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Specific Toronto Requests

I will be visiting Toronto for the first time this summer from Northern California and have a few requests for my Canadian neighbors (or neighbours).

1) What restaurants serve good horse dishes?

2) Where can I find coffee from Cuban coffee beans?

3) Where is the best place for a poutine fix?

Any other recommendations on special (not high-end) places would be appreciated. We have many excellent ethnic places out here, and it seems that there is no unique Toronto food. I do not have access to horse and Cuban coffee, so those are a must try.

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  1. 1) The Horse tartare at Batifole on Gerrard near Greenwood is great and the restaurant as a whole can be easily recommended. The other place that I know of with horse on the menu is La Palette. But, I haven't been their in a long time and it doesn't seem to garner much praise these days.

    2) No Idea

    3) Jamie Kennedy makes a great version at his wine bar -- it is worth having. Some people will recommend a particular chip truck in front of city hall -- I'm less sure this is worth confusing with good poutine.

    4) I would endeavour to have peameal bacon while here. It is quite distinctly Canadian at least (and available as an option with breakfast just about everywhere). If you're near the St. Lawrence market, try the peameal on a bun at Carousel bakery.

    I'm also sure there are at least a few ethnic options that Toronto is uniquely blessed with. e.g. Chiado is really great higher-end Portugeuse; there are more than a couple great Ethiopian places, etc . . .

    6 Replies
    1. re: Atahualpa

      Does JK do the poutine with cheese curds? I just remember them using some sort of grated semi-hard cheese the time I had it there... and I have to admit that the use of curds makes the foie gras poutine at Au Pied de Cochon tops in my books.

      1. re: Blueicus

        Well, technically it is NOT poutine unless it has cheese curds.

        Ya, every poutine in this city looks and tastes RIDICULOUS after you've had the foie version at APDC.

        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

          Fois gras poutine?!?! That sounds good enough to die for. Is that place in Toronto? I can only find one in Montreal.

          1. re: Sacto_Damkier

            Unfortunately, no. Au Pied de Cochon is in Montreal-IMO the true die-hard foodie city in Canada.

            A trip to APDC is, by my standards, a must for all foodies. The atmosphere, the food, the wine, is what I believe to be the best in what a restaurant can and should be. And the food is truly to die for, and definitely not for the calorie conscious. I'm headed back out to Montreal in the fall and I cannot wait to eat there again!

            Don't want to bash TO too much (I'm starting to lighten up on the resto scene here). I would also second Atahualpa's suggestion for horse tartare at Batifole-delicious!

            1. re: Sacto_Damkier

              It's served with two sauces, a pretty traditional gravy-like concoction and one that appears to be "mounted" with foie gras.

          2. re: Blueicus

            I seem to remember curds ... but, its been a while.

        2. I can help you with #4.
          Try The Rebel House on Yonge, just north of Bloor.
          It has a well recieved poutine and a lot of other great fare as well. Mostly Canadian centric ingredients and an outstanding selection of local microbrews.



          1. For a bit of a different take on poutine I would recommend Utopia on College. Their poutine is made with veggie gravy and contains goat cheese and mushrooms.

            1. Look at http://www.cubita.ca/ to find places with Cuban coffee -- unfortunately it looks like their cafe locater page is broken.

              Or you can buy the beans at Thomas Hinds http://www.thomashinds.ca/ along with your Cuban cigars.

              1. For horse, I second the recommendation for La Palette in Kensington Market. They often offer Quack and Track, a small horse steak with a side of duck confit. Their prices are quite reasonable and the food is about as authentically French bistro as possible outside of Montreal. Do reserve ahead, tho - it's a small place, and you might be disappointed if you just drop in.

                I haven't seen Cuban coffee beans around. However, you may have some luck with Moonbean (also in Kensington Market). They tend to carry a wide variety of interesting beans, some of which are also fair trade.

                7 Replies
                1. re: tartiflette

                  Just to clarify, at La Palette, there is the Quack and Track, but you can also have a larger horse steak on its own.

                  1. re: hungry_pangolin

                    Does La Palette offer a horse steak frites? That and a nice Bordeaux would be really nice right now.

                    1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                      Actually, not so much for Bordeaux, but for other regions (Cahors, Minervois, etc), La Palette has an interesting wine list. Just make sure that you get the more extensive one. as I recall when I was last there (in December?) the horse didn't come with frites... mashed, perhaps.

                      1. re: hungry_pangolin

                        That begs the question, what wine goes well with horse? Hopefully if the horse steak is a special request off the menu, it can be made with frites.

                        1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                          Horse is not at all gamey, is quite lean, and if anything, has what I would describe as a a slightly 'sweeter' flavour than beef. It really is quite wonderful, and it is a shame that the in US the pro-Trigger lobby is making obtaining this flavourful and healthful meat less accessible. Anyway, the wine pairing is what you would have with beef, though I'd avoid most pinot noirs unless they have that lovely barnyardy quality. Because of the leanness of the flesh, I like something juicy and 'quaffy' (which is not to say inelegant or rustic). I usually have a Cahors (I have a weakness for malbec), but something like a Rhone, Minervois, Corbieres would go well. I haven't had the horse tartare (going to Batifole for a birthday soon!), so I'm not certain to recommend as a partner, but my instinct is to go for something a bit lighter. For steak tartare, I love (when I can get it) Dole, a pinot noir/gamay blend from the Valais in Switzerland. I hope that helps. AND, please post your post-game analysis. Enjoy your stay with us!

                          1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                            Personally, I usually skip the wine and go with a bottle of Chimay Red instead. It's a genuine Trappist beer with a perfect balance of sweet/bitter, which stands up nicely to the flavour of the horse.

                            1. re: tartiflette

                              I generally don't drink beer with my meal, only because I find it bloating (I do feel deprived in that regard). I agree with your nomination of Chimay, though. Delicious on its own, its flavour profile would match nicely, I think. La Palette does have a very good beer selection... not a mere afterthought.

                  2. Your request #2, about the coffee, piqued my interest so I did a few googles. It does seem that Cuban coffee is in high demand. Due to the trade embargo with the US, coffee growers in Cuba have not adapted the industrial growing techniques, hybridization of plants, pesticide use, etc., that most other coffee growing countries have over the past decades. As a result, Cuban coffee is grown more organically, resulting in better and more environmentally sound coffee. Or so the story goes, anyway.

                    I found that one particularly renowned brand of Cuban coffee called "Cubita" is for sale at Thomas Hinds Tobacconist in the Yorkville area of Toronto. More details are on their web site: http://www.thomashinds.ca .

                    Moonbean Coffee in Kensington Market might also be worth checking out, as someone else mentioned above, but a quick glance through their online store does not seem to show any Cuban coffees.

                    EDIT: Ack, just noticed somone already mentioned Thomas Hinds, above. Oh well.

                    Thomas Hinds
                    8 Cumberland St, Toronto, ON M4W, CA

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Gary

                      Thanks for the links. I too am interested in the coffee, but because my government does Cuban coffee, I cannot have it here in the United States. I will have to check out the places while in Toronto. I was hoping to find a place to get brewed coffee from Cuban beans - especially Cuban Coffee made with Cuban beans - somewhere in Toronto. Something tells me Starbucks would not be a good place to start...

                      1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                        I used to order Cuban coffee on line from a place in Montreal called "Brulerie Tatum". However, the last time I tried, they were out of stock.

                        I understand Cuba is still recovering from a hurricane that did a great deal of damage to the coffee. Incidentally, in addition to the usual Turquino variety, there is another, premium one, from Blue Mountain coffee beans smuggled out of Jamaica, if anyone can find some.

                        1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                          There's a coffee house on Queen West near Ossington called "It's Not a Deli" that has Cuban coffee on its menu. I believe the beans are from Cuba but it may just be Cuban-style coffee. It's a groovy neighbourhood and worth wandering around there anyway.

                          Enjoy your visit to Toronto. I'll second the recommendation to have a peameal bacon sandwich at St. Lawrence Market and would also suggest a snacking tour of Kensington Market. None of the food at Kensington Market is uniquely Canadian but I think it is very Toronto to have a market with such a wide range of ethnic foods all mixed in together.

                            1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                              If you type "peameal bacon" into your favourite search engine, you will find this at http://www.porkpeople.com/ :

                              "Peameal bacon is an Ontario specific speciality, and is only sporadically available elsewhere. A search of the Internet should give you information on any local suppliers (if they exist). Peameal bacon is made from the centre-cut or rib end of the loin. It is cured in a brine containing salt and sugar, and then rolled in corn meal. It is an uncooked product, that can be sliced and grilled, or roasted whole. Canadian bacon (or 'Smoked Back Bacon' is a fully cooked and smoked product from the same cuts as peameal bacon. It is usually sliced and pan-fried or grilled."

                              1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                The definition provided by Obstructionist pretty much says it all, except how the name was derived. Originally, the cured pork loin was rolled in crushed, dried yellow peas - hence the name 'pea meal'. It's what Americans mean when they refer to 'Canadian' bacon, but it's a far cry from what you get in American restaurnants by that name. Think: tender, sweet/salty mothfuls with a satifying crunch from the cornmeal coating. Best served on a sourdough bun with honey mustard. I like the Carousel bakery in the St. Lawrence market for mine, but others here think it not the best.

                                1. re: Higgette

                                  Nope, Americans mean back bacon when they say Canadian bacon.

                        2. I don't know about horse or the cuban coffee, but the decent poutine can be had at the Bow and Arrow Pub, just north of Davisville Station on Yonge. (The significant other is from the Eastern Townships and he said it's the closest he's got in the city.) they server a pretty mean bison burger too.

                          As for ethnic or local foods - peameal at St Lawerence, Chinese up in Markham (which I find hotly debated on this board from time to time), Malaysian, Ethiopian, Portugeuse, some really great Vietnam places.... I would even hazard to say putting in a visit to T + T, an Asian ubre-Market with decent food you can eat there and a must-visit for any die hard home cook.

                          1. The horse carpaccio at Coca Tapas and Wine Bar on Queen West is excellent, though really all of their dishes are.

                            I'm likely to get boo-ed for saying this, but I'd get poutine from the blue fry truck that's parked by Nathan Phillips Square, and sit by the newcity hall fountains to enjoy it and take in the architecture of the area. I can't think of a more Toronto-y experience for an out-of-towner, especially one who isn't (yet) a poutine snob!

                            1. Just got back, and I had a great time in Toronto & Niagara Falls. I actually never got to the horse on my trip, but I managed to get some good food instead. I ate at the C5 at the ROM which was spectacular, but rushed since I wanted to see the (limited) exhibits before closing. Lunch was at the Beer Bistro which was a nice place with great local beer recommended on this Board. The cheese sandwich and oatmeal stout was excellent. Also, the food at the Rogers Centre really, truly does suck.

                              I tried the Golden Lotus at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls and had the lunch buffet. The selection was far more interesting and tasty than the normal Chinese Buffet I am used to. The wonton soup, Hong Kong curry, and dumplings were very good and the mango pudding was really tasty. The price and view were excellent.

                              My final dinner was at the Canadian National Exhibition in the Food Building. What a place! It was like a Chowhound temple! I had some awesome Poutine, Peameal Bacon, butter tarts, smoked meat, and goat curry. When I first entered the CNE, I only saw the usual carnival food places and assumed that the Food Building had all the food exhibits. The reality was much better. Thanks for a great trip and suggestions!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                I'm glad you enjoyed it.
                                Unless things have improved, the Food Building is only a shadow of it's former self. Of course, that could just be the childhood memories factor too.

                                As for the food at the Sky (Don't call me the Rogers Centre) dome, you may find this hard to believe. When they first opened, they contracted the food service to McDonalds. They removed McD's and the food has gone down hill. It's almost impossible to conceive.