Saturday, June 27, 2009

Le Paradis, a French restaurant in Toronto

Le Paradis, a French restaurant in Toronto, on Flickr by beFOODled.

A funny coincidence happened when S and I were in Toronto and looking for a place for lunch. He had downloaded a random restaurant-finder app on his iPhone and it recommended a French restaurant called Le Paradis. We found it, and it looked charming with deliciousness on the menu, but it was closed :(

Later in the day, I got a call from Peanut Butter and Jelly, my Ottawa friends who are former Torontonians and who have an unerring instinct for quality food on a student budget. As soon as they found out we were in Toronto, they recommended Le Paradis without knowing that we had already tried to go there! It was a sign that we should try again.

Try again we did, this time with success, for supper. We ended up on the tiny patio, a humble and deceptive front for a huge multi-level restaurant inside. We sat next to a francophone family that looked like they had stepped out of a Parisian magazine. They were reason number two that I knew we had made a good choice (PB and J being the first). And as soon as I saw the table d'hôte on the menu for $20, I had my third.

The table d'hôte, which S ordered, was a fantastic three-course meal (taste-tested by me at every interval ;) for $20 including coffee or tea. The selection changes every day, but that night it started with mixed greens with cruditées, braised duck leg served with sauerkraut (in the foreground in the photo), and blueberry lemon custard.

I got the poulet à la Basquaise, braised chicken with tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper, black olives and bacon (also pictured above) for $15. It was very good and had a lot of my favourite ingredients, although I found the chicken a bit dry and the rest with a bit too much oil.

The menu changes every day. There were many different things I would like to try when I go back. The table d'hôte is, I think, more my size: the portions are smaller that the à la carte entrées, which include no less than four different kinds of fish every day for between $15 and $17. Le Paradis also offers a daily choice of fruit tart, and assorted French cheeses on their dessert menu — I tried the small one and for $8, you get several kinds of cheese and they come with condiments and crackers.

It was lovely and I would like to go again and recommend it to anyone who finds themselves hungry in Toronto.

Le Paradis
166 Bedford Rd.
Toronto, ON Canada

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Charcuterie from patio to balcony

Murray Street's charcuterie on Flickr by beFOODled.

beFOODled's charcuterie on Flickr by beFOODled.

S and I recently discovered Murray Street, a restaurant in the Byward Market that serves upscale Canadian comfort food. Since the Ottawa Foodies have already done a great job of reviewing it, I'm going to tell you about how a recent visit there reaquainted me with a timeless French classic, the cheese and charcuterie sharing plate.

The chefs at Murray Street buy artisanal cheeses and make their own pâtés and terrines using locally sourced meats. For $30, you can order a combination of either three meats and two cheeses, or the reverse. The charcuterie, pictured above, comes with crostini in a cute burlap bag and three sauces: one with plumped-up raisins, an apple jelly, and a cranberry and orange compote. With two glasses of wine, the cost is closer to $42 plus tax and tip.

We ordered three meats — keilbassa from the Elk Ranch, a thick slice of country terrine with smoked pork tenderloin, and a pork rillette (in the photo, it's the white spread in the jar and the best value because you get quite a bit). My favourites were definitely the cheeses because they had the strongest and most robust flavours. We chose a sharp seven-year-old Pine River cheddar (delicious with the apple jelly) and the Fritz Kaiser Le Douanier, an ash-coated cheese from Quebec.

The Murray Street charcuterie is nice for a special occasion when one is feeling decadent (and solvent), but on Sunday, S and I made our own version at home for less than one-third of the price.

Our Sunday balcony charcuterie, also pictured above, included genoa salami and spicy soppresata, an Italian dry-cured salami. We also had sliced baguette, olive tapenade, bristling sardines and a small plate of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping bread. Not forgetting two cheeses — gouda, my favourite Dutch cheese, and Rouy, a mild-tasting, orange, soft surface-ripened cheese from Bourgogne, France, which comes in an orange cardboard box (and was on sale for $3.99 at La Bottega!).

I love eating this way because of the tapas-like variety of choice, and the big, strong flavours. It also always brings back fond memories of similar meals — of lunch with my aunt and uncle and then-little cousins in Edmonton, and with S's parents in the Rockies, crowded around the tiny convertible table in their Westfalia camping van. And most recently, of France, when S and I made this for dinner one night in our room with cheeses bought from the sweet little market at La Bégude-de-Mazenc. Ah, memories with food!

Murray Street Kitchen | Charcuterie | Wine
110 Murray St.
Ottawa, ON K1N 5M6‎

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Saturday, June 13, 2009

Bella! Did Ya Eat?

The Free Times Café's Jewish brunch, a.k.a. Bella! Did Ya Eat? on Flickr by beFOODled.

Last weekend I was in Toronto and went to the Free Times Cafe for Sunday brunch. My friend AJ, a consummate foodie, took me here nine years ago for their traditional Jewish brunch called "Bella! Did ya eat?" For $20, there's a smorgasbord of some 50 homemade Jewish foods, all set out on plates at the bar.

Nothing has changed and I am so glad because over the years I have told so many people about Bella's brunch and have always meant to come back.

All my favourite dishes are still there — potato latkes, smoked whitefish and a banana yogurt soup that is flavoured with something else I can't put my finger on, like soy or condensed milk, or maybe honey or maple syrup. I also had cream-cheese blintzes, pickled herring, smoked salmon, hummus and roasted vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, cheeses and lots of sliced fresh fruit.

And then there's the desserts, all cut up into pieces so small that you can easily forget how many helpings you've had. They are so plentiful, they take up half of the bar.

The Free Times Café's Jewish brunch desserts on Flickr by beFOODled.

You can refill your plate as many times as you want. Brunch also comes with unlimited freshly squeezed orange juice, the real thing, mixed with a little sparkling water.

I love the small portion sizes, the informality and the incredible variety. For $20, it's a great value.

The Free Times Café
320 College St.
Toronto, ON
Mon-Sat 10:00am- 2:00am
Sun 10:00am - 1:00am

Monday, June 1, 2009

Appetizer party

Appetizer party on Flickr by beFOODled.

I attended a delicious appetizer potluck this weekend at which the buffet table and a certain cat were the life of the party. From left to right, we had spinach dip in pumpernickel bread, marinated vegetable salad, craisin and pistachio biscotti, hot cheese and chorizo dip, skewered shrimp with a sweet chilli lime drizzle, cheeses and grapes, potato salad, skewered pork tenderloin seasoned with a sea salt, chilli and fennel seed rub, and wontons and plum sauce (not shown).

I brought the shrimp, which is a recipe from Canadian House and Home shared by my friend Bee Tee. S helped me with the cooking the night before and made the hot cheese and chorizo dip, from The Joy of Cooking and which has become Squeaky and Calimocho's signature party dish.

Shrimp skewers with a sweet chilli lime drizzle on Flickr by beFOODled.

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