Friday, 13 July 2012

La Carnita

La Carnita (501 College Street, Toronto)

One of the most talked about restaurants in the city, I had to make my way to La Carnita. With failed attempts to make it to their various pop-ups around Toronto (due to work) and missed TUM events, it was finally time to taste what everyone was talking about! The restaurant is surprisingly very spacious with a beautiful bar set up right at the front entrance. Cool atmosphere, with insanely creative artwork and the vibe is very casual. The food was overall delicious and La Carnita is a great addition to the growing network of great restaurants opening in Toronto.

** After my first experience there, I really liked it but I wasn't blown away. I always like to give restaurants a second chance, especially one with so much hype, so I returned for the 1 year anniversary. I have to say, I am converted!! I love La Carnita and is now one of my favourite restaurants in the city. The flavours are refined and well balanced and the food is excellently executed. I have also included at the end of the post, some of the additional drinks we had and the special of the night. Must haves: Guac and chips, Mexican corn, Ceviche special, chicken taco, chorizo taco and the key lime paleta. Lastly, if you like it hot, ask for their hot sauce. It makes a perfect pairing for all tacos to give that extra kick (I used them on all tacos, a necessity for me).

Carnita Margarita 
2oz Tromba tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and agave nectar
A great margarita, not too sweet, primary tastes of lime and tequila with a hint of salt. Very refreshing. 

A classic cocktail, a very good rendition but we did miss the salty/spicy rimmer. 

Guacamole with chips with Ancho Chili Powder 
Insanely addictive! The guacamole is probably one of the best in the city. It has the perfect amount of garlic, seasoning and the queso and ancho chili spices kicks it up another notch. The chips are freshly made and with the ancho chili powder, they are impossible not to finish. 

Mexican Street Corn
Mexican crema, queso anejo, arbol & ancho chili powder
Perfectly sweet and juicy kernels covered in a creamy, cheesy concoction and well balanced with the ancho chili powder. Squeeze a little of that lime and the flavours are fantastic. 

Red and Green Chorizo
Housemade chorizo, mango salsa, pickled onion, queso cotija and cilantro
One of my favourite tacos of the night. Rich, intense flavours of the house made chorizo sausage and the toppings were a perfect companion. Sweetness from the mango salsa, acid from the pickled veg and queso cotija provides that salty, cheesy element. Flavour explosion.

Crispy Avocado & Frijoles
Beans, crispy avocado, jicama, chipotle sauce, queso fresco & cilantro
Really enjoyed this taco! The crispy, fried avocado was soft and warm, which paired nicely with the creamy black beans and the salty queso fresco. All the flavours worked nicely together for a very mild but tasty taco. 

Pollo Frito
Peanut mole sauce, pickled green cabbage and salsa fresca
NOT TO BE MISSED!!!! Very original taco and the flavour profile is just undeniably droolworthy. The chicken has a perfectly crunchy exterior while the meat inside is wonderfully moist and juicy.  The unctuous peanut mole sauce is so original, giving a creamy, savoury and sweet element. The pickled green cabbage and salsa fresca provides the perfect balance.

Tostada de Lengua
 Cilantro verde, cashew sauce, grilled pineapple, radish & beet sprouts
Not knowing what to expect from beef tongue, I was surprise I enjoyed this one as much as I did. Well cooked, thin slices of lengua with an extremely fresh and flavourful toppings.

In Cod We Trust
Voltron sauce, lime crema, pickled red cabbage, green apple & cilantro.
Who doesn't love fish tacos? These were well executed and the apple in the slaw was very interesting. 

Arctic Char (Special of the Day)
The arctic char was perfectly cooked, nice crispy skin and the corn relish was a sweet pairing to this tostada; although I found the overall flavour a bit bland. 

Key Lime Paleta 
Lime Pie with Crumbled Graham Crackers
I would come back just for the paleta. This popsicle is the perfect end to the meal. The interior is a creamy, cool, key lime concoction, topped with a sweet and salty crumbly graham cracker exterior. I wanted to eat 10 more! 

New Additions (1 Year Anniversary): 

Swordfish Ceviche
One of the best things I have eaten in a while. The delicate swordfish is enveloped with flavours of lime, mango, habanero (or jalapeno, not much description was given). The flavour profile of this ceviche was beautiful -- sweet, spicy and salty and the texture was spot on. If they have this special, it is a must order!

Left: Gin and Juice: Gin, Grapefruit and Chili Cinnamon Syrup
Very light and refreshing, good flavours but was hoping for more kick from the chili cinnamon syrup.
Right: Who Shot Ya? Bulleit, Jamaica syrup, ginger syrup and lemon 
Great bourbon drink, tasted like a bourbon fruit punch. 

La Carnita on Urbanspoon

Friday, 6 July 2012

Paul & Sandy's Real BBQ

Paul & Sandys Real BBQ (4925 Dundas Street West, Toronto)

A real gem located in Etobicoke, Paul and Sandy's Real BBQ really does know how do BBQ! The pulled pork is quite delicious but I really love the brisket here. It is smokey, tender, fatty, juicy and succulent. I recommend the creamy, cool coleslaw to place on top of the brisket. The bun is fairly standard but provides a great base to sop up the meat juices. It is mandatory to douse every bite with their "secret housemade" BBQ sauce (tomato, vinegar base) which provides that extra kick of flavour. They offer a fairly large menu at very fair prices. A great neighbourhood eat!

Paul & Sandy's Real BBQ on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Elsa, Pegu Club and Death & Co.

Pegu Club (77 West Houston Street) , Elsa (217 East 3rd Street), Death & Co (433 E 6th Street)
I wanted to highlight a couple of the bars we visited in NY. I did not take photos in many of the places, as I did not want to appear too touristy but I was able to capture a couple featured below.

First my most favourite drink is from a small and quaint bar located in the LES, Elsa. Featured below is the Black Book which consists of fresh jalapeno, honey, lemon, cinnamon, caradamon and bourbon. It sounds strange I know, but the symphony of flavours is fantastic. At a mere $10.00 (which is a steal in nyc), you can find yourself drinking these all night. They have a great cocktail list and a casual, fun, cozy atmosphere. This is one of my favourite places to drink in NYC.

The Earl Grey Marteani at Pegu Club. It consists of a earl grey infused gin, lemon and egg whites. I was skeptical at first but I could not resist it due to all the rave reviews I had read about this particular cocktail. It totally blew my tastebuds away. I must say, you should be an earl grey tea fan before ordering this because the flavour of bergamot is very prominent. But with the delicate touch of lemon and the froth provided by the egg whites, it is a very elegent cocktail. Pegu Club is a bit hidden away and the interior is quite grand, with a beautiful bar. Prices are more standard here but watching our bartender Kenta Goto make our cocktails wich such precision, it is definately worth it. He is truly a wonderful and craftful bartender.

Lastly I will mention Death and Company also located in the East Village. The entrance is very discreet but no doubt on any weekend, you will find yourself in a 1-2hr wait. The interior feels like a speakeasy, with the low lighting and the decorative interior. A beautiful bar, a fun place to get drinks and a great cocktail list as well. The truffled mac and cheese spoons were quite tasty as well.

Discreetly, trying to take a photo while seated at the bar.

Elsa on Urbanspoon Pegu Club on Urbanspoon

il Laboratorio del Gelato

il Laboratorio del Gelato (188 Ludlow Street, NY)
You walk in, the decor is very sterile and the employees are dressed in lab coats. I now understand the name .. it is clearly a gelato lab! With over 94 rotating flavours to choose from, it is near impossible to select a few and there is often a hoard of people waiting. Featured below (top to bottom) are passion fruit and raspberry in the first photo and the second photo featuring the basil and earl grey gelato. The passion fruit and raspberry were very good, creamy, flavours quite refreshing but more typical. The real highlight was the basil and earl grey gelato. They were phenomenal, I wish I had a gallon of each. I was surprised by the basil which was cool, creamy and the sweet basil flavour was so prominent but it was just heaven. The earl grey was also fantastic. Highly recommended!

Il Laboratorio Del Gelato on Urbanspoon

Caracas Arepa Bar

Caracas Arepas Bar ( 93 E 7th Street, NY)

Located in the East Village, Caracas Arepas has been serving up great Venezuelan arepas and was actually featured in Throwndown with Bobby Flay! This was one of the last few stops before we headed for the airport, including another pick up at Katz's Deli for sandwiches on the way home .. yes I know, I just can't seem to get enough! When we arrived, we were told that the restaurant wait was about 30 minutes. So we opted for the "to-go" cafe next door. We ordered our food at the counter at this cozy joint, sat down and waited for our arepas.

Everything is handmade and made to order, so it takes a bit of time but you can taste the quality. The cornmeal arepa has a nice crispy texture with a pillowy interior. With so many options on the menu, we ordered a few. The La Surena and De Pabellon were the favourites of the night. The La del Gato which was highly raved about and had all the components that I would enjoy but I found the overall flavours a bit bland.  Make use of the spicy (or slighted heated by my tastes) mango sauce on all arepas. Overall a great cheap eat!

La Surena
Grilled chicken, chorizo, avocado and a spicy chimichurri sauce
De Pabellon
Shredded beef, black beans, salty white cheese and sweet plaintains

La del Gato
Guayanes cheese, fried sweet plaintain and avocado slices

Caracas Arepa Bar on Urbanspoon

Despana Fine Foods and Ceci Cela

Despana (408 Broome Street, NY) and Ceci Cela (55 Spring Street, NY)
For our afternoon snack, we decided to make a trip to Despana Brand Foods, which is a speciality Spanish grocery shop. Although the shop was beautiful with lots to look at and sample, my main source of excitement laid in the hand-cut Jamon Iberico Bellota. With several options, we decide to go for the best, the 5 J's and patiently watched as the man hand sliced our jamon. For a bit more information, here is a great link to their website (  A very pricey option ($195.00 PER POUND!) but totally worth it. We then head down a couple blocks to Ceci Cela, which was recommended to me as having excellent croissants. With a couple of croissants and the jamon in hand, we started to feast.

The jamon was INCREDIBLE. Insanely delectable, so fatty that it melts in your melt... it is like butter in meat form. Very silky, smooth and an excellent flavour that no other meat could possibly compare with. The flavour is inexplicable, just something one must experience themselves. I think this may top out as one of my most favourite food items ever! The croissants actually surprised me, as they were intensely flaky on the outside but the inside, hallow, fluffy and buttery. They were probably the best croissants I have had since leaving Paris. The combination of the two were just dreamy!

Ceci-Cela on Urbanspoon