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One day, this Friday, in Toronto (West Queen West)

The Gladstone to Kensington? That's a heckuva walk. I'd take the car and park at the municipal lot at Kensington instead.

Walking east along Queen takes you past Poutini - share one as you walk. (Hint: add a bit of malt vinegar to go with their relatively bland gravy - it adds zip).

You will also pass by Oyster Boy (just before Trinity-Bellwoods park). If the weather co-operates (and that's a big IF given this summer of rain), you might want to get their deep-fried oysters and fish and chips to go, and have an impromptu picnic in the quite beautiful park.

From the park, there's a couple of fairly boring blocks, but once you get to Palmerston, things begin to pick up. Lots of interesting shops and holes in the wall. I can't say I've tried them all, but many look like they're worth a visit.You could go all the way to University before you run out of quality real estate.

Once you're tired, the good news is you can just hop on the Queen street car, and it will drop you off right in front of your hotel. Oh, and at Ossington, which runs north from Queen just across from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (which, when I was a boy, was affectionately called the "loony bin"), you can walk a block up to Argyle where you'll find Venezia, an excellent Portugese bakery, Golden Turtle for Vietnamese, and "Frantic City" - a treasure trove of used records and books.

Aug 18, 2009
KevinB in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

who's makes toronto's best veal sandwich???

I've had many a veal from Dante's, but be forewarned - it's not a sandwich you can pick up and eat with your hands (well, not unless you don't mind being a complete mess). I usually cut it in half (it is huge), and eat it with a knife and fork. It's not at all crispy, but it's very tasty, and usually makes both dinner and lunch the next day.

Aug 18, 2009
KevinB in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Imperial vs Mandarin ( if I must choose)

If you were considering going to the Mandarin on Woodbine, it's just a couple of stops farther north on the 404 (get off at 16th, go west to Yonge, and head north). Probably another ten minutes of travel.

Extra bonus: you can visit Whattabagel, Grande Cheese, and H-mart (Korean) on the upper level for great food finds to take home.

Aug 18, 2009
KevinB in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Imperial vs Mandarin ( if I must choose)

This is s a pretty standard offering at CBK -most weekend evenings. It's standard price, which I believe is in the neighbourhood of $16-$17 per person. Be aware that you have to camp out at the serving area, and you will have to fight off little old Chinese ladies, who are quite ruthless when it comes to grabbing these tasty morsels.

Aug 18, 2009
KevinB in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Imperial vs Mandarin ( if I must choose)

Wrong "either - or" question. The answer is China Buffet King on Yonge, just south of Major Mac in Richmond Hill. Steam table offerings on a par with Imperial/Mandarin. Lots of fresh fruit for dessert (and ice cream and cakes). But what sets CBK apart, IMHO, is sushi with real fish (even if most of it is salmon - I love salmon), and the hot table with Chinese specialties, such as Peking Duck (meat, skin, and pancakes), pot stickers, and crab. Stay away from the horrid soups, enjoy the tasty BBQ pork, honey garlic ribs, and chicken wings, plus many different noodle and rice dishes.

Decor at CBK is bland beyond belief; it that's important, go elsewhere. But in my experience (and since we live less than a mile away, we end up there two-three times a year for the last decade), the food is good value for money.

Aug 17, 2009
KevinB in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

10 Good Cheap Liquors

Liquor prices in Canada are higher than in the US, in general, and here in Ontario, virtually every 750 ml bottle of spirits is $23, unless you start in on top shelf brands like JW Black or Crown Royal.

However, I've found two gems in the brandy section. St. Remy brandy isn't quite cognac, but it is an excellent French brandy - smooth, lots of flavour, and can stand on its own or in a mixed drink. The other is Duff Gordon, a Spanish brandy. Much more robust, with lots of spice and pepper. I like it best with just water or soda.

Jul 09, 2009
KevinB in Features

Potatos - second-class starch?

On frosty Canadian winter nights, my mom often made scalloped potatoes with ham for dinner. I loved that - the potatoes on the edge got nice and crispy, the ham was basted with the liquid so it was juicy and tender, and mom dotted the spuds with butter and flour so that we ended up with a thick, creamy gravy.

And, as has been mentioned in other threads, the best lunch/dinner at Wendy's is their plain baked potato with their small chili dumped over it.

Jul 08, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

Creamy Coleslaw

This is just under 1/4 cup of fat per serving. Too much for me!

Plus, I like to use both green and red cabbage with the carrots - you get a really colourful mix.

Agree with REB about salting and rinsing the cabbage first, particularly if you are using the red cabbage. It will bleed into the dressing profusely otherwise.

Jul 08, 2009
KevinB in Recipes

Reubens complaint

Right you are. We respect food... politicians, not so much!

Jul 07, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

Deseeding tomatoes: Do you do it, and if so, when/where/why?

Actually, when I make my inauthentic version of "Horiatiki" salad, I deseed both tomatoes and cucumbers (and peppers) as well. Too much liquid from the veggies dilutes the beautiful dressing.

Jul 05, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

Best President's Choice frozen burgers

I hate to say it, but I like the Kids' Mini 3-oz burgers best. I find the others are generally 6 oz, and these days, I find that hard to finish if I have a salad alongside. I accept frozen burgers for what they are - inexpensive and convenient. These ones fit the bill, and I don't think they taste bad at all.

The comment that they have "too many fillers" is puzzling; a quick check on the PC site reveals that most varieties are just beef and spices (and water?). The only thing that could remotely be called "filler" is skim milk powder, and that's only in a few varieties. Perhaps someone is letting their prejudices get in the way of the facts?

Jul 05, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

Reubens complaint

First to gregarious: the whole point of fermenting cabbage, as in kraut or kimchee, is to be able to store it for long periods. I buy a 1 litre jar about twice a year; it never goes bad. How can that be hard for a deli to store?

And to johnb: it's not just food, it's everywhere. Orwell wrote it about 60 years ago in "Politics and the English Language". To quote two famous bi-partisan examples:Nixon's press secretary Ron Ziegler "Previous statements are inoperative", and Clinton's "It depends on what your definition of "is" is." If we don't draw the line on the little stuff, the big stuff will surely follow.

Jul 05, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

effective way to remove labels from beer bottles

I wish I could remember the urban legend from my teen days. It was either if the guy could peel his label off whole, he'd have some success with his young lady that night, or it might have been vice-versa. Anyone else remember this?

Jul 05, 2009
KevinB in Not About Food

Oh Canada! NYT acknowledges Canada exists with amusing op ed pieces

I was born in Montreal, and even though we moved to Toronto in 1960 when I was four, I spent virtually every summer from 8 to 17 at our cottage in rural Quebec (from Dominion Day to Labour Day). We visited chip wagons ("casse croutes" as they are known) from the Ontario border to Lake Champlain, and although "frites avec sauce" - fries with a chicken gravy - was quite common, I don't remember seeing poutine until the 1980's. So, in the context of a 400 year old culture, I'd say poutine is a relative newcomer to the Quebecois as well!

Jul 05, 2009
KevinB in Food Media & News

Oh Canada! NYT acknowledges Canada exists with amusing op ed pieces

The "honeycomb crunch" bar was/is simply called "Crunchie". I used to love those too, even though the honeycomb would get stuck on your teeth, and you'd spend half an hour afterwards probing various crevices with your tongue to get your teeth clean.

Some waggish teens would carefully excise the "r", and glue the remaining two parts of the wrapper together. The result would then be affixed to notebook covers, clothing, etc., and would usually be subject to extreme parental/teacher disapproval.

Jul 05, 2009
KevinB in Food Media & News

Reubens complaint

I'm sure your version works well, but personally, I prefer a beef bottom, then kraut, with the cheese melted over top. The cheese works to hold the kraut and beef together.

And I agree that open-faced versions aren't "classic" but I find in restaurants I can eat them without dripping everything on my shirt. At home, where I don't care, I love grabbing it with two hands and digging in!

Jul 05, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

Reubens complaint

ghg, you've picked up on a pet peeve of mind. I can't stand restaurants who advertise "roast beef served with au jus sauce". The absolute worst was a place whose menu offered a "roast beef sandwich with fresh beef au jus sauce". The kicker came when I asked my waitress later about the jus, and she admitted it came from a mix.

Jul 05, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

How do you keep low-fat sour cream "creamy"

Is "Fage" a brand or a style (like Greek or Balkan)? I'm in Canada, and I don't recall seeing Fage on a yogurt label anywhere. I have used yogurt on baked potatoes before, and it's not bad, but I do prefer the taste of sour cream. And what's the shelf life on the yogurt? Thanks for the suggestion!

Jul 05, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

No Frills vs. Food Basics vs. Loblaws vs. Valu-Mart vs. Sobeys vs. Dominion vs. Other

In another thread, someone suggested that the large Loblaw's at Yonge and 16th Ave in Richmond Hill that converted to a No Frills might have good quality stuff initially, but then go downhill.

I was there last week, and I have to say, everything looked great. Huge selection of food products - even more than Great Canadian Superstore, since they're not selling furniture, clothes, etc. The produce looked superb, the fish tank was full of lively looking fish, the meat selection was huge (what do you do with a beef heart anyway?! Give to a captain?), and the selection of Asian products rivaled T&T's. It's been a year, and I don't see any slippage in quality or selection. If it's convenient to you, I recommend it.

Jul 05, 2009
KevinB in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

How do you keep low-fat sour cream "creamy"

In a desperate attempt to remain in visual contact with my feet, I have made some changes in my eating habits. Cooking spray instead of butter, Splenda instead of sugar, etc. Most have been fairly easy to make, and if things don't taste quite as good (and usually, I can't even notice), I figure that sacrifice is worth it.

But low-fat sour cream (5% is what I usually buy) is a mystery to me. Even if I buy a small 250 g container (about 8 oz), it only stays creamy for a couple of days. After that, it has the consistency of milk. I've tried putting it in the freezer for a few minutes and then whipping (by hand), but turned out to be a lot of effort for little result. I thought about mixing in a little mayo, but that seems to defeat the low cal result. I've also thought about mixing in some plain thick yogurt, but haven't tried that yet.

Anyone have an idea what I should do?

Jul 05, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

Deseeding tomatoes: Do you do it, and if so, when/where/why?

Hey, it beats living in a van down by the river!

Jul 04, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

Deseeding tomatoes: Do you do it, and if so, when/where/why?

Yes, and another of those occasions is when the dish has to "travel" - e.g. a salad you're making for a picnic. If you leave the seeds in, the juice will break down the lettuce and other veggies, and you end up with a limp, soggy mess. If I'm making a sandwich to eat at home, I leave the seeds in, but if I'm taking it to work for lunch, I'll take out the seeds.

But I do deseed over a sieve, add a pinch of salt and a dash of Worcester, and enjoy a light refreshing drink.

Jul 04, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

Reubens complaint

While I agree with you in general, I can sympathize with the OP. If they're slathering commercial sickly-sweet 1000 Islands on the sandwich, I wouldn't be happy either. And a Russian dressing (there are hundreds of recipes available on the net!) is basically some mayo, a bit of ketchup, and then some ingredients (grated onion, lemon juice, vinegar, Worcester sauce, etc. -take your pick) to sharpen it up, not make it into dessert. Honestly, how hard is that for anything but a fast food place?

Jul 04, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

Oh Canada! NYT acknowledges Canada exists with amusing op ed pieces

I have to agree that Canadian pizza is usually terrible, especially compared with New York slices, which I think are tremendous street food.

And certainly, there is a chocolate bar divide at the border. Things like a Hershey or Clark bar are very hard to find in Canada, while, as with Coffee Crisp, Mr. Bigs and Sweet Maries rarely make it to the lower 48. Still, as a child, on our shopping trips from our cottage in rural Quebec down to Vermont, I remember being amazed by the strange and wondrous varieties of American candy. The whole "Sugar" family - Daddies, Mommies, and Babies - were completely alien to us, although just the thought of them makes my blood sugar rise today. Heath bars, $1,000 bar (is that the $Million bar today? - inflation, I guess), Milky Ways, Three Musketeers - we'd never seen them before, although we might have seen commercials for them on Saturday morning TV.

And, of course, beer. Although I don't drink it at all, my friends all stoutly (sic) insist that Canadian beer is stronger, better flavoured, and in every way superior to US beer. Then I see everyone drinking Bud and Coors at parties. Go figure. However, one beer brand, Molson Canadian did a famous commercial on some of our differences. It's quite amusing:
http://www.canada4life.ca/videos/1.mpg

Jul 04, 2009
KevinB in Food Media & News

Gordon Ramsey feeling the pinch

11 restaurants in the UK (at least), Hell's Kitchen in the US, and three TV shows? Sounds like he spreads himself kinda thin. I understand these guys want to make money, but when you have so many venues, so far apart, how can you possibly give each one the attention it deserves? If I'm going to pay the prices these celebrity chefs demand, I'd at least like to know that he spends at least one day a week there, which is clearly impossible in many cases.

Jul 04, 2009
KevinB in Food Media & News

Bakery Recommendation for Birthday Cake

If you want something a little different, you might visit one of Chinatown bakeries (our fave is Kim Moon on Dundas between McCaul and Spadina). They have some different flavours, like mango, and they don't have the thick overly sweet icing that many Western cakes do. Plus they're not as expensive as cakes from places like Dufflet.

Jul 03, 2009
KevinB in Ontario (inc. Toronto)

Do you remember vanilla popsicles?

I haven't looked for these in a while, but I do notice the boxes in the supermarket, and in Toronto at least, they don't even have chocolate any more - just fruit flavours. It seems if people want chocolate, they want to buy fudgesicles or Haagen-Daz bars (which are an incredible rip-off, if you ask me).

We had Pop-sicle brand up here as well, and I remember my friends and I hanging out at the local plaza and waiting for other kids to discard their wrappers so we could scoop them up and cut out the little coupons on back, which we would hoard for such childhood essentials as X-Ray Specs.

And definitely, you split them in two. The trick was to find something sharp/stiff enough that you could split the popsicle without breaking the wrapper (thus getting dirt all over it). And since you could never eat the second half before it melted, you always buy one to split with your friend. This led to many learned debates on the merits of various flavours. Grape, as I recall, was tasty but my mother hated me having one, as it invariably dripped on my shirt, and the stain was nigh impossible to remove. Chocolate and vanilla were always popular, but orange and lemon held their own. They had cherry, but I don't remember seeing anyone have one. I remember one summer they came out with a blue one, which was "watermelon" flavour. I liked them, but then I turned 14 and popsicles were kid stuff. Sophisticated teens, such as myself, had to turn to Good Humor chocolate eclairs or strawberry shortcakes, or of course, the Creamsicle.

And someone mentioned Drumsticks - they've always been available in Toronto. In fact, in the last few years, they've added variations like chocolate ice cream or chocolate-vanilla swirls. My bulging waistline prevents me from enjoying them too often, but I still like them.

Jul 03, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

A Eulogy for the Shopping Mall: What are/were your favorite food court foods?

In Canada, we had a chain called "Jimmy the Greek". Their souvlaki special was always a fave of mine. "Greek salad" that was chopped lettuce with a few olives, some onions, and feta with dressing (the dressing wasn't all that bad). Choice of roast potatoes or rice from the steam table. Then they'd fish out a chicken or pork souvlaki skewer from these trays where they were partially cooked and sitting in some kind of broth, and throw it on the grill for a couple of minutes. But they had this absolutely wonderful "garlic sauce" that they threw on the meat, and somehow, it all tasted pretty good, especially for $4.

There's still a few around, but their prices have gone up, and portions gone down. Haven't visited one in quite a while.

Jul 03, 2009
KevinB in General Topics

Wendy's boneless wings

I'm right with you on that! The baked potato and small chili combination is filling and probably the healthiest option in the fast food majors. Only 510 calories, and only 10 g of fat, with 11 g of fibre and 22 g of protein. By comparison, a 1/4 lb single with cheese has 490 cals with 25 g of fat, and only 3 g of fibre - and it doesn't fill me up at all. Throw in fries and a coke, and that's probably close to 1,000 calories right there.

My only question is do you dump the chili on your potato or do you eat them separately? It used to kill me that when they had the $0.99 value menu, you could get a potato and the chili for the 99 cents each, but if you ordered the chili stuffed potato, it was $2.59. I wonder what genius came up with that pricing policy?

Jul 03, 2009
KevinB in Chains

Full House on Hwy 7 - review

Ambassador on Hwy 7 at W. Beaver Creek (just west of 404) has excellent food and service, and has two separate banquet rooms. I'd give them a look.

Jun 26, 2009
KevinB in Ontario (inc. Toronto)