A Taste of Italy

Italy has always been on my must have visit list, probably ever since I watched Audrey Hepburn’s “Roman Holiday”.  My best friend and I finally decided to just do it!  We took 10 days and squeezed in as much as we could in that time.

Knowing we wanted to hit multiple locations, we had to firstly decide the best way to do this.  There are multiple ways to get around Italy, many opt for train as you can get multi day passes.  We opted to rent a car as we wanted the freedom to stop various places without worrying about dragging our luggage along with us.

One warning many people don’t talk about with regards to driving in Italy is their traffic laws.  If you are seen by traffic enforcement not obeying a regulation, they do not actually need to stop you.  They just take note of the license plate, send the violation to the rental agency, which in turn provides your information and next thing you know is you have a ticket in the mail.  So pay extra attention to restricted driving streets, round abouts, speed limits, etc.

I’m a big foodie so that was what I looked forward to most about Italy (other then the shopping).  Following are my food highlights from each city I visited:

Continue reading

Weekend Getaway: Paris, France

Paris is one of my favorite cities, it just has a certain magic to it.  I know that is so cliche and I swear I don’t feel that way because of movies and tv shows.  I’m drawn to Europe in general as I love the history it holds, something you just can’t rival in North America.

On this trip, I really wanted to experience new places I hadn’t been to before.  I took in culture and checked a couple items off the ole bucket list (Mona Lisa, The Thinker).  Also stumbled upon some great places to eat and drink.

Sip Café Babylone:
46, Boulevard Raspail

Stopped here to enjoy a sidewalk seat and watch the action pass by with a latte.  The location is wonderful, right on a corner with a gorgeous park to one side.  I just felt at peace here.  Next trip I plan to visit for dinner as the food on their social media looked delish!

Website HERE

Maison Sauvage:
5, rue de Buci

Found this boutique restaurant/bar partly due to desperation.  Tired and hungry and in need of a glass of wine, Maison Sauvage was near my hotel in Saint Germain.  What intrigued me to try it though was their intricate decor of vines.  It was literally a gorgeous restaurant.  Thankfully the wine and food didn’t disappoint either.  A small menu but with a variety of small plates along with a few entrees.  I went with the cheese plate which was generous in quantity, I would recommend for two people

Website HERE

Claus Paris:
14, rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Claus was by far the best find of my trip.  Stumbled upon it on a side street near the Palais Royale on a saturday morning.  I was transfixed by the clean white exterior and the semi modern mid century/contemporary look of the place (exactly my style!).  They have a couple locations so you should be able to find one that is convenient.  The food is to die for! On the day I was there it was a set menu, but you have about 4 packages to choose from.  Each price option has 2 or 3 choices per course.  It was way too much food for me but honestly it was so incredibly delicious.  They also don’t rush you at all so you can have a leisurely visit.  Be prepared, for brunch you may have to wait for a table, but I promise it is worth it.  My prix fixe started with a selection of fresh breads, followed by truffled scrambled eggs with mushrooms on cream cheese and brioche toast, ending with yogurt topped with granola and fresh fruit.  They offer breakfast during the week as well… please do not miss this experience.

Website HERE

Next Trip:

I passed one restaurant during my wanderings that looked beautiful and has awesome reviews online.  Its on the top of my list for next trip, I would recommend checking it out as well

Supernova
12, rue Réaumur 
Website HERE

Pick 6ix, Toronto

Pick 6ix is Drake’s new restaurant in downtown Toronto.  This newest venture is a collaboration with chef Antonio Park.  With a diverse background, Chef Park has a deep connection to Japanese culinary methods.  Today Chef Park brings his experience from Tokyo, Osaka, New York, Montreal, to his newest adventure at Toronto’s Pick 6ix.

Pick Six is more glam then Drake’s previous venture Fring’s, which is luxe in a more eclectic way.  Pick 6ix makes you feel glamorous to just be there, rich marine blue velvet accents are not  only luxe but comfy as well.  Gold accents throughout every room make you feel like you are in another world. Continue reading

Discovering Collingwood Ontario

Processed with Snapseed.

This past spring  I spend a weekend bumming around Collingwood Ontario with my girls. With amazing craft beer, wine, and culinary delights, the weekend was better then we ever could have hoped for. Here are the highlights of our trail of eating, drinking, and relaxing.

Northwinds Brew House: A very small brewery in terms of production with a delicious restaurant to dine in.  My favorite part of the brewery component was how artistic Northwinds is with their bottle labels.  They have the original concept sketches framed on the wall representing where each table was born from.  I was disappointed that they have not made prints of the sketches to sell, I definitely would have purchased a couple.

The appetizers were my favourite part of the meal.  Delicious tempura asparagus with chili soy dipping sauce was a hit with the table.  A crispy deep fried treat that didn’t make us feel guilty because the batter was so light. Also for the table we ordered the beer pretzels which are made in house and served with cheese sauce and whole grain beer mustard.  The beer pretzels were served warm in a mason jar, the presentation stole my heart for sure.

As my main I ordered one of the specials of the night, striploin steak served with asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes (which i subbed for the house fries), and bernaise sauce.  The steak did not seem to be of the best quality as a bit chewier then I was used to, the asparagus and house fries were delicious.  The bernaise sauce as well was quite the nice accompaniment except it was a tad too salty which at times overwhelmed the dish.  My companions had one of the regular menu items, the chicken and waffles.  Buttermilk fried chicken served on jalapeño cheddar corn bread waffles and drizzled with local maple syrup that were an instant hit around the table.  Website HERE. Continue reading

DaiLo, Toronto

DaiLo pork belly
I just experienced one of the best culinary experiences of my life at DaiLo. I went knowing it had gotten some acclaim and good reviews but, WOW, it was beyond any experience I could have imagined.

The menu right off the bat looked delicious from an a la carte stand point, but we soon figured out that our best bet by far was selecting the chefs tasting menu. This is one of the most spectacular tastings you will ever have and is at a complete steal of a price at $55 per person. We were blown away when we were told that as a party of three we would have the opportunity to taste approximately ten dishes. Continue reading

Fring’s, Toronto

Frings decor

I’d been humming and hawing about trying Fring’s for a while. Hesitation being that it would be pretentious and overpriced just based on the owners and also due to some unfavorable reviews I’d read.

Fring’s was conceived through the new partnership of Chef Susur Lee and Toronto music star Drake.

The culinary experience was better then I expected to be. The decor of the restaurant was entrancing and immediately won me over, a version of elevated shabby chic with rich colours and varying textures throughout.

Don’t get me wrong there was definitely a pretentious attitude to the place though. Firstly right off the bat, whether you are reserving online or checking in for your reservation at the restaurant, you are told the time limit on your table. I get that they are reserving tables back to back but this seemed unnecessary and made us feel as though we would be rushed through the evening. (chances are you probably won’t linger more then the 2 hour time limit anyways, unless the kitchen is slow).  Continue reading

Eataly, Chicago

Eataly encompassed

I first discovered what joy was to be found within Eataly while recently walking through the original North American location in New York City. Now That same joy can be found in Chicago. Eataly was founded and created by Oscar Farinetti, an Italian businessmen who got his start in Italy at UniEuro, originally a small appliance and food retail store that he turned into one of the largest electronics retailers in Italy. Oscars mission with Eataly is “to make high quality Italian foods available to everyone, at fair prices and in an environment where people can shop taste and learn”.

Eataly was brought to North America by two driving forces, both sides passionate about true Italian food. The first B&B Hospitality Group which is the collaboration of culinary greats Mario Batali, Joe Bastianich, and Lidia Matticchio Bastianich.  The other force being brothers Alex and Adam Saper whom through their discovery of Oscar’s Eatalys in Italy became passionate in their quest to bring it to North America.

All these amazing people have done something truly delightful by bringing the Italian marketplace experience right to the heart of North America. As mentioned previously Chicago is the second location with locations soon to open in Boston and Los Angeles along with a second location in New York. Future plans include introducing Eataly across more of North America and moving into South America as well. The concept has already been established in parts of Asia and the Middle East. Continue reading

Aux Anciens Canadien, Quebec City

Aux Anciens Canadien

On a recent visit to Québec city I felt the last night was the perfect time to visit one of the cities classic Quebecois establishments.  The restaurant has been housed in the historic Maison Jacquet since 1966.  The Maison one of the oldest houses in Québec, built in 1675-76. More on the history HERE.

If you are tall be prepared to stoop a bit in some parts of the restaurant, as it really is housed in a piece of history, where apparently people were not as tall.  Warm lighting and a snapping fireplace welcome you into the dining room for a true Canadian Quebecois meal fit for royalty.  Take the opportunity to order a game meat as if you are going to do it anywhere, do it here where the cooking is spot on and the meat is really honored with the best acruements. Continue reading

Barbuto, New York

Barbuto

I have had Barbuto on my wish list of restaurants since first being introduced to Jonathan Waxman (metaphorically).  I first saw chef Waxman on Top Chef Masters and instantly loved his quiet yet quirky demeanor.  Wasn’t hard to be impressed by his credentials either, read more about his biography HERE.

Barbuto is a trendy little spot nestled in the West Village of Manhattan.  Described as rustic Italian, it has an assortment of evolving dishes to suit any palette.  While the foundations stay the same much of the time (such as there is always a version of gnocchi on the menu) the preparation changes frequently.  One can go back again and again and never get tired of it. Continue reading