my trip thru Ontario - reviews
So we started driving at 1am from Baltimore. Arrived at Niagara Falls around 8ish and had enough time to walk around and take some token photos. Promptly decided, despite having driven all night and being QUITE hungry… that there was nothing around worth eating. So we headed off to our second destination. Inniskillin!!! I adore their ice-wine and was happy to pop in. Just 20 minutes away from the Falls. We took the $5 tour, which is so worth it even if you don’t care about the making. You get a tasting w/ the tour. Although I’m sad to say they only gave one of the ice-wines to taste. The $5 also goes back to your purchase. Our salesgirl was nice though…and let us taste the rest of the ice-wines as well as the sparkling. After we bought 16 bottles, no wonder! The Pinot Noir and the Riesling were okay. Nothing memorable. Everything pales in comparison to their ice-wines though. The Vidal is the best buy. At about $50/bottle. We also got some of the Aged Oak one, which has huge butterscotch flavors. It’s golden and richer; liquid gold, for real. The higher end one and probably my least favorite is the Cabernet Franc. It’s good, but in my opinion, carries less finesse. We got a bottle anyway. I’ll be interested to pair it with some chocolate truffles. Report back later. Ok. By now it’s 11:30am. We’re drunk, sleep-deprived and hungry. Inniskillin does not have food. We came to Ontario to eat. So we decided to stay the course.
We drove almost two hours to downtown Toronto to the Metropolitan Hotel for dim sum at the Lai Wah Heen (108 Chestnut St, Toronto). I HAD a clue of what I was in for: Westernized form of dim sum in a classy setting. I had looked at their menu online and was excited by the idea of ‘foie gras and minced chicken on a soft shell’. It was a beautiful restaurant and the service was excellent. She had enough personality to caution us on items that were just so-so. But handled much of our meal with class. Our teas are individually served complete with the tea-washing ritual. We chose the ‘Monkey-picked’ tea, which was always a favorite of my mom’s. The food was fine. But it didn’t blow me away. The foie gras tart for example, was a mish-mash of meat filling. I couldn’t taste or see the foie. The golden tart that everyone raves about was an almond cookie stuffed w/ ham. Everything was well crafted, but it lacked the soul of dim sum to me. To me, dim sum represents sitting around with family and comfortably picking at things. Here, pieces were individually ordered. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t stuffy. I had a good time. But it wasn’t what I was looking for. Turnip cakes topped w/ mozzarella had very little turnip taste, and the mozzarella – unnecessary. Dim Sum, as it turns out… should not become fusion.
Rustic Bakery (310 Rustic Rd) Early in the morning, we detoured an extra 20 minutes out of the way to a little suburban part of outer Toronto. My mom started to get alarmed…thinking we were way off-rack. And then lo and behold, between blocks of homes, were 3 stores. Rustic Bakery itself, resembled more of a taken over High’s had it not been for the gelato and dessert case on the left, and the coffee bar on the side. I had discovered them through some random post on Chowhound.com and heard about their Nutella Croissants *bites knuckle* So my dad makes a beeline for the coffee, and I, for the pastries. Dad asks the man behind the espresso bar for a cup of coffee. With a great big smile, “We don’t do that here. You must have espresso.” And so we all got our lattes (mine, soy.)… and I got my croissants. I don’t know what was better in hindsight. The croissant will perhaps take a slight edge in the moment of it all. It was crunch at first bite, and then as your teeth sank deeper, you hit an unbelievably chewy (in the good way) dough, followed by a Nutella center. The presence of butter is soooooooooooo lovely and joyful. I could have cried. This was the kind of croissant that you dream of. It’s a croissant that you tear into. And then you lick all the crumbs off of your fingers, and possibly your shirt too. And then you’d smell your shirt all day hoping for a scent of the holy croissant.
Now. Onto their espresso – I have not had espresso taste that good in my life. It was so rich and strong and creamy on its own. Couple with my soymilk, it tasted like chocolate, really. The taste is still strong in my memory and nothing will ever compare, I’m sure. This cup of latte will go down in history as the best latte I ever had… in all its $2.00 generic paper cup glory. It was perfection. I never loved a cup of caffeine as I did this.
Le Select Bistro
432 Wellington St. W
Best bistro fare I’ve had in a very, very long time. Terrine of Foie Gras with surprisingly well-matched kumquat chutney, even though I’m not a fan of kumquat ordinarily. It was perfection. Escargot enclosed in puff pastry topped w/ a mushroom cream sauce was just what I expected. A weakness of mine, salad Frisee Lardons was heavenly. Sherry vinaigrette, avocado, poached egg on top of frisee. Dad had a roast lamb shank that was tender and flavorful with all that roastiness embedded deep. My cassoulet (first cassoulet in my life! All this reading, I finally got to eat one!!) was really good and as I thought it should taste. Sam had a bouillabaisse that was as good as a bouillabaisse can get. And I can’t remember what my mom had. It was a Pork Porterhouse, I think. All I remembered was the amazing potatoes au gratin. Hahahaha… We couldn’t fit dessert afterwards, much as we tried….
Spring Villa (7301 Woodbine Ave, Markham)
HANDS DOWN – best dim sum EVER…the 5-spice squid tentacles were unbelievable. Every dish was just comforting and well crafted at the same time. There was the greasy comfort w/o the heavy feeling. I ate until I burst and I keep dreaming of coming back. THIS is a place to drive 10 hours for. EXACTLY what you want when you think dim sum. MUST check out.
And for a supermarket that blows away Whole Foods/Wegman’s… T&T (7070 Warden, Markham) is amazing. Great food court… great finds. And amazing quality. I wish so badly that I had a kitchen in my hotel!!!! The meat and seafood positively GLISTENED….
And speaking of markets… St. Lawrence Market blew my mind as well. The mustard lady? Her Bordeaux mustard is heaven. Great on lamb… The general quality and cleanliness here is very refreshing. Between the 2 markets, I’d have no problem finding dinner everyday. And it’d be a joy.
You lucky Torontonians…. pout
I loved your review, especially the description of the croissant. Great writing.
We are lucky, and while we often complain about the food we have here it's because we are so spoiled and picky. It's good to be reminded.
A few specific comments:
- good choice not to eat in Niagara Falls
- few wineries allow tastings of ice wine since it's just so precious, you were lucky to have one glass included
- next time check this board for a recent post of Ontario wineries as there are even better choices
- for lunch try Vineland Estates
Hope you join us again in our fair city!
Sounds like you had a great time! And you introduced me to the Rustic Bakery, which I haven't heard of before. Always up for a good cuppa caffeine...
Next trip out you might want to stay at a boutique hotel, which has kitchenettes. I know the Pantages suites do, and probably a few other hotels in the downtown core.