Sunday, June 29, 2014

New Restaurant Review - Cluny Bistro

 I was lucky to recently be able to attend a special Twitter Party tasting for the new Restaurant called Cluny Bistro in the Distillery District in Toronto.  Cluny is a very large and beautifully designed restaurant that has French design influences.

What seemed to be missing in the Distillery District was a restaurant that you could go to when you wanted to have dinner and dessert with friends and not as much emphasis on drinking beer.  A restaurant that filled the gap between what was already available in the many restaurants in the Distillery District.  The newly opened CLUNY seems to fit the bill.  It is described as a French Restaurant but it seemed to me to be a bit confused as to it's nationality.   I was expecting to have a lot of mini samples of passed food from their menu but we had a full seating with a very generous sampling of full portions of food.
I brought my friend Cliff with me, and soon realized that he isn't as adventurous with food or knowledgeable as I thought he was.   First off we were brought Champagne,  I don't fancy Champagne but Cliff enjoyed that very much.  After a bit of a wait at the bar for them to clear the first seating of people we finally sat down sometime between 9:30pm and 10pm.. I must say that this is very late for me to have dinner and I had a bit of food before I left my house.  

Once we were seated we were brought a lovely basket of breads.  There was one croissant fusion type of bread that was delicious.

We were then brought what was called a Tuna Nicoise (pictured in the blue pot) but it was more like a  Tuna Tartare.  My friend Cliff doesn't do raw fish apparantly so he didn't enjoy this one.  I liked the taste but it was a bit over salted for me.  I am very salt sensitive so maybe others would enjoy the seasoning more than I did.  This was then followed by some Scallops carpaccio... once again raw Scallops so my friend didn't like it.  I ate the whole thing.  I enjoyed this dish as it had a sweet light sauce and cubed watermelon so it was very light.

We also received a small shot glass of a Watermelon Gazpacho.   I didn't enjoy this one at all and I like Gazpacho.  I am not sure what went wrong on this one.
As you can see below my friend Cliff had a Chambord Cocktail.  He didn't love it but drank it anyway.  I think he drank more than he ate.

What Cliff really enjoyed was the Meatball Tomohawk and the Basil Gnocchi.   I loved the light gnocchi but also found the Tomohawk a bit too salty for me but I liked the concept and there was good flavour in it.

Then there was the  Vegetarian Couscous Indian /Moroccan spiced dish.   Cliff  loved this one.  I was so full by this time that I didn't eat this dish.

We also both enjoyed a Duck Poutine but it was very rich and heavy but it tasted delicious.

Not pictured here was Buffalo Style Sweatbreads.  In case you don't know Sweetbreads are Internal Organs and not Sweet Bread like Cliff thought they were.   This didn't work for me on so many levels. It was trying to be a clever chicken wing but it was just a weird textured and unappealing dish.  

Redemtion came in the form of the Dessert.   We had a passion fruit Souffle.   Finally something French style with an accompanying banana bread and Creme Anglaise sauce in this cute little copper pot.

As you can tell the Menu was all over the map.   Italian with the Meatball,  Quebec with the Poutine, Sweetbreads American style, Tuna tartare, was not Nicoise.   And a Couscous Indian flavoured dish.  

It didn't make sense to me.  I think they were trying to cater to many cultures in this city but they would be much better served at focusing on Regional French dishes and offering French dishes that aren't available anywhere else in Toronto.

The one thing I am looking forward to is the fact that they will have a Bakery/ Patisserie opening at the entrance of the restaurant soon.  The other thing they need to put their energy into is providing excellent tea and coffee and dessert menus that are available late into the evening.  Their competition coffee shop Balzacs closes at 7pm or earlier so there isn't anywhere that all the condo dwellers in the Distillery can go just to wind down with a nice dessert and cup of coffee.  I know because another friend lives in one of those Condos and we have tried to find a place to go for dessert after dinner or doing other events to no avail.  All the coffee shops close early so all you can do is drink alcohol or eat ice cream.  

While I don't want to dissuade you from going to this restaurant I want you to be aware of what the menu is.  We were told they have amazing burgers.   Also not typically a French thing but I may return when I am in the area to try one.

It is a beautiful space and the wait staff were very friendly.  It would be a nice destination to go to with friends.  It's new so I think the menu may change as they receive feedback from their clientele.

They were extremely generous with the food they provided for us and I really did appreciate it.  I suppose I just would have made some slight adjustments or improvements to the menu provided.

The lovely thing though was the little red gift back I received when we were done which had 2 little Macaron's in this cute little Chinese Take away box.

 I am looking foward to going back to try their desserts when that area expands.

Go check it out and try the Gnocchi, and the Scallops,  I can honestly highly recommend those dishes.




Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day Favourite Foods

Today is Father's Day

My dad passed away when I was 22 and he was 65.  He had many different health issues his last few years but he ultimately passed because of Cancer.  Although I mostly learned how to cook from my mom, my dad loved to make his favourite breakfasts on the weekends.  My mother wasn't a big breakfast person.  She would be happy with a piece of cheese slapped on a piece of bread.  My dad on the other hand was a big bacon and eggs lover.

This morning I made some fried eggs and had some leftover bacon.  I wasn't even thinking about Father's Day but I guess it was appropriate.

I thought it might be interesting to show some of my dad's favourite dishes in honour of father's day today.  He also loved to make scrambled eggs with cheddar and pressed cottage cheese.

My Dad was born in Greece but left when he was 10 years old but his one sister that also lived here would sometimes make certain foods from their childhood.
One of my dad's favourites was Spanakopita.  My aunt would make her own dough which I never learned how to make so my version was a bit different because I used puff pasty which was easier and I like to mix a bunch of different cheeses like feta, parmesan and mozzarella for melty creamy flavour.   My dad didn't make this but he loved it when I made it for him and me.  

My dad also loved Corned Beef.  But he used to by the Shopsy's sealed in plastic packs corned beef that you would stick into boiling water.  Not like this Caplansky's Ultimate Classic Corned Beef Sandwich.  He would have liked this.  He didn't live long enough to see Food Trucks.
Another thing my dad used to buy was beef pies.  My dad did all the grocery shopping.  That's how I learned how to shop.  There were a few things that only him and I liked.  Meat pies and cabbage rolls.  My mom wouldn't touch them.   Recently a new savoury pie shop called Kanga, pies that are native to Australia.  They started off at small Toronto Underground Markets and recently opened a tiny pie shop on Duncan Street.  I tried the Kiwi Classic and the Chicken Pot Pie last week.   My dad used to work downtown and I bet if this place was around then he would have been a regular.
And of course the reason I am a chocoholic is because of my Dad who used to buy chocolate and then hide it.   Not too well I might add.   He only had a few hiding places that we knew.  We had a huge buffet and he would hide it under things in the drawers.  Maybe he thought out of sight out of mind and we wouldn't eat it.  That didn't work because my brother was a bloodhound for chocolate and could find it anywhere.   I don't have to hide chocolate now but I have to admit that if it's in front of me I am more inclined to eat it.  I wasn't one of those kids that would sneak cigarettes or alcohol.  I just wanted chocolate and still do.   Some things never change I guess.    I still like all of these foods but I know most aren't so good for me.  My dad didn't know back then how unhealthy they were, he just knew that he liked them.   I know but I can't resist them either.  Must be in my DNA.    Food has certainly changed in Toronto since my dad was alive.  I wonder what he would think about the whole Food Truck phenomenon.   I bet he would like most of the foods on the new food trucks.   My dad only had the opportunity to get hotdogs and when I was a kid he also loved to pick up hot chestnuts in the winter.  Something you don't see anymore that i wish someone would bring back.

Food Trends come and go but there are always classic foods that never go out of style.  My dad liked most of these classic foods but I bet he would have loved to try some of the new ones too.  He loved to explore new things in the grocery store and I do the same thing too.  

These are my memories of my dad's favourite foods.   What are your dad's favourites?
Do you think of your dad every time you have them?