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.

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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.

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Baconfest, Canada Day Eats, Street Fests, Summerlicious & More – The July Food Calendar!

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Happy Canada Day weekend!!  I am so happy the long weekend is here.  I have some really fun food plans (patio dining, possibly some cupcake munching, a special cafe tasting, and Mexican dinner with the fam!) and I’m looking forward to catching up on things around here, posting my photos and write-up on my Taste of PEI event, new vegetarian eats, some mac n’ cheese cheesy goodness, and getting my new Features page nice and plump!  I’m really sorry Ate by Ate has been so quiet for the past week.  I don’t know what in the world was going on but my internet was cutting in and out all week and it made it so difficult getting anything done (if I wasn’t refreshing, I was closing and reopening the browser or just waiting for the darn page to stop spinning!).  I managed to pump out a HUGE food calendar for the month of July though over the course of a few days though so I’m glad I accomplished something this week!  I hope everyone enjoys the time off, goodness knows we deserve it and need it!

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Food Festivals & Events

Toronto Ribfest – Food & Music Festival, June 28 – July 1.  11am-11pm.  Centennial Park at 256 Centennial Park Road (Eglinton West to the north, Renforth Drive to the east, Rathburn Road to the south and Centennial Park Blvd. to the west).  $2 admission.  School’s out and it’s Canada Day long weekend!  In association with Rotary International, Rotary Etobicoke and Rotary Food Initiative, the 14th annual ribfest returns with 16 rib succulent rib vendors, Caribbean and Indian cuisine, and even a summer farmers’ market!  Put on those stretchy pants and get ready to get your hands saucy!  http://www.torontoribfest.com/default.asp

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BACONATION with Barque Smokehouse at the Harbourfront Centre. July 1.  1pm-8pm.  Zone 5 at Harbourfront Centre at 235 Queens Quay West.  $7 for 6 samples.  It sounds cliché, but our nation is known for the mouthwatering bacon we love so much so to celebrate, Barque Smokehouse is smoking it up – bacon style!  They’ll be bringing some of their signature recipes to the Harbourfront for folks can try 6 samples for a $7 tasting plate.  Samples include: smoked pork belly with grilled pineapple and hoisin sauce, peameal bacon tacos with maple slaw and grainy mustard aioli, bacon chips (crispy corn tortillas with smoked bacon salt, charred corn and bacon salsa) and even “fake’n” bacon tofu among others!  http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/whatson/food.cfm?id=4952

Brewers Backyard – Capital Mashup at Evergreen Brick Works, July 1.  12pm-4pm.  550 Bayview Ave. at Koerner Gardens and Holcim Gallery.  Cost of food: $5-7 for food, $6 for beer.  Event is open to all ages, but folks must be 19+ to purchase and drink beer.  Celebrate Canada’s birthday with a cold one and some great eats!  At this Brewer’s Backyard, beers and breweries from our nation and province’s capitals, Ottawa and Toronto, are in the limelight for a spectacular collaboration – Great Lakes + Cassel, Amsterdam + Broadhead, and Indie Alehouse + Beyond the Pale among others.  Eats include Meat Pie Mates and local food vendors.  http://ebw.evergreen.ca/cal/event/brewers-backyard-the-capital-mashup

Family Pizza Nights at Evergreen Brick Works, July 3.  5:30pm-8pm.  550 Bayview Ave. at EBW’s Chimney Court.  $3 for cost of pizza with salad.  Summer nights were made for eating and relaxing!  Come down with your family and friends every Wednesday until August 28 and enjoy some fresh and delicious homemade, wood-fired pizza, courtesy of Pizza Libretto!  Grab a slice with a side salad for only $3, with all proceeds going toward children’s food programs.  http://ebw.evergreen.ca/whats-on/family-pizza-nights

Deep-Fried Fridays: Salsa & Chifles at the Harbourfront Centre.  July 5.  7pm.  Redpath Stage at the Harbourfront Centre at 235 Queens Quay West.  FREE; cost of food on-site.  Mix music and food at Harbourfront Centre’s NEW series this summer!  Every Friday, bust a move to live summer music and tunes and nosh on international food, deep-fried style, by the waterfront.  This week, dance to salsa and Latin pop for DJ Jimmy Suave and try deep-fried chifles (or “platano verde”), a popular South American/Ecuadorian snack made of plantain slices, lightly fried in olive oil, and sprinkled with salt for a delicious snack that’s perfect on its own or dipped in dips!  http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/summer/festivals.cfm?id=4883&festival_id=134

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11th Annual Summerlicious, July 5 – 21.  Lunch and dinner hours, every day across the city at participating restaurants.  Summerlicious is celebrating its 11th anniversary this year and the annual summer food event has dished more price fixe menus than ever before with over 150 participating restaurants and eateries to choose from.  Dine al fresco, at the bar, and in the dining rooms of some of the finest establishments in the city with price fixe menus for both lunch ($15, $20, and $25) and dinner ($25, $35, and $45).  http://www.toronto.ca/special_events/summerlicious/2013/index.htm

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Corso Italia Annual Street Festival, July 5 – 7.  10am-11pm.  St. Clair Ave. West from Dufferin St. to Lansdowne Ave.  FREE; cost of food and drink from vendors at the festival.  One of the hottest summer street festivals in the city returns with shopping, music, and food galore!  The festival welcomes Steam Whistle Brewery and plenty of gelato, pastry, bistros, al fresco dining and street food!  http://corsoitaliafestivaltoronto.com/

Taste of Lawrence – International Food & Cultural Festival, July 5 – 7.  6pm-11pm on Friday, 11am-11pm on Saturday, 11am-6pm.  Lawrence Ave. East from Birchmount to Warden.  FREE; cost of food and drink on site.  Enjoy a street festival full of international cuisine and flair at this 3-day festival in Scarborough with live music and entertainment.  This year’s theme?  Disco Nation!  http://www.tasteoflawrence.com/

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World Café at the Harbourfront Centre, July 5 – 7.  6pm-12am on Friday, 12pm-12am on Saturday, 12pm-8pm on Sunday.  235 Queens Quay West at the Harbourfront Centre, Lakeside Terrace.  Cost of food & drink on-site.  Satisfy the tastebuds with Thai, Mexican, Caribbean, Indian, Chinese, vegetarian, or a mish-mash of everything.  This week, enjoy food from Gourmet on the Go, Mexican from Rebozos, Churros and more!  http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/whatson/food.cfm?id=5000

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Corn Trail: Chef Gloria Carillo’s Patasca and Chicha at the Harbourfront Centre, July 6.  2pm – 2:45pm.  Zone 5 at Harbourfront, 235 Queens Quay West.  FREE.  As part of the Corn Trail series, Chef Gloria Carillo introduces us to patasca, a corn/maize based soup/stew paired with Chicha, a cool and refreshing drink in this Bolivian-centric demo where she brings her perspective on eco-organic and sustainable food processes and practices.  http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/whatson/food.cfm?id=5013

Corn Trail: Chef Lirio Peck at the Harbourfront Centre, July 6.  3:30pm – 4:15pm.  Zone 5 at Harbourfront, 235 Queens Quay West.  FREE.  As part of the Corn Trail series, Chef Lirio Peck, owner and Peruvian culinary extraordinaire behind Harbord Street’s Boulevard Café, comes to the Harbourfront for a demo on summer fresh Peruvian food featuring corn!  http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/whatson/food.cfm?id=5015

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Corn Trail: Chef Rossy Earle’s Panamanian Chicken Tamales at the Harbourfront Centre, July 6.  12:30pm – 1:15pm.  Zone 5 at Harbourfront, 235 Queens Quay West.  FREE.  As part of the Corn Trail series, Chef Rossy Earle brings her culinary savvy and cultural roots from Panama City to Harbourfront to showcase chicken tamales and Latin American influences!  Her food demo will feature corn (maize) dough filled with chicken, vegetables and steamed in banana leaves and discussion about how this traditional dish from the rural has made its way into urban spaces and kitchens to become a staple in South American cuisine and diet.  http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/whatson/food.cfm?id=5012

Empanada Throwdown at the Harbourfront Centre, July 6.  7pm – 9pm.  Zone 5 at Harbourfront, 235 Queens Quay West.  FREE; cost of sample tasting plate.  The competition gets heated at this summer empanada throwdown with top chefs in the city (including Arepa Café’s very own Luis Manuel Cordoba) facing off with their own signature recipes and Venezuelan, South American influences to win your vote for best empanada!  Purchase a sample tasting plate and judge away at this delicious event!  http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/whatson/food.cfm?id=4960

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South African-Inspired Dinner by Evis Chirowamhangu: A Rusholme Park Supper Club at The Depanneur, July 6.  7:30pm; 8pm dinner.  1033 College Street.  $40+HST/person.  This is a HUGE treat for us Torontonians: Zimbabwean chef Evis Chirowamhangu hosts this special supper club showcasing the rich diversity and personality of South African cuisine with a peek into the culture and traditions that have inspired these dishes.

As Len writes on the Depanneur site, this is something we don’t get to experience often and there is so much room to explore and learn.  Evis will be serving shaved biltong salad (South African cured beef), Grilled Boerowors with Sadza and Curry Vegetable Potjie (sausage, cornmeal and dishes cooked in cast-iron pots!), and Butternut Nhopi Tarts with Marshmallow, a twist on a traditional Zimbabwean dessert.  http://thedepanneur.ca/event/supper-club-south-african-inspired-dinner-by-evis-chirowamhangu/

TD Festival of South Asia, July 6 & 7.  12pm-11pm.  Gerrard Indian Bazaar between Greenwood and Coxwell Ave.  FREE; cost of food and drink on-site.  The culture and cuisine of South Asia come together for one amazing, fun, delicious summer street festival!  The festival will showcase foods from Indian, Afghani, Pakistani, Bengali and Sri Lankan cultures, 20 different restaurants in the neighbourhood will be offering all sorts of food for $1-$6, from barbecue to vegetarian to Indo-Chinese to street food and more!  http://www.festivalofsouthasia.com/index.html

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