Falling In Love With Coriander “Ping Gai” Chicken (and Lemon Coconut Cake!) at Queen Mother Cafe

3 Comments

DSCN0438 - Copy

Chocolate is a wonderful thing for more reasons than one.  For starters, it makes a mean mousse.  And for another, it made me blog again (thanks, Hershey’s!).  I know that you all know that I’ve been away for nearly half a year.  6 months.  None of my breaks have ever lasted that long and truth be told, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to blog again until after the new year, if at all.  But here I am and it’s all thanks to chocolate for giving me the kick in the pants I really needed to come back.

I’ll write a little more about my being away closer to the end of the month, but for the time being I just want to enjoy this little window of Christmas magic that I’ve carved out for myself because really, these two weeks (this past week and the coming one) are arguably the best weeks in this entire year for me.  It’s been one of the very few glimpses of light in an otherwise dark and unhappy year, especially the latter half while I was away from here.  So I am soaking everything in even more than usual (I’m not kidding, I’ve been looking at all the photos I’ve taken multiple times a day to relive the happiness) and keeping these sweet memories close to me for as long as I can.

DSCN1136

So, onto some really yummy eats.  You know what I discovered about myself during my time away from blogging?  That I really don’t mind eating the same thing from the same place twice in a row.  Or even three times.  Or four.  Which is probably very surprising to many people because I’m always tooting my horn about how much I love working my way through a menu and trying new things and keeping things new and exciting.  Blah, blah, blah.  I changed my tune just a tiny bit in relation to certain places and foods.  You’ll understand EXACTLY what I mean when I get around to making my ginormous ramen noodle house post in the very near future (really, I think I’m going to shock the pants off some people with what I’ll be revealing) but for now, I thought I’d talk a little bit about one of my favourite restaurants in the city, Queen Mother Cafe on Queen Street West.

To refresh everyone’s memories, I wrote my foodie love letter about them almost a year ago here and have loved them ever since.  (Note: their menu does change every so often, so as a note, their quinoa meatloaf burger is no longer on it, unfortunately!  But their quinoa salad is still there.)  Their food, their cake, everything.  Especially their Ping Gai.  Their fan-freakin’-tastic Ping Gai.

DSCN0435

DSCN0436

You need this in your life (so long as you are not vegetarian).  You have not tasted awesome chicken until you have tasted this dish.  It’s a big, beautiful piece of boneless chicken marinated in garlic, coriander, and peppercorns and grilled to absolute crispy perfection served with white rice and dressed mixed salad greens ($13.95).  And the lime and coriander dipping sauce that accompanies this luscious chicken?  Good enough to drink.

This dish is comfort, heartiness, freshness, and savouriness all in one.  It’s so filling but light at the same time in the sense that you don’t feel weighed down afterward.  It fills you from the inside out in that happy, warm and full feeling, and the flavours just have that pop that makes it different from anything else I’ve tried.  The chicken is tender and juicy and the grilled crispy skin with that great garlic spiced crust is just divine.  This dish is so good, so delicious, it makes you not want to eat anything else on the menu (except cake), not because the other menu items aren’t mouthwatering too, but because it’s just than damn good.  It is SO hard to resist.  I look at the menu and I feel like there is this ridiculous magnetic pull towards it, that I need to literally pull myself away from that choice to consciously make another one from the menu.

So in a nutshell, I am guilty of having this more than once.  And I can honestly say that I would die happy having only this from Queen Mother for the rest of my life.

Yup.

DSCN0495

DSCN0500

DSCN0503

Variety is the spice of life though, so I’ve also included in this post some photos of one of their daily specials (which obviously changes daily), their butternut squash agnolotti pasta, and photos of cake.  Because you can’t eat at Queen Mother without having cake.  It’s a sin if you don’t.  And you want to be good, right?

DSCN0447

DSCN0444

Their butternut squash agnolotti pasta was a delicious dish of stuffed pasta (think ravioli but half moons instead of squares) bathed in a creamy tomato sauce with snow peas, arugula, and asparagus with a healthy sprinkling of yummy parmesan cheese on top.  And the cake in question was a heavenly slice of lemon coconut: layers of vanilla and lemon cake with cream cheese frosting and shredded coconut.  Hello, happiness.  I would have this cake again in a heartbeat because the consistency of the cream cheese frosting was perfect and the cake was soft and moist.  And it’s lemon coconut, duh!  Their cake selection changes all the time but rest assured that there is something for everyone: chocolate cake, fruit cake, nut cakes, cheesecakes, mousse cakes, layered cakes, pick a cake.

So, the next time you’re here, I hope you try the Ping Gai dish and enjoy it as much as I do.  With cake.  Because you know it’s a must.

DSCN0451

*****

Queen Mother Cafe is located at 208 Queen Street West in the downtown core just steps away from Osgoode subway station, situated between St. Patrick Street and Duncan Street.  They are opened 7 days a week, serving lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday (11:30 am to 1 am) and weekend brunch and dinner on Sundays (11:30 am to midnight 12 am).  You can visit their official website HERE to view their info and menu.

Advertisements

It’s a Po’ Boy Kind of Day – A Crispy Fish Sandwich Lunch at The Gabardine!

Leave a comment

DSCN0539It’s time to put some crispy, savoury, mouthwatering grub back on Ate by Ate!  And what better way to do so than to introduce everyone to one of Bay Street’s popular work week diners, The Gabardine, where the taps are flowing and the food is droolworthy!  Located at 372 Bay Street at the corner of Bay and Richmond smackdab in the downtown core of the city, The Gabardine is a work-week only establishment.  Open from 8am-10pm Monday through Friday, the warm and welcoming diner caters to the work crowd, the university student crowd, and those who happen to have a hankering for really fab diner “grub” and a weekday off – like me!  With menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, The Gabardine positions itself as a casual, comforting space for hungry mouths in the morning before work, ravenous appetites midday, and relaxed and happy tummies at the end of a long day for hearty meals and drinks.  With stools at the bar, tables for two, and long booths for groups, it’s a great place to eat and unwind, especially when you’re in the mood for delicious comfort food.

Which is, you know, always.

DSCN0511

DSCN0512

I made my way here for lunch during one of my Eaton Centre and underground PATH walking days knowing exactly what I wanted to eat which was quite the accomplishment considering my indecisiveness over all things yummy.  Given how I agonized over the menu online before coming, I really didn’t have any excuse for hemming and hawwing but when a menu reads like a food bible, all decisions have the potential of flying out the door; I’m used to it.

DSCN0513

The Gabardine’s lunch menu (served from 11:30am-3pm) is split into 3 categories: snacks and salads, sandwiches (served with a choice between fries or salad greens), and mains.  Most items ring in between $10-$20, but of course, there are few $6 and $9’s and a few $20+ but you get the idea.  I suggest you arm yourself with a napkin because you’re going to have to mop up some drool after reading the list of menu items.  Yummies include deep fried beer cheese croquettes with maple mustard ($13), roasted beet and farro salad with ricotta, grilled pickled onions and everything bagel spice ($15), the ever-growing popular ploughman’s lunch platter ($24) which in my mind is a nifty farm-to-table twist on the charcuterie board, Chinese bbq pork on a bun ($16) with mayo, scallions and napa cabbage slaw (with the option of substituting the pork for tofu ($14) – yum to both options!), chicken pot pie with herbed pastry crust ($19), a daily vegetarian risotto special and SO MUCH MORE.  There are items for hearty appetites, for vegetarians, for sandwich lovers, greasy spoon lovers, artisinal food lovers, the list goes on.  But the common thread is comfort food.

So what did I decide on before parking myself down at their window seat at 11:30am sharp that day?  The incredible-sounding shrimp po’ boy with butter lettuce, tomato relish and aioli ($16).  COME TO MAMA.  I have wanted a po’ boy sandwich for so long so seeing this on their menu made me break out into a happy dance!  BUT!  Instead of shrimp, the chefs were trying out something a little different for their po’ boys that day: crispy fried cod fish.  “Does that still sound tasty?” asked the nice waitress tentatively.  “Oh, for sure, that’s fine!”

What I really wanted to say was “HECK YES!”  Pft, shrimp, cod fish, it’s all heaven to me.  I freakin’ love my fish sandwiches and tacos.

DSCN0541

DSCN0533

DSCN0543

This meal was all sorts of fantabulous.  Not only was the portion huge (I wouldn’t be surprised if folks pulled a jaw muscle trying to fit the po’ boy into their mouth), but the quality and flavours were wonderful.  It’s easy to brush diner grub off as unhealthy, greasy, and well, cheap.  But this was none of the above.  The roll was soft and chewy, my salad greens were crisp and dressed perfectly (who wants soggy salad?), the butter lettuce was big and bright (who wants pale stuff that only covers half the bun?), and the fish was crispy, savoury, and to-die-for.  The cod fish chunks weren’t greasy, they were meaty, white and fleshy, and oh-so-delicious, and they were piled on high!  And combined with the tomato relish and creamy aioli (which functioned like the fish sauce), everything just worked.

It’s funny, when you’re eating something super savoury or super sweet, you tend to get a bit tired of it half way through because the flavours just get too overwhelming for the palate.  It’s not that you’re feeling full, it just gets to be too much with some foods.  But with this cod fish po’ boy with tomato relish, you consistently get bites of savoury fish between bites of acidic and sweet flavour from the relish to break things up so you don’t feel weighed down or bored with the same flavours throughout the meal and I totally appreciated how the aioli wasn’t glopped on.  It was a meal of crispy, yummy happiness and one I enjoyed during those elusive weekdays off.  If you have the chance, go.  It’s worth it.

DSCN0546

*****

The Gabardine is located at 372 Bay Street at the corner of Richmond Street West in Toronto’s downtown core.  They are open 8am-10pm, Monday through Friday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Visit their website at http://www.thegabardine.com/ to view their menus, beer, and wine lists and follow them @thegabardine on Twitter for the latest.

Irish Delights for St. Patrick’s Day – Corned Beef & Gravy with Cabbage & Mashed Potatoes at P.J. O’Brien!

Leave a comment

restaurant.front.pjobrienAnyone who knows me well knows I’m a sucker for all holidays and celebratory occasions.  And I mean all.  Not just the “big” ones like Valentine’s, Easter, Christmas, and Thanksgiving but also maple syrup season (which just happens to be going on right now!), cherry blossom season, harvest and apple season and let’s not forget, St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow!  Ever since I started Ate by Ate, I’ve had my heart set on doing themed posts for all of them but given time constraints and bad weather, sometimes it feels almost impossible to do posts for everything.  So I decided to change my approach.  Instead of waiting until the last minute to get photos and stories, I would just do them early, if I could.  Does it mean I might miss out on being right in the thick of the moment?  Sure.  But I would rather have something to show for it than nothing at all.  I’m always so disappointed when I don’t get to celebrate on the blog because I waited until the week or weekend of and things just happen to fall through.

DSCN0590

DSCN0585

So this time around, I had my Irish food for St. Patrick’s Day early.  Very early.  In fact, I had my incredibly delicious St. Patrick’s Day meal over a month ago!  And it’s here and hot off the press.  Well, the photos and story anyway, not the food.  True, I wasn’t surrounded by happy partygoers clad in green apparel but the nice thing about this is that going to an Irish pub and restaurant means that we can kind of celebrate life with Irish food whenever we want.  And I just happened to celebrate over a month early at P.J. O’Brien in downtown Toronto.

I remember the day so well.  It was one of the coldest, dreariest, grayest days this winter but for whatever reason, the bite in the air eased up a little bit right around lunch hour when I hurriedly scurried out onto Colborne St. just southwest of King and Church to take photos outside.  The building that P.J. O’Brien resides in would brighten even the darkest, gloomiest of days.  It has to be one of my favourite buildings in the city.  Nestled between the towering structures in the financial district and the historic ones of old town Toronto sits a three-storey building as bright and cheerful and charming as a Lego house.  Equipped with bright blue window shutters and painted sunny golden yellow, P.J. O’Brien is a beacon of culinary happiness.

DSCN0597

DSCN0605

DSCN0611

Their dining room and bar areas are simultaneously cozy and spacious with plenty of space for large groups and intimate get-togethers.  I love the tables by the front windows.  Perfect for taking in the large dining room and bar around you and for taking photos with natural light!  Open 6 days a week from Monday to Saturday from 11am to the wee hours of the morning (1am from Monday to Friday and 2am on Saturday), P.J. O’Brien delivers a mix of comfort food, pub fare and Irish classics with flair including Kilkenny Ale fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, beef and Guinness stew, sausage and chips, and my pick: corned beef and cabbage!

DSCN0621

DSCN0618

DSCN0629

I had the hardest time choosing between the beef and Guinness stew, sausage and chips, and the corned beef and cabbage.  All of them sounded delicious, all of them screamed warmth and comfort and Irish goodness but with only one stomach, I could only choose one.  Sigh.  So after much deliberation, I chose the corned beef and cabbage ($15): a wedge of freshly steamed cabbage alongside two giant scoops of creamy mashed potatoes with sprigs of fresh flat leaf parsley and three moist and juicy pieces of corned beef smothered in rich brown gravy sauce, with an extra side of tartar sauce that I specifically ordered to go with my meal because I am a crazy nut for tartar sauce!  This meal is everything comfort food should be and really, the closest I’ve ever been to Ireland’s food in my life.  It was piping hot and SO. INCREDIBLY. DELICIOUS.

I loved it so much not only because it scrumptious but because it’s something I don’t have all the time.  Or ever, really.  I eat mashed potatoes and deli corned beef (or breakfast hash) and the occasional bite of cabbage, but never all together and certainly never in such a yummy capacity.  The mashed potatoes were fluffy and airy (not gluey!), the cabbage was tender yet crisp (and without the strong tang of bitterness that usually makes me shy away from cabbage) and the corned beef was melt-in-your-mouth soft.  It wasn’t difficult to bite into or cut through at all and its savouriness was perfect; not too salty but far from bland.  Even without the sauce I would have loved it and I really appreciated the thickness of it (imagine the thickness of luncheon meat slices.  Or just look at the photos) and having it in three pieces as opposed to one giant overwhelming slab.  It made it easier to eat and made for a lovely presentation.

DSCN0613

DSCN0622

DSCN0627

And if you can believe it, it gets better.  My meal came with a basket of bread and butter and by golly that bread and butter was some of the best bread and butter I’ve ever had.  I know.  It’s only bread and butter.  But think about it, even something as simple as bread and butter can go horribly awry (or rye…haha).  The bread can be too hard or too dry and the butter can be too difficult to spread.  But theirs was so good I was tempted to eat the entire thing all by myself in one sitting but I had enough sense just to eat a few pieces and save the rest for my doggy bag along with a piece of corned beef and some cabbage.

I’m a hungry girl but I’m not known for being the queen of the doggy bag (or tupperware) for nothing.

I’m so happy I got to enjoy my ‘St. Patrick’s Day’ meal when I did and I hope that if you’re in around the downtown core tomorrow that you’ll stop by P.J. O’Brien for a bite to celebrate the great food and actual festivities.  You’ll be glad you did.

DSCN0620

*****

P.J. O’Brien is an Irish pub and restaurant located in downtown Toronto at 39 Colborne St., just south of King Street East and just west of Church St.  They are open Monday through Saturday from 11am – 1am (2am on Saturday).  Visit their official website at http://pjobrien.com/

A Winter Lunch of Harvest Salad, Sourdough & Clam Chowder – Keep Toasty at Earls Kitchen & Bar

Leave a comment

DSCN0217

Winter pro: I learned how to use our snow blower this year and am pushing and dragging that thing around like a winter warrior.  Winter con: there is so much freakin’ snow outside my house you can’t even see me behind the damn mountain of it.  Granted, I’m short (coming in at a generous 5 foot 2 inches) but our mountain of snow is so tall it even obscures my brother who’s 6 feet tall!  It’s been a loooong time since I’ve experienced a winter like this.  And this is coming from a girl who was born and bred in Canada and would lay in the snow inside a snow fort as a kid and just look up at the sky without a care in the world.  What can I say?  We’ve been a little spoiled the last few years here in Toronto so being slapped with so much snow and such bitterly cold temperatures all at once week after week has taken a bit of getting used to.

And I’ll be honest, it’s been especially stymying for me generating blog content.  I’ve never cancelled and switched around my plans more than I have this winter and the cold weather has really pushed me to get creative with the logistics of my outings.  I don’t fare so well in extreme temperatures (hot or cold) as both give me bad migraines so at any given moment I need to hop indoors to warm up to keep myself from being exposed for long periods of time.  Thus, the cold weather has, unfortunately, prevented me from taking those long exploration walks around the city that I love so much, relegating me to the more retail-oriented parts of town.  Which is not necessarily a bad thing!  But let’s be frank: malls get boring real fast and they do me no favours in the food blogging department.  And you all know how much I thrive on variety!

DSCN0198

So I’ve had to put my thinking cap on and figure out how to go about taking photos and trying new places still staying relatively close to the indoors and I think I’ve come up with a few pretty good solutions for myself.  One such outing led me through the underground PATH downtown (which is one of my favourite things in the city) through the Sun Life financial building and straight into the warm and welcoming arms of Earls Kitchen & Bar on King Street West and York Street.  Who would have thought I’d be walking through an insurance building to do food blogging!

Earls Kitchen & Bar is a place I’ve been meaning to try for years and while having a case of cabin fever isn’t exactly the best reason for finally going, I’ll take it.  Because it’s a wonderful place and a place I’d be happy to go back to for meals and meals to come.  If you haven’t been, make the effort because the food is delicious, the staff is so friendly and accommodating, and the restaurant is beautiful and lovely inside.

DSCN0204

DSCN0205

DSCN0207

Located at 150 King Street West in the financial district hubbub, Earls has a gorgeous outdoor patio out front (which I will be sure to enjoy come summer!) and two large dining areas inside including the large bar and adjoining dining room, making it quite the haunt for the business lunch crowd.  The dining room makes you feel like you’re eating inside a log cabin.  It’s so warm and cozy and nice.  And their menu has warm and cozy written all over it.  While it offers lots of pub fare such as appetizers (calamari, prawn and mango rolls, dry ribs, chicken and wontons), burgers, tacos and sandwiches (angus beef on brioche, chicken tacos, chicken with brie and fig on ciabatta, roasted portobellini and red pepper on sourdough), it offers just as many dishes that will warm you all over on a cold winter’s day such as meaty steaks and seafood, ribs and chicken, roasted root vegetables, curry and pasta (I’ve heard fantastic things about their fettuccini!) and what I had for lunch: sourdough, soup and salad!

DSCN0225

Their chicken and field mushroom fettuccini was calling out at me like a foghorn but I really wanted to try something more lunch fare-ish and I don’t post nearly enough about soup so I jumped at the chance to try Earls salad, soup and sourdough meal ($13.75).  The meal comes with your choice of Caesar or Harvest salad, Earls Famous Clam Chowder or featured soup (which was cream of mushroom at the time), and sourdough bread.  What better way to celebrate the season than with harvest salad and cozy clam chowder?!

DSCN0218

DSCN0220

Earls’ Harvest Crunch salad is a beautiful, bright and refreshing mix of baby greens, purple kale, watermelon radish (possibly the prettiest vegetable to grace the earth), sunflower seeds, slices of pear (which I sadly couldn’t eat because of my allergy but it was lovely to look at nevertheless and thankfully there weren’t too many slices so I didn’t have to feel awful for leaving them on my plate) and dried fruit (apricots and cranberries) dressed in citrus vinaigrette with shaved parmesan.  I was all over it like peanut butter on jelly – I hardly ever see watermelon radish in salad!  I love crunch and texture in my salads and the fruit, seeds and radishes made it so enjoyable to eat, not to mention the parmesan gave the salad that yummy hit of saltiness, balancing out the sweetness from the dressing and fruits.  It was a such fab presentation of the winter bounty in salad form.

And the clam chowder and sourdough bread.  You will never look at clam chowder and sourdough the same way again after you have it here at Earls.  For starters, it was presented beautifully on a wooden serving board.  Second, the clam chowder was hearty and scrumptious, chock full of diced tomatoes, celery, carrots, potatoes and meaty clams in a smooth and creamy broth sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley.  It filled me without making me feel like I ate something too creamy or too saturated.  It was just SO DARN DELICIOUS.  It was so full of substance and it ate like a meal, pairing beautifully with the sourdough bread beside it.

DSCN0223

DSCN0227

The gigantic wedge of sourdough knocked it out of the park.  It was golden to perfection with a crunchy crust on the outside, a moist and buttery inside and this amazing sweetness from the little bit of honey that was drizzled over top.  I couldn’t believe my tastebuds.  I sat there chewing on my sourdough thinking, “what the heck is this delicious taste that I am tasting?!”  It was sweet and light and unlike any sourdough I had ever had and then it dawned on me that there was a bit of honey on it.  It was fabulous on its own and as a dunker for the clam chowder.

This first visit to Earls made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside for more reasons than one and I’d love to go back to try at least ten other dishes!  Given how winter isn’t going away any time soon, I just might take advantage of the cold and make a return trip before the season is over for more winter comfort eats.

DSCN0197

*****

Earls Kitchen & Bar is located at 150 King Street West at York Street in the financial district in downtown Toronto.  They are open 7 days a week at 11:30am Monday through Sunday, with weekend brunch service on Saturdays and Sundays.  Earls Kitchen & Bar serves multiple locations in the GTA and across the country.  Visit their website at http://www.earls.ca/ for more info on their menus and locations.

Let Us Eat Cake! Desserts and Sweet & Delicious Black and White Cake at Queen Mother Cafe!

3 Comments

DSCN9582

I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m always on the hunt for cafes that have an amazing selection of cake for dessert.  YES, CAKE.  And I don’t mean petit gateaux, I mean a honking delicious slice from a gorgeous giant round cake with layers and layers of moist cake and frosting and all the bells and whistles.  I love a fab dessert menu, but there’s nothing like the feeling of being able to walk into a place for a warm drink and a mouthwatering slice of cake without having that awkward, “um, yes, I’d like to order from the dessert menu…and um, nothing else.  Thank you!” feeling.  Off the top of my head Wanda’s Pie in the Sky (don’t let the name fool you, their cake is amazing!  Check out Ate by Ate’s posts on their famous rainbow cake and carrot cake!) in Kensington Market and Futures Bakery in the Annex are perfect places for an awesome slice of cake, especially Futures Bakery if you’re looking for selection!  Now we can add Queen Mother Cafe to the mix and I am so incredibly happy about this!

Choosing cake and dessert here is like choosing your favourite candy from the candy store: you walk right up to the counter (or in this case, the bar), look through the glass case(s) in delight, and point and say, “that one!”  At any given moment Queen Mother Cafe has about 10 different kinds of cake on hand ($5.99 a slice): cheesecakes, tortes and tarts and mile-high layer cakes are all up for grabs.  The cafe has several popular La Rocca cakes on hand alongside their beautiful and delicious housemade ones that rotate and change on a regular basis.

DSCN9580

DSCN9582 - Copy

During my very first visit back in late November, I ordered a slice of one of the most amazing cakes known to sweet tooth: their signature Lemon Escapade, a mountainous combination of lemon cream and frosting, vanilla cake, almonds, and the crunchiest of meringues.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen or tasted and I promise you guys I will get photos the next time; I didn’t have enough lighting where I was sitting and couldn’t take any!  But if you beat me to Queen Mother Cafe and if you see the Lemon Escapade, YOU MUST HAVE IT, I’M NOT KIDDING!

After that first time, I knew having cake at the cafe was an absolute MUST for each and every single visit thereafter and I was not disappointed the second time around.  I chose their beautiful black and white velvet layer cake, a 4-layer cake with 2 layers of vanilla and 2 layers of chocolate with sweet cream frosting all over and adorable little edible pearls on the backside (my apologies for the lack of photo on that one!  If I get around to having it again I’ll remember to take more!).  The cake was wonderfully moist and it is just the epitome of what vanilla and chocolate should be.  It seems so simplistic but to represent the classic timelessness of vanilla and chocolate in this fashion is no easy feat.  I’ve had chocolate cake that’s been too dry and vanilla cake that’s been too artificial and crumbly.  Queen Mother Cafe’s black and white cake nails it and it is truly cloud nine for your tastebuds.  Their menu delivers in both savoury and sweet departments and I am beyond excited to go back many more times to come.

DSCN9583

*****

Queen Mother Cafe is located at 208 Queen Street West in the downtown core just steps away from Osgoode subway station, situated between St. Patrick Street and Duncan Street.  They are opened 7 days a week, serving lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday (11:30 am to 1 am) and weekend brunch and dinner on Sundays (11:30 am to midnight 12 am).  You can visit their official website HERE to view their info and menu.

Curried Chicken & Quinoa Meatloaf & Fluffy Quinoa Salad – Comfort Food from the Heart of Her Royal Highness, Queen Mother Cafe

Leave a comment

DSCN9576

*Trumpets and horns tooting in the distance*  “Hear ye, hear ye!  We are gathered here today to mark the celebration of winter comfort food in the wake of the treacherous weather that has descended upon our fair land.  Winter comfort food shall not be taken lightly; it is of utmost importance that we, the masses, surround thyselves with warmth, flavour and heartiness over the coming months in efforts to warm and soothe thy soul and fill thy belly amidst snow, rain and freezing cold.  Thou shall read this post and proceed to drool over the plethora of scrumptious delights Her Royal Highness, Queen Mother Cafe, has to offer: the brightest and heartiest of salads, the most mouthwatering of sandwiches, the savouriest of pasta and noodle dishes, the most scrumptious of burgers, and the most decadent of desserts.  Take note my fellow foodies, for there is only one Royal Highness in the land.”

It’s time to cozy up to some really awesome comfort food in the downtown core on Queen Street West at Queen Mother Cafe!  After passing by this beautiful establishment (serving food in the city since 1978!) more times than I can remember over the years, I fianlly put my foot down and said, “I’m going, no more putting this off!” back at the end of November.  And after that first time, I mentally slotted Queen Mother Cafe into my top 10 favourites, just like that.  It drives me crazy (in a good way!) when I find or visit a place that I end up loving so much I want to go back over and over forever and ever.  It’s one thing to want to come back on your own, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to tell others that they MUST ALSO GO OR ELSE.

DSCN9559

DSCN9560

DSCN9561

And you all know me well enough to know that it’s rare for me to order the exact same thing from a place because 1) I like variety and 2) I can’t blog about the same dish twice so I purposely choose different things so that I’ll always have new content for Ate by Ate even though there might be one particular dish that I adore to pieces.  Well, I’m confessing that I broke my own rule because I actually went back in December and ordered the same thing because IT WAS THAT AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS.  I didn’t order a salad the first time though and I ordered a different dessert so at least I did that!

DSCN9563

DSCN9564

There are so many things to love about Queen Mother Cafe.  For starters, it’s cozy and warm and intimate and homey with Victorian flair.  Second, it’s so close to Osgoode subway station and walkable from Eaton Centre.  Finally, and most importantly, their menu and food leaves me awestruck.  Multi-faceted doesn’t even begin to describe how fantastic it is.  There are meat dishes, vegetarian and vegan dishes, light fare, hearty fare, bar food, comfort food (which, to some, could be one in the same!) and so many different textures and ethnic flavours: Thai, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, and French just to name a handful.  There is no shortage of variety on their menu as well, with choices ranging from Thai noodles to grilled sandwiches to grain salads to mouthwatering burgers, providing the perfect landscape for picky eaters and larger parties with different diets and preferences.  In addition to their regular menu, they offer daily specials and a weekend brunch menu on Sundays.

DSCN9575 - Copy

DSCN9577

What we have here is their fluffy quinoa salad and their to-die-for curried chicken and quinoa meatloaf burger (oh we’ll get to dessert in the next post!  And if you’re wondering, no, I did not eat all this by myself!  I shared.)  If you love quinoa, you need to have these dishes in your life because they are game-changers.  Their quinoa salad ($10.95) is a meal-sized salad consisting of quinoa, chickpeas, crumbled goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and red peppers, a little bit of diced red onion, lots of fresh flat-leaf parsley (I love parsley like nobody’s business so I happily inhaled it all) and baby salad greens, all tossed in a light and refreshing vinaigrette of lemon, herbs, garlic and olive oil.

The great thing about this salad is the lightness and all the different textures in it.  The goat cheese is very creamy, you have the crunch from the parsley and chickpeas, a little savoury flavour from the sundried tomatoes and peppers and the greens complement the quinoa giving it even more body and fullness.

DSCN9569

Okay.  The curried chicken and quinoa meatloaf burger ($13.95; all burgers and sandwiches are served with your choice of Yukon gold fries or salad).  I honestly didn’t know what to expect when they brought my plate to me.  I just knew I wanted it because it sounded so delicious from the description: “lean ground chicken and quinoa with onions, celery, bell peppers, lime leaf and curry, oven baked and nestled on a toasted bun with baby arugula and roasted tomatoes”.  Would the meatloaf be like a big meatball on a bun?  Would it be a round grain patty?  Would it more like a sloppy joe type of style?

When my plate was placed down, angels sang and harps started playing.  I could not believe how beautiful it looked.  A perfect 1-inch loaf slice of, hands down, one of the juiciest, most amazing things I have ever tasted in my life!  The curry flavour was bang on, the meatloaf was so moist and the ground chicken and quinoa complemented each other so well because the ground meat gave it depth and body while the quinoa kept it from being too stodgy or heavy.  The roasted tomatoes lent a little bit of juicy acidity to it and the arugula kept it bright and crunchy.  It was one of those dishes that struck the perfect balance.  It was hearty and made you full without making you feel uncomfortable in the end.  On the contrary, this will leave you feeling energized and so good afterward.

DSCN9568

DSCN9570

DSCN9574

And the bun!  I’ll be the first to admit that I shy away from sandwiches and burgers sometimes because I’m just not a fan of some of the buns people serve.  Sometimes they’re too dry, too hard, too doughy or too bland (or even a combination of all of them).  But on this burger?  Holy mother of pearl.  The toasted bun is so soft and light on the outside and crispy on the inside and more than capable of holding the entire meatloaf burger fillings together.

I can’t praise Queen Mother Cafe enough; it is a gem in this city.  In the next post, we’ll talk dessert!

*****

Queen Mother Cafe is located at 208 Queen Street West in the downtown core just steps away from Osgoode subway station, situated between St. Patrick Street and Duncan Street.  They are opened 7 days a week, serving lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday (11:30 am to 1 am) and weekend brunch and dinner on Sundays (11:30 am to midnight 12 am).  You can visit their official website HERE to view their info and menu.

Kale Pesto & Artichoke Linguine, and Summer Strawberries, Rhubarb & Lettuces – Summerlicious at Trios Bistro!

Leave a comment

summerlicious collage 1 trios bistroWhen was the last time you had a makes-me-wiggle-with-happiness meal?  Mine was last Saturday.  Okay maybe it was yesterday when I excitedly ordered a Chicken McNugget Happy Meal and got my adorable Despicable Me toy (shhh, that’s between us).  But if we’re talking fine dining, it was Saturday.  It was a beautiful day.  A little on the hot and gross side, but a picture-perfect day nevertheless.  The seats were cushy, the place was gorgeous, and the food?  Fantastic.  One by one the dishes came: fresh and crunchy bibb lettuce, savoury artichokes bear-hugged by pesto and pasta and juicy berries in a flaky pastry surrounded by vanilla and whipped mascarpone.  I sat back, relaxed, and breathed a sigh of relief as I savoured the first Summerlicious meal of the season and the first Summerlicious meal in two years!

It’s about damn time Ate by Ate got back on the Summerlicious/Winterlicious wagon and believe me, this was no easy feat.  You’d think that a girl who loves food as much as I do would be pirouetting around the city during an annual culinary event like Summerlicious, right?  So wrong.  Summerlicious should be the highlight of the summer season for me.  Over 100 restaurants with special price fixe menus, many of them bursting with seasonal yummies?  You’d think that it was tailormade.  But alas, it is not.  And instead of looking forward to it, I almost dread it.  I know, I’m talking crazy.  I love Summerlicious in theory, in essence.  In actuality?  It drives me nuts.  It’s any wonder I made it out for a meal this year because I was thisclose to bailing again.

f0781768

f0770648

f0787328

I gotta tell you, not only do I have a hard time choosing between menus and places (which really isn’t even the hardest thing about the event anymore; I’ve accepted the fact that I’m just a horribly indecisive person who hems and haws for eternity), but I have a really difficult time finding a place that serves Summerlicious lunch with a menu I can’t refuse during the weekend!  I would love to do dinner, I really would.  But when the bus service in your area ends ridiculously early for a Saturday night and your close-to-Union-Station options are, hence, more limited, you’re looking at Summerlicious lunch during the day as your best bet.  So during my search, I kept clicking menu after menu after menu, double-checking with the actual restaurant sites to no avail.  So many of the spots I wanted to try only served dinner on the weekend and it became so frustrating I wanted to throw in the towel and give up.

Then along came Trios Bistro at the Marriott.  The beautiful Trios Bistro at the Marriott hotel by the Eaton Centre.  It saved me.  It saved me from banging my head against the wall and going 3 years without a Summerlicious adventure.  Maybe it was meant to be.

summerlicious collage 2 trios bistro

f1009976

f0748584

Trios Bistro at the Marriott is a beautiful space.  I’d even say a little on the majestic side with its high ceiling and windows overlooking Trinity Square, lush booth seating and carpeting, and pretty chandeliers.  And it’s peaceful and relaxing.  There’s no rushing; just delicious food in a lovely environment and atmosphere.  During normal, non Summerlicious and Winterlicious days, Trios serves breakfast, lunch and dinner and is open to the public and not just to hotel guests (SCORE!).  Its proximity to the Eaton Centre and to the downtown core in general was perfect for me and it awesome being able to take advantage of a spot I’d never been to.  Their Summerlicious price fixe lunch menu ($20) was perfect for both my boyfriend and I (anything with chocolate, chicken, and fish will satisfy the sweetie.  Just, you know, not together.  Oh and anything without tomatoes and onions as a option is a gold star bonus because he hates the stuff) and we both left happy and full with scrumptious food in our bellies.

Here’s the Summerlicious menu lowdown: I chose their bibb lettuce and heirloom tomato salad as my appetizer (sliced radishes, shaved carrot, and lemon greek yogurt dressing), the linguine vert as my main (oodles of linguine noodles drenched in hazelnut kale pesto, artichokes, baby leeks, a mountain of peas and a smattering of grated grano padano cheese), and for dessert, a local strawberry and rhubarb strudel pastry with berries and glaze, whipped mascarpone and vanilla cream.

f0839248

Everything was so simple but so HUGE on flavour.  This was such a fantastic meal and I feel like I got my money’s worth and than some.  I was so happy with the portions (the doggy-bagger in me was absolutely thrilled that I ate everything and didn’t need to take anything away in the sweltering heat!  I am not a fan of wasting food on my plate) and as soon as I took the first bite of my food, I KNEW I had made the right choice to come here for Summerlicious.  The last thing anyone wants is to blow that amount of money on a crappy meal!

There were so many highlights: even with the dressing the bibb lettuce was so crisp and fresh, the tomatoes were ridiculously juicy and the dressing.  OH.MY.GOD.  It tasted divine.  It tasted like this crazy marriage between yogurt dressing and rich buttermilk!  It was so fragrant and the aroma of it literally beckoned me to the salad bowl.  I mean, I was uber hungry to begin with but this just tipped the scales.

f0879928

f0891504

f0902960

The pasta was perfectly cooked with just the right amount of pesto and olive oil sauce and the artichoke chunks were ginormous and delicious!  It was perfect for me because I love pasta like nobody’s business and it incorporated both things I love and eat regularly (peas and pesto!) with things I don’t eat regularly like leeks and artichokes.  This dish was a gift that just kept on giving with all its flavour and texture.  You had that little bit of starchiness from the peas, the juicy, savouriness from the artichokes, the freshness and nuttiness from the pesto and the smooth, velvetyness of the linguine noodles.

And then the finale: the strawberry-rhubarb strudel!  I was so happy that I could actually savoury the rhubarb.  I know this sounds stupid, but let’s be frank: some places would probably err on the side of strawberry with just a hint of rhubarb.  Not at Trios.  Every mouthful was crispy paper-thin layers of pastry sprinkled with sugar (it wasn’t soggy and it wasn’t stodgy) with juicy berries and sweet whipped mascarpone and vanilla sauce.  It was great because even though it was a strudel there was plenty of surface area to soak up the vanilla and cream and there was a great balance between sweetness and summer berry tartness.

f0919672

f0936480

f0947464

I am so relieved this Summerlicious meal worked out and while it wasn’t anything necessarily out of my comfort zone, I still got to enjoy many foods that I don’t eat often and for that, it was well worth it on its own.  Because Summerlicious isn’t just about taking risks and trying foods completely out of your element at a discounted rate; it’s about finding that perfect food match that makes a meal memorable from top to bottom.  And I’m so happy Trios Bistro could make that happen for me this time around.

*****

Trios Bistros is located at 525 Bay Street at the Toronto Eaton Centre Marriott Hotel in downtown Toronto just south of Dundas Street West.  You can follow them on Twitter @TriosBistro and you can check out their Summerlicious menus and their regular menus HERE.