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March, 2012:

Banh Mi Boys Reopens with New Menu

The post-renovation version of Banh Mi Boys has reopened.

Open just long enough to build a devoted following and a deafening buzz the brothers behind Banh Mi Boys closed their restaurant for renovations over the winter. The much slicker and more colourful space has reopened this week and I don’t think they need to worry that closing dampened anyone’s excitement.

The five-spice pork belly banh mi.

The five-spice pork belly banh mi.

If anything, the original menu options have improved a notch or two from my visit back in December. For instance, they’ve found the right balance between meat and veg for the five-spice pork belly banh mi ($5.99). Items held over from the previous menu have the same prices except the grilled chicken banh mi that has ticked up a notch to $5.49. (more…)

Don Don Izakaya

The special black croquettes

There are restaurants that are difficult to describe in one sentence. They balance (sometimes successfully) between doing different things for different people. This is clearly not the case with Don Don Izakaya which is about uncomplicated fun at a louder-than-normal volume.

It took a couple of false starts but it seems restauranteurs have figured out the right sort of izakaya for Toronto. At both Guu and now Don Don loud greetings combine with modestly-priced, small plates of delicious salty food to fuel appetites for more drink.

On my first visit to Don Don I happened to sit at the bar beside two gentlemen who had a friendly conversation with head chef Daisuke Izutsu (the former chef-owner of Kaiseki Sakura). With eavesdropped menu recommendations at my disposal and the experience of two visits I think I’ve been able to hit the menu’s highlights.  (more…)

Loblaws Goes for the Parmesan Record

The date and producer stamp for this particular round Parmigiano-Reggiano

Today at more than 250 of their stores across Canada Loblaw Companies will be aiming for a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. I remember a simpler time when that book was a slimmer volume. The picture of the gentlemen who had made it into the pages by growing his fingernails for decades (go ahead and Google, I’ll wait) still reverberates in my memory. Progress marches on and new record categories seem to be largely about food on a giant scale and today’s attempt fits that bill. More than 300 wheels of authentic Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese will be cracked at once starting at noon eastern time.

Getting prepared for the record-breaking attempt in front of the cheese wall at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens.

Getting prepared for the record-breaking attempt in front of the cheese wall at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens. (Image: Loblaw/rock-it

Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of Italy’s most delicious food products (and that’s a very competitive class) but it is also surrounded by a satisfying quantity of what I’m going to call “nerdiderata”. Much of that wealth of knowledge is catalogued in Jeffrey Steingarten’s excellent “Decoding Parmesan” (reprinted as a chapter in It Must’ve Been Something I Ate: The Return of the Man Who Ate Everything). Naturally, I re-read the article before yesterday’s media preview lunch at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens, to which I was invited by rock-it promotions. That book really should be on the shelves of anyone who is interested in reading about food but in the interim and because the Google books excerpt has some strategically important pages excised I’ll offer a rough synopsis. (more…)

Sweet Potato Skins with Quinoa and Rice Salad

Sweet potato skins stuffed with the quinoa and rice salad from Plenty.

Not many of my recipes here are vegetarian for a couple of reasons. I should stress that none of those reasons is that I don’t ever eat vegetarian food. Tofu doesn’t do it for me in pretty much every form but that doesn’t stop me from aiming to have three or four meat-less meals (on top of just about every breakfast) a week. Rather, I think I see myself as a better meat cook. I also put a lot more thought and planning into meat meals and tend to treat the vegetable-heavy ones as filler.

I’m working on changing these levels of expertise and attention and am using Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes From London’s Ottolenghi as my principal guide at the moment. (more…)

Caplansky’s – Food Truck Profile

The Caplansky's Deli Food Truck parked at Queen and Dalhousie

For my second food truck profile on Food With Legs I’m taking a look at the Caplansky’s deli food truck. Like the Smoke’s Poutinerie truck (and unlike most of the other GTA trucks) Thunderin’ Thelma operates in addition to the traditional restaurant on College Street.

Reserved parking for the Caplansky's Truck. The City of Toronto is trying to move them out of this location by the end of March.

Reserved parking for the Caplansky's Truck. The City of Toronto is trying to move them out of this location by the end of March.

Don’t think that by adding wheels to the deli they’re able to totally get away from the occasional cantankerous customer. On my last visit the older gentleman who jumped in line in front of me left with nothing but a grunt and dismissive hand wave when he was told they had run out of onion buns. (more…)