Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Enoteca Sociale Toronto hits all the right buttons. Great quality, reasonable prices and an excellent wine list. Really good value here.

Enoteca Sociale is my kind of place.  The price point is great with most dishes under $20 and they even serve first rate complimentary bread and olive oil. A nice surprise in a restaurant keeping their prices competitive.  

The wine list is a perfect combination of thoughtful Canadian and Italian wines.  The first thing on the list was a sparkling wine by Hinterland in Prince Edward County, one of my personal favourites.  They also had another of our faves, Norman Hardie's County Pinot Noir.  They have an impressive knowledge and selection of Italian wines and nicely paired my food with some delicious choices that were new to me.

Tuna with Orange and Pine Nuts

The Albacore tuna with oranges, pine nuts and lovage was melt in your mouth perfect.  

Yellow Perch Fritto

The Yellow Perch Fritto with fingerling potatoes, rapini and red pepper sauce was fried without being greasy.The perch was cooked perfectly and nicely balance with the slightly bitter rapini. Nothing dry or overcooked.

Brussel Sprouts with Goat Cheese

Are brussel sprouts Italian?  I've always thought of them as bad English food but we've had them in several Italian restaurants recently and they were really good and Sociale was no exception.  No bitterness, just a vegetable worthy of craving.

We also shared the squash ravioli with onions and sage and the linguini vongole.  Both dishes we love and are picky about. Thumbs up.  We would both recommend Enoteca Sociale and be happy to return again.

Enoteca Sociale , 1288 Dundas St W, Toronto

Friday, November 8, 2013

Root Down, Denver is my new favourite restaurant. A little far to go for dinner but we really liked Colorado.

Root Down in Denver, Colorado strives to accommodate all food preferences, vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan and carnivores alike.  All with top quality ingredients from local sources or their own gardens.  It's a funky, happy place full of people having a good time.  I loved the atmosphere and the food.  One of the best vegetarian meals David and I have eaten in a very long time.

Arugual, piquillo peppers, super seed mix, goat feta, vegetable chips and charred green tomato vin combined to make a complex salad with each component perfectly prepared.  Impressive.

Warm Root Vegetable Salad

The gnocchi with Roasted Hazel Dell Mushrooms, Brussel Sprouts, Red Kuri Squash, Poached Egg, Piquillo-Almond Pesto Vin was one of those dishes that you crave after.  If we lived in Denver I'd be a regular for this dish alone.  Break the egg and it becomes part of the sauce.  

Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi

Sliders are rarely available for vegetarians and most of the burgers ho hum but this grainy treat with jalapeno jam and sprout salad topping is delicious and the fries equal to the burger.

Veggie Burger Sliders
Absolutely bar non the best tofu dish I've ever eaten.  Deep fried with a tasty, crispy coating, the salad and maple stout mustard is a perfect partner.
Country Fried Tofu

Great drinks list and our server knew enough about wine and beer to keep us happy.

The decor is just plain fun.  There's a full old fashioned phone booth on the way to the bathroom and this wall of phones was over our heads.  The top blue one is a match for my 15th birthday present.  Long before cell phones when having a phone in your bedroom was uber cool.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I like breakfast at Rocket Bakery on Water Street in St John's NL.

Fish cakes with fruit and granola. Not a traditional combo but I like it. 

The breakfast burrito was perfect too. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

2013 May be one of the best vintages ever in the Okanagan. It's an exciting time to visit.

Another spectacular September weekend in the Okanagan. Every visit, it's better. More and better wines, young exciting chefs and farmers growing everything imaginable.  The vineyards had people all over them, the vines were heavy with red grapes, there were bins of white grapes all over the place and the smell of fruit in the air.

We started out early and were happy and hungry when we arrived at Miradoro Restaurant at Tinhorn Creek.  We had a remarkable meal of steamed clams in white wine,  olive oil poached salmon with wheat berry salad and chocolate mousse with house made sponge toffee.  Our table on the patio had a lovely view of the valley looking south towards Osoyoos.  This was our second visit to Miradoro.  The first time they had just opened, we were with a large group and it was disappointing.  We've been hearing good things ever since and this meal had great food and warm friendly service.  Very nice indeed.

We stopped at Blue Mountain Winery to stock up for Christmas with sparkling wines.  I have friends that will be happy to read that.  I believe Blue Mountain has some of the best value wines in the Okanagan.  The Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are among my favourites.

We were in the Okanagan to attend the opening of Painted Rock's new beautiful tasting room.  It's a bright white building where the wine is the visual highlight.  Dark Red Icon and golden Chardonnay look equally good against the white backdrop. They tasted mighty fine too.  

The next day we were sadly heading home but we managed to stop at a couple of new wineries.  Intersection Winery in Oliver had a Sauvignon Blanc and a blend called Milepost Red  that we thought were worth buying.  I liked the friendly, simple tasting room and look forward to trying a glass of the wine.

Our final stop was at Covert 
Winery and Farm.  We left with several wines and some nice looking produce.  I'm reluctant to state any strong opinions on a wine based on a tiny taste so can only say that at both Intersection and Covert Wines I bought wines and I'm looking forward to drinking a glass to see if I want to buy more.  It takes a better palate than mine to judge a wine based on a sip.

One night is not enough at this very exciting time of year.  There is so much more I want to see and do.  Until next trip.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Join us for Friday wine downs

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Quidi Vidi Brewery does a good tour and tasting. The popular beer is everywhere in St. John's.

When the chef and the sommelier are co-owners amazing stuff happens at Raymonds

Arctic Char
Lucky us ate at Raymonds in St. John's. In true Newfoundland style they combine an elegant room in an elegant building with impeccable service and a friendly approach.  Newfoundlanders have often travelled the world extensively and love fine food, wine and art.  That's Raymonds.

The wine list was extensive and impressive and still offered good choices for every budget.  I was happy to see some good Canadian wines, including some excellent British Columbia picks. Not only do they recommend pairings for your food, they tell you why it pairs well.

An amuse of butter poached lobster wrapped in cucumber with chives and lemon had us smiling in anticipation of what was to come.  More please Sir!

Seafood soup with white wine, fennel, tomato and saffron aioli was one of the best I've had often and is a dish I order often.

Seafood Soup

Melt in your mouth tuna with radiccio, Belgian endive and citrus was bursting with flavour and in fact had little lemon balls that popped in your mouth.  Some culinary wizardry going on there.   The plate looks so simple.  It wasn't.

Tuna Salad
The Pease pudding agnolotti was a tribute to Newfoundland cooking. Shredded ham hock topped the agnolotti and savoy cabbage in "pot liguor". It reminded me of a jigs dinner in the most sublime way.

Pease Pudding Agnolotti

Three of us had the Arctic Char with mussels in  mousseline, fingerling potatoes and grilled onion. The Beef Tenderloin was cooked to temperature, no chance of error on that cut of meat. Both dishes had the roasted onions and when onions are being praised as much as the feature you know the dish is amazing.  Each dish left the table with the plate absolutely clean.  

We went all the way and had desserts as well.  The flavours in each dish were layered and complex and led 
to much conversation and sharing.  They even have a dedicated barrista making coffee from local roaster Jumping Bean.
Panna Cotta

Creme Brulee with Madeleines

Beet and Chocolate Parfait
Portions were generous and well presented.  I'd have to say that Raymond's was flawless.

Reserve early.  If you go in fall you'll probably be lucky enough to have lamb that's being raised on Sheep Island this summer.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Last Minute Decision to Dine at Atlantica doesn't disappoint

We had an excellent day in St. John's starting with coffee and croissants at Rocket on Water Street we worked up an appetite climbing Signal Hill and visiting the Mine Museum on Bell Island.  Coming back from Bell Island we decided to have a look at Atlantica Restaurant, they'd just opened for dinner and had a table for 4 available.  We were dressed much too casual but the staff made us feel welcome and we were soon seated with more great Quidi Vidi beer in hand.

We had an excellent meal starting with a an amuse of lobster bisque served in espresso cups.  Intense lobster flavours and a smooth creamy soup.  It was a real appetite stimulator.

With 4 of us we were able to try a good part of the menu.

For appetizers I had the exceptional Seared Scallops with Blueberry Gastrique and Mushroom slices. 

David had the very sharable and much praised Trio of Tuna; tataki, ceviche and tartar.

Beets in The Garden, roasted candy beets with pumpernickel soil, pickled veg and house made ricotta and roasted lemon vin. We ate every crumb of the "dirt". 

We shared amid course of Beet Risotto with Thyme.  It was a unique dish that impressed us all.  

Raspberry shaved ice was a well presented and nice refresher. 

For main courses 2 of us had the Oven Baked Halibut with baby bok choy, shitake mushrooms, sesame corn and yuzu and cilantro mousseline. It was an excellent combination but could have used more bok choy. 

Olive Poached Cod with wilted kale, braised potato and tomato gremolata was the nicest cod preparation I'd had in years, but the potato was boring. 

The service was excellent, the view incredible.  I would  recommend Atlantica.

Fish & Chips competition begins

If you were born and raised in St. John's the first stop after landing "back home" is often Ches's. We intend to see who makes the best fish & chips and started at Ches's right after we landed.

They have a good selection of Quidi Vidi beer as well. We really liked the Iceberg beer. 

A couple of days later we stopped at Seaside Restaurant, 2546 Topsail Rd., Conception Bay South.  We also tried F & C's at The Duke of Duckworth.

Seaside was our favourite and we didn't like The Duke at all.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dinner at The Hubb Eatery Angeline's Inn Bloomfield Prince Edward County

Last night we had dinner at The Hubb in Bloomfield in a beautiful old heritage house, Angeline's Inn.  

There were 7 of us and we were seated in a small private alcove. 

The menu is designed for sharing and the service is warm, friendly and informative. Dinner started with an amuse of cherry tomato on a goat cheese and lemon oil base with browned puffed rice, served with polenta, parmesan crisps and Hub Nubs, an olive oil based mini bun.  We shared mussels in a curry sauce, lamb corn dogs with grainy mustard, potato dumplings with mushrooms, walnuts, shallots and olive oil, a fabulous beet salad, blue cheese and watercress, and orecchiette pasta with green peas and leek cream sauce.  All good but the lamb corn dogs and potato dumplings were THE BOMB, at least until the homemade dilly bars were served up.  

Peanut butter ice cream dipped in milk chocolate or mint chocolate dipped in dark chocolate. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Eating and drinking iin Prince Edward County

It's hot, hot, hot in the county in July but everyone has air conditioning and pools it's just a matter of getting from car to house, pool, restaurant or winery.  Yesterday we went for a tasting at Norman Hardie and the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is outstanding. They make wine from the Niagara and County vineyards but I love the County wines.  They are grown in limestone based soil and the minerality is fantastic.  Only magnums of Chardonnay available at the moment.  They have a great pizza oven that makes for an excellent lunch available on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. 

We tried to visit Hinterland for some of their delicious bubbly wines but they were closed.

We had lunch at Portabello in Picton.   The Pickerel with saffron and leek sauce was perfectly cooked and  the pickerel tacos were a big hit.  They have an excellent wine and beer list.  David loves the Barley Days beers and the Wind and Sail Dark Ale.  The Muskoka Summer Weiss was pretty fine too.

Pickerel with saffron and leek sauce.
Pickerel Tacos

Looks like we'll have pickerel for lunch today as well. Fresh caught this morning.

This morning Hinterland was open.  

They make bubbly wines, in both the champagne and prosecco method.  Fantastic.  They sell out very quickly but are available in some restaurants.  Watch for it.  

We also stopped at Rosehall Run.  They are making a sparkling wine as well but their Pinot Noir is their finest wine.

Our final stop was at The Old Third Vineyard.  My absolute favourite wine so far.  The Pinot Noir is really great but the '11 Cabernet Franc is the best I've tasted in the county.  

If you have a CIBC Infinit card there are some great advantages; free tastings, tours and sometimes discounts.  The special private tours and tastings need to be booked 24 hrs in advance but some of the wineries were happy to offer us the advantages without an advance booking since it was a Friday morning and not busy.  Check for details.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Last Thoughts on Okanagan Wine Touring 2013

We started  touring and tasting in the Okanagan 5 years ago and along the way we've learned a lot about our local wine scene. Things have changed.  Tasting rooms are more spectacular.  Tasting fees are more common but compared to Oregon and California still a steal.  More wines are on the reserve list and not available to taste.  You may still meet winemakers in the smaller independent wineries and some of the folks pouring have worked in wine their whole lives and have plenty to share.

5 years ago there were few restaurants located at wineries.  Today there are many more and getting better all the time.  There are many young chefs and winemakers excited about what's happening in the valley.  Pick up a copy of The Butcher, The Baker, The Wine and Cheese Maker and you'll see what I mean. It just keeps getting better and better. 

Bring a big cooler.  You will buy wine and it's hot in the Okanagan.  
If you have a CIBC Infinite card they have many great benefits including free private tastings, tours and discounts when you buy.  

From architectural beauties like Church and State to garage wineries like Van Westen Vineyards each is a different experience, well worth the trip.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Final Day of 5th Annual Wine Tour and some general observations.

On our way out of Summerland we stopped at Sumac Ridge.  A nice staff in the wine room.  I thought the Black Sage Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc were particularly good.  They are the results of Harry McWatters purchase 30 years ago of some property on the Black Sage Bench.  Back then everyone probably thought Harry was nuts.  He's clearly thinks outside of the box.  No matter.  Harry sold Sumac Ridge several years ago and they are still benefiting from everything he did.  
Don't you love the red wine drip down the bottle?  Some pretty fine wines for the $$.

Our final winery was Greata Ranch.  We always drove right by on our way out of town but this time we were committed to stop.  Greata is not your typical winery.  They are owned by CedarCreek and is really a "concept" winery.  The idea is to develop 500 homes on the property and everyone gets to live at a winery.  All of their wines are exclusively available on location. 

We finished our day with a stop at Vita Bella Ristorante in Chilliwack.  We've missed them since they left Burnaby.  The Gnuddi is as good as ever.