Sunday 16 February 2014

Toronto Winterlicious 2014

As many of you know I live in Toronto, Ontario. The city holds two food festivals a year (Summerlicious and Winterlicious) where for two weeks participating restaurants across the city offer a limited prix fixe lunch and dinner menu of 3 or more courses for a discount from their typical prices. It's a lot of fun and gives many people the opportunity to experience new cuisines they otherwise may not be able to afford. It's a great excuse for friends to get together and people to go out on dinner dates. Winterlicious is generally the first couple weeks of February and Summerlicious is generally the first two weeks of July. 

I got to experience Winterlicious at two restaurants in downtown Toronto this year. The first of which was with my friend, Patrick, at Bangkok Garden near Dundas Square. It is a Thai restaurant (if you hadn't guessed) and I have to say dinner was awesome. I took a few photos of my dinner with my phone.

For my first course I ordered Tom Yum mussels. I love mussels and these were cooked to perfection in a fragrant lemongrass and lime leaf broth. Exquisite! When I finished the mussels I couldn't help but spoon the rest of the broth into my mouth.


For my second course I ordered the Seafood Pad Thai. The server warned me that it was spicy. I assured him that I enjoy spicy food and wasn't worried. The spiciness was just about perfect for my personal taste. Just enough to leave a lingering hum on the palate without being too overpowering and masking the other flavours. There seemed to be a lot of sauce (in the photo you can barely tell that there are noodles), but other than that, very good! 

For my third and final course, I ordered the banana fritter with ice cream. I rarely eat desserts but I do love bananas and fried food so this was such a treat. It was delicious. The only thing that was a little peculiar was that the menu description specified that the dish came with mango ice cream and was garnished with toasted sesame seeds. I got coconut ice cream and no sesame seeds. Luckily, I love coconut (and probably would have preferred it given the choice). I do like sesame seeds but it was not worth mentioning at the end of it all. The dessert was beautiful. 

On the following weekend I paired up with fellow MasterChef Canada top 50 contestant, Christina Menchenton, for my second dining experience for Winterlicious 2014. We appropriately chose Bannock, at Queen & Bay near city hall. I say appropriately because Bannock is co-owned by MasterChef Canada judge, Michael Bonacini. Christina and I neither got aprons (both one yes short) in the competition so it was our turn to be the judges. Unfortunately for our egos brunch was really delicious and service was great. Bannock is interesting because it's part dine-in restaurant, part grab-and-go café. What makes it unique is that it is remarkably Canadian with regards to its ingredients and approachable courses. I got photos of both Christina and I's plates (something I neglected to do on my dinner with Patrick at Bangkok Garden).

MasterChef Canada reunion: Myself & Christina Menchenton at Bannock

For our first course, Christina ordered the split pea soup which she enjoyed very much.

I ordered the kale Caesar salad with Bannock croutons. Being a big fan of kale, I was kind of expected a massaged kale salad in Caesar dressing but it was a traditional Caesar salad with romaine hearts and dinosaur kale included rather than replaced with. It was yummy. I was a little apprehensive because they menu indicated there was horseradish in the dressing (an ingredient I'm not very fond of) but it was very enjoyable. It's very easy for horseradish to overpower a dish but here it was subtle and just right.


For our second and main courses, Christina ordered the white fish cake which came with greens and an aioli. She agreed that it was as good as it looked.

I ordered "Pig & Chips" which was kind of a play on fish and chips only the fish was braised and seared pork shoulder with a pile of roasted garlic fries. It also came with a "kimchi" made with mustard greens. There were also these little cubes of what tasted like apple sauce. I haven't figured out if they were a gelée or actual cuts of apple stewed somehow without browning. They worked so perfectly with the pork (which was melt-in-your-mouth by the way). The only complaint I can possibly come up with is that overall I think I would have preferred Christina's dish over mine. Hers was light whereas mine was heavier and came with a pile of fries I couldn't finish. That is a critique more on myself for not ordering the fish cake rather than the chefs. I would have preferred more of the kimchi than the fries but I wouldn't be surprised if most people disagreed with me.


For the desserts they offered a chocolate cannoli and a sorbet something or other but Christina & I were both fixed on their banoffee cake. Banoffee (banana + toffee) is a combination invented by the Brits after World War II. For die hard followers of the blog, you might remember I made a banoffee pie shortly after my visit to England in 2012. Bannock offered individual servings of what was like banana bread sitting on a sticky toffee sauce topped with some kind of whipped meringue and fresh thyme. We both oozed about this one. It was just what we needed.


It was great catching up with Christina. I've only seen her twice since we were on the show together and we actually have a lot in common which I hadn't realized before our little get together at Bannock. So that was really cool. She recently moved from Scarborough to downtown Toronto so we live much closer to each other and we intend to hang out more and cook together. We already have a few pending projects in mind so stay tuned for all of that!

Hope you enjoyed. I already have another blog post recipe in the work so come back soon.


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