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Need a private-ish dining options for large group who are paying their own way

Yes, that's a very long post title :)

I am looking for a reasonably priced yet slightly fancy restaurant / lounge that will allow a fairly large group of people (20-30) to order what they please without a set menu. These are volunteers for a large charity event and the restaurant would be stop number one for the official after-party. What we are looking for is:

- a place that it will be easy to hold a conversation
- a step above pub but below fine dining in terms of cost.
- somewhere that is pretty rather than hipster (we will be over-dressed for most regular restaurants)
- the event is in the downtown, but location is negotiable if it is really great

Any ideas? All restaurants with private rooms we've contacted seem to need to have a set menu, and that won't work with our crowd as we'll have some people just wanting nibbles, and some wanting a full meal.

Feb 26, 2014
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Borage flowers in Toronto?

Is there anywhere that sells fresh borage flowers in the Toronto area?

Jul 26, 2013
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

My Paris Restaurant Plan, plus an oyster question

Thanks...I've heard Huitrerie Regis is amazing, but also that it is closed for the summer from mid-July. Website shows no such info...any insight?

Jun 10, 2013
Suburban Gourmand in France

My Paris Restaurant Plan, plus an oyster question

Hi there, hoping to get some feedback on my restaurant plan and then ask a couple of questions.

Saturday July 13th: As a 40th birthday gift to my husband, I booked Jules Verne for a 1pm lunch. It is his first time in Paris, so although my advice has always been "Never Eat In A Tower" I made an exception.

Sunday July 14th: Here I am stumped. We are spending the day out at Versailles, and wanted to make it back to the city for a light supper and maybe watch the fireworks from a non-claustrophobic setting. However, I cannot find anything open on a Saunday. Should I simply give up and pack a picnic? Thoughts? I was determined to get us oysters from some delightful hole-in-the-wall place and eat on the street with a sneaky bottle of white, but everything is woefully shut. Is there anywhere in the 6th (or the 14th) that has excellent oysters (atmosphere not needed!)

Monday July 15th: Dinner at Josephine Chez Dumonet at 8pm. Hoping for the best here, I had a shaky convo with someone on the phone and am praying we will be able to reconfirm once I arrive.

Tuesday July 16th: Gastro Day! Lunch at Guy Savoy and dinner at Esens'all.

Any feedback before it becomes too tricky to book? My only stickler really is the Sunday, as all other meals we'll just wander and graze.

Jun 10, 2013
Suburban Gourmand in France

Wanted: a lunch spot for a picky "princess"

We are heading to the Four Seasons Centre for Beauty and the Beast, and need a lunch spot that will get us out before our 2pm show next Wednesday.

The star guest is a very picky five year old. Normally, I'd just take her to a tea and be done with it, but a) most teas aren't served until later, and b) even the Windsor Arms tea was too "weird" for her, with salmon roe in the sandwiches and a bizarre, poisonous tart called a "quiche".

I don't want to do the Old Spaghetti House, YOU CAN'T MAKE ME, but is there a bland, pretty lunch spot that would come across as a "tea party" type of place?

Jul 04, 2012
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Recommendations needed for our downtown "food crawl"

I want to thank EVERYONE for their amazing recommendations. I cannot recommend this type of crawl highly enough, we had an amazing time and it really lent itself to an evening of fun and exploration!

We started off taking a cab to Oyster Boy. I had called a few minutes previous to ask about a table, and they obliged. We split a dozen oysters and had Mill Street Organic (each, we aren't crazy!) which was lovely and refreshing. Had to finagle the husband out without a further order of oysters, promising further culinary delights.

We wandered through Trinity Bellwoods on a gorgeous sunny evening. Lots to see and experience! We meandered our way to Porchetta, where we each ordered the standard sandwich: mine with truffle sauce, his with cheese. DE-LICIOUS. Very very good. We sat around the corner and split a surreptitious half bottle of Amarone that I had smuggled in my purse. Almost as good as I Fratellini in Florence.

Next was a winding across Dundas, past the food stalls (most were shut, those open focused on dessert and we weren't there yet!) up into Kensington Market (Augusta Ave). Had a brief hand wringing moment when I discovered that Agave & Aguacate was shut! NOOOOOOO! Headed across the street to a VERY hot El Trompo and ordered their pork and pineapple tacos to go. They were ok. Pork very dry. Husband was giving me a bit of a side-eye, so I knew I had to find something good fast!

I figured we could find something interesting if we walked through Chinatown, but most street foods were sweet. I wished I had done more research on this area because it would have been great to know what was good.

We walked all the way down to Khao San Road. Unfortunately, their exhaust fan had given up the ghost and they could only serve us cold dishes. No worries, an order of fresh rolls and a Singha would be great!

Unfortunately the rolls were really bad. REALLY bad. Considering that I make better, that really concerns me. The rolls tasted as if they had been made hours previous, were very chewy, not fresh. What a shame!

We walked right across the financial district and pulled into Origin at around 10pm for the recommended Dulce du Leche. It was intriguing (having been to Colborne Lane last month, I knew what we were in for) but I did find the "dippin' dot" style raspberries a little overwhelming.

We split a lovely glass of port, enjoyed the vibe, and wandered back to our hotel for a nightcap.

I would STRONGLY recommend this type of thing for a date night. So much fun, and significantly cheaper than a regular dinner at a regular downtown restaurant!

Thanks again guys!

Jun 27, 2012
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Recommendations needed for our downtown "food crawl"

Thanks so much for all of the suggestions! I really, really want to add Porchetta to the mix...is it good? I have fond memories of eating literally on the street in Florence at one of the holes in the wall there.

Will all of these places be cool with no reservations on a Friday night? We don't mind take out...but I'm worried about the busy factor of Origins and Khao San Road...

Jun 20, 2012
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Recommendations needed for our downtown "food crawl"

We're staying at the Royal York for a birthday celebration, and thought a "food crawl" around the area might be nice. Thinking oysters at Starfish, poutine at Smokes, that sort of thing. What is recommended within reasonable walking distance of the Financial District that is easy to access and order just one thing before moving on?

Jun 19, 2012
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Friend coming for a few days from London, England. What can't she get across the pond that we do well here?

The ability to get food between 2pm and 5pm?

Ha, sorry couldn't resist.

When my English friend came to visit we went to Woodlot on the recommendation of the board here. It's a Toronto restaurant style rather than a food style that was so appealing.

May 05, 2012
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Need a foodie friendly "lux dive"

I know, crazy right? CG was very non-commital on the phone about seating us, even though there are only three people. I totally understand that things change and large groups or high volume can throw off the timing, but at least a vague indication of an average wait on a Monday night would have been awesome.

May 05, 2012
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Need a foodie friendly "lux dive"

Thanks so much for everyone's thoughtful replies.

Based on the glowing reviews, we decided to go for County General...but as they don't take reservations my dining partners didn't want to risk hanging out for an unforseen amount of time.

Copper Chimney and Harbord House also looked great to me, but my friends overruled and chose Barque Smokehouse instead. The choose your own plates looked great to them, so cross your fingers for me that it all works out!

May 04, 2012
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Need a foodie friendly "lux dive"

You're right, I apologize for the missing information. Mains on or below $20 please!

May 02, 2012
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Need a foodie friendly "lux dive"

I need to treat a couple of friends to dinner out, but they've specified cheap, but amazing food. Think luxury dive! Ideally more suited to pairings with beer, and must have good seating so no take out dominant places. I'm thinking a step up from wings, but not too far up. Ack, am I explaining myself ok? Any ideas??

May 02, 2012
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Looking for a vegetarian friendly, quintessentially "Toronto" restaurant open on a Sunday

Thanks for the rec TorontoJo! Woodlot is pretty booked for Sunday, but encouraged me to walk in which is a bit of a risk, but I'll try it out. Worst case scenario, Grace is next door...

Feb 23, 2012
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Looking for a vegetarian friendly, quintessentially "Toronto" restaurant open on a Sunday

Not too much to ask right?

A vegetarian (no meat, no fish, no seafood) friend of mine is visiting Toronto for the very first time, and I wanted to take him out to Lee on Sunday but they are closed.

I'm looking for something with veggie friendly options, but not exclusively veg as I need my meat.

Any help finding something that kind of sums up Toronto would be awesome.

Feb 23, 2012
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Looking for some cucina della nonna with a patio

Anywhere in the downtown / midtown / uptown area that is really outstanding?

Jun 16, 2011
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Where to find pea shoots in Toronto?

Thanks everyone for the very specific replies...I thought I'd have the darndest time trying to find them. Off to T&T now, cheers!!

May 17, 2011
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Where to find pea shoots in Toronto?

Looking for pea shoots for a very specific recipe...anyone know where to find them in Toronto area?

May 16, 2011
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Need cool restaurant for a group in the east end

I have to organize a group drink and dinner outing for about 15 people in the East End (Don Mills is about as far West as we want to go).

We usually hit up Joe's because the food is tolerable and the atmosphere is great, but we've done it to death now.

Does anyone have any suggestions? The night is a bit of a treat, so I'm not terribly concerned with spending...

Oct 20, 2010
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Sourcing Lobsters and Lobster Bibs (Downtown)

I bought five 1.5lb lobsters at Diane's Seafood last Friday, for the ridculous price of $8.88 a pound. They were divine. Not sure if that price is here to stay, but for $13.50 a lobster, I know what I'll be making much more often...

Jul 07, 2010
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Amazing dinner at George

Thanks to the recommendations of JennaBean and others on this board, I was taken out for a birthday dinner to George last night.

We would have loved to sit on the patio, if it wasn't for the 34 degree heat, so we enjoyed a very comfortable and private booth by the window. The restaurant wasn't crowded at all, it was a Tuesday after all, and the atmosphere was pleasant and calm.

We considered the five course tasting menu, but I was worried that there simply wouldn't be enough food. However, the seven course felt like overkill, so we settled on the five with a single wine pairing as I was driving. However, our very competent and friendly attendant split the wines for us, which was a very kind gesture.

First off, I did not expect to get a different course than my dining partner (my father) but it was a pleasant surprise. Although we each ate what was provided to us, I was pleased that we could switch if one of us took fancy to the others dish.

Forgive on the lack of details, there were a lot of courses and a lot of wine.

Amuse: Cod Salad
We both received an amuse bouche of cod salad with zucchini flower, which was tiny and exquisite. Very fresh tasting, with a great variety of layers and flavours. We received a sparkling white wine to accompany this dish.

1st Course: Deep-fried softshell crab with apple slaw (me), Mackerel Salad (Dad)
The deep-fried softshell crab was perfectly seasoned "Southern Style" and absolutely crispy-delicious. I never eat softshell crab, and it was so tender and meaty with that divine crisp exterior. The apple slaw was very fresh and a great accompaniment. To accompany this course, we received a very light rosé.

2nd course: Foie Gras with Duck (me), Foie Gras with Rabbit (Dad)
I had overlooked one thing when we were served the first course…I was so anxious to tuck in that I didn’t really think to question the server about what EXACTLY was on my plate. So, the first course was an exercise in testing the palate. There were sauces and purees that I simply enjoyed without knowing what I was eating. But when the 2nd course arrived, I really noticed that we received no explanation again. Just “Foie Gras with Duck for the lady, Foie Gras with Rabbit for sir”.

Don’t get me wrong, this dish was delicious. It was rich, meaty, and so moreish. But I had no idea what the sauce, puree, or accompaniments were. A fig was layered on top of the foie, which was layered on top of a heaping portion of duck breast (I assume) which was stacked inside some form of pastry (?) vol-a-vent style (?). Again, lots of assumptions. I should have asked, but again had not and missed the opportunity! This course was served with a lovely but light pinot noir, which I was thrilled with (dining companion was wishing for something heavier).

3rd course: Bison tenderloin (me), Alberta beef tenderloin (Dad)
This is where the problem with the different tasting plates arises…Dad looked longingly over at my bison while I scarfed it down so that he wouldn’t steal it. My bison tenderloin (perfectly rare, seared to perfection) sat on top of the tastiest, tiny scalloped potato and onion cake. It was ridiculously good. Dad loved his beef, but did pine so much for the bison that we ended up sharing. Wine accompaniment was a bold and hearty Zin, which I had our attendant write up for me so that I can seek it out. This was the simplest of the mains in terms of flavour combos and complexity, but it was hearty and satisfying.

4th course: Raw Cow’s Milk Cheese (me), Sheep’s Milk Cheese from Quebec (Dad)
Names escape me, but the cheese was a small (1oz?) portion with spicy walnuts, fig, and a fruit compote, with a side of tiny bread crisps. Wine (port) was a ten year old Tawny.

5th course: Cherry soufflé (or possibly bread and butter pudding) with fresh cherries and thyme, and chocolate ice cream (me), Cherry Panacotta, Biscuit, and two other cherry related desserts (Dad).
Desserts were presented as “Cherry Desserts”, and the panacotta pointed out to Dad, otherwise no explanation. We were having fun so none required at this point. The cherry soufflé / pudding was explosively hot and took a good ten minutes to cool to eat, so I enjoyed the rest of the dessert and wine while finishing. Dad’s four different cherry items were proclaimed “lovely”. Wine pairing was a sparkling red wine from Italy whose name escapes.

The verdict: George was a real wow for me, and will be my next go-to for an upscale dinner. Yes, the servers could have been more prolific in their explanations, but we also didn’t press for details. I felt it was enormous value for money, as the courses were not by any impression “mincy” or made from anything less than stellar ingredients. The ambiance and atmosphere would make for a very nice romantic dinner, albeit a noisy one if the room is full. Dare I say, the best meal I have had in the city since Lotus? We will be back!

Total without tax or tip: $300 for a two top.

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George
111 Queen Street East, Toronto, ON M5C 1S2, CA

Jul 07, 2010
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Family friendly Euro-style gastro-pub with beer garden in Toronto?

I'm looking for a nice place to grab a beer and a decent bite to eat with the husband in celebration of Father's Day, and was hoping to find a nice pub with a family friendly beer garden. Somewhere with an actual garden with grass instead of a patio.

Really hoping for some good pub grub (good homemade fish and chips, homemade steak and ale pies, that sort of thing).

The three year old will be with us. Not looking for a chain restaurant.

Is there such a thing in TO or Durham Region?

Jun 16, 2010
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Auberge or...where? Need blow-out birthday rec.

I am going to be treated to a blow-out birthday meal, and have been asked to choose, carte blanche.

Here are some of the restaurants I have been to and really liked:
Auberge du Pommier
North 44
Le Select
Lotus (back in the day)
Batifole
Lucien
Mortons

Here are some of the restaurants that I have been to and thought were good / solid:
Bymark
Canoe
Lee
Nota Bene
Starfish
Loire
Biffs
Scaramouche

Can anyone write me a scrip for a good, fancy-dancy restaurant that isn't on the list based on the preferences above??

ETA: Bonus points for a tasting menu / chef table!!

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Batifole
744 Gerrard St E, Toronto, ON M4M1Y3, CA

North 44
2537 Yonge St., Toronto, ON M4P 2H9, CA

Le Select
432 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON M5V1E3, CA

Bymark
66 Wellington St. W, Toronto, ON M5K 1J3, CA

Nota Bene
180 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 2A1, CA

Jun 10, 2010
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Service disaster at One Restaurant

Ugh, where to begin? I booked a table for two at One Restaurant in the Hazelton Hotel in Yorkville. It was a Friday, and it was during the film festival. Before the collective groans begin, yes, we knew that there may be some slippage in service during such a high profile event, but we were willing to overlook "some" service issues. Unfortunately, the service was not just average, it was terrible.

We were seated promptly on arrival. We had to run the gaunlet of people in the bar to get into the restaurant. I got goosed on the way in. We start as we mean to go on.

We waited and waited for service, but at least that gave us plenty of time for perusing the menus. When our waiter arrived, we prompted him for specials (if any), and then on the oysters available. Each request met with almost total befuddlement. Eventually we settled on a light appetizer of a dozen east coast oysters from three different beds, and a glass of wine apiece.

Oysters arrive, brought by a different waiter. He just placed them and essentially ran away with no explanation of what was what. Remember that we ordered three different types. No plates for us to use, just the ice platter. No wine. We couldn't even catch an eye of anyone to bring the wine or plates, so we just tucked in, guessing the specimens as we went! They were very tasty and fresh.

Plate was removed by original waiter who chuckled and said "oops, no plates huh?" and offered to bring us some...not clear on why plates would be useful after we had finished so we said that was ok. We also asked about the wine, and got another "oops, mea culpe". Glasses brought and an "extra pour" given. A good attempt at appeasement, and we were happy for the timebeing.

Mains brought promply by yet another waiter (I sensed a theme), and I had delicious black cod, and hubby had lamb loin. We also ordered a side of whipped potatoes and chives (sublime) and organic roast carrots (gritty gritty gritty). For $13 I was unsure as why they wouldn't have them suitably prepped, but I assured hubby that I would flag someone down and ask about the carrots, because "maybe that's just what they are like". I was reaching, even then.

Unfortunately, I couldn't flag down a waiter, let alone ours. Plates removed by another waiter (still not necessarily ours) so I asked him to send ours by so we could chat about the carrots (long eaten, albeit sandily and grudgingly).

I then ran the gaunlet through the bar for the facilities, and was just appauled. I've never felt so awful in a restaurant before. It was a nightclub scene with people clammering over one another. It was a pretty shocking juxtaposition to the dining room.

By the time I got back, I had missed our waiter but received the menu for dessert. I was done, as we were now 2 hours in, but hubby was still hungry and wished for the three berry cheesecake. It was simply cheesecake. We ordered, and just not wishing to start anything, I begged off on mentioning the carrots, the waits, the oyster issue, I just wanted to eat and leave.

Unfortunately, cheesecake was consumed promptly, followed by 30 minutes of attempting to flag down anyone, anyone who would give us our bill and take our money. It got silly. The dining room was seemingly being run by guests because there was not a person to be seen. Flagging and arm waving did no good. Waiters seemed preoccupied with certain tables and could not be dissuaded. We obviously eventually got their attention (or I may have had to write this review from my iTouch) but I was so disheartened and put off. Lovely food (in general) totally spoilt.

We have written a letter to McEwan, having enjoyed his restaurants regularly over the last few years, and am waiting for a response. What a shame.

Sep 23, 2009
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Charlie Burger's Latest Invite is out...

Enthusiasm definitely dampened here. I was thrilled when I added myself to the Charlie Burger mailing list, because of the original mission statement. I thought that I could try something new and interesting, for a semi-reasonable price.

Now that the price is certainly upwards of the original statement, and I'm simply priced out, regardless of how much I want to attend. What a shame.

Aug 29, 2009
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

ISO Samphire / Salicornia

FOUND IT!

Got it at McEwans after a second visit and a good scour. Named under "Sea Asparagus" and in the produce section. Looked a little wilty, but I'll give it a go tonight.

Thanks to everyone for the help!

Aug 06, 2009
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

ISO Samphire / Salicornia

Bah, I've just come back from McEwan having raced over there after just seeing this post, and, guess what, same old story...they had NO IDEA what I was talking about!

I asked for Salicornia / Salicorn / Samphire / Grasswort / Marshweed, and I got blank stares. They looked at me like I was from Mars!!

I've been advised to come back when "the chef" is in later this week. I assume that means Mark, but maybe not? Hopefully someone, anyone, will know what I am talking about. I'm going to print out a picture from the www.westcoastseaweed.com site!

Aug 05, 2009
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Fresh invite to CB

Got mine too. $170 per person with wine + molecular gastronomy? Not my thing this time around...I'll head to Colborne Lane when I'm ready!

Jul 07, 2009
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Loire Restaurant Review

*blush* Ha. You are correct, of course. I have my megions rixed...

May 15, 2009
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Loire Restaurant Review

We had the pleasure of having dinner at Loire this week.

The dining room has a fresh and airy feel about it. Nicely balanced table set up (not too close, not too sparse) and even when it filled up about an hour after our arrival it had a pleasant buzz and hum. No shouting to be heard, and no overbearing music (I can't remember music at all actually).

We were greeted and seated rapidly, and were attended by a knowledgable and very professional server who listed the prize features of the paper menu, and went off to fetch a bottle of Chablis (well, when in Loire...)

Unfortunately, genetic predisposition being what it is, both my father and I ordered the exact same appetizers and mains, so this will make for a boring review.

We began with the selection of Charcuterie. First up on the wood platter was the pork rillette, covered in a thin creamy layer of fat, served in a tiny pot. The pork was moist and flavourful, eaten lustily on baguette slices smeared with the housemade maple and tarragon mustard. Superb. The French picnic continued with the chicken liver parfait; a creamy, decadent spread. The texture was delicate, bordering on mousse, and there was so much of it to eat that a second bread basket was asked for and received. A crunchy pork skin puff was a little chewier than expected, making for interesting eating. Cornichon and beet rounded out the richness of the meats.

We followed up with the confit duck leg and muscovy duck Magret, with mini Ontario potato and Gruyère cheese gratin, on top of spinach in a citrus pepper sauce. The duck leg was incredible...the salted crisp skin was reminiscent of peking duck, and hid a moist, dark, and very generous portion of leg. The flesh was the tiniest bit dry around the edge, but incredible tasty. It was gobbled up.

The duck breast was seared to medium rare, with a beautiful pink red centre. The citrus pepper sauce was very refreshing when compared to the richness of the meat. The potato was the only "miss" on the plate. While it was gooey and cheesy, it lacked punch. It was very comforting stodge nonetheless.

Desserts didn't tempt until a bread and butter pudding special was mentioned. Shared between us, it was a generous portion. Shamefully dry though. The custardy outer layer gave way to a bready interior which would have benefitted from more liquidy goodness seeping through.

Nevertheless, I can't wait to go again. What a lovely find!

May 14, 2009
Suburban Gourmand in Ontario (inc. Toronto)