Category Archives: Food

#MMMata: Mata Bar Tasting

1690 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON

1690 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON

Recently, I had the chance to visit Mata, a new Brazilian themed restaurant in the Queen St. West area of Toronto.  If you are looking for a new and affordable place to enjoy some delicious food, this is the place for you.  The chef put together a sampling of five courses for us, that were creative and delicious.  I wasn’t sure that I was going to like all of them, but I was willing to give it a shot (as were the people I was dining with)!

We started with one of my favourites, Cheese Bread which was served with a Lobster Pastel.  This got the evening started on the right foot for me.  Then again when doesn’t warm bread and lobster start things off properly? The lobster was creamy and light and the pastel was not oily. I learned that pastels are very common on Brazilian menus and this one was a great introduction.

Cheese Bread & Lobster Pastel

I was looking forward to the second course, which didn’t disappoint.  Corvina Ceviche with Maple Candied Sweet Potato, Celery & Lime Marinate & Fresh Cilantro.  I liked the taste of the dish and particularly liked the flavour that the sweet potato added.  It was a nice creative touch for the dish.

Corvina Ceviche with Maple Candied Sweet Potato, Celery & Lime Marinate & Fresh Cilantro

The next course was one that I wasn’t sure about, Smoked Crispy Chicken Hearts with Cauliflower Puree and Ancho Chili Oil.  To be honest, the preparation of the hearts and presentation had me won over when they arrived.  They turned out to be a bit more “springy” than I anticipated but were a tasty item to expand my taste buds a bit.

Crispy Chicken Hearts with Cauliflower Puree & Ancho Chili Oil

The third course of Picanha Sliders with Cachaca Carmelized Onions, House Made Catupiry Cheese & Malagueta Pepper Aioli.  These were delicious and disappeared quickly.  Being curious, I looked up what Picanha was and it turns out that it is one of the most popular cuts of meat in Brazil.  In North America, Picanha would be similar to the Top Sirloin Cap.  No matter what you call it the meat is tasty and the combination with the cheese and aioli is a winner and the buns they use are awesome (which is the key to any good slider, in my opinion).  I recommend these for your first visit to Mata!

Picanha Sliders with Cachaca Caramelized Onions, Housemade Catupiry Cheese & Malagueta Pepper Aioli

The follow-up to the sliders was Grilled Octopus with Heart of Palm Puree, Raspberry & Balsamic Reduction & Taro Root Crisps.  I have never tried grilled octopus and it’s amazing.  The taste combination on this plate won me over and I would definitely order this item on a return visit.  This was my personal surprise winner of the evening.

Grilled Octopus with Heart of Palm puree, Raspberry & Balsamic Reduction & Taro Root Crisps

The final course was one I was looking forward to as well – Beef Cheek Poutine with Cassava Frites, Fresh Curds & Scallions.  I have always heard that cheek was the “best” part of a number of animals and it certainly made this dish. A fan of poutine in all of its forms, this dish combined the Cassava frites very nicely with the rich gravy and cheese curds.  A great way to close out our sampling of a very creative menu that showed off the experience and talent that the team at Mata has brought with them.
Beef Cheek Poutine with Cassava Frites, Fresh Curds & Scallion
The evening was closed out with Avocado Creme Brulee, which I thought was a very creative and tasty turn on the traditional.  If you love avocados and have saved room for dessert, this is the sweet treat for you.

Avocado Creme Brulee

Our meal was accompanied by two very delicious cocktails (I love cocktails) and I would gladly order both of them again.  We were treated to a Classic Lime Caipirinha and my personal favourite, the Pisco Sour (Pisco, Egg White, Lime, Simple Syrup, Lemon Grass).

Classic Lime Caipirinha

Classic Lime Caipirinha

Pisco Sour

Pisco Sour

Mata is fueled by the creativity and enthusiasm of Felipe Faccioli, Tulio Lessa, Steve Fernandes and Sharath Dwarkanathan.  This team has a wealth of experience in Toronto that includes, Salt Wine Bar, Fishbar, Chiado and Nota Bene.  All of that experience and their hard work is visible from the passion that meets you at the front door of this restaurant.  Next time you are in Parkdale, stop in and give their menu a try.

Mata is located at 1690 Queen Street West and is open at 5p.m. Tuesday – Sunday.



#JoeyMarkville: Spring into their new location

Joey MarkvilleIf you know me, you know that one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto is Joey. In November 2013, they opened their 4th Toronto location in Markham. This new member of the family joins the existing locations in The Shops at Don Mills, The Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Mall.

I recently visited the Markham location and got to see what they are up to up on the east side of Toronto.  Once again, this location did not disappoint.  One of the things that I love is that each location has a very unique decor and atmosphere. This location is no different. I loved the vibe and feel that the restaurant had and the patio looks great for some summertime fun!

The patio waiting for spring to arrive

The patio waiting for spring to arrive

Joey Markville

A casual dining experience is waiting

A look at the bar area

A look at the bar area

One of the unique signs in the dining room

One of the unique signs in the dining room

One of the unique signs in the dining room

One of the unique signs in the dining room

Always unique architecture at Joey

Always unique architecture at Joey

A view of the dining room

A view of the dining room

I also took a few minutes to wander around the Markville Mall and was impressed by the activity level and stores that were in the mall. I am confident that this location and their patio are going be a hit when the summer of 2014 arrives.

With spring right around the corner, I thought it would be a great opportunity for you to give Joey a try for yourself. With the help of my friends there, they have given me two…that’s right TWO gift cards to give away.

Each giftcard has a value of $100, which will give you an outstanding chance to try many of their great menu items.  You could also take someone with you for a great night out!  If you need some ideas on what to try, while you are there, here are a few pictures of some items that are my personal favourites!

Sirloin Steak with Mushrooms and Crispy Spring Roll Mashed Potatoes

Sirloin Steak with Mushrooms and Crispy Spring Roll Mashed Potatoes

Individually Baked Apple Pie with Maple Ice Cream

Individually Baked Apple Pie with Maple Ice Cream

The gift card contest will be open from Monday February 17th, 2014 to Saturday February 22nd, 2014 at midnight (EST).  The details to enter & info to tweet are below in order to enter.  Contest is open to Canadian Residents only. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What Makes a Sandwich: Revisited

Back in April 2011, I wrote a post about what makes a sandwich just right; The bread or the filling?  In that post, I also talked about some of my favourite sandwiches.  A toasted meatloaf sandwich and the “Dagwood Stag & Doe” sandwich.

Recently I saw that Dempsters was asking a similar question to people.  They even have a very funny video that compares making a sandwich to a home renovation project!  Check it out:

As a guy that has worked in and around the home renovation business for years, I love the way they tied it into a home renovation show and the toolbox of sandwich toppings is awesome!  I think that fridge makers should be taking note.  Wouldn’t that look great in a sandwich shop?

Given my love of cooking and the fact that I had been on this road before, the #DIYSandwich contest seemed like the perfect opportunity to share another one of my favourite sandwiches (or at least a variation of it)!  One of my favourite meals is Thanksgiving or Christmas and a turkey dinner.  The sandwiches made of leftovers rock!!

Here is what I started with:

Dempsters Flax Bread, Tangy Dill Pickles, Mayo, Mustard, Turkey and Swiss Cheese

Dempsters Flax Bread, Tangy Dill Pickles, Mayo, Mustard, Turkey and Swiss Cheese

I have used every type of bread to make this sandwich.  The key is that it is soft, fresh bread without a heavy crust.  You want the crunch to be the pickles in the sandwich and not the crust, in my opinion.

Normally, the turkey would be roast turkey leftovers, but I didn’t have any.  Deli turkey does just as well for this sandwich, trust me!  Usually I skip margarine and spread mayo on one slice of bread and mustard on the other.  It makes it a little healthier (one less fat) and still gets everything put together nicely.

The “leftover” version of this sandwich would also include a small spoonful of stuffing and a drizzle of gravy inside.  I’m waiting for Christmas to have another one of those.  I decided to change it up this weekend, since the gravy and stuffing were missing and added a few strips of turkey bacon.  Surprisingly, the bacon added a nice flavour and some more of that ever important “crunch”.  Here’s a peak at the finished product:

The #DIYSandwich contest challenges people to make their best sandwich and share it with Dempsters via their social networks.  In return there is the chance to win weekly $500 prizes and a grand prize valued at $4,000.  If you want to enter, you have to act quick.  The contest ends at 11:59pm ET November 6, 2013.  If you decide to enter, good luck!

Win a $25 Gift Card and go “Back To Mother’s”

Back in the spring of 2013, the city of Hamilton and most of Southern Ontario was excited by the news, that Mother’s Pizza Parlour & Spaghetti House would be opening again in the City of Hamilton.  One of the most popular places for birthday parties, post game get-togethers and family dinners was coming back.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Grand Opening party held on March 30, 2013 and I have been back on a number of visits since.  The food has not disappointed and seems to have hit the spot with Hamilton residents.  They are constantly busy, but they do take limited reservations now between Monday and Thursday.  Weekends are still first-come, first-served.

My dad was an employee of Mother’s in the 1970’s and I remember their pizza and pasta well.  I was looking forward to trying some of my favourites, like Chicken Cacciatore and other pastas as well as the pizza.  While my taste for toppings has grown since my youth, the pizza was just as I remembered it; light and full of flavour.

Chicken CiacatorreGrandmother's Pizza

If you haven’t had a chance to visit the restaurant yet, which is at the corner of Queenston Road & Nash Road in Hamilton, I encourage you to do so.  They have made a great effort to make it look and feel similar to the original locations, with a number of familiar items; The Tiffany Lamps, the red & white checkers and of course the black & white movies!
Tiffany Lamps - Mother'sOld Movies - Mother's

There are also new items that they have added that I think evoke that old nostalgic feeling as you walk up to the door and into the dining room. The brown and yellow signs outside are fantastic and I am a big fan of the etched glass they have in the dining room.

Old Movies - Mother'sHula Hula Pizza - Mother's

Exterior Decor - Mother'sEtched Glass - Mother'sGiven that it’s back to school time and this post is all about my visits back to Mother’s, I would like to give you the opportunity to visit Mother’s again or for the first time.

Thanks to the kind people at Mother’s, I have 2 x $25 Gift Cards to share with you and I am going to be giving them away via Twitter.  Here’s what you have to do to win:

The contest will be open from September 14, 2013 to September 19, 2013 at 8pm (Eastern Time).  In order to be entered, you need to do the following:

1 – Follow @Mothers_Pizza on Twitter

2 – Like Mother’s Pizza on Facebook

3 – Follow @Canadian88 on Twitter

4 – Tweet me the following:

@Canadian88 I want to go #BackToMothers and see what @Mothers_Pizza is up to in Hamilton!

Don’t forget the hashtag & be sure to tweet each day, to help improve your chances.  The two winners will be selected randomly via Twitter Twitter Chicken Dinner on September 20, 2013.

If you have had the chance to visit Mother’s please feel free to share your stories in the comments here and good luck!!

Toronto Bakes for Japan: People Helping People

“Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” – Howard Zinn

On Sunday April 10, 2011, I had the pleasure of attending the “Toronto Bakes For Japan” Bake Sale that took place at 5 locations in Toronto. When I walked in the door, I was overwhelmed by the amount of baking that was available; and I was only at the Liberty Noodle location in Liberty Village!

Overwhelming contributions from you!

Sushi anyone!?!

My friend, Niya Bajaj, an event planner and social extrovert had taken this idea to heights that I had not anticipated. Her team of volunteers and her fellow organizer, Heena Punwani, had motivated, inspired and encouraged Toronto into putting together a massive spread of baking to help the people of Japan, following the earthquake that happened there on March 11, 2011.

There was also an auction of art, specialty baked goods and gift certificates for restaurants, spas and other locations in the city. One of the most impressive items up for auction was a cake that looked like sushi on a wooden stand! I can tell you that when I saw it, I thought it was sushi! I understand that @allcondohotels bought the sushi cake! I hope they enjoyed it! It was a very impressive item!

I also had the opportunity to visit the crew that was working at Cafe Diplomatico all day on Sunday and they had some interesting stories of their time on the patio! Their day had started in the rain, but thankfully the weather had warmed up and the sun had come out! They had provided people with snacks to enjoy while doing laundry nearby or to enjoy with their coffee on the patio. These folks had given up their day to sit outdoors and help raise money for the people in Japan. Their efforts should not go without a huge “Thank You”.

The same thanks should go to the other locations that hosted the volunteers and were generous with their support and time for the volunteers to sell their product. I had the opportunity to meet Sang Kim, and learn about his Toronto to Japan effort that helps raise spirits via sending short videos to people in Japan. Liberty Noodle played a large role in this effort and hosted a sushi making event on April 2, 2011 in conjunction with Sang. Please check out their website and visit them for dinner or one of their special events. It is now on my calendar to do so!

I really liked that all of the items were stylishly packaged. The level of care and concern that everyone had committed to their products was evident just from looking over the tables. There was a large selection to choose from and almost every item was labeled with the ingredients that went into the product. Every detail was taken care of especially for those with food allergies!

OMG! Was this ever good!

I didn

I even caught Jo shopping for some baked goods! Imagine that!

@clickflickca selecting his baked goods!

I know that I left Liberty Noodle with an armload of baked goods (that were all delicious), a good feeling in my heart! Thanks should also go to The Rivoli, Amaranto Cafe, Evergreen Brick Works Farmers Market and Yoshi’s Sweets that also hosted volunteers over the weekend.

As of writing this, the efforts of this team of volunteers was approaching $30,000 raised for the Red Cross in Japan and they are still working. If you would like to help them, please visit their website and contact them for how you can help donate. They and the people in Japan will appreciate it.