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GENUINE ITALIAN groceries in the Amherstview, Kingston, Prince Edward County (or Bay of Quinte) area

I absolutely second Pasta Genova. I am an Italian kid who grew up in Hamilton and then went to Queen's, and this place was the only resource that made the food situation in Kingston livable (this was several years ago, glad to see your options have expanded even at the larger grocery stores - when i lived there I went to the A&P and asked where the pasta aisle was and they looked at my like I was nuts). If memory serves, they have good homemade sausage and fresh pasta. I took a friend in there one day, and he was convinced we should try to bottle the smell of the air in that place and sell it.

Also, btw - the place in the Byward Market that was referenced is Nicastro's, I believe. Also excellent.

Byward Cafe
55 Byward Market Sq, Ottawa, ON K1N9C3, CA

Gelato on Yonge near Davisville

I've been to the Gelato place north of Davisville 3 times in the last 3 weeks - tried the cioccolato, the nocciola (both terrific, and the equal of gelatos i've had in italy), the brutto ma buono (literally translated 'ugly, but good', after the cookies of the same name - chocolate with almonds and chocolate fudge sauce, i hands down favourite) and the bacio. the bacio was the only one that didn't wow me - it tasted exactly like the baci chocolates, but it wasn't chocolate-y enough for me.

Recs: Bahn mi across the city.

We tried this place for lunch today - thanks so much for the recommendation, smfan! Got the grilled chicken and honey garlic pork as suggested. The honey garlic pork reminded me quite a bit of the meatballs at Rose Cafe (although sans cilantro and room temp), the grilled chicken was thighs (I think) spread with yellow curry paste, grilled and sliced. Both sandwiches were excellent, and the baguettes were quite a bit longer than the ones at Rose Cafe, although they were thinnner - somewhere between 7 and 8 inches of fresh, flaky, crispy goodness. The dog was very pleased to get the crumb bonanza on the floor of the kitchen (and it turns out he likes pickled daikon - who knew?).

Recs: Bahn mi across the city.

I tried this place too, and thought the grilled pork sandwiches were very tasty...but be forewarned - the hot peppers are really bloody hot. Like, flay-your-lips-off hot - I think they were scotch bonnets. I really like spicy food, but it hurt. Quite a lot. (Which is not to say that I wouldn't do it again, it was a damned tasty lunch...but I'd perhaps ask that they only put a tiny bit of hot pepper on the sandwich.)
I'm really excited to hear that there's a banh mi place near Jane and Wilson, and will have to investigate.

Carnaroli and Vialone Nano rice in TO

saw both at fiesta farms last weekend (christie south of dupont).

Jerusalem artichokes - where to find them in Toronto

I can confirm - Vicky's at the Wychwood Green Barn market had them again this morning, and expected they would next week too.

Caplanskys on College St - impressions?

Went yesterday around 1. The lineup was out the door, but we stayed as it was my SO's 40th birthday and he really (really, really) wanted smoked meat for lunch. The wait was around 30 minutes. They did have smoked meat, and our medium sandwiches were FANTASTIC. Our friends had the burger and the special club (smoked turkey, beef bacon, challah, arugula, tomato). I got a bite of the burger - found it very beefy, although i'm not sure that i would have identified smoked meat as the unusual ingredient if i din't already know it was there. The club was fantastic - far better than many I've had in the city. The table also split two poutines (very yummy, but could have used a bit more gravy) and a knish, which was enjoyed by all. Oh, we also had soups to start - the borscht has a great salty/tangy thing going on. The split pea was also good, although I thought it was a bit undersalted.

But the true revelation on this visit? The lemon meringue pie. When it arrived I didn't have great expectations - the meringue looked like it got a bit mangled on the way to the plate, and some of the crust was missing, but OH MY GOD was it good. nice, tart lemon curd, fluffy meringue - the the crust, THE CRUST - short, buttery, but not too crumbly. I loved it. The server mentioned to me that b/c of the set up of the place, desserts are plated by the expediters rather than in the kitchen, and the pastry chef despairs of the mangling they sometimes get, and has been experimenting with the crust to try to strike a balance between texture that will stand up to an inexpert plating, and taste. Seems to me like the pastry chef got it right on the taste side, at least(although it was a travesty that some of the crust of my pie went missing en route to the plate). The sharpness of the lemon was a perfect foil to what was otherwise a pretty heavy meal. I would absolutely go back for the pie alone.

saffin grill in hamilton - anything similar in toronto?

i miss the chicken shwarma from the saffin grill, and would love to find something similar in toronto, but i have no idea what their style of shwarma is called. basically, the chicken is rubbed with a really intense marinade, and then seems to be cooked low and slow on the flattop, the meat is nearly shredded, then covered in hot sauce and garlic sauce and stuffed into a fresh pita. i'm not sure if this is a preparation that's specific to a particular area, or if it's something unique to this restaurant. can anybody help?

Want to make Fried Green Tomatoes

towards the end of the season (like, september-ish if i remember correctly) you can buy green tomatoes by the basket from a couple of vendors at the st. lawrence market (the north market, specifically). not terribly close to mississauga, but it would be a reliable source.

searching for a wild boar vendor at the local farmers markets

I've been at the Wychwood market pretty consistently for the last few months, and I haven't seen anybody selling boar or elk (however, two of the vendors do seem to have red veal, which i found very exciting).

Birthday Dinner - drawing a total blank

So, we did go to Quince, and had a great experience.

We shared two appetizers, the spiced beef 'poutine' (I'm using the quotes here b/c it was non-traditional, to say the least) and the arugula salad with seared beef tenderloin. First, the poutine: the standout element here was the slow braised spiced beef, it was fantastic, and appropriately braised to falling-apart-tender. The spicing was interesting too - I'm pretty sure there was some allspice there, and maybe some cumin (my spouse is convinced that he tasted something vaguely anise-y, but I doubt it, b/c that's one of the few flavours I really dislike, and I didn't taste it). It topped some not-terribly-crispy frites (but frankly, I didn't care - smother potatoes in anything half as good as that spiced beef and i'm smitten), and had a sprinkling of cheese (not curds, and not particularly memorable) and a bit of peanutty sauce on top. As I say, very much non-traditional, but really damn tasty. The arugula salad was beautifully balanced - nice fresh arugula with gorgeous beef tenderloin slices (it was a pretty generous portion of tenderloin for an app), seared on the outside but jewel-red in the middle...not cut as thin as carpaccio, which was good - it was nice and substantive. The salad also included crispy fried shallots as a textural counterpoint, as well as capers (didn't really think they added much to the dish), slivers of parmesan cheese, and a very subtle aioli dressing. It was really wonderful.

For mains, I had the pork chop with a quince reduction, and sauteed zucchini, onions and green beans. the chop was amazing - more than an inch and a half thick, nice grill marks, incredibly juicy and flavourful. My spouse had the gnocchi with sausage and rapini - also excellent, the gnocchi had a lovely light pillowy texture (which was great, b/c sometimes they end up incredibly heavy). if he had one complaint, it was that the portion was substantially smaller than my main.

We finished off by sharing the tarte tatin and the chocolate bread pudding for dessert. the bread pudding was really more like a molten chocolate cake, as far as i could tell, but both desserts were very satisfying.

I should also mention that we got incredibly good value for money, in my opinion: two apps, two mains, a half litre of cab sauv, a couple of pops, and two desserts came to a grand total of $135, incl tax and tip. I would absolutely go back.

Thanks to all for the additional suggestions - will add Grace, Sidecar and Nota Bene to the list of must-trys.

Birthday Dinner - drawing a total blank

Thanks to one and all for the suggestions - Qunice it is (I've been meaning to try this place forever b/c I used to love Stork on the Roof, but i'd completely forgotten abou it). I'll report back!

Birthday Dinner - drawing a total blank

So, it's my birthday tomorrow, and I'm trying to decide where I'd like to go for dinner...and nothing is obviously leaping out at me, even after searching through a couple of years of 'birthday dinner' threads.

Here are the parameters:
- not terribly expensive (i.e., no Canoe/Splendido/North 44), as we're currently a one-income family...mains around the $25 mark would be good
- not Italian, as all of our go-to places (7 Numbers, Terroni, Marcello's, Big Ragu, Pizerria Libretto) are Italian, as am I, and it's just not striking me as very interesting right now
- simple food, executed with excellent technique - I don't need esoteric ingredients or 14 kinds of foam, just good ingredients prepared particular preference in terms of ethnic influence (aside from the 'no italian' rule)

I thought the Harbord Room might fit the bill, but found a number of fair-to-middling reviews here. Any other thoughts?

Best Cannoli?

I've had the cannoli at Riviera, Commisso and Tre Mari. The ones from Riviera were clearly not freshly made, and thus, soggy. The Tre Mari ones and the ones from Commisso were both good - not soggy, but not terribly crispy, either. Commisso scored some bonus points for sheer variety (both sicillian and ventian cannoli, with fillings of the traditional ricotta, or chocolate ricotta, or pastry cream, or whipped cream). All that said - weirdly, the best cannoli I've had in Toronto came from a Portuguese bakery called Caldense (there are multiple locations in the city, the one where i had the amazing cannoli is on Eglinton, east of Keele). Very obviously fresh, traditional filling of ricotta with bits of chocolate, fantastically crispy shell.

The cannoli at Libretto is ok for what it is, but it's very small, if i remember correctly.

best arugula/rucola/rocket/roquette/rokka salads in TO?

terroni does a great salad with arugula, tuna, red onion, tomato, and olive, dressed with balsamic and olive oil, served over chickpea farinata (kinda like firm grilled polenta, but made with chickpea flour). now, i wouldn't say that the salad is designed specifically to showcase the arugula, but all of the components work together really nicely and it's long been a favourite of mine.

Romagna Mia or Zucca?

I would agree - Zucca. I enjoyed Romagna Mia the two times I went, but somehow it just always seemed excessive (which I recognize is not necessarily a bad thing in some folks' books, but there is a point at which I yell, 'Enough already! No more gilding of lillies!'.

As it happens, I was at Zucca tonight. Ended up ordering the Summerlicious menu, although wasn't initially planning to, but it had two items on it that intrigued me. I started with the scalcione (essentially an olive oil pastry stuffed with savory sauteed summer greens), served with a marinated cauliflower salad that had a bit of a sweet-and-sour thing going on, and included raisins and capers. it was a lovely dish - not earth shattering, but nice flavours that worked well together. the 'summer greens' were cavolo nero (tuscan black kale), sauteed with some garlic - very tasty.

the big winner, hands down, was my main - pappardelle with rabit ragu and black olives. ohhhhh - so good. the pasta was excellent...perfectly cooked with just a nice bit of chew to it. this man truly seems to have a gift when it comes to pasta...i think even my dear sainted nonna would have been impressed. the rabit ragu was appropriately rich and wine-y. i was surprised to find that the olives were such a nice counterpoint - they were small italian purple ones, with pits, and provided a really nice note of saltiness without being overbearing. i'm typically not a fan of olives at all, but they really worked in this dish.

the dessert was one of the things i was intrigued by - mini calzones stuffed with chick peas, chocolate, grape must and some honey. unfortunately, these didn't blow me away...texture sort of reminded me of those mitteleuropean desserts filled with ground nuts that aren't terribly sweet. not bad, just not exciting. the friend i was dining with, however, kindly shared her dessert which i enjoyed much more - it was a moist sponge cake served with sweetened ricotta and fresh cherries - simple, clean flavours, and i loved it.

what i like about this place is the menu is always seasonal and varied...there's always something new to try, and even if one of the unfamiliar things doesn't necessarily knock my socks off, there's always something in the meal that does. i appreciate the creativity and the solid technique here - i've never had anything that was cooked badly, and often find something that is sublime.

Sugar-free cake?

Your best bet might be Katie's Cakes on O'Connor Drive - I've not gone to them for a sugar-free cake before, but the website indicates that they make cakes 'for all dietary requirements'. Their standard cakes are great - very tasty.

Balsamic Vinegar recs?

that's exactly what i do for salads actually - balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper, poured right on the salad by eye (which, according to my nonna, was the only way to do it...for some reason the idea of shaking dressing up in a jam jar appalled her).

the only PC balsamic that i've found to be worthwhile was the 10 year old stuff - my recollection is that it has the modena DOP designation (or whatever it's called...that special seal that denotes that it was made in the traditional way), and maybe a picture of parmesan cheese, of all weird things, on the bottle.

my high end balsamic of choice is the manicardi stuff i mentioned elsewhere in this thread - it's about $12 for a small bottle (250 ml), but they also have varieties aged 7 years and 5 years that are less expensive (although i can't vouch for them). i buy it at Lady Yorke, but i think it might also be available at Grande Cheese on Orfus Rd.

Balsamic Vinegar recs?

I'm not sure what options are available at the Cheese Boutique, but there's a whole raft of different balsamics (aged and otherwise) available at Lady Yorke on Dufferin near Lawrence. We get the 10 year old balsamic made by a company called Manicardi, from Modena (it's a weird kind of triangular bottle, but it comes in a bright orange box). I use it typically for dressing salads, it's on the sweet side but definitely still has some bite. The PC 10 year old balsamic is reasonable as well, but I prefer the Manicardi.

Halleluia Restaurant - So good!

My recollection is that the manti are filled with meat (probably lamb).

In search of: Malted Wheat Flakes, Barley Flakes, Medium/Coarse Oatmeal

I've bought barley flakes (i think maybe it was actually called rolled barley) at Simply Bulk on Bloor West near Jane. They also have rolled oats, both conventionally produced and organic (and to my eye, they look exactly like the Quaker Old Fashioned Oats mentioned by OTFOODIE), and wheat flakes (although I don't think they were malted). You might also try to seek out a grocery store that carries a wide variety of the Bob's Red Mill grains - Fiesta Farms on Christie south of Dupont had rye flakes, wheat flakes, spelt flakes and possibly barley flakes the last time I looked, but they were *really* hard to find (on the bottom shelf of the cereal aisle).

Cannoli in Toronto

that's been my experience as well, sadly, with Riviera. i agree with pearlD (below), Commisso Bros are pretty darn good, and they have a bunch of different varieties (Sicillian and Venetian, typical ricotta filling, a more custardy one, and straight cream, i think...and yes, before anybody gets huffy, i know that it's the ricotta filling that's nonna would have been appalled by the variations). Oddly, though, the best cannoli i've had in the city was from Caldense Bakery, which is a Portuguese place, not an italian one.

As an aside, if you ever find yourself in Hamilton and craving a cannoli, my recollection is that the ones from Roma Bakery and Valentinos are excellent (YMMV on this's been a long time since i've lived in Hamilton).

Halleluia Restaurant - So good!

Actually, when I was there last week we noticed that a few things had dropped off the menu at Hallelujah (including the plov and the cheboureky). The waitress mentioned that the sister restaurant in the north part of the GTA still has the whole perhaps it's not that they've parted company, just that the powers that be have decided to focus more on Yummy Grill (?).

ethnically diverse street food comes to Toronto

I work in the area, and gave the cart a shot last week. I would give it a solid 'not bad'. It's essentially a grilled chicken breast with jerk seasoning, sliced and heated on the grill, wrapped in a thick whole-wheat pita with some lettuce and mango salad. the mango salad was great - very ripe mango, lime juice and some onion (maybe? can't quite remember). the hot sauce had a really nice burn to it (the ladies working the cart laughed when they told me the sauce was really hot, and i said 'great!')...but doesn't flay your face off. i will admit, though, that the hot sauce was hot enough that it obscured the jerk flavour for me - the friend who got the mild version said she thought the jerk spicing was excellent. my one real complaint is that by the time i got it back to my office (about a 10 min walk), it was damn near cold. they were having some issues managing the volume of sales when i was there...the lineup was about 4 people deep and it seemed like they felt they really needed to move people through quickly, at the expense of the temperature of the food - next time i would ask them to leave my chicken on the grill a lot longer. so...while not the most fabulous sandwich i've ever had, i thought it was an excellent $5 heatlhy lunch option (there's lots of stuff in the neighbourhood, but the combination of healthy and cheap is pretty damn hard to come by). definitely preferable to street meat IMHO.

Looking for a caterer for scones and clotted cream

they do???!?!?!? are any of the new locations closer to the west end?

xococava anyone tried their chocolates?

I got a little gift box of the truffles at christmas. I really liked the salted caramel and the lemon, the olive oil one wasn't bad but i prefer soma's. the only real miss for me was the black trumpet mushroom...i didn't find the chocolate and mushroom flavours particularly complementary.

Diabetic cookies

I haven't found a bakery in Toronto yet that makes a good homemade no-sugar-added cookie (my spouse is diabetic, so it's something that I would keep in the house if i could find it!) If anybody out there has a bakery suggestion, I'd be interested too.

Of the grocery store brands, many of them taste like cardboard, but Voortman does a pretty good job of making no-sugar cookies that taste about the same as their regular versions...but they're not 'special' cookies, just your run of the mill packaged stuff. They make a chocolate covered peanut butter wafer cookie that I would say is the best of that bunch.

Pub for First Date?

for what it's worth, i went to smokeless joe's on a first date, and the guy was a total dud but the pub was great. quite small, but we went on a tuesday shortly after work and were easily able to get a seat at the bar. great beer list, and they brought us some soda bread and butter alongside, which i thought was a really nice little thing to do.

house on parliament is in my old neighbourhood, and is one of my favourite places on the planet, but it's far more crowded in the winter than the summer b/c most folks don't want to brave the patio. i also find that the tables are really close together, so when it's packed it's almost impossible not to eavesdrop, and be eavesdropped upon, which might not be so stellar for a first date. all that said...i have had some great nights there when it's not too busy (and if you go later in the evening on wednesday, you might be ok) - i love the food, and it always sounds like somebody snuck into my apartment and stole my cd collection. :)

volo happens to be the place where my current SO and i had our first date...and that was 7 years ago, so clearly something worked out well. the beer list there is also fantastic, and they make a point of carrying some local microbrews on a rotating basis. i really like their pizzas...not classic pizzeria-libretto-style, but there are some neat flavour combinations and they have a nice, thick, crust. i went with a group in the summertime and we did a 'tasting' of every pizza on the recollection was that the big hit was one that had eggplant, and another that had sausage and carmelized onions.

i like allen's for beer, but i find the food consistently under-seasoned, the vibe way too busy and the waits for tables and food way too long.

the bedford academy is an interesting has a very comfortable parents-recroom kinda vibe about it. food is average (although i do like their brunch), and the beer selection certainly isn't as varied as some others you're considering, but it's a very non-threatening, student-pub-like place. the staff is also really great - fast service, friendly, and more than willing to try to figure out what that great song was that you just heard on the satellite radio. also, this is a place where it's easy to linger...there is some really ugly and very comfortable furniture in the back near the pool tables that can be a perfect little spot for close conversation.

rebel house has yummy food, but i always think of it as more restaurant-ish than pub-ish. relaxed atomsphere, knowledgeable staff.

personally, i find hemmingway's too busy and crazy for my taste.

good luck! i hope that your choice (of pub, and of guy) works out for you! :)

Best eats on Ossington?

For the record - Pizzeria Libretto does take names and cell numbers, or at least they did last Thursday. I'm not sure whether that's a new thing, but it seems that they got the memo.

Marc Bittman Toronto (moved from Ontario board)

I won a copy of the book and reserved seating at the event through the Globe and Mail. Bittman was pretty engaging - he was there to talk about Food Matters, which is his new book. The style of eating he outlines in it has been called "Pollan in practice", insofar as it's in line with Michael Pollan's 'Eat food - not much - mostly vegetables'.

He was pretty engaging - but it was also pretty clear that he hasn't done too much of the live Q and A schtick. There were lots of pregnant pauses and a bit of stammering, which I kina found endearing...he was very real, and also quite friendly. He spent quite a bit of time signing books and chatting after the session.

I do think that he was preaching to the converted - but by the same token, 'the converted' are the folks who are going to lead by example and actually give this sort of eating style a shot. The gist is that you should cut down substantively on your consumption of meat and meat products (including dairy), eat whole grains, and as many whole fruits and veggies as you can stuff into yourself. Nothing new there - but what i did find very interesting was his insistence during the Q and A that he was not promoting an elitist kind of diet. He made it very clear that, while best quality ingredients are obviously going to result in a better eating experience, he's not promoting the idea that you need to track down obscure ingredients (his example was 'pink salt from hawaii'), or shop exclusively at the local organic market, to eat well. it's very much about getting people to make small changes in terms of what they eat - and while he's very critical of 'big food', he knew that a call for everyone to go back to the land was not going to fly as a mainstream philosophy.

Bittman came off very much as what he claims to be - a home cook who has spent a good chunk of his career trying to convince other people that cooking doesn't need to be that hard for food to taste good, and for one to eat well. He delivered a message of change, but in a very low-key way, without being too holier-than-thou.

As for the book - the recipes in the back are interesting...many of them are the sorts of thing you would see in any standard vegetarian cookbook, but some of the variations and combinations he suggests are very intriguing (eg. using blood orange and avocado in a layered, caprese-style salad).