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Not-too busy brunch spot in Toronto?

Great idea. I love the big booths.

Not-too busy brunch spot in Toronto?

I'm looking for a spot to meet some friends where we won't be pressured by waiting patrons breathing down our necks. We might commit that most dreadful of restaurant-going crimes -- lingering. I'd like to find a place that likely won't have people waitling in line, so we can relax.
Ideally, the food will be delicious and reasonably priced, but I realize that lots of people want to go to places like that, hence the rushed feeling.
Anyone know of a good place that is under-frequented? We're going on a Saturday, and the West end south of Bloor would probably be best, but we'd be willing to expand our geographical boundaries...

Cold smoked fresh ham

My parents got this ham in Chester Basin, Nova Scotia, of all places. It was smoked by OH Armstrong, but the butcher makes his own in the cold months.
Where do I find mennonite butchers? Do I have to go to waterloo?
This ham was really different from prosciutto. It seemed really raw, until we cooked it.
Staedtlander used to do a meat sale in a garage in Forest Hills in Nov or Dec. I wonder if something like that still happens. It's an idea, but I don't want to wait so long!

Cold smoked fresh ham

While visiting my parents recently I had the best ham I'd ever tasted. I talked to the butcher my mother got the ham from, and he told me that it was cold-smoked for 24 hours, but that it was still about 50% raw, so that it had to be cooked. He told me that in the winter, he makes hams that are smoked for 5 days and are 100% raw.

The end result (after cooking) was very different from the wet, rubbery, pink hams you normally see. It was a little drier, and much more flavourful. It had a real 'meat' texture that you don't usually get from 'city' hams.

I've asked around at a few butchers, and none seem to know what I'm talking about. Has anyone seen something like this available around Toronto? Unfortunately, my parents live far away from Toronto, so I can't just go to their butcher.

Want to make Fried Green Tomatoes

I was on the same hunt today and one of the vendors at St. Lawrence agreed to bring them to Liberty Village tomorrow for me.
I love them for breakfast. I cut up a few slices of good bacon and cook it slowly. When its almost done I fry thick slices of green tomato in the fat. When they're done, I push the bacon and the tomato slices to the edge of the pan and fry an egg sunny side up. I pile it all on a slice of toast and enjoy. I don't bother with the egg and breadcrumb routine, but I know some people prefer their green tomatoes that way.

Dundas West -- new place - used to be the Metal Bar

South side. It is in the basement. It was a club for about 3 weeks in the winter, after the demise of 'The Metal Bar' -- the windows were covered in a huge picture of people drinking that looked like it was from a bacardi ad. I saw one of the people from restaurant makeover (a contractor or something like that) hauling in a big refrigeration unit a few days ago.

Dundas West -- new place - used to be the Metal Bar

Something new and nice looking is going in on Dundas West, west of dovercourt, where the Metal Bar used to be. Anyone have any gossip? It is a tricky location, and they are really making a big change, at least to the exterior! I am so curious!

Eating in Baie St Paul

I just spent a few days in Baie St. Paul. Before my trip, I searched Baie St. Paul on chow and didn't find much, so here's my 2 cents about the restaurants I tried.

Hotel Maison Otis: We stayed here, and had heard that their restaurant was the best in town.
The decor is quaint/cozy/80's -- think overstuffed sofas, wallpaper and lots of fake flowers. Breakfast came with the room. It was delicious. I had waffles one day, crepes the next, and muslix the last day. The breakfasts were served with really good ham or sausage, and if you ordered the egg breakfast, you also got a mini meat pie. I tried my husband's -- it was in nice pastry but a little dry. The waffles came with 'seasonal jelly' which turned out to be finely diced fresh fruit in firm gelatin -- interesting.

For dinner, they only offer table d'hote -- appetizer, salad, soup, main course, and desert. The appetizers were better than the main course. I had rillettes, which were nice, and came with a jelly similar to the jelly on the waffles. Strangely, it didn't come with crackers or toast or anything to put it on. But there was bread on the table. Other appetizers included stewed young goat with melted Hercule cheese (delicious, but not really hot enough) and seared scallops that I didn't get to taste.
Salad -- OK, a little maple overkill in the dressing.
Soup -- salty, but good.
Main -- Very old-school meat dishes -- I had rabbit escalope (boneless), others had ginea fowl and pork. They all came with a similar, thickened brown sauce, a cylinder of dry mashed potatoes, a smear of pureed parsnip (delicious) and some limp veggies. Most meats were a little over-done. The plates, sauce and potatoes were smoking hot, which makes me think they got it all ready well in advance and waited until the meat was done before plating it.

Very formal, but friendly service -- good English too.

Next night -- Cafe Orange
A way more casual environment -- almost a pub atmosphere. It is in a beautiful old building. Great beer on tap identified only by "microbrew -- blonde, red, or white" and my french is not good enough to investigate. The menu is translated into English, but we stumbled through mostly in French. Good onion soup, pasta with delicious fresh trout, yummy veal burger with amazing freshly made potato chips, average mussels with frozen fries!
This is a fun place to eat. Like most restaurants in BSP, there was a big focus on ingredients from the Charlevoix region. They also offer Raclette (using cheese from Charlevoix) and fondue.

Cafe Boule Creperie at the summit of Le Massif (you have to ski there!) -- the best lunch I have ever had on a ski hill. 4 kinds of savoury crepes and about the same number of sweet crepes. I had mushroom and leek with cheese, topped with a cheesy beschamel. Yum.

Last night -- Mouton Noir

The atmosphere was lovely -- not too formal, very pretty, not too dark, but nice lighting... Again, a focus on Charlevoix ingredients.

The best food we had in BSP. They offer most of the menu as a table d'hote, hard to resist when the apps sounded so good! Excellent onion soup. Delicious smoked and fresh salmon tartare with a sushi restaurant standard seaweed salad. My dad had the best app -- asian flavoured beef tartare. It was chopped to the perfect consistency and the slightly spicy asian dressing didn't overwhelm the beef flavour.

Mains were also delicious. I had bison bavette -- perfectly cooked with a nice crust. It came with a nice jus and really flavourful caramelized onion mashed potato. Others had shrimp risotto (perfectly grilled shrimp -- just done) but slightly bland risotto, and cassoulet with sausage, duck and chicken. Really good! And it came in the cutest little dutch oven thing.

We had tarte tatin and 'juste cuit' for dessert. I had never heard the french name for molten chocolate cake before, and it is such a nice name. The apple part of the tarte tatin was good. The crust was just ok.

Service was 100% french (I was getting bolder) and very understanding. The restaurant was very busy. I highly recommend this restaurant!

I hope this helps anyone travelling through Baie St Paul!

Mystery ingredient in Szechuan long beans with minced pork?

Thanks, preserved radish makes sense. I have never had it on its own or seen it in a shop, but I just googled it and it seems right. It seems to go by the name chai por and come in bags.
Not all restaurants put it in the dish, but it is my favourite part. The other ingredients that I use are pretty simple - beans fried in a little oil until they start to brown and blister and a sauce made of soy sauce, scallions or shallots, chili oil, sesame oil and vinegar. I had it first at minimarket, now I try it from 'real' chinese places too.

Feb 21, 2009
Colonel78 in Home Cooking

Mystery ingredient in Szechuan long beans with minced pork?

I love this dish and I am getting pretty good at making it at home. But there is one ingredient I can't identify. It is kind of crunchy, pale, with a darker rind, and is sliced up into matchstick sized pieces. It is a little fermented, maybe. Can anyone tell me what this vegetable (?) is, and where I can get it?

Feb 21, 2009
Colonel78 in Home Cooking

best burgers in T.O.

Gladstone is good, also Drake.

ideas for a (new) very tight food budget

decide what you are going to eat for each meal of the week based on what is in your pantry, freezer and fridge, and shop only once.

Feb 09, 2009
Colonel78 in Home Cooking

lemon tarts/squares?

I am also a huge lemon tart and square fan. I agree that Mabel's are very good.
BUT, the best lemon dessert is the lemon cake at dufflet. It has a couple of layers of cake with lemon stuff in between and lemony whipped cream on top.
Also it looks very pretty for a celebration.

What's your favourite sandwich?

Grilled Cheese at The Swan on Queen W comes with delicious spiced chutney.

President's Choice Ravioli

I have tried them and found that they were very good for an easy dinner. The pasta is thin and delicate. I didn't like the pumpkin (or squash?) variety -- it tasted just like pumpkin pie, but the other varieties were good, especially the one with mozzarella in it.

Winterlicious at Celestin

Also, during 'licious, bills are way lower, but the demands of customers are the same. It takes as much work to serve a $30 prix fix plus a couple of glasses of water as it does to serve three separate courses and a few glasses of wine, but the bill can be half as much.
15% of $65 is way less than 15% of $100

Triny Doubles and Aloo Pie

I second Ali's Roti shop at 1446 Queen W just east of Lansdowne (take lansdowne bus or Queen streetcar). I like the doubles with tamarind sauce. They have aloo pie but I haven't had it. In my opinion rotis there are not as good as some other places.