Monday, September 26, 2011
Some Foodie Highs and Lows
Okay, first for the highs.
Last week I found myself in Chinatown and, as luck would have it, I had locked up my bike right across the street from the Kim Moon Bakery. When I first moved to the city almost 30 years ago, I was introduced to asian food in a huge way. Previously, my only experience with "oriental" food was a plate of chicken balls, fried rice and moo goo guy pan with fortunes cookies for dessert. Pho Hung on Spadina, King Noodle and moon cakes from Kim Moon Bakery will always stand out in my mind as things that were proof that I wasn't in Kansas anymore.
Now, a million years later, I enjoy introducing my kid to all of these foods and places that make Toronto my favourite eating place in the world. Sadly, he didn't fall in love with pho the way I did and he prefers Japanese food to a big bowl of steaming soup with egg noodles and bbq duck, but one love we do share are double yolk red bean moon cakes from Kim Moon.
These things are sweet but not too sweet, the way inferior moon cakes can be. They are smooth and silky and the pastry is not too thick - I can't tell you anything about the yolks because, being a perfect mother, I let my kid eat those now but he assures me that they are delicious. They do make other things but I can't vouch for them because I only go for the moon cakes. I don't even know if they make them year round because moon cakes are traditionally eaten during to celebrate the mid autumn festival in september. Beware, they are very, very rich and probably really, really fattening and full of things that are terrible for you.
After a summer of not having the man of the house IN the house, we have been enjoying his company for the last week and letting him call the shots. Since the weather is still beautiful we have been spending a lot of time in the convertible, driving, which is his favourite pastime. Well, he loves to drive and mostly, he loves to drive to places where we are going to eat. This past weekend we got in the car and headed towards Niagara Falls but once we go to the Falls we decided to keep going to pop over to Buffalo to visit Elmwood Village. I know that Buffalo probably doesn't come to mind when you are thinking of a nice foodie afternoon, but there is one little pocket of the city that has some really great shops and restaurants. Oh, Buffalo also has Wegman's which we all love but because we got lost we never made it this time. Luckily, I have my wegman's frequent shopper card so we can go any time we like.
D'Avolio to get some fancy oils and vinegars. The prices are really great, they have a huge selection of oils, vinegars, exotic salts etc and The Kid loves to go from vat to vat, tasting all of the oils from around the world. Somehow, he manages to do this and NOT have his intestines go into shock but I don't suggest anyone else try this.
We bought a Tuscan herb oil, a really nutty, delicious walnut oil, another bottle of the 18 yr aged balsamic and a bottle of jalepeno white balsamic. I wanted to get some salts but our server was kind of horrible and I could see that Shack was getting ramped up so we left without my salts.
I used the jalepeno balsamic in my Chimichurri Compound Butter and it gave it a really lovely hit of spicy sour goodness.
We also hit up Penzey's for some spices. I love their store and I could spend hours in there, just sniffing and huffing spices like Vietnamese cinnamon and spanish smoked paprika but we were getting hungry so I settled on the smoked paprika, mexican oregano and some mild chill powder and I wish we had a Penzey's in Toronto.
Another must have is the chocolate covered sponge toffee at Watson's for sponge toffee covered in dark chocolate. I have always loved sponge toffee and so does The Kid. It's not the fanciest chocolate shop in the world but this stuff is worth the drive.
Now, this time Shack decided that we would venture off the beaten path for lunch. Some young man who reeked of pot, had a head full of dreads and looked a bit like a bike courier on his way to the Burning Man festival told him we should go to Main St where all the really good restaurants are and gave him some vague directions. We drove and drove and passed nothing but abandoned buildings and burnt out houses and never, ever hit Main St. I would not suggest doing this if you are going to make the drive to Elmwood Village to do some culinary shopping and you should just stick to that nice street and eat at any one of the countless cafes and restaurants. We drove around until it looked like we were downtown - I knew it was downtown because it was basically deserted the way many American cities look during evenings and all weekend. We pulled over and asked a young woman if we were, by any chance, near The Anchor Bar and it seems that not only were we only a couple of blocks away but it was on the elusive Main Street. I was not really in the mood for wings but it IS The Anchor Bar, the home of the Buffalo Wing so it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I don't want to call the anchor bar a definitive low, it was just the low of this particular trip. Now, it wasn't a bad chicken wing, but it certainly wasn't even close to the best chicken wing I have ever had, the blue cheese dip seemed to be very low on the blue cheese and it all left me with a bit of a dodgy tummy. I can name ten places in Toronto, off the top of my head, that make much better wings.
I won't even tell you what Shack ordered because whoever goes to The Anchor Bar and deviates from wings deserves whatever he gets and it's not the fault of the restaurant that they are forced to offer other horrible things that are not wings just to make people happy.
Except for my disappointing lunch, it was a really great day and I do like going to Elmwood in Buffalo to stock up on some of my favourite things just don't start thinking you are just going to leave that street and drive around and find another super fabulous little neighbourhood. Drive straight to Elmwood, stay on Elmwood and then, when you have had your fill, drive straight home.