger joint to rival the The Burger Joint in NYC?

I share your enthusiasm for a good burger. But I had a question -- by barbeque do you meaning cooking over an open flame? Because if you do, you might want to call it grilled. Barbeque is meat cooked low and slow over indirect meat -- a pork shoulder or beef brisket are classics.

Real BBQ in Etobicoke

As someone who lived six years in the South, I agree there are many regional differences. A couple of points:

(1) Choice of meat varies. Pulled pork is king in the Carolinas, Virginia; pork ribs in middle and western Tennessee and brisket in Texas. You'll find all meat everywhere, mind you, but some are dominant in certain regions.

(2) A vinegar sauce without tomatoes is east North Carolina fare, and as you move west, tomatoes are added and vinegar becomes more of a supporting player -- by the time you get to Western NC the bbq sauce is thick with tomatoes and much sweeter than in the east (as it is in eastern Tennessee).

(3) BBq is definitely about the process, as you say, and in that process a dry rub is much more critical than the sauce.

(4) I have found no decent bbq in London except what I make myself. But there is a joint in Windsor I hope to try -- the person who runs it went a few years back to learn from a place south of Nashville, I believe in Martinville, which I also went to.

Great but light dinner options near Glenn Gould Studio on Front Street?

Location-wise its perfect, though if I can pitch it 300 metres, I may get plucked from the streets by the Jays on the way to the show,

Thanks for all your help!

TIP -- Bring back food across the border without paying taxes [moved from Ontario board]

I wanted to share a money-saving tip to fellow chowhounds that I picked up from a post here -- it was mentioned in the middle of a many-reply post and I thought it deserved its own heading.

Most of us live close to the U.S. border -- I'm an hour from Port Huron, MI And many of us do some of our food shopping in the U.S., either for products that aren't available her, aren't of the same quality here or are much more expensive here. So long as you have a place that will accept packages for you in Michigan or NY, you can order just about anything online so long as it doesn't have to be immediately frozen or chilled.

Until this week, though, I didn't realize that "basic groceries" are exempt not just from duty but from tax when crossing the border to Ontario. The reason is this: Such groceries aren't taxes when bought in Ontario either. While I don't have yet the full list of what is conidered "basic groceries" the summary of the list is extensive.

Earlier today I picked up $600 worth of gourmet food, mostly higher-priced sardines from France and Portugal. When I crossed the border, I declared and told the customs official they were exempt from taxes as "basic groceries." A colleague of the official looked it up and said, "He's right." That's $80 saved in taxes.

The first of the sardines, by the way, were delicious -- Cole's from Portugal. Very meaty and firm with a mild fish taste complimented by smoke.


Trip to Buffalo N.Y. what grocery items would you bring back? (moved from Ontario board)

A few points for Embee and Davwud:

(1) Whether LCBO pricing is excessive is not a matter of debate. It's a matter of comparing prices. I have not attempted to compare prices on everything the LCBO sells. But everything that I have compared, and that would include more than 100 bottles of wine, were more expensive than what they can be bought in the U.S. and the vast majority by huge margins. For fun I compared a list of wines LCBO was marketing as "bargain wines" on a local radio show and found they cost, on average, more than 40% more than U.S. prices after the exchange rate was considered.

(2) The selection of wine in rural Idaho or the high desert in New Mexico is far better than at the LCBO --- because any American in the lower 48 can order any wine online and have it shipped to their home. It does not matter if the state runs things in brick and mortar stores. There are dozens of online retailers of wine and their selection as a group DWARFS (a bit ironic capitalizing that word, sorry) what is offered in the LCBO. And because nearly every wine is sold by more than one online merchant, they compete in price and service. That is the reality. And those online sites and others are great sources for information, far better than what you will find at the LCBO.

(3) In the rare circumstance that you can't find an online retailer in the US for a specific bottle, you can order overseas and pay for shipping and that's it. In Ontario you would have to pay a heft sum to a broker, taxes and then a huge surtax to the LCBO for the privilege of buying one of the countless bottles of win this government monopoly has decided shouldn't g on it shelves.

Great but light dinner options near Glenn Gould Studio on Front Street?

Update -- We'll be staying at the Sheraton Centre on Queen Street (thanks to Priceline at $79 plus tax) and will be checking in before we head out for dinner.

ISO Heirloom Dried Beans or Rancho Gordo Beans in Toronto

Not sure the thread smacks of anything other than chowhounders trying to help one another find sources for heirloom dried beans. I live in SW Ontario, and while conditions are great fir growing beans, most farmers grow soy beans as a cash crop and the focus of most of the farm industry is on quantity over quality. So I appreciate the suggestions and questions in this thread -- Katzen made a nice one for those in Toronto.

Why shouldn't the OP kick him/herself for not getting a great product while he/she was stateside? One reason I love to travel is to sample and bring back exciting food from around the world. While SW Ontario has a good growing season, the total farmable land here is a tiny fraction of what exists in the U.S., and while most of that land to the south is used to grow the most at the cheapest price, there are still a wealth of quality growers.

When it comes to finding great food, I think our horizons shouldn't end at the border.

ISO Heirloom Dried Beans or Rancho Gordo Beans in Toronto

That's because UPS charges a fortune for brokerage fees. See if the company will ship USPS, which generally charges no brokerage.

As for me, I ship regularly to Port Huron, MI and pick it up myself (an hour drive from London)

Great but light dinner options near Glenn Gould Studio on Front Street?

Thanks Googs!

Great but light dinner options near Glenn Gould Studio on Front Street?

Thanks for letting me know. I'm particular about my scallops too. I probably pass on the frites if only because too many carbs and I will be less alert than I want to be for the concert, though I may have to make an exception for the gnocci, Good to hear the food quality has been maintained.

Great but light dinner options near Glenn Gould Studio on Front Street?

How does the Wine Bar compare to what was offered before Jamie Kennedy left? Do you recommend particular dishes

Twenty-minute walk would be fine if its a nice night and we eat early enough so we don't feel rushed.

Great but light dinner options near Glenn Gould Studio on Front Street?

Thanks so much for sharing your experience. The sea bas sounds very good and the sort of lighter meal that would work, and a 15-minute walk is just fine. I usually stay away from prix fixe because I don't like to limit my choices but it may work well here, especially with timing an issue.

Great but light dinner options near Glenn Gould Studio on Front Street?

Great location for us (we may be staying at a hotel quite close). Looks like a nice, straight forward menu that relies on quality ingredients prepared well. Do you have some favourites on the dinner menu?

Great but light dinner options near Glenn Gould Studio on Front Street?

Next month my wife and I will be coming from London for a Saturday night concert of two of the best jazz piano players in the world, Bill Charlap, whose NY trio is unparalleled. and his Canadian wife Renee Rosnes. Concert starts at 8 and we plan to get to Toronto earlier that day.

I am a foodie and treasure trips to Toronto because London lacks quality options. So I'm looking for a memorable meal but with a caveat -- I don't want to walk away so weighted down by food and wine that I won't enjoy the concert.

The restaurant doesn't have to be walking distance to the concert since we can take public transportation too, but given the timing, I'd prefer a place that not too far time-wise.

We like all types of food, though we tend to steer away from Italian because most of it isn't as good as what my in-laws make (my wife is Italian).


What are the 10 most essential things in your spice cupboard?

A belated thanks for the tip! I also do mail order with Penzy's and Spice House == you can order to your house in Buffalo but I get it sent to someone an hur from me in Michigan.

U.S. vs. Canadian beef in Canadian restaurants (split from Ontario board)

I wrote that AA is dominant in supermarkets, not that AAA is not available. In the better (I use that as a relative term) supermarkets in London, ON, I'd estimated that 90% of the beef is AA or USDA select. AAA is available but costs a premium compared to USDA Choice in the U.S.

By comparison, in better U.S. supermarkets, you'd have a hard time finding USDA Select -- It's almost all Choice with usually a small election of Prime.

The result is most Americans eat better quality beef than do most Canadians.

Pasquale's Meats in London - What happened

Too bad about Pasquale's - hopefully the owners find a new location.

You are right about Londoners having little appetite for quality ingredients and food; they eat crap because that's all they have been exposed to. Much of the beef sold in supermarkets is (or is the equivalent) of USDA Select, which I never saw in any decent American supermarket, which typically sells USDA Choice, whose closest Canadian equivalent is AAA.

On a related note, whenever I buy fish at Loblaws, the person behind the counter is always shocked that I want to smell the fish before he/she wraps it, and last week I made the mistake of asking if the person behind the fish counter could gut/clean a few of the whole fish for sale -- that was beyond her skill and authority.

As for Remark, I've been a few times and haven't been impressed with the produce -- not that it was bad but it wasn't much better or different than what I find in the supermarket. Thank goodness my in-laws have a hobby farm and grow a lot and raise some animals.

There are a few god sources of ethnic supplies still. There's a good selection of dried chilis in a store on Dundas near Catholic Central and some good sources of Vietnamese supplies in stores around Huron and Highbury.

Angelos is a sad story. My inlaws are Italian and there was a time you'd see and hear Italians fill the original store on Thompson. Now the bread is supermarket quality, the cold cuts and cheeses are cut by people who aren't Italian and don't know their products and the specialty items have been scaled back. With three stores, Angelos Italian clientele has been reduced to next to nothing.

What are the 10 most essential things in your spice cupboard?

I'm in Canada too but the prices there look steep (so far) compared to what I pay to buy spices south of the border - about double the price.

What foods do you order online?

I order a lot of things from the U.S. (though it's always been non-perishable items), but since I'm just an hour away from Port Huron, MI, I typically pick it up myself, which eliminates the brokerage fees, greatly reduces and sometimes eliminates the shipping fees. There's actually a UPS depot (not retail store) that accepts UPS packages for free for me and holds them one week, I also have a friend there for smaller stuff and an in-home packaging service for non-UPS.

UPS once tried to charge me $50 brokerage for a small package of free checks from an American bank. I still arrange for small items shipped US postal service, which doesn't charge brokerage fees, but I avoid UPS for cross-border shipping.

Maybe we should arrange a group of like-minded foodies to buy in bulk and take turns making the drive across the border. A cross-border co-op.

What foods do you order online?

As someone also marooned north of the border I'm curious about your shipping experiences. I know that if you ship anything but USPS you get hit with high brokerage charges on top of shipping and taxes. Which places have you had good experiences with and what sort of charges were there for shipping, brokerage, taxes, etc.?

U.S. vs. Canadian beef in Canadian restaurants (split from Ontario board)

As someone who has lived for many years in both countries, there are three big differences for consumers and all three favor American beef:

(1) In the U.S., USDA Choice is widely available and the mainstay in the beef counters at most mainstream supermarkets. There is very little of the lesser quality Select grade. In Canada, the lesser AA grade, which is similar to Select, is dominant in mainstream supermarkets and that's what most Canadians consume.

(2) It's much cheaper to buy USDA Choice than it is to buy AAA, so Canadians who want better quality meat will pay a small fortune compared to what Americans pay.

(3) USDA Prime is available at the retail level and is easily found in most major cities as well as online. I've never seen Canadian prime for sale at the retail level. If a Canadian knows of a source, please do share.