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Friend coming for a few days from London, England. What can't she get across the pond that we do well here?

Full tummy May 4, 2012 09:31 PM

Later this month, a friend from England will be visiting for a few days. Aside from her personal preferences, what do we have here that's not available/common/as good over there? Where would you go and what would you eat?

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  1. Notorious P.I.G. May 4, 2012 09:59 PM

    "What can't she get across the pond that we do well here..."

    Food.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Notorious P.I.G.
      f
      ferret May 4, 2012 10:18 PM

      Affordable food.

      1. re: ferret
        Full tummy May 4, 2012 10:25 PM

        Money is not an issue for her...

        1. re: ferret
          g
          gembellina May 5, 2012 06:57 AM

          Really? It seems to me that high-end and low-end places are comparable in terms of cost, but mid-level, weeknight type places are more expensive here. And groceries, wow.

          1. re: gembellina
            a
            autopi May 5, 2012 02:14 PM

            i fully agree. dining out here is noticeably more expensive here, at least compared to the US. groceries, too, dairy in particular.

        2. re: Notorious P.I.G.
          Splendid Wine Snob May 4, 2012 10:49 PM

          :-)

          1. re: Notorious P.I.G.
            s
            shiloh170 May 6, 2012 05:05 AM

            Well I been across the pond & can tell what they don,t have,, Canadian bacon,, hardy flap jacks,, and our maple syrup,,nothin like it,,, or traditional,, chicken and sliders( pheasant or partridge better ),, french canadian ragou,, take them in the woods,,nows the time,,pick morels,, grill a rib-eye,, or grilled arctic char

            1. re: shiloh170
              Full tummy May 6, 2012 07:25 AM

              Thanks! Will definitely get some bacon, too...

              1. re: Full tummy
                mariecollins May 7, 2012 08:27 AM

                English bacon is really good. My parents enjoy: Dim Sum, Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwiches, gourmet thin crust pizza, maple syrup, poutine, and ooh - nearly forgot - goat rotis!

                1. re: mariecollins
                  Full tummy May 7, 2012 09:18 AM

                  Thank you! Rotis were on my mind, for sure. I don't know if they have them in England, but if they do, I don't think she's tried one. And I love them so. Where do you take your parents for the Montreal smoked meat sandwiches? She will be here for such a short time, and locations are not convenient, but I am considering buying Dunn's smoked meat from Costco and making them at home.

                  1. re: Full tummy
                    justsayn May 7, 2012 01:33 PM

                    Centre Street Deli

          2. v
            visjevisje May 4, 2012 10:11 PM

            Maple syrup.
            Bagels.
            Chowder.
            Barbeque.

            6 Replies
            1. re: visjevisje
              Full tummy May 4, 2012 10:25 PM

              Thanks!

              1. re: Full tummy
                prima May 4, 2012 10:34 PM

                Brick Lane bagels might be better than Toronto bagels. Not sure. ;-)

                If your friend likes Chinese food, I'd suggest king of bbq pork John's BBQ, buns at Lucullus, dumplings at Northern Dumpling Kitchen and/or dim sum at Yang's.

                Might also treat her to a Flaky Tart buttertart, something made with ramps, Huevos Rancheros, Huevos Divorciados, a nanaimo bar, or strawberry rhubarb pie.

                1. re: prima
                  Full tummy May 4, 2012 10:40 PM

                  I was thinking dim sum. What about Montreal style bagels from Bagel House? Thanks for the butter tart suggestion! Great stuff... And an excuse for me to have one, too!

                  1. re: Full tummy
                    prima May 4, 2012 10:49 PM

                    I like Bagel House bagels. But I understand some people like Brick Lane bagels. Haven't tried any ;-)

                    Also, softshell crabs are available in TO right now- not sure if our supply is better than the London supply. Might check to see if Starfish is tweeting about ssc.

                    1. re: Full tummy
                      5
                      5secondrule May 5, 2012 12:52 PM

                      I much prefer the Montreal bagels from Carousel in SLM. They get them in only on Friday and Saturday mornings, baked by an ex-Montrealer who used to work at St. Viateur. I've done a head-to-head taste test with Bagel House bagels, and the ones from Carousel won hands down. Better taste, better chew, better crust.

                      (Note: these are NOT the regular everyday Carousel bagels, which I believe are from What-A-Bagel.)

                      1. re: 5secondrule
                        Full tummy May 5, 2012 01:23 PM

                        Thanks for the tip!

              2. g
                gembellina May 5, 2012 06:55 AM

                I've just moved here from London and the things that I think are better or more easily accessible here are dim sum, as you already mentioned, and the japanese izakaya places which seem to be much more widespread here. also burgers maybe - we were starting to get some better burger places but here there seem to be more places which focus exclusively on hand-made burgers with good quality ingredients etc.

                Though i haven't had much time to eat everything yet so others will have to suggest the best places to get these things!

                1 Reply
                1. re: gembellina
                  Full tummy May 5, 2012 12:04 PM

                  Burgers, yes, we can do that. Thanks!

                2. m
                  MattB May 5, 2012 08:05 AM

                  Sunday brunch. I haven't seen those in London. The Sunday roast is traditional in England, but it's not a "brunchy" thing. Also, order a Bloody Casear for your friend at brunch ... they haven't even heard of those over there.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: MattB
                    Full tummy May 5, 2012 12:03 PM

                    Do they not do brunch, or just on Sundays? Alas, she won't be here on a Sunday, and we plan to go for dim sum on the Saturday, but please let me know if you think there's something they are missing, aside from it being on a Sunday, as I may be able to make it at home!

                    1. re: MattB
                      g
                      gembellina May 6, 2012 09:10 AM

                      We definitely have brunch in London but it's usually just called breakfast. Good call on the Caesar though, I still can't quite get my head around drinking clam juice...

                    2. s
                      Suburban Gourmand May 5, 2012 08:56 AM

                      The ability to get food between 2pm and 5pm?

                      Ha, sorry couldn't resist.

                      When my English friend came to visit we went to Woodlot on the recommendation of the board here. It's a Toronto restaurant style rather than a food style that was so appealing.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Suburban Gourmand
                        Full tummy May 5, 2012 12:04 PM

                        Thanks for the suggestion. Will see if it works schedule-wise.

                      2. h
                        hungryjoanne May 5, 2012 11:41 AM

                        Butter tarts, nanaimo bars and (I think!) Crispy Crunch chocolate bars.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: hungryjoanne
                          Full tummy May 5, 2012 12:04 PM

                          Thanks!!

                        2. n
                          Northern Light May 6, 2012 04:54 AM

                          My 2 cents.

                          If cooking for her (or dining out); some native-to-Canada products:

                          - Fiddleheads
                          - Wild Leeks/Ramps
                          - Maple Syrup
                          - BIRCH Syrup (expensive, but good, more for savoury applications, love it on grilled pork)
                          - Game Meats (venison in particular)

                          Restaurant thoughts:

                          Bannock - relatively affordable, but still nice, has many 'Canadian'isms' on its menu

                          Anywhere w/good Poutine

                          For fine dining, Canoe and Pangea offer a lot of 'Canadian'isms' too.

                          ****

                          Odd products/treats

                          - Beaver Tails
                          - Butter Tarts
                          - Tortiere
                          - Coffee Crisp
                          - Variety of products containing Canadianisms:
                          (Saskatoon Berry pie (frozen at this time of year)
                          Blueberry Mustard
                          Maple Bacon
                          Maple Mustard
                          etc.

                          Montreal Bagels
                          Montreal Smoked Meet
                          (Good) French Canadian Split Pea Soup
                          Prairie Oysters

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Northern Light
                            Full tummy May 6, 2012 07:24 AM

                            Great, thanks! Lots of options...

                          2. TorontoJo May 6, 2012 05:22 AM

                            I'd take her to Keriwa Cafe for dinner. It's a double whammy: very Canadian ingredients and a very "Toronto" restaurant. Woodlot would be another, more central, option.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: TorontoJo
                              justxpete May 6, 2012 06:56 AM

                              I find Keriwa to be highly over-priced. A single piece of toast during brunch is $5. I find portions are often also very small. The pork-belly main I had recently was $16 and mostly unfulfilling. Should be an app. Not sure what you mean by it being a "Toronto" restaurant, but I do agree that they use a lot of Canadian ingredients.

                              1. re: justxpete
                                justsayn May 6, 2012 07:27 AM

                                Agree fully on Keriwa being overpriced with realtively small portions.

                            2. 5
                              5secondrule May 6, 2012 05:38 PM

                              Chocolate. Most Brits have terrible taste in chocolate. I don't think London has anything quite like Soma.

                              Also, big comfy coffee shops with GOOD coffee. Places like Balzac's, or Cafe Belong - distinctive, casual, spacious, relaxing, where you can also get excellent coffee - are much harder to find in London.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: 5secondrule
                                f
                                freia May 6, 2012 05:48 PM

                                I think most Brits absolutely love love LOVE their own Cadbury brand, so I'm not too sure chocolate would be on the list.
                                I think any local product would work -- bison burgers, venison, Pacific salmon, fiddleheads, maple syrup, a massive rack of ribs (very costly not common in the UK).
                                Poutine as a fast food, for sure, but it has to be GOOD poutine!
                                Blueberry grunt, Saskatoon berry pie or jam would work for desserts.
                                :)

                              2. linengirl May 7, 2012 08:22 AM

                                I'd consider 2 places: Jacob & Co (for the dry aged Alberta ribeye -- though I've heard great things about the quality of some of the beef now available in the UK); Soma in the distillery (for the chocolate - not that she can't get great chocolate at home, but many Brits have a thing for chocolate, and Soma's really is special)

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: linengirl
                                  jlunar May 7, 2012 08:13 PM

                                  and the sake brewery there, though that doesn't scream "Toronto"

                                  1. re: linengirl
                                    prima May 8, 2012 07:51 AM

                                    Taste of Quebec is also worth visiting, when taking out-of-towners to the Distillery District.

                                    Edit: It looks like Taste of Quebec has morphed into more of a gallery/boutique/event space than a food boutique. Has anyone been lately? Are they still selling food? http://www.atasteofquebec.com/

                                    1. re: prima
                                      justxpete May 8, 2012 08:06 AM

                                      From the website:

                                      Formerly a specialty food boutique featuring artisan cheeses and terroir products from the province of Quebec, A Taste of Quebec has transformed into an exquisite gallery boutique featuring the best of Quebec artisans specializing in the very best artisans from the province of Quebec such as ceramics, wood, glass and jewelry. Beautifully displayed chinaware, refined raku urns and vases, whimsical teapots, bowls, and peppermills, tree trunk tables, and stunning, hand sculpted jewellery offer a visual feast to shoppers in search of original pieces.

                                      In the summertime food lovers will be able to relax on the patio and enjoy a delectable menu of crepes, artisan cheese platters, pâté and charcuterie, served with La Belle Province's best microbrewery beers and ciders.

                                      1. re: justxpete
                                        prima May 8, 2012 08:31 AM

                                        Ya, I read that, which is the reason I wrote what I wrote. ;-) I'm not sure whether they've started the food service already, whether they're waiting until the 1st day of summer, or whether they're still selling some cheeses and other foods. What they wrote about the delectable summer menu is a little vague. Guess I'll do a walk-by next time I'm in the vicinity.

                                        1. re: prima
                                          justxpete May 8, 2012 08:59 AM

                                          indeed - a bit confusing! I posted that just in case you missed that last bit.

                                  2. s
                                    Shivaun May 8, 2012 08:53 AM

                                    When we visit, we tend to make a beeline for a smoked meat sandwich on rye with a dill pickle. All 3 of these items are very difficult to obtain in London.
                                    EDIT: forgot to mention blueberry pie. Food of the Gods. Not sure why not really available in London - do we not have blueberries? Do we not have pastry? What is our inability to put these two ingredients together??

                                    We enjoy vigorous debates about the best bagel; we disagree with our Montreal relatives, we think we can get better ones in London (although admittedly the best are far less ubiquitous, and can only be sourced from a tiny handful of bakeries in North London). Similarly, a chocolate comparison can be an enjoyable source of heated debate.

                                    Poutine is absolutely unheard of in London; I think it would be fun to introduce your friend to this. Perhaps not the Canadian version of a chicken sandwich, though - I am still traumatised by my experience of this culinary abomination.

                                    English breakfast is very different (and in my opinion significantly inferior to yours). In particular, breakfast items that involve a liberal dousing of your magnificent maple syrup, such as French Toast, can only be a good thing.

                                    I also agree with the other posters' statements that your Dim Sum is better than ours.

                                    In summary, if your friend doesn't gain at least a kilo per day during her visit, you will have failed.

                                    19 Replies
                                    1. re: Shivaun
                                      Full tummy May 8, 2012 08:59 AM

                                      Hahaha! Thank you so much, Shivaun! So far, these are my plans:

                                      Centre Street Deli for smoked meat sandwiches; homemade poutine; roti; Korean ribs and kimchi (she has never tried this); butter tarts; maple sugar treats; homemade pancakes/waffles/french toast (what do you think is better, given options in England) with maple syrup, bacon, etc.; Rol San for dim sum

                                      We have very limited time with her, two dinners, one breakfast and one lunch.

                                      Edit: I notice on another board, you mention BLT sandwiches. I could add this to the breakfast menu... Please let me know what you think.

                                      Thanks!!

                                      1. re: Full tummy
                                        justxpete May 8, 2012 09:05 AM

                                        I think as suggested, Soma is probably a good destination for some fun/comparison. Visiting the Distillery district is a good idea, but the Soma on queen is nicer, and more spacious. You'd be remiss if you didn't visit the DD at some point, though.

                                        1. re: justxpete
                                          Full tummy May 8, 2012 09:25 AM

                                          Trouble is she's here for a conference at York University, and I will actually only have her with me from Friday evening to Saturday early afternoon. We have friends coming for dinner on Friday evening to meet her, and so all I've got is a half-day on Saturday. Will leave it up to her what she would like to do - ROM, AGO, Distillery... Thanks!

                                        2. re: Full tummy
                                          g
                                          gembellina May 8, 2012 10:26 AM

                                          i'd say waffles are the least common in england, and the most "foreign" seeming if i can go that far.

                                          this is a great list - i might be shadowing you for a taste of canada! i'm sure she'll have a brilliant time :)

                                          1. re: gembellina
                                            Full tummy May 8, 2012 10:51 PM

                                            Wonderful! If you have any other ideas, let me know.

                                            1. re: Full tummy
                                              mariecollins May 9, 2012 07:03 AM

                                              She may need two seats for the flight home! I know you're in the East End, so I recommend the Ital vegetarian roti from Danforth Roti, if you're buying local. I'm not saying they're the best for rotis (bit hit and miss), but that's what I always get. My parents like goat roti's but prefer Ali's or the Roti Lady in Parkdale.

                                              1. re: mariecollins
                                                Full tummy May 9, 2012 08:03 AM

                                                Thanks, mariecollins. We have had a couple of rotis from there, though we do usually go to Island Foods on Don Mills when we are in the area (close to work). We did enjoy the rotis from Danforth Roti, but the flavouring was different from Island Foods, which always takes some adjusting to. Definitely a place we plan to visit whenever the craving strikes, and we're home (Woodbine & Danforth).

                                          2. re: Full tummy
                                            s
                                            Shivaun May 9, 2012 07:12 AM

                                            Your schedule sounds fantastic - I may well have to drop everything & fly over to accompany you.

                                            Given your very limited time, you could perhaps send her off with a BLT as a plane snack?

                                            1. re: Shivaun
                                              Full tummy May 9, 2012 08:05 AM

                                              The more, the merrier. Great idea. I may have to put together a bag of treats for her to take home or munch on the plane.

                                              1. re: Full tummy
                                                s
                                                StayThirsty May 9, 2012 09:03 AM

                                                I've been following this thread for the past week and have found many of the posts quite amusing and somewhat embarrasing as a Canadian. It would appear quite a few people have either not visited England in quite some time and seem to think the UK has been frozen in 1973! Granted, once you leave the larger cities, the culinary options become much more provincial, assuming your friend does not live in the middle of nowhere, she probably has access to far better and diverse food options than the typical Canadian. This is especially true for Central London, which in my view is on par with New York, Singapore and Tokyo (and is far better than Paris for example). As far as my thoughts on your original query, I would endorse the Bloody Caesar, Maple Syrup and some of the "snack food" ideas, but would not bother wasting your friends time with pacific salmon (outside of BC), bagels, smoked meat (outside of Montreal) or a BLT as someone from the UK can find comparable offerings in the form of Scottish salmon, Brick Lane Beigel Bake, Mishkins ("salt beef") and just about any Pret a Manger outlet. I also think the game offerings (other than bison) are more plentiful in the UK than in central Ontario. Finally, as far as chocolate is concerned, unless she prefers brown wax to cocoa, I really would not bother introducing her to North American mass produced chocolate. In essence, I would stick with a few unique and special ingredients (maple syrup etc.) and leave it at that.

                                                1. re: StayThirsty
                                                  Full tummy May 9, 2012 09:53 AM

                                                  Thanks for your input.

                                                  Well, we do have to eat something, aside from maple syrup and Bloody Caesars, so despite the fact that there may be options in England, if they aren't widespread, and if she hasn't eaten there, then these are still reasonable possibilities.

                                                  Have you been to Toronto? If so, maybe you could suggest where/what you would enjoy were you to visit our city.

                                                  1. re: StayThirsty
                                                    5
                                                    5secondrule May 9, 2012 10:08 AM

                                                    Some of your points are well-taken, but most of the people mentioning chocolate in this thread are specifically recommending a visit to Soma, which is about as far from mass-produced North American chocolate as you could possibly get. It's a unique experience, one that AFAIK you can't get in London. Even Paul Young doesn't make his own chocolate from scratch.

                                                    1. re: 5secondrule
                                                      jlunar May 9, 2012 12:06 PM

                                                      There are lots of chocolatiers, but very few chocolate makers (bean-to-bar). Soma's worth visiting if there isn't anything accessible/similar in London.

                                                      1. re: jlunar
                                                        s
                                                        StayThirsty May 9, 2012 01:45 PM

                                                        Well OK...perhaps I was in a particularly irritable mood when I penned my earlier post. I'll give you Soma, but I was really responding to 5secondrule's comment regarding Brits having terrible taste in chocolate. I actually find British chocolate far superior to Canadian (with specialised artisinal producers being the exception). As far as suggested food/restaurant options....I certainly wasn't suggesting your friend survive on maple syrup and bloody caesars (although it might make for a fun weekend!)...merely attempting to say that it might make more sense to expose her to some unique Canadian ingredients/condiments etc. which she can take home and expereince in a variety of ways rather than try to "out do" and/or replicate something she can either find (good bagels/game/salmon) or make herself (BLT) at home. All that being said, I think the other comments made regarding some of the Toronto burger, dim sum (although there are some pretty good places in London) and brunch places are probably checking out. In my experience, the only really "uniqueness" to be found from the Toronto restaurant and dining scene, stems more from the great vibe, friendly character and diversity of the city rather than the actual food on offer or preparation technique etc. In keeping with my ingredient/condiment thought, if your friend is a real foody, take her to the St Lawrence market so she can sample some local produce, baked goods, Quebec cheese and charcuterie etc. etc...especially if you end up doing several home cooked meals as planned. If she enjoys wine, then Ice Wine should also be on your list.

                                                        1. re: StayThirsty
                                                          Full tummy May 9, 2012 08:03 PM

                                                          Thank you for suggesting ice wine.

                                                          These are our parameters.
                                                          1) We have one dinner near York University (she is attending a conference there).
                                                          2) We have one dinner at our house.
                                                          3) We have one half-day to spend with her somewhere in the city - and no more.
                                                          4) We have one breakfast/early lunch before the half-day, to be eaten at home or elsewhere.
                                                          5) We have a late lunch/early dinner after the half-day, to be eaten at home or elsewhere.

                                                          I don't know what our guest wants to do for the half day in Toronto, though I have suggested the AGO or the ROM. I doubt that she will choose to spend her half-day in the Distillery District, as she is not a serious foodie and I have never known her to go out of her way for chocolate. Likewise, I doubt she will be interested in spending her half-day at the St. Lawrence Market. And, alas, given our very tight timelines, we will not be able to take our time appreciating the wonderful atmosphere and vibe of some of Toronto's restaurants.

                                                          Aside from the dinner at home, all of the other meals will need to be relatively efficient (or else they will eat up the half day we have for ROM/AGO/something else) and, I hope, something different from what she's used to.

                                                          She does not have additional time in Toronto or Canada beyond what she will be spending with us, alas, so what we can offer her is going to be the full extent of her Toronto experience. She hasn't been to Canada before, and I highly doubt she is likely to return any time in the near future, if at all, ever. In England, I know she indulges a fair bit in cheeses, wine, oysters, but not things like pho, kimchi, dim sum.

                                                          So, I am trying to cram in something enjoyable given a very tight schedule, which is why I reached out on the board.

                                                    2. re: StayThirsty
                                                      f
                                                      freia May 9, 2012 07:53 PM

                                                      Hmmm...I'll own the Pacific salmon idea. And yes, i visit London and surrounds frequently, as in annually. Not stuck in 1973. When I am in London/UK I often have the Scottish salmon. I don't turn my nose up at it simply because I can have Pacific salmon at home. Sometimes a different variety of a common food is a nice thing? Seriously, you should be a little less judgemental and just have some fun with this, no?

                                                      1. re: freia
                                                        s
                                                        StayThirsty May 10, 2012 06:51 AM

                                                        Uggh. I think you may have misinterpreted my original post (or perhaps I just didn't make my point as clearly as I should have). I actually agree with your your point of view. I love pacific salmon, ribs, british chocolate etc. etc. I was merely trying to suggest that given the limited amount of time available, perhaps it would be best to stick with truly unique items rather than the Canadian version of what is available back home. My original comments were actually directed more toward those posts claiming "food" (Notorious B.I.G. etc.) as being better in Canada than the UK etc. etc. I certainly did not intend to come off as judgmental and sincerely apologise for any offense taken.

                                                        1. re: StayThirsty
                                                          Notorious P.I.G. May 10, 2012 10:29 AM

                                                          I think you may have misinterpreted my original post (or perhaps I didn't make my point as clearly as I should have)

                                                          It was a joke.

                                                          1. re: StayThirsty
                                                            f
                                                            freia May 10, 2012 10:56 AM

                                                            :) This internet posting business can be tricky! Things come across in unintended ways...understood, and apologies right back at you. I was snarking a bit (blush)...sorry

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