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The Week In Yum April 5-12 Patois, Weslodge, The Beech Tree Pub, Ackroyd's and TheWren

OG Fried Chicken and Pickled Watermelon at the Patios Popup 




spekulas butter pancakes fit for a young king who doesn't have to worry about things like spekulas butter

On Saturday we had one of those days where The Kid got up late, we ran around doing things and suddenly realized it was mid afternoon and nobody had eaten yet (apart from The Kid and his spekulas pancake). Yes, even in this family we often forget to eat. The only solution was to retreat to one of our favourite neighbourhood haunts, The Wren, on the The Danforth. The Kid had the calamari sandwich, just like he has for the last couple of visits and Shack had a burger but I wanted to try something new. I ordered the Green Chili Chicken, which turned out to be a nicely spicy, soupy stew of chicken, onion and mushrooms, topped with salsa, sour cream and guacamole. I wasn't loving the grilled flatbread that came with it and next time I will order it and ask for tortilla chips on the side instead. It was very tasty and very filling so I took half of it home and turned it into lunch burritos for The Kid so we all won. It's the first time we have been there for lunch and it was kind of nice. It wasn't busy at all, we asked if the music could be turned down a bit and it was much more relaxed than eating there at dinner when it's packed and loud. Don't get me wrong, I love that it's always packed and loud and fun but sometimes it's good to just sit and chat and relax. I remain so happy that The Wren exists right here in the east end of the city.



late lunch/early dinner at The Wren





Pimms Cups, Rabbit Arancini and Whipped Brie at The Beech Tree
Because we had such a late lunch, nobody felt much like dinner and suddenly it was almost 7pm and The Kid had to leave to go to work. Nobody rides for free in this house.

The Beech Tree
That left the adults with an open evening so we took a walk down Kingston Road, hoping to pop in to The Beech Tree Public House at 924 Kingston Rd. Everytime we walk by, hoping to stop in, it's packed and as we all know, Shack doesn't wait in line or for tables, so we always pass it by and go into some blah pub for bad wings and beer and complain about the lack of really nice places in walking distance. Little did we know that right there, a 10 minute walk from our front door was the warmest, most wonderful little restaurant/bar that you could imagine.

This time, when Shack hummed and hawed about it begin full, I insisted we go in and sit at the bar and at least have a cocktail. Thank god I did because not only did we have one of the best Pimm's Cups that I have had since I last visited the Dominion House in Montreal, but we ate two delicious appetizers that just made me want to go back for dinner. First, the bartender. This woman is a serious bartender, mixing every single drink with great care and finesse, using only fresh ingredients, homemade sauces and fruity concoctions and garnishes out of the row of jars of pickled things lining the top shelf behind the bar. You know the bartender is great when we saw her pour, maybe, two or three glasses of wine the entire time because everyone in the restaurant was ordering cocktails. I also love the nice, thoughful touches like adding fresh citrus and herbs to every water bottle. It really makes such a difference and it really isn't asking too much, is it?

We ordered rabbit arancini with mustard aioli and a brie mousse with roasted beets and sunflower seed crumble. The arancini arrived first and they were perfect. A thin, crispy shell that oozed with creamy, cheesy risotto , flecked with tender bunny meat, scraped in a touch of mustard aioli - good god. This is not what I am used to eating here in the Beach.

I was barely recovered from my bunny balls when the brie mousse arrived. I have never had anything quite like it - it was light and airy and creamy - almost like whipped cream but tasting like ripe brie. I think the chef aerates it somehow - all I knew for sure was that this was not the work of a line cook frying up some wings back that. After a bit of poking around the next day I discovered that the chef is Jamie Newman, a former chef at Opus. Now it was all making sense. My only disappointment is that this gem has been hiding away for 5 months and that is 5 months that I could have spent eating there. Don't fret though, I am sure I am going to make up for lost time now that I know it's there. I think that reservations are a must because, as I said, it's always packed. They also serve brunch on Sundays from 11am to 3pm so keep your eye out for my thoughts on that since we will be trying it asap.





On Sunday, we drove out to Tallboys, at 838 Bloor west, to finally experience the offerings of a great young chef and a great friend, Craig Wong. He is finally opening his first restaurant called Patois at 794 Dundas St W in about a month's time. Craig, who is of Jamaican Chinese heritage, spent a number of years in France and the UK working for the likes of Alain Ducasse and Heston Blumenthal, not to mention Toronto's Luma and Canteen.This guy is certainly the real deal. We are very excited for him and for the rest of us, because we are going to enjoy the fruits of his labours while he slaves in his kitchen, thrilling everyone with his kicked up spin on the foods of his youth. He is operating out of Tallboys one more time, this coming weekend, April 13 and 14, from 1pm til closing.



The menu for this popup includes his Jamaican Patty Double Down (my favourite I think), kimchi potstickers which combine his love of asian flavours with his love of Canadian staples like perogies. Who knew that kimchi would go so well with bacon and sour cream? The Chinese Pineapple Bun Burger comes with hickory sticks on it. HICKORY DAMNED STICKS
OG fried chicken with addictive pickled watermelon, McGyver wings, Festival Onion Rings and Cassava Fries round things out.
This weekend is your last chance to try this stuff until the restaurant proper opens up so get down there to Tallboys at 838 Bloor West.
Craig cut the double down into five pieces for us - swiss cheese fondue sauce and bacon just SHUT UP


Weslodge
On Monday night I was one of the lucky food bloggers and journalists who were invited to have dinner at Weslodge to experience their newest Sunday-Monday dinner feature, The Cutting Board. For $29 per person, you get that platter down there - $60 for a veritable meatatarian feast that will leave you in a protein coma - a happy coma but full to the brim with all manner of flesh. Two of us shared crispy fried hen, lamb ribs, duck sausage, dry aged ribeye steak, pulled pork with a heap of cuban coleslaw, an upscale mac and cheese with two tender, flaky jalapeno biscuits. It makes me full just typing that out.

the scotch eggs made very, very happy as did this negroni
Nothing makes me feel more welcome than sitting down to a Negroni and since I was a few minutes late, the drink was literally sitting there, waiting for me ready to say "hey, how's it going?"

I had only time for a few sips and to introduce myself to my table mates when a dish of beautiful scotch eggs was put down. I LOVE a good scotch egg and am pretty thrilled that they seem to be a bit trendy right now because they are everywhere but, like silver shoes, I love them anytime and hoard them when they ARE trendy because I know that their days are numbered. This was a terrific , creamy yolked egg wrapped in a savoury, crunchy chorizo coat sitting on a wee bed of tomato jam. YUM.

By the time the cutting board was plunked down on the table, I was already so happy that when I saw that there was a lamb rib pointing right at me, I may have yelped. You don't see lamb ribs all that often and I don't know why because they are delicious. All of the meat was perfectly cooked - I am getting almost tired of pulled pork (something I didn't think I would ever say) but this pulled pork was so good it made me forget about the mountains of mediocre pulled pork I have eaten in the last year or so. I usually skip the poultry when presented with so much great meat but it did look pretty good so I grabbed a piece, expecting to take a bite just to taste and then toss it aside to make room for more lamb ribs but it was so good that I ate the whole piece. The coating was shatteringly crisp but there was something very sweet and sticky going on in there too and I would happily order myself just the chicken and biscuits on another visit. We were also served a bowl of spatzle with lamb bacon and roasted brussel sprouts but I was too busy eating meat to bother with anything more than a taste of each.

Chef de cuisine, Kanida Chey, came out to answer any questions we might have and told us that he plans to change the contents of the cutting board meal with the seasons. In the summer, expect to see all manner of charcuterie and lighter fare, all made in house of course. I will be honest and admit that I had only been to Weslodge once for a cocktail and it was not a good introduction. We did not have good service that evening and we were all taken aback at the high prices of the cocktails which range between $14 and $18. Personally, I am not ordering a drink that costs as much as an entree but if that is not an issue with you, by all means, drink up. Because of this disappointing first visit, I almost hesitated to attend this menu preview but because I also kept hearing that the food is very good, I decided it deserved a second try and I am very happy I did. The food was terrific and I think at $29/pp it's also really good value. I think that the three of us could eat this platter and be totally satisfied but I forgot to ask how that works if there is three of us. I assume that it would still be $30 each and the platter would be more ample but, to be honest, I would want to eat the platter for two shared between three because it is a lot of food and I think that two of us would probably have trouble eating it all as it is. 
Okay, maybe not, but still.


A serving for two at Weslodge "the cutting board"
Weslodge on Urbanspoon

welcome back to the Week in Yum, dear sweet Robyn

As fate would have it, Shack wrapped up at work just in time to swing by Weslodge and pick me up. Since it was on the way home,  we stopped in at Boots and Bourbon to meet up and say hi to a gaggle of food bloggers who were wining and dining a visiting blogger from Vancouver. It was a lovely treat to see my long, lost buddy, Robyn of Planet Byn and we got to catch up a little bit. We did not eat this time but everyone was pretty intent on their food with lots of finger licking, lip smacking noises and Shack was seriously coveting the burger that a man at the next table was eating.

stopped by Boots and Bourbon for a cocktail with some Canadian Food Blogger members



So, My April challenge for The Great Canadian Food Experience was to write about a Canadian producer of some sort. I considered writing about a couple of local farms but had trouble connecting with them so, instead, I wrote about Walter Caesar, a small Canadian company that I love. Walter makes an all natural, craft caesar mix that I really, truly adore. When they sent me some product to try a while back, I chose to cook with it and made my cabbage rolls using Walter in place of tomato juice with great success. I needed another recipe to use in this write up and I couldn't just reuse that one but I put it off for days and days so that the deadline came to publish the post and I was still without a recipe. I asked Walter to provide me with a drink recipe and photo and I was going to just use that when I realized that, as a food blogger, that is soooooooooooo damned lazy that I was already embarassed by the very thought of it. 

Instead, I did what any self respecting food blogger would do. I woke up early in the morning and started making cocktails. For a while now I had been toying with the idea of using Pisco, a Peruvian brandy, to make a Peruvian Caesar to honour my MVP (most valuable Peruvians) friends. After a few batches, I got it where I wanted it, I photographed it and thought "I really want to make another one"
It was now 10 am and I had been taste testing caesars for two hours on an empty stomach.

There was a recipe that I had my eye on where a guy strained tomato juice to extract a clear, thin tomato water and he used that to make a martini like cocktail. It looked very intriguing indeed and so I set out to strain some Walter and spent another hour perfecting this one, I photographed it and finished my blog post.

By now, it was noon, I was buzzed from tasting drinks all morning and I still had not eaten unless you count the pickled green bean and the pickle garnish. By my calculations, if I drank a bottle of water and went back to bed for a nap, I could work through the hangover cycle by 5pm and feel fit as a fiddle by dinner.
So that is what I did.

Ackryod's Fish n Chips
We wrapped up the week by getting take out from a new to me Beach Fish and Chip Shop, Ackroyd's. I am part of a facebook group that is working to support local businesses and encourage my reluctant neighbours to get out there and eat and shop local. For some reason, people in the Beach tend to not be as supportive of the businesses that line their streets as in other areas. We have watched east end neighbourhoods like Leslieville and sections of the Danforth start to completely revitalize themselves with the support of the residents. Five years ago, I wouldn't dream of walking up to my strip of the Danforth for dinner or a night out but now we have The Wren, Sauce, Morgans and other wonderful, small businesses opening up. These places are packed all the time, mainly with patrons who have walked there from their homes. The Beach, on the other hand, tends to be packed from the minute the weather hits 17C until it cools down again in the fall, but it's mainly tourists and people travelling TO the neighbourhood. Once the weather cools off and the tourist trade dies down, business trails off and we all wait to see which new stores and restaurants will shutter their doors by January. Over the almost two decades that I have lived here, I have been saddened to see that, more and more, as each storefront is shuttered, too many are remaining closed up, giving our once vibrant high street, a depressing, derelict aroma.

Okay, enough lecturing. I am trying my best to walk the walk and so I am going to make it my mission to shop or eat at at least one new local establishment every week and I will then pass it along. This week, the featured restaurant is Ackroyd's Fish n Chips at 2222 Queen East, just next to Xola , a great Mexican spot and two doors from a Beach institution, Ed's Real Scoop.

This week they are offering a 20% discount to orders for four or more so my four halibut dinners earned me a nice chunk of savings that I was not expecting, so I was already predisposed to like the place. I also grabbed a lobster mac and cheese as that was the daily special.

The good news and the not so good news. The good news is that all four of us really enjoyed our fish and chips. Our orders of "The Balmy" contained a really big chunk of fish that was not over battered and was still crispy, despite the 15 minutes it spent in the cardboard box while being transported home. Hand cut fries were plentiful and crispy and the tartar sauce was actually tart for once - both The Neighbour and I don't like our tartar sauce to be sweet, as it often is. The coleslaw was neither here nor there but that isn't a big draw for me anyway. I am pretty sure I didn't get a kosher dill either but I am just noticing that now while I write this. Oh, it was also more expensive than the menu listed on their facebook page but even at $14.50 each, I thought it was reasonably priced - on the lower end of the scale is "The Sustainable" which is the same meal but with basa for $8.95. The bottom line is that we will most definitely be back for fish n chips and it looks like they have good lunch specials too.

The not so great news was that although the lobster mac and cheese was not bad, it was not something I would pay $10 for again. It didn't feel like all that much lobster and it was just okay for us. I might try other specials again but , for the most part, we will stick to the very good fish and chips.
that is a nice, big chunk of fish right there



Ackroyd's Fish n' Chips on Urbanspoon



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