Let’s Talk Bagels! Toasted Poppy Seed Favourites with Cheddar & Cranberry Chicken Salad

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It’s been quite some time since my last bagel-related post, so here are a batch of photos of three of my favourite things rolled up in one bagel sandwich: poppy seed bagels, cheddar cheese, and dried cranberries in chicken salad!  There hasn’t been much bagel love on the blog (you can check out my two bagel-related posts listed at the bottom here) so I’m determined to change that with a little more exploration on the bagels and great bagel bakeries that are waiting for me in our city.  There was a time when I avoided bagels like the plague because I believed they were ungodly fattening.  Coming from a girl who loves cupcakes, that probably sounds like a huge hoot to everyone.  But it’s true.  For about 2 years I did not nosh on one single bagel.  I didn’t eat toasted bagels when I was out.  I didn’t buy any from the bakery.  And I hated the ones that looked as though they’d been pumped with a steroid gun.  

Then one day I realized that I was missing out on some of the truly good quality stuff and that I actually kind of missed them.  So I snapped out of it, stopped caring about the aforementioned fat, and enjoyed the delightful toasty stuff with my favourite fillings and spreads such as cream cheese (no butter for me!), smoked salmon, chicken salad, and grilled veggies on either toasted sesame seed or poppy seed bagels.  Those two are my favourites with onion and garlic ones coming in at a close third.  And while what you see here is a bagel sandwich, I actually love eating my bagels open-faced because I think they taste yummier that way!   

This bagel in particular came from Bruegger’s Bagels (an American chain that has opened up shop on our side of the pond in both Hillcrest Mall in Thornhill and in the underground PATH near the Dundee Place food court) and the first time I came across their goods was last fall when they had pumpkin bagels with pumpkin cream cheese!  Even though I didn’t have any of the special cream cheese because I was taking bagels home as opposed to eating one right away (not getting a taste makes me a little sad now that I think of it!), I really enjoyed theirs and there’s some fab Jewish, Montreal-style bagels I’ve had during my time as icing sugar queen at Le Dolci.  Oh!  And the jalapeño asiago mozzarella bagel from our dear Tim’s is also a favourite of mine!  With cream cheese, it’s exactly like eating a creamy, cheesy, stuffed jalapeño popper.  Indulgent?  Sure.  But life is that much funner with a few indulgent moments savoured every now and then.      

*****

For a look at previous bagel-related posts in Ate by Ate, check out my veggie bagel from Seventh Sister Bakery on Roncesvalles and my delicious smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel brunch from Niche Coffee & Tea Company.

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British & Irish Baked Goods and Tofu & Root Veggie Focaccia Sandwiches – The Sorauren Market, Part II

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Another summer, another market – it’s the return to Sorauren farmers’ market!  The Sorauren market, run by the Westend Food Co-op, is one of the few markets in the city that operate year-round on a weekly basis (as opposed to biweekly or once a month during the winter months) and while I’ve made a number of visits to Dufferin Grove and Wychwood Barns throughout the fall and winter, Sorauren has been completely off my map since last summer and I’ve felt awful about it.  I try my best to hit different markets to give everyone a well-rounded representation of what’s offered in the city, but sometimes I just don’t get around to certain parts of town on specific days of the week (I spent many of my Mondays during the fall and winter cupcaking it up as an icing sugar queen at Le Dolci!) and sometimes I’ll go to certain markets more often to compensate or fill a previous or existing void. 

I am SO happy I made it out to the Monday market (3pm-7pm) at Sorauren again this month because I truly felt like I was visiting them for the first time!  It felt livelier, more bustling.  And this was the atmosphere at the market when the threat of thunderstorms were imminent!  Just think how much more flouncy the crowds would be on a sunny day.  The number vendors honestly looked like it had multipled since last year and I had so much fun going from table to table, looking at all the beautiful fruits and vegetables and baked goods, and drooling over old favourites like my fresh and vibrant veggie pizza buns from Alli’s Baked Goods, vegan chocolate yummies from Chocosol, and of course, my beloved raw and vegan eats from Earth & City.

Two vendors in particular made me totally fall in love with Sorauren all over again: The Co-op Kitchen and Yule Britannia.  I bought food and goodies from both of them and I LOVED what I ate and only wish they could be at every market in the city!  Here’s a little background though: The Westend Food Co-op is a co-opertive (much like Chocosol) and community organization that strives to build awareness of food security and accessibility issues in and around the city, to engage the community in food initiatives, to create meaningful relationships between producers and consumers while at the same time recognizing and acknowledging that these relationships are not necessarily dichtomous ones but ones that often overlap and intersect, and to bring good food to west end Toronto communties. 

The Co-op Kitchen in particular is affiliated with the Westend Food Co-op’s Food Hub, an arm of the co-op that is specifically dedicated to providing community kitchen space, workshops, educational opportunities, and fresh food among many other things.  They now come to Sorauren market with a menu of delicious dishes and items, straight from the kitchen, and this was the first time I had seen The Co-op Kitchen’s booth and table and I was ecstatic!  Veggie sandwiches!  Smashed potato salad!  Hummus and crostini!  Spiced apple cake and oatmeal cookies!  Prices are ridiculously reasonable ($2-$5!) and you could seriously eat yourself silly here. 

On this particular day, they had this HUUUUGE platter of fresh baked spelt focaccia sandwiches stuffed with roasted tofu, peppers, and onions, asparagus, greens, red root relish, and pesto.  They looked like party subs!  A whole sandwich costs $5, half for $3 and I happily nabbed myself a sandwich and hungrily dove into it when I came home later that night.  Their potato salad and spiced apple cake looked amazing (I wistfully looked at another customer inhaling his bowl of potato salad) and after enjoying such a delicious sandwich, I desparately wanted to try more food.  Another time!

Yule Britannia/Britannia Bakes is another must-visit and eat at the Sorauren market.  Think British, Scottish, and Irish baking right here in Toronto!  Elizabeth Mitchell, head honcho of Britannia Bakes, is so super nice and she happily explains what all the goodies are and their origins as you munch on delicious samples.  Her table is lovely and I had so much fun snapping photos of the beautiful set-up.  There were giant, fresh fruit tarts, savoury crackers, Irish fadge(yes, that’s right, fadge, not fudge!) potato pancakes, sticky caramel sauce, and my pick of the day, some of the BEST GINGER COOKIES EVER!  

You can either buy them as singles (75 cents each), 3 for $2, or half dozen for $4.  I grabbed 3 for $2 and as soon as I ate one, I instantly regretted not buying the entire glass cookie jar!  They are SO soft and bursting with the freshest sweet ginger flavour.  These cookies, along with the giant ginger molasses cookies from More Than Pies Baking Co. Ltd at the David Pecaut Square farmers’ market are the best I’ve ever had.

It was a joy to finally come back for a return visit.  I actually came early and plunked myself down on a bench to read while all the food vendors and farmers set up their tables and it so nice seeing everything and everyone come together for an afternoon of local food.

*****

The Sorauren farmers’ market is held on Mondays from 3pm-7pm in Sorauren Park at the corner of Sorauren and Wabash Ave, south of Dundas Street West.  The market is held year-round, operating indoors in the fieldhouse during the winter and outdoors at the park during the spring, summer, and early fall.  The easiest way to get here is by taking the 505 Dundas streetcar westbound.  If you’re envisioning major roads and intersections, Sorauren sits between Roncesvalles Ave. and Lansdowne Ave.  For more info about the market and other events in the area pertaining to organic, local food, and the West End Food Co-op organization, click here.

Havana Days, Havana Nights – Achiote & Lime Chicken Sandwiches & Cuban Crème Brûlée at Delux, Part II!

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Some foodie districts can only elude you for so long.  For me, Ossington Ave. was one of them.  I’ve walked around it, I’ve walked through it, but I’ve never eaten in one single cafe, bistro, or restaurant on it!  There are so many places on Ossington I’ve heard and read about (and even saw while strolling by several times), but I’ve never tried them.  Whether it was because of money, not being anywhere near the neighbourhood, or just being unsure of the hype and resisting the somewhat annoying “trendy” tag slapped on it, I’ve gone through my entire food journey without an Ossington meal.  All that has changed. 

After hearing and reading about the famed Ossington Ave. eating district for what feels like eternity, I finally made the plunge and went Cuban for lunch at Delux!  I’ve wanted to eat at Delux for a long, long time.  I was absolutely floored, though, when I looked up their menu online and discovered that they served Cuban lunch and brunch!  OH.MY.GOD.  All this time I thought they only served French fare for dinner (which, don’t get me wrong, they do); I had no idea they served lunch and Sunday brunch, much less CUBAN!

Coming to Delux was such a joy because to my recollection, I’ve never had anything Cuban in my life.  I was beyond excited.  I was in conniptions.  I planned this visit an entire two weeks prior, going over the menu and deciding what I wanted to try, and even showing up for lunch outside the restaurant half an hour early and then circling the neighbourhood in twitchy anticipation before they opened.  With the exception of going to Fresh, I’ve never shown up to any restaurant that early.  That’s how giddy I was about eating lunch here.

Delux, located at 92 Ossington Ave., serves up a mean Cuban inspired lunch menu Tuesday to Saturday, and a Cuban brunch menu on Sundays.  I know my post title says “Havana Days, Havana Nights” and I know the Havana Nights part doesn’t make the most sense considering Delux goes French in the evenings, but I thought Havana Nights sounded a lot sexier than Havana Days on its own, so humour me with that one.  Their Cuban inspired lunch menu hits all the marks in terms of selection: appetizers, salads, sides, sandwiches and mains, and desserts.  It’s well-rounded, it fits the bill for any and every type of appetite, and there are vegetarian options for those who go meatless.  

The menu, while Cuban inspired, has a number of Caribbean, Mexican, and South American flavours and influences within it.  Menu items include conch fritters (a type of shellfish and dish typically found in the Bahamas), empanadas, jicama salad with cucumbers, radishes, and apples, fried green plantains, roast pork with rice and beans, the famous Cuban sandwich, and so much more.  Their prices, ranging from $6-$15 for appetizers, salads, and mains, and $3 for sides, are incredibly reasonable and I’d even say more reasonable than many other places around the neighbourhood and city. 

I’ll be honest with you, I’ve always thought of Delux as one of those places in the city that was fancy and inaccessible to me, a place I’d only be able to go to when I truly had the money to splurge.  I was so wrong.  While it’s true that I based this judgment on incomplete knowledge, it was a still a misguided perception nonetheless.  And I am SO happy that I was proven wrong.  Delux is as accessible as they come.  I didn’t feel like I was eating in a place that oozed pretentiousness, or that I was dealing with that pesky “trendy” label at all.  It felt like a place that I could come back to again and again for the amazing food and reasonable lunch prices.

I had myself some guava juice ($2), their achiote and lime chicken sandwich with avocado, tomato, and aioli on fresh bread ($9), and for dessert, their Cuban crème brûlée ($4).  First off, let me mention the service.  I know this is an aspect that I don’t talk about at all on the Ate by Ate and it’s because if a place was truly bad, I simply don’t write about it at all.  So you know by default that the service is fine (to me, let’s be clear about that) if it shows up on the blog.  Thus, my mentioning it at all means something special.  The service is awesome.  So friendly and so FAST.  I wasn’t waiting around for my food at all and I was actually taken aback by how fast my food came to me.  I don’t mean 5 seconds after the nice waitress took my order, but definitely quick enough for me to notice! 

Second, let’s talk about the marinade of the meat: achiote.  I have never had this in life.  Prior to seeing Delux’s menu, I had never heard of it in my life.  Achiote, commonly used in Latin Americna, Mexican, and Filipino cuisine, is created by grinding the seeds of the inedible annatto plant/fruit and transforming it into a powder and/or paste with other spices and herbs.  From there, it is either used as a dry rub for meat or combined with liquid to form a marinade. 

In this case, it was used as a marinade for the chicken and it was out of this world.  I will even be so bold as to say that you have not eaten chicken until you have eaten this sandwich!  The flavour had depth, warmth, a bit of kick, a bit of tang, and a hint of smokiness.  It was like the much awesome sister of BBQ sauce (sorry, BBQ sauce, but you lose this contest hands down).

This sandwich was all sorts of amazing.  Amazing doesn’t even do it justice.  The bread was as soft as you can imagine with delicious crust and surprisingly sturdy!  This sandwich was stuffed to nines with fresh chicken chunks, thick wedges of avocado, tomato, and one very amazing herb aioli spread, and the bread didn’t give or fall apart.  It was able to contain everything and boy was everything delicious.  One of the BEST sandwiches EVER.

And the crème brûlée!  I would seriously come back to Delux JUST for the Cuban crème brûlée.  The flavours were like a punch in the mouth, but a happy, dizzying good way with a bold coffee, espresso flavour and sweet, creamy caramel undertones, wrapped in a rich custard whipped like mousse on the inside and a hard, crackled caramel shell on the outside.  Perfectly executed and bang on on what a crème brûlée should be.

I absolutely cannot wait to come back to Delux to try their other sandwiches, their conch fritters and empanadas, and definitely their Sunday brunch!  After realizing just how wonderful their food and menu are and how affordable their items are, I no longer have any apprehensions about those preconceived thoughts of Delux being out of my reach.  I am coming back and making myself right at home.  

*****

Delux is located at 92 Ossington Ave. at the corner of Ossington Ave. and Humbert St. between Dundas Street West to the north and Queen Street West to the south.  Delux serves both lunch and dinner from Tuesday-Saturday, and brunch and dinner on Sundays.  Lunch is served from 11:30am-3pm from Tuesday-Saturday, and dinner is served from 6pm from Tuesday-Sunday.  Click HERE to view their website, and HERE to follow them on Twitter @DeluxRestaurant

Havana Days, Havana Nights – Cuban Sandwiches and Sweets at Delux on Ossington, Photo Spotlight Part I

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My first foray into the Ossington foodie district!  Big write-up set for tomorrow.

*****

Delux is located at 92 Ossington Ave. at the corner of Ossington Ave. and Humbert St. between Dundas Street West to the north and Queen Street West to the south.  Delux serves both lunch and dinner from Tuesday-Saturday, and brunch and dinner on Sundays.  Lunch is served from 11:30am-3pm from Tuesday-Saturday, and dinner is served from 6pm from Tuesday-Sunday.  Click HERE to view their website, and HERE to follow them on Twitter @DeluxRestaurant

The Vegetarian Sandwich Series – Grilled Tofu & Eggplant Panini and Hot Chocolate at Dark Horse Espresso Bar

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Sandwiches?  Vegan sandwiches?  At a coffee shop?!  Yes siree.  Bring a book, a magazine, or a friend to the popular java haunt and sit back and relax with some sips and eats.  Dark Horse Espresso Bar, with 3 locations around downtown Toronto, is your one stop coffee shop for sunny laptop and tablet fun, coffee, lattes, summer and winter drinks, sweet treat baked goods, and grilled panini sandwiches.  I’ve sat back with an apple cider and a latte on two separate occasions and with its pretty orchid flowers and beautiful artwork on the walls, it’s a really nice coffee shop to be in.  It’s one of those perfect “oh my goodness, I need to get some work done but staying at home by myself makes me want to stab myself with a pen” spots because it’s airy and open with big communal tables, so it provides the space to be anonymous without being completely alone AND you get to enjoy food and drink while doing it!  

Recently, I’ve been hemming and hawwing about getting some work done at my local library but I’ve been hesitant about going just because the area lacks food options (I’m not kidding, the closest food option is a dot on the 3 km radius map) and we all know we can’t start breaking out the 3-course meals from our kitchen tupperware containers in the middle of the library.  So, Dark Horse poses itself as the more appealing option for a day of web work and after I had my lovely vegan grilled panini sandwich and hot chocolate, it posits itself as very delicious one too!

 

I love how I can go to Dark Horse and ask for cute latte art.  I know, you can get latte art at several other coffee shops in the city but I haven’t been to those yet, so humour me!  I asked for a cute heart in my hot chocolate ($3.09) and I got the most adorable heart/tulip heart shaped flower!  It was unintentionally (or maybe it was intentional on the part of the nice barista…) perfect for spring and if you like foamy hot chocolates, Dark Horse is your spot.  Don’t do what I did though and leave it sitting for too long.  I was so busy snapping photos of it and my sandwich that the foamies stuck to the inside of the mug and while it was kind of funny having to scrape some of the hot chocolate off, it’s not something I would suggest to anyone else. 

Their hot chocolate is very mild and foamy in taste and texture.  It’s not a fudgy type of chocolate taste, nor is is straight up cocoa powder in taste either.  It’s airy and light and if I had to compare it to something, I’d say that it tastes more like an unsweetened mousse that’s been air whipped into a hot chocolate drink.  For those who don’t like it sickly sweet and just want something that tastes more natural and light as opposed to rich and decadent, this is what you want.

I’ve had my eye on their vegan sandwich for months and months and it has taken me so long to finally get to it, but it was worth the wait because I really enjoyed it!  While I would have loved a big, stacked vegan sandwich baguette style or just a thicker sandwich in general, the vegan sandwich delivers in flavour on all counts and it’s hard to be hard on a panini sandwich based on its thickness; a panini is, essentially, a flattened grilled, toasted sandwich.  Dark Horse serves up a number of grilled panini sandwiches during the day (come after 11am and they’ll all be ready), with both meat and vegetarian options ranging from $6-$7.  These include grilled cheese, hot salami, turkey, and avocado and asparagus in addition to the vegan sandwich. 

The vegan sandwich is filled with a mix of firm tofu, grilled eggplant, roasted red peppers, avocado, and a coriander pesto spread.  I was totally expecting a run-of-the-mill grilled vegetable sandwich but what I got was an out-of-this-world warm, savoury, slightly spicy, ginger taste that emanated throughout the entire sandwich.  It took me completely by surprise and I found myself enjoying the sandwich more and more with every bite.  The bread was fantastic in texture with crunchy, grainy bits that had tiny pockets of savoury saltiness to it and the tofu wedges were perfect because they were firm without being rubbery and it fed off of the coriander pesto and grilled vegetables, absorbing their flavours while still retaining its own, well, tofu-ness. 

The bread and the spread totally did it for me and I had flavours in this sandwich that I had never come across before in other sandwiches and for that, it makes it unique.  Do I wish panini sandwiches in general were bigger and less flattened?  Sure.  But I’m more happy with the fact that it tasted great and that it was something I could see myself having again.  After all the dishes and things I’ve had in my life, especially since I started Ate by Ate, I’ve come across things that have been not-so-great and at the very least, forgettable, but this was a sandwich that I truly savoured and liked.          

*****

Dark Horse Espresso Bar serves 3 locations in downtown Toronto:

  1. 215 Spadina Ave. (nearest intersection is Queen St. West and Spadina, about a block or two north of Queen on the east side of Spadina)
  2. 682 Queen St. East (located in the Riverside neighbourhood, west of Broadview Ave.)
  3. 684 Queen St. West (located at Euclid Ave. on the north side of Queen)  

The Little Black Dress of Italian – A Menu of Wild Mushroom Crostini & Sicilian Muffaleta at Black Skirt, Part II

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*** (This is Part II of my 2-part post series on Black Skirt’s Italian and Sicilian meats, cheeses, antipasti, pasta, and more.  For Part I, click here! ***

While there are a number of fabulous Sicilian and Italian dishes to choose from in the menu, Black Skirt primarily has a focus on three things: cheeses, meats (marinated, cured, braised, and slow cooked), and pasta.  In addition to their dine-in, sitdown menu, Black Skirt offers a deli meat and cheese bar where people can go in and buy by the gram.  The list of meats and cheeses is HUGE and there are so many items that you just cannot get at your local supermarket.  Sure, they have meats and cheeses such as genoa salami, mortadella, provolone, and havarti, but they also have Italian piave, crotonese, soppressata, and pecorino.  If you don’t know which ones are cheeses and which ones are meats, I’ll let you have fun figuring that out!

Olives and antipasto such as grilled artichokes, sundried tomatoes, eggplant, and cherry hot peppers are also sold by the gram and off to the side are shelves of dry pantry items, pasta making tools, and other Sicilian specialities.  And thanks to my dear friend Andrea who is Italian, I learned this all from her!  The selection of  specialty grocery items reminds me of Fusaro’s Kitchen on Spadina and it’s here that you can find some really special things you wouldn’t normally be able to find at other places.

This focus on cheeses, cured meats and antipasto (and pasta) also extends into their dine-in menu: marinated octopus, anchovies, and mackerel, daily cured meat panini sandwiches, braised veal shank (classic osso buco), crostini with fontina cheese, fresh ricotta, shaved parmigiano reggiano, goat cheese, rigatoni, ravioli, spaghetti, and SO MUCH MORE.  Prices vary depending on the type of dish your ordering, but generally speaking, antipasti range from $4-$10.50 (with the exception of the large sharing platters), paninis from $10-$12, pastas from $10-$18, and dinner mains from $20-$27.

For my first Black Skirt Italian meal, I enjoyed a wild mushroom crostini antipasti and the muffaletta sandwich and I loved them both.  The wild mushroom crostini were served on three grilled breads with oyster, portobello, and cremini mushrooms with melted fontina cheese and the pairing of the two was fantastic.  The fontina cheese was so buttery and savoury with a slight nuttiness to it (a far cry from more mild cheeses like mozzarella) and it matched the intensity of the meaty, juicy portobellos and creminis perfectly.

I was really, really excited about the muffaletta though.  After seeing chef Stefano Faita make a muffaletta sandwich on his cooking show months ago, I was ecstatic to have an authentic Italian one.  Hailing from Sicily, the muffaletta is made with a giant round of crusty bread with a soft interior.  The top portion is cut off and the insides of the bread round are scooped out, thus making somewhat of a bread bowl.  Then, Italian meats, cheeses, olives, and marinated, pickled, and cured goodies are layered, spread, and added one after another until the entire round is filled.  The top portion that was cut off in the beginning is then placed back on top of the round and the sandwich is then sliced like a cake.  What results is a delightful sandwich with layers and layers of meats and cheese and olive goodness.

I don’t even like olives, but I love them in a muffaletta (and sometimes on pizza) and they added this wonderful briney, saltiness to it that gets completely soaked up and absorbed in the bread.  The muffaletta is amazing because you get so many different flavours ping ponging all over the place it all works because none of them compete and the bread acts as the blank canvas, soaking in the flavours and allowing fresh bites to come through your mouth after every bite.

Black Skirt’s muffaletta is made with a mix of mortadella, capocollo (both of which I’ve had from my local Italian bakery and deli), hot and sweet soppressata (Italian dry salami), provolone cheese, giardiniera (Italian pickled topping of peppers), and a sundried tomato and black olive tapenade paste.  Provolone is one of the best cheeses to have in a sandwich because it has this incredibly nutty, sharp taste to it that complements crusty bread and contrasts with cured, spicy meats.  It’s one of those amazing thick cheeses that holds up to anything (this stuff does not melt at the drop of a hat) which makes it perfect for meatier sandwiches like the muffaletta.  The muffaletta that you see in the photos is actually a half portion as I was sharing with my boyfriend, so really, a full portion is a big, half wheel sandwich with a green spring mix salad on the side.

This food experience has made me appreciate the subleties in Italian cuisine so much more and I’m even more excited now to explore this huge world of amazing food.  There are some real gems around the city that I’ve had my eye on for quite some time and Black Skirt was one of them.  I’m so happy that I enjoyed the food, menu, and feel of the space as much as I did and I can’t wait for my second time around.

*****

Black Skirt is located at 974 College Street in the west end of Toronto, in between Dufferin Street and Ossington Ave.  The Italian eatery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am-10pm.  Along with their permanent menu, Black Skirt offers a dinner menu for 5pm onward and daily specials every day including a daily soup, daily special Italian meat and cheese panini sandwiches, and pasta.

The Little Black Dress of Italian – Meats, Cheeses, Antipasti, and Learning Italian Food at Black Skirt, Part I

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Even though I love Italian food, I’ll be the first to admit that I know very little about the cultural nuances and regional differences in Italian cuisine.  I can rave on and on about how much I love mozzarella di bufala and pappardelle but I can’t tell you what specific region they originated from or where these delights are most commonly produced – and no, Googling doesn’t solve everything!  Yes, much of this information can be looked up with a few keyboard taps, but that’s not the same as really knowing your craft because you’ve genuinely examined those nuances. 

This lack of regional knowledge is something that I want to change very much, not only because learning about food is good in general but also because I’m genuinely fascinated by differences in cuisine within the same country.  I would quiz my dad for hours about the regional cuisines of China and I would dig into my childhood memories, recalling everything I could about the different types of Chinese food I would eat with my grandparents and my aunt and uncle.

        

It’s so easy to lump food under one monolithic, ethnic umbrella to “simplify” things.  I know Italian cuisine can be one of those misnomers in the restaurant industry where any place that serves spaghetti is considered Italian and I’m sure this drives many Italians and foodies absolutely crazy.  I know it drives me up the wall when people associate fried rice and chop suey with Chinese food and nothing but.  Thus, we end up rendering the most interesting, fascinating aspects of a regional cuisine invisible and inaccesible when this happens.  Just think, we have the regional cuisines of Tuscany, Sicily, Bologna, Naples, and so many others to explore and I really hope I’ll be able to flush some of this knowledge out within the city and learn as I go along.  This is learning experience and curve for me so if you know it all, humour me, and if you don’t, join me!  We can learn on this food journey together and it’ll be jolly good and delicious fun!

Black Skirt, located on College Street in the west end, is a lovely Sicilian restaurant that is part rustic, part shabby chic, and part bistro and wine bar all rolled into one.  While the back end is much more conducive to intimate dining, the front half of Black Skirt exudes that warm, comforting, homey glow that makes you feel so happy and relaxed when you eat.  You can see yourself sitting by the front table bar by the sunny window with the newspaper, sipping a coffee drink and enjoying a crunchy, grilled panini or crostini; you envision yourself having a lunch date with a friend, admiring the exposed brick wall and the mouthwatering salads and sandwiches; and you imagine sharing forkfuls of antipasto and steaming plates of fresh pasta with your loving significant other on a wonderful night out.  This is what I think of when I think about going back to Black Skirt.

I loved my first time here – so much so that I wanted to come back the next day so I could down a delicious plate of pasta!  That, or a panini.  Or another antipasto plate.  There’s a lot of wonderful food here.  And there are daily specials every day for both lunch and dinner to switch things up, including special Italian meat and cheese paninis and pasta dishes that aren’t offered on their permanent menu.  In hindsight, I should have taken advantage of one of the daily special pastas (pistachios!) because it sounded amazing, but there will always be future meals here (you can count on it) and I’ll just have to cross my fingers that I’ll come across it again.

Continue reading about my Black Skirt experience in my Part II post here where I discuss their all-over-the-Italy map menu, and their wild mushroom crostini and Sicilian muffaleta sandwich among Italian eats!

*****

Black Skirt is located at 974 College Street in the west end of Toronto, in between Dufferin Street and Ossington Ave.  The Italian eatery is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10am-10pm.  Along with their permanent menu, Black Skirt offers a dinner menu for 5pm onward and daily specials every day including a daily soup, daily special Italian meat and cheese panini sandwiches, and pasta.