event recap: SLURP! Noodlefest v2

by adora


The second instalment of SLURP! Noodlefest was this past Saturday, an event featuring  local food vendors, all with the same objective: creating a snack-sized noodle dish. The first SLURP! event was a big hit, and its successor promised to be bigger and better, with a diverse line-up of vendors, such as Momofuku Toronto, nota bene, Kinton Ramen, and The Gabardine to name a few. 

Upon arrival, R and I quickly made note of all the vendors and their offerings. While well-known names like Kinton Ramen and Momofuku were present, we realized that they were serving noodle dishes that were already available at their restaurant locations. I was a little disappointed, because I had wanted to see something new and innovative from these two in particular. However, this gave us the opportunity to try more exciting items at the event.

Mazemen by feasTO, a crab miso ramen - Perfectly chewy noodles and a small amount of soup that was quite pleasant. In fact, it reminded me of tsukemen-style ramen. Eating the crab, noodles and seaweed strips together was very enjoyable. This was R's favourite item. 

Wood-fired bacon & egg ramen with pork & truffle foam by nota bene - This ramen was jam-packed with everything rich and delicious. The broth was thick, velvety and flavourful, and even more so with the truffle foam. I love runny eggs, and I thought the sous-vide egg was wonderful. Also, the portion size was generous for $6. Had I eaten this alone, it would have been enough as a meal!

Shio style ramen with guanciale, rapini and pickled shallots by Pizzeria Libretto - At first I was skeptical about this, but it's uniqueness won me over. The pork bone and chicken shio broth was elevated by the use of garlic and pickled shallots. And the guanciale and rapini were non-traditional but tasty toppings. Sadly, what fell short were the noodles that turned soggy and fused together in the soup. I would have preferred sturdy alkaline-based noodles.

Chicken and shrimp sotanghon by Lamesa - This was the only rice noodle dish at the event. The broth was a very light dashi with konbu and bonito. It was a healthy item, but there wasn't a specific feature that stood out to me.

Chicken noodle soup with crispy chicken skin by The Samuel J. Moore - What I loved was the freshness of the ingredients and the flavourful chicken in the soup. The chicken surprised me the most because it was tastier than the soup itself. In addition, the crispy chicken skin was a really delicious and fun topping. 

Conclusion

The food, portion sizes and prices were all pretty decent. On the other hand, the indoor venue got crowded very quickly, and if it wasn't for the patio we would have all been a sweaty, soupy mess. My one regret is that I didn't have a chance to try The Gabardine's mexican kimchi ramen, but I did overhear that they may be adding it to their regular menu.

Fun fact: Ramen noodles are typically made with alkaline mineral water, which keeps them chewy and firm in hot soup.


five minute recap: Taste of Iceland at the Drake Hotel

by adora


Iceland Naturally made a stop in Toronto (lucky us!) at the end of March, bringing with them a crash course in Icelandic culture, art and food. I made a rather impulsive decision to round up a few friends and attend their Taste of Iceland food event. It's Iceland, after all!

Across the ocean, the country is portrayed as a charming, mysterious and naturally beautiful place. (They also have great music.) I figured this would be a great opportunity to learn about their culture and eat a great meal as well. The Taste of Iceland event promised authentic Icelandic ingredients, snacks to share, lots of fish and a custom cocktail, and I'm glad to say it completely exceeded our expectations!

To start, we shared a bunch of snacks.

Harðfiskur with Icelandic butter and bread - Harðfiskur (hardfiskuris what it sounds like - hard, dried, flaky fish. The salty fish flavour was really subtle. In fact, the highlight for me was the amazingly rich Icelandic butter, which I used quite liberally.... 

Grilled Icelandic Langoustine with garlic, butter and herbs - Everyone at the table was a fan. It was a simple but satisfying dish. (I also learned that langoustines are small, delicate Norwegian lobsters.)

Atlantic shrimp and lumpfish caviar, pickled vegetables and citrus vinagrette - The shrimp was sweet, succulent and very fresh. I could've eaten tons of this. I found the caviar to be immensely salty, but R was loving it.

Deep fried crispy balls of cod and potato, with "Sol" mayonnaise - Compared to the other snacks, this wasn't as exciting, but I had no complaints. 

Pickled Herring on sweet rye bread, with curry dressing, green apples and spring onions - This was tangy and refreshing, and sadly only lasted two bites. 

On to the mains...

Cold smoked salmon with grainy mustard dressing, sour cream, dill oil and Icelandic rye bread - Each guest was given a mini individual cast-iron pot. After the waiter removed the lid, we were surprised to find that smoke emerged from the dish as well. (Maybe they used a smoke injector?)  It revealed a generous, irresistible looking piece of smoked salmon - and the taste was fantastic and oh-so-satisfying. It was a nice change from the wimpy, flimsy slices commonly found with cream cheese. This was my favourite entree.

Seared Icelandic lamb filet with glazed root vegetables, juniper berry infused lamb jus and wild blueberry herb dust - This was a hearty dish, with tender and flavourful lamb and crunchy vegetables. We were a little confused about the blueberry dust though, as it wasn't very noticeable through the lamb jus. 

And lastly, dessert!

Icelandic Skyr mousse with apple jelly, oat hazelnut crumble and cinnamon poached rhubarb - The dessert was beautiful. We had a delicate pannacotta and mousse made from Skyr, which is an Icelandic yogurt.  It tasted wonderfully fresh, creamy and light at the same time. The rhubarb and oat crumble complemented the creaminess very well,  and overall I found it to be a very refreshing dessert. I could've eaten five more servings of this dessert, which also goes to show how much I loved it. Unfortunately for me, Skyr is pretty rare in Toronto...

Conclusion

I definitely want to visit Iceland someday, especially if it consists of feasting on seafood, lamb and Skyr. 

Fun fact:  Iceland was recently voted to be the friendliest place on earth! 


five minute recap: Karelia Kitchen

by adora


Karelia Kitchen is a "Scandinavian-inspired cafe and smokehouse" located in Bloordale Village. Nordic-focused restaurants and shops are quite rare in Toronto, so it's exciting to see that we're gaining more exposure to their food and culture. I've always been fascinated by the food (as well as Scandinavian design), but like most people, my first experience involved IKEA meatballs and lingonberry sauce. When I heard about Karelia Kitchen I knew I had to pay them a visit. 

We went for Sunday brunch on a snowy morning, and found that everything on their brunch menu sounded great, with items like potato pancakes, duck scramble, cheddar biscuits, and blueberry and rye griddlecakes. However, we decided to split The Smokehouse Platter and a salmon chowder soup, which was a decent amount of food for two people.

The Smokehouse Platter is a collection of smoked and pickled items, which, as the server told us proudly, were all made in-house. There was salmon, trout, pork loin and chicken - all were tasty and flavourful without being overly salty. My favourites were definitely the trout and the tender pork loin. I can't say I'm a fan of pickled items, but I did enjoy the diced pumpkin. We also had a couple of thinly-sliced pear chips that were very delicate and satisfying to eat.

To round off the meal, we had the salmon chowder soup that was very fresh, creamy and light. 

Conclusion

Delicious food, reasonable prices and very friendly staff - I'm looking forward to my next visit, hopefully in the near future.

For the next visit: Something else on their brunch menu or one of their open-faced Smørrebrød sandwiches. I'd also love to try their baked goods and desserts- I think I spotted a saffron cake on my way out! 

Fun fact: The Swedish Princess Cake (Prinsesstårta) was originally named "Green cake" (Grön tårta) due to the layer of minty-green marzipan. They renamed it, after the princesses who loved the cake so much.


five minute recap: Chocolate Dinner with SOMA & the Group of Seven Chefs

by adora


Nobody wants to hear about Valentine's Day in March, but I promise I will only mention it once here: This year, R and I decided to do surprise dinners for each other, where the other person wouldn't know anything about the location or type of food.

We had a long streetcar ride along Dundas West, and then we reached our destination and I was pretty apprehensive about this whole surprise dinner thing. 35 Golden Avenue was an ominous looking factory type of building, and it looked nothing like a restaurant. I was sure we were trespassing. We turned the corner and then I saw the magic words on the window:  "SOMA Chocolatemaker Roasting".

It sunk in that we were at the Chocolate Dinner event by the Group of Seven Chefs(!!!) and I was so shocked and ecstatic at the same time - I had only mentioned it once, casually in a "look at this, chocolate for dinner!" kind of way. 

It was my first Group of Seven Chefs dinner. This particular event was hosted in the SOMA chocolate roasting factory and consisted of five chocolate-inspired courses:

1) Smoked sturgeon chowder with a chili chocolate cookie crumble. This was probably the best chowder I've eaten - I love smoked fish and dark chocolate cookies.

2) Scallop with cocoa nib and pork sausage, fennel marmalade and chocolate bacon mustard. The fennel marmalade was my favourite part about this dish. It tasted great with the sausage.

3) Mascarpone and squash tortellini with rabbit chocolate sugo. 

4) Horse short rib, cauliflower, black truffle, bone marrow, chocolate jus and spiced pepitas. If I recall correctly there was also a bit of cranberry and chili with the jus as well. Having never eaten horse before, this was surprisingly tasty. 

5) Chocolate cake, pecan frangipane, cocoa and cayenne sweet potato chip, chocolate biscuit. (As a fan of Rochelle's desserts, I was hoping she would do the dessert course and I was right!) 

6) A bunch of chocolates from SOMA -- more chocolate! Fortunately for us, these came with a takeout box. We also had some of their amazing hot chocolate. 

I've also compiled a list of Instagram photos taken by the chefs themselves because it's neat to see behind-the-scene shots (and they had better lighting!)

Conclusion

I was completely blown away. Everything was so delicious, detailed and creative and we had so many different flavours. I really, really enjoyed it and I'll remember it for years to come. 

Fun fact: The guest sitting across from me was taking word-for-word notes on his iPhone, so that he could re-create each dish at home. I wonder how much progress he's made.

(Admittedly, this entry took me more than five minutes to write, but it's a Saturday so I decided to forgo the time limit.)