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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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*****

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.