Thursday, 28 June 2012

K-W Multicultural Festival

K-W Multicultural Festival
Victoria Park 
Kitchener, Ontario

June 23 and 24, 2012.

In her opinion:
We went to the K-W Multicultural Festival last year for the first time and I became hooked. So when Edgar suggested we go again this year, I was all over that idea.  The festival is a mixture of food, entertainment, craft stall and community awareness programs. But basically, I'm there for the food. What an opportunity to try food from different cultures without going to a restaurant and having to pay outrageous prices for something you may not like.

This year we tried food from the Philippines, Zambia-Tanzania, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Egypt, Turkey and Vietnam.

Overall, it was very good. I enjoyed the Filipino offerings...very safe. Basically excellent spring rolls, bbq chicken, skewers, rice and noodles. Very very good. This plate of food could have been from anywhere in the world as it reminded me of even Portuguese food aside from the spring rolls and noodles.

Last year, I walked by the Ethiopian food stand and kept on seriously, I didn't even want to look at it! But this year I walked right up to it with my money in my hands and ordered the Doro Wot plate with consisted of Doro Wot (chicken and egg stew), Minchet Abish (ground beef stew), Enjera or Injera  (flatbread)and some type of feta like cheese called Ayib. The Doro Wot was very good, a little hot but good. The Michchet Abish was a little bland but I know it had been toned down quite a bit for the non-Ethiopians at the festival. 

The Zambian-Tanzanian food stand was next door to the Ethiopian stand so we decided that we needed to try it as well.  We opted for the Sample Plate...this included a bit of everything. It included Nyama Ya Nkuku (chicken stew), Kayela (bean stew), Nkuku (bbq chicken), spinach, rice and Kachumbari (tomato and onion salad). Everything was very delicious. I loved the Kayela, so so good. I reminded me of a Portuguese bean dish. This entire plate was very flavourful and delicious.

We stopped by the El Salvadorian food stand next. I was craving pupusas and apparently so was everyone else at the festival.  This was by far the longest line that I stood in that day. But it was so worth it. These pupusas were stuffed with chicharron (a pork paste mixture). They were served with curtido and a tomato salsa. They were freshly made as you waited and absolutely delicious. By far my favourite food of the festival.

Given the heat, I found refuge with my six year old in the shade and allowed Edgar to pick out the next choices that we would try at the festival. He stopped by the Egyptian food stand and picked up a lamb pita. These pita had bbq lamb, onions and peppers with lettuce and tomato in a garlic sauce.  I found the lamb a little over done for my taste but overall the pita was delicious.

He also stopped by the Turkish stall and picked up some Turkish desserts. He picked up a couple of the cheese pockets or Bogaca, a yogurt cake and a Sutlu Borek (a phyllo dessert with cheese and honey). The desserts were excellent.

Finally, Edgar picked up Vietnamese roasted/bbqed corn. This was so good. The corn was absolutely delicious. It could have been roasted/bbqed corn from anywhere in the world...that's the thing about crosses cultural barriers.

Overall, the K-W Multicultural Festival was awesome. Can't wait for next year. It would be nice to see other cultures Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, etc. as well.


Filipino BBQ

Filipino Food Stand

Filipino BBQ Plate

Ethiopian Food Stand

Ethiopian Food Stand

Ethiopian Non-Vegetarian Plate

Zambian-Tanzanian Food Stand

Zambian-Tanzanian Food Stand
Cooking Pupusas
Turkish Desserts
Turkish Desserts
Egyptian Lamb Pita
Vietnamese Roasted Corn

Zambian-Tanzanian Sample Plate.


In his opinion:
The Multicultural Festival in KW is a wonderful opportunity to get in touch with the community, experience the community information booths, the ethnic vendors, connect with people, watch the ethnic entertainment on stage and...Who Am I kidding? I'M THERE FOR THE FOOD..and nothing else! I mean, where else can you get so much different ethnic food in a 100 yard radius??

This year there were a lot more food vendors than last year and I like that you can see the actual ethnic person cooking their own food, unlike having  Mexicans cooking French food or something like that.

I surveyed the vendors and after a quick glace I decided to skip the usual suspects, and by that I mean the ones i know I can access easily through local restaurants. We skipped Greek, Chinese and only tried corn form the Vietnamese vendors.

Instead we focused on the less usual ethnic foods and the wonderful combinations that they had prepared for us. We had Zambian-Tanzanian, Ethiopian, Filipino, Egyptian, El Salvadorian and Turkish selections.

I will not elaborate too much on the content of the foods as it has been covered above but I will give you my opinion of the best and the worst of the selections and some ok in between.

Best: surprinsigly the Zambian-Tanzanian takes first place. Great combination platter mix of rice, chicken, veggies and beans. They all displayed great spice balance and a perfect variety for a well proportioned meal.

Runner up: Turkish deserts. What an amazing selection of sweets and pastries and to think I stayed away from the more popular Baklava and thought  I would regret it, but no. Special mention to Sutlu Borek and yogurt cake.

Most disappointing: The lamb pita from Egypt was not very good. The pita itself was good but the sauce combination was unpleasent and the lamb was borderline inedible, charred and tasteless.

As mentioned above this Festival lacks in some great ethnic foods represented in our region, Portuguese, Polish or German, but almost makes up for it with the selections from Africa.

I plan on going to next year's event and maybe this time I will even attempt to catch a show or two. Special mention for the Region of Waterloo supplying their Tap Water truck...YUM.....and the cash machines being all out of order before lunch on the Saturday.

This was a HOT, HOT, HOT event and not only for the 29 degrees celsius of the day.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Porchetta & Co.

Porchetta & Co.
825 Dundas Street West
Toronto, Ontario


In her opinion:
After a fabulous day in Toronto. We wanted something good but not to heavy for dinner. So since the decision about where to go was up to me...I decided that it would be Porchetta & Co. I have heard amazing things about their pork sandwiches so I had to see what all the fuss was about.

This petite gem in Portugal Village is really small. I would say there is seating for maybe 6 in total. But the food quality is huge.

We decided to order one of their Soft Shell Crab Po'Boy which was a special of the day and a Porchetta Sandwich.  

The Po'Boy consisted of a deep fried soft shell crab with spicy mayo, coleslaw and prosciutto "bacon" bits. This was absolutely delicious. Excellent flavour. The bread was soft, the crab crunchy and flavourful, the coleslaw cooling and the prosciutto bacon bits added the right amount of saltiness.  Well balanced and well made.

The Porchetta Sandwich was delectable. The pork was beautifully seasoned. The crackling added a delicious crunch.  The mustard we picked was the perfect accompaniment.  The bread (fresh sourdough from Caldense Bakery across the street) was perfection. Overall, one of the best pork sandwiches I have ever eaten. It was so good we got a second one to split for the road.  

The only disappointment with Porchetta & Co. is that it's an hour away from home. It is so good.  We will definitely return to Porchetta & Co. in the near future!

In his opinion:
This "pork" piece of heaven restaurant on College's Portugal Village is a treasure waiting to be found, savoured and experienced. Apart from what one might think or have heard about Porchetta & Co., the sheer constant volume of clients and the endless line-ups tell the real story about this place.  We pulled up to it and the line-up was smaller than usual, allowing us to actually grab some "premium" seating inside. This was a good start.

As we browsed the "menu" we witnessed the staff being very engaging, making everyone's very short stay pleasant and catering to all their needs quickly and efficiently. The menu is as limited as it can be. You have the Porchetta sandwich, or the Porchetta plate or you can have it by the 1/2 pound or pound. We opted for the Porchetta sandwich and bypassed the immense topping list so we could get a very accurate taste of the Porchetta seasoning and its mix of soft and crackling textures. 

It surely lived up to its expectations. The sourdough bread was fresh and the pork was delicious, with just enough spice to give it the right amount of flavour. Part of the attraction of the sandwich is the texture of the pork, tender and soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. This works very well together in my opinion.

We also had the special of the day, the soft shell crab Po' Boy sandwich. This sandwich is decadent and deserves a place on the main menu, even though it is a deviation from the "pork" concept of this place. The battered, crunchy crab pieces work so well with the spicy mayo, coleslaw and bacon bits. Although I enjoyed the Porchetta sandwich quite a bit, (enough to order another while eating), the Po' Boy was even more memorable.

There is the option of having Porchetta on top of this superb crab sandwich, it's called "the gang bang" (ouch)... and I'm thinking that I'll be taking that option next time I go there. I mean soft crab and Porchetta on top? Forgetaboutit...

The Good: Pork...good pork...well seasoned and crispy pork, very hard to beat.
The Bad: Short menu and extremely limited seating.
The Verdict: A must try and try often. They take their pork seriously and it shows. Could have either one of those sandwiches on a daily basis and not get sick of it.

I give it 3 olives out of 5 as rating.

Porchetta & Co on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Mildred's Temple Kitchen

Mildred's Temple Kitchen
85 Hanna Avenue
Toronto, Ontario


In her opinion:
I'm always looking for great places to eat and at times I'm happy to say that I often find them. Today, we drove to Toronto without a real plan.  Edgar just pick. So I did. At first I was playing around with different options in my head but as we got closer to Toronto I was definitely sure where I wanted to eat lunch/brunch on this gorgeous day in June.  Mildred's Temple Kitchen was my choice. Am I ever glad I picked it.

I must say that this restaurant is not the easiest to find, but after some maneuvering around Hanna Avenue we spotted the walkway to it.

We were seated right away which was fantastic given the fact that we did not have a reservation. The room is very large and spacious with modern decor.  It's a very nice room.

After checking out the menu, we decided to order their famous "Biscuits and Scones". They are described on their brunch menu as hot out of the oven current scones or buttermilk biscuits served with homemade preserves.

I was a little hesitant to orders these beauties. At $6 for two or $14 for 6. Well, let me say...absolutely delicious. The only other time I have had biscuits or scones this good was at Ruby Watch Co and Chef Lynn made them! Flaky and delicious. The currant scones had a very delectable orange flavour. The buttermilk biscuits were light and fluffy. So so good! They were served with creamy butter and strawberry preserves that was not to sweet. Just right. A little bonus with these babies was that they were on the house. The manager gifted them to us after we told him we were going to write about the brunch here! Very generous and cool!

For my entree, I picked "Huevos Monty".  It is described on their menu as "Mildred's classic black bean refritos and sharp cheddar cheese baked in two flour tortillas and topped with eggs sunny, fresh salsa and avocado creme fraiche."

This was absolutely delicious. Fresh tasting and flavourful. The eggs were perfectly cooked. The sour cream, avocado creme fraiche and fresh salsa were the perfect accompaniment to the baked tortillas filled with deliciousness. 

Overall, a very very good brunch.  We will definitely return to Mildred's Temple Kitchen to try either their lunch or dinner. Great experience which I highly recommend.

In his opinion:
Like a blind bat out of a cave, I trusted only my sonar (wife) to guide me to a good brunch place on this Saturday morning. She picked Mildred's Temple Kitchen, and I'm surely happy she did.

I had heard about this place through our foodie circle on Twitter but it was not on my radar (yet) to try it or blog about it. The decision was made to go there but given the construction on Hanna Ave (Liberty Village), it was tricky to find.

The restaurant has a wonderful patio with a mix of regular and "comfy" seating for around 20 people, with funky umbrellas shading the patrons from the blistering sun. As you walk in, the space opens up into a nicely modernly decorated spacious room, with high ceilings, a sleek design and distinct sections. A few nice decorating touches include a life size suckling pig, unfinished ceilings and over sized vases.

The brunch menu is not very extensive but has enough good choices for everyone's palate. The emphasis is on fresh ingredients, light, tasty fare and although the portions were plentiful, we never felt stuffed!

The drink of choice for me was Bert's back. A Campari heavy mix with Vodka and fresh grapefruit juice. Absolutely not what I would ever see myself mixing at home but perhaps the actual reason I ordered it in the first place. Light, sour and smooth was the verdict, as I made my way through it, puckered lips and all.

Browsing the menu, looking at the 6 biscuits and scones for $14 made me think, these better be some good currant scones...and buttermilk biscuits! Well...they are even better than that. Flaky soft and packed with flavour, they are divinely served with home made strawberry preserve and butter. I was also told that if I take them home, all it takes is 5 minutes in the oven, wrapped in tin foil and they will taste like "just made". I'm testing that theory tomorrow with the 2  I brought back.

I then ordered the oddly named "Mandhandler" dish, which consisted of a very buttery and garlicky sourdough toast, topped with arugula, perfectly cooked slices of strip loin steak and covered by 2 fried eggs. There is something about garlic toast, fried egg and steak that takes me back to my childhood and gives me the warm feeling of a familiar combination. This dish did just that, made me want to mix all those components with every single bite as if I could not have it any other way. Besides the familiarity, this dish just works so well. Add the horseradish jus for good measure and there was the variation needed for the steak strips to shine even more. The very light salad (light on the dressing also) was a great compliment to the dish. Even as the most expensive dish on the menu at $19, it still is a must have.

Service was pleasant, our waitress not overly engaging until towards the end of the meal, and other staff was welcoming, efficient and congenial. 

The Good: Modern Art Gallery like decoration but with a warm feel to it. The food is well executed, light fresh fare, flavourful dishes and great combinations.
The Bad: No bad to report despite reading some less than perfect reviews before hand, especially on wait times and service. Can be a bit pricey I guess!
The Verdict: A great place for eating period. The atmosphere, the feel, the cool washrooms and especially the great combinations of food make this a must try. I want to go back for dinner soon!

I give it a 3 1/2 olives out of 5 as rating

Mildred's Temple Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Monday, 11 June 2012

Sushi 99

Sushi 99
36 Northfield Drive East
Waterloo, ON

In her opinion:
There was once a time when you needed to drive to Toronto; no, actually Scarborough, to get really good Japanese food - sushi. Not anymore, I would say that in the last 5 years sushi places (especially all you can eat sushi places) have sprung up all around Waterloo region.

I love Japanese food and I love sushi but I need to enjoy them in well spaced-out time intervals. I mean, I don't want to eat sushi everyday or every week but I don't mind sushi once or twice a month. My favourite place is Ye's.  I love their spicy or green dragon rolls. Just fresh and delicious.

However, lately my darling husband has been mentioning how he prefers the food at Sushi 99. He kept referring to the fact that it was just fresher and overall better. This meant only one thing...I needed to try it out and judge for myself.

So on a beautiful afternoon in late May we drove to Waterloo for a Japanese lunch at Sushi 99.  When you walk into the restaurant, you will notice that it is nicely decorated in modern decor.  We were seated right away and our drink orders were quickly taken. We then got down to business...deciding what to have.  The menu at Sushi 99 is similar to other all you can eat sushi places and you simply need to fill in their order sheet with what amount you want of each particular item.

We started off with some tempura...shrimp and calamari.  Then we got some dynamite rolls, green dragon rolls, avocado rolls, sweet potato tempura rolls, spicy salmon hand rolls, avocado hand rolls and spicy tempura shrimp hand rolls. We also got some shrimp sushi, spicy salmon sushi, white tuna sushi and crab cake sushi. We ordered some fried seafood udon noodles and chicken wings.   Our second round consisted of spicy salmon hand rolls, dynamite rolls and green dragon rolls. It sounds like a lot but it's not...that's the beauty of Japanese food. Don't get me wrong, I was super full that no dinner was required on this evening.

Well, Edgar was right. The food was excellent at Sushi 99. Super fresh, plentiful and delicious.  I may have found a new favourite sushi place!!! So much so that on the second weekend in June we returned. This was because O'Yummy Sushi on Ira Needles Boulevard and Erbsville Road was a miss.  Their lunch menu was very disappointing only offering a limited menu. So, what to do...go back to Sushi 99. We basically ordered the same things except we added a spring roll and spicy crab maki roll to our choices. Although, I enjoyed it very much, it was better the first time around.

In his opinion:

My "favourite new sushi place" keeps on delivering every time I have the opportunity to go and eat there. Sushi 99 is located at the Williams plaza on Northfield Drive in Waterloo and it has become so popular that reservations are highly recommended during  weekdays for lunch. Then good luck finding parking as well.

I have been here a few times but fell in love with their sushi right after my first time eating here. The service is great, the decoration is clean, modern and even though it lacks in the "Japanese feel" that you find in some other sushi places, it more than makes up for it in the food department.

I won't go into too much detail around what we ordered (it has been very well captured above) but I will highlight a few of my favourites. The spicy salmon, white tuna and shrimp sushi and the spicy salmon wrap are to die for. Worth mentioning are the BBQ shrimp skewers, shrimp tempura, BBQ eel, dragon rolls, dynamite roll and anything with avocado.

Ultimately, I think that the choices for sushi in this Region are all pretty good but Sushi 99 is a cut above the rest. The service is more pleasant, the staff acts quicker to remove an empty plate or pick up an order and the food feels/tastes overall fresher and tastier than other places. Hands down my new favourite sushi place and how can you go wrong with All You Can Eat Sushi?

それを試してみてお楽しみください  (try it and enjoy)

Sushi 99 on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Lancaster Smokehouse Southern BarBQue

Lancaster Smokehouse Southern BarBQue
574 Lancaster Street
Kitchener, Ontario


In her opinion:
I love barbeque! There are tonnes of places in Toronto that do really good barbeque but not too many in our region. However, over the last few months they have slowly sprung up. Lancaster Smokehouse is owned by the same people that own Hog Tails Southern BBQ(read our post here) and they make really good bbq. 

We waited for about 20 minutes to be seated...not bad for a Saturday evening! We were greeted by our attentive waitress right away.  Both Edgar and I ordered our favourite, a pint of Mill Street Organic to quench our thirst.

I ordered the "Piggy Platter" as my main course. The piggy platter is described on the menu as "their hog tails, smoked then oven roasted in their secret pigtail sauce". They guarantee that the pigtails are burstin' with fall off the bone tenderness! They are served with two sides and corn bread.

I ordered red beans and rice and jalapeno hush puppies as my sides. The beans and rice was very delicious. The hush puppies were nice and they were served with a creamy remoulade sauce. The corn bread is sweet, moist and wonderful. It was bursting with flavour.  The pigtails themselves were heaven, if you can say that about pigtails. Full of flavour and absolutely outstanding. Comfort at its best.

We ordered our little "Piglet" some piglet chow...his kid's meal consisted of macaroni and cheese, pulled pork, corn bread and a drink.

Well, as a foodie it disappoints me a great deal that my child looked at this beautiful plate of food and went "Yuck". Yes, I said "Yuck"! Macaroni and cheese is bright orange in his world. Corn bread is not on his list of acceptable foods and well, pulled pork is pulled pork. Enough said.  Needless to say, I had an excellent lunch at work on Monday! This was a huge portion...really too much for a child. Even a day and a half later the macaroni and cheese was excellent. Creamy and delicious. The pulled work was so so good. Absolutely delicious. 

I am really happy with the Lancaster Smokehouse and I am especially happy that they are just a short drive away to get really good bbq!!!

In his opinion:
Lancaster Smokehouse is in all honesty the bigger but younger brother to Hog Tails, as it is the same owner and you can also find many of the same dishes. Even the website is somewhat shared for the two of them.

They both specialize in BBQ and have a substantial menu to give you many choices of BBQ dishes, the selection seems infinite.

Having tried Hog Tails and liking it a lot, I really wanted to try the Lancanster Smokehouse for measure. I had driven by a couple of times and the amazing smell (coming from their outdoor smoker I presume), was highly appealing.

On this day we arrived in the evening and the parking lot was overflowing as usual. We were told 20 minute wait and it was pretty accurate.

Although it came in a "Flying Monkey" glass, Mill St. Organic was the choice for the pint beer this evening. I really can't seem to get enough of this beer, smooth, crisp and well rounded, perfect summer beer if you ask me.

After browsing the menu, I opted for the "Texas Beef Brisket". Before I explain the dish, let me convey that this is not the kind of place you can order multiple plates as the portions are huge and don't allow for much room for anything after eating them. So that also means not a good place for calorie counters...or vegetarians for that matter! Well, their loss...

The Texas beef brisket was extremely good. I chose sweet potato fries and Cajun corn for my two side dishes. The Cajun corn was full of flavour with some spice and pepper thrown in the mix. 

The brisket itself was tender, juicy and came apart very easily as good brisket should. Their staple corn bread is divine and always plays an important part in the meal. It's that unwritten rule that corn bread must go with BBQ, and theirs is very good.

The Good: BBQ heaven a short drive from home, can't ask for much more.
The Bad: Wait times on prime days (which speaks to it's popularity). Also limited parking.
The Verdict: Perhaps in my opinion the best BBQ place in the region. Has an extensive menu, great service and live music on selected nights.

I give it 3 1/2 Olives out of 5 as rating.

Lancaster Smokehouse Southern Bar B Que on Urbanspoon