Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Little Sister, Lots of Flavour

Little Sister 
2031 Yonge St 
Toronto, ON  
M4S1Z9 
416-488-2031 

Courtesy of an event created on Yelp by a fellow Yelp Elite, 7 of us tackled Little Sister and we ordered......EVERYTHING ON THE (cardboard) MENU. Granted, it's not a huge menu, but it was pretty cool to order everything. Felt a lil special, just sayin. 


We started with the Snack menu while we were waiting for all of our guests; Krupuk(prawn crackers w/ peanut sauce) and Pangsit(beef wontons) were first to arrive. As someone whom is not used to spicy food, some of the sauces surprised me(I was not alone). The menu didn't specify if something was hot, so it was a shock each time. The peanut sauce with the prawn crackers had a little heat, but it was sweet; a nice combo. The beef wontons were fantastic. I dipped my wonton and was about to take a big bite when the sauce dripped onto my hand. I wiped it off and tasted it; I almost went into a coughing fit. Someone else was about to take a big bite with sauce when she saw the look on my face. She was not used to spice either! Saved! I didn't think they needed sauce anyway! 

The tacos were fantastic; all of them! Each of them had fresh veggies and delightful sauces. I could've eaten more of those and everyone agreed. The Sumatra Spiced Beef Croquettes were another winner. As a Dutch gal, I'm used to croquettes being a bit bland and needing mustard to liven them up; these didn't need it. The beef was seasoned with the perfect amount of spice inside that crispy coating. MmmMmm. 

The skewers well all to die for. The meat was moist and tender and each skewer had it's own distinct flavour. The savoury spices paired with the sweet sauces made them disappear fast!  

Now for the mains... 

Ayam Panggang(sweet chili grilled chicken) was fantastic. The portion was good and the flavours were fantastic. The guests that didn't like cilantro were not a fan, but that left more for the rest of us! Babi Panggang(pork belly) was one of my favourites. Tender, flavourful; very well rounded with the pickled bean sprouts and fresh chili sauce. Udang kari(coconut curry shrimp) didn't last long and neither did the Ikan Bumbu Bali(spice crusted fish). 

The sides, how could we forget about them?! After all that spice, we were practically fighting over the Watermelon Salad. It was cold and refreshing; a nice palette cleanser. The Fried Cauliflower Salad was addicting; I wanted it all for myself! The Fried Rice and Mustard Green Vegetables were also there to balance things out. We were on flavour overload! 

Dessert was a coconut pudding and mocha chocolate icecream. The coconut pudding was OK but the ice cream was a fantastic end to the evening. The drinks were a little on the expensive side, but they give you large bottles of water. 

I've never had food like this before, so I have nothing to compare it to. Looks like an excuse to go to another Indonesian restaurant. :D 

Lisa








Little Sister Indonesian Food Bar on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Against The Grain Leaside - Tasty

Against The Grain - Urban Tavern 
87 Laird Dr. 
Toronto, ON  
M4G3T7 
647-748-2840 
This blog is a little late. We were sitting on the patio for this Summerlicious meal. My bad! 

Upon looking at their website and menu, I expected it to be more 'Tavern' than 'Urban', but it was definitely the opposite. A trendy spot with a rustic name is how I'd describe it. Definitely nothing rustic about the décor. The patio was large and inviting. It had a variety of seating, live music and beautiful gardens of flame to keep you warm in the evening. 

We started with the Vegan Taco. The sweetness of the dates cut through the savoury goodness of the onion. It was very fresh. The veggies were crisp and the mango slaw really brought the whole taco together in harmony. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it. 


For the entrees, my aunt chose the Drunken Chicken Fricasee and I went with the Fried Potato & Whitefish. She said the breading on the chicken was perfect, not too thick or greasy, but crisp and favourful. I felt the piece of chicken was a little small, but she didn't complain. Polenta is always a treat and this was no exception. The tomatsugo was perfect for dipping the firm polenta. My whitefish went nicely with the ragout. I'm not a huge fan of olives, but the sauce was pretty good. 


Dessert was simple and fabulous. I often go for the complicated sounding gourmet desserts; today I just wanted ice cream. Vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate chips and stewed strawberries was the perfect ending to a savoury meal. So simple, but so delicious. Creamy and sweet, what else do you need?! My aunt is a pastry chef and loved the Key Lime Pudding in a Jar. Great idea and just enough! 

The servers were great. They had a good sense of humour and weren't afraid to be themselves. Refreshing! 

Hopefully, I post the Winterlicious blog before Summerlicious starts! Doh! 

Lisa






Against the Grain Urban Tavern on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Gourmet Food & Wine Expo...So Much Wine!


Gourmet Food & Wine Expo 2014
 

My first time attending the Expo, but I know people that go every year, so I knew it had to be good.  

I enlisted the help of 2 aunts to join me on this delicious quest. We headed to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, bought sample tickets and went in. We started at the far end and worked our way back. Grabbing a fresh wine glass on the way, we looked for some libations to start.  

Let me tell you, we did not have to go far for a drink of ANY kind. Food took longer to find....which is why I was on my way to my 3rd drink sampling and had nothing to eat. Knowing thinks could get sloppy very quick, I started looking for some eats when I heard an angelic voice say, 'Would you like a grilled cheese with mango chutney?' SAVED! Eudora's Fine Foods and their delicious sauces, chutney and preserves were there to save me from embarrassing myself. Cheddar cheese with mango chutney on rye bread was heaven. The chutney was sweet and paired well with the savoury cheese; ketchup didn't even cross my mind. I'm ready to put it on everything I eat. Try it! 

My aunts were unable to tear themselves away from their favourite wines, California wines and ports. I saw many of my favourites there as well, Fruli, Beringer, Mill Street, but I wanted to try something new!  

Cranberry wine was calling me. Muskoka Lakes Winery brought some tart wines for us to sample. They had cranberry, cranberry/blueberry and a dessert cranberry wine sweetened with maple syrup. I went with the Cranberry wine. It had a little of the expected and a little of the unexpected. It had the familiar tart flavour in cranberry juice, but with the dryness of white wine. It was an enjoyable sipping wine, but I couldn't have more than 1 glass. 

Just around the corner was my next snack, Rock Lobster! I manage to run into these guys at every event I go to, so a Lobster Roll was definitely in the cards. Fresh and lobstery as usual, this place had a line up for a good reason. The staff there are always very friendly and fun. Gotta love Rock Lobster! 

Time for a good ol' glass of beer! Have you ever tasted a Beer Banana Split? I can now say I have. The Young's Chocolate Stout caught my eye and beside it was Well's Banana Bread Ale. I said I couldn't decide and he fixed that in a hurry. Mixing them in the proper proportions made this a delicious beer dessert. Not too sweet, just the right mix of yum. 

The Mexico area was fantastic. It had a large array of food and drink. There was tequila of course, but there was also jams, hot sauces, a variety of spirits and salsa. The vendors knew their stuff and were happy to teach you about their products from home. 

What's that? Time for more beer? Don't mind if I do! My next stop was Collective Arts Brewing. This was the coolest booth of the whole expo. Definitely blogworthy. It's more than delicious beer with a cool label. The labels are created by emerging artists all over the world! It gets better. Download the app Blippar and the labels come to life! Scan the label and it will play a song from an emerging band. The app gives you the option to check out the band's website or buy their music. How cool is that?! Brings the phrase 'Beer is an Art' to a whole other level! 

The loot bag. This is the best one I've ever got! I was not there on a press pass; this loot bag was for everyone! It consisted of 2 full boxes of Brown Rice Triscuits, 2 Truvia samples, 2 Garden Cocktails, Cascadian Farms Organic Apple Crisp cereal(that I am now addicted to) and magazines with delicious food and wine adventures in them. Fantastic! 

This expo was a lot of fun. I didn't even get to sit in on a sampling or workshop and it was still a great tasting and learning experience. I'll never miss it again! 

Lisa














Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Vacation Blog! Oasis Tulum, Mexico!

Oasis Tulum 
Riviera Maya, Mexico 

Mexico is the location of choice for this vacation! Oasis Tulum is located in Riviera Maya, 1.5hrs away from the Cancun airport or 2hrs if you get stuck in traffic. Ugh. Upon arrival, we learned that there are actually 2 resorts there, Oasis Tulum and Oasis Tulum Grand. We were at the Oasis Tulum. The Grand side is a little shinier and there are a few more perks, but we were quite happy with the Oasis Tulum. In fact, almost every resort we dropped people off at was a tiered resort. 

There are other restaurants on the Grand side, but if you're not staying over there, you can pay to try them out.  

The beach was fantastic. There was ample shade and sun. There were 2 hot tubs near the beach bar that kids enjoyed. I recommend water shoes. It's not overly rocky, but there's enough coral there to cut your foot if you're not careful. 

The room was great! Big bed, big bathroom and a nice balcony. Not that you'll spend much time there anyway! 

The nightly shows were impressive. These weren't your usual daily entertainment people do all the shows. These were pros; they were brought in for these shows and hosted by the daily entertainment crew. The disco is in the same place and it's pretty good. Lots of space, American and Spanish music pounding through a killer sound system. 

There are a lot of tours that are reasonably priced, if you want the whole day trip($120 or so per person, per tour). To go to the ruins at Coba(not too far from the hotel), admission is 59 pesos($6 US). You can grab a guide there to take you through(for a fee) or go through yourself. We went with the tour through Sunwing. You can climb the ruins at Coba, but not at Chichen Itza. We did both tours, so feel free to ask if you have any questions about either. I HIGHLY recommend is going to a cenote. It's the North American equivalent of swimming in an aquifer. Mexico has no rivers, everything is underground and you can swim in the caves of beautiful, fresh water. Just makes you feel good! 

When they bring you to a souvenir store run by Mayans, BUY THERE. They are SO much cheaper than at the hotel or at Playa del Carmen. We didn't make it to Playa del Carmen even though our hotel offered a free trip there. We didn't hear a good thing about it. The people we met at our hotel went, but they all complained. People were very pushy, yelling at them and everything was expensive. The souvenirs weren't the only expensive sales there, apparently the restaurants were no deal either. Just what I heard! 

Food Time! 

Buffet 
I loved the buffet. Who the hell says that? Mexican food is wonderful and we got our fill. Some things were poorly labeled, but it was amusing. The staff were very welcoming and fast.  

We hit the buffet on our first couple days for all of our meals while we got a feel for the place. There wasn't much difference between breakfast and left except that the omelette guy was cooking something more lunchy. A lot of heavy foods were served at breakfast, but that's how they roll! There was your traditional foods there as well, so no worries.  

For lunch/dinner, they had a good variety of food, chicken, beef and veggie dishes were all plentiful. At lunch, they serve pre-made sandwiches. I was hooked. Fresh bread and mini-croissants. Yes and yes. They had rich cheeses, bean sprouts, salmon, chicken, etc. I think I ate them everyday. 

I was happy there and didn't really mind of we ate anywhere else! 

The leftovers were brought next door to Dos Lunas for late night snackers. 

Dos Lunas - Italian 

We heard that this was the same as the buffet. As we headed to dinner, my man suggested we go to the buffet at Dos Lunas for a change of scenery. We walk up and they tell us they serve Italian food and no reservations required! No dress code really, men just need to wear sleeves.  

Excited, we were seated and checked out the menu. The manager, Joaquin, greeted us. He was fantastic. He seemed to pop up at any a la carte restaurant we were at. Very customer focused and so sweet. Oasis Tulum is lucky to have him.  

While we browed the menu, we were brought focaccia to dip in balsamic and olive oil with shredded parmesan. Pretty sure, this alone, was the reason I had to hit the gym so hard when I got back. 

The menu was not translated into English, only in Spanish. They had just opened as an Italian restaurant, so we didn't hold it against them. Our server's English wasn't great, but we figured it out, kinda. My man ordered the Bolognese every time. It wasn't over saucy, but it was very tasty. Instead of a heavy tomato/meat sauce, it was flavoured with spices. We were impressed.  

I went with a good ol' Hawaiian pizza. The pizza is great! Made fresh in a real pizza oven, it was delicious. Ample toppings and the perfect size for one person. The thin crust was nice since I had just ate a ton of focaccia. Recommended! 

On another visit, I ordered pasta, but the translation wasn't clear and I didn't ask the right questions....like, is it spicy? Oops. HOLY CRAP. I'm not a spicy gal and this was a bit much for me. I know, I know, I was in Mexico, but still. I feel like that detail was kind of important to this pasty, red-faced and sweating Canadian. 

They stayed open during power outage during a storm, lit by candles, they could still make pizza! 

Love this place! We went there every chance we had! 

Al Sur 
   

This was the a la carte restaurant you went to on the Grand side, the only restaurant you need a reservation for. They served Mediterranean food and it was beautiful. You could eat inside or outside overlooking the beach.  

It was a 4 course meal. We started with salads, he picked the Watermelon Salad and I chose the Warm Goat Cheese & Walnut Salad. I won that round. The warm salad was DELICIOUS. My man was mad he didn't get it. Lots of goat cheese crumbled over large leafy greens with walnuts and a balsamic dressing. He didn't the Watermelon Salad, nor did the table next to us. Me: 1, Jay: 0. 

Course #2. I selected the Eggplant Parmesan and he went with the Sausage Penne. The sauce on the eggplant parm was plain and it was mushy, overcooked. My man and the table next to us devoured the sausage penne like they had never seen food before. I was able to snag a bite and it was pretty good! Creamy sauce with sausage out of the casing throughout. Me: 1, Jay: 1. 

To the main course... I went with the chicken and he went with the steak. Our previous experiences with beef in foreign countries hasn't been good, but he took a chance. The chicken was juicy and delicious, but it was no match for the steak! I couldn't get a bite, he wouldn't give it up! All I heard were moaning sounds from across the table. Apparently, it was tender, well seasoned and cooked perfectly. I wouldn't know, he wouldn't let me taste! Me: 1, Jay: 2. 

Dessert time! Our experiences with cryptic, badly translated desserts hasn't been great. I went with Tiramisu and he went with the custard. The 'custard' was CRÈME BRULEE! (If you haven't read my other blogs, I'm a crème brulee addict) I was so mad. Crunchy sugar and custard, I'm surprised he didn't lick the bowl! I was pretty good considering I'd never had it in a foreign country. The Tiramisu was surprisingly good. Hell, even Italian places in Canada don't get it right, but this place was pretty close. Me: 1, Jay: 3. 

The service was great, food was great. Don't miss out on this a la carte! 

Sushi 

Yes, they had sushi and it was on the beach. Was I worried about sushi in the heat? Yes. It took me 5 days to get up the nerve to eat it. I HAD to try it though; everyone said it was good and it was! They keep everything in refrigerators and out of the sun to ensure the food doesn't spoil.  

They had a decent variety and some special rolls as well. They were in reasonable quantities as well. My man doesn't eat sushi, so I was happy that what I wanted came in 4 pieces. 

Patio 

In between the buffet and the sushi bar, there was an outdoor restaurant and we didn't know until 2 days before leaving! We thought people from the buffet were just eating outside. 

They had nachos, club sandwiches and things like that. The nachos were good, simple and very cheesy. We got a couple orders of them. The quesadilla was great! It was small, cheesy and fresh. The club was pretty good as well and it was very popular. The service was a bit slow sometimes, but it was worth the wait. 

Mexican 

There was musical entertainment each night at the Mexican restaurant and it was great. It's located by the pool and is a bar during the day. We almost missed it! 

Lime Soup. Sound weird? Don't be afraid; I hope you love it as much as I did! It was like sunshine in a bowl. Lime with a little veggies in broth with strips of crunchy tortilla. Yum! 

Our mains weren't as good. Everyone said they enjoyed this place, so I'm sad we didn't go back to try something else. I got the Fish Tacos. There were 2 tacos cut in half, amounting to 4 bites. Very small portion. My man had the Mole; something everyone that goes to Mexico has to try. It's their dish and it's pretty good. Don't be scared when they tell you it's chocolate sauce. There IS chocolate in the sauce, but it's a sweet spice. Not bad! 

Happy Chicken 

Loving the pool? Don't want to go far for eats? You don't have to; Happy Chicken saves the day! We tried many items on this menu. I recommend the chicken burger, chicken strips, chicken wings and fries. The service is pleasant and the food is very fresh. Like something? Keep ordering it; they'll keep bringing it. The ketchup isn't very good; no Heinz, but you'll live. The chicken nuggets weren't very good and my man didn't really like the hamburger. We went there a few times as the portions are not huge, but you can order more of something you like and not waste much if you don't like it. 

While were at this resort, there was a plane load of Italian vacationers. Oasis Tulum really catered to them. We couldn't eat at the Italian place one night, because it was Italians only that night. There was specific Italian entertainment people on the beach everyday. We felt excluded. We were never invited for games or volleyball. They had an Italian show at the disco every night. There was only one entertainment person from the hotel that would interact with the English speaking people. Ricardo was great. He would get us involved and even have lunch with guests!  

All in all a decent vacation, not our favourite, but there was nothing wrong with the resort, rooms or food. We'd like it if they were a bit more social with us English speaking people, but that's it! A great place for yummy food and beautiful beaches. 

Lisa