Sunday, 26 January 2014

Le Lapine Sauté

52, Rue du Petit-Champlain
Quebec City, Quebec


In her opinion:
We took a day out of our Montreal foodie adventure to visit Quebec City. It has been on my bucket list for a while and Edgar thought it was time to check it off. Our trip to Quebec City basically meant that we were visiting old Quebec or the area within the walled city. Where to eat becomes a bit of a challenge because a lot of these places are geared to the hoards of tourist that visit this beautiful city every year. What to do...what to do...well, I checked out Urbanspoon's Quebec City list and found a place that was popular with both tourists and foodies alike. The solution - Le Lapin Sauté (the rabbit jumped)!

I feel guilty every time I eat rabbit! I can't help myself...they're so cute and cuddly but oh so delicious, especially when braised or made into a rabbit rillette. I apologize to all rabbit pet owners! If it makes you feel better - I was completely guilty as I devoured my lunch at Le Lapin Saute!

I started with a Boréale Blanche, a light wheat beer with notes of citrus and spice. I really enjoyed this Quebec beer.

I decided to pick off the lunch specials menu - I got Rabbit Rillette on a Kaiser served with french fries and greens. Part of the lunch specials menu means you get to also choose between the soup of the day or a lovely beet and feta salad. I chose the beet and feta salad.

The beet and feta salad was served in a small canning jar. It consisted on thinly sliced beets with spinach and a sprinkling of feta cheese. It was light and refreshing.

My main dish, the Rabbit Rillette on a Kaiser consisted of a lovely rabbit rillette or paté-like rabbit spread on a bun. It was served with fries and greens. Everything was well seasoned and delicious.

As part of the lunch menu you also get a hot beverage which I gave to Edgar and the option to buy the dessert of the day for $2.25 extra. Dessert on this day was a small creme brulé which we decided to get.

This creme brulé was more of sayabon then a custard with a brunt sugar topping. I liked it because it was light but I wouldn't call it creme brulé!

Overall, this was a good lunch and I'm glad that we ate here.

In his opinion:
I unfortunately have had a few disappointing meals in Quebec City, including probably the worst poutine ever, go figure that I have had bad poutine in Quebec of all places. When looking for a place to eat this time around I wanted to ensure I did not fall into any tourist traps which is a hard thing to do in this tourist filled town.

In comes Le Lapine Saute, the rabbit filled menu restaurant that caters to both tourists and foodies alike. You guessed it, rabbit is their speciality and you can have it pretty much anyway you like it. There are rabbit decorations everywhere outside the restaurant while inside I got the log cabin feel. We chose to eat on the patio (a l'exterieur).

I started off with a local bear, Boreale Blanche, a self titled Natural Ale that tasted very good. It poured a nice body, yellow and hazy with citrus and wheat flavours. As I browsed the menu, the many flavours of rabbit were a bit overwhelming and made it hard to make a decision. 

Still with the bad taste in my mouth left by the "bad poutine" I had on my last trip to Quebec City, I saw this as a perfect way for this city to redeem itself from that dreadful day. I obviously picked the "Poutine de Lapine" (Rabbit Poutine). This poutine is served with a two mustards sauce (deux moutardes) besides the excellent creamy gravy full of tasty rabbit bits. The fries were cut fresh and fried perfectly while the cheese curds were soft with a bit of a bite to them.

I did manage to sneak a few bites of my better half's creme brulee dessert and that was fantastic, both the stealing and the taste of course. To finish my meal I ordered an espresso and low and behold it was actually good. Must be a Quebec thing as I struggle often to find a good espresso in Ontario.

The Good: Rabbit, rabbit and more rabbit in the most unlikely places. The service was good at least for Quebec standards and the food was very good.
The Bad: The line-ups at any given time of the day. 
The Verdict: A good option when in Quebec City, one of the best in the lower town. The menu doesn't only have rabbit and that's good news to non-rabbit lovers. 

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

Le Lapin Sauté on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 19 January 2014

The Crazy Canuck - Revisited

845 Weber Street North
Waterloo, ON


In her opinion:
This place is awesome...there's absolutely no doubt about it. The Crazy Canuck is Canadian Gourmet at its best...comfort and deliciousness all rolled up into one. We've already blogged about them...we've sent lots of friends there way...after all, anyone who can make a delicious fried dough dessert smothered in house made jam with cinnamon sugar and ice cream deserves the kudos that they receive! So when we found out that they had recently renovated...we found a reason for a return visit post!

The place looks great...they put in a few booths around the walls...which allowed for more seating. It looks like a classic diner now lined with old vinyl records on the wall. 

They also added a burger to their menu. After a tasting spree the guys decided to add their own take on what they feel is the best burger around...but I'll let Edgar go on about that since he ordered it.  What did I have...well...comfort food...what else?

I decided on the "Hot chicken sandwich with French fries". 

It was served open faced on white bread that had been lightly grilled on the cook top. The large chunks of white and dark chicken meat had been smothered in some absolutely delicious chicken gravy. These guys know how to do comfort extremely well and this dish did not disappoint. The fries were excellent as always.  Overall, an incredibly delicious hot chicken sandwich.

We also shared the above mentioned dessert...the snowshoe! This is perfection. This is ultimate comfort. A deep fried piece of dough covered in cinnamon sugar and smothered in a house-made apple-berry jam with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with more cinnamon sugar.

This is just so so good. I can easily have one everyday. It's really that addictive. 

Overall, I love the Crazy Canuck...Freddie and Jeremy are great guys and always make us feel welcome. I don't give olive ratings but just based on service and everything I have eaten there...I would give them 5 olives out of 5 olives...but it's not my olives that count!

In his opinion:
The Crazy Canuck has become a place that I desire every time I want a meal that tastes good, is innovative yet familiar and doesn't break the bank. I'm there quite often and have recommended many of my friends to do the same, including everyone at work.

These visits are always fantastic, culminating in a great experience, great food and a quick visit to our table by one of the owners, Jeremy or Freddy. The great customer service is also another reason for the success of this restaurant, the staff is very pleasant and informative about the food.

After taking a quick look at the newly revamped menus and yes. they have several (poutine menu, main menu and specials menu), I was easily persuaded into ordering the burger simply called "The Crazy Canuck". This is something new to their menu and it had evoked a lot of thought and research to make it just right. I sipped on my usual Mill St. Organic beer as I looked around, checking out the renos while waiting for my meal wondering just how good it would be.

The burger is a good size, double patties, double bacon, 2 kinds of cheese and frizzled onions for a texture kick. When asked if I needed ketchup, I kindly refused as a $14.50 burger should never need anything on it to taste good (but tastes do vary). The burger itself has a great presentation, was quite juicy and tender to the bite. It also passed my bite the patty only test.  It had good flavours on its on.  It is a large burger but never felt awkward to bite but maybe that's just my big mouth!

This burger itself is worth the drive to North Waterloo and will satisfy any red blooded Canadian with a craving for a great tasting juicy burger made with a lot of care. I will stop short of saying it's the best burger I have ever had (and I have had many) but it is indeed one of the best you can have in our fine region and a great flagship meal for this restaurant.

I should also add that they have enclosed the former open patio space adjacent to the restaurant and are working on making it a natural addition to the restaurant that can be used all seasons long. It will really expand the seating capacity and bring a new look to the former patio.

The Good: Great additions to the menu, still the same great atmosphere and relaxed Canadian feel.
The Bad: During the busy hours, this restaurant screams for more seating, but covering the patio will help that a lot.
The Verdict: Personally, I believe that the renovations came from their insatiable need to improve on everything they do. There was nothing wrong with it before but in order to stay fresh like their menus, a small revamp was in order and it looks fantastic. The burger was a winner and the inside of the restaurant is fresher, lighter without losing its Canadian-rooted base.

I give it 4 out of 5 Olives as rating

The Crazy Canuck Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, 13 January 2014

Winterlicious 2014

Update:  Reservations started being taken January 16, 2014! Don't forget to take advantage of Winterlicious! 

Property of Winterlicious

So it's about that time of year when food gods and goddesses (or simply put restaurant owners/chefs/etc.) make it possible to experience some of Toronto's best restaurants at a fraction of the cost.  From January 31 to February 13, 2014 you will be able to enjoy a fantastic lunch or dinner at one of these restaurants without hurting your wallet.  Winterlicious is an opportunity!  It is a chance to enjoy a 3 course prix fixe menu for either lunch or dinner from $15 to $45 dollars per person not including drinks, taxes or gratuity.  Lunches are $15, $20 or $25 depending on the restaurant.  Dinners range from $25, $35 or $45 again depending on which establishment you pick.  Along with the prix fixe menu offered at more than 200 of Toronto's best restaurants, there are also several culinary events planned which you can enjoy.  These events range in price and allow you to experience demonstrations, workshops and much more from some of Toronto's top chefs.

Tickets for the culinary events have been on sale since December 12, 2013.  Ticket information is available on the Winterlicious site.  Reservations for the prix fixe lunch or dinners will begin being taken on January 16, 2014.  Again the phone information is available on the website.  So click on the Winterlicious Restaurant List 2014 and figure out where you want to eat during this event.

Don't miss your chance to take part and truly enjoy a food experience within reach at a place that may not be...

In her opinion:

I say it every year and I'll say it again! Do it!  Oh, you so want to do it!  It is worth it.  We have been going for several years since we first heard about it on CityNews and we have never regretted it!  Enjoy!!!

In his opinion:

I have said before...there is no better chance to taste culinary excellence at a fraction of the cost. If you like restaurants that are trendy, fine dining, ethnic, seafood or steakhouses; there is a selection for every taste. It's a great way to indulge without breaking the bank.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Verses Restaurant

182 Victoria Street North
Kitchener, ON



In her opinion:
I find myself a bit uneasy as I write this post. Why? Well, New Year's Eve is special. Not just for the obvious reasons but because it marks the anniversary of the conception of this blog. It is also special because it means that there will be a good meal shared in the company of my wonderful husband. It is our tradition to have a date on this evening. Just the two of us at a great restaurant in the area before we return home and are rejoined by our little guy to celebrate the beginning of the new year.

It was New Year's Eve of 2011 -2012 that we began Tips Are Included! It started out of a great meal at the Cambridge Mill...its share with friends and even strangers our opinions of some of the places that we have eaten at in the past or places/events for the future. It represents all things foodie.

So when Edgar suggested that we change things up (we had been going to the Cambridge Mill for the past two years) and try Verses for New Year's Eve, I was excited because in its 10 years of existence, we hadn't ever visited it and this meant that that was about to change. 

I can honestly say that as we drove home after our meal...I felt completely disappointed and for a lack of a better word...violated! Violated because I felt cheated after spending what I felt was a large amount of money for what I think was just a ho-hum meal!

I started my 4-course dinner with the cocktail of the night. A peach martini served with silver sugar rim. It was a combination of vodka, white grape vodka, peach nectar, white cranberry juice and a frozen slice of peach. 

This martini was good. You couldn't really taste any peach flavour but nevertheless the drink was enjoyable. 

Our very attentive waiter, Scott brought us a bread basket consisting of an absolutely delectable and addictive black sesame flat bread and three other types of artisan style bread.

For my 1st course, I choose the "Spinach and Radicchio Salad with braised artichokes and leeks with a white balsamic vinaigrette and shaved Manchego cheese."

When this was placed in front of me in a tilted dish, I felt like I was transported back to the '80s/'90s and nouvelle cuisine. It tasted fine. I found the braised leeks mushy. Overall, it was just okay. Nothing to write home about. I hoped that my second course would be better.

My 2nd course was the "Gravlax". This consisted of "Tequila cured Atlantic Salmon stacked on sea salt and lime potato chips with prickly pear dressed jimaca and clementine supremes". 

Again, I felt that the presentation was dated. However, the flavours of the food were very good. The gravlax was perfectly cured, the potato chips were executed beautifully and were very flavourful and delicious. But I found the remainder of the plate all tasted fine...actually reminding me of a lot of Mexican flavours but there was no need for a pile of clementines or a slice of prickly pear to be placed on the plate. It was almost as if they were an afterthought. 

For my 3rd course, I choose the "Veal". This was a "grilled rib eye with triple smoked bacon braised Brussels sprouts, confit red peppers, cheesy cornmeal porridge and truffled hollandaise".

Individually each element on the plate was prepared well and tasted good but together...this plate was off. I had an issue with portion size...I found the piece of rib eye small. I found that there weren't enough Brussels sprouts on the plate and that the two pieces of confit red peppers were an afterthought once more. But then again, portion size was an issue all through this meal. Really, for $95 per person...I expected more...I didn't sign up for the 1980s nouvelle cuisine craze. You would think that a four diamond award winning restaurant would also know that that trend was long gone and buried.

Finally, we had dessert...there was no choice here...everyone had the same thing. "Dessert Trio" as it was named and it consisted of "chocolate mocha peanut gateau with dark chocolate caramel and sponge toffee; brown butter maple financier, bacon crumble, smoked vanilla cream and reduced vanilla syrup; and Pandan leaf coconut parfait, pineapple confit, passion fruit fluid gel and black sesame creme anglaise". 

I loved the pandon leaf coconut parfait with its accompaniments...just tropical and absolutely delicious. The chocolate mocha peanut gateau was also lovely. The sponge toffee pieces were incredibly good. The brown butter maple financier was okay...not spectacular but just okay. I enjoyed dessert very much and the pandon leaf coconut parfait left me wanting more...that could also have to do with the size of each element of the dessert.

Scott, also brought over our complimentary glass of bubbly with this case a glass of Italian prosecco. It was a nice prosecco and I have nothing to complain about there.

Along with our bill, we were offered two chocolate mint truffles. Cute! They tasted very good, however; they could not remove the bad taste left in my mouth by the cost of our dinner. I paid nearly $300 including tip for a so so, ho-hum meal. I could have eaten better at a non-4 diamond establishment for a lot less. I have no problem paying that kind of money for a meal...I just want to feel that it was worth it. I don't want to drive away hungry and thinking that I have been had or taken. There was nothing special about this dinner. Unfortunately, that is how I felt. I know a lot of you may disagree but I can honestly say that my last meal of 2013 was by far one of my most disappointing...EVER.

In his opinion:
The decision to eat at Verses was one I was very excited about mostly because we somehow had missed going there in all our years of fine dining adventures. The restaurant is a converted church. It looks nice and inviting and is well decorated to match its theme with a lot of dark wood and red highlights in the chairs. It boasts a very modern looking bar in the left corner as you walk in. The contrast of the modern bar actually works, in a Musee du Louvre kinda old meets contemporary way.

The ambience and mood is very romantic at first glance, dim lights, well dressed staff and the appearance of fine service that throughout the evening, lived up to his name. Our waiter Scott was exemplary in his manners, courteous and attentive with the slight mishap of forgetting some elements of the dishes on the menu, which in his defence was new to that night.

We were led upstairs to the balcony where the choir would have played and were seated at a central table, overlooking the nave or main restaurant downstairs. Now, the view was fabulous but the romantic dim lighting  gave way to "I can"t even see more than 6 inches past my nose". The lights are so dim that they take away from the presentation of the dishes and makes for very uncomfortable squinting when talking to your date.

For my first dish I ordered the "Beef Consommé with Camel Dumpling". The consommé was simple, rather blend but boasted a spice kick after swallowing. The camel dumpling was a new experience for me and not a good one at that. The taste was practically non-existent and the dough was a little tough. The camel itself was bland, dry and tough, which is what I heard that "old" camels taste like. So I cannot say if it was poorly executed or just a bad batch of camel. Nevertheless, it was not a winner in my books.

For my second dish, I figured that having one of my favourite dishes in the world would make me forget the first dish. My selection was a "Pan seared slice of Quebec foie gras served with white chocolate bread pudding and sour cherry fluid gel". My foie gras portion was a decent size for an appetizer size course and was very good, taste wise. The slab was however way over seared on the exterior, a lot more charred then what it is usual, making the outside too crunchy and brittle. I have had seared foie grais in many restaurants all over the world and this was the hardest exterior of a foie gras slab that I have ever encountered. 

The sweetness of the bread pudding works well with the foie gras so kudoswith that this pairing, it works. The oddly named "sour cherry fluid gel" reduction tasted very good as well.

For my main, I picked "Sole and Lobster. Dover Sole pan seared with almond and green grape brown butter, lobster and potato hash and wilted bitter greens".

In theory this dish was a winner. The combinations sounded exciting and the double "sea" delicacies are two of my favourite. In practice there is very little that works in this dish. The lobster was completely tasteless and the hash was mushy. This dish screamed for a hash that was firmer and crunchier for contrast. Even the greens were some of the very worse I have ever had. The sole was the only highlight of the plate, well cooked and well seasoned but not enough to rescue the dish.

For dessert there were no choices, just one dessert, an odd but not completely outrageous idea. We all had the "dessert trio" and it was by far the best part of the meal. I won't get into too much description because it has been described well above but it was a good way to end the meal.

The complimentary glass of prosecco served in the end and the chocolate mint truffles with the bill were a nice touch. The service was attentive and pleasant.

The Good: A beautiful and inviting space with great ambience and very good service. 
The Bad: Odd pairings, bland food and a sense of entitlement possibly due to their reputation.
The Verdict: My opinion is that this restaurant is somehow "stuck" in a fine dining time warp. It resembles everything that I recall of what fine dining was or attempted to be maybe 15-20 years ago. The pairings are odd, the presentation is sometimes "old fashioned" and the food items are just not sustainable enough on their own taste wise for a restaurant of this calibre. I'd love to think that this was an "off day" because it was strangely bad for all of their credibility and the awards that they have on their walls. Unfortunately, my sense is that that is only part of the problem and this restaurant needs as much updating in the kitchen as it has had in the dinning room.

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

Verses Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato