Patria

Patria is a Spanish tapas restaurant that was opened in Fall of 2012. My friend and I decided to have dinner at this restaurant last minute, and came in with no reservations around 6:40 PM. Luckily, we were able to get a seat at the bar, and had a higher vantage point to overlook the rest of the restaurant.

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The interior of the restaurant is amazing, with high, lofty ceilings, hanging decor, beautiful paintings and lively atmosphere. However, this is the standard with restaurants on King West.

To start, I ordered a glass of their sangria ($11.50). This was surprisingly strong! I’m slightly used to my watered-down, barely-alcoholic sangria, so this was a delight. I wish there was more chopped fruit though.

My friend and I shared 5 dishes in total:

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Ensalada de Aguacate Con Queso De Cabra Y Membrillo ($13) – Fennel, radish, manchego cheese, crispy artichoke. This dish was surprisingly big, and quite delicious. I loved the crispy artichoke that topped the salad, and the flavours were balanced quite nicely.

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Calamares Frito ($9) – Calamari with aioli and . This was good, but not outstanding. The calamari was not as crispy as I would have hoped.

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Datiles con Tociino Iberic ($9) – Dates, bacon, manchego cheese, guindillas. This dish was essentially dates wrapped in bacon, and seasoned with guindilla peppers and cheese inside. I found this to be interesting, and I liked the spiciness that the peppers added to the dish.

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Fideos con Almejas Y Chorizo ($16) – Pasta, clams, chorizo, aioli. I liked the chorizo (although the pieces were a bit small) and the clams. The aioli sauce didn’t wow me though.

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Leche Frita con Helado de Azafran ($6) – Fried milk, saffron ice cream, honey. I loved this dessert, and especially the saffron ice cream.

Overall, Patria is quite lively and has a great ambiance. However, while the  food was good, it was not amazing (but it might have been the dishes we ordered?). The servers who brought out our food were knowledgeable and friendly, but our waitress was quite unobservant and slow in getting our orders and bill.

3.5/5

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Windsor Arms Hotel Tea Room

(Sorry for the lack of posts, it’s been a hectic month and I haven’t really eaten anywhere worth blogging about.)

I went to Windsor Arms for afternoon tea a few weeks ago with a friend since I had a Groupon voucher. This has been my first time going to afternoon tea (!) and Windsor Arms is one of the more famous ones in Toronto. It starts at $35.00/pp on weekdays, with weekend/holiday and “twilight tea” pricing to go as high as $50.00/pp.

We both started off with the Tibetan Tiger, which is a black tea infused with vanilla and chocolate. I like black teas, but found the vanilla and chocolate to be too subtle for me. Unfortunately I’m not a tea connoisseur!

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Soon after, our tray consisting of scones, finger sandwiches and petit fours arrived.

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The server placed the goat cheese and caramelized shallot tart on our plates first and they were consumed quickly (no picture).

I tried the scones with preserves and Devon Cream first. There were plain scones and ones with black currant. I loved the scones and all the preserves/creams that came with them! The scones were perfectly moist and super soft, and had a hint of citrus. I especially liked the strawberry preserve.

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The sandwiches included smoked salmon and wasabi sour cream with salmon caviar, cucumber with sun- dried tomato paste and dill cream cheese, and grilled chicken with granny smith apples citrus mayonnaise, Greek yogurt and chives. I didn’t find any of the sandwiches to be particularly outstanding, but I quite liked the smoked salmon sandwiches, and I found the cucumber sandwich to be quite refreshing.

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The petit fours consisted of a marshmallow tart, mini red velvet cupcake, white chocolate with golden flakes, and a chocolate cup topped with mini chocolate bubbles. I only tried the white chocolate and chocolate cup, and found the white chocolate to be much too sweet. However, I quite liked the chocolate cup, especially with the texture of the chocolate bubbles.

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Next, we had raspberry sorbet with soda water (no picture). I typically find sorbet much too sweet for my liking, but the soda water really helped lighten the sweetness and contribute to a more refreshing taste. If I ever have more sorbet in the future, I will definitely try adding soda water!

We ended off with a glass of sherry ($8/glass). I had a sweeter version, which I found to be much too syrup-y and sweet. My friend’s “normal” glass tasted much better, although still not pleasing to my palate.

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Windsor Arms didn’t wow me with their tea or their food, but it’s quite a nice treat to have when catching up with your girlfriends. Although it didn’t seem like a lot of food at first, I left feeling stuffed. The scones especially were quite filling!

3.5/5

Failed Macarons

Neither my friend nor I bake, so I was slightly insane to suggest baking macarons. If you don’t know what macarons are, they are a sweet French confectionery that is quite difficult to bake properly. We followed the recipe guide here but we had quite a few limitations.

I should present my friend as the star of this show, as she did most of the baking while I sat around and did some prep work. So I (we?) present, (fail at) making macarons (the low-tech way):

Ingredients (for the shell):

3 egg whites (from large eggs), separated at least 24 hours in advance and kept in the refrigerator
210 g powdered sugar
125 g almond meal
30 g regular granulated sugar

Ingredients (for the ganache filling):
150 g milk chocolate
1/3 cup of whipped cream
1/4 bar of unsalted butter

Equipment:

Kitchen scale
Food processor The blunt end of a wooden utensil and a plate
Hand or stand mixer with whisk accessory Chopsticks
Sifter or fine sieve
2 big stainless steel mixing bowls
Spatula We might as well have used our hands, given how terrible the spatula was
Pastry bag and round tip (1/2 to 3/4 inch opening) Plastic ziplock bag
Large baking sheets, preferably 2 to 4 of them
Parchment paper

Steps (in low detail):

Step 1: Separate egg whites and put them in a container to “age” for 1 – 5 days in the fridge.
– I’m pretty sure I didn’t screw this part up.

Step 2: Measure the icing sugar and almond meal and finely grind them together using a food processor.
– This is when the fun began. Since we did not have a food processor, and the almond meal we had was not finely ground to began with, we had to make do with what we had. Move to the next step.

Step 3: Sieve the mixture.
– Sieving and grinding the mixture came hand in hand. After mixing the sugar and almond meal by hand, we realised that the almond meal grains were not fine enough to go through the sieve. We didn’t have a blender or a mortar & pestle, so we tried a combination of alternatives. First, we attempted to use the blunt end of a wooden spoon. Grinding it that way didn’t work too well, so we hoped to be able to open a disposable Kirkland pre-made pepper grinder. However, we were unable to open it up without possibly breaking the whole grinder, so we moved to the next alternative. By placing a bit of the almond meal on a plate and using the flat end of a wooden spatula, we were able to slowly grind the almond into smaller pieces to go through the sieve. Halfway through the process, we gave up and used a sieve with wider mesh so the mixture could go through easier.

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Step 4: Whisk the egg whites and slowly add in the granulated sugar
Making macarons requires whisking the egg whites until they are white, dense, creamy and able to peak. If we had a whisk, this might have taken 2-3 minutes, however since we only had chopsticks, it took significantly longer. After around 20-30 minutes, we were able to finally make it into a relatively white and dense cream.

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Step 5: Fold the granulated sugar/egg white mixture while adding the dry mixture.
– Our spatula sucked, but we were able to get a relatively shiny and creamy (and not too undermixed) batter.

Step 6: Prepare the baking sheets and pipe the batter.
– There was something definitely wrong with the texture of the batter as we were piping it. That’s why we ended up making swirls instead of being able to pipe it out into perfect circles.
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Step 7: Preheat and bake for 14 minutes at 150°C.
– After 14 minutes, our sheels were definitely underbaked, but we didn’t notice this until later…

Step 8: Make the ganache! First cut up the chocolate and melt it.
– My friend microwaved the chocolate for too long, so there was layer of burnt chocolate at the top, which we had to scoop out.

Step 9: Bring the cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Melt the butter and add it to the mix. Put it in the freezer to speed up the cooling processor.

Step 10: Pipe the cream onto the macarons.

The final result?

……

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Well, it’s not TERRIBLE for a first attempt with a lack of equipment, right?

Thoughts:
– Hey, we managed to somehow make some feet (the ruffle at the edges of the shell)!
– Although you can’t tell as well in the picture, the macarons were actually double the size of normal macarons
– The shell is overly sweet, and some are severely underbaked, which made the texture/taste really off
– I quite liked the ganache, although it was a bit sweet
– The burnt chocolate actually added a nice subtle tang to the overly sweet macarons
– Well…my mom liked them so that must mean something, right?

Next time, since we now have experience, we will manage to get some real baking equipment and improve on these macarons. For now, you can see the shame of these failed macarons.

Santouka Ramen (Toronto)

91 Dundas St. E, Toronto, ON

Santouka Ramen is a ramen chain originating from Hokkaido, Japan that opened up its first Toronto location in November, 2012. Although there have been numerous ramen shop openings in Toronto during the past few months, I have’t had a chance to go to any of the new openings, until recently. Luckily, we arrived at an optimal time, as there was no line out the door! Since it was fairly cold that day, I was happy to be waiting inside, where I could smell the food and watch the hustle and bustle of the servers and cooks.

Although there were quite a few people in front of us, we did not have to wait that long and were promptly led to the bar, where we were able to watch the cooks in action.

While Hokkaido-style ramen specializes in miso broth, I opted to get the I opted to get the toroniku shio ramen ($15.90) which is considered their signature dish. The ramen came with their special pork cheek (toroniku) meat and toppings (bamboo shoots, green onions, wood ears, and a single umeboshi).

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The noodles were decently springy and chewy, but nothing to rave about. I prefer soft noodles to al dente noodles, so I’m slightly biased. However, the broth was great. While many people consider their shio broth to be too salty, but I found it to be perfect! After all, shio means salt in Japanese. The texture of the broth was rich and slightly creamy, and very flavourful.

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Since the toppings and toroniku were given separately, I had the option to add the toppings and meat slowly and whenever I wished. The toppings were pretty solid, and I especially liked the bamboo shoots. However, the toroniku is amazing. Perfect, melt-in-your-mouth and very tender. I ate most of it at the start of the meal, while the broth was still piping-hot.

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One of my friends got the normal shio ramen ($10.95) and the other got the shio ramen combo with chashu pork on rice ($15.95). She commented that the chashu pork is a bit salty, and I sadly have to agree.

While the ramen I had at Santouka was good, it wasn’t particularly mind-blowing or exciting. However, if you’re looking for a bowl of comfort food on a cold day, Santouka is a pretty solid choice.

4/5

Owl of Minerva (Waterloo)

Owl of Minerva is a Korean restaurant chain that started in Toronto. I’m not a huge fan of Korean food, so I didn’t really give a second thought when I heard that Owl was opening a store in Waterloo. However, I’ve been to this restaurant 3 times since it opened already.

The most recent visit I made to Owl of Minerva was on Valentine’s Day with a couple of friends.

As customary with all Korean restaurants, we started off some banchan (side dishes). Luckily for me, they serve a type of gamja jorim (potatoes coated with a sweet corn syrup/soy sauce). The potatoes at Owl don’t use the typical sauce-mix, however, and are significantly less sticky and sweet.

For the main course, I had the seafood soon tofu ($9.99).

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The soon tofu was served hot and bubbling, so it took a while for it to cool down to a bearable temperature. Since I ordered the soup with mild broth, I found it to be a little too light and tasteless. There also wasn’t as much seafood as I would have liked, but they made up for it with tons of tofu. The soon tofu wasn’t anything special, but it definitely filled and warmed me up on a cold winter night.

During the previous times I’ve been here, I’ve tried the pork bone soup ($7.99), and bulgogi jungol (grilled beef soup).

The pork in the pork bone soup was tender, fall-off-the bone and didn’t have too much fat. However, I found the broth to have too many peppercorns, which made it difficult to eat the meat and drink the soup without chewing on peppercorns in every bite.

The bulgogi jungol was incredibly sweet, as advertised. Unfortunately, the flavour was a bit too strong for me and I didn’t particularly enjoy it.

In general, this review is slightly biased as I don’t particularly like Korean food to begin with. While cheap and filling, I never found any of their dishes to particularly stand out. However, Owl of Minerva is a refreshing new change from the other Korean restaurants in the area.

3/5

Cooking with My Roommate

I do try to cook, but I get awfully lazy. Going to the grocery store is a hassle, especially in the winter without access to a car.
However, I do bring back lots of ingredients whenever I go back home to Toronto.

My roommate and I attempt to cook together once every week, however with him having 3 night classes a week, and both of us having multiple other obligations, this is not usually achieved. However, we did succeed in the first month at Waterloo. I usually cook simple Chinese dishes by myself, but together we can experiment more with recipes.

Week 1: 

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Stuffed chicken and chicken roll

This was an experiment of sorts. Basically mixed together spring mix salad, diced tomatoes, shredded processed cheese. Added spices. Stuffed the mix into one chicken breast and made a chicken breast roll out of the other. It didn’t look great but it tasted pretty good.

Week 2:

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Fried chicken and french toast (as opposed to fried chicken and waffles) – complete with ugly Snapseed filter.
This was a fail of sorts since we didn’t have tongs or any proper utensils to take the chicken out from deep frying it, thus the breading kept on falling off. Marinated with random spices. French toast was made with eggs and sugar (since we had no milk or cinnamon I suppose it was more like egg-toast). Drenched it in pancake syrup. It was okay.

Week 3:

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Fried rice
Simple. Frozen vegetables, cut up chicken, soy sauce, sesame oil. Done. Bad picture though.

Week 4:

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Ebi fry
Recipe/instructions straight off of “Cooking with Dog”. Prepared the prawns, peeled off skin, sliced, double breaded with egg, panko crumbs, and flour.

Intro

Some people have been requesting that I do a food blog – write up about restaurant reviews and foodie things. However, as someone who eats out a lot but doesn’t like putting that much thought into each bite she’s taking, I’m not much of a foodie and I’m not sure if I can come up with enough coherent sentences to make restaurant reviews the main focus of this food blog.

Furthermore, the only time I really eat out is when I am back home in the GTA or out with my boyfriend. So for most of the school term, I mostly look forward to Whopper Wednesdays and the $2.10 late night cheeseburger and fries special at Burger King.

So I’m not really sure the direction I want to take this blog yet, but I will focus more on food and see where this can take me.