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June 3rd 2019 - Bar Hop, King Street West Toronto

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This week I want to talk about one of my favorite places in Toronto, Bar Hop. Anytime I meet up with someone downtown and it’s up to me to pick the spot, I pick this small unassuming place on King Street. I’m not going to lie to you all, from the outside it doesn’t look like there’s a lot going on here. Don’t let that fool you though.

Bar Hop is tucked away in this old 3-story house / mini apartment building just east of Spadina, but on the inside It’s lively, it’s always packed with people, and it serves some of the most interesting and delicious craft beer and food I’ve had in the city.

I went with a buddy of mine this past week for drinks and dinner, and when we got there the tables were already full so we sat in the bar area, ordered drinks and waited for a table to open. I decided to start with a beer and took a look at the beer list. Their beer list is a menu all on its own featuring page upon page of craft beer, rotating taps, IPAs, Saisons, Dark Beers, Lagers; whatever your style, they have something unique for you to try. I really didn’t know where to start, there were so many that looked great. Then I saw that you could do your own flights of beers…and you could completely customize them!

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Not only could you choose how many you wanted to try in the flight, but you could pick any beer from their extensive draft menu and mix and match to your liking. This was incredibly impressive to me. I’ve been to places where you can order preset flights before, but I had never seen a build-your-own flight. I picked 6 incredible and different beers to choose from and expected them to come in those shot-glass style flight glasses typical of most places. NOPE! They brought the flight to the table and these beers were all in what looked like white wine glasses. So not only do you get complete control over the flight you order, you get a lot of beer for your buck! The experience could have ended there, and I would have been really impressed. It didn’t end there though.

After looking at the beer menu, and the mixed drink menu My buddy decides that he wants to have whiskey and starts looking at the whiskey menu. He notices that they have separate lists for Scotch and Whiskey, and you can do flights of both as well. The presentation of the whiskey flight was beautifully done. It comes with a selection of 3 or 4 shots of whiskey or, whisky if you order the scotch flight, and they put a small cup of ice cubes and a small shot of water on the side so that you can customize the profile of the drinks to your liking.

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We then decided to order food. For such a small place they have a pretty decent sized menu. We ordered the muscles in a white wine and garlic broth, and chicken wings to share. They were both delicious! I was really impressed that the muscles were cleaned and de-bearded thoroughly and the broth was outstanding and nicely balanced between the garlic and white wine. The chicken wings came out unbreaded, perfectly sauced (we ordered the sweet chili flavor) and really juicy on the inside. #winning!

Whether you’re a beer enthusiast, whisky buff, cocktail person, foodie, or a combination of all 4; I highly recommend checking out Bar Hop on King Street and experiencing this place for yourself.  

May 27th 2019 - Backyard BBQ, Toronto Canada

Yesterday was the perfect summer day in Toronto…it was actually the first summer day we’ve had in Toronto since last year, so people across The 6 were taking advantage, celebrating the recent Raptors win, throwing on bathing suits and showing off their winter anti-tans…trust me it’s a thing up here lol.

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Yesterday was also my grandfather’s 79th birthday and like me he enjoys, good music, good people and good food. So, we decided the best way to celebrate my Papa was to fire up the grill and have a backyard BBQ. My parents raised me as a foodie and that means you can’t have people over to your house without putting out a spread. That means hors d'oeuvres.

My brother Matt had gone to one of his favourite butcher shops and picked up the burgers and dogs from Cumbrae’s. While he was there, he also picked up some cured meats and decided to make a charcuterie board (a platter containing salt cured, sometimes smoked or brined meats, spreads, and sometimes veggies). We had Mild Cacciatorini Salami (mild pork salami with a hint of sugar and spices) and Bolognnese Salami (mild and slightly tart pork salami cured with red wine, sugar and spices), both delicious.

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The star of the board for me though was a small jarred spread called La Quercia Nduja, a Spanish style minced and smoked prosciutto. With the first bite you taste the slightly sweet, smoky flavour of the smoked pork followed by that saltiness of the cure. Right at the end as the other flavours begin to soften you get the heat of the spices that just gently tickle the back of your tongue and throat. A little warning, the more you eat the more you feel that heat so make sure you can handle the build and / or make sure you have some kind of yogurt or cheese handy to soften the blow a bit.

Matt also made some of his homemade guacamole and it was outstanding as per usual! It’s an explosion of different flavours and textures that he has learned to balance beautifully. You get the creaminess of the avocado, the tanginess of the onions, slight sweetness of the tomatoes, the earthiness of the spices and just a hint of heat from the jalapeno peppers. It tastes great on tortilla chips, crackers, a piece of salami, and burgers!   In my family grilling is like a religion. We grill almost 360 days of the year, and once we reach a certain age we learn how to turn the grill on, what the perfect settings are, and how long (roughly) each cut should stay on the grill before serving. Matt and my father have turned grilling into an art-form. So naturally, we gave Matt free reign over the Burgers and Hotdogs last night. For Matt this also included making his own Bourbon Sautéed Onions to add as a topping, and they were as entertaining to watch him make as they were delicious! His Bourbon of choice is Angel’s Envy because of it’s sweetness and smooth finish, however you can really use any bourbon for this recipe.

For me, burgers and dogs are a bit of a salty canvas on which you can make your own masterpiece depending on how big or how light you want to go on the sauces and toppings. Personally, I like to keep my hotdogs classic (mustard, ketchup and a little sweet relish). My burgers on the other hand, those I like to experiment with. I took a little of the leftover guacamole, threw a couple bourbon onions on top and finished it with a bit of Matt’s own Texas Style BBQ sauce. I’m not sure who enjoyed the food more, my grandfather or me lol.   

May 20th 2019 - Joso’s, Toronto Canada

I am not a cooked fish guy. Raw fish, smoked salmon, not a problem; but to me, cooked fish tastes like feet and I would much rather order anything else on the menu then cooked fish. So, when I got invited to a restaurant in Toronto that is known specifically for it’s fish and seafood, I thought for sure I’d be ordering a pizza later that evening… I’m happy to say there was no pizza needed.

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Joso’s is a small two-story restaurant just east of Avenue Road on Davenport, seconds away from the Yorkville area of Toronto. A little advice, don’t let the décor of the restaurant stop you from enjoying an amazing meal. It’s decorated with various paintings and statues calling back to a classic renaissance-esque style…this is a nice way of me saying the art is full of naked people. However, is the food so delicious that it makes up for the naked? Yes!

One thing I really liked about the presentation in the restaurant, before you order they bring over the fresh fish and seafood so that you can actually see what you’ll be eating as they explain where the fish comes from, their flavor and texture profiles, and how they can prepare it. This is a dying art from in restaurants, and signaled to me that this place takes pride in the dishes they make and pays special attention to the process of cooking from start to finish.

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We started by ordering seafood to share at the table. As a side note, I would recommend doing family style dining at this place so you can try as much as you can off the menu. The Clams, Mussels and Shrimp came in a delicious marinara sauce. For me, ordering shellfish at restaurants can be hit or miss not because of the freshness but the way each mussel or clam is cleaned. I will say, this restaurant does one of the more thorough jobs of de-bearding the mussels and making sure there is a little grit and grime in the mussel as possible. The sauce itself is delicious, and the perfect sauce for dipping bread in (make sure you ask for extra bread with your order, not joking very important lol).

We followed this up with a main course of John Dorey, one of the most delicious white fish I have ever had. It’s a slightly meatier fish, very moist and does not have an overpoweringly fishy taste… which was perfect for a guy who doesn’t love the taste of cooked fish lol. Fair warning, the fish are brought to the table with the head and tail still attached, if you’re not comfortable de-boning fish I would recommend asking your waiter/waitress for assistance.

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Finally we finished the meal with a MUST ORDER dish, The Risotto Nero. Now I know the picture looks like black pudding, but it is the furthest thing from it. They take cuddle fish and cut it up into little bite sized pieces, mix it with risotto, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and the ink from the cuttlefish itself. It is the most delicious dish I have ever tasted, creamy, meaty and makes you look like one of the walking dead when the ink rubs off on your tongue…bonus lol.

Seriously, this restaurant is amazing and the perfect spot for an intimate evening and/or night of foodventures with a group of friends.       

May 13th 2019 - Cafe Boulud, Toronto Canada

My mom is awesome and saying that she is a huge part of me being the man I am today is the understatement of the year lol. So, Mother’s day is one of my favourite days because I get to celebrate one of my best friends and show her how much I love her. It also means brunch!

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This year, the family banded together and decided to take Mom to Café Boulud for Mother’s Day. Now, I’ve been to Boulud for dinner and to the DBar downstairs for drinks…but I had no idea they do Mother’s Day Brunch.  

I started with the Avocado Toast topped with a poached egg, pickled shallots, and cherry tomatoes piled high on a piece of perfectly toasted sourdough bread (crunchy crust with a soft fluffy inside). The flavors blended together beautifully, like a slightly more vinegary guacamole. I would have liked the inside of the poached egg to be more runny so that the richness of the yolk could act more like a sauce. However, over all it was an amazing way to start the meal.

My brother Matthew, who is an amazing chef in his own right, ordered the Duck and Waffles for his main course (their take on chicken and waffles), and was nice enough to give me a taste. Winner winner forget about the chicken dinner, this thing is off the charts! The waffles are sweet and moist with a nice crunch on the outside which balances perfectly with the salty and juicy duck confit. What puts this dish over the top is the sauce. The dijon mustard maple sauce is all the right kinds of sweet heat you could ever want. Mix that with the richness of the over-easy fried egg that tops the dish and you’ve got something magical Definite 10/10 for this one!

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I ordered another home run on the menu, “The Frenchie Burger.” If you’re like me and love savory breakfast sandwiches, this is a must try! They take a beef burger patty cooked to your specifications and top that with raclette cheese, fresh cherry tomatoes, thick cut side bacon, garlic aioli, and sandwich all of that between two pieces of pepper brioche bun. When I bit into it, I tasted the richness of the cheese, the heat of the pepper bun, the slight sweetness of the cherry tomatoes and the salty deliciousness of the bacon. Then, I looked at the burger patty. I ordered medium which typically means you’ll get medium well. Not here! I asked for medium and that’s what they gave me, a patty slightly redish pink in the middle and perfectly seasoned. The burger also comes with a side of fries which is awesome because…French fries for breakfast!!

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Now some of you might be thinking, this is great Josh but what do they have for families with little kids? Well, they have a full kids menu including items like buttermilk pancakes, they can make scrambled eggs, plain bacon without any garnish, aaaaaand chicken fingers! They’re delicious by the way lol.

The great part about all of this is that you don’t have to wait an entire year to try this place. They have Sunday brunch available every weekend. I highly recommend you take advantage and try it for yourself.

 

May 6th 2019 - The Stockyards, Toronto Canada

So, I’m back in Toronto, fresh off of touring and I text my buddy Josh to see if we can catch up. No, I’m not referring to myself in the third person, I actually have a friend named Josh lol. We decide to go for breakfast Saturday morning and land on this place called The Stockyards Smokehouse and Larder. 13/10 would recommend anytime you are in Toronto

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First of all, I’m a sucker for that laid-back dinner vibe and this place is all about that. From the outside the only way you know that you’re heading into the right place is a small, beat up and rusty sign hanging over the door.

You walk in and the place is 80% display case and flattop grill with deep-fryers in the back (this is important for later). The rest of the restaurant is filled with shelf like community tables and stools. I’m already sold on this place before the lady behind the counter says we can sit anywhere, and I see the huge container of fresh baked biscuits sitting on the counter. #winning!

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Josh and I sit down closer to the back of the restaurant and before we even get started on the menu that same lady walks over and offers us some of the freshest fresh-squeezed orange juice I’ve ever had. Great way to start the meal.

Finally, we look at the menu. This place is checking all of the delicious boxes with a selection of greasy spoon favorites taken to the next level including a breakfast sandwich with fried green tomatoes and house smoked bacon, their take on eggs beny they call The Stockyard, and one of those homemade biscuits smothered in sausage gravy and served with scrambled eggs. Josh orders the Biscuits with Sausage Gravy and we soon find out that their flavors are as big as their portions, I mean look at the size of that plate! According to my buddy, the Gravy was just the right amount of creamy, was not spicy and balanced out the richness of the eggs really well.

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I ordered the Fried Chicken & Waffles, (told you the fryer detail was important) and it is legendary. First off, the chicken was so moist and juicy on the inside which was surprising because the batter on the outside was firm, not greasy, and seasoned really well without it being too much. They put two or four pieces of fried on top of a homemade waffle and pour what they call the honey/chili citrus glaze over it all. The glaze is more of a syrup, but no matter what you call it it’s a homerun! It’s sweet, sour, packs a pretty decent punch of heat, and really sets it apart from other friend chicken and waffle dishes I’ve had, and there have been many.

Here’s the crazy part, this wasn’t even their brunch menu. Their Sunday brunch menu has a lot more going on. I was also told that everyday from lunch on they serve, some of the best BBQ in the city. To say I’ll be coming back soon is an understatement. If you like good food, good vibes and good times, this is a must try!