Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >

WillinTO's Profile

Title Last Reply

Cancale to Loire

Hi. I would really appreciate a little help and input for our upcoming trip. Researching the posts on this board has filled in most of our plan, but I am a bit stuck on one segment. We will be staying in Cancale for several nights, and then heading down to the Loire and staying at Château de la Flocellière, about 70 km south east of Nantes, near Puy du Fou (where we will take the kids the next day).

The two things I am looking for input on are what to consider doing on a day trip from Cancale to that part of the Loire, and what food options there are around la Flocellière/Puy du Fou.

With respect to the first, I am contemplating getting out to the Atlantic coast somewhere between Lorient and Saint Nazaire or Pornic. Are there any particularly charming towns with a great spot to stop for lunch? Or do we just pick a town and find a seaside café that looks busy?

The bigger question is the dinner that night. The hotel(Chateau de la Flocellière) offers a 50 euro dinner, but before signing up for that price tag for the 4 of us, I'd like to know that we won't be disappointed. I've searched the forums here and found nothing. The Tripadvisor reviews tend to be very positive about the dinner, but.......I trust TripAdvisor regarding accommodations, not food. Any input? If not, we'll probably opt for it and report back. Dinner is apparently hosted by the Chateau owners and will include a lot of local history.

I realise this is a very specific request, but feel free to provide input on anything of interest in the area. Thanks.

Jun 07, 2015
WillinTO in France

Where to source Banh Mi Buns in Toronto?

This sounds like the right option. What about steaming them to reheat them?

Where to source Banh Mi Buns in Toronto?

We're planning a big party (50 people) and need to source Banh Mi buns. Here is the thing. The party is in Stratford on a Sunday night, and we're leaving TO on Friday night. One option is to make our own, but there is a lot of other prep going on during the day Sunday for a wide variety of fillings, so that would complicate things, but is probably plan A for now.

It would be great to be able to skip that step, if we could somehow source premade ones that are reasonably good. My guess is anything sourced fresh of Friday would be crap by Sunday, unless they freeze really well. If there are good pre-frozen ones somewhere, that might work.

Any ideas or do we just get up extra early on Sunday to make buns?

One dinner/night between LA and San Jose on the Pacific Coast Highway

I'm bumping this back up to see if I can get some advice. We need a restaurant and inn/hotel to stay in about half way between LA and San Fran. We were going to stay at the Cass House in Cayucos, but just learned their restaurant is not open Tues/Wed, which is when we will be in the area. Other suggestions??

Feb 17, 2014
WillinTO in California

NYC Hound's First Visit to Toronto -- Fine dining recommendations

I'd probably drop Auberge from your list and follow Estufarian's advice and try something that is more uniquely Toronto. Auberge is "correct" but ulimately uninspiring. Bar Isabel and Actinoite are great choices for something more uniquely "Toronto". Edulis is worth considering too.

Agave y Aguacate lives on!

I don't think anyone who has worked in a restaurant kitchen, or knows people who do, ever begrudges the staff two days off - or no lunches. But the desire to have them open is a nice comment on how you feel about the chef and cuisine!

Best Bagels in Toronto

Fantastic. Thanks for the recommendation! As a former Ottawa resident, I have always had a great fondness for Kettleman's hand rolled, kettled, wood oven bagels. They had a store on the Danforth for a while, but selling authentic bagels in Greek town proved to be a bad business plan, and they are long departed.

I routinely load up on Kettlemans when I, or a friend are passing through Ottawa, and you now have me optimistic that Bagels on Fire might just duplicate that unique combination of flavour and texture that makes Kettleman's great.

Where to get great Stollen in Toronto or North of the GTA

I think I may have foudn the answer to my own quesiton. We picked up two different Dimpflemiers versions at the factory store, and then happened upon Stubbes Chocolates and Bakery on Dupont near Christie. They don't make the Stolen there - they come from the store owner's father in Ottawa (where they also have a store apparently). The Stubbes stolen was great. Better texture, nicer marzipan and much fresher, more distinct flavours from the fruit. Too late for anyone else this year though, I got 2 of the last 5, several days ago, and I am sure the rest are long gone.

For next year, apparently, the key is to preorder them in November.

Ptbo Hounds - What is THE source for fresh fish

"Freshness" is a very relative thing. The distribution chain that ends in a grocery store is at least one day longer, and often many more, than a distribution chain that ends in a high quality fish monger. That day can make a big difference, let alone the consequences of a several day delay. And, when you are an employee in a Loblaws meat department, there is no personal stake in how good and fresh the product is.

I love fresh fish, but only when it is really, really fresh. I am fortunate to live in an area where one can get fish that was swimming 48 hours before. I long ago gave up Grocery Store fish. Looks like our holiday may be fish free.

Cider Houses Near San Seb in December?

Great advice. Thanks!

Dec 16, 2013
WillinTO in Spain/Portugal

Ptbo Hounds - What is THE source for fresh fish

Thanks PoppiYYZ. The idea of loading up at Diana's or Seafood Depot (or Hooked!) is a good one, but the time lapse will be too long. thanks for the tip on Primal Cuts and Franz's!

Fine dining in Richmond Hill or thereabouts?

If you are up for the drive all the way to Aurora, Joia is good Italian. Not great, but good, and much more reasonably priced than Terra.

Distillery District Saturday night ... which of the restos is best?

Gilead Cafe. Perhaps not Jamie Kennedy in his hey day, but still very, very good...and far better than anything in a 2 km radius.

Ptbo Hounds - What is THE source for fresh fish

We'll be in the area this Holiday season and would like to pick up some very fresh fish at some point. Where would you go in Peterborough to get he best possible fresh fish?

ISO best place to buy fresh Christmas turkey

OK, I vow I will not get drawn into the organic/non organic, frozen/fresh debate again this year. I did several years ago and it almost ruined chowhound for me. Let me just say this. The best birds I've ever prepared, or eaten, are heritage birds. That means they tend to be organic, and raised happy. To me, happy animals are better to eat than animals that never had the opportunity. But personal preferences aside, if it is flavour you are after, fresh heritage birds are the way to go!

For several years running we have got our birds from Mark Trealout and Laura Boyd of Grass Root Organics in Argyle Ontario. They are vendors at the the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto. Sadly, it is likely too late for this year unless they get a cancellation, but here is their web address and contact details:

Pre-Theatre Dinner close to Berkley St. Theatre

Our "go to" option in the area is Gilead cafe. Far superior to any of the options in the Distillery District itself, and also better than Weezies - which would be our 3rd choice. Mengrai Thai would be out second choice.

Where to get great Stollen in Toronto or North of the GTA

Seems like Vancouver may be the place to be for great Stollen:

Cider Houses Near San Seb in December?

Thanks for the input everybody. I have passed it along to my friends who arrive in san Seb in two days. Sadly I am living vicariously through them, stuck as I am back here in Ontario.

Dec 15, 2013
WillinTO in Spain/Portugal

Barcelona in December - Comments on Shortlist

It was some time ago that we were in BCN. Two spots that we really enjoyed were Quimet y Quimet for tapas, and Robert Gelonche. At the time, about 2 years ago, there was a lot of buzz in the gastrotourist world about both. Not sure if either is still a good destination, but both were wonderful when we went.

We did Gelonche the night after Can Roca and the night before Comerc 24. We much preferred it to 24.

And I would recommend against Cal Pep. It was over priced, rushed and not very flavourful. We left with the impression that whatever it had once been was swept away a long time ago and it has only survived on guide book recommendations for a long time. El Quim was far better. I Can still taste those salty, fried artichokes. When I think of the Boqueria, that is always my first thought....cava and artichokes. Yummm.

Dec 08, 2013
WillinTO in Spain/Portugal

Where to get great Stollen in Toronto or North of the GTA

Sitting here with my Sunday morning coffee I have been hit with a sudden craving for stollen. I am struck by the thought that there must be some German bakeries that are making a product far superior to the cello wrapped options at the grocery store. Any suggestions?

Cider Houses Near San Seb in December?

To build on my earlier question, the looking I've done would suggest that the Sidrerias may not open until January? Would there be any open in December where one could get the traditional experience? I read about both Astarbe and Gurutzeta in a post from 2 years ago. But both look like they open in January. Thoughts?

Dec 08, 2013
WillinTO in Spain/Portugal

Cider Houses Near San Seb in December?

I've got some friends who will be in San Seb for a week just before Christmas. I've given them my list of pintxos bars from when we were there. I remember people telling us at the time that next time we are back, we should check out the Cider houses, as a uniquely Basque experience. True? Worthwhile? Which ones?

Dec 07, 2013
WillinTO in Spain/Portugal

Private Dining Room - Central GTA

I am planning a 10 to 12 person work get together and have people coming from as far apart as Oakville and Oshawa. I'm looking for a reasonably centrally located restaurant with a private room. Something between 400 and Bayview, between the 407 and 401 (or a bit south to Lawrence) would be ideal. Great food is the objective. Price point is not a major consideration.

One dinner/night between LA and San Jose on the Pacific Coast Highway

In April we will have a brief three day/ 2night stay in California, following a trip to Tahiti. We'll arrive at LAX mid morning on the first day. We have two nights and then a flight home from San Fran. The second night we plan to eat at Manresa and stay in the Los Gatos area. So, for the first night, we're looking for a spot to have a fantastic meal and overnight somewhere along the coast between LA and San Jose. Thoughts?

Oct 20, 2013
WillinTO in California

Need to find great crepes in Montreal on a Sunday....TODAY

The significant other just informed me that we must have crepes for lunch/brunch tomorrow (Sept 15!) before driving back to Ontario. Any fast ideas on where to get crepes in the general downtownish area? Or between the Jardin Botanique (the morning excursion) and the Ontario Border?

Stratford Restaurant Commentary (Long)

A bit more info on Bijou. While Aaron and Bronwyn are gone, Aaron's sous chef, Steve Doyle, is managing the kitchen, so the food is likely still fairly similar to what it used to be.

Stratford Restaurant Commentary (Long)

Yes, I meant Bijou - I think I misspell that restaurant's name over 50% of the time. And clearly I was wrong about it being now closed. Sorry for any panic I introduced. I guess what I should have said was "now under new management" . Aaron and Bronwyn Linley, the couple behind Bijou since it opened, moved over to a new Boutique Hotel opening next Spring, to be known as The Bruce. While the hotel is a long way from opening, the restaurant is currently recruiting staff and should open soon. I had heard that the Linleys had put Bijou up for sale and would not be operating it this year as they prepared to get things going at The Bruce. I'd simply assumed the restaurant was closed. Your reservation suggests the opposite, and if Aaron and Bronwyn are doing double duty at Bijou and The Bruce, it is likely still worth a trip to Bijou, which was always a great choice in the mid tier, although still a second choice in my book to the Sophistro-Bistro. I'll check with some friends in Stratford and see if Aaron is still behind the stove at Bijou. If so, it is a good choice. If not, it would be anyone's guess as to what the food would be like. I'll report back once I hear.

Stratford Restaurant Commentary (Long)

As a frequent visitor to Stratford, I thought it high time to share my perspective on the restaurants in town. You may go there for the theatre, but there is no reason not to eat very, very well before or after the show.

The Town of Stratford may have one of the highest ratios of quality food to residents anywhere on the planet. Slow food rock stars like Antony John of Soiled Reputations and Ruth Klassen of Monforte, as well as up and comers Max and Vicki Lass of Churchill farms, lead a host of farmers who care about their crops and creatures, right down to caring about which chef’s plates they end up on. In addition, the presence of the Stratford Chef’s School ensures a never ending supply of exceptionally well trained hands to handle those ingredients the way they should be treated. All this means you can eat very, very well – on any budget. Of course, as in any tourist town, there is also a lot of crap. Differentiating between the two is not hard. Here is my take on the best of the best:

High End: The two top options in town are The Prune (151 Albert Street) and Rundles (9 Cobourg Street). Both Chefs, Brian Steele of the Prune and Neil Baxter of Rundles have been long time faculty at the Chef School enabling them to hand pick the most talented students to work in their kitchens. If you are looking for two high end meals in town, do try both. But if time and/or budget, is going to limit you to just one expensive meal, there is no choice other than Rundles. Chef Baxter’s cuisine is that rare kind of gastronomic experience that is actually worth travelling for, in and of itself. Force me into a choice of a front row centre stage seat at the Festival Theatre or a table at Rundles, and the restaurant will win out every time.

Chef Baxter has an absolutely uncanny ability to achieve a clarity and balance of flavours, textures and appearances that is the hallmark of truly great chefs. B.C. Side-stripe shrimp, smoked butter, marinated Provençal vegetables, and escabeche vinaigrette as well charcoal grilled veal cutlet, roasted turnip purée, smashed Jerusalem artichokes, and wilted spinach were but two standouts on a recent visit. Transport this restaurant and culinary team to Europe, and then free them from the constraints of getting the entire room fed in time to get to theatre seats on time, and you would have a Michelin 2 star restaurant that people would travel to eat at. ( Dinner $93.50 plus wine, Lunch $47.50)

Mid-Tier: I hate to double list a restaurant so early in a set of recommendations, but arguably the single best culinary value in Stratford is the Sophisto-Bistro at Rundles. What began as a necessary concession to the evaporation of American tourist dollars over the past decade has become a show case to make Chef Baxter’s cuisine accessible to those on a more limited budget. If you are not going to spring for the full Rundles experience, you’d be making a sad mistake if you don’t book into the Bistro. (Three course diner $62.50 plus wine from a carefully chosen list of reasonably priced Ontario wines)

Two relatively new entrants on the scene, Mercer Hall and Pazzo's Taverna have eclipsed the former leading mid-tier options of Down the Street and Bijoux (now closed). At Pazzo’s Taverna (70 Ontario Street), Chef School alumnus Yva Santini serves up authentic Italian fare that would be right at home in the old country, complete with crostini and a mozza bar. If it is an after theatre bite you are after, this is your place. (Dinner: Apps $9-$15, Mains $16-$34)

Just up Ontario Street at Mercer Hall (108 Ontario Street), another Chef School grad, Tim Larsen serves up a carnivore’s delight of locally sourced protein with a wonderful combination of tradition and modern technique. Ground and impeccably seasoned beef short rib patties are sous vided at 58 degrees, then frozen and deep fried to serve up one of the better burgers this planet earth has known. An assortment of cured meats, house smoked bacon and fantastic homemade pickles (including potatoes!) are but a few of the other hyper local ingredients that appear on the plates here. And if you jump straight into a meal without first sampling one of their cocktails made from a variety of home infused spirits, you are simply making a big mistake.

Cheap and Cheerful: Ruth Klassen, Ontario’s cheese maker extraordinaire, could not work harder to keep her new Osteria “off grid” for tourists, so that locals always have an affordable place to get a table for locally sourced and foraged ingredients. This restaurant is hidden away at 80 Wellington Street, under an artfully whitewashed Monforte sign that prevents all but the most penetrating gaze from divining the actual name. It is a delightful space furnished with entirely reclaimed materials, and includes the best secret patio in the town. Chef Phil Phillips prepares an ever changing, limited menu where the hits seriously outnumber the misses. Complemented by very reasonably priced wines, micro brews and ciders, this is a meal that will be as satisfying to your palate as your pocket book. And under no circumstances should you leave without buying some Toscano or Black Sheep from the cheese display at the door. (Apps $6-$10, Mains $12-$16)

For lunch one day, you owe it to yourself to stop by Rob Bob’s hotdog cart, conveniently located in the heart of the town, just outside Pazzo’s (66 Ontario Street – or what would be 66 Ontario Street if there was a building there instead of a fountain and parkette). There are two different guys manning this cart, but if you happen by on a day that Derek Barnes is there, you are in for a treat. What Dogmaster Barnes lacks in formal culinary education (he is one of the very few non Chef School grads on this list) he more than makes up for in enthusiasm, research and hard work. Let Derek dress your dog for you and your sausage will be graced by a variety of classic and unique homemade condiments, applied in the perfect order, with a running commentary on hot dog tradition. Have your dog “dragged through the garden” in traditional Chicago style, or have Derek add some of his fantastic homemade kimchi. The choice is yours, or Derek’s, if you want. The dogs and sausages are made to order for Rob Bob, and served on the freshest buns you may ever eat, sourced daily from the Butcher and Baker a mere hundred yards or so away from the cart. They may not serve hotdogs in heaven, but if they did, these would be the ones.

Revel Café (37 Market Place) – Here, you can begin your day complementing a decadent pastry and with a fantastic sustainably grown and ethically sourced coffee, while rubbing elbows with actors gearing up for the day’s performance at one of the theatres. The tourists may get drawn in to the more visibly located Balzacs on Ontario Street, but the locals know that Anne Campion serves the best coffees, lattes and treats that can be found in town in a wonderful space on . The pastries are made on the premises and are well worth the calories. On a hot sunny day, make sure to have one of their refreshing iced coffees, made in one of the most interesting pieces of coffee apparatus you will come across and served with a surprising and fitting ice cube.

Thanksgiving Bird

Any thing can be fed to a heritage bird. The quesiton is what choices the farmer makes. Regarding antibiotics, this may prove interesting reading:

Thanksgiving Bird

Well, there is no doubt that frozen birds from the main supermarket chains, or Costco have huge appeal. But to suggest that they taste "exactly the same" is an interesting assertion. There are certainly ethical and health issues associated with how the supermarket birds are raised, but those don't concern the majority of people. However, to suggest that a steroid and antibiotic fed bird, who has never had to moved more than a few feet and has been genetically selected to grow a preposterously large breast in a minimal amount of time and then frozen, perhaps months ago, would taste the same as a heritage bird that spent it's much longer life feeding and growing naturally, hunting for much of its food and actually flying, just does not make any sense. Perhaps not everyone can taste the difference (although I find that hard to believe),and certainly some may not like the flavour and texture difference or find it good value. After all, Kraft dinner outsells homemade pasta and sauce 10 to 1 I am sure. But that doesn't mean those people who buy fresh, flavourful sustainably raised birds are the unwitting victims of a "huge racket".