Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Outstanding Creative Vegan Meals at Nota Bene, Toronto.

It is not common knowledge that Nota Bene, has vegan dishes on its regular menu, but more importantly, with advance notice, chef David Lee will prepare a remarkably good, highly satisfying vegan meal experience, on par with the very best vegan meal experiences anywhere. And, in place of butter or olive oils for the bread, he will make a rapini or bean dip, or rapini and carrot dip with globe artichoke leaves or salt and vinegar baked potato chips accompanied by beet root and spinach puree. All zero fat/very low salt (or no salt), if requested.

No dish was less than outstanding.

Meal #1

Sweet English pea soup with pickled cucumber, was cold, refreshing and delicious. 

White asparagus and fiddlehead salad with sunchokes, pickled beets and fermented carrots.

Plant based Asian hot pot with soba noodles, vegan dashi, eggplant, shiitake mushrooms, celeriac and daikon radish. 

Roasted  Hawaiian pineapple with date and tulsi leaf caramel, coconut and cocoa nib crumble.

Meal #2

Belgian white asparagus with wild leeks and morinja (highly nutritious leaves grown in tropical regions) pesto.

Nigiri of portobello mushroom, partially dehydrated and compressed tomato, celery root and Cookstown carrot, accompanied by veggie hand rolls and house made pickled ginger.

Plant based lasagne made with celeriac, eggplant, charred cherry tomatoes, peas, mushrooms, goji berries and zucchini "cream". 

Banana split with coconut "ice cream", cocoa nib sauce and coconut crumble.

Meal #3

Kelp noodle salad and sunchoke puree with pickled carrots, kimchi, coriander and dehydrated olive.

Spring vegetable soup with wakame seaweed broth. 

Portobello "chicken", tomato and potato curry with lentils and spinach.

Pineapple sorbet with fennel, orange, tarragon and blueberry powder.

Like I said, remarkably creative and highly satisfying vegan cuisine.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Baltimore Restos: Cosima; Black Olive; La Cuchara; Colette; Tapas Teatro; Bar Vasquez and Misc. Lunch Spots

Lunch Spots

Thames Street Oyster House

A fabulous winter salad of chopped broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, red romaine, frisee, bacon lardons, candied walnuts, honeycrisp apple, quartered plums and poppy seed dressing. BUT, I was mainly there for the crab cake.

Cast iron pan fried blue crab cake with roasted tomato, remoulade and winter cole slaw. Terrific cole slaw, mediocre crab cake. It was mashed and fibrous rather than chunky as pulled from the crab. Disappointing. Lots of other items I saw presented to people next to me at the bar, looked good. But, I was there for the crab cakes.

Food Stops in Lexington Market:
Lexington Market has about 100 vendors selling fresh food, fried chicken, sausages, hot dogs and sandwiches galore. But, they are all nothing but a distraction for the 2 great spots below:


Faidley's has been family owned and operated since 1886. It is renown for it's crab cakes but also has a fresh oyster/clam bar where the freshness of these molluscs are truly exceptional and worth the journey for those alone!

 There is always a line up, but it moves quickly.

The renown crab cake was very good with nice chunks of fresh crab and little filler. They were the best I tasted in Baltimore but were not the best I ever had from this region.

The raw bar, for clams and oysters.

Krause's Fresh Roasted Turkey

My freshly sliced dark turkey meat sandwich was juicy and delicious! 

Dynosaur BBQ

Dynosaur Bbq has become a chain of about 9 locations. It began as a freestanding cart and eventually a restaurant in Syracuse, and at that time had a very good reputation. However, I was quite disappointed in this location. The ribs were dry and overdone and the flavour unremarkable; the brisket was somewhat dry and the smoke added a bitter flavour to the beef. The bbq chicken flavoured collard greens were tasty. The bbq beans flavoured with bits of pulled pork and bbq sauce, very good.

Roasted cauliflower with salsa verde. Very good dish.

Insalada di polpi: grilled baby octopus over a salad of potatoes, celery, red pepper, capers and anchovy vinaigrette. The octopus was overcooked and did not taste fresh.

Pizza cape sante e pancetta: candied bacon, smoked scallops and onion. It came with smoked mozzarella but I asked for no cheese. Tasty topping but the crust lack flavour and good texture.

Grilled whole bronzino over a wood fire was nicely cooked and fresh (no photo).

A delicious apple tart half eaten.
Black Olive

Greek village salad with cucumber, red onion, tomato, sweet red pepper and kalamata olives. A very good salad.

Moroccan style lamb shank served with kefalograviera cheese and couscous. My dinner partner did not like that fact that the shank was sitting in all this sauce with a layer of fat on top so asked to have it drained and re-plated.

Black olive special: octopus, clams, sardines, crab cake, shrimp, mussels, calamari and scallops cooked over the charcoal grill, topped with a sauce made of lemon, white wine, garlic and olive oil. Each fish was cooked perfectly. A terrific dish (no photo). We would come to this resto just for this dish.

Mediterranean sea bass simply grilled over charcoal with a sauce of lemon, white wine, garlic and olive oil. Perfectly cooked.

Fresh charcoal grilled scallops perfectly cooked.

Carrot cake, a bit too dense, but tasty.

Strawberries, Greek yogurt, crushed walnuts and honey.

La Cuchara

The resto does it's cooking over a wood fire.

 Gilda with anchovy, roasted pequillo pepper and olive. Good but not great.

Fabulous Iberico de bellotta ham from Jabugo Spain.

Pan con tomate with a slice of Iberico ham. 

Veal tongue bacadillo with charred cabbage and pimenton aioli. A terrific sandwich! 

Patata bravas, potatoes with caramelized onion, roasted garlic and mojo picon (olive oill, garlic, roasted pepper and paprika). 

Apple rosemary hogaza, pickeled rhubarb, ramps and valdeon cheese on hogaza bread.

 Wood grilled halibut, asparagus, black truffle and a tomato sauce.

 Raspberry almond cake.

The best, crispy, cinnamon chorizos with a rich chocolate sauce made with anatto and black pepper. Maybe the best chorizos I have experienced.

Smoked chocolate ice cream with salted orange caramel. Success!

Roasted pineapple ice cream with black pepper and marshmallow. Delicious!
I had made a reservation (or so I thought) at restaurant Colette. When I arrived, it was closed. A note on the door said "closed Tuesdays". So I went next door to the resto neighbour, Tapas Teatro. I had not read about, but, when desperate, what the heck. It was a fortuitous discovery.

Tapas Teatro
 Tortilla Espanola: egg, potato, onion and paprika.

Roasted eggplant, curried vegetables and and minted yogurt. 

Grilled sardines. 

Patatas bravas: fried potatoes with garlic and paprika aioli. 

Catalan kale; sauteed kale with pine nuts, raisins and shallots. 

Marmitako: Basque stew of tuna (properly cooked), potato, roasted sofrito and tomato, all drizzled with olive oil. 

Sauteed spinach with apple, raisins, pine nuts and Pedro Ximenez sherry.

House made goat cheese cake with almond-graham cracker crust and Pedro Ximenez sherry reduction. A bit too much cheese tart not cake, but very tasty.