Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Bauer Kitchen

The Bauer Kitchen 
187 King Street South, Unit 102
Waterloo, ON


In her opinion:
When you are looking for sophistication and interesting all in the same place in Waterloo Region, there's only one place that comes to my mind and that's the Bauer Kitchen.

The Bauer Kitchen is part of the Charcoal Group. In my honest opinion this restaurant group has been at the forefront of good cuisine in the Kitchener Waterloo area for years. However, with the addition of the Bauer Kitchen they have now provided the trendy high impact restaurants which are not common to this area and are a dime a dozen in Toronto!

So when friends asked us to join them for brunch, it was easy to suggest that we go to the Bauer Kitchen. To start we ordered the "Smoked and Grilled Brie". This is served with pickled cantaloupe, bacon jam, candied pecans and crostini.

This was delicious. The cheese was melted to perfection. The pickled cantaloupe was amazing and I actually believed that it was apricots. The piece de resistence was the bacon jam. This was so good. It was a perfect taste combination the a crostini.

For my main course I picked the "Steak and Eggs". This is "a 6-oz. flat iron steak, confit mushrooms, house bacon, pearl onion and garlic ragout, poached eggs, bearnaise sauce and home fries".

This was not the first time that I had ordered this main. It is perfection. Steak and eggs for breakfast can often be boring. But this was done beautifully. The confit mushrooms, house bacon and pearl onion and garlic ragout add the perfect accompaniment to the steak, home fries and perfectly poached eggs. I also like the addition of bernaise sauce instead of the more traditional Hollandaise. This is a very enjoyable brunch main.

We decided to order the "Sweet Plate" to share. The dessert plate consisted of "TBK creme brulee, stacked chocolate cake and the strawberry cheesecake".

The creme brulee was excellent. It was topped by a Bauer Bakery macaroon. It was delicious. The strawberry cheese cake was absolutely outstanding. It was creamy and moist. I also enjoyed the chocolate stack cake. Very good!

Overall, I would recommend the Bauer Kitchen to anyone who wants a cool, hip spot for brunch, lunch or dinner with excellent food.

In his opinion:
The very first time that I tried the Bauer Kitchen it was an instant hit with me. It made a strong impression in a somewhat lack luster Waterloo Region food scene that boasts many restaurants. However, most lack the mix of sophistication, warmth, good vibe and great food to match.

The service is pretty top notch and helps with the experience. It's refreshing that the current servers don't look like they are out of "Elite model agency" as they did in the early ages of the restaurant. They seem more "human" like and taken more seriously as servers I'm sure.

The Charcoal Group which owns this restaurant has for years been on the forefront of the dining scene in K.W. Recently they have had a slight slip in popularity with a less than stellar new restaurant opening in Waterloo. However, they have redeemed themselves with The Bauer Kitchen.

This time around, brunch was the choice menu since both lunch and dinner had been a delight, each time that I have tried them. The brunch is an a la carte experience and the menu is obviously split with breakfast and lunch items, but plentiful for all sorts of palates.

My choice was the "short rib gnocchi", served with roasted mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, wilted spinach, veal jus and horseradish gremolata. The potato gnocchi comes courtesy of next door gourmet food store Vicenzo's and and is fresh, soft and full of flavour. 

This was not the first time I had this dish but it was as brilliantly executed as the other time that I had it. The short rib is full of flavour, tender and a perfect pairing for the soft potato gnocchi. The cherry tomatoes and roasted mushrooms provide the texture offset to the dish, enriching every single bite.

A high point in any meal is always the still hot bread served to the table with herb butter, fresh out of the bakery that is adjacent to the dining room.

For dessert we went a bit predictable and ordered our now staple dessert for this restaurant, "The Sweet Plate". This perfectly named delicacy is combination of three desserts, the Bauer Kitchen coffee creme brulee, the strawberry cheesecake and the stacked chocolate cake. All three are delightful and easy on the eyes as well as the stomach and are in sorts a hurricane of sweetness made for sharing and enough for 2 people.

The espresso, however; was a big disappointment. It was flat, with no flavour and not even a punch of strong coffee in it. I unfortunately would rate that as the low light of the experience, and well justified.

The Good: Amazing casual fine dining restaurant that blends casual with sophistication like only a few places in Waterloo can. It has great service and they are very accommodating if you don't have a reservation, in my experience.
The Bad: Very little to say, service tends to be much slower during busy times.
The Verdict: Definitely a hit and one of the top choices for good food in the region. Unpretentious, friendly and efficient service compliments a tasteful menu, executed to high levels

I give this restaurant a 3 1/2 Olives as rating

The Bauer Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Walkers Fish Market

Walker's Fish Market
6531 Mississauga Road
Mississauga, ON


Photo courtsey of Walkers Fish Market Twitter Account
In her opinion:
We needed a great place to eat when we agreed to meet up with friends that we had met on our holiday this year to St. Lucia. It had been the first time that we had seen them in months and since we were in the Toronto area for the day we picked a restaurant in Mississauga. We originally agreed to meet at Gabriel's Restaurant but they happened to be closed on Sundays. So, while waiting for our friends, we looked across Gabriel's parking lot and noticed Walkers Fish Market.

It looked open! That was a good start! It looked nice from the outside and once we checked their menu...that too looked good.  So, when our friends arrived we suggested Walkers Fish Market and they agreed.

Having had a memorable brunch at Hopgood's Foodliner, we opted to share a bunch of appetizer and have a tapas style dinner.  We ordered Walkers Mussels in the White Wine, Cajun Fried Calamari, Blue Crab Shrimp Cakes and Shrimp Tacos with a side of Fries.

The Walkers Mussels were cooked in white wine, parsley and butter. They were absolutely delicious. Garlic and white wine are the perfect partners to mussels in my opinion and these did not disappoint.

The Blue Crab and Shrimp Cakes are described on the menu as "panko crusted and crispy fried cakes, chipotle aioli, guacamole and pico de gallo salsa. These were outstanding. The cakes themselves were out of this world. It was easy to detect the shrimp and crab. It was very flavourful. The aioli, salsa and guacamole added a nice Mexican twist to these crab cakes.

The Cajun Fried Calamari is described as "coated in Cajun flour and crisp fried, garlic aioli and fresh lemon". I was a little worried that the Cajun flavour would be overwhelming...but that wasn't the case at all. It was a subtle delicious flavour. The garlic aioli was an excellent accompaniment.

The Shrimp Tacos were served with either a side salad or French Fries. They are described on the menu as "crispy shrimp, guacamole, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, fresh coriander, chipolte aioli and grilled flour tortilla. These were very nice. The shrimp was abundant and the flavour was nice. I am not a huge fan of the iceberg lettuce...I personally think it's a waste of a vegetable so it did nothing to enhance the flavour of the tacos. Another thing that I wasn't a big fan of was the grilled tortillas. I found them kind of dry.

Overall, I enjoyed our "tapas" dinner at Walkers Fish Market. Our friends had the "Shrimp Tacos" as a main with a side salad and the "Tuscan Roast Chicken" which is described on the menu as "lemon rosemary seasoned half boneless chicken roasted with tomatoes, black olives, caramelized onions and artichoke hearts, herb risotto and dark chicken jus". 

Tuscan Roast Chicken
They both enjoyed their meals very much. I wouldn't hesitate to return to Walkers Fish Market.

In his opinion:
We came across this place by pure coincidence. Friends had decided to meet us for dinner on the opposite side of the parking lot but that restaurant was closed and this seemed like a great alternative after quickly browsing the menu posted outside.

As the name implies, Walker's Fish Market specializes in fish and seafood but has some land choices as well. At first glance, the inside of the restaurant is clean and spacious with a mix of modern decorations and some nautical theme accessories. The decor suffers a bit from split personality as it is predominately sleek, clean lines and lighter wood and then there's a small part that is Red Lobster style.

This restaurant franchise has 4 locations, Mississauga North (Streetsville), Mississauga South (Dundas St.), Milton and Burlington. We ate at the Streetsville, Mississauga location this time around.

The menu is extensive featuring appetizers, sandwiches and rolls, Walker's favourites, fresh oysters, salads, catch of the day and battered seafood to choose from.

We decided to order just a bunch of appetizers to have a chance to try more food and also not overfill ourselves. We had a marvelous brunch earlier in the day and were still full from that meal.

We shared the "Walker's Mussels in the White Wine", "Cajun Fried Calamari", "Blue Crab Shrimp Cakes" and "Shrimp Tacos with a side of Fries". The mussels were very well done in a crisp riesling wine and loads of garlic. Delicious from the first taste, the sauce was a great match to the fresh mussels that were loosely sprinkled with fresh parsley. The cajun calamari was crispy fried and coated in Cajun flower, yet still tender and with soft batter. In my opinion the Garlic Aioli is the real champion in this dish as it allows the crispiness of the calamari to be suited by the creaminess of the sauce.

The blue crab and shrimp crab cakes were delicious. I find it so hard to find a decent crab cake as usually they are not fresh or dare I say "frozen", but these felt, smelled and tasted nothing like that. They were soft, melt in your mouth goodness that was matched with salsa and guacamole? The Mexican twist came as a bit of a curve ball but somehow it all worked very well.

Finally, the shrimp tacos were very good and full of flavour. We have all had those tacos that rely on the sauce for a punch of flavour but these were very good. Again they are served with guacamole and pico de gallo and have me scratching my head with the Mexican connection, that doesn't seem to make sense. Sense or not, they were very good.

I would return to this restaurant anytime a seafood/fish craving came near me and I'm sure I would have a lot of choices to fulfill my Ocean desires. 

Walkers Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Monday, 10 September 2012

Organic Advocates' Feast of Fields

Organic Advocates' Feast of Fields
Cold Creek Conservation Area
Sunday, September 9, 2012

In her opinion:
Cold Creek Conservation Area is off the beaten path in the beautiful countryside north of Toronto. It is a sprawling park with great vistas. This was the perfect setting for Organic Advocates' annual Feast of Fields event. 

As we drove up the 400 and got off on the King City road, I wondered if we were actually headed in the right direction or were we about to get lost in north of Toronto. However, when I saw the first Feast of Fields' sign indicating we were headed in the right direction, I felt a certain sense of relief and excitement.

Parking was a breeze. Once you parked your vehicle, you got your ticket, wine glass, linen napkin and great gift bag containing some coupons, magazines and the 23rd annual Feast of Fields cookbook. You were now ready to head out into organic food and drink heaven!

At first, I was overwhelmed by how many different food, drinks and vendors stalls there were. Not necessarily a bad thing! Once I got my bearings, it was simply a matter of grabbing my linen napkin and wine glass and going from stall to stall sampling delicious organic food and drink. Organic farmers, breweries, winemakers, artisans and fabulous chefs worked together to produce an amazing event!

I was completely full by the time I left the event, but there were a few food stalls that held a special place in my memory. First there was Harmony Organic's "Praline Ice Parfait with Fruit Compote". Absolutely delicious. Mad Maple's "Carrot Cake cupcakes with a candied carrot on top". Probably the best carrot cake I have ever eaten. Wanda's Pie in the Sky " Apple Cheesecake Pie" was out of this world good! Chef Carl Heinrich from the not yet open Richmond Station's "Potato Rosti with Wild Boar Rilette and Beet Relish" was outstanding. It also made me realize why Chef Heinrich won Top Chef Canada Season 2! Chef Michael Smith and Sodexo produced a delicious "Venison and Blueberry Burger with Onion Confit, Applewood Cheddar on a Sourdough Baguette". This was probably one of the most flavourful bites that I had at the event. It was complex and delicious. Finally, I remember Chef Albert Ponzo of Le Select Bistro and his absolutely delicious "Steelhead Gravlax with Quinoa, Aubergine and Black Olive Mayo" fondly. These were perfect little bites of organic goodness.

There were tonnes of different foods to pick from and to enjoy to your hearts content. We sampled a lot and enjoyed a lot. Overall, as far as food was concerned, this was top notch!

In regards to different organic drinks, they had several wineries specializing in organic wine. One of my new favourites, Sandbanks Estate Winery was there with their delicious blends. I also had a few of my favourite craft beers; Creemore SpringsMill Street Organic and Steam Whistle Pilsner. But the most poignant part of the event for me in the organic drink field was sampling Black Fly Spirit Beverage's "Long Island Iced Tea" and "Tequila Margarita"! This is a proudly Canadian company serving excellent beverages.

Like the food, there were a lot of organic drink selections to pick from and enjoy to whatever extent you wanted!

The 23rd annual Feast of Fields event was a great experience to enjoy organic food, drink and artisan wares. The artisan goods that I sampled were some amazing sheep's milk cheese from Best Baa Dairy and delicious elk venison pepperettes and summer sausage from Black Willow Farms. These products reinforce my belief that we are very fortunate as Canadians to have these wonderful organic, artisan farms producing some exceptional products. As a foodie, Feast of Fields was a great experience to really enjoy more non-traditional organic meats like venison, elk and wild boar. As well, it allowed me to sample and buy, organic produce which were super fresh and radiated their colours in the afternoon sun beautifully. Making me realize that Ontario's organic farmers should be proud!

On a personal note, the highlights of the events for me besides the wonderful food and drinks were getting to meet Chef Michael Smith who I've watched on the Food Network since he started with his show "The Inn Chef". Chef Smith is a gentle giant! He's a genuinely nice person who was kind enough to sign two of his cookbooks that I purchased at the event. The other highlight was meeting Chef Carl Heinrich, winner of Top Chef Canada's season two. What a sweetheart. He's extremely talented but also has a great personality. Chef Heinrich took some time out from preparing his amazing little bits and actually talked to us about food! Great guy.This is the beauty of Feast of Fields, everyone there loves organic produce, meat and drinks and what you can do with it!

I enjoyed our experience at Organic Advocates' Feast of Fields events and would not hesitate to participate in the following years!

In his opinion:
It is hard to believe but this event is already in its 23rd year and it's amazing to see how it has grown, along with the love for organic food. I'm sure that even Jamie Kennedy, Michael Standlander and co. couldn't imagine the magnitude that this event has taken, when they formed this non-profit organization, back in 1989. King City and Cold Creek Conservation Area was the perfect location to showcase this event with its great ambiance and lush outdoor spaces. As you first drive into the event, you couldn't help but feel that the event was very well organized and very inviting. It ran from 1 PM to 5 PM on Sunday, September 9, 2012.

This event let's you experience the very best of what Ontario has to offer as far as organic products are concerned! It lets you hear the secrets right from the people that produce them, with hard work and a lot of love. The variety of products available is truly amazing and ranges from organic fruit and organic vegetables from all over the province to some home grown meat spanning from beef, lamb, bison and even wild boar, and some of the best wine and beer that our Province has to offer.

There seemed to be a little bit of everything for everyone with any discerning taste. The variety of food, wine and beer was extensive and gave the public a chance to try and re-try their favourites over and over if they wished. The reactions from the public as they tasted the extensive food and drinks were of sheer exuberance and delight.

The event is not just about food and drink but also about the people that bring them to you! Those people had a lot to say and share. Every person showcasing their products had not only their story to tell, but a genuine love for what they did that was very transparent as they explained their products. It is that passion that fuels the organic movement that grows stronger and bigger year after year.

Then, there are the chefs! They are like minded and environmentally concerned. They support the event and bring not only their expertise but the flare that compliments these products. This year's celebrity chefs included Michael Smith that has become a staple at this event, and others like Canada's Top Chef 2 winner Carl Heinrich, food entertainer Ted Reader and Emerie Bryne from Bernardin. Many other chefs also brought their culinary skills to enhance the amazing products on display and were also part of the experience, giving food lovers lots to chat about and admire.

I suppose what surprised me the most was the sophistication of the food served, along with the complexity that is not usual from pop-up tents, small gas ovens or open air flame BBQ's. The food, drinks, chefs, farmers and the organizations were all top notch and have to be congratulated for a job very well done. I would risk saying that all in attendance left very satisfied, including Tara Iacurti, from Paris On., the winner of the soup recipe contest with her "pumpkin patch soup".

In summary, if you love good food, great wine, amazing local micro breweries and you are an organic lover at heart, then this is a must attend event for you. I myself can't wait for next year's installment.

  Le Sélect Bistro on Urbanspoon  Wanda's Pie in the Sky on Urbanspoon  Richmond Station on Urbanspoon