All the best fine foods (Summerhill)

It was a nice Sunday afternoon and I had a couple of errands to run in the Summerhill area so I decided to go for a bit of a walk in the neighbourhood. Over recent years there has been an influx of high-quality (and costly) food markets. You can get almost anything you’ll need for a really fancy feast. There’s a butcher, a fish monger, gourmet cheeses, a boutique market place and a fresh bakery.

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Murrays Sandwich Emporium – Queen and Bathurst

Murrays Sandwich Emporium is a small hole in the wall restaurant located near the up and coming intersection of Queen and Bathurst. This neighbourhood has been undergoing lots of improvements with new condos and big box retailers popping up all along Queen. It is still a work in progress and small independent restaurants like Murrays are some of the great things that are bringing this area up a notch.

My first time around I had “The Murkey Turkey Club” ($9), with smoked turkey and double smoked bacon. Reading over the menu description again it’s no wonder I liked this. “Smoke” is probably one of my top 3 flavors. The club had a great taste to it that you wouldn’t expect from the looks of it. So often a sandwich with sliced deli-style turkey will have disappointingly bland turkey but this one isn’t one of those. It was possibly one of the best sliced deli turkeys I’ve ever had – moist and a ton of smokey flavor. The bacon as well was rich and crispy, just the way I like it. The other condiments were fresh, but this is to be expected as a minimum for the price you pay for premium sandwiches. I also ordered a side of fries which had a real fresh-cut taste, with lots of actual potato flavor. This is something that sometimes is forgotten with all the frozen fries that we eat, but these actually tasted like a potato.Walking in, there are two small wooden communal tables jutting out of an exposed brick wall and a vintage Pac-Man arcade machine on the other side. The atmosphere is laid-back and the staff are very friendly. On all the tables there are old copies of magazines like Vice and the TV plays a continuous loop of snowboarding trick shots. They clearly make their personal style apparent: young, hip, and “with it”. Their menu consists of mainly (surprise) sandwiches with clever names like “The Uncle Phil”, “The nutorious/mamma jamma” (sic) and “The BL-Tizzy”. They also have Okanagan Spring on tap and had a $10 pitcher deal the times that I went in. A great choice for a hot summer lunch. I recently had some work in the area so I took the chance to visit…twice. It’s always a good sign if you can draw me back in for a second lunch in an area so rich with great restaurants as Queen West. Continue reading

Fahrenheit Coffee

It was a quick pit stop to Fahrenheit coffee on the way to St. Lawrence Market one chill Wednesday afternoon, but boy was I glad to have stumbled upon this place. They had just opened their new location at 120 Lombard two weeks before i stopped by and I got the feeling that they were still settling into the place. The entire cafe couldn’t have been any bigger than a 20 by 20 foot box but the atmosphere inside was still nice. The unfinished wood counters were at chest level and reminded me of the quick to-go espresso bars you would see all across Europe. At the time they did not have any seating or wifi, but according to twitter they have now added stools and internet is available for dine in guests. This should really help grow this into a local hotspot.

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Dim sum in a food court!?

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I had a quick lunch again at the Urban Eatery, this time I tried out the Szechwan Express. I know what most people will be thinking, “Dim sum in a food court?! Gross!” but it was actually surprisingly not bad. Now as a proud Chinese-Canadian I’ve had my fair share of dim sums in all types of places here in Toronto and in Hong Kong. So hopefully I can provide a broader view on dim sum quality.

At $9.75 for the sampler platter of 8 pieces it was certainly not a cheap option but worth a shot for something very different than the usual food court fare. As you can see, you get 2 hai gow (shrimp dumpling), 2 Sui Mai (Chinese pork meat balls), 2 dumplings, 1 BBQ pork bun and 1 sesame ball. I’ll break it down by item because some were certainly better than others. Ranked from best to worst.

Worth it.

  1. Sesame ball: This was actually really good. It was gooey and sweet but wasn’t too greasy. It had a nice crispiness to the coating which adds a great texture change to each bite. If I were to come back I would probably get only a couple of these along with the hai gow.
  2. Hai gow: The best I can say was that these tasted very authentic. They would be exactly what you would expect from a dim sum restaurant in Chinatown. Nothing revolutionary but more than I expected. I would have these again.
  3. BBQ pork bun: Full disclosure, I’m not usually a big fan of these even at the best restaurants so not a surprise this had a lower ranking for me. It was ok, but like most versions of this the ratio of filling to bun was far too low for me.
  4. Sui Mai: Nothing special here either. Not really worth having again but they weren’t offensive.
  5. Dumplings: These were the worst of the bunch. The main flavor that I got was just pure grease and a bit of meat. I would avoid these if I were you.

Overall, it was better than what I expected to get at a food court in a mainstream downtown mall. Given the chance I may grab a couple sesame balls as a sweet snack but the rest isn’t worth the price for what you get. At least it’s a change of pace from the boring burger and fries combos you see at all other food courts.

Better looking than your average bulldog

Bulldog Coffee:

Eglinton

Growing up I never enjoyed the taste of coffee. I used to not even like the taste of coffee ice cream or coffee flavored cakes. My mom has always been a big fan of coffee so she would try to get me to taste hers, but I never enjoyed it. Even all the way through university I opted to get my caffeine fix from a Red Bull instead of a simple coffee. This all changed after spending a summer working at a local cafe, which gave me unlimited access to high quality espresso and allowed me to experiment with different drink combinations and foaming techniques. I gained a new appreciation for the flavor and craftsmanship that goes into a real latte. I was hooked.

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Rare: Tale of two sandwiches

This is a story of triumph and failure. This is a story of the Jekyll and Hyde of fast food restaurants. This is an over-dramatic introduction, but is fitting as you will see.

The Urban Eatery is a new, state-of-the-art food court that has been recently opened in the basement of the Eaton Centre. It replaced an outdated and boring food court that you could find in hundreds of other malls all over the world. In addition to adding much needed atmosphere to the standard food court it also has the great feature of having standardized reusable dishes for all the restaurants. This reduces food container waste by up to 88%, which translates into a LOT of waste saved for one of the biggest malls in Canada.

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Downtown food truck event – Gorilla Cheese

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Me and my sister!

Food trucks are a rapidly growing trend in the restaurant business, I’m sure largely in part due to the Food Network show Eat St. The publicity has been sky-rocketing and food trucks are becoming known all over for providing gourmet foods at street food prices. They can do this because they don’t need to pay the overhead of maintaining an address and staffing an entire store front.

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